NABOKV-L post 0023846, Fri, 29 Mar 2013 14:30:56 -0400

Subject
THOUGHTS re: Humbert's reading
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Mike M writes:

In Lolita, H.H. tells us some of the contents of the prison library. For
starters the Bible, and a complete Dickens. In the venerable BBC radio
program Desert Island Discs, guests were asked to name seven (I think)
pieces of music they'd take; the literature on the island was the Bible
and Shakespeare. I wonder why VN excluded Shakespeare.

The Children's Encyclopedia gratified Humbert's specialist interest, and
then there's Agatha Christie's 'A Murder is Announced'. Published in
1950, the title adumbrates subsequent events in 'Lolita', but may also
be a hint at another Christie piece, her play 'The Mousetrap', which
opened in 1952, and which owes its title to the play-within-a-play in
Hamlet. This is relevant when we see what Nabokov follows up with:

"but they also have such coruscating trifles as 'A vagabond in Italy' by
Percy Elphinstone, author of 'Venice Revisited', Boston, 1868, and a
comparatively recent (1946) Who's Who in the Limelight--actors,
producers, playwrights, and shots of static scenes. In looking through
the latter volume, I was treated last night to one of those dazzling
coincidences that logicians loathe and poets love. I transcribe most of
the page: ....."

Nabokov seems occasionally to carry over features and/or characters and
their names from one novel to another. Percy de Prey in Ada is a lampoon
version of Edward de Vere. Robin Fox suggested that the name was
inspired by Sir Percy Blakeney, aka the Scarlet Pimpernel, whom they
seek here and there. Interestingly the ghost in Hamlet is 'hic et
ubique', here and everywhere, when he shifts his ground beneath the
stage. Percy in Lolita is an earlier version of his Vere counterpart in
Ada; Elphinstone is a proxy for Hamlet's Elsinore; Vere was in Venice
for many months in 1576 (why 'Venice REvisited'? Visited once in life,
once in works of the imagination?); Vere's impoverishment gained pace as
a result of his extravagance on his European tour (A Vagabond in Italy).
Unattached actors were considered vagabonds in those times, which leads
to the next volume, 'Who's Who in the Limelight'. When Vere was alluded
to in the literature of his day, play was sometimes made on the fact
that his name sounded like the French for green, vert -- hence Lime
[green] light. At least according to Oxfordians, Vere was actor &
producer & playwright, as in the Who's Who. "Shots of static scenes" --
static may also refer to electricity (remember 'Pale Fire': "Science
tells us, by the way, that the Earth would not merely fall apart, but
vanish like a ghost, if Electricity were suddenly removed from the world").

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