I mentioned previously that Joseph Glanvill's _The Vanity of
Dogmatizing_ (1661) is the source for the Arnold poem ("The
Scholar Gypsy") from which Kinbote quotes during Shade's death
scene ("still clutching the inviolable shade").  Since then,
I've read Glanvill's work more fully, and I can't help but
notice its resemblance to a more contemporary work in which
VN showed interest, D.J. West's _Psychical Research Today_
(1954). Both works take an explicitly scientific approach to
anecdotes of unexplained psychic phenomena. 
West's work covers fairly extensively the story of the Fox
Sisters and the work of Daniel Dunglas Home (did you know
that Alexandre Dumas was the best man at his wedding?).
Glanvill presents similar psychic cases, including the Scholar
Gypsy and some early stories of a kind of text messaging,
called "symathized hands," in which one "intimate" pricks his
hand and the other feels the sensation in his own. I quote:
"For instance, would I in London acquaint my intimate in Paris,
that *I am well*: I would then prick that part where I had
appointed the letter [I:] and doing so in another place to
signifie that word was done, proceed to [A,] thence to [M] and
so on, till I had finisht what I intended to make known."
Glanvill then relates the story of an unfortunate fellow who
went to the doctor asking to have his arm amputated. The doctor,
however, said he could find nothing the matter with the arm,
"to which the Gentleman replyes, that his hand was Sympathized,
and his friend was dead, so that if not prevented by amputation,
he said, it would rot away, as did that of his deceased
correspondent."  Here, then, we have an example of one man's
hand controlling another's.
My own sense is that Glanvill should have interested VN, and that
that the allusion via Arnold is intentional. I don't have explicit
evidence to back up this assertion, but I did find yesterday another
link to Glanvill (other than the Arnold poem) that VN must have
known. As it happens, two of E.A. Poe's more well-known stories
contain epigraphs attributed (probably apocryphally) to Glanvill.
"The Descent into the Maelstrom" has the following epigraph:
"The ways of God in Nature, as in Providence, are not as our ways;
nor are the models that we frame any way commensurate to the vastness,
profundity, and unsearchableness of His works, which have a depth in
them greater than the well of Democritus."
Poe's more famous story, Ligeia, begins with this epigraph, also
attributed to Glanvill:
"And the will therein lieth, which dieth not. Who knoweth the
mysteries of the will, with its vigor? For God is but a great
will pervading all things by nature of its intentness. Man doth
not yield himself to the angels, nor unto death utterly , save
only through the weakness of his feeble will."
Parts of this epigraph, as well as a reference to the well of
Democritus, appear twice more within the story.
All this to say that it is probable that, even before he
encountered the Arnold link, VN met Glanvill via E.A. Poe.
Matthew Roth

Search the Nabokv-L archive at UCSB

Contact the Editors

All private editorial communications, without exception, are read by both co-editors.

Visit Zembla

View Nabokv-L Policies