from C Kunin

The view and language seemed similar to old John Shade, or so it seemed to me. that I see that VN did indeed know of her work (her poems, at least), I will venture the possibility that Mrs. Wilcox does indeed make a cameo appearance in Shade's poem.  - Matt Roth
Dear Matt,

As an inveterate reader on the subject of spiritualism I can tell you that your three parallels are all commonplaces of the genre. The mandolin, trumpet and occasional accordeon were the favored musical instruments of humbug mediums. I suspect that is why VN, another inveterate reader on the subject, used the image. The "pale jellies" refers to what was called "ectoplasm" at the time. A little research shall reward you with some images - - some silly, others quite disgusting, and even lewd.

In SM, besides EWW, VN mentions the far more interesting Houdini of mediums, the greatest genius of deception, Daniel Dunglas Home, immortalized by Robert Browning as "Sludge, the Medium." Some of Home's greatest successes came during his many years in Russia amidst royalty and nobility and he twice married very wealthy Russian noblewomen. He is, and hopefully shall always remain, in a class by himself.

By luck I found an image showing DDH indulging in a little mandolin-floating:

I also found some interesting info regarding EWW, the poet.  Her poetry it seems was well-enough known and silly enough to be frequently parodied. Wikipedia has this example: " Sinclair Lewis indicates Babbitt's lack of literary sophistication by having him refer to a piece of verse as "one of the classic poems, like 'If' by Kipling, or Ella Wheeler Wilcox's 'The Man Worth While.'" 

Here are some lines from that classic:

It is easy enough to be pleasant,
    When life flows by like a song,
But the man worth while is one who will smile,
    When everything goes dead wrong."

She did however achieve a moderate degree of immortality by penning these lines: Laugh and the world laughs with you, Weep, and you weep alone.....

Isn't that a hoot?

Search the Nabokv-L archive with Google

Contact the Editors

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

Visit Zembla

View Nabokv-L Policies