NABOKV-L post 0020781, Tue, 28 Sep 2010 11:26:39 -0400

Re: Botkin and Gogol
There are so many Botkins, scions of the well-to-do merchant Russian family; I was looking them up, and a very personal connection to Gogol came up: did anybody publish on this?
Nikolay Petrovich Botkin (1813--1869) was a merchant and a traveler, the young brother of more known Vasily Petrovich, a writer. N. P. Botkin in fact saved 31-year-old Gogol in 1840: he found the writer sick with high fever in Vienna, brought him home, tended to him, and then took recovering Gogol to Rome. N.P. died in an accident in Budapest in 1869.
Gogol called N.P. Botkin "a good fellow" (dobryi malyi). Note that both are Nikolays, also a name of the most important Russian saint (St. Nicholas), who is specifically a patron saint of Russian merchants and travelers.
Gogol is extremely important for VN, and I wonder if there is a reflection of this relationship under the tricky pale light of Zembla.
Real Botkin saved Gogol, giving him 12 more years of life; if he did not, we would not have Dead Souls, the consummate account of Russia. Kinbote does not succeed in saving Shade, who never gave him an account of Zembla.
S. T. Aksakov ("A story of my acquaintance with Gogol") says:
"я слышал, что Гоголь во время болезни имел какие-то видения, о которых он тогда же рассказал ходившему за ним с братскою нежностью и заботою купцу Н. П. Боткину, который случился на то время в Римe" ("I heard that Gogol, as he fell sick, had some kind of visions, which he right away described to N. P. Botkin, a merchant who happened to be in Rome at the same time and who looked after him with brotherly tenderness and care").
These "visions" allegedly influenced Gogol who had a spiritual transformation in Rome.
Victor Fet

Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors:,
Visit Zembla:
View Nabokv-L policies:
Visit "Nabokov Online Journal:"

Manage subscription options: