Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026521, Sat, 10 Oct 2015 17:16:32 +0300

Aunt Maud & Caroline Lukin in Pale Fire
According to Shade, he was brought up by Aunt Maud:

I was brought up by dear bizarre Aunt Maud,
A poet and a painter with a taste
For realistic objects interlaced
With grotesque growths and images of doom. (ll. 86-89)

Shade was an infant when his parents (both of whom were ornithologists)
died. As has been pointed out before, the maiden name of Shade's mother,
Caroline Lukin, seems to hint at the little-known playwright Vladimir Lukin
(1737-94), the author of Shchepetil'nik ("The Trinklet Dealer," 1765). In
Chapter One (XXIII: 6) of Eugene Onegin Pushkin mentions London
shchepetil'nyi (London the trinkleter):

Изображу ль в картине верной
Уединённый кабинет,
Где мод воспитанник примерной
Одет, раздет и вновь одет?
Всё, чем для прихоти обильной
Торгует Лондон щепетильной
И по Балтическим волнам
За лес и сало возит нам,
Всё, что в Париже вкус голодной,
Полезный промысел избрав,
Изобретает для забав,
Для роскоши, для неги модной, -
Всё украшало кабинет
Философа в осьмнадцать лет.

Shall I present a faithful picture

of the secluded cabinet,

here the exemplary pupil of fashions

is dressed, undressed, and dressed again?

Whatever, for the copious whim,

London the trinkleter deals in

and o'er the Baltic waves

conveys to us for timber and for tallow;

whatever avid taste in Paris,

a useful trade having selected,

invents for pastimes,

for luxury, for modish mollitude;

all this adorned the cabinet

of a philosopher at eighteen years of age.

In the same stanza Pushkin calls Onegin "mod vospitannik primernoy" (the
exemplary pupil of fashions). Mod (Gen. pl. of moda, "fashion") is
pronounced almost like Maud, the name of the poet's aunt who brought him up.
Aunt Maud is a namesake of Maud Bodkin (1875-1967), an English classical
scholar, writer on mythology and literary critic, the author of Archetypal
Patterns in Poetry: Psychological Studies of Imagination (1934). Maud Bodkin
was born in Essex. According to Kinbote, the Lukins are an old Essex family.
Other names derive from professions such as Rymer, Scrivener, Limner (one
who illuminates parchments), Botkin (one who makes bottekins, fancy
footwear) and thousands of others. My tutor, a Scotsman, used to call any
old tumble-down buildings a "hurley-house." (note to Line 71)

The name of the head of the English Department at Wordsmith, Prof. Hurley,
brings to mind "hurlyburly" mentioned by the Second Witch at the beginning
of Shakespeare's Macbeth:

First Witch

When shall we three meet again
In thunder, lightning, or in rain?

Second Witch

When the hurlyburly's done,
When the battle's lost and won.

Third Witch

That will be ere the set of sun. (Act One, scene 1)

According to Kinbote, the slapdash disheveled hag in the Levin Hall
cafeteria whom Shade is said to resemble, is "the third in the witch row:"

"Strange, strange," said the German visitor, who by some quirk of alderwood
ancestry had been alone to catch the eerie note that had throbbed by and was

Shade [smiling and massaging my knee]: "Kings do not die - they only
disappear, eh, Charles?"

"Who said that?" asked sharply, as if coming out of a trance, the ignorant,
and always suspicious, Head of the English Department.

"Take my own case," continued my dear friend ignoring Mr. H. "I have been
said to resemble at least four people: Samuel Johnson; the lovingly
reconstructed ancestor of man in the Exton Museum; and two local characters,
one being the slapdash disheveled hag who ladles out the mash in the Levin
Hall cafeteria."

"The third in the witch row," I precised quaintly, and everybody laughed.
(note to Line 894)

In his poem S berlinskoy ulitsy ("From a Berlin street:" 1923) Hodasevich
compares himself and his two companions to the three witches:


На перекрестки тьмы,

Как ведьмы, по трое

Тогда выходим мы.

In his poem Ledi dolgo ruki myla ("Lady's washed her hands so long:" 1921)
Hodasevich compares Lady Macbeth to a bird that cannot fall asleep for three
hundred years:

Леди долго руки мыла,

Леди крепко руки тёрла.

Эта леди не забыла

Окровавленного горла.

Леди, леди! Вы как птица

Бьётесь на бессонном ложе.

Триста лет уж вам не спится -

Мне лет шесть не спится тоже.

According to the author, he either cannot sleep about six years. In March,
1916, Hodasevich's best friend Muni (a poet who had once attempted to become
a totally different person) committed suicide. It seems to me that, after
his daughter's suicide, Professor V. Botkin (an American scholar of Russian
descent) went mad and became Shade, Kinbote and Gradus. There is a hope
that, after Kinbote completes his Commentary to Shade's poem an commits
suicide (on Oct. 19, 1959, the anniversary of Pushkin's Lyceum), V. Botkin
will be "full" again.

Alexey Sklyarenko

Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors: mailto:nabokv-l@utk.edu,nabokv-l@holycross.edu
Zembla: http://www.libraries.psu.edu/nabokov/zembla.htm
Nabokv-L policies: http://web.utk.edu/~sblackwe/EDNote.htm
Nabokov Online Journal:" http://www.nabokovonline.com
AdaOnline: "http://www.ada.auckland.ac.nz/
The Nabokov Society of Japan's Annotations to Ada: http://vnjapan.org/main/ada/index.html
The VN Bibliography Blog: http://vnbiblio.com/
Search the archive with L-Soft: https://listserv.ucsb.edu/lsv-cgi-bin/wa?A0=NABOKV-L

Manage subscription options :http://listserv.ucsb.edu/lsv-cgi-bin/wa?SUBED1=NABOKV-L