Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0002296, Fri, 22 Aug 1997 10:04:53 -0700

Query: VN first English reader
I have been trying to identify VN's first English text described in Speak,
Memory_. Harvey Pitcher's fascinating volume _When Miss Emmie was in
Russia_, a history of British governesses in Russia, has provided a couple
of hints that lead to the items below. The few libraries that have them,
generally won't lend them, so I am asking Nabokovians to check their
libraries. If either volume is there, could you take a look and see if it
might fit VN's description below?

If it has characters named Ned, Sam, Ben & Dan, it may
well be Nabokov's first English primer.

From Nabokov's autobiography: SPEAK, MEMORY, Section 1, Chapter 4:

"I learned to read English before I could read Russian. My first
English friends were four simple souls in my grammar--Ben, Dan, Sam and
Ned. There used to be a great deal of fun about their identities and
whereabouts--"'Who is Ben?' 'He is Dan,' 'Sam is in bed,' and so on.
Although it all remained rather stiff and patchy (the compiler was
handicapped by having to employ--for the initial lessons at least--words
of not more than three letters), my imagination somehow managed to obtain
the necessary data. Wan-faced, big-limbed, silent nitwits, proud in the
possession of certain tools ('Ben has an axe'), they now drift with a slow
motion slouch..."

The volume is described as "brown." The volumes below seem likely
candidates. If you have access to either I would be most grateful if you
could check and see if they fit the above decription in their opening

TITLE: The infant reader :
short stories in simple words, with illustrations.
PLACE: London :
PUBLISHER: T. Nelson & Sons,
YEAR: ? 1960 1969 (Original pub. around turn of century.)
FORMAT: 63 p. : ill. ; 15 cm.
SERIES: Royal school series
SUBJECT: Primers.
ALT TITLE: Royal infant reader, illustrated

AUTHOR: Wilson, Jessie.
TITLE: The royal treasury :
infant reader /
PLACE: London :
PUBLISHER: T. Nelson and Sons,
YEAR: 1900
FORMAT: 96 p. : ill. ; 19 cm.
SERIES: Harvard reading textbooks preservation microfilm project ; 04508.
NOTES: Microfilm. Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Library
Photographic Services, 1994. 1 microfilm reel : negative ; 35 mm.
SUBJECT: Readers (Primary)
OTHER: Royal treasury of story and song.
Infant reader.


D. Barton Johnson
Department of Germanic, Slavic and Semitic Studies
Phelps Hall
University of California at Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, CA 93106
Phone and Fax: (805) 687-1825
Home Phone: (805) 682-4618