Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0027036, Fri, 3 Jun 2016 15:02:04 +0300

Samuel Shade & Caroline Lukin in Pale Fire
John Shade is the son of Samuel Shade and Caroline Lukin:

A Commentary where placid scholarship should reign is not the place for
blasting the preposterous defects of that little obituary. I have only
mentioned it because that is where I gleaned a few meager details concerning
the poet's parents. His father, Samuel Shade, who died at fifty, in 1902,
had studied medicine in his youth and was vice-president of a firm of
surgical instruments in Exton. His chief passion, however, was what our
eloquent necrologist calls "the study of the feathered tribe," adding that
"a bird had been named for him: Bombycilla Shadei" (this should be "shadei,"
of course). The poet's mother, nee Caroline Lukin, assisted him in his work
and drew the admirable figures of his Birds of Mexico, which I remember
having seen in my friend's house. What the obituarist does not know is that
Lukin comes from Luke, as also do Locock and Luxon and Lukashevich. It
represents one of the many instances when the amorphous-looking but live and
personal hereditary patronymic grows, sometimes in fantastic shapes, around
the common pebble of a Christian name. 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." But enough of this. (Kinbote's
note to Line 71)

In his satire The Age of Bronze (1821), written (like Shade's Pale Fire) in
heroic couplets, Byron mentions Samuel's shade and Franklin's energetic
shade robed in the Lightnings which his hand allayed:

Like Samuel's shade to Saul's monarchic eyes,

The Prophets of young Freedom, summoned far

From climes of Washington and Bolivar;

Henry, the Forest born Demosthenes,

Whose thunder shook the Philip of the Seas;

And Stoic Franklin's energetic shade

Robed in the Lightnings which his hand allayed;

And Washington, the Tyrant-tamer, wake,

To bid us blush for these old chains, or break. (ll. 381-389)

In his Commentary (note to Line 347) Kinbote quotes Shade's poem The Nature
of Electricity:

The dead, the gentle dead-who knows?-
In tungsten filaments abide,
And on my bedside table glows
Another man's departed bride.

And maybe Shakespeare floods a whole
Town with innumerable lights,
And Shelley's incandescent soul
Lures the pale moths of starless nights.

Streetlamps are numbered, and maybe
Number nine-hundred-ninety-nine
(So brightly beaming through a tree
So green) is an old friend of mine.

And when above the livid plain
Forked lightning plays, therein may dwell
The torments of a Tamerlane,
The roar of tyrants torn in hell.

P. B. Shelley (1792-1822) was a close friend of Byron. In 1812 (the year of
Napoleon's invasion of Russia) Byron had an affair with Lady Caroline Lamb
(1785-1828). In The Age of Bronze Byron calls Napoleon (who died on St.
Helena on May 5, 1821) "the better-seeing Shade:"

Alike the better-seeing Shade will smile

On the rude cavern of the rocky Isle (ll. 119-120)

In Line 812 (!!!) of Pale Fire Shade mentions "some kind of

Yes! It sufficed that I in life could find
Some kind of link-and-bobolink, some kind
Or correlated pattern in the game,
Plexed artistry, and something of the same
Pleasure in it as they who played it found. (ll. 811-815)

The bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus) is a small New World blackbird and the
only member of the genus Dolichonyx.

Kinbote completes his work on Pale Fire and commits suicide on October 19,
1959 (the anniversary of Pushkin's Lyceum). In his poem Byla pora: nash
prazdnik molodoy: ("There was a time: our young celebration:" 1836) that he
read at his last Lyceum celebration Pushkin speaks of Napoleon and mentions
groza dvenadtsatogo goda (the thunderstorm of year twelve):

Тогда гроза двенадцатого года
Ещё спала. Ещё Наполеон
Не испытал великого народа -
Ещё грозил и колебался он: (ll. 37-40)

Alexey Sklyarenko

Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors: mailto:nabokv-l@utk.edu,dana.dragunoiu@gmail.com,shvabrin@humnet.ucla.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