According to Ada, at Marina’s funeral “d'Onsky's son, a person with only one arm, threw his remaining one around Demon and both wept comme des fontaines.” (3.8)


Fontan (“The Fountain,” 1836) is a poem by Tyutchev. The name d’Onsky hints at Dmitri Donskoy (the Russian Prince who defeated Khan Mamay in the battle of Kulikovo, 1380). At the beginning of Fyodor Ivanovich Tyutchev (1886) Ivan Aksakov (the poet’s son-in-law and first biographer) mentions “the sly man” Zakhar Tutchev, the poet’s ancestor whom Dmitri Donskoy sent to the camp of Khan Mamay before the battle of Kulikovo:


В Никоновской летописи упоминается "хитрый муж" Захар Тутчев, которого Дмитрий Донской, пред началом Куликовского побоища, подсылал к Мамаю со множеством золота и двумя переводчиками для собрания нужных сведений, - что "хитрый муж" и исполнил очень удачно. (chapter I)


In June of 1822 a relative of Tyutchev, Count Osterman-Tolstoy (a hero of the anti-Napoleon war who lost his arm in the battle of Kulm, 1813), took Tyutchev to Munich where he became a diplomat at the Russian legation:


В 1822 году Тютчев был отправлен в Петербург, на службу в Государственную коллегию иностранных дел. Но в июне месяце того же года его родственник, знаменитый герой Кульмской  битвы, потерявший руку на поле сражения, граф А. И. Остерман-Толстой посадил его с собой в карету и увёз за границу, где и пристроил сверхштатным чиновником к русской миссии в Мюнхене. "Судьбе угодно было вооружиться последней рукой Толстого (вспоминает Фёдор Иванович в одном из писем своих к брату лет 45 спустя), чтоб переселить меня на чужбину".

Это был самый решительный шаг в жизни Тютчева, определивший всю его дальнейшую участь. (ibid.)


Forty-five years later in a letter to his brother Tyutchev wrote that Fate equipped itself with Tolstoy’s last arm in order to transplant him to a foreign land.


Kulm (Chlumec) is a town in northern Bohemia. One-armed d’Onsky is the son of Baron d’Onsky (Demon’s adversary in a sword duel) and the Bohemian lady whom the Baron married after his duel with Demon Veen:


The challenge was accepted; two native seconds were chosen; the Baron plumped for swords; and after a certain amount of good blood (Polish and Irish - a kind of American 'Gory Mary' in barroom parlance) had bespattered two hairy torsoes, the whitewashed terrace, the flight of steps leading backward to the walled garden in an amusing Douglas d'Artagnan arrangement, the apron of a quite accidental milkmaid, and the shirtsleeves of both seconds, charming Monsieur de Pastrouil and Colonel St Alin, a scoundrel, the latter gentlemen separated the panting combatants, and Skonky died, not 'of his wounds' (as it was viciously rumored) but of a gangrenous afterthought on the part of the least of them, possibly self-inflicted, a sting in the groin, which caused circulatory trouble, notwithstanding quite a few surgical interventions during two or three years of protracted stays at the Aardvark Hospital in Boston - a city where, incidentally, he married in 1869 our friend the Bohemian lady, now keeper of Glass Biota at the local museum. (1.2)


In his biography of Tyutchev Aksakov quotes Tyutchev’s poem about Napoleon, Dva demona emu sluzhili… (“Two Demons Served him…” 1848), Fontan, Raduga (“Rainbow,” 1865; according to Van, the Durmanovs' favorite domain was Raduga near the burg of that name, 1.1) and Silentium (1835), the poem that first appeared in Molva:


Именно ради рассеяния и отпросился он в плавание, с дипломатическими депешами, к Ионическим островам. Об этом свидетельствуют также написанные около того же времени следующие два стихотворения, представлявшие, кроме своего высокого достоинства, психологический и биографический интерес. Первое из них то самое "Silentium", которое напечатанное в 1835 году в "Молве", не обратило на себя никакого внимания и в котором так хорошо выражена вся эта немощь поэта - передать точными словами, логической формулой речи внутреннюю жизнь души в её полноте и правде (chapter II).


To the picnic on Ada’s sixteenth birthday Greg Erminin comes on his Silentium motorcycle (1.39). Greg’s twin sister Grace marries a Wellington (2.6). In 1815 Duke of Wellington defeated Napoleon in the battle of Waterloo. Tyutchev is the author of Bliznetsy (“Twins,” 1852). Greg’s and Grace’s surname hints at Erminia, the nickname of Kutuzov’s daughter Eliza Khitrovo who was hopelessly in love with Pushkin. Kutuzov opposed Napoleon in the battles of Austerlitz (1805) and Borodino (1812).


Both motorcycle and Encyclica (“An Encyclical,” 1865), a poem by Tyutchev that ends in the line svoboda sovesti est’ bred (freedom of worship is nonsense), have cycl in them. After the picnic on Ada’s twelfth birthday Greg Erminin visits Ardis and the following conversation takes place:


Marina was about to jingle a bronze bell for the footman to bring some more toast, but Greg said he was on his way to a party at the Countess de Prey's.

'Rather soon (skorovato) she consoled herself,' remarked Marina, alluding to the death of the Count killed in a pistol duel on Boston Common a couple of years ago.

'She's a very jolly and handsome woman,' said Greg.

'And ten years older than me,' said Marina.

Now Lucette demanded her mother's attention.

'What are Jews?' she asked.

'Dissident Christians,' answered Marina.

'Why is Greg a Jew?' asked Lucette.

'Why-why!' said Marina; 'because his parents are Jews.'

'And his grandparents? His arrière grandparents?'

'I really wouldn't know, my dear. Were your ancestors Jews, Greg?'

'Well, I'm not sure,' said Greg. 'Hebrews, yes - but not Jews in quotes - I mean, not comic characters or Christian businessmen. They came from Tartary to England five centuries ago. My mother's grandfather, though, was a French marquis who, I know, belonged to the Roman faith and was crazy about banks and stocks and jewels, so I imagine people may have called him un juif.'

'It's not a very old religion, anyway, as religions go, is it?' said Marina (turning to Van and vaguely planning to steer the chat to India where she had been a dancing girl long before Moses or anybody was born in the lotus swamp).

'Who cares -' said Van.

'And Belle' (Lucette's name for her governess), 'is she also a dizzy Christian?'

'Who cares,' cried Van, 'who cares about all those stale myths, what does it matter - Jove or Jehovah, spire or cupola, mosques in Moscow, or bronzes and bonzes, and clerics, and relics, and deserts with bleached camel ribs? They are merely the dust and mirages of the communal mind.'

'How did this idiotic conversation start in the first place?' Ada wished to be told, cocking her head at the partly ornamented dackel or taksik.

'Mea culpa,' Mlle Larivière explained with offended dignity. 'All I said, at the picnic, was that Greg might not care for ham sandwiches, because Jews and Tartars do not eat pork.'

'The Romans,' said Greg, 'the Roman colonists, who crucified Christian Jews and Barabbits, and other unfortunate people in the old days, did not touch pork either, but I certainly do and so did my grandparents.'

Lucette was puzzled by a verb Greg had used. To illustrate it for her, Van joined his ankles, spread both his arms horizontally, and rolled up his eyes.

'When I was a little girl,' said Marina crossly, 'Mesopotamian history was taught practically in the nursery.'

'Not all little girls can learn what they are taught,' observed Ada.

'Are we Mesopotamians?' asked Lucette.

'We are Hippopotamians,' said Van. 'Come,' he added, 'we have not yet ploughed today.' (1.14)


Greg comes to Ardis on his beautiful new pony. His arrival is a parody of Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey. In his biography of Tyutchev Aksakov quotes Tyutchev’s poem Eti bednye selen’ya… (“These poor villages…” 1855) ending in the lines:


Удручённый ношей крестной,

Всю тебя, земля родная,

В рабском виде Царь небесный

Исходил благословляя...


Burdened by his cross,

throughout your length and breadth,

in the rags of a slave, the Heavenly King

has walked, blessing you, my native land!


According to Van, Greg’s father, Colonel Erminin, “preferred to pass for a Chekhovian colonel” (3.2). Chekhov is the author of Dama s sobachkoy (“The Lady with the Dog,” 1899). In Chekhov’s story Arkhierey (“The Bishop,” 1902) a character calls his dog Sintaksis (Syntax). Like Dack (the dackel at Ardis), Sintaksis seems to be a dachshund (taksik).


Marina and her twin sister Aqua were accompanied by Daniel Veen and a dackel (Dack’s grandsire), as they crossed the hall of a Boston hotel:


Next day Demon was having tea at his favorite hotel with a Bohemian lady whom he had never seen before and was never to see again (she desired his recommendation for a job in the Glass Fish-and-Flower department in a Boston museum) when she interrupted her voluble self to indicate Marina and Aqua, blankly slinking across the hall in modish sullenness and bluish furs with Dan Veen and a dackel behind, and said:

'Curious how that appalling actress resembles "Eve on the Clepsydrophone" in Parmigianino's famous picture.'

'It is anything but famous,' said Demon quietly, 'and you can't have seen it. I don't envy you,' he added; 'the naive stranger who realizes that he or she has stepped into the mud of an alien life must experience a pretty sickening feeling. Did you get that small-talk information directly from a fellow named d'Onsky or through a friend of a friend of his?'

'Friend of his,' replied the hapless Bohemian lady. (1.2)


molva + bitva + okno = molitva + Nabokov


molva – rumor

bitva – battle

okno – window

molitva – prayer


In his biography of Tyutchev (chapter IV) Aksakov quotes the closing lines of Pushkin’s poem Poet i tolpa (“The Poet and the Crowd,” 1828) in which bitv (of battles) rhymes with molitv (of prayers):


Пушкин имел полное право сказать в следующих прекрасных стихах, столько осмеянных новейшей петербургской критикой позитивистской школы:


Не для житейского волненья,

Не для корысти, не для битв:

Мы рождены для вдохновенья,

Для звуков сладких и молитв.


Not for the worldly agitation,

Not for gain, not for battles,

We were born for inspiration,

For sweet sounds and prayers.


At the end of his essay on Tyutchev Aksakov quotes Turgenev who compared Tyutchev’s poetry to fialka (a violet):


"Талант Тютчева, по самому свойству своему, не обращён к толпе и не от неё ждёт отзыва и одобрения; для того, чтобы вполне оценить его, надо самому читателю быть одарённым некоторой тонкостью понимания, некоторой гибкостью мысли, не остававшейся слишком долго праздной. Фиалка своим запахом не разит на двадцать шагов кругом; надо приблизиться к ней, чтоб почувствовать её благовоние.”


Ada calls old Van’s young secretary, Violet Knox, Fialochka (a diminutive of fialka; 5.4). The name of Van’s secretary hints at Blok’s poem Nochnaya Fialka (“The Night Violet,” 1906). Blok is the author of Na pole Kulikovom (“In the Field of Kulikovo,” 1908), a cycle of five poems. In his poem Bylo to v tyomnykh Karpatakh… (“It was in the dark Carpathians…” 1913-14) Blok mentions distant Bohemia:


Было то в тёмных Карпатах,

Было в Богемии дальней...


Alexey Sklyarenko

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