One of the three main characters in VN¡¯s novel Pale Fire (1962), John Shade was born on July 5, 1898. Two other main characters, Charles Kinbote and Jakob Gradus, were born seventeen years later, on July 5, 1915. In a letter to his brother Mikhail that he wrote on his seventeenth birthday (October 31, 1838, OS) Dostoevski mentions gradus (degree):
§¶§Ú§Ý§à§ã§à§æ§Ú§ð §ß§Ö §ß§Ñ§Õ§à §á§à§Ý§Ñ§Ô§Ñ§ä§î §á§â§à§ã§ä§à§Û §Þ§Ñ§ä§Ö§Þ§Ñ§ä§Ú§é§Ö§ã§Ü§à§Û §Ù§Ñ§Õ§Ñ§é§Ö§Û, §Ô§Õ§Ö §ß§Ö§Ú§Ù§Ó§Ö§ã§ä§ß§à§Ö - §á§â§Ú§â§à§Õ§Ñ... §©§Ñ§Þ§Ö§ä§î, §é§ä§à §á§à§ï§ä §Ó §á§à§â§í§Ó§Ö §Ó§Õ§à§ç§ß§à§Ó§Ö§ß§î§ñ §â§Ñ§Ù§Ô§Ñ§Õ§í§Ó§Ñ§Ö§ä §Ò§à§Ô§Ñ, §ã§Ý§Ö§Õ§à§Ó§Ñ§ä§Ö§Ý§î§ß§à, §Ú§ã§á§à§Ý§ß§ñ§Ö§ä §ß§Ñ§Ù§ß§Ñ§é§Ö§ß§î§Ö §æ§Ú§Ý§à§ã§à§æ§Ú§Ú. §³§Ý§Ö§Õ§à§Ó§Ñ§ä§Ö§Ý§î§ß§à, §á§à§ï§ä§Ú§é§Ö§ã§Ü§Ú§Û §Ó§à§ã§ä§à§â§Ô §Ö§ã§ä§î §Ó§à§ã§ä§à§â§Ô §æ§Ú§Ý§à§ã§à§æ§Ú§Ú... §³§Ý§Ö§Õ§à§Ó§Ñ§ä§Ö§Ý§î§ß§à, §æ§Ú§Ý§à§ã§à§æ§Ú§ñ §Ö§ã§ä§î §ä§Ñ §Ø§Ö §á§à§ï§Ù§Ú§ñ, §ä§à§Ý§î§Ü§à §Ó§í§ã§ê§Ú§Û §Ô§â§Ñ§Õ§å§ã §Ö§×!..
Philosophy should not be regarded as a mere equation where nature is the unknown quantity¡ Remark that the poet, in the moment of inspiration, comprehends God, and consequently does the philosopher¡¯s work. Consequently poetic inspiration is nothing less than philosophical inspiration. Consequently philosophy is nothing but poetry, a higher degree of poetry!..
In the same letter Dostoevski tells his brother that it is sad to live without nadezhda (hope):
§¢§â§Ñ§ä, §Ô§â§å§ã§ä§ß§à §Ø§Ú§ä§î §Ò§Ö§Ù §ß§Ñ§Õ§Ö§Ø§Õ§í... §³§Þ§à§ä§â§ð §Ó§á§Ö§â§×§Õ, §Ú §Ò§å§Õ§å§ë§Ö§Ö §Þ§Ö§ß§ñ §å§Ø§Ñ§ã§Ñ§Ö§ä...
¡°I look ahead and the future frightens me.¡±
Ten and a half years later (on April 23, 1849, OS) Dostoevski was arrested as a member of a group of progressive-minded intellectuals and imprisoned in the Peter-and-Paul Fortress (whose commander was General Ivan Nabokov, an elder brother of VN¡¯s great-grandfather) in St. Petersburg.
The intonation in Dostoevski¡¯s letter is in a stark contrast with the beginning of Pushkin¡¯s Stansy (¡°Stanzas,¡± 1826), a poem written five months after the execution of the Decembrists and addressed to the tsar Nicholas I:
§£ §ß§Ñ§Õ§Ö§Ø§Õ§Ö §ã§Ý§Ñ§Ó§í §Ú §Õ§à§Ò§â§Ñ
§¤§Ý§ñ§Ø§å §Ó§á§Ö§â§×§Õ §ñ §Ò§Ö§Ù §Ò§à§ñ§Ù§ß§Ú:
§¯§Ñ§é§Ñ§Ý§à §ã§Ý§Ñ§Ó§ß§í§ç §Õ§ß§Ö§Û §±§Ö§ä§â§Ñ
§®§â§Ñ§é§Ú§Ý§Ú §Þ§ñ§ä§Ö§Ø§Ú §Ú §Ü§Ñ§Ù§ß§Ú.
In the hope of glory and good
I look ahead without fear:
The beginning of Peter¡¯s glorious days
Was clouded by revolts and executions.
Ten years letter, in January of 1837, Pushkin was mortally wounded in his duel with d¡¯Anth¨¨s.
In his ¡°Stanzas¡± Pushkin mentions Yakov Dolgoruki (1639¨C1720), a close associate of Peter I:
§¯§à §á§â§Ñ§Ó§Õ§à§Û §à§ß §á§â§Ú§Ó§Ý§×§Ü §ã§Ö§â§Õ§è§Ñ,
§¯§à §ß§â§Ñ§Ó§í §å§Ü§â§à§ä§Ú§Ý §ß§Ñ§å§Ü§à§Û,
§ª §Ò§í§Ý §à§ä §Ò§å§Û§ß§à§Ô§à §ã§ä§â§Ö§Ý§î§è§Ñ
§±§â§Ö§Õ §ß§Ú§Þ §à§ä§Ý§Ú§é§Ö§ß §¥§à§Ý§Ô§à§â§å§Ü§à§Û.
But he with truth engaged people's hearts,
With learning gentled uncouth ways,
And from a violent strelets*
He could distinguish Dolgoruki.
The name Yakov is the Russian form of Jakob (cf. Jakob Gradus). In Dostoevski¡¯s novel Podrostok (¡°The Adolescent,¡± 1875) the name of the main character and narrator is Arkadiy Dolgoruki. The title of Dostoevski¡¯s novel brings to mind Ulichnyi podrostok (¡°The Street Adolescent,¡± 1914), the sonnet with a coda by G. Ivanov. A good poet who wrote bad prose, G. Ivanov is the author of Raspad atoma (¡°An Atom¡¯s Disintegration,¡± 1938). After the tragic death of his daughter Nadezhda (Hazel Shade of Kinbote¡¯s Commentary), Professor Vsevolod Botkin ¡°disintegrated¡± and became Shade, Kinbote and Gradus. Just before he is killed by Gradus, Shade sees a butterfly Vanessa atalanta:
A dark Vanessa with crimson band
Wheels in the low sun, settles on the sand
And shows its ink-blue wingtips flecked with white.
And through the flowing shade and ebbing light
A man, unheedful of the butterfly--
Some neighbor's gardener, I guess--goes by
Trundling an empty barrow up the lane. (ll. 993-999)
According to VN (Strong Opinions, p. 170), in Russia Red Admirable (Vanessa atalanta) was called ¡°the Butterfly of Doom¡± because it was especially abundant in 1881, the year Tsar Alexander II was assassinated, and the markings on the underside of its two hind wings seem to read ¡°1881.¡± Dostoevski died in January, 1881, a month before the tsar was killed by the bomb of the terrorists.
It seems that, to be completed, Shade¡¯s unfinished poem needs not only Line 1000 (identical to Line 1: ¡°I was the shadow of the waxwing slain), but also a coda (Line 1001: ¡°By its own double in the windowpane¡±). Dvoynik (¡°The Double,¡± 1846) is a short novel by Dostoevski. According to Shade, Dostoevski was a humorist (Kinbote¡¯s note to Line 172). In Dostoevski¡¯s story Bobok (1873), in which the action takes place at a cemetery, the narrator listens to the conversation of the deceased who mention Dr Botkin (the father of Dr Eugene Botkin who in 1918 was executed with the family of the last Russian tsar):
-- §¡ §ñ, §Ù§ß§Ñ§Ö§ä§Ö, §Ó§ã§× §ã§à§Ò§Ú§â§Ñ§Ý§ã§ñ §Ü §¢§à§ä§Ü§Ú§ß§å... §Ú §Ó§Õ§â§å§Ô...
-- §¯§å, §¢§à§ä§Ü§Ú§ß §Ü§å§ã§Ñ§Ö§ä§ã§ñ,-- §Ù§Ñ§Þ§Ö§ä§Ú§Ý §Ô§Ö§ß§Ö§â§Ñ§Ý.
-- §¡§ç, §ß§Ö§ä, §à§ß §ã§à§Ó§ã§Ö§Þ §ß§Ö §Ü§å§ã§Ñ§Ö§ä§ã§ñ; §ñ §ã§Ý§í§ê§Ñ§Ý, §à§ß §ä§Ñ§Ü§à§Û §Ó§ß§Ú§Þ§Ñ§ä§Ö§Ý§î§ß§í§Û §Ú §Ó§ã§× §á§â§Ö§Õ§ã§Ü§Ñ§Ø§Ö§ä §Ó§á§Ö§â§×§Õ.
-- §¦§Ô§à §á§â§Ö§Ó§à§ã§ç§à§Õ§Ú§ä§Ö§Ý§î§ã§ä§Ó§à §Ù§Ñ§Þ§Ö§ä§Ú§Ý §ß§Ñ§ã§é§×§ä §è§Ö§ß§í,-- §á§à§á§â§Ñ§Ó§Ú§Ý §é§Ú§ß§à§Ó§ß§Ú§Ü.
-- §¡§ç, §é§ä§à §Ó§í, §Ó§ã§Ö§Ô§à §ä§â§Ú §è§Ö§Ý§Ü§à§Ó§í§ç, §Ú §à§ß §ä§Ñ§Ü §à§ã§Þ§Ñ§ä§â§Ú§Ó§Ñ§Ö§ä, §Ú §â§Ö§è§Ö§á§ä... §Ú §ñ §ß§Ö§á§â§Ö§Þ§Ö§ß§ß§à §ç§à§ä§Ö§Ý, §á§à§ä§à§Þ§å §é§ä§à §Þ§ß§Ö §Ô§à§Ó§à§â§Ú§Ý§Ú... §¹§ä§à §Ø§Ö, §Ô§à§ã§á§à§Õ§Ñ, §Ü§Ñ§Ü §Ø§Ö §Þ§ß§Ö, §Ü §¿§Ü§å §Ú§Ý§Ú §Ü §¢§à§ä§Ü§Ú§ß§å?
¡°You know, I kept meaning to go to Botkin¡¯s, and all at once . . .¡±
¡°Botkin is quite prohibitive,¡± observed the general.
¡°Oh, no, he is not forbidding at all; I¡¯ve heard he is so attentive and foretells everything beforehand.¡±
¡°His Excellency was referring to his fees,¡± the government clerk corrected him.
¡°Oh, not at all, he only asks three roubles, and he makes such an examination, and gives you a prescription . . .and I was very anxious to see him, for I have been told . . . Well, gentlemen, had I better go to Ecke or to Botkin?¡±
There is a hope that, after Kinbote completes his work on Shade¡¯s poem and commits suicide (on October 19, 1959, the anniversary of Pushkin¡¯s Lyceum), Botkin, like Count Vorontsov (a target of Pushkin¡¯s epigrams), will be ¡°full¡± again.
*Strelets is a Russian guardsman armed with a firearm (in the 16th - early 18th centuries). On the other hand, Strelets means ¡°Sagittarian¡± (a zodiacal constellation and a person who was born when the sun was in that constellation).