Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026805, Thu, 14 Jan 2016 19:02:58 +0300

Baron Mandevil & Conmal in Pale Fire
In Kinbote's Commentary to Shade's poem Odon (pseudonym of Donald O'Donnell)
mentions young Baron Mandevil, the chap who had that duel last year:

"I was looking for the shpiks [plainclothesmen]" said the King. "All day,"
said Odon, "they have been patrolling the quay. They are dining at present."
"I'm thirsty and hungry," said the King. "There's some stuff in the boat.
Let those Russians vanish. The child we can ignore." "What about that woman
on the beach?" "That's young Baron Mandevil--chap who had that duel last
year. Let's go now." "Couldn't we take him too?" "Wouldn't come--got a wife
and a baby. Come on, Charlie, come on, Your Majesty." "He was my throne page
on Coronation Day." Thus chatting, they reached the Rippleson Caves. (note
to Line 149)

Teufel being German for "devil," the name Mandevil seems to hint at
Manteuffel. In 1908 Count Arvid Manteuffel killed in a pistol duel Prince
Nikolay Yusupov, Felix's elder brother who had a romance with Arvid's wife
Marina Heyden (a great-granddaughter of Emilia Musin-Pushkin whose heart
Lermontov in a famous madrigal compared to the Bastille). One of Rasputin's
murderers, Felix Yusupov enjoyed dressing in women's clothing and going out
to restaurants and clubs in St. Petersburg. In 1914 Felix (whom Rasputin
tried to cure of homosexuality) married Princess Irina Romanov (the niece of
Nicholas II) who bore him a daughter. In 1919 the last Romanovs and the
Yusupovs left Russia via Yalta and Malta. Among the people who were executed
with the family of the last Russian tsar was Dr. Botkin. Botkin seems to be
Shade's, Kinbote's and Gradus' "real" name.

In his Commentary and Index Kinbote mentions Mirador Mandevil, Baron
Radomir's cousin:

The grotesque figure of Gradus, a cross between bat and crab, was not much
odder than many other Shadows, such as, for example, Nodo, Odon's epileptic
half brother who cheated at cards, or a mad Mandevil who had lost a leg in
trying to make anti-matter. (note to Line 171)

Mandevil, Baron Mirador, cousin of Radomir Mandevil (q.v.), experimentalist,
madman and traitor,
<http://www.shannonrchamberlain.com/commentary.html#comline171> 171.
Mandevil, Baron Radomir, b. 1925, man of fashion and Zemblan patriot; in
1936, K's throne page,
<http://www.shannonrchamberlain.com/commentary.html#comline130> 130; in
1958, disguised,
<http://www.shannonrchamberlain.com/commentary.html#comline149> 149.

On the other hand, manda meaning in Russian what con means in French (cf.
Miss Condor in Ada, VN's novel set on Antiterra) and mal being French for
"evil," the name Mandevil brings to mind Conmal, Duke of Aros, 1855-1955,
K's uncle, the eldest half-brother of Queen Blenda, translator of
Shakespeare into Zemblan. In his Commentary Kinbote quotes the first
quatrain of a sonnet that Conmal composed in English:

English being Conmal's prerogative, his Shakspere remained invulnerable
throughout the greater part of his long life. The venerable Duke was famed
for the nobility of his work; few dared question its fidelity. Personally, I
had never the heart to check it. One callous Academician who did, lost his
seat in result and was severely reprimanded by Conmal in an extraordinary
sonnet composed directly in colorful, if not quite correct, English,

I am not slave! Let be my critic slave.

I cannot be. And Shakespeare would not want thus.
Let drawing students copy the acanthus,
I work with Master on the architrave! (note to Line 962)

In the first of his two poems written in the Onegin stanza and entitled On
Translating "Eugene Onegin" (1955) VN mentions "your stanza patterned on a
sonnet" and, in the poem's closing line, calls his translation of Pushkin's
EO "all thorn, but cousin to your rose:"

What is translation? On a platter

A poet's pale and glaring head,

A parrot's screech, a monkey's chatter,

And profanation of the dead.

The parasits you were so hard on

Are pardoned if I have your pardon,

O, Pushkin, for my stratagem:

I travelled down your secret stem,

And reached the root, and fed upon it;

Then, in a language newly learned,

I grew another stalk and turned

Your stanza patterned on a sonnet,

Into my honest roadside prose--

All thorn, but cousin to your rose.

"Rose" brings to mind Duke of Aros (true, Aros = soar). Note that Conmal
(Duke of Aros) was born in 1855 (the year when the tsar Nicholas I died) and
died in 1955 (the year when VN composed On Translating "Eugene Onegin").

In EO (Five: XXVI: 9) Pushkin calls Buyanov (the main character in his
uncle's Dangerous Neighbor) moy brat dvoyurodnyi ("my first cousin"). An
American scholar of Russian descent, Prof. Vsevolod Botkin can be VN's first

Alexey Sklyarenko

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