Amerussia of Abraham Milton & Tartary, independent inferno in Ada

Submitted by Alexey Sklyarenko on Thu, 07/15/2021 - 13:41

Describing the difference between Terra and Antiterra (aka Demonia, Earth’s twin planet), Van Veen (the narrator and main character in VN’s novel Ada, 1969) mentions the Amerussia of Abraham Milton:

 

The details of the L disaster (and I do not mean Elevated) in the beau milieu of last century, which had the singular effect of both causing and cursing the notion of ‘Terra,’ are too well-known historically, and too obscene spiritually, to be treated at length in a book addressed to young laymen and lemans — and not to grave men or gravemen.

Of course, today, after great anti-L years of reactionary delusion have gone by (more or less!) and our sleek little machines, Faragod bless them, hum again after a fashion, as they did in the first half of the nineteenth century, the mere geographic aspect of the affair possesses its redeeming comic side, like those patterns of brass marquetry, and bric-à-Braques, and the ormolu horrors that meant ‘art’ to our humorless forefathers. For, indeed, none can deny the presence of something highly ludicrous in the very configurations that were solemnly purported to represent a varicolored map of Terra. Ved’ (‘it is, isn’t it’) sidesplitting to imagine that ‘Russia,’ instead of being a quaint synonym of Estoty, the American province extending from the Arctic no longer vicious Circle to the United States proper, was on Terra the name of a country, transferred as if by some sleight of land across the ha-ha of a doubled ocean to the opposite hemisphere where it sprawled over all of today’s Tartary, from Kurland to the Kuriles! But (even more absurdly), if, in Terrestrial spatial terms, the Amerussia of Abraham Milton was split into its components, with tangible water and ice separating the political, rather than poetical, notions of ‘America’ and ‘Russia,’ a more complicated and even more preposterous discrepancy arose in regard to time — not only because the history of each part of the amalgam did not quite match the history of each counterpart in its discrete condition, but because a gap of up to a hundred years one way or another existed between the two earths; a gap marked by a bizarre confusion of directional signs at the crossroads of passing time with not all the no-longers of one world corresponding to the not-yets of the other. It was owing, among other things, to this ‘scientifically ungraspable’ concourse of divergences that minds bien rangés (not apt to unhobble hobgoblins) rejected Terra as a fad or a fantom, and deranged minds (ready to plunge into any abyss) accepted it in support and token of their own irrationality.

As Van Veen himself was to find out, at the time of his passionate research in terrology (then a branch of psychiatry) even the deepest thinkers, the purest philosophers, Paar of Chose and Zapater of Aardvark, were emotionally divided in their attitude toward the possibility that there existed’ a distortive glass of our distorted glebe’ as a scholar who desires to remain unnamed has put it with such euphonic wit. (Hm! Kveree-kveree, as poor Mlle L. used to say to Gavronsky. In Ada’s hand.) (1.3)

 

Darkbloom ('Notes to Ada'): beau milieu: right in the middle.

Faragod: apparently, the god of electricity.

braques: allusion to a bric-à-brac painter.

 

The movie man whom Ada calls “Gavronsky,” G. A. Vronsky left Marina (Van’s, Ada’s and Lucette’s mother) for another long-lashed Khristosik (as he called all pretty starlets):

 

At one time Aqua believed that a stillborn male infant half a year old, a surprised little fetus, a fish of rubber that she had produced in her bath, in a lieu de naissance plainly marked X in her dreams, after skiing at full pulver into a larch stump, had somehow been saved and brought to her at the Nusshaus, with her sister’s compliments, wrapped up in blood-soaked cotton wool, but perfectly alive and healthy, to be registered as her son Ivan Veen. At other moments she felt convinced that the child was her sister’s, born out of wedlock, during an exhausting, yet highly romantic blizzard, in a mountain refuge on Sex Rouge, where a Dr Alpiner, general practitioner and gentian-lover, sat providentially waiting near a rude red stove for his boots to dry. Some confusion ensued less than two years later (September, 1871 — her proud brain still retained dozens of dates) when upon escaping from her next refuge and somehow reaching her husband’s unforgettable country house (imitate a foreigner: ‘Signor Konduktor, ay vant go Lago di Luga, hier geld’) she took advantage of his being massaged in the solarium, tiptoed into their former bedroom — and experienced a delicious shock: her talc powder in a half-full glass container marked colorfully Quelques Fleurs still stood on her bedside table; her favorite flame-colored nightgown lay rumpled on the bedrug; to her it meant that only a brief black nightmare had obliterated the radiant fact of her having slept with her husband all along — ever since Shakespeare’s birthday on a green rainy day, but for most other people, alas, it meant that Marina (after G.A. Vronsky, the movie man, had left Marina for another long-lashed Khristosik as he called all pretty starlets) had conceived, c’est bien le cas de le dire, the brilliant idea of having Demon divorce mad Aqua and marry Marina who thought (happily and correctly) she was pregnant again. Marina had spent a rukuliruyushchiy month with him at Kitezh but when she smugly divulged her intentions (just before Aqua’s arrival) he threw her out of the house. Still later, on the last short lap of a useless existence, Aqua scrapped all those ambiguous recollections and found herself reading and rereading busily, blissfully, her son’s letters in a luxurious ‘sanastoria’ at Centaur, Arizona. He invariably wrote in French calling her petite maman and describing the amusing school he would be living at after his thirteenth birthday. She heard his voice through the nightly tinnitus of her new, planful, last, last insomnias and it consoled her. He called her usually mummy, or mama, accenting the last syllable in English, the first, in Russian; somebody had said that triplets and heraldic dracunculi often occurred in trilingual families; but there was absolutely no doubt whatsoever now (except, perhaps, in hateful long-dead Marina’s hell-dwelling mind) that Van was her, her, Aqua’s, beloved son. (ibid.)

 

Darkbloom ('Notes to Ada'): Nuss: German for ‘nut’.

Khristosik: little Christ (Russ.).

rukuliruyushchiy: Russ., from Fr. roucoulant, cooing.

 

In his book Dusha Tolstogo (“The Soul of Tolstoy,” 1927) Ivan Nazhivin calls Tolstoy’s disciples khristosiki (little Christs):

 

Словом, несмотря на все высокие слова, толстовцы были люди, и ничто человеческое не было чуждо им. Большой симпатией эти "христосики", все и всех осуждающие, среди окружающих их людей не пользовались. Но были они о себе мнения очень высокого: они были та закваска, которая поднимает всю квашню, они были тот город, который, стоя наверху горы, не может укрыться, они были то малое стадо, которому суждено спасти грешный мир. Но - мира им так до сих пор спасти и не удалось... (Chapter XX)

 

According to Nazhivin, Tolstoy once told him in confidence that he could never finish The Divine Comedy or Paradise Lost:

 

-- Я должен признаться вам, но под большим секретом, что "Божественную комедию" или "Потерянный рай" какой-нибудь я так и не мог одолеть до глубокой старости. Прочту две-три страницы и обязательно задремлю. Но только смотрите, пока я жив, никому этого не говорите! - со своей прелестной улыбкой заключил он, шутя. (Chapter XXVI)

 

At the end of the same chapter Nazhivin mentions Milton who was the first to say (according to Nazhivin, Tolstoy only repeated Milton's words) that our life should be a work of great art:

 

И, может быть, важнейшая из мыслей, которую обронил Толстой, говоря об искусстве, в том, что надо каждому из нас жить так, чтобы сама наша жизнь была произведением великого искусства. Эту мысль впервые высказал Мильтон, а во времена Толстого, на другом конце Европы, повторил видный английский писатель Эдвард Карпентер, книги которого потом так заинтересовали Толстого. Во всяком случае сам Толстой, пусть независимо от своей воли, сделал свою жизнь таким прекрасным произведением искусства... (ibid.)

 

The first part of Dante’s Divine Comedy is Inferno. Describing the torments of poor mad Aqua (Marina’s twin sister), Van calls Tartary (a country that occupies on Demonia the territory of the Soviet Russia) “an independent inferno:”

 

Actually, Aqua was less pretty, and far more dotty, than Marina. During her fourteen years of miserable marriage she spent a broken series of steadily increasing sojourns in sanatoriums. A small map of the European part of the British Commonwealth — say, from Scoto-Scandinavia to the Riviera, Altar and Palermontovia — as well as most of the U.S.A., from Estoty and Canady to Argentina, might be quite thickly prickled with enameled red-cross-flag pins, marking, in her War of the Worlds, Aqua’s bivouacs. She had plans at one time to seek a modicum of health (‘just a little grayishness, please, instead of the solid black’) in such Anglo-American protectorates as the Balkans and Indias, and might even have tried the two Southern Continents that thrive under our joint dominion. Of course, Tartary, an independent inferno, which at the time spread from the Baltic and Black seas to the Pacific Ocean, was touristically unavailable, though Yalta and Altyn Tagh sounded strangely attractive... But her real destination was Terra the Fair and thither she trusted she would fly on libellula long wings when she died. Her poor little letters from the homes of madness to her husband were sometimes signed: Madame Shchemyashchikh-Zvukov (‘Heart rending-Sounds’). (1.3)

 

In her last note Aqua mentions Ardis Park:

 

Aujourd’hui (heute-toity!) I, this eye-rolling toy, have earned the psykitsch right to enjoy a landparty with Herr Doktor Sig, Nurse Joan the Terrible, and several ‘patients,’ in the neighboring bar (piney wood) where I noticed exactly the same skunk-like squirrels, Van, that your Darkblue ancestor imported to Ardis Park, where you will ramble one day, no doubt. The hands of a clock, even when out of order, must know and let the dumbest little watch know where they stand, otherwise neither is a dial but only a white face with a trick mustache. Similarly, chelovek (human being) must know where he stands and let others know, otherwise he is not even a klok (piece) of a chelovek, neither a he, nor she, but ‘a tit of it’ as poor Ruby, my little Van, used to say of her scanty right breast. I, poor Princesse Lointaine, très lointaine by now, do not know where I stand. Hence I must fall. So adieu, my dear, dear son, and farewell, poor Demon, I do not know the date or the season, but it is a reasonably, and no doubt seasonably, fair day, with a lot of cute little ants queuing to get at my pretty pills.

[Signed] My sister’s sister who teper’

iz ada (‘now is out of hell’) (1.3)

 

Darkbloom ('Notes to Ada'): aujourd’hui, heute: to-day (Fr., Germ.).

Princesse Lointaine: Distant Princess, title of a French play.

 

While Ardis seems to hint at Paradiso (the third part The Divine Comedy) and at Milton’s Paradise Lost, Ad (the Russian title of Inferno) brings to mind the last words of Aqua’s last note (iz ada). Ada calls one of her letters to Van “a second howl iz ada:”

 

[Los Angeles, mid-September, 1888]

This is a second howl iz ada (out of Hades). Strangely, I learned on the same day, from three different sources, of your duel in K.; of P’s death; and of your recuperating at his cousin’s (congs as she and I used to say). I rang her up, but she said that you had left for Paris and that R. had also died — not through your intervention, as I had thought for a moment, but through that of his wife. Neither he nor P. was technically my lover, but both are on Terra now, so it does not matter. (2.1)

 

In his book on Tolstoy Nazhivin calls Tolstoy chelovekoved (a scholar in human beings):

 

И для чего вы, человековед несравненный, рассказываете нам, себя слишком хорошо знающим, невероятное о человеке: что он сын Бога, что удел его - бесконечное (не меньше!) совершенствование и прочее. Если он сын Бога, то, конечно, только в том смысле, в каком детьми Божьими является лютик и крапива, божья коровка и вошь. Вслед за преподобным Исихием вы хотите, чтобы человек был подобен израильскому первосвященнику, который носил на груди золотую дощечку с надписью: "святыня Господня" - чтобы помнить, что в душе его святыней может быть только то, что свято, то, что радостно, то, что лучезарно. Но, Боже мой, ведь золотая мечта эта нежной зорькой стоит над пустыней жизни человеческой уже века, тысячелетия, но это только мечта и мечта немногих! (Chapter XVII)

 

In the next paragraph Nazhivin mentions the famous English dreamer Wells (the author of The War of the Worlds):

 

У знаменитого английского фантазера Уэллса есть интересный роман, в котором он рисует отдаленное будущее человечества. До Уэллса было принято представлять себе это будущее в самых розовых тонах, - он первый мужественно порвал с этой пошлой белибердой и сказал нам, что наше будущее может быть не только не лучше, но много хуже настоящего. Он рассказывает, как постепенно, в медлительной эволюции, человечество разделилось, в конце концов, на два резко враждебных лагеря, на утомленных и слабых элоев и мрачных и жестоких морлоков, которые живут в глубинах земли и ведут непрестанную борьбу со светлыми элоями, и иногда просто пожирают их... Но разве это разделение человечества, которым пугает нас Уэллс, уже не произошло? Разве его не было всегда? (ibid.)

 

Describing the patio party in “Ardis the Second,” Van mentions Dr Ero, pursued by the Invisible Albino in one of the greatest novels of English literature:

 

Van left the pool-side patio and strode away. He turned into a side gallery that led into a grovy part of the garden, grading insensibly into the park proper. Presently, he noticed that Ada had hastened to follow him. Lifting one elbow, revealing the black star of her armpit, she tore off her bathing cap and with a shake of her head liberated a torrent of hair. Lucette, in color, trotted behind her. Out of charity for the sisters’ bare feet, Van changed his course from gravel path to velvet lawn (reversing the action of Dr Ero, pursued by the Invisible Albino in one of the greatest novels of English literature). They caught up with him in the Second Coppice. Lucette, in passing, stopped to pick up her sister’s cap and sunglasses — the sunglasses of much-sung lasses, a shame to throw them away! My tidy little Lucette (I shall never forget you...) placed both objects on a tree stump near an empty beer bottle, trotted on, then went back to examine a bunch of pink mushrooms that clung to the stump, snoring. Double take, double exposure.

‘Are you furious, because —’ began Ada upon overtaking him (she had prepared a sentence about her having to be polite after all to a piano tuner, practically a servant, with an obscure heart ailment and a vulgar pathetic wife — but Van interrupted her).

‘I object,’ he said, expelling it like a rocket, ‘to two things. A brunette, even a sloppy brunette, should shave her groin before exposing it, and a well-bred girl does not allow a beastly lecher to poke her in the ribs even if she must wear a motheaten, smelly rag much too short for her charms.’ ‘Ach!’ he added, ‘why the hell did I return to Ardis!’

‘I promise, I promise to be more careful from now on and not let lousy Pedro come near,’ she said with happy rigorous nods — and an exhalation of glorious relief, the cause of which was to torture Van only much later. (1.32)

 

Darkbloom ('Notes to Ada'): Ero: thus the h-dropping policeman in Wells’ Invisible Man defined the latter’s treacherous friend.

 

In his story for children "Milton and Bulka" (in which the action takes place in the Caucasus) Tolstoy describes his clever dog Milton, a pointer that helped Tolstoy in his pheasant hunts: 

 

Я завёл себе для фазанов легавую собаку. Собаку эту звали Мильтон: она была высокая, худая, крапчатая по серому, с длинными брылами и ушами и очень сильная и умная. С Булькой они не грызлись. Ни одна собака никогда не огрызалась на Бульку. Он, бывало, только покажет свои зубы, и собаки поджимают хвосты и отходят прочь. Один раз я пошёл с Мильтоном за фазанами. Вдруг Булька прибежал за мной в лес. Я хотел прогнать его, но никак не мог. А идти домой, чтобы отвести его, было далеко. Я думал, что он не будет мешать мне, и пошёл дальше; но только что Мильтон почуял в траве фазана и стал искать, Булька бросился вперёд и стал соваться во все стороны. Он старался прежде Мильтона поднять фазана. Он что-то такое слышал в траве, прыгал, вертелся: но чутьё у него плохое, и он не мог найти следа один, а смотрел на Мильтона и бежал туда, куда шёл Мильтон. Только что Мильтон тронется по следу, Булька забежит вперёд. Я отзывал Бульку, бил, но ничего не мог сделать с ним. Как только Мильтон начинал искать, он бросался вперёд и мешал ему. Я хотел уже идти домой, потому что думал, что охота моя испорчена, но Мильтон лучше меня придумал, как обмануть Бульку. Он вот что сделал: как только Булька забежит ему вперёд, Мильтон бросит след, повернёт в другую сторону и притворится, что он ищет. Булька бросится туда, куда показал Мильтон, а Мильтон оглянется на меня, махнёт хвостом и пойдёт опять по настоящему следу. Булька опять прибегает к Мильтону, забегает вперёд, и опять Мильтон нарочно сделает шагов десять в сторону, обманет Бульку и опять поведёт меня прямо. Так что всю охоту он обманывал Бульку и не дал ему испортить дело.

 

Describing his meeting with Marina in a public park, Van mentions pheasants in a big cage:

 

Some ten years ago, not long before or after his fourth birthday, and toward the end of his mother’s long stay in a sanatorium, ‘Aunt’ Marina had swooped upon him in a public park where there were pheasants in a big cage. She advised his nurse to mind her own business and took him to a booth near the band shell where she bought him an emerald stick of peppermint candy and told him that if his father wished she would replace his mother and that you could not feed the birds without Lady Amherst’s permission, or so he understood.

They now had tea in a prettily furnished corner of the otherwise very austere central hall from which rose the grand staircase. They sat on chairs upholstered in silk around a pretty table. Ada’s black jacket and a pink-yellow-blue nosegay she had composed of anemones, celandines and columbines lay on a stool of oak. The dog got more bits of cake than it did ordinarily. Price, the mournful old footman who brought the cream for the strawberries, resembled Van’s teacher of history, ‘Jeejee’ Jones.

‘He resembles my teacher of history,’ said Van when the man had gone.

‘I used to love history,’ said Marina, ‘I loved to identify myself with famous women. There’s a ladybird on your plate, Ivan. Especially with famous beauties — Lincoln’s second wife or Queen Josephine.’

‘Yes, I’ve noticed — it’s beautifully done. We’ve got a similar set at home.’

‘Slivok (some cream)? I hope you speak Russian?’ Marina asked Van, as she poured him a cup of tea.

‘Neohotno no sovershenno svobodno (reluctantly but quite fluently),’ replied Van, slegka ulïbnuvshis’ (with a slight smile). ‘Yes, lots of cream and three lumps of sugar.’

‘Ada and I share your extravagant tastes. Dostoevski liked it with raspberry syrup.’

‘Pah,’ uttered Ada. (1.5)

 

Darkbloom (‘Notes to Ada’): with a slight smile: a pet formula of Tolstoy’s denoting cool superiority, if not smugness, in a character’s manner of speech.

 

On Feb. 7, 1909, the following “interview” with Tolstoy (“Tolstoi Holds Lincoln World’s Greatest Hero” by Count S. Stakelberg) appeared in the New York World:

 

Visiting Leo Tolstoi in Yasnaya with the intention of getting him to write an article on Lincoln, I unfortunately found him not well enough to yield to my request. However, he was willing to give me his opinion of the great American statesman, and this is what he told me:

“Of all the great national heroes and statesmen of history Lincoln is the only real giant. Alexander, Frederick the Great, Caesar, Napoleon, Gladstone and even Washington stand in greatness of character, in depth of feeling and in a certain moral power far behind Lincoln. Lincoln was a man of whom a nation has a right to be proud; he was a Christ in miniature, a saint of humanity, whose name will live thousands of years in the leg­ends of future generations. We are still too near to his greatness, and so can hardly appreciate his divine power; but after a few centuries more our posterity will find him considerably bigger than we do. His genius is still too strong and too powerful for the common understanding, just as the sun is too hot when its light beams directly on us.

“If one would know the greatness of Lincoln one should lis­ten to the stories which are told about him in other parts of the world. I have been in wild places, where one hears the name of America uttered with such mystery as if it were some heaven or hell. I have heard various tribes of barbarians discussing the New World, but I heard this only in connection with the name of Lincoln. Lincoln as the wonderful hero of America is known by the most primitive nations of Asia. This may be illustrated through the following incident:

“Once while travelling in the Caucasus I happened to be the guest of a Caucasian chief of the Circassians, who, living far away from civilized life in the mountains, had but a fragmentary and childish comprehension of the world and its history. The fingers of civilization had never reached him nor his tribe, and all life beyond his native valleys was a dark mystery. Being a Mussulman he was naturally opposed to all ideas of progress and education.

“I was received with the usual Oriental hospitality and after our meal was asked by my host to tell him something of my life. Yielding to his request I began to tell him of my profession, of the development of our industries and inventions and of the schools. He listened to everything with indifference, but when I began to tell about the great statesmen and the great generals of the world he seemed at once to become very much interested.

“‘Wait a moment,’ he interrupted, after I had talked a few minutes. ‘I want all my neighbors and my sons to listen to you. I will call them immediately.’

“He soon returned with a score of wild looking riders and asked me politely to continue. It was indeed a solemn moment when those sons of the wilderness sat around me on the floor and gazed at me as if hungering for knowledge. I spoke at first of our Czars and of their victories; then I spoke of the foreign rulers and of some of the greatest military leaders. My talk seemed to impress them deeply. The story of Napoleon was so interesting to them that I had to tell them every detail, as, for instance, how his hands looked, how tall he was, who made his guns and pistols and the color of his horse. It was very difficult to satisfy them and to meet their point of view, but I did my best. When I declared that I had finished my talk, my host, a gray-bearded, tall rider, rose, lifted his hand and said very gravely:

“‘But you have not told us a syllable about the greatest gen­eral and greatest ruler of the world. We want to know some­thing about him. He was a hero. He spoke with a voice of thunder; he laughed like the sunrise and his deeds were strong as the rock and as sweet as the fragrance of roses. The angels appeared to his mother and predicted that the son whom she would con­ceive would become the greatest the stars had ever seen. He was so great that he even forgave the crimes of his greatest enemies and shook brotherly hands with those who had plotted against his life. His name was Lincoln and the country in which he lived is called America, which is so far away that if a youth should journey to reach it he would be an old man when he arrived. Tell us of that man.’

“‘Tell us, please, and we will present you with the best horse of our stock,’ shouted the others.

“I looked at them and saw their faces all aglow, while their eyes were burning. I saw that those rude barbarians were really interested in a man whose name and deeds had already become a legend. I told them of Lincoln and his wisdom, of his home life and youth. They asked me ten questions to one which I was able to answer. They wanted to know all about his habits, his influence upon the people and his physical strength. But they were very astonished to hear that Lincoln made a sorry figure on a horse and that he lived such a simple life.

“‘Tell us why he was killed,’ one of them said.

“I had to tell everything. After all my knowledge of Lincoln was exhausted they seemed to be satisfied. I can hardly forget the great enthusiasm which they expressed in their wild thanks and desire to get a picture of the great American hero. I said that I probably could secure one from my friend in the nearest town, and this seemed to give them great pleasure.

“The next morning when I left the chief a wonderful Arabian horse was brought me as a present for my marvellous story, and our farewell was very impressive.

“One of the riders agreed to accompany me to the town and get the promised picture, which I was now bound to secure at any price. I was successful in getting a large photograph from my friend, and I handed it to the man with my greetings to his associates. It was interesting to witness the gravity of his face and the trembling of his hands when he received my present. He gazed for several minutes silently, like one in a reverent prayer; his eyes filled with tears. He was deeply touched and I asked him why he became so sad. After pondering my question for a few moments he replied:

“‘I am sad because I feel sorry that he had to die by the hand of a villain. Don’t you find, judging from his picture, that his eyes are full of tears and that his lips are sad with a secret sorrow?’

“Like all Orientals, he spoke in a poetical way and left me with many deep bows.

“This little incident proves how largely the name of Lincoln is worshipped throughout the world and how legendary his per­sonality has become.

“Now, why was Lincoln so great that he overshadows all other national heroes? He really was not a great general like Napoleon or Washington; he was not such a skilful statesman as Gladstone or Frederick the Great; but his supremacy expresses itself altogether in his peculiar moral power and in the greatness of his character. He had come through many hardships and much experience to the realization that the greatest human achieve­ment is love. He was what Beethoven was in music, Dante in poetry, Raphael in painting, and Christ in the philosophy of life. He aspired to be divine— and he was.

“It is natural that before he reached his goal he had to walk the highway of mistakes. But we find him, nevertheless, in every tendency true to one main motive, and that was to benefit man­kind. He was one who wanted to be great through his smallness. If he had failed to become President he would be, no doubt, just as great as he is now, but only God could appreciate it. The judgment of the world is usually wrong in the beginning, and it takes centuries to correct it. But in the case of Lincoln the world was right from the start. Sooner or later Lincoln would have been seen to be a great man, even though he had never been an American President. But it would have taken a great generation to place him where he belongs.

“Lincoln died prematurely by the hand of the assassin, and naturally we condemn the criminal from our viewpoint of jus­tice. But the question is, was his death not predestined by a di­vine wisdom, and was it not better for the nation and for his greatness that he died just in that way and at that particular mo­ment? We know so little about that divine law which we call fate that no one can answer. Christ had a presentiment of His death, and there are indications that also Lincoln had strange dreams and presentiments of something tragic. If that was really the fact, can we conceive that human will could have prevented the outcome of the universal or divine will? I doubt it. I doubt also that Lincoln could have done more to prove his greatness than he did. I am convinced we are but instruments in the hands of an unknown power and that we have to follow its bidding to the end. We have a certain apparent independence, according to our moral character, wherein we may benefit our fellows, but in all eternal and universal questions we follow blindly a divine pre­destination. According to that eternal law the greatest of na­tional heroes had to die, but an immortal glory still shines on his deeds.

“However, the highest heroism is that which is based on humanity, truth, justice and pity; all other forms are doomed to forgetfulness. The greatness of Aristotle or Kant is insignificant compared with the greatness of Buddha, Moses and Christ. The greatness of Napoleon, Caesar or Washington is only moon­light by the sun of Lincoln. His example is universal and will last thousands of years. Washington was a typical American, Napoleon was a typical Frenchman, but Lincoln was a humanitarian as broad as the world. He was bigger than his country— bigger than all the Presidents together. Why? Because he loved his enemies as himself and because he was a universal individu­alist who wanted to see himself in the world— not the world in himself. He was great through his simplicity and was noble through his charity.

“Lincoln is a strong type of those who make for truth and justice, for brotherhood and freedom. Love is the foundation of his life. That is what makes him immortal and that is the quality of a giant. I hope that his centenary birth day will create an im­pulse toward righteousness among the nations. Lincoln lived and died a hero, and as a great character he will live as long as the world lives. May his life long bless humanity!”

 

Needless to say that after 1865 (the year of Lincoln’s death) Tolstoy never visited the Caucasus. Lincoln (who was assassinated by an actor at Ford's Theatre) died on Apr. 15, 1865. On Apr. 15, 1925, VN married Vera Slonim in Berlin. According to Van, Demon Veen married Aqua on Apr. 23 (VN's birthday), 1869:

 

On April 23, 1869, in drizzly and warm, gauzy and green Kaluga, Aqua, aged twenty-five and afflicted with her usual vernal migraine, married Walter D. Veen, a Manhattan banker of ancient Anglo-Irish ancestry who had long conducted, and was soon to resume intermittently, a passionate affair with Marina. The latter, some time in 1871, married her first lover’s first cousin, also Walter D. Veen, a quite as opulent, but much duller, chap.

The ‘D’ in the name of Aqua’s husband stood for Demon (a form of Demian or Dementius), and thus was he called by his kin. In society he was generally known as Raven Veen or simply Dark Walter to distinguish him from Marina’s husband, Durak Walter or simply Red Veen. Demon’s twofold hobby was collecting old masters and young mistresses. He also liked middle-aged puns. (1.1)

 

Incidentally, in his book on Tolstoy Nazhivin points out that, after the assassination of Alexander II, Tolstoy wrote a letter to the young tsar Alexander III, asking him to pardon the murderers of his father, give them money and send them to America:

 

Правительство из всех сил, не щадя миллионов, боролось с "гидрой революции"... Но на месте одной отрубленной у гидры головы вырастали десять новых: то был героический период революции, когда в нее шли пусть наивные, но несомненно чистые и несомненно народу преданные люди, а в особенности пылкая молодежь, погибавшая в ссылке, по тюрьмам и на виселицах без числа. И, наконец, грянуло 1 марта, когда в Петербурге бомбой был убит Александр II. Растерявшееся было сперва правительство быстро справилось, однако, с террористами, предало их суду и, естественно, защищаясь, вынесло приговор: смертная казнь. На Толстого этот приговор произвел чрезвычайное впечатление и, потрясенный, он написал свое знаменитое письмо к молодому царю Александру III, в котором он, опираясь на цитаты из Евангелия, умолял царя пощадить убийц его отца, дать им лучше денег и отправить их хотя бы в Америку. И если бы царь последовал этому совету, Толстой в письме обещал ему: "не знаю, как другие, но я, плохой верноподданный, был бы собакой, рабом вашим..." Но, как и следовало ожидать, царь не послушал этого голоса, казнь была приведена в исполнение, и судьба избавила Толстого от необходимости быть рабом и собакой: тому, кто, не имея году отроду, бунтовал против пеленок, было бы очень трудно это обещание сдержать. Иногда, как мы видим, его горячность заводила его несколько дальше, чем ему и нам это было бы приятно. (Chapter XVIII)

 

Tolstoy promised to Alexander III to be his faithful dog, if the murderers were pardoned.