Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0023507, Mon, 10 Dec 2012 23:14:47 +0300

Daria ('Dolly') Durmanov
Van's maternal grandmother Daria ('Dolly') Durmanov was the daughter of Prince Peter Zemski, Governor of Bras d'Or, an American province in the Northeast of our great and variegated country, who had married, in 1824, Mary O'Reilly, an Irish woman of fashion. (Ada, 1.1)

E. M. Khitrovo (Pushkin's "Erminia") was the mother of Daria (Dolly) Ficquelmont (born Tiesenhausen), the wife of the Austrian ambassador, mistress of the St. Petersburg salon, friend of Pushkin, Prince Peter Vyazemski (whose Irish mother was nee O'Reilly) and other poets.

In his poem Tolstomu (1818) addressed to Count Tolstoy Amerikanets Vyzemski mentions myatezhnykh sklonnostey durman (the drug of rebellious inclinations) hurling Tolstoy iz raya v ad, iz ada v ray (from paradise to hell, from hell to paradise):

Американец и цыган,
На свете нравственном загадка,
Которого, как лихорадка,
Мятежных склонностей дурман
Или страстей кипящих схватка
Всегда из края мечет в край,
Из рая в ад, из ада в рай!
Которого душа есть пламень,
А ум — холодный эгоист;
Под бурей рока — твёрдый камень!
В волненье страсти — лёгкий лист!...

The last two lines, "Under fate's storm [he is] a hard stone! / In the agitation of passion, a light leaf!", Pushkin wanted to use as the epigraph to Kavkazskiy plennik (The Caucasian Captive, 1822) but did not because of his enmity with Tolstoy.

Tolstoy "the American" (who as a young man participated in Admiral Krusenstern's voyage around the world and was dumped for insubordination on Rat Island, in the Aleutians) was the first cousin of Leo Tolstoy's father. Dolly (Daria Aleksandrovna) Oblonski is a character in Tolstoy's Anna Karenin. Her maiden name was, I believe, Shcherbatski (Lyovin's wife Kitty must be her relative). In Ada (1.38), Kitty is Demon's aunt "who married the Banker Bolenski after divorcing that dreadful old wencher, Lyovka Tolstoy, the writer." (The names Oblonski and Bolenski were both derived from Obolenski. Leo Tolstoy's daughter Maria married N. L. Obolenski.)

Dolly had inherited her mother's beauty and temper but also an older ancestral strain of whimsical, and not seldom deplorable, taste, well reflected, for instance, in the names she gave her daughters: Aqua and Marina... (Ibid.)

Aqua means in Latin "water" and Marina, "of the sea."

Erminia + Aqua + Marina = Armenia + aquamarine

In the last year of his life Pushkin met the young painter Ivan Ayvazovsky (Ovannes Ayvazyan), an Armenian from Feodosia who was to become a celebrated marinist. Ayvazovski is mentioned in Speak, Memory (Chapter Three, 3):

One of my mother's happier girlhood recollections was having traveled one summer with her aunt Praskovia to the Crimea, where her paternal grandfather had an estate near Feodosia. Her aunt and she went for a walk with him and another old gentleman, the well-known seascape painter Ayvazovski. She remembered the painter saying (as he had said no doubt many times) that in 1836, at an exhibition of pictures in St. Petersburg, he had seen Pushkin, "an ugly little fellow with a tall handsome wife." That was more than half a century before, when Ayvazovski was an art student, and less than a year before Pushkin's death. She also remembered the touch nature added from its own palette-the white mark a bird left on the painter's gray top hat. The aunt Praskovia, walking beside her, was her mother's sister, who had married the celebrated syphilologist V. M. Tarnovski (1839-1906) and who herself was a doctor, the author of works on psychiatry, anthropology and social welfare. One evening at Ayvazovski's villa near Feodosia, Aunt Praskovia met at dinner the twenty-eight-year-old Dr. Anton Chekhov whom she somehow offended in the course of a medical conversation. She was a very learned, very kind, very elegant lady, and it is hard to imagine how exactly she could have provoked the incredibly coarse outburst Chekhov permits himself in a published letter of August 3, 1888, to his sister. Aunt Praskovia, or Aunt Pasha, as we called her, often visited us at Vyra. She had an enchanting way of greeting us, as she swept into the nursery with a sonorous "Bonjour, les enfants!" She died in 1910. My mother was at her bedside, and Aunt Pasha's last words were: "That's interesting. Now I understand. Everything is water, vsyo - voda."

Poor mad Aqua's suicide note was signed "My sister's sister who teper' iz ada ('now is out of hell')" (1.3). Chekhov signed some of his early stories, including Zhenshchiny s tochki zreniya p'yanitsy (Women from the Point of View of a Drunkard, 1885), "My brother's brother." In Blok's poem Neznakomka (Incognita, 1906) p'yanitsy s glazami krolikov (drunks with the eyes of rabbits) cry out "in vino veritas!" In Ada, Dr Krolik is an amateur entomologist who lives near Ardis (the estate of Daniel Veen, Van's and Ada's uncle, Lucette's father). On the other hand, in a letter to his wife Pushkin mentions krasnoglazyi krolik (a red-eyed rabbit) Smirnov, whose wife just gave birth to twins. Like Greg and Grace Erminin, Aqua and Marina are twins.

In The Fragments of Onegin's Journey ([XVII]: 13-14) Pushkin confesses that he has admixed a lot of water unto his poetic goblet. Nevertheless, his Eugene Onegin does intoxicate the reader. And so do VN's novels, Ada being one of the most potent of them.

Alexey Sklyarenko

Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors: mailto:nabokv-l@utk.edu,nabokv-l@holycross.edu
Visit Zembla: http://www.libraries.psu.edu/nabokov/zembla.htm
View Nabokv-L policies: http://web.utk.edu/~sblackwe/EDNote.htm
Visit "Nabokov Online Journal:" http://www.nabokovonline.com

Manage subscription options: http://listserv.ucsb.edu/