NABOKV-L post 0027076, Mon, 27 Jun 2016 00:27:02 -0300

One more Brown in ADA and Pale Fire
After reading a few lines related to Keats' "Ode to a Nightingale",
referencing Charles A. Brown, the poets' very close friend and host at the
time of the Ode's composition, I decided to check the "Brown" surname in
Brian Boyd's Ada Online, in connection to Van's references to a poet named
Robert Brown [from ADA I, 23: "What we have here’ (turning the pages
reverently) ‘is no less than a collection of the most beautiful and famous
short poems in the English language. This tiny one, for example, was
composed in tears forty years ago by the Poet Laureate Robert Brown, the old
gentleman whom my father once pointed out to me up in the air on a cliff
under a cypress, looking down on the foaming turquoise surf near Nice, an
unforgettable sight for all concerned. It is called 'Peter and Margaret'." [
] " ‘I kept for years — it must be in my Ardis nursery — the anthology you
once gave me; and the little poem you wanted me to learn by heart is still
word-perfect in a safe place of my jumbled mind, with the packers trampling
on my things, and upsetting crates, and voices calling, time to go, time to
go. Find it in Brown and praise me again for my eight-year-old intelligence
as you and happy Ada did that distant day, that day somewhere tinkling on
its shelf like an empty little bottle." ]

B.B's annotations: <>
145.18-19: composed in tears forty years ago by the Poet Laureate Robert
Brown: On Earth William Wordworth was Poet Laureate forty years before 1884.
The poet Robert Browning, although one of the two dominant bards of
Victorian England, was never the laureate, unlike his counterpart, Alfred,
Lord Tennyson, poet laureate from 1850 until his death, and therefore, if he
exists on Antiterra, at the time Lucette is challenged to learn this poem.
Another poet laureate with a name not unlike Robert Brown, Robert Bridges,
held the office from 1913 until his death, and thus throughout the years
Nabokov lived in England, 1919-1922. Another referent may be the botanist
Robert Brown[...]who named many species of orchid; see notes to I.16 and
I.17#. MOTIF:

In my opinion, there are a few curious, disparate elements in Charles
Brown's biography that warrant the inclusion of his name among the
"Brown-Motifs" in Ada Online (although he was not a "poet laureate"). Maps
and navigators in ADA were sometimes connected to discovery of routes for
the Russian fur trade and, some time before Brown developed a close
friendship and collaboration with the poet Keats, he'd lived in St.
Petersburg dealing in that kind of commerce*. As he asserted in his
biography of JK it was he who'd copied and ordered his friend's scattered
lines which were then "preserved by his own doing". And not only that, he
also claimed that his residence in Hampstead provided inspiration for its

It never occurred to me to wonder if Van Veen's references to John Shade's
"Pale Fire" were dependent of Charles Kinbote's original edition or if it
had been presented to him and to Ada as an independent work ...

btw: Like Tennyson (Skylark) and Keats (Nightingale), John Shade was not an
ornithologist - but he mentioned in his waxwing poem that both his parents
were ornithologists...***


*Charles Armitage Brown was born in Lambeth (London). He had very little
formal education and to a large extent was self-taught. He began a career as
a merchant, starting as a clerk at the age of fourteen, earning £40 per
year. At eighteen he joined his brother in St. Petersburg, Russia in a
fur-trading business where they were to accumulate the sum of £20,000, only
to lose most of it in an unwise speculation in bristles. They returned to
England almost penniless, though Brown capitalized on his Russian experience
by writing a comic opera, Narensky, or, The Road to Yaroslaf, which was
produced at Drury Lane in January 1814 [ ] Brown is best known for his
close friendship with the poet John Keats.[ ] Shortly after their meeting,
Keats and Brown were planning to see Scotland together. Their famous tour
was described in their letters and in “Walks in the North”. In 1818, after
Keats's brother died of tuberculosis or consumption as it was called in his
day, Keats moved into Brown’s half of Wentworth Place, taking the front
parlor, where he lived for the next seventeen months. During this time Brown
collaborated with Keats on a play, Otho the Great, which was not staged
until the 1950s. <>

**"Ode to a Nightingale" is a poem by John Keats written either in the
garden of the Spaniards Inn, Hampstead, London or, according to Keats'
friend <> Charles
Armitage Brown, under a plum tree in the garden of Keats' house at Wentworth
Place, also in Hampstead. According to Brown, a nightingale had built its
nest near the house Keats and Brown shared in the spring of 1819. Inspired
by the bird's song, Keats composed the poem in one day. It soon became one
of his 1819 odes and was first published inAnnals of the Fine Arts the
following July.[ ] The nightingale described within the poem experiences a
type of death but does not actually die. Instead, the songbird is capable of
living through its song, which is a fate that humans cannot expect. In the
poem, Keats imagines the loss of the physical world and sees himself dead—as
a "sod" over which the nightingale sings. The contrast between the immortal
nightingale and mortal man sitting in his garden, is made all the more acute
by an effort of the imagination. Brown [ ] claimed the poem was directly
influenced by his house and preserved by his own doing. However, Keats
relied on both his own imagination and other literature as sources for his
depiction of the nightingale.

***Cf. this interesting note about the Ode's "critical acclaim": "In 1906,
Alexander Mackie argued: 'The nightingale and the lark for long monopolised
poetic idolatry--a privilege they enjoyed solely on account of their
pre-eminence as song birds. Keats's Ode to a Nightingale and Shelley's Ode
to a Skylark are two of the glories of English literature; but both were
written by men who had no claim to special or exact knowledge of ornithology
as such'." <>

# Ada Online: The name “Brown” is that of Professor Brown of Boston “who
wrote the rather slap-bang Original Description” (106.14-15, 107.27). The
professor’s name may echo that of the famous botanist, who of course named many
plant genera and species, and that of the Colorado lepidopterist F[rederick]
Martin Brown (1903-1993), with whom Nabokov disagreed over the application
of statistics to lepidoptery: see “Remarks on F. Martin Brown’s
‘Measurements and Lepidoptera,’” The Lepidopterists’ News, 4 (1950), 75-76,
rpt. in Nabokov’s Butterflies, ed. Brian Boyd and Robert Michael Pyle
(Boston: Beacon, 2000), 458-60. Darwin took issue with the botanist - The
Various Contrivances by Which Orchids are Fertilised by Insects , 2 nd ed.
(1877; rpt. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984), p. 54, - where he
notes that “Robert Brown first observed that the structure of the Bee Ophrys
is adapted for self-fertilisation” and adds in a footnote: “Brown
erroneously believed that this peculiarity was common to the genus. As far
as the four British species are concerned, it applies to this one alone.” He
then records: “Long and often as I have watched plants of the Bee Ophrys, I
have never seen one visited by any insect. Robert Brown imagined that the
flowers resembled bees in order to deter their visits, but this seems
extremely improbable” (pp. 55-56).

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