----- Original Message -----
From: Carolyn Kunin
To: Vladimir Nabokov Forum
Sent: Sunday, December 01, 2002 1:35 PM
Subject: a woman or the nun

I don't know if it has been noted before (my apologies for the repetition
> if so), but I wonder if the rumour of the king escaping disguised as a nun
> can be a reference to the historic fact of Alexander Kerensky's (Russia's
> last prime minister deposed by Bolsheviks in 1917) escape from Petrograd,
>  disguised as a woman.
> Sergej

Dear Sergej

Your suggestion reminds me that in American history there is also the little known incident  of Abraham Linkcoln arriving in DC after his election to the presidency disguised as a woman.

But if the Kerensky reference was intended, why substitute "the nun" for "a woman"? I almost thought I had found a link - in a biographical sketch of Mikhail Romanov, third son of Alexander III, I found reference to an escape "disguised as a Red Cross Nurse" - then the Russian sestra/sestra (nurse/nun) might be significant. But it turned out to be his wife in the disguise. The Grand Duke did not escape.

But nun disguises appear to be popular (at least on the internet) among several classes of people: mobsters; people fleeing mobsters, drug dealers, Hollywood and British comedians and prostitutes. There are also those flagrant dragsters, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.

The disguise also figures in three operas: Wagner's Lohengrin, Schumann's Genoveva * and Rossini's Le Comte Ory.**

I couldn't discern any links to Pale Fire in any of these. Do you?


* In both of these operas the nun disguise is taken by women
**As Act II opens, Ragonde (the duenna) is again duped by Ory¹s last-ditch attempt to enter the castle, this time disguised as a nun. He and his men cleverly claim to be a religious pilgrims seeking safe shelter after having been pursued by...Count Ory! In a delightful drinking scene when the men are left alone to dine, having gained entry to the castle (and, properly staged, they are still dressed as nuns), Ory¹s sidekick Raimbaud describes the wine cellar in a long allegory comparing the wine regions of those bottles he found waiting to be conquered ­ a prospect even greater than defeating the "Sultan Saladin" -- and the men enjoy the fermented fruits of his theft. But Ory can¹t waste much time on drinking -- especially after he learns Adèle¹s brother is due from Palestine at midnight. The countess's honor is saved by Ory¹s own young page, Isolier, who has sworn chaste allegiance to the lady and who confronts his master in her bed-chamber, disguised as Adèle: Isolier reveals his identity after Ory tries to make love to him. Ory admits defeat and beats a hasty retreat from the castle with his men, as the female inhabitants rejoice at their husbands¹ and brothers¹ triumphant return.