Catherine Brown

Henry James and Ivan Turgenev: Cosmopolitanism and Croquet

March 2014

This article was published in Literary Imagination, Feb 22, 2013; doi: 10.1093/litimag/imt014 Cosmopolitanism and Croquet. 

The following is a pre-edited version.


Henry James and Ivan Turgenev: Cosmopolitanism and Croquet



Studies of Henry James’s relationship to Ivan Turgenev have commonly overlooked  the fact that French was the mediating language of their personal and literary relations. This article offers trilingual studies of two sets of texts in order to investigate how the nature of their cosmopolitanism, and their treatments of that subject, were inflected by their linguistic competences and self-consciousness. Turgenev’s satirical poem “Крокет в Виндзоре” and James’s translation of it as “Croquet at Windsor” show both writers willing to take a public stance on a controversy in international relations. Turgenev’s story “Ася” [Asia], and James’s “Daisy Miller” are more typical of both authors’ poetical realism, but their presentations of heroines who are ambiguously representative of their native, non-European countries is – as in the poem – inflected by the languages which the stories involve.


On the morning of his Encaenia at the University of Oxford, Turgenev woke in Balliol College, breakfasted in Pembroke College, and processed to the Sheldonian Theatre next to the Dean of Christ Church. He was presented for his Doctorate in Civil Law honoris causa as “second to none among the writers of this century”, and was the first novelist ever to receive it from the university (Waddington 269). He was proud, and got himself photographed in the cap and gown (for which a public subscription had paid) in order to share the occasion with Madame Viardot. It was, as his friend and literary admirer Henry James put it, “a very pretty attention to pay him” (Edel 367-68). Two days later, on the 20th June 1879,  James added his own attention in the form of a dinner for Turgenev at the Reform Club. This was attended amongst others by John Walter Cross, who was just about to marry the woman to whom, the year before, Turgenev had deflected Lewis’s description of him as the greatest living novelist (Haight 513). Turgenev was probably glad to have the dinner to look forward to, knowing that if things went badly at the Encaenia, his friend James would be sympathetic.

The nature of his anxiety was political. There was irony here, given that his degree itself was being awarded for a political achievement. As his presenter, Bryce, put it in Latin: “the Emperor of Russia, learning from this writer of the miserable state of peasants in their serfdom, immediately resolved to liberate all these people from the landlords” (Waddington 269). The claim was absurd, as James himself commented, but being a political rather than aesthetic response was not atypical of English responses to Turgenev at the time (House of Fiction 169; Turton 10). Записки охотника (A Sportsman’s Sketches) had been hailed as the Russian Uncle Tom’s Cabin, in the same year as which (1852) it had first appeared. But it was not the overvaluation of his efficacy in abolishing serfdom that troubled Turgenev. Rather, it was an issue connected with the exhibition of paintings which he visited in London immediately after his Encaenia, given by his fellow Russian expatriate Vasilii Vereshchagin (1842-1904). This soldier-artist exhibited scenes of the Russo-Turkish war which he had witnessed in the preceding year; on the subject of the Bulgarian atrocities which had in part prompted the war, Vereshchagin and Turgenev knew where they stood. For once Turgenev was on the side of his Tsar, and against that of his predecessor as Doctor of Civil Law, Benjamin Disraeli. The latter’s policy towards Turkey in 1876 (the year in which he was elevated by Victoria to the rank of Earl) had provoked this liberal prose writer to rage and poetry. On the train between Moscow and Saint Petersburg on the night of July 19-20 1876 (Tedford 257) he wrote the poem “Крокет в Виндзоре” (“Croquet at Windsor”), the texts of which appear in the appendix to this article, and which may be summarized as follows. The Queen at Windsor is watching croquet when she has a vision of the balls as severed heads. She calls for her Doctor, who explains to her that reading The Times’s interpretation of the Bulgarian massacres has disturbed her, and prescribes her some medicine. But then she has a vision of the bottom of her dress soaked in blood, and calls on England’s rivers to clean it. A nameless voice tells her that she will never be cleaned of that innocent blood.

On arriving in Saint Petersburg Turgenev went promptly to Peterhof, where he read the poem aloud in court. Thereafter the poem circulated swiftly in handwritten copies; it was reported that “The young people are learning it by heart and are very enthusiastic about it”, and that Turgenev’s “doggerel” had “flown around all Russia” and was read at soirées “of the Heir Apparent” (quoted in Tedford 257, Zekulin 199). It is highly likely that Turgenev was referring to two Queens in English literature: Lady Macbeth, and Lewis Carroll’s Queen of Hearts, who had first appeared in Oxford a decade earlier, and whose peremptory calls for beheadings had already been translated into French (just as the game of croquet had reached France and Russia in the same decade) (Zekulin 280). By 1876 there existed two French editions of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Les Aventures d’Alice au pays des merveilles) and it is the more likely that Turgenev had come across them since he lived in a cosmopolitan French household with children (of the Viardots). The connection of the poem to Carroll is asserted by a modern Russian version of the poem, in which the text is read over a film in which the actors appear as described in the croquet game in Chapter VIII of Alice in Wonderland (see ‘Works Cited’ for URL). The Queen of Hearts uses a flamingo to hit hedgehogs, but the latter turn into human heads, and the scene is intercut by black and white scenes of a village massacre. Carroll himself had friendly feelings towards Russia; he toured the country soon after finishing Alice (Cohen 264-70). A decade later, he followed the progress of the Russo-Turkish war with concern, and commented “Quid Deus avertat!” concerning the possibility of Britain entering the war against Russia (Carroll 276). Nonetheless, it is inconceivable that his Queen of Hearts was intended as a proleptic satire on Victoria’s Eastern policy, which Turgenev was merely making explicit. Rather, Turgenev was turning a Royalist Tory’s charicature of what the latter described as “blind and aimless Fury” against the latter’s Queen, and, like the recent children’s cartoon film The Pirates! in an Adventure with Scientists, turning Victoria into a preposterous figure of hate (Carroll 109). The poem was not published in Russia; Turgenev offered it to Новое время (New Time), which rejected it, probably for fear of further antagonizing what was already an enemy power (Tedford 257). Nor would an English journal accept it; the London Daily News declined to print it “because it may hurt the feelings of the Queen” (Tedford 258). However, international relations being what they then were, an American journal would accept it, and on October 1 1876  published the first English translation, by Henry James.

There are several things to be observed about this translation. First, the fact that it existed, and was by an emergent American author, meant that the poem was more easily available to the Anglophone world, and therefore to Tory Oxford in 1879, than it would otherwise have been. Turgenev was seriously concerned that he would be booed at his Encaenia, just as Disraeli had been cheered twenty-six years earlier (Waddington 265-66). James himself had noted, of the first Encaenia he attended two years before Turgenev’s, that the undergraduates were disposed to riotously vocalise their approbation, amusement, and scorn (James Collected 1 Writings 161). Nonetheless, Turgenev was fortunate, and survived his Encaenia without opprobrium.

Second, several things can be deduced about James from the fact that he agreed to undertake this translation. He doubtless agreed to it partly as a favour for the man largely for whose sake he was spending that year in Paris, and whose English was not strong enough for him to attempt the translation himself. Beyond this, his decision indicated that he could and would intervene in a matter of political controversy (even though his translation was anonymously published), and that he was aware that Turgenev had done the same. Scholars of James’s relationship to Turgenev have often stressed James’s appreciation of the latter’s artistry over his understanding of the latter’s politics; Turton goes so far as to conclude that James paid as little attention to Turgenev’s politics as British critics hitherto had done to his artistry (Richards 469; Turton 10-11, 35-37). However, Turton’s case is overstated, rather as Soviet assessments of James himself as concerned exclusively with the aesthetic also were (Duperray188). Two years before he translated Turgenev’s poem, in his first review of Turgenev, James singled out the most political of Turgenev’s novels (Накануне [On the Eve]) for particular praise: “Hélène […] passes before us toward her mysterious end with the swift, keen movement of a feathered arrow. She finds her opportunity, as we have called it, in her sympathy with a young Bulgarian patriot who dreams of rescuing his country from Turkish tyranny” (French Poets and Novelists 225-26). In the same year as translating “Croquet at Windsor”, James’s three fictional commentators on Daniel Deronda, who were divided in their assessment of that novel, were united in their admiration for On the Eve, the hard to please Pulcharia contrasting its Bulgarian freedom fighter hero favourably with Deronda (Partial Portraits 77-78). James’s sensitivity to Turgenev’s politics was particularly apparent in his review of Нов’ (Virgin Soil), which he wrote in the following year (Literary Reviews and Essays 190-97). The opinions which James for his own part expressed about the Eastern crisis coincided with those of Turgenev, albeit they were not as strongly felt. In the autumn of 1876, he followed news of the crisis with growing disappointment in England’s behavior, and wrote to Grace Norton the following August that “I am not one of the outsiders who thinks that the ‘greatness’ of England is now exploded; but there mingles with my interest in her prospects and doings in all this horrible Eastern Question a sensible mortification and sadness” (Letters II 72). He also deplored “the cynical, brutal, barbarous pro-Turkish attitude of an immense mass of people here (I am no fanatic for Russia, but I think the Emperor of R. might have been treated like a gentleman!)” which “has thrown into vivid relief the most discreditable side of the English character” (Letters II 135-37). As Tedford observes: “Although neither James nor Turgenev was a partisan in a political cause, both possessed a love of freedom, and the opinions they shared on the struggles for independence in the Balkans contributed partly to their happy relationship” (261).

Third, the poem’s mode is not poetic realism, and therefore akin to a majority of writing by both writers up to that point, but horror fantasy, of a kind akin to a minority of writings by both. Admittedly, nothing that occurs in it is physically impossible; quite apart from the fact that it is possible to play croquet with human heads, this is merely the moral of the Queen’s situation, in which the Bulgars are merely pieces in a game. It is this that she, in an inadvertent epiphany, suddenly apprehends – tumbling as it were into a Wonderland perception of reality. As the annotator of Alice, Martin Gardner, perceptively remarked, “The last level of metaphor in the Alice books is this: that life, viewed rationally and without illusion, appears to be a nonsense tale told by an idiot mathematician” (Carroll 15). Fittingly, James’s “It seems to her” translates “Ей чудится”, a чуда being a wonder (Alice in Wonderland was therefore translated, in 1879, as Алиса в cтране чудес). This is far from James’s and Turgenev’s more common mode, in which the surface of reality is not ripped away to expose essential truth, and through which the reader discerns moral shapes, for the most part, more obscurely. I will soon turn to a story of this, more typical, kind, written by each writer near the beginning of their career.

Before quitting the croquet field, however, it is worth pointing out that James did not in fact translate “Ей чудится” as “It seems to her”, but “Il lui semble”, since he translated the French prose version which had appeared that September in Le XIX Siècle and Le Figaro. The latter newspaper claimed that the translation had come straight from a Russian in Petersburg, but in fact it had come straight from Bougival and the author himself (Zekulin 199). Most of James’s experience of Turgenev, as both friend and writer, was Francophone, and French was the core language of their cosmopolitanism. James was read in France, insofar as he then was (not a great deal), in French (Duperray 15, 2). Turgenev may well have been interesting to James and fellow New England intellectuals such as Howells for offering a type of realism which was precisely not French or English – yet the teenaged James first read Turgenev in the Revue des Deux Mondes, the two worlds in question being France and America, not Russia and the West (Turton 31; Lerner 29). This was also the journal in which French translations of James first appeared (Duperray 16, 17). James’s first review of Turgenev was republished in French Poets and Novelists, and his review of Virgin Soil was republished by Mordell in a section named “Essays on French Literature” (1957). A similarly explicable misidentification was made of James in Russia, where by the end of the century he was predominantly identified as an English writer (Duperray 186). In his review of Virgin Soil, James acknowledged that Turgenev was known in “imperfect translations” to French, German, and more rarely English; his consciousness of this issue would have been sharpened by his dealings with “Croquet” (Mordell 190).

A number of features of the two men’s relations to the Europe to which they and their countries were both half-foreign are apparent in the poem, and the versions of it which they between them created. The semantic distortions inevitable in the poem’s departure from Russian into the French which, like James, Turgenev did not trust himself to compose in, are emphasized by Turgenev in his departure from formally regular verse to ostentatiously prosaic prose. James therefore had no opportunity to reproduce the cross-rhymed anapaestic and amphibrachic tetrameters and trimeters of the original, as A.D. Baratinskaya managed in English translation of six years later (Tedford 258). For example, the pointed internal rhyme of “Велю это смыть! Я хочу позабыть!” (in which the infinitive ending “ыть” rhymes “to wash” with “to forget”) is lost, this line being translated by “Qu”on enlève cela sur-le-champ! Je veux oublier!” and “Let them take it away this Instant – I wish to forget it”. Turgenev’s unwillingness to attempt a translation of term “Безумный” (wild/crazy/manic), with its resonant morpheme “ум” (mind/intellect/sense), is as though acknowledged in his substitution of “indicible” (James’s “ineffable”). The very proximity of the French and English terms in this case, however, suggests that the gaps between the three languages are not merely gulfs into which meaning falls, but are themselves capable of interpretation.

In his original poem, Turgenev may well have been glancing at the Anglicization of Russian culture. Croquet is described as having recently come into fashion – but it is not entirely clear as to where. In the year in which he wrote the poem, Tolstoi in Анна Каренина (Anna Karenina) was attributing croquet-playing to corrupt Saint Petersburgers of precisely the modish Anglophile kind whose real-life counterparts were buying the journals in which James was being published in Russian (for example the appositely named Модный магазин [Modish Magazine] (Duperray 182). It is not only the case, therefore, that the poem makes croquet function as metonymic of England; the game already had this function amongst a certain class of Russians – possible secondary targets of Turgenev’s satire. The Queen calls not for her “врач” but her “доктор” – a relatively recent loanword into Russian. Eighteen-seventies Anglophilia was far more orientated towards modishness and status in Russia than it was in America, where it was more orientated towards culture; correspondingly, although Turgenev was a Westerniser amongst Russians, he was less of an Anglophile than James. The linguistic traces of this could not, however, survive James’s translation of the poem into English.

Conversely, there are limits to Turgenev’s ability to describe to describe English phenomena. “Придворные дамы” are not James’s, or Victoria’s, “ladies of her court”. When it came to the English culture which James, as well as Turgenev, had an interest in critiquing, James could hit his targets more directly. In this example French is a more than contingent mediator, since “les dames de la cour” is both what such ladies would call themselves in Petersburg, and a phrase comprehensible to such ladies at Windsor. As was true of inter-governmental politics at the time, France’s language acted as a mediator between Britain and Russia. Yet there is a significant difference between the two bilateral relations concerned, French being far more heavily relied upon in the aristocratic discourse of Russia than in that of England or America. The very word “дама” (like “модa” and “Газет” in the same poem, which are versions of “dame”, “mode” and “gazette” respectively) are more palpably French words in Russian than is true of any Anglo-French word in James’s translation. The exception to this is the name of the game itself, “croquet” taking a French spelling and approximately French pronunciation in English but in neither Russian nor (in the case of spelling) French. The French origins of this version of ground billiards are therefore more acknowledged in England than in either France or Russia.

Despite his ability to target the English objects of Turgenev’s satire more precisely, James makes no more attempt than does Turgenev in his French to disguise the fact that he is translating; his prose is still less felicitous than that of the latter. The phrase “Ladies of her court” is not idiomatic English, and whereas James could have nativized “sa forêt de Winsor” (in Russian “Виндзорском бору”, literally “Windsor coniferous forest”) to the collocative and Popeian “Windsor Forest”, he reproduces the French syntax with “her forest of Windsor”. As a result, the fact that the poem’s hostility towards England is that of a foreigner remains palpable in the translation’s linguistic awkwardness. Having said this, James’s knowledge of the author may, as is the way of personal relationships, have made some compensation for their linguistic divide. At two points (marked in bold on the texts in the appendix) his translation is closer to the Russian than the French; this might have been the result of Turgenev’s explanations, and hand-wavings, in French and English.

There is one respect at least in which “Крокет в Виндзоре” typifies works by Turgenev. It contains a “Прелестная дева”, “une charmante enfant”, or, as James has it, “a gentle maiden”. Depiction of morally and otherwise beautiful maidens is one of the features of Turgenev’s writings which James particularly admired, and which his own writings had in common with them (Turton 49). As he wrote in his first review of Turgenev, “It would be difficult to point, in the blooming fields of fiction, to a group of young girls more radiant with maidenly charm than M. Turgénieff’s Hélene, his Lisa, his Katia, his Tatiana and his Gemma”. Moreover, he found that “Russian young girls […] have to our sense a touch of the faintly acrid perfume of the New England temperament – a hint of Puritan angularity” (French Poets and Novelists 216, 230). Of course, this is at best a problematic characterization of the “beautiful young lady” whom he created two years after translating Turgenev’s “charmante enfant” (Daisy Miller 7). Nonetheless, Daisy Miller is to some degree a translation into American of a Turgenev heroine – specifically Ася (Asia). Her story was written in 1853, translated by Turgenev into French in the 1860s, and probably read by James in that version (although English quotations below are from Franklin Abbott’s Boston translation of 1884, which post-dates “Daisy”, but is significant as a translation of the French). In both stories a non-European девушка, or young woman, is taken round Europe in June by a relative who gives free rein to her eccentricities and coquetries. A young leisured cosmopolitan compatriot is struck by her beauty, in a European beauty spot, cannot quite understand, or want to marry, her, but eventually interprets her as connected to the home country from which he himself feels disconnected, and regrets his coldness to her when she has died or disappeared. For him, life goes on. For the reader, she lives on, as a more or less enigmatic representative of Russia or America. Both heroines divided opinions in their home countries (Conrad 391; DM xiv). A few more particular similarities suggest their kinship in James’s consciousness: both trip around ruined castles in high spirits, and both are actually called Anna. Even the difference in their periods (Daisy is set fifty-two years later than Asia’s 1833) fits historically with the relative numbers of their compatriots to be found in European watering holes in their respective times (that there are “Russian princesses sitting in the garden” in Daisy’s Vevey is unsurprising, whereas few American families would have been found in small towns of the Hunsrück in 1833) (DM 4). Their differences are to some extent representative of their countries. Daisy strikes Winterbourne as American by virtue of her freedom; Asia strikes N.N. as most Russian when she sits quietly sewing, having what Daisy would call a “dreadfully pokey time of it”

(DM 61). Whereas Asia is connected to Russo-European culture (Asia says that she wants to be Pushkin’s Tatiana, imitates Goethe’s Dorothea, and is drawn to the Lorelei), Daisy floats free of all literary culture. Nonetheless, the ambiguous extent to which Daisy represents America is inflected by her mirroring of a Russian heroine who is herself ambiguously representative of Russia (Bell 236).

Competency in interpretation of these stories is in both cases partly linked with familiarity with those countries. James (who was fond of making the American-Russian analogies which were as modish in America as they were not in Russia) insisted that every character in Terres Vierges had an American counterpart (Duperray 184). Yet in the same review he confessed that it was from Turgenev’s “writings almost alone that we of English, French and German speech have derived our notions […] of the Russian people”, raising the question of how competent he was to judge of such analogies (Partial Portraits 292). Conversely, he interpreted the figure of the failed or compromised male protagonist, such as N.N. in Asia, Rudin, or Lavretsky in Дворянское гнездо (A Nest of Gentry) as peculiarly characteristic of Turgenev’s brand of pessimism – rather than, as was the case, standing in a tradition of what Gagin himself in Asia calls “проклятая славянская распущенность”, “maudite indolence slave”, or “cursed Salvic indolence”. The latter had been a phenomenon analysed in Russian literature at least as far back as Евгений Онегин (Evgeny Onegin) (Richards 468). James must therefore also have mistrusted Gagin’s characterization of Russians as loving “conversations sometimes enthusiastic, sometimes pensive and melancholy, but always sincere and always vague”  (“речи, то горячие, то задумчивые, то восторженные, но почти всегда неясные речи, в которых так охотно разливается русский человек”) (“Annouchka” 33; “Ася” 44).

In “Daisy Miller”, on the other hand, the nature of the American character is significantly correlated to the discussions engaged in by Americans about it – for example the conversation between Randolph, Daisy and Winterbourne on their first acquaintance about the merits of American boys, girls, and men (DM 6-7). As for Turgenev himself, by translating “Ася” under the more obviously Russian-sounding diminutive title “Annouchka”, he was to some extent undermining the story’s ambiguity by presenting her to France and the wider world as a redolently Russian girl; by contrast, for example, Tolstoi presented Anna Karenina to Russians under a stridently European form of name. (The female name Анна has several affectionate forms, including Ася [Asia, unfamiliar to Europeans] and Аннушка [Annouchka, Russian-sounding to Europeans]; the formal name Анна would never be used without the patronymic except as a Europeanized affectation; it would scarcely ever be used with the surname alone, and Tolstoi’s heroine’s name as given according to Western naming conventions in the title, is used only once in the novel).

In both stories the male protagonist first perceives the presence of his compatriots through language. Winterbourne hears Daisy’s brother Randolph roll the “r” in “har-r-d” (DM 6); N.N. hears Russian spoken in a Rhineland town (“Ася” 29). In general, however, “Ася” is far more linguistically conscious than “Daisy Miller”, in part because Vevey in June “assumes some of the characteristics of an American watering-place”, and there and in Rome Daisy functions as part of a large community of “American colonists in Rome” (DM 3, 67). Even though the story concerns Daisy’s behaviour as a foreigner in Europe, in linguistic terms “the analogies” rather than “the differences” of Europe to America predominate (4). The narrator observes that in Vevey “There are sights and sounds that evoke a vision, an echo, of Newport and Saratoga” – but his language evokes those places throughout (3). Turgenev, by contrast, never lets his Russian readers forget that they are abroad: he fussily translates German phrases, and as though deliberately demonstrates how linguistically mixed Europe is; the student Landsmannschaft has a commersh at which the students sing the Landesvater and Gaudeamus (all these words apart from commersh are given in Roman script) (“Ася” 28-29). Whereas Asia is polyglot, Daisy is not shown talking French or Italian; it is important to her relationship with Mr Giovanelli that he speaks English “very cleverly” (“‘Well, he speaks first-rate English,’ Mrs. Miller incoherently mentioned” – but her point is not irrelevant) (50, 47).

Indeed, “Daisy Miller” is not without linguistic consciousness. Daisy’s refusal to call the “Château de Chillon” by its name, as Winterbourne does, but rather to refer to it as “that old castle”, correlates with her general refusal of cultural assimilation (15, 18). Eugenio persistently calls her “Mademoiselle”, but the term never fits her; it is as though a European mistranslation of the phrase “American girl” (32). The Romans recognize Daisy by sight as being simply “of English race”, but Anglophone readers of the story can verbally distinguish her as coming from “that mysterious land of dollars and six-shooters” by her use of such phrases as “ain’t” (67, 47, 73; it is the last word which Daisy says to Winterbourne alone). This distinction is perforce lost in translation. So too is nature of the moment in “Ася” when N.N. perceives Asia to be at her most Russian, which is when she is singing a folk song. When this scene rendered into French Asia sings in precisely the language which she was at that moment eschewing. The irony is compounded by the fact that Abbott retains Turgenev’s translation of “Матушку, голубушку” as “O ma mère, ma douce colombe” in his English translation (“Ася” 43; “Annouchka” 25; “Annouchka” 13). Since it is impossible that Abbott thought that Asia was in fact singing in French at this point, or that Turgenev was rendering her Russian song in French to his Russian readers, his decision (which is repeated elsewhere, for example with Asia’s quotation of Pushkin’s “Onéguine”) may have been motivated in either of two ways. First, he aimed at an exoticizing translation at this point, with the rationale that when Asia seems most native to N.N. she must seem most foreign to Abbott’s Anglophone readers, and since they cannot read Russian he substitutes French (with Abbott’s footnote clarifying that this is a “National Russian air”, an obedient translation of Turgenev’s note “Air national russe”). It would seem that in any case Abbott made some attempt to expose himself to the Russian which was foreign to him, since instead of giving Пушкин as “Pouchkine”, as Turgenev does in French, he gives “Pouchkina” – a nonsensical Francophone transliteration of the genitive declension of the poet’s name which appears in the Russian at this point (“Ася” 59). Second, Abbott felt poetry to be intrinsically more French than English, and therefore felt that the poetry of the scene by which N.N. was struck would be better conveyed by Turgenev’s French. The second motivation is of course in direct conflict with the sense of the passage in Russian and even in French; whatever Abbott’s motivation, the effect for the reader is that of contradiction of Turgenev’s meaning, where the context of the French line is as follows:

Annouchka seemed to me entirely Russian. I found in her the air of a young girl of the people, almost that of one of the servants. She wore quite an old dress, her hair was drawn back behind her ears, and, seated near the window, she was quietly working at her embroidery, as if she had never done anything else in her life. Her eyes fixed upon her work, she scarcely spoke, and her features had an expression so dull, so commonplace, that I was involuntarily reminded of Macha and Katia at home. To complete the resemblance she began to hum the air,—

O, ma mère, ma douce Colombe! (25)

The French, as part of the English translation, precisely does not complete the resemblance. However, French domination in matters of verse is in accordance with the role of French as a determiner of social grace, which is reflected in the Anglophone use of such terms in “Daisy Miller”. Daisy playfully characterizes Mrs Costello as “comme il faut” (24); Winterbourne is unsure as to whether to attribute an “arrière-pensée, as they said at Geneva” to Daisy (15); on hearing that Daisy is at home with Mr Giovanelli, Mrs Walker reflects “Elle s’affiche, la malheureuse” (59); Winterbourne’s friend had understood “that she’s a young lady du meilleur monde” (68). Asia is described as being “gauche” in English as well as French (28, 14). Here the Russian is “застенчивость” (45), but French terms play a similar role in the Russian language also. The two heroines are rendered directly comparable by being connected to a quality formulated almost identically in all three languages: coquetterie, кокетства, coquetry.

Having acknowledged the social cachet of French terms, it should be added that in both stories social judgments are not only made mainly in English, but with some reference to the English. In her first conversation with Winterbourne, Daisy makes several references to an “English lady” (Miss Featherstone) who disapproves of that fact that Randolph is not receiving “instruction” (the inverted commas are in her speech), and who is suspicious of life in America (12). It is unlikely to be merely a matter of verisimilitude that Mrs Miller rides a “victoria” (53); the references to it are too pointed. It is the vehicle of her propriety; she persuades Winterbourne but not Daisy to enter it; she is called by the narrator “the lady of the victoria” (55); Daisy remarks to Winterbourne: “‘I should think your legs would be stiff cooped in there so much of the time in that victoria.’ ‘Well, they were very restless there three days ago,’ he amicably laughed; ‘all they really wanted was to dance attendance on you.’” (60). (The inverse of croquet, the victoria was a French carriage of English origin dating from the 1840s; the name was not used for a carriage in England until the 1870s).

In “Ася”, too, an English family pops up just when Asia is behaving most eccentrically (winding her scarf around her head and carrying a branch like a gun over her shoulder), in order to stare at her in unison “стеклянными глазами”, with “yeux de faïance” or (literally from the Russian, rather than Abbott’s translation) “eyes of glass” (39, 20). This family’s condemnation of Asia’s behaviour is non-verbal, therefore Asia has no difficulty in understanding it; she responds merely by singing in a loud voice. Such are the subtleties of the English code of manners, however, that not all of its expressions are familiar even to native English speakers. When Daisy does “Everything that’s not done here” (55), arrives late to Mrs Walker’s party, and then spends the evening in close conversation with Mr Giovanelli, she gets “the cold shoulder” (72) from her hostess on her departure. Winterbourne later has to check with her that she understands this phrase – another moment of intra-lingual translation which it is impossible to retain in Russian or French translation. Numerous other English phrases in “Daisy Miller” are held up to the characters’ and readers’ consciousnesses as linguistic-cultural artefacts (in the following examples the inverted commas are all textual): Winterbourne reflects that Daisy has no idea of “form” (10); Mrs Walker “as she afterwards told him, didn’t feel she could “rest there”” (54); Mrs Walker is “one of those pilgrims from the younger world who, while in contact with the elder, make a point, in their own phrase, of studying European society” (58); Winterbourne reflects that Daisy is “talked about” (78), and has been “carried away” by Giovanelli (70). Even in his last conversation with her, in the Colosseum, the language of his languge is estranged: “How long have you been ‘fooling round’ here?” (75). In “Ася” no English phrases are used in such a way, although, as Waddington records, Turgenev was struck by, and frequently mockingly quoted, many English phrases (for example “withering smile” and “interesting situation”) (6). Rather, Turgenev attributes to Asia a verb for which there is no verb equivalent in French or English: чудить – to act in a manner which the French translation calls “bizarre”, and the English “strange” (42, 25, X). But “чудить” is also connected to the aforementioned noun “чуда”, and therefore, loosely, to the seeing of wonders. There is, after all, in both stories the suggestion that these young women see certain things that their befuddled male admirers fail to. Asia understands the opprobrium which attaches to her illegitimacy but forgives N.N. for caring about it; Daisy sees and points the contradictions in social codes as they exist, remarking of flirting: “It seems to me much more proper in young unmarried than in old married ones” (62).

And so we return to Wonderland, or at least its imaginary home, in 1879, the year after “Daisy Miller” was published. Turgenev probably had not read it, since it was not yet available in French (the first translation was not until 1883). (Richards 466, Partial Portraits 298).  It is likely that more people present at his Encaenia had read “Annouchka” than “Croquet at Windsor” – and this was in his favour. One person who had read the poem was Max Müller, Professor of Comparative Philology at the University, who therefore had doubts as to whether to be seen talking with him (Zekulin 204). But then, he was foreign, and naturally unsure as to what was “comme il faut” in England. For his own part, Turgenev got through the day without “чудить”, spoke English at least better than Daisy spoke Italian, and was a hit with the opposite sex. He returned to France, perhaps in order to enjoy a croquet game with the Viardots, with the cap and gown which he had been proud to wear but from which, like James at his Encaenia in Oxford thirty-three years later, he was also detached, in a political, as well as cosmopolitan, way. As he commented to Madame Viardot, the gown “would serve admirably for the Sunday charades”. (Letters 11: 38) There was an outlet to чудить.








Сидит королева в Виндзорском бору…

Придворные дамы играют

В вошедшую в моду недавно игру;

Ту крокет игру называют.

Катают шары и в отмеченный круг

Их гонят так ловко и смело…

Глядит королева, смеется… и вдруг

Умолкла… лицо помертвело.


Ей чудится: вместо точеных шаров,

Гонимых лопаткой проворной –

Катаются целые сотни голов,

Обрызганных кровию черной…

То головы женщин, девиц и детей…

На лицах – следы истязаний,

И зверских обид, и звериных когтей –

Весь ужас предсмертных страданий.


И вот королевина младшая дочь –

Прелестная дева – катает

Одну из голов – и все далее, прочь –

И к царским ногам подгоняет.

Головка ребенка, в пушистых кудрях…

И ротик лепечет укоры…

И вскрикнула тут королева – и страх

Безумный застлал ее взоры.


“Мой доктор! На помощь! скорей!”

И ему
Она поверяет виденье…

Но он ей в ответ: “Не дивлюсь ничему;

Газет вас расстроило чтенье.

Толкует нам “Таймс”, как болгарский народ

Стал жертвой турецкого гнева…

Вот капли… примите… все это пройдет!”

И в замок идет королева.


Вернулась домой – и в раздумье стоит

Склонились тяжелые вежды…

О ужас! кровавой струею залит

Весь край королевской одежды!

“Велю это смыть! Я хочу позабыть!

На помощь, британские реки!”

“Нет, ваше величество! Вам уж не смыть

Той крови невинной вовеки!”


Ivan Turgenev

Written 20th July 1876, Published in Russia 1881 [bold font my own]

Тургенув: Полное собрание сочинении, 28 vols, vol. 13, Moscow-Leningrad: Nauka, p. 292.






La reine est assise dans sa forêt de Winsor; autour d’elle les dames de la cour jouent à un jeu assez nouvellement mis à la mode.

Ce jeu se nomme le crocket.

On fait rouler des boules, on les fait passer avec adresse à travers de petites cercles.

La reine regarde et rit; mais voilà que tout à coup elle s’arrête, son visage est devenu d’une pâleur de mort.



Il lui semble qu’au lieu de boules élégantes que chasse l’agile pelle, ce sont des centaines de têtes qui roules toutes souillées de sang.

Des têtes de femmes, de jeunes filles, d’enfants; sur les visages, des traces d’affreuses tortures, d’insultes bestiales, de griffes de bêtes, et toute l’horreur des souffrances de l’agonie.



Et voilà que la plus jeune fille de la reine, une charmante enfant, pousse une de ces têtes toujours plus loin des autres, et la fait arriver jusqu’aux pieds de sa mere. Une tête d’enfant aux cheveux bouclés; sa petite bouche livide murmure des reproches. La reine pousse un cri d’horreur. Une terreur indicible voile ses regards.



‘Mon docteur, vite, à moi!’ et elle lui confie son effrayante vision. Mais lui, en réponse: ‘Je ne m’étonne pas, la lecture des journaux vous a troublée. C’est le Times qui nous explique si bien comment la nation Bulgare a mérité le courroux des Turcs. Voilà un breuvage, prenez-le, et cela se passera.’ Et la reine rentre dans son palais.



Elle est seule et se met à rêver. Ses paupières s’abaissent…horreur! Tout le bas de sa robe est souillé d’une trace sanglante, ‘Qu’on enlève cela sur-le-champ! Je veux oublier! Lavez-moi cela, fleuves de l’Angleterre!’ Non, Majesté, jamais la robe royale d’Angleterre ne sera lavée de cette tache de sang innocent.’


Ivan Turgenev

Published in Le Figaro, Sunday 3rd September 1876 [bold font my own]

Accessed online 7.7.12:





The Queen is sitting in her forest of Windsor; around her the ladies of her court play at a game which has not long since come into fashion — a game called croquet. You roll little balls and you make them pass skilfully through little hoops. The Queen looks on and laughs; but suddenly she stops; her face grows deathly pale.


It seems to her that, instead of shapely balls driven by the lightly-tapping mallet, there are hundreds of heads rolling along, all smeared with blood. Heads of women, of young girls, of children: faces with marks of dreadful tortures and bestial outrage, of the claws of beasts, and all the horror of death-pangs.


And now the youngest daughter of the Queen, a gentle maiden, pushes one of these heads further and further from the others, pushes it until it reaches her mother’s feet. The head of a child with curly hair; its little livid mouth turns to murmur reproaches. The Queen utters a shriek of horror; an ineffable terror darkens her eyes.


‘My doctor, quick, quick, let him come to me!’ And she tells him her terrible vision. But he then answers: ‘It doesn’t surprise me; reading the newspapers has disturbed you. The Times explains to us so well how the Bulgarians have deserved the wrath of the Turks. Here is a draught; take it and your trouble will pass.’ And the Queen goes back into her palace.


She is alone, and she begins to muse. Her eyelids fall, and—oh! horror, the edge of her garment is befouled with a bloody stain. ‘Let them take it away this Instant—I wish to forget it. Wash it for me, rivers of England!’ ‘No, your Majesty, never shall the royal robe of England be washed of the stain of this innocent blood!’


Ivan Turgenev, translated by Henry James

Published in The Nation, October 1st 1876  [bold font my own]

Reprinted in Nicholas Zekulin, “Turgenev’s Króket v Vindzore”, in Ivan Turgenev and Britain, ed. by Patrick Waddington. Oxford: Berg, 1995, pp. 194-207, p. 205.





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