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Friday, 30 March 2007
Contest Time
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And one of the most amazing facts of all, is that Francis Scott Key was inspired to write the Star-Spangled Banner, the national anthem of the U.S.A., from a song he originally composed commemorating William Eaton’s victory over the sultan of Tripoli in 1805."-- from a reader

Yes, and from what I would guess is the same source, Oren's "Power, Faith, and Fantasy," one learns that the Bartholdi's Statue of Liberty was originallly intended for Egypt.
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Contest Time: What was the name of the foreign playwright, whose play was being shown when the Star-Spangled Banner was given its first public performance, and what other connection does he have with American history?

This isn't an easy one.

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Posted on 03/30/2007 3:44 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Comments
2 Apr 2007
Hugh Fitzgerald

One last thing. The play of Kotzebue's that was shown that star-spangled night in Baltimore was "Count Benyowsky." Who, you may ask, was Count Benyowsky?

I found on-line that a bookseller was offering the following:

KOTZEBUE, August von Graf Benjowsky oder dieerschwörung auf Kamtschatka... Leipzig, Kummer 1795 . Octavo, engraved vignette on title; various annotated stage directions in red pencil, short tear to title, some wear to head of spine, else in very good copy in contemporary half sheep, paper label on spine.  Rare play recounting the exploits of Hungarian adventurer Count Benyowsky.

Benyowsky had been captured by the Russians in 1770 and exiled in Kamchatka in eastern Siberia. With the help of some fellow prisoners he managed to escape and commandeer a Russian battleship for a voyage to California via the Northern Pacific. He navigated through the Aleutian Islands, but had to change course to Japan, Formosa, and Macao, where he arrived in 1771. On his arrival in France the following year, he was empowered by King Louis XV to establish trading posts on Madagascar. As self-proclaimed Emperor of Madagascar, he was to become a rich source of inspiration for writers, poets, composers, and painters.

This play Count Benyowsky is by German playwright August von Kotzebue, father of the famous Russian navigator Otto von Kotzebue. The work had its American premiere, together with the premiere of the future national anthem, the Star Spangled Banner, in Baltimore on 19 October 1814.

One last thing. The play of Kotzebue's that was shown that star-spangled night in Baltimore was "Count Benyowsky." Who, you may ask, was Count Benyowsky?

I found on-line that a bookseller was offering the following:

KOTZEBUE, August von Graf Benjowsky oder die Verschwörung auf Kamtschatka... Leipzig, Kummer 1795 . Octavo, engraved vignette on title; various annotated stage directions in red pencil, short tear to title, some wear to head of spine, else in very good copy in contemporary half sheep, paper label on spine.

The item is described as follows:

Rare play recounting the exploits of Hungarian adventurer Count Benyowsky.

Benyowsky had been captured by the Russians in 1770 and exiled in Kamchatka in eastern Siberia. With the help of some fellow prisoners he managed to escape and commandeer a Russian battleship for a voyage to California via the Northern Pacific. He navigated through the Aleutian Islands, but had to change course to Japan, Formosa, and Macao, where he arrived in 1771. On his arrival in France the following year, he was empowered by King Louis XV to establish trading posts on Madagascar. As self-proclaimed Emperor of Madagascar, he was to become a rich source of inspiration for writers, poets, composers, and painters.

This play Count Benyowsky is by German playwright August von Kotzebue, father of the famous Russian navigator Otto von Kotzebue. The work had its American premiere, together with the premiere of the future national anthem, the Star Spangled Banner, in Baltimore on 19 October 1814.

 

 

 

 

 



31 Mar 2007
Hugh Fitzgerald

Yes. You have won the Grand Prize. You were also the only entrant.

Otto von Kotzebue was one of the famous Russian sea-explorers, along with Lisiansky and Litke (who, on the Krusenshtern, commanded the first Russian expedition that circumnavigated, in the 1820s, the globe, written up in his, or possibly Lisiansky's,  "Puteshevie vokrug mira" ). Several Alaskan placenames memorialize "Kotzebue" the son, while the father's play, in conjunction with the Star-Spangled-Banner premiere, put August also on the American map.

There's more which later I will find and put up.

Meanwhile, the Russian delegation is sending your way kisses from Kamschatka, in advance of  the official Prize Award Ceremony.

 

 

 



31 Mar 2007
Send an emailRebecca Bynum

The only other thing I can find is this entry from Wiki. The family seems not to have penetrated the American interior except with the performance of August Kotzebue's plays...If this isn't it, I well and truly give up.

Kotzebue is a city in Northwest Arctic Borough in the U.S. state of Alaska. Kotzebue gets its name from the Kotzebue Sound, which was named after Otto von Kotzebue, who explored the sound while searching for the Northwest Passage in the service of Russia in 1818.



30 Mar 2007
Hugh Fitzgerald

I misinterpreted your entry. You had already discovered the name of the writer whose play was put on at the same gathering where The Star-Spangled Banner was first formally sung in public (the actor Frederick Durang apparently sang it, informally, at McCauley's Tavern a little bit earlier). You also found mention of the playwright Kotzebue, as requested, in a modern writer, and your find was, I admit, not what I was thinking of, the author in both cases is Nabokov.

For the contest record, I was thinking of that passage in "Pnin" in which the Head of the German Department, Professor Hagen, thinks disturbingly of Buchenwald, "in the beautifully wooded Grosser Ettersberg, as the region is resoundingly called. It is an hour's stroll from Weimar, where walked Goethe, Herder, Schiller, Wieland, the inimitable Kotzebue and others."

This theme -- the theme of German murders -- comes up throughout "Pnin" in the story of Timofey Pavlovich's first love, the Russian Jewish girl Mira Shpolyanskaya, and especially late in the book, during that reverie about her ("those eyes, that smile, those gardens and snows in the backrgound") which Pnin has to make an effort to stop, to push away, because "no conscience, and hence no consciousness, could be expected to subsist in a world where such things as Mira's death were possible."

The reverie he has takes place at the summer house, or dacha, of a Russian, who invites other Russians to visit. That place really existed, and I have met at least one girl, as she then was, who fit the role of Nina Bolotov standing her beau (that emblematic couple), with which one of the book's most important paragaphs ("Time for tea. Time for a game of chess with Chateau....")ends. Not only Nabokov, but other Russian emigres, including Kerensky, visited in the 1940s and 1950s Professor Mikhail Karpovich at his summer place in West Wardsboro. Nabokov would go a-lepping, as we know from butterfly labels, and sometimes there would be chess games, as that the fictional but very real Timofey Pavlovich looks forward to having with the fictional Chateau, and the real but almost fictive, if seen through the telescope of today, guests would talk animatedly, knowledgeably, wittily za stolom, and everyone for some reason knew everything.

Now all you need to do, for the Grand Prize, is answer the part about another connection of the name Kotzebue to American history, offered not quizzically but with confident finality. You have all of tomorrow, the last day of the month and someone's birthday (unless I made a mistake and it was, oops, today), to find the answer.



30 Mar 2007
Send an emailRebecca Bynum
He gives his full name, Whaddya want? Page 32 ( I think)

30 Mar 2007
Hugh Fitzgerald

That reference is not correct, for referring to a play by Kotzebue is not equivalent to naming Kotzebue.  



30 Mar 2007
Send an emailRebecca Bynum
It must be Nabokov's "Lecture's on Literature," in the Chapter on Mansfield Park where he describes the characters' decision to act the play "Lovers' Vows" which was an adaptation of Kotzebue's Das Kind Der Liebe (Love Child).

30 Mar 2007
Hugh Fitzgerald

For extra credit, please tell me in what English-language book written in the last half-century Kotzebue the playwright appears.

You have the evening to answer this. I will back later tonight to check in.



30 Mar 2007
Hugh Fitzgerald

You've won, goddamn it.

I'm not a sore loser, and not a sore winner. But I am a sore recognizer when other people win my contests just a bit too quickly. I'll get you for this.



30 Mar 2007
Send an emailRebecca Bynum

It could be that his son, Otto von Kotzebue, discovered the Kotzebue sound in Alaska...

Is that it? Do I win?



30 Mar 2007
Send an emailRebecca Bynum
I have the first part. The playwright was August Friedrich von Kotzebue.