Part One, Chapter 22
The relentless momentum towards consummation in the first sixteen Ardis chapters slowed down, once consummation had been achieved, in I.21. Now I.22 stresses even more strongly a different attitude to time: time as not relentless advance but as rapturous stasis, as delighted and exuberant repetition, and at the same time as the anticipation of fond recollection. Even as Van and Ada indulge in tireless ardor, they look forward to celebrating together, throughout a shared future, their memories of present happiness. Already they foresee that their love and their memories of their present love will last as long as they do.
I.21 was a parodic extravaganza on the theme of the fall from innocence into (sexual) knowledge, including Van and Ada’s awareness of their incest. Whereas the parodic might have seemed an ironic deflation had it followed the romantic, in the order we find here the parody of I.21 precedes the romance of I.22 and therefore seems not an undercutting but an underwriting, a countersignature, of romance.
I.21 was confined to the library. I.22 roams free, taking Van and Ada together, uniquely, even beyond Ardis, and then back at Ardis itself, into the outdoors as the locale for their pastoral erotic idyll. The chapter has its own elements of parody, but always as part of the erotic and romantic. And as always, Van and Ada see their romance as both a new and fresh snatch of life and yet as amplified in the mirrors of art, in poetry (Van’s homage simultaneously to Ada and to Chateaubriand’s Romance à Hélène, echoed in French and refracted into English and Russian, which becomes the refrain of their love) and in painting (his playful intensifications of the sensuality of Renaissance art).
After having to keep their amorous hopes about each other to themselves for so long, Van and Ada can now share and celebrate their joy to the full, and anticipate looking fondly back to the present from their future together.Annotations
138.01-139.04: My sister . . . loved and sung?: Van’s (and Ada’s) theme song is a homage to the famous poem by Chateaubriand, composed to a well-known highland tune, perhaps in 1802 or 1803—at any rate before 10 November 1804, the date of the death of the poet’s sister Lucile, since she wrote a response to the poem. It was first published as “Le montagnard émigré” (“The Émigré Highlander”) in Mercure de France, 31 March 1806, and often republished in periodicals over the following years. (It is also known as “Romance à Hélène”: see 138.05n.) Chateaubriand then incorporated it into his story Les Aventures du dernier Abencérage, written 1809, published 1826. The noble knight Thomas de Lautrec, who has become a prisoner of Don Carlos at the battle of Pavie, throws a feast at Généralife, and in the course of the evening expresses his longing for the homeland from which he is exiled, and especially for the scenes of his childhood, by singing, to his own guitar accompaniment, “cette romance qu’il avait composée sur un air des montagnes de son pays” (“this romance that he had composed to a highland air from his homeland”). Chateaubriand adds an authorial note: “Cette romance est déjà connue du public. J’en avais composé les paroles pour un air des montagnes d’Auvergne, remarquable par sa douceur et sa simplicité” (“This romance is already known to the public. I composed its words to an Auvergne mountain song, remarkable for its sweetness and simplicity”) (Atala, René, Les Aventures du dernier Abencérage, ed. Fernand Letessier, Paris: Garnier, 1962, 316-18).
The version in Les Aventures du dernier Abencérage omits stanza 5 below, as inappropriate to Lautrec singing before Blanca, the heroine of the story.
Combien j’ai douce souvenance What sweet remembrance I have
ou Le montagnard émigré or The Émigré Highlander
Combien j’ai douce souvenance What sweet remembrance I have
Du joli lieu de ma naissance! Of the pretty place of my birth!
Ma sœur, qu’ils étaient beaux les jours My sister, how fine they were, the days
De France! of France.
Ô mon pays, sois mes amours, Oh my country, be my loves,
Te souvient-il que notre mère, Do you remember how our mother
Au foyer de notre chaumière, At the hearth of our thatched cottage
Nous pressait sur son cœur joyeux, Would press us to her joyful heart,
Ma chère; my dear;
Et nous baisions ses blancs cheveux, And we would kiss her white hair,
Tous deux. both of us.
Ma sœur, te souvient-il encore My sister, do you still remember
Du château que baignait la Dore? The castle bathed by the Dore?
Et de cette tant vieille tour And that tower, so old,
Du Maure, Of the Moor,
Où l’airain sonnait le retour Where the bells sounded the return
Du jour? of day?
Te souvient-il du lac tranquille, Do you remember the tranquil lake,
Qu’effleurait l’hirondelle agile, That the agile swallow would skim,
Du vent qui courbait le roseau The wind that would bend the mobile
Et du soleil couchant sur l’eau, And the sunset on the water,
Si beau? so beautiful?
[Te souvient-il de cette amie, [Do you remember that friend,
Tendre compagne de ma vie? Tender companion of my life?
Dans les bois en cueillant la fleur In the woods picking the pretty
Hélène appuyait sur mon Cœur Helen would lean her heart
Son cœur.] on mine.]
Oh! Qui me rendra mon Hélène, Oh! who will give me back my Helen,
Et ma montagne, et le grand chêne? And my mountain, and the great oak?
Leur souvenir fait tous les jours Their memory every day causes
Ma peine; me sorrow;
Mon pays sera mes amours My country will be my loves
The poem probably reflects not so much the Auvergne as the Breton locus of Chateaubriand’s childhood, since the “Tour du Maure” was the oldest and highest in the family chateau of Combourg, and a little river nearby was called the Dore (see Cancogni 351n108). For Ladore, Chateaubriand’s poem, and the poem’s special place in Nabokov’s imagination, as a distillation of longing for a perfect past, see 5.07 and n. The poem, with score and tune, can be found at http://www.geocities.com/Vienna/Choir/7173/retro.html#souvenan.
Cf. Van’s recollection of these lines after his first night of Ardis the Second, 192.01-09:
“Nothing, nothing has changed! But that’s the general impression, it was too dim down there for details, we’ll examine them tomorrow on our little island: ‘My sister, do you still recall . . . ’ ”
“Oh shut up!” said Ada. “I’ve given up all that stuff—petits vers, vers de soie . . . ”
“Come, come,” cried Van, “some of the rhymes were magnificent acrobatics on the part of the child’s mind: ‘Oh! qui me rendra, ma Lucile, et le grand chêne and zee big hill.’ . . . ”
Cf. Lolita II.16, 210: “le montagnard émigré in his bear skin glory.”
MOTIF: Chateaubriand; Romance à Hélène; translation.
138.01-12: My sister, do you still recall . . . my hill?: MOTIF: family relationship; my sister; remember.
138.02-139.02: blue Ladore . . . baignait la Dore . . . Ladoru . . . La Dore: MOTIF: dore; Ladore; place names (additional syllable).
138.04: That castle bathed by the Ladore: Cf. 406.25-26: “The castle bathed by the Adour: / The guidebooks recommend that tour.”
138.05-06: Ma sœur, te souvient-il encore / Du château que baignait la Dore?: Darkbloom: “first line of the third sextet of Chateaubriand’s Romance à Hélène (‘Combien j’ai douce souvenance’) composed to an Auvergne tune that he heard during a trip to Mont Dore in 1805 and later inserted in his novella Le Dernier Abencérage. The final (fifth) sestet begins with ‘Oh! qui me rendra mon Hélène, Et ma montagne et le grand chêne—one of the leitmotivs of the present novel.” The 1805 date, though often cited, cannot be correct (see 138.01-139.04n. above). It derives ultimately from the memoirs of Mme de Chateaubriand (cited Cancogni 351n108), but Nabokov’s immediate source was Georges Pellissier, ed., Anthologie des poètes du XIXe siècle 1800-1866 (Paris: Delagrave, ) ( Ada notes, “Chateaubriand,” card 2, VNA). Véra Nabokov recorded from the same anthology Chateaubriand’s comment to Marcellus: “Je n’ai eu en tout cela d’autre mérite que de mettre en tête adagio à la place d’allegretto; en ralentissant la mesure au gré de la mélancolie, l’hilarité du pâtre s’est changée en complainte de l’exile. Les paroles alors me sont venues d’elles-mêmes.” (“I had no other merit in all this than heading up adagio instead of allegretto; in slowing the tempo to suit melancholy, the mirth of the herdsman turns into the exile’s lament. The words then came to me by themselves.”) In rough early notes Nabokov writes: “ Ada says her jingles reversing Ch. metaphore[;] une complainte de l’exile s’est changée en hilarité de pâtre” (“an exile’s lament turns into pastoral high spirits”) (card 1).
138.06: château que baignait la Dore: Cf. 241.09-10: “ ‘I adore it [Ardis Hall],’ said Van. ‘It’s for me the château que baignait la Dore.’”
MOTIF: château que baignait la Dore.
138.09-10: Sestra moya, tï pomnish’ goru, / I dub vïsokiy, i Ladoru?: Darkbloom: “my sister, do you remember the mountain, and the tall oak, and the Ladore?” “Tï pomnish’” was the refrain in Nabokov’s early poem “Tï pomnish’ ètot den’” (“You remember that day”) in Stikhi (1916), 15.
138.11-14: dub vïsokiy . . . spreading oak tree . . . grand chêne: For the oak, see 50-51 and nn. Cf. SM 249-50: “ Tamara, Russia, the wildwood grading into old gardens, my northern birches and firs . . . et la montagne et le grand chêne—these are things that fate one day bundled up pell-mell and tossed into the sea, completely severing me from my boyhood.”
MOTIF: grand chêne.
138.13-139.01: Oh! qui me rendra . . . Et le grand chêne et ma colline . . . And the big oak tree and my hill? . . . Oh! qui me rendra ma Lucile: Cf. Van’s parodic echo of his own lines (and Mlle Larivière’s English?) at 192.08-09: ‘Oh! qui me rendra, ma Lucile, et le grand chêne and zee big hill.’
MOTIF: Oh! qui me rendra.
138.13-14: Oh! qui me rendra mon Aline / Et le grand chêne et ma colline?: Darkbloom: “oh who will give me back my Aline, and the big oak, and my hill?” Note the changes Van rings on the final sestet: Hélène becomes Aline, perhaps to emphasize the personal tang of Chateaubriand’s poem, since his elder brother, Jean-Baptiste Auguste de Chateaubriand, married in 1787 Aline-Thérèse Le Pelletier de Rosanbo; both died under the guillotine in 1794.
Cf. also: “She was, cette Lucette, like the girl in Ah, cette Line (a popular novel),” 152.09-10.
To rhyme, the montagne of Chateaubriand’s next line becomes a colline, while the mountain is restored in Van’s next French couplet. Whereas the speaker in Chateaubriand’s poem refers to a single woman other than his nameless sister, Hélène, Van names a different woman each time: Aline, Jill, Adèle, Lucile.
Cf. the discussion of the script of Mlle Larivière’s Les Enfants maudits: “she knows she is fubsy and frumpy, and simply cannot compete with dashing Hélène” (201.31-32).
Cf. 428.30-31: “Oh! qui me rendra ma colline / Et le grand chêne and my colleen!”
138.14-139.02: le grand chêne . . . . montagne . . . hirondelle agile: All three phrases derive within the novel from the speech of Mlle Larivière, but, ironically, are rendered there in English, despite her insistence on the superiority of French: “and the mountain, and the great oak” (50.06, an almost exactly literal version of Chateaubriand’s “Et ma montagne et le grand chêne”); “that agile swallow” (87.15).
138.15-16: back my Jill . . . and my hill: Echoes the English nursery rhyme “Jack and Jill went up the hill,” first recorded in 1765. Cf. 70.10-13: “A billion of Bills . . . have bared the jillions of their no less tender and brilliant Jills.”
138.17: Adèle: In part a play on Ada’s official name, Adelaida. Note that the punctuation in this line indicates an address to “Adèle”; in the other three couplets where Aline, Jill and Lucile are mentioned, they are the object not of Van’s address but of the verbs rendra or “give back.” MOTIF: Ada.
139.01: Oh! qui me rendra ma Lucile: Darkbloom: “Lucile: the name of Chateaubriand’s actual sister.” (See 58.02-06n., 81.14n., 106.29n. and Boyd 1985/2001: 125-28). Note the “-ile” rhymes of Chateaubriand’s fourth stanza (fifth in the long version).
139.02: La Dore et l’hirondelle agile: Darkbloom: “the Dore and the agile swallow.” Cf. 87.15 (Mlle Larivière): “And see that agile swallow!”
139.03-04: Oh, who will render in our tongue / The tender things he loved and sung?: Pun on rendra, otherwise “rendered” literally as “give back.” Note the medial render . . . tender rhyme; “tender” also echoes Tendre compagne de ma vie in the stanza Chateaubriand omitted from his novella.
139.05-19: They went boating . . . they followed . . . they tried . . . they walked . . . . They traveled. . . . They had tea. . . . They visited . . . . They made love: Echoes the intonations of Flaubert, especially a passage near the end of his L’ Education sentimentale (written 1864-69, published 1869) singled out by Proust for special admiration in Contre Sainte-Beuve (see Cancogni 261):
Il connut la mélancolie des paquebots, les froids réveils sous la tente, l’étourdissement des paysages et des ruines, l’amertume des sympathies interrompues.
Il fréquenta le monde, et il eut d’autres amours encore. . . .
(Part III, Ch. vi)
He came to know the melancholy of steamboats, cold awakenings in tents, the dazedness that landscapes and ruins cause, the bitterness of interrupted fellowship.
He came back.
He went out in society, and he had still other loves. . . .
Van echoes such intonations also at 12.23-24 (“They reveled, and traveled, and they quarreled, and flew back to each other again”) and at 449.01-05 (“He traveled, he studied, he taught. // He contemplated the pyramids of Ladorah. . . . He went shooting. . . . ”). Nabokov had Humbert explicitly echo them in the motel journey section of Lolita: “We came to know—nous connûmes, to use a Flaubertian intonation—the stone cottages under enormous Chateaubriandesque trees, the brick unit, the adobe unit. . . . We held in contempt. . . . Nous connûmes (this is royal fun) the would-be enticements of their repetitious names. . . . Nous connûmes the various types of motor court operators. . . . ” (II.1, 145-46). (See Cancogni 260-65.)
139.05-07: Ladore . . . followed the bends of its adored river . . . tried to find more rhymes: Ironically the word “more” itself rhymes with “Ladore” and “adored,” and is in fact the only English rhyme Van has found for “Ladore” in the poem (French provides encore / la Dore; Russian goru / Ladoru); it also punningly echoes Maure, one of Chateaubriand’s own rhymes (stanza 3) for la Dore.
MOTIF: adore; dore; Ladore.
139.07-08: walked up the hill to the black ruins of Bryant’s Castle: Cf. “Ladore, with its ruinous black castle on a crag”(35.13). A romantic cliché, and an Anglo-French pun: Bryant’s Castle becomes in French Château Bryant (cf. Ardeur 118: “Château-Bryant”), in French indistinguishable in sound from “Chateaubriand,” a link stressed at 205.16, “they lived in Bryant’s château.” Chateaubriand himself grew up in the family chateau, Combourg. By 1888 if not before, Ada’s Bryant’s Castle has become a hotel, the Bryant: see 261.34.
MOTIF: black castle; Bryant’s Castle; Chateaubriand.
139.09: travelled to Kaluga and drank the Kaluga Waters: The city of Kaluga on our planet (see 4.03 and n.) is not known as a spa. The name may play on “Karlovy Vary” (formerly Carlsbad), the famous spa in what is now the western edge of the Czech Republic; but it certainly reflects Russian kaluga, “bog, swamp” (see 4.03n.), and the wateriness of a marsh. Cf. also “in drizzly and warm, gauzy and green Kaluga, Aqua, . . . married Walter D. Veen” (4.14-15: note the two “waters”; see also 4.15-20 and n.).
Cf. also 213.27-28: “bound volumes of The Kaluga Waters and The Lugano Sun.”
MOTIF: Kaluga newspapers; water.
139.10: the family dentist: Dr. Pearlman.Cf. Demon to Ada: “The last time I enjoyed you . . . was in April when you . . . simply reeked of some arsenic stuff after seeing your dentist. Dr. Pearlman has married his receptionist” (245.24-27). Cf. also 141.20.
139.10: Van, flipping through a magazine: Cf. 272.05: “Dorn (flipping through a literary review, to Trigorin).”
139.11-12: say “chort” (devil) . . . which he had never heard her do before: Van does however, in his role as narrator, record Ada saying “chort” earlier, at 96.02-03. MOTIF: chort.
139.12-14: at a neighbor’s, Countess de Prey—who tried to sell them, unsuccessfully, a lame horse: Cf. 189.21-24: Percy de Prey walks away “across a lawn which his transit at once caused to overlap in Van’s mind with the fleeting memory of the paddock where he and Van had once happened to discuss a lame horse and Riverlane”; 375.03-07: “ ‘to make a short story sort of longish—’ Old Countess de Prey’s phrase in praise of a lame mare in her stables in 1884, thence passed on to her son, who passed it on to his girl who passed it on to her half-sister. Thus instantly reconstructed by Van.” MOTIF: de Prey; de prey.
139.15-16: Chinese tumblers . . . Circassian Princess: In EO, II.87, Nabokov discusses Chinese and Circassian elements in St. Petersburg ballets and pantomimes, including the role of Dunyasha Istomina in an 1823 pantomime derived from Pushkin’s poem Kavkazkiy plennik (The Caucasian Captive, 1820-21).
139.16: Circassian Princess: In Lermontov’s Hero of Our Time, which Nabokov translated with Dmitri Nabokov, and annotated, the first story, “Bela,” involves Grigoriy Pechorin’s kidnapping a beautiful young Circassian princess, Bela. Nabokov dismisses the characterization of Bela thus: “an Oriental beauty on the lid of a box of Turkish delight” (xviii). He adds: “Bela (the name means ‘grief’ in Turkish) is apparently a Circassian (cherkeshenka, ‘Cherkes girl’). Webster defines ‘Circassian’ as ‘an individual of a group of tribes in the Caucasus, of Caucasian race, but not of Indo-European speech, noted for their physical beauty. They are tall, amiable and brave. The chief tribes are the Circassians proper and the Kabardians’” (200n35). Cf. 141.21.
139.20-27: To the average physiologist, the energy . . . abnormal. Their craving for each other . . . would have curtailed their young lives: Cf. Lolita 18: “We loved each other with a premature love, marked by a fierceness that so often destroys adult loves” (although in the case of Humbert and Annabel Leigh, their love is not love-making).
139.23: in sun or shade, . . . anywhere: MOTIF: sun-Ardis.
139.24: uncommon resources of ardor: MOTIF: ardor.
139.25: amorette (local French slang): Not in French or Canadian French slang dictionaries, though French amour (love) and –ette (a diminutive and feminine ending) would suggest “little love.” Littré (see 102.03 and n.) defines amourette as “amour sans passion, par amusement” (“love without passion, as entertainment”). Italian amoretto means “flirtation.” MOTIF: patois.
139.28-29: which had appeared in prospect as a boundless flow of green glory and freedom: Cf. 226.29-31: “vacational friendships, that seem to promise an eternal future of fun.” MOTIF: grand chêne; green [Ardis].
139.30-32: the last resort of nature . . . (when flowers and flies mime one another): That is, when flowers and flies end their brief summer existence; hint also at natural mimicry (cf. 99.11-101.20 and nn.) as well as alliteration? Ardeur 119: “quand la feuille et le phalène s’imitent” (“when leaf and moth mime one another”).
139.33-140.01: particularly picturesque: The alliterations are still continuing, before fading.
140.01-03: Ben Wright was fired after letting winds go free while driving Marina and Mlle Larivière home from the Vendange Festival: “Letting winds go free” is a literal translation of the French idiom lâchant un vent, “farting.” Cf. 78.13-15: on the way to Ada’s birthday picnic “The English coachman, Ben Wright, was still stone-sober (having had for breakfast only one pint of ale)”; on the return journey, Lucette complains about his smells, 88.01-07. Cf. also 401.29 and n.
Cf. 418.04-05, Lucette herself: “the little one letting wee winds go free at table.”
140.03: Vendange: Darkbloom: “vine-harvest.”
140.03: at Brantôme near Ladore: On Earth, a village in the Dordogne department, on the Dronne river, 13 miles NNW of Périgueux, and hence not far from such major wine areas as Bordeaux and Bergerac. Pierre de Bourdeilles, Seigneur de Brantôme (c. 1540-1616), famous for his frivolous and libertine memoirs, especially Recueil de Dames (Gathering of Ladies, published posthumously, 1665-66), Part II of which, Dames Galantes, Nabokov quotes (Discours II): “le fruit de l’amour mondain n’est autre chose que la jouissance” (“the fruit of earthly love is nothing else but delight” [or: “but orgasm”]), EO 2.418.
140.04-07: Catalogued in the Ardis library . . . printed for H.R.M. King Victor: Brantôme’s works and the “tome” in his name remind Van and Ada of a licentious tome (140.05) in the Ardis library. MOTIF: library (Ardis).
140.05: “Exot Lubr”: Presumably “Exotica Lubrica” (slippery or licentious exotica), a play on “Ex Libris”?
140.06: Miss Vertograd’s kind offices: See 131.13-17.
140.06-07: Forbidden Masterpieces: Cf. 376.05. MOTIF: Forbidden Masterpieces.
140.07: a private part: In context, a double entendre?
140.07-08: Nat. Gal. (Sp. Sct.): National Gallery (Special Section).
140.08: H.R.M. King Victor: His Royal Majesty King Victor, the Antiterran equivalent or rather reverse of H.R. H. (Her Royal Highness) Queen Victoria of England (reigned 1837-1901), famous for her prudishness, especially after her marriage to Prince Albert in 1840.
140.12-13: The volume itself had been either lost or stolen or lay concealed in the attic: A volume of Forbidden Masterpieces is found by Van and Ada “in a box of korsetov i khrestomatiy (corsets and chrestomathies) which Belle had left behind” (376.06-07).
140.15-22: might have been attributed to Michelangelo da Caravaggio in his youth. . . . veined flesh: Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1573-1610), who revolutionized European painting with his realistic immediacy, dramatic compositions, intense chiaroscuro, and brazen sensuality. Many of the works of his early period are images, often voluptuous, of adolescent boys. He was also perhaps the first painter in the modern Western tradition to paint a canvas which was entirely a still life, instituting a genre in which Nabokov was particularly interested during his work in the mid-1960s on his uncompleted Butterflies in Art project.
The painting described is imaginary but a plausible pastiche of such Caravaggio works as his Bacchus (c.1595, Uffizi, Florence), with its grapes and the lush vine-leaves in the decadent Bacchus’s hair, or his Self-Portrait as Bacchus (c. 1593, Galleria Borghese, Rome); his Boy with a Basket of Fruit (c. 1593-94, Galleria Borghese, Rome) and Basket of Fruit (c. 1596, Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, Milan), with their translucent grapes; the grottos of such paintings as St. John the Baptist (c. 1600, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City) or St. John the Baptist at the Well (c. 1607-08, Collezione Bonello, Malta); the cascade of vine leaves behind the boyish or girlish St. John the Baptist (Toledo Cathedral, on loan to the Prado, Madrid), attributed to Caravaggio; and the shadows and veined flesh in many of his later paintings, perhaps most vividly in The Conversion of St. Paul or The Crucifixion of St. Peter (both 1601, Santa Mario del Popolo, Rome). Van has other veins in mind than these.
Cf. Van’s father’s confident and correct attribution of a drawing to Parmigianino, 12.29-13.07.
140.17-24: unframed canvas. . . . felt himself transferred into that forbidden masterpiece: In the story “Venetsianka” (“La Veneziana,” 1924), Simpson is somehow transferred into Sebastiano del Piombo’s painting of a Venetian woman (SoVN). In Ada itself, Van, Ada and Lucette take part in a scene as if in “a much earlier canvas, of the Venetian (sensu largo) school, reproduced (in ‘Forbidden Masterpieces’) expertly enough . . . ” (418.29-31); “Unsigned and unframed” (420.06-07). MOTIF: Forbidden Masterpiece.
140.18-19: ivied or vined grotto or near a small waterfall: Cf. 44.05-07, during Van’s first tour through the grounds of Ardis with Ada: “a sham grotto, with ferns clinging to it shamelessly, and an artificial cascade borrowed from some brook or book.”
140.26: on the brink of the Cascade: Cf. 44.05-07: “a sham grotto, with ferns clinging to it shamelessly, and an artificial cascade borrowed from some brook or book’; 141.23: “the little cascade”; 452.05: “He had roamed in Kingston’s Cascadilla Park.” MOTIF: brook-brink.
140.26-27: in the larch plantation: MOTIF: larch.
140.27: nymphet: MOTIF: nymphet.
140.28-32: Her long straight hair . . . cleft by her raised ivory shoulder: Cf. the description of Ada’s hair, “its flow disjoined by the shoulder,” at 103.30-104.02. Cf. 13.06, in the Parmigianino drawing that resembles Marina: 13.06: “that raised shoulder.”
140.32-141.02: The texture, gloss and odor of those brown silks had once inflamed his senses . . . : Cf. 39.22-29: “As he bent toward her . . . her hair touched his neck. In his first dreams of her this re-enacted contact . . . like a lifted sword signaled fire and violent release.”
141.04: that first time she had bent over him: MOTIF: first time.
141.08-10: jutting out of a dark background, molded in profile by a concentration of caravagesque light: Caravaggio’s paintwork does mold limbs and facial features this way, but never an erect penis.
141.10-11: thus a tendril climber coils around a column, swathing it tighter and tighter: Cf. 12.33, the “convolvulus-garlanded support” on which Eve sits in the Parmigianino drawing.
141.13-14: There was a crescent eaten out of a vine leaf by a sphingid larva: Cf. 13.06-07: “certain vermiculated effects of delicate vegetation” in the Parmagianino drawing. Nabokov was interested in such effects in still life in his Butterflies in Art project. They can be seen as early in the history of still life as Caravaggio’s Basket of Fruit, or in his combination of still-life effects with portraiture, in the viny headgear of his Bacchus (see 140.15-22n.)
Sphingid: of the family Sphingidae, Hawkmoths. Cf. especially 56.06-10: “the noble larva of the Cattleya Hawkmoth (mauve shades of Monsieur Proust), a seven-inch-long colossus, flesh colored, with turquoise arabesques, rearing its hyacinth head in a stiff ‘Sphinxian’ attitude.”
141.14: microlepidopterist: Specialist in the microlepidoptera, defined in W2 as “The smaller moths, collectively, including members of several families, as the Tineidae, Tortricidae, Pyralididae, and Pterophoridae.” They have wing-spans of about an inch or less, as opposed to the often large-winged sphingids. MOTIF: micro-.
141.15-16: having run out of Latin and Greek names, created such nomenclatorial items as Marykisme, Adakisme, Ohkisme: Play on “—kiss me.” Although in the Linnaean binomial system taxonomic terms are in a neo-Latin form, Latin and Greek names, though common, are no longer necessary: witness, for instance, such recently-named butterfly species as Nabokovia ada Bálint and Johnson, 1994 or Itylos pnin Bálint, 1993. While there are species whose names end in –me (as in the butterfly Colias eurytheme), the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature issued in 1961 by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature would now not permit a new name to have a noun-verb-pronoun combination; the species name must be nominal or adjectival.
As Victor Fet points out in "Adakisme, Dolikisme: The Kirkaldy Connection," The Nabokovian 56 (Spring 2006), 14-19, "Marykisme, Adakisme, Ohkisme" alludes to a famous entomological pun. The British American entomologist George Willis Kirkaldy (1873-1910), a specialist on so-called true bugs, order Hemiptera, "created a series of generic names for his beloved bugs, among them: Ohchisme, Dolichisme, Elachisme, Florichisme, Isachisme, Marichisme, Nanichisme, Peggichisme, and Polychisme. '-chisme' of course is pronounced 'KISS-me.'" In 1912 Kirkaldy was "posthumously criticized for frivolity by the Zoological Society of London. 'Presumably, eight years elapsed before anyone in the Zoological Society actually pronounced these names out loud. . . ' [May R.] Berenbaum, [Buzzwords: A Scientist Muses on Sex, Bugs, and Rock 'n' Roll, National Academies Press,] 2000, ).
Fet notes that Nabokov, who himself published in the British Entomologist in 1920, and who later enjoyed old issues, could have encountered there the original Kirkaldy paper, "Bibliographical and nomenclatorial notes on the Hemiptera. No. 3," The Entomologist 37 (1904): 279-83. Fet also observes that Kirkaldy's "Dolichisme" may be not unconnected with "Adakisme," since Ada is often associated with the gitanilla (gipsy girl) Dolores (in our earth, Lolita or Dolly), playing her role in the film Don Juan's Last Fling.
Fet suggests that Nabokov's reference to "a well-known microlepidopterist," when Kirkaldy was "a well-known hemipterist . . . appears to be an intentional hoax" (17). It may however also or primarily be Nabokov's assimilation of Kirkaldy into Ada's micro- motif.
Ohchisme and Dolichisme, Fet notes, are members of Cimicidae, the bedbug family, alluded to at 212.11: by 1884 the shooting gallery "crawled now with bedbugs."
141.17-25: Whose brush . . . . wringing-out mouths: MOTIF: woman in picture.
141.17: A titillant Titian?: Titian (Tiziano Vecelli, c. 1487-1576), greatest painter of the Venetian High Renaissance, is renowned for the sensual sumptuousness of his palette, its deep reds, darkish blues, glowing yellows, and for the voluptuousness of imagination in his mythological canvases, but hardly for titillation or, as the repeated syllable suggests, for big-busted women. Though there are many full-length and often recumbent female nudes in his paintings, they are usually thick-set but not bosomy. In the context of this scene, perhaps the most relevant factor is the flowing tresses of his women—usually a deep, almost orangey, gold—as in his Magdalene (c.1532, Palazzo Pitti, Florence), whose breasts protrude through meters-long hair. Among other famous nudes in his canvases some of the most pertinent may be in Sacred and Profane Love (c.1515, Galleria Borghese, Rome), and especially Bacchanal of The Andrians (1522-24, Prado, Madrid: note the woman in the lower right-hand corner), the Venus of Urbino (1538, Uffizi, Florence), and Danaë (1553-54, Prado, Madrid).
141.17-18: A drunken Palma Vecchio?: Jacopo Palma, born Jacopo Negretti, known as Palma Vecchio (c. 1480-1528), another major painter of the Venetian High Renaissance, renowned for his pretty, ideally feminine blondes, also long-tressed, as in his Diana and Callisto, also known as Diana Discovers Callisto’s Misdemeanours (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna) or Three Sisters (Stadtliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden), or Portrait of a Lady (Poldo-Pezzoli Museum, Milan).
141.18-19: anything but a Venetian blonde: Such as Palma Vecchio's A Blonde Woman, c.1520. Dosso Dossi, perhaps? Faun exhausted by Nymph? Swooning Satyr?: Dosso Dossi (born Giovanni di Niccolò de Luteri, c. 1489-1542), foremost painter in Ferrara in the High Renaissance. His hues were often dark. His work often imitated the idealized pastorals of Giorgione, as in his Nymph and Satyr (Palazzo Pitti, Florence), in which the nymph actually seems pure, although the satyr is wild.
141.20: new-filled molar: Cf. 139.10-11.
141.21: my circus Circassian: Cf. 139.14-18, “the fair . . . where . . . a sword-swallowing hefty Circassian Princess . . . finally engulfed . . . a tremendous salami sausage.”
141.22-25: A moment later the Dutch took over: Girl stepping into a pool under the little cascade to wash her tresses . . . : Susanna and the elders was a particularly popular biblical subject (from the apocryphal Book of Susanna, or chapter 13 of the Greek version of the Book of Daniel) among Dutch artists of the seventeenth century. Van and his maker probably have in mind Rembrandt van Rijn’s Susanna and the Elders (1647, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin), in which Susanna has one foot in the water, the other about to step off from the poolside ledge. She may have been wringing her hair, and has her mouth open just the moment before it registers surprise, as one of the elders, lusting behind her, pulls at the cloth partly covering her. A cascade can perhaps just be made out in the dimness behind them.
141.23: under the little cascade to wash her tresses: Cf. 58.02-03: “Her black hair cascaded over one clavicle.”
141.26-29: My sister, do you recollect . . . and all?: The song of 138.01-139.04 resumes. These two couplets recall the first four lines of Chateaubriand’s third stanza: see 138.01-139.04n. MOTIF: Chateaubriand; my sister; remember.
141.27: turret: Or “little tower,” in place of Chateaubriand’s tour (tower). Lucette, who has introduced the word krestik to Van at Kingston, offers to explain it when Van feigns ignorance, “though it’s just one of our sister’s ‘tender-turret’ words and I thought you were familiar with her vocabulary” (378.08-09).
141.27: yclept: Meaning “called,” “named,” this word, elsewhere obsolete, survived as an allowable archaism in poetry. OED: “Adopted by Gawin Douglas [in his Aeneis, 1513] from his M[iddle] E[nglish]models, and much affected as a literary archaism by Elizabethan and subsequent poets” such as Shakespeare (Love’s Labour’s Lost) and Milton (L’Allegro).
Afternote to Part One, Chapter 22