Part 2 Chapter 3

 


Forenote

 

Almost fifty pages have elapsed since Van fled Ada. Chapter after chapter has stressed the bitterness of his loss: the duel, in Pt. 1 Ch. 42; his recovery from the wound inflicted there, in Pt. 1 Ch. 43, with its “Destroy and forget!” and the loss of his ability to handwalk; Ada’s Very Private Letters to Van, in Pt. 2 Ch.1; Van’s Letters from Terra, in Pt.2 Ch. 2. At the same time, chapter after chapter has also shown Van’s compensations and distractions, in the attention of Cordula, the allure of “a graceful harlot in black— . . . long black gloves, black velvet picture hat” (307), the advances Van makes to nurse Tatiana, and the throes of composing Letters from Terra as an outlet for his grief and a way of sublimating his psychological and philosophical research into creative invention.
           
The centrifugality of Ada now becomes even crazier: a chapter on the world-wide chain of Villa Venus floramors set up to fulfill the “Organized Dream” (348) left in written outline at his death by a fifteen-year-old virgin, Eric Veen, who, like his grandfather “David van Veen, a wealthy architect of Flemish extraction,” is “in no way related to the Veens of our rambling romance” (347). For the first time since he became the focus of the narrative, Van does not even feature until more than half way through this longer-than-average chapter.
           
Nevertheless, we know that despite and even before Van’s past devotion to Ada he has also availed himself of whores, from the “fubsy pig-pink whorelet” (33) he sampled forty times at the corner shop near Riverlane school, before Ardis the First, to the unique invitation, between Ardis the First and Ardis the Second, offered him at Chose by Dick Cheshire after Van fleeced him at cards, to punish him for fleecing others: “generous Dick proposed to substitute for his debt an introduction to the Venus Villa Club to which his whole clan belonged. Such a bounty no boy of eighteen could hope to obtain. It was a ticket to paradise. Van tussled with his slightly overweight conscience (both grinning like old pals in their old gymnasium)—and accepted Dick’s offer” (176). On his first night with Ada at Ardis the Second, he unabashedly discloses to Ada that he has been unfaithful to her since September 1884 “Six hundred and thirteen times. . . . With at least two hundred whores” (195).
           
Van could hardly be less like the fifteen-year-old Eric Veen. Van visits Ardis, where his “passionate pump-joy” (286) lovemaking with Ada from the age of fourteen transforms Ardis into a paradise of pleasure. Eric can only imagine the “parodies of paradise” (350) that his grandfather later erects in his honor and memory in brick, marble, and plaster. David van Veen’s architectural eclecticism becomes a heroicomic quest in its own right, and Van, on stage at last, writes that although he “had frequented bordels since my sixteenth year . . . nothing about them pre-announced the luxury and mollitude of my first Villa Venus. It was the difference between a den and an Eden” (353).
           
In this chapter Van reports only three visits to Villa Venus floramors: his first, his second, and his last. His first and second are ghastly enough, and after those two, he recounts the rapid decline of the whole network of floramors until they “sank to the level of stagnant stews” (356). Only then does he report “his last visit to one last Villa Venus” (356). This haunting passage seems like nightmare, even if it ends in a lunge of wish-fulfilment: “The ruinous Villa no longer bore any resemblance to Eric’s ‘organized dream,’ but the soft little creature in Van’s desperate grasp was Ada” (358).
           
Even on a first reading, Pt. 2 Ch.3 challenges us to understand both its status and its relation to the rest of the novel. The previous chapter shows Van lapsing into a dream; this chapter unfurls and realizes Eric Veen’s “Organized Dream”; the next chapter plunges us into Van’s lectures on dreams to his Kingston students. What is the status of the Villas Venus? And how does Eric Veen, who dies at Ex, relate to Van, who turns up at Ex as Aqua’s child, “wrapped up in blood-soaked cotton wool, but perfectly alive and healthy, to be registered as her son Ivan Veen” (25)? Are Eric and his grandfather David van Veen really “in no way related to the Veens of our rambling romance” (347)?
           

Annotations

347.01: In the spring of 1869: The time Van’s own story begins: “On April 23, 1869, in drizzly and warm, gauzy and green Kaluga, Aqua, aged twenty-five and afflicted with her usual vernal migraine, married Walter D. Veen” (4.14-16). Demon has already made Marina pregnant with Van (in late March 1869, 15.15 and context) and by marrying Aqua and making her pregnant Demon begins the chain of events that will lead to Aqua’s still-born son being furtively replaced by Marina’s son and raised as Aqua’s and Demon’s son Van.

347.01: David van Veen, a wealthy architect: The grandfather of Eric Veen, who has alreadybeen mentioned at 344.34-345.01, 345.13, 346.01, and is about to be introduced as David van Veen’s grandson at 347.13. Not only does the grandfather’s surname evoke the full name “Van Veen” but his first name, with its two ds, also evokes that of Van’s grandfather, Dedalus Veen (who will himself be a member of the first Venus Club Council, 352.26-29) and of the ingenious architect of Greek legend, Daedalus, after whom Van’s own grandfather is named. David van Veen has a V in each of the three parts of his name, in this Villa Venus chapter rich in that letter, and as “the unfeigned vim of avid venery” (351.34) may suggest, there is also an avid in “David.” MOTIF: VVan; Veen.

347.01-02: of Flemish extraction: He is later referred to as a “Dutchman” (349.23), and his nephew and heir lives “in Ruinen (somewhere near Zwolle . . . )” (350. 04), both in the Netherlands. Veen, as noted in 4.16n2, is a Dutch word meaning “peat” or “bog,” and, as explained in Boyd 2004 (reprinted in Boyd 2011), Nabokov learned about Veen as a personal name and as part of the name of many towns in the Netherlands, especially in the province of Drenthe, from Nicolas Freeling’s 1964 novel Double-Barrel, which came to Nabokov’s attention through its playful references to Humbert. See Boyd 2004/2011 for the Dutch themes and motifs in Ada. “Van Veen” means “of the peatbog,” and therefore is the exact equivalent of the surname of Blanche de la Tourberie (407.02).
           
In view of the fact that David van Veen is “of Flemish extraction” and his nephew is nicknamed “‘Velvet’ Veen” (350.15), it may be worth remembering the great Flemish painter Pieter Brueghel the Elder (c. 1525-1569), whose son Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568-1625), also a painter, was nicknamed “Velvet” Brueghel. Recall this description of Magicarpets or jikkers: “what a breathtaking long neural caress when one became airborne for the first time and managed to skim over a haystack, a tree, a burn, a barn, while Grandfather Dedalus Veen, running with upturned face, flourished a flag and fell into the horsepond” (81.33-82.03 and n.), which playfully combines three famous Brueghel the Elder paintings, “The Fall of Icarus” (1560) (but not that of his father, Daedalus), “The Blind Leading the Blind” (1568), and “The Nest Robber” (1568). Given that David van Veen is an architect, it may also be worth recalling that Pieter Brueghel the Elder painted a number of versions of “The Tower of Babel” (c.1563), another grand architectural project that, like David van Veen’s 1001 floramors, remained uncompleted.

347.02-03: in no way related to the Veens of our rambling romance: Echoes both the first mention of Eric Veen at the end of the previous chapter (“just as another, unrelated, Veen might have denounced . . . his pubescent dream of ideal bordels,” 344.34-345.02), and the opening of Ada’s first chapter: “That pronouncement has little if any relation to the story to be unfolded now” (3.05-06). MOTIF: family relationship.

347.02-03: of our rambling romance: Anticipates the closing paragraph of Ada: “butterflies and butterfly orchids in the margin of the romance” (589.05-06). As the Kyoto Reading Circle notes, Van’s Letters from Terra had been introduced in the previous chapter as a “romance” (338.09) and classified as a “Space Romance” (343.33). MOTIF: romance.

347.04: driving from Cannes to Calais: David van Veen seems to live in the Maritime Alps, the department to which Cannes belongs, and is presumably driving his daughter to Calais en route to London, where her husband has his studio (347.07), and to Note, their son’s private school (347.16).

347.05: parked furniture van:  Cf. “where little Lucette lay for a minute awake before running after her dream and jumping into the last furniture van. // Van, kneeling at the picture window . . . ” (116.03-06). MOTIF: Van.

347.05-10: his daughter . . . instantly killed . . . her husband . . . shot himself: For a strategic story-teller like Nabokov, it was necessary to eliminate Eric’s parents, who would be unlikely to commemorate their son’s death by rendering in concrete (and brick) his adolescent sexual fantasies.

347.11: village in Normandy called, dreadfully, Deuil: Deuil means “mourning, sorrow, affliction.” There is a town called Deuil-la-Barre (just “Deuil” until 1952) on the northern outskirts of Paris, in the department of Val d’Oise, not in, but adjacent to, Normandy. Cf. “At a place nicely called Agony” (481.03).

347.13: Eric, a boy of fifteen: Cf. “As a boy of fifteen (Eric Veen’s age of florescence)” (345.13-14).

347.13: Eric: Full name Eric Veen (see 345.13); he therefore derives his surname not from the line of his grandfather David van Veen but from his father, a plain Veen: Veen and van Veen are distinct surnames in Dutch.

Given the erotic nature of his Villa Venus project, Eric’s name conjures up not only the Roman goddess of love, Venus, but also (see Mason 172) the Greek god of love and sex, Eros (ἔρως means “desire” in Greek), who in some versions of the myths is the son of Aphrodite, the Greek equivalent of Venus (Eros’s equivalent in Roman mythology is Cupid).
           
The combination “Eric Veen” also conjures up Venus Erycina (https://www.britannica.com/topic/Venus-goddess, accessed 6 October 2020): “the most important cause of the identification [of Roman Venus with Greek Aphrodite] was the reception into Rome of the famous cult of Venus Erycina—i.e., of Aphrodite of Eryx (Erice) in Sicily—this cult itself resulting from the identification of an Oriental mother-goddess with the Greek deity. This reception took place during and shortly after the Second Punic War. A temple was dedicated to Venus Erycina on the Capitol in 215 BCE and a second outside the Colline gate in 181 BCE. The latter developed in a way reminiscent of the temple at Eryx with its harlots, becoming the place of worship of Roman courtesans, hence the title of dies meretricum (‘prostitutes’ day’) attached to April 23, the day of its foundation.” Note that April 23, the day Van’s story begins (see 347.01n) is both the day of Aqua’s marriage and the Roman prostitutes’ day. 
           
“The Romans often referred to Venus as Venus Erycina because her cult derived from the goddess of Erice in Sicily, first worshipped as a goddess of fertility, then as a goddess of love and beauty. After Rome’s defeat of Carthage, a temple was erected to Venus Ericina on Rome’s Capitoline Hill in 215 BCE. Thirty years later a much larger temple to Venus Ericina was built outside the city walls. . . . As in Erice, some women would practice sacred prostitution, but the ritual lost many of the original spiritual connotations.” (https://nididigabbiani.altervista.org/aprhodite-and-venus-erycina-from-erice-to-rome/)
           
Nabokov was aware of the cult of Venus Erycina or Ericina at least by the early 1950s, when he was writing Lolita (II.23, 250: “any good Freudian, with a German name and some interest in religious prostitution, should recognize at a glance the implication of ‘Dr. Kitzler, Eryx, Miss.’,” the “German name” Kitzler here meaning “clitoris”). He was surely reminded of it in late 1965, when he visited Palermo, Sicily, not far from Erice; he dates to just afterwards, to “the very end of 1965” (SO 310), the bolt of inspiration he records writing as the first flash of a novel he originally planned to be called “Villa Venus, then The Veens, then Ardor, and finally Ada” (SO 310), the dreamlike passage that becomes Van’s “last visit to one last Villa Venus” at the end of this chapter.
           
“Erica” (the Dutch word for “heather,” akin to the Latin name of the heather family, Ericaceae) is also a village in the province of Drenthe in the northern Netherlands, the setting for one of Nabokov’s first sources for inspiration for Ada, Freeling’s Double Barrel (see Boyd 2004 or Boyd 2011); the village is in a densely peaty area (see 347.01-02n above) and began to form in 1863 when a fuel shortage prompted the draining of the local peats.

MOTIF: Eros.

347.13: care and adoration: MOTIF: adore.

347.16: from Note to a small private school: “Note”: palindrome of “Eton,” the famous English public school (private school, as understood outside the United Kingdom), at which many leading British politicians have been educated over the centuries: indeed a school “of note,” or, as at 348.24, “notorious” for its homosexual fumblings. Perhaps the “of note” also echoes a hint of snobbery in the name of “Chose” (Cambridge), if we think of that as a university of “the chosen”?

347.17: Vaud Canton: French-speaking Canton in Western Switzerland, on the eastern side of Lake Geneva. Capital: Lausanne; most famous tourist town: Montreux, where the Nabokovs were living at the time of Ada’s composition.

347.17-18: the Maritime Alps: When Marina gives birth to Van on January 1, 1870, his father Demon sends her 99 orchids, “Special Delivery, c’est bien le cas de le dire, from Villa Armina, Alpes Maritimes” (8.01-02). 

Like Eric, Humbert Humbert’s mother dies by a weather-related mishap (in her case, lightning) in the Maritime Alps: “When my mother, in a livid wet dress, under the tumbling mist (so I vividly imagined her), had run panting ecstatically up that ridge above Moulinet to be felled there by a thunderbolt, I was but an infant . . . ” (Lolita, II.32, 287).

347.18-348.01: Ex-en-Valais . . . its worst hurricane hurled a roof tile at him, fatally fracturing his skull:  Nabokov's uncle Vladimir Rukavishnikov, the darling of the family, died in the Swiss resort of Davos, at 16, in the 1880s. Van’s uncle “Ivan Durmanov . . . died of lung cancer years ago in a sanatorium (not far from Ex, somewhere in Switzerland, where Van was born eight years later)” (65.23-25).

“Ex en Valais” is the locality of the first item identified in Marina’s herbarium, 7.23.  It is the place where Aqua gives birth to a still-born child and where Marina substitutes her young Van for the confused Aqua to raise. Sometimes Aqua realises that Van might be “her sister’s, born out of wedlock, during an exhausting, yet highly romantic blizzard, in a mountain refuge on Sex Rouge, where a Dr. Alpiner, general practitioner and gentian-lover, sat providentially waiting near a rude red stove for his boots to dry” (25.33-26.04). That blizzard may be identical with the “worst hurricane” in Ex-en-Valais.

347.18: Ex-en-Valais, whose crystal air was supposed at the time to strengthen young lungs: Swiss sanatoria were indeed sought after by wealthy lung patients (as in Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain, 1924, set in Davos). Insofar as Ex-en-Valais is modeled on Chateau d’Oex, in the canton of Vaud, it should be recalled (see 7.09n) that this resort is 1000 meters above sea level; the main resorts in the neighboring canton of the Valais, to the east of Vaud—Crans-Montana, Saas-Fee, Verbier, and Zermatt—are considerably higher, at over 1500 meters above sea level.  Cf. “the famous glittering air, le cristal d’Ex” (567.13).

In view of the fatal cablegram from Deuil (347.11), it may be worth noting that there is a village called Excideuil in France’s Dordogne department, and that Nabokov, who studied medieval French at Cambridge, may well have known of it via Gui d’Excideuil, an old (now lost) French romance of the 12th century. The Latin excidere (quite unrelated to the etymology of “Excideuil”) means “to fall” (like the tile?).

MOTIF: crystal of Ex; Ex.
  
348.03: “Villa Venus: an Organized Dream”: Perhaps a Freudian pun on “organ”?  Cf. “The ruinous Villa no longer bore any resemblance to Eric’s ‘organized dream,’” 358.21-22.
The international scale, the high status of membership, and the focus on heterosexual pleasure of the Villa Venus Club may reflect in part the unique success in the 1960s of the Playboy Clubs, founded by Hugh Hefner (1926-2017) in 1960 and rapidly expanding to about forty American and international locations. Although the Playboy Clubs stoked sexual excitement, and no doubt activity, they were definitely not brothels.

Hefner founded the Playboy Clubs on the success of his monthly magazine, Playboy, launched in 1953 with the subtitle “Entertainment for Men” and a particular focus on female nudity and a more general claim to high-brow male entertainment. Through much of the 1960s, Playboy was the richest magazine in the world and could afford to lure highly-paid writers, including Nabokov (and Saul Bellow, John Cheever, Nadine Gordimer, Doris Lessing, Joyce Carol Oates, I. B. Singer, John Updike, Kurt Vonnegut, and others). Among Nabokov’s contributions were ten fiction pieces (stories and novel serializations), one interview and two letters to the editor between 1961 and the publication of AdaPlayboy’s emblem, the bunny, seems related to the Krolik-Lagosse-Lapiner-leporine motif in Ada, including Dr. Lagosse’s appearance in this chapter (353.23-24) and elsewhere.

The Kyoto Reading Circle suggests that Eric Veen’s “‘An Organized Dream’ is an oblique reference to ‘The History of Organized Crime,’ which at the time of VN’s writing Ada was a serial feature of The Playboy magazine.”

MOTIF: dream; Venus; Villa Venus.

348.06-08: reading too many erotic works found in a furnished house his grandfather had bought . . . from Count Tolstoy, a Russian or Pole: Leo Tolstoy features in the opening paragraph of Ada, as the author of (on Antiterra) “a famous novel (Anna Arkadievitch Karenina . . . ) and another Tolstoy work, Detstvo i Otrochestvo (Childhood and Fatherland . . . )”  (3.03-08) and later in I.28 (“the peasant-bare footprint of Tolstoy preserved in the clay of a motor court in Utah where he had written the tale of Murat, the Navajo chieftain,” 171.14-17), but this “Count Tolstoy” seems both not well-known (“a Russian or Pole”) and a collector of erotic works, unlike Tolstoy the novelist, who heartily satisfied his sexual desires in his younger days but came to deplore sex, even within marriage, in his later years, most famously in the novella Kreytzerova Sonata (“The Kreutzer Sonata,” 1889). Another story of the same year, “D’yavol” (“The Devil”) also focuses on the dangers of erotic desire. As Alexey Sklyarenko notes (Nabokov-L, 21 July 2018) “ In his book Chto takoe iskusstvo? (‘What is Art?’ 1898) Leo Tolstoy complains that modern art seems to pursue only one definite aim – that is, to spread depravity as widely as possible.”

348.07: near Vence:  A small town in France’s Alpes Maritimes, in the twentieth century a health resort attractive to writers and painters, among them D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930), a writer of “erotic works,” who died there; painter Henri Matisse (1869-1954), who moved to Vence in 1943 and created major works for the Chapelle there; and painter Marc Chagall (1887-1985), who lived in Vence before moving to nearby St. Paul de Vence. Here, “Vence” plays on “Venus” and perhaps is planned as a trap for those who know of Venice but not Vence. MOTIF: Venus. 

348.09-10: over “both hemispheres of our callipygian globe”: Venus Callipyge or the Callipygean Venus, “Venus of the beautiful buttocks,” is a famous classical Roman statue in marble, dating from the late first century BCE, and since 1802 in what is now the Naples National Archeological Museum. W2, Callipygian Venus: “A marble statue of a woman, found in the Domus Aurea of Nero at Rome and now in the Museo Nazionale at Naples.” Nabokov researched art in Naples and Pompeii in May 1966 for his Butterflies in Art project and for Ada.
           
When Leopold Bloom at last gets into bed with Molly in the penultimate chapter of Ulysses, “He kissed the plump mellow yellow smellow melons of her rump, on each plump melonous hemisphere, in their mellow yellow furrow, with obscure prolonged provocative melonsmellonous osculation” (Ulysses, ed. Hans Walter Gabler, Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, 1986, p. 604, 18:2241-3).
           
Re “both hemispheres”: cf. also “There are hundreds of species and good subspecies [of fritillaries] in both hemispheres” (404.24-25).

348.11-12: his poetical phrase, “Floramors”: Here, a kind of paradisal brothel; but in W2 (from the medieval French fleur d’amour, “flower of love”) “A cultivated amaranth,” defined in turn by W2 as “An imaginary flower supposed never to fade. Poetic,” or “Any plant of the genus Amaranthus.”

            In Milton’s Paradise Lost, III.351-364:
                                    down they cast
Their crowns inwove with amarant and gold,
Immortal amarant, a flower which once
In Paradise, fast by the tree of life,
Began to bloom; but soon for man's offence
To heaven removed, where first it grew, there grows,
And flowers aloft, shading the fount of life,
And where the river of bliss through midst of heaven
Rolls o'er Elisian flowers her amber stream:
With these that never fade the spirits elect
Bind their resplendent locks inwreathed with beams,
Now in loose garlands thick thrown off, the bright
Pavement that like a sea of jasper shone
Impurpled with celestial roses smiled.
Paradise Lost, ed. Alastair Fowler. London: Longman, 1971, pp. 163-64)

Amaranth is associated with death in Milton’s Lycidas (1637) (“Bid amaranthus all his beauty shed / And daffadillies fill their cups with tears, / To strew the laureate hearse where Lycid lies,” ll. 149-51; John Carey and Alastair Fowler, eds., The Poems of John Milton, London: Longman, 1968, p. 251) and in the Garden of Adonis section of The Faerie Queene (1596) by Edmund Spenser (1552-1599), III.vi.45-46:



 And all about grew every sort of flowre,
    To which sad lovers were transformd of yore;
    Fresh Hyacinthus, Phoebus paramoure,
    And dearest love,
    Foolish Narcisse, that likes the watry shore,
    Sad Amaranthus, made a flowre but late,
    Sad Amaranthus, in whose purple gore
    Me seemes I see Amintas wretched fate,
To whom sweet Poets verse hath given endless date.

There wont faire Venus often to enjoy
    Her deare Adonis joyous company,
    And reape sweet pleasure of the wanton boy. . . .

(Hugh McLean, ed., Edmund Spenser’s Poetry (New York: Norton, 1968), p. 275)

MOTIF: flowers.


348.16: 3650 guineas: First (and penultimate) mention of this denomination—W2: “An English gold coin authorized in 1633 and discontinued in 1813; —so called because supposedly first struck out of gold from Guinea. . . . From 1717 on it had a fixed value of 21 shillings”—the other instance being “Out of the goodness of his heart Van gave [the concierge] a Goal guinea” (459.15-16). MOTIF: gold dollars; riches.

348.17-20: Resident female physicians . . . to check the intimate physical condition of “the caresser and the caressed”:  Cf. “the anonymous protectors of courtesans bought medical inspectors” (356.15-16).

348.17-19: Resident female physicians, good-looking and young (“of the American secretarial or dentist-assistant type”): Cf. “one of the gargle girls of her late husband,” a dentist (433.34-434.01).

348.23-25: had enjoyed some tender ersatz fumblings with schoolmates at Note (a notorious preparatory school in that respect): Cf. Pale Fire, where Queen Disa, having despaired of King Charles II’s abandoning his homosexuality, “At last . . . removed to the Riviera leaving him to amuse himself with a band of Eton-collared, sweet-voiced minions imported from England” (209). Cf. also VN’s afterword to Lolita: “we are not children, not illiterate juvenile delinquents, not English public school boys who after a night of homosexual romps have to endure the paradox of reading the Ancients in expurgated versions” (Lolita 316).

348.23-28: fumblings with schoolmates at Note . . . : at least two . . .  might be pretty boys, wearing frontlets and short smocks, not older than fourteen if fair, and not more than twelve if dark: Cf. “the passionswhich several generations of schoolmasters had failed to eradicate, and which as late as 1883 still enjoyed an unparalleled vogue at Riverlane. Every dormitory had its catamite. One hysterical lad from Upsala, cross-eyed, lose-lipped, with almost abnormally awkward limbs, but with a wonderfully tender skin texture and the round creamy charms of Bronzino’s Cupid . . . , was much prized and tortured by a group of foreign boys, mostly Greek and English, led by Cheshire” (32.21-30). Cf. also: “the girls, aged from fifteen to twenty-five in the case of ‘slender Nordic dolls,’ and from ten to twenty in the case of ‘opulent Southern charmers’” (349.04-06).

348.26: pretty boys: Cf., at Chose, “a theatrical club that habitually limited itself to Elizabethan plays, with queens and fairies played by pretty boys” (181.18-20).

348.27: frontlets: W2, frontlet: “A frontal or brow band.” MOTIF: -let.

349.02: Shell Pink Book: Combines the Shell Guide series to British counties (for motorists) from 1934 to 1984, with their scallop emblem; the color “shell pink” (cf. “shell-pink complexion,” SM 163); the pale-pink scallop shell on which Venus stands in Sandro Botticelli’s famous painting The Birth of Venus (c.1484-1486, now in the Uffizi, Florence); and above all the Guide Rose (“Pink Guide”), an annual guide to the higher-class Paris brothels published from 1922 to 1946. Zimmer 2010: 987 notes that the 1925 edition listed more than 750 maisons de plaisir. The Kyoto Reading Circle observes that “Since the Third Republic (from 1870), according to the ‘atlasobscura’ site, ‘Licentious tourism became a flourishing business [in Paris], and the bordellos’ number, quality and originality grew quickly. To find your way, you could buy illicitly the famous Guide Rose, a sort of yellow book of lust published every year, referencing all the brothels, their specialities, prices, sometimes even their star courtesans.” (https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/paris-from-the-boudoir-the-decadent-journey-in-belle-epoque-bordellos). “Les vingt-huit dernières maisons de société, dirigées par des hommes d’affaires, . . . devinrent, pour la plupart, des grandes entreprises. . . . Quelques maisons de luxe furent décorées dans un esprit nouveau, avec chambres de dépaysement, évoquant une couchette de grand express, une cabine de sous-marin, une hutte africaine, ou un coin de palais chinois. Pour leur publicité, un éditeur lança chaque année le Guide Rose, reconnu par l’Office Général du Commerce, qui groupait toutes les annonces d’entreprises galantes, les adresses de toutes les maisons de plaisir, de société, de rendez-vous et de massage. Ni exposé, ni vendu, ce précieux annuaire était répandu partout!” (“The last twenty-eight society houses, directed by businessmen, . . . mostly became major firms. . . . A few luxury houses were decorated in a new spirit, with rooms suggesting somewhere else, a sleeping car in an express train, a submarine cabin, an African hut, or the corner of a Chinese palace. To publicize them, a publisher put out each year the Guide Rose, recognized by the Office Général du Commerce, which grouped all the advertisements of the sex trade, the addresses of all the houses of pleasure, of society, of assignation and of massage. Neither displayed nor sold, this precious yearbook spread everywhere!” (Dictionnaire de Paris, Paris: Larousse, 1964, s.v. “Guide Rose”).
           
Cf. also “the wretched sovereign of one-half of the globe called for the Shell Pink Book” (355.27-29).
           
Cf. Jack Chose’s “excerpts from the Venus Shell Album” (516.09-10) in his autobiography, The Chimes of Chose.

349.12: Lady-in-Chief:A comical variation on “Lady-in-waiting,” which always refers to a subordinate, not a leader.

349.14-15: having a good-looking female homosexual head the staff: Cf. “a respectable Lesbian who conducted a Villa Venus at Souvenir” (355.31-32). MOTIF: lesbian.

349.15: adding a bouncer: Cf. “the squalid recess where the bouncer had slept” (358.15); “really as old as the bautta and the vyshibala [Russ., ‘bouncer’]” (351.22-23).

349.17: Eccentricity is the greatest grief’s greatest remedy: An aphorism perhaps designed only to serve as a transition into David van Veen’s hyperactivity as architect, and not to be taken too seriously, but with famous literary examples from Homer’s Achilles (The Iliad), Euripides’s Medea, and Shakespeare’s Hamlet to Dickens’s Miss Havisham (Great Expectations).

349.20: houri: W2: “A nymph of the Mohammedan paradise, supposed to be created from musk and spices and endowed with perpetually virgin youth and perfect beauty.” MOTIF: paradise.

349.23-29: old but still vigorous Dutchman with his rugged reptilian face and white hair, designing with the assistance of Leftist decorators . . . Tartary, which he thought was ruled by “Americanized Jews,” but then “Art redeemed Politics”—profoundly original concepts that we must condone in a lovable old crank: In his own copy of Ada, VN glosses: “Bertrand Russel[l]’s idea” (an arrow points to “rugged reptilian”). British philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), who had been highly critical of Stalin, and who in 1948 even advocated war against the Soviet Union before the Soviets could have any chance to develop nuclear weapons, became from the 1950s a prominent advocate of nuclear disarmament and in the 1960s a prominent opponent of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War.  Russell was no Dutchman, but was vigorous in his old age, and his head and neck, highly familiar in press photographs in the 1950s and 1960s, did by then look decidedly reptilian.  But it has not been possible to trace the views Van attributes to “the old but still vigorous Dutchman” to Russell. The Kyoto Reading Circle cites the conservative historian Paul Johnson’s description of the circle of intellectuals who gathered around Russell: “Many well-to-do progressives, . . . [Rupert] Crawshay-WilliamsArthur Koestler, Humphrey Slater, the military scientist P.M.S. (later LordBlackett and the economic historian M.M. Postan, settled in this beautiful neighbourhood [a fantasy Italian village], to enjoy life and plan the socialist millennium. Russell was their monarch, and to his court came, in addition to the local middle-class intelligentsia, a host of pilgrims from all over the world, seeking wisdom and approval, as their predecessors had.” Paul Johnson, Intellectuals (Harper Perennial, 1988/2007, 219.) https://archive.org/stream/intellectuals4/Paul%20Johnson%20-%20Intellectuals%20%281988%29_djvu.txt
           
Perhaps in “brutal Tartary, which he thought was ruled by ‘Americanized Jews’” Nabokov is hitting at American poet Ezra Pound (1885-1972), who also, in photographs of the 1960s, looked rather reptilian, and was very publicly anti-Semitic, including asserting that Stalin was somehow a pawn of the Jews (see J.P. Sullivan, ed., Ezra Pound: A Critical Anthology (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1970), p. 65), and was certainly an “old . . . crank,” if hardly lovable. Nabokov detested “the pretentious nonsense of Mr. Pound, that total fake” (SO  102), “definitely second-rate” (SO 43), “a venerable fraud” (SO 136). The sentiment “Art redeems politics” was certainly used by some writers and commentators to justify maintaining a high regard for Pound (see e.g. Rodger Kamenetz, “Allen Ginsburg Forgives Ezra Pound on Behalf of the Jews,” The Schmooze, December 9, 2010.)
           
Why Nabokov should digress still further from the Villa Venus digression to left-leaning Russell and right-leaning Pound remains puzzling.

349.25-26: the thousand and one memorial floramors he resolved to erect: Cf. twelve-year-old Ada in the Ardis library: “guilty Ada, who had thought she was alone (pulling out and scanning the utterly unrewarding Arabian Nights),” also known as The Thousand and One Nights (130.20-131.02).
           
Perhaps cf. also “Van gleefully erected there his famous Lucinda Villa, a miniature museum just two stories high, with a still growing collection of microphotographed paintings from all public and private galleries in the world . . . a most appetizing little memorial of Parian marble” (336.29-337.01).
           
In view of the fact that the floramors are David van Veen’s memorial to his grandson Eric, killed by a flying tile, it may just possibly be relevant that an eric is (W2), in Brehon law, “A payment for homicide, consisting of compensation for an injury according to its nature and the honor price of the parties concerned.” Nabokov certainly used a similar sense in choosing the name Kinbote, which in W2 is in Old Law “Bote [=compensation] given by a homicide to the kin of his victim.” MOTIF: flowers.

349.30-31: Robert Adam-like composition: “Robert Adam, the leading British exponent of the neoclassical style in architecture, furniture, and interior design, was born in Scotland in 1728 and died in 1792. He defined an urban style in London (the Adelphi) and in the New Town in Edinburgh. His grandest interiors are such English stately homes as Syon House, Kenwood, and Luton Hoo” (James Fenton, “Making It by Making It,” review of Eileen Harris, The Genius of Robert Adam: His Interiors, New York Review of Books, 21 November 2002, 51-52). His interior style, his most distinctive, was characterized by grand but harmonious ornament: marble pilasters topped with gilded statues and entablatures, or pink-and-white or pastel-blue-and-white designs, or other eclectic color and design schemes. Peter Kidson, Peter Murray and Paul Thompson, A History of English Architecture (1962; rev. ed. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, 1965), a book VN alludes to precisely if obliquely in 350.24-25 (see n.), note that “Nowadays there are people who would claim that Robert Adam was the greatest of British architects, greater even than Wren” (233). The Adam examples discussed at length by Kidson, Murray and Thompson are Syon House, Osterley House and the Adelphi, all in London. Horace Walpole reportedly described one room at Osterley as “the drawing room as ‘worthy of Eve before the fall’” (Wikipedia, s. v. Osterley Park, accessed 2 October 2020). For VN’s use of Kidson, Murray and Thompson in this chapter, see also Suellen Stringer-Hye, “Abstract Cast in Concrete: A History of English Architecture in Ada,” The Nabokovian, 33 (Fall 1994), 24-27. MOTIF: Adam.

349.32: the Madam-I’m-Adam House: The palindrome “Madam, I’m Adam” has been in circulation from at least 1861 (Wikipedia, s.v. palindrome, accessed October 16, 2020); it is often furnished as the answer to the riddle, “What were Adam’s first words to Eve?” In A1, VN glosses “madam = woman directing a house of prostitution,” imparting to the phrase a decidedly and drolly postlapsarian ring. MOTIF: Adam; paradise.

349.32-33: Newport, Rodos Island: Newport, Rhode Island, USA, is a seaside city on Aquidneck Island famous for its mansions along and around Bellevue Avenue. At the end of the nineteenth and in the early twentieth centuries wealthy families like the Astors, the Vanderbilts and the Wideners employed architects to design vast mansions (ironically called “cottages”) for their summer retreats from New York City to Newport.  

349.32-33: Rodos Island: Combines the state of Rhode Island, USA, and the city of Rhodes (or Rhodos) on the island of Rhodes/Rhodos in the Aegean Sea. The Colossus of Rhodes, a statue of Helios the sun god by Chares of Lindon, erected in 208 BCE, stood 33 meters high, the largest statue of classical times and one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Cf. “Rodosia” (345.26). MOTIF: transatlantic doubling.

349.33-34: with marble columns . . . still encrusted with Etruscan oyster shells: Adam’s neoclassic style included so-called “Etruscan Rooms,” including the Etruscan Room at Osterley House, designed 1775-1779 and “based on the colour schemes of early Greek vases, which were then thought to be the work of the Etruscan forerunners of Roman civilization” (Kidson, Murray, and Thompson, 244). Kidson, Murray and Thompson discuss the Osterley Etruscan Room on pp. 243-44 (“The flat decoration with strong colours, based on reddish-brown, black, and yellow, and the more or less Greek motives,” 244) and illustrate it on p. 243. The “marble columns dredged from classical seas and still encrusted with Etruscan oyster shells” is VN’s alliterative and rococo encrustation; the Osterley House Etruscan Room had no marble columns, a feature elsewhere characteristic of Adam’s style.

350.01: died from a stroke: Continuing the comic sequence of sudden deaths introducing the Villas Venus: Eric’s mother’s breaking her neck, his father’s shooting himself, his own fracturing his skull on a roof tile hurled by a hurricane, and now his grandfather’s death by stroke. The “parodies of paradise” (350.21) that David van Veen designs are far from paradisiac even in their origin, let alone in their eventual decay.

350.01-02: to prop up a propylon: W2: “Anc. Egypt. Arch. An outer monumental gateway standing before the pylon or main entrance gateway to a temple, etc.” At p. 242 Kidson, Murray and Thompson feature a full-page photograph of the propylon of Osterley Park, with two rows of six massive unpropupable Ionic columns, at p. 242, facing the photograph of the Etruscan Room there.

350.03-04: His nephew and heir . . . clothier in Ruinen: Nabokov may have in mind the legendary art dealer Joseph Duveen and his family, including James Henry Duveen, author of The Rise of the House of Duveen (1957; see Family Tree n.). As noted in 4.16n, Nabokov read and enjoyed S.N. Behrman’s biography Duveen as it was published serially in the New Yorker in 1951. Behrman (Duveen, p. 29), notes that the Duveens originated in the town of Meppel (9 miles from Ruinen).

350.03: His nephew and heir: Identified further at 350.15 as “‘Velvet’ Veen.”

350.04-11: Ruinen. . . . the old Russian word for September, “ryuen’,” which might have spelled “ruin,”: Aleksey Sklyarenko, “ryuen' & Künstlerpostkarte in Ada; radabarbara in Bend Sinister,” thenabokovian.org, 7 July 2020: “According to Vladimir Dahl (Ada’s beloved lexicographer), ryuen’ (also spelled ruven’, the old Russian word for ‘September’) comes from ryov oleney (the roar of deer)” (see Dal’, s.v. ruven’).

350.04: Ruinen (somewhere near Zwolle, I’m told): Ruinen is a village in Drenthe province, North Netherlands, about 41 kilometers from the town of Zwolle. The bracketed aside invites curious or suspicious readers to consult a detailed map of the Netherlands. “Velvet” Veen’s home town is “located in the middle of a triangle formed by Wapserveen, Hoogeveen, and Kolderveen, and bearing the suggestive name of Ruinen” (Boyd 2011: 363).  Apart from the shadow of “ruins” (Dutch ruines, German Ruinen, and see 350.10-11, “which might have spelled ‘ruin’”), there is a more specifically venereal connotation in this Veen’s place of origin: a “client for Rouen” was “a case of venereal disease” in World War I army slang, because “The main VD hospital was there” (Partridge, Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, 8th ed., s.v. “client”). Cf. “the ruinous Villa” (358.21). MOTIF: ruin.

350.06: millions of guldens: Gulden (W2): “a Any of various obsolete German and Dutch coins (of both gold and silver). . . . b The gold monetary unit of the Netherlands, equal to 40.2 cents.” MOTIF: gold dollars; riches.

350.11-12: Neverlander’s: The proliferation of Vs in the Villa Venus chapter infects even “Netherlander’s,” when referring to “‘Velvet’ Veen” (see 350.15). Probably no allusion to the Neverland, in the drama and fiction of J.M. Barrie (1860-1937), the play Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up (1904) and its novelization, Peter and Wendy (1911). MOTIF: V.

350.13: Venus revenues: MOTIF: V; Venus; Villa Venus.

350.14: A tattling tabloid: The Tatler, a British magazine, founded in 1901 (and named after the literary and society journal The Tatler, 1709-1711, edited by the writer Richard Steele (1672-1729)), weekly until 1977, then monthly. It focuses on high society, fashion, lifestyle, and politics.

350.15: “Velvet” Veen: Because he is a clothier (350.04); but, given that, perhaps the whole name is a pun on the clothing fabric “velveteen” (see Van’s “velveteen slacks,” 528.30). MOTIF: V.

350.15: “Velvet” Veen: In honor not only of his fabrics (he is a clothier), but also of the Flemish painter “Velvet” Brueghel, real name Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568-1625), the son of the great Pieter Brueghel. Jan Brueghel was nicknamed “Velvet” Brueghel because of his accomplished renderings of fabric; “Flower” Brueghel because of his penchant for floral still lifes; and “Paradise Brueghel” because he instituted the genre of the paradisiac landscape. All are relevant here. MOTIF: V; Veen.

350.15-19: traveled once—and only once—to the nearest floramor with his entire family— . . . Guillaume de Monparnasse indignantly rejected an offer from Hollywood to base a screenplay on that dignified and hilarious excursion: Guy de Maupassant, the original on Earth of Antiterra’s Guillaume de Monparnasse, wrote the short story La Maison Tellier (1881). “Julia Tellier, the well-respected madam of a small-town brothel, takes her girls on an outing to her brother's village to attend the First Communion of her niece. Her regular patrons are taken aback when they discover the brothel closed without explanation that Saturday night. One finally discovers a sign explaining the reason and is relieved. At the village, everyone is very impressed by the group of elegant ladies who have appeared to support the girl at her First Communion. The prostitutes are moved to tears by the ceremony, as is the rest of the congregation. Julia's brother Joseph becomes infatuated with Rosa, one of her workers, and promises to visit next month” (Wikipedia, s.v. Le Plaisir, accessed 2 October 2020).
           
Within Ada’s world, Monparnasse has of course allowed Hollywood to base the film The Accursed Children on her novel Les Enfants Maudits (see esp. Pt. 1 Ch. 32). In real and reel life, German-born film director Max Ophüls (1902-1957) adapted La Maison Tellier and two other Maupassant stories in the anthology film Le Plaisir (1952, House of Pleasure). Nabokov adapted his own novel Lolita in 1960 for director Stanley Kubrick’s 1962 film (see LS) and was then invited to adapt Nathanael West’s novel The Day of the Locust. He did not indignantly reject the invitation, but could not find a satisfying way to adapt West’s novel (Alfred Appel, Jr., Nabokov’s Dark Cinema, New York: Oxford University Press, 1974, 232). MOTIF: adaptation

350.20: Eric’s grandfather’s range was wide: As Zimmer 2010: 988 notes, Kidson, Murray and Thompson (see 350.24-25n) discuss (pp. 307-08) the “bold creative eclecticism” of renowned British architect Sir Edward Lutyens, whose son Robert the young Nabokov knew at Cambridge and introduced to his former girlfriend, Eva Lubryjinksa, whom the young Lutyens would marry (Boyd 1990: 173). Cf. “Owing to a mixture of overlapping styles and tiles (not easily explainable in non-technical terms to non-roof-lovers), as well as to a haphazard continuum, so to speak, of renovations, the roof of Ardis Manor presented an indescribable confusion of angles and levels, of tin-green and fin-gray surfaces, of scenic ridges and wind-proof nooks” (45.15-20).

350.20: from dodo to dada: Although “dodo” is not a term of architecture or art (but in this context it conjures up architectural forms as passé as Mauritius’s famously extinct bird), “dada” is. W2, Dadaism: “The cult of Dada taken as a symbol, in vogue (c. 1917-20) in France and Switzerland. It represents extreme negation towards the laws of beauty and social organization, with opposition to expressionism, but its tenets are intentionally obscure.” Others date Dada’s heyday to 1916-23. Its most famous practitioners were artist Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968), sculptor Jean (Hans) Arp (1886-1966), and writer and performance artist Tristan Tzara (1896-1963) (see also 178.08n).  Dada in architecture is almost unimaginable, given the movement’s gleeful subversion of rationality, utility, convention, and accessibility. “Dodo” can also mean colloquially (W2) “A person who is simple-mindedly unaware of changing conditions and new ideas,” which clashes nicely with the informed and up-to-date eclecticism of David van Veen’s architecture (he is, after all, paying homage to cubism (see 350.23) in the 1870s).

The combination “dodo . . . dada” in this context cannot help evoking for readers who have encountered it, but probably not retained its meaning, the architectural term “dado”: W2: “Arch. a That part of a pedestal includedbetween the base and the surbase; the die; hence b In any wall that part of the basement included between the surbase and the base course (which see). c In interior decoration, the lower part of the wall of an apartment when adorned with moldings, or otherwise specially decorated.” Wikipedia (s.v. dado (architecture), accessed 3 October 2020) offers a less opaque definition: “the lower part of a wall, below the dado rail and above the skirting board.”
           
Cf. Ada’s 1886 telegram to Van, beginning “dadaist impatient patient” and Van’s mock explication, including “a mad girl artist called Doris or Odris who drew only gee-gees” (178.08-09 and 178.20-179.01); see also 178.08n and 178.18-179.02n.

350.21: Low Gothic to Hoch Modern: While the peak period of Gothic architecture (from the rebuilding of Chartres Cathedral in 1194 to about 1350) is called High Gothic, the period preceding it is termed Early Gothic. Since Gothic architecture is noted for its height and for the upward thrust of its vaulted arches made possible by extensive use of flying buttresses to prop up thinner, taller walls, “Low Gothic” is an oxymoronic joke in itself. Hoch Modern: High modernist (German). Cf. Van’s 1922 visit to the Three Swans Hotel in Mont Roux, seventeen years after being there with Ada: “Everything else—the semi-transparent shredded-wheat ornaments, the glass flowerheads, the silk-covered armchairs—had been superseded by Hoch-modern fixtures” (553.34-554.03).

350.21: parodies of paradise: MOTIF: paradise.

350.22-23: the rectilinear chaos of Cubism: Cubism, OED (1972): “An important early twentieth-century revolutionary pictorial movement arising out of the rejection of traditional Western single-viewpoint perspective: in its first ‘analytical’ stages characterized by simple geometric forms which soon gave way to further complexes of interlocking semi-transparent planes. In its second major or ‘synthetic’ phase, flat abstract coloured shapes were assembled and clarified in such a way as to achieve a revisionary significance. [. . . ] The word ‘Cubism’ . . . dates from 1908.” The “rectilinear chaos” seems to refer especially to analytical Cubism, to works such as “Violin and Candlestick” (1910) by Georges Braque (see 17.12 and n.).

350.23-28: Cubism (with “abstract” cast in “concrete”) by imitating . . . such ultra-utilitarian boxes of brick as the maisons closes of El Freud in Lubetkin, Austria, or the great-necessity houses of Dudok in Friesland: Cubism was just one form of the “abstract” or non-representational art considered modern in much of the twentieth century. VN puns on the conventional opposition of “abstract” and “concrete,” as in linguistics (between abstract nouns like “abstraction” or “concreteness” and concrete nouns like “door” or “dado” or “concrete”), in the application of the rectilinearity of abstract art to the concreteness, the materiality, of modern architecture, and specifically into concrete as a building material.
           
Nabokov takes the serious architectural-history analysis and the language of Kidson, Murray and Thompson (see 350.24-25n.) and turns them (see following nn.) to comedy: “the international modern style of the period [1920s-1930s]. . . It was an abstract, formal architecture, closely related to abstract and Cubist painting. . . . Concrete was preferred to brick although it was more expensive both in building and maintenance” (Kidson, Murray and Thompson, 310-11).
           
He also selects playfully from the specific examples adduced: “The international character of the new style in these early years was emphasized by the part played in its British development in the 1930s by three Russians, Serge Chermayeff, Bertholt Lubetkin, and A.V. Pilichowski. . . .  Among the best examples . . . [i]n London . . . in Frognal and Frognal Way, Hampstead . . . a close of houses by E.L. Freud (1937). // These last houses by E.L. Freud were in brick, which makes the boxy cubic mannerisms of the period especially obvious. The brick pithead baths built in the Midlands, Wales, and the north by the Miners’ Welfare Committee from 1932, which introduce the modern style to these parts of the country, are similar in character, but benefit from their larger scale. . . . They show the influence of the brick building of Dudok in Holland” (Kidson, Murray and Thompson, 311-12).
           
Although Nabokov does not share all of Shade’s pet peeves, he would concur with “I loathe such things as . . . abstractist bric-a-brac” (PF 67, ll. 924-26). Cf. also: “Modern conventionalism repels me in chess problems as much as it does in ‘social realism’ or ‘abstract’ sculpture” (PP 15); “I do not see any essential difference between abstract and primitive art. Both are simple and sincere. Naturally, we should not generalize in these matters: it is the individual artist that counts. But if we accept for a moment the general notion of ‘modern art,’ then we must admit that the trouble with it is that it is so commonplace, imitative, and academic. Blurs and blotches have merely replaced the mass prettiness of a hundred years ago” (SO 33).

350.24-25: Vulner’s paperback History of English Architecture: Peter Kidson, Peter Murray and Paul Thompson, A History of English Architecture (1962; rev. ed. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, 1965). The edition Nabokov used (see also above, 349.30-31n, 350.01-02n, 350.20n1, 350.23-28n) appeared under the Pelican imprint (Pelican A 759); vuln (from Latin vulnerare, “to wound”) is a heraldic term meaning “to wound” (said of the pelican vulning herself, pecking her breast, according to legend, so that her blood drips to feed her young). Nabokov changes the name, as he so often does with trade names, to challenge readers to solve a mini-riddle, but in this case also to add another initial V to this v-ridden Villa Venus chapter and to flow into the current of damage and decay. MOTIF: V.

350.25-26: History of English Architecture given me by good Dr. Lagosse: The “ribald and learned” (570.22-23) Dr. Lagosse is a bibliophile and a generous book-giver: cf. The Perfumed Garden, Panther edition, p. 187, a copy given to ninety-three-year-old Baron Van Veen by his ribald physician Professor Lagosse” (344.15-18).

350.26-27: such ultra-utilitarian boxes of brick as the maisons closes of El Freud in Lubetkin, Austria, or the great-necessity houses of Dudok in Friesland: Nabokov takes the “close” in the Kidson, Murray and Thompson reference to “a close of houses by E.L. Freud (1937)” (311)—“close” in the unvoiced-s sense (W2), “2. A narrow passage or entry leading from a street to a court and the houses within, or to the common stair of tenements. Chiefly Scot. & Local Eng.”—and puns on “maisons closes” in the sense of brothels. Eric Roman writes: “‘Maisons closes’ are brothels (also known as ‘maisons de tolerance, de passe, or de rendez-vous’). And Nabokov would have had a chance to see them in Paris and everywhere else in France for they were not shut down until soon after the war (I think in 1946) over tax-rates. Several of them were as famous as the Moulin Rouge, the Casino de Paris, or the Lido are today. They were called ‘maisons closes’ because the shutters were either nailed shut or kept shut at all times” (“Re-cast in Concrete,” The Nabokovian 34 (Spring 1995), 28). The Kyoto Reading Circle glosses maisons closes: “Houses of prostitution in France which were legalized in the 19th century under strict health control by the government until 1946 when they were made illegal. They were recognizable to those who knew by the unusually large street number on the plaque, the shape of the windows or certain details of decoration on the building: ‘les maisons closes arboraient le plus souvent une plaque de numéro de rue plus grande, la forme des fenêtres et certains détails de décoration pouvant aussi donner un indice aux personnes intéressées.’ https://www.paristoric.com/index.php/paris/inclassables/358-les-maisons-closes.”
           
There may be one further pun: the “cubist” architectural works of E.L. Freud and of Dudok certainly have a close, an enclosed look, with blank walls with at most small windows, as in Dudok’s best-known building, the Town Hall at Hilversum (1931). (See n. 350.27-28).

350.26-27: maisons closes: Darkbloom: “maison close, brothel.

350.27: El Freud in Lubetkin, Austria: Fuses two architects mentioned in two consecutive paragraphs of Kidson, Murray and Thompson, p. 311: “Berthold Lubetkin . . . E.L. Freud.” Berthold Romanovich Lubetkin (1901-1990), émigré architect who, having absorbed the Constructivism in the Soviet Union of the 1920s, emigrated to England in 1931. Ernst L. Freud (1892-1970), the fourth child of Sigmund and Martha Freud, born in Vienna, began his architectural practice in Berlin but moved to England in 1933. The pseudo-place-name “Lubetkin, Austria” (perhaps with a glance at Lübeck in Germany) offers a nod to Sigmund Freud’s Austrian identity and adds a bilingual pun on “Lubetkin” (Russian lyubit, “he/she loves,” and English kin) mocking Freud’s Oedipus and Electra complexes, the supposed sexual desire, in Freudian theory, of male children for their mothers and female children for their fathers. Nabokov ridicules the Oedipus complex when he has Humbert commenting on his mother’s death with he was three: “I was but an infant, and in retrospect no yearnings of the accepted kind could I ever graft upon any moment of my youth, no matter how savagely psychotherapists heckled me in my later periods of depression” (Lolita II.33, 287).

350.27-28: the great-necessity houses of Dudok in Friesland: Willem Marinus Dudok (1884-1974), leading Dutch Modernist architect, and City Architect of Hilversum, where he designed many buildings, the best known being its Town Hall (1931). His buildings are typically strongly rectilinear, asymmetrical, like pale three-dimensional Mondrians and, apart from their brick cladding, aptly described as “abstract cast in concrete.” Nabokov signals his judgment of Dudok’s aesthetic with his “great-necessity houses”: in French, as Eric Roman notes (see 350.26-27n. above), faire ses necessités means “to use the toilet,” and chalet de necessité means “outhouse.” With their sparse windows, Dudok’s buildings could be seen as resembling giant toilet blocks. Oddly, Dudok did not design any buildings in Friesland or the other northern provinces, Drenthe and Groningen (see Wilma Siccama and Jack van der Weide, “Een sleutel in Meppel: Nederlandse aantekeningen bij Vladimir Nabokovs Ada,” Maatstaf 6 (1995), 17-27); Hilversum is in North Holland, and Rotterdam, where he designed another important building, the De Bijenkorf department store, is in South Holland.

350.30: English gentlemen of parts: “Of parts” is an obsolete eighteenth-century phrase meaning “of abilities,” which sets the tone for moving from the Hoch Modern toward evocative ancientry.

350.31: Letchworth Lodge: Letchworth, in North Hertfordshire, England, is famous as Britain’s first “garden city,” founded in 1903. Kidson, Murray, and Thompson mention “the garden cities themselves at Letchworth and Welwyn in Hertfordshire. . . . The garden cities stand out as the one fresh achievement in a period [1900-1920] generally lacking in vitality” (308). In the context of the Villas Venus, there is a pun on “lecher.”

350.31: an honest country house: Rather than the imitation countryside of the garden cities?

350.31-33: plastered up to its bulleyes: On Earth, Letchworth’s original garden city style is in brick, not plaster. Bulleyes: presumably Van is thinking of the oeil-de-boeuf, W2: “Arch. A circular or oval window; generally used of architecture of the 17th and 18th centuries

350.32: bulleyes . . . chimney breasts and hipped gables: Note the comical concatenation of “anatomical” architectural terms.

350.32: Itchenor Chat: There is a small river called Itchen in Hampshire, England, and another in Warwickshire. Chat: for Château (or Chateaubriand: cf “Quercus ruslan Chât.” (398.29))? An echo of the itch caused by Chateaubriand’s mosquito (106.10-107.13)? MOTIF: itch.

350.32: chimney breasts: W2: “Arch. The horizonal projection of a chimney from the wall in which it is built; —commonly applied to its projection in the inside of a building only.”

350.33: hipped gables: Gables with their upper part hipped, that is, sloping back to where the two main sloping sides meet.

350.33-351.01: David van Veen’s knack of making his brand-new Regency mansion look like a renovated farmhouse: Describes the work of the leading Regency architect, John Nash (1752-1835), the foremost architect in the Picturesque movement, who worked in the distinct veins of Regency Neoclassical monumentality and of cottages ornés (see also 331.23), which looked very like renovated farmhouses. Regency: in English history, 1811-20, the years when George, Prince of Wales (1762-1830), was regent for his father King George III (1738-1820), who by then was mad; in architecture, the term extends after the younger George’s regency and into his reign as King George IV (1820-1830); his favorite architect was Nash. A cottage orné is “An artfully rustic building, usually of asymmetrical plan, often with a thatched roof, much use of fancy weatherboarding, and very rough-hewn wooden columns. It was a product of the late C18 and early C19 in England: an entire village of such cottages was built by Nash at Blaise Hamlet (1811). It might serve merely as an ornament to a park or as a lodge or farm labourer’s house, but several, intended for the gentry, were built on a fairly large scale” (Nikolaus Pevsner, John Fleming, and Hugh Honour, A Dictionary of Architecture, 1966; rev. ed. London: Allen Lane, 1975).

351.01: a converted convent: Apart from the irony and the sound-play, perhaps also a dim echo of the sacred prostitution in the temple of Venus Erycina (see 347.13n2).

351.03: the arabesque from the arbutus, ardor from art: MOTIF: Ada, the ardors and arbors of Ardis

351.03: the arabesque from the arbutus: The plant-based ornamental motif from the living plant.

351.03: arabesque: W2: “A kind of ornament or a style of ornamentation found in painting, low-relief carving, mosaic, and rug and textile design, and employing flower, foliage, or fruit (sometimes animal and figural) outlines or forms so as to produce an intricate pattern of interlaced lines.”

351.03: arbutus: W2, “A genus of 20 species of evergreen shrubs or trees of the heath family (Ericaeae), found in southern Europe and western North America. They have white or pink flowers and a many-seeded scarlet berry. The European A. unedo is the strawberry tree.” Note that this taxonomic echo of Eric Veen’s name (and perhaps the town of Erica amidst the -veen towns of Drenthe in the Netherlands) is an example of the difficulty of distinguishing “the arabesque from the arbutus.” Cf. “the arbutus-and-laurel garden of Villa Armina” (451.01-02).

351.03: ardor from art: MOTIF: ardor.

351.04: the sore from the rose: An anagram that almost calls in this context for supplementation by the further anagram “Eros,” made explicit in the next chapter but one: “back to the ardors and arbors! Eros qui prend son essor! Arts that our marblery harbors: Eros, the rose and the sore” (367.09-11). In this chapter, the “sore” includes venereal disease. The conjunction of “sore” and “rose” cannot help recalling, within English poetry, “The Sick Rose” (1794), by William Blake (1757-1827): “O Rose, thou art sick. / The invisible worm, / That flies in the night / In the howling storm: / Has found out thy bed / Of crimson joy: / And his dark secret love / Does thy life destroy.”  MOTIF: Eros; Eros, the rose and the sore; rose; sore.

351.04-05: Little Lemantry: Zimmer 2010: 990 suggests an Anglicization of French l’amanterie (which however, though plausible, a kind of fusion of l’amant, “lover,” and les galanteries, “love affair”, is not a French word); it certainly embeds French leman, “lover”; it may evoke “lemon tree,” a kind of bitter Tree of Knowledge. Not far from Montreux is the town of Lutry, on the banks of what the French call Lac Léman (Lake Geneva).

351.05: Lemantry near Rantchester: Cf: “When he recollected caress by caress his Venus Villa sessions, or earlier visits to the riverhouses of Ranta or Livida . . . ” (219.24-26). Antiterran Rantchester near Chose and the Ranta River suggest not so much earthly cities such as Rochester or Manchester as the village of Grantchester, on the river Granta, which runs through Cambridge. For Nabokov’s ironic response to Grantchester as an earthly paradise for the poet Rupert Brooke (1887-1915), in the poem “The Old Vicarage, Grantchester” (1912) and elsewhere, see TWS 23-24. Perhaps “the rose and the sore” in the previous line triggered its famous line “An English unofficial rose” in Nabokov’s memory, and therefore Grantchester.

351.05-08: Rantchester . . . château . . . castello: “Chester” (W2: “A walled town; a city, esp. one founded by the Romans in Britain. Obs. except in history and in place names; as Manchester”), “château” and “castello” are all cognates, deriving ultimately from the Latin castrum, “fortified place, castle.”

351.05-06: Pseudotherm in the lovely cul-de-sac south of the viaduct of fabulous Palermontovia: There is a natural spring, Terme Segestane, about halfway between Palermo and Erice.

351.05: Pseudotherm: False Bath? From therm (W2), “[F. thermes, pl., fr. L. thermae hot springs, warm baths, fr. Gr. thermai, pl. of thermē heat. . . . ] 1. A hot bath; hence, any bath, pool of water, bathing place, etc. Obs.”; ­-therm (W2): “A combining form from Greek thermē, heat, denoting: a Bot. A plant accustomed to a (specified) type of heat, as in megatherm,xerotherm”; pseudoderm (W2): “In certain sponges of the class Calcarea, an outer covering formed by outgrowth from the peripheral portions of the incurrent canals.”

351.06: Palermontovia: Palermo, capital of Sicily, and Lermontov, as confirmed in A1: “Palermo + Lermontov.”

351.09-10: all the orgies reflected in the ceiling mirrors of little Eric’s erogenetics”: Cf. “Thus seen from above, as if reflected in the ciel mirror that Eric had naively thought up in his Cyprian dreams” (418.33-419.01).

351.10: Eric’s erogenetics:  W2, erogenesis, “Psychol. The excitation of erotic desire. // erogenetic. adj.” MOTIF: Eros.

351.12: ambitus: Ambitus (W2): “The exterior edge or periphery of a thing, as of a leaf, a bivalve shell, or the test of a sea urchin.”; ambit (W2): “Circuit or compass; esp., a space surrounding a house, castle, etc.; precinct; liberties. . . .”

351.12-17: Whether nestling in woodland dells . . . only the guests and the guards had keys:  The Kyoto Reading Circle comments: “VN’s description of Villa Venus Floramors closely resembles the fashionable bordellos in Belle Epoque Paris described by Laetitia Barbier, ‘Paris, From the Boudoir: Atlas Obscura’s decadent journey through Belle Epoque bordellos’ (January 17, 2013): ‘The establishments were soon competing in a delirium of voluptuous theatricality. As Paul Teyssier noted, it was an astonishing example of “inverted architecture”: totally invisible from the street, with the inside structure arranged as an erotic funhouse, a labyrinth of hidden paths, dedalic stairs and two way mirrors opening to endless sensual possibilities. Everything was made so a visitor could see without being seen. The interior architecture of the bordellos became themselves an immersive experience of sexual fantasy. Sex made structure.” https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/paris-from-the-boudoir-the-decadent-journey-in-belle-epoque-bordellos

351.14: access to Venus: Pun: access to the Villa Venus; access to the venery (love-making) it offers. MOTIF: Venus.

351.15-19: a labyrinth of hedges and walls . . . mazes of coppices: Given the parallels between David van Veen as grandfather to Eric Veen and Dedalus Veen as grandfather to Van, the former an architect, the later named after a legendary architect and inventor (see 347.01n2), “labyrinth” and “mazes” here seem a pointed reminder of Daedalus, the designer of the labyrinth at Crete. Cf. also “dedalic stairs” in Paris bordellos in previous note.

351.18: masked and caped grandees: Cf. “Membership was to be restricted to noblemen” (348.13-14); “no many how many noblemen were waiting or wenching” (351.24-25); “Councils of Elderly Noblemen” (351.31) and 352.18-21n.

351.21-24: A system of bells that Eric may have thought up all by himself . . . prevented visitors from running into each other on the premises: Cf. also Lolita, I.6: “She led me up the usual steep stairs, with the usual bell clearing the way for the monsieur who might not care to meet another monsieur, on the mournful climb to the abject room, all bed and bidet” (21-22).

Alexey Sklyarenko, “floramors, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Tolstoy, callipygian globe,” Nabokv-L, 8 April 2013, notes: “Among buildings that Leonardo da Vinci designed for Lodovico Sforza, the duke of Milan, was a brothel (maison de tolérance). Its rooms, doors and passages were arranged in such a way that visitors did not have to be afraid of meeting each other: ‘Leonardo vynuzhden byl ob’yasnit’ i etot risunok, okazavshiysya planom doma terpimosti. Otdel’nye komnaty, dveri i khody raspolozheny byli tak, chto posetiteli mogli rasschityvat’ na taynu, ne opasayas’ vstrechi drug s drugom’ [‘Leonardo had to explain this drawing too, which turned out to be the plan of a maison de tolérance. Separate rooms, doors and entrances were arranged so that visitors could count on secrecy, with no fear of meeting one another.”’] ([Dmitri] Merezhkovski, ‘The Resurrection of Gods. Leonardo da Vinci [1900],’ [The Romance of Leonardo da Vinci,1904] Book Three ‘The Poisonous Fruits,’ chapter V).”

351.22: bautta: W2: “[It.] A black cloak with a hood that falls so as to mask the face.” Cf. Van visiting in 1901 “the most fashionable and efficient of all the Venus Villas in Europe” (470.15-16), at Ranton Brooks (515.22): “Van donned his bautta and went to investigate” (472. 20-21).

351.23: vyshibala:  Darkbloom: “Russ., bouncer.”

351.26-28: the only cock in the coop . . . when a hitch occurred: The Kyoto Reading Circle sees in the proximity of “cock” and “hitch” “an allusion to the unfortunate combination in the name of the film director Alfred Hitchcock” and to his distorted attitude to female sexuality, citing New Yorker film critic Richard Brody on Hitchcock’s Marnie: "The film is, to put it simply, sick, and it's so because Hitchcock was sick. He suffered all his life from furious sexual desire, suffered from the lack of its gratification, suffered from the inability to transform fantasy into reality, and then went ahead and did so virtually, by way of his art." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Hitchcock#Representation_of_women

351.26: the only cock in the coop: Play on “cock of the walk”: OED, walk, n. 11c: “The place in which a game-cock is kept. cock of the walk (fig.): a person whose supremacy in his own circle is undisputed.” W2, cock of the walk: “Figuratively, the undisputed overbearing master of a group or situation.” “Cock in the coop” here because the “visitor” is as it were among the hens. The vulgar connotation of “cock” (drawn on later in “She caught at the twin cock crosses,” 392.30-31) is hardly absent.

351.26-27: the bouncer, a silent and courteous person resembling a Manhattan shopwalker: Cf. “adding a bouncer whom Eric had overlooked” (349.15-16), and Van’s 1901 visit to the Ranton Brooks Villa Venus (see 351.22n above): “The grounds were lividly illuminated and as populous as Park Avenue—an association that came very readily, since the disguises of the astute sleuths belonged to a type which reminded Van of his native land. Some of those men he even knew by sight—they used to patrol his father’s club in Manhattan” (472.23-28).

351.32-352.01: Delicately fashioned phalanges, good teeth . . . impeccable buttocks and breasts . . . demanded by the Elders: In this context, the word “Elders” calls to mind the Biblical story and art-history topos of Susannah and the Elders. In Daniel 13 (in the Torah and the Orthodox and Catholic versions of the Bible), Susannah, a good wife, is bathing in her garden when two lascivious elders, smitten by her flawless beauty, spy on her secretly. The elders emerge and threaten her that they will report that she was meeting a young man in the garden unless she agrees to have sex with them. She calls out for help, her maids rush in, the elders make their charges, and she is almost convicted of fornication until Daniel cross-examines the elders separately and shows their testimonies do not match; they are sentenced to death. Among the many painters who have treated the subject are Tintoretto, Rubens, Artemisia Gentileschi, and Rembrandt.
           
In a 1966 interview, while he was writing Ada, Nabokov commented: “The visual depiction of the erotic has always been there. There was no dearth of paintings evoking love in the past. The examples are endless. All the painted Venuses, Leda and the Swan, Susanna and the Elders, to say nothing of the Pompeian frescoes” (TWS 346).

351.34: unfeigned vim of avid venery: MOTIF: V; Venus.

352.03-04: no woman who had ever borne a child (even in her own childhood) could be accepted: But note the decadence of the later Villas Venus: “Corrupt physicians passed faded blondes who had had half a dozen children, some of them being already prepared to enter remote floramors themselves” (356.08-10).

352.12-13: on January 1, 1890 (the greatest year in the annals of Villa Venus): January 1, 1890 is Van’s twentieth birthday.

352.18-21: the daughters of peasants and peddlers and plumbers were not seldom more stylish than their middle-middle-class or upper-upper-class companions, a curious point that will please my non-gentle readers: Social class and the entitlement of social privilege are particularly strong themes in this chapter; see 351.18n.

352.21-25: the servant-girls “below” the Oriental charmers . . .  not seldom descended from emblazoned princely heights: Cf. “a maidservant, Princess Kachurin” (357.28-29).

352.23-24: dead-end smiles: Smiles that will not lead to any sexual intimacy.

352.24: clickies: In A1, VN’s own copy of Ada: “girls (very vulgar).” What usage does he have in mind? Perhaps it refers to the sound Mariette produces in BS 194: "She sat with parted lips, slightly moving her tightly crossed thighs, producing a tiny sound, soft, labiate, with an alternate crepitation as if she were rubbing the palms of her hands which, however, lay idle. 'Chirruping like a poor cricket,' she said."

352.26: Demon’s father (and very soon Demon himself): Demon’s father, Dedalus Veen, dies in 1883, eight years after the floramors open; presumably Demon takes his place on the Venus Club Council at that time.

352.27-353.02: a Mr. Ritcov . . . His Majesty dallied . . . with this or that sweet subject of the realm: Cf. “The personage we have called Ritcov or Vrotic” (355.22-23): a thin anagrammatic disguise for the sexually charged “H.R.M. King Victor” (140.08, for whom “Forbidden Masterpieces” are printed), the King Victor who made “still fairly regular visits to Cuba or Hecuba” (329.16, while using the services of VPL, apparently for sexual assignations). A parodic reversal of the prudery of England’s Queen Victoria, coupled with the sexual profligacy of her son, Albert, Prince of Wales and eventual Edward VII (see 329.15-16n). Continues the theme of social class, hierarchy and subservience.

352 .27: Count Peter de Prey: apparently Percy’s father, not Cordula’s; although she too is a Countess (168.29), her late father is “obscure” (163.12) and, for Demon, her family is “quite a notch below our set” (330.22).

352.27-28: Mire de Mire, Esq.: No relation to the very aristocratic “Vere de Vere” (200.07) or “Moses de Vere” (242.04-05); but since Veen means “peat bog, swamp,” Mire de Mire seems almost a “Veen de Veen.” Note the conjunction of the nobiliary particle “de” and the non-noble “Esq.”

352.28: Baron Azzuroscudo: Baron “Blue Shield” (Italian), a recolored version of the Barons Rothschild (“Red Shield,” German). The Rothschilds were famous for their intra-family marriages: “The House of Rothschild was the largest bank in the world, a multinational family business with five branches across Europe. [Note that Demon is a Manhattan banker.] Between 1824 and 1877, thirty male Rothschilds married cousins. Many of these marriages were systematically arranged to maintain the links between the branches, as James Rothschild explained in 1839: ‘I and the rest of our family . . . have always brought our offspring up from their early childhood with the sense that their love is to be confined to members of the family, that their attachment or one another would prevent them from getting any ideas of marrying anyone other than one of the family so that the fortune would stay inside the family,’” Norma Clarke, “Dark corners,” review of Adam Kuper, Incest and Influence: The Private Life of Bourgeois England, Times Literary Supplement, 22 January 2010, p. 12.

352.31-33: detectives who dutifully impersonated hedgecutters, grooms, horses, tall milkmaids, new statues, old drunks and so forth: Horses! Cf. Van’s 1901 visit to “the most fashionable and efficient of all the Venus Villas in Europe” (470.15-16), coincidentally at the time of a visit by King Victor and “Mr. Alexander Screepatch, the new president of the United Americas” (473.02-03): “the disguises of the astute sleuths. . . . They mimed what they were accustomed to mine—grapefruit vendors, black hawkers of bananas and banjoes, obsolete, or at least untimely ‘copying clerks’ who hurried in circles to unlikely offices and peripatetic Russian newspaper readers slowing down to a trance stop and then strolling again behind their Estotskiya Vesti” (472.25-473.01).  The broad comedy here intensifies the comedy of disguise in PF 145-47, where the escaped King Charles dreads potential spies around him but until the moment before Odon speaks to him does not recognize his valued ally and friend behind the disguise of a burns victim with disfigured face reading a newspaper.

352.33-353.02: while His Majesty dallied, in a special chair built for his weight and whims, with this or that sweet subject of the realm: Zimmer 2010: 990 notes that Albert, Prince of Wales,the future Edward VII (see 329.15-16n and 352.27-353.02n), had a special “love seat” (“siège d’amour”) built for him (“manufactured by Louis Soubrier, a cabinetmaker of the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine, allowing easy access for oral and other forms of sex with several participants”—Wikipedia, s.v. Le Chabanais, accessed 4 October 2020) in the Indian chamber (the future Emperor of India had a highly successful tour of India in 1875) reserved for him in Le Chabanais, 12 rue Chabanais, the most luxurious and renowned of all Paris’s brothels, operating between 1878 and 1946 and known as the “House of All Nations.” For a video presentation of a replica, see https://jezebel.com/please-look-at-king-edward-viis-custom-made-sex-chair-1834825611.

353.01: for his weight and whims: Albert, Prince of Wales, was imposingly overweight in later adulthood. Ada/Ardeur 294 translates “his weight and whims” as “ses fesses et ses fantaisies” (“his buttocks and his fantasies”).

353.03-11: Because the particular floramor that I visited for the first time on becoming a member of the Villa Venus Club (not long before my second summer with my Ada in the arbors of Ardis) is today, after many vicissitudes, the charming country house of a Chose don whom I respect . . . I cannot name it—though my dearest reader insists I have mentioned it somewhere before: Time: Van “earns” exceptionally early membership (as a “boy of eighteen,” 176.15) as repayment for Dick Cheshire’s debt to him at cards (176.13-15) “Sometime during the winter of 1886-7, at dismally cold Chose” (173.21-22). There seems a chronological inconsistency here: Van does not become 18 until 1888, which would indeed be not long before his second summer at Ardis; but, Van being Van, one could not expect him to defer the pleasure of his first Villa Venus visit at all, let alone from sometime during the winter of 1886-7 to 1888.

Place
: In view of the card game’s taking place at Chose, and Van’s comment here in Pt. 2 Ch.3 that the floramor he first visited is now the country house of a Chose don, the reference seems to be to “the Villa Venus in Ranton Brooks” (515.22) mentioned “in The Chimes of Chose (a memoir by a former chum of Van’s, now Lord Chose . . . )” (515.18-19), although this Jack Chose (516.08) should not be confused with Dick C., also known as Lord C., of the card game at Chose, nor with the “Chose don” (353.07). “Ranton Brooks” is presumably in the vicinity of Chose, whose student magazine is called The Ranter and has a Rantariver Club (181,91, 181.05), in echo of the Granta, the name of two tributaries of the River Cam (which can also be called Granta) which runs through Cambridge, the real-world original of Antiterran Chose. Is this Villa Venus in Ranton Brooks to be identified with the one Van visits in Pt. 3 Ch.4: “Van, in whom the pink-blooming chestnuts of Chose always induced an amorous mood, decided to squander the sudden bounty of time before his voyage to America on a twenty-four-hour course of treatment at the most fashionable and efficient of all the Venus Villas in Europe” (470.12-16)? No, apparently, because this Villa involves a “longish trip” (470.16) from Chose, and because the “charming country house of a Chose don” seems unlikely to have accommodated “the most fashionable and efficient of all the Venus Villas in Europe.”

353.05: with my Ada in the arbors of Ardis: MOTIF: Ada, the ardors and arbors of Ardis.

353.08-354.25: triplet of charming twelve-year-olds . . . rated a triple red symbol. . . . Three Egyptian squaws . . . three miles south of Bedford . . . three young ladies. . . I chose a golden Gretchen, a pale Andalusian, and a black belle from New Orleans. . . . the three rather melancholy graces. . . . I went through all three of them: Note the insistent triplication theme and its odd connection with a matching theme, also incorporating Bedford, in the preceding chapter: “the three cosmologists. . . . All three scientists. . . . to an obscure agency in Bedford to have it secretly type in triplicate. . . . three great American transcontinental trains . . . by three different routes. . . . Those three admirable trains . . . ” (339.23.-345.31).

353.08-09: a triplet of charming twelve-year-old daughters, Ala, Lolá and Lalage:

Lola (although with stress on the first syllable) is identified in W2: “[Sp., dim. of Dolores.] Fem. proper name.”
           
“Ala, Lolá” suggests “Ada, Lolita,” given that Ada wears a lolita on her twelfth birthday (77.01-02).

“Lalage” VN identifies in his copy of Ada: “Horace’s girl, a courtesan”; W2: “A Roman fem. proper name. Specif., a courtesan repeatedly mentioned by Horace.” See Horace, Odes, I.xxii and II.v. In SO, VN comments “when [Pasternak’s] Zhivago vied with my Lalage for the top rungs of the best-seller ladder” (205). VN’s Lolita is of course twelve when Humbert first possesses her. Cf. also LATH 199: “or for exploring under the schoolroom table the legs of Lalage L., a little cousin, who shared lessons with me that unforgettable summer.”

For the three females, including a “Lola,” cf. the Sultan’s harem in Byron’s Don Juan VI.xl: “there were three, / Lolah, Katinka, and Dudù” (T.G. Steffan, E. Steffan and W.W. Pratt, eds., Lord Byron: Don Juan (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973), p. 274.

Probably no connection with the “driplets” Philip Rack’s wife gives birth to (202.12, 313.22-23); they miscarry.

353.10: my dearest reader:  Ada.

353.12: I had frequented bordels since my sixteenth year: 1885, perhaps because this was the year when, “having completed his prep-school education, he went up to Chose University in England” (173.16-17). Prior to this he had paid for sex with the “fubsy pig-pink whorelet” (33.17) at the back of the corner shop near Riverlane.

353.14: rated a triple red symbol in Nugg’s guidebook: Cf., as the Pléiade annotations note, the triple red star in the Michelin guides, published since 1900, and, following the lead of the Murray and the Baedeker guides, awarding stars for fine dining restaurants, introducing zero to three “stars” (a flower-like symbol) in 1931 and making explicit their criteria from 1936 (Wikipedia, Michelin Guide, accessed 5 October 2020). Cf. Dan’s “guidebooks” (7.03).

353.14: Nugg’s: Possibly a reversal of “Gunn’s”: see Gunter’s bookshop in Nice, 14.26 and n: “writing to Edmund Wilson from Nice in 1961, Nabokov reported: ‘I speak French with a cornbelt accent and buy daily the New York Herald at Gunn's bookshop’ (February 27, 1961, VNA).”

353.15: mollitude: An obsolete English word Nabokov used in his translation of Eugene Onegin to render nega, one of Pushkin’s favorite words: “Nega ranges from ‘mollitude’ (Fr. mollesse), i.e., soft luxuriousness, ‘dulcitude,’ through various shades of amorous pensiveness, douce paresse, and sensual tenderness to outright voluptuousness (Fr. volupté)” (Eugene Onegin, 2, 337).
Cf. Van “correctly concluded that both [King Victor and Alexander Screepatch] were now sunk in mollitude” (473.04-05) (“at the most fashionable and efficient of all the Venus Villas in Europe,” 470.15-16).

353.17: the difference between a den and an Eden:  MOTIF: Eden.


353.17-24: Three Egyptian squaws . . . Künstlerpostkarte  Nr. 6034: Stylized but accurate description of three figures in a fresco in the tomb of Nakht in Thebes; Nabokov’s source seems to be Hans Wolfgang Müller, Alt-Ägyptische Malerei (Berlin: Safari, 1959).
           
As Boyd 1979 notes (374n19): “A study of the changing dress styles in Egyptian painting reveals that Nabokov could be referring to no tomb but Nakht's (Theban tomb no. 52). Since Nabokov specifies 1420 B.C. and ‘printed in Germany’ his source would seem to be Hans Wolfgang Muller, Alt-Ägyptische Malerei (Berlin: Safari Verlag, 1959), which unlike other works reproducing the picture in colour specifies 1420 B.C. rather than 1425 B.C. or ‘reign of Thutmosis III’ or merely ‘18th Dynasty.’”

In A1, VN notes beside “Theban fresco”: “fact.”

MOTIF: woman in picture.

353.17-20: Egyptian squaws . . . Red Indian hairband: The young women are Egyptian but do look Native American (“squaws”), especially with their hairbands.

353.17: dutifully keeping in profile (long ebony eye): Ancient Egyptian artistic conventions kept heads and feet in profile but showed the visible eye and torsos front on, apparently to render people “in the most complete way possible” (H.W. Janson, History of Art (New York: Abrams, 1962, p. 37). “Accordingly,” in E.H. Gombrich’s words, “a full-face eye was planted into the side view of the face”(The Story of Art, London: Phaidon, 1955, 36). The “long ebony eye” refers both to the dark pupils and the thick outline of the eyelids characteristic of ancient Egyptian portraiture.

Cf. the emphasis on profile views in Van’s description of Ada (“shaping her profile. . . . Remembrance, like Rembrandt, is dark but festive,” 103.26-28); “The procuress in Wicklow . . . dwelt with peculiar force on the ‘long eyes’ of her pathetic and adorable grandchild. How I used to seek, with what tenacious anguish, traces and tokens of my unforgettable love in all the brothels of the world!” (104.26-32); and especially Lucette in Paris: “sideways to remembrance and reader (as she, too, was in regard to us and the bar). . . . his silk-swathed cane lifted in profile . . . . the forward upsweep of black lashes and the painted feline eye—all this in profile, we softly repeat. . . . Her Irish profile” (460.15-461.03).

Cf. LATH 138: “Lilithan long eyes” and 158: “an enchanting black girl with an Egyptian profile.”

353.18: lovely snub: snub (W3): “snub nose.”

353.18-19: honey-hued faro frock: Honey-hued (a pale honey) is correct; but why “faro”? Faro is a card game (which VN describes in his Eugene Onegin commentary, 2, 258-61), whose name derives from pharaoh (cf. Eugene Onegin 2, 259:“pharo (pharaon, faro)”), from the picture of the pharaoh (representing the denomination of king) on French playing cards. Is “faro” here simply a spelling of “pharaoh” (in the sense: “in the style of the pharaohs”)—W3 explains the etymology of the card game “prob. alter. of pharaoh”—but with an additional nuance, that the characters look like queens on playing cards?

353.22: no doubt pretty banal in 1420 B.C.: Cf., perhaps: “And another century would pass, and the painted word would be retouched by the still richer brush of time” (409.19-21).

353.22: Künstlerpostkarte: Darkbloom: “Germ., art picture postcards.”

353.24: Dr. Lagosse: Lagosse is erudite, a bibliophile, and a man of the (seedy) world. The sentence is about to segue or spiral into Eric’s death, at Ex, the place, too, where Dr. Lagosse is presumably making this cynical remark—he, Van, and Ada are at Ex when he examines the manuscript of Ada (587.28-34)—although Lagosse meets Van and Ada in 1950 and travels with them from that date (570.22-24).

Cf. within the same scene: “la gosse, trembling Adada” (354.07).

MOTIF: Krolik; Lagosse.  

353.27-34: certain ointments, . . . for receiving a scared little virgin, the descendant of an Irish king, as Eric was told in his last dream in Ex, Switzerland, by a master of funerary rather than fornicatory ceremonies. . . . Eric dying in his sleep: These ointments in conjunction with Eric’s dying seem to invoke extreme unction (W2): “R.C.Ch. The sacrament administered by a priest to one in danger of death, through the application of holy oil to his organs of sense, and the recital of prayers.” Given Eric’s death intruding here, and his being identified as “the descendant of an Irish king,” the sense of eric as “reparation, redemption,” “the fine for ‘separating body from soul’” (Encyclopaedia Britannica 1972, 4:149) in Brehon (Irish) Laws (see also 349.25-26n above) may be relevant. But cf. the “jovial ‘protestant’ priest” (354.34-355.01) who perhaps officiates at Eric’s funeral.

353.28-29: the pornolore of Eric’s Orientalia: Cf. Eric’s “reading too many erotic works” (348.06), and Lagosse’s giving Van the “pornolore” of The Perfumed Garden (344.15-18).

353.28: pornolore: Neologism, but porno- has been a fertile combinatory form, even in the nineteenth century (pornomania, 1858, pornophobic, 1890, OED), and still more commonly from the 1960s (pornotopia, 1966, porno-Gothic, 1968, . . . OED).

353.30: his last dream in Ex, Switzerland: MOTIF: dream; Ex.

353.34-354.01: Van throbbing with foul life on a rococo couch: This is Van’s first Villa Venus; cf. his last: “on a rump-tickling coarse couch, Van reclined” (357.15-16).

354.01: three miles south of Bedford: On Earth, Bedford is 25 miles from Cambridge, and on Antiterra presumably equally close to Chose. Does the “bed” in Bedford’s name explain its being the location for Van’s first Villa Venus? Cf. Van taking the manuscript of his Letters from Terra “to an obscure agency in Bedford to have it secretly typed in triplicate” (342.22-23).

354.02-03: those three young ladies, now suddenly divested of their clothes (a well-known oneirotic device): Van’s first experience at this Villa Venus does seem to be at least half dream, and linked with Eric’s last dream, with an image from a tomb, and a shadow-echo of Eric’s name in “oneirotic.”In Eric’s plan for his “Organized Dream” the available girls are “invariably naked and ready for love” (349.07-08): has Van dreamed their clothes rather than their sudden nudity? MOTIF: dream.

354.03: oneirotic: W2: “Pertaining to dreams”; chosen over its much more usual homonym oneiric because of the shadow not only of Eric’s name, which is in both, but also, here, of “erotic.” Cf. “non-erotic,” 354.28; and cf. The Eye (which was serialized in the erotically alert Playboy), 106: “I believe I might have consummated a shiver of oneirotic rapture had I been able to hold her a few seconds longer.”

354.03-05: could manage to draw out a prelude that kept one so long on the very lip of its resolution. I lay supine: Both that drawing-out of an unresolved sensation and the switch from third person to first are also dream features.

354.08: la gosse: Darkbloom: “the little girl.” MOTIF: Lagosse.

354.08: trembling Adada: In A1, VN marks with a T (for translation difficulty) but no gloss. As if the name “Ada” has gained an extra syllable because of trembling or chattering teeth. Cf. “shivering  in . . . Russian influentsa . . . ‘dadaist impatient patient. . . .” (178.05-09); “from dodo to dada” (350.20). MOTIF: Ada.            

354.10: Egypsies: MOTIF: gipsy.                          

354.11: hirens: W2, hiren: “A harlot; —from “Hiren (Irene) the fair Greek,” a character in a play attributed to Peele. Shak.” OED explains the etymology: “the name of a female character in George Peele’s play The Turkish Mahamet and Hyrin the fair Greek (a1594); a corruption of the female name Irene.” The excited ranter Pistol, in Shakespeare’s 2 Henry IV, 2.4.172-3, cries out “Die men like dogs! Give crowns like pins! Have we not Hiren here?” Less opaque are two other examples OED adduces: “1605   J. Sylvester tr. G. de S. Du Bartas Deuine Weekes & Wks. ii. i. 328   Of charming Sinne the deep-inchaunting Syrens, The snares of vertue, valour-softning Hyrens. // . . . 1615   T. Adams Spirituall Nauigator 28 in Blacke Devill   There be Sirens in the Sea of this world. Syrens? Hirens, as they are now called... What a number of these Sirens, Hirens, Cockatrices,..in plaine English Harlots swimme amongst vs.”

354.15-30: a pale Andalusian . . . the ardent Ardillusian . . . her father had constructed the swimming pool on the estate of Demon Veen’s cousin: This is the “Andalusian architect whom Uncle Dan wanted to plan an ‘artistic’ swimming pool for Ardis Manor” (45.29-30).

Re Andalusian females: cf. Ada on her twelfth birthday wearing her “lolita (thus dubbed after the little Andalusian gipsy of that name in Osberg’s novel . . .)” (77.02-04), and Van’s oblique reference to Ada’s role as Dolores in Don Juan’s Last Fling: “the fatal Andalusian wench” (497.34). In Lolita, the heroine’s name has Spanish associations and a Mexican origin, but nothing specifically Andalusian; is Ada associated with Andalusia because of the ada in “Granada” or, more likely, the Ada and Lucette (or “adalucindas,” 375.23) almost in “Andalusia”?

Re “Ardillusian”: cf. also “that stray ardilla daintily leavesdropping” (98.12).

Cf. “and here’s Alonso, the swimming-pool expert. I met his sweet and sad daughter at a Cyprian party—she felt and smelt and melted like you. The strong charm of coincidence” (399.18-21).  

MOTIF: Andalusia; ardilla;

354.16-17: pounced upon them like pards and, having empasmed them with not unlesbian zest: Cf. Lucette reporting on her time, at fourteen, with Ada in Arizona: “‘I was afraid of the cougars. . . . She taught me practices I had never imagined,’ confessed Lucette in rerun wonder. ‘We interweaved like serpents and sobbed like pumas. We were Mongolian tumblers, monograms, anagrams, adalucindas . . . ’” (374.32-375.23).

354.17: empasmed: Empasm (W2), “A perfumed powder to mask the odor of sweat.” With a pun here, surely, on “spasm,” which comes, as it were, soon enough (354.28).

354.18: the three rather melancholy graces: The Three Graces, the Charites of Greek mythology, the Gratiae of Roman mythology, who represented such things as beauty, charm, and creativity, were a popular subject of visual art. There is a famous fresco of the Three Graces from Pompeii, now in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples, rather akin in style and coloration to the “Stabian flower girl . . . . in a Naples museum” of 8.31-9.08.

Wikipedia notes that “the Three Graces” was also the name given to “the three late eighteenth/early nineteenth century London courtesans Harriette Wilson, her sister Amy Doubochet, and Julia Johnstone” (Wikipedia, s.v. The Three Graces, 5 October 2020).

Cf. Ada and Lucette at the Ursus restaurant: “those two, slow-moving, hip-swaying graces” (413.29-30) (Flora at Ursus may be the third grace?).

354.21-22: A lorry had got stuck:  Cf. “The lorry had gone or had drowned” (354.31).

354.26-27: the ardent Ardillusian: Cf. “ardilla” (98.12). MOTIF: Andalusian; ardilla; Ardis; ardor.

354.29-31: the swimming pool . . . The lorry had gone or had drowned: A bizarre connection: is “drowned” here a dream link with the swimming pool?

354.32-355.01: Eric was a skeleton in the most expensive corner of the Ex cemetery (“But then, all cemeteries are ex,” remarked a jovial ‘protestant’ priest), between an anonymous alpinist and my stillborn double: Note the “ex” in “expensive”; and note also the doubling or tripling of ex/x in the herbarium in the attic in Pt. 1 Ch. 1: “25.x.69, Ex, ex Dr. Lapiner’s walled alpine garden” (7.25-26); Aqua thinks at moments that “a stillborn male infant . . . a fish of rubber that she had produced in her bath, in a lieu de naissance plainly marked X in her dreams” (25.25-28) had somehow been saved and “registered as her son Ivan Veen” (25.31-32) but at others that “the child was her sister’s, born out of wedlock, during an exhausting, yet highly romantic blizzard, in a mountain refuge on Sex Rouge, where a Dr. Alpiner, general practitioner and gentian-lover, sat providentially waiting near a rude red stove for his boots to dry” (25.31-26.04) (note the additional exes in “exhausting” and “Sex Rouge”), who, presumably, despite the anagrammatic transposition of “Lapiner” in Aqua’s scrambled mind into “Alpiner,” is not the “anonymous alpinist” here, since Dr. Lapiner dies in 1872 (441.02), non-anonymously.  MOTIF: Ex.

355.01: “protestant” priest: A slightly odd conjunction, since “priest” is usually reserved for Catholic clerics (and their near congeners, Anglicans and Episcopalians), while their Protestant equivalents are called “clergymen” or “ministers.”

355.03: Cherry: In view of what follows, playing with the colloquial sense: (OED n.5. figurative . . . c.) “Virginity, esp. in to lose one's cherry; similarly, to take (etc.) a cherry. Also, the hymen; a virgin (also as adj.). slang (originally U.S.). . . . 1926   W. Faulkner Soldiers' Pay viii. 288   ‘If that's the only way you got to get a wife you'd better pick out another one’... ‘Atalanta’, she suggested... ‘Try an apple next time’... ‘Or a cherry’..said Jones viciously. // 1928   J. B. Wharton Squad iv. 132   I told him he wuz too young to lose his cherry. // 1935   J. Hargan Gloss. Prison Lang. 2   Cherry, virgin.” Cf. “the chauffeur waved again, this time to a boy in a cherry tree” (35.11-12)?

355.03: our next (American) floramor: David van Veen began his constructions of floramors “with rural England and coastal America” (349.29-30). The “our” is piquantly peculiar in this context.

355.04: Salopian: In A1: “Lat. Salopia = Shropshire (Lad, Housman).” From Shropshire; allusion to A.E. Housman’s A Shropshire Lad (1896), which Nabokov categorizes in his autobiography as “a little volume of verse about young males and death” (SM 273). With pun on the French salope, “slattern, slut.” For Housman and A Shropshire Lad, see 23.22n.

355.04-05: his copper curls: Cf. “Lucette’s copper curls” (226.03) and, with reference to her again, “even coarse, smelly coachmen are known to have been driven insane by a pair of green eyes and a copper curl” (421.15-17).

Cf. also the messenger with “chestnut curls” (283.08) and, probably the same person, the youngest of the three sisters in Blanche’s family, “a beautiful chestnut-curled little maiden” (299.19).
           
MOTIF: copper.

355.08: the pretty catamite: Cf. the modification of poem V in A Shropshire Lad, l. 31, from “Be kind, have pity, my own, my pretty” to “my lad, my pretty, my love” at 23.22 (and see n.) above.

355.09: His girlish crupper: Cf. Lucette’s “little crupper in willow-green shorts” (198.11-12). Recall also the sexual ambiguity of the chestnut-curled messenger sent by Percy de Prey at 283-84, probably Blanche’s sister: “I wouldbe interested to know—this could be decided in a jiffy behind that tree, what you are, stable boy or kennel girl” (284.08-10).

355.10-11: the varicolored imprints of bestial clawings and flesh-twistings:  Cf. also the Boschian theme (Afternote).

355.12-15: a state of acute indigestion, marked by unappetizing dysenteric symptoms . . . the result, no doubt, of eating too many green apples: Cf. Van’s conversational remark: “Jack Chose’s book is certainly most entertaining—especially that bit about apples and diarrhea, and the excerpts from the Venus Shell Album” (516.08-10).

Cf. a similar combination of sex and diarrhea: “and the three fat whores, and old Archie’s premature squitteroo” (6.32-33).

355.15: Eventually, he had to be destroyed or given away:those false romances only fatigued him; the indifferently plumbed palazzina would soon be given away, the badly sunburnt girl sent back—and he would need something really nasty and tainted to revive his manhood” (573.12-15).

355.18: the Earl of Langburn: Scottish, it would seem (from Scottish for “long” and “river”). Significance unknown (may he burn in Hell? with syphilis?). MOTIF: burn.

355.19-20: a green-eyed frail faunlet: Cf. Lolita I.5: “When I was a child and she was child, my little Annabel was no nymphet to me: I was her equal, a faunlet in my own right, on that same enchanted island of time” (17-18); “Desmond McNamara . . . thinks that there should be coined a male equivalent of ‘nymphet’ in the sense I gave it. He is welcome to my ‘faunlet,’ first mentioned in 1955 (Lolita, Chapter 5). How time flies! How attention flags!” (SO 216)

MOTIF: green; -let.

355.21: being examined by a veterinary: As if he were really a faun (half-goat, half-man) or fawn (young animal, especially deer)?

355.22-25: personage . . . induced by the ailings of age to withdraw his patronage: Ritcov (King Victor) had still been frequenting Villas Venus in 1901 (473.03-05). The Pléiade annotators note that Albert, Prince of Wales stopped frequenting brothels once he became King Edward VII (in 1901).
           
Note the anaphoric “personage . . . of age . . . patronage.”

355.22: Ritcov or Vrotic: Vrotic: Proffer 270: “Suggests ‘erotic,’ and in Russian v rotik means ‘shove it in your little mouth.’” Lucette recalls a Flavita game in which she had the letters “LIKROT or ROTIKL . . . I quietly composed ROTIK (‘little mouth’)” (379.06-10). MOTIF: Victor.  

355.24-25: as ruddy as the proverbial fiddle: Mangles the proverb or cliché “as fit as a fiddle.” The garbling of set expressions will become a feature and a clue in Transparent Things, as in its last line: “Easy, you know, does it, son” (104) or “Same stuff, son” (32, to a barman). Cf. “language of the proverbial gutter” (379.29).

Aleksey Sklyarenko, “An Ironic Hesperus: Floramor Allusions To Kuprin In Ada,” Nabokovian 50 (Spring 2003), 48-51, suggests a play on “Sashka skripach” (“Sashka the violinist”) in Aleksandr Kuprin’s story “Gambrinus” (1907) (alluded to at 473.02), who is ruddy because of his constant fiddling and drinking. In Pt. 3 Ch. 4 “Mr. Alexander Screepatch, the new President of the United Americas” (471.02-03) flies over to England to visit a Villa Venus with King Victor; “screepatch” sounds identical to the Russian for “violinist,” and “Sashka” is a diminutive of Alexander. VN knew Kuprin in the European emigration and admired him as a writer (see TWS 88-89).
           
Ardeur 297: “aussi gaillard que notre proverbial Pont-Neuf”: “as fit as our proverbial Pont-Neuf,” playing on the expression solide comme le Pont-Neuf, “solid as the Pont Neuf,” or similar, such as il se porte comme le Pont-Neuf, “he is in very good shape.” The Pont Neuf is now the oldest bridge across the Seine in Paris; although it was the second in the city to be constructed of stone rather than wood, it was the first in stone to have houses built on it and yet to last unscathed, unlike the wooden bridges with superadded houses, which had often collapsed. The image leads nicely into the “juga celsa ruunt” at 355.30.

355.25-26: his favorite floramor near Bath: The Pléiade sees this as an allusion to the mermaid-shaped red-copper bath on the first floor of Le Chabanais which the future Edward VII would have had filled with champagne for his favorites (Maisons Closes, Editions Nicole Canet, p. 29).

355.26-27: an ironic Hesperus rose: An ironic rise, because Venus does not rise for King Victor: he cannot get an erection. “Hesperus” is Venus as the evening star, visible as the sun sets, and “Lucifer” the name of Venus as the morning star, visible as the sun rises; here it’s only a reminder of things setting that rises. Cf. Lucette’s report of her life in Arizona; “maman hardly ever came home before dawn, the maids joined their lovers at star-rise” (374.27-29); “‘So the day passed, and then the star rose. . . . And that’s when I learnt—’ concluded Lucette, closing her eyes and making Van squirm by reproducing with diabolical accuracy Ada’s demure little whimper of bliss” (376.11-16). MOTIF: Venus

355.27: in a milkman’s humdrum sky: As the Kyoto Reading Circle notes, milkmen, at the time of Ada’s composition, still delivered milk to homes around dawn; the Milky Way has here become “a milkman’s humdrum sky.”

355.28: sovereign of one-half of the globe: A status often ascribed to Queen Victoria.

355.28-29: Shell Pink Book: see 349.02.

355.29-30: a line that Seneca had once composed: subsidunt montes et juga celsa ruunt: Darkbloom: “mountains subside and heights deteriorate.”

From an apocalyptic eight-line poem by the Stoic Lucius Annaeus Seneca (c. 4 BCE-65 CE), “generally taken to have been written during Seneca’s exile on Corsica:

Omnia tempus edax depascitur, omnia carpit,
    Omnia sede mouet, nil sinit esse diu.
Flumina deficiunt, profugum mare litora siccant,
    Subsidunt montes et iuga celsa runt.
Quid tam parua loquor? moles pulcherrima caeli
     Ardebit flammis tota repente suis.
Omnia mors poscit. Lex est, non poena, perire:
    Hic aliquo mundus tempore nullus erit.

Greedy time consumes everything, plucks up everything,
     It moves everything from its place, and allows nothing to endure for very long.
The rivers ebb, the shores dry the fleeing sea,
     Mountains subside and heights deteriorate.
Why speak of such insignificant things? The beautiful expanse of heaven
     Will suddenly and totally catch fire with its own flame.
Death claims everything. To perish is a necessity, not a punishment.
     A time will come when the universe will be annihilated.”
(Rivers and Walker 289).


Rivers and Walker suggest the line quoted “can be seen to reflect other major themes of Ada: the passage of time, the mutability of experience, and the threat of death and annihilation. For Nabokov these sources of pain and suffering are mitigated and redeemed by artistic creation.” David H.J. Lamour, Subsidunt montes et iuga celsa ruunt (Ada 355),” The Nabokovian 16 (Spring 1986), 30-32, points out the “cycle of destruction and creation” (3) in the origin of the Villa Venuses (the deaths of Eric’s mother, father, and Eric himself, then of his grandfather while building his hundredth floramor) and the rise and fall of the Villa Venus chain, from its opening in 1875, to its peak in 1890, to its decline by 1905 and collapse by 1910.

355.31: —and departed, weeping: Perhaps an echo  of the New Testament, another dawn scene: Matthew 26.74-75: “And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, who said unto him, Before the cock crows, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.”

355.31-32: a respectable Lesbian who conducted a Villa Venus at Souvenir: Cf. “the committee compromised by having a good-looking female homosexual head the staff” (349.14-15). MOTIF: lesbian; Veen; Villa Venus.

355.32-356.01: Souvenir, the beautiful Missouri spa: Significance unknown, apart from the play on “Veen” in -venir. A play on “misery”?


356.01-02: she had been a Russian weightlifter: The Russian sisters Tamara (1937- ) and Irina Press (1939-2004) were among the most famous female athletes of their day. Tamara won gold and silver in the 1960 and 1964 Olympics at shot put and discus, and set numerous world records in each. The sisters were often rumored to be secretly male or intersex, and were mockingly called the Press brothers. They retired from sport “in 1966, just before gender verification became mandatory on location” (Wikipedia, s.v. Tamara Press, accessed 6 October 2020). They did not compete as weightlifters, but the “press” is a major lift in weightlifting.

356.08-12: Corrupt physicians passed faded blondes who had had half a dozen children, some of them being already prepared to enter remote floramors themselves. Cosmeticians of genius restored forty-year-old matrons to look and smell like schoolgirls at their first prom: In contrast with Eric Veen’s stipulations: “the girls, aged from fifteen to twenty-five in the case of ‘slender Nordic dolls,’ and from ten to twenty in that of ‘opulent Southern charmers’” (349.04-06); “no woman who had ever borne a child (even in her own childhood) could be accepted, no matter how free she was of mammilary blemishes” (352.03-05).

356.10: Cosmeticians of genius: MOTIF: of genius.

356.15: lupanars: Brothels.

356.17-18: the Rajah of Cachou (an impostor) was infected with a venereal disease: Cf. Rajah linked to the coachman Ben Wright or Bengal Ben (Ada tells Van that Blanche “married our Russian coachman, the one who replaced Bengal Ben, as the servants called him,” 408.17-19) during Ardis the First. Re “an impostor”?: Mlle Larivière says of Bengal Ben: “I doubt strongly he ever was in that Rajah’s service” (88.08-09).
           
Cachou (W2): “1. Catechu.” Catechu (W2): “1. Any of several dry, earthy, or resinlike, astringent substances, obtained by decoction and evaporation from the wood, leaves, or fruits of certain tropical Asiatic plants; called also cutch. Specif. : a An extract of the heartwood of either of two East Indian acacias (Acacia catechu and A. catechu sundra); called specif. Bengal catechu, or acacia catechu. . . . Bengal catechu contains acacatechol and catechutannic acid. It is used for dyeing (esp. brown and composite shades on cotton), tanning, preserving fish nets, etc. and in medicine as an astringent.”
           
Blanche marries Bengal Ben’s successor at Ardis, Russian coachman, Trofim Fartukov (surnamed after the fartuk, “leathern apron,” worn by Russian coachmen), despite the fact that the last thing Van is told by an Ardis servant before leaving the Ladore region forever is Trofim’s “Dázhe skvoz’ kózhanïy fártuk ne stal-bï ya trógat’ étu frantsúzkuyu dévku” (300.12-13) (“Even through a leathern apron I would not think of touching this (that) French wench”). Trofim is aware of both Blanche’s sexual promiscuity and her venereal disease; nevertheless, he later marries her, and they have a child born blind because of Blanche’s gonorrhea (408.20-23), in a grotesque variation on the myth of blind Cupid (Eros).

Catechu
(W2) crossrefers to cachou and cutch; W2’s first definition of the latter is “Black catechu from the heartwood of Acacia catechu.” “Rajah of Cachou” could therefore (but why?) be a reference to or echo of the district of Kutch or Cutch, now a district of Gujarat state in Western India. Khengarji I, for instance, was a Rajput ruler who became “ruler of Cutch, assuming [the] title of Rao of Cutch, ruling unified Cutch from 1548 to 1585” (Wikipedia, s.v. Khengarji I, accessed 6 October 2020). Maharao Khengarji III was ruler from 1875 to 1942 (Wikipedia, s.v. Khengarji III, accessed 6 October 2020).

MOTIF: Rajah

356.17-18: with a venereal disease: MOTIF: venereal disease.


356.18: great grand-niece of Empress Josephine: Napoleon’s consort, Empress of France 1804-11; see 38.11n.

356.19-20: economic disasters (beyond the financial or philosophical ken of invulnerable Van and Demon . . . ): MOTIF: riches

356.21: of their set: Cf. Demon, admonishing Van: “You force me to bring up the tritest terms such as ‘family, ‘honor,’ ‘set,’ ‘law’” (443.04-05).

356.24: there were fires and earthquakes: Mildly reminiscent of the destruction for immorality of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, Genesis 19.23-25: “Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven; And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.”

356.25: out of the original hundred palazzos: Cf. “he died. . . . It was only his hundredth house!” (350.01-02)

356.27-28: all the dead of the English cemetery at Ex had to be transferred to a common grave: Eric—whose father worked in London, and who attended school at Note—has presumably been buried in Ex’s English cemetery (a “‘protestant’ priest” appears to officiate at his burial, 354.33-355.01). Cf. “Eric was a skeleton in the most expensive corner of the Ex cemetery (‘But then, all cemeteries are ex,’ . . . )” (354.32-33). The grand memorial scheme of a thousand and one floramors worldwide has declined to this.

MOTIF: Ex.

356.29-358.23: Van never regretted . . . Adora . . . the soft little creature in Van’s desperate grasp was Ada: “And I knew a girl called Adora, little thing in my last floramor. What makes me see that bit as the purest sanglot in the book?” (584.31-33)

356.29: his last visit to one last Villa Venus: Some time after July 1901, when he visits (unsuccessfully) a floramor somewhere in England (470.12-473.18).

356.29-30: A cauliflowered candle was messily burning in its tin cup on the window ledge: The theme of decay from the Villa Venus’s early aspirations: the candle well burned down, “messily burning,” the cup of a cheap metal.
           
The candle on the window ledge echoes the candles of Van and Ada “on the window ledge” (117.04) in the library on the Night of the Burning Barn, the scene of their first lovemaking, and their prefiguration much earlier in Ardis the First in “A pair of candlesticks, mere phantoms of metal and tallow, stood, or seemed to stand, on the broad window ledge” (41.16-18). Cf. also, within the scene of Van’s last Villa Venus visit, “the reflection of the candle in a cracked pane of the bluish casement” (357.14-15).
           
Is there in the “cauliflowered candle” (and the bawd on the bed’s imminent “Smorchiama la secandela,”358.08) a connection (in “wick low”) with “and frightfully expensive little courtesans in Wicklow” (103.23-24)?

356.31-32: the guitar-shaped paper-wrapped bunch of long roses for which nobody had troubled to find . . . a vase: A combination of romantic clichés (cf. RLSK 15: “the verse was very romantic, full of dark roses and stars and the call of the sea”). Although Ada dislikes roses, Percy de Prey brings to her 1888 birthday picnic “a bouquet of longstemmed roses. . . . ‘What a shame that I should loathe roses’” (271.11-13), says Ada, anxious to dampen down any hopes Percy might have. “Roses she never liked anyway,” Van recalls in 1922 (554.14). Ada also later confesses, “rather late in the day, that she did not like flowers in vases” (546.02-03), but Van, who has entered a florist shop, buys a bouquet of roses so as not “to disappoint the courteous old florist” and sends them to a stranger with a name like Ada’s, “Addor, Yolande, Mlle secret., rue des Délices, 6” (554.19-22).

356.32-34: roses . . . smoking: The combination of roses and smoking may recall Percy de Prey and the Turkish tobacco motif: “Marina helped herself to an Albany from a crystal box of Turkish cigarettes tipped with red rose petal and passed the box on to Demon. Ada, somewhat self-consciously, lit up too. . . . Van remarked: ‘I think I’ll take an Alibi—I mean an Albany—myself.’ // ‘Please note, everybody,’ said Ada, ‘how voulu that slip was! I like a smoke when I go mushrooming, but when I’m back, this horrid tease insists I smell of some romantic Turk or Albanian met in the woods’” (260.01-17).
            Cf. also, perhaps: “Van found himself, in a drunken dream, making violent love to Rose—no, to Ada, but in the rosacean fashion” (416.01-03).

356.33-34: On a bed, some way off, lay a pregnant woman: In this confusing and fluid semi-dream scene, she turns out to be “the bawd on the bed” (358.08). Recall that “no woman who had ever borne a child (even in her own childhood) could be accepted” (352.03-04).

356.34-35: smoke mingling its volutes with the shadows on the ceiling: W2, volute: “A spiral or scroll-like conformation; also, an object or part of spiral or scroll-like form.”

Note that in this dream-world the rooms become unwalled (357.12) yet there are still “volutes of shadow above” (357.12).

Cf. RLSK 166: “volutes of tobacco-smoke”; SM 292: “the voluted air heavy with tobacco smoke.”
          
Cf. also, in view of this whole scene, Proust, A la recherche du temps perdu (Pléiade, 1954), III.870: “là volutes bleues de la mer matinale enveloppant des phrases musicales qui en emergent partiellement comme les épaules des ondines” (“there, blue volutes of the morning sea, enveloping musical phrases which partially emerge from it like the shoulders of water-nymphs”).

357.02-03: Far beyond her, a door standing ajar gave on what appeared to be a moonlit gallery . . . . : Cf. “where any place, as in Casanova’s remembrances could be dream-changed into a sequestered seraglio nook” (49.10-12). Cf. also Nabokov on romanticism, quoting Thomas Campbell: “ ’Tis distance that lends enchantment” (EO 3,34).

357.05: zigzag fissures on the floor: Parquet? Marble tiling? Adam Vaudin suggests (private communication) that these fissures could be a result of the earthquakes afflicting the Villa Venus floramors in their decline: “Disgusting pimps with obsequious grins disclosing gaps in their tawny teeth popped out of rosebushes with illustrated pamphlets, and there were fires and earthquakes” (356.22-24).  This seems right, and adds to the generally hellish and specifically Boschean notes throughout the last pages of this chapter. 

357.06-07: a gaping grand piano, emitting, as if all by itself, spooky glissando twangs in the middle of the night: Explained shortly: “The grand piano in the otherwise bare hall seemed to be playing all by itself but actually was being rippled by rats in quest of the succulent refuse placed there by the maid who fancied a bit of music when her cancered womb roused her before dawn with its first familiar stab” (358.17-21). Cf. also, perhaps, Lucette at piano lessons: “while the music continued to play on its own as if by some mechanical device” (208.01-02).

357.08-358.05: Through a great rip in the marbleized brick and plaster, the naked sea . . . on a rocky Mediterranean peninsula: Cf. Eugene Onegin,I:xxxii:13-14: “on mirrory parquet of halls, / by the sea on granite of rocks.”


357.08-10: the naked sea, . . . dully boomed, dully withdrew its platter of pebbles: The Kyoto Reading Circle notes: “Cf. Matthew Arnold’s ‘Dover Beach’ (1867), third stanza, a landmark poem [on] the spiritual decline of western civilization [or at least religiousness], in which ‘the Sea of Faith’ retreats, revealing ‘naked shingles of the world.’

Listen! you hear the grating roar 
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling, 
At their return, up the high strand, 
Begin, and cease, and then again begin, 
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring 
The eternal note of sadness in. . . .

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Nabokov comments on one kind of romanticism: “The pictorial grading into the metaphysical” (EO 3,34).


357.08-10: the naked sea, not seen but heard as a panting space separated from time:   Cf. “Space is related to our senses of sight, touch, and muscular effort; Time is vaguely connected with hearing. . . . ‘Space is a swarming in the eyes, and Time a singing in the ears,’ says John Shade” (542.16-21).
           
Legends associate the Eryx sanctuary with the sea, and Venus/Aphrodite with birth from the sea.

357.15-21: Beneath it, on a rump-ticking coarse couch . . . flooded by the black hair of a much younger sister or cousin of the wretched florinda on the tumbled bed. . . . presently resumed: Cf. the scene with Van, Ada, and Lucette together in bed in Pt. 2 Ch. 8, 418.04-420.10.

357.15-16: a rump-tickling coarse couch: Cf. on the Night of the Burning Barn, on the divan in the Ardis library, “the shag of the couch was as tickly as the star-dusted sky” (121.07); and the texture of the divan, as later recalled: “unforgettable, roughish, villous, Villaviciosa velour” (373.24-25).

357.17-18: flooded by the black hair of a much younger sister or cousin: Cf. Lucette’s recollections of being on the divan with Van and Ada to play Flavita: “Ada flooded us both with her raven silks” (379.06-07). Cf. also “that first time . . . he had possessed her hair” (141.04-05).

357.18: florinda: Spanish proper name, diminutive of Flora. MOTIF: Flora; flowers.

357.22-23: the champagne he had brought, with the softly rustling roses: “he returned to the warmth of his flat and drank a bottle of champagne, and then rang for Rose, the sportive Negro maid” (390.14-16).

357.24: the silky dear head: Cf. Ada’s “silky mane” (205.28) and “her raven silks” (379.06-07).

357.25: He had fondled and fouled her: Cf. Van in 1900, “on the bench where he had recently fondled and fouled a favorite, lanky, awkward, black girl student” (452.18-19).

357.27: if her name was really Adora: Cf. “And I knew a girl called Adora, little thing in my last floramor. What makes me see that as the purest sanglot in the book? What is the worst part of dying?” (584.31-34). Cf. “the pyramids of Ladorah” (449.02)?

MOTIF: Ada; adore; Ardis-adore.

357.27-28: she, and the other girl, and a third one: The triplication motif (see above, 353.08-354.25n.) returns.

357.28-29: a maidservant, Princess Kachurin: “the daughters of peasants and peddlers and plumbers were not seldom more stylish than their middle-middle-class or upper-upper-class
companions” (352.17-19).

357.28-29: Princess Kachurin: In the late 1920s Nabokov was given a list of defunct noble Russian names to use in his fiction that included “Kachurin” (Boyd 1990: 255). Cf. “new émigré publications: a corpulent new romance by General Kachurin, The Red Princess”(Gift 167); the 1947 poem “K Kn. S.M. Kachurinu” (“To Prince S.M. Kachurin,” PP 134-41); in Pale Fire, “Prince Andrey Kachurin, the famous Russian stunter and War One hero” makes a flying visit (103).

357.29-30: the faded bathing suit: Cf. Ada’s “faded, bluish-gray, one­-piece swimsuit” (199.22).

357.31-32: the beach mattress which she was moaning on now: Cf. “a folding beach mattress, preferably black—to bring you out not on the beach but on that bench, and on our isle de Ladore” (194.04-06).

357.32-34: And if the child really was called Adora, then what was she?—not Rumanian, not Dalmatian, not Sicilian, not Irish: Cf. “And there was Flora, a slender, hardly nubile, half-naked music-hall dancer of uncertain origin (Rumanian? Romany? Ramseyan?) whose ravishing services Van had availed himself of” (410.16-18).
           
“Dalmatian”: Cf. Van’s spending “most of May [1922] in Dalmatia” (551.29)?

“Sicilian”: and the Sicilian origins (Erice) of Venus Erycina? Is “the local dialect that Van understood better than Italian” (358.09) Sicilian?

“Irish”? Cf. the Irish motif, from great-grandmother “Mary O’Reilly, an Irish woman of fashion” (3.12-13), and father “Walter D. Veen, a Manhattan banker of Anglo-Irish ancestry” (4.16-17), to Ada’s “plain Irish nose” (58.17-18). Or cf. also “frightfully expensive little courtesans in Wicklow. . . .The procuress in Wicklow . . . dwelt with the peculiar force on the ‘long eyes’ of her pathetic and adorable grandchild” (103.23-104.30)? MOTIF: Irish.


357.34-358.01: an echo of brogue could be discerned: Cf. “Lenore’s corny brogue. . . An Irish girl, the infinitely graceful and melancholy Lenore Colline” (428.26-29).

358.02: Was she eleven or fourteen . . . : Ada is eleven when Van, who is fourteen, first falls in love with her. Cf. “Was she really pretty, at twelve?” (58.01); “Was she really beautiful? Was she at least what they call attractive?” (199.17-18).

358.03-04: her birthday—this twenty-first of July, nineteen-four or eight or even several years later: The last digits of the years match those of the years Van was present at the picnics on Ada’s birthday (for the date of which, see 6.17), 1884 and 1888, where the ride home from the picnic was already a dream-like repetition and conflation of two times and two female “children of Venus.”

358.04: nineteen-four or eight or even several years later: Judging by 356.25-28, this would have been the last gasp of the Villa Venuses, or very nearly so.

358.04-05: on a rocky Mediterranean peninsula?: Which year, if the question is answerable? Is it relevant that Ardis is on “the latitude of Sicily” (53.04)?

358.06-07: A very distant church clock, never audible except at night, clanged twice and added a quarter: Cf. “the tall clock struck an anonymous quarter” (121.03). Cf. also: “On very still afternoons one could hear the pre-tunnel toot of the two-two to Toulouse” (105.15-16).

358.08: Smorchiama la secandela: Darkbloom: “let us snuff out the candle.” In his own copy of Ada, Nabokov glosses: “Illyrian dialect.” W2, Illyrian: “Of or pert. to the ancient Illyria, a country including the regions north of Greece on the Adriatic, or the people of this country.” Illyrian was quite distinct from Italian, although Illyrian “in ancient times perhaps had speakers in some parts in Southern Italy” (Wikipedia, s.v. Illyria, accessed 6 October 2020). In English literature Illyria cannot help bringing to mind the opening of the second scene of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night: “Viola: What country, friends, is this? Captain: This is Illyria, lady. Viola: And what should I do in Illyria? My brother, he is in Elysium.”

358.10: he pulled his opera cloak over her: Cf. Van in the hammock at Ardis, “where a former summer guest, with an opera cloak over his clammy nightshirt, had awoken once because a stinkbomb had burst among the instruments in the horsecart, and striking a match, Uncle Van had seen the bright blood blotching his pillow” (72.18-22).

358.11-15: the grease-reeking darkness . . . the squalid recess: Cf. the Ardis shooting gallery, with its “Orientally draped recess” that “reeked of stale beer” (212.09-11)?

358.12-13: his forever discarded half-mask: Cf. “masked and caped grandees” (351.18); and Ada’s comment to Van, “you have quite a collection of black masks in your dresser” (401.07). And perhaps Mascodagama (Pt. 1 Ch. 30) and Van’s abandonment of the role?

358.13: It was not Ardis: MOTIF: Ardis

358.14-15: it was not the library, . . . but merely the squalid recess . . . : Cf. the introduction to “the great library on the second floor, the pride of Ardis. . . . A kind of divan or daybed covered in black velvet, with two yellow cushions, was placed in a recess” (41.01-14).

358.15: where the bouncer had slept: Cf. “the committee compromised by . . . adding a bouncer whom Eric had overlooked” (349.14-16).

358.15-17: before going back to his Rugby-coaching job at a public school somewhere in England: The phrase toys with not naming Rugby, the English public school where the game of rugby reputedly began in 1823. Cf. also the public school of “Note” (Eton) that Eric attends (347.16). Cf. Percy de Prey as “a crack Rugger player [at Riverlane], a cracker of country girls” (273.25-26) and “Cheshire, the rugby ace” (32.30), who leads the boys at Riverlane who take sexual advantage of “One hysterical lad from Upsala,” and who introduces Van to the “fubsy pig-pink whorelet” (33.17) with whom he loses his virginity.

358.17-18: The grand piano . . . . seemed to be playing all by itself: Cf. “a gaping grand piano, emitting, as if all by itself, spooky glissando twangs” (357.06-07); “mechanical piano” (305.18).

358.17: The grand piano in the otherwise bare hall: Cf. perhaps “A radiant night, a moon-filled garden. . . . Wide open, the grand piano” (412.03-05)? And perhaps “the otherwise very austere central hall” (37.30-31) at Ardis?

358.20-21: who fancied a bit of music when her cancered womb roused her before dawn with its first familiar stab: In view of the horror of the image, and VN’s mentioning “a letter from Keats to Benjamin Bailey” in Lolita (I.5, 16), I cannot help citing another letter from Keats to Benjamin Bailey, June 10, 1818: “Were it my choice I would reject a petrarchal coronation—on account of my dying day, and because women have cancers.”

358.21-23: The ruinous Villa no longer bore any resemblance to Eric’s “organized dream,” but the soft little creature in Van’s desperate grasp was Ada: The last visit to the Villa Venus seems to have tipped finally over into pure dream, as well as waking wish-fulfillment. Cf. “an essay entitled ‘Villa Venus: an Organized Dream’” (348.02-03). MOTIF: dream.

358.21: ruinous Villa: Cf. “Ruinen. . . ‘ryuen’,’ which might have spelled ‘ruin,’ . . . ” (350.04-11).

358.23: the soft little creature in Van’s desperate grasp was Ada: Cf. “How I used to seek, with what tenacious anguish, traces and tokens of my unforgettable love in all the brothels of the world!” (104.26-32)
Cf. also Van’s reminiscence, to Ada, about the “ardent Ardillusian” at his first Villa Venus: “I met his sweet sad daughter at a Cyprian party—she felt and smelt and melted like you” (399.19-20). And another reminiscence, as Van and Ada realize they are about to die: “And I knew a girl called Adora, little thing in my last floramor. What makes me see that bit as the purest sanglot in the book? What is the worst part of dying?” (584.31-34)



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Afternote to Part Two, Chapter 3