Part One, Chapter 35



Pt. I Ch. 34 focused on Lucette as pest, as perpetual intruder on Van and Ada’s love. Now in Pt. I Ch. 35 Van shows, by contrast, the intensity of his focus on Ada when the two of them can escape Ardis and therefore Lucette’s surveillance. On an islet retreat on the Ladore—to which they are on their way at the end of I.34—they can spend voluptuous uninterrupted time together, luxuriating in each other. But the very intensity of their intimacy magnifies emotion to the utmost: Van, in retrospect, therefore wants to locate this extreme close-up on his and Ada’s super-special significance to each other within, and even beyond, the infinity of space; and to return to it in the galley proofs, as his positively last addition to his text, his last mark on time.
Unlike much of Ada, this chapter is almost all summary, rather than scene: Ada as closely inspected and re-inspected by Van in the summer of 1888, in comparison with his inspections of her in 1884, and as remembered and re-remembered by him much later in life.


215.01: We are now: The authorial “we” (cf. 212.31-32: “When our lovers (you like the authorial possessive, don’t you, Van?)”); and the lectorial we, an appeal also to the imagination of the readers (we are to picture ourselves on this islet); but also with a strong implication that for once “we,” Van and Ada, and no one else, are here, on a patch of space just to ourselves.

215.01: willow islet: Van and Ada float “toward a drape of willows on a Ladore islet” (214.05-06) at the end of the previous chapter. MOTIF: willow.

215.02-04: blue Ladore . . . Bryant’s Castle . . . romantically black on its oak-timbered hill: Recalls I.22’s Ardis the First theme song, 138.01-139.04, inspired by the arch-Romantic Chateaubriand, and the sentence that follows it, especially “blue Ladore” (138.02); “castle bathed by the Ladore . . . Du château que baignait la Dore  . . . The Ladore-washed old castle wall” (138.04, 06, 08); “goru, / I dub vïsokiy . . . The spreading oak tree and my hill . . . Et le grand chêne et ma colline . . . And the big oak tree and my hill” (138.09-10, 138.12, 14, 16), and “up the hill to the black ruins of Bryant’s Castle” (139.07-08).

215.02: Ladore: MOTIF: Ladore.

215.02: wet fields: MOTIF: peat, bog.

215.03: Castle, remote: Cf. 488.22: “On the way to the remote castle.” MOTIF: black castle; Bryant's Castle.

215.04-05: his new Ada: Cf. 212.13: “his new Ada.” MOTIF: his Ada.

215.06: the child he had known in minute detail four years ago: MOTIF: child.

215.07-08: vividly illumined in his mind against the same backdrop of flowing blue: In other words, against the backdrop of the Ladore, especially as commemorated in the song of 138.01-139.04 (and see above, 215.02-04n).

215.08: flowing blue: Ardeur 181: “bleu moiré” (“blue moiré”).

215.09-218.34: Her forehead area. . . Her nose . . . Her neck . . . Her shoulders . . . . Her nipples . . . Her breasts. . . . Her lovely strong legs. . . . Her brilliance, her genius. . . . Her conversation: An anaphoric catalogue of Ada’s charms, most of these phrases marking the start of a new paragraph focused on a particular charm. Catalogues of the beloved’s charms in Petrarchist poetry were known as blazons, as in the Epithalamion (1595) of Edmund Spenser (c. 1552-1599), ll. 172-79:

Her goodly eyes like Saphires shining bright,
Her forehead ivory white,
Her cheeks like apples which the sun hath rudded,
Her lips like cherries charming men to bite,
Her breast like to a bowl of cream uncrudded,
Her paps like lilies budded,
Her snowy neck like to a marble tower.

215.11-12: its whiteness, now clear of all blemishes: Cf. (not for forehead, but for blemish): “A tiny round patch did not quite hide a pimple on one side of her chin” (167.17-18).

215.16: The eyes. The eyes . . . : Cf. 104.15: “The eyes. Ada’s dark brown eyes,” from Van’s 1884 inventory of her charms.

215.16-17: voluptuous palpebral creases: Cf. 104.24: “The eyelids, sort of pleaty.”

215.16: palpebral: Of the eyelids. N1 marks this with a translator’s alert: perhaps Nabokov intended a pun here on “palpable”?

215.17: the lashes, their semblance of jet-dust incrustation: “Her long eyelashes seemed blackened, and in fact were,” 58.15.

215.18: the raised iris, its Hindu-hypnotic position: Cf. 58.10-15: “The iridal dark-brown of her serious eyes had the enigmatic opacity of an Oriental hypnotist’s look (in a magazine’s back-page advertisement) and seemed to be placed higher than usual so that between its lower rim and the moist lower lid a cradle crescent of white remained when she stared straight at you.”

215.18-216.06: its Hindu-hypnotic position . . . Mlle Hypnokush: Cf. “Mlle Larivière . . . . thinks that in some former Hindooish state” (53.30-32).

215.20: MOTIF: apple.

216.06: Mlle Hypnokush: In view of 215.18’s “Hindu-hypnotic,” note the suggestion from the Kyoto Reading Circle:the attractiveness of Ada’s hypnotic eyes is augmented by the danger implied in the name—‘kush’ in Hindu means ‘killer’ and [Hindu Kush is the name of a mountain range] in the Himalayas, sometimes called ‘the Hindu killer,’ connected to the phrase, ‘pierce you’ at the end of this paragraph,” about Ada’ s eyes.

216.08-11: Her nose had not followed Van’s in the latter’s thickening of Hibernian outline . . . colleenette: The Hibernian outline presumably derives from her maternal great-grandmother, “Mary O’Reilly, an Irish woman of fashion” (3.12-13). Cf. 58. 17-18: “Her plain Irish nose was Van’s in miniature.” A “colleen” is an Irish girl or woman. MOTIF: Ada-Van similarity; family resemblance.

216.09: the tip seemed to turn up more strongly: Making it, therefore, more like Lucette’s? “Accentuating [Ada’s] nose’s slight tilt turned it into Lucette’s” (104.03). MOTIF: Ada-Lucette similarity.

216.12-13: a suggestion of darkish silk down (related to that on her forearms): Cf. 58.08-10: “one’s gaze, stroking her white shins and forearms, could follow upon them the regular slants of fine dark hairs, the silks of her girlhood.”

216.15-16: A touch of lipstick now gave her mouth an air of deadpan sullenness: Cf. Demon’s response a few weeks later: “I abhor and reject your livid lipstick. It may be the fashion in good old Ladore” (245.31-33).

216.18: her large teeth: “the front teeth were a trifle too large” (104.04-05) on both Ada and Lucette.

216.20-21: Her neck had been, and remained, his most delicate, most poignant delight: Of nurse Tatiana: “and that harmony between neck and eyes which is the special, scarcely yet investigated secret of feminine grace fantastically and agonizingly reminded him of Ada” (312.09-12).

216.21-22: especially when she let her hair flow freely, and the warm, white, adorable skin showed through: Cf. 103.33-104.02: “hung lank and long over the neck, its flow disjoined by the shoulder; so that the mat white of her neck through the black bronze stream showed in triangular elegancy.” MOTIF: adore.

216.23-24: Boils and mosquito bites had stopped pestering her: Cf. 120.27-28:”A bad boil had left a pink scar between two ribs”; for mosquitoes, see “Chateaubriand’s mosquito” (105-07).

216.24-28: the pale trace of an inch-long cut . . . just below the waist . . . a deep scratch caused last August by an erratic hatpin—or rather by a thorny twig in the inviting hay: Cf. 293.19-26: “When and how had it started? Last August . . .  Monsieur Rack. . . . How anybody could do it with l’immonde Monsieur Rack, who once forgot his waistcoat in a haystack. . . . ”

216.29: (You are merciless, Van.): MOTIF: Composition: Ada.

216.33-34: Babylonian willows: W2: “b The weeping willow.”MOTIF: willow.

216.34: alder: W2: “Any tree or shrub of the genus Alnus. Alders usually grow in moist ground, often forming thickets.” Cf. 218.06: “in a small alder thicket.”

216.34: cattails: W2: “A tall marsh plant (Typha latifolia)with long flat leaves used for seating chairs, making mats, etc.  . . . Also, any other species of Typha.” N1 indicates “Phleum,” which is in fact “cat’s-tail,” a different cluster of plants; but it seems that Nabokov originally had in mind the marshy Typha genus.

216.34: sweet-flags: W2: “A perennial marsh herb (Acorus calamus)having long flaglike leaves and a pungent rootstock.” N1: calamus.

217.01: purple-lipped twayblades: Twayblade, W2: “Any of several orchids having a pair of leaves; esp., any species of Listera or Liparis.” The purple twayblade, Liparis liliifolia, has a purple lip.

217.03: Under the shelter of those neurotic willows: Perhaps Van has in mind the Queen’s famous description of Ophelia’s death in Hamlet, Nabokov’s favorite speech in his favorite play, to judge by his frequent references to it and his 1930 translation (Rul’, 19 October 1930; rpt. in Sobranie socheniniy russkogo perioda, ed. N. I. Artemenko-Tolstaya, St. Petersburg: Symposium, 2000, v. 3, 673) of “There is a willow grows aslant a brook . . . an envious sliver broke” (Hamlet 4.7.165-72). MOTIF: under tree.

217.05-07: Her shoulders were intolerably graceful. I would never permit my wife to wear strapless gowns: Cf. the description of Lucette’s fragile shoulders and apparently strapless gown, 485.16-18.

217.07: how could she be my wife?: A very Chateaubriandesque question (see next notes), for Aben-Hamet and Bianca (Les Aventures du dernier Abencérage), Chactas and Atala (Atala), René and Amélie (René).

217.07-11: Renny . . . digit: MOTIF: Enfants Maudits.

217.07-08: Renny says to Nell in the English version of Monparnasse’s rather comic tale: Cf. “Renny, or what’s his name, Renée, should not know what he seems to know” (201.05-06). The Accursed Children is the English title of Mlle Larivière/Monparnasse’s Les Enfants Maudits; its character names, René and Hélène, have here been comically Anglicized. The names reflect the René of Chateaubriand’s novella of that name, with its flavor of incest (see 3.08n), and the Hélène of his “Romance à Hélène,” the foundation of Van and Ada’s 1884 Ladorean theme song (138.01-139.04 and n.). MOTIF: Chateaubriand.

217.08-12: “The infamous shadow . . . French: A comically half-Anglicized version of a French original that presumably read something like: “L’ombre infâme de notre affaire anormale nous suivra aux basses profondeurs de l’Enfer que notre Père qui se trouve au ciel nous montre avec son doigt superbe.” Cf. “Ultima Thule”: “Involuntary translation from French into Hadean” (SoVN 497). MOTIF: incest; inferno; translation.

217.14: unschicklich: Darkbloom: “Germ., improper (understood as ‘not chic’ by Ada).” A pun also on the brand name Schick, a make of safety razors, founded in 1926 by Wilkinson Sword, and second globally to Gillette (whose name Nabokov plays with in Pale Fire, in “zhiletka blades,” 99, note to line 70).

217.15: Where had she picked up . . . that hideous word?: Presumably from her recent German lover, Philip Rack.

217.22: belly dancer’s art: Cf. 119.05-06: “she belly-danced against him.”

217.26-27: Now I’m Scheher . . . and you are his Ada, and that’s your green prayer carpet: Van plays on the name Scheherazade, the heroine who tells the stories of The Arabian Nights (cf. 131.02: “the utterly unrewarding Arabian Nights,” and n.) to Sharyar. Why does shaving Ada’s pudendum and armpits bring Scheherazade to mind for Van, apart from the “belly dancer’s art” in the preceding paragraph, which comes from the report, not the scene? John Nagamichi Cho suggests (private communication): “Shaving pubic and armpit hair is prescribed under Islamic law ( hygienical jurisprudence, accessed 1 January 2021).”
Cf. also the multi-word play from Aqua: “My sister’s sister who teper’ iz ada (‘now is out of hell’)” (29.26-27), and 218.16: “Scheherazade’s Lacquer.”
Cf. 406.21, a reminiscence of this scene: “our little Caliph Island.”
MOTIF: his Ada; Scheherazade.

217.26-27: his  Ada . . . your green prayer carpet: Cf. 44.23-31: “blue magic rug with Arabian designs. . . . his Ada and he.”

217.28-218.04: engraved in the memory . . . red rowboat . . .  as the pageant rolls by:  The visual overlays, interpenetrations and tricks of memory here, besides brilliantly evoking memory, also recall Rimbaud’s “Mémoire” (see 64.15-65.02 and n.) and a famous passage in Wordsworth’s The Prelude (1805 version, Bk. IV, ll. 247-68), which also, before Rimbaud, sees memory in visual terms, and in terms of a rowboat on a river:

As one who hangs down-bending from the side
Of a slow-moving boat upon the breast
Of a still water, solacing himself
With such discoveries as his eye can make                        250
Beneath him in the bottom of the deeps,
Sees many beauteous sights—weeds, fishes, flowers,
Grots, pebbles, roots of trees—and fancies more,
Yet often is perplexed, and cannot part
The shadow from the substance, rocks and sky,
Mountains and clouds, from that which is indeed
The region, and the things which there abide
In their true dwelling; now is crossed by gleam
Of his own image, by a sunbeam now,
And motions that are sent he knows not whence,                        260
Impediments that make his task more sweet;
Such pleasant office have we long pursued
Incumbent o’er the surface of past time—
With like success. Nor have we often looked
On more alluring shows—to me at least—
More soft, or less ambiguously descried,
Than those which now we have been passing by,
And where we still are lingering.

Note that the “red rowboat” of 217.31-32 is called “Souvenance” (“Memory,” “Recollection”) (as disclosed in the memory test of the photograph album, 406.29-30), after both the title Chateaubriand’s poem, “Combien j’ai douce souvenance,” the basis for Van and Ada’s theme song, “My sister, do you still recall,” in 1884 (138.01-139.04 and n.), and its homonym, Rimbaud’s “Mémoire,” with the memorable “canot” (rowboat, ll. 34, 39) of its last section.

217.30-33: They saw themselves standing there . . . watching the red rowboat . . . carry them off: Cf. Boyd 2011, 116:Psychologists distinguish between a field and an observer relationship to an experience or a memory: an inner view, as if amid the field of experience, and an outer view, observing oneself as if from outside. Ordinarily we experience life in the ‘field’ condition, but precisely because we can compress memories into ‘gist,’ we can also afterward recall our experience as if from the outside, as in the radical recombinations of our memories in our dreams.” Here Van and Ada remembering are doubly observers: of themselves on the island, observing themselves (in memory?) leaving the island on the rowboat of memory, Souvenance.

217.29: with entwinements: Cf. 168.27: “twinned by entwinement.”

217.30: standing there, embraced: Cf. 221.01, “embraced”; 287.04: “they stood embraced.”

218.03: strobe effect: Cf. PP 113, “strobe-effect spin. The term renders exactly what I tried to express by the looser phrase in my text ‘sequence of spokelike shadows.’ The strobe effect causes wheels to look as if they revolved backward, and the crossing over to America (line 36 [of the poem ‘Slava,’  ‘Fame’) becomes an optical illusion of a return to Russia.”

218.07-24: they found a garter . . . stockingless summer trips . . . another lover some day would retrieve it for her: Presumably the garter was lost when she visited the island with Percy de Prey in the spring of 1888: see Ada at 406.21-29 (“our little Caliph Island . . . it’s early spring”) and Van and Ada at 407.30-34 (“Every shot in the book has been snapped in 1884, except this one. I never rowed you down Ladore River in early spring. Nice to note you have not lost your wonderful ability to blush.” “It’s his error. He must have thrown in a fotochka taken later, maybe in 1888”); and Blanche’s report of Ada’s infidelities, 294.04-05: “and in April when he [Rack] began to give piano lessons to Lucette the affair was resumed, but then—” (then: Percy came on the scene).
Cf. Ada on a photo of Blanche and Ben Wright in Kim’s album, 401.24-25: “It’s like the Beast and the Belle at the ball where Cinderella loses her garter.” Cf. also Blanche on her and Van’s last night at Ardis, 292.18-19: “one stocking gartered, the other down to her ankle, no slippers.”

218.09: her stockingless summer trips: Cf. 188.05: “She wore, unmodishly, no stockings” at the party Van gatecrashes on his return to Ardis in June 1888.

218.09: the magic islet: Cf. Lolita 16-17 (I.5): “an enchanted island haunted by those nymphets of mine and surrounded by a vast, misty sea. . . . that intangible island of entranced time where Lolita plays with her likes.”

218.11: pallor:  corrected from 1969, "palor." MOTIF: Ada’s paleness.

218.12: She could still suck her big toe: Cf. 105.29-30: “the child had stopped biting her fingernails (but not her toenails).”

218.12-15: The right instep and the back of her left hand bore the same small not overconspicuous but indelible and sacred birthmark, with which nature had signed his right hand and left foot: Cf. 105.09-10: “She had on the back of her left hand the same small brown spot that marked his right one”; 558.12-14: “his brown blotched hand on which their shared birthmark had got lost among the freckles of age.” MOTIF: Ada-Van similarity; birthmark.

218.16: Scheherazade’s Lacquer: Cf. 217.26-27 and n. MOTIF: Scheherazade.

218.20-21: Ladore . . . ankle chain of gold: With pun on French d’or, “golden.” MOTIF: Ladore.

218.21-24: she lost it in the course of their strenuous trysts . . . another lover some day would retrieve it for her: Cf. Greg Erminin, another would-be lover, retrieving the cuff-link of another actual lover of Ada’s, 275.21-22, 276.14-15.

218.28-29: Neither had remained the brash Wunderkind of 1884: Cf. Lucette at 379.04 recalling herself “doing my poor little best to keep up with two Wunderkinder.”

218.30: than in childhood: Cf. 194.11-13: “’when you and I were children.’ . . . Children, yes. In point of fact, how puzzling to keep seeing that recent past in nursery terms.” MOTIF: child.

218.31: Ada (born on July 21, 1872): Cf. 6.17-19: “A girl was born on July 21, 1872, . . . and . . . was registered as Adelaida.”

219.02: my acarpous destiny: W2: “Not producing fruit; sterile.” Alexey Sklyarenko (Nabokv-L, 7 February 2013) notes the childless destiny of the heroes of three key pre-texts of Ada, Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin, and Chateaubriand’s Les Aventures du dernier Abencérage.

219.02: (pustotsvetnost’): Russ., literally “a sterile or fruitless flower”; figuratively, “a person  whose life produces nothing of value.” The former sense is striking in view of the centrality of flowers in the novel, especially orchids, as in the orchids of the first and last chapter, the Ophrys veenae orchid of I.16 (Veen’s Ophrys), and the orchid Nabokov drew for the cover of the Penguin Ada (see AdaOnline home page).

219.04: metempirical: W2: “Related, or belonging, to the objects of knowledge within the province of metempirics”; metempirics, “The science or study of concepts and relations which are conceived as beyond, and yet as related to, the knowledge gained empirically.”

219.08-09: “pet” subject . . . a “pet” he found “pat”: MOTIF: pet.

219.08: the terrological part of psychiatry: For the association of mental illness and belief in Terra, see 20.20-21.08. MOTIF: Terra.

219.09: the drama (especially Russian), a “pet” he found “pat”: Cf. Ada’s first stage role in Chekhov’s Four Sisters, in 1891, 427-30. Nabokov famously regarded drama as generally inferior to the other literary arts: speaking through (but not necessarily entirely endorsing) Humbert, “I detest the theatre as being a primitive and putrid form, historically speaking; a form that smacks of stone-age rites and communal nonsense despite those individual injections of genius, such as, say, Elizabethan poetry which a closeted reader automatically pumps out of the stuff” (Lolita 200 [II.13]); from his lecture “The Tragedy of Tragedy”: “The bitterness with which I view the plight of playwriting does not really imply that all is lost and that the contemporary theatre may be dismissed with that rather primitive gesture – a shrug of the shoulders. But what I do mean is that unless something is done by somebody, and done soon, playwriting will cease to be the subject of any discussion dealing with literary values” (MUSSR 323). MOTIF: dreams of drama.

219.10-11: florimania endured, alas: Van has found her botanical enthusiasms grating since his first exposure to them, at 43.21 (“I’m going to scream, he thought”). MOTIF: Ada’s botany; flowers.

219.11-13: after Dr. Krolik died (in 1886) of a heart attack in his garden, she had placed all her live pupae in his open coffin where he lay, she said, as plump and pink as in vivo: Cf. 193.01-05: “What had she actually done with the poor worms, after Krolik’s untimely end? ‘Oh, set them free’ (big vague gesture), ‘turned them out, put them back onto suitable plants, buried them in the pupal state.’” Van discovers on seeing a photograph of Krolik that he looks “much less furry and fat than I imagined” (404.04).

219.16: her abnormally passionate childhood: MOTIF: child.

219.18: ardent twelve-year-old Ada: MOTIF: Ada; ardor.

219.20-23: although many similar little girls had bloomed—and run to seed—in the old châteaux of France and Estotiland as portrayed in extravagant romances and senile memoirs: They had? Examples?

219.25: Venus Villa sessions: MOTIF: Villa Venus.

219.25-26: earlier visits to the riverhouses of Ranta or Livida: “Ranta” at Chose is a version of the Granta in Cambridge, England (see 181.01 and n.), and Van performs as Mascodagama “at the Rantariver Club several times” (181.05). Cf. also “silly Chose snapshots of punt girls” (297.09), with its contextual play on “punt” and its obvious rhyme-word. Livida as a river: perhaps a version of Ireland’s River Liffey, which rises in the Wicklow Mountains, given the reference to Van’s “frightfully expensive little courtesans in Wicklow” (103.23-24), with pun on “livid” and an echo of “Ada”?

219.25: riverhouses: Ardeur 184: “bordels flottants” (floating brothels).

219.27-28: the merest touch of her finger or mouth following a swollen vein: Cf. 120.09-10: “those famous fingertrips up your Africa.”

219.29: delicia: Latin, “delight, pleasure.”

219.30: winslow: N1: “a caress.” Perhaps Nabokov formed this from something like, “Oh! In slow!”?

219.32: the most exact arts or the wildest flights of pure science: Nabokov loved to contrast art and science, reversing, as here, the expected associations, as in CE 158, “I did not know . . . there existed a Russian prose which borrowed its romantic sweep from science and its terse precision from poetry”; LL 6: “a merging of the precision of poetry and the intuition of science”; SO 7: “the passion of science and the patience of poetry”; SO 10: “the precision of poetry and the excitement of pure science”; SO 79: “There is no science without fancy, and no art without facts.”
Cf. 436.27: “how incestuously—c’est le mot—art and science meet.”

219.33-220.01: in his love-making with Ada he discovered the pang, the ogon’, the agony of supreme ‘reality’: Cf. SM 232: “In one particular pine grove [with “Tamara”] everything fell into place, I parted the fabric of fancy, I tasted reality.” Cf. Greg Erminin on his love for Ada, 454.29-30: “It was frenzy, it was fantasy, it was reality in the x degree.”

219.34: ogon’: Darkbloom: “Russ., fire.”

220.01: Reality, better say, lost the quotes it wore like claws: Cf. 232.02-03: “the confusion of two realities, one in single, the other in double, quotes, was a symptom of impending insanity.” Cf. SO 154: “I tend more and more to regard the objective existence of all events as a form of impure imagination—hence my inverted commas around ‘reality’”; interview with Sophie Lannes, “Portrait de Nabokov,” L’Express, 30 June-6 July 1975: “La ‘réalité’ est un des rares mots qui ne veulent rien dire sans guillemets” (“‘Reality’ is one of those rare words which mean nothing without quotation marks”).

220.09-10: the vanity of virtue: MOTIF: Van.

220.11: the ardencies of that summer: MOTIF: ardor.

220.12-15: she knew long before he told her that he had used off and on, during their separation, the live mechanisms tense males could rent: Van tells Ada on his first morning back at Ardis, 195.21-27.

220.16-17: a three-volume History of Prostitution which she had read at the age of ten or eleven: For Ada’s being “denied the free use of the library,” see 130.01 ff. Cf. Nabokov’s account of reading about “P.” (for “prostitution”) as a boy: “On rainy days, crouching at the foot of a little-used bookshelf, in a poor light that did all it could to discourage my furtive inquiry, I used to look up obscure, obscurely tantalizing and enervating terms in the Russian eighty-two-volume edition of Brockhaus' Encyclopedia, where, in order to save space, the title word of this or that article would be reduced, throughout a detailed discussion, to its capitalized initial. . . ‘Moses tried to abolish P. but failed.’ . . . “ (SM 208).

220.18: Captain Grant’s Microgalaxies: Darkbloom: “known on Terra as Les Enfants du Capitaine Grant [1867-68], by Jules Verne [1828-1905].” The Children of Captain Grant is also known in English as In Search of the Castaways. Cf. 334.28-29: “to the burning tip of Patagonia, Captain Grant’s Horn, a Villa in Verna, my jewel, my agony.”

220.21-22: the chatter, the lays and the fannies of rotting pornographers: Lay, after “chatter,” suggests the sense (W2): “A song; a simple lyric or short narrative poem; a ballad”; but it also, before “pornographers,” suggests the modern American sense of girls or women, “regarded as copulatory partners” (Partridge, lay 11; from 1945).  Fannies means, in British slang from about 1860, “female pudenda,” a sense derived perhaps (Partridge) from Fanny Hill (see below), although in American slang, it tends to mean “backsides.” The words combine also to evoke two novels often regarded as pornographic, Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1928), by D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930), and Fanny Hill.especially in II.5.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover was published in Italy in 1928, but could not be published in Britain, except in a censored and abridged 1945 edition, until 1960. This edition was the subject of a high-profile trial under the 1959 Obscene Publications Act (an Act whose provisions allowed Lolita not to be prosecuted on its 1959 British publication), which resulted in the publisher, Penguin, being declared “not guilty.” especially in II.5.
Fanny Hill, the popular name of Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (1748-49), by John Cleland (1709-1789), was the first pornographic novel. Often prosecuted and banned, it was republished in Britain in 1960 by Gareth Powell of Mayflower Books, after the “not guilty” verdict against Penguin Books for its publication of Lady Chatterley’s Lover. A bookseller, Ralph Gold, was prosecuted for selling copies in a trial that took place in February 1964. Although the book was ruled obscene, “the case had highlighted the growing disconnect between the obscenity laws and the social realities of late 1960s Britain, and was instrumental in shifting views to the point where in 1970 an unexpurgated version of Fanny Hill was once again published in Britain” (Wikipedia, 18 March 2012).

220.22-24: its author must add in the margin of galley proofs which a bedridden old man heroically corrects:  This suggests that the next two paragraphs are the last part Van writes of Ada, the next paragraph being the last addendum to the addendum. MOTIF: Composition: Van; [adjective] [young/old] man.

220.25-28: a few more . . . about: The missing words or word would seem to be “words.”

220.25-27: [the end of the sentence . . . . Editor’s Note]: MOTIF: Composition: Editor.

220.29-32: that in the starlight of eternity, my, Van Veen’s, and her, Ada Veen’s, conjunction, somewhere in North America, in the nineteenth century represented but one trillionth of a trillionth part of a pinpoint planet’s significance: A pun on the “conjunction” of celestial bodies, especially planets; and, in “pinpoint,” an echo of Microgalaxies above (220.18) and an anticipation of the rendering of Terra, in Van’s Letters from Terra, as microscopic (340.14-19: “microscope . . . minikin . . . micromermaid”). Cf. also 339.07-09: “under the influence of a Counterstonian type of intermediate environment between sibling galaxies, to several trillions of light-years per second.”

220.29: in the starlight of eternity: Cf. RLSK 66: “what is called the practical side of life (though, between you and me, bookkeeping or bookselling looks singularly unreal in the starlight).”

220.32-34: can bray ailleurs, ailleurs, ailleurs (the English word would not supply the onomatopoeic element; old Veen is kind): ailleurs: Darkbloom: “elsewhere.” Presumably old Van thinks himself kind here, despite the haughtiness of the paragraph as a whole, because he has deigned to explain why he has used the French rather than the English word.

220.34-221.02: because the rapture of her identity, placed under the microscope of reality (which is the only reality): Cf., of Theresa in Letters from Terra, “has to place her on a slide under a powerful microscope” (340.13-14).  The sentence begins to jump the syntactical rails at this point.

221.01-02: under the microscope of reality (which is the only reality): Cf. Nabokov’s own pronouncements on detail as essential to truth: EO, I.8:
“In art as in science there is no delight without the detail”; LATH 24:“the divine detail”; SO 168: “Only myopia condones the blurry generalizations of ignorance. In high art and pure science detail is everything.”

221.04: embraced:  Cf. 217.30: “They saw themselves standing there, embraced”; 287.04: “they stood embraced.”

221.07: My magic carpet: The writer’s skill overcoming the downward pull of gravity, or mortality, as it were. MOTIF: gravity; magic carpet.

221.07: crown canopies: The canopies of crowns of trees. Cf. 204.17-19: “the great weeping cedar, whose aberrant limbs extended an oriental canopy (propped up here and there by crutches made of its own flesh like this book.”

221.08: and her rarest orchids: As Liana Ashenden notes (2000: 65), these seem to be the last words Van has written (apart from the instruction “Insert”), and orchids feature also in the last paragraph of the novel: “butterflies and butterfly orchids in the margin of the romance” (589.04-05). Perhaps here it is worth remembering that Nabokov’s design for a Penguin paperback cover for Ada was a cattleya orchid (see AdaOnline home page).

221.08: Insert: Cf. similar instructions to typesetters or printers, in Lolita 109, (I.26): “Lolita, Lolita, Lolita. Repeat till the page is full, printer”) and PF 18 (“Insert before a professional”).

Afternote to Part One, Chapter 35

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