Part 2 Chapter 7



At the end of Pt. 2 Ch. 6, in the first hour of their 1892 Manhattan reunion, Van and Ada sexually reconnect, in a way that reenacts Ardis, and then they rapidly repeat the performance. With the erotic pressure released, Ada in Pt. 2 Ch. 7 immediately shows Van the photograph album of Ardis the First that she paid $1000 to take from Kim Beauharnais. She had thought that that payment ended the blackmail threat; Van points out that Kim will have retained the negatives, and the threat remains.
Van has forever abjured Ardis, but Ardis now comes to him in the form of the album’s visual review of his first summer there. When he revisited Ardis in 1888 he had hoped to relive the magic of the 1884 summer. While he and Ada could recapture some of the old joys, while they could wander together through the memory-haunted park, new sorrows and pangs had surfaced. Now, revisiting Ardis 1884 again, neither in space nor memorial time but via Kim’s stark photographs, Van feels a new assault on remembered glories, and new twinges of doubt: need he feel jealousy toward even Dr. Krolik? And Ada has made the mistake of leaving in the album one photograph of 1888, thinking it of the willow islet she and Van frequented in 1884. Van infers that this spring 1888 photograph, before his June 1888 return, records her tryst with another lover, and that apart from that photograph she has excised from the album the entire record of Ardis the Second and therefore the visual evidence of her infidelities there that drove him away forever.
Revisiting Kim’s version of Ardis the First, for Van as for Ada, is part horror, at the thought they were being spied on and are now under the thundercloud of blackmail, and part affront, at the meanly objective view of their subjective enchantments. But for us it is also a series of memory tests, three hundred pages or more back in reading time, as well as a fascinating new perspective both on the past and Van and Ada’s different senses of it in their present, and, often, a riot of new scenes and angles not disclosed in Van’s initial retelling.
After the reductiveness of Kim’s photography, the chapter ends with a converse and dangerous expansiveness: a parodic compendium of romantic extravagance, showing the “veritable legend” that others around Van and Ada at Ardis and in the countryside beyond—handmaids and their swains, police officers, gardeners and herdsmen, even virgin chatelaines—have since made of Van and Ada’s ardors in arbors: “a sacred secret and creed” of love. “All of which,” concludes Van, “only means that our situation is desperate” (409).


396.01-408.13: During her dreary stay . . . .  spoofed and condemned: MOTIF: Kim’s photography.

396.01: During her dreary stay at Ardis: Ada is referred to here only by the pronoun “her” because the chapter continues immediately on from the end of II.6 (“‘We’ll speak about my talents and tricks some other time,’ said Ada. ‘It’s a painful subject. Now let’s look at these snapshots,’” 395.15-17) to her reported speech here, as she explains how she now comes to be holding the photograph album. No other chapter in Ada follows on so swiftly from its predecessor. 

396.01: her dreary stay at Ardis: Ada has been living, at first with her mother, in the American West, in California and Arizona, but yesterday, when Lucette visited Van at Kingston, she could report: “Sis is revisiting Ardis” (369.16). Cf. Lucette’s impression of her own single night at Ardis: “sad, sad Ardis” (380.07).  Ardis is their summer home, and this is November, and Dan is in a wheelchair and gaga (396.08-11).

396.02: enlarged: Bodenstein, Appendix 7.8, observes that this puns on photographic “enlargement.”

396.02: Kim Beauharnais: Kitchen boy Kim, identified in Ardis the Second as “snoopy Kim, the kitchen photo-fiend” (205.20), will shortly turn out to be not just a snoop but an insistent spy and a blackmailer. As Jansy Mello noted (Nabokv-L, June 28, 2008), he is clearly named after Kim (full name Kimball O’Hara: note the Kimb . . . har embedded in the photo-fiend’s full name), the hero of the novel Kim (1901), by Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), about an English boy brought up in India virtually as an Indian, and eager to act as a spy for the British against the Russians, during the “Great Game” of Anglo-Russian competition, in the wake of the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878-1880).

Victor Fet adds, Nabokv-L, June 28, 2008: “Kim . . . was a popular male acronym in 1920s Russia, deciphered as . . . Kommunisticheskij Internatsional Molodezhi (The Communist Youth International, a section of Comintern in 1919-1943). One of the Communist youth’s desired features is, of course, spying and informing (see classical Pavlik Morozov story of 1930s); in this sense Kim B. is a Soviet ‘young pioneer’ in Ada’s Amerussian world.”
The British double agent Harold “Kim” Philby (1912-1988) was one of the world’s best-known real-life spies in the 1950s and 1960s. Recruited by the Soviet Union in 1934, he worked at a high level in the British Secret Intelligence Service and in British diplomacy and is believed to have passed on more secrets to the Soviets than any other agent. In 1951 he tipped off fellow British double agents Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess, who as a result could escape to the Soviet Union. Philby was suspected of aiding them, but after being exonerated in 1955 was able to return to his double agent role. Definitively unmasked as a Soviet agent in 1963, he defected to Moscow, where he lived out the rest of his life.
Laurence Hochard, Nabokv-L, June 28, 2008, suggests the appropriateness of the allusion to Joséphine de Beauharnais (1763-1814), Napoleon Bonaparte’s first wife: “She was of French and English ancestry and 6 years older than her husband who was nevertheless intensely in love with her until he was informed of her love affairs in Paris while he was in Egypt with his army; after that, his feelings were never the same and he started having affairs with women of his wife's entourage and she surprised him too (the spying theme). However, she was crowned empress but had to accept to be divorced a few years later as the marriage produced no heir. Her life and numerous love affairs were full of not very savoury episodes; this might be why, as an ironical comment on erotically ‘paradisal’ Ardis, VN gave her name to Kim, providing him with a very apt ancestry.”
MOTIF: ada's blushes.

396.03: album: MOTIF: album.

396.03: orange-brown cloth: Cf. 397.09: “The mud-colored scrapbook.”

396.06-07: a dusky colossus, vaguely resembling a janizary in some exotic opera: “Janizary” (W2): “A soldier of a body of Turkish infantry that existed from the 14th to the 19th century. The first Janizaries were personal slaves of the Sultan, and the later ones were mainly slaves, conscripts, and the sons of subject Christians seized as tribute. They formed the main fighting force of the Turks. They finally became so unruly that, on a revolt by them in 1826, many thousands of them were killed, the rest dispersed, and the organization was dispersed. The name has been frequently applied in literature to any Turkish soldier.”

Cf. EO III.344: “Janizaries . . . : In general, Turkish soldiers; specifically, slave soldiers of the Sultan; here, by extension, killers.”

Cf. the janizaries in Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail (see 381.29n.). Van's allusive outburst of fierce anger about the "speechless eunuch in ‘Stambul my bulbul'" (381.29) in the scene with Lucette at Kingston anticipates the fact that his anger will soon make this janizary-like figure sightless. Note that “album” lurks in “Stambul.”

A remarkably coincidental curio in Rul’, the Berlin Russian-language newspaper that Nabokov contributed to so frequently from its inception in 1920 to its demise in 1931: in a new column “Cinema News,” “Terra-Film is releasing for Easter the film ‘Stambul, a photographic album’” (March 20, 1931, p.4).
Ada 1968: “resembling an extra <inserted> a janizary”

396.07-08: stomping in to announce an invasion or execution: Cf. in Antiterran history the Allied landing in the Crimea in the Second Crimean War, as announced by a Ladore newspaper in July 1888 (231.25-27), and, in earthly history, the execution of Joséphine de Beauharnais’s first husband Alexandre (b. 1760) by guillotine in 1794.

396.08-09: Uncle Dan, who just then was being wheeled out by his handsome and haughty nurse: As Lucette told Van yesterday, “Dad has had another stroke” (369.15-16). Presumably “handsome and haughty” is Dan’s appraisal of his nurse, as imagined by Van; Demon sees her otherwise: “According to Bess (which is ‘fiend’ in Russian), Dan’s buxom but otherwise disgusting nurse, whom he preferred to all others and had taken to Ardis because she managed to extract orally a few last drops of ‘play-zero’ (as the old whore called it) out of his poor body” (435.18-22).

396.09-10: where coppery and blood-red leaves were falling: Recalls the translation (his revision of Ada’s effort for Mlle Larivière) of Coppée’s “Matin d’octobre” that Van cites to Demon at Ardis:

Their fall is gentle. The leavesdropper
Can follow each of them and know
The oak tree by its leaf of copper,
The maple by its blood-red glow. (247.20-23)

MOTIF: blood-red; copper; Leur chute est lente.

396.14-15: in the good old days. He had been hoping the good old days would resume their course:  The cliché not only takes on a threatening tinge, but falls absurdly short of Van and Ada’s sense of their summers together at the time and Van’s retrospective bitterness after Ardis the Second. 

396.16: mossio votre cossin: Darkbloom: “monsieur your cousin.”

396.16-18: he spoke a thick Creole thinking that its use in solemn circumstances would be more proper than his everyday Ladore English: Alexey Sklyarenko, Nabokv-L,  September 19, 2014, notes incorrectly that “Kim Beauharnais . . . is a Creole” (in fact he only affects Creole speech, and only here) but aptly records that Nabokov’s friend the historical novelist Mark Aldanov, in his story Zhosefina Bogarné i eyo gadalka (Josephine Beauharnais and her Fortune-Teller) “points out that Josephine Beauharnais (on Antiterra known as ‘Queen Josephine,’ 1.5) was a helpless Creole (born in Martinique) who had the traits of a Russian or Polish lady: ‘No u etoy bespomoshchnoy kreolki byli cherty russkoy ili pol’skoy baryshni.’” Joséphine was born Marie Josèphe Rose Tascher de la Pagerie in Les Trois-Îlets, Martinique, to a wealthy Creole family of sugar-cane plantation owners (see also 239.19-20n.).
Cf. another blackmailer, Norbert von Miller: “Versatile Norbert spoke English with an extravagant accent” (440.29).

396.19: and thus help bring the album up to date:  MOTIF: album.

397.01: pour tous les cernés: Ladoran Anglo-French, “for all concerned / encircled.” French concerner means “to concern” but is not used in an idiom equivalent to “for all concerned.”

397.01-02: “the shadowed ones,” the “encircled” rather than “concerned”: Correct translations of the French past participle cerné, emphasizing how Van and Ada have been shadowed by Kim, and “encircled” by him (in the photograph album), and at Ardis itself by Kim, Blanche, and Lucette.

397.03-04: (or destroy and forget . . . ) the illustrated document: Cf. especially, on Van and Ada’s realizing, soon after they have become lovers, that the herbarium in the Ardis attic offers evidence that they are full brother and sister: “Now don’t you think we should . . . go down, and bury or burn this album at once. . . . Destroy and forget” (9.08-11), the first instance of their awareness of the dangers of discovery or blackmail.

MOTIF: destroy and forget.

397.04-05: now in her pretty hands.  Wincing angrily at the jolies: Cf. Dorothy Vinelander—another would-be spy, suspicious in the wrong way about Van and Ada (“During the next days, Dorothy used her leisure to spy upon Ada. The woman was sure of three things: that Ada had a lover in Switzerland; that Van was her brother; and that he was arranging for his irresistible sister secret trysts with the person she had loved before her marriage. The delightful phenomenon of all three terms being true, but making nonsense when hashed, provided Van with another source of amusement,” 527.03-09)—also seeks to flatter Ada about her looks and also produces a wince in response. Speaking at first of Lucette, Dorothy intones: “‘as I always said, her prettiness seemed to complement Ada’s, the two halves forming together something like perfect beauty, in the Platonic sense’ (that cheerless smile again). ‘Ada is certainly a “perfect beauty,” a real muirninochka—even when she winces like that—but she is beautiful only in our little human terms, within the quotes of our social esthetics—right, Professor?—in the way a meal or a marriage or a little French tramp can be called perfect.’ ‘Drop her a curtsey,’ gloomily remarked Van to Ada” (518.26-519.01).

397.05: jolies: Darkbloom: “pretty.”

397.05: opened the album: MOTIF: album.

397.07: the grinning blackmailer: MOTIF: blackmail.

397.07-08: a thousand-dollar note that she happened to have in her bag: High denomination notes were indeed issued in the US until 1945 but discontinued in 1969.

MOTIF: riches.

397.11: a swamp-tulip leaf: A leaf of the tree Liriodendron tulipifera, the tulip tree, also known as swamp tulip, more than one of which grow just outside the Ardis manor house (68.10-11: “to drum upon the liriodendron and imperialis leaves outside,” 283.01: “Van was lying in his netted nest under the liriodendrons”).

397.13: n’aurait jamais dû recevoir ce gredin: Darkbloom: “should never have received that scoundrel.”

397.19-20: Home for Blind Colts or Aging Ashettes: By 1905 Ardis itself will become a “Home for Blind Blacks” (503.14). Cf. also Van’s “I’m keeping Kim safe and snug in a nice Home for Disabled Professional People, where he gets from me loads of nicely brailled books” (446.05-07).

MOTIF: Home for . . . .

397.20: Ashettes: Darkbloom: “Cinderellas.” Cf. “little goose Blanche. . . . rushed down the corridor and lost a miniver-trimmed slipper on the grand staircase, like Ashette in the English version” (114.15-17).  

MOTIF: Cinderella.

397.21-23: “Odd, your saying that.” “Why?” “Never mind. . . . ”: Odd, because as Van will soon learn from Ada, after they have pored over the album, the child of Ashette-Blanche and her husband, coachman Trofim Fartukov (hence the irony also in “Blind Colts”), has been born blind (408.22).

Cf. Demon responding to Van’s “my torrid affair” (244.17: “Curious, you calling it that”) and Demon’s response to Van’s comment on Demon’s description of Cordula’s husband (“I don’t care . . . if he looks like a crippled, crucified, albino toad”): “Funny your saying that” (436.15-17).

MOTIF: your saying that.

397.25-27: his little cousin Ada . . . may have suspected the whole truth: I.e. that Van and Ada are not only cousins but also full brother and sister. The enthusiastic gossip Blanche, who knows that Demon is Ada’s father as well as Van’s (8.32), is with Kim on the night of Demon’s 1888 dinner at Ardis (258.14-16: “From under the anxious magnolias a white-faced boy flanked by two gaping handmaids stood aiming a camera at the harmless, gay family group”) and could easily have passed on the information that they are at least half-brother and sister.

MOTIF: family relationship.

397.26: as a hawk of genius: MOTIF: of genius.

397.28: because you bought his album: MOTIF: album.

397.32-34: I know where to reach him. He lectures, if you please, on the Art of Shooting Life at the School of Photography in Kalugano: Ada mentions this because she does not yet realize that they are still at Kim’s mercy, since he has the negatives, and that Van will therefore be likely to assault him to protect their secret.

397.33-34: the Art of Shooting Life at the School of Photography in Kalugano: A pun on the photographic or cinematographic “shoot” and on “life” as photographing living subjects in unstaged action, linked with Kalugano as the scene of Van’s pistol-shot duel, and his momentary thought there that he will be killed (310.18-19).

398.01: Good place for shooting: See previous n.

398.02: the ‘beastly thing’: Cf. Ada on the album, at 397.23: “Anyway, the beastly thing is now safe.”

398.05-11: what was your so-called I.Q. when we first met?” “Two hundred and something. A sensational figure.” “Well, by now it has shrunk rather badly. Peeking Kim has kept all the negatives plus lots of pictures he will paste or post later.” “Would you say it has dropped to Cordula’s level?”:  Only about 0.1% of the population scores 145 or over on I.Q. tests, so over 200 is indeed sensational.
For contrasts between Ada’s intelligence and Cordula’s, see for instance Cordula at her first meeting with Van (“‘We are not in the same class, in more ways than one’ (laughing); ‘she’s a little genius, I’m a plain American ambivert, but we are enrolled in the same Advanced French group,’” 165.26-29), or her second (“‘Ada, what on earth is he talking about? Some Italian film he has seen?’ ‘Van,’ said Ada in a tired voice, ‘you do not realize that the Advanced French Group at my school has advanced no farther than to Racan and Racine,’” 169.15-19), or her fourth (“She was not a bright little girl. But she was a loquacious and really quite exciting little girl. He started to caress her under the table,” 303.27-29). 

MOTIF: riches.

398.08: Peeking Kim: Play on “peeping Tom,” with an additional play on “Peking” and “Kim” as an oriental (especially Korean) name, including that of Kim Il-sung (1912-1994), the leader of North Korea from its foundation, in 1948 (during the Korean War, when he had the support of Peking) and until long after Ada’s publication.  

398.12: Now let’s look at these snapshots: Echoes exactly Ada’s last words in the previous chapter, 395.17.

398.14-15: one of Van’s initial impressions of Ardis Manor: See Pt. 1 Ch. 5, 37.11-20.         

MOTIF: memory test.

398.16-17: the shadow of a calèche darkening the gravel: Among the forms taken by the vehicle transporting Van from the local railroad station to Ardis in 1884 is “the old calèche” (34.15), but he first catches sight of Marina and Ada after “A victoria had stopped at the porch” (37.11). 

398.17-18: the white step of a pillared porch: Cf. SM 233, “the six-pillared white portico at the back of my uncle’s mute, shuttered manor”; Mary 68, “pillared porch”; “The Poplar” (PP 169): “a pillared porch, last seen / In July, nineteen seventeen.”

398.18-19: Marina, one arm still in the sleeve of the dust coat which a footman (Price) was helping her to remove, stood brandishing her free arm in a theatrical gesture of welcome: Cf. the start of Ardis the Second, where Ada’s “bare arms, stretched wide, were holding outspread the white cape of Baroness von Skull, a grand-aunt of hers. Against the white cape Ada’s new long figure was profiled in black—the black of her smart silk dress with no sleeves, no ornaments, no memories. The slow old Baroness stood groping for something under one armpit, under the other—for what? a crutch? the dangling end of tangled bangles?—and as she half-turned to accept the cloak (now taken from her grandniece by a belated new footman) Ada also half-turned” (187.10-188.01).

398.19: a footman (Price): Cf. “Price, the mournful old footman” (38.03).

398.21-22: the grimace of helpless beatitude twisting her face: Marina’s beatitude at welcoming the son she has seen so rarely and, until now, never for long; helpless because she has only one arm free for her would-be “theatrical gesture of welcome” (398.20-21).

398.22-25: while Ada in a black hockey blazer—belonging really to Vanda—spilled her hair over her bare knees as she flexed them and flipped Dack with her flowers to check his nervous barks: Cf. the initial report of the scene: “a dark-haired girl of eleven or twelve, preceded by a fluid dackel, were getting out. Ada carried an untidy bunch of wild flowers. She wore a white frock with a black jacket and there was a white bow in her long hair. He never saw that dress again and when he mentioned it in retrospective evocation she invariably retorted that he must have dreamt it, she never had one like that, never could have put on a dark blazer on such a hot day, but he stuck to his initial image of her to the last” (37.12-20). Van’s memory rather than Ada’s is vindicated by Kim’s photo.
MOTIF: memory test.

398.27: the colutea circle: W2, “colutea”: “A small genus of Eurasian shrubs of the pea family (Fabaceae).” Bladder senna, Colutea arborescens (baguenaudier in French), growing up to 5 meters, is widely cultivated for its yellow flowers. Cf. the morning after the Night of the Burning Barn: “‘Wait for me in the Baguenaudier Bower,’ she added” (128.06-07 and see n.); “Blue butterflies nearly the size of Small Whites, and likewise of European origin, were flitting swiftly around the shrubs and settling on the drooping clusters of yellow flowers. In less complex circumstances, forty years hence, our lovers were to see again, with wonder and joy, the same insect and the same bladder-senna along a forest trail near Susten in the Valais” (128.26-31).

398.27: the grotto’s black O: Ada shows Van the Ardis grounds in Pt. 1 Ch. 6, including “a sham grotto” (44.05). Grottoes have been fashionable features in the gardens of the wealthy since late sixteenth-century Italy.

398.27-28: and the hill, and the big chain around the trunk of the rare oak: Echoes the adaptations of the Chateaubriand verses, “Le Montagnard émigré” or “Romance à Hélène” (see 138.01-139.04 and nn.), that become a motif for Van and Ada in Ardis the First, anticipating their future retrospection: especially “Oh! qui me rendra mon Aline / Et le grand chêne et ma colline? // Oh, who will give me back my Jill / And the big oak tree and my hill?” (138.13-16). Here “the big chain” puns on “le grand chêne” (whose noun is a partial homophone of “chain”).

MOTIF: grand chêne; Oh! qui me rendra .

398.29: Quercus ruslan Chât.: Nabokov wrote to Bobbie Ann Mason: “The specific name of this invented tree alludes to the beginning of Pushkin’s long poem Ruslan and Lyudmila (1820) where there is a cat (chat in French) walking on a golden chain around a fairytale oaktree. The oak in Ada is supposed to have been described by a botanist named Châtel (or Châtelet or Château-Lafite) abbreviated to ‘Chât.’ after the specific ‘ruslan.’ The distorted shadow of Chateaubriand should not interfere with the flash of the Ruslan-oak-cat recognition” (cited in Mason, 177).

In his EO commentary, VN describes Ruslan and Lyudmila as “a mock epic in six cantos. . . . This spirited fairy tale, bubbling along in freely rhymed iambic tetrameters, deals with the adventures of pleasantly Gallicized knights, damsels, and enchanters in a cardboard Kiev. Its debt to French poetry and to French imitations of Italian romances is overwhelmingly greater than the influence upon it of Russian folklore, but the purity of its diction and the verve of its colloquial modulations make of it, historically, the first Russian masterpiece in the narrative genre” (EO II.36).
But “Quercus ruslan Chat.” alludes not to the 1820 original of Pushkin’s poem but to the famous opening of the prologue in its 1828 second edition, which became even more famous through its becoming a motif in Chekhov’s Three Sisters.
Four Sisters, the Antiterran equivalent of Chekhov’s play, will become a focus in the next chapter but one, Pt. 2 Ch. 9 (427-30), because both Marina and Ada have acted in different productions of the play. Van is amused to see in a program of a production where Ada had been cast as Irina: “the role of Fedotik, an artillery officer (whose comedy organ consists of a constantly clicking camera), had been assigned to a ‘Kim (short for Yakim) Eskimossoff’” (430.02-04), as if in echo of photo-fiend Kim Beauharnais. In Chekhov’s original, at the end of Act I, Fedotik takes a photograph and Masha, in abstracted response, quotes, not for the last time, the opening two lines of Pushkin’s prologue to Ruslan and Ludmila, “U lukomor’ya dub zelyoniy, / Zlataya tsep’ na dube tom” (“By a sea arc a green oak, / a golden chain upon it”), but not the next two lines, “I dnyom i noch’yu kot uchoniy / Vsyo khodit po tsepi krugom” (“And day and night a learned cat / Keeps going round on the chain”), or, as translated by Roger Clarke, “By an arc of sea a green oak stands, / to the oak a chain of gold is tied, /and at the chain’s end day and night / a learnèd cat walks round and round” (Pushkin, Ruslan and Lyudmila, trans. Roger Clarke (London: Hesperus Poetry, 2005, 5)), or in a translation supplied by Alexey Sklyarenko, Nabokv-L, April 10, 2016, “A green oak grows at the sea, / A golden chain is on that oak. / Night and day a learned cat / Paces the chain round the tree.”
In his note to Mason, Nabokov emphasizes the circumflex in “Chât.” But in his own copy of Ada, he corrects the â to a, to read “Chat.” It has ceased to be an abbreviation for the botanist who identified this oak species and named perhaps “Châtel (or Châtelet or Château-Lafite),” and has become a much more direct sign of the chat in Pushkin’s poem or the Chateaubriand who composed the lines that Van and Ada riff on, in their “Oh! qui me rendra mon Aline / Et le grand chêne et ma colline?”— perhaps with a side-glance at the Antiterran entomologist Charles Chateaubriand who first captured and identified as a new species what became known as “Chateaubriand’s mosquito” (106.11). Nabokov’s correction (followed by Dmitri in editing the Vintage edition) appears to show him undecided in what he had intended: to hide the Pushkinian “chat” and “Chateaubriand” under the thin roof of a circumflex (as in the first edition and his note to Mason) or to remove the accent, as in his emendation, and allow the doubleness of plain “Chat,” Pushkin’s cat and Chateaubriand’s oak, and even the tripleness, with the added Chekhov-photo-fiend allusion, as a puzzle already complex enough.
Early in Ardis the First, Ada shows Van around the estate: “I think we are supposed to go and look at the grand chêne which is really an elm” (53.34-54.01)—which would indeed make it a rare oak.
As Proffer 271 notes, Quercus “is also an important book title in Nabokov’s Invitation to a Beheading”: “The novel was the famous Quercus, and Cincinnatus had already read a good third of it, or about a thousand pages. Its protagonist was an oak. The novel was a biography of that oak. . . . The idea of the novel was considered to be the acme of modern thought. Employing the gradual development of the tree . . . the author unfolded all the historic events—and shadows of events—of which the oak could have been a witness” (IB 122).

398.33-399.02: Another girl (Blanche!) stooping and squatting exactly like Ada (and indeed not unlike her in features) over Van’s valise opened on the floor, and “eating with her eyes” the silhouette of Ivory Revery in a perfume advertisement: After arriving at Ardis, even before he has seen his “cousins” and “aunt,” Van is asked by the butler Bouteillan, once Demon’s valet: “Would Van like him or a maid to unpack? Oh, one of the maids, said Van, wondering briefly what item in a schoolboy’s luggage might be supposed to shock a housemaid. The picture of naked Ivory Revery (a model)?” (36.09-13). For “Ivory Revery,” see 36.12n.
MOTIF: memory test.

398.33-34: (Blanche!) stooping and squatting exactly like Ada (and indeed not unlike her in features): Cf. “Ada squatted and moved, squatting, with her black hair falling over her ivory-smooth moving knees” (52.09-10).

MOTIF: like X .

399.01: “eating with her eyes”: On Van’s first night at Ardis the Second, Blanche glides into the toolroom, after a rendezvous of her own, to catch sight of Van and Ada “still fiercely engaged”: “Oh, she had become wonderfully pretty, and elle le mangeait des yeux”(191.02-11).
MOTIF: mangeait.

399.02-04: Then the cross and the shade of boughs above the grave of Marina's dear housekeeper, Anna Pimenovna Nepraslinov (1797-1883): These details and the very existence of Marina’s “dear housekeeper” have never been mentioned before and will not recur again. Are the details simply a marker of the indiscriminate voraciousness of Kim’s camera, at this early stage of his exploring his craft? Or is the “dear housekeeper” with her unusual patronymic and surname just a character emerging by “spontaneous generation” (NG 83), one of those “‘secondary’ dream characters [who] pop out at every turn . . . to flaunt for a second their life-like existence” (NG 42) that Nabokov so admired in Gogol? The provision of her years of birth and death may seem to mark her as a figure of note in this date-studded family chronicle (note the dates 1775, 1772 and 1773 four to six lines later, for instance), although it also simply records what Kim’s camera has happened to passively register inscribed on her gravestone.

Alexey Sklyarenko, Nabokv-L, January 29, 2016, notes that near the end of Eugene Onegin Tatiana, now Princess N., tells Onegin that she would gladly give away the triumphs of her fashionable world for her country past, “for those haunts where for the first time, / Onegin, I saw you, / and for the humble churchyard, too, / where there’s a cross now and the shade of branches / over my poor nurse” (Eight: XLVI: 10-14).

Tatiana’s “poor nurse” Arina features in the first scene in Ada to showcase Marina vividly present in the scenic action, when she enacts on a Manhattan stage the role of Tatiana (or “Lara” in the mangled theatrical adaptation Eugene and Lara) penning her letter to “Baron d’O.”As noted in the commentary on her discussing the local squire with “an old nurse in Eskimo boots. Upon the infinitely wise countrywoman’s suggestion, she goose-penned, from the edge of her bed . . . a love letter” (11.05-08): “The Eskimo boots are a misguided attempt to costume Tatiana's nurse, a Russian. Nabokov here also burlesques the traditions that Pushkin's own nurse's tales prompted him to write some of his narrative verse (see EO II.361-62, 452-53). As Alexey Sklyarenko also points out (Nabokv-L, January 21, 2010): ‘In Pushkin's novel Tatiana doesn't ask, of course, her nurse's advice and writes a love letter to Onegin of her own accord: “All at once in her mind a thought was born . . . / ‘Go, let me be alone. / Give me, nurse, a pen, paper, / and move up the table’” (Chapter Three, XXI, 3-6).’”

Although a “dear housekeeper” and a “poor nurse” are very different household roles, a female character’s affection for another now-dead female in the family retinue seems to link Anna Pimenovna Nepraslinov and Tatiana’s nurse, as the Pushkinian echo confirms (see Pléiade III.1473n7).  And the “Eskimo” nurse has an odd connection with the “Kim” who takes the photograph of the housekeeper’s grave: recall that in Ada’s production of Four Sisters, camera-crazy Fedotik is played by “a ‘Kim (short for Yakim) Eskimossoff’” (430.04).

“Pimenovna” suggests Anna’s father was a monk. “Pimen” is the Russian version of the name of Poemon the Great (c.340-450), an early Christian monk and Eastern Orthodox saint. Pimen, as Sklyarenko notes, is “the old monk and chronicler in Pushkin’s drama Boris Godunov (1825).” In Nabokov’s lifetime, Sergey Mikhailovich Izvekov (1910-1990) adopted the priestly name Pimen, became an archbishop in 1960, Metropolitan of Leningrad and Ladoga in 1961, and in 1971 became Pimen I, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.

“Nepraslinov” means “not of the Praslins.” There is a Praslin family in Ada, again fleetingly mentioned, friends of both sides of the Veen family and evocative of the French upper aristocracy, “as grand as you get,” to echo the snobs in Proust discussing the Praslins (see 253.02n). Praslin Island in the Seychelles, as Sklyarenko notes, is named after the French diplomat César Gabriel de Choiseul, duc de Praslin (1712-1785): perhaps another in the Tobak-Vinelander class? In any case, the dear housekeeper Anna the monk’s daughter is definitely “not of the ‘as grand as you get’ class.”

399.05: Let’s skip nature shots—of skunklike squirrels:A silver-and-sable skybab squirrel” (94.07).

Cf., later on the page, “Skip Lucette skipping rope” (399.28). “Skipping” Lucette, ignoring her as much as possible, is characteristic of Van and Ada’s behavior in Ardis the First. The only squirrel mentioned in Ardis—“that stray ardilla daintily leavesdropping” (98.12) near the Shattal apple tree—becomes an emblem of Lucette too overhearing the tumble, the fortunate Fall, in the Tree of Eden (see 98.12n, Boyd 1985/2001 148, and Pt. 1 Ch. 16 Afternote). Aqua notices the same species of squirrel on her last day, and likens them to skunks in her suicide note: “the same skunk-like squirrels, Van, that your Darkblue ancestor imported to Ardis Park” (29.10-11). Given the conjunction of Anna Pimenovna Nepraslinov’s year of death, 1883, and “skunklike squirrels,” it seems no accident that Aqua writes that phrase, and dies, the same year.
MOTIF: memory test.

399.05-06: a striped fish in a bubble tank: To hasten the drink that his father has ordered on his visit to Ardis, “Van pulled a green bell-cord which sent a melodious message pantryward and caused the old-fashioned, bronze-framed little aquarium, with its lone convict cichlid, to bubble antiphonally in a corner of the music room (an eerie, perhaps self-aerating reaction, which only Kim Beauharnais, the kitchen boy, understood)” (239.29-34), and when the drinks are brought, Marina, now present, motions Jones to place them on “a pedestal near the striped fish” (248.12). Van notes of Jones at the end of this paragraph: “Years later he rendered me a service that I will never forget” (248.16)—helping him locate Kim Beauharnais (407.26-28, 445.33) in order to end the threat of his blackmail.

A “convict cichlid” is named thus for its striped markings (see 239.31n.); Lucette, in one of the first ploys to prevent her observing Van and Ada making love, is placed by them in a bath she must not leave, a “liquid prison” (144.09).

399.07-12: A photograph of an oval painting. . . . "where did it hang?" "In Marina's boudoir. . . . ": Diana Makhaldiani wonders (email, April 28, 2022) "What is Kim doing in Marina's boudoir?" Good question. No wonder Marina says "as I can’t tell Kim, the kitchen boy, not to take photographs on the sly--he’s a regular snap-shooting fiend" (255.03-05).

399.09-10: Marina’s grandfather . . . Demon’s grandfather: MOTIF: family relationship;

399.09: Marina’s grandfather, born in 1772: Peter Zemski (1772-1832), see Family Tree.

399.10: Demon’s grandmother, born in 1773: Olga Veen, née Zemski (1773-1814), see Family Tree.

399.12: In Marina’s boudoir: Which Van may have visited only on the occasion, in 1888, when his mother summons him to discuss his over-close relationship with his cousin (she means Lucette), 232-34.

399.16-17: Sumerechnikov! He took sumerographs of Uncle Vanya years ago: Darkbloom: “His name comes from Russ., sumerki, twilight: see also p. 43”: “The late Sumerechnikov, American precursor of the Lumière brothers, had taken Ada’s maternal uncle in profile with upcheeked violin, a doomed youth, after his farewell concert” (43.08-11). This immediately follows the reference to “the many ancestors along the wall” of Ardis’s sumptuous staircase, among which Ada singles out for Van “her favorite, old Prince Vseslav Zemski (1699-1797)” (43.02-03), next to Sumerechnikov’s “enlarged photograph” (43.06) of Uncle Van.

“Sumerographs” seems to echo not only the indifferent light contrasts of the earliest attempts at photographs, the photograms of Thomas Wedgwood (1771-1805) around 1800, and the work of Nicéphore Niépce (1765-1833) in the mid-1820s, and especially the best known of the early processes, the daguerreotype, also named after its inventor and earliest practitioner, Louis Daguerre (1787-1851), but also a much earlier visual recording technology, the Sumerian cuneiform inscriptions of 3000-2000 BCE.

Cf. the -rechi- in another instance of Antiterran technology, the  “tape recorders” or “‘minirechi’ (‘talking minarets’)” of 147.09-13.  

MOTIF: technology.

399.16: Uncle Vanya: Uncle Ivan Durmanov is usually referred to as “Uncle Van”; Chekhov’s play Uncle Vanya is echoed once by Van, after Ada on the first morning of Ardis the Second mentions her dreams of acting, and Van conjures up other futures for the two of them: “or at the worst we shall live quietly, you as my housekeeper, I as your epileptic, and then, as in your Chekhov, ‘we shall see the whole sky swarm with diamonds’” (193.25-27 and n.).

399.18: The Twilight before the Lumières: Van puns on the “twilight” in Sumerechnikov’s name and the “light” in the name of the Lumière brothers, Auguste (1862-1954) and Louis (1864-1948), real-world pioneers of photography, in their case especially motion pictures, which they first screened in Paris in 1895.

MOTIF: technology.

399.18-19: Alonso, the swimming-pool expert: The Andalusian architect at the end of I.6 (45-46), who is to design “an ‘artistic’ swimming pool for Ardis Manor” (45.30-31). Swimming pools look anachronistic in 1884, but the first public bath may date back to the third millennium BCE. Public swimming pools became popular in Britain in the mid-nineteenth century, although private pools remained uncommon until after World War II, first becoming popular in the USA. The pool at Ardis continues the photography theme, since in Pt. 1 Ch. 32 director G.A. Vronsky, actress Marina, and actor Pedro attend in different ways around the pool to the shooting script of the film adaptation of Mlle Larivière’s novel Les Enfants Maudits.

399.19-20: I met his sweet sad daughter at a Cyprian party—she felt and smelt and melted like you: Van’s first Villa Venus, “three miles south of Bedford” (354.01): “Only one of the girls stung me right in the soul, but I went through all three of them grimly and leisurely, ‘changing mounts in midstream’ (Eric’s advice) before ending every time in the grip of the ardent Ardillusian, who said as we parted, after one last spasm (although non-erotic chitchat was against the rules), that her father had constructed the swimming pool on the estate of Demon Veen’s cousin” (354.23-30). The “Ardillusian” (earlier called “a pale Andalusian,” 354.15) Van recalls here seems in odd conjunction with the “ardilla” or “skunklike squirrel” of 399.05.

399.20: Cyprian: W2, as an adjective: “Of or pertaining to Cyprus (the reputed birthplace of Aphrodite), the people of Cyprus, or their language; also (in allusion to Aphrodite worship), licentious.” As a noun, apart from people of Cyprus, “b A lewd woman; a prostitute.” Van will describe the débauche à trois as if “seen from above, as if reflected in the ciel mirror that Eric had naively thought up in his Cyprian dreams” (418.33-419.01). The architecture associated with Alonso and with Eric Veen’s Villa Venus dreams seems to supply an associative link beyond Alonso’s daughter’s working at a floramor.
Cf. VN’s odd comment on EO I:xliii:1, “krasótki molodïe” or “young beauties”: “Pushkin, in the fair copies, wavered between krasotki, ‘little beauties,’ and geterï, ‘hetaerae,’ or, in the disgusting London idiom of the day, Cyprians. In Russian there was no polite term for these girls (many of whom hailed from Riga and Warsaw)” (EO II.165).

399.20: she felt and smelt and melted like you: MOTIF: like X.

399.23: Zdraste, Ivan Dementievich: Darkbloom: “abbrev. form of zdravstvuyte, the ordinary Russian greeting.” Van hails his own image, with the full name and patronymic combination, and in the formal plural mode (the -te ending), on seeing himself in the album for the first time.

MOTIF: Demon; Ivan Dem . . . ich.

399.23-30: his fourteen-year-old self . . . aiming a conical missile at the marble fore-image of a Crimean girl doomed to offer an everlasting draught of marble water to a dying marine from her bullet-chipped jar. . . . the famous first finch. “No, that’s a kitayskaya punochka (Chinese Wall Bunting)”: records the uneasy scene in I.8 where Van, awkward at being made to hold Ada’s hand, disengages “under the pretext of picking up a fir cone” and throws the cone

at a woman of marble bending over a stamnos but only managed to frighten a bird that had perched on the brim of her broken jar.
            “There is nothing more banal in the world,” said Ada, “than pitching stones at a hawfinch.”
            “Sorry,” said Van, “I did not intend to scare that bird. But then, I’m not a country lad, who knows a cone from a stone. . . . ” (50.10-18)

Recounting the last occasion when he saw Percy, at Ada’s sixteenth birthday, and knowing by now of Percy’s interest in Ada and jealousy of himself, Van as narrator looks forward with sour glee to Percy's death (“Percy, you were to die very soon . . . you were to die very soon, Percy,” 273.15-19). The birthday picnic scene gathers tension as Van, Percy, and Greg throw pebbles at a signboard (274.18-20), as if in echo of Van's cone (which Ada thought was a stone) thrown at the stamnos in the 1884 scene. After the stone-throwing, drunk Percy then urinates into the brook with a "practically everlasting stream" (274.27-28) that Van echoes here in the "everlasting draught of marble water" in his evocation of the 1884 cone-throwing photograph.

After Percy relieves himself, a fierce fight erupts between Van and Percy that has to stand in as Van’s first substitute for killing Percy in the duel that he would have sought, after finding Percy had indeed been Ada’s lover, if his rival were not already dead. Van’s second substitute for venting his rage on a living Percy is his narrative revenge: his double prolepsis, “Percy, you were to die very soon . . . you were to die very soon, Percy,” and his gleeful imagining of Percy’s death in the Second Crimean War: “I’m alive—who’s that?—civilian—sympathy—thirsty—daughter with pitcher—that’s my damned gun—don’t . . . et cetera or rather no cetera. . . . of course, an invaluable detail in that strip of thought would have been—perhaps, next to the pitcher peri—a glint, a shadow, a stab of Ardis” (320.13-20, first and last italics added).

While the image of the girl pouring from a pitcher in a war to Russia’s south echoes details from Tolstoy’s story “Prisoner of the Caucasus” (see 319.29n, 319.31n., 320.13-15n.), Van’s description in Pt. 2 Ch 7 of Kim’s photograph of the 1884 scene of his throwing a cone at the stamnos, “the marble fore-image of a Crimean girl doomed to offer an everlasting draught of marble water to a dying marine from her bullet-chipped jar,” becomes a multiple prolepsis and a compound allusion. The throwing a cone at the broken jar, which Ada mis-sees as throwing a stone, prefigures Van and Percy’s stone-throwing at Ada’s birthday picnic, and the tense fight between them, and the other anticipations of Percy’s death.

The “everlasting” in Van’s description of the photograph, along with the “broken jar” (50.13-14) of the original scene, also echoes Pushkin’s four-line poem, “Tsarskosel’skaia statuia” (“Tsarskoe Selo Statue,” 1830): “Urnu s vodoi uroniv, ob utios eyo deva razbila. / Deva pechal’no sidit, prazdnyy derzha cherepok. / Chudo! ne siaknet voda, izlivaias’ iz urny razbitoy; / Deva, nad vechnoi struei, vechno pechal’na sidit” (“Dropping an urn with water, a maid broke it against a rock. / The maid sits sadly, holding the idle crock. / Amazing! the water doesn’t dry up, as it pours from the broken urn; / Over the eternal stream the maid / eternally sits in sadness” (see Alexey Sklyarenko, Nabokv-L, August 6, 2012). Sklyarenko also notes that, while this fountain flows in the Catherine Park at Tsarskoe Selo, the Alexander Park there has a “kitayskaya derevnya (a stylized Chinese village),” echoed in Ada’s correction to Van’s “Ah, the famous first finch”: “No, that’s a kitayskaya punochka (Chinese Wall Bunting).”

The “Crimean girl” in Van’s description of the photograph echoes other Pushkin poems, “Fontanu Bakhchisarayskogo Dvortsa” (“To the Fountain of the Bakhchisaray Palace,” pub. 1826), which points back to the story Pushkin had told in his long poem, “Bakhchisarayskiy Fontan” (“The Fountain of Bakhchisaray,” 1821-23) (see Pléiade III.1473n.12). Sahib I Giray (1501-1551), the hero of the poem, was the Khan of Crimea (1532-1551) and established his palace in Bakhchisaray, a town in south central Crimea.

It may also be that the image of a female offering succor to a dying soldier in a Crimean war suggests Florence Nightingale, while the image of an eternal scene on a marble urn additionally evokes two great odes of one of Nabokov’s favorite poets, Keats: “Ode to a Nightingale” and “On a Grecian Urn” (see Boyd 1985/2001:171).

MOTIF: memory test.

399.24: aiming a conical missile: Both obscures and reveals the “fir cone” that Ada mis-saw as a stone (50.11-18).

399.28: Skip Lucette skipping rope: Recalls the portentous scene in which Lucette first sees Van and Ada making love: “Lucette had abandoned her skipping rope to squat on the brink of the brook and float a fetus-sized rubber doll.” When Van dives in naked to retrieve the doll after it is swept away, “Ada, after considering the situation for a moment, shut her book and said to Lucette, whom usually it was not hard to enchant, that she, Ada, felt she was quickly turning into a dragon, that the scales had begun to turn green, that now she was a dragon and that Lucette must be tied to a tree with the skipping rope so that Van might save her just in time. . . . Writhing Lucette had somehow torn off one of the red knobbed grips of the rope and seemed to have almost disentangled herself when dragon and knight, prancing, returned” (143.02-22; see also I.23 Afternote). Presumably Kim was not present at this scene by the brook, but only when Lucette skipped rope closer to the manor house. She is still skipping rope, still in the proximity of Van and Ada making love, in 1888: Ada’s hands were clutching a window ledge of the shooting gallery “in the ebbing throbs of her own response” as Van behind her glances across her shoulder to “note that Lucette was approaching—skipping rope, along a path in the shrubbery” (212.17-18).

399.29-30: Ah, the famous first finch. “No, that’s a kitayskaya punochka (Chinese Wall Bunting) . . . ”: Ada, in the cone-throwing scene, had disconcerted Van by identifying the bird he had startled as a hawfinch; he in competitive reply mocks her misnaming of the fir cone as a stone: “I did not intend to scare that bird. But then, I’m not a country lad, who knows a cone from a stone” (50.16-18).

“Famous”: at the start of Ardis the Second Van recalls: “I remember the first time you got cross with me was when I chucked a stone at a statue and frightened a finch” (192.12-14). The identification-misidentification pattern of 1884 now recurs eight years later as Van and Ada look at Kim’s album.

Cf. Ada’s cutting response to Greg’s awkward farewell a day or two after her 1884 birthday picnic: “‘I guess it’s your father under that oak, isn’t it?’ ‘No, it’s an elm’” (92.31-32).

MOTIF: Ada’s taxonomy.

399.30-34: kitayskaya punochka (Chinese Wall Bunting). . . . You remember how many exotic, alpine and polar, animals mixed with ordinary ones in our region: Johnson 2000: 167: "An ornithologist might well raise an eyebrow here. There is no such bird as a ‘Chinese Wall Bunting,’ nor does any bunting (Emberizidae) nest in the region of Ardis. Ada is punning on the Russian word for ‘bunting,’ i.e., punochka, which yields an Anglo-Russian word meaning ‘a cute little pun.’” There are species such as house bunting (E. sahari) and rock bunting (E. cia), as well as the Tibetan bunting (E. koslowi). Tibetan prayer flags are also a form of “bunting” (in the very different sense of textiles used for flags and ribbons); in his “cute little pun” VN seems to conjure up the Great Wall of China festooned in pennants like a Tibetan cairn, or the kitayskaya derevnya in the Alexander Park at Tsarskoe Selo (see 399.23-30n. above). 
MOTIF: riches.

399.30-31: kitayskaya punochka (Chinese Wall Bunting). It has settled on the threshold of a basement door: Cf. Ada’s showing Van early in Ardis the First where the hammock is stored: “in the corner of a basement toolroom behind the lilacs, the key was concealed in this hole here which last year was stuffed by the nest of a bird—no need to identify it” (53.11-13).

399.32: There are garden tools and croquet mallets inside: When Ada shows him into the toolroom in 1884, “A pointer of green sunlight daubed with greener paint a long green box where croquet implements were kept” (53.13-15).
MOTIF: memory test.

399.32-34: You remember how many exotic, alpine and polar, animals mixed with ordinary ones in our region: Cf. PF 169: Shade “never tired of illustrating by means of these examples the extraordinary blend of Canadian Zone and Austral Zone that ‘obtained,’ as he put it, in that particular spot of Appalachia where at our altitude of about 1,500 feet northern species of birds, insects and plants commingled with southern representatives”; Pnin 120: “Its birches and bilberries deceived her into placing mentally Lake Onkwedo not on the parallel of, say, Lake Ohrid in the Balkans, where it belonged, but on that of Lake Onega in northern Russia”; SM 124: “with sundry (alpine, polar, insular, etc.) ‘varieties.’”

MOTIF: remember.

400.01-03: Ada bending low over the dripping peach improperly peeled that she is devouring (shot from the garden through the french window): Ardis the First’s lunches are summarized and exemplified in Pt. 1 Ch. 10, but not this moment. The family do have “enormous purple pink plums” (62.20) at the lunch featured in detail.

400.04-05: Blanche struggling with two amorous tsigans in the Baguenaudier Bower: Where Van and Ada meet on the way to their first tryst after the Night of the Burning Barn.

400.05: tsigans: Russian tsigan (pl. tsigane), gipsy. MOTIF: gipsy

400.05-07: Uncle Dan calmly reading a newspaper in his little red motorcar, hopelessly stuck in black mud on the Ladore road: Dan reads newspapers avidly, if not well (68.07-20) and is associated with them (124.28-30); he is prone to mishaps, especially preventing him from reaching Ardis at all (45.31-33) or on time (79.18-19); he rides in the red runabout at 115.23-26. Only one photograph in the album, from 1888, is in color (406.27), so the “red” motorcar here in this 1884 image must be colored by memory.  MOTIF: black-red.

400.08-18: Two huge common Peacock moths, still connected . . . a pair of the Pear Peacock in copula:Saturnia pyri Denis & Schiffermüller, 1775 [Saturniidae]: the Peacock Moth, an emperor moth and the largest Lepidopteron in the warmer parts of Europe, W Asia and N Africa, with a wingspan of 100–130 mm. The wings have a wavy brownish, blackish and ocher pattern, usually with much chocolate brown, and a pale outer marginal band. There is a brown, red and black ringed eyespot on each wing. It flies only by night, circling around street lanterns and resembling a bird or a bat. It does not eat, living only as long as the fat reserves last. The Peacock Moth flies from late April to early June. There is just one brood. The large green caterpillar with blue knobs (length 80 mm, diameter 20 mm) lives in orchards and feeds on the leaves of apple and pear trees. The pupa overwinters. (Latin pirum or pyrum is 'pear' and 'apple,' whence the name Pear Peacock in Ada.)” (Dieter E. Zimmer’s A Guide to Nabokov’s Butterflies and Moths, web version, 2012,

Although Nabokov values precise science and art, and in general detests symbols, he has a Boschian exuberance in Ada, and there is decidedly something peacocky about Van and, in her way, Ada; they are frequently in copula at Ardis; and their amours are observed and celebrated by many of the Ardis staff, like the “Gardeners” who “paraphrased iridescent Persian poems about irrigation and the Four Arrows of Love” (409.13-14).

400.08-18: Peacock moths . . .  gardeners brought . . . which, in a way, reminds us of you, sweet Marco d’Andrea, or you, red-haired Domenico Benci, or you, dark and broody Giovanni del Brina . . .  or the one I dare not mention (because it is Lucette’s scholarly contribution—so easily botched after the scholar’s death) who likewise might have picked up . . . on a May morning in  1542, near Florence, a pair of the Pear Peacock in copula, the male with the feathery antennae, the female with the plain threads, to depict them faithfully (among wretched, unvisualized insects) on one side of a fenestral niche in the so-called “Elements Room” of the Palazzo Vecchio: Zimmer discusses in detail: “The painting is there, in the Palazzo Vecchio of Florence, on the second floor. The Elements Room (Quartiere degli Elementi) is one of several rooms of the ‘new quarters’ in the back of the Palace. It has its name from the allegorical paintings of the four elements that adorn three of its walls and its ceiling. There are three windows, all opening on the Via di Ninna. On the right hand side of the middle window niche there are two Peacock Moths, both about natural size, that is about 110 mm wide. They are about 30 cm apart and not in copula. But if the painter noticed that there is a difference between males and females and that it shows in the look of their antennae, somebody must have caught a pair in copula for him. The one on the right has featherlike (or plumose) antennae (the male), the left one has straight shafts (the female). In the same window niche there are eight other butterflies and dragonflies, all nondescript.” (, s.v. Saturnia pyri, accessed March 13, 2022.
Zimmer finds puzzling “the one I dare not mention” and wonders whether Nabokov may have intended this to refer to Gherardi:

“It would be tempting to decide which was the scholarly name Lucette contributed and the author withheld. However, the three names given do not accord well enough with what is known about the genesis of the Elements Room to allow an easy solution. The Elements Room was decorated from 1555 to 1556 under the direction of the painter, architect and writer Giorgio Vasari (1511–1574). Vasari had left the Pope's service in 1554 to become court artist of Grand Duke Cosimo I di Medici. One of his first tasks was to completely refurbish the town palace in Florence. From the payrolls that still exist we know that he was aided by several assistants: the painters Cristofano di Guido Gherardi, known as 'Doceno' (born 1508 in Borgo San Sepolcro, died 1556 in Borgo San Sepolcro), Marco d'Andrea Marchetti da Faenza (1527?–1588), Bacco di Michele, Bartolomeo di Michele di Ridolfo, Domenico di Lorenzo di Benci (or Beceri) and Giovanni di Matteo del Brina (c. 1540–1599). Other assistants were the Venetian stucco worker Giovan Matteo di Niccolò, Giovanni di Zanobi who ground the colors and Mariotto di Francesco who applied the gold. They all were working simultaneously on several rooms of the new quarters, starting with the Elements Room.

“Gherardi and Marco da Faenza were mainly responsible for the fanciful earthy detail (called grotesque) behind and between Vasari's academic allegories. The finestral niches including the Peacock Moths were painted by ‘sweet’ Marco da Faenza. Vasari called him ‘particularly skilled in fresco work, proud, resolute and awesome, most of all in the manner of painting grotesques in which he . . . has no equal nor anyone to add to his perfection.’ There is a portrait of him one floor below, on the ceiling of the large ‘Hall of the 500’ he also helped to decorate.

“So all three artists mentioned in Ada were united in the work on the Elements Room, but ‘red-haired’ Domenico di Lorenzo di Benci and ‘dark and broody’ Giovanni del Brina had only very minor parts and were not involved with the window niches. The latter was still a boy.

“Vasari's most important assistant by far, however, was Gherardi. In fact, he was more than an assistant. He is independently credited with some of the room's finest paintings, and he was a close friend who had collaborated with Vasari before, in Florence, Bologna, Venice (where they had designed the decorations for Pietro Aretino's play Talanta), Rome and Rimini. Gherardi had been banned from Florence by Cosimo's predecessor for a slight political offense, and one of the first things Vasari did when he moved from Rome to Florence was to arrange his pardon so he could return and work with him. Vasari was deeply grieved by Gherardi's sudden death on April 4, 1556, in the middle of the work on the Elements Room. He wrote to the Duke: ‘His death has been a great loss to me in the work on the palace, for his help was invaluable and his virtuous soul gave me comfort in moments of adversity, advice and help in times of difficulty during our twenty-four years of life and work together. . . . I wept for him and still weep when I realize that I cannot carry on with my work with the same drive as before, feeling that half of me is missing;
I will never find another who for his efforts and his rare kindness can replace Cristofano.’ Vasari also sang Gherardi's praises in an essay of some thirty pages in volume 6 of his Vite.

“So what to make of the list Marco d'Andrea, Domenico Benci, Giovanni del Brina and X? There is one name conspicuously missing, that of Cristofano Gherardi. The omission is all the more surprising for two reasons. Gherardi's name is mentioned in all the literature on the Palazzo Vecchio, even in travel guides, so Nabokov cannot have failed to come across it. And everybody who doesn't know that Marco da Faenza painted the Peacock Moths (as perhaps Nabokov did not) must have assumed they were by that master of the grotesque, Gherardi.”

Zimmer speculates: “My unproven hypothesis is that Lucette had Gherardi in mind who is so ostentatiously absent from that paragraph, perhaps suspecting from the tone of Vasari's grief that both had been lovers. It may be noted that on the evening when Ada taught her half-sister Lucette what sex is about (thus adding lesbian love to incest), ‘tremendous moths walked on all sixes up the window panes.’ [376.12-13] No European moth would deserve the word ‘tremendous’ more than the Peacock Moth. [BB: of course Ada’s lesbian romps with Lucette take place in Arizona, not Europe.] In May, 1542, Vasari had just begun to decorate his own house in Arezzo (Casa del Vasari), 40 miles SE of Florence. It has a small garden. Peacock Moths are still flying in Tuscany [in May]. There is no way of knowing, however, what happened in May, 1542 in an orchard near Florence. There is no evidence that Gherardi joined Vasari in Arezzo to help him paint his Casa.

“On the other hand, the actual painter of the two moths, Marco di Faenza, was about the same age (fourteen) in 1542 as Van was when he fell in love with Ada in the arbors of Ardis.

“Most of the information in this article comes from The Apartments of Cosimo in Palazzo Vecchio by Ugo Muccini and Alessandro Cecchi (Firenze: Le Lettere, 1991); on p. 48 Marco da Faenza is identified as the painter who had done the finestral niches.” (, s.v. Saturnia pyri, accessed March 13, 2022.)

Note that Muccini and Cecchi’s book appeared long after Nabokov’s 1966-67 researches for his Butterflies in Art project (see 400.21n. below): the evidence identifying Marco d’Andrea as the painter of the fenestral niches may not have been available at the time of his 1966 visit to the Palazzo Vecchio. Zimmer’s speculation that Lucette may have suspected that Vasari and Gherardi were lovers has no support; but Gherardi’s untimely death and the pain of his loss felt at least by Vasari may be relevant to Lucette (cf. “the scholar’s death,” 400.14).

Zimmer adds: “In a letter to Alfred Appel, Jr. (July 27, 1967), written from Limone Piemonte where he was looking for »Boloria graeca tendensis, Nabokov made this remark: ‘Moths . . . are as graceful and often as gaudy as true butterflies. In Invitation to a Beheading I have a saturnid moth which represents grace and beauty and art at their highest." He was speaking of Saturnia pyri.” (, s.v. Saturnia pyri, accessed March 13, 2022.)

Note that this Peacock Moth is not to be confused with the Peacock Butterfly (Inachis io) that Van and Ada see in Mont Roux, mid-October, 1905: “The last butterflies of 1905, indolent Peacocks and Red Admirables, one Queen of Spain and one Clouded Yellow, were making the most of the modest blossoms” (524.21-23).

A crucial point to recognize is that Nabokov knew beyond doubt that the Peacock moths in the Palazzo Vecchio fresco were not in copula. He therefore chooses to violate fact in order to make not only Kim’s photograph but also Lucette’s art-history analysis about these moths as if they were in copula—most likely, as a comic stand-in for Van and Ada seen in copula in the gardens of Ardis by both Kim’s camera and Lucette’s eager eyes?

MOTIF: butterflies (and moths); painting; painting location.

400.08-09: Grooms and gardeners brought Ada that species every blessed year: Cf. Gift 78: “A huge butterfly, flat in flight, bluish-black with a white band, described a supernaturally smooth arc, settled on the damp earth, closed its wings and with that disappeared. This is the kind [Apatura iris, the Purple Emperor] that now and then a panting peasant lad brings one, cramming it with both hands into his cap”;  SM 127-28, where Nabokov’s governess and a country doctor provide substitutes for butterflies of his they have damaged, and a kitchen boy borrows his butterfly net and returns two hours later “in triumph with a bagful of seething invertebrate life and several additional items” including one butterfly, a common and “battered Small White.”

400.11: Domenico Benci: Or Beceri (fl. 1565), Florentine painter, known for his work in 1565 on Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio and for the decorations for the 1565 wedding celebrations of Francesco I de’ Medici; praised in Vasari, Vite, but not otherwise known (Ulrich Thieme and Felix Becker, Allgemeines Lexikon der Bildenden Künstler (Leipzig; Wilhelm Engelman, 1901), III, 131).

400.12: Giovanni del Brina: Or Brini, d. 1599, Florentine painter who helped Vasari in the Palazzo Vecchio and in the cloisters of Santissima Annunziata (Thieme and Becker, V, 20).

400.13-14: Lucette’s scholarly contribution—so easily botched after the scholar’s death: Although Lucette’s expertise in the history of fine and applied art is already clear—her study with a Professor of Ornament, 374.24, her knowledge of old furniture terms (scrutoir, gueridon, 372.29-30) or minor painters (Sustermans, 383.03), and the “famous Lucinda Villa, . . . with a still growing collection of microphotographed paintings from all public and private galleries in the world” (336.29-32) which Van erects in her memory—this is the only indication we have that she actively pursued a scholarly career in the field.

MOTIF: Lucette: prolepsis.

400.15-16: not overhung with not-yet-imported wisteria (her half-sister’s addition): Wisteria is a genus in the legume family (Fabaceae), consisting of ten species of woody twining vines with abundant attractive, usually lilac, flowers. Different species are native to southern Canada, China, Japan and the United States. Wisteria was first imported to Italy in 1840 (, accessed March 13, 2022).
MOTIF: Ada’s taxonomy.

400.16: her half-sister’s addition: MOTIF: family relationship.

400.17: on a May morning in 1542: Zimmer 2010: 1004 notes that the Peacock Moth appears in April and May in the Mediterranean regions.

400.17: pair of the Pear Peacock: Zimmer 2010: 1005 notes that the caterpillar feeds especially on the leaves of fruit trees—including pear, apple, and sweet cherry. The pear tree, Pyrus communnis, gives the moth its scientific name, Saturnia pyri: hence Nabokov’s apt as well as punning addition to the common name, Peacock Moth (other English common names include emperor moth, Viennese emperor). For Nabokov’s giving another particularly apt common name to a butterfly in his fiction, see Robert Dirig’s comments on what VN dubs the Toothwort White in PF (rather than the usual common name, West Virginia White), in Boyd 1999: 276n.5. To coin each of these common names, Nabokov takes the name of the butterfly’s main food plant.

400.17-18: Pear Peacock . . . the male with the feathery antennae: Cf. perhaps “finding a feather and seeing Peacock plain” (145.33-34)?

400.18: in copula: Cf. Ada, still naïve in mid-1884: “She was very observant, of course, and had closely examined various insects in copula but at the period discussed clear examples of mammalian maleness had rarely come to her notice and had remained unconnected with any idea or possibility of sexual function” (111.07-10).

400.21: so-called “Elements Room” of the Palazzo Vecchio: So named for its frescoes by Gherardi, “Allegorio dell’Aria, del Fuoco, della Terra, dell’Acqua.” Is the “Terra . . . Acqua” combination more broadly relevant in Ada?

 The Nabokovs visited Florence in pursuit of VN’s Butterflies in Art project between April 21 and May 4, 1966, fairly early in the composition of Ada. VN scrutinized the Palazzo Vecchio on April 25. At the end of his 1966 diary, he sketched the two Peacock moths, with the note “Fresco school of Vasari / stylized S. pyri on right side of window in the Appartment [sic] of the Elements Signoria”; an arrow runs from “stylized S. pyri” to “in other words, hopeless bugs long necks.”

400.22: Congs: MOTIF: congs.

400.22: naked Van still cocooned: Continues the lepidopterological theme of the previous paragraph: Van, cocooned in the hammock, but as if also not yet in the adult state he will emerge into once he and Ada are regularly in copula?

400.23: ‘lidderons’ as they called in Ladore the liriodensdrons: lidderon,W2: “A scoundrel, rascal. Obs.” “Scoundrel” or “rascal” here because of Kim’s photographing Van’s morning erection (see 400.25-31)? For other local or peasant names of plants, see 63.22-23, 63.29-30.

MOTIF: Ladore.

400.24: liriodendrons: Tulip trees, see 68.11 and n., 283.01 and n., 397.11 and n.; and see also 52.33-53.03. Pléiade III,1474n.17 notes the curio that in 1969, the year of Ada’s publication,a small-leaved cultivar of L. tulipifera was named “Ardis”  by professor J.C. McDaniel (University of Illinois, Urbana), after the first name of the woman who had cultivated it in 1957, Mrs W.F. Sonneman, a horticulturalist in Vandalia, Illinois (see Robert S. Hebb, “Notes from the Arnold Arboretum Plant Registrations,” Arnoldia, 30:6, 1970, p. 154). “Nabokovian coincidence,” as they say.

400.24: not exactly a lit d’édredon: Darkbloom: “pun on ‘eider-down bed.’” Nonetheless, it is “a comfortable oblong nest” (72.14).

400.25-26: certainly conducive to the physical expression of a young dreamer’s fancy undisguised by the network: In other words, despite the arch coyness of the language, Van’s erection was poking through the net of the hammock (see “The first indecent postcard,” 400.27-28). For Van’s sleeping, dreaming, and waking in the hammock, see 72-74. Kim’s photograph seems to record what had seemed Van’s very private experiences in Pt. 1 Ch. 12: “his dreams were young. As the first flame of day reached his hammock, he woke up another man—and very much of a man indeed. ‘Ada, our ardors and arbors’—a dactylic trimeter that was to remain Van Veen’s only contribution to Anglo-American poetry—sang through his brain. . . . One such green resurrection he could particularize when replaying the past” (74.04-12)—the morning of the honey and wasp breakfast with Ada. The “erection” thinly veiled in “very much of a man indeed . . . One such green resurrection” now stands fully disclosed.

400.27: “Congratulations,” repeated Van in male language: “Congs” had been the slang used by Ada and Cordula, and presumably others, at Brownhill (332.29).
MOTIF: congs.

400.28: Bewhorny:  A1: “‘Beauharnais’ in English pronunciation,” with a pun on the obscene sense of “horny,” referring to Van’s erection, and, to judge by the rest of the sentence, Kim’s prurient arousal at what he has managed to record on film.
Nabokov had once been embarrassed when, soon after his arrival in the US, a New Yorker editor pointed out that in his description of the task of analysing the shape of the rigid sexual organ of the butterfly specimen he is identifying—taxonomically crucial for distinguishing species—he had innocently included in the text of his poem “A Discovery” the line “My needles have teased out its horny sex”—a phrase he swiftly changed, after the advice, to “sculptured sex”: “When the New Yorker editors explained why the phrase was impossible, he thanked them ‘for saving that line from an ignorance-is-bliss disaster. And that nightmare pun. . . . This has somewhat subdued me—I was getting rather pleased with my English’" (VN to C.A. Pearce, c. January 1943; see Boyd 1991: 54).

400.34-435.01: taking advantage of their looking at the album in bed: Cf. “the master copy which the flat pale parents of the future Babes, in the brown-leaf Woods, a little book in the Ardis Hall nursery, could no longer prop up in the mysterious first picture: two people in one bed” (587.34-588.04).

400.34: the album: MOTIF: album.

401.01: odd Ada: MOTIF: Ada

401.01-02: used the reading loupe on live Van: Cf., a little later in the scene: “The magnifier (now retrieved from under the bed sheet) clearly showed, topping the daisies in an upper picture, the type of tight-capped toadstool called in Scots law (ever since witching was banned) ‘the Lord of Erection’” (405.23-27). As the “enlarged” Kim (396.02) refers not only to his growth but also to his photographic interests, the magnifying glass seems associated also with the natural magnification of Van’s erection.

401.03-04: as a scientifically curious and artistically depraved child in that year of grace, here depicted: The formal and antiquated tone contrasts with Ada’s youthful and erotic zest in 1884.

401.06: the leering caruncula in the unreticent reticulation: A caruncula or caruncle (W2) is “A naked fleshy excrescence, as the wattles and comb of certain birds or the fleshy outgrowths on certain caterpillars.” Cf. the phallic overtones of the Lepidoptera Ada shows Van in her larvarium, 54-57, and note the phonic pyrotechnics here: “leering caruncula,” “caruncula . . . unreticent,” “caruncula . . . reticulation,” “unreticent reticulation,” the “l . . . r” or “r . . . l” patterns from “leering” to “reticulation” and the “-ing . . . -unc- . . . un- . . -tion” pattern.

The vocabulary also recalls that of the hammock scenes in Pt. 1 Ch. 12: “The hammock, a comfortable oblong nest, reticulated his naked body” (72.14-15) and “One such green resurrection he could particularize when replaying the past. Having drawn on his swimming trunks, having worked in and crammed in all that intricate, reluctant multiple machinery, he had toppled out of his nest” (74.11-14). Van and VN seem to play on the tension between verbal “reticence” and visual and visceral prominence.

401.06-07: By the way, you have quite a collection of black masks in your dresser: “By the way” in that mouches or patches often accompany black masks in the Venice carnival, masked balls, and the like. But is this an allusion to Van’s Mascodagama role (“A black mask covered the upper part of his heavily bearded face,” 183.30-31) and the disguised inversion of legs and arms that places such an emphasis on the position of head or crotch, or his handwalking away in his swimsuit from the Ardis pool: “walked away on his hands, a black mask over his carnival nose” (206.02-03)? Cf. “his forever discarded half-mask”(358.12-13) on “his last visit to one last Villa Venus” (356.29).

MOTIF: Mascodagama.

401.08: For masked balls (bals-masqués): Another double entendre on the prominence of the crotch in Van’s old Mascodagama performances?
Cf. Marina about Jones’s wheezing: “I can’t tell him ‘ne pïkhtite,’ as I can’t tell Kim, the kitchen boy, not to take photographs on the sly—he’s a regular snap-shooting fiend, that Kim, though otherwise an adorable, gentle, honest boy; nor can I tell my little French maid to stop getting invitations, as she somehow succeeds in doing, to the most exclusive bals masqués in Ladore” (255.03-08).

401.09-14: A comparison piece: Ada’s very-much-exposed white thighs (her birthday skirt) . . . Thereafter several shots of the 1884 picnic. . . (conjectural identification): Ada had begun, some time before her birthday, the practice of rubbing her crotch “to assuage the rash in the soft arch . . . by tightly straddling the cool limb of a Shattal apple tree” (78.03-05) and on the day of her birthday picnic, wearing her lolita, she “tumbled out of her tree like a hoopoe when they all were ready to start” (78.12-13) on the charabanc journey to the picnic site.

401.09: A comparison piece: Ada’s very-much-exposed white thighs: As opposed to Van’s black-swaddled thighs in the Mascodagama costume; but also her thighs over-exposed by her skirt being caught on the tree, and yet underexposed generally to the sun, even more than the rest of her, and therefore strikingly white, and also captured in Kim’s freakishly opportune photographic exposure. See the fall in the shattal tree, Pt. 1 Ch. 15, 94-96.

401-09-10: Ada’s very-much-exposed white thighs . . . her birthday skirt had got entangled . . . the tree of Eden: MOTIF: memory test.

401.10: her birthday skirt had got entangled: The jocular “birthday suit” and the like, for “nakedness,” dates back in print to at least 1732 (OED). Ada’s birthday skirt, though, is presumably her “lolita . . . , a rather long, but very airy and ample, black skirt, with red poppies or peonies” (77.02-06), which she wears for “the big picnic on [her] twelfth birthday” (77.01), without undergarments (77.11-78.06, 95.10-17).

401.11: straddling a black limb of the tree of Eden: Cf. “straddling the cool limb of a Shattal apple tree” (78.05).

401.11: the tree of Eden: The shattal tree of Pt. 1 Ch.15, “the Tree of Knowledge . . . imported . . . from the Eden National Park” (95.18-20). MOTIF: Eden.

401.12-13: Ada and Grace dancing a Lyaskan fling . . . reversed Van nibbling at pine starworts: MOTIF: memory test.

401.12-13: Ada and Grace dancing a Lyaskan fling: Cf. “Ada and Grace danced a Russian fling” (81.11-12). MOTIF: Lyaska.

401.13: reversed Van nibbling at pine starworts: Handwalking Van at the picnic: “His reversed body gracefully curved, his brown legs hoisted like a Tarentine sail, his joined ankles tacking, Van gripped with splayed hands the brow of gravity” (82.09-11). His nibbling at vegetative ground cover is not mentioned, but a day or two later, attempting to handwalk with Van’s help, Lucette “slowly progressed on her little red palms, sometimes falling with a grunt on her face or pausing to nibble a daisy” (91.31-32). Imitative Lucette presumably saw Van nibbling at a herb a day or two before.

401.13-14: pine starworts (conjectural identification):  Ada’s conjecture, of course.

MOTIF: Ada’s taxonomy.

401.13: pine starworts: W2: “Any American herb of the genus Ionactis (family Carduaceae), with stiff linear leaves and purple rays.”

401.15: sinistral sinew: In his 1888 duel, Van is shot on the left side: “he felt the jolt of the bullet ripping off, or so it felt, the entire left side of his torso” (311.01-03); “the dreadful scar all along his left side” (393.02-03). “Sinistral sinew” is a typically Nabokovian recherché alliteration, here comically supposed to have been generated in spontaneous speech.

401.16: I can still fence: For his fencing, see 255.23 (not as good as his father), 344.27-31 (his thoughts of duelling reviewer Mr. Medlar, preferably with swords, and his being coached in fencing twice a week).

401.16: and deliver a fine punch: “Not bothering to turn his head he abolished the invisible busybody with a light ‘piston blow’ delivered by the left elbow” (304.21-23); “the wrestling and pugilistics of his earlier years” (571.25-26).

401.17: hand-walking is out: Cf. his first failed attempt, at Cordula’s apartment, August 1888, after his wound in the duel: 323.03-12.

401.17-18: You shall not sniffle, Ada. Ada is not going to sniffle and wail: I assume other readers find this as grating as I do? Ada is moved to tears by Van’s sublime handwalking performance at her birthday picnic (83.04-05), but the combination of her sentimentality here with her bestowing such favor on Van, despite his conduct elsewhere, seems particularly galling: it smacks not of the depth of her feeling but the depth of their self-regard.

401.18-20: King Wing says that the great Vekchelo turned back into an ordinary chelovek at the age I’m now: Cf. “King Wing warned him that Vekchelo, a Yukon professional, lost it by the time he was twenty-two” (82.16-18)—which is indeed Van’s age here; “King Wing had warned him that two or three months without practice might result in an irretrievable loss of the rare art” (323.10-12).

401.19: chelovek: See note 254.20: “Russ., ‘man, person.’”

401.20-21: Ah, drunken Ben Wright trying to rape Blanche in the mews: Coachman Ben Wright’s being “still stone-sober” in mid-morning is worthy of remark (78.14-15).

401.21-22: Blanche . . . —she has quite a big part in this farrago: At 398.33-399.02 where she unpacks Van’s valise and “eats with her eyes” the photograph he has of naked Ivory Revery; at 400.04-05, her “struggling with two amorous tsigans”; here at 401.20-26, dancing with Ben Wright; and much more.

401.22: farrago: W2: “A medley; a mixture.”

401.24-26: like the Beast and the Belle at the ball where Cinderella loses her garter and the Prince his beautiful codpiece of glass: Apart from the comic variations on two well-known fairy-tales, plays also on Blanche as Cinderella (see especially 49.04-06 and 114.15-17) and the cliché “the belle of the ball” (see 255.07-08: “invitations . . . to the most exclusive bals masqués in Ladore”). The Prince’s “beautiful codpiece of glass” seems to anticipate and invert the prominent codpiece of the bagpipe-player in Bruegel’s The Peasant Dance, invoked in the next sentence, which is neither princely, nor glass, nor beautiful (except as part of Bruegel’s compositional mastery), and leaves little to the imagination, unlike the wild riff of the Prince’s codpiece of glass (displaying rather than concealing what it contains? tried on for size by variouscontenders? and ouch—what if it breaks?).

Is there any link with Baron d’Onsky, whom Demon wounds in the groin in a fencing duel, and who marries the keeper of the Glass Biota at the local museum in Aardvark (15.04-12)?

MOTIF: Beauty and the Beast; Cinderella; fairy tale; glass slipper.

401.25: Cinderella loses her garter: Revisiting the willow islet in the Ladore river in 1888, Van and Ada “found a garter which was certainly hers, she could not deny it, but which Van was positive she had never worn on her stockingless summer trips to the magic islet” (218.07-09) in 1884. And just before Blanche discloses Ada’s infidelity to Van at the end of his Ardis the Second, she appears near his hammock with “one stocking gartered, the other down to her ankle” (292.18-19). 

401.26: Mr. Ward: An Ardis footman, not mentioned otherwise except at 405.10-11: “Three footmen, Price, Norris, and Ward dressed up as grotesque firemen.”

401.26: Mrs. French: Cf. “Who cried? . . .  Crying that the barn flambait? . . . No, she was fast ablaze—I mean, asleep. I know, said Van, it was she, the hand-painted handmaid, who used your watercolors to touch up her eyes, or so Larivière said, who accused her and Blanche of fantastic sins. Oh, of course! But not Marina’s poor French . . . ” (114.08-14).

401.26-27: a bruegelish kimbo (peasant prance): Continues the “dancing” at 401.24. Allusion to the famous “The Peasant Dance” (1567 or 1568), an oil-on-panel painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c. 1525-1569), held at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. The couple in the right foreground are dancing with more heft than elegance, holding each other by one hand and with outer arms akimbo. Some commentators (e.g. Johnson 2006: 137, Pléiade III,1474n.24) identify instead Peasant Wedding Dance (1610, Louvre)by Pieter Bruegel the Younger (1564-1638), which has a couple in the right foreground with both arms akimbo and a thrusting codpiece on the male. But this is a copy (“a genuine second-rate simulacrum,” in the words of Guardian art critic Jonathan Jones, February 9, 2017, of a lost Pieter Bruegel the Elder, in the same style as his The Peasant Dance, and the father is “the only genius in the family” (Jones) and an incomparably finer artist than his sons.
For another country dance, with attention to the position of limbs, cf. “the pretty messenger, who stood with one hand on the hip and one knee turned out like an extra, waiting for the signal to join the gambaders in the country dance after Calabro’s aria” (284.04-07).

401.27: bruegelish: unnecessarily emended by DN to “brueghelish”: "Bruegel," “Breugel” and "Brueghel" are accepted spellings of the painter's name at a time when spelling was less standardized than now.

401.27: kimbo: A1: “dance with arms akimbo.” MOTIF: -kim-

401.28: All those rural rapes in our parts have been grossly exaggerated: Not otherwise mentioned, although there is no shortage of willing and even eager sexual romping. Cf. EO II.390: “Rosamund Gray (see under that title Charles Lamb’s unconscious parody of a sentimental novelette, with a rake, and a rape, and rural roses).” Nevertheless, since Van comments “drunken Ben Wright trying to rape Blanche in the mews” (401.20-21), it seems worth remembering that on the way back from Ada’s 1884 birthday picnic Lucette (like Blanche, another Cinderella figure) “refused to give up her perch (accepting with a bland little nod the advice of her drunken boxfellow who was seen to touch her bare knees with a good-natured paw” (86.10-12)— “that other coachman who for several months had haunted her dreams” (280.29-30).

401.29: D’ailleurs: Darkbloom: “Anyhow.”

401.29: Mr. Ben Wright’s last petard at Ardis: Darkbloom: “Mr Ben Wright, a poet in his own right, is associated throughout with pets (farts).” Cf. Lucette, sitting on the coachman’s box beside “her drunken boxfellow” (86.11), but soon complaining: “I want to sit with you. Mne tut neudobno, i ot nego nehorosho pakhnet (I’m uncomfortable here, and he does not smell good). . . . Il pue” (88.01-07); “Ben Wright was fired after letting winds go free while driving Marina and Mlle Larivière home from the Vendange Festival at Brantôme near Ladore” (140.01-03).

401.30-402.02: Ada . . . drawing one her favorite flowers . . . Ladore satyrion . . . erect . . . moistly mauving: MOTIF: flower drawing/painting; flowers; memory test; orchids.

401.30-31: Ada on the balcony . . . drawing one of her favorite flowers: Cf. Ada’s painting orchids at 99-100, although these are indoor rather than balcony scenes such as the one Kim photographs.

401.32: satyrion: W2: “Formerly, an orchid;—so called as being aphrodisiac.

401.32: silky-haired, fleshy, erect: The comically overt phallic overtones echo Ada’s combination of the botanical and the anatomical on the Night of the Burning Barn, 119.25-34.

402.01-02: my flower opens only at dusk.” The one she was moistly mauving: Presumably the satyrion, although the erotic subtext almost overrides the ostensible main text. In this phase of Ardis the First Ada paints a “mirror-of Venus blossom” (99.26).

402.03-10: A formal photograph . . . set up in her bedroom: Cf. “‘Marina wants Kim to take our picture—holding hands and grinning’ (grinning, and then turning back to her hideous flower)” (101.18-20) and the apparent echo of the impending photograph scene at 103.27-32.

MOTIF: memory test.

402.03-04: Adochka . . . Vanichka: The affectionate diminutives apparently echo Marina’s fond phrasing while marshalling her children for the photograph.

402.04: flimsy: W2, n.: “1. Something thin, frail or unsubstantial, specif. [ . . . ] b pl. Colloq. Delicate undergarments, as of chiffon, for women.” W3: “1. [ . . .] b flimsies pl.: women’s sheer lightweight clothing; esp.: sheer undergarments.”

402.05-06: facing the kimera (chimera, camera): MOTIF: -kim-; Kim’s photography

402.06-07: he with the shadow of a forced grin: Cf. “Marina wants Kim to take our picture—holding hands and grinning” (101.18-19).

402.07-08: between the first tiny cross and a whole graveyard of kisses: Cf. “little Ada shut her eyes and pressed her lips to his in a fresh-rose kiss that entranced and baffled Van. ‘Now run along,’ she said, ‘quick, quick, I’m busy,’ and as he lagged like an idiot, she anointed his flushed forehead with her paintbrush in the semblance of an ancient Estotian ‘sign of the cross’” (101.10-15). Cf. also krestik as meaning “‘little cross’ in Russian” (378.01) but “clitoris” in Ada’s private vocabulary, into which she initiates Lucette in 1891—a sense not inappropriate so soon after “’my flower opens only at dusk.’ The one she was moistly mauving” (402.01-02).

402.08: cross: W3, “8 : a figure or mark formed by two intersecting lines or bars usu. of equal or approximately equal length, and crossing at or about their mid-points (written in warm terms with plenty of ~es indicating kisses—L.A. Norris).”

402.08: whole graveyard of kisses: Cf.During our children’s kissing phase (a not particularly healthy fortnight of long messy embraces)” (102.19-103.01).

402.09: ordered by Marina: Cf. “we must dress up because Marina wants Kim to take our picture—holding hands and grinning” (101.17-19).

402.10-11: her brother at twelve or fourteen: The ages of Ada and Van, respectively, when their combined photograph is taken.

402.11: bayronka (open shirt): Darkbloom:“from Bayron, Russ., Byron” (a remarkably miserly note!). Byron, when not dressing in exotic costumes (another penchant), regularly wore an open-necked shirt, as in a famous 1813 portrait by Thomas Phillips (1770-1845). Cf. PF 26: “for if the fashions of the Romantic Age subtilized a poet’s manliness by baring his attractive neck. . . . ” (Shelley too favoured an open-neck shirt, as in an 1819 portrait by Amelia Curran (1775-1847)). As Sklyarenko notes, Nabokv-L, August 25, 2014, Tolstoy’s long belted blouse was known as a tolstovka: “Uncle Ivan's bayronka seems to be linked to Zinoviev's tolstovka (long belted blouse) in Aldanov's novel Peshchera (‘The Cave’).”

402.12: gowpen: W2, “The hollow of the hand, or especially of the two hands together; a handful or double handful. Scot. & Dial.” Note the alliteration with “guinea pig.”
Ada 1968: “his ‘gowan’ (hollowed hands).

402.12: the three looked like siblings: Rather than like two siblings and their uncle (ostensibly, officially, two cousins and their uncle). Van and his Uncle Van seem particularly closely associated (72.18-22, 73.26-31).

MOTIF:  family relationship.

402.13: with the dead boy providing a vivisectional alibi: Unclear. “Guinea pigs have been used as experimental animals for centuries; hence 'guinea pig' for a human experimental subject. Guinea pigs have contributed to 23 Nobel prizes for medicine with studies leading to the discovery of Vitamin C, the tuberculosis bacterium, and adrenaline, as well as the development of vaccines for diphtheria and tuberculosis, replacement heart valves, blood transfusion, kidney dialysis, antibiotics, anticoagulants and asthma medicines. Today, guinea pigs are still widely used in medical research, particularly in the study of respiratory, nervous and immune systems” (, accessed March 15, 2022). The experimental use of guinea pigs has often involved vivisection, which VN deplored: he and Véra belonged to the Anti-vivisection Society; and in Kamera obskura Robert Horn, a cartoonist, cynically appeals to a sentimental audience, despite his own natural cruelty, with his “Cheepy,” a guinea-pig often in comic scrapes, suggestive of vivisection in Horn’s earliest images (see BB, “On the Original of Cheepy: Nabokov and Popular Culture Fads,” The Nabokovian 63 (Fall 2009), 63-72).

But in what sense is a photograph of dead Uncle Van, holding a guinea pig, “providing a vivisectional alibi”? Does this have anything to do with the presentation of Van to Aqua, after her giving birth to a still-born boy, as her own child (“At one time Aqua believed that a stillborn male infant half a year old, a surprised little fetus, a fish of rubber that she had produced in her bath . . .  had somehow been saved and brought to her at the Nusshaus, with her sister’s compliments, wrapped up in blood-soaked cotton wool, but perfectly alive and healthy, to be registered as her son Ivan Veen,” 25.25-32)?

In any case Marina seems to be motivated to order the photograph of Van and Ada together by the thought of their being full siblings, and in placing the framed photograph seems to see their precocity as closely related to that of their precocious but doomed uncle.

402.14-22: Another photograph was taken in the same circumstances but for some reason had been rejected by capricious Marina: at a tripod table, Ada sat reading, her half-clenched hand covering the lower part of the page. A very rare, radiant, seemingly uncalled-for smile shone on her practically Moorish lips. . . . Van stood inclining his head above her and looked, unseeing, at the opened book: “For some reason had been rejected by capricious Marina” and “seemingly uncalled-for” are Nabokovian invitations to find out why Marina rejected the photograph: presumably, because there is something disturbing she cannot quite recognise in the photograph—namely, Ada’s amusement at the arrangement of reading girl and boy standing close behind her echoing so closely, as Marina cannot know, her and Van’s relative positions when she has been painting flowers and Van standing so closely behind her that she can feel “the increased pressure of his caress” (100.14-15) before, indeed, he rushes off to masturbate (not that Ada quite realizes that much at the time). And as Diana Makhaldiani suggests, cf. also Marina’s “old-fashioned qualms” on Van’s first night at Ardis, as the children head up to bed: “‘Why do stairs creak so desperately, when two children go upstairs,’ she thought, looking up at the balustrade along which two left hands progressed with strikingly similar flips and glides like siblings taking their first dancing lesson. ‘After all, we were twin sisters; everybody knows that’” (39.32-40.06).
MOTIF: behind; memory test.

402.16-17: A very rare, radiant, seemingly uncalled-for smile: Ada does not often smile, and often snaps in anger. But here, with the scenic subtext for her and Van (see previous note) animating her features, note the contrast with “‘Marina wants Kim to take our picture—holding hands and grinning’ (grinning, and then turning back to her hideous flower)” (101.18-20) and Van’s having on him for the previous photo, which does not evoke the flower-painting scenes, “the shadow of a forced grin,” while Ada is “expressionless” (402.06-07). Cf. also, though: “But what about the rare radiance on those adored lips? Bright derision can easily grade, through a cline of glee, into a look of rapture” (402.28-30)—her amusement at the presence of Love under the Lindens.

402.18: her practically Moorish lips: Cf. “Her features were saved from elfin prettiness by the thickish shape of her parched lips” (58.16-17).

402.19-20: Her hair flowed partly across her collarbone and partly down her back: Cf. Van’s evocation of her hair on that day, 103.30-104.02; his evocation of her hair in the sun, 140.28-32; the interplay of her hair and neck, 216.20-23; her hair and neck in the film Don Juan’s Last Fling, evoking her young self as she draws a bog flower (489.19-23).

402.21-27: In full, deliberate consciousness, at the moment of the hooded click, he bunched the recent past with the imminent future and thought to himself that this would remain an objective perception of the real present and that he must remember the flavor, the flash, the flesh of the present (as he, indeed, remembered it half a dozen years later—and now, in the second half of the next century): Nabokov particularly valued the experience of future recollection—of experiencing something and knowing that you will recollect it much later in life—as a kind of triumph over time, over the loss of the past, the forgetfulness of the present, the unforeseeability of the future. Cf. the story “Torpid Smoke”: “With terrifying clarity, as if my soul were lit up by a noiseless explosion, I glimpsed a future recollection” (SoVN 400); Gift 94: “Will you ever forget it, I queried,  / —That particular swift that went by?  / And you answered, so earnestly: Never! // And what sobs made us suddenly shiver, / What a cry life emitted in flight!”; Gift 342: “Try to experience that strange, future, retrospective thrill. . . . All the little hairs on the soul stand on end! It would be a good thing in general to put an end to our barbaric perception of time.”

Cf. also the reflections on memory while, apparently, these photographs are initially taken:103.27-104.02.

Cf. a slightly different but not unrelated attitude to memory and anticipation, 470.21-31, ending with “he would not have remembered the preface to Ada had not life turned the next page, causing now its radiant text to flash through all the tenses of the mind.”

402.28: those adored lips: MOTIF: adore.

402.29: a cline of glee: A term not used often outside considerations of evolutionary descent (the context in 536.27-28: “the last stage of man in the cline turning him into Neohomo”). Cline (W3): “a graded series of characters (as morphological or physiological differences) exhibited by a species or other groups of related organisms usu. showing a line of environmental or geographic transition.”

402.33: réjouissants: Darkbloom: “hilarious.”

402.33-34: novels that ever ‘made’ the front page of the Manhattan Times’ Book Review: In the days (up to the 2000s) when print book reviews were substantial, eagerly devoured, and influential, to be reviewed at all in the New York Times Book Review was a coup, and to appear on the front page of this Sunday supplement almost invariably a guarantee of good sales. On its publication, Ada would be reviewed in this position by Alfred Appel, Jr., “Ada:An Erotic Masterpiece that Explores the Nature of Time” (New York Times Book Review, May 4, 1969) and would be the occasion for a cover story in the then globally prominent Time magazine (May 23, 1969). 

MOTIF: Manhattan.

403.01-02: where you sat temple to temple after you jilted me: As if Van had thrown over Ada for Cordula—not the case, but he did make his first tactile sexual advances to Cordula (303.28-30) on the very morning he had recoiled from unfaithful Ada.

403.03: Cat: Van comments on Ada’s cattishness; cf., also in the context of her jealousy of Cordula, Lucette’s comment about Ada the previous day: “‘an old sweetheart is easily annoyed by the wrong conclusions she jumps at like a cat not quite making a fence and then running off without trying again, and stopping to look back.’ ‘Who told you about that lewd cordelude. . . ?’” (383.11-15). Next week, Ada will compare Cordula not just to a cat, but to a polecat: “but I know somebody who is not simply a cat, but a polecat, and that’s Cordula Tobacco alias Madame Perwitsky” (420.24-25).

403.04: Beckstein’s Tabby: “Beckstein”: Darkbloom: “transposed syllables.” Apparently, Travels with Charley: In Search of America (1962), by John Steinbeck (1902-1968), Steinbeck’s travels around America with his poodle, coupled perhaps with his Of Mice and Men (1937). Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962.

Perhaps also (especially in view of “three terrible Toms” a few lines later) poet, playwright and critic T.S. (Thomas Stearns) Eliot (Nobel Prize 1948), whose Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (1939) seems to resonate with Tabby and whom VN mocked in different ways in Lolita, Pale Fire,and Ada. Nabokov thought little of Eliot as a writer (in 1958 he called him “a minor poet of yesterday,” SL 240) and was particularly appalled by Eliot’s anti-Semitism. His Jewish Cornell colleague David Daiches wrote to him: “Many thanks for your kind note about my Eliot article. I thought it was time somebody drew public attention to that side of Eliot, and it is good to see that I am not alone in my opinion. The professional Eliot-worshippers won’t like it, though” (April 13, 1949, VNA). “Beckstein” might recall Eliot’s most viciously anti-Semitic poem, “Burbank with a Baedeker: Bleistein with a Cigar” (1920), which includes the lines

But this or such was Bleistein's way:
 A saggy bending of the knees
And elbows, with the palms turned out,
 Chicago Semite Viennese.

A lustreless protrusive eye
 Stares from the protozoic slime
At a perspective of Canaletto.
 The smoky candle end of time

Declines. On the Rialto once.
 The rats are underneath the piles.
The jew is underneath the lot.

For a full discussion of the anti-Semitic tropes here, see George Bornstein, “T.S. Eliot and the Real World,” Michigan Quarterly Review 36:3 (Summer 1997),, and the book he is reviewing, Anthony Julius, T.S. Eliot, Anti-Semitism and Literary Form (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995). For undoubted digs at Eliot’s anti-Semitism in Ada, see for instance5.19-20 (“Mr. Eliot, a Jewish businessman”), 459.11-20 (which echoes “Burbank with a Baedeker: Bleistein with a Cigar”) and 505.31-506.14.

403.05-07: this Love under the Lindens by one Eelmann transported into English by Thomas Gladstone . . . firm of Packers & Porters: Darkbloom: “O’Neill, Thomas Mann, and his translator tangle in this paragraph.”Grotesquely combines the play Desire under the Elms (1924) by American dramatist Eugene O’Neill (Nobel Literature laureate 1939; note the one Eel in O’Neill and the elm in Eelmann) and German novelist Thomas Mann (Nobel Prize, 1929), fused in the first instance, as Rivers and Walker 291 suggest, because of the important role played by the song “Der Lindenbaum” (“The Linden Tree,” 1827, from a poem by Wilhelm Müller (1794-1827)), in the Winterreise cycle of Franz Schubert (1797-1828), in Mann’s novel Der Zauberberg (The Magic Mountain, 1924). The hero, Hans Castorp, has been much taken by the song he has played more than any other on the gramophone at the sanatorium in Davos where most of the action takes place, and sings it at the end of the novel as he heads off to fight, and presumably die, at the front in the Great War.

Helen Tracy Lowe-Porter (1876-1963) translated more than twenty of Mann’s books into English between 1924 and 1952, including The Magic Mountain in 1927; Rivers and Walker 291 note that she “was widely regarded as the ‘official’ translator of Mann’s works into English and received the author’s praise on many occasions. See Thomas Mann, Gesammelte Werke, 13 vols. (Frankfurt: Fischer, 1960-1974), vol. 11: pp. 148, 250, 281, 572, 680.”

Nabokov disliked the work of both O’Neill and Mann. While studying drama for his creative writing lectures at Stanford in the summer of 1941, he took over forty pages of fascinated and appalled notes on O’Neill’s Mourning Becomes Electra, concluding that “his wording is a collection of platitudes, his inspiration humourless, his characters—merely mummies—great lumbering mummies. . . . The remarkable, the unique illusion achieved by O’Neill by a severely harmonious combination of literary platitudes ought not to deceive us into supposing that bad writing may be the foundation of a masterpiece. . . . I do not think that O’Neill will be admired by future generations when sober daylight will more clear[ly] separate the real thing from the shams of our times” (VNA, Notebook 22, unpublished notes for Stanford class).In his finished lecture “The Tragedy of Tragedy” he wrote: “Among modern tragedies there is one that ought to be studied particularly closely by anyone wishing to find all the disastrous results of cause and effect, neatly grouped together in one play. This is O’Neill’s Mourning Becomes Electra” (MUSSR 336).

In interviews and elsewhere Nabokov frequently dismissed Mann as a writer (“I happen to find second-rate and ephemeral the works of a number of puffed-up writers—such as . . . Thomas Mann,” SO 54; “A small writer who did big stories badly,” TWS 244; “this ponderous conventionalist, this tower of triteness,” in a letter to his Cornell colleague, M.H. Abrams, SL 242), and in 1950 he wrote a contemptuous critique of Mann’s story “The Railway Accident” for his class at Cornell (TWS 229-32).
Both O’Neill and Mann, as noted, won the Nobel Prize in Literature, and Pléiade III,1475n.28, echoing the Russian Wikipedia entry on the writer, notes that Nabokov was nominated three times for the Nobel, in 1963, 1964, and 1965, but that Anders Österling, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, opposed his getting the award on the ground of Lolita’s immorality.
But there seems to be more to the fusion of the two acclaimed authors in a particularly risible Love under the Lindens than Nabokov’s low regard for both. The decisive bond between them appears to be an incest theme in more than one work by each.

Desire under the Elms
has a partly incestuous storyline: Eben Cabot is seduced by his new stepmother Abbie and has a child by her, which she later kills. O’Neill has reworked the incestuous plot and characters of the Hippolytus (428 BCE) of Euripides (c. 480-c. 406 BCE), as he would later rework the Oresteia trilogy (458 BCE) of Aeschylus (c. 525/524-456/455 BCE) into Mourning Becomes Electra. In Euripides’ play, Theseus’ wife Phaedra tries to seduce her stepson Hippolytus. When Hippolytus resists and threatens to disclose her unfaithfulness, she commits suicide, leaving behind a note that Theseus finds, charging Hippolytus with raping her. Theseus curses his son with banishment or death; Hippolytus, gored by a bull, dies after Theseus discovers the truth.

Mourning Becomes Electra
involves, in the first play of the trilogy, Christine Mannon (corresponding to Clytemnestra in the Oresteia) in an affair with her nephew Brant (her husband’s brother’s son, and the Aegisthus of the Oresteia). When her husband Ezra (the Agamemnon figure) returns from the American Civil War, she tells him about her affair with Brant, in the hope that it will cause a heart attack, which her disclosure indeed brings on. Instead of giving Ezra the heart medicine he begs for, she hands him a poison Brant has supplied her with. The plot is too inept either to summarize or to follow in detail, as Nabokov does over thirty highly critical pages, but if we focus on the incestuous elements: Nabokov notes in summary of Act 2 of The Hunted, the second play in the trilogy, that in the passionate talk of Orin (the Orestes figure) with his mother, Christine, there is a “Freudian hint. Oedipus complex. . . . Hint to the Reader: Orin can forgive his mother everything except if he happened to find out that she really is Brant’s mistress (Freudian jealousy)” (VNA, Notebook 22, unpublished notes for Stanford class). Orin does find out (via an eavesdropping scene Nabokov deplores), and kills Brant. He and his sister Lavinia (the Electra figure) tell their mother Brant has been killed, and drive her to shoot herself in guilt and despair. Summarizing Act 3 of The Haunted, the concluding play in the trilogy, Nabokov writes that Orin bargains with his sister that “he will not make public his confession if she drops [her planned marriage with his friend] Peter [Niles] and in order to be sure she does she must commit incest with him. ‘I love you now with all the guilt in me—the guilt we share!’” (VNA, Notebook 22, unpublished notes for Stanford class). But he changes his mind, and in jealousy of Peter, Orin too shoots himself. Lavinia vows to live on, secluded, in the boarded-up house her grandfather (the Atreus figure) “built as a temple of Hate and Death!” (Act IV). 

Thomas Mann also focused stories on incest more than once. His novella Wälsungenblut (The Blood of the Walsungs), written 1905, published 1921, translated by Lowe-Porter in Death in Venice: and seven other stories  (New York: Modern Library, 1936), features the incestuous love of the twins Siegmund and Sieglinde Aarenhold. Although their first names and the story’s title were inspired by the twins and lovers, Siegmund and Sieglinde Volsung, in Wagner’s Die Walküre (1870), the main inspiration seems to have come from Mann’s and others’ suspicion of the worryingly close relationship of his wife, Katja, and her twin brother, Klaus Pringsheim. Their father Alfred, on discovering the story’s incestuous subject, insisted that Mann not publish the story, which remained suppressed until 1921 (see, accessed March 15, 2022).
Mann’s 1951 novel Die Erwählte (published in the same year, in Lowe-Porter’s translation, as The Holy Sinner) has a multiply incestuous story, based on a medieval German epic, Gregorius, by the Minnesinger Hartmann von Aue (c.1165-1210). Sibylla and her brother Wiligis become lovers. When a son is born to their union he is cast out to sea, but recovered by fisherman and raised by a monk under the name of Gregory. Adventures as a young man lead Gregory to marry his mother, without their realising their relationship; they have two children, then discover their kinship, and decide to live apart and in penance. After more vicissitudes, Gregory is elected Pope, becoming, even, the savior of Christianity. Sibylla travels to Rome to confess her sins; Gregory recognises her in the confessional, and offers his pardon (see, accessed March 15, 2022).

403.05: Love under the Lindens: See also previous note.

Desire under the Elms  is known in Russian as Lyubov’ pod vyazami (Love under the Elms). “Lindens” for “elms” may be simply another of Ada’s many mistranslations or misuses of botanical terms, as in Fowlie’s mistranslation of Rimbaud’s souci d’eau as “care of the water” instead of “marsh marigold” (63.33-65.05 and nn.), or Greg Erminin’s “‘I guess it’s your father under that oak, isn’t it?’ ‘No, it’s an elm,’ said Ada” (92.31-33).

Rivers and Walker 291 suggest that “The title Love under the Lindens may also echo the fact that Van and Ada’s love begins under the lindens (see p. 51-52 of Ada . . . ).” That is not quite accurate: the scene of Ada’s sun-and-shade games under the linden and oak trees shows Van’s still bristling at the impossible assurance of his twelve-year-old companion, but by the end of the page his attempt at reconciliation for his rude response begins the upswing to interest, fascination, love, and desire.

The famous love-lyric “Under der linden” by Walther von der Vogelweide (c. 1170-c.1230) may add to the mélange, with its fond memories of passionate outdoor lovemaking on “gebrochen bluomen unde gras” (translated from the Middle High German by Raymond Oliver as “Flowers crushed and grass down-pressed”) (, accessed March 24, 2022).

Love Under the Lindens already features as a title in a trio of plays in a parody of drama teaching in Lolita (Pt.2 Ch.20): “such questions as what is the basic conflict in ‘Hedda Gabler,’ or where are the climaxes in ‘Love Under the Lindens,’ or analyze the prevailing mood of ‘Cherry Orchard’” (Lolita  229).

MOTIF: under tree.

403.06-07: transported into English by Thomas Gladstone . . . firm of Packers & Porters: For Mann’s translator Helen Tracy Lowe-Porter, see 403.05-07n.

The Conservative British politician Sir Thomas Gladstone (1804-1889) was the elder brother of statesman William Gladstone (1809-1898), Liberal Prime Minister for four terms between 1868 and 1894. Eugene O’Neill’s middle name was Gladstone. But “transported . . . by Thomas Gladstone” also echoes “transfigured into English by R.G. Stonelower” (3.04), where the “Stone” part hits at George Steiner as advocate of “transfigurations” (non-literal translations) and enthusiastic acclaimer of Robert Lowell’s “imitations” (see 3.04n.).

MOTIF: trans-; translation.

403.08: Adochka, adova dochka (Hell’s daughter): Plays on both Ada’s name (in Marina’s fond diminutive, 402.03), which in Russian means “of hell” (see 29.27-28 and n.), and her being the daughter of Demon. “Adova” is an archaic short-form adjective.

MOTIF: Ada; Demon; hell.

403.08: daughter),: corrected from 1969, "daughter)."

403.09: ‘automobile’ is rendered as ‘wagon’: German, Wagen, “automobile.”

MOTIF: translation.

403.10: little Lucette: MOTIF: little Lucette.

403.11: three terrible Toms: Perhaps Thomas Mann; T.S. Eliot (see 403.04n.); and novelist Thomas Wolfe (1900-1938), whom VN lists next to Mann in a list of “puffed-up writers” he happens “to find second-rate and ephemeral”(SO 54). Hazel Shade too has to study Eliot (Pale Fire poem, ll. 368-379, p. 46).

403.11: at Los!: Ada 1968: “at < strikethrough>San Bernardino < strikethrough><inserted> Los!” A play on “Los Angeles” (the full name exists on Antiterra, 272.25-26, 317.08-09).

There seems no reason to suppose a play on the figure of Los in William Blake’s prophetic writings (The Book of Urizen, 1794, The Book of Los, 1794, Jerusalem, 1804-20, the second edition of Vala, or the Four Zoas, 1807, and Milton: A Poem, 1804-10), which Nabokov does not refer to elsewhere.

403.12-13: I remember our nonstop three-hour kiss Under the Larches immediately afterwards: Not otherwise recorded.

403.13: Under the Larches: MOTIF: larch; under tree.

403.15-16: must have been creeping after us on his belly: May combine two elements of the opening of Genesis, the repeated description of animals as “creeping” (Genesis I.26: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth”) and the serpent, after tempting Eve to eat of the Tree of Knowledge, forced to move on its belly (Genesis 3.14: “And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life”).

403.19-20: glutting your tongue . . . glued to your epiglottis: An alliterative take on their “kissing phase” (102.19). Since the epiglottis is the flap of skin behind the tongue and in front of the larynx, this is one very deep kiss. Cf. “‘I can lend you my tongue,’ she said, and did” (103.12). The triple gl- sound starts in the back of the throat.

403.21: quick-quick: MOTIF: quick-quick.

403.22-25: till I’m ninety . . . ninety times a month. . . say a hundred and fifty, that would mean—: Van will oblige emotionally until he is ninety-seven, in fact, but by eighty-seven he is “completely impotent” (575.24-25).

MOTIF: riches.

403.26-27: calculations went to the canicular devils: Cf. “‘as we all know by now, Mlle La Rivière de Diamants has nothing against a hysterical little girl’s not wearing pantalets during l’ardeur de la canicule.’ ‘I refuse to share the ardor of your little canicule with an apple tree’” (95.12-17), and, a few lines earlier in that scene: “And you started to strangle me with those devilish knees of yours—” (95.04-05): This love-making scene in the midst of looking through Kim’s album, with these echoes of the “fortunate fall” in the Shattal apple Tree of Knowledge in Pt. 1 Ch.15, reportedly brought “from the Eden National Park where Dr. Krolik’s son is a ranger and breeder” (95.19-20), leads after their love-making into the next photograph, of Dr. Krolik, and the hints of Ada’s infidelity at some stage with him. 

MOTIF: canicule; devil.

403.29-30: picking up the album from the bedside rug: MOTIF: album.

403.31-405.07: Dr.Krolik . . . collateral Kroliks: MOTIF: Krolik.

403.32: best Vanishing Van: Darkbloom: “allusion to vanishing cream.” In other words, Van’s semen disappears or dries quickly—and perhaps, also, its consequences vanish, in that Van is sterile (394.01), as he has mentioned less than an hour ago? Perhaps, Diana Makhaldiani suggests (email, April 28, 2022), it is this swiftly vanishing semen that causes two “unrelated gypsy courtesans” (393.29) to diagnose him as “absolutely sterile despite his prowess” (394.01-02)—and a match to Ada’s “acarpous destiny” (219.02)?nv


403.34: Knickerbockered, panama-hatted: Although Krolik, despite his Russian surname, may have been Turkish in origin (his brother, if real, is “born in Turkey,” Ada avers, 404.09)— and lived near Ardis, these two adjectives have strong associations with New York. “Knickerbocker” (W3) can mean “New Yorker” (from A History of New York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty, 1809, by Washington Irving (1783-1859), published over the nom de plume of “Diedrich Knickerbocker”). “Panama-hatted” becomes a match for New York (or its Antiterran equivalent, Manhattan) through Van’s references to his and Ada’s successive sojourns together, and as he sees it at that moment, sunderings: “Ardis the First, Ardis the Second, Tanned Man in a Hat, and now Mount Russet” (530.14-15) for Ardis 1884, Ardis 1888, Manhattan 1892-93, and Mont Roux 1905, respectively.

403.34-404.01: lusting for his babochka (Russian for ‘lepidopteron’): Babochka, Russian for“butterfly” (or moth) but also an affectionate form (cf. “lassie”) of baba (“peasant woman, woman”). Given the “big, strong, handsome old March Hare” (404.05) describing Krolik a few lines later, “lusting” refers to more than Krolik’s desire for butterflies.

404.01-02: (Russian for “lepidopteron”). A passion, a sickness. What could Diana know about that chase?: Diana is the virgin Greek goddess of hunting (but usually for deer, lions, and the like, not butterflies).

Probably also a reference to an article by Diana Butler, “Lolita Lepidoptera,” New World Writing 16 (1960): 58-84, rpt. in Phyllis A. Roth, ed., Critical Essays on Vladimir Nabokov (Boston: G.K. Hall, 1984), 59-73. Butler argued that Nabokov had modelled Humbert’s pursuit of Lolita on his own pursuit of butterflies. Nabokov was indignant at her argument and errors: see SL 393, 394 (“there is a famous American butterfly called ‘Diana,’ and there was a celebrated British lepidopterist called Butler’), 408 (a letter to Alfred Appel, Jr., who was annotating Lolita, onMarch 28, 1967, when Nabokov was writing Ada: “I shall check all your notes but please do leave out all reference to lepidoptera, a tricky subject (which led the unfortunate Diana so dreadfully astray)”). Krolik seems a kind of answer to Diana Butler: an older man who does pursue and catch Ada as he pursues butterflies.

Thinking of Johnny Starling, who has shot himself on a beach, apparently from love for Ada, Van conflates Ada and Diana as goddess of hunting: “Because that was really not bad: bringing down three in as many years—besides winging a fourth. Jolly good shot—Adiana! Wonder whom she’ll bag next” (381.34-382.02).

Diana is also the name of a butterfly: W2: “A large, handsome butterfly (Semnopsyche, syn. Argynnis, diana) of the southern Appalachian region,” now reclassified as Speyeria diana.  Diana is the largest of North American fritillaries; Ada will shortly report: “Krolik’s and my fondest dream, was to describe and depict the early stages, from ova to pupa, of all the known Fritillaries, Greater and Lesser, beginning with those of the New World” (404.16-18).
Ashenden 2000: 40 notes: “Van’s reference to Diana and the discussion about Krolik leads Ada to muse on their cherished dream to establish a Fritillary Institute, because one of the most famous fritillaries in eastern North America is the Diana fritillary, Speyeria diana. The males are patterned with bright orange and black, but the females escape predation by mimicking the blue and black coloration of the unpalatable pipevine swallowtail, Papilio philenor. Krolik frequently brought Ada gifts of fritillaries and other butterflies from exotic places, and collecting a female diana really would be a significant hunt, as they are ‘secretive and usually occupied in slowly searching the rhododendron and alder undergrowth for the violets that serve as their hosts’ (Emmel, 171)” (Thomas C. Emmel, Butterflies: Their Life Cycle, Their Behavior, London: Thames and Hudson, 1976).

404.03: in the state Kim mounted him: “In the state in which Kim photographed him and mounted the image into his album,” but with both a suggestion of a lepidopterist “mounting” his butterfly catch, after spreading, in a storage or display tray, and in this hyper-sexualized and hyper-suspicious context, also a spurt of comically gratuitous erotic suggestiveness in “mounted.”

404.04: much less furry and fat: Cf. “Dr. Krolik was swiftly running on short legs after a very special orange-tip” (57.02-03); Krolik in 1886 “in his open coffin where he lay, she said, as plump and pink as in vivo” (219.12-13).

404.05: a big, strong, handsome old March Hare: The proverb “Mad as a March hare,” from which Lewis Carroll derived the March Hare of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, alludes to the frenzy of the male hare during March, its rutting season. Van, in other words, suspects that the high sexual energy he intuits in Krolik, and that Ada has given no indication of whatever, may have resulted in his lusting after more than butterflies, when with Ada.
Cf. also, for another member of Alice in Wonderland’s Mad Hatter’s tea party: “revived by the ‘Madhatters’ (as the inhabitants of New Amsterdam were once called” (222.16-17). Why another connection with Manhattan or New York? Perhaps because of the famous statue of Alice, the White Rabbit, and the Mad Hatter (by José de Creeft), installed as a gift to New York by publisher George Delacorte in 1959 in Manhattan’s Central Park? Note that Van and Ada discuss Palace in Wonderland (53.25-30) just before Ada takes Van into her larvarium, a “glorified rabbitry” (54.12) where the influence of Krolik prevails. Krolik’s name in Russian, remember, means “rabbit”: the White Rabbit who greets Alice in Wonderland—and proves to be a March Hare, a playboy?

404.05-10: “Explain!” “There’s nothing to explain. I asked Kim one day to help me carry some boxes there and back, and here’s the visual proof. Besides, that’s not my Krolik but his brother, Karol, or Karapars, Krolik. A doctor of philosophy, born in Turkey.” “I love the way your eyes narrow when you tell a lie. . . . ”: Since Ada has identified the photograph as that of “my poor nature teacher” (403.33), her reidentification of the person in the photograph, after Van’s “big, strong, handsome old March Hare,” seems highly suspect.

404.08-09: his brother, Karol, or Karapars, Krolik. A doctor of philosophy, born in Turkey: Ezgi Emiroglu (emails, October 18 and 19, 2008), points out that Kars is “a city in Turkey (one which, actually, Russia had claims over during the post-WWII years because it had been a Russian city earlier), and also ‘Kara’ has the meaning of ‘dark’ or ‘black’ in Turkish, just like the ‘dark’ that comes before [Demon or Dark Veen]’s name.” And as Sklyarenko notes, Nabokv-L, June 28, 2019, Karapars in Turkish means "black panther.”

404.09: A doctor of philosophy: Whereas Ada’s lepidopteral adviser Dr. Krolik is the local M.D. (cf. 8.18, 49.22, 254.25-26).

404.10-11: The remote mirage in Effrontery Minor: Play on “Asia Minor,” within which most of Turkey sits. Perhaps also with an echo of Turkish “effendi”? Effendi (W2): “Master; sir; --a Turkish title of respect, esp. for a state official; but often simply as the courtesy title of a gentleman.”

404.12-13: “I’m not lying!”—(with lovely dignity): “He is a doctor of philosophy”: Ada defends what she can. But what is she not telling the truth about? Has she had a sexual relationship with Karapars Krolik, or the lusty, handsome, March Hare Krolik? Lepidopterist Dr. Krolik dies in 1886. Ada has been unfaithful towards Van with Rack in 1887 and Percy de Prey in 1888; has she also been unfaithful with one or other of the Kroliks, the year before Rack, say, when she is fourteen?
Sklyarenko confidently affirms that Ada’sfirst lover was Dr Krolik's brother, Karol, or Karapars (Turk., ‘black panther’), Krolik” (Nabokv-L, March 17, 2013) (see also Nabokv-L, August 4, 2010) but there seems no evidence to suggest this, or even that Karol or Karapars Krolik exists outside Ada’s apparently mendacious evasion.
For a discussion of Ada’s and Krolik’s likely sexual relationship, presumably started sometime after she loses her virginity to Van (she is unquestionably virginal and naïve in the first few weeks of their relationship), see Afternote to I.15. Her passion for the lepidopteral larvae Krolik introduces her to, which so often have phallic connotations in I.8, sits suspiciously beside her “Je raffole de tout ce qui rampe (I’m crazy about everything that crawls) . . . . dear Crawly” (54.24-55.28). Ada sometimes walks to Krolik’s (95.34-96.02); she has a voracious sexual appetite; “Dr. Krolik died (in 1886) of a heart attack in his garden” (219.11-12). After hearing of the near-death and incapacitation of Ada’s lover Johnny Starling, Van comments, only a day before seeing this photograph of Krolik: “Because that was really not bad: bringing down three in as many years—besides winging a fourth. Jolly good shot—Adiana! Wonder whom she’ll bag next” (381.34-382.02). Has she already “bagged” another?
In 1901 Greg Erminin, telling Van of his own love for Ada, and Percy’s, and Rack’s, also adds: “and Dr. Krolik, who, they said, also loved her” (454.34-455.01). Ada returned Rack’s favors, and Percy’s, if not Greg’s; given how much she shares with Krolik, unlike with Rack or Percy, and given her evasiveness before the evidence of Krolik’s photograph, it seems highly likely she also returned Krolik’s sexual interest.

404.14-15: “Van ist auch one,” murmured Van, sounding the last word as “wann”: A doctor of philosophy, at twenty-two, if not earlier. Given Van’s research and reflections on time, it seems appropriate that he should say he is also wann” (German for “when,” pronounced like English “vahn”).


404.14: auch: Darkbloom: “Germ., also.”

404.16-19: “Our fondest dream,” she continued, “Krolik’s and my fondest dream, was to describe and depict the early stages, from ova to pupa, of all the known Fritillaries, Greater and Lesser, beginning with those of the New World: Cf. “I take them to Dr. Krolik’s assistant who sets them and labels them and pins them in glassed trays in a clean oak cabinet, which will be mine when I marry. I shall then have a big collection, and continue to breed all kinds of leps—my dream is to have a special Institute of Fritillary larvae and violets—all the special violets they breed on. I would have eggs or larvae rushed to me here by plane from all over North America, with their foodplants” (57.09-16).
Johnson 2000: 167 aptly describes, in another context, “Ada's characteristic diversionary tactic whenever an uncomfortable subject comes up”—diverting, especially, to one aspect or another of her biological knowledge.

404.18: Fritillaries: See 57.13n: “Nymphalid butterflies of Argynnis and related genera, generally with black-dotted, usually brownish, orange or yellow wings. Nabokov in A1 identifies as Argynnis, in which all fritillaries were once grouped.”

404.20: argynninarium: A breeding house for raising butterflies of Argynnis and related genera.

MOTIF: -arium.

404.22-23: night-animal calls to create a natural atmosphere in certain difficult cases: Any link with Lucette’s “I was afraid of the cougars and snakes . . . whose cries and rattlings Ada imitated admirably, and, I think, designedly, in the desert’s darkness” (374.32-375.01)?

404.24: exquisite care: Ada 1968: “exquisite care! < strikethrough> So much more than a gardener’s blind little bastard (my authority is Phillip Arnold Hall, I think.)</ strikethrough> "See below, presumably: “recently described by Professor Hall from Goodson Bay” (404.32-33)?

404.24-26: There are hundreds of species and good subspecies in both hemispheres but, I repeat, we’d begin with America: Cf. Eric Veen’s dream of “a chain of palatial brothels that his inheritance would allow him to establish all over ‘both hemispheres of our callipygian globe’” (348.08-10). There seems some kind of odd resonance, apart from the specific echo of “both hemispheres,” in these global and exotic plans of Eric Veen and Ada Veen, one for breeding, one for copulation without reproduction. Van’s dreams, as “a boy of fifteen (Eric Veen’s age of florescence)” (345.13-14), of travel on railways from Manhattan to Grant’s Horn, or from Yukonsk to Uruguay, with additional travel from London to Rodosia or Sydney (345.14-30), which segue into Eric’s Villa Venus dreams, also prioritize the Americas before turning to the “other hemisphere.”

404.25: good subspecies: Distinctions between subspecies are often contentious in biological taxonomy, perhaps especially in butterflies, collected by so many amateurs. A “good subspecies” is one that survives critical testing and reaches objective acceptance.

404.27-32: violets of numerous kinds, airmailed from everywhere . . . violarium . . . Viola kroliki: MOTIF: flowers.

404.28-29: starting, for the heck of it, with arctic habitats—Lyaska, Le Bras d’Or, Victor Island: Alaska, Labrador, and Victoria Island on Earth. Zimmer notes: “The range of a number of fritillaries extends very far to the north, »Clossiana chariclea and »Clossiana polaris occurring even in Greenland” (, accessed March 16, 2022).

MOTIF: Bras d’Or; Lyaska; Victor.

404.29: Victor Island: The Antiterran equivalent of Victoria Island, Canada, a large island (the eighth largest in the world, larger than Great Britain) in the Canadian Arctic, through which part of the boundary between Nunavut (not yet a distinct territory in Nabokov’s time) and the Northwest Territories now passes. Not Vancouver Island, whose main city, Victoria, is the capital of British Columbia, thus leading tourists to mistake the island itself for a “Victoria Island.”

404.29: magnanery: Magnanerie (W2),“An establishment where silkworms are reared”—and by extension, here, other lepidopteral larvae.

404.29: violarium: Violarium in Latin had meant a bed or bank of violets, as in Virgil, Georgics IV, 32 or Horace, Odes, Bk 2, 15.5.

MOTIF: -arium.

404.30: full of fascinating flourishing plants: An enthusiastic variation on the expected “flowering plants.”

404.30-32: endiconensis . . . Northern Marsh Violet . . . Viola kroliki: MOTIF: Ada’s taxonomy.

404.30: endiconensis: In biological taxonomy, -ensis indicates “from the place” (the place-name that precedes this suffix). Diana Makhaldiani suggests (email, April 28, 2022) the Endicott Mountains of central northern Alaska, at much the same latitude as Victoria Island (see 404.29n.). Perhaps Nabokov pointedly linked Endicott and endico: as the Pléiade note indicates, III,1475n.38, the ancient Occitan word endi is a variant of the indi which has given indigo in French, meaning “violet.”

404.31: Northern Marsh Violet: Viola palustris grows in most meadows and marshes in northern North America and Eurasia, and is the foodplant of the pearl-bordered and small pearl-bordered or silver-bordered fritillary, Boloria euphrosyne and Boloria selene, respectively.

404.32-33: Goodson Bay: Earth’s Hudson Bay (see 69.09-10n.). MOTIF: Goodson.

404.33-405.02: I would contribute colored figures of all the instars, and line drawings of the perfect insect’s genitalia and other structures. It would be a wonderful work: VN has given Ada an enthusiasm and ambition to match his own for the Butterflies of Europe project he had been working on in the early 1960s, which would have featured his colored figures of the adults (see Nabokov’s Butterflies: Uncollected and Unpublished Writings, ed. BB and Robert Michael Pyle, Boston: Beacon Press, 1999), but not the larvae (caterpillars) or pupae, nor the line drawings of genitalia, essential in many groups for precise specific identifications, although he had provided line drawings of genitalia in his scientific papers of the 1940s.

404.33: instars: Instar (W2), “Zool. An insect or other arthropod in any of the several forms assumed between the successive ecdyses, or molts; hence, the form assumed during one such stage, or the stage itself. The pupa and imago [adult] of a butterfly are instars; the larval stage (in which several molts occur) is represented by several instars.”

405.06: a regular warren of collateral Kroliks: Playing on “rabbit warren,” since krolik is Russian for “rabbit.”

405.10-11: Three footmen, Price, Norris, and Ward dressed up as grotesque firemen: In Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park (see 8.25-28n.) there are three Ward sisters, one now Mrs Norris, one Mrs Frances Price, mother of the heroine Fanny, and the third, Lady Bertram, who takes Fanny as her ward.
Price features in Kim Beauharnais’s first photograph (398.19), helping Marina remove her dust coat, and in Van’s own memories of that day (38.03). He is also associated with Austen, during Demon’s dinner at Ardis in 1888:

Van, who in his father’s presence was prone to lapse into a rather dismal sort of playfulness, proposed taking Ada in, but she slapped
his wrist away with a sisterly sans-gêne, of which Fanny Price might not have approved.
          Another Price, a typical, too typical, old retainer whom Marina (and G. A. Vronsky, during their brief romance) had dubbed, for
unknown reasons, “Grib” . . . (249.18-24)

Norris does not feature separately. Ward appears elsewhere only in another of Kim’s photographs, dancing with Mrs. French (401.26-27). All three footmen pursue the fire at the Burning Barn (“three English footmen on horseback,” 115.27-28); they are not to be confused—or are they?—with “the munching footmen, Essex, Middlesex and Somerset” (85.23-24) at Ada’s twelfth birthday party.
MOTIF: memory test.

405.11-12: Young Bout devotedly kissing the veined instep of a pretty bare foot raised and placed on a balustrade: Also early on the Night of the Burning Barn. Van comments on Bout’s interest in Blanche at the end of Ardis the First (157.13-15); Blanche rushing to the fire has already “lost a miniver-trimmed slipper on the grand staircase, like Ashette in the English version” (114.16-17).
MOTIF: memory test.

405.13-14: Nocturnal outdoor shot of two small white ghosts pressing their noses from the inside to the library window: Van wrapped in tartan toga and Ada in nightdress on the Night of the Burning Barn, kneeling on the divan under the library’s window: “‘Look, gipsies,’ she whispered, pointing at three shadowy forms—two men, one with a ladder, and a child or dwarf—circumspectly moving across the gray lawn. They saw the candle-lit window and decamped, the smaller one walking à reculons as if taking pictures” (117.12-15). The small figure is Kim. “Ghosts” echoes the anticipation of this scene when Ada shows Van for the first time the library and its window: “A pair of candlesticks, mere phantoms of metal and tallow, stood, or seemed to stand, on the broad window ledge” (41.16-18).
Cf. Mary 68: “a human face, its white nose flattened, was pressed against the inside of the black windowpane. . . . the carroty hair and gaping mouth of the watchman’s son.”
MOTIF: memory test.

405.15- 406.04: Artistically éventail-ed . . . to keep Eden chaste: Records Van and Ada’s first rendezvous after the Night of the Burning Barn, in the Baguenaudier Bower the next morning and then deeper in the larchwood (cf. 128.06-129.25).

405.15: éventail-ed: Darkbloom: “fan.” Describing it further, Van writes: “in the last picture, the lower one in the fanlike sequence” (405.33-406.01).

405.17-18: tall grass, wild flowers, and overhanging foliage: Cf. the mention of the flowers as Van walks toward the third lawn to meet Ada (128.21-25), and the baguenaudier flowers (not wild, but drooping), 128.28.

405.18: folly of peduncles: Folly (OED, n.1, 5b): “(A name for) an ornamental structure or building, such as a tower, temple, or artificial ruin, that is placed in a large garden or grounds and is primarily decorative rather than functional.” Is this the sense meant? Note the echo of “foliage” early in the line. Peduncle (W2): “A flower stalk; the stem that supports an inflorescence.”

405.22-23: her discarded dress: Cf. “she had . . . changed into the curtal frock of sunbright cotton” (129.06-07).

405.23: the daisy-starred grass: Cf. Lucette walking on her hands and “pausing to nibble a daisy” (91.32).

405.23-24: The magnifier (now retrieved . . . ): Cf. 400.30-401.02.

405.25-26: the type of tight-capped toadstool: Perhaps specifically Phallus impudicus, the common stinkhorn (the immature form is known as “the witches’ egg”: see later in the line, “ever since witching was banned”), of Europe and North America, or perhaps simply implying the phallic shape of many fungi. Cf. Ada on the Night of the Burning Barn, examining Van’s erect penis: “Now what’s this? The cap of the Red Bolete is not half as plushy” (119.25-26).
MOTIF: bolete.

405.26-27: called in Scots Law . . .  “the Lord of Erection.”: Lord of Erection (W2): “Scots Law. The lord or superior of a temporal lordship created by secularization (at the time of the Reformation) of an ecclesiastical benefice.” There is of course no such toadstool.

405.26: ever since witching was banned: “Witch trials were held in Scotland only after the Reformation; the last official burning took place there in 1727” (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 14th ed. 23, 605).

405.27-28: Marvel’s Melon: From Marvell’s “The Garden”; see 65.08n. and 159.07-08n.

405.30: la force des choses: Literally, “the force of things.”

405.32-33: Romany clips: Romany: “gypsy.” Clip, obsolete, “embrace, hug, grip.” A1: “gypsy holds in wrestling.” Cf. “You could clip and kiss” (45.20) on the Ardis Manor’s complicated roof.

405.33: illegal nelsons: Nelson (W2): “A full nelson. See half nelson, Illust.HALF NELSON. “Wresting. A hold in which one arm is thrust under the corresponding arm of the opponent, generally from behind, and the hand placed on the back of the neck. In the full nelson both hands are so placed.”

MOTIF: behind.

406.01: the fanlike sequence: Cf. “Artistically éventail-ed” (405.15).

406.01-02: Ada . . . her Adam: MOTIF: Ada; Adam; his Ada.

406.02-04: Adam . . . Old Master’s device to keep Eden chaste: MOTIF: Eden.

406.02-04: a frond or inflorescence veiling his thigh with the deliberate casualness of an Old Master’s device to keep Eden chaste: Innumerable examples. A particularly funny one is The Fall of Man (c. 1550) by Titian, now in the Prado, with a cluster of fig-leaves over Adam’s genitals and a branch of apple leaves over Eve’s. See, accessed March 17, 2022.
Cf. Hugh Person, looking through a photograph album of Armande Chamar, on his first visit to her family home: “Another revelation of impuberal softness (its middle line just distinguishable from the less vertical grassblade next to it) was afforded by a photo of her in which she sat in the buff on the grass, combing her sun-shot hair and spreading wide, in false perspective, the lovely legs of a giantess” (TT 41).

MOTIF: painting.

406.03-05: with the deliberate casualness of an Old Master’s device to keep Eden chaste. In an equally casual tone of voice Van said: “Darling, you smoke too much, my belly is covered with your ashes. I suppose Bouteillan knows Professor Beauharnais’s exact address in the Athens of Graphic Arts”: After the first photographs showing himself and Ada photographed in flagrante, albeit at a distance, Van feigns casualness when asking for Kim’s precise address “at the School of Photography in Kalugano” (397.33-34): he has already formed the intention of somehow ensuring Kim’s blackmail will not be able to trouble them again. Van had also had few ideas on how to find Rack’s address in Kalugano, until it turned out that Rack was in the same Kalugano Hospital as himself (313.07-15).

406.05-06: Darling, you smoke too much, my belly is covered with your ashes: Cf. Van’s “I denounce the philistine’s postcoital cigarette both as a doctor and an artist” (120.33-34).

406.07-08: the Athens of Graphic Arts: A particularly ironic title for a school of photography in the notoriously “dismal” Kalugano (see motif Kalugano dismal).

406.09-10: “You shall not slaughter him,” said Ada. “He is subnormal, he is, perhaps, blackmailerish . . . ”: Ada is not fooled by Van’s diversion to her smoking and his feigned casualness: knowing him, she knows what he is capable of.

MOTIF: blackmail.

406.09-10: He is subnormal, he is, perhaps, blackmailerish, but in his sordidity there is an istoshnïy ston (“visceral moan”) of crippled art: The near-echo of the name of novelist Norman Mailer (1923-2007) in “subnormal . . . blackmailerish” hardly seems coincidental. Mailer was a very prominent cultural figure in the 1960s, and the blackmailer “the Black Miller” (440.20) is a writer, “Norbert von Miller” (440.23), whose first and last names both evoke “Norman Mailer.” Nabokov regarded or dismissed Mailer as a “journalist,” as he often was (VN to George Weidenfeld, October 7, 1968, VNA).   

406.13: a copperhead of eight was also ambushed in the brush: Copperhead (W2), “A poisonous snake, or pit viper (Agkistrodon mokasen, syn. contortrix) allied to the rattlesnake, but without rattles, found in most parts of the eastern United States.” The reference is of course to Lucette and her copper hair: “our darling copperhead” (64.26-27). She was presumably not ambushed by them on this early occasion: she does not become fascinated by their lovemaking until later in the summer, after the incident by the brook where Van and Ada tie her up insufficiently well to stop her escaping and spying on them (142-43), and the closest to her being “ambushed in the brush” is their discovery of her spying on them from her hiding place “in a tangle of bushes” (267.19-20) by the brook near Ada’s birthday picnic site in July 1888.

 As narrator of the Kingston scene, Van records Lucette’s visit: “‘Tell Rattner,’ she said, gulping down her third brandy as simply as if it were technicolored water. ‘Tell him’ (the liquor loosening her pretty viper tongue)—” and Ada comments interlinearly “(Viper? Lucette? My dead dear darling?)” (370.16-19).

Cf. Ada herself imitating rattlesnakes to make little Lucette scared enough to join her in bed in Arizona (“I was afraid of the cougars and snakes . . . whose cries and rattlings Ada imitated admirably, and, I think, designedly, in the desert’s darkness under my first-floor window,” 374.32-375.02).

MOTIF: copper; snake.

406.14: Art my foute: Darkbloom: “French swear word made to sound ‘foot.’” From the verb foutre (“to fuck”); the noun foutaise means “bullshit.”

406.14: ars: Darkbloom: “Lat., art.” The sound “arse” (British spelling) is reinforced by the last four letters of “hearse” two words earlier, even if that word is sounded quite differently.

406.15: Carte du Tendre: Darkbloom: “‘Map of Tender Love,’ sentimental allegory of the seventeenth century.”Correctly the Carte de Tendre (and originally Carte du pays de Tendre), an allegorical map of the land of Tendre, the land of tender emotions, in an engraving attributed to François Chauveau (1613-1676), printed in the first part of the ten-volume romance Clélie, historie romaine (1654-1660) by Madeleine de Scudéry (1607-1701). See, accessed March 17, 2022.

Cf. TT 88: “a great Carte du Tendre or Chart of Torture,” where VN plays on the French tendre as noun (“a ‘soft spot’ in one’s heart for someone”) and verb (“to stretch, strain”).

406.16-17: I will either horsewhip his eyes out: In the event, Van does not use a horsewhip but an alpenstock: “‘there’s one thing I regret,’ [Ada] added: ‘Your use of an alpenstock to release a brute’s fury—not yours, not my Van’s. I should never have told you about the Ladore policeman’” (445.31-33).
Cf., re “horsewhip,” Van, plagued for the first time by jealousy at the thought of Ada with another, as he parts from her at the end of Ardis the First: “fiercely beheading the tall arrogant fennels with his riding crop” (159.07-08), itself an echo of Rimbaud’s “Mémoire” (see 159.07-08n.).

406.17-18: or redeem our childhood by making a book of it: Ardis, a family chronicle: Van says “or” but, acting out both, turns the “or” to an “and”—eventually. Tammi 1985: 174 comments: “Van has in one sense been preparing for his future role as a memoirist even at the time of the narrated events.”
One of Vadim Vadimych’s works in Look at the Harlequins! is “the best of my English romaunts, Ardis (1970)” (96).

Cf. Van writing, in an unposted letter to Ada, of her performance in Don Juan’s Last Fling: “That [illegible] is a complete refutation of odious Kim’s odious stills” (500.22-23).

MOTIF: Ardis; child; family chronicle.

406.19-20: skipping another abominable glimpse—apparently, through a hole in the boards of the attic: In 1888 “They tried the attic, but noticed, just in time, a rent in its floor through which one glimpsed a corner of the mangle room where French, the second maid, could be seen in her corset and petticoat, passing to and fro” (211.20-212.03). But in 1884, when these photographs were taken, they did try the attic, before they had noticed that hole: cf. 6.06-9.12.

406.21: our little Caliph Island: Not mentioned in detail in Ardis the First, although implicit in “They went boating and swimming in Ladore, they followed the bends of its adored river, they tried to find more rhymes to it, they walked up the hill to the black ruins of Bryant’s Castle” (139.05-08), especially in view of the description of sojourns on the island in 1888 (“We are now on a willow islet amidst the quietest branch of the blue Ladore, with wet fields on one side and on the other a view of Bryant’s Castle,” 215.01-03).

“Caliph Island” perhaps because of their association of the island with the story of Scheherazade in The Arabian Nights: “‘Now I’m Scheher,’ he said, ‘and you are his Ada, and that’s your green prayer carpet’” (217.26-27) and “She attempted to coat her fingernails with Scheherazade’s Lacquer” (218.15-16). Diana Makhaldiani (email, April 28, 2022) suggests that VN could be toying with the apparent derivation of the name “California” from the novel Las sergas de Esplandián (The Adventures of Esplandián, 1510), by Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo (c. 1450-1505), popular at the time the Spanish were exploring North America. The earliest Spanish explorers in the region thought at first that the peninsula now known as Baja California was an island, and named it “California,” before they discovered that it was attached to the mainland. See, accessed May 2, 2022.

406.23: Some nuts get a kick from motor-bikini comics: Play on “motorbike” and “bikini,” but perhaps a specific reference to the British comic strip Modesty Blaise, created by writer Peter O’ Donnell (1920-2010) and illustrator Jim Holdaway (1927-1970), launched in 1963 in the London Evening Standard and soon syndicated in newspapers around the world, and adapted for film a number of times, first in 1966. The heroine, in part a James Bond spoof, does not wear a bikini but does show a great deal of bust and cleavage as she kicks out against foes, in a world of fast cars and motorcycles.  Or perhaps the Barbarella comic strip and books, created in 1962 by Jean-Claude Forest (1930-1998), more erotic, and with Barbarella often in a bikini, but, set in a science-fiction universe, without motorbikes.

As Diana Makhaldiani suggests (email, April 28, 2022), “Some nuts get a kick” “sounds painful, no?”—if we read “nuts” in the other colloquial sense not of “madmen” but of “testicles” and read “get a kick” literally. 

406.24-29: These are our willows, remember? . . . through the rushes: MOTIF: memory testwillow 

406.24: These are our willows, remember?: Combines the chapter mostly on the willow islet in the Ladore, in 1888 (Pt. 1 Ch. 35), and the “remember” motif associated with the Chateaubriand homage in 1884, “My sister, do you still recall . . . ” (Pt. 1 Ch. 22), which segues into their “boating and swimming in Ladore” (139.05).

406.25-26: The castle bathed by the Adour: / The guidebooks recommend that tour: Ada’s comic parody of the more romantic nostalgia of her and Van’s original variations on Chateaubriand’s “Ma soeur, te souvient-il encore” (138.05), including “Don’t you remember any more / That castle bathed by the Ladore?” (138.03-04).

Cf. “a tourist, who, having come all the way from England to see Bryant’s Castle” (407.12-13).

MOTIF: Ada; adore; chateau que baignait la Dore; Ladore; Oh! qui me rendra.

406.27-29: The willows look sort of greenish because the twigs are greenish . . . our red-boat: MOTIF: red-green.

406.27-28: The willows look sort of greenish: Cf. “Lucette, our darling copperhead who by now should be in her green nightgown . . . the nuance of willows” (64.26-30).

406.28-29: the twigs are greenish, but actually they are leafless here, it’s early spring: Probably April 1888, when the affair with Percy de Prey appears to have taken over from the affair with Rack (294.04-05). Willows are among the earliest deciduous trees to produce new leaves in spring.

406.29-30: our red boat Souvenance through the rushes: Cf. “‘I have to admit,’ said Ada to Van as they floated downstream in a red boat, toward a drape of willows on a Ladore islet, ‘I have to admit with shame and sorrow, Van, that the splendid plan is a foozle. I think the brat has a dirty mind. I think she is criminally in love with you’ (214.04-08); “Their visits to that islet remained engraved in the memory of that summer with entwinements that no longer could be untangled. They saw themselves standing there, embraced, clothed only in mobile leafy shadows, and watching the red rowboat with its mobile inlay of reflected ripples carry them off, waving, waving their handkerchiefs; and that mystery of mixed sequences was enhanced by such things as the boat’s floating back to them while it still receded, the oars crippled by refraction” (217.28-218.02). The latter quotation especially evokes Rimbaud’s poem “Mémoire” (see 64.15-65.02 and n. and I.10 Afternote) with its rowboat (color unspecified) and memorial overlays, reflections, and ripples. The poem ends with the lines “Mon canot, toujours fixe; et sa chaîne tirée / Au fond de cet oeil d’eau sans bords,—à quelle boue?” (“My boat still stationary; and its chain caught / In the bottom of this rimless eye of water—in what mud?”). Souvenance (remembrance, recollection) is close in sense to mémoire (memory).

406.30-407.08: “ . . . Kim’s apotheosis of Ardis.” The entire staff stood in several rows on the steps of the pillared porch. . . . Bouteillan, still wearing the costume sport he had on when driving off with Van (that picture had been muffed or omitted): The photograph in the album has been shot the morning of Van’s departure from Ardis the First, but Kim has failed to photograph the moment Van leaves with Bouteillan, en route to his secret rendezvous with Ada at Forest Fork. Kim appears nevertheless to have taken advantage of the gathering of the Ardis household to farewell Van: “They saw him off: Marina in her shlafrok, Lucette petting (substitutionally) Dack, Mlle Larivière . . . , and a score of copiously tipped servants (among whom we noticed kitchen Kim with his camera)—practically the entire household, except Blanche who had the headache, and dutiful Ada who had asked to be excused, having promised to visit an infirm villager” (156.08-15). But it seems to have taken time to corral the full household complement for the photograph—enough time for Bouteillan to return from driving Van to Forest Fork. Ada is absent (still making her way back from Forest Fork), as is Lucette (chasing an errant Dack? obscured behind an adult?).

406.32-407.02: The entire staff stood in several rows on the steps of the pillared porch behind the Bank President Baroness Veen and the Vice President Ida Larivière. Those two were flanked by the two prettiest typists:  Demon is “a Manhattan banker” (4.16) and even “a bank president” (505.26). But Marina is not: Van, describing the formal photograph of all the staff, and perhaps inspired by the imposing “pillared porch,” playfully evokes an imagined advertising photograph of a bank and its staff (“getting less and less distinct as in those bank ads where limited little employees dimly dimidiated . . . ,” 407.20-21), and in the process turning the maids into “typists.”

407.02-03: Blanche . . . and a black girl: MOTIF: black-white.

407.02: Blanche de la Tourberie: MOTIF: Tourbière; turf.

407.03: tearstained: Why? Because of Van’s departure? A tear-stained face would require astonishing photographic definition to discern in this large group photograph. Is Van embellishing? 
The one other time tears are associated with Blanche is after the Shattal Tree incident, when Ada and Van, walking away, suddenly realize separately their diaries might leave them exposed, and race back to their respective rooms. There Van discovers “Blanche in his room feigning to make the made bed, with the unlocked diary lying on the stool beside it. He slapped her lightly on the behind and removed the shagreen-bound book to a safer place. Then Van and Ada . . . resumed their separate ways—and Blanche, I suppose, went to weep in her bower” (96.14-22). Even more obviously here, Van invents, on the assumption of his irresistibleness.

407.03: entirely adorable: MOTIF: adore.

407.06-07: Bouteillan, still wearing the costume sport he had on when driving off with Van (that picture had been muffed or omitted): Cf. Bouteillan preparing to drive Van away from Ardis: “Bouteillan put on a captain’s cap, too big for him, and grape-blue goggles” (156.20-157.01).

407:08-09: three footmen: Presumably Price, Norris, and Ward (405.10).

407.09-10: the fat, flour-pale cook (Blanche’s father): She says she is “a poor-peat-digger’s daughter” (49.15-16); has her father found a new trade? The flour-pale cook sits well with her name.

407.12-13: a tourist, who, having come all the way from England to see Bryant’s Castle:  Cf. Ada’s “‘The castle bathed by the Adour: / The guidebooks recommend that tour’” (406.25-26). The castle the Englishman has come to see, presumably on the strength of the guidebook, is “Bryant’s Castle,” real enough in Antiterra, up the hill from the Ladore, “the black ruins of Bryant’s Castle, with the swifts still flying around its tower” (139.07-08), but also in part a mirage-blur of Chateaubriand’s castle on Earth (the Château de Combourg, in Brittany) and the castle associated with Byron (and English guidebooks), near Montreux, which on Antiterra becomes the “Château de Byron (or ‘She Yawns Castle’)” near Mont Roux (522.24-25). MOTIF: Bryant's Castle.

407.21: dimly dimidiated: Dimidiate (W2), “To halve or reduce to the half.” Dimidiate as an adjective (W2) is a technical term in biology: “Bot. & Zool. Consisting of only one half of the normal; seeming to lack one half, or to have one part smaller than the other.”

MOTIF: dim . . . dim.

407.24-25: wheezy Jones . . . I always liked the old fellow: When at dinner at Ardis Demon finds Jones’s wheezing disturbing, Van stands up for him: “‘the chelovek who brought me the pirozhki—the new man, the plumpish one. . . . He pants, Marina! He suffers from some kind of odïshka (shortness of breath). He should see Dr. Krolik. It’s depressing. It’s a rhythmic pumping pant. It made my soup ripple.’ ‘Look, Dad,’ said Van, ‘Dr. Krolik can’t do much, because, as you know quite well, he’s dead, and Marina can’t tell her servants not to breathe, because, as you also know, they’re alive’” (254.20-31).

407.26-27: “No,” answered Ada, “that’s Price. Jones came four years later. He is now a prominent policeman in Lower Ladore ...”: Van has a reason to be confused: Price, the footman who first serves him at Ardis in 1884 (38.03-04), “resembled Van’s teacher of history, ‘Jeejee’ Jones. ‘He resembles my teacher of history,’ said Van when the man had gone” (38.04-07).
Much later Ada, deploring Van’s attack on Kim Beauharnais, with the help of ex-footman Jones, reproaches herself: “I should never have told you about the Ladore policeman” (445.33).

407.29: Nonchalantly: Van’s nonchalance is as feigned as his casualness at 406.05: he has stored Jones’s occupation and location, for further use, as he now returns to the assault on Ada for the evidence that she has overlooked of her 1888 infidelity.

407.30-31: Every shot in the book has been snapped in 1884, except this one. I never rowed you down Ladore River in early spring: This penultimate photograph stands out also by its color (406.27); Ada herself identifies its season as “early spring” (406.29); and Van recalls finding a garter of hers on their willow islet in 1888: “and once in a small alder thicket, duplicated in black by the blue stream, they found a garter which was certainly hers, she could not deny it, but which Van was positive she had never worn on her stockingless summer trips to the magic islet” (218.05-09).

407.31: your wonderful ability to blush: See especially 126.32-127.02.

MOTIF: Ada’s blushes.

408.04: Knabenkräuter: Darkbloom: “Germ., orchids (and testicles).” Knabenkräuter (literally “boy plants”) means “orchids” in German, but not “testicles” (though that is clearly Van’s implication). Rivers and Walker 291 note that Hodenkräuter, “a German synonym for Knabenkräuter . . . means literally ‘testicle plants.’”

Ardeur 340 (PléiadeIII,776) hasin place of“Knabenkräuter”les testicules d’Orphée,” “Orpheus’s testicles.” Pléiade, III, 1476n.50 notes a treaty on plants, Peri botanon, ascribed to Orpheus by, and praised in, the Natural History of Pliny the Elder.
MOTIF: orchids.

408.05: your friends botanizing with you: Cf. “The idea was to have Van fool Lucette by petting her in Ada’s presence, while kissing Ada at the same time, and by caressing and kissing Lucette when Ada was away in the woods (‘in the woods,’ ‘botanizing’)” (213.16-20).

408.08: “I destroyed 1888 myself,” admitted proud Ada: To avoid Van seeing Kim’s evidence of her affairs with Rack and de Prey. Van might think that she had already destroyed his Ardis the Second by her infidelities.

408.08-11: I swear, I solemnly swear, that the man behind Blanche, in the perron picture, was, and has always remained, a complete stranger: Even assuming this disclaimer to be true, as is likely, Ada clearly senses she has a lot to be guilty about, if she has to proclaim her innocence about this.

408.10: perron: Darkbloom: “porch.”

408.13-14: On second thoughts, I will not write that Family Chronicle: After his refreshed awareness of the pain of Ardis the Second?

MOTIF: family chronicle.

408.15: my poor little Blanche: Cf. Van to Bouteillan: “If . . . you’re thinking of little Blanche” (157.13).

408.16: She’s still around: At Ardis, that is.

408.16-17: You know, she came back—after you abducted her: Ada knows Van did no such thing (cf. 403.01-02 and n.: “after you jilted me,” another reproachful narrative recasting), but he did leave Ardis in the same calèche as Blanche did—and has to say to Marina “I’m not eloping with your maid, Marina. It’s an optical illusion” (298.14-15).

408.17-19: our Russian coachman, the one who replaced Bengal Ben, as the servants called him: Trofim Fartukov, who replaced Ben Wright, who is reputed to have been in the service of a Rajah (88.08-09). Ben Wright is “fired after letting winds go free while driving Marina and Mlle Larivière home” (140.01-03): he does fart frequently on the coachman’s box, especially after drink, in which he indulges. So a farter is replaced by Fartukov.

408.20-21: “Oh she did? That’s delicious. Madame Trofim Fartukov. I would never have thought it”: Because the last words Van hears from anyone connected with Ardis before leaving the area forever are Trofim’s warning: “Dazhe skvoz’ kozhanïy fartuk ne stal-bï ya trogat’ etu frantsuzskuyu devku. . . . even through a leathern apron . . . I would not think of touching . . . this . . . French . . . wench” (300.12-17). The leathern apron is his accoutrement as a Russian coachman (and is even ingrained in his name); and he has evidently heard of Blanche’s promiscuity, not least with “old Sore the Burgundian night watchman” (191.06); indeed, she seems to have had gonorrhoea since 1884 (49.21-22).
Nevertheless, Ada has told Van by letter, in 1890, of Blanche’s change in marital status: “your sweet Cinderella de Torf (now Madame Trofim Fartukov)” (334.20-21). This “genius of total recall” (545.28) ought to have known.

408.22-23: “They have a blind child,” said Ada. “Love is blind,” said Van: Blind as a result, we infer, of Blanche’s gonorrhoea. “Love is blind” is an immemorial adage, used to ghoulish effect also in LD 185.

Cupid, the god of erotic desire, is often depicted or described as blind or blindfolded: “Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind / And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind / Nor hath love's mind of any judgement taste; / Wings and no eyes figure unheedy haste. / And therefore is love said to be a child / Because in choice he is so oft beguiled” (Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I.i.234-37).  

Aleksey Sklyarenko, “The Sores of Eros in Nabokov’s Ada: Amor’s Poisoned Arrows; Duels and Venereal Diseasein Ada’s Antitera, Nabokovian 50 (Spring 2003),  40-48, p. 41, notes that Schopenhauer refers to venereal disease as “poisoned arrows that found their way into Cupid’s quiver,” Aphorismen zur Lebensweisheit (1851, 3rd ed. Berlin, 1924).

408.24-25: She tells me you made a pass at her on the first morning of your first arrival: Cf. 48.28-49.30.

408.26-28: Will their child remain blind? I mean, did you get them a really first-rate physician?: Cf. Van’s “concern” for blinded Kim:  “Amends have been made. . .  I’m keeping Kim safe and snug in a nice Home for Disabled Professional People, where he gets from me loads of nicely brailled books on new processes in chromophotography” (446.04-07).

408.30-409.01: do you realize . . . do you realize. . . ” . . .  She had never realized: Cf. “Je réalise, as your sweet Cinderella de Torf (now Madame Trofim Fartukov) used to say” (334.20-22).

409.02-03: the matter-of-fact triviality of the album: MOTIF: album.

409.03-04: in the orchards and orchidariums of Ardis: MOTIF: Ada, the ardors and arbors of Ardis; -arium; orchids.

409.04-05: a sacred secret and creed, throughout the countryside: Cf.All the rose hedges knew, all the maids knew, in all three manors. The noble reticence of our bedmakers” (454.25-26).

409.04: a sacred secret and creed: Cf. “a chaste child, whose charm was too compelling not to be tasted in secret and too sacred to be openly violated” (98.30-31).

409.05-19: Romantically inclined . . . Van’s romance: MOTIF: memory test

409.05: Romantically inclined handmaids: Especially Blanche. Cf. “two gaping handmaids” (Blanche and French) (258.15).

409.05-06: whose reading consisted of Gwen de Vere and Klara Mertvago: Cf. “That tattered chapbook must also belong to her, [Blanche,] Les Amours du Docteur Mertvago, a mystical romance by a pastor” (53.22-24). “Gwen de Vere and Klara Mertvago” combine Tennyson’s “Guinevere” (1859, one of the Idylls of the King) and his “Lady Clara Vere de Vere” (see 200.07n) and Lara, the heroine of Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago, the earthly original of Antiterra’s Les Amours du Docteur Mertvago (53.22-24n.).

MOTIF: Mertvago; Vere de Vere.

409.06: Gwen de Vere: By 1905, Vere de Vere has written his own novel: see 520.15. Cf. also, perhaps, “the Queen Guinevere” (342.24), aboard which Van rewrites his ostensible fair-copy typescript of Letters from Terra, and Gwen, an employee of Van’s lawyer and unsuccessful promoter of his book (343.12-16)—which nevertheless will lead to a craze in 1940, via Vitry’s film of the same name: a different kind of romantic cultural epidemic from the “sacred secret and creed” of Vaniada’s Adventures, but with some obscure link.

409.06-07: adored Van, adored Ada, adored Ardis’s ardors in arbors: MOTIF: Ada; Ada, the ardors and arbors of Ardis; adore; Ardis; Ardis-adore;

409.07: Their swains: “The eager informer [Blanche] had her own swain lying upon her on the other side of the hedge” (293.23-24).

409.08: plucking ballads on their seven-stringed Russian lyres: Cf. Despair 184: “who had played the fiddle, surely, in the way lackadaisical footmen in Russia used to twang guitars on summer evenings.” Cf. the Russian ballads sung at the Ursus restaurant, a week after this scene: “other singers took over with sadder and sadder ballads” (412.13).

409.08: seven-stringed Russian lyres: Cf. “the celebrated pseudo-gipsy guitar piece by Apollon Grigoriev . . . O you, at least, do talk to me, / My seven-stringed companion”(413.01-04) in the Russian-themed Ursus restaurant a week after the album-viewing scene. As this quotation confirms, the instrument implied is not in fact a lyre but the seven-stringed Russian guitar, also known as “Gypsy guitar,” in Russian semistrunnaya gitara or semistrunka (“seven-stringer}), which was developed in Russia at the end of the eighteenth century and in the later nineteenth century and until after the 1917 revolution was much more popular there, especially for “romances,” than the six-stringed Spanish guitar.  

409.08-09: under the racemosa in bloom: MOTIF: under tree.

409.09: racemosa in bloom: Cf. “And jacarandas at Arrowhead / In supernatural bloom” (324.03-04).

409.09: racemosa: Nabokov’s proposed English equivalent for the Russian cheryomukha, the tree Padus racemosa, or “racemose old-world bird cherry,” whose “creamy-white, musky, Maytime bloom is associated in Russian hearts with the poetical emotions of youth” (EO, III.11).

409.09-10: in old rose gardens (while the windows went out one by one in the castle): Cf. “Lights in the rooms were going out. / Breathed fragrantly the rozï” (264.24-25); “The windows in the black castle went out in rows, files, and knight moves” (72.23-24).

MOTIF: rose.

409:11: lackey-daisical: Lackadaisical lackeys: lackadaisical (W2): “Affectedly languishing or languid, listless; languidly sentimental”; (W3): “lacking life, spirit, or zest: devoid of energy or purpose: idle, vacuous.” See also the Despair quotation above at 409.08n1.

409.12-13: Eccentric police officers grew enamored with the glamour of incest: Jack Van der Weide and Wilma Siccama, authors of “Een sleutel in Meppel. Nederlandse aantekeningen bij Vladimir Nabokovs Ada” (see Bibliography), commented (email, July 13, 2004): “Van der Valk!”: in other words this phrase reminds them of the detective-hero of Nicholas Freeling’s Double Barrel, and the whiff of incest in Drenthe (see Boyd 2004 or its reprint in Boyd 2011, Ch. 25).

MOTIF: incest.

409.13-14: Gardeners paraphrased iridescent Persian poems about irrigation and the Four Arrows of Love: Perhaps an echo of librarians Verger (= “Orchard”) and Vertograd (= “Garden”) in Pt. 1 Ch. 21, the library chapter, with its exotic literature and preoccupation with incest?

Nabokov was thoroughly familiar with Edward FitzGerald’s version of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyám (1048-1131) (see his 1928 review of a translation of Omar Khayyám into Russian, TWS 76-79). It is not clear how well he knew major poets of classical Persian poetry like Rumi (1207-1273), Sadi (1210-1291/2), and Hafez (1325-1390).

Kama or Kamadeva is the Indian god of human love, often depicted with a bow and arrow; Five Arrows of Kama presents five leading medieval Indian treatises on erotic love (see Sandhya Mulchandani, Five Arrows of Kama: The Art of Love, Sex and Desire, New Delhi and London: Penguin, 2010, but there had been earlier editions).

MOTIF: Ardis . . . arrow.

409.14-16: Nightwatchmen fought insomnia and the fire of the clap with the weapons of Vaniada’s Adventures: Evokes especially the “ribald” (211.10) “Sore the Burgundian night watchman” (191.06), whose name is an anagram of “Eros” and who as Blanche’s lover seems active all night, at risk of the clap, and likely to hear much about Van and Ada’s amours. “Insomnia and the fire of the clap” also calls to mind the Night of the Burning Barn, and Van and Ada’s wakeful night together.

409.15: Vaniada’s: Russian Van i Ada, “Van and Ada.” MOTIF: Ada; Van; V aniada.

409.16-17: Herdsmen, spared by thunderbolts on remote hillsides: Cf. the dinner with Demon at Ardis the second, where flashes in the night outside the window could be either lightning or, more likely, despite the disclaimers, Kim with his camera and flanked by Blanche and French: “Ada ran to the window. From under the anxious magnolias a white-faced boy flanked by two gaping handmaids stood aiming a camera at the harmless, gay family group. But it was only a nocturnal mirage, not unusual in July. Nobody was taking pictures except Perun, the unmentionable god of thunder. In expectation of the rumble, Marina started to count under her breath, as if she were praying or checking the pulse of a very sick person. One heartbeat was supposed to span one mile of black night between the living heart and a doomed herdsman, felled somewhere—oh, very far—on the top of a mountain. The rumble came—but sounded rather subdued. A second flash revealed the structure of the French window” (258.14-25, italics added).

409. 17-18: huge “moaning horns” as ear trumpets to catch the lilts of Ladore: Alphorns or alpenhorns, wooden cones several meters long, have been used as signal instruments in the Alps and elsewhere in montane Europe for centuries. “Lilts” could perhaps point to the Roman-Etruscan word lituus, a curved war-trumpet, taken over as a name, lituum alpinum, in the first known description of the alphorn. See Wikipedia,, accessed March 18, 2022. There may be in this sparkling parodic fantasy a mockery, too, of pastoral lament.

Cf. EO II.210, where Nabokov quotes Vasiliy Trediakovski’s Strophes in Praise of Country Life (1752): “shepherds blow their vibrant little horns.”

409.18-19: Virgin châtelaines in marble-floored manors fondled their lone flames fanned by Van’s romance: Ardis Manor has marble floors (e.g. “a marble-flagged hall,” 54.13-14; and they seem implied in Van’s memorial verse, “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). Blanche and others talk of Ada as the “little” or “young” chatelaine (154.20, 203.04-05, 299.03), and the highly erotic Ada might, when still a virgin, have fondled her lone flame fanned by thoughts of romance with Van. Blanche herself, though a servant girl and neither chatelaine nor virgin, declares to Van on his first morning at Ardis “je suis vierge, ou peu s’en faut” (49.17), and on his last night there declares “C’est ma dernière nuit au château”(292.22), and is certainly aroused by Van. But note that Lucette becomes the chatelaine of Ardis (Marina leaves it to her in her will, 466.15-16) and remains a virgin (“A quarter” of a virgin, 464.07) and certainly fondles her lone flame (“I have no set, I’m a loner,” 464.14) in a way “fanned by Van’s romance.”
Cf. also, perhaps: “A diligent student of case histories, Dr. Van Veen never quite managed to match ardent twelve-year-old Ada with a non-delinquent, non-nymphomaniac, mentally highly developed, spiritually happy and normal English child in his files, 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” (219.16-23).
Cf. also Van “who adored à neuf ans—the precious dear!—Gilberte Swann et la Lesbie de Catulle (and who had learned, all by himself, to release the adoration as soon as the kerosene lamp had left the mobile bedroom in his black nurse’s fist)” (66.02-06).

409.19: fondled their lone flame fanned by Van’s romance: With a likely pun on fanny, as “the female pudenda” (since 1860, a much older sense than the more local American fanny as “backside”) (Partridge, 8th ed.)

409.19-20: And another century would pass, and the painted word . . . : The “and . . . and . . . ” is a favorite rhetorical device for Nabokov, amplifying emotion, especially in conjunction with memory and loss. Cf. “‘And do you remember, a tï pomnish’, et te souviens-tu’(invariably with that implied codetta of ‘and,’ introducing the bead to be threaded in the torn necklace) became with them, in their intense talks, the standard device for beginning every other sentence” (109.11-14). For the general pattern, cf. for instance “We lost ourselves in mossy woods and bathed in a fairy-tale cove and swore eternal love by the crowns of flowers that, like all little Russian mermaids, she was so fond of weaving, and early in the fall she moved to town in search of a job (this was the condition set by her mother), and in the course of the following months I did not see her at all” (SM 240, italics added), or “Some chance intonation on the part of this slightly hoarse bird, combined with the warm wind pressing itself against Pnin in search of attention, recognition, anything, briefly reminded him of a dim dead day when he, a Petrograd University freshman, had arrived at the small station of a Baltic summer resort, and the sounds, and the smells, and the sadness----” (Pnin 114, italics added), or “and one night, at a Russian restaurant on the Kurfürstendamm, he saw Mira again. They exchanged a few words, she smiled at him in the remembered fashion, from under her dark brows, with that bashful slyness of hers; and the contour of her prominent cheekbones, and the elongated eyes, and the slenderness of arm and ankle were unchanged, were immortal, and then she joined her husband who was getting his overcoat at the cloak-room, and that was all—but the pang of tenderness remained, akin to the vibrating outline of verses you know you know but cannot recall” (Pnin 134, italics added).

409.20: the painted word: Hamlet’s “Than is my deed to my most painted word” (Hamlet 3.1.52) may not be relevant, but Nabokov and many of his readers would register the echo.

409.22-23: “All of which,” said Van, “only means that our situation is desperate”: In 1888 Ada had already felt desperation at Percy de Prey’s threats to “divulge my affair with my cousin to my mother,” even if in a “bantering tone, hardly befitting a genuine blackmailer,” and therefore, she declares, had been “ready to submit to any infamy rather than face the shadow of disclosure” (335.11-28). Percy had said “he could produce witnesses, such as the sister of your Blanche, and a stable boy who, I suspect, was impersonated by the youngest of the three demoiselles de Tourbe, witches all” (335.12-14), and Blanche and her ilk and her contacts seem central and instrumental in the dangerous spread of the romance of Vaniada’s Adventures that obliquely amplifies the threat posed by Kim’s direct blackmail.


Afternote to Part Two, Chapter 7

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