sparrow, Caucasian generals & metamorphosed Cinderellas in Ada

Submitted by Alexey Sklyarenko on Thu, 02/07/2019 - 15:33

When Van Veen (the narrator and main character in VN’s novel Ada, 1969) makes a pass at her on his first morning at Ardis, Blanche (a French maid at Ardis) looks at a sparrow hopping up the paved path toward the bit of baby-toed biscuit she had thrown to him:

 

In a corner room he found, standing at a tall window, a young chambermaid whom he had glimpsed (and promised himself to investigate) on the preceding evening. She wore what his father termed with a semi-assumed leer 'soubret black and frissonet frill'; a tortoiseshell comb in her chestnut hair caught the amber light; the French window was open, and she was holding one hand, starred with a tiny aquamarine, rather high on the jamb as she looked at a sparrow that was hopping up the paved path toward the bit of baby-toed biscuit she had thrown to him. Her cameo profile, her cute pink nostril, her long, French, lily-white neck, the outline, both full and frail, of her figure (male lust does not go very far for descriptive felicities!), and especially the savage sense of opportune license moved Van so robustly that he could not resist clasping the wrist of her raised tight-sleeved arm. Freeing it, and confirming by the coolness of her demeanor that she had sensed his approach, the girl turned her attractive, though almost eyebrowless, face toward him and asked him if he would like a cup of tea before breakfast. No. What was her name? Blanche — but Mlle Larivière called her ‘Cendrillon’ because her stockings got so easily laddered, see, and because she broke and mislaid things, and confused flowers. His loose attire revealed his desire; this could not escape a girl’s notice, even if color-blind, and as he drew up still closer, while looking over her head for a suitable couch to take shape in some part of this magical manor — where any place, as in Casanova’s remembrances could be dream-changed into a sequestered seraglio nook — she wiggled out of his reach completely and delivered a little soliloquy in her soft Ladoran French:
'Monsieur a quinze ans, je crois, et moi, je sais, j'en ai dixneuf. Monsieur is a nobleman; I am a poor peat-digger's daughter. Monsieur a tâté, sans doute, des filles de la ville; quant à moi, je suis vierge, ou peu s'en faut. De plus, were I to fall in love with you - I mean really in love - and I might, alas, if you possessed me rien qu'une petite fois - it would be, for me, only grief, and infernal fire, and despair, and even death, Monsieur. Finalement, I might add that I have the whites and must see le Docteur Chronique, I mean Crolique, on my next day off. Now we have to separate, the sparrow has disappeared, I see, and Monsieur Bouteillan has entered the next room, and can perceive us clearly in that mirror above the sofa behind that silk screen.'
‘Forgive me, girl,’ murmured Van, whom her strange, tragic tone had singularly put off, as if he were taking part in a play in which he was the principal actor, but of which he could only recall that one scene. (1.7)

 

In the second quatrain of his poem Net, ne spryatat'sya mne ot velikoy mury... ("No, I can't hide myself from the great nonsense..." 1931) Mandelshtam compares Moscow to vorobey (a sparrow):

 

Нет, не спрятаться мне от великой муры
За извозчичью спину — Москву,
Я трамвайная вишенка страшной поры
И не знаю, зачем я живу.

 

Мы с тобою поедем на «А» и на «Б»
Посмотреть, кто скорее умрёт,
А она то сжимается, как воробей,
То растёт, как воздушный пирог.

 

И едва успевает грозить из угла —
Ты как хочешь, а я не рискну!
У кого под перчаткой не хватит тепла,
Чтоб объездить всю курву Москву.

 

No, I can't hide myself from the great nonsense
behind the cabdriver’s back that’s Moscow.
I’m a streetcar cherry of the terrible time
and I don’t know what I’m living for.

We’ll take streetcar A and streetcar B,
you and I, to see who dies first. As for Moscow,
one minute she’s a crouched sparrow,
the next she’s puffed up like a pastry —

how does she find time to threaten from holes?
You do as you please, I won’t chance it.

Who has enough warmth inside his glove
to ride around the whole of Moscow the whore.

 

The poem’s last words, kurvu Moskvu (Moscow the whore), bring to mind the violent dance called kurva or ‘ribbon boule’ in the hilarious program whose howlers almost caused Demon Veen (Van’s and Ada’s father) to fall from his seat:

 

Marina’s affair with Demon Veen started on his, her, and Daniel Veen’s birthday, January 5, 1868, when she was twenty-four and both Veens thirty.

As an actress, she had none of the breath-taking quality that makes the skill of mimicry seem, at least while the show lasts, worth even more than the price of such footlights as insomnia, fancy, arrogant art; yet on that particular night, with soft snow falling beyond the plush and the paint, la Durmanska (who paid the great Scott, her impresario, seven thousand gold dollars a week for publicity alone, plus a bonny bonus for every engagement) had been from the start of the trashy ephemeron (an American play based by some pretentious hack on a famous Russian romance) so dreamy, so lovely, so stirring that Demon (not quite a gentleman in amorous matters) made a bet with his orchestra-seat neighbor, Prince N., bribed a series of green-room attendants, and then, in a cabinet reculé (as a French writer of an earlier century might have mysteriously called that little room in which the broken trumpet and poodle hoops of a forgotten clown, besides many dusty pots of colored grease, happened to be stored) proceeded to possess her between two scenes (Chapter Three and Four of the martyred novel). In the first of these she had undressed in graceful silhouette behind a semitransparent screen, reappeared in a flimsy and fetching nightgown, and spent the rest of the wretched scene discussing a local squire, Baron d’O., with an old nurse in Eskimo boots. Upon the infinitely wise countrywoman’s suggestion, she goose-penned from the edge of her bed, on a side table with cabriole legs, a love letter and took five minutes to reread it in a languorous but loud voice for no body’s benefit in particular since the nurse sat dozing on a kind of sea chest, and the spectators were mainly concerned with the artificial moonlight’s blaze upon the lovelorn young lady’s bare arms and heaving breasts.

Even before the old Eskimo had shuffled off with the message, Demon Veen had left his pink velvet chair and proceeded to win the wager, the success of his enterprise being assured by the fact that Marina, a kissing virgin, had been in love with him since their last dance on New Year’s Eve. Moreover, the tropical moonlight she had just bathed in, the penetrative sense of her own beauty, the ardent pulses of the imagined maiden, and the gallant applause of an almost full house made her especially vulnerable to the tickle of Demon’s moustache. She had ample time, too, to change for the next scene, which started with a longish intermezzo staged by a ballet company whose services Scotty had engaged, bringing the Russians all the way in two sleeping cars from Belokonsk, Western Estoty. In a splendid orchard several merry young gardeners wearing for some reason the garb of Georgian tribesmen were popping raspberries into their mouths, while several equally implausible servant girls in sharovars (somebody had goofed — the word ‘samovars’ may have got garbled in the agent’s aerocable) were busy plucking marshmallows and peanuts from the branches of fruit trees. At an invisible sign of Dionysian origin, they all plunged into the violent dance called kurva or ‘ribbon boule’ in the hilarious program whose howlers almost caused Veen (tingling, and light-loined, and with Prince N.’s rose-red banknote in his pocket) to fall from his seat.

His heart missed a beat and never regretted the lovely loss, as she ran, flushed and flustered, in a pink dress into the orchard, earning a claque third of the sitting ovation that greeted the instant dispersal of the imbecile but colorful transfigurants from Lyaska — or Iveria. Her meeting with Baron O., who strolled out of a side alley, all spurs and green tails, somehow eluded Demon’s consciousness, so struck was he by the wonder of that brief abyss of absolute reality between two bogus fulgurations of fabricated life. Without waiting for the end of the scene, he hurried out of the theater into the crisp crystal night, the snowflakes star-spangling his top hat as he returned to his house in the next block to arrange a magnificent supper. By the time he went to fetch his new mistress in his jingling sleigh, the last-act ballet of Caucasian generals and metamorphosed Cinderellas had come to a sudden close, and Baron d’O., now in black tails and white gloves, was kneeling in the middle of an empty stage, holding the glass slipper that his fickle lady had left him when eluding his belated advances. The claqueurs were getting tired and looking at their watches when Marina in a black cloak slipped into Demon’s arms and swan-sleigh. (1.2)

 

Darkbloom (‘Notes to Ada’): Raspberries; ribbon: allusions to ludicrous blunders in Lowell’s versions of Mandelshtam’s poems (in the N.Y. Review, 23 December 1965).

 

According to Blanche, Mlle Larivière (Lucette’s governess) calls her ‘Cendrillon’ (Cinderella). On the other hand, “the last-act ballet of Caucasian generals and metamorphosed Cinderellas” brings to mind kakoy-to vazhnyi general (a certain imposing general) mentioned by Pushkin at the end of Chapter Seven (LIV: 4) of Eugene Onegin:

 

Так мысль её далече бродит:
Забыт и свет и шумный бал,
А глаз меж тем с нее не сводит
Какой-то важный генерал.
Друг другу тётушки мигнули
И локтем Таню враз толкнули,
И каждая шепнула ей:
— Взгляни налево поскорей. —
«Налево? где? что там такое?»
— Ну, что бы ни было, гляди...
В той кучке, видишь? впереди,
Там, где ещё в мундирах двое...
Вот отошёл... вот боком стал... —
«Кто? толстый этот генерал?»

 

Thus does her thought roam far away:

high life and noisy ball are both forgotten,

but meantime does not take his eyes off her

a certain imposing general.

The aunts exchanged a wink and both

as one nudged Tanya with their elbows,

and each whispered to her:

“Look quickly to your left.”

“My left? Where? What is there?”

“Well, whatsoever there be, look....

In that group, see? In front....

There where you see those two in uniform....

Now he has moved off... now he stands in profile.”

“Who? That fat general?”

 

When Van leaves Ardis forever, Trofim Fartukov (the Russian coachman in “Ardis the Second”) tells him that even through a leathern apron he would not think of touching Blanche:

 

‘Barin, a barin,’ said Trofim, turning his blond-bearded face to his passenger.

Da?

Dazhe skvoz’ kozhanïy fartuk ne stal-bï ya trogat’ etu frantsuzskuyu devku.’

Barin: master. Dázhe skvoz’ kózhanïy fártuk: even through a leathern apron. Ne stal-bï ya trógat’: I would not think of touching. Étu: this (that). Frantsúzskuyu: French (adj., accus.). Dévku: wench. Úzhas, otcháyanie: horror, despair. Zhálost’: pity, Kóncheno, zagázheno, rastérzano: finished, fouled, torn to shreds. (1.41)

 

In Tolstoy’s novel Voyna i mir (“War and Peace,” 1869) belyi kozhanyi fartuk (a white leathern apron) is put on Pierre Bezukhov, when he becomes a member of the Masons:

 

Двое из братьев подвели Пьера к алтарю, поставили ему ноги в прямоугольное положение и приказали ему лечь, говоря, что он повергается к вратам храма. - Он прежде должен получить лопату, - сказал шопотом один из братьев. - А! полноте пожалуйста, - сказал другой. Пьер, растерянными, близорукими глазами, не повинуясь, оглянулся вокруг себя, и вдруг на него нашло сомнение. "Где я? Что я делаю? Не смеются ли надо мной? Не будет ли мне стыдно вспоминать это?" Но сомнение это продолжалось только одно мгновение. Пьер оглянулся на серьезные лица окружавших его людей, вспомнил всё, что он уже прошел, и понял, что нельзя остановиться на половине дороги. Он ужаснулся своему сомнению и, стараясь вызвать в себе прежнее чувство умиления, повергся к вратам храма. И действительно чувство умиления, еще сильнейшего, чем прежде, нашло на него. Когда он пролежал несколько времени, ему велели встать и надели на него такой же белый кожаный фартук, какие были на других, дали ему в руки лопату и три пары перчаток, и тогда великий мастер обратился к нему. Он сказал ему, чтобы он старался ничем не запятнать белизну этого фартука, представляющего крепость и непорочность; потом о невыясненной лопате сказал, чтобы он трудился ею очищать свое сердце от пороков и снисходительно заглаживать ею сердце ближнего. Потом про первые перчатки мужские сказал, что значения их он не может знать, но должен хранить их, про другие перчатки мужские сказал, что он должен надевать их в собраниях и наконец про третьи женские перчатки сказал: "Любезный брат, и сии женские перчатки вам определены суть. Отдайте их той женщине, которую вы будете почитать больше всех. Сим даром уверите в непорочности сердца вашего ту, которую изберете вы себе в достойную каменьщицу". И помолчав несколько времени, прибавил: - "Но соблюди, любезный брат, да не украшают перчатки сии рук нечистых".

 

Two of the brothers led Pierre up to the altar, placed his feet at right angles, and bade him lie down, saying that he must prostrate himself at the Gates of the Temple. "He must first receive the trowel," whispered one of the brothers. "Oh, hush, please!" said another. Pierre, perplexed, looked round with his shortsighted eyes without obeying, and suddenly doubts arose in his mind. "Where am I? What am I doing? Aren't they laughing at me? Shan't I be ashamed to remember this?" But these doubts only lasted a moment. Pierre glanced at the serious faces of those around, remembered all he had already gone through, and realized that he could not stop halfway. He was aghast at his hesitation and, trying to arouse his former devotional feeling, prostrated himself before the Gates of the Temple. And really, the feeling of devotion returned to him even more strongly than before. When he had lain there some time, he was told to get up, and a white leather apron, such as the others wore, was put on him: he was given a trowel and three pairs of gloves, and then the Grand Master addressed him. He told him that he should try to do nothing to stain the whiteness of that apron, which symbolized strength and purity; then of the unexplained trowel, he told him to toil with it to cleanse his own heart from vice, and indulgently to smooth with it the heart of his neighbor. As to the first pair of gloves, a man's, he said that Pierre could not know their meaning but must keep them. The second pair of man's gloves he was to wear at the meetings, and finally of the third, a pair of women's gloves, he said: "Dear brother, these woman's gloves are intended for you too. Give them to the woman whom you shall honor most of all. This gift will be a pledge of your purity of heart to her whom you select to be your worthy helpmeet in Masonry." And after a pause, he added: "But beware, dear brother, that these gloves do not deck hands that are unclean." (Book Five, chapter 4)

 

Showing to Van Kim Beauharnais’ album, Ada tells him that Blanche is now Mme Trofim Fartukov:

 

Nonchalantly, Van went back to the willows and said:

‘Every shot in the book has been snapped in 1884, except this one. I never rowed you down Ladore River in early spring. Nice to note you have not lost your wonderful ability to blush.’

‘It’s his error. He must have thrown in a fotochka taken later, maybe in 1888. We can rip it out if you like.’

‘Sweetheart,’ said Van, ‘the whole of 1888 has been ripped out. One need not be a sleuth in a mystery story to see that at least as many pages have been removed as retained. I don’t mind — I mean I have no desire to see the Knabenkräuter and other pendants of your friends botanizing with you; but 1888 has been withheld and he’ll turn up with it when the first grand is spent.’

‘I destroyed 1888 myself,’ admitted proud Ada; ‘but I swear, I solemnly swear, that the man behind Blanche, in the perron picture, was, and has always remained, a complete stranger.’
‘Good for him,’ said Van. ‘Really it has no importance. It’s our entire past that has been spoofed and condemned. On second thoughts, I will not write that Family Chronicle. By the way, where is my poor little Blanche now?’
‘Oh, she’s all right. She’s still around. You know, she came back — after you abducted her. She married our Russian coachman, the one who replaced Bengal Ben, as the servants called him.’
‘Oh she did? That’s delicious. Madame Trofim Fartukov. I would never have thought it.’
‘They have a blind child,’ said Ada.
‘Love is blind,’ said Van.
‘She tells me you made a pass at her on the first morning of your first arrival.’
‘Not documented by Kim,’ said Van. ‘Will their child remain blind? I mean, did you get them a really first-rate physician?’
‘Oh yes, hopelessly blind. But speaking of love and its myths, do you realize — because I never did before talking to her a couple of years ago — that the people around our affair had very good eyes indeed? Forget Kim, he’s only the necessary clown — but do you realize that a veritable legend was growing around you and me while we played and made love?’ (2.7)

 

In the first quatrain of his poem "No, I can't hide myself from the great nonsense..." Mandelshtam compares Moscow to izvozchich’ya spina (the cabdriver’s back). Tramvaynaya vishenka (a streetcar cherry) in the next line of Mandelshtam’s poem brings to mind vishen’yem, malinoyu (with cherries, with raspberries) in the Song of the Girls at the end of Chapter Three of Pushkin’s EO:

 

Девицы, красавицы,
Душеньки, подруженьки,
Разыграйтесь девицы,
Разгуляйтесь, милые!
Затяните песенку,
Песенку заветную,
Заманите молодца
К хороводу нашему,
Как заманим молодца,
Как завидим издали,
Разбежимтесь, милые,
Закидаем вишеньем,
Вишеньем, малиною,
Красною смородиной.
Не ходи подслушивать
Песенки заветные,
Не ходи подсматривать
Игры наши девичьи.

 

“Maidens, pretty maidens,

darling girl companions,

romp unhindered, maidens,

have your fling, my dears!

Start to sing a ditty,

sing our private ditty,

and allure a fellow

to our choral dance.

When we lure a fellow,

when afar we see him,

let us scatter, dearies,

pelting him with cherries,

cherries and raspberries,

and red currants too.

Do not come eavesdropping

on our private ditties,

do not come a-spying

on our girlish games!”

 

In his poem My zhivyom, pod soboyu ne chuya strany… (“We live not feeling land beneath us…” 1934) Mandelshtam says: Chto ni kazn’ u nego, to malina (whatever the execution, it’s a raspberry to him [Stalin]). When Kim Beauharnais visits Ada at Ardis, he vaguely resembles a janizary in some exotic opera, stomping in to announce an invasion or an execution:

 

During her dreary stay at Ardis, a considerably changed and enlarged Kim Beauharnais called upon her. He carried under his arm an album bound in orange-brown cloth, a dirty hue she had hated all her life. In the last two or three years she had not seen him, the light-footed, lean lad with the sallow complexion had become a dusky colossus, vaguely resembling a janizary in some exotic opera, stomping in to announce an invasion or an execution. Uncle Dan, who just then was being wheeled out by his handsome and haughty nurse into the garden where coppery and blood-red leaves were falling, clamored to be given the big book, but Kim said ‘Perhaps later,’ and joined Ada in the reception corner of the hall.

He had brought her a present, a collection of photographs he had taken in the good old days. He had been hoping the good old days would resume their course, but since he understood that mossio votre cossin (he spoke a thick Creole thinking that its use in solemn circumstances would be more proper than his everyday Ladore English) was not expected to revisit the castle soon — and thus help bring the album up to date — the best procedure pour tous les cernés (‘the shadowed ones,’ the ‘encircled’ rather than ‘concerned’) might be for her to keep (or destroy and forget, so as not to hurt anybody) the illustrated document now in her pretty hands. Wincing angrily at the jolies, Ada opened the album at one of its maroon markers meaningly inserted here and there, glanced once, reclicked the clasp, handed the grinning blackmailer a thousand-dollar note that she happened to have in her bag, summoned Bouteillan and told him to throw Kim out. The mud-colored scrapbook remained on a chair, under her Spanish shawl. With a shuffling kick the old retainer expelled a swamp-tulip leaf swept in by the draft and closed the front door again. (2.7)

 

“The mud-colored scrapbook” brings to mind “that tattered chapbook” that belongs to Blanche:

 

A pointer of sunlight daubed with greener paint a long green box where croquet implements were kept; but the balls had been rolled down the hill by some rowdy children, the little Erminins, who were now Van's age and had grown very nice and quiet.
'As we all are at that age,' said Van and stooped to pick up a curved tortoiseshell comb - the kind that girls use to hold up their hair behind; he had seen one, exactly like that, quite recently, but when, in whose hairdo?
'One of the maids,' said Ada. 'That tattered chapbook must also belong to her, Les Amours du Docteur Mertvago, a mystical romance by a pastor.' (1.8)

 

The trashy ephemeron (an American play based by some pretentious hack on a famous Russian romance) in which Marina played the heroine, “Eugene and Lara” seems to be a cross between Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin and Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago (1957). On Demonia (aka Antiterra, Earth’s twin planet on which Ada is set) Pasternak’s novel is known as Les Amours du Docteur Mertvago and Mertvago Forever. At the end of EO (Eight: XLVIII: 10) Pushkin uses the phrase nadolgo… navsegda (for long… for ever):

 

Она ушла. Стоит Евгений,
Как будто громом поражен.
В какую бурю ощущений
Теперь он сердцем погружен!
Но шпор незапный звон раздался,
И муж Татьянин показался,
И здесь героя моего,
В минуту, злую для него,
Читатель, мы теперь оставим,
Надолго... навсегда. За ним
Довольно мы путём одним
Бродили по свету. Поздравим
Друг друга с берегом. Ура!
Давно б (не правда ли?) пора!

 

She has gone. Eugene stands

as if by thunder struck.

In what a tempest of sensations

his heart is now immersed!

But there resounds a sudden clink of spurs,

and there appears Tatiana's husband,

and here my hero,

at an unfortunate minute for him,

reader, we now shall leave

for long... forever.... After him

sufficiently along one path

we've roamed the world. Let us congratulate

each other on attaining land. Hurrah!

It long (is it not true?) was time.

 

Shpor nezapnyi zvon (a sudden clink of spurs) in line 5 brings to mind “Baron O., who strolled out of a side alley, all spurs and green tails.” In the battle of Borodino Pierre Bezukhov wears a white hat and a green tail coat:

 

25-го утром  Пьер выезжал из  Можайска. На  спуске с огромной крутой и кривой горы, ведущей из города, мимо стоящего на горе направо собора, в котором шла служба и благовестили, Пьер вылез из экипажа и пошёл пешком. За ним спускался на горе какой-то конный полк с песельниками впереди. Навстречу ему поднимался поезд телег с раненными во вчерашнем деле. Возчики-мужики, крича на лошадей и хлеща их кнутами, перебегали с одной стороны на  другую.

Телеги, на которых лежали и сидели по три и по четыре солдата раненых, прыгали по набросанным в виде мостовой камням на крутом подъеме. Раненые, обвязанные тряпками, бледные, с поджатыми губами и нахмуренными бровями,

держась за грядки, прыгали и толкались в  телегах. Все почти с наивным детским любопытством смотрели на белую шляпу и зелёный фрак Пьера.

 

On the morning of the twenty-fifth Pierre was leaving Mozhaysk. At the descent of the high steep hill, down which a winding road led out of the town past the cathedral on the right, where a service was being held and the bells were ringing, Pierre got out of his vehicle and proceeded on foot. Behind him a cavalry regiment was coming down the hill preceded by its singers. Coming up toward him was a train of carts carrying men who had been wounded in the engagement the day before. The peasant drivers, shouting and lashing their horses, kept crossing from side to side. The carts, in each of which three or four wounded soldiers were lying or sitting, jolted over the stones that had been thrown on the steep incline to make it something like a road. The wounded, bandaged with rags, with pale cheeks, compressed lips, and knitted brows, held on to the sides of the carts as they were jolted against one another. Almost all of them stared with naive, childlike curiosity at Pierre’s white hat and green tail coat.

Pierre’s coachman shouted angrily at the convoy of wounded to keep to one side of the road. (“War and Peace,” Volume Three, Part Two, chapter XX)

 

Borodino (1837) is a poem by Lermontov, the author of Demon ("The Demon," 1829-40). As a boy of ten Van puzzles out the exaggerated but, on the whole, complimentary allusions to his father’s volitations and loves in another life in Lermontov’s diamond-faceted tetrameters:

 

The year 1880 (Aqua was still alive — somehow, somewhere!) was to prove to be the most retentive and talented one in his long, too long, never too long life. He was ten. His father had lingered in the West where the many-colored mountains acted upon Van as they had on all young Russians of genius. He could solve an Euler-type problem or learn by heart Pushkin’s ‘Headless Horseman’ poem in less than twenty minutes. With white-bloused, enthusiastically sweating Andrey Andreevich, he lolled for hours in the violet shade of pink cliffs, studying major and minor Russian writers — and puzzling out the exaggerated but, on the whole, complimentary allusions to his father’s volitations and loves in another life in Lermontov’s diamond-faceted tetrameters. He struggled to keep back his tears, while AAA blew his fat red nose, when shown the peasant-bare footprint of Tolstoy preserved in the clay of a motor court in Utah where he had written the tale of Murat, the Navajo chieftain, a French general’s bastard, shot by Cora Day in his swimming pool. What a soprano Cora had been! Demon took Van to the world-famous Opera House in Telluride in West Colorado and there he enjoyed (and sometimes detested) the greatest international shows — English blank-verse plays, French tragedies in rhymed couplets, thunderous German musical dramas with giants and magicians and a defecating white horse. He passed through various little passions — parlor magic, chess, fluff-weight boxing matches at fairs, stunt-riding — and of course those unforgettable, much too early initiations when his lovely young English governess expertly petted him between milkshake and bed, she, petticoated, petititted, half-dressed for some party with her sister and Demon and Demon’s casino-touring companion, bodyguard and guardian angel, monitor and adviser, Mr Plunkett, a reformed card-sharper. (1.28)

 

Darkbloom (‘Notes to Ada’): Tolstoy etc.: Tolstoy’s hero, Haji Murad, (a Caucasian chieftain) is blended here with General Murat, Napoleon’s brother-in-law, and with the French revolutionary leader Marat assassinated in his bath by Charlotte Corday.