NABOKV-L post 0020915, Wed, 27 Oct 2010 10:25:00 -0200

[NABOKOV-L] Havelock Ellis and Lolita's Eyes ( Ronsard's Verd)
At the Zembla site, in the article "Intimations of Lo:Sirens, Joyce and Nabokov's Lolita" Neil Cornwell mentions that "Almost at the very beginning of the composition of Lolita, in 1948, Edmund Wilson supplied Nabokov with volume six of Havelock Ellis's Etudes de Psychologie Sexuelle (Paris, 1926), which contains a 100-page confessional document written in French by an anonymous southern Russian: 'Havelock Ellis's Russian sex masterpiece', as Wilson terms it (N-W 201)".
Brian Boyd's RY (400) has a succint entry, related to the English translation:" George Hessen, in his role of perpetual student, could draw on the university library for Havelock Ellis, Swinburne, and what ever else might distract an avid reader from his pain."
I couldn't locate again Alfred Appel's entry on Ellis and fountainism (using the List archives and its google search I only found a quote from wiki and the address ) The indication I needed wasn't available.*

My interest in Nabokov's familiarity with Elis, this time, derives from a curious entry, related to "vair color eyes" and its importance for the French writers of yore. Havelock Ellis' s works are to be found in the internet ( - ) but the chapter that interests me appears, in the French translation, concerning "La Vision" (tome II, Chapter II) ie, to "beauty and the exageration of sexual traits" (such as "Stéatopygie" and the influence of national or racial types in "la beauté.") Cf. -) Havelock Ellis describes, at length, not only the allure of an "ensellure" (recently remembered by Tom Rymour), but of the eyes with variations in color (grey-blue-green).

We know that Nabokov majored in French and Medieval Literature so, perhaps, his emphasis on Lolita's "vair eyes" must bear a relation to what I found and quote below (sorry for bringing it only in French). The inspiration for "Lolita" ( as in the "Enchanter" perhaps, but most certainly -inspite VN's denials, in "Colette") must derive from some kind of French "mélange"...

"Dans la Chanson de Roland, et dans tous les poèmes français du Moyen Âge, les les yeux sont sans exception vairs. Cette épithète est vague. Le mot, dérivé de varius, signifie "mélangé", ce que Houday regarde comme une indication d'irradiations variées, la même qualité qui plus tard fit naître le terme iris pour désigner la membrane pupillaire (63). Vair ne se rapporterait donc pas autant à la couleur de l'oeil qu'à ses qualités brillantes et étincelantes. Il est possible que Houday ait eu raison, mais il demeure probable que l'oeil décrit comme vair était supposé en même temps de couleur variée. Ce terme s'appliquerait donc à l'oeil que nous appelons ordinairement gris, c'est-à-dire bleu dans un cercle de pigment brun, faiblement tacheté. Ces yeux sont assez typiques pour le nord de la France, et ils sont souvent beaux. Que tel ait été le cas, cela semble résulter clairement du fait, mentionné par Houday lui-même, que, quelques siècles plus tard, l'oeil vair était considéré comme vert, et que les yeux verts étaient célébrés comme les yeux les plus beaux. L'étymologie était fausse, mais une étymologie fausse ne suffit point à changer un idéal. À la Renaissance, Jehan Lemaire, décrivant Vénus comme le type de la beauté, parle de ses yeux verts, et un peu plus tard, Ronsard chante :
Noir je veux l'oeil et brun le teint,
Bien que l'oeil verd toute la France adore."

(I underlined the parts that seem to be of special interest)


* Wikipedia informs: "According to Ellis in My Life, his friends were much amused at his being considered an expert on sex considering the fact that he suffered from impotence until the age of 60, when he discovered that was able to become aroused by the sight of a woman urinating. His Sexual Inversion, the first English medical text book on homosexuality, co-authored with John Addington Symonds, described the sexual relations of homosexual men, something that Ellis did not consider to be a disease, immoral, or a crime; a bookseller was prosecuted in 1897 for stocking it. Other psychologically important concepts developed by Ellis include autoerotism and narcissism, both of which were later taken on by Sigmund Freud."

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