Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0008609, Sat, 20 Sep 2003 19:25:29 -0700

the definitive " triple viol"
EDNOTE. This is an excellent example of how multilayered VN usages can be.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Brian Boyd (FOA ENG)" <b.boyd@auckland.ac.nz>
To: <chtodel@cox.net>
Sent: Saturday, September 20, 2003 4:15 PM
Subject: reply to: triple viol

> BB:
> "I meant the real Tapper," cried Lucette (who was making a complete mess
> her visit), "not my poor, betrayed, poisoned, innocent teacher of music,
> whom not even Ada, unless she fibs, could cure of his impotence."
> "Driblets," said Van.
> "Not necessarily his," said Lucette. "His wife's lover played the
> triple viol."
> "Triple viol" here puns on "treble viol" and "double bass": as if the
> "treble" referred to number as well as pitch; "bass viol" is another name,
> considered erroneous by W2, for "double bass."
> And therefore, indeed, the implication is that Rack can be impotent even
> though his wife has given birth to triplets, if we posit (and Lucette
> invents rather than recollects-but who knows?) a lover for his wife, who
> this musical love triangle, and as the father of triplets, can be imagined
> playing the "triple viol."
> Notice that Van's "driblets," which echoes Rack's wife's German doctor's
> prediction that she "would present him with driplets in dry weeks" (I.32),
> where a German voiced sound supplants the English unvoiced (driplets for
> triplets, drei for three), takes the voicing even further, turning
> into driblets. This now serves as in ironic sneer underlying Rack's
> impotence (ejaculating reduced to driblets) at the same time as Van calls
> the alleged impotence into question through the potential counter-evidence
> of the triplets.
> Lucette's "triple viol" then jumps the other way, from voiced sound to
> unvoiced, from "treble viol" to "triple viol."
> There may also be an overtone in "viol," perhaps an octave above, of
> and perhaps a secondary overtone, still higher and fainter, on the
> of "vile" and the "base" hompohone of "bass." The homonymy is one that
> Shakespeare, who loved doublets (but not triplets), made the most of:
> "Things base and vile, holding no quantity, Love can transpose to form and
> dignity" (MND 1.1.232-33), or, more flatly, in the early TGV 4.1.71: "we
> detest such vile base practices."
> Even without the overtones, not a bad off-the-Nabocuff pun for poor L.
> EDNOTE. My assumption is that it refers, as you suggest, to the triplets
> is carrying. Other ideas?
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Yannickec@aol.com
> Sent: Friday, September 19, 2003 12:52 AM
> Subject: Triple viol
> 'His wife's lover played the triple viol'. (Ada, II, 5, p 301).
> Does anyone have a suggestion for what Lucette means by "triple viol"?
> II, 5 (p301 in Penguin Ed).
> The viol is probably here the short name for the viola da gamba? in that
> family, there can be a "double bass", which is a bigger bass viol. But
> is a triple viol? Is it a pun with the "driblets" that comes before? Can
> somebody explain?
> thank you,
> yannicke chupin