'By the way, the de Prey woman tells me her son has enlisted and will soon be taking part in that deplorable business abroad which our country should have ignored. I wonder if he leaves any rivals behind?'
'Goodness no,' replied honest Van. 'Ada is a serious young lady. She has no beaux - except me, ça va seins durs...' (1.38)
Van's and Ada's father, Demon Veen does not know that his children are lovers. On the other hand, Van errs when he thinks that he is Ada's only "beau." Ada is a namesake of Lord Byron's daughter. Byron is the hero of Aldanov's Mogila voina ("A Soldier's Grave," 1938). At a dinner given by Duke of Wellington the King George IV  meets a dandy (the word "beau" is not in use any more) who imitates "the mad poet Byron who had a love affair with his own sister:"
По облику гостя король понял, что это денди (больше не говорили "bеаu") самого последнего образца: он был нехорошо одет, ногти у него были длинные, волосы немного растрепанные, вид болезненный, рассеянный и роковой, -- Георгу IV было известно, что новая мода эта создалась в подражание сумасшедшему поэту Байрону, тому, который находился в любовной свя­зи с собственной сестрой. ("A Soldier's Grave," chapter XI)
In Pushkin's Eugene Onegin (One: IV: 7) Onegin is "dressed like a London dandy." "Having donned a broad bolivar, Onegin drives to the boulevard and there goes strolling unconfined till vigilant Bréguet to him chimes dinner." (One: XV: 10-14)
Onegin's "bolivar" is a "hat à la Bolivar" (Pushkin's Notes to EO). In his speech at a baracca (the place where the Carbonari met) Byron calls Venezuela of great Bolivar "the only free and cultured country in the world:"
"Свободное и культурное го­сударство суще­ствует в мире теперь только одно: это Венецуэла великого Боливара!" ( "A Soldier's Grave," chapter V)
On the picture in Marina's bedroom her brother Ivan (the violinist who died young and famous) is clad in a bayronka (open short):
Both recalled the time (between the first tiny cross and a whole graveyard of kisses) and the occasion: it was ordered by Marina, who had it framed and set up in her bedroom next to a picture of her brother at twelve or fourteen clad in a bayronka (open shirt) and cupping a guinea pig in his gowpen (hollowed hands); the three looked like siblings, with the dead boy providing a vivisectional alibi. (2.7)
Onegin's Bréguet brings to mind Wellington's Bréguet watch in "A Sailor's Grave." Its special dial allows one to know time by touch:
Недавно Брегет изготовил, по особому его заказу, часы с замысло­ватым циферблатом, -- время можно было определять наощупь. "Пора, пора", -- сказал герцог и показал Брегетовские часы. "Последняя новинка, очень удобно: не надо выни­мать из кармана", -- пояснил он, вставая. (chapter VIII)
Wellington shows his watch to his friend Lord Castlereagh, the foreign minister (a target of Byron's and Shelley's epigrams) who goes mad and commits suicide (by cutting his throat). Marina's poor mad twin sister Aqua (Demon's wife) can not make out what her wrist watch says:
But her madness, the majesty of her madness, still retained a mad queen's pathetic coquetry: 'You know, Doctor, I think I'll need glasses soon, I don't know' (lofty laugh), 'I just can't make out what my wrist watch says... For heaven's sake, tell me what it says! Ah! Half-past for - for what? Never mind, never mind, "never" and "mind" are twins, I have a twin sister and a twin son. I know you want to examine my pudendron, the Hairy Alpine Rose in her album, collected ten years ago' (showing her ten fingers gleefully, proudly, ten is ten!). (1.3)
In her suicide note Aqua compares the dial of a clock to a white face with a trick mustache:
The hands of a clock, even when out of order, must know and let the dumbest little watch know where they stand, otherwise neither is a dial but only a white face with a trick mustache. Similarly, chelovek (human being) must know where he stands and let others know, otherwise he is not even a klok (piece) of a chelovek, neither a he, nor she, but 'a tit of it' as poor Ruby, my little Van, used to say of her scanty right breast. (ibid.)
'Okh, nado (I must) passati!' exclaimed Percy in the Slavic slang he affected, blowing out his cheeks and fumbling frantically at his fly. In all his life, said stolid Greg to Van, he had never seen such an ugly engine, surgically circumcised, terrifically oversized and high-colored, with such a phenomenal cœur de bœuf; nor had either of the fascinated, fastidious boys ever witnessed the like of its sustained, strongly arched, practically everlasting stream. 'Phoeh!' uttered the young man with relief, and repacked. (1.39)
Darkbloom ('Notes to Ada'): passati: pseudo-Russian pun on 'pass water.'
Here is Byron's epitaph of Castlereagh:
Posterity will ne'er survey
A nobler scene than this.
Here lie the bones of Castlereagh.
Stop traveller, and piss.
According to Aldanov, Byron was not pleased with his epigram on Castlereagh. As to the epitaph, it was simply indecent:
Эпиграмма на лорда Кэстльри вышла не очень остроумной. Эпитафия, тоже в сти­хах, просто непристойна. Как бы ни относиться к Кэстльри, писать так об умершем челове­ке, вдобавок умершем трагической смертью, не очень по-джентльменски. ("A Soldier's Grave," chapter XIV)
Passati is also a play on tempi passati (It., "past times"). The phrase is used by Heinrich Heine in his Journey from Munich to Genoa (1829):
...England der Zufluchtsort fuer freie Geister war, wenn der Despotismus den ganzen Kontinent unterdrueckte; das sind tempi passati! (Kapitel XXX)
It was from Genoa that Byron sailed off to Greece. Before leaving Italy, Byron wonders if he should not return to England, to his sister
Или поехать в Ан­глию, к сестре? ("A Soldier's Grave," chapter XVI)
Heinrich Heine appears as a character in Aldanov's Povest' o smerti ("The Tale about Death," 1952). In Munich Heine met Tyutchev, the Russian diplomat, author of Silentium. Silentium is Greg Erminin's motorcycle on which he comes to the picnic on Ada's sixteenth birthday. Greg witnesses Van's fight with Percy and brings Ada the news about its outcome:
As he and his captive drew near the glade Van cursed himself for feeling rattled by that unexpected additional round; he was secretly out of breath, his every nerve twanged, he caught himself limping and correcting the limp - while Percy de Prey, in his magically immaculate white trousers and casually ruffled shirt, marched, buoyantly exercising his arms and shoulders, and seemed quite serene and in fact rather cheerful.
Presently Greg overtook them, bringing the cufflink - a little triumph of meticulous detection, and with a trite 'Attaboy!' Percy closed his silk cuff, thus completing his insolent restoration.
Their dutiful companion, still running, got first to the site of the finished feast; he saw Ada, facing him with two stipple-stemmed red boletes in one hand and three in the other; and, mistaking her look of surprise at the sound of his thudding hooves for one of concern, good Sir Greg hastened to cry out from afar: 'He's all right! He's all right, Miss Veen' - blind compassion preventing the young knight from realizing that she could not possibly have known yet what a clash had occurred between the beau and the beast.
'Indeed I am,' said the former, taking from her a couple of her toadstools, the girl's favorite delicacy, and stroking their smooth caps. 'And why shouldn't I be? Your cousin has treated Greg and your humble servant to a most bracing exhibition of Oriental Skrotomoff or whatever the name may be.' (1.39).
In the scuffle Van hits his knee. Lord Byron was lame. In his Dedication to Don Juan Byron calls Castlereagh "the intellectual eunuch" (cf. "Oriental Skrotomoff").
Alexey Sklyarenko
Google Search
the archive
the Editors
NOJ Zembla Nabokv-L
Subscription options AdaOnline NSJ Ada Annotations L-Soft Search the archive VN Bibliography Blog

All private editorial communications are read by both co-editors.