Arnie Perlstein: Even from my relatively modest acquaintance with Nabokov's writing (compared to many of you in this listserv), it is obvious that Nabokov loved to covertly wink at a myriad of allusive sources. I am merely adding Nabokov's veiled allusions to Jane Austen's Mansfield Park to that very long list. For example, the famous acrostic that Nabokov hid in plain sight in "The Vane Sisters"./ In January 1813, Jane Austen famously paraphrased Walter Scott's "Marmion" when she wrote to her sister Cassandra, right after the publication of Pride & Prejudice, that "she did not write for those dull elves who did not have a great deal of ingenuity themselves." /Don't you agree that these same words might have been written by Nabokov himself? It is clear to me that Nabokov recognized that riddling love of charades and word puzzles that is subtly present in so much of Jane Austen's writing, and he celebrated it in both his fiction and in his famous Lectures on Literature./ Nabokov, like Austen, chose to hide in plain sight in his fiction his insights into the literature he loved--he was not about to be explicit in his Lectures about what he saw, he was waiting for the sharp elves to detect his subtle gamesmanship.
Jansy Mello: Most of the complexities of Nabokov’s and Austen’s writings elude me (due to my “modest acquaintance” with both authors). This is why I was avoiding to respond to your original paragraph on “lolling on the sofa” and to the present one: “it's no aberration that Nabokov devotes a page in his lecture on Mansfield Park to "The Sofa", which is Book One of Cowper's poem "The Task", which Fanny Price quotes from in Mansfield Park. Just as Austen winked at Cowper's ‘The Sofa’ when Mrs. Norris castigates Fanny for ‘lolling on the sofa’, so too does Nabokov wink at both Cowper and Austen (and at other sources which I will write about in the near future) when he sets his crucial scene with Humbert and Lolita on the ‘sacred sofa’." However, I’m not one of the dull elves either but, perhaps, I’m a prejudiced one. In my humble opinion the kind of “covert wink” to Jane Austen, and to rape in MP, which you are describing leads nowhere inside the novel or outside it (it would be an “inconsequential” denouncement on VN’s part by its being only “a covert wink”). It is different in spirit from Ada’s, I, ch.1 (explicit) homage with several other implicit indications: “Dr Krolik, our local naturalist, to whom you, Van, have referred, as Jane Austen might have phrased it, for the sake of rapid narrative information (you recall Brown, don’t you, Smith?), has determined the example I brought back from Sacramento to Ardis, as the Bear-Foot, B,E,A,R, my love, not my foot or yours, or the Stabian flower girl’s — an allusion, which your father, who, according to Blanche, is also mine, would understand like this’ (American finger-snap).”