NABOKV-L post 0018287, Sun, 3 May 2009 06:19:40 -0300

C.Kunin to A.Sklyarenko: Similar play in Ada: ewedropper as a pun on eyedropper
A.S: I thought that "a dripping ewes-dropper in a dream" (ADA, Part Two, ch. 5) was a pun on eavesdropper.
CK: Wonderful! a possible triple!!! The eyedropper was used to administer the poison, you know. I don't recall who the eavesdropper was -- do you?
A.Sklyarenko: I began to wonder if "ewes-dropper" is not a pun on "newsdropper". The story about the lost sheep (there is a lost and found lamb on the night-lights of porcelain in Ada's and Lucette's rooms at the Marina ranch in Arizona) is from the New Testament (Matthew, 18:12-13). Euangelion is Greek for "good news". I also found Carolyn's old posting in the Archives ( She writes in it: "The driblets, dry weeks and ewesdropper all seem to be related. I think the ewesdropper is a code word for eyedropper (ewe>you>I>eye), but there probably is more to this as well."

JM: Lucette has been variously represented as "crucified" or as a "sacrificial lamb," this is why Alexey's emphasis on "ewe" and the Evangelists brought to my mind a particular butterfly and a painting, "The Hireling Shepherd", 1851, by the Pre-Raphaelite artist William Holman Hunt. It represents a shepherd neglecting his flock in favour of an attractive country girl to whom he shows a Death's Head Moth*, in a typical setting for the biblical reference to "stray sheep and Christ as the good shepherd."

Hunt painted the picture when he was working in close collaboration with John Everett Millais, who was painting Ophelia at the same time in the same region of Surrey. Both paintings depict English rural scenes, the innocence of which is disturbed by subtle but profoundly threatening violations of natural harmony. In Hunt's painting, the shepherd ignores his flock of sheep, who wander over a ditch into a field of corn. This violation of boundaries is paralleled by the shepherd's physical intrusions into the personal space of the girl, who responds in an ambiguous way that might be interpreted as complicity or as a knowing skepticism. As he shows her the moth, he places his arm round her shoulder.Hunt himself, however, hinted that he had a hidden meaning in mind, a claim he elaborated upon in a letter when the painting was acquired by Manchester City Art Gallery. Hunt asserted that he intended the couple to symbolise the pointless theological debates which occupied Christian churchmen while the their "flock" went astray due to a lack of proper moral guidance[...] The irreconcilability between these interpretations and the complex ambiguities in the poses and expressions led the novelist Brian Aldiss to discuss the painting in detail in his "anti-novel" Report on Probability A (1968) in which characters from parallel universes observe eachother in an attempt to comprehend the alien worlds they have been given partial access to. The painting is repeatedly described as an example of an image that may have a clear and legible meaning, if only it can be found, or, alternatively, it may be a fragment of experience forever locked into an unreadable moment with multiple possible narratives leading to it and from it.(assemblage of differentwiki-data).

In ADA ( 1969) there is a reference to Van Veen's Sci-Fi novel, "Letters from Terra": "a romance around a subject that had been worried to extinction in all kinds of 'Star Rats,' and 'Space Aces' ...delineating intercommunication between Terra the Fair and our terrible Antiterra." As a pen-name (a pseudonym) had been Voltemand,Voltimand or Mandalatov.
Voltemand reappears sometimes later, when Lucette visits Van at Kingston, to deliver hims Ada's last message. They meet in a "bleak house anglophillically named Voltemand Hall" and, as Lucette tells him: 'I also know,... who he is.'
Van is worried, at first, when "She pointed to the inscription 'Voltemand Hall' on the brow of the building" But he "gave her a quick glance" and realized "she simply meant the courtier in Hamlet**."
It was when the theme of a triple viol and driblets arose: "Driblets? Driblets? Now who pronounced it that way? Who? Who? A dripping ewes-dropper in a dream? Did the orphans live?'
The amount of information set down during Van-Lucette's encounter makes it hard to ascertain the full scope of the connections, proposed by Kunin and A.Sklyarenko, to "ewes","news", "poisoned eyedroppings" (contrasting with Hamlet's play with "ear-drops").
Nevertheless, there are confimatory links which function for ADA, but perhaps not for Kinbote's "eavesdropping".
google and wiki sources:
*The Death's Head Moth is a Sphingid moth found in Asia, one of the three species of Death's-head Hawkmoth, also known as the Bee Robber. It is very fond of honey [...] it can mimic the scent of bees so that they can enter a hive unharmed to get honey.
Besides "The Hireling Shepherd", the moth has been featured in Bram Stoker's "Dracula", "Un chien andalou" and "The Silence of the Lambs." In the latter the moth is used as a calling card by the serial killer "Buffalo Bill" (An Acherontia styx pupa found in the soft palate of a murder victim is a vital clue in the thriller novel "The Silence of the Lambs." In the movie version, however, while the script still refers to styx, the species depicted is Acherontia atropos.In The Mothman Prophecies this moth is referenced to on more than a few occasions. It also appears in the music video to Massive Attack's single, "Butterfly Caught."
This sphingid is also mentioned as symbol of death in John Keats's Ode to Melancholy, "Make not your rosary of yew-berries, / Nor let the beetle, nor the death-moth be / Your mournful Psyche".

**At least once Van describes Lucette as Ophelia ( in a letter to Ada and Andrew after her death by water): "I know the unsoundness of speculations as to whether Ophelia would not hove drowned herself after all...even if she had married her Voltemand... In other more deeply moral worlds than this pellet of muck, there might exist restraints, principles, transcendental consolations, and even a certain pride in making happy someone one does not really love; but on this planet Lucettes are doomed."


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