Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0020720, Sun, 12 Sep 2010 15:43:02 +0200

Re: No mystery in Mollitude
Mollitude is not VN's coinage, but its usage is attested by the OED as early
as the 17th century and is defined as "softness, effiminacy". For VN's
justifications for using this obsolete word to render the Russian nega, see
his commentary to Eugene Onegin. See also "Reply to My Critics" on pp. 244ff
of Strong Opinions. The word is, of course, from the Latin mollitudo, which
Lewis & Short define as "suppleness, flexibility, softness."
Robert Browning used the adjective mollitious in his long poem Sordello and
in The Ring & the Book.
The word was discussed in the past:

A. Bouazza.


From: Vladimir Nabokov Forum [mailto:NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU] On Behalf
Of Anthony Stadlen
Sent: zaterdag 11 september 2010 23:00
Subject: Re: [NABOKV-L] Scry and mysteries

On "mollitude": it may be just worth remembering that VN greatly admired
Samuel Beckett's "Molloy". (See Strong Opinions.)

Anthony Stadlen

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In a message dated 10/09/2010 19:50:19 GMT Daylight Time, jansy@AETERN.US

Stan[ to JM's "another Nabokovian coinage is the unsoft "mollitude", often
applied to Villa Venus...However, non-etymological associations are common
in our mind's underworld, particularly in the case of polyglots such as
Nabokov"] he 17th century slang, Molly for tart/prostitute has survived
chiefly in the American gangster's MOLL. But, slang comes and goes. We still
have the wonderful MOLLYCODDLE, meaning 'to pamper.' And, note that almost
any girl's name can be used offensively for gay males ...VN's MOLLITUDE is a
sweet portmanteau coinage, which SHOULD mean something like soft-centred
solitude? It follows all the rules of English agglutination, as with
certitude and plenitude. Well done with LUX-NUX-NOX. All three words are
valid in both Latin and English dictionaries.An all proper-English word-golf
solution offers a HOLE IN ONE, of course: LIGHT-NIGHT. Or vice-versa, since
all solutions are reversible.

JM: Light/Night, hole in one. Looks so easy! Mollitude is a kind of
"mollycoddling" (those soft-running velvet-cushioned carriages leading to
Villa Venus) but your "polyglot-mind's underworld" added a particular item
("soft-centered solitude"). Nice.

Matt Roth: All the recent discussion of Botkin's relationship to Kinbote
(and K's relationship to Shade), brought me back to Carolyn Kunin's
discussion of Jekyll & Hyde. Carolyn pointed out the parasite theme in PF
and related it to VN's lecture on Stevenson, where he whimsically relates
Hyde's name to hydatid, "a tiny pouch within the body of man and other
animals, a pouch containing a limpid fluid with larval tapeworms in it--a
delightful arrangement, for the little tapeworms at least." VN's definition
here is quite similar to the definition in Webster's 2nd, so we can imagine
that, while researching Hyde's name, VN came across this similar word and
noted the fitting connection. It is apparent, however, that VN's interest in
parasites included more than just definitions in the dictionary. When
preparing to write PF, he must have looked up info on the bot-fly...The
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 48:558, describing the
undesirable nature of tapeworms, which "frequently crawl out of a person's
anal canal"... it does contain an extensive description of "hydatid
disease." Did VN consider using a tapeworm as the parasitic image in PF
before settling on the bot-fly? Was he led to this article by a card
catalogue entry for "hydatid"? ...

JM: Inspite of the reference to "hydatid" in VN's lecture and the parasitic
behavior of the botfly I very much doubt it that Nabokov would have linked
the two. Teniasis (also designated by "solitaria" ie, enjoying intestinal
mollitudes) is so very different from what one finds in cattle infected by
"bicho berna" (the larvae inserted into an animal's skin by a botfly).
Nabokov cannot have approached such different parasites as if related, not
even in his verbal dreams!

I'm frustrated because I couldn't yet locate the link someone made between
Phanes and the pythagorean butterfly (there's a "butterfly theorem" though).
Wandering through esoteric places, I found one entry which hints at
Kinbote's apparent displeasure with the Red Admirable (would it lay eggs
directly on rotten organic matter?), a link between butterflies and witches.
Here it is: "Butterflies symbolize witches and fairies, but also the souls
of witches. Butterflies and witches have the ability to change their form -
butterflies change in the course of their development - witches allegedly
can change at will. Some people who view the butterfly as the soul of a
witch believe that, if they can find her body and turn it around while she
is asleep, the soul will not be able to find her mouth and reenter, and the
witch will probably die. This concept of the soul may serve to explain why
many medieval angels have butterfly wings rather than those of a bird"
<http://www.spelwerx.com/symbols.html> www.spelwerx.com/symbols.html

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