One afternoon in the spring of 1871, he [Daniel Veen] proposed to Marina in the Up elevator of Manhattan's first ten-floor building, was indignantly rejected at the seventh stop (Toys), came down alone and, to air his feelings, set off in a counter-Fogg direction on a triple trip round the globe, adopting, like an animated parallel, the same itinerary every time. In November 1871, as he was in the act of making his evening plans with the same smelly but nice cicerone in a café-au-lait suit whom he had hired already twice at the same Genoese hotel, an aerocable from Marina (forwarded with a whole week's delay via his Manhattan office which had filed it away through a new girl's oversight in a dove hole marked RE AMOR) arrived on a silver salver telling him she would marry him upon his return to America. (1.1)
In a letter of September 29, 1886, to Maria Vladimirovna Kiselyov (the owner of the Babkino estate near Moscow where Chekhov's family spent the previous summer) Chekhov says that he is glad to be his correspondent's literary cicerone:
Конечно, нет надобности уверять Вас, что я очень рад быть Вашим литературно-гонорарным гофмаклером и чичероне. Эта должность льстит моему тщеславию, и исполнять её так же нетрудно, как нести за Вами ведро, когда Вы возвращаетесь с рыбной ловли. (...This job is as easy as carrying your pail behind you when you go home from fishing.)
In the same letter Chekhov complains that he regularly goes to the theatre but never sees one pretty face there:
Бываю в театре. Ни одной хорошенькой... Всё рылиндроны, харитоны и мордемондии... Сама жизнь обращается мало-помалу в сплошную мордемондию.
Mordemondia (as Chekhov jokingly calls an ugly face and adds sadly that life itself little by little turns into sheer mordemondia) is a play on morda ("mug"). But there are also Demon, monde (Fr., world) and Demonia (aka Antiterra, Earth's twin planet on which Ada is set) in it.
Like Chekhov and his correspondent, Demon Veen (Van's and Ada's father, Dan's first cousin) was a great fisherman in his youth:
He [Dan] had revisited only a few times since his boyhood another estate he had, up north on Lake Kitezh, near Luga, comprising, and practically consisting of, that large, oddly rectangular though quite natural body of water which a perch he had once clocked took half an hour to cross diagonally and which he owned jointly with his cousin, a great fisherman in his youth. (1.1)
The globetrotter in Jules Verne's "Le tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours" (1873), Phileas Fogg travels from West to East and, saving one day, wins the wager he made in his London club. Moreover, he brings home Aouda, a beautiful Sikh young woman who agrees to marry him.
Demon Veen became Marina's lover on a bet: ...Demon (not quite a gentleman in amorous matters) made a bet with his orchestra-seat neighbor, Prince N., bribed a series of green-room attendants, and then, in a cabinet reculé (as a French writer of an earlier century might have mysteriously called that little room in which the broken trumpet and poodle hoops of a forgotten clown, besides many dusty pots of colored grease, happened to be stored) proceeded to possess her between two scenes (Chapter Three and Four of the martyred novel). (1.2)
In his letter to Madame Kiselyov Chekhov jokingly calls the magazine Detskiy otdykh (Children's Relaxation), for which his brother Mikhail contributed stories under the penname "M. Bogemski," Detsko-Bogemski otdykh ("Children's Bohemian Relaxation"):
А возвраты пусть не смущают Вас. Если даже будут возвращать половину, то и тогда работа будет выгоднее, чем в "Детско-Богемском отдыхе."
Demon finds out that Marina was unfaithful to him with Baron d'Onski from a Bohemian lady:
Next day Demon was having tea at his favorite hotel with a Bohemian lady whom he had never seen before and was never to see again (she desired his recommendation for a job in the Glass Fish-and-Flower department in a Boston museum) when she interrupted her voluble self to indicate Marina and Aqua, blankly slinking across the hall in modish sullenness and bluish furs with Dan Veen and a dackel behind, and said:
'Curious how that appalling actress resembles "Eve on the Clepsydrophone" in Parmigianino's famous picture.' (1.2)
In Sapogi vsmyatku (Nonsense, literally: "soft-boiled boots"), a story Chekhov wrote for Madame Kiselyov's children, the grandfather suffers from indigestion and therefore smells bad:
У детей был дедушка Пантелей Тараканович. Он день и ночь спал за ширмочкой, где его кусали клопы и блохи. Клопов он давил на стене, а блох между ногтями. От него пахло табаком, уксусом и еще чем-то таким, что неприлично сказать: бедняжка часто расстраивал себе желудок!
The coachman in "Ardis the First," Ben Wright (nicknamed by servants "Bengal Ben"), is associated with pets (farts):
A slight commotion took place on the box. Lucette turned around and spoke to Ada.
'I want to sit with you. Mne tut neudobno, i ot nego nehorosho pakhnet (I'm uncomfortable here, and he does not smell good).'
'We'll be there in a moment,' retorted Ada, 'poterpi (have a little patience).'
'What's the matter?' asked Mlle Larivière.
'Nothing, Il pue.'
'Oh dear! I doubt strongly he ever was in that Rajah's service. (1.13)
The characters of Sapogi vsmyatku include two aunts: Zhozefina Pavlovna (who smells of perfume) and Mordemondia Vasilievna (who came to a visit from Chernigov). Bogemski's writings are also mentioned:
Перед вечером приезжала тетя Жозефина Павловна, от которой пахло духами. А раз из Чернигова приезжала другая тетя, Мордемондия Васильевна. Вечером дети читали журналы «Детское утомление» или сочинения Богемского и Политковской, которая отлично пишет. Ужинали дети остатками от обеда.
Когда ложились спать, то мама отворяла форточку и говорила: «Не нужно детей ржаным хлебом кормить». (...When the children went to bed, mother opened the klappenfenster saying: "one should not give to children the ryebread.")
Pet is Lucette's nickname. Ada to Lucette: 'Pop in, pet (it all started with the little one letting wee winds go free at table, circa 1882). (2.8)
On Van's first day in Ardis Marina asks Ada (Van's sister who will become his life-long lover) to show him the house:
'You can see the Tarn from the library window,' said Marina. 'Presently Ada will show you all the rooms in the house. Ada?' (She pronounced it the Russian way with two deep, dark 'a's, making it sound rather like 'ardor.')
'You can catch a glint of it from here too,' said Ada, turning her head and, pollice verso, introducing the view to Van who put his cup down, wiped his mouth with a tiny embroidered napkin, and stuffing it into his trouser pocket, went up to the dark-haired, pale-armed girl. (1.5)
Pollice verso is a novel (1901) by Alexey Lugovoy (the penname of A. A. Tikhonov, a friend and correspondent of Chekhov, the editor of the Niva literary review). Lugovoy comes from Luga, the town about 100 miles south of St. Petersburg on the Warsaw highway where Tikhonov lived. Like Kitezh, Tarn (the New Reservoir) is a rectangular lake. In letters to his brother Alexander and to his friends Chekhov describes the pond in his Melikhovo country seat (in the Province of Moscow):
Есть у нас превосходная липовая аллея. По ней можно уже гулять, так как мы сняли с неё снег и побросали его в пруд. Прудом здесь называется маленькая ямка, на дне которой имеется немножко льду кофейного цвета. (a letter of March 29, 1892, to Lika Mizinov)
While Ada hints at ad (Russ., hell; cf. teper' iz ada, 'now is out of hell,' in Aqua's suicide note, 1.3), Ardis (Daniel Veen's family estate) looks like a corruption of "paradise." In 1890 Chekhov went to Sakhalin (then a place of penal servitude) where he spent three months collecting material for a book and taking a census of the island's inhabitants (i. e. of the convicts). In a letter of December 10, 1890, to I. L. Leontiev-Shcheglov Chekhov (who returned home via Hong Kong, Singapore and Ceylon) writes that he was in ad (Sakhalin) and in paradise (Ceylon):
Я был и в аду, каким представляется Сахалин, и в раю, т. е. на острове Цейлоне. Какие бабочки, букашки, какие мушки, таракашки! ("What butterflies, what small insects!"*)
In 1891 Chekhov went to Europe for the first time and visited Venice. In a letter of March 24, 1891, to his brother Ivan Chekhov writes: "I have never in my life seen a town more marvellous than Venice." To Madame Kiselyov he writes on the same day: "I am in Venice. You may put me in a madhouse... The shade of the lovely Desdemona sends a smile to the District Captain." On the next day he adds in another letter to her: "In short, there is not a spot that does not call up memories and touch the heart. For instance, the little house where Desdemona lived makes an impression that is difficult to shake off."
After Lucette comitted suicide (dying an Ophelian death), Van writes to Ada in a letter that on this planet Lucettes are doomed (3.6). A couple of years later Demon perishes in a mysterious airplane disaster, which means that Van can meet at last his Ada (now married to Andrey Vinelander, a modest man reminiscent of Chekhov and his likeable intelligent characters). After a long separarion they make love (deceiving Ada's husband) again, and Van, describing his ten secret trysts with Ada, calls his and Ada's native planet "Desdemonia:" 
That meeting, and the nine that followed, constituted the highest ridge of their twenty-one-year-old love: its complicated, dangerous, ineffably radiant coming of age. The somewhat Italianate style of the apartment, its elaborate wall lamps with ornaments of pale caramel glass, its white knobbles that produced indiscriminately light or maids, the slat-eyes, veiled, heavily curtained windows which made the morning as difficult to disrobe as a crinolined prude, the convex sliding doors of the huge white 'Nuremberg Virgin'-like closet in the hallway of their suite, and even the tinted engraving by Randon of a rather stark three-mast ship on the zigzag green waves of Marseilles Harbor - in a word, the alberghian atmosphere of those new trysts added a novelistic touch (Aleksey and Anna may have asterisked here!) which Ada welcomed as a frame, as a form, something supporting and guarding life, otherwise unprovidenced on Desdemonia, where artists are the only gods. (3.8)
In a letter of April 1, 1891, Chekhov writes to Madame Kiselyov from Rome:
I am dining at the table d'hote. Can you imagine just opposite me are sitting two Dutch girls: one of them is like Pushkin's Tatiana, and the other like her sister Olga. I watch them all through dinner, and imagine a neat, clean little house with a turret, excellent butter, superb Dutch cheese, Dutch herrings, a benevolent-looking pastor, a sedate teacher ... and I feel I should like to marry a Dutch girl and be depicted with her on a tea-tray beside the little white house.
Veen is a Dutch name. It means in Dutch what Neva does in Finnish: "peat bog." Like Pushkin's Eugene Onegin, VN "was born upon the Neva's banks." In Pushkin's novel in verse Onegin tells Lenski (Olga's fiancé) that he would have preferred the elder sister, Tatiana:
"I'd have chosen the other,
if I had been like you a poet.
In Olga's features there's no life,
just as in a Vandyke Madonna:
she's round and fair of face
as is that silly moon
up in that silly sky." (Three: V: 6-12)
Because he is not a poet, or for some other reason (Lucette is a neutral child of eight when fourteen-year-old Van comes to Ardis and falls in love with twelve-year-old Ada), Van chooses the wrong girl. In the epilogue of VN's Family Chronicle Ada tells Van:
'Oh, Van, oh Van, we did not love her [Lucette] enough. That's whom you should have married, the one sitting feet up, in ballerina black, on the stone balustrade, and then everything would have been all right - I would have stayed with you both in Ardis Hall, and instead of that happiness, handed out gratis, instead of all that we teased her to death!' (5.6)
Demon = monde = Mond + e = Nemo/omen + d = Dezdemona - ezda = Mondefroid - froid = mon Dieu + o - oui
Mordemondia = Mord + Demonia
Demonia = idea + nom
Skonky = konsky
paradise = Ardis + ape
Aouda = Ada + ou
Mond - Germ., moon
Nemo - Captain Nemo, a character in several novels by Jules Verne
Dezdemona - Desdemona (Othello's wife in Shakespeare's tragedy) in Russian spelling; Aqua married Demon Veen on Shakespeare's (and VN's) birthday (1.3)
ezda - Russ., ride; drive; journey; cf. Trediakovski's Ezda v ostrov lyubvi ("The Journey to the Island of Love," 1730), cf. Gogol's exclamation at the end of Dead Souls: i kakoy zhe russkiy ne lyubit bystroy ezdy! ("and what Russian does not love a rapid ride!")
Mondefroid - clever Eleonore Bonvard's doctor: a Dr Froid, one of the administerial centaurs, who may have been an émigré brother with a passport-changed name of the Dr Froit of Signy-Mondieu-Mondieu in the Ardennes or, more likely, the same man, because they both came from Vienne, Isère, and were only sons (as her son was). Aqua, in her turn, repeated exactly clever Eleonore Bonvard's trick, namely, opting for the making of beds and the cleaning of glass shelves. The astorium in St Taurus, or whatever it was called (who cares - one forgets little things very fast, when afloat in infinite non-thingness) was, perhaps, more modem, with a more refined desertic view, than the Mondefroid bleakhouse horsepittle, but in both places a demented patient could outwit in one snap an imbecile pedant. (1.3)
froid - Fr., cold
mon Dieu
- Fr., my God; cf. Dr. Froit (Dr. Froid's or Mondefroid's brother) of Signy-Mondieu-Mondieu (1.3)
oui - Fr., yes
Mord - Germ., murder
nom - Fr., name; ...she [Marina] employed mon petit nom, Vanya, Vanyusha - never had before... (5.6); incidentally, in Chekhov's play Uncle Vanya (1897) Telegin mentions his relative Lakedemonov; Lacedaemon is, of course, Sparta
Skonky - d'Onsky's oneway nickname (1.2)
konsky - Russ., of a horse; Chekhov is the author of Skoropostizhnaya konskaya smert', ili Velikodushie russkogo naroda ("A Horse's Sudden Death, or the Magnanimity of the Russian People," a dramatic sketch in one act, 1886; in a copious editorial footnote** "the Finnish cold rocks and the stunned Kremlin"*** are mentioned)
ou - Fr., or
*a quotation from Pushkin's epigram "Collection of Insects"
**all written by Chekhov
***yet another two quotes from Pushkin
Alexey Sklyarenko (who would like to marry a Dutch girl, particularly if she looks like Pushkin's Tatiana, very much; alas, he forgets that Chekhov, who married at forty one, died at his present age)
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.