Page 152. " The Wild West fiction of Captain Mayne Reid (1818-83), translated and simplified, was tremendously popular with Russian children at the beginning of this century, long after his American fame had faded "
St Petersburg's Dom Knigi (Book House), where Russians still buy most of their books
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeSt Petersburg's Dom Knigi (Book House), where Russians still buy most of their books - Credit: Lite

This Russian love for outmoded Western literature - here, fiction by Captain Mayne Reid, continued right until the end of the 20th century; when Western tourists began to visit Russia in the 1990s as it opened up, they were amazed to see that the American short story writer O.Henry (pronounced "O.Genry" in Russian), Dale Carnegie, Sherlock Homes, John Galsworthy and Agatha Christie still enjoyed huge popularity despite having been virtually forgotten back home.

Page 174. " An echo of Tiutchev's thunder and a refracted sunbeam from Fet "

Fyodor Tiutchev (1803-1873) and Afanasy Fet (1820-1892) were Russian poets.

Page 174. " I am thinking especially of Alexander Blok "

Alexander Blok (1880-1921) was the leader of Russian poetry's Silver Age, so named because it was rated second only to Alexander Pushkin's Golden Age of poetry.

Click here for Blok's famous poem of 1918, Scythians (Skifi).

Page 175. " the confetti-studded slush of the Horse Guard Boulevard during Catskin Week "

Catskin Week was a Russian Orthodox festival celebrated in Spring.

Page 175. " and lots of stuff by Ella Wheeler Wilcox - a tremendous hit with the empress and her ladies-in-waiting "

As the cover of the first edition of her best-known work, Poems of Passion might suggest, Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850–1919) was a popular American author and poet, whose work was marketed at women. She is credited with the now tired line "Laugh, and the world laughs with you; Weep, and you weep alone", from another poem, Solitude.

Nabokov was fascinated by 'philistinism', or poshlost' in Russian. He defined a philistine as a vulgarian, someone who was bourgeois in the 'Flaubert sense', ie not as a state of pocket but as a state of mind.