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Perfectly Human

Jenny Diski: Lillie Langtry and Mrs Vladimir Nabokov

1 July 1999
Lillie Langtry: Manners, Masks and Morals 
by Laura Beatty.
Chatto, 336 pp., £20, March 1999, 1 85619 513 9
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Véra (Mrs Vladimir Nabokov): Portrait of a Marriage 
by Stacy Schiff.
Random House, 456 pp., $27.95, April 1999, 0 679 44790 3
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... Stacy Schiff, the Véra Nabokov she introduces is ‘the figure in the carpet ... Hers was a life lived in the margins, but then as Nabokov teaches us – sometimes the commentary is the story.’ LauraBeatty, however (including the word ‘Morals’ in the title for more than mere alliterative satisfaction), prefaces her tale of Lillie Langtry with the following deadly judgment: ‘Motivation is ...

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