Владимир Набоков - 

лолита   Русский -  in Russian here


Vladimir Nabokov 


Lolita 'was created by Nazi journalist'? Read it here



"Lolita,  or  the Confession of a White Widowed Male," such were the
two titles under which the writer of the present note received  the  strange
pages  it  preambulates.  "Humbert Humbert," their author, had died in legal
captivity, of coronary thrombosis, on November 16, 1952, a few  days  before
his  trial  was scheduled to start. His lawyer, my good friend and relation,
Clarence Choate Clark, Esq., now of the District of Columbia bar,  in  asking
me  to  edit  the  manuscript, based his request on a clause in his client's
will which empowered my eminent cousin to use the discretion in all  matters
pertaining  to  the  preparation of "Lolita" for print. Mr. Clark's decision
may have been influenced by the fact that the editor of his choice had  just
been  awarded  the  Poling  Prize  for  a  modest  work ("Do the Senses make
Sense?") wherein certain morbid states and perversions had been discussed.
     My task proved simpler than either of us had anticipated. Save for  the
correction of obvious solecisms and a careful suppression of a few tenacious
details  that  despite  "H.H."'s  own efforts still subsisted in his text as
signposts and tombstones (indicative of places or persons that  taste  would
conceal  and  compassion spare), this remarkable memoir is presented intact.
Its author's bizarre cognomen is his own invention;  and,  of  course,  this
mask--through  which  two hypnotic eyes seem to glow--had to remain unlifted
in accordance with its wearer's wish. While  "Haze"  only  rhymes  with  the
heroine's  real  surname,  her first name is too closely interwound with the
inmost fiber of the book to allow one to alter it; nor (as the  reader  will
perceive  for himself) is there any practical necessity to do so. References
to "H.H."'s crime may be looked up by the inquisitive in  the  daily  papers
for  September-October  1952;  its cause and purpose would have continued to
come under my reading lamp.
     For the benefit  of  old-fashioned  readers  who  wish  to  follow  the
destinies of the "real" people beyond the "true" story, a few details may be
given  as  received  from  Mr.  "Windmuller," or "Ramsdale," who desires his
identity suppressed so that "the  long  shadow  of  this  sorry  and  sordid
business" should not reach the community to which he is proud to belong. His
daughter,  "Louise," is by now a college sophomore, "Mona Dahl" is a student
in Paris. "Rita" has recently married the proprietor of a hotel in  Florida.
Mrs.  "Richard  F.  Schiller"  died in childbed, giving birth to a stillborn
girl, on Christmas Day 1952, in Gray  Star,  a  settlemen  in  the  remotest
Northwest.  "Vivian  Darkbloom"  has  written  a  biography, "My Cue," to be
publshed shortly, and critics who have perused the manuscript  call  it  her
best  book. The caretakers of the various cemeteries involved report that no
ghosts walk.
     Viewed simply as a novel, "Lolita" deals with situations  and  emotions
that  would  remain  exasperatingly vague to the reader had their expression
been etiolated by means  of  platitudinous  evasions.  True,  not  a  single
obscene term is to be found in the whole work; indeed, the robust philistine
who  is  conditioned  by  modern conventions into accepting without qualms a
lavish array of four-letter words in a banal novel, will be quite shocked by
their absence here. If, however, for this paradoxical  prude's  comfort,  an
editor  attempted to dilute or omit scenes that a certain type of mind might
call "aphrodisiac" (see in this respect  the  monumental  decision  rendered
December 6, 1933, by Hon. John M. Woolsey in regard to another, considerably
more  outspoken, book), one would have to forego the publication of "Lolita"
altogether, since those  very  scenes  that  one  might  ineptly  accuse  of
sensuous  existence  of  their own, are the most strictly functional ones in
the development of a tragic tale tending unswervingly to nothing less than
a moral apotheosis. The cynic may say that commercial pornography makes  the
same  claim;  the learned may counter by asserting that "H.H."'s impassioned
confession is a tempest in a test tube; that at least 12% of American  adult
males--a  "conservative"  estimate  according  to  Dr.  Blanche  Schwarzmann
(verbal communication)--enjoy yearly, in one way  or  another,  the  special
experience "H.H." describes with such despare; that had our demented diarist
gone,  in the fatal summer of 1947, to a competent psycho-pathologist, there
would have been no disaster; but then, neither would there  have  been  this
     This  commentator  may be excused for repeating what he has stressed in
his own books and lectures, namely that  "offensive"  is  frequently  but  a
synonym for "unusual;" and a great work of art is of course always original,
and thus by its very nature should come as a more or less shocking surprise.
I  have  no  intention  to  glorify  "H.H."  No doubt, he is horrible, is is
abject, he is a shining example of moral leprosy, a mixture of ferocity  and
jocularity  that  betrays  supreme  misery  perhaps, but is not conducive to
attractiveness. He is ponderously capricious. Many of his casual opinions on
the people and scenery of this country are ludicrous.  A  desperate  honesty
that  throbs  through  his  confession  does  not  absolve  him from sins of
diabolical cunning. He is abnormal. He is not a gentleman. But how magically
his singing violin can conjure up a tendresse, a compassion for Lolita  that
makes us entranced with the book while abhorring its author!
     As  a  case  history,  "Lolita"  will  become,  no  doubt, a classic in
psychiatric circles. As a work of art, it transcends its expiatory  aspects;
and  still  more  important  to us than scientific significance and literary
worth, is the ethical impact the book should have on the serious reader; for
in this poignant personal study there lurks a general  lesson;  the  wayward
child,  the  egotistic  mother, the panting maniac--these are not only vivid
characters in a unique story: they warn us of dangerous trends;  they  point
out  potent  evils. "Lolita" should make all of us--parents, social workers,
educators--apply ourselves with still greater vigilance and  vision  to  the
task of bringing up a better generation in a safer world.

     John Ray, Jr., Ph.D.
     Widworth, Mass



Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta:
the tip  of  the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap,
at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.
     She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four  feet  ten  in  one
sock.  She  was  Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on
the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.
     Did she have a precursor? She did, indeed she did. In  point  of  fact,
there  might  have  been  no  Lolita  at  all had I not loved, one summer, a
certain initial girl-child. In a princedom by the sea.  Oh  when?  About  as
many  years before Lolita was born as my age was that summer. You can always
count on a murderer for a fancy prose style.
     Ladies and gentlemen of the  jury,  exhibit  number  one  is  what  the
seraphs, the misinformed, simple, noble-winged seraphs, envied. Look at this
tangle of thorns.


I  was  born  in  1910,  in  Paris.  My father was a gentle, easy-going
person, a salad of racial genes:  a  Swiss  citizen,  of  mixed  French  and
Austrian descent, with a dash of the Danube in his veins. I am going to pass
around  in  a  minute some lovely, glossy-blue picture-postcards. He owned a
luxurious hotel on the Riviera. His father and  two  grandfathers  had  sold
wine,  jewels  and silk, respectively. At thirty he married an English girl,
daughter of Jerome Dunn, the  alpinist,  and  granddaughter  of  two  Dorset
parsons,  experts  in  obscure  subjects--paleopedology  and  Aeolian harps,
respectively. My very photogenic mother died in a  freak  accident  (picnic,
lightning) when I was three, and, save for a pocket of warmth in the darkest
past,  nothing  of her subsists within the hollows and dells of memory, over
which, if you can still stand my style (I am writing under observation), the
sun of my infancy had set: surely, you all know those redolent  remnants  of
day  suspended,  with  the  midges,  about  some  hedge in bloom or suddenly
entered and traversed by the rambler, at the bottom of a hill, in the summer
dusk; a furry warmth, golden midges.
     My mother's elder sister, Sybil, whom  a  cousin  of  my  father's  had
married  and  then  neglected,  served  in  my immediate family as a kind of
unpaid governess and housekeeper. Somebody told me later that she  had  been
in love with my father, and that he had lightheartedly taken advantage of it
one  rainy  day  and  forgotten  it  by  the time the weather cleared. I was
extremely fond of her, despite the rigidity--the fatal rigidity--of some  of
her  rules.  Perhaps  she  wanted  to make of me, in the fullness of time, a
better widower than my father. Aunt Sybil had pink-rimmed azure eyes  and  a
waxen  complexion.  She  wrote poetry. She was poetically superstitious. She
said she knew she would die soon after my sixteenth birthday, and  did.  Her
husband,  a  great  traveler in perfumes, spent most of his time in America,
where eventually he founded a firm and acquired a bit of real estate.
     I grew, a happy, healthy child in a bright would of illustrated  books,
clean  sand,  orange  trees,  friendly  dogs,  sea vistas and smiling faces.
Around me the splendid Hotel Mirana revolved as a kind of private  universe,
a  whitewashed  cosmos within the blue greater one that blazed outside. From
the aproned pot-scrubber to the flanneled  potentate,  everybody  liked  me,
everybody  petted  me. Elderly American ladies leaning on their canes listed
towards me like towers of Pisa. Ruined Russian princesses who could not  pay
my father, bought me expensive bonbons. He, mon cher petit papa, took
me out boating and biking, taught me to swim and dive and water-ski, read to
me  Don Quixote and Les Miserables, and I adored and respected
him and felt glad for him whenever I  overheard  the  servants  discuss  his
various  lady-friends,  beautiful  and  kind  beings who made much of me and
cooed and shed precious tears over my cheerful motherlessness.
     I attended an English day school a few miles from  home,  and  there  I
played  rackets and fives, and got excellent marks, and was on perfect terms
with schoolmates and teachers alike. The only definite sexual events that  I
can  remember  as  having  occurred  before my thirteenth birthday (that is,
before I first saw my little Annabel) were: a solemn,  decorous  and  purely
theoretical  talk  about pubertal surprises in the rose garden of the school
with an American kid, the son of a then  celebrated  motion-picture  actress
whom  he  seldom  saw  in  the three-dimensional world; and some interesting
reactions on the part of my  organism  to  certain  photographs,  pearl  and
umbra,  with  infinitely  soft  partings, in Pichon's sumptuous La Beautи
Humaine that that I had filched from under a  mountain  of  marble-bound
Graphics  in  the  hotel  library.  Later, in his delightful debonair
manner, my father gave me all the information he thought I needed about sex;
this was just before sending me, in the autumn of 1923, to a lycиe in
Lyon (where we were to spend three winters); but alas, in the summer of that
year, he was touring Italy with Mme de R. and her daughter, and I had nobody
to complain to, nobody to consult.


Annabel  was,  like  the  writer,  of  mixed  parentage:  half-English,
half-Dutch,  in  her case. I remember her features far less distinctly today
than I did a few years ago, before I knew Lolita. There  are  two  kinds  of
visual  memory:  one when you skillfully recreate an image in the laboratory
of your mind, with your eyes open (and then I see Annabel  in  such  general
terms  as:  "honey-colored  skin,"  "think arms," "brown bobbed hair," "long
lashes," "big bright mouth"); and the other when you instantly  evoke,  with
shut eyes, on the dark inner side of your eyelids, the objective, absolutely
optical  replica  of  a  beloved face, a little ghost in natural colors (and
this is how I see Lolita).
     Let me therefore primly limit myself, in describing Annabel, to  saying
she  was a lovely child a few months my junior. Her parents were old friends
of my aunt's, and as stuffy as she. They had rented a  villa  not  far  from
Hotel  Mirana.  Bald  brown  Mr.  Leigh  and  fat, powdered Mrs. Leigh (born
Vanessa van Ness). How I loathed them! At first, Annabel  and  I  talked  of
peripheral  affairs.  She  kept lifting handfuls of fine sand and letting it
pour  through  her  fingers.  Our  brains  were  turned  the  way  those  of
intelligent  European preadolescents were in our day and set, and I doubt if
much individual genius should be assigned to our interest in  the  plurality
of  inhabited worlds, competitive tennis, infinity, solipsism and so on. The
softness and fragility of baby animals caused us the same intense pain.  She
wanted  to  be  a  nurse  in some famished Asiatic country; I wanted to be a
famous spy.
     All at once we were madly, clumsily, shamelessly, agonizingly  in  love
with  each  other;  hopelessly,  I should add, because that frenzy of mutual
possession might have been  assuaged  only  by  our  actually  imbibing  and
assimilating  every  particle  of  each other's soul and flesh; but there we
were, unable even to mate as slum children would have  so  easily  found  an
opportunity  to  do.  After one wild attempt we made to meet at night in her
garden (of which more later), the only privacy we were allowed was to be out
of earshot but not out of sight on the populous part  of  the  plage.
There,  on  the  soft sand, a few feet away from our elders, we would sprawl
all morning, in a petrified paroxysm of desire, and take advantage of  every
blessed  quirk  in space and time to touch each other: her hand, half-hidden
in the sand, would creep toward me, its slender brown  fingers  sleepwalking
nearer  and nearer; then, her opalescent knee would start on a long cautious
journey; sometimes a chance rampart built by  younger  children  granted  us
sufficient  concealment  to  graze each other's salty lips; these incomplete
contacts drove our healthy and inexperienced young bodies to such a state of
exasperation that not even the cold blue water, under which we still  clawed
at each other, could bring relief.
     Among  some  treasures  I lost during the wanderings of my adult years,
there was a snapshot taken by my aunt which showed Annabel, her parents  and
the  staid,  elderly,  lame  gentleman,  a  Dr. Cooper, who that same summer
courted my aunt, grouped around a table in a sidewalk cafe. Annabel did  not
come  out well, caught as she was in the act of bending over her chocolat
glacи, and her thin bare shoulders and the parting  in  her  hair  were
about  all  that  could  be identified (as I remember that picture) amid the
sunny blur into which her lost loveliness graded; but  I,  sitting  somewhat
apart  from  the  rest,  came out with a kind of dramatic conspicuousness: a
moody, beetle-browed boy in a  dark  sport  shirt  and  well-tailored  white
shorts,  his legs crossed, sitting in profile, looking away. That photograph
was taken on the last day of our fatal summer and just a few minutes  before
we  made our second and final attempt to thwart fate. Under the flimsiest of
pretexts (this was our very last chance, and  nothing  really  mattered)  we
escaped  from  the  cafe to the beach, and found a desolate stretch of sand,
and there, in the violet shadow of some red rocks forming a  kind  of  cave,
had  a  brief  session  of  avid  caresses,  with  somebody's  lost  pair of
sunglasses for only witness. I  was  on  my  knees,  and  on  the  point  of
possessing  my darling, when two bearded bathers, the old man of the sea and
his brother, came out of the sea with exclamations of ribald  encouragement,
and four months later she died of typhus in Corfu.


I  leaf  again  and  again  through  these miserable memories, and keep
asking myself, was it then, in the glitter of that remote summer,  that  the
rift  in  my  life began; or was my excessive desire for that child only the
first evidence of an inherent singularity? When I  try  to  analyze  my  own
cravings,  motives,  actions  and  so  forth,  I  surrender  to  a  sort  of
retrospective imagination which feeds the analytic  faculty  with  boundless
alternatives  and  which  causes  each  visualized route to fork and re-fork
without end in the maddeningly complex prospect of my past. I am  convinced,
however, that in a certain magic and fateful way Lolita began with Annabel.
     I  also  know  that  the  shock  of  Annabel's  death  consolidated the
frustration of that nightmare summer, made of it a permanent obstacle to any
further romance throughout the cold years of my youth. The spiritual and the
physical had  been  blended  in  us  with  a  perfection  that  must  remain
incomprehensible  to  the matter-of-fact, crude, standard-brained youngsters
of today. Long after her death I felt her thoughts  floating  through  mine.
Long  before  we met we had had the same dreams. We compared notes. We found
strange affinities. The same June of the same year (1919) a stray canary had
fluttered into her house and mine, in two widely  separated  countries.  Oh,
Lolita, had you loved me thus!
     I have reserved for the conclusion of my "Annabel" phase the account of
our unsuccessful  first tryst. One night, she managed to deceive the vicious
vigilance of her family. In a nervous and slender-leaved mimosa grove at the
back of their villa we found a perch on the  ruins  of  a  low  stone  wall.
Through  the  darkness  and  the tender trees we could see the arabesques of
lighted windows which, touched up by the colored inks of  sensitive  memory,
appear  to  me  now like playing cards--presumably because a bridge game was
keeping the enemy busy. She trembled and twitched as I kissed the corner  of
her  parted  lips  and  the  hot  lobe of her ear. A cluster of stars palely
glowed above us, between the silhouettes of long thin leaves;  that  vibrant
sky  seemed as naked as she was under her light frock. I saw her face in the
sky, strangely distinct, as if it emitted a faint radiance of its  own.  Her
legs,  her  lovely  live legs, were not too close together, and when my hand
located what it  sought,  a  dreamy  and  eerie  expression,  half-pleasure,
half-pain,  came  over those childish features. She sat a little higher than
I, and whenever in her solitary ecstasy she was led to  kiss  me,  her  head
would  bend  with  a sleepy, soft, drooping movement that was almost woeful,
and her bare knees caught and compressed my wrist, and slackened again;  and
her  quivering  mouth,  distorted by the acridity of some mysterious potion,
with a sibilant intake of breath came near to my  face.  She  would  try  to
relieve the pain of love by first roughly rubbing her dry lips against mine;
then  my  darling  would draw away with a nervous toss of her hair, and then
again come darkly near and let me feed on  her  open  mouth,  while  with  a
generosity  that  was ready to offer her everything, my heart, my throat, my
entrails, I have her to hold in her awkward fist the scepter of my passion.
     I recall the scent of some kind of toilet powder--I believe  she  stole
it  from  her  mother's  Spanish  maid--a sweetish, lowly, musky perfume. It
mingled with her own biscuity odor, and my senses were  suddenly  filled  to
the  brim;  a  sudden  commotion  in  a  nearby  bush  prevented  them  from
overflowing--and as we drew away from each  other,  and  with  aching  veins
attended  to what was probably a prowling cat, there came from the house her
mother's voice calling her, with  a  rising  frantic  note--and  Dr.  Cooper
ponderously  limped  out into the garden. But that mimosa grove--the haze of
stars, the tingle, the flame, the honey-dew, and the ache remained with  me,
and  that  little  girl  with her seaside limbs and ardent tongue haunted me
ever since--until at last, twenty-four years later, I  broke  her  spell  by
incarnating her in another.


The  days of my youth, as I look back on them, seem to fly away from me
in a flurry of pale repetitive scraps like those morning snow storms of used
tissue paper that a train  passenger  sees  whirling  in  the  wake  of  the
observation  car.  In  my  sanitary  relations  with  women I was practical,
ironical and brisk. While a college  student,  in  London  and  Paris,  paid
ladies  sufficed  me.  My  studies were meticulous and intense, although not
particularly fruitful. At first, I planned to take a  degree  in  psychiatry
and  many  manquи  talents do; but I was even more manquи than
that; a peculiar exhaustion, I am  so  oppressed,  doctor,  set  in;  and  I
switched  to  English  literature,  where  so  many  frustrated poets end as
pipe-smoking teachers in tweeds. Paris suited me. I discussed Soviet  movies
with  expatriates.  I  sat  with  uranists  in  the Deux Magots. I published
tortuous essays in obscure journals. I composed pastiches:

     ...Frдulen von Kulp
     may turn, her hand upon the door;
     I will not follow her. Nor Fresca. Nor
     that Gull.

     A paper of mine entitled "The Proustian theme in a letter from Keats to
Benjamin Bailey" was chuckled over by the six or seven scholars who read it.
I launched upon an "Histoire abregиe de la  poиsie  anglaise"  for  a
prominent publishing firm, and then started to compile that manual of French
literature  for  English-speaking  students  (with  comparisons  drawn  from
English writers) which was to occupy me throughout the forties--and the last
volume of which was almost ready for press by the time of my arrest.
     I found a job--teaching English to a group of adults in Auteuil. Then a
school for boys employed me for a couple of winters. Now  and  then  I  took
advantage  of  the  acquaintances  I  had  formed  among  social workers and
psychotherapists to visit in their company  various  institutions,  such  as
orphanages  and  reform  schools,  where  pale  pubescent  girls with matted
eyelashes could be stared at in perfect impunity remindful of  that  granted
one in dreams.
     Now  I  wish to introduce the following idea. Between the age limits of
nine and fourteen there occur maidens who, to certain  bewitched  travelers,
twice  or  many times older than they, reveal their true nature which is not
human, but nymphic (that is, demoniac); and these chosen creatures I propose
to designate as "nymphets."
     It will be marked that I substitute time terms  for  spatial  ones.  In
fact,   I   would   have  the  reader  see  "nine"  and  "fourteen"  as  the
boundaries--the mirrory beaches  and  rosy  rocks--of  an  enchanted  island
haunted  by  those  nymphets  of  mine  and surrounded by a vast, misty sea.
Between those age limits, are all girl-children  nymphets?  Of  course  not.
Otherwise,  we  who are in the know, we lone voyagers, we nympholepts, would
have long gone insane. Neither are good looks any criterion; and  vulgarity,
or  at  least  what  a given community terms so, does not necessarily impair
certain mysterious characteristics, the  fey  grace,  the  elusive,  shifty,
soul-shattering,  insidious  charm  that  separates  the  nymphet  from such
coevals of hers as are incomparably more dependent on the spatial  world  of
synchronous phenomena than on that intangible island of entranced time where
Lolita  plays  with her likes. Within the same age limits the number of true
nymphets is trickingly inferior to that  of  provisionally  plain,  or  just
nice,  or  "cute,"  or  even  "sweet"  and "attractive," ordinary, plumpish,
formless, cold-skinned, essentially human little  girls,  with  tummies  and
pigtails,  who  may or may not turn into adults of great beauty (look at the
ugly dumplings in black stockings and white hats that are metamorphosed into
stunning stars of the screen). A normal man  given  a  group  photograph  of
school  girls  or  Girl Scouts and asked to point out the comeliest one will
not necessarily choose the nymphet among them. You have to be an artist  and
a  madman, a creature of infinite melancholy, with a bubble of hot poison in
your loins and a super-voluptuous flame permanently  aglow  in  your  subtle
spine  (oh,  how you have to cringe and hide!), in order to discern at once,
by  ineffable  signs--the  slightly  feline  outline  of  a  cheekbone,  the
slenderness  of  a downy limb, and other indices which despair and shame and
tears of tenderness forbid me to tabulate--the little deadly demon among the
wholesome children; she stands unrecognized by them  and  unconscious
herself of her fantastic power.
     Furthermore,  since  the  idea  of  time plays such a magic part in the
matter, the student should not be surprised to learn that there  must  be  a
gap  of several years, never less than ten I should say, generally thirty or
forty, and as many as ninety in a few known cases, between maiden and man to
enable the latter to come under a nymphet's spell. It is a question of focal
adjustment, of a certain distance that the inner eye  thrills  to  surmount,
and  a  certain  contrast  that  the  mind perceives with a gasp of perverse
delight. When I was a child and she was a child, my little  Annabel  was  no
nymphet  to  me;  I  was  her equal, a faunlet in my own right, on that same
enchanted island of time; but today, in September  1952,  after  twenty-nine
years have elapsed, I think I can distinguish in her the initial fateful elf
in  my  life.  We  loved  each  other  with  a  premature  love, marked by a
fierceness that so often destroys adult  lives.  I  was  a  strong  lad  and
survived; but the poison was in the wound, and the wound remained ever open,
and  soon  I found myself maturing amid a civilization which allows a man of
twenty-five to court a girl of sixteen but not a girl of twelve.
     No wonder, then, that my adult life during the European  period  of  my
existence  proved  monstrously  twofold.  Overtly,  I  had  so-called normal
relationships with a number of terrestrial women having  pumpkins  or  pears
for  breasts;  inly,  I was consumed by a hell furnace of localized lust for
every passing nymphet whom as a law-abiding poltroon I never dared approach.
The human females I was allowed to wield were but palliative  agents.  I  am
ready to believe that the sensations I derived from natural fornication were
much  the  same  as  those  known  to normal big males consorting with their
normal big mates in that routine rhythm which shakes the world. The  trouble
was  that  those  gentlemen had not, and I had, caught glimpses of an
incomparably more poignant bliss. The dimmest of my pollutive dreams  was  a
thousand times more dazzling than all the adultery the most virile writer of
genius  or  the  most talented impotent might imagine. My world was split. I
was aware of not one but two sexes, neither of which was mine; both would be
termed female by the anatomist. But to me, through the prism of  my  senses,
"they were as different as mist and mast." All this I rationalize now. In my
twenties  and  early  thirties,  I  did  not  understand  my throes quite so
clearly. While my body knew what it craved for, my mind rejected  my  body's
every  plea.  One  moment  I  was ashamed and frightened, another recklessly
optimistic.  Taboos  strangulated   me.   Psychoanalysts   wooed   me   with
pseudoliberations  of pseudolibidoes. The fact that to me the only object of
amorous tremor were sisters of  Annabel's,  her  handmaids  and  girl-pages,
appeared  to me at times as a forerunner of insanity. At other times I would
tell myself that it was all a question of attitude, that  there  was  really
nothing  wrong in being moved to distraction by girl-children. Let me remind
my reader that in England, with the passage of the Children and Young Person
Act in 1933, the term "girl-child" is defined as "a girl who is  over  eight
but  under  fourteen  years"  (after  that,  from fourteen to seventeen, the
statutory definition is "young person").  In  Massachusetts,  U.S.,  on  the
other  hand,  a  "wayward  child"  is,  technically,  one "between seven and
seventeen years of age" (who, moreover, habitually associates  with  vicious
or immoral persons). Hugh Broughton, a writer of controversy in the reign of
James  the  First,  has  proved that Rahab was a harlot at ten years of age.
This is all very interesting, and I daresay you see me already  frothing  at
the  mouth in a fit; but no, I am not; I am just winking happy thoughts into
a little tiddle cup. Here are some more pictures. Here is Virgil  who  could
the  nymphet sing in a single tone, but probably preferred a lad's perineum.
Here are two of  King  Akhnaten's  and  Queen  Nefertiti's  pre-nubile  Nile
daughters  (that royal couple had a litter of six), wearing nothing but many
necklaces of bright beads, relaxed on cushions, intact after three  thousand
years,  with their soft brown puppybodies, cropped hair and long ebony eyes.
Here are some brides of ten compelled to seat themselves  on  the  fascinum,
the  virile  ivory  in  the  temples  of classical scholarship. Marriage and
cohabitation before the age of puberty are still  not  uncommon  in  certain
East  Indian  provinces.  Lepcha  old  men  of eighty copulate with girls of
eight, and nobody minds. After all, Dante fell madly in love  with  Beatrice
when  she  was nine, a sparkling girleen, painted and lovely, and bejeweled,
in a crimson frock, and this was in 1274, in Florence, at a private feast in
the merry month of May. And when  Petrarch  fell  madly  in  love  with  his
Laureen, she was a fair-haired nymphet of twelve running in the wind, in the
pollen and dust, a flower in flight, in the beautiful plain as descried from
the hills of Vaucluse.
     But  let  us  be  prim  and civilized. Humbert Humbert tried hard to be
good. Really and truly, he id.  He  had  the  utmost  respect  for  ordinary
children,  with  their  purity and vulnerability, and under no circumstances
would he have interfered with the innocence of a child,  if  there  was  the
least risk of a row. But how his heart beat when, among the innocent throng,
he  espied  a  demon  child,  "enfant charmante et fourbe," dim eyes,
bright lips, ten years in jail if you only show her you are looking at  her.
So  life went. Humbert was perfectly capable of intercourse with Eve, but it
was Lilith he longed for. The bud-stage of breast development appears  early
(10.7 years) in the sequence of somatic changes accompanying pubescence. And
the  next  maturational  item available is the first appearance of pigmented
pubic hair (11.2 years). My little cup brims with tiddles.
     A shipwreck. An atoll.  Alone  with  a  drowned  passenger's  shivering
child.  Darling,  this  is  only  a  game!  How  marvelous  were  my fancied
adventures as I sat on a hard park bench pretending  to  be  immersed  in  a
trembling  book.  Around the quiet scholar, nymphets played freely, as if he
were a familiar statue or part of an old tree's shadow  and  sheen.  Once  a
perfect  little  beauty  in  a  tartan frock, with a clatter put her heavily
armed foot near me upon the bench to dip her slim  bare  arms  into  me  and
righten  the  strap of her roller skate, and I dissolved in the sun, with my
book for fig leaf, as her auburn ringlets fell all over  her  skinned  knee,
and  the  shadow  of leaves I shared pulsated and melted on her radiant limb
next to my chameleonic cheek. Another time a  red-haired  school  girl  hung
over  me in the metro, and a revelation of axillary russet I obtained
remained in my blood for weeks.  I  could  list  a  great  number  of  these
one-sided  diminutive romances. Some of them ended in a rich flavor of hell.
It happened for instance that from my  balcony  I  would  notice  a  lighted
window  across  the  street  and  what  looked  like a nymphet in the act of
undressing before a co-operative mirror. Thus isolated,  thus  removed,  the
vision  acquired  an  especially keen charm that made me race with all speed
toward my lone gratification. But abruptly, fiendishly, the  tender  pattern
of  nudity  I  had  adored would be transformed into the disgusting lamp-lit
bare arm of a man in his underclothes reading his paper by the  open  window
in the hot, damp, hopeless summer night.
     Rope-skipping,  hopscotch. That old woman in black who sat down next to
me on my bench, on my rack of joy (a nymphet was groping under me for a lost
marble), and asked if I had stomachache, the  insolent  hag.  Ah,  leave  me
alone  in  my  pubescent  park,  in my mossy garden. Let them play around me
forever. Never grow up.


A propos: I have often wondered what became of those nymphets later? In
this wrought-iron would of criss-cross cause and effect, could  it  be  that
the hidden throb I stole from them did not affect their future? I had
possessed  her--and  she  never  knew  it.  All right. But would it not tell
sometime later? Had I not somehow tampered with her fate  by  involving  her
image  in  my  voluptas?  Oh,  it  was,  and  remains, a source of great and
terrible wonder.
     I learned, however, what they looked  like,  those  lovely,  maddening,
thin-armed nymphets, when they grew up. I remember walking along an animated
street on a gray spring afternoon somewhere near the Madeleine. A short slim
girl  passed  me  at a rapid, high-heeled, tripping step, we glanced back at
the same moment, she stopped and I accosted her. She came hardly  up  to  my
chest  hair  and  had  the kind of dimpled round little face French girls so
often have, and I liked her long lashes  and  tight-fitting  tailored  dress
sheathing  in  pearl-gray  her young body which still retained--and that was
the nymphic echo, the chill of delight, the leap  in  my  loins--a  childish
something  mingling  with  the professional fretillement of her small
agile rump. I asked her price,  and  she  promptly  replied  with  melodious
silvery  precision  (a  bird, a very bird!) "Cent." I tried to haggle
but she saw the awful lone longing in my lowered eyes, directed so far  down
at  her  round  forehead  and rudimentary hat (a band, a posy); and with one
beat of her lashes: "Tant pis," she said, and  made  as  if  to  move
away.  Perhaps  only  three  years earlier I might have seen her coming home
from school! That evocation settled the matter. She  led  me  up  the  usual
steep  stairs,  with the usual bell clearing the way for the monsieur
who might not care to meet another monsieur, on the mournful climb to
the abject room, all bed and bidet. As usual, she asked at  once  for
her petit cadeau, and as usual I asked her name (Monique) and her age
(eighteen).   I   was   pretty   well  acquainted  with  the  banal  way  of
streetwalkers. They all answer "dix-huit"--a trim twitter, a note  of
finality  and  wistful  deceit  which they emit up to ten times per day, the
poor little creatures. But in Monique's case there could  be  no  doubt  she
was,  if  anything,  adding one or two years to her age. This I deduced from
many details of her compact, neat, curiously immature body. Having shed  her
clothes  with fascinating rapidity, she stood for a moment partly wrapped in
the dingy gauze of the window curtain listening with infantile pleasure,  as
pat  as  pat  could  be,  to an organ-grinder in the dust-brimming courtyard
below. When I examined her small hands  and  drew  her  attention  to  their
grubby  fingernails,  she  said  with  a  naive  frown "Oui, ce n'est pas
bien," and went to the wash-basin, but I said it did not matter, did not
matter at all. With her brown bobbed hair, luminous gray eyes and pale skin,
she looked perfectly charming. Her hips were  no  bigger  than  those  of  a
squatting  lad;  in  fact,  I do not hesitate to say (and indeed this is the
reason why I linger gratefully in that gauze-gray room of memory with little
Monique) that among the eighty or so grues I had had operate upon me,
she was the only one that gave me a pang of genuine pleasure.  "Il иtait
malin,  celui  qui a inventи ce truc-la," she commented amiably, and got
back into her clothes with the same high-style speed.
     I asked for another, more elaborate, assignment later the same evening,
and she said she would meet me at the corner cafe at nine, and swore she had
never pose un lapin in all her young life. We returned  to  the  same
room,  and  I  could  not  help  saying how very pretty she was to which she
answered demurely: "Tu es bien gentil de dire ca" and then,  noticing
what  I  noticed  too  in the mirror reflecting our small Eden--the dreadful
grimace of clenched-teeth tenderness that distorted my mouth--dutiful little
Monique (oh, she had been a nymphet, all  right!)  wanted  to  know  if  she
should remove the layer of red from her lips avant qu'on se couche in
case  I  planned  to kiss her. Of course, I planned it. I let myself go with
her more completely than I had with any  young  lady  before,  and  my  last
vision  that night of long-lashed Monique is touched up with a gaiety that I
find seldom associated with any event in my  humiliating,  sordid,  taciturn
love  life.  She  looked tremendously pleased with the bonus of fifty I gave
her as she trotted out into the April night  drizzle  with  Humbert  Humbert
lumbering in her narrow wake. Stopping before a window display she said with
great  gusto: "Je vais m'acheter des bas!" and never may I forget the
way her Parisian childish lips exploded on "bas," pronouncing it with
an appetite that all but changed the "a" into a brief buoyant  bursting  "o"
as in "bot".
     I had a date with her next day at 2.15 P.M. in my own rooms, but it was
less successful,  she  seemed  to  have grown less juvenile, more of a woman
overnight. A cold I caught from her led me to cancel  a  fourth  assignment,
nor  was  I  sorry to break an emotional series that threatened to burden me
with heart-rending fantasies and peter out in dull  disappointment.  So  let
her  remain,  sleek,  slender  Monique,  as  she  was for a minute or two: a
delinquent nymphet shining through the matter-of-fact young whore.
     My brief acquaintance with her started a train of thought that may seem
pretty obvious to the reader who knows the ropes. An advertisement in a lewd
magazine landed me, one brave day, in the office of a Mlle Edith  who  began
by  offering  me to choose a kindred soul from a collection of rather formal
photographs  in  a  rather  soiled  album  ("Regardez-moi   cette   belle
brune!".  When  I pushed the album away and somehow managed to blurt out
my criminal craving, she looked as if about to show me  the  door;  however,
after  asking  me what price I was prepared to disburse, she condescended to
put me in touch with a person qui pourrait arranger  la  chose.  Next
day,  an  asthmatic  woman,  coarsely  painted, garrulous, garlicky, with an
almost farcical Provenгal accent and a black mustache above  a  purple  lip,
took  me  to  what  was  apparently  her  own  domicile,  and  there,  after
explosively kissing the bunched tips of  her  fat  fingers  to  signify  the
delectable rosebud quality of her merchandise, she theatrically drew aside a
curtain  to reveal what I judged was that part of the room where a large and
unfastidious family usually slept. It was now empty save for  a  monstrously
plump,  sallow, repulsively plain girl of at least fifteen with red-ribboned
thick black braids who sat on a chair perfunctorily  nursing  a  bald  doll.
When  I  shook  my  head  and  tried  to shuffle out of the trap, the woman,
talking fast,  began  removing  the  dingy  woolen  jersey  from  the  young
giantess' torso; then, seeing my determination to leave, she demanded son
argent.  A  door  at the end of the room was opened, and two men who had
been dining in the kitchen joined in  the  squabble.  They  were  misshapen,
bare-necked, very swarthy and one of them wore dark glasses. A small boy and
a begrimed, bowlegged toddler lurked behind them. With the insolent logic of
a  nightmare,  the enraged procuress, indicating the man in glasses, said he
had served in the police, lui, so that I had better do as I was told.
I went up to Marie--for that was her stellar name--who by then  had  quietly
transferred  her  heavy haunches to a stool at the kitchen table and resumed
her interrupted soup while the toddler picked up the doll. With a  surge  of
pity   dramatizing  my  idiotic  gesture,  I  thrust  a  banknote  into  her
indifferent hand. She surrendered my gift to the ex-detective,  whereupon  I
was suffered to leave.


I  do  not  know if the pimp's album may not have been another link in
the daisy-chain; but soon after, for my own safety, I decided to  marry.  It
occurred to me that regular hours, home-cooked meals, all the conventions of
marriage, the prophylactic routine of its bedroom activities and, who knows,
the  eventual  flowering  of  certain  moral  values,  of  certain spiritual
substitutes, might help me, if not to  purge  myself  of  my  degrading  and
dangerous  desires,  at  least  to keep them under pacific control. A little
money that had come my way after my father's death (nothing very  grand--the
Mirana  had  been  sold long before), in addition to my striking if somewhat
brutal good looks, allowed me to enter upon my quest with equanimity.  After
considerable  deliberation,  my  choice  fell  on  the  daughter of a Polish
doctor: the good man happened to be treating me for spells of dizziness  and
tachycardia. We played chess; his daughter watched me from behind her easel,
and  inserted eyes or knuckles borrowed from me into the cubistic trash that
accomplished misses then painted instead of lilacs and lambs. Let me  repeat
with  quiet  force:  I  was,  and  still am, despite mes malheurs, an
exceptionally handsome male; slow-moving, tall, with soft dark  hair  and  a
gloomy  but  all  the  more seductive cast of demeanor. Exceptional virility
often reflects in the subject's displayable features a sullen and  congested
something  that  pertains  to  what he has to conceal. And this was my case.
Well did I know, alas, that I could obtain at the snap  of  my  fingers  any
adult  female  I  chose; in fact, it had become quite a habit with me of not
being too attentive to women lest they come  toppling,  bloodripe,  into  my
cold lap. Had I been a franгais moyen with a taste for flashy ladies,
I  might  have  easily  found, among the many crazed beauties that lashed my
grim rock, creatures far more fascinating than Valeria. My choice,  however,
was  prompted by considerations whose essence was, as I realized too late, a
piteous compromise. All of which goes to show  how  dreadfully  stupid  poor
Humbert always was in matters of sex.


Although  I told myself I was looking merely for a soothing presence, a
glorified pot-au-feu, an animated merkin, what really attracted me to
Valeria was the imitation she gave of a little girl. She gave it not because
she had divined something about me; it was just her style--and  I  fell  for
it. Actually, she was at least in her late twenties (I never established her
exact  age  for  even her passport lied) and had mislaid her virginity under
circumstances that changed with her reminiscent moods. I, on my part, was as
naive as only a pervert can be. She looked fluffy  and  frolicsome,  dressed
a  la  gamine,  showed  a  generous amount of smooth leg, knew how to
stress the white of a bare instep by the black  of  a  velvet  slipper,  and
pouted,  and  dimpled,  and  romped, and dirndled, and shook her short curly
blond hair in the cutest and tritest fashion imaginable.
     After a brief ceremony at the mairie, I  tool  her  to  the  new
apartment I had rented and, somewhat to her surprise, had her wear, before I
touched  her, a girl's plain nightshirt that I had managed to filch from the
linen closet of an orphanage. I derived some fun from that nuptial night and
had the idiot in hysterics by sunrise. But reality soon asserted itself. The
bleached curl revealed its melanic root; the down turned to  prickles  on  a
shaved  shin;  the mobile moist mouth, no matter how I stuffed it with love,
disclosed ignominiously its resemblance  to  the  corresponding  part  in  a
treasured  portrait  of  her toadlike dead mama; and presently, instead of a
pale little gutter girl, Humbert Humbert had on his hands  a  large,  puffy,
short-legged, big-breasted and practically brainless baba.
     This  state  of  affairs lasted from 1935 to 1939. Her only asset was a
muted nature which did help to produce an odd sense of comfort in our  small
squalid  flat:  two  rooms,  a  hazy view in one window, a brick wall in the
other, a tiny kitchen, a shoe-shaped bath tub,  within  which  I  felt  like
Marat  but  with  no white-necked maiden to stab me. We had quite a few cozy
evenings together, she deep in her Paris-Soir, I working at a rickety
table. We went to movies, bicycle races and boxing matches.  I  appealed  to
her stale flesh very seldom, only in cases of great urgency and despair. The
grocer  opposite  had  a little daughter whose shadow drove me mad; but with
Valeria's help I did find after all  some  legal  outlets  to  my  fantastic
predicament.  As  to cooking, we tacitly dismissed the pot-au-feu and
had most of our meals at a crowded place in rue Bonaparte where  there  were
wine  stains  on the table cloth and a good deal of foreign babble. And next
door,  an  art  dealer  displayed  in  his  cluttered  window  a   splendid,
flamboyant,  green,  red,  golden and inky blue, ancient American estampe--a
locomotive with a gigantic smokestack, great baroque lamps and a  tremendous
cowcatcher,  hauling  its mauve coaches through the stormy prairie night and
mixing a lot of spark-studded black smoke with the furry thunder clouds.
     These burst. In the summer of 1939  mon  oncle  d'Amиrique  died
bequeathing  me  an  annual  income of a few thousand dollars on condition I
came to live in the States and showed some interest in  his  business.  This
prospect was most welcome to me. I felt my life needed a shake-up. There was
another  thing,  too:  moth  holes  had appeared in the plush of matrimonial
comfort. During the last weeks I had kept noticing that my fat  Valeria  was
not her usual self; had acquired a queer restlessness; even showed something
like  irritation  at  times,  which  was quite out of keeping with the stock
character she was supposed to impersonate.  When  I  informed  her  we  were
shortly  to  sail  for New York, she looked distressed and bewildered. There
were some tedious difficulties with her papers. She had a Nansen, or  better
say  Nonsense, passport which for some reason a share in her husband's solid
Swiss citizenship could not easily transcend;  and  I  decided  it  was  the
necessity  of  queuing in the prиfecture, and other formalities, that
had made her so listless, despite my patiently describing  to  her  America,
the  country  of  rosy children and great trees, where life would be such an
improvement on dull dingy Paris.
     We were coming out of some office building one morning, with her papers
almost in order, when Valeria, as she waddled by my side, began to shake her
poodle head vigorously without saying a word. I let her go on  for  a  while
and  then  asked  if  she  thought she had something inside. She answered (I
translate from her French which was, I imagine, a translation in its turn of
some Slavic platitude): "There is another man in my life."
     Now, these are ugly words for a husband  to  hear.  They  dazed  me,  I
confess.  To  beat  her  up  in  the  street,  there  and then, as an honest
vulgarian might have done, was not feasible. Years of secret sufferings  had
taught  me  superhuman  self-control. So I ushered her into a taxi which had
been invitingly  creeping  along  the  curb  for  some  time,  and  in  this
comparative  privacy  I  quietly  suggested  she  comment  her  wild talk. A
mounting fury was suffocating me--not because I had any particular  fondness
for that figure of fun, Mme Humbert, but because matters of legal and
illegal  conjunction were for me alone to decide, and here she was, Valeria,
the comedy wife, brazenly preparing to dispose in her own way of my  comfort
and  fate. I demanded her lover's name. I repeated my question; but she kept
up a burlesque babble, discoursing on her unhappiness with me and announcing
plans for an immediate divorce. "Mais qui est-ce?" I shouted at last,
striking her on the knee with my fist; and she, without even wincing, stared
at me as if the answer were too simple for words, then gave  a  quick  shrug
and  pointed  at  the thick neck of the taxi driver. He pulled up at a small
cafи and introduced himself. I do not remember his ridiculous name but after
all those years I still  see  him  quite  clearly--a  stocky  White  Russian
ex-colonel  with  a  bushy  mustache and a crew cut; there were thousands of
them plying that fool's trade in Paris. We sat down at a table; the  Tsarist
ordered  wine, and Valeria, after applying a wet napkin to her knee, went on
talking--into me rather than  to  me;  she  poured  words  into  this
dignified receptacle with a volubility I had never suspected she had in her.
And  every  now  and  then  she would volley a burst of Slavic at her stolid
lover. The situation was preposterous and  became  even  more  so  when  the
taxi-colonel,  stopping  Valeria  with  a  possessive smile, began to unfold
his views and plans. With an atrocious accent to his careful  French,
he  delineated  the  world  of love and work into which he proposed to enter
hand in hand with his child-wife Valeria. She by now was  preening  herself,
between  him  and  me, rouging her pursed lips, tripling her chin to pick at
her blouse-bosom and so forth, and he spoke of her as if  she  were  absent,
and  also  as if she were a kind of little ward that was in the act of being
transferred, for her own good, from one wise guardian to another even  wiser
one;  and  although  my  helpless  wrath may have exaggerated and disfigured
certain impressions, I can swear that  he  actually  consulted  me  on  such
things  as her diet, her periods, her wardrobe and the books she had read or
should read. "I think," - he said, "She will like  Jean  Christophe?"
Oh, he was quite a scholar, Mr. Taxovich.
     I  put  an  end to this gibberish by suggesting Valeria pack up her few
belongings immediately,  upon  which  the  platitudinous  colonel  gallantly
offered  to carry them into the car. Reverting to his professional state, he
drove the Humberts to their residence and all the way  Valeria  talked,  and
Humbert  the  Terrible  deliberated  with  Humbert the Small whether Humbert
Humbert should kill her or her lover, or both, or neither. I  remember  once
handling an automatic belonging to a fellow student, in the days (I have not
spoken  of  them,  I  think,  but  never mind) when I toyed with the idea of
enjoying his little sister, a most diaphanous nymphet with a black hair bow,
and then shooting myself. I now wondered if Valechka (as the colonel  called
her)  was  really  worth  shooting, or strangling, or drowning. She had very
vulnerable legs, and I decided I would limit  myself  to  hurting  her  very
horribly as soon as we were alone.
     But  we  never were. Valechka--by now shedding torrents of tears tinged
with the mess of her rainbow make-up,--started to fill anyhow a  trunk,  and
two  suitcases, and a bursting carton, and visions of putting on my mountain
boots and taking a running kick at her rump were of course impossible to put
into execution with the cursed colonel  hovering  around  all  the  time.  I
cannot  say he behaved insolently or anything like that; on the contrary, he
displayed, as a small sideshow in the theatricals I had been inveigled in, a
discreet old-world civility, punctuating his movements  with  all  sorts  of
mispronounced  apologies (j'ai demande pardonne--excuse me--est-ce
que j'ai puis--may I--and so forth), and  turning  away  tactfully  when
Valechka  took  down  with  a flourish her pink panties from the clothesline
above the tub; but he seemed to  be  all  over  the  place  at  once,  le
gredin,  agreeing  his frame with the anatomy of the flat, reading in my
chair my newspaper, untying a knotted string, rolling a cigarette,  counting
the  teaspoons,  visiting  the  bathroom,  helping  his  moll to wrap up the
electric fan her father had given her, and carrying streetward her  luggage.
I  sat  with  arms  folded,  one  hip  on the window sill, dying of hate and
boredom. At last both were out of the quivering apartment--the vibration  of
the  door  I  had  slammed  after  them still rang in my every nerve, a poor
substitute for the backhand slap with which I ought to have hit  her  across
the  cheekbone  according  to  the  rules of the movies. Clumsily playing my
part, I stomped to the bathroom to check if they had taken my English toilet
water; they had not; but I noticed with a spasm of fierce disgust  that  the
former  Counselor  of the Tsar, after thoroughly easing his bladder, had not
flushed the toilet. That solemn pool of alien  urine  with  a  soggy,  tawny
cigarette  butt  disintegrating  in it struck me as a crowning insult, and I
wildly looked around for a weapon. Actually I daresay  it  was  nothing  but
middle-class  Russian  courtesy  (with  an  oriental tang, perhaps) that had
prompted the good colonel (Maximovich! his name suddenly taxies back to me),
a very formal person as they all are, to muffle his private need in decorous
silence so as not to underscore the small size of his host's  domicile  with
the  rush  of a gross cascade on top of his own hushed trickle. But this did
not enter my mind at the moment, as  groaning  with  rage  I  ransacked  the
kitchen  for  something  better  than  a broom. Then, canceling my search, I
dashed  out  of  the  house  with  the  heroic  decision  of  attacking  him
barefisted;  despite my natural vigor, I am no pugilist, while the short but
broad-shouldered Maximovich seemed made of pig iron. The void of the street,
revealing nothing of my wife's departure except a rhinestone button that she
had dropped in the mud after preserving it for three unnecessary years in  a
broken box, may have spared me a bloody nose. But no matter. I had my little
revenge  in  due  time.  A  man  from  Pasadena  told  me  one day that Mrs.
Maximovich nиe Zborovski had died in childbirth around 1945; the couple  had
somehow  got  over  to  California and had been used there, for an excellent
salary, in a year-long experiment  conducted  by  a  distinguished  American
ethnologist.  The experiment dealt with human and racial reactions to a diet
of bananas and dates in a constant position on all fours.  My  informant,  a
doctor,  swore he had seen with his own eyes obese Valechka and her colonel,
by then gray-haired and also quite corpulent, diligently crawling about  the
well-swept  floors  of  a  brightly lit set of rooms (fruit in one, water in
another, mats in a third and so on) in the company of  several  other  hired
quadrupeds,  selected from indigent and helpless groups. I tried to find the
results of these tests in the Review of Anthropology; but they appear
not to have been published yet. These scientific  products  take  of  course
some  time  to  fructuate.  I hope they will be illustrated with photographs
when they do get printed, although it is  not  very  likely  that  a  prison
library  will  harbor  such  erudite works. The one to which I am restricted
these days, despite my lawyer's favors, is  a  good  example  of  the  inane
eclecticism  governing the selection of books in prison libraries. They have
the Bible, of course, and Dickens (an ancient set,  N.Y.,  G.W.  Dillingham,
Publisher,  MDCCCLXXXVII); and the Children's Encyclopedia (with some
nice photographs of sunshine-haired Girl Scouts in shorts), and A  Murder
Is  Announced  by  Agatha  Christie; but they also have such coruscating
trifles as A vagabond  in  Italy  by  Percy  Elphinstone,  author  of
Venice  Revisited,  Boston,  1868,  and a comparatively recent (1946)
Who's Who in the Limelight--actors, producers, playwrights, and shots
of static scenes. In looking through the latter volume, I was  treated  last
night  to one of those dazzling coincidences that logicians loathe and poets
love. I transcribe most of the page:

     Pym, Roland. Born in Lundy, Mass., 1922.  Received  stage  training  at
Elsinore  Playhouse,  Derby,  N.Y.  Made debut in Sunburst. Among his
many appearances are Two Blocks from Here, The Girl in  Green,  Scrambled
Husbands, The Strange Mushroom, Touch and Go, John Lovely, I Was Dreaming of
     Quilty,  Clare,  American  dramatist.  Born  in Ocean City, N.J., 1911.
Educated at Columbia University. Started on a commercial career  but  turned
to   playwriting.  Author  of  The  Little  Nymph,  The  Lady  Who  Loved
Lightning (in collaboration with Vivian  Darkbloom),  Dark  Age,  The
strange Mushroom, Fatherly Love, and others. His many plays for children
are notable. Little Nymph (1940) traveled 14,000 miles and played 280
performances  on  the  road  during  the  winter  before ending in New York.
Hobbies: fast cars, photography, pets.
     Quine, Dolores. Born in 1882, in Dayton, Ohio.  Studied  for  stage  at
American  Academy.  First  played  in Ottawa in 1900. Made New York debut in
1904 in Never Talk to Strangers. Has disappeared since in [a list  of
some thirty plays follows].

     How  the look of my dear love's name even affixed to some old hag of an
actress, still makes me rock with helpless pain!  Perhaps,  she  might  have
been an actress too. Born 1935. Appeared (I notice the slip of my pen in the
preceding  paragraph,  but  please  do  not  correct it, Clarence) in The
Murdered Playwright. Quine the Swine. Guilty of killing Quilty.  Oh,  my
Lolita, I have only words to play with!


Divorce  proceedings  delayed  my  voyage, and the gloom of yet another
World War had settled upon the globe when,  after  a  winter  of  ennui  and
pneumonia  in  Portugal, I at last reached the States. In New York I eagerly
accepted the soft job fate offered me: it consisted mainly  of  thinking  up
and   editing   perfume   ads.   I  welcomed  its  desultory  character  and
pseudoliterary aspects, attending to it whenever I had nothing better to do.
On the other hand, I was urged by a  war-time  university  in  New  York  to
complete  my  comparative  history of French literature for English-speaking
students. The first volume took me a couple of years during which I  put  in
seldom  less than fifteen hours of work daily. As I look back on those days,
I see them divided tidily into ample  light  and  narrow  shade:  the  light
pertaining  to the solace of research in palatial libraries, the shade to my
excruciating desires and insomnias of which enough has been said. Knowing me
by now, the reader can easily imagine how dusty and hot  I  got,  trying  to
catch  a  glimpse of nymphets (alas, always remote) playing in Central Park,
and how repulsed I was by the glitter of deodorized career girls that a  gay
dog  in  one  of the offices kept unloading upon me. Let us skip all that. A
dreadful breakdown sent me to a sanatorium for more than a year; I went back
to my work--only to be hospitalized again.
     Robust outdoor life seemed  to  promise  me  some  relief.  One  of  my
favorite  doctors,  a charming cynical chap with a little brown beard, had a
brother, and this brother was  about  to  lead  an  expedition  into  arctic
Canada.  I was attached to it as a "recorder of psychic reactions." With two
young botanists and an old carpenter I  shared  now  and  then  (never  very
successfully)   the  favors  of  one  of  our  nutritionists,  a  Dr.  Anita
Johnson--who was soon flown back, I am glad to say. I had little  notion  of
what   object  the  expedition  was  pursuing.  Judging  by  the  number  of
meteorologists upon it, we may have been tracking to its lair (somewhere  on
Prince  of  Wales'  Island,  I  understand)  the  wandering and wobbly north
magnetic pole. One group, jointly with the Canadians, established a  weather
station on Pierre Point in Melville Sound. Another group, equally misguided,
collected plankton. A third studied tuberculosis in the tundra. Bert, a film
photographer--an insecure fellow with whom at one time I was made to partake
in   a   good   deal   of   menial   work   (he,   too,   had  some  psychic
troubles)--maintained that the big men on our  team,  the  real  leaders  we
never  saw,  were  mainly  engaged  in  checking  the  influence of climatic
amelioration on the coats of the arctic fox.
     We lived in prefabricated timber cabins amid a  Pre-Cambrian  world  of
granite.  We had heaps of supplies--the Reader's Digest, an ice cream
mixer, chemical toilets,  paper  caps  for  Christmas.  My  health  improved
wonderfully  in spite or because of all the fantastic blankness and boredom.
Surrounded  by  such  dejected  vegetation  as  willow  scrub  and  lichens;
permeated, and, I suppose, cleansed by a whistling gale; seated on a boulder
under  a  completely  translucent  sky  (through  which, however, nothing of
importance showed), I felt curiously aloof from my own self. No  temptations
maddened  me.  The  plump, glossy little Eskimo girls with their fish smell,
hideous raven hair and guinea pig faces, evoked even less desire in me  than
Dr. Johnson had. Nymphets do not occur in polar regions.
     I  left  my betters the task of analyzing glacial drifts, drumlins, and
gremlins, and kremlins, and for a time tried  to  jot  down  what  I  fondly
thought  were  "reactions"  (I  noticed, for instance, that dreams under the
midnight  sun  tended  to  be  highly  colored,  and  this  my  friend   the
photographer  confirmed).  I was also supposed to quiz my various companions
on a number of  important  matters,  such  as  nostalgia,  fear  of  unknown
animals,  food-fantasies,  nocturnal  emissions,  hobbies,  choice  of radio
programs, changes in outlook and so forth. Everybody got so fed up with this
that I soon dropped the project completely, and only toward the  end  of  my
twenty  months  of  cold  labor  (as  one  of the botanists jocosely put it)
concocted a perfectly spurious and very racy report  that  the  reader  will
find  published in he Annals of Adult Psychophysics for 1945 or 1946,
as well as in the  issue  of  Arctic  Explorations  devoted  to  that
particular  expedition;  which, in conclusion, was not really concerned with
Victoria Island copper or anything like that, as I  learned  later  from  my
genial  doctor;  for  the  nature  of  its  real  purpose was what is termed
"hush-hush," and so let me add merely that whatever it was, that purpose was
admirably achieved.
     The  reader  will  regret  to  learn  that  soon  after  my  return  to
civilization I had another bout with insanity (if to melancholia and a sense
of  insufferable  oppression  that  cruel  term  must  be applied). I owe my
complete restoration to a discovery I  made  while  being  treated  at  that
particular  very  expensive  sanatorium.  I  discovered there was an endless
source of robust enjoyment in trifling with psychiatrists: cunningly leading
them on; never letting them see that you know all the tricks of  the  trade;
inventing  for  them  elaborate  dreams,  pure classics in style (which make
them, the dream-extortionists, dream and wake up shrieking);  teasing
them  with  fake  "primal  scenes";  and  never  allowing them the slightest
glimpse of one's real sexual predicament. By bribing a nurse I won access to
some  files  and  discovered,  with  glee,  cards  calling  me  "potentially
homosexual"  and  "totally  impotent."  The  sport  was  so  excellent,  its
results--in my case--so ruddy that I stayed  on  for  a  whole  month
after  I  was  quite well (sleeping admirably and eating like a schoolgirl).
And then I added another week just for the pleasure of taking on a  powerful
newcomer, a displaced (and, surely, deranged) celebrity, known for his knack
of making patients believe they had witnessed their own conception.


Upon  signing  out,  I  cast  around  for some place in the New England
countryside or sleepy small town (elms, white church) where I could spend  a
studious  summer  subsisting  on a compact boxful of notes I had accumulated
and bathing in some nearby lake. My work had begun to interest  me  again--I
mean  my scholarly exertions; the other thing, my active participation in my
uncle's posthumous perfumes, had by then been cut down to a minimum.
     One of his former employees,  the  scion  of  a  distinguished  family,
suggested I spend a few months in the residence of his impoverished cousins,
a  Mr.  McCoo,  retired,  and  his wife, who wanted to let their upper story
where a late aunt  had  delicately  dwelt.  He  said  they  had  two  little
daughters,  one  a baby, the other a girl of twelve, and a beautiful garden,
not far from a beautiful lake, and I said it sounded perfectly perfect.
     I  exchanged  letters  with  these  people,  satisfying  them   I   was
housebroken,  and  spent  a  fantastic  night on the train, imagining in all
possible detail the enigmatic nymphet I would coach in French and fondle  in
Humbertish.  Nobody  met  me at the toy station where I alighted with my new
expensive bag, and nobody answered the  telephone;  eventually,  however,  a
distraught   McCoo   in   wet  clothes  turned  up  at  the  only  hotel  of
green-and-pink Ramsdale with  the  news  that  his  house  had  just  burned
down--possibly,  owing to the synchronous conflagration that had been raging
all night in my veins. His family, he said, had fled to a farm he owned, and
had taken the car, but a friend of his wife's, a grand person, Mrs. Haze  of
342  Lawn  Street, offered to accommodate me. A lady who lived opposite Mrs.
Haze's  had  lent  McCoo  her  limousine,   a   marvelously   old-fashioned,
square-topped affair, manned by a cheerful Negro. Now, since the only reason
for  my  coming  at  all  had  vanished,  the  aforesaid  arrangement seemed
preposterous. All right, his house would have to be completely  rebuilt,  so
what?  Had  he  not  insured  it sufficiently? I was angry, disappointed and
bored, but being a polite European, could not refuse to be sent off to  Lawn
Street  in  that  funeral  car, feeling that otherwise McCoo would devise an
even more elaborate means of getting rid of me. I saw him scamper away,  and
my chauffeur shook his head with a soft chuckle. En route, I swore to myself
I  would  not  dream of staying in Ramsdale under any circumstance but would
fly  that  very  day  to  the  Bermudas  or  the  Bahamas  or  the   Blazes.
Possibilities of sweetness on technicolor beaches had been trickling through
my  spine  for  some  time  before, and McCoo's cousin had, in fact, sharply
diverted that train of thought with his well-meaning but  as  it  transpired
now absolutely inane suggestion.
     Speaking  of  sharp turns: we almost ran over a meddlesome suburban dog
(one of those who like in wait for cars) as we swerved into Lawn  Street.  A
little  further,  the  Haze  house,  a white-frame horror, appeared, looking
dingy and old, more gray than white--the kind of place you know will have  a
rubber  tube  affixable  to  the  tub faucet in lieu of shower. I tipped the
chauffeur and hoped he would immediately drive away so that I  might  double
back  unnoticed to my hotel and bag; but the man merely crossed to the other
side of the street where an old lady was calling to him from her porch. What
could I do? I pressed the bell button.
     A colored maid let me in--and left me standing on  the  mat  while  she
rushed  back  to  the  kitchen where something was burning that ought not to
     The front hall  was  graced  with  door  chimes,  a  white-eyed  wooden
thingamabob of commercial Mexican origin, and that banal darling of the arty
middle  class,  van Gogh's "Arlиsienne." A door ajar to the right afforded a
glimpse of a living room, with some more Mexican trash in a  corner  cabinet
and  a  striped sofa along the wall. There was a staircase at the end of the
hallway, and as I stood mopping my brow (only now did I realize how  hot  it
had  been  out-of-doors)  and staring, to stare at something, at an old gray
tennis ball that lay on an oak chest, there came from the upper landing  the
contralto  voice  of  Mrs.  Haze,  who  leaning  over the banisters inquired
melodiously, "Is that Monsieur Humbert?" A bit of cigarette ash dropped from
there in addition. Presently,  the  lady  herself--sandals,  maroon  slacks,
yellow  silk  blouse, squarish face, in that order--came down the steps, her
index finger still tapping upon her cigarette.
     I think I had better describe her right away, to get it over with.  The
poor  lady  was  in  her  middle thirties, she had a shiny forehead, plucked
eyebrows and quite simple but not unattractive features of a type  that  may
be  defined as a weak solution of Marlene Dietrich. Patting her bronze-brown
bun, she led me into the parlor and we talked for a minute about  the  McCoo
fire  and  the  privilege of living in Ramsdale. Her very wide-set sea-green
eyes had a funny way of traveling all over you, carefully avoiding your  own
eyes.  Her  smile  was  but  a  quizzical jerk of one eyebrow; and uncoiling
herself from the sofa as she talked, she kept  making  spasmodic  dashes  at
three  ashtrays  and the near fender (where lay the brown core of an apple);
whereupon she would sink back again, one leg  folded  under  her.  She  was,
obviously,  one  of those women whose polished words may reflect a book club
or bridge club, or any other deadly conventionality,  but  never  her  soul;
women who are completely devoid of humor; women utterly indifferent at heart
to  the  dozen  or  so  possible subjects of a parlor conversation, but very
particular  about  the  rules  of  such  conversations,  through  the  sunny
cellophane  of  which  not  very  appetizing  frustrations  can  be  readily
distinguished. I was perfectly aware that if by any wild chance I became her
lodger, she would methodically proceed to do in regard to me what  taking  a
lodger probably meant to her all along, and I would again be enmeshed in one
of those tedious affairs I knew so well.
     But there was no question of my settling there. I could not be happy in
that type  of  household with bedraggled magazines on every chair and a kind
of horrible hybridization between the comedy of so-called "functional modern
furniture" and the tragedy of decrepit rockers and rickety lamp tables  with
dead lamps. I was led upstairs, and to the left--into "my" room. I inspected
it  through  the  mist  of my utter rejection of it; but I did discern above
"my" bed Renи Prinet's "Kreutzer Sonata." And she called that servant maid's
room a "semi-studio"! Let's get out of here at once, I firmly said to myself
as I pretended to deliberate over the absurdly,  and  ominously,  low  price
that my wistful hostess was asking for board and bed.
     Old-world  politeness, however, obliged me to go on with the ordeal. We
crossed the landing to the right side of the house (where "I and Lo have our
rooms"--Lo being presumably the maid), and  the  lodger-lover  could  hardly
conceal  a shudder when he, a very fastidious male, was granted a preview of
the only bathroom, a tiny oblong between the landing and "Lo's"  room,  with
limp  wet  things  overhanging  the dubious tub (the question mark of a hair
inside); and there were the expected coils of  the  rubber  snake,  and  its
complement--a pinkish cozy, coyly covering the toilet lid.
     "I  see you are not too favorably impressed," said the lady letting her
hand rest for a moment upon my sleeve: she combined a cool  forwardness--the
overflow  of what I think is called "poise"--with a shyness and sadness that
caused her detached way of selecting her words to seem as unnatural  as  the
intonation  of  a  professor  of  "speech." "This is not a neat household, I
confess," the doomed ear continued, "but I assure  you  [she  looked  at  my
lips],  you  will be very comfortable, very comfortable, indeed. Let me show
you the garden" (the last more brightly, with a kind of winsome toss of  the
     Reluctantly  I  followed her downstairs again; then through the kitchen
at the end of the hall, on the right side of the house--the side where  also
the dining room and the parlor were (under "my" room, on the left, there was
nothing  but  a  garage).  In  the kitchen, the Negro maid, a plump youngish
woman, said, as she took her large glossy black purse from the knob  of  the
door  leading  to  the  back porch: "I'll go now, Mrs. Haze." "Yes, Louise,"
answered Mrs. Haze with a sigh. "I'll settle with you Friday." We passed  on
to a small pantry and entered the dining room, parallel to the parlor we had
already  admired.  I  noticed  a white sock on the floor. With a deprecatory
grunt, Mrs. Haze stooped without stopping and threw it into a closet next to
the pantry. We cursorily inspected a mahogany table with a fruit vase in the
middle, containing nothing but the still glistening stone  of  one  plum.  I
groped  for  the  timetable I had in my pocket and surreptitiously fished it
out to look as soon as possible for a train. I was still walking behind Mrs.
Haze though the dining room when, beyond it, there came a  sudden  burst  of
greenery--"the  piazza,"  sang  out  my  leader, and then, without the least
warning, a blue sea-wave swelled under my heart and, from a mat in a pool of
sun, half-naked, kneeling, turning about on her knees, there was my  Riviera
love peering at me over dark glasses.
     It  was  the same child--the same frail, honey-hued shoulders, the same
silky supple bare back, the same chestnut head of hair. A polka-dotted black
kerchief tied around her chest hid from my aging ape eyes, but not from  the
gaze  of  young memory, the juvenile breasts I had fondled one immortal day.
And, as if I were the  fairy-tale  nurse  of  some  little  princess  (lost,
kidnapped, discovered in gypsy rags through which her nakedness smiled at the
king  and  his  hounds),  I recognized the tiny dark-brown mole on her side.
With awe and delight (the king crying for joy,  the  trumpets  blaring,  the
nurse  drunk)  I  saw  again  her lovely indrawn abdomen where my southbound
mouth had briefly paused; and those puerile hips on which I had  kissed  the
crenulated  imprint  left  by the band of her shorts--that last mad immortal
day behind the "Roches Roses." The twenty-five years I had lived since then,
tapered to a palpitating point, and vanished.
     I find it most difficult to express with  adequate  force  that  flash,
that  shiver,  that  impact  of passionate recognition. In the course of the
sun-shot moment that my glance slithered over the kneeling child  (her  eyes
blinking over those stern dark spectacles--the little Herr Doktor who was to
cure me of all my aches) while I passed by her in my adult disguise (a great
big  handsome  hunk  of movieland manhood), the vacuum of my soul managed to
suck in every detail of her bright beauty, and these I checked  against  the
features  of  my  dead  bride.  A  little  later,  of  course,  she, this 
nouvelle, this Lolita, my Lolita, was to eclipse  completely  her
prototype.  All  I  want  to  stress is that my discovery of her was a fatal
consequence of that "princedom by the sea" in my tortured  past.  Everything
between  the two events was but a series of gropings and blunders, and false
rudiments of joy. Everything they shared made one of them.
     I have no illusions, however. My judges will regard all this as a piece
of mummery on the part of a madman with a  gross  liking  for  the  fruit
vert.  Au  fond,  гa m'est bien иgal. All I know is that while the
Haze woman and I went down the steps into the breathless  garden,  my  knees
were  like  reflections  of  knees  in rippling water, and my lips were like
sand, and--
     "That was my Lo," she said, "and these are my lilies."
     "Yes," I said, "yes. They are beautiful, beautiful, beautiful."


Exhibit number two is a pocket diary bound in black imitation  leather,
with a golden year, 1947, en escalier, in its upper left-hand corner.
I  speak of this neat product of the Blank Blank Co., Blankton, Mass., as if
it were really before me. Actually, it was destroyed five years go and  what
we  examine  now  (by  courtesy  of  a photographic memory) is but its brief
materialization, a puny unfledged phoenix.
     I remember the thing so exactly because I wrote it really twice.  First
I  jotted  down each entry in pencil (with many erasures and corrections) on
the leaves of what is commercially known as a "typewriter tablet";  then,  I
copied  it out with obvious abbreviations in my smallest, most satanic, hand
in the little black book just mentioned.
     May 30 is a Fast Day by Proclamation in New Hampshire but  not  in  the
Carolinas. That day an epidemic of "abdominal flu" (whatever that is) forced
Ramsdale  to  close  its  schools  for  the summer. The reader may check the
weather data in the Ramsdale Journal for 1947. A few days before that
I moved into the Haze house, and the little diary which  I  now  propose  to
reel  off  (much  as  a  spy  delivers  by heart the contents of the note he
swallowed) covers most of June.
     Thursday. Very warm day. From a vantage point (bathroom  window)
saw  Dolores taking things off a clothesline in the apple-green light behind
the house. Strolled out. She wore a plaid shirt, blue  jeans  and  sneakers.
Every  movement  she  made in the dappled sun plucked at the most secret and
sensitive chord of my abject body. After a while she sat down next to me  on
the  lower  step  of the back porch and began to pick up the pebbles between
her feet--pebbles, my God, then a curled bit of milk-bottle glass resembling
a snarling lip--and chuck them at a can. Ping.  You  can't  a  second
time--you  can't  hit  it--oh,  marvelous:  tender and tanned, not the least
blemish. Sundaes cause acne. The excess of the oily substance  called  sebum
which nourishes the hair follicles of the skin creates, when too profuse, an
irritation  that  opens  the way to infection. But nymphets do not have acne
although they gorge themselves on rich food. God,  what  agony,  that  silky
shimmer above her temple grading into bright brown hair. And the little bone
twitching  at  the  side  of her dust-powdered ankle. "The McCoo girl? Ginny
McCoo? Oh, she's a fright. And mean. And lame. Nearly died of polio."  Ping.
The  glistening  tracery  of down on her forearm. When she got up to take in
the wash, I had a chance  of  adoring  from  afar  the  faded  seat  of  her
rolled-up  jeans.  Out  of  the lawn, bland Mrs. Haze, complete with camera,
grew up like a fakir's fake tree and  after  some  heliotropic  fussing--sad
eyes  up,  glad  eyes  down--had  the  cheek  of  taking my picture as I sat
blinking on the steps, Humbert le Bel.
     Friday. Saw her going somewhere with a dark  girl  called  Rose.
Why  does  the way she walks--a child, mind you, a mere child!--excite me so
abominably? Analyze it. A faint suggestion of turned  in  toes.  A  kind  of
wiggly  looseness  below the knee prolonged to the end of each footfall. The
ghost of a drag. Very infantile, infinitely meretricious. Humbert Humbert is
also infinitely moved by the little one's slangy speech, by her  harsh  high
voice.  Later  heard  her  volley  crude  nonsense at Rose across the fence.
Twanging through me in a rising rhythm. Pause. "I must go now, kiddo."
     Saturday. (Beginning perhaps amended.) I know it is  madness  to
keep  this  journal  but  it  gives me a strange thrill to do so; and only a
loving wife could decipher my microscopic script. Let me state  with  a  sob
that  today  my L. was sun-bathing on the so-called "piazza," but her mother
and some other woman were around all the time. Of course, I might  have  sat
there  in the rocker and pretended to read. Playing safe, I kept away, for I
was afraid that the horrible, insane, ridiculous  and  pitiful  tremor  that
palsied  me might prevent me from making my entrиe with any semblance
of casualness.
     Sunday. Heat ripple still with us; a most  favonian  week.  This
time  I  took up a strategic position, with obese newspaper and new pipe, in
the piazza rocker before L. arrived. To my intense disappointment she
came with her mother, both in two-piece bathing suits, black, as new  as  my
pipe.  My  darling,  my  sweetheart  stood  for a moment near me--wanted the
funnies--and she smelt almost exactly like the other one, the  Riviera  one,
but  more  intensely  so, with rougher overtones--a torrid odor that at once
set my manhood astir--but she had already  yanked  out  of  me  the  coveted
section and retreated to her mat near her phocine mamma. There my beauty lay
down  on  her stomach, showing me, showing the thousand eyes wide open in my
eyed blood, her slightly raised shoulder blades, and  the  bloom  along  the
incurvation  of  her  spine,  and  the  swellings  of her tense narrow nates
clothed in black, and the seaside of her schoolgirl  thighs.  Silently,  the
seventh-grader  enjoyed  her  green-red-blue  comics.  She was the loveliest
nymphet green-red-blue Priap himself could think up. As I looked on, through
prismatic layers of light, dry-lipped, focusing my lust and rocking slightly
under  my  newspaper,  I  felt  that  my  perception  of  her,  if  properly
concentrated  upon,  might  be sufficient to have me attain a beggar's bliss
immediately; but, like some  predator  that  prefers  a  moving  prey  to  a
motionless  one, I planned to have this pitiful attainment coincide with the
various girlish movements she made now and then as she read, such as  trying
to  scratch  the middle of her back and revealing a stippled armpit--but fat
Haze suddenly spoiled everything by turning to me and asking me for a light,
and starting a make-believe conversation about a fake book by  some  popular
     Monday.  Delectatio morosa. I spend my doleful days in dumps and
dolors. We (mother Haze, Dolores and I) were to go to Our  Glass  Lake  this
afternoon, and bathe, and bask; but a nacreous morn degenerated at noon into
rain, and Lo made a scene.
     The  median  age  of pubescence for girls has been found to be thirteen
years and  nine  months  in  New  York  and  Chicago.  The  age  varies  for
individuals  from  ten,  or  earlier,  to  seventeen. Virginia was not quite
fourteen when Harry Edgar possessed her. He gave  her  lessons  in  algebra.
Je  m'imagine  cela.  They  spent their honeymoon at Petersburg, Fla.
"Monsieur Poe-poe," as that boy in one of Monsieur Humbert Humbert's classes
in Paris called the poet-poet.
     I have all the characteristics which, according to writers on  the  sex
interests  of  children,  start  the  responses  stirring  in a little girl:
clean-cut jaw, muscular hand, deep sonorous voice, broad shoulder. Moreover,
I am said to resemble some crooner or actor chap on whom Lo has a crush.
     Tuesday. Rain. Lake of the Rains.  Mamma  out  shopping.  L.,  I
knew,  was  somewhere  quite near. In result of some stealthy maneuvering, I
came across her in her mother's bedroom. Prying her left eye open to get rid
of a speck of something. Checked frock. Although I do love that intoxicating
brown fragrance of hers, I really think she should wash her hair once  in  a
while.  For a moment, we were both in the same warm green bath of the mirror
that reflected the top of a poplar with us in the sky. Held her  roughly  by
the  shoulders,  then  tenderly  by the temples, and turned her about. "It's
right there," she said. "I can feel it." "Swiss peasant would use the top of
her tongue." "Lick it out?" "Yeth. Shly try?" "Sure,"  she  said.  Gently  I
pressed  my  quivering sting along her rolling salty eyeball. "Goody-goody,"
she said nictating. "It is gone." "Now the other?"  "You  dope,"  she
began,  "there  is noth--" but here she noticed the pucker of my approaching
lips. "Okay," she said cooperatively, and bending toward her  warm  upturned
russet  face  somber Humbert pressed his mouth to her fluttering eyelid. She
laughed, and brushed past me out of the room. My heart seemed everywhere  at
once.   Never   in   my  life--not  even  when  fondling  my  child-love  in
     Night. Never have I experienced such agony. I would  like  to  describe
her  face,  her  ways--and I cannot, because my own desire for her blinds me
when she is near. I am not used to being with nymphets, damn it. If I  close
my eyes I see but an immobilized fraction of her, a cinematographic still, a
sudden  smooth nether loveliness, as with one knee up under her tartan skirt
she sits tying her shoe. "Dolores Haze, ne montrez pas  vos  zhambes"
(this is her mother who thinks she knows French).
     A  poet  ю  mes  heures, I composed a madrigal to the soot-black
lashes of her pale-gray vacant eyes, to the five  asymmetrical  freckles  on
her  bobbed nose, to the blond down of her brown limbs; but I tore it up and
cannot recall it today. Only in the tritest of terms (diary resumed)  can  I
describe  Lo's features: I might say her hair is auburn, and her lips as red
as licked red candy, the lower one prettily plump--oh, that I  were  a  lady
writer  who  could  have  her  pose naked in a naked light! But instead I am
lanky, big-boned, wooly-chested Humbert Humbert, with thick  black  eyebrows
and  a  queer  accent, and a cesspoolful of rotting monsters behind his slow
boyish smile. And neither is she the fragile child of a feminine novel. What
drives me insane is the twofold nature of this  nymphet--of  every  nymphet,
perhaps;  this mixture in my Lolita of tender dreamy childishness and a kind
of eerie vulgarity,  stemming  from  the  snub-nosed  cuteness  of  ads  and
magazine  pictures,  from  the blurry pinkness of adolescent maidservants in
the Old Country (smelling of crushed daisies and sweat); and from very young
harlots disguised as children in provincial brothels; and  then  again,  all
this  gets  mixed up with the exquisite stainless tenderness seeping through
the musk and the mud, through the dirt and the death, oh God,  oh  God.  And
what is most singular is that she, this Lolita, my Lolita, has
individualized  the writer's ancient lust, so that above and over everything
there is--Lolita.
     Wednesday. "Look, make Mother take you and me to Our Glass  Lake
tomorrow."  These  were  the  textual words said to me by my twelve-year-old
flame in a voluptuous whisper, as we happened to bump into  one  another  on
the  front  porch,  I  out,  she  in. The reflection of the afternoon sun, a
dazzling white diamond with innumerable iridescent spikes  quivered  on  the
round  back  of  a  parked  car.  The leafage of a voluminous elm played its
mellow shadows upon the clapboard wall of the house.  Two  poplars  shivered
and shook. You could make out the formless sounds of remote traffic; a child
calling  "Nancy,  Nan-cy!"  In  the  house,  Lolita  had put on her favorite
"Little Carmen" record which I used to call "Dwarf Conductors,"  making  her
snort with mock derision at my mock wit.
     Thursday.  Last  night  we  sat  on  the piazza, the Haze woman,
Lolita and I. Warm dusk had deepened into amorous darkness. The old girl had
finished relating in great detail the plot of a movie she and  L.  had  seen
sometime  in  the winter. The boxer had fallen extremely low when he met the
good old priest (who had been a boxer himself in his robust youth and  could
still  slug  a  sinner).  We sat on cushions heaped on the floor, and L. was
between the woman and me (she had squeezed herself in, the pet). In my turn,
I launched upon a hilarious account of my arctic  adventures.  The  muse  of
invention  handed  me a rifle and I shot a white bear who sat down and said:
Ah! All the while I was acutely aware of L.'s nearness  and  as  I  spoke  I
gestured in the merciful dark and took advantage of those invisible gestures
of  mine  to  touch her hand, her shoulder and a ballerina of wool and gauze
which she played with and kept sticking into my lap; and finally, when I had
completely enmeshed my glowing darling in this weave of ethereal caresses, I
dared stroke her bare leg along the gooseberry  fuzz  of  her  shin,  and  I
chuckled  at  my own jokes, and trembled, and concealed my tremors, and once
or twice felt with my rapid lips the warmth of her hair as I treated her  to
a  quick  nuzzling,  humorous  aside  and  caressed her plaything. She, too,
fidgeted a good deal so that finally her mother told her sharply to quit  it
and  sent  the doll flying into the dark, and I laughed and addressed myself
to Haze across Lo's legs to let my hand creep up my nymphet's thin back  and
feel her skin through her boy's shirt.
     But  I  knew  it  was  all  hopeless, and was sick with longing, and my
clothes felt miserably tight, and I was almost glad when her mother's  quiet
voice  announced  in  the  dark:  "And now we all think that Lo should go to
bed." "I think you stink," said Lo. "Which means there  will  be  no  picnic
tomorrow,"  said Haze. "This is a free country," said Lo. When angry Lo with
a Bronx cheer had gone, I stayed on from sheer inertia,  while  Haze  smoked
her tenth cigarette of the evening and complained of Lo.
     She  had been spiteful, if you please, at the age of one, when she used
to throw her toys out of her crib  so  that  her  poor  mother  should  keep
picking  them  up,  the villainous infant! Now, at twelve, she was a regular
pest, said Haze. All she wanted from life was to be one day a strutting  and
prancing  baton  twirler  or  a jitterbug. Her grades were poor, but she was
better adjusted in her new school than in Pisky (Pisky  was  the  Haze  home
town  in  the  Middle West. The Ramsdale house was her late mother-in-law's.
They had moved to Ramsdale less than two years ago). "Why  was  she  unhappy
there?"  "Oh,"  said  Haze,  "poor  me should know, I went through that when
I was a kid: boys twisting one's arm, banging into one with loads  of
books,  pulling  one's hair, hurting one's breasts, flipping one's skirt. Of
course, moodiness is a common concomitant of growing up, but Lo exaggerates.
Sullen and evasive. Rude and defiant. Struck Viola, an  Italian  schoolmate,
in  the  seat with a fountain pen. Know what I would like? If you, monsieur,
happened to be still here in the fall, I'd ask you  to  help  her  with  her
homework--you seem to know everything, geography, mathematics, French." "Oh,
everything,"  answered  monsieur.  "That  means," said Haze quickly, "you'll
be here!" I wanted to shout that I would stay on eternally if only  I
could  hope  to  caress  now  and then my incipient pupil. But I was wary of
Haze. So I just grunted and stretched my limbs nonconcomitantly  (le  mot
juste)  and  presently  went  up  to  my  room.  The woman, however, was
evidently not prepared to call it a day. I was already lying  upon  my  cold
bed  both  hands pressing to my face Lolita's fragrant ghost when I heard my
indefatigable landlady creeping stealthily up to my door to whisper  through
it--just  to  make  sure,  she  said, I was through with the Glance and Gulp
magazine I had borrowed the other day. From her room  Lo  yelled  she
had it. We are quite a lending library in this house, thunder of God.
     Friday. I wonder what my academic publishers would say if I were
to quote  in  my  textbook  Ronsard's "la vermeillette fente" or Remy
Belleau's "un petit mont feutrи de mousse dиlicate, tracи sur  le  milieu
d'un  fillet  escarlatte"  and  so  forth. I shall probably have another
breakdown if I stay any longer in this  house,  under  the  strain  of  this
intolerable  temptation,  by the side of my darling--my darling--my life and
my bride. Has she already been initiated by mother nature to the Mystery  of
the  Menarche?  Bloated  feelings.  The Curse of the Irish. Falling from the
roof. Grandma is visiting. "Mr. Uterus [I  quote  from  a  girls'  magazine]
starts  to build a thick soft wall on the chance a possible baby may have to
be bedded down there." The tiny madman in his padded cell.
     Incidentally: if I ever commit a serious murder . . .  Mark  the  "if."
The urge should be something more than the kind of thing that happened to me
with  Valeria. Carefully mark that then was rather inept. If and when
you wish to sizzle me to death, remember that only a spell of insanity could
ever give me the simple energy to be a brute (all  this  amended,  perhaps).
Sometimes  I attempt to kill in my dreams. But do you know what happens? For
instance I hold a gun. For instance I aim at  a  bland,  quietly  interested
enemy.  Oh,  I  press  the  trigger  all right, but one bullet after another
feebly drops on the floor from the sheepish muzzle. In those dreams, my only
thought is to conceal the fiasco from my foe, who is slowly growing annoyed.
     At dinner tonight the old cat said to  me  with  a  sidelong  gleam  of
motherly  mockery  directed at Lo (I had just been describing, in a flippant
vein, the delightful little toothbrush mustache I had not quite  decided  to
grow):  "Better  don't if somebody is not to go absolutely dotty." Instantly
Lo pushed her plate of boiled fish away, all but knocking her milk over, and
bounced out of the dining room. "Would it bore you very much,"  quoth  Haze,
"to  come with us tomorrow for a swim in Our Glass Lake if Lo apologizes for
her manners?"
     Later, I heard a great banging of doors and other  sounds  coming  from
quaking caverns where the two rivals were having a ripping row.
     She had not apologized. The lake is out. It might have been fun.
     Saturday.  For  some  days  already  I had been leaving the door
ajar, while I wrote in my room; but only today did the  trap  work.  With  a
good  deal  of  additional  fidgeting,  shuffling, scraping--to disguise her
embarrassment at visiting me without having  been  called--Lo  came  in  and
after  pottering  around, became interested in the nightmare curlicues I had
penned on a sheet  of  paper.  Oh  no:  they  were  not  the  outcome  of  a
belle-lettrist's  inspired  pause  between  two  paragraphs;  they  were the
hideous hieroglyphics (which she could not decipher) of my  fatal  lust.  As
she  bent  her  brown curs over the desk at which I was sitting, Humbert the
Hoarse  put   his   arm   around   her   in   a   miserable   imitation   of
blood-relationship;  and  still studying, somewhat shortsightedly, the piece
of paper she held, my innocent little visitor slowly sank to a  half-sitting
position  upon  my  knee.  Her adorable profile, parted lips, warm hair were
some three inches from my bared eyetooth; and I felt the heat of  her  limbs
through her rough tomboy clothes. All at once I knew I could kiss her throat
or  the  wick of her mouth with perfect impunity. I knew she would let me do
so, and even close her eyes as Hollywood teaches. A double vanilla with  hot
fudge--hardly more unusual than that. I cannot tell my learned reader (whose
eyebrows,  I  suspect,  have  by now traveled all the way to the back of his
bald head), I cannot tell him how the  knowledge  came  to  me;  perhaps  my
ape-ear  had  unconsciously  caught  some slight change in the rhythm of her
respiration--for now she was not really looking at my scribble, but  waiting
with  curiosity  and  composure--oh,  my  limpid nymphet!--for the glamorous
lodger to do what he was dying to do. A modern  child,  an  avid  reader  of
movie  magazines,  an expert in dream-slow close-ups, might not think it too
strange, I guessed, if a handsome,  intensely  virile  grown-up  friend--too
late.  The  house was suddenly vibrating with voluble Louise's voice telling
Mrs. Haze who had just come home about  a  dead  something  she  and  Leslie
Tomson had found in the basement, and little Lolita was not one to miss such
a tale.
     Sunday.  Changeful,  bad-tempered,  cheerful,  awkward, graceful
with the tart grace of her coltish subteens, excruciatingly  desirable  from
head  to  foot  (all  New  England for a lady-writer's pen!), from the black
read-made bow and bobby pins holding her hair in place to the little scar on
the lower part of her neat calf (where a roller-skater kicked her in Pisky),
a couple of inches above her rough white sock. Gone with her mother  to  the
Hamiltons--a  birthday  party  or something. Full-skirted gingham frock. Her
little doves seem well formed already. Precocious pet!
     Monday. Rainy morning. "Ces matins gris si doux . . ." My
white pajamas have a lilac design on the  back.  I  am  like  one  of  those
inflated  pale  spiders  you  see in old gardens. Sitting in the middle of a
luminous web and giving little jerks to this or that strand.  My  web
is  spread  all  over the house as I listen from my chair where I sit like a
wily wizard. Is Lo in her room? Gently I tug on the silk. She is  not.  Just
heard the toilet paper cylinder make its staccato sound as it is turned; and
no  footfalls  has my outflung filament traced from the bathroom back to her
room. Is she still brushing her teeth (the only  sanitary  act  Lo  performs
with  real zest)? No. The bathroom door has just slammed, so one has to feel
elsewhere about the house for the beautiful warm-colored prey. Let us have a
strand of silk descend the stairs. I satisfy myself by this means  that  she
is  not  in  the kitchen--not banging the refrigerator door or screeching at
her detested mamma (who, I  suppose,  is  enjoying  her  third,  cooing  and
subduedly  mirthful,  telephone  conversation  of the morning). Well, let us
grope and hope. Ray-like, I glide in through to  the  parlor  and  find  the
radio  silent  (and  mamma still talking to Mrs. Chatfield or Mrs. Hamilton,
very softly, flushed, smiling, cupping the telephone  with  her  free  hand,
denying  by implication that she denies those amusing rumors, rumor, roomer,
whispering intimately, as she never does, the clear-cut  lady,  in  face  to
face  talk).  So my nymphet is not in the house at all! Gone! What I thought
was a prismatic weave turns out to be but an old gray cobweb, the  house  is
empty,  is  dead.  And  then  comes  Lolita's  soft sweet chuckle through my
half-open door "Don't tell Mother but I've  eaten  all  your  bacon."
Gone  when  I  scuttle  out  of my room. Lolita, where are you? My breakfast
tray, lovingly prepared by my landlady, leers at me toothlessly, ready to be
taken in. Lola, Lolita!
     Tuesday. Clouds  again  interfered  with  that  picnic  on  that
unattainable  lake.  Is  it  Fate  scheming? Yesterday I tried on before the
mirror a new pair of bathing trunks.
     Wednesday.  In  the  afternoon,  Haze  (common-sensical   shoes,
tailor-made  dress),  said  she  was driving downtown to buy a present for a
friend of a friend of hers, and would I please come too because I have  such
a   wonderful   taste  in  textures  and  perfumes.  "Choose  your  favorite
seduction," she purred. What could Humbert, being in the  perfume  business,
do? She had me cornered between the front porch and her car. "Hurry up," she
said  as  I laboriously doubled up my large body in order to crawl in (still
desperately devising a means of escape). She had started the engine, and was
genteelly swearing at a backing and turning truck in  front  that  had  just
brought  old invalid Miss Opposite a brand new wheel chair, when my Lolita's
sharp voice came from the parlor window: "You!  Where  are  you  going?  I'm
coming  too!  Wait!" "Ignore her," yelped Haze (killing the motor); alas for
my fair driver; Lo was already pulling at the door  on  my  side.  "This  is
intolerable,"  began  Haze;  but  Lo  had scrambled in, shivering with glee.
"Move your bottom, you," said Lo. "Lo!"  cried  Haze  (sideglancing  at  me,
hoping  I would throw rude Lo out). "And behold," said Lo (not for the first
time), as she jerked back, as I jerked back, as the car leapt  forward.  "It
is  intolerable,"  said  Haze,  violently getting into second, "that a child
should be so ill-mannered. And so very persevering. When she  knows  she  is
unwanted. And needs a bath."
     My knuckles lay against the child's blue jeans. She was barefooted; her
toenails  showed  remnants  of  cherry-red  polish  and  there  was a bit of
adhesive tape across her big toe; and, God, what would I not have  given  to
kiss  then  and  there  those  delicate-boned,  long-toed,  monkeyish  feet!
Suddenly her hand slipped into mine and without  our  chaperon's  seeing,  I
held,  and  stroked,  and  squeezed  that little hot paw, all the way to the
store. The wings of the diver's  Marlenesque  nose  shone,  having  shed  or
burned up their ration of powder, and she kept up an elegant monologue anent
the  local  traffic,  and smiled in profile, and pouted in profile, and beat
her painted lashes in profile, while I prayed we would  never  get  to  that
store, but we did.
     I  have  nothing  else to report, save, primo: that big Haze had
little Haze sit behind on our way home, and secundo:  that  the  lady
decided to keep Humbert's Choice for the backs of her own shapely ears.
     Thursday.  We  are  paying  with  hail and gale for the tropical
beginning  of  the  month.  In   a   volume   of   the   Young   People's
Encyclopedia,  I  found  a  map  of the states that a child's pencil had
started copying out on a sheet of lightweight paper, upon the other side  of
which,  counter to the unfinished outline of Florida and the Gulf, there was
a mimeographed list of names referring,  evidently,  to  her  class  at  the
Ramsdale school. It is a poem I know already by heart.

     Angel, Grace
     Austin, Floyd
     Beale, Jack
     Beale, Mary
     Buck, Daniel
     Byron, Marguerite
     Campbell, Alice
     Carmine, Rose
     Chatfield, Phyllis
     Clarke, Gordon
     Cowan, John
     Cowan, Marion
     Duncan, Walter
     Falter, Ted
     Fantasia, Stella
     Flashman, Irving
     Fox, George
     Glave, Mabel
     Goodale, Donald
     Green, Lucinda
     Hamilton, Mary Rose
     Haze, Dolores
     Honeck, Rosaline
     Knight, Kenneth
     McCoo, Virginia
     McCrystal, Vivian
     McFate, Aubrey
     Miranda, Anthony
     Miranda, Viola
     Rosato, Emil
     Schlenker, Lena
     Scott, Donald
     Sheridan, Agnes
     Sherva, Oleg
     Smith, Hazel
     Talbot, Edgar
     Talbot, Edwin
     Wain, Lull
     Williams, Ralph
     Windmuller, Louise

     A  poem, a poem, forsooth! So strange and sweet was it to discover this
"Haze, Dolores" (she!) in its special bower of names, with its bodyguard  of
roses--a  fairy  princess  between  her  two  maids of honor. I am trying to
analyze the spine-thrill of delight it gives me, this name among  all  those
others.  What  is it that excites me almost to tears (hot, opalescent, thick
tears that poets and lovers shed)? What is it? The tender anonymity of  this
name  with  its  formal  veil ("Dolores") and that abstract transposition of
first name and surname, which is like a pair of new pale gloves or  a  mask?
Is  "mask"  the  keyword?  Is  it  because  there  is  always delight in the
semitranslucent mystery, the flowing charshaf, through which the  flesh  and
the  eye  you alone are elected to know smile in passing at you alone? Or is
it because I can imagine so well the rest of the colorful  classroom  around
my  dolorous  and  hazy  darling:  Grace and her ripe pimples; Ginny and her
lagging leg; Gordon, the  haggard  masturbator;  Duncan,  the  foul-smelling
clown;  nail-biting  Agnes;  Viola, of the blackheads and the bouncing bust;
pretty Rosaline; dark Mary Rose; adorable  Stella,  who  has  let  strangers
touch  her;  Ralph, who bullies and steals; Irving, for whom I am sorry. And
there she is there, lost in  the  middle,  gnawing  a  pencil,  detested  by
teachers, all the boys' eyes on her hair and neck, my Lolita.
     Friday.   I   long   for  some  terrific  disaster.  Earthquake.
Spectacular explosion. Her mother is messily but instantly  and  permanently
eliminated,  along  with everybody else for miles around. Lolita whimpers in
my arms. A free  man,  I  enjoy  her  among  the  ruins.  Her  surprise,  my
explanations, demonstrations, ullulations. Idle and idiotic fancies! A brave
Humbert  would  have  played  with  her  most  disgustingly  (yesterday, for
instance,  when  she  was  again  in  my  room  to  show  me  her  drawings,
school-artware);  he  might have bribed her--and got away with it. A simpler
and more practical fellow would have soberly  stuck  to  various  commercial
substitutes--if  you  know where to go, I don't. Despite my many looks, I am
horribly timid. My romantic soul gets all clammy and shivery at the  thought
of  running  into  some  awful  indecent  unpleasantness.  Those  ribald sea
monsters. "Mais allez-y, allez-y!" Annabel skipping on  one  foot  to
get into her shorts, I seasick with rage, trying to screen her.
     Same date, later, quite late. I have turned on the light to take down a
dream.  It  had  an  evident  antecedent.  Haze  at  dinner had benevolently
proclaimed that since the weather bureau promised a sunny weekend  we  would
go  to  the  lake  Sunday  after  church. As I lay in bed, erotically musing
before trying to go to sleep, I thought of a final scheme how to  profit  by
the  picnic  to  come. I was aware that mother Haze hated my darling for her
being sweet on me. So I planned my lake day with a view  to  satisfying  the
mother.  To  her  alone would I talk; but at some appropriate moment I would
say I had left my wrist watch or my sunglasses  in  that  glade  yonder--and
plunge with my nymphet into the wood. Reality at this juncture withdrew, and
the  Quest for the Glasses turned into a quiet little orgy with a singularly
knowing, cheerful, corrupt and compliant Lolita behaving as reason knew  she
could  not  possibly  behave.  At  3  a.m.  I swallowed a sleeping pill, and
presently, a dream that was not a sequel but a parody revealed to me, with a
kind of meaningful clarity, the lake I had never yet visited: it was  glazed
over with a sheet of emerald ice, and a pockmarked Eskimo was trying in vain
to  break it with a pickax, although imported mimosas and oleanders flowered
on its gravelly banks. I am sure Dr. Blanche Schwarzmann would have paid  me
a   sack   of   schillings  for  adding  such  a  libidream  to  her  files.
Unfortunately, the rest of it was frankly eclectic. Big Haze and little Haze
rode on horseback around the lake, and I rode too, dutifully bobbing up  and
down,  bowlegs  astraddle  although  there  was  no horse between them, only
elastic air--one of those little omissions due to  the  absentmindedness  of
the dream agent.
     Saturday.  My  heart  is still thumping. I still squirm and emit
low moans of remembered embarrassment.
     Dorsal view. Glimpse of  shiny  skin  between  T-shirt  and  white  gym
shorts. Bending, over a window sill, in the act of tearing off leaves from a
poplar outside while engrossed in torrential talk with a newspaper boy below
(Kenneth   Knight,   I   suspect)   who  had  just  propelled  the  Ramsdale
Journal with a very precise thud onto the porch. I began creeping  up
to  her--"crippling"  up  to  her as pantomimists say. My arms and legs were
convex surfaces between which--rather than upon which--I  slowly  progressed
by some neutral means of locomotion: Humbert the Wounded Spider. I must have
taken  hours  to  reach  her: I seemed to see her through the wrong end of a
telescope, and toward her taut little rear I moved like some  paralytic,  on
soft  distorted limbs, in terrible concentration. At last I was right behind
her when I had the unfortunate idea of blustering a trifle--shaking  her  by
the   scruff  of  the  neck  and  that  sort  of  thing  to  cover  my  real
manхge, and she said in a shrill brief  whine:  "Cut  it  out!"--most
coarsely,  the little wench, and with a ghastly grin Humbert the Humble beat
a gloomy retreat while she went on wisecracking streetward.
     But now listen to what happened next. After lunch I was reclining in  a
low  chair trying to read. Suddenly two deft little hands were over my eyes:
she had crept up from behind as if re-enacting, in  a  ballet  sequence,  my
morning  maneuver. Her fingers were a luminous crimson as they tried to blot
out the sun, and she uttered hiccups of laughter and  jerked  this  way  and
that as I stretched my arm sideways and backwards without otherwise changing
my  recumbent  position. My hand swept over her agile giggling legs, and the
book like a sleigh  left  my  lap,  and  Mrs.  Haze  strolled  up  and  said
indulgently:  "Just  slap  her  hard  if  she interferes with your scholarly
meditations. How I love this garden [no exclamation mark in her tone]. Isn't
it divine in the sun [no question mark either]." And with a sign of  feigned
content,  the obnoxious lady sank down on the grass and looked up at the sky
as she leaned back on her splayed-out  hands,  and  presently  an  old  gray
tennis  ball bounced over her, and Lo's voice came from the house haughtily:
"Pardonnez, Mother. I was not aiming at you." Of  course  not,
my hot downy darling.


This  proved  to  be  the last of twenty entries or so. It will be seem
from them that for all the devil's inventiveness, the scheme remained  daily
the  same.  First  he  would tempt me--and then thwart me, leaving me with a
dull pain in the very root of my being. I knew exactly what I wanted to  do,
and  how to do it, without impinging on a child's chastity; after all, I had
had some experience in my life of pederosis; had  visually  possessed
dappled  nymphets  in  parks;  had  wedged  my wary and bestial way into the
hottest, most crowded corner of a  city  bus  full  of  straphanging  school
children.  But  for  almost  three  weeks  I  had been interrupted in all my
pathetic machinations. The agent of these interruptions was usually the Haze
woman (who, as the reader will mark, was more afraid of Lo's  deriving  some
pleasure  from  me  than of my enjoying Lo). The passion I had developed for
that nymphet--for the first nymphet in my life that could be reached at last
by my awkward, aching, timid claws--would have certainly landed me again  in
a  sanatorium,  had  not  the  devil  realized that I was to be granted some
relief if he wanted to have me as a plaything for some time longer.
     The reader has also marked the curious Mirage of  the  Lake.  It  would
have  been logical on the part of Aubrey McFate (as I would like to dub that
devil of mine) to arrange a small treat for me on the promised beach, in the
presumed forest. Actually, the promise Mrs. Haze had made was  a  fraudulent
one:  she  had  not told me that Mary Rose Hamilton (a dark little beauty in
her own right) was  to  come  too,  and  that  the  two  nymphets  would  be
whispering  apart,  and  playing  apart,  and  having  a  good  time  all by
themselves, while Mrs. Haze and her handsome lodger  conversed  sedately  in
the  seminude,  far from prying eyes. Incidentally, eyes did pry and tongues
did wag. How queer life is! We hasten to alienate the very fates we intended
to woo. Before my actual arrival, my landlady had planned  to  have  an  old
spinster,  a  Miss Phalen, whose mother had been cook in Mrs. Haze's family,
come to stay in the house with Lolita and me, while Mrs. Haze, a career girl
at heart, sought some suitable job in the nearest city. Mrs. Haze  had  seen
the  whole  situation  very  clearly:  the  bespectacled,  round-backed Herr
Humbert coming with his Central-European trunks to gather dust in his corner
behind a heap  of  old  books;  the  unloved  ugly  little  daughter  firmly
supervised  by  Miss Phalen who had already once had my Lo under her buzzard
wing (Lo recalled that 1944 summer with an indignant shudder); and Mrs. Haze
herself engaged as a receptionist in a great elegant city.  But  a  not  too
complicated event interfered with that program. Miss Phalen broke her hip in
Savannah, Ga., on the very day I arrived in Ramsdale.


The  Sunday after the Saturday already described proved to be as bright
as the weatherman had predicted. When putting the breakfast things  back  on
the chair outside my room for my good landlady to remove at her convenience,
I gleaned the following situation by listening from the landing across which
I had softly crept to the banisters in my old bedroom slippers--the only old
things about me.
     There  had  been  another  row.  Mrs.  Hamilton had telephoned that her
daughter "was running a temperature." Mrs. Haze informed her daughter
that the picnic would have to be postponed. Hot  little  Haze  informed  big
cold Haze that, if so, she would not go with her to church. Mother said very
well and left.
     I  had  come out on the landing straight after shaving, soapy-earlobed,
still in my white pajamas with the cornflower blue (not the lilac) design on
the back; I now wiped off the soap, perfumed my hair and armpits, slipped on
a purple silk dressing gown, and, humming nervously, went down the stairs in
quest of Lo.
     I want my learned readers to participate in the scene  I  am  about  to
replay;  I  want them to examine its every detail and see for themselves how
careful, how chaste, the whole wine-sweet event is if viewed  with  what  my
lawyer  has  called, in a private talk we have had, "impartial sympathy." So
let us get started. I have a difficult job before me.
     Main character: Humbert the  Hummer.  Time:  Sunday  morning  in  June.
Place:  sunlit  living room. Props: old, candy-striped davenport, magazines,
phonograph, Mexican knickknacks (the late Mr. Harold E. Haze--God bless  the
good  man--had  engendered  my  darling  at the siesta hour in a blue-washed
room, on a honeymoon trip to Vera Cruz, and mementoes, among these  Dolores,
were  all over the place). She wore that day a pretty print dress that I had
seen on  her  once  before,  ample  in  the  skirt,  tight  in  the  bodice,
short-sleeved,  pink, checkered with darker pink, and, to complete the color
scheme, she had painted her lips and was holding in  her  hollowed  hands  a
beautiful, banal, Eden-red apple. She was not shod, however, for church. And
her white Sunday purse lay discarded near the phonograph.
     My  heart  beat  like  a  drum  as she sat down, cool skirt ballooning,
subsiding, on the sofa next to me, and played with  her  glossy  fruit.  She
tossed  it  up  into  the  sun-dusted  air,  and caught it--it made a cupped
polished plot.
     Humbert Humbert intercepted the apple.
     "Give it back," - she pleaded, showing the marbled flush of her  palms.
I  produced Delicious. She grasped it and bit into it, and my heart was like
snow under thin crimson skin, and with the monkeyish nimbleness that was  so
typical  of  that American nymphet, she snatched out of my abstract grip the
magazine I had opened (pity no film had recorded the  curious  pattern,  the
monogrammic  linkage  of  our  simultaneous  or overlapping moves). Rapidly,
hardly hampered by the disfigured  apple  she  held,  Lo  flipped  violently
through the pages in search of something she wished Humbert to see. Found it
at last. I faked interest by bringing my head so close that her hair touched
my temple and her arm brushed my cheek as she wiped her lips with her wrist.
Because  of  the burnished mist through which I peered at the picture, I was
slow in reacting to it, and her bare knees rubbed  and  knocked  impatiently
against  each  other.  Dimly  there  came  into  view:  a surrealist painter
relaxing, supine, on a beach, and  near  him,  likewise  supine,  a  plaster
replica of the Venus di Milo, half-buried in sand. Picture of the Week, said
the  legend.  I whisked the whole obscene thing away. Next moment, in a sham
effort to retrieve it, she was all over me. Caught her by  her  thin  knobby
wrist.  The magazine escaped to the floor like a flustered fowl. She twisted
herself free, recoiled, and  lay  back  in  the  right-hand  corner  of  the
davenport.  Then,  with  perfect simplicity, the impudent child extended her
legs across my lap.
     By this time I was in a state of excitement bordering on insanity;  but
I  also had the cunning of the insane. Sitting there, on the sofa, I managed
to attune, by a  series  of  stealthy  movements,  my  masked  lust  to  her
guileless  limbs.  It  was  no  easy  matter  to  divert the little maiden's
attention while I  performed  the  obscure  adjustments  necessary  for  the
success  of  the trick. Talking fast, lagging behind my own breath, catching
up with it, mimicking a  sudden  toothache  to  explain  the  breaks  in  my
patter--and  all the while keeping a maniac's inner eye on my distant golden
goal, I cautiously increased the magic friction that was doing away,  in  an
illusional,  if  not  factual,  sense,  with the physically irremovable, but
psychologically very friable texture of the  material  divide  (pajamas  and
robe)  between  the weight of two sunburnt legs, resting athwart my lap, and
the hidden tumor of an unspeakable passion. Having,  in  the  course  of  my
patter,  hit  upon  something  nicely  mechanical,  I recited, garbling them
slightly, the words of a foolish song that was then popular--O my Carmen, my
little Carmen, something, something, those something nights, and the  stars,
and  the cars, and the bars, and the barmen; I kept repeating this automatic
stuff and holding  her  under  its  special  spell  (spell  because  of  the
garbling),  and  all  the  while  I was mortally afraid that some act of God
might interrupt me, might remove the golden load in the sensation  of  which
all  my  being  seemed concentrated, and this anxiety forced me to work, for
the first minute or so, more hastily than was consensual  with  deliberately
modulated enjoyment. The stars that sparkled, and the cars that parkled, and
the  bars, and the barmen, were presently taken over by her; her voice stole
and  corrected  the  tune  I  had  been  mutilating.  She  was  musical  and
apple-sweet.  Her  legs  twitched a little as they lay across my live lap; I
stroked them; there she lolled in the  right-hand  corner,  almost  asprawl,
Lola  the  bobby-soxer,  devouring her immemorial fruit, singing through its
juice, losing her slipper, rubbing the heel of her slipperless foot  in  its
sloppy  anklet,  against  the pile of old magazines heaped on my left on the
sofa--and every movement she made, every shuffle and ripple,  helped  me  to
conceal  and  to improve the secret system of tactile correspondence between
beast and beauty--between my gagged, bursting beast and the  beauty  of  her
dimpled body in its innocent cotton frock.
     Under  my  glancing finger tips I felt the minute hairs bristle ever so
slightly along her shins. I lost myself in  the  pungent  but  healthy  heat
which  like summer haze hung about little Haze. Let her stay, let her stay .
. . As she strained to chuck the  core  of  her  abolished  apple  into  the
fender,  her  young  weight, her shameless innocent shanks and round bottom,
shifted in my tense, tortured, surreptitiously laboring lap; and  all  of  a
sudden  a  mysterious change came over my senses. I entered a plane of being
where nothing mattered, save the infusion of joy brewed within my body. What
had begun as a delicious distention of my innermost roots became  a  glowing
tingle  which  now  had  reached  that  state  of  absolute security,
confidence and reliance not found elsewhere in conscious life. With the deep
hot sweetness  thus  established  and  well  on  its  way  to  the  ultimate
convulsion,  I  felt  I could slow down in order to prolong the glow. Lolita
had been safely  solipsized.  The  implied  sun  pulsated  in  the  supplied
poplars;  we  were  fantastically  and  divinely alone; I watched her, rosy,
gold-dusted, beyond the veil of my controlled delight, unaware of it,  alien
to  it,  and  the  sun  was  on her lips, and her lips were apparently still
forming the words of the Carmen-barmen  ditty  that  no  longer  reached  my
consciousness.  Everything  was  now  ready. The nerves of pleasure had been
laid bare. The corpuscles of Krause were entering the phase of  frenzy.  The
least  pressure  would suffice to set all paradise loose. I had ceased to be
Humbert the Hound, the sad-eyed degenerate cur clasping the boot that  would
presently  kick  him  away. I was above the tribulations of ridicule, beyond
the possibilities of retribution. In my self-made seraglio, I was a  radiant
and  robust  Turk,  deliberately,  in the full consciousness of his freedom,
postponing the moment of actually enjoying the youngest and frailest of  his
slaves.  Suspended  on  the  brink  of  that  voluptuous  abyss (a nicety of
physiological equipoise comparable to certain techniques in the arts) I kept
repeating the chance words after  her--barmen,  alarmin',  my  charmin',  my
carmen,  ahmen,  ahahamen--as one talking and laughing in his sleep while my
happy hand crept up her sunny leg as far as the shadow of  decency  allowed.
The day before she had collided with the heavy chest in the hall and--"Look,
look!"--I  gasped--"look what you've done, what you've done to yourself, ah,
look"; for there was, I swear,  a  yellowish-violet  bruise  on  her  lovely
nymphet  thigh  which  my huge hairy hand massaged and slowly enveloped--and
because of her very perfunctory underthings, there seemed to be  nothing  to
prevent my muscular thumb from reaching the hot hollow of her groin--just as
you  might  tickle  and  caress  a giggling child--just that--and: "Oh, it's
nothing at all," she cried with a sudden shrill note in her voice,  and  she
wiggled,  and squirmed, and threw her head back, and her teeth rested on her
glistening underlip as she half-turned away, and my moaning mouth, gentlemen
of the jury, almost reached her bare neck, while I crushed out  against  her
left  buttock  the last throb of the longest ecstasy man or monster had ever
     Immediately afterward (as if we had been struggling and now my grip had
eased) she rolled off  the  sofa  and  jumped  to  her  feet--to  her  foot,
rather--in  order  to  attend to the formidably loud telephone that may have
been ringing for ages as far  as  I  was  concerned.  There  she  stood  and
blinked,  cheeks  aflame,  hair awry, her eyes passing over me as lightly as
they did over the furniture, and as she listened or spoke (to her mother who
was telling her to come to lunch with her at the Chatfileds--neither Lo  nor
Hum  knew yet what busybody Haze was plotting), she kept tapping the edge of
the table with the slipper she held in her hand. Blessed be  the  Lord,  she
had noticed nothing!
     With  a  handkerchief of multicolored silk, on which her listening eyes
rested in passing, I wiped the sweat off my forehead,  and,  immersed  in  a
euphoria  of  release,  rearranged  my  royal  robes.  She  was still at the
telephone, haggling with her mother (wanted to be fetched by car, my  little
Carmen)  when,  singing  louder  and louder, I swept up the stairs and set a
deluge of steaming water roaring into the tub.
     At this point I may as well give the words of that song hit in full--to
the best of my recollection at least--I don't think I  ever  had  it  right.
Here goes:

     O my Carmen, my little Carmen!
     Something, something those something nights,
     And the stars, and the cars, and the bars and the barmen--
     And, O my charmin', our dreadful fights.
     And the something town where so gaily, arm in
     Arm, we went, and our final row,
     And the gun I killed you with, O my Carmen,
     The gun I am holding now.

     (Drew  his  .32 automatic, I guess, and put a bullet through his moll's


I had lunch in town--had not been so hungry for years.  The  house  was
still  Lo-less when I strolled back. I spent the afternoon musing, scheming,
blissfully digesting my experience of the morning.
     I felt proud of myself. I had stolen  the  honey  of  a  spasm  without
impairing  the  morals of a minor. Absolutely no harm done. The conjurer had
poured milk, molasses, foaming champagne  into  a  young  lady's  new  white
purse;  and  lo,  the purse was intact. Thus had I delicately constructed my
ignoble, ardent, sinful dream; and still Lolita was safe--and  I  was  safe.
What  I  had  madly  possessed  was  not  she, but my own creation, another,
fanciful Lolita--perhaps, more real than Lolita; overlapping, encasing  her;
floating  between  me and her, and having no will, no consciousness--indeed,
no life of her own.
     The child knew  nothing.  I  had  done  nothing  to  her.  And  nothing
prevented  me from repeating a performance that affected her as little as if
she were a photographic  image  rippling  upon  a  screen  and  I  a  humble
hunchback  abusing  myself  in the dark. The afternoon drifted on and on, in
ripe silence, and the sappy tall trees seemed to be in the know; and desire,
even stronger than before, began to afflict me again. Let her come  soon,  I
prayed,  addressing  a  loan  God,  and while mamma is in the kitchen, let a
repetition of the  davenport  scene  be  staged,  please,  I  adore  her  so
     No:  "horribly" is the wrong word. The elation with which the vision of
new delights filled me was not  horrible  but  pathetic.  I  qualify  it  as
pathetic.  Pathetic--because  despite  the  insatiable  fire  of my venereal
appetite, I intended, with the most fervent force and foresight, to  protect
the purity of that twelve-year-old child.
     And now see how I was repaid for my pains. No Lolita came home--she had
gone with  the  Chatfields to a movie. The table was laid with more elegance
than usual: candlelight, if you please. In  this  mawkish  aura,  Mrs.  Haze
gently  touched  the  silver on both sides of her plate as if touching piano
keys, and smiled down on her empty plate (was on a diet), and said she hoped
I liked the salad (recipe lifted from a woman's magazine). She hoped I liked
the cold cuts, too. It had been a perfect day. Mrs. Chatfield was  a  lovely
person.  Phyllis,  her  daughter,  was  going to a summer camp tomorrow. For
three weeks. Lolita, it was decided, would go Thursday. Instead  of  waiting
till  July,  as had been initially planned. And stay there after Phyllis had
left. Till school began. A pretty prospect, my heart.
     Oh, how I was taken aback--for did it not mean I was losing my darling,
just when I had secretly made her mine? To explain my grim mood,  I  had  to
use  the  same  toothache  I had already simulated in the morning. Must have
been an enormous molar, with an abscess as big as a maraschino cherry.
     "We have," said Haze, "an excellent dentist. Our neighbor, in fact. Dr.
Quilty. Uncle or cousin, I think, of the playwright.  Think  it  will  pass?
Well,  just  as  you  wish.  In the fall I shall have him 'brace' her, as my
mother used to say. It may curb Lo a  little.  I  am  afraid  she  has  been
bothering  you  frightfully  all  these  days. And we are in for a couple of
stormy ones before she goes. She has flatly refused to go, and I  confess  I
left  her  with the Chatfields because I dreaded to face her alone just yet.
The movie may mollify her. Phyllis is a very sweet girl,  and  there  is  no
earthly  reason  for  Lo  to  dislike her. Really, monsieur, I am very sorry
about that tooth of yours. It would be so much more  reasonable  to  let  me
contact Ivor Quilty first thing tomorrow morning if it still hurts. And, you
know,  I  think  a summer camp is so much healthier, and--well, it is all so
much more reasonable as I say than to mope on a suburban lawn and use
mamma's lipstick, and pursue shy studious gentlemen, and go into tantrums at
the least provocation."
     "Are you sure," I said at last, "that she will be happy there?"  (lame,
lamentably lame!)
     "She'd  better,"  said Haze. "And it won't be all play either. The camp
is run  by  Shirley  Holmes--you  know,  the  woman  who  wrote  Campfire
Girl.  Camp  will  teach  Dolores  Haze  to grow in many things--health,
knowledge, temper. And particularly in a  sense  of  responsibility  towards
other people. Shall we take these candles with us and sit for a while on the
piazza, or do you want to go to bed and nurse that tooth?"
     Nurse that tooth.


Next  day  they  drove  downtown to buy things needed for the camp: any
wearable purchase worked wonders with Lo. She  seemed  her  usual  sarcastic
self  at  dinner.  Immediately afterwards, she went up to her room to plunge
into the comic books acquired for  rainy  days  at  Camp  Q  (they  were  so
thoroughly  sampled by Thursday that she left them behind). I too retired to
my lair, and wrote letters. My plan now was to leave  for  the  seaside  and
then,  when  school  began, resume my existence in the Haze household; for I
knew already that I could not live without the child. On Tuesday  they  went
shopping  again,  and  I  was asked to answer the phone if the camp mistress
rang up during their absence. She did; and  a  month  or  so  later  we  had
occasion to recall our pleasant chat. That Tuesday, Lo had her dinner in her
room.  She  had  been crying after a routine row with her mother and, as had
happened on former occasions, had not wished me to see her swollen eyes: she
had one of those tender complexions that after a good cry  get  all  blurred
and inflamed, and morbidly alluring. I regretted keenly her mistake about my
private  aesthetics, for I simply love that tinge of Botticellian pink, that
raw rose about the lips, those wet, matted eyelashes;  and,  naturally,  her
bashful  whim  deprived  me  of  many opportunities of specious consolation.
There was, however, more to it than I thought. As we sat in the darkness  of
the  verandah (a rude wind had put out her red candles), Haze, with a dreary
laugh, said she had told Lo that her beloved Humbert thoroughly approved  of
the whole camp idea "and now," added Haze, "the child throws a fit; pretext:
you  and  I  want  to  get  rid  of  her; actual reason: I told her we would
exchange tomorrow for plainer stuff some much too cute night things that she
bullied me into buying for her.  You  see,  she  sees  herself  as  a
starlet;  I  see  her as a sturdy, healthy, but decidedly homely kid.
This, I guess, is at the root of our troubles."
     On Wednesday I managed to waylay Lo for a few seconds: she was  on  the
landing, in sweatshirt and green-stained white shorts, rummaging in a trunk.
I said something meant to be friendly and funny but she only emitted a snort
without  looking  at me. Desperate, dying Humbert patted her clumsily on her
coccyx, and she struck him, quite painfully, with one of the late Mr. Haze's
shoetrees. "Doublecrosser," she said as I crawled downstairs rubbing my  arm
with a great show of rue. She did not condescend to have dinner with Hum and
mum:  washed  her  hair  and  went  to bed with her ridiculous books. And on
Thursday quiet Mrs. Haze drove her to Camp Q.
     As greater authors than I have put it: "Let readers  imagine"  etc.  On
second thought, I may as well give those imaginations a kick in the pants. I
knew I had fallen in love with Lolita forever; but I also knew she would not
be  forever  Lolita.  She would be thirteen on January 1. In two years or so
she would cease being a nymphet and would turn  into  a  "young  girl,"  and
then,  into  a  "college  girl"--that  horror of horrors. The word "forever"
referred only to my own passion, to the eternal Lolita as  reflected  in  my
blood.  The  Lolita  whose  iliac crests had not yet flared, the Lolita that
today I could touch and smell and hear and see, the Lolita of  the  strident
voice and rich brown hair--of the bangs and the swirls and the sides and the
curls   at   the   back,   and   the   sticky   hot  neck,  and  the  vulgar
vocabulary--"revolting," "super,"  "luscious,"  "goon,"  "drip"--that
Lolita,  my  Lolita, poor Catullus would lose forever. So how could I
afford not to see her for two months of summer insomnias? Two  whole  months
out  of the two years of her remaining nymphage! Should I disguise myself as
a somber old-fashioned girl, gawky Mlle Humbert, and put up my tent  on  the
outskirts of Camp Q, in the hope that its russet nymphets would clamor: "Let
us  adopt  that  deep-voiced  D.P.," and drag the said, shyly smiling Berthe
au Grand Pied to their rustic hearth. Berthe will sleep with  Dolores
     Idle  dry dreams. Two months of beauty, two months of tenderness, would
be squandered forever, and I could do nothing about it, but nothing, mais
     One drop of rare honey, however, that Thursday did hold  in  its  acorn
cup.  Haze  was  to  drive her to the camp in the early morning. Upon sundry
sounds of departure reaching me, I rolled out of bed and leaned out  of  the
window.  Under  the  poplars,  the  car was already athrob. On the sidewalk,
Louise stood shading her eyes with her hand, as if the little traveler  were
already riding into the low morning sun. The gesture proved to be premature.
"Hurry  up!"  shouted Haze. My Lolita, who was half in and about to slam the
car door, wind down the glass, wave to Louise  and  the  poplars  (whom  and
which  she  was  never  to  see  again), interrupted the motion of fate: she
looked up--and dashed back into the  house  (Haze  furiously  calling  after
her).  A  moment later I heard my sweetheart running up the stairs. My heart
expanded with such force that it almost blotted me out.  I  hitched  up  the
pants of my pajamas, flung the door open: and simultaneously Lolita arrived,
in  her  Sunday  frock,  stamping, panting, and then she was in my arms, her
innocent mouth melting under the ferocious pressure of dark  male  jaws,  my
palpitating  darling!  The next instant I heart her--alive, unraped--clatter
downstairs. The motion of fate was resumed. The blond leg was pulled in, the
car door was slammed--was re-slammed--and driver Haze at the violent  wheel,
rubber-red  lips writhing in angry, inaudible speech, swung my darling away,
while unnoticed by them or Louise, old Miss Opposite, an invalid, feebly but
rhythmically waved from her vined verandah.