مرکزی صفحہ Lolita
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why is this book, "Lolita", in fiction section?
14 September 2020 (20:01)
This is the weird pedophile book, isn’t it?
06 November 2020 (21:03)
sometimes ,the girl in my heart,I dont know what happen to me.
14 November 2020 (13:09)
A good intro to anarcho-capitalism!
24 November 2020 (11:31)
i havent read this but from what is being described, ay yoh! eeewww!tf
11 January 2021 (17:57)
The first time I read this was disgusting. The second time, I'm amazed (due to its structure). Vladimir was so good at descriptive writing, perhaps the best well written book I've ever read so far.
17 February 2021 (08:47)
The success of this book's design is the fact that going in to the book and considering the basic premise, you are disgusted (at least I really hope you're disgusted by pedophilia lmao) yet the deeper into it you go, the further you are sucked into Nabokov's writing and his ability to imbody Humbert's character so fully, you almost catch yourself sympathizing with him. It's amazing how it can force the reader to step back and say "wait a fucking minute, pedophiles are human beings" and in a way, being reminded that they ARE just that, human beings, and not inhuman monsters we can subconsciously distance ourselves from....that's almost more terrifying than a story that might portray a pedophile as a demon, or someone under possession, an alien, a shapeshifting creature. Because they could be anyone.
18 February 2021 (15:27)
Thank you, you're amazing
15 March 2021 (12:58)
Reece, that's a great review....
19 April 2021 (10:05)
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25 May 2021 (07:15)
Why is this illuminati thing everywhere -_-||
31 May 2021 (09:59)
[image: cover] Lolita Vladimir Nabokov TABLE OF CONTENTS FOREWORD * PART ONE * 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 * PART TWO * 1 2 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 [bookmark: _Toc229911478]16 The hollow of my hand was still ivory-full of Lolitafull of the feel of her pre-adolescently incurved back, that ivory-smooth, sliding sensation of her skin through the thin frock that I had worked up and down while I held her. I marched into her tumbled room, threw open the door of the closet, and plunged into a heap of crumpled things that had touched her. There was particularly one pink texture, sleazy, torn, with a faintly acrid odor in the seam. I wrapped in it Humbert’s huge engorged heart. A poignant chaos was welling within mebut I had to drop those things and hurriedly regain my composure, as I became aware of the maid’s velvety voice calling me softly from the stairs. She had a message for me, she said; and, topping my automatic thanks with a kindly “you’re welcome,” good Louise left an unstamped, curiously clean-looking letter in my shaking hand. “This is a confession. I love you [so the letter began; and for a distorted moment I mistook its hysterical scrawl for a schoolgirl’s scribble]. Last Sunday in churchbad you, who refused to come to see our beautiful new windows!only last Sunday, my dear one, when I asked the Lord what to do about it, I was told to act as I am acting now. You; see, there is no alternative. I have loved you from the minute I saw you. I am a passionate and lonely woman and you are the love of my life. Now, my dearest, dearest, mon cher, cher monsieur, you have read this; now you know. So, will you please, at once, pack and leave. This is a landlady’s order. I am dismissing a lodger. I am kicking you out. Go! Scram! Departez! I shall be back by dinnertime, if I do eighty both ways and don’t have an accident (but what would it matter?), and I do not wish to find you in the house. Please, please, leave at once, now, do not even read this absurd note to the end. Go. Adieu. The situation, chri, is quite simple. Of course, I know with absolute certainty that I am nothing to you, nothing at all to you, nothing at all. Oh yes, you enjoy talking to me (and kidding poor me), you have grown fond of our friendly house, of the books I like, of my lovely garden, even of Lo’s noisy waysbut I am nothing to you. Right? Right. Nothing to you whatever. But if, after reading my “confession,” you decided, in your dark romantic European way, that I am attractive enough for you to take advantage of my letter and make a pass at me, then you would be a criminalworse than a kidnaper who rapes a child. You see, chri. If you decided to stay, if I found you at home (which I know I won’tand that’s why I am able to go on like this), the fact of your remaining would only mean one thing: that you want me as much as I do you: as a lifelong mate; and that you are ready to link up your life with mine forever and ever and be a father to my little girl. Let me rave and ramble on for a teeny while more, my dearest, since I know this letter has been by now torn by you, and its pieces (illegible) in the vortex of the toilet. My dearest, mon trs, trs cher, what a world of love I have built up for you during this miraculous June! I know how reserved you are, how “British.” Your old-world reticence, your sense of decorum may be shocked by the boldness of an American girl! You who conceal your strongest feelings must think me a shameless little idiot for throwing open my poor bruised heart like this. In years gone by, many disappointments came my way. Mr. Haze was a splendid person, a sterling soul, but he happened to be twenty years my senior, andwell, let us not gossip about the past. My dearest, your curiosity must be well satisfied if you have ignored my request and read this letter to the bitter end. Never mind. Destroy it and go. Do not forget to leave the key on the desk in your room. And some scrap of address so that I could refund the twelve dollars I owe you till the end of the month. Good-bye, dear one. Pray for meif you ever pray. C.H.” What I present here is what I remember of the letter, and what I remember of the letter I remember verbatim (including that awful French). It was at least twice longer. I have left out a lyrical passage which I more or less skipped at the time, concerning Lolita’s brother who died at 2 when she was 4, and how much I would have liked him. Let me see what else can I say? Yes. There is just a chance that “the vortex of the toilet” (where the letter did go) is my own matter-of-fact contribution. She probably begged me to make a special fire to consume it. My first movement was one of repulsion and retreat. My second was like a friend’s calm hand falling upon my shoulder and bidding me take my time. I did. I came out of my daze and found myself still in Lo’s room. A full-page ad ripped out of a slick magazine was affixed to the wall above the bed, between a crooner’s mug and the lashes of a movie actress. It represented a dark-haired young husband with a kind of drained look in his Irish eyes. He was modeling a robe by So-and-So and holding a bridgelike tray by So-and-So, with breakfast for two. The legend, by the Rev. Thomas Morell, called him a “conquering hero.” The thoroughly conquered lady (not shown) was presumably propping herself up to receive her half of the tray. How her bed-fellow was to get under the bridge without some messy mishap was not clear. Lo had drawn a jocose arrow to the haggard lover’s face and had put, in block letters: H.H. And indeed, despite a difference of a few years, the resemblance was striking. Under this was another picture, also a colored ad. A distinguished playwright was solemnly smoking a Drome. He always smoked Dromes. The resemblance was slight. Under this was Lo’s chase bed, littered with “comics.” The enamel had come off the bedstead, leaving black, more or less rounded, marks on the white. Having convinced myself that Louise had left, I got into Lo’s bed and reread the letter. [bookmark: _Toc229911479]17 Gentlemen of the jury! I cannot swear that certain motions pertaining to the business in handif I may coin an expressionhad not drifted across my mind before. My mind had not retained them in any logical form or in any relation to definitely recollected occasions; but I cannot swearlet me repeatthat I had not toyed with them (to rig up yet another expression), in my dimness of thought, in my darkness of passion. There may have been timesthere must have been times, if I know my Humbertwhen I had brought up for detached inspection the idea of marrying a mature widow (say, Charlotte Haze) with not one relative left in the wide gray world, merely in order to have my way with her child (Lo, Lola, Lolita). I am even prepared to tell my tormentors that perhaps once or twice I had cast an appraiser’s cold eye at Charlotte’s coral lips and bronze hair and dangerously low neckline, and had vaguely tried to fit her into a plausible daydream. This I confess under torture. Imaginary torture, perhaps, but all the more horrible. I wish I might digress and tell you more of the pavor nocturnus that would rack me at night hideously after a chance term had struck me in the random readings of my boyhood, such as peine forte et dure (what a Genius of Pain must have invented that!) or the dreadful, mysterious, insidious words “trauma,” “traumatic event,” and “transom.” But my tale is sufficiently incondite already. After a while I destroyed the letter and went to my room, and ruminated, and rumpled my hair, and modeled my purple robe, and moaned through clenched teeth and suddenlySuddenly, gentlemen of the jury, I felt a Dostoevskian grin dawning (through the very grimace that twisted my lips) like a distant and terrible sun. I imagined (under conditions of new and perfect visibility) all the casual caresses her mother’s husband would be able to lavish on his Lolita. I would hold her against me three times a day, every day. All my troubles would be expelled, I would be a healthy man. “To hold thee lightly on a gentle knee and print on thy soft cheek a parent’s kiss...” Well-read Humbert! Then, with all possible caution, on mental tiptoe so to speak, I conjured up Charlotte as a possible mate. By God, I could make myself bring her that economically halved grapefruit, that sugarless breakfast. Humbert Humbert sweating in the fierce white light, and howled at, and trodden upon by sweating policemen, is now ready to make a further “statement” (quel mot!) as he turns his conscience inside out and rips off its innermost lining. I did not plan to marry poor Charlotte in order to eliminate her in some vulgar, gruesome and dangerous manner such as killing her by placing five bichloride-of-mercury tablets in her preprandial sherry or anything like that; but a delicately allied, pharmacopoeial thought did tinkle in my sonorous and clouded brain. Why limit myself to the modest masked caress I had tried already? Other visions of venery presented themselves to me swaying and smiling. I saw myself administering a powerful sleeping potion to both mother and daughter so as to fondle the latter though the night with perfect impunity. The house was full of Charlotte’s snore, while Lolita hardly breathed in her sleep, as still as a painted girl-child. “Mother, I swear Kenny never even touched me.” “You either lie, Dolores Haze, or it was an incubus.” No, I would not go that far. So Humbert the Cubus schemed and dreamedand the red sun of desire and decision (the two things that create a live world) rose higher and higher, while upon a succession of balconies a succession of libertines, sparkling glass in hand, toasted the bliss of past and future nights. Then, figuratively speaking, I shattered the glass, and boldly imagined (for I was drunk on those visions by then and underrated the gentleness of my nature) how eventually I might blackmailno, that it too strong a wordmauvemail big Haze into letting me consort with the little Haze by gently threatening the poor doting Big Dove with desertion if she tried to bar me from playing with my legal stepdaughter. In a word, before such an Amazing Offer, before such a vastness and variety of vistas, I was as helpless as Adam at the preview of early oriental history, miraged in his apple orchard. And now take down the following important remark: the artist in me has been given the upper hand over the gentleman. It is with a great effort of will that in this memoir I have managed to tune my style to the tone of the journal that I kept when Mrs. Haze was to me but an obstacle. That journal of mine is no more; but I have considered it my artistic duty to preserve its intonations no matter how false and brutal they may seem to me now. Fortunately, my story has reached a point where I can cease insulting poor Charlotte for the sake of retrospective verisimilitude. Wishing to spare poor Charlotte two or three hours of suspense on a winding road (and avoid, perhaps, a head-on collision that would shatter our different dreams), I made a thoughtful but abortive attempt to reach her at the camp by telephone. She had left half an hour before, and getting Lo instead, I told hertrembling and brimming with my mastery over fatethat I was going to marry her mother. I had to repeat it twice because something was preventing her from giving me her attention. “Gee, that’s swell,” she said laughing. “When is the wedding? Hold on a sec, the pupThat put here has got hold of my sock. Listen” and she added she guessed she was going to have loads of fun... and I realized as I hung up that a couple of hours at that camp had been sufficient to blot out with new impressions the image of handsome Humbert Humbert from little Lolita’s mind. But what did it matter now? I would get her back as soon as a decent amount of time after the wedding had elapsed. “The orange blossom would have scarcely withered on the grave,” as a poet might have said. But I am no poet. I am only a very conscientious recorder. After Louise had gone, I inspected the icebox, and finding it much too puritanic, walked to town and bought the richest foods available. I also bought some good liquor and two or three kinds of vitamins. I was pretty sure that with the aid of these stimulants and my natural resources, I would avert any embarrassment that my indifference might incur when called upon to display a strong and impatient flame. Again and again resourceful Humbert evoked Charlotte as seen in the raree-show of a manly imagination. She was well groomed and shapely, this I could say for her, and she was my Lolita’s big sisterthis notion, perhaps, I could keep up if only I did not visualize too realistically her heavy hips, round knees, ripe bust, the coarse pink skin of her neck (“coarse” by comparison with silk and honey) and all the rest of that sorry and dull thing: a handsome woman. The sun made its usual round of the house as the afternoon ripened into evening. I had a drink. And another. And yet another. Gin and pineapple juice, my favorite mixture, always double my energy. I decided to busy myself with our unkempt lawn. Une petite attention. It was crowded with dandelions, and a cursed dogI loathe dogshad defiled the flat stones where a sundial had once stood. Most of the dandelions had changed from suns to moons. The gin and Lolita were dancing in me, and I almost fell over the folding chairs that I attempted to dislodge. Incarnadine zebras! There are some eructations that sound like cheersat least, mine did. An old fence at the back of the garden separated us from the neighbor’s garbage receptacles and lilacs; but there was nothing between the front end of our lawn (where it sloped along one side of the house) and the street. Therefore I was able to watch (with the smirk of one about to perform a good action) for the return of Charlotte: that tooth should be extracted at once. As I lurched and lunged with the hand mower, bits of grass optically twittering in the low sun, I kept an eye on that section of suburban street. It curved in from under an archway of huge shade trees, then sped towards us down, down, quite sharply, past old Miss Opposite’s ivied brick house and high-sloping lawn (much trimmer than ours) and disappeared behind our own front porch which I could not see from where I happily belched and labored. The dandelions perished. A reek of sap mingled with the pineapple. Two little girls, Marion and Mabel, whose comings and goings I had mechanically followed of late (but who could replace my Lolita?) went toward the avenue (from which our Lawn Street cascaded), one pushing a bicycle, the other feeding from a paper bag, both talking at the top of their sunny voices. Leslie, old Miss Opposite’s gardener and chauffeur, a very amiable and athletic Negro, grinned at me from afar and shouted, re-shouted, commented by gesture, that I was mighty energetic today. The fool dog of the prosperous junk dealer next door ran after a blue carnot Charlotte’s. The prettier of the two little girls (Mabel, I think), shorts, halter with little to halt, bright haira nymphet, by Pan!ran back down the street crumpling her paper bag and was hidden from this Green Goat by the frontage of Mr. And Mrs. Humbert’s residence. A station wagon popped out of the leafy shade of the avenue, dragging some of it on its roof before the shadows snapped, and swung by at an idiotic pace, the sweatshirted driver roof-holding with his left hand and the junkman’s dog tearing alongside. There was a smiling pauseand then, with a flutter in my breast, I witnessed the return of the Blue Sedan. I saw it glide downhill and disappear behind the corner of the house. I had a glimpse of her calm pale profile. It occurred to me that until she went upstairs she would not know whether I had gone or not. A minute later, with an expression of great anguish on her face, she looked down at me from the window of Lo’s room. By sprinting upstairs, I managed to reach that room before she left it. [bookmark: _Toc229911480]18 When the bride is a window and the groom is a widower; when the former has lived in Our Great Little Town for hardly two years, and the latter for hardly a month; when Monsieur wants to get the whole damned thing over with as quickly as possible, and Madame gives in with a tolerant smile; then, my reader, the wedding is generally a “quiet” affair. The bride may dispense with a tiara of orange blossoms securing her finger-tip veil, nor does she carry a white orchid in a prayer book. The bride’s little daughter might have added to the ceremonies uniting H. and H. a touch of vivid vermeil; but I knew I would not dare be too tender with cornered Lolita yet, and therefore agreed it was not worth while tearing the child away from her beloved Camp Q. My soi-disant passionate and lonely Charlotte was in everyday life matter-of-fact and gregarious. Moreover, I discovered that although she could not control her heart or her cries, she was a woman of principle. Immediately after she had become more or less my mistress (despite the stimulants, her “nervous, eager chria heroic chri!had some initial trouble, for which, however, he amply compensated her by a fantastic display of old-world endearments), good Charlotte interviewed me about my relations with God. I could have answered that on that score my mind was open; I said, insteadpaying my tribute to a pious platitudethat I believed in a cosmic spirit. Looking down at her fingernails, she also asked me had I not in my family a certain strange strain. I countered by inquiring whether she would still want to marry me if my father’s maternal grandfather had been, say, a Turk. She said it did not matter a bit; but that, if she ever found out I did not believe in Our Christian God, she would commit suicide. She said it so solemnly that it gave me the creeps. It was then I knew she was a woman of principle. Oh, she was very genteel: she said “excuse me” whenever a slight burp interrupted her flowing speech, called an envelope and ahnvelope, and when talking to her lady-friends referred to me as Mr. Humbert. I thought it would please her if I entered the community trailing some glamour after me. On the day of our wedding a little interview with me appeared in the Society Column of the Ramsdale Journal, with a photograph of Charlotte, one eyebrow up and a misprint in her name (“Hazer”). Despite this contretempts, the publicity warmed the porcelain cockles of her heartand made my rattles shake with awful glee. by engaging in church work as well as by getting to know the better mothers of Lo’s schoolmates, Charlotte in the course of twenty months or so had managed to become if not a prominent, at least an acceptable citizen, but never before had she come under that thrilling rubrique, and it was I who put her there, Mr. Edgar H. Humbert (I threw in the “Edgar” just for the heck of it), “writer and explorer.” McCoo’s brother, when taking it down, asked me what I had written. Whatever I told him came out as “several books on Peacock, Rainbow and other poets.” It was also noted that Charlotte and I had known each other for several years and that I was a distant relation of her first husband. I hinted I had had an affair with her thirteen years ago but this was not mentioned in print. To Charlotte I said that society columns should contain a shimmer of errors. Let us go on with this curious tale. When called upon to enjoy my promotion from lodger to lover, did I experience only bitterness and distaste? No. Mr. Humbert confesses to a certain titillation of his vanity, to some faint tenderness, even to a pattern of remorse daintily running along the steel of his conspiratorial dagger. Never had I thought that the rather ridiculous, through rather handsome Mrs. Haze, with her blind faith in the wisdom of her church and book club, her mannerisms of elocution, her harsh, cold, contemptuous attitude toward an adorable, downy-armed child of twelve, could turn into such a touching, helpless creature as soon as I laid my hands upon her which happened on the threshold of Lolita’s room whither she tremulously backed repeating “no, no, please no.” The transformation improved her looks. Her smile that had been such a contrived thing, thenceforth became the radiance of utter adorationa radiance having something soft and moist about it, in which, with wonder, I recognized a resemblance to the lovely, inane, lost look that Lo had when gloating over a new kind of concoction at the soda fountain or mutely admiring my expensive, always tailor-fresh clothes. Deeply fascinated, I would watch Charlotte while she swapped parental woes with some other lady and made that national grimace of feminine resignation (eyes rolling up, mouth drooping sideways) which, in an infantile form, I had seen Lo making herself. We had highballs before turning in, and with their help, I would manage to evoke the child while caressing the mother. This was the white stomach within which my nymphet had been a little curved fish in 1934. This carefully dyed hair, so sterile to my sense of smell and touch, acquired at certain lamplit moments in the poster bed the tinge, if not the texture, of Lolita’s curls. I kept telling myself, as I wielded my brand-new large-as-life wife, that biologically this was the nearest I could get to Lolita; that at Lolita’s age, Lotte had been as desirable a schoolgirl as her daughter was, and as Lolita’s daughter would be some day. I had my wife unearth from under a collection of shoes (Mr. Haze had a passion for them, it appears) a thirty-year-old album, so that I might see how Lotte had looked as a child; and even though the light was wrong and the dresses graceless, I was able to make out a dim first version of Lolita’s outline, legs, cheekbones, bobbed nose. Lottelita, Lolitchen. So I tom-peeped across the hedges of years, into wan little windows. And when, by means of pitifully ardent, naively lascivious caresses, she of the noble nipple and massive thigh prepared me for the performance of my nightly duty, it was still a nymphet’s scent that in despair I tried to pick up, as I bayed through the undergrowth of dark decaying forests. I simply can’t tell you how gentle, how touching my poor wife was. At breakfast, in the depressingly bright kitchen, with its chrome glitter and Hardware and Co. Calendar and cute breakfast nook (simulating that Coffee Shoppe where in their college days Charlotte and Humbert used to coo together), she would sit, robed in red, her elbow on the plastic-topped table, her cheek propped on her fist, and stare at me with intolerable tenderness as I consumed my ham and eggs. Humbert’s face might twitch with neuralgia, but in her eyes it vied in beauty and animation with the sun and shadows of leaves rippling on the white refrigerator. My solemn exasperation was to her the silence of love. My small income added to her even smaller one impressed her as a brilliant fortune; not because the resulting sum now sufficed for most middle-class needs, but because even my money shone in her eyes with the magic of my manliness, and she saw our joint account as one of those southern boulevards at midday that have solid shade on one side and smooth sunshine on the other, all the way to the end of a prospect, where pink mountains loom. Into the fifty days of our cohabitation Charlotte crammed the activities of as many years. The poor woman busied herself with a number of things she had foregone long before or had never been much interested in, as if (to prolong these Proustian intonations) by my marrying the mother of the child I loved I had enabled my wife to regain an abundance of youth by proxy. With the zest of a banal young bride, she started to “glorify the home.” Knowing as I did its every cranny by heartsince those days when from my chair I mentally mapped out Lolita’s course through the houseI had long entered into a sort of emotional relationship with it, with its very ugliness and dirt, and now I could almost feel the wretched thing cower in its reluctance to endure the bath of ecru and ocher and putt-buff-and-snuff that Charlotte planned to give it. She never got as far as that, thank God, but she did use up a tremendous amount of energy in washing window shades, waxing the slats of Venetian blinds, purchasing new shades and new blinds, returning them to the store, replacing them by others, and so on, in a constant chiaroscuro of smiles and frowns, doubts and pouts. She dabbled in cretonnes and chintzes; she changed the colors of the sofathe sacred sofa where a bubble of paradise had once burst in slow motion within me. She rearranged the furnitureand was pleased when she found, in a household treatise, that “it is permissible to separate a pair of sofa commodes and their companion lamps.” With the authoress of Your Home Is You, she developed a hatred for little lean chairs and spindle tables. She believed that a room having a generous expanse of glass, and lots of rich wood paneling was an example of the masculine type of room, whereas the feminine type was characterized by lighter-looking windows and frailer woodwork. The novels I had found her reading when I moved in were now replaced by illustrated catalogues and homemaking guides. From a firm located at 4640 Roosevelt Blvd., Philadelphia, she ordered for our double bed a “damask covered 312 coil mattress”although the old one seemed to me resilient and durable enough for whatever it had to support. A Midwesterner, as her late husband had also been, she had lived in coy Ramsdale, the gem of an eastern state, not long enough to know all the nice people. She knew slightly the jovial dentist who lived in a kind of ramshackle wooden chateau behind our lawn. She had met at a church tea the “snooty” wife of the local junk dealer who owned the “colonial” white horror at the corner of the avenue. Now and then she “visited with” old Miss Opposite; but the more patrician matrons among those she called upon, or met at lawn functions, or had telephone chats withsuch dainty ladies as Mrs. Glave, Mrs. Sheridan, Mrs. McCrystal, Mrs. Knight and others, seldom seemed to call on my neglected Charlotte. Indeed, the only couple with whom she had relations of real cordiality, devoid of any arrire-pense or practical foresight, were the Farlows who had just come back from a business trip to Chile in time to attend our wedding, with the Chatfields, McCoos, and a few others (but not Mrs. Junk or the even prouder Mrs. Talbot). John Farlow was a middle-aged, quiet, quietly athletic, quietly successful dealer in sporting goods, who had an office at Parkington, forty miles away: it was he who got me the cartridges for that Colt and showed me how to use it, during a walk in the woods one Sunday; he was also what he called with a smile a part-time lawyer and had handled some of Charlotte’s affairs. Jean, his youngish wife (and first cousin), was a long-limbed girl in harlequin glasses with two boxer dogs, two pointed breasts and a big red mouth. She paintedlandscapes and portraitsand vividly do I remember praising, over cocktails, the picture she had made of a niece of hers, little Rosaline Honeck, a rosy honey in a Girl Scout uniform, beret of green worsted, belt of green webbing, charming shoulder-long curlsand John removed his pipe and said it was a pity Dolly (my Dolita) and Rosaline were so critical of each other at school, but he hoped, and we all hoped, they would get on better when they returned from their respective camps. We talked of the school. It had its drawbacks, and it had its virtues. “Of course, too many of the tradespeople here are Italians,” said John, “but on the other hand we are still spared” “I wish,” interrupted Jean with a laugh, “Dolly and Rosaline were spending the summer together.” Suddenly I imagined Lo returning from campbrown, warm, drowsy, druggedand was ready to weep with passion and impatience. [bookmark: _Toc229911481]19 A few words more about Mrs. Humbert while the going is good (a bad accident is to happen quite soon). I had been always aware of the possessive streak in her, but I never thought she would be so crazily jealous of anything in my life that had not been she. She showed a fierce insatiable curiosity for my past. She desired me to resuscitate all my loves so that she might make me insult them, and trample upon them, and revoke them apostately and totally, thus destroying my past. She made me tell her about my marriage to Valeria, who was of course a scream; but I also had to invent, or to pad atrociously, a long series of mistresses for Charlotte’s morbid delectation. To keep her happy, I had to present her with an illustrated catalogue of them, all nicely differentiated, according to the rules of those American ads where schoolchildren are pictured in a subtle ratio of races, with oneonly one, but as cute as they make themchocolate-colored round-eyed little lad, almost in the very middle of the front row. So I presented my women, and had them smile and swaythe languorous blond, the fiery brunette, the sensual copperheadas if on parade in a bordello. The more popular and platitudinous I made them, the more Mrs. Humbert was pleased with the show. Never in my life had I confessed so much or received so many confessions. The sincerity and artlessness with which she discussed what she called her “love-life,” from first necking to connubial catch-as-catch-can, were, ethically, in striking contrast with my glib compositions, but technically the two sets were congeneric since both were affected by the same stuff (soap operas, psychoanalysis and cheap novelettes) upon which I drew for my characters and she for her mode of expression. I was considerably amused by certain remarkable sexual habits that the good Harold Haze had had according to Charlotte who thought my mirth improper; but otherwise her autobiography was as devoid of interests as her autopsy would have been. I never saw a healthier woman than she, despite thinning diets. Of my Lolita she seldom spokemore seldom, in fact, than she did of the blurred, blond male baby whose photograph to the exclusion of all others adorned our bleak bedroom. In once of her tasteless reveries, she predicted that the dead infant’s soul would return to earth in the form of the child she would bear in her present wedlock. And although I felt no special urge to supply the Humbert line with a replica of Harold’s production (Lolita, with an incestuous thrill, I had grown to regard as my child), it occurred to me that a prolonged confinement, with a nice Cesarean operation and other complications in a safe maternity ward sometime next spring, would give me a chance to be alone with my Lolita for weeks, perhapsand gorge the limp nymphet with sleeping pills. Oh, she simply hated her daughter! What I thought especially vicious was that she had gone out of her way to answer with great diligence the questionnaires in a fool’s book she had (A guide to Your Child’s Development), published in Chicago. The rigmarole went year by year, and Mom was supposed to fill out a kind of inventory at each of her child’s birthdays. On Lo’s twelfth, January 1, 1947, Charlotte Haze, ne Becker, had underlined the following epithets, ten out of forty, under “Your Child’s Personality”: aggressive, boisterous, critical, distrustful, impatient, irritable, inquisitive, listless, negativistic (underlined twice) and obstinate. She had ignored the thirty remaining adjectives, among which were cheerful, co-operative, energetic, and so forth. It was really maddening. With a brutality that otherwise never appeared in my loving wife’s mild nature, she attacked and routed such of Lo’s little belongings that had wandered to various parts of the house to freeze there like so many hypnotized bunnies. Little did the good lady dream that one morning when an upset stomach (the result of my trying to improve on her sauces) had prevented me from accompanying her to church, I deceived her with one of Lolita’s anklets. And then, her attitude toward my saporous darling’s letters! “Dear Mummy and Hummy, Hope you are fine. Thank you very much for the candy. I [crossed out and re-written again] I lost my new sweater in the woods. It has been cold here for the last few days. I’m having a time. Love, Dolly.” “The dumb child,” said Mrs. Humbert, “has left out a word before ‘time.’ That sweater was all-wool, and I wish you would not send her candy without consulting me.” [bookmark: _Toc229911482]20 There was a woodlake (Hourglass Lakenot as I had thought it was spelled) a few miles from Ramsdale, and there was one week of great heat at the end of July when we drove there daily. I am now obliged to describe in some tedious detail our last swim there together, one tropical Tuesday morning. We had left the car in a parking area not far from the road and were making our way down a path cut through the pine forest to the lake, when Charlotte remarked that Jean Farlow, in quest of rare light effects (Jean belonged to the old school of painting), had seen Leslie taking a dip “in the ebony” (as John had quipped) at five o’clock in the morning last Sunday. “The water,” I said, “must have been quite cold.” “That is not the point,” said the logical doomed dear. “He is subnormal, you see. And,” she continued (in that carefully phrased way of hers that was beginning to tell on my health), “I have a very definite feeling our Louise is in love with that moron.” Feeling. “We feel Dolly is not doing as well” etc. (from an old school report). The Humberts walked on, sandaled and robed. “Do you know, Hum: I have one most ambitious dream,” pronounced Lady Hum, lowering her headshy of that dreamand communing with the tawny ground. “I would love to get hold of a real trained servant maid like that German girl the Talbots spoke of; and have her live in the house.” “No room,” I said. “Come,” she said with her quizzical smile, “surely, chri, you underestimate the possibilities of the Humbert home. We would put her in Lo’s room. I intended to make a guestroom of that hole anyway. It’s the coldest and meanest in the whole house.” “What are you talking about?” I asked, the skin of my cheekbones tensing up (this I take the trouble to note only because my daughter’s skin did the same when she felt that way: disbelief, disgust, irritation). “Are you bothered by Romantic Associations?” queried my wifein allusion to her first surrender. “Hell no,” said I. “I just wonder where will you put your daughter when you get your guest or your maid.” “Ah,” said Mrs. Humbert, dreaming, smiling, drawing out the “Ah” simultaneously with the raise of one eyebrow and a soft exhalation of breath. “Little Lo, I’m afraid, does not enter the picture at all, at all. Little Lo goes straight from camp to a good boarding school with strict discipline and some sound religious training. And thenBeardsley College. I have it all mapped out, you need not worry.” She went on to say that she, Mrs. Humbert, would have to overcome her habitual sloth and write to Miss Phalli’s sister who taught at St. Algebra. The dazzling lake emerged. I said I had forgotten my sunglasses in the car and would catch up with her. I had always thought that wringing one’s hands was a fictional gesturethe obscure outcome, perhaps, of some medieval ritual; but as I took to the woods, for a spell of despair and desperate meditation, this was the gesture (“look, Lord, at these chains!”) that would have come nearest to the mute expression of my mood. Had Charlotte been Valeria, I would have known how to handle the situation; and “handle” is the word I want. In the good old days, by merely twisting fat Valechka’s brittle wrist (the one she had fallen upon from a bicycle) I could make her change her mind instantly; but anything of the sort in regard to Charlotte was unthinkable. Bland American Charlotte frightened me. My lighthearted dream of controlling her through her passion for me was all wrong. I dared not do anything to spoil the image of me she had set up to adore. I had toadied to her when she was the awesome duenna of my darling, and a groveling something still persisted in my attitude toward her. The only ace I held was her ignorance of my monstrous love for her Lo. She had been annoyed by Lo’s liking me; but my feelings she could not divine. To Valeria I might have said: “Look here, you fat fool, c’est moi qui dcide what is good for Dolores Humbert.” To Charlotte, I could not even say (with ingratiating calm): “Excuse me, my dear, I disagree. Let us give the child one more chance. Let me be her private tutor for a year or so. You once told me yourself” In fact, I could not say anything at all to Charlotte about the child without giving myself away. Oh, you cannot imagine (as I had never imagined) what these women of principle are! Charlotte, who did not notice the falsity of all the everyday conventions and rules of behavior, and foods, and books, and people she doted upon, would distinguish at once a false intonation in anything I might say with a view to keeping Lo near. She was like a musician who may be an odious vulgarian in ordinary life, devoid of tact and taste; but who will hear a false note in music with diabolical accuracy of judgment. To break Charlotte’s will, I would have to break her heart. If I broke her heart, her image of me would break too. If I said: “Either I have my way with Lolita, and you help me to keep the matter quiet, or we part at once,” she would have turned as pale as a woman of clouded glass and slowly replied: “All right, whatever you add or retract, this is the end.” And the end it would be. Such, then, was the mess. I remember reaching the parking area and pumping a handful of rust-tasting water, and drinking it as avidly as if it would give me magic wisdom, youth, freedom, a tiny concubine. For a while, purple-robed, heel-dangling, I sat on the edge of one of the rude tables, under the whooshing pines. In the middle distance, two little maidens in shorts and halters came out of a sun-dappled privy marked “Women.” Gum-chewing Mabel (or Mabel’s understudy) laboriously, absentmindedly straddled a bicycle, and Marion, shaking her hair because of the flies, settled behind, legs wide apart; and wobbling, they slowly, absently, merged with the light and shade. Lolita! Father and daughter melting into these woods! The natural solution was to destroy Mrs. Humbert. But how? No man can bring about the perfect murder; chance, however, can do it. There was the famous dispatch of a Mme Lacour in Arles, southern France, at the close of last century. An unidentified bearded six-footer, who, it was later conjectured, had been the lady’s secret lover, walked up to her in a crowded street, soon after her marriage to Colonel Lacour, and mortally stabbed her in the back, three times, while the Colonel, a small bulldog of a man, hung onto the murderer’s arm. By a miraculous and beautiful coincidence, right at the moment when the operator was in the act of loosening the angry little husband’s jaws (while several onlookers were closing in upon the group), a cranky Italian in the house nearest to the scene set off by sheer accident some kind of explosive he was tinkering with, and immediately the street was turned into a pandemonium of smoke, falling bricks and running people. The explosion hurt no one (except that it knocked out game Colonel Lacour); but the lady’s vengeful lover ran when the others ranand lived happily ever after. Now look what happens when the operator himself plans a perfect removal. I walked down to Hourglass Lake. The spot from which we and a few other “nice” couples (the Farlows, the Chatfields) bathed was a kind of small cove; my Charlotte liked it because it was almost “a private beach.” The main bathing facilities (or drowning facilities” as the Ramsdale Journal had had occasion to say) were in the left (eastern) part of the hourglass, and could not be seen from our covelet. To our right, the pines soon gave way to a curve of marshland which turned again into forest on the opposite side. I sat down beside my wife so noiselessly that she started. “Shall we go in?” she asked. “We shall in a minute. Let me follow a train of thought.” I thought. More than a minute passed. “All right. Come on.” “Was I on that train?” “You certainly were.” “I hope so,” said Charlotte entering the water. It soon reached the gooseflesh of her thick thighs; and then, joining her outstretched hands, shutting her mouth tight, very plain-faced in her black rubber headgear, charlotte flung herself forward with a great splash. Slowly we swam out into the shimmer of the lake. On the opposite bank, at least a thousand paces away (if one cold walk across water), I could make out the tiny figures of two men working like beavers on their stretch of shore. I knew exactly who they were: a retired policeman of Polish descent and the retired plumber who owned most of the timber on that side of the lake. And I also knew they were engaged in building, just for the dismal fun of the thing, a wharf. The knocks that reached us seemed so much bigger than what could be distinguished of those dwarfs’ arms and tools; indeed, one suspected the director of those acrosonic effects to have been at odds with the puppet-master, especially since the hefty crack of each diminutive blow lagged behind its visual version. The short white-sand strip of “our” beachfrom which by now we had gone a little way to reach deep waterwas empty on weekday mornings. There was nobody around except those two tiny very busy figures on the opposite side, and a dark-red private plane that droned overhead, and then disappeared in the blue. The setting was really perfect for a brisk bubbling murder, and here was the subtle point: the man of law and the man of water were just near enough to witness an accident and just far enough not to observe a crime. They were near enough to hear a distracted bather thrashing about and bellowing for somebody to come and help him save his drowning wife; and they were too far to distinguish (if they happened to look too soon) that the anything but distracted swimmer was finishing to tread his wife underfoot. I was not yet at that stage; I merely want to convey the ease of the act, the nicety of the setting! So there was Charlotte swimming on with dutiful awkwardness (she was a very mediocre mermaid), but not without a certain solemn pleasure (for was not her merman by her side?); and as I watched, with the stark lucidity of a future recollection (you knowtrying to see things as you will remember having seen them), the glossy whiteness of her wet face so little tanned despite all her endeavors, and her pale lips, and her naked convex forehead, and the tight black cap, and the plump wet neck, I knew that all I had to do was to drop back, take a deep breath, then grab her by the ankle and rapidly dive with my captive corpse. I say corpse because surprise, panic and inexperience would cause her to inhale at once a lethal gallon of lake, while I would be able to hold on for at least a full minute, open-eyed under water. The fatal gesture passed like the tail of a falling star across the blackness of the contemplated crime. It was like some dreadful silent ballet, the male dancer holding the ballerina by her foot and streaking down through watery twilight. I might come up for a mouthful of air while still holding her down, and then would dive again as many times as would be necessary, and only when the curtain came down on her for good, would I permit myself to yell for help. And when some twenty minutes later the two puppets steadily growing arrived in a rowboat, one half newly painted, poor Mrs. Humbert Humbert, the victim of a cramp or coronary occlusion, or both, would be standing on her head in the inky ooze, some thirty feet below the smiling surface of Hourglass Lake. Simple, was it not? But what d’ye know, folksI just could not make myself do it! She swam beside me, a trustful and clumsy seal, and all the logic of passion screamed in my ear: Now is the time! And, folks, I just couldn’t! In silence I turned shoreward and gravely, dutifully, she also turned, and still hell screamed its counsel, and still I could not make myself drown the poor, slippery, big-bodied creature. The scream grew more and more remote as I realized the melancholy fact that neither tomorrow, nor Friday, nor any other day or night, could I make myself put her to death. Oh, I could visualize myself slapping Valeria’s breasts out of alignment, or otherwise hurting herand I could see myself, no less clearly, shooting her lover in the underbelly and making him say “akh!” and sit down. But I could not kill Charlotteespecially when things were on the whole not quite as hopeless, perhaps, as they seemed at first wince on that miserable morning. Were I to catch her by her strong kicking foot; were I to see her amazed look, hear her awful voice; were I still to go through with the ordeal, her ghost would haunt me all my life. Perhaps if the year were 1447 instead of 1947 I might have hoodwinked my gentle nature by administering her some classical poison from a hollow agate, some tender philter of death. But in our middle-class nosy era it would not have come off the way it used to in the brocaded palaces of the past. Nowadays you have to be a scientist if you want to be a killer. No, no, I was neither. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the majority of sex offenders that hanker for some throbbing, sweet-moaning, physical but not necessarily coital, relation with a girl-child, are innocuous, inadequate, passive, timid strangers who merely ask the community to allow them to pursue their practically harmless, so-called aberrant behavior, their little hot wet private acts of sexual deviation without the police and society cracking down upon them. We are not sex fiends! We do not rape as good soldiers do. We are unhappy, mild, dog-eyed gentlemen, sufficiently well integrated to control our urge in the presence of adults, but ready to give years and years of life for one chance to touch a nymphet. Emphatically, no killers are we. Poets never kill. Oh, my poor Charlotte, do not hate me in your eternal heaven among an eternal alchemy of asphalt and rubber and metal and stonebut thank God, not water, not water! Nonetheless it was a very close shave, speaking quite objectively. And now comes the point of my perfect-crime parable. We sat down on our towels in the thirsty sun. She looked around, loosened her bra, and turned over on her stomach to give her back a chance to be feasted upon. She said she loved me. She sighed deeply. She extended one arm and groped in the pocket of her robe for her cigarettes. She sat up and smoked. She examined her right shoulder. She kissed me heavily with open smoky mouth. Suddenly, down the sand bank behind us, from under the bushes and pines, a stone rolled, then another. “Those disgusting prying kids,” said Charlotte, holding up her big bra to her breast and turning prone again. “I shall have to speak about that to Peter Krestovski.” From the debouchment of the trail came a rustle, a footfall, and Jean Farlow marched down with her easel and things. “You scared us,” said Charlotte. Jean said she had been up there, in a place of green concealment, spying on nature (spies are generally shot), trying to finish a lakescape, but it was no good, she had no talent whatever (which was quite true)”And have you ever tried painting, Humbert?” Charlotte, who was a little jealous of Jean, wanted to know if John was coming. He was. He was coming home for lunch today. He had dropped her on the way to Parkington and should be picking her up any time now. It was a grand morning. She always felt a traitor to Cavall and Melampus for leaving them roped on such gorgeous days. She sat down on the white sand between Charlotte and me. She wore shorts. Her long brown legs were about as attractive to me as those of a chestnut mare. She showed her gums when she smiled. “I almost put both of you into my lake,” she said. “I even noticed something you overlooked. You [addressing Humbert] had your wrist watch on in, yes, sir, you had.” “Waterproof,” said Charlotte softly, making a fish mouth. Jean took my wrist upon her knee and examined Charlotte’s gift, then put back Humbert’s hand on the sand, palm up. “You could see anything that way,” remarked Charlotte coquettishly. Jean sighed. “I once saw,” she said, “two children, male and female, at sunset, right here, making love. Their shadows were giants. And I told you about Mr. Tomson at daybreak. Next time I expect to see fat old Ivor in the ivory. He is really a freak, that man. Last time he told me a completely indecent story about his nephew. It appears” “Hullo there,” said John’s voice. [bookmark: _Toc229911483]21 My habit of being silent when displeased or, more exactly, the cold and scaly quality of my displeased silence, used to frighten Valeria out of her wits. She used to whimper and wail, saying “Ce qui me rend folle, c’est que je ne sais quoi tu penses quand tu es comme a.” I tried being silent with Charlotteand she just chirped on, or chucked my silence under the chin. An astonishing woman! I would retire to my former room, now a regular “studio,” mumbling I had after all a learned opus to write, and cheerfully Charlotte went on beautifying the home, warbling on the telephone and writing letters. From my window, through the lacquered shiver of poplar leaves, I could see her crossing the street and contentedly mailing her letter to Miss Phalen’s sister. The week of scattered showers and shadows which elapsed after our last visit to the motionless sands of Hourglass Lake was one of the gloomiest I can recall. Then came two or three dim rays of hopebefore the ultimate sunburst. It occurred to me that I had a fine brain in beautiful working order and that I might as well use it. If I dared not meddle with my wife’s plans for her daughter (getting warmer and browner every day in the fair weather of hopeless distance), I could surely devise some general means to assert myself in a general way that might be later directed toward a particular occasion. One evening, Charlotte herself provided me with an opening. “I have a surprise for you,” she said looking at me with fond eyes over a spoonful of soup. “In the fall we two are going to England.” I swallowed my spoonful, wiped my lips with pink paper (Oh, the cool rich linens of Mirana Hotel!) and said: “I have also a surprise for you, my dear. We two are not going to England.” “Why, what’s the matter?” she said, lookingwith more surprise than I had counted uponat my hands (I was involuntarily folding and tearing and crushing and tearing again the innocent pink napkin). My smiling face set her somewhat at ease, however. “The matter is quite simple,” I replied. “Even in the most harmonious of households, as ours is, not all decisions are taken by the female partner. There are certain things that the husband is there to decide. I can well imagine the thrill that you, a healthy American gal, must experience at crossing the Atlantic on the same ocean liner with Lady Bumbleor Sam Bumble, the Frozen Meat King, or a Hollywood harlot. And I doubt not that you and I would make a pretty ad for the Traveling Agency when portrayed lookingyou, frankly starry-eyed, I, controlling my envious admirationat the Palace Sentries, or Scarlet Guards, or Beaver Eaters, or whatever they are called. But I happen to be allergic to Europe, including merry old England. As you well know, I have nothing but very sad associations with the Old and rotting World. No colored ads in your magazines will change the situation.” “My darling,” said Charlotte. “I really” “No, wait a minute. The present matter is only incidental. I am concerned with a general trend. When you wanted me to spend my afternoons sunbathing on the Lake instead of doing my work, I gladly gave in and became a bronzed glamour boy for your sake, instead of remaining a scholar and, well, an educator. When you lead me to bridge and bourbon with the charming Farlows, I meekly follow. No, please, wait. When you decorate your home, I do not interfere with your schemes. When you decidewhen you decide all kinds of matters, I may be in complete, or in partial, let us say, disagreementbut I say nothing. I ignore the particular. I cannot ignore the general. I love being bossed by you, but every game has its rules. I am not cross. I am not cross at all. Don’t do that. But I am one half of this household, and have a small but distinct voice.” She had come to my side and had fallen on her knees and was slowly, but very vehemently, shaking her head and clawing at my trousers. She said she had never realized. She said I was her ruler and her god. She said Louise had gone, and let us make love right away. She said I must forgive her or she would die. This little incident filled me with considerable elation. I told her quietly that it was a matter not of asking forgiveness, but of changing one’s ways; and I resolved to press my advantage and spend a good deal of time, aloof and moody, working at my bookor at least pretending to work. The “studio bed” in my former room had long been converted into the sofa it had always been at heart, and Charlotte had warned me since the very beginning of our cohabitation that gradually the room would be turned into a regular “writer’s den.” A couple of days after the British Incident, I was sitting in a new and very comfortable easy chair, with a large volume in my lap, when Charlotte rapped with her ring finger and sauntered in. How different were her movements from those of my Lolita, when she used to visit me in her dear dirty blue jeans, smelling of orchards in nymphetland; awkward and fey, and dimly depraved, the lower buttons of her shirt unfastened. Let me tell you, however, something. Behind the brashness of little Haze, and the poise of big Haze, a trickle of shy life ran that tasted the same, that murmured the same. A great French doctor once told my father that in near relatives the faintest gastric gurgle has the same “voice.” So Charlotte sauntered in. She felt all was not well between us. I had pretended to fall asleep the night before, and the night before that, as soon as we had gone to bed, and had risen at dawn. Tenderly, she inquired if she were not “interrupting.” “Not at the moment,” I said, turning volume C of the Girls’ Encyclopedia around to examine a picture printed “bottom-edge” as printers say. Charlotte went up to a little table of imitation mahogany with a drawer. She put her hand upon it. The little table was ugly, no doubt, but it had done nothing to her. “I have always wanted to ask you,” she said (businesslike, not coquettish), “why is this thing locked up? Do you want it in this room? It’s so abominably uncouth.” “Leave it alone,” I said. I was Camping in Scandinavia. “Is there a key?” “Hidden.” “Oh, Hum... “ “Locked up love letters.” She gave me one of those wounded-doe looks that irritated me so much, and then, not quite knowing if I was serious, or how to keep up the conversation, stood for several slow pages (Campus, Canada, Candid Camera, Candy) peering at the window pane rather than through it, drumming upon it with sharp almond-and-rose fingernails. Presently (at Canoeing or Canvasback) she strolled up to my chair and sank down, tweedily, weightily, on its arm, inundating me with the perfume my first wife had used. “Would his lordship like to spend the fall here?” she asked, pointing with her little finger at an autumn view in a conservative Eastern State. “Why?” (very distinctly and slowly). She shrugged. (Probably Harold used to take a vacation at that time. Open season. Conditional reflex on her part.) “I think I know where that is,” she said, still pointing. “There is a hotel I remember, Enchanted Hunters, quaint, isn’t it? And the food is a dream. And nobody bothers anybody.” She rubbed her cheek against my temple. Valeria soon got over that. “Is there anything special you would like for dinner, dear? John and Jean will drop in later.” I answered with a grunt. She kissed me on my underlip, and, brightly saying she would bake a cake (a tradition subsisted from my lodging days that I adored her cakes), left me to my idleness. Carefully putting down the open book where she had sat (it attempted to send forth a rotation of waves, but an inserted pencil stopped the pages), I checked the hiding place of the key: rather self-consciously it lay under the old expensive safety razor I had used before she bought me a much better and cheaper one. Was it the perfect hiding placethere, under the razor, in the groove of its velvet-lined case? The case lay in a small trunk where I kept various business papers. Could I improve upon this? Remarkable how difficult it is to conceal thingsespecially when one’s wife keeps monkeying with the furniture. [bookmark: _Toc229911484]22 I think it was exactly a week after our last swim that the noon mail brought a reply from the second Miss Phalen. The lady wrote she had just returned to St. Algebra from her sister’s funeral. “Euphemia had never been the same after breaking that hip.” As to the matter of Mrs. Humbert’s daughter, she wished to report that it was too late to enroll her this year; but that she, the surviving Phalen, was practically certain that if Mr. and Mrs. Humbert brought Dolores over in January, her admittance might be arranged. Next day, after lunch, I went to see “our” doctor, a friendly fellow whose perfect bedside manner and complete reliance on a few patented drugs adequately masked his ignorance of, and indifference to, medical science. The fact that Lo would have to come back to Ramsdale was a treasure of anticipation. For this event I wanted to be fully prepared. I had in fact begun my campaign earlier, before Charlotte made that cruel decision of hers. I had to be sure when my lovely child arrived, that very night, and then night after night, until St. Algebra took her away from me, I would possess the means of putting two creatures to sleep so thoroughly that neither sound nor touch should rouse them. Throughout most of July I had been experimenting with various sleeping powders, trying them out on Charlotte, a great taker of pills. The last dose I had given her (she thought it was a tablet of mild bromidesto anoint her nerves) had knocked her out for four solid hours. I had put the radio at full blast. I had blazed in her face an olisbos-like flashlight. I had pushed her, pinched her, prodded herand nothing had disturbed the rhythm of her calm and powerful breathing. However, when I had done such a simple thing as kiss her, she had awakened at once, as fresh and strong as an octopus (I barely escaped). This would not do, I thought; had to get something still safer. At first, Dr. Byron did not seem to believe me when I said his last prescription was no match for my insomnia. He suggested I try again, and for a moment diverted my attention by showing me photographs of his family. He had a fascinating child of Dolly’s age; but I saw through his tricks and insisted he prescribe the mightiest pill extant. He suggested I play golf, but finally agreed to give me something that, he said, “would really work”; and going to a cabinet, he produced a vial of violet-blue capsules banded with dark purple at one end, which, he said, had just been placed on the market and were intended not for neurotics whom a draft of water could calm if properly administered, but only for great sleepless artists who had to die for a few hours in order to live for centuries. I love to fool doctors, and though inwardly rejoicing, pocketed the pills with a skeptical shrug. Incidentally, I had had to be careful with him. Once, in another connection, a stupid lapse on my part made me mention my last sanatorium, and I thought I saw the tips of his ears twitch. Being not at all keen for Charlotte or anybody else to know that period of my past, I had hastily explained that I had once done some research among the insane for a novel. But no matter; the old rogue certainly had a sweet girleen. I left in great spirits. Steering my wife’s car with one finger, I contentedly rolled homeward. Ramsdale had, after all, lots of charm. The cicadas whirred; the avenue had been freshly watered. Smoothly, almost silkily, I turned down into our steep little street. Everything was somehow so right that day. So blue and green. I knew the sun shone because my ignition key was reflected in the windshield; and I knew it was exactly half past three because the nurse who came to massage Miss Opposite every afternoon was tripping down the narrow sidewalk in her white stockings and shoes. As usual, Junk’s hysterical setter attacked me as I rolled downhill, and as usual, the local paper was lying on the porch where it had just been hurled by Kenny. The day before I had ended the regime of aloofness I had imposed upon myself, and now uttered a cheerful homecoming call as I opened the door of the living room. With her ream-white nape and bronze bun to me, wearing the yellow blouse and maroon slacks she had on when I first met her, Charlotte sat at the corner bureau writing a letter. My hand still on the doorknob, I repeated my hearty cry. Her writing hand stopped. She sat still for a moment; then she slowly turned in her chair and rested her elbow on its curved back. Her face, disfigured by her emotion, was not a pretty sight as she stared at my legs and said: “The Haze woman, the big bitch, the old cat, the obnoxious mamma, thethe old stupid Haze is no longer your dupe. She hasshe has...” My fair accuser stopped, swallowing her venom and her tears. Whatever Humbert Humbert saidor attempted to sayis inessential. She went on: “You’re a monster. You’re a detestable, abominable, criminal fraud. If you come nearI’ll scream out the window. Get back!” Again, whatever H.H. murmured may be omitted, I think. “I am leaving tonight. This is all yours. Only you’ll never, never see that miserable brat again. Get out of this room.” Reader, I did. I went up to the ex-semi-studio. Arms akimbo, I stood for a moment quite still and self-composed, surveying from the threshold the raped little table with its open drawer, a key hanging from the lock, four other household keys on the table top. I walked across the landing into the Humberts’ bedroom, and calmly removed my diary from under her pillow into my pocket. Then I started to walk downstairs, but stopped half-way: she was talking on the telephone which happened to be plugged just outside the door of the living room. I wanted to hear what she was saying: she canceled an order for something or other, and returned to the parlor. I rearranged my respiration and went through the hallway to the kitchen. There, I opened a bottle of Scotch. She could never resist Scotch. Then I walked into the dining room and from there, through the half-open door, contemplated Charlotte’s broad back. “You are ruining my life and yours,” I said quietly. “Let us be civilized people. It is all your hallucination. You are crazy, Charlotte. The notes you found were fragments of a novel. Your name and hers were put in by mere chance. Just because they came handy. Think it over. I shall bring you a drink.” She neither answered nor turned, but went on writing in a scorching scrawl whatever she was writing. A third letter, presumably (two in stamped envelopes were already laid out on the desk). I went back to the kitchen. I set out two glasses (to St. Algebra? to Lo?) and opened the refrigerator. It roared at me viciously while I removed the ice from its heart. Rewrite. Let her read it again. She will not recall details. Change, forge. Write a fragment and show it to her or leave it lying around. Why do faucets sometimes whine so horribly? A horrible situation, really. The little pillow-shaped blocks of icepillows for polar teddy bear, Loemitted rasping, crackling, tortured sounds as the warm water loosened them in their cells. I bumped down the glasses side by side. I poured in the whiskey and a dram of soda. She had tabooed my pin. Bark and bang went the icebox. Carrying the glasses, I walked through the dining room and spoke through the parlor door which was a fraction ajar, not quite space enough for my elbow. “I have made you a drink,” I said. She did not answer, the mad bitch, and I placed the glasses on the sideboard near the telephone, which had started to ring. “Leslie speaking. Leslie Tomson,” said Leslie Tomson who favored a dip at dawn. “Mrs. Humbert, sir, has been run over and you’d better come quick.” I answered, perhaps a bit testily, that my wife was safe and sound, and still holding the receiver, I pushed open the door and said: “There’s this man saying you’ve been killed, Charlotte.” But there was no Charlotte in the living room. [bookmark: _Toc229911485]23 I rushed out. The far side of our steep little street presented a peculiar sight. A big black glossy Packard had climbed Miss Opposite’s sloping lawn at an angle from the sidewalk (where a tartan laprobe had dropped in a heap), and stood there, shining in the sun, its doors open like wings, its front wheels deep in evergreen shrubbery. To the anatomical right of this car, on the trim turn of the lawn-slope, an old gentleman with a white mustache, well-dresseddouble-breasted gray suit, polka-dotted bow-tielay supine, his long legs together, like a death-size wax figure. I have to put the impact of an instantaneous vision into a sequence of words; their physical accumulation in the page impairs the actual flash, the sharp unity of impression: Rug-heap, car, old man-doll, Miss O.’s nurse running with a rustle, a half-empty tumbler in her hand, back to the screened porchwhere the propped-up, imprisoned, decrepit lady herself may be imagined screeching, but not loud enough to drown the rhythmical yaps of the Junk setter walking from group to groupfrom a bunch of neighbors already collected on the sidewalk, near the bit of checked stuff, and back to the car which he had finally run to earth, and then to another group on the lawn, consisting of Leslie, two policemen and a sturdy man with tortoise shell glasses. At this point, I should explain that the prompt appearance of the patrolmen, hardly more than a minute after the accident, was due to their having been ticketing the illegally parked cars in a cross lane two blocks down the grade; that the fellow with the glasses was Frederick Beale, Jr., driver of the Packard; that his 79-year-old father, whom the nurse had just watered on the green bank where he laya banked banker so to speakwas not in a dead faint, but was comfortably and methodically recovering from a mild heart attack or its possibility; and, finally, that the laprobe on the sidewalk (where she had so often pointed out to me with disapproval the crooked green cracks) concealed the mangled remains of Charlotte Humbert who had been knocked down and dragged several feet by the Beale car as she was hurrying across the street to drop three letters in the mailbox, at the corner of Miss Opposite’s lawn. These were picked up and handed to me by a pretty child in a dirty pink frock, and I got rid of them by clawing them to fragments in my trouser pocket. Three doctors and the Farlows presently arrived on the scene and took over. The widower, a man of exceptional self-control, neither wept nor raved. He staggered a bit, that he did; but he opened his mouth only to impart such information or issue such directions as were strictly necessary in connection with the identification, examination and disposal of a dead woman, the top of her head a porridge of bone, brains, bronze hair and blood. The sun was still a blinding red when he was put to bed in Dolly’s room by his two friends, gentle John and dewy-eyed Jean; who, to be near, retired to the Humberts’ bedroom for the night; which, for all I know, they may not have spent as innocently as the solemnity of the occasion required. I have no reason to dwell, in this very special memoir, on the pre-funeral formalities that had to be attended to, or on the funeral itself, which was as quiet as the marriage had been. But a few incidents pertaining to those four or five days after Charlotte’s simple death, have to be noted. My first night of widowhood I was so drunk that I slept as soundly as the child who had slept in that bed. Next morning I hastened to inspect the fragments of letters in my pocket. They had got too thoroughly mixed up to be sorted into three complete sets. I assumed that “... and you had better find it because I cannot buy... “ came from a letter to Lo; and other fragments seemed to point to Charlotte’s intention of fleeing with Lo to Parkington, or even back to Pisky, lest the vulture snatch her precious lamb. Other tatters and shreds (never had I thought I had such strong talons) obviously referred to an application not to St. A. but to another boarding school which was said to be so harsh and gray and gaunt in its methods (although supplying croquet under the elms) as to have earned the nickname of “Reformatory for Young Ladies.” Finally, the third epistle was obviously addressed to me. I made out such items as “... after a year of separation we may... “ “... oh, my dearest, oh my... “ “... worse than if it had been a woman you kept...” “... or, maybe, I shall die...” But on the whole my gleanings made little sense; the various fragments of those three hasty missives were as jumbled in the palms of my hands as their elements had been in poor Charlotte’s head. That day John had to see a customer, and Jean had to feed her dogs, and so I was to be deprived temporarily of my friends’ company. The dear people were afraid I might commit suicide if left alone, and since no other friends were available (Miss Opposite was incommunicado, the McCoos were busy building a new house miles away, and the Chatfields had been recently called to Maine by some family trouble of their own), Leslie and Louise were commissioned to keep me company under the pretense of helping me to sort out and pack a multitude of orphaned things. In a moment of superb inspiration I showed the kind and credulous Farlows (we were waiting for Leslie to come for his paid tryst with Louise) a little photograph of Charlotte I had found among her affairs. From a boulder she smiled through blown hair. It had been taken in April 1934, a memorable spring. While on a business visit to the States, I had had occasion to spend several months in Pisky. We metand had a mad love affair. I was married, alas, and she was engaged to Haze, but after I returned to Europe, we corresponded through a friend, now dead. Jean whispered she had heard some rumors and looked at the snapshot, and, still looking, handed it to John, and John removed his pipe and looked at lovely and fast Charlotte Becker, and handed it back to me. Then they left for a few hours. Happy Louise was gurgling and scolding her swain in the basement. hardly had the Farlows gone than a blue-chinned cleric calledand I tried to make the interview as brief as was consistent with neither hurting his feelings nor arousing his doubts. Yes, I would devote all my life to the child’s welfare. Here, incidentally, was a little cross that Charlotte Becker had given me when we were both young. I had a female cousin, a respectable spinster in New York. There we would find a good private school for Dolly. Oh, what a crafty Humbert! For the benefit of Leslie and Louise who might (and did) report it to John and Jean I made a tremendously loud and beautifully enacted long-distance call and simulated a conversation with Shirley Holmes. When John and Jean returned, I completely took them in by telling them, in a deliberately wild and confused mutter, that Lo had gone with the intermediate group on a five-day hike and could not be reached. “Good Lord,” said Jean, “what shall we do?” John said it was perfectly simplehe would get the Climax police to find the hikersit would not take them an hour. In fact, he knew the country and “Look,” he continued, “why don’ I drive there right now, and you may sleep with Jean”(he did not really add that but Jean supported his offer so passionately that it might be implied). I broke down. I pleaded with John to let things remain the way they were. I said I could not bear to have the child all around me, sobbing, clinging to me, she was so high-strung, the experience might react on her future, psychiatrists have analyzed such cases. There was a sudden pause. “Well, you are the doctor,” said John a little bluntly. “But after all I was Charlotte’s friend and adviser. One would like to know what you are going to do about the child anyway.” “John,” cried Jean, “she is his child, not Harold Haze’s. Don’t you understand? Humbert is Dolly’s real father.” “I see,” said John. “I am sorry. Yes. I see. I did not realize that. It simplifies matters, of course. And whatever you feel is right.” The distraught father went on to say he would go and fetch his delicate daughter immediately after the funeral, and would do his best to give her a good time in totally different surroundings, perhaps a trip to New Mexico or Californiagranted, of course, he lived. So artistically did I impersonate the calm of ultimate despair, the hush before some crazy outburst, that the perfect Farlows removed me to their house. They had a good cellar, as cellars go in this country; and that was helpful, for I feared insomnia and a ghost. Now I must explain my reasons for keeping Dolores away. Naturally, at first, when Charlotte had just been eliminated and I re-entered the house a free father, and gulped down the two whiskey-and-sodas I had prepared, and topped them with a pint or two of my “pin,” and went to the bathroom to get away from neighbors and friends, there was but one thing in my mind and pulsenamely, the awareness that a few hours hence, warm, brownhaired, and mine, mine, mine, Lolita would be in my arms, shedding tears that I would kiss away faster than they could well. But as I stood wide-eyed and flushed before the mirror, John Farlow tenderly tapped to inquire if I was okayand I immediately realized it would be madness on my part to have her in the house with all those busybodies milling around and scheming to take her away from me. Indeed, unpredictable Lo herself mightwho knows?show some foolish distrust of me, a sudden repugnance, vague fear and the likeand gone would be the magic prize at the very instant of triumph. Speaking of busybodies, I had another visitorfriend Beale, the fellow who eliminated my wife. Stodgy and solemn, looking like a kind of assistant executioner, with his bulldog jowls, small black eyes, thickly rimmed glasses and conspicuous nostrils, he was ushered in by John who then left us, closing the door upon us, with the utmost tact. Suavely saying he had twins in my stepdaughter’s class, my grotesque visitor unrolled a large diagram he had made of the accident. It was, as my stepdaughter would have put it, “a beaut,” with all kinds of impressive arrows and dotted lines in varicolored inks. Mrs. H.H.’s trajectory was illustrated at several points by a series of those little outline figuresdoll-like wee career girl or WACused in statistics as visual aids. Very clearly and conclusively, this route came into contact with a boldly traced sinuous line representing two consecutive swervesone which the Beale car made to avoid the Junk dog (dog not shown), and the second, a kind of exaggerated continuation of the first, meant to avert the tragedy. A very black cross indicated the spot where the trim little outline figure had at last come to rest on the sidewalk. I looked for some similar mark to denote the place on the embankment where my visitor’s huge wax father had reclined, but there was none. That gentleman, however, had signed the document as a witness underneath the name of Leslie Tomson, Miss Opposite and a few other people. With his hummingbird pencil deftly and delicately flying from one point to another, Frederick demonstrated his absolute innocence and the recklessness of my wife: while he was in the act of avoiding the dog, she slipped on the freshly watered asphalt and plunged forward whereas she should have flung herself not forward but backward (Fred showed how by a jerk of his padded shoulder). I said it was certainly not his fault, and the inquest upheld my view. Breathing violently though jet-black tense nostrils, he shook his head and my hand; then, with an air of perfect savoir vivre and gentlemanly generosity, he offered to pay the funeral-home expenses. He expected me to refuse his offer. With a drunken sob of gratitude I accepted it. This took him aback. Slowly, incredulously, he repeated what he had said. I thanked him again, even more profusely than before. In result of that weird interview, the numbness of my soul was for a moment resolved. And no wonder! I had actually seen the agent of fate. I had palpated the very flesh of fateand its padded shoulder. A brilliant and monstrous mutation had suddenly taken place, and here was the instrument. Within the intricacies of the pattern (hurrying housewife, slippery pavement, a pest of a dog, steep grade, big car, baboon at its wheel), I could dimly distinguish my own vile contribution. Had I not been such a foolor such an intuitive geniusto preserve that journal, fluids produced by vindictive anger and hot shame would not have blinded Charlotte in her dash to the mailbox. But even had they blinded her, still nothing might have happened, had not precise fate, that synchronizing phantom, mixed within its alembic the car and the dog and the sun and the shade and the wet and the weak and the strong and the stone. Adieu, Marlene! Fat fate’s formal handshake (as reproduced by Beale before leaving the room) brought me out of my torpor; and I wept. Ladies and gentlemen of the juryI wept. [bookmark: _Toc229911486]24 The elms and the poplars were turning their ruffled backs to a sudden onslaught of wind, and a black thunderhead loomed above Ramsdale’s white church tower when I looked around me for the last time. For unknown adventures I was leaving the livid house where I had rented a room only ten weeks before. The shadesthrifty, practical bamboo shadeswere already down. On porches or in the house their rich textures lend modern drama. The house of heaven must seem pretty bare after that. A raindrop fell on my knuckles. I went back into the house for something or other while John was putting my bags into the car, and then a funny thing happened. I do not know if in these tragic notes I have sufficiently stressed the peculiar “sending” effect that the writer’s good lookspseudo-Celtic, attractively simian, boyishly manlyhad on women of every age and environment. Of course, such announcements made in the first person may sound ridiculous. But every once in a while I have to remind the reader of my appearance much as a professional novelist, who has given a character of his some mannerism or a dog, has to go on producing that dog or that mannerism every time the character crops up in the course of the book. There may be more to it in the present case. My gloomy good looks should be kept in the mind’s eye if my story is to be properly understood. Pubescent Lo swooned to Humbert’s charm as she did to hiccuppy music; adult Lotte loved me with a mature, possessive passion that I now deplore and respect more than I care to say. Jean Farlow, who was thirty-one and absolutely neurotic, had also apparently developed a strong liking for me. She was handsome in a carved-Indian sort of way, with a burnt sienna complexion. Her lips were like large crimson polyps, and when she emitted her special barking laugh, she showed large dull teeth and pale gums. She was very tall, wore either slacks with sandals or billowing skirts with ballet slippers, drank any strong liquor in any amount, had had two miscarriages, wrote stories about animals, painted, as the reader knows, lakescapes, was already nursing the cancer that was to kill her at thirty-three, and was hopelessly unattractive to me. Judge then of my alarm when a few seconds before I left (she and I stood in the hallway) Jean, with her always trembling fingers, took me by the temples, and, tears in her bright blue eyes, attempted, unsuccessfully, to glue herself to my lips. “Take care of yourself,” she said, “kiss your daughter for me.” A clap of thunder reverberated throughout the house, and she added: “Perhaps, somewhere, some day, at a less miserable time, we may see each other again” (Jean, whatever, wherever you are, in minus time-space or plus soul-time, forgive me all this, parenthesis included). And presently I was shaking hands with both of them in the street, the sloping street, and everything was whirling and flying before the approaching white deluge, and a truck with a mattress from Philadelphia was confidently rolling down to an empty house, and dust was running and writhing over the exact slab of stone where Charlotte, when they lifted the laprobe for me, had been revealed, curled up, her eyes intact, their black lashes still wet, matted, like yours, Lolita. [bookmark: _Toc229911487]25 One might suppose that with all blocks removed and a prospect of delirious and unlimited delights before me, I would have mentally sunk back, heaving a sigh of delicious relief. Eh bine, pas du tout! Instead of basking in the beams of smiling Chance, I was obsessed by all sorts of purely ethical doubts and fears. For instance: might it not surprise people that Lo was so consistently debarred from attending festive and funeral functions in her immediate family? You rememberwe had not had her at our wedding. Or another thing: granted it was the long hairy arm of Coincidence that had reached out to remove an innocent woman, might Coincidence not ignore in a heathen moment what its twin lamb had done and hand Lo a premature note of commiseration? True, the accident had been reported only by the Ramsdale Journalnot by the Parkington Recorder or the Climax Herald, Camp Q being in another state, and local deaths having no federal news interest; but I could not help fancying that somehow Dolly Haze had been informed already, and that at the very time I was on my way to fetch her, she was being driven to Ramsdale by friends unknown to me. Still more disquieting than all these conjectures and worries, was the fact that Humbert Humbert, a brand-new American citizen of obscure European origin, had taken no steps toward becoming the legal guardian of his dead wife’s daughter (twelve years and seven months old). Would I ever dare take those steps? I could not repress a shiver whenever I imagined my nudity hemmed in by mysterious statutes in the merciless glare of the Common Law. My scheme was a marvel of primitive art: I would whizz over to Camp Q, tell Lolita her mother was about to undergo a major operation at an invented hospital, and then keep moving with my sleepy nymphet from inn to inn while her mother got better and better and finally died. But as I traveled campward my anxiety grew. I could not bear to think I might not find Lolita thereor find, instead, another, scared, Lolita clamoring for some family friend: not the Farlows, thank Godshe hardly knew thembut might there not be other people I had not reckoned with? Finally, I decided to make the long-distance call I had simulated so well a few days before. It was raining hard when I pulled up in a muddy suburb of Parkington, just before the Fork, one prong of which bypassed the city and led to the highway which crossed the hills to Lake Climax and Camp Q. I flipped off the ignition and for quite a minute sat in the car bracing myself for that telephone call, and staring at the rain, at the inundated sidewalk, at a hydrant: a hideous thing, really, painted a thick silver and red, extending the red stumps of its arms to be varnished by the rain which like stylized blood dripped upon its argent chains. No wonder that stopping beside those nightmare cripples is taboo. I drove up to a gasoline station. A surprise awaited me when at last the coins had satisfactorily clanked down and a voice was allowed to answer mine. Holmes, the camp mistress, informed me that Dolly had gone Monday (this was Wednesday) on a hike in the hills with her group and was expected to return rather late today. Would I care to come tomorrow, and what was exactlyWithout going into details, I said that her mother was hospitalized, that the situation was grave, that the child should not be told it was grave and that she should be ready to leave with me tomorrow afternoon. The two voices parted in an explosion of warmth and good will, and through some freak mechanical flaw all my coins came tumbling back to me with a hitting-the-jackpot clatter that almost made me laugh despite the disappointment at having to postpone bliss. One wonders if this sudden discharge, this spasmodic refund, was not correlated somehow, in the mind of McFate, with my having invented that little expedition before ever learning of it as I did now. What next? I proceeded to the business center of Parkington and devoted the whole afternoon (the weather had cleared, the wet town was like silver-and-glass) to buying beautiful things for Lo. Goodness, what crazy purchases were prompted by the poignant predilection Humbert had in those days for check weaves, bright cottons, frills, puffed-out short sleeves, soft pleats, snug-fitting bodices and generously full skirts! Oh Lolita, you are my girl, as Vee was Poe’s and Bea Dante’s, and what little girl would not like to whirl in a circular skirt and scanties? Did I have something special in mind? coaxing voices asked me. Swimming suits? We have them in all shades. Dream pink, frosted aqua, glans mauve, tulip red, oolala black. What about paysuits? Slips? No slips. Lo and I loathed slips. One of my guides in these matters was an anthropometric entry made by her mother on Lo’s twelfth birthday (the reader remembers that Know-Your-Child book). I had the feeling that Charlotte, moved by obscure motives of envy and dislike, had added an inch here, a pound there; but since the nymphet had no doubt grown somewhat in the last seven months, I thought I could safely accept most of those January measurements: hip girth, twenty-nine inches; thigh girth (just below the gluteal sulcus), seventeen; calf girth and neck circumference, eleven; chest circumference, twenty-seven; upper arm girth, eight; waist, twenty-three; stature, fifty-seven inches; weight, seventy-eight pounds; figure, linear; intelligence quotient, 121; vermiform appendix present, thank God. Apart from measurements, I could of course visualize Lolita with hallucinational lucidity; and nursing as I did a tingle on my breastbone at the exact spot her silky top had come level once or twice with my heart; and feeling as I did her warm weight in my lap (so that, in a sense, I was always “with Lolita” as a woman is “with child”), I was not surprised to discover later that my computation had been more or less correct. Having moreover studied a midsummer sale book, it was with a very knowing air that I examined various pretty articles, sport shoes, sneakers, pumps of crushed kid for crushed kids. The painted girl in black who attended to all these poignant needs of mine turned parental scholarship and precise description into commercial euphemisms, such as “petite.” Another, much older woman, in a white dress, with a pancake make-up, seemed to be oddly impressed by my knowledge of junior fashions; perhaps I had a midget for mistress; so, when shown a skirt with “cute” pockets in front, I intentionally put a naive male question and was rewarded by a smiling demonstration of the way the zipper worked in the back of the skirt. I had next great fun with all kinds of shorts and briefsphantom little Lolitas dancing, falling, daisying all over the counter. We rounded up the deal with some prim cotton pajamas in popular butcher-boy style. Humbert, the popular butcher. There is a touch of the mythological and the enchanted in those large stores where according to ads a career girl can get a complete desk-to-date wardrobe, and where little sister can dream of the day when her wool jersey will make the boys in the back row of the classroom drool. Life-size plastic figures of snubbed-nosed children with dun-colored, greenish, brown-dotted, faunish faces floated around me. I realized I was the only shopper in that rather eerie place where I moved about fishlike, in a glaucous aquarium. I sensed strange thoughts form in the minds of the languid ladies that escorted me from counter to counter, from rock ledge to seaweed, and the belts and the bracelets I chose seemed to fall from siren hands into transparent water. I bought an elegant valise, had my purchases put into it, and repaired to the nearest hotel, well pleased with my day. Somehow, in connection with that quiet poetical afternoon of fastidious shopping, I recalled the hotel or inn with the seductive name of The Enchanted Hunters with Charlotte had happened to mention shortly before my liberation. With the help of a guidebook I located it in the secluded town of Briceland, a four-hour drive from Lo’s camp. I could have telephoned but fearing my voice might go out of control and lapse into coy croaks of broken English, I decided to send a wire ordering a room with twin beds for the next night. What a comic, clumsy, wavering Prince Charming I was! How some of my readers will laugh at me when I tell them the trouble I had with the wording of my telegram! What should I put: Humbert and daughter? Humberg and small daughter? Homberg and immature girl? Homburg and child? The droll mistakethe “g” at the endwhich eventually came through may have been a telepathic echo of these hesitations of mine. And then, in the velvet of a summer night, my broodings over the philer I had with me! Oh miserly Hamburg! Was he not a very Enchanted Hunter as he deliberated with himself over his boxful of magic ammunition? To rout the monster of insomnia should he try himself one of those amethyst capsules? There were forty of them, all toldforty nights with a frail little sleeper at my throbbing side; could I rob myself of one such night in order to sleep? Certainly not: much too precious was each tiny plum, each microscopic planetarium with its live startdust. Oh, let me be mawkish for the nonce! I am so tired of being cynical. [bookmark: _Toc229911461]FOREWORD “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 he 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 maskthrough which two hypnotic eyes seem to glowhad 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 inpetly accuse of sensuous existence of their own, are the most strictly functional ones in the development of a tragic tale tending unsweri\vingly 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 malesa “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 book. 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 maniacthese 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 usparents, social workers, educatorsapply ourselves with still greater vigilance and vision to the task of bringing up a better generation in a safer world. JohnRay, Jr., Ph.D. Widworth, Mass [bookmark: _Toc229911488]26 This daily headache in the opaque air of this tombal jail is disturbing, but I must persevere. Have written more than a hundred pages and not got anywhere yet. My calendar is getting confused. That must have been around August 15, 1947. Don’t think I can go on. Heart, headeverything. Lolita, Lolita, Lolita, Lolita, Lolita, Lolita, Lolita, Lolita, Lolita, Lolita. Repeat till the page is full, printer. [bookmark: _Toc229911489]27 Still in Parkington. Finally, I did achieve an hour’s slumberfrom which I was aroused by gratuitous and horribly exhausting congress with a small hairy hermaphrodite, a total stranger. By then it was six in the morning, and it suddenly occurred to me it might be a good thing to arrive at the camp earlier than I had said. From Parkington I had still a hundred miles to go, and there would be more than that to the Hazy Hills and Briceland. If I had said I would come for Dolly in the afternoon, it was only because my fancy insisted on merciful night falling as soon as possible upon my impatience. But now I foresaw all kinds of misunderstandings and was all a-jitter lest delay might give her the opportunity of some idle telephone call to Ramsdale. However, when at 9.30 a.m. I attempted to start, I was confronted by a dead battery, and noon was nigh when at last I left Parkington. I reached my destination around half past two; parked my car in a pine grove where a green-shirted, redheaded impish lad stood throwing horseshoes in sullen solitude; was laconically directed by him to an office in a stucco cottage; in a dying state, had to endure for several minutes the inquisitive commiseration of the camp mistress, a sluttish worn out female with rusty hair. Dolly she said was all packed and ready to go. She knew her mother was sick but not critically. Would Mr. Haze, I mean, Mr. Humbert, care to meet the camp counselors? Or look at the cabins where the girls live? Each dedicated to a Disney creature? Or visit the Lodge? Or should Charlie be sent over to fetch her? The girls were just finishing fixing the Dining Room for a dance. (And perhaps afterwards she would say to somebody or other: “The poor guy looked like his own ghost.”) Let me retain for a moment that scene in all its trivial and fateful detail: hag Holmes writing out a receipt, scratching her head, pulling a drawer out of her desk, pouring change into my impatient palm, then neatly spreading a banknote over it with a bright “... and five!”; photo