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Sunday, August 30, 2015

“…which might have tickled my pride, had it not incensed my jealousy”—Nabokov’s ultra-sly wink at Pride & Prejudice in Lolita



Before I conclude my latest round of sleuthing into Nabokov’s covert but extremely significant allusions to Mansfield Park in Lolita, I want to add one more tantalizing wrinkle---which is that in the course of following up on the MP in Lolita, I serendipitously stumbled on an extraordinary bit of textual evidence supporting my already existing belief that Nabokov was not merely focused on Mansfield Park, he was also an admirer of Pride & Prejudice as well.

My claim of course goes against the longstanding dogma of Nabokov studies vis a vis Austen, as most authoritatively voiced by the very influential Nabokov scholar and biographer Brian Boyd:

“[In 1950, regarding potential authors he would teach in his ‘European Fiction’ class] Nabokov reacted with a Russian disdain for lady novelists: ‘I dislike Jane, and am prejudiced, in fact, against all women writers. They are in another class. Could never see anything in Pride and Prejudice.  He thought he would choose Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde instead. By mid-May, he was halfway through Bleak House (‘great stuff’), taking copious notes, and had decided, after all, to follow Wilson’s advice and teach Mansfield Park.” END QUOTE

In 2010, when I first engaged with the subject of Nabokov’s attitude toward Jane Austen, I first drew the parallel I saw between Nabokov’s apparent disdain for P&P, on the one hand, and Mark Twain’s suspiciously similar apparent disdain for P&P (also expressed in a letter to an earnest Janeite American literary friend of his, William Dean Howells), on the other. I asserted, and still assert today, that Nabokov had deliberately channeled Twain’s tweaking of his earnest Janeite friend’s love of P&P, by expressing exactly the same faux-disdain to his own esteemed literary pal!

But it was only just the other day that I came upon Nabokov’s smoking gun in this regard, in the following passage in which Humbert Humbert describes his paranoid jealous monitoring of Lolita’s every move during stops along their road trip across the United States:

“Oh, I had to keep a very sharp eye on Lo, little limp Lo! Owing perhaps to constant amorous exercise, she radiated, despite her very childish appearance, some special languorous glow which threw garage fellows, hotel pages, vacationists, goons in luxurious cars, maroon morons near blued pools, into fits of concupiscence which might have tickled my pride, had it not incensed my jealousy. For little Lo was aware of that glow of hers, and I would often catch her coulant un regard in the direction of some amiable male, some grease monkey, with a sinewy golden-brown forearm and watch-braceleted wrist, and hardly had I turned my back to go and buy this very Lo a lollipop, than I would hear her and the fair mechanic burst into a perfect love song of wisecracks.”

Surely no Janeite with an acute ear can fail to hear the unmistakable echoing by Nabokov of the following famous passage in P&P, when Charlotte and Eliza discuss Darcy’s apparent disdain for Eliza:

"His pride," said Miss Lucas, "does not offend me so much as pride often does, because there is an excuse for it. One cannot wonder that so very fine a young man, with family, fortune, everything in his favour, should think highly of himself. If I may so express it, he has a right to be proud."
"That is very true," replied Elizabeth, "and I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine."

It’s not just the rhythm of the phrasing that is so strikingly similar, or that the word “pride” appears in both---it’s that the first part of the phrase refers to the possibility of a positive feeling relating to someone’s pride (HH’s pride might have been tickled, and Eliza might have forgiven Darcy’s pride) which however is, ironically, prevented by a simultaneous adverse effect (HH’s jealousy was incensed by Lolita’s attractiveness, and Eliza’s pride was mortified by Darcy’s pride). This is clearly a sly and intentional allusion by Nabokov.

And that would have been enough to confirm that Nabokov was actually a lover of P&P when he wrote his 1950 letter to Wilson, and remained one as he wrote Lolita thereafter. But Nabokov, the trickster, does not end his winking there, he extends it one more iteration, to allay the doubt of even the most hardened skeptic. He adds the following bit of (seemingly) insignificant background detail, immediately after the above quoted passage, without any gap:

“When, during our longer stops, I would relax after a particularly violent morning in bed, and out of the goodness of my lulled heart allow her--indulgent Hum!--to visit the rose garden or children's library across the street with a motor court neighbor's plain little Mary and Mary's eight-year-old brother, Lo would come back an hour late, with barefoot Mary trailing far behind, and the little boy metamorphosed into two gangling, golden-haired high school uglies, all muscles and gonorrhea…”

Now, is it just a coincidence that Eliza Bennet’s plain sister, Mary, whose favorite place in the world was a library (“Mary petitioned for the use of the library at Netherfield”), just happens to be the very next speaker after Eliza tosses off her above-quoted bon mot?:

"Pride," observed Mary, who piqued herself upon the solidity of her reflections, "is a very common failing, I believe. By all that I have ever read, I am convinced that it is very common indeed; that human nature is particularly prone to it, and that there are very few of us who do not cherish a feeling of self-complacency on the score of some quality or other, real or imaginary. Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us."

And we might profitably ask how Mary Bennet’s reflections illuminate the character of Humbert Humbert—is he proud, vain, or both? I say “Both!”.

And I believe that Vladimir Nabokov was also both vain and proud in Mary Bennet’s sense, and also  piqued himself upon the cleverness and erudition of his covert allusions, and on his ability to gull his learned friend Edmund Wilson so completely regarding same. And I suspect he’d have been doubly piqued, had he lived long enough to know that his little trick lasted another 60 years, and took in almost the entire world of Nabokovians, and I pique myself on finally discovering and explaining it all in this post today.

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

The Connected Enchanted Hunters of Mansfield Park & Lolita:



This is a followup to my two recent posts about heretofore undiscovered veiled allusions in Vladimir Nabokov’s disturbing 1955 masterpiece Lolita: first, the covert theme of the sexual abuse of Fanny Price in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park symbolized by Mrs. Norris accusing Fanny of scandalously “lolling upon a sofa”: http://tinyurl.com/pudkoan  And second, the allusion to the ancient Buddhist legend of the Enchanted Hunter: http://tinyurl.com/o6smdwk Today, I’ll show how these two allusions are directly connected, as further evidence that Nabokov saw even more clearly and deeply into the shadows of MP.

In my first post, I revisited my longstanding claims that Fanny is subjected to sexual predation in two very different ways—by the overpowering terrifying presence of her uncle, Sir Thomas Bertram, and by the seductive perverted insinuations of her suitor, Henry Crawford---I argued that Nabokov blends Sir Thomas and Henry together into Humbert Humbert. In my second post, I noted the significance of Nabokov using the title of that obscure Buddhist legend, “Enchanted Hunter” in two crucial ways in Lolita: as the name of the motel where Humbert Humbert first has sex with Lolita, and then as the title of the play Clare Quilty writes.

It was only after reviewing those two posts the other day that I realized another important wrinkle of the Nabokov allusion to Mansfield Park --- the “amateur theatricals” which are crucial in both MP and Lolita!  When I Googled to see if this had ever occurred to any other Austen or Nabokov scholar, I found that it had. In a chapter entitled “Jane Austen in Russia: Hidden Presence and Belated Bloom” (2007) the late Barnard College prof Catharine Nepomnyashchy wrote the following brilliant analysis under the subheading “Austen and Nabokov” (with my added italicizing, abbreviations & bracketed comments):              “ ….when we look more closely at Nabokov’s lectures on MP, we find an intriguing resonance with his own writing. Thus, roughly in the middle of his essay, Nabokov engages in an extensive discussion of August Von Kotzebue’s play Lovers Vows, adapted by Elizabeth Inchbald, which occupies roughly the middle of Austen’s MP: ‘The whole play theme in MP is an extraordinary achievement. In Chapters 12-20, the play theme is developed on the lines of fairy-tale magic and fate.” (Nabokov, 1980, 30). Nabokov’s presentation of the failed production of LV as the structural centerpiece of MP resonates suggestively with the construction of his own novel, Lolita, which he was writing at the same time as he was rereading Austen and composing his class lectures. Whether it be a case of what Nabokov himself terms a ‘literary reminiscence’ of MP in Lolita, or, conversely, a case of Nabokov finding his own artistic practice in his exegesis of Austen, the parallel between the function of LV in MP (as read by Nabokov) and the function of the fictional play The Enchanted Hunters in Lolita is striking, if devious in a characteristically Nabokovian manner. It is not the play itself that occupies the geographical centre of Nabokov’s novel, but the Enchanted Hunters Hotel, where HH consummates his affair with Lolita; however, the play does serve as a commentary on the roles of the characters, and the coincidence of the names of the hotel and the play underscores the role of artistic fate (Aubrey McFate) in Nabokov’s novel.”  END QUOTE

From the text of Lolita, I quickly pulled out the following passages which describe Lolita’s brief but intense involvement in a school production of The Enchanted Hunters –note the obvious echoing of Fanny’s fight-flight reactions to the Lovers Vows rehearsals in both Humbert’s and Lolita’s ambivalence about her acting in the play (again, with my own added italics, abbreviations, & bracketed comments):

"I hope she will," said Pratt [the same name as Lucy’s uncle and Edward’s schoolmaster in S&S!]  buoyantly. "When we questioned her about her troubles, Dolly refused to discuss the home situation, but we have spoken to some of her friends and really--well, for example, we insist you un-veto her nonparticipation in the dramatic group. You just must allow her to take part in The Hunted Enchanters. She was such a perfect little nymph in the try-out, and sometime in spring the author will stay for a few days at Beardsley College and may attend a rehearsal or two in our new auditorium. I mean it is all part of the fun of being young and alive and beautiful….”
"What worries me," said Miss Pratt looking at her watch and starting to go over the whole subject again, "is that both teachers and schoolmates find Dolly antagonistic, dissatisfied, cagey--and everybody wonders why you are so firmly opposed to all the natural recreations of a normal child."
"Do you mean sex play?" I asked jauntily, in despair, a cornered old rat.
"Well, I certainly welcome this civilized terminology," said Pratt with a grin. "But this is not quite the point. Under the auspices of Beardsley School, dramatics, dances and other natural activities are not technically sex play, though girls do meet boys, if that is what you object to."
"All right," I said, my hassock exhaling a weary sign. "You win. She can take part in that play. Provided male parts are taken by female parts."
…Beardsley School, it may be explained, copied a famous girls school in England by having "traditional" nicknames for its various classrooms…Mushroom was smelly, with a sepia print of Reynolds' "Age of Innocence" [see my 2014 comments re Joshua Reynolds’s pedophilic “fancy pictures” in the subtext of Emma] above the chalkboard, and several rows of clumsy-looking pupil desks. At one of these, my Lolita was reading the chapter on "Dialogue" in Baker's Dramatic Technique, and all was very quiet, and there was another girl with a very naked, porcelain-white neck and wonderful platinum hair, who sat in front reading too, absolutely lost to the world and interminably winding a soft curl around one finger, and I sat beside Dolly just behind that neck and that hair, and unbuttoned my overcoat and for sixty-five cents plus the permission to participate in the school play, had Dolly put her inky, chalky, red-knuckled hand under the desk. Oh, stupid and reckless of me no doubt, but after the torture I had been subjected to, I simply had to take advantage of a combination that I knew would never occur again.
…By the time spring had touched up Thayer Street with yellow and green and pink, Lolita was irrevocably stage-struck. Pratt, whom I chanced to notice one Sunday lunching with some people at Walton Inn, caught my eye from afar and went through the motion of sympathetically and discreetly clapping her hands while Lo was not looking. I detest the theatre as being a primitive and putrid form, historically speaking; a form that smacks of stone-age rites and communal nonsense despite those individual injections of genius, such as, say, Elizabethan poetry which a closeted reader automatically pumps out of the stuff. Being much occupied at the time with my own literary labors, I did not bother to read the complete text of The Enchanted Hunters, the playlet in which Dolores Haze was assigned the part of a farmer's daughter who imagines herself to be a woodland witch, or Diana, or something, and who, having got hold of a book on hypnotism, plunges a number of lost hunters into various entertaining trances before falling in her turn under the spell of a vagabond poet (Mona Dahl). That much I gleaned from bits of crumpled and poorly typed script that Lo sowed all over the house. The coincidence of the title with the name of an unforgettable inn was pleasant in a sad little way: I wearily thought I had better not bring it to my own enchantress's notice, lest a brazen accusation of mawkishness hurt me even more than her failure to notice it for herself had done. I assumed the playlet was just another, practically anonymous, version of some banal legend. Nothing prevented one, of course, from supposing that in quest of an attractive name the founder of the hotel had been immediately and solely influenced by the chance fantasy of the second-rate muralist he had hired, and that subsequently the hotel's name had suggested the play's title. But in my credulous, simple, benevolent mind I happened to twist it the other way round, and without giving the whole matter much though really, supposed that mural, name and title had all been derived from a common source, from some local tradition, which I, an alien unversed in New England lore, would not be supposed to know….actually The Enchanted Hunters was a quite recent and technically original composition which had been produced for the first time only three or four months ago by a highbrow group in New York….I understand that finally, in utter disgust at his cocksureness, barefooted Dolores was to lead check-trousered Mona to the paternal farm behind the Perilous Forest to prove to the braggart she was not a poet's fancy, but a rustic, down-to-brown-earth lass--and a last-minute kiss was to enforce the play's profound message, namely, that mirage and reality merge in love. I considered it wiser not to criticize the thing in front of Lo: she was so healthily engrossed in "problems of expression," and so charmingly did she put her narrow Florentine hands together, batting her eyelashes and pleading with me not to come to rehearsals as some ridiculous parents did because she wanted to dazzle me with a perfect First Night—and because I was, anyway, always butting in and saying the wrong thing, and cramping her style in the presence of other people.
There was one very special rehearsal . . . my heart, my heart . . .there was one day in May marked by a lot of gay flurry--it all rolled past, beyond my ken, immune to my memory, and when I saw Lo next, in the late afternoon, balancing on her bike, pressing the palm of her hand to the damp bark of a young birch tree on the edge of our lawn, I was so struck by the radiant tenderness of her smile that for an instant I believed all our troubles gone. "Can you remember," she said, "what was the name of that hotel, you know [nose pucketed], come on, you know--with those white columns and the marble swan in the lobby? Oh, you know [noisy exhalation of breath]--the hotel where you raped me. Okay, skip it. I mean, was it [almost in a whisper] The Enchanted Hunters? Oh, it was? [musingly] Was it?"—and with a yelp of amorous vernal laughter she slapped the glossy bole and tore uphill, to the end of the street, and then rode back, feet at rest on stopped pedals, posture relaxed, one hand dreaming in her print-flowered lap.
Because it supposedly tied up with her interest in dance and dramatics, I had permitted Lo to take piano lessons with a Miss Emperor ….
I found Dolores Haze at the kitchen table, consuming a wedge of pie, with her eyes fixed on her script. They rose to meet mine with a kind of celestial vapidity. She remained singularly unruffled when confronted with my discovery, and said d'un petit air faussement contrit that she knew she was a very wicked kid, but simply had not been able to resist the ENCHANTMENT, and had used up those music hours--O Reader, My Reader!--in a nearby public park rehearsing the magic forest scene with Mona. I said "fine"--and stalked to the telephone. Mona's mother answered: "Oh yes, she's in" and retreated with a mother's neutral laugh of polite pleasure to shout off stage "Roy calling!" and the very next moment Mona rustled up, and forthwith, in a low monotonous not untender voice started berating Roy for something he had said or done and I interrupted her, and presently Mona was saying in her humbles, sexiest contralto, "yes, sir," "surely, sir" "I am alone to blame, sir, in this unfortunate business," (what elocution! what poise!) "honest, I feel very bad about it"--and so on and so forth as those little harlots say.
…. "Look," she said as she rode the bike beside me, one foot scraping the darkly glistening sidewalk, "look, I've decided something. I want to leave school I hate that school I hate the play, I really do! Never go back. Find another. Leave at once. Go for a long trip again. But this time we'll go wherever I want, won't we?…I am drenched," she declared at the top of her voice. "Are you glad? To hell with the play! See what I mean?"
…"A penny for your thoughts," I said and she stretched out her palm at once, but at that moment I had to apply the breaks rather abruptly at a red light. As we pulled up, another car came to a gliding stop alongside, and a very striking looking, athletically lean young woman (where had I seen her?) with a high complexion and shoulder-length brilliant bronze hair, greeted Lo with a ringing "Hi!"--and then, addressing me, effusively, edusively (placed!), stressing certain words, said: "What a shame to was to tear Dolly away from the play--you should have heard the author raving about her after that rehearsal--"
"Green light, you dope," said Lo under her breath, and simultaneously, waving in bright adieu a bangled arm, Joan of Arc (in a performance we saw at the local theatre) violently outdistanced us to swerve into Campus Avenue.
"Who was it exactly? Vermont or Rumpelmeyer?"
"No--Edusa Gold--the gal who coaches us."
"I was not referring to her. Who exactly concocted that play?"
"Oh! Yes, of course. Some old woman, Clare Something, I guess. There was quite a crowd of them there."  END OF STRING OF “THEATRICALS” QUOTES FROM LOLITA

But those are not the only echoes of MP in The Enchanted Hunters---it is well recognized that Nabokov chose that title in part so as to highlight Humbert Humbert as a sexual hunter and predator, with very young women as his prey. And so I say it’s no coincidence that frequent mention is made in MP of Henry Crawford’s love of hunting in the following passages, with Henry’s prey as…Fanny and William!:

“Henry Crawford had quite made up his mind by the next morning to give another fortnight to Mansfield, and having sent for his HUNTERS, and written a few lines of explanation to the Admiral, he looked round at his sister as he sealed and threw the letter from him, and seeing the coast clear of the rest of the family, said, with a smile, "And how do you think I mean to amuse myself, Mary, on the days that I do not HUNT? I am grown too old to go out more than three times a week; but I have a plan for the intermediate days, and what do you think it is?"  "To walk and ride with me, to be sure."
"Not exactly, though I shall be happy to do both, but that would be exercise only to my body, and I must take care of my mind. Besides, that would be all recreation and indulgence, without the wholesome alloy of labour, and I do not like to eat the bread of idleness. No, my plan is to make Fanny Price in love with me."
….The wish was rather eager than lasting. He was roused from the reverie of retrospection and regret produced by it, by some inquiry from Edmund as to his plans for the next day's HUNTING; and he found it was as well to be a man of fortune at once with horses and grooms at his command. In one respect it was better, as it gave him the means of conferring a kindness where he wished to oblige. With spirits, courage, and curiosity up to anything, William expressed an inclination to HUNT; and Crawford could mount him without the slightest inconvenience to himself, and with only some scruples to obviate in Sir Thomas, who knew better than his nephew the value of such a loan, and some alarms to reason away in Fanny. She feared for William; by no means convinced by all that he could relate of his own horsemanship in various countries, of the scrambling parties in which he had been engaged, the rough horses and mules he had ridden, or his many narrow escapes from dreadful falls, that he was at all equal to the management of a high-fed HUNTER in an English fox-chase; nor till he returned safe and well, without accident or discredit, could she be reconciled to the risk, or feel any of that obligation to Mr. Crawford for lending the horse which he had fully intended it should produce. When it was proved, however, to have done William no harm, she could allow it to be a kindness, and even reward the owner with a smile when the animal was one minute tendered to his use again; and the next, with the greatest cordiality, and in a manner not to be resisted, made over to his use entirely so long as he remained in Northamptonshire.
…."Bertram," said Crawford, some time afterwards, taking the opportunity of a little languor in the game, "I have never told you what happened to me yesterday in my ride home." They had been HUNTING together, and were in the midst of a good run, and at some distance from Mansfield, when his horse being found to have flung a shoe, Henry Crawford had been obliged to give up, and make the best of his way back. "I told you I lost my way after passing that old farmhouse with the yew-trees, because I can never bear to ask; but I have not told you that, with my usual luck—for I never do wrong without gaining by it—I found myself in due time in the very place which I had a curiosity to see. I was suddenly, upon turning the corner of a steepish downy field, in the midst of a retired little village between gently rising hills; a small stream before me to be forded, a church standing on a sort of knoll to my right—which church was strikingly large and handsome for the place, and not a gentleman or half a gentleman's house to be seen excepting one—to be presumed the Parsonage—within a stone's throw of the said knoll and church. I found myself, in short, in Thornton Lacey."…Henry Crawford was in the first glow of another scheme about Thornton Lacey; and not being able to catch Edmund's ear, was detailing it to his fair neighbour with a look of considerable earnestness. His scheme was to rent the house himself the following winter, that he might have a home of his own in that neighbourhood; and it was not merely for the use of it in the hunting-season (as he was then telling her), though that consideration had certainly some weight, feeling as he did that, in spite of all Dr. Grant's very great kindness, it was impossible for him and his horses to be accommodated where they now were without material inconvenience; but his attachment to that neighbourhood did not depend upon one amusement or one season of the year…”

And so ends my summary of Nabokov’s thinly veiled and closely connected allusions to Lover’s Vows and Henry Crawford’s hunters in Lolita!

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

My successful “enchanted hunting” for an extraordinary hidden allusion in Lolita



In the Nabokov-L listserv, the very skeptical Jansy Mello responded as follows to my post about the veiled allusion in Jane Austen's Mansfield Park that I see in Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita:
“…I’m not one of the dull elves either but, perhaps, I’m a prejudiced one. In my humble opinion the kind of “covert wink” to Jane Austen, and to rape in MP, which you are describing leads nowhere inside the novel or outside it (it would be an “inconsequential” denouncement on VN’s part by its being only “a covert wink”).”

Jansy, I couldn’t disagree more, but I also have no wish to argue with you about the significance of Nabokov’s covert allusion, in Lolita, to Mansfield Park—you read literature very differently than I do, and I bring these discoveries forward for those (like Mary Efremov, who responded positively to my post).who share my belief in their interpretive value.

Jansy also wrote: “It is different in spirit from Ada’s, I, ch.1 (explicit) homage with several other implicit indications…”
 
In response to that very thinly veiled critique of claims like mine about veiled allusions, it just so happens that as I followed up on the Austen allusion in Lolita, I came across another veiled allusion in Lolita, that you will have more trouble dismissing out of hand as “leading nowhere”. And, as with so many of my discoveries in great literature over the past decade---literature that, like Lolita, that has been studied closely by many brilliant scholars over a long period of time----all it required was for me to be curious about an unusual turn of phrase, and Google it!

And that unusual turn of phrase in Lolita is (as my Subject Line hinted)….”Enchanted Hunter”!

A number of Nabokovians have speculated over the years about the meaning of the extensive wordplay in Lolita which relates to the name of the fateful motel where HH first consummates his lust for Lolita.  Here’s what Shmoop.com has to say as a quick general introduction:
“This phrase comes up many times during the course of the novel, and often in highly suggestive variations, such as "The Hunted Enchanters." It is first mentioned by Charlotte, who proposes that she and Humbert have a romantic little getaway at a hotel by that name. Most importantly, The Enchanted Hunters is the name of the hotel where Humbert and Lolita first have sex. Later, Clare Quilty names his play The Enchanted Hunter and clever Humbert doesn't make the connection – remember that man who speaks to him about Lolita on the dark porch of hotel? Quilty, gathering material. Humbert admits that he thought the name of the hotel and the name of the play was a coincidence. The phrase echoes some of the meanings of "nymphet" because it implies that the one who hunts is "enchanted," almost under the spell of the girl being hunted. The hunter is drawn as if by a supernatural power that cannot be helped or hindered. Despite this connotation, the object of the hunt is clearly Lolita. Along these lines, Humbert often characterizes himself as a predator – like a spider or a monster, at one point saying that he prefers his prey to be moving rather than motionless. Clare Quilty is another of Lolita's hunters, following Humbert and Lolita around the country and finally snatching her up in Elphinstone.”

One particularly excellent scholarly article I found yesterday in that regard is “The Tale of Enchanted Hunters:  Lolita in Victorian Context” by Olga Voronina, in Nabokov Studies 10.1 (2006) 147-174, in which Voronina unpacks a number of disturbing allusive sources, including Carroll, Ruskin and Tennyson. Another is “The Enchanted Hunters: Nabokov's Use of Folk Characterization in "Lolita" by Steven Swann Jones in Western Folklore, Vol. 39, No. 4 (Oct., 1980), pp. 269

So, in my argument that follows, below, I am not for a moment suggesting that Voronina, Jones, or any other Nabokov scholar is wrong in asserting the various allusive sources they see for “Enchanted Hunter”—it seems clear to me that Nabokov packed allusions into Lolita very densely, thereby achieving a dizzying and dazzling polyphonic effect. And the one I just found yesterday is at least as interesting as  those others previously identified—or at least, to paraphrase Jansy, I am certain that it “leads somewhere” in terms of our understanding of Lolita.

Without further ado, then, here is what Google Books led me to:

In the Harvard Oriental Series, edited by Charles Rockwell Lanman (1921) 
Buddhist legends translated from Pali, Dhammapada Commentary   Book IX. Evil, Papa Vagga   Synopsis of Legend 8.  THE ENCHANTED HUNTER.
“A rich man's daughter looks out of her window, sees a hunter pass through the street, and falls in love with him. Learning through her slave that he expects to leave the city on the following day, she leaves the house secretly, joins him on the road, and elopes with him. Seven sons are born to them, and in the course of time marry and set up households of their own. One day the Teacher, perceiving that the hunter and his sons and daughters-in-law are ripe for conversion, goes to where the nets are spread, leaves a footprint, and sits down under a bush. The hunter, having caught nothing, suspects that some one is setting the animals free; and when he sees the Teacher, draws his bow. By the power of the Teacher he is unable to release the arrow and remains rooted to the spot. The same thing happens to his seven sons. The wife comes and exclaims, in riddling phrase, "Do not kill my father!" The hunter and his sons ask pardon of the Teacher and become his disciples. The monks complain that the wife, although a disciple of the Teacher, has assisted her husband to take life, but the Teacher assures them that such is not the case.”

Earlier in that same volume, I found a longer synopsis of that very same ancient Buddhist legend:

When we read about a daughter who leaves her parent’s house to elope with an enchanted hunter, it is obvious right off the bat that Nabokov must have been especially interested in this particular Buddhist legend, for him to use its title and the name of its central character to allude to it via his naming of perhaps the most significant location in Lolita, as well as in the title of Quilty’s play. But, as I will briefly illustrate, there are several significant wrinkles in this allusion that give it even greater significance in Lolita:

First, the longer synopsis included the following excerpt pertaining to the rationale the Teacher gives for asserting that the wife had not done evil in assisting her husband, the “enchanted hunter”, to take life:

“If a man's hand be free from wounds, even though he take poison into his hand, yet the poison will not harm him. Precisely so, a man who harbors no thoughts of wrong and who commits no evil, may take down bows and other similar objects and present them to another, and yet be guiltless of sin." So saying, he joined the connection, and preaching the Law, pronounced the following Stanza.  If in his hand there be no wound, A man may carry poison in his hand. Poison cannot harm him who is free from wounds…”

Consider that discussion of poison and wounds in light of Humbert Humbert’s description of poison and wounds vis a vis his first love, Annabel, when they were both “faunlets” (i.e., young deer, as in the deer trapped by the legend’s “enchanted hunter”:

“When I was a child and she was a child, my little Annabel was no nymphet to me; I was her equal, a FAUNLET in my own right, on that same ENCHANTED island of time; but today, in September 1952, after twenty-nine years have elapsed, I think I can DISTINGUISH HER IN THE INITIAL FATEFUL ELF OF MY LIFE. We loved each other with a premature love, marked by a fierceness that so often destroys adult lives. I was a strong lad and survived; but the POISON WAS IN THE WOUND, and THE WOUND REMAINED EVER OPEN, and soon I found myself maturing amid a civilization which allows a man of twenty-five to court a girl of sixteen but not a girl of twelve.”

That intimation of Lolita as a reincarnation of Annabel is an obvious echo of the reincarnation that is central to the Buddhist legend, and that’s not the only one in Lolita, there’s also this highly sexualized passage that follows soon thereafter:

“I have reserved for the conclusion of my "Annabel" phase the account of our unsuccessful first tryst. One night, she managed to deceive the vicious vigilance of her family….She would try to relieve the pain of love by first roughly rubbing her dry lips against mine; then my darling would draw away with a nervous toss of her hair, and then again come darkly near and let me feed on her open mouth, while with a generosity that was ready to offer her everything, my heart, my throat, my entrails, I have her to hold in her awkward fist the scepter of my passion. I recall the scent of some kind of toilet powder--I believe she stole it from her mother's Spanish maid--a sweetish, lowly, musky perfume. It mingled with her own biscuity odor, and my senses were suddenly FILLED TO THE BRIM; a sudden commotion in a NEARBY BUSH prevented them from OVERFLOWING--and as we drew away from each other, and with ACHING veins attended to what was probably a prowling cat, there came from the house her mother's voice calling her, with a rising frantic note--and Dr. Cooper ponderously limped out into the garden. But that mimosa grove--the HAZE of stars, the TINGLE, the flame, the honey-dew, and the ache remained with me, and that little girl with her seaside limbs and ardent tongue haunted me ever since--until at last, twenty-four years later, I broke her spell by INCARNATING her in another.”

Moving right along, we come to the following two passages in Lolita which refer to motion during a hunt, just as the Teacher immobilizes the enchanted hunter to prevent his killing him:

“My darling, my sweetheart stood for a moment near me--wanted the funnies--and she smelt almost exactly like the other one, the Riviera one, but more intensely so, with rougher overtones--a torrid odor that at once set my manhood astir--but she had already yanked out of me the coveted section and retreated to her mat near her phocine mamma. There my beauty lay down on her stomach, showing me, showing the thousand eyes wide open in my eyed blood, her slightly raised shoulder blades, and the bloom along the incurvation of her spine, and the swellings of her tense narrow nates clothed in black, and the seaside of her schoolgirl thighs. Silently, the seventh-grader enjoyed her green-red-blue comics. She was the loveliest nymphet green-red-blue Priap himself could think up. As I looked on, through prismatic layers of light, dry-lipped, focusing my lust and rocking slightly under my newspaper, I felt that my perception of her, if properly concentrated upon, might be sufficient to have me attain a beggar's bliss immediately; BUT, LIKE SOME PREDATOR THAT PREFERS A MOVING PREY TO A MOTIONLESS ONE, I planned to have this pitiful attainment coincide with the various girlish movements she made now and then as she read, such as trying to scratch the middle of her back and revealing a stippled armpit--but fat Haze suddenly spoiled everything by turning to me and asking me for a light, and starting a make-believe conversation about a fake book by some popular fraud.”

“Now this was something the intruder had not expected. The whole pill-spiel (a rather sordid affair, entre nous soit dit) had had for object a fastness of sleep that a whole regiment would not have disturbed, and here she was staring at me, and thickly calling me "Barbara." BARBARA, WEARING MY PAJAMAS WHICH WERE MUCH TOO TIGHT FOR HER, REMAINED POSED MOTIONLESS OVER THE LITTLE SLEEP-TALKER. Softly, with a hopeless sigh, Dolly turned away, resuming her initial position. For at least two minutes I waited and strained on the brink, like that tailor with his homemade parachute forty years ago when about to jump from the Eiffel Tower. Her faint breathing had the rhythm of sleep. Finally I heaved myself onto my narrow margin of bed, stealthily pulled at the odds and ends of sheets piled up to the south of my stone-cold heels--and Lolita lifted her head and gaped at me.”

And now, the famous excerpt regarding the playlet entitled “The Enchanted Hunters”, which refers to it as “just another, practically anonymous, version of some banal legend”—a cynic’s description, to a tee, of that same Buddhist legend!:

“By the time spring had touched up Thayer Street with yellow and green and pink, Lolita was irrevocably stage-struck. Pratt, whom I chanced to notice one Sunday lunching with some people at Walton Inn, caught my eye from afar and went through the motion of sympathetically and discreetly clapping her hands while Lo was not looking. I detest the theatre as being a primitive and putrid form, historically speaking; a form that smacks of stone-age rites and communal nonsense despite those individual injections of genius, such as, say, Elizabethan poetry which a closeted reader automatically pumps out of the stuff. Being much occupied at the time with my own literary labors, I did not bother to read the complete text of The Enchanted Hunters, the playlet in which Dolores Haze was assigned the part of a farmer's daughter who imagines herself to be a woodland witch, or Diana, or something, and who, having got hold of a book on hypnotism, plunges a number of lost hunters into various entertaining trances before falling in her turn under the spell of a vagabond poet (Mona Dahl). That much I gleaned from bits of crumpled and poorly typed script that Lo sowed all over the house. The coincidence of the title with the name of an unforgettable inn was pleasant in a sad little way: I wearily thought I had better not bring it to my own enchantress's notice, lest a brazen accusation of mawkishness hurt me even more than her failure to notice it for herself had done. I assumed the playlet was just another, practically anonymous, VERSION OF SOME BANAL LEGEND. Nothing prevented one, of course, from supposing that in quest of an attractive name the founder of the hotel had been immediately and solely influenced by the chance fantasy of the second-rate muralist he had hired, and that subsequently the hotel's name had suggested the play's title. But in my credulous, simple, benevolent mind I happened to twist it the other way round, and without giving the whole matter much though really, supposed that mural, name and title had all been derived from a common source, from some local tradition, which I, an alien unversed in New England lore, would not be supposed to know.”

And that very same excerpt then shortly turns to a description of seven hunters, the very number of sons of the original “enchanter hunter” who participate in his hunting operation:

The red-capped, uniformly attired hunters, of which one was a banker, another a plumber, a third a policeman, a fourth an undertaker, a fifth an underwriter, a sixth an escaped convict (you see the possibilities!), went through a complete change of mind in Dolly's Dell, and remembered their real lives only as dreams or nightmares from which little Diana had aroused them; but A SEVENTH HUNTER” (in a green cap, the fool) was a Young Poet, and he insisted, much to Diana's annoyance, that she and the entertainment provided (dancing nymphs, and elves, and monsters) were his, the Poet's, invention.”

So….what does it all mean? I invite you Nabokov mavens to react, and speculate about why Nabokov would have chosen to hide in very plain sight at the center of his novel a Buddhist legend, the moral of which was described nearly a century ago, and three decades before Nabokov published Lolita, as follows in the American Ecclesiastical Review (1922):
“The story of the Enchanted Hunter with its supplementary tale points the lesson that great merit acquired in a previous existence may have its fruit in conversion to the Buddhist faith in a subsequent existence whereby the dire consequences of years of crime may be happily avoided….”

Sounds an awful lot like the moral questions that hover over Lolita like a swarm of vulture, when we think about HH’s crimes, and how in many senses he took Lolita’s life.

Cheers, ARNIE
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