Lolita, light and fire of my bookshelves
This already old novel (1955!) has made its way to the pantheon of the world most celebrated literature, despite its controversial nature, and continues to draw the attention of a constant number of readers throughout the world.
The prose of Nabokov alone is enough to fall under the spell of his witty text, but the charm of the novel is decupled by the amount of cultural references, symbolic images – and let’s not forget its humour! Also, Nabokov, as he admitted, gave the promise of a riddle-game left for the benefit of the deserving reader. Lolita’s riddle.
How many new readers realize the richness of what they have between their hands? Nabokov’s sophisticated playful mind left enough dark matter for curious minds to ponder and delve into it sixty years later.
We would think that such a scrutinized book would have given up its soul long ago, but we would be wrong. Secrets still lie within shadows hidden between the lines. Despite the cleverness and thickness of literary references of Alfred Appel’s « The Annotated Lolita« , one can’t help thinking something’s missing. Some recurring (and sometimes almost out of place) elements in the book seem to beg for attention, and yet they’re left ignored and mute with their untold secrets.
Here’s a big part of what I have gathered (minus tens of little things of lesser importance that I found but didn’t care to add). the work of collection of the references is at his minimum too. There are even references behind references, so I’ll let that aside for such a sketchy attempt.
Nabokov as he admitted it, has hidden a riddle-game left for the benefit of the deserving reader. Lolita’s riddle.
In an interview in 1962 for the BBC when asked on why he wrote “Lolita”: “(…) I’ve no general ideas to exploit, I just like composing riddles with elegant solutions.”. Two years later, in an interview with Playboy in 1964, about the writing of « Lolita », he confessed « She was like the composition of a beautiful puzzle – its composition and its solution at the same time, since one is mirror view of the other, depending on the way you look. ».
The basic core of the riddle is now, I believe, mostly solved (even though there are still much to say about it. And there is also still MUCH to discover. It’s still a raw sketch in a way) and I propose to my reader to take a trip in the depth of « Lolita », a novel that you had read without knowing that there was a « phantom chapter », only deciphered by a careful scrutiny of the text, allowing to reach a second level of reading.
In order to say that we resolved Lolita’s riddle we have to find a solution that addresses efficiently all the persistent references and mysterious recurring elements (numbers and words). And of course, it must work in every instances.
In order to lead us to his intended hidden goal, Nabokov has « sprinkled » his text with hints hidden in « plain sight ». The solution of the puzzle has to be reached by collecting all the specific references and keywords left by the author. The similar nature of these references won’t leave any room for doubts and the possibility of a conjonction of coincidences will be safely discarded.
There are direct references, but there are also sometimes references behind references, multi-references on one « textual object », and cross-references all pointing directly or indirectly to the same direction (the synesthetic Nabokov (something I share with him) was by nature particularly used to experience things embedded within things, where they were not supposed to be)).
These hints, left by Nabokov, are basically « tags » which are either recurring dates or recurring words. These dates and keywords can be rattached to a specific context that we recognize as omnipresent when we have identified it.
Once this context is identified, the key is known.
Every time you use the key (the sesame to a subjacent level of reading) in a textual keyhole (there are moments in the text when there are salliant mentions: a strange book title, a weird lastname or any sort of incongruity – this is Nabokov nudging and winking to you), it opens and more is to be seen, confirming each time even more that the puzzle has been solved.
In fact the key can basically be reduced to one name. One person. With this name, all the rest follows.
And when we know this key, we realize that the solution of the riddle had been ostensibly agitated by Humbert (Or more exactly Vladimir Nabokov) right in front of our unsuspecting eyes.
This key « with its numbered dangler of carved wood« , bearing the number 342.
[From now on, all the page numbers tagged TAL are a reference to Alfred Appel’s « The Annotated Lolita »]
I shall not exist if you do not imagine me
The beginning of the story is set on La Côte d’Azur (more precisely, probably Monaco – a principality by the sea). This latter allusion is made in reference to Egar Allan Poe‘s (1809-1849) poem « Annabel Lee« , and indeed, the beginning of « Lolita » is full of references to this work: for instance, Humbert’s love is named Annabel Leigh (like Poe’s Annabel Lee), there are direct alluions to the poem (« the misinformed, simple, noble-winged seraphs, envied » p.9 TAL, even his use of the spelling “lo-LEE-ta” seems to be a discreet allusion to the character of the poem). In Nabokov’s mind, these Poe allusions are directly linked to the fact this famous American author was in love with Virginia Clemm, a thirteen years old girl (even the date when Humbert stops searching for Lolita, on 09/18/49 is also a reference to Edgar Allan Poe and his « Annabel Lee » (but in reality, Nabokov’s intent is to allude to Lorina Liddell – more on this later)).
As this is a Nabokov Novel there are also many allusions to butterflies (the powdered Vanessa Van Ness (a vaness is a colorful butterfly and butterflies have « powder » on their body), miss Phalen (French “phalène” (= moth)), Falter (German for “butterfly”), schmetterling (german for “butterfly”), Avis Chapman (named after the south-european butterfly Callopbrys avis Chapman), Edusa Gold (colias Edusa was the name of an European golden-orange butterfly), etc…). Nabokov was a fervent lepidopterist, a specialist of butterflies, insects that sometimes have the ability to deceive their observers, which is rather apt for a novel that toys with his reader and lures him more than once. And as we will see, there is also probably a little link with the riddle itself.
The constant allusions to fairy-tales and supernatural creatures is omnipresent throughout the novel (e.g. the town in which Lolita was born is name Pisky (pixie), Briceland is a reference to the legendary mysterious forest Broceliande (an Arthurian legend element), Elphinstone (elfin stone) also alludes to elves, supernatural legendary beings – to whom Humbert directly alludes, obviously nymphets, etc… Even the several reference to « haze » is there to recall a fairy tales’ general context). This supernatural fairy-tales’ context is the reflection of Humbert’s own subjective description of the situation. That’s Humbert’s constant insinuation that he was like a victim of a spell. His preaching is that there seem to exist female “demoniac” “supernatural” children that possesses the “magical” power to put a spell on older males having the required sensitivity and character disposition.
Some allusions by Nabokov seem to be autobiographical. The following comment from Humbert “(…) amid a civilization which allows a man of twenty-five to court a girl of sixteen (…)” (p.18 TAL) might be a personal reference by Nabokov to his former wish to marry Svetlana Siewert, then 16, when he was himself 23, which was denied by her fiancée’s family.
Other salliant bits seem to be personnal comments (More on this later).
Nevertheless, a non-negligible amount of these references are actually used as tags intended to lead to the solving of the riddle. I propose now to prove my point by enumerating the diverse instances (I’ll do it actually very cursorily, there are much more to find in the text), which one by one, depict a very specific context.
The sheer accumulation of concordant references will prove the nature of the riddle by knitting a net of undeniable evidences.
The coming work will be divided in two parts followed by a conclusive final chapter exposing precisely the nature of the riddle and its total correspondance to the description of his creator.
All the elements in bold have a special importance and will be almost all treated at some point.
Her Alice-in-wonderland hair
« I always call him Lewis Carroll Carroll because he was the first Humbert Humbert » -V. Nabokov
« In common with many other English children (I was an English child) I always have been very fond of Carroll. (…) He has a pathetic affinity with Humbert Humbert but some odd scruple prevented me fom alluding in lolita to his wretched perversion and to his ambiguous photograph it took in dim rooms. He got away with it, as so many Victorians got away with pederasty and nympholepsy. His were sad scrawny little nymphets, bedraggled and half-undressed, or rather semi-undraped, as if participating in some dusty and dreadful charade. » -V. Nabokov
Indeed, Nabokov didn’t allude much in overt manner to Lewis Carroll (2 or 3 direct « Alice in Wonderland » references), but he actually did it a lot more in sneaky barely recognizable ways throughout his book.
Nabokov obviouly did have strong certitudes on the nature of Lewis Carroll’s attachment to little girls (admittedly, with good reasons), and we will see that Lolita’s riddle is actually about this specific Carrollian context.
Despite Nabokov’s conspicuous careful efforts to stand aside from Lewis Carroll in the previous quotes, the two authors do have a few common points.
As Nabokov said himself, Lewis Carroll was an old friend that accompanied him since his childhood, and we can find many mentions of Carroll and his books in Nabokov’s own novels, from books as different and distant in time as « The real Life of Sebastian Knight » (1941) or « Ada or Ardor » (1969).
Nabokov didn’t pursue studies in Oxford like Charles L. Dodgson (the real name of Lewis Carroll) did, but he did go to the Trinity College of Cambridge from 1919 to 1923, which is the sister college of Christ church of Oxford were the reverend Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) taught mathematics, and Vladimir Nabokov could taste a little of the atmosphere of this environment only a few decades after Carroll had left Oxford. It is also important to mention that in 1923, Nabokov did himself a translation of « Alice in Wonderland » in Russian, published in Berlin, where he was then living.
We know they shared a taste for chess, riddles (Nabokov published verbal riddles (cf. article The condescending smile of the supreme enchanter by John Simon)) and butterflies (for the latter, see the words of Mrs. Maitland, a former child-friend of Lewis Carroll: « I always attribute my love for animals to the teaching of Mr. Dodgson (a.k.a. Lewis Carroll): his stories about them, his knowledge of their lives and histories, his enthusiasm about birds and butterflies enlivened many a dull hour« ). I suppose we can add the use of an acrostic in Nabokov’s famous short story « The Vane Sisters« , who gives the « solution » of the story and that went unnoticed by the New Yorker to which Nabokov had submitted the text.
It is also difficult to not notice that Nabokov’s book « Poems and Problems » (notice the P/P) seem to mirror Carroll’s « Rhyme and Reason » (notice the R/R) published in 1883, even by the meanings (You need « rhymes » for your « poems » and you need « reason » to solve « problems »).
Ah, yes. Carroll and Nabokov also shared a love for poetry, portmanteau words (Lewis Carroll even coined the term) and alliterations. But don’t we all?
Lewis Carroll (January 27, 1832 – January 14, 1898), whose real name was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson – etymologically, « Lewis » is related to « Lutwidge » and « Carroll » to « Charles » – was a young mathematical lecturer at Christ Church college in Oxford.
He soon met the family of the new dean, Henry Liddell (1811–1898) who was married to Lorina Reeve (1825-1910). It was the beginning of a long relationship with the Liddell family. It is precisely on April 25, 1856 that he saw for the first time Alice Pleasance Liddell (May 4, 1852 – November 16, 1934), that would become his favorite Liddell girl. He was quite fond of photography and he often photographed the three Liddell sisters (among the many photographs he took in his life, there is a particularly important number of little girls). He also went several times on a boat trip on the Thames with the girls to pick-nick, on which occasion he would tell a story, generally improvised to amuse the girls.
It is on such occasion that Lewis Carroll invented and told for the first time the story that would become « Alice in Wonderland », on July 4, 1862. After this trip, Alice Liddell asked him to write down the story and eventually « Alice in Wonderland » ended up published on July 4, 1865. « Through the looking-glass », the sequel, would follow in 1871. The relationship with the Liddell family had stopped suddenly in 1863.
In the year 1880, the reverend Dodgson, up to then a fervent amateur of photography suddenly forgo his passion. 1880 is the year Alice Liddell married and became Mrs Hargreaves. In 1881, he left Oxford and went in a girl’s school to teach logics. He saw Alice Liddell for the last time on November 1, 1888.
Lewis Carroll died of pneumonia in January 14, 1898, in a house, located in Guildford on castle hill, that he rented since 1868, the Chestnuts.
It is well-known that the pages of Lewis Carroll’s diaries between April 16, 1858 and May 8, 1862 are missing (a period of time running throughout the time Carroll regularly frequented the Liddell) – presumably removed by a family member after his death. This, of course, only served to amplify the suspicions about an ambiguous relationship with the Liddell, especially with Alice Liddell.
The fact that Alice’s mother burnt all the letters Lewis Carroll had sent to the little girl, tends to prove she considered his relationship with her daughter more than ambiguous as well.
There is really no doubt at all that she was the inspiration for the Alice wandering in wonderland.
It is well-known that this story was invented and told on a trip on the Thames with the three Liddell sisters, in the summer 1862, after which Alice asked carroll to write the story down.
The Liddell sisters are Prima (Lorina), secunda (Alice) and tertia (Edith) in the little introductory poem before the story.
Beside the name of the eponymous heroine, the birthdate of Alice Liddell (4th of May (1852)) is alluded in the narrative itself: « perhaps as this is May it won’t be raving mad » and « What day of the month is it? he said turning to Alice (…) Alice considered a little, and then said « the fourth. » « . So we have it, the 4th of May.
The three Liddell sisters are also semi-cryptically alluded in the three little (pun with « Liddell ») sisters living in the bottom of a treacle-well, in the story told by the dormouse, in « Alice in Wonderland« .
Their firstnames Elsie, Lacie and Tilly are references to the firstnames of the dean Liddell’s daughters: Elsie stands for L.C., the initials of Lorina Charlotte Liddell, Lacie is an anagram of Alice and Tilly was an affectionate nickname of Edith Liddell.
They are also present in the pool of tears’ scene (Lorina the lory, Edith the eaglet – but also the reverend Duckworth, that accompanied them on the river, as the duck and Lewis Carroll himself as the dodo (Carroll stammered and « do-do » would represent himself trying to say his name, Dodgson)).
The last line of the poem right before « Through the Looking-Glass« , i.e. « The pleasance of our fairy-tale » is a clever allusion to the middle-name of Alice Pleasance Liddell, that could mean (to the attention of the only Alice Liddell) « the Alice of our fairy-tale ».
The final poem of « Through the Looking-Glass » contains too a clear dedication to Alice Liddell, his « muse », so to speak. This poem is in fact an acrostic spelling Alice Liddell’s full name.
Let’s see, now, what may be the hidden references to Lewis Carroll and Alice P. Liddell, his « nymphet ») throughout the book and how they might designate Humbert Humbert as a literary « echo », a reflection of the famous Victorian author and Lolita as a distorted reflection of Alice Liddell (We do read in p.3 TAL “(…) this mask–through which two hypnotic eyes seem to glow (…)”, in the foreword. This “mask” allusion might be a clue that Humbert Humbert is really intended to represent someone else in Nabokov‘s mind, and similarly, Humbert’s « Is mask the keyword? » (p.53 TAL) (A wink by Nabokov. It can be read as refering to the riddle) as well. YES, definitely. Humbert is a mask for Lewis Carroll, in the novel.
The first thing to note in order to ascertain the nature of the relation between Dolores Haze and Alice Liddell and confirm the omnipresence of the Carrollian context of the riddle is, in my opinion, the weird ressemblance of the first names of the women of the Haze family (Lolita and her mother – Lolita and Charlotte) with the first names of Lorina Charlotte Liddell, the big sister of Alice P. Liddell, who was the first Liddell girl to be photographed by Lewis Carroll.
“Lorina” is very close to “Lolita” (only two different letters) and is thus a perfect echo, barely distorted (like in a mirror which reflects reality but distorted (left is right and right is left) and we will see how apt is this term, in the context of the riddle embedded in « Lolita« ), of the girl and woman alluded here (It is also possible that the story of Lita Grey (16 yrs old; real name Lillita Louise MacMurray) and Charlie Chaplin (35 yrs old; real name Charles Spencer Chaplin), could have influenced Nabokov’s choice of a firstname. The scandal of the Grey/Chaplin couple, implicating a middle-aged man (whose firstname does begins like Charlotte, as these firstnames are related – notice also that the French name of Chaplin’s famous movie character is Charlot, a male version of Charlotte (you will see the relevance of that remark a bit later)) and very young girl, might have seemed a good choice of reference. Maybe Lolita’s fascination for movies and movie stars is a way to allude to miss Grey, a very young actress (Chaplin could have been charged with statutory rape under California law) marrying a (then) very famous movie star, and Charlotte is several times compared to Marlene Dietrich, a very famous movie star – probably another allusion to the aforementionned context, but all the hidden allusions to movies and actors in « Lolita » (« Hollywood harlot » (p.90 TAL) and many others) likely point toward another specific direction (more about this later)). We can remark as well that Lolita (Lorina too) and Charlotte forms the L. C. of the initials of Lewis Carroll.
Let’s note that Charlotte Haze, the mother of Lolita, lost a two years old boy, and Lorina Reeve (Liddell), the mother of Alice Liddell, lost a two years old boy as well in 1853, James Arthur Charles Liddell.
Harold E. Haze (Dolores’ father and Charlotte’s husband) is also another very discreet reference to the Liddell family, precisely to E. Harry Liddell, the big brother of the Liddell girls, and even if « Harry » is not actually related to « Harold » but to « Henry », the presence of the E. (Edward in the case of Harry Liddell) can confirm the suspicion – Harold E. and E. Harry can be seen as a barely distorted reflexion of of one another (this principle of distorted reflexion is used throughout the riddle, as hinted by Nabokov in his comment about the riddle in interviews in the 60s).
The parents of Lolita are a reference to the older siblings of Alice Liddell, despite the fact that her big sister and big brother have the same firstnames than their parents (her mother is Lorina Reeve and her father is Henry Liddell (Harry is related to Henry) – a man whose taste and judgment gained him the admiration and friendship of John Ruskin (more on this later). Henry Liddell was co-author (with Robert Scott) of the monumental work « A Greek-English Lexicon« , known as « Liddell and Scott« , which is still widely used by students of Greek). The confirmation comes from the middle names of her sister and brother. The first Liddell girl was named Lorina Charlotte in memory of Henry Liddell’s mother Charlotte Lyon (who died in 1871; reference in « Lycée in Lyon » p.11 TAL – there is a set of references of Lyon/Lyons/Lyonesse in the background of the riddle) who was herself the daughter of Mary Wren (who died in 1811).
Henry Liddell (1811–1898) and Lorina Reeve (March 1826-1910) had 10 children:
– Edward Harry Liddell (6 September 1847 – 14 June 1911)
– Lorina Charlotte Liddell (11 May 1849 – 29 October 1930)
– James Arthur Charles Liddell (28 December 1850 – 27 November 1853)
– Alice Pleasance Liddell (4 May 1852 – 16 November 1934)
– Edith Mary Liddell (Spring, 1854 – 26 June 1876)
– Rhoda Caroline Anne Liddell (1859 – 19 May 1949)
– Albert Edward Arthur Liddell (1863 – 28 May 1863)
– Violet Constance Liddell (10 March 1864 – 9 December 1927)
– Sir Frederick Francis Liddell (7 June 1865 – 19 March 1950)
– Lionel Charles Liddell (22 May 1868 – 21 March 1942); he was British Consul to Lyons and Copenhagen (Denmark).
Humbert Humbert dies a November 16 (of 1952, therefore 11/16/1952), just like Alice Hargreaves (Née Alice Pleasance Liddell), who was Carroll‘s “muse”, his model for his stories featuring the little Alice, who died a November 16 (11/16/1934 – barely a month and a half before Lolita‘s birth, on 1/1/1935 – perfect to suggest a literary reincarnation, one legendary real “nymphet” (Alice Liddell) symbolically rematerialized into another legendary nymphet, fictitious this time, Dolores Haze, a.k.a. Lolita)).
1952 is a capital year in the novel and the number 52 is omnipresent and thus loaded with a mysterious meaning in the mind of Nabokov, in the context of this novel. It must be a central symbolic element in the Lolita’s riddle.
Alice P. Liddell (Lewis Carroll’s “child-friend” as he called the children he befriended) was born in 1852. This date is an Alice liddell « tag » there are many hidden references implicating 1852 throughout the novel and this recurring 52 is also an Alice Liddell tag.
As we mentionned Humbert Humbert dies a November 16, 1952. This date is a reference to both the birth and the death of Alice Liddell. As we will see more thoroughly further, Humbert Humbert is a reflection of Lewis Carroll and the fact that his date of death has written “Alice Liddell” all over it, is one element to prove it ( 11/16/_ + _/_/52 ).
The “sly” playful Vladimir Nabokov went as far as giving as date of his “On a book Entitled Lolita” (p.311 TAL) published in summer 1957, November 12, 1956 – only two figures to swap to get November 16, 1952! (Notice also in the text, the mention of the town of Telluride (founded in 1878) whose name comes from Tellurium, an element whose atomic number is 52)
Diverse elements are found throughout the novel to confirm the nature of the context of the riddle:
Humbert Humbert receive Lolita’s final letter on September 18, 1952, i.e. 09/18/52 (the last part of the date is 1852 – and the first part is 9 (a recurrent number too, in the book) i.e. 3+4+2, so this date is particularly loaded, symbolically)
« Pierre Point in Melville Sound » (p.33 TAL): A reference to « Pierre or the Ambiguities » a Novel by Herman Melville (1819-1891; notice the 19/91) published in 1852.
« brun adolescent (…) se tordre-oh Baudelaire! » (p.162 TAL): Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867; one of the most famous French poet who tranlated Edgar A. Poe in French). A part of « Le Crépuscule du Matin » (1852).
Humbert refering to the hunchbacked hoary black groom at the « Enchanted Hunters » Hotel: « Handed over to uncle Tom » (p.118 TAL): « Uncle Tom’s Cabin » by Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) is from 1852.
Etc… the list is non-negligible.
52 reappears many times, like for instance in the fake license plates left on purpose in the motels’ registers by Quilty for Humbert‘s benefit (Q32888, CU88322).
The addition of all these figures gives us “52”, a number obviously important in the eyes of Nabokov at a symbolic level.
Humbert‘s poem to Lolita (p.255 TAL) is 52 lines long (maybe another hidden Lewis Carroll‘s reference: Lewis Carroll wrote a poem secretly destined to Alice Liddell at the end of his book “Through the Looking-glass”, an acrostic spelling her full name).
It also seems that Humbert and Lolita spend 52 weeks on the road during their first trip throughout the USA (one year).
The fact that Quilty is the author of 52 scenarios also has to be noted.
The mention of « smog » in Lolita’s final letter to Humbert « You can’t see the morons for the smog » (p.266 TAL) might also be a « keyword » hinting to the Great Smog of ‘52, an salliant event of this year that is now believed to have caused about 12,000 victims in London.
The fatidic year for Humbert, when his fate is sealed, when Lolita reappears, when he kills Quilty, when he goes to prison and eventually dies, is 1952. It’s also the year of death of both Lolita and Quilty.
The mention (p.289 TAL) of the case abduction and rape of the 11 years old Florence Sally Horner by a 50 years old man. In 1948, the 11-year-old Horner stole a 5-cent notebook from a store in Camden, New Jersey. Frank La Salle, a 50-year-old mechanic, caught her stealing, told her that he was an FBI agent, and threatened to send her to « a place for girls like you« . Florence Horner died in a car accident (p.288 TAL, « a routine highway accident« ) near Woodbine, New Jersey, in 1952. Then he abducted the girl and spent 21 months traveling with her over different American states and raping her. It seems clear that the case inspired partly « Lolita » (even though this theme existed long before in Nabokov’s works (see for instance his 1939 work « Volshebnik » (i.e. « The Enchanter« ))).
We can probably add the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1952 (married in 1947 to Prince Philip (whose uncle was King Constantine I of Greece, father was Andrew, prince of Greece and Denmark and mother was Princess Alice of Battenberg) who was born in 1921 during the Greco-Turkish war (1919-1922). Elizabeth met and fell in love with Philip in 1939) [ the different keywords includes: « Queen« , « King« , « Greece« , « Scarlet Guards or Beaver Eaters » (p.90 TAL), « wedding« , etc… ].
Nabokov actually used most of the references in « Lolita » to help to the identification of the context of the riddle, and once the context is discovered, to confirm the theory.
A certain number of secret tags in the novel are there to point to Lewis Carroll as part of the riddle:
1811: A Liddell tag. Both the date of birth of Henry Liddell, the father of Alice Liddell and the date of death of Mary Wren, mother of Charlotte Lyon, herself mother of Henry Liddell .
1832: Birth of Lewis Carroll in Daresbury.
1842: (more elements needed)
1849: Birth of Lorina Charlotte Liddell, the first of the Liddell girls to be photographed by Lewis Carroll.
1852: Birth of Alice Pleasance Liddell (on May 4th)
1853: Death of the two years old brother of Alice Liddell (James Arthur Charles Liddell) hinted in the two years old deceased brother of Lolita.
1856: Lewis Carroll meets Alice Liddell for the first time.
1862: Invention of the story that will « Alice in Wonderland » on the 4th of July on a boat trip on the thames withe the three Liddell sisters.
1863: Lewis Carroll ceases suddenly his relationship with the Liddell family.
1865: Publication of « Alice in Wonderland« , on the 4th of July.
1867: Lewis Carroll travels to Russia and John Ruskin propose to Rose La Touche.
1868: This is precisely right between the publication of “Alice in Wonderland” (1865) and the publication of “Through the Looking-Glass” (1871), the sequel of the first Alice story (1865+3= 1868 +3=1871), the two prominent books that made of this rather shy man a celebrity in the whole world, even after 150 years. The two most representative landmarks of his life, for everyone. Birth of Lionel Charles Liddell, brother of Alice.
That is also the year Lewis Carroll rent his house in Guildford, Castle Hill, « The Chestnuts » in which he’ll die. Death of Lewis Carroll’s father.
1871: Publication of « Through-the-Looking-Glass« . Of major importance in about what lies in the shadow of this book. Death of Charlotte Lyon, mother of Henry Liddell.
1878: Date of revealing elements in the context of the riddle. (Nabokov gave an importance to this date because of two excerpts in « The life and letters of Lewis Carroll » and a acrostic poem by Lewis Carroll, « Love among the roses » (a title that in the context of the riddle can be interpreted in a specific manner), that all seemed to reveal much about Lewis Carroll’s nature.)
1882: Date of « Dreamland », an important hint in the riddle.
1888: Date of the last encounter between Lewis Carroll and Alice P. Liddell, on November 1st.
1898: Death of Lewis Carroll, in « The Chestnuts » (also the death of Henry Liddell, father of Alice Liddell).
1910: Death of Lorina Reeve, mother of Alice Liddell.
The references to these dates (as direct references, references behind references and indirect references) are much more numerous in Lolita than what I’ve put there. I just wanted to highlight a few significant one. I have no time right now to fill this section with a comprehensive list. There are also a few other recurrent significant dates that are not directly linked to Lewis Carroll (namely 1819, 1900, 1911, 1919, 1923 and 1939) and they will be treated later.
1811 (Both the date of birth of Henry Liddell, the father of Alice Liddell and the date of death of Mary Wren, mother of Charlotte Lyon, herself mother of Henry Liddell)
Birth of Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896), author of « Uncle Tom’s Cabin » (1852), alluded in p.118 TAL.
The fairy-tale « Undine » (*) by Friedrich de la Motte-Fouqué is published. The rivals of the author applied a sobriquet of « Don Quixote of Romanticism » to him. An opera « Undine » was made by E. T. A. Hoffmann (the author of the novella « The Nutcracker and the Mouse King« , on which the famous ballet « The Nutcracker » is based) with the libretto by Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué, based on his own story « Undine » (It was Hoffmann’s greatest operatic success and a major influence on the development of German Romantic opera).
Fouqué’s play Der Sängerkrieg auf der Wartburg (The Song Contest on the Wartburg) is likely one of the sources for Wagner‘s Tannhäuser. Goethe was not impressed by it, remarking to Eckermann: « We both agreed that all his life this poet had engaged in old Germanic studies, however without being able to develop this into a culture of his own making. » Robert Louis Stevenson admired Fouqué’s story « The Bottle Imp » and wrote his own version (The Bottle Imp) with a Hawaiian setting. John Henry Newman and Charlotte Mary Yonge both praised « Sintram and his Companions ». William Morris also became an admirer of « Sintram and his Companions », and it influenced Morris’ own fiction. « Sintram and his Companions » and « Undine » are also referred to in « Little Women » by Louisa May Alcott; the character Jo mentions wanting them for Christmas in the first chapter of the book and finally receives them in chapter 22. Furthermore, « Aslauga’s Knight« , as well as « Sintram and his Companions » and « Undine » are referred to in « Jo’s Boys« , the final book in Alcott’s « Little Women » series, where the story of « Aslauga’s Knight » mirrors the character Dan and his affection for gentle Bess. Fouqué’s Undine also exerted an influence on Hans Christian Andersen‘s « The Little Mermaid » (1837). Edgar Allan Poe was profoundly influenced by Fouqué’s tale, according to Pollin, which may have come about through Poe’s broad reading of Walter Scott. The 1939 play « Ondine » by French dramatist Jean Giraudoux is also based upon Fouqué’s novella.
(*) The story was inspired by the French legend of Melusine, a figure of the European folklore, a feminine spirit of fresh waters in sacred springs and rivers (A fairy of the waters, like the Lady of the Lake. Kind of a water nymph). She is usually depicted as a woman who is a serpent or fish from the waist down (much like a mermaid or a siren) who had been exiled from Avalon (Arthurian context). There was a prose version named « Chronique de la princesse » (Chronicle of the Princess) derived from the most famous literary version of Melusine tales, that of Jean d’Arras (« Roman de Mélusine »), compiled about 1382-1394 (1382 is an anagram of 1832). She is connected with Cyprus, where the French Lusignan royal house that ruled the island from 1192 to 1489 (1489 is an anagram of 1849) claimed to be descended from Melusine (among the well known individuals concerned by this context were Guy of Lusignan and Charlotte of Cyprus (Charlotte of Lusignan), Princess of Antioch and Queen of Cyprus and Melisende of Lusignan, Princess of Antioch, who had a half-sister named Alice of Champagne (in this Outremer context, let’s mention Melisende, Queen of Jerusalem (reign: 1131-1153; Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish state and quite associated with the Jewish people; many references to Jews and Judaism are found in « Lolita » (more on this later)), who had as sister Alice of Antioch, Princess of Jerusalem, then Princess of Antioch. Melisende (or Mélisande, as it is spelled in French) is a kind of distorted echo of Melusine, and it’s not a coincidence that Maeterlinck‘s Melisande in « Pelleas and Melisande » was apparently inspired by Melusine). Note that the House of Plantagenet also claims shared ancestry from Melusine. Melusine had been sculpted by Ludwig Michael Schwanthaler who also sculpted a « Nymph of the Rhine« , a « Loreley » and a « Nyx« . There is also a well known painting, « Die Schöne Melusine » (the Fair Melusine), by Julius Hübner (1806-1882).
Page 235 TAL, in context of the fake phone call: 2-8282 -> 2 are 1+1. We got: 1181 1811 , i.e. 1811 and its reflection, 1181 (this trick alluding to mirror (looking-glass would be apter, as it is used as a reference to Lewis Carroll) will be find several times in the riddles embedded in this book. This is hinted to the reader in « Lolita » by overt instances of reflexion in the narrative (e.g. Trapp/Pratt; Melanie Weissman/Blanche Schwarzman (etymologically, (from ancient Greek) Melanie = black/dark, (German) weiss = white, (French) blanche = white and (German) schwarz = black (and man = man)); widow Haze/widow Hays), etc…).
(Pierre Jules) Théophile Gautier (1811-1872) was a French poet, dramatist, novelist, journalist, and art and literary critic. While Gautier was an ardent defender of Romanticism, his work is difficult to classify and remains a point of reference for many subsequent literary traditions such as Parnassianism, Symbolism, Decadence and Modernism. He was widely esteemed by writers as diverse as Balzac, Baudelaire, the Goncourt brothers, Flaubert, Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, Henry James, Marcel Proust and Oscar Wilde. He was a pupil at the Collège Charlemagne. His daughters were named Estelle (a cognate of Stella) and Judith. He was introduced to Victor Hugo via Gérard de Nerval who was a lifelong friend of Gautier. Among his works : « Albertus » (1832), « Pâquerette » (1851; i.e. « Daysies« ), « Le Roman de la Momie » (French ‘momie’ means ‘mummy’ (p. TAL); Marius Petipa‘s « Pharaoh’s Daughter » (1862; revival in 1898 – more about this later) was based on it and there was also a movie based on the book in 1911), « Caprices et Zigzag » (1852), « Emaux et Camées » (1852),« Italia » (1852), « L’Art Moderne » (1856), « Le Captaine Fracasse » (1863), « Romans et Contes« (1863; conte means fairy tale in French), « De Profundis Morpionibus » (1863; Gautier preferred to keep that satirical work anonymous), « Loin de Paris« (1865), « Voyage en Russie » (1867; i.e. ‘Journey to Russia’ which is the year Lewis Carrol travelled to Russia), « Tableaux de Siège: Paris 1870-1871″ (1871). Gautier also wrote a verse named « Le Spectre de la rose« . Charles Baudelaire‘s famous « Les Fleurs du Mal« , alluded in « Lolita« , was dedicated to him.
11/18/49 (p.248 TAL): If we use the date format Humbert was used to (the French one, ie. 18/11) it gives us 1811, while the last gives 1849.
etc… More references to this year are present in the novel.
1832 (Birth of Lewis Carroll)
Birth of Louisa May Alcott (1832–1888), author of « Little Women » (p.173 TAL).
« Le roi s’amuse » by Victor Hugo in 1832 is alluded in p.256 TAL (« Bien fol est qui s’y fie! » is a well-known sentence from this play (who was quickly banned in France and would not be performed again until 1882 and who inspired Verdi‘s opera « Rigoletto » who triumphally premiered in Venice in 1851), who was originally pronounced by Francis I ((*) the most emblematic Renaissance French king (who is in a French silent movie in 1910), and famous enemy of Charles V – to be counted in the references to French Renaissance Litterature (For his role in the development and promotion of a standardized French language, he became known as le Père et Restaurateur des Lettres (the « Father and Restorer of Letters »))) (Hugo’s most famous novel, worldwide is « Les misérables » (mentionned p.10 TAL) published in 1862 (a story whose most important moments occur in 1823 and 1832 (a 23/32 that certainly caught Nabokov’s attention). There is a 9 years gap between both dates), and one of the writing that has the most impact on Hugo’s life (because of his political content) was « Napoléon le Petit » (1852), a political pamphlet about Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte (a.k.a. Napoléon III; « Rue Bonaparte » p.26 TAL, « The Emperor » p. 201 TAL). His wife Adèle died in 1868.)
(*) He was alo known as the Knight–king and built an alliance with the Ottoman (Turkish) Sultan). Among his children we find Charlotte, Louise, Charles, Henri and Marguerite. The coast of Florida (scouted in 1523 in an expedition by Giovanni da Verrazano) was originally called Franciscane in his honor by the French.
Johann Wolgang von Goethe (1749-1832) is alluded several times (the « Erlkönig« , « The Sorrows of Young Werther » inspired by Charlotte Buff, a novel also alluded in the reference to Kreutzer (“The Kreutzer Sonata” by René Prinet (1898) that made an opera named « Werther »). Goethe also wrote « Faust« , a tragic play in two parts (the second part was published posthumously in 1832), « Italian Journey » and an idyll named « Hermann and Dorothea » set at the beginning of the French Revolutionary Wars (an idyll is a short poem, descriptive of rustic life, written in the style of Theocritus’ short pastoral poems, the « Idylls« . Later famous examples include the Roman poets Virgil and Catullus (both mentionned in « Lolita » because of the importance of the keyword « Idyll » in the subjacent context of « Lolita » pointing to Tennyson’s « Idylls of the King« ), and the English poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson (« Idylls of the King« ). A good example of that kind of theme in paintings would be « The Shepherdess » by Bouguereau) that Friedrich Schiller (who became a friend. He was referenced in « Lolita« , especially with Dick Schiller, who gives his last name to Lolita) considered the very climax in Goethe’s production. In 1776, Goethe formed a close relationship to Charlotte von Stein, an older, married woman. Hegel (mentionned in p.259 TAL; he married in 1811 and his sister Christian Luise died in 1832) was fascinated by Goethe (and also by Jean-jacques Rousseau (allusion to him in p. TAL « Jean-jacques Humbert« ) and the French Revolution). Goethe published a « Theory of Colours » concerning the light spectrum (a hint, more about this in the final conclusion part). There are recurrent mentions of Goethe in Freud‘s writings. Schopenhauer cited Goethe’s novel « Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship » as one of the four greatest novels ever written, along with « Tristram Shandy« , « La Nouvelle Heloïse« , and « Don Quixote« . In Wilhelm Meister’s Journeyman Years, Goethe re-tells the Melusine tale in a short story titled « The New Melusine« .
Walter Scott (1771-1832), Scottish author of « The Lady of the Lake » (1810 – it inspired Rossini’s « La Donna Del Lago » (1819)), « Ivanhoe » (1819; John Ruskin (1819–1900; more on this important person important in the riddle later) credited Scott and his « Ivanhoe » for the increased interest in medieval times at this time), or « The Pirate » (1822). He also authored « The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border« , recounting the legend of Melusine. The references to sir Walter Scott are in « Duncan, Walter » and « Scott, Donald » (p.52 TAL): with it, we can get Walter Scott, then remains « Duncan » who is a leading member of Clan Alpine who has just died in « The Lady of the Lake » (the lady of the lake is secretly alluded in « Lolita » (more on this later) and Donald a Gaelic Scottish name (note that Dolly (one of Lolita’s nickname) is also a Scottish pet name for the female version of the firstname Donald ((and Dorothy, also a keyword, a reference in « Lolita« , sometimes directly, sometimes quite indirectly like with the mention of Schlegel (p.259 TAL) who actually points to Dorothea von Schlegel, his wife, who was the author of an unfinished romance named « Florentin« . Schleger himself authored writings such as « Lucinde« , « Über die Philosophie. An Dorothea » and « Kritische Fragmente » („Lyceums“-Fragmente). Schlegel was a pioneer in Indo-European studies, comparative linguistics, in what became known as Grimm‘s law)))). Nevertheless, Duncan refers more directly to the Scottish painter John Duncan (1866-1945) who painted a « Bedivere and dying Arthur« , « Hymn to the Rose » (1907) and a « Tristan and Isolde » (1912) – you will see the relevance of all this later. His work is rooted in the Pre-Raphaelite movement and has yet a certain closeness with Art Nouveau.
Gustave Eiffel (1832–1923; there is a famous 1888 photograph of him by Nadar (1820-1910) and another one dated 1910; notice the 32/23). The reference is in the anecdote about the taylor (p. TAL; an Austrian-born French taylor (and a specific reference in p.274 TAL, « an Austrian tailor’s flat finger tips« ) that had moved in Paris in 1898, hence the presence of the anecdote in « Lolita« ) jumping from the Eiffel Tower with a parachute of his own design (in 1911, Colonel Lalance wrote to the Aéro-Club de France, offering a prize of 10,000 francs for a safety parachute for aviators, which decided the taylor, Franz Reichelt, to participate. the mention of Lenormand (p.201 TAL, « echoes from Lenormand« ) might also indirectly point to another Lenormand, besides the playwright Henri René Lenormand (born in May 1882), Louis-Sébastien Lenormand, considered the first pioneer in modern parachuting in the world. He is considered as the first man to make a witnessed descent with a parachute and is also credited with coining the term parachute). It is the Exposition Universelle in 1878 that firmly established his reputation as one of the leading engineers of the time. His first important realisation was the Railway station at Toulouse, France in 1862. Among his other works we can mention the Théâtre les Folies in Paris (1868), Grand Hotel Traian, in Iaşi, Romania (1882), Colbert Bridge in Dieppe, France (1888), Aérodynamique EIFFEL (wind tunnel) in Paris (1911) and he also particpated to the realisation of the Statue of Liberty. We can also mention about the Eiffel Tower that in 1910, Father Theodor Wulf measured radiant energy at the top and bottom of the tower and found more at the top than expected, incidentally discovering what are known today as cosmic rays. William-Adolphe Bouguerau was part of the numerous known individuals that was against the building of the Eiffel Tower. There is also a early short « movie » « Panoramic view during ascent of the Eiffel Tower » by the Lumière brothers, dated 1898. Famous photographs of the different stages of progression (e.g. 20 March 1888, 15 May 1888) of the Eiffel tower construction were published in « La tour de 300 mètres » (1900).
Gustave Doré (1832-1883), a French artist who illustrated many books (by such authors as Rabelais, Balzac, Dante Alighieri, Shakespeare’s « The Tempest« , les contes de Charles Perrault (1862), Chateaubriand’s « Atala« , « Don Quixotte de la Mancha » by Cervantes (references in « Don Quixotte » (p.10 TAL) and in « Donald Quix, Sierra, Nev. » p.251 TAL), Edgar Allan Poe and Alfred Tennyson’s « Idylls of the King« – all aluded to some extent in the novel). In 1856 he made a twelve folio-size illustrations of The Legend of the wandering Jew.
« Otto Otto » (p.308 TAL) and the several allusion to Greece (e.g. among many others: « El Greco » (p.152 TAL; « the Greek » (he was from Crete)), « Greeks repulse a heavy guerilla assault » (p.262 TAL), etc…) are poiting to King Otto of Greece who became the first modern King of Greece in May 1832 under the Convention of London and who reigned until he was deposed in 1862. The crown was offered to Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton but he declined the offer.
Also « .32 automatic » in p.62 TAL.
More references to this year are present in the novel.
1842: (more elements needed)
The painting « The Last Stand of the 44th Regiment at Gundamuck, 1842 » by William Barnes Wollen depicting the Massacre of Elphinstone‘s Army (the 1842 retreat from Kabul) was painted in 1898.
« Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister » (alluded by Humbert in “While Brown Dolores” (p.245 TAL)) in 1842 by Robert Browning (born in May), an author alluded several other times in “Lolita” (notably with allusions to the play “Pippa passes” (p.207 TAL)). R. Browning was the author of « Bells and Pomegranates No. II: King Victor and King Charles« and « Bells and Pomegranates No. III: Dramatic Lyrics » both in 1842 (it’s the number 3 issue and in ‘42 (again 3-42), in which we find a « Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister« , « The Pied Piper of Hamelin« , « Porpohyria’s Lover » (a poem that received its definitive title in 1863; we can see a mirror effect in Porphyria’s modelling of the persona in the first half; We can see similar ideas in Tennyson‘s « Lady of Shalott » (more about this later)) and « My Last Duchess« ) but also « Dramatic Idylls: Second Series » in which we find « Pan and Luna » and “The Ring and the Book” (1868; his genesis came from Florence, and the subject was proposed to Alfred Tennyson at some point).
Emma Livry (1842–1863) was one of the last ballerinas of the Romantic ballet era and a protégée of Marie Taglioni (reference to the Opéra de Paris and the « Petits Rats » (name of the little dancer at the Opéra de Paris) by Humbert in « Lolita« ). Livry was the illegitimate daughter of Célestine Emarot, a ballet dancer, and Baron Charles de Chassiron, which prompted the following rhyming verse:
- « Can so skinny a rat
- Be the daughter of so round a cat? »
At the age of sixteen, she made her debut with the Paris Opera Ballet at the Salle Le Peletier as the sylph (*) in La Sylphide. Her talent brought her fame and she became a widely respected ballerina. Livry had the title-role of Farfalla (Butterfly) in « Le Papillon » (‘papillon’ means ‘butterfly‘ in French), the only full-length ballet composed by Jacques Offenbach. On 15 November 1862, Livry’s skirts caught fire on a gaslight. She died from complications after burn injuries.
(*) Also called Sylphid, it’s an air spirit. The word is possibly a portmanteau from Latin sylvestris and nympha, sylvestris being a common synonym for sylph in Paracelsus. Anthon and Trollope note a similar usage in the Aeneid, where silvestris is taken as an elliptical form of nympha silvestris (« forest nymph« ).
More references to this year are present in the novel.
1849: Birth of Lorina Charlotte Liddell in May, the first of the Liddell girls to be photographed by Lewis Carroll.
Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), was an American writer, editor, and literary critic. He was alluded several times in « Lolita« . In 1835, he married Virginia Clemm, his 13-year-old cousin, when he was 26. She died in 1847 and had probably inspired Poe’s poem « Annabel Lee » (1849), overtly alluded in « Lolita« , especially in the character Annabel Leigh. Poe is generally considered the inventor of the detective fiction genre and is further credited with contributing to the emerging genre of science fiction. He is best known for his poetry and short stories, particularly his tales of mystery and the macabre. Edgar Poe is particularly respected in France, in part due to early translations by Charles Baudelaire. Baudelaire’s translations became definitive renditions of Poe’s work throughout Europe. There is a homonymous Edgar Allan Poe named after him (the famous author was his second cousin, twice removed), who was born in 1871 and was Attorney General of the State of Maryland from 1911 to 1915.
Frances Hodgson Burnett (1849-1924), an English writer (more will be said about her later).
John William Waterhouse (1849-1917; a Pre-raphaelite painter). One of his most famous painting is « The Lady of Shalott » (painted three times, the first time in 1888). Among John William Waterhouse’s paintings are also « The Siren » (1900), « The Mermaid » (1901), « Ulysses and the Sirens » (1891), « Ondine » (1872; French for « Undine » (allusion in « repressed undinist » (p.250 TAL). Jean Gireaudoux‘s play « Ondine » is from 1939)), « A Naiad or Hylas with a Nymph » (1893; Naiads are water Nymphs, allusion in « water nymphs in the Styx » p.250 TAL), « Hylas and the Nymphs » (1896), « Nymphs Finding the Head of Orpheus » (1900), « The Lady Clare » (1900), « Miranda » (1875), « Miranda – The Tempest » (1916), « La belle dame sans merci » (1893), « The Lady of Shalott Looking at Lancelot » (1894), « Dante and Matilda« (formerly called « Dante and Beatrice » – Circa 1914-17), Matilda (study) (formerly called « Beatrice » – Circa 1915), « Gather Ye Rosebuds or Ophelia » (1908), »Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May… » (1908; “a rosebud degenerated mouth” (p.218 TAL)), « The Soul of the Rose or My Sweet Rose » (1908) and « Tristan and Isolde » (1916).
John Reinhard Weguelin (1849-1927). He was an English painter . Among his recurrent themes: Mermaids, Nymphs and pastoral scenes. Weguelin attended the Slade School of Fine Art, then headed by Edward Poynter. He is particularly remembered for his « Lesbia » (1878) depicting the fabled muse of the Roman poet Catullus. Among his other paintings are « The Garden of Adonis » (1888; Young women on a beach with maiden carries rose wreaths for offerings, and a young piper on the side), « Bacchus and the Choir of Nymphs« (1888), « The Mermaid of Zennor » (1900), « The Magic of Pan‘s Flute« , « Mermaid » (1911), « The Sleeping Mermaid » (1911), « The Mermaid on the Sea Shore« , « Rose Petals« , « Saturnalia« , « Libation to the Nymph« , « The Racing Nymphs« , « Reflection« , « Cupid Bound by the Nymphs« , « The Piper and the Nymphs« , « Pan the Beguiler » (1898; Pan beguiling Sirens by piping), « The Toilet of Faunus« , « The Rainbow Lies in the Curve of the Sand » (depicting a mermaid on the beach), « The Feast of Flora » (1882), « The Obsequies of an Egyptian Cat » (depicting a priestess of Ancient Egypt kneeling before an altar upon which is placed the mummy of a cat), « The Captive Wood Nymph« , « A Pastoral » (with a young naked woman piping) and « Cherry Blossom » (with a naked young woman in front of a cherry blossom tree). He also produced illustrations for several books, including a volume of poems by Catullus and Hans Christian Andersen‘s stories in « The Little Mermaid and other Tales« .
« spare cot in 49 » (p.118 TAL).
More references to this year are present in the novel.
1852 (Year of birth of Alice Pleasance Liddell, on May, 4th)
Matthew Arnold (more on him later) wrote a poem “Tristram and Yseult” in 1852 (references to Tristram are omnipresent in the book, with a good reason as we will see). He died in 1888.
« Pierre Point in Melville Sound » (p.33 TAL): A reference to « Pierre or the Ambiguities » a Novel by Herman Melville (1819-1891 (notice the 19/91)) published in 1852.
« brun adolescent (…) se tordre-oh Baudelaire! » (p.162 TAL): A part of « Le Crépuscule du Matin » (1852) by Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867).
Humbert refering to the hunchbacked hoary black groom at the « Enchanted Hunters » Hotel: « Handed over to uncle Tom » (p.118 TAL): « Uncle Tom’s Cabin » by Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) is from 1852.
Etc… Many references to this year are present in the novel.
1853: Death of the two years old brother of Alice Liddell (James Arthur Charles Liddell) hinted in the two years old deceased brother of Lolita.
Howard Pyle (March 1853 – 1919), an American artist, is also among the web of the references in « Lolita » (more about him later).
« Sylvie » a 1853 novella by Gérard de Nerval (May 1808-1855). It is an idyll written in the form of a reminiscence, the story is about a hero’s love for three women, all of whom he loses; a hymn to unattainable, unrequited love. He also wrote « Lorely, souvenirs d’Allemagne » (1852; « Lorelei » p. TAL), « Voyage en Orient » (1851; partly about his journeys in Egypt and Turkey), « La Bohème Galante » (1852). In 1822 Gérard de Nerval had begun classes at the collège Charlemagne alongside Théophile Gautier (1811-1872), who became a lifelong friend. In his second year at collège Charlemagne he wrote one poem of his, in praise of emperor Napoleon, « Napoléon ou la France guerrière, élégies nationales » that was published. His prose translation of Goethe‘s « Faust« , published in 1828, established his reputation. Goethe himself read Nerval’s translation and called it « very successful, » even claiming that he preferred it to the original. On 22 December 1842 Nerval set off for the Near East, traveling to Alexandria and Cairo (Egypt), Beirut, Constantinople (Turkey), Malta and Naples. Increasingly poverty-stricken and disoriented, he committed suicide during the night of 26 January 1855, by hanging himself from the bar of a cellar window in a narrow lane in a squalid section of Paris. He left a brief note to his aunt: « Do not wait up for me this evening, for the night will be black and white.« . The poet Charles Baudelaire observed that Nerval had « delivered his soul in the darkest street that he could find. »
« Cumberland Sheep-Shearers » (1853; « humberland » p.166 TAL) by Elizabeth Gaskell.
Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865) was an English novelist and short story writer. Among her daughters there are a Marianne and Florence Elizabeth. She became popular for her writing, especially her ghost stories in the « Gothic » vein, aided by Charles Dickens, who published her work in his magazine Household Words.
Among her works: « Sylvia’s Lovers » (1863), « Wives and Daughters: An Everyday Story » (1865), « The Old Nurse’s Story » (1852), « Hand and Heart » (1849), « The Old Nurse’s Story » (1852), « Cumberland Sheep-Shearers » (1853), « My French Master » (1853), « The Poor Clare » (1856), « Crowley Castle« (1863), « An Accursed Race » (1855), « The Life of Charlotte Brontë » (1857), and « French Life » (1864).
Etc… Many references to this year are present in the novel.
1856 (First encounter between Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell):
« James Mavor Morell, Hoaxton, England » (p.251 TAL) contains references to the play « Candida » (in « Plays Pleasant » published in 1898) by George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), in which there are a James Mavor Morell and a Hoxton. Among his works are the dramas « Saint Joan » (about Joan of Arc), « Caesar and Cleopatra » (1898), « Misalliance » (1910), « The Dark Lady of the Sonnets » (1910), « Fanny’s First Play » (1911), « Heartbreak House » (1919), « In Good King Charles’s Golden Days » (1939), the novels « Cashel Byron‘s Profession« , « An Unsocial Socialist« , « Love Among the Artists » and the essays « The Perfect Wagnerite, Commentary on the Ring » (1898), « Women as councillors » (1900), « Treatise on Parents and Children » (1910). In relation with the Carrollian context of the riddle, it should be mentionned that Shaw bought his first camera in 1898 and was an active amateur photographer until his death. Before 1898, Shaw had been an early supporter of photography as a serious art form. His letters to actress Ellen Terry (a friend of Lewis Carroll) by Shaw had been published. The British Prime Minister David Lloyd George was considering recommending to the King Shaw’s admission to the Order of Merit, but the place was instead given to J. M. Barrie.
The several allusions to Sigmund Freud (May 1856–1939).
« Emma Bovary » by Gustave Flaubert, several times alluded in « Lolita« , was published in 1856.
« The Fisherman and the Siren » (1856-1858) by Frederic Leighton, who also painted « Actaea, the Nymph of the Shore » (1868), « Nausicaa » (1878), « Winding the Skein » (1878), « Mother and Child » (1865), « Wedded » (1881-1882), « Greek Girls Picking up Pebbles by the Sea » (1871), « Captive Andromache » (1888), « Death of Brunelleschi » (1852), « Light of the Harem » and « Idyll« . In 1860, he moved to London, where he associated with the Pre-Raphaelites. He designed Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s tomb for Robert Browning in the English Cemetery, Florence. He had an intense and romantically tinged relationship with the poet Henry William Greville whom he met in Florence in 1856. Leighton was knighted in 1878. He became the president of the Royal Academy in 1878. Leighton was painted by George Frederic Watts who was a popular English Victorian painter and sculptor that also painted Dante Gabriel Rossetti in 1871.
Henri-Edmond Cross, born Henri-Edmond-Joseph Delacroix, (May 1856 – May 1910) was a French painter and printmaker. He is most acclaimed as a master of Neo-Impressionism, and he played an important role in shaping the second phase of that movement. He was a significant influence on Henri Matisse and many other artists, and his work was instrumental in the development of Fauvism. His parents were Alcide Delacroix (Alcide contains an angram of Alice), a French adventurer, and British Fanny Woollett. In 1865 the family moved to a location near Lille, a northern French city close to the Belgian border. Alcide’s cousin, Dr. Auguste Soins, recognized Henri’s artistic talent and was very supportive of his artistic inclinations, even financing the boy’s first drawing instructions under painter Carolus-Duran the following year. Henri was Duran’s protégé for a year. His studies continued for a short time in Paris in 1875 with François Bonvin before returning to Lille. He studied at the École des Beaux-Arts, and in 1878 he enrolled at the Écoles Académiques de Dessin et d’Architecture, studying for 3 years in the studio of Alphonse Colas. In 1891 Cross began painting in the Neo-Impressionist style, and exhibited his first large piece using this technique in an Indépendants show. That painting was a divisionist portrait of Madame Hector France, née Irma Clare, whom Cross had met in 1888 and would marry in 1893. Edouard Manet is to be counted among his influences.
Among his works: « La fuite des nymphes« , « Sunset on the Lagoon, Venice » (1893-1898), « Regatta in Venice » (1898-1908), « La barque bleue » (« bateau bleu » (i.e. blue boat), p.250 TAL), « La maison rose« , « La Plage de Saint-Clair » (French « clair » sounds very close to English « Clare« ) and « Dormeuse nue dans la clairière« .
Humbert writes « Lolita or the confession of white widowed male » that is about to become « Lolita » in 56 days (« What I started, fifty-six days ago, to write Lolita« , p.308 TAL).
etc…more references to this year are present in the novel.
1862 (« Alice in Wonderland » is invented and told for the first time to the Liddell girls)
Maurice Maeterlinck (1862 – May 1949). Maybe also intended as an allusion to William Morris (Maurice sounds almost the same in French) who has an importance in the riddle (more on this later). His play « Pelléas and Mélisande » was inspired by the myth of Undines (Naiads, water Nymphs), especially of the legend of Melusine. He is the author of « Oiseau Bleu » alluded by Nabokov in the novel. He received the Nobel Prize in literature in 1911 (there are references to laureates of Nobel Prize in literature in « Lolita« , for a more global view, see this page).
« a replica of the Grotto of Lourdes » p.151 TAL makes reference to a famous site of pilgrimage to a grotto in Lourdes (known for a certain numbers of miraculous healings (so far, 69)) where the 14 years old (the eldest of 9 children of Louise, her mother) Bernadette Soubirous (1844-1879) alledgely had visions of the Virgin Mary. After thorough investigation Church authorities confirmed the authenticity of the apparitions in 1862. After her death, she was exhumed several times and her body seemed preserved from decomposition (the second time was in 1919). Her father died in 1871 and two of her brothers died respectively in 1865 and 1919. In 1863 Joseph-Hugues Fabisch was charged to create a statue of the Virgin according to Bernadette’s description (Fabisch also made for instance the Golden virgin consecrated on 8 December 1852 on top of the chapel of the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière in Lyon, and in 1855 « Beatrix« , a white marble at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon. In 1868, Fabisch created another Madonna, this one with the Child, for the crypt of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Lourdes).
Alice B. Woodward (1862-1951) was known as one of the most prolific illustrators of the turn of the 20th century. She is known mainly for her work in children’s literature. She succeeded Aubrey Beardsley as illustrator of W.C. Jerrold’s « Bon-Mots of the Eighteenth Century« , and then his « Bon-Mots of the Nineteenth Century« . From 1907 on, her main publisher was George Bell & Sons for whom she illustrated « The Peter Pan Picture Book » written by Daniel O’Connor, creating 28 coloured plates. She illustrated the stories of two Gilbert and Sullivan operas, Lewis Carroll’s « Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland« . Her sister, Gertrude Mary Woodward, also worked in anatomical lithography, and was a lifelong friend of Beatrix Potter, author of the Cildren’s book « The Tale of Peter Rabbit, daughter of Rupert William Potter (1832-1914), photographer.
Elizabeth Robins (August 1862 – May 1952; born in Louisville, Kentucky), an actress, playwright, novelist and suffragette (there are quite a few feminists, suffragettes and free thinking women secretly alluded in « Lolita« ). The mention of Ibsen‘s « Hedda Gabler« (p.229 TAL; the mention of Eugene O’neill not long after, has a resonance with James O’neill that helped her join Edwin Booth’s theatre) is actually hinting to her: She brought to the stage, with Marion Lea, Ibsen’s « Hedda Gabler » for the first time ever in England (Hedda became synonymous with Robins in England). After arriving in New York, as a young women she had started touring as soon as 1882. She married George Parks who killed himself in 1888 leaving a suicide note where was written « I will not stand in your light any longer« . The same year she moved to London. She played in Frances Hodgson Burnett‘s « The Real Lord Fauntleroy » in 1889. Robins and Lea brought strong female characters to the scene. She later became friend with George Bernard Shaw who had said because of her work « what is called the Woman Question has begun to agitate the stage. In 1898, with her new lover William Archer, she started the New Century theatre and produced non-profit Ibsen plays. She stopped her cating carrer at the age of forty.
[ « Who’s Who in the Limelight – actors, producers, playwrights » (p.31 TAL) is an incentive to search refernces in the domain of actors in order to get the chain of references (the same trick is used by Nabokov for painters, dancers, etc…(more about this later)). ]
Edward Everett Rose (1862–1939) was an American playwright. He adapted a number of popular novels into plays, including « Alice of Old Vincennes » (written by Maurice Thompson in 1900; Vincennes is the name of a French town in the outskirts of Paris where lies a famous castle built by Charles V in the 14th c. and particularly associated with Louis IX (i.e. 9)), and « The Rosary« , »David Harum » and the Penrod stories of Booth Tarkington (Alluded in the town Parkington in « Lolita« , author of « Alice Adams » (Pulitzer Price of 1922), « Cherry« , « Harlequin and Columbine« (see p.242 TAL) and Pulitzer price of 1919 with « The Magnificent Ambersons« ; notice that there is an Alice Adams in the list of the classmates of Lolita in Beardsley (p.224 TAL)).
Elizabeth Siddal (1829-1862) was an English artists’ model, poet and artist. She was painted and drawn extensively by artists of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, including Walter Deverell, William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais (including his notable 1852 painting Ophelia) and her husband, Dante Gabriel Rossetti. She was first noticed by Walter Deverell in 1849. Elizabeth Siddal was the primary muse for Dante Gabriel Rossetti throughout most of his youth. Rossetti had met her in 1849, when she was modelling for Deverell and by 1851, she was sitting for Rossetti and he began to paint her to the exclusion of almost all other models and stopped her from modelling for the other Pre-Raphaelites. The number of paintings he did of her are said to number in the thousands. Rossetti’s drawings and paintings of Siddal culminated in « Beata Beatrix » which shows a praying Beatrice (from Dante Alighieri) painted in 1863, a year after her death. Perhaps Rossetti’s most abundant and personal works were pencil sketches of Siddal at home. He began them in 1852, when he moved into Chatham Place with her. In 1855, art critic John Ruskin began to subsidize her career and paid £150 per year in exchange for all the drawings and paintings she produced. Ruskin admonished Rossetti in his letters for not marrying Siddal and giving her security. Siddal overdosed on laudanum in the early months of 1862. Rossetti discovered her unconscious and dying in bed after having had dinner with her and his friend Algernon Charles Swinburne. She died on February 11, 1862 at their home at 14 Chatham Place. Another famous work he produced toward the end of their marriage was his « Regina Cordium » (or « The Queen of Hearts« ). After Siddal’s death in 1862, Fanny Cornforth moved into the widowed Rossetti’s home as his housekeeper and became his model and mistress (she was the model in « Fair Rosamund » and « Lady Lilith« ).
Edith Wharton (1862-1937) is alluded in the mention of « The Age of Innocence » (*) (p.198 TAL; which is actually a reference to Lewis Carroll as you will see in the Addendum part, in the end of the page. The title of the novel was likely inspired by a painting by Joshua Reynolds (the picture was presented to the National Gallery by Robert Vernon (1774-1849)) that Lewis Carroll had parodied), a novel of hers that won the Pulitzer Price for literature in 1921. In 1877, at the age of 15, she secretly wrote a 30,000 word novella « Fast and Loose » and In 1878 her father arranged for a collection of two dozen original poems and five translations, Verses, to be privately published. She was engaged to Henry Stevens in 1882 after a two-year courtship but the month the two were to marry, the engagement abruptly ended. She travelled a lot in France and Italy. Wharton designed The Mount, her estate in Lenox, Massachusetts, that became her primary residence until 1911. She had a lifelong friendship with her Rhinelander niece, landscape architect Beatrix Farrand.
(*) Sinclair Lewis‘ « Main Street: The Story of Carol Kennicott » (notice the Lewis(‘s The Story of) Carol (Kennicott)) was initially awarded the 1921 Pulitzer Prize for literature, but was rejected by the Board of Trustees, who overturned the jury’s decision, and the prize went, instead, to Edith Wharton for « The Age of Innocence » (reference p.198 TAL). Lewis (also author of « The Enchanted Hour » (1919)) was part of the trend toward increasingly critical depictions of rural America (in which are to be counted (Grant Wood‘s (mentionned p.199 TAL) « American Gothic » (a title kind of pointing toward E. A. Poe) or Sherwood Anderson’s « Winesburg, Ohio: A Group of Tales of Ohio Small-Town Life » (1919)).
Fromental Halévy (May 1799-March 1862), French composer known for such works as « La Tentation » (i.e. ‘The Temptation’, 1832, having a Miranda as character, played/danced by Pauline Duvernay (immortalised by a 1888 portrait by Carolus-Duran, who have had as a pupil, John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), painter of « Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth« ), who had made her debut in london in « Sleeping Beauty » (p.201 TAL)), « La Juive » (i.e. « The Jewess » (taking place in 1414) who was a success at the same time in Paris than his 3 acts opéra comique « L’éclair » (The Lightning Flash; the story taking place in Boston and having such characters as Henriette and Lyonel) in 1835 (It remained popular in the 19th century (Emma Calvé sang in it in 1885) )), « La Reine de Chypre » (i.e. « The Queen of Cyprus » (Cyprus was then ruled by the French dynasty of the House of Lusignan) – 1841, starring Marius Petipa), « La Fée aux Roses » (meaning ‘The Roses Fairy‘; 1849), « La Tempesta » (after Shakespeare‘s « The Tempest« ), « Le Juif Errant » (1852; i.e. ‘The Wandering Jew‘), « Jaguarita l’indienne » (French indienne = indian), « Clari« , « Ludovic » (cognate of Louis), « Charles VI« , « La dame de pique » (i.e. ‘The Queen Of Spades‘), « La magicienne » (i.e. ‘The Sorceress‘, based on the legend of Mélusine (supposedly linked to the Lusignan family). The supernatural themes were reflected in several scenes populated by large numbers of mythical creatures. One of the ballets in the first act specified 40 fairies and 6 genies. The fourth act ballet had an even greater variety of creatures: 18 nymphs, 18 naiads and sirens, 14 fairies, 8 genies, and an assortment of butterflies, salamanders, gnomes (e.g. p.254 TAL, « (kiddoid) gnomide« ), and ondines. References for instance in « dancing nymphs, and elves, and monsters« , p.201 TAL) and « Noé » (i.e. ‘Noah’; 1858-1862; uncompleted at Halévy’s death and finished by Georges Bizet who would become later famous with his « Carmen » (whose libretto was written by Ludovic Halévy (nephew of Fromental Halévy – let’s notice that Ludovic is etymologically related to Lewis/Louis) and Henry Mailhac. Amongst the most celebrated works of the joint authors were « La belle Hélène » (1864), « Barbe-bleue » (1866; i.e. « Blue beard« ), « La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein » (1867), « La Périchole » (1868). Ludovic Halévy’s increasing popularity as an author enabled him to retire from the public service in 1865 that he had entered in 1852. He married in 1868, the year he also authored « Fanny Lear » with Meilhac. Halévy and Mailhac also wrote « Le Roi Candaule » (a subject also treated in 1868 in a grand ballet choreographed by Marius Petipa at the Imperial Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre, St. Petersburg, Russia – we have a photography of Olga Preobrajenska as Diana in the Pas de Diane in relation with that ballet), « Rose et Rosette« , « Le Photographe » (i.e. the photographer), « Le Train de minuit » (i.e. midnight train, 1863), « Lolotte« (kind of a mix between Lolita and Charlotte). Ludovic Halévy also wrote the succsesful « The Abbot Constantine » (1882) and also a novella « Princesse« ).
etc… more references to this year are present in the novel (this is just a raw sketchy attempt at proving the nature of the riddle)
1863 (Lewis Carroll ceases suddenly his relationship with the Liddell family)
« A girl of the Limberlost » (p.173 TAL) was written by Gene Stratton-Porter (1863-1924)
Alison Skipworth (1863–1952) was an English stage and screen actress, born Alison Mary Eliott Margaret Groom, who married Frank Markham Skipworth in 1882, a painter (who was a pupil of William Adolphe Bouguereau) whose most famous painting is probably « The Mirror » (1911). In a light opera, « An Artist’s Model« , she served as understudy to Marie Tempest. In 1905 and 1906 she toured with Viola Allen in three productions of Shakespeare. She had joined the company of Daniel Frohman at the Lyceum (« lycée » p.11 TAL) in which she made her debut in « The Princess and the Butterfly » as Mrs. Ware. She also featured in other productions such as « The Enchanted April » and « The Grand Duchess and the Waiter« . She appeared in many movies such as for instance, « A Mardi Gras Mix-Up« , « 39 East« , « Alice in Wonderland« , « Wharf Angel« , « The Girl From 10th Avenue« , « The Princess Comes Across » and « White Hunter« .
Death of Jacob Ludwig Carl Grimm (1785-1863), one of the brothers Grimm. The Grimm Brothers’ Fairy Tales are several times alluded in « Lolita« , directly or indirectly. One of the tales included in their collection « Deutsche Sagen » is « The Piper of Hamelin », the story of a piper that lures children away from their parents (pretty apt in « Lolita« ), had been also used by Robert Browning in a poem in « Dramatic Lyrics » (1842) and by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe who wrote a poem on the theme in 1803 and incoroporated references to the story in his version of Faust (The second part of the drama was published in 1832 (reference in « Omen Faustum » (p.262 TAL))). They also wrote « Little briar Rose » (a version of the « Sleeping Beauty » (p.201 TAL)), of importance in the riddle (more about this later). Two volumes of the second edition of the the Grimm’s Faity Tales were published in 1819.
« shorn Baudelaire » (p.284 TAL): a reference to a famous photograph of the French novelist Charles Baudelaire, taken in 1863 by Carjat (but also to a well-known sculpture by Raymond Duchamp Villon from 1911).
« Death of Marat« (*) is a painting by Edvard Munch (1863-1944), a famous Norwegian painter that studied painting in Paris. He is famous for « The Scream » (there are two versions: 1893 and 1910). He also made some photographs, among them the photograph of a naked woman titled « Rosa Meissner at the Hotel Rohn in Warnemünde« .
Charles Aubrey Smith (1863-1948), English actor. (more on him later)
etc… more references to this year are present in the novel
1865 (publication of « Alice in Wonderland« )
Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936). Directly alluded in « Lolita« , some of his major works are « The Man Who Would Be King » (1888), « If— » (1910) and « The Gods of the Copybook Headings » (1919). He was the youngest person to receive a Nobel Prize in literature at 42 years old (there are references to laureates of Nobel Prize in literature in « Lolita« , for a more global view, see this page).
« Tristan und Isolde » (1865) by Richard Wagner (born in May) is sometimes described as marking the start of modern music. « Tristram and Yseult » (Tristan is another spelling for Tristram) are an important reference in the novel in relation with the riddle (The theme of “Tristram and Yseult” was for instance depicted in the Oxford Union Murals by William Morris (author of « A Dream of John Ball » (1888)), a major element of the riddle. Morris’ verses in the « The Legend of Briar Rose« , « About the tangle of the rose; But lo! the fated hand and heart » (referenced in « Look at this tangle of thorns » p.9 TAL (roses, probably the main object of reference and main symbolical element in the riddle, are flowers with thorns) is of major importance in the riddle; more on this later)).
W. B. Yeats (1865–1939; Nobel Prize in literature of 1923; there are references to laureates of Nobel Prize in literature in « Lolita« , for a more global view, see this page), author of « The Secret Rose » (1897). His poetry is known to owe to the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. He was in love with Maud Gonne who had daughter named Iseult Gonne who Yeats affirmed had been molested by her stepfather John mcBride, in a letter. His brother Jack Butler Yeats (1871-1957) was a painter that drew comic strips, including the Sherlock Holmes parody « Chubb-Lock Homes » for « Comic Cuts« , and wrote articles for « Punch » under the pseudonym « W. Bird« . He also had interest in literature and wrote novels in a stream of consciousness style that James Joyce was famous for.
« Fata Morgana » (1865; « fatamorganas« , p.239 TAL; More will be said later about Morgan Le Fay (sometimes refered as Fata Morgana (her Italian name))) by George Frederic Watts (1817-1904), English Victorian painter and sculptor associated with the Symbolist movement. Watts was born in Marylebone, London. In 1847, whilst still in Italy, Watts entered a new competition for the Houses of Parliament with his image of Alfred the Great, « Alfred Inciting the Saxons to Prevent the Landing of the Danes by Encountering them at Sea« , on a patriotic subject but using Phidean inspiration. Leaving Florence in April 1847 for what was intended to be a brief return to London, he ended up staying. Back in Britain he was unable to obtain a building in which to carry out his plan of a grand fresco based on his Italian experiences, though he did produce a 45 ft by 40 ft fresco on the upper part of the east wall of the Great Hall of Lincoln‘s Inn entitled « Justice, A Hemicycle of Lawgivers » (completed 1859), inspired by Raphael‘s « The School of Athens« . In his studio he met Henry Thoby Prinsep (1793-1878; brother of Charles Robert Prinsep (a graduate of St John’s College, Cambridge and Lincoln‘s Inn barrister and economist; his son Henry Charles Prinsep, was an artist, and his daughter was ‘May‘ Prinsep); Charles was painted in 1871 by Watts) and his wife Sara and susequently joined the Prinsep circle of bohemians, including Sara’s seven sisters (including Virginia, with whom Watts fell in love but who married Charles, Viscount Eastnor in 1850), and Julia Margaret Cameron (sister-in-law of Henry (and sister of Sara)). Previously staying at 48 Cambridge Street, and then in Mayfair, in 1850 he helped the Prinseps into a 21-year lease on Little Holland House, and stayed there with them and their salon for the next 21 years. One of only two pupils Watts ever accepted was Henry’s son Valentine Cameron Prinsep; the other was John Roddam Spencer Stanhope. He painted « The Triumph of the Red Cross Knight » (from « The Faerie Queene« ) in 1852–1853. He also took a short trip back to Italy in 1853 (including Venice, where Titian became yet more of an inspiration) and with Charles Thomas Newton to excavate Halicarnassus in 1856-57, via Constantinople (Turkey) and the Greek islands. In the 1860s, Watts’ work shows the influence of the pre-Raphaelite Dante Gabriel Rossetti (that Watts painted in 1871), often emphasising sensuous pleasure and rich colour.
Among his works: « Fata Morgana » (1865), « Sir Galahad » (an Arthurian knight; 1888), « Little Red Riding Hood » (a fairy-tale narrated both by Charles Perrault and the brothers Grimm), « Miss May Prinsep » (daughter of Charles Robert Prinsep who married Hallam Tennyson, elder son of Alfred, Lord Tennyson); there exists a photograph of her by the famous photographer Julia Margaret Cameron), « Hope » (1886; a Symbolist oil painting that became widely popular and that Theodore Roosevelt displayed a copy at his Sagamore Hill home in New York) and « Portrait of Hannah Primrose, Countess of Rosebery« . He married Ellen Alice Terry (an actress who became a friend of Lewis Carroll; Watts had met her via Tom Taylor), 16 years old, when he was 46. He painted her in a painting named « Choosing » (it’s to be counted among the paintings showing the influence of Rossetti). When she eloped with another man after less than a year of marriage, Watts was obliged to divorce her.
Remy Belleau’s « un petit mont feutré (…) filet escarlatte » (p.47 TAL) is found in the Leyden reprint (1865) of « Recueil de pièces choisies rassemblées par les soins du cosmopolite », duc d’Aiguillon, ed.(1735) « The Cornell Library owns a copy, noted Nabokov » (p. 359 TAL).
« Croquet Players » (1865) and « Croquet Match » (1868-69) by Winslow Homer (1836-1910; a well-known American painter, who among other things painted pastoral themes, e.g. « Bo-Peep » (1878), « Shepherdess Tending Sheep » (1878) and « Warm Afternoon (Shepherdess) » (1878). Among his other well-known works we find for instance « Crossing the Pasture » (1871-1872), « A Visit of the Old Mistress » (picturing a former slave owner visiting her freed slaves), « Artists Sketching in the White Mountains » (1868), « Peach Blossoms » (1878) or « Girl with Red Stockings » (1882). He did a lithography apprenticeship in 1855-1856, and attended the National Academy of Design in 1863. Homer also spent two years (1881-1882), outside of the USA, in the English coastal village of Cullercoats, Tyne and Wear).
« A Sleeping Faun » (1865) by Harriet Hosmer (1830-1908), a famous female sculptor. Among her works: « Hesper, The Evening Star » (1852; her first original sculpture), « A Waking Faun« , « Crerar Lincoln Memorial – The African Sibyl » (1888-1896), « The Fountain of the Siren« , « The Fountain of the Hylas and the Water Nymphs« , « Queen Isabella of Castile« , « The Clasped Hands of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning » (1853), « Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra« , « Queen of Naples » (1868), « Beatrice Cenci« , « Sentinel of Pompeii » (1878) and « Thomas Hart Benton » (1862; the first public monument in the state of Missouri). She moved in Rome, Italy, in 1852 and had a lesbian affair with Emma Stebbins (1815-1882; (*)) another famous woman sculptor (Her bronze statue of educator Horace Mann was installed outside the State House in Boston in 1865). In Rome there was a colony of artists and writers (among them Edmonia Lewis, an African-american female sculptor) and she was part of the artists described in Nathaniel Hawthorne‘s book « The Marble Faun« . When in Florence, she was frequently the guest of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning at Casa Guidi.
(*) Stebbins eventually fell in love with actress Charlotte Cushman (who had just ended a relationship with journalist and writer Matilda Hays (a translator of the French « lady writer » (p.44 TAL) with a male pen name, George Sand). In her carrer Cushman had played in the New York premiere of « The Lady of Lyons » a play that inspired the operetta « Der Bettelstudent » (1882) that was revived in New York at least three times, the first time in 1898 at the American Theatre), and quickly became involved in the bohemian and feminist lesbian lifestyle. Stebbins released the correspondence, « Charlotte Cushman: Her Letters and Memories of Her Life » in 1878.
Valley Bridge is a road bridge in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, England which spans Ramsdale and was built in 1865.
« 65 cents » (p. TAL).
etc… more references to this year are present in the novel.
1867: Lewis Carroll travels to Russia and John Ruskin propose to Rose La Touche.
Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867; mentionned and alluded by Nabokov in « Lolita« ) was a French poet who also produced notable work as an essayist, art critic, and pioneering translator of Edgar Allan Poe. Among other things he wrote « Le Peintre de la Vie Moderne » (1863), « Curiosités Esthétiques » (1868), « L’art romantique » (1868), « Les Fleurs du mal » (1857; i.e. The flower of evil [ Baudelaire dedicated the book to Théophile Gautier (1811-1872), describing him as « a perfect magician of French letters« . With this book, Baudelaire and his publisher were prosecuted under the regime of the Second Empire as an outrage aux bonnes mœurs (« an insult to public decency »). Upon reading « The Swan » (or « Le Cygne« ) from « Les Fleurs du mal« , Victor Hugo announced that Baudelaire had created « un nouveau frisson » (a new shudder, a new thrill) in literature; a poem « Lesbos » is to be found in it. A « definitive » edition appeared in 1868 with a preface by Théophile Gautier ] ), « Les paradis artificiels » (1860) and posthumously « Mirror of Art » (1955; granted not to be counted in the riddle). He is the author of « Le crépuscule du matin » (1852) alluded in « Lolita« .
« in Pichon’s sumptuous La beauté humaine » (p.11 TAL; fictional author and fictional book) points to Baudelaire’s poem « La Beauté » in « Les fleurs du mal« .
I’m fair, O mortals, as a dream of stone;
My breasts whereon, in turn, your wrecks you shatter,
Were made to wake in poets’ hearts alone
A love as indestructible as matter.
A sky-throned sphinx, unknown yet, I combine
The cygnet’s whiteness with a heart of snow.
I loathe all movement that displaces line,
And neither tears nor laughter do I know.
Poets before my postures, which I seem
To learn from masterpieces, love to dream
And there in austere thought consume their days.
I have, these docile lovers to subject,
Mirrors that glorify all they reflect —
These eyes, great eyes, eternal in their blaze!
— Roy Campbell (there’s an « Alice Campbell » p.51 TAL and a Roy in the novel), « Poems of Baudelaire » (New York: Pantheon Books, 1952; pantheon is a name for all the ancient Greek gods as a group)
The original French of « A sky-throned sphinx, unknown yet » is « Je trône dans l’azur comme un sphinx incompris » (which is arguably a bit different). In the context of the riddle we can see that azur – sphinx and incompris are basically side by side on one line, which is quite relevant to the riddle: azur is like an echo of the Azure or Sky Blue Aster a.k.a. the RIDDELL Aster with a SPHINX, a creature asking riddle, which is incompris i.e. un-understood (more about all this later).
Harriet Hosmer’s « A Waking Faun » (1866-1867; for Lafayette Park, St. Louis. It was created as a companion to « The Sleeping Faun » (1865)).
Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780 – 14 January 1867 (Lewis Carroll died a 14 January)), a French painter known for such paintings as « Napoleon I on his Imperial Throne » (adoption of Carolingian imagery in representing Emperor Napoleon), « The Virgin Adoring the Host » (1852), « Oedipus and the Sphinx« , « Odalisque with Slave » (1842), « The Turkish Bath » (1862), « Jupiter and Thetis » (1811), « Roger Freeing Angelica » (1819), « The Source » (1856; a nude woman with water), « Joan of Arc at the Coronation of Charles VII« , « Princesse Albert de Broglie, née Joséphine-Eléonore-Marie-Pauline de Galard de Brassac de Béarn« . Bouguereau saw him as his master. He is known to have said « the great masters which flourished in that century of glorious memory when Raphael set the eternal and incontestable bounds of the sublime in art … I am thus a conservator of good doctrine, and not an innovator » (His teacher Guillaume-Joseph Roques’ veneration of Raphael was a decisive influence on the young artist).
Another artist to mention is the famous Arthur Rackham (1867–1939). He illustrated most of the salliant references (fairy-tales, books or authors) in the background of the riddle like for instance « Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland » by Lewis Carroll, « The King of the Golden River » by John Ruskin, « Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens » by J.M. Barrie, « Undine » by Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué, « The Tempest » by William Shakespeare, « Goblin Market » by Christina Rossetti, « The Springtide of Life » by Algernon Charles Swinburne, « The Pied Piper of Hamelin » by Robert Browning, « The Romance of King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table » by Alfred W. Pollard, « Fairy Tales » by Hans Christian Andersen, « A Christmas Carol » by Charles Dickens, « Tales of Mystery & Imagination » by Edgar Allan Poe, « The Wind in the Willows » by Kenneth Grahame, « English Fairy Tales » (in which are found « Jack the Giant Killer« ) by Flora Annie Steel, « Rip van Winckle » (1819) by Washington Irving, « Puck of Pook’s Hill » by Rudyard Kipling , etc…
Russia sold Alaska (the destination of Lolita and her husband) to the USA in 1867.
etc… more references to this year are present in the novel.
As for the date 1868, it is an apt reference to Lewis carroll as 1868 is situated precisely right between the publication of “Alice in Wonderland” (1865) and the publication of “Through the Looking-Glass” (1871), the sequel of the first Alice story (1865+3= 1868 +3=1871), the two prominent books that made of this rather shy man a celebrity in the whole world, even after 150 years (1868 is thus a perfect “tag” for the period associated with the most representative landmarks of his life, for everyone).
1868 is also the moment when Lewis Carroll started to write “Through the Looking-Glass” (a book particularly important within the core of Lolita, from the several chess references, significative presence of mirrors (generally to allude to a distorted reality and to Humbert’s “solipsism” in his love for Lolita – but also a more than central element in “Through the Looking-Glass”, a children story by Lewis Carroll that is all about distorted reality), to direct quotation (see below about pigs and trough)) in which we can feel all the melancholy of the author, “the shadow of sigh” as Carroll wrote in his poem preceding the story (it is with much wistfulness and sadness that he says good bye to Alice (see also below)). Birth of Lionel Charles Liddell, brother of Alice, in May. 1868 is also the year the father of Lewis Carroll, also named Charles Dodgson (1800-1868) like Lewis Carroll (a nom de plume), died (after which he suffered from depression for some years) and also the year Carroll got the “Chestnuts“, his final home, that are alluded in the novel in several separate occurences.
« Lady Lilith » by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (a title of particular resonance in the book and the riddle) is from 1868.
« The Blue Silk Dress« by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (a painter, friend of Lewis Carroll and an acquaintance of John Ruskin), who is discreetly alluded several times in « Lolita » is from 1868 (e.g. « une belle dame toute en bleu » (p.244 TAL (French, meaning « a Beautiful lady dressed all in blue« )). The model used in this painting was Jane Morris, the wife of William Morris (more about him later).
Louisa May Alcott‘s “Little Women” is from 1868. We will see later why there is an importance.
Lionel Charles Liddell (22 May 1868 – 21 March 1942), little brother of Alice Liddell. He was British Consul to Lyons and Copenhagen (Denmark).
Norman Douglas (1868-1932), British author (mentionned in p.181 TAL) who wrote « Siren Land » (1911) and « Venus in the Kitchen » (1952).
« L’ogre » (1868) i.e. « the ogre » (see, for instance, references to the giant ogre Bluebeard (*) in « Lolita » [ this character is thought to have been inspired by Gilles de Rais, a Joan of Arc companions (Joan of Arc is part of the references in « Lolita« . Some are quite indirect, Like Friedrich Schiller (the family name of the husband of Lolita, Dick) who was the author of a well-known « The Maid of Orleans » (about Joan of Arc). He also wrote a « Turandot, Prinzessin von China » (Turandot, Princess of China). Schiller was married to a Charlotte von Lengefeld), who turned as a serial killer preying on children, hence the inspiration to Bluebeard)) ], was a salon opera written by Pauline viardot (1821-1910; she was a leading nineteenth-century French mezzo-soprano, pedagogue, and composer of Spanish descent. She retired from the stage in 1863. Her friend George Sand based the heroine of her novel « Consuelo« (a female author with a male author’s name and a novel whose title is a female firstname with a male firstname ending (more about this later)) on her (two operas had been made from this novel, one of which, « Consuelo » by Alfonso Rendano, is from 1888)) with a libretto by Ivan Turgenev, the famous Russian novelist (reference in p.288 TAL; among his novels and short stories are « Fathers and Sons » (1862), « Faust« , « The Hunter‘s Sketches, A Sportsman’s Notebook » (1852) and among his plays « Breakfast at the Chief’s » (1849/1856), « Lack of Money » (1846/1852), « Family Charge » (« Nakhlebnik » in Russian. 1857/1862), « An Evening in Sorrento » (1882). He is the one that, on his death bed implored Tolstoy to return to writing, which led to Tolstoy writing again, producing such work as « The Kreutzer Sonata« ) who had fell passionately in love with her, left Russia to follow her and eventually installed himself in the Viardot household, treated her four children as his own, and adored her until he died. Among Viardot’s other works we find several instrumental works in 1868, a song named « L’Oiseau d’or » (French for « The Golden bird »), and works of chorals named » Choeur bohémien » and « Choeur des elfes » (French for Bohemian Chorus and Elves Chorus) and other salon operas named « Le dernier sorcier » (French for « the last wizard »; Libretto also by Turgenev), « Le conte de fées » (French for »Fairy-tale »), « Cendrillon » (French for Cinderella). Pauline Viardot had purchased Mozart’s original manuscript of the opera « Don Giovanni » in London and preserved it in a shrine in her Paris home, where it was visited by many notable people, including Rossini, who genuflected, and Tchaikovsky, who said he was « in the presence of divinity ». It was displayed at the Exposition Universelle of 1878.
(*) among the several side references implied by « Bluebeard » we can add Cécile Aubry (real name Anne-José Madeleine Henriette Bénard), a French film actress, author, television screenwriter and director who wrote the children novel « Belle et Sébastien » and played in such movies as « The Black Rose » of Henry Hattaway and in Christian-jacque’s « Bluebeard » in 1952.
Julia Neilson (June 1868 – May 1957) was an English actress best known for her numerous performances as Lady Blakeney in « The Scarlet Pimpernel« , for her roles in many tragedies and historical romances, and for her portrayal of Rosalind in a long-running production of « As You Like It« . After establishing her reputation in a series of plays by W. S. Gilbert in 1888, Neilson joined the company of Herbert Beerbohm Tree, where she remained for five years, meeting her future husband, Fred Terry (brother to actresses Kate, Ellen, Marion and Florence Terry (all personal friends of Lewis Carroll)). In 1895, Neilson, Terry and their son travelled to America to perform with John Hare‘s company. There they played together in New York in « The Notorious Mrs. Ebbsmith » by Arthur Wing Pinero, with Neilson as Agnes. In 1896, they returned to England where, at the St James’s Theatre, Neilson played Princess Flavia in « The Prisoner of Zenda » by Anthony Hope, remaining at that theatre for two years. There she played Rosalind in the extremely successful run of « As You Like It » (in which role she toured North America in 1895 and 1910). She played the title role in Pinero’s « The Princess and the Butterfly » in 1897. Her husband Fred Terry appeared with her in « The Tree of Knowledge » and other plays from October 1897 until the summer of 1898; her roles included Beatrice in « Much Ado About Nothing« . Next, they appeared in « The Gipsy Earl ». She also played in « A Midsummer Night’s Dream » (1900). They also produced and starred in « Dorothy o’ the Hall » by Paul Kester and Charles Major (1906), « The Popinjay » by Boyle Lawrence and Frederick Mouillot (1911). They also starred in « A Wreath of a Hundred Roses » (1922). Neilson’s roles also included the title role in Kester’s adaptation of « Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall« .
*** Nabokov’s mentions of « The Theatre Guild Anthology » and of Browning‘s « dramatic works » (both p.242 TAL), the actors, playwrights and producers’ biography in « Who’s Who in the Limelight » (p.31 TAL), and the lessons of Beardsley (« Dramatics, dance » (p.177 TAL)) – Just like the books concerning Russian ballet (p.242 TAL), in their own domain – are an incentive to search in that domain (actors, dancers, playwrights and choregraphers) to find more about the context of the riddle.***
etc… more references to this year are present in the novel.
1871 (Publication of « Through The Looking-Glass » and death of Charlotte Lyon)
Marcel Proust (1871-1922) : « Proustian theme » (p.16 TAL), « Proustianized » (p.264 TAL) and there is also later a reference to « The Fugitive » in p.253 TAL, « Dolorès Dipsarue » (in French « Albertine disparue », also titled « La Fugitive », sometimes translated as « The Sweet Cheat Gone » or « Albertine Gone »). One of his most famous novel is « In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower » (« À l’ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs ») wich was published in 1919 (Pastiches, or The Lemoine Affair (Pastiches et mélanges – a novella) is also from 1919). also « Jean Santeuil » (three volumes) was published posthumously in 1952. Proust also spent several years reading John Ruskin (more on this man later) and was quite influenced by him. He translated several of his books as well. It should also be noted that Marcel Proust’s main character compares Gilberte to Melusine in « Within a Budding Grove« . She is also compared on several occasions to the Duchesse de Guermantes who was (according to the Duc de Guermantes) directly descended from the Lusignan dynasty. In the « Guermantes Way« , for example, the narrator observes that the Lusignan family « was fated to become extinct on the day when the fairy Melusine should disappear. » (Volume II, Page 5, Vintage Edition.). In Proust’s famous « À la recherche du temps perdu » a character is named Baron de Charlus (A reflexion of Charles and etymologically mirroring CAROLUS, Charles in Latin). Proust also fought a duel with writer Jean Lorrain (a poet, author of « Le Sang des dieux » (1882), « La Forêt bleue » (1882; « The Blue Forest« ), « La Dame turque« (1898; i.e. « The Turkish Dame« ), « Loreley » (1897), « Histoires des masques » (1900; i.e. « history of masks« ), « Princesses d’Italie« (1898; i.e. « Princesses of Italy« ), « La Princesse sous verre » (1896; i.e. « The Princess under glass« ) and « Princesses d’ivoire et d’ivresse » (« Princesses of ivory and intoxication« ))), who publicly questioned the nature of Proust’s relationship with Lucien Daudet.
Benjamin Bailey (1791 – 3 April 1871; « The Proustian theme in a letter from Keats to Benjamin Bailey » p.16 TAL; Marcel Proust was born in 1871 so that sentence is a double hint to 1871) was a British missionary in India.
p.184 TAL, « a hole in the wall behind Whistler’s Mother » is a reference to a painting by James Abbott McNeill Whistler dated 1871 whose real name is « Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1« . Among his most famous paintings are « Rose and Silver: The Princess from the Land of Porcelain » (1863–1865), « Symphony in White, No. 1 » (1861-1862; a painting also named The White Girl – alluded with the girl all in white during the first evening in « The Enchanted Hunters » (also in « Symphony in White no 2 » (« The Little White Girl« ). The model, Joanna ‘Jo’ Hifferman, romantically involved with Whistler was also the model of Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) in « La Belle Irlandaise: (Portrait of Jo) » (1865-1866) – who clearly shows the influence of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood), « Whistler in his Studio » (1865), « Mother of Pearl and Silver: The Andalusian » (1888–1900), and a portrait of Lady Meux in 1882. Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room is Whistler’s masterpiece of interior decorative mural art. In 1843, his father relocated the family to Saint Petersburg, Russia, where James received training in painting. He eventually moved to London, where he met Dante Gabriel Rossetti and other members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, who would have a profound influence on Whistler. Charles Baudelaire‘s ideas and theories of « modern » art also influenced Whistler. In May 1888 after Whistler proposed that members of the Royal Society should withdraw from the Royal Academy, a feud started and 9 members of the asked his resignation from the institution. With his relationship with Maud Franklin unraveling, Whistler suddenly proposed to and married Beatrice Godwin (also called ‘Beatrix‘). Whistler had become close to Beatrice, whom Whistler painted in the full-length portrait titled « Harmony in Red: Lamplight« . The marriage took place on 11 August 1888. In 1898, he became charter member and first president of the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers. He was a friend of the writer Elizabeth Robins Pennell and his sister-in-law was Rosalind Birnie phillips. Whistler was regularly caricaturized in « Punch« .
Whistler had sued John Ruskin in 1877:
In 1877 Whistler sued the critic John Ruskin for libel after the critic condemned his painting Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket. Whistler exhibited the work in the Grosvenor Gallery, an alternative to the Royal Academy exhibition, alongside works by Edward Burne-Jones and other artists. Ruskin, who had been a champion of the Pre-Raphaelites and J. M. W. Turner, reviewed Whistler’s work in his publication Fors Clavigera on July 2, 1877. Ruskin praised Burne-Jones, while he attacked Whistler.
Whistler published his account of the trial in the pamphlet Whistler v. Ruskin: Art and Art Critics, included in his later « The Gentle Art of Making Enemies« , in December 1878, soon after the trial. The Fine Art Society of London, which had organized a collection to pay for Ruskin‘s legal costs, supported him in etching « The stones of Venice » (and in exhibiting the series in 1883), which helped recoup Whistler’s costs.
(*) « Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl« , his first famous work was linked by some to Wilkie Collins’s « The Woman in White« , a popular novel of the time.Wilkie Collins was an English novelist, playwright, and author of short stories. His best-known works are « The Woman in White » (1859), « No Name » (1862) and « The Moonstone » (1868). He’s known to have traveled with his family to Italy and France. His first collection of short stories, « After Dark« , was published in 1856 and he joined the staff of Household Words the same year. « The Woman in White » was dramatised and produced at the Olympic theatre in 1871. Collins’ second daughter with Martha Rudd (who died in 1919), Harriet Constance, was born the same year. His short novel « The Haunted Hotel » was serialised from June to November 1878. His works were precursors to detective and suspense fictions. He also wrote penetratingly on the plight of women and on the social and domestic issues of his time. »The Moonstone » remains one of Collins’s most critically acclaimed productions, identified by T. S. Eliot as « the first, the longest, and the best of modern English detective novels…in a genre invented by Collins and not by Poe« . After « The Moonstone« , Collins’s novels contained fewer thriller elements and more social commentary. The subject matter continued to be sensational, but his popularity declined. The poet Algernon Charles Swinburne commented: « What brought good Wilkie’s genius nigh perdition? / Some demon whispered—’Wilkie! have a mission.« . The Pre-Raphaelite Painter John Everett Millais, a friend of Lewis Carroll, made a portrait of him.
P.302 TAL, mention of the Old Faithful first seen by the Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition and described in 1871 by Nathaniel Pitt Langford (1832–1911; he was an explorer, businessman, bureaucrat, vigilante and historian from Saint Paul, Minnesota who played an important role in the early years of the Montana gold fields, territorial government and the creation of Yellowstone National Park. In 1862, Langford, as a member and officer of the Northern Overland Expedition, left Saint Paul to establish a wagon road to the Salmon river mine regions of the Rocky Mountains via Fort Benton. Langford was also part of the vigilante movement, the infamous Montana Vigilantes, that dealt with lawlessness in Virginia City and Bannack, Montana during 1863-64). Anecdote: « Old Faithful is sometimes degraded by being made a laundry. Garments placed in the crater during quiescence are ejected thoroughly washed when the eruption takes place. Gen. Sheridan’s men, in 1882, found that linen and cotton fabrics were uninjured by the action of the water, but woolen clothes were torn to shreds« .
Viola Gilette (1871-1956), born Viola Pratt (she was an American contralto from Salt Lake City that made her stage debut in Washington, D.C. in 1898. She subsequently moved to New York City, where she sang with the Castle Square Opera Company). She notably played in the 1913 silent movie « Beggar Student » made from Carl Millöcker (1842-1899)’s operetta « Der Bettelstudent » (1882; revived in New York the first time in 1898 at the American Theatre) which was itself inspired by Edward Bulwer-Lytton‘s « The Lady of Lyons« .
« The Mermaids » (1871; « mermaid » is a recurrent keyword in « Lolita » (e.g. among several instances, « mediocre mermaid » (p.86 TAL))) by Ivan Kramskoi, a Russian painter whose patron, Pavel Tretyakov (1832–1898), was born and died the same years than Lewis Carroll.
Tretyakov was also the patron of Ilya Repin (who painted Kramskoi in 1882), the most famous Russian painter of the 19th century (a well-known self-portrait is dated 1878. In 1898, he purchased an estate, in Kuokkala, Finland (now Repino, Saint Petersburg) who welcomed the Russian Revolution of 1917) and of Viktor Vasnetsov, also a friend of the two previously mentionned painters, who had travelled in Italy in 1885 (among his most well-knwon works are « The Knight at the Crossroads » (1878), « Prince Igor’s Battlefield » (1878), « Three princesses of the Underground Kingdom« , « The Flying Carpet« , « Bogatyrs » (1898) and a self-portrait of 1868. At the turn of the century, Vasnetsov elaborated his hallmark « fairy-tale » style of Russian Revivalist architecture. His first acclaimed design was a church in Abramtsevo in 1882, executed jointly with Vasily Polenov. The Russian pavilion of the World Fair in Paris followed in 1898. Between 1906 and 1911, Vasnetsov worked on the design of the mosaics for Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Warsaw; he was also involved in the design of Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Moscow. In 1918 Vasnetsov participated in the designing of a military uniform for the newly founded Red Army. Vasnetsov is credited with the creation of budenovka (initially named bogatyrka), a military hat reproducing the style of ancient Rus’ cone-shaped helmets). Another Russian painter should be added among Tretyakov’s protégés, Valentin Serov (1865–1911) a well-known Russian painter, especiallly known for his portraits. He is known for such paintings as « The Girl with Peaches » (1887), and « The Girl Covered by the Sun » (1888), both in the Tretyakov Gallery, « Snow Maiden » (based on a well-known Russian fairy-tale, « Sneguroshka« ), and « Peter II departure and Empress Elizabeth Petrovna on hunting » (1900). He also made a portrait of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (*) in 1898 (Ilya Repin also made a portrait of him), who is also in the Tretyakov gallery. All these painters were part of the Peredvizhniki (wanderers), in which we can add for instance Ivan Shishkin (1832-1898; same dates of birth and death than Lewis Carroll; he started to attend the Saint Petersburg Imperial Academy of Arts in 1856; he took part of All Russian Exhibition in Moscow in 1882 and was present at the World Fair of 1878; among his notable works are « The Rocky Landscape », « A Rye Field » (1878), « Morning in a Pine Forest » (1878), and his last completed work was « The Pine Grove » in 1898; his patron was Pavel Tretyakov), Vasily Perov (1834-1882; In 1856 he was awarded with a minor silver medal for his sketch of a boy’s head, presented to the Imperial Academy of Arts. After receiving the right to a state-paid trip abroad together with a golden medal, in 1862 Perov went to Western Europe, visiting several German cities, and then Paris, doing paintings depicting scenes from European street life. Returning to Moscow early, from 1865 to 1871 Perov created his masterpieces; among his major works we find « Old Man » (1868), « Alexander Ostrovsky » (1871) and « The Hunters at Rest » (1871). In 1871 the position of a Professor at Moscow School of Arts, Sculpture and Architecture. It was around this period that he joined the Peredvizhniki.), Arkhip Kuindzhi (1842–1910; During the five years from 1860 to 1865, he worked as a retoucher in the photography studio of Simeon Isakovich in Taganrog. Then, from 1868, he studied painting mainly independently and at the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts. Among his most notable works are « Evening in the Ukraine » (1878-1901), « Night on the Dnepr » (1882), « Surf and Clouds » (1882) and « Moonspots in the Forest, Winter » (1898-1908). His patron was Pavel Tretyakov.), Alexei Savrasov (1830-1897; Pavel Trtyakov was his patron. « The Rooks Have Come Back » (1871) is considered by many critics to be the high point in Savrasov’s artistic career. In 1871, after the death of his daughter, there was a crisis in his art. There exists a « Portrait of Alexei Savrasov » made by Vasily Perov dated 1878. He was the teacher of Isaac Levitan (1860-1900 (aged 39)), a Jewish painter (a member of the Peredvizhniki) known for paintings such as « Water Lilies« , « Spring in Italy« , « Silence » (1898) and « Dawn » (1900)) or Konstantin Makovsky (born in 1839 and was killed in 1915 when his horse-drawn carriage was hit by an electric tram in Saint Petersburg. In 1863, he and thirteen other students held a protest against the Academy’s setting of topics from Scandinavian mythology in the competition for the Large Gold Medal of Academia; all left the academy without a formal diploma. A significant change in his style occurred after traveling to Egypt and Serbia in the mid-1870s. His patron was Tsar Alexander II. Among his notable paintings are « Children of the Artist » (1882), « Agents of the False Dmitry kill the son of Boris Godunov » (1862), « Widow » (1865), « Ophelia« ). Their history started as such: In 1863 a group of fourteen students decided to leave The Imperial Academy of Arts. The students found the rules of the Academy constraining; the teachers were conservative and there was a strict separation between high and low art. In an effort to bring art to the people, the students formed an independent artistic society; The Petersburg Cooperative of Artists (Artel). In 1870, this organization was largely succeeded by the Association of Travelling Art Exhibits (Peredvizhniki) to give people from the provinces a chance to follow the achievements of Russian Art, and to teach people to appreciate art. Starting in 1871, the group started mobile exhibition throughout the European part of the russian Empire. There exists a group photograph of the Perezhniki (1863-64, « Artel of Artists« ). Since 1898 the landscapes of the society have been used in the postcard industry.
(*) He also composed an opera named « The Snow Maiden » (The first performance of Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera took place at the Mariinsky Theatre, Saint Petersburg on 29 January 1882. By 1898 it was revised in the edition known today and it remained the composer’s own favorite work. A sovietic movie was also made out of it in 1952), based on a Russian fairy-tale (the main character being Snegurochka (diminutive) or Snegurka, or The Snow Maiden). A version of a folk tale about a girl made of snow and named Snegurka was published in 1869 by Alexander Afanasyev (1826-1871 – He was the equivalent of the Brothers Grimm in Russia. He was appointed librarian in the Archives of Moscow in 1849 until 1862. His « The Poetic Outlook of Slavs about Nature« , which came out between 1865 and 1869) who was the inspiration for the play « The Snow Maiden » by Aleksandr Ostrovsky, with incidental music by Tchaikovsky in 1873 and Rimsky-Korsakov’s « Snow Maiden » (whose libretto is based on the former play). This version of the fairy-tale was also included by louis Léger in his « Contes Populaires Slaves » (1882). In 1878, the composer Ludwig Minkus and the Balletmaster Marius Petipa staged a ballet adaptation of « Snegurochka » titled « The Daughter of the Snows » for the Tsar’s Imperial Ballet. Rimsky-Korsakov also composed a comic opera named « May Night » (reference in p.202 TAL, « one friday night toward the end of May« ; based on Nikolai Gogol (1809-1852; the famous author of « Dead Souls » (1842; The novel shows the life of serfs (then still considered property of the landowner) before the 1861 emancipation. The first part of the book is conceived as mirroring Dante‘s Inferno of the Divine Comedy. Ilya Repin made a painting « Gogol burning the manuscript of the second part of Dead Souls » (an even that occured in 1852)). Let’s also mention that is short story « Christmas Eve » was adapted as an opera by Tchaikovsky) ‘s story « May Night, or the Drowned Maiden« , from his collection « Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka » published in 1832) between 1878 and 1879. The opera was shown in a Russian Private Opera production in 1898 that was conducted by the famous Sergei Rachmaninoff. The story implicates Rusalkas (Russian Water Nymphs of the Slavic mythology).
etc… more references to this year are present in the novel.
1878: I think Nabokov gave an importance to this date because of two excerpts in « The life and letters of Lewis Carroll » and a poem « Love among the Roses« , that seemed revealing to him about Lewis Carroll:
« The Chestnuts, Guildford,
April 19, 1878.
My dear Gertrude,(…) She just takes another instead, and grins from one little ear to the other as she puts it to her lips! This is a little fable to do you good; the little girl means you—the bad plum means me—the other plum means some other friend—and all that about __the little girl putting plums to her lips means__—well, it means—but you know you can’t expect every bit of a fable to mean something! And the little girl grinning means that dear little smile of yours, that just reaches from the tip of one ear to the tip of the other! » « .
Nabokov probably wanted us to realise how all this could be interpreted, and how it is revealing the man (I suppose anyway, but I’m not totally sharing his view).
The following anecdote is alluded in « Lolita », probably to draw our attention towards Gertrude Thomson to whom he once declared: « I confess I do not admire naked boys in pictures. They always seem… to need clothes, whereas one hardly sees why the lovely forms of girls should ever be covered up. »
« In 1878 some drawings of Miss E. Gertrude Thomson’s excited his keen admiration, and he exerted himself to make her acquaintance. Their first meeting is described so well by Miss Thomson herself in The Gentlewoman for January 29, 1898, that I cannot do better than quote the description of the scene as given there:—
It was at the end of December, 1878, that a letter (…)
And this is the graceful and kindly note that came with them: « I am now sending you ‘Alice,’ and the ‘Looking-Glass’ as well. There is an incompleteness about giving only one, and besides, the one you bought was probably in red and would not match these. If you are at all in doubt as to what to do with the (now) superfluous copy, let me suggest your giving it to some poor sick child. I have been distributing copies to all the hospitals and convalescent homes I can hear of, where there are sick children capable of reading them, and though, of course, one takes some pleasure in the popularity of the books elsewhere, it is not nearly so pleasant a thought to me as that they may be a comfort and relief to children in hours of pain and weariness. Still, no recipient can be more appropriate than one who seems to have been in fairyland herself, and to have seen, like the ‘weary mariners’ of old—
‘Between the green brink and the running foam
White limbs unrobed in a crystal air,
Sweet faces, rounded arms, and bosoms prest
To little harps of gold.' »
Page 207 TAL, in this sentence in French “J’ai joujours admiré l’oeuvre ormonde du sublime Dublinois” (“I always have admired the ormond work of the sublime Dubliner”), Humbert clearly makes a reference to James Joyce‘s “Ulysses“, a book admired by Nabokov. The restaurant of Dublin’s Ormond Hotel is the setting for the “Sirens” [ sirens are also part of the references in the novel and kin of Nymphs in a way. Sirens, Mermaids, Naiads, water Nymphs and Undines were omnipresent in art (paintings, literature; in artists as different as Gustav Klimt (1862-1918; he received the Golden Order of Merit from Emperor Franz Josef I of Austria in 1888 and is also the painter of « The Idyll » or « Orchard » (1898)) who painted « Mermaids » (a painting named « Die Sirenen » in German and « Ondines » in French) and « Nymphs (Silver Fish) » (reference in « silverfish » p.190 TAL) in 1899, and Ivan Kramskoi who painted « The Mermaids » in 1871 or Edward Armitage who painted « A Siren » in 1888 (a theme also quite present in the pre-Raphaelite paintings, for instance in Waterhouse‘s works). Notice that Russian sirin, a Russian mythical creature based on the ancient Greek sirens, are homophonous of the Vladimir Nabokov’s first pen name (Vladimir Sirin – and Nabokov is self-referencing in the riddle as you will see later) – and notice the resemblance with the syrinx, the name of Pan‘s pipes (whose mythological story implicates river nymphs) from which derives the word syringe ] in the central timeframe of the context of the riddle (roughly 1811–1911), and thus are all part of the web of references in the background of « Lolita« ) episode, but it is also be a subtle oblique reference to Lewis Carroll again (and other elements of the riddle). A well-known fact, is that the memory of Lewis Carroll is kept alive by the perpetual endowment of a cot in the Children’s Hospital, Great Ormond Street in London.
Page 165 TAL, Humbert says ” We,” I quip-quoted “medieval mariners, have placed in that bottle-“
Why this strange sentence? Why “quip-QUOTED”? Why “We, _medieval_ mariners”, obviously the mariners couldn’t know they would be labelled “medieval” afterwards, so why the addition of such an adjective? There seem to be no obvious text in literature to which this could be a direct quote. It is clearly a reference to this letter to Gertrude thomson, to whom he once clearly stated his admiration of the naked body of little girls.
Medieval mariners are certainly “mariners of old”, it is another allusion to this anecdote that we can also find in « The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll« , like so many elements in the riddle (and young Sirens (alluded in Carroll’s poem) are certainly cousins of nymphs (We know that Humbert bought Andersen’s “Little mermaid” to Lolita. Obviously, Humbert, like Carroll, didn’t only have nymphs in mind, obviously sirens too)).
Page 262 TAL we also find this reference that also point to 1878: « Misses’ socks, 39 c. Saddle Oxfords 3.98 » : 39+39=78, c=cent (in French « 100 »; 1+0+0=1) and 8 => 1 8 78 -> 1878
etc… more references to this year are present in the novel.
1882 (Date of « Dreamland », an important hint in the riddle)
Words by LEWIS CARROLL.
Music by C.E. HUTCHINSON.
When midnight mists are creeping
And all the land is sleeping
Around me tread the mighty dead,
And slowly pass away.
Lo, warriors, saints, and sages, <= CLUE
From out the vanished ages,
With solemn pace and reverend face
Appear and pass away.
The blaze of noonday splendour,
The twilight soft and tender,
May charm the eye: yet they shall die,
Shall die and pass away
But here, in Dreamland’s centre,
No spoiler’s hand may enter,
These visions fair, this radiance rare,
Shall never pass away
I see the shadows falling,
The forms of eld recalling;
Around me tread the mighty dead,
And slowly pass away
The air was dreamed by his friend, the late Rev. C. E. Hutchinson, of Chichester. Here we have a DIRECT link between Lewis Carroll and Lolita (« Lo » as she was affectionately known) and thus a pretty big clue/confirmation in the context of the riddle, hence the constant hidden references to 1882. Dreamland is also a concept pretty important in the mental world of Lewis Carroll. We find « Lo » (Lolita) in the Dreamland of Lewis Carroll, like we found Alice in his Dreamland named Wonderland. Everything is crystal clear. Read more to understand and to have a global view of the thing.
A. A. Milne (1882-1956). Among his works: « Winnie-the-Pooh« , « Mr. Pim Passes By » (1919; alluded in p.207 TAL), « Toad of Toad Hall » (adaptation of « The Wind in the Willows » (*)), « The General Takes Off His Helmet » (1939) in « The Queen’s Book of the Red Cross« , « It’s Too Late Now: The Autobiography of a Writer » (1939), « Year In, Year Out » (1952) and « The Ugly Duckling » (a one act play whose title is inspired by a H. C. Andersen fairy tale that he first conceived in 1842). He also published in « Punch » in 1910 an article titled « The Day’s Play« . He was married with a Dorothy and they had a boy named Christopher who wrote « The Enchanted Places » and had a child named Clare Milne. Christopher Milne, who inspired Christopher Robin in his father’s « Winnie-The-Pooh » went on to Boxgrove Preparatory School at age 9, a privately owned preparatory school in Guildford (the town where died Lewis Carroll) and in 1939, he won a scholarship to study Mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge. Christopher married his first cousin, Lesley de Sélincourt. His mother disliked the marriage, partly because she did not get along with her brother, Lesley’s father Aubrey (Aubrey de Sélincourt (brother of A. A. Milne’s wife, Dorothy) was an English writer, classical scholar and translator. Aubrey married the poet Irene Rutherford McLeod in 1919).
(*) In « The Enchanted Places« , Christopher Milne says of Kenneth Grahame’s « The Wind in the Willows« : « A book that we all greatly loved and admired and read aloud or alone, over and over and over: The Wind in the Willows. (…) My mother was drawn to the second group, of which « The Piper at the Gates of Dawn » was her favourite (…) My father, on his side, was so captivated by the first group that he turned these chapters into the children’s play, « Toad of Toad Hall« . ». The Piper is Pan who is thus in Chapter 7 (Pan is also on the cover of the first edition). Kenneth Grahame was also the author of « Dream Days » (1898) that included « The Reluctant Dragon » (1898) and « The Headwoman » (1898). Both Kenneth Grahame’s « The Wind in the Willows » and « Winnie-The-Pooh » were illustrated by Ernest Howard Shepard (he also illustrated Grahame’s « Dream Days » and « The Reluctant Dragon » and for « Punch« ).
Henri René Lenormand (May 1882-1951): « echoes from Lenormand » (p.201 TAL). His plays, steeped in symbolism, were recognized for their explorations of subconscious motivation, deeply reflecting the influence of the theories of Sigmund Freud.
James Joyce (1882-1941), Irish novellist and poet who wrote « Ulysses » (who’s got a Siren episode) and « Finnegans Wake » (1939). Joyce’s method of stream of consciousness, literary allusions and free dream associations was pushed to the limit in « Finnegans Wake« , which abandoned all conventions of plot and character construction and is written in a peculiar and obscure language, based mainly on complex multi-level puns. This approach is similar to, but far more extensive than that used by Lewis Carroll in « Jabberwocky« . In books, his opera references include works by Arthur Sullivan, well-known for his works with W.S. Gilbert. The Irish Composer Geoffrey Molyneux Palmer (1882-1957) put music on Joyce’s works (and he did so with the works of Christina Rossetti and W. B. Yeats too). He is also the author of a work for choral named « The Fairies« .
P. 199 TAL, the allusion to Peter Hurd, an american painter leads us to his wife Henriette Wyeth (Henriette is the french equivalent of Harriet. She is alluded with the remaining letters in the trick implied to the creation of the name Kasbeam. More about this in th addendum at the end of this web page), who leads us to her father Newell Convers Wyeth (1882-1943), a pupil of Howard Pyle. He illustrated for instance « Treasure Island » (1911; a novel by Robert Louis Stevenson), « The Boy’s King Arthur« , « The Last of the Mohicans » (1919; Indians. He drew many Native Americans), « Kidnapped« , « Long John Silver and Hawkins » (1911), « Mowing« , « Deep Cover Lobsterman » (1939).
Alice Pike Barney (1857-1931; she was born a January 14, the day Lewis Carroll died (not the same year)) was an American Painter (her most known painting is probably « Waterlily » (1900)) that studied under Carolus-Duran and later she was one of the first student of James Abbott McNeill Whistler when he opened an academie. In 1882, she had spent a summer with her family at new York Long Beach hotel where Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) was speaking about his American Lecture Tour. Wilde spent the day with Alice and her daughter Natalie on the beach. This conversation changed Alice’s life, convincing her to pursue art seriously despite her husband’s disapproval. At 17 she had become engaged to 33 years old famous explorer Henry Morton Stanley (he named a bota he used on Lake Victoria « The Lady Alice » because of her) vut she instead married Albert Clifford Barney. She travelled to Paris and in 1899 she began a salon at her rented home on the Avenue Victor Hugo. While in Paris his two daughters (Natalie Clifford Barney (*) and Laura Clifford Barney) attended boarding school Les Ruches (‘The Beehives’) founded by feminist Marie Souvestre [ Dorothy Bussy (July 1865 – May 1960), the sister of writer Lytton Strachey (Writer and critic) and of James Strachey – the first English translator of Freud, with his wife Alix -, anonymously published a novel, « Olivia » (1949), about her experience as a pupil at Les Ruches, describing the protagonist’s crush on the headmistress Mlle. Julie (i.e., Souvestre). Eleanor Roosevelt (p. 78 TAL) – who was her pupil – was so greatly influenced by Souvestre and her feminist beliefs, that she went on to forge a political career. ]. She later remarried in 1911 a 23 years old man named Christian Hemmick when she was 53 years old. Barney had solo shows at major galleries including the Corcoran Gallery of Art (Corcoran is like a distorted image, an faint echo of Cormorant (p.177 TAL)). She converted to the Bahá’í Faith around 1900.
(*) She was openly lesbian and began publishing love poems to women under her own name as early as 1900, considering scandal as « the best way of getting rid of nuisances » (meaning heterosexual attention from young males). In her writings she supported feminism and pacifism. She opposed monogamy and had many overlapping long and short-term relationships, including on-and-off romances with poet Renée Vivien (In Paris, Renée Vivien‘s dress and lifestyle were as notorious among the bohemian set as was her verse. She lived lavishly, as an open lesbian, and carried on a well-known affair with American heiress and writer Natalie Clifford Barney. She also harboured a lifelong obsession with her closest childhood friend and neighbour, Violet Shillito – a relationship that remained unconsummated. In 1900, Vivien abandoned this chaste love, when the great romance with Natalie Barney ensued. The following year Shillito died of typhoid fever, a tragedy from which Vivien, guilt-ridden, never fully recovered). Natalie Clifford Barney’s life and love affairs served as inspiration for many novels, ranging from the French bestseller « Sapphic Idyll« to « The Well of Loneliness » (by Radclyffe Hall (born Marguerite Radclyffe Hall). In 1915, Hall fell in love with Mabel Batten’s (There exists a painting of her by John Singer Sargent) cousin Una Troubridge [ She was a British lesbian sculptor. Her talent as a sculptor prompted Nijinsky to sit for her several times. she was nicknamed Una by her family as a child and chose the middle name Vincenzo herself, after her Florentine relatives. She was married to Ernest Troubridge who rose to the rank of admiral during and immediately after the First World War, and Una gained her title when Admiral Troubridge was knighted in June 1919, although they were already legally separated at the time ]), the most famous lesbian novel of the twentieth century.
One of Quilty’s fake license plate: CU88322 (p.251 TAL). CU for « see you! », 3-2=1, 2, 8 and 8. rearranged we can get 1882.
etc… more references to this year are present in the novel.
1888 (Last encounter between Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell):
T. S. Eliot (1888-1965) via several references in the novel (e.g. p.16 TAL, in the allusion to « Gerontion » (« Fraulein von kulp (…) that gull« ) or « Because you took advantage of a sinner / Because (…) » (p.299 TAL) in reference to « Ash Wednesday« ). He also wrote about Matthew Arnold in « The use of poetry and the use of criticism« . His long poem « The Waste Land » (which referenced « The Tempest« ‘s Prospero and loosely follows the Arthurian legends of the Holy Grail and the Fisher King (he was also inspired by the symbols of the Tarot deck)) is widely regarded as one of the most important poems of the 20th century and a central text in Modernist poetry. It was out of the turmoil of the marriage with Vivienne Haigh-Wood [May 1888 – January 1947; her father was Charles Haigh-wood and her mother was Rose Esther Robinson. Vivienne has been seen as a muse and as a femme fatale (‘Vivienne’ is another spelling of ‘Vivian’/’Vivien’, a female name that is part of the references in « Lolita » as she, the Lady of the Lake (*), seduced Merlin and learnt all his magic knowledge and secrets before traping him beneath a stone (or in a tree trunk) with her powers (according to the Vulgate Merlin, it was the goddess Diana‘s (« Little Diana » p.201 TAL) enchantment, given to Dyonas, that caused Viviane to be so alluring to Merlin). There is a painting by the pre-Raphaelite painter Edward Burne-Jones, « The Beguiling of Merlin« , illustrating it)] that Eliot produced « The Waste Land« . Eliot’s sister-in-law, Theresa, said of the relationship: « Vivienne ruined Tom as a man, but she made him as a poet« .
« The Waste Land » is notable for its seemingly disjointed structure, indicative of the Modernist style of James Joyce’s « Ulysses« (which Eliot cited as an influence and which he read the same year that he was writing « The Waste Land« ). « The Waste Land » opening lines are « April is the cruellest month, breeding / Lilacs out of the dead land » and the title of the second section is « A Game of Chess« .
(*) There exists an 1919 illustration (« Arthur meets the Lady of the Lake and gets the Sword Excalibur« ) from Andew Lang’s « Tales of Romance » by Henry Justice Ford (He came to public attention when he provided the numerous beautiful illustrations for Andrew Lang’s « Fairy Books » however it was his illustrations for such books as « The Arabian Nights Entertainments » (Longmans 1898), « Kenilworth » (TC & EC Jack 1900) and « A School History of England‘ by Charles Fletcher and Rudyard Kipling (Clarendon Press 1911) that provided Ford with both income and fame. At the age of 61, Ford surprised his friends by marrying a woman some thirty-five years younger. She was Emily Amelia Hoff (née Rose). He played cricket regularly with the playwright JM Barrie‘s Allahakbarrie Cricket Club. This in turn led to Ford providing the well-known map of Kensington Gardens in Barrie’s ‘The Little White Bird‘ He also designed the costume for the character of Peter Pan when Barrie’s play was staged in the West End for the first time in 1904. He also became an acquaintance of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle).
The allusion to Miranda (Mirana, Mirandola, etc…) and especially « Miranda, Viola » (p.52 TAL) – which refers to Miranda in Shakespeare‘s (alluded himself several times in « Lolita« ) « The Tempest » in which Caliban attempts to VIOLAte (also in French « viola » = « raped ») her honor – points to Frederick Goodall’s « Miranda » (1888) (but also to paintings by J. W. Waterhouse – more on this later). Miranda and « The Tempest » are indeed part of the numerous references in the background of the riddle (as a side note, let’s mention that the character Prospero was inspired by John Dee (an adviser of Queen Elizabeth I, who was also an occultist (for instance, he claimed he communicated with a spiritual creature that was like a 7-9 years old girl named Madimi (he would name one of his daughter with that name)), an inspiration for the authors that inspired the first Rosicrucians (whose symbol is the Rose Cross)) whose John Aubrey (a writer (who entered Trinity College of Oxford in 1642) whose great-grandfather, William Aubrey, was a cousin and intimate acquaintance of Dee) gave a short biography in his « Brief Lives » (among the other short biographies is Wiliam Shakespeare’s. There is an edition of 1898 by Rev. Andrew Clark (1856-1922), « Brief Lives chiefly of Contemporaries set down John Aubrey between the Years 1669 and 1696« )).
The constant reference to (Arthur) Rimbaud as « rainbow » is a reference to an anecdote dated 1888 (see Annotated Lolita p.371 TAL). In Abyssinia, in 1888, where he sold guns, the English called the ex-poet « trader Rainbow », as Nabokov notes in his Eugene Onegin commentary (Vol. III, p. 412). He was author of « Le bateau ivre » (‘The Drunken Boat’; 1871), alluded in « Lolita » (p. TAL). The most famous Photograph of Arthur Rimbaud is dated 1871 as well and taken by Etienne Carjat (he is famous for his phtographs of 19th c. French artists (Among them, Charles Baudelaire (alluded in « Lolita« ) in 1862. He is also author of « Les Mouches vertes, satire » (1868). There also exists a self-portrait of him dated 1865). Rimbaud’s father met his mother in 1852 and he died in 1878.
Fridtjof Nansen (mentionned in « Lolita » p.27 TAL because of the well-known passport) became famous for being the man that led the team that made the first crossing of the Greenland interior in 1888, cross-country skiing on the island (Nansen was also instrumental in persuading Prince Carl of Denmark to accept the throne of the newly independent Norway). Humbert Humbert’s participation in a polar expedition is a reference to both Nansen and Roald Amundsen, who left Oslo in 1910 on the ship (named « Fram« ) used earlier by Nansen, and reached the south Pole in 1911 (the first to do so). Amundsen was also part of the Belgian Antarctic Expedition which crossed the Antarctic Circle in 1898. In 1903, Amundsen had also led the first expedition to successfully traverse Canada’s Northwest Passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, passing Cambridge Bay, which had been reached from the west by Richard Collinson (1811-1883) (*) in 1852.
(*) He was born in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, England.As commander of HMS Plover, and with the aid of Lt Henry Kellett in HMS Starling, he brilliantly surveyed the China coast from 1842-46, producing charts upon which all successors were based.
The three expeditions sent in 1848 to locate Sir John Franklin all failed. In 1850, Collinson was instructed to look for him by sailing through the Bering Strait. In the spring of 1852 he sent a sledge party north to Melville Island and in the spring of 1853 he led a sledge party to the easternmost point on the island (Point Pelly) (reference in « Pierre Point in Melville Sound » (p.33 TAL)). He wintered at Cambridge Bay on the southeast coast of Victoria Island. In 1862 he became an « elder brother » of Trinity House and in 1875 became Deputy Master. (Some informations from the entry « Richard Collinson » in « A Naval Biographical Dictionary » (1849) by William Richard O’Byrne).
Quilty’s fake license plate Q32888 (32888 -> (3-2=1)888) p.251 TAL.
Mention of « L’Arlésienne » from Vincent van gogh, a painting from 1888. He also painted « The Old Mill« , « Flowering Orchard » (1888) and « Cherry Tree » (1888). He developed the unique and highly recognizable style that became fully realized during his stay in Arles in 1888 (reference in Humbert’s anecdote about Colonel Lacour in Arles, p.84 TAL). He suffered a bout of mental illness in december 1888 in which he famously sliced his ear off. « Sorrow« , of which he said about the drawn woman « the best figure I’ve drawn« , is from 1882.
Publication of Romain Rolland‘s « Amour d’enfants » (French for ‘Children love’) in 1888 (Reference to Romain Rolland (a French writer who got the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1915) likely in « Roland » (p.31 and 261 TAL; barely distorted) and with certainty in « she will like Jean Christophe? » p.28 TAL. « Jean-Christophe » is a novel by Romain Rolland in 10 volumes (the 9th volume « Le Buisson ardent » (« The Burning Bush ») is dated 1911); The English translations appeared between 1911 and 1913 (Rolland was also awarded the Prix Femina in 1905 for « Jean-Christophe« ). Romain Rolland is also author of for instance « Les Loups » (‘The Wolves‘) in 1898, « Le Poison idéaliste » (1900), « La Vie de Tolstoï » (Life of Tolstoy) in 1911, « Colas Breugnon » (1919), « Annette et Sylvie« (first volume of « L’Âme enchantée » (‘The Enchanted Soul‘)) and « Robespierre » (1939; a book about the French Revolution (he already wrote about that time period in « Georges Danton« )). Rolland was an admirer of Leo Tolstoy, and, as in War and Peace, a very large proportion of the work is devoted to the author’s thoughts on various subjects: music, art, literature, feminism, militarism, national character, and social changes in the Third Republic. Romain Rolland also had a long correspondence with Sigmund Freud (*), and had a mutual admiration (which is probably the main explanation of the negative comment about Maximovich when he heard him mentionned « Jean-Christophe » in p.28 TAL, although the fact that he made a travel to Moscow (in 1935, Lolita’s year of birth), on the invitation of Maxim Gorky, that was an opportunity to meet Joseph Stalin, whom he apparently considered the greatest man of his time, might be another good reason)).
(*) 1923 saw the beginning of a correspondence between the famous psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud and Rolland, who found that the admiration that he showed for Freud was reciprocated in equal measures (Freud proclaiming in a letter to him: « That I have been allowed to exchange a greeting with you will remain a happy memory to the end of my days. »). This correspondence introduced Freud to the concept of the « oceanic feeling » that Rolland had developed through his study of Eastern mysticism. Freud opened his next book Civilization and its Discontents (1929) with a debate on the nature of this feeling, which he mentioned had been noted to him by an anonymous « friend ». This friend was Rolland. Rolland would remain a major influence on Freud’s work, continuing their correspondence right up to Freud’s death in 1939.
Last year John Ruskin (1819–1900) go in Italy, something that was extremely important to him for many decades (1833-1888). More on this acquaintance of Lewis Carroll and quite important element of the riddle later.
William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) via his painting « Nymphs and Satyrs » (1873) sold for the first time in 1888 (Satyrs are basically Fauns). Bouguereau’s themes generally imply nude women (regularly in a context with water – like nymphs are) or little girls. Among his most famous paintings are « La Danse » (1856), « The Birth of Venus » (1879), « Italian Girl Drawing Water » (1871), « Charity » (1878), « Evening Mood » (1882), « The Nut Gatherers » (1882), « Fishing For Frogs » (1882), « The First Mourning » (1888), « L’Amour et Psyché, enfants » (1890), « The Bohemian » (1890), « Daisies » (1894), « Sewing » (1898), « Inspiration » (1898) and « The Virgin With Angels » (1900). Incidentally, Frederick Judd Waugh (mentionned p.199 TAL) studied at the Académie Julian in Paris, with Adolphe-William Bouguereau. In 1918, Waugh was recommended to serve as a camouflage artist for the U.S. Navy, as a member of the Design Section of its marine camouflage unit in Washington. The section was headed by American painter Everett L. Warner, author of “Fooling the Iron Fish: The Inside Story of Marine Camouflage” (1919).
etc… more references to this year are present in the novel.
1898 (Death of Lewis Carroll, in « The Chestnuts » and also the death of Henry Liddell, father of Alice Liddell)
It is also used as a tag to associate Humbert to Carroll, when Humbert observed his soon-to-be bedroom at the Haze‘s house. Above his bed is a painting (“The Kreutzer Sonata” by René Prinet. P. 38 TAL) that was made this very year, in 1898.
There are also several references to Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898) a “decadent” Art Nouveau (a movement whose origin can be said to be William Morris) artist (who happens to have drawn an “Isolde” (another spelling for Yseult from “Tristram and Yseult” omnipresent in the text – more on this later) and made illustrations for “Le morte d’Arthur” of Thomas Malory (who treats the subject of the Arthurian legend (in which “Tristram and Yseult” has to be counted in the references in relation with it. Aubrey beardsley drawn for instance « How sir Bedivere cast the sword into water » (1894) in which we see the Lady of the Lake) that is an important reference in the riddle. “Le morte d’Arthur” had a big influence on many artists in the Victorian period, for instance especially the painter Edward Burne-Jones (who died in 1898) and William Morris who will be mentionned later. Tennyson‘s “Idylls of the King“, a salliant element of the riddle, was also quite influenced by it) but also made some illustrations for an English edition of an Edgar Allan Poe book and was rumored to have an incestuous relationship with his sister Mabel (There is a nymphet named Mabel in “Lolita”, and this firstname is among the recurrent references in the novel)), from Aubrey McFate to the town of Beardsley and its school (even fully mentionned in Quilty’s little game in motels’ registers, in this entry: “Aubrey Beardsley, Quelquepart Island” (“quelquepart” means “somewhere” in French)). He also made illustrations for the cover of « The one thousands and one nights » (also an Ali Baba for a projected the « The forty thieves » never undertaken) another reference used in « Lolita » in relation with Stevenson (more on this later).
Reginald Marsh (1898-1954; Marsh is also like a barely distorted relexion of March) in p.199 TAL. The « Reginald » instances found in the diverse background references (for instance « Mrs. Reginald G. Gore » (p.262 TAL)) are likely references to Mrs. Reginald Hargreaves a.k.a. Alice P. Liddel.
Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919 ; « Roosevelt » (which means « field of roses » in Dutch/Flemish) p.78 TAL) gained national fame for courage during the Spanish-American War of 1898 (it lasted 3 months, 2 weeks and 4 days – we got a 3, a 4 and a 2). Returning a war hero, he was elected governor of New York also in 1898 (in office until 1900). The state party leadership distrusted him, so they took the lead in moving him to the prestigious, but considered by them powerless, position of running for vice president as McKinley’s running mate in the election of 1900. Following the assassination of President McKinley in September 1901, Roosevelt, at age 42, became the youngest United States President in history. In 1882, 1883, 1884 he was member of the New York State Assembly and in the 1888 presidential election, Roosevelt successfully campaigned, primarily in the Midwest, for Benjamin Harrison. His first of many books, « The Naval War of 1812 » (1882), had established his reputation as both a learned historian and as a popular writer. His father had died on February 9, 1878. On his 22nd birthday, Roosevelt married socialite Alice Hathaway Lee (that he had met on October 18, 1878), daughter of banker George Cabot Lee and Caroline Watts Haskell. They had a daughter, Alice Lee Roosevelt. Roosevelt’s wife died two days after giving birth due to an undiagnosed case of kidney failure. Her second wife was named Edith Kermit Carow. There exists a portrait of Theodore Roosevelt by John Singer Sargent.
« King Akhenaten’s and Queen Nefertiti’s pre-nubile Nile daughters » p.19 TAL: In 1898, archeologist Victor Loret found two female mummies inside the tomb of Amenhotep II in KV35 in the Valley of the Kings. These two mummies, named ‘The Elder Lady’ and ‘The Younger Lady’, were likely candidates of Nefertiti’s remains. All these keywords about ancient Egypt, Babylonia, Rome, Greece and Assyria, found in « Lolita« , are pointing to important dates and events of archeology, which is part of the web of references in the book. We can mention D. G. Hogarth (May 1862-November 1927; among the numerous places he excavated was Cyprus; among his books, let’s mention « Accidents of an antiquary’s life » (1910); he had a sister named Janet E. Courtney (1865-1954; she was a scholar, writer and feminist. She was educated at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, 1885-1888 and was awarded a first class degree in Philosophy. In 1911 she married William Leonard Courtney, editor of the Fortnightly Review and chief dramatic critic and literary editor of the Daily Telegraph. She translated « The Modern French Drama. Seven essays » in 1898)) who was a British archeologist that associated with Arthur Evans (the discoverer of the Minoan Civilisation; Excavations of his biggest finding, the Palace of Knossos, started in 1900 (In September 1898, the last of the Turkish troops withdrew from Crete)) and T. E. Lawrence (August 1888– May 1935 (Lolita’s year of birth); he was the famous Lawrence of Arabia (the most famous photograph of him dressed as an Arab is dated 1919). From 1907 to 1910, he studied History at Jesus College, Oxford. He particpated in the excavation at Carchemish with Hogarth in 1911. Let’s also note that on 17 May 1919, the plane carrying Lawrence on a flight to Egypt crashed at the airport but he survived with a broken shoulder blade and two broken ribs), Edward Russell Ayrton (December 1882 – May 1914; he was an English Egyptologist and archaeologist that was the son of William Scrope Ayrton (1849-1904; a British consular official in China) and was born the same year as the formation of the Egypt Exploration Fund. In 1911 he accepted a position with the Archaeological Survey of Ceylon), Howard Carter (May 1874 – March 1939; he was an English archaeologist and Egyptologist who became world famous after discovering the intact tomb of Tutankhamun (colloquially known as « King Tut » and « the boy king« ), Sir Leonard Woolley (a British archaeologist best known for his excavations at Ur in Mesopotamia (maybe a subtle reference is to be found in « Woolly-woo-boo-are? » p.296 TAL) who married Katharine Elizabeth Keeling (née Menke; born in 1888), and knighted in 1935 (Lolita’s year of birth)), Heinrich schliemann (the famous discoverer of Troy that started to work on the city in 1871 (Along with Arthur Evans, Schliemann was a pioneer in the study of Aegean civilization in the Bronze Age (he unearthed the Mycenaean sites Mycenae and Tiryns; reference in « Lolita » in p.254 TAL « or at least Mycenean, as to hygiene« )). Schliemann did not reopen the dig site at Troy until 1878, the year the results of his excavations were published in « Mykena » (he also had published « Ithaka, der Peloponnesus und Troja » in 1868). He made a third excavation at Troy in 1882-1883 and a fourth excavation in 1888-1890. He had married his first wife Ekaterina Lyschin in 1852. He divorced Ekaterina in 1869 and advertised for a wife in a newspaper in Athens. A friend, the Archbishop of Athens, suggested a relative of his, seventeen-year-old Sophia Engastromenos (1852-1932; born the year he married his first wife). Schliemann, age 47, married her despite the 30 year difference in age). Keywords in « Lolita » such as « assyrian« , « tiger » (said ‘tigris’ in Latin, like the Mesopotamian river), « cormorant » (etc…) are also pointing to the misfortunes of the French archeologist Victor Place (as a diplomat he was appointed first in Moldavia, at Andrianople in 1862 then in Calcutta and in New York before being recalled in Paris in 1871) in the events of 1852, when he tried to get back in France with the unearthed findings in Khorsabad (it was the Assyrian capital in the time of Sargon II of Assyria, under the name Dur-Sharrukin) and Quyunjik (where he had to deal with the disloyal concurrency of Hormuzd Rassam (1826-1910; discoverer of the clay tablets of the Epic of Gilgamesh), former collaborator of Sir Austen Henry Layard (*)) with a boat named « Le Cormoran« , but mishaps after mishaps, only managing to bring two statues to the Louvre in 1856.
(*) He was an English traveller, archaeologist, cuneiformist, art historian, draughtsman, collector, author, politician and diplomat, best known as the excavator of Nimrud and of Niniveh, where he uncovered the library of Ashurbanipal; he was for a few weeks Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs in 1852. In 1868, Layard was made First Commissioner of Works and sworn of the Privy Council. In 1878, on the occasion of the Berlin Congress, he was appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath. He eventually retired to Venice. Among his published works are « Inquiry into the Painters and Arts of the Ancient Assyrians » (vol. 1–2) (1848-1849), « Nineveh and its Remains » (1849; Niniveh was a major ancient Assyrian city), « Illustrations of the Monuments of Nineveh » (1849), « The Monuments of Nineveh » (1849-53) and « A Popular Account of Discoveries at Nineveh » (1852).
The painting « The Last Stand of the 44th Regiment at Gundamuck, 1842 » by William Barnes Wollen (He he was educated at University College School, London from 1871 to 1873 and was elected a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours in 1888) depicting the Massacre of Elphinstone‘s Army (the 1842 retreat from Kabul) was painted in 1898. he also painted « The Black Watch (42nd Highlanders at Bay, Quatre Bras » and « The Flag, Albuera, May 16, 1811« .
etc… more references to this year are present in the novel.
1910 (death of Lorina Reeve, mother of Alice Liddell)
Humbert Humbert and Annabel were born in 1910.
The Mann law, mentionned by Humbert is from 1910.
Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch was knighted in 1910. Much more will be said about him later.
Marius Petipa (March 1818-1910), born Victor Marius Alphonse Petipa, was a French ballet dancer, teacher and choreographer. Petipa is considered to be the most influential ballet master and choreographer in ballet history. He is noted for his long career as Premier maître de ballet of the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatres, a position he held from 1871 until 1903. His father had been appointed maître de ballet at the Opera de Marseille in 1819. In 1847, Petipa accepted the position of premier danseur to the Imperial Theatres of St. Petersburg. Petipa created over fifty ballets, like for instance, among the most important: « The Pharaoh’s Daughter » (1862; it was then an unrivaled success. Revival in 1898. Referenced in « King Akhenaten’s and Queen Nefertiti’s pre-nubile Nile daughters » p.19 TAL (1898 is the year that two mummies were found, named ‘The Elder Lady’ and ‘The Younger Lady’, that were likely candidates of Nefertiti’s remains) and in « pharaonic » (p.156 TAL); the libretto was based on Théophile Gautier‘s « Le Roman de la Momie » (‘momie’ in French means ‘Mummy’)), « Don Quixote » (presented in St. Petersburg in 1871), « La Bayadère » (revival in 1900; English title: « The Temple Dancer« ; referenced in « Lolita » in p.270 TAL, « She made familiar Javanese gestures with her wrists and hands » as a Bayadere is another name for the devadasi (she is a south Indian girl dedicated to worship and service of a deity or a temple for the rest of her life) and here the Balinese dancers are particularly alluded (The Balinese dances are connected with Hindu rituals and are well-knowned for their typical wrists and hands movements. Both Java and Bali are islands in Indonesia))), « The Sleeping Beauty » (p.201 TAL), « Cinderella« , « Le Roi Candaule » (1868; a salliant moment is a pas named Diane et Actéon Pas de deux originally named Les Aventures Amourouse de Diane), « Le Réveil de Flore » (i.e. French for the awakening of Flora), « Roxana » (1878) (*), « The Daughter of the Snows » (1878; a ballet adaptation of « Snegurochka » for the Tsar’s Imperial Ballet by the composer Ludwig Minkus and thus the Balletmaster Marius Petipa), « La Vestale » (1888), « La Esmeralda » (« emerald » is also part of the numeous keywords in the riddle, and Esmeralda is the name of a Gypsy girl in Victor Hugo‘s « Notre-Dame de Paris« ), « The Corsaire » (a corsaire is basically a pirate in French, a « privateer » to be precise; revival in 1868), « Raymonda » (1898), « Harlequinade » (1900), « The Nutcracker » (which was most likely choreographed by Lev Ivanov (who had moved to Saint Petersburg where he studied at the Imperial Ballet, becoming an official member of the Corps de ballet in 1852. Among his works : « The Enchanted Forest« , « Egyptian Nights« , « Cinderella« , « The Magic Flute« , « The Nutcracker« , « Sylvia« . He choregraphed the Dance of the Little Swans in « The Swan Lake« ), perhaps with Petipa’s counsel and instruction). Another work to note: « Carmen et son toréro » (Carmen and the Bullfighter). One of his son, Jean Mariusovich Petipa, died in 1871. His wife, the Prima ballerina Mariia Surovshchikova-Petipadied of smallpox in 1882. Cryptic references about this are found in p.242 TAL (« The History of Dancing, Clowns and Columbines, The Russian Ballet » (the reference is pointing to Ellen Terry (a friend of Lewis Carroll) and her book on Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes « The Russian Ballet« )). Vaslav Nijinsky (p.181 TAL, a photograph of Nijinsky at G. Godin’s house; also p.302 TAL « gray, mad Nijinski« ), a Russian dancer, was a major dancer in Petipa’s works (there is a well-known photograph of him in the revival of Petipa’s « The Talisman » in Saint Petersburg in 1910). In 1900, Nijinsky joined the Imperial Ballet School and at first he appeared in supporting parts in classical ballets such as « Faust« , as a mouse in « The Nutcracker« , a page in « Sleeping Beauty« . At the age of 14, Nijinsky was selected by the great choreographer Marius Petipa to dance a principal role in what proved to be the choreographer’s last ballet, « La Romance d’un Bouton de rose et d’un Papillon » (French for ‘The Romance of a Rose and a Butterfly‘). In 1912 Nijinsky began choreographing original ballets, including « L’après-midi d’un faune » (French for ‘Afternoon of a Faun‘) to music by Claude Debussy who caused controversy because of its sexually suggestive final scene, but was defended by several artists, including Marcel Proust. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1919. Nijinsky had been Nijinsky painted by Léon Bakst at the Lido in Venice, 1910 (Léon Samoilovitch Bakst, Born as Lev (Leib) Samoilovich Rosenberg, was a Russian painter and scene and costume designer. During his visits to Saint Petersburg he taught in Zvantseva’s school, where one of his students was Marc Chagall (between 1908 and 1910). Beginning in 1909, Bakst worked mostly as a stage-designer and, in 1908, he made a name for himself as a scene-painter for Diaghilev with the Ballets Russes (French for Russian Ballets). He produced scenery for, among other operas, « Cleopatra », « Scheherazade » (1910), « Le Spectre de la Rose » (1911) and « L’après-midi d’un faune » (French « faune » = faun)). There are also several picture of Nijinsky in « Le spectre de la Rose » in 1911 (« Le Spectre de la rose » is French for ‘The Spectre of the Rose‘. In 1911, Ballet Russes producer Sergei Diaghilev hoped to present Nijinsky’s ballet « L’Après-midi d’un faune » but ti was not ready for the stage, so he needed another ballet to take its place. That ballet was the idea of writer Jean-Louis Vaudoyer. In 1910, he had sent an idea for a ballet to Ballets Russes set and costume designer Léon Bakst. His idea was based on « Le Spectre de la rose« , a verse by Théophile Gautier (1811-1872), and « Afforderung zum Tanz« , a work for piano by Carl Maria von Weber composed in 1819).
(*) The ballet historian Konstantin Skalkovsky gives an account in his study of late 19th century ballet in St. Petersburg of how Minkus’ Grand Marché from the third Act of this ballet « was the favorite piece of Tsar Alexander II, who in general did not love music. Several units of our troops (the Russian Army) stormed the Plevna to the music of this march.« .
« Sammy » among the « nasal voices » (p.148 TAL) refers to Sammy Kaye (1910-1987).
Alice MacDonald (1837-1910). The Macdonald sisters were four Scottish sisters, notable for their marriages to well-known people of the Victorian era. Alice, Georgiana, Agnes and Louisa were four of the seven daughters and 11 children (among them another sister named Edith, like the 3rd Liddell sister) of Reverend George Browne Macdonald (1805-1868). She married John Lockwood Kipling, and was the mother of Rudyard Kipling. Her sister Georgianna (there is a well-known picture of her dated 1882) married the pre-Raphaelite painter Edward Burne-Jones and another sister, Agnes, married president of the Royal Academy Edward Poynter (1836-1919; He studied at Leigh‘s academy in Newman Street and the Royal Academy Schools, before going to Paris to study in the studio of the classicist painter Charles Gleyre where James McNeill Whistler and George du Maurier were fellow-students. He was the first Slade Professor at University College London from 1871 to 1875. In 1896, on the death of Sir John Millais, Poynter was elected President of the Royal Academy. He received a knighthood in the same year and an honorary degree from Cambridge University in 1898; among his paintings are « The Siren« , « The Cave of the Storm Nymphs« , « The Visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon« , « Israel in Egypt« , « Visit of the Queen of Sheba » (1871-1875), « Psyche in the Temple of Love » and « Andromeda » (a painting with a naked woman with a blue garments behind her, beside the sea. Andromeda is a young woman with a name starting with andro- meaning man in ancient Greek (more on this later))).
I consider that also indirect allusions to Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) are likely to be found via several keywords and names (for instance, the weird mention of a fictive « Bagration Island » p.302 TAL is likely a hint to « War and Peace » (Pyotr Bagration was a prominent Russian General during the Napoleonic Wars (himself mentionned in « Rue Bonaparte » p.26 TAL and « The Emperor » p. 201 TAL)) that is mentionned in « War and Peace » (Bagration was married to Catherine who died and is buried in Venice and is thought to have been the lover of Catherine Pavlovna of Russia (1788-1819 ; Tsar Alexander I’s sister)), which, in literature, particularly evokes Tolstoy’s masterpiece « War and Peace« ), just like the mention of the « Kreutzer Sonata » p.38 TAL is a reference to Leo Tolstoy’s novel (the painting was inspired by the novel)). Among Tolstoy’s major works are « The Cossacks » (1863; translated in English by Eugene Schuyler in 1878), « War and Peace » (Portions of an earlier version of the novel, then known as « The Year 1805« , were serialized in the magazine The Russian Messenger between 1865 and 1867. It should be noticed that in Volume Three, a major turning point in the life of the protagonist Pierre Bezukhov (reference also in « Pierre Point » p.33 TAL), is marked by the appearance of the Comet of 1811), « Anna Karenina » (the novel’s first complete appearance was in book form in 1878; The first movie made from the novel was a Russian adaptation directed by Maurice André Maître in 1911) or « The Kreutzer Sonata » (a Russian movie was made from the novel in 1911, directed by Pyotr Chardynin). Tolstoy’s earliest works were the autobiographical novels « Childhood« , « Boyhood« , and « Youth » (written from 1852 to 1856). Among his short stories we find for instances « The Raid » (1852), « The Snowstorm » (1856; same title than a poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson), « Kholstomer » (started in 1863), « A confession » (publication in 1882; the original title of Humbert Humbert’s « Lolita » was « Lolita, or the Confession of a White Widowed Male« ), « Father Sergius » (1898; which, like _several of his works_ was published posthumously in 1911) or « Esarhaddon, King of Assyria« . Tolstoy also wrote some plays, like « The Living Corpse » (written around 1900 and that premiered in 1911) or « The Cause of it All » (1910). Among the movies made bout Tolstoy there is a « How Fine, How Fresh the Roses Were » made in 1913. His « A Calendar of Wisdom » is a collection of insights and wisdom compiled by Tolstoy between 1903 and 1910 that was published in three different editions. An English translation by Archibald J. Wolfe of the first Russian edition, which was organized by subject, was published in 1919. An English translation of the second Russian edition, which was organized by calendar date, was begun in 1911 as a monthly serial but abandoned after the first volume. Among the inspiring men quoted in this work we find John Ruskin (1819-1900), a man of major importance in the riddle, but also Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) or Henry David Thoreau (1817-1865). His conversion from a dissolute and privileged society author to the non-violent and spiritual anarchist of his latter days was brought about by his experience in the army as well as two trips around Europe in 1857 and 1860–61. This European trip in 1860–61 shaped both his political and literary development when he met Victor Hugo, whose literary talents Tolstoy praised after reading Hugo’s newly finished « Les Misérables« . Tolstoy’s political philosophy was also influenced by a 1861 visit to French anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865; author of « Solution of the Social Problem » (1849), « La Guerre et la Paix » (War and Peace, 1861) or « Of the Political Capacity of the Working Class » (1865)) to which he borrowed Proudhon’s forthcoming publication’s title, « La Guerre et la Paix » (« War and Peace », in French). Tolstoy wrote in his educational notebooks: « If I recount this conversation with Proudhon, it is to show that, in my personal experience, he was the only man who understood the significance of education and of the printing press in our time.« . Enthusiasmed, Tolstoy returned to his Yasnaya Polyana and founded 13 schools for children of Russia’s peasants, who had just been emancipated from serfdom in 1861. Tolstoy described the school’s principles in his 1862 essay « The School at Yasnaya Polyana« . Tolstoy was painted by Ilya Repin. Leo Tolstoy had met his wife Sophia Tolstoy (the daughter of the physician Andrey Evstafievich Behrs (1808-1868)) in 1862. She died in 1919. Leo Tolstoy wrote from 1852 to 1910.
During The 1911–12 Kangaroo tour of Great Britain, on 8 November 1911 (11/8/11 (notice the 1-1/8/11)), in a rugby game (Lewis Carroll studied several years in the Rugby School where was invented this sport), Vivian Farnsworth (considered one of the best Australian professional rugby league player of the 20th c., he was selected for New South Wales in 1910. After the war, Farnsworth re-joined Sydney club Newtown in 1919) got 2 tries (the best for the « Australasia » side), the game ending with a score of 19–10. In the following ashes test (12/16/11 and 1/1/12) Viv Farnsworth would be opposed to the English player Dick Ramsdale (By the way, let’s notice that the emblem of the National Rugby Team of England is the Red Rose).
etc… more references to this year are present in the novel.
Other artists being references in « Lolita »:
Louisa May Alcott‘s “Little Women” – a book mentionned by Humbert among the ones he wants Lolita to read during their first travel through the USA – is from 1868 (a sequel of her semi-autobiographical “Little Women”, “Little Men” is from 1871, the year of publication of “Through the Looking-Glass” by Lewis Carroll). She also authored « A Garland for Girls » (1888). This author is born in 1832, the same year than Lewis Carroll. Her sister Anna married a John Pratt (a lastname found in « Lolita« . There is also a mention of « Bluebeard » ‘s « sister Ann« ). This novel also has got an “uncle Carrol” who tries to be like an English gentleman. Not a coincidence either, Nabokov also clearly had that in mind. She was an abolitionnist and a feminist and was the first woman to register to vote in Concord, Massachussetts.
Louisa May Alcott lived and wrote “Little Women” in the familial house named Orchard House (located in New England, that they had left in 1852 but in which they resettled in 1858. It is also the name of the house in « Little women »), which possesses a bedroom (which pertained to her sister May) with sketches of angelic, mythological and biblical figures on the woodwork and doors (This might be to what “(…) there is nothing more conservative than a child, especially a girl-child, be she the most auburn and russet, the most mythopoeic nymphet in October’s orchard-haze” (p.186 TAL) makes a reference to, especially in the context of an author known for her children’s novel centered on several girls). She died in march 1888 in Boston (so both May and March are directly linked with her), the year of the final encounter of Lewis Carroll with Alice Liddell, which with her birthdate 1832 (!), all the “May” references (her middle-name (Louisa May Alcott) and one of her sister, Abigail May Alcott, and it was the last name of her mother Abby May as well [ incidentally, her father Amos Bronson Alcott died in march 1888. He was a friend of Ralph Waldo Emerson (May 1803-April 1882) himself a friend of Henry David Thoreau who died in May 1862 – whose most famous photograph was taken by Benjamin D. Maxham in 1856 ] . It is a Carrollian/Liddell “tag” as it was the month Alice Liddell was born, alluded in “Alice in Wonderland”) and the March reference it allows (In “Little Women” it’s March, not May (although the youngest sister is an Amy March – Amy being an anagram of May) that is to be seen prominently – another link with “Alice in Wonderland” in Nabokov’s mind, the March Hare, of course (“(…) as this is May it won’t be raving mad–at least not so mad as it was in March“ says Alice – and as we will see this march-may thing in the sentence is a hint). Interestingly the other Alcott sisters, that don’t bear “May” in their name, were either born or died in March), was certainly a good reason for Nabokov to allude to her.
The fictitious “Love under the Lindens” and “Cherry Orchard” (p.229 TAL; « lush orchard » p.230 TAL, also the mauve trees in blossom (p.275 TAL) alludes to Vincent van Gogh’s (a painter already mentionned in the novel before) « Flowering Orchard » (1888)) also seem to be references to Alcott (the first title seems to be a kind of mix between her novel “Under the Lilacs” (1878) and Lewis Carroll‘s “Love among the Roses“ (1878 – published the same year!. If this is not a confirmation of the validity of this theory, I don’t know what will ever be!) and an echo of “Desire under the elms” by Eugene O’neill, who happens to be born in 1888 (A very relevant title (elms, desire) in the context of the riddle in “Lolita” and especially regarding Ruskin and Carroll – more on this later). In p.156 TAL « pink and lilac formation » it is also an allusion to these 1878 Carroll/Alcott works (« pink » is said « rose » in French). These Lilac allusions are also directly pointing toward Lewis Carroll who personally possessed two paintings, Arthur Hughes’ « The Lady with the Lilacs » (1863) and Sophie Anderson’s « Girl with Lilacs » (1865) who led to this entry in his diary on 6th July 1865 (two days after he publication of « Alice in wonderland »): « Paid another visit to the Royal Academy, then to the Andersons, where I saw several beautiful pictures, and gave Mr Anderson some hints on the perspective of a picture of his, which will lead to his altering it a good deal. I bought a little picture by Mrs Anderson, of a child’s head in profile: the original was in the house, and was called into the room, a beautiful child about 12, Elizabeth Turnbull by name. I intend taking a photograph of her in the same attitude as the picture. » (The works of Sophie Anderson (1823-1903) were much admired by Lewis Carroll. In June 1864 he purchased his first picture from her, Minnie Morton, later discovering that the model was Florence Braithwaite (born in 1852), daughter of a friend). The second instance is, as seen above, a reference to her familial house Orchard House). She also wrote a novel whose title contains a “rose“ (“Rose in Bloom: A Sequel to Eight Cousins” (1876) which might be another wink from “Lolita”‘s author (for more on the subject, see below), and the Perilous Forest in the play (p.201 TAL) might also be a discreet allusion to her short story “Perilous Play” (1869)).
Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote “Uncle Tom’s cabin” in 1852 (The first London edition appeared in May 1852 (and sold 200,000 copies), the birthdate of Alice Liddell), a novel alluded with the hunchbacked hoary black “groom” of the “Enchanted Hunters” who was nicknamed “uncle Tom” by Humbert (p.118 TAL) – the name St. Clare, present in the novel, also recalls Quilty’s firstname. There are also a Mr. Bird (a senator) and a Mrs. Bird in the novel. She wrote “Queer Little People”, a collection of little tales for children in 1868. She was very outspoken about equality (she was an advocate of freedom for slaves and married women – we should acknowledge a parralel with Lolita’s situation). Her abolitionnist ideas were partly influenced by John Rankin (his name has a direct echo in the Carrollian context since Lewis Carroll photographed a girl named Flora Rankin).
Harriet Beecher Stowe‘s pseudonym was Christopher Crowfield (C/C) which would have pleased as much Humbert (in order to not cause damages to the reputation of individuals implicated in his narrative, he changed all the names and gave some of them alliterative names – see John Ray Jr.’s foreword), as Nabokov who’s in fact … the real author of “Lolita”, of course.
She was born in 1811 and she started to teach in a Girl’s School of Cincinnati in 1832 (the year of birth of Lewis Carroll). One of her daughter was named Georgiana May. Beecher-Stowe’s father was Lyman Beecher (1775-1863) a presbyterian minister (among his works: « Six Sermons on Temperance, Sermons on Various Occasions » (1842). He made a collection of those of his works which he deemed the most valuable (3 vols., Boston, 1852)). His second ife was harriet Porter and among their children were Isabella Holmes and James Chaplin.
Humbert’s « all New England for a lady-writer’s pen! » p.49 TAL (and « lady writer« , p.44 TAL) are Nabokov hinting to the importance of these two authors (Alcott lived and wrote in Orchard House (located in New England) and died in Boston and Beecher Stowe was born and died in Connecticut).
There are also several references to Robert Louis Stevenson. He is mentionned several times in “Lolita” (e.g. « R. L. Stevenson’s footprints on an extinct volcano« , « Mr Hyde » (from « Doctor Jeckyll and Mister Hyde« )) and we know that the allusions in this novel are rarely innocent mentions. Among the hidden Stevenson references in « Lolita », the several references to the « One Thousand and one nights » (A book that Humbert wants Lolita to read (« Soda, pop. 1001 » (p.220 TAL) has also to be linked with it)) that actually point to his « New Arabian nights » (1882) (The title is indeed an allusion to the collection of tales known as the « One Thousand and One Nights », which Stevenson had read and liked). « New Arabian Nights » is divided into two volumes (reference in « Lolita » in p.173 TAL in « Arabian nights »). The first volume contains seven stories originally called « Later-day Arabian Nights » and published by London Magazine in serial format from June to October 1878. He’s also the author of « The Black Arrow: A Tale of the Two Roses« (1888). All the references about the Orient, magic carpet, Ali Baba (e.g. p.26 TAL), drome(dary) (a cigarette brand mirroring a real one named « Camel »), 40 (thieves) (e.g. 40 pills for 40 nights (p.109 TAL), 40 pupils in Ramsdale’s class (p.51 TAL), « a brute of forty » (p.135 TAL), « homemade parachute forty years ago » (p. 128 TAL), « found she had 40.4 » (p.240 TAL), « She is forty » (p.221 TAL), « forty miles away » (p.79 TAL), and even likely in disguise in « spare cot in 49 » (p.118 TAL; 40 + 9 (9 being another important recurring « keyword »)), etc…), harem and oriental tales are actually intended as references to Stevenson (via his « New Arabian Nights« ), to point to the year 1882, which gives an important clue in the riddle (Carroll’s « Dreamland« ). Frank’s tattoo of a naked woman with a crown of flower (p.245 TAL) is likely a Polynesian woman (hence Humbert’s « I felt probably Polynesian » (p.246 TAL) not long after) is a reference to Stevenson’s travel overseas (1888) (hinted not long before in « through a wall overseas » p.245 TAL, maybe also in « atoll » (p. 20 TAL)) leading him eventually to Hawaii (a volcanic arcipelago, hence « R. L. Stevenson’s footprints on an extinct volcano« , and other references to Volcanoes (like « buttes of black lava » p.156 TAL)). The « Treasure island » is also alluded several times.
Frances Hodgson Burnett (1849-1924; Frances is the English version of the French firstname Françoise, old spelling of Française meaning French woman) is a also part of the references discreetly alluded in « Lolita » also has an importance (more on this later)). Her major works are « Little Lord Fauntleroy » (1886; the main character is Cedric Eroll, i.e. C. Errol (an echo of Carroll)), « The Secret Garden » (1911) and « A Little Princess » (1905 (e.g. « (frigid) princess » (p.166 TAL)) – an expended version of her 1888 short story « Sara Crewe: or, What Happened at Miss Minchin’s ». Her fist published story was « Godey’s Lady’s Book » in 1868). Her original lastname (she was named Frances Eliza Hodgson) is like a distorted echo of Lewis Carroll’s real name (Dodgson; this phenomeon of reflexion is found extensively in the riddle (e.g. Hodgson/Dodgson, Parkington/Tarkington, Humberland/Cumberland, etc…) – a mirror reflexion is not the exact image of reality (right and left inverted)). She was born in England, the third of five children of Edwin Hodgson and emigrated in the USA in 1865. Her father died in 1852. In 1863 Eliza Hodgson, her mother, was forced to sell their business and move again with Frances’ family. In 1879, in Boston, she met Louisa May Alcott and Mary Mapes Dodge (again a kind of distorted echo of Dodgson), editor of children’s magazine St. Nicholas. In 1888 she won a lawsuit in England over the dramatic rights to « Little Lord Fauntleroy« , establishing a precedent that was incorporated into British copyright law in 1911. She divorced Swan Burnett in 1898 and remarried with Stephen Townsend in 1900. Her firstname was also the name of the mother of Lewis Carroll, Frances Jane Lutwidge. She is buried in Roslyn Cemetary, Long Island.
« Little Princess » was published by Charles Scribner’s Sons. The novella appears to have been inspired in part by Charlotte Brontë’s unfinished novel, « Emma« . After writing Sara Crewe, Burnett returned to the material in 1902, penning the three-act stage play « A Little Un-fairy Princess« . A movie was made in 1939 starring Shirley Temple (Anita Louise playing Rose).
Reginald Bathurst Birch (May 1856 – 1943), an English-American artist and illustrator, made the illustrations of « Sara Crewe: or, What Happened at Miss Minchin’s » in 1888. He was best known for his depiction of the titular hero of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s 1886 novel « Little Lord Fauntleroy », which started a craze in juvenile fashion.
Among his other works: « Chivalric days : stories of courtesy and courage in olden times » (1888; by Elbridge Streeter Brooks), « Two little pilgrims’ progress; a story of the city beautiful » (1897; by Frances Hodgson Burnett), « The « Little Women » play; a two-act, forty-five-minute play, adapted from Louisa May Alcott’s famous story » » (1900; by Elizabeth Lincoln Gould), « Little men : life at Plumfield with Jo’s boys : a sequel to « Little Women« » (1901; by Louisa M. Alcott1), « The Wouldbegoods » / by E Nesbit (1901), « Betty’s happy year » (1910; by Carolyn Wells (1862–March 1942)), « Bonnie May » (by Louis Dodge), « Five Christmas Novels » / (1939; by Charles Dickens), « The reformed pirate; stories from The floating prince, Ting-a-ling tales & The queen‘s museum » (by Frank R. Stockton).
In fact, most famous authors of children literature are alluded or mentionned at one point or another (even though some are more important than others) – for instance A. A. Milne (1882-1956) (see later), Charles Perrault (He laid the foundations for a new literary genre, the fairy tale, with his works derived from pre-existing folk tales and probably influnced the Bothers Grimm in some cases. He was part of the 17th century vogue of contes des fées (French for fairy-tales) along with other authors such as Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de La Force, particularly known for her 1698 fairy tale « Persinette » which was adapted by the Brothers Grimm as the story « Rapunzel« , a story in which a captive girl is « plotting » to escape with a man) and his fairy tales (for instance « Bluebeard » or « The Sleeping Beauty » (p.201 TAL; It is basically Grimm’s « Little briar Rose » – « Dornröschen » in German (dorn = thorn). In « Lolita« , the references to this fairy-tale are a hint pointing to a William Morris poem important in the riddle (more about this later)), Edith Nesbit ((15 August 1858 – 4 May 1924. The 4th of May is an important reference alluded several times, as it is the birthday of Alice P. Liddell. Her firstname is the one of the youngest of the three Liddell sisters; also the references to Ibsen could possibly also point to her via the recurring mirror trick: ibsen / nesbi, a close reflexion of nesbit), who wrote such book as « The Story Of The Treasure Seekers » (1899) featuring an Alice, « The Enchanted Castle« , and « The Magic City » (1910) and had a son named John Bland born in 1898 to which « The house of Arden » was dedicated) or C. S. Lewis (he is himself a reference to Lewis Carroll via his name), author of the famous « The Chronicle of Narnia » (a Faun is among the characters), born in 1898 (also alluded (via his book « The great Divorce« ) in a chain of references implicating William Blake and Dante Allighieri. “How Well Can We Know Our Children” by C. Lewis, alluded in the mention of “I read and reread a book with an unintentionally bliblical title “Know your own daughter” “ (p.174 TAL) is also pointing towards him. Note that his first book after becoming a christian was « The Pilgrim’s Regress » in reference to « The Pilgrim’s Progress » by John Bunyan – which also points to Lewis Carroll as he was known to have read Bunyan’s book by the age of seven. It is also mentionned in the first pages of « Praeterita » Volume I, John Ruskin’s autobiography (more about this later), Beside Walter Scott’s name (and again mentionned later)) from a father born in 1863 and a mother named Florence born in 1862, the brothers Grimms’ « Hänsel and Gretel« , Andersen’s « Little Mermaid » (there exists a well-known picture of it by Edmund Dulac (French for « of the lake » – a reference in itself to the lady of the lake (more about this later)) from 1911) and « The Emperor’s New Clothes« , Maeterlinck’s « The blue Bird » (several references in the book, for instance in « Oiseau ivre » and « Bateau Bleu » (p.250 TAL), in which Rimbaud’s « Bateau Ivre » is mixed with Maeterlinck’s « Oiseau Bleu« . As a side note, Blue Bird sounds almost like Blue beard, another allusion possibly embedded in another one by the synesthetic Nabokov), from which an opera was made in 1919), « Mrs. Cormorant » (p.177 TAL. Allusion to the name of a giant, Cormoran, having some parallels with the French Bluebeard) which is a reference to the fairy-tale « Jack the Giant Killer » (set during the reign of King Arthur), Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s « Little prince » (via male/female swapping trick explained later, with Hodgson Burnett’s « A Little Princess« ) featuring a prominent rose (Saint-Exupéry (1900-1944; also author a memoir named « Terre des Hommes » (1939)) also had a project to write a book named « Little Princess » dedicated to his wife Consuelo), etc… (In this context, let’s note that Reginald Southey, a lifelong friend of Lewis Carroll, was the nephew of Robert Southey, the author of the fairy-tale « The Story of the Three Bears« , the original of « Goldilocks and the Three Bears« ).
Particularly alluded (especially via the 1939 movie featuring Judy Garland), L. Frank Baum’s (1856–1919) « The Wizard of Oz » published in May 1900. More will be said about it much later.
L. Frank Baum married in 1882 to Maud Gage a daughter of Matilda Joslyn Gage (1826-1898), who was an author that was suffragist and abolitionnist (In « Lolita« , references implying a Matilda can also be found in « Ned Litam had taught her » (p.232 TAL). Ned Litam is an anagrammatic « pseudonym » for tennis player William T. (Bill) Tilden II (NEDLIT-am, Nedlit is Tilden backwards), in a second level we can find Ma Tilden (Ned Litam backward – more about this later) but we can also find a Matilde (nedlitam) backwards – a variant of Matilda – these Matilda/matilde references likely point towards the Beatrice / Dante references in « Lolita » via John William Waterhouse paintings (more on this later) and also likely to a Lewis Carroll poem to a little girl about her doll named Matilda Jane, which is present in « The life and letters of Lewis Carroll » (there are many references to this book hidden in « Lolita » (see the Addendum at the end of the web page), like The old miss Opposite (from « Old Mill, opposite Addison’s Walk« ), or « Dr. Kitzler, Eryx, Miss » (p.250 TAL) (from Miss Edith Rix – also lake Eryx from Miss E. Rix (i.e. Edith Rix)) )). Matilda Joslyn Gage was possibly an inspiration to Dorothy Gale who was likely named after his niece Dorothy Louise Gage who died in infancy. A source of inspiration for Baum was apparently Lewis Carroll’s « Alice in Wonderland« . It is said that although Baum reportedly found these plots incoherent, he identified their source of popularity as Alice herself, a character with whom child readers could identify. It influenced his choice of a protagonist for his own books. Also, L. Frank Baum had read a disaster report of a tornado in Irving, Kansas, in May 1879 which included the name of a victim, Dorothy Gale, who was « found buried face down in a mud puddle« . In 1876, Matilda Joslyn Gage began to work on « History of Woman Suffrage » in collaboration with Elizabeth C. Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Stanton and Anthony founded the New York Women’s State Temperance Society in 1852 (for Anthony joined the Daughters of Temperance and in 1849 gave her first public speech at one of its meetings then in 1852, she had been elected as a delegate to the state temperance convention, but the chairman stopped her when she tried to speak, saying that women delegates were there only to listen and learn). In 1868, they began publishing a women’s rights newspaper called « The Revolution« . In 1878, Anthony and Stanton arranged for Congress to be presented with an amendment giving women the right to vote, which would be popularly known as the Anthony Amendment and would became the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920 (The National Women’s Studies Association convention of 1871 had also adopted a strategy of urging women to attempt to vote, and then, after being turned away, to file suits in federal courts demanding that their right to vote be recognized). In 1852, Anthony attended her first National Women’s Rights Convention. In 1856, Susan B. Anthony also became the New York state agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society.
Another artist alluded in « Lolita » is Arthur Wing Pinero (born in MAY 1855, knighted in 1909 and dead in NOVEMBER 1934 (like Alice P. Liddell)), author of « The Princess And The Butterfly » (1897), a play mentionned in « Dramatic Technique » (1919) by George Pierce Baker, mentionned in « Lolita« . This play has such characters as Annis Marsh (played by Dorothy Hammond in the original London cast and by Katherine Florence in the original New York cast), Mrs Marsh (close to March), mrs. Ware (close enough to Hare; in « The Opera Glass » (1879), Julie Opp, the actress playing Mrs Ware, is refered as Miss Opp (a vague echo of Miss Opposite)), Princess Pannonia (played in the first London cast by Julia Neilson whose husband was Fred Terry (brother to actresses Kate, Ellen, Marion and Florence Terry (all personal friends of Lewis Carroll)), sir George Lamorant (whose name finds a vague echo in Mrs Cormorant. LA-morant and COR-morant: cor+la = carol (and the etymologically related carlo)) – known as « The Butterfly », a Blanche Oriel (played in London in the original cast by Mabel Hackney), a Percival Ord (played in the original London cast by A. Vane Tempest), a Fay Zuliani (played by Fay Davis – « and that’s Fay Page, actress » (p.234 TAL)) and an Edward Oriel (played by an H. B. Irving). The fifth act of this play is located in an orchard. Pinero is also known among other things for « Daisy‘s Escape » (1879), « Mind the paint, girl » or « Sweet Lavender » (1888; The play was so popular that it ran for an extraordinary (for the time) 683 performances) well-known for this sentence: « Where there is tea, there is hope » and « Trelawny of the ‘Wells’ » (1898) whose main characters are Rose Trelawny and Arthur Gower). Several works of Pinero had been filmed as silent movies, like for instance « The Enchanted Cottage » in 1924, among others. Pinero had joined Henry Irving‘s Lyceum Theatre company (reference in « Lycée in Lyon » p.11 TAL) in london in 1876 and received good notice in Sheridan‘s « The Rivals » which he had revised himself. Several of the aforementionned actors are themselves part of the web of references in « Lolita« , such as Alison Skipworth (already mentionned in the 1863 « secret » references; she was Mrs. Ware in the first New York cast of « The Princess and the Butterfly« ), Rose Leclercq, Julie Opp (1871-1921; Mrs. Opp was Mrs. Ware in the first London cast of « The Princess and the Butterfly » and she later replaced Julia Neilson as Rosalind after the actress’ departure from « As You like it » and a few months afterwards assumed the lead role Princess Pannonia in « The Princess and the Butterfly » when Neilson retired from that production. She made her New York debut at the Lyceum Theater reprising her role in a Daniel Frohman production of « The Princess and the Butterfly« ) who played in « The Faun » (1911) – a play by Edward Knoblock, an author mostly remembered for the often revived « Kismet » (1911) – and who also played in Walter Frith‘s « The Man of Forty« (likely also referenced in « a brute of forty » p.135 TAL), Cecil Raleigh (born in 1856, married to Effie Adelaide Rowlands, author of « A Wild Rose« (1911) and « Tony’s Wife » (aka: Punch and Judy) (1919) and « A Strange Love Story » (1919), etc…) author of « The Great Ruby » (1898; with Henry Hamilton), Mary Mannering (born Florence Friend – who played at Daniel Frohman’s original Lyceum Theatre such plays as Frances Hodgson Burnett and George Fleming’s « The First Gentleman of Europe« , Louis N. Parker’s « The Mayflower » (Louis Napoleon Parker (1852-1944) was a English dramatist and composer. In 1878 he married Georgianna Bessie Calder, they had two daughters, Elsa and Dorothy. In 1898, he was made a fellow of the Royal Academy of Music. His most famous play is « Disraeli » (1911). His wife Georgianna died in 1919), and Arthur Wing Pinero‘s « The Princess and the Butterfly » and « Trelawny of the ‘Wells’ » (1898) but also playing leading parts in « White Roses« or in « The Garden of Allah » (1910)), or also Blanche Whiffen (Lady Chichele in the first New York cast of « The Princess and the Butterfly« ), an American actress born in London, educated in France, who made her debut in London in 1865, came to America in 1868 and toured the United States under John Templeton‘s management. She joined Daniel Frohman’s stock company at his old Lyceum Theatre, where she appeared in more than 25 plays between 1887 and 1899 including « The Charity Ball » (1889) and « Trelawny of the ‘Wells’ » (1898). She also played in « The Brass Bottle » (1910) and « Electricity » (1910). And more.
Howard Pyle (March 1853–1919), an American artist, is also among the web of the references in « Lolita« . his career really began when he eventually published a double-page spread in the Harper’s Weekly issue of March 9, 1878. He became then increasingly successful. He wrote and illustrated his own stories, beginning with « The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood » in 1883. This book won international attention from critics such as William Morris. Pyle developed his own ideas in illustrating pirate dress. He created a flamboyant style incorporating elements of Gypsy dress (His work influenced the design of costumes for movie pirates from Errol Flynn to Johnny Depp). Pyle was quite respected as an artist and Vincent van Gogh, a contemporary, wrote in a letter to his brother Theo that Pyle’s work « … struck me dumb with admiration. ». He travelled in Florence in 1910 and died there in 1911. He is possibly sneakily alluded in Melampus, one of the dog of the Farlow couple, as Melampus was a legendary soothsayer and healer from Pylos (which is like a « greekization » of Pyle).
Howard Pyle’s works include « The Rose of Paradise » (1888), « Otto of the Silver Hand » (1888; remember that one of Humbert Humbert’s idea for a pseudonym was Otto Otto?), « A Modern Aladdin » (1892), « Story of the Revolution » (1898 ; there are references to the French revolution in « Lolita », for instance with Marat and Charlotte Corday), « The Story of King Arthur and His Knights » (1903), « The Story of the Champions of the Round Table » (1905), « The Story of Sir Launcelot and His Companions » (1907), « The Story of the Grail and the Passing of King Arthur » (1909), « Stolen Treasure » (1907; Alluded in p. TAL, when Humbert stole Lolita’s money hidden in a hole in the wall behind « Treasure Island« ), « The Ruby of Kishmoor » (1908; « ruby » p.192 TAL, « Rubinov » p.282 TAL) and « Howard Pyle’s Book of Pirates » (A collection of previously published material, assembled in 1921).
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1890-1973; alluded in keywords « elves », « dwarf », « wizard », « king », etc…) (once a close friend of C. S. Lewis) is born to Arthur and Mabel Tolkien (To note: Mabel Tolkien was received into the Roman Catholic Church in 1900 despite vehement protests by her Baptist family). Tolkien was a student in King Edward’s School in Birmingham (1900-1902, 1903-1911; In 1903, he had won a Foundation Scholarship and returned to King Edward’s. While a pupil there, Tolkien was one of the cadets from the school’s Officers Training Corps who helped « line the route » for the 1910 coronation parade of King George V. Early 1908, The Tolkien brothers move to lodgings with Louis Faulkner. There Tolkien meets and eventually falls in love with Edith Bratt. 21 January 1910, Father Francis refuses to let Tolkien and Edith continue to see each other until he comes of age in three years. ). In 1910-1911, Tolkien begins to write poetry. In July 1910, he passes exams for Oxford and Cambridge Higher Certificate. On 17 December 1910, he is awarded a scholarship to Exeter College, Oxford. Between 1911 and 1915, Tolkien studies Old and Middle English and Old Norse while at Oxford. In June 1916 he leaves England to fight in France and will be officially discharged from military service in 1919. On 30 October 1919, Tolkien is awarded his Master of Arts degree. In 1919 and 1920, in the months immediately following his demobilization from the army following the First World War, J. R. R. Tolkien was an assistant on the staff working on the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. Among Tolkien’s tasks was the drafting of etymologies for words of Germanic origin. One of the more complex word-histories given to the young philologist to untangle was that for walrus, a word of disputed origin that had all but entirely replaced the earlier English name morse since its first appearance in English in the late 1600s. Tolkien’s essay « On Fairy-Stories » was first presented in 1939.
Tolkien wrote of being impressed as a boy by S. R. Crockett (also author of « The Red Axe » (1898), « A Tatter of Scarlett« , « The Lilac Sun-bonnet« , « The Gray Man« , « Raiderland« , « Cinderella: a novel« , « The Azure Hand« , « The Raiders : being some passages in the life of John Faa, Lord and Earl of Little Egypt » (it concerns the historical Gypsy leader John Faa), « Joan of the Sword Hand« , « Flower o’ the Corn« , « Red Cap Tales, stolen from the treasure chest of the Wizard of the North, which theft is humbly acknowledge by S.R. Crockett« , and the non fiction « The Adventurer in Spain »which holds its own against Robert Louis Stevenson‘s travel writing.. He was aldso a friend of J. M. Barrie) ‘s historical novel « The Black Douglas » and of basing the Necromancer (Sauron) on its villain, Gilles de Retz (a.k.a. Gilles de Rais; former companion of Joan of Arc, that had alledgely inspired Bluebeard, as he ended up preying on young children). Incidents in both « The Hobbit » and « The Lord of the Rings » are similar in narrative and style to the novel, and its overall style and imagery have been suggested as an influence on Tolkien.
As a child, Tolkien disliked « Treasure Island » and « The Pied Piper » and thought « Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland » by Lewis Carroll was « amusing but disturbing ». He liked stories about « Red Indians » (i.e. Native Americans) and the fantasy works by George MacDonald (a Scottish author, poet, and Christian minister. He was a pioneering figure in the field of fantasy literature and the mentor of fellow writer Lewis Carroll. He’s author of for instance « Far Above Rubies« (1898), « The Princess and the Goblin« , « Lilith: A Romance« , « The Day Boy and the Night Girl » (1882) or « Dealings with the Fairies » (containing « The Golden Key« , « The Light Princess« , and other short stories)). In addition, the « Fairy Books » of Andrew Lang were particularly important to him and their influence is apparent in some of his later writings. One of the greatest influences on Tolkien was the Arts and Crafts (*) who owes a lot to polymath William Morris (Morris’ « The Wood Beyond the World » (illustrated by Edward Burne-Jones) is considered to have heavily influenced C. S. Lewis‘ Narnia series, while J. R. R. Tolkien was inspired by Morris’s reconstructions of early Germanic life in « The House of the Wolfings » and « The Roots of the Mountains ». The young Tolkien attempted a retelling of the story of Kullervo from the Kalevala in the style of « The House of the Wolfings ». Tolkien considered much of his literary work to have been inspired by an early reading of William Morris, even suggesting that he was unable to better Morris’s work).
[ (*) The Arts and Crafts movement was an international movement in the decorative and fine arts that flourished in Europe and North America between 1880 and 1910. It was inspired by the writings of the architect Augustus Pugin (1812-1852), the writer John Ruskin (1819–1900; his « The Stones of Venice« , an architectural history of Venice that contains a powerful denunciation of modern industrialism to which Arts and Crafts designers returned again and again. The Arts and Crafts philosophy derived partly from Ruskin’s social criticism, which related the moral and social health of a nation to the qualities of its architecture and to the nature of work), and the artist William Morris (1834-1896). A typical exemple could be William Morris’ design for « Trellis » wallpaper in 1862. The aesthetic and social vision of the Arts and Crafts movement also derived from ideas developed in the 1850s by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The Brotherhood was formed by a group of friends at the University of Oxford, including William Morris. By 1855 they had discovered the writings of John Ruskin and, conscious of the contrast between the barbarity of contemporary culture and the art of the Middle Ages, in particular the art preceding Raphael (1483-1530), they formed themselves into the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood to pursue their literary and artistic aims. In Burne-Jones’ words, they intended to « wage Holy warfare against the age » (Burne-Jones had become a pupil of the Pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti in London, and in the summer of 1856 both Morris and Burne Jones moved into premises in Red Lion Square in Bloomsbury). Morris’s designs quickly became popular, attracting interest when The Firm exhibited at the 1862 International Exhibition. ]
Pamela Colman Smith (1878-1951), nicknamed Pixie, was an English American synaesthetic illustrator, and writer best known for illustrating the Waite-Smith deck of divinatory tarot cards (also called the Rider-Waite or the Rider-Waite-Smith deck) for Arthur Edward Waite in 1910. She was taken under the wing of the Lyceum Theatre group (reference in « Lycée in Lyon » p.11 TAL) led by Ellen Terry (who is said to have given her the nickname ‘Pixie‘ (part of the references to fairy-tales and their supernatural creatures; a direct reference is to be found in « Pisky« , the town where Lolita lived in her childhood)), Henry Irving, and Bram Stoker and traveled with them around the country, working on costumes and stage design. Some of her first projects included « The Illustrated Verses » of William Butler Yeats and a book on the actress Ellen Terry by Bram Stoker (best known today for his Gothic novel, « Dracula« , but during his lifetime he was better known as the personal assistant of actor Henry Irving and business manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London, which Irving owned. In 1878, he had married Florence Balcombe, a celebrated beauty whose former suitor was Oscar Wilde. Stoker’s mother was Charlotte Mathilda Blake Thornley (1818-1901). Among his best known novels beside « Dracula« , there are « The Lair of the White Worm » (1911; illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith), « Miss Betty » (1898), « The Primrose Path« . Stoker became the theatre critic for the « Dublin Evening Mail« , co-owned by the author of Gothic tales Sheridan Le Fanu (author of « Checkmate » (1871) and « The Rose And The Key » (1871); ‘Le Fanu’ can give us ‘The Faun‘ – ‘Le’ is French for ‘The’ and by switching letters we can get Fanu -> Faun)). In 1903, Pamela Colman Smith launched her own magazine under the title « The Green Sheaf« , with contributions by, for instance, Yeats, Gordon Craig (Ellen Terry‘s son, whose most notbale work was maybe « The Moscow Art Theatre production of Hamlet » (1911-12). His spouse was May Gibson), Dorothy Ward. Colman Smith became member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (Founded in 1888. One of his symbols was the Rosy Cross. One of the 3 founders was Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers (he was ousted from the order in 1900. As a Free Mason, he was raised a Master Mason in 1878 and in 1882 he was admitted to the Metropolitan College of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia as well as a number of fringe Masonic degrees. He was married to the sister of Henri Bergson); among the members were Arthur Conan Doyle, W. B. Yeats, Maud Gonne, Edith Nesbit, Aleister Crowley (Initiated in 1898 in the Golden Dawn. There is a famous 1910 photograph of him doing a sign with his thumbs symbolizing Pan; He thought he was the reincanation of Eliphas Levi (real name Alphonse Louis Constant, a French occultist that was a strong inspiration to the Golden Dawn and author of « Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie » (1854-1856, translated in English by Arthur Edward Waite with the title « Transcendental Magic, its Doctrine and Ritual« ), « Fables et Symboles » (1862) and »La Science des Esprits » and « Le sorcier de Meudon« , both in 1865. In 1868, he also had wrote « Le Grand Arcane, ou l’Occultisme Dévoilé » but it was only published posthumously in 1898. In 1852 he had met Józef Maria Hoene-Wroński (author of « Introduction à la philosophie des mathématiques, et technie de l’algorithmie » (1811) and « Réflexions philosophiques sur un miroir parabolique » (1832; ‘miroir’ is French for ‘mirror‘) and whose name was given to a determinant (the Wronskian) by mathematician Thomas Muir in 1882) who greatly impressed and influenced him)), Florence Farr (a feminist, friend of P. Colman Smith, W. B. Yeats, Oscar Wilde but also friend of Aubrey Beardsley. She was also a one time mistress of Edward Bernard Shaw. One of her childhood friends was May Morris, the daughter of Jane Morris, the renowned Pre-Raphaelite artist’s model, who introduced her to the artistic and intellectual circles of London society. Farr, May Morris and other friends posed for Sir Edward Burne-Jones’ Pre-Raphaelite painting « The Golden Stairs« when she was 19 years old), Arthur Edward Waite and Arthur Machen (1863-1947 ; His novella « The Great God Pan » has garnered a reputation as a classic of horror. he’s also author of « The Chronicle of Clemendy » (1888))). She converted to catholicism in 1911. She also illustrated Ellen Terry‘s book on Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, « The Russian Ballet » in 1913. There is evidence that some figures in the famous divinatory Tarot deck that she illustrated are portraits of Smith’s friends, notably actresses Ellen Terry (the Queen of Wands) and Florence Farr (the World).
Frederic Hymen Cowen (1852-1935) was a British pianist, conductor and composer. He was born Hymen Frederick Cohen and his siblings were Elizabeth Rose Cohen (b. 1843); actress, Henrietta Sophia Cohen (b. 1845); painter, Lionel Jonas Cohen (b. 1847) and Emma Magnay Cohen (b. 1849). In 1865 he was sent to Germany to further his musical education. In 1884 he conducted five concerts of the Philharmonic Society of London, and in 1888, on the resignation of Arthur Sullivan, became the regular conductor of that society. Cowen received honorary doctorates from Cambridge and Edinburgh in 1900 and 1910 respectively, and was knighted at St. James’s Palace on 6 July 1911. He married a woman who was 30 years his junior. Among his works are « Pauline » (Lyceum Theatre, London in 1876; first given by the Carl Rosa Opera Company; inspired by Edward Bulwer-Lytton‘s « Lady of Lyons« ), « The Maid of Orleans » (about Joan of Arc; incidental music, 1871), « The Enchanted Cottage » (incidental music, 1922 – from a work by Arthur Wing Pinero), « The Deluge » (1878), « The Rose Maiden » (1870), « The Corsair » (1876), « The Sleeping Beauty » (1885), « The Fairies‘ Spring » (female voices, 1891), « The Water Lily » (1893), « The Rose of Life » (female voices, 1895), « A Daughter of the Sea » (female voices, 1896), « A Song of Thanksgiving » (1888), « In Memoriam: Ode to Carl Rosa » (1890), or the song « It was a Dream« .
Jean Harlow (March 3 1911-1937; « Jean Farlow« , « Hollywood harlot » (p.90 TAL) and all the hollywood and movies’ references) famous American actress. She had become one of the biggest movie stars in the world by the late 1930s, dying at 26. Among her movies: « Three Wise Girls » (1932), « Red Dust« , « Red-Headed Woman« , « New York Nights« , « Why Be Good?« , « The Candid Camera Story (Very Candid) of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures 1937 Convention » (« Candid Camera« , p.92 TAL).
Carmen Miranda (February 9, 1909 – 1955)), born in Portugal, was a dancer and Broadway actress in the USA. Lee Shubert, a Broadway businessman, offered Carmen Miranda an eight-week contract to perform in « The Streets of Paris » on Broadway after seeing her perform in a casino in Urca, Rio de Janeiro in 1939. She became the first South American to be honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. By 1945, she was the highest paid woman in the United States. Miranda made a total of 14 Hollywood films between 1940 and 1953. In 1940, she was voted the third most popular personality in the United States, and was invited to sing and dance for President Franklin Roosevelt.
Gypsy Rose Lee (the name Lee is a related to the name Leigh – and Nabokov makes reference to Poe’s « Annabel Lee » with Humbert’s Annabel Leigh) was an American burlesque entertainer famous for her striptease act that was also an actress, author, and playwright who was born on January 8, 1911 as Rose Louise Hovick (Rose was also the firstname of her mother, who married her Norwegian father on May 1910); however, she always gave January 9 as her date of birth. She starred in movies such as « Ali Baba Goes to Town » (1937) or « Babes in Bagdad » (1952).
Many French Authors are also among the direct or indirect references: François-René de Chateaubriand, Honoré de Balzac, Gustave Flaubert (actually even more: e.g. Gaston Paris, Léon Frapié and more) and Arthur Rimbaud (many elements already given in this very page).
But there are much more references to mention.
For more references go here: https://wittevlinders.wordpress.com/chernovik/
There are also several discreet allusions to Lewis Carroll in the novel. Among them:
A pretty big “Alice in Wonderland” reference is to be found at Elphinstone, when Lolita disappears from Humbert’s life to go away with Quilty, on the 4th of July of 1949.
Even though the 4th of July is the Independence Day in the USA, and very aptly the Independence day for Lolita, the 4th of July is another anniversary.
It is the 4th of July of 1862 that Lewis Carroll and the Liddell sisters went on a trip on the Thames during which he invented and told the story that would become “Alice in wonderland”, after which the young Alice Liddell insisted that he wrote it down.
It is also the anniversary of the publication of “Alice in Wonderland” on the July 4th of 1865.
There can’t be any bigger reference to Lewis Carroll than the date of the birth of “Alice in wonderland”, and the date of its publication.
The constant reference to chestnuts is also directly pointing to Lewis Carroll. These “chestnuts” are a reference to the home of Lewis Carroll in Guildford, on Castle Hill (castle, like “Chestnut castle”, Like Fairy-tales’ and Arthurian‘s castles. With being the house of Carroll and his place of death, another reason to hint at it for Nabokov), “The chestnusts” that he rented in 1868 and where he died of pneumonia in January 14, 1898.
Humbert‘s sentence, coming just before the Andersen‘s “Little Mermaid” mention (a tag to encourage the eye of the reader to look closer maybe? (see above about “sirens” – probably not a random mention)), “I read and reread a book with an unintentionally bliblical title “Know your own daughter” “ (p.174 TAL), is also quite probably a sneaky allusion to Lewis Carroll as the author of a book with a similar title “How Well Can We Know Our Children” (published in 1947), is C. Lewis (a book of 1947! a decisive year in Humbert’s life and in the Novel. A turning point).
Incidentally, Humbert alludes to Edgar Allan Poe when he adds a “Edgar” to his name at the “Enchanted Hunters” (“Edgar H. Humbert”, p.118 TAL; same thing in the Ramsdale journal (p.75 TAL)), for instance, but this also might be a very “sneaky” Carrollian reference by Nabokov, as two of Lewis Carroll early choices for possible pseudonym contained Edgar: Edgar Cuthwellis and Edgar U. C. Westhill), which would associate directly Humbert to Carroll.
Page 166 TAL, we can also read humbert saying “To the wonderland I had to offer”. If Humbert is really a reflection of Lewis Carroll in Nabokov‘s mind, it’s really no empty words layed by Nabokov but a real intentional reference to Carroll who did offer « his wonderland » to Alice Liddell – a conniving wink to his perspicacious reader. In the same vein, Humbert saying earlier “She entered my world, umber and black Humberland, with rash curiosity” (p.166 TAL), also echoes the Wonderland (as for him it is a Wonderland he has to offer to her (“Et moi qui t’offrait mon génie…” (French, meaning “And I was offering you my genius…”) p.254 TAL)) and Lolita entering his Humberland with rash curiosity could easily mirror Alice entering the Wonderland with indeed a rash curiosity.
« She had a Nansen, or better say Nonsense, passport » (p.27 TAL), « Personne. Repersonne. From what depth this re-nonsense? » (p.269 TAL) and « « nonsense, » she used to say mockingly, « is correct » » (p.255 TAL). What could be more Carrollian than nonsense!
The fact that Humbert is always coining portmanteau words throughout the novel (e.g. « honeymonsoon« ) is in itself a direct link with Carroll, who is nothing less than the man that coined the term.
The part in bad Latin in « Lolita » (p.120 TAL) is also an allusion to Lewis Carroll, via « The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll » (see at the end of the page, in the ADDENDUM).
The poem dedicated to Lolita (p.255 TAL) is probably a reference to the poems dedicated to Alice Pleasance Liddell in « Through the Looking-Glass » (The one that is an acrostics spelling her full name and the one that ends « The pleasance of our fairy-tale », a wink to his former child-friend).
« dreamy malice » (p.244 TAL; « malice » in italics, to draw the attention on it). Pretty close to « dreamy Alice » which could indeed be said of The « Alice in Wonderland » (an imaginary echo of the real Alice P. Liddell) that went through the Looking-glass, both stricto sensu dream-lands. There are several direct and indirect references to the name Alice (e.g. the town of Parkington points to Booth Takington and his book « Alice Adams » (one of Lolita’s classmates in Beardsley was named Alice Adams (p.224 TAL)). Alice/Malice, Parkington/Tarkington: this phenomeon of reflexion is found extensively in the riddle (e.g. Hodgson/Dodgson, Humberland/Cumberland, Keats/Yeats/Yates, etc… (even in sound: Charlotte/Shalott) – a mirror reflexion is not the exact image of reality (right and left inverted), and so the words and names are the same if it were not for a different letter, a missing letter or a letter more).
The constant mentions of butterflies (already evoked earlier) and birds (avis byrd (avis means « bird » in Latin), humbird, hummingbirds, « bird, new bird, bird school », birdsley, cormorant, oiseau (French for « bird », p. TAL)) are a reference to the words of Mrs Maitland a former child-friend of Lewis Carroll (excerpt to be found also in « The life and letters of Lewis Carroll« ): « I always attribute my love for animals to the teaching of Mr. Dodgson: his stories about them, his knowledge of their lives and histories, his enthusiasm about birds and butterflies enlivened many a dull hour. « . He is thus possibly to find behind the town of Lepingsville (Carroll, the poet that went lepping? (i.e. lepidoptera (butterfly) hunting)), in « Lolita« .
« Humbert Le Bel » (p.41 TAL). One could see a reference to one of the main French king, Philippe IV Le Bel (reign: 1285-1314) but it’s actually a reference to one of his successors, Charles IV Le Bel (reign: 1322-1328; 1328 is an anagram of 1832). « Charles » is equivallent to « Carroll » (they are both etymologically related), Nabokov makes Humbert and Charles equivalent here (secretly implying Humbert is Carroll). There are other hints to the Charles/Carroll and Lewis/Lutwidge names (remember that the real name of Lewis Carroll was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) and their cognates (some are hidden in plain sight, e.g. ‘luizetta‘ who’s likely based on Luis-Louis-Lewis-Ludwig-Ludovic-Lodewijk-Lutwidge, etc… (maybe from ‘Louis d’or’ an ancient French Kingdom‘s money)), « Berthe au Grand Pied » (p.66 TAL), the mother of Charlemagne [ in Latin Carolus magnus; besides « Berthe au Grand Pied« , « The Emperor » (p. 201 TAL), maybe « a frank » (p.197 TAL), « Roland » (p. 31, 261 TAL) and « Elephant » (p.276 TAL; in old French (an alternate spelling/alteration of éléphant meaning Elephant horn (see below)) and Dutch: Oliphant (olifant, in Dutch, which from a Russian point of view is the same as there is one Cyrillic letter to render both i.e. Ф), which is among the references; Roland + Oliphant (an alternate spelling of éléphant, that became the name of an Elephant horn, particularly associated with Roland, nephew of Charlemagne, in literature. The Karlamagnussaga (saga of Charlemagne in norse) elaborates that Roland’s olifant was a unicorn‘s horn. Another famous Oliphant was that of Gaston IV. In Europe, the oliphant is associated with royalty) point to « La Chanson de Roland« , which is a link to Charlemagne. It is the oldest major work in French medieval literature) ] and others are more obvious « Carl and Al » (p.150 TAL) or « May 30 is a Fast Day by Proclamation in New Hampshire but not in CAROLinas » p.40 TAL; The capital of South Carolina is Charleston and one of the major city of North Carolina is Charlotte) – the name Charlotte is also etymologically related to Charles (and thus Carroll), and it is maybe also to be considered in the gender swapping issue (see later for more informations about this) and « a replica of the grotto of Lourdes in Louisiana » (p.151 TAL; Louisiana was named after a French Bourbon king, Louis XIV (i.e. 14)). Some intances are highly diffcult to realize (e.g. « Crystal Chamber in the longest cave in the world » (p.157 TAL) is a reference to the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico which were believed then to be among the longest caves in the world). Some might be indirect (e.g. « Independence, Missouri » (p.156 TAL), the capital of Missouri being Saint Louis (named in honor of French king Louis IX (i.e. 9) – a state whose first capital was Saint Charles (the last city visited by the LEWIS and CLARkE expedition (ordered after the Louisiana purchase) in MAY 16, 1804) – or « log cabin where Lincoln was born » (p.155 TAL) and « a granite obelisk commemorating gthe battle of Blue licks » (p.155 TAL) are indirect reference to places in Kentucky, a state whose capital is Louisville – named in honor of a French Bourbon King, Louis XVI, the king beheaded during the French Revolution)). Note that the capital of West Virginia (the Mountain State (Appalachian Mountains), that entered the Union in 1863) is Charleston. The reference to Charles Perrault’s « Sleeping Beauty » (p.201 TAL) and to the Grimm Brothers (notably Jacob Ludwig Carl Grimm (1785-1863)) via « Little briar Rose » is also to be counted in these reccurent names instances. Also, beside being the birth date and death date of W. Shakespeare (and also the death date of Cervantes, author of Don Quixotte, for the latter), 1564 and 1616 (p.251 TAL) are dates that are during the reigns of French kings Charles IX (i.e. 9) and Louis XIII.
In « I had permitted Lo to take piano lessons with a Miss Emperor (as we French scholar may conveniently call her) » (p.202 TAL) Nabokov associates Lolita to Emma Bovary (a character who commits adultery while pretending to have piano lessons with a Mademoiselle Lempereur (« L’empereur » means « the emperor » in French) in an eponymous novel by Gustave Flaubert, in 1856) which puts Humbert in the place of her husband, Charles – associating Humbert to Carroll (etymologically equal to Charles). Emma and Charles had a daughter named Berthe (p.66 TAL).
Louise is the cook of Charlotte. Louise is a female version of Louis and Charlotte of Charles. Louise / Charlotte -> Louis / Charles -> Lewis / Carroll.
Elphinstone, is a reference to Carroll’s great-grandfather, also named Charles Dodgson like Lewis Carroll, who was bishop of Elphin (see of Elphin). Elphin is thus a discreet but direct reference to Charles Dodgson (a.k.a. Lewis Carroll).
Many firstnames and dates in « Lolita » and the recurring references are pointing to Lewis Carroll’s (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) relatives. His siblings: Mary Charlotte (1835-1911; she married reverend Charles Edward Stuart Collingwood (1831-1898). Among their children Stuart Dodgson, who will write « The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll » and Bertram James (born in 1871)), Skeffington Hume (1836-1919; He gained his BA in 1862 and his MA in 1865. He was ordained deacon in 1865. Among his children: Charles Dodgson, Winifred Mary (born in 1888), Amy (anagram of may) Irene Hume), Louisa Fletcher, Henrietta Harington, Edwin Dodgson, Wilfred Longley (who married Alice Jane Donkin on 8/8/1871, and also in 1871, became land agent for Lord Boyne’s estates at Ludlow, Shropshire. Among their children: Edith Alice (Edith was the name of the 3rd Liddell sister (reference in « in the office of a Melle Edith who » p.23 TAL)), Reginald Henry Lutwidge, Frances Menella, Beatrice Hilda, Violet Eleanor).We can also add his father, Charles Dodgson (1800-1868) and his great-grandfather, Charles Dodgson who has previously said, had been bishop of Elphin. In the important firstnames, we can also add that in the important (in the riddle) « The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll » we can find this part: « In 1866 Mr. Dodgson was introduced to Miss Charlotte M. Yonge, whose novels had long delighted him. « It was a pleasure I had long hoped for, » he says, « and I was very much pleased with her cheerful and easy manners—the sort of person one knows in a few minutes as well as many in many years. »« .
Like Lewis Carroll, Humbert Humbert goes in theatres with his « girl friends » (« Joan of Arc, in a performance we saw at the local theatre » (p.209 TAL; notice that Joan of Arc was fighting in the name of Charles VII of France)).
The fatidic year for Humbert, when his fate is sealed, when Lolita reappears, when he kills Quilty, when he goes to prison and eventually dies, is 1952. It’s also the year of death of both Lolita and Quilty. He is then 42 years old (1910 + 42 = 1952. As a side note, 1910, the year of birth of Humbert is also the year of death of Lorina Reeve, the mother of Alice Liddell). 42 was a personal fetish number for Lewis Carroll (it’s no coincidence that the rule « All persons more than a mile high to leave the court » in « Alice in Wonderland » is rule number 42). We also find a reference in Mrs Pratt’s « type of by-words: a two-hundred-forty-two word area » (p.194 TAL), 242 being kind of 42 and its reflection « nose right against the mirror » – Sort of… – which is a key to find something (likely in relation with the crafting of the name « Ramsdale » – more on this at the end in the addendum). Charlotte’s pet name for Humbert, « Hum » also points to 42: H is the 8th letter of the alphabet, U is the 21th, M is the 13th and thus 8+21+13 = 42 (with these 3 letters we get 42 (notice the 3 42 , a recurring number in « Lolita » – more on this below)).
Amusing fact, 24, the age of Lewis Carroll when he first met Alice Liddell (in 1856 – very likely alluded in Albert Riggs’s adress, 24 Pritchard Road (p.253 TAL) and possibly in « the 24th, to both theatres » (p.262 TAL)), is like 42 in a “mirror” . Sort of too…
It also has to be noticed that when Humbert meets Lolita for the first time, he’s 37 years old (1910 + 37 = 1947. 1947 is the year when Humbert arrives at Ramsdale).
So when Humbert meets Dolores Haze, he’s 37 and when he sees her for the last time he’s 42. I suspect it is a hidden reference to Lewis Carroll again. In a famous, strange and kind of memorable anecdote, Lewis Carroll replied to someone inquiring about his age, that he was 42 years old (42, his fetish number!) when he was actually 37 years old. 37 can also be the result of a little game played with 5 and 2 – again 52: 5-2=3, 5+2=7, so with 52 we can get a 37. Number 37 also has got an interesting mirror quality: 37 is the 12th prime number, a permutable prime with 73 (which is the 21st prime number) – 37/73 and 12/21…
Just as 42 was “magical” to Lewis Carroll, 342, a number that contains 42 itself, is magical to Humbert (it is at this house number on Lawn street, that Lolita lives, the nymphet he awaited his whole life and unexpectedly crosses his way. It is also the bedroom number at the “Enchanted Hunters” when he finally starts his long awaited intimate relationship with her).
In fact, Humbert sees Lolita again 3 years after her disappearance, when he’s, as said, 42 years old (3 and 42 as the prominent numbers of this pivotal moment of Humbert‘s life and of the novel itself). And in my opinion, the core of the riddle implicates 3 persons (more on this later), thus the association of the figure 3 and the number 42 (a very important number for Carroll and thus quite a perfect “tag” for him) is a good choice for a fateful number (a trio (3) in a Carrollian context (42)). There were also three Liddell sisters, so 3 might represents the three Liddell girls that he frequented quite regularly, that are of importance in the Lolita riddle, and as we’ve seen 42 represents Lewis Carroll (3 and 42). Lewis Carroll seems to have an abnormally high number of titles with “three” in his bibliography (e.g. “The three voices”, “Three sunsets”, “After three days”, “To three puzzled little girls, from the author”, “Three little maids”, “Three children”, “Three years in a curatorship”), which shows that he had a particular importance to him too – who knows, maybe in his mind in relation with the 3 Liddell sisters (the first instance of a title with 3 in it, is in 1856, the year he met them). We can also usefully remark that with 342 you can make Alice LIddell‘s birthday: (3+2) /4 => 5/4 (fourth of May), a date alluded several times in the novel. Also, 3+4+2 = 9, which is an important number in the riddle, like 14 (the limits of age of the nymphets) – more about this later.
Humbert is also searching for the track of Quilty in 342 hotels between the 5th of July and november 18, 1949, between “chestnut” and Beardsley (as seen, the last part of 11/18/49 = 1849, the year of birth of Lorina Charlotte Liddell, but also the year of death of Edgar Allan Poe and also the date of the publication of « Annabel Lee« , conspicuously alluded in the text (several discreet references to him are found in the novel, like in “P.O. Elphinstone” (p.222 TAL)), and the date of birth of Frances Hodgson Burnett (1849-1924), also of importance). The fact that we can find 1811 in the date, a Liddell tag, proves that Lorina Charlotte Liddell is the girl alluded with this date (11/18/49 : If we use the date format Humbert was used to (the French one, ie. 18/11) it gives us 1811 (while the last gives 1849)), because of the significance of her firstnames.
Lolita being an echo of Alice Liddell is sneakily alluded in several instances, for instance in « (about Lolita) there was in her a garden and (…) a palace » (p.284 TAL), a reference to the first place Alice enters (outside the house) for the first time the looking-glass land (a garden) and the last one, a castle. Alice’s adventure in the looking-glass world happened all in her head, as it is stated at the end of Lewis Carroll’s book, so the statement is indeed true.
Ellen Alice Terry (1847-1928 (*)) is also hinted in p.242 TAL in the title « The Russian Ballet« , a book offered to Lolita by Humbert, which is the title of a book written by her. She was an English stage actress who became the leading Shakespearean actress in Britain. She was a friend of Lewis Carroll (There is a photograph of Ellen Terry, made by Lewis Carroll, in « The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll » (He photographed her several times; Julia Margaret Cameron also photographed her)) and so were her siblings (Marion, Florence, Kate and the rest of te family). The Terry was a theatrical family (and their mother, Sarah Ballard, was born in 1819). Terry made her first stage appearance at age 9, as Mamillius, opposite Charles Kean as Leontes, in Shakespeare‘s « The Winter’s Tale » at London’s Princess‘s Theatre in 1856. She also played the roles of Puck in « A Midsummer Night’s Dream » (1856), Prince Arthur in « King John » (1858), and Fleance in Macbeth (1859), continuing at the Princess’s Theatre until the Keans’ retirement in 1859.
Charles Kean (left) Ellen Terry (right) in 1856.
(*) [ maybe « year 1447 instead of 1947 » (p.87 TAL) is a hint to the 18xx/19xx (here 1847/1947) mirror effect in dates found in the riddle, i.e. an incentive to search for dates with only one different number in the century, similarly to the trick used in words and names in the riddle. ]
At 16 she married the 46-year-old artist George Frederic Watts (who painted her in « Choosing« ), but they separated within a year. Ellen Terry became the most celebrated of her generation of the family, with a long professional partnership with Henry Irving. In 1878 she had joined Henry Irving‘s company as his leading lady. Two of her most famous roles were Portia in « The Merchant of Venice » and Beatrice in « Much Ado About Nothing« . She and Irving also toured with great success in America and Britain. In 1903 Terry took over management of London’s Imperial Theatre, focusing on the plays of George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) and Henrik Ibsen (who was born in March and died in May) but it was a financial failure. She also played Pauline in « The Lady of Lyons » (1878; by Edward Bulwer-Lytton) (Lyon/Lyons/Lyonesse being a reccurent element in Lolita’s references (see also « lycée in Lyon » (p.11 TAL)) and Darling in Barrie‘s « The Admirable Crichton » in 1916.
During the short time with G. F. Watts she met many important people, such as Browning and Tennyson. Because of Watts’s paintings of her and her association with him, she became a cult figure for poets and painters of the later Pre-Raphaelite and Aesthetic movements, including Oscar Wilde (1854-1900; He became known for his involvement in the rising philosophy of aestheticism, led by two of his tutors, Walter Pater and John Ruskin; he was the author of such works as « Ravenna » (1878), « The Happy Prince and Other Stories » (1888; fairy stories – among them « The Nightingale and the Rose« ), « The Sphinx« or « The Ballad of Reading Gaol« (1898). One of the most well-known photograph of Wilde was taken in 1882 by Napoleon Sarony). Ellen Alice Terry was painted in « Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth » by the painter John Singer Sargent (1856-1925; He was a pupil of the French painter Carolus-Duran (real name: Charles Auguste Émile Durand); Sargent also painted « Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose » (showing two little girls among flowers), a painting with a pastoral theme « Dans les Oliviers » (1878) and « Street in Venice » (1882)).
Ellen Terry married three times and had two children: Edith and Gordon Craig (who became an internationally-known theatre designer and director). She had a grand-daughter named Rosemary Craig.
The rest of the family:
Marion Terry (1853-1930; Mary Ann Bessy Terry) was an English actress, always in the shadow of her older and more famous sister Ellen, she nevertheless achieved considerable success in the plays of W. S. Gilbert, Oscar Wilde, Henry James and others. She played in plays such as “The Merchant of Venice“ by Shakespeare, “The vagabond” by W.S. Gilbert in 1878 (she was a protege of W.S. Gilbert who died in May 1911), « Charles XII » and she was Rosamund in Alfred, Lord Tennyson‘s “Becket”. In 1900 she played the roles of Rosalind (one letter change to change (d -> e) to get Rosaline (Honeck)) and she was Susan Throssell in « Quality Street » by J. M. Barrie (1902). She also played Mrs. Erroll in « The Real Little Lord Fauntleroy » (1889). She was also Hero in Shakespeare’s “Much ado about nothing”, a play having a prominent Beatrice in it. There is an anecdote about her in « The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll« , from Carroll’s diaries (entry dated May 15 1879) occuring in a Lewis Carroll dream in which Marion, then a young woman, is playing on the scene in front of a 9-10 years old Marion.
Kate Terry (1844-1924; photographed by Lewis Carroll in 1865) was a very successful actress until her marriage and retirement from the stage in 1867. At the Lyceum Theatre, she appeared in « The Duke’s Motto » in 1863 and « Bel Demonio » in 1864. At the Olympic Theatre the same year, she appeared in The Hidden Hand. In 1863, Charles Dickens said of her performance in « The Lady of Lyons« , « That is the very best piece of womanly tenderness I have ever seen on the stage, and you’ll find that no audience can miss it.« . Lewis Carroll saw her for the first time in « The Tempest » at the Princess‘s Theatre in 1858). She had a daughter named Mabel Terry-Lewis.
Florence Maud Terry (1856 – March 1896) was also an actress. At the Lyceum Theatre, she appeared in « The Merchant of Venice« . She also played in « The Palace of Truth », and with her sister Marion in Gilbert‘s « Broken Hearts » (1882), just before her marriage and retirement. She married a solicitor, William Morris.
George Terry (1852 – March 1928) was a theatre business manager and treasurer.
Charles Terry (1858-1933) was a theatre and stage manager. He was box-office manager at the Lyceum Theatre under Irving. His management clients included Ivor Novello. He and his wife Margaret Pratt had three children, Minnie, Horace and Beatrice, all of whom followed a theatrical career.
Fred Terry (1863-1933), who married Julia Neilson (1868 – May 1957; mentionned earlier). He had a daughter named Phyllis Terry.
Maybe Humbert‘s fantasies about the drowned passenger’s girl on a desert island’s beach (“A shipwreck. An atoll. Alone with a drowned passenger’s shivering child.” p.20 TAL) is also possibly an echo of the famous Lewis Carroll‘s portrait of Beatrice Sheward Hatch (a major child-friend of his, well after his Liddell period) in 1873, shown naked on a beach.
Once you found the Cheshire Cat (see below, to know what I mean), (Marguerite Byron / Chat (« cat » in French) / Phyllis field), you can pick the Marguerite (the French name of a flower from the asteraceae family, thus an aster-like flower (hint in « aster-like » p.289 TAL)) => aster => « star » in Latin, which can also be said Stella (which points to Stella Fantasia; « Stella » is also a book by Camille Flammarion hinted by Nabokov (he is also hinted in « merman » (p.86 TAL) and « conche » (p.212 TAL) that points to the Greek god Triton (who has the body of a merman and holds a conch), which Flammarion was the first to propose as a name for the satellite of Neptune now wearing this name)). She will offer you as a reward, another landmark of Lewis carroll’s works: Phantasmagoria (1869) : Fantas + m,a,g,o,r + ia = Fantasmagoria (Via Russian. In Russian the sound of PH and F are represented via the same letter; « magor » is given by the cat who got them from his friend, Marguerite Byron (the letters taken from Marguerite Byron)). Also, the use of the word « fatamorganas » (p. 239 TAL) is almost a complete anagram of « Fantasmagoria » (just the i missing), and thus a barely distorted echo of it. Probably another wink from Nabokov.
Phyllis (Chatfield) and Byron (Marguerite) can form syllphi and bryno a distorted reflection of Lewis Carroll’s novel « Sylvie and Bruno » (1889 and 1893) [Y = U in Russian ] (these distorted allusions mirror the distorsion of the two context of the riddle (the novel/the subjacent reference alluded in the riddle, mirroring « Alice Through the Looking-Glass« , in which Alice discovers a VERY distorted reflection of reality – more on this later). [Also, a sylph is a « cousin » of nymphs].
Humbert Humbert’s aunt Sybil is also an allusion to Sylvie the Fairy (the B in Russian alphabet (cyrillic) gives the V sound. With this trick replacing one by another, we can thus get: sybil -> sylvi, a barely distorted image of Sylvie): Two short pieces, « Fairy Sylvie » and « Bruno’s Revenge« , originally appeared in Aunt Judy’s Magazine in 1867 (« Judy » is also part of the keywords used by Nabokov in « Lolita » – more about this later). The introductory poem also contains a double acrostic on the name « Isa Bowman », one of Carroll’s child friends (Isa Bowman was the daughter of Charles Andrew Bowman, a music teacher, and Helen Herd, née Holmes. Her sisters, Empsie, Nellie and Maggie Bowman were all actresses, and also friends of Carroll. She met Carroll in 1886 when she played a small part in the stage version of « Alice in Wonderland« : she played the part of Alice in the 1888 revival. She visited and stayed with him between the ages of fifteen and nineteen: Carroll described a visit in July 1888 in Isa’s Visit to Oxford, which she reprinted in her memoir. Carroll introduced her to Ellen Terry, who gave her elocution lessons).
Several characters found in « Alice in Wonderland » and « Through the Looking-Glass » are alluded to in « Lolita« . Some are simple discreet cameos, some are real (so to speak, as we are discussing a fiction), fleshed character part of the narrative. Since Humbert Humbert is intended by Nabokov as a reflection of Lewis Carroll, this is quite logical to find them, present in his mental world:
– Alice : Lolita. Like in « Through the Looking-Glass », first a pawn (powerless and used by Humbert) then a Queen (alluded here: « I could hear Lo’s barefeet practicing dance techniques in the living room downstairs; (…) confusing those distant thuds with the awful stabs of my formidable Queen. » p.182 TAL; first, she got more and more power over Humbert, then she is not under his dominance anymore, she is free and can decide of her destiny. She can go as far as she wants (i.e. thousands of miles from Humbert), like a Queen on a chessboard).
One of the major poem of Algernon Charles Swinburne (alluded in the novel) is « Dolores (Notre-Dame des Sept Douleurs) » making symbolically a link between Lolita (whose real first name is Dolores) and him. The name Vanessa Van Ness (p.12 TAL) gives a clue via a reference to Jonathan Swift in the novel, in relation with his « Vanessa » (« Cadenus and Vanessa« ) in allusion to his « When, Lo! Vanessa in her bloom / Advanced like Atalanta‘s star« , linking Lo (Lolita, Dolores Haze) and Swinburne via his « Atalanta in Calydon » (1865).
In « Tristram of Lyonesse » (1882) by Algernon Charles Swinburne, alluded in Lolita (references within references are not rare in the main riddle of Lolita), we have a part II named « The Queen’s Pleasance ». Nabokov is actually wanting us to read « The ((second) White) Queen in « Through the Looking-glass » is Alice Pleasance Liddell » and so « The ((second) white) queen (a pawn reaching the last square in the opponent side on a chessboard can transform his pawn in anything, generally a Queen) in « Lolita« , is Lolita ». The link with Swinburne is conforted by his « Rosamond » (1860) and « Rosamund, Queen of the Lombards » (1899) who points to a Queen with a Rose in her name (You’ll see how relevant this is in the « Stones and Roses » part). Also, in William Morris’ (more on this important element of the riddle later) « For the Briar-Rose« , « Lo » (Lolita) can be seen with the word « rose » and « maiden pleasance« , associating Lolita with Alice PLEASANCE Liddell and the rose. A hint is given p.31 TAL with « Quine, Dolores. Born in 1882 » (Dolores (Lolita) is here associated with the word Queen, barely hidden in the name Quine).
– The White Knight: references: Humbert Humbert via Lewis Carroll himself.
In “Through the Looking-Glass” Lewis Carroll appeared as a chess game’s old white knight trying to save his damsel in distress (Alice), before having to tell her good bye forever (to quote Will Self: “Gardner makes a strong case [In Martin Gardner’s « The Annotated Alice« ] for the White Knight in Through the Looking Glass as a self-portrait of Carroll as a sad, wistful, chaste old man (he was 40 when he wrote it), saying goodbye to his love who is doomed to hormones” (
http://www.newstatesman.com/200012250061 – dead link)).
To quote Martin Gardner’s “Annotated Alice”: “Many Carrollian scholars have surmised, and with good reason, that Carroll intended the White Knight to be a caricature of himself. Like the knight, Carroll had shaggy hair, mild blue eyes, a kind and gentle face. Like the knight, his mind seemed to function best when it saw things in topsyturvy fashion. Like the knight, he was fond of curious gadgets and a “great hand at inventing things.” He was forever “thinking of a way” to do this or that a bit differently. Many of his inventions, like the knight’s blotting-paper pudding, were very clever but unlikely ever to be made (though some turned out to be not so useless when others reinvented them decades later).”
A knight echoing Carroll… echoing Humbert, in “Lolita” (Humbert Humbert is thought as a paper echo of Lewis Carroll in Nabokov’s mind). The name “Humbert” itself etymologically means “famous warrior”, a name pretty apt for a knight and especially the famous Celtic knight Tristram (constantly mentonned in the text), symbol of eternal and fatal love, to whom Humbert relates to, in his mind (his mention of his “pseudo-Celtic”/ »not un-Celtic »/ »franco-irish charm » (e.g. in p.104 TAL and p.188 TAL) gives the thing away). The Jack Humbertson (p.260 TAL) / Ilse Tristramson (p.198 TAL) pair (Humbert/Tristram) is a hint. Ilse can be rearranged as elsi, which sounds like L.C., i.e. Lewis Carroll. We thus have Humbert (son) = Tristram (son) = Lewis Carroll (elsi=L.C.=Lewis Carroll. Ilse/elsi is associated with Tristram(son)), all of this hinted via a trick used in « Alice in Wonderland » by Lewis Carroll himself (in the treacle-well, the little Elsie, is for L.C., i.e. Lorina Charlotte (Liddell)). The doubling name in Humbert Humbert is likely a hint that this character is double as he represents another man (hint in « Harold D. Doublename« , p.182 TAL (Weird and yet un-ambiguous name, right?) that something is to be found via a double name?).
– The Red Knight (in « Through the Looking-Glass« , the colors of the « chesssmen » are actually white/red): Quilty. His initials, C. Q. actually point to the moustached Cornish writer Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch, (his lastname initials are Q.C, C.Q. in a looking-glass, so to speak, and his lastname starts with « Quil ») literature teacher in Cambridge from 1912 to 1944 (let’s recall that Nabokov was a literature student in Cambridge from 1919 to 1923 (1923 also mentionned in p.11 TAL; that’s also the year Nabokov translated « Alice in Wonderland » in Russian)), whose pen name was “Q” (the same as Quilty’s nickname), which started a retelling of the story “Tristram and Yseult” in a modern context (« Tristram and Yseult » is omnipresent in Lolita’s references). He is also known to have completed Robert Louis Stevenson’s unfinished novel, “St. Ives” in 1898 (Stevenson is mentionned several times in “Lolita” and we know that the allusions in this novel are rarely innocent mentions). One of his most famous novel,“Troy Town” is from 1888 (“Troy Town” is also a ballad by Dante Gabriel Rossetti on a theme most famously treated in Tennyson‘s “Idylls of the King” – we will soon see how revealing this is). He was knighted in 1910 (year of birth of Humbert) and was made a Bard of Gorseth Kernow, taking the Bardic name Marghak Cough (meaning the Red Knight). Red is a color generally attached to Quilty (his cars for instance) in « Lolita« . We now understand Humbert’s words « One of the latticed squares in a small cobwebby casement window at the turn of the staircase was glazed with RUBY and that asymetrical position – a KNIGHT’s move from the top – always disturbed me. » (p.192 TAL), it was an allusion that Quilty was about to get his hands upon Lolita (mimicking the attack of the Red Knight in « Through the Looking-Glass« , where Alice is saved by the White knight). This author also had a sister named Mabel (a first name that is to be counted among the references in this book. Notice that a Mabel is mentionned in « Alice in Wonderland« ). He also happens to be named Arthur, pretty apt for a central reference concerning John Ruskin in a general context of Arthurian references (more on this later).
The several occurences of 1919 (and 1923 to a lesser extent) in the references (e.g. the anecdote about Humbert, Annabel and the stray canari entering their bedroom (p.14 TAL), George Pierce Baker’s « Dramatic Technique » (1919), or « Mr Pim Passes » (1919) (p.207 TAL) (also hinted in Roland Pym (p.31 TAL), even if it’s a more obvious a Reference to E. A. Poe (« The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket« , a book that influenced Herman Melville)) by A. A. Milne, creator of Winnie the pooh (maybe the several mentions of « bear » and « tiger » are linked to it (maybe also « (sister) Ann » (p.243 TAL) as « ann » sounds like French « âne » which means « donkey »). He had been a screenwriter for the early Brittish film industry (notably for « The Bump » starring Charles Aubrey Smith (an actor born in 1863 that starred in movies such as « Little women » (1949), « The little Lord Fauntleroy » (1936), « The Florentine dagger » (1935), « Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde » (1941), « The Bohemian Girl » (1922, to which the gypsy girls’ references are also pointing to and in which starred Ellen Terry, a former friend of Lewis Carroll – more on her later), « The Prisonner of Zenda » (*), « Tarzan the ape man« , etc..))) are likely a clue given by the author to show that there is something special to find in 1919, the year Vladimir Nabokov went to Cambridge to study literature (a link to Quiller-Couch, literature professor in Cambridge during this time. The Camp Q and « do not pity CQ » might be an incentive to search something in relation with C. Quilty’s initials) – thus a self-reference. 1919 is also the year of death of Lewis Carroll‘s brother, Skeffington Hume, (1836-1919).
(*) « The Prisonner of Zenda » (who was praised by Robert Louis Stevenson) by Anthony Hope (1863-1933; his first succes was « The Dolly Dialogues » who were illustrated by Arthur Rackham. In 1898, he wrote « Simon Dale » and Mary Tempest played in the dramatization called « English Nell« . He also wrote « The King‘s Mirror » and « Tristram of Blent« ) have been played by actors with names such as Alice Terry (she appeared in 39 films), Madeleine Carroll (she apeared in « The 39 steps« ), Robert Coote and Lewis Stone, who appeared in two verions. James K. Hackett – the husband of Mary Mannering (real name Florence Friend) an actress of the first cast of Pinero’s « The Princess and the Butterfly » – was also part of the very first play in 1896 that was co-written by Hope and Edward Rose (1849-1904; he had two daughters: Lucy Rose (born in 1888) and Dorothy Rose). The villainous Rupert of Hentzau, who gave his name to the sequel published in 1898, was played by James Mason in 1952 (an actor who happened to have played later in Kubrick’s « Lolita » as Humbert Humbert). There is a Princess Flavia in the story, that was played on scene by Julia Neilson (wife of Fred Terry of the Terry Family whose Lewis Carroll was a friend).
– Dormouse : dormeuse. Page 129 TAL, we read “La petite dormeuse ou l’amant ridicule” (French meaning “The sleeping maiden or the ridicule lover”. It mimicks the style of titles of 18th century French paintings and engravings), quite a funny line. But also a hidden “Alice in wonderland” reference. Dormeuse recalls the dormouse, which apparently Lewis Carroll (knowing French, and knowing the little Liddells were learning it) picked for the inter-language pun it allowed (the dormouse of the story is a dormeuse (in French, a “sleeper” – of female gender)).
– Queen of Hearts : « The Frigid Queen » (p.166 TAL). The very cold-hearted Queen of Hearts of “Alice in Wonderland”, definitely a Frigid Queen.
– King of Hearts : « King Sigmund the Second » (p.125 TAL). A reference to Sigmund Freud that Nabokov particularly loathed. He is thus a petty king, just like the king in « Alice in Wonderland » and is second to his wife, the Queen of Hearts.
– Humpty-dumpty : Gaston Godin. He’s dumpy and depressive (that is, he has the dumps or if you prefer, he has the humps), he’s got a conical pear-head (and kind of reminds the shape of an egg) and hears « dumps » (« confusing those distant thuds with the awful stabs of my formidable Queen. » p.182 TAL). And his photographs of famous homosexuals seeming on the verge of falling on the visitor, is a sort of echo of Humpty-dumpty’s situation. (« He was flabby, dough-faced, melancholy bachelor (…) but his body was enormous (…) phenomenally stout legs. (…) his English was burlesque » p.181 TAL) and (« Somber, sad, full of world-weariness. » and, like the famous Through the looking-glass character he is « my pale, pompous, morose opponent » p.182 TAL). « Opponent » also fits, Humpty-Dumpy was also an opponent of Alice because Through the looking-glass was conceived like a symbolical chess game, in which Alice the pawn would become a Queen.
– The Carpenter: Dick Schiller. « A dark-haired young stranger in overalls (…) was perched (…) on a ladder fixing something near or upon the shack of his neighbor » (p.270 TAL). A clue is given here: « Dick and Bill had LUMBERed in quest for beer » (p.273 TAL).
– The Walrus: Colonel Maximovich. He is « quite corpulent (…) crawling about the (…) floors (…) in the company of several other (…) quadrupeds » (p.30 TAL). He also got a « Thick neck » and a « bushy moustache » (p.28 TAL).
– Tweedleedee & Tweedledum : The Talbot Twins, Edgar and Edwin, typically historical old brittish names. Their first names starts the same way (Ed-/Ed-), like in the case of Tweedleedee & Tweedledum. Tweedleedee & Tweedledum are dressed as little schoolboys. Nothing more logical than to find these twins among the boys of Lolita’s class.
– Dinah (Alice’s cat): Mona Dahl. On p.223 TAL in Mona‘s letter adressed to Lolita we can read “(…) Lollikins. Best love from your Poet, and best regards to the governor. Your Mona.”.
Lollikins might be a hidden reference to the two Liddell tabby cats, Dinah and Villikins (named after an old popular song), whose Dinah, is mentionned in “Alice in Wonderland”. Dinah and her two kittens, Kitty and Snowdrop, reappear in “Through the looking-glass”.
Just like in the ancient popular Brittish song “Villikins and his Dinah”, here we have “Lollikins and her Mona”.
Mona is the confident of Lolita (It is indeed clearly insinuated (and it’s actually pretty obviously the case) that Mona Dahl is aware of Lolita‘s situation), just as Dinah is the confident of Alice in the books. Is this another allusion conveying some comment by Nabokov, this time about the fact that a pet is often the only confident of a child “woed” by a nympholept?
Anyway Mona Dahl can be rendered in Dinah if we take I and D from her classmate Linda Hall, part of the (not written) list of the Beardsley’s classmates of Lolita (and taking H, leaving lad, from Dahl, one of the many allusions to a secret « boy », actually an allusion to Roy, in the list of Beardsley’s known classmates (chap and man (from avis chapman), pal (from opal)).
The lascivious experienced Mona had been seduced by Roy because he is a faunlet, a male equivalent of Lolita for some females. How do I know it? It’s another of the many references to the content of the « The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll » that points to anecdotes (in this case about « The Little Lord Fauntleroy« ), even simply names and words found in its pages (for instance the old miss Opposite is simply taken from a bit of sentence from a letter from Mrs Maitland, a former child-friend of his: « (…) the Old Mill, opposite Addison’s Walk (…) » and the part in bad latin in « Lolita » alludes to Lewis Carroll’s attempt as a child to write a poem in Latin which containg many mistakes (click here to see a partial list of these references)), and also part of the references in relation with Frances Hodgson Burnett. Fauntleroy allows a clever pun with faunlet Roy (as said by Humbert, « faunlets » are the male equivalent of « nymphets ». [ Puns? « I have only words to play with! » p.32 TAL]). We can see how Mona is attracted to this type of person as she is the best friend of Lolita and in love with Roy.))
– Caterpillar : Is Mrs Pratt associated with the caterpillar? She seems like a compulsive smoker (Nabokov strangely insists on that) and looks down to Humbert, she’s higher seated and has a condescending tone, like the caterpillar in « Alice in Wonderland ». She also has an obvious inability to remember people’s names, which recalls Alice’s situation not knowing who she is anymore and uttering things wrong when trying to recite – it’s an obvious reference to Lewis Carroll’s book.
– Cheshire Cat : Phyllis Chatfield & Marguerite Byron (both from Lolita’s classmates’ list p.51 TAL) => Marguerite Field / Chat / Phyllis Byron. That’s right the Cheshire Cat (« Chat » in French) was hidden in a marguerite (*) field, behind Phyllis Byron. Cheshire is to be found in Sheridan (« Sheridan, Agnes » p.52 TAL; we can notice both name share the same number of letters): SHERI => SHIRE, then DAN remains, D is the 4th letter (of the alphabet), A is the 1st letter and N the 14th letter 4 1 14 – 41 14 again a « Looking-glass » effect (and 14 is the limit age of « nymphetry », and thus, like 9, an important symbolical number in the riddle), that’s a clue, you get 4-1=3 (letter C), 4+1=5 (letter E) and 3+5=8 (the 8th letter is letter H), we got then C,E,H for CHE and thus CHE + SHIRE = CHESHIRE. The Cheshire Cat is also the key to another little riddle implicating Stella Fantasia. The presence of a cat as a central element of riddles in the subjacent context is likely hinted in Mrs. Vibrissa (p.301 TAL) as where there are vibrissas (the name of the cat’s whiskers), there is a cat.
(*) French for a type of « aster » flower, the « ox-eye daisy » (of the Asteraceae family; member of this family include the dandelion and the dahlia, all mentionned in « Lolita« ) (a hint is to be found in « aster-like » (p.289 TAL). There are actually several references to asters in « Lolita » (there are asters (all hinted in the novel) with such names as Blake, Gray, Poir (Think of Gaston Godin and his « poires » (p.182 TAL; « pear » in French »), Aster of the Alps, Brewer’s Aster (« Are you by any chance brewster? » p.295 TAL), New York aster, New England aster, Lava aster, to lead us to the Riddell Aster (Azure or Sky Blue Aster) – RIDDLE written with LIDDELL in it! A big clue. The hints to search in that direction are likely to be found in « Flowers of the Rockies » (a book offered to Lolita) and the closely following « I had composed of white flowers (…) on a mountain pass » (both in p.242 TAL)), but also « Stella » (p.52 TAL), « aster-like » (p.289 TAL) and « star » (p. TAL).
– The Gryphon: Vladimir Nabokov himself (he self-referenced himself several times: references to 1919 to point toward Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch, a Cambridge Literature professor when he was himself studying there from 1919 to 1923, but also in the following character) via Vivian Darkbloom (an anagram of Vladimir Nabokov). He asks a riddle and is thus like a Sphinx (Ancient Greece mythological creature with the body of a lion, the head of a human (a woman in the case of the Greek Sphinxes) and sometimes the wings of a bird), but Vivian Darkbloom is said to be « hawk-like » (p.221 TAL; she obviously has an aquiline nose, i.e.an eagle-like facial profile (aquiline comes from Latin « aquila » meaning « eagle »)), and thus we do have a Gryphon (mythical creature with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle). The reccurence of the name « Atalanta » in the riddle is also a hint to this part, as it also alludes to Michael Maier’s (1568-1622; he was also inspired by the Rosicrucians’ manifesto) « Atalanta Fugiens » (1617), an emblem book in which he made a well-known comment about the famous riddle of the Sphinx in the Oedipus myth (the riddle of the Sphinx is emblem 39). The several references about ancient Egypt (among others « heavy Egyptian limbs folded under » p.156 TAL) are also likely intended to point in that direction.
The mention of « Pichon’s sumptuous La beauté humaine » (p.11 TAL; fictional author and fictional book) points to the famous Baudelaire‘s poem « La Beauté » in « Les fleurs du mal« . Here, the verse « Je trône dans l’azur comme un sphinx incompris » (A sky-throned sphinx, unknown yet,(…)) is particularly relevant as we see a sphinx that is said « incompris » (non-understood) and « unkown yet » in this 1952 translation by Roy Campbell and « sky-throned » (more poetically said in the original « trone dans l’azur« ) which can be seen as a reference to the Azure or Sky Blue Aster – a.k.a. RIDDELL Aster (RIDDELL, a RIDDLE with a LIDDELL in it, so to speak), as seen earlier – a central element/hint of Nabokov’s (the sphinx asking riddle in the depth of the novel) riddle.
– March Hare: Rita. MARCH (a prominent symbolic name taken from Louisa May Alcott’s names in her famous novel « Little Women« , alluded in the novel (also the name of the 3rd month)) + HARE (HARriEt beecher stowe. These two authors are several times alluded in « Lolita« ). the remaining letters RIT of « harriet » have to be added to the A (RITA) taken from the A of Louisa of Alcott’s firstname (the hermaphrodite instances in the narrative (see below these instances) are actually a secret hint that a few riddles are supposed to be resolved via a male/female swapping (*) – here, « Louisa » has to become « Louis » to fully resolve the riddle). Humbert mentions her ensellure, her angular rapidly sketched profile and described her as a fantastic chum. She’s also said to be a good sport. This could indeed fit the March Hare.
(*) For instance, Concerning « The lady who loved lightning », a play by Clare Quilty and Vivian Darkbloom, what is to be understood is that the « lady » is Vivian Darkbloom (a female version of Vladimir Nabokov (it’s an anagram of the name of the author)), a close friend of Quilty, and that she is a Jew (and this is a clue about what to do next) (**). Nabokov said himself that Irving Flashman (one of Lolita’s classmates. See the list (p.52 TAL)) is Jewish. the ending -bloom can indicate a Jewish name just as a ending -man can (Humbert’s description of Vivian, « hawk-like » and « black-haired », likely also alludes to some recurrent descriptions of Jewish persons in the usual clichés). Here’s what we can see:
Irving Flashman : Flash / man
Vivian Darkbloom : lightning / lady
Within Irving Flashman (male) we can find an echo of (some letters can be rearranged to form another name) Vera Slonim (female) – Nabokov’s wife – mimicking its pronounciation in Russian: Vira Slanim (as you may know, in Russian, some letters are pronounced differently depending of the stressed accent’s position in the word (in this case E and O are concerned (E=I, O=A)) – the discrepancy in the accents (it should be slonem, not slanim) is explained by a mirror effect linked to the solution of the riddle – something rather frequent in the solution of the riddles in Lolita). Just like, you can find an echo of Vladimir Nabokov (male) in Vivian Darkbloom (female). We thus have Vladimir Nabokov/Vera Slonim.
In the novel, there is indeed a reccurence of an hermaphrodite, mix male/female little, subjacent theme (« with a small hairy hermaphrodite » p.109 TAL, miss Beard (« What a name for a woman ») p.126 TAL, « The Bearded Woman read our jingle and now she is no longer single » p.158 TAL). These « Hermaphrodite » instances might also actually be a hint of how many riddles can be resolved by a male/female swapping in the textual source (Maybe instances such as « Sheboygan » and « tomboy » have to be added in the list? It is also quite possible that the couple John and Jean Farlow must be counted in the lot as John is said Jean in French (We got thus both a man and a woman with a male firstname, discreetly planted here by Nabokov, fluent in French since his youngest years)). Clare is also a female name that is used for a male character (see also « Laqueue » p.290 TAL, la is a French feminine article and queue prononced the English way sounds like Q, the nickname of Quilty, a man).
(**) In the context of the riddle I surmise the references a bout Jews are to draw the attention to the fact that something has to be resolved via this « key » (keyword) (among the references: « tragic old ladies that have been gassed » (p.254TAL), « babylonian blood » (p.258 TAL), p.79 TAL when John Farlow is interrupted by his wife Jean as he is about to make an anti-semitic comment (Jean thinks Humbert might be Jewish – think of Charlotte’s words earlier (p. 74, 75 TAL): « Looking down at her fingernails, she also asked me had I not in my family a certain strange strain. I countered by inquiring wether 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 (…) »), Also remember Quilty associating Humbert to a possible « German refugee » while talking of his Gentile‘s house (p.297 TAL), obviously « Jewish » is hinted. It is also probably hinted in « Humberg » (p.118 TAL)). The keyword « jew » points to diverse references but this might also be something to consider: HERE.
– The Duchess and the baby : Charlotte Haze. She’s described as having a squared face (it reminds of John Tenniel’s illustration (he was the artist that made the illustration of the first publication of « Alice in wonderland » & « Through the Looking-Glass« ) of the Duchess in « Alice In Wonderland« ). Is the little Haze boy deceased when he was 2 years old a reference to the little boy in danger to be killed in « Alice In Wonderland« . « If I don’t take this child away with me, » thought Alice, « they’re sure to kill it in a day or two » (-> Haze boy being 2 years / 2 days?. Anyway the Liddell family had a boy that died when he was 2 years old (James Arthur Charles Liddell (28 December 1850 – 27 November 1853))). Charlotte’s strong religious opinion might be an echo of the Duchess’ need to find morals in everything. She is also described by Humbert as unattractive which the Duchess is certainly is in Tenniel’s illustration.
Charlotte Haze is not ugly, Humbert even admits she has some charm according to the usual standards, but as a pedophile he finds her totally unattractive, and since it is his narrative, Charlotte is described by Humbert/Carroll accordingly.
– The pack of cards: p.251 TAL, « Q32888 » and « CU 88322 », all the figures adds up to 52, the number of cards in a pack of cards (3+2+8+8+8+8+8+3+2+2=52).
– Red King : Is he William Morris? Morris (whose lastname can be said to contain ROI (o,r,i), i.e. KING in French) designed and inhabited RED House and eventually inhabited near (beside) the actual Queen Square (whose statue is now thought to be Queen Charlotte, originally misidentified as Queen Anne), like on a chessboard the King Square (where the King stands) is just beside (near) the Queen Square. Morris adopted socialism (like John Ruskin, who is to be understood as a very distorted reflection of Clare Quilty, the RED knight) in 1888, he is thus « RED » (historical color of socialism), a Red King (Roi). In « Through The Looking-Glass » the Red King is asleep and he is not really part of the events (Morris is not directly mentionned, and thus not directly part of « Lolita« , either) but it said that he is the one dreaming of Alice and that she exists only in his head – just like we can see a Lo (and thus Lolita/Alice) indirectly coupled with a Rose in Morris’ poem « For the Briar-Rose » (more about all of this, later) – she was thus in Morris’ head as well, in a way. We have thus on one side a sleeping beauty (female) in Morris’ (male) mind (his poem associated with the painting « Legend of Briar Rose » by the Pre-raphaelite Edward Burne-Jones) and on the other side we have the Red King (Morris, a male) in Alice (Lo, a female) ‘s mind (her dream; all the story in « Through the looking-Glass » was in her mind) – another instance of reflexion implicating male/female swapping.
– Dodo: DOrothy DOe (p.201 TAL)
– Lory: Mary Lore (mare + lory) (there was a hint: she was associated with Ponderosa Lodge (Pond_e_rosa Lo_dge) (french « mare » = pond, pool).
– Eaglet: CATAGELA (p. 251 TAL, humbert insists on this word, so that it would be clear something’s to be found with it). EAGL and T, three letters remain: A, A and C. A is the first letter of the alphabet and C the third. A + A + C = 1 + 1 + 3 = 5. The 5th letter of the alphabet is E. We got the second E and thus EAGLET.
– Mouse (of the pool of tears) : « petit rat » (p.230 TAL) (French, litterally « little rat » (a young ballet student at the Paris opera). A mouse is basically a little rat.
– Duck (of the pool of tears): The reference is likely to be found in the Duk duk ranch. Duk Duk evokes – like the Dodo in « Alice in Wonderland » – Lewis Carroll Stammering the name of Reverend Duckworth, the duck in the story (Duck-duckworth, like Do-dogson (the origin of the Dodo of the story))
– The Cook (in the Duchess’ house): Louise the maid of Charlotte Haze. She is also the cook (« A colored maid (…) rushed back to the kitchen where something was burning that ought not to burn« , p.36 TAL). This confirms the association of Charlotte Haze with the Duchess.
– The Knave of Hearts: Ralph Williams, one of Lolita’s classmates, « who (bullies) and steals » (p.53 TAL) – just like the knave supposedly stole tarts, hence the final trial. He also obviously has quite some fighting spirit, just like the Knave of Hearts in « Alice in Wonderland » who retorts fearlessly to the Queen during the trial.
– The wailing Mock Turtle: Virginia McCoo. Her first name likely point to Edgar Allan Poe (the young Virginia Clemm was 13 when she married E. A. Poe who was then 26). She is likely a hidden reference to the Mock-turtle of « Alice in Wonderland« . Letters can be rearranged to form mo (from mcCoo) + ck (from honeck) + wail (wain lull -> wail null (null is removed because it’s null)) + ing (from Virginia). A « lame » « mock » with a lagging leg (p.53 TAL), slow and awkward with her leg not leaving the floor – like a turtle is.
She is also said to be a « fright » which would fit well the weird and unpleasant appearance of the Mock Turtle (the John Tenniel’s Mock Turtle looks so scary and ugly that it would scare a stone).
If we give the remaining « coc » (from mcCoo) to hone (from honeck – « ck » given to « mock »), we got « cochone ». If we remove the final -e we get « cochon », i.e. pig in French which is probably a reference to the pig(let) in « Alice in Wonderland » (but there are references to pigs in p.117 and 118 TAL for instance).
– Mad Hatter: MATTHEw ARnolD (*) (The Mad Hatter is hidden in Matthew Arnold’s name. Most of the letters of his name can be rearranged to form « Mad Hatter ». He is a hidden reference in the novel, like Louisa May Alcott or Harriet Beecher Stowe, all chosen because, among other things, they share some important dates in the Carrollian context of the riddle. The March Hare was discovered via hidden references to alluded authors, it is logical to use the same path to discover his friend, the Mad Hatter). Matthew Arnold wrote a poem « Tristram and Iseult » in 1852, the year of birth of Alice Liddell, and died in 1888, the year of the last encounter between Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell (on the 11/1/1888). Like Lewis Carroll he went to the Rugby School and even became its headmaster. In 1865, Arnold published Essays in Criticism: First Series. Essays in Criticism: Second Series would not appear until November 1888. Arnold is sometimes called the third great Victorian poet, along with Alfred, Lord Tennyson and Robert Browning, both prominently alluded in « Lolita » (the 1st and 2nd of this « trio » are largely alluded, this has to draw the attention to the 3rd of the group). One of his children, Thomas, lived from 1852 to 1868).
– The White Rabbit : Lapin (French for rabbit; seen in « posé un lapin » p.22 TAL; the term « rabbit » itself is seen several time, e.g. « rabbit cold » p.204 TAL, but no « white » adjective to be found in association) from « Pilvin and Zapel » (p.172 TAL) (lapin & pelviz (the Z is turned into a S via mirror effect, giving « pelvis »), we remove the « p » and get velsi. « v » is rendered as B in Cyrillic, we then give it its English sound, we turn the S on the side, then takes its reflexion to get a sign resembling the cyrillic letter ы (rendered as y in our Latin alphabet) and we get Russian белый, belyi, i.e. belyy (« white » in Russian)).
– The Lion & the Unicorn: Maybe « Lyon » (p. 11 TAL) as it is an homonym of lion (or maybe « dandelion » (p.73 TAL) for Dandy Lion?) and « Elephant » (p.276 TAL) which through Dutch or an alternative spelling in old French gives Oliphant (part of the references), which is the name of Scottish Clan which have the Unicorn for symbol – so Elephant can be equivalent to Unicorn in that regard. In « Through The Looking-Glass » the Lion is of course symbol of England and the Unicorn, a symbol of Scotland (also England (red) / Scotland (blue)) – but the surname Lyon is also from a Scottish Clan, the English Equivalent would be Lyons, so maybe there is no implication of an English/Scottish element in this part of the riddle, I don’t know.
– Bill the Lizard: Bill (Mead)? or « Discreet » Bill (that is « not such a wonder-worker« , p.273 TAL).
– Oysters: « the sign of the Conche » (p.212 TAL) i.e. (sea-)shell, reference to the Shell Oil Trademark.
– Elephant (Looking-glass « insect »): « took her to a dude-ranch about a day’s drive from Elephant (Elphinstone) » (p.276 TAL). Note: (Vera) SLON-(im). « Slon » in Russian (слон) means « Elephant » (It also means « bishop » in a chessgame). « Vera Slonim » is to be find via a riddle implicating Vivian Darkbloom (Nabokov) and Irving Flashman (see above).
– Pig(let): Cochon. See the last part about the Mock Turtle.
– Gnat (In « Through The Looking-Glass« ): « the work of a gnat » (p.156 TAL).
– Goat (in « Through the Looking-Glass« , in the train): Professor W. (« Professor W., also a slow-moving and gentle widower with the eyes of a goat » (p.189 TAL)).
– The gentleman dressed in white paper (in « Through the Looking-Glass« , in the train): The hidden reference might be in « crumpling the paper bag and was hidden from this Green Goat by the frontpage » (p.73 TAL) maybe?. No certitude at all, but in Tenniel’s illustration the goat is partly in front of the man dressed in paper.
– The Anglo-saxon messenger: Maybe « (Climax) Herald » (p.105 TAL; a herald was originally a messenger sent by monarchs or noblemen to convey messages or proclamations)
– The Fawn (In « Through The Looking-Glass« ): faun (-let) sounds like fawn (-let).
– The Tiger lily : tiger ly + ly ? (tiger(moth) / (darkish)ly / (narrow)ly (p.258 TAL) ?), or « added a wild lily to her bouquet » p.169 TAL.
– The Rose : Rose Carmine? (p.51 TAL).
– The Daisy: Marguerite (Byron).The Harrap’s Shorter English-French dictionary (ed. 1967) gives French « Marguerite » as equivalent of « Daisy ».
– The Violet: « violets » (p.300 TAL)
– The Dahlia: « ces Dahlias » (p.182 TAL)
– Canari (in the « pool of tears » part): the stray canaris in p.14 TAL.
Several others are still to be discovered hidden in the text.
This all « characters pointing cryptically to other characters » is in itself a reference to « Alice in Wonderland » where as we have seen earlier, the trick is used in the pond of tears part (Lewis Carroll (Dodgson) the Dodo, Lorina Liddell the Lory, etc…).
To the above characters, we should not forget to add some very prominent instances:
– Black King: John Ruskin, whose Quilty is a (very) distorted reflection (more on this a bit later). John Ray Jr. of the foreword (JR /JR, noticeable because in the other alliterative names there is never two letters repeating itself (all the other alliterative names only concerns one letter), so it’s obvious Nabokov is hinting there is something important to find out here). It looks like initials. J. R. .
in JOHN RAY JUNIOR we can find JOHN R U. When Humbert is talking about the author of the « Enchanted Hunters » (Quilty/Ruskin) unknown to him he refers to him as Maurice Vermont & Marion Rumpelmeyer, so in a way these names are linked to Quilty. Among the letter swapping we can do here, we can get REY from meyer and NERO from Vermont (« black king » in a spanish/italian mix), and ROI NOIR (« black king » in French) from Marion (via a trick explained below) – they are simple tags to show there is something to get here about the black king in the subjacent story in Lolita – , and we can give to Rumpel is real ending -stiltskin (to explain later). -SKIN of rumpelstiltskin (a famous fairy-tale), is to be added to JOHN RU to get JOHN RUSKIN. If we put the NIOR from junior in front of a symbolic mirror-like surface, we get ROINIOR, and with one letter permutation, ROINOIR, from which we can get « roi noir » (French for black King). So We now know that John Ruskin is the Black King.
– White King: Lewis Carroll. W in russian is rendered B so we can get with permutations BELSI. We give to B its english sound value back and we rotate S so that the top part is pointing now left, then takes its reflexion and we get a sign close to a cyrillic letter ы (rendered as y in our Latin alphabet) and since Carroll sounds like « king » in Russian: Korol’ (*) (which etymologically comes from Carolus (Magnus) a.k.a. Charlemagne) , we got Belyy korol’ (белый король) which means « White king » in Russian. A clue is given by Nabokov in the following excerpt where Humbert (and thus implicitly Carroll) says « I would stay in bed all day: like a king » (p.245 TAL) and in p.41 TAL in « Humbert Le Bel« , a reference to the French king Charles IV Le Bel.
(*) remember that some Russian O are pronounced A depending of where is the stressed accent in the word.
There are also rapid « hidden » mentions of other characters and places in « Alice in Wonderland »
– The flamingoes : (« thin-armed teenagers look like flamingoes » p.186 TAL)
– The rose garden: Roosevelt (Dutch/Flemish for « field of roses »). « 4046 Roosevelt Blvrd, Philadelphia » (p. 78 TAL).
– The croquet game : (« although supplying croquet under the elms » (p.99 TAL))
– Tea Party: There’s a tea party in the anecdote about Reverend Rigger (p.191 TAL).
– Pool of Tears : « mare », is french for « pool » (Mary lore -> mare + lory) (there was a hint: she was associated with Ponderosa Lodge (Pond_e_rosa Lo_dge). « tears » in « To Dr. Blue (…) I spoke in tears » (p.247 TAL) maybe?
– The Rabbit Hole: « a terrier of sorts » (p.236 TAL). French « terrier » means « burrow« .
– Hedgehog : « porcupine » (p.258 TAL)
– The white roses painted in red : « painted roses« (p.184 TAL), an obvious reference to Alice in Wonderland.
– The Lobster Quadrille : « square dancing » (p.148 TAL).
– Mushroom (of the caterpillar): (Beardsley’s) « mushroom » (p.197 TAL). Notice how it is linked with Mrs Pratt (a distant echo of the caterpillar (see above)) as she is the one mentionning it to Humbert (« She is in mushroom« ).
– The Duchess’ house: « Pavor Manor » (p.292 TAL). Latin « pavor » is a kind of « fear » that upsets. Alice in the scene in which she met the Duchess and the cook in this house is afraid and startled by what she sees. She is anxious enough about the situation in this house that she flees with the baby of the house. A manor is a perfect place for a Duchess to reside.
– The Hall (after the fall in the rabbit hole) : (Linda) Hall maybe?
– The Trial : (chestnut) court (p.215 TAL), reference to a court-room.
– The Garden of Live Flowers (in the beginning of « Through the Looking-Glass« ): The magnifiscent flower garden during Humbert and Lolita’s first road trip (p.154 TAL): « the world’s fairest garden (…) children will « walk starry-eyed and reverently through this forestate of heaven, Drinking in beauty that can influence a life. » « .
– The Train (in « Through the Looking-Glass« ): « train » p.35 TAL
– The Forest (in « Through the Looking-Glass« ): The Perilous Forest in Quilty’s play, « The Enchanted Hunters ».
– Alice’s crown (in « Through the Looking-Glass« ): 14, Thayer Street (The adress of Humbert and Lolita in Beardsley). 14 is the age limit of nymphets, it is symbolic (it’s used as tag in the riddle like 9) and thus likely an invitation to look more closely there. Thayer can give Rey Hat (« rey » is spanish for « king »), the hat of a king is a crown.
There is definitely more to find in this domain.
The number of crypted words to decipher in Lolita’s Ramsdale’s and Beardsley’s classmates list and elsewhere is not negligible. A few examples:
P.217 TAL: « Red Yak« . Salliant with its capital letters. We can get (R) ed Yak -> both groups put backwards (like a reflexion. There is a recurrence of this « looking-glass » trick in the riddle) give de kaY wich can give « de K à Y« , which means in French « from K to Y« . A hint to go from Keats (frequently alluded in the novel) to Yeats (hinted in « from Keats To » (p.16 TAL)). W. B. Yeats (1865–1939), author of « The Secret Rose » (1897). His poetry is known to owe to the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. He was in love with Maud Gonne who had a daughter named Iseult Gonne who Yeats affirmed had been molested by her stepfather John mcBride, in a letter. This totally falls in the general context of the riddle. His lastname is kind of like a distorted reflection of Yates, the lastname of a famous editor named Edmund Yates that chose Lewis Carroll’s pseudonym and who is mentionned several times in « The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll« .
Smith Hazel & Alice (Campbell) can give: Lilith Haze ((sm) ith + haze (-l) + L (from Hazel) + li (from alice campbell))
The remaining letters from Alice (Campbell), ace and smith, sm + line (from rosaline). Mescaline (peyotl, a drug), but hidden in it we can found Messaline the French version of Messalina (we have to use the Russian sound value of C, i.e. « s ». A trick not rare in Nabokov).
In p.47 TAL, in « Rémy Belleau » there is also something to be caught. In French « eau », « au » and « o » are pronounced the same. We can get « bel leau » which sounds like « bel Lo » (French, meaning « beautiful Lo », but « bel » is a masculine gender adjective in Middle French (the French spoken during Renaissance), still existing today but only used when the word it qualifies starts with a vowel, otherwise it’s « beau » that is used). Lo is said to be a tomboy in « a restless father and his tomboy daughter » (p.138 TAL) and there are several references to mixed genders for a reason, in « Lolita », as we have seen. « Humbert le Bel » (p.41 TAL; ancient French for « Humbert the Fair » (Humbert the « beautiful one »)) is a hint to this.
Gordon Clarke: gordon can be seen as an anagram of Dorgon which is nothing more than a hint to Quilty’s entry « Dorgon, Elmira, NY » p.250 TAL. You remove a k from clarke and you get clare + k, you still have el + mira, you remove this mira (that is a hint to miranda) and take -nda from Miranda (anthony), you take a O and a R from Quilty’s « Dr Gratiano Forbeson, Mirandola, NY », and You have clarekelndaor, or rearranged, « Carroll naked ». The « Mirandola » (Miranda + Lo) is a sign there is something else to find in relation with the Miranda of the Lolita’s classmate’s list (« Miranda, Viola » (p.52 TAL)) is a reference to Shakespeare’s « The Tempest » and its character Miranda via paintings by J. W. Waterhouse (more about this later) and the 1888 painting « Miranda » of Frederick Goodall (a painter that was elected Associate of the Royal Academy in 1852 (another important date in his life was his first trip to Egypt in 1858). His Brother Edward Angelo Goodall (born in 1819) was a laso a famous painter that was invited to join the Royal Watercolour Society in 1856)).
Rosato Emil (a hint to solve another bit, or maybe some reference with Rosa to Emil to find somewhere?) and Viola that are side by side in Lolita’s classmates’ list, can give: rosATo emIL viOLa (« lolita » backwards, to be put right in a mirror-like manner). The remaining letters can give us, « vie » (french for « life ») and « amoroso » (Italian for « loving ») with that we probably can reconsitute a sentence (Lolita (is) loving life?).
« Oleg Sherva » (p.52 TAL): No comment.
Particularly alluded, « The Wizard of Oz » by Lyman Frank Baum (1856–1919) (*), a book published in May 1900 (1900 (a reference date) is the date of death of John Ruskin (more about this later), a date also directly mentionned in « 1900 Baedeker’s Guide » (p.154 TAL), among other references)
Among the hidden references to this story: Dorothy Gale via « Dorothy » (p.201 TAL), « his thirty-three-years-old wife, Dorothy » (p.287 TAL) and « Dorothy Hummerson » (p.178 TAL)), Toto (« a dog (…) a terrier of sorts » (p.236 TAL)), the Lion (« dandelion » (p.73 TAL) sounds like « dandy Lion »), the mean old crone miss East (p.206 TAL) is reminescent of the wicked witch of the East, the Wizard of Oz via « wily wizard » (p.49 TAL), Emerald city via « emerald » (p.221 TAL and p.282 TAL) and maybe « (Grainball) City« ? (p.158 TAL), the chain of references to Whistler’s « The Princess from the Land of Porcelain » (« porcelain » also mentionned in p.198 TAL, making references to the Princess of the Dainty China Country), Glinda (maybe in Linda Hall – H is letter 8, A is letter 1, L is letter 12: H-A+L-L = 8-1+12-12=7, the seventh letter is G, G+ Linda = Glinda), « somewhere in Kansas » (p.153 TAL) and « Kansas » (p.156 TAL), etc… (more to find)
(*) the manly Frank (p.245 TAL) can gives us « Lyman Frank » and Baum (German for « tree »; instances with the keyword « tree » include Joyce Kilmer’s poem « Trees » (mention of Kilmer in p. TAL) and the Chateaubriandesque trees (p.145 TAL), but the real hint is p.275 TAL: Frank (p.245 TAL) is scarred and (slightly) mutilated because he was blown through a wall – this provides a link with Bill with his arm hanging in a tree in blossom (Bill also has « A flowergirl on tattoo » (p.275 TAL)), after it was blown off by an explosion (p. 275 TAL) – linking both manly Frank and a « tree » (and thus « Lyman Frank » and « Baum ») )), all of it referenced via the movie from 1939 (**) (with for instance cryptic references to Judy Garland (Judy is present via the several references to Punch (e.g. « Guess again, Punch. » (p.296 TAL, among several instances), an allusion to « Punch & Judy » (the male/female pairing in p. 153 TAL (« Guys-Gals, John Jane, Jack-Jill and even Buck’s Doe’s » is a hint something has to be found that way, via male/female pairing to reconstitute in this case)). The keywords « Punch » and « Judy » are also having an echo in « The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll » with Punch (magazine) and (Aunt) Judy (‘s magazine) mentionned in it – more will be said about the importance of this book about Lewis Carroll, in the making of the riddle by Nabokov) and Garland via « bi-iliac garland » (p.175 TAL) (let’s also mention about J. Garland that she was married to David Rose (born in England in 1910) who had composed the music of the movie « The Princess and the Pirate« ). « quelquepart » (p.250 TAL; French for « somewhere »), « somewhere in Kansas » (p.153 TAL; mention of Doris Lee in p.199 TAL might be because she attended the Kansas City Art Institute) and Rimbaud constantly refered as « rainbow » in « Lolita » (like in p.250 TAL, for one of such instance) are also a hint to the famous song « Somewhere over the rainbow« . The « while lost in an artist dream » (p.153 TAL) following the male/female pairing (actually hinting to Judy) itself might be an allusion to Dorothy Gale and « The Wizard of Oz« . There is also a 1910 silent movie about this story. Among the sequels of the book: « The Emerald City of Oz » (1910) and « The Magic of Oz » (1919).
(**) also alluded in the many references to 1939, like with « Gone with the Wind » a famous 1939 movie (« Antebellum homes wiith iron trellis balconies and hand-worked stairs, the kinddown which movie ladies with sun-kissed shoulders run in rich Technicolor holding up the front of their flounced skirts with both little hands in that special way, and the devoted Negress shaking her head on the upper landing« , p.156 TAL) starring Vivian Leigh (references in darkbloom Vivian . Leigh annabel. She played in William Shakespeare‘s « Antony and Cleopatra » and George Bernard Shaw‘s « Caesar and Cleopatra« . She also played in « 21 days » the movie adaptation of John Galsworthy’s (p.154 TAL) play « The First and the Last » (1919). Incidentally, Meggi Albanesi, the daughter of Effie Adelaide Rowlands, who made her film debut in 1919, also played in that play and in Galsworthy’s « The Skin Game« ) as Scarlett O’hara (you will see below why the keyword « scarlet » (e.g. among several instances, « scarlet guards » (p.90 TAL), « Lips: scarlet » (p.255 TAL)) is a hidden reference as well, in the riddle. Among the salliant parts of the story, Atlanta (***) and the year 1865 (the year the war ended and major changes in the life of Scarlett), but also in the background the abolition of slavery in the USA (The Emancipation Proclamation was an executive order issued by President Lincoln (1809-1865; (p.158 TAL, « Lincoln’s home« ; He was the first Republican president, a party whose symbol is an elephant and color is red (as opposed to the Democrats whose color is blue; interesting that the US right party is red and the left party is blue in the USA while it’s the reverse elsewhere; A red/blue – blue/red mirror effect). In 1832, he bought a small general store on credit in New Salem, Illinois, with a partner but it wasn’t a succesful attempt. He was in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1847 to 1849. He also received a patent for a flotation device for the movement of boats in shallow water in 1849. Lincoln was remarkably fond of children. Three of his children died: one in 1850, one in 1862 and another in 1871. In his youth, Lincoln had read and re-read Bunyan’s « The Pilgrim’s Progress« ) on January 1, 1863 (Lincoln issued his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862). Slavery is alluded many times in « Lolita » and is part of the web of references (there are also references to prominent figures of the rights of women and abolitionism) pointing to diverese things like paintings by Eastman Johnson (known for instance for « Negro Life at the South« , « A Ride for Liberty – The Fugitive Slaves, » (1862) or « The Young Sweep » (1863), but also for paintings of other themes « The Girl I Left Behind Me« , « The Nantucket School of Philosophy« , « Winter, Portrait of a Child« , « Husking Bee, Island of Nantucket« , « The Cranberry Harvest, Island of Nantucket », etc... He also made several paintings of Indians (in 1856, he visited his sister Sarah and her family in Superior, Wisconsin. His mixed-race guide Stephen Bonga, who was Ojibwe and African-American, took Johnson among the native Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) in the areas around Superior. Throughout 1857 Johnson frequently painted them in intimate, casual poses)))).
(***) The Union Army that marched to Atlanta (major city of Georgia (« Georgia« , p.155 TAL)) in May 1864 (Atalanta, Atala and Atlanta are among the keys to the riddle as explained earlier) was the Army of the Cumberland (hinted in « humberland » (p.166 TAL)) – active from 1862 to 1865 – that was originally led by Major General William S. Rosecrans (1819–1898 (‘Rose’ + ‘crans’ which in a mirror-like reflexion would sound like ‘Snark‘, pointing to Lewis Carroll‘s « The Hunting of the Snark« (1876)); in command of this army from 1862 to 1863; replaced by George H. Thomas from 1863 to 1865, during the time of Atlanta). It was at the academy that he received his nickname, « Rosy, » or more often « Old Rosy. » He graduated from West Point in 1842, fifth in his class of 56 cadets, which included notable future general such as Earl Van Dorn (‘dorn’ is German for ‘thorn’; In May 1863, he was shot dead at his headquarters at Spring Hill by a doctor who claimed that Van Dorn had carried on an affair with his wife. In his career, Van Dorn was in garrison Jefferson Barracks in Lemay, Missouri, in 1849. He had seen action in Florida against the Seminoles from 1849 to 1850) that he will meet again as an opponent in the second battle of Corynth (another ancientGreek/Greek element in relation with the riddle) in 1862, where Van dorn attack will be bloodily repulsed by Rosecrans. William S. Rosecrans converted to Catholicism in 1845 (he as raised Methodist) which inspired the youngest of his brothers, Sylvester Horton Rosecrans (1827-1878), to convert as well [ Sylvester would become the first bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus (from 1868 to 1878). He there earned his doctorate in theology and was ordained priest in 1852. After touring through Italy, France, England, and Ireland, Rosecrans returned to the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and was appointed pastor of St. Thomas Church in Cincinnati. He received his episcopal consecration in 1862. During his 10-year-long tenure, Rosecrans founded St. Aloysius Seminary for young men in 1871 ]. From 1868 to 1869, Rosecrans served as U.S. Minister to Mexico, but was replaced after just five months when his old nemesis, Ulysses Grant (an echo with both Joyce and Greek keywords), became president. In 1880, Rosecrans was elected U.S. Representative as a Democrat from California’s 1st congressional district and was reelected in 1882 and became the chairman of the House Military Affairs Committee, a position in which he publicly opposed a bill that would provide a pension to former President Grant and his wife.
« A Girl of the Limberlost » (p.173 TAL), is also a sneaky puzzle pointing to « The Wizard of Oz« : rearranging the letters you can get « A lost girl of the rimbel ». In the 16th century, French language was codified and become the official language, being used also in domains where Latin only was used. At this time, the evolution of what would become the maisntream French language would cause the endings in -el, becoming endings in -eau (the references to French authors from the 16th centrury (Belleau, Ronsard) are likely a hint about this bit – and so is « Humbert le Bel » (p.41 TAL – more on this later; (Rim) -bel => (Rim) -beau)). If we transform accordingly Rimbel, we get Rimbeau, an echo of Rimbaud (they sound the same in French), who is several times (at least twice) alluded as « rainbow », in « Lolita » (Nabokov makes them voluntarily equivalent), we obtain « A lost girl of the rainbow », a pretty clear allusion to the movie « The Wizard of Oz » (via his famous song « somewhere over the rainbow« . Maeterlinck’s « Blue Bird » allusion in « Lolita » is also a reference to the song. Nabokov might have also pointed to this song as part of the riddle because of its sentence « And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true« , which has an echo in the context of the riddle).
P.47 TAL: « un filet escarlatte« . « Escarlatte » is ancient French for « scarlet » (as you can guess they are cognates – a lot of the English vocabulary is actually coming from old French and more recent French, for historical reasons (William the Conqueror, the Plantagnet Dynasty, a certain French cultural prominence in Europe during many centuries – explaining why even the Russian language is full of French loanwords)) which is said алый in Russian, i.e. alyi (or alyy depending of the latin alphabet spelling you choose for cyrillic alphabet). If you rearrange alyi, you can get aliy, the cyrillic letter represented by y in this word (ы) can resemble the reflexion of a S on the side, as explained above. If you put this S up again, you got ALIS, the direct representation in latin letters of the sound of « Alice » in Russian. Alice is thus hidden in Escarlatte (and in the reference to Scarlett O’hara (via the references to Vivian Leigh and « Gone with the Wind« ) in Ronsard’s « la vermeillette fente » (p. TAL; vermeillette also describes the same color; notice that the most famous poem from Ronsard is « Mignonne, allons voir si la Rose« ) and also in « scarlet » and « crimson » (in p.90, 255 TAL (and more) and p. TAL) are pointing to this). Notice that there is CARL (i.e. CARROLL) in scarlet (also in es-carl-atte), and that (s) carlet could resemble a cognate of charlotte.
There are more things of this kind in other places in the text.
Stones and Roses
Just as we can associate Humbert Humbert to Lewis Carroll, we can associate Quilty and a man named John Ruskin (1819–1900). He was a famous Victorian (refereing to Queen Victoria, born the same year on May 1819) art critic, art patron, writer (among his major works are « The Seven Lamps of Architecture » (1849), « The Stones of Venice« , « Unto This Last » (1860, 1862) (*), « Fors Clavigera » (1871–84). He wrote about Walter Scott and even authored a fairy-tale) and artist, and was quite concerned with politics (as a socialist. In 1871 (also the year of death of his mother), he began his monthly « Letters to the workmen and labourers of Great Britain » (The letters were published irregularly after the 87th instalment in March 1878)). He was the first Slade Professor of Fine Arts in the University of Oxford (the same university where Lewis Carroll taught mathematics (« Saddle Oxfords 3.98 » p.262 TAL)). He was an acquaintance of Lewis Carroll since 1857 and was too known to search the company of little girls. He also confessed his admiration for the young Alice P. Liddell in his autobiography “Praeterita” (1885-1889). From 1878 he cultivated an increasingly long beard (hence the recurrent occurences of this keyword in « Lolita« , as it became a distinctive sign of his appearance. It’s a reference to a photography dated 1882 showing him with a huge beard). His health eventually declined and he suffered a complete collapse on his final tour, which included Venice, in 1888. He had been a quite influential man of his time (for instance, Marcel Proust (mentionned in « Lolita » p.16 TAL) not only admired Ruskin but helped translate his works into French (**) and Gandhi wrote of the « magic spell » cast on him by « Unto This Last« ).. He was also in love with a young girl named Rose La Touche that he first met when she was 10 years old.
(*) » Unto This Last » is an essay and book on economy first published in December 1860 in the monthly journal Cornhill Magazine in four articles. These articles were very violently criticized, forcing the publisher to stop the publication after four months. Subscribers sent protest letters. Ruskin countered the attack and published the four articles in a book in May 1862. It is said that it had a very important impact on Gandhi’s philosophy.
(**) In fact, Ruskin’s work was so important to Proust that he claimed to know « by heart » several of Ruskin’s books, including « The Seven Lamps of Architecture », « The Bible of Amiens », and « Praeterita« . In « Time Regained » Proust’s universal protagonist recalls having translated Ruskin’s « Sesame and Lilies » (1865; with inspiration from Rose La Touche).
Proust set out to translate two of Ruskin’s works into French, but was hampered by an imperfect command of English. To compensate for this he made his translations a group affair: sketched out by his mother, the drafts were first revised by Proust, then by Marie Nordlinger, the English cousin of his friend and sometime lover Reynaldo Hahn, then again finally polished by Proust. Confronted about his method by an editor, Proust responded, « I don’t claim to know English; I claim to know Ruskin« . « The Bible of Amiens« , with Proust’s extended introduction, was published in French in 1904. Both the translation and the introduction were very well reviewed; Henri Bergson called Proust’s introduction « an important contribution to the psychology of Ruskin » and had similar praise for the translation. At the time of this publication, Proust was already at work on translating Ruskin’s « Sesame and Lilies« , which he completed in June 1905, just before his mother’s death, and published in 1906.
Ruskin was also a champion of young artists considered then revolutionary [ J.M.W. Turner for instance, but also famously the whole pre-raphaelites that were influenced by his ideas) (hence the reference to « Champion, Colorado » in « Lolita », which is both a reference to Ruskin (a Champion of artists) and Quilty (Colorado means « red » in Spanish, and we know this color to be particularly linked to him (e.g. cars (and Quilty is also, for instance, wearing a purple bathrobe in p.294 TAL. « Red » in general is a keyword in the riddle through its diverse synonyms as well (maybe even Carmen is possibly to be counted among these since it like a close reflexion of French carmin which is a type of red))). We know is associated to the Red Knight, a deduction confirmed by Nabokov using Quiller-Couch as a reference in this case (red is likely the main color associated with Quilty because Ruskin (whom Quilty is a very distorted reflection) was a fervent socialist (and we know that for Nabokov the aristocrat, this kind of thing meant a great deal (he had to flee Russia forever, after the revolution of 1917))). The other colors particulraly associated with Quilty in terms of cars, is gray (p.227 TAL; in fact Nabokov used Gray in a recurring way in the novel (e.g. « gauze-gray » p.22 TAL); he is also said to be « gray-faced » p.294 TAL – it is a reference to Effie Gray, to whom he was married, during some time but had to divorce, apparently because he wouldn’t have sex with her) and blue (the intentionnal recurrence of this color thoughout the book will be explained later)) ]. He also made Rossetti, Browning‘s great champion among the Younger poets.
John Ruskin, who had inspired the Pre-raphaelites with his ideas, commissioned the Oxford Union Murals. The major Pre-Raphaelite artists participated in this work (more on this later).
Now, the first major allusion to John Ruskin in the novel itself (so to speak as the John Ray Jr.’s foreword is of course part of the novel, and that John Ray Jr. (JR/JR) points to John Ruskin’s initials), is a book mentionned by Humbert when he is in prison (“(…) they also have coruscating trifles as “A vagabond in Italy” by Percy Elphinstone, author of “Venice revisited”, Boston, 1868 (…)” p.31 TAL).
To me, these author name and book titles are a pretty clear undeniable reference to John Ruskin. Even the choice of the adjective co_RUSC_ating seems to wave a hand in front of the careful knowledgeable reader’s eye.
Alfred Appel Jr. in his “The annotated Lolita” says that according to Nabokov this “Percy Elphinstone” and his books are genuine, despite the fact that Alfred Appel with all his means couldn’t document that (p.345 TAL). Alfred Appel says Nabokov recalled finding “A vagabond in Italy” “in a hospital library, the nearest thing to a prison library”.
Nabokov would have known two unfindable books written by an unfindable author and randomly put it in his “Lolita” just because the author in his memory was named Elphinstone? Clearly he lied.
To me, this lie itself, is a strong evidence, an indirect avowal, that this mention is actually quite important in Nabokov‘s mind, in the matter of this riddle he embedded within “Lolita”.
One of the major work of Ruskin is the three-volumes “The stones of Venice” (1851-1853). He made at least twenty travels in Italy and considered himself an adopted son of Venice. As we can see “Venice” is a pretty apt tag to associate Elphinstone to Ruskin. In p.77 TAL, we also have « Venetian blinds » and we also find mention of the « Merchant of Venice« in « The life and letters of Lewis Carroll« .
In the title “A vagabond in Italy”, “vagabond” probably refers to Ruskin himself as he travelled a lot throughout Italy during many decades (from 1833 to 1888) even if this fictitious title seems to be a reference to “The vagabond” by W.S. Gilbert in which Marion Terry, a young acquaintance of Lewis Carroll, played in 1878 (see above), and it’s also a reference to « Two Little Vagabonds« , a title mentionned in « Life and letters of Lewis Carroll« .
« Venice revisited” can’t be clearer. Not much to add that hasn’t been said. Ruskin visited Venice many time through several decades (and thus _revisited_ Venice coutless times) and he also “revisited” his “Stones of Venice”, i.e. revised it. His work was indeed revised, edited and issued in a new “Travellers’ Edition” in 1879. In fact he also made “A Guide to the Principal Pictures in … Venice” published in 1877.
Later, Percy Elphinstone‘s book is alluded (“Ramsdale revisited”, on page 287 TAL, mirrors “Venice revisited”) which seems to betray the importance (and relevance) that Nabokov gives to this yet seemingly random element of the narrative (And the fact that an important town is named Elphinstone betrays the relevance of the mention of this Percy Elphinstone at the beginning).
Elphinstone, a name that will be reused later in the book with a particular resonance, can be understood as Elfin Stone. “Elfin” is obvioulsy a tag quite appropriate for a nympholept bedeviled by little elfs of sort (“fateful elf” p.18 TAL), demon-children with supernatural powers over “special” middle-aged men as Humbert would put it, and what can be more appropriate than “stone” for the author of a three-volumes work about architecture called “Stones of Venice« ?… « Elphin » is also found in a book « The misfortunes of Elphin » by T. L. Peacock, an author directly alluded in « Lolita » likely in relation with it. Nonetheless the name was likely crafted via bits of names taken from the important « The life and letters of Lewis Carroll »: « see of Elphin » and « Gladstone » (*) (see of Elphin is in relation with Carroll’s great-grandfather who became the bishop of Elphin).
[ (*) William Ewart Gladstone, mentionned in the important « The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll » (1809-1898; Gladstone was a British Liberal politician, of pure Scottish ancestry. In a career lasting over sixty years, he served as Prime Minister four separate times (1868-74, 1880–85, February–July 1886 and 1892–94), more than any other person, and served as Chancellor of the Exchequer (The term ‘exchequer‘ is related to referred to the resemblance of the table to a chess board (in French, échiquier) as it was covered by a black cloth bearing green stripes of about the breadth of a human hand, in a chequer-pattern) four times. Gladstone was also Britain’s oldest Prime Minister; he resigned for the final time when he was 84 years old. Gladstone first entered Parliament in 1832. He was Chancellor of the Exchequer for the first time in 1852 and left this function for the last time in 1882. As Chancellor, Gladstone made a speech at Newcastle on 7 October 1862 in which he supported the independence of the Confederate States of America in the American Civil War, claiming that Jefferson Davis had « made a nation ». He did not consider slavery a problem; his father owned over two and a half thousand slaves when Gladstone was first elected to Parliament, and the young man helped his father obtain full payment for them. In 1871, he instituted the Universities Tests Act. On 11 July 1882, Gladstone ordered the bombardment of Alexandria, starting the Anglo-Egyptian War, which resulted in the occupation of Egypt. He had 8 children (and one was born in 1842, one in 1849 and one in 1852. One of his grand child was Dorothy Drew). There is a well-known painting « Gladstone’s Cabinet of 1868 » by Lowes Cato Dickinson (**), and there is a famous photograph of Gladstone taken by Rupert William Potter (1832-1914), father of Beatrix Potter, author of the children’s book « The Tale of Peter Rabbit« )).
(**) Lowes Cato Dickinson (1819-1909) was an English portrait painter and Christian socialist. He taught drawing with Ruskin and Rossetti. He corresponded and worked with the central participants of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, lecturing with both Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Ruskin. He had a studio in the same building as John Everett Millais and taught Ford Madox Brown, who worked for a time at Dickinson Brothers (After his father’s death in 1849, he became a partner with his two eldest brothers, Gilbert Bell Dickinson and William Robert Dickinson, in the firm of Dickinson Brothers of Bond Street. As well as continuing to publish lithographs, the firm were photographers, by appointment to Queen Victoria, and many of Dickinson’s portraits were painted from photographs). Before touring Italy for three years around 1850, he had exhibited at the Royal Academy, at which exhibited every year, except three, between 1848 and 1891. ]
Percy could be linked to Percival, the famous knight from Arthur’s Round Table. John Ruskin is also well-known to have commissioned the Oxford Union Murals, paintings whose theme is the Arthurian legend (even though Percival is not on the murals, it’s still an obvious Arthurian reference which is of particular resonance on the subject of John Ruskin, even only by his link to the Pre-Raphaelites, but it’s apparently taken too from « The life and letters from Lewis Carroll« , i.e. more excatly from this bit, « members of the Percy family ».
Lewis Carroll and John Ruskin had also a few similarities (and some of the references in “Lolita” could apply to both – some obvious, some less obvious – for instance the reference to the school with elms and croquet (“(…) another boarding school which was said to be so harsh and gray and gaunt in its methods (although supplying croquet under the elms)” p.99 TAL) could probably refer to Lewis Carroll who left Christ Church in Oxford in 1881 to teach logics in a girl school (although it actually likely is a reference to the own unpleasant time Lewis Carroll had in his studies at the Rugby School, where lies a great school field with its famous elms) but also to Ruskin who was a lecturer in the “progressive” girl school at Winnington Hall in Cheshire, from 1859 to 1868 (to which the Beardsley School resembles in many flagrant ways (even though the name is inspired by the all-girls private school Brearley School in New York. Aubrey Beardsley‘s name was used because of the resemblance and for the references it allowed in the general subjacent theme of the novel) – the speech of Mrs Pratt to Humbert, makes it clear that she wishes to manage her school of young girls with a “progressive” mindset. At Winnington Hall (also managed with a “progressive” mindset), drawing and water-colour were a central part of the curriculum, study was mingled with play and nothing was learnt by rote – all this is echoed in Pratt‘s description of Beardsley School‘s own curriculum. In Winnington Hall, Ruskin had his own room that became a semi-permanent residence for him (I think the constant sexual allusions in Beardsley School – e.g. (smelly) mushroom (a classroom where Humbert asks Lolita for a quite unappropriate thing – and a phallic metaphore), the names of the teachers (from Redcock, Horn, Hole – when changed as described earlier) – are an allusion to Ruskin’s ambiguous presence among the girls (by the way, these girls were 36 (3&(4+2)) (“(At Winnington Hall) He romped with the girls, they embraced him, yet it all remained on an undisturbing, only mildly titillating level.“ [excerpt from « John Ruskin – The Passionate Moralist« , Joan Abse, 1980, p.164])))). He financially helped the school and he was also known to watch the girls play cricket (pretty close to “croquet”…). Winnington Hall also had rooms whith such names as the Oak Room, the Octagon Room and the Billiard Room – this is probably alluded in the quite original room names of the Beardsley School that are said to copy “a school in England by having “traditional” nicknames for its various classrooms” (p.197 TAL)).
The French boarding school Les Ruches (The Beehives, in French. Let’s also remind that the White Knight in « Through the Looking-Glass » (Humbert/Carroll in the riddle) has got a beehive on his horse) of feminist Marie Souvestre (who had Eleanor Roosevelt as its most famous pupil) is also alluded, in a lesser extent (see the entry about Alice Pike Barney for more informations). P. 198 TAL, the B-room class in Beardsley School could be a allusion to it (B is pronounced like ‘bee’; there is no particular reason why a room would be called B-room where all the other room has specific name after all). In p.152 TAL, « some mummy-necked farmer » in a context of landscape description associated with painters, is a reference to the famous painting « American Gothic » by Grant Wood (1891-1942; mentionned p.199 TAL. An american painter who had been hired to document and interpret dramatic scenes and characters during the production of the film « The Long Voyage Home« , a cinematic adaptation of Eugene O’Neill‘s plays) might also probably indirectly point towards Winnington Hall, like Beardsley School (Wood had enrolled in The Handicraft Guild, an art school run entirely by women in Minneapolis in 1910).
In p.255 TAL, « I cannot get out said the starling » is a reference to « A sentimental journey through France and Italy » (1768) by Laurence Sterne (also author of « Tristram Shandy« , in which Cervantes (author of « Don Quixote« ; the character of Uncle Toby in « Tristram Shandy » resembles Don Quixote in many ways) and Rabelais influences are found (Sterne was an admirer of François Rabelais). Goethe had praised Sterne as « the most beautiful spirit that ever lived« . There exists a portrait of Laurence Sterne by Joshua Reynolds, the painter of « The Age of Innocence« , mentionned in « Lolita« . The Pre-Raphaelites objected to the influence of Sir Joshua Reynolds, founder of the English Royal Academy of Arts, whom they called « Sir Sloshua« . To the Pre-Raphaelites, according to William Michael Rossetti, « sloshy » meant « anything lax or scamped in the process of painting … and hence … any thing or person of a commonplace or conventional kind« ). The reference to « A sentimental journey through France and Italy » is another allusion to Ruskin (*) but also to Alice Liddell (as she did travel through France and Italy between 1872 and 1877).
(*) Ruskin embraced the emerging literary forms, the travel guide (and gallery guide), writing new works, and adapting old ones « to give, » he said, « what guidance I may to travellers… » The Stones of Venice was revised, edited and issued in a new « Travellers’ Edition » in 1879. Ruskin directed his readers, the would-be traveller, to look with his cultural gaze at the landscapes, buildings and art of France and Italy: « Mornings in Florence » (1875–77), « The Bible of Amiens » (1880–85) (a close study of its sculpture and a wider history), « St Mark’s Rest » (1877–84) and « A Guide to the Principal Pictures in … Venice » (1877).
Like there are many hidden references to « The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll« , there are also hidden references to John Ruskin’s autobiography, « Praeterita« . For instance, Mona’s « Qu’il t’y mène » (p.223 TAL), beside having an obvious Quilty (the distorted reflection of Ruskin) embedded in a bit of French sentence (it roughly means « (so) that he leads you there » in French), this bit is a distorted reflection of Chapter X of « Praeterita » Volume I, « Quem Tu, Melpomene » (and rearranged we can get the close « quel tu mene » / remains then the letters p,o,e,m: poem, a word tagging aptly a poet. U is Y in Russian alphabet, so they are equivalent, thus we swap them and get the closer « quel ty mene » (it sounds like « qu’elle t’y mène » meaning « (so) that she leads you there » while « qu’il t’y mène » means « (so) that he leads you there » – apparently again this male/female swaping thing. « there » refers to a lake (« comme le lac est beau » (it means « how beautiful is the lake » in French, so we actually got now « (so) that she leads you to the lake » and thus this is another reference to the Lady of the Lake (more about this later)))) – notice that Melpomene is the muse of Tragedy, daughter of Zeus and Mnemosyne (p.260 TAL) and that she is the sister of Urania muse of astronomy (planets are among the references: for instance) and that she is the mother of several sirens as well. Also, the inner title page of « Praeterita » (at least for Vol. I) is « encircled » by a tangle of roses with thorns, which is likely secretly alluded in « Look at this tangle of thorns » (p.9 TAL; The references to Perrault’s « The Sleeping Beauty » pointing to Grimm’s « The little Briar Rose« – « Dornröschen » in German (dorn = thorn, roses and thorns are thus associated in the reference)are thus pointing to Ruskin’s biography, an important source for Nabokov’s riddle) but also to William Morris‘verses in « The Legend of Briar Rose » (« About the tangle of the rose; But lo! the fated hand and heart »; more on this later). These are two examples among others. Incidentally, let’s notice that John Ruskin’s secretary and biographer, W. G. Collingwood, is named like the author of « The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll« , Stuart Dodgson Collingwood.
« The Enchanted Hunters » might very well be also a reference to Ruskin, as he was born at 54 Hunter Street, London.
John Ruskin and his father shared a passion for Shakespeare, Lord Byron (Alluded in the Doctor Byron and his daughter Marguerite; he was the author of « Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage« , mentionned in « Lolita« ) and especially for Walter Scott.
The recurrences of 39 (e.g. « Misses’ socks, 39 c. Saddle Oxfords 3.98 » (p.262 TAL), « thirty-nine other dopes » (p.131 TAL), etc..) are likely allusions to Ruskin, being 39 when he met Rose La Touche, then 10 (more about this later).
John Ruskin was at the origin of a digging scheme on Ferry Hinksey Road at North Hinksey, near Oxford, involving undergraduates, partly motivated by a desire to teach the virtues of wholesome manual labour. Among the diggers were Oscar Wilde and Alfred Milner (alluded in « Lolita » in « Milner Pass » (p. TAL)).
The novel is also literally filled to the brim with allusions to the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (The members of the Brotherhood read John Ruskin and Tennyson and worshipped the Middle Ages. The Brotherhood was formed by a group of friends at the University of Oxford and John Ruskin‘s ideas and writings were extremely influential among them. The Arts and Crafts movement (mentionned earlier) will be influenced by the brotherhood and even more by John Ruskin‘s « Stones of Venice« ) and works such as « The Ydills of the King » by Alfred Tennyson. Always a reccurence of an Arthurian context.
Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892), an acquaintance of Lewis Carroll and John Ruskin (he was also a student in the Trinity College of Cambridge like Nabokov) is discreetly alluded several times in the novel. He was one of the major victorian poet and he treated this Tristram theme in his poem “The Last Tournament” in 1871 (it was part of his “Idylls of the King“, very frequently alluded in « Lolita« , and of importance in the riddle). In 1830 he wrote his poem « The Sleeping Beauty » which he later expanded in « The Day-Dream« , published in 1842 (a poem that compares the act of poetry with dreaming and says that the two are the same. Tennyson’s earlier works discuss journeys through memory, including « Sense and Conscience« , « The Merman« , « The Mermaid« , and « Recollections of the Arabian Nights« ). His ballad « The Lady of Shalott » (whose first version was written in 1833, the year Ruskin started to go in Italy. He was inspired by the Arthurian character of Elaine of Astolat (*)) has inspired for instance a painting by John William Waterhouse (a painter of the pre-raphaelite brotherhood) made in 1888 (Tennyson’s Lady of Shalott is forbidden to look at reality directly and is doomed to look at the world via a MIRROR – also a big hint to the riddle. Notice that Shalott is almost like a distorted echo of Charlotte (a French name basically pronounced sharlott (The Lady Shalott and her mirror are maybe insinuated in « Charlotte’s glass (lake) » (« glass » sounds like « glace » in French, meaning « mirror« ), p.216 TAL).
These references hidden in names are not rare in « Lolita« , another example could be « Claude Lorrain » (p. TAL; a French painter (1600-1682)) whose name is pronounced like would also be pronounced LORIN in French, that could be a male form of Lorina if such a thing existed (do you remember this male/female thing omnipresent in the riddle?)).
He also authored « The Princess: A Medley« , a satire on women’s education, which came out in 1847, was also popular for its lyrics. W. S. Gilbert later adapted and parodied the piece twice: in « The Princess » (1870) and in « Princess Ida » (1884). One of his sons, Hallam was born in 1852 (He was named after a dear friend of Tennyson, Arthur Henry Hallam (1811-1833)).
(*) Among the adaptations of Elaine of Astolat (a figure that inspired many artists, among them many pre-Raphaelites) we find (beside Tennyson): « For All Ladies of Shalott » by Aline Kilmer (1888-1941), « Elaine and Elaine » and « The Lady of Shalott » (1871) by Elizabeth Stuart Phelps (1844-1911), « Sir Tray: An Arthurian Idyl« by General Edward Hamley, « The Camelot Jousts » (1910) by Maurice Baring, « Arthur the King » by W. M. Akhurst (1822–1878), « The Water Carriers » by Oscar Fay Adams (1855-1919); and among the illustrators we find Lancelot Speed (also drawer of a nice « Merlin and Vivien« ) that made an illustration dated 1919, illustrations by Howard Pyle, an illustration by George Woolliscroft Rhead & Louis Rhead dated 1898 and an illustration by Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale in 1911.
Figuring prominently among the pre-Raphaelite artists, and frequently alluded in « Lolita« , Dante Gabriel Rossetti (May 1828-1882; notice the 28/82), a good friend of Lewis Carroll, was a major painter taking part in the Oxford Union Murals.
He, did a watercolour featuring Percival (among others) “How Sir Galahad, Sir Bors and Sir Percival were fed with the Sanc Grael; But Sir Percival’s Sister Died Along the Way“ (1864) and participated in the Oxford Union Murals under the supervision of Ruskin. He also did paintings of Lilith – “Lady Lilith“ (1867 and 1868 (see below)) (a character mentionned in “Lolita”) and he designed a stained-glass panel named “Sir Tristram and la Belle Ysoude drink the potion” (1862-1863; again the theme of “Tristram and Yseult”), and did a drawing of “La belle Dame Sans Merci” (which is alluded in “Lolita” as well, in a sentence where Humbert “paraphrases” John Keats‘ poem “La belle Dame Sans Merci” (1820), “my schoolgirl nymphet had me in thrall” p.183 TAL, from Keats‘ original:“They cried, La belle dame sans merci – Thee hath in thrall!” (it describes the dream the knight has after he fell under the spell of the “dame” that lulled him into sleep in her “elfin grot” (read: cave). His early poetry was influenced by John Keats)). So all these Arthurian legend’s references and these knights falling as victims of the spells of supernatural beautiful young women, are to be linked with a Carrollian context (both via Ruskin and Carroll (Dante Gabriel Rossetti (who migh well be also sneakily alluded in the recurrent use of the adjective “russet”) is a perfect example: a good friend of Lewis Carroll and an acquaintance of Ruskin as well)). Among Dante’s paintings are « The Girlhood of Mary Virgin » (1849; using his siter Christina for model), « A Vision of Fiammetta » (1878), « Found » (1865–1869, unfinished), « Beata Beatrix« , « The Merciless Lady » (1865; a title reminescent of « La belle Dame Sans Merci« ), « La Donna della Finestra or The Lady of Pity » (la donna della finestra is Italian for « the lady of/at the window »), « Sibylla Palmifera or Venus Palmifera » (with butterflies in it), « Monna Vanna« , « Monna Pomona« , « The Roseleaf » (Portrait of Jane Morris), « Jane Morris (The Blue Silk Dress) » (1868), « Mnemosyne« , « Dante‘s Dream at the Time of the Death of Beatrice » (1869-1871), « Sir Tristram and La Belle Yseult Drinking the Love Potion« , « Fair Rosamund« , « Dantis Amor« , « Joan of Arc Kissing the Sword of Deliverance » (1863), « Pia de’ Tolomei » (1868-1880; Jane Morris as model) and « Lady Lilith » (1868; the final part painted was the flowery background made with white roses from John Ruskin’s garden in Denmark hill as models). Rossetti’s poem « The Blessed Damozel » was the inspiration for Claude Debussy‘s (1862-1918) cantata « La damoiselle élue » (1888). The book « The Works of Dante Gabriel Rossetti » was published in 1911.
His brother, William Michael Rossetti (1829-1919), writer and critic, is also part of the web of references (for instance via William Blake that he revered, alluded several times in « Lolita » (William Blake is also in the web of references in « Lolita » because of Sir William Blake Richmond (1842-1921), a painter (named after William Blake by a close friend, George Richmond) who received some coaching from John Ruskin. He travelled to Italy in 1859 and in 1878 he became Slade professor at Oxford University, succeeding Ruskin, but resigned three years later. He was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1888. One of his sons was Admiral Sir Herbert Richmond (1871-1946))). He was one of the seven founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848 and became de facto the bibliographer and organizer of the movement.He is also known to have been the editor of the first British edition of the poetry of Walt whitman in 1868 and to have been a contributor of the 1911 edition of the encyclopaedia Britannica. He was particularly interested in Algernon Charles Swinburne, himself alluded in « Lolita » (he was the author of « Atalanta in Calydon » (1865), « Tristram of Lyonnesse » (1882), « Dolores (Notre-Dame des Sept Douleurs) » (1866), « Poems and Ballads Second Series » (1878), « Songs before sunrise » (1871). He also produced a « William Blake: A Critical Essay » in 1868). He became recognized as England’s premier poet, the successor to Alfred Tennyson and Robert Browning. Swinburne also met Dante G. Rossetti and was drawned by him. He dedicated « A Century of Roundels » to Christina Rossetti (a poet who happens to be born in a « Charlotte Street » and whose most famous collection « Goblin Market and Other Poems » was published in 1862), the sister of Dante and William. Among her favorite authors were Keats and Matthew Lewis and we can add that Dante Allighieri and Petrach were an important influence for the Rossetti family. The birth of the first child of William M. Rossetti, Olivia Frances Madox, was celebrated by Swinburne in an ode. The firstname of the mother of the Rossetti was Frances, like lewis Carroll’s mother’s. In « Lolita« , Dr. Byron (father of Marguerite Byron) (p.94 TAL) is a reference to the maternal uncle of the Rossetti, John William Polidori, physician to Lord Byron. Maria Francesca Rossetti, another girl of the Rossetti family, was a friend of John Ruskin. At 28 she developed romantic feelings for him after his marriage was annulled. The Rossetti family was phtographed by Lewis Carroll (See here).
Earlier, Humbert Humbert also makes a reference to Beatrice (Portinari) and Dante (Alighieri) implying there was a nympholept/nymphet relationship between them, but it is incorrect, they were actually both about the same age, even if they met when they were nine years old. This discrepancy might be to draw the attention to another Carrollian reference about the young Beatrice Hatch who, as we know, did pose naked as a little girl for him and also to allude to Dante Gabriel Rossetti, a good friend of Lewis Carroll that did paint Beatrice Portinari (even several times: once with William Morris’ wife – more on this later), Dante Alighieri’s love (the description of “Bea“, as Beatrice was called later in the novel by Humbert (which resembles the way Carroll nicknamed Beatrice Hatch, another of his favorite little girls, well after the Alice Liddell period, i.e. “Bee“ – allusion also to be found also in « as Vee was Poe’s and Bea Dante’s » p.107 TAL (V is rendered in B in Cyrilllic (Russian alphabet)), as “painted and lovely” (p.19 TAL), betrays the intention of Nabokov. We can also notice that Beatrice Portinari being nine in 1274 would be mirrored by Beatrice Hatch being nine in 1874, A hint to see this part is to be found in « year 1447 instead of 1947 » p.87 TAL). Dante and Beatrice (in the anecdote, their last names are not mentionned, allowing, on purpose, a possible other identification of them. We can surmise that the references to the name Béatrice (even with a slightly different spelling like Béatrix (title of a novel by Balzac (« Ball Zack » p.192 TAL)), from the original latin word) are mainly pointing to her) would thus actually be mentionned to be used as one of the many tags to point to the Carollian context of the riddle to the careful reader (Also of interest, Beatrice Hatch died in 1947, a decisive year for Humbert, when he meets Lolita, a turning point of his life – so, to sum it up Humbert Humbert meets Lolita the year of death of his “nymphet” Beatrice Hatch and he loses Lolita forever the year of birth (1852, or more exactly in a date mirroring it, 1952) of his “nymphet” Alice Liddell)).
Notice how the date of the first encounter of Dante and Beatrice is said to be the “merry month of May”, both an allusion to Alice Liddell (born in May – a fact alluded in “Alice in Wonderland” – May is an Alice Liddell tag that reappears several times (e.g. « one depraved May« , p.258 TAL, « fish-smelling May flies » (p.158 TAL), « end of May » p.202 TAL, « one day in may » p.202 TAL (after the rehearsal in which Lolita sees Quilty), among other instances (sometimes quite indirect, e.g. « Battle of Blue Licks » p.155 TAL is a site that is situated on US Route 68 between Paris and Maysville (incidentally, on the subject of the battle exists a « Outline of the Battle of Blue Licks, » Carlisle Mercury, August 17th 1882, University of Kentucky Special Collections, 51W8)) and Mérimée (sounds like « merry May« ) the author of “Carmen” (the pun is used again by Quilty in his game with motel registers). The multiple references to Carmen are obviously because she is a femme fatale that will be indeed fatal to a man and betrays him, but also because of the author of the novel (this May tag pointing to Alice Liddell). The subjacent references to socialism (several individuals like Karl Marx (Born in May and dying on March 14), Emma Goldman (dying in May) and others; elements to be found in that page) also point to the May Day (a day comemorating the May 4 of 1886 (Alice Liddel was born of the 4 th of May) date of the Haymarket affair; even though some argue that it was first proposed by Peter J. McGuire of the American Federation of Labor in May 1882, after witnessing the annual labour festival held in Toronto, Canada).
The number 9 (3+4+2), mentionned above has a particular signification too (beside being 3+4+2?), because it reappears several times in the novel (e.g. Humbert and Annabel are 9 (1919 = 1910 + 9) when a stray canari enters their rooms at the exact same time (p.14 TAL), the fact that « nymphetry » starts at 9) it is very likely allusion to the article of Graham Greene in which he wrote in a British magazine that Temple was a « complete totsy » and accused her of being too nubile for a nine-year-old. (Shirley Temple is very likely alluded in Shirley (Holmes) and the mention of « Temple » in p.19 TAL, in reason of this article and of her movies « The little princess« , « The blue bird » (Maeterlinck’s « Blue bird » presence in the novel is likely chiefly intended as a reference to the movie with Shirley Temple, in the first place), « Dimples » (inspired by « Uncle Tom’s Cabin« ), « Just around the corner » (screenplay by (among others) Ethel Hill (born in 1898) who also was screenwriter of « The Little Princess » (1939) with Shirley Temple as well) and also because she was known to have declined « The wizard of Oz » (1939), all discreetly alluded in « Lolita »). It is quite likely that all the movie industry references in « Lolita » would converge towards Greene’s article, and the recurrences of the figure 9, mainly as well.
NB: [9 and 14, the limits of age in which nymphets exist, are numbers of importance in the riddle. They are used many times and show up in references as well. Some examples among others in relation with a country implicated in the riddle, the USA:
The 14th amendment of the US constitution, adopted the July 9th 1868 (notice the 9 th- 14 th), was an amendment addresses citizenship rights and equal protection of the laws, and was proposed in response to issues related to former slaves following the American Civil War.
The 9 th and 14 th US states (respectively New Hampshire (*) and Vermont (« Maurice Vermont » (p.201 TAL))) are side by side, both at 42° longitude North (New Hamphire starting at 42° 42‘ (up to 45° 18’)).
| (*) reference in « May 30 is a Fast Day by Proclamation in New Hampshire » p.40 TAL |
The motto of Vermont is « Stella quarta decima fulgeat » ( « May the 14 th Star Shine Bright » )
The motto of New Hampshire is « Live Free or Die » adopted in 1945, possibly inspired by the « Vivre libre ou mourir » of the French Revolution (It was a popular motto of the French Revolution, which the politician Antoine Barnave (who ended in a prison until he was sent to the guillotine) had engraved on his buttons).
The State Emblem of New Hampshire is an elliptical panel with a picture of the Old Man of the Mountain surrounded on the top by the state name and on the bottom by the state motto, « Live Free or Die. »
The White Mountain National Forest (in New Hampshire) links the Vermont and Maine portions of the Appalachian Trail, and boasts the Mount Washington Auto Road, where visitors may drive to the top of 6,288-foot (1,917 m) Mount Washington.]
Also the date of birth and death of W. Shakespeare (p.251 TAL), 1564 and 1616, can give 14: 4+6+5-1 = 14 and 1+6+1+6 = 14; just like the date of birth of Lewis Carroll (1+8+3+2 = 14).
It’s no coincidence that the Tristram theme is constantly alluded in « Lolita« . It’s a strong symbol in the eyes of Humbert of his situation.
The Celtic Tristram, a knight of the Round Table, particularly known for the story of “Tristram and Iseult”, synonymous of eternal and fatal love – and thus a representation of Humbert himself, in his mind (his mention of his “pseudo-Celtic”, « not un-Celtic« , « Franco-irish » charm (e.g. in p.104 TAL and p.188 TAL) gives the thing away (the mention of the Gallic part of his brain also strongly associates Humbert with Celts)).
In the context of this Tristram theme, I’d like to mention something.
This seems to be a personnal comment from Nabokov.
The strange little part about the doctor Ilse Tristramson: “hi, Ilse, you were a dear, uninquisitive soul, and you touched my dove very gently” (p. 198 TAL). This clearly seems to hold some importance for Nabokov. The fact that he gave (such) a name to a character only doing a flash-appearance and that he makes Humbert take the time to make such a strange comment about her, clearly indicates something’s to be caught by the smart reader here.
First of all, we have to pick up the hints left by Nabokov to our attention.
Just like in the scene where Mrs Pratt informs Humbert that Lolita took the habit to mock some of her teachers by “transposing (…) the first letters of some of her teacher’s names” (p. 195 TAL), if we play with the names of some characters, we can discover instructive secret informations left by Nabokov at our intention.
While miss Horn and miss Cole can indeed be transformed, as used to do Lolita, in miss Corn and miss Hole, in which we can find an obvious sexual allusion (as clear as miss Redcock), there might be even more subtle in stock.
Across Humbert and Lolita‘s street in Beardsley live two women, two teachers, named respectively Lester and Fabian. By transposing parts of their names, we’ve got an illuminating les-bian. That’s right, we are to understand that these ladies that admire the charms of Lolita are lesbians (“Miss Lester and miss Fabian, whose only subject of brief sidewalk conversation with me was (God bless their tact!) the young loveliness of my daughter and the naive charm of Gaston Godin.” p.179 TAL. There you go: not only they seem quite admirative of Lolita‘s young loveliness, but beside that, all they can talk about (in good terms) is the other homosexual of the neighborhood)). We are told that Ilse Tristramson is a friend of miss Lester and miss Fabian, and therefore what we are led to guess is that she is a lesbian too.
Now, with that in mind, the kind words of Humbert about the fact that she was an “uninquisitive soul” and that she touched Lolita “very gently” take a pretty clear signification (obviously Ilse T., miss Lester and miss Fabian are not friends by chance, they share the same interest in young lovely girls).
This could be part (with Gaston Godin‘s Dickies and Jackies) of a general comment by the author of the special relation that homosexuality and pedophilia are often said to possess (I have myself no idea if such a special relation exists). Nabokov seemed to have had a harsh opinion about homosexuality (To suspect that, one just need to read what he wrote about his young homosexual brother, Sergei; or to see what he did with his preposterous character Charles Kinbote in “Pale Fire“). This apparent negative opinion about homosexuals, confirmed by Brian Boyd, his biographer, and the comment concerning its (according to Nabokov – supposedly – if I’m correct) particular relation with pedophilia, in “Lolita”, probably largely find their origin in Nabokov’s uncle Ruka (Vassili Ivanovich Rukavishnikov), who was an homosexual too and seemed particularly (ambiguously, some might say) fond of Vladimir Nabokov when he was a child (“When I was eight or nine, he would invariably take me upon his knee after lunch and (while two young footmen were clearing the table in the empty dining room) fondle me, with crooning sounds and fancy endearments”, excerpt from Vladimir Nabokov‘s “Speak, memory”).
As for the name Ilse Tristramson itself, it seems to be a reference to “Tristram and Iseult”, and might be understood first as a “tag” describing the state of mind and situation of Humbert, knowing to be in situation of an impossible, hopeless love (etymologically, the name “Humbert” itself could fit well a knight, and we can associate Tristram to Humbert. It is the way he sees himself – he is the white knight. This likely implies that Ilse Tristramson is a kind of female Humbert). This reference is also part of an underlying Arthurian theme to be linked with the pre-raphaelites.
We know that Tristram(son) points toward Humbert and Ilse (attached to Tristram(son)) can be made in elsi, i.e. L.C., initials of Lewis Carroll (a trick used by Lewis Carroll himself in Alice in Wonderland (in the treacle-well, the little Elsie stands for L.C. Lorina Charlotte (Liddell)), we see that Carroll (= Tristram) = Humbert.
As clues pointing to this bit, the Catullus allusions refer to his « My sweetest Lesbia« and the discreet references to Swinburne (his « Poems and Ballads » caused a sensation when it was first published, especially the poems written in homage of Sappho of Lesbos such as « Anactoria » and « Sapphics ». He wrote « Lesbia Brandon » published posthumously in 1952). There are also other indirect references to lesbianism (e.g. « little lesbian » p.133 TAL, « sapphic diversions » p.136 TAL, etc…) and homosexuality (André Gide, Nijinsky, Tchaikovsky, Marcel Proust, etc…) on G. Godin’s wall p.181 TAL) in general in « Lolita ».
Goethe’s « Erlkönig » (p.240 TAL) is also among the allusions in relation with this part. So is Ned Litam (anagram for Bill T. Tilden II, a great tennis player who played in Hollywood movies and had such friend as Charlie Chaplin, already mentionned. Homosexual (and living with his mother until he was 48 – hence Ma Tilden (Ned litam backward)), Tilden was arrested in November 1946 on Sunset Boulevard by the Beverly Hills police and charged with a misdemeanor (« contributing to the delinquency of a minor ») for soliciting an under-age male, a 14 years old boy with whom he was having sex (hence the allusion in « harem of ball boys » (p.162 TAL) – according to his biographer, Frank Deford, Tilden spent all of his adult life “attempting to create a father-son relationship with a long succession of ball boys) in a moving vehicle (the 9-14 as age limit for nymphet (and faunlet, the male equivalent of nymphets) also likely points toward famous Hollywood cases (e.g. Charlie Chaplin and Lita Grey (the recurrence of « Gray » in « Lolita » is not only in allusion to Effie Gray (John Ruskin’s wife for a while) but also likely in allusion to Lita Grey, and thus Chaplin)) showing the attitude of the Hollywood movie industry set to childhood (9 in relation with Shirley Temple and a Graham Greene article about her)).
We can probably count the mention of (Gerard Manley) Hopkins (*) (p.284 TAL) among the references linked to this part. The Hopkins biographer Robert Bernard Martin asserts that when Hopkins first met Digby Mackworth Dolben (« a Christian Uranian » (and so an uranist (p.16 TAL), another term for a male homasexual) that had caused considerable scandal at school by his exhibitionist behaviour. He marked his romantic attachment to another pupil a year older than he was, Martin Le Marchant Gosselin, by writing love poetry. He was an English poet who died young from drowning (Dolben drowned a river when bathing with the 10 years old son of his tutor, Rev. C. E. Prichard, Rector of South Luffenham. He was aged 19 and preparing to go up to Oxford). He owes his poetic reputation to his cousin, Robert Bridges, poet laureate from 1913 to 1930, who edited a partial edition of his verse, Poems, in 1911), on Dolben’s 17th birthday, in Oxford in February 1865, it « was, quite simply, the most momentous emotional event of [his] undergraduate years, probably of his entire life. » and that « Hopkins was completely taken with Dolben, who was nearly four years his junior, and his private journal for confessions the following year proves how absorbed he was in imperfectly suppressed erotic thoughts of him. ».
(*) Hopkins was the eldest of the 9 children of Manley Hopkins, an Anglican, who had been British consul general in Hawaii and had himself published verse (for instance « Pietas Metrica » (1849)). His grandfather was the physician John Simm Smith, university colleague of John Keats. Manley Hopkins moved his family to Hampstead in 1852, near to where John Keats had lived thirty years before. Hopkins won the poetry prize at the Highgate grammar school and in 1863 was awarded a grant to study at Balliol College, Oxford. Hopkins was deeply impressed with the work of Christina Rossetti and she became one of his greatest contemporary influences.
On 5 May 1868 Hopkins firmly « resolved to be a religious. » Less than a week later, he made a bonfire of his poems and gave up poetry almost entirely for seven years. He also felt the call to enter the ministry and decided to become a Jesuit. In July 1878 he became curate at the Jesuit church in Mount Street, London (his sister Milicent (1849-1946) joined an Anglican sisterhood in 1878). In December he became curate at St. Aloysius’s Church, Oxford, then moving to Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow. Whilst ministering in Oxford, he became a founding member of Oxford University Newman Society, a society established in 1878 for the Catholic members of Oxford University.
Hopkins was a supporter of linguistic purism in English. In an 1882 letter to Robert Bridges, Hopkins writes: « It makes one weep to think what English might have been; for in spite of all that Shakespeare and Milton have done (…) no beauty in a language can make up for want of purity« . Among his works are « Pied Beauty« , « Rosa Mystica« , « The May Magnificate » and « A Soliloquy of one of the Spies left in the Wilderness« . His sister Kate (1856–1933) would go on to help Hopkins publish the first edition of his poetry. He is considered to be among the leading Victorian poets. Hopkins’s first ambition was to be a painter, and he would continue to sketch throughout his life, inspired, as an adult, by the work of John Ruskin and the Pre-Raphaelites.
To close this part, let’s add that there seem to be also in the text, cryptic allusions to J. M. Barrie (author of « Peter Pan » (published in 1911 (*). There is also an iIllustration of « Peter Pan playing the pipes« , by F. D. Bedford from « Peter and Wendy » (1911)), probably to hint that his relation with the boys of the Llewelyn Davies family was probably as ambiguous (notice that Peter Pan, inspired by the boys, has the « lastname » of a faun – in the context of « Lolita« , Faun(lets) are the equivalent of Nymph(ets)) as the relation of Carroll with the girls of the Liddell family.
There are probably many hidden allusions sprinkled in the background of the novel (e.g. « by Pan!« , Edwin (p.52 TAL) can give rearranged Wendi which sounds like Wendy), mention of fairies, « Indian ceremonial dances« , « red indians under the catalpas« , « Indian file« , « aztec » ((amer)indians like any other mentionned « indian » here), « Indian contemporary« , « a zoo in INDIANa« , Stevenson’s « Treasure Island » (evoking pirates, like the ones in Neverland – Humbert’s mention of his « Humberland » can be both a distorted echo of the Wonderland and Neverland, actually (even though Wonderland is the obvious main reference in the riddle)), « flagship« , etc… Also the several uses of the word « darling » is likely to be counted in these references (e.g. « hazy darling » (p.53 TAL), « darling » (p.20 TAL)). Maybe « croquet » can be seen as a distorted echo of « crochet » (Hook in French), just as T. L. Peacock’s « Crotchet castle » (also an author alluded in « Lolita« ). Perhaps « Polynesian » can be rattached to Neverland as it evokes very far away paradisiac islands (« Quelquepart Island » (p.250 TAL) (= somewhere island (« quelquepart » is French for « somewhere ») as well; it is a pretty apt name as all we know about the location of this island of Neverland is … that it’s somewhere and nothing else…)). The Darling family street number is 14.
Barrie’s first novel was « Auld Licht Idylls » (1888). Barrie also wrote with Conan Doyle, alluded several times in the novel. Note that before his death, Barrie gave the rights to the « Peter Pan » works to the Great Ormond Street Hospital. Strange coincidence, in a way, the boy’s nurse was named Mary Hodgson (almost a distorted echo of Dodgson, Carroll’s real name, like in the case of Frances Hodgson Burnett, also discreetly alluded in « Lolita« ). Alice Liddell, during a visit in the U.S.A., when she was 80, met Peter Llewelyn Davies, one of the brother that inspired Barrie’s « Peter Pan« .
The grandfather of the Llewelyn Davies boys was George du Maurier, a French-British cartoonist and author, known for his cartoons in « Punch » (He became a member of the staff of the British satirical magazine « Punch » in 1865, drawing two cartoons a week). He married Emma Wightwick in 1863 and was the grandfather of Daphne du Maurier. He published « Social Pictorial Satire » (1898) (Harper’s New Monthly Magazine). He was the son of Louis-Mathurin Du Maurier. (referenced in « Lolita » in Humbert’s car, a Melmoth, which is a reference to the gothic novel « Melmoth the Wanderer » by Charles Maturin (the novel’s titular character is a scholar who sold his soul to the devil (reminescent of Faust) in exchange for 150 extra years of life, and searches the world for someone who will take over the pact for him, in a manner reminiscent of the Wandering Jew. Maturin catch the attention of Sir Walter Scott, who recommended Maturin’s work to Lord Byron. There is a portrait of Maturin dated 1819. Honoré de Balzac wrote a parody, « Melmoth Reconcilié » and Charles Baudelaire was also an admirer of Maturin’s novel, equating it with the poetry of Byron and Edgar Allan Poe (which he translated in French))).
(*) 1911 is a year alluded in the date of birth of Quilty and refered in many other instances like « Decugis or Borman » (p.234 TAL), winners of Wimbledon Men’s doubles champions in 1911, or in background references in the riddle, like with W. S. Gilbert (who died in 1911) – an author who indeed shows up many times in the background references, including in « The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll » (He was known for instance for « H.M.S. Pinafore » (May 1878) (***), « The Pirates of Penzance » or « Iolantha » (1882; Iolantha is a fairy, another fairy is named Celia, the anagram of Alice, and there is also a Queen of the fairies. There is also a Phyllis. « Iolantha » is an echo of Tchaikovsky‘s (p.181 TAL) unrelated « Iolanta » (having a prominent character named Tristan (French for Tristram)), a composer also known for « The Nutcracker« , « The Undine« , « The Sleeping Beauty« , « The Voyevoda » (1868), « The Maid of Orleans » (i.e. Joan of Arc; remember Humbert’s « Joan of Arc, in a performance we saw at the local theatre » p.209 TAL), « The Enchantress« , « The Queen of Spades« ), « The Yeomen of the Guard » (1888; the year his mother died), « The Ne’er-Do-Weel » (1878), « Fallen Fairies« , « Princess Ida » (revived in London in 1919. There is a Lady Blanche in it. It’s based on Gilbert’s earlier farce, « The Princess ». Interestingly, the opera satirizes feminism, women’s education and Darwinian evolution, all of which were controversial topics in conservative Victorian England. In the 15 years between the time that Gilbert wrote « The Princess » and the premiere of « Princess Ida », the movement for women’s education had gained momentum in Britain, with the founding of Girton College (1869) and Newnham College (1871) at the University of Cambridge; and Somerville (1878) and Lady Margaret Hall (1878) at the University of Oxford. Westfield College in Hampstead, the University of London’s first women’s college, opened in 1882) and « Princess Toto« . In 1871, John Hollingshead commissioned Gilbert to work with Sullivan on a holiday piece for Christmas which started a fruitful collaboration. In 1878, Gilbert realised a lifelong dream to play Harlequin, which he did at the Gaiety Theatre as part of an amateur charity production of « The Forty Thieves« , partly written by himself. Actress Jessie Charlotte bond (that started her career in 1878) played in most of gilbert’s successes (and she appeared in the first revivals of « H.M.S. Pinafore » (1887–88), « Pirates of Penzance » (1888), and « The Mikado » (1888) but also in « To the Death » by fellow « savoyard » (Savoy Theatre) Rutland Barrington in 1888)), and many other references mentionned in bold throughout this page.
(***) The « H.M.S Pinafore » is probably the most famous work of Gilbert and Sullivan. After the opera became successful in London, Richard D’Oyly Carte quickly sent touring companies into the British provinces. At least one D’Oyly Carte company, and sometimes as many as three, played Pinafore under Carte’s aegis every year between 1878 and 1888. The unauthorised children productions of Pinafore were so popular that Carte mounted his own children’s version. François Cellier, who had taken over from his brother as Carte’s music director in London, adapted the score for children’s voices. Carte’s children’s production earned enthusiastic reviews from critic Clement Scott and the other London critics, as well as the audiences, including children. However, Captain Corcoran‘s (Cormoran (p.177 TAL) is also a distorted echo of it, a discreet hint to this Lewis Carroll’s anecdote) curse « Damme! » was uncensored, shocking such prominent audience members as Lewis Carroll, who later wrote: « a bevy of sweet innocent-looking girls sing, with bright and happy looks, the chorus ‘He said, Damn me! He said, Damn me!’ I cannot find words to convey to the reader the pain I felt in seeing those dear children taught to utter such words to amuse ears grown callous to their ghastly meaning … How Mr. Gilbert could have stooped to write, or Sir Arthur Sullivan could have prostituted his noble art to set to music, such vile trash, it passes my skill to understand » (Carroll, Lewis. « The Stage and the Spirit of Reverence« , Theatre magazine, 1 June 1888, reprinted in The Lewis Carroll Picture Book, pp. 175–95, Stuart Dodgson Collingwood (ed.), London: T. Fisher Unwin (1899)).
The date 1911 is likely to draw the attention to Barrie’s major work (« Peter Pan« ) to show a parrallel between Barrie’s Neverland world and Carroll’s Wonderland world and how they relates with real children (male in the case of Barrie and female in the case of Carroll – the male/female omnipresence in the references and in the text seems to ultimately pint to this, in my opinion). Another possibility (but they’re not mutually exclusive) is that 1911 points to Mary Charlotte, sister of Lewis Carroll (1835-1911) that died that year. She married reverend Charles Collingwood (who died in 1898) and their son, Stuart Dodgson Collingwood (his brother Bertram James was born in 1871) wrote « The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll » (published in 1898) which is a major element of the making and solution of the riddle.
(**) [This way to associate rapid allusions in the novel to a specific element to draw some conclusions about the riddle might look far-fetched or arbitrary to some (many?), but if you think about it, how many efficient ways is there to embed a riddle in a novel like « Lolita »? Deducing a context from a web of references (via recurrent words, dates or theme) is an apt way to do it. The possibility in sorting the data of all these references (which implicates also references behind references and several references on the same « object ») might seem arduous and beyond any hope to reach the goal at first sight, but in reality once you get a thread to pull, you can easily verify if you’re right or wrong.
Having several references on one « object » (a keyword, an author referenced, etc… (****)) may seem a convenient way to make things that dont fit well, fit anyway, in other words, a proof that the hypothesis is not as solid as alleged, but I disagree, it is on the contrary the proof of the quality of the riddle left by nabokov, once you realize the global coherence of the riddle and of its crafting.
(****) e.g. I just associated « indian » With Barrie’s « Peter Pan », but I can use « Red Indians under the catalpas (…) Farewell Appalachia! » (p.210 TAL) to associate « catalpas » (a word in which we can find Atala (you can also find it in Catagela (p.251 TAL) (And to really show you that there is something to be caught here, Nabokov adds « What was the sting in « Catagela »? ». He heavily insists on this particular word)). Anyone having read many books by Nabokov knows that he loves using words like putty (notably he loves portmanteau words) and that he loves to toy with his reader) to Chateaubriand‘s « Atala » (1801), an author alluded in the « Lolita » in « Chateaubriandesque trees » (p.145 TAL; a direct reference to « Atala ») : In this book (there exists a 1911 edition, is that the one Nabokov had read?) there is a Père Aubry (French word and name, pronounced about the same way than Aubrey (a reference too (Aubrey McFate, Aubrey Beardsley)), indians (the recurring references to Indians also point to « Atala »), it takes place in apalachucla (to what Appalachia makes reference) in Florida (the only state in which Humbert and Lolita didn’t go (it is thus singled out – on purpose in the context of the solving of the riddle. By the way, Florida joined the USA in 1819. Also, the 42nd parallel became agreed upon as the northward limit of the Spanish Empire by the Adams-Onís Treaty of 1819 with the USA, that ceded Florida to the USA) and alluded in « Florid » (p.113 TAL), « outline of Florida » (p.51 TAL)) and « They would fly to Jupiter » (p.280 TAL; Jupiter, which is mentionned instead of Juneau, is a city of Florida)), and there is a painting named « Ultimos momentos de Atala » (1871) by Luis Monroy about this theme. In my opinion, this reference to « Atala » is a way to point towards « Atalanta in Calydon » (1865) by A. C. Swinburne which is the key to a central point of the riddle, associating Lolita/Alice to a Queen. ]
The Pre-raphaelites among which this Tristram theme was quite important (in fact, this subject was probably chosen by Ruskin for the Oxford Union Murals as a result of earlier Pre-Raphaelite interest in Arthurian themes, such as the illustrations to Edward Moxon‘s 1857 edition of Tennyson (mentionned earlier about his poem on the Tristram theme, “The last tournament” (1871). Tennyson, who did have a Percival in the “Holy Grail” part of his “Idylls of the King”. Among the hidden « side » references implicating Tennyson should be counted « The Window; or, The Songs of the Wrens », a song cycle by Arthur Sullivan with words by Alfred, Lord Tennyson that was published in 1871– let’s recall that Mary Wren (who died in 1811 (incidentally, Jenny Wren is also a character of Charles Dickens’ « Our Mutual Friend » a 1865 book; Charles Dickens is the famous author of « A Christmas Carol » (Washington Irving‘s essays on old English Christmas traditions published in his Sketch Book was an inspiration as well as fairy tales))) was the grandmother of Henry Liddell, the father of Alice Liddell – similarly Charlotte Lyon (mother of Henry Liddell and daughter of Mary Wren) evokes Tristram of Lyonesse))).
The theme of “Tristram and Yseult” was depicted in the Oxford Union Murals by William Morris (an English textile designer, poet, novelist, translator, and socialist activist associated with the British Arts and Crafts Movement known to have been heavily influenced by John Ruskin, especially by the second volume of his “Stones of Venice”). William Morris wrote « The Chapel in Lyoness » (1856) and many other poems linked to the Arthurian legend, written in the year 1858. Morris also had success with epic poems and novels, like “A Dream of John Ball” (1888) or « The Earthly Paradise » (1868–1870), for instance. Incidentally, after his marriage with Jane Burden (who have been immortalized, for instance, by Morris as “La belle Yseult” (1858), and as a model for Beatrice, Dante Alighieri‘s muse (a specific muse status that seems to make her close to Laura‘s petrarch, mentionned concomitantly in the novel – the theme of young women/muse in art is definitely discreetly alluded in this part of the book. All the recurrent mentions of « Florence » and « florentine » are among the allusions to Dante and Beatrice; themselves pointing mainly (but not exclusively) to Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Beatrice Hatch), by Dante Gabriel Rossetti in his 1869 painting “The salutation of Beatrice” and as “The blue silk dress” (1868) (the many references to « blue » is a hint pointing to this picture, especially « une belle dame toute en bleu » (p.244 TAL (French, meaning « a Beautiful lady all dressed in blue« )))), he settled for a while at the 41 Great Ormond Street in London. He was nicknamed Topsy by his friends after a character in the already mentionned “Uncle Tom’s Cabin“) with his “Sir Palomides’ jealousy of Sir Tristram and Iseult”. Morris had begun publishing poetry and short stories in 1856 and founded the Oxford and Cambridge Magazine the same year. Morris slowly quit painting and none of his paintings are dated later than 1862. One of his early minor poem was « Masters in this Hall » in 1860, a Christmas carol written to an old French tune. His second daughter, Mary « May » Morris, was born in March 1862. He sold Red House, that he had designed, and in autumn 1865 moved with his family to No. 26 Queen Square (kind of evokes the chessgame), in Bloomsbury. In 1871, he had begun work on a novel set in the present, « The Novel on Blue Paper » that remained unfinished. In Autumn 1879, Morris launched a campaign to protect St Mark’s Basilica in Venice from restoration, garnering a petition with 2000 signatures, among whom were Disraeli, Gladstone (1809-1898), and Ruskin. He adopted socialism in 1888.
William Morris met Eiríkr Magnússon in 1868, and began to learn the Icelandic language from him (This is one of the reasons for the chain of references regarding Scandinavian keywords – Also J. Ruskin living in Denmark Hill, in London, since 1842). Morris published translations of « The Saga of Gunnlaug Worm-Tongue » and « Grettis Saga » in 1869, and the « Story of the Volsungs and Niblungs » in 1870. An additional volume was published under the title of « Three Northern Love Stories » in 1873. In the last nine years of his life, Morris wrote a series of imaginative fictions usually referred to as the « prose romances ». These novels – including « The Wood Beyond the World » and « The Well at the World’s End » – have been credited as important milestones in the history of fantasy fiction, because, while other writers wrote of foreign lands, or of dream worlds, or the future (as Morris did in « News from Nowhere« ), Morris’s works were the first to be set in an entirely invented fantasy world. These were attempts to revive the genre of medieval romance, and written in imitation of medieval prose. J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis and James Joyce drew inspiration from his work. We can think that the references to balls (« grainball » (p.260 TAL), « wet little red ball » (p.236 TAL), « harem of ball boys » (p.162 TAL), etc…) are likely pointing to him, via one of is most famous book « A Dream of John Ball » (1888).
Sir Edward Colley Burne-Jones (1833-1898), a painter associated with the last phase of the Pre-Raphaelite Movement, worked closely with William Morris (they both met in june 1852 at Oxford University’s Exeter College). His painting was initially heavily influenced by the works of Dante Gabriel Rossetti. He was closely involved in the rejuvenation of the tradition of stain glass art in Great Britain. Rudyard Kipling was Burne-Jones’ nephew by marriage.
Burne-Jones’s first sketch in oils dates from 1856. At Rossetti’s recommendation, Morris and Burne-Jones moved in together to the flat at Bloomsbury’s No. 17 Red Lion Square by November 1856. Morris, Rossetti and Burne-Jones founded with others a firm that became succesful:
In 1861, William Morris founded the decorative arts firm of Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. with Rossetti, Burne-Jones, Ford Madox Brown and Philip Webb as partners, together with Charles Faulkner and Peter Paul Marshall, the former of whom was a member of the Oxford Brotherhood, and the latter a friend of Brown and Rossetti. The prospectus set forth that the firm would undertake carving, stained glass, metal-work, paper-hangings, chintzes (printed fabrics), and carpets. The decoration of churches was from the first an important part of the business. The work shown by the firm at the 1862 International Exhibition attracted much notice, and within a few years it was flourishing.
Among other paintings, Burne-Jones painted a series of paintings called « The Legend of Briar Rose » (containing a « Rose Bower« , where lies the sleeping beauty) from Grimm‘s version of « Sleeping Beauty« . Running beneath each of the major panels of « The Briar Wood » is an inscription of a poem by William Morris, under « The Briar Wood » the inscription reads:
« The fateful slumber floats and flows
About the tangle of the rose;
But lo! the fated hand and heart <= Lo (Lolita, indirectly associated with the rose)
To rend the slumberous curse apart!«
Further in this poem from W. Morris, « For the briar-Rose« , with the Garden Court panel, we can read « The maiden pleasance of the land » which links Lolita (Lo) with Alice PLEASANCE Liddell and the rose.
In 1884 Burne-Jones painted « King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid » (A famous photograph of the little Alice Liddell as a beggar maid was made by Lewis Carroll).
Among his most famous paintings are « A Knight and his Lady« , « Arthur with Excalibur« , « Morgan le Fay » (1862), « The Madness Of Sir Tristram » (1862), « King Mark and La Belle Iseult » (1862), « Fair Rosamund and Queen Eleanor » (1862), « Cinderella » (1863), « The Merciful Knight » (1863), « Princesse Sabra » (1865), « The Garland: A Girl Tending Flowers« , « The Mirror of Venus« , « Pan and Psyche« , « The Sleeping Beauty« , « The Beguiling of Merlin« , « The Last Sleep of Arthur in Avalon« , « Sibylla Delphica« , « The Heart of the Rose« , « The Garden of Pan« , « The Mermaid » (1882), « The Mill » (1882), « The King and the Shepherd » (1888), « The Wizard » (1896–1898), « The Sirens » (1891–1898), « The Dream of Launcelot at the Chapel of the San Graal« , « The Return of the Princess« , « The King‘s Daughter« , etc…
In 1894, theatrical manager and actor Henry Irving commissioned Burne-Jones to design sets and costumes for the Lyceum Theatre production of « King Arthur » by J. Comyns Carr, who was Burne-Jones’s patron and the director of the New Gallery as well as a playwright. The play starred Irving as King Arthur and Ellen Terry.
Another painter of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, John Everett Millais, painted John Ruskin (1853-1854) and married his former wife, Effie Gray. Among his well-known paintings were « Vanessa » (1868) (p.12 TAL), « The Grey Lady » (1888). He also painted « Autumn Leaves » (1856) which exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1856. It was described by the critic John Ruskin as « the first instance of a perfectly painted twilight » Millais’s wife Effie Gray wrote that he had intended to create a picture that was « full of beauty and without a subject« . The picture depicts four girls in the twilight collecting and raking together fallen leaves in a garden. The two girls on the left, modelled on Millais’ sisters-in-law Alice and Sophy Gray. The painting has been seen as one of the earliest influences on the development of the aesthetic movement. Malcolm Warner argues that Millais was influenced by the poetry of Tennyson, at whose house he had once helped to rake together autumn leaves. Warner suggests that lines from Tennyson’s song « Tears, Idle Tears » in « The Princess » may have influenced him:
Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean.
Tears from the depth of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,
In looking on the happy Autumn-fields,
And thinking on the days that are no more.
Henry Meynell Rheam is also a Pre-Raphaelite painter alluded. Among his painting « Sleeping Beauty« , « The Girl in Blue« , « La Belle Dame Sans Merci » and « The Sorceress » (1898). He died in West Lodge in Penzance in Cornwall.
Among the brotherhood we find also John Collier, who painted « The Pharaoh‘s Handmaidens« , « Lilith« , « The Water Nymph« , « Sleeping Beauty« , « The Death of Cleopatra« , and one of his most famous painting, the naked « Lady Godiva » in 1898. Among his portraits of famous individuals are Rudyard Kipling and Ellen Alice Terry (« Ellen Terry as Lucy Ashton »), but also Charles Darwin painted in 1882.
Thomas Cooper Gotch was also part of the pre-Raphaelites. He was the fourth son born to Mary Ann Gale (Gotch) and married fellow art student Caroline Burland Yates. Among his paintings are « A Garden« , « Blossom (Girl in a Cornish garden)« , « It is an Ancient Mariner« , « Penzance from Newlyn« , « The Nymph« , « The Nymph and The Exile« , « The Orchard« , « The Wizard » and « A Golden Dream » (kind of reminescent of the last words of the final poem in « Through the Looking-Glass » (also an acrostic spelling the name Alice Pleasance Liddell): « Lingering in the golden gleam– Life, what is it but a dream?« ). There is a particularly high number of little girl as subject of his works.
Edmund Leighton (1852-1922) was also a pre-Raphaelite painter. Among his most famous works are « God Speed! » (1900), « The Rehearsal » (1888), « Lilac« , « Tristan and Isolde« , « Pelleas and Melisande » (1910), « The Rose‘s Day« , « The King and the Beggar-maid« , « Lady in a Garden« , « A Favour » (1898), « Till Death Do Us Part » (1878), « Abelard and his Pupil Heloise » (1882; a famous forbidden love story between a man and a young woman that is his pupil) and « The Lord of Burleigh, Tennyson » (1919), among many others.
Ford Madox Brown is also to count among the pre-Raphaelites. His most notable painting is arguably « Work » (1852–1865) . Among his most known paintings are « Dr Primrose and his Daughters« , « Portrait of William Shakespeare » (1849), « The Last of England » (1852), « Byron‘s Dream » znd « Death of Sir Tristram » (1863). He first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1840, a work inspired by Lord Byron‘s poem « The Giaour » (now lost). His early works were greatly admired by the young Dante Gabriel Rossetti, who asked him to become his tutor. He married Elisabeth Bromley (1819-1846), his cousin and model, and their daughter Lucy married William Michael Rossetti in 1874.
Arthur Hughes (1832-1915) was also an English painter and illustrator associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. He painted « La Belle Dame Sans Merci » (1861-1863; a popular subject in the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood), « The Lady of Shalott » (1863; then another painting on the subject about 10 years later), « The Enchantress« , « Fair Rosamund« , « Sir Galahad » (1865-1870), « The King‘s Orchard« , « Wonderland » (1912), « The Lady with the Lilacs » (1863) who was possessed by Lewis Carroll, and his most famous painting is « April Love » (1856), in which we can see a young woman in blue and violet. His nephew Edward Robert Hughes was also a pre-Raphaelite painter. He became a student at the Royal Academy School in 1868 and became a member of the Art Workers Guild in 1888. He was elected to Associate Membership of The Royal Water Colour Society on February 18, 1891, and he chose as his diploma work for election to full membership a mystical piece inspired by a verse by Christina Rossetti, « Amor Mundi« . He assisted Holman Hunt in the painting of his « Lady of Shalott« . Among his paintings are « The Shrew Katherina » (Shakespeare,’s « The Taming of the Shrew« is mentionned in « Lolita » p.191 TAL) and « Heart of Snow« (a barely dressed young woman lying in the snow). He also painted Juliette Gordon Lowe that had founded a group of Girl Guides in Scotland as early as 1911 (Her birthday, October 31, is commemorated by the Girl Scouts as « Founder’s Day ». Rudyard Kipling‘s wife was also related to her mother) – but she’s also the founder of Girl Scouts of the USA.
Frederick Sandys, was also a Pre-Raphaelite painter. He had a long affair with the Romany woman Keomi Gray (gypsy girls (in English-speaking countries, the Romany are often named « Gypsies ») and « gray » are among the recurrent keywords in « Lolita »), who sat as a model both for him and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. He and Gray had two daughters and two sons. He achieved recognition with his print parodying John Everett Millais’s « Sir Isumbras at the Ford » in 1857. The caricaturist turned the horse of Sir Isumbras into a donkey labelled J. R., Oxon. (for John Ruskin). Upon it were seated Millais himself, in the character of the knight, with Rossetti and William Holman Hunt as the two children, one before and one behind. The caricature, produced using a new autographic lithographic, caused a lot of talk about who the artist might be and ultimately introduced Sandys to the London art community. Rossetti and Sandys became close friends and his works were profoundly influenced by those of Rossetti. He was quite inspired by « Le Morte d’Arthur« . Among his most known works are « Vivien » (1863), « The Death of King Warwulf » (1865), « Morgan le Fay » (1864) and « Grace Rose » (1866; alluded in « Grace Angel » p. 52 TAL) and « Medea » (1868). He also drawed a Rosamund, Queen of the Lombards. There is also a well-known self-portait dated 1849. He had a sister named Emma (the allusion to Emma of « Emma Bovary » in « Lolita » might be actually particularly pointing to her) that was a painter too. Her works were mainly portraits in both oil and chalk of children and of young women, often in period or medieval clothing, against backgrounds of brightly coloured flowers. Among her most notable works are the « Lady in Yellow Dress » and « Viola » (alluded in Viola Miranda (p.52 TAL)).
Sir Francis Bernard Dicksee was also an English pre-Raphaelite painter and illustrator that painted « Miranda« (1878), « Beatrice » (1888), « Dorothy » (1917), « The Two Crowns » (1900), « Yseult » (1901), « La Belle Dame Sans Merci » (1903), « The Mirror » (1896), « The Magic Crystal« , « Cleopatra« .
Simeon Solomon (1840-1905) was an English Pre-Raphaelite painter born in London in a prominent Jewish family. Solomon was a younger brother to the painters Abraham Solomon (1824-1862) and Rebecca Solomon (1832-1886). He started attending Carey’s Art Academy in 1852. In addition to the literary paintings favoured by the Pre-Raphaelite school, Solomon’s subjects often included scenes from the Hebrew Bible and genre paintings depicting Jewish life and rituals. His association with Algernon Charles Swinburne led to his illustrating Swinburne’s « Lesbia Brandon » in 1865. Among his most well known work is « The Bride, Bridegroom and Sad Love » (1865).
Henry Holliday (1839-1927) was also an artist considered to be part of the Pre-Rpahaelites. Among his most well-known paintings is a « Dante and Beatrice« . He was introduced to the artists Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood through his friendship with Albert Moore and Simeon Solomon. In January 1874, Holiday was commissioned by Lewis Carroll to illustrate « The Hunting of the Snark » and remained friend with the author throughout his life. Holiday had been a socialist throughout his life and, together with his wife Kate and daughter Winifred, supported the Suffragette movement.
Valentine Cameron Prinsep (1838-1904; often known as Val Prinsep) was a British painter of the Pre-Raphaelite school. His parents were Henry Thoby Prinsep, for sixteen years a member of the Council of India, and Sarah Monckton Pattle, sister of pioneering photographer Julia Margaret Cameron (née Pattle) and Maria Jackson (née Pattle), grandmother of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell. Prinsep was an intimate friend of G. F. Watts, under whom his son first studied. He went out with Watts in 1856-57 to watch Sir Charles Newton’s excavation of Halicarnassus. After studying under Watts he proceeded to Marc-Charles-Gabriel Gleyre’s atelier in Paris. There Whistler, Poynter, and du Maurier were among his fellow students, and he sat unconsciously as a model for Taffy in du Maurier’s novel « Trilby« . From Paris, Prinsep passed to Italy. He was an intimate friend of John Everett Millais and of Edward Burne-Jones, with whom he travelled in Italy. With Burne-Jones he visited Siena and there he made the acquaintance of Robert Browning, of whom he saw much in Rome during the winter of 1859–60. He had a share with Rossetti and others in the decoration of the hall of the Oxford Union. With other members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, he taught at the Working Men’s College during the mid-19th century. Prinsep first exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts in 1862 with his « Bianca Capella », his first picture, which attracted marked notice. « The Queen was in the Parlour » , « The Emperor Theophilus chooses his Wife« , « Miriam watching the infant Moses » (exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1867), « A Venetian lover » (1868), « News from abroad » (1871). His wife was Florence Leyland.
Frank Cadogan Cowper (1877–1958) was an English painter and illustrator of portraits, historical and literary scenes, described as « The last of the Pre-Raphaelites« . Among his paintings are « Rapunzel » (1900; after the well-known fairy-tale that was part of the collection assembled by the Brothers Grimm. The Grimm Brothers’ story is an adaptation of the fairy tale « Rapunzel » by Friedrich Schulz published in 1790 which is based on « Persinette » by Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de La Force originally published in 1698), « Fair Rosamund and Eleanor« , « The Damsel of the Lake« , « La Belle Dame Sans Merci » (several times: 1905, 1926 and 1946), « Venetian Ladies Listening to the Serenade« , « The Legend of Sir Perceval » (1952-53) and « The Four Queens Find Lancelot Sleeping« . He first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1899, and achieved critical success two years later with his « An Aristocrat answering the Summons to Execution, Paris 1791 » (French Revolution theme). In 1902, he spent six months studying under Edwin Austin Abbey before travelling to Italy. He contributed to a mural in the Houses of Parliament in 1910 and he became a full member of the Royal Watercolour Society in 1911. In 1950 he painted « The Ugly Duckling » (reference to Andersen‘s story) which is the portrait of a young woman dressed in pink (said « rose » in French) with a rose in her hair.
John Roddam Spencer Stanhope is a painter of the Pre-Raphaelite « second wave ». he was a pupil of George Frederic Watts. Among his works are « Morgan le Fay« , « Flora » and « The White Rabbit« . He was invited by Dante Gabriel Rossetti to participate in the Oxford murals project. He died in Florence, Italy. He was the uncle and teacher of the painter Evelyn De Morgan (August 1855-May 1919), known for such paintings as « The Dryad » (a tree Nymph mentionned in « Lolita« ), « Flora« , « The Grey Sisters« , « The Sea Maidens« , « The Hour-glass« , « Cassandra » (1898), « Queen Eleanor & Fair Rosamund » and « The death of a Butterfly » (1905-1910).
William Gale (1823–1909) was also a British painter of the pre-Raphaelite school that travelled to Italy in 1851, and to the Middle East in 1862 and 1867. Among his paintings are « The Dance of Nymphs » and « Circle of William Gale« , the portrait of a young girl wearing a red shawl.
Mary Lizzie Macomber (1861-1916) was an American artist who painted in the Pre-Raphaelite style who started her onw studio in Boston. Among his most known works is « The Hour Glass » (1900).
John William Inchbold (1830-1888) was a painter influenced by the Pre-Raphaelite style. He exhibited at the Society of British Artists in 1849. At first he worked in watercolour in a free style, but his first exhibited oil painting, shown at the Academy in 1852 seems to have shown the influence of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, and in 1855 he gained the enthusiastic praise of John Ruskin for « The Moorland« , which was painted in illustration of a famous passage from Tennyson‘s « Locksley Hall« . His « White Doe of Rylstone » was purchased by Ruskin. Among his major works are « Tintagel » (1862; a place associated with Arthurian legends), « Venice: A Girl in a Doorway » (1862-64), « Gate of the Sea, Venice« , « Venice, Nocturne. San Giorgio Maggiore« , « A Shepherd on the Downs« , « Forest of Fontainebleau: A Chestnut Tree » and « Fairy Dell. A Man and a Dog in a Sunlit Clearing« .
Marie Spartali Stillman was a woman part of the pre-Raphaelite painters. Among his paitings are found « A Rose from Armida’s Garden« , « A Florentine Lily« , « Convent Lily« , « Cloister Lilies« , « Beatrice« , « Dante and Beatrice, Scene from the Vita Nuova« , « The Meeting of Dante and Beatrice on All Saints’ Day« , « Dante at Verona » (1888) and « Beatrice » (1898). There is well-known picture of her (dated 1868; and she made a « Self-Portrait » in 1871)) by Julia Margaret Cameron (who had been painted by George Frederic Watts between 1850 and 1852), a famous photographer (whose great-niece was Virginia Woolf) of this period who photographed many well-known individuals of the time (for instance, the famous 1868 photographs of Charles Darwin (1809-1882; author of « On the Origin of Species » (published on 24 November 1859, which is considered to be the foundation of evolutionary biology), « Fertilisation of Orchids » (in 1865, gave his first detailed demonstration of the power of natural selection to explain complex ecological relationships, making testable predictions), « The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication » (1868) and « The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex » (1871). The famous carricature of Darwin as an ape is dated 1871 and Punch‘s almanac of 1882, depicts him amidst evolution from chaos to Victorian gentleman with the title Man Is But A Worm. Let’s also mention that the capital city of Australia’s Northern Territory was renamed Darwin in 1911); some of these individuals are at the center of the riddle such as an adult Alice P. Liddell, Robert Browning, John Everett Millais, William Michael Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones, Ellen Terry, George Frederic Watts or Alfred Lord Tennyson). Cameron’s artistic influences were clearly pre-Raphaelite and she was also known for photographs with Arthurian and other legendary or heroic themes. In this web of Carrollian and art references, the art of photography is also represented by Frederick Hollyer particularly known for his photographic reproductions of paintings and drawings, particularly those of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and for portraits of literary and artistic figures of late Victorian and Edwardian London. He photographed Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Morris, G. F. Watts, Burne-Jones, Georgiana Burne-Jones (1882), H. G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, Ellen Terry and John Ruskin (in 1894, with a huge beard (a keyword in « Lolita » particularly alluding to the famous photograph of Ruskin as an old man)). The works of, for instance, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, W. B. Richmond and Albert Moore (*) became familiar to the public through his reproductions. His eldest son Frederick Thomas Hollyer died in 1952.
(*) Albert Joseph Moore (not a Pre-Raphaelite but his early works shows the influence of John Ruskin) is an English painter also part of the web of references in « Lolita« . Among his works are « A Garden« , « Yellow Marguerites« , « Rose Leaves« , « Dreamers » (1882), « Blossom« , « Seashells« , « Lilies« , « Idyll » and « Canaries« .
John William Waterhouse (1849-1917; a Pre-raphaelite painter). One of his most famous painting is « The Lady of Shalott » (painted three times, the first time in 1888; more about this later). Among John William Waterhouse’s paintings are also « The Siren » (1900), « The Mermaid » (1901), « Ulysses and the Sirens » (1891), « Ondine » (1872; French for « Undine » (allusion in « repressed undinist » (p.250 TAL). Jean Gireaudoux‘s play « Ondine » is from 1939)), « A Naiad or Hylas with a Nymph » (1893; Naiads are water Nymphs, allusion in « water nymphs in the Styx » p.250 TAL), « Hylas and the Nymphs » (1896), « Nymphs Finding the Head of Orpheus » (1900), « The Lady Clare » (1900), « Miranda » (1875), « Miranda – The Tempest » (1916), « La belle dame sans merci » (1893), « The Lady of Shalott Looking at Lancelot » (1894), « Dante and Matilda« (formerly called « Dante and Beatrice » – Circa 1914-17), Matilda (study) (formerly called « Beatrice » – Circa 1915), « Gather Ye Rosebuds or Ophelia » (1908), »Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May… » (1908; “a rosebud degenerated mouth” (p.218 TAL)), « The Soul of the Rose or My Sweet Rose » (1908) and « Tristan and Isolde » (1916).
William Holman Hunt (1827-1910. He married Fanny Waugh (the mention of Frederick (Judd) Waugh (p.199 TAL) is an oblique reference to this Holman Hunt/Pre-raphaelite context and also to W. A. Bouguereau) who had sisters named Alice and Edith, like the Liddell sisters), one of the founders of the pre-rapahelite brotherhood, also painted « The Lady of Shalott » inspired by Tennyson’s ballad. There is definitely a recurring theme about supernatural fatal womens among all these artists.
James Collinson was a painter that was part of the Pre-Raphaelites during two years (1848-50). His most known paiting is « The Holy Family » (1878).
« The Germ » was a periodical established by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood to disseminate their ideas. It was not a success, only surviving for four issues between January and April 1850. Walter Deverell (he was an English artist, born in the United States of America, who was associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. He was born in Charlottesville, Virginia. He’s the one who discovered Elizabeth Siddal. There is a self-portrait painted in 1849. Among his paintings are « The Grey Parrot » (1852-53) and « The Mock Marriage of Orlando and Rosalind » (from Shakespeare‘s pastoral comedy « As You Like It« , in which the cousin of Rosalind is named Celia, anagram of Alice)) depicted Viola and Olivia from Shakespeare‘s « Twelfth Night » in the last issue. A special limited edition (only 450 copies) of all four volumes of The Germ was published in 1898 on Van Gelder handmade paper, by Thomas B. Mosher, Portland, Maine, USA.
On a side note, John Ruskin, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti were all friends of Lewis Carroll and were photographed by him (In fact, in « The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll » (1898; particularly used by Nabokov for his riddle) we can read : »Among the notable people whom he photographed was John Ruskin, and, as several friends begged him for copies, he wrote to ask Mr. Ruskin’s leave. The reply was, « Buy Number 5 of « Fors Clavigera » for 1871, which will give you your answer. » This was not what Mr. Dodgson wanted, so he wrote back, « Can’t afford ten-pence! » Finally Mr. Ruskin gave his consent. » « .
In the Arthurian references we can also add Cavall (a word of ancient Celtic origin meaning “horse”), one of the two dogs of the Farlow, which is a reference to the favorite dog of King Arthur, which is present in Tennyson‘s “Idylls of the King”. The town of Wace (a reference to Robert Wace (c. 1110 – c.1174) the first to mention the King Arthur’s legend and to name Excalibur, the sword of the king). The town of Briceland is a reference to Broceliande, an enchanted forest in Brittany, in the Arthurian legend, mentionned by Wace, where is supposed to lie the tomb of Merlin. There are also several references to King Arthur via the firstnames of important authors used as references (Pinero, Rimbaud, Conan Doyle, Quiller-Couch, etc…). Also, Reverend Rigger’s nickname, « rigor mortis » (rearranged it gives « roi gris mort » (French for « dead grey king »)), also points to a 1857 illustration of Tennyson’s « Idylls of the King » about the Death of King Arthur.
We can remark that Quilty is surrounded by friends making references to a famous Arthurian supernatural woman. Bill Mead (MEAD => DAME), VIVIAN (darkbloom), FAY (page): French « DAME du lac » i.e. Lady of the lake, VIVIAN (In Tennyson’s « Idylls of the King » the name of the Lady of the lake is Vivien and in French « the Lady of the lake » is also « La fée Viviane »), Morgan le FAY (Morgan le Fay in the Middle English romance Arthour and Merlin, written in 1270, casts Morgan in the role of the Lady of the Lake and she is the sister of the lady of the lake in the 14th-century Italian novella La Tavola Ritonda (The Round Table). She is also alluded in « fatamorganas » p.239 TAL). In « Lolita » ‘s context, this alludes particularly to Tennyson’s « Ydills of the King » but also to Walter Scott (1771-1832), author of « The Lady of the Lake« . On this particular theme, there are also the paintings « Voyage of King Arthur and Morgan le Fay to the Isle of Avalon » by Frank William Warwick (1888) and « Morgan le Fay » (1860) by John Roddam Spencer Stanhope, a Pre-Raphaelite. One of Howard Pyle‘s illustrations in « The Story of King Arthur and His Knights » represents the lady of the lake. There is also a famous illustration of Viviane (with Merlin) by Gustave Doré (1832-1883) for Tennyson’s « Idylls of the King« , dated 1868.
In general, in Lolita we find a theme of a supernatural Femme Fatale omnipresent: Lilith, Keats’ « La belle dame sans merci« , etc… (It actually goes beyond « Lolita » as I think this theme is actually alluded in « The Real Life of Sebastian Knight » (a book likely above all adressed to his wife, Véra), For instance (Sebastian Knight is victim of such a woman in Nina Lecerf (known via a Persian Legend’s references) as we know from the start he is particularly sensitive to this kind of woman – see his weird adventure with the couple of Alexis Pan (a good translator of Keats’ « La belle dame sans merci » (and why is he such a _good_ translator of this text?…)) and his wife (Pan: maybe for « pawn », who knows ; some names in this book are « chessmen » (Knight, Bishop, …) and we see a reference to a chessboard towards the end (Saint-Damier (« Damier » is French for the design of a chessboard), but the general explanation is beyond this web page’s intention)))).
In this recurrent theme of a fatal malicious beautiful young women, evoked with the Pre-Raphaelites, Lewis Carroll is to be placed as well, by his hundreds of pictures of little girls (among whom the naked Beatrice Hatch’s picture, is particularly alluded – hence the part mixing Rossetti’s painting (who includes subjects such as Lilith – a character to which lolita is compared indirectly (Early in the novel explains that he is attracted only by nymphets and adds later that it’s Lilith he desires (« Humbert (…) Lilith he longed for » (p.20 TAL)), linking both, but it’s also clearly alluded in the riddles found in Lolita’s Ramsdale’s classmates (Hazel Smith – and Alice (!) Campbell swap some of their letters to give a meaningful « Lilith Haze » (The fact is that LOLIT-a and Lilith do share a resemblance that is probably not totally coincidental – besides, In 1928, Nabokov wrote a poem named « Lilith« , depicting a sexually attractive underage girl who seduces the male protagonist just to leave him humiliated in public)))) of Beatrice, the muse of Dante). Nabokov throughout his novel clearly alludes to Humbert’s « A greater endeavor lures me on: to fix once for all the perilous magic of nymphets » (p.134 TAL) (the term fix is itself possibly hinting to old photographic apparatuses, and his final words are also explicit « so as to make you live in the minds of later generations. I am thinking of aurochs and angels, the secret of durable pigments, prophetic sonnets, the refuge of art. And this the only immortality you and I may share, my Lolita« . Incidentally, it has been also noticed that doubling and mirror effects were rather frequent in the Pre-Raphaelite paintings (In fact Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s home had plenty of mirrors) which fits quite well with this riddle using a mirror-effect in relation with Carroll’s « Through The Looking-Glass« .
I also wonder if the particular use of references to Xie Kitchin (1864-1925; Alexandra ‘Xie’ Rhoda Kitchin’s god mother was Alexandra of Denmark (*), then Princess of Wales. Xie had a younger sister Dorothy Maud Mary and her youngest son was born the year Lewis Carroll died (1898) – a Carroll’s child-friend particularly present in his photographs (all the ending in -yx (YX in front of a mirror will give XY (mirrors are often implicated in the solution to the riddles of this book) are allusions to this girl). Lolita and her friends carry the boat to Onyx to have sex with Charlie holmes (p.137 TAL). Onyx is also a reference to the previous « There would have been a sultan, his face expressing great agony (belied, as it were, by his molding caress) helping a callypigean slave to climb a column of onyx » (p.134 TAL) which describes in a euphemistic « poetic » way what happened in Humbert and Lo’s bedroom. The great agony (intense pleasure), the column of Onyx (penis) that is climbed by a callypigean slave and the wincing child are clear enough (and also « gonadal »), so I wonder if Nabokov was not trying to allude that Xie Kitchin was associated with sexual thoughts in the mind of Lewis Carroll. Nabokov, as we have seen, in his quotes about Lewis Carroll at the beginning, seemed to have strong certitudes about Carroll’s nature. And the letters and anecdotes he led us to, by the mean of hints (dates like 1878, for instance) only strengthen this theory about Nabokov’s intentions.
Lewis Carroll once posed the question “How do you achieve excellence in photography?” and then provided this answer: “Put Xie in front of a Lens.” In truth, in a letter to her on June 16, 1880, he writes, « Here is a riddle—’What is the best way to secure Excellence in a photograph?‘ Answer: ‘First you take a « lence, » and then put « ecce » before it.‘ » He is punning on « ecce, » the Latin word for « behold » (Another example of Carroll’s love for riddles and puns, that is adequately used by Nabokov in his novel « Lolita » that is secretely dedicated to the playful Victorian author).
(*) Alexandra of Denmark (Alexandra Caroline Marie Charlotte Louise Julia (or Alix as her family knew her); 1 December 1844 – 20 November 1925) was Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and Empress of India as the wife of King-Emperor Edward VII (1841 – May 1910; He died in the midst of a constitutional crisis that was resolved the following year by the Parliament Act of 1911). Her family had been relatively obscure until 1852, when her father, Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, was chosen with the consent of the great powers to succeed his distant cousin, Frederick VII, to the Danish throne. At the age of sixteen, she was chosen as the future wife of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, the heir apparent of Queen Victoria. They married eighteen months later in 1863. On the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, Albert Edward became king-emperor as Edward VII, with Alexandra as queen-empress. She held the status until Edward’s death in 1910.
She is seen with her family on a famous photograph dated 1862 (see here). There was a caricature of Queen Alexandra in Vanity Fair (Lewis Carroll used to be one of its contributors and Henry Liddell (father of Alice Liddell) had also been caricatured in Vanity Fair) in 1911.
The general Ruskin/Pre-raphaelites/Athurian theme alluded throughout the novel (with a resonance in Carroll’s photographs of little girls) is very likely also a comment on the nature of this trend in art, during this time.
“Ruskin had been introduced to the wealthy Irish La Touche family by Louisa, Marchioness of Waterford. Maria La Touche, a minor Irish poet and novelist, asked Ruskin to teach her daughters drawing and painting in 1858. Rose La Touche was ten, Ruskin nearly 39. Ruskin gradually fell in love with her. Their first meeting came at a time when Ruskin’s own religious faith was under strain. This always caused difficulties for the staunchly Protestant La Touche family who at various times prevented the two from meeting. Ruskin’s love for Rose was a cause alternately of great joy and deep depression for him, and always a source of anxiety. Ruskin proposed to her on or near her eighteenth birthday in 1867, but she asked him to wait three years for an answer, until she was 21. A chance meeting at the Royal Academy in 1869 was one of the few occasions they came into personal contact thereafter. She finally rejected him in 1872, but they still occasionally met, for the final time on 15 February 1875. After a long illness, she died on 25 May 1875, at the age of 27. These events plunged Ruskin into despair and led to increasingly severe bouts of mental illness involving a number of breakdowns and delirious visions. The first of these had occurred in 1871 at Matlock, Derbyshire, a town and a county that he knew from his boyhood travels, whose flora, fauna and minerals helped to form and reinforce his appreciation and understanding of nature. Ruskin turned to spiritualism and was by turns comforted and disturbed by what he believed was his ability to communicate with the dead Rose.”
In the narrative of “Lolita”, we can remark that nymphets are several times associated with roses but we can also notice how Quilty is often associated with the rose.
Just remember Quilty‘s words under the “Enchanted Hunters”‘s porch: “Sleep is a rose as the Persians say” (p.127 TAL) or his words in the Briceland Gazette “Wine, wine, wine quipped the author of Dark Age who refused to be photographed, may suit a persian bubble bird , but I say give me rain, rain, rain on the shingle roof for roses and inspiration every time” (p.262 TAL). Quilty is also described as having “a rosebud degenerated mouth” (p.218 TAL). Quilty also owns a thick pink rug (p.297 TAL) (and pink is said « rose » in French).
[The Persian literature references linked to the rose are references to Saadi Shirazi (1210-1291-92 , real name Abū-Muhammad Muslih al-Dīn bin Abdallāh Shīrāzī), a Persian poet particularly known for « Bustan » (The Orchard) and « Gulistan » (The Rose Garden). Among the western author interested or influenced by his works we can find Goethe, Hegel or Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), also all alluded in « Lolita« .
On page (p.241 TAL) we can read “(…) on her bed that smelled of chestnuts and roses (…)”. No random phrasing here. It’s one more allusion to the symbolic core of the story of “Lolita”, specially at a very important time of this background Carrollian story, a reflection of the very important time of the frontground story we’re actually reading. It could be argued that Lolita/Alice smells of chesnuts and roses NOW because at this point of the story she is not only the “nymphet” of Humbert/Carroll (odor of chestnut – a Carrollian tag) now, but also the “nymphet” of Quilty/Ruskin (odor of rose – a reference to Ruskin/Quilty).
Roses and nymphets are associated several times in the book but in this context of Quilty‘s presence close to grab Lolita from Humbert‘s claws, this “roses”‘ fragrance could possibly represent Quilty‘s presence.
The other time when roses are prominently used in the novel is during the enumeration of Lolita‘s classmates, who, as remarked by humbert is between two roses (Rosaline Honeck and Mary Rose Hamilton). We later learn from Jane Farlow that Lolita and Rosaline honeck don’t like each others.
Twice in the narrative, Lolita is mentionned as having some hostility for a “Rose” (the other one is Eva Rosen, who after a while is said to not frequent Lolita anymore).
We might probably see in these two occurences a spontaneous hostility towards a “rival”, her “equal” (maybe is it also implicit that Eva Rosen, as the only other containder to the title of “nymphet” in her class (this is Humbert’s opinion), is the rival of Lolita to obtain the lead role in Quilty‘s play, in which he will himself come to supervise the rehearsals), underlining the fact that “nymphetry” (isn’t Humbert gazing in admiration in front of Rosaline Honeck‘s portrait, thus explicitly signifying she’s a nymphet too?) is associated to the word “rose”, identifying this “rose” also several times adjoined to Quilty, to Rose La Touche, the great love of Ruskin (an almost certain nympholept, or having such tendencies, at least according to Nabokov)? The term « rosegray » (p.264 TAL) seems to confirm it: Rose (La Touche) and (Effie) Gray, the two young persons that were once loved by John Ruskin, are quite likely associated here on purpose.
Roses references are found in conjunction with Lolita throughout the novel (e.g. « In a rozy haze » (p.221 TAL) or even indirectly when Humbert evokes the discussions that Harold Haze might have had with Lolita, as « stippled Hopkins » (p.284 TAL) is actually a reference to the line « For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim » in « Pied Beauty« , a curtal sonnet by Gerard Manley hopkins (also author of a « Rosa Mystica » (Latin for ‘Mystical Rose’)), « ponderosa lodge » (p. TAL), or in « Roosevelt » (p.78 TAL; Dutch/Flemish for « field of roses« ) or in the mention of « Pasadena » in p.30 TAL, nicknamed « The City of Roses » (the place of the Rose Bowl Game and of the Rose Parade)) and in her direct environment (e.g. p.184 TAL “in the wastebasket with the painted roses”, « Lolita’s handmaids and rosegirls » p.257 TAL) and it is more generally clearly a tag for nymphets (even such a tag is found in the context of Annabel‘s presence (“Roches Roses” (p.39 TAL), in French means “rosy rocks” – colored this way because of the setting sun during the young lovers’ embrace (just like in p.167 TAL, in “(…) and rosy contingency of my Riviera romance”)) or about Rosaline Honeck, as one example among others (“(…) a rosy honey in a Girl Scout uniform,(…)” p.79 TAL), etc…).
The following bit seems to confirm it. « A blond-bearded scholar with rosy lips sucking la pomme de sa canne » p.226 TAL, can be read in two ways. In one way we can read « A blond-bearded scholar with rosy lips — sucking la pomme de sa canne » but if we associate roses with nymphets, « rosy lips » means « nymphetic » lips (lips pertaining to a nymphet) we got « A blond-bearded scholar — with rosy lips sucking la pomme de sa canne » which means a quite different thing, as « la pomme de sa canne » (French for « the round knob of his cane (i.e. (walking-)stick) ») is a clear sexual allusion!
Rose references marks thus the presence of a nymphet or some proximity with them (Quilty mentionning the rose, might just identify him as nympholept, but we can also with some good reasons imagine it is also a « tag » that links him to John Ruskin and his love for Rose La Touche (in his autobiography there are several mentions implicating roses, as well – for instance the inner title page of « Praeterita » (at least for Vol. I) is « encircled » by a tangle of roses with thorns, which is likely secretly alluded in « Look at this tangle of thorns » (p.9 TAL; and indeed, look at it (i.e. the first page of « Praeterita« ) and if you keep on looking at the pages, one after another, you will end up reading, near the end, the « admiration » Ruskin felt for Alice Pleasance Liddell) and in p.342 of « Praeterita » volume I, we can read « but I had given myself some literary work instead, to which I was farther urged by the sight of Roslyn and Melrose« . The last words of « Praeterita » volume I, contains a rose too: « blazed every rose-carved buttress fair« )). Anyway, the choice of roses as a tag for nymphets is clearly in relation with the young Rose La Touche, Ruskin‘s “nymphet”.
We had also seen earlier that Lolita was linked with Alice via references to Swinburne’s Rosamund/Rosamond, a Queen with a rose in her name and also that in William Morris’ « For the Briar-Rose« , « Lo » (Lolita) can be seen with the word « rose » and « maiden pleasance« , associating Lolita with Alice PLEASANCE Liddell and the rose. Alice/Lolita is thus a Nymphet (Rose) Queen, in the riddle. Let’s add that Alice Liddel was born on May 4th, which is under the astrological sign of Taurus (bull) – a sign under the influence of planet Venus – which has as associated symbolic flower, the Rose.
And for the last part about roses, how not to mention it? There is a rose garden in “Alice in Wonderland”). It even becomes the main goal of Alice to reach it (and Lolita can be symbolically associated to Alice in this book), and Lewis Carroll has two of his works’ titles containing the word “rose” (“The path of Roses” (1856; the year he met the three Liddell sisters, right after “Three little voices” (also in 1856) in his bibliography) and “Love among the Roses” (1878) a poem dedicated to a young child-friend of his (the poem is an acrostic) – is Nabokov alluding to the fact that Carroll might have associated little girls – or the ones he could have called “nymphets” – to roses? In the aforementionned context « Love among the Roses » can indeed be interpreted in a very specific way).
Curiouser and curiouser (cried the reader)
The several references to the colors white and black (e.g. Blanche schwarzmann (white/black (man): blanche = white in French; schwarz = black in German) and Melanie Weiss (black/ white; melanie is from the ancient greek melanos : black; Weiss= white in German)), « black-and-white » p.208 TAL, « Quilty, Clare Obscure » p.306 TAL (clare sounds like French « clair » meaning « light-colored » or « luminous », so we have a pair luminous / obscure) or ebony / ivory) refer to a chess-game like in « Through the looking-glass », as a chessgame is actually played in the background of the story (all the « chessmen » seem to be mentionned (or cryptically hinted) in « Lolita », at one point or another (e.g. (kenneth) knight, king, queen, « Tour Book » (French « tour » means « tower », but also « rook » and maybe « Book » is there to confirm by his resemblance to « rook », that Tour is really to be understood that way in the riddle), Bishop (slon (= chessman « bishop » in Russian), via a riddle already mentionned), etc…))). It is also because the ground of the land behind the looking-glass is a chessboard. It’s a reminder that Humbert (and his readers) are in a « Through the looking-glass » context.
In the same vein, Mrs Hays, the widow owning the motel in Elphinstone, is a mirror reflection of the widow Charlotte Haze that accepts Humbert in her house; Before entering the looking-glass with the widow Haze (Humbert meets Lolita), behind the looking-glass with the widow hays (Humbert loses Lolita). The distorsion of everything in the riddle is simply the result of the mirror (a mirror reflects reality but distorted (left is right and right is left. When you look at you in the mirror, it’s not really you. You don’t see you as the others see you when they’re in front of you). Talking about right and left – interestingly, Lewis Carroll was quite on the right, politically (and thus white in the context of the Russian political events of 1917 (tsarists were the « White Russians »)) and John ruskin was on the contrary quite left (and thus red in the context of the Russian events of 1917 but also historical international color of socialism), maybe that’s another reason why Carroll is the white king and Ruskin the black king in the eyes of Nabokov). The widow Hays, that is a distorsion of the widow Haze (Pratt and Trapp as well, with even an apt righ-left pattern, to remind the mirror imperfect refelection of reality), can be seen in itself as a hint that the names of the subjacent level (the Carrollian context) are a bit distorted, in « Lolita« .
The constant allusion to the light spectrum (recurrences of the words (and their synonyms) « blue », « violet », « red », « orange », « green », « yellow », « ultraviolet » (p.221 TAL), and « rainbow ») is a hint of this (especially the two latter)). All this is a hint to make us realise that we, the readers, are looking in a mirror (this is also hinted to the reader in « Lolita » by overt instances of reflexion in the narrative (e.g. Trapp/Pratt; Melanie Weissman/Blanche Schwarzman (etymologically, (from ancient Greek) Melanie = black/dark, (German) weiss = white, (French) blanche = white and (German) schwarz = black (and man = man)); widow Haze/widow Hays)).
All of Lewis Carroll’s world is about Dreams (illusions), fairies (non-existent, imagined, perfect beings) and nonsense (this is also an escape from reality). « The hunting of the snark » is out of this world. His fascination for the children was also unconsciously because they were not yet part of THE « real » life, the life of adults (As he said to one of his then older child-friend: « I always feel specially grateful to friends who, like you, have given me a child-friendship and a woman—friendship. About nine out of ten, I think, of my child-friendships get ship-wrecked at the critical point, « where the stream and river meet, » and the child-friends, once so affectionate, become uninteresting acquaintances, whom I have no wish to set eyes on again. »). We can see that the REAL world and the REAL ordinary people didn’t interest him.
Blanche schwarzmann, roughly around the beginning of the novel, and Melanie Weiss, around the end, are basically tags. They are there to show that in the midst of the story/novel, Humbert Humbert went through the Looking-glass (they are the opposite of one another (white/black and black/white), like a reflection). He entered a new world of felicity (a new page in his life, in which his dreams are about to become true). A world that is actually inside him (the solipsism of the lover, all love being half-dream (illusions), half-reality (see below)) – like Alice in the world of « Through the Looking-glass » was actually in a dream (her adventure happened in her head, but Carroll hints that some of the dreamed elements had been inspired by some real things and events, distorted in her dream (in the Chapter « which dreamed it? »)). This echoes the last line of « Through the Looking-glass » adressed to Carroll’s « nymphet », Alice Liddell (The final poem is an acrostic spelling Alice Liddell’s full name) « Life what is it but a dream« , that we can also find in the verses at the beginning of « Sylvie and Bruno« , « Is all our Life, then, but a dream« .
When Humbert leaves Ramsdale, he then leaves his normal usual ordinary life and enters a fairy-tale’s land (He is about to enter the dream-world of the Looking-glass, so to speak, (where the Dream-Alice of Carroll was living, the real Alice Liddell being out of reach). Humbert can now also live at last with his nymphet without any restraints, in a dream-like (all his desires being fulfilled, something he would never had imagined possible) reality). He can at last live with his dream-child (a carrollian expression) and fulfill his deepest lifelong-repressed desires. It is made clear by his travel: First Humbert have to go through the Hazy Hills (this evokes typical fairy-tales images and clichés) to reach Briceland (allusion to Broceliande, an enchanted forest) where lies the fairy-tales’ castle, the Enchanted Castle of the « Enchanted Hunters » (i.e. nympholepts).
Just when Humbert and Lolita arrive at the “Enchanted Hunters” hotel, we can read: “(A row of parked cars,) like pigs at a trough” (p.117 TAL) which strangely resembles this excerpt from Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking-Glass”, “(just) like pigs in a trough!” in the last part of the story, during the feast. Clearly this overt « Through the Looking-glass » borrowing, at this precise moment and no other, is there to signify that Humbert is just about to cross the Looking-glass (so to speak).
This Humbertian description also introduces the first (secret) physical appearance of his nemesis in the novel, Quilty (p.117 TAL “(…) a formidable convertible, resplendent, rubious (…) was energetically backed out by a broad-shouldered driver (…)”).
The evil character of the fairy-tale lies unknown in the shadows. At this point, a reader reading « Lolita » for the first time, has no idea that this broad-shouldered man is of any particular importance, that he will be the fatidic blow in Humbert’s dream/new life.
As Humbert is, at this point, in front of the looking-glass, Quilty might also be understood, at another level, as a sort reflection of himself, a kind of double. And indeed Quilty and Humbert have similarities. At some point in the book, they are even said to be brothers (besides we could attempt a clare -> carel = carl = Carroll (all etymologically equivalent (Carel/Karel is found from Northern France to the Netherlands)). Two knights being opponents (white/red), but resembling each others as two chess knights are similar). Just as Lewis Carroll and John Ruskin had a few things in common themselves, like a particular fondness for little girls. They even shared a strong feeling, for the young Alice Liddell (John Ruskin revealed it in his biography, « Praeterita »).
When they arrive in the bedroom (Significative that it happens there, his dream is about to be reached), Humbert is in presence of reflections everywhere, signifying that he is now behind the looking-glass (his dream-land of fantasies – just like where Lewis Carroll kept his own « nymphet », a dream-child named Alice based on a real Alice, out of reach in the real world (Humbert lamenting « Oh, my lolita, I have only words to play with! » (p.32 TAL) could very well be Nabokov implying that Carroll only had the wonderland and the Looking-Glass world to « play » with his nymphet… (his queen, the central female element in his life at this point, if Vladimir Nabokov really does imply what I think)) – After receiving Miss M.E. Manners’ « Aunt Agatha Ann and Other Verses », which contained a poem about Alice, Lewis Carroll sent her a letter with these words: « Permit me to offer you my sincere thanks for the very sweet verses you have written about my dream-child (named after a real Alice, but none the less a dream-child) and her Wonderland. » « ). We could say that like Tennyson’s « Lady of Shalott » (1871), Lewis Carroll can only look at this part of reality (his love for a forbidden « object » of love (a doomed love like the love of « Tristram and Yseult » – Tristram is a theme treated by Tennyson in “The Last Tournament” (1871))) in a « mirror » (more aptly a looking-glass, symbol of the fantasy world his dream-girl is entering in « Through the Looking-Glass » (Carroll could only have a special connection with her in his dreams, through his writings – like in Tennyson’s « The Day-Dream » (1842), a poem that compares the act of poetry with dreaming and says that the two are the same), « Mirrors that glorify all they reflect » as Charles Baudelaire’s poem « La Beauté » (In the 1952 translation of Roy Campbell), element of the riddle, describes it (or in its original French « De purs miroirs qui font toutes choses plus belles« : ‘Stainless mirrors that make anything fairer’) – the solipsism of the dreamer.
The riddle as described by Nabokov, is a mirror effect. The foreground story is a (distorted) reflection of another one, in the « background ».
To quote him in his 1964 interview with Playboy: « She was like the composition of a beautiful puzzle — its composition and its solution at the same time, since one is is a mirror view of the other, depending on the way you look.« .
In a chestnut shell, I believe the symbolic core of “Lolita”, the famous “riddle” alluded by Nabokov, is right there. You won’t find this in Alfred Appel’s “The Annotated Lolita” but this is yet the most important bit of it all. Behind the story of “Lolita” and the tribulations of his characters, we can hear a faint (distorted by the paper mirror) echo of Lewis Carroll‘s relationship with Alice P. Liddell and then the apparition of another nympholept, John Ruskin, in her life, all this alluded in hazy terms by Nabokov.
What can be more relevant in a book about pedophilia than references about the most well-known nympholepts (Lewis Carroll and John Ruskin – two “quiet British dreamers” (barely hidden allusion to them in p.201 TAL)) and the most well-known “nymphet” (Alice Liddell, with references to Ruskin‘s own “nymphet”, Rose La Touche).
One is the distorted reflection of the other one (can’t be apter than this for the author of “Through the looking-glass” and Nabokov). In both cases we have a man in love with a child (Humbert Humbert/Lewis Carroll) being suddenly separated from her (Carroll had to stop his regular relationship with the Liddell suddenly in 1863), then the young girl (Lolita/Alice) falls briefly into the orbit of another nympholept (Quilty/Ruskin) (*), and then they are eventually briefly reunited a last time (Lewis Carroll and Alice P. Liddell met a last time in November 1st, 1888).
(*) John Ruskin who gave art lessons to the Liddell girls for a certain time (it was even alluded in “Alice in wonderland”, according to Martin Gardner in his “Annotated Alice” as Ruskin was the teaching conger-eel in this excerpt: “the Drawling-master was an old conger-eel, that used to come once a week: he taught us Drawling, Stretching, and Fainting in coils” (drawing / sketching / painting in oils), and he admitted in his autobiography “Praeterita” that he fell under the spell of Alice Liddell. Notice that Clare Quilty has a drawing room (p.294 TAL).
The core of the proposed solution of Lolita’s riddle hereby written, espouse the main subject of the novel in such a perfect way that it seems to be almost in itself a confirmation.
There it is. The most famous nymphets and the most famous nympholepts in the history of literature, all alluded in a subjacent level of reading, in one of the most famous (infamous for some) novel of all time, treating of nympholepsy. Obvious as 2 + 2 = 4.
Behind the fight between the white knight (Humbert Humbert) and the red knight (Clare Quilty) – mirroring the same situation in « Through the Looking-Glass », it seems Nabokov hints to a sort of antagonism between Lewis Carroll (The White King) and John Ruskin (The Black King), concerning Alice Liddell (who find an echo in Dolores Haze in « Lolita« , in the first level of reading of this novel) – a situation also present in « Through the looking-glass » in which the two knights fight because of Alice.
As mentionned, Nabokov in his 1964 interview with Playboy had compared his “Lolita” to a beautiful puzzle whose composition and solution presented a mirror view of each other. This is exactly what the solution of the “Lolita”‘s riddle proposed on this page accomplishes.
Throughout the novel, Humbert Humbert is indeed cryptically associated to Lewis Carroll (his leanings about little girls, his desire to « fix the perilous magic of nymphets » (alluding to Carroll’s photographs of little girls, his propensity to play with words, his allusions to characters and places of the stories of « Alice in Wonderland » & « Through the Looking-Glass« , as if we would see things through the mind of the Victorian author)) and we can actually witness a narrative in which we can recognize both (a _very distorted_ vision of) the situation of Alice Liddell as she crosses the paths of two nympholepts and a narrative that seems to imitate (loosely) the narrative of the actual « Through the looking-glass » of Lewis Carroll, which we can understand to several hint was particularly important as reference in Lolita.
A breeze from Wonderland
I believe the similarity between Lolita’s narrative and through the looking-glass (if such a thing is correct) might actually reflect Lolita’s view of things, not Humbert’s.
Here’s the approximate narrative of « Through the Looking-Glass » and its _Hypothetically possible_ correlation in « Lolita ».
1. Alice meets the red Queen (Lolita lives alone with her mother, who doesn’t like her).
2. Alice takes the train to the next square (Humbert Humbert arrives in Ramsdale via train) and meets Tweedledee and Tweedledum (like in « Through the Looking-Glass » which features a memorable feud, Lolita and her mother are kind of rivals to get the attention of Humbert (« from quaking caverns where the two rivals were having a ripping row » p.48 TAL, etc… of course Lolita is Humbert’s narrative, so we have to leave room for doubts), Lolita is then sent away sooner than it was supposed to be the case).
3. The part with the white queen and the shawl (Marriage between Humbert and Charlotte).
4. Alice to Q’s 5th (shop, river, shop: Lolita in home (Ramsdale), travel on the roads, back in a home (Beardsley))
5. Alice meets Humpty-dumpty . Life in Beardsley and the Girls’ school (Humbert and Lolita meet Gaston Godin).
6. Alice in the forest (Beardsley. Quilty’s play and its The Perilous forest (p. TAL))
then The Lion and the Unicorn (Again on the roads, Lolita and Quilty attack Humbert (in sneaky ways. It’s psychological warfare). This part is a bit weak and might need reworking – if the whole concept of the « Through the Looking-glass » narrative echoed in the narrative in « Lolita » is actually worthy (it very probably is)).
7. The White Knight defeat the Red Knight (As this is the Lolita perspective, the Red Knight is Humbert and the White Knight is Quilty (she loves him), while in Humbert’s view – the narrative – this is the opposite)
8. Alice’s coronation. Lolita lives at last with Quilty (her will, in a first time if we are to take what is written in Humbert’s recollection of the events.
9. Alice becomes Queen (Lolita goes away alone. She takes her own life between her hands and can choose to do whatever she wants. She is at last free, and not under any exterior dominating influence anymore)
10. Alice’s castle: The feast (Lolita finds a good simple man to lives with and have her own house)
11. Alice takes the red Queen and wins (Humbert is back but vanquished (he is in love but remorseful and does what she wants (the needed money)). Lolita receives the money they need to go away in their « land of opportunities » and they can realize their dream. charlotte is also vanquished (she always said Lolita would never do anything in her life). « Through the Looking-Glass » was a symbolical chess game in which Alice-the-pawn becomes a Queen and so is thus « Lolita« , as it is a reflexion of it in the case it really follows (in a distorted way) « Through The Looking-Glass » ‘s narrative).
Not sure about all this though. I admit some parts are a bit weak. Let’s call this a bold first attempt, but this may be conforted by the following thing, another comment from Nabokov.
Chapter 35, in which Humbert admits there was more in Lolita than the superficial image he got of the object of his desire (sexual passion and emotionnal attachment is basically all he equates Lolita to) finds an answer with all the independent, strong, free-thinking and anti-oppression writing women secretly alluded (Louisa May Alcott, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Elizabeth Robins, Matilda Joslyn Gage, etc… (*)): a way to say that Lolita is also an human being with a need for freedom, happiness and personal accomplishment (so Humbert’s avowal that there was more in Lolita, is also a way to say that there is also more in « Lolita » (the novel) than what it seems), not Humbert’s « sex toy », so to speak. It’s an invitation to see the story through her eyes, and not Humbert’s for a change.
(*) [ I suspect the recurrence of the word « cherry » (e.g. « cherry-red » (p.51 TAL, no surprise that it is there put beside « red » as we will see) or « Cherry Orchard » (p.229 TAL)), « Louise » and Nabokov hinting to « jew » many times in the novel point toward another strong woman: Louise Michel, a French anarchist implicated (she was active as an ambulance woman treating those injured on the barricades. During the Siege of Paris she untiringly preached resistance against the Prussians) in « La commune de Paris » in 1871 (a salliant revolutionary event in French history) to which is rattached the song « Le temps des cerises« (The « Time of Cherries », « Cerise » means « cherry » in French), a famous song in French-speaking countries. She took part in the agitation provoked by the Dreyfus affair in 1898 (probably one of the reasons for the anti-semitism references in « Lolita« , to point toward L. Michel). Many of he books are from 1882, 1888 (one being « Ligue internationale des femmes révolutionnaires, Appel à une réunion » (i.e. International league of the revolutionnary women, call for a meeting)) and from 1898 (one being named « La Commune » in which she evokes the woman taking part in La Commune that died and to whom « Le temps des cerises » was dedicated). ]
In the same vein, we have a glimpse of Quilty’s view of things when Humbert explains the meaning of the play the « Enchanted Hunters » who seems to give Quilty’s opinion about Humbert (p. 200 TAL):
Humbert actually gives himself the core of the story by extracting the pith of Quilty’s play “the Enchanted Hunters”, not even realizing that what he says apply perfectly to his situation, and not even knowing either that the message of the play was inspired by himself to Quilty when the latter met the pair in the fatidic hotel of Briceland.
Page 201 TAL: “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. I understand that finally, in utter disgust at this cocksureness, barefooted Dolores was to lead check-trousered Mona to the paternal farm behind the Perilous Forest to prove to the braggard 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.”
The green-capped hunter, a “vagabond poet” (p.200 TAL) (Here’s another tag. Remember that Ruskin was associated to a “VAGABOND in Italy” through Percy Elphinstone? well, here it clicks together again. It’s clear, Quilty is also an echo of Ruskin in the story crafted by Nabokov), that tells the little nymph that she’s just a figment of his imagination (the solipsism of the nympholept and of all lovers – all love is half mirage, half-reality), the conqueror of the “nymphet” (just as he was in real life, Lolita was indeed in love with Quilty, just like the little nymph was with the poet (p.200 TAL)), is Quilty himself. The cold-headed (when he’s not under the” influence” of some illicit drug) pragmatical, cynical Quilty, experimented nympholept, observes Humbert in his condition and expose before his eyes, his real situation.
Humbert the pedophile tells the story of his demise, as he experienced it in his subjective personnal way.
His preaching is that there seem to exist female “demoniac” “supernatural” children that possesses the “magical” power to put a spell on older males having the required sensitivity and character disposition (i.e. children with a « powerful » charm in the eyes of such individuals).
To him, Dolores Haze was beyond human nature, endowed with a supernatural gift, a magical charm, that gave her a fantastical power over him, and this state of mind, this special situation of his (ensnared by a “demon” child), is reflected in his narrative, hence the constant reference to elves and pixies, and supernatural malicious creatures as well as a constant reference to a supernatural situation in general, seen through his mental eye (As we have seen above, Quilty actually describes his case in his play inspired by Humbert and Lolita, in which Lolita played in, “The Enchanted Hunters” (the title not only evokes the hotel, but the name clearly designates nympholepts – that hunt (chase) the nymphets that have cast a spell on them – according to Humbert’s interpretation of his own “condition”).
The « Quilty’s perpective idea » would be confirmed by the fact that the hero, the vagabond poet is green-capped and all the others, red-capped, while it should be the reverse in what I understand, as Quilty should be associated with the red color as we have seen earlier that is the red knight (and often associated with the red color, especially with his cars), just as Humbert is the white knight (Green/red can be a set of color similar to white/black in chess). In quilty’s eye, he is the green (ie. « white ») side. We all are the « hero » of our life, in our eyes)).
This is also a first attempt to get it right.
I think the core of the riddle was roughly, superficially exposed in all the previous elements. A sketchy attempt but containing most of the matter, most of the important elements of the riddle.
Lolita’s riddle was really « Lolita’s Liddell » (Lolita is Liddell), something that was also secretly hinted in the Aster flower family chain of references leading us to the Riddell Aster, the Azure/Blue Sky Aster.
I hope you’ll forgive the very rough and sketchy nature of this attempt, and the very awkward handling of the English language by this non-english speaker.
Author: sineD elliuefraD (More exactly the reflection of the author’s name)
An incredible number of names and references in « Lolita » are taken directly or criptically by playing with words in « The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll » by Stuart Dodgson Collingwood (1899) which is freely available online.
A parody of Joshua Reynolds’ « Age of innocence » by Lewis Carroll (referenced in Beardsley’s « mush-room » p.198 TAL (The Annotated Lolita)):
pastiche: « As our readers will have seen by the preceding page, we have commenced engraving the above series of pictures. « The Age of Innocence, » by Sir J. Reynolds, representing a young Hippopotamus seated under a shady tree, presents to the contemplative mind a charming union of youth and innocence. »
Bad latin (p.120 TAL): The part in bad Latin in « Lolita », in the bedroom of the « Enchanted Hunters » is just a reference in itself to this Latin poem by the Young Lewis Carroll (or more exactly Charles L. Dodgson) by being bad Latin and with no words in common with the « original » source. There is just only ONE word in it serving as « tag », that is there to prove there is really a link between both texts: « descendens » is mirrored by « ascendens » (the meaning is the opposite). It is quite apt as the story of Humbert and Lolita is a very distorted reflection of the story of Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell, in Nabokov’s mind.
« As was the custom at that time, Charles began to compose Latin verses at a very early age, his first copy being dated November 25, 1844. The subject was evening, and this is how he treated it:—
Phoebus aqua splendet descendens, æquora tingens (descendens is the tag)
Splendore aurato. Pervenit umbra solo.
Mortales lectos quærunt, et membra relaxant
Fessa labore dies; cuncta per orbe silet.
Imperium placidum nunc sumit Phoebe corusca.
Antris procedunt sanguine ore feræ.
These lines the boy solemnly copied into his Diary, apparently in the most blissful ignorance of the numerous mistakes they contained. »
Made-up Names so as to both dissimulate (distorsion of names: everything is voluntarily a bit distorted, just like Humbert’s « our glass lake » was actually the « hour-glass lake » (glass echoes the looking-glass that is a major element of the riddle) – The distorsion of everything in the riddle is simply the result of the mirror (a mirror reflects reality but distorted (in a reflection, left is right and right is left) and confirm the source:
Percy Elphinstone (Percy family; See of Elphin; Gladstone) (p.31 TAL),
(Annabel) Leigh: (Frank Fairleigh),
Clarence Choate Clark (in John Rays Jr.’s foreword): Choate (Bertie COOTE), Clark (Savile CLARKE). The decyphering key is the actual name CHOATE is based on « COOTE » and the initials of the actual name inspiring Clark (i.e. Savile Clarke) giving us HOA (we remove the changing part, the part between C and TE) and SC « hoacs », i.e. hoax. The goal is probably, I believe, to inform the reader that the foreword is not supposed to be taken seriously, thats it’s not Nabokov talking through John Ray Jr.
Kasbeam : from « (queen) Katherine’s dream« : KAtherine’S (then a mix of D + Russian R, ie. P to make a B)EAM) Nabokov used a tricked he already used: use the Russian value of the equivalent cyrillic character to allow the change of letter: Cyrillic P is the R sound. Mixing the letter (as character, as signs) P and D can make a B (visually). The discarded letters are « therine » make Henriet – we know that Harry is an equivalent of Henry and thus we can consider that Henriet = Harriet, an allusion/hint to an Harriet that we know to be Harriet Beecher Stowe (see above in the page) but also to Carroll’s sister Henrietta Harington.
The old miss Opposite (p. TAL): (« near the Old Mill, opposite Addison’s Walk »)
Eryx: « Lake Eryx » and « Dr. Kitzler, Eryx, Miss » (p.250 TAL) (taken from E. Rix, i.e. Miss Edith Rix)
All the names ending in –yx in « Lolita » are also likely a reference to Xie Kitchin one of the Child-friend of Lewis Carroll. YX is XY in a mirror, the prononciation of XY can recall the one of Xie (reference to Xie Kitchin, one of the major Child-Friend of Lewis Carroll. There are many photos of her).
Also Fay Page (« Paget »),William Mead « Mead (ows) » in « Christ Church Meadows »?, Florence (Terry, Montgomery & Jackson).
There is more to be found.
Some of Lolita’s classmates (p.51 TAL) are also likely distorted references:
Austin, Chatfield (a mix between Chataway and Hatfield), Lucinda (Lucidas) and Hamilton (Milton; there is a lso mention of a Milton Pinski in « Lolita » (p.284 TAL)) see this picture made by Lewis Carroll,
Wain and scott (« on the old wainscotted wall« ), Glave (Gable; again Nabokov used the trick he used with Kasbeam: use the Russian value of the equivalent cyrillic character to allow the change of letter: the cyrillic character B sounds like V. « and made the ascent of Gable in the face of an icy gale »), Buck (opposite of Doe: « with kind inscriptions, to « Minnie and Doe« » (also echoed in « Lolita » in « even buck’s-doe’s » (p.153 TAL), in order to makes the clue clear). Retrospectively), mcCrystal (« Crystal palace« ), Mr. (Henry) Irving.
Maybe more to be found.
Anecdote with roman figures during his travel in Russia in 1867, when staying at a friend’s house at Kronstadt. (the Dickens (also mentionned in an anecdote in the present Collingwood’s work) book mentionned by Humbert in prison (p.31 TAL) « an ancient set, N.Y., G.W. Dillingham, Publisher, MDCCCLXXXVII ». The roman figures don’t match: 1867 in Lewis Carroll’s case and 1887 in « Lolita » – it is only a distorted reflection – but given the general amount of evidences there is absolutely no doubt it is used as another hint, and intended it as a hidden reference. 1867 might also possibly be a date in the riddle too (some elements can indeed point to this date in which Lewis Carroll went to Russia, like Lolita wanting to go in Alaska – a state sold by Russia to the USA in 1867)).
There are several other anecdotes of « The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll » hinted in « Lolita« , sometimes we can find an echo of the references of the riddle (e.g. « Walter House » in the dream of Lewis Carroll about Marion Terry (« Polly ») and the pre-Raphaelite painter J. W. Waterhouse, « Punch » (magazine) and (aunt) Judy (‘s magazine) (punch and Judy are keywords used in the riddle (e.g. « Guess again, Punch. » (p.296 TAL))), etc…).
And more. Within his text Nabokov wants us to read some anecdotes about Lewis Carroll he found significative and of use in the comprehension of his riddle embedded in Lolita (more on this later).
And possible others:
http://www.enter.net/~torve/articles/alice/falling1.htm (sorry apparently the link is now dead)
Here, for example, is a mock letter that was sent to a friend in this same year of 1862 by one of the acknowledged masters of nonsense, the gentleman artist Edward Lear:
Inky tinky pobblebockle abblesquabs?–Flosky! Beebul trimble flosky!–Okul scratchabibblebongibo, viddle squibble tog-a-tog, ferrymoyassity amsky flamsky ramsky damsky crocklefether squiggs,
Maybe the towns Lolita was living in can be found in a nonsense letter sent by Lewis Carroll to Mr. Lear:
Ramsdale (To be found in the nonsense letter sent to artist Edward Lear (in 1862! a symbolic year in the context of the riddle). In the following part – ramsky damsky crocklefether – do different packets of letters in that manner: 4-2 then 2-4 then 5-2-5 (42 (a Carrollian tag) and his reflection in the mirror, 24. 52 (an Alice tag) and what seems to be his reflection, the nose against the looking-glass, 525 – a 2 is almost like a Z, a letter that is kind of mirroring itself). The cryptographic key is 4-2 and 2. RAMS-DA-LE (with 4, 2 and 2 you can get 242 – same idea than with 525. This 242 thing is hinted in Mrs Pratts’ mention of 242 words)). A very Carrollian method. The use of « mirror » in the solution of the riddles within Lolita is rather frequent which is quite apt considering « Lolita » is really a travel through the mirror (or more aptly, the looking-glass) for Humbert Humbert, so to speak, and a general reference to Carroll’s « Through the Looking-Glass« .
Pisky: It’s very unlikley, I guess, but in the line with Thrippsy pillivinx. beginning of the second word, pi + the recurrent -sky ending: the first letters are taken starting at 9, a number of importance in the riddle. The recurring -sky ending certainly fit with what we see in Pisky – but I admit it’s quite far-fetched.
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« I don’t think that an artist should bother about his audience. His best audience is the person he sees in his shaving mirror every morning. I think that the audience an artist imagines, when he imagines that kind of a thing, is a room filled with people wearing his own mask. » – Vladimir Nabokov
In an interview in 1962 for the BBC when asked on why he wrote “Lolita”: « I’ve no general ideas to exploit, I just like composing riddles with elegant solutions.” – Vladimir Nabokov
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A little more… (Many more references listed here)