1948 Newspaper Column, Source for Lolita

Submitted by matthew_roth on Mon, 02/27/2023 - 16:38

Dear list,

Late last year, I was digging around and found this source for much of the Beardsley Star "Column for Teens" that appears in Part 2, Chapter 8 of Lolita. Nabokov borrowed most of the text from a 14 May 1948 column by Elizabeth Woodward. The copy I found was published in the Dayton Herald. I'm including the text below. The capitalized text represents phrases borrowed by VN and the brackets represent VN's slight changes to the column's actual wording.

Matt Roth

Elizabeth Woodward Says: Pop, Why Scare the Boys?

MAYBE IT IS A BIT HARD FOR YOU TO REALIZE THAT NOW THE BOYS ARE FINDING your little girl [her] ATTRACTIVE. TO YOU she’s [she is] STILL just a baby [a little gir]. To her, she’s a very grown-up, sophisticated lady. TO THE BOYS, SHE’S CHARMING AND FUN, LOVELY AND GAY. THEY LIKE HER.

And you don’t like it a bit. At least that’s the way some of you act. You might think you didn’t want your daughter to be sought after. You might think you had no confidence in her at all. You might think you didn’t trust any other member of your own sex.

You do want [Don’t you want] YOUR DAUGHTER . . . NOW THAT HER TURN HAS COME . . . TO BE HAPPY IN THE ADMIRATION AND COMPANY OF THE BOYS SHE LIKES[?]. You are proud that she’s attractive enough to warrant their seeking her out. You do want [Don’t you want] THEM TO HAVE WHOLESOME FUN TOGETHER[?].

But the way some of you dads act is enough to scare the boys away from your daughters for all time!

You save your company manners for your grownup guests . . . and leave them stowed away in the closet when your daughter’s friends are around. She wants her home and her parents to make the impression she wants them to make on her boy friends. And toward that end you refuse to lift a finger.

It’s your house, you reason, and you won’t be deflected from doing exactly as you want to do in it. So you shuffle around in your comfiest, run-down clothes. You sit in your easy chair and glower behind your paper. You insist on some wordy program when the young fry want music.

You don’t [Why not] TREAT THE YOUNG FELLOWS AS GUESTS IN YOUR HOUSE[?]. You don’t [Why not] MAKE CONVERSATION WITH THEM[?], DRAW THEM OUT, MAKE THEM LAUGH AND FEEL AT EASE[?]. You don’t register on them as a good egg. You are instead, a character to be avoided. So don’t be surprised if you daughter takes to dating out . . . instead of entertaining her friends at home.

You lay down a lot of rules and regulations too. As though the lad in question were a member of your own family. As if your own daughter were not capably of handling things by herself. You can lay down the law to her. But the boys she likes are the sons of parents who lay down their own rules. Get things straight with your own child. And save her the embarrassment of having you play heavy father to somebody else’s boy.

IF SHE BREAKS YOUR RULES . . . deal out the punishment to her. DON’T EXPLODE OUT LOUD IN FRONT OF HER PARTNER IN CRIME. Punishing him is out of your province. LET HER TAKE THE BRUNT OF YOUR PUNISHMENT IN PRIVATE. After all, it’s a private, family affair.

And so are your parental moods, temper, impatiences and annoyances. You don’t air them on all occasions before your own friends. If you want your daughter to feel that the boys she is interested in are welcome at your house . . . go out of your way to put your point across. AND STOP MAKING THE BOYS FEEL SHE’S THE DAUGHTER OF AN OLD OGRE.