NABOKV-L post 0026401, Sun, 30 Aug 2015 11:36:56 -0700

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

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

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

"I hope she will," said Pratt [*the same name as Lucy’s uncle and Edward’s
schoolmaster in S&S!]* buoyantly. "When we questioned her about her
troubles, Dolly refused to discuss the home situation, but we have spoken
to some of her friends and really--well, for example, we insist you un-veto
her nonparticipation in the dramatic group. You just must allow her to take
part in *The Hunted Enchanters*. *She was such a perfect little nymph in
the try-out,* and sometime in spring the author will stay for a few days at
Beardsley College and may attend a rehearsal or two in our new auditorium.
I mean it is all part of the fun of being young and alive and beautiful….”

… "What worries me," said Miss Pratt looking at her watch and starting to
go over the whole subject again, "is that both teachers and schoolmates
find Dolly antagonistic, dissatisfied, cagey--and everybody wonders why you
are so firmly opposed to all the natural recreations of a normal child."
"Do you mean sex play?" I asked jauntily, in despair, a *cornered old rat.*
"Well, I certainly welcome this civilized terminology," said Pratt with a
grin. "But this is not quite the point. Under the auspices of Beardsley
School, dramatics, dances and other natural activities are not technically
sex play, though girls do meet boys, if that is what you object to."
"All right," I said, my hassock exhaling a weary sign. *"You win. She can
take part in that play. Provided male parts are taken by female parts."*

…Beardsley School, it may be explained, copied a famous girls school in
England by having "traditional" nicknames for its various
classrooms…Mushroom was smelly, with a sepia print of *Reynolds' "Age of
Innocence"* [*see my 2014 comments re Joshua Reynolds’s pedophilic “fancy
pictures” in the subtext of Emma] *above the chalkboard, and several rows
of clumsy-looking pupil desks. At one of these, *my L_o_l_i_t_a was reading
the chapter on "Dialogue" in Baker's Dramatic Technique*, and all was very
quiet, and there was another girl with a very naked, porcelain-white neck
and wonderful platinum hair, who sat in front reading too, absolutely lost
to the world and interminably winding a soft curl around one finger, and I
sat beside Dolly just behind that neck and that hair, and unbuttoned my
overcoat and for sixty-five cents plus the permission to participate in the
school play, had Dolly put her inky, chalky, red-knuckled hand under the
desk. Oh, stupid and reckless of me no doubt, but after the torture I had
been subjected to, I simply had to take advantage of a combination that I
knew would never occur again.

…By the time spring had touched up Thayer Street with yellow and green and
pink, *L_o_l_i_t_a was irrevocably stage-struck.* Pratt, whom I chanced to
notice one Sunday lunching with some people at Walton Inn, caught my eye
from afar and went through the motion of sympathetically and discreetly
clapping her hands while Lo was not looking. I detest the theatre as being
a primitive and putrid form, historically speaking; a form that smacks of
stone-age rites and communal nonsense despite those individual injections
of genius, such as, say, Elizabethan poetry which a closeted reader
automatically pumps out of the stuff. Being much occupied at the time with
my own literary labors, *I did not bother to read the complete text of The
Enchanted Hunters, the playlet in which Dolores Haze was assigned the part
of a farmer's daughter who imagines herself to be a woodland witch, or
Diana, or something, and who, having got hold of a book on hypnotism,
plunges a number of lost hunters into various entertaining trances before
falling in her turn under the spell of a vagabond poet *(Mona Dahl). *That
much I gleaned from bits of crumpled and poorly typed script that Lo sowed
all over the house. The coincidence of the title with the name of an
unforgettable inn was pleasant in a sad little way*: I wearily thought I
had better not bring it to my own enchantress's notice, lest a brazen
accusation of mawkishness hurt me even more than her failure to notice it
for herself had done. *I assumed the playlet was just another, practically
anonymous, version of some banal legend. *Nothing prevented one, of course,
from supposing that in quest of an attractive name the founder of the hotel
had been immediately and solely influenced by the chance fantasy of the
second-rate muralist he had hired, and that subsequently the hotel's name
had suggested the play's title. But in my credulous, simple, benevolent
mind I happened to twist it the other way round, and without giving the
whole matter much though really, supposed that mural, name and title had
all been derived from a common source, from some local tradition, which I,
an alien unversed in New England lore, would not be supposed to
know….actually *The Enchanted Hunters* was a quite recent and technically
original composition which had been produced for the first time only three
or four months ago by a highbrow group in New York….I understand that
finally, in utter disgust at his cocksureness, barefooted Dolores was to
lead check-trousered Mona to the paternal farm behind the Perilous Forest
to prove to the braggart she was not a poet's fancy, but a rustic,
down-to-brown-earth lass--and a last-minute kiss was *to enforce the play's
profound message, namely, that mirage and reality merge in love. *I
considered it wiser not to criticize the thing in front of Lo: she was so
healthily engrossed in "problems of expression," and so charmingly did she
put her narrow Florentine hands together, batting her eyelashes and
pleading with me not to come to rehearsals as some ridiculous parents did
because she wanted to dazzle me with a perfect First Night—and because I
was, anyway, always butting in and saying the wrong thing, and cramping her
style in the presence of other people.

*There was one very special rehearsal* . . . my heart, my heart . . .there
was one day in May marked by a lot of gay flurry--it all rolled past,
beyond my ken, immune to my memory, and when I saw Lo next, in the late
afternoon, balancing on her bike, pressing the palm of her hand to the damp
bark of a young birch tree on the edge of our lawn, I was so struck by the
radiant tenderness of her smile that for an instant I believed all our
troubles gone. "Can you remember," she said, "what was the name of that
hotel, you know [nose pucketed], come on, you know--with those white
columns and the marble swan in the lobby? Oh, you know [noisy exhalation of
breath]--*the hotel where you raped me.* Okay, skip it. I mean, was it
[almost in a whisper] *The Enchanted Hunters*? Oh, it was? [musingly] Was
it?"—and with a yelp of amorous vernal laughter she slapped the glossy bole
and tore uphill, to the end of the street, and then rode back, feet at rest
on stopped pedals, posture relaxed, one hand dreaming in her print-flowered

*Because it supposedly tied up with her interest in dance and dramatics*, I
had permitted Lo to take piano lessons with a Miss Emperor ….

… I found Dolores Haze at the kitchen table, consuming a wedge of pie, with
*her eyes fixed on her script*. They rose to meet mine with a kind of
celestial vapidity. She remained singularly unruffled when confronted with
my discovery, and said d'un petit air faussement contrit that *she knew she
was a very wicked kid, but simply had not been able to resist the
ENCHANTMENT, and had used up those music hours--O Reader, My Reader!--in a
nearby public park rehearsing the magic forest scene with Mona*. I said
"fine"--and stalked to the telephone. Mona's mother answered: "Oh yes,
she's in" and retreated with a mother's neutral laugh of polite pleasure to
shout off stage "Roy calling!" and the very next moment Mona rustled up,
and forthwith, in a low monotonous not untender voice started berating Roy
for something he had said or done and I interrupted her, and presently Mona
was saying in her humbles, sexiest contralto, "yes, sir," "surely, sir" "I
am alone to blame, sir, in this unfortunate business," (what elocution!
what poise!) "honest, I feel very bad about it"--and so on and so forth as
those little harlots say.

…. "Look," she said as she rode the bike beside me, one foot scraping the
darkly glistening sidewalk, "look, I've decided something. I want to leave
school I hate that school *I hate the play,* I really do! Never go back.
Find another. Leave at once. Go for a long trip again. But this time we'll
go wherever I want, won't we?…I am drenched," she declared at the top of
her voice. "Are you glad? *To hell with the play! See what I mean?"*

…"A penny for your thoughts," I said and she stretched out her palm at
once, but at that moment I had to apply the breaks rather abruptly at a red
light. As we pulled up, another car came to a gliding stop alongside, and a
very striking looking, athletically lean young woman (where had I seen
her?) with a high complexion and shoulder-length brilliant bronze hair,
greeted Lo with a ringing "Hi!"--and then, addressing me, effusively,
edusively (placed!), stressing certain words, said: *"What a shame to was
to tear Dolly away from the play--you should have heard the author raving
about her after that rehearsal--"*
"Green light, you dope," said Lo under her breath, and simultaneously,
waving in bright adieu a bangled arm, *Joan of Arc (in a performance we saw
at the local theatre)* violently outdistanced us to swerve into Campus
"Who was it exactly? Vermont or Rumpelmeyer?"
*"No--Edusa Gold--the gal who coaches us."*
*"I was not referring to her. Who exactly concocted that play?"*
"Oh! Yes, of course. Some old woman, Clare Something, I guess. There was
quite a crowd of them there." END OF STRING OF “THEATRICALS” QUOTES FROM

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

“Henry Crawford had quite made up his mind by the next morning to give
another fortnight to Mansfield, and having sent for his HUNTERS, and
written a few lines of explanation to the Admiral, he looked round at his
sister as he sealed and threw the letter from him, and seeing the coast
clear of the rest of the family, said, with a smile, "And how do you think
I mean to amuse myself, Mary, on the days that I do not HUNT? I am grown
too old to go out more than three times a week; but I have a plan for the
intermediate days, and what do you think it is?" "To walk and ride with
me, to be sure."

"Not exactly, though I shall be happy to do both, but *that* would be
exercise only to my body, and I must take care of my mind. Besides, *that*
would be all recreation and indulgence, without the wholesome alloy of
labour, and I do not like to eat the bread of idleness. No, my plan is to
make Fanny Price in love with me."

….The wish was rather eager than lasting. He was roused from the reverie of
retrospection and regret produced by it, by some inquiry from Edmund as to
his plans for the next day's HUNTING; and he found it was as well to be a
man of fortune at once with horses and grooms at his command. In one
respect it was better, as it gave him the means of conferring a kindness
where he wished to oblige. With spirits, courage, and curiosity up to
anything, William expressed an inclination to HUNT; and Crawford could
mount him without the slightest inconvenience to himself, and with only
some scruples to obviate in Sir Thomas, who knew better than his nephew the
value of such a loan, and some alarms to reason away in Fanny. She feared
for William; by no means convinced by all that he could relate of his own
horsemanship in various countries, of the scrambling parties in which he
had been engaged, the rough horses and mules he had ridden, or his many
narrow escapes from dreadful falls, that he was at all equal to the
management of a high-fed HUNTER in an English fox-chase; nor till he
returned safe and well, without accident or discredit, could she be
reconciled to the risk, or feel any of that obligation to Mr. Crawford for
lending the horse which he had fully intended it should produce. When it
was proved, however, to have done William no harm, she could allow it to be
a kindness, and even reward the owner with a smile when the animal was one
minute tendered to his use again; and the next, with the greatest
cordiality, and in a manner not to be resisted, made over to his use
entirely so long as he remained in Northamptonshire.

…."Bertram," said Crawford, some time afterwards, taking the opportunity of
a little languor in the game, "I have never told you what happened to me
yesterday in my ride home." They had been HUNTING together, and were in the
midst of a good run, and at some distance from Mansfield, when his horse
being found to have flung a shoe, Henry Crawford had been obliged to give
up, and make the best of his way back. "I told you I lost my way after
passing that old farmhouse with the yew-trees, because I can never bear to
ask; but I have not told you that, with my usual luck—for I never do wrong
without gaining by it—I found myself in due time in the very place which I
had a curiosity to see. I was suddenly, upon turning the corner of a
steepish downy field, in the midst of a retired little village between
gently rising hills; a small stream before me to be forded, a church
standing on a sort of knoll to my right—which church was strikingly large
and handsome for the place, and not a gentleman or half a gentleman's house
to be seen excepting one—to be presumed the Parsonage—within a stone's
throw of the said knoll and church. I found myself, in short, in Thornton
Lacey."…Henry Crawford was in the first glow of another scheme about
Thornton Lacey; and not being able to catch Edmund's ear, was detailing it
to his fair neighbour with a look of considerable earnestness. His scheme
was to rent the house himself the following winter, that he might have a
home of his own in that neighbourhood; and it was not merely for the use of
it in the hunting-season (as he was then telling her), though *that*
consideration had certainly some weight, feeling as he did that, in spite
of all Dr. Grant's very great kindness, it was impossible for him and his
horses to be accommodated where they now were without material
inconvenience; but his attachment to that neighbourhood did not depend upon
one amusement or one season of the year…”

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

Cheers, ARNIE

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