Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0004442, Mon, 4 Oct 1999 16:38:27 -0700

Nabokov's House in Ashland. (fwd)
EDITORIAL NOTE. Pictures and an account of the house may be seen on
http: //www.libraries.psu.edu/iasweb/nabokov/nsintro.htm
From: Galya Diment <galya@u.washington.edu>
>From Ashland Daily Tidings (Oregon), September 22, 1999:

Ashland stop for famed `Lolita' writer charred by fire

ASHLAND (AP) - A fire that burned down a modest rental
home over the weekend drew little attention in town. Then a
librarian found that a piece of local literary history had been
lost in the blaze.

It turns out that the small house at 163 Mead St. was where
Russian-born novelist Vladimir Nabokov finished his
controversial masterpiece, ``Lolita.''

Nabokov, who rented the house in the summer of 1953,
``found Ashland singularly favorable to literary
inspiration,'' Brian Boyd wrote in his 1991 book,
``Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years.''

``Lolita was now purring along steadily,'' Boyd wrote,
``and had reached the point where he could begin to dictate
his finished chapters to Vera (his wife) at the typewriter.''

During his stay, Nabokov collected butterflies, finished
``Lolita'' and began several new works.

In recent years the house had lost much of its luster as a
charming cottage, and had been turned into three separate

The house, now owned by a Portland couple who are out of
the country, burned early Saturday after a 19-year-old
resident forgot to turn off two burners on the stove,
firefighters said.

``Lolita,'' Nabokov's most recognized work, tells the story
of Humbert Humbert, a European intellectual adrift in
America, who is seduced by 12-year-old Dolores Haze, also
known as Lolita.

Nabokov was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1899, but
emigrated to England in 1919. He lived in the United States
from 1940 until 1960, when he went to Switzerland. He
died there in 1977.

After tiring of cold weather and rattlesnakes at their
doorstep, Nabokov and his wife drove their Oldsmobile
from Portal, Ariz., to Ashland in June 1953. Nabokov
wanted to explore the Pacific Northwest so he could make
Humbert Humbert ``defile with his sinuous trail of slime
every state in America,'' Boyd wrote.

They rented the Mead Street home from a professor who had
gone East for the summer. The home was surrounded by
gardens of roses and irises, some of which still exist.
Nabokov hiked about 18 miles a day through the ``mauve
and green hills that surround Ashland,'' Boyd wrote.

An avid butterfly collector, Nabokov's passion turned into a
``genuine mania'' while in Ashland. After putting the final
touches on ``Lolita,'' Nabokov also composed the poem
``Lines Written in Oregon'' and ``The Ballad of Longwood
Glen.'' He began a story about a Professor Pnin.

In early September 1953, the Nabokovs headed for Ithaca,
N.Y. ``Lolita'' was published in 1955.

Ashland reference librarian and author Bill Ashworth spotted
the Ashland angle to the classic when he read Boyd's book
back in the early 1990s. He took special note because the
Mead Street address was only about a block from his own
home. The connection was mentioned in a library
newsletter, but never made much other news, Ashworth

``The house was basically run down before it burned,''
Ashworth noted. ``It's a small house. Not a terribly
prepossessing place.''