C.Kunin to JM: … And speaking of her given name, how did she come to be called Lolita (which, granted, is a diminutive of a diminutive for Dolores)?
Modern resources helped me to establish that the name Lolita is used 241 times in the novel. The “Haze woman,” her mother, sometimes refers to her as “my Lo” ["That was my Lo," she said, "and these are my lilies."/"Yes," I said, "yes. They are beautiful, beautiful, beautiful."]. I got the impression (without searching for confirmation on articles and other writings) that “Lolita” is wholly a creation by Humbert who often refers to her as “my Lolita” and calls her Dolly when he is dissatisfied or angry and as her “social persona”. Lolita is a nymphet’s name, distinct from the more common nickname, Dolly.
From the start the designation “Lolita’ seldom appears in isolation: her name erupts three or four times in a same paragraph all over the novel: “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta./ She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita./Did she have a precursor? She did, indeed she did. In point of fact, there might have been no Lolita at all had I not loved, one summer, a certain initial girl-child. In a princedom by the sea. Oh when? About as many years before Lolita was born as my age was that summer…”
Other samples: “A little later, of course, she, this nouvelle, this Lolita, my Lolita, was to eclipse completely her prototype.” [ ]”And what is most singular is that she, this Lolita, my Lolita, has individualized the writer's ancient lust, so that above and over everything there is — Lolita.”
“I felt proud of myself. I had stolen the honey of a spasm without impairing the morals of a minor… Lolita was safe — and I was safe. What I had madly possessed was not she, but my own creation, another, fanciful Lolita — perhaps, more real than Lolita; overlapping, encasing her; floating between me and her, and having no will, no consciousness — indeed, no life of her own.”
“I knew I had fallen in love with Lolita forever; but I also knew she would not be forever Lolita… The word "forever" referred only to my own passion, to the eternal Lolita as reflected in my blood. The Lolita whose iliac crests had not yet flared, the Lolita that today I could touch and smell and hear and see, the Lolita of the strident voice and rich brown hair… — that Lolita, my Lolita, poor Catullus would lose forever.”
There is a short chapter (26) where her name is emphasized: “… Have written more than a hundred pages and not got anywhere yet. My calendar is getting confused. That must have been around August 15, 1947. Don't think I can go on. Heart, head — everything. Lolita, Lolita, Lolita, Lolita, Lolita, Lolita, Lolita, Lolita, Lolita, Lolita. Repeat till the page is full, printer.” * In short, HH delights in the name Lolita like infants enjoy blowing soap bubbles and adolescents write down the name of their loves. I wonder if its iteration has other reasons besides the sensuous pleasures of echolalia: As a letter, “L” is present in “sibling” and its qualities are sung in RLSK’s velvets and lilies.
Contradicting my hypothesis about HH’s particular form of addressing Dolores, Dolly as “his nymphic Lolita” we find Quilty exclaiming, in the VN/Kubrick screenplay, long before HH and the child met:
“Quilty: (grinning ingenuously when he finally recognizes her) Yes, really great fun. Listen, listen, din, din you have a dawda (daughter)? Din you have a dawda with a lovely name? Yeah, a lovely, what was it now, a lovely lyrical lilting name like, uh, uh...
Quilty: Lo-li-ta, that's right. Lolita. Diminutive of Dolores, the tears and the roses.” #
Dolly could be counted 99 times (she is mentioned only once in VN’s afterword). In the opening paragraph by HH: “She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning…She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.” Mentioned in a social environment or with objective distancing: “ do I remember praising, over cocktails, the picture she had made of a niece of hers, little Rosaline Honeck… John removed his pipe and said it was a pity Dolly (my Dolita) and Rosaline were so critical of each other at [ ] "I wish," interrupted Jean with a laugh, "Dolly and Rosaline were spending the summer together…”
Lolita herself signed a note to her parents using Dolly: “Dear Mummy and Hummy …Dolly” and, again, socially: “We feel Dolly is not doing as well" etc. (from an old school report).” Or “At first, Dr. Byron did not seem to believe me… He had a fascinating child of Dolly's age…” [ ] “The sun was still a blinding red when he was put to bed in Dolly's room by his two friends, gentle John and dewy-eyed Jean.” [ ] “I had a female cousin, a respectable spinster in New York. There we would find a good private school for Dolly. Oh, what a crafty Humbert!” [ ] “"John," cried Jean, "she is his child, not Harold Haze's. Don't you understand? Humbert is Dolly's real father." Maneuvering objective reality and the Law: “ I could not help fancying that somehow Dolly Haze had been informed already, and that at the very time I was on my way to fetch her, she was being driven to Ramsdale by friends unknown to me. Still more disquieting than all these conjectures and worries, was the fact that Humbert Humbert, a brand-new American citizen of obscure European origin, had taken no steps toward becoming the legal guardian of his dead wife's daughter (twelve years and seven months old). Would I ever dare take those steps? I could not repress a shiver whenever I imagined my nudity hemmed in by mysterious statutes in the merciless glare of the Common Law.” [ ] “had to endure for several minutes the inquisitive commiseration of the camp mistress, a sluttish worn out female with rusty hair. Dolly she said was all packed and ready to go.” [ ] ‘a card produced by efficient Holmes with a report of Dolly Haze's behavior.”**
# (Screenplay, 1962, Stanley Kubrick’s “Lolita”)
* Cynically: “There may have been times — there must have been times, if I know my Humbert — when I had brought up for detached inspection the idea of marrying a mature widow (say, Charlotte Haze) with not one relative left in the wide gray world, merely in order to have my way with her child (Lo, Lola, Lolita).”
Malignantly cunning: “We had highballs before turning in, and with their help, I would manage to evoke the child while caressing the mother. This was the white stomach within which my nymphet had been a little curved fish in 1934. This carefully dyed hair, so sterile to my sense of smell and touch, acquired at certain lamplit moments in the poster bed the tinge, if not the texture, of Lolita's curls. I kept telling myself, as I wielded my brand-new large-as-life wife, that biologically this was the nearest I could get to Lolita; that at Lolita's age, Lotte had been as desirable a schoolgirl as her daughter was, and as Lolita's daughter would be some day. I had my wife unearth …a thirty-year-old album, so that I might see how Lotte had looked as a child; and even though the light was wrong and the dresses graceless, I was able to make out a dim first version of Lolita's outline, legs, cheekbones, bobbed nose. Lottelita, Lolitchen.” [ ] “Of my Lolita she seldom spoke … And although I felt no special urge to supply the Humbert line with a replica of Harold's production (Lolita, with an incestuous thrill, I had grown to regard as my child), it occurred to me that a prolonged confinement, with a nice Cesarean operation and other complications in a safe maternity ward sometime next spring, would give me a chance to be alone with my Lolita for weeks, perhaps …”
Here, too, we find the basest menace: "Finally, let us see what happens if you, a minor, accused of having impaired the morals of an adult in a respectable inn, what happens if you complain to the police of my having kidnapped and raped you? Let us suppose they believe you. A minor female, who allows a person over twenty-one to know her carnally, involves her victim into statutory rape, or second-degree sodomy, depending on the technique; and the maximum penalty is ten years. So, I go to jail. Okay. I go to jail. But what happens to you, my orphan? Well, you are luckier. You become the ward of the Department of Public Welfare — which I am afraid sounds a little bleak. A nice grim matron of the Miss Phalen type, but more rigid and not a drinking woman, will take away your lipstick and fancy clothes. No more gadding about! I don't know if you have ever heard of the laws relating to dependent, neglected, incorrigible and delinquent children. While I stand gripping the bars, you, happy neglected child, will be given a choice of various dwelling places, all more or less the same, the correctional school, the reformatory, the juvenile detention home, or one of those admirable girls' protectories where you knit things, and sing hymns, and have rancid pancakes on Sundays. You will go there, Lolita — my Lolita, this Lolita will leave plainer words, if we two are found out, you will be analyzed and institutionalized, my pet, c'est tout. You will dwell, my Lolita will dwell (come here, my brown flower) with thirty-nine other dopes in a dirty dormitory (no, allow me, please) under the supervision of hideous matrons. This is the situation, this is the choice. Don't you think that under the circumstances Dolores Haze had better stick to her old man?"
More: “Speaking as if it really did not really matter, and assuming, apparently, that life was automatically rolling on with all its routine pleasures, Lolita said she would like to change into her bathing things, and spend the rest of the afternoon at the swimming pool. It was a gorgeous day. Lolita!” [ ]"Lo! Lola! Lolita!" I hear myself crying from a doorway into the sun, with the acoustics of time, domed time, endowing my call and its tell-tale hoarseness with such a wealth of anxiety, passion and pain that really it would have been instrumental in wrenching open the zipper of her nylon shroud had she been dead. Lolita! In the middle of a trim turfed terrace I found her at last — she had run out before I was ready. Oh Lolita! There she was playing with a damned dog, not me.” [ ] “ I will shout my poor truth. I insist the world know how much I loved my Lolita, this Lolita, pale and polluted, and big with another's child, but still gray-eyed, still sooty-lashed, still auburn and almond, still Carmencita, still mine; Changeons de vie, ma Carmen, allons vivre quelque part où nous ne serons jamais séparés; Ohio? The wilds of Massachusetts? No matter, even if those eyes of hers would fade to myopic fish, and her nipples swell and crack… my Lolita.”[ ] “"Lolita," I said, "this may be neither here nor there but I have to say it.” [ ] “…the man enveloped his lumpy and large offspring, I saw Lolita's smile lose all its light and become a frozen little shadow of itself… Avis who had such a wonderful fat pink dad and a small chubby brother, and a brand-new baby sister, and a home, and two grinning dogs, and Lolita had nothing. And I have a neat pendant to that little scene — also in a Beardsley setting. Lolita, who had been reading near the fire, stretched herself, and then inquired, her elbow up, with a grunt: "Where is she buried anyway?" "Who?" "Oh, you know, my murdered mummy." "And you know where her grave is," I said controlling myself, whereupon I named the cemetery — just outside Ramsdale...”
** - other Dolly samples and different references: “My east-door neighbor was by far the most dangerous one, a sharp-nosed stock character whose late brother had been attached to the College as Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds. I remember her waylaying Dolly, while I stood at the living room window… and Dolly, her brown coat open despite the raw weather…and a few days later there came from her a note in a blue-margined envelope, a nice mixture of poison and treacle, suggesting Dolly come over on a Sunday[ ] Dolly got lunch at school [ ] Taking Dolly to the dentist — pretty nurse beaming at her — old magazines — ne montrez pas vos zhambes. At dinner with Dolly in town, Mr. Edgar H. Humbert was seen eating his steak[ ]. Brightly pajamaed, jerking down the window shade in Dolly's bedroom[ ]. Seen and heard Sunday morning, no churchgoer after all, saying don't be too late, to Dolly who is bound for the covered court. [ ] With Linda Hall the school tennis champion, Dolly played singles ...”[ ] “in December I think, Pratt asked me to come over for a talk. Dolly's last report had been poor, I knew.” [ ] “ ‘Dolly Haze,’ she said, ‘is a lovely child, but the onset of sexual maturing seems to give her trouble’." [ ] “Miss Cormorant cannot decide whether Dolly has exceptional emotional control or none at all. Miss Horn reports she — I mean, Dolly — cannot verbalize her emotions
[ ]"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." [ ] “Dolly-Lo, however, lagged behind, in a rosy daze, her pleased eyes narrowed” [ ] I forget my letters; as to Dolly's, there was her report and a very special-looking envelope. …"Dolly-Lo: Well, the play was a grand success. [ ] A bright voice informed me that yes, everything was fine, my daughter had checked out the day before, around two, her uncle, Mr. Gustave, had called for her with a cocker spaniel pup and a smile for everyone, and a black Caddy Lack, and had paid Dolly's bill in cash, and told them to tell me I should not worry, and keep warm, they were at Grandpa's ranch as agreed.[ ] “Dear Dad:/ How's everything? I'm married. I'm going to have a baby…Yours expecting,/Dolly (Mrs. Richard F. Schiller).”[ ] "Think it over, Lolita. There are no strings attached. Except, perhaps — well, no matter." (A reprieve, I wanted to say but did not.) "Anyway, if you refuse you will still get your... trousseau."/ "No kidding?" asked Dolly.” [ ] “I loved you. I was a pentapod monster, but I loved you. I was despicable and brutal, and turpid, and everything, mais je t'aimais, je t'aimais! And there were times when I knew how you felt, and it was hell to know it, my little one. Lolita girl, brave Dolly Schiller. [ ] "Quilty," I said, "do you recall a little girl called Dolores Haze, Dolly Haze? Dolly called Dolores, Colo.?”