This chapter has two purposes. The first is to emphasize the fact that Humbert, at this point, still intends to "protect the purity of that twelve-year-old child." This point absolutely must be driven home to the reader: H.H. does not want to molest her, but to protect her even as he finds a way to fulfill his urges without jeopardizing her innocence. The secondary purpose of this chapter is to explain the practical details of Lo's summer plans, in the process painting Charlotte as an uncontrollable external force stifling H.H.'s happiness. Thus we see once again how Nabokov uses chapters that may otherwise be only practical, focusing on physical logistics, for more meaningful purposes that further the complexity of the novel. (It’s the same way he uses, for instance, in this chapter, “strolled” instead of “came”.)
I spent the afternoon musing, scheming, blissfully digesting my experience of the morning.
I felt proud of myself... The conjurer had poured milk, molasses, foaming champagne into a young lady’s new white pure; and lo, the purse was intact. Thus had I delicately constructed my ignoble, ardent, sinful dream; and still Lolita was safe - and I was safe.
Note the repetitive parallelisms of threes: musing/scheming/digesting, milk molasses, champagne; ignoble, ardent, sinful - the technique creates a poetic rhythm, lulling us into H.H.’s words…
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.
The style here borders on stream-of-consciousness, slightly run-on, crowning the poetry built up over the first two paragraphs. Substantially, this sentence is significant: Humbert’s acknowledgement of the fact that he does not, in fact, know and love the real Dolores Haze, but only his image of her. He knows, at least in this moment, that he is projecting. The notion of Lolita having no will is also a dangerous hint.
...a performance that affected her as little as if she were a photographic image rippling upon a screen and I a humble hunchback abusing myself in the dark.
Just as he did in chapter 12, Nabokov here is telling us exactly how he wants us to interpret the events of the previous chapter. So Humbert continues to manipulate the reader.
No: “horribly” is the wrong word. The elation with which the vision of new delights filled me was not horrible but pathetic. I qualify it as pathetic.
H.H. breaks the fourth wall again here, reminding us again that he is picking and choosing his words rather carefully. But more importantly, here he reverts to shaming and judging himself, as if through the eyes of a larger society. (The superego, no matter what Nabokov thinks!)
The rest of the chapter is taken up with the practical matter of Lolita's summer camp arrangement. Note that H.H. hardly speaks throughout his conversation with Charlotte - although he certainly responds in kind, Nabokov never includes any direct quotation of H.H. except for his “lamentably lame” question, thereby allowing Charlotte to dominate the reader's mind as a force outside of H.H.'s control that interferes with his happiness.
In this mawkish aura, Mrs. Haze gently touched the silver on both sides of her plate as if touching piano keys, and smiled down on her empty plate (was on a diet), and said she hoped I liked the salad (recipe from a woman’s magazine). She hoped I liked the cold cuts, too.
Note how the parentheticals here denote society's "advice" to women to make themselves more attractive - but in fact it only turns H.H. off. This is a repeated theme: that all the social rules for women that Charlotte follows only make her less attractive to H.H. Soon Dolores will also begin more rigorous conditioning, as at Camp Q., which “will teach Dolores Haze to grow in many things - health, knowledge, temper. And particularly in a sense of responsibility toward other people.” Note also how our dear narrator speaks for Charlotte instead of quoting her directly.
Phyllis, her daughter, was going to a summer camp tomorrow. For three weeks. Lolita, it was decided, would go Thursday. Instead of waiting till July, as had been initially planned. And stay there after Phyllis had left. Till school began. A pretty prospect, my heart.
The fragments here are everything, reflecting H.H.’s shock and disappointment. He does not elaborate on his feelings until the following chapter.
As for the Dr. Quilty reference - yes, it is a reference! So is "Camp Q." Shirley Holmes is, of course, a reference to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. Nabokov has written (in Strong Opinions) that between the ages of ten and fifteen he was a Holmes devotee, and referenced the detective in in his other books as well. As Alfred Appel notes in The Annotated Lolita, “Nabokov frequently parodies and transmutes the methods and themes of that genre, just as 'Shirley Holmes' is a jocular reminder that Lolita is, among other things, a king of mystery story demanding a considerable amount of armchair detection.”
Detection, indeed. In 800 brief words, Nabokov has gotten us far: our expectations for the coming chapters have been set up, along with the tension of their probable upheaval; and we know now that Humbert intends to protect, rather than harm, Dolores Haze. So why is he writing to us from jail?