I was so pleased to see Tom Rymour's post about swindler Therese Humbert, because I've been wondering about both Therese Humbert and Alphonse Humbert, pondering one "Humbert" from each, I suppose.
Journalist Alphonse Humbert has a complicated biography, but during the Dreyfus affair in France he played a critical role in the efforts to discredit Dreyfus. He remained supportive of Dreyfus' conviction long after it became clear that a conspiracy was afoot. Like many anti-Dreyfusards, anti-Semitism seems to have played a role in his outspoken stance. He made some other pretty horrendous statements on this topic. (Sur les pogroms antisémites Algérie, il considère que les antisémites locaux sont "des Français très modernes, libre-penseurs pour la plupart.")
One interesting item related to the anti-Semitism angle is that Therese Humbert was brought down by her own disgraceful anti-Semitic accusations against a Jewish banker. She described banker Cattaui and his son-in-law as the "biggest and most terrible usurers who have ever crossed my path," saying that they bled her for money. Cattaui was a recipient of the Legion d'Honneur and was more than willing to fight back. The libel trial he brought exposed Therese Humbert's unbelievably extensive swindles of both the very rich and the poor.
Both Dreyfus and Therese Humbert were very much part of the popular consciousness in Europe in the first half of the 20th century.
Given the subtle indictment of mid-century American anti-Semitism that winds its way through Lolita, I think it's fascinating to consider the name Humbert in light of that theme.
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