Nabokov at Cornell
One day in the summer of 1950, a frustrated Nabokov carried the rough draft of what would eventually become Lolita out to the incinerator behind his rented home just downhill from Collegetown. Although the story of a 37-year-old European intellectual named Humbert Humbert and his obsession with a pubescent girl had been ruminating in his mind for years, Nabokov became discouraged with his new novel. Plagued by technical difficulties in writing and facing the start of another consuming semester of teaching at Cornell University, he decided, with his characteristic flare of drama, to send the project up in a puff of smoke.
Nabokov's wife, Véra, stopped him before the flames could lick up the "light of my life, fire of my loins" and advised him to reconsider. That quiet backyard near Collegetown played host to a pivotal moment in American letters; Nabokov did not burn the manuscript, but went on to write most of Lolita in Ithaca. He realized, as he notes in the afterward of Lolita, "the ghost of the destroyed book would haunt my files for the rest of my life."
(via The Elegant Variation