Printer Friendly

Byron's Teeth: Alexander Pushkin and the Romantic Body.

Abstract: The image of Pushkin's shining white teeth occupies an important place in the Russian cultural imagination (Veresaev, Tynianov, Tsvetaeva, Mandelstam, etc.). In his recollections about Pushkin, one of his acquaintances noted that the poet took special care of his teeth. This was an attempt to look like Lord Byron, whom he adored and meticulously imitated at that time. This article demonstrates that in European culture of the nineteenth century, Byron's teeth served as a synecdoche of the ideal Romantic body. Teeth were a telling feature of his iconic image, along with his Greek handsomeness, curly hair, long neck, small arms, proverbial lameness, asymmetrical eyes and the three wrinkles crossing his high forehead. In this cultural context, Byron's physical appearance manifested for Pushkin the Romantic conflict between light and darkness, body and soul--a conflict that was literally embodied in the English poet's controversial figure. The article argues that it is in this spiritual-odontological sense that Pushkin brushed his teeth a la Lord Byron. In other words, to become the Pushkin whom we know, the young poet tried to become Byron in flesh and spirit.

Key words: Byron, Romanticism, imitation, body politics, dental care, Romantic portrait.


For Dr. Andrew E. Bruner of Penn Dental

I can recognize anyone by the teeth with whom I have talked. I always watch the lips and mouth: they tell what the tongue and eyes try to conceal.

--Lord Byron

Conversations de Byron! Walt<er> Scott! This is a feast for my soul. Do you know what I am doing now? I write my memoirs until dinner, and I dine late ...

--A. S. Pushkin


The problem of Pushkin's Byronism (or, in Monika Greenleaf s words, the very old question of Pushkin's "Byronic apprenticeship" and conclusive "overcoming of Romanticism" (1)) has been discussed in numerous articles, book chapters, and books in Russia and the West. (2) Departing from Boris Gasparov's insightful hypothesis of Pushkin's movement towards a deeper understanding of Romanticism in the 1830s, (3) I consider Pushkin's artistic development not as a gradual overcoming of the English bard, or a "mature" distancing from his influence, (4) but rather as a deliberate movement towards the "real" (or "human," in Pushkin's words) Byron. (5) Since my emphasis will be on the politics of Pushkin's Romantic self-fashioning, I will focus primarily on the manifestations of the poet's public behavior insofar as it relates to his attempt to imitate Byron's figure as a whole. To paraphrase the subtitle for Roy Porter's book on the history of flesh in the modern age, (6) my main question is: "How did Lord Byron help Pushkin transform the way the latter saw his own body and soul, and what came out of this new vision?"


Contrary to the traditional vision of Pushkin's liberation from Byronism by the mid-1820s, the poet's interest in the English bard in this period did not fade, but rather increased and morphed into a certain cult of Byron's authentic (not so Byronic!) personality. Thus, Pushkin's friend Aleksei Vul'f, who visited him during his exile in Mikhailovskoe, spoke of the poet's fascination with Byron as a kind of mania:
   He studied him most diligently and even tried to absorb many of
   Byron's habits [privychki]. For instance, Pushkin used to say that
   he was extremely saddened that he did not have the physical
   strength to perform the feats of the English poet who, as is known,
   swam across the Hellespont. ... In order to become Byron's equal in
   shooting accuracy, Pushkin fired all of his bullets straight into a
   small target. (7)

In Mikhailovskoe Pushkin dressed like Byron, grew whiskers following Byron's example, participated in the same kinds of sports and martial arts, such as swimming, pistol-shooting, fencing, and boxing, as the English lord, and provoked his contemporaries and offended their national feelings in Byron's manner. He followed Byron's lead in his desire to flee his native land. He quarreled with his relatives, just like Byron had. He joked, got angry and irate in Byron's way, and formed his relationships with women as Byron did. Pushkin also scrupulously imitated Byron's playful epistolary style, created his emotional persona in accordance with that of Byron, and, last but not least, absorbed and developed Byron's poetic techniques, characteristic of Beppo and Don Juan, in his works (Eugene Onegin, Count Nulin, and, later on, The Little House in Kolomna). (8) Whereas in his "southern period" Pushkin looked for general ("demonic") signs of his Byronism or symbolic, yet quite superficial, "intersections" with Byron's personality (thus, he boasted that he had an affair with a Greek girl whom Byron had supposedly kissed), in his Mikhailovskoe exile he meticulously constructed his behavior and persona in accordance with Byron's model. (9) These similarities (real and imaginary) to Byron must have increased his enemies' scorn but shown his friends his inner kinship with the freedom-loving English bard.

To be sure, Pushkin ignored his friends' annoying advice to laud the great man in his poetry and to become the Northern Byron, in accordance with their narrow understanding of Byron's melancholy persona (and Pushkin did pay tribute to Byron in his poem "To the Sea" ["K moriu," 1824]). Instead, Pushkin attempted to embody Byron in his own physical life.

In his book, Porter considers Byron's body politics (and rhetoric) as crucial to the Western history of flesh. It was the English poet who discovered and propagated a new, modern body in his life and poetry. Accordingly, Byron's signature conflict was one of "the irresolvability of the flesh--the desire to be fit, sexy, handsome and youthful [...] and yet the paradoxical temptation to wreck it all in noted self-indulgence--was central to the Byronic dilemma. It surfaced, perhaps, in such seemingly petty concerns as the state of his teeth." (10)

This "seemingly petty concern" will be the major point of my essay. In what follows, I will analyze "the literary topos of lovely teeth" (to use Theodore Ziolkowski's expression) (11) in Pushkin's self-fashioning of the mid-1820s-early 1830s as indicative of the Russian poet's attempts to assimilate the physical appearance, aristocratic outlook, habits, and behavior of Lord Byron in the minutest detail.


In his recollections of Pushkin, the poet's acquaintance Mikhail Iuzefovich wrote:
   As I see him now, [he was] lively, unaffected, easily amused, very
   restless, even flighty, with magnificent large, clear, and bright
   eyes, which seemed to reflect everything beautiful in nature, and
   with his white, shining teeth, which he took very good care of,
   like Byron. (12)

Numerous contemporaries referred to Pushkin's white (pearly, shining, etc.) teeth, which he exposed while laughing. In the 1830s, this detail became an iconic part of his portrait (along with his bushy side-whiskers and curly hair). Young Ivan Turgenev, recalling his first and only encounter with Pushkin, wrote that he "could just discern his white teeth and lively, quick eyes." (13) In My Pushkin, Valery Briusov composed a common verbal portrait of Pushkin based on the accounts of his contemporaries: "a short, flighty man with choppy movements, whose face was not remarkable in the least, but swarthy and unattractive, constantly showing his big teeth." (14)

To the best of my knowledge, it was Pushkin's friend and noted writer Vladimir Sollogub who first introduced Pushkin's teeth as a feature of his African (Moorish or Negroid) appearance inherited from his mother's line: "[H]e would recite a sharp epigram and suddenly break into resounding, good-hearted, childlike laughter, showing two rows of white Moorish teeth." (15) Another contemporary author noted that "[t]here was something unusual in [Pushkin's] face that resembled a mulatto: a somewhat flattened nose, very red and broad lips, and extraordinarily white teeth, revealed when he smiled cheerfully." (16)

"Pushkin's great-grandfather on his mother's side was Abyssinian," Veresaev wrote in his influential book on the poet. "Pushkin's Abyssinian descent was apparent in his frizzy hair, his blindingly white teeth, and the extraordinary vivacity of his movements." (17) (Pushkin's friend Smirnova-Rosset did not agree with this interpretation.) (18) This "African motif' was picked up by many authors of the Modernist age. Marina Tsvetaeva referred to Pushkin's "Negro's teeth" or a "grin of a Negro" (oskalom negra). She also called her idol "teeth-baring, rudely staring Pushkin" (skalozubyi, naglovzoryi). (19) Osip Mandelstam (quite oddly) called Pushkin's "white teeth" "the masculine pearl of Russian poetry," (20) and Yury Tynianov, in his novel about the poet, Pushkin, constantly referred to his "laughter in the way his ancestors (the Gannibals) used to laugh--showing teeth." (21)

For modernist authors, Pushkin's habitual exposure of his white teeth symbolized the poet's spontaneity, physical health, "impulsive-passionate temperament," and exotic descent, as evidenced by Konstantin Somov's portrait of the poet created in 1899. This portrait presents, in Richard C. Borden's words, "the most unequivocally 'Negroid' Pushkin, [...] a rather bizarre adolescent, almost a caricature, baring his teeth to the viewer." (22)


However, the "African" contextualization of this motif, canonized by Russian modernists and trivialized in the Soviet period, is historically misleading. As we have seen, Iuzefovich, recalling his encounter with Pushkin in 1829, puts this detail in a different, Byronic, context. I believe that Iuzefovich refers the reader to the concrete description of Byron's appearance given in Captain Thomas Medwin's Conversations of Lord Byron: Noted during a residence with His Lordship at Pisa in the years 1821 and 1822. (23) Pushkin read the French translation of this influential (and scandalous) book at the end of 1825 or beginning of early 1826, Conversations de Lord Byron, recueillies pendant un sejour avec Sa Seigneurie a Pise, dans les annees 1821 et 1822. (24)

In his celebrated verbal portrait of Byron, Medwin observes that his great friend's "teeth were small, regular and white; these, I afterwards found, he took great pains to preserve." For this purpose, Medwin explains in a footnote, "he used tobacco when he first went into the open air; and he told me he was in the habit of grinding his teeth in his sleep; in order to prevent this, he was forced to put a napkin between them." (25)

Obsessive care of his teeth was one of the aristocratic features that characterized the English poet. Clearly, this obsession can be interpreted as a manifestation of his dandyism, as discussed by Domna C. Stanton in her classic The Aristocrat as Art. According to an advice column from this era, a dandy "must always have the best ivory in his nail and tooth-brushes." (26) In addition, Byron's cult of white teeth reflected his long-term fascination with Lavater's physiognomic theories. According to the Swiss philosopher, "[w]hite, clean, well-arranged teeth, visible as soon as the mouth opens, but not projecting, nor always entirely seen," can be seen only "in good, acute, honest, candid, faithful men." (27)

Byron's letters contain numerous requests to his friends to send him various toothbrushes and tooth powders. In this context, Onegin's dandyism, described in the first chapter of the novel in verse, contains a certain Byronic flavor. All in all, Byron interpreted white teeth as a gentleman's calling card, as evidenced in a "self-referential" image of an Englishman in Don Juan (Canto V, XII):
   He had an English look; that is, was square
   In make, of a complexion white and ruddy,
   Good teeth, with curling rather dark brown hair,
   And, it might be from thought, or toil or study
   An open brow, a little mark'd with care:
   One arm had on a bandage rather bloody;
   And there he stood with such sang froid that greater
   Could scarce be shown even by a mere spectator ... (28)

On the symbolic level, Byron playfully interpreted preservation of healthy teeth as a warranty of immortality (the theme he was obsessed with). In his letter to a friend included in Thomas Moore's Life of Lord Byron, Byron laments the deaths of his barber and dentist and expands on the theme of human life's transitory nature:
   I have seen a thousand graves opened and always perceived that,
   whatever was gone, the teeth and hair remained with those who had
   died with them. Is not this odd? They go the very first things in
   youth and yet last the longest in the dust if people will but die
   to preserve them. (1820) (29)

(This graveyard humor naturally incorporates an allusion to Shakespeare's Hamlet.)

As Theodore Ziolkowski showed in his witty essay "Telltale Teeth: Psychodontia to Sociodontia," the dental theme plays a significant role in the history of culture:
   When teeth occur in cultural contexts, as opposed to specifically
   odontological ones, they tend to be characterized by one of three
   attributes: potency, beauty, or pain. (30)

According to Ziolkowski, in the second half of the nineteenth century, the psycho-odontological model was replaced by a socio-odontological one, centered on the image of a sick or rotten tooth as an allegory of a rotten society.

Unfortunately, Ziolkowski bypassed the Romantic period in the Western history of teeth. (31) In fact, in the Romantic era teeth and dental care were perceived as telling features of aristocratism (good breeding), a physical manifestation of the healthy, strong, and erotically appealing Byronic persona, and as the quintessence of Englishness. In Russian literature, this motif was elaborated by many authors, from Pushkin and Lermontov to Dostoevsky and Tolstoy. Thus, as Yakira H. Frank observed in her elegant response to Ziolkowski's essay, Tolstoy constantly emphasizes Vronsky's white teeth, which "make their first appearance ... shortly after Vronsky has met Anna and followed her back to Petersburg from Moscow: 'he again went off into roars of hearty laughter, showing his compact row of strong teeth.'" In seven other instances he either smiles or laughs, showing "his compact row of teeth"; "his close-set teeth"; "his fine teeth"; "his fine white teeth"; or "his strong white teeth." (Yet, "near the end, following Anna's suicide, we learn that Vronsky's 'teeth have started aching.'") (32) I would add that for Tolstoy this detail stressed the "Byronic look" of his aristocratic hero.

In European culture of the nineteenth century, Byron's teeth served as a synecdoche of the ideal Romantic body, a telling feature of his iconic image, along with his Greek handsomeness, curly hair, long neck, small arms, proverbial lameness, asymmetrical eyes and the three wrinkles crossing his high forehead. Metaphorically speaking, his white teeth were perceived as a kind of harmonious colonnade which concealed his mysterious and sick soul. One can say that Byron's physical appearance manifested the romantic conflict between light and darkness, body and soul--a conflict that was literally embodied in his controversial figure. I argue that it is in this spiritual-odontological sense that Pushkin brushed his teeth a la Lord Byron.

Byron's friends associated his famous fits of laughter, when he showed his white teeth, with a certain psychological paradox central to his mystery--a combination of deep melancholy and natural gaiety as "two extremes, between which his own character [...] so singularly vibrated." "Finding him invariably thus lively when we were together," wrote Moore, "I often rallied him on the gloomy tone of his poetry, as assumed; but his constant answer was ... that, though thus merry and full of laughter with those he liked, he was, at heart, one of the most melancholy wretches in existence." (33) Tellingly, in the late 1820s and 30s (the peak of his interest in Byron closely connected for him with Moore's book about Byron), Push kin presented himself as a great melancholic who knew moments of genuine gaiety. (34) I think that this self-explanation of his famous "teeth-bared" laughter originated in Pushkin's desire to laugh like Byron.

In other words, the Russian national poet needed "teeth-bared" Byronic laughter to reveal his deep internal enigma to his contemporaries.


In her Byromania and the Birth of Celebrity Culture, Ghislaine McDayter observes that an outburst of public fascination with Byron's physical look was triggered by the return of his embalmed corpse to England:
   As Byron's body returned to England on the decks of the Florida, so
   too the literary world returned to their examination of the poet's
   mystery with a new enthusiasm. Byron's body now took precedence
   over his literary corpus in certain circles, providing a new and
   less mobile text to read and analyze. (35)

The scholar maintains that those readings exposed the desire of Byron's fans "to fill in the gaps of Byron's mystery and reveal, at last, the 'real' origin of the poet's success, sexual and otherwise." This striving represents a "phantasmatic embodiment" of the public desire:
   Just as Schliemann's so-called Mask of Agamemnon was little more
   than a screen upon which the archaeologist projected his own
   desire, so too Byron's body stood for something far more powerful
   and evocative than mere flesh: it became the screen upon which
   later generations could project their own fantasies, anxieties, and
   desires. (36)

It is safe to call Medwin's written portrait of Byron, introduced to the public right after the poet's death in Missolonghi and polemically opposed both to Thorwaldsen's "thin-necked" and Bartolini's "neck-centered" busts of the poet, an iconic representation of these "fantasies, anxieties, and de sires." It is worth citing the entire passage from Medwin's book (see the footnote for the French translation):

During the few minutes that Lord Byron was finishing his letter, I took an opportunity of narrowly observing him, and drawing his portrait in my mind. [...] None of the engravings gave me the least idea of him. I saw a man of about five feet seven or eight, apparently forty years of age: as was said of Milton, he barely escaped being short and thick. His face was fine, and the lower part symmetrically moulded; for the lips and chin had that curved and definite outline that distinguishes Grecian beauty. His forehead was high, and his temples broad; and he had a paleness in his complexion, almost to wanness. His hair, thin and fine, had almost become grey, and waved in natural and graceful curls over his head, that was assimilating itself fast to the "bald first Caesar's." He allowed it to grow longer behind than it is accustomed to be worn, and at that time had mustachios, which were not sufficiently dark to be becoming.

In criticising his features, it might, perhaps, be said that his eyes were placed too near his nose, and that one was rather smaller than the other; they were of a greyish brown, but of a peculiar clearness, and when animated possessed a fire which seemed to look through and penetrate the thoughts of others, while they marked the inspirations of his own. His teeth were small, regular and white; these, I afterwards found, he took great pains to preserve.

I expected to discover that he had a club, perhaps a cloven foot; but it would have been difficult to have distinguished one from the other, either in size or in form.

On the whole, his figure was manly, and his countenance handsome and prepossessing, and very expressive; and the familiar ease of his conversation soon made me perfectly at home in his society. (5-7; italics are mine--I.V. (37)

It is very likely that another Russian admirer of Byron, Mikhail Lermontov, used Medwin's iconic description as the direct source for his portrait of Pechorin, as being "narrowly observed" from aside by the intrigued narrator:

[phrase omitted]. (38)

Although Pechorin is younger than the Byron of Medwin's account, his sophisticated portrait seems to deliberately refer the reader to its famous prototype, rather than simply reproduce the stereotypical features of the Romantic personality: Pechorin looks like Byron because he is his Russian physical reincarnation "in progress."

The special status of Medwin's written materialization of Byron's appearance among other Romantic verbal portraits of Lord Byron is obvious. Tellingly, Byron's close friend Hobhouse, who considered Medwin a liar and impostor, "builds" his terrifying description of the dead poet's body against Medwin's narrative:
   I drew closer by degrees till I caught a view of the face--it did
   not bear the slightest resemblance to my dear friend--the mouth was
   distorted & half open showing those teeth in which poor fellow he
   once so prided himself quite discoloured by spirits--his upper lip
   was shaded with red mustachios which gave a totally new character
   to his face--cheeks were long and bagged over the jaw--his nose was
   quite prominent at the bridge & sank in between the eyes--perhaps
   from the extraction of the brain--his eye brows shaggy &
   lowering--his forehead marked with hack marks probably--his eyelids
   closed & sunken--I presume the eyeballs having been removed when he
   was embalmed--his skin was like dull yellow parchment--So complete
   was the change that I was not affected as I thought I should be--It
   did not seem to be Byron--I was not moved so much scarcely as the
   sight of his hand writing or anything that I knew to be his--I did
   not remark what Hanson told me had not observed in his life time
   that his left eye was much larger than his right.... One effect,
   however, the sight produced upon me--namely to make me despise
   existence and think less of the end of it than ever. (39)

According to the Byron myth, his beautiful and paradoxical physical appearance, embodied in his portraits, his writings, and writings about him, should have survived his demise: it should have been possible to see his white teeth and hear his powerful laughter even after his death. However, as Jerome Christensen comments in Lord Byron's Strength, "Hobhouse's blazon of the unhaloed corpse--so different from the decaying body of Greece at the beginning of The Giaour--aims to dissociate Lord Byron as friend, author, and biological subject from the mere thing that lies embalmed before him. The body has returned from the symbolic to the real--there is nothing to be made out of the mutilation of the face." (40) Ironically, even his famous teeth succumb to death in this gruesome narrative.


For Pushkin, Medwin's Conversations of Lord Byron became not only a precious source of information about the Bard's mysterious physical appearance at the end of his brief and wondrous life, but also a Romantic Gospel of true Romantic life, habits, and behavior. Vul'f, who visited Pushkin in Mikhailovskoe, justly called his friend's interest in Byron a kind of mania. Indeed, Pushkin consciously constructed his life in the village in accordance with the Byronic model presented in Medwin's book: billiards, pistol practice, an evening ride, swimming, boxing, masquerades; even his ferocious mastiffs, mentioned by Anna Kern, are the reincarnation of Byron's bulldogs, as described by Medwin. (41)

There is no doubt that Pushkin (as well as his Byronic--in different ways--heroes Onegin and Lensky) was interested in Byron's paradoxical opinions regarding life and death, good and evil, English aristocracy, politics, women, family life, friendship, inspiration, Walter Scott's novels, poetry and contemporary poets, as well as destiny--all rendered in Medwin's book. It is probable that the superstitious Russian poet paid close attention to Byron's story about the fortune teller Mrs. Williams, included in the Conversations: "It had been predicted by Mrs. Williams that twenty-seven was to be a dangerous age for me in my life: the fortune-telling witch was right." Medwin added a telling footnote to this conversation: "He was married in his twenty-seventh, and died in his thirty-seventh year. If true, a good guess." (42)

I believe that Pushkin's own story about Ms. Kierhof, who supposedly predicted his death at the age of 37 (narrated by Nashchokin) goes back to Mrs. Williams's prophecy. Finally, as the noted Russian Pushkinist Levkovich justly observes, Pushkin's reading of Medwin's Conversations influenced his idea to write his own memoirs as a combination of romantic fragments and opinions rather than a linear chronology of his life. In his introduction to Conversations, Medwin quotes Byron's "sentiments" that "a great poet belongs to no country; his works are public property, and his Memoirs the inheritance of the public." This thought, Levkovich argues, was very close to Pushkin's vision of a literary biography. (43) The main goal of Medwin was to reveal what was the real, "human" Byron during his lifetime, to preserve his physical and mental image for posterity. Pushkin perceived Conversations of Lord Byron as a guide to action, a sort of romantic "What Is to Be Done?" for the true modern poet.

In this context, Vasily Tropinin's famous portrait of Pushkin, dated 1827, presents a peculiar palimpsest through which one can see the ideal prototype--most likely, Byron's portrait, based on Bartolini's "neck-centered" bust, included in the French edition of Medwin's Conversations, which was thoroughly read by Pushkin (look at Pushkin's Byronic neck and chin, emphasized by the Byronic turn-down collar):

Another source of Tropinin's work is Thomas Phillips's portrait of Lord Byron in Shakespearean cloak (cf. the hand and the ring):

Also, consider the Byronic motif (a Scottish plaid) in Orest Kiprensky's portrait of Pushkin of that same year. It is worth mentioning that Taras Shevchenko reproached the artist for portraying "some dandy rather than a poet": (44)

Clearly, Pushkin's self-Byronization (emphasized by his friends and portraitists) was not unique in his age (take Disraeli or Musset as Western examples, or Pogodin, Vul'f, or Viazemsky, for their Russian counterparts). However, from a historical perspective, Pushkin's case was not a mere imitation of Byron, but rather a conscious attempt by his Russian "brother" to discover in himself or assimilate the features of the British genius, similar to the attempts at reincarnating Werther or Karl Moor characteristic of the generation of 1790-1800. This literary-psychological process represents an interesting version of "the anxiety of influence"--a "seventh ratio" to add to the six discussed by Harold Bloom: the young poet overcomes the influence of his idol not by the rewriting and willful misinterpretation of the latter's works (cf. Pushkin's parodies of Zhukovsky), but rather by internalizing the physical and emotional image of his idol and transporting him into circumstances and environments that are absolutely alien to his poetry ("[phrase omitted]" of a remote Russian province). To become the Pushkin whom we know, the young poet had to become Byron--in spirit and flesh, from thoughts to teeth, so to speak.


In their essay on Pushkin's life written for The Cambridge Companion to Pushkin, David Bethea and Sergei Davydov noted that some of Pushkin's friends "saw his 'demonic laughter' and 'grinding of teeth,' as signs of the fiery temperament inherited from his grand-father Gannibal." (45) It is safe to say, I believe, that from the historical (or literary-anthropological) point of view, the poet "inherited" this habit from his most Romantic lordship. (One can also say that Pushkin tried to reconcile his Byronic ideal with his African appearance.) Pushkin's assimilation and consequent Russification of Byronic features and body politics was successful. By the mid-1830s, the poet's face and his "teeth-bared" laughter became iconic in Russian cultural mythology. However, its Byronic or British background (as opposed to or in combination with the African one) did not disappear completely. It was presented in a parodic or ironic light.

We conclude with a couple of telling examples that trace the further history of our theme. In Gogol's "The Nose," Major Kovalev asks his servant "to fetch the doctor who occupied the finest flat in the mansion." "This doctor was a man of imposing appearance, who had magnificent black whiskers and a healthy wife. He ate fresh apples every morning, and cleaned his teeth with extreme care, using five different tooth-brushes for three-quarters of an hour daily." (46) It is tempting to interpret this comic medical figure as a playful parody of the married, Byronized Pushkin (and, perhaps, of Onegin who had "brushes of thirty kinds"). (47) It is even more tempting to detect Pushkin's Byronic teeth in the satirical portrait of Mr. M. in Dostoevsky's early story "Little Hero":

[phrase omitted] (48).

In the age of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, it was an act of shame and moral (and national) treason to have pearly Byronic teeth. The man of this era was no longer in control of his body and passions, but, to use the underground man's words, "in complete slavery to [his] teeth; that if someone wishes it, [his] teeth will leave off aching, and if he does not, they will go on aching another three months." (49) Or, perhaps, as long as a century...

Princeton University

[Please note: Some non-Latin characters were omitted from this article.]


Aizenshtein, Elena. '"Afriki reki': Pushkin v rukopisiakh i stikhakh Mariny Tsvetaevoi," Neva, no. 6 (2014): 216-37.

Almeida, Hermione de. "Between Two Worlds: Evolution, Speculation, and Extinction in Byron." In Byron's Temperament: Essays in Body and Mind, edited by Bernard Beatty and Jonathon Shears. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Series, 2006.

Bethea, David, and Sergei Davydov. "Pushkin's Life." In The Cambridge Companion to Pushkin, edited by Andrew Kahn, 11-25. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Borden, Richard C. "Making a True Image: Blackness and Pushkin Portraits." In Under the Sky of My Africa: Alexander Pushkin and Blackness, edited by Catharine Theimer Nepomnyashchy, Nicole Svobodny, andLudmillaA. Trigos, 172-95. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2006.

Briusov, Valerii. Moi Pushkin: Stat'i, issledovaniia, nabliudeniia, edited by N. K. Piskanov. Moscow: Leningrad: Gosizdat, 1929.

Burnashev, V. P. "Iz vospominanii peterburgskogo starozhila," Zaria, no. 4 (1871).

Byron, Lord George Gordon. Don Juan Complete; English Bards and Scotch Reviewers; Hours of Idleness; The Waltz, and all the other minor poems. London: J. F. Dove, 1827.

Christensen, Jerome. Lord Byron's Strength: Romantic Writing and Commercial Society. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993.

Cohran, Peter. Byron and Hobby-O; Lord Byron's Relationship with John Cam Hobhouse. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2010.

Dolinin, Aleksandr. Pushkin i Angliia: Tsikl statei. Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2007.

--. "Baironovskii sled v knige Pushkina 'Puteshestvie v Arzrum vo vremia pokhoda 1829 goda.'" In Memento Vivere; Sbornik pamiati L. N. Ivanovoi, 122-31. St. Petersburg: Nauka, 2009.

Dostoevskii, F. M. Polnoe sobranie sochinenii v 30 tomakh. Edited by G. M. Fridlender. Leningrad: Nauka, 1972-90.

Gasparov, Boris. "Pushkin and Romanticism." In The Pushkin Handbook, edited by David Bethea, 537-67. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2005.

Gogol', N. V. Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, 14 vols. Leningrad: Akademiia nauk SSSR, 1938-52.

Greenleaf, Monika. "Pushkin's Byronic Apprenticeship: A Problem in Cultural Syncretism." Russian Review 53, no. 3 (1994): 382-98.

Iuzefovich, M. V. "Pamiati Pushkina." In Pushkin v vospominaniiakh sovremennikov, 2: 104-06. St. Petersburg: Akademicheskii proekt, 1998.

Kenyon Jones, Christine. "Fantasy and Transfiguration: Byron and His Portraits." In Byromania: Portraits of the Artist, edited by Frances Wilson, 109-36. London: Macmillan, 1999.

Lavater, Johann Caspar. Essays on Physiognomy. Vol. 1. London: Blake, 1840.

Lermontov, M. Iu. Sobranie sochinenii v 4-kh tomakh. Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1984.

Levkovich, la. L. Avtobiograficheskaia proza i pis 'ma Pushkina. Leningrad: Nauka, 1988.

Lotman, Iu. M. Pushkin. St. Petersburg: Iskusstvo, 1995.

Mandel'shtam, O. E. Shum vremeni. Moscow: Olma-Press, 2003.

Medwin, Thomas. Conversations of Lord Byron: Noted during a residence with his lordship at Pisa in the years 1821 and 1822. London: Henry Colburn, 1824.

--. Conversations de Lord Byron, recueillies pendant un sejour avec Sa Seigneurie a Pise, dans les annees 1821 et 1822. Vols. 1-2. Paris: Chez Pillet Aine, 1824.

McDayter, Ghislaine. Byronmania and the Birth of Celebrity Culture. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2009.

Moore, Thomas. Letters and Journals of Lord Byron: With Notices of His Life. Vol. 2. London: John Murray, 1830.

Poe, Edgar Allan. The Collected Tales and Poems. New York: Modern Library, 1992.

Porter, Roy. Flesh in the Age of Reason. New York: W. W. Norton, 2004.

Pushkin, A. S. Polnoe sobranie sochinenii v 16 tomakh. Vol. 13, Perepiska: 1815-1827, edited by D. D. Blagoi. Moscow: Izdatel'stvo Akademii nauk SSSR, 1937.

Shevchenko, T. G. Shevchenko ob iskusstve. Edited by 1.1. Stebun. Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1964.

Smirnova-Rosset, A. O. Zapiski. Moscow: Moskovskii rabochii, 1999.

Sollogub, V. A. Vospominaniia: Gogol', Pushkin i Lermontov. Moscow: Grachev, 1866.

Stanton, Domna C. The Aristocrat as Art: A Study of the Honnete Homme and the Dandy in Seventeenth- and Nineteenth-century French Literature. New York: Columbia University Press, 1980.

Turgenev, I. S. Polnoe sobranie sochinenii v 30 t. Vol. 11. Moscow: Nauka, 1982.

Tynianov, Iu. N. Pushkin. Moscow: Kniga, 1984.

Vatsuro, V. E. '"Velikii melankholik' v 'Puteshestvii iz Moskvy v Peterburg.'" In Vremennik Pushkinskoi komissii. 1972 (Leningrad: Nauka, 1974), 43-63.

Veresaev, V. B. Zagadochnyi Pushkin. Moscow: Respublika, 1999.

Vinitskii, Il'ia. Graf Sardinskii: D. I. Khvostov i russkaia kul'tura. Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2017.

--. '"Baironovskii paradoks' Pushkina: Psikhologicheskii portret kak istoriko-kul'turnaia problema." In Vremennik Pushkinskoi komissii 33 (St. Petersburg: IRLI, 2019), 162-72.

Vul'f, A. N. "Rasskazy o Pushkine, zapisannye M. I. Semevskim," Pushkin v vospominaniiakh sovremennikov, 1: 419-21. St. Petersburg: Akademicheskii proekt, 1998.

Zhirmunskii, V. M. Bairon i Pushkin: Iz istorii romanticheskoi poemy. Leningrad: Academia, 1924.

--. Bairon i Pushkin: Pushkin i zupadnye literatury. Leningrad: Nauka, 1978.

Ziolkowski, Theodore. "The Telltale Teeth: Psychodontia to Sociodontia." PMLA 91, no. 1 (1976): 9-22.

I am grateful to Michael A. Wachtel, Luba Goburt, and my anonymous readers for their generous advice and helpful critical comments.

(1) Monika Greenleaf, "Pushkin's Byronic Apprenticeship: A Problem in Cultural Syncretism," Russian Review 53, no. 3 (1994): 382-98.

(2) On Pushkin's Byronism, see V. D. Spasovich, Baironizm u Pushkina i Lermontova (1911); V. I. Ivanov, Baironizm kak sobytie v zhizni russkogo dukha (1916); V. M. Zhirmunskii, Bairon i Pushkin: Iz istorii romanticheskoi poemy (1924), and Bairon i Pushkin: Pushkin i zapadnye literatury (1978); Dmitrii Chizhevskii, '"K moriu,' stikhotvorenie Pushkina, rukopis' vtoroi redaktsii" (1956); Iu. M. Lotman, Roman A. S. Pushkina "Evgenii Onegin": Kommentarii (1980); A. M. Gurevich, Romantizm Pushkina (1993); L. I. Vol'pert, Pushkin v roll Pushkina: Tvorcheskaia igrapo motivam frantsuzskoi literatury (1998); 0. A. Proskurin, Poeziia Pushkina, ili Podvizhnyi palimpsest (1999); Svetlana Evdokimova and Vladimir Gol'dshtein, "Estetika dendizma v 'Evgenii Onegine'" (2003); Igor' Nemirovskii, Tvorchestvo Pushkina i problema publichnogo povedeniia poeta (2005); Aleksandr Dolinin, Pushkin i Angliia: Tsikl statei (Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2007); Monika Greenleaf, Pushkin and Romantic Fashion: Fragment, Elegy, Orient, Irony (1994); Boris Gasparov, "Pushkin and Romanticism" (2005); Michael Wachtel, "Pushkin's Long Poems and the Epic Impulse" (2006), etc. For a detailed account of Pushkin's references to Byron, see V. D. Rak, "Bairon (Byron) Dzhordzh Gordon, lord (1788-1824)," in Pushkin i mirovaia literatura: Materialy k "Pushkinskoi entsiklopedii,"

(3) Boris Gasparov, "Pushkin and Romanticism," in The Pushkin Handbook, ed. David Bethea (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2005), 537-67.

(4) Zhirmunskii, Bairon i Pushkin (1924); Dolinin, Pushkin i Angliia.

(5) Cf. [phrase omitted] A. S. Pushkin, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii v 16 tomakh, vol. 13, Perepiska: 1815-1827, ed. D. D. Blagoi (Moscow: Izdatel'stvo Akademii nauk SSSR, 1937), 99. See Dolinin, Pushkin i Angliia, 27-38; Il'ia Vinitskii [Ilya Vinitsky], Graf Sardinskii: D. I. Khvostov i russkaia kul'tura (Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2017), 288-91.

(6) Roy Porter, Flesh in the Age of Reason: The Modern Foundations of Body and Soul (New York: W. W. Norton, 2004).

(7) A. N. Vul'f, "Rasskazy o Pushkine, zapisannye M. I. Semevskim," in Pushkin v vospominaniiakh sovremennikov, 2 vols. (St. Petersburg: Akademicheskii proekt, 1998), 1: 420.

(8) Zhirmunskii, Bairon i Pushkin (1978), 21, 217.

(9) Vol'pert, Pushkin v roli Pushkina; Iu. M. Lotman, Pushkin (St. Petersburg: Iskusstvo, 1995), 101.

(10) Porter, Flesh in the Age of Reason, 456.

(11) Theodore Ziolkowski, "The Telltale Teeth: Psychodontia to Sociodontia," PMLA 91, no. 1 (1976): 14.

(12) M. V. Iuzefovich, "Pamiati Pushkina," in Pushkin v vospominaniiakh sovremennikou 2: 104-06. The italics are mine--I.V.

(13) I. S. Turgenev, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii ipisem v 30 t. (Moscow: Nauka, 1982), 11: 11.

(14) Valerii Briusov, Moi Pushkin: Stat'i, issledovaniia, nabliudeniia, ed. N. K. Piskanov (Moscow: Gosizdat, 1929), 10.

(15) V. A. Sollogub, Vospominaniia: Gogol', Pushkin i Lermontou (Moscow: Grachev i Komp., 1866), 37-38.

(16) V.B. [V. P. Burnashev], "Iz vospominanii peterburgskogo starozhila," Zaria, no. 4 (1871).

(17) V. B. Veresaev, Zagadochnyi Pushkin (Moscow: Respublika, 1999), 136.

(18) A. 0. Smirnova-Rosset, Zapiski A. O. Smirnovoi, urozhdennoi Rosset: S 1825po 1845 (Moscow: Moskovskii rabochii, 1999), 29.

(19) See Elena Aizenshtein, '"Afriki reki': Pushkin v rukopisiakh i stikhakh Mariny Tsvetaevoi," Neva, no. 6 (2014): 216-37.

(20) [phrase omitted] O. E. Mandel'shtam, Shum vremeni (Moscow: Olma-Press, 2003), 206.

(21) Iu. N. Tynianov, Pushkin (Moscow: Kniga, 1984), 246.

(22) Richard C. Borden, "Making a True Image: Blackness and Pushkin Portraits," in Under the Sky of My Africa: Alexander Pushkin and Blackness, ed. Catharine Theimer Nepomnyashchy, Nicole Svobodny, and Ludmilla A. Trigos (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2006), 179.

(23) Thomas Medwin, Conversations of Lord Byron: Noted during a residence with His Lordship at Pisa in the years 1821 and 1822 (London: Henry Colburn, 1824), translated into French as Conversations de Lord Byron, recueillies pendant un se jour avec Sa Seigneurie a Pise, dans les annees 1821 et 1822 (Paris, 1825). The first edition of the book went under the title Journal of the Conversations of Lord Byron.

(24) On Pushkin's interest in Medwin, see Aleksandr Dolinin, "Baironovskii sled v knige Pushkina 'Puteshestvie v Arzrum vo vremia pokhoda 1829 goda,'" in Memento Vivere: Sbornik pamiati L. N. Ivanovoi (St. Petersburg: Nauka, 2009), 124-26.

(25) "Ses dents etaient petites, regulieres et blanches; je decouvris par la suite qu'il prenait de grands soins pour les conserver. Pour cela, il se servait de tabac quand il allait d'abord au grand air; il m'a dit qu'il avait l'habitude de grincer les dents pendant son sommeil, et que, pour y remedier, il etait force de se mettre une serviette entre les dents" (Conversations de Lord Byron, 9).

(26) "On Keeping, or Costume in Character," Galignani's Magazine and Paris Monthly Review 7 (1824): 119. See Domna C. Stanton, The Aristocrat as Art: A Study of the Honnete Homme and the Dandy in Seventeenth- and Nineteenth-century French Literature (New York: Columbia University Press, 1980).

(27) Johann Caspar Lavater, Essays on Physiognomy (London: Blake, 1840), 1: 395. On Byron's interest in Lavater, see Hermione de Almeida, "Between Two Worlds: Evolution, Speculation, and Extinction in Byron," in Byron's Temperament: Essays in Body and Mind, ed. Bernard Beatty and Jonathon Shears (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Series, 2016), 140, 150-51.

(28) Lord George Gordon Byron, Don Juan Complete; English Bards and Scotch Reviewers; Hours of Idleness; The Waltz, and all the other minor poems (London: J. F. Dove, 1827), 145.

(29) Thomas Moore, Letters and Journals of Lord Byron: With Notices of His Life (London: John Murray, 1830), 2: 380.

(30) Ziolkowski, "Telltale Teeth," 11.

(31) According to Ziolkowski, "the potent and beautiful teeth that concern folklore have little need of dentists; and as a result dentists do not often figure in literature before the twentieth century" (ibid., 14).

(32) See her response in PMLA 91, no. 3 (1976): 460.

(33) Thomas Moore, Letters and Journals of Lord Byron, 2: 122. The italics are mine--I. V.

(34) On Pushkin and melancholy, see V. E. Vatsuro, '"Velikii melankholik' v 'Puteshestvii iz Moskvy v Peterburg,'" Vremennik Pushkinskoi komissii (Leningrad: Nauka, 1974), 43-63; Il'ia Vinitskii, '"Baironovskii paradoks' Pushkina: Psikhologicheskii portret kak istoriko-kul'turnaia problema," Vremennik Pushkinskoi komissii 33 (St. Petersburg: IRLI, 2019), 162-72.

(35) Ghislaine McDayter, Byromania and the Birth of Celebrity Culture (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2009), 178.

(36) Ibid., 181. On Byron's portraits, see Christine Kenyon Jones, "Fantasy and Transfiguration: Byron and His Portraits," in Byromania: Portraits of the Artist (London: Macmillan, 1999), 109-36.

(37) "Pendant le peu d'instans que lord Byron mit a finir sa lettre, je saisis l'occasion de l'observer attentivement et de graver ses traits dans ma memoire. [...] Aucune gravure ne m'a donne la moindre idee de lui. Je vis un homme d'environ cinq pieds six ou huit pouces (mesure anglaise); il paraissait avoir quarante ans. Ainsi qu'on l'a dit de Milton, il avait tout juste ce qu il fallait pour n'etre pas court et gros. Sa figure etait belle, et la partie inferieure en etait symetriquement dessinee: car les levres et le menton decrivaient cette courbe et ces contours precis qui distinguent la beaute grecque. II avait le front eleve, les tempes larges; son teint etait d'une paleur presque bleme; sa chevelure, fine et clairsemee, commengait a grisonner: elle flottait avec grace sur sa tete en boucles naturelles, ce qui la rendait chaque jour plus semblable a la tete chauve dupremier Cesar. II laissait croitre ses cheveux par derriere plus longs qu'on ne les porte d'habitude; il portait aussi des moustaches qui n'etaient pas assez noires pour lui bien aller. Peut-etre, s'il fallait critiquer ses traits, pourrait-on trouver qu'il avait les yeux trop rapproches du nez, et que l'un des deux paraissait un peu plus grand que l'autre; ils etaient gris bruns, mais remarquables et brillans, et des qu'ils s'animaient, ils langaient un feu qui semblait penetrer les pensees des autres, tout en trahissant les inspirations des siennes. Ses dents etaient petites, regulieres et blanches; je decouvris par la suite qu'il prenait de grands soins pour les conserver. Pour cela, il se servait de tabac quand il allait d'abord au grand air; il m'a dit qu'il avait l'habitude de grincer les dents pendant son sommeil, et que, pour y remedier, il etait force de se mettre une serviette entre les dents. Je m'attendais a decouvrir qu'il avait un pied-bot, peut-etre le pied fourchu; mais il eut ete difficile de distinguer l'un de l'autre, soit par le volume, soit par la forme. En tout, son exterieur etait male; sa physionomie, belle et expressive, prevenait en sa faveur. La familiere aisance de sa conversation me mit bientot touta-fait a mon aise dans sa societe" (6-10).

(38) M. Iu. Lermontov, Sobranie sochinenii (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1984), 4: 46 (italics are mine--I.V.). "From my first glance at his face I should not have supposed his age to be more than twenty-three, though afterwards I should have put it down as thirty. His smile had something of a child-like quality. His skin possessed a kind of feminine delicacy. His fair hair, naturally curly, most picturesquely outlined his pale and noble brow, on which it was only after lengthy observation that traces could be noticed of wrinkles, intersecting each other: probably they showed up more distinctly in moments of anger or mental disturbance. Notwithstanding the light colour of his hair, his moustaches and eyebrows were black--a sign of breeding in a man, just as a black mane and a black tail in a white horse. To complete the portrait, I will add that he had a slightly turned-up nose, teeth of dazzling whiteness, and brown eyes--I must say a few words more about his eyes. In the first place, they never laughed when he laughed. Have you not happened, yourself, to notice the same peculiarity in certain people?... It is a sign either of an evil disposition or of deep and constant grief. From behind his half-lowered eyelashes they shone with a kind of phosphorescent gleam--if I may so express myself--which was not the reflection of a fervid soul or of a playful fancy, but a glitter like to that of smooth steel, blinding but cold. His glance--brief, but piercing and heavy--left the unpleasant impression of an indiscreet question and might have seemed insolent had it not been so unconcernedly tranquil." M. Y. Lermontov, A Hero of Our Time, trans. J. H. Wisdom and Marr Murray (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1916), 97-99.

(39) Quoted in Peter Cohran, Byron and Hobby-O: Lord Byron's Relationship with John Cam Hobhouse (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2010), 226. Italics are mine--I. V.

(40) Jerome Christensen, Lord Byron's Strength: Romantic Writing and Commercial Society (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993), 356.

(41) "Lord Byron est excellent ecuyer; il reunit l'aplomb a la grace, et il a beaucoup de pretentions a cet exercice. II nous conduisit pendant quelques milles, jusqu'a ce que nous arrivames a une ferme ou il s'exerce tous les soirs a tirer le pistolet. C'est son plaisir favori; c'est une occupation pour lui. II a toujours des pistolets dans ses fontes, et son coursier en porte huit ou dix paires des premiers fabricans de Londres" (19; p. 13 in English edition of 1824); "Le billard, la conversation et la lecture remplissaient le tems jusqu'a l'heure de nos promenades du soir, soit en voiture. soit a cheval, et de notre exercice du pistolet" (23; p. 17 in English edition).

(42) "Mistress Williams m'a dit la mienne. Elle me predit que vingt-sept ans et trente-sept ans seraient deux ages dangereux dans ma vie. L'une des deux predictions s'est deja realisee [...]" II fut marie dans sa vingt-septieme annee, et mourut dans sa trente-septieme" (Medwin, Conversations, 173-74).

(43) la. L. Levkovich, Avtobiograficheskaia proza i pis'ma Pushkina (Leningrad: Nauka, 1988). For an alternative interpretation of Pushkin's design, see Dolinin, Pushkin i Angliia, 203.

(44) Shevchenko ob iskusstve (Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1964), 168.

(45) David Bethea and Sergei Davydov, "Pushkin's Life," in The Cambridge Companion to Pushkin, ed Andrew Kahn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 23.

(46) N. V. Gogol', Polnoe sobranie sochinenni (Leningrad: Akademiia nauk SSSR, 1938), 3; 68.

(47) One can also detect a parody of Pushkin in the image of Nozdrev who appears in the novel with "a pair of full red cheeks, a set of teeth as white as snow, and coal-black whiskers."

(48) F. M. Dostoevskii, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii v 30 tomakh (Leningrad: Nauka, 1972), 2: 275. "[T]hey said her husband was as jealous as a [moor], not from love, but from vanity. He was before all things a European, a modern man, who sampled the newest ideas and prided himself upon them. In appearance he was a tall, dark-haired, particularly thick-set man, with European whiskers, with a self-satisfied, red face, with teeth white as sugar, and with an irreproachably gentlemanly deportment. He was called a clever man." Fyodor Dostoyevsky, White Nights and Other Stories, trans. Constance Garnett (New York: Macmillan, 1918), 232.

(49) "[phrase omitted]" (Dostoevskii, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, 5: 106).

Caption: Figures 2 and 3. Pushkin's portrait by V.A. Tropinin (1827) (left) and Byron's portrait from Medwin's French edition (right).

Caption: Figures 4 and 5. Pushkin's portrait by V.A. Tropinin (1827) (left) and Thomas Phillips's portrait of Lord Byron (1814) (right).

Caption: Figure 6. Portrait of Pushkin by Orest Kiprensky (1827)
COPYRIGHT 2019 Slavica Publishers, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2019 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Vinitsky, Ilya
Publication:Pushkin Review
Geographic Code:60AFR
Date:Jan 1, 2019
Previous Article:Bot [phrase omitted] ...": Poetic Form as a Window onto Pushkin's Playful Ethical "Doublespeak".
Next Article:Pushkin's Turn to Folklore.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters