Dumas and Dostoevskii — Deflowering the Camellia

  • Donald Rayfield


‘A charming novel, a poem which in my opinion is fated neither to die nor grow old. The charm of the narration, the originality of the main character’s portrayal, this alluring world which is analysed so subtly and of course all these enchanting details scattered in the book (for example about the alternate use of bouquets of white and pink camellias)’ says Totskii of Dumas fils’s La Dame aux camélias (1848) in Dostoevskii’s Idiot (1868).1 The links between Dumas fils and Dostoevskii extend far further than this unprepossessingly fulsome tribute might imply, and the camellia is a device which Dostoevskii takes up from the French novelist, dramatist and raisonneur to throw in his face.


Female Decoration Alluring World Natural Father Abandoned Child East European Study 
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  1. 1.
    F. M. Dostoevskii, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii v tridtsati tomakh (Leningrad, 1972&#x2013l) (henceforth PSS), Vol. VIII (1974), p. 128.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    Quoted by Les Commérages, En Marge du IIième Empire (Paris, Collection Hier, 1930), pp. 124–6.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    Quoted in D. L. Feather, The Camellia (London, The American Camellia Society, 1978), p. 70.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    See Émile Zola, La Ventre de Paris, in Oeuvres complètes (Paris, Cercle du livre précieux, 1967), IV, pp. 705–8.Google Scholar
  5. 10.
    Dumas fils, L’Homme-femme (Paris, Michel Lévy frères, 1872), quoted in Podrostok, PSS, XIII, 277.Google Scholar
  6. 11.
    Leonid Grossman, Dostoevskii (Moscow, 1965), p. 217.Google Scholar
  7. 12.
    Elizabeth Gaskell, Ruth (London, Dent, 1967), pp. 16–17.Google Scholar

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© School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University of London 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Donald Rayfield

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