Dostoevsky Draws a Picture of Shakespeare: A New Discovery in an Old Manuscript


Dos­to­evsky, a doo­dler? Sure­ly not! Great Russ­ian brow fur­rowed over the mean­ing of love and hate and faith and crime, div­ing into squalid hells, ascend­ing to the heights of spir­i­tu­al ecsta­sy, tak­ing a gasp of heav­en­ly air, then back down to the depths again to churn out the pages and hun­dreds of char­ac­ter arcs—that’s Dostoevsky’s style. Doo­dles? No. And yet, even Dos­to­evsky, the acme of lit­er­ary seri­ous­ness, made time for the odd pen and ink car­i­ca­ture amidst his bouts of exis­ten­tial angst, pover­ty, and ill health. We’ve shown you some of them before—indeed, some very well ren­dered por­traits and archi­tec­tur­al draw­ings in the pages of his man­u­scripts. Now, just above, see yet anoth­er, a recent­ly dis­cov­ered tiny por­trait of Shake­speare in pro­file, etched in the mar­gins of a page from one of his angsti­est nov­els, The Pos­sessed, avail­able in our col­lec­tion, 800 Free eBooks for iPad, Kin­dle & Oth­er Devices.


Annie Mar­tirosyan in The Huff­in­g­ton Post points out some fam­i­ly resem­blance between the Shake­speare doo­dle and the famous brood­ing oil por­trait of Dos­to­evsky him­self, by Vasi­ly Per­ov. She also notes the ring stain and sundry drips over the “hard­ly leg­i­ble… scrib­bles” and “mar­gin­a­lia… scat­tered naugh­ti­ly across the page” is from the author’s tea. “Feodor Mikhailovich was an avid tea drinker,” and he would con­sume his favorite bev­er­age while walk­ing “to and fro in the room and mak[ing] up his char­ac­ters’ speech­es out loud….” Can’t you just see it? Under the draw­ing (see it clos­er in the inset)—in one of the many exam­ples of the author’s painstak­ing hand­writ­ing practice—is the name “Atkin­son.”

Mar­tirosyan sums up a some­what com­pli­cat­ed aca­d­e­m­ic dis­cus­sion between Dos­to­evsky experts Vladimir Zakharov and Boris Tikhomirov about the source of this name. This may be of inter­est to lit­er­ary spe­cial­ists. But per­haps it suf­fices to say that both schol­ars “have now con­firmed the authen­tic­i­ty of the image as Dostoevsky’s draw­ing of Shake­speare,” and that the name and draw­ing may have no con­cep­tu­al con­nec­tion. It’s also fur­ther proof that Dos­to­evsky, like many of us, turned to mak­ing pic­tures when, says schol­ar Kon­stan­tin Barsht—whom Col­in Mar­shall quot­ed in our pre­vi­ous post—“the words came slow­est.” In fact, some of the author’s char­ac­ter descrip­tions, Barsht claims, “are actu­al­ly the descrip­tions of doo­dled por­traits he kept rework­ing until they were right.”

So why Shake­speare? Per­haps it’s sim­ply that the great psy­cho­log­i­cal nov­el­ist felt a kin­ship with the “inven­tor of the human.” After all, Dos­to­evsky has been called, in those mem­o­rable words from Count Mel­choir de Vogue, “the Shake­speare of the lunatic asy­lum.”

via The Huff­in­g­ton Post

h/t OC read­er Nick

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Fyo­dor Dos­to­evsky Draws Elab­o­rate Doo­dles In His Man­u­scripts

The Dig­i­tal Dos­to­evsky: Down­load Free eBooks & Audio Books of the Russ­ian Novelist’s Major Works

Watch a Hand-Paint­ed Ani­ma­tion of Dostoevsky’s “The Dream of a Ridicu­lous Man”

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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  • asmaakter says:

    …In Just 4 Weeks!
    If You Are A Begin­ner Or Inter­me­di­ate Artist Who Strug­gles With:

    - Keep­ing Your Por­trait In Pro­por­tion…

    - Adding Depth Using Real­is­tic Shad­ing…

    - Or Cap­tur­ing The Like­ness Of Your Por­trait…

    …Then This Will Be The Most Impor­tant Let­ter You Ever Read!

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