George Washington's False Teeth

Robert Darnton




W. W. Norton & Company

George Washington was inaugurated as president in 1789 with one tooth in his mouth, a lower left bicuspid. The Father of His Country had sets of false teeth that were made of everything but wood, from elephant ivory and walrus tusk to the teeth of a fellow human. With characteristic learning and bracing insight, Robert Darnton shows us that the Enlightenment had false teeth alsothat it was not the Father of Our Modern World, responsible for all its advances and transgressions. In restoring the Enlightenment to human scale, Darnton locates its real aims, ambitions, and significance. So too with the French Revolution, another icon of the eighteenth century, approached here through the gossip, songs, and broadsides that formed the political nervous system of Paris in the Old Regime. Figures we think we knowVoltaire, Jefferson, Rousseau, Condorcet, even historians themselvesemerge afresh in Darnton's hands, their vitality, if not their teeth, intact. 17 b/w illustrations.