BMJ 1995; 310 doi: (Published 20 May 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;310:1300


Hamlet rudely reminds Ophelia that while God has given ladies one face they insist on making themselves another. He says he has heard of their paintings, but he makes no allusion to their teeth, and we are willing to believe that Ophelia's were the gift of Nature. Had she lived in the present day the chances are that they would have been the handiwork of the dentist, and Hamlet might possibly have learnt the fact to his cost. A young lady of New Jersey was recently kissed by her lover with such Swinburnian fervour that the gold filling fell out of one of her teeth. The ungallant swain seems to have been unwilling to pay for the necessary repairs. The result is that the engagement has been broken off, and Chloe is suing Strephon for the value of her damaged tooth. This case adds a fresh terror to love making in these days of breach of promise and of our particular protege, the oacillus basii, and it opens up a rich vein of legal questions of a novel kind. If Angelina's maiden blushes come off on Edwin's cheek, is the latter liable for the cost of their reproduction? If a deviated septum which has (to use the word of Theophile Gautier) altered the intention of the fair one's nose to be Greek has been rectified by surgical art, is the enamoured wooer liable for the amount of the fee if the structure gives way under the ardour of his embrace? Truly if this be the law the man whose fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love might, as Touchstone says, “If he were of a fearful heart, stagger in this attempt.” at any rate, before sporting with Amaryllis in the shade it would be well for the lover to make sure that one of her eyes is not made of glass, and before playing with the tangles of Naera's hair it would be prudent for him to satisfy himself that it is not detachable.

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