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◈ Letters of Anton Chekhov (안톤 체호프의 편지) ◈

◇ Letters 3 ◇

해설목차  서문  1권  2권  3권  4권 5권  6권  안톤 체호프

1. TO HIS SISTER.

1.1. ST. PETERSBURG, January 14, 1891.

 
1
Unforeseen circumstances have kept me a few days longer. I am alive and well. There is no news. I saw Tolstoy’s “The Power of Darkness” the other day, though. I have been to Ryepin’s studio. What else? Nothing else. It’s dull, in fact.
 
2
I went to-day to a dog-show; I went there with Suvorin, who at the moment I am writing these lines is standing by the table and asking me to write and tell you that I have been to the dog-show with the famous dog Suvorin....
 

1.2. January, later.

1
I am alive and well, I have no palpitations, I’ve no money either, and everything is going well.
 
2
I am paying visits and seeing acquaintances. I have to talk about Sahalin and India. It’s horribly boring.
 
3
... Anna Ivanovna is as nice as ever, Suvorin talks as incessantly as ever.
 
4
I receive the most boring invitations to the most boring dinners. It seems I must make haste and get back to Moscow, as they won’t let me work here.
 
5
Hurrah, we are avenged! To make up for our being so bored, the cotton ball has yielded 1,500 roubles clear profit, in confirmation of which I enclose a cutting from a newspaper.
 
6
If anything is collected for the benefit of the Sahalin schools, let me know at once.
 
7
How is my mongoose? Don’t forget to give him food and drink, and beat him without mercy when he jumps on the table. Does he eat people? [Footnote: A naive question asked by a lady of Chekhov’s acquaintance.]
 
8
Write how Ivan is....
 

1.3. January, later.

1
I am tired as a ballet dancer after five acts and eight tableaux. Dinners, letters which I am too lazy to answer, conversations and imbecilities of all sorts. I have to go immediately to dine in Vassilyevsky Ostrov, and I am bored and ought to work.
 
2
I’ll stay another three days and see whether the ballet will go on the same, then I shall go home, or to see Ivan.
 
3
I am surrounded by a thick atmosphere of ill-feeling, extremely vague and to me incomprehensible. They feed me with dinners and pay me the vulgarest compliments, and at the same time they are ready to devour me. What for? The devil only knows. If I were to shoot myself I should thereby provide the greatest gratification to nine-tenths of my friends and admirers. And how pettily they express their petty feelings!
 
4
... My greetings to Lydia Yegorovna Mizinov. I expect a programme from her. Tell her not to eat farinaceous food and to avoid Levitan. A better admirer than me she will not find in her Town Council nor in higher society.
 

1.4. January 16, 1891.

1
I have the honour to congratulate you and the hero of the name-day; [Footnote: It was the name-day of Chekhov himself.] I wish you and him health and prosperity, and above all that the mongoose should not break the crockery or tear the wall-paper. I shall celebrate my name-day at the Maly Yaroslavets restaurant, from the restaurant to the benefit performance, from the benefit performance to the restaurant again.
 
2
I am working, but with very great difficulty. No sooner have I written a line than the bell rings and someone comes in to talk to me about Sahalin. It’s simply awful! ...
 
3
I have found Drishka. It appears that she is living in the same house as I am. She ran away from Moscow to Petersburg under romantic circumstances: she meant to marry a lawyer, plighted her troth to him, but an army captain turned up, and so on; she had to run away or the lawyer would have shot both Drishka and the captain with a pistol loaded with cranberries. She is prospering and is the same lively rogue as ever. I went to Svobodin’s name-day party with her yesterday. She sang gipsy songs, and created such a sensation that all the great men kissed her hand.
 
4
Rumours have reached me that Lidia Stahievna is going to be married par depit. Is it true? Tell her that I shall carry her off from her husband par depit. I am a violent man.
 
5
Has not anything been collected for the benefit of the Sahalin schools? Let me know....
 

2. TO A. F. KONI.

2.1. PETERSBURG, January 16, 1891.

 
1
DEAR SIR, ANATOLY FYODOROVITCH,
2
I did not hasten to answer your letter because I am not leaving Petersburg before next Saturday. I am sorry I have not been to see Madame Naryshkin, but I think I had better defer my visit till my book has come out, when I shall be able to turn more freely to the material I have. My brief Sahalin past looms so immense in my imagination that when I want to speak about it I don’t know where to begin, and it always seems to me that I have not said what was wanted.
 
3
I will try and describe minutely the position of the children and young people in Sahalin. It is exceptional. I saw starving children, I saw girls of thirteen prostitutes, girls of fifteen with child. Girls begin to live by prostitution from twelve years old, sometimes before menstruation has begun. Church and school exist only on paper, the children are educated by their environment and the convict surroundings. Among other things I have noted down a conversation with a boy of ten years old. I was making the census of the settlement of Upper Armudano; all the inhabitants are poverty-stricken, every one of them, and have the reputation of being desperate gamblers at the game of shtoss. I go into a hut; the people are not at home; on a bench sits a white-haired, round-shouldered, bare-footed boy; he seems lost in thought. We begin to talk.
 
4
I. “What is your father’s second name?”
 
5
He. “I don’t know.”
 
6
I. “How is that? You live with your father and don’t know what his name is? Shame!”
 
7
He. “He is not my real father.”
 
8
I. “How is that?”
 
9
He. “He is living with mother.”
 
10
I. “Is your mother married or a widow?”
 
11
He. “A widow. She followed her husband here.”
 
12
I. “What has become of her husband, then?”
 
13
He. “She killed him.”
 
14
I. “Do you remember your father?”
 
15
He. “No, I don’t, I am illegitimate. I was born when mother was at Kara.”
 
16
On the Amur steamer going to Sahalin, there was a convict with fetters on his legs who had murdered his wife. His daughter, a little girl of six, was with him. I noticed wherever the convict moved the little girl scrambled after him, holding on to his fetters. At night the child slept with the convicts and soldiers all in a heap together. I remember I was at a funeral in Sahalin. Beside the newly dug grave stood four convict bearers ex officio; the treasury clerk and I, in the capacity of Hamlet and Horatio, wandering about the cemetery; the dead woman’s lodger, a Circassian, who had come because he had nothing better to do; and a convict woman who had come out of pity and had brought the dead woman’s two children, one a baby, and the other, Alyoshka, a boy of four, wearing a woman’s jacket and blue breeches with bright-coloured patches on the knees. It was cold and damp, there was water in the grave, the convicts were laughing. The sea was in sight. Alyoshka looked into the grave with curiosity; he tried to wipe his chilly nose, but the long sleeve of his jacket got into his way. When they began to fill in the grave I asked him: “Alyoshka, where is your mother?” He waved his hand with the air of a gentleman who has lost at cards, laughed, and said: “They have buried her!”
 
17
The convicts laughed, the Circassian turned and asked what he was to do with the children, saying it was not his duty to feed them.
 
18
Infectious diseases I did not meet with in Sahalin. There is very little congenital syphilis, but I saw blind children, filthy, covered with eruptions—all diseases that are evidence of neglect. Of course I am not going to settle the problem of the children. I don’t know what ought to be done. But it seems to me that one will do nothing by means of philanthropy and what little is left of prison and other funds. To my thinking, to make something of great importance dependent upon charity, which in Russia always has a casual character, and on funds which do not exist, is pernicious. I should prefer it to be financed out of the government treasury.
 

3. TO A. S. SUVORIN.

3.1. MOSCOW, January 31, 1891.

 
1
At home I found depression. My nicest and most intelligent mongoose had fallen ill and was lying very quietly under a quilt. The little beast eats and drinks nothing. The climate has already laid its cold claw on it and means to kill it. What for?
 
2
We have received a dismal letter. In Taganrog we were on friendly terms with a well-to-do Polish family. The cakes and jam I ate in their house when I was a boy at school arouse in me now the most touching reminiscences; there used to be music, young ladies, home-made liqueurs, and catching goldfinches in the immense courtyard. The father had a post in the Taganrog customs and got into trouble. The investigation and trial ruined the family. There were two daughters and a son. When the elder daughter married a rascal of a Greek, the family took an orphan girl into the house to bring up. This little girl was attacked by disease of the knee and they amputated the leg. Then the son died of consumption, a medical student in his fourth year, an excellent fellow, a perfect Hercules, the hope of the family.... Then came terrible poverty.... The father took to wandering about the cemetery, longed to take to drink but could not: vodka simply made his head ache cruelly while his thoughts remained the same, just as sober and revolting. Now they write that the younger daughter, a beautiful, plump young girl, is consumptive.... The father writes to me of that and writes to me for a loan of ten roubles.... Ach!
 
3
I felt awfully unwilling to leave you, but still I am glad I did not remain another day—I went away and showed that I had strength of will. I am writing already. By the time you come to Moscow my novel [Footnote: “The Duel.”] will be finished, and I will go back with you to Petersburg.
 
4
Tell Borya, Mitya, and Andrushka that I vituperate them. In the pocket of my greatcoat I found some notes on which was scrawled: “Anton Pavlovitch, for shame, for shame, for shame!” O pessimi discipuli! Utinam vos lupus devoret!
 
5
Last night I did not sleep, and I read through my “Motley Tales” for the second edition. I threw out about twenty stories.
 

3.2. MOSCOW, February 5, 1891.

 
1
My mongoose has recovered and breaks crockery again with unfailing regularity.
 
2
I am writing and writing! I must own I was afraid that my Sahalin expedition would have put me out of the way of writing, but now I see that it is all right. I have written a great deal. I am writing diffusely a la Yasinsky. I want to get hold of a thousand roubles.
 
3
I shall soon begin to expect you. Are we going to Italy or not? We ought to.
 
4
In Petersburg I don’t sleep at night, I drink and loaf about, but I feel immeasurably better than in Moscow. The devil only knows why it is so.
 
5
I am not depressed, because in the first place I am writing, and in the second, one feels that summer, which I love more than anything, is close at hand. I long to prepare my fishing tackle....
 

3.3. February 23.

1
Greetings, my dear friend.
 
2
Your telegram about the Tormidor upset me. I felt dreadfully attracted to Petersburg: now for the sake of Sardou and the Parisian visitors. But practical considerations pulled me up. I reflected that I must hurry on with my novel; that I don’t know French, and so should only be taking up someone else’s place in the box; that I have very little money, and so on. In short, as it seems to me now, I am a poor comrade, though apparently I acted sensibly.
 
3
My novel is progressing. It’s all smooth, even, there is scarcely anything that is too long. But do you know what is very bad? There is no movement in my novel, and that frightens me. I am afraid it will be difficult to read to the middle, to say nothing of reading to the end. Anyway, I shall finish it. I shall bring Anna Pavlovna a copy on vellum paper to read in the bathroom. I should like something to sting her in the water, so that she would run out of the bathroom sobbing.
 
4
I was melancholy when you went away....
 
5
Send me some money. I have none and seem to have nowhere to borrow. By my reckoning I cannot under favourable circumstances get more than a thousand roubles from you before September. But don’t send the money by post, as I can’t bear going to post offices....
 

3.4. March 5.

1
We are going!!! I agree to go, where you like and when you like. My soul is leaping with delight. It would be stupid on my part not to go, for when would an opportunity come again? But, my dear friend, I leave you to weigh the following circumstances.
 
2
(1) My work is still far from being finished; if I put it by till May, I shall not be able to begin my Sahalin work before July, and that is risky. For my Sahalin impressions are already evaporating, and I run the risk of forgetting a great deal.
 
3
(2) I have absolutely no money. If without finishing my novel I take another thousand roubles for the tour abroad, and then for living after the tour, I shall get into such a tangle that the devil himself could not pull me out by the ears. I am not in a tangle yet because I am up to all sorts of dodges, and live more frugally than a mouse; but if I go abroad everything will go to the devil. My accounts will be in a mess and I shall get myself hopelessly in debt. The very thought of a debt of two thousand makes my heart sink.
 
4
There are other considerations, but they are all of small account beside that of money and work. And so, thoroughly digest my objections, put yourself into my skin for a moment, and decide, wouldn’t it be better for me to stay at home? You will say all this is unimportant. But lay aside your point of view? and look at it from mine.
 
5
I await a speedy answer.
 
6
My novel [Footnote: “The Duel.”] is progressing, but I have not got far.
 
7
I have been to the Kiselyovs’. The rooks are already arriving.
 

4. TO MADAME KISELYOV.

4.1. MOSCOW, March 11, 1891.

 
1
As I depart for France, Spain, and Italy, I beseech you, oh, Heavens, keep Babkino in good health and prosperity!
 
2
Yes, Marya Vladimirovna! As it is written in the scripture: he had not time to cry out, before a bear devoured him. So I had not time to cry out before an unseen power has drawn me again to the mysterious distance. To-day I am going to Petersburg, from there to Berlin, and so further. Whether I climb Vesuvius or watch a bull-fight in Spain, I shall remember you in my holiest prayers. Good-bye.
 
3
I have been to a seminary and picked out a seminarist for Vassilisa. There were plenty with delicate feelings and responsive natures, but not one would consent. At first, especially when I told them that you sometimes had peas and radishes on your table, they consented; but when I accidentally let out that in the district captain’s room there was a bedstead on which people were flogged, they scratched their heads and muttered that they must think it over. One, however, a pockmarked fellow called Gerasim Ivanovitch, with very delicate feelings and a responsive nature, is coming to see you in a day or two. I hope that Vassilisa and you will make him welcome. Snatch the chance: it’s a brilliant match. You can flog Gerasim Ivanovitch, for he told me: “I am immensely fond of violent sensations;” when he is with you you had better lock the cupboard where the vodka is kept and keep the windows open, as the seminary inspiration and responsiveness is perceptible at every minute.
 
4
“What a happy girl is Vassilisa!”
 
5
Idiotik has not been to see me yet.
 
6
The hens peck the cock. They must be keeping Lent, or perhaps the virtuous widows don’t care for their new suitor.
 
7
They have brought me a new overcoat with check lining.
 
8
Well, be in Heaven’s keeping, happy, healthy and peaceful. God give you all everything good. I shall come back in Holy Week. Don’t forget your truly devoted,
 
9
ANTON CHEKHOV.
 

5. TO HIS SISTER.

5.1. PETERSBURG, March 16. Midnight.

 
1
I have just seen the Italian actress Duse in Shakespeare’s Cleopatra. I don’t know Italian, but she acted so well that it seemed to me I understood every word. A remarkable actress! I have never seen anything like it before. I gazed at that Duse and felt overcome with misery at the thought that we have to educate our temperaments and tastes on such wooden actresses as N. and her like, whom we call great because we have seen nothing better. Looking at Duse I understood why it is that the Russian theatre is so dull.
 
2
I sent three hundred roubles to-day, did you get them?
 
3
After Duse it was amusing to read the address I enclose. [Footnote: A newspaper cutting containing an address: From the Students of the Technological Institute of Harkov to M. M. Solovtsov, was enclosed.] My God, how low taste and a sense of justice have sunk! And these are the students—the devil take them! Whether it is Solovtsov or whether it is Salvini, it’s all the same to them, both equally “stir a warm response in the hearts of the young.” They are worth a farthing, all those hearts.
 
4
We set off for Warsaw at half-past one to-morrow. My greetings to all, even the mongooses, though they don’t deserve it. I will write.
 

5.2. VIENNA, March 20, 1891.

 
1
MY DEAR CZECHS,
2
I write to you from Vienna, which I reached yesterday at four o’clock in the afternoon. Everything went well on the journey. From Warsaw to Vienna I travelled like a railway Nana in a luxurious compartment of the “Societe Internationale des Wagons-Lits.” Beds, looking-glasses, huge windows, rugs, and so on.
 
3
Ah, my dears, if you only knew how nice Vienna is! It can’t be compared with any of the towns I have seen in my life. The streets are broad and elegantly paved, there are numbers of boulevards and squares, the houses have always six or seven storeys, and shops—they are not shops, but a perfect delirium, a dream! There are myriads of neckties alone in the windows! Such amazing things made of bronze, china, and leather! The churches are huge, but they do not oppress one by their hugeness; they caress the eye, for it seems as though they are woven of lace. St. Stephen and the Votiv-Kirche are particularly fine. They are not like buildings, but like cakes for tea. The parliament, the town hall, and the university are magnificent. It is all magnificent, and I have for the first time realized, yesterday and to-day, that architecture is really an art. And here the art is not seen in little bits, as with us, but stretches over several versts. There are numbers of monuments. In every side street there is sure to be a bookshop. In the windows of the bookshops there are Russian books to be seen—not, alas, the works of Albov, of Barantsevitch, and of Chekhov, but of all sorts of anonymous authors who write and publish abroad. I saw “Renan,” “The Mysteries of the Winter Palace,” and so on. It is strange that here one is free to read anything and to say what one likes. Understand, O ye peoples, what the cabs are like here! The devil take them! There are no droshkys, but they are all new, pretty carriages with one and often two horses. The horses are splendid. On the box sit dandies in top-hats and reefer jackets, reading the newspaper, all politeness and readiness to oblige.
 
4
The dinners are good. There is no vodka; they drink beer and fairly good wine. There is one thing that is nasty: they make you pay for bread. When they bring the bill they ask, Wie viel brodchen?—that is, how many rolls have you devoured? And you have to pay for every little roll.
 
5
The women are beautiful and elegant. Indeed, everything is diabolically elegant.
 
6
I have not quite forgotten German. I understand, and am understood.
 
7
When we crossed the frontier it was snowing. In Vienna there is no snow, but it is cold all the same.
 
8
I am homesick and miss you all, and indeed I am conscience-stricken, too, at deserting you all again. But there, never mind! I shall come back and stay at home for a whole year. I send my greetings to everyone, everyone.
 
9
I wish you all things good; don’t forget me with my many transgressions. I embrace you, I bless you, send my greetings and remain,
 
10
Your loving
11
A. CHEKHOV.
 
12
Everyone who meets us recognises that we are Russians, and stares not at my face, but at my grizzled cap. Looking at my cap they probably think I am a very rich Russian Count.
 

6. TO HIS BROTHER IVAN.

6.1. VENICE, March 24, 1891.

 
1
I am now in Venice. I arrived here two days ago from Vienna. One thing I can say: I have never in my life seen a town more marvellous than Venice. It is perfectly enchanting, brilliance, joy, life. Instead of streets and roads there are canals; instead of cabs, gondolas. The architecture is amazing, and there is not a single spot that does not excite some historical or artistic interest. You float in a gondola and see the palace of the Doges, the house where Desdemona lived, homes of various painters, churches. And in the churches there are sculptures and paintings such as we have never dreamed of. In fact it is enchantment.
 
2
All day from morning till night I sit in a gondola and glide along the streets, or I saunter about the famous St. Mark’s Square. The square is as level and clean as a parquet floor. Here there is St. Mark’s—something impossible to describe—the Palace of the Doges, and other buildings which make me feel as I do listening to part singing—I feel the amazing beauty and revel in it.
 
3
And the evenings! My God! One might almost die of the strangeness of it. One goes in a gondola ... warmth, stillness, stars.... There are no horses in Venice, and so there is a silence here as in the open country. Gondolas flit to and fro, ... then a gondola glides by, hung with lanterns. In it are a double-bass, violins, a guitar, a mandolin and cornet, two or three ladies, several men, and one hears singing and music. They sing from operas. What voices! One goes on a little further and again meets a boat with singers, and then again, and the air is full, till midnight, of the mingled strains of violins and tenor voices, and all sorts of heart-stirring sounds.
 
4
Merezhkovsky, whom I have met here, is off his head with ecstasy. For us poor and oppressed Russians it is easy to go out of our minds here in a world of beauty, wealth, and freedom. One longs to remain here for ever, and when one stands in the churches and listens to the organ one longs to become a Catholic.
 
5
The tombs of Canova and Titian are magnificent. Here they bury great artists like kings in churches; here they do not despise art as with us; the churches provide a shelter for pictures and statues however naked they may be.
 
6
In the Palace of the Doges there is a picture in which there are about ten thousand human figures.
 
7
To-day is Sunday. There will be a band playing in St. Mark’s Square....
 
8
If you ever happen to come to Venice it will be the best thing in your life. You ought to see the glass here! Your bottles [Footnote: His brother Ivan was teaching in a school attached to a glass factory.] are so hideous compared with the things here, that it makes one sick to think of them.
 
9
I will write again; meanwhile, good-bye.
 

7. TO MADAME KISELYOV.

7.1. VENICE, March 25.

 
1
I am in Venice. You may put me in a madhouse. Gondolas, St. Mark’s Square, water, stars, Italian women, serenades, mandolins, Falernian wine—in fact all is lost!
 
2
Don’t remember evil against me.
 
3
The shade of the lovely Desdemona sends a smile to the District Captain.
 
4
Greetings to all. ANTONIO.
 
5
The Jesuits send their love to you.
 

8. TO HIS SISTER,

8.1. VENICE, March 25, 1891.

 
1
Bewitching blue-eyed Venice sends her greetings to all of you. Oh, signori and signorine, what an exquisite town this Venice is! Imagine a town consisting of houses and churches such as you have never seen; an intoxicating architecture, everything as graceful and light as the birdlike gondola. Such houses and churches can only be built by people possessed of immense artistic and musical taste and endowed with a lion-like temperament. Now imagine in the streets and alleys, instead of pavement, water; imagine that there is not one horse in the town; that instead of cabmen you see gondoliers on their wonderful boats, light, delicate long-beaked birds which scarcely seem to touch the water and tremble at the tiniest wave. And all from earth to sky bathed in sunshine.
 
2
There are streets as broad as the Nevsky, and others in which you can bar the way by stretching out your arms. The centre of the town is St. Mark’s Square with the celebrated cathedral of the same name. The cathedral is magnificent, especially on the outside. Beside it is the Palace of the Doges where Othello made his confession before the senators.
 
3
In short, there is not a spot that does not call up memories and touch the heart. For instance, the little house where Desdemona lived makes an impression that is difficult to shake off. The very best time in Venice is the evening. First the stars; secondly, the long canals in which the lights and stars are reflected; thirdly, gondolas, gondolas, and gondolas; when it is dark they seem to be alive. Fourthly, one wants to cry because on all sides one hears music and superb singing. A gondola glides up hung with many-coloured lanterns; there is light enough for one to distinguish a double-bass, a guitar, a mandolin, a violin.... Then another gondola like it.... Men and women sing, and how they sing! It’s quite an opera.
 
4
Fifthly, it’s warm.
 
5
In short, the man’s a fool who does not go to Venice. Living is cheap here. Board and lodging costs eighteen francs a week—that is, six roubles each or twenty-five roubles a month. A gondolier asks a franc for an hour-that is, thirty kopecks. Admission to the academies, museums, and so on, is free. The Crimea is ten times as expensive, and the Crimea beside Venice is a cuttle-fish beside a whale.
 
6
I am afraid Father is angry with me for not having said good-bye to him. I ask his forgiveness.
 
7
What glass there is here! what mirrors! Why am I not a millionaire! ... Next year let us all take a summer cottage in Venice.
 
8
The air is full of the vibration of church bells: my dear Tunguses, let us all embrace Catholicism. If only you knew how lovely the organs are in the churches, what sculptures there are here, what Italian women on their knees with prayer-books!
 
9
Keep well and don’t forget me, a sinner.
 
10
A picturesque railway line, of which I have been told a great deal, runs from Vienna to Venice. But I was disappointed in the journey. The mountains, the precipices, and the snowy crests I have seen in the Caucasus and Ceylon are far more impressive than here. Addio.
 

8.2. VENICE, March 26, 1891.

 
1
It is pelting cats and dogs. Venetia bella has ceased to be bella. The water excites a feeling of dejected dreariness, and one longs to hasten somewhere where there is sun.
 
2
The rain has reminded me of my raincoat (the leather one); I believe the rats have gnawed it a little. If they have, send it to be mended as soon as you can....
 
3
How is Signor Mongoose? I am afraid every day of hearing that he is dead.
 
4
In describing the cheapness of Venetian life yesterday, I overdid it a bit. It is Madame Merezhkovsky’s fault; she told me that she and her husband paid only six francs per week each. But instead of per week, read per day. Anyway, it is cheap. The franc here goes as far as a rouble.
 
5
We are going to Florence.
 
6
May the Holy Mother bless you.
 
7
I have seen Titian’s Madonna. It’s very fine. But it is a pity that here fine works are mixed up side by side with worthless things, that have been preserved and not flung away simply from the spirit of conservatism all-present in such creatures of habit as messieurs les hommes. There are many pictures the long life of which is quite incomprehensible.
 
8
The house where Desdemona used to live is to let.
 

8.3. BOLOGNA, March 28, 1891.

 
1
I am in Bologna, a town remarkable for its arcades, slanting towers, and Raphael’s pictures of “Cecilia.” We are going on to-day to Florence.
 

8.4. FLORENCE, March 29, 1891.

 
1
I am in Florence. I am worn out with racing about to museums and churches. I have seen the Venus of Medici, and I think that if she were dressed in modern clothes she would be hideous, especially about the waist.
 
2
The sky is overcast, and Italy without sun is like a face in a mask.
 
3
P. S.—Dante’s monument is fine.
 

8.5. FLORENCE, March 30, 1891.

 
1
I am in Florence. To-morrow we are going to Rome. It’s cold. We have the spleen. You can’t take a step in Florence without coming to a picture-shop or a statue-shop.
 
2
P. S.—Send my watch to be mended.
 

9. TO MADAME KISELYOV.

9.1. ROME, April 1, 1891.

 
1
The Pope of Rome charges me to congratulate you on your name-day and wish you as much money as he has rooms. He has eleven thousand! Strolling about the Vatican I was nearly dead with exhaustion, and when I got home I felt that my legs were made of cotton-wool.
 
2
I am dining at the table d’hote. Can you imagine just opposite me are sitting two Dutch girls: one of them is like Pushkin’s Tatyana, and the other like her sister Olga. I watch them all through dinner, and imagine a neat, clean little house with a turret, excellent butter, superb Dutch cheese, Dutch herrings, a benevolent-looking pastor, a sedate teacher, ... and I feel I should like to marry a Dutch girl and be depicted with her on a tea-tray beside the little white house.
 
3
I have seen everything and dragged myself everywhere I was told to go. What was offered me to sniff at, I sniffed at. But meanwhile I feel nothing but exhaustion and a craving for cabbage-soup and buckwheat porridge. I was enchanted by Venice, beside myself; but since I have left it, it has been nothing but Baedeker and bad weather.
 
4
Good-bye for now, Marya Vladimirovna, and the Lord God keep you. Humble respects from me and the other Pope to his Honour, Vassilisa and Elizaveta Alexandrovna.
 
5
Neckties are marvellously cheap here. I think I may take to eating them. They are a franc a pair.
 
6
To-morrow I am going to Naples. Pray that I may meet there a beautiful Russian lady, if possible a widow or a divorced wife.
 
7
In the guide-books it says that a love affair is an essential condition for a tour in Italy. Well, hang them all! I am ready for anything. If there must be a love affair, so be it.
 
8
Don’t forget your sinful, but sincerely devoted,
 
9
ANTON CHEKHOV,
10
My respects to the starlings.
 

10. TO HIS SISTER.

10.1. ROME, April 1, 1891.

 
1
When I got to Rome I went to the post-office and did not find a single letter. Suvorin has got several letters. I made up my mind to pay you out, not to write to you at all—but there, God bless you! I am not so very fond of letters, but when one is travelling nothing is so bad as uncertainty. How have you settled the summer villa question? Is the mongoose alive? And so on and so on.
 
2
I have been in St. Peter’s, in the Capitol, in the Coliseum, in the Forum—I have even been in a cafe’-chantant, but did not derive from it the gratification I had expected. The weather is a drawback, it is raining. I am hot in my autumn overcoat, and cold in my summer one.
 
3
Travelling is very cheap. One may pay a visit to Italy with only four hundred roubles and go back with purchases. If I were travelling alone or with Ivan, I should have brought away the conviction that travelling in Italy was much cheaper than travelling in the Caucasus. But alas! I am with the Suvorins.... In Venice we lived in the best of hotels like Doges; here in Rome we live like Cardinals, for we have taken a salon of what was once the palace of Cardinal Conti, now the Hotel Minerva; two huge drawing-rooms, chandeliers, carpets, open fireplaces, and all sorts of useless rubbish, costing us forty francs a day.
 
4
My back aches, and the soles of my feet burn from tramping about. It’s awful how we walk!
 
5
It seems odd to me that Levitan did not like Italy. It’s a fascinating country. If I were a solitary person, an artist, and had money, I should live here in the winter. You see, Italy, apart from its natural scenery and warmth, is the one country in which you feel convinced that art is really supreme over everything, and that conviction gives one courage.
 

10.2. NAPLES, April 4, 1891.

 
1
I arrived in Naples, went to the post-office and found there five letters from home, for which I am very grateful to you all. Well done, relations! Even Vesuvius is so touched it has gone out.
 
2
Vesuvius hides its top in clouds and can only be seen well in the evening. By day the sky is overcast. We are staying on the sea-front and have a view of everything: the sea, Vesuvius, Capri, Sorrento.... We drove in the daytime up to the monastery of St. Martini: the view from here is such as I have never seen before, a marvellous panorama. I saw something like it at Hong Kong when I went up the mountain in the railway.
 
3
In Naples there is a magnificent arcade. And the shops!! The shops make me quite giddy. What brilliance! You, Masha, and you, Lika, would be rabid with delight.
 

 
4
There is a wonderful aquarium in Naples. There are even sharks and squids. When a squid (an octopus) devours some animals it’s a revolting sight.
 
5
I have been to a barber’s and watched a young man having his beard clipped for a whole hour. He was probably engaged to be married or else a cardsharper. At the barber’s the ceiling and all the four walls were made of looking-glass, so that you feel that you are not at a hairdresser’s but at the Vatican where there are eleven thousand rooms. They cut your hair wonderfully.
 
6
I shan’t bring you any presents, as you don’t write to me about the summer villa and the mongoose. I bought you a watch, Masha, but I have cast it to the swine. But there, God forgive you!
 
7
P.S.—I shall be back by Easter, come and meet me at the station.
 

10.3. NAPLES, April 7, 1891.

 
1
Yesterday I went to Pompeii and went over it. As you know, it is a Roman town buried under the lava and ashes of Vesuvius in 79 A.D. I walked about the streets of the town and saw the houses, the temples, the theatre, the squares.... I saw and marvelled at the faculty of the Romans for combining simplicity with convenience and beauty. After viewing Pompeii, I lunched at a restaurant and then decided to go to Vesuvius. The excellent red wine I had drunk had a great deal to do with this decision. I had to ride on horseback to the foot of Vesuvius. I have in consequence to-day a sensation in some parts of my mortal frame as though I had been in the Third Division, and had there been flogged. What an agonising business it is climbing up Vesuvius! Ashes, mountains of lava, solid waves of molten minerals, mounds of earth, and every sort of abomination. You take one step forward and fall half a step back, the soles of your feet hurt you, your breathing is oppressed.... You go on and on and on, and it is still a long way to the top. You wonder whether to turn back, but you are ashamed to turn back, you would be laughed at. The ascent began at half-past two, and ended at six. The crater of Vesuvius is a great many yards in diameter. I stood on its edge and looked down as into a cup. The soil around, covered by a layer of sulphur, was smoking vigorously. From the crater rose white stinking smoke; spurts of hot water and red-hot stones fly out while Satan lies snoring under cover of the smoke. The noise is rather mixed, you hear in it the beating of breakers and the roar of thunder, and the rumble of the railway line and the falling of planks. It is very terrible, and at the same time one has an impulse to jump right into the crater. I believe in hell now. The lava has such a high temperature that copper coins melt in it.
 
2
Coming down was as horrid as going up. You sink up to your knees in ashes. I was fearfully tired. I went back on horseback through a little village and by houses; there was a glorious fragrance and the moon was shining. I sniffed, gazed at the moon, and thought of her—that is, of Lika L.
 
3
All the summer, noble gentlemen, we shall have no money, and the thought of that spoils my appetite. I have got into debt for a thousand for a tour, which I could have made solo for three hundred roubles. All my hopes now are in the fools of amateurs who are going to act my “Bear.”
 
4
Have you taken a house for the holidays, signori? You treat me piggishly, you write nothing to me, and I don’t know what’s going on, and how things are at home.
 
5
Humble respects to you all. Take care of yourselves, and don’t completely forget me.
 

10.4. MONTE CARLO, April 13, 1891.

 
1
I am writing to you from Monte Carlo, from the very place where they play roulette. I can’t tell you how thrilling the game is. First of all I won eighty francs, then I lost, then I won again, and in the end was left with a loss of forty francs. I have twenty francs left, I shall go and try my luck again. I have been here since the morning, and it is twelve o’clock at night. If I had money to spare I believe I should spend the whole year gambling and walking about the magnificent halls of the casino. It is interesting to watch the ladies who lose thousands. This morning a young lady lost 5000 francs. The tables with piles of gold are interesting too. In fact it is beyond all words. This charming Monte Carlo is extremely like a fine ... den of thieves. The suicide of losers is quite a regular thing.
 
2
Suvorin fils lost 300 francs.
 
3
We shall soon see each other. I am weary of wandering over the face of the earth. One must draw the line. My heels are sore as it is.
 

11. TO HIS BROTHER MIHAIL.

11.1. NICE, Monday in Holy Week, April, 1891.

 
1
We are staying in Nice, on the sea-front. The sun is shining, it is warm, green and fragrant, but windy. An hour’s journey from Nice is the famous Monaco. There is Monte Carlo, where roulette is played. Imagine the rooms of the Hall of Nobility but handsomer, loftier and larger. There are big tables, and on the tables roulette—which I will describe to you when I get home. The day before yesterday I went over there, played and lost. The game is fearfully fascinating. After losing, Suvorin fils and I fell to thinking it over, and thought out a system which would ensure one’s winning. We went yesterday, taking five hundred francs each; at the first staking I won two gold pieces, then again and again; my waistcoat pockets bulged with gold. I had in hand French money even of the year 1808, as well as Belgian, Italian, Greek, and Austrian coins.... I have never before seen so much gold and silver. I began playing at five o’clock and by ten I had not a single franc in my pocket, and the only thing left me was the satisfaction of knowing that I had my return ticket to Nice. So there it is, my friends! You will say, of course: “What a mean thing to do! We are so poor, while he out there plays roulette.” Perfectly just, and I give you permission to slay me. But I personally am much pleased with myself. Anyway, now I can tell my grandchildren that I have played roulette, and know the feeling which is excited by gambling.
 
2
Beside the Casino where roulette is played there is another swindle—the restaurants. They fleece one frightfully and feed one magnificently. Every dish is a regular work of art, before which one is expected to bow one’s knee in homage and to be too awe-stricken to eat it. Every morsel is rigged out with lots of artichokes, truffles, and nightingales’ tongues of all sorts. And, good Lord! how contemptible and loathsome this life is with its artichokes, its palms, and its smell of orange blossoms! I love wealth and luxury, but the luxury here, the luxury of the gambling saloon, reminds one of a luxurious water-closet. There is something in the atmosphere that offends one’s sense of decency and vulgarizes the scenery, the sound of the sea, the moon.
 
3
Yesterday—Sunday—I went to the Russian church here. What was peculiar was the use of palm-branches instead of willows; and instead of boy choristers a choir of ladies, which gives the singing an operatic effect. They put foreign money in the plate; the verger and beadle speak French, and so on....
 
4
Of all the places I have been in hitherto Venice has left me the loveliest memories. Rome on the whole is rather like Harkov, and Naples is filthy. And the sea does not attract me, as I got tired of it last November and December.
 
5
I feel as though I have been travelling for a whole year. I had scarcely got back from Sahalin when I went to Petersburg, and then to Petersburg again, and to Italy....
 
6
If I don’t manage to get home by Easter, when you break the fast, remember me in your prayers, and receive my congratulations from a distance, and my assurance that I shall miss you all horribly on Easter night.
 

12. TO HIS SISTER.

12.1. PARIS, April 21, 1891.

 
1
To-day is Easter. So Christ is risen! It’s my first Easter away from home.
 
2
I arrived in Paris on Friday morning and at once went to the Exhibition. Yes, the Eiffel Tower is very very high. The other exhibition buildings I saw only from the outside, as they were occupied by cavalry brought there in anticipation of disorders. On Friday they expected riots. The people flocked in crowds about the streets, shouting and whistling, greatly excited, while the police kept dispersing them. To disperse a big crowd a dozen policemen are sufficient here. The police make a combined attack, and the crowd runs like mad. In one of these attacks the honour was vouchsafed to me—a policeman caught hold of me under my shoulder, and pushed me in front of him.
 
3
There was a great deal of movement, the streets were swarming and surging. Noise, hubbub. The pavements are filled with little tables, and at the tables sit Frenchmen who feel as though they were at home in the street. A magnificent people. There is no describing Paris, though; I will put off the description of it till I get home.
 
4
I heard the midnight service in the Church of the Embassy....
 
5
I am afraid you have no money.
 
6
Misha, get my pince-nez mended, for the salvation of your soul! I am simply a martyr without spectacles. I went to the Salon and couldn’t see half the pictures, thanks to my short sight. By the way, the Russian artists are far more serious than the French.... In comparison with the landscape painters I saw here yesterday Levitan is a king....
 

12.2. PARIS, April 24.

 
1
A change again. One of the Russian sculptors living in Paris has undertaken to do a bust of Suvorin, and this will keep us till Saturday.
 
2
... How are you managing without money? Bear it till Thursday.
 
3
Imagine my delight. I was in the Chamber of Deputies just at the time of the sitting when the Minister for Internal Affairs was called to account for the irregularities which the government had ventured upon in putting down the riots in Fourmis (there were many killed and wounded). It was a stormy and extremely interesting sitting.
 
4
Men who tie boa-constrictors round their bodies, ladies who kick up to the ceiling, flying people, lions, cafe’-chantants, dinners and lunches begin to sicken me. It is time I was home. I am longing to work.
 

13. TO A. S. SUVORIN.

13.1. ALEXIN, May 7, 1891.

 
1
The summer villa is all right. There are woods and the Oka: it is far away in the wilds, it is warm, nightingales sing, and so on. It is quiet and peaceful, and in bad weather it will be dull and depressing here. After travelling abroad, life at a summer villa seems a little mawkish. I feel as though I had been taken prisoner and put into a fortress. But I am contented all the same. In Moscow I received from the Society of Dramatic Authors not two hundred roubles, as I expected, but three hundred. It’s very kind on the part of fortune.
 
2
Well, my dear sir, I owe you, even if we adopt your reckoning, not less than eight hundred roubles. In June or July, when my money will be at the shop, I will write to Zandrok to send all that comes to me to you in Feodosia, and do not try and prevent me. I give you my word of honour that when I have paid my debts and settled with you, I’ll accept a loan of 2,000 from you. Do not imagine that it is disagreeable to me to be in your debt. I lend other people money, and so I feel I have the right to borrow money, but I am afraid of getting into difficulties and the habit of being in debt. You know I owe your firm a devilish lot.
 
3
There is a fine view from my window. Trains are continually passing. There is a bridge across the Oka.
 

13.2. ALEXIN, May 10, 1891.

 
1
Yes, you are right, my soul needs balsam. I should read now with pleasure, even with joy, something serious, not merely about myself but things in general. I pine for serious reading, and recent Russian criticism does not nourish but simply irritates me. I could read with enthusiasm something new about Pushkin or Tolstoy. That would be balsam for my idle mind.
 
2
I am homesick for Venice and Florence too, and am ready to climb Vesuvius again; Bologna has been effaced from my memory and grown dim. As for Nice and Paris, when I recall them “I look on my life with loathing.”
 
3
In the last number of The Messenger of Foreign Literature there is a story by Ouida, translated from the English by our Mihail. Why don’t I know foreign languages? It seems to me I could translate magnificently. When I read anyone else’s translation I keep altering and transposing the words in my brain, and the result is something light, ethereal, like lacework.
 
4
On Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays I write my Sahalin book, on the other days, except Sunday, my novel, and on Sundays, short stories. I work with zest. The weather has been superb every day; the site of our summer villa is dry and healthy. There is a lot of woodland. There are a lot of fish and crayfish in the Oka. I see the trains and the steamers. Altogether if it were not for being somewhat cramped I should be very very much pleased with it.
 

 
5
I don’t intend to get married. I should like to be a little bald old man sitting at a big table in a fine study....
 

13.3. ALEXIN, May 13, 1891.

 
1
I am going to write you a Christmas story—that’s certain. Two, indeed, if you like. I sit and write and write ...; at last I have set to work. I am only sorry that my cursed teeth are aching and my stomach is out of order.
 
2
I am a dilatory but productive author. By the time I am forty I shall have hundreds of volumes, so that I can open a bookshop with nothing but my own works. To have a lot of books and to have nothing else is a horrible disgrace.
 
3
My dear friend, haven’t you in your library Tagantsev’s “Criminal Law”? If you have, couldn’t you send it me? I would buy it, but I am now “a poor relation”—a beggar and as poor as Sidor’s goat. Would you telephone to your shop, too, to send me, on account of favours to come, two books: “The Laws relating to Exiles,” and “The Laws relating to Persons under Police Control.” Don’t imagine that I want to become a procurator; I want these works for my Sahalin book. I am going to direct my attack chiefly against life sentences, in which I see the root of all the evils; and against the laws dealing with exiles, which are fearfully out of date and contradictory.
 

14. TO L. S. MIZINOV.

14.1. ALEXIN, May 17, 1891.

 
1
Golden, mother-of-pearl, and fil d’Ecosse Lika! The mongoose ran away the day before yesterday, and will never come back again. It is dead. That is the first thing.
 
2
The second thing is, that we are moving our residence to the upper storey of the house of B.K.—the man who gave you milk to drink and forgot to give you strawberries. We will let you know the day we move in due time. Come to smell the flowers, to walk, to fish, and to blubber. Ah, lovely Lika! When you bedewed my right shoulder with your tears (I have taken out the spots with benzine), and when slice after slice you ate our bread and meat, we greedily devoured your face and head with our eyes. Ah, Lika, Lika, diabolical beauty! ...
 
3
When you are at the Alhambra with Trofimov I hope you may accidentally jab out his eye with your fork.
 

15. TO A. S. SUVORIN.

15.1. ALEXIN, May 18, 1891.

 
1
... I get up at five o’clock in the morning; evidently when I am old I shall get up at four. My forefathers all got up very early, before the cock. And I notice people who get up very early are horribly fussy. So I suppose I shall be a fussy, restless old man....
 

15.2. BOGIMOVO, May 20.

 
1
... The carp bite capitally. I forgot all my sorrows yesterday; first I sat by the pond and caught carp, and then by the old mill and caught perch.
 
2
... The last two proclamations—about the Siberian railway and the exiles—pleased me very much. The Siberian railway is called a national concern, and the tone of the proclamation guarantees its speedy completion; and convicts who have completed such and such terms as settlers are allowed to return to Russia without the right to live in the provinces of Petersburg and Moscow. The newspapers have let this pass unnoticed, and yet it is something which has never been in Russia before—it is the first step towards abolishing the life sentence which has so long weighed on the public conscience as unjust and cruel in the extreme....
 

15.3. BOGIMOVO, May 27, 4 o’clock in the Morning.

 
1
The mongoose has run away into the woods and has not come back. It is cold. I have no money. But nevertheless, I don’t envy you. One cannot live in town now, it is both dreary and unwholesome. I should like you to be sitting from morning till dinner-time in this verandah, drinking tea and writing something artistic, a play or something; and after dinner till evening, fishing and thinking peaceful thoughts. You have long ago earned the right which is denied you now by all sorts of chance circumstances, and it seems to me shameful and unjust that I should live more peacefully than you. Is it possible that you will stay all June in town? It’s really terrible....
 
2
... By the way, read Grigorovitch’s letter to my enemy Anna Ivanovna. Let her soul rejoice. “Chekhov belongs to the generation which has perceptibly begun to turn away from the West and concentrate more closely on their own world....” “Venice and Florence are nothing else than dull towns for a man of any intelligence....” Merci, but I don’t understand persons of such intelligence. One would have to be a bull to “turn away from the West” on arriving for the first time in Venice or Florence. There is very little intelligence in doing so. But I should like to know who is taking the trouble to announce to the whole universe that I did not like foreign parts. Good Lord! I never let drop one word about it. I liked even Bologna. Whatever ought I to have done? Howled with rapture? Broken the windows? Embraced Frenchmen? Do they say I gained no ideas? But I fancy I did....
 
3
We must see each other—or more correctly, I must see you. I am missing you already, although to-day I caught two hundred and fifty-two carp and one crayfish.
 

15.4. BOGIMOVO, June 4, 1891.

 
1
Why did you go away so soon? I was very dull, and could not get back into my usual petty routine very quickly afterwards. As luck would have it, after you went away the weather became warm and magnificent, and the fish began to bite.
 
2
... The mongoose has been found. A sportsman with dogs found him on this side of the Oka in a quarry; if there had not been a crevice in the quarry the dogs would have torn the mongoose to pieces. It had been astray in the woods for eighteen days. In spite of the climatic conditions, which are awful for it, it had grown fat—such is the effect of freedom. Yes, my dear sir, freedom is a grand thing.
 
3
I advise you again to go to Feodosia by the Volga. Anna Ivanovna and you will enjoy it, and it will be new and interesting for the children. If I were free I would come with you. It’s snug now on those Volga steamers, they feed you well and the passengers are interesting.
 
4
Forgive me for your having been so uncomfortable with us. When I am grown up and order furniture from Venice, as I certainly shall do, you won’t have such a cold and rough time with me.
 

16. TO L. S. MIZINOV.

16.1. BOGIMOVO, June 12, 1891.

 
1
Enchanting, amazing Lika!
 
2
Captivated by the Circassian Levitan, you have completely forgotten that you promised my brother Ivan you would come on the 1st of June, and you do not answer my sister’s letter at all. I wrote to you from Moscow to invite you, but my letter, too, remained a voice crying in the wilderness. Though you are received in aristocratic society, you have been badly brought up all the same, and I don’t regret having once chastised you with a switch. You must understand that expecting your arrival from day to day not only wearies us, but puts us to expense. In an ordinary way we only have for dinner what is left of yesterday’s soup, but when we expect visitors we have also a dish of boiled beef, which we buy from the neighbouring cooks.
 
3
We have a magnificent garden, dark avenues, snug corners, a river, a mill, a boat, moonlight, nightingales, turkeys. In the pond and river there are very intelligent frogs. We often go for walks, during which I usually close my eyes and crook my right arm in the shape of a bread-ring, imagining that you are walking by my side.
 
4
... Give my greetings to Levitan. Please ask him not to write about you in every letter. In the first place it is not magnanimous on his part, and in the second, I have no interest whatever in his happiness.
 
5
Be well and happy and don’t forget us. I have just received your letter, it is filled from top to bottom with such charming expressions as: “The devil choke you!” “The devil flay you!” “Anathema!” “A good smack,” “rabble,” “overeaten myself.” Your friends—such as Trophim—with their cabmen’s talk certainly have an improving influence on you.
 
6
You may bathe and go for evening walks. That’s all nonsense. All my inside is full of coughs, wet and dry, but I bathe and walk about, and yet I am alive....
 
7
TO L. S. MIZINOV.
8
(Enclosing a photograph of a young man inscribed “To Lida from Petya.”)
 
9
PRECIOUS LIDA!
10
Why these reproaches! I send you my portrait. To-morrow we shall meet. Do not forget your Petya. A thousand kisses!!!
 
11
I have bought Chekhov’s stories. How delightful! Mind you buy them. Remember me to Masha Chekhov. What a darling you are!
 
12
TO THE SAME.
13
I love you passionately like a tiger, and I offer you my hand.
 
14
Marshal of Nobility,
15
GOLOVIN RTISHTCHEV.
 
16
P.S.—Answer me by signs. You do squint.
 

17. TO HIS SISTER.

17.1. BOGIMOVO, June, 1891.

 
1
Masha! Make haste and come home, as without you our intensive culture is going to complete ruin. There is nothing to eat, the flies are sickening. The mongoose has broken a jar of jam, and so on, and so on.
 
2
All the summer visitors sigh and lament over your absence. There is no news.... The spiderman is busy from morning to night with his spiders. He has already described five of the spider’s legs, and has only three left to do. When he has finished with spiders he will begin upon fleas, which he will catch on his aunt. The K’s sit every evening at the club, and no hints from me will prevail on them to move from the spot.
 
3
It is hot, there are no mushrooms. Suvorin has not come yet....
 
4
Come soon for it is devilishly dull. We have just caught a frog and given it to the mongoose. It has eaten it.
 

18. TO MADAME KISELYOV.

18.1. ALEXIN, July 20, 1891.

 
1
Greetings, honoured Marya Vladimirovna.
 
2
For God’s sake write what you are doing, whether you are all well and how things are in regard to mushrooms and gudgeon.
 
3
We are living at Bogimovo in the province of Kaluga.... It’s a huge house, a fine park, the inevitable views, at the sight of which I am for some reason expected to say “Ach!” A river, a pond with hungry carp who love to get on to the hook, a mass of sick people, a smell of iodoform, and walks in the evenings. I am busy with my Sahalin; and in the intervals, that I may not let my family starve, I cherish the muse and write stories. Everything goes on in the old way, there is nothing new. I get up every day at five o’clock, and prepare my coffee with my own hands—a sign that I have already got into old bachelor habits and am resigned to them. Masha is painting, Misha wears his cockade creditably, father talks about bishops, mother bustles about the house, Ivan fishes. On the same estate with us there is living a zoologist called Wagner and his family, and some Kisilyovs—not the Kisilyovs, but others, not the real ones.
 
4
Wagner catches ladybirds and spiders, and Kisilyov the father sketches, as he is an artist. We get up performances, tableaux-vivants, and picnics. It is very gay and amusing, but I have only to catch a perch or find a mushroom for my head to droop, and my thoughts to be carried back to the past, and my brain and soul begin in a funereal voice to sing the duet “We are parted.” The “deposed idol and the deserted temple” rise up before my imagination, and I think devoutly: “I would exchange all the zoologists and great artists in the world for one little Idiotik.” [Footnote: Madame Kisilyov’s son.] The weather has all the while been hot and dry, and only to-day there has been a crash of thunder and the gates of heaven are open. One longs to get away somewhere—for instance, to America, or Norway.... Be well and happy, and may the good spirits, of whom there are so many at Babkino, have you in their keeping.
 

19. TO HIS BROTHER ALEXANDR.

19.1. ALEXIN, July, 1891.

 
1
MY PHOTOGRAPHIC AND PROLIFIC BROTHER!
2
I got a letter from you a long time ago with the photographs of Semashko, but I haven’t answered till now, because I have been all the time trying to formulate the great thoughts befitting my answer. All our people are alive and well, we often talk of you, and regret that your prolificness prevents you from coming to us here where you would be very welcome. Father, as I have written to you already, has thrown up Ivanygortch, and is living with us. Suvorin has been here twice; he talked about you, and caught fish. I am up to my neck in work with Sahalin, and other things no less wearisome and hard labour. I dream of winning forty thousand, so as to cut myself off completely from writing, which I am sick of, to buy a little bit of land and live like a hermit in idle seclusion, with you and Ivan in the neighbourhood—I dream of presenting you with fifteen acres each as poor relations. Altogether I have a dreary existence, I am sick of toiling over lines and halfpence, and old age is creeping nearer and nearer.
 
3
Your last story, in my opinion, shared by Suvorin, is good. Why do you write so little?
 
4
The zoologist V. A. Wagner, who took his degree with you, is staying in the same courtyard. He is writing a very solid dissertation. Kisilyov, the artist, is living in the same yard too. We go walks together in the evenings and discuss philosophy....
 

20. TO A. S. SUVORIN.

20.1. BOGIMOVO, July 24, 1891.

 
1
... Thanks for the five kopecks addition. Alas, it will not settle my difficulties! To save up a reserve, as you write, and extricate myself from the abyss of halfpenny anxieties and petty terrors, there is only one resource left me—an immoral one. To marry a rich woman or give out Anna Karenin as my work. And as that is impossible I dismiss my difficulties in despair and let things go as they please.
 
2
You once praised Rod, a French writer, and told me Tolstoy liked him. The other day I happened to read a novel of his and flung up my hands in amazement. He is equivalent to our Matchtet, only a little more intelligent. There is a terrible deal of affectation, dreariness, straining after originality, and as little of anything artistic as there was salt in that porridge we cooked in the evening at Bogimovo. In the preface this Rod regrets that he was in the past a “naturalist,” and rejoices that the spiritualism of the latest recruits of literature has replaced materialism. Boyish boastfulness which is at the same time coarse and clumsy.... “If we are not as talented as you, Monsieur Zola, to make up for it we believe in God.” ...
 

20.2. July 29.

1
Well, thank God! To-day I have received from the bookshop notice that there is 690 roubles 6 kopecks coming to me. I have written in answer that they are to send five hundred roubles to Feodosia and the other one hundred and ninety to me. And so I am left owing you only one hundred and seventy. That is comforting, it’s an advance anyway. To meet the debt to the newspaper I am arming myself with an immense story which I shall finish in a day or two and send. I ought to knock three hundred roubles off the debt, and get as much for myself. Ough! ...
 

20.3. August 6.

1
... The death of a servant in the house makes a strange impression, doesn’t it? The man while he was alive attracted attention only so far as he was one’s “man”; but when he is dead he suddenly engrosses the attention of all, lies like a weight on the whole house, and becomes the despotic master who is talked of to the exclusion of everything.
 
2
... I shall finish my story to-morrow or the day after, but not to-day, for it has exhausted me fiendishly towards the end. Thanks to the haste with which I have worked at it, I have wasted a pound of nerves over it. The composition of it is a little complicated. I got into difficulties and often tore up what I had written, and for days at a time was dissatisfied with my work—that is why I have not finished it till now. How awful it is! I must rewrite it! It’s impossible to leave it, for it is in a devil of a mess. My God! if the public likes my works as little as I do those of other people which I am reading, what an ass I am! There is something asinine about our writing....
 
3
To my great pleasure the amazing astronomer has arrived. She is angry with you, and calls you for some reason an “eloquent gossip.” To begin with, she is free and independent; and then she has a poor opinion of men; and further, according to her, everyone is a savage or a ninny—and you dared to give her my address with the words “the being you adore lives at ...,” and so on. Upon my word, as though one could suspect earthly feelings in astronomers who soar among the clouds! She talks and laughs all day, is a capital mushroom-gatherer, and dreams of the Caucasus to which she is departing today.
 

20.4. August 18.

1
At last I have finished my long, wearisome story [Footnote: “The Duel.”] and am sending it to you in Feodosia. Please read it. It is too long for the paper, and not suitable for dividing into parts. Do as you think best, however....
 
2
There are more than four signatures of print in the story. It’s awful. I am exhausted, and dragged the end, like a train of waggons on a muddy night in autumn, at a walking pace with halts—that is why I am late with it....
 

20.5. August 18.

1
Speaking of Nikolay and the doctor who attends him, you emphasize that “all that is done without love, without self-sacrifice, even in regard to trifling conveniences.” You are right, speaking of people generally, but what would you have the doctors do? If, as your old nurse says, “The bowel has burst,” what’s one to do, even if one is ready to give one’s life to the sufferer? As a rule, while the family, the relations, and the servants are doing “everything they can” and are straining every nerve, the doctor sits and looks like a fool, with his hands folded, disconsolately ashamed of himself and his science, and trying to preserve external tranquillity....
 
2
Doctors have loathsome days and hours, such as I would not wish my worst enemy. It is true that ignoramuses and coarse louts are no rarity among doctors, nor are they among writers, engineers, people in general; but those loathsome days and hours of which I speak fall to the lot of doctors only, and for that, truly, much may be forgiven them....
 
3
The amazing astronomer is at Batum now. As I told her I should go to Batum too, she will send her address to Feodosia. She has grown cleverer than ever of late. One day I overheard a learned discussion between her and the zoologist Wagner, whom you know. It seemed to me that in comparison with her the learned professor was simply a schoolboy. She has excellent logic and plenty of good common sense, but no rudder, ... so that she drifts and drifts, and doesn’t know where she is going....
 
4
A woman was carting rye, and she fell off the waggon head downwards. She was terribly injured: concussion of the brain, straining of the vertebrae of the neck, sickness, fearful pains, and so on. She was brought to me. She was moaning and groaning and praying for death, and yet she looked at the man who brought her and muttered: “Let the lentils go, Kirila, you can thresh them later, but thresh the oats now.” I told her that she could talk about oats afterwards, that there was something more serious to talk about, but she said to me: “His oats are ever so good!” A managing, vigilant woman. Death comes easy to such people....
 

20.6. August 28.

1
I send you Mihailovsky’s article on Tolstoy. Read it and grow perfect. It’s a good article, but it’s strange; one might write a thousand such articles and things would not be one step forwarder, and it would still remain unintelligible why such articles are written....
 
2
I am writing my Sahalin, and I am bored, I am bored.... I am utterly sick of life.
 
3
Judging from your telegram I have not satisfied you with my story. You should not have hesitated to send it back to me.
 
4
Oh, how weary I am of sick people! A neighbouring landowner had a nervous stroke and they trundled me off to him in a scurvy jolting britchka. Most of all I am sick of peasant women with babies, and of powders which it is so tedious to weigh out.
 
5
There is a famine year coming. I suppose there will be epidemics of all sorts and risings on a small scale....
 

20.7. August 28.

1
So you like my story? [Footnote: “The Duel.”] Well, thank God! Of late I have become devilishly suspicious and uneasy. I am constantly fancying that my trousers are horrid, and that I am writing not as I want to, and that I am giving my patients the wrong powders. It must be a special neurosis.
 
2
If Ladzievsky’s surname is really horrible, you can call him something else. Let him be Lagievsky, let von Koren remain von Koren. The multitude of Wagners, Brandts, and so on, in all the scientific world, make a Russian name out of the question for a zoologist—though there is Kovalevsky. And by the way, Russian life is so mixed up nowadays that any surnames will do.
 
3
Sahalin is progressing. There are times when I long to sit over it from three to five years, and work at it furiously; but at times, in moments of doubt, I could spit on it. It would be a good thing, by God! to devote three years to it. I shall write a great deal of rubbish, because I am not a specialist, but really I shall write something sensible too. It is such a good subject, because it would live for a hundred years after me, as it would be the literary source and aid for all who are studying prison organization, or are interested in it.
 
4
You are right, your Excellency, I have done a great deal this summer. Another such summer and I may perhaps have written a novel and bought an estate. I have not only paid my way, but even paid off a thousand roubles of debt.
 
5
... Tell your son that I envy him. And I envy you too, and not because your wives have gone away, but because you are bathing in the sea and living in a warm house. I am cold in my barn. I should like new carpets, an open fireplace, bronzes, and learned conversations. Alas! I shall never be a Tolstoyan. In women I love beauty above all things; and in the history of mankind, culture, expressed in carpets, carriages with springs, and keenness of wit. Ach! To make haste and become an old man and sit at a big table! ...
 
6
P.S.—If we were to cut the zoological conversations out of “The Duel” wouldn’t it make it more living? ...
 

20.8. MOSCOW, September 8.

 
1
I have returned to Moscow and am keeping indoors. My family is busy trying to find a new flat but I say nothing because I am too lazy to turn round. They want to move to Devitchye Polye for the sake of cheapness.
 
2
The title you recommend for my novel—“Deception”—will not do: it would only be appropriate if it were a question of conscious lying. Unconscious lying is not deception but a mistake. Tolstoy calls our having money and eating meat lying—that’s too much....
 
3
Death gathers men little by little, he knows what he is about. One might write a play: an old chemist invents the elixir of life—take fifteen drops and you live for ever; but he breaks the phial from terror, lest such carrion as himself and his wife might live for ever. Tolstoy denies mankind immortality, but my God! how much that is personal there is in it! The day before yesterday I read his “Afterword.” Strike me dead! but it is stupider and stuffier than “Letters to a Governor’s Wife,” which I despise. The devil take the philosophy of the great ones of this world! All the great sages are as despotic as generals, and as ignorant and as indelicate as generals, because they feel secure of impunity. Diogenes spat in people’s faces, knowing that he would not suffer for it. Tolstoy abuses doctors as scoundrels, and displays his ignorance in great questions because he’s just such a Diogenes who won’t be locked up or abused in the newspapers. And so to the devil with the philosophy of all the great ones of this world! The whole of it with its fanatical “Afterwords” and “Letters to a Governor’s Wife” is not worth one little mare in his “Story of a Horse....”
 

21. TO E. M. S.

21.1. MOSCOW, September 16.

 
1
So we old bachelors smell of dogs? So be it. But as for specialists in feminine diseases being at heart rakes and cynics, allow me to differ. Gynaecologists have to do with deadly prose such as you have never dreamed of, and to which perhaps, if you knew it, you would, with the ferocity characteristic of your imagination, attribute a worse smell than that of dogs. One who is always swimming in the sea loves dry land; one who for ever is plunged in prose passionately longs for poetry. All gynaecologists are idealists. Your doctor reads poems, your instinct prompted you right; I would add that he is a great liberal, a bit of a mystic, and that he dreams of a wife in the style of the Nekrassov Russian woman. The famous Snyegirev cannot speak of the “Russian woman” without a quiver in his voice. Another gynaecologist whom I know is in love with a mysterious lady in a veil whom he has only seen from a distance. Another one goes to all the first performances at the theatre and then is loud in his abuse, declaring that authors ought to represent only ideal women, and so on. You have omitted to consider also that a good gynaecologist cannot be a stupid man or a mediocrity. Intellect has a brighter lustre than baldness, but you have noticed the baldness and emphasized it—and have flung the intellect overboard. You have noticed, too, and emphasized that a fat man—brrr!—exudes a sort of greasiness, but you completely lose sight of the fact that he is a professor—that is, that he has spent several years in thinking and doing something which sets him high above millions of men, high above all the Verotchkas and Taganrog Greek girls, high above dinners and wines of all sorts. Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Ham only noticed that his father was a drunkard, and completely lost sight of the fact that he was a genius, that he had built an ark and saved the world.
 
2
Writers must not imitate Ham, bear that in mind.
 
3
I do not venture to ask you to love the gynaecologist and the professor, but I venture to remind you of the justice which for an objective writer is more precious than the air he breathes.
 
4
The girl of the merchant class is admirably drawn. That is a good passage in the doctor’s speech in which he speaks of his lack of faith in medicine, but there is no need to make him drink after every sentence....
 
5
Then from the particular to the general! Let me warn you. This is not a story and not a novel and not a work of art, but a long row of heavy, gloomy barrack buildings. Where is your construction which at first so enchanted your humble servant? Where is the lightness, the freshness, the grace? Read your story through: a description of a dinner, then a description of passing ladies and girls, then a description of a company, then a description of a dinner, ... and so on endlessly. Descriptions and descriptions and no action at all. You ought to begin straight away with the merchant’s daughter, and keep to her, and chuck out Verotchka and the Greek girls and all the rest, except the doctor and the merchant family.
 
6
Excuse this long letter.
 

22. TO A. S. SUVORIN.

22.1. MOSCOW, October 16, 1891.

 
1
I congratulate you on your new cook, and wish you an excellent appetite. Wish me the same, for I am coming to see you soon—sooner than I had intended—and shall eat for three. I simply must get away from home, if only for a fortnight. From morning till night I am unpleasantly irritable, I feel as though someone were drawing a blunt knife over my soul, and this irritability finds external expression in my hurrying off to bed early and avoiding conversation. Nothing I do succeeds. I began a story for the Sbornik; I wrote half and threw it up, and then began another; I have been struggling for more than a week with this story, and the time when I shall finish it and when I shall set to work and finish the first story, for which I am to be paid, seems to me far away. I have not been to the province of Nizhni Novgorod yet, for reasons not under my control, and I don’t know when I shall go. In fact it’s a hopeless mess—a silly muddle and not life. And I desire nothing now so much as to win two hundred thousand....
 
2
Ah, I have such a subject for a novel! If I were in a tolerable humour I could begin it on the first of November and finish it on the first of December. I would make five signatures of print. And I long to write as I did at Bogimovo—i.e., from morning till night and in my sleep.
 
3
Don’t tell anyone I am coming to Petersburg. I shall live incognito. In my letters I write vaguely that I am coming in November....
 
4
Shall I remind you of Kashtanka, or forget about her? Won’t she lose her childhood and youth if we don’t print her? However, you know best....
 
5
P. S.—If you see my brother Alexandr, tell him that our aunt is dying of consumption. Her days are numbered. She was a splendid woman, a saint.
 
6
If you want to visit the famine-stricken provinces, let us go together in January, it will be more conspicuous then....
 

22.2. MOSCOW, October 19, 1891.

 
1
What a splendid little letter has come from you! It is warmly and eloquently written, and every thought in it is true. To talk now of laziness and drunkenness, and so on, is as strange and tactless as to lecture a man on the conduct of life at a moment when he is being sick or lying ill of typhus. There is always a certain element of insolence in being well-fed, as in every kind of force, and that element finds expression chiefly in the well-fed man preaching to the hungry. If consolation is revolting at a time of real sorrow, what must be the effect of preaching morality; and how stupid and insulting that preaching must seem. These moral people imagine that if a man is fifteen roubles in arrears with his taxes he must be a wastrel, and ought not to drink; but they ought to reckon up how much states are in debt, and prime ministers, and what the debts of all the marshals of nobility and all the bishops taken together come to. What do the Guards owe! Only their tailors could tell us that....
 
2
You have told them to send me four hundred? Vivat dominus Suvorin! So I have already received from your firm 400 + 100 + 400. Altogether I shall get for “The Duel” as I calculated, about fourteen hundred, so five hundred will go towards my debt. Well, and for that thank God! By the spring I must pay off all my debt or I shall go into a decline, for in the spring I want another advance from all my editors. I shall take it and escape to Java....
 
3
Ah, my friends, how bored I am! If I am a doctor I ought to have patients and a hospital; if I am a literary man I ought to live among people instead of in a flat with a mongoose, I ought to have at least a scrap of social and political life—but this life between four walls, without nature, without people, without a country, without health and appetite, is not life, but some sort of ... and nothing more.
 
4
For the sake of all the perch and pike you are going to catch on your Zaraish estate, I entreat you to publish the English humorist Bernard. [Translator’s Note: ? Bernard Shaw.] ...
 

23. TO MADAME LINTVARYOV.

23.1. MOSCOW, October 25, 1891.

 
1
HONOURED NATALYA MIHAILOVNA,
2
I have not gone to Nizhni as I meant to, but am sitting at home, writing and sneezing. Madame Morozov has seen the Minister, he has absolutely prohibited private initiative in the work of famine relief, and actually waved her out of his presence. This has reduced me to apathy at once. Add to that, complete lack of money, sneezing, a mass of work, the illness of my aunt who died to-day, the indefiniteness, the uncertainty in fact—everything has come together to hinder a lazy person like me. I have put off my going away till the first of December.
 
3
We felt dull without you for a long time, and when the Shah of Persia [Footnote: A. I. Smagin.] went away it was duller still. I have given orders that no one is to be admitted, and sit in my room like a heron in the reeds; I see no one, and no one sees me. And it is better so, or the public would pull the bell off, and my study would be turned into a smoking and talking room. It’s dull to live like this, but what am I to do? I shall wait till the summer and then let myself go.
 
4
I shall sell the mongoose by auction. I should be glad to sell N. and his poems too, but no one would buy him. He dashes in to see me almost every evening as he used to do, and bores me with his doubts, his struggles, his volcanoes, slit nostrils, atamans, the life of the free, and such tosh, for which God forgive him.
 
5
Russkiya Vyedomosti is printing a Sbornik for the famine fund. With your permission, I shall send you a copy.
 
6
Well, good health and happiness to you; respects and greetings to all yours from
 
7
the Geographer,
8
A. CHEKHOV.
 
9
P. S.—All my family send their regards.
 
10
We are all well but sorrowful. Our aunt was a general favourite, and was considered among us the incarnation of goodness, kindness, and justice, if only all that can be incarnated. Of course we shall all die, but still it is sad.
 
11
In April I shall be in your parts. By the spring I hope I shall have heaps of money. I judge by the omen: no money is a sign of money coming.
 

24. TO A. S. SUVORIN.

24.1. MOSCOW, October 25, 1891.

 
1
Print “The Duel” not twice a week but only once. To print it twice is breaking a long-established custom of the paper, and it would seem as though I were robbing the other contributors of one day a week; and meanwhile it makes no difference to me or my novel whether it is printed once a week or twice. The literary brotherhood in Petersburg seems to talk of nothing but the uncleanness of my motives. I have just received the good news that I am to be married to the rich Madame Sibiryakov. I get a lot of agreeable news altogether.
 
2
I wake up every night and read “War and Peace.” One reads it with the same interest and naive wonder as though one had never read it before. It’s amazingly good. Only I don’t like the passages in which Napoleon appears. As soon as Napoleon comes on the scene there are forced explanations and tricks of all sorts to prove that he was stupider than he really was. Everything that is said and done by Pierre, Prince Andrey, or the absolutely insignificant Nikolay Rostov—all that is good, clever, natural, and touching; everything that is thought and done by Napoleon is not natural, not clever, inflated and worthless.
 
3
When I live in the provinces (of which I dream now day and night), I shall practice as a doctor and read novels.
 
4
I am not coming to Petersburg.
 
5
If I had been by Prince Andrey I should have saved him. It is strange to read that the wound of a prince, a rich man spending his days and nights with a doctor and being nursed by Natasha and Sonya, should have smelt like a corpse. What a scurvy affair medicine was in those days! Tolstoy could not help getting soaked through with hatred for medicine while he was writing his thick novel....
 

24.2. MOSCOW, November 18, 1891.

 
1
... I have read your letter about the influenza and Solovyov. I was unexpectedly aware of a dash of cruelty in it. The phrase “I hate” does not suit you at all; and a public confession “I am a sinner, a sinner, a sinner,” is such pride that it made me feel uncomfortable. When the pope took the title “holiness,” the head of the Eastern church, in pique, called himself “The servant of God’s servants.” So you publicly expatiate on your sinfulness from pique of Solovyov, who has the impudence to call himself orthodox. But does a word like orthodoxy, Judaism, or Catholicism contain any implication of exceptional personal merit or virtue? To my thinking everybody is bound to call himself orthodox if he has that word inscribed on his passport. Whether you believe or not, whether you are a prince of this world or an exile in penal servitude, you are, for practical purposes, orthodox. And Solovyov made no sort of pretension when he said he was no Jew or Chaldean but orthodox....
 
2
I still feel dull, blighted, foolish, and indifferent, and I am still sneezing and coughing, and I am beginning to think I shall not get back to my former health. But that’s all in God’s hands. Medical treatment and anxiety about one’s physical existence arouse in me a feeling not far from loathing. I am not going to be doctored. I will take water and quinine, but I am not going to let myself be sounded....
 
3
I had only just finished this letter when I received yours. You say that if I go into the wilds I shall be quite cut off from you. But I am going to live in the country in order to be nearer Petersburg. If I have no flat in Moscow you must understand, my dear sir, I shall spend November, December, and January in Petersburg: that will be possible then. I shall be able to be idle all the summer too; I shall look out for a house in the country for you, but you are wrong in disliking Little Russians, they are not children or actors in the province of Poltava, but genuine people, and cheerful and well-fed into the bargain.
 
4
Do you know what relieves my cough? When I am working I sprinkle the edge of the table with turpentine with a sprayer and inhale its vapour. When I go to bed I spray my little table and other objects near me. The fine drops evaporate sooner than the liquid itself. And the smell of turpentine is pleasant. I drink Obersalzbrunnen, avoid hot things, talk little, and blame myself for smoking so much. I repeat, dress as warmly as possible, even at home. Avoid draughts at the theatre. Treat yourself like a hothouse plant or you will not soon be rid of your cough. If you want to try turpentine, buy the French kind. Take quinine once a day, and be careful to avoid constipation. Influenza has completely taken away from me any desire to drink spirituous liquors. They are disgusting to my taste. I don’t drink my two glasses at night, and so it is a long time before I can get to sleep. I want to take ether.
 
5
I await your story. In the summer let us each write a play. Yes, by God! why the devil should we waste our time....
 

25. TO E. M. S.

25.1. MOSCOW, November 19, 1891.

 
1
HONOURED ELENA MIHAILOVNA,
2
I am at home to all commencing, continuing, and concluding authors—that is my rule, and apart from your authorship and mine, I regard a visit from you as a great honour to me. Even if it were not so, even if for some reason I did not desire your visit, even then I should have received you, as I have enjoyed the greatest hospitality from your family. I did not receive you, and at once asked my brother to go to you and explain the cause. At the moment your card was handed me I was ill and undressed—forgive these homely details—I was in my bedroom, while there were persons in my study whose presence would not have been welcome to you. And so—to see you was physically impossible, and this my brother was to have explained to you, and you, a decent and good-hearted person, ought to have understood it; but you were offended. Well, I can’t help it....
 
3
But can you really have written only fifteen stories?—at this rate you won’t learn to write till you are fifty.
 
4
I am in bad health; for over a month I have had to keep indoors—influenza and cough.
 
5
All good wishes.
 
6
Write another twenty stories and send them. I shall always read them with pleasure, and practice is essential for you.
 

26. TO A. S. SUVORIN.

26.1. MOSCOW, November 22, 1891.

 
1
My health is on the road to improvement. My cough is less, my strength is greater. My mood is livelier, and there is sunrise in my head. I wake up in the morning in good spirits, go to bed without gloomy thoughts, and at dinner I am not ill-humoured and don’t say nasty things to my mother.
 
2
I don’t know when I shall come to you. I have heaps of work pour manger. Till the spring I must work—that is, at senseless grind. A ray of liberty has beamed upon my horizon. There has come a whiff of freedom. Yesterday I got a letter from the province of Poltava. They write they have found me a suitable place. A brick house of seven rooms with an iron roof, lately built and needing no repairs, a stable, a cellar, an icehouse, eighteen acres of land, an excellent meadow for hay, an old shady garden on the bank of the river Psyol. The river bank is mine; on that side there is a marvellous view over a wide expanse. The price is merciful. Three thousand, and two thousand deferred payment over several years. Five in all. If heaven has mercy upon me, and the purchase comes off, I shall move there in March for good, to live quietly in the lap of nature for nine months and the rest of the year in Petersburg. I am sending my sister to look at the place.
 
3
Ach! liberty, liberty! If I can live on not more than two thousand a year, which is only possible in the country, I shall be absolutely free from all anxieties over money coming in and going out. Then I shall work and read, read ... in a word it will be marmelad. [Translator’s Note: A kind of sweetmeat made by boiling down fruit to the consistency of damson cheese.] ...
 

26.2. MOSCOW, November 30, 1891.

 
1
I return you the two manuscripts you sent me. One story is an Indian Legend—The Lotus Flower, Wreaths of Laurel, A Summer Night, The Humming Bird—that in India! He begins with Faust thirsting for youth and ends with “the bliss of the true life,” in the style of Tolstoy. I have cut out parts, polished it up, and the result is a legend of no great value, indeed, but light, and it may be read with interest. The other story is illiterate, clumsy, and womanish in structure, but there is a story and a certain raciness. I have cut it down to half as you see. Both stories could be printed....
 
2
I keep dreaming and dreaming. I dream of moving from Moscow into the country in March, and in the autumn coming to Petersburg to stay till the spring. I long to spend at least one winter in Petersburg, and that’s only possible on condition I have no perch in Moscow. And I dream of how I shall spend five months talking to you about literature, and do as I think best in the Novoye Vremya, while in the country I shall go in for medicine heart and soul.
 
3
Boborykin has been to see me. He is dreaming too. He told me that he wants to write something in the way of the physiology of the Russian novel, its origin among us, and the natural course of its development. While he was talking I could not get rid of the feeling that I had a maniac before me, but a literary maniac who put literature far above everything in life. I so rarely see genuine literary people at home in Moscow that a conversation with Boborykin seemed like heavenly manna, though I don’t believe in the physiology of the novel and the natural course of its development—that is, there may exist such a physiology in nature, but I don’t believe with existing methods it can be detected. Boborykin dismisses Gogol absolutely and refuses to recognize him as a forerunner of Turgenev, Gontcharov, and Tolstoy.... He puts him apart, outside the current in which the Russian novel has flowed. Well, I don’t understand that. If one takes the standpoint of natural development, it’s impossible to put not only Gogol, but even a dog barking, outside the current, for all things in nature influence one another, and even the fact that I have just sneezed is not without its influence on surrounding nature....
 
4
Good health to you! I am reading Shtchedrin’s “Diary of a Provincial.” How long and boring it is! And at the same time how like real life!
 

27. TO N. A. LEIKIN.

27.1. MOSCOW, December 2, 1891.

 
1
I am writing to ask you a great favour, dear Nikolay Alexandrovitch. This is what it is. Until last year I have always lived with my university diploma, which by land and by sea has served me for a passport; but every time it has been vise the police have warned me that one cannot live with a diploma, and that I ought to get a passport from “the proper department.” I have asked everyone what this “proper department” means, and no one has given me an answer. A year ago the Moscow head police officer gave me a passport on the condition that within a year I should get a passport from “the proper department.” I can’t make head or tail of it! The other day I learned that as I have never been in the government service and by education am a doctor, I ought to be registered in the class of professional citizens, and that a certain department, I believe the heraldic, will furnish me with a certificate which will serve me as a passport for all the days of my life. I remembered that you had lately received the grade of professional citizen, and with it a certificate, and that therefore you must have applied somewhere and to someone and so, in a sense, are an old campaigner. For God’s sake advise me to what department I ought to apply. What petition ought I to write, and how many stamps ought I to put on it? What documents must be enclosed with the petition? and so on, and so on. In the town hall there is a “passport bureau.” Could not that bureau reveal the mystery if it is not sufficiently clear to you?
 
2
Forgive me for troubling you, but I really don’t know to whom to apply, and I am a very poor lawyer myself....
 
3
Your “Medal” is often given at Korsh’s Theatre, and with success. It is played together with Myasnitsky’s “Hare.” I haven’t seen them, but friends tell me that a great difference is felt between the two plays: that “The Medal” in comparison with “The Hare” seems something clean, artistic, and having form and semblance. There you have it! Literary men are swept out of the theatre, and plays are written by nondescript people, old and young, while the journals and newspapers are edited by tradesmen, government clerks, and young ladies. But there, the devil take them! ...
 

28. TO E. P. YEGOROV.

28.1. MOSCOW, December 11, 1891.

 
1
HONOURED EVGRAF PETROVITCH,
2
I write to explain why my journey to you did not come off. I was intending to come to you not as a special correspondent, but on a commission from, or more correctly by agreement with, a small circle of people who want to do something for the famine-stricken peasants. The point is that the public does not trust the administration and so is deterred from subscribing. There are a thousand legends and fables about the waste, the shameless theft, and so on. People hold aloof from the Episcopal department and are indignant with the Red Cross. The owner of our beloved Babkino, the Zemsky Natchalnik, rapped out to me, bluntly and definitely: “The Red Cross in Moscow are thieves.” Such being the state of feeling, the government can scarcely expect serious help from the public. And yet the public wants to help and its conscience is uneasy. In September the educated and wealthy classes of Moscow formed themselves into circles, thought, talked, and applied for advice to leading persons; everyone was talking of how to get round the government and organize independently. They decided to send to the famine-stricken provinces their own agents, who should make acquaintance with the position on the spot, open feeding centres, and so on. Some of the leaders of these circles, persons of weight, went to Durnovo to ask permission, and Durnovo refused it, declaring that the organization of relief must be left to the Episcopal department and the Red Cross. In short, private initiative was suppressed at its first efforts. Everyone was cast down and dispirited; some were furious, some simply washed their hands of the whole business. One must have the courage and authority of Tolstoy to act in opposition to all prohibitions and prevailing sentiments, and to follow the dictates of duty.
 
3
Well, now about myself. I am in complete sympathy with individual initiative, for every man has the right to do good in the way he thinks best; but all the discussion concerning the government, the Red Cross, and so on, seemed to me inopportune and impractical. I imagined that with coolness and good humour, one might get round all the terrors and delicacy of the position, and that there was no need to go to the Minister about it. I went to Sahalin without a single letter of recommendation, and yet I did everything I wanted to. Why cannot I go to the famine-stricken provinces? I remembered, too, such representatives of the government as you, Kiselyov, and all the Zemsky Natchalniks and tax inspectors of my acquaintance—all extremely decent people, worthy of complete confidence. And I resolved—if only for a small region—to combine the two elements of officialdom and private initiative. I want to come and consult you as soon as I can. The public trusts me; it would trust you, too, and I might reckon on succeeding. Do you remember I wrote to you? Suvorin came to Moscow at the time; I complained to him that I did not know your address. He telegraphed to Baranov, and Baranov was so kind as to send it to me. Suvorin was ill with influenza; as a rule when he comes to Moscow we spend whole days together discussing literature, of which he has a wide knowledge; we did the same on this occasion, and in consequence I caught his influenza, was laid up, and had a raging cough. Korolenko was in Moscow, and he found me ill. Lung complications kept me ill for a whole month, confined to the house and unable to do anything. Now I am on the way to recovery, though I still cough and am thin. There is the whole story for you. If it had not been for the influenza we might together perhaps have succeeded in extracting two or three thousand or more from the public.
 
4
Your exasperation with the press I can quite understand. The lucubrations of the journalists annoy you who know the true position of affairs, in the same way as the lucubrations of the profane about diphtheria annoy me as a doctor. But what would you have? Russia is not England and is not France. Our newspapers are not rich and they have very few men at their disposal. To send to the Volga a professor of the Petrovsky Academy or an Engelhardt is expensive: to send a talented and business-like member of the staff is impossible too—he is wanted at home. The Times could organize a census in the famine-stricken provinces at its own expense, could settle a Kennan in every district, paying him forty roubles a day, and then something sensible could be done; but what can the Russkiya Vyedomosti or the Novoye Vremya do, who consider an income of a hundred thousand as the wealth of Croesus? As for the correspondents themselves, they are townsmen who know the country only from Glyeb Uspensky. Their position is an utterly false one, they must fly into a district, sniff about, write, and dash on further. The Russian correspondent has neither material resources, nor freedom, nor authority. For two hundred roubles a month he gallops on and on, and only prays they may not be angry with him for his involuntary and inevitable misrepresentations. He feels guilty—though it is not he that is to blame but Russian darkness. The newspaper correspondents of the west have excellent maps, encyclopaedias, and statistics; in the west they could write their reports, sitting at home, but among us a correspondent can extract information only from talk and rumour. Among us in Russia only three districts have been investigated: the Tcherepov district, the Tambov district, and one other. That is all in the whole of Russia. The newspapers tell lies, the correspondents are duffers, but what’s to be done? If our press said nothing the position would be still more awful, you’ll admit that.
 
5
Your letter and your scheme for buying the cattle from the peasants has stirred me up. I am ready with all my heart and all my strength to follow your lead and do whatever you think best. I have thought it over for a long time, and this is my opinion: it is no use to reckon upon the rich. It is too late. Every wealthy man has by now forked out as many thousands as he is destined to. Our one resource now is the middle-class man who subscribes by the rouble and the half-rouble. Those who in September were talking about private initiative will by now have found themselves a niche in various boards and committees and are already at work. So only the middle-class man is left. Let us open a subscription list. You shall write a letter to the editors, and I will get it printed in Russkiya Vyedomosti and Novoye Vremya. To combine the two elements above mentioned, we might both sign the letter. If that is inconvenient to you from an official point of view, one might write in the third person as a communication that in the fifth section of the Nizhni Novgorod district this and that had been organized, that things were, thank God! going successfully and that subscriptions could be sent to the Zemsky Natchalnik, E. P. Yegorov, or to A. P. Chekhov, or to the editor of such and such papers. We need only to write at some length. Write in full detail, I will add something, and the thing will be done. We must ask for subscriptions and not for loans. No one will come forward with a loan; it is uncomfortable. It is hard to give, but it is harder still to take back.
 
6
I have only one rich acquaintance in Moscow, V. A. Morozov, a lady well-known for her philanthropy. I went to see her yesterday with your letter. I talked with her and dined with her. She is absorbed now in the committee of education, which is organizing relief centres for the school-children, and is giving everything to that. As education and horses are incommensurables, V. A. promised me the co-operation of the committee if we would start centres for feeding the school-children and send detailed information about it. I felt it awkward to ask her for money on the spot, for people beg and beg of her and fleece her like a fox. I only asked her when she had any committees and board meetings not to forget us, and she promised she would not....
 
7
If any roubles or half-roubles come in I will send them on to you without delay. Dispose of me and believe me that it would be a real happiness to me to do at least something, for so far I have done absolutely nothing for the famine-stricken peasants and for those who are helping them.
 

29. TO A. I. SMAGIN.

29.1. MOSCOW, December 11, 1891.

 
1
... Well, now I have something to tell you, my good sir. I am sitting at home in Moscow, but meantime my enterprise in the Nizhni Novgorod province is in full swing already! Together with my friend the Zemsky Natchalnik, an excellent man, we are hatching a little scheme, on which we expect to spend a hundred thousand or so, in the most remote section of the province, where there are no landowners nor doctors, nor even well-educated young ladies who are now to be found in numbers even in hell. Apart from famine relief of all sorts, we are making it our chief object to save the crops of next year. Owing to the fact that the peasants are selling their horses for next to nothing, there is a grave danger that the fields will not be ploughed for the spring corn, so that the famine will be repeated next year. So we are going to buy up the horses and feed them, and in spring give them back to their owners; our work is already firmly established, and in January I am going there to behold its fruits. Here is my object in writing to you. If in the course of some noisy banquet you or anyone else should chance to collect, if only half a rouble, for the famine fund, or if some Korobotchka bequeaths a rouble for that object, or if you yourself should win a hundred roubles, remember us sinners in your prayers, and spare us a part of your wealth! Not at once but when you like, only not later than in the spring....
 

30. TO A. S. SUVORIN.

30.1. MOSCOW, December 11, 1891.

 
1
... I am coming to you. My lying is unintentional. I have no money at all. I shall come when I get the various sums owing to me. Yesterday I got one hundred and fifty roubles, I shall soon get more, then I shall fly to you.
 
2
In January I am going to Nizhni Novgorod province: there my scheme is working already. I am very, very glad. I am going to write to Anna Pavlovna.
 
3
Ah, if you knew how agonizingly my head aches to-day! I want to come to Petersburg if only to lie motionless indoors for two days and only go out to dinner. For some reason I feel utterly exhausted. It’s all this cursed influenza.
 
4
How many persons could you and would you undertake to feed? Tolstoy! ah, Tolstoy! In these days he is not a man but a super-man, a Jupiter. In the Sbornik he has published an article about the relief centres, and the article consists of advice and practical instructions. So business-like, simple, and sensible that, as the editor of Russkiya Vyedomosti said, it ought to be printed in the Government Gazette, instead of in the Sbornik....
 

30.2. December 13, 1891.

 
1
Now I understand why you don’t sleep well at night. If I had written a story like that I should not have slept for ten nights in succession. The most terrible passage is where Varya strangles the hero and initiates him into the mysteries of the life beyond the grave. It’s terrifying and consistent with spiritualism. You mustn’t cut out a single word from Varya’s speeches, especially where they are both riding on horseback. Don’t touch it. The idea of the story is good, and the incidents are fantastic and interesting....
 
2
But why do you talk of our “nervous age”? There really is no nervous age. As people lived in the past so they live now, and the nerves of to-day are no worse than the nerves of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Since you have already written the ending I shall not put you out by sending you mine. I was inspired and could not resist writing it. You can read it if you like. Stories are good in this way, that one can sit over them, pen in hand, for days together, and not notice how time passes, and at the same time be conscious of life of a sort. That’s from the hygienic point of view. And from the point of view of usefulness and so on, to write a fairly good story and give the reader ten to twenty interesting minutes—that, as Gilyarovsky says, is not a sheep sneezing....
 
3
I have a horrible headache again to-day. I don’t know what to do. Yes, I suppose it’s old age, or if it’s not that it’s something worse.
 
4
A little old gentleman brought me one hundred roubles to-day for the famine.
 

31. TO A. I. SMAGIN.

31.1. MOSCOW, December 16, 1891.

 
1
... Alas! if I don’t move into the country this year, and if the purchase of the house and land for some reason does not come off, I shall be playing the part of a great villain in regard to my health. It seems to me that I am dried and warped like an old cupboard, and that if I go on living in Moscow next season, and give myself up to scribbling excesses, Gilyarovsky will read an excellent poem to welcome my entrance into that country place where there is neither sitting nor standing nor sneezing, but only lying down and nothing more. Do you know why you have no success with women? Because you have the most hideous, heathenish, desperate, tragic handwriting....
 

32. TO A. N. PLESHTCHEYEV.

32.1. MOSCOW, December 25, 1891.

 
1
DEAR ALEXEY NIKOLAEVITCH,
2
Yesterday I chanced to learn your address, and I write to you. If you have a free minute please write to me how you are in health, and how you are getting on altogether. Write, if only a couple of lines.
 
3
I have had influenza for the last six weeks. There has been a complication of the lungs and I have a cruel cough. In March I am going south to the province of Poltava, and shall stay there till my cough is gone. My sister has gone down there to buy a house and garden.
 
4
Literary doings here are quiet but life is bustling. There is a great deal of talk about the famine, and a great deal of work resulting from the said talk. The theatres are empty, the weather is wretched, there are no frosts at all. Jean Shteheglov is captivated by the Tolstoyans. Merezhkovsky sits at home as of old, lost in a labyrinth of deep researches, and as of old is very nice; of Chekhov they say he has married the heiress Sibiryakov and got five millions dowry—all Petersburg is talking of it. For whose benefit and for what object this slander, I am utterly unable to imagine. It’s positively sickening to read letters from Petersburg.
 
5
I have not seen Ostrovsky this year....
 
6
We shall probably not meet very soon, as I am going away in March and shall not return to the North before November. I shall not keep a flat in Moscow, as that pleasure is beyond my means. I shall stay in Petersburg.
 
7
I embrace you warmly. By the way, a little explanation in private. One day at dinner in Paris, persuading me to remain there, you offered to lend me money. I refused, and it seemed to me my refusal hurt and vexed you, and I fancied that when we parted there was a touch of coldness on your side. Possibly I am mistaken, but if I am right I assure you, my dear friend, on my word of honour, that I refused not because I did not care to be under an obligation to you, but simply from a feeling of self-preservation; I was behaving stupidly in Paris, and an extra thousand francs would only have been bad for my health. Believe me that if I had needed it, I would have asked you for a loan as readily as Suvorin.
 
8
God keep you.
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