Letters of Anton Chekhov, by Anton Chekhov

To A. I. Ertel.

MELIHOVO, April 17, 1897.

DEAR FRIEND ALEXANDR IVANOVITCH,

I am now at home. For a fortnight before Easter I was lying in Ostroumov’s clinic and was spitting blood. The doctor diagnosed tuberculosis in the lungs. I feel splendid, nothing aches, nothing is uneasy inside, but the doctors have forbidden me vinum, movement, and conversation, they have ordered me to eat a great deal, and forbidden me to practise — and I feel as it were dreary.

I hear nothing about the People’s Theatre. At the congress it was spoken of apathetically, without interest, and the circle that had undertaken to write its constitution and set to work have evidently cooled off a little. It is due to the spring, I suppose. The only one of the circle I saw was Goltsev, and I had not time to talk to him about the theatre.

There is nothing new. A dead calm in literature. In the editor’s offices they are drinking tea and cheap wine, drinking it without relish as they walk about, evidently from having nothing to do. Tolstoy is writing a little book about Art. He came to see me in the clinic, and said that he had flung aside his novel “Resurrection” as he did not like it, and was writing only about Art, and had read sixty books about Art. His idea is not a new one; all intelligent old men in all the ages have sung the same tune in different keys. Old men have always been prone to see the end of the world, and have always declared that morality was degenerating to the uttermost point, that Art was growing shallow and wearing thin, that people were growing feebler, and so on, and so on.

Lyov Nikolaevitch wants to persuade us in his little book that at the present time Art has entered upon its final phase, that it is in a blind alley, from which it has no outlet (except retreat).

I am doing nothing, I feed the sparrows with hemp-seed and prune a rose-tree a day. After my pruning, the roses flower magnificently. I am not looking after the farming.

Keep well, dear Alexandr Ivanovitch, thank you for your letter and friendly sympathy. Write to me for the sake of my infirmity, and don’t blame me too much for my carelessness in correspondence.

In future I am going to try and answer your letters as soon as I have read them. Warmest greetings.

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