Letters of Anton Chekhov, by Anton Chekhov

To Madame Avilov.

YALTA, March 9, 1899.

I shall not be at the writers’ congress. In the autumn I shall be in the Crimea or abroad — that is, of course, if I am alive and free. I am going to spend the whole summer on my own place in the Serpuhov district. [Footnote: Melihovo.]

By the way, in what district of the Tula province have you bought your estate? For the first two years after buying an estate one has a hard time, at moments it is very bad indeed, but by degrees one is led to Nirvana, by sweet habit. I bought an estate and mortgaged it, I had a very hard time the first years (famine, cholera). Afterwards everything went well, and now it is pleasant to remember that I have somewhere near the Oka a nook of my own. I live in peace with the peasants, they never steal anything from me, and when I walk through the village the old women smile and cross themselves. I use the formal address to all except children, and never shout at them; but what has done most to build up our good relations is medicine. You will be happy on your estate, only please don’t listen to anyone’s advice and gloomy prognostications, and don’t at first be disappointed, or form an opinion about the peasants. The peasants behave sullenly and not genuinely to all new-comers, and especially so in the Tula province. There is indeed a saying: “He’s a good man though he is from Tula.”

So here’s something like a sermon for you, you see, madam. Are you satisfied?

Do you know L. N. Tolstoy? Will your estate be far from Tolstoy’s? If it is near I shall envy you. I like Tolstoy very much.

Speaking of new writers, you throw Melshin in with a whole lot. That’s not right. Melshin stands apart. He is a great and unappreciated writer, an intelligent, powerful writer, though perhaps he will not write more than he has written already. Kuprin I have not read at all. Gorky I like, but of late he has taken to writing rubbish, revolting rubbish, so that I shall soon give up reading him. “Humble People” is good, though one could have done without Buhvostov, whose presence brings into the story an element of strain, of tiresomeness and even falsity. Korolenko is a delightful writer. He is loved — and with good reason. Apart from all the rest there is sobriety and purity in him.

You ask whether I am sorry for Suvorin. Of course I am. He is paying heavily for his mistakes. But I’m not at all sorry for those who are surrounding him. . . .

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