Letters of Anton Chekhov, by Anton Chekhov

To O. L. Knipper.

YALTA, January 2, 1900.

My greetings, dear actress! Are you angry that I haven’t written for so long? I used to write often, but you didn’t get my letters because our common acquaintance intercepted them in the post.

I wish you all happiness in the New Year. I really do wish you happiness and bow down to your little feet. Be happy, wealthy, healthy, and gay.

We are getting on pretty well, we eat a great deal, chatter a great deal, laugh a great deal, and often talk of you. Masha will tell you when she goes back to Moscow how we spent Christmas.

I have not congratulated you on the success of “Lonely Lives.” I still dream that you will all come to Yalta, that I shall see “Lonely Lives” on the stage, and congratulate you really from my heart. I wrote to Meierhold, [Footnote: An actor at the Art Theatre at that time playing Johannes in Hauptmann’s “Lonely Lives.”] and urged him in my letter not to be too violent in the part of a nervous man. The immense majority of people are nervous, you know: the greater number suffer, and a small proportion feel acute pain; but where — in streets and in houses — do you see people tearing about, leaping up, and clutching at their heads? Suffering ought to be expressed as it is expressed in life — that is, not by the arms and legs, but by the tone and expression; not by gesticulation, but by grace. Subtle emotions of the soul in educated people must be subtly expressed in an external way. You will say — stage conditions. No conditions allow falsity.

My sister tells me that you played “Anna” exquisitely. Ah, if only the Art Theatre would come to Yalta! Novoye Vremya highly praised your company. There is a change of tactics in that quarter; evidently they are going to praise you all even in Lent. My story, a very queer one, will be in the February number of Zhizn. There are a great number of characters, there is scenery too, there’s a crescent moon, there’s a bittern that cries far, far away: “Boo-oo! boo-oo!” like a cow shut up in a shed. There’s everything in it.

Levitan is with us. Over my fireplace he has painted a moonlight night in the hayfield, cocks of hay, forest in the distance, a moon reigning on high above it all.

Well, the best of health to you, dear, wonderful actress. I have been pining for you.

And when are you going to send me your photograph? What treachery!

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 13:06