Letters of Anton Chekhov, by Anton Chekhov

To Gorky.

YALTA, February 3, 1900.

DEAR ALEXEY MAXIMOVITCH,

Thank you for your letter, for the lines about Tolstoy and about “Uncle Vanya,” which I haven’t seen on the stage; thanks altogether for not forgetting me. Here in this blessed Yalta one could hardly keep alive without letters. The idleness, the idiotic winter with the temperature always above freezing-point, the complete absence of interesting women, the pig-faces on the sea-front — all this may spoil a man and wear him out in a very short time. I am tired of it; it seems to me as though the winter had been going on for ten years.

You have pleurisy. If so, why do you stay on in Nizhni. Why? What do you want with that Nizhni, by the way? What glue keeps you sticking to that town? If you like Moscow, as you write, why don’t you live in Moscow? In Moscow there are theatres and all the rest of it, and, what matters most of all, Moscow is handy for going abroad; while living in Nizhni you’ll stick in Nizhni, and never go further than Vasilsursk. You want to see more, to know more, to have a wider range. Your imagination is quick to seize and hold, but it is like a big oven which is not provided with fuel enough. One feels this in general, and in particular in the stories: you present two or three figures in a story, but these figures stand apart, outside the mass; one sees that these figures are living in your imagination, but only these figures — the mass is not grasped. I except from this criticism your Crimean things (for instance, “My Travelling Companion”), in which, besides the figures, there is a feeling of the human mass out of which they have come, and atmosphere and background — everything, in fact. See what a lecture I am giving you — and all that you may not go on staying in Nizhni. You are a young man, strong and tough; if I were you I should make a tour in India and all sorts of places. I would take my degree in two or more faculties — I would, yes, I would! You laugh, but I do feel so badly treated at being forty already, at having asthma and all sorts of horrid things which prevent my living freely. Anyway, be a good fellow and a good comrade, and don’t be angry with me for preaching at you like a head priest.

Write to me. I look forward to “Foma Gordeyev,” which I haven’t yet read properly.

There is no news. Keep well, I press your hand warmly.

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