Letters of Anton Chekhov, by Anton Chekhov

To A. S. Suvorin.

ALEXIN, May 7, 1891.

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.

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.

There is a fine view from my window. Trains are continually passing. There is a bridge across the Oka.

ALEXIN, May 10, 1891.

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.

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.”

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.

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.

* * * * *

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. . . .

ALEXIN, May 13, 1891.

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.

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.

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.

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