Letters of Anton Chekhov, by Anton Chekhov

To A. S. Suvorin.

MOSCOW, November 22, 1891.

My health is on the road to improvement. My cough is less, my strength is greater. My mood is livelier, and there is sunrise in my head. I wake up in the morning in good spirits, go to bed without gloomy thoughts, and at dinner I am not ill-humoured and don’t say nasty things to my mother.

I don’t know when I shall come to you. I have heaps of work pour manger. Till the spring I must work — that is, at senseless grind. A ray of liberty has beamed upon my horizon. There has come a whiff of freedom. Yesterday I got a letter from the province of Poltava. They write they have found me a suitable place. A brick house of seven rooms with an iron roof, lately built and needing no repairs, a stable, a cellar, an icehouse, eighteen acres of land, an excellent meadow for hay, an old shady garden on the bank of the river Psyol. The river bank is mine; on that side there is a marvellous view over a wide expanse. The price is merciful. Three thousand, and two thousand deferred payment over several years. Five in all. If heaven has mercy upon me, and the purchase comes off, I shall move there in March for good, to live quietly in the lap of nature for nine months and the rest of the year in Petersburg. I am sending my sister to look at the place.

Ach! liberty, liberty! If I can live on not more than two thousand a year, which is only possible in the country, I shall be absolutely free from all anxieties over money coming in and going out. Then I shall work and read, read . . . in a word it will be marmelad. [Translator’s Note: A kind of sweetmeat made by boiling down fruit to the consistency of damson cheese.] . . .

MOSCOW, November 30, 1891.

I return you the two manuscripts you sent me. One story is an Indian Legend — The Lotus Flower, Wreaths of Laurel, A Summer Night, The Humming Bird — that in India! He begins with Faust thirsting for youth and ends with “the bliss of the true life,” in the style of Tolstoy. I have cut out parts, polished it up, and the result is a legend of no great value, indeed, but light, and it may be read with interest. The other story is illiterate, clumsy, and womanish in structure, but there is a story and a certain raciness. I have cut it down to half as you see. Both stories could be printed. . . .

I keep dreaming and dreaming. I dream of moving from Moscow into the country in March, and in the autumn coming to Petersburg to stay till the spring. I long to spend at least one winter in Petersburg, and that’s only possible on condition I have no perch in Moscow. And I dream of how I shall spend five months talking to you about literature, and do as I think best in the Novoye Vremya, while in the country I shall go in for medicine heart and soul.

Boborykin has been to see me. He is dreaming too. He told me that he wants to write something in the way of the physiology of the Russian novel, its origin among us, and the natural course of its development. While he was talking I could not get rid of the feeling that I had a maniac before me, but a literary maniac who put literature far above everything in life. I so rarely see genuine literary people at home in Moscow that a conversation with Boborykin seemed like heavenly manna, though I don’t believe in the physiology of the novel and the natural course of its development — that is, there may exist such a physiology in nature, but I don’t believe with existing methods it can be detected. Boborykin dismisses Gogol absolutely and refuses to recognize him as a forerunner of Turgenev, Gontcharov, and Tolstoy. . . . He puts him apart, outside the current in which the Russian novel has flowed. Well, I don’t understand that. If one takes the standpoint of natural development, it’s impossible to put not only Gogol, but even a dog barking, outside the current, for all things in nature influence one another, and even the fact that I have just sneezed is not without its influence on surrounding nature. . . .

Good health to you! I am reading Shtchedrin’s “Diary of a Provincial.” How long and boring it is! And at the same time how like real life!

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