Letters of Anton Chekhov, by Anton Chekhov

To His Brother Mihail.

TAGANROG, July 1, 1876.


I got your letter when I was fearfully bored and was sitting at the gate yawning, and so you can judge how welcome that immense letter was. Your writing is good, and in the whole letter I have not found one mistake in spelling. But one thing I don’t like: why do you style yourself “your worthless and insignificant brother”? You recognize your insignificance? . . . Recognize it before God; perhaps, too, in the presence of beauty, intelligence, nature, but not before men. Among men you must be conscious of your dignity. Why, you are not a rascal, you are an honest man, aren’t you? Well, respect yourself as an honest man and know that an honest man is not something worthless. Don’t confound “being humble” with “recognizing one’s worthlessness.” . . .

It is a good thing that you read. Acquire the habit of doing so. In time you will come to value that habit. Madame Beecher-Stowe has wrung tears from your eyes? I read her once, and six months ago read her again with the object of studying her — and after reading I had an unpleasant sensation which mortals feel after eating too many raisins or currants. . . . Read “Don Quixote.” It is a fine thing. It is by Cervantes, who is said to be almost on a level with Shakespeare. I advise my brothers to read — if they haven’t already done so — Turgenev’s “Hamlet and Don Quixote.” You won’t understand it, my dear. If you want to read a book of travel that won’t bore you, read Gontcharov’s “The Frigate Pallada.”

. . . I am going to bring with me a boarder who will pay twenty roubles a month and live under our general supervision. Though even twenty roubles is not enough if one considers the price of food in Moscow and mother’s weakness for feeding boarders with righteous zeal. [Footnote: This letter was written by Chekhov when he was in the fifth class of the Taganrog high school.]


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