Letters of Anton Chekhov, by Anton Chekhov

To O. L. Knipper.

YALTA, October 30, 1899.

. . . You ask whether I shall be excited, but you see I only heard properly that “Uncle Vanya” was to be given on the twenty-sixth from your letter which I got on the twenty-seventh. The telegrams began coming on the evening of the twenty-seventh when I was in bed. They send them on to me by telephone. I woke up every time and ran with bare feet to the telephone, and got very much chilled; then I had scarcely dozed off when the bell rang again and again. It’s the first time that my own fame has kept me awake. The next evening when I went to bed I put my slippers and dressing-gown beside my bed, but there were no more telegrams.

The telegrams were full of nothing but the number of calls and the brilliant success, but there was a subtle, almost elusive something in them from which I could conclude that the state of mind of all of you was not exactly of the very best. The newspapers I have got to-day confirm my conjectures.

Yes, dear actress, ordinary medium success is not enough now for all you artistic players: you want an uproar, big guns, dynamite. You have been spoiled at last, deafened by constant talk about successes, full and not full houses: you are already poisoned with that drug, and in another two or three years you will be good for nothing! So much for you!

How are you getting on? How are you feeling? I am still in the same place, and am still the same; I am working and planting trees.

But visitors have come, I can’t go on writing. Visitors have been sitting here for more than an hour. They have asked for tea. They have sent for the samovar. Oh, how dreary!

Don’t forget me, and don’t let your friendship for me die away, so that we may go away together somewhere again this summer. Good-bye for the present. We shall most likely not meet before April. If you would all come in the spring to Yalta, would act here and rest — that would be wonderfully artistic. A visitor will take this letter and drop it into the post-box. . . .

P.S. — Dear actress, write for the sake of all that’s holy, I am so dull and depressed. I might be in prison and I rage and rage. . . .

YALTA, November 1, 1899.

I understand your mood, dear actress, I understand it very well; but yet in your place I would not be so desperately upset. Both the part of Anna [Footnote: In Hauptmann’s “Lonely Lives.”] and the play itself are not worth wasting so much feeling and nerves over. It is an old play. It is already out of date, and there are a great many defects in it; if more than half the performers have not fallen into the right tone, then naturally it is the fault of the play. That’s one thing, and the second is, you must once and for all give up being worried about successes and failures. Don’t let that concern you. It’s your duty to go on working steadily day by day, quite quietly, to be prepared for mistakes which are inevitable, for failures — in short, to do your job as actress and let other people count the calls before the curtain. To write or to act, and to be conscious at the time that one is not doing the right thing — that is so usual, and for beginners so profitable!

The third thing is that the director has telegraphed that the second performance went magnificently, that everyone played splendidly, and that he was completely satisfied. . . .


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