Letters of Anton Chekhov, by Anton Chekhov

To A. S. Suvorin.

MOSCOW, February 23, 1890.

. . . My brother Alexandr is a slow-witted creature; he is enthusiastic over Ornatsky’s missionary speech, in which he says that the natives do not become Christians because they are waiting for a special ukaz (that is, command) from the Tsar on the subject and are waiting for their chiefs to be baptized . . . (by force — be it understood). This eloquent pontifex says, too, that the native priests ought, in view of their ascetic manner of life, to be removed from the natives and put into special institutions somewhat after the fashion of monasteries. A nice set of people and no mistake! They have wasted two million roubles, they send out every year from the academy dozens of missionaries who cost the treasury and the people large sums, yet they cannot convert the natives, and what is more, want the police and the military to help them with fire and sword. . . .

If you have Madame Tsebrikov’s article, do not trouble to send it. Such articles give no information and only waste time; I want facts. Indeed, in Russia there is a terrible poverty of facts, and a terrible abundance of reflections of all sorts.

February 28.

. . . To-morrow is spring, and within ten to fifteen days the larks will come back. But alas! — the coming spring seems strange to me, for I am going away from it.

In Sahalin there is very good fish, but there are no hot drinks. . . .

Our geologists, ichthyologists, zoologists and so on, are fearfully uneducated people. They write such a vile jargon that it not only bores one to read it, but one actually has at times to remodel the sentences before one can understand them; on the other hand, they have solemnity and earnestness enough and to spare. It’s really beastly. . . .

March 4.

I have sent you to-day two stories: Filippov’s (he was here yesterday) and Yezhov’s. I have not had time to read the latter, and I think it is as well to say, once for all, that I am not responsible for what I send you. My handwriting on the address does not mean that I like the story.

Poor Yezhov has been to see me; he sat near the table crying: his young wife is in consumption. He must take her at once to the south. To my question whether he had money he answered that he had. . . . It’s vile catch-cold weather; the sky itself is sneezing. I can’t bear to look at it. . . . I have already begun writing of Sahalin. I have written five pages. It reads all right, as though written with intelligence and authority . . . I quote foreign authors second-hand, but minutely and in a tone as though I could speak every foreign language perfectly. It’s regular swindling.

Yezhov has upset me with his tears. He reminded me of something, and I was sorry for him too.

Don’t forget us sinners.


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