Letters of Anton Chekhov, by Anton Chekhov

To A. S. Suvorin.

MOSCOW, January 31, 1891.

At home I found depression. My nicest and most intelligent mongoose had fallen ill and was lying very quietly under a quilt. The little beast eats and drinks nothing. The climate has already laid its cold claw on it and means to kill it. What for?

We have received a dismal letter. In Taganrog we were on friendly terms with a well-to-do Polish family. The cakes and jam I ate in their house when I was a boy at school arouse in me now the most touching reminiscences; there used to be music, young ladies, home-made liqueurs, and catching goldfinches in the immense courtyard. The father had a post in the Taganrog customs and got into trouble. The investigation and trial ruined the family. There were two daughters and a son. When the elder daughter married a rascal of a Greek, the family took an orphan girl into the house to bring up. This little girl was attacked by disease of the knee and they amputated the leg. Then the son died of consumption, a medical student in his fourth year, an excellent fellow, a perfect Hercules, the hope of the family. . . . Then came terrible poverty. . . . The father took to wandering about the cemetery, longed to take to drink but could not: vodka simply made his head ache cruelly while his thoughts remained the same, just as sober and revolting. Now they write that the younger daughter, a beautiful, plump young girl, is consumptive. . . . The father writes to me of that and writes to me for a loan of ten roubles. . . . Ach!

I felt awfully unwilling to leave you, but still I am glad I did not remain another day — I went away and showed that I had strength of will. I am writing already. By the time you come to Moscow my novel [Footnote: “The Duel.”] will be finished, and I will go back with you to Petersburg.

Tell Borya, Mitya, and Andrushka that I vituperate them. In the pocket of my greatcoat I found some notes on which was scrawled: “Anton Pavlovitch, for shame, for shame, for shame!” O pessimi discipuli! Utinam vos lupus devoret!

Last night I did not sleep, and I read through my “Motley Tales” for the second edition. I threw out about twenty stories.

MOSCOW, February 5, 1891.

My mongoose has recovered and breaks crockery again with unfailing regularity.

I am writing and writing! I must own I was afraid that my Sahalin expedition would have put me out of the way of writing, but now I see that it is all right. I have written a great deal. I am writing diffusely a la Yasinsky. I want to get hold of a thousand roubles.

I shall soon begin to expect you. Are we going to Italy or not? We ought to.

In Petersburg I don’t sleep at night, I drink and loaf about, but I feel immeasurably better than in Moscow. The devil only knows why it is so.

I am not depressed, because in the first place I am writing, and in the second, one feels that summer, which I love more than anything, is close at hand. I long to prepare my fishing tackle. . . .

February 23.

Greetings, my dear friend.

Your telegram about the Tormidor upset me. I felt dreadfully attracted to Petersburg: now for the sake of Sardou and the Parisian visitors. But practical considerations pulled me up. I reflected that I must hurry on with my novel; that I don’t know French, and so should only be taking up someone else’s place in the box; that I have very little money, and so on. In short, as it seems to me now, I am a poor comrade, though apparently I acted sensibly.

My novel is progressing. It’s all smooth, even, there is scarcely anything that is too long. But do you know what is very bad? There is no movement in my novel, and that frightens me. I am afraid it will be difficult to read to the middle, to say nothing of reading to the end. Anyway, I shall finish it. I shall bring Anna Pavlovna a copy on vellum paper to read in the bathroom. I should like something to sting her in the water, so that she would run out of the bathroom sobbing.

I was melancholy when you went away. . . .

Send me some money. I have none and seem to have nowhere to borrow. By my reckoning I cannot under favourable circumstances get more than a thousand roubles from you before September. But don’t send the money by post, as I can’t bear going to post offices. . . .

March 5.

We are going!!! I agree to go, where you like and when you like. My soul is leaping with delight. It would be stupid on my part not to go, for when would an opportunity come again? But, my dear friend, I leave you to weigh the following circumstances.

(1) My work is still far from being finished; if I put it by till May, I shall not be able to begin my Sahalin work before July, and that is risky. For my Sahalin impressions are already evaporating, and I run the risk of forgetting a great deal.

(2) I have absolutely no money. If without finishing my novel I take another thousand roubles for the tour abroad, and then for living after the tour, I shall get into such a tangle that the devil himself could not pull me out by the ears. I am not in a tangle yet because I am up to all sorts of dodges, and live more frugally than a mouse; but if I go abroad everything will go to the devil. My accounts will be in a mess and I shall get myself hopelessly in debt. The very thought of a debt of two thousand makes my heart sink.

There are other considerations, but they are all of small account beside that of money and work. And so, thoroughly digest my objections, put yourself into my skin for a moment, and decide, wouldn’t it be better for me to stay at home? You will say all this is unimportant. But lay aside your point of view? and look at it from mine.

I await a speedy answer.

My novel [Footnote: “The Duel.”] is progressing, but I have not got far.

I have been to the Kiselyovs’. The rooks are already arriving.


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