Letters of Anton Chekhov, by Anton Chekhov

To A. S. Suvorin.

MOSCOW, October 16, 1891.

I congratulate you on your new cook, and wish you an excellent appetite. Wish me the same, for I am coming to see you soon — sooner than I had intended — and shall eat for three. I simply must get away from home, if only for a fortnight. From morning till night I am unpleasantly irritable, I feel as though someone were drawing a blunt knife over my soul, and this irritability finds external expression in my hurrying off to bed early and avoiding conversation. Nothing I do succeeds. I began a story for the Sbornik; I wrote half and threw it up, and then began another; I have been struggling for more than a week with this story, and the time when I shall finish it and when I shall set to work and finish the first story, for which I am to be paid, seems to me far away. I have not been to the province of Nizhni Novgorod yet, for reasons not under my control, and I don’t know when I shall go. In fact it’s a hopeless mess — a silly muddle and not life. And I desire nothing now so much as to win two hundred thousand. . . .

Ah, I have such a subject for a novel! If I were in a tolerable humour I could begin it on the first of November and finish it on the first of December. I would make five signatures of print. And I long to write as I did at Bogimovo — i.e., from morning till night and in my sleep.

Don’t tell anyone I am coming to Petersburg. I shall live incognito. In my letters I write vaguely that I am coming in November. . . .

Shall I remind you of Kashtanka, or forget about her? Won’t she lose her childhood and youth if we don’t print her? However, you know best. . . .

P. S. — If you see my brother Alexandr, tell him that our aunt is dying of consumption. Her days are numbered. She was a splendid woman, a saint.

If you want to visit the famine-stricken provinces, let us go together in January, it will be more conspicuous then. . . .

MOSCOW, October 19, 1891.

What a splendid little letter has come from you! It is warmly and eloquently written, and every thought in it is true. To talk now of laziness and drunkenness, and so on, is as strange and tactless as to lecture a man on the conduct of life at a moment when he is being sick or lying ill of typhus. There is always a certain element of insolence in being well-fed, as in every kind of force, and that element finds expression chiefly in the well-fed man preaching to the hungry. If consolation is revolting at a time of real sorrow, what must be the effect of preaching morality; and how stupid and insulting that preaching must seem. These moral people imagine that if a man is fifteen roubles in arrears with his taxes he must be a wastrel, and ought not to drink; but they ought to reckon up how much states are in debt, and prime ministers, and what the debts of all the marshals of nobility and all the bishops taken together come to. What do the Guards owe! Only their tailors could tell us that. . . .

You have told them to send me four hundred? Vivat dominus Suvorin! So I have already received from your firm 400 + 100 + 400. Altogether I shall get for “The Duel” as I calculated, about fourteen hundred, so five hundred will go towards my debt. Well, and for that thank God! By the spring I must pay off all my debt or I shall go into a decline, for in the spring I want another advance from all my editors. I shall take it and escape to Java. . . .

Ah, my friends, how bored I am! If I am a doctor I ought to have patients and a hospital; if I am a literary man I ought to live among people instead of in a flat with a mongoose, I ought to have at least a scrap of social and political life — but this life between four walls, without nature, without people, without a country, without health and appetite, is not life, but some sort of . . . and nothing more.

For the sake of all the perch and pike you are going to catch on your Zaraish estate, I entreat you to publish the English humorist Bernard. [Translator’s Note:? Bernard Shaw.] . . .


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