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- Letters of Anton Chekhov - 60/64 -

chart and the compass, and if the steamer is shipwrecked all the same, would it not be more correct to put down the shipwreck not to the captain, but to something else--for instance, to think that the chart is out of date or that the bottom of the sea has changed? Yes, there are three points the jury have to take into consideration: (1) Apart from the criminal law, the penal code and legal procedure, there is a moral law which is always in advance of the established law, and which defines our actions precisely when we try to act on our conscience; thus, for instance, the heritage of a daughter is laid down by law as a seventh part. But you, acting on the dictates of purely moral principle, go beyond the law and in opposition to it, and bequeath her the same share as your sons, for you know that to act otherwise would be acting against your conscience. In the same way it sometimes happens to the jury to be put in a position in which they feel that their conscience is not satisfied by the established law, that in the case they are judging there are fine shades and subtleties which cannot be brought under the provisions of the penal code, and that obviously something else is needed for a just judgment, and that for the lack of that "something" they will be forced to give a judgment in which something is lacking. (2) The jury know that acquittal is not pardon, and that acquittal does not deliver the prisoner from the day of judgment in the other world, from the judgment of his conscience, from the judgment of public opinion; they decide the question only so far as it is a judicial question, and leave A----t to decide whether it is good to kill children or bad. (3) The prisoner comes to the court already exhausted by prison and examination, and he is in an agonizing position at his trial, so that even if he is acquitted he does not leave the court unpunished.

Well, be that as it may, my letter is almost finished, and I seem to have written nothing. We have the spring here in Yalta, no news of interest....

"Resurrection" is a remarkable novel. I liked it very much, but it ought to be read straight off at one sitting. The end is uninteresting and false-- false in a technical sense.


YALTA, February 14, 1900.


The photographs are very, very good, especially the one in which you are leaning in dejection with your elbows on the back of a chair, which gives you a discreetly mournful, gentle expression under which there lies hid a little demon. The other is good too, but it looks a little like a Jewess, a very musical person who attends a conservatoire, but at the same time is studying dentistry on the sly as a second string, and is engaged to be married to a young man in Mogilev, and whose fiance is a person like M----. Are you angry? Really, really angry? It's my revenge for your not signing them.

Of the seventy roses I planted in the autumn only three have not taken root. Lilies, irises, tulips, tuberoses, hyacinths, are all pushing out of the ground. The willow is already green. By the little seat in the corner the grass is luxuriant already. The almond-tree is in blossom. I have put little seats all over the garden, not grand ones with iron legs, but wooden ones which I paint green. I have made three bridges over the stream. I am planting palms. In fact, there are all sorts of novelties, so much so that you won't know the house, or the garden, or the street. Only the owner has not changed, he is just the same moping creature and devoted worshipper of the talents that reside at Nikitsky Gate. [Footnote: O. L. Knipper was living at Nikitsky Gate.] I have heard no music nor singing since the autumn, I have not seen one interesting woman. How can I help being melancholy?

I had made up my mind not to write to you, but since you have sent the photographs I have taken off the ban, and here you see I am writing. I will even come to Sevastopol, only I repeat, don't tell that to anyone, especially not to Vishnevsky. I shall be there incognito, I shall put myself down in the hotel-book Count Blackphiz.

I was joking when I said that you were like a Jewess in your photograph. Don't be angry, precious one. Well, herewith I kiss your little hand, and remain unalterably yours.


YALTA, February 15, 1900.


Your article in the Nizhni-Novgorod Listok was balm to my soul. What a talented person you are! I can't write anything but belles-lettres, you possess the pen of a journalist as well. I thought at first I liked the article so much because you praise me in it; afterwards it came out that Sredin and his family and Yartsev were all delighted with it. So peg away at journalism. God bless you!

Why don't they send me "Foma Gordeyev"? I have read it only in bits, and one ought to read it straight through at a sitting as I have just read "Resurrection." Except the relations of Nehludov and Katusha, which are somewhat obscure and made up, everything in the novel made the impression of strength, richness, and breadth, and the insincerity of a man afraid of death and refusing to admit it and clutching at texts and holy Scripture.

Write to them to send me "Foma."

"Twenty-six Men and a Girl" is a good story. There is a strong feeling of the environment. One smells the hot rolls.

They have just brought your letter. So you don't want to go to India? That's a pity. When India is in the past, a long sea voyage, you have something to think about when you can't get to sleep. And a tour abroad takes very little time, it need not prevent your going about in Russia on foot.

I am bored, not in the sense of _weltschmerz_, not in the sense of being weary of existence, but simply bored from want of people, from want of music which I love, and from want of women, of whom there are none in Yalta. I am bored without caviare and pickled cabbage.

I am very sorry that apparently you have given up the idea of coming to Yalta. The Art Theatre from Moscow will be here in May. It will give five performances and then remain for rehearsals. So you come, study the stage at the rehearsals, and then in five to eight days write a play, which I should welcome joyfully with my whole heart.

Yes, I have the right now to insist on the fact that I am forty, that I am a man no longer young. I used to be the youngest literary man, but you have appeared on the scene and I became more dignified at once, and no one calls me the youngest now.


YALTA, February 15, 1900.


"Foma Gordeyev" and in a superb binding too is a precious and touching present; I thank you from the bottom of my heart. A thousand thanks! I have read "Foma" only in bits, now I shall read it properly. Gorky should not be published in parts; either he must write more briefly, or you must put him in whole as the _Vyestnik Evropy_ does with Boborykin. "Foma," by the way, is very successful, but only with intelligent well-read people--with the young also. I once overheard in a garden the conversation of a lady (from Petersburg) with her daughter: the mother was abusing the book, the daughter was praising it....

YALTA, February 29, 1900.

"Foma Gordeyev" is written all in one tone like a dissertation. All the characters speak alike, and their way of thinking is alike too. They all speak not simply but intentionally; they all have some idea in the background; as though there is something they know they don't speak out: but in reality there is nothing they know, and it is simply their _facon de parler_.

There are wonderful passages in "Foma." Gorky will make a very great writer if only he does not weary, does not grow cold and lazy.


YALTA, March 10, 1900.

No winter has ever dragged on so long for me as this one, and time merely drags and does not move, and now I realize how stupid it was of me to leave Moscow. I have lost touch with the north without getting into touch with the south, and one can think of nothing in my position but to go abroad. After the spring, winter has begun here again in Yalta--snow, rain, cold, mud--simply disgusting.

The Moscow Art Theatre will be in Yalta in April; it will bring its scenery and decorations. All the tickets for the four days advertised were sold in one day, although the prices have been considerably raised. They will give among other things Hauptmann's "Lonely Lives," a magnificent play in my opinion. I read it with great pleasure, although I am not fond of plays, and the production at the Art Theatre they say is marvellous.

There is no news. There is one great event, though: N.'s "Socrates" is printed in the _Neva_ Supplement. I have read it, but with great effort. It is not Socrates but a dull-witted, captious, opinionated man, the whole of whose wisdom and interest is confined to tripping people up over words. There is not a trace or vestige of talent in it, but it is quite possible that the play might be successful because there are words in it such as "amphora," and Karpov says it would stage well.

Letters of Anton Chekhov - 60/64

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