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NOTE-BOOK OF ANTON CHEKHOV

Translated by S. S. KOTELIANSKY and LEONARD WOOLF

1921







This volume consists of notes, themes, and sketches for works which
Anton Chekhov intended to write, and are characteristic of the methods
of his artistic production. Among his papers was found a series of
sheets in a special cover with the inscription: "Themes, thoughts,
notes, and fragments." Madame L.O. Knipper-Chekhov, Chekhov's wife,
also possesses his note-book, in which he entered separate themes
for his future work, quotations which he liked, etc. If he used any
material, he used to strike it out in the note-book. The significance
which Chekhov attributed to this material may be judged from the fact
that he recopied most of it into a special copy book.




ANTON CHEKHOV'S DIARY.

1896


My neighbor V.N.S. told me that his uncle Fet-Shenshin, the famous
poet, when driving through the Mokhovaia Street, would invariably let
down the window of his carriage and spit at the University. He would
expectorate and spit: Bah! His coachman got so used to this that every
time he drove past the University, he would stop.

In January I was in Petersburg and stayed with Souvorin. I often
saw Potapenko. Met Korolenko. I often went to the Maly Theatre.
As Alexander [Chekhov's brother] came downstairs one day, B.V.G.
simultaneously came out of the editorial office of the _Novoye
Vremya_ and said to me indignantly: "Why do you set the old man
(i.e. Souvorin) against Burenin?" I have never spoken ill of the
contributors to the _Novoye Vremya_ in Souvorin's presence, although I
have the deepest disrespect for the majority of them.

In February, passing through Moscow, I went to see L.N. Tolstoi. He
was irritated, made stinging remarks about the _décadents_, and for
an hour and a half argued with B. Tchitcherin, who, I thought, talked
nonsense all the time. Tatyana and Mary [Tolstoi's daughters] laid
out a patience; they both wished, and asked me to pick a card out;
I picked out the ace of spades separately for each of them, and that
annoyed them. By accident there were two aces of spades in the pack.
Both of them are extraordinarily sympathetic, and their attitude to
their father is touching. The countess denounced the painter Gé all
the evening. She too was irritated.

May 5. The sexton Ivan Nicolayevitch brought my portrait, which he has
painted from a photograph. In the evening V.N.S. brought his friend N.
He is director of the Foreign Department ... editor of a magazine ...
and doctor of medicine. He gives the impression of being an unusually
stupid person and a reptile. He said: "There's nothing more pernicious
on earth than a rascally liberal paper," and told us that, apparently,
the peasants whom he doctors, having got his advice and medicine free
of charge, ask him for a tip. He and S. speak of the peasants with
exasperation and loathing.

June 1. I was at the Vagankov Cemetery and saw the graves there of
the victims of the Khodinka. [During the coronation of Nicholas II
in Moscow hundreds of people were crushed to death in the Khodinka
Fields.] I. Pavlovsky, the Paris correspondent of the _Novoye Vremya_,
came with me to Melikhovo.

August 4. Opening of the school in Talezh. The peasants of Talezh,
Bershov, Doubechnia and Sholkovo presented me with four loaves, an
icon and two silver salt-cellars. The Sholkovo peasant Postnov made a
speech.

N. stayed with me from the 15th to the 18th August. He has been
forbidden [by the authorities] to publish anything: he speaks
contemptuously now of the younger G., who said to the new Chief of
the Central Press Bureau that he was not going to sacrifice his weekly
_Nedelya_ for N.'s sake and that "We have always anticipated the
wishes of the Censorship." In fine weather N. walks in goloshes, and
carries an umbrella, so as not to die of sunstroke; he is afraid to
wash in cold water, and complains of palpitations of the heart. From
me he went on to L.N. Tolstoi.

I left Taganrog on August 24. In Rostov I had supper with a
school-friend, L. Volkenstein, the barrister, who has already a
house in town and a villa in Kislovodsk [in the Caucasus]. I was in
Nakhichevan - what a change! All the streets are lit by electric light.
In Kislovodsk, at the funeral of General Safonov, I met A.I. Tchouprov
[a famous economist], later I met A.N. Vesselovsky [littérateur] in
the park. On the 28th I went on a hunting party with Baron Steingel,
passed the night in Bermamut. It was cold with a violent wind.

2 September in Novorissisk. Steamer _Alexander II_. On the 3rd I
arrived at Feodossia and stopped with Souvorin. I saw I.K. Aivasovsky
[famous painter] who said to me: "You no longer come to see me, an old
man." In his opinion I ought to have paid him a visit. On the 16th in
Kharkov, I was in the theatre at the performance of "The Dangers of
Intelligence." 17th at home: wonderful weather.

Vladimir Sloviov [famous philosopher] told me that he always carried
an oak-gall in his trouser pocket, - in his opinion, it is a radical
cure for piles.

October 17. Performance of my "Seagull" at the Alexandrinsky Theatre.
It was not a success.

29th. I was at a meeting of the Zemstvo Council at Sezpukhovo.

On the 10th November I had a letter from A.F. Koni who says he liked
my "Seagull" very much.

November 26th. A fire broke out in our house. Count S.I. Shakhovsky
helped to put it out. When it was over, Sh. related that once, when
a fire broke out in his house at night, he lifted a tank of water
weighing 4-1/2 cwt. and poured the water on the flames.

December 4. For the performance [of the "Seagull"] on the 17th October
see "Theatral," No. 95, page 75. It is true that I fled from the
theatre, but only when the play was over. In L.'s dressing-room during
two or three acts. During the intervals there came to her officials of
the State Theatres in uniform, wearing their orders, P. - with a Star;
a handsome young official of the Department of the State Police also
came to her. If a man takes up work which is alien to him, art for
instance, then, since it is impossible for him to become an artist, he
becomes an official. What a lot of people thus play the parasite round
science, the theatre, the painting, - by putting on a uniform! Likewise
the man to whom life is alien, who is incapable of living, nothing
else remains for him, but to become an official. The fat actresses,
who were in the dressing-room, made themselves pleasant to the
officials - respectfully and flatteringly. (L. expressed her delight
that P., so young, had already got the Star.) They were old,
respectable house-keepers, serf-women, whom the masters honored with
their presence.

December 21. Levitan suffers from dilation of the aorta. He carries
clay on his chest. He has superb studies for pictures, and a
passionate thirst for life.

December 31. P.I. Seryogin, the landscape painter, came.


1897.

From January 10 to February 3 busy with the census. I am enumerator
of the 16th district, and have to instruct the other (fifteen)
enumerators of our Bavykin Section. They all work superbly, except
the priest of the Starospassky parish and the Government official,
appointed to the Zemstvo, G., (who is in charge of the census
district); he is away nearly all the time in Serpukhovo, spends every
evening at the Club and keeps on wiring that he is not well. All the
rest of the Government officials of our district are also said to do
nothing.

With such critics as we have, authors like N.S. Lyeskov and S.V.
Maximov cannot be a success.

Between "there is a God" and "there is no God" lies a whole vast
tract, which the really wise man crosses with great effort. A Russian
knows one or other of these two extremes, and the middle tract between
them does not interest him; and therefore he usually knows nothing, or
very little.

The ease with which Jews change their religion is justified by many on
the ground of indifference. But this is not a justification. One has
to respect even one's indifference, and not change it for anything,
since indifference in a decent man is also a religion.

February 13. Dinner at Mme. Morosov's. Tchouprov, Sololevsky,
Blaramberg, Sablin and myself were present.

February 15. Pancakes at Soldatienkov's [a Moscow publisher]. Only
Golziev [editor of _Russian Thought_] and myself were present. Many
fine pictures, nearly all badly hung. After the pancakes we drove to
Levitan, from whom Soldatienkov bought a picture and two studies for
1,100 roubles. Met Polyenov [famous painter]. In the evening I was
at professor Ostroumov's; he says that Levitan "can't help dying." O.
himself is ill and obviously frightened.

February 16. Several of us met in the evening in the offices of
_Russian Thought_ to discuss the People's Theatre. Every one liked
Shekhtel's plan.

February 19. Dinner at the "Continental" to commemorate the
great reform [the abolition of the serfdom in 1861]. Tedious and
incongruous. To dine, drink champagne, make a racket, and deliver
speeches about national consciousness, the conscience of the people,
freedom, and such things, while slaves in tail-coats are running round
your tables, veritable serfs, and your coachmen wait outside in the
street, in the bitter cold - that is lying to the Holy Ghost.

February 22. I went to Serpukhovo to an amateur performance in aid of
the school at Novossiolki. As far as Zarizin I was accompanied by ... a
little queen in exile, - an actress who imagines herself great;
uneducated and a bit vulgar.

From March 25 till April 10 I was laid up in Ostroumov's clinic.
Hæmorrhage. Creaking, moisture in the apices of both my lungs;
congestion in the apex of the right. On March 28 L.N. Tolstoi came
to see me. We spoke of immortality. I told him the gist of Nossilov's
story "The Theatre of the Voguls," and he evidently listened with
great pleasure.

May 1. N. arrived. He is always thanking you for tea and dinner,
apologizing, afraid of being late for the train; he talks a great
deal, keeps mentioning his wife, like Gogol's Mijniev, pushes the
proofs of his play over to you, first one sheet then another, giggles,
attacks Menshikov, whom Tolstoi has "swallowed"; assures you that he
would shoot Stassiulevitch, if the latter were to show himself at a
review, as President of the Russian Republic; giggles again, wets his
mustaches with the soup, eats hardly anything, and yet is quite a nice
man after all.

May 4. The monks from the monastery paid us a visit. Dasha
Moussin-Poushkin, the wife of the engineer Gliebov, who has been
killed hunting, was there. She sang a great deal.

May 24. I was present at the examination of two schools in Tchirkov.
[The Tchirkov and Mikhailovo schools.]

July 13. Opening of the school at Novossiolki which I have had built.
The peasants gave me an icon with an inscription. The Zemstvo people
were absent.

Braz [painter] does my portrait (for the Tretiakov Gallery). Two
sittings a day.

July 22. I received a medal for my work on the census.

July 23. In Petersburg. Stopped at Souvorin's, in the drawing-room.
Met VI. T.... who complained of his hysteria and praised his own
books. I saw P. Gnyeditch and E. Karpov, who imitated Leykin showing
off as a Spanish grandee.

July 27. At Leykin's at Ivanovsk. 28th in Moscow. In the editorial
offices of _Russian Thought_, bugs in the sofa.

September 4. Arrived in Paris. "Moulin Rouge," danse du ventre, Café
du Néon with Coffins, Café du Ciel, etc.

September 8. In Biarritz. V.M. Sobolevsky and Mme. V.A. Morosov are
here. Every Russian in Biarritz complains of the number of Russians
here.

September 14. Bayonne. Grande course landoise. Bull-fight.

September 22. From Biarritz to Nice via Toulouse.

September 23. Nice. I settled into the Pension Russe. Met Maxim
Kovalevsky; lunched at his house at Beaulieu, with N.I. Yurassov and
Yakobi, the artist. In Monte Carlo.

October 7. Confession of a spy.

October 9. I saw B.'s mother playing roulette. Unpleasant sight.

November 15. Monte Carlo. I saw how the croupier stole a louis d'or.


1898.

April 16. In Paris. Acquaintance with M.M. Antokolsky [sculptor] and
negotiations for a statue of Peter the Great.

May 5. Returned home.

May 26. Sobolevsky came to Melikhovo. Must put down the fact that,
in Paris, in spite of the rain and cold, I spent two or three weeks
without being bored. Arrived here with M. Kovalevsky. Many interesting
acquaintances: Paul Boyer, Art Roë, Bonnie, M. Dreyfus, De Roberti,
Waliczewsky, Onieguin. Luncheons and dinners, at I.I. Schoukin's
house. Left by Nord-express for Petersburg, whence to Moscow. At home,
found wonderful weather.

An example of clerical boorishness. At a dinner party the critic
Protopopov came up to M. Kovalevsky, clinked glasses and said: "I
drink to science, so long as it does no harm to the people."


1901.

September 12. I was at L. Tolstoi's.

December 7. Talked to L. Tolstoi over the telephone.


1903.

January 8. "Istorichesky Vestnik," November 1902, "The Artistic Life
of Moscow in the Seventies," by I.N. Zakharin. It is said in that
article that I sent in my "Three Sisters" to the Theatrical and
Literary Committee. It is not true.




ANTON CHEKHOV'S NOTE-BOOKS

(1892-1904)


Mankind has conceived history as a series of battles; hitherto it has
considered fighting as the main thing in life.

* * * * *

Solomon made a great mistake when he asked for wisdom.[1]

[Footnote 1: Among Chekhov's papers the following monologue was found,
written in his own hand:

_Solomon_ (alone): Oh! how dark is life! No night, when I was a child,
so terrified me by its darkness as does my invisible existence. Lord,
to David my father thou gavest only the gift of harmonizing words and
sounds, to sing and praise thee on strings, to lament sweetly, to make
people weep or admire beauty; but why hast thou given me a meditative,
sleepless, hungry mind? Like an insect born of the dust, I hide in
darkness; and in fear and despair, all shaking and shivering, I see
and hear in everything an invisible mystery. Why this morning? Why
does the sun come out from behind the temple and gild the palm tree?
Why this beauty of women? Where does the bird hurry, what is the
meaning of its flight, if it and its young and the place to which it
hastens will, like myself, turn to dust? It were better I had never
been born or were a stone, to which God has given neither eyes
nor thoughts. In order to tire out my body by nightfall, all day
yesterday, like a mere workman I carried marble to the temple; but
now the night has come and I cannot sleep ... I'll go and lie down.
Phorses told me that if one imagines a flock of sheep running and
fixes one's attention upon it, the mind gets confused and one falls
asleep, I'll do it ...(exit).]

* * * * *

Ordinary hypocrites pretend to be doves; political and literary
hypocrites pretend to be eagles. But don't be disconcerted by their
aquiline appearance. They are not eagles, but rats or dogs.

* * * * *

Those who are more stupid and more dirty than we are called the
people. The administration classifies the population into taxpayers
and non-taxpayers. But neither classification will do; we are all the
people and all the best we are doing is the people's work.

* * * * *

If the Prince of Monaco has a roulette table, surely convicts may play
at cards.

* * * * *

Iv. (Chekhov's brother Ivan) could philosophize about love, but he
could not love.

* * * * *

_Aliosha_: "My mind, mother, is weakened by illness and I am now like
a child: now I pray to God, now I cry, now I am happy."

* * * * *

Why did Hamlet trouble about ghosts after death, when life itself is
haunted by ghosts so much more terrible?

* * * * *

_Daughter_: "Felt boots are not the correct thing."

_Father_: "Yes they are clumsy, I'll have to get leather ones." The
father fell ill and his deportation to Siberia was postponed.

_Daughter_: "You are not at all ill, father. Look, you have your coat
and boots on...."

_Father_: "I long to be exiled to Siberia. One could sit somewhere by
the Yenissey or Obi river and fish, and on the ferry there would be
nice little convicts, emigrants.... Here I hate everything: this lilac
tree in front of the window, these gravel paths...."

* * * * *

A bedroom. The light of the moon shines so brightly through the window
that even the buttons on his night shirt are visible.

* * * * *

A nice man would feel ashamed even before a dog....

* * * * *

A certain Councillor of State, looking at a beautiful landscape, said:
"What a marvelous function of nature!" From the note-book of an old
dog: "People don't eat slops and bones which the cooks throw away.
Fools!"

* * * * *

He had nothing in his soul except recollections of his schooldays.

* * * * *

The French say: "Laid comme un chenille" - as ugly as a caterpillar.

* * * * *

People are bachelors or old maids because they rouse no interest, not
even a physical one.

* * * * *

The children growing up talked at meals about religion and laughed
at fasts, monks, etc. The old mother at first lost her temper, then,
evidently getting used to it, only smiled, but at last she told
the children that they had convinced her, that she is now of their
opinion. The children felt awkward and could not imagine what their
old mother would do without her religion.

* * * * *

There is no national science, just as there is no national
multiplication table; what is national is no longer science.

* * * * *

The dog walked in the street and was ashamed of its crooked legs.

* * * * *

The difference between man and woman: a woman, as she grows old gives
herself up more and more to female affairs; a man, as he grows old,
withdraws himself more and more from female affairs.

* * * * *

That sudden and ill-timed love-affair may be compared to this: you
take boys somewhere for a walk; the walk is jolly and interesting - and
suddenly one of them gorges himself with oil paint.

* * * * *

The character in the play says to every one: "You've got worms." He
cures his daughter of the worms, and she turns yellow.

* * * * *

A scholar, without talent, a blockhead, worked for twenty-four years
and produced nothing good, gave the world only scholars as untalented
and as narrow-minded as himself. At night he secretly bound
books - that was his true vocation: in that he was an artist and felt
the joy of it. There came to him a bookbinder, who loved learning and
studied secretly at night.

* * * * *

But perhaps the universe is suspended on the tooth of some monster.

* * * * *

Keep to the right, you of the yellow eye!

* * * * *

Do you want to eat? No, on the contrary.

* * * * *

A pregnant woman with short arms and a long neck, like a kangaroo.

* * * * *

How pleasant it is to respect people! When I see books, I am not
concerned with how the authors loved or played cards; I see only their
marvelous works.

* * * * *

To demand that the woman one loves should be pure is egotistical: to
look for that in a woman which I have not got myself is not love, but
worship, since one ought to love one's equals.

* * * * *

The so-called pure childlike joy of life is animal joy.

* * * * *

I cannot bear the crying of children, but when my child cries, I don't
hear.

* * * * *

A schoolboy treats a lady to dinner in a restaurant. He has only one
rouble, twenty kopecks. The bill comes to four roubles thirty kopecks.
He has no money and begins to cry. The proprietor boxes his ears. He
was talking to the lady about Abyssinia.

* * * * *

A man, who, to judge from his appearance, loves nothing but sausages
and sauerkraut.

* * * * *

We judge human activities by their goal; that activity is great of
which the goal is great.

* * * * *

You drive on the Nevski, you look to the left on the Haymarket;
the clouds are the color of smoke, the ball of the setting sun
purple - Dante's hell!

* * * * *

His income is twenty-five to fifty thousand, and yet out of poverty he
shoots himself.

* * * * *

Terrible poverty, desperate situation. The mother a widow, her
daughter a very ugly girl. At last the mother takes courage and
advises the daughter to go on the streets. She herself when young went
on the streets without her husband's knowledge in order to get money
for her dresses; she has some experience. She instructs her daughter.
The latter goes out, walks all night; not a single man takes her; she
is ugly. A couple of days later, three young rascals on the boulevard
take her. She brought home a note which turned out to be a lottery
ticket no longer valid.

* * * * *

Two wives: one in Petersburg, the other in Kertch. Constant rows,
threats, telegrams. They nearly reduce him to suicide. At last
he finds a way: he settles them both in the same house. They are
perplexed, petrified; they grow silent and quiet down.

* * * * *

His character is so undeveloped that one can hardly believe that he
has been to the University.

* * * * *

And I dreamt that, as it were, what I considered reality was a dream,
and the dream was reality.

* * * * *

I observed that after marriage people cease to be curious.

* * * * *

It usually takes as much time to feel happy as to wind up one's watch.

* * * * *

A dirty tavern near the station. And in every tavern like that you
will find salted white sturgeon with horse radish. What a lot of
sturgeon must be salted in Russia!

* * * * *

Z. goes on Sundays to the Sukharevka (a market-place in Moscow) to
look for books; he finds a book, written by his father, with the
inscription: "To darling Nadya from the author."

* * * * *

A Government official wears on his chest the portrait of the
Governor's wife; he feeds a turkey on nuts and makes her a present of
it.

* * * * *

One should be mentally clear, morally pure, and physically tidy.

* * * * *

It was said of a certain lady that she had a cat's factory; her lover
tortured the cats by treading on their tails.

* * * * *

An officer and his wife went to the baths together, and both were
bathed by the orderly, whom they evidently did not consider a man.

* * * * *

"And now he appeared with all his decorations."

"And what decorations has he got?"

"He has a bronze medal for the census of 1897."

* * * * *

A government clerk gave his son a thrashing because he had only
obtained five marks in all his subjects at school. It seemed to him
not good enough. When he was told that he was in the wrong, that five
is the highest mark obtainable, he thrashed his son again - out of
vexation with himself.

* * * * *

A very good man has such a face that people take him for a detective;
he is suspected of having stolen shirt-studs.

* * * * *

A serious phlegmatic doctor fell in love with a girl who danced very
well, and, to please her, he started to learn a mazurka.


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