16 April (1871): Fyodor Dostoevsky to Anna Dostoyevskaya

In the spring of 1871, Fyodor Dostoevsky was at the end of a year-long honeymoon to Germany with his wife, Anya Dostoyevskaya, during which he reached the depths of his gambling addiction. Originally supposed to last only a few short months, the trip was lengthened to four years after Dostoevsky gambled away most of the couples' money and possessions. Though he worked hard to restore his family's wealth, his gambling continued. Dostoevsky kept his promise: this letter marks the last time he ever gambled.
Anya, for the sake of Christ, for the sake of Lyuba, for the sake of our whole future, don’t start worrying and getting all upset—read this letter carefully to the end. You will see at the end that disaster isn’t really a reason for despair, but on the contrary, something may even have been gained by it which will be much more valuable than the price paid for it! And so calm yourself, my angel, hear me out—read this to the end. For Christ’s sake, don’t fall to pieces.

​You, my precious one, my lifelong friend, my heavenly angel, you have, of course, gathered that I have lost everything—the whole of the 30 thalers you sent me. Remember that you are my only salvation and that there is no one else in the world who loves me. Remember, too, Anya, that there are misfortunes that carry their own punishment. As I write this, I am wondering: What will this do to you? How will you take it? I hope nothing terrible will happen to you! And if you feel sorry for me at this moment, don’t, that would make it even worse for me.

I didn't dare wire you nor do I dare now, after your latest letter in which you write that you will be worrying about me. I can just imagine how it would have been had you received a telegram tomorrow saying Schreiben sie mien[sic]... What would have become of you then!

​Ah, Anya, why did I have to go?

​Here is how it happened today. First of all, I got you your letter at 1 P.M., but not the money. Then I went home and wrote you an answer (a nasty, cruel letter; why, I almost reproach you in it). I suppose you will get it tomorrow, Saturday, if you stop by the post office not earlier than 4 o'clock. I took my letter to the post office and there the man told me again that there was no money for me; it was then two-thirty. But when I came by again, for the third time, at four-thirty, he gave me the money, and when I asked at what time it had arrived, he replied very calmly, “Around 2 o’clock.” So why didn't he give it to me when I was there before, well after two? Then, when I saw that I had to wait until half past six for the next train out of here, I headed for the casino.

​Now Anya, you may believe me or not, but I swear to you that I had no intention of gambling! To convince you of that, I will confess everything to you: when I wired you asking you to send me 30 thalers instead of 25, I thought I might risk another 5 thalers, but I was not sure I would do even that. I figured that if any money were left over, I would bring it back with me. But when I got the 30 thalers today, I did not want to gamble for two reasons: (1) I was so struck by your letter and imagined the effect it would have on you (and I am imagining it now!) and (2) I dreamed last night of my father and he appeared to me in a terrifying guise, such as he has only appeared to me twice before in my life, both times prophesying a dreadful disaster, and on both occasions the dream came true. (And now, when I think of the dream I had three nights ago, when I saw your hair turn white, my heart stops beating—ah, my God, what will become of you when you get this letter!)

​But when I arrived at the casino, I went to a table and stood there placing imaginary bets just to see whether I could guess right. And you know what, Anya? I was right about ten times in a row, and I even guessed right about Zero. I was so amazed by this that I started gambling and in 5 minutes won 18 thalers. And then, Anya, I got all excited and thought to myself that I would leave with the last train, spend the night in Frankfurt, and then at least I would bring some money home with me! I felt so ashamed about the 30 thalers I had robbed of you! Believe me, my angel, all year I have been dreaming of buying you a pair of earrings, which I have not yet given back to you. You had pawned all your possessions for me during these past 4 years and followed me in my wanderings with homesickness in your heart! Anya, Anya, bear in mind, too, that I am not a scoundrel but only a man with a passion for gambling. (But here is something else that I want you to remember, Anya: I am through with that fancy forever. I know I have written you before that it was over and done with, but I never felt the way I feel now as I write this. Now I am rid of this delusion and I would bless God that things have turned out as disastrously as they have if weren't so terribly worried about you at this moment. Anya, if you are angry with me, just think of how much I've had to suffer and still have to suffer in the coming three or four days! If, sometime later on in life you find me being ungrateful and unfair towards you—just show me this letter!) ​By half past nine I had lost everything and I fled like a madman. I felt so miserable that I rushed to see the priest (don’t get upset, I did not see him, no, I did not, nor do I intend to!). As I was running toward his house in the darkness through unfamiliar streets, I was thinking: “Why, he is the Lord’s shepherd and I will speak to him not as to a private person but as one does at a confession.” But I lost my way in this town and when I reached a church, which I took for a Russian church, they told me in a store that it was not Russian but sheeny. It was as if someone had poured cold water over me. I ran back home. And now it is midnight and I am sitting and writing to you. (And I won’t go to see the priest, I won’t go, I swear I won’t!) I had one and a half thalers left in small change. That would have been enough for a telegram (15 groschen) but I am afraid to send it, I don't know how yo will take it! And so I decided to write you a letter and send it off the next day at 8 a.m., and to make sure that you get it on Sunday without delay, I am sending it directly to our home address rather than poste restante. (For, what if, expecting me to come, you didn't bother to go to the post office?) But I still may send yo another letter poste restante tomorrow, though I will be rather late in getting it off. But I will write you for sure the day after tomorrow—on Sunday. ​Anya, save me once more and for the last time—send me another 30 (thirty) thalers. I will arrange things in such a way that it will be enough. I will be very economical. If you can manage send it on Sunday, even late, I will be able to come back on Tuesday or, at the latest, Wednesday. ​Anya, I prostrate myself before you and kiss your feet. I realize that you have every right to despise me and to think: “He will gamble again.” By what, then, can I swear to you that I shall not, when I have already deceived you before? But, my angel, I know that you would die(!) if I lost again! I am not completely insane, after all! Why, I know that, if that happened, it would be the end of me as well. I won’t, I won’t, I won’t, and I shall come straight home! Believe me. Trust me for this last time and you won’t regret it. Mark my words, from now on, for the rest of my life, I will work for you and Lyubochka without sparing my health, and I shall reach my goal! I shall see to it that you two are well provided for. ​If you cannot manage to send the money on Sunday, send it on Monday as early as possible. In that case, I will be with you around noon on Wednesday. Don’t worry if you cannot send it on Sunday, and don’t think too much about me, that would be too much, I don’t deserve it! But what can happen to me? I am tough to the point of coarseness.
More than that: it seems as if I have been completely morally regenerated (I say this to you and before God), and if it had not been for my worrying about you the past three days, if it had not been for my wondering every minute about what this would do to you—I would even have been happy! You mustn't think I am crazy, Anya, my guardian angel! A great thing has happened to me: I have rid myself of the abominable delusion that has tormented me for almost 10 years. For ten years (or, to be more precise, ever since my brother's death, when I suddenly found myself weighted down by debts) I dreamed about winning money. I dreamt of it seriously, passionately. But now it is all over! This was the very last time. Do you believe now, Anya, that my hands are untied?—I was tied up by gambling but now I will put my mind to worthwhile things instead of spending whole nights dreaming about gambling, as I used to do. And so my work will be better and more profitable, with God's blessing! Let me keep your heart, Anya, do not come to hate me, do not stop loving me. Now that I have become a new man, let us pursue our path together and I shall see to it that you are happy! And Lyuba, Lyuba, oh, how despicably I have behaved! But I am thinking only of you. I can just imagine how you will feel when you read this! And even before you get is letter, how much you will worry when you find I have not come back, and the things you will imagine! Will they bring you this letter in time? And what if it gets lost! But how could it get lost since my telegram sent to the same address reached you? But to make sure, I will send a few lines addressed to poste restante tomorrow and will mail it during the day. I keep wondering: will I get a letter from you tomorrow or won't I? Probably not! You are expecting me back tomorrow so why should you write? And if you cannot send me the money on Sunday, write me a letter. I would be so happy to receive even a few lines in your hand, even if you cursed me in them. If you cannot manage to write on Sunday, send me a letter the first thing on Monday together with the money (that is, if you haven't already sent the money on Sunday.) In any case, your letter will reach me before the money and it would make me so happy to hear from you! Anya, when I think about how you will feel when you get this letter, it makes me go all cold inside. That is the only thing that causes me suffering. As for the rest—the boredom, the loneliness, and the uncertainty—I am sure I can put up with all of that. I deserve worse! I will try to keep myself busy; in the three days ahead, I'll get off two letters that I have to write—to Katkov and to Maikov! But believe me, Anya, our resurrection has come about and believe, too, that now I shall reach my goal and make you happy! I kiss you both and hug you, forgive me, Anya! From now on, all yours, Fyodor Dostoevsky PS I shall not go and see the priest, in no event, whatever happens. He is a witness of things that took place long ago and that time has vanished. It would be painful to me even to meet him! PSS Anya, my eternal joy, my only happiness—don't worry, don't torment yourself, preserve yourself for me! Don't worry about that accursed, insignificant 180 thalers. It is true that this leaves us without money once again, but not for long, though, not for long (possibly Stellovsky will save us). To be sure, we are faced with the appalling necessity of pawning things again, which you find so odious! But this is the last time, the very last time! Back home, I'll make money, I know I will! If only we could get back to Russia quickly! I will write Katkov and implore him to advance the date of payment, and I am certain he will be responsive. In the name of God, don't worry about me (ah, you are an angel, and, even if you cursed me, you would be sorry for me), yet I know that you will worry. But you may be at peace: I shall be regenerated in these three days and start a new life. Oh, how anxious I am to be back together with you! The only thing that frightens me is the thought of how you will take this letter. But of one thing you can be sure--of my infinite love for you. And from now on I will never do anything that will make you miserable. PSSS I will remember this as long as I live and each time I think of it I will bless you, my angel! Let there be no mistake, now I am yours, all yours, undividedly yours. Whereas, up till now one-half of me belonged to that accursed delusion.