27 March (1894): Anton Chekhov to Lydia Mizinova

Anton Chekhov and Lydia Mizinova met through Chekhov’s sister. Mizinova was a dear friend of his sister, and was deeply in love with Chekhov. Although she is said to have been very appealing, Chekhov did not return the sentiment. He did, however, enjoy flirting with her, as demonstrated in the letter below.

March 27, 1894, Yalta

Sweet Lika,

Thank you for the letter. Though you scare me by saying you are going to die soon, and you twit me for throwing you over, thanks anyway. I know perfectly well you aren’t going to die and nobody threw you over.

I am in Yalta and at loose ends, very much so. The local aristocracy or whatever you call it is putting on “Faust” and I attend rehearsals, delight in gazing upon a regular flower bed of charming black, red, flaxen and auburn heads, listen to singing and eat; I dine upon deep-fat fried lamb, onion fritters and mutton chops with kasha in the company of the directress of the girls’ school; I eat sorrel soup with well-born families; I eat at the pastry shop and at my own hotel as well. I go to bed at ten, get up at ten and rest after dinner, but still I am bored, sweet Lika. I am not bored because I don’t have “my women” around, but because the northern spring is better than this one, and the thought that I must, that I am obliged to write, won’t leave me a single instant. I must write, write and write. I am of the opinion that real happiness is impossible without idleness. My ideal is to be idle and love a plump young girl. My most intense pleasure is to walk or sit doing nothing; my favorite occupation is picking useless stuff (leaves, straw and so on) and doing useless things. Meanwhile I am a literary man and must write, even here in Yalta. Sweet Lika, when you become a great singer and are paid enormous fees, be charitable: marry me and support me, so that I will find it possible to live without work. If you really are going to die, then give the job to Varvara Eberle, whom, as you know, I love. I have worked myself into such a state by continual worry over my obligations and the tasks I can’t get out of that I have been tormented for a week without letup by palpitations of the heart. It is a loathesome feeling.

I sold my fox coat for twenty rubles! It cost sixty, but as forty rubles’ worth of fur has already shed, twenty rubles was no bargain. The gooseberries haven’t ripened yet but it is warm and bright, the trees are in bloom, the sea has a summery look, the young ladies pine for sensations, but still the north is better than the Russian south, at least in spring… Because of the palpitations I haven’t had wine now for a week, and because of the lack of wine the local atmosphere strikes me as even sorrier. You were lately in Paris? How are the French? Do you like them? Fire away, then!

Mirov gave a concert here and made a net profit of 150 rubles. He roared like a lion but had an enormous success. How terribly sorry I am I didn’t study voice; I could have roared, too, as my throat is full of husky notes and people say I have a real octave. I would earn good money and be popular with the ladies.

I won’t go to Paris this June, but want you to come to us in Melikhovo- homesickness for Russia will drive you to it. There’s no way of getting out of a visit to Russia, even if it’s only for a day. You run into Potapenko occasionally. Well, this summer he too is returning to Russia. If you make the trip with him it will cost less. Have him buy your ticket and then forget to pay him (you won’t be the first). But if you won’t make the trip, I’ll go to Paris. Though I am sure you are coming…

Keep well, Lika, and calm and happy and content. I wish you success. You’re a bright girl.

If you want to spoil me with a letter, direct it to Melikhovo, where I shall soon be going. I will answer you letters regularly. I kiss both your hands.


A. Chekhov