My Notes on Gorky’s “Reminiscences of Chekhov”

Chekhov was an interesting man, a deep man with very complex thoughts. He wasn’t adventurous, like some artists, but he did love to travel, and he believed in “traveling third-class” whenever he could. Apparently, one heard a lot of interesting conversations that way.

Later on, during his illness, he was forced mostly to stay at home. But he continually urged his friends and acquaintances, especially other writers, to travel as often as they were able. There was something he especially loved about Australia.

Though he spent so much time at home in his later life, he had no shortage of visitors. Everyone thought incredibly well of him, and people called on him all afternoon.

He rose early, especially in the summer. He didn’t approve of lazy habits, like dressing gowns or slippers, and nine o’clock in the morning always found him fresh and impeccably dressed. He had dinner at one (at which he seldom ate much, and hardly ever sat down, preferring to pace back and forth). He frequently had guests for dinner, and afterwards, the visitors really began pouring in.

There were all sorts of people: other authors, military men, clergymen, journalists, teachers and students. He had a habit (perhaps a bad one) of helping students in any way he could, often in ways which were beyond his modest financial means. He was also immoderately kind to young writers. Once, when a writer complained that he was lodging with a noisy Greek family, and could get hardly any work done, Chekhov offered to let him come and work at his own cottage. “You work downstairs,” he said. “I’ll work upstairs.”

But he was also on the receiving end of gifts, and he was always too kind to turn them down. Once, an old lady gave him a yard-high statue of a vicious-looking pug-dog, which he kept at the bottom of the stairs. He admitted to a friend that the expression of the fierce statue rather terrified him, but he wouldn’t take it down, for fear of hurting the old lady’s feelings.

Speaking of dogs (and this may be why the old lady gave him the statue in the first place), Chekhov was awfully fond of them. (Though he despised cats.) At his cottage in Yalta, he had two dogs which he kept in the garden. He professed that one of them, named Kashtan, was incredibly stupid; but still, when the poor creature got its leg caught beneath a carriage wheel, cutting the flesh almost to the bone, Chekhov tended the wound with his tender physician’s fingers. “You silly,” he admonished the dog gently. “How did you do it? It’s all right, silly. You’ll be better soon.”

Chekhov had a lovely little garden. It was not by any means magnificent, but he was proud of it, and he tended his roses affectionately. There was a wooden bench out in the garden, a prop from a production of “Uncle Vanya” which the theater put on for Chekhov when he was ill and couldn’t leave home. He was especially fond of this prop, and of the kind interest that the theater had paid him on this occasion. What author wouldn’t be proud of such an honor?

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5 thoughts on “My Notes on Gorky’s “Reminiscences of Chekhov”

    1. Cats are awesome. I have a dog, no cats, but I have a neighbor who’s had some cats. I got attached to them, though none of them are still there. Here’s to you, King of Cats! It’s really splendid, a man who likes cats.

      Liked by 1 person

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