I left out in my previous thoughts on Chekhov that his letters are entertaining: in turns funny, sad, charming, as well as serious reflections on his writing. His writing is as engaging when writing about new and famous writers as when writing on his travels and his animals (at one point his letters to his family are full of inquiries about his pet mongoose, and his homes always seem full of packs and packs of dogs). He also occasionally writes things like:
Dear Pyotr Ilych [Tchaikovsky],
I am very, very touched, and infinitely grateful to you. I am sending you a photograph and some books, and would send you the sun as well if it belonged to me.
You forgot your cigarette case at my house. I am sending it to you. You will find that three cigarettes are missing: they were smoked by the cellist, the flautist and the teacher.
I thank you again, and ask your permission to remain your sincerely devoted
24 January 2013 ~ Hamilton
(I’ve finished all the Chekhov on my shelves for now, so this will be the last we hear of him for awhile. Maybe there will even be early modern things here again soon.)
Chekhov, Anton. A Life in Letters. London: Penguin, 2004.