A.P. Chekhov, June, 1902
L.N. Tolstoy 1901 Crimea
Early in the twentieth century (1901-1902) Gorky, Chekhov, and Tolstoy all happened to be recuperating from various ills in the Crimea, where they met several times. Here are some excerpts from Gorky's notes.
"He [Tolstoy] speaks willingly and at length about women, like a French writer of novels, but always with that coarseness of the Russian peasant--which previously used to depress me. Today in the Almond Grove he asked Chekhov:
'Did you lead a dissolute life in your youth?'
Embarrassed, A.P. smirked, and, pulling at his little beard, he said something indistinct, and L.N., gazing at the sea, confessed:
'I was an insatiable. . . [Gorky leaves out the word, calling it only a "salty peasant word"--probably it was "ебун" (fucker)]."
"He [Tolstoy] was talking to Chekhov on the telephone.
'I'm having such a great day today, I feel such joy in my soul, and I wanted you to feel joyous too. Especially you! You're a really fine person, really! (Вы очень хороший, очень!)."
"'I'm an old man [said Tolstoy], and maybe I can't understand literature nowadays, but all the time I have the feeling that it's not Russian. They've started writing some sort of peculiar poetry; I don't know why we need these verses, and who needs them. You ought to learn to write poetry by reading Pushkin, Tyutchev, Shenshin [Fet]. Take you now--he turned to Chekhov--you're a Russian! Yes, very very much a Russian.
"And smiling tenderly, he put his arm around Chekhov's shoulder, while Chekhov lost his presence of mind and started muttering in his bass voice, something about his dacha, about the Tartars.
He loved Chekhov and always, whenever he looked at him he seemed to be caressing A.P.'s face with his gaze, which was almost tender at that moment. Once Chekhov was strolling down a lane in the park with Aleksandra L'vovna [Tol. daughter], and Tolstoy, still sick at that time, was sitting in an armchair on the terrace, stretching himself to peer at them as they walked, saying in a low voice:
"Aaa, what a dear, wonderful man: humble, quiet, just like a little miss of the nobility! And he walks like a little miss. He's simply marvelous!"