In my last post, I took a look at the literary lessons we can draw from two of Chekhov’s short stories. The long and short of it was, being a writer is about balance.
So how did the man himself apply it to his own life? This quote should give you a clue:
‘Medicine is my lawful wife, and literature is my mistress.’
Chekhov had at least 33 mistresses (that we know of) during the course of his relatively short life, which suggests that he was very dedicated to literature indeed. He was also surprisingly attractive*, as far as long-dead literary geniuses go.
But he didn’t always have it so easy.
When he was 16, his father went bankrupt. He was abandoned by his family – who fleed with his father to escape the debtors’ prison – and left to pay for his own education. He first began writing stories to earn some extra money, and started sending money back to his family in Moscow as soon as he was able.
Although he thought of medicine as his primary vocation, he didn’t earn much from his practice. Peasants used to flock from miles around to be seen by him, as he didn’t charge them for treatment.
As if that weren’t enough, at the ripe age of 24, he started showing signs of the TB which would eventually kill him, 20 years later.
‘Oh, with what trash I began,’ he lamented towards the end of his life, ‘my god with what trash.’
Poor old Chekhov had a heck of a lot on his plate. But if he could do it, there’s certainly hope for the rest of us.
For more information on Chekhov’s life and short stories, try this brilliant Guardian article.
*as pointed out by Maddy:
Chekhov surprisingly attractive as a young man. Also some of his writing tips: http://t.co/KuLU3ScKTb
— Madeleine Beresford (@MaddyMelrose) November 15, 2013