1 DECEMBER 1928, Page 23

Dostoyevsky's Marriage

THERE can- rarely have been a marriage in which so much anguish and so much happiness was combined as the marriage of Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Anna Grigoryevna. Dostoyevsky was already a famous man, forty-six years old, with many disastrous experiences behind him. Anna was a charming and high-spirited girl, who now met for the first time the full shock of poverty and the need to adapt herself to a man of incalculable temperament, It even seems at times that Dostoyevsky was using every effort to drive her to desperation. He put Anna's love for him to the most unreasonable tests. He gave full rein to his irritability and anger. If ever they had scraped together a little money he proceeded, as if driven by a fury, to gamble it all away ; and then to ask that his wife should sell even her clothes to provide him with more. Poor Anna had to suffer a thousand humiliations from friends and relatives, from landladies and servants, from tradesmen and pawn-

brokers. It would - have been a severe trial to her even if she had only to deal with Dostoyevsky's functional maladies ; for in itself it must have been distressing for her to look after him in his epilepsy, and to bear the brunt of those black moods in which the attacks left him. , When we add to these Dostoyevsky's almost deliberate attempts to see how far he could presume on her love, her courage proved itself almost infinite.

Of course, there was something to make all her troubles worth enduring. With all Dostoyevsky's irritability he was also capable of a supreme tenderness and humanity. What most of all distinguished him from Tolstoy was that he did not keep his wife at a distance ; there was no aloofness or cold insistence on keeping up his own moral dignity. His sympathy had radiant and surprising beauty. Moreover, Anna loved him, and her love enabled her to bear his tempers, and the enormity of his claims, with equanimity. In her diary she wrote :—

" I simply cannot be cross with him ; sometimes I show a severe face to him, but I have only to look at him for all my wrath to melt away."

Their quarrels began almost as soon as they were married ; and they were very . fierce quarrels, too. Fortunately- their love taught them how to quarrel. Sometimes at the height of their disagreements they would suddenly come to them- selves and burst out laughing together at the exhibition they had been making. And, still more important, they were both of them unreasonable ; they scarcely ever quarrelled over anything but trivialities. A typical scene, for example; occurred barely two months after the wedding

My darling Fyodor bemoaned the fact that I was still dressed all in winter clothes (I had my white fur hat on) and that my gloves were not smart. I was very hurt, and told him, if he thought me so badly dressed we had better not go about together ; after which I turned round, quick sharp, and went off in the opposite direction. . . . I felt very upset, and thought it horrid of Fyodor to say things like that. It rained all the tirne, and the Germans looked astonished to see a young woman like me with no umbrella, and taking no notice of -the weather, rushing about the streets. At last I calmed down and realized that Fyodor never really meant to hurt me by what he said, and that I had no reason to get so excited. The thought of our quarrel tormented me, and I was filled with all kinds of horrible thoughts, so that "my one idea was to get back to the hotel as -Soon as ever I could, in the hope. of finding Fyockir already there and being able to make it up with him. Imagine my dismay when they told me he had come back, waited in our room for a few moments, and then gone away again. What I went through ! He doesn't love me any more,' I thought. .` He has realized how heartless and capricious I am, and has thrown himself into the SpMe in his misery ! "

The missing husband came back an hour or two later, in the most excellent of moods. When Anna told him what she had , been fearing, " he laughed like anything, and said he would have been a poor specimen indeed to have gone and thrown himself into such a miserable little river as the Spree." . .

The •Diary of Mme. Dostoyevsky, now printed for the first time, gives a very poignant, full and remarkable picture of six months of their first year of married life. There could have been few girls ,who have paised through such drama

and vicissitude in so short a time. She possessed a woman's eye for clear small detail ; and her resilience and charm shine through every liege; It is astonishing to be reminded • how much strength can be given by love. Anna GrigoryeVna accomplished the seemingly impossible. By her own generosity and by Dostoyevsky's unparalleled insight and tenderness, a marriage' which should have issued in ruin by all the rules of common sense achieved a signal and