12th of June.
BARBARA ALEXIEVNA, MY DEAR—I had assumed that you intended to write a poem about what we did the other day, but all that has arrived from you is a single sheet of writing. Even though you only put a little effort into your message, I must state that it is not expressed with exceptional beauty and grace. The whole is well written, from nature to your descriptions of rural surroundings to your understanding of your own emotions. Unfortunately, I lack such talent. Even if I write for dozens of pages, nothing comes of it; I might as well not have picked up a pen in the first place. I can confirm this from personal experience.
You tell me, my love, that I am kind and nice, that I could not injure people, that I am able to understand God’s kindness (as shown in nature’s creation), and so on. It might all happen, my dearest; it could all happen just as you say. Yes, I do believe you are correct. If this is the case, it is because reading a letter like the one you just sent me causes one’s heart to unconsciously soften and open the door for thoughts of a graver and heavier kind. I have something to tell you, my dear; just listen, my sweetheart.
I’ll start at the point when I initially joined the military at the age of seventeen, even though I’ll shortly have finished my thirty-first year of formal service. I can honestly tell that at first, I was really happy with my new outfit, and as I got older and wiser, I started becoming more interested in observing other people. Similar to that, I may state that I led a moral life that eventually resulted in persecution. You might find this hard to believe, yet it’s real. To believe that there might be so many vicious men! Even though, my love, I am unimportant and dull, I nevertheless experience emotions just like everyone else. Therefore, Barbara, would you believe it if I told you what these heinous men did to me? I’m embarrassed to tell you this because I have a calm, collected, and pleasant demeanour. The conversation started off with “This or that, Makar Alexievitch, is your fault.” I barely need to add that Makar Alexievitch alone is to blame after that. When it was all said and done, Makar Alexievitch was obviously at fault. Do you understand the progression of events, my love? I was blamed for every error until “Makar Alexievitch” became a household name in our division. These guys were also incapable of giving me a smile or a polite remark while transforming me into a proverb. They criticised my boots, outfit, hair, and physique in addition to my appearance. Since everything had to be, none of these things were to their liking.
changed. So it has been ever from that day until now. Being, as you know, a guy of peaceable disposition like other persons of modest height, I have indeed become accustomed to it now, but why should these things be? Who am I hurting here? Have I ever replaced anyone? Whom did I ever insult in front of his superiors? No, the mistake is that I repeatedly requested a wage rise. But have I ever received a CABALL? My love, you would be mistaken to believe that. HOW was I ever able to achieve that? You have several opportunities yourself of seeing my lack of cunning or dishonesty. Why then should I be responsible for this?… But since you appreciate me, my sweetheart, I could care less because you are unquestionably the best person alive. What do you think is the most important social virtue? Evstafi Ivanovitch once said to me in private that having the potential to get money to spend could be regarded as the greatest social virtue. A man should never allow himself to become a burden on anyone, according to a moral dictum that was put out by my buddies in fun (yeah, I know simply in jest). Well, I don’t burden anyone. My homemade bread crust is what I have here. I eat, and while the crust is only a meagre one—and occasionally even a maggoty one—it has at least BEEN EARNED, so it is being used in a proper and legal manner. What should I do as a result? Even though I can only make a small amount of money from my copying work, I am pleased of it still because it required WORK and made me perspire. What harm could there possibly be in copying? People describe me as “just an amanuensis,” they say. But what about that is so scandalous? My writing is at least clear, organised, and appealing to the eye, so what harm could there possibly be in being a copyist? He’s just an amanuensis, they say.
It has satisfied Excellency. In fact, I transcribe a lot of significant materials. I have never advanced in the service since I am aware that my writing lacks STYLE. I write simply and without trickery, even to you, my love, but just in case a notion may pop into my thoughts. Yes, I am aware of everything; yet, if everyone were to develop into a skilled writer, who would be left to serve as copyists?… Dearest, I beg you to respond to any questions I may pose to you in my letters. Since I know you need me and that I can help you, I must avoid letting anything else divert my attention.
Even if you compare me to a rat, I don’t mind as long as that particular rat is needed by you, useful to society, kept in its position, and rewarded. What a rat, though!
Enough already, my dear. I shouldn’t have mentioned anything, but I became angry. Even Nevertheless, there are moments when telling the truth is enjoyable. My own, beloved, and adorable little comforter, goodbye! Yes, I’ll come to you soon; you can count on it. Please don’t worry yourself until I do. I’ll be carrying a book with me. another good-bye.—Your sincere sympathiser,
THE MAKAR DIEVUSHKIN.
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It is in the public domain to use this book. Dostoyevsky, Fyodor (2000). Poor People. Illinois’s Urbana: Project Gutenberg. October retrieved from https://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/2302/pg2302-images.html
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