Mikhail Lermontov's letter to his cousin Alexandra Vereshchagina, spring 1835
I decided to pay you a debt that you did not deign to demand from me, and I hope that my generosity will touch your heart, which for some time has become so tough to me. I do not ask for any other reward, except for a few drops of ink and two or three strokes of the pen, which would inform me that I am not yet completely banished from your memory; otherwise, I will have to seek solace from others (for here I have cousins), and no matter how little a woman loves (this is known), she doesn’t really like to seek solace away from her. Then, if you persist in your silence, I can soon arrive in Moscow - and then my vengeance will have no limits. In war (you know), the surrendered garrison is spared, but the city, taken by assault, betrays the victors with no regret.
After this hussar bravado, I fall at your feet to beg forgiveness, waiting for you to give it to me.
After this introduction, I begin a story about what happened to me during this time, as they do on a date after a long separation.
Alexis could tell you something about my lifestyle, but nothing interesting, except the beginning of my adventures with m-lle Sushkova, the end of which is incomparably more interesting and funnier. If I started to care for her, it was not a reflection of the past - at first it was just entertainment for me, and then, when we understood each other, it was a calculation: and this is how. As I entered the world, I saw that everyone had a pedestal: wealth, name, title, protection ... I saw that if I could manage to occupy one person, others would quietly take me too, first out of curiosity, then out of rivalry.
I realized that m-lle S., wanting to catch me (technical expression), would easily compromise myself for my sake; therefore I compromised her as much as possible without compromising myself: I treated her in society as if she were close to me, making her feel that only in this way could she conquer me ... When I noticed that It was possible, but that one more step will destroy me, I resorted to a maneuver. First of all, in the light, I became colder with her, and more alone in order to show that I no longer love her, and that she adores me (in essence, this is not true); when she began to notice this and tried to throw off the yoke, I first left her in society, I became cruel and bold, mocking and cold with her, I cared for others and told them (secretly) the advantageous side of this story for me. She was so amazed at the unexpectedness of my behavior that at first she didn’t know what to do and resigned herself, and this gave rise to conversations and gave me the appearance of a man who had won a complete victory; then she woke up and started scolding me everywhere, but I warned her, and her hatred seemed to her friends (or enemies) with wounded love. Then she tried to bring me back again with fake sadness, told all my close friends that she loved me — I did not return to her, but skillfully took advantage of it all. I can not tell you how it all came in handy to me - it would be too long and concerns people you do not know. But here's the funny side of the story: when I saw that in the eyes of the world I had to break with her, and yet one-by-one still seemed true to her, I vividly found a wonderful way — I wrote an anonymous letter: “M-lle, I'm a man who knows you, but you are unknown, and so on ... I warn you, beware of this young man: M. L. He will seduce you, and so on ... here are the proofs (various nonsense), etc. ... "A four-page letter! I skillfully sent this letter so that it fell into the hands of my aunt; in the house thunder and lightning. The next day I go there early in the morning, in any case, not to be accepted. In the evening at the ball, I am surprised to tell her this; she gives me terrible and incomprehensible news, and we make various assumptions - I relate everything about secret enemies who are not; Finally, she tells me that her family forbids her to talk and dance with me - I am desperate, but I am careful not to violate the ban on uncles and aunts. So this touching adventure was going on, which, of course, will give you a very flattering opinion about me. However, a woman always forgives the evil that we inflict on another woman (aphorisms of La Rochefoucauld). Now I do not write novels - I do them.
So, you see, I have a good revenge for the tears that forced me to shed 5 years ago coquetry m-lle C. Oh! we have not yet settled: she made the heart of the child suffer, and I just tortured the pride of the old coquette, which may be even more ... but, in any case, I won, she served me! Oh, I have changed a lot; I do not know how this happens, but only every day gives a new shade to my character and views! - it should have happened, I always knew it ... but did not expect what would happen so soon. Oh dear cousin, I must confess: the reason that I didn’t write to you and Mlle Marie was the fear that you would notice in my letters that I’m almost no more worthy of your friendship ... because I’m not able to hide the truth from both of you , from you, the confidants of my youthful dreams, such beautiful, especially in memory.
And yet, if you look at me, it will seem that I am three years younger, I have such a happy and nonchalant look of a person who is pleased with himself and the whole world; Does this contrast between soul and appearance seem strange to you?
I can’t express how sad my grandmother’s departure is - the prospect of being completely alone for the first time in my life scares me; in this whole big city there will not be a single creature who would really be interested in me ...
But it's enough to talk about my boring person - let's talk about you and about Moscow. I was told that you were very prettier, and Mrs. Uglitskaya said this, and only in this case I am sure that she did not lie: she is too female for that; she also says that her brother’s wife is lovely ... I don’t fully believe her, for she is interested in this lie ... What is truly ridiculous is her desire to show herself unhappy by any means to cause general sympathy, and I am sure there is no woman in the world who is less regrettable. At the age of 32, having such a childish character and imagining that you can stir up passion! ... and then complain? She also informed me that m-lle Barbe was marrying Bakhmetev; I don’t know whether to believe her, but in any case I wish m-lle Barbe to live in marriage before celebrating her silver wedding - and even longer, if until then she doesn’t have enough! ...
Now here is my news. Natalya Alekseevna with children and households goes to foreign lands !!! Well, and she will give a good idea of our Russian ladies!
Tell Alexis that his passion, m-lle Ladyzhenskaya, is becoming more and more impressive every day! ... I also advise him to grow more, so that the contrast is not so striking. I do not know whether the best means of attaining forgiveness is to annoy you; The eighth page is coming to an end, and I’m afraid to start the tenth ... So, sweet and cruel cousin, goodbye, and if you have definitely returned your position to me, let me know about it with a letter from your footman, for I don’t dare to count on your own note.
So, farewell, I have the honor to be what is put at the end of the letter ...
your humble M. Lermantov.
R. S. Testify, please, my respect for aunts, cousins, cousins and acquaintances ...