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The Story of a Loyal Wife

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The Story of a Loyal Wife

11.09.2013

Anna Grigoryevna Dostoyevskaya, maiden name Snitkina, was born to a common Petersburg official. Still a child, she absorbed herself in Dostoyevsky’s works. After studying stenography, in 1866 she participated as stenographer-typist in readying the novel The Player for publication. Anna then met Fyodor Dostoyevsky in 1867, agreeing to become his wife.

Despite a large age difference (Dostoyevsky was 25 years older), the marriage proved a success. Dostoyevsky had initially been rapturously in love with his first wife, Maria Dmitrievna Isaeva, whom he married in exile in Kuznetsk. However, the feelings later cooled. Doestoyevsky and Isaeva were too different in character and interests. Maria passed away in 1864 in Tver from consumption.

Three years before his wife’s death, in 1861, the author, then 40, met Apollinaria Suslova, a 22 year-old non-degree student at the university where Fyodor Mikhailovich gave lectures. She was in love, so confessing in a letter to Dostoevsky. A stormy romance ensued – both of them were very passionate by nature. The Christian Dostoyevsky and feminist Suslova, who demanded Dostoyevsky should divorce his already sick wife – formed a combustible combination. It was no coincidence that “love-hate” relationships and infernal heroines become a trademark of the author.

Even after his wife’s death, the relationship stayed jittery: Dostoyevsky proposed to Apollinaria, but she refused.

Torturing both, the romance reached its end, though even after separation Dostoyevsky still had feelings for Suslova. Thereafter, Suslova burned many compromising papers, including the author’s letters. Thus the secrets of their stormy relationship faded away, the 40-year-old Suslova later marrying young Vasily Rozanov (he was 24), later a famous publicist and philosopher, an equally stormy relationship.

After two arduous novels, Dostoyevsky finally met a calm, practical spouse, wholeheartedly sharing his interests. It wasn’t easy: Dostoyevsky’s feelings for Suslova remained alive during their honeymoon.

Marriage to Anna was a boon for Dostoyevsky. She was Dostoyevsky’s first reader and critic. She not only became his friend and intellectual peer but also ran his affairs. And she bore him four children. Yet it wasn’t all so sanguine: opposing the marriage was Dostoyevsky’s kinsfolk, especially his stepson from his marriage with Maria Isaeva.

After the wedding, the couple went abroad. Once in Baden-Baden, Dostoyevsky began gambling. After winning 4,000 francs at roulette, he couldn’t stop and lost everything he had with him, including his wardrobe and wife’s items. They lived almost a year in Geneva, sometimes lacking bare necessities. On March 6, 1868, their first daughter was born, named Sofia, who, to the parents’ woe, died three months later. In 1869 in Dresden, the Dostoyevskys gave birth to their daughter Lyubov. Upon returning to St. Petersburg two sons were born – Fyodor and Alexei.

Dostoyevsky was impractical. He famously signed contracts with publishers that were unprofitable for himself. His wife took over his monetary and publishing affairs, enabling the author to freely pursue writing. She held talks with publishers and oversaw printing, even researching the market and independently publishing his essays.

One can tell what kind of person Anna was from the following story, which she wrote in her diary. During a stroll, Dostoyevsky expressed doubt in women’s ability to be consistently and steadfastly forceful in achieving goals:

“It quite angered me in my husband,” Dostoyevskaya wrote, “that he rejected any strength of character in women of my generation, any steadfast and continual aspiration towards achieving stated goals. <…> This argument encouraged me, and I told my husband I myself would show him that women can for years pursue an idea capturing her attention. And since at that moment I did not see any major task before me, I said I would start with the activity he just mentioned; from that point I would start collecting stamps.”

She added to her stamp collection all her life, becoming one of Russia’s first famous women to seriously engage in this hobby. Moreover, she spent not a kopeck from the family budget on her hobby. They were all taken from letters or gifts.

The family was soon free of debt, which also resulted from Dosteyevsky’s quitting roulette forever. He tremendously valued his young wife (upon his death Anna was 35); the author dedicated to her one of his best novels – Brothers Karamazov.

After Dostoyevsky’s death, Anna Grigoryevna never remarried. She carried on her husband’s memory, collecting his letters and manuscripts, and designing Dostoyevsky’s room in the Historical Museum in Moscow.

Anna Grigorievna Dostoevskaya long outlived her husband. She died in Yalta in the arduous year of 1918.

Alexander Ryzantsev

   
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