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Chekhov A. Tatyana Repina. Drama in 1. Saint-Petersburg, A.S. Suvorin, 1889.

Tatyana Repina. Drama in 1 act by Anton Chekhov. Dedicated to A.S. Suvorin. Saint-Petersburg, A.S. Suvorin, 1889. 35 pages, 12°. In a soft plain cover and in a wrapper. Only 3(!) copies printed by A.S. Suvorin. The book is a legend! The so called «Pleshcheev’s» copy.







Reference literature:

1. Vengerov A.A.&S.A. Bibliokhronica. Vol. III. Moscow, 1910, № 93.

2. Gitovich, N.I. «Letopis zhizni I tvorchestva A.P. Chekhova», Moscow, GIHL, 1955, p. 224.

3. A.P. Chekhov Complete Edition in 30 Volumes, Vol. 12, Moscow, «Nauka», 1986, pp. 364-367

4. Chekhov, M.P. «Anton Chekhov». Theater, actors, and «Tatiana Repina» (Chekhov’s unpublished play), Petersburg, 1924.

5. «Letopis zhizni I tvorchestva A.P. Chekhova», Vol. 2, Moscow, 2004, pp. 12-149

From bibliographical sources it is known that there are 3 copies of the A.P. Chekhov’s legendary play «Tatiana Repina»:

1st copy – «Chekhov’s copy» – with Chekhov’s own signature on the title page (Yalta).

2nd copy – «Efremov’s copy» – with A.S. Suvorin’s signature.

3rd copy – «Pleshcheev’s copy» – without a signature, with A.S. Suvorin’s book plate.

Its genre is dreaming, and everything is possible in a dream, no wonder the book was destined to have a mysterious life...

The play was written in early March 1889, and its plot is related the same name 4-act comedy by A.S. Suvorin which was premiered on 11/12/1888 in Saint-Petersburg and on 16/01/1889 in Moscow. The Suvorin’s «Tatiana» had an enormous success with public and there was a lot of talk about it. It was the subject of the correspondence between two mates, Suvorin and Chekhov, for a quite a long time. The circumstances in which Chekhov wrote his «Tatiana Repina» was later described by his brother Mikhail Pavlovich, «He had his own library of liturgical books, a part of which is still in his house in Yalta. So, in one of those days, he thought he wanted to make a present to old Suvorin, so he took a service book from the shelf, opened the Rite of Matrimony, and purely for his own pleasure, and not at all for public or critics, he wrote a one-act play which was a sequel to the Suvorin’s «Tatiana Repina».

I will remind that the Suvorin’s drama ends with Tatiana Repina’s death and what happened next – namely, whether Sabinin, her lover, married to his newly seduced woman named Olenina, and if yes, then what he felt when he found out that Tatiana Repina whom he had left had poisoned herself – all this remained unclear. And so Anton Chekhov wrote such sequel.» (M.P. Chekhov. Theatre, actors and «Tatiana Repina» (Chekhov’s unpublished play), Petersburg, 1924, pp. 60-61). The «Tatiana Repina» plot was inspired by the tragic fate of the actress E.P. Kadmina who in 1881 during performance of the play «Vasilisa Melentieva» on the stage in Kharkov Theatre took a poison and died after several days (a reminiscence of this story was also in I.S. Turgenev’s novel «After death», A.I. Kuprin’s story «Last debut», and a number of other literary works of that time). The Chekhov’s play has the same players as those in Suvorin’s «Tatiana Repina»: a broke landowner, a high society bon vivant and a womanizer, Petr Ivanovich Sabinin (Suvorin’s play was called «Hunt For Women»); Sabinin’s bride – a young widow and a very rich landowner Vera Alexandrovna Olenina; Sabinin’s close friend the landowner Platon Mikhailovich Kotelnikov; the landowner Andrey Andreyevich Kokoshkin; Zakhar Ilyich Matveev, an entrepreneur from a theatre where Tatiana Repina used to play; a banker David Solomonovich Sonenstein; lawyer Patronnikov. On March 5, 1889, after having thanked Suvorin for his promise to send him foreign dictionaries Chekhov wrote, «For the dictionaries I will send you a very cheap and useless present but such that only I can give it to you. Wait for it.» Chekhov sent to Suvorin his «present», which was this play, the next day and told him, «I wrote it in one sitting, in a hurry, so it came out very cheap. You can sue me for using your title. Do not show it to anyone, and once you have read it throw it into the fire. Or throw it without reading.» Having received the script (now lost) Suvorin made from it in his typography only 3 small-format copies. In early May 1889 he sent to Chekhov, first, a proof sheet, and later a ready printed copy. Chekhov replied to him on 14 May 1889 with a few comments, «The paper is very good. I have struck my name out, and I don’t understand how it survived there at all. I have also struck out, or corrected, numerous misprints which also survived. Well, it’s all rubbish. For a greater illusion, the word Leipzig, not Petersburg, should have appeared on the title sheet.» This reference to Leipzig obviously alluded to an unofficial nature of the edition. A play depicting a matrimonial ceremony in church with quotations from liturgical books would be undoubtedly forbidden by censorship. Indeed, many illegal editions forbidden for circulation in Russia were printed in or as if in Leipzig. Suvorin gave the play to A.N. Pleshcheev who lived with his family in a countryside at the time. After reading it the poet wrote to Chekhov in his letter on 22 May 1889, «A very original thing, I enjoyed it. Pity that there’s more of the Holy Scripture in it rather than conversations …». At the same time, he wrote to Suvorin, «You know, Alexey Sergeyevich, I did not like it that much. There’s little of Chekhov and too much of the Scripture.» Some time later Pleshcheev asked his son, Alexander Alexeyevich, to bring the play back to Petersburg, to A.A. Suvorin’s apartment where it remained until late summer 1912, and later this copy was dubbed as «Pleshcheev’s» among the literary people.

It was about this copy of the play which remained with Suvorin and was found soon after his death in 1912 that newspapers wrote, «Among the papers of A.S. Suvorin there was a printed copy of the play «Tatiana Repina» which is a one-act parody written by A.P. Chekhov. The play was printed in 3 copies, one of which belongs to Suvorin, the other to Pleshcheev, and the third one to Chekhov. Obviously, the Suvorin’s copy is the only one which remained since no one has ever seen or heard of the other two.» (Novoye Vremya, 1912, 19 August, No. 13088). However, this play was mentioned earlier by M.P. Chekhov in his memoirs published in 1907, he wrote, «Already being a famous writer, Anton Pavlovich wrote a play the title of which I forgot. I think it was a sequel to the Suvorin’s «Tatiana Repina». Regrettably, I have only 4 pages left of the printed copy of this play (a part of the proof sheets). The papers of Anton Pavlovich may contain a full copy of this unique play. It was printed in a very small format. «The copy which belonged to Chekhov is in the archives of the Museum house of A.P. Chekhov in Yalta (now Ukraine). There is no information left about the Pleshcheev’s copy. It is not ruled out that M.P. Chekhov might have had the remains of it! Among the materials in the Chekhov’s archives in the Central Archives of Art and Literature in Saint-Petersburg there are 4 initial pages (without a cover) of the unknown copy – probably those which were mentioned in 1907 by M.P. Chekhov (and being actually the same proof sheets that were sent to Chekhov by Suvorin) – this is how the situation was described by the publishers of the academic complete edition, Vol. 12, Moscow, «Nauka». 1986, p. 366. In his index of Chekhov’s works the bibliographer M.P. Klensky also wrote of the Suvorin’s printed 3 copies of the play, «One copy was received by the author, the other two remained with Suvorin. On January 31st, 1890, he gave as a present one copy to P.A. Efremov with a gift inscription! This «Efremov’s» copy with Suvorin’s inscription was given to Lev Eduardovich Buhgeim and was later received by the library at the Pushkin House. No one knows what happened with the third copy. (Chekhov, «Atheneum», p. 294). Currently, the Efremov’s copy of «Tatiana Repina» is missing in the resources of the Pushkin House (IRLI)!

The interest to the play itself has remained:

1. In 1999, the director Valery Fokin. following the idea by Peter Stein, implemented a co-project of the Moscow Theater of Young Spectators and the Avignon Festival, with participation of the International Confederation of Theater Unions: he staged «Tatiana Repina». The spectacle starred Consuelo de Aviland (France) and Igor Yasulovich (Russia). The spectacle became a whole a event in the world theater life.

2. In 2002, the film director Kira Muratova made a sensational film «Chekhovskiye motivy» (Chekhov’s Motifs). The film was based on the A.P. Chekhov’s novels – the play «Tatiana Repina» and the story «Trudniye Lyudi» («Hard People»). During a matrimonial ceremony in a church, the groom is horrified when he sees among the guests his ex-lover who has previously committed a suicide. The film was given a number of prizes and did not pass unnoticed.

Given the universal importance of Chekhov’s plays (they are present in repertoires of almost every theater both in the Old and the New World) this Pleshcheev’s copy of «Tatiana Repina» gains…

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