Dostoevsky, Anna (1846–1918)

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Dostoevsky, Anna (1846–1918)

Memoirist and second wife of Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky. Name variations: Dostoevski or Dostoyevsky. Born in 1846; died in 1918; married Fyodor or Fedor Dostoevsky, in 1867.

Born in 1846, Anna Dostoevsky aspired to an independent life. She had just finished a course in shorthand when she was hired by Fyodor Dostoevsky to transcribe his novel The Gambler. At the time, the 46-year-old Fyodor was still mourning the death of his first wife Sophie Dostoevsky and resolving an unhappy love affair with Polyina Suslova . Anna, submissive and adoring, was the antithesis of Fyodor's previous paramours and quickly captured his heart.

After their marriage in 1867, the couple left Russia in order to escape their creditors. They spent three months in Dresden and Baden, during which time Anna suffered a miscarriage, and Fyodor, in a deep depression over what he perceived to be the ruin of his talent, indulged his passion for gambling. Anna began a shorthand diary in which she described the first difficult years of her marriage. Unsure of Fyodor's love, she carefully guarded her husband's ego, even to the point of encouraging him to gamble away their last 20 francs. In one entry, she describes Fyodor's contrite behavior after a losing streak at the tables. "He said pathetically that he reproached himself for his weakness for gambling, that he loved me, that I was his beautiful wife, and that he was not worthy of me. Then he asked me to give him some more money." In another entry, which illustrates Anna's growing frustration at Fyodor's contradictory behavior, she erupts when he tells her that she has been insensitive: "I was indeed pained to hear it, particularly because I always thought that Fedya was a man who understood my sensitiveness. Christ! What a number of times I could have made things unpleasant for him, if I had wished it."

After leaving Baden, the couple roamed Europe until 1871, when they returned to Russia. Fyodor had apparently broken the cycle of his gambling, and Anna had matured. "From a timid, shy girl I have become a woman of resolute character," she wrote, "who could no longer be frightened by the struggle with troubles." For the next ten years, Anna tended to her husband's needs and became an important part of his work. After his death in 1881, she continued to devote herself to the service of his writings and memory. During her final years, Anna Dostoevsky transcribed her early diaries, which she used to prepare her memoir Reminiscences, published after her death.

sources:

Moffat, Mary Jane, and Charlotte Painter, eds. Revelations: Diaries of Women. NY: Random House, 1974.