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The Brothers Karamazov

By Fyodor Dostoevsky

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PART I

Book I

The History of a Family

The Brothers Karamazov

Chapter 1

Fyodor Pavlovitch

Karamazov

ALEXEY Fyodorovitch Karamazov was the third son of

Fyodor Pavlovitch Karamazov, a landowner well known

in our district in his own day, and still remembered among

us owing to his gloomy and tragic death, which happened

thirteen years ago, and which I shall describe in its proper

place. For the present I will only say that this ‘landowner’

— for so we used to call him, although he hardly spent a day

of his life on his own estate — was a strange type, yet one

pretty frequently to be met with, a type abject and vicious

and at the same time senseless. But he was one of those

senseless persons who are very well capable of looking after

their worldly affairs, and, apparently, after nothing else. Fy-

odor Pavlovitch, for instance, began with next to nothing;

his estate was of the smallest; he ran to dine at other men’s

tables, and fastened on them as a toady, yet at his death it

appeared that he had a hundred thousand roubles in hard

cash. At the same time, he was all his life one of the most

senseless, fantastical fellows in the whole district. I repeat, it

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was not stupidity — the majority of these fantastical fellows

are shrewd and intelligent enough — but just senselessness,

and a peculiar national form of it.

He was married twice, and had three sons, the eldest,

Dmitri, by his first wife, and two, Ivan and Alexey, by his

second. Fyodor Pavlovitch’s first wife, Adelaida Ivanovna,

belonged to a fairly rich and distinguished noble family,

also landowners in our district, the Miusovs. How it came

to pass that an heiress, who was also a beauty, and more-

over one of those vigorous intelligent girls, so common in

this generation, but sometimes also to be found in the last,

could have married such a worthless, puny weakling, as we

all called him, I won’t attempt to explain. I knew a young

lady of the last ‘romantic’ generation who after some years

of an enigmatic passion for a gentleman, whom she might

quite easily have married at any moment, invented insuper-

able obstacles to their union, and ended by throwing herself

one stormy night into a rather deep and rapid river from a

high bank, almost a precipice, and so perished, entirely to

satisfy her own caprice, and to be like Shakespeare’s Oph-

elia. Indeed, if this precipice, a chosen and favourite spot of

hers, had been less picturesque, if there had been a prosaic

flat bank in its place, most likely the suicide would never

have taken place. This is a fact, and probably there have

been not a few similar instances in the last two or three

generations. Adelaida Ivanovna Miusov’s action was sim-

ilarly, no doubt, an echo of other people’s ideas, and was

due to the irritation caused by lack of mental freedom. She

wanted, perhaps, to show her feminine independence, to

The Brothers Karamazov

override class distinctions and the despotism of her family.

And a pliable imagination persuaded her, we must suppose,

for a brief moment, that Fyodor Pavlovitch, in spite of his

parasitic position, was one of the bold and ironical spirits

of that progressive epoch, though he was, in fact, an ill-na-

tured buffoon and nothing more. What gave the marriage

piquancy was that it was preceded by an elopement, and

this greatly captivated Adelaida Ivanovna’s fancy. Fyodor

Pavlovitch’s position at the time made him specially eager

for any such enterprise, for he was passionately anxious to

make a career in one way or another. To attach himself to a

good family and obtain a dowry was an alluring prospect.

As for mutual love it did not exist apparently, either in the

bride or in him, in spite of Adelaida Ivanovna’s beauty. This

was, perhaps, a unique case of the kind in the life of Fyodor

Pavlovitch, who was always of a voluptuous temper, and

ready to run after any petticoat on the slightest encourage-

ment. She seems to have been the only woman who made

no particular appeal to his senses.

Immediatley after the elopement Adelaida Ivanovna dis-

cerned in a flash that she had no feeling for her husband

but contempt. The marriage accordingly showed itself in

its true colours with extraordinary rapidity. Although the

family accepted the event pretty quickly and apportioned

the runaway bride her dowry, the husband and wife began

to lead a most disorderly life, and there were everlast-

ing scenes between them. It was said that the young wife

showed incomparably more generosity and dignity than

Fyodor Pavlovitch, who, as is now known, got hold of all

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her money up to twenty five thousand roubles as soon as

she received it, so that those thousands were lost to her for-

ever. The little village and the rather fine town house which

formed part of her dowry he did his utmost for a long time

to transfer to his name, by means of some deed of convey-

ance. He would probably have succeeded, merely from her

moral fatigue and desire to get rid of him, and from the

contempt and loathing he aroused by his persistent and

shameless importunity. But, fortunately, Adelaida Ivanov-

na’s family intervened and circumvented his greediness. It

is known for a fact that frequent fights took place between

the husband and wife, but rumour had it that Fyodor Pav-

lovitch did not beat his wife but was beaten by her, for she

was a hot-tempered, bold, dark-browed, impatient woman,

possessed of remarkable physical strength. Finally, she left

the house and ran away from Fyodor Pavlovitch with a des-

titute divinity student, leaving Mitya, a child of three years

old, in her husband’s hands. Immediately Fyodor Pavlovitch

introduced a regular harem into the house, and abandoned

himself to orgies of drunkenness. In the intervals he used

to drive all over the province, complaining tearfully to each

and all of Adelaida Ivanovna’s having left him, going into

details too disgraceful for a husband to mention in regard

to his own married life. What seemed to gratify him and

flatter his self-love most was to play the ridiculous part of

the injured husband, and to parade his woes with embel-

lishments.

‘One would think that you’d got a promotion, Fyodor

Pavlovitch, you seem so pleased in spite of your sorrow,’

The Brothers Karamazov

scoffers said to him. Many even added that he was glad of a

new comic part in which to play the buffoon, and that it was

simply to make it funnier that he pretended to be unaware

of his ludicrous position. But, who knows, it may have been

simplicity. At last he succeeded in getting on the track of

his runaway wife. The poor woman turned out to be in Pe-

tersburg, where she had gone with her divinity student, and

where she had thrown herself into a life of complete eman-

cipation. Fyodor Pavlovitch at once began bustling about,

making preparations to go to Petersburg, with what object

he could not himself have said. He would perhaps have re-

ally gone; but having determined to do so he felt at once

entitled to fortify himself for the journey by another bout

of reckless drinking. And just at that time his wife’s family

received the news of her death in Petersburg. She had died

quite suddenly in a garret, according to one story, of typhus,

or as another version had it, of starvation. Fyodor Pavlov-

itch was drunk when he heard of his wife’s death, and the

story is that he ran out into the street and began shouting

with joy, raising his hands to Heaven: ‘Lord, now lettest

Thou Thy servant depart in peace,’ but others say he wept

without restraint like a little child, so much so that people

were sorry for him, in spite of the repulsion he inspired. It

is quite possible that both versions were true, that he re-

joiced at his release, and at the same time wept for her who

released him. As a general rule, people, even the wicked,

are much more naive and simple-hearted than we suppose.

And we ourselves are, too.

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Chapter 2

He Gets Rid of His

Eldest Son

YOU can easily imagine what a father such a man could be

and how he would bring up his children. His behaviour

as a father was exactly what might be expected. He com-

pletely abandoned the child of his marriage with Adelaida

Ivanovna, not from malice, nor because of his matrimonial

grievances, but simply because he forgot him. While he was

wearying everyone with his tears and complaints, and turn-

ing his house into a sink of debauchery, a faithful servant of

the family, Grigory, took the three-year old Mitya into his

care. If he hadn’t looked after him there would have been no

one even to change the baby’s little shirt.

It happened moreover that the child’s relations on his

mother’s side forgot him too at first. His grandfather was no

longer living, his widow, Mitya’s grandmother, had moved

to Moscow, and was seriously ill, while his daughters were

married, so that Mitya remained for almost a whole year

in old Grigory’s charge and lived with him in the servant’s

cottage. But if his father had remembered him (he could

The Brothers Karamazov

not, indeed, have been altogether unaware of his existence)

he would have sent him back to the cottage, as the child

would only have been in the way of his debaucheries. But

a cousin of Mitya’s mother, Pyotr Alexandrovitch Miusov,

happened to return from Paris. He lived for many years af-

terwards abroad, but was at that time quite a young .man,

and distinguished among the Miusovs as a man of enlight-

ened ideas and of European culture, who had been in the

capitals and abroad. Towards the end of his life he became a

Liberal of the type common in the forties and fifties. In the

course of his career he had come into contact with many

of the most Liberal men of his epoch, both in Russia and

abroad. He had known Proudhon and Bakunin personally,

and in his declining years was very fond of describing the

three days of the Paris Revolution of February, 1848, hint-

ing that he himself had almost taken part in the fighting on

the barricades. This was one of the most grateful recollec-

tions of his youth. He had an independent property of about

a thousand souls, to reckon in the old style. His splendid

estate lay on the outskirts of our little town and bordered

on the lands of our famous monastery, with which Pyotr

Alexandrovitch began an endless lawsuit, almost as soon as

he came into the estate, concerning the rights of fishing in

the river or wood-cutting in the forest, I don’t know exactly

which. He regarded it as his duty as a citizen and a man

of culture to open an attack upon the ‘clericals.’ Hearing

all about Adelaida Ivanovna, whom he, of course, remem-

bered, and in whom he had at one time been interested, and

learning of the existence of Mitya, he intervened, in spite

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of all his youthful indignation and contempt for Fyodor

Pavlovitch. He made the latter’s acquaintance for the first

time, and told him directly that he wished to undertake

the child’s education. He used long afterwards to tell as a

characteristic touch, that when he began to speak of Mitya,

Fyodor Pavlovitch looked for some time as though he did

not understand what child he was talking about, and even

as though he was surprised to hear that he had a little son in

the house. The story may have been exaggerated, yet it must

have been something like the truth.

Fyodor Pavlovitch was all his life fond of acting, of sud-

denly playing an unexpected part, sometimes without any

motive for doing so, and even to his own direct disadvan-

tage, as, for instance, in the present case. This habit, however,

is characteristic of a very great number of people, some of

them very clever ones, not like Fyodor Pavlovitch. Pyotr Al-

exandrovitch carried the business through vigorously, and

was appointed, with Fyodor Pavlovitch, joint guardian of

the child, who had a small property, a house and land, left

him by his mother. Mitya did, in fact, pass into this cousin’s

keeping, but as the latter had no family of his own, and after

securing the revenues of his estates was in haste to return

at once to Paris, he left the boy in charge of one of his cous-

ins, a lady living in Moscow. It came to pass that, settling

permanently in Paris he, too, forgot the child, especially

when the Revolution of February broke out, making an im-

pression on his mind that he remembered all the rest of his

life. The Moscow lady died, and Mitya passed into the care

of one of her married daughters. I believe he changed his

10

The Brothers Karamazov

home a fourth time later on. I won’t enlarge upon that now,

as I shall have much to tell later of Fyodor Pavlovitch’s first-

born, and must confine myself now to the most essential

facts about him, without which I could not begin my story.

In the first place, this Mitya, or rather Dmitri Fyodoro-

vitch, was the only one of Fyodor Pavlovitch’s three sons

who grew up in the belief that he had property, and that he

would be independent on coming of age. He spent an irreg-

ular boyhood and youth. He did not finish his studies at the

gymnasium, he got into a military school, then went to the

Caucasus, was promoted, fought a duel, and was degraded

to the ranks, earned promotion again, led a wild life, and

spent a good deal of money. He did not begin to receive any
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