ZAKHAR, after closing the door successively behind Tarantiev and Alexiev,
stood expecting to receive a summons from his master, inasmuch as he had
overheard the fact that the latter had undertaken to write a letter. But in
Oblomov's study all remained silent as the tomb. Zakhar peeped through the
chink of the door, and perceived that his master was lying prone on the
sofa, with his head resting on the palm of his hand. The valet entered the
"Why have you lain down again?" he asked.
"Do not disturb me: cannot you see that I am reading?" was Oblomov's
"Nay, but you ought to wash, and then to write that letter," urged
Zakhar, determined not to be shaken off.
"Yes, I suppose I ought. I will do so presently. Just now I am engaged in
As a matter of fact, he did read a page of the book which was
lying open—a page which had turned yellow with a month's exposure. That
done, he laid it down and yawned.
"How it all wearies me!" he whispered, stretching, and then drawing up,
his legs. Glancing at the ceiling as once more he relapsed into a voluptuous
state of coma, he said to himself with momentary sternness: "No—business
first." Then he rolled over, and clasped his hands behind his head.
As he lay there he thought of his plans for improving his property.
Swiftly he passed in review certain grave and fundamental schemes affecting
his plough-land and its taxation; after which he elaborated a new and
stricter course to be taken against laziness and vagrancy on the part of the
peasantry, and then passed to sundry ideas for ordering his own life in the
First of all, he became engrossed in a design for a new house. Eagerly he
lingered over a probable disposition of the rooms, and fixed in his mind the
dimensions of the dining-room and the billiard-room, and determined which
way the windows of his study must face. Indeed, he even gave a thought to
the furniture and to the carpets. Next, he designed a wing for the building,
calculated the number of guests whom that wing would accommodate, and set
aside proper sites for the stables, the coachhouses, and the servants'
quarters. Finally he turned his attention to the garden. The old lime and
oak-trees should all be left as they were, but the apple-trees and
pear-trees should be done away with, and succeeded by acacias. Also, he gave
a moment's consideration to the idea of a park, but, after calculating the
cost of its upkeep, came to the conclusion that such a luxury would prove
too expensive—wherefore he passed to the designing of orangeries and
So vividly did these attractive visions of the future development of his
estate flit before his eyes that he came to fancy himself already settled
there, and engaged in witnessing the result of several years' working of his
On a fair summer's evening he seemed to be sitting at a tea-table on the
terrace of Oblomovka—sitting under a canopy of leafy shade which the sun
was powerless to penetrate. From a long pipe in his hand he was lazily
inhaling smoke, and revelling both in the delightful view which stretched
beyond the circle of the trees and in the coolness and the quiet of his
surroundings. In the distance some fields were turning to gold as the sun,
setting behind a familiar birch-grove, tinged to red the mirror-like surface
of the lake. From the fields a mist had risen, for the chill of evening was
falling, and dusk approaching apace. To his ears, at intervals, came the
clatter of peasantry as they returned homewards, and at the entrance gates
the servants of the establishment were sitting at ease, while from their
vicinity came the sound of echoing voices and laughter, the playing of balalaiki, and the chattering of girls as
they pursued the sport of gorielki. Around him, also, his little ones
were frisking—at times climbing on to his knee and hanging about his neck;
while behind the samovar was seated the real ruler of all that
his eyes were beholding his divinity, a woman, his wife! . . . And
in the dining-room—a room at once elegant and simply appointed—a cheerful
fire was glowing, and Zakhar, now promoted to the dignity of a major-domo,
and adorned with whiskers turned wholly grey, was laying a large, round
table to a pleasant accompanying tinkle of crystal and silver as he
arranged, here a decanter and there a fork.
Presently the dreamer saw his wife and himself sit down to a bountiful
supper. Yes, and with them was Schtoltz, the comrade of his youth, his
unchanging friend, with other well-known faces. Lastly, he could see the
inmates of the house retiring to rest. . . .
Oblomov's features blushed with delight at the vision. So clear, so
vivid, so poetical was it all that for a moment he lay with his face buried
in the sofa cushions. Suddenly there had come upon him a dim longing for
love and quiet happiness; suddenly he had become athirst for the fields and
the hills of his native place, for his home, for a wife, for children. . . .
After lying face downwards for a moment or two, he turned upon his back.
His features were alight with generous emotion, and for the time being he
Again the charming seductiveness of sleep-waking enfolded him in its
embrace. He pictured to himself a small colony of friends who should come
and settle in the villages and farms within a radius of fifteen or twenty
versts of his country house. Every day they should visit one another's
houses—whether to dine or to sup or to dance; until everywhere around him
he would be able to see only bright faces framed in sunny days—faces which
should be ever free of care and wrinkles, and round, and merry, and ruddy,
and double-chinned, and of unfailing appetite. In all his neighbourhood
there should be constant summertide, constant gaiety, unfailing good fare,
the joys of perennial lassitude. . . .
"My God, my God!" he cried in the fullness of his delight: and with that
he awoke. Once more to his ears came the cries of hawkers in the courtyard
as they vended coal, sand, and potatoes; once more he could hear some one
begging for subscriptions to build a church; once more from a neighbouring
building which was in course of erection there streamed a babel of workmen's
shouts, mingled with the clatter of tools.
"Ah!" he sighed with a sense of pain. "Such is real life! What ugliness
there is in the roar of the capital! When shall I attain the life of
paradise—the life for which I yearn? Shall I ever see my own fields, my own
forests? Would that at this moment I were lying on the grass under a tree,
and gazing upwards at the sun through the boughs, and trying to count the
birds which come and go over my head!"
But what about the plans for improving the estate? And what about the
starosta and the flat? Once again these things knocked at his
"Yes, yes," he answered them. "Seichass—presently."
With that he rose to a sitting posture on the sofa, lowered his legs to
the level of his slippers, and slipped the latter on to his feet; after
which he sat still for a little while. At length he attained a wholly erect
posture, and remained meditating for a couple of minutes.
"Zakhar! Zakhar!" he shouted as he eyed the table and the inkstand. " I
want you to, to—" Further he failed to get, but mutely pointed to the
inkstand, and then relapsed into thought.
The doorbell rang, and a little man with a bald head entered.
"Hullo, doctor!" Oblomov exclaimed as he extended one hand towards his
guest, and with the other one drew forward a chair. "What chance brings you
"The chance that, since all of you decline to be ill, and never send for
me, I am forced to come of myself," replied the doctor jestingly. "But no,"
he added, in a more serious tone. "The truth is, I had to visit a neighbour
of yours on the upper floor, and thought I might as well take you on the
way. How are you?"
Oblomov shook his head despondently. "Poorly, doctor," he said. " I have
just been thinking of consulting you. My stomach will scarcely digest
anything, there is a pain in the pit of it, and my breath comes with
"Give me your wrist," said the doctor. He closed his eyes and felt the
patient's pulse. "And have you a cough?" he inquired.
"Yes—at night-time, but more especially while I am at supper."
"Hm! And does your heart throb at all, or your head ache?" He then added
other questions, bowed his bald pate, and subsided into profound meditation.
At length he straightened himself with a jerk, and said with an air of
decision—"Two or three years more of this room, of lying about, of eating
rich, heavy foods, and you will have a stroke."
"Then what ought I to do, doctor? Tell me, for Heaven's sake!"
"Merely what other people do—namely, go abroad."
"Pardon me, doctor, but how am I to do that?"
"Why should you not? Does money prevent you, or what?"
"Yes, yes; money is the reason," replied Oblomov, gladly catching at the
excuse, which was the most natural one that could possibly have been
devised. "See here—just read what my starosta writes."
"Quite so, but that is no business of mine," said the doctor.
"My business is to inform you that you must change your mode of
life, and also your place of residence. You must have fresh air—you must
have something to do. Go to Kissingen or to Ems, and remain there during
June and July, whilst you drink the waters. Then go on to Switzerland, or to
the Tyrol, and partake of the local grape cure. That you can do during
September and October."
"Oh, the devil take the Tyrol!" murmured Oblomov under his breath.
"Next, transfer yourself to some dry place like Egypt, and put away from
you all cares and worries."
"Excellent!" said Oblomov. "I only wish that starostas' letters
like this one reached you!"
"Also you must do no thinking whatsoever."
"No thinking, you say?"
"Yes—you must impose upon the brain no exertion."
"But what about my plans for my estate? I am not a log, if you will
pardon my saying so."
"Oh, very well. I have merely been warning you. Likewise, you must avoid
emotion of every kind, for that sort of thing is sure to militate against a
successful cure. Try, rather, to divert yourself with riding, with dancing,
with moderate exercise in the open air, and with pleasant conversation—more
especially conversation with the opposite sex. These things are designed to
make your heart beat more lightly, and to experience none but agreeable
emotions. Again, you must lay aside all reading and writing. Rent a villa
which faces south and lies embowered in flowers, and surround yourself also
with an atmosphere of music and women."
"And may I eat at all?"
"Yes, certainly; but avoid all animal and farinaceous food, as well as
anything which may be served cold. Eat only light soups and vegetables. Even
in this great care will need to be exercised, for cholera, I may
tell you, is about. Walk eight hours out of every twenty-four; go in for
"Good Lord!" groaned Oblomov.
"Finally," concluded the doctor, "go to Paris for the winter, where,
surrounded by a whirlpool of gaiety, you will best be able to distract your
mind from your habitual brooding. Cultivate theatres, balls, masquerades,
the streets, society, friends, noise, and laughter."
"Anything else?" inquired Oblomov, with ill-concealed impatience. The
doctor reflected a moment.
"Yes; also get the benefit of sea air," he said. "Cross over to England,
or else go for a voyage to America."
With that he rose to take his leave. "Should you carry out these
instructions to the letter—" he began.
"Yes, yes. Of course I shall carry them out!" said Oblomov
bitterly as he accompanied the physician to the door.
The doctor having departed, Oblomov threw himself back into an arm-chair,
clasped his hands behind his head, and remained sitting in an almost
unthinking heap. Roused by Zakhar to consider once more the question of
changing his quarters, he engaged in a long and heated conversation with the
valet. Eventually he dismissed the man to his den, but could not dismiss
from his own mind certain comparisons which Zakhar had drawn between his
master's life and the life of ordinary people. How strange that suddenly
there should have dawned in him thoughts concerning human fate and destiny!
All at once he found his mind drawing a parallel between that destiny and
his own existence; all at once questions of life arose before his vision,
like owls in an ancient ruin flushed from sleep by a stray ray of sunlight.
Somehow he felt pained and grieved at his arrested development, at the check
which had taken place in his moral growth, at the weight which appeared to
be pressing upon his every faculty. Also gnawing at his heart there was a
sense of envy that others should be living a life so full and free, while
all the time the narrow, pitiful little pathway of his own existence was
being blocked by a great boulder. And in his hesitating soul there arose a
torturing consciousness that many sides of his nature had never yet been
stirred, that others had never even been touched, and that not one of them
had attained complete formation. Yet with this there went an aching
suspicion that, buried in his being, as in a tomb, there still remained a
moribund element of sweetness and light, and that it was an element which,
though hidden in his personality, as a nugget lies lurking in the bowels of
the earth, might once have become minted into sterling coin. But the
treasure was now overlaid with rubbish—was now thickly littered over with
dust. 'Twas as though some one had stolen from him, and besmirched, the
store of gifts with which life and the world had dowered him; so that always
he would be prevented from entering life's field and sailing across it with
the aid of intellect and of will. Yes, at the very start a secret enemy had
laid a heavy hand upon him and diverted him from the road of human destiny.
And now he seemed to be powerless to leave the swamps and wilds in favour of
that road. All around him was a forest, and ever the recesses of his soul
were growing dimmer and darker, and the path more and more tangled, while
the consciousness of his condition kept awaking within him less and less
frequently—to arouse only for a fleeting moment his slumbering faculties.
Brain and volition alike had become paralysed, and, to all appearances,
irrevocably—the events of his life had become whittled down to
microscopical proportions. Yet even with them he was powerless to cope—he
was powerless to pass from one of them to another. Consequently they bandied
him to and fro like the waves of the ocean. Never was he able to oppose to
any event elasticity of will; never was he able to conceive, as the result
of any event, a reasoned-out impulse. Yet to confess this, even to himself,
always cost him a bitter pang: his fruitless regrets for lost opportunities,
coupled with burning reproaches of conscience, always pricked him like
needles, and led him to strive to put away such reproaches and to discover a
scapegoat. . . .
Once again Oblomov sank asleep; and as he slept he dreamed of a different
period, of different people, of a different place from the present. Let us
follow him thither.
[balalaiki:] Three-stringed, lute-like
[gorielki:] A sort of catch-as-catch-can.