Memoirs of A Madman by Nicholas Gogol
October 3rd.—A strange occurrence has taken
place to-day. I got up fairly late, and when
Mawra brought me my clean boots, I asked her
how late it was. When I heard it had long
struck ten, I dressed as quickly as possible.
To tell the truth, I would rather not have gone
to the office at all to-day, for I know beforehand
that our department-chief will look as sour as
vinegar. For some time past he has been in the
habit of saying to me, “Look here, my friend;
there is something wrong with your head. You
often rush about as though you were possessed.
Then you make such confused abstracts of the
documents that the devil himself cannot make
them out; you write the title without any capital
letters, and add neither the date nor the docket-number.”
The long-legged scoundrel! He is
certainly envious of me, because I sit in the
director's work-room, and mend His Excellency's
pens. In a word, I should not have gone
to the office if I had not hoped to meet the
accountant, and perhaps squeeze a little advance
out of this skinflint.
A terrible man, this accountant! As for his
advancing one's salary once in a way—you might
sooner expect the skies to fall. You may beg
and beseech him, and be on the very verge of
ruin—this grey devil won't budge an inch. At
the same time, his own cook at home, as all the
world knows, boxes his ears.
I really don't see what good one gets by
serving in our department. There are no plums
there. In the fiscal and judicial offices it is quite
different. There some ungainly fellow sits in a
corner and writes and writes; he has such a
shabby coat and such an ugly mug that one would
like to spit on both of them. But you should see
what a splendid country-house he has rented.
He would not condescend to accept a gilt porcelain
cup as a present. “You can give that to
your family doctor,” he would say. Nothing
less than a pair of chestnut horses, a fine carriage,
or a beaver-fur coat worth three hundred
roubles would be good enough for him. And
yet he seems so mild and quiet, and asks so
amiably, “Please lend me your penknife; I wish
to mend my pen.” Nevertheless, he knows how
to scarify a petitioner till he has hardly a whole
stitch left on his body.
In our office it must be admitted everything is
done in a proper and gentlemanly way; there
is more cleanness and elegance than one will
ever find in Government offices. The tables
are mahogany, and everyone is addressed as
“sir.” And truly, were it not for this official
propriety, I should long ago have sent in my
I put on my old cloak, and took my umbrella,
as a light rain was falling. No one was to be
seen on the streets except some women, who had
flung their skirts over their heads. Here and
there one saw a cabman or a shopman with his
umbrella up. Of the higher classes one only
saw an official here and there. One I saw at the
street-crossing, and thought to myself, “Ah!
my friend, you are not going to the office, but
after that young lady who walks in front of you.
You are just like the officers who run after every
petticoat they see.”
As I was thus following the train of my
thoughts, I saw a carriage stop before a shop just
as I was passing it. I recognised it at once; it
was our director's carriage. “He has nothing
to do in the shop,” I said to myself; “it must be
I pressed myself close against the wall. A
lackey opened the carriage door, and, as I had
expected, she fluttered like a bird out of it.
How proudly she looked right and left; how she
drew her eyebrows together, and shot lightnings
from her eyes—good heavens! I am lost, hopelessly
But why must she come out in such abominable
weather? And yet they say women are so mad
on their finery!
She did not recognise me. I had wrapped
myself as closely as possible in my cloak. It
was dirty and old-fashioned, and I would not
have liked to have been seen by her wearing it.
Now they wear cloaks with long collars, but
mine has only a short double collar, and the
cloth is of inferior quality.
Her little dog could not get into the shop, and
remained outside. I know this dog; its name is
Before I had been standing there a minute, I
heard a voice call, “Good day, Meggy!”
Who the deuce was that? I looked round
and saw two ladies hurrying by under an umbrella—one
old, the other fairly young. They
had already passed me when I heard the same
voice say again, “For shame, Meggy!”
What was that? I saw Meggy sniffing at a
dog which ran behind the ladies. The deuce!
I thought to myself, “I am not drunk? That
happens pretty seldom.”
“No, Fidel, you are wrong,” I heard Meggy
say quite distinctly. “I was—bow—wow!—I
was—bow! wow! wow!—very ill.”
What an extraordinary dog! I was, to tell
the truth, quite amazed to hear it talk human
language. But when I considered the matter
well, I ceased to be astonished. In fact, such
things have already happened in the world. It
is said that in England a fish put its head out of
water and said a word or two in such an extraordinary
language that learned men have been
puzzling over them for three years, and have not
succeeded in interpreting them yet. I also read
in the paper of two cows who entered a shop and
asked for a pound of tea.
Meanwhile what Meggy went on to say seemed
to me still more remarkable. She added, “I
wrote to you lately, Fidel; perhaps Polkan did
not bring you the letter.”
Now I am willing to forfeit a whole month's
salary if I ever heard of dogs writing before.
This has certainly astonished me. For some
little time past I hear and see things which no
other man has heard and seen.
“I will,” I thought, “follow that dog in
order to get to the bottom of the matter.
Accordingly, I opened my umbrella and went
after the two ladies. They went down Bean
Street, turned through Citizen Street and Carpenter
Street, and finally halted on the Cuckoo
Bridge before a large house. I know this house;
it is Sverkoff's. What a monster he is! What
sort of people live there! How many cooks,
how many bagmen! There are brother officials
of mine also there packed on each other like
herrings. And I have a friend there, a fine
player on the cornet.”
The ladies mounted to the fifth story. “Very
good,” thought I; “I will make a note of the
number, in order to follow up the matter at the
October 4th.—To-day is Wednesday, and I
was as usual in the office. I came early on
purpose, sat down, and mended all the pens.
Our director must be a very clever man.
The whole room is full of bookcases. I read the
titles of some of the books; they were very
learned, beyond the comprehension of people
of my class, and all in French and German. I
look at his face; see! how much dignity there is
in his eyes. I never hear a single superfluous
word from his mouth, except that when he hands
over the documents, he asks “What sort of
weather is it?”
No, he is not a man of our class; he is a real
statesman. I have already noticed that I am a
special favourite of his. If now his daughter
also—ah! what folly—let me say no more about
I have read the Northern Bee. What foolish
people the French are! By heavens! I should
like to tackle them all, and give them a thrashing.
I have also read a fine description of a
ball given by a landowner of Kursk. The landowners
of Kursk write a fine style.
Then I noticed that it was already half-past
twelve, and the director had not yet left his
bedroom. But about half-past one something
happened which no pen can describe.
The door opened. I thought it was the
director; I jumped up with my documents from
the seat, and—then—she—herself—came into
the room. Ye saints! how beautifully she was
dressed. Her garments were whiter than a
swan's plumage—oh how splendid! A sun,
indeed, a real sun!
She greeted me and asked, “Has not my
father come yet?”
Ah! what a voice. A canary bird! A real
“Your Excellency,” I wanted to exclaim,
“don't have me executed, but if it must be
done, then kill me rather with your own angelic
hand.” But, God knows why, I could not bring
it out, so I only said, “No, he has not come yet.”
She glanced at me, looked at the books, and
let her handkerchief fall. Instantly I started
up, but slipped on the infernal polished floor,
and nearly broke my nose. Still I succeeded
in picking up the handkerchief. Ye heavenly
choirs, what a handkerchief! So tender and
soft, of the finest cambric. It had the scent of
a general's rank!
She thanked me, and smiled so amiably that
her sugar lips nearly melted. Then she left the
After I had sat there about an hour, a flunkey
came in and said, “You can go home, Mr
Ivanovitch; the director has already gone out!”
I cannot stand these lackeys! They hang
about the vestibules, and scarcely vouchsafe to
greet one with a nod. Yes, sometimes it is even
worse; once one of these rascals offered me his
snuff-box without even getting up from his chair.
“Don't you know then, you country-bumpkin,
that I am an official and of aristocratic birth?”
This time, however, I took my hat and overcoat
quietly; these people naturally never think
of helping one on with it. I went home, lay a
good while on the bed, and wrote some verses
in my note:
“'Tis an hour since I saw thee,
And it seems a whole long year;
If I loathe my own existence,
How can I live on, my dear?”
I think they are by Pushkin.
In the evening I wrapped myself in my cloak,
hastened to the director's house, and waited
there a long time to see if she would come out
and get into the carriage. I only wanted to see
her once, but she did not come.
November 6th.—Our chief clerk has gone
mad. When I came to the office to-day he called
me to his room and began as follows: “Look
here, my friend, what wild ideas have got into
“How! What? None at all,” I answered.
“Consider well. You are already past forty;
it is quite time to be reasonable. What do you
imagine? Do you think I don't know all your
tricks? Are you trying to pay court to the
director's daughter? Look at yourself and
realise what you are! A nonentity, nothing else.
I would not give a kopeck for you. Look well
in the glass. How can you have such thoughts
with such a caricature of a face?”
May the devil take him! Because his own
face has a certain resemblance to a medicine-bottle,
because he has a curly bush of hair on
his head, and sometimes combs it upwards, and
sometimes plasters it down in all kinds of queer
ways, he thinks that he can do everything. I
know well, I know why he is angry with me.
He is envious; perhaps he has noticed the tokens
of favour which have been graciously shown me.
But why should I bother about him? A councillor!
What sort of important animal is that?
He wears a gold chain with his watch, buys
himself boots at thirty roubles a pair; may the
deuce take him! Am I a tailor's son or some
other obscure cabbage? I am a nobleman! I
can also work my way up. I am just forty-two—an
age when a man's real career generally
begins. Wait a bit, my friend! I too may get
to a superior's rank; or perhaps, if God is
gracious, even to a higher one. I shall make a
name which will far outstrip yours. You think
there are no able men except yourself? I only
need to order a fashionable coat and wear a tie
like yours, and you would be quite eclipsed.
But I have no money—that is the worst part
November 8th.—I was at the theatre. “The
Russian House-Fool” was performed. I laughed
heartily. There was also a kind of musical
comedy which contained amusing hits at barristers.
The language was very broad; I wonder
the censor passed it. In the comedy lines occur
which accuse the merchants of cheating; their
sons are said to lead immoral lives, and to
behave very disrespectfully towards the nobility.
The critics also are criticised; they are said
only to be able to find fault, so that authors have
to beg the public for protection.
Our modern dramatists certainly write amusing
things. I am very fond of the theatre. If
I have only a kopeck in my pocket, I always
go there. Most of my fellow-officials are uneducated
boors, and never enter a theatre unless
one throws free tickets at their head.
One actress sang divinely. I thought also of—but
November 9th.—About eight o'clock I went to
the office. The chief clerk pretended not to
notice my arrival. I for my part also behaved
as though he were not in existence. I read
through and collated documents. About four
o'clock I left. I passed by the director's house,
but no one was to be seen. After dinner I lay
for a good while on the bed.
November 11th.—To-day I sat in the director's
room, mended twenty-three pens for
him, and for Her—for Her Excellence, his
daughter, four more.
The director likes to see many pens lying on
his table. What a head he must have! He
continually wraps himself in silence, but I don't
think the smallest trifle escapes his eye. I should
like to know what he is generally thinking of,
what is really going on in this brain; I should like
to get acquainted with the whole manner of life
of these gentlemen, and get a closer view of their
cunning courtiers' arts, and all the activities of
these circles. I have often thought of asking His
Excellence about them; but—the deuce knows
why!—every time my tongue failed me and I
could get nothing out but my meteorological
I wish I could get a look into the spare-room
whose door I so often see open. And a second
small room behind the spare-room excites my
curiosity. How splendidly it is fitted up; what a
quantity of mirrors and choice china it contains!
I should also like to cast a glance into those
regions where Her Excellency, the daughter,
wields the sceptre. I should like to see how all
the scent-bottles and boxes are arranged in her
boudoir, and the flowers which exhale so delicious
a scent that one is half afraid to breathe.
And her clothes lying about which are too
ethereal to be called clothes—but silence!
To-day there came to me what seemed a
heavenly inspiration. I remembered the conversation
between the two dogs which I had overheard
on the Nevski Prospect. “Very good,”
I thought; “now I see my way clear. I must
get hold of the correspondence which these two
silly dogs have carried on with each other. In
it I shall probably find many things explained.”
I had already once called Meggy to me and
said to her, “Listen, Meggy! Now we are
alone together; if you like, I will also shut the
door so that no one can see us. Tell me now
all that you know about your mistress. I swear
to you that I will tell no one.”
But the cunning dog drew in its tail, ruffled up
its hair, and went quite quietly out of the door,
as though it had heard nothing.
I had long been of the opinion that dogs are
much cleverer than men. I also believed that
they could talk, and that only a certain obstinacy
kept them from doing so. They are especially
watchful animals, and nothing escapes their
observation. Now, cost what it may, I will go
to-morrow to Sverkoff's house in order to ask
after Fidel, and if I have luck, to get hold of all
the letters which Meggy has written to her.
November 12th.—To-day about two o'clock
in the afternoon I started in order, by some
means or other, to see Fidel and question her.
I cannot stand this smell of Sauerkraut which
assails one's olfactory nerves from all the shops
in Citizen Street. There also exhales such an
odour from under each house door, that one
must hold one's nose and pass by quickly.
There ascends also so much smoke and soot from
the artisans' shops that it is almost impossible to
get through it.
When I had climbed up to the sixth story,
and had rung the bell, a rather pretty girl with a
freckled face came out. I recognised her as the
companion of the old lady. She blushed a little
and asked “What do you want?”
“I want to have a little conversation with your
She was a simple-minded girl, as I saw at once.
The dog came running and barking loudly. I
wanted to take hold of it, but the abominable
beast nearly caught hold of my nose with its
teeth. But in a corner of the room I saw its
sleeping-basket. Ah! that was what I wanted.
I went to it, rummaged in the straw, and to my
great satisfaction drew out a little packet of small
pieces of paper. When the hideous little dog
saw this, it first bit me in the calf of the leg, and
then, as soon as it had become aware of my theft,
it began to whimper and to fawn on me; but I
said, “No, you little beast; good-bye!” and
I believe the girl thought me mad; at any rate
she was thoroughly alarmed.
When I reached my room I wished to get to
work at once, and read through the letters by
daylight, since I do not see well by candle-light;
but the wretched Mawra had got the idea of
sweeping the floor. These blockheads of Finnish
women are always clean where there is no
need to be.
I then went for a little walk and began to think
over what had happened. Now at last I could
get to the bottom of all facts, ideas and motives!
These letters would explain everything. Dogs
are clever fellows; they know all about politics,
and I will certainly find in the letters all I want,
especially the character of the director and all
his relationships. And through these letters I
will get information about her who—but silence!
Towards evening I came home and lay for a
good while on the bed.
November 13th.—Now let us see! The letter
is fairly legible but the handwriting is somewhat
“Dear Fidel!—I cannot get accustomed to
your ordinary name, as if they could not have
found a better one for you! Fidel! How tasteless!
How ordinary! But this is not the time
to discuss it. I am very glad that we thought of
corresponding with each other.”
(The letter is quite correctly written. The
punctuation and spelling are perfectly right.
Even our head clerk does not write so simply
and clearly, though he declares he has been at
the University. Let us go on.)
“I think that it is one of the most refined joys
of this world to interchange thoughts, feelings,
(H'm! This idea comes from some book
which has been translated from German. I
can't remember the title.)
“I speak from experience, although I have
not gone farther into the world than just before
our front door. Does not my life pass happily
and comfortably? My mistress, whom her
father calls Sophie, is quite in love with me.”
(Ah! Ah!—but better be silent!)
“Her father also often strokes me. I drink
tea and coffee with cream. Yes, my dear, I must
confess to you that I find no satisfaction in those
large, gnawed-at bones which Polkan devours in
the kitchen. Only the bones of wild fowl are
good, and that only when the marrow has not
been sucked out of them. They taste very nice
with a little sauce, but there should be no green
stuff in it. But I know nothing worse than the
habit of giving dogs balls of bread kneaded up.
Someone sits at table, kneads a bread-ball with
dirty fingers, calls you and sticks it in your mouth.
Good manners forbid your refusing it, and you
eat it—with disgust it is true, but you eat it.”
(The deuce! What is this? What rubbish!
As if she could find nothing more suitable to
write about! I will see if there is anything more
reasonable on the second page.)
“I am quite willing to inform you of everything
that goes on here. I have already mentioned
the most important person in the house,
whom Sophie calls ‘Papa.’ He is a very strange
(Ah! Here we are at last! Yes, I knew it;
they have a politician's penetrating eye for all
things. Let us see what she says about “Papa.”)
“… a strange man. Generally he is silent;
he only speaks seldom, but about a week ago he
kept on repeating to himself, ‘Shall I get it or
not?’ In one hand he took a sheet of paper;
the other he stretched out as though to receive
something, and repeated, ‘Shall I get it or not?’
Once he turned to me with the question, ‘What
do you think, Meggy?’ I did not understand in
the least what he meant, sniffed at his boots, and
went away. A week later he came home with
his face beaming. That morning he was visited
by several officers in uniform who congratulated
him. At the dinner-table he was in a better
humour than I have ever seen him before.”
(Ah! he is ambitious then! I must make a
note of that.)
“Pardon, my dear, I hasten to conclude, etc.,
etc. To-morrow I will finish the letter.”
. . . . . .
“Now, good morning; here I am again at
your service. To-day my mistress Sophie …”
(Ah! we will see what she says about Sophie.
Let us go on!)
“… was in an unusually excited state.
She went to a ball, and I was glad that I could
write to you in her absence. She likes going to
balls, although she gets dreadfully irritated while
dressing. I cannot understand, my dear, what
is the pleasure in going to a ball. She comes
home from the ball at six o'clock in the early
morning, and to judge by her pale and emaciated
face, she has had nothing to eat. I could,
frankly speaking, not endure such an existence.
If I could not get partridge with sauce, or the
wing of a roast chicken, I don't know what I
should do. Porridge with sauce is also tolerable,
but I can get up no enthusiasm for carrots,
turnips, and artichokes.”
The style is very unequal! One sees at once
that it has not been written by a man. The
beginning is quite intelligent, but at the end the
canine nature breaks out. I will read another
letter; it is rather long and there is no date.
“Ah, my dear, how delightful is the arrival of
spring! My heart beats as though it expected
something. There is a perpetual ringing in my
ears, so that I often stand with my foot raised,
for several minutes at a time, and listen towards
the door. In confidence I will tell you that I
have many admirers. I often sit on the window-sill
and let them pass in review. Ah! if you
knew what miscreations there are among them;
one, a clumsy house-dog, with stupidity written
on his face, walks the street with an important
air and imagines that he is an extremely important
person, and that the eyes of all the world
are fastened on him. I don't pay him the least
attention, and pretend not to see him at all.
“And what a hideous bulldog has taken up
his post opposite my window! If he stood on
his hind-legs, as the monster probably cannot,
he would be taller by a head than my mistress's
papa, who himself has a stately figure. This lout
seems, moreover, to be very impudent. I growl
at him, but he does not seem to mind that at all.
If he at least would only wrinkle his forehead!
Instead of that, he stretches out his tongue,
droops his big ears, and stares in at the window—this
rustic boor! But do you think, my dear,
that my heart remains proof against all temptations?
Alas no! If you had only seen that
gentlemanly dog who crept through the fence
of the neighbouring house. ‘Treasure’ is his
name. Ah, my dear, what a delightful snout he
(To the deuce with the stuff! What rubbish
it is! How can one blacken paper with such
absurdities. Give me a man. I want to see a
man! I need some food to nourish and refresh
my mind, and get this silliness instead. I will
turn the page to see if there is anything better
on the other side.)
“Sophie sat at the table and sewed something.
I looked out of the window and amused myself
by watching the passers-by. Suddenly a flunkey
entered and announced a visitor—‘Mr Teploff.’
“‘Show him in!’ said Sophie, and began to
embrace me. ‘Ah! Meggy, Meggy, do you
know who that is? He is dark, and belongs to
the Royal Household; and what eyes he has!
Dark and brilliant as fire.’
“Sophie hastened into her room. A minute
later a young gentleman with black whiskers
entered. He went to the mirror, smoothed his
hair, and looked round the room. I turned away
and sat down in my place.
“Sophie entered and returned his bow in a
“I pretended to observe nothing, and continued
to look out of the window. But I leant
my head a little on one side to hear what they
were talking about. Ah, my dear! what silly
things they discussed—how a lady executed the
wrong figure in dancing; how a certain Boboff,
with his expansive shirt-frill, had looked like a
stork and nearly fallen down; how a certain
Lidina imagined she had blue eyes when they
were really green, etc.
“I do not know, my dear, what special charm
she finds in her Mr Teploff, and why she is so
delighted with him.”
(It seems to me myself that there is something
wrong here. It is impossible that this Teploff
should bewitch her. We will see further.)
“If this gentleman of the Household pleases
her, then she must also be pleased, according to
my view, with that official who sits in her papa's
writing-room. Ah, my dear, if you know what
a figure he is! A regular tortoise!”
(What official does she mean?)
“He has an extraordinary name. He always
sits there and mends the pens. His hair looks
like a truss of hay. Her papa always employs
him instead of a servant.”
(I believe this abominable little beast is referring
to me. But what has my hair got to do with
“Sophie can never keep from laughing when
she sees him.”
You lie, cursed dog! What a scandalous
tongue! As if I did not know that it is envy
which prompts you, and that here there is
treachery at work—yes, the treachery of the
chief clerk. This man hates me implacably; he
has plotted against me, he is always seeking to
injure me. I'll look through one more letter;
perhaps it will make the matter clearer.
“Fidel, my dear, pardon me that I have not
written for so long. I was floating in a dream
of delight. In truth, some author remarks,
‘Love is a second life.’ Besides, great changes
are going on in the house. The young chamberlain
is always here. Sophie is wildly in love with
him. Her papa is quite contented. I heard
from Gregor, who sweeps the floor, and is in
the habit of talking to himself, that the marriage
will soon be celebrated. Her papa will at any
rate get his daughter married to a general, a
colonel, or a chamberlain.”
Deuce take it! I can read no more. It is
all about chamberlains and generals. I should
like myself to be a general—not in order to sue
for her hand and all that—no, not at all; I
should like to be a general merely in order to
see people wriggling, squirming, and hatching
plots before me.
And then I should like to tell them that they
are both of them not worth spitting on. But it is
vexatious! I tear the foolish dog's letters up in
a thousand pieces.
December 3rd.—It is not possible that the
marriage should take place; it is only idle gossip.
What does it signify if he is a chamberlain!
That is only a dignity, not a substantial thing
which one can see or handle. His chamberlain's
office will not procure him a third eye in his
forehead. Neither is his nose made of gold; it
is just like mine or anyone else's nose. He does
not eat and cough, but smells and sneezes with
it. I should like to get to the bottom of the
mystery—whence do all these distinctions come?
Why am I only a titular councillor?
Perhaps I am really a count or a general, and
only appear to be a titular councillor. Perhaps
I don't even know who and what I am. How
many cases there are in history of a simple
gentleman, or even a burgher or peasant, suddenly
turning out to be a great lord or
baron? Well, suppose that I appear suddenly
in a general's uniform, on the right shoulder an
epaulette, on the left an epaulette, and a blue
sash across my breast, what sort of a tune would
my beloved sing then? What would her papa,
our director, say? Oh, he is ambitious! He is
a freemason, certainly a freemason; however
much he may conceal it, I have found it out.
When he gives anyone his hand, he only reaches
out two fingers. Well, could not I this minute
be nominated a general or a superintendent? I
should like to know why I am a titular councillor—why
just that, and nothing more?
December 5th.—To-day I have been reading
papers the whole morning. Very strange things
are happening in Spain. I have not understood
them all. It is said that the throne is vacant,
the representatives of the people are in difficulties
about finding an occupant, and riots are
All this appears to me very strange. How can
the throne be vacant? It is said that it will be
occupied by a woman. A woman cannot sit on
a throne. That is impossible. Only a king can
sit on a throne. They say that there is no king
there, but that is not possible. There cannot be
a kingdom without a king. There must be a
king, but he is hidden away somewhere. Perhaps
he is actually on the spot, and only some
domestic complications, or fears of the neighbouring
Powers, France and other countries,
compel him to remain in concealment; there
might also be other reasons.
December 8th.—I was nearly going to the
office, but various considerations kept me from
doing so. I keep on thinking about these
Spanish affairs. How is it possible that a woman
should reign? It would not be allowed, especially
by England. In the rest of Europe the
political situation is also critical; the Emperor of
These events, to tell the truth, have so shaken
and shattered me, that I could really do nothing
all day. Mawra told me that I was very absent-minded
at table. In fact, in my absent-mindedness
I threw two plates on the ground so that
they broke in pieces.
After dinner I felt weak, and did not feel up
to making abstracts of reports. I lay most of
the time on my bed, and thought of the Spanish
The year 2000: April 43rd.—To-day is a day
of splendid triumph. Spain has a king; he has
been found, and I am he. I discovered it to-day;
all of a sudden it came upon me like a flash
I do not understand how I could imagine that
I am a titular councillor. How could such a
foolish idea enter my head? It was fortunate
that it occurred to no one to shut me up in an
asylum. Now it is all clear, and as plain as
a pikestaff. Formerly—I don't know why—everything
seemed veiled in a kind of mist.
That is, I believe, because people think that the
human brain is in the head. Nothing of the
sort; it is carried by the wind from the Caspian
For the first time I told Mawra who I am.
When she learned that the king of Spain stood
before her, she struck her hands together
over her head, and nearly died of alarm. The
stupid thing had never seen the king of Spain
I comforted her, however, at once by assuring
her that I was not angry with her for having
hitherto cleaned my boots badly. Women are
stupid things; one cannot interest them in
lofty subjects. She was frightened because she
thought all kings of Spain were like Philip II.
But I explained to her that there was a great
difference between me and him. I did not go
to the office. Why the deuce should I? No, my
dear friends, you won't get me there again! I
am not going to worry myself with your infernal
documents any more.
Marchember 86. Between day and night.—To-day
the office-messenger came and summoned
me, as I had not been there for three weeks. I
went just for the fun of the thing. The chief
clerk thought I would bow humbly before him,
and make excuses; but I looked at him quite
indifferently, neither angrily nor mildly, and sat
down quietly at my place as though I noticed no
one. I looked at all this rabble of scribblers,
and thought, “If you only knew who is sitting
among you! Good heavens! what a to-do you
would make. Even the chief clerk would bow
himself to the earth before me as he does now
before the director.”
A pile of reports was laid before me, of which
to make abstracts, but I did not touch them with
After a little time there was a commotion in
the office, and there a report went round that the
director was coming. Many of the clerks vied
with each other to attract his notice; but I did not
stir. As he came through our room, each one
hastily buttoned up his coat; but I had no idea
of doing anything of the sort. What is the
director to me? Should I stand up before him?
Never. What sort of a director is he? He is a
bottle-stopper, and no director. A quite ordinary,
simple bottle-stopper—nothing more. I
felt quite amused as they gave me a document
They thought I would simply put down my
name—“So-and-so, Clerk.” Why not? But
at the top of the sheet, where the director generally
writes his name, I inscribed “Ferdinand VIII.”
in bold characters. You should have
seen what a reverential silence ensued. But
I made a gesture with my hand, and said,
“Gentlemen, no ceremony please!” Then I
went out, and took my way straight to the
He was not at home. The flunkey wanted not
to let me in, but I talked to him in such a way
that he soon dropped his arms.
I went straight to Sophie's dressing-room.
She sat before the mirror. When she saw me,
she sprang up and took a step backwards; but I
did not tell her that I was the king of Spain.
But I told her that a happiness awaited her,
beyond her power to imagine; and that in spite
of all our enemies' devices we should be united.
That was all which I wished to say to her, and I
went out. Oh, what cunning creatures these
women are! Now I have found out what woman
really is. Hitherto no one knew whom a woman
really loves; I am the first to discover it—she
loves the devil. Yes, joking apart, learned men
write nonsense when they pronounce that she is
this and that; she loves the devil—that is all.
You see a woman looking through her lorgnette
from a box in the front row. One thinks she is
watching that stout gentleman who wears an
order. Not a bit of it! She is watching the
devil who stands behind his back. He has
hidden himself there, and beckons to her with
his finger. And she marries him—actually—she
That is all ambition, and the reason is that
there is under the tongue a little blister in which
there is a little worm of the size of a pin's head.
And this is constructed by a barber in Bean
Street; I don't remember his name at the
moment, but so much is certain that, in conjunction
with a midwife, he wants to spread
Mohammedanism all over the world, and that in
consequence of this a large number of people in
France have already adopted the faith of Islam.
No date. The day had no date.—I went for
a walk incognito on the Nevski Prospect. I
avoided every appearance of being the king of
Spain. I felt it below my dignity to let myself
be recognised by the whole world, since I must
first present myself at court. And I was also
restrained by the fact that I have at present no
Spanish national costume. If I could only get
a cloak! I tried to have a consultation with a
tailor, but these people are real asses! Moreover,
they neglect their business, dabble in
speculation, and have become loafers. I will
have a cloak made out of my new official uniform
which I have only worn twice. But to prevent
this botcher of a tailor spoiling it, I will make it
myself with closed doors, so that no one sees
me. Since the cut must be altogether altered,
I have used the scissors myself.
I don't remember the date. The devil knows
what month it was. The cloak is quite ready.
Mawra exclaimed aloud when I put it on. I
will, however, not present myself at court yet;
the Spanish deputation has not yet arrived. It
would not be befitting if I appeared without
them. My appearance would be less imposing.
From hour to hour I expect them.
The 1st.—The extraordinary long delay of the
deputies in coming astonishes me. What can
possibly keep them? Perhaps France has a hand
in the matter; it is certainly hostilely inclined.
I went to the post office to inquire whether the
Spanish deputation had come. The postmaster
is an extraordinary blockhead who knows
nothing. “No,” he said to me, “there is no
Spanish deputation here; but if you want to send
them a letter, we will forward it at the fixed
rate.” The deuce! What do I want with a
letter? Letters are nonsense. Letters are
written by apothecaries….
Madrid, February 30th.—So I am in Spain
after all! It has happened so quickly that I
could hardly take it in. The Spanish deputies
came early this morning, and I got with them
into the carriage. This unexpected promptness
seemed to me strange. We drove so quickly
that in half an hour we were at the Spanish
frontier. Over all Europe now there are cast-iron
roads, and the steamers go very fast. A
wonderful country, this Spain!
As we entered the first room, I saw numerous
persons with shorn heads. I guessed at once
that they must be either grandees or soldiers, at
least to judge by their shorn heads.
The Chancellor of the State, who led me by
the hand, seemed to me to behave in a very
strange way; he pushed me into a little room
and said, “Stay here, and if you call yourself
‘King Ferdinand’ again, I will drive the wish
to do so out of you.”
I knew, however, that that was only a test,
and I reasserted my conviction; on which the
Chancellor gave me two such severe blows with
a stick on the back, that I could have cried out
with the pain. But I restrained myself, remembering
that this was a usual ceremony of old-time
chivalry when one was inducted into a high
position, and in Spain the laws of chivalry
prevail up to the present day. When I was
alone, I determined to study State affairs; I
discovered that Spain and China are one and the
same country, and it is only through ignorance
that people regard them as separate kingdoms.
everyone urgently to write down the
word “Spain” on a sheet of paper; he will see
that it is quite the same as China.
But I feel much annoyed by an event which is
about to take place to-morrow; at seven o'clock
the earth is going to sit on the moon. This is
foretold by the famous English chemist, Wellington.
To tell the truth, I often felt uneasy
when I thought of the excessive brittleness and
fragility of the moon. The moon is generally
repaired in Hamburg, and very imperfectly. It
is done by a lame cooper, an obvious blockhead
who has no idea how to do it. He took waxed
thread and olive-oil—hence that pungent smell
over all the earth which compels people to hold
their noses. And this makes the moon so fragile
that no men can live on it, but only noses.
Therefore we cannot see our noses, because they
are on the moon.
When I now pictured to myself how the earth,
that massive body, would crush our noses to
dust, if it sat on the moon, I became so uneasy,
that I immediately put on my shoes and stockings
and hastened into the council-hall to give
the police orders to prevent the
The grandees with the shorn heads, whom
I met in great numbers in the hall, were
very intelligent people, and when I exclaimed,
“Gentlemen! let us save the moon, for the earth
is going to sit on it,” they all set to work to fulfil
my imperial wish, and many of them clambered
up the wall in order to take the moon down.
At that moment the Imperial Chancellor came in.
As soon as he appeared, they all scattered, but I
alone, as king, remained. To my astonishment,
however, the Chancellor beat me with the stick
and drove me to my room. So powerful are
ancient customs in Spain!
January in the same year, following after
February.—I can never understand what kind
of a country this Spain really is. The popular
customs and rules of court etiquette are quite
extraordinary. I do not understand them at all,
at all. To-day my head was shorn, although I
exclaimed as loudly as I could, that I did
not want to be a monk. What happened afterwards,
when they began to let cold water trickle
on my head, I do not know. I have never
experienced such hellish torments. I nearly
went mad, and they had difficulty in holding me.
The significance of this strange custom is entirely
hidden from me. It is a very foolish and unreasonable
Nor can I understand the stupidity of the kings
who have not done away with it before now.
Judging by all the circumstances, it seems to me
as though I had fallen into the hands of the
Inquisition, and as though the man whom I took
to be the Chancellor was the Grand Inquisitor.
But yet I cannot understand how the king could
fall into the hands of the Inquisition. The affair
may have been arranged by France—especially
Polignac—he is a hound, that Polignac! He
has sworn to compass my death, and now he is
hunting me down. But I know, my friend, that
you are only a tool of the English. They are
clever fellows, and have a finger in every pie.
All the world knows that France sneezes when
England takes a pinch of snuff.
The 25th.—To-day the Grand Inquisitor came
into my room; when I heard his steps in the
distance, I hid myself under a chair. When
he did not see me, he began to call. At first he
called “Poprishchin!” I made no answer.
Then he called “Axanti Ivanovitch! Titular
Councillor! Nobleman!” I still kept silence.
“Ferdinand the Eighth, King of Spain!” I
was on the point of putting out my head, but I
thought, “No, brother, you shall not deceive
me! You shall not pour water on my head
But he had already seen me and drove me from
under the chair with his stick. The cursed stick
really hurts one. But the following discovery
compensated me for all the pain, i.e. that every
cock has his Spain under his feathers. The
Grand Inquisitor went angrily away, and threatened
me with some punishment or other. I felt
only contempt for his powerless spite, for I know
that he only works like a machine, like a tool of
34 March. February, 349.—No, I have no
longer power to endure. O God! what are they
going to do with me? They pour cold water on
my head. They take no notice of me, and seem
neither to see nor hear. Why do they torture
me? What do they want from one so wretched
as myself? What can I give them? I possess
nothing. I cannot bear all their tortures; my
head aches as though everything were turning
round in a circle. Save me! Carry me away!
Give me three steeds swift as the wind! Mount
your seat, coachman, ring bells, gallop horses,
and carry me straight out of this world. Farther,
ever farther, till nothing more is to be seen!
Ah! the heaven bends over me already; a star
glimmers in the distance; the forest with its dark
trees in the moonlight rushes past; a bluish mist
floats under my feet; music sounds in the cloud;
on the one side is the sea, on the other, Italy;
beyond I also see Russian peasants' houses. Is
not my parents' house there in the distance?
Does not my mother sit by the window? O
mother, mother, save your unhappy son! Let a
tear fall on his aching head! See how they
torture him! Press the poor orphan to your
bosom! He has no rest in this world; they hunt
him from place to place.
Mother, mother, have pity on your sick child!
And do you know that the Bey of Algiers has a
wart under his nose?