translation and comments ©1998, Joan Saberhagen


TO: F.M Dostoevskii
PLACE: Petersburg
DATE: A Thursday evening, 1876

Don't be angry my friend Fedor Mikailovich, because I didn't write you this evening as I had promised! I returned home so late that it was impossible to post a note to you.

The name of the woman on whose behalf you promised to make an effort is Vera Sergeevna Goncharova (she is the niece of Pushkin's wife). Her request is that she be allowed to meet and correspond with her groom Pavlovich. I ask you also to note that the mentioned person does not suppose that her sister, about whom I spoke to you, could be in Petersburg now. So, back to my original request, I'm trusting that you will, as a good deed, present this request to Koni.

I thank you in advance.

From my heart, I am your devoted

Sof'ia Kovalevskaia.

Give my regards to Anna Gregor'evna. Each time I speak with her I like her more and more.


All of the letters of SV Kovalevskaia to FM Dostoevskii are taken from the originals in the AG Dostoevskaia archive in the Manuscsript department of the all soviet library, VI Lenin in Moscow. The letters are not dated, however AG Dostoevskaia marked on the little sheets in which they had been enclosed: "All those without a marked year and date are from the years 1876-1878 when Kovalevskaia lived in Petersburg." On one of the letters the marking of Anna Gregor'evna clarify the date. By means of their content, these five letters relate to 1876-1877. From the dates of Dostoevskii's letters to various people during these two years it is clear that in 1876 he was in Petersburg from January to June, at Staraya Russ [Old Russia -- Dostoevskii's home outside S.P] in the second half of June in Berlin and Ems from the 7th of July until the 6th of August; in 1877, he was in Petersburg from the beginning of the year until March 19th, at Mali Prikol (Kurskaia District) in June, in Petersburg from the end of June until the end of the year. All the letters of Kovalevskaia were posted in Petersburg by special messenger. Considering the information on the where abouts of Dostoevskii in 1876-1877 somewhat more precisely dates the letters of SV Kovalevskaia to him. On the first letter in the hand of AG Dostoevskaia is marked "1876".

See the essay "Meetings with Goncharova" appearing in ViP. This was the basis of NIHILIST GIRL by SV Kovalevskaia.

Anatol Fedorovich Koni (1844-1927) was head of the Petersburg circuit court at the time of the trial of Vera Zasulich (31 March 1878) who had been indicted by the town governor of Petersburg for the attempted murder of General FF Trepov (24 January 1878). He had to help Goncharova obtain permission for a meeting with Pavlovskii. Dostoevskii was an acquaintence of AF Koni from 1883 * when he rendered the famous author a good turn in connection with his literary-legal dealings.

Anna Grigor'evna was FM Dostoevskii's wife.

*COMMENT by Joan Spicci Saberhagen

The date 1883 must be a misprint, probably for1873. Biographies of Dostoevsky relate Dostoevsky meeting with Koni over another issue in 1873-74. There is a letter from Dostoevsky to Koni dated Feb 1874. See SELECTED LETTERS OF FYODOR DOSTOYEVSKY, Joseph Frank and David Goldstein, Rutgers, 1987, p384-385.