Alexey Fyodorovitch Karamazov was the third son of Fyodor PavlovitchKaramazov, a land owner well known in our district in his own day, andstill remembered among us owing to his gloomy and tragic death, whichhappened thirteen years ago, and which I shall describe in its properplace. For the present I will only say that this “landowner”—for so weused to call him, although he hardly spent a day of his life on his ownestate—was a strange type, yet one pretty frequently to be met with, atype abject and vicious and at the same time senseless. But he was one ofthose senseless persons who are very well capable of looking after theirworldly affairs, and, apparently, after nothing else. Fyodor 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, yetat his death it appeared that he had a hundred thousand roubles in hardcash. At the same time, he was all his life one of the most senseless,fantastical fellows in the whole district. I repeat, it was notstupidity—the majority of these fantastical fellows are shrewd andintelligent enough—but just senselessness, and a peculiar national form ofit.
He was married twice, and had three sons, the eldest, Dmitri, by his firstwife, and two, Ivan and Alexey, by his second. Fyodor Pavlovitch’s firstwife, Adelaïda Ivanovna, belonged to a fairly rich and distinguished noblefamily, also landowners in our district, the Miüsovs. How it came to passthat an heiress, who was also a beauty, and moreover one of thosevigorous, intelligent girls, so common in this generation, but sometimesalso to be found in the last, could have married such a worthless, punyweakling, as we all called him, I won’t attempt to explain. I knew a younglady of the last “romantic” generation who after some years of anenigmatic passion for a gentleman, whom she might quite easily havemarried at any moment, invented insuperable obstacles to their union, andended by throwing herself one stormy night into a rather deep and rapidriver from a high bank, almost a precipice, and so perished, entirely tosatisfy her own caprice, and to be like Shakespeare’s Ophelia. Indeed, ifthis precipice, a chosen and favorite spot of hers, had been lesspicturesque, if there had been a prosaic flat bank in its place, mostlikely the suicide would never have taken place. This is a fact, andprobably there have been not a few similar instances in the last two orthree generations. Adelaïda Ivanovna Miüsov’s action was similarly, nodoubt, an echo of other people’s ideas, and was due to the irritationcaused by lack of mental freedom. She wanted, perhaps, to show herfeminine independence, to override class distinctions and the despotism ofher family. And a pliable imagination persuaded her, we must suppose, fora brief moment, that Fyodor Pavlovitch, in spite of his parasiticposition, was one of the bold and ironical spirits of that progressiveepoch, though he was, in fact, an ill‐natured buffoon and nothing more.What gave the marriage piquancy was that it was preceded by an elopement,and this greatly captivated Adelaïda Ivanovna’s fancy. Fyodor Pavlovitch’sposition at the time made him specially eager for any such enterprise, forhe was passionately anxious to make a career in one way or another. Toattach himself to a good family and obtain a dowry was an alluringprospect. As for mutual love it did not exist apparently, either in thebride or in him, in spite of Adelaïda Ivanovna’s beauty. This was,perhaps, a unique case of the kind in the life of Fyodor Pavlovitch, whowas always of a voluptuous temper, and ready to run after any petticoat onthe slightest encouragement. She seems to have been the only woman whomade no particular appeal to his senses.
Immediately after the elopement Adelaïda Ivanovna discerned in a flashthat she had no feeling for her husband but contempt. The marriageaccordingly showed itself in its true colors with extraordinary rapidity.Although the family accepted the event pretty quickly and apportioned therunaway bride her dowry, the husband and wife began to lead a mostdisorderly life, and there were everlasting scenes between them. It wassaid that the young wife showed incomparably more generosity and dignitythan Fyodor Pavlovitch, who, as is now known, got hold of all her money upto twenty‐five thousand roubles as soon as she received it, so that thosethousands were lost to her for ever. The little village and the ratherfine town house which formed part of her dowry he did his utmost for along time to transfer to his name, by means of some deed of conveyance. Hewould probably have succeeded, merely from her moral fatigue and desire toget rid of him, and from the contempt and loathing he aroused by hispersistent and shameless importunity. But, fortunately, AdelaïdaIvanovna’s family intervened and circumvented his greediness. It is knownfor a fact that frequent fights took place between the husband and wife,but rumor had it that Fyodor Pavlovitch did not beat his wife but wasbeaten by her, for she was a hot‐tempered, bold, dark‐browed, impatientwoman, possessed of remarkable physical strength. Finally, she left thehouse and ran away from Fyodor Pavlovitch with a destitute divinitystudent, leaving Mitya, a child of three years old, in her husband’shands. Immediately Fyodor Pavlovitch introduced a regular harem into thehouse, and abandoned himself to orgies of drunkenness. In the intervals heused to drive all over the province, complaining tearfully to each and allof Adelaïda Ivanovna’s having left him, going into details too disgracefulfor a husband to mention in regard to his own married life. What seemed togratify him and flatter his self‐love most was to play the ridiculous partof the injured husband, and to parade his woes with embellishments.
“One would think that you’d got a promotion, Fyodor Pavlovitch, you seemso pleased in spite of your sorrow,” scoffers said to him. Many even addedthat he was glad of a new comic part in which to play the buffoon, andthat it was simply to make it funnier that he pretended to be unaware ofhis ludicrous position. But, who knows, it may have been simplicity. Atlast he succeeded in getting on the track of his runaway wife. The poorwoman turned out to be in Petersburg, where she had gone with her divinitystudent, and where she had thrown herself into a life of completeemancipation. Fyodor Pavlovitch at once began bustling about, makingpreparations to go to Petersburg, with what object he could not himselfhave said. He would perhaps have really gone; but having determined to doso he felt at once entitled to fortify himself for the journey by anotherbout of reckless drinking. And just at that time his wife’s familyreceived the news of her death in Petersburg. She had died quite suddenlyin a garret, according to one story, of typhus, or as another version hadit, of starvation. Fyodor Pavlovitch was drunk when he heard of his wife’sdeath, and the story is that he ran out into the street and began shoutingwith joy, raising his hands to Heaven: “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servantdepart in peace,” but others say he wept without restraint like a littlechild, so much so that people were sorry for him, in spite of therepulsion he inspired. It is quite possible that both versions were true,that he rejoiced at his release, and at the same time wept for her whoreleased him. As a general rule, people, even the wicked, are much morenaïve and simple‐hearted than we suppose. And we ourselves are, too.