London: John Lehmann, 1950. Octavo measuring 8.75 x 5.75 inches, original full blue cloth, spine ornamented in gilt, spine label stamped in black with gilt lettering, original unclipped grey, yellow and white pictorial dust jacket designed by Lynton Lamb, top edge stained blue. Portrait of Chekhov on title page and chapter headpieces throughout by Lamb. Title page printed in blue and black. Faint offsetting to endpapers from jacket flaps.
First edition in English of this star-crossed love story, a memoir of the author’s relationship with Anton Chekhov during the decade in which he wrote his major plays. When they first met, Avilov was already married and a mother; nevertheless, she and Chekhov maintained an intimate correspondence over the next ten years, full of quiet, charged conflicts like those that punctuate Chekhov’s drama. Avilov herself was a writer, and Chekhov’s letters contain much practical advice for her: “You feel a landscape and you describe it very well, but you don’t know how to economise, and one comes across the same landscape over and over again where it is not wanted.” Avilov describes Chekhov’s rise to fame, as well as the day he failed to meet her because he had begun coughing blood. (A few years later he would die of tuberculosis at the age of 44.) A fresh, near-fine copy of an intriguing, if sometimes suspect, primary source.