Anton Chekhov’s Eight Criteria That Define Civilized People

Chekhov was a Russian physician, dramatist and author who is considered to be among the greatest writers of short stories in history. 

‘Civilized people must, I believe, satisfy the following criteria:

  1. They respect human beings as individuals and are therefore always tolerant, gentle, courteous and amenable … They do not create scenes over a hammer or a mislaid eraser; they do not make you feel they are conferring a great benefit on you when they live with you, and they don’t make a scandal when they leave. (…)
  2. They have compassion for other people besides beggars and cats. Their hearts suffer the pain of what is hidden to the naked eye. (…)
  3. They respect other people’s property, and therefore pay their debts.
  4. They are not devious, and they fear lies as they fear fire. They don’t tell lies even in the most trivial matters. To lie to someone is to insult them, and the liar is diminished in the eyes of the person he lies to. Civilized people don’t put on airs; they behave in the street as they would at home, they don’t show off to impress their juniors. (…)
  5. They don’t run themselves down in order to provoke the sympathy of others. They don’t play on other people’s heartstrings to be sighed over and cosseted … that sort of thing is just cheap striving for effects, it’s vulgar, old hat and false. (…)
  6. They are not vain. They don’t waste time with the fake jewellery of hobnobbing with celebrities, being permitted to shake the hand of a drunken [judicial orator], the exaggerated bonhomie of the first person they meet at the Salon, being the life and soul of the bar … They regard praises like ‘I am a representative of the Press!!’ — the sort of thing one only hears from [very minor journalists] — as absurd. If they have done a brass farthing’s work they don’t pass it off as if it were 100 roubles’ by swanking about with their portfolios, and they don’t boast of being able to gain admission to places other people aren’t allowed in (…) True talent always sits in the shade, mingles with the crowd, avoids the limelight … As Krylov said, the empty barrel makes more noise than the full one. (…)
  7. If they do possess talent, they value it … They take pride in it … they know they have a responsibility to exert a civilizing influence on [others] rather than aimlessly hanging out with them. And they are fastidious in their habits. (…)
  8. They work at developing their aesthetic sensibility … Civilized people don’t simply obey their baser instincts … they require mens sana in corpore sano.

And so on. That’s what civilized people are like … Reading Pickwick and learning a speech from Faust by heart is not enough if your aim is to become a truly civilized person and not to sink below the level of your surroundings.’

[From a letter to Nikolay Chekhov, March 1886]
~ Anton ChekhovA Life in Letters

Learn more about Anton Chekhov, born 29 January 1860, died 15 July 1904

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Literary Birthday - 29 January - Anton Chekhov

Anton Chekhov was born 29 January 1860, and died 15 July 1904

There should be more sincerity and heart in human relations, more silence and simplicity in our interactions. Be rude when you’re angry, laugh when something is funny, and answer when you’re asked.

15 Quotes on Writing

  1. One usually dislikes a play while writing it, but afterwards it grows on one.
  2. Write only of what is important and eternal.
  3. Be sure not to discuss your hero's state of mind. Make it clear from his actions.
  4. All I wanted was to say honestly to people: ‘Have a look at yourselves and see how bad and dreary your lives are!’ The important thing is that people should realize that, for when they do, they will most certainly create another and better life for themselves.
  5. There is nothing new in art except talent.
  6. Medicine is my lawful wife and literature my mistress; when I get tired of one, I spend the night with the other. 
  7. Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. 
  8. The task of a writer is not to solve the problem but to state the problem correctly.
  9. My own experience is that once a story has been written, one has to cross out the beginning and the end. It is there that we authors do most of our lying.
  10. A writer is not a confectioner, a cosmetic dealer, or an entertainer. 
  11. He who desires nothing, hopes for nothing, and is afraid of nothing, cannot be an artist.
  12. It’s easier to write about Socrates than about a young woman or a cook.
  13. When describing nature, a writer should seize upon small details, arranging them so that the reader will see an image in his mind after he closes his eyes. 
  14. The role of the artist is to ask questions, not answer them.
  15. Wisdom…. comes not from age, but from education and learning.

Read Anton Chekhov’s Eight Criteria That Define Civilized People

Chekhov was a Russian physician, dramatist and author who is considered to be among the greatest writers of short stories in history. His career as a dramatist produced four classics and his best short stories are held in high esteem by writers and critics. Chekhov practised as a doctor throughout most of his literary career.

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 by Amanda Patterson. Follow her on  Pinterest,  Facebook,  LinkedIn,  Google+,  Tumblr,  and  Twitter.

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Quotable - Writers on Writing

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