It was 127 years ago. Chekhov was 26 years old when he wrote a letter to his 28-year old brother outlining the eight qualities that must be satisfied for people to be cultured.
“Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (1860-1904) was a Russian physician and author who is considered to be among the greatest writers of short stories in history. He practiced as a doctor throughout most of his literary career stating: ‘Medicine is my lawful wife. And, literature is my mistress.’”
A excellent post by Brain Pickings shares excerpts from Chekhov’s letter to his brother. The post is worth reading in its entirety. Here are a few of my favorites:
“Cultured people must, in my opinion, satisfy the following conditions:
1) They respect human personality, and therefore they are always kind, gentle, polite, and ready to give in to others…
2) They have sympathy not for beggars and cats alone…They sit up at night in order to help to pay for brothers at the University, and to buy clothes for their mother.
3) They respect the property of others, and therefor pay their debts.
4) They are sincere, and dread lying like fire. They don’t lie even in small things. A lie is insulting to the listener and puts him in a lower position in the eyes of the speaker. They do not pose, they behave in the street as they do at home, they do not show off before their humbler comrades. They are not given to babbling and forcing their uninvited confidences on others. Out of respect for other people’s ears they more often keep silent than talk.
6) They have no shallow vanity. They do not care for such false diamonds as knowing celebrities, shaking hands with the drunken…The truly talented always keep in obscurity among the crowd, as far as possible from advertisement…. Even Krylov has said that an empty barrel echoes more loudly than a full one.
7) If they have a talent they respect it. They sacrifice to it rest, women, wine, vanity…. They are proud of their talent…. Besides, they are fastidious…”