Crime and Punishment HTML version

Though always sickly and delicate Dostoevsky came out third in the
final examination of the Petersburg school of Engineering. There he had
already begun his first work, "Poor Folk."
This story was published by the poet Nekrassov in his review and
was received with acclamations. The shy, unknown youth found himself
instantly something of a celebrity. A brilliant and successful career
seemed to open before him, but those hopes were soon dashed. In 1849 he
was arrested.
Though neither by temperament nor conviction a revolutionist, Dostoevsky
was one of a little group of young men who met together to read Fourier
and Proudhon. He was accused of "taking part in conversations against
the censorship, of reading a letter from Byelinsky to Gogol, and of
knowing of the intention to set up a printing press." Under Nicholas
I. (that "stern and just man," as Maurice Baring calls him) this was
enough, and he was condemned to death. After eight months' imprisonment
he was with twenty-one others taken out to the Semyonovsky Square to
be shot. Writing to his brother Mihail, Dostoevsky says: "They snapped
words over our heads, and they made us put on the white shirts worn by
persons condemned to death. Thereupon we were bound in threes to stakes,
to suffer execution. Being the third in the row, I concluded I had only
a few minutes of life before me. I thought of you and your dear ones and
I contrived to kiss Plestcheiev and Dourov, who were next to me, and to
bid them farewell. Suddenly the troops beat a tattoo, we were unbound,
brought back upon the scaffold, and informed that his Majesty had spared
us our lives." The sentence was commuted to hard labour.
One of the prisoners, Grigoryev, went mad as soon as he was untied, and
never regained his sanity.
The intense suffering of this experience left a lasting stamp on
Dostoevsky's mind. Though his religious temper led him in the end to
accept every suffering with resignation and to regard it as a blessing
in his own case, he constantly recurs to the subject in his writings.
He describes the awful agony of the condemned man and insists on the
cruelty of inflicting such torture. Then followed four years of penal
servitude, spent in the company of common criminals in Siberia, where
he began the "Dead House," and some years of service in a disciplinary
He had shown signs of some obscure nervous disease before his arrest
and this now developed into violent attacks of epilepsy, from which he
suffered for the rest of his life. The fits occurred three or four times
a year and were more frequent in periods of great strain. In 1859 he was
allowed to return to Russia. He started a journal--"Vremya," which was
forbidden by the Censorship through a misunderstanding. In 1864 he lost
his first wife and his brother Mihail. He was in terrible poverty, yet