Dmitry Ionych Startsev is a physician in a provincial town. He is frequently entertained by the Turkins, the town's most cultivated residents. He falls in love with their daughter, Yekaterina, who teases the doctor by asking him to meet her in the cemetery at 11 PM and then not showing up. Finally, she rejects his suit coldly, saying that she must go to Moscow and study at the conservatory.

Four years later, Startsev has gotten corpulent, built a big practice, become affluent, and lost all interest in romance. Yekaterina returns and tries to rekindle their affair, but Startsev becomes irritated and says to himself, "What a jolly good thing I didn't marry her!" In the end, he just becomes fatter and more irritable, and he shouts at his patients.


Startsev is one of Chekhov's insensitive and psychologically ignorant physicians, the type of doctor decried by Nikolai Stepanovich in A Boring Story (see this database). He has no understanding of the Turkins' inner lives or turmoil, nor can he distinguish real artistic talent, which the Turkins lack, from mere show. He becomes hardened in the face of suffering and devotes his life to financial reward. This is reflected in his deplorable treatment of patients.

For an interesting commentary on Chekhov's "doctor tales" see: Angela Belli, "Anton Chekhov's Tales: The Physician-Patient Encounter," Medical Heritage, May/June 1985, 158-67.


First published: 1898. Translated by David Magarshack.

Primary Source

Lady With Lapdog and Other Stories



Place Published





David Magarshack