Andreyev was born at Orel in 1871 and was graduated from the gymnasium there. According to his own testimony, he never seems to have been a promising student. “In the seventh form,” he tells us, “I was always at the bottom of my class.” He lost his father early, and often went hungry while studying law at the University of St. Petersburg. In the University of Moscow, to which he went next, he fared better. One of the means that he used to eke out a livelihood was portrait painting to order, and in this work he finally attained such proficiency that his price rose from $1.50 apiece to $6.00.
In 1897 he began to practise law, but he gave most of his time to reporting court cases for the “Courier,” a Moscow newspaper, and later to writing feuilletons and stories. He tried only one civil case, and that one he lost. His work in the “Courier” attracted Gorky’s attention, and the older writer zealously interested himself in Andreyev’s behalf.
In 1902 his story named “The Abyss” appeared and created a sensation immediately. Even Countess Tolstoy joined in the dispute which raged over this story, attacking it as matter unfit for literature. But the verdict of Andreyev’s generation was in his favor. Since then nearly every new work of his has been received as an important event in Russia and has sent the critics scurrying to his attack or defence. His first drama, “To the Stars,” appeared while the Russians were engaged in fighting for liberty (1905), and, naturally enough, it reflects that struggle. “Savva” was published early the next year, and “The Life of Man” later in the same year. The production of “Savva” is prohibited in Russia. It has been played in Vienna and Berlin, and recently it was staged again in Berlin by “Die Freie Buehne,” meeting with signal success.
A CHRONOLOGICAL LIST OF PLAYS
By LEONID ANDREYEV
TO THE STARS (K Zviezdam), 1905;
SAVVA (Savva), 1906;
THE LIFE OF MAN (Zhizn Chelovieka), 1906;
KING HUNGER (Tzar Golod), 1907;
THE BLACK MASKS (Chiorniya Maski), 1908;
THE DAYS OF OUR LIFE (Dni Nashey Zhizni), 1908;
ANATHEMA (Anatema), 1909;
ANFISSA (Anfissa), 1909;
GAUDEAMUS (Gaudeamus), 1910;
THE OCEAN (Okean), 1911;
“HONOR” ("Chest"), 1911 (?);
THE PRETTY SABINE WOMEN (Prekrasniya Sabinianki), 1911;
PROFESSOR STORITZYN (Professor Storitzyn), 1912;
CATHERINE (Yekaterina Ivanovna), 1913;
THOU SHALT NOT KILL (Ne Ubi), 1914.
SAVVA or IGNIS SANAT
A PLAY IN FOUR ACTS
YEGOR IVANOVICH TROPININ, innkeeper in a monastic suburb. An elderly man of about fifty, with an important manner and a item, dignified way of speaking.