A summary of British and American evaluations of Anton Chekhov's writings affords an insight into the nature of international literary criticism. Chekhov's slow, steady climb to recognition shows the extent to which non-literary factors influence the formation of critical judgment. It also shows how a critical approach can slowly evolve until it is very useful in explaining novel literary effects.
As might be expected, Chekhov's works were known earlier in France and Germany than in England, and earlier in England than in America. As early as 1888, the year his collection of stories In Twilight received the Pushkin Prize from the Imperial Academy of Sciences, Chekhov began to be mentioned in the annual reviews of continental literature published in the Athenaeum. The first extended notice of Chekhov in England, however, came in 1891, when E. J. Dillon cited Chekhov as an example of the Russian writer whose works suffered because he was subjected to a number of fetters. As important as the rigid governmental censorship, and perhaps stemming ultimately from it, said Dillon, was the tyrannous yoke of a capricious and coarse-minded public, the cupidity of uneducated editors and publishers, and the narrow limits of self-appointed critics.
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