Monday, April 8, 2013
In Part VI, Chapter 4 of Fyodor Dosteovsky's Crime & Punishment (beginning on page 834 in this version), Svidrigailov, the unrepentant libertine whose attentions nearly ruined the life of Raskolnikov's sister, Avdotya (Dunya) Romanovna, describes to Raskolnikov the nature of what Svidrigailov characterizes as his "contract" with his (now decesased) wife, Marfa Petrovna.
According to Svidrigailov (and he is by no means a reliable narrator), the agreement, which he specifies was unwritten, had the following terms:
1. Svidrigailov would never leave Marfa Petrovna and would always be her husband;
2. He would never absent himself from her without her permission;
3. That he would never take on a "permanent mistress";
4. In return, Marfa Petrovna would give Svidrigailov "a free hand with the maidservants, but only with her secret knowledge";
5. Svidrigailov was expressly forbidden to faill in love with a woman of his own station;
6. But should 5 occur, Svidrigailov must reveal that fact to Marfa Petrovna.
So this sounds like a prenuptial agreement that would not be enforceable because not reduced to writing. Anybody out there know the 19th-century Russian rule on such matters? Moreoever, without a remedial provision, it is not clear what this contract accomplishes.