The Idiot

By Fyodor Dostoevsky
913 pages

This sort of character is met with pretty frequently in a certain class. They are people who know everyone—that is, they know where a man is employed, what his salary is, whom he knows, whom he married, what money his wife had, who are his cousins, and second cousins, etc., etc. These men generally have about a hundred pounds a year to live on, and they spend their whole time and talents in the amassing of this style of knowledge, which they reduce—or raise—to the standard of a science.

During the latter part of the conversation the black-haired young man had become very impatient. He stared out of the window, and fidgeted, and evidently longed for the end of the journey. He was very absent; he would appear to listen-and heard nothing; and he would laugh of a sudden, evidently with no idea of what he was laughing about.

‘Excuse me,’ said the red-nosed man to the young fellow with the bundle, rather suddenly; ‘whom have I the honour to be talking to?’

‘Prince Lef Nicolaievitch Muishkin,’ replied the latter, with perfect readiness.

‘Prince Muishkin? Lef Nicolaievitch? H’m! I don’t know, I’m sure! I may say I have never heard of such a person,’ said the clerk, thoughtfully. ‘At least, the name, I admit, is historical. Karamsin must mention the family name, of course, in his historybut as an individual—one never hears of any Prince Muishkin nowadays.’

‘Of course not,’ replied the prince; ‘there are none, except myself. I believe I am the last and only one. As to my forefathers, they have always been a poor lot; my own father was a sublieutenant in the army. I don’t know how Mrs. Epanchin comes into the Muishkin family, but she is descended from the Princess Muishkin, and she, too, is the last of her line.’

‘And did you learn science and all that, with your professor over there?’ asked the black-haired passenger.

‘Oh yes—I did learn a little, but—‘

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