Critics used to compare his scenes to paintings by Pavel Fedotov. His was juiciness of
natural brightness, dramatism, strong emotions, bright humour and unforgettable, lavishly
painted characters. Ostrovsky was regarded as a real master of language. Back in 1859
Nikolai Dobrolyubov (in his Realm of Darklness essay) remarked that many phrases he
coined were being eagerly adopted by people and attributed the quality of folk sayings,
common people talk. "Nobody has had such glorious, tasteful and clear Russian language
before Ostrovsky," Turgenev wrote.
Ostrovsky is considered a master of the realistic drama, being praised in particular
for his insight into the psychology of the Russian people, and many of his well-drawn
characters are favorites among Russian actors and audiences. While international
recognition of his talent has been limited by the difficulties of translating his heavily
idiomatic dialogue, his contributions remain central to the development of modern
Russian drama. Detractors often referred to Ostrovsky as a vain man but this has not been
corroborated by facts. He's failed to write a comprehensive autobiography and did
nothing to present himself in a 'winning' way to the posterity. He's never kept diaries and
his letters were informational, obviously never meant to be preserved. In 1879, answering
Russkaya Starina’s Mikhail Semevsky who was asking for memoirs, Ostrovsky replied:
“ I've been for quite a while cherishing a dream of how after all I'll start a book of
memoirs and relax a bit, enjoying myself, but now I know for sure that this will only be
dreams, nothing more. To put my reminiscences in order I need some rest and peace -
two things I haven't got and never will have... Every moment of my life I do my work for
theatre or thinking ahead, making plans for new plots, dogged by this chronic fear of
finding myself without new plays - in other words, without a piece of bread for my
family. So memoirs is the last thing that's on my mind.”
Most of Ostrovsky's letters (including those to Nikolai Nekrasov, biographer S.
Maksimov and friend Ivan Gorbunov) disappeared. The dramatist's son S.A. Ostrovsky
when he was going to the World War I promised to hand to Knyaznin (Apollon
Grigoriev's biographer) all the Ostrovsky's letters he had in his disposal, but never did so.
In Shchelykovo huge amount of papers has been destroyed through negligence. The first
academic works dealing with Ostrovsky and his legacy started to appear only in the
Soviet times, via scholars N. Kashin, N. Dolgov, A. Revyakin, A. Lotman, E. Kholodov,
V. Lakshin. Still, there are many gaps in his biography, unconfirmed dates and
uncorroborated facts, according to Lakshin.