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The Project Gutenberg EBook of Tolstoy, by Romain Rolland

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Title: Tolstoy

Author: Romain Rolland

Translator: Bernard Miall

Release Date: July 13, 2015 [EBook #49435]

Language: English


Produced by Clare Graham and Marc D'Hooghe at



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To those of my own generation, the light that has but lately failed was the purest that illuminedtheir youth. In the gloomy twilight of the later nineteenth century it shone as a star ofconsolation, whose radiance attracted and appeased our awakening spirits. As one of the many—for there are many in France—to whom Tolstoy was very much more than an admired artist:for whom he was a friend, the best of friends, the one true friend in the whole of European art—I wish to lay before this sacred memory my tribute of gratitude and of love.The days when I learned to know him are days that I shall never forget. It was in 1886. Aftersome years of silent germination the marvellous flowers of Russian art began to blossom on thesoil of France. Translations of Tolstoy and of Dostoyevsky were being issued in feverish hasteby all the publishing houses of Paris. Between the years '85 and '87 came War and Peace, AnnaKarenin, Childhood and Youth, Polikushka, The Death of Ivan Ilyitch, the novels of theCaucasus, and the Tales for the People . In the space of a few months, almost of a few weeks,there was revealed to our eager eyes the presentment of a vast, unfamiliar life, in which wasreflected a new people, a new world.I had but newly entered the Normal College. My fellow-scholars were of widely divergentopinions. In our little world were such realistic and ironical spirits as the philosopher Georges


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Dumas; poets, like Suarès, burning with love of the Italian Renaissance; faithful disciples ofclassic tradition; Stendhalians, Wagnerians, atheists and mystics. It was a world of plentifuldiscussion, plentiful disagreement; but for a period of some months we were nearly all united bya common love of Tolstoy. It is true that each loved him for different reasons, for eachdiscovered in him himself; but this love was a love that opened the door to a revelation of life;to the wide world itself. On every side—in our families, in our country homes—this mightyvoice, which spoke from the confines of Europe, awakened the same emotions, unexpected asthey often were. I remember my amazement upon hearing some middle-class people ofNivernais, my native province—people who felt no interest whatever in art, people who readpractically nothing—speak with the most intense feeling of The Death of Ivan Ilyitch.I have read, in the writings of distinguished critics, the theory that Tolstoy owed the best of hisideas to the French romantics: to George Sand, to Victor Hugo. We may ignore the absurdity ofsupposing that Tolstoy, who could not endure her, could ever have been subject to the influenceof George Sand; but we cannot deny the influence of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and of Stendhal;nevertheless, we belittle the greatness of Tolstoy, and the power of his fascination, if weattribute them to his ideas. The circle of ideas in which art moves and has its being is a narrowone. It is not in those ideas that his might resides, but in his expression of them; in the personalaccent, the imprint of the artist, the colour and savour of his life.Whether Tolstoy's ideas were or were not borrowed—a matter to be presently considered—never yet had a voice like to his resounded throughout Europe. How else can we explain thethrill of emotion which we all of us felt upon hearing that psychic music, that harmony forwhich we had so long waited, and of which we felt the need? In our opinion the style countedfor nothing. Most of us, myself included, made the acquaintance of Melchior de Vogüé's workon the subject of the Russian novel[1] after we had read the novels of Tolstoy; and hisadmiration of our hero seemed, after ours, a pallid thing. M. de Vogüé spoke essentially as aman of letters pure and simple. But for our part it was not enough to admire the presentation oflife: we lived it; it was our own. Ours it was by its ardent love of life, by its quality of youth;ours by its irony, its disillusion, its pitiless discernment, and its haunting sense of mortality. Oursby its dreams of brotherly love, of peace among men; ours by its terrible accusation of the liesof civilisation; ours by its realism; by its mysticism ours; by its savour of nature, its sense ofinvisible forces, its vertigo in the face of the infinite.To many of us the novels of Tolstoy were what Werther was to an earlier generation: thewonderful mirror of our passions, our strength, our weaknesses, of our hopes, our terrors, ourdiscouragement. We were in no wise anxious to reconcile these many contradictions; still lessdid we concern ourselves to imprison this complex, multiple mind, full of echoes of the wholewide world, within the narrow limits of religious or political categories, as have the greaternumber of those who have written of Tolstoy in these latter years: incapable of extricatingthemselves from the conflict of parties, dragging him into the arena of their own passions,measuring him by the standards of their socialistic or clerical coteries. As if our coteries couldbe the measure of a genius? What is it to me if Tolstoy is or is not of my party? Shall I ask ofwhat party Shakespeare was, or Dante, before I breathe the atmosphere of his magic or steepmyself in its light?


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We did not say, as do the critics of to-day, that there were two Tolstoys: the Tolstoy of theperiod before the crisis and he of the period after the crisis; that the one was the great artist,while the other was not an artist at all. For us there was only one Tolstoy, and we loved thewhole of him; for we felt, instinctively, that in such souls as his all things are bound togetherand each has its integral place.

[1] Le Roman russe.












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Our instinct was conscious then of that which reason must prove to-day. The task is possiblenow, for the long life has attained its term; revealing itself, unveiled, to the eyes of all, withunequalled candour, unexampled sincerity. To-day we are at once arrested by the degree inwhich that life has always remained the same, from the beginning to the end, in spite of all thebarriers which critics have sought to erect here and there along its course; in spite of Tolstoyhimself, who, like every impassioned mind, was inclined to the belief, when he loved, orconceived a faith, that he loved or believed for the first time; that the commencement of his truelife dated from that moment. Commencement—recommencement!' How often his mind was thetheatre of the same struggles, the same crises I We cannot speak of the unity of his ideas, for nosuch unity existed; we can only speak of the persistence among them of the same diverseelements; sometimes allied, sometimes inimical; more often enemies than allies. Unity is to befound neither in the spirit nor the mind of a Tolstoy; it exists only in the internal conflict of hispassions, in the tragedy of his art and his life.In him life and art are one. Never was work more intimately mingled with the artist's life; it has,almost constantly, the value of autobiography; it enables us to follow the writer, step by step,from the time when he was twenty-five years of age, throughout all the contradictoryexperiences of his adventurous career. His Journal, which he commenced before thecompletion of his twentieth year, and continued until his death, [1] together with the notesfurnished by M. Birukov, [2] completes this knowledge, and enable us not only to read almostday by day in the history of Tolstoy's conscience, but also to reconstitute the world in which hisgenius struck root, and the minds from which his own drew sustenance.His was a rich inheritance. The Tolstoys and the Volkonskys were very ancient families, of thegreater nobility, claiming descent from Rurik; numbering among their ancestors companions ofPeter the Great, generals of the Seven Years' War, heroes of the Napoleonic struggle,Decembrists, and political exiles. This inheritance included family traditions; old memories towhich Tolstoy was indebted for some of the most original types in his War and Peace; therewas the old Prince Bolkonsky, his maternal grandfather, Voltairian, despotic, a belatedrepresentative of the aristocracy of the days of Catherine II.; Prince Nikolas GrigorovitchVolkonsky, a cousin of his mother, who was wounded at Austerlitz, and, like Prince Andrei,was carried off the field of battle under the eyes of Napoleon; his father, who had some of thecharacteristics of Nicolas Rostoff;[3] and his mother, the Princess Marie, the ugly, charmingwoman with the beautiful eyes, whose goodness illumines the pages of War and Peace.He scarcely knew his parents. Those delightful narratives, Childhood and Youth, have,therefore, but little authenticity; for the writer's mother died when he was not yet two years ofa*ge. He, therefore, was unable to recall the beloved face which the little Nikolas Irtenieffevoked beyond a veil of tears: a face with a luminous smile, which radiated gladness....


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"Ah! if in difficult moments I could only see that smile, I should not know what sorrow is."[4]

Yet she doubtless endowed him with her own absolute candour, her indifference to opinion, andher wonderful gift of relating tales of her own invention.His father he did in some degree remember. His was a genial yet ironical spirit; a sad-eyed manwho dwelt upon his estates, leading an independent, unambitious life. Tolstoy was nine yearsold when he lost him. His death caused him "for the first time to understand the bitter truth, andfilled his soul with despair."[5] Here was the child's earliest encounter with the spectre of terror;and henceforth a portion of his life was to be devoted to fighting the phantom, and a portion toits celebration, its transfiguration. The traces of this agony are marked by a few unforgettabletouches in the final chapters of his Childhood, where his memories are transposed in thenarrative of the death and burial of his mother.

Five children were left orphans in the old house at Yasnaya Polyana. [6] There LeoNikolayevitch was born, on the 28th of August, 1828, and there, eighty-two years later, he wasto die. The youngest of the five was a girl: that Marie who in later years became a religious; itwas with her that Tolstoy took refuge in dying, when he fled from home and family. Of the foursons, Sergius was charming and selfish, "sincere to a degree that I have never known equalled";Dmitri was passionate, selfcentred, introspective, and in later years, as a student, abandonedhimself eagerly to the practices of religion; caring nothing for public opinion; fasting, seekingout the poor, sheltering the infirm; suddenly, with the same quality of violence, plunging intodebauchery; then, tormented by remorse, ransoming a girl whom he had known in a publicbrothel, and receiving her into his home; finally dying of phthisis at the age of twenty-nine.[7]

Nikolas, the eldest, the favourite brother, had inherited his mother's gift of imagination, herpower of telling stories;[8] ironical, nervous, and refined; in later years an officer in theCaucasus, where he formed the habit of a drunkard; a man, like his brother, full of Christiankindness, living in hovels, and sharing with the poor all that he possessed. Tourgenev said ofhim "that he put into practice that humble attitude towards life which his brother Leo wascontent to develop in theory."

The orphans were cared for by two great-hearted women, one was their Aunt Tatiana, [9] ofwhom Tolstoy said that "she had two virtues: serenity and love." Her whole life was love; adevotion that never failed. "She made me understand the moral pleasure of loving."The other was their Aunt Alexandra, who was for ever serving others, herself avoiding service,dispensing with the help of servants. Her favourite occupation was reading the lives of theSaints, or conversing with pilgrims or the feeble-minded. Of these "innocents" there wereseveral, men and women, who lived in the house. One, an old woman, a pilgrim, was thegodmother of Tolstoy's sister. Another, the idiot Gricha, knew only how to weep and pray...."Gricha, notable Christian! So mighty was your faith that you felt the approach of God; soardent was your love that words rushed from your lips, words that your reason could notcontrol. And how you used to celebrate His splendour, when speech failed you, when, all tears,you lay prostrated on the ground!"[10]

Who can fail to understand the influence, in the shaping of Tolstoy, of all these humble souls?


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In some of them we seem to see an outline, a prophecy, of the Tolstoy of later years. Theirprayers and their affection must have sown the seeds of faith in the child's mind; seeds of whichthe aged man was to reap the harvest.With the exception of the idiot Gricha, Tolstoy does not speak, in his narrative of Childhood, ofthese humble helpers who assisted in the work of building up his mind. But then how clearly wesee it through the medium of the book—this soul of a little child; "this pure, loving heart, a rayof clear light, which always discovered in others the best of their qualities"—this more thancommon tenderness! Being happy, he ponders on the only creature he knows to be unhappy; hecries at the thought, and longs to devote himself to his good. He hugs and kisses an ancienthorse, begging his pardon, because he has hurt him. He is happy in loving, even if he is notloved. Already we can see the germs of his future genius; his imagination, so vivid that he criesover his own stories; his brain, always busy, always trying to discover of what other peoplethink; his precocious powers of memory[11] and observation; the attentive eyes, which even inthe midst of his sorrow scrutinise the faces about him, and the authenticity of their sorrow. Hetells us that at five years of age he felt for the first time "that life is not a time of amusem*nt, buta very heavy task."[12]

Happily he forgot the discovery. In those days he used to soothe his mind with popular tales;those mythical and legendary dreams known in Russia as bylines; stories from the Bible; aboveall the sublime History of Joseph, which he cited in his old age as a model of narrative art: and,finally, the Arabian Nights, which at his grandmother's house were recited every evening, fromthe vantage of the window-seat, by a blind story-teller.

[1] With the exception of a few interruptions: one especially of considerable length, between 1865 and 1878.[2] For his remarkable biography of Léon Tolstoï, Vie et Oeuvre, Mémoires, Souvenirs, Lettres, Extraits du Journal intime, Notes etDocuments biographiques, réunis, coordonnés et annotés par P. Birukov, revised by Leo Tolstoy, translated into French from theMS. by J. W. Bienstock.[3] He also fought in the Napoleonic campaigns, and was a prisoner in France during the years 1814-15.[4] Childhood, chap. ii.[5] Childhood, chap, xxvii.[6] Yasnaya Polyana, the name of which signifies "the open glade" (literally, the "light glade"), is a little village to the south ofMoscow, at a distance of some leagues from Toula, in one of the most thoroughly Russian of the provinces. "Here the two greatregions of Russia," says M. Leroy-Beaulieu, "the region of the forests and the agricultural region, meet and melt into each other.In the surrounding country we meet with no Finns, Tatars, Poles, Jews, or Little Russians. The district of Toula lies at the veryheart of Russia."[7] Tolstoy has depicted him in Anna Karenin, as the brother of Levine.[8] He wrote the Diary of a Hunter.[9] In reality she was a distant relative. She had loved Tolstoy's father, and was loved by him; but effaced herself, like Sonia inWar and Peace.[10] Childhood, chap. xii.[11] He professes, in his autobiographical notes (dated 1878), to be able to recall the sensations of being swaddled as a baby, andof being bathed in a tub. See First Memories.[12] First Memories.


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He studied at Kazan.[1] He was not a notable student. It used to be said of the three brothers[2]:"Sergius wants to, and can; Dmitri wants to, and can't; Leo can't, and doesn't want to."He passed through the period which he terms "the desert of adolescence"; a desert of sterilesands, blown upon by gales of the burning winds of folly. The pages of Boyhood, and inespecial those of Youth[3] are rich in intimate confessions relating to these years.He was a solitary. His brain was in a condition of perpetual fever. For a year he was completelyat sea; he roamed from one system of philosophy to another. As a Stoic, he indulged in self-inflicted physical tortures. As an Epicurean he debauched himself. Then came a faith inmetempsychosis. Finally he fell into a condition of nihilism not far removed from insanity; heused to feel that if only he could turn round with sufficient rapidity he would find himself faceto face with nothingness ... He analysed himself continually:

"I no longer thought of a thing; I thought of what I thought of it."[4]

This perpetual self-analysis, this mechanism of reason turning in the void, remained to him as adangerous habit, which was "often," in his own words, "to be detrimental to me in life"; but bywhich his art has profited inexpressibly.[5]

As another result of self-analysis, he had lost all his religious convictions; or such was his belief.At sixteen years of age ceased to pray; he went to church no longer;[6] but his faith was notextinguished; it was only smouldering."Nevertheless, I did believe—in something. But in what? I could not say. I still believed in God;or rather I did not deny Him. But in what God? I did not know. Nor did I deny Christ and histeaching; but I could not have said precisely what that doctrine was."[7]

From time to time he was obsessed by dreams of goodness. He wished to sell his carriage andgive the money to the poor: to give them the tenth part of his fortune; to live without the help ofservants, "for they were men like himself." During an illness[8] he wrote certain "Rules of Life."He naively assigned himself the duty of "studying everything, of mastering all subjects: law,medicine, languages, agriculture, history, geography, and mathematics; to attain the highestdegree of perfection in music and painting," and so forth. I had "the conviction that the destinyof man was a process of incessant self-perfection."Insensibly, under the stress of a boy's passions, of a violent sensuality and a stupendous pride ofself,[9] this faith in perfection went astray, losing its disinterested quality, becoming material andpractical. If he still wished to perfect his will, his body, and his mind, it was in order to conquerthe world and to enforce its love.[10] He wished to please.To please: it was not an easy ambition. He was then of a simian ugliness: the face was long,heavy, brutish; the hair was cropped close, growing low upon the forehead; the eyes were small,with a hard, forbidding glance, deeply sunken in shadowy orbits; the nose was large, the lips


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were thick and protruding, and the ears were enormous.[11] Unable to alter this ugliness, whicheven as a child had subjected him to fits of despair, [12] he pretended to a realisation of the idealman of the world, l'homme comme il faut.[13] This ideal led him to do as did other "men of theworld": to gamble, run foolishly into debt, and to live a completely dissipated existence.[14]

One quality always came to his salvation: his absolute sincerity."Do you know why I like you better than the others?" says Nekhludov to his friend. "You havea precious and surprising quality: candour."

"Yes, I am always saying things which I am ashamed to own even to myself."[15]

In his wildest moments he judges himself with a pitiless insight."I am living an utterly bestial life," he writes in his Journal. "I am as low as one can fall." Then,with his mania for analysis, he notes minutely the causes of his errors:"1. Indecision or lack of energy. 2. Self-deception. 3. Insolence. 4. False modesty. 5. Ill-temper.6. Licentiousness. 7. Spirit of imitation. 8. Versatility. 9. Lack of reflection."While still a student he was applying this independence of judgment to the criticism of socialconventions and intellectual superstitions. He scoffed at the official science of the University;denied the least importance to historical studies, and was put under arrest for his audacity ofthought. At this period he discovered Rousseau, reading his Confessions and Émile. Thediscovery affected him like a mental thunderbolt."I made him an object of religious worship. I wore a medallion portrait of him hung round myneck, as though it were a holy image."[16]

His first essays in philosophy took the form of commentaries on Rousseau (1846-47).In the end, however, disgusted with the University and with "smartness," he returned toYasnaya Polyana, to bury himself in the country (1847-51); where he once more came intotouch with the people. He professed to come to their assistance, as their benefactor and theirteacher. His experiences of this period have been related in one of his earliest books, A RussianProprietor (A Landlord's Morning) (1852); a remarkable novel, whose hero, Prince Nekhludov,Nekhludov figures also in Boyhood and Youth (1854), in A Brush with the Enemy (1856); theDiary of a Sportsman (1856); Lucerne (1857); and Resurrection (1899). We must rememberthat different characters appear under this one name. Tolstoy has not always given Nekhludovthe same physical aspect; and the latter commits suicide at the end of the Diary of a Sportsman.These different Nekhludovs are various aspects of Tolstoy, endowed with his worst and his bestcharacteristics, is Tolstoy in disguise.Nekhludov is twenty years old. He has left the University to devote himself to his peasants. Hehas been labouring for a year to do them good. In the course of a visit to the village we see himstriving against jeering indifference, rooted distrust, routine, apathy, vice, and ingratitude. Allhis efforts are in vain. He returns indoors discouraged, and muses on his dreams of a year ago;his generous enthusiasm, his "idea that love and goodness were one with happiness and truth:the only happiness and the only truth possible in this world." He feels himself defeated. He is


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weary and ashamed."Seated before the piano, his hand unconsciously moved upon the keys. A chord sounded; thena second, then a third.... He began to play. The chords were not always perfect in rhythm; theywere often obvious to the point of banality; they did not reveal any talent for music; but theygave him a melancholy, indefinable sense of pleasure. At each change of key he awaited, with aflutter of the heart, for what was about to follow; his imagination vaguely supplementing thedeficiencies of the actual sound. He heard a choir, an orchestra ... and his keenest pleasure arosefrom the enforced activity of his imagination, which brought before him, without logicalconnection, but with astonishing clearness, the most varied scenes and images of the past andthe future...."Once more he sees the moujiks—vicious, distrustful, lying, idle, obstinate, contrary, with whomhe has lately been speaking; but this time he sees them with all their good qualities and withouttheir vices; he sees into their hearts with the intuition of love; he sees therein their patience, theirresignation to the fate which is crushing them; their forgiveness of wrongs, their familyaffection, and the causes of their pious, mechanical attachment to the past. He recalls their daysof honest labour, healthy and fatiguing....

"'It is beautiful,' he murmurs.... Why am I not one of these?'"[17]

The entire Tolstoy is already contained in the hero of this first novel; [18] his piercing vision andhis persistent illusions. He observes men and women with an impeccable realism; but no soonerdoes he close his eyes than his dreams resume their sway; his dreams and his love of mankind.

[1] From 1842 to 1847. Science was as yet unorganised; and its teachers, even in Western Europe, had not the courage of thefacts they taught. Men still sought for an anchor in the philosophic systems of the ancients. The theory of evolution, put forwardat the beginning of the century, had fallen into obscurity. Science was dry, dogmatic, uncoordinated, insignificant. Hence,perhaps, the contempt for science which distinguished Tolstoy throughout his life, and which made the later Tolstoy possible.—TRANS.[2] Nikolas, five years older than Leo, had completed his studies in 1844.[3] The English translation is entitled Childhood, Boyhood, Youth.[4] Youth, six.[5] Notably in his first volumes—in the Tales of Sebastopol.[6] This was the time when he used to read Voltaire, and find pleasure in so doing.[7] Confessions, vol. i.[8] In March and April, 1847.[9] "All that man does he does out of amour-propre," says Nekhludov, in Boyhood. In 1853 Tolstoy writes, in his Journal: "Mygreat failing: pride. A vast self-love, without justification.... I am so ambitious that if I had to choose between glory and virtue(which I love) I am sure I should choose the former."[10] "I wanted to be known by all, loved by all. I wanted every one, at the mere sound of my name, to be struck with admirationand gratitude."[11] According to a portrait dated 1848, in which year he attained his twentieth year.[12] "I thought there would be no happiness on earth for any one who had so large a nose, so thick lips, and such small eyes."[13] "I divided humanity into three classes: the 'correct,' or 'smart,' who alone were worthy of esteem; those who were not'correct,' who deserved only contempt and hatred; and the people, the plebs, who simply did not exist." (Youth, xxxi.)


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[14] Especially during a period spent in St. Petersburg, 1847-48.[15] Boyhood.[16] Conversations with M. Paul Boyer (Le Temps), August 28, 1901.[17] A Russian Proprietor.[18] Contemporary with Childhood.



Tolstoy, in the year 1850, was not as patient as Nekhludov. Yasnaya Polyana had disillusionedand disappointed him. He was as weary of the people as he was of the world of fashion; hisattitude as benefactor wearied him; he could bear it no more. Moreover, he was harassed bycreditors. In 1851 he escaped to the Caucasus; to the army in which his brother Nikolas wasalready an officer.He had hardly arrived, hardly tasted the quiet of the mountains, before he was once more masterof himself; before he had recovered his God.

"Last night[1] I hardly slept. I began to pray to God. I cannot possibly express the sweetness ofthe feeling that came to me when I prayed. I recited the customary prayers; but I went onpraying for a long time. I felt the desire of something very great, very beautiful.... What? Icannot say what. I wanted to be one with the Infinite Being: to be dissolved, comprehended, inHim. I begged Him to forgive me my trespasses.... But no, I did not beg Him; I felt that He didpardon me, since He granted me that moment of wonderful joy. I was praying, yet at the sametime I felt that I could not, dared not pray. I thanked Him, not in words, but in thought....Scarcely an hour had passed, and I was listening to the voice of vice. I fell asleep dreaming ofglory, of women: it was stronger than I. Never mind! I thank God for that moment of happiness:for showing me my pettiness and my greatness. I want to pray, but I do not know how; I want tounderstand, but I dare not. I abandon myself to Thy will!"[2]

The flesh was not conquered; not then, nor ever; the struggle between God and the passions ofman continued in the silence of his heart. Tolstoy speaks in his Journal of the three demonswhich were devouring him:1. The passion for gambling. Possible struggle.2. Sensuality. Struggle very difficult.3. Vanity. The most terrible of all.At the very moment when he was dreaming of living for others and of sacrificing himself,voluptuous or futile thoughts would assail him: the image of some Cossack woman, or "thedespair he would feel if his moustache were higher on one side than the other."—"No matter!"God was there; He would not forsake him. Even the effervescence of the struggle was fruitful:


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all the forces of life were exalted thereby."I think the idea of making a journey to the Caucasus, however frivolous at the time ofconception, was inspired in me from above. God's hand has guided me. I never cease to thankHim. I feel that I have become better here; and I am firmly convinced that whatever happens tome can only be for my good, since it is God Himself who has wished it...."[3]

It is the song of gratitude of the earth in spring. Earth covers herself with flowers; all is well, allis beautiful. In 1852 the genius of Tolstoy produces its earliest flowers: Childhood, The RussianProprietor, The Invasion, Boyhood; and he thanks the Spirit of life who has made himfruitful.[4]

[1] The 11th of June, 1851, in the fortified camp of Starï-Iourt, in the Caucasus.[2] Journal.[3] Letter to his Aunt Tatiana, January, 1852.[4] A portrait dated 1851 already shows the change which is being accomplished in his mind. The head is raised; the expression issomewhat brighter; the cavities of the orbits are less in shadow; the eyes themselves still retain their fixed severity of look, and theopen mouth, shadowed by a growing moustache, is gloomy and sullen; there is still a quality of defiant pride, but far more youth.



The Story of my Childhood[1] was commenced in the autumn of 1851, at Tiflis; it was finished atPiatigorsk in the Caucasus, on the 2nd of July, 1852. It is curious to note that while in the midstof that nature by which he was so intoxicated, while leading a life absolutely novel, in the midstof the stirring risks of warfare, occupied in the discovery of a world of unfamiliar characters andpassions, Tolstoy should have returned, in this his first work, to the memories of his past life.But Childhood was written during a period of illness, when his military activity was suddenlyarrested. During the long leisure of a convalescence, while alone and suffering, his state of mindinclined to the sentimental;[2] the past unrolled itself before his eyes at a time when he felt for ita certain tenderness. After the exhausting tension of the last few unprofitable years, it wascomforting to live again in thought the "marvellous, innocent, joyous, poetic period" of earlychildhood; to reconstruct for himself "the heart of a child, good, sensitive, and capable of love."With the ardour of youth and its illimitable projects, with the cyclic character of his poeticimagination, which rarely conceived an isolated subject, and whose great romances are only thelinks in a long historic chain, the fragments of enormous conceptions which he was never ableto execute,[3] Tolstoy at this moment regarded his narrative of Childhood as merely the openingchapters of a History of Four Periods, which was to include his life in the Caucasus, and was inall probability to have terminated in the revelation of God by Nature.In later years Tolstoy spoke with great severity of his Childhood, to which he owed some part of


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his popularity."It is so bad," he remarked to M. Birukov: "it is written with so little literary conscience!... Thereis nothing to be got from it."He was alone in this opinion. The manuscript was sent, without the author's name, to the greatRussian review, the Sovremennik (Contemporary); it was published immediately (September 6,1852), and achieved a general success; a success confirmed by the public of every country inEurope. Yet in spite of its poetic charm, its delicacy of touch and emotion, we can understandthat it may have displeased the Tolstoy of later years.It displeased him for the very reasons by which it pleased others. We must admit it frankly:except in the recording of certain provincial types, and in a restricted number of passages whichare remarkable for their religious feeling or for the realistic treatment of emotion,[4] thepersonality of Tolstoy is barely in evidence.A tender, gentle sentimentality prevails from cover to cover; a quality which was alwaysafterwards antipathetic to Tolstoy, and one which he sedulously excluded from his otherromances. We recognise it; these tears, this sentimentality came from Dickens, who was one ofTolstoy's favourite authors between his fourteenth and his twenty-first year. Tolstoy notes in hisJournal: "Dickens: David Copperfield. Influence considerable." He read the book again in theCaucasus.Two other influences, to which he himself confesses, were Sterne and Töppfer. "I was then," hesays, "under their inspiration."[5]

Who would have thought that the Nouvelles Genevoises would be the first model of the authorof War and Peace? Yet knowing this to be a fact, we discern in Tolstoy's Childhood the samebantering, affected geniality, transplanted to the soil of a more aristocratic nature. So we see thatthe readers of his earliest efforts found the writer's countenance familiar. It was not long,however, before his own personality found self-expression. His Boyhood (Adolescence), thoughless pure and less perfect than Childhood, exhibits a more original power of psychology, a keenfeeling for nature, and a mind full of distress and conflict, which Dickens or Töppfer wouldhave been at a loss to express. In the Russian Proprietor (October, 1852 [6]) Tolstoy's characterappeared sharply defined, marked by his fearless sincerity and his faith in love. Among theremarkable portraits of peasants which he has painted in this novel, we find an early sketch ofone of the finest conceptions of his Popular Tales: the old man with the beehives; a the little oldman under the birch-tree, his hands outstretched, his eyes raised, his bald head shining in thesun, and all around him the bees, touched with gold, never stinging him, forming a halo.... Butthe truly typical works of this period are those which directly register his present emotions:namely, the novels of the Caucasus. The first, The Invasion (finished in December, 1852),impresses the reader deeply by the magnificence of its landscapes: a sunrise amidst themountains, on the bank of a river; a wonderful night-piece, with sounds and shadows notedwith a striking intensity; and the return in the evening, while the distant snowy peaks disappearin the violet haze, and the clear voices of the regimental singers rise and fall in the transparentair. Many of the types of War and Peace are here drawn to the life: Captain Khlopoff, the truehero, who by no means fights because he likes fighting, but because it is his duty; a man with


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"one of those truly Russian faces, placid and simple, and eyes into which it is easy andagreeable to gaze." Heavy, awkward, a trifle ridiculous, indifferent to his surroundings, he aloneis unchanged in battle, where all the rest are changed; "he is exactly as we have seen himalways: with the same quiet movements, the same level voice, the same expression of simplicityon his heavy, simple face." Next comes the lieutenant who imitates the heroes of Lermontov; amost kindly, affectionate boy, who professes the utmost ferocity. Then comes the poor littlesubaltern, delighted at the idea of his first action, brimming over with affection, ready to fall onhis comrade's neck; a laughable, adorable boy, who, like Petia Rostoff, contrives to get stupidlykilled. In the centre of the picture is the figure of Tolstoy, the observer, who is mentally alooffrom his comrades, and I already utters his cry of protest against warfare:"Is it impossible, then, for men to live in peace, in this world so full of beauty, under thisimmeasurable starry sky? How is it they are able, here, to retain their feelings of hostility andvengeance, and the lust of destroying their fellows? All there is of evil in the human heart oughtto disappear at the touch of nature, that most immediate expression of the beautiful and thegood."[7]

Other tales of the Caucasus were to follow which were observed at this time, though not writtenuntil a later period. In 1854-55. The Woodcutters was written; a book notable for its exact andrather frigid realism; full of curious records of Russian soldier-psychology—notes to be madeuse of in the future. In 1856 appeared A Brush with the Enemy, in which there is a man of theworld, a degraded non-commissioned officer, a wreck, a coward, a drunkard and a liar, whocannot support the idea of being slaughtered like one of the common soldiers he despises, theleast of whom is worth a hundred of himself.Above all these works, as the summit, so to speak, of this first mountain range, rises one of themost beautiful lyric romances that ever fell from Tolstoy's pen: the song of his youth, the poemof the Caucasus, The Cossacks.[8] The splendour of the snowy mountains displaying their noblelines against the luminous sky fills the whole work with its music. The book is unique, for itbelongs to the flowering-time of genius, "the omnipotent god of youth," as Tolstoy says, "thatrapture which never returns." What a spring-tide torrent! What an overflow of love!"'I love—I love so much!... How brave! How good!' he repeated: and he felt as though he mustweep. Why? Who was brave, and whom did he love? That he did not precisely know."[9]

This intoxication of the heart flows on, unchecked. Olenin, the hero, who has come to theCaucasus, as Tolstoy came, to steep himself in nature, in the life of adventure, becomesenamoured of a young Cossack girl, and abandons himself to the medley of his contradictoryaspirations. At one moment he believes that "happiness is to live for others, to sacrifice oneself,"at another, that "self-sacrifice is only stupidity"; finally he is inclined to believe, with Erochta,the old Cossack, that "everything is precious. God has made everything for the delight of man.Nothing is a sin. To amuse oneself with a handsome girl is not a sin: it is only health." But whatneed to think at all? It is enough to live. Life is all good, all happiness; life is all-powerful anduniversal; life is God. An ardent naturalism uplifts and consumes his soul. Lost in the forest,amidst "the wildness of the woods, the multitude of birds and animals, the clouds of midges inthe dusky green, in the warm, fragrant air, amidst the little runlets of water which trickle


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everywhere beneath the boughs"; a few paces from the ambushes of the enemy, Olenin is"seized suddenly by such a sense of causeless happiness that in obedience to childish habit hecrossed himself and began to give thanks to somebody." Like a Hindu fakir, he rejoices to tellhimself that he is alone and lost in this maëlstrom of aspiring life: that myriads of invisiblebeings, hidden on every hand, are that moment hunting him to death; that these thousands oflittle insects humming around him are calling:"Here, brothers, here! Here is some one to bite!"And it became obvious to him that he was no longer a Russian gentleman, in Moscow society,but simply a creature like the midge, the pheasant, the stag: like those which were living andprowling about him at that moment."Like them, I shall live, I shall die. And the grass will grow above me...."And his heart is full of happiness.Tolstoy lives through this hour of youth in a delirium of vitality and the love of life. Heembraces Nature, and sinks himself in her being. To her he pours forth and exalts his griefs, hisjoys, and his loves; in her he lulls them to sleep. Yet this romantic intoxication never veils thelucidity of his perceptions. Nowhere has he painted landscape with a greater power than in thisfervent poem; nowhere has he depicted the type with greater truth. The contrast of nature withthe world of men, which forms the basis of the book; and which through all Tolstoy's life is toprove one of his favourite themes, and an article of his Credo, has already inspired him, thebetter to castigate the world, with something of the bitterness to be heard in the KreutzerSonata.[10] But for those who love him he is no less truly himself; and the creatures of nature,the beautiful Cossack girl and her friends, are seen under a searching light, with their egoism,their cupidity, their venality, and all their vices.An exceptional occasion was about to offer itself for the exercise of this heroic veracity.

[1] Published in English as part of Childhood, Boyhood, Youth.[2] His letters of this period to his Aunt Tatiana are full of tears and of sentimentality. He was, as he says, Liovariova, "Leo theSniveller" (January 6, 1852).[3] The Russian Proprietor (A Landlord's Morning) is the fragment of a projected Romance of a Russian Landowner. TheCossacks forms the first portion of a great romance of the Caucasus. In the author's eyes the huge War and Peace was only a sortof preface to a contemporary epic, of which The Decembrists was to have been the nucleus.[4] See the passage relating to the pilgrim Gricha, or to the death of his mother.[5] Letter to Birukov.[6] Completed only in 1855-56. The Two Old Men (1885).[7] The Invasion.[8] Although completed much later—in 1860—and appearing only in 1863—the bulk of this volume was of this period.[9] The Cossacks.[10] For example, see Oleniln's letter to his friends in Russia.


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In November, 1853, war was declared upon Turkey. Tolstoy obtained an appointment to thearmy of Roumania; he was transferred to the army of the Crimea, and on November 7, 1854, hearrived in Sebastopol. He was burning with enthusiasm and patriotic faith. He went about hisduties courageously, and was often in danger, in especial throughout the April and May of1855, when he served on every alternate day in the battery of of the 4th bastion.Living for months in a perpetual tremor and exaltation, face to face with death, his religiousmysticism revived. He became familiar with God. In April, 1855, he noted in his diary a prayerto God, thanking Him for His protection in danger and beseeching Him to continue it, "so that Imay achieve the glorious and eternal end of life, of which I am still ignorant, although I feel apresentiment of it." Already this object of his life was not art, but religion. On March 5, 1855, hewrote:"I have been led to conceive a great idea, to whose realisation I feel capable of devoting mywhole life. This idea is the foundation of a new religion; the religion of the Christ, but purifiedof dogmas and mysteries.... To act with a clear conscience, in order to unite men by means ofreligion."[1]

This was to be the programme of his old age.However, to distract himself from the spectacles which surrounded him, he began once more towrite. How could he, amidst that hail of lead, find the necessary freedom of mind for the writingof the third part of his memories: Youth? The book is chaotic; and we may attribute to theconditions of its production a quality of disorder, and at times a certain dryness of abstractanalysis, which is increased by divisions and subdivisions after the manner of Stendhal.[2] Yetwe admire his calm penetration of the mist of dreams and inchoate ideas which crowd a youngbrain. His work is extraordinarily true to itself, and at moments what poetic freshness!—as in thevivid picture of springtime in the city, or the tale of the confession, and the journey to theconvent, on account of the forgotten sin! An impassioned pantheism lends to certain pages alyric beauty, whose accents recall the tales of the Caucasus. For example, this description of anevening in the spring:"The calm splendour of the shining crescent; the gleaming fish-pond; the ancient birch-trees,whose long-tressed boughs were on one side silvered by the moonlight, while on the other theycovered the path and the bushes with their black shadows; the cry of a quail beyond the pond;the barely perceptible sound of two ancient trees which grazed one another; the humming of themosquitoes; the fall of an apple on the dry leaves; and the frogs leaping up to the steps of theterrace, their backs gleaming greenish under a ray of moonlight.... The moon is mounting;suspended in the limpid sky, she fills all space with her light; the splendour of the moonlit watergrows yet more brilliant, the shadows grow blacker, the light more transparent.... And to me, anobscure and earthy creature, already soiled with every human passion, but endowed with all thestupendous power of love, it seemed at that moment that all nature, the moon, and I myself were


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one and the same."[3]

But the present reality, potent and imperious, spoke more loudly than the dreams of the past.Youth remained unfinished; and Captain Count Tolstoy, behind the plating of his bastion, amidthe rumbling of the bombardment, or in the midst of his company, observed the dying and theliving, and recorded their miseries and his own, in his unforgettable narratives of Sebastopol.These three narratives—Sebastopol in December, 1854, Sebastopol in May, 1855, Sebastopol inAugust, 1855—are generally confounded with one another; but in reality they present manypoints of difference. The second in particular, in point both of feeling and of art, is greatlysuperior to the others. The others are dominated by patriotism; the second is charged withimplacable truth.

It is said that after reading the first narrative[4] the Tsarina wept, and the Tsar, moved byadmiration, commanded that the story should be translated into French, and the author sent outof danger. We can readily believe it. Nothing in these pages but exalts warfare and thefatherland. Tolstoy had just arrived; his enthusiasm was intact; he was afloat on a tide ofheroism. As yet he could see in the defenders of Sebastopol neither ambition nor vanity, norany unworthy feeling. For him the war was a sublime epic; its heroes were "worthy of Greece."On the other hand, these notes exhibit no effort of the imagination, no attempt at objectiverepresentation. The writer strolls through the city; he sees with the utmost lucidity, but relateswhat he sees in a form which is wanting in freedom: "You see ... you enter ... you notice...."This is first-class reporting; rich in admirable impressions.Very different is the second scene: Sebastopol in May, 1855. In the opening lines we read:"Here the self-love, the vanity of thousands of human beings is in conflict, or appeased indeath...."And further on:"And as there were many men, so also were there many forms of vanity.... Vanity, vanity,everywhere vanity, even at the door of the tomb! It is the peculiar malady of our century....Why do the Homers and Shakespeares speak of love, of glory, and of suffering, and why is theliterature of our century nothing but the interminable history of snobs and egotists?"The narrative, which is no longer a simple narrative on the part of the author, but one which setsbefore us men and their passions, reveals that which is concealed by the mask of heroism.Tolstoy's clear, disillusioned gaze plumbs to the depths the hearts of his companions in arms; inthem, as in himself, he reads pride, fear, and the comedy of those who continue to play at lifethough rubbing shoulders with death. Fear especially is avowed, stripped of its veils, and shownin all its nakedness. These nervous crises, [5] this obsession of death, are analysed with a terriblesincerity that knows neither shame nor pity. It was at Sebastopol that Tolstoy learned to eschewsentimentalism, "that vague, feminine, whimpering passion," as he came disdainfully to term it;and his genius for analysis, the instinct for which awoke, as we saw, in the later years of hisboyhood, and which was at times to assume a quality almost morbid,[6] never attained to a morehypnotic and poignant intensity than in the narrative of the death of Praskhoukhin. Two wholepages are devoted to the description of all that passed in the mind of the unhappy man during


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the second following upon the fall of the shell, while the fuse was hissing towards explosion;and one page deals with all that passed before him after it exploded, when "he was killed on thespot by a fragment which struck him full in the chest."As in the intervals of a drama we hear the occasional music of the orchestra, so these scenes ofbattle are interrupted by wide glimpses of nature; deep perspectives of light; the symphony ofthe day dawning upon the splendid landscape, in the midst of which thousands are agonising.Tolstoy the Christian, forgetting the patriotism of his first narrative, curses this impious war:"And these men, Christians, who profess the same great law of love and of sacrifice, do not,when they perceive what they have done, fall upon their knees repentant, before Him who ingiving them life set within the heart of each, together with the fear of death, the love of the goodand the beautiful. They do not embrace as brothers, with tears of joy and happiness!"As he was completing this novel—a work that has a quality of bitterness which, hitherto, noneof his work had betrayed—Tolstoy was seized with doubt. Had he done wrong to speak?"A painful doubt assails me. Perhaps these things should not have been said. Perhaps what I amtelling is one of those mischievous truths which, unconsciously hidden in the mind of each oneof us, should not be expressed lest they become harmful, like the lees that we must not stir lestwe spoil the wine. If so, when is the expression of evil to be avoided? When is the expression ofgoodness to be imitated? Who is the malefactor and who is the hero? All are good and all areevil...."But he proudly regains his poise: "The protagonist of my novel, whom I love with all thestrength of my soul, whom I try to present in all her beauty, who always was, is, and shall bebeautiful, is Truth."

After reading these pages[7] Nekrasov, the editor of the review Sovremennik, wrote to Tolstoy:"That is precisely what Russian society needs to-day: the truth, the truth, of which, since thedeath of Gogol, so little has remained in Russian letters.... This truth which you bring to our artis something quite novel with us. I have only one fear: lest the times, and the cowardice of life,the deafness and dumbness of all that surrounds us, may make of you what it has made of mostof us—lest it may kill the energy in you."[8]

Nothing of the kind was to be feared. The times, which waste the energies of ordinary men,only tempered those of Tolstoy. Yet for a moment the trials of his country and the capture ofSebastopol aroused a feeling of regret for his perhaps too unfeeling frankness, together with afeeling of sorrowful affection.In his third narrative—Sebastopol in August, 1855—while describing a group of officersplaying cards and quarrelling, he interrupts himself to say:"But let us drop the curtain quickly over this picture. To-morrow—perhaps to-day—each ofthese men will go cheerfully to meet his death. In the depths of the soul of each there smouldersthe spark of nobility which will make him a hero."Although this shame detracts in no wise from the forcefulness and realism of the narrative, thechoice of characters shows plainly enough where lie the sympathies of the writer. The epic of


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Malakoff and its heroic fall is told as affecting two rare and touching figures: two brothers, ofwhom the elder, Kozeltoff, has some of the characteristics of Tolstoy. Who can forget theyounger, the ensign Volodya, timid and enthusiastic, with his feverish monologues, his dreams,his tears?—tears that rise to his eyes for a mere nothing; tears of tenderness, tears of humiliation—his fear during the first hours passed in the bastion (the poor boy is still afraid of the dark, andcovers his head with his cloak when he goes to bed); the oppression caused by the feeling of hisown solitude and the indifference of others; then, when the hour arrives, his joy in danger. Hebelongs to the group of poetic figures of youth (of whom are Petia in War and Peace , and thesub-lieutenant in The Invasion), who, their hearts full of affection, make war with laughter ontheir lips, and are broken suddenly, uncomprehending, on the wheel of death. The two brothersfall wounded, both on the same day—the last day of the defence. The novel ends with theselines, in which we hear the muttering of a patriotic anger:"The army was leaving the town; and each soldier, as he looked upon deserted Sebastopol,sighed, with an inexpressible bitterness in his heart, and shook his fist in the direction of theenemy."[9]

[1] Journal.[2] We notice this manner also in The Woodcutters, which was completed at the same period. For example: "There are three kindsof love: 1. æsthetic love; 2. devoted love; 3. active love," &c. (Youth). "There are three kinds of soldiers: 1. the docile andsubordinate; 2. the authoritative; 3. the boasters—who themselves are subdivided into: (a) The docile who are cool and lethargic;(b) those who are earnestly docile; (c) docile soldiers who drink," &c. (The Woodcutters).[3] Youth, xxxii.[4] Sent to the review Sovremennik and immediately published.[5] Tolstoy refers to them again at a much later date, in his Conversations with his friend Teneromo. He tells him of a crisis ofterror which assailed him one night when he was lying down in the "lodgement" dug out of the body of the rampart, under theprotective plating. This Episode of the Siege of Sebastopol will be found in the volume entitled The Revolutionaries.[6] Droujinine, a little later, wrote him a friendly letter in which he sought to put him on his guard against this danger: "You havea tendency to an excessive minuteness of analysis; it may become a serious fault. Sometimes you seem on the point of saying thatso-and-so's calf indicated a desire to travel in the Indies.... You must restrain this tendency: but do not for the world suppress it."(Letter dated 1856 cited by P. Birukov.)[7] Mutilated by the censor.[8] 1 September 2, 1855.[9] In 1889, when writing a preface to Memories of Sebastopol, by an Officer of Artillery (A. J. Erchoff), Tolstoy returned infancy to these scenes. Every heroic memory had disappeared. He could no longer remember anything but the fear which lastedfor seven months—the double fear: the fear of death and the fear of shame—and the horrible moral torture. All the exploits of thesiege reduced themselves, for him, to this: he had been "flesh for cannon."



When, once issued from this hell, where for a year he had touched the extreme of the passions,vanities, and sorrows of humanity, Tolstoy found himself, in November, 1855, amidst the men


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of letters of St. Petersburg, they inspired him with a feeling of disdain and disillusion. Theyseemed to him entirely mean, ill-natured, and untruthful. These men, who appeared in thedistance to wear the halo of art—even Tourgenev, whom he had admired, and to whom he hadbut lately dedicated The Woodcutters—even he, seen close at hand, had bitterly disappointedhim. A portrait of 1856 represents him in the midst of them: Tourgenev, Gontcharov,Ostrovsky, Grigorovitch, Droujinine. He strikes one, in the free-and-easy atmosphere of theothers, by reason of his hard, ascetic air, his bony head, his lined cheeks, his rigidly foldedarms. Standing upright, in uniform, behind these men of letters, he has the appearance, asSuarès has wittily said, "rather of mounting guard over these gentry than of making one of theircompany; as though he were ready to march them back to gaol."[1]

Yet they all gathered about their young colleague, who came to them with the twofold glory ofthe writer and the hero of Sebastopol. Tourgenev, who had "wept and shouted 'Hurrah!'" whilereading the pages of Sebastopol, held out a brotherly hand. But the two men could notunderstand one another. Although both saw the world with the same clear vision, they mingledwith that vision the hues of their inimical minds; the one, ironic, resonant, amorous,disillusioned, a devotee of beauty; the other proud, violent tormented with moral ideas, pregnantwith a hidden God.What Tolstoy could never forgive in these literary men was that they believed themselves anelect, superior caste; the crown of humanity. Into his antipathy for them there entered a gooddeal of the pride of the great noble and the officer who condescendingly mingles with liberaland middle-class scribblers.[2] It was also a characteristic of his—he himself knew it—to"oppose instinctively all trains of reasoning, all conclusions, which were generally admitted."[3]

A distrust of mankind, a latent contempt for human reason, made him always on the alert todiscover deception in himself or others."He never believed in the sincerity of any one. All moral exhilaration seemed false to him; andhe had a way of fixing, with that extraordinarily piercing gaze of his, the man whom hesuspected was not telling the truth."[4] "How he used to listen! How he used to gaze at thosewho spoke to him, from the very depths of his grey eyes, deeply sunken in their orbits! Withwhat irony his lips were pressed together!"[5]

"Tourgenev used to say that he had never experienced anything more painful than this piercinggaze, which, together with two or three words of envenomed observation, was capable ofinfuriating anybody."[6]

At their first meetings violent scenes occurred between Tolstoy and Tourgenev. When at adistance they cooled down and tried to do one another justice. But as time went on Tolstoy'sdislike of his literary surroundings grew deeper. He could not forgive these artists for thecombination of their depraved life and their moral pretensions."I acquired the conviction that nearly all were immoral men, unsound, without character, greatlyinferior to those I had met in my Bohemian military life. And they were sure of themselves andselfcontent, as men might be who were absolutely sound. They disgusted me."[7]


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He parted from them. But he did not at once lose their interested faith in art.[8] His pride wasflattered thereby. It was a faith which was richly rewarded; it brought him "women, money,fame.""Of this religion I was one of the pontiffs; an agreeable and highly profitable situation."The better to consecrate himself to this religion, he sent in his resignation from the army(November, 1856).But a man of his temper could not close his eyes for long. He believed, he was eager to believe,in progress. It seemed to him "that this word signified something." A journey abroad, whichlasted from the end of January to the end of July of 1857, during which period he visitedFrance, Switzerland, and Germany, resulted in the destruction of this faith. In Paris, on the 6thof April, 1857, the spectacle of a public execution "showed him the emptiness of thesuperstition of progress.""When I saw the head part from the body and fall into the basket I understood in every recess ofmy being that no theory as to the reason of the present order of things could justify such an act.Even though all the men in the world, supported by this or that theory, were to find it necessary,I myself should know that it was wrong; for it is not what men say or do that decides what isgood or bad, but my own heart."[9]

In the month of July the sight of a little perambulating singer at Lucerne, to whom the wealthyEnglish visitors at the Schweizerhof were refusing alms, made him express in the Diary ofPrince D. Nekhludov his contempt for all the illusions dear to Liberals, and for those "who traceimaginary lines upon the sea of good and evil.""For them civilisation is good; barbarism is bad; liberty is good; slavery is bad. And thisimaginary knowledge destroys the instinctive, primordial cravings, which are the best. Who willdefine them for me—liberty, despotism, civilisation, barbarism? Where does not good co-existwith evil? There is within us only one infallible guide: the universal Spirit which whispers to usto draw closer to one another."On his return to Russia and Yasnaya he once more busied himself about the peasants. Not thathe had any illusions left concerning them. He writes:"The apologists of the people and its good sense speak to no purpose; the crowd is perhaps theunion of worthy folk; but if so they unite only on their bestial and contemptible side, a sidewhich expresses nothing but the weakness and cruelty of human nature."[10]

Thus he does not address himself to the crowd, but to the individual conscience of each man,each child of the people. For there light is to be found. He founded schools, without preciselyknowing what he would teach. In order to learn, he undertook another journey abroad, whichlasted from the 3rd of July, 1860, to the 23rd of April, 1861.[11]

He studied the various pedagogic systems of the time. Need we say that he rejected one and all?Two visits to Marseilles taught him that the true education of the people is effected outside theschools (which he considered absurd), by means of the journals, the museums, the libraries, thestreet, and everyday life, which he termed "the spontaneous school." The spontaneous school,


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in opposition to the obligatory school, which he considered silly and harmful; this was what hewished and attempted to institute upon his return to Yasnaya Polyana. [12] Liberty was hisprinciple. He would not admit that an elect class, "the privileged Liberal circle," should imposeits knowledge and its errors upon "the people, to whom it is a stranger." It had no right to do so.This method of forced education had never succeeded in producing, at the University, "the menof whom humanity has need; but men of whom a depraved society has need; officials, officialprofessors, official literary men, or men torn aimlessly from their old surroundings, whose youthhas been spoiled and wasted, and who can find no plan in life: irritable, puny Liberals."[13] Goto the people to learn what they want I If they do not value "the art of reading and writing whichthe intellectuals force upon them," they have their reasons for that; they have other spiritualneeds, more pressing and more legitimate. Try to understand those needs, and help them tosatisfy them!These theories, those of a revolutionary Conservative, as Tolstoy always was, he attempted toput into practice at Yasnaya, where he was rather the fellow-disciple than the master of hispupils.[14] At the same time, he endeavoured to introduce a new human spirit into agriculturalexploitation. Appointed in 1861 territorial arbitrator for the district of Krapiona, he was thepeople's champion against the abuses of power on the part of the landowners and the State.We must not suppose that this social activity satisfied him, or entirely filled his life. Hecontinued to be the prey of contending passions. Although he had suffered from the world, healways loved it and felt the need of it. Pleasure resumed him at intervals, or else the love ofaction. He would risk his life in hunting the bear. He played for heavy stakes. He would evenfall under the influence of the literary circles of St. Petersburg, for which he felt such contempt.After these aberrations came crises of disgust. Such of his writings as belong to this period bearunfortunate traces of this artistic and moral uncertainty. The Two Hussars (1856) has a qualityof pretentiousness and elegance, a snobbish worldly flavour, which shocks one as coming fromTolstoy. Albert, written at Dijon in 1857, is weak and eccentric, with no trace of the writer'shabitual depth or precision. The Diary of a Sportsman (1856), a more striking though hastypiece of work, seems to betray the disillusionment which Tolstoy inspired in himself. PrinceNekhludov, his Doppellganger, his double, kills himself in a gaming-house."He had everything: wealth, a name, intellect, and high ambitions; he had committed no crime;but he had done still worse: he had killed his courage, his youth; he was lost, without even theexcuse of a violent passion; merely from a lack of will."The approach of death itself does not alter him:"The same strange inconsequence, the same hesitation, the same frivolity of thought...."Death!... At this period it began to haunt his mind. Three Deaths (1858-59) alreadyforeshadowed the gloomy analysis of The Death of Ivan Ilyitch; the solitude of the dying man,his hatred of the living, his desperate query—"Why?" The triptych of the three deaths—that ofthe wealthy woman, that of the old consumptive postilion, and that of the slaughtered dog—isnot without majesty; the portraits are well drawn, the images are striking, although the wholework, which has been too highly praised, is somewhat loosely constructed, while the death ofthe dog lacks the poetic precision to be found in the writer's beautiful landscapes. Taking it as a


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whole, we hardly know how far it is intended as a work of art for the sake of art, or whether ithas a moral intention.Tolstoy himself did not know. On the 4th of February, 1858, when he read his essay ofadmittance before the Muscovite Society of Amateurs of Russian Literature , he chose for hissubject the defence of art for art's sake.[16] It was the president of the Society, Khomiakov, who,after saluting in Tolstoy "the representative of purely artistic literature," took up the defence ofsocial and moral art.[17]

A year later the death of his dearly-loved brother, Nikolas, who succumbed to phthisis [18] atHyères, on the 19th of September, 1860, completely overcame Tolstoy; shook him to the pointof "crushing his faith in goodness, in everything," and made him deny even his art:"Truth is horrible.... Doubless, so long as the desire to know and to speak the truth exists menwill try to know and to speak it. This is the only remnant left me of my moral concepts. It is theonly thing I shall do; but not in the form of art, your art. Art is a lie, and I can no longer love abeautiful lie."[19]

Less than six months later, however, he returned to the "beautiful lie" with Polikushka,[20] whichof all his works is perhaps most devoid of moral intention, if we except the latent maledictionupon money and its powers for evil; a work written purely for art's sake; a masterpiece,moreover, whose only flaws are a possibly excessive wealth of observation, an abundance ofmaterial which would have sufficed for a great novel, and the contrast, which is too severe, alittle too cruel, between the humorous opening and the atrocious climax.[21]


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[1] Suarès: Tolstoï, edition of the Union pour l'Action morale, 1899 (reprinted, in the Cahiers de la Quinzaine, under the titleTolstoï vivant).[2] Tourgenev complained, in a conversation, of "this stupid nobleman's pride, his bragging Junkerdom."[3] "A trait of my character, it may be good or ill, but it is one which was always peculiar to me, is that in spite of myself I alwaysused to resist external epidemic influences.... I had a hatred of the general tendency." (Letter to P. Birukov.)[4] Tourgenev.[5] Grigorovitch.[6] Eugène Gardine: Souvenirs sur Tourgeniev, 1883. See Vie et Oeuvre de Tolstoï, by Birukov.[7] Confessions.[8] "There was no difference between us and an asylum full of lunatics. Even at the time I vaguely suspected as much; but as allmadmen do, I regarded them as all mad excepting myself."—Confessions.[9] Confessions.[10] Diary of Prince D. Nekhludov.[11] At Dresden, during his travels he made the acquaintance of Auerbach, who had been the first to inspire him with the idea ofeducating the people; at Kissingen he met Froebel, in London Herzen, and in Brussels Proudhon, who seems to have made a greatimpression upon him.[12] Especially in 1861-62.[13] Education and Culture. See Vie et Oeuvre, by Birukov, vol. ii.[14] Tolstoy explained these principles in the review Yasnaya Polyana, 1862.[16] Lecture on The Superiority of the Artistic Element in Literature over all its Contemporary Tendencies.[17] He cited against Tolstoy his own examples, including the old postilion in The Three Deaths.[18] We may remark that another brother, Dmitri, had already died of the same disease in 1856. Tolstoy himself believed that hewas attacked by it in 1856, in 1862, and in 1871. He was, as he writes (the 28th of October, 1852), "of a strong constitution, butfeeble in health." He constantly suffered from chills, sore throats, toothache, inflamed eyes, and rheumatism. In the Caucasus, in1852, he had "two days in the week at least to keep his room." Illness stopped him for several months in 1854, on the road fromSilistria to Sebastopol. In 1856, at Yasnaya, he was seriously ill with an affection of the lungs. In 1862 the fear of phthisis inducedhim to undergo a Koumiss cure at Samara, where he lived with the Bachkirs, and after 1870 he returned thither almost yearly. Hiscorrespondence with Fet is full of preoccupations concerning his health. This physical condition enables one the better tounderstand his obsession by the thought of death. In later years he spoke of this illness as of his best friend:"When one is ill one seems to descend a very gentle slope, which at a certain point is barred by a curtain, a light curtain of somefilmy stuff; on the hither side is life, beyond is death. How far superior is the state of illness, in moral value, to that of health! Donot speak to me of those people who have never been ill! They are terrible, the women especially so! A woman who has neverknown illness is an absolute wild beast!" (Conversations with M. Paul Boyer, Le Temps, 27th of August, 1901.)[19] Letter to Fet, October 17, 1860 (Further Letters: in the French version, Correspondance inédite, pp. 27-30).[20] Written in Brussels, 1861.[21] Another novel written at this period is a simple narrative of a journey —The Snowstorm—which evokes personal memories,and is full of the beauty of poetic and quasi-musical impressions. Tolstoy used almost the same background later, in his Masterand Servant (1895).



From this period of transition, during which the genius of the man was feeling its way blindly,doubtful of itself and apparently exhausted, "devoid of strong passion, without a directing will,"like Nekhludov in the Diary of a Sportsman—from this period issued a work unique in its


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tenderness and charm: Family Happiness (1859). This was the miracle of love.For many years Tolstoy had been on friendly terms with the Bers family. He had fallen in lovewith the mother and the three daughters in succession.[1] His final choice fell upon the second,but he dared not confess it. Sophie Andreyevna Bers was still a child; she was seventeen yearsold, while Tolstoy was over thirty; he regarded himself as an old man, who had not the right toassociate his soiled and vitiated life with that of an innocent young girl. He held out for threeyears.[2] Afterwards; in Anna Karenin, he related how his declaration to Sophie Bers waseffected, and how she replied to it: both of them tracing with one finger, under a table, theinitials of words they dared not say.Like Levine in Anna Karenin , he was so cruelly honest as to place his intimate journal in thehands of his betrothed, in order that she should be unaware of none of his past transgressions;and Sophie, like Kitty in Anna Karenin , was bitterly hurt by its perusal. They were married onthe 23rd of September, 1862.In the artist's imagination this marriage was consummated three years earlier, when FamilyHappiness was written.[3] For these years he had been living in the future; through the ineffabledays of love that does not as yet know itself: through the delirious days of love that has attainedself-knowledge, and the hour in which the divine, anticipated words are whispered; when thetears arise "of a happiness which departs for ever and will never return again"; and thetriumphant reality of the early days of marriage; the egoism of lovers, "the incessant, causelessjoy," then the approaching weariness, the vague discontent, the boredom of a monotonous life,the two souls which softly disengage themselves and grow further and further away from oneanother; the dangerous attraction of the world for the young wife—flirtations, jealousies, fatalmisunderstandings;—love dissimulated, love lost; and at length the sad and tender autumn ofthe heart; the face of love which reappears, paler, older, but more touching by reason of tearsand the marks of time; the memory of troubles, the regret for the ill things done and the yearsthat are lost; the calm of the evening; the august passage from love to friendship, and theromance of the passion of maternity.... All that was to come, all this Tolstoy had dreamed of,tasted in advance; and in order to live through those days more vividly he lived in the well-beloved. For the first time—perhaps the only time in all his writings—the story passes in theheart of a woman, and is told by her; and with what exquisite delicacy, what spiritual beauty!—the beauty of a soul withdrawn behind a veil of the truest modesty. For once the analysis of thewriter is deprived of its cruder lights; there is no feverish struggle to present the naked truth. Thesecrets of the inward life are divined rather than spoken. The art and the heart of the artist areboth touched and softened; there is a harmonious balance of thought and form. FamilyHappiness has the perfection of a work of Racine.Marriage, whose sweet and bitter Tolstoy presented with so limpid a profundity, was to be hissalvation. He was tired, unwell, disgusted with himself and his efforts. The brilliant successwhich had crowned his earlier works had given way to the absolute silence of the critics and theindifference of the public.[4] He pretended, haughtily, to be not ill-pleased."My reputation has greatly diminished in popularity; a fact which was saddening me. Now I amcontent; I know that I have to say something, and that I have the power to speak it with no


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feeble voice. As for the public, let it think what it will!"[5]

But he was boasting: he himself was not sure of his art. Certainly he was the master of hisliterary instrument; but he did not know what to do with it, as he said in respect of Polikuskha:"it was a matter of chattering about the first subject that came to hand, by a man who knowshow to hold his pen."[6] His social work was abortive. In 1862 he resigned his appointment asterritorial arbitrator. The same year the police made a search at Yasnaya Polyana, turnedeverything topsy-turvy, and closed the school. Tolstoy was absent at the time, suffering fromoverwork; fearing that he was attacked by phthisis."The squabbles of arbitration had become so painful to me, the work of the school so vague,and the doubts which arose from the desire of teaching others while hiding my own ignoranceof what had to be taught, were so disheartening that I fell ill. Perhaps I should then have falleninto the state of despair to which I was to succumb fifteen years later, had there not remained tome an unknown aspect of life which promised salvation—the life of the family."[7]

[1] When a child he had, in a fit of jealousy, pushed from a balcony the little girl—then aged nine—who afterwards becameMadame Bers, with the result that she was lame for several years.[2] See, in Family Happiness, the declaration of Sergius: "Suppose there were a Mr. A, an elderly man who had lived his life, anda lady B, young and happy, who as yet knew neither men nor life. As the result of various domestic happenings, he came to loveher as a daughter, and was not aware that he could love her in another way ..." &c.[3] Perhaps this novel contained the memories also of a romantic love affair which commenced in 1856, in Moscow, the secondparty to which was a young girl very different to himself, very worldly and frivolous, from whom he finally parted, althoughthey were sincerely attached to one another.[4] From 1857 to 1861.[5] Journal, October, 1857.[6] Letter to Fet, 1863 (Vie et Oeuvre).[7] Confessions.



At first he rejoiced in the new life, with the passion which he brought to everything.[1] Thepersonal influence of Countess Tolstoy was a godsend to his art. Greatly gifted [2] in a literarysense, she was, as she says, "a true author's wife," so keenly did she take her husband's work toheart. She worked with him—worked to his dictation; re-copied his rough drafts.[3] She soughtto protect him from his religious dæmon, that formidable genie which was already, at moments,whispering words that meant the death of art. She tried to shut the door upon all socialUtopias.[4] She requickened her husband's creative genius. She did more: she brought as anoffering to that genius the wealth of a fresh feminine temperament. With the exception of thecharming silhouettes in Childhood and Boyhood, there are few women in the earlier works of


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Tolstoy, or they remain of secondary importance. Woman appears in Family Happiness, writtenunder the influence of his love for Sophie Bers. In the works which follow there are numeroustypes of young girls and women, full of intensest life, and even superior to the male types. Onelikes to think not only that Countess Tolstoy served her husband as the model for Natasha inWar and Peace [5] and for Kitty in Anna Karenin ,[6] but that she was enabled, by means of herconfidences and her own vision, to become his discreet and valuable collaborator. Certain pagesof Anna Karenin in particular seem to me to reveal a woman's touch.Thanks to the advantages of this union, Tolstoy enjoyed for a space of twelve or fourteen yearsa peace and security which had been long unknown to him.[7] He was able, sheltered by love, todream and to realise at leisure the masterpieces of his brain, the colossal monuments whichdominate the fiction of the nineteenth century—War and Peace (1864-69) and Anna Karenin(1873-77).War and Peace is the vastest epic of our times—a modern Iliad. A world of faces and ofpassions moves within it. Over this human ocean of innumerable waves broods a sovereignmind, which serenely raises or stills the tempest.More than once in the past, while contemplating this work, I was reminded of Homer and ofGoethe, in spite of the vastly different spirit and period of the work. Since then I havediscovered that at the period of writing these books Tolstoy was as a matter of fact nourishinghis mind upon Homer and Goethe.[8] Moreover, in the notes, dated 1865, in which he classifiesthe various departments of letters, he mentions, as belonging to the same family, "Odyssey,Iliad, 1805,"[9] The natural development of his mind led him from the romance of individualdestinies to the romance of armies and peoples, those vast human hordes in which the wills ofmillions of beings are dissolved. His tragic experiences at the siege of Sebastopol helped him tocomprehend the soul of the Russian nation and its daily life. According to his first intentions,the gigantic War and Peace was to be merely the central panel of a series of epic frescoes, inwhich the poem of Russia should be developed from Peter the Great to the Decembrists.[10]

And in June, 1863, he notes in his diary:"I am reading Goethe, and many ideas are coming to life within me."In the spring of 1863 Tolstoy was re-reading Goethe, and wrote of Faust as "the poetry of theworld of thought; the poetry which expresses that which can be expressed by no other art."Later he sacrificed Goethe, as he did Shakespeare, to his God. But he remained faithful in hisadmiration of Homer. In August, 1857, he was reading, with equal zest, the Iliad and the Bible.In one of his latest works, the pamphlet attacking Shakespeare (1903), it is Homer that heopposes to Shakespeare as an example of sincerity, balance, and true art.To be truly sensible of the power of this work, we must take into account its hidden unity. Toomany readers, unable to see it in perspective, perceive in it nothing but thousands of details,whose profusion amazes and distracts them. They are lost in this forest of life. The reader muststand aloof, upon a height; he must attain the view of the unobstructed horizon, the vast circleof forest and meadow; then he will catch the Homeric spirit of the work, the calm of eternallaws, the awful rhythm of the breathing of Destiny, the sense of the whole of which every detail


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makes a part; and the genius of the artist, supreme over the whole, like the God of Genesis whobroods upon the face of the waters.In the beginning, the calm of the ocean. Peace, and the life of Russia before the war. The firsthundred pages reflect, with an impassive precision, a detached irony, the yawning emptiness ofworldly minds. Only towards the hundredth page do we hear the cry of one of these living dead—the worst among them, Prince Basil:"We commit sins; we deceive one another; and why do we do it all? My friend, I am more thansixty years old.... All ends in death.... Death—what horror!"Among these idle, insipid, untruthful souls, capable of every aberration, of every crime, certainsaner natures are prominent: genuine natures by their clumsy candour, like Pierre Besoukhov;by their deeply rooted independence, their Old Russian peculiarities, like Marie Dmitrievna; bythe freshness of their youth, like the little Rostoffs: natures full of goodness and resignation, likethe Princess Marie; and those who, like Prince Andrei, are not good, but proud, and aretormented by an unhealthy existence.Now comes the first muttering of the waves. The Russian army is in Austria. Fatality is supreme:nowhere more visibly imperious than in the loosing of elementary forces—in the war. The trueleaders are those who do not seek to lead or direct, but, like Kutuzov or Bagration, to "allow itto be believed that their personal intentions are in perfect agreement with what is really thesimple result of the force of circ*mstances, the will of subordinates, and the caprices of chance."The advantage of surrendering to the hand of Destiny! The happiness of simple action, a saneand normal state.... The troubled spirits regain their poise. Prince Andrei breathes, begins tolive.... And while in the far distance, remote from the lifegiving breath of the holy tempest,Pierre and the Princess Marie are threatened by the contagion of their world and the deceptionof love, Andrei, wounded at Austerlitz, has suddenly, amid the intoxication of action brutallyinterrupted, the revelation of the serene immensity of the universe. Lying on his back, "he seesnothing now, except, very far above him, a sky infinitely deep, wherein light, greyish clouds gosoftly wandering.""What peacefulness! How calm!" he was saying to himself; "it was not like this when I wasrunning by and shouting.... How was it I did not notice it before, this illimitable depth? Howhappy I am to have found it at last! Yes, all is emptiness, all is deception, except this. And Godbe praised for this calm!..."But life resumes him, and again the wave falls. Left once more to themselves, in thedemoralising atmosphere of cities, the restless, discouraged souls wander blindly in thedarkness. Sometimes through the poisoned atmosphere of the world sweep the intoxicating,maddening odours of nature, love, and springtime; the blind forces, which draw together PrinceAndrei and the charming Natasha, to throw her, a moment later, into the arms of the firstseducer to hand. So I much poetry, so much tenderness, so much purity of heart, tarnished bythe world! And always "the wide sky which broods above the outrage and abjectness of theearth." But man does not see it. Even Andrei has forgotten the light of Austerlitz. For him thesky is now only "a dark, heavy vault" which covers the face of emptiness.It is time for the hurricane of war to burst once more upon these vitiated minds. The fatherland,


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Russia, is invaded. Then comes the day of Borodino, with its solemn majesty. Enmities areeffaced. Dologhov embraces his enemy Pierre. Andrei, wounded, weeps for pity andcompassion over the misery of the man whom he most hated, Anatol Kuraguin, his neighbourin the ambulance. The unity of hearts is accomplished; unity in passionate sacrifice to thecountry and submission to the divine laws."To accept the frightful necessity of war, seriously and austerely.... To human liberty, war is themost painful act of submission to the divine laws. Simplicity of heart consists in submission tothe will of God."The soul of the Russian people and its submission to Destiny are incarnated in the person of thecommander-in-chief, Kutuzov. "This old man, who has no passions left, but only experience,the result of the passions, and in whom intelligence, which is intended to group together factsand to draw from them conclusions, is replaced by a philosophical contemplation of events,devises nothing and undertakes nothing; but he listens to and remembers everything; he knowshow to profit by it at the right moment; he will hinder nothing that is of use, he will permitnothing harmful. He sees on the faces of his troops that inexpressible force which is known asthe will to conquer; it is latent victory. He admits something more powerful than his own will:the inevitable march of the facts which pass before his eyes; he sees them, he follows them, andhe is able mentally to stand aloof."In short, he has the heart of a Russian. This fatalism of the Russian people, calmly heroic, ispersonified also in the poor moujik, Platon Karatayev, simple, pious, and resigned, with hiskindly patient smile in suffering and in death. Through suffering and experience, above theruins of their country, after the horrors of its agony, Pierre and Andrei, the two heroes of thebook, attain, through love and faith, to the moral deliverance and the mystic joy by which theybehold God living.Tolstoy does not stop here. The epilogue, of which the action passes in 1820, deals with thetransition from one age to another: from one Napoleonic era to the era of the Decembrists. Itproduces an impression of continuity, and of the resumption of life. Instead of commencing andending in the midst of a crisis, Tolstoy finishes, as he began, at the moment when a great wavehas spent itself, while that following it is gathering itself together. Already we obtain a glimpseof the heroes to be, of the conflicts which will ensue between them, and of the dead who areborn again in the living.[11]

I have tried to indicate the broad lines of the romance; for few readers take the trouble to lookfor them. But what words are adequate to describe the extraordinary vitality of these hundredsof heroes, all distinct individuals, all drawn with unforgettable mastery: soldiers, peasants, greatnobles, Russians, Austrians, Frenchmen! Not a line savours of improvisation. For this gallery ofportraits, unexampled in European literature, Tolstoy made sketches without number:"combined," as he says, "millions of projects"; buried himself in libraries; laid undercontribution his family archives,[12] his previous notes, his personal memories. This meticulouspreparation ensured the solidity of the work, but did not damp his spontaneity. Tolstoy workedwith enthusiasm, with an eagerness and a delight which communicate themselves to the reader.Above all, the great charm of War and Peace resides in its spirit of youth. No other work of


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Tolstoy's presents in such abundance the soul of childhood and of youth; and each youthfulspirit is a strain of music, pure as a spring, full of a touching and penetrating grace, like amelody of Mozart's. Of such are the young Nikolas Rostoff, Sonia, and poor little Petia.Most exquisite of all is Natasha. Dear little girl!—fantastic, full of laughter, her heart full ofaffection, we see her grow up before us, we follow her through life, with the tenderness onewould feel for a sister—who that has read of her does not feel that he has known her?... Thatwonderful night of spring, when Natasha, at her window, flooded with the moonlight, dreamsand speaks wildly, above the window of the listening Andrei ... the emotions of the first ball, theexpectation of love, the burgeoning of riotous dreams and desires, the sleigh-ride, the night inthe snow-bound forest, full of fantastic lights; Nature, and the embrace of her vague tenderness:the evening at the Opera, the unfamiliar world of art, in which reason grows confused; the follyof the heart, and the folly of the body yearning for love; the misery that floods the soul; thedivine pity which watches over the dying lover.... One cannot evoke these pitiful memorieswithout emotion; such emotion as one would feel in speaking of a dear and beloved woman.How such a creation shows the weakness of the female types in almost the whole ofcontemporary drama and fiction! Life itself has been captured; life so fluid, so supple, that weseem to see it throbbing and changing from one line to another.Princess Marie, the ugly woman, whose goodness makes her beautiful, is no less perfect aportrait; but how the timid, awkward girl would have blushed, how those who resemble hermust blush, at finding unveiled all the secrets of a heart which hides itself so fearfully fromevery glance!In general the portraits of women are, as I have said, very much finer than the male characters;in especial than those of the two heroes to whom Tolstoy has given his own ideas: the weak,pliable nature of Pierre Besoukhov, and the hard, eager nature of Prince Andrie Bolkonsky.These are characters which lack a centre of gravity; they oscillate perpetually, rather thanevolve; they run from one extreme to the other, yet never advance. One may, of course, replythat in this they are thoroughly Russian. I find, however, that Russians have criticised them insimilar terms. Tourgenev doubtless had them in mind when he complained that Tolstoy'spsychology was a stationary matter. "No real development. Eternal hesitations: oscillations offeeling."[13]

Tolstoy himself admitted that he had at times rather sacrificed the individual character to thehistorical design.[14]

It is true, in fact, that the glory of War and Peace resides in the resurrection of a completehistorical period, with its national migrations, its warfare of peoples. Its true heroes are thesepeoples; and behind them, as behind the heroes of Homer, the gods who lead them; the forces,invisible, "infinitely small, which direct the masses," the breath of the Infinite. These giganticconflicts, in which a hidden destiny hurls the blind nations together, have a mythical grandeur.Our thoughts go beyond the Iliad: we are reminded of the Hindu epics.

[1] "Domestic happiness completely absorbs me" (January 5, 1863). "I am so happy! so happy! I love her so!" (February 8,1863). See Vie et Oeuvre.


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[2] She had written several novels.[3] It is said that she copied War and Peace seven times.[4] Directly after his marriage Tolstoy suspended his work of teaching, his review, and his school.[5] Her sister Tatiana, intelligent and artistic, whose wit and musical talent were greatly admired by Tolstoy, also served him as amodel. Tolstoy used to say, "I took Tania [Tatiana]; I beat her up with Sonia [Sophie Bers, Countess Tolstoy], and out cameNatasha" (cited by P. Birukov).[6] The installation of Dolly in the tumble-down country house; Dolly and the children; a number of details of dress and toilet;without speaking of certain secrets of the feminine mind, which even the intuition of a man of genius might perhaps have failedto penetrate, if a woman had not betrayed them to him.[7] Here is a characteristic instance of Tolstoy's enslavement by his creative genius: his Journal is interrupted for thirteen years,from November 1, 1865, when the composition of War and Peace was in full swing. The egoism of the artist has silenced themonologue of the conscience.—This period of creation was also a period of robust physical life. Tolstoy was "mad on hunting.""Hunting, I forget everything...." (Letter of 1864.) In September, 1864, during a hunt on horse back, he broke his arm, and it wasduring his convalescence that the first portions of War and Peace were dictated.—"On recovering consciousness after fainting, Isaid to myself: 'I am an artist.' And I am, but a lonely artist." (Letter to Fet, January 29, 1865.) All the letters written at this time toFet are full of an exulting joy of creation. "I regard all that I have hitherto published," he says, "as merely a trial of my pen."(Ibid.)[8] Before this date Tolstoy had noted, among the books which influenced him between the ages of twenty and thirty-five:"Goethe: Hermann and Dorothea—Very great influence.""Homer: Iliad and Odyssey (in Russian)—Very great influence."[9] The two first parts of War and Peace appeared in 1865-66 under the title The Year 1805.[10] Tolstoy commenced this work in 1863 by The Decembrists, of which he wrote three fragments. But he saw that thefoundations of his plan were not sufficiently assured, and going further back, to the period of the Napoleonic Wars, he wrote Warand Peace. Publication was commenced in the Rousski Viestnik of January, 1865; the sixth volume was completed in the autumnof 1869. Then Tolstoy ascended the stream of history; and he conceived the plan of an epic romance dealing with Peter the Great;then of another, Mirovitch, dealing with the rule of the Empresses of the eighteenth century and their favourites. He worked at itfrom 1870 to 1873, surrounded with documents, and writing the first drafts of various portions; but his realistic scruples madehim renounce the project: he was conscious that he could never succeed in resuscitating the spirit of those distant periods in asufficiently truthful fashion. Later, in January, 1876, he conceived the idea of another romance of the period of Nikolas I.; thenhe eagerly returned to the Decembrists, collecting the evidence of survivors and visiting the scenes of the action. In 1878 he wroteto his aunt, Countess A. A. Tolstoy: "This work is so important to me! You cannot imagine how much it means to me; it is asmuch to me as your faith is to you. I would say even more." (Correspondence) But in proportion as he plumbed the subject hegrew away from it; his heart was in it no longer. As early as April, 1879, he wrote to Fet: " The Decembrists? If I were thinking ofit, if I were to write it, I should flatter myself with the hope that the very atmosphere of my mind would be insupportable to thosewho fire upon men for the good of humanity." ( Ibid.) At this period of his life the religious crisis had set in; he was about to burnhis ancient idols.[11] Pierre Besoukhov, who has married Natasha, will become a Decembrist. He has founded a secret society to watch over thegeneral good, a sort of Tugelbund. Natasha associates herself with his plans with the utmost enthusiasm. Denissov cannot conceiveof a pacific revolution; but is quite ready for an armed revolt. Nikolas Rostoff has retained his blind soldier's loyalty. He who saidbefore Austerlitz, "We have only one thing to do: to fight and never to think," is angry with Pierre, and exclaims: "My oath beforeall! If I were ordered to march against you with my squadron I should march and I should strike home." His wife, Princess Marie,agrees with him. Prince Andrei's son, little Nikolas Bolkonsky, fifteen years old, delicate, sickly, yet charming, with wide eyes andgolden hair, listens feverishly to the discussion; all his love is Pierre's and Natasha's; he does not care greatly for Nikolas andMarie; he worships his father, whom he has never seen; he dreams of growing like him, of being grown up, of doing somethingwonderful, he knows not what. "Whatever they tell me, I will do it.... Yes, I shall do it. He would have been pleased with me."—And the book ends with the dream of a child, who sees himself in the guise of one of Plutarch's heroes, with his uncle Pierre byhis side, preceded by Glory, and followed by an army.—If the Decembrists had been written then little Bolkonsky woulddoubtless have been one of its heroes.[12] I have remarked that the two families Rostoff and Bolkonsky, in War and Peace, recall the families of Tolstoy's father andmother by many characteristics. Again, in the novels of the Caucasus and Sebastopol there are many of the types of soldiers,officers and men, which appear in War and Peace.[13] Letter of February 2, 1868, cited by Birukov.[14] Notably, he said, that of Prince Andrei in the first part.


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Anna Karenin, with War and Peace, [1] marks the climax of this period of maturity. AnnaKarenin is the more perfect work; the work of a mind more certain of its artistic creation, richertoo in experience; a mind for which the world of the heart holds no more secrets. But it lacks thefire of youth, the freshness of enthusiasm, the mighty pinions of War and Peace . AlreadyTolstoy has lost something of the joy of creation. The temporary peace of the first months ofmarriage has flown. Into the enchanted circle of love and art which Countess Tolstoy had drawnabout him moral scruples begin to intrude.Even in the early chapters of War and Peace, written one year after marriage, the confidences ofPrince Andrei to Pierre upon the subject of marriage denote the disenchantment of the man whosees in the beloved woman the stranger, the innocent enemy, the involuntary obstacle to hismoral development. Some letters of 1865 announce the coming return of religious troubles. Asyet they are only passing threats, blotting out the joy of life. But during the months of 1869,when Tolstoy was finishing War and Peace, there fell a more serious blow.He had left his home for a few days to visit a distant estate. One night he was lying in bed; ithad just struck two:"I was dreadfully tired; I was sleepy, and felt comfortable enough. All of a sudden I was seizedby such anguish, such terror as I had never felt in all my life. I will tell you about it in detail; itwas truly frightful. I leapt from the bed and told them to get the horses ready. While they wereputting them in I fell asleep, and when I woke again I was completely recovered. Yesterday thesame thing happened, but in a much less degree."The palace of illusion, so laboriously raised by the love of the wife, was tottering. In thespiritual blank which followed the achievement of War and Peace the artist was recaptured byhis philosophical[2] and educational preoccupations; he wished to write a spelling-book for thepeople; he worked at it feverishly for four years; he was prouder of it than of War and Peace ,and when it was finished (1872) he wrote a second (1875). Then he conceived a passion forGreek; he studied Latin from morning to night; he abandoned all other work; he discovered "thedelightful Xenophon," and Homer, the real Homer; not the Homer of the translators, "all theseJoukhovskys and Vosses who sing with any sort of voice they can manage to produce, guttural,peevish, mawkish," but "this other devil, who sings at the top of his voice, without it everentering his head that any one may be listening."[3]

"Without a knowledge of Greek, no education! I am convinced that until now I knew nothing ofall that is truly beautiful and of a simple beauty in human speech."This is folly, and he admits as much. He goes to school again with such passionate enthusiasmthat he falls ill. In 1871 he was forced to go to Samara to undergo the koumiss cure, staying withthe Bachkirs. Nothing pleased him but his Greek. At the end of a lawsuit, in 1872, he spokeseriously of selling all that he possessed in Russia and of settling in England. Countess Tolstoywas in despair:


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"If you are always absorbed in your Greeks you will never get well. It is they who have causedthis suffering and this indifference concerning your present life. It is not in vain that we callGreek a dead language; it produces a condition of death in the spirit."[4]

Finally, to the great joy of the Countess, after many plans abandoned before they were fairlycommenced, on March 19, 1873, he began to write Anna Karenin.[5] While he worked at it hislife I was saddened by domestic sorrow;[6] his wife was ill. "Happiness does not reign in thehouse,"[7] he writes to Fet in 1876.To some extent the work bears traces of these depressing experiences, and of passionsdisillusioned.[8] Save in the charming passages dealing with the betrothal of Levine, love is nolonger presented with the spirit of youth and poetry which places certain pages of War andPeace on a level with the most beautiful lyric poetry of all times. It has assumed a differentcharacter: bitter, sensual, imperious. The fatality which broods over the romance is no longer, asin War and Peace , a kind of Krishna, murderous and serene, the Destiny of empires, but themadness of love, "Venus herself." She it is, in the wonderful ball scene, when passion seizesupon Anna and Vronsky unawares, who endows the innocent beauty of Anna, crowned withforget-me-not and clothed in black velvet, with "an almost infernal seductiveness." She it iswho, when Vronsky has just declared his love, throws a light upon Anna's face; but a light "notof joy; it was the terrible glare of an incendiary fire upon a gloomy night." She it is who, in theveins of this loyal and reasonable woman, this young, affectionate mother, pours a voluptuousstream as of irresistible ichor, and installs herself in her heart, never to leave it until she hasdestroyed it. No one can approach Anna without feeling the attraction and the terror of thishidden dæmon. Kitty is the first to discover it, with a shock of bewilderment. A mysterious fearmingles with the delight of Vronsky when he goes to see Anna. Levine, in her presence, losesall his will. Anna herself is perfectly well aware that she is no longer her own mistress. As thestory develops the implacable passion consumes, little by little, the whole moral structure of thisproud woman. All that is best in her, her sincere, courageous mind, crumbles and falls; she hasno longer the strength to sacrifice her worldly vanity; her life has no other object than to pleaseher lover; she refuses, with shame and terror, to bear children; jealousy tortures her; the sensualpassion which enslaves her obliges her to lie with her gestures, her voice, her eyes; she falls tothe level of those women who no longer seek anything but the power of making every man turnto look after them; she uses morphia to dull her sufferings, until the intolerable torments whichconsume her overcome her with the bitter sense of her moral downfall, and cast her beneath thewheels of the railway-carriage. "And the little moujik with the untidy beard"—the sinister visionwhich has haunted her dreams and Vronsky's—"leaned over the track from the platform of thecarriage"; and, as the prophetic dream foretold, "he was bent double over a sack, in which hewas hiding the remains of something which had known life, with its torments, its betrayals, andits sorrow."

"Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord."[9]

Around this tragedy of a soul consumed by love and crushed by the law of God—a painting ina single shade, and of terrible gloom—Tolstoy has woven, as in War and Peace, the romancesof other lives. Unfortunately these parallel stories alternate in a somewhat stiff and artificial


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manner, without achieving the organic unity of the symphony of War and Peace. It may also besaid that the perfect realism of certain of the pictures—the aristocratic circles of St. Petersburgand their idle discourse—is now and again superfluous and unnecessary. Finally, and moreopenly than in War and Peace , Tolstoy has presented his own moral character and hisphilosophic ideas side by side with the spectacle of life. None the less, the work is of amarvellous richness. There is the same profusion of types as in War and Peace, and all are of astriking justness. The portraits of the men seem to me even superior. Tolstoy has depicted withevident delight the amiable egoist, Stepan Arcadievitch, whom no one can look at withoutresponding to his affectionate smile, and Karenin, the perfect type of the high official, thedistinguished and commonplace states-man, with his mania for concealing his real opinions andfeelings under a mask of perpetual irony: a mixture of dignity and cowardice, of Phariseeismand Christian feeling: a strange product of an artificial world, from which he can nevercompletely free himself in spite of his intelligence and his true generosity; a man afraid to listento his I own heart, and rightly so afraid, since when he does surrender to it, he ends by fallinginto a state of nonsensical mysticism.But the principal interest of the romance, besides the tragedy of Anna and the varied pictures ofRussian society towards 1860—of salons, officers' clubs, balls, theatres, races—lies in itsautobiographical character. More than any other personage of Tolstoy's books, ConstantineLevine is the incarnation of the writer himself. Not only has Tolstoy attributed to him his ownideas—at one and the same time conservative and democratic—and the anti-Liberalism of theprovincial aristocrat who despises "intellectuals;[10] but he has made him the gift of part of hisown life. The love of Levine and Kitty and their first years of marriage are a transposition of hisown domestic memories, just as the death of Levine's brother is a melancholy evocation of thedeath of Tolstoy's brother, Dmitri. The latter portion, useless to the romance, gives us an insightinto the troubles which were then oppressing the author. While the epilogue of War and Peacewas an artistic transition to another projected work, the epilogue to Anna Karenin is anautobiographical transition to the moral revolution which, two years later, was to findexpression in the Confessions. Already, in the course of Anna Karenin, he returns again andagain to a violent or ironical criticism of contemporary society, which he never ceased to attackin his subsequent works. War is declared upon deceit: war upon lies; upon virtuous as well asvicious lies; upon liberal chatter, fashionable charity, drawing-room religion, and philanthropy.War against the world, which distorts all truthful feelings, and inevitably crushes the generousenthusiasm of the mind! Death throws an unexpected light upon the social conventions. BeforeAnna dying, the stilted Karenin is softened. Into this lifeless soul, in which everything isartificial, shines a ray of love and of Christian forgiveness. All three—the husband, the wife,and the lover—are momentarily transformed. All three become simple and loyal. But as Annarecovers, all three are sensible, "facing the almost holy moral strength which was guiding themfrom within, the existence of another force, brutal but all-powerful, which was directing theirlives despite themselves, and which would not leave them in peace." And they knew from thebeginning that they would be powerless in the coming struggle, in which they would be obligedto do the evil that the world would consider necessary."[11]

If Levine, like Tolstoy, whose incarnation he is, also became purified in the epilogue to thebook, it was because he too was touched by mortality. Previously, "incapable of believing, he


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was equally incapable of absolute doubt."[12] After he beheld his brother die the terror of hisignorance possessed him. For a time this misery was stifled by his marriage; but it re-awakenedat the birth of his firstborn. He passed alternately through crises of prayer and negation. He readthe philosophers in vain. He began, in his distracted state, to fear the temptation of suicide.Physical work was a solace; it presented no doubts; all was clear. Levine conversed with thepeasants; one of them spoke of the men "who live not for self, but for God." This was to him anillumination. He saw the antagonism between the reason and the heart. Reason preached theferocious struggle for life; there is nothing reasonable in loving one's neighbour:"Reason has taught me nothing; all that I know has been given to me, revealed to me by theheart."[13]

From this time peace returned. The word of the humble peasant, whose heart was his onlyguide, had led him back to God.... To what God? He did not seek to know. His attitude towardthe Church at this moment, as was Tolstoy's for a long period, was humble, and in no wisedefiant of her dogmas."There is a truth even in the illusion of the celestial vault and in the apparent movement of thestars."[14]


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[1] It is regrettable that the beauty of the poetical conception of the work is often tarnished by the philosophical chatter withwhich Tolstoy has loaded his work, especially in the later portions. He is determined to make an exposition of his theory of thefatality of history. The pity is that he returns to the point incessantly, and obstinately repeats himself. Flaubert, who "gave vent tocries of admiration" while reading the first two volumes, which he declared "sublime" and "full of Shakespearean things," threwthe third volume aside in boredom: "He goes off horribly. He repeats himself, and he philosophises. We see the aristocrat, theauthor, and the Russian, while hitherto we have seen nothing but Nature and Humanity." (Letter to Tourgenev, January, 1880.)[2] While he was finishing War and Peace, in the summer of 1869, he discovered Schopenhauer, and was filled with enthusiasm."I am convinced that Schopenhauer is the most genial of men. Here is the whole universe reflected with an extraordinary clearnessand beauty." (Letter to Fet, August 30, 1869.)[3] "Between Homer and his translators," he says again, "there is the difference between boiled and distilled water and the spring-water broken on the rocks, which may carry the sand along with it as it flows, but becomes more pure and fresh on that account."[4] Papers of Countess Tolstoy (Vie et Oeuvre).[5] It was completed in 1877. It appeared—minus the epilogue—in the Rousski Viestniki.[6] The death of three children (November 18, 1873, February, 1875, November, 1875); of his Aunt Tatiana, his adopted mother(June, 1874), and of his Aunt Pelagia (December, 1875).[7] Letter to Fet, March, 1876.[8] "Woman is the stumbling-block of a man's career. It is difficult to love a woman and to do nothing of any profit; and the onlyway of not being reduced to inaction by love is to marry." (Anna Karenin.)[9] The motto at the commencement of the book.[10] Notice also, in the epilogue, the hostility towards warfare, nationalism, and Pan-Slavism.[11] "Evil is that which is reasonable to the world. Sacrifice and love are insanity."[12] (Anna Karenin, vol. ii.)[13] Anna Karenin, vol. ii.[14] Ibid.



The misery which oppressed Levine, and the longing for suicide which he concealed fromKitty, Tolstoy was at this period concealing from his wife. But he had not as yet achieved thecalm which he attributed to his hero. To be truthful, this mental state is hardly communicated tothe reader. We feel that it is desired rather than realised, and that Levine's relapse among hisdoubts is imminent. Tolstoy was not duped by his desires. He had the greatest difficulty inreaching the end of his work. Anna Karenin wearied him before he had finished it.[1] He couldwork no longer. He remained at a standstill; inert, without will-power, a prey to selfterror andself-disgust. There, in the emptiness of his life, rose the great wind which issued from the abyss;the vertigo of death.Tolstoy told of these terrible years at a later period, when he was newly escaped from theabyss.[2]

"I was not fifty," he said; "I loved; I was loved; I had good children, a great estate, fame, health,and moral and physical vigour; I could reap or mow like any peasant; I used to work ten hoursat a stretch without fatigue. Suddenly my life came to a standstill. I could breathe, eat, drink and


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sleep. But this was not to live. I had no desires left. I knew there was nothing to desire. I couldnot even wish to know the truth. The truth was that life is a piece of insanity. I had reached theabyss, and I saw clearly that there was nothing before me but death. I, a fortunate and healthyman, felt that I could not go on living. An irresistible force was urging me to rid myself of life....I will not say that I wanted to kill myself. The force which was edging me out of life wassomething stronger than myself; it was an aspiration, a desire like my old desire for life, but inan inverse sense. I had to humour, to deceive myself, lest I should give way to it too promptly.There I was, a happy man,—and I would hide away a piece of cord lest I should hang myselffrom the beam that ran between the cupboards of my room, where I was alone every night whileundressing. I no longer took my gun out for a little shooting, lest I should be tempted.[3] Itseemed to me that life was a dreary farce, which was being played out before my eyes. Fortyyears of work, of trouble, of progress, only to find that there is nothing! Nothing! Nothing willremain of me but putrescence and worms.... One can live only while one is intoxicated with life;but the moment the intoxication is over one sees that all is merely deceit, a clumsy fraud.... Myfamily and art were no longer enough to satisfy me. My family consisted of unhappy creatureslike myself. Art is a mirror to life. When life no longer means anything it is no longer amusingto use the mirror. And the worst of it was, I could not resign myself—I was like a man lost in aforest, who is seized with horror because he is lost, and who runs hither and thither and cannotstop, although he knows that at every step he is straying further."Salvation came from the people. Tolstoy had always had for them "a strange affection,absolutely genuine,"[4] which the repeated experiences of his social disillusions were powerlessto shake. Of late years he, like Levine, had drawn very near to them.[5] He began to ponderconcerning these millions of beings who were excluded from the narrow circle of the learned,the rich, and the idle who killed themselves, endeavoured to forget themselves, or, like himself,were basely prolonging a hopeless life. He asked himself why these millions of men and womenescaped this despair: why they did not kill themselves. He then perceived that they were livingnot by the light of reason, but without even thinking of reason; they were living by faith. Whatwas this faith which knew nothing of reason?"Faith is the energy of life. One cannot live without faith. The ideas of religion were elaboratedin the infinite remoteness of human thought. The replies given by faith to Life the sphinxcontain the deepest wisdom of humanity."Is it enough, then, to be acquainted with those formulæ of wisdom recorded in the volume ofreligion? No, for faith is not a science; faith is an act; it has no meaning unless it is lived. Thedisgust which Tolstoy felt at the sight of rich and right-thinking people, for whom faith wasmerely a kind of "epicurean consolation," threw him definitely among the simple folk whoalone lived lives in agreement with their faith."And he understood that the life of the labouring people was life itself, and that the meaning tobe attributed to that life was truth."But how become a part of the people and share its faith? It is not enough to know that others arein the right; it does not depend upon ourselves whether we are like them. We pray to God invain; in vain we stretch our eager arms toward Him. God flies. Where shall He be found?


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But one day grace descended:"One day of early spring I was alone in the forest, listening to its sounds.... I was thinking of mydistress during the last three years; of my search for God; of my perpetual oscillations from joyto despair.... And I suddenly saw that I used to live only when I used to believe in God. At thevery thought of Him the delightful waves of life stirred in me. Everything around me grew fullof life; everything received a meaning. But the moment I no longer believed life suddenlyceased."Then what am I still searching for? a voice cried within me. For Him, without whom mancannot live! To know God and to live—it is the same thing! For God is Life....

"Since then this light has never again deserted me."[6]

He was saved. God had appeared to him.[7]

But as he was not a Hindu mystic, to whom ecstasy suffices; as to the dreams of the Asiatic wasadded the thirst for reason and the need of action of the Occidental, he was moved to translatehis revelation into terms of practical faith, and to draw from the holy life the rules of dailyexistence. Without any previous bias, and sincerely wishing to believe in the beliefs of his ownflesh and blood, he began by studying the doctrine of the Orthodox Church, of which he was amember.[8] In order to become more intimately a part of that body he submitted for three yearsto all its ceremonies; confessing himself, communicating; not presuming to judge such mattersas shocked him, inventing explanations for what he found obscure or incomprehensible, unitinghimself, through and in their faith, with all those whom he loved, whether living or dead, andalways cherishing the hope that at a certain moment "love would open to him the gates of truth."But it was all useless: his reason and his heart revolted. Such ceremonies as baptism andcommunion appeared to him scandalous. When he was forced to repeat that the host was thetrue body and true blood of Christ, "he felt as though a knife were plunged into his heart." But itwas not the dogmas which raised between the Church and himself an insurmountable wall, butthe practical questions, and in especial two: the hateful and mutual intolerance of theChurches[9] and the sanction, formal or tacit, of homicide: of war and of capital punishment.So he broke loose, and the rupture was the more violent in that for three years he hadsuppressed his faculty of thought. He walked delicately no longer. Angrily and violently hetrampled underfoot the religion which the day before he was still persistently practising. In hisCriticism of Dogmatic Theology (1879-1881) he termed it not only an "insanity, but a consciousand interested lie."[10] He contrasted it with the New Testament, in his Concordance andTranslation of the Four Gospels (1881-83). Finally, upon the Gospel he built his faith (What myFaith consists in, 1883).It all resides in these words:"I believe in the doctrine of the Christ. I believe that happiness is possible on earth only whenall men shall accomplish it."Its corner-stone is the Sermon on the Mount, whose essential teaching Tolstoy expresses in fivecommandments:


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"1. Do not be angry."2. Do not commit adultery."3. Do not take oaths."4. Do not resist evil by evil."5. Be no man's enemy."This is the negative part of the doctrine; the positive portion is contained in this singlecommandment:"Love God, and thy neighbour as thyself.""Christ has said that he who shall have broken the least of these commandments will hold thelowest place in the kingdom of heaven."And Tolstoy adds naively:"Strange as it may seem, I have been obliged, after eighteen centuries, to discover these rules asa novelty."Does Tolstoy believe in the divinity of Christ? By no means. In what quality does he invokehim? As the greatest of the line of sages—Brahma, Buddha, Lao-Tse, Confucius, Zoroaster,Isaiah—who have revealed to man the true happiness to which he aspires, and the way whichhe must follow. [11] Tolstoy is the disciple of these great religious creators, of these Hindu,Chinese, and Hebrew demi-gods and prophets. He defends them, as he knows how to defend;defends them by attacking those whom he calls "the Scribes" and "the Pharisees"; by attackingthe established Churches and the representatives of arrogant science, or rather of "scientificphilosophism." Not that he appealed from reason to revelation. Once escaped from the period ofdistress described in his Confessions, he remained essentially a believer in Reason; one mightindeed say a mystic of Reason.

"In the beginning was the Word," he says, with St. John; "the Word, Logos, that is, Reason. [12]

A book of his entitled Life (1887) bears as epigraph the famous lines of Pascal:[13]

"Man is nothing but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature, but he is a thinking reed.... All ourdignity resides in thought.... Let us then strive to think well: that is the principle of morality."The whole book, moreover, is nothing but a hymn to Reason.It is true that Tolstoy's Reason is not the scientific reason, the restricted reason "which takes thepart for the whole and physical life for the whole of life," but the sovereign law which rules thelife of man, "the law according to which reasonable beings, that is men, must of necessity livetheir lives.""It is a law analogous to those which regulate the nutrition and the reproduction of the animal,the growth and the blossoming of herb and of tree, the movement of the earth and the planets. Itis only in the accomplishment of this law, in the submission of our animal nature to the law ofreason, with a view to acquiring goodness, that we truly live.... Reason cannot be defined, andwe have no need to define it, for not only do we all know it, but we know nothing else.... All


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that man knows he knows by means of reason and not by faith....[14] True life commences onlyat the moment when reason is manifested. The only real life is the life of reason."Then what is the visible life, our individual existence? "It is not our life," says Tolstoy, "for itdoes not depend upon ourselves."Our animal activity is accomplished without ourselves.... Humanity has done with the idea oflife considered as an individual existence. The negation of the possibility of individual goodremains an unchangeable truth for every man of our period who is endowed with reason."Then follows a long series of postulates, which I will not here discuss, but which show howTolstoy was obsessed by the idea of reason. It was in fact a passion, no less blind or jealousthan the other passions which had possessed him during the earlier part of his life. One fire wasflickering out, the other was kindling; or rather it was always the same fire, but fed with adifferent fuel.A fact which adds to the resemblance between the "individual" passions and this "rational"passion is that neither those nor this can be satisfied with loving. They seek to act; they long forrealisation."Christ has said, we must not speak, but act."And what is the activity of reason?—Love."Love is the only reasonable activity of man; love is the most reasonable and most enlightenedstate of the soul. All that man needs is that nothing shall obscure the sun of reason, for thatalone can help him to grow.... Love is the actual good, the supreme good which resolves all thecontradictions of life; which not only dissipates the fear of death, but impels man to sacrificehimself to others: for there is no love but that which enables a man to give his life for those heloves: love is not worthy of the name unless it is a sacrifice of self. And the true love can onlybe realised when man understands that it is not possible for him to acquire individual happiness.It is then that all the streams of his life go to nourish the noble graft of the true love: and thisgraft borrows for its increase all the energies of the wild stock of animal individuality...."[15]

Thus Tolstoy did not come to the refuge of faith like an exhausted river which loses itselfamong the sands. He brought to it the torrent of impetuous energies amassed during a full andvirile life. This we shall presently see.This impassioned faith, in which Love and Reason are united in a close embrace, has found itsmost dignified expression in the famous reply to the Holy Synod which excommunicatedhim:[16]

"I believe in God, who for me is Love, the Spirit, the Principle of all things. I believe that He isin me as I am in Him. I believe that the will of God has never been more clearly expressed thanin the teaching of the man Christ; but we cannot regard Christ as God and address our prayers tohim without committing the greatest sacrilege. I believe that the true happiness of man consistsin the accomplishment of the will of God; I believe that the will of God is that every man shalllove his fellows and do unto them always as he would they should do unto him, which contains,as the Bible says, all the law and the prophets. I believe that the meaning of life for each one of


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us is only to increase the love within him; I believe that this development of our power of lovingwill reward us in this life with a happiness which will increase day by day, and with a moreperfect felicity in the other world. I believe that this increase of love will contribute, more thanany other factor, to founding the kingdom of God upon earth; that is, to replacing anorganisation of life in which division, deceit, and violence are omnipotent, by a new order inwhich concord, truth, and brotherhood will reign. I believe that we have only one means ofgrowing richer in love: namely, our prayers. Not public prayer in the temple, which Christ hasformally reproved (Matt. vi. 5-13), but the prayer of which he himself has given as an example;the solitary prayer which confirms in us the consciousness of the meaning of our life and thefeeling that we depend solely upon the will of God.... I believe in life eternal; I believe that manis rewarded according to his acts, here and everywhere, now and for ever. I believe all thesethings so firmly that at my age, on the verge of the tomb, I have often to make an effort not topray for the death of my body, that is, my birth into a new life."[17]

[1] "Now I am harnessing myself again to the wearisome and vulgar Anna Karenin, with the sole desire of getting rid of it asquickly as possible." (Letters to Fet, August 26, 1875.) "I must finish the romance, which is wearying me." (Ibid. March 1,1876.)[2] In his Confessions (1879).[3] See Anna Karenin. "And Levine, who had the love of a woman, and was the father of a family, put every kind of weaponaway out of reach, as though he was afraid of yielding to the temptation of putting an end to his sufferings." This frame of mindwas not peculiar to Tolstoy and his characters. Tolstoy was struck by the increasing number of suicides among the wealthy classesall over Europe, and in Russia more especially. He often alludes to the fact in such of his books as were written about this period.It was as though a great wave of neurasthenia had swept across Europe in 1880, drowning its thousands of victims. Those whowere young men at the time will remember it; and for them Tolstoy's record of this human experience will have a historic value.He has written the secret tragedy of a generation.[4] Confessions.[5] His portraits of this period betray this plebeian tendency. A painting by Kramskoy (1873) represents Tolstoy in a moujik'sblouse, with bowed head: it resembles a German Christ. The forehead is growing bare at the temples; the cheeks are lined andbearded.—In another portrait, dated 1881, he has the look of a respectable artisan in his Sunday clothes: the hair cut short, thebeard and whiskers spread out on either side; the face looks much wider below than above; the eyebrows are contracted, the eyesgloomy; the wide nostrils have a dog-like appearance; the ears are enormous.[6] Confessions.[7] To tell the truth—not for the first time. The young volunteer in the Caucasus, the officer at Sebastopol, Olenin of theCossacks, Prince Andrei, and Pierre Besoukhov, in War and Peace, had had similar visions. But Tolstoy was so enthusiastic thateach time he discovered God he believed it was for the first time; that previously there had been nothing but night and the void.He saw nothing of his past but its shadows and its shames. We who, through reading his Journal, know better than he himself thestory of his heart, know also how profoundly religious was that heart, even when he was most astray. But he himself confesses ina passage in the preface to the Criticism o; Dogmatic Theology: "God! God! I have erred; I have sought the truth where I shouldnot have sought it; and I knew that I erred. I flattered my evil passions, knowing them to be evil; but I never forgot Thee. I wasalways conscious of Thee, even when I went astray." The crisis of 1878-79 was only more violent than the rest; perhaps under theinfluence of repeated loss and the advance of age; its only novelty was that the image of God, instead of vanishing and leaving notrace when once the flame of ecstasy flickered out, remained with him, and the penitent, warned by past experience, hastened to"walk in the light while he had the light," and to deduce from his faith a whole system of life. Not that he had not already tried todo so. (Remember the Rules of Life written when he was a student.) But at fifty years of age there was less likelihood that hispassions would divert him from his path.[8] The sub-title of the Confessions is Introduction to the Criticism of Dogmatic Theology and the Examination of the ChristianDoctrine.[9] "I, who beheld the truth in the unity of love, was struck with the fact that religion itself destroyed that which it sought toproduce." (Confessions.)[10] "And I am convinced that the teaching of the Church is in theory a crafty and evil lie, and in practice a concoction of grosssuperstitions and witchcraft, under which the meaning of the Christian doctrine absolutely disappears." (Reply to the Holy Synod,April 4-17, 1901.)


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[11] As he grew older, this feeling of the unity of religious truth throughout human history—and of the kinship of Christ with theother sages, from Buddha down to Kant and Emerson—grew more and more accentuated, until in his later years Tolstoy deniedthat he had "any predilection for Christianity." Of the greatest importance in this connection is a letter written between July 27 andAugust 4, 1909, to the painter Jan Styka, and recently reproduced in Le Théosophe (January 16, 1911). According to his habit,Tolstoy, full of his new conviction, was a little inclined to forget his former state of mind and the starting-point of his religiouscrisis, which was purely Christian:"The doctrine of Jesus," he writes, "is to me only one of the beautiful doctrines which we have received from the ancientcivilisations of Egypt, Israel, Hindostan, China, Greece. The two great principles of Jesus: the love of God, that is, of absoluteperfection, and the love of one's neighbour, that is, of all men without distinction, have been preached by all the sages of theworld: Krishna, Buddha, Lao-Tse, Confucius, Socrates, Plato, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and, among the moderns, Rousseau,Pascal, Kant, Emerson, Channing, and many others. Truth, moral and religious, is everywhere and always the same.... I have nopredilection for Christianity. If I have been particularly attracted by the teaching of Jesus, it is (1) because I was born and havelived among Christians, and (2) because I have found a great spiritual joy in disengaging the pure doctrine from the astonishingfalsifications created by the Churches."[12] Tolstoy protests that he does not attack true science, which is modest and knows its limits. (Life, chap. iv. There is a Frenchversion by Countess Tolstoy.)[13] Tolstoy often read the Pensées during the period of this crisis, which preceded the Confessions. He speaks of Pascal in hisletters to Fet (April 14, 1877, August 3, 1879), recommending his friend to read the Pensées.[14] In a letter Upon Reason, written on November 26, 1894, to Baroness X (reproduced in The Revolutionaries, 1906), Tolstoysays the same thing:"Man has received directly from God one sole instrument by which he may know himself and his relations with the world: there isno other means. This instrument is reason. Reason comes from God. It is not only the highest human quality, but the only meansby which the truth is to be known."[15] Life, xxii.-xxv. As in the case of most of these quotations, I am expressing the sense of several chapters in a few characteristicphrases.[16] I hope later, when the complete works of Tolstoy have been published, to study the various shades of this religious idea,which has certainly evolved in respect of many points, notably in respect of the conception of future life.[17] From a translation in the Temps for May 1, 1901.



He thought he had arrived in port, had achieved the haven in which his unquiet soul might takeits repose. He was only at the beginning of a new period of activity.A winter passed in Moscow (his family duties having obliged him to follow his familythither),[1] and the taking of the census, in which he contrived to lend a hand, gave him theoccasion to examine at first hand the poverty of a great city. The impression produced upon himwas terrible. On the evening of the day when he first came into contact with this hidden plagueof civilisation, while relating to a friend what he had seen, "he began to shout, to weep, and tobrandish his fist.""People can't live like that!" he cried, sobbing. "It cannot be! It cannot be!" He fell into a state ofterrible despair, which did not leave him for months. Countess Tolstoy wrote to him on the 3rdof March, 1882:"You used to say, 'I used to want to hang myself because of my lack of faith.' Now you havefaith: why then are you so unhappy?"


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Because he had not the sanctimonious, selfsatisfied faith of the Pharisee; because he had not theegoism of the mystic, "who is too completely absorbed in the matter of his own salvation tothink of the salvation of others";[2] because he knew love; because he could no longer forget themiserable creatures he had seen, and in the passionate tenderness of his heart he felt as thoughhe were responsible for their sufferings and their abjectness; they were the victims of thatcivilisation in whose privileges he shared; of that monstrous idol to which an elect and superiorclass was always sacrificing millions of human beings. To accept the benefit of such crimes wasto become an accomplice. His conscience would have given him no repose had he notdenounced them.What shall we do? (1884-86) is the expression of this second crisis; a crisis far more tragic thanthe first, and far richer in consequences. What were the personal religious sufferings of Tolstoyin this ocean of human wretchedness—of material misery, not misery created by the mind of aself-wearied idler? It was impossible for him to shut his eyes to it, and having seen it he couldbut strive, at any cost, to prevent it. Alas! was such a thing possible?

An admirable portrait,[3] which I cannot look at without emotion, tells us plainly what sufferingTolstoy was then enduring. It shows him facing the camera; seated, with his arms crossed; he iswear-a moujik's blouse. He looks overwhelmed. His hair is still black, but his moustache isalready grey, and his long beard and whiskers are quite white. A double furrow tracessymmetrical lines in the large, comely face. There is so much goodness, such tenderness, in thegreat dog-like muzzle, in the eyes that regard you with so frank, so clear, so sorrowful a look.They read your mind so surely! They pity and implore. The face is furrowed and bears traces ofsuffering; there are heavy creases beneath the eyes. He has wept. But he is strong, and ready forthe fight.His logic was heroic:"I am always astonished by these words, so often repeated: 'Yes, it is well enough in theory, buthow would it be in practice?' As if theory consisted in pretty words, necessary for conversation,and was not in the least something to which practice should conform! When I come tounderstand a matter on which I have reflected, I cannot do otherwise than as I haveunderstood."[4]

He begins by describing, with photographic exactitude, the poverty of Moscow as he has seen itin the course of his visits to the poorer quarters or the night-shelters.[5]

He is convinced that money is not the power, as he had at first supposed, which will save theseunhappy creatures, all more or less tainted by the corruption of the cities. Then he seeks bravelyfor the source of the evil; unwinding link upon link of the terrible chain of responsibility. Firstcome the rich, with the contagion of their accursed luxury, which entices and depraves thesoul.[6] Then comes the universal seduction of life without labour. Then the State, thatmurderous entity, created by the violent in order that they might for their own profit despoil andenslave the rest of humanity. Then the Church, an accomplice; science and art, accomplices.How is a man to oppose this army of evil? In the first place, by refusing to join it. By refusing toshare in the exploitation of humanity. By renouncing wealth and ownership of the soil, [7] and


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by refusing to serve the State.But this is not sufficient. One "must not lie," nor be afraid of the truth. One "must repent," anduproot the pride that is implanted by education. Finally, one must work with one's hands. "Thoushalt win thy bread in the sweat of thy brow" is the first commandment and the most essential.[8]

And Tolstoy, replying in advance to the ridicule of the elect, maintains that physical labour doesnot in any way decrease the energy of the intellect; but that, on the contrary, it increases it, andthat it responds to the normal demand of nature. Health can only gain thereby; art will gain evenmore. But what is more important still, it will re-establish the union of man with man.In his subsequent works, Tolstoy was to complete these precepts of moral hygiene. He wasanxious to achieve the cure of the soul, to replenish its energy, by proscribing the viciouspleasures which deaden the conscience[9] and the cruel pleasures which kill it.[10] He himself setthe example. In 1884, he sacrificed his most deeply rooted passion: his love of the chase.[11] Hepractised abstinence, which strengthens the will. So an athlete may subject himself to somepainful discipline that he may grapple with it and conquer.What shall we do? marks the first stage of the difficult journey upon which Tolstoy was about toembark, quitting the relative peace of religious meditation for the social maëlstrom. It was thenthat the twenty years' war commenced which the old prophet of Yasnaya Polyana waged in thename of the Gospel, single-handed, outside the limits of all parties, and condemning all; a warupon the crimes and lies of civilisation.

[1] "I had hitherto passed my whole life away from the city." (What shall we do?)[2] Tolstoy has many times expressed his antipathy for the "ascetics, who live for themselves only, apart from their fellows." Heputs them in the same class as the conceited and ignorant revolutionists, "who pretend to do good to others without knowing whatit is that they themselves need .... I love these two categories of men with the same love, but I hate their doctrines with the samehate. The only doctrine is that which orders a constant activity, an existence which responds to the aspirations of the soul andendeavours to realise the happiness of others. Such is the Christian doctrine. Equally remote from religious quietism and thearrogant pretensions of the revolutionists, who seek to transform the world without knowing in what real happiness consists."(Letters to a friend, published in the volume entitled Cruel Pleasures, 1895.)


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[3] A daguerreotype of 1885, reproduced in What shall we do? in the complete French edition.[4] What shall we do?[5] All the first part of the book (the first fifteen chapters).[6] "The true cause of poverty is the accumulation of riches in the hands of those who do not produce, and are concentrated in thecities. The wealthy classes are gathered together in the cities in order to enjoy and to defend themselves. And the poor man comesto feed upon the crumbs of the rich. He is drawn thither by the snare of easy gain: by peddling, begging, swindling, or in theservice of immorality."[7] "The pivot of the evil is property. Property is merely the means cf enjoying the labour of others." Property, he says again, isthat which is not ours: it represents other people. "Man calls his wife, his children, his slaves, his goods his property, but realityshows him his error; and he must renounce his property or suffer and cause others to suffer."Tolstoy was already urging the Russian revolution: "For three or four years now men have cursed us on the highway and called ussluggards and skulkers. The hatred and contempt of the downtrodden people are becoming more intense." (What shall we do?)[8] The peasant-revolutionist Bondarev would have had this law recognised as a universal obligation. Tolstoy was then subject tohis influence, as also to that of another peasant, Sutayev.—"During the whole of my life two Russian thinkers have had a greatmoral influence over me, have enriched my mind, and have elucidated for me my own conception of the world. They were twopeasants, Sutayev and Bondarev." (What shall we do?)In the same book Tolstoy gives us a portrait of Sutayev, and records a conversation with him.[9] Vicious Pleasures, or in the French translation Alcohol and Tobacco, 1895.[10] Cruel Pleasures (the Meat-eaters; War; Hunting), 1895.[11] The sacrifice was difficult; the passion inherited. He was not sentimental; he never felt much pity for animals. For him allthings fell into three planes: "1. Reasoning beings; 2. animals and plants; 3. inanimate matter." He was not without a trace of nativecruelty. He relates the pleasure he felt in watching the struggles of a wolf which he killed. Remorse was of later growth.



This moral revolution of Tolstoy's met with little sympathy from his immediate world; his familyand his relatives were appalled by it.For a long time Countess Tolstoy had been anxiously watching the progress of a symptomagainst which she had fought in vain. As early as 1874 she had seen with indignation theamount of time and energy which her husband spent in connection with the schools."This spelling-book, this arithmetic, this grammar—I feel a contempt for them, and I cannotassume a semblance of interest in them."Matters were very different when pedagogy was succeeded by religion. So hostile was theCountess's reception of the first confidences of the convert that Tolstoy felt obliged to apologisewhen he spoke of God in his letters:"Do not be vexed, as you so often are when I mention God; I cannot help it, for He is the verybasis of my thought."[1]

The Countess was touched, no doubt; she tried to conceal her impatience; but she did notunderstand; and she watched her husband anxiously."His eyes are strange and fixed. He scarcely speaks. He does not seem to belong to this world."


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She feared he was ill."Leo is always working, by what he tells me. Alas! he is writing religious discussions of somekind. He reads and he ponders until he gives himself the headache, and all this to prove that theChurch is not in agreement with the teaching of the Gospel. He will hardly find a dozen peoplein Russia whom the matter could possibly interest. But there is nothing to be done. I have onlyone hope: that he will be done with it all the sooner, and that it will pass off like an illness."The illness did not pass away. The situation between husband and wife became more and morepainful. They loved one another; each had a profound esteem for the other; but it wasimpossible for them to understand one another. They strove to make mutual concessions, whichbecame—as is usually the case—a form of mutual torment. Tolstoy forced himself to follow hisfamily to Moscow. He wrote in his Journal:"The most painful month of my life. Getting settled in Moscow. All are settling down. But when,then, will they begin to live? All this, not in order to live, but because other folk do the same.Unhappy people!"[2]

During these days the Countess wrote:"Moscow. We shall have been here a month tomorrow. The first two weeks I cried every day,for Leo was not only sad, but absolutely broken. He did not sleep, he did not eat, at times evenhe wept; I thought I should go mad."[3]

For a time they had to live their lives apart. They begged one another's pardon for causingmutual suffering. We see how they always loved each other. He writes to her:"You say, 'I love you, and you do not need my love.' It is the only thing I do need.... Your lovecauses me more gladness than anything in the world."But as soon as they are together again the same discord occurs. The Countess cannot share thisreligious mania which is now impelling Tolstoy to study Hebrew with a rabbi."Nothing else interests him any longer. He is wasting his energies in foolishness. I cannotconceal my impatience."[4]

She writes to him:"It can only sadden me that such intellectual energies should spend themselves in choppingwood, heating the samovar, and cobbling boots."She adds, with affectionate, half-ironical humour of a mother who watches a child playing afoolish game:"Finally, I have pacified myself with the Russian proverb: 'Let the child play as he will, so longas he doesn't cry.'"[5]

Before the letter was posted she had a mental vision of her husband reading these lines, hiskind, frank eyes saddened by their ironical tone; and she re-opened the letter, in an impulse ofaffection:"Quite suddenly I saw you so clearly, and I felt such a rush of tenderness for you 1 There is


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something in you so wise, so naive, so persevering, and it is all lit up by the radiance ofgoodness, and that look of yours which goes straight to the soul.... It is something that belongsto you alone."In this manner these two creatures who loved also tormented one another and were straightwaystricken with wretchedness because of the pain they had the power to inflict but not the powerto avoid. A situation with no escape, which lasted for nearly thirty years; which was to beterminated only by the flight across the steppes, in a moment of aberration, of the ancient Lear,with death already upon him.Critics have not sufficiently remarked the moving appeal to women which terminates What shallwe do? Tolstoy had no sympathy for modern feminism. [6] But of the type whom he calls "themother-woman," the woman who knows the real meaning of life, he speaks in terms of piousadmiration; he pronounces a magnificent eulogy of her pains and her joys, of pregnancy andmaternity, of the terrible sufferings, the years without rest, the invisible, exhausting travail forwhich no reward is expected, and of that beatitude which floods the soul at the happy issuefrom labour, when the body has accomplished the Law. He draws the portrait of the valiant wifewho is a help, not an obstacle, to her husband. She knows that "the vocation of man is theobscure, lonely sacrifice, unrewarded, for the life of others.""Such a woman will not only not encourage her husband in factitious and meriticious workwhose only end is to profit by and enjoy the labour of others; but she will regard such activitywith horror and disgust, as a possible seduction for her children. She will demand of hercompanion a true labour, which will call for energy and does not fear danger.... She knows thatthe children, the generations to come, are given to men as their holiest vision, and that she existsto further, with all her being, this sacred task. She will develop in her children and in herhusband the strength of sacrifice.... It is such women who rule men and serve as their guidingstar.... O mother-women! In your hands is the salvation of the world!"[7]

This appeal of a voice of supplication, which still has hope—will it not be heard?A few years later the last glimmer of hope was dead."Perhaps you will not believe me; but you cannot imagine how isolated I am, nor in what adegree my veritable I is despised and disregarded by all those about me."[8]

If those who loved him best so misunderstood the grandeur of the moral transformation whichTolstoy was undergoing, one could not look for more penetration or greater respect in others.Tourgenev with whom he had sought to effect a reconciliation, rather in a spirit of Christianhumility than because his feelings towards him had suffered any change,[9] said ironically ofTolstoy: "I pity him greatly; but after all, as the French say, every one kills his own fleas in hisown way."[10]

A few years later, when on the point of death, he wrote to Tolstoy the well-known letter inwhich he prayed "his friend, the great writer of the Russian world," to "return to literature."[11]

All the artists of Europe shared the anxiety and the prayer of the dying Tourgenev. Melchior deVogüé, at the end of his study of Tolstoy, written in 1886, made a portrait of the writer in


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peasant costume, handling a drill, the pretext for an eloquent apostrophe:"Craftsman, maker of masterpieces, this is not your tool!... Our tool is the pen; our field, thehuman soul, which we must shelter and nourish. Let us remind you of the words of a Russianpeasant, of the the first printer of Moscow, when he was sent back to the plough: 'It is not mybusiness to sow grains of corn, but to sow the seed of the spirit broadcast in the world.'"As though Tolstoy had ever renounced his vocation as a sower of the seed of the mind! In theIntroduction to What I Believe he wrote:"I believe that my life, my reason, my light, is given me exclusively for the purpose ofenlightening my fellows. I believe that my knowledge of the truth is a talent which is lent me forthis object; that this talent is a fire which is a fire only when it is being consumed. I believe thatthe only meaning of my life is that I should live it only by the light within me, and should holdthat light on high before men that they may see it."[12]

But this light, this fire "which was a fire only when it was being consumed," was a cause ofanxiety to the majority of Tolstoy's fellow-artists. The more intelligent could not but suspect thatthere was a great risk that their art would be the first prey of the conflagration. They professedto believe that the whole art of literature was menaced; that the Russian, like Prospero, wasburying for ever his magic ring with its power of creative illusion.Nothing was further from the truth; and I hope to show that so far from ruining his art Tolstoywas awakening forces which had lain fallow, and that his religious faith, instead of killing hisartistic genius, regenerated it completely.

[1] The summer of 1878.[2] October 8, 1881. Vie et Oeuvre.[3] October 14. Vie et Oeuvre.[4] 1882.[5] October 23, 1884. Vie et Oeuvre.[6] "The so-called right of women is merely the desire to participate in the imaginary labours of the wealthy classes, with a view toenjoying the fruit of the labour of others and to live a life that satisfies the sensual appetites. No genuine labourer's wife demandsthe right to share her husband's work in the mines or in the fields."[7] These are the last lines of What shall we do? They are dated the 14th of February, 1886.[8] A letter to a friend, published under the title Profession of Faith, in the volume entitled Cruel Pleasures, 1895.[9] The reconciliation took place in the spring of 1878. Tolstoy wrote to Tourgenev asking his pardon. Tourgenev went toYasnaya Polyana in August, 1878. Tolstoy returned his visit in July, 1881. Every one was struck with the change in his manner,his gentleness and his modesty. He was "as though regenerated."[10] Letter to Polonski (quoted by Birukov).[11] Letter to Bougival June 28, 1883.[12] We find that M. de Vogüé, in the reproach which he addressed to Tolstoy, unconsciously used the phrases of Tolstoyhimself. "Rightly or wrongly," he said, "for our chastisem*nt perhaps, we have received from heaven that splendid and essentialevil: thought.... To throw down this cross is an impious revolt." (Le Roman russe, 1886.) Now Tolstoy wrote to his aunt, theCountess A. A. Tolstoy, in 1883: "Each of us must bear his cross.... Mine is the travail of the idea; evil, full of pride andseductiveness." (Letters.)


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It is a singular fact that in speaking of Tolstoy's ideas concerning science and art, the mostimportant of the books in which these ideas are expressed—namely, What shall we do? (1884-86)—is commonly ignored. There, for the first time, Tolstoy fights the battle between art andscience; and none of the following conflicts was to surpass the violence of their first encounter.It is a matter for surprise that no one, during the assaults which have been recently delivered inFrance upon the vanity of science and the intellectuals, has thought of referring to these pages.They constitute the most terrible attack ever penned against the eunuchs of science" and "thecorsairs of art"; against those intellectual castes which, having destroyed the old ruling castes ofthe Church, the State, and the Army, have installed themselves in their place, and, without beingable or willing to perform any service of use to humanity, lay claim to a blind admiration andservice, proclaiming as dogmas an impudent faith in science for the sake of science and in artfor the sake of art—the lying mask which they seek to make their justification and the apologyfor their monstrous egoism and their emptiness."Never make me say," continues Tolstoy, "that I deny art or science. Not only do I not denythem; it is in their name that I seek to drive the thieves from the temple.""Science and art are as necessary as bread and water; even more necessary.... The true science isthat of the true welfare of all human beings. The true art is the expression of the knowledge ofthe true welfare of all men."And he praises those who, "since men have existed, have with the harp or the cymbal, byimages or by words, expressed their struggle against duplicity, their sufferings in that struggle,their hope in the triumph of good, their despair at the triumph of evil, and the enthusiasm oftheir prophetic vision of the future."He then draws the character of the perfect artist, in a page burning with mystical andmelancholy earnestness:"The activity of science and art is only fruitful when it arrogates no right to itself and considersonly its duties. It is only because that activity is such as it is, because its essence is sacrifice, thathumanity honours it. The men who are called to serve others by spiritual work always suffer inthe accomplishment of that task; for the spiritual world is brought to birth only in suffering andtorture. Sacrifice and suffering; such is the fate of the thinker and the artist, for his fate is thegood of men. Men are unhappy; they suffer; they die; there is no time for him to stroll about, toamuse himself. The thinker or the artist never strays upon Olympian heights, as we areaccustomed to think; he is always in a state of conflict, always in a state of emotion. He mustdecide and must say what will further the welfare of men, what will deliver them from suffering;and he has not decided it, he has not said it; and to-morrow it will perhaps be too late, and hewill die.... The man who is trained in an establishment in which artists and scientists are formed(to tell the truth, such places make destroyers of art and of science); the man who receivesdiplomas and a pension—he will not be an artist or a thinker; but he who would be happy not tothink, not to express what is implanted in his mind, yet cannot refrain from thought and self-


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expression: for he is carried along by two invisible forces: his inner need and his love of men.There are no artists who are fat, lovers of life, and satisfied with themselves."[1]

This splendid page, which throws a tragic light upon the genius of Tolstoy, was written underthe immediate stress of the suffering caused him by the poverty of Moscow, and under theconviction that science and art were the accomplices of the entire modern system of socialinequality and hypocritical brutality. This conviction he was never to lose. But the impression ofhis first encounter with the misery of the world slowly faded, and became less poignant; thewound healed,[2] and in none of his subsequent books do we recover the tremor of pain and ofvengeful anger which vibrates in this; nowhere do we find this sublime profession of the faith ofthe artist who creates with his life-blood, this exaltation of the sacrifice and suffering "which arethe lot of the thinker"; this disdain for Olympian art. Those of his later works which deal withthe criticism of art will be found to treat the question from a standpoint at once more literary andless mystical; the problem of art is detached from the background of that human wretchednessof which Tolstoy could not think without losing his self-control, as on the night of his visit tothe night-shelter, when upon returning home he sobbed and cried aloud in desperation.I do not mean to suggest that these didactic works are ever frigid. It is impossible for Tolstoy tobe frigid. Until the end of his life he is the man who writes to Fet:"If he does not love his personages, even the least of them, then he must insult them in such away as to make the heavens fall, or must mock at them until he splits his sides."[3]

He does not forget to do so, in his writings on art. The negative portion of this statement—brimming over with insults and sarcasms—is so vigorously expressed that it is the only partwhich has struck the artist. This method has so violently wounded the superstitions andsusceptibilities of the brotherhood that they inevitably see, in the enemy of their own art, theenemy of all art whatsoever. But Tolstoy's criticism is never devoid of the reconstructiveelement. He never destroys for the sake of destruction, but only to rebuild. In his modesty hedoes not even profess to build anything new; he merely defends Art, which was and ever shallbe, from the false artists who exploit it and dishonour it."True science and true art have always existed and will always exist; it is impossible and uselessto attack them," he wrote to me in 1887, in a letter which anticipated by more than ten years hisfamous criticism of art (What is Art? ).[4] "All the evil of the day comes from the fact that so-called civilised people, together with the scientists and artists, form a privileged caste, like somany priests; and this caste has all the faults of all castes. It degrades and lowers the principle invirtue of which it was organised. What we in our world call the sciences and the arts is merely agigantic humbug, a gross superstition into which we commonly fall as soon as we free ourselvesfrom the old superstition of the Church. To keep safely to the road we ought to follow we mustbegin at the beginning—we must raise the cowl which keeps us warm but obscures our sight.The temptation is great. We are born or we clamber upon the rungs of the ladder; and we findamong the privileged the priests of civilisation, of Kultur, as the Germans have it. Like theBrahmin or Catholic priests, we must have a great deal of sincerity and a great love of the truthbefore we cast doubts upon the principles which assure us of our advantageous position. But aserious man who ponders the riddle of life cannot hesitate. To begin to see clearly he must free


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himself from his superstitions, however profitable they may be to him. This is a condition sinequâ non.... To have no superstition. To force oneself into the attitude of a child or a Descartes."This superstition of modern art, in which the interested castes believe, "this gigantic humbug," isdenounced in Tolstoy's What is Art? With a somewhat ungentle zest he holds it up to ridicule,and exposes its hypocrisy, its poverty, and its fundamental corruption. He makes a clean sweepof everything. He brings to this work of demolition the joy of a child breaking his toys. Thewhole of this critical portion is often full of humour, but sometimes of injustice: it is warfare.Tolstoy used all weapons that came to his hand, and struck at hazard, without noticing whom hestruck. Often enough it happened—as in all battles—that he wounded those whom it shouldhave been his duty to defend: Ibsen or Beethoven. This was the result of his enthusiasm, whichleft him no time to reflect before acting; of his passion, which often blinded him to the weaknessof his reasons, and—let us say it—it was also the result of his incomplete artistic culture.Setting aside his literary studies, what could he well know of contemporary art? When was heable to study painting, and what could he have heard of European music, this countrygentleman who had passed three-fourths of his life in his Muscovite village, and who had notvisited Europe since 1860; and what did he see when he was upon his travels, except theschools, which were all that interested him? He speaks of paintings from hearsay, citing pell-mell among the decadents such painters as Puvis de Chavannes, Manet, Monet, Böcklin, Stuck,and Klinger; confidently admiring Jules Breton and Lhermitte on account of their excellentsentiments; despising Michelangelo, and among the painters of the soul never once namingRembrandt. In music he felt his way better, [5] but knew hardly anything of it; he could not getbeyond the impressions of his childhood, swore by those who were already classics about 1840,and had not become familiar with any later composers (excepting Tchaikowsky, whose musicmade him weep); he throws Brahms and Richard Strauss into the bottom of the same bag,teaches Beethoven his business,[6] and, in order to judge Wagner, he thought it was sufficient toattend a single representation of Siegfried, at which he arrived after the rise of the curtain, whilehe left in the middle of the second act,[7] In the matter of literature he is, it goes without saying,rather better informed. But by what curious aberration did he evade the criticism of the Russianwriters whom he knew so well, while he laid down the law to foreign poets, whose temperamentwas as far as possible removed from his own, and whose leaves he merely turned withcontemptuous negligence![8]

His intrepid assurance increased with age. It finally impelled him to write a book for the purposeof proving that Shakespeare "was not an artist."

"He may have been—no matter what: but he was not an artist."[9]

His certitude is admirable. Tolstoy does not doubt. He does not discuss. The truth is his. He willtell you:"The Ninth Symphony is a work which causes social disunion."Again:"With the exception of the celebrated air for the violin by Bach, the Nocturne in E flat byChopin, and a dozen pieces, not even entire, chosen from among the works of Haydn, Mozart,


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Weber, Beethoven, and Chopin,... all the rest may be rejected and treated with contempt, asexamples of an art which causes social disunion."Again:"I am going to prove that Shakespeare cannot be ranked even as a writer of the fourth order.And as a character-painter he is nowhere."That the rest of humanity is of a different opinion is no reason for hesitating: on the contrary."My opinion," he proudly says, "is entirely different from the established opinion concerningShakespeare throughout Europe."Obsessed by his hatred of lies, he scents untruth everywhere; and the more widely an idea isreceived, the more prickly he becomes in his treatment of it; he refuses it, suspecting in it, as hesays with reference to the fame of Shakespeare, "one of those epidemic influences to which menhave always been subject. Such were the Crusades in the Middle Ages, the belief in witchcraft,the search for the philosopher's stone, and the passion for tulips. Men see the folly of theseinfluences only when they have won free from them. With the development of the press theseepidemics have become particularly notable." And he gives as an example the most recent ofthese contagious diseases, the Dreyfus Affair, of which he, the enemy of all injustice, thedefender of all the oppressed, speaks with disdainful indifference;[10] a striking example of theexcesses into which he is drawn by his suspicion of untruth and that instinctive hatred of "moralepidemics" of which he admits himself the victim, and which he is unable to master. It is thereverse side of a virtue, this inconceivable blindness of the seer, the reader of souls, the evokerof passionate forces, which leads him to refer to King Lear as "an inept piece of work," and tothe proud Cordelia as a "characterless creature."[11]

Observe that he sees very clearly certain of Shakespeare's actual defects—faults that we havenot the sincerity to admit: the artificial quality of the poetic diction, which is uniformly attributedto all his characters; and the rhetoric of passion, of heroism, and even of simplicity. I canperfectly well understand that a Tolstoy, who was the least literary of writers, should have beenlacking in sympathy for the art of one who was the most genial of men of letters. But why wastetime in speaking of that which he cannot understand? What is the worth of judgments upon aworld which is closed to the judge?Nothing, if we seek in these judgments the passport to these unfamiliar worlds. Inestimablygreat, if we seek in them the key to Tolstoy's art. We do not ask of a creative genius theimpartiality of the critic. When a Wagner or a Tolstoy speaks of Beethoven or of Shakespeare,he is speaking in reality not of Beethoven or of Shakespeare, but of himself; he is revealing hisown ideals. They do not even try to put us off the scent. Tolstoy, in criticising Shakespeare,does not attempt to make himself "objective." More: he reproaches Shakespeare for hisobjective art. The painter of War and Peace , the master of impersonal art, cannot sufficientlyderide those German critics who, following the lead of Goethe, "invent Shakespeare," and areresponsible for "the theory that art ought to be objective, that is to say, ought to representhuman beings without any reference to moral values—which is the negation of the religiousobject of art."


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It is thus from the pinnacle of a creed that Tolstoy pronounces his artistic judgments. We mustnot look for any personal after-thoughts in his criticisms. We shall find no trace of such a thing;he is as pitiless to his own works as to those of others.[12] What, then, does he really intend?What is the artistic significance of the religious ideal which he proposes?This ideal is magnificent. The term "religious art" is apt to mislead one as to the breadth of theconception. Far from narrowing the province of art, Tolstoy enlarges it. Art, he says, iseverywhere."Art creeps into our whole life; what we term art, namely, theatres, concerts, books, exhibitions,is only an infinitesimal portion of art. Our life is full of artistic manifestations of every kind,from the games of children to the offices of religion. Art and speech are the two organs ofhuman progress. One affords the communion of hearts, the other the communion of thoughts. Ifeither of the two is perverted, then society is sick. The art of to-day is perverted."Since the Renascence it has no longer been possible to speak of the art of the Christian nations.Class has separated itself from class. The rich, the privileged, have attempted to claim themonopoly of art; and they have made their pleasure the criterion of beauty. Art has becomeimpoverished as it has grown remoter from the poor."The category of the emotions experienced by those who do not work in order to live is farmore limited than the emotions of those who labour. The sentiments of our modern society maybe reduced to three: pride, sensuality, and weariness of life. These three sentiments and theirramifications constitute almost entirely the subject of the art of the wealthy."It infects the world, perverts the people, propagates sexual depravity, and has become the worstobstacle to the realisation of human happiness. It is also devoid of real beauty, unnatural andinsincere; an affected, fabricated, cerebral art.In the face of this lie of the æsthetics, this pastime of the rich, let us raise the banner of theliving, human art: the art which unites the men of all classes and all nations. The past offers usglorious examples of such art."The majority of mankind has always understood and loved that which we consider the highestart: the epic of Genesis, the parables of the Gospel, the legends, tales, and songs of the people."The greatest art is that which expresses the religious conscience of the period. By this Tolstoydoes not mean the teaching of the Church. "Every society has a religious conception of life; it isthe ideal of the greatest happiness towards which that society tends." All are to a certain extentaware of this tendency; a few pioneers express it clearly."A religious conscience always exists. IT IS THE BED IN WHICH THE RIVER FLOWS."The religious consciousness of our epoch is the aspiration toward happiness as realised by thefraternity of mankind. There is no true art but that which strives for this union. The highest art isthat which accomplishes it directly by the power of love; but there is another art whichparticipates in the same task, by attacking, with the weapons of scorn and indignation, all thatopposes this fraternity. Such are the novels of Dickens and Dostoyevsky, Victor Hugo's LesMisérables, and the paintings of Millet. But even though it fail to attain these heights, all art


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which represents daily life with sympathy and truth brings men nearer together. Such is DonQuixote: such are the plays of Molière. It is true that such art as the latter is continually sinningby its too minute realism and by the poverty of its subjects "when compared with ancientmodels, such as the sublime history of Joseph." The excessive minuteness of detail isdetrimental to such works, which for that reason cannot become universal."Modern works of art are spoiled by a realism which might more justly be called theprovincialism of art."Thus Tolstoy unhesitatingly condemns the principle of his own genius. What does it signify tohim that he should sacrifice himself to the future—and that nothing of his work should remain?"The art of the future will not be a development of the art of the present: it will be founded uponother bases. It will no longer be the property of a caste. Art is not a trade or profession: it is theexpression of real feelings. Now the artist can only experience real feelings when he refrainsfrom isolating himself; when he lives the life natural to man. For this reason the man who issheltered from life is in the worst possible conditions for creative work."In the future "artists will all be endowed." Artistic activity will be made accessible to all "by theintroduction into the elementary schools of instruction in music and painting, which will betaught to the child simultaneously with the first principles of grammar." For the rest, art will nolonger call for a complicated technique, as at present; it will move in the direction of simplicity,clearness, and conciseness, which are the marks of sane and classic art, and of Homeric art.[13]

How pleasant it will be to translate universal sentiments into the pure lives of this art of thefuture! To write a tale or a song, to design a picture for millions of beings, is a matter of muchgreater importance—and of much greater difficulty—than writing a novel or a symphony. It isan immense and almost virgin province. Thanks to such works men will learn to appreciate thehappiness of brotherly union."Art must suppress violence, and only art can do so. Its mission is to bring about the Kingdomof God, that is to say, of Love."[14]

Which of us would not endorse these generous words? And who can fail to see that Tolstoy'sconception is fundamentally fruitful and vital, in spite of its Utopianism and a touch ofpuerility? It is true that our art as a whole is only the expression of a caste, which is itselfsubdivided not only by the fact of nationality, but in each country also into narrow and hostileclans. There is not a single artist in Europe who realises in his own personality the union ofparties and of races. The most universal mind of our time was that of Tolstoy himself. In himmen of all nations and all classes have attained fraternity; and those who have tasted the virilejoy of this capacious love can no longer be satisfied by the shreds and fragments of the vasthuman soul which are offered by the art of the European cliques.


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[1] What shall we do? p. 378-9.[2] In time he even came to justify suffering—not only personal suffering, but the sufferings of others. "For the assuagement ofthe sufferings of others is the essence of the rational life. How then should the object of labour be an object of suffering for thelabourer? It is as though the labourer were to say that an untilled field is a grief to him." (Life, chap, xxxiv.-xxxv.)[3] February 23, 1860. Further Letters, pp. 19-20. It was for this reason that the "melancholy and dyspeptic" art of Tourgenevdispleased him.[4] This letter (October 4, 1887) has been printed in the Cahiers de la Quinzaine, 1902, and in the Further Letters(Correspondance inédite), 1907. What is Art? appeared in 1897-98; but Tolstoy had been pondering the matter for more thanfourteen years.[5] I shall return to this matter when speaking of the Kreutzer Sonata.[6] His intolerance became aggravated after 1886. In What shall we do? he did not as yet dare to lay hands on Beethoven or onShakespeare. Moreover, he reproached contemporary artists for daring to invoke their names. "The activity of a Galileo, aShakespeare, a Beethoven has nothing in common with that of a Tyndall, a Victor Hugo, or a Wagner; just as the Holy Fatherwould deny all relationship with the Orthodox popes." (What shall we do?)[7] For that matter, he wished to leave before the end of the first act. "For me the question was settled. I had no more doubt. Therewas nothing to be expected of an author capable of imagining scenes like these. One could affirm beforehand that he could neverwrite anything that was not evil."[8] In order to make a selection from the French poets of the new schools he conceived the admirable idea of "copying, in eachvolume, the verses printed on page 28!"[9] Shakespeare, 1903. The book was written on the occasion of an article by Ernest Crosby upon Shakespeare and the WorkingClasses.[10] "Here was one of those incidents which often occur, without attracting the attention of any one, and without interesting—I donot say the world—but even the French military world." And further on: "It was not until some years had passed that men awokefrom their hypnosis, and understood that they could not possibly know whether Dreyfus were guilty or not, and that each of themhad other interests more important and more immediate than the Affaire Dreyfus." (Shakespeare.)[11] "King Lear is a very poor drama, very carelessly constructed, which can inspire nothing but weariness anddisgust."—Othello, for which Tolstoy evinces a certain sympathy, doubtless because the work is in harmony with his ideas of thattime concerning marriage and jealousy, "while the least wretched of Shakespeare's plays, is only a tissue of emphatic words."Hamlet has no character at all: "he is the author's phonograph, who repeats all his ideas in a string." As for The Tempest,Cymbeline, Troilus and Cressida, &c., Tolstoy only mentions them on account of their "ineptitude."The only character of Shakespeare's whom he finds natural is Falstaff, "precisely because here the tongue of Shakespeare, full offrigid pleasantries and inept puns, is in harmony with the false, vain, debauched character of this repulsive drunkard."Tolstoy had not always been of this opinion. He read Shakespeare with pleasure between 1860 and 1870, especially at the timewhen he contemplated writing a historical play about the figure of Peter the Great. In his notes for 1869 we find that he eventakes Hamlet as his model and his guide. Having mentioned his completed works, and comparing War and Peace to the Homericideal, he adds:"HAMLET and my future works; the poetry of the romance-writer in the depicting of character."[12] He classes his own "works of imagination" in the category of "harmful art." (What is Art?) From this condemnation he doesnot except his own plays, "devoid of that religious conception which must form the basis of the drama of the future."[13] As early as 1873 Tolstoy had written: "Think what you will, but in such a fashion that every word may be understood byevery one. One cannot write anything bad in a perfectly clear and simple language. What is immoral will appear so false if clearlyexpressed that it will assuredly be deleted. If a writer seriously wishes to speak to the people, he has only to force himself to becomprehensible. When not a word arrests the reader's attention the work is good. If he cannot relate what he has read the work isworthless."[14] This ideal of brotherhood and union among men is by no means, to Tolstoy's mind, the limit of human activity; his insatiablemind conceives an unknown ideal, above and beyond that of love:"Science will perhaps one day offer as the basis of art a much higher ideal, and art will realise it."



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The finest theory finds its value only in the works by which it is exemplified. With Tolstoytheory and creation are always hand in hand, like faith and action. While he was elaborating hiscritique of art he was producing types of the new art of which he spoke: of two forms of art, onehigher and one less exalted, but both "religious" in the most human sense. In one he sought theunion of men through love; in the other he waged war upon the world, the enemy of love. Itwas during this period that he wrote those masterpieces: The Death of Ivan Ilyitch (1884-86),the Popular Tales and Stories (1881-1886), The Power of Darkness (1886), the Kreutzer Sonata(1889), and Master and Servant (1895).[1] At the height and end of this artistic period, like acathedral with two spires, the one symbolising eternal love and the other the hatred of the world,stands Resurrection (1899).All these works are distinguished from their predecessors by new artistic qualities. Tolstoy'sideas had suffered a change, not alone in respect of the object of art, but also in respect of itsform. In reading What is Art? or Shakespeare we are struck by the principles of art whichTolstoy has enounced in these two books; for these principles are for the most part incontradiction to the greatest of his previous works. "Clearness, simplicity, conciseness," we readin What is Art? Material effects are despised; minute realism is condemned; and in Shakespearethe classic ideal of perfection and proportion is upheld. "Without the feeling of balance noartists could exist." And although in his new work the unregenerate man, with his genius foranalysis and his native savagery, is not entirely effaced, some aspects of the latter quality beingeven emphasised, his art is profoundly modified in some respects: the design is clearer, morevigorously accented; the minds of his characters are epitomised, foreshortened; the interiordrama is intensified, gathered upon itself like a beast of prey about to spring; the emotion has aquality of universality; and is freed of all transitory details of local realism; and finally thediction is rich in illustrations, racy, and smacking of the soil.His love of the people had long led him to appreciate the beauty of the popular idiom. As achild he had been soothed by the tales of mendicant story-tellers. As a grown man and a famouswriter, he experienced an artistic delight in chatting with his peasants.

"These men," he said in later years to M. Paul Boyer, [2] "are masters. Of old, when I used to talkwith them, or with the wanderers who, wallet on shoulder, pass through our countryside, I usedcarefully to note such of their expressions as I heard for the first time expressions oftenforgotten by our modern literary dialect, but always good old Russian currency, ringingsound.... Yes, the genius of the language lives in these men."He must have been the more sensitive to such elements of the language in that his mind was notencumbered with literature.[3] Through living far from any city, in the midst of peasants, hecame to think a little in the manner of the people. He had the slow dialectic, the common sensewhich reasons slowly and painfully, step by step, with sudden disconcerting leaps, the mania forrepeating any idea when he was once convinced, of repeating it unwearingly and indefinitely,and in the same words.[4]

But these were faults rather than qualities. It was many years before he became aware of the


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latent genius of the popular tongue; the raciness of its images, its poetic crudity, its wealth oflegendary wisdom. Even at the time of writing War and Peace he was already subject to itsinfluence. In March, 1872, he wrote to Strakov:"I have altered the method of my diction and my writing. The language of the people hassounds to express all that the poet can say, and it is very dear to me. It is the best poeticregulator. If you try to say anything superfluous, too emphatic, or false, the language will notsuffer it. Whereas our literary tongue has no skeleton, you may pull it about in every direction,and the result is always something resembling literature."To the people he owed not only models of style; he owed them many of his inspirations. In1877 a teller of bylines came to Yasnaya Polyana, and Tolstoy took notes of several of hisstories. Of the number was the legend By what do Men live? and The Three Old Men , whichbecame, as we know, two of the finest of the Popular Tales and Legends which Tolstoypublished a few years later.[5]

This is a work unique in modern art. It is higher than art: for who, in reading it, thinks ofliterature? The spirit of the Gospel and the pure love of the brotherhood of man are combinedwith the smiling geniality of the wisdom of the people. It is full of simplicity, limpidity, andineffable goodness of heart; and that supernatural radiance which from time to time—sonaturally and inevitably—bathes the whole picture; surrounding the old Elias[6] like a halo, orhovering in the cabin of the cobbler Michael; he who, through his skylight on the ground-level,sees the feet of people passing, and whom the Lord visits in the guise of the poor whom thegood cobbler has succoured.[7] Sometimes in these tales the parables of the Gospel are mingledwith a vague perfume of Oriental legends, of those Thousand and One Nights which Tolstoyhad loved since childhood.[8] Sometimes, again, the fantastic light takes on a sinister aspect,lending the tale a terrifying majesty. Such is Pakhom the Peasant,[9] the tale of the man whokills himself in acquiring a great surface of and—all the land which he can encircle by walkingfor a whole day—and who dies on completing his journey."On the hill the starschina, sitting on the ground, watched him as he ran; and he cackled,holding his stomach with both hands. And Pakhom fell."'Ah! Well done, my merry fellow! You have won a mighty lot of land!'"The starschina rose, and threw a mattock to Pakhom's servant."'There he is: bury him.'"The servant was alone. He dug a ditch for Pakhom, just as long as from his feet to his head:two yards, and he buried him."Nearly all these tales conceal, beneath their poetic envelope, the same evangelical moral ofrenunciation and pardon.

"Do not avenge thyself upon whosoever shall offend thee.[10]

"Do not resist whosoever shall do thee evil.[11]


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"Vengeance is Mine, saith the Lord."[12]

And everywhere, and as the conclusion of all, is love.Tolstoy, who wished to found an art for all men, achieved universality at the first stroke.Throughout the world his work has met with a success which can never fail, for it is purged ofall the perishable elements of art, and nothing is left but the eternal.The Power of Darkness does not rise to this august simplicity of heart: it does not pretend to doso. It is the reverse side of the picture. On the one hand is the dream of divine love; on theother, the ghastly reality. We may judge, in reading this play, whether Tolstoy's faith and hislove of the people ever caused him to idealise the people or betray the truth.

Tolstoy, so awkward in most of his dramatic essays, [13] has here attained to mastery. Thecharacters and the action, are handled with ease; the coxcomb Nikita, the sensual, headstrongpassion of Anissia, the cynical good-humour of the old woman, Matrena, who gloats maternallyover the adultery of her son, and the sanctity of the old stammering Hakim—God inhabiting aridiculous body. Then comes the fall of Nikita, weak and without real evil, but fettered by hissin; falling to the depths of crime in spite of his efforts to check himself on the dreadfuldeclivity; but his mother and his wife drag him downward...."The peasants aren't worth much.... But the babas! The women! They are wild animals ... theyare afraid of nothing! ... Sisters, there are millions of you, all Russians, and you are all as blindas moles. You know nothing, you know nothing!... The moujik at least may manage to learnsomething—in the drink-shop, or who knows where?—in prison, or in the barracks; but thebaba—what can she know? She has seen nothing, heard nothing. As she has grown up, so shewill die.... They are like little blind puppies who go running here and there and ramming theirheads against all sorts of filth.... They only know their silly songs: 'Ho—o—o! Ho—o—o!' Whatdoes it mean? Ho—o—o? They don't know!"[14]

Then comes the terrible scene of the murder of the new-born child. Nikita does not want to killit. Anissia, who has murdered her husband for him, and whose nerves have ever since beentortured by her crime, becomes ferocious, maddened, and threatens to give him up. She cries:"At least I shan't be alone any longer! He'll be a murderer too 1 Let him know what it's like!"Nikita crushes the child between two boards. In the midst of his crime he flies, terrified; hethreatens to kill Anissia and his mother; he sobs, he prays:—"Little mother, I can't go on!" He thinks he hears the mangled baby crying."Where shall I go to be safe?"It is Shakespearean. Less violent, but still more poignant, is the dialogue of the little girl and theold servant-woman, who, alone in the house, at night, hear and guess at the crime which isbeing enacted off the stage.The end is voluntary expiation. Nikita, accompanied by his father, the old Hakim, entersbarefooted, in the midst of a wedding. He kneels, asks pardon of all, and accuses himself ofevery crime. Old Hakim encourages him, looks upon him with a smile of ecstatic suffering.


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"God! Oh, look at him, God!"The drama gains quite a special artistic flavour by the use of the peasant dialect."I ransacked my notebooks in order to write The Power of Darkness," Tolstoy told M. PaulBoyer.The unexpected images, flowing from the lyrical yet humorous soul of the Russian people, havea swing and a vigour about them beside which images of the more literary quality seem tameand colourless. Tolstoy revelled in them; we feel, in reading the play, that the artist while writingit amused himself by noting these expressions, these turns of thought; the comic side of them byno means escapes him,[15] even while the apostle is mourning amidst the dark places of thehuman soul.While he was studying the people, and sending into their darkness a ray of light from his stationabove them, he was also devoting two tragic romances to the still darker night of the middleclasses and the wealthy. At this period the dramatic form was predominant over his ideas of art.The Death of Ivan Ilyitch and The Kreutzer Sonata are both true dramas of the inner soul, of thesoul turned upon itself and concentrated upon itself, and in The Kreutzer Sonata it is the hero ofthe drama himself who unfolds it by narration.The Death of Ivan Ilyitch (1884-86) has impressed the French public as few Russian works havedone. At the beginning of this study I mentioned that I had witnessed the sensation caused bythis book among the middle-class readers in the French provinces, a class apparently indifferentto literature and art. I think the explanation lies in the fact that the book represents, with apainful realism, a type of the average, mediocre man; a conscientious functionary, withoutreligion, without ideals, almost without thought; the man who is absorbed in his duties, in hismechanical life, until the hour of his death, when he sees with terror that he has not lived. IvanIlyitch is the representative type of the European bourgeoisie of 1880 which reads Zola, goes tohear Bernhardt, and, without holding any faith, is not even irreligious; for it does not take thetrouble either to believe or to disbelieve; it simply never thinks of such matters.In the violence of its attacks, alternately bitter and almost comic, upon the world in general, andmarriage in particular, the Death of Ivan Ilyitch was the first of a new series of works; it was theforerunner of the still more morose and unworldly Kreutzer Sonata and Resurrection. There is alamentable yet laughable emptiness in this life (as there is in thousands and thousands of lives),with its grotesque ambitions, its wretched gratification of vanity, "always better than spendingthe evening opposite one's wife"; with its weariness and hatred of the official career; itsprivileges, and the embitterment which they cause; and its one real pleasure: whist. Thisridiculous life is lost for a cause yet more ridiculous—a fall from a ladder, one day when Ivanwished to hang a curtain over the drawing-room window. The lie of life. The lie of sickness.The lie of the well-to-do doctor, who thinks only of himself. The lie of the family, whom illnessdisgusts. The lie of the wife, who professes devotion, and calculates how she will live when herhusband is dead. The universal lie, against which is set only the truth of a compassionateservant, who does not try to conceal his condition from the dying man, and helps him out ofbrotherly kindness. Ivan Ilyitch, "full of an infinite pity for himself," weeps over his lonelinessand the egoism of men; he suffers horribly, until the day on which he perceives that his past life


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has been a lie, and that he can repair that lie. Immediately all becomes clear—an hour before hisdeath. He no longer thinks of himself; he thinks of his family; he pities them; he must die andrid them of himself."Where are you, Pain? Here.... Well, you have only to persist.—And Death, where is Death? Hedid not find it. In place of Death he saw only a ray of light. 'It is over,' said some one.—Heheard these words and repeated them to himself. 'Death no longer exists,' he told himself."I n The Kreutzer Sonata there is not even this "ray of light." It is a ferocious piece of work;Tolstoy lashes out at society like a wounded beast avenging itself for what it has suffered. Wemust not forget that the story is the confession of a human brute, who has taken life, and who ispoisoned by the virus of jealousy. Tolstoy hides himself behind his leading character. Wecertainly find his own ideas, though heightened in tone, in these furious invectives againsthypocrisy in general; the hypocrisy of the education of women, of love, of marriage—marriage,that "domestic prostitution"; the hypocrisy of the world, of science, of physicians—those"sowers of crime." But the hero of the book impels the writer into an extraordinary brutality ofexpression, a violent rush of carnal images—all the excesses of a luxurious body—and, byreaction into all the fury of asceticism, the fear and hatred of the passions; maledictions hurledin the face of life by a monk of the Middle Ages, consumed with sensuality. Having written thebook Tolstoy himself was alarmed:

"I never foresaw at all," he said in the Epilogue to the Kreutzer Sonata ,"[16] that in writing thisbook a rigorous logic would bring me where I have arrived. My own conclusions terrified me atfirst, and I was tempted to reject them; but it was impossible for me to refuse to hear the voice ofmy reason and my conscience."He found himself repeating, in calmer tones, the savage outcry of the murderer Posdnicheffa*gainst love and marriage."He who regards woman—above all his wife—with sensuality, already commits adultery withher.""When the passions have disappeared, then humanity will no longer have a reason for being; itwill have executed the Law; the union of mankind will be accomplished."He will prove, on the authority of the Gospel according to Matthew, that "the Christian ideal isnot marriage; that Christian marriage cannot exist; that marriage, from the Christian point ofview, is an element not of progress but of downfall; that love, with all that precedes and followsit, is an obstacle to the true human ideal."[17]

But he had never formulated these ideas clearly, even to himself, until they fell from the lips ofPosdnicheff. As often happens with great creative artists, the work carried the writer with it; theartist outstripped the thinker; a process by which art lost nothing. In the power of its effects, inpassionate concentration, in the brutal vividness of its impressions, and in fullness and maturityof form, nothing Tolstoy has written equals the Kreutzer Sonata.I have not explained the title. To be exact, it is erroneous; it gives a false idea of the book, inwhich music plays only an accessory part. Suppress the sonata, and all would be the same.Tolstoy made the mistake of confusing two matters, both of which he took deeply to heart: the


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depraving power of music, and the depraving power of love. The demon of music should havebeen dealt with in a separate volume; the space which Tolstoy has accorded it in the work inquestion is insufficient to prove the danger which he wishes to denounce. I must emphasise thismatter somewhat; for I do not think the attitude of Tolstoy in respect of music has ever beenfully understood.He was far from disliking music. Only the things one loves are feared as Tolstoy feared thepower of music. Remember what a place the memories of music hold in Childhood, and aboveall in Family Happiness, in which the whole cycle of love, from its springtide to its autumn, isunrolled to the phrases of the Sonata quasi una fantasia of Beethoven. Remember, too, thewonderful symphonies which Nekhludov[18] hears in fancy, and the little Petia, the night beforehis death.[19] Although Tolstoy had studied music very indifferently, it used to move him totears, and at certain periods of his life he passionately abandoned himself to its influence. In1858 he founded a Musical Society, which in later years became the Moscow Conservatoire."He was extremely fond of music," writes his brother-in-law, S. A. Bers. "He used to play thepiano, and was fond of the classic masters. He would often sit down to the piano beforebeginning his work.[20] Probably he found inspiration in so doing. He always used toaccompany my youngest sister, whose voice he loved. I have noticed that the sensations whichthe music evoked in him were accompanied by a slight pallor and an imperceptible grimace,which seemed expressive of fear."[21]

It was really fear that he felt; fear inspired by the stress of those unknown forces which shookhim to the roots of his being. In the world of music he felt his moral will, his reason, and all thereality of life dissolve. Let us turn to the scene, in the first volume of War and Peace , in whichNikolas Rostoff, who has just lost heavily at cards, returns in a state of despair. He hears hissister Natasha singing. He forgets everything."He waited with a feverish impatience for the note which was about to follow, and for a momentthe only thing in all the world was the melody in three-quarter-time: Oh! mio crudele affetto!

"'What an absurd existence ours is!' he thought. 'Unhappiness, money, hatred, honour—they areall nothing.... Here is the truth, the reality!... Natasha, my little dove!... Let us see if she is goingto reach that B?... She has reached it, thank God!'"And to emphasise the B he sung the third octave below it in accompaniment."'How splendid! I have sung it too,' he cried, and the vibration of that octave awoke in his soulall that was best and purest. Beside this superhuman sensation, what were his losses at play andhis word of honour?... Follies! One could kill, steal, and yet be happy!"Nikolas neither kills nor steals, and for him music is only a passing influence; but Natasha is onthe point of losing her self-control. After an evening at the Opera, "in that strange world whichis intoxicated and perverted by art, and a thousand leagues from the real world; a world in


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which good and evil, the extravagant and the reasonable, are mingled and confounded," shelistened to a declaration from Anatol Kouraguin, who was madly in love with her, and sheconsented to elope with him.

The older Tolstoy grew, the more he feared music. [22] A man whose influence over him wasconsiderable—Auerbach, whom in 1860 he had met in Dresden—had doubtless a hand infortifying his prejudices. "He spoke of music as of a Pflichtloser Genuss (a profligateamusem*nt). According to him, it was an incentive to depravity."[23]

Among so many musicians, some of whose music is at least amoral, why, asks M. CamilleBellaigue,[24] should Tolstoy have chosen Beethoven, the purest, the chastest of all?—Becausehe was the most powerful. Tolstoy had early loved his music, and he always loved it. Hisremotest memories of Childhood were connected with the Sonata Pathétique; and whenNekhludov in Resurrection heard the andante of the Symphony in C Minor, he could hardlyrestrain his tears: "he was filled with tenderness for himself and for those he loved." Yet wehave seen with what animosity Tolstoy referred in his What is Art? [25] to the "unhealthy worksof the deaf Beethoven"; and even in 1876 the fury with which "he delighted in demolishingBeethoven and in casting doubts upon his genius" had revolted Tchaikowsky and haddiminished his admiration for Tolstoy. The Kreutzer Sonata enables us to plumb the depths ofthis passionate injustice. What does Tolstoy complain of in Beethoven? Of his power. Hereminds us of Goethe; listening to the Symphony in C Minor, he is overwhelmed by it, andangrily turns upon the imperious master who subjects him against his will.[26]

"This music," says Tolstoy, "transports me immediately into the state of mind which was thecomposer's when he wrote it.... Music ought to be a State matter, as in China. We ought not tolet Tom, Dick, and Harry wield so frightful a hypnotic power.... As for these things (the firstPresto of the Sonata) one ought only to be allowed to play them under particular and importantcirc*mstances...."Yet we see, after this revolt, how he surrenders to the power of Beethoven, and how this poweris by his own admission a pure and ennobling force. On hearing the piece in question,Posdnicheff falls into an indefinable state of mind, which he cannot analyse, but of which theconsciousness fills him with delight. "There is no longer room for jealousy." The wife is not lesstransfigured. She has, while she plays, "a majestic severity of expression"; and "a faint smile,compassionate and happy, after she has finished." What is there perverse in all this? This: thatthe spirit is enslaved: that the unknown power of sound can do with him what it wills; destroyhim, if it please.This is true, but Tolstoy forgets one thing: the mediocrity and the lack of vitality in the majorityof those who make or listen to music. Music cannot be dangerous to those who feel nothing.The spectacle of the Opera-house during a performance of Salomé is quite enough to assure usof the immunity of the public to the more perverse emotions evoked by the art of sounds. To bein danger one must be, like Tolstoy, abounding in life. The truth is that in spite of his injusticewhere Beethoven was concerned, Tolstoy felt his music more deeply than do the majority ofthose who now exalt him. He, at least, knew the frenzied passions, the savage violence, whichmutter through the art of the "deaf old man," but of which the orchestras and the virtuosi of to-


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day are innocent. Beethoven would perhaps have preferred the hatred of Tolstoy to theenthusiasm of his admirers.

[1] To these years was attributed, in respect of the date of publication, and perhaps of completion, a work which was reallywritten during the happy period of betrothal and the first years of marriage: the beautiful story of a horse, Kholstomier (1861-86).Tolstoy speaks of it in 1883 in a letter to Fet (Further Correspondence.) The art of the commencement, with its fine landscapes, itspenetrating psychological sympathy, its humour, and its youth, has much in common with the art of Tolstoy's maturity ( FamilyHappiness, War and Peace), The macabre quality of the end, and the last pages comparing the body of the old horse with that ofhis master, are full of a realistic brutality characteristic of the years after 1880.[2] Le Temps, August 29, 1901.[3] "As for style," his friend Droujinin told him in 1856, "You are extremely illiterate; sometimes like an innovator and a greatpoet; sometimes like an officer writing to a comrade. All that you write with real pleasure is admirable. The moment you becomeindifferent your style becomes involved and is horrible." (Vie et Oeuvre.)[4] Vie et Oeuvre.—During the summer of 1879 Tolstoy lived on terms of great intimacy with the peasants.[5] In the notes of his readings, between 1860 and 1870, Tolstoy wrote: "The bylines—very greatly impressed."[6] The Two Old Men (1885).[7] Where Love is, there God is also (1885).[8] By what do Men live? (1881); The Three Old Men (1884); The Godchild (1886).[9] This tale bears the sub-title, Does a Man need much Soil? (1886).[10] The Fire that flames does not go out (1885).[11] The Wax Taper (1885); The Story of Ivan the Idiot.[12] The Godson (1886).[13] The love of the theatre came to him somewhat late in life. It was a discovery of his, and he made this discovery during thewinter of 1869-70. According to his custom, he was at once afire with enthusiasm."All this winter I have busied myself exclusively with the drama; and, as always happens to men who have never, up to the age offorty, thought about such or such a subject, when they suddenly turn their attention to this neglected subject, it seems to them thatthey perceive a number of new and wonderful things.... I have read Shakespeare, Goethe, Pushkin, Gogol, and Molière.... I wantto read Sophocles and Euripides.... I have kept my bed a long time, being unwell—and when I am unwell a host of comic ordramatic characters begin to struggle for life within me ... and they do it with much success."—Letters to Fet, February 17-21,1870 (Further Letters).[14] A variant of Act iv.[15] The creation of this heart-breaking drama must have been a strain. He writes to Teneromo: "I am well and happy. I havebeen working all this time at my play. It is finished." (January, 1887. Further Letters.)[16] A French translation of this Epilogue ( Postface), by M. Halpérine-Kaminsky was published in the volume Plaisirs vicieux,under the title Des relations entre les sexes.[17] Let us take notice that Tolstoy was never guilty of the simplicity of believing that the ideal of celibacy and absolute chastitywas capable of realisation by humanity as we know it. But according to him an ideal is incapable of realisation by its verydefinition: it is an appeal to the heroic energies of the soul."The conception of the Christian ideal, which is the union of all living creatures in brotherly love, is irreconcilable with theconduct of life, which demands a continual effort towards an ideal which is inaccessible, but does not expect that it will ever beattained."


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[18] At the end of A Russian Proprietor.[19] War and Peace.—I do not mention Albert (1857), the story of a musician of genius; the book is weak in the extreme.[20] The period spoken of is 1876-77.[21] S. A. Bers, Memories of Tolstoy.[22] But he never ceased to love it. One of the friends of his later years was a musician, Goldenreiser, who spent the summer of1910 near Yasnaya. Almost every day he came to play to Tolstoy during the latter's last illness. ( Journal des Débats, November18, 1910.)[23] Letter of April 21, 1861.[24] Tolstoï et la musique (Le Gaulois, January 4, 1911).[25] Not only to the later works of Beethoven. Even in the case of those earlier works which he consented to regard as "artistic,"Tolstoy complained of "their artificial form."—In a letter to Tchaikowsky he contrasts with Mozart and Haydn "the artificialmanner of Beethoven, Schubert, and Berlioz, which produces calculated effects."[26] Instance the scene described by M. Paul Boyer: "Tolstoy sat down to play Chopin. At the end of the fourth Ballade, his eyesfilled with tears. 'Ah, the animal!' he cried. And suddenly he rose and went out." (Le Temps, November 2, 1902.)



Ten years separated Resurrection from the Kreutzer Sonata .[1] ten years which were more andmore absorbed in moral propaganda. Ten years also separated the former book from the end forwhich this life hungered, famished as it was for the eternal. Resurrection is in a sense the artistictestament of the author. It dominates the end of his life as War and Peace crowned its maturity.It is the last peak, perhaps the highest—if not the most stupendous—whose invisible summit islost in the mists. Tolstoy is seventy years old. He contemplates the world, his life, his pastmistakes, his faith, his righteous anger.He sees them from a height. We find the same ideals as in his previous books; the same warringupon hypocrisy; but the spirit of the artist, as in War and Peace , soars above his subject. To thesombre irony, the mental tumult of the Kreutzer Sonata and The Death of Ivan Ilyitch he adds areligious serenity, a detachment from the world, which is faithfully reflected in himself. One isreminded, at times, of a Christian Goethe.All the literary characteristics which we have noted in the works of his later period are to befound here, and of these especially the concentration of the narrative, which is even morestriking in a long novel than in a short story. There is a wonderful unity about the book; inwhich respect it differs widely from War and Peace and Anna Karenin. There are hardly anydigressions of an episodic nature. A single train of action, tenaciously followed, is worked outin every detail. There is the same vigorous portraiture, the same ease and fullness of handling,as in the Kreutzer Sonata. The observation is more than ever lucid, robust, pitilessly realistic,revealing the animal in the man "the terrible persistence of the beast in man, more terrible whenthis animality is not openly obvious; when it is concealed under a so-called poetical exterior."Witness the drawing-room conversations, which have for their object the mere satisfaction of aphysical need: "the need of stimulating the digestion by moving the muscles of the tongue and


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gullet"; the crude vision of humanity which spares no one; neither the pretty Korchagina, "withher two false teeth, the salient bones of her elbows, and the largeness of her finger-nails," andh e r décolletage, which inspires in Nekhludov a feeling of "shame and disgust, disgust andshame"; nor the herione, Maslova, nothing of whose degradation is hidden; her look ofpremature age, her vicious, ignoble expression, her provocative smile, the odour of brandy thathangs about her, her red and swollen face. There is a brutality of naturalistic detail: as instance,the woman who converses while crouched over the commode. Youth and the poeticimagination have vanished; except in the passages which deal with the memories of first love,whose music vibrates in the reader's mind with hypnotic intensity; the night of the HolySaturday, and the night of Passover; the thaw, the white mist so thick "that at five paces from thehouse one saw nothing but a shadowy mass, whence glimmered the red light of a lamp"; thecrowing of the co*cks in the night; the sounds from the frozen river, where the ice cracks, snores,bubbles, and tinkles like a breaking glass; and the young man who, from the night outside,looks through the window at the young girl who does not see him: seated near the table in theflickering light of the little lamp—Katusha, pensive, dreaming, and smiling at her dreams.The lyrical powers of the writer are given but little play. His art has become more impersonal;more alien to his own life. The world of criminals and revolutionaries, which he here describes,was unfamiliar to him;[2] he enters it only by an effort of voluntary sympathy; he even admitsthat before studying them at close quarters the revolutionaries inspired him with anunconquerable aversion. All the more admirable is his impeccable observation—a faultlessmirror. What a wealth of types, of precise details! How everything is seen; baseness and virtue,without hardness, without weakness, but with a serene understanding and a brotherly pity....The terrible picture of the women in the prison! They are pitiless to one another; but the artist isthe merciful God; he sees, in the heart of each, the distress that hides beneath humiliation, andthe tearful eyes beneath the mask of effrontery. The pure, faint light which little by little waxeswithin the vicious mind of Maslova, and at last illumines her with a sacrificial flame, has thetouching beauty of one of those rays of sunshine which transfigure some humble scene paintedby the brush of Rembrandt. There is no severity here, even for the warders and executioners."Lord, forgive them, for they know not what they do!" ... The worst of it is that often they doknow what they do; they feel all the pangs of remorse, yet they cannot do otherwise. Therebroods over the book the sense of the crushing and inevitable fatality which weighs upon thosewho suffer and those who cause that suffering: the director of the prison, full of naturalkindness, as sick of his jailer's life as of the pianoforte exercises of the pale, sickly daughterwith the dark circles beneath her eyes, who indefatigably murders a rhapsody of Liszt; theGovernor-General of the Siberian town, intelligent and kindly, who, in the hope of escaping theinevitable conflict between the good he wishes to do and the evil he is forced to do, has beensteadily drinking since the age of thirty-five; who is always sufficiently master of himself tokeep up appearances, even when he is drunk. And among these people we find the ordinaryaffection for wife and children, although their calling renders them pitiless in respect of the restof humanity.The only character in this book who has no objective reality is Nekhludov himself; and this is sobecause Tolstoy has invested him with his own ideas. This is a defect of several of the mostnotable types in War and Peace and in Anna Karenin ; for example, Prince Andrei, Pierre


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Besoukhov, Levine, and others. The fault was less grave, however, in these earlier books; forthe characters, by force of their circ*mstances and their age, were nearer to the author's actualstate of mind. But in Resurrection the author places in the body of an epicurean of thirty-fivethe disembodied soul of an old man of seventy. I will not say that the moral crisis throughwhich Nekhludov is supposed to pass is absolutely untrue and impossible; nor even that it couldnot be brought about so suddenly. [3] But there is nothing in the temperament, the character, theprevious life of the man as Tolstoy depicts him, to announce or explain this crisis; and once ithas commenced nothing interrupts it. Tolstoy has, it is true, with profound observation,represented the impure alloy which at the outset is mingled with the thoughts of sacrifice; thetears of self-pity and admiration; and, later, the horror and repugnance which seize uponNekhludov when he is brought face to face with reality. But his resolution never flinches. Thiscrisis has nothing in common with his previous crises, violent but only momentary. [4]

Henceforth nothing can arrest this weak and undecided character. A wealthy prince, muchrespected, greatly enjoying the good things of the world, on the point of marrying a charminggirl who loves him and is not distasteful to him, he suddenly decides to abandon everything—wealth, the world, and social position—and to marry a prostitute in order to atone for a remoteoffence; and his exaltation survives, without flinching, for months; it holds out against everytrial, even the news that the woman he wishes to make his wife is continuing her life ofdebauchery.[5] Here we have a saintliness of which the psychology of a Dostoyevsky wouldhave shown us the source, in the obscure depths of the conscience or even in the organism ofhis hero. Nekhludov, however, is by no means one of Dostoyevsky's heroes. He is the type ofthe average man, commonplace, sane, who is Tolstoy's usual hero. To be exact, we areconscious of the juxtaposition of a very materialistic[6] character and a moral crisis whichbelongs to another man, and that man the aged Tolstoy.The same impression—one of elemental duality—is again produced at the end of the book,where a third part, full of strictly realistic observation, is set beside an evangelical conclusionwhich is not in any way essential; it is an act of personal faith,[7] which does not logically issuefrom the life under observation. This is not the first time that Tolstoy's religion has becomeinvolved with his realism; but in previous works the two elements have been better mingled.Here they are not amalgamated; they simply co-exist; and the contrast is the more striking inthat Tolstoy's faith is always becoming less and less indifferent to proof, while his realism isdaily becoming more finely whetted, more free from convention. Here is a sign, not of fatigue,but of age; a certain stiffness, so to speak, in the joints. The religious conclusion is not theorganic development of the work. It is a Deus ex machinâ. I personally am convinced that rightin the depth of Tolstoy's being—in spite of all his affirmations—the fusion between his twodiverse natures was by no means complete: between the truth of the artist and the truth of thebeliever.Although Resurrection has not the harmonious fullness of the work of his youth, and althoughI, for my part, prefer War and Peace , it is none the less one of the most beautiful poems ofhuman compassion; perhaps the most truthful ever written. More than in any other book I seethrough the pages of this those bright eyes of Tolstoy's, the pale-grey, piercing eyes, "the lookthat goes straight to the heart,"[8] and in each heart sees its God.


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[1] Master and Servant (1895) is more or less of a transition between the gloomy novels which preceded it and Resurrection;which is full of the light of the Divine charity. But it is akin to The Death of Ivan Ilyitch and the Popular Tales rather than toResurrection, which only presents, towards the end of the book, the sublime transformation of a selfish and morally cowardlyman under the stress of an impulse of sacrifice. The greater part of the book consists of the extremely realistic picture of a masterwithout kindness and a servant full of resignation, who are surprised, by night, on the steppes, by a blizzard, in which they losetheir way. The master, who at first tries to escape, deserting his companion, returns, and finding the latter half-frozen, throwshimself upon him, covering him with his body, gives him of his warmth, and sacrifices himself by instinct; he does not knowwhy, but the tears fill his eyes; it seems to him that he has become the man he is seeking to save—Nikita—and that his life is nolonger in himself, but in Nikita. "Nikita is alive; then I am still alive, myself." He has almost forgotten who he, Vassili, was. Hethinks: "Vassili did not know what had to be done. But I, I know!" He hears the voice of Him whom he was awaiting (here hisdream recalls one of the Popular Tales), of Him who, a little while ago, had commanded him to lie upon Nikita. He cries, quitehappy: "Lord, I am coming!" and he feels that he is free; that nothing is keeping him back any longer. He is dead.[2] While on the other hand he had mixed in all the various circles depicted in War and Peace, Anna Karenin, The Cossacks, andSebastopol; the salons of the nobles, the army, the life of the country estate. He had only to remember.[3] "Men carry in them the germ of all the human qualities, and they manifest now one, now another, so that they often appear tobe not themselves; that is, themselves as they habitually appear. Among some these changes are more rare; among others morerapid. To the second class of men belongs Nekhludov. Under the influence of various physical or moral causes sudden andcomplete changes are incessantly being produced within him." (Resurrection.)[4] "Many times in his life he had proceeded to clean up his conscience. This was the term he used to denote those moral crises inwhich he decided to sweep out the moral refuse which littered his soul. At the conclusion of these crises he never failed to sethimself certain rules, which he swore always to keep. He kept a diary; he began a new life. But each time it was not long before hefell once more to the same level, or lower still, than before the crisis." (Resurrection.)[5] Upon learning that Maslova is engaged in an intrigue with a hospital attendant, Nekhludov is more than ever decided to"sacrifice his liberty in order to redeem the sin of this woman."[6] Tolstoy has never drawn a character with so sure, so broad a touch as in the beginning of Resurrection. Witness the admirabledescription of Nekhludov's toilet and his actions of the morning before the first session in the Palace of Justice.[7] The word "act" to be found here and there in the text in such phrases as "act of faith" "act of will," is used in a sense peculiar toCatholic and Orthodox Christians. A penitent is told to perform an "act of faith" as penance; which is usually the repetition ofcertain prayers of the nature of a creed. The "act," in short, is a repetition, a declamation, a meditation: anything but an action.—(TRANS.)[8] Letter of Countess Tolstoy's, 1884.



Tolstoy never renounced his art. A great artist cannot, even if he would, abandon the reason ofhis existence. He can, for religious reasons, cease to publish, but he cannot cease to write.Tolstoy never interrupted his work of artistic creation. M. Paul Boyer, who saw him, during thelast few years, at Yasnaya Polyana, says that he would now give prominence to his evangelisticworks, now to his works of imagination; he would work at the one as a relaxation from theother. When he had finished some social pamphlet, some Appeal to the Rulers or to the Ruled,he would allow himself to resume one of the charming tales which he was, so to speak, inprocess of recounting to himself; such as his Hadji-Mourad, a military epic, which celebrated anepisode of the wars of the Caucasus and the resistance of the mountaineers under Schamyl.[1]

Art was still his relaxation, his pleasure; but he would have thought it a piece of vanity to makea parade of it. With the exception of his Cycle of Readings for Every Day of the Year (1904-


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5),[2] in which he collected the thoughts of various writers upon Life and the Truth—a trueanthology of the poetical wisdom of the world, from the Holy Books of the East to the works ofcontemporary writers—nearly all his literary works of art, properly so called, which have beenwritten later than 1900 have remained in manuscript.[3]

On the other hand he was boldly and ardently casting his mystical and polemical writings uponthe social battlefield. From 1900 to 1910 such work absorbed the greater part of his time andenergy. Russia was passing through an alarming crisis; for a moment the empire of the Tsarsseemed to totter on its foundations and about to fall in ruin. The Russo-Japanese war, thedisasters which followed it, the revolutionary troubles, the mutinies in the army and the fleet, themassacres, the agrarian disorders, seemed to mark "the end of a world," to quote the title of oneof Tolstoy's writings. The height of the crisis was reached in 1904 and 1905. During these yearsTolstoy published a remarkable series of works: War and Revolution, The Great Crime, The Endof a World. During the last ten years of his life he occupied a situation unique not only in Russiabut in the world. He was alone, a stranger to all the parties, to all countries, and rejected by hisChurch, which had excommunicated him.[4] The logic of his reason and the revolutionarycharacter of his faith had "led him to this dilemma; to live a stranger to other men, or a strangerto the truth." He recalls the Russian proverb: "An old man who lies is a rich man who steals,"and he severs himself from mankind in order to speak the truth. He tells the whole truth, and toall. The old hunter of lies continues, unweariedly, to mark down all superstitions, religious orsocial, and all fetishes. The only exceptions are the old maleficent powers—the persecutrix, theChurch, and the imperial autocracy. Perhaps his enmity towards them was in some degreeappeased now that all were casting stones at them. They were familiar; therefore they werealready not so formidable! After all, too, the Church and the Tsar were carrying on their peculiartrades; they were at least not deceptive. Tolstoy, in his letter to the Tsar Nikolas II., [5] althoughhe speaks the truth in a manner entirely unaccommodating to the man as sovereign, is full ofgentleness for the sovereign as man; addressing him as "dear brother," praying him to "pardonhim if he has hurt him unintentionally," and signing himself, "Your brother who wishes you truehappiness."What Tolstoy can least find it in him to pardon—what he denounces with the utmost hatred—are the new lies; not the old ones, which are no longer able to deceive; not despotism, but theillusion of liberty. It is difficult to say which he hates the more among the followers of the neweridols: whether the Socialists or the "Liberals."He had a long-standing antipathy for the Liberals. It had seized upon him suddenly when, as anofficer fresh from Sebastopol, he found himself in the society of the literary men of St.Petersburg. It had been one of the causes of his misunderstanding with Tourgenev. The arrogantnoble, the man of ancient race, could not support these "intellectuals," with their profession ofmaking the nation happy, whether by its will or against it, by forcing their Utopian schemesupon it. Very much a Russian, and of the old stamp, [6] he instinctively distrusted all liberalinnovations, and the constitutional ideas which came from the West; and his two journeysabroad only intensified his prejudices. On his return from his first journey he wrote:"To avoid the ambition of Liberalism."


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On his return from the second:"A privileged society has no right whatsoever to educate in its own way the masses of which itknows nothing."I n Anna Karenin he freely expresses his contempt for Liberals in general. Levine refuses toassociate himself with the work of the provincial institutions for educating the people, and theinnovations which are the order of the day. The picture of the elections to the provincialassembly exposes the fool's bargain by which the country changes its ancient Conservativeadministration for a Liberal régime—nothing is really altered, except that there is one lie themore, while the masters are of inferior blood."We are not worth very much perhaps," says the representative of the aristocracy, "but none theless we have lasted a thousand years."Tolstoy fulminates against the manner in which the Liberals abuse the words, "The People: TheWill of the People." What do they know of the people? Who are the People?But it is more especially when the Liberal movement seemed on the point of succeeding andachieving the convocation of, the first Duma that Tolstoy expressed most violently hisdisapprobation of its constitutional ideas."During the last few years the deformation of Christianity has given rise to a new species offraud, which has rooted our peoples yet more firmly in their servility. With the help of acomplicated system of parliamentary elections it was suggested to them that by electing theirrepresentatives directly they were participating in the government, and that in obeying themthey were obeying their own will: in short, that they were free. This is a piece of imposture. Thepeople cannot express its will, even with the aid of universal suffrage—1, because no suchcollective will of a nation of many millions of inhabitants could exist; 2, because even if itexisted the majority of voices would not be its expression. Without insisting on the fact thatthose elected would legislate and administrate not for the general good but in order to maintainthemselves in power—without counting on the fact of the popular corruption due to pressureand electoral corruption—this fraud is particularly harmful because of the presumptuous slaveryinto which all those who submit to it fall.... These free men recall the prisoners who imagine thatthey are enjoying freedom when they have the right to elect those of their gaolers who areentrusted with the interior policing of the prison.... A member of a despotic State may beentirely free, even in the midst of the most brutal violence. But a member of a constitutionalState is always a slave, for he recognises the legality of the violence done him.... And now menwish to lead the Russian people into the same state of constitutional slavery in which the otherEuropean peoples dwell!"[7]

In his hostility towards Liberalism contempt was his dominant feeling. In respect of Socialismhis dominant feeling was—or rather would have been—hatred, if Tolstoy had not forbiddenhimself to hate anything whatever. He detested it doubly, because Socialism was theamalgamation of two lies: the lie of liberty and the lie of science. Does it not profess to befounded upon some sort of economic science, whose laws absolutely rule the progress of theworld?


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Tolstoy is very hard upon science. He has pages full of terrible irony concerning this modernsuperstition and "these futile problems: the origin of species, spectrum analysis, the nature ofradium, the theory of numbers, animal fossils and other nonsense, to which people attach asmuch importance to-day as they attributed in the Middle Ages to the Immaculate Conception orthe Duality of Substance." He derides these "servants of science, who, just as the servants of theChurch, persuade themselves and others that they are saving humanity; who, like the Church,believe in their own infallibility, never agree among themselves, divide themselves into sects,and, like the Church, are the chief cause of unmannerliness, moral ignorance, and the longdelay of humanity in freeing itself from the evils under which it suffers; for they have rejectedthe only thing that could unite humanity: the religious conscience."[8] But his anxiety redoubles,and his indignation bursts its bounds, when he sees the dangerous weapon of the newfanaticism in the hands of those who profess to be regenerating humanity. Every revolutionistsaddens him when he resorts to violence. But the intellectual and theoretical revolutionaryinspires him with horror: he is a pedantic murderer, an arrogant, sterile intelligence, who lovesnot men but ideas.[9]

Moreover, these ideas are of a low order."The object of Socialism is the satisfaction of the lowest needs of man: his material well-being.And it cannot attain even this end by the means it recommends."[10]

At heart, he is without love. He feels only hatred for the oppressors and "a black envy for theassured and easy life of the rich: a greed like that of the flies that gather about ordure."[11] WhenSocialism is victorious the aspect of the world will be terrible. The European horde will rushupon the weak and barbarous peoples with redoubled force, and will enslave them, in order thatthe ancient proletariats of Europe may debauch themselves at their leisure by idle luxury, as didthe people of Rome.[12]

Happily the principal energies of Socialism spend themselves in smoke—in speeches, like thoseof M. Jaurès."What an admirable orator! There is something of everything in his speeches—and there isnothing.... Socialism is a little like our Russian orthodoxy: you press it, you push it into its lasttrenches, you think you have got it fast, and suddenly it turns round and tells you: 'No, I'm notthe one you think, I'm somebody else.' And it slips out of your hands.... Patience! Let time do itswork. There will be socialistic theories, as there are women's fashions, which soon pass from thedrawing-room to the servants' hall."[13]

Although Tolstoy waged war in this manner upon the Liberals and Socialists, it was not—farfrom it—to leave the field free for autocracy; on the contrary, it was that the battle might befought in all its fierceness between the old world and the new, after the army of disorderly anddangerous elements had been eliminated. For Tolstoy too was a believer in the Revolution. Buthis Revolution was of a very different colour to that of the revolutionaries; it was rather that of abeliever of the Middle Ages, who looked on the morrow, perhaps that very day, for the reign ofthe Holy Spirit."I believe that at this very hour the great revolution is beginning which has been preparing for


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two thousand years in the Christian world—the revolution which will substitute for corruptedChristianity and the system of domination which proceeds therefrom the true Christianity, thebasis of equality between men and of the true liberty to which all beings endowed with reasonaspire."[14]

What time does he choose, this seer and prophet, for his announcement of the new era of loveand happiness? The darkest hour of Russian history; the hour of disaster and of shame! Superbpower of creative faith! All around it is light—even in darkness. Tolstoy saw in death the signsof renewal; in the calamities of the war in Manchuria, in the downfall of the Russian armies, inthe frightful anarchy and the bloody struggle of the classes. His logic—the logic of a dream!—drew from the victory of Japan the astonishing conclusion that Russia should withdraw from allwarfare, because the non-Christian peoples will always have the advantage in warfare over theChristian peoples "who have passed through the phase of servile submission." Does this meanthe abdication of the Russian people? No; this is pride at its supremest. Russia should withdrawfrom all warfare because she must accomplish "the great revolution.""The Revolution of 1905, which will set men free from brutal oppression, must commence inRussia. It is beginning."Why must Russia play the part of the chosen people? Because the new Revolution must beforeall repair the "Great Crime," the great monopolisation of the soil for the profit of a fewthousands of wealthy men and the slavery of millions of men—the cruellest of enslavements;[15]

and because no people was so conscious of this iniquity as the Russian people.[16]

Again, and more especially, because the Russian people is of all peoples most thoroughlysteeped in the true Christianity, so that the coming revolution should realise, in the name ofChrist, the law of union and of love. Now this law of love cannot be fulfilled unless it is basedupon the law of non-resistance to evil.[17] This non-resistance (let us mark this well, we whohave the misfortune to see in it simply an Utopian fad peculiar to Tolstoy and to a fewdreamers) has always been an essential trait of the Russian people."The Russian people has always assumed, with regard to power, an attitude entirely strange tothe other peoples of Europe. It has never entered upon a conflict with power; it has neverparticipated in it, and consequently has never been depraved by it. It has regarded power as anevil which must be avoided. An ancient legend represents the Russians as appealing to theVaringians to come and govern them. The majority of the Russians have always preferred tosubmit to acts of violence rather than respond with violence or participate therein. They havetherefore always submitted.

"A voluntary submission, having nothing in common with servile obedience.[18]

"The true Christian may submit, indeed it is impossible for him not to submit without a struggleto no matter what violence; but he could not obey it—that is, he could not recognise it aslegitimate."[19]

At the time of writing these lines Tolstoy was still subject to the emotion caused by one of themost tragical examples of this heroic nonresistance of a people—the bloody manifestation of


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January 22nd in St. Petersburg, when an unarmed crowd, led by Father Gapon, allowed itself tobe shot down without a cry of hatred or a gesture of self-defence.For a long time the Old Believers, known in Russia as the Sectators, had been obstinatelypractising, in spite of persecution, non-obedience to the State, and had refused to recognise thelegitimacy of its power. [20] The absurdity of the Russo-Japanese war enabled this state of mindto spread without difficulty through the rural districts. Refusals of military service became moreand more general; and the more brutally they were punished the more stubborn the revolt grewin secret. In the provinces, moreover, whole races who knew nothing of Tolstoy had given theexample of an absolute and passive refusal to obey the State—the Doukhobors of the Caucasusas early as 1898 and the Georgians of the Gouri towards 1905. Tolstoy influenced thesemovements far less than they influenced him; and the interest of his writings lies in the fact thatin spite of the criticisms of those writers who were of the party of revolution, as was Gorky, [21]

he was the mouthpiece of the Old Russian people.The attitude which he preserved, in respect of men who at the peril of their lives were puttinginto practice the principles which he professed,[22] was one of extreme modesty and dignity.Neither to the Doukhobors and the Gourians nor to the refractory soldiers did he assume thepose of a master or teacher."He who suffers no trials can teach nothing to him who does so suffer."He implores "the forgiveness of all those whom his words and his writings may have caused tosuffer."[23]

He never urges any one to refuse military service. It is a matter for every man to decide forhimself. If he discusses the matter with any one who is hesitating, "he always advises him not torefuse obedience so long as it would not be morally impossible." For if a man hesitates it isbecause he is not ripe; and "it is better to have one soldier the more than a renegade orhypocrite, which is what becomes of those who undertake a task beyond their strength."[24] Hedistrusts the resolution of the refractory Gontcharenko. He fears "that this young man may havebeen carried away by vanity and vainglory, not by the love of God."[25] To the Doukhobors hewrites that they should not persist in their refusal of obedience out of pride, but "if they arecapable of so doing, they should save their weaker women and their children. No one willblame them for that." They must persist "only if the spirit of Christ is indeed within them,because then they will be happy to suffer."[26] In any case he prays those who are persecuted "atany cost not to break their affectionate relations with those who persecute them."[27] One mustlove even Herod, as he says in a letter to a friend: "You say, 'One cannot love Herod.'—I do notknow, but I feel, and you also, that one must love him. I know, and you also, that if I do notlove him I suffer, that there is no life in me."[28]

The Divine purity, the unvarying ardour of this love, which in the end can no longer becontented even by the words of the Gospel: "Love thy neighbour as thyself," because he findsin them a taint of egoism![29]

Too vast a love in the opinion of some; and so free from human egoism that it wastes itself in


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the void. Yet who more than Tolstoy distrusts "abstract love"?"The greatest modern sin: the abstract love of humanity, impersonal love for those who are—somewhere, out of sight.... To love those we do not know, those whom we shall never meet, isso easy a thing! There is no need to sacrifice anything; and at the same time we are so pleasedwith ourselves! The conscience is fooled.—No. We must love our neighbours—those we livewith, and who are in our way and embarrass us."[30]

I have read in most of the studies of Tolstoy's work that his faith and philosophy are notoriginal. It is true; the beauty of these ideas is eternal and can never appear a momentaryfashion. Others complain of their Utopian character. This also is true; they are Utopian, the NewTestament is Utopian. A prophet is a Utopian; he treads the earth but sees the life of eternity;and that this apparition should have been granted to us, that we should have seen among us thelast of the prophets, that the greatest of our artists should wear this aureole on his brow—there,it seems to me, is a fact more novel and of far greater importance to the world than one religionthe more, or a new philosophy. Those are blind who do not perceive the miracle of this greatmind, the incarnation of fraternal love in the midst of a people and a century stained with theblood of hatred!


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[1] Le Temps, November 2, 1902.[2] Tolstoy regarded this as one of his most important works. "One of my books—For Every Day—to which I have the conceit toattach a great importance...." (Letter to Jan Styka, July 27 August 9, 1909).[3] These works should shortly appear, under the supervision of Countess Alexandra, Tolstoy's daughter. The list of them hasbeen published in various journals. We may mention Hadji-Mourad, Father Sergius, the psychology of a monk; She Had EveryVirtue, the study of a woman; the Diary of a Madman, the Diary of a Mother, the Story of a Doukhobor, the Story of a Hive, thePosthumous Journal of Theodore Kouzmitch, Aliocha Govchkoff, Tikhon and Melanie, After the Ball, The Moon shines in theDark, A Young Tsar, What I saw in a Dream, Who is the Murderer? (containing social ideas), Modern Socialism, a comedy; TheLearned Woman, Childish Wisdom, sketches of children who converse upon moral subjects; The Living Corpse, a drama inseventeen tableaux; It is all her Fault, a peasant comedy in two acts, directed against alcohol (apparently Tolstoy's last literarywork, as he wrote it in May-June, 1910), and a number of social studies. It is announced that they will form two octavo volumesof six hundred pages each.But the essential work as yet unpublished is Tolstoy's Journal, which covers forty years of his life, and will fill, so it is said, no lessthan thirty volumes.[4] The excommunication of Tolstoy by the Holy Synod was declared on February 22, 1901. The excuse was a chapter ofResurrection relating to Mass and the Eucharist. This chapter has unhappily been suppressed in the French edition.[5] On the nationalisation of the soil. (The Great Crime, 1905.)[6] "A 'Great-Russian,' touched with Finnish blood." (M. Leroy-Beaulieu.)[7] The End of a World (1905-6). See the telegram addressed by Tolstoy to an American journal: "The agitation in the Zemstvoshas as its object the limitation of despotic power and the establishment of a representative government. Whether or no theysucceed the result will be a postponement of any true social improvement. Political agitation, while producing the unfortunateillusion of such improvement by external means, arrests true progress, as may be proved by the example of all the constitutionalStates—France, England, America, &c." (Preface to the French translation of The Great Crime, 1905.)In a long and interesting letter to a lady who asked him to join a Committee for the Propagation of Reading and Writing amongthe People, Tolstoy expressed yet other objections to the Liberals: they have always played the part of dupes; they act as theaccomplices of the autocracy through fear; their participation in the government gives the latter a moral prestige, and accustomsthem to compromises, which quickly make them the instruments of power. Alexander II. used to say that all the Liberals wereready to sell themselves for honours if not for money; Alexander III. was able, without danger, to eradicate the liberal work of hisfather. "The Liberals whispered among themselves that this did not please them; but they continued to attend the tribunals, toserve the State and the press; in the press they alluded to those things to which allusion was allowed, and were silent upon mattersto which allusion was prohibited." They did the same under Nikolas II. "When this young man, who knows nothing andunderstands nothing, replies tactlessly and with effrontery to the representatives of the people, do the Liberals protest? By nomeans ... From every side they send the young Tsar their cowardly and flattering congratulations." (Further Letters.)[8] War and Revolution.In Resurrection, at the hearing of Maslova's appeal, in the Senate, it is a materialistic Darwinist who is most strongly opposed tothe revision, because he is secretly shocked that Nekhludov should wish, as a matter of duty, to marry a prostitute; anymanifestation of duty, and still more, of religious feeling, having the effect upon him of a personal insult.[9] As a type, take Novodvorov, the revolutionary leader in Resurrection, whose excessive vanity and egoism have sterilised afine intelligence. No imagination; "a total absence of the moral and æsthetic qualities which produce doubt."Following his footsteps like a shadow is Markel, the artisan who has become a revolutionist through humiliation and the desire forrevenge; a passionate worshipper of science, which he cannot comprehend; a fanatical anticlerical and an ascetic.In Three More Dead or The Divine and the Human we shall find a few specimens of the new generation of revolutionaries:Romane and his friends, who despise the old Terrorists, and profess to attain their ends scientifically, by transforming anagricultural into an industrial people.[10] Letters to the Japanese Izo-Abe, 1904. (Further Letters).[11] Conversations, reported by Teneromo (published in Revolutionaries, 1906).[12] Conversations, reported by Teneromo (published in Revolutionaries, 1906).[13] Conversation with M. Paul Boyer. (Le Temps, November 4, 1902.)[14] The End of a World.[15] "The cruellest enslavement is to be deprived of the earth, for the slave of a master is the slave of only one; but the mandeprived of the land is the slave of all the world." (The Great Crime)[16] Russia was actually in a somewhat special situation; and although Tolstoy may have been wrong to found his generalisationsconcerning other European States upon the condition of Russia, we cannot be surprised that he was most sensible to the sufferingswhich touched him most nearly. See, in The Great Crime, his conversations on the road to Toula with the peasants, who were all


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in want of bread because they lacked land, and who were all secretly waiting for the land to be restored to them. The agriculturalpopulation of Russia forms 80 per cent, of the nation. A hundred million of men, says Tolstoy, are dying of hunger because ofthe seizure of the soil by the landed proprietors. When people speak to them of remedying their evils through the agency of thePress, or by the separation of Church and State, or by nationalist representation, or even by the eight-hours day, they impudentlymock at them:"Those who are apparently looking everywhere for the means of bettering the condition of the masses of the people remind oneof what one sees in the theatre, when all the spectators have an excellent view of an actor who is supposed to be concealed, whilehis fellow-players, who also have a full view of him, pretend not to see him, and endeavour to distract one another's attentionfrom him."There is no remedy but that of returning the soil to the labouring people. As a solution of the property question, Tolstoyrecommends the doctrine of Henry George and his suggested single tax upon the value of the soil. This is his economic gospel; hereturns to it unwearied, and has assimilated it so thoroughly that in his writings he often uses entire phrases of George's.[17] "The law of non-resistance to evil is the keystone of the whole building. To admit the law of mutual help whilemisunderstanding the precept of non-resistance is to build the vault without sealing the central portion." (The End of a World.)[18] In a letter written in 1900 to a friend (Further Letters) Tolstoy complains of the false interpretation given to his doctrine ofnon-resistance. "People," he says, "confound Do not oppose evil by evil with Do not oppose evil: that is to say, Be indifferent toevil. ..." "Whereas the conflict with evil is the sole object of Christianity, and the commandment of non-resistance to evil is givenas the most effectual means of conflict."[19] The End of a World.[20] Tolstoy has drawn two types of these "Sectators," one in Resurrection (towards the end) and one in Three More Dead.[21] After Tolstoy's condemnation of the upheaval in the Zemstvos, Gorky, making himself the interpreter of the displeasure ofhis friends, wrote as follows: "This man has become the slave of his theory. For a long time he has isolated himself from the life ofRussia, and he no longer listens to the voice of the people. He hovers over Russia at too great a height."[22] It was a bitter trial to him that he could not contrive to be persecuted. He had a thirst for martyrdom; but the Governmentvery wisely took good care not to satisfy him."They are persecuting my friends all around me, and leaving me in peace, although if any one is dangerous it is I. Evidently I amnot worth persecution, and I am ashamed of the fact." (Letter to Teneromo, 1892, Further Letters.)"Evidently I am not worthy of persecution, and I shall have to die like this, without having ever been able to testify to the truth byphysical suffering." (To Teneromo, May 16,1892, ibid.)"It hurts me to be at liberty." (To Teneromo, June i, 1894, ibid.)That he was at liberty was, Heaven knows, no fault of his! He insults the Tsars, he attacks the fatherland, "that ghastly fetish towhich men sacrifice their life and liberty and reason." (The End of a World. ) Then see, in War and Revolution, the summary ofRussian history. It is a gallery of monsters: "The maniac Ivan the Terrible, the drunkard Peter I., the ignorant cook, Catherine I.,the sensual and profligate Elizabeth, the degenerate Paul, the parricide Alexander I. [the only one of them for whom Tolstoy felt asecret liking], the cruel and ignorant Nikolas I.; Alexander II., unintelligent and evil rather than good; Alexander III., anundeniable sot, brutal and ignorant; Nikolas II., an innocent young officer of hussars, with an entourage of coxcombs, a youngman who knows nothing and understands nothing."[23] Letter to Gontcharenko, a "refractory," January 17, 1903. (Further Letters.)[24] Letter to a friend, 1900. (Correspondence.)[25] To Gontcharenko, February 2, 1903 (ibid.).[26] To the Doukhobors of the Caucasus, 1898 (ibid.).[27] To Gontcharenko, January 17, 1903 (ibid.).[28] To a friend, November, 1901. (Correspondence).[29] "It is like a crack in a pneumatic machine; all the vapour of egoism that we wish to drain from the human soul re-enters byit." He ingeniously strives to prove that the original text has been wrongly read; that the exact wording of the SecondCommandment was in fact "Love thy neighbour as Himself (as God)." (Conversations with Teneromo.)[30] Conversations with Teneromo.



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His face had taken on definite lines; had become as it will remain in the memory of men: thelarge countenance, crossed by the arch of a double furrow; the white, bristling eyebrows; thepatriarchal beard, recalling that of the Moses of Dijon. The aged face was gentler and softer; itbore the traces of illness, of sorrow, of disappointment, and of affectionate kindness. What achange from the almost animal brutality of the same face at twenty, and the heavy rigidity of thesoldier of Sebastopol! But the eyes have always the same profound fixity, the same look ofloyalty, which hides nothing and from which nothing is hidden.Nine years before his death, in his reply to the Holy Synod (April 17, 1901) Tolstoy had said:"I owe it to my faith to live in peace and gladness, and to be able also, in peace and gladness, totravel on towards death."Reading this I am reminded of the ancient saying: "that we should call no man happy until he isdead."Were they lasting, this peace and joy that he then boasted of possessing?The hopes of the "great Revolution" of 1905 had vanished. The shadows had gathered morethickly; the expected light had never risen. To the upheavals of the revolutionaries exhaustionhad succeeded. Nothing of the old injustice was altered, except that poverty had increased.Even in 1906 Tolstoy had lost a little of his confidence in the historic vocation of the RussianSlavs, and his obstinate faith sought abroad for other peoples whom he might invest with thismission. He thought of the "great and wise Chinese nation." He believed "that the peoples of theOrient were called to recover that liberty which the peoples of the Occident had lost almostwithout chance of recovery"; and that China, at the head of the Asiatic peoples, wouldaccomplish the transformation of humanity in the way of Tao, the eternal Law.[1]

A hope quickly destroyed: the China of Lao-Tse and Confucius was decrying its bygonewisdom, as Japan had already done in order to imitate Europe.[2] The persecuted Doukhoborshad migrated to Canada, and there, to the scandal of Tolstoy, they immediately reverted to theproperty system.[3] The Gourians were scarcely delivered from the yoke of the State when theybegan to destroy those who did not think as they did; and the Russian troops were called out toput matters in order. The very Jews, "whose native country had hitherto been the fairest a mancould desire—the Book,"[4] were attacked by the malady of Zionism, that movement of falsenationalism, "which is flesh of the flesh of contemporary Europeanism, or rather its ricketychild."[5]

Tolstoy was saddened, but not discouraged. He had faith in God and in the future."All would be perfect if one could grow a forest in the wink of an eye. Unhappily, this isimpossible; we must wait until the seed germinates, until the shoots push up, the leaves come,and then the stem which finally becomes a tree."[6]

But many trees are needed to make a forest; and Tolstoy was alone; glorious, but alone. Menwrote to him from all parts of the world; from Mohamedan countries, from China and Japan,


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where Resurrection was translated, and where his ideas upon "the restitution of the land to thepeople" were being propagated.[7] The American papers interviewed viewed him; the Frenchconsulted him on matters of art, or the separation of Church and State.[8]

But he had not three hundred disciples, and he knew it. Moreover, he did not take pains to makethem. He repulsed the attempts of his friends to form groups of Tolstoyans."We must not go in search of one another, but we must all seek God.... You say: 'Together it iseasier.'—What? To labour, to reap, yes. But to draw near to God—one can only do so inisolation.... I see the world as an enormous temple in which the light falls from on high andprecisely in the middle. To become united we must all go towards the light. Then all of us, cometogether from all directions, will find ourselves in the company of men we did not look for; inthat is the joy."[9]

How many have found themselves together under the ray which falls from the dome? Whatmatter! It is enough to be one and alone if one is with God."As only a burning object can communicate fire to other objects, so only the true faith and lifeof a man can communicate themselves to other men and to spread the truth."[10]

Perhaps; but to what point was this isolated faith able to assure Tolstoy of happiness? How farhe was, in his latter days, from the voluntary calm of a Goethe! One would almost say that heavoided it, fled from it, hated it."One must thank God for being discontented with oneself. If one could always be so! Thediscord of life with what ought to be is precisely the sign of life itself, the movement upwardsfrom the lesser to the greater, from worse to better. And this discord is the condition of good. Itis an evil when a man is calm and satisfied with himself."[11]

He imagines the following subject for a novel—showing that the persistent discontent of aLevine or a Besoukhov was not yet extinct in him:"I often picture to myself a man brought up in revolutionary circles, and at first a revolutionist,then a populist, then a socialist, then orthodox, then a monk at Afone, then an atheist, a goodpaterfamilias, and finally a Doukhobor. He takes up everything and is always forsakingeverything; men deride him, for he has performed nothing, and dies, forgotten, in a hospital.Dying, he thinks he has wasted his life. And yet he is a saint."[12]

Had he still doubts—he, so full of faith? Who knows? In a man who has remained robust inbody and mind even into old age life cannot come to a halt at a definite stage of thought. Lifegoes onwards.

"Movement is life."[13]

Many things must have changed within him during the last few years. Did he not modify hisopinion of revolutionaries? Who can even say that his faith in non-resistance to evil was not atlength a little shaken? Even in Resurrection the relations of Nekhludov with the condemned"politicals" completely change his ideas as to the Russian revolutionary party."Up till that time he had felt an aversion for their cruelty, their criminal dissimulation, their


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attempts upon life, their sufficiency, their selfcontentment, their insupportable vanity. But whenhe saw them more closely, when he saw how they were treated by the authorities, he understoodthat they could not be otherwise."And he admires their high ideal of duty, which implies total self-sacrifice.Since 1900, however, the revolutionary tide had risen; starting from the "intellectuals," it hadgained the people, and was obscurely moving amidst the thousands of the poor. The advance-guard of their threatening army defiled below Tolstoy's window at Yasnaya Polyana. Threetales, published by the Mercure de France, [14] which were among the last pages written byTolstoy, give us a glimpse of the sorrow and the perplexity which this spectacle caused him.The years were indeed remote when the pilgrims wandered through the countryside of Toula,pious and simple of heart. Now he saw the invasion of starving wanderers. They came to himevery day. Tolstoy, who chatted with them, was struck by the hatred that animated them; theyno longer, as before, saw the rich as "people who save their souls by distributing alms, but asbandits, brigands, who drink the blood of the labouring people." Many were educated men,ruined, on the brink of that despair which makes a man capable of anything."It is not in the deserts and the forests, but in slums of cities and on the great highways that thebarbarians are reared who will do to modern civilisation what the Huns and Vandals did to theancient civilisation."So said Henry George. And Tolstoy adds:"The Vandals are already here in Russia, and they will be particularly terrible among ourprofoundly religious people, because we know nothing of the curbs, the convenances andpublic opinion, which are so strongly developed among European peoples."Tolstoy often received letters from these rebels, protesting against his doctrine of non-resistanceto evil, and saying that the evil that the rulers and the wealthy do to the people can only bereplied to by cries of "Vengeance! Vengeance! Vengeance!" Did Tolstoy still condemn them?We do not know. But when, a few days later, he saw in his own village the villagers weepingwhile their sheep and their samovars were seized and taken from them by callous authorities, healso cried vengeance in vain against these thieves, "these ministers and their acolytes, who areengaged in the brandy traffic, or in teaching men to murder, or condemning men to deportation,prison, or the gallows—these men, all perfectly convinced that the samovars, sheep, calves, andlinen which they took from the miserable peasants would find their highest use in furthering thedistillation of brandy which poisons the drinker, in the manufacture of murderous weapons, inthe construction of jails and convict prisons, and above all in the distribution of appointments totheir assistants and themselves."It is sad, after a whole life lived in the expectation and the proclamation of the reign of love, tobe forced to close ones eye's in the midst of these threatening visions, and to feel one's wholeposition crumbling. It is still sadder for one with the impeccably truthful conscience of a Tolstoyto be forced to confess to oneself that one's life has not been lived entirely in accordance withone's principles.Here we touch upon the most pitiful point of these latter years—should we say of the last thirty


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years?—and we can only touch upon it with a pious and tentative hand, for this sorrow, ofwhich Tolstoy endeavoured to keep the secret, belongs not only to him who is dead, but toothers who are living, whom he loved, and who loved him.He was never able to communicate his faith to those who were dearest to him—his wife andchildren. We have seen how the loyal comrade, who had so valiantly shared his artistic life andlabour, suffered when he denied his faith in art for a different and a moral faith, which she didnot understand. Tolstoy suffered no less at feeling that he was misunderstood by his nearestfriend."I feel in all my being," he wrote to Teneromo, "the truth of these words: that the husband andthe wife are not separate beings, but are as one.... I wish most earnestly that I had the power totransmit to my wife a portion of that religious conscience which gives me the possibility ofsometimes raising myself above the sorrows of life. I hope that it will be given her; veryprobably not by me, but by God, although this conscience is hardly accessible to women."[15]

It seems that this wish was never gratified. Countess Tolstoy loved and admired the purity ofheart, the candid heroism, and the goodness of the great man who was "as one" with her; shesaw that "he marched ahead of the host and showed men the way they should follow";[16] whenthe Holy Synod excommunicated him she bravely undertook his defence and insisted onsharing the danger which threatened him. But she could not force herself to believe what shedid not believe; and Tolstoy was too sincere to urge her to pretend—he who loathed the pettydeceits of faith and love even more than the negation of faith and love.[17] How then could heconstrain her, not believing, to modify her life, to sacrifice her fortune and that of her children?With his children the rift was wider still. M. Leroy-Beaulieu, who saw Tolstoy with his family atYasnaya Polyana, says that "at table, when the father was speaking, the sons barely concealedtheir weariness and unbelief."[18] His faith had only slightly affected two or three of hisdaughters, of whom one, Marie, was dead. He was morally isolated in the heart of his family."He had scarcely any one but his youngest daughter and his doctor"[19] to understand him.He suffered from this mental loneliness; and he suffered from the social relations which wereforced upon him; the reception of fatiguing visitors from every quarter of the globe; Americans,and the idly curious, who wore him out; he suffered from the "luxury" in which his family lifeforced him to live. It was a modest luxury, if we are to believe the accounts of those who sawhim in his simple house, with its almost austere appointments; in his little room, with its ironbed, its cheap chairs, and its naked walls! But even this poor comfort weighed upon him; it wasa cause of perpetual remorse. In the second of the tales published by the Mercure de France hebitterly contrasts the spectacle of the poverty about him with the luxury of his own house."My activity," he wrote as early as 1903, "however useful it may appear to certain people, losesthe greater part of its importance by the fact that my life is not entirely in agreement with myprofessions."[20]

Why did he not realise this agreement? If he could not induce his family to cut themselves offfrom the world, why did he not leave them, go out of their life, thus avoiding the sarcasm andthe reproach of hypocrisy expressed by his enemies, who were only too glad to follow his


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example and make it an excuse for denying his doctrines?

He had thought of so doing. For a long time he was quite resolved. A remarkable letter[21] of hishas recently been found and published; it was written to his wife on the 8th of June, 1897. Thegreater part of it is printed below. Nothing could better express the secret of this loving andunhappy heart:"For a long time, dear Sophie, I have been suffering from the discord between my life and mybeliefs. I cannot force you to change your life or your habits. Neither have I hitherto been ableto leave you, for I felt that by my departure I should deprive the children, still very young, ofthe little influence I might be able to exert over them, and also that I should cause you all a greatdeal of pain. But I cannot continue to live as I have lived during these last sixteen years,[22] nowstruggling against you and irritating you, now succumbing myself to the influences and theseductions to which I am accustomed and which surround me. I have resolved now to do what Ihave wished to do for a long time: to go away.... Just as the Hindoos, when they arrive at theirsixtieth year, go away into the forest; just as every aged and religious man wishes to consecratethe last years of his life to God and not to jesting, punning, family tittle-tattle, and lawn-tennis;so do I with all my strength desire peace and solitude, and, if not an absolute harmony, at leastnot this crying discord between my whole life and my conscience. If I had gone away openlythere would have been supplications, discussions, arguments; I should have weakened, andperhaps I should not have carried out my decision, and it ought to be carried out. I beg youtherefore to forgive me if my action grieves you. And you in particular, Sophie—let me go, donot try to find me, do not be angry with me, and do not blame me. The fact that I have left youdoes not prove that I have any grievance against you.... I know that you could not, could notsee and think with me; this is why you could not change your life, could not sacrifice yourselfto something you did not understand. I do not blame you at all; on the contrary, I rememberwith love and gratitude the thirty-five long years of our life together, and above all the first halfof that period, when, with the courage and devotion of your mother's nature, you valiantlyfulfilled what you saw as your mission. You have given to me and the world what you had togive. You have given much maternal love and made great sacrifices. ... But in the latter periodof our life, in the last fifteen years, our paths have lain apart. I cannot believe that I am theguilty one; I know that I have changed; it was not your doing, nor the world's; it was because Icould not do otherwise. I cannot blame you for not having followed me, and I shall alwaysremember with love what you have given me.... Goodbye, my dear Sophie. I love you.""The fact that I have left you." He did not leave her. Poor letter! It seemed to him that it wasenough to write, and his resolution would be fulfilled. ... Having written, his resolution wasalready exhausted. "If I had gone away openly there would have been supplications, I shouldhave weakened." ... There was no need of supplications, of discussion; it was enough for him tosee, a moment later, those whom he wished to leave; he felt that he could not, could not leavethem; and he took the letter in his pocket and buried it among his papers, with this subscription:"Give this, after my death, to my wife Sophie Andreyevna."And this was the end of his plan of departure. Was he not strong enough? Was he not capableof sacrificing his affections to his God? In the Christian annals there is no lack of saints with


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tougher hearts, who never hesitated to trample fearlessly underfoot both their own affectionsand those of others. But how could he? He was not of their company; he was weak: he was aman; and it is for that reason that we love him.More than fifteen years earlier, on a page full of heart-breaking wretchedness, he had askedhimself: "Well, Leo Tolstoy, are you living according to the principles you profess?"He replied miserably:"I am dying of shame; I am guilty; I am contemptible.... Yet compare my former life with mylife of to-day. You will see that I am trying to live according to the laws of God. I have not donethe thousandth part of what I ought to do, and I am confused; but I have failed to do it notbecause I did not wish to do it, but because I could not. ... Blame me, but not the path I amtaking. If I know the road to my house, and if I stagger along it like a drunken man, does thatshow that the road is bad? Show me another, or follow me along the true path, as I am ready tofollow you. But do not discourage me, do not rejoice in my distress, do not joyfully cry out:'Look! He said he was going to the house, and he is falling into the ditch!' No, do not be glad,but help me, support me!... Help me! My heart is torn with despair lest we should all be astray;and when I make every effort to escape you, at each effort, instead of having compassion, pointat me with your finger crying, 'Look, he is falling into the ditch with us!'"[23]

When death was nearer, he wrote once more:"I am not a saint: I have never professed to be one. I am a man who allows himself to be carriedaway, and who often does not say all that he thinks and feels; not because he does not want to,but because he cannot, because it often happens that he exaggerates or is mistaken. In myactions it is still worse. I am altogether a weak man with vicious habits, who wishes to serve theGod of truth, but who is constantly stumbling. If I am considered as a man who cannot bemistaken, then each of my mistakes must appear as a lie or a hypocrisy. But if I am regarded asa weak man, I appear then what I am in reality: a pitiable creature, yet sincere; who hasconstantly and with all his soul desired, and who still desires, to become a good man, a goodservant of God."Thus he remained, tormented by remorse, pursued by the mute reproaches of disciples moreenergetic and less human than himself;[24] tortured by his weakness and indecision, tornbetween the love of his family and the love of God—until the day when a sudden fit of despair,and perhaps the fever which rises at the approach of death, drove him forth from the shelter ofhis house, out upon the roads, wandering, fleeing, knocking at the doors of a convent, thenresuming his flight, and at last falling upon the way, in an obscure little village, never to riseagain.[25] On his death-bed he wept, not for himself, but for the unhappy; and he said, in themidst of his sobs:"There are millions of human beings on earth who are suffering: why do you think only of me?"Then it came—it was Sunday, November 20, 1910, a little after six in the morning—the"deliverance," as he named it: "Death, blessed Death."


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[1] Letter to the Chinese, October, 1906. (Further Letters).[2] Tolstoy expressed a fear that this might happen in the above letter.[3] "It was hardly worth while to refuse military and police service only to revert to property, which is maintained only by thosetwo services. Those who enter the service and profit by property act better than those who refuse all service and enjoy property."(Letter to the Doukhobors of Canada, 1899. Further Letters).[4] In the Conversations with Teneromo there is a fine page dealing with "the wise Jew, who, immersed in this Book, has not seenthe centuries crumble above his head, nor the peoples that appear and disappear from the face of the earth."[5] "To see the progress of Europe in the horrors of the modern State, the bloodstained State, and to wish to create a newJudenstaat is an abominable sin." (Ibid.)[6] Appeal to Political Men, 1905.


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[7] In the appendix to The Great Crime and in the French translation of Advice to the Ruled is the appeal of a Japanese society forthe Re-establishment of the Liberty of the Earth.[8] Letter to Paul Sabatier, November 7, 1906. (Further Letters.)[9] Letters to Teneromo, June, 1882, and to a friend, November, 1901. (Further Letters.)[10] War and Revolution.[11] War and Revolution.[12] Perhaps this refers to the History of a Doukhobor, the title of which figures in the list of Tolstoy's unpublished works.[13] "Suppose that all the men who had the truth were to be installed all together on an island. Would that be life?" (To a friend,March, 1901. Further Letters.)[14] December 1, 1910.[15] May 16, 1892. Tolstoy's wife was then mourning the loss of a little boy, and he could do nothing to console her.[16] Letter of January, 1883.[17] "I should never reproach any one for having no religion. The shocking thing is when men lie and pretend to religion." Andfurther: "May God preserve us from pretending to love; it is worse than hatred."[18] Revue des Deux Mondes, December 15, 1910.[19] Ibid.[20] To a friend, December 10, 1903.[21] Figaro, December 27, 1910. It was found among Tolstoy's papers after his death.[22] This state of suffering dates, as we see, from 1881; that is, from the winter passed in Moscow, and Tolstoy's discovery ofsocial wretchedness.[23] Letter to a friend, 1895 (the French version being published in Plaisirs cruels, 1895.)[24] It seems that during his last few years, and especially during the last few months, he was influenced by Vladimir-Grigorovitch Tchertkoff, a devoted friend, who, long established in England, had consecrated his fortune to the publication anddistribution of Tolstoy's complete works. Tchertkoff had been violently attacked by Leo, Tolstoy's eldest son. But although hewas accused of being a rebellious and unmanageable spirit, no one could doubt his absolute devotion; and without approving ofthe almost inhuman harshness of certain actions apparently committed under his inspiration (such as the will by which Tolstoydeprived his wife of all property in his writings without exception, including his private correspondence), we are forced to believethat he thought more of Tolstoy's fame than Tolstoy himself.[25] The Correspondance of the Union pour la Verili publishes, in its issue for January 1, 1911, an interesting account of thisflight.Tolstoy left Yasnaya Polyana suddenly on October 28, 1910 (November 10th European style) about five o'clock in the morning.He was accompanied by Dr. Makovitski; his daughter Alexandra, whom Tchertkoff calls "his most intimate collaborator," was inthe secret. At six in the evening of the same day he reached the monastery of Optina, one of the most celebrated sanctuaries ofRussia, which he had often visited in pilgrimage. He passed the night there; the next morning he wrote a long article on the deathpenalty. On the evening of October 29th (November 11th) he went to the monastery of Chamordino, where his sister Marie was anun. He dined with her, and spoke of how he would have wished to pass the end of his life at Optina, "performing the humblesttasks, on condition that he was not forced to go to church." He slept at Chamordino, and next morning took a walk through theneighbouring village, where he thought of taking a lodging; returning to his sister in the afternoon. At five o'clock his daughterAlexandra unexpectedly arrived. She doubtless told him that his retreat was known, and that he was being followed; they left atonce in the night. "Tolstoy, Alexandra, and Makovitski were making for the Koselk station, probably intending to gain thesouthern provinces, or perhaps the Doukhobor colonies in the Caucasus." On the way Tolstoy fell ill at the railway-station ofAstapovo and was forced to take to his bed. It was there that he died.



The struggle was ended; the struggle that had lasted for eighty-two years, whose battlefield was


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this life of ours. A tragic and glorious mellay, in which all the forces of life took part; all thevices and all the virtues.—All the vices excepting one: untruth, which he pursued incessantly,tracking it into its last resort and refuge.In the beginning intoxicated liberty, the conflict of passions in the stormy darkness, illuminatedfrom time to time by dazzling flashes of light—crises of love and ecstasy and visions of theEternal. Years of the Caucasus, of Sebastopol; years of tumultuous and restless youth. Then thegreat peace of the first years of marriage. The happiness of love, of art, of nature—War andPeace. The broad daylight of genius, which bathed the whole human horizon, and the spectacleof those struggles which for the soul of the artist were already things of the past. He dominatedthem, was master of them, and already they were not enough. Like Prince Andrei, his eyes wereturned towards the vast skies which shone above the battlefield. It was this sky that attractedhim:"There are men with powerful wings whom pleasure leads to alight in the midst of the crowd,when their pinions are broken; such, for instance, am I. Then they beat their broken wings; theylaunch themselves desperately, but fall anew. The wings will mend. I shall fly high. May Godhelp me!"[1]

These words were written in the midst of a terrible spiritual tempest, of which the Confessionsare the memory and echo. More than once was Tolstoy thrown to earth, his pinions shattered.But he always persevered. He started afresh. We see him hovering in "the vast, profoundheavens," with his two great wings, of which one is reason and the other faith. But he does notfind the peace he looked for. Heaven is not without us, but within us. Tolstoy fills it with thetempest of his passions. There he perceives the apostles of renunciation, and he brings torenunciation the same ardour that he brought to life. But it is always life that he strains to him,with the violence of a lover. He is "maddened with life." He is "intoxicated with life." He cannotlive without this madness.[2] He is drunk at once with happiness and with unhappiness, withdeath and with immortality.[3] His renunciation of individual life is only a cry of exalted passiontowards the eternal life. The peace which he finds, the peace of the soul which he invokes, isnot the peace of death. It is rather the calm of those burning worlds which sail by the forces ofgravity through the infinite spaces. With him anger is calm, [4]and the calm is blazing. Faith hasgiven him new weapons with which to wage, even more implacably, unceasing war upon thelies of modern society. He no longer confines himself to a few types of romance; he attacks allthe great idols: the hypocrisies of religion, the State, science, art, liberalism, socialism, populareducation, benevolence, pacificism.[5] He strikes at all, delivers his desperate attacks upon all.From time to time the world has sight of these great rebellious spirits, who, like John theForerunner, hurl anathemas against a corrupted civilisation. The last of these was Rousseau. Byhis love of nature,[6] by his hatred of modern society, by his jealous independence, by hisfervent adoration of the Gospel and for Christian morals, Rousseau is a precursor of Tolstoy,who says of him:

"Pages like this go to my heart; I feel that I should have written them."[7]

But what a difference between the two minds, and how much more purely Christian is Tolstoy's!


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What a lack of humility, what Pharisee-like arrogance, in this insolent cry from the Confessionsof the Genevese:"Eternal Being! Let a single man tell me, if he dare: I was better than that man!"Or in this defiance of the world:"I say it loudly and fearlessly: whosoever could believe me a dishonest man is himself a man tobe suppressed."Tolstoy wept tears of blood over the "crimes" of his past life:"I suffer the pangs of hell. I recall all my past baseness, and these memories do not leave me;they poison my life. Usually men regret that they cannot remember after death. What happinessif it should be so! What suffering it would mean if, in that other life, I were to recall all the evil Ihave done down here!"[8]

Tolstoy was not the man to write his confessions, as did Rousseau, because, as the latter said,"feeling that the good exceeded the evil it was in my interest to tell everything."[9] Tolstoy, afterhaving made the attempt, decided not to write his Memoirs; the pen fell from his hands; he didnot wish to be an object of offence and scandal to those who would read it."People would say: There, then, is the man whom many set so high! And what a shamefulfellow he was! Then with us mere mortals it is God who ordains us to be shameful."[10]

Never did Rousseau know the Christian faith, the fine modesty, and the humility that producedthe ineffable candour of the aged Tolstoy. Behind Rousseau we see the Rome of Calvin. InTolstoy we see the pilgrims, the innocents, whose tears and naive confessions had touched himas a child.But beyond and above the struggle with the world, which was common to him and to Rousseau,another kind of warfare filled the last thirty years of Tolstoy's life; a magnificent warfarebetween the highest powers of his mind: Truth and Love.Truth—"that look which goes straight to the heart," the penetrating light of "those grey eyeswhich pierce you through"—Truth was his earliest faith, and the empress of his art."The heroine of my writings, she whom I love with all the forces of my being, she who alwayswas, is, and will be beautiful, is Truth."[11]

The truth alone escaped shipwreck after the death of his brother. [12] The truth, the pivot of hislife, the rock in the midst of an ocean.

But very soon the "horrible truth"[13] was no longer enough for him. Love had supplanted it. Itwas the living spring of his childhood; "the natural state of his soul."[14] When the moral crisisof 1880 came he never relinquished the truth; he made way for love.[15]

Love is "the basis of energy."[16] Love is the "reason of life; the only reason, with beauty."[17]

Love is the essence of Tolstoy ripened by life, of the author of War and Peace and the Letter tothe Holy Synod.[18]


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This interpenetration of the truth by love makes the unique value of the masterpieces he wrotein the middle part of his life—nel mezzo del cammin—and distinguishes his realism from therealism of Flaubert. The latter places his faith in refraining from loving his characters. Great ashe may be, he lacks the Fiat lux! The light of the sun is not enough: we must have the light ofthe heart. The realism of Tolstoy is incarnate in each of his creatures, and seeing them with theirown eyes he finds in the vilest reasons for loving them and for making us feel the chain ofbrotherhood which unites us to all.[19] By love he penetrates to the roots of life.But this union is a difficult one to maintain. There are hours in which the spectacle of life and itssuffering are so bitter that they appear an affront to love, and in order to save it, and to save hisfaith, a man must withdraw to such a height above the world that faith is in danger of losingtruth as well. What shall he do, moreover, who has received at the hands of fate the fatal,magnificent gift of seeing the truth—the gift of being unable to escape from seeing it? Whoshall say what Tolstoy suffered from the continual discord of his latter years—the discordbetween his unpitying vision, which saw the horror of reality, and his impassioned heart, whichcontinued to expect love and to affirm it?We have all known these tragic conflicts. How often have we had to face the alternative—not tosee, or to hate! And how often does an artist—an artist worthy of the name, a writer who knowsthe terrible, magnificent power of the written word—feel himself weighed down by anguish ashe writes the truth![20] This truth, sane and virile, necessary in the midst of modern lies, this vitaltruth seems to him as the air we breathe.... But then we perceive that this air is more than thelungs of many can bear. It is too strong for the many beings enfeebled by civilisation; too strongfor those who are weak simply in the kindness of their hearts. Are we to take no account of this,and plunge them implacably into the truth that kills them? Is there not above all a truth which,as Tolstoy says, "is open to love"? Or is the artist to soothe mankind with consoling lies, as PeerGynt, with his tales, soothes his old dying mother? Society is always face to face with thisdilemma: the truth, or love. It resolves it in general by sacrificing both.Tolstoy has never betrayed either of his two faiths. In the works of his maturity love is the torchof truth. In the works of his later years it is a light shining on high, a ray of mercy which fallsupon life, but does not mingle with it. We have seen this in Resurrection, wherein faithdominates the reality, but remains external to it. The people, whom Tolstoy depicts ascommonplace and mean when he regards the isolated figures that compose it, takes on a divinesanctity so soon as he considers it in the abstract.[21]

In his everyday life appears the same discord as in his art, but the contrast is even more cruel. Itwas in vain that he knew what love required of him; he acted otherwise; he lived not accordingto God but according to the world. And love itself: how was he to behave with regard to love?How distinguish between its many aspects, its contradictory orders? Was love of family, tocome first, or love of all humanity? To his last day he was perplexed by these alternatives.What was the solution? He did not find it. Let us leave the self-sufficient, the coldly intellectual,to judge him with disdain. They, to be sure, have found the truth; they hold it with assurance.For them, Tolstoy was a sentimentalist, a weakling, who could only be of use as a warning.Certainly he is not an example that they can follow: they are not sufficiently alive. Tolstoy did


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not belong to the self-satisfied elect; he was of no Church; of no sect; he was no more a Scribe,to borrow his terms, than a Pharisee of this faith or that. He was the highest type of the freeChristian, who strives all his life long towards an ideal that is always more remote.[22]

Tolstoy does not speak to the privileged, the enfranchised of the world of thought; he speaks toordinary men—hominibus bonæ voluntatis. He is our conscience. He says what we all think, weaverage people, and what we all fear to read in ourselves. He is not a master full of pride: one ofthose haughty geniuses who are throned above humanity upon their art and their intelligence.He is—as he loved to style himself in his letters, by that most beautiful of titles, the mostpleasant of all—"our brother."

[1] Journal, dated October 28, 1879. Here is the entire passage:"There are in this world heavy folk, without wings. They struggle down below. There are strong men among them: as Napoleon.He leaves terrible traces among humanity. He sows discord.—There are men who let their wings grow, slowly launch themselves,and hover: the monks. There are light fliers, who easily mount and fall: the worthy idealists. There are men with powerfulwings.... There are the celestial ones, who out of their love of men descend to earth and fold their wings, and teach others how tofly. Then, when they are no longer needed, they re-ascend: as did Christ."[2] "One can live only while one is drunken with life." (Confessions, 1879). "I am mad with living.... It is summer, the delicioussummer. This year. I have struggled for a long time; but the beauty of nature has conquered me. I rejoice in life." (Letter to Fet,July, 1880.) These lines were written at the height of the religious crisis.[3] In his Journal, dated May 1, 1863: "The thought of death." ... "I desire and love immortality."[4] "I was intoxicated with that boiling anger and indignation which I love to feel, which I excite even when I feel it naturally,because it acts upon me in such a way as to calm me, and gives me, at least for a few moments, an extraordinary elasticity, and thefull fire and energy of all the physical and moral capacities." (Diary of Prince D. Nekhludov, Lucerne, 1857.)[5] His article on War, written on the occasion of the Universal Peace Congress in London in 1891, is a rude satire on thepeacemakers who believe in international arbitration:"This is the story of the bird which is caught after a pinch of salt has been put on his tail. It is quite as easy to catch him without it.They laugh at us who speak of arbitration and disarmament by consent of the Powers. Mere verbiage, this! Naturally theGovernments approve: worthy apostles! They know very well that their approval will never prevent their doing as they will."(Cruel Pleasures.)[6] Nature was always "the best friend" of Tolstoy, as he loved to say: "A friend is good; but he will die, or he will go abroad, andone cannot follow him; while Nature, to which one may be united by an act of purchase or by inheritance, is better. Nature to meis cold and exacting, repulses me and hinders me; yet Nature is a friend whom we keep until death, and into whom we shall enterwhen we die." (Letter to Fet, May 19, 1861. Further Letters.) He shared in the life of nature; he was born again in the spring."March and April are my best months for work." Towards the end of autumn he became more torpid. "To me it is the most deadof all the seasons; I do not think; I do not write; I feel agreeably stupid." (To Fet, October, 1869.) But the Nature that spoke sointimately to his heart was that of his own home, Yasnaya Polyana. Although he wrote some very charming notes upon the Lakeof Geneva when travelling in Switzerland, and especially on the Clarens district, whither the memory of Rousseau attracted him,he felt himself a stranger amid the Swiss landscape; and the ties of his native land appeared more closely drawn and sweeter: "Ilove Nature when she surrounds me on every side, when on every hand the warm air envelopes me which extends through theinfinite distance; when the very same lush grasses that I have crushed in throwing myself on the ground make the verdure of theinfinite meadows; when the same leaves which, shaken by the wind, throw the shadow on my face, make the sombre blue of thedistant forest; when the very air I breathe makes the light-blue background of the infinite sky; when not I alone am delighting innature; when around me whirl and hum millions of insects and the birds are singing. The greatest delight in nature is when I feelmyself making a part of all. Here (in Switzerland) the infinite distance is beautiful, but I have nothing in common with it." (May,1851.)[7] Conversations with M. Paul Boyer (Le Temps, August 28, 1901).The similarity is really very striking at times, and might well deceive one. Take the profession of faith of the dying Julie:"I could not say that I believed what it was impossible for me to believe, and I have always believed what I said I believed. Thiswas as much as rested with me."Compare Tolstoy's letter to the Holy Synod:"It may be that my beliefs are embarrassing or displeasing. It is not within my power to change them, just as it is not in my power


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to change my body. I cannot believe anything but what I believe, at this hour when I am preparing to return to that God fromwhom I came."Or this passage from the Réponse à Christophe de Beaumont, which seems pure Tolstoy:"I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. My Master has told me that he who loves his brother accomplishes the law."Or again:"The whole of the Lord's Prayer is expressed in these words: 'Thy Will be done!'" (Troisième lettre de la Montague.)Compare with:"I am replacing all my prayers with the Pater Nosier. All the requests I can make of God are expressed with greater moralelevation by these words: 'Thy Will be done!'" (Tolstoy's Journal, in the Caucasus, 1852-3.)The similarity of thought is no less striking in the province of art:"The first rule of the art of writing," said Rousseau, "is to speak plainly and to express one's thought exactly."And Tolstoy:"Think what you will, but in such a manner that every word may be understood by all. One cannot write anything bad inperfectly plain language."I have demonstrated elsewhere that the satirical descriptions of the Paris Opera in the Nouvelle Héloise have much in commonwith Tolstoy's criticisms in What is Art?[8] Journal, January 6, 1903.[9] Quatrième Promenade.[10] Letter to Birukov.[11] Sebastopol in May, 1853.[12] "The truth.... the only thing that has been left me of my moral conceptions, the sole thing that I shall still fulfil." (October 17,1860.)[13] Ibid.[14] "The love of men is the natural state of the soul, and we do not observe it." (Journal, while he was a student at Kazan.)[15]"The truth will make way for love." (Confessions.)[16] "'You are always talking of energy? But the basis of energy is love,' said Anna, 'and love does not come at will.'" ( AnnaKarenin.)[17] "Beauty and love, those two sole reasons for human existence." (War and Peace.)[18] "I believe in God, who for me is Love." (To the Holy Synod, 1901.)"'Yes, love!... Not selfish love, but love as I knew it, for the first time in my life, when I saw my enemy dying at my side, andloved him.... It is the very essence of the soul. To love his neighbour, to love his enemies, to love all and each, is to love God inall His manifestations!... To love a creature who is dear to us is human love: to love an enemy is almost divine love!'" (PrinceAndrei in War and Peace.)[19] "The passionate love of the artist for his subject is the soul of art. Without love no work of art is possible." (Letter ofSeptember, 1889.)[20] "I write books, which is why I know all the evil they do." ... (Letter to P. V. Veriguin, leader of the Doukhobors, 1898.Further Letters.)[21] See the Russian Proprietor, or see in Confessions, the strongly idealised view of these men, simple, good, content with theirlot, living serenely and having the sense of life: or, at the end of the second part of Resurrection, that vision "of a new humanity, anew world," which appeared to Nekhludov when he met the workers returning from their toil.[22] "A Christian should not think whether he is morally superior or inferior to others; but he is the better Christian as he travelsmore rapidly along the road to perfection, whatever may be his position upon it at any particular moment. Thus the stationaryvirtue of the Pharisee is less Christian than that of the thief, whose soul is moving rapidly towards the ideal, and who repents uponhis cross." (Cruel Pleasures.)


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(The names of characters and titles of books are in italics.)

ALEXANDRA, Tolstoy's aunt, 18

Ancestry, Tolstoy's, 14, 15Analysis, self-, 29Andrei Bolkonsky, Prince, 88-90, 94, 100Anna Karenin (novel), 76, 84, 99, 102, 203Anna Karenin (character), 103, 104Arabian Nights, 19, 169Art—Attacks on modern, 145, 146

Tolstoy's conception of, 147-150His ignorance of, 151His religious ideal of art, 156Christian art extinct, 157The art of the future, 159Endowment of, 159Mission of, 160

Austerlitz, 89, 90

BACH, 153Bachkirs, the, 102Bagration, 88Beethoven, 151, 155, 181,183Bers family, the, 75Bers, S. A., 179Bers, Sophie, see Countess TolstoyBesoukhov, Pierre, 88, 91-94, 100Bloody Sunday, 212Böcklin, 151Boyer, Paul, 167Boyhood, 42Brahms, 151Breton, Jules, 151Brothers, Tolstoy's, 17Brush with the Enemy, A, 44Bylines, 19, 168

CAUCASUS, Tolstoy joins Army of the, 33Census, the, Tolstoy assists in taking, 127


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Chavannes, P. de, 151Childhood, Tolstoy's, 17-19Childhood, Boyhood, Youth, 15, 16, 19, 23

Begun in the Caucasus, 35; 39Tolstoy's later opinion of, 40; 84See Boyhood and Youth

China, Tolstoy's admiration for,Christ, Tolstoy's conception of, 119Concordance and Translation of the Four Gospels, 118Confessions, 106, 120, 238Cossacks, The, 44Countess Tolstoy—Character and abilities, 83

As model, 84; 100, 135-138, 226-227Letter to, 229-231

Creed, Tolstoy's, 123-124Crimea, transference to the, 49Criticism of Dogmatic Theology, 118Criticism of art, destructive,Cycle of Readings, 200

DEATH OF IVAN ILYITCH, THE, 6, 68, 165, 174-175Decembrists, The (a projected novel), 91Diary of a Sportsman, 68, 75Diary of Prince D. Nekhludov, 65Dmitri Tolstoy, 17

Death of, 106-107Don Quixote, 158Dostoyevsky, 158, 193Dreyfus Affair, the, 154Droujinine, 61

EDUCATION, Tolstoy's ideas concerning, 23-25, 66End of a World, The, 201England, Tolstoy contemplates retiring to, 103Erochta, the old Cossack, 45Execution, effect of a public 64

FAITH, Tolstoy's, brings no happiness, 128Family, Tolstoy's, 16Family dissensions, 228Family Happiness, 75-77, 84Father, Tolstoy's, 16Feminism, Tolstoy's attitude towards, 138


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Flaubert's opinion of Tolstoy's work, 99, 245

GAPON, FATHER, 212George, Henry, 225Georgians, the, 213Goethe, 156Gontcharov, 61Great Crime, The, 201, 210Greek, Tolstoy studies, 101Gricha, the idiot, 18Grigorovitch, 61

HADJI MOURAD, 199Hebrew, Tolstoy studies, 137Home, Tolstoy's, see Yasnaya PolyanaHugo, Victor, 158Hunting, renounced, 132

IBSEN, 151Introspection, Tolstoy's faculty of, 29Invasion, The, 35, 42Irtenieff, Nikolas, 15

JOSEPH, the History of, 19, 159Journal, Tolstoy's, 14, 27, 34

KARENIN, 106Karatayev, 91Kazan, 23Khlopoff, Captain, 43Kitty Levine, 84, 103Klinger, Max; 151Kozeltoff, brothers, in Sebastopol in August, 1855, 56-57Kreutzer Sonata, The, 165, 174, 176-177, 181Kutuzov, 88, 90-91

LEVINE, 103,106-108, in Lhermitte, 151

Liberal Party, Tolstoy's disdain of the, 66, 202-203Life, 120Literary Society of St. Petersburg,Tolstoy's dislike of, 61-67

Logic, heroic, 129-130


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Love—Definition of, 122Tolstoy's attitude towards sexual, 177

Law of, 211Lucerne, incident of the singer, 65

MANET, 151Marriage, Tolstoy's views concerning, 100, 177Marie, Princess, 88-89Marie Tolstoy, 16, 94Maslova, 191Master and Servant, 165Michelangelo, 151Millet, 151Molière, 158Moscow, effect of visit to, 127, 130, 147Music—

Love of, 28-29Ignorance of modern music, 151-152; 153In the Kreutzer Sonata, 178Dread of, 179Suggested State control over, 182-183

NATASHA, 90, 93-94,179-180Nekhludov, 26-28, 33, 68, 181, 191Nekhludov, Diary of Prince D., 65Nikolas Tolstoy, 17, 33Dies of phthisis, 69Non-Resistance, 211, 225

OLD BELIEVERS, the, 212Olenin, 45Orthodox Church, Tolstoy's relations with the, 117Ostrovsky, 61

PAKHOM THE PEASANT, 169-170Parents, Tolstoy's, 15-16Pascal, 120Pedagogy, 135Polikushka, 70, 78Popular Tales, 42, 165, 168Popular idiom, 167-168Portraits of Tolstoy—

Of 1848, 26 (note)


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Of 1851, 35Of 1856, 61Of 1885, 129; 140

Posdnicheff, 177, 182Power of Darkness, The, 165, 170-173Prashhoukhin, death of, 54

REASON (letter upon), 121Reason, Tolstoy's distrust of, 108; 120-121Religion—

Tolstoy's vague agnosticism as a youth, 24Revival of, in the Caucasus, 33-39; 100, 123-124, 135, 209, 215-216Rembrandt, 151Resurrection, 166, 187-195, 224, 247Revolution, Tolstoy prophesies, 209-210Roumania, Tolstoy joins Army of, 49Rousseau, J. J., worship of, 27; 240-243Rules of Life, 25Russian Proprietor, A, 27

Written in the Caucasus, 35; 42Russo-Japanese War, 201

ST. PETERSBURG, Tolstoy's dislike of literary society of, 61, 67Samara, 192Schopenhauer, 101 (note)Science, Tolstoy attacks, 145Sebastopol in December, 1854, 52Sebastopol in May, 1855, 52-56Sebastopol in August, 1855, 52, 54-57Sebastopol, the siege of, 49-57Sexual morality, 177Shakespeare, 166Shakespeare, no artist, 152-153, 155-156Siegfried, hasty judgment on, 152"Smartness," Tolstoy's worship of, 27Socialism, Tolstoy's hatred of, 205-208Society, pictures of Russian, 103Sophia Bers, see Countess TolstoySovremennik, the (Russian review), 40Spelling-book, Tolstoy's, 135State, the, a murderous entity, 130Stepan Arcadievitch, 105Sterne, influence of, 41Story-teller, a blind, 19


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Strauss, 151Stuck, 151Suarès, 6, 61Suicidal tendencies, 107, 111, 113

TATIANA, Tolstoy's aunt, 17Tchaikowsky, 151Terror, attack of nervous, 100Three Deaths, 68Three Old Men, 168Tolstoy, Countess, 75, 83, 84, 100, 135-138, 226-227, 229-231Tolstoy, Dmitri, 17Death of, 106-107Tolstoy, Leo—

Reception of his work in France, 6Influence of Rousseau and Stendhal, 7Organic unity of his life, 13Ancestry and inheritances,Childhood, 17-19Student days, 23-25Personal appearance (see Portraits), 25-26Joins Army of Caucasus, 33Religious experiences, 33-34First literary work, 35Effects of illness, 39Early work, 41-45Love of life, 46Transferred to Crimea, 49Narratives of Sebastopol, 52Enters St. Petersburg literary society, 61Quarrels with Tourgenev, 63Travels in Europe, 64Studies pedagogy, 66Effect of his brother's death 70Courtship, 75Marriage, 76-83War and Peace, 83-95Anna Karenina, 99Effect of Dmitri's death, 107Suicidal tendencies, 111His "conversion," 115-16Joins the Orthodox Church, 117Leaves it, 117Visits Moscow, 127


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Commences to write on religioussubjects, 136Differences with Countess Tolstoy, 136-137Spiritual loneliness, 140Attacks upon modern art and science, 145His ignorance of art, 151Ignorance of modern music, 152Attack upon Shakespeare, 153-157Religious and æsthetic ideals, 156-161His fear of music, 178-180Political ideals, 214Religious ideals, 215-216Old age, 219Political hopes, 220Loneliness, 228Intends leaving his family, 229Death, 234

Tolstoy, Nikolas, 17, 33, 69Töppfer, influence of, 41Tourgenev, 17, 61-63Criticism of Tolstoy, 95, 140, 202Turkey, war declared upon, 49Two Hussars, The, 68

VOLODYA, see KozeltoffVogüé, Melchior de, 140Vronsky, 103-104

WAGNER, Tolstoy's hasty judgment of, 152, 155War and Peace, 15, 43, 84, 95, 99-101, 103-105What I Believe, 141What is Art t 149-150, 166What shall we do? 129, 138Woman, Tolstoy's ideal of, 138-139Woodcutters, The, 44

YASNAYA POLYANA, 16, 33Tolstoy returns to, 65Experiments at, 66-67; 224,228Youth—

Written during the siege of Sebastopol, 50Lyrical beauty of, 51


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