Page:Rolland Life of Tolstoy.djvu/158

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154 TOLSTOY

only when they have won free from them. With the development of the press these epidemics have become particularly notable." And he gives as an example the most recent of these contagious diseases, the Dreyfus Affair, of which he, the enemy of all injustice, the defender of all the oppressed, speaks with disdainful indifference ; l a striking example of the excesses into which he is drawn by his suspicion of untruth and that instinctive hatred of "moral epidemics" of which he admits himself the victim, and which he is unable to master. It is the reverse side of a virtue, this inconceivable blindness of the seer, the reader of souls, the evoker of passionate forces, which leads him to refer to King Lear as "an inept piece of work," and to the proud Cordelia as a "characterless

1 " Here was one of those incidents which often occur, without attracting the attention of any one, and without interesting I do not say the world but even the French military world." And further on : " It was not until some years had passed that men awoke from their hypnosis, and understood that they could not possibly know whether Dreyfus were guilty or not, and that each of them had other interests more important and more immediate than the Affaire Dreyfus." {Shakespeare.)

"King Lear is a very poor drama, very carelessly con- structed, which can inspire nothing but weariness and disgust." Othello, for which Tolstoy evinces a certain sympathy, doubtless because the work is in harmony with his ideas of that time 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, Cymbcline, Troilus ami

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