Page:Rolland Life of Tolstoy.djvu/175

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play, whether Tolstoy's faith and his love of the people ever caused him to idealise the people or betray the truth.

Tolstoy, so awkward in most of his dramatic essays, 1 has here attained to mastery. The characters and the action, are handled with ease ; the coxcomb Nikita, the sensual, headstrong passion of Anissia, the cynical good-humour of the old woman, Matrena, who gloats maternally over the adultery of her son, and the sanctity of the old stammering Hakim God inhabiting a ridiculous body. Then comes the fall of Nikita, weak and without real evil, but fettered by his sin ; falling to the depths of crime in spite of his efforts to check himself on the dreadful declivity ; but his mother and his wife drag him downward. . . .

"The peasants aren't worth much. . . . But the babas ! The women ! They are wild animals . . . they are afraid of nothing ! . . . Sisters, there are

x The love of the theatre came to him somewhat late in life. It was a discovery of his, and he made this discovery during the winter 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 of forty, thought about such or such a subject, when they suddenly turn their attention to this neglected subject, it seems to them that they perceive a number of new and wonderful things. ... I have read Shakespeare, Goethe, Pushkin, Gogol, and Moliere. ... I want to read Sophocles and Euripides. ... I have kept my bed a long time, being unwell and when I am unwell a host of comic or dramatic characters begin to struggle for life within me . . . and they do it with much success." Letters to Fet, February 17-21, 1870 (Further Letters).

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