Biography of Leo Tolstoy
Lev Nikolaivich Tolstoi was born on September 9th, 1828, at his father's estate, Yasnaya Polyana, in the Government of Tula. His family is said to have been of German descent, originally bearing the somewhat plebeian name of Dick, which they changed for its Russian equivalent Tolsty, when they migrated to Muscovy at the beginning of the seventeenth century. The first eminent member of the stock was Peter Andrievich (1645-1727), one of Peter the Great's most famous "fledgelings," renowned for his energy, versatility, and diplomatic finesse, whom his master richly endowed and raised to countly rank. Yet Peter himself seems always to have stood on his guard against him. "Tolstoi," he is reported to have said, "is an able and intelligent man; but it is just as well, when you have anything to do with him, to have a good big stone handy, that you may be able to break his teeth in case it should suddenly occur to him to bite you." It was this sinister sleuth-hound who hunted down the unfortunate Tsarevich Alexis in his Neapolitan retreat, and thus drew down upon himself the well-merited hatred of the Russian people, who regarded the murdered Prince as a martyr for orthodoxy. Another ancestor, Peter Aleksandrevich (1769-1844), was a notable warrior, who, after fighting the Poles and Turks under Suvorov and Napoleon under Bennigsen, crushed the Polish revolt of 1831, and quitted the army with the rank of a Field-Marshal The Tolstois, though not belonging to the ancient Muscovite Boyar families themselves, have always held their heads high amomg the modern Russian aristocracy, and it used to be the boast of the family that not a single member of it had ever contracted a misalliance, Tolstoi's own mother was a Princess Volkhonskaya, his paternal grandmother was a Princess Gorchakova, his maternal grandmother was a Princess Trubetskoya, all three of them lineal descendants of Rurik, the antipatriarch of the Muscovite Tsars. Tolstoi himself had a strong outward resemblance to his grandfather, Prince Nicholas Volkhonsky (the prototype of Bolkonsby in "War and Peace"), though of a somewhat rougher build. Thus for two centuries the bluest of blood has coursed through the veins of the Tolstois, and though the present owner of Yasnaya Polyana has been in the habit of going about in peasant's garb, the portraits adorning the walls of the mansion represent, with scarcely an exception, counts, princes, and privy-counsellors, all bedizened with stars and ribbons.
Tolstoi's father, Count Nikolai Ilich, was described by those who knew him as a stately, fascinating personage. As Lieut-Colonel in the Pavlopadsky Regiment he had served with distinction throughout the epoch-making campaign of 1812-1813. Nikolai Tolstoi inherited from his father an almost bankrupt estate, and as, after satisfying his father's creditors to the uttermost farthing, he found it impossible to subsist on his scanty pay, he resorted to the time-honored family practice of marrying a heiress, a lady of few personal charms but great wealth, considerably older than himself, Maria Ivanovna Volkhonskaya. Nevertheless this mariage de convenance proved an extremely happy though not a very lasting union, Tolstoi losing his mother when he was only three years of age (she died in 1831) and his father six years later. If, as is commonly supposed, Tolstoi's mother was the original of the Princess Maria in "War and Peace," she must, young as he was at the time of her death, have made a deep impression upon him. He describes her as of a tender, plaintive, mystical nature, of such finely woven texture as scarce to seem to belong to this world, one of those heroines of self-sacrifice who live not for themselves and "who do not so much, die as fly to Heaven." One precious gift she possessed, moreover, which her son certainly inherited from her, the gift of inventing tales and stories which held her hearers spellbound. It is said that when she was in a ballroom she quickly gathered round her a bevy of curious damsels who forgot their partners and everything else as they listened spellbound to the stories of the Princess Volkhonskaya.
Tolstoi's earliest reminiscences have thus been recorded by himself in a work published eight years ago. Perhaps no other great writer's memory has ever been able to travel so far back.
"These are my first recollections (which I cannot arrange in their proper sequence, not knowing which come first and which later, of some I cannot even say whether they were seen asleep or awake). Here, at any rate, they are: — I was tied up in a bundle, I wanted to stretch out my arms and I couldn't do it, and I cried and wept and my crying was disagreeable to myself, yet I couldn't leave off. Someone or other seemed to be bending over me. I don't remember who. And all this was happening in a semi-gloom. But I remember there were two persons present, and my crying had the same effect upon them; they were troubled by my crying, but they did not take me out of my bandages as I wanted them to do, and I cried all the louder. My being tied up seemed to them to be a necessary thing, whereas I knew that it was not necessary, and I wanted to prove it to them, and I spent myself in crying, and this crying was disagreeable to myself but unrestrainable, I felt the injustice and cruelty — not of people, for they had compassion on me, but of fate, and I felt pity for myself I know not and never could make out how exactly it was, that is to say, whether they had swathed me so when I was a suckling and I stretched out my arms, or whether they had swathed me when I was years older in order that I might not scratch myself. Whether, as is often the case in dreams, I concentrated many impressions in this one recollection I cannot say, but it is certain that this was my first and strongest impression of life. And what I remember about it most is not my crying, or my suffering, but the complicity, the contrariety of the impression. I wanted liberty, that liberty interfered with nobody, and I who wanted strength was weak while the others were strong.
"My second impression is a joyous one. I am sitting in a trough and surrounded by the novel and unpleasant odour of some substance or other with which my little body comes in contact. Possibly it was bran, and possibly this bran was in the water and the trough, but the novelty of the impression of the bran awoke my faculties, and for the first time I observed, and loved my little body with its ribs visible on its trunk, and the smooth dark trough and the bare arms of my nurse, and the warm, steamy, terrifying water and the sound of it, and, in particular, the sensation of the wetness of the smooth sides of the trough when I drew my tiny hands along it.
"It is strange and terrible to reflect that, from my birth to my third year, at the very time when I was being nourished at the breast, taken from the breast — at the very time when I was beginning to crawl, to walk, to speak — it is strange, I say, that, search my memory as I will, I can find therein no impressions whatever save these two.
"What was the beginning? When did I begin to live? . . . Did I not live indeed when I learnt to see, to hear, to speak, when I slept, sucked the breast and kissed the breast, and laughed and delighted my mother? I lived and lived gloriously! Did not I then acquire everything whereby I live now ? — and did I not acquire so much so quickly, that in all the remainder of my life I have not acquired a hundredth part of what I acquired then? From a child of five to me, as I am now, is but a step. From a new-born child to a child of five the distance is terrific . . .
"The recollections which follow refer only to my fourth and fifth years, but even of these there are but few, and not one of them refers to life outside the walls of the house. Nature till my fifth year did not exist for me. All that I recollect occurs in my little bed and in my bedroom. . . People must have let me play with flowers, with leaves; they must needs have shielded me from the sun; but till my fifth or sixth year I have not a single recollection of what we call nature. Possibly one has to get away from her in order to see her, and I was nature.
"The next thing after my trough that I recollect is the recollection of Eremeevna. ‘Eremeevna’ was the word with which they used to frighten us children. No doubt they frightened us long before this, but my recollection of it is as follows: I am in my little bed, and very happy and comfortable, as I always was, and I should not have remembered anything about it, if the nurse or someone else who then made part of my life, had not said something or other in a voice new to me and went away, and at once a feeling of terror was added to the feeling of comfort. And I recollect that I was not alone, but someone else was there just like me. (This no doubt was my sister Mashenka, who was a year younger than myself, for our beds were in the same little room.) And I recollect there was a little curtain to my bed, and my sister and I were tremulously delighted at the extraordinary thing that was befalling us, and I kept on hiding my head in my pillow and glancing at the door from which I was expecting something novel and pleasant to emerge. And we laughed and hid our faces and waited. And behold! someone appeared in a gown and high cap such as I had never seen before, yet I recognised it to be the same person who was always with me (my nurse or my aunt, which I know not), and this someone spoke in a gruff voice, which I recognised, something terrible about naughty children and about Eremeevna. I trembled with fear and joy, I was terrified and yet delighted in my terror, and I wanted the someone who was frightening me not to know that I recognised her. We were silent, and after that we began to whisper together — our purpose was to conjure up Eremeevna again.
"I have another recollection similar to that of Eremeevna, and possibly later in time, because it is much clearer, although it has always remained unintelligible to me. In this recollection the principal part is played by a German called Theodor Ivanovich, our tutor, yet I know for certain that I was not under his control at the time, so this must have taken place before my fifth year. And this was my first impression of Theodor Ivanovich. And it was of so early occurrence that I still recollected nobody at that time, neither my brothers, nor my father. If I have any recollection at all of any particular person, it is only of my sister, and I only recollect her because she shared with me my terror of Eremeevna. Connected with this recollection is my first consciousness of the fact that our house had an upper storey. How I got up there, whether I went there myself, or whether someone carried me, I don't recollect at all. I only recollect that there were a good many of us there, and we were all dancing, holding each other's hands, and there were some strange women amongst us (I have a dim recollection that they were washerwomen), and we all began to leap and caper, and Theodor Ivanovich also leaped, lifting his feet too high and too noisily and boisterously, and the same instant I felt that this was not right but excessive, and I looked at him, and meseems I began to cry, and the whole thing came to an end.
"That is all I can recollect up to my fifth year. I remember nothing of my nurse, my aunts, my brothers, my sisters, my father, my rooms, and my games. My recollections grow more distinct from the time when they brought me downstairs to Theodor Ivanovich and to the older children.
"On being taken downstairs to Theodor Ivanovich and the children, I experienced for the first time, and consequently more strongly than at any subsequent period, the feeling which we call the sense of duty, the feeling of the cross which everyone is called upon to bear. It was painful to me to forsake what I had been accustomed to (accustomed to from eternity, as it then seemed to me); it was painful, poetically painful, to part not only from people, from my sister, my aunt, but also from my little bed with the curtains, from my little pillow, and frightful to me was the new life on which I was entering I tried to find pleasure in the new life which stood before me; I tried to believe in the endearing words with which Theodor Ivanovich enticed me to him; I tried not to perceive the contempt with which the other children received me, because I was smaller than they; I tried to think that it was a shame for a big boy to go on living with little girls, and there was no good at all in the life upstairs with my nurse; but at heart I was frightfully miserable, and I knew that I had lost beyond recall innocence and happiness, and only the feeling of my own dignity, the consciousness that I was doing my duty, sustained me.
"Many times, subsequently, in the course of my life it has been my lot to experience such moments at the turning-points of life as I turned into fresh paths. I have experienced a silent misery at irreparable losses. Whatever they may have said to me about going down to the other children, the chief thing I remember is the khalat with the strap sewn on to the back, which they put on me so as to separate me for ever from the life upstairs, and then for the first time I observed not all those with whom I had lived upstairs hitherto, but the chief person with whom I lived and whom I did not remember before. This was my aunt, T. A. I remember her as a smallish, stout, dark-haired, kind, fresh, compassionate person. She dressed me in my khalat, fitted it round me, fastened my belt, and kissed me, and I saw that she felt the same thing as I did; she felt that it was sad, terribly sad, but necessary. I began to feel for the first time that life was not a game, but a serious affair . . ."
Shortly before the death of Tolstoi's father, the whole family, consisting of four boys and one little girl, removed to Moscow in order that the eldest son, Nicholas, might prepare for the University, but the sudden death of Count Tolstoi, almost immediately afterwards, left the family in such straitened circumstances that they were obliged to return at once to Yasnaya Polyana, where the children were taught German by a German governess and Russian language and literature by a poor native seminarist. According to his Aunt Polina Yushkovaya, who was now responsible for his bringing up, little Lev had a petulant temper but an excellent heart, and was given to playing pranks of a somewhat disconcerting character. Between his seventh and eighth year he was possessed by the strange idea that he could fly if only he planted himself firmly on the soles of his feet, at the same time clasping his knees tightly enough, and he actually attempted to carry his theory into practice by leaping in this peculiar posture from one of the top windows of the house, with the inevitable result of a broken leg. We also have a very full and interesting description of his later childhood in his first work, "Dyetsvo" ("Childhood"), published in a newspaper Sovremennik, in 1852, from which it is obvious that from a very early age he was an acute and impressionable observer. And here it may be remarked that nearly all Tolstoi's works are to a large extent autobiographical documents.
If Tolstois mother had some of the characteristics of a saint, as much cannot be said of his aunt and guardian, Polina Yushkovaya. She appears, from all accounts, to have been a good-natured, worldly minded woman, very proud of her great connexions, and considering wealth and position as the sole means to happiness. One of her favourite maxims was, nothing licks a young man into shape so much as a carefully contrived liaison with a woman comme il faut. Nor were matters made much better when, in the early forties, young Tolstoi went to Kazan to complete his education. It was usual in those days for the Russian youths to go direct to the University from their homes, where the teaching they got was, at best, very impecfect and perfunctory, instead of, as now, using the Gymnasium as a stepping-stone to the University. Moreover, the University curriculum of the period was not of a very superior character. Those were the iron days of Nicholas I., when an artfully organized system of repression dominated all things — education included. Every lecture and every examination-paper was carefully censured beforehand, and "even to Archbishops," as the Tsar himself expressed it, " the whole book could not possibly be given." Add to this that the University of Kazan itself was very much below the level of the Universities of St. Petersburg and Moscow. The life of the students at the old Volgan city is described by contemporaries as extremely stormy and scandalous. Princely students kept whole streets in a state of siege for weeks together by incessantly discharging air-guns from their garret-windows at all passers-by, and most of the aristocratic students formed exclusive little coteries among themselves which were so engrossed with really important matters like balls, picnics, dramatic entertainments, and very often less reputable forms of amusement; that they had very tittle time left for mere study. Moreover, this easy, pleasant state of existence came all the easier because Kazan, in those days, was the regular place of resort in the summer-time for the county families of the whole country side, who flocked thither to educate their sons and find husbands for their grown-up daughters. The higher classes, all mote or less closely connected, gloried in a large patriarchal hospitality, A young bachelor student of good family in those days need never keep his own table. Twenty or thirty houses were open to him daily without special invitation, he had only to pick and choose. A student, when once in the full swing of the thing, could rarely get to bed till five o'clock in the morning, and rarely rose till after twelve o'clock at noon. Tolstoi, in the character of "Nikolmka Irtenev" has given us a vivid piece of self-portraiture as he was at Kazan. A morbid sensitiveness, a pitiful lack of moral and mental equilibrium, a consuming pride; and a disgust at his own privileged position which points to a latent reserve of nobility, is legible in every line of this description, His plainness was evidently one of his sorest troubles. "I was bashful by nature," he tells us through the mouth of his hero; "but my bashfulness grew with the growing consciousness of my ugliness, . . . and like the fox who made believe that the grapes were sour, I affected to despise all the gratifications attainable by an agreeable exterior, and tried with all the strength of my mind and imagination to find delight in a haughty isolation." The unsatisfying futility of the butterfly-life he led filled him with a savage impatience. He could quite understand, be tells us, the commission of the greatest crimes, not from any desire to injure but from sheer curiosity to see what would happen, from the sheer necessity of doing something, "There are moments," he says, "when the future presents itself to our mind's eye in such dark colours that we fear to face it with the eye of reason, and try to persuade ourselves that there will be no Future and that there has been no Past. At such moments I can well understand a youth lighting a fire beneath the very house where his parents, his brothers and sisters, whom he tenderly loves, are sleeping; aye, and doing it without the least fear or hesitation and even with a smile upon his face" He was firmly convinced at this time that everyone, from his grandmother to his coachman, hated him and delighted in his sufferings and he took a melancholy pleasure in reflecting that this was to be his destined fate. Yet at this very time he was being petted and fêted by all his acquaintance, and allowed to have his own way in everything. The house of his Aunt Yushkovava was the most aristocratic in Kazan and young Tolstoi took case to frequent none but the best company, absolutely ignoring the existence of his poorer brethren in grey homespun. His habitual pose was truculent and defiant, his face contemptuous, and he made it a rule never to salute any of his fellow students who regarded him as a superior being simply because he wore a magnificent mantle trimmed with beaver and had a horse and a coachman at his disposal. Tolstoi himself divided the whole world into two classes: those who were comme il faut and those who were comme il ne faut pas. The characteristics of the comme il faut people were a correct pronunciation of French, well-kept nails, an aptitude for dancing and bowing elegantly, and above all an habitual expression of well-bred contemptuous ennui. The comme il ne faut pas people, who possessed none of these saving virtues, he heartily despised, while any person unfortunate enough to speak bad French instantly kindled within him a feeling of hatred. The moral tone of the distinguished circle in which he moved was low indeed. Looking back upon this melancholy period of his life at a later day he remarks (in his "Ispovyed" or Confession), that whenever he tried to be morally good he encountered contempt and laughter, but whenever he gave himself up to pleasant vices he was applauded and encouraged. His good aunt, whom he describes as "the purest of women," frequently told him that she desired nothing so much for him as a liaison with a married lady, and it was the dearest wish of her heart that he should become the Emperors adjutant, wed a rich girl, and have lots of slaves. Most of his brothers, according to Professor Zagoskin, showed no sign of moral restraint (especially Sergius, who subsequently ran away with a gipsy), with the exception of Demetrius, a mystical ascetic, who went to the opposite extreme, spent half his time on his knees, and could only be persuaded to go to a ball when the biblical example of King David, dancing before the Ark, was urged upon him. As for Lev Tolstoi himself, religion had so little weight with him at this time that when a casual companion lightly remarked that praying was both unnecessary and ridiculous, he cast aside the habit with as little concern as if he were simply "brushing a piece of fluff off his coat-sleeve." Under these circumstances it is scarcely surprising to learn that he learnt but little of value at Kazan. History he already despised as "a tissue of legends and trifles generally unnecessary and often immoral." The juridical Faculty he despised because all its professors were Germans. Finally, he attached himself to the Faculty of Oriental Tongues, one of the special features of the University of Kazan, but despite the extra aid of private instruction, was duly plucked at his examination. Finally, in 1847, he quitted Kazan and returned to the family estate at Yasnaya Polyana, where he resided for the next four years.
Even now young Tolstoi was painfully impressed by the wretched condition of the Russian muzhik, and anxious to ameliorate his lot. "Was it not my sacred and obvious duty," he cries "to have a care for these 700 men, for whom I was responsible to God?" His earlier efforts in this direction, however, were defeated by the invincible laziness of the peasants and his own inexperience. It was about this time, moreover, that his humanitarian theories received a powerful impetus from a diligent study of Rousseau.
In 1851 Tolstoi received fresh impressions from a visit to the Caucasus with his brother Nicholas. After faffing down the Volga through the country of the Cabnucks, who then were still fire-worshippers, they settled down on the left bank of the Terek, not far from Kizylar, in the midst of a simple, unaffected people, spending most of their tune in shooting pheasants, hunting wild boars, and wandering through fen and forest The beauty and variety of the Caucasian scenery, where, in a few hours, one passes from the realm of eagles and mow-storms to emerald-green valleys where the dense oak forests are thick with azaleas and laurels, where myrtles and cypresses grow in the open air, and mountain ranges, dominated by the snowy caps of Elbrus and Kazbek, form an impressive background, powerfully affected young Tolstoi. Nor was he without strange adventures and curious experiences. On one occasion he narrowly escaped capture at the hands of the savage mountaineers whilst on an excursion five miles from the nearest Russian outpost, and had to ride for his life. On another occasion he lost so heavily at cards that despairing of ever being able to pay his debts he resorted, in a sudden access of religious fervour, to the desperate expedient of prayer, and while still on his knees was interrupted by the arrival of an unexpected messenger from a friend with a gift of money. It is to this residence in the Caucasus that we owe one of the most brilliant and characteristic of Tolstoi's earlier works: "Kavkazsky Plyennik" ("The Captive in the Caucasus"), a later adaptation of which by Tolstoi himself forms No. 2 in the present collection.
At this period of his life Tolstoi was an enthusiastic hunter and full of martial fervour. He was easily persuaded to join the artillery, had several brushes with the enemy, and lived modestly on his pay of five roubles (ten shillings) a month, till he had paid off all his card debts. He passionately desired at this time to win the Cross of St George for valour (which is said to have been withheld from him, though well merited, by the enmity of his superior officer), and on the outbreak of the Crimean War was attached to the staff of the Commander-in-Chief, Count Gorchakov, determined at all hazards to win the laurels denied to him in the Caucasus. Throughout the war he distinguished himself, both as an officer and a soldier, by the most irreproachable valour, realising his own ideal of true courage by doing his duty on every occasion without vain glory or desperation, and took an active part in the disastrous battle of the Black River. There can be little doubt that the rude but salutary lessons of active warfare, teaching as it does to those who will learn the lesson, the urgent necessity of complete self-restraint and self-surrender, had a purifying, ennobling influence on Tolstoi's character. His comrades, in general, seem to have adored him. "Tolstoi," says one of them, "with his tales and couplets, enlivened us all. In the fullest sense of the word he was the soul of our party. When he was with us, time seemed to fly, and our merriment was endless; but when he was away all our noses hung down dismally enough." The couplets he composed on the occasion of the battle of August 4th were sung by the whole army; but his hopes of obtaining a field-adjutancy were dashed in consequence of some bitterly sarcastic verses on his official chiefs which he could not resist writing, and which when once written circulated in MS. from hand to hand. It was now, too, that he drafted the first sketch of his famous "Sevastopolskie Razskazui" ("Sebastopol Tales"), which, even in its rough form, drew tears from the Empress Alexandra, and induced Tsar Nicholas himself to remark that "the life of this young author must be looked after," and to order that he should be transferred to a less dangerous position.
At the end of 1855, on his return to St. Petersburg, the young and titled "hero of Sebastopol" found all the best houses open to him, while "The Sebastopol Tales" gave him the entrée to the leading literary circles. His earlier works, "Dyetsvo" ("Childhood"), first published in 1852 in the Sovremennik, where it was speedily followed by "Utro Pomyeshchika" and "Otrochestvo" ("Boyhood"), though highly spoken of by Nekrasov and other connoisseurs, do not seem to have attracted general attention. Now, however, he was regarded as one of the leading spirits of that new era of emancipation and enlightenment which coincided with the accession of the Tsar-Liberator, Alexander II. But Tolstoi was never able to thrive in literary circles. This was due not so much to his super-sensitiveness and natural reserve as to an intimate conviction, which he invariably expressed with the utmost frankness, that the cult of art and literature was mostly affectation and mere phrasing. He never would believe in the regenerating influence of mere culture. This was the secret of his quarrel with his great contemporary, Turgenev, whose cosmopolitanism, Anglomania, and "gentlemanly way of regarding literature and progress generally," absolutely revolted him. The Russian author, Fet', who met Tolstoi one evening at Nekrasov's, observed in him, at the very first instant, "an involuntary opposition to everything generally accepted in the department of criticism." In other words, young Tolstoi refused to believe in the dawn of a new era of progress in which poets and artists were to be the priests of culture, and show the people a new and better way. Such optimistic theories struck him as mere nostrums. But listen to his own account of the matter. "I began to doubt the truth of the theory because the priests of this new religion did not agree among themselves. I found that we had not made up our minds on the essential point, what is good and what is evil, so that we, the sole teachers of truth, attacked and contradicted one another like so many Bedlamites." For Tolstoi even now was against every sort of compromise. He aimed at nothing short of absolute perfection and at perfection alone. At the same time the desire to excel everyone in everything was strong within him Even physically it was his ambition to be stronger and more dexterous than his fellows, and he began a course of gymnastic exercises which even in his old age he was not altogether to abandon. We are told that on his return to Yasnaya
Polyana his steward coming to him in the morning for orders would frequently find his master hanging in flannels, head downwards, on a trapeze, in which position he would discuss the best modes of sowing and threshing, the steward accompanying his young master round and round the room as he turned somersaults without interrupting the conversation. Forty-five years later tihe habitual filling of a huge water-butt for domestic purposes was to be to him what the hewing down of trees used to be to Mr. Gladstone.
It was in 1856 that Tolstoi quitted the capital for the repose and seclusion of Yasnaya Polyana, dividing his time between agricultural pursuits (ploughing and sowing his own fields and labouring hard to better the condition of his serfs) and literature. To this period belong the novels and romances, - "Yunost" ("Youth"), "Vstryecha v Otryadye" (" The Encounter in the Battalion "), " Metel' " (" The Snowstorm "), No. 1 of the present collection, " Zapiski Markera " (" The Memories of a Marker "), and " Dva Husara" ("Two Hussars").
In 1857 Tolstoi went abroad for the first time, and was away for two years visiting Geranany, in which he was very much interested, and France. At Paris he again encountered Turgenev, but the meeting was anything but felicitous. Writing to a friend as to his experiences on this occasion, Turgenev remarks : " I cannot get on with Tolstoi anyhow, our views are so utterly different" Twelve months later Tolstoi went abroad again, but between his first and second foreign tour occurred what he always regarded as the
tragedy of his life— the death of his elder brother Nicholas, to whom he was devotedly attached, and who is said to have been the one really intimate friend, except his wife, he ever possessed Turgenev
describes the elder Tolstoi as u a talented talker and story-teller, who always lived by himself either in the country or in quite impossible quarters at Moscow, sharing everything with the poor/' The effect of this bereavement upon Let was crushing. " Nothing in all my life," he tells us, " made such an impression upon me. Why worry and suffer any more, I thought to myself, when nought remains of such a one as Nikolai Nikolaevich? " From hence- forth the shadow of death falls across his finest pages, and he is possessed by a constantly deepening feeling of the futility of life and the emptiness of the best that it can offer. Even art lost its charm for him. " Art is a lie, and I cannot love a lie however beautiful, is his summing up of the whole matter. It was in this morbidly gloomy frame of mind that he wrote * Lucerne " and " Albert," surely the most pessimistic productions of modern fiction.
Tolstoi's second Continental tour was a voyage of instruction. His alert, receptive, and thorough-going nature laid all branches of foreign learning under contributioa First he visited Berlin to attend the lectures of Droysen and Du Bois Raymond, and study the Prussian penal system, being a frequent visitor at the Moabit Prison, where the solitary confinement system chiefly occupied his attention. He also care- fully investigated the various trade unions founded by Schulze-Delitsch, and' made the acquaintance of
the celebrated pedagogue Diesterweg, who struck him as somewhat " hard and dry." Thence he pro- ceeded to Dresden, where he diligently inspected all the principal schools, and paid a sudden and alarming visit on Auerbach, who happened at that time to be his favourite author. Tolstoi abruptly intro- duced himself as Eugen Bauman, one of Auerbach's characters ; but the author of the " Schwarzwalder Dorfgeschichten," was more frightened than flattered by the unlooked-for inroad of the grim, bizarre- looking young Muscovite, and even Tolstoi's compliment, "Your books have made me think seriously of many things," did not immediately reassure him At first Auerbach seems to have taken him for a peasant from some remote village who had come either to abuse or to blackmail him for defamation of character. Passing from Dresden to Kissingen, Tolstoi made the acquaintance of Froebel, and then travelling slowly through Switzer- land, Italy, and France, proceeded via Brussels to London. It was during this period that he wrote " Tri Smerti " (" Three Deaths "), the last story in the present collection, " Semeinoe Schasti " (" Family Luck"), and " Polikushka."
Tolstoi returned from his second visit to the West full of educational ideas, which he instantly pro- ceeded to put into practice. He began to publish a pedagogic journal, entitled Yasnaya Polyana, from the name of his estate, and started a school for the children of his peasantry — the first free school that ever existed in Russia, which was absolutely unique of its kind. Tolstoi adopted the two-fold principle
that " all constraint is dangerous and argues want of proper method," and that " teachers ought to consult not their own convenience but the convenience of their pupils." Accordingly his pupils were allowed practically to do as they liked They could come and go at will, might sit on chairs* huddle into corners, or stand at the window with their backs to their teachers as the mood took them, and no discipline of any sort was countenanced. To interest the pupils while they taught them was to be the sole aim of their schoolmasters. This school created some little sensation in its day. French savants and experts raised their hands to Heaven in amazement, and professed they could not understand how order could be evolved from the midst of anarchy; and when the school payed their superior insight the bad compliment of actually succeeding, they could only explain the marvel by emphasizing the difference of temperament between lively French children and the more phlegmatic Slavs. In Russia itself some of the higher officials were uncomfortably agitated by Tolstoi's revolutionary pedagogic methods. The Minister of the Interior, an inveterate adherent of the old non-progressive school, complained to his colleague, the Minister of Education (October 14th, 1862), that, in his opinion, the school of Yasnaya Polyana, and the journal of the same name, threatened to undermine the very foundations of religion and morality, especially as the director and editor was "endowed with a remarkable, I may even say, attractive literary style." Moreover, laments the much perturbed official, Count Tolstoi's convictions
are so evidently sincere as to place his motives above suspicion, so that there is absolutely no getting at him And yet opinions so eccentric were bound to mislead the unwary. What then was to be done? Fortunately, the Minister of Education, an enlightened liberal, could assure his colleague that he had carefully examined Count Tolstoi's m e t h ods, and convinced himself that they were worthy rather of praise than of censure, and although be, the Minister, could not say that he agreed with all the Count's views, he felt bound to thank and was determined to support him. Nevertheless the school soon died a natural death. Pupils were at first attracted by its novelty, but decamped the moment they felt they had learnt enough, and the attempt to found fourteen establishments of the same sort in other jdaces foiled for want of public support, where- upon Tolstoi abandoned the scheme altogether, and buried himself in the steppes inhabited by die nomadic Bashkirs, in order to "breathe fresh air, drink kumiss, and five the healthy, natural life of the brute beast*" To this residence among the Bashkirs we are indebted for that piercingly vivid story; "How much land does a man want?" which win be found in toy former volume of selections* entitled "Tales from Tolstoi"
Tolstoi presently exchanged the rough hospitality of the nomadic Bashkirs for the comfort of a home of his own. On September 23rd, 1862, he married Sophia Behr, the second daughter of a Moscow physician. The bride was eighteen, the groom four-afld-tfatrty, and at first the lady was not only indifferent to her
wooer, but took no pains to conceal the fact It seems to have been a point of honour with the Behr family that the three daughters should be married in order of seniority, and they took it quite amiss when Tolstoi, passing over the eldest daughter, set his heart upon the second. The gentleman's final declaration, which was ultimately successful, is minutely described in "Anna Karenina," where Kitty Shcherbatskaya is Miss Behr, while Tolstoi has described himself to the life in the character of Levin. This union proved to be of the happiest, and was blessed with nine children, five boys and four girls, the youngest of whom was born in 1891. With his marriage the most joyous period of Tolstoi's life begins. Writing to a friend on October 9th, 1862, he says: " I have been married a fortnight, and I am a happy, a new, an altogether new man. My wife regularly looks after the cash and the acounts, and I have the bees, the sheep, a new garden, and the vines on my hands. Everything goes on pretty well, though of course it is not ideally perfect My wife is no doll She is of real help to me." His happiness is so great that it strikes him as being unnatural, but he consoles him- self with the reflection that love becomes purer and stronger beneath the threats of despair! On another occasion, however, he admits, without reserve, that he is perfectly happy in his married life. He has dis- covered that Fanny is not only a loving wife but an excellent mother; and a helper even in his literary work. The advent of children of his own gave him an opportunity of thoroughly applying his pedagogic theories to the great problem of their education.
Playthings were banished from the nursery, but the children were allowed the utmost liberty, being never chastised corporally, and brought up as closely as possible beneath the eyes of their parents. Assum- ing that nowhere was the independence of children so liberally provided for as in England, Tolstoi committed his own children, between the age of three and nine, to the care of an English governess. The young people were strictly forbidden «ver to com- mand the servants, but to say "if you please" for everything they wanted, their parents setting them the example in this respect The first symptom of lying was severely repressed by confining the offender to his room or putting him into Coventry, but the slightest sign of penitence was requited by instant forgiveness. The children were always with their parents except at meal times, or when they retired to rest, and the servants to whose charge they were then entrusted, were strictly cautioned to respect their innocence both by word and deed. We have it on the authority of one of Tolstoi's housekeepers that he was a first-rate manager. He saw to everything personally, negligence and slovenliness were im- possible under such a master. The smallest detail was not beneath his notice. His pig-stys, his cowsheds, andjstable were models of cleanliness. In his pigs he took particular pride. There were three hundred of them in all, and they lived in couples in separate stys. As for the dwelling-house, not a speck of dirt was allowed to settle there, the walls and floors had to be washed down every day. He would storm and rage if the least thing were neglected, and when his
doctor remonstrated with him on the violence of his temper as likely to prove injurious to his health, Tolstoi, like Peter the Great before him, would declare that it was his nature. " I want to control myself but cannot," he would always say. His industry and economy were promptly rewarded by prosperity. Count Tolstoi's estate was one of the comparatively few in Russia of the same size which more than paid its expenses. Yasnaya Polyana was especially famous for its excellent cream, which sold in the Moscow market at 60 kopecks (is. 2#d) per pound. No description, we are told, can give any idea of the cheerful and attractive life at Yasnaya Polyana during the first sixteen years of Tolstoi's happy married life (1 862-1 878). There was no subject, from cricket and football to the most abstruse branches of philosophy, in which Tolstoi did not take a lively interest, and though his acquaintances were few, they numbered among them some of the most enlightened and inter- esting men in Russia, including N. N. Strakhov, Prince Urusov, and the mathematician, A. Fet. As his sons grew up they became his closest companions. At his call they would joyfully come running out to join him in his long rambles (he rarely went a shorter distance than twelve miles at a stretch), or in a course of Swedish gymnastics, or compete with him at hurdle racing, or go a-hunting or shooting. In the winter the father and sons would be skating or sledging together, or bombarding snow fortifications of their own construction. Indeed Tolstoi asked for nothing better than to pass his days in the bosom of his family. He hated to be away from his wife and
children even for a single day, and hastened back to them with rapture when the detaining business had been happily transacted. It was at this time of his life that an acquaintance said of him that he was laughing all day long.
But Tolstoi had other and more serious work during the long winter evenings. It was in the midst of this period of supreme domestic felicity that his two immortal masterpieces, " War and Peace " and " Anna Karenina," were composed
"Voina i Mir" ("War and Peace ") was begun immediately after his marriage, under the happiest auspices, and was completed in five years. That such a stupendous work, a whole library in itself, should have been composed within such a compara- tively short time is sufficiently surprising, but our surprise becomes amazement when we learn that the author actually transcribed its thousands of pages with his own hand seven times before he was satisfied with it With the possible exception of Turgenev's " Otsui i Dyeti" ("Fathers and Sons") five j'ears earlier no other Russian book ever created such a sensation. Despite its obvious defects (defects far less discer- nible, however, in the original than the translations be they never so good), prolixity, an almost total absence of humour and a disposition to philosophize a la Schopenhauer, under whose fascination Tolstoi lay at that particular time "Voina i Mir" must ever
rank amongst the few supremely great masterpieces of the world's literature. It i9 a prose epic of vast dimensions, the history of the life and death struggle of the whole Russian nation with its most terrible adversary the first Napoleon, for the Russian nation is the real hero of the romance, even the leading characters, Kutuzov and Platon Karataev, being mere idealised exponents or representatives of the nation at large. Yet when Tolstoi forgets the philosopher in the artist, and condescends to probe the personal characters of the protagonists in the terrible struggle, he convinces as no other great writer has ever suc- ceeded in convincing. The character of Napoleon is of itself a revelation. A great critic has well said that after reading the description of Alexander's interview with Bonaparte at Tilsit, one cannot rid oneself of the conviction that Tolstoi must have been concealed somewhere in the same room, for nowhere else do we seem to see " the little corporal " so vividly in the flesh as in the pages of " Voina i Mir." The philosophy of the book, as already hinted, i9 not without a tinge of Schopenhauerisia Thus, man's reason, coupled with his exacting egoism^ is held to be the * source of all human suffering. The main duty of man is self-renunciation and absolute sub- jection to the will of the mass of humanity which makes up the nation. Kutuzov was a great man simply because he understood this, and had no
independent will of his own. Such a system neces- sarily postulates the non-existence of separate human individuality, and, logically pursued, would make un- conscious instinct the best, because the strongest force in nature. Even religion is discarded, because, as Tolstoi plainly perceived, religion strengthens the sense of individuality by making man self-conscious. This after all is " Die Welt in Wille und Vorstellung " in a nutshell. No wonder, then, if Tolstoi's great con- temporary, Dostoevsky, after reading " Voina i Mir," put the book down with the simple remark : " The fool hath said in his heart there is no God." Yet Tolstoi himself at a later day was to reject Schopenhauer's philosophy as inadequate.
Tolstoi himself, at least while actually engaged upon the work,. was not a little proud of "Voina i Mir." " I regard all that I have printed hitherto," he wrote to a friend, " as mere trial-work for my pen." The first volume appeared in 1867, tihe last in 1869. The work of preparatory research tried Tolstoi severely. " You have no idea," he wrote to Fet in Noveniber, '69, " how difficult the initial labour of deep ploughing in the field where I am obliged to sow has been to me . . . ' Ars longa, vita brevis/ I think to myself every day."
After completing " Voina i Mir," Tolstoi set about writing a romance of the age of Peter the Great, and began collecting and arranging his materials with his usual energy and conscientiousness. " Dear little Le fr," wrote his wife on this occasion, " is surrounded by piles of book, portraits, and pictures, and sits reading and writing and re-writing with puckered brows. In
the evening when the children have gone to bed he tells me of his plans." But after five years of labour Tolstoi abandoned the idea altogether, because he had arrived at an estimate of Peter's character diametrically opposite to that which generally obtains, and discovered that he had no sympathy whatever with the Petrine period itself. " Not only do I find nothing great in the personality and the acts of Peter I., but I find that everything on the contrary was very bad," writes Tolstoi. " In all his so-called reforms he only looked after his own personal profit and not after the " interests of the State. In consequence of his disagree- ment with the Boyars as to his reforms, he founded St. Petersburg simply in order to be further away from them and to live his immoral life more freely? The sentence I have under-lined is a characteristic specimen of Tolstoi's unconscious one-sidedness, and of his inability to do justice to systems antagonistic to his own. Peter the Great undoubtedly transferred his capital to St. Petersburg in order to be further away from his Boyars. But why ? Because he rightly perceived that reactionary Moscow would inevitably throw obstacles in the way of the reforms he judged to be indispensable to the civilising of ignorant and superstitious Russia, whereas St Petersburg, with the command of the sea, was a window thrown open to the humanizing influences of the West The prospect of greater license on the Neva than on the Moskva never entered into Peter's thoughts. Peter was always and everywhere frankly sensual; his strong sexual instincts had no rfespect whatever for either persons or places.
I suspect myself that Tolstoi's real quarrel with Peter was due to the fact that the great Tsar was an unanswerable confutation of the novelist's pet theory of the uselessness of independent individuality, for if ever a man was superior to his age and his environment, and moulded them both to his will, it was Peter the Great And yet there is a moral grandeur in Tolstoi's refusal to admire the exploits of the great national regenerator who owed so much of his success to the unflinching application of mere brute force. Mere achievement, however impressive, could never blind Tolstoi to the absence of moral greatness. We cannot, for instance, imagine him making a hero of a successful political freebooter like Frederick II. of Prussia.
" Anna Karenina," Tolstoi's second great work (his greatest in the opinion of many), was written between 1873 and 1876. The first seven parts appeared originally in the leading Moscow magazine, Russky Vyestnik, which, under the editorship of the eminent publicist, Michael Katkov, was a power in Russia. When, however, Katkov objected to certain portions of the eighth part of " Anna Karenina," which was diametrically opposed to his reactionary views, Tolstoi was greatly incensed, and cancelled his engagement with Katkov. " How dare a mere journalist alter a single line of my work?" he cried Tolstoi indeed never had any great love for newspapers or gazettes. "I never read anything but classics/' he once replied to a person who inquired what he usually
read Yet very few classics really satisfied him. It was only after considerable hesitation that he allowed that that incomparable master of style, Pushkin, for instance, deserved the name of a classic at all, and even then Tolstoi was never tired of accusing the author of "Eugene Onyegin" of an excessive lightness of touch and a tendency to sacrifice truth and even intelligibility to brilliant and dramatic effects. Goethe, too, was never one of his favourites. " Righteous God ! " he cried, with an emphasis that was anything but profane, " Goethe always forgets morality in his pursuit of beauty, and without the former the latter is* "worth nothing." In 1870 he "Began to study Greek and would read nothing else. Xenophon greatly pleased him, but he was still more delighted with Homer. " How glad I am that God has given me the humour for it," he writes to a friend ; "I am convinced that of all the truly beautiful, the simply beautiful which the human mind has pro- duced, I hitherto knew nothing." Of his own literary work he was still very proud, and yet his complacency was not without a tinge of self-contempt In 1876 he wrote to a friend, " I continue under the delusion that what I am writing is very important, although I know that within a month the remembrance of it will be on my conscience. Sometimes I feel myself to be as a God from whom nothing is concealed, and at other times I am as stupid as a brute beast." It pleased him to reflect that he was already numbered amongst the greatest of Russian writers, and it is certain that from 1880 onwards he was without a rival in the national literature. In the fifties Turgenev had
been in the ascendant; in the sixties he had been obliged to share that distinction with Ostrovsky and Pisemsky; in the seventies the satirist, Saltuikov, and the most Russian of all the Russian novelists, Dostoevsky, held the public ; but five years after the publication of "Anna Karenina," Tolstoi had dis- tanced every competitor, and was undeniably supreme. And, characteristically enough, just as he had reached the height of his glory, doubts began to arise in his mind whether, to use a common phrase, the game was really worth the candle. Except for a very brief period in his youth Tolstoi had always despised mere style* and had resolutely refused to cultivate the mere prettinesses of literature ; but now he began to doubt* whether literature itself, like art, as to which he had already made up his mind, was not a vain, worthless, and even pernicious pursuit. " On reflecting upon the fame I should gain from my writings," he tells us, " I said to myself : Good ! supposing you become more famous even than Gogol, than Pushkin, than Shakes- peare, than Molifere, than all the great writers of the world, what then? And I could find' nothing to say, absolutely nothing. . . . Some indefinable power drove me towards the idea of ridding myself of life somehow or other. Indeed, the thought of suicide became so attractive that I had to use artifice against it so as not immediately to put it into execution. And this happened to me when I was completely happy,
- In his youth Tolstoi took some pains to cultivate an elegant and
beautiful style, which is seen at its best in " Kazaki " (" The Cossacks "), published in 1 86 1. Yet there can be little doubt that his later style, so noble, simple, clear, poignant, and precise, with a constantly underlying suggestion of vast elemental power, is far more impressive.
when I had absolutely everything I wanted!: a handsome family, ample means, fame constantly increasing, the respect of my neighbours, health, strength of mind and body, apparently everything. So long as I fancied life had some meaning in it, although I knew not how to express it, the reflection of life in art gave me pleasure, and it was pleasant to me to look upon life in this mirror called art But when I tried to discover the meaning of it all, the mirror struck me as tantalizing, or as simply nothing at all." This was in 1 88 1. Evidently a mental and moral crisis was approaching. Twenty years previously he had been t^mented by similar doubts, and, after much torturing self-analysis, had come to the conclusion that his writings were of no use to the people at large (in his mind the sole true test of their utility), and simply the product of egoism and self-glorification. " It is plain to me," he wrote in 1861, " that the compiling of magazines and books, the immense and ceaseless process of printing and publishing may be profitable enough for authors, printers, and publishers, but bring no benefit to the people, and therefore stands self-condemned." But then he had married. The happiness of a well-assorted match and a tranquil family life drew him quite away from all seeking after a general theory of life, and, as Tolstoi himself characteristically puts it, " although I considered all writing to be rubbish, I went on writing, nevertheless, for I had tasted of the seduction of writing, the seduction of the enormous literary renown of work which was really worthless."
But now, after an interval of twenty years, all the old doubts and misgivings had returned with tenfold force, and Tolstoi was powerless to resist them. Utterly dissatisfied with the life he was living, convinced that it was both " senseless and terrible," he looked about him for something which would better satisfy his heart and conscience. First he turned to Science, only to receive an interminable quantity of dark answers to questions he had never asked, but as to the meaning of life he did not receive, and of course could not receive any answer, for Science does not and cannot occupy herself with such a question. Next he applied to Philosophy, but Philosophy could but tell him that the only way out of life was through death. Finally, he arrived at the conclusion that Faith was the one mainstay of life — but where was Faith to be found? To acquire knowledge is easy, but to acquire faith when you have none within you seemed well-nigh impossible. In this dilemma Tolstoi began by consorting with monks and pilgrims, by frequenting the Optinsky monastery, by shutting him- self in his own room for private prayer, studying the Scriptures, and consulting Catholics, Protestants, and Raskolniks indiscriminately. He even took lessons in Hebrew from the Chief Rabbi of Moscow — and all without being able to arrive at any conclusion. " I had lived in the world five-and-fifty years, ,, he pathetically confesses, "and during all that time, excluding fourteen or fifteen childish years, I had lived as a Nihilist in the completest sense of the word, that is to say, not as a socialist or a revolutionist, as the word is commonly understood, but as one who had no faith, who had nothing. Science and Philosophy tell us that we must go on living as we are, in the firm belief that, according to the law of historical progress, after living for a long time badly, our life will right itself and suddenly become good of its own accord." We all know how the crisis ended We all know hov? Tolstoi found peace at last by resolutely devoting his whole life to labouring for the people in the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount. " Live according to faith, and faith will come to you," was his eureka. His eccentric, arbitrary, and — there is really no other word for it — his absurd mutilation of Scripture, which he was forced to recast in order to make it fit in with his own very peculiar version of the Gospels (as to which by the way he dog- matizes every whit as magisterially as the church which he so hastily disparaged and which was finally driven to condemn him), are too well known to be alluded to here. But however we may deplore Tolstoi's provocative method of biblical interpretation, we cannot but reverence the sublime unselfishness of the life he has led ever since what we may perhaps call his conversion. From 1 88 1 to the present time, he has literally devoted himself, body and soul, to the service of his poorer brethren, the Russian muzhiks, for whom he has always had an intense sympathy and admiration. He has done this in two ways, by working among them and by writing for them. He had always been of the opinion that " the only really honest labour worthy of a man was manual labour," and from henceforth he adopted the life of a common peasant, and worked vigorously alongside his labourers in his own fields.
"It is better," he observes, with equal wisdom and humanity, u it is better to help the poor by actually working at their own handicraft with them, than doing higher and perhaps more lucrative work, and giving them the profits thereof, inasmuch as by working with them you teach them to respect their own particular work by showing them that you yourself do not despise it, whereas any money you might give them would be apt to make them indolent and lazy." So he set about tilling his own fields, thatching his own cottage roofs* and teaching his peasantry thrift smd economy by his own personal exampte. Nor was this all During the terrible winter of 1891-92, when whole provinces of the Russian Empire presented the terrible and pathetic spectacle of an entire agricul- tural population, overwhelmed by snow, dying in thousands, without a word of complaint, though absolutely deprived of food, clothes, or firewood, Tolstoi hastened to the afflicted districts, and fed thousands daily at his own expense at improvised ordinaries, never quitting his post for a single instant till all danger was at an end Indeed, but for his indefatigable efforts, whole parishes would have been depopulated. Nor was this the first time that Tolstoi had shown himself the benefactor of the people. Some ten years before, when a terrible famine was raging in the Province of Samara, which calamity, apparently for economical reasons, was not " officially recognised," Tolstoi collected subscriptions for the relief of the dying peasantry, and, energetically aided by Katkov and the Moscow Gazette, never ceased calling attention to the catastrophe till he actually compelled the reluctant Government tardily to do its duty and mitigate a disaster it could no longer deny.
But perhaps Tolstoi has done even greater service to his beloved muzhiks with his pen than with his purse. Between 1880 and 1896 he composed for their benefit that series of simple, touching stories, so truly humane, so deeply Christian, and also, despite his own intentions, such exquisite masterpieces of realistic art in the truest sense of the word, some of the best of which were selected to form my former volume: "Tales from Tolstoi." We learn from his letter to Dembinsky in 1886, what moved Tolstoi thus to cater for the humblest of his readers : " These millions of poor Russians who just know their letters stand before us like so many hungry little daws with wide-open mouths crying to us : * Gospoda* native writers ! throw into these mouths of ours spiritual food worthy of you and us, nourish us hungry ones with the living literary word!' — And the simple and honest Russian people deserves that we should respond to its call."
During the years immediately preceding the publication of these further translations Tolstoi lived for the most part at Yasnaya Polyana, in the bosom of his family, working with and for his tenants continually, and yet finding time to answer daily the thousands of letters which reached him from all parts of the world, asking for his counsel and assistance m every imaginable sort of difficulty. He has been, with perhaps the single exception of Fr. John of Cronstadt, indisputably the most popular personage in the Empire of the Tsar. In the winter he generally resides at Moscow, frequenting, by preference, chari- table institutions and working men's concerts, despite his advanced age taking the liveliest interest in every question of the day, especially those relating to religion and morality, and delighting everyone by the alertness of his intelligence and the generous breadth of his sympathy. In 1899 the veteran astonished and delighted the world of literature with his " Voskresenie " (" Resurrection "), a noble work (despite its occasional extravagances) from every point of view, worthy of his best days, demonstrating that the hand of the master had lost none of its cunning, and piercing with the divination of genius to the deepest depths of human impulse and motive.
- R. Nisbet Bain.
- April, 1902.
- A long jacket.
- "Poslyednie Razskazui i Stat'i," Berlin, 1894.
- Speaking through the mouth of Prince Nekhlyudov, in "Utr Pomyeshchika," who is Tolstoi himself.
- As subsequently presented by Capt. Khlopov in "Nabyeg," and by Timokhin in "Voina i Mir."
- On August 30th, 1869, Tolstoi wrote to a friend: "I have an indescribable enthusiasm for Schopenhauer, who has given me a succession of intellectual delights, the like of which I have never experienced before. I know not, of course, whether my opinions may not change, but I am confident at present that Schopenhauer is the greatest of geniuses . . . and I can only attribute his being so little known to the fact that the world at large is made up of mere idiots."
- While in the throes of composition Tolstoi demanded absolute quiet, not even his wife being allowed to interrupt him.