Page:Dead Souls - A Poem by Nikolay Gogol - vol2.djvu/56

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though he may reflect it more clearly than a mirror, they will give him no credit for it. Tchitchikov's very stoutness and middle age will do him great damage in their eyes: they will never forgive stoutness in a hero under any circumstances, and very many ladies will turn away, saying, Fie! what a horrid man! Alas! the author is very well aware of all this, and yet he cannot take a virtuous man for his hero. But … perhaps in this very novel some chords hitherto unstruck may be discerned, the infinite wealth of the Russian soul may be set forth, a man endowed with divine qualities, or a wonderful Russian maiden, such as cannot be found elsewhere in the world, with the marvellous beauty of a woman's soul made up of generous impulse and self-sacrifice, may emerge. And all the virtuous people of other races will seem dead beside them as a book is dead beside the living word! Russian emotions will arise. They will see how deeply what has only glided through the nature of other peoples has taken root in the nature of the Russians. … But what use or reason is there to speak of what is in the future? It is unseemly for the author, a man of full age, disciplined by a harsh inner life and the invigorating sobriety of solitude to forget himself like a boy. There is a fitting time and place for everything! But all the same I have not taken a virtuous man for my hero. And I may even say why I have not. Because it is high time at last to let the poor virtuous man rest; because