Page:Phelps - Essays on Russian Novelists.djvu/25

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

was an absolute master of the French language, remarked:

"La langue russe, qui est, autant que j'en puis juger, le plus riche des idiomes de l'Europe, semble faite pour exprimer les nuances les plus delicates. Douée d'une merveilleuse concision qui s'allie à la clarté, il lui suffit d'un mot pour associer plusieurs idées, qui, dans une autre langue, exigeraient des phrases entières."

And no people are more jealous on this very point than the French. In the last of his wonderful Poems in Prose, Turgenev cried out: "In these days of doubt, in these days of painful brooding over the fate of my country, thou alone art my rod and my staff, O great, mighty, true and free Russian language! If it were not for thee, how could one keep from despairing at the sight of what is going on at home? But it is inconceivable that such a language should not belong to a great people."

It is significant that Turgenev, who was so full of sympathy for the ideas and civilization of Western Europe, and who was so often regarded (unjustly) by his countrymen as a traitor to Russia, should have written all his masterpieces, not in French, of which he had a perfect command, but in his own beloved mother-tongue.

We see by the above extracts, that Russia has an instrument of expression as near perfection as is