revealed to our eager eyes the presentment of a vast, unfamiliar life, in which was reflected a new people, a new world.
I had but newly entered the Normal College. My fellow-scholars were of widely divergent opinions. In our little world were such realistic and ironical spirits as the philosopher Georges Dumas; poets, like Suarès, burning with love of the Italian Renaissance; faithful disciples of classic tradition; Stendhalians, Wagnerians, atheists and mystics. It was a world of plentiful discussion, plentiful disagreement; but for a period of some months we were nearly all united by a common love of Tolstoy. It is true that each loved him for different reasons, for each discovered in him himself; but this love was a love that opened the door to a revelation of life; to the wide world itself. On every side—in our families, in our country homes—this mighty voice, which spoke from the confines of Europe, awakened the same emotions, unexpected as they often were. I remember my amazement upon hearing some middle-class people of Nivernais, my native province—people who felt no interest whatever in art, people who read practically nothing—speak with the most intense feeling of The Death of Ivan Ilyitch.
I have read, in the writings of distinguished critics, the theory that Tolstoy owed the best of his ideas to the French romantics: to George Sand, to Victor Hugo. We may ignore the absurdity of supposing that Tolstoy, who could not endure her, could ever have been subject