Anna Karenin, with War and Peace, marks the climax of this period of maturity. Anna Karenin is the more perfect work; the work of a mind more certain of its artistic creation, richer too in experience; a mind for which the world of the heart holds no more secrets. But it lacks the fire of youth, the freshness of enthusiasm, the mighty pinions of War and Peace. Already Tolstoy has lost something of the joy of creation.
- It is regrettable that the beauty of the poetical conception of the work is often tarnished by the philosophical chatter with which Tolstoy has loaded his work, especially in the later portions. He is determined to make an exposition of his theory of the fatality of history. The pity is that he returns to the point incessantly, and obstinately repeats himself. Flaubert, who “gave vent to cries of admiration” while reading the first two volumes, which he declared “sublime” and “full of Shakespearean things,” threw the third volume aside in boredom: “He goes off horribly. He repeats himself, and he philosophises. We see the aristocrat, the author, and the Russian, while hitherto we have seen nothing but Nature and Humanity.” (Letter to Tourgenev, January, 1880.)