Page:Rolland Life of Tolstoy.djvu/156

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business,[1] and, in order to judge Wagner, he thought it was sufficient to attend a single representation of Siegfried, at which he arrived after the rise of the curtain, while he left in the middle of the second act.[2] In the matter of literature he is, it goes without saying, rather better informed. But by what curious aberration did he evade the criticism of the Russian writers whom he knew so well, while he laid down the law to foreign poets, whose temperament was as far as possible removed from his own, and whose leaves he merely turned with contemptuous negligence![3]

His intrepid assurance increased with age. It finally impelled him to write a book for the purpose of proving that Shakespeare "was not an artist."

"He may have been—no matter what: but he was not an artist."[4]

  1. His intolerance became aggravated after 1886. In What shall we do? he did not as yet dare to lay hands on Beethoven or on Shakespeare. Moreover, he reproached contemporary artists for daring to invoke their names. "The activity of a Galileo, a Shakespeare, a Beethoven has nothing in common with that of a Tyndall, a Victor Hugo, or a Wagner; just as the Holy Father would deny all relationship with the Orthodox popes" (What shall we do?)
  2. For that matter, he wished to leave before the end of the first act. "For me the question was settled. I had no more doubt. There was nothing to be expected of an author capable of imagining scenes like these. One could affirm beforehand that he could never write anything that was not evil."
  3. In order to make a selection from the French poets of the new schools he conceived the admirable idea of "copying, in each volume, the verses printed on page 28!"
  4. Shakespeare, 1903. The book was written on the occasion of an article by Ernest Crosby upon Shakespeare and the Working Classes.