Page:Rolland Life of Tolstoy.djvu/175

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

play, whether Tolstoy's faith and his love of the people ever caused him to idealise the people or betray the truth.

Tolstoy, so awkward in most of his dramatic essays,[1] has here attained to mastery. The characters and the action, are handled with ease; the coxcomb Nikita, the sensual, headstrong passion of Anissia, the cynical good-humour of the old woman, Matrena, who gloats maternally over the adultery of her son, and the sanctity of the old stammering Hakim—God inhabiting a ridiculous body. Then comes the fall of Nikita, weak and without real evil, but fettered by his sin; falling to the depths of crime in spite of his efforts to check himself on the dreadful declivity; but his mother and his wife drag him downward. . . .

"The peasants aren't worth much. . . . But the babas! The women! They are wild animals . . . they are afraid of nothing! . . . Sisters, there are

  1. The love of the theatre came to him somewhat late in life. It was a discovery of his, and he made this discovery during the winter of 1869–70. According to his custom, he was at once afire with enthusiasm.

    "All this winter I have busied myself exclusively with the drama; and, as always happens to men who have never, up to the age of forty, thought about such or such a subject, when they suddenly turn their attention to this neglected subject, it seems to them that they perceive a number of new and wonderful things. . . . I have read Shakespeare, Goethe, Pushkin, Gogol, and Molière. . . . I want to read Sophocles and Euripides. . . . I have kept my bed a long time, being unwell—and when I am unwell a host of comic or dramatic characters begin to struggle for life within me . . . and they do it with much success."—Letters to Fet, February 17–21, 1870 (Further Letters).