Page:Rolland Life of Tolstoy.djvu/19

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heroes of the Napoleonic struggle, Decembrists, and political exiles. This inheritance included family traditions; old memories to which Tolstoy was indebted for some of the most original types in his War and Peace; there was the old Prince Bolkonsky, his maternal grandfather, Voltairian, despotic, a belated representative of the aristocracy of the days of Catherine II.; Prince Nikolas Grigorovitch Volkonsky, a cousin of his mother, who was wounded at Austerlitz, and, like Prince Andrei, was carried off the field of battle under the eyes of Napoleon; his father, who had some of the characteristics of Nicolas Rostoff;[1] and his mother, the Princess Marie, the ugly, charming woman with the beautiful eyes, whose goodness illumines the pages of War and Peace.

He scarcely knew his parents. Those delightful narratives, Childhood and Youth, have, therefore, but little authenticity; for the writer's mother died when he was not yet two years of age. He, therefore, was unable to recall the beloved face which the little Nikolas Irtenieff evoked beyond a veil of tears: a face with a luminous smile, which radiated gladness...

"Ah! if in difficult moments I could only see that smile, I should not know what sorrow is."[2]

Yet she doubtless endowed him with her own absolute candour, her indifference to opinion, and

  1. He also fought in the Napoleonic campaigns, and was a prisoner in France during the years 1814-15.
  2. Childhood, chap. ii.