Page:Rolland Life of Tolstoy.djvu/60

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

death of Gogol, so little has remained in Russian letters. . . . This truth which you bring to our art is something quite novel with us. I have only one fear: lest the times, and the cowardice of life, the deafness and dumbness of all that surrounds us, may make of you what it has made of most of us—lest it may kill the energy in you."[1]

Nothing of the kind was to be feared. The times, which waste the energies of ordinary men, only tempered those of Tolstoy. Yet for a moment the trials of his country and the capture of Sebastopol aroused a feeling of regret for his perhaps too unfeeling frankness, together with a feeling of sorrowful affection.

In his third narrative—Sebastopol in August, 1855—while describing a group of officers playing cards and quarrelling, he interrupts himself to say:

"But let us drop the curtain quickly over this picture. To-morrow—perhaps to-day—each of these men will go cheerfully to meet his death. In the depths of the soul of each there smoulders the spark of nobility which will make him a hero."

Although this shame detracts in no wise from the forcefulness and realism of the narrative, the choice of characters shows plainly enough where lie the sympathies of the writer. The epic of Malakoff and its heroic fall is told as affecting two rare and touching figures: two brothers, of whom the elder, Kozeltoff, has some of the characteristics of Tolstoy. Who can forget the younger, the ensign

  1. September 2, 1855.