Page:Rolland Life of Tolstoy.djvu/65

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CHAPTER VI

ST. PETERSBURG

When, once issued from this hell, where for a year he had touched the extreme of the passions, vanities, and sorrows of humanity, Tolstoy found himself, in November, 1855, amidst the men of letters of St. Petersburg, they inspired him with a feeling of disdain and disillusion. They seemed to him entirely mean, ill-natured, and untruthful. These men, who appeared in the distance to wear the halo of art—even Tourgenev, whom he had admired, and to whom he had but lately dedicated The Woodcutters—even he, seen close at hand, had bitterly disappointed him. A portrait of 1856 represents him in the midst of them: Tourgenev, Gontcharov, Ostrovsky, Grigorovitch, Droujinine. He strikes one, in the free-and-easy atmosphere of the others, by reason of his hard, ascetic air, his bony head, his lined cheeks, his rigidly folded arms. Standing upright, in uniform, behind these men of letters, he has the appearance, as Suarès has wittily said, "rather of mounting guard over these gentry than of making one of their company;