Popular Science Monthly/Volume 32/December 1887/Tolstoi's Astronomy

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Editor Popular Science Monthly:

Sir: The great Russian novelist, Count Leo Tolstoi, in his powerful story, "Anna Karenina," makes a curious mistake in describing the phenomena of the heavens, which will do to put with those you have noted in regard to the moon. After describing with great beauty and fidelity to nature a spring day, he says (page 176, Crowell's edition. New York):

"It grew darker and darker. Venus, with silvery light, shone out in the west; and in the east Arcturus gleamed with his sombre, reddish fire. At intervals Levin saw the Great Bear. No more snipe appeared; but Levin resolved to wait until Venus, which was visible through the branches of his birch-tree, rose clear above the hills on the horizon, and till the Great Bear was entirely visible. The star had passed beyond the birch-trees, and the Wain of the Bear was shining out clear in the sky," etc.

Venus, when seen in the west as evening star, would, on the same evening, sink lower instead of rising higher. It is curious that Count Tolstoi, who is in general an accurate observer of Nature, and who shows, in this very passage, that he has watched the heavens on spring evenings, should make such a mistake. He has confused the apparent and real motions of Venus evidently.

Eliza A. Bowen.
September 20, 1887.