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Full text of "Tolstoi as man and artist, with an essay on Dostoïevski"

TOLSTOI AS MAX AND ARTIST 




WORKS BY MEREJK.OWSK.I 

THE DEATH OF THE GODS 

Crown 8vo, 6s. 

*' He is the latest of the Russian novelists, a worthy 
successor to Tolstoi and Dosto'/evski." W. L. COURTNEY, 
in the The Daily Telegraph. 

The Daily Chronicle says " Here, in the enthusiasm of 
reading, we are ready to admit another to the select circle 
of great historical novels." 

THE FORERUNNER 

The Romance of Leonardo da Vinci 
Crown 8vo, 6s. 

" A vry powerful piece of work, standing higher above 
the level of contemporary fiction than it would be easy to 
say." Spectator. 

" One of those books which takes the reader by assault ; 
one feels the impulsion of a vivid personality at the back of 
it all." Academy. 




TOLSTOI AS MAN 
AND ARTIST 

WITH AN ESSAY ON 
DOSTOIEVSKI 



<w '. - v * ~ * v T ^W. ^r 9 \ 

By DMITRI MEREJKOWSKI 

AUTHOR OF " THE DEATH OF THE GODS " AND 
"THE FORERUNNER" (THE KOMANCE OF 

LEONARDO DA VINCl) 



WESTMINSTER 
ARCHIBALD CONSTABLE tf CO LTD 

2 WHITEHALL GARDENS 
1902 






BUTLER & TANNER, 

THE SELWOOD PRINTING WORKS, 

FROME, AND LONDON. 




33 *S 




LIFE OF TOLSTOI 



1828 Born August 28 

1843 Went to Kazan University 

1851 Enlisted in the Artillery and went to the Caucasus 

1852 Published Childhood, A Landlord's Morning, The Invaders, The 

Cossacks (a novel) 

1854 Published Boyhood 

1855 Became Divisional Commander in the Army 
1854-1856 Published Sevastopol Sketches, after serving in the war 

1855 Published Youth 

1857 Visited Germany, France, Italy, and England, after resigning his 

commission 
Published Memoirs oj Prince Nekliudofi (Albert : Lucerne) 

1859 Published The Three Deaths (an allegorical story), Family Happiness 

(a novel) 

1860 His brother Nicholas dies in Tolstoi's arms. The long novel War 

and Peace is begun 

1861 Renewed rupture with Ivan Turgenieff. The Story of a Horse is 

published 

1862 Married Miss Behrs (he, thirty-four, she, eighteen years old) 
1863-1878 The Decembrists (published in fragments) 

1864-1869 Published War and Peace (his chief novel) written at Yasnaya Poliana 

1869 Published A Prisoner in the Caucasus ; Stories and Translations for 

Children 

1870 Learned Greek. Spent six weeks in the Bashkir Steppes 

1873 Described the Samara famine in newspaper articles. Began Anna 

Karenina 

1873-1876 Published Anna Karenina (his second masterpiece) 
1879-1882 Published My Confession 
1880-1881 Published, in Russian, at Geneva, a Criticism of Greek Orthodox 

Theology 

1880-1882 Published The Gospels Translated, Compared, and Harmonised 
1881 Published What Men Live By (folk-tale) 
1884 Published (abroad) My Religion 

1884 Published What's to be Done 
1884-1886 Published The Death of Ivan llyitch 

1885 Published folk tales, such as The Candle, The Two Pilgrims, Ivan 

the Fool, The Long Exile, etc. 

1886 Published folk legends, The Three Old Men, etc. 
Published The Power of Darkness (a play) 

1887 Published Life 

1888 Published Work While You Have the Light 

1889 Published The Kreuzer Sonata 

Published The Frtiits of Enlightenment (a comedy) 

1892 Deposited his Memoirs and Diaries in the Rumiantzoft Museum, 

Moscow 

1893 Published The Kingdom of God is Within You 

1894 Wrote a preface to Guy de Maupassant's work. 

Guy de Maupassant and the Art of Fiction 

1895 Wrote M 'aster and Man 

1898 Published his treatise on /Esthetics, What is Art ? 
1902 Serious illness at Yalta 



Eng. trans. (1898) 



Note. For a fuller list of dates, see Mr. G. 
(Fibber Unwin, 1898). Ed. 



H. Ferris' admirable study, Leo Tohtei 



LIFE OF DOSTOlEVSKI 

1821 Born (October) in Moscow, the son of a surgeon, in a hospital for the 
poor 

1843 Left the Military School of Engineering as a sub-lieutenant , 

1844 Obtained his discharge from military service to devote himself to 

literature 

1846 Wrote Poor Folk {at the age of twenty-four), a remarkable psycho- 
logical novel 

1849 (April 23). Arrested, with thirty-three others, for Fourierism, as an 
opponent of marriage and property 

1849 (Dec. 22). Reprieved, when at the scaffold 

1849-1859 Wrote nothing. Spent four years at hard labour in Siberia, and four 
years in service in the ranks 

1858 Relumed from Siberia to preach the morality of the "divine spark" 
even in the pariah, and the Christian " morality of the slave " : of 
pure unselfishness. He brought back from Siberia a young wife 
the widow of a prisoner 

1860 Published The Injured and Oppressed (an inferior novel). Became 
contributor to various Slavophile newspapers 

1862 Published Recollections of the House of the Dead (a masterpiece, 
describing his exile) 

1865 Falls into the direst poverty. Loses his first wife, his brother, and 

child ; and escapes abroad to avoid imprisonment for debt. 
Visits Florence and Baden-Baden 

1866 Published Crime and Punishment ; a great picture of the poorer 

classes in Russian society, teaching the possibility of preserving 

purity of soul under any circumstances. His penury continues 
1868 Wrote The Idiot 
1870 Began to write The Brothers F.aramazov, a great psychological novel, 

of which the first part only, in four volumes, has been finished. 
1873 Wrote The Possessed 
1873 Published An Author's Note Book. He spent his remaining years in 

comparative comfort in St. Petersburg 

1880 Delivered a great speech on the future of Russia, on the occasion of 

the unveiling of a monument to Pouchkine 

1881 Died, and was followed to the grave by forty thousand people. 



PART FIRST 

Tolstoi as Man and Artist, with an 
Essay on Dostoi'evski 



CHAPTER I 

IN the case of both Tolstoi and Dostoievski, but 
especially in the case of Tolstoi, their works are 
so bound up with their lives, with the personality 
of each author, that we cannot speak of the one 
without the other. Before studying them as artists, 
thinkers, or preachers, we must know what manner 
of men they are. 

In Russian society, and to some extent among 
critics, the opinion has taken root that about 1878, 
and in the early years of the next decade, there 
took place in Tolstoi a deep-seated moral and re- 
ligious change ; a change which radically trans- 
formed not only the whole of his own life, but also 
his intellectual and literary activity, and as it were 
snapped his existence into halves. In the first 
period, people say, he was only a great writer, 
perhaps too a great man, but at any rate a man 
of this world with human and Russian passions, 
grievances, doubts, and foibles ; in the second he 
shook off all the trammels of historical life and 
culture. Some say that he is a Christian champion, 
others an atheist, others still that he is a fanatic, 
a fourth party that he is a sage who has attained 
the highest moral illumination, and, like Socrates, 

3 




TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

Buddha, and Confucius, become the founder of a 

new religion. 

I Tolstoi himself, in his Confession written in 1879, 

confirms, and as it were insists on, the unity, un- 

changeableness, and finality of this new religious 

birth. 

" Five years ago something very curious began 
to take place in me : I began to experience at first 
times of mental vacuity, of cessation of life, as if 
I did not know how I was to live or what I was to 
do. These suspensions of life always found ex- 
pression in the same problem, ' Why am I here ? ' 
and then, ' What next ? 3 I had lived and lived, 
and gone on and on till I had drawn near a precipice : 
I saw clearly that before me there lay nothing but 
destruction. With all my might I endeavoured to 
escape from this life. And suddenly I, a happy 
man, began to hide my bootlaces, that I might not 
hang myself between the wardrobes in my room 
when undressing alone at night ; and, ceased to take 
a gun with me out shooting, so as to avoid tempta- 
tion by these two means of freeing myself of life." 

From this suicidal despair he was saved, as he 
conjectures, by becoming friendly with simple be- 
lieving folk, with the labouring classes. " I lived 
in this way, that is to say in communion with the 
people, for two years ; and a change took place in 
me. What befel me was that the life of our class 
the wealthy and cultured not only became re- 
pulsive to me, but lost all significance. All our 
actions, our judgments, science and art itself, ap- 
peared to me in a new light. I realized that it was 
all self-indulgence, that it was useless to look for 

4 

f 






TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

any meaning in it. I hated myself and acknow- 
ledged the truth. Now it had all become clear to 



me.' 



The most guileless, and therefore most valuable 
and trustworthy of the biographers of Tolstoi, his 
wife's brother, S. A. Bers, in his Reminiscences, also 
speaks of this " transformation ' Curing this decade 
of his life, which seemed to " wholly alter the mental 
activity and consciousness of Leo Nicolaievich." 

" The transformation of his personality which has 
taken place in the last decade is in the truest sense 
entire and radical. Not only did it change his life 
and his attitude towards mankind and all living 
things, but his whole way of thinking. Leo became 
throughout his being the incarnate idea of love 
for his neighbour." 

As conclusive is the testimony of his wife, the 
Countess : ' If you could know and hear dear Leo 
now ! " she wrote to her brother early in 1881. " He 
is greatly changed. He has become a Christian, 
and a most sincere and earnest one." 

It would be difficult to doubt such forcible and 
reliable testimony, even if we had not at command 
a still more trustworthy source, his own artistic 
creations, which in reality from the first to the last 
are nothing but one vast diary of fifty years, one 
endless and minute " confession." In the literature 
of all ages and nations there can scarcely be found 
another writer who has laid bare the private, per- 
sonal, and sometimes delicate aspects of his own 
life with such noble and unreserved candour. He 
seems to have told us everything that he had to tell, 
and we know all about him that he knows of himself. 

5 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

It is impossible not to have recourse to this 
artistic, and consequently unintentional and un- 
forced confession, if we wish to ascertain the real 
significance of the religious transformation that 
took place in him at the age of fifty, that is, in the 
part of his life immediately preceding old age. 

In his first work, Childhood, Boyhood, and Youth, 
a book written when he was twenty, he gives us 
his still fresh recollections from the age of fourteen 
to fifteen. 

" In the remainder of the year, during which I led 
a solitary and self-centred moral existence, all 
abstract questions as to the destiny of man, a future 
life and the immortality of the soul, already planted 
themselves before me : and my feeble and childish 
intelligence struggled with all the ardour of inex- 
perience to solve those questions, the putting of 
which constitutes the highest task which the mind 
of man can set itself." 

Once on a spring morning, when he was helping 
the servants to put out the garden frames, he felt 
of a sudden the joy and contentment of Christian 
self-sacrifice. 

" I felt the desire to mortify myself in doing this 
service to Nicolas. ' How foolish I was before, how 
good and happy I might have been, and may be for 
the future ! ' I said to myself. ' I must at once, at 
once, this very minute, become another man, and 
begin to lead a new life. ' 3 

To set to rights all mankind, to exterminate all 
the vices and miseries, began to seem to him " a 
thing worth doing." And he decided " to write 
down for himself all through his life the tale of his 

6 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

duties and occupations, to set forth on paper the 
object of his existence, and the rules by which he 
would always and invariably act." He at once went 
upstairs to his room, got a sheet of writing paper, 
ruled it, and having defined his duties towards 
himself, his neighbour, and God, began to write. 

With a mournful, sensitive, and yet superficial 
mockery, as if not suspecting all the depth and 
morbidity of what was passing in his own soul, he 
proceeds to recount the intellectual life which then, 
in the phrase of the Apostle James, became " double- 
minded in him." The impression conveyed is a 
strange one, as if there were in him two hearts, two 
beings. The one absorbed in Christian thoughts of 
death, who, to inure himself to suffering " in spite 
of terrible pain, held out for five minutes at arm's 
length the massive lexicons of Tatishchev ; or went 
into the pantry and with a rope lashed his bare back 
so hard that tears streamed involuntarily down his 
face." The other self, impelled by the same 
thoughts of death, would suddenly remember that 
death was awaiting him every hour, every minute ; 
and determine to give up all study and " for three 
days do nothing but lie abed and revel in reading 
novels and eating gingerbread and Kronov honey, 
which he bought with his last few pence." The one 
Leo Tolstoi, self-conscious, good and weak, controls 
himself, repents, and cultivates loathing of himself 
and his vices ; the other, unconscious, wicked, and 
violent, " fancies himself a great man, who has dis- 
covered for the welfare of all mankind new truths, 
and with a proud consciousness of his own merit 
looks down on other mortals," finding an especial, 

7 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

subtle, and bitter-sweet gratification of pride even 
in self -con tempt, humiliation, and self -chastisement. 

In telling us these boyish thoughts, he concludes 
that at the root of them were four feelings : ' the 
first, love for an imaginary woman, or the gratifica- 
tion of the flesh " ; the second, " the love of love ' 
of mortals, i.e. pride or the gratification of the 
spirit ; the third, the hope of unwonted and glorious 
fortune, this special passion being so powerful and 
firmly rooted that it grew to be a madness ; and 
the fourth, repulsion for myself and remorse." 

But in reality these are not four feelings, but two 
for the first three amount to one i.e. love for 
S2lf, for the body, for the physical life of his own 
" ego " : the other, loathing or hatred for himself, 
is not love of others or of God, but simply self- 
hatred. In both cases the primary cause and link 
between these two apparently conflicting feelings 
is the " ego " either asserted to the utmost or denied 
|jto the utmost. All begins and ends with self. 
Neither love nor hatred can break through the en- 
circling wall. 

So we come to the question, which of the two 
combined and blended Tolstois is the more real, 
sincere, and lasting the one that lashes himself 
with a rope on the bare back, or the one that, in 
Epicurean fashion, gobbles gingerbread and Kronov 
honey, lulling himself with the thought of death, 
that everything under the sun is vanity of vanities 
and vexation of spirit, that better is a live dog than 
a dead lion ? Is it the one that loves, or the one that 
hates himself ? He who begins all his thoughts, 
feelings, and aspirations in a devout Christian way, 

8 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 



or he who weakly gives them up to finish his days 
like a heathen ? Or is it perhaps and this would 
be for him the more terrible conclusion that both 
alike are real, both sincere, and both to last as long 
as the breath in his body ? In any case he judges 
himself and his boyish thoughts, which he calls 
" lucubrations," with more severity and justice in 
this first of his books than in the sequel he ever does 
again, even in the famous and hotly repentant self- 
scourgings of the Confession. 

" From all this heavy moral travail," he says, " I 
carried away nothing but an ingenious mind, which 
weakened in me the power of the will, together with 
a habit of constant moral introspection which de- 
stroyed the freshness of feeling and the clearness of 
judgment. A natural bent towards abstract specu- 
lation had so greatly and abnormally developed self- 
consciousness that often, when I began considering 
some simple matter, I fell into an unescapable round 
of analysis of my own thoughts ; I gave no more 
heed to the question before me, but pondered over 
my own reasoning. When I asked myself of what 
I was thinking, I answered, Thinking over my 
methods of thinking. And again, Of what am I 
thinking ? I think I am thinking of what I am 
thinking, and so on. Dialectic took the place of 
reasoning." 

In reference to his first failure with " Rules of 
Life," when, meaning to rule the paper, and using 
instead of the ruler, which he could not find, a Latin 
dictionary, he smeared the pages with a long drawn 
smudge, he remarks plaintively, " Why is all so 
fair and clear in the mind, yet comes out so shape- 

9 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

lessly on paper and in life, when I attempt to put 
theory into practice ? ' Is this only the helpless- 
ness of a childish intelligence, of a childish conscience, 
which will grow with time to full consciousness and 
maturity ? Scarcely so. At any rate, even when 
he wrote Childhood and Boyhood as a young man of 
twenty-four, he realized that this immaturity of 
Jiis was independent of age, and that its ineffaceable 
stamp would remain on him all through life. ; I 
am convinced of one thing, that if I am fated to live 
to an advanced age and my recital catches up my 
years, as an old man of seventy I shall dream in just 
as childishly unpractical a way as I do now." 

In these calm and simple words there is more 
Christian resignation, if we can ever speak of such 
a trait in Tolstoi, than in all his subsequent loud- 
voiced and passionate professions of repentance. 
Is it not easier to say of oneself in the face of the 
world, as he afterwards did, " I am a parasite, a flea, 
a prodigal, a thief, and a murderer," than in calm 
self-consciousness to acknowledge the actual limits 
of one's powers, to say, " I am still just such a child 
in my old man's thought as I was in my boyish 
reflection. In spite of all the boundless force of 
artistic genius that is in me, in my searchings for 
God I am not a leader, a prophet, the founder of a 
new religion, but just such a weak, morbidly dual 
man as are all the men of my time ? " 

The Squire's Morning, next in the chronological 
order of his productions, which fully corresponds to 
the actual order of his life, is a sort of sequel or con- 
tinuation of his huge journal. Prince Dmitri 
Nekhliudov is none other than Nicolai Irteniev, the 

10 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

hero of Childhood, Boyhood, and Youth, after leaving 
the University before the end of his course, where he 
realized the vanity of all human knowledge, and 
settled in a village as its squire in order to help the 
common people. In Nekhliudov there takes place 
just such a moral and religious transformation as in 
Irteniev. " All that I knew is foolishness, and all 
that I believed and loved," he says to himself. 
* Lqve and self-sacrifice are the only true happiness, 
the only kind of happiness that is independent of 
circumstance." 

Reality, however, does not satisfy him. " Where 
are these dreams ? " he reflects. " It is more than 
a year that I have been seeking for happiness on this 
path, and what have I found ? True I sometimes 
feel that I am self -con ten ted, but it is a barren and 
merely intellectual satisfaction." 

Nekhliudov is forced to the conclusion that for 
all his wish he does not know how to do good to his 
fellow men. And the peasants show their suspicion 
of the Christian sentiments of the bar inc. The only 
outcome of this unsuccessful, and in reality, childish 
attempt to combine the virtues of a Lord Bountiful 
with those of the Gospel is a painful and fruitless 
< eflyy of the -young peasant Iliushka, and that, not of 
his spiritual, but his bodily force, his health, his 
freshness, the unruffled slumber of his mind and 
conscience. We know from the biography of Tolstoi 
that after the failure of his Nekhliudov-like experi- 
ment with the tenants of Yasnaia Poliana, being 
disappointed as to his capabilities as a country 
squire, he quitted his property, and went to the 
Caucasus, where he entered the Artillery as a cadet 

II 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

inspired by romantic dreams of military glory, and 
with the charms of the primitive life of the moun- 
taineers, like Olenine, the hero of The Cossacks. 

* CHfc*^* *^*^ 

Exactly like Irteniev and Nekhliudov, Olenine is 
conscious that he is boundlessly free. This is the 
characteristic liberty of the young and wealthy 
Russian gentleman of the forties, for whom there are 
neither physical nor moral restraints. He could do 
anything ; he lacked nothing he wanted, and 
nothing curbed his impulses. He had neither 
family, nor country, nor religion, nor unsatisfied 
wants. He believed in nothing, he acknowledged 
nothing. He loved thus far himself alone, and could 
not fail so to do, for he expected goodness of nobody 
else, and had not yet had time to become thoroughly 
disenchanted with himself. 

But although he believes in nothing, and owns no 
superior ; though he loves himself only, and that 
with a simple and childish cynicism, this student, 
still at his books, this cadet of Artillery, is already 
making his " philosophical discoveries," and setting 
his primitive life among the Cossacks of the ' Sta- 
nitsa ' (settlement, military colony) over against 
the inferior civilized life of the rest of mankind. 

The deceptions in which he had hitherto lived, 
and which even then had pained him, and which now 
he began to feel inexpressibly contemptible and 
ridiculous, seemed clearly demonstrated to his mind. 
' How pitiable, how feeble, you appear to me ! ' 
he writes to his Moscow friends. " You do not know 
what happiness is, or in what life consists ! You 
want for once to experience natural life in all its 
unadulterated glory. You want to see and under- 

12 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

stand what here I see every day before me : the 
eternal inaccessible snow of the mountains, the 
majesty of woman in all her primitive beauty, fresh 
as when she came from the hands of her Creator. 
Then it will flash on you which of us is ruining him- 
self, which lives in the truth or in falsehood, you or 
I. If only you knew how pitiful, how paltry all your 
delusions seem to me ! ' 

' Men live as Nature lives : they die, are born, 
couple themselves, again fructify, fight, drink, eat, 
enjoy themselves, and die again ; and there are no 
conditions except those invariable ones which Nature 
has imposed on the sun, the grass, the animals, the 
trees. They have no other laws. Happiness is to 
be one with Nature." 

This primitive philosophy is incarnated in the 
real hero of the story, the old Cossack, Uncle Ye- 
roshka, one of the finest and most perfect creations 
of Tolstoi, a character who enables us to look into 
the darkest and most secret depth of the author's 
being ; a depth, perhaps, never laid bare to his own 
consciousness. Here for the first, and, it would 
seem, the last time, with artistically perfect and 
deliberate clearness, stands out one of the two 
persons always at issue within him, the person that 
is always acting, but saying little of himself, and 
still less realizing himself. This familiar, and yet 
unfamiliar, this unfathomed and unillumined being 
within Tolstoi, seems to writhe and dart in the 
character of this giant, who, with the child-like 
eyes, an old man's deep and weary wrinkles, and 
a young man's muscles, bears about him a strong 
savour of new wine, brandy, powder, and ebullient 

13 

> 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

blood ; I refer to Uncle Yeroshka. His life, like 
the life of the half-savage Chechenetses, is replete 
with " love of free independence, idleness, plunder, 
and war." He says of himself with simple pride, 
' I am a fine fellow, a drunkard, a thief, and a 






hunter. A merry man with women ; I love them all, 



I -I, Yeroshka ! " 

Here we have the unconscious Russian cynic 
philosopher. He feels himself as boundlessly free 
as the Russian barine Olenine. He too respects 
nothing, and believes in nothing. H_liys_Qutside 
human laws, beyond good or evil. Tartar Mullahs 
and Russian Old Believers awake in him the like 
calm and contemptuous jibes. " To my mind it 
is all the same. God made all for the delight of 
man. There is no fault in anything. Take example 
of the animals. They live alike in Tartar thickets 
and in ours. What God bestows, that men gather. 
But our people say that instead of enjoying this 
freedom we are to lick saucepans. I think that 
everything is alike a cheat. You die, and the grass 
grows : that is all that's real." 

He has the old pre-human sagacity, the clear- 
eyed and bottomless, yet morbid soul of the Wood- 
god, half-divine, half-beast, Faun or Satyr. He can 
be, in his own way, good and tender. He loves all 
that lives, all of God's creatures. And this love has 
a sort of flavour of Christianity about it, perhaps 
because in the utmost unconscious depth of hea- 
thenism there is the germ of the future change to 
Christianity, the organic germ of Dionysus of self- 
abnegation, self -elimination, the fusion of man with 
the God Pan, the Father of all being. We must not, 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

however, forget the historical, and still less the 
psychological gulf that separates this first wild, and 
if we may say, heathenish Christianity from the 
later civilized Christian spirit. If they approach 
one another, it is in such unlikely fashion as 
tremes sometimes meet. 

Uncle Yeroshka drives away the night-moths 
which flutter over the flickering fire of the candle, 
and fall into it. 

" ' Fool, fool ! Where are you flying to ? Fool, 
fool ! ' He rose, and with his great palm began to 
drive the moths away." 

Does not the tender smile of Uncle Yeroshka at 
this moment recall that of St. Francis of Assisi ? 
He has a touch of hot blood in him too, a touch not 
merely animal, but human, because on the con- 
science of the old " thief " there is, after all, no 
murder. Like Nature, he is at once merciful and 
crueL He himself does not feel or suspect this 
anomaly. That which in the sequel curdles off into 
evil and good, in him is as yet blended in a primitive, 
unconscious harmony. 

Olenine, too, in his own heart, which so eagerly 
desires to turn to Christianity, finds inborn in him 
an echo of Uncle Yeroshka's cynical philosophy. In 
the stillness of the noon hush, in the depths of the 
southern forest, with its awe-striking superfluity of 
life, he suddenly learns an unchristian self-abnega- 
tion, a half-animal, half-godlike fusion with Nature, 
the holy but savage love of Fauns and Satyrs, which 
seems to men madness, full of enthusiasm and the 
terror which the ancients called " panic," born of 
the God of the universe. 

15 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

" And suddenly on Olenine there came such a 
strange feeling of causeless happiness in his love for 
the All, that he, from old childish habit, began to 
cross himself, and mutter thanks to some one." As 
he listens to the buzzing of the gnats, Olenine thinks, 
" Each of them is just such a separate Dmitri 
Olenine as I myself am." And it became clear to 
him that he was in no wise a Russian gentleman, a 
member of Moscow society, the friend and relative 
of such-an-one or so-and-so, but simply just such 
a gnat, or just such a pheasant, or deer, as those 
that at the moment had their being about him. 
" Like them and Uncle Yeroshka I shall live awhile 
and die. And what he says is true : ' only the grass 
will grow better? 

But he also is twy-natured, and the other Olenine, 
Irteniev, like Nekhliudov, keeps on making the 
assertion, " Love is self-sacrifice ! It is not enough 
to live for oneself ; one must live too for others." 
He tries to reconcile the unearthly love of the Wood- 
god and Satyr, with the modest, profitable, and 
reasonable Christian virtues. He sacrifices his own 
love for Mariana, in favour of Lukashka the Cossack. 
But nothing comes of this sacrifice, any more than 
of Irteniev's rules of life, or Nekhliudov's seigneu- 
rial Christianity. 

" I am not to blame for beginning to love," is 
the startling confession that breaks from him in a 
moment of desperation ; " I have saved myself from 
my love by self-sacrifice ; I have pictured to myself 
delight in the love of Lukashka the Cossack for 
Mariana, and I have only excited my passion and 
jealousy. I have no will of my own, but some 

16 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

elemental force loves her through me, all God's 
world, all Nature forces this love into my soul, and 
bids me love. I wrote formerly of my new (that is, 
my Christian) convictions. No one can know with 
what trouble they were worked out in me, with what 
joy I recognized them, and saw a new path opened 
to me in life. There is nothing in me dearer than 
these convictions, nor has been. Well, love came, 
and they exist no longer, nor do I regret them. 
Even to understand that I could value such a one- 
sided, cold, reasoning frame of mind is difficult for 
me. Beauty came, and scattered in the dust all the 
pyramidal edifice of my inner life. And I have no 
regrets for what has vanished. Self-denial is ah 
nonsense. It is all pride, an escape from merited 
misery, a refuge from envy of the happiness of 
others. To live for others, to do good ! Why should 
I, when in my soul there is only love for myself ? ' 
' Only love for himself " : in that all begins and 
ends. Love or hatred for self, for self only ; such are 
the two main and sole axes, sometimes latent, 
sometimes manifest, on which all turns, all moves 
in the first, and perhaps most sincere of Leo Tolstoi's 
books. And is it only in the first ? 




CHAPTER II 

OLENINE the cadet dreams of becoming A.D.C. We 
know that an artillery cadet, Count L. N. Tolstoi, 
also dreamed of being A.D.C. and getting the 
Cross of St. George. " When serving in the Cau- 
casus," says Bers, " Leo passionately desired to get 
the Cross of St. George." At the commencement of 
the Crimean campaign he was at first before Silistria, 
but afterwards went to Sevastopol, where he was 
under fire for three 'days and nights in the Fourth 
Bastion, and took part in the assault, displaying 
great valour .[ The soldierly ambition of those days 
he afterwards expressed with his usual candour in 
the secret thoughts of one of his favourite heroes, 
Prince Andrei Volkonski, in Peace and War, making 
him dream of becoming a Russian Napoleon. J 

" If I desire this, desire glory," says the Prince 
to himself before the battle of Austerlitz, " wish 
to be known to my fellows and be loved by them, 
well, am I to blame for willing and living for this 
alone ? I will never tell any one this ; but, my Lord, 
what am I to do, if I love nothing but glory alone 
and the love of my fellows ? Death, wounds, the 
loss of my family, nothing has terrors for me. And 
however dear, however sweet, many people are to 
me father, sister, wife, for they are the dearest to 
me yet however terrible and unnatural it seems, 

18 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

I would give them all at once for a moment of 
glory of triumph over other men, for the love 
of other men towards me." 

Tolstoi was actually recommended for the deco- 
ration he so passionately desired, but he did not 
receive it, as Bers declares, " on account of the 
personal ill-will of one of his superiors." This 
failure greatly grieved him, and at the same time 
' changed his attitude towards bravery," as Bers 
further asserts with his invariable frankness. It 
was to him that Leo once confessed " his pride 
and vanity, for when after the failures of his youth, 
that is in military matters, he achieved a wide-spread 
fame as a writer, he declared to me that this fame 
was the greatest delight and happiness to him. 
In his own words, there was in him " an agreeable 
consciousness of the fact that he was at once a 
writer and an aristocrat." Sometimes he said 
jocosely, that he had not " won his way to be a 
general of artillery, but he had become a general 
in literature." 

No doubt some of the coarseness and want of 
restraint in this admission is not to be ascribed to 
Tolstoi : in all probability, even in joke and familiar 
intercourse, he managed to express himself more 
delicately and modestly. But, on the other hand, 
we need to see how deep was the simple and, as it 
were, unconscious devotion of Bers to his great 
kinsman in order to realize how totally incapable 
he was of any malicious or satirical fabrication. He 
writes his life of Tolstoi in all simplicity of heart 
like the compilers of ancient fairy tales ; and 
though, in truth, Bers' ncCiveU is worse at times 

19 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

for his hero than subtlety or irony, to the inquirer 
it is perhaps more valuable than the highest in- 
telligence. 

However this may be, having got sick of war 
and warlike courage, on which he afterwards took 
such immortal and pitiless literary revenge, he re- 
tired as lieutenant of artillery, and went first to 
St. Petersburg and then abroad. " St. Petersburg," 
remarks Bers, " never pleased him. Neither by hook 
nor by crook could he make a show in the highest 
circles there ; he had, of course, neither official 
career nor large fortune, and his great fame as a 
writer was not yet achieved." 

Coming back from abroad in the year of the 
liberation of the serfs, Tolstoi found employment as 
communal arbitrator, and also undertook to teach 
in the village school at Yasnaia Poliana. For a 
time he contemplated devoting his whole life to 
this work, and finding lasting content in it. But 
little by little he got tired of the school, as he had 
of all his former attempts to do good to his fellows. 
And at last he got so far as to see " something 
faulty and wrong," as he himself calls it, in his 
relations to the children. " It seemed to me that 
I was corrupting the pure and primitive souls of 
the little peasants. I vaguely felt remorse for a 
sort of sacrilege. I remembered the children who are 
made by idle and corrupt old men to contort them- 
selves and represent voluptuous scenes in order to 
excite their worn out and jaded imagination. 

The remorse, as always in his case, was sincere, 
but unbridled and morbidly excessive. From his 
school diaries of that period one thing at least is 

20 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

clear, that he really was not as much concerned 
about the children as about himself. When he 
made Fedka and Senka write compositions, which 
he afterwards, in his journal of pedagogy, declared 
more perfect than his own works, or Pushkin's, 
or Goethe's, he made on the minds of the children 
experiments with his own intelligence, that were, 
perhaps, too much in his own interest and not 
without danger for them. He admired, like some 
new Narcissus, his own reflection in the children's 
ideas, as in the mirror of a deep and virgin spring. 
He, the teacher, so terribly, so fatally influential, 

loved in the children himself and himself alone. 

I 

Things seemed to go well," he admits in his 
Confession, " but I felt that I was not wholly sound 
mentally, and this could not go on long." A fresh 
transformation was already in process in him. 4 1 
felt ill," he said, " more spiritually than physically, 
threw up everything, and went off to the Steppes, 
to the Bashkirs, to drink koumiss, and live the 
life of an animal." 

When he came back he married Sophia Andreevna 
Bers. All his former attempts to settle in life, his 
Nekhliudov-like philanthropy of a country-gentle- 
manly kind, his barbaric life in the Cossack colony, 
war, the school, were only curiosity and dilettantism 
(in the widest and older sense of the word), that 
is, done for the love of the thing ; for throughout^ 
his life he has been like Uncle Yeroshka, above all, \ 
a great lover of endlessly- varied sport. But this' 
step of marriage was neither sport nor play, but 
his first business of real importance, renewing all 
things, and transfiguring them. It was a business 

21 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

to which he not only wished to devote himself, but 
actually did devote himself. He was thirty-four 
and she eighteen. Directly after their marriage 
they retreated to Yasnaia Poliana, and spent there, 
almost without a break, some twenty years in 
complete isolation, never getting tired of their 
quietude or feeling the want of anything beyond 
it. These were his best years, and in them he 
composed Peace and War and Anna Karenina, 
reaching the highest pitch and expression of his 
powers. " Her love for her husband was bound- 
less," writes the Countess's brother ; " the nearness, 
amity and mutual love of the couple were always 
a model to me, and the ideal of conjugal happiness. 
It was not without reason that her parents said 
" We could not wish our Sonia greater bliss." 

We see in the Reminiscences of Fet this Natasha 
or Kitty, one of the most faultless and perfect 
feminine types of the cultured Russian Squirearchy 
"all in white, with a huge bunch of keys at her 
belt," simple, quiet, always gay, and generally 
enceinte, for she has no less than thirteen children. 
" She seven times wrote out Peace and War, and 
at the same time that she was so working," adds 
Bers, " and went through the cares of the mistress 
of a house, even to the minutest kitchen matters, 
she found time herself to nurse, teach, and clothe 
the children, to their fifteenth year." When their 
second daughter was born the mother fell ill, so 
that she was at death's door, and after several 
attempts found herself unable to nurse the child ; 
but when she saw another woman suckling her 
daughter she wept for jealousy, suddenly dismissed 

22 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

the nurse, and caused the child to be fed with a 
bottle. * Leo found this jealousy natural, and 
was delighted at the matronly qualities of his 
wife." 

' Love of children and the bearing of children," 
the words will not seem too grandiloquent, or 
reminiscent of the old patriarchs who received 
commandment from the God of Israel, " Be fruitful 
and multiply, and replenish the earth." 

Whatever we may think of Tolstoi's domestic 
happiness, all must admit that there is in this 
connexion something solid, firm and well founded, 
if not complete. At any rate, it is a compensation, 
it has balance, and is consequently beautiful, or 
as the people would say, wholesome ; in other words, 
exhibits what is rarest nowadays in Russian Society. 
Russian life is neither vigorous and alive, nor quite 
dead. It is not wholly moribund, but only eaten 
into and maimed, as by some shameful disease, 
which lays waste the family by subtle poison. 

Cowardly, or bold, all too earnestly intent on 
the future, we are apt to rate too low the perfect 
patterns and exemplars of past times, that " come- 
liness " and " shapeliness," those clinging zoophytic 
roots of all human culture, deep seated in their 
subterranean, native animal warmth and darkness ; 
roots by which the golden-fruited tree life alone 
is fed, and in spite of all " grey theories," blooms 
for ever. To us the following outspoken, it may 
be, too outspoken words of Nicolai Rostov, in the 
Epilogue to Peace and War, seem, perhaps, cynically 
coarse and bourgeois. "It is all sentimentality 
and old wives' fables, all this good of one's neigh- 

23 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

bour ! I want our children not to be vagabonds 
on the face of the earth ; I want to secure and 
protect the existence of my family so long as I 
am alive ; that is all." 

Pierre Bezukhov looks down on Nicolai Rostov, 
fancying himself destined by means of his ' ' philo- 
sophisings " to give a new tendency to all Russian 
Society perhaps to the civlized world. Levine, 
too, like young Irteniev, considers the salvation 
of mankind " a thing that is easily accomplished." 
As he busies himself with the ordering of his 
stewardship, or in what Rostov more candidly calls 
" the ordering of his own property," Levine reflects, 
" This matter is not merely my own personal con- 
cern, but the common welfare is at stake. There 
ought to be a radical change effected in the man- 
agement of property, and particularly in the position 
of the lower classes. Instead of poverty, there 
should be general comfort ; instead of hostility, 
concord. In a word, a bloodless revolution, yet 
the greatest of revolutions, at first within the nar- 
row bounds of our district, then spreading over 
the Province, over Russia, and over the world." 
f Y et none the less both Levine and Pierre Bezukhov, 
\though they talk, do not act. They live still in 
. precisely the same manner as Nicolai Rostov says 
he himself lives. And in the Confession, Tolstoi 
lays bare with true Tolstoyan, Rostovian, or Levinian 
candour this last cynical secret of his favourite 
heroes. 

" The whole energy of my life at that time was 
centred in my family, in my children, and there- 
fore in my anxiety for the increase of the means 

24 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

of living. The striving after protection was already 
directly subordinated to the endeavour to make 
circumstances as good for my family as possible." 

He even declares that he took to authorship at 
the time, that is, when he wrote Peace and War, 
and Anna Karenina, simply as a means of improving 
his material position, and draws the moral that for 
him ' there was only one truth, that you must 
live in such a way as may be best for you and your 
family." 

When he used to come home from shooting, or 
his brief and grudging business excursions, Bers tells 
us, he never failed to express his excitement in 
the words, " If only all is right at home ! ' 

This is not Philistinism. It is of course an 
instinct immeasurably more primitive and profound. 
It is the eternal voice of Nature, the insuperable 
instinct of self-preservation, which bids the beast 
keep his lair, the bird its nest, and man kindle 
fire on a hearth. " I have been married a fort- 
night," he writes to Fet, " and am happy, and a 
new, a totally new man. Now how can I write 
you a letter ? Now there are invisible, nay, visible 
efforts to be made, and with it all I am over head 
and ears in farming, and Soniaisas deep in it as I. 
We have no steward, and she herself plays bailiff 
and keeps the accounts. I have bees and sheep, 
and a new garden, and spirit distillery." 

He is working for the purchase of the Yasnaia 
and Penzeno property, and six thousand desiatines 
of land at Samara, where he is going to form a 
stud : he is buying up about one hundred Bashkir 
mares and counting on profits from the abundance 

25 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

of milk ; means to cross them with trotters, riding 
horses, English, and other breeds. The old house- 
keeper at Yasnaia tells us of his passionate fond- 
ness for a breed of swine, a particularly fat and 
hairless kind, without a bristle and short-legged. 

He above all fell in love with his pigs, of which 
he kept three hundred head in couples, in separate 
small styes. In these the Count would not allow 
the slightest dirt. " Every day I and my assistants 
had to clean them all out, and rub the floor and 
walls. Then as he went through the piggery of 
a morning, the Count would be vastly pleased and 
shout, ' What management ! What excellent man- 
agement ! ' but Lord deliver us if ever he saw 
the slightest dirt. He would straightway fly into 
a fit of passion. The Count was a very hot-tem- 
pered master." 

Anna Seyron, who was governess to the Tolstois, 
in her jottings, Six Years with Count Tolstoi (St. 
Petersburg, 1895), a volume apparently intended 
to be spiteful, though in fact it is rather frivolous 
and clumsy, says ironically that their famous suck- 
ing pigs were " looked after like children." The 
joke is hardly a good one. What of it, if a good 
economist found time to look after his children, who, 
besides, were surrounded by Swiss, German, or Eng- 
lish bonnes, as we know, and after, inspect sucking 
pigs as well ? There is nothing despicable in farm- 
ing, any more than in the care of the body. What 
we have to notice is that on Tolstoi's property 
all is to the purpose and well ordered, one to this 
post, another to that, and this applies to his people, 
animals and plants alike. 

26 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

And even if, like Levine, he, while caring for his 
warm and sheltered lair, and looking after sucking 
pigs, consoled himself with the notion that he was 
caring for the good of mankind, and taking part in 
the slow and bloodless revolutionizing of the world, 
in sober truth, he was only following the deep and 
true instinct of animal self-preservation, what of 
that ? Pigstyes and nursery, and stud, aviaries or 
wine-presses and Soriia Andre vna's ledgers, these 
" impalpable and palpable efforts," were in con- 
formity with the dictates of Nature, the weaving 
of the nest, and a very fine nest too. Above all, 
you see here his great and simple love of life, that 
eternally childlike joy of living which there was in 
Goethe. " Leo," Bers tells us, " every day praises 
the day for its beauty, and often adds, quite in 
the spirit of the great heathen, ' How many riches 
God has ! With Him, every day is set off by some 
beauty or other.' " The wondrous dawn," he 
writes to Fet, " the bathing, the wild fruit, have 
put me in the state of mental languor which I 
love ; for two months I have not stained my hands 
with ink^br my mind with thinking. It is long 
since I have delighted in God's world a? 1 have 
this year. I stand gaping, wonderstruck, afraid 
to stir for fear of missing anything." And yet 
these were his most wearisome and terrible years, 
when he contemplated suicide, and was planning 
the Confession. 

Perhaps he was never more natural, more true 
to himself, more worthy of the brush of a great 
painter, more as God created him, than at the 
Baskhir festival which Bers describes. Through 

27 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

Mohammed Shah Romanovich notice had been given 
that Tolstoi was getting up at his place in Samara 
a steeplechase of fifty versts (thirty-four miles). 
Prizes were got ready, a bull, a horse, a rifle, a 
watch, a dressing-gown, and the like. A level 
stretch was chosen, a huge course four miles long 
was made and marked out, and posts put up on it. 
Roast sheep, and even a horse, were prepared for 
the entertainment. On the appointed day, some 
thousands of people assembled, Ural Cossacks, 
Russian peasants, Bashkirs and Kirghizes, with 
their dwellings, koumiss-kettles, and even their 
flocks. The desert Steppe, covered with feathery 
grasses, was studded with a row of tents, or huts 
of branches, and enlivened by a motley crowd. On 
a cone-shaped rise, called in the local dialect " Shish- 
ka ' (the Wen), carpets and felt were spread, and 
on these the Bashkirs seated themselves in a ring, 
with their legs tucked under them. 

In the middle of the ring a young Bashkir poured 
koumiss out of a large cauldron, and handed the 
goblet in turn to the squatting figures, a sort of 
loving cup. The feast lasted for two days, and 
was merry, but at the same time, dignified and de- 
corous, " for Leo knew," says Bers, " how to inspire 
a crowd with a respect for decency." What an 
unforgettable, antique, pastoral idyll we get in this 
feast under the sky of the waste, among the waves 
of the desert grass ! Even now, in the figure of 
Tolstoi at seventy, that harsh, material, almost 
coarse peasant visage, that figure which he him- 
self, and others have tried in vain to make appear 
that of a subdued repentant, and ethereal leader 

28 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

of modern thought, I recognize the not unfleshly 
sanctity, the comely dignity of one of the old 
patriarchs, who led their flocks and herds from 
well to well, through the desert, and rejoiced in 
their posterity, " more numerous than the sands 
of the sea." " I undertook great things," he says 
in the Confession, in the words of Ecclesiastes, " I 
built myself houses, and planted vineyards, I made 
gardens and groves, and placed in them all manner 
of fruit trees, I made myself cisterns for the water- 
ing of the groves, I got myself men-servants and 
maid-servants, and there were attendants in my 
house ; also great and small cattle ; I had more 
than all those that had been before me in Jerusalem. 
And I became great and rich, and wisdom dwelt 
with me. Whatever mine eyes desired I did not 
deny them, or grudge my heart any gladsomeness." 

One day Count Sologub said to him, "What 
a lucky man you are, my dear fellow ! Fate has 
given you every blessing of which man can dream, 
a strapping family, a good and loving wife, world- 
wide fame, health, everything."- And certainly if 
not in the things of the spirit, yet at least, out- 
wardly, his was at that time, the happiest life 
imaginable. " If a genie had come," he himself 
admits, ' and offered me the world to choose from, 
I should not have known what to choose." 

And see ! when he has reached this summit of 
the welfare attainable by mortals he looks out 
over the " evening valley " before him, as if the 
gods had at length grown envious of a too happy 
man, and were reminding him, not in the startling 
voice of misfortune or bereavement, but the low 

29 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

whisper of one of the Fates, that over him, too, 
destiny was hanging. 

He saw that he had been pursuing his life's 
journey on and on, till suddenly aware of the close- 
ness of the abyss, and that destruction yawned 
before him. He realized, like Solomon, that all 
was vanity and vexation of spirit, and that the 
wise man must die even as the fool. ; I felt terror 
at what was awaiting me, though I knew that this 
terror was more terrible than my position itself, 
but I could not patiently wait for the end. 
My horror of the darkness was too great, and I 
felt I must rid myself of it as soon as possible by 
noose or bullet." Before dwelling on this last 
turning-point of his life, the heights from which 
he began the descent to "jthe jDlains of evening,' 1 
wjnust examine the trait always as strong in him 
as the love of life, namely, its obverse, Uie^iear 
death. 



CHAPTER III 



: I AM sorry for those who attach great importance 
to the mortality of all living things, who lose them- 
selves in the contemplation of earthly insignificance. 
For is not life ours merely that we may make what 
is perishable imperishable, a task accomplished 
only when things mortal and immortal are rightly 
discerned and appraised ? " 

That is what Goethe says (Maxims and Re flee- 
tions). 

In the conclusion of Faust he refers to the same 
thought, almost in the same words, though still 
more succinctly and clearly : 

Alles vergangliche 
1st nur ein Gleichniss. 

' All that is passing is but a semblance, is only 
shadow, or symbol. We must combine," Goethe 
says, ' must value both treasures beide Schatzetf 

-must combine (wppaXkew, from which comes 
(TvpftoXov, a symbol that is, fuse, weld together, 
make one) we must fuse the idea of the non- 
enduring with that of the enduring, must, without 
abasing the transitory and the mortal, see in it 
and beyond it, what is immortal and unfleeting. 
We cannot attain what is supernal save by com- 
prehending and growing to love to the end, to 

31 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

the utmost limits, what is earthly ; not despising 
nor shrinking from the nothingness of the earthly : 
we must remember that we have no other ways 
of rising, no other stepping-stones to God, save 
" likenesses," " manifestations," and " symbols," 
not devoid of flesh and blood, but clothed in the 
most living flesh and blood. For the mystery of 
our God is not a mystery merely of spirit and 
speech, but also of flesh and blood, since for us 
the Word was made flesh. " Who eateth not my 
flesh and drinketh not my blood, he hath not 
eternal life." And so, not without flesh, but through 
flesh to that which is behind it, such is the greatest 
symbol, the most glorious union ; ah ! to how 
many is it still unattainable ! ' 

This teaching of Goethe's as to the holiness of 
what is earthly and transitory, of the incorruptible- 
ness of the corruptible, is the best answer to despair 
and terror ; to the words of Sakya Muni and 
Ecclesiastes, on the corruption of all that has 
being ; the best answer to the Nirvana, and the 
" vanity of vanities," quoted by Tolstoi in his 
Confession, as the profoundest expression of his 
own despair. 

It is strange that the old Hellenes, and the new 
Hellene, Goethe, certainly did not love the world 
and worldly delights less than Solomon or Tolstoi. 
But the fear of death did not annul for them the 
meaning of these delights. On the contrary, the 
blackest darkness and the terror of the abyss even 
increased for them the charm of life, just as the 
blackest velvet enhances the splendour of diamonds. 
They did not shrink from that darkness but, as 

32 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

it were, deliberately out-gazed it, that they 
might overcome it. Tragedy, the boldest illu- 
mination of the dreadful in human fate, did not 
arise in the most radiant period of Hellenic culture 
by an accident. The despair of (Edipus, con- 
fronted by the Sphinx's riddle, is more unbounded 
than that of Sakya Muni or Solomon. But even 
in sight of the Parthenon is the brightest temple 
ever erected by man, the theatre of Dionysus, god 
of wine and delight. Sophocles, serenest of mortals, 
exulted in the sight of this deep despair. " Is 
there not," asks Nietzsche, " a special leaning of 
man's soul towards the cruel and enigmatical, 
proceeding from the thirst for enjoyment, from 
the overflow of health, from fulness of life, a special 
and seductive daring, full of the keenest insight, 
demanding the terrible as a foe, a worthy foe, in 
wrestling with whom it can try its strength to 
the uttermost ? " 

The tragedy of Will, as "Prometheus," the 
tragedy of Thought, as Faust, were just such ap- 
peals full of " tempting hardihood " versucherische 
Tapferkeit to the fear of death and the mystery 
of life. Only the strongest of the strong, the coolest 
of the fearless, ventures with impunity on this 
cup of terror, of which Pushkin too, strongest and 
most intrepid of the Russian race, speaks, when 
he says : 

In battle there is rapture, 
Rapture in the giddy darkness of a gulf ; 
In the tempest-scarred face of ocean, 
The gloom and madness of waves : 

33 D 




TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

Where the desert heaves in hurricane, 

Or the breath of plague is warm ; 

Yea, rapture in all that threatens to destroy, 

For the heart of a mortal still hides 

Black magic that none can divine. 

So, Pestilence, praise be to thee, 
Fear we not gloom of the grave, 
Thy death-boding cry appals not. 



When an excessive fear of this " darkness of 
[ the grave' is present, a too vivid and sobering 
consciousness of bodily decay, of the nothingness 
of all things earthly, is the first sign that of a surety 
the divine sources of that particular civilization 
are exhausted or polluted, that in it the vital force 
is declining. Af first sight the despair of Sophocles 
in (Edipus seems akin to that of Solomon in " Ec- 
clesiastes," but in reality they are at opposite 
poles. One is an emotional ascent, the other a 
descent ; one is a beginning, the other an end. 
In the Lalita Vistara of Buddha, in the Ecclesiastes 
of Solomon, we hear the voice, not of the soul 
awakened, but of the flesh dying. In the weari- 
ness of sated Epicureans, in the taedium vitae of 
Rome's decline, in the skull placed by philosophers 
among the wine-cups and the roses, there is a 
coarse fleshliness, alien to the Hellenic body and 
spirit, the senile materialism of a culture bereft of 
its soul and its gods. For the purest and most 
perfect Christianity is as confident of life and as 
fearless of death, and has as great a power of mak- 
ing the mutable immutable as perfect Hellenism. 
What though the lilies of the field to-morrow 

34 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

wither, and are cast into the fire ? None the less 
to-day the sons of the Kingdom of God rejoice 
that " even Solomon in all his glory was not ar- 
rayed like one of these." The smile of Francis 
of Assisi, as he chanted a hymn to the sun, after 
the crucial torments and the vision of Mount 
Averno, recalls the smile of Sophocles, chanting 
a hymn to Dionysus, god of wine and happiness, 
after the bloody horrors of the tragedy of (Edipus. 
In one and the other there is youthful fervour, 
and yet the calm of perfected wisdom. It is only 
those who have stopped half-way, no longer what 
they were, and not yet what they shall be ; who 
have pushed off from one shore, and not yet made 
the further, who are " adrift," in Goethe's phrase, 
' in the contemplation of earthly nothingness." 
Excessive fear of death generally serves as proof 
of religious impotence, or religious imbecility. ^> 
In Tolstoi's Childhood he describes the impres- 
sion made on a child by his mother's death. He 
looks at her as she lies in her coffin. " I could 
not believe that that was her face. I began to 
look at it more closely, and gradually discovered 
in it the familiar and beloved features. I shuddered 
with fear when I became sure that it was indeed 
she, but why were the closed eyes so fallen in ? 
Why was she so terribly pale, and why was there 
a blackish mark under the clear skin on one cheek ? 
The service came to an end : the face of the dead 
woman was uncovered, and all those present, except 
ourselves, went up, one after another to the cofnn, 
and made their reverence. One of the last to go 
up and take leave of her was a peasant- woman, 

35 




TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

with a pretty five-year-old girl in her arms, whom 
she had brought with her, Lord knows why. At 
that moment I carelessly dropped my wet hand- 
kerchief, and wanted to pick it up, but no sooner 
did I stoop, than I was startled by a terrible and 
piercing cry, full of such horror that if I lived to 
be a hundred I should never forget it, and when 
I think of it a cold shudder runs over my frame 
even now. I raised my head ; on a stool by the 
coffin knelt the peasant-woman, with difficulty 
holding the little girl in her arms, and her child, 
wringing her little hands, turned behind her a 
face full of terror, and, fixing staring eyes on the 
face, shrieked terribly, wildly. I, too, cried out, 
in a voice which I fancy was even more fearful 
to hear than that which had so startled me, and 
rushed from the room." 
,i * We may here say that this unreasoning cry has 
never, since then, been hushed in Tolstoi's works. 
He has infected the minds of a whole generation 
with his own terror. If, in our day, people are 
afraid of death, and that with such shameful and 
hitherto unheard-of panic ; if we all, in our inmost 
hearts, in our flesh and bones, have this cold shudder, 
the marrow-piercing chill of which Dante speaks 
on seeing the sinners shivering in the infernal lake 
" Then an icy chill passed over me. Even now 
I feel it when I remember them " then we are, in 
a very large measure, indebted for it all to Leo 
Tolstoi. 

However, he had not taken his account of the 
death of Irteniev's mother from his own recollections; 
for Tolstoi's mother died when he was three years 

36 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

old. He neither could remember her nor was 
present at her death. But, apparently, in his 
description of the hero of Childhood, the awfulness 
of death which he depicts with almost cynical 
minuteness of realism, was innate in himself,! 
exceptional and peculiar to himself, at least in thatl 
degree, had dawned in him with the first flashes ) 
of consciousness, and never quitted his side through 
life. Many years later, when a mature man in 
the full light of knowledge, he finds that same 
dread overhanging his spirit, and is as helpless, 
or more so, in face of it than he was as a child. 

He writes to Fet, from Hyeres, near Nice, in 
a letter dated October 17, 1860, with regard to 
the death of his brother Nicolai : " On the 2oth 
September he passed away, literally in my arms. 
Never in my life has anything had such an effect 
on me. He was right when he said to me that 
there is nothing worse than death, and if you re- 
member that death is the inevitable goal of all 
that lives, then it must be confessed that there 
is nothing poorer than life. Why should we be 
so careful, if, at the end of all things, nothing re- 
mains of what was once Nicolai Tolstoi ? He never 
said that he felt the approach of death, and yet 
I know that he followed it step by step, and was 
well aware how long he had to live. Some minutes 
before his death he dozed awhile. Suddenly he 
started up and murmured in alarm, " What is 
this ? He saw that he was passing into nothing- 
ness. And if he did not know what to cling to, 
what shall I find ? Assuredly even less." 

In this letter, astonishing, yet alarming in its 

37 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

outspokenness, what most of all strikes one is the 
simple unconscious materialism displayed to the 
verge of cynical coarseness ; it is a soulless callous- 
ness. There is no wavering, no possible questioning, 
no doubt as to the fact that death is a " passing 
into nothingness.'* He feels no mystery. Shun- 
less, fruitless terror is there, senselessly destroying 
and drying up the very springs of life. It is like 
what the heretical, Judaizing, Russian Nihilists 
of the fifteenth century said, " And what is the 
Kingdom of Heaven ? What is the Second Coming ? 
What is the resurrection of the dead ? There are 
no such things. If a man dies, his place knows him 
no more." Or as Uncle Yeroshka puts it, "I die, 
and the grass grows the better." It is a blind wall, 
or, in true Russian phrase, " dead emptiness." 

Twenty-five years later, long after his conversion 
to Christianity, he expressed the same feelings of 
unreasonable animal fear in ' The Death of Ivan 
Ilyich.' " He remained once more alone with it. 
He was eye to eye with it, and there was nothing 
to be done with it. He could only look at it and 
shudder." 

We know that throughout his life, in many con- 
tingencies of actual danger, Tolstoi has shown 
remarkable personal courage and even foolhardi- 
ness. He almost loved the whistle of bullets in 
the deadly fourth Bastion at Sevastopol, and took 
a delight in mastering the fear of death by his 
vital energy, and it was of death that he thought 
least when at the Piatigor " colony ' he fired at 
arm's length at a mad wolf, or when, in hunting, 
he was borne down by a she-bear, which all but 

38 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

throttled him and tore the skin from his skull, so 
that " the flesh hung down in tatters over my eyes," 
and there was as much blood on the snow "as if 
a sheep had been killed." Getting up from under 
the animal, forgetting his wounds and feeling no 
pain, but trembling with excitement, he shouted 
with a sportsman-like keenness, reminding us much 
of Uncle Yeroshka, " Where is the bear ? Where 
has the brute gone ? ' 

No, the fear of death in him in no way proceeds 
from bodily timidity. That fear, though at time 
it may amount to cowardice, is more inward and 
deep-seated. At its original source, in spite of all 
animality, it is yet abstract, and, so to speak, a 
metaphysical fear. Yet all the more are we alarmed 
at these sudden black gaps, in that they occur in 
his soul and in his works, side by side with the 
most passionate love of life. They are like those \ 
deceptive mantled pools in marshes, on the surface 
covered with the greenest, freshest, most alluring 
grass and the brightest flowers. Soon as the travel- 
ler sets foot on them they give way and the 
quagmire engulfs him. What is this frail and 
subtle filament, which makes all the wheels of the 
machine suddenly leave their axles and turns order 
into chaos ? Whence this drop of venom, warping 
his soul, so that life's sweetest honey turns to gall ? 

Recalling the passionate psychological exercises 
of his youth, which destroyed in him, as he said, 
the freshness of feeling and clearness of judgment, 
and even then brought a morbid dread of death, 
in consequence of which he now, with the remorse 
of a Buddhist devotee, scourges his back with 

39 




TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

seven-fold cords, now, in the hopelessness of Solomon, 
throws aside lessons for gingerbread, novels and 
Kronov honey. He himself declares the cause of 

(this temperament to be a preternaturally developed 
self-consciousness. And in fact, if we trace the 
spiritual life of the man throughout its course, it 
is impossible not to arrive at the conclusion that 
between the conscious and unconscious side of his 
mental growth there is a want of correspondence 
and equilibrium. To say, however, that this want 
of correlation consists precisely in the exceptional 
strength of his self-consciousness is, I think, to 
miss the truth. All Europeans, at any rate, have 
had the opportunity of beholding how a much 
greater force of consciousness than that of Tolstoi, 
namely Goethe's, did not in the least disturb the 
harmony and balance of that spiritual and intel- 
lectual life, nay rather enhanced it. No, it is not 
to superfluity of consciousness that we must look 
for one of the most fertile causes of faultiness and 
morbidity in the moral and religious development 
of Tolstoi, but rather to the want of, and incom- 
pleteness of such consciousness. In him, con- 
sciousness is exceptionally trenchant, or at least 
acute and strained, but it is not all embracing ; it 
is not all-penetrating. It shines brightly, but not 
from within, like the sun from behind the trans- 
parent atmosphere, thoroughly penetrated by light, 
but from without, as a beacon lights dark surfaces 
of sea. However bright and widely shed are the 
rays of this beacon-like perception, the uncon- 
scious elemental life in the waters is of such un- 
fathomable depth, that a defiant, subaqueous 

40 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

darkness remains impenetrable by any rays. But 
what I would lay stress on is that his conscious- 
ness has developed, not only from without and 
separately, it has grown, not only in another, but 
in a wholly opposite direction from the trend of 
his unconscious, his sub-conscious existence, so 
that there are always in him, as it were, two or 

^ -r.n j_._ ^, 

more men, one of them always opposing violently 
the other. This internal rift and discord, like the 
flaw in a bell, at first scarcely perceptible, gradu- 
ally widens and causes a jarring sound. Alas ! 
the louder and more powerful the voice of the bell, 
the more excruciating and fatal is the note of the 
flaw! I 

The fit of the fear of death, which, at the end of 
the seventies, brought him to the verge of suicide 
was not the first and apparently not the last, and 
at any rate not the only one. He felt something 
like it fifteen years before, when his brother Nicolai 
died. Then he felt ill and conjectured the presence 
of the complaint which killed his brother consump- 
tion. He had constant pain in his chest and side. 
He had to go and try to cure himself in the Steppe 
by a course of koumiss, and did actually cure him- 
self. Formerly, these recurrent attacks of spiritual 
or physical weakness were cured in him, not by any 
mental or moral upheavals, but simply by his 
vitality, its exuberance and intoxication. 

Olenine at the thought of death, just like Tolstoi 
among the cannon-balls at Sevastopol, recognizes 
in himself ' the presence of the all-powerful god 
of youth." Now, what is the real reason why 
the transformation of the later seventies had 



) 




TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

for Tolstoi such decisive and unique importance ? 
He himself explains it, it is true, upon spiritual 
grounds. But were there not, as in his former 
nervous crises, also physical causes ? Was it not 
that special feeling, proper to people in later middle 
age, when they realize throughout all their mental 
and physical organization that so far they have 
been going uphill, but from that time onward they 
will be going down ? " The time had come," he 
says in his Confession about this very period of 
his life, the beginning of its sixties, " when growth 
in me came to an end ; I realized that I was no longer > 
expanding, but contracting, that my muscles weref 
growing weaker, and my teeth falling out." 

Here we hear the profoundly sensual Anacreontic 
lament, without the Anacreontic clearness : 

Grey have grown, ay, grey have grown 
My curls, the glory of my head, 
And loose my teeth are in my jaws, 
And dimmed the fire of mine eyes. 

In just the same way, Levine, alone at night in 
his room at the wretched inn where his brother Nico- 
lai is dying (how closely this death-scene resembles 
the dying scene of Nicolai Tolstoi !) is seized with 
this sense of approaching old age, the animal dread, 
the marrow-piercing chill of the bones, and sud- 
denly realizes throughout his physical being " that 
all is coming to an end, that this is death." " He 
lit a candle, and got up cautiously and went to 
the looking-glass and began to examine his face 
and hair. Yes, there was grey hair on his temples. 
He opened his mouth : his back teeth had begun 
to decay. He bared his muscular arms. Yes, 

4 2 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

they were pretty strong. But Nicolinka too, 
who was breathing yonder with the remnants of 
his lungs, had a sound frame." 

" What is the meaning of getting on in years ? ' 
asks Tolstoi in 1894. " It means that your hair 
is coming out, your teeth decaying, wrinkles are 
coming, your breath unpleasant. Even before all 
comes to an end, or becomes dreadful and repulsive, 
you become conscious of red and white in the wrong 
places, sweat, bad odour, loss of bodily shape. Where 
is that of which I was the servant ? Where is beauty 
gone ? All is gone ; nothing left. Life is over." 
In her letter of 1881, where the Countess assures 
her brother that Leo is wholly changed, and " has 
become the most sincere and devout of Christians," 
she also says that he " has grown grey, has lost 
his health, has become quieter and more low-spirited 
than he used to be." This remarkably close con- 
nexion between the mental crisis and the gain or 
loss, the ebb and flow of his physical health, runs 
through his whole life. 

The ' all-powerful god of youth ' had taken 
flight, the ecstasy of life had evaporated. " We 
can live," he owns, " only as long as we are drunk 
with life, and when we grow sober, cannot help 
seeing that all is deception, illusion, and a stupid 
illusion too. If not now, then to-morrow there 
will come disease or death on those I love, and 
on myself. Nothing will remain but putrefaction 
and worms." 

The variance and Duality of his conscious and 
unconscious life, the flaw, HI: first scarcely percept- 
ible, had gradually widened into that " yawning 

43 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

gulf," of which he speaks in the Confession, and 
drawing near " he clearly saw that there was nothing 
before him but annihilation." 

" And what was worst of all, was this, that Death 
took him (Ivan Ilyich) to itself, not in the heat of ac- 
tion, but while he was simply looking it straight in 
the eyes ; he had looked, and passively undergone 
the torture." And he remained alone with it, " eye 
to eye with it, and there was nothing to be done 
with it. He could only look at it and shudder." 

" And being saved from this state, he sought 
consolation ; screens, defences, were found, and 
for a short time sheltered him. But these once 
more were destroyed or shrivelled up, as if that gaze 
had penetrated everything, and nothing could turn 
it aside." 

Then began that last terror which was so great, 
that " he longed to free himself from it as quickly 
as possible by noose or bullet." 

Tertullian maintains that the human soul "is, 
of its very essence, Christian." But are all souls 
Christian ? Are not some of them naturally pagan ? 
It seems that Tolstoi, in particular, has the soul 
of " a born Pagan." If the depth of his conscious- 
ness corresponded to the depth of his elemental 
life he would ultimately have understood that he 
had no reason to fear or be ashamed of his pagan 
soul, that it was given him by God ; that he would 
find his God, his creed, in fearless and exhaustless 
self-love, even as people with souls that are naturally 
Christian find their God in endless self-sacrifice 
and self-denial. 

But owing to the profound incongruity, the want 

44 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

of equilibrium, between his consciousness and the 
unconscious element, only one of two things is 
now left him, either to subordinate his conscious- 
ness to the real elements of his nature, which he 
did during the first half of his life, or on the other 
hand to subordinate his elemental nature to his 
consciousness, which he tried to do during the 
second half of his life. In the latter case, he would 
inevitably come to the conclusion that all self-love, 
all life and the development of an isolated per- 
sonality, is something fleshly and animal, and 
consequently sinful, wicked and diabolical, the 
sheer destruction of which should be our highest 
good and our sole good. And, in fact, that is the 
conclusion he has come to. He is determined to 
the uttermost to hate and mortify his own soul ; 
in order to save it. When the Confession was 
written it seemed to Tolstoi that he had already 
finally arrived at, and discovered, absolute truth ; 
that there was no occasion to search further. In 
the concluding pages he calls to the bar and judges 
no longer himself, but only others, calling all human 
culture ' self-indulgence," and the men that prac- 
tise it " parasites." He says point blank, " I 
grew to hate myself, and now all has become clear 
to me." 

But three or four years after the Confession the 
' clearness ' had once again grown dim and con- 
fused. Even in 1882, at the time when he wrote 
a certain well known series of letters from Moscow ; 
and after inspecting the night-refuge at Liapino, 
when he was persuading all his acquaintance who 
were well-to-do to combine, in order, by private 

45 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

Christian benevolence, to save that city in the first 
place, and then all Russia, and lastly all the human 
race, his conscience was ill at ease. The tension, 
the diffidence, the discord of the cracked bell, is heard 
in this summons, so far from simple, and couched 
in language so unlike his own, so reminiscent of 
Rostopchin's placards of the year 1812. " Let us 
give like fools, like peasants, like labourers, like 
Christians ; we pay taxes, we recognize the universal 
duty of paying taxes ; why not also of show- 
ing brotherly kindness ? Prove your friendship, 
brothers, and all together ! ' 

When, while collecting money for the poor, he 
expounded in his friends' houses this new plan for 
saving the world, he fancied that his hearers grew 
uneasy. " They were perturbed, but it was mainly 
for my sake, and by my talking nonsense, though 
that nonsense was of such a kind that it could not 
be frankly called nonsense. It was as if some 
external cause had bound my hearers to assent 
to my folly." And after a speech in the Senate, 
when conferring with the conductors of the corres- 
pondence, he again came to feel that their eyes said, 
" Why, out of respect for you, they have wiped 
out your folly, but you are returning to it ! ' 

At length the all-important and, as he thought, 
novel truth that private charity is an absurdity, 
was revealed to him by the simplest arithmetical 
calculation. One Saturday evening Semyon, the 
carpenter, with whom Leo was chopping wood, 
as he came near the Dorogomitov bridge, came 
upon an old beggar, gave him three kopecks, and 
asked for two back again. The old man showed 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

his hand with two three-kopeck pieces and one 
kopeck in it. Semyon looked, and wanted to 
take the kopeck, but then changed his mind, took 
off his hat and crossed himself and went on, leaving 
the old man the three kopecks. Semyon, as Leo 
knew, had savings amounting to six roubles, fifty 
kopecks, and he, Leo, had six thousand roubles. 

' Semyon," he reflected, " gave three kopecks and 
I twenty. What did he and I give respectively ? 
How much ought I to give in order to do as much 
as he did ? In order to give as much as Semyon, 
I ought to have given three thousand roubles, and 
asked for two thousand back, and if I could not 
get change, left that couple of thousand as well 
to the old man, crossed myself and gone on, calmly 
talking about life in factories." A further and 
final inference from this calculation was irresistible. 

' I give a hundred thousand kopecks, and am still 
in no position to do good, because I have two 
hundred thousand left. Only when I shall have 
nothing at all shall I be in a position to do some 
little good. That which from the first an inward 
monitor told me when I saw the hungry and shiver- 
ing at the Liapino house, namely, that it was my 
fault, and to live as I live is wrong, wrong, wrong 

-that alone is the truth." The whole moral 
edifice, raised with such infinite pains, such des- 
perate struggles, at once tottered and fell, and he 
had once more to own himself wrong, and publicly 
to repent. ' I am a wholly enervated parasite, 
good for nothing whatever. I, too, although an 
insect, feeding on the foliage of the tree, am at- 
tempting to further the growth and soundness of 

47 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

the trunk, and to cure its disease." A new trans- 
formation, a new second birth, had now therefore 
to take place in him. 

It became clear that he had not only entertained 
no proper hatred for himself, and had not found 
the truth, as he thought, when penning the Con- 
fession, but had not even begun the real search 
for it. And at the same time he became convinced 
that this time the final and everlasting truth had 
been revealed to him ; the putting of it into practice 
seemed easy. " A man has only got not to desire 
lands or money, in order to enter into the Kingdom 
of God.'* He was convinced that the evil which 
ruins the world is property ; " It is not a law 
of nature, the will of God, or a historical necessity ; 
rather, a superstition, neither strong, nor terrible, 
but weak and contemptible." To free oneself 
from this superstition and destroy it, is as easy 
as to stamp on a spider. He determined to carry 
out the teaching of Christ ; to leave all home, 
children, lands, to give away his six hundred thou- 
sand kopecks and become a beggar in order to 
win the right to do good. The question how far 
he succeeded in this undertaking, how far, as a 
matter of fact, he renounced personal possessions 
and crushed the feeble spider, forms the subject 
of our further inquiry. 



CHAPTER IV 

" MANY people think," remarks the Countess's 
brother, in his Reminiscences, " that I have con- 
cealed all things not to the credit of Leo. But this 
supposition is unfounded, because there is simply 
nothing that needed hiding from strangers." This 
is a wide assertion, when we know that the great- 
est of saints and heroes have had moments of 
shame, weakness and shortcoming. The most faith- 
ful of Christ's disciples had on his soul a betrayal. 
But, however, Bers is first and foremost a maker 
of books, and what he writes is not life, but biography. 

A yet more astonishing statement is one from 
the lips of Tolstoi himself, who, according to the 
testimony of one often with him, nowadays often 
says, ; I have no secrets whatever from any one 
in the world. All are welcome to know what I 
do!" 

The words are striking. Who is this that is bold 
enough to protest, " I have nothing to be ashamed 
of ' Is he a man who has a boundless con- 
tempt for his fellows, or in very truth a saint ? 
There are in the life of every man dates of par- 
ticular significance, which correlate and interpret 
the meanings of his existence, and decide once and 

49 E 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

for all who he is, and what he is worth ; hours 
which give, as it were, an internal section of his 
whole personality to its inmost depths, betraying 
both his conscious and unconscious qualities ; 
hours when all the future destiny of the man, to 
use a familiar phrase, is in the balance, swaying 
on the edge of the blade, ready to fall on one side 
or the other. 

Precisely such a crisis in the life of Tolstoi was 
the decision to distribute his property. But strange 
to say, right up to that moment we have the most 
minute records of his doings, confessions, repent- 
ances, and admissions which enable one to follow 
every movement of his volition and conscience. But 
at this point they suddenly fail us and break off 
short ! The garrulous self-revealer suddenly be- 
comes silent, and for ever. True, we should have 
had no need of any confessions, if only his deeds, 
let alone his words, had spoken for him with suf- 
ficient clearness. But it is just Tolstoi's outward 
life, the life of his actions still more than that of his 
words which leaves us perplexed. As regards the 
inward part of his life, we learn about it only from 
a few hints that seem to break from him involun- 
tarily, hints eagerly caught up, though scarcely 
intelligible even to the hearers ; or from his own 
superficial accounts, in which we learn something 
so unexpected and contradictory as only to increase 
our mystification. 

" With regard to his fortune," Bers informs us, 
" Leo told me that he wanted to get rid of it as an 
evil which burdened him, his convictions being 
what they were : but at first he acted wrongly 

50 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

in wanting to transfer this evil to another, or, in 
so many words, to distribute it without fail, and 
thus cause another evil, namely, energetic protest 
and serious discontent on the part of his wife. In 
consequence of this protest he proposed to her to 

transfer it all to her name, and when' she declined 

t 

he made the same offer, but without success, to his 
children." 

' On one occasion," we are told by another 
witness, M. Sergyeenko, in How Count Tolstoi Lives 
and Works, " he met in the street a stranger, and 
had a talk with him. It turned out that this man 
was a bachelor, dining where the fancy took him, 
and able at all times, if he willed, to be as solitary 
in Moscow as on a desert island. In relating this 
encounter, Leo added, with a smile, " And I envied 
him so much that I am quite ashamed to own it. 
Just think that man can live just as he pleases, 
without doing harm to a soul ! That, indeed, is 
happiness ! ' What is this ? What was there to 
smile at ? What was the smile like ? And what 
a curious hidden bitterness there seems to me to 
have been in it ! 

And here is something still stranger, even what 
we may call a painful admission. 

; I shall look for my friends among the peasants. 
No woman can stand to me in the place of a friend. 
Why do we deceive our wives by pretending to 
consider them our best friends ? For it certainly 
is not true." 1 

Tolstoi also said to M. Jules Huret, " You ask me 
whether I consider woman man's equal. I reply that I 
know she is, in all respects, morally his inferior." 

51 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

Did he say that, too, with a smile ? Is that, 
too, a joke ? The happiest father of a family, 
the modern representative of the Old Testament 
patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who had 
lived with his wife thirty-seven years, soul to soul, 
suddenly at the end of his life envies the freedom 
of a bachelor, as if this family life were a secret 
slavery, and gives an almost total stranger to 
understand that he does not consider his wife 
worthy the name of a friend. And the very same 
witness, who, just before, had glorified the domestic 
felicity of Tolstoi, in the same work, over and over 
again, with a light heart and imperturbable clear- 
ness, tells us, " However, in their theories of life, 
they (Leo and Sophia) are at variance." Well, 
" theories of life " are the thing that is most sacred 
to him. And if they are at variance in that point, 
in what are they at one ? Can you evade such a 
variance by a joke ? Yet what Bers tells about 
the sentiments of the " new-born ' Tolstoi is still 
more startling. " Nowadays, Leo behaves to his 
wife with a touch of exact ingness, reproachfulness, 
and even displeasure, accusing her of preventing 
him giving away his property, and going on bring- 
ing up the children in the old way. His wife, for 
her part, thinks herself in the right, and complains 
of such conduct on her husband's side. In her 
there has involuntarily sprung up a hatred and 
loathing of his teaching and its consequences. Be- 
tween them there has even grown up a tone of 
mutual contradiction, the voicing of their com- 
plaints against one another. Giving away one's 
property to strangers and leaving one's children 

52 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

on the world, when no one else is disposed to do 
the same, she not only looks on as out of the ques- 
tion, but thinks it her duty as a mother to prevent. 
Having said as much to me, she added with tears 
in her eyes, ' I have hard work now ; I must do 
everything myself, whereas formerly I was only a 
helper. The property and the education of the 
children are entirely in my hands : yet people find 
fault with me for doing this, and not going about 
begging ! Should I not have gone with him if I 
had not had young children ? But he has for- 
gotten everything in his doctrines." 

And at last came the final, and scarcely credible 
admission, c Leo's wife, in order to preserve the 
property for her children, was prepared to ask the 
authorities to appoint a committee to manage the 
property." 

Fancy Tolstoi declared incapable of managing 
his affairs by his wife ! This is indeed a tragedy, 
perhaps the greatest in Russian life to-day, and 
in any case, in his life. This is that edge of the 
sword on which the whole destiny of the man, when 
in the balance, is poised, and we learn all this from 
casual observers, from people idly curious. And 
this terrible fact is born deaf and dumb, in the 
darkest and most secret corner of his life. There 
is not a word from himself, though his invariable 
habit has hitherto been to write confessions, and 
he even now declares that he has nothing to hide 
from the public. 

But how did he come out of this tragic affair ? 
Did he come to feel that he had again overestimated 
his real powers, that what seemed easy and simple 

53 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

was in reality difficult and complex, and that the 
c superstition of property ' was not a " feeble 
spider," but the heaviest of the fetters of life, the 
last link of which is in the heart, the very flesh and 
blood of a man, so that to pluck it from his bosom 
means a fearful wound ? Or did he realize that 
great and terrible saying of the Master, " A man's 
foes shall be those of his own household ' ' ? 

We know how, in exactly similar circumstances, 
the Christian heroes of the past ages acted. When 
Pietro Bernardini, the father of St. Francis of Assisi, 
presented a complaint to the Bishop, accusing his 
son of wasting the property and wanting to give 
it to the poor, Francis, stripping himself of his 
clothing to his last shirt, laid the garments and his 
money at his father's feet, and said, " Till now I 
have called Pietro Bernardini father. But now, 
being desirous of serving God, I return to you, O 
man, all that I have had from you, and henceforth 
shall say, " My father is not Pietro Bernardini, but 
the Lord, my Heavenly Father ! ' And wholly 
naked, as he came from his mother's womb, adds 
the legend, Francis threw himeslf into the arms 
of Christ. 

So, too, acted the favourite saint of the Russian 
people, Alexei, a man of God who had secretly fled 
from his parents' house. And so, to the present 
hour, all Russian martyrs have acted, wishing to 
fulfil the saying of Christ, " Whoso leave th not 
house and lands and children for my sake, is not 
worthy of Me." 

Vlas gave away the last he had, 
Till he stood barefoot, naked ; 

54 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

He went to gather alms and gold 

To build a house unto the Lord. 

And consecrated to God's grace 

The exceeding strength of his own soul. 

And since that day he is beheld 

A beggar, close on thirty years. 

He lives upon the alms of scorn, 

To keep the vow he made. 

That is what should have come to pass. The 
great writer of our country should have made 
himself the champion of the Russian people, a 
manifestation yet unknown and unique in our 
civilization, and the religious path once more found 
across the gulf, opened by Peter's reforms, between 
us and the people. It is not for nothing that the 
eyes of men are bent with such eagerness on him, 
not only on all he writes, but far more on all he 
does, on his most private and personal concerns, 
his family and home life. No, it is not mere idle 
curiosity. There is too much under that roof of 
moment to us all, to the whole future of Russian 
culture. No fear of being too prying ought to 
hold us back. Has he not said himself, " I have 
no secrets from any one in the world. Let them 
all know what I do " ? 

And what does he do ? " Not wishing to oppose 
his wife by force," says Bers, " he began to assume 
towards his property an attitude of ignoring its 
existence ; renounced his income, proceeded to 
shut his eyes to what became of it, and ceased to 
make use of it, except in so far as to go on living 
under the roof of the house at Yasnaia Poliana." 
But what does " except in so far ' mean ? He 
carried out the word of the Lord, and left house 

55 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

and lands and children, " except in so far ' as he 
still clung to them. He made himself a beggar 
and homeless, and gave away what he had," except 
in so far " as he consented, for fear of grieving his 
wife, to keep what he had. And what " evil," 
what " violence to his wife J were in question ? 
Certainly Christ did not advocate violence. He 
did not demand that a man should take away 
their living from his wife and children in order to 
give it to the poor, but He did demand, and most 
emphatically and clearly, that if a man cannot 
get rid of his possessions in any other way he should 
leave, together with his lands, house and property, 
his wife and children, and take up His cross and 
follow Him, that, at any rate, he should learn to 
the utmost the meaning of that saying, " A man's 
foes shall be those of his household." 

But then, that is beyond a man's strength ! It 
is a revolt against his own flesh and blood ! And 
is not the whole teaching of Christ, at any rate 
taken from one point of view, as Tolstoi takes it, 
a revolt against our own flesh and blood ? Nor 
did the Lord say that this was easy, or say that to 
renounce our possessions was as " crushing a feeble 
spider." He foresaw that this would be man's 
most binding chain, the last link of which could 
be torn from the bosom only with agony, that 
there was no other way he could free himself from 
it than by trampling on the most vital, dear, and 
implicit of human ties, by leaving, not only his 
property, but father and mother, wife and children. 
And that is why He said with such unutterable, 
mournful and compassionate irony, " Verily, verily, 

56 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

I say unto you, it is easier for a camel to pass 
through the eye of a needle than for a rich man 
to enter the Kingdom of Heaven." 

So spoke He, but what says Tolstoi ? He is 
silent, as if his acts spoke for him, or there weie 
no contradiction in the matter, no tragedy as if 
everything was as before, easy, clear and simple 
to him. It is only the strange legend, the biography 
of this latter-day saint, that answers for him : 
' He tries to shut his eyes, and is wholly absorbed 
in carrying out the programme of his life. He 
does not wish to see money, and, as far as possible, 
avoids taking it in his hands, and never carries it 
about him." l 

And he has so far succeeded in making his wife's 
will accord with the will of God, that of late, Bers 
tells us, " the Countess has begun to look more 
calmly on the doctrines of her husband ; she has 
got used to them." So this is the new way of 
remaining a camel, and of yet passing through the 
eye of the needle, " not to handle money," " not 
to carry it about with you," and to " shut your 
eyes " ! 

Can it be so ? Is not this irony, is it not the 
worst kind of mockery of himself, of us, and of the 
teaching of Christ ? And if this has any mean- 
ing as before a human court, then before God's 
judgment-seat the question will be at the last, 
' Has he, or has he not, fulfilled the injunction 
of Christ ; has he given away his possessions ? ' 
There will be no evasion : there can be no ambiguity, 
only one answer yes or no. We do not know 

1 Anna Seyron. 
57 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

what he himself thinks or feels about it, cannot 
see the inward side of his life, but the outward 
we know to the last detail. Thanks to the busy 
eyes of countless journalistic spies, the walls of his 
house have become as transparent as glass. We 
see how he eats, drinks, sleeps, dresses, works, 
cobbles boots and reads books. Perhaps these trifles, 
once so important, may give us the clue to the 
secret places of his conscience. But the more we 
watch, the further we penetrate, the greater our 
wonder. It is with special exactitude that the 
witnesses describe the plenty and abundance, the 
cup of hospitality full to the brim. One of them 
puts it, " There is the profusion and solidity of 
the old-fashioned gentlefolk in the town-house of 
the Tolstois." We see this small two-storied pri 
vate house in the Dolgo-Khamovincheski Pereiilok 
(cross-street), which, of a winter's night, sends the 
light of its windows far amongst the white frost- 
spangled trees of the old-world garden. Within 
there is an atmosphere of cordial warmth, gaiety, 
and " undefinable, high-born simplicity," the broad 
staircase, the high, well-lit, rather empty drawing- 
rooms, devoid of any unnecessary ornament, the 
antique polished mahogany furniture, the " respect- 
ful footman ' ' in dress coat and white tie, ushering 
in visitors, though it is to be noted that Leo makes 
no use of his services, for he keeps his own room 
in order and fetches the water in a cask, not on 
horseback but on his own back. The study ' re- 
minds one, in its simplicity, of Pascal's." It is 
a small, low room, with an iron pipe stretching 
across the ceiling. " When, early in the eighties," 

58 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

says Sergyeenko, ' the whole house was rebuilt, 
Leo would not sacrifice his study on the altar of 
luxury, assuring the Countess that many most 
useful workers lived and worked in incomparably 
worse surroundings than his." But he might 
have said with much truth that few workers live 
and work in better rooms than he. Therein is 
nothing superfluous, neither pictures, nor rugs 
nor nick-nacks. But experienced workers know 
that everything unnecessary is mere distraction, 
and prevents fixed and concentrated thoughts. 
The iron pipe across the ceiling seems unlovely, 
but it was specially constructed for Tolstoi on 
principles 'of hygiene. Its lamp induces excel- 
lent ventilation, and partly heats the worker's 
study. It insures a constant, gentle current of 
fresh air and a uniform temperature. What could 
be better ? But the great merit of this room is 
its quiet. After the house was remodelled, this 
study, which had remained undisturbed, seemed 
perched between heaven and earth. It spoiled the 
side view of the house. " But in the matter of 
noiselessness and retirement the study had gained 
greatly." The windows look on the garden and 
not a sound reaches it from the street. This re- 
treat, far removed from the living-rooms, always 
inclines to contemplation." Only those who pass 
all their lives in thought can appreciate at its full 
value this greatest virtue of a study, the felicity, 
the deep luxury of seclusion and silence sole and 
indispensable luxury of brain -workers. And how 
rare it is, how hard to obtain in the large towns of 
to-day ! In comparison with this kind of comfort 

59 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

how barbarous seem the bourgeois contrivances of 
our degenerate taste, coarse in its very effeminacy, 
and brutalized to the American level. 

Still more pleasant, still more quiet is his work- 
room at Yasnaia Poliana, in the hush of the old 
park, with its avenues of immemorial birches and 
limes, in the noble and patriarchal retreat, one of 
the most charming nooks in central Russia. This 
room, with its plain floor, arched ceiling and thick 
walls, was formerly a store-room. In the hottest 
days of summer it was " as cool there as in a cellar." 
Various utensils, a shovel, a scythe, a saw, tongs, 
and a file give the furniture an idyllic and fresh 
charm, as of the days of childhood and Robinson 
Crusoe's abode. These two working-rooms, winter 
and summer, are two regular cells, quiet and luxuri- 
ously simple cells, for this latter-day disciple of 
Epicurus, who knows better than any how to 
extract from physical and spiritual existence the 
purest, most innocent and never-failing pleasure. 

And everything in the house, as far as may be, 
matches the noble, subtle taste of the master 
his love for refined simplicity. The Countess does 
her best to prevent the details of life vexing or 
alarming him. " All the complicated and laborious 
work of house-keeping and business is in her charge. 
She has no helpers." 

Meanwhile the household order reigns complete. 
The Tolstois' coachman had good reason for saying 
to Sergyeenko that the Countess was passionately 
fond of order. " She is untiring, and carries into 
everything her vital energy, domesticity and good 
management. She has only to leave the place for 

60 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

a day or two on business for the complicated 
machine, called a household, to begin at once to 
creak and jar. She is an excellent housewife, full 
of foresight, bustling and hospitable. You eat and 
drink as well at Yasnaia as anywhere." 

At the table, always plentiful, moderate, simple 
and tasteful, special vegetarian dishes are served. 
This regime gives the Countess much solicitude. 
She is much averse to it, and only allows it in the 
house as a new kind of cross or thorn in the flesh, 
so troublesome and complicated is it. But she 
does not complain, and herself sometimes sees to 
the getting ready of new dishes in the kitchen. 
She has arrived at last at making the vegetarian 
table there so appetizing and varied that the car- 
nivorous Leo, perhaps, never realizes how much 
it has cost her. Those vegetarian dishes, for all 
their simplicity, are really more choice than those 
of meat, because requiring more inventiveness, skill 
and patience on the part of the housekeeper. And 
it is certain that if, like Uncle Vlas, he frequented 
the highways, or, as he advised his eldest son, hired 
himself out as a journeyman labourer to some 
farmer, he would be forced to eat forbidden butcher's 
meat, some herring or Smolensk liver. Instead 
of that the thin mutton broth which he loves is, 
of course, scarcely less tasty than the most expen- 
sive and complicated soups, compounded by cooks 
with a salary of a thousand roubles a year, and 
the barley coffee with almond milk, if not as fragrant 
as pure Mocha, is all the more wholesome. Add 
to this the physical weariness, hunger and thirst, 
best of all sauces, and we think of the bilberry- 

61 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

water with which the old peasant once entertained 
Levine after mowing. 

; Well, this is my kvass ! Good, eh ? ' said the 
peasant, winking ; and, sure enough Levine had 
never drunk such liquor as this warm water, with 
leaves floating in it and the acrid taste of the 
bilberries. The old man crumbled bread into a 
cup, kneaded it with the handle of a spoon, poured 
in water from the bilberry jar, cut the bread up 
smaller and sprinkling salt on it began to pray, 
with his face to the east. 

"'There now, squire, try my sopped bread' 
(bread steeped in kvass). 

" The sopped bread was so appetizing that Levine 
changed his mind about going home to dinner." 

You see, Tolstoi is a man who knows how to eat 
and drink better than the spoiled guests of Trimal- 
chio, or the gourmets of to-day. 

His dress is just as simple as his food, and far 
more comfortable and convenient than our own 
ugly, gloomy and ascetic garb, which confines the 
body miserably, is not national, and is despised 
by the people. Leo wears in winter grey flannel, 
very soft and warm, and in summer loose cool 
blouses of a peculiar cut. No one knows how to 
make them sit on him comfortably and easy, except 
old Barbara from the neighbouring village and 
perhaps also the Countess. His upper clothes, 
caftans, touloups (short pelisses), sheep-skin hat, 
high leather boots, are all carefully planned apparel, 
suited to drenching rain and dirty weather. Guests, 
and the members of the family, are often tempted 
to use these garments. This is the true garb of 

62 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

your village artist in comfort, who happens to 
live within northern latitudes. There is in all 
this a certain curious foppery. In youth he lamented 
his visage was just like a common peasant's. Now 
he prides himself on the fact. He loves to tell 
how, in the streets or strange houses, he is taken 
for a real peasant or vagabond. 

That means," he winds up, " aristocracy is 
not written on the face ! " 

On one occasion, in War and Peace, Pierre 
Bezukhov, too, you remember, dressed up in peasant 
garb and felt childish pride in admiring his bare 
feet, ' taking pleasure in putting them in various 
postures, and scuffling about in the dirt with his 
big toe. And every time he stared down at them 
a smile of infinite content and self-satisfaction 
passed over his face." In his youth Leo dreamed 
with eagerness of the St. George's Cross and the 
epaulettes of an A.D.C. Now he is the slave of 
other subtler, more modern, marks of distinction. 
But in the long run does it really matter much 
whether we wear orders, ragged puttees or glit- 
tering epaulettes ? And he need not distress him- 
self, for aristocracy is, after all, written on his 
face in unmistakable characters, and under the 
peasant's short pelisse is visible in him the old 
unimpeachable man of the world. Under this 
rough external travesty the high breeding is, if 
possible, more marked and attractive. So, some- 
times in the most magnificent Eastern fabrics, the 
woven foundation is extremely coarse and rough, 
the more richly to serve as foil to the delicate- 
sparkling traceries of gold and silken embroidery. 

63 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

Soft beds, down pillows, he abhors as wearying 
and stifling. He prefers ventilated leather bolsters. 
But the Sybarite, tossing sleepless on an uneasy 
couch, tortured by a crumpled roseleaf, could 
not but envy the hard yet easy bed of Leo 
Tolstoi. 

The idyllic perfume of manure moved almost 
to tears one of the most sensitive and sentimental 
of the spoiled fops of the eighteenth century, Jean 
Jacques Rousseau. Leo, too, loves its savour. 
" One morning," says Anna Seyron, " he came in 
to breakfast straight from a newly-manured field. 
At that time several strangers were staying in 
the house at Yasnaia. They had volunteered to 
improve the yield of the land, in company with 
the Count. All their boots stank of manure, the 
doors and the windows of the room were wide open, 
else it would have been impossible to breathe. 
The Count looked at us half-stifled women with 
a quizzical smile." He also likes all fragrances. 
When leaving the meadow, after mowing, Bers tells 
he always pulls hay from the hay-cock, and smells 
at it vigorously. " In summer he always keeps 
about him a flower, a single flower, but that of the 
sweetest. He keeps it on the table or in his hand 
or thrust into his leather belt. You should see 
with what: delight he puts it to his nostrils, and 
in doing so looks at those about him with a won- 
derfully dreamy, tender expression. He is also 
very fond of French perfumes and scented linen. 
The Countess takes care that there is always a 
sachet of petal-dust in the drawer with his under- 
clothes." You see the method of this enjoyment. 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

After manure, the perfume of flowers and essences. 
Here is the symbol, here the point of union. 
Under the peasant Christian's pelisse we get, not 
a hair-shirt, no ; linen, lavendered and voluptuous 
with eau de Chypre and Parma violets. 

That cheerful philosopher in ancient Attica who 
tilled little garden with his own hands, who 
taught men to be easily content, to believe in no- 
thing, either in heaven or earth, but simple enjoy- 
ment in the sunlight, flowers, a little brushwood 
on the hearth in winter, and in summer a little 
spring water out of an earthen cup, would have 
recognized in Tolstoi his true and, it would seem, 
his sole disciple in this barbaric age, when in the 
midst of senseless luxury, coarse, sordid, and bar- 
baric American " comfort," we have all, long ago, 
forgotten the finer part of pleasure. 

The Countess, who has, at last, ceased to quarrel 
about the giving up of the property, and with a 
sly motherly smile slips among her husband's linen 
a sachet with his favourite scents, is a faithful and 
trusty collaborator in this refinement of life. " She 
learns his wants from his eyes," an observer says ; 
4 she cares for him like an untiring nurse," says 
another, ' and only leaves him for a little while 
at a time. As, for many years, she has studied 
minutely the habits of her husband, she can see, 
directly Leo leaves his study, from his mere look, 
how he has got on with his work and what humour 
he is in. And if he wants anything copied she at 
once lays aside all the work of which her hands 
are always full, and though the sun should fall 
from the sky yet, by a certain time, the copy will 

65 F 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

have been carefully written out by her hand and 
laid on her husband's writing-table." 

Even if he seems ungrateful, says that his wife 
is ' no friend of his," and heeds her love no more 
than the air he breathes, yet she wants no other 
reward than the consciousness that he could not 
get on without her for a day, and that she has made 
him what he is. " The untiring nurse ' rocks, 
pampers and lulls, with care and caresses, like the 
invisible soft strength in the web of a " feeble 
spider," the self-willed, refractory and helpless 
child of seventy. 

Does the worm gnaw at his heart ? Is he pur- 
sued and harassed by the consciousness that he 
has not done the bidding of Christ, that, while the 
body is gratified the soul is mortally troubled ? 
His wife says, in the very letter where she speaks 
of his conversion to Christianity, that he has grown 
grey and fallen into weak health ; has become 
quieter, more languid. Bers also declares that 
when he saw Tolstoi again after some years, he at 
once felt " that the cheerful bearing, which had 
always been conspicuous in Tolstoi, was now wholly 
gone. The affectionate and grave tone of his greet- 
ing seemed to give me to understand that my 
present delight was great but that all such delights 
were illusory." 

But no particular importance can be attached 
to this jadedness. No doubt it was connected 
with a temporary indisposition, one of those peri- 
odical fluctuations to which he is subject, those 
ebbings and flowings of physical vigour con- 
comitant with his periodical spiritual upheavals. 

66 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

At any rate, Bers says that on the very day of his 
arrival his host did not maintain the grave mood, 
the new-found and monastic quietude : " Probably 
he guessed my sadness at the impression he had 
made on me, and to the general delight began to 
joke with me and suddenly jumped on my back 
as I was walking about the drawing-room." And 
in this playfulness, which certainly could hardly 
be expected of a man who wished to show by his 
demeanour that " these were not real pleasures," 
his visitor at once recognized the old Tolstoi. No, 
the delight in life is not yet dead in him, but per- 
haps bubbling and pulsating with even greater force 
than when he was a boy. 

"It is impossible to depict with adequate com- 
pleteness the joyous and infectious frame of mind 
which reigns at Yasnaia Poliana," says an eye- 
witness, " the source of which is always the host 
himself. I remember our games of croquet, in 
which all took part, children and grown-ups. We 
began generally after dinner and ended with the 
arrival of candles. I am still ready to look on 
the game as one of pure chance, because I played 
it with Tolstoi. The children are particularly fond 
of his society, and always want to be his partners, 
and are always glad when he devises some exercise 
for them. To amuse me he mowed, winnowed, 
did gymnastics, ran races and played at leap-frog 
and touch-last." This was some years ago. But 
Sergyenko, who describes his life in recent years, 
says that even now he plays as he used to for 
whole days at lawn tennis and runs races with 
the children. It is a constant holiday, like some 

67 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

new Golden Age. " At the Tolstois'," he goes on, 
" you always get the impression that the day is 
one fixed for amateur theatricals and a whole 
parterre of young people is getting ready for the 
event, filling the house with noisy merriment, in 
which, at times, the host joins. Especially if some 
amusement is got up that requires activity, en- 
durance and skill he will look on for some time at 
the players and sympathize in their success or 
failure, and often can stand it no longer, and joins 
in the game, displaying so much youthful ardour 
and muscular flexibility that often people grow 
quite jealous as they watch him." Yes, it is a 
constant holiday, a constant game, now in the 
fields behind the plough, now at lawn-tennis, now 
in the meadows with the mowers, now in sweeping 
up the snow for tobogganing, now in making a 
stove for a poor old woman. And his wife vainly 
plagues herself with speculations as to whether 
trips of twenty miles on a bicycle can be good for 
him at his age. Whatever the doctors may say, 
he feels that this constant and seemingly exces- 
sive exertion of sinews and muscles, these 
constant gymnastics and games, which are still 
more delightful and pleasant when they can be 
called " work," are indispensable to his health and 
existence. 

Bers tells us of one game invented by Leo which 
aroused in the children very lively and noisy en- 
thusiasm. It is called " Numidian Cavalry," and 
consists in " Tolstoi's quite unexpectedly springing 
up, and raising an arm above his head, but leaving 
one wrist free play, while he prances about the 

68 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

rooms. All the children, and sometimes the adults, 
follow his example, just as unexpectedly." In 
this old man, who, like a young boy, suddenly runs 
briskly about and draws even grown people into 
the game, I recognize him who says of himself, 
with a bright boyish smile, " I am a merry fellow ; 
I love everybody ; I am an Uncle Yeroshka." 

In picturing the first dream-like remembrance, 
bewitching and dark, of his far-off childhood, at 
the age of three or four, he gives us one of his hap- 
piest and most forcible impressions, of bathing in 
a tub. ' I was, for the first time, conscious of 
and admired my young body, with the ribs that 
I could trace with my finger, and the smooth, dark 
tub, the withered hands of the nurse and the warm, 
steaming, circling water, its plashing, and above 
all the smooth feeling of the wet ends of the tub when 
I passed my hands over them." We may say 
that, from that moment, when as a child of three 
he first noticed and admired his own young naked 
body, he has never ceased to worship it. The , 
deepest element in all his feelings and thoughts is 
just that first innocent, unalloyed consciousness of 
fleshly life love of the body. This feeling he gave 
expression to in picturing the joyful consciousness 
of animal vigour, which, on one occasion, came 
over Vronski before a certain meeting with Anna 
Karenina. ; This feeling was so powerful, that 
he laughed in spite of himself. He stretched out 
his legs, crossing one over the knee of the other, 
and taking it in his hand felt the well-developed 
calf, which had been hurt the day before in a fall, 
and leaning, breathed deeply several times : " Good, 

69 



r 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

very good ! " he said to himself. He had before 
often felt a pleasant consciousness of his body, 
but never had he so loved himself and his own 
frame." 

I fancy that nowhere is this sheer animal delight 
in physical vigour, familiar to the ancients but 
now chiefly found in children, expressed with such 
frank primitive innocence as by Tolstoi. And with 
the lapse of years it has not only not diminished 
but actually increased, seemingly set free and 
refined from all external admixtures. Like wine, 
it is with him stronger the older it gets. The 
springtime of his life seems dark and stormy in 
comparison with this golden radiantly calm autumn. 
As an Italian diplomatist of the fifteenth century 
has it about another great lover of life, Pope 
Alexander Borgia, Leo " is growing young in his 
old age." When he fancies he is preparing for 
death in reality he is, as it were, merely preparing 
for earthly immortality. 

And if, with this earthly life, 

The Creator has bounded our fleeting span, 

If beyond grave and coffin 

And visible world nought awaits us 

Still the death of man finds the Creator justified. 

; Who has not been in that small wooden house, 
painted in dark ochre ? " says Sergy6enko, lovingly. 
" Learned men and authors, artists and actors, 
statesmen and financiers, governors, secretaries, 
county councillors, senators, students, soldiers, 
manufacturers, artisans, peasants, representatives 
of all parties and nations, not a day passes in winter 
that there does not appear in the Dolgo-Khamov- 

70 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

nicheski Pereiilok some new personage in search 
of an interview with the famous Russian author. 
Who is there that he does not greet, sometimes 
warmly and sympathetically, sometimes with per- 
plexing questions and accusations ? Young Rus- 
sians and French folk, Americans, Dutchmen, Poles, 
English, Baroness Bertha Suttner, and devout 
Brahmins from India, the dying Turgeniev ; even 
the brigand Churkin, rolling about like a wounded 
beast on his death-bed." 

"It is delightful to know," the master said one j 
day, " of one's influence on others, for then one 
has proof that the fire within is real, else it would 
not kindle other hearts." 

These words remind us of his own confession to 
another confidant some years ago, ' ' I did not rise to 
be general of artillery, but for all that I have become 
a general in literature." Now he could say that 
he has become general, not only in literature, but 
in the new social-democratic creed that is spreading 
through the world. And the second distinction is 
more honourable than the first. Thus he has 
managed to combine the most subtle refinement 
and indulgence of the flesh with glory, the last 
luxury and gratification of the spirit. 

But where is the commandment of Christ as to 
renouncing all possessions, as to complete resigna- 
tion, complete poverty, the only path to the King- 
dom of God ? Where is that bridge thrown over 
the gulf that has yawned between our creed and 
that of the Russian folk ever since the days of 
Peter's reforms ? Where is the voice of Russia 
in the guise of a great martyr ? And what has 

71 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

become, alas ! of our hope of the possibility of a 
miracle in the history of Russian culture, of a man, 
the richest among his fellows not only in material 
but spiritual treasure, really earning his bread in 
the sweat of his brow, or, like Uncle Vlas, ' bare- 
headed, in a rough smock-frock," holding out his 
hand for donations towards the building of a Temple 
for Russia and the Universe ? 

This jolly old pagan " sportsman," like Uncle 
Yeroshka, this rejuvenated Epicurean squire, luxuri- 
ous in his very moderation and simplicity, with his 
admiring retinue of American Quakers, representa- 
tives of all political parties, "of all nations," Baroness 
Bertha Suttners, Paul Derouledes, governors, stu- 
dents, senators, financiers, et hoc genus omne, has 
lost his way. The man whom, according to his 
own conscience, he should have followed, was one 
of whom it was said, in no mere figure of speech, 
; The whole might of his soul To God's own cause 
was consecrate " ; the man whom, not only in 
words, gave away all he had, 

Himself remaining ragged, naked, 
Throughout the length and breadth of his own land ; 
Treading in footprints of the King of Heaven, 
A peasant, penniless. 

Full of immedicable grief, 
Swarthy, straight-limbed, erect, 
Walks he with stately stride and slow, 
Through towns and villages. 

With Image and with Book he goes ; 
Aye communing with his own soul. 
And still his iron-pointed staff 
Rings gently on the road. 

72 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

It is astonishing with what unanimous sympathy 
all the biographers dwell on the comfort, warmth 
and plenty of the family nest that the pair have 
made for themselves. It may be that some one 
of them has harboured for an instant some notion 
of the contradiction between the words and acts 

I 

of the man who accuses all human culture of incon- 
sistency. But, apparently, it has never dawned 
on them that the spectacle must be handled warily 
and delicately, that this plenty which they celebrate, 
and this lordly, this almost Philistine fulness of 
bread, this respectable and virtuous household, 
may have an unexpected effect on those who happen 
to recollect these words, " One refined life, led in 
moderation and within the bounds of decency, 
of what is commonly called a virtuous household, 
one family life, absorbing as many working days as 
would suffice to maintain thousands of the poor 
that live in misery hard by, does more to cor- 
rupt people than thousands of wild orgies by coarse 
tradesmen, officers or artisans given to drunkenness 
and debauchery, who smash mirrors and crockery 
for sheer fun." 

Was it not his own well regulated and comfort- 
able life at Yasnaia that Leo had in mind when 
he wrote these words ? Must we not gather from 
them that he feels in his own house as in a den 
of robbers ? Or are these " brave words " only 
and nothing more ? 

One of the guileless compilers of the Tolstoi 
legend, after telling us that the Count, although 
he has not distributed his fortune yet has ceased 
to make use of it, " except for the fact that he 

73 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

remains under the roof of Yasnaia," adds, appa- 
rently with a view to silencing at once all possible 
doubts and misgivings in the reader's mind, " They 
(the Tolstois) give away every year from two to 
three thousand roubles to the poor." According 
to the calculation which in the eighties had such 
an effect on the conscience of the Count, these two 
or three thousand roubles would have been equivalent 
fifteen years ago to the two or three kopecks of 
Semyon the carpenter, and at present only to one 
or perhaps half a kopeck, for his fortune has in- 
creased considerably of late years ; and goes on 
increasing, thanks to the business capacity of his 
wife, who, " on the advice of a friend," as Anna 
Seyron tells us, " has begun to make a profit out 
of the Count's writings." Things go so well 
with her that his former publishers, out of jealousy, 
are trying to stand in her way, but she fights them 
vigorously. This makes the Count's position really 
interesting. His religious conviction is ' that 
money is harmful, and the root of all evil. Who 
gives money, gives a bad thing." And now, sud- 
denly, a new gold mine has been discovered in his 
own publications. At first he refused to listen 
when there was talk of money in connexion with 
his books. He assumed a look of consternation 
and suffering. But the Countess firmly stood her 
ground in order to secure the future of the children. 
The former state of things could not go on when 
the family increased and the expenses with it." 

It was just at this juncture that Leo " tried to 
shut his eyes," and " devoted himself wholly to 
carry out his plan of life," his " four stages." But 

74 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

the more pitilessly he laid bare the contradictions 
of the bourgeois life of to-day, the more fervently 
he preached the fulfilment of the law of Christ, 
renunciation of all one's possessions, the better 
Sophia's publications spread, and the more income 
poured in. Thus the doctrine that seemed a danger 
has happily only furthered the financial prosperity 
of the family. 

Sergyeenko tells us that on one occasion Leo's 
father, being sent in 1813, after the blockade of 
Erfurt, to St. Petersburg with despatches, was on 
the return journey taken prisoner at the hamlet 
of St. Obi, with his orderly, a serf. The latter 
succeeded in hiding all his master's gold in his 
boot, and during the several months for which they 
remained prisoners, never once betrayed his trust, 
or was found out. The money made his leg so 
sore on the march as to cause a severe wound, but 
he never let his pain be seen. And so, when they 
got to Paris, his master was able to live in perfect 
comfort, and always remembered his faithful 
orderly with gratitude. 

On the fidelity of such men as this the entire 
fabric of patriarchal felicity, the " soberly con- 
ducted life of what is called a virtuous family ' is 
based, as on a granite foundation. Does the cen- 
tenarian housekeeper at Yasnaia, Agafia, remember 
the occurrence ? At any rate she must certainly 
remember how the old master, Nicolai Tolstoi, 
otherwise Rostov of the novel, clenching his beef- 
eating fist, said : " That is the way to keep the 
peasant whelps in order." This is the same Agafia 
who, touching the childhood of the young master, 

75 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

relates that he was " a good child, only of weak 
character," and when she heard of his new eccen- 
tricities, only laughed a strange laugh. It was a 
slyer and subtler smile that I saw on the face of 
Vasili Sintaev, the peasant of Tver, also an advo- 
cate of the gospel of poverty, and one of the cleverest 
men in Russia, with whom I chanced to discuss 
Tolstoi, not long after the latter had paid Sintaev 
a visit. I venture to imagine that some such smile 
must, at times, flit over the face of the Countess, 
though long since resigned and grown used to the 
doctrines of her husband. 

Yes, you grandfathers and great-grandfathers, 
grandmothers and great-grandmothers, whose an- 
cient portraits look down from the walls of the 
pleasant country house at Yasnaia, with that gaze 
of solicitude peculiar to ancestors, " If only all is 
well at home ! ' You may set your minds at rest ; 
all is well at home, all as it was of old, as it was 
in your own day, is now, and shall evermore be. 
The famous " four stages ' have not proved so 
terrible as might at first have been thought. While 
Leo is resting from a bicycle ride or peasant work 
in the fields, or lawn-tennis, or fixing up a stove 
for a poor old woman, the Countess sits up all night 
over the proof-sheets of a new edition, " a new gold- 
mine," part of which was kept to some purpose 
for the master in that faithful orderly's boot, and 
the faces of the ancestors retain their benignant 
condescension in their faded frames. 

" On one occasion, in my presence there came 
to see him," relates Bers, " a sick and weather- 
beaten peasant to ask for wood to build a shed. 

76 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

At his invitation we took our axes and in a few 
minutes had felled several trees in the wood on the 
estate, lopped the branches, and tied the beams to 
the peasant's cart tail. I confess that I took great 
pleasure in doing this. I felt a new thrill, per- 
haps due to Leo's influence, perhaps partly because 
it was a small service to a really sick, exhausted 
and needy fellow-creature. The peasant, with his 
humble look, stood apart meantime. Leo cer- 
tainly noticed my delight and purposely left much 
of the work to me, and I felled almost all the trees, 
as if wanting in that way to conceal my novel sen- 
sations. When we had sent the man away, Leo 
said : " Is it possible to doubt the need for, and 
satisfaction in doing, such acts ? ' And in fact, 
can one doubt it ? But why did the man stand 
there all the same, looking humble and distressed, 
while the gentlemen were rejoicing in their own 
well-doing ? What did he want more ? What did 
he expect ? Was it the usual charity in money ? 
He must have been well aware that Tolstoi does 
not carry money on his person. Or was the sick 
man simply cold and sick and tired of waiting till 
the gentlemen had done their work ? How sur- 
mise what mocking and ungrateful thoughts are 
streaming through the mind of a peasant while 
gentlemen are taking a particular pleasure in help- 
ing him ? Men in general, and the tenants at Yasnaia 
in particular, are given to mockery and ingratitude. 
The most of them," he himself admits, " look 
on me as a horn of plenty, and nothing else. Can 
one expect any other attitude ? Their life and 
ideas were framed ages ago under the stress of cir- 

77 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

cumstances. Can one man change all this single- 
handed ? " 

This argument is, however, identical with the 
Countess's retort when the property was to be 
distributed. " I cannot throw the children penni- 
less on the world, when no one else wants to follow 
your example." This is the main and irrefutable 
argument of " the Prince of this World," that 
weighty logician who lulls us in heathen indifference, 
to whom it is due that Christianity, in the course 
of nearly twenty centuries, never advances : ' If 
one man cannot change all this, why not let things 
go on as they are ? ' This is that paltry neutrality 
in which our democratic and Philistine world comes 
to a standstill, drags its feet, and finds the web of 
" the feeble spider of property " an iron chain. To 
our " safely ' Christian feelings speaks the angel 
as to the church of Laodicea : " Would thou wert 
either hot or cold ; but since thou art but luke- 
\warm, I will spue thee out of my mouth." 

" I have given you what I could, and can do no 
more," says Tolstoi, the apostle, with a touch of 
bitterness to the applicants that surround him. 

We were making our way through the garden, 
when a peasant with a scrofulous child stopped 
us. Leo halted. " What is it ? " 

The man pushed forward the boy who, after 
various confused pretexts, drawling out the words, 
begged of him, " Gi-ive me the fo-o-oal." 

I felt awkward, and did not know which way 
to look. 

Leo shrugged his shoulders. " What foal ? 
What nonsense ! I have got no foal. 

78 



L lucti : 

55 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

" Yes, there is ! " declares the peasant, pushing 
quickly forward. 

" Well, I know nothing about it. Be off, in 
God's name ! ' answers Leo, and after going a few 
steps, jumps briskly over a ditch. 

But is Tolstoi absolutely certain that he has no foal ? 

In Childhood and Boyhood he tells us how, on 
one occasion, having forgotten to confess one of 
his sins to the priest, he went to make a fresh 
confession. Going home from the monastery in a 
cab he felt an agreeable self-satisfaction and pride 
in his own piety. And he felt he must talk and 
share the feeling with somebody. But as no one 
was at hand except the cabman, he clambered to the 
box seat, and described to him these fine emotions. 

" Really ! ' said the man incredulously, and for 
a long while after he sat stock still. I thought he 
was thinking of me, what the priest thought, " What 
an incomparably good young man ! ' But suddenly 
he turned round and said, " And what, sir, may be 
your honour's occupation ? " 

" What ? " asked I. 

" Your occupation, your honour's occupation ? ' 
he repeated, mumbling his toothless lips. 

; Well, he evidently doesn't understand me," I 
thought, and talked to him no more till we 
arrived at the house. 

1 1 blush even now," he adds, " when I remem- 
ber the occurrence." 

It strikes one that the sick serf who looked on 
in humiliation and vexation at the good gentlemen 
felling trees for him with their own hands, and the 
unabashed peasant who asked Tolstoi for the non- 
79 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

existent foal, might have inquired, like the cabman, 
" And what, sir, is your honour's occupation ? ' 

But Tolstoi fulfils the commandment of Christ 
by retorting to this inquiry about property that 
spider so easily crushed " What ? I know no- 
thing about it ; be off, in God's name ! Be off ! ' 

An eye-witness declares that whatever Tolstoi 
may do he never appears ridiculous. We remember 
the moment when, to evade that unfortunate peas- 
ant, with an agility wonderful in an old man of 
seventy, he jumped the ditch, and we have our 
doubts. I am only too well aware that in such an 
act there is, not only a ridiculous, but a pitiful 
element, and one terrible, both to himself and to 
us all. As is almost always the case in the life of 
to-day, the piteously ridiculous is also the dreadful. 

Is it not dreadful that even this man, who has 
utterly thirst e,d for truth, who has so remorsefully 
found fault with himself and others, should have 
admitted such a crying deception to soul and 
conscience such a monstrous anomaly ? Despite 
all appearances, the smallest and the strongest of 
the devils, the latter-day Devil of Property, of 
Philistine self -content and neutral pettiness, has 
won in this man his last and greatest victory. 

If the Tolstoi legend had been concocted in the 
twilight of the Middle Ages, we might have taken 
that importunate peasant who demanded an im- 
possible foal, for some shape assumed by the Fiend. 
And when the Count ran away from him, the 
Tempter must have grinned and muttered one of 
his favourite remarks, " Don't you know that I, 
too, am a logician ? ' 

80 



CHAPTER V 

You are a king, live alone ! " soliloquized Pushkin ; 
but in spite of spiritual solitude, he always lived 
in a larger circle of friends than belonged to any 
other writer. His capacity for sudden and in- 
cautious friendship was astonishing, as was his 
simple and easy intercourse with all men, great 
and small : with Gogol and Arina Rodionovna, the 
Emperor Nicholas, Baratynski, Delvig, Yazykov, 
and Lord knows who else almost any one who 
came to hand. 

Thou lovedst to come stooping from thy zenith, 
To hide thee in the shadows on our plains ; 
Thou lovedst sky-thunder, and yet lovedst too 
The murmur of the bees in the red rose. 

How much he had of unaffected forgiveness and 
condescension towards smaller men ! And there is 
towards rich and great no shade of envy, self- 
interest, or malice. With what frankness he shows 
us his heart ! With what regal generosity, nay, 
prodigality ! He seems, in all his nature, like others, 
a good little Pushkin. He seems like others to the 
core ; " that dear, good fellow, Pushkin." Scarcely 
one of his friends suspects his awful greatness, his 

81 G 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

hopeless solitariness. It was suddenly manifested 
only just before his death, when he could say to 
himself with quiet bitterness, " You are a king, die 
alone ! " 

And Goethe, yet more lonely than Pushkin, 
knew how to " drop to the shadow of the low 
plain ' from the icy summits where the Eternal 
Mothers dwell, to make friends with Schiller, the 
fiery and the earthly. 

In Tolstoi's life we are struck by a peculiar 
loneliness, not that proper to genius, but another- 
social, terrestrial, and human. He has won for 
himself almost all that a man can win, except a 
friend. His relations with Fet cannot be called 
friendship, for he contemplates him too much 
from above. And how could Fet be a friend to 
him ? Their intercourse is rather the intercourse 
of the chiefs of two gently-born and landed fami- 
lies, no more. All his life Tolstoi has had about 
him mere relatives, admirers, observers, or observ- 
ants, and latterly, disciples, these last being really 
farther away from his soul than any. As the years 
go on this reasoned and calculated aloofness, this 
cautiousness in affection, this complete incapacity 
for friendship, increase. Only once did Fate, as if 
putting it to the touch, send him a worthy and 
illustrious friend, and Tolstoi himself repelled, or 
at least failed to retain him. That friend was 
Turgeniev. 

Their relations form one of the strangest psy- 
chological riddles in the history of Russian litera- 
ture. Some mysterious force attracted them, time 
after time, towards one another, but when within 

82 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

a certain distance impelled them apart, only to 
draw them together again later. They were mutu- 
ally disagreeable, almost intolerable, and at the 
same time most closely akin. They were more 
necessary to each other than other men, yet could 
never meet in peace. Turgeniev was the first to j 
recognize and welcome in Tolstoi a great national 
writer. " When this new wine settles, we shall get 
a vintage fit for the gods," he wrote as early as 
1856 to Drujinin. And upwards of twenty years 
later he wrote to Fet : " The name of Tolstoi is 
beginning to acquire European celebrity ; we in 
Russia have long since known that he was peer- 
less." The opinion of a man whom I do not 
love," owns Tolstoi, " is dear to me, and that the 
more, the more I grow in stature ; I mean the 
opinion of Turgeniev." " When we are apart, 
although this sounds strange enough," he writes 
to Turgeniev himself, " my heart flies to you as 
to a brother. In a word, I love you ; of that there 
is no doubt." Grigorovich tells us of the soirees 
of the Contemporary in Nekrasov's rooms in the 
fifties, " Tolstoi lies full length on a morocco 
sofa in the central reception room, and snorts 
himself into a rage, while Turgeniev, parting the 
tails of his short cutaway and sticking his hands 
in his pockets, keeps striding to and fro through 
the three rooms." To prevent a catastrophe, 
Grigorovich goes up to Tolstoi. 

' My dear fellow, don't excite yourself, you 
know how he appreciates and loves you." 

1 1 will not let him insult me," says Tolstoi, with 
dilating nostrils. " There he is now, parading up 

83 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

and down past me on purpose, and kicking his 
democratic heels." 

At last the catastrophe which Grigorovich had 
reason to fear came to pass at Stepanovka, Fet's 
place, in 1861, a quarrel about some trifle 1 which 
nevertheless nearly led to a duel. Turgeniev was 
to blame, for he lost his temper and spoke too 
strongly. Tolstoi was right, as unexceptionable in 
attitude as in most of his social relationships, and 
in spite of apparent heat, inwardly cool, reserved 
and self-controlled. For all that, strange as it 
may seem, the culpable Turgeniev makes a better 
figure in the dispute than the correct Tolstoi ; for 
he at once came to himself, and in a manly, simple 
and magnanimous way retracted his words. Tol- 
stoi took, or wanted to take, this retraction for 
cowardice. 

' I despise this man," he wrote to Fet, knowing 
that his words would be repeated to his opponent. 

' I felt," owned Turgeniev, " that he hated me, 
and cannot understand why he is always appealing 
to me. I should have kept away from him as 
before ; but I tried to make advances, and this 
almost brought us to a duel. I never liked him, 
and don't know why I was blind to all this before." 

It seemed as if all was finally at an end between 
them. But lo, seventeen years after, Tolstoi is 
again making the first advance to the other, again 

1 Another account says : " This furious quarrel arose out 
of a cynical remark made by Tolstoi when he heard that 
Turgeniev had engaged an English governess to teach his 
natural daughter. Turgeniev challenged him, and Tolstoi 
avoided a duel by apologizing.-' EDJ 

8 4 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

" appealing " to him, and offering to make it up. 
Turgeniev at once responded with joyful alacrity, 
as if he had himself desired, and been waiting for 
the reconciliation. He met Tolstoi like one of his 
nearest and dearest, after a long and enforced 
separation, and his last thought was given to this 
" friend." 

" Dear and beloved Leo Nikolaievitch," wrote 
Turgeniev, " I have not written to you for a long 
time, for I lay and lie (in two words) on my death- 
bed. I cannot get well ; that is not to be thought 
of. But I write in order to tell you how glad I 
am to have been your contemporary, and to make 
my last earnest request. My friend, return to 
literary work. This talent of yours has come down 
from whence all else comes. Oh ! how happy 
should I be could I believe that my entreaty would 
prevail with you. My friend, our great national 
writer, grant my request ! " 

In these words there is a tacit fear for Tolstoi, 
a silent disbelief in his conversion to Christianity. 
The public action of Tolstoi did not respond to 
the appeal of Turgeniev. And who knows, this 
letter may have wounded him, full as it was of that 
sincerity with which men speak on the verge of 
the grave. It may well have been more painful 
than any of their former encounters. Did he not 
repeat in his heart, with revived dislike and the 
vain desire to be contemptuous, " I despise this 
man ' For it has always so happened in those 
crises, when we might expect frank, high-minded 
and decisive utterance. He shut his ears to the 
last prayer of his friend and adversary. 

85 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

Turgeniev once passed a profound and penetrat- 
ing judgment on Tolstoi : " His chief fault con- 
sists in the absence of spiritual freedom" 
Of the character Levine, who, as he clearly 
saw, is the double of Tolstoi, Turgeniev wrote to 
a friend, " Could you for a moment entertain the 
idea that Levine is at all capable of caring for any 
one ? No ; affection is a passion eliminating * self.' 
But Levine, when he learns that he is beloved and 
happy, does not cease his devotion to himself. 
Levine is an egotist to the marrow of his bones" 

" You have one characteristic in a rare, an aston- 
ishing degree candour," remarks Nekhliudov to 
Irteniev. 

" Yes," agreed Irteniev, not without secret satis- 
faction ; "I always say precisely the things I am 
ashamed to say." 

But it is a strange effect that the " candour " of 
Tolstoi produces, if you penetrate into it a little 
deeper. This candour enables him the better to 
conceal the inmost recesses of his soul, so that the 
more frank he appears the more secretive he is. 
He always confesses the things that he is ashamed 
of, with the exception of the chiefest and most 
dread secret of all. That he never mentions to 
anybody, not even himself. Turgeniev was the only 
man with whom he could not, as with others, be 
either silent or guardedly outspoken. Turgeniev 
saw too clearly that he could never care for any 
one but himself, and that in this lay the last shame, 
the last dread which he nowhere dares confess. 
In this too great perspicacity of Turgeniev's lies 
the cause of that enigmatical force, now attractive, 

86 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

now repellent, which played such strange tricks 
with the pair. Like two mirrors set opposite each 
other, reflecting and fathoming each other to in- 
finity, both feared the too clear view of their own 
latencies. 

Not less noticeable are the relations between 
Tolstoi and Dostoievski. They never met, but 
the former was for many years meaning to make 
the other's acquaintance. " I considered Dostoiev- 
ski my friend, and never thought but that we 
should meet, and as that never happened it must 
be my fault." 

He was always intending, but he never carried 
out his intention never found time ; and it was 
only after poor Dostoievski' s imposing funeral, 
when everybody was talking about him and making 
as much fuss as if they had just discovered him, 
that Tolstoi at last joined in the general accla- 
mation, remembered his deferred affection, and 
' suddenly ' realized that this was his " nearest, 
dearest and most- valued fellow-creature." "It 
was as if a prop had been taken from me. I was 
thunderstruck, wept, and am still weeping. A few 
days ago, just before his death, I read The Humili- 
ated and Oppressed, and was greatly moved by it." 

It is curious that Tolstoi's emotion did not 
choose something more worthy of it, say Crime 
and Punishment, or The Idiot, or The Brothers 
Karamazov, but he got no further than one of the 
few mediocre and immature productions of Dos- 
toievski. Possibly, again, he had not found time. 

But there is a more curious passage in the letter 
of condolence. " It never occurred to me to com- 

8? 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

pare myself with him, never," he declared. " All 
his work was such that the more he did the better 
I found it. Art excites in me envy, and so does 
intellect ; but the work of the heart only pleasure." 

How are we to understand this ? Is Tolstoi too 
secretive here, or too candid ? He owns to envy 
in general terms, but by no means to envy towards ; 
his greatest rival ; and in the works of Dostoievski, 
the author of Crime and Punishment, there is, for- 
sooth, the " work of the heart ' and no more. Is 
there really no more ? Is there in Dostoievski 
neither the " intelligence ' nor the " art ' which 
even Tolstoi might occasionally envy ? Or are 
these in his case insignificant and slight, as com- 
pared with "feeling"? Such praise as this is 
hardly a thing to be proud of. The Count wept, 
and no doubt sincerely, but those words make one 
feel unaccountably chilly and ill at ease. 

What did Dostoievski think of the ethical teach- 
ing of the master and his Christian regeneration ? 
What did this man, " most near, essential and dear ; 
to him, this inward prop of Tolstoi's spiritual life, 
think about Tolstoi's holy of holies ? 

Dostoievski was the first to point out the coming 
world-wide importance of the artistic creations of 
Tolstoi, at that time realized by no one else, and 
even now not fully understood* And he saw 
Tolstoi's weakness as clearly as his strength. 
Of Levine he said much the same as Turgeniev 
did, " Levine is an egotist to the marrow of his 
bones," only in different words. He asks him- 
self, " What caused Levine to be so gloomy and 
alone, and to stand aside so surlily ? ' And he 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

returns more than once to this question, medi- 
tating inter alia on the so-called " democratiza- 
tion ' of Levine and Tolstoi, and their attempts 
" to return to the soil." Dostoievski felt that, 
more than any one else in Russia, he had the right 
to express an opinion on this point : "I have seen 
our common folk and known them, have lived 
years enough with them, eaten with them, slept 
with them, have myself been * numbered with the 
transgressors,' worked with them at real hard 
labour. Do not tell me that I don't know the 
people ! I know them well." * 

And he considered that the gulf separating such 
men as Levine and Tolstoi from the people was 
more impassable than they supposed. " There is 
nothing more dreadful than to live in a c world ' 
which is not your own. A peasant transported 
from Taganrog to Port Petropavlovsk at once finds 
there a familiar Russian peasantry, at once falls 
in with them and gets on with them. It is not so 
with the man of family. He is utterly parted from 
the common people, and this is only fully apparent 
when the gentleman is suddenly deprived of his 
former privilege, and becomes part of the common- 
alty. It is not enough that all your life you have 
been in daily contact with the people, as a friend, 
as a benefactor and protector ; you never learn 
their real inwardness. Your knowledge is an illu- 
sion and no more." 

You must simply do what your heart bids 

Dostoievski writes on Tolstoi's religious ideas in his 
Diary of an Author (or Author's Note-book), which was 
published periodically from 1873 to 1881. ED. 

8 9 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

you," continues Dostoievski ; " if it bids you give 
away your property, give it ; if it bids you go work 
for the common good, do so ; but even then, do 
not do as other dreamers, who must take straight- 
way to the wheelbarrow, saying, " I will be a 
peasant.' The wheelbarrow also may be a mere 
uniform, a convention. It is not essential to give 
away your substance or put on a smock-frock, 
that is only the letter and a form ; what is essen- 
tial and of consequence is simply your determina- 
tion to do anything as a practical demonstration of 
your love. You may candidly admit your own 
class limitations. All attempts to ' join the people ' 
are merely a travesty, uncivil to the people and 
humiliating to yourself." 

" My doubts have ended," declared Levine, and 
in what ? He has not yet precisely denned the 
object of his faith. Is it faith ? There can hardly 
be final belief in such men as Levine. He loves to 
call himself of the people, but he is a gentleman, an 
average Moscow fop of the upper class, of which 
the historian is undoubtedly Tolstoi. Such men 
as this Levine, however long they may live with the 
people, never become merged in the people ; nay 
more, in many respects never understand them. An 
impetuous whim, an angry act of will, however fan- 
tastic, will not transform him into a common man. 
You may be a squire, and a working squire, and know 
a labourer's work, and reap yourself, and know how 
to harness a cart, yet still in your soul, however you 
may struggle, there will remain a touch of what 
I think may be called idleness, that physical and 
spiritual idleness which, despite hard effort, clings 

90 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

to the class by inheritance, and which, in any case, 
the people see in every gentleman. And so Levine 
feels now and again some flaw in his faith, and all 
at once it topples down. In a word, this simple 
soul is empty and chaotic. Otherwise he would 
not be a perfect and cultured Russian gentleman, 
still less an ordinary member of the noble class." 

The coinciding judgment on Levine and Tolstoi 
formed by minds so original and opposite as Tur- 
geniev the Westernizer and Dostioevski the Slavo- 
phil, seems worthy of remark. " He never loved 
any one but himself " ; "an egotist to the marrow 
of his bones " ; "an ordinary Moscow fop of the 
upper class " ; an " empty and chaotic soul," " fai- 
neantise" and so on. This seems final condem- 
nation. 

It appears that Turgeniev and Dostoievski are 
right, but the truth seen by them is limited. Com- 
batants like him themselves, they have not expressed, 
perhaps have not discerned, the seeker after a new 
religion in Levine and Tolstoi. For us, farther off 
and calmer, it is easier to see into this human soul, 
which is still great as no others are possibly 
because we can be more compassionate. And only 
in utmost compassion lies perfect justice. 

Epicurean qualities qualities of the hunter 
Yeroshka, of the lounging Moscow fop, yes ; but he 
is profounder than the Epicureans. The basis of 
his soul, as with all the true men of to-day, is deep, 
tragic, and terrible. Look in his face, powerful in 
ruggedness, the face of a blind subterranean Titan, 
and you will feel that this is no mere Russian squire 
of the eighteenth century. Through the radiant 

91 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

joy of living on that face I trace the mark of Cain, 
or of our age, the mark of secret immedicable an- 
guish and dark pride. And those whom Baratynski 
called 

The mighty and gloom-stricken children 
Of Poetry's mystical pain 

might at times welcome in him one of their own : 

" Thou didst drink of the same cup as we 
Of greatness poisoned. 11 

He has not reached what lies before us, but knows 
that to what is behind there is no return. He has 
not made the further shore, nor winged his flight 
to the further brink of the abyss, but his greatness 
is seen even in failure. 

He has never loved any man, even himself. He 
has never adventured on that greatest love which 
is passionless and fearless. But who has thirsted 
for love with more avidity than he ? He has 
never believed in anything, but who has thirsted 
for belief more insatiably ? It is not everything ; 
but is it not enough ? " What though," he says 
in the Confession, "I, a fallen fledgling, am lying 
on my back and crying in the high grass ? I cry 
because I know that my mother bore me within 
her, covered me, warmed, fed, loved me. Where 
is she, that mother ? If she deserted me, then 
why did she do so ? I cannot disguise from myself 
that some one begot me and tended me with 
feelings of love. Who is that some one ? ' 

I simply do not believe Tolstoi when he declares 
that he has found the truth, and is for ever set at rest ; 
that now " all is clear ' to him. It seems to me 

92 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

that when he says this he is further than ever from 
God and the truth. But I cannot refuse to believe 
him when he speaks of himself as a pitiful fledgling 
fallen from the nest. Yes, however terrible, it is 
true. This Titan, with all his vigour, is lying on 
his back and wailing in the high grass, as you and 
I and all the rest of us. No, he has found nothing, 
no faith, no God. And his whole justification is 
solely in this hopeless prayer, this piercing and 
plaintive cry of boundless solitude and dread. 
Yes^he too, and all of us, can only dimly feel without 
as_yetjaiowing how truly pitiful is our plight, de- A 

prived of that vast natural and maternal Church, 
Ijnean not the Church of the past or the present, 
but of the future, that which keeps saying, under 
her breath, to mankind, " How often would I have 
gathered you as a hen gathers her chickens under 
her wings, and ye would not ! " 

How near he was to what he sought ! Another 
moment, another effort, and all would have been 
revealed to him. Why did he not take that step ? 
What obstacle kept him from the goal of the future ? 
What endless weakness in his endless strength kept 
him from bursting the last veil, transparent and thin 
as a ' weak spider's web," and having sight of 
the Light ? And now, has he accomplished all that 
he was destined to accomplish ? Has the wheel of 
his spiritual evolution come full circle ? Has he 
come to a standstill, turned to stone, or will he 
revive again to undergo the last, really the last, re- 
generation ? Who can forecast the future of this 
man ? Yet more momentous words and actions 
we probably must not look for from him now. 

93 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

Goethe says, " Well it is for that man who can 
make the end of his life tally with the beginning," 
that is, the old man's " wisdom of the serpent," 
tally with the " simplicity of the dove " in the child. 
Will Tolstoi succeed in making them tally ? Will 
the last bandage fall from the eyes of the blind 
Titan ? 

In his first book there is a picture of vernal nature 
after a storm, as it appears to the eyes of a child. 
" I spring from the britchka 1 and eagerly drink in 
the freshened fragrant air. Everything is moist 
and sparkles in the sun, as if covered with 
varnish. On one side of the road is a fallow 
field, stretching out of view, here and there 
traversed by shallow hollows, shining with moist 
soil and green leaves, and spreading in a shadowy 
carpet to the very horizon. On the other, a 
pine-wood, overgrown with nut and rock-cherry 
underwood, stands still, as if in excess of happiness, 
and slowly lets fall from its newly washed boughs 
the bright raindrops on the fallen brown foliage. 
On all hands crested larks rise, singing gaily, or drop 
swiftly down : amongst the moist bushes are heard 
young birds pattering, and from the middle of the 
copse comes the clear note of a cuckoo. So bewitch- 
ing is this wondrous perfume of the woods after the 
spring storm, the savour of birch, of violets, dried 
leaves and rock-cherries that, springing from the 
step of the britchka, I rush to the bushes, and in 
spite of a shower of raindrops, tear down one of the 
wet boughs of the cherry, beat the blossoms in my 
face, and revel in their delicate perfume. My boots 

1 Carriage. 
94 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

are drowned in mire, and stockings long since wet 
through, I wade through the dirt and run to the 
carriage window. 

" ' Liubochka ! Katenka ! ' I cry, handing in 
several boughs of cherry, ' Look, how nice ! ' 

" The girls scream in dismay at the drops and 
sigh, and Nini calls to me to come away, or I shall cer- 
tainly get a whipping. 

" ' Just smell how sweet it is ! ' I cry." 

Will this recollection of his childhood flash before I 
him in his last hours ? Will he drink once more y 
that intoxicating perfume, and feel the fresh touch, 
like a child's kiss, of the boughs against his face ? 
Will he at last become aware that in this endless 
earthly delight and love for the things of earth lay, 
for him, the germ of the more than earthly ? Will 
he understand that his indomitable inhumanity his 
animal and yet divine love for the body, which he has 
struggled vainly all his life to suppress, was in truth 
for him all his life as wholly innocent as when he 
rolled in self-admiration in his tub as a naked child ? 

Tolstoi's love for himself alone would have been 
religious, even sublime, if it had continued to the 
end, had he loved himself, not for his own sake, 
but the God in him, just as he says he loves the 
commandments of the Lord, not for themselves, 
but because they are God's. Will he at last realize 
that here there is nothing high nor low, that paths 
diverse, yet equally true, lead to one and the same 
goal ; that, in reality, all paths are one ; that it is 
not against and not away from things earthly, but 
only through things earthly, that we attain the more 
than earthly, not in conflict with, or divested of, 

95 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

but only through the bodily that we attain the 
spiritual ? Shall we fear the flesh we inheritors 
of Him who said, " My blood is drink indeed, and 
my flesh is meat indeed," we, whose God's ' ; Word 

was made Flesh ' ' ? 

Momentous may well be the effect on the world 
that Tolstoi, (at present, after all, the greatest and 
most influential of Russians) should, before his 
death, realize this fact that we have dimly come to 
understand; that he should find time, if not to write, 
at least to tell us about it. Ah ! we should listen 
thirstily to his words ; should treasure them, though 
uttered in the last delirium, however weakly 
and indistinctly they might fall on the ears of 
others ! For to us the spoken word is more preg- 
.nant, more essential than the written. What 
is said is, and shall be ; that only is written 
which has been, and is no more. Our final 
truth cannot yet be written down, it can only be 
spoken and carried out. Will Tolstoi find time ? 
God grant him and us that he may ! 



CHAPTER VI 

UNLIKE Tolstoi, Dostoievski does not eare to talk 
about himself. This man, apparently so bold, 
even cruel and cynical, an exposer of others' hearts, 
is full of modesty and " lofty shamefastness " 
about his own. The sufferings he had been through 
never embittered or hardened, or made him pose as 
a martyr. He bore himself as if there had been 
nothing exceptional about his past, and looked 
gay and brisk when health would let him. A gush- 
ing young lady at one of his brother's editorial 
evenings at length said, " Gazing at you I can trace 
your suffering." 

Visibly vexed, he cried, " What suffering," and 
began to joke about indifferent matters. 

He drew little on his personal experiences, had 
little self-consciousness, complained of no one, but 
tried to excuse and ennoble in his imagination the 
environment from which he sprang, as if to persuade 
himself and others that his life had been happier 
than it really was. 

; I was one of those to whom the return to the 
national, the knowledge of the Russian people's 
heart, was easy. I came of an honest Russian 
stock. As far back as I remember, I remember 
loving my parents. The children in our house 

97 H 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

knew the Gospel from earliest childhood. At 
ten years old I knew all the chief episodes of 
Russian history, read aloud to us of evenings 
by our father. Every visit to the Kremlin and 
the Moscow cathedrals was for me a red-letter 
day." 

He used to say fervently of his dear parents, " Ah ! 
brother, they were people ahead of their age, and 
they would still be so if living now. We shall not 
make such fathers or such home-folk, you and I ! ' 

May we trust these rosy recollections ? The 
father appears to have been exceptionally touchy, 
impatient, and vehement ; " a surly, highly-strung 
suspicious sort of man." 

" I am sorry for my poor father," writes the six- 
teen-year-old Dostoievski himself, in 1838, " he is 
a strange character and endlessly unfortunate ! I 
can't help bitter tears when I think I can do nothing 
to comfort him." 

We get vague hints of the enigmatical and tragic 
nature of the strange father. The wearisome nature 
of this father, his surliness, irascibility and suspicious- 
ness, certainly had an effect on the character of his 
son. Only one of his biographers raises the veil 
from this family secret, and instantly drops it again. 
Speaking of the cause of the falling sickness from 
which Dostoievski suffered, he writes, " It dates back 
to his earliest youth, and is connected with a tragic 
event in their family life." 

No doubt this incident in the life of a " truly 
Russian and honourable family," as Dostoievski has 
it, must have been truly terrible if, as the family 
biographer hints, it could cause epilepsy in the child. 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

All was not, probably, as bright and comforting in 
this boyhood as it seemed to Dostoi'evski through 
the mists of memory. It is his own life that he 
refers to when he calls the hero of the story " The 
Hobbledehoy," a member of a chance family, in con- 
trast, perhaps, to Tolstoi's, who had such a splen- 
did " Childhood and Boyhood." And it is surely 
of himself that he speaks when he puts these yet 
sadder words into his hero's mouth, " The conscious- 
ness that in me and with me, however ridiculous 
and abject I may seem, lies somewhere that jewel 
of power which makes them all, sooner or later, 
change their opinion of me, this consciousness, I 
say, almost from my earliest and most humble years 
formed the only source of my vitality, my guiding 
star and solace ; otherwise, I might have killed my- 
self while still a child." 

Compare his beginnings, merely worldly "chances," 
with Tolstoi's, the descendant on his mother's side 
of the Grand Duke St. Michael of Chernigov ; and 
on his father's of Peter Andreivich Tolstoi, favourite 
of Peter the Great, Chief of the Secret Chancery 
and Tutor to the Tzarevich Alexei. Dostoievski 
was the son of a staff-surgeon and a tradesman's 
daughter, born in a charity-hospital at Moscow, 
the Maison Dieu, near the Maria Grove ; sure 
enough, member of a " chance family." His first 
impressions were of penury. His father, who had 
five children, rented an apartment consisting of 
two rooms and a kitchen. A dark nursery corner 
for the two elder boys, Michael and Fedor, was 
carved out of the small entrance-hall by a match- 
board partition. " Our father," says one of them, 

99 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

Andrei, ' used to say he was a poor man, and his 
boys must be prepared to fend for themselves, for 
at his death they would be left beggars." In 1838 
Dostoievski wrote from school, " My dear, kind, 
good father, can you suppose that your spn, when 
he asks you for help in money, asks for more than is 
necessary ? Because of your poverty," he concludes 
" I shall not drink tea." " You complain of penni- 
lessness," he tells one of his brothers about the same 
time ; " well, we must make the best shift we can. I 
am not over rich either. Believe me, on leaving 
the camps I hadn't a farthing, and fell sick of a 
chill in the rains on the road, as well as of hunger, 
for I hadn't a sou to moisten my throat with a 
mouthful of tea." 

Thus the life of Dostoievski begins in poverty, 
which was not fated to come to an end till near on 
his death, and which depended, not so much on 
external accidents, as on his own nature. There are 
people who cannot spend and are foredoomed to 
hoard ; there are others who cannot save, and are 
congenitally damned to thriftlessness. Dostoievski, 
like Goldsmith, " never knew how much he had," 
either in money, clothes, or linen. A German doctor, 
who endeavoured to teach his house-mate German 
carefulness, ' found him without a farthing, living 
on bread and milk, and even for that he was in debt 
at the little milk-shop." 

Fedor belonged to those characters, to live with 
whom is good for everybody, but who themselves 
are always in want. He was robbed unmercifully, 
but was himself so confiding and kindhearted 
that he would not look into the matter or blame the 

100 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

servants or their hangers-on, who took advantage of 
his trustfulness. " The very fact of living with the 
doctor," adds one biographer, " went near to be- 
coming for him a cause for fresh expense. For 
every poor creature that came to the doctor for 
advice the doctor's companion was ready to receive 
as an honoured guest." 

Tolstoi relates that in the Liapino Night Refuge 
he himself sought for folk sufficiently needy to 
deserve help in money, to whom he could distribute 
thirty-seven roubles, entrusted to him by wealthy 
and charitable men in Moscow. This money re- 
mained in his hands. He sought, and could not 
find, such poor. We may say with confidence, 
Dostoievski would have had no difficulty in finding 
them. The innate generosity of Dostoievski, his 
pr oneness to throw money to the winds, is in queer 
contrast to Tolstoi's equally innate disinclination 
to the smallest extravagance. The one careful 
and domestic, the other a profuse and houseless 
vagabond. Dostoievski, you see, has no difficulty 
in believing that money is an evil, and that we 
ought to renounce property. This victim of poverty 
dealt with money as if he held it not an evil, but 
utter rubbish. Dostoievski thinks he loves money ; 
but money flees him. Tolstoi thinks he hates money 
but money loves him, and accumulates about him. 
The one, dreaming all his life of wealth, lived, and 
but for his wife's business qualities would have died, 
a beggar. The other, all his life preaching and 
dreaming of poverty, not only has not given away, 
but has greatly multiplied his very substantial 
possessions. 

101 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

All worldly advantages in Tolstoi are so to speak 
centripetal, in Dostoievski centrifugal. The latter 
felt the presence in his nature of some fateful force, 
inviting misfortune. He ascribed the cause of his 
sufferings to himself and his so-called " viciousness." 
' I have a dreadful vice," he owns to his brother, 
" boundless vanity and ambition." " I am as 
sensitive as if I had been flayed, and the very air 
hurts me," says the hero of Notes from a Cellar, 
who, in many respects, resembles Dostoievski him- 
self. " A few days ago Turgeniev and Bielinski 
found fault with me for my irregular life." ' I 
am wrong in the nerves, and suffer from a nervous 
fever of some kind ; I cannot live regularly, so 
Bohemian am I." There is scarcely real penitence 
in such admissions. But we find some sad and 
surprising self-criticisms. " The devil knows," he 
say in one place, " that if what is good is given to 
me, I infallibly spoil it by my vile disposition." 
And again, many years later, referring to a loss at 
roulette at Baden, " In all places and things I have 
crossed the last limits." Our age, which is afraid 
of " last limits," could not forgive Dostoievski and 
punished him contemptuously and pitilessly. In 
this respect, as in many others, he is a man of 
another age, and born out of due time. As for 
Tolstoi, is it not noticeable that in spite of all the 
apparent passionateness of his impulses in the 
field of speculation, never in real life or in his 
actions did he " take the last plunge, or " overstep 
the mark " ? 

Dostoievski led off with a success, the novel Poor 
Folk. " Am I really so remarkable ? ' he thought 

102 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

in a sort of timid enthusiasm, with regard to the im- 
pression made by this book (by a youth of twenty) 
on the critics Nekrasov and Grigorovich. c I will 
be worthy of these men's praise ! For what men, 
what men they are ! I will deserve it, and even to 
become as fine a fellow as they." 

His next story, The Double, came to grief. Friends 
turned away from him, feeling that they had made 
a mistake in taking him for a different man. 
Fate's irony sent him a momentary success in order 
to aggravate subsequent disaster. 

From that time his literary career was a life-long 
and desperate struggle with what is called " Russian 
public opinion," and with the critics. And how 
petty and disproportionate, how accidental to us 
(who are beginning to realize the true merits of this 
writer) seems the fame which came to him not long 
before his death, especially as compared with the 
life-long fame of Tolstoi ! 

" Give me the good, aud I shall infallibly turn it 
into bad by my disposition." The truth of this 
self-criticism was seemingly proved with special 
palpableness in the Petrachevski affair, for which 
he paid so dearly. The Petrachevski circle or club, 
was a group of young men whose aims were not so 
much revolutionary or political as socialistic. They 
held the doctrines of Fourier. 

The following account of the incident is given by 
M. Waliszewski in his excellent History of Russian 
Literature : " Dostoievski's special function in 
connection with it (that is, the club), was to preach 
the Slavophil doctrine, according to which, Russia, 
sociologically speaking, needed no Western models, 

103 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

because in her artels (workman's guilds) and her 
system of mutual responsibility for the payment 
of taxes (Krougovaia Porouka), she already pos- 
sessed the means of realizing a superior form of 
social arrangement. One evening he, Dostoievski, 
had gone so far as to declaim Pushkin's Ode on 
the Abolition of Serfdom, and when, amid the enthu- 
siasm stirred by the poet's lines, some one present 
expressed a doubt of the possibility of obtaining 
the desired reform except by insurrectionary means, 
he is said to have replied, " Then insurrection let it 
be ! ' No further accusation was brought against 
him, but this sufficed. On December 22, after 
eight months' imprisonment, he was conducted, 
with twenty-one others to a public square where a 
scaffold had been erected. The prisoners were all 
stripped to their shirts (there were twenty-one 
degrees of frost) and their sentence was read out : 
they were condemned to death. Dostoievski thought 
it must be a horrible dream. He had only just 
calmly communicated a plan of some fresh literary 
composition to one of his fellow-prisoners. " Is 
it possible that we are going to be executed ? ' 
he asked. The friend to whom he had addressed 
the inquiry pointed to a cart laden with objects 
which, even under the tarpaulin which covered 
them, looked like coffins. The registrar descended 
from the scaffold, and the priest ascended it, cross 
in hand, and exhorted the condemned men to make 
their last confession. One only, a man of the shop- 
keeping class, obeyed the summons, the others 
were content with kissing the cross. In a letter 
addressed to his brother Michael Dostoievski has 

104 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

thus related the close of the tragic scene. " They 
snapped swords over our heads, and they made us 
put on the white shirts worn by persons condemned 
to death. Thereupon we were bound in threes to 
stakes, to suffer execution. Being the third in the 
row, I concluded I had only a few minutes to live 
before me. I thought of you, and of your dear ones, 
and I contrived to kiss Pletcheeiv and Dourov, who 
were next to me; and to bid them farewell. Sud- 
denly the troops beat a tattoo, we were unbound, 
brought back upon the scaffold, and informed that 
his Majesty had spared our lives." The Tzar had 
reversed the judgment of the military tribunal, 
and commuted the penalty of death to that of hard 
labour. The cart really contained convict uniforms, 
which the prisoners had at once to put on. One 
of them, Grigoriev, had lost his reason." 

Dostoievski was more fortunate. He was always 
convinced that, but for this experience, he would 
have gone mad. " By a singular process of reaction 
(continues M. Waliszewski), " the convict prison 
strengthened him, both physically and morally. 
The Muscovite nature, full of obscure atavism, the 
inheritance of centuries of suffering, has an incal- 
culable power of resistance. At the end of four 
years, the horrible " House of the Dead ' opened 
its gates, and the novelist returned to ordinary life, 
stronger in body, calmer in nerve, better balanced 
in mind. He had still three years to serve in a 
regiment as a private soldier. When these were 
over, he was promoted to the rank of officer, and 
allowed to reside, first at Tver, and then at St. 
Petersburg." 

105 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

It is difficult to imagine what exactly led him to 
mix himself up with socialism. The dreams of the 
Socialists were not only absent, but alien to his 
nature. He said that " life in a Fourieristic Com- 
mune or phalansttre, seemed to him more dreadful 
and repulsive than any convict prison. If we com- 
pare his evidence on the trial with what he after- 
wards gave to the world voluntarily, it will be 
scarcely possible to suspect the sincerity of his con- 
tention that he belonged to no socialistic organization/? 
being convinced that their establishment, whether 
in Russia or France, would entail inevitable ruin. 

What chiefly turned him against Socialism, al- 
though obstinately endeavouring, like his contem- 
poraries, to manage things on earth without God, 
and without religion, was the moral materialism of 
socialistic doctrine. From the evidence of an eye- 
witness, Petrachevski must have repelled him by 
the fact that he was " an atheist, and laughed at 
all belief." Precisely in the same way, the frivolous 
attitude of Bielinski towards religion awoke in him 
that unbridled blinding hatred, which during many 
years blazed up in him every time with renewed 
violence, when he thought of Bielinski as what he 
called " the most putrid and shameful manifestation 
of Russian life " (Letter to Strakhov, from Dresden, 
May 30, 1871). In his Diary for 1873 he very 
maliciously and subtly reproduces Bielinski's story, 
apparently sarcastic, but in reality in the highest 
degree simple-minded ; to say no more about their 
philosophical discussions, in which the Russian 
critic endeavoured to convert the future author of 
The Idiot to atheism. " Every time," says Bielinski, 

106 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

" that I speak of Christ in that way his whole face 
changes, as if he wanted to cry." 'Why, believe 
me, you simple-minded man/ he again attacked me," 
records Dostoievski " believe that your Christ, if 
he had been born to-day, would have been the 
most unremarkable and ordinary of men, so utterly 
would he have broken down before modern science 
and the present movers of humanity." " That man 
spoiled my Christ for me," he suddenly breaks out 
thirty years later, as if the talk had taken place 
only the day before, and full of vehement reproach. 
" That man spoiled my Christ for me, though he 
never was capable of placing himself and the leaders 
of the world side by side with Christ for comparison. 
He was never conscious how much there was in 
him and them of selfishness, wickedness, impatience, 
irritability, of paltriness, but most of all self-seeking. 
He did not say to himself at any time, ' But what 
are we to put in his place ? Shall it be ourselves, 
when we are so contemptible ? ' No, he never 
thought of the fact that he was contemptible, he 
was self-satisfied to the last degree, and it was a 
personal, abominable, and shameful insensibility " 
(Letter to N. Strakhov, May 18, 1871, v. his col- 
lected works, vol. i. p. 312, St. Petersburg, 1883). 

And so, if anybody ever was guiltless of theH 
atheistic socialism of that period, it certainly was \ \ 
Dostoievski. He became a martyr, and almost 
perished for what he never for a moment believed 
in, but hated with all the force of his nature. But 
what attracted him to these men ? Was it not what 
all his life made him seek out what mastnost difficult, 
disastrous, hard, and terrible, as if he felt suffering 

107 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

necessary to the full growth of his powers ? He 
broke bounds among these political conspirators, 
playing with danger as he always and everywhere 
did as afterwards at cards, at sensual enjoyment, 
at mystical terrors. During the eight months in the 
Fortress of Peter and Paul he read two Journeys to 
the Holy Places and the works of Demetrius of 
Rostov. " The latter," he writes, " took up much 
of my time." 

When the condemned men were brought on to 
the Semienovski Square and tied by threes to posts 
Dostoievski kept his self-command. He was pale, 
but walked quickly on to the scaffold, " more in a 
hurry than as if overcome." It only remained for 
the words " Let go " to be given, and all would have 
been at an end. But when the handkerchief was 
waved and the execution stopped, in the words of 
one of the condemned, " To many of them the news 
of their reprieve came by no means as a matter for 
rejoicing it was an insult, or as Dostoievski 
afterwards put it " a monstrous and uncalled-for 
defamation." 

The moments passed by Dostoievski in the ex- 
pectation not of probable, but of certain death 
" within five minutes," had on his whole after life 
an ineffaceable effect. They shifted his angle of 
vision with regard to the whole world, and he knew 
something which no man could know who had not 
been through such moments. Fate sent him, in a 
certain rare experience, a new standard, as it were, 
of all that is. It was a knowledge not thrown away. 
He used it later on to make startling revelations. 

" Fancy," he says, through the mouth of his Idiot, 

1 08 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

" fancy torture for instance, and add wounds and 
physical agony ; and be sure all this will turn your 
thoughts from mental suffering, so that your wounds 
alone are enough to rack you till you die. And yet 
the greatest pain is not in the wounds, but lies in 
this that you know for a certainty that in an hour, 
in ten minutes, in half a minute, then directly, then 
that instant, the soul will leave your body and you 
will no longer be a living being, and that to a cer- 
tainty the great thing is the certainty. So you 
put your head right under the knife, and hear it 
coming down on your head, and that quarter of a 
second is the most fearful of all. Who has said that 
human nature was capable of bearing this without 
going mad ? Why such shame, so monstrous, un- 
necessary, useless ? It may be there lives a man 
who has had the sentence read to him, and gone 
through the agony, and then been told, ' Listen, you 
are pardoned ! ' Such a man as that could, perhaps, 
tell us about it. It was of this torture and this 
terror that Christ has spoken." 

But he accepted his imprisonment with sub- 
mission, not complaining, not liking others to pity 
him. He endeavoured to elevate and refine his 
recollections of his punishment, just as he did those 
of his childhood, and saw in it a stern but salutary 
lesson of Fate. " I do not murmur," he writes to 
his brother from Siberia ; " this is my cross, and 
I have deserved it." But if it was true that he did 
not murmur, it must not be forgotten how much 
resignation cost him. 

1 1 am almost in despair. It is difficult to express 
how much I have suffered.^ Those four years I look 

109' 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

upon as a time of living burial. I was put in a coffin. 
The suffering was inexpressible and incessant, be- 
cause every hour, every minute weighed down my 
spirits like a millstone. In all the four years there 
was not a minute in which I forgot I was a convict. 
But why talk about it ? If I wrote you one hundred 
pages you would never have an idea of that time. 
You must at least have seen it I will not say gone 
through it yourself." 

And so if on the whole we may console ourselves 
with the thought that his sentence was beneficial to 
him, it was only beneficial in a transcendental sense. 
Again we encounter mysterious forces, which seem 
to watch over all the fortunes of Dostoi'evski and 
lead him to a certain goal. His imprisonment was 
one of the pains of fate which he courted, moulding 
a soul needed to create what he created 

As a spark-shedding sledge-hammer moulds the steel. 

All that Tolstoi dreamed of and aimed at, serious 
in plan, but play in practice forswearing property 
for manual labour, becoming one with the people, 
all this Dostoeivski had to experience under the 
crushing vigour of the hardest fact. 

The prisoner's short pelisse and fetters were for 
him by no means merely a symbol. They were 
his own living death, his own expulsion from the 
community. How many trees soever Tolstoi felled 
for poor villagers, it was, as I have said before, less 
work than pleasure, ascetic exercise, gymnastics. 
The essence of the poor man's work, physical and 
mental alike, consists in the feeling not only of 
moral but of physical compulsion, in actual danger, 

no 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

fear, humiliation and helplessness, of want : " If I 
do not work, then, in a day, in a month, or in a year, 
I shall be without a mouthful of bread." This, 
commonplace in practice, is not at all easily under- 
stood by people with such a bringing up as the 
Count. You, the comfortable, have no means of 
arriving at a conception of the ache of penury. 

Fortunate Dostoi'evski ! When fresh from the 
scaffold, in the summer of his first year in prison, 
some two months were spent in carrying bricks 
from the banks of the Irtysh to a barrack that was 
being built, some seventy toises distance, across 
the rampart of the fort. " This work," he tells us, 
" actually grew to be pleasant to me, though the 
rope by which the bricks had to be carried con- 
stantly galled my shoulders. But what I liked was 
that the work visibly developed my strength." 

If the consciousness of his growing strength was^ 
pleasant to him, yet it was no symbolical toil not 
one of the " four stages," or Epicurean sport, or 
mere exercise. He knew that on his bodily strength 
life and safety depended, and whether he should 
or should not live through his sentence. Refusal to 
carry bricks meant reprimand and the lash ; so the 
seriousness and necessity of the work gave him a 
love of life. 

No need to speculate on casting off property. He 
was himself an outcast. Tolstoi, on the other hand 
-you remember his correct but subsequently fruit- 
less calculation that he ought to have given the 
old beggar-man two thousand roubles, in order 
to equal in charity the two kopecks of the carpenter 
Semyon was led to doubt whether he had any 

in 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

right to help the poor a doubt up to now ap- 
parently undispelled. For Dostoievski the convict 
such doubts could not exist. It was for him not to 
give, but to receive alms. " It was soon after my 
arrival at the prison," he says, " and I was coming 
back from the morning work alone with a sentry. 
A mother and daughter came towards me the girl 
some ten years old and pretty as an angel. I had 
seen them once before. The mother was a soldier's 
widow. Her young husband had died in the hospital 
of the prison at the time when I myself was lying 
there ill. They came to take leave of him ; and both 
wept terribly. On catching sight of me the child 
flushed, whispered something to her mother, who 
instantly stopped, hunted a quarter-kopeck out of 
her bundle, and gave it to the child. She ran after 
me. ' There, poor man, take this for Christ's sake ! ' 
she cried, stopping in front of me and pushing the 
coin into my hand. I took it, and the child, quite 
contented, went back to her mother. That coin I 
kept by me for a long time." 

Tolstoi may indeed have " ceased to make use 
of his property " ; nevertheless we feel that the 
shame and pride, the pain and pleasure experienced 
by Dostoievski when he accepted the charity of 
that little girl have never fallen to the lot of Tolstoi 
to experience. Therein lies the vast difference in 
the thought and intention, the action and feeling 
of these two great writers. 

" At the first service in the chapel," Dostoievski 
tells us, " we stood in a dense group right round 
the doors, in the hindermost place of all. I re- 
member how, when a child at church, I used to look 

112 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

at the common people crowding thickly round the 
entrance, humbly drawing back before the officer's 
thick epaulet, the stout gentleman, the lady, gaily 
dressed but most devout, who always went forward 
to the best places, and were ready at any instant 
to fight for them. Yonder, at the entrance, it used 
to seem to me then they did not even pray as we 
did. They prayed humbly, zealously, like clods, 
and as if with full consciousness of their humble 
station. Now it was my turn to stand in the same 
place, or not even the same, for we were fettered 
and in caps, and all avoided us even seemed to 
be afraid of us and always gave us alms. I re- 
member that I actually liked this : a kind of subtle, 
strange feeling of gratification rose in me, * Let it 
be so, since it must ! ' I thought. The prisoners 
prayed very fervently, and each of them every time 
brought his beggar's mite for a taper or put it in 
the alms-box. ' I, too, am a man,' was perhaps his 
thought, or he felt as he gave it, ' Before God all are 
equal.' We communicated at the early service. 
When the priest, with the cup in his hands, read 
the words, ' Are ye come out as against a thief ? ' 
almost all rolled on the ground, clattering their 
fetters, and seeming to think that the words were 
literally meant for them." 

Such a trial gave him the right to declare that 
he had lived with the people and knew them. When, 
in company with the other convicts, he repeated in- 
wardly, " Are ye come out as against a thief ? " he 
did not contemplate an abstraction, but actually 
was in the gulf, while Tolstoi's moral theorizing was 
always peeping over its edge. 

113 i 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

Dostoievski's epilepsy was ascribed by him to 
his imprisonment. We know from another witness 
that in fact this complaint began in his childhood. 
In his exceptionally high and refined sensibility lay 
the chief cause of the complaint. But it developed 
during the period of his sentence. In the letter to 
Alexander II, from " a former State prisoner," he 
writes : " My complaint is increasing. Every at- 
tack makes me lose memory, imagination, mental 
and bodily strength. The outcome of it will be 
enervation, death, or madness." He went through 
periods when the epilepsy threatened complete 
obfuscation of his mental faculties. The attacks 
usually came upon him about once a month, 
but sometimes, though very seldom, they were 
more frequent. He once had two in a single 
week. 

His friend Strakhov adds in his remarkable ac- 
count : "I once saw one of his ordinary attacks. 
It was, I fancy, in 1863, just before Easter. Late in 
the evening, about eleven o'clock, he came to see 
me, and we had a very animated conversation. I 
cannot remember the subject of it, but I know that 
it was important and abstruse. He got very excited, 
and walked about the room, while I sat at the table. 
He said something lofty and jubilant, and when I 
confirmed his opinion by some remark he turned 
to me a face which positively glowed with the most 
transcendent inspiration. He paused for a moment, 
as if looking for words, and had already opened his 
mouth to speak ; I looked at him, all expectant of 
fresh revelation. Suddenly from his open mouth 
there issued a strange, prolonged, and inarticulate 

114 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

moan. He sank senseless on the floor in the middle 
of the room." 

' At that moment the face especially the eyes 
suddenly became extraordinarily distorted," begins 
his own description in The Idiot. " Convulsions and 
tremors came over the whole face and body. An in- 
conceivable sound, like no other sound, broke from 
his throat. All that was human vanished. A by- 
stander could scarcely imagine but that some one 
else was crying out from within the man. There was 
something mystical in the terror caused by that 



sight." 

The ancients called this the " sacred sickness." 
The nations of the East saw in it also " something 
mystical " the gift of prophecy, second-sight, 
divine or demoniacal. In the history of the great 
religious movements also we meet with this little- 
explained malady, especially at the first inception of 
those religions, at their darkest subterranean sources. 
In one of his most meaning/ works, The Possessed, 
Dostoievski himself often recurs with obstinate 
fancifulness to the famous fallen pitcher of the 
epileptic Mahomet, which had no time to empty 
itself, while the prophet, on Allah's steed, was 
girdling the Heavens and Hell. He, too, had felt 
that u something lofty and jubilant " a sort of re- 
ligious revelation for which Dostoievski sought and 
could not find words in the moment of his swoon. 

In any case " the sacred sickness " had a startling 
effect on the writer's life. It influenced his whole 
artistic creation, his spirit, his philosophical specula- 
tions. He speaks of it with a peculiar suppressed 
excitement, a kind of mystic fear. The most con- 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

spicuous and opposite of his heroes, the outcast 
Smerdiakov, the " holy ' prince Myshkin, the 
prophet of the " Man-god," the Nihilist Kirillov 
are epilepts. The attacks of the disease were in his 
eyes dreadful interludes, cessations of light, but also 
suddenly-opened windows, through which he looked 
into the light beyond. " Then suddenly it was as 
if something had been rent asunder before him, 
an unwonted inward light dawned on his soul," he 
says in one of his descriptions. " Dostoi'evski many 
a time told me," records Strakhov, " that before 
an attack there are moments of an exalted state of 
mind. " For some instants," he would say, " I ex- 
perience such bliss as would be impossible in an 
ordinary condition, and of which other people have 
no conception. I feel a perfect harmony in myself 
and the whole world, and this feeling is so strong 
and 'delightful that for some seconds of this rapture 
you might give ten years of your life, or even the 
whole of it." But " after the attack his condition 
was very dreadful, and he could hardly sustain the 
state of low-spirited dreariness and sensitiveness. 
He then felt himself a criminal of some kind, and 
fancied there hung over him a vast, invisible guilt, 
a great transgression." 

Great sanctity, great criminality, supernal jubila- 
tion, supernal dejection, both feelings suddenly 
combined and blended in a flash, blinding as light- 
ning in the last * quarter of a second," before the 
fallen pitcher of Mahomet has had time to empty 
itself, while from the breast of the possessed the 
awe-inspiring voice is already breaking. 

Here we are trenching on what is deepest, most 

116 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

elemental, and unexplained in the nature of the 
man. All the threads of the skein are tangled in 
this knot. It seems as if these sudden outbursts 
of a force inaccessible to our inquiries, but perhaps 
silently stored in all of us, dormant but expectant, 
made the bodily integument of Dostoi'evski the 
veil of flesh and blood (dividing the soul from that 
which is behind all things) finer and more trans- 
parent than in other men. Through this very ail- A 
ment he may have been able to discern what is } 
invisible to others. 

Here again is forced on us the involuntary con- 
trast with Tolstoi. The sacred and demoniacal 
sickness of the one is by no means necessarily a mere 
weakness or poverty, but on the contrary an electric 
and accumulating superfluity of vitality, a carrying 
over to the utmost limit of the refinement, acuteness, 
and concentration of spirituality. Contrast it with 
the not less divine and demonic superflux of bodily 
carnality, strength, and health in Tolstoi : with the 
excess of a vital force, electric and original, as in 
the other, only differently manifested, differently 
expressed. In the sequel we shall see that Tolstoi 
draws his religiousness not imaginary or falsely 
Christian, but really pagan from its depth in the 
recesses of this carnality, this divine animalism ; 
I say "divine," meaning that from a certain religious 
point of view the animal in man is sacred as the 
spiritual. Flesh and spirit are merely opposed in 
their provinces and manifestations. Finally, they 
ire a unity. The bad old habit of pseudo-Chrisd[- 
inity or more properly, Paulinism make most 
men of the present day, even those who have re- 

117 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

nounced religiosity, depreciate the carnal in favour 
of the spiritual, the abstract, the rational, the un- 
fleshly, as something lower and sinful, or, at any rate, 
coarse, shameful, and bestial. There is, however, 
a profounder stage of religious theory, which is 
uniting because symbolical for, as I said before, 
symbol, av^o\ov means unification to which the 
flesh is transcendent as the spirit, a theory in which 
the world of the animal, which appeared dark and 
base, becomes on a par with the world of the spiritual, 
deemed so glorious and ethereal, the nocturnal hemi- 
sphere of the heavens tallies with the diurnal. 
~t>lstoi, as a thinker and artist, having plunged into 
the exploration of this world of animality at its 
farthest boundaries, finds another principle, eter- 
nally opposed to it, and seemingly contradictory to 
it the consciousness of the threatening destruction 
of the animal entity, or the consciousness of death. 
And it is here that his tragedy begins ; here that 
first dawns that "cold, white light," to him the 
light of a new Christian revival, which struck 
Prince Andrei on the night before the battle of 
Austerlitz. 

"And from the height of this conception that is, 
the conception of death all that before had tortured 
and busied him suddenly was flooded with a cold 
white light, without shadows, without perspective, 
without distinction of outlines. All life appeared to 
him as a magic lantern, into which he had long 
looked through glass and by artificial illumination. 
Now he suddenly saw without the glass, in the bright 
light of day, these ill-painted pictures. 'Yes, yes, 
there they are these lying shapes that have moved 

nd 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

and delighted and tortured me,' said he to himself, 
sorting in his imagination the chief scenes of his 
life's magic lantern ; but now, looking at them by 
this cold white daylight, the well-defined thought 
of death, he exclaimed, * All this is terribly simple 
and sordid ! ' " 

Thus for Tolstoi the light of death is thrown on 
life from without, separating and dulling the colours 
and shapes of life. 

To Dostoi'evski the revealing light comes from 
within. The light of death and that of life are in 
his eyes a single fire, lit within the magic lantern 
of phenomena. To Tolstoi the religious meaning 
of life is comprised in the passing from life to death, _ / 
to the other world. Dostoievski regards this trivial 
passage as if it did not exist : he is dying all the 
while he is alive. Constantly yawning declivities, 
glimpses of life, the attacks of the " sacred dis- 
temper," have refined and made transparent the 
fabric of his animal life. His soul's dark cottage 
gives forth rays of inward light. To the first the 
secret of death lies beyond life ; to the second life 
itself is just the same secret. Tojturnjthe cold light 
of_jm_every-day St. Petersburg morning is also 
the terrible *' white light '* that Tolstoi saw 
before battle. For Tolstoi there exists only the 
eternal antagonism of life and death ; for Dostoiev- 
ski only their eternal oneness. The former looks at 
death from within the house of life with the eyes of 
this world ; the latter, with the eyes of the spirit 
world, looks on life from a footing which, to those 
who live, seems death. Which of these two views 
is the truer ? Which of these two lives is the finer ? 

119 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

I own that from the first chapter of my inquiry 
the reader has cause to suspect me of a prejudice 
against Tolstoi and in favour of his contemporary. 
As a matter of fact, I only wished to pull back and 
fairly adjust the rope, too far strained in the opposite 
direction by the popular Christianity of Tolstoi and 
of Europe to-day. This kind of Christianity seems 
to me one-sided conceived solely in the ascetic 
sense and by prejudiced men. But if I have been 
partial, or even apparently unjust, what has been 
written is only a prelude : I am going further than 
this stage of the inquiry, and shall endeavour to 
penetrate further into the artistic, philosophical, 
and religious work of the two writers. Hitherto I 
have compared them as men, from the so-called 
Christian point of view. But if I had also compared 
them from the opposite standpoint the so-called 
pagan, or what is deemed heathen then I should 
have been led to conclude that the life of Tolstoi, 
with all its inexhaustible freshness, strength, and 
unfailing earthly exhilaration, is more perfect or 
fairer than that of Dostoi'evski. And lastly, from 
the third standpoint, the symbolical, reconciling, 
uniting the two opposite religious poles, do not the 
two men's lives seem equally, though diversely 
admirable ? They are not completely admirable, 
because neither the one nor the other has that degree 
of culture that even Pushkin postulated the one 
because of the preponderance of the flesh over the 
spirit, and the other because of that of the spirit 
over the flesh. Yet none the less both these lives, 
equally grand, equally typical of our nation, com- 
plete and amplify each other. Each is the other's 

120 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

complement, as if expressly created for prophetic 
juxtaposition and comparison. 

They are like two lines running in opposite direc- 
tions from a single point and that at an opposite 
point will meet, completing a circle. They are two 
prophecies, seemingly contradictory, but really in 
accord, of some unseen yet foreseen Russian genius 
who shall be elemental and national, as was the poet 
Pushkin, from whom both Tolstoi and Dostoievski 
derive. He was, it is true, more conscious of 
himself, and therefore more universal. What we 
need is a genius like his, all-embracing and symbolic. 

Tolstoi and Dostoievski are the two great columns, ^ 
standing apart in the propylseum of the temple 
parts facing each other, set over against each other 
in the edifice, incomplete and still obscured by 
scaffolding, that temple of Russian religion which 
will be, I believe, the future religion of the whole 
world. 



121 




CHAPTER VII 

WHEN Pushkin 1 died Dostoievski was sixteen years 
old. His brother records how " the news of the 
death of Pushkin never reached our family till after 
our mother's funeral. Probably our own grief and 
confusion and the fact that just then the family 
went out little into the world was the cause. But 
I remember that my brothers almost went out of 
their senses when they heard of the death and of 
all the accompanying circumstances. My brother 
Fedor himself repeated several times that if it had 
not been for our family mourning he would have 
asked his father's leave to wear black for Pushkin." 

The death even of his mother did not stifle in 
Dostoievski his grief for the loss of Pushkin. Even 
at sixteen he had an instinct of how living was his 
bond of kinship with Pushkin, whom he not only 
worshipped as a great teacher, but loved as a man. 

At the same age, Tolstoi, as he owns in Youth, 
looked on Pushkin as on any other Russian writer- 
merely as " a little book in a yellow binding, which 

1 Pushkin (born 1799, died 1837), half a romanticist, 
in Byron's manner, half a realist, was the author of Eugene 
Oniegine, perhaps the greatest of Russian poems. He 
wrote it during nine years of a stormy career, ended by a 
duel. His fame is now at its height. 

122 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

he read and studied as a child." He compares, with 
shame, his then bad taste with the taste of his 
companions at the Moscow University. " Pushkin 
and Jukovski l were literature to them. They 
despised Dumas, Sue, and Fevalle, and judged far 
more correctly and decidedly of literature than I. 
At that time Monte Cristo and various ' Mysteries ' 
had just begun to appear, and I was reading through 
the stories of Sue, Dumas, and Paul de Kock. All 
the most improbable characters and events were 
to me as vivid as reality. I did not venture to 
suspect the author of romancing. On the basis of 
these stories I had even formed new ideals of moral 
excellence, to which I wished to attain. I must live 
in all respects and actions as much comme il faut as 
possible. In appearance and habits I tried to re- 
semble the gay heroes of these stories." 2 

Such, respectively, was the artistic bringing-up of 
Tolstoi and Dostoi'evski. No doubt, even at six- 
teen, the latter realized the coarseness and paltriness 
of Dumas and Paul de Kock. His literary tastes and 
judgments were, for a lad, strikingly subtle, mature, 
and independent. To him national and Western 
European literature were equally accessible. In 
one of his somewhat pompous youthful letters from 
the Engineering Institute he tells his brother : " We 
have talked over Homer, Shakespeare, Schiller, and 
Hoffmann. I have got Schiller by heart, spoken his 

Jukovski was a romantic poet, born in 1786. He died 
in 1852. He was the natural son of a Russian boyar and 
a Turkish slave ; fought at Borodino. After it wrote a 
great poem, The Bard in the Russian Camp, in imitation of 
Gray. 2 Tolstoi's Youth. 

123 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

language, raved about him. The name of Schiller 
has become a household word to me." But he 
cannot only appreciate Shakespeare and Schiller. 
These were comparatively accessible to the compre- 
hension of our young people at that day, attracted 
as they were by romanticism and the Gothic. He 
also highly values the great French Classics of the 
seventeenth century, Corneille and Racine, on whom 
Bielinski afterwards passed sentence so glibly. The 
boy Dostoievski does not share the attitude, then 
fashionable amongst us and inspired by German 
critics, of pedantic contempt for what is called 
" pseudo-classical literature." Deep feeling for the 
most far-off and alien culture is shown by the fact 
that, while acknowledging the inward artificiality 
and imitativeness of the French classics, this Russian 
lad of a " decent Moscow family," the son of a 
pauper hospital surgeon, is able to revel in the com- 
pleteness and rounded harmony of form of the 
Court poets of Louis XIV. " But, Phedre, brother ! 
You will be Lord knows what if you say that this is 
not the highest and purest nature and poetry. Why, 
it is an outline by Shakespeare, a statue in plaster, 
if not in marble ! " Perhaps in all Russian literature 
there is no criticism of " Phedre ' more compact 
and exact. 

In another letter he defends Corneille against the 
attacks of his brother. " Have you read The Cid ? 
Read it, you wretch, read it, and go down in the 
dust before Corneille " ! 

If you take into consideration the deep natural 
religiousness of Dostoievski, then the following com- 
parison of Christ and Homer, in spite of its naive 

124 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

enthusiasm, is striking : " Homer he may be a 
legendary personage like Christ, made flesh by God 
and sent upon earth may afford a parallel only 
to Christ Himself, and not to Goethe. Fathom him, 
brother ; really understand the Iliad ; read it care- 
fully ; for confess, you have not read it. Why, in 
it Homer gave the whole ancient world its organiza- 
tion, its spiritual and earthly frame, in the same 
measure as Christ framed the modern world. Now 
do you understand ? " And throughout life Dos- 
toievski kept this feeling for universal, or in his 
phrase " omni-human " culture, this capacity for 
feeling at home everywhere and falling in with the 
vital ideas of all ages and peoples a capacity which, 
as he told the world in his last Oration, he considered 
to be the chief characteristic of Pushkin ; and he 
believed the Russian genius in general to be more 
universal in its assimilative capacity, and therefore 
superior to the geniuses of other European nations. 
He writes thus to Strakhov in the summer of 1863, at 
the time of his first trip abroad : " Strange ! I am 
writing from Rome, and yet am saying not a word 
about it. But what could I say to you ? My Lord ! 
is it possible to describe it in letters ? I came here 
at night two days ago. Yesterday morning I saw over 
St. Peter's. The impression was a powerful one, 
Nicolai, making a cold thrill run down my back. 
To-day I saw the Forum and all its ruins ; then 
the Colosseum. Well, what am I to say to you ? 

He had the right to say afterwards that Europe 
to him was " something sacred and strange that 
he had two countries, Russia and Europe. Venice, 
Rome, Paris, and the treasures of their knowledge, 

125 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

arts, and history were once dearer to him than 
Russia." And in this sense he, being next to 
Pushkin the most Russian of Russian authors, was 
at the same time the greatest of our cosmopolitans. 
He showed by his example that to be a Russian 
means being in the highest degree European, that 
is, cosmopolitan. 

Tolstoi, although himself an artist of European 
celebrity, and himself deeply characteristic of 
Russian nature, is wholly devoid of that capacity 
for fully absorbing universal culture, which seemed 
to his rival a distinguishing feature of the Russian. 
In spite of all his calculated and supposedly Christian 
cosmopolitanism, among the great Russian authors 
there is not, I think, another so hampered as he, 
in his creative power, by conditions of place and 
time and the limits of his own nationality. All that 
is not Russian and contemporary is, I will not say 
inimical, but simply alien to him, incomprehensible 
and uninteresting. The creator of Peace and War 
(a work meant to be historical) may perhaps on 
his intellectual side acknowledge history, and even 
be to some extent acquainted with it. But the 
imagination of his heart has never felt it ; he never 
penetrated, or tried, or thought it worth while to 
penetrate into the spiritual life of other ages and 
nations. The " enthusiasm for the distant ' for 
him does not exist that inspired realization of 
history nor grief for, nor living delight in, the past. 
Every fibre and root in him is fixed in the present. 
His only interests are contemporary national ac- 
tivity the Russian working class and the Russian 
gentleman. We know that in his youth he was in 

126 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

Italy, but he brought thence no impressions. If 
we did not know for certain, excluding his biogra- 
phers, there would be room to doubt that he had 
ever crossed the Alps. " The fragments of sacred 
wonders ' awoke in him no tremor. " The old 
stones of wonder ' remained dead to him. If on 
one occasion, en passant and with a light heart, he 
speaks of Michelangelo's Last Judgment as an 
' absurd production," it is not from his own recol- 
lection, but from having seen some casual copy. 

What seems artificial culture may in reality be 
just as natural as nature itself. But to Tolstoi culture 
is always fictitious, and therefore false. This ex- 
aggerated fear of the artificial becomes in him at last 
a fear of all cultivation. Therefore prose seems to 
him more natural than verse. And forgetting that 
metrical speech is really more primitive, and that 
people in their most passionate, their most natural 
moods are prone, like children and young races, to 
express themselves in rhythm, he lays it down that 
all poetical works, being artificial, are therefore mere- 
tricious. ' Even in his youth he laughed at the 
greatest creations of Russian literature, merely 
because they were written in verse," a German 
biographer of his notes. " Delicacy of form 
had, in his eyes, no importance ; because in his 
opinion (to which, it may be remarked, he has 
always since adhered) such a form fetters thought." 
Nowhere is this absence of sympathy with general 
culture so clearly expressed as in one of his latest 
productions, in which he sums up the artistic 
judgments of a lifetime in the book What is Art ? 

With regard to the new " decadent ' tendency, 

127 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

as it is called, he makes a promise of reserve which 
he does not keep. " To blame modern art because 
I, a man brought up in the first half of the century, 
do not understand it, is what I have no right to, 
and cannot do. I can simply say that I do not 
understand it. The sole superiority of the art which 
I acknowledge (as against the decadent school) lies 
in this, that the art which I acknowledge is in- 
telligible to a greater number of people than that 
of the present day." But not contenting himself 
with admitting his failure to understand this art, he 
judges and condemns at haphazard and pellmell ; and 
tars with one brush alike Bocklin and Klinger, Ibsen 
and Baudelaire, Nietzsche and Wagner. On the 
" Mysteries " of Maeterlinck and Hauptmann he 
expresses himself thus : " They are blind men who 
sit on the seashore and, for some unintelligible reason, 
keep repeating the same phrase ; they are as real as 
Hauptmann's Bell, which flies into a lake, sinks, 
and goes on sounding there." Nietzsche seems to 
him (as to the most careless of our journalists) a 
half-witted idiot. 

It might seem that to a " man of the earliest half 
of the century ' the artists and poets of former 
generations who are not " decadents " ought to be 
particularly dear and intelligible. As a matter of 
fact, Tolstoi dashes down fames undisputed and 
ancient with even greater remorselessness than the 
modern and doubtful. Thus he declares that " a 
work founded on plagiarism, such as, for instance, 
Goethe's Faust, may be very well executed and full 
of mind and all manner of beauty, but it cannot 
produce on us a real artistic effect, because it is 

128 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

devoid of the chief characteristic of a work of art 
organic unity. To say of such a work that it is 
good because it is poetical is like saying of a false 
coin that it is good because it is like a genuine one." 
Faust is to him false coin, because it is too artistic 
and artificial. The love- tales of Boccaccio he re- 
gards from an ascetically Christian standpoint as 
' a mass of sexual nastiness." The creations of 
^Eschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Dante, Milton, and 
Shakespeare, the music of Wagner and Beethoven's 
later period, he first calls " calculated and un- 
spontaneous," and later " coarse, savage, and often 
senseless." During a performance of Hamlet he 
experienced " that particular malaise which mere- 
tricious works produce, and at the same time, from 
the mere description of a drama of the chase, acted 
by a remote tribe of savages, concludes that " the 
latter is a work of true Art " (vol. xv. pp. 167-168). 
To the man of Western European culture such 
childish blasphemies (which may seem " Russian 
barbarity," but which, in fact, are the barbarity 
resulting from the present democratic and pseudo- 
Christian brutalization of taste in Europe generally) 
must appear the mere fury of some savage Caliban, 
shattering Egina marbles or slashing to pieces the 
portrait of Monna Lisa. But the devil is not as 
black as he is painted. This Herostratus, 1 who raises 
his hand against ^Eschylus and Dante, to whom 
Pushkin is still if not " a school-book in a yellow 
cover ! yet a dissipated man who wrote improper 
love verses, bows down in simplicity before Berthold 

Herostratus was an Ephesian, who burnt the famous 
temple of Diana merely to win notoriety. 

129 K 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

Auerbach, George Eliot, and Uncle Tom's Cabin. 
In the long run, not so much from what he denies 
as from what he admits, you become convinced that 
in his conscious judgments on branches of art that 
are strange to him Tolstoi, at the closing of his days, 
has not gone far from his first youth, when he studied 
Fevalle, Dumas, and Paul de Kock. And, more de- 
plorable still, from under the dread mask of Caliban 
peeps out the familiar and by no means awe-inspiring 
physiognomy of the obstinate Russian democrat 
squire, the gentleman Positivist of the sixties. 

Still more startling is the expression by him of 
this helplessness of self-knowledge in relation to 
his own creations. " I began to write out of vanity, 
love of gain and pride," he assures us in his Con- 
fession. " I, the artist, the poet, wrote and taught, 
I myself knew not what. They paid me money for 
doing this ; I had excellent food, lodging and 
society, and I had fame. Apparently what I taught 
was very good. The candid opinion of the ' set ' 
in which I lived was that we wanted to get as much 
money and applause as possible. For the attain- 
ment of this object we had nothing to do but write 
little books and papers. And so we did." " That 
activity," he records, after the religious transforma- 
tion of the eighties, " which is called creative and 
artistic, and to which I formerly devoted my whole 
powers, has not only lost in my eyes its former 
importance, but has become positively distasteful 
to me for the unfitting position which it occupied 
in my life and usually occupies in the minds of people 
of the well-to-do classes." The testimony of his 
biographer Bers on the point that from his present 

130 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

" Christian ' standpoint Tolstoi regards all his 
former work as harmful because it describes love 
in the sense of sexual attraction and violence, de- 
serves all the more credence that this opinion follows 
perfectly logically from other judgments of Tolstoi 
on Art. Does he not himself, at the end of his life, 
when summing up his work as an artist, lay down 
with the mixture of deliberate candour and un- 
conscious pretension peculiar to him " I must 
further remark that my own literary productions I 
assign to the category of bad art, with the exception 
of the story God sees the Truth, and The Prisoner of 
the Caucasus" that is, with the deliberate exception 
of two of the weakest of his didactic tales ? 

Even at the height of his productive period he 
wished to convince himself and others that he 
thought much the same about his works as now. 
" I am entering," he writes to Fet in 1875, " on the 
tedious and petty Anna Kartnina with only one 
wish, to clear the ground for myself as soon as 
possible, to have time for other occupations." Was 
this saying sincere ? Tolstoi loved Anna Karenina 
when he wrote that sentence, although his love must 
have been less conscious than Goethe's love for 
Faust or Pushkin's for Eugene Oniegine. 

In this kind of unconsciousness lies one of the 
main differences between him and Dostoievski. 
Though a great writer, he was never a great man 
of letters in the sense that Pushkin, Goethe, and 
Dostoievski were men of letters. They considered 
themselves not merely the vicegerents but the 
journeymen of Language. To them it was not only 
their spiritual, but their daily bread. I mean by 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 



' literature ' not something more artificial and 
factitious, but merely more deliberate than the 
spontaneous " making " of the early poets. Litera- 
ture to man, however deliberate, is as natural as 
singing to birds. Culture is not necessarily some- 
thing at variance with, but educative of human 
nature. From an abstract point of view culture 
and nature are one, and he who quarrels with the 
artificiality of culture quarrels with the nature of 
man, and with the most divine and permanent force 
in it. 1 

In Tolstoi's contempt for his own artistic per- 
formance there is something dark and complex 
something he has never made clear, even to himself. 
At any rate, in his literary self-appraisement there 
are queer fluctuations and incongruities. " Never 
was there a writer so indifferent to success as I," he 
assures Fet on one occasion. Nevertheless on the 
appearance of Peace and War he asks this very Fet 
with touching outspokenness, " Write and tell me 
what will be said in various quarters that you wot 
of, but above all tell me the effect on the masses. 
I feel sure it will pass unnoticed. I expect and wish 
it, so long as they do not curse me, for curses upset 
me." But in his own words one of the most simple- 
minded and veracious biographers declares there 
was always in him " a pleasant consciousness of the 
fact that he was both a writer and an aristocrat ' 
a writer indeed, or, in the ancient phrase, a " free 
artist," but not a man of letters in the same sense 
as Pushkin and Goethe. All his life he has been 
ashamed of literature ; and, both from the conscious, 
1 " The art itself is nature." Shakspearc. 

132 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

popular, and democratic point of view, and from 
the unconscious and aristocratic point of view has 
despised it, either as something mediocre and 
bourgeois, or something artificial, unholy, and 
ignoble. In this contempt we have an ill-concealed 
pride of birth, more deeply seated than might appear 
at the first glance a " gentility " self-repudiating, 
self-ashamed, but frequently visible. 

Dostoievski, on the other hand, loved Literature. 
He took her as she is with all her conditions, never 
stood aloof or cast supercilious slurs on her. This 
absence of the slightest intellectual pride was in 
him a fine and even touching trait. Our literature 
was the soil on which he grew, from which he never 
tore himself. He cherished it with a kinsman's love 
and gratitude. He knew well that when he came 
before the public and into a literary sphere he was 
coming out into the square of the market place, and 
never dreamed of being ashamed of his craft or of 
his fellow workers. He was proud of his calling, 
and counted it high and sacred. 

As men with the old pride of gentry thought it 
degrading to earn their bread by manual labour, so 
Tolstoi, from a tyrannical, lofty, and contemptuous 
theory of the world, considers it derogatory to take 
pay for intellectual labour. From youth up, igno- 
rant of want and work, he only shrugs his shoulders 
scornfully when he hears that the true artist can 
work for money. 

Dostoievski writes : "I have never sold any of 
my books without getting the price down before- 
hand. I am a literary proletarian, and if anybody 
wants my work he must insure me by prepay- 

133 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

ment." This man who has such pride, such 
sensitiveness that, as he puts it, " the very air hurt 
him," who valued the " free artistry " not less than 
Tolstoi himself was never ashamed to work for 
money, like a plain journeyman. He speaks of him- 
self as a " post-hack." He writes against time three 
and a half printed newspaper pages in two days and 
two nights. " Many a time," he confesses, " the 
beginning of a chapter of a novel was already at the 
printer's and being set up while the end was still 
in my brain and had to be ready without fail next 
day. Work out of sheer want has crushed and eaten 
me up. Will my miseries ever come to an end ? 
Oh ! for money, and independence ! ' Such is the 
never ceasing cry of his life. Sometimes, when ex- 
hausted with the struggle with penury he curses it ; 
but he is never ashamed of it. In him there is a 
peculiar inward pride in the midst of outward 
humiliation inseparable from the position of a 
brain worker amidst the commercial society of 
to-day. 

Immediately after quitting prison, and after a 
right Christian chastening, he falls into the sin of 
ordinary and cynical hatred : "I know very well 
that I write worse than Turgeniev, but not, after 
all, very much worse ; and in the end I hope to 
write not at all worse. Why should I, when I am 
so needy, get only thirty-eight pounds, and Tur- 
geniev, who has two thousand serfs, get more than 
one hundred and fifty pounds ? Poverty forces me 
to hurry, and so, of course, spoil my work." In 
the postscript he says that he " sends Katkov, the 
great Moscow editor, fifteen sheets at one hundred 

134 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

roubles (thirty-eight pounds) a sheet one thou- 
sand and five hundred roubles in all. I have had 
five hundred roubles from him ; and besides, when 
I had sent three-quarters of the novel I asked for 
two hundred to help me along or seven hundred 
altogether. I shall reach Tver without a stiver, 
but on the other hand I shall very shortly receive 
from Katkov seven or eight hundred roubles. That 
is something and I shall have room to turn round in." 
The tale is always the same. Endless rows of figures 
and accounts, interspersed with desperate en- 
treaties for help (" For God's sake, save me ! ' he 
writes on one occasion to his brother) fill all the 
letters of Dostoievski. It is one long martyrology. 
Especially hard for him were the four years from 
1865 to 1869, perhaps equivalent to another four 
years' penal seritude. As before his first mis- 
fortune, Fate began with a caress. The paper he 
edited, the Vremya, had some success, and promised 
a regular income ; so that he was dreaming of 
respite from want, when an unexpected and wholly 
undeserved punishment fell on him. The Vremya 
was prohibited by the censorship for an article 
harmless, but misunderstood on the question of 
Polish affairs. This blow, like his condemnation to 
death, was due to official stupidity. But the mis- 
understanding almost ruined him. He was now 
forbidden his profession. The authorities could not 
see that he was really their ally. Yet perhaps they 
were right. Perhaps the future creator of The 
Grand Inquisitor was not to them such a valuable 
ally as he desired to seem. Dostoievski did not lose 
heart, but almost directly after the catastrophe of 

135 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

the Vremya took to publishing a new paper, the 
Epocha, though without his former success. The 
opportune moment had been let slip irretrievably. 
The Epocha incurred the wrath not of the Govern- 
ment Censorship, but of the so-called " Liberals," 
whose opinion had always been, and probably 
always will be, the inseparable companion and the 
most exact and faithful opposite, like a reflection 
reversed, as in water, of the opinion of the Govern- 
ment. But Dostoievski was the horizon at which 
these two censures united. Dostoievski, the idealist 
logician, the extremist, found himself between two 
fires a position from which he was not to escape 
as long as he lived. He was not only the enemy of 
the Government, but the enemy of its enemies. 
The Epocha was weaker than its opponents, who 
were not held accountable. They permitted them- 
selves not only every form of vulgar abuse calling 
Dostoievski " a rapscallion," " mendicant," " a 
guttersnipe," and so on but even ventured to hint 
that the Epocha and its staff were dishonourable 
Government spies. " I remember," he writes, 
" poor Michael 1 was greatly vexed when his account 
with the subscribers " was somehow unearthed, and 
it was made to appear that the editor had over- 
reached them. " They " his " Liberal rivals ' 
he recorded afterwards in his diary, " declared me a 
scribbler that the police ought to deal with." 

At this same time his brother Michael, the critic 
Grigoriev (his dearest friend and collaborator on 
The Times), and his first wife, Maria, all died one 

1 Michael was Dosto'ievski's brother and the editor of 
the review entitled The Times. 

136 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

after another. " And here am I left all alone," he 
writes to Wrangel, " and I feel simply broken. My 
whole life is broken in two. I have, literally, nothing 
left to live for. Shall I make new ties, plan a new 
life ? The very thought of it is abhorrent to me. 
My brother's family is left without resources of 
any kind. They are thrown on the world. I am 
the only hope left them. They all, widow and 
children, come crowding round me, expecting me 
to save them. I loved my brother boundlessly, and 
I cannot possibly desert them. By carrying on the 
publication of the Epocha I could feed them and 
myself, of course, by working from morning to night 
for the rest of my life. There are my brother's debts 
to pay. I do not wish his name to be held in evil 
remembrance." And again : "I have begun to 
print ' (the last few numbers of the Epocha) " at 
three printers at once, and have spared neither 
money nor my own health. I am sole editor, read 
all proofs, manage things with authors and with the 
Censorship, revise articles, procure money, sit up 
till six in the morning, and sleep only five hours 
out of the twenty-four. The paper has been got 
into order, but it is too late." 

Finally the second paper came to grief. Dos- 
toievski was forced to own himself, in his own phrase, 
' temporarily insolvent." Beside his debt to the 
subscribers, he proved to have a debt of some one 
thousand four hundred pounds in bills and seven 
hundred pounds debts of honour. " O my friend ! ' 
he writes to Wrangel, " I would gladly go back to 
prison again for so many years only to pay off my 
debts and feel myself once more free. Now I am 

137 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

beginning to write a novel under the rod, that is, 
from necessity and in haste. Of all my store of 
strength and energy there is only left in my soul an 
unquiet and turbid wreck akin to despair. With 
alarms, humiliations, a new habit of coolest calcula- 
tion, I am also alone. Of old friendships and my 
former forty-year-old self nothing is left." The most 
relentless of his creditors, the publishing bookseller 
Stellovski, a notorious rascal, threatened to put him 
in prison. " The broker's assistant," he writes, 
" has already come for an execution." Other credit- 
ors threatened the same fate and presented a peti- 
tion. He had to choose between the debtor's prison 
and flight. He chose the latter, and escaped abroad. 
There he spent four years in inexpressible misery. 
Of his almost incredible extremes of want seeing 
that even then he was the author of Crime and 
Punishment, one of the great Russian writers, and, 
to more acute appreciators, one of the great writers 
of the world we get some idea from his letters to 
a friend from Dresden during 1869. They merely 
relate to the most humdrum details, but these are 
necessary to our judgment of the man. If one does 
not hear the groans, or see the face of a man in 
pain, it is impossible to realize his suffering. " During 
the last half year I and my wife have been in such 
poverty that our last linen is now at the pawn- 
shop. Don't tell any one this," he adds in a par- 
enthesis, full of reserve and wretchedness. " I shall 
be obliged directly to sell the last and most indis- 
pensable article, and for a thing worth one hundred 
thalers to take twenty ; and this I shall be forced 
to do to save the life of three human beings, if he 

138 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

delays his answer, even though unsatisfactory." 
This he the last hope, the straw at which he 
catches is a certain Mr. Kashpiriev, publisher of 
the Dawn, a person quite unknown to Dostoievski, 
but whom, nevertheless, he asks for Christ's sake 
to rescue them by sending two hundred roubles. 
" But as this, perhaps, is difficult to do at the 
moment, I ask him to send immediately only seventy- 
five roubles (this to save me from going under at 
once). Being quite unacquainted personally with 
Kashpiriev, I have written in an exaggeratedly 
respectful though somewhat insistent tone. (I am 
afraid of his getting annoyed, for the respect is 
overdone, and the letter, I fancy, written in a very 
foolish style)." 

Almost a month later he writes : " From Kash- 
piriev, so far, I have received no money, only promises. 
If you only knew in what position we now are. You 
see, there are three of us I, my wife (his second, 
Anna), who is nursing a child and must eat well, 
and the child (a new-born daughter, Liuba), who 
may get ill through our poverty and die. We must 
christen Liuba, but have not yet been able to do 
this for want of money." 

The rest consists wholly of details, the tragic 
significance of which can be understood only by 
those who have themselves known want. For 
instance, in the second letter to his brother in April, 
1864, he says : "I am not going to buy any summer 
shoes : I go about in the winter ones." " Does he ' 
(Kashpiriev), he goes on, " think that I wrote to 
him about my necessities simply for the beauty of 
the style ? How can I write the novel when aching 

139 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

with hunger when, in order to get two thalers for 
a telegram, I have had to pawn a pair of trousers ! 
The devil take me and my hunger ! But then she 
(his wife) is nursing the child. What if she goes out 
by herself to pawn her last warm woollen petticoat ? 
And this is the second day we have had snow (I am 
not romancing, look at the papers), and she might 
catch cold. Can he (Kashpiriev) not understand 
that it shames me to explain all this to him ? But 
that is not all : there is something still more painful. 
So far we have not paid the nurse or the landlady, 
and that all in the first month after her confinement. 
Does he not realize that it is not only me but my 
wife that he has injured in treating me so carelessly 
after I myself wrote to him of the needs of my wife ? 
Injured, injured ! he has branded me with his words. 
Therefore he has not the right to say that he ' spits 
at my hunger, and that I dare not hurry him.' And 
so on monotonous groans of senseless pain. The 
business letter becomes a delirium of despair, and 
moreover unjust to Kashpiriev, who was not re- 
sponsible, as it afterwards proved, for the delay 
was due to the stupidity of an assistant at the bank 
on which the order was made. Dostoievski's voice 
bursts forth in shrill, unrestrained excitement, as 
before an attack of epilepsy. 

" And they expect literature of me now ! ' he 
concludes in a fury. " Why, how can I write at all ? 
I walk about and tear my hair, and cannot sleep of 
nights. I am always thinking, raging, and waiting. 
Oh, my God ! Lord, Lord, I cannot describe all the 
particulars of my necessities, for I am ashamed to 
do so. And after this they expect of me artistic 

140 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

feelings, pure poetry, without bombast. They point 
to Turgeniev and Goncharov ! Let them see the 
state in which I have to work ! ' 

And such was his whole life, almost to the end. 

"I, an artist, a poet, have myself taught I know 
not what," says Tolstoi. " They have paid me 
money for it ; I have had good food, quarters, 
women's society ; I have had Fame. Literature, 
just like exemption from service, is an artificial 
exploitation, advantageous only to those who write 
and publish useless to the people." " No work 
costs the worker so little as literary work." 

Well, what if he had seen Dostoi'evski, whom he 
considered a true artist " the man I most need, 
the most akin to me " going to pawn his clothes 
to get two thalers for a telegram ; would Tolstoi's 
shrug of the shoulders still have been contemptuous ? 
Does not a true artist sometimes crave for money ? 
And how about that narrow-minded division of 
mental from manual labour ? Tolstoi's supercilious 
feelings and notions on literature, labour and want, 
are not due to coarseness or callousness of heart, 
but simply inexperience, total ignorance of real life 
from a point of view essential to moral judgments. 

The striving after perfection, the satisfaction of 
artistic conscience, are to Dostoievski a matter of 
life and death. " Do not think," he writes in the 
same terrible year, 1869, " that I am baking sweet 
cakes. However badly and poorly what I write 
turns out, yet the idea of the novel and the work 
on it are to poor me, the author, dearer than any- 
thing in the world ! Of course I am spoiling the 
idea, but what am I to do ? Will you believe it, 

141 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

in spite of its having been written three years I am 
rewriting that cherished chapter again and again ? 
After finishing one of the best and most profound 
of his books, The Idiot, he complains : "I am dis- 
satisfied to repulsion with the story. Now I am 
making a last effort over the third part. If I put 
things right I shall get right myself ; if not I am 
done for." And before going abroad, when working 
at Crime and Punishment, he says : "At the end of 
November much was written and ready, but I burned 
it all and began afresh." 

" As a rule I work nervously, with difficulty and 
much thought," he says ; " but I am now working 
harder than usual, and it upsets me, even physically." 
In another letter from Geneva : " I must work hard, 
very hard. Meanwhile my attacks are decidedly 
increasing, and after each one I can get no judgment 
out of myself for four days. My attacks now began 
to recur every week," he records of his last days 
in St. Petersburg, " and to be clearly conscious of 
this nerve and brain disturbance was unbearable. 
The plain truth is that my judgment was going. 
This fact sometimes caused me moments of fury. 
Some inward fever is burning me up. I have fever, 
in fact, every night, and every ten days an epileptic 
attack ; I am dying." 

" Yet am I only preparing to live," he owns in 
one of his most desperate letters. " Laughable, isn't 
it ? Fluctuating vitality ! " A critic says : ' I saw 
him in the thick of his troubles, after the suppression 
of his paper, after his brother's death, and while 
being hunted for debt he never lost heart. It is 
impossible to imagine circumstances which would 

142 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

have crushed him. His terrible susceptibility made 
self-control difficult, and he generally gave full play 
to his feelings. Perhaps this made life possible." 
" My fluctuating vitality seems exhaustless," he 
says in an early letter, and on the eve of death he 
might have repeated, in the words of one of his 
characters : "I can bear everything, any suffering, 
if I can only keep on saying to myself ' I live ; I 
am in a thousand torments, but I live. I am on the 
pillar, but I exist. I see the sun, or I do not see the 
sun, but I know that it is. And to know that there 
is a sun, that is life enough.' 

And in these same four years, overwhelmed by 
the deaths of his friend, brother, and wife, harassed 
by creditors, the authorities, and the " Liberals," 
misunderstood by his readers, in solitude, poverty, 
and sickness, he composes one after the other his 
greatest productions in 1866 Crime and Punish- 
ment, in 1868 The Idiot, in 1870 The Possessed and 
plans The Brothers Karamazov. From all that he 
created, however large in scope, it is evident that 
it is nothing to what he could have created under 
different social conditions. " Assuredly," says 
Strakhov, who was intimately acquainted with his 
inner history, " he wrote only a tenth part of the 
stories which he for years had planned. Some of 
them he told orally in detail, and with great verve, 
and of subjects which he had not had time to work 
out he had no end." 

He was not a mere man of letters, but a true hero 
of the literary calling. Yes, in that life, whatever 
mistakes and weaknesses there may have been, were 
moments crowned with heroic achievement and 

M3 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

sanctity. " I am convinced," says Tolstoi, in speak- 
ing of the men of letters with whom he was brought 
in contact in his youth " (Dostoievski was not, 
although he might have been, among them) " I am 
convinced that almost all these authors were im- 
moral men, worthless in character, self-confident 
and self-satisfied, as only men can be who are wholly 
pious, or ignorant of what piety is. When I re- 
member the time and my then frame of mind, and 
that of those people, I feel sick, sorry : just the 
feeling which one experiences in a madhouse." 

Throughout life Tolstoi has remained faithful to 
this " madhouse " view of literature. All his life he 
has sought justification and sanctity in 'renouncing 
cultured society, in recourse to the people, in the 
mortification of the flesh, in manual labour, in 
everything save that to which he appeared called of 
God. Dostoievski has shown by his life a man of 
letters may be heroic as any warrior, martyr, or 
lawgiver of the past. Among the heroes of lan- 
guage, among the heroes of art and knowledge, it 
may be that those will yet appear who are to have 
chief dominion over men in the third and last dis- 
pensation, the kingdom of the soul. 



144 



CHAPTER VIII 

IN the eyes of a man acknowledging only Christian 
sanctity and the forcible mastery of spirit over flesh, 
mortifying both flesh and spirit, the sentence passed 
by Tolstoi on his own career will seem just. " I 
devoured the produce of the labour of my peasants ; 
punished, misled, deceived them. Falsehood, theft, 
debauchery of all kinds, drunkenness, violence, 
murder, there was not a crime which I did not 
commit." But if, apart from the sanctity of the 
spirit, we admit also a sanctity of the body outside 
the Christian law the ancient heathen or Old 
Testament standard of righteousness, not abolished, 
but only remodelled by Christ then the life of 
Tolstoiwill be oneol the most consistent, uniform, 
and admirable of lives. It may even be called 
magnificent. From what has been written above 
it will have been seen that his self-condemnation 
will not stand. The careful master and manager, 
the affectionate father of a family, like one of the 
Old Testament patriarchs, his whole life breathes 
purity and freshness, like some old but lusty tree, 
some cool and transparent subterranean spring. 

There are no morbid contrasts or deceits in the 
life itself, in acts or even in feelings. These begin 
to appear only when we proceed to compare his ^ 

145 L 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 
I 

perfect pagan conduct with his imperfect Christian 
intentions. His acts are not put to shame by acts, 
but only by words and thoughts. In order that the 
life of Tolstoi may seem stainlessly fair, we must 
forget not what he does and feels, but merely what 
he says and thinks about his acts and feelings. He 
has fulfilled the old law ; and the tragedy of his 
life lies in the fact that he has not justified the acts 
of his law by his Faith and his Consciousness. It is 
the old tragedy of the Old Testament men, of all 
spiritual Israel. When the Law has been fulfilled 
to the utmost they cease to be satisfied with the 
Law and expect a Deliverer. But when the Messiah 
comes, being over-weighted with the yoke of the 
Law, they have not the strength to acknowledge 
Him and His new and terrible liberty, they reject 
Him, and again expect Him for ever. And in this 
expectation lies their righteousness a virtue which 
is perennial, and perhaps included in Christianity 
itself. Judging by that ethical standard alone Leo 



Tolstoi had the right to say of himself, ' I have 
nothing to hide from people ; let them know all 
that I do." This old man's life really stands the 
test : the last coverings have been stripped from 
it, laid bare before the eyes of the world. There is 
nothing for him to be ashamed of all is pure, all 
innocent as the nakedness of a child. Few other 
lives of the great to-day would stand such an ordeal ; 
certainly not the life of Dostoievski. It is easy to 
fall into error and be unjust when comparing the 
lives of the two men, because we know all about 
the first, while about the second (Dostoievski) we 
do not know all. From hints in his letters, from 

146 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

oral traditions, but chiefly from the way in which 
his personality is reflected in his writings, we can 
surmise much that is hidden. We must do justice, 
too, to the nearest friends of Dostoi'evski, who have 
endeavoured to give us his biography. His intimate 
friends and biographers are men in the highest 
degree courteous, respectful even too respectful 
to the memory of the dead. They have not por- 
trayed what the Apocalypse calls " the depths of 
Satan " inherent in the man. Even such a subtle 
and penetrating mind as that of the critic Strakhov, 
I will not say whitewashes, but greatly simplifies 
the personality of his friend, softens, modifies, and 
smooths, and brings it down to the average level. 

Examining the character of Dostoievski as a man, 
we must remember his insuperable need as an artist 
to fathom dangerous and criminal depths of the 
human heart, especially the depths of the passion of 
love in all its manifestations. At one end of his 
gamut he touches the highest, most spiritual passion, 
bordering on religious enthusiasm, of the " angel ' 
Alesha Karamazov j 1 at the other that of the evil 
insect, " the she-spider who devours her own mate." 
We see the whole spectrum of love in all its blended 
shades and transformations, in its most mysterious, 
acute, and morbid sinuosities. Remarkable is the 
inevitable blood-bond between the monster Smer- 
diakov, Ivan, "who fought with God," the cruel 

1 The reference is to Dostoievski's great unfinished novel 
in four volumes, The Brothers Karamazov. " A most in- 
valuable treasury of information concerning the contem- 
porary life of Russia, moral, intellectual, and social." 
Waliszewski. 

147 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

sensualist Dmitri, who seemed as if stung by a gad- 
fly, the stainless cherub Alesha, and their father 
according to the flesh, the outcast Fedor Karamazov. 
Equally remarkable is the bond between them and 
their father in the spirit, Dostoievski himself. He 
would have disowned this family, perhaps, before 
men, but not before his own conscience or before 
God. 

There exists in manuscript a posthumously 
printed chapter of The Possessed, the confession of 
Stavrogine, where, amongst other things, he relates 
the seduction of a girl. This is one of the most 
powerful creations of Dostoievski, in which we hear 
a note of such alarming sincerity that we understand 
those who hesitated to print it, even after the writer's 
death. It is too lifelike. But in the misdeeds of 
Stavrogine, even in the last depths of his fall, there 
is at least an unfading demoniacal reflection of what 
once was beauty ; there is the dignity of evil. But 
Dostoievski does not hesitate to depict even the 
most vulgar and commonplace immorality. The 
hero of his Notes from Underground stands on the 
mental height of his greatest heroes, those that were 
nearest to his heart. He expresses the very essence 
of the religious struggles and doubts of the artist. 
In this confession we feel self-incrimination, self- 
castigation, not less unsparing and more austere 
than that of the Confession of Tolstoi. And this is 
what this " hero " confesses : " At times I suddenly 
plunged into a sombre, subterranean, despicable 
debauchery, or semi-debauchery. My squalid pas- 
sions were keen, glowing with morbid irritability. 
The outbursts were hysterical, accompanied by 

148 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

tears 1 and convulsions of remorse. Bitterness boiled 
in me. I felt an unwholesome thirst for violent 
moral contrasts, and so I demeaned myself to 
animality. I indulged in it by night, secretly, fear- 
fully, foully, with a shame that never left me, even 
at the most degrading moments. I carried in my 
soul the love of secretiveness ; I was terribly afraid 
that I should be seen, met, recognized.". 

In delineations of this kind Dostoievski has so 
much strength and daring, such novelty of discovery 
and revelation, that we ask, " Could he have learnt 
all this merely from objective experience of others, 
from observation ? Is it the curiosity only of the 
artist ? ' Assuredly it was not necessary that he 
himself should kill an old woman in order to ex- 
perience the feelings of Raskolnikov, the leading 
character in Crime and Punishment. Much must be 
laid to the account of the insight of genius much, 
but not all. Even if in the acts of the writer there 
was nothing corresponding to the curiosity of the 
artist, yet it is worthy of notice that such images 
could rise before his fancy. The fancy of Tolstoi 
would never have been capable of these figures, 
though it penetrates into recesses of sensuousness 
not less deep. The interest of Dostoievski in " the 
stings of the gadfly," the seduction of girls, or the 
love adventure of Fedor Karamazov with Lizaveta 
the Fetid, Tolstoi would certainly have considered 
senseless or revolting. Sexual passion appears with 
him at times a cruel, coarse, even animal force, but 
never unnatural or perverted. The greatest of 
human sins, punished unmercifully by divine justice 

1 Compare Dr. Johnson's similar outbursts. 

149 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

in the spirit of the Mosaic Law, is, to the creator of 
Anna Karenina and the Kreuzer Sonata, the in- 
| fringement of conjugal fidelity. The measure with 
which he metes out all the phenomena of sex is the 
simple, healthy, chaste passion of the patriarchs for 
their wives, under the law given to men by Jehovah, 
" Increase and multiply" Levine owns that he 
could never picture to himself happiness with a 
woman otherwise than in the form of marriage ; to 
tempt another man's wife seems to the possessor of 
Kitty as senseless as, after a costly and ample 
dinner, to steal a roll from a stall in the street. 
However repentant for his gallantries Tolstoi may 
be, we feel that in this respect, as compared with 
Dostoievski, he is as innocent as Levine. 

When the novelist Turgeniev and Bielinski, the 
famous critic, " reproved Dostoievski for his dis- 
orderly life," he informs his brother : " I am ill in 
the nerves, and afraid of delirium or nervous fever. 
Live decently I cannot." His respectful and dis- 
creet biographer 1 hastens to suggest that he speaks 
here of merely monetary irregularities, but the 
reader is driven to doubt. 

Here is another hint as to the extremes of which 
he was capable, not only in imagination, but in act. 
" My dear fellow," he writes to Maikov in 1867 from 
abroad, " I feel that I can look on you as my judge. 
You are a man with a heart, and it does not hurt 
me to repent before you. But I am writing for 
your eye alone. Do not hand me over to the 
tribunal of the world. Travelling not far from 
Baden, I took it into my head to turn aside thither. 

i O: Mullerj 
150 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

I was harassed by the temptation to sacrifice- ten 
louis d'or and perhaps gain two thousand francs. 
I had before happened to win sometimes. But worse 
than this, my nature is wicked and too passionate. 
The devil straightway played me a trick, for in three 
days I won four thousand francs with unusual ease. 
The great thing is the play itself. You don't know 
how it weighs on me ! No, I swear to you, it was 
not mere greed of gain. I went on risking and lost. 
I proceeded to stake my last money, excited to 
feverishness, and lost. Then I proceeded to pawn 
my clothes. Anna (his. wife) pawned everything, 
save what she stood in, to the last shred. (What an 
angel she is ! How, in our despair, she comforted 
me !) ' Then follow prayers for money, humiliating 
even if the close friendship between him and Maikov 
is taken into account. " I know that you yourself 
have no money to spare. I should never apply to 
you for help, only I am sinking have almost com- 
pletely gone under. In two or three weeks I shall 
be without a farthing, and a drowning man will 
clutch at a straw. Except you I have no one, and 
if you do not help me I shall perish wholly ! Dear 
fellow, save me. I will repay you for ever with 
friendship and attachment. If you have nothing, 
borrow of some one for me. Forgive me for thus 
writing. Do not leave me alone ! God will repay 
you for this. Give a drop of water to a soul parching 
in the wilderness, for God's sake ! " Notice the 
painfully abject language. It reminds one of the 
comic personages in his own stories, when they have 
lost the sense of self-respect, the drunken little 
Marmeladov and the adventurous Captain Lebed- 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

kine, recounting their poverty. Dostoievski him- 
self has lost self-control ; does not care what Maikov 
thinks of him ; has broken loose into feverish 
hysteria ; is still drunk from enjoyment of the game. 

We feel that if he had got the money at Baden he 
would have again lost control, again played it away. 

On one occasion, when young, Tolstoi also lost 
heavily at play. But he did not "break loose" ; 
he stopped in time with the self-command and 
soberness peculiar, not to his speculation, but to 
his action. He gave up playing, went to the Cau- 
casus, quartered himself in a Cossack camp, and 
lived there with the greatest frugality on sixteen 
shillings a month, saved money, and paid his debt 
for cards. We see the true strength of the man, 
the sense of proportion, the power over himself, 
the tenacity, and consequently, from a certain 
standpoint, his moral superiority over Dostoievski. 

All these are trifles, but we know that even in 
more important respects the latter " broke loose." 
In a fit of youthful boasting he fancied that in 
his book The Double, or Alter Ego, he had surpassed 
Dead Souls. Thus, in blind anger against Bielinski, 
he accused that critic who, if not sufficiently per- 
spicacious, was in the highest degree well-inten- 
tioned of " despicable malice and stupidity." In 
the very letter in which he tells Maikov of his losses 
at play he notably expounds himself. " Every- 
where and in everything I go to extremes : all my 
life I have overshot the mark." It is necessary to 
add that he had been fated " to overshoot the mark ' 
not only from strength, but from weakness. 

" Do not hand me over to the judgment of men 

152 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

in general," he begs Maikov. This reminds one of 
the hero of Notes from Underground " I was terribly 
afraid that I should be seen and recognized." Per- 
haps he does not sincerely repent of what he calls his 
' paltrily passionate nature." Yet to purify it of 
his own set purpose, or to justify it before the tri- 
bunal of the world, are tasks beyond his strength. 
The evil is not in what he does, but in the fact that 
he is ashamed of what he does. His life will not, like 
Tolstoi's, stand complete exposure. He has hidden 
much, or is fain to hide, and we feel that this dark 
side of his life 1 is not edifying. If the life of Tolstoi 
is the pure and virgin water of a spring, that of 
Dostoievski is the upgush of fire from elemental 
depths, mixed with lava, ashes, smoke, and sulphur. 
It is impossible not to believe in the sincere en- 
deavours of Tolstoi to love his neighbours, but we 
may doubt whether he has really loved any one 
of them as a Christian. But the fire of love, pene- 
trating and purifying Dostoievski, glows even in 
the most commonplace acts. In one letter he writes 
to his orphan stepson : " Pasha is a good boy, a 
sweet boy, with no one left to care for him. I will 
share my last crust and shirt with him, and my life 
as well ! ' This was no empty word : he was ready, 
and without abstract reasoning as to the right to 
help the poor or no. 

4 " They tell me as a consolation," he writes, after 
the death of his daughter Sonia, " that I shall have 
other children. But where is my Sonia ? Where is 
that little spirit for whom I boldly declare I would 

It is that side of the planet Venus which is always 
turned from the sun. ED. 

153 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

accept the pains of the Cross if only she might live ? 
The more time goes on, the more bitter is memory- 
trie more clearly do I see her face. There are mo- 
ments which it is almost impossible to bear. She 
had regained consciousness and recognized me ; and 
when on the day of her death I went out (curse me !) 
to read the papers, having no idea that in two hours 
she would die, she so followed and accompanied me 
with her eyes, so looked at me, that I still see those 
eyes more and more distinctly. How can I love 
another child ? What I want is Sonia." Utterly 
self-forgetting, Jie^ loves the child of his flesTi, not 
only according to the flesh, but Christianly, accord- 
ing to the spirit as a separate, eternal, irreplaceable 
personality. Here is no patriarch Job consoled for 
his dead child by others. " But where is Sonia ? 
I want Sonia." Has Tolstoi ever uttered such 
simple words of simple love ? We remember again 
Tolstoi's words to a stranger about his own wife, 
Sophia : about her who has devoted her life to him 
and cared for him with a mother's tenderness for 
thirty years. " I choose myself friends among men. 
No woman can take the place of a friend to me. 
Why do we lie to our wives, assuring them that we 
can hold them friends ? Flat untruth ! " In this 
cold and cruel speech is the chill of the whole life, 
the chill of the underground spring. But it is as 
God created it. I dread only his surface lukewarm- 
ness, which aspires to be Christian. 

And so both Tolstoi and Dostoi'evski remain im- 
perfect in our sight. Neither one nor the other 
approaches that highest reconciling and fusing 
region of thought and inspiration where the eternal 

154 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

azure is transfused by the eternal sun, and opposites 
meet in the Absolute. 

' > ^ ^ -- 

In any case the earth-glow of Dostoievski is to 
me sacred as the chill of Tolstoi. Nothing I might 
learn of evil, of criminal, about Dostoievski would 
darken his figure or dim the light of sanctity round 
him. The fire that burnt within him mastered and 
purified all. In the latter half of 1880, when he was 
finishing The Brothers Karamazov, as Strakhov re- 
cords, ' ' he was unusually thin and exhausted. He 
lived, it was plain, solely on his nerves. His body 
had become so frail that the first slight blow might 
destroy it. His mental labour was untiring, al- 
though work, as he himself told me, had grown very 
difficult to him. In the beginning of 1881 he fell 
ill of a severe attack of emphysema, the result of 
catarrh of the pulmonary passages. On January 26 
he had hemorrhage in the throat. Feeling the ap- 
proach of death he wished to confess and take the 
Sacrament. He gave the New Testament, used by 
him in prison, to his wife to read aloud. The first 
passage chanced to be Matthew iii. 14, ' But John 
held him back and said, It is I that should be bap- 
tized by Thee, and dost Thou come to me ? But 
Jesus answered and said unto him, Detain Me not, 
for thus it behoves us to fulfil a great truth.' When 
his wife had read this he said, ' You hear ? " De- 
tain me not " ; that means I am to die.' And he 
closed the book." A few hours later he did actually 
die instantaneously from the rupture of the pul- 
monary artery. He had lived for " the great truth," 
of which he thought in his last moments. 

He loved to read out Pushkin's Prophet in the 

155 




TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

evenings. Those who heard him will never forget 
it. He began in a jerky, hollow, suppressed voice. 
But in the silence of the audience every syllable 
could be distinguished. And the voice grew ever 
louder, acquiring a power that seemed superhuman ; 
and the last line he did not read, but shouted in 
tones that shook the room 

And with thy word inflame the heart of Man. 

And the colourless, pitiable, " Liberal-Conserva- 
tive ' St. Petersburg crowd perhaps the coldest 
and most commonplace crowd in the world, like the 
crowd in Maria del Fiore four centuries ago, when 
Fra Geronimo Savonarola was preaching thrilled 
at that awe-inspiring cry. At that moment it was 
suddenly aware Dostoievski was more than a great 
writer that in him burned the seed of the religious 
fires of history. 

On one occasion Strakhov read him his poems, 
which included the line, addressed to the Russians 
of the day 

Could ye but know the powers locked in yourselves ! 

" In some folks' brain," he says himself, ' there 
always remains something not to be imparted to 
others, though one wrote volumes of explanations 
and explained his thought for five and thirty years. 
One thought will hover in his restless head which 
can never break out of it, and that perhaps the 
most important of all." 

This presentiment has been fulfilled. He died 
without telling us his chief secret. Twenty years 

156 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

after his death, if he knew how he has been under- 
stood, would he not be justified in once more ex- 
claiming, " They do not understand the main thing," 
and perhaps more especially now, when his fame 
is paling before the ever rising and dazzling fame of 
his great rival ? But the " main thing," we feel, 
in Tolstoi's art is more realized and understood in 
Dostoievski. Tolstoi is lord of the present ; Dos- 
toi'evski's fame is of the future. I do not say this 
to belittle Tolstoi, for I think that the present is 
by no means less important than the future. To- 
day is already to-morrow unrealized. I wish merely 
to say that we already are prescient of a third comer 
who is greater than these he who shall reconcile 
both these men's spirits. To him shall be the vic- 
tory ; in him the revelation of the " main thing " 
that was in them both. 

" The works of Pushkin, Gogol, Turgeniev, and 
Derjavine," says Tolstoi, " are unknown and useless 
to the people. Our literature is not suited to the 
people. These works, which we so cherish, remain to 
them a sealed book." Once, when talking to a coach- 
man, who asked him for Childhood and Youth, Leo 
answered : " No, it is a hollow book. In my youth 
I wrote much nonsense. But I will give you Come 
to the Light while there is Light. That is much better 
than Childhood and Youth" 

" I am like Paul," says Dostoievski ; " folk don't 
praise me, so I must praise myself ! " And not long 
before his death, in a notebook under the heading 
Myself, he wrote : "I am certainly of the people, 
for my tendency issues from the depths of the 
Christian that is, the popular spirit ; although I 

157 



\ 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

am unknown to the Russian people of to-day I shall 
be known to them in the future." 

Each of these views is right in its own way. 

Of course Tolstoi and Dostoievski are both popular 
in the sense that they aim at what really ought to 
become popular and part of the universal culture. 
They aim at it, but do they attain it ? They have 
recognized the gulf that divides culture from the 
people, and wish to be of the people. Yet even 
Pushkin, though far less conscious of this gulf, is, I 
think, more of the people than they. Neither pos- 
sesses the perfect simplicity which makes the Iliad 
of Homer, the Prometheus of ^Eschylus, and the 
Divine Comedy of Dante, expressions of the spirit 
of the nation, as of the world-spirit. Both are still 
too complicated, too artificial, too much in a hurry 
to escape from convention and " become simple." 
He who needs to become simple is not yet simple, 
and he who wishes to be of the people is not yet of 
the people. Pushkin, Tolstoi, and Dostoievski will 
long remain " caviare to the general." 

The living founder of a new sect, calling itself 
" the Church of the Orthodox Christians,!!^ former 
convict, living in Sakhaline, named Tikhon Bielo- 
nojkin, said recently to a " cultured " Russian, who 
was inquiring into popular customs, You collect 
oil, I understand. You have put a great deal of it 
into a lamp. Light that lamp, that there may be 
a light to serve men. If not, what is the good of 
your oil ? ' 

We men of culture and reasoning are oil without 
fire. The people, full of strength and belief, are fire 
without oil. The oil is being wasted, the fire is 

158 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

sinking. Tolstoi and Dostoi'evski, great precursors 
of him who will put the oil and fire together, are 
our typical Russians. Taken separately they can 
be judged and compared ; we can ascribe to one 
superiority over the other. Seen together, I no 
longer know which of them is nearer to me, or which 
I most love. 

'' His was a peasant's face," says one, describing 
Tolstoi- ' simple, rustic, with a broad nose, weather- 
beaten skin, thick beetling brows, from under which 
the small grey keen eyes looked brightly. Some- 
times, when he flashes up and gets hot, these eyes 
are piercing and penetrating. And with all the 
' peasant look,' adds the writer, " you at once 
recognize the man of good society, the man of breed- 
ing, the Russian gentleman." 

It is worthy of note how in the faces of great 
Russian writers, as that of Turgeniev when old, 
there is this mixture of plebeianism, the " peasant 
look," with the look of the noble the look of 
European high breeding. The union seems splendid 
and natural, as if one did not interfere with the 
other. 

Tolstoi's traits are those of a man who has lived/ 
life long and grandly, perhaps stormily, rarely 
happily. The face of Nimrod, mighty hunter beforej 
the Lord, in spite of the wrinkles of seventy, it is*. 
full of unfading youth, freshness, and somewhat 
haughty frigidity. 

And here beside it is the face of Dostoievski, never - 
young even in youth, shadowed by suffering, and\\ 
the cheeks sunken. The huge bare brow, bespeaking '; 
the clearness and majesty of reason; the piteous/ 

159 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

lips, twisted as if by the spasm of the " sacred sick- 
ness ; the gaze dim and inexpressibly heavy, as 
if turned inwards ; the slight cast in the eyes, as of 
one possessed. What is most painful in this face 
is a sort of immobility in the midst of movement, 
an endeavour arrested and turned to stone at the 
height of effort. 

In spite of all contrasts, at times these faces are 
strangely alike. Dostoievski too has the peasant 
look. " He looks quite the private soldier," says 
a friend. 

If consummate genius has pre-eminently the face 
of the people, neither in Tolstoi nor in Dostoievski 
have we as yet such a face. They are still too com- 
plex, passionate, and turbulent. There is not the 
final stillness and serenity, that " decorum ' which 
our folk has been seeking for unconsciously for so 
many ages in its own Byzantine art, in the old Icons 
of its saints and martyrs. And neither of these 
faces is beautiful. Russia has never yet possessed 
a world-wide face, beautiful and national too, as 
that of Homer, the youthful Raphael, or old 
Leonardo. Even the outer semblance of Pushkin 
appears to us that of a St. Petersburg dandy of the 
thirties, in a Childe Harold cloak, arms folded on 
the chest like Napoleon's, with the conventional 
Byronic meditation in the eyes, curly hair and thick 
sensual lips. Yet this was the most national, the 
most truly Russian of the Russians. There were 
moments of sudden transfiguration, when he became 
unrecognizable. As Alcibiades says of Socrates, 
the mask of the Satyr betrayed the hidden God. 
In all Pushkin in the outer man, as in his poetry- 

160 



TOLSTOI AS MAN AND ARTIST 

there is something over-light, transitory, evasive, 
unearthly, volatile. It was not for nothing that 
his friends called him " the Spark." For he was no 
planet, but a swift shooting star, a presage of 
harmony possible to Russia, but even by him never 
perfected. And his flight left us only the dim chrysa- 
lis, without its glowing inward nucleus. Nobody can 
give us now the true portrait of Pushkin. But the 
Russian people has not, so far, found its proper 
embodiment or type. Its typical man lies not in 
Pushkin, or even in Peter, buf still in the Future. 
This future man, third and final, perfectly " sym- 
metrical," who^will be wholly Russian and yet 
cosmopolitan a face, I fancy, splendidly symmetri- 
cal is to be sought for in a balance between the 
two great natures Tolstoi's and Dostoievski's. 
Some day there will flash between them, as between 
two opposite poles, a spark of that lightning which 
means national conflagration. 

In this Russian shall the " Man-god ' be mani- 
fested to the Western world, and the " God-man," 
for the first time, to the Eastern, and he shall be, 
to those whose thinking already reconciles both 
hemispheres, the " One in Two." 



161 M 



PART SECOND 
Tolstoi and Dostoievski as Artists 



163 



CHAPTER IX 

THE Princess jjolkonski, wife of Prince Andrei, as 
we learn from the first pages of Tolstoi's great novel 
Peace and War, was rather pretty, with a slight 
dark down on her upper lip, which was short to 
the teeth, but opened all the more sweetly, and 
still more sweetly lengthened at times and met the 
lower lip. For twenty chapters this lip keeps reap- 
pearing. Some months have passed since the open- 
ing of the story : " The little princess, who was 
enceinte, had meanwhile grown stout, but her eyes 
and the short downy lip and its smile, were curled 
up just as gaily and sweetly." And two pages later, 
" The princess talked incessantly i her short upper 
lip with its down constantly descended for a mo- 
ment, touched at the right point the red lower one, 
and then again parted in a dazzling smile of eyes 
and teeth." The princess tells her sister-in-law, 
Prince Andrei's sister, Princess Maria, of the depart- 
ure of her husband for the war. Princess Maria 
turns to her, with caressing eyes on her person ; 
" Really ? ' The princess's face changed, and she 
sighed. " Yes, really ! ' she replied, " Ah, it is all 
very terrible ! ' and the lip of the little princess 
descended. In the course of one hundred and fifty 
pages we have already four times seen that upper 

165 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

lip with its distinguishing qualifications. Two 
hundred pages later we have again, " There was a 
general and brisk conversation, thanks to the voice 
and the smiling downy lip that rose above the white 
teeth of the little princess." In the second part of 
the novel she dies in a confinement. Prince Andrei 
entered his wife's room : she lay dead in the very 
attitude in which he had seen her five minutes before, 
and the same expression, in spite of the still eyes 
and the paleness of the cheeks, was on this charming 
child-like face with the lips covered with dark down. 
* I love you all, have harmed nobody. What 
have you done with me ? ' This takes place in 
the year 1805; 

The war had broken out, and the scene of it 
was drawing near the Russian frontiers. In the 
midst of its dangers the author does not forget to 
tell us that over the grave of the little princess there 
had been placed a marble monument : an angel 
that had a slightly raised upper lip, and the ex- 
pression which Prince Andrei had read on the face of 
his dead wife, " Why have you done this to me ? ' 
Years pass. Napoleon has completed his con- 
quests in Europe. He is already crossing the fron- 
tier of Russia. In the retirement of the Bare Hills, 
the son of the dead princess " grew up, changed, 
grew rosy, grew a crop of curly dark hair, and with- 
out knowing, smiling and gay, raised the upper lip 
of his well-shaped mouth just like the little dead 
princess." Thanks to these underlinings of one 
physical feature first in the living, then in the dead, 
and then again on the face of her statue and in her 
son the upper lip of the little princess is engraved 

1 66 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

on our memory with ineffaceable distinctness. We 
cannot remember her without also recalling that 
feature. 

Princess Maria Volkonski, Prince Andrei's sister, 
has a heavy footstep which can be heard from afar. 
They were the heavy steps of the Princess Maria." 
She came into the room " with her heavy walk, going 
on her heels." Her face "grows red in patches" 
During a delicate conversation with her brother 
about his wife, she " turned red in patches." When 
they are preparing to dress her up upon the occasion 
of the coming betrothed, she feels herself insulted : 
' she flashed out, and her face became flushed in 
patches." 

In the following volume, in a talk with Pierre 
about his old men and beggars, about his " bedes- 
men," she becomes confused and " grew red in 
patches." Between these two last reminders of 
the patches of the princess is the description of the 
battle of Austerlitz, the victory of Napoleon, the 
gigantic struggle of nations, events that decided 
the destiny of the world, yet the artist does not for- 
get, and will not to the end, the physical trait he 
finds so interesting. We are forced to remember 
the glaring eyes, heavy footsteps, and red patches 
of the Princess Maria. True, these traits, unim- 
portant as they may seem, are really bound up with 
deep-seated spiritual characteristics of the dramatis 
personae. The upper lip, now gaily tilted, now 
piteously dropped, expresses the childlike careless- 
ness and helplessness of the little princess. The 
clumsy gait of the Princess Maria expresses an ab- 
sence of external feminine charm ; both the glaring 

167 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

eyes and the fact that she blushes in patches are 
connected with her inward womanly charm and 
spiritual modesty. Sometimes these stray character- 
istics light up a vast and complex picture, and give 
it startling clearness and relief. 

At the time of the popular rising in deserted 
Moscow, before Napoleon's entry, when Count 
Rostopchin, wishing to allay the bestial fury of the 
crowd, points to the political criminal Verestchagin 
(who happened to be at hand and was totally inno- 
cent) as a spy, and the scoundrel who had ruined 
Moscow, the thin long neck and the general thinness, 
weakness and fragility of his frame of course ex- 
press the defencelessness of the victim in face of 
the coarse mass of the crowd. 

" Where is he ? ' said the Count, and instantly 
saw round the corner of a house a young man with a 
long thin neck coming out between two dragoons. 
He had " dirty, down at heel, thin boots. On his 
lean, weak legs the fetters clanked heavily. * Bring 
him here,' said Rostopchin, pointing to the lower 
step of the perron. The young man, walking heavily 
to the step indicated, sighed with a humble gesture, 
crossed his thin hands, unused to work, before his 
body. ' Children,' said Rostopchin, in a metallic 
ringing voice, ' this man is Verestchagin, the 
very scoundrel that ruined Moscow.' Verest- 
chagin raised his face and endeavoured to meet the 
Count's eyes, but he was not looking at him. On 
the long thin neck of the young man a vein behind 
the ear stood out like a blue cord. The people were 
silent, only pressed more closely together. ' Kill 
him ! Let the traitor perish, and save from slur 

1 68 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

the Russian name,' cried Rostopchin. ' Count ! ' 
was heard saying amid the renewed stillness the 
timid yet theatrical voice of Verestchagin, ' Count, 
one God is above us.' And again the large vein 
in his thin neck was swollen with blood. One of 
the soldiers struck him with the flat of the sword on 
the head. Verestchagin, with a cry of terror, with 
outstretched hands plunged forward towards the 
people. A tall youth against whom he struck clung 
with his hands to his thin neck and with a wild cry, 
fell with him under the feet of the onrushing roaring 
populace." After the crime, the very people who 
committed it with hang-dog and piteous looks gazed 
on the dead body with the purple blood-stained and 
dusty face and the mangled long thin neck. Scarce \ 
a word of the inward state of the victim, but in five 
pages the word thin eight times repeated in various 
connexions and this outward sign fully depicts 
the inward condition of Verestchagin in relation to 
the crowd. Such is the ordinary artistic resource 
of Tolstoi, from the seen to the unseen, from the 
external to the internal, from the bodily to the 
spiritual, or at any rate to the emotional. 

Sometimes in these recurrent traits are implicated 
deeper fundamental ideas, main motives of the book. 
For instance, the weight of the corpulent general 
Kutuzov, his leisurely old man's slowness and want 
of mobility, express the apathetic, meditative 
stolidity of his mind, his Christian or more truly 
Buddhistic renunciation of his own will, the sub- 
mission to the will of Fate or the God of this primi- 
tive hero ; in the eyes of Tolstoi, a hero pre-emin- 
ently Russian and national, the hero of inaction or 

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TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

inertia. He is in contrast with the fruitlessly 
energetic, light, active, and self-confident hero of 
Western culture, Napoleon. 

Prince Andrei watches the commander in chief 
at the time of the review of the troops at Tsarevoe 
Jaimishche : " Since Andrei had last seen him 
Kutuzov had grown still stouter and unwieldy with 
fat." An air of weariness was on his face and in 
his figure. " Snorting and tossing heavily he sat his 
charger." When after finishing the inspection he 
entered the court, on his face sat " the joy of a man 
set free, purposing to take his ease after acting a part. 
He drew his left leg out of the stirrup, rolling his 
whole body and, frowning from the effort, with 
difficulty raised it over the horse's back. Then he 
gasped and sank into the arms of supporting Cos- 
sacks and aides-de-camp ; stepped out with a 
plunging gait and heavily ascended the staircase 
creaking under his weight." When he learns from 
Prince Andrei of the death of his father, he sighs 
44 profoundly, heaving his whole chest, and is silent 
for a time." Then he " embraced Prince Andrei, 
pressed him to his stout chest, and for long would 
not let him go. When he did so, the prince saw 
that the swollen lips of Kutuzov quivered, and tears 
were in his eyes." He sighs, and grasping the 
bench with both hands to rise, rises heavily and the 
folds of his swollen neck disappear. 
/^JEven more profound is the significance of rotun- 
dity in the frame of another Russian hero, Platon 
Karataev. This rotundity typifies the eternal com- 
pleteness of all that is simple, natural and artificial, 
a self-sufficingness, which seems to the artist the 

170 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

primary element of the Russian national genius. 
; Platon Karat aev always remained in Pierre's 
mind as the strongest and dearest memory and 
personification of all that is Russian, good, and 
rounded off. When next day, at dawn, Pierre saw 
his neighbour, the first impression of something 
round was fully confirmed ; the whole figure of 
Platon in his French cloak, with a cord girdle, a 
forage-cap and bast shoes, was round, the head was 
completely round, the back, the chest, the shoulders, 
even the arms, which he carried as if he was always 
going to lift something, all were round : the pleasant 
smile and the great brown tender eyes were round. 
Pierre felt something " round, if one might strain 
language, in the whole savour of the man" Here, by 
one physical trait, carried to the last degree of 
geometrical simplicity and obviousness, is expressed 
a huge abstract generalization. Tolstoi's religion 
and metaphysics enter into the delineation by this 
single trait. 

Similar deep expressiveness is given by him to 
the hands of Napoleon and Speranski, the hands of 
men that wield power. At the time of the meeting 
of the Emperors in face of the assembled armies, 
the former gives a Russian soldier the Legion of 
Honour, he " draws off the glove from his white small 
hand, and tearing it, throws it away." A few lines 
later, " Napoleon reaches back his small plump hand." 
Nicolai Rostov remembers " that self-satisfied Bona- 
parte with his little white hand." And in the next ' 
volume, when talking with the Russian diplomat 
Balashiev, Napoleon makes " an energetic gesture 
of inquiry with his little white, plump hand" 

171 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

He sketches, too, the whole body of the Emperor, 
stripping the studious demi-god, till he stands, like 
other men, food for cannon. 

In the morning, just before the battle of Borodino, 
the Emperor, in his tent, is finishing his toilette. 
' vSnorting and panting, he turned, now his plump 
back, now his overgrown fatty chest to the brush 
with which the valet was rubbing him down. 
Another valet, holding the mouth of the bottle with 
his finger, was sprinkling the pampered little body 
with eau-de-cologne, with an air that said he alone 
could know how much and where to sprinkle. 
Napoleon's short hair was damp and hanging over 
his forehead. But his face, though bloated and 
yellow, expressed physical well-being. ' More now, 
harder now ! ' he cried, stretching and puffing, to 
the valet who was rubbing him, then bending and 
presenting his fat shoulders." 

This white hand denotes the upstart hero who 
exploits the masses. 

Speranski 1 too, has white fat hands, in the de- 
scription of which Tolstoi plainly somewhat abuses 
his favourite device of repetition and emphasis. 
" Prince Andrei watched all Speranski's move- 
ments ; but lately he was an insignificant seminarist, 
and now in his hands, those white plump hands, 
he held the fate of Russia, as Volkonski reflected/ 1 
" In no one had the Prince seen such delicate white- 
ness of the face, and still more the hands, which 
were rather large, but unusually plump, delicate 
and white. Such whiteness and delicacy of com- 

1 A handsome guardsman in the great novel Peace and 
War. 

172 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOlEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

plexion he had only seen in soldiers who had been 
long in hospital." A little later he again " looks 
involuntarily at the white delicate hands of Sper- 
anski, as men look generally at the hands of people 
in power. The mirror-like glance and the delicate 
hand somehow irritated prince Andrei." 

The detail is repeated with unwearying insistence 
till in the long run this white hand begins to haunt 
one like a spectral being. 

In comparing himself with Pushkin as an artist, 
Tolstoi said to Bers that the difference between 
them, amongst other things, was this, that Pushkin 
in depicting a characteristic detail does it lightly, 
not troubling whether it will be noticed or understood 
by the reader, while he himself, as it were, stood over 
the reader with this artistic detail, until he had 
set it forth distinctly." The comparison is acute. 
He does " stand over the reader," not afraid of 
sickening him, and flogs in the trait, repeats, lays 
on colours, layer after layer, thickening them more 
and more, where Pushkin, barely touching, slides 
his brush over in light and careless, but invariably 
sure and faithful strokes. It seems as if Pushkin, 
especially in prose harsh, and even niggardly, gave 
little, that we might want the more. But Tolstoi 
gives so much that there is nothing more for us to 
want ; we are sated, if not glutted. 

The descriptions of Pushkin remind one of the 
light watery tempera of the old Florentine masters 
or Pompeian frescoes, dim, airily translucent col- 
ours, like the veil of morning mist. Tolstoi paints 
in the more powerful oil colours of the great North- 
ern Masters. And side by side with the dense 

173 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

black and living shadows we have sudden rays of 
the blinding all-penetrating light, drawing out of 
the dark some distinct feature, the nakedness of 
the body, a fold of drapery, a keen, quick movement, 
part of a face stamped with passion or suffering. 
We get a startling, almost repulsive and alarming 
r vividness. The artist seeks through the natural, 
strongly emphasized, the supernatural ; through 
the physical exaggerated the hyperphysical. 
In all literature there is no writer equal to Tolstoi 

^MMMMMMBMMHMHMMiHiMMBMMMMHhHMBMuMgi^^ 

in depicting the human body. Through he misuses 
repetitions, he usually attains what he needs by 
them, and he never suffers from the longueurs so 
common to other vigorous masters. i|e is accurate, 
simple, and as short as possible, selecting only the 
few, small, unnoticed facial or personal features and 
producing them, not all at once, but gradually and 
one by one, distributing them over the whole course 
of the story, weaving them into the living web of 
the action. Thus at the first appearance of old 
Prince Vlkonski l we get only a fleeting sketch, in 
four or five lines, " the short figure of the old man 
with the powdered wig, small dry hands and grey, 
overhanging brows that sometimes, when he was 
roused, dimmed the flash of the clever youthful 
eyes. n When he sits down to the lathe " by the 
movement of his small foot, the firm pressure of his 
thin veined hand " (we already know his hands are 
dry, but Tolstoi loves to go back to the hands of 
his heroes), " you could still see in the Prince the 
obstinate and long-enduring force of hale old age." 
When he talks to his daughter, Princess Maria, 

1 In Peace and War. 

174 
* 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOlEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

" he shows in a cold smile, his strong but yellowish 
teeth." When he sits at the table and bends over her, 
beginning the usual lesson in geometry, she " feels 
herself surrounded with the snuffy, old-age, acrid 
savour of her father,' 1 which had long been a sign 
to her. There he is all before us as if alive, height, 
build, hands, feet, eyes, gestures, brows, even the 
peculiar savour belonging to each man. 

Or take the effect on Vronski when he first sees 
Anna Karenina. You could see at a glance she 
belonged to the well-born ; that she was very beauti- 
ful, that she had red lips, flashing grey eyes, which 
looked dark from the thickness of the lashes, and 
that ' an excess of life had so filled her being that 
in spite of herself it showed, now in the flash of her 
eyes, now in her smile.' 7 And again as the story 
progresses, gradually, imperceptibly, trait is added 
to trait, feature to feature i when she gives her 
hand to Vronski he is delighted "as by something 
exceptional with the vigorous clasp with which 
she boldly shook his own." When she is talking 
to her sister-in-law Dolly, Anna takes her hand 
in 4 her own vigorous little one." The wrist of 
this hand is * thin and tiny," we see the " slender 
tapering fingers," off which the rings slip easily. 

In the hands of Karenina, as in those of other 
characters (it may be because the hands are the 
only part of the human body always bare and near 
elemental nature, and unconscious as the animal), 
there is yet greater expressiveness than in the face. 
In the hands of Anna lies the whole charm of her 
person, the union of strength and delicacy. We 
learn when she is standing in the crowd at the ball 

175 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOl'EVSKI AS ARTISTS 

' that she always held herself exceptionally erect " ; 
when she leaves the railway carriage or walks through 
the room she has " a quick, decisive gait, carrying 
with strange ease her full and perfectly proportioned 
body." When she dances she has " a distinguish- 
ing grace, sureness and lightness of movement " ; 
when, having gone on a visit to Dolly, she takes 
off her hat, her black hair, that catches in every- 
thing, " ripples into waves all over," and on another 
occasion " the unruly short waves of her curly hair 
keep fluttering at the nape and on the temples." 
In these unruly curls, so easily becoming unkempt, 
there is the same tension, " the excess of something ' 
ever ready for passion, as in the too bright flash 
of the eyes, or the smile, breaking out involuntarily 
and " fluctuating between the eyes and the lips." 
And lastly, when she goes to the ball, we see her skin. 
" The black, low-cut velvet bodice showed her full 
shoulders and breast polished like old ivory, and 
rounded arms." This polishedness, firmness, and 
roundness of the body, as with Platon Karataev, is 
to Tolstoi very important and subtle, a mysterious 
trait. All these scattered, single features complete 
and tally with one another, as in beautiful statues 
the shape of one limb always corresponds to the 
shape of another. The traits are so harmonized 
that they naturally and involuntarily unite, in the 
fancy of the reader, into one living, personal whole : 
so that when we finish the book we cannot but 
recognize Anna Karenina. 

This gift of insight into the body at times, though 
seldom, leads Tolstoi into excess. It is easy and 
pleasant to him to describe living bodies and their 

176 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

movements. He depicts exactly how a horse begins 
to start when touched by the spur : " Jarkov 
touched his horse with the spurs and it thrice in 
irritation shifted its legs, not knowing with which 
to begin, reared and leaped." In the first lines of 
Anna Karenina Tolstoi is in a hurry to tell us how 
Stepan Arcadievich Oblonski, of whom we as yet 
know nothing, " draws plenty of air into his broad 
pectoral structure," and how he walks with " his 
usual brisk step, turning out the feet which so 
lightly carry his full frame." This last feature is 
significant, because it records the family likeness 
of the brother Stepan with his sister Anna. Even 
if all this seems extravagant, yet extravagance in 
art is not excess, it is even in many cases the most 
needful of all things. But here is a character of 
third-rate importance, one of those which vanish 
almost as soon as they appear, some paltry regi- 
mental commander in Peace and War, who has no 
sooner flitted before us than we have already seen 
that he " is broader from the chest to the back 
than from one shoulder to the other," and he stalks 
before the front " with a gait that shakes at every 
step and his back slightly bent." This shaky 
walk is repeated four times in five pages. Perhaps 
the observation is both true and picturesque, but 
it is here an inappropriate touch and in excess* 
Anna Karenina's fingers, " taper at the ends,'* 
are important ; but we should not have lost much 
if he had not told us that the Tartar footmen who 
hand dinner to Levine and Oblonski were broad- 
hipped. Sometimes the distinguishing quality of 
an artist is shown, not so much by what he has in 

177 N 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

due proportion as by the gift which he has to excess. 

The language of gesture, if less varied than words, 
is more direct, expressive and suggestive. It is 
easier to lie in words than by gesture or facial 
expression. One glance, one wrinkle, one quiver 
of a muscle in the face, may express the unutter- 
able. Succeeding series of these unconscious, in- 
voluntary movements, impressing and stratifying 
themselves on the face and physique, form the ex- 
pression of the face and the countenance of the 
body. Certain feelings impel us to corresponding 
movements, and, on the other hand, certain habi- 
tual movements impel to the corresponding inter- 
nal states. The man who prays, folds his hands 
and bends his knees, and the man too who folds 
his hands and bends his knees is near to the pray- 
ing frame of mind. Thus there exists an uninter- 
rupted current, not only from the internal to the 
external, but from the external to the internal. 

Tolstoi, with inimitable art, uses this convertible 
connexion between the external and the internal. 
By the same law of mechanical sympathy which 
makes a stationary tense chord vibrate in answer 
to a neighbouring chord, the sight of another crying 
or laughing awakes in us the desire to cry or laugh ; 
we experience when we read similar descriptions 
in the nerves and muscles. And so by the motions 
of muscles or nerves we enter shortly and directly 
into the internal world of his characters, begin to 
live with them, and in them. 

When we learn that Ivan Ilyich 1 cried out three 
days for pain " Ugh, U-ugh, Ugh ! " because when he 

1 In The Death of Ivan Ilyitchi 

178 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOI'EVSKI AS ARTISTS 

began to cry " I don't want to ! " he prolonged the 
sound " o-o-o," it is easy for us, not only to picture 
to ourselves, but ourselves physically experience 
this terrible transition from human speech to a 
senseless animal howl. And what an endlessly 
complex, variegated sense at times a single move- 
ment, a single attitude of human limbs receives at 
his hands ! 

After the battle of Borodino, in the marquee for 
the wounded, the doctor, in his blood-stained apron 
with hands covered with blood " holds in one of 
them a cigar between the middle and fore-finger, 
so as not to mess it." This position of the fingers 
implies both the uninterruptedness of his terrible 
employment, and the absence of repugnance for it ; 
indifference to wounds and blood, owing to long habit, 
weariness, and desire to forget. The complexity 
of these internal states is concentrated in one littl 
physical detail, in the position of the two fingers, th 
description of which fills half a line. 

When prince Andrei, learning that Kutuzov is 
sending Bagration's force to certain death, feels a 
doubt whether the commander-in-chief has the 
j" Tight to sacrifice, in this self-confident way, the lives 
of thousands of men, he " looks at Kutuzov, and 
what involuntarily strikes his eye at a yard's dis- 
tance is the clean-washed sutures of the scar on 
Kutuzov's temple, where the bullet at Ismail pene- 
trated his head, and his lost eye." " Yes, he has 
the right," thinks Volkonski. 

More than anything which science tells Ivan 
Ilyich about his illness by the mouth of the doctors, 
more than all his own wonted conventional ideas 

179 



/- 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

about death, does a chance look reveal the actual 
horror of his state. " Ivan Ilyich began to brush 
his hair and looked in the mirror : he was horrified 
by the way that his hair clung closely to his long 
forehead." No words would suffice to express 
animal fear of death, as this state of the hair noticed 
in the mirror. The indifference of the healthy to 
the sick, or the living to the dying, is realized by 
Ivan Ilyich, not from the words people use, but only 
by " the brawny, full- veined neck, closely girt by its 
white collar, and the powerful limbs habited in tight 
black breeches, of Fedor Petrovich " (his daughter's 
betrothed). 

Between Pierre and Prince Vasili 1 the relations 
are very strained and delicate. Prince Vasili 
wishes to give Pierre his daughter Ellen and is 
waiting impatiently for Pierre to make her an offer. 
The latter cannot make up his mind. One day, find- 
ing himself alone with the father and daughter, he 
rises and is for going away, saying it is late. ' Prince 
Vasili looked at him with stern inquiry, as if the 
remark was so strange that it was impossible to 
believe his ears. But presently the look of stern- 
ness changed. He took Pierre by the arm, put him 
in a chair and smiled caressingly, ' Well, what of 
Lelia ? ' he said, turning at once to his daughter 
and then again to Pierre, reminding him, not at all 
to the point, of a stupid anecdote of a certain Sergye 
Kuzmich. Pierre smiled, but it was plain from his 
smile that he knew that it was not the story of 
Sergye Kuzmich that interested Prince Vasili at the 
moment : and Prince Vasili was aware that Pierre 

1 In Peace and War. 
1 80 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

saw this. The former suddenly muttered something 
and left the room. It seemed to Pierre that Prince 
Vasili, too, felt confused. He looked at Ellen, and 
she too seemed embarrassed, and her eye said, ' Well 
you yourself are to blame.' " What complex and 
many-sided significance evoked by a single smile ! 
It is repeated and mirrored in the minds of those 
around, in a series of scarcely perceptible half-con- 
scious thoughts and feelings, like a ray or a sound. 

Pierre sees Natasha after a long separation, and 
the death of her first betrothed, Prince Andrei. 
She is so changed that he does not recognize her. 

' But no, it cannot be,' he thinks. ' This stern, thin, 
pale, aged face ? It cannot be she. It is only the 
memory of a face.' But at that moment Princess 
Maria says, ' Natasha.' And the face with the 
observant eyes, with difficulty, with an effort, as 
a stuck door is opened, smiled at him and from this 
opened door suddenly, startlingly, came the breath, 
floating round Pierre, of that long forgotten happi- 
ness. It came and took hold of and swallowed him 
whole. When she smiled, there could no longer be 
a doubt ; it was Natasha, and he loved her." During 
this scene, one of the most important and decisive 
in the action of this novel, only four words are 
pronounced by Princess Maria, " Then don't you 
recognize her ? ' But the silent smile of Natasha 
is stronger than words ; it decides the fate of Pierre. 

Tolstoi depicts by gesture such intangible peculi- 
arity of sensation as a bar of music, or of a song. 

The drummer and choir leader looked sternly over 
the soldiers of his band and frowned. Then having 
convinced himself that all eyes were fixed on him, 

181 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOlEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

he appeared carefully to raise in both hands some 
unseen precious object above their heads, held it 
there some seconds and suddenly threw it away 
desperately. ' Ah ! alackaday, my tent, my tent ! 
my new tent ! ' took up twenty men's voices." 

He has equally at command the primal elemental 
masses and the lightest molecules scattered, like dust, 
over our inward atmosphere, the very atoms of 
feeling. The same hand which moves mountains 
guides these atoms as well. And perhaps the 
second operation is more wonderful than the first. 
Putting aside all that is general, literary, conven- 
tional, and artificial, Tolstoi explores in sensation 
what is most private, personal, and particular ; 
takes subtle shafts of feeling, and whets and sharpens 
these shafts to an almost excessive sharpness, so 
that they penetrate and pierce like ineradicable 
needles ; the peculiarity of his sensation will become 
for ever our own peculiarity. We feel Tolstoi after- 
wards, when we return to real life. We may say 
that the nervous susceptibility of people who have 
read the books of Tolstoi becomes different from 
what it was before reading them. 

The secret of his effects consists, amongst other 
things, in his noticing what others do not, as too 
commonplace and which, when illumined by con- 
sciousness, precisely in consequence of this common- 
place character seems unusual. Thus he first made f 
the discovery, apparently so simple and easy, but 
which for thousands of years had evaded all obser- 
vers, that the smile is reflected, not only on the face, 
but in the sound of the voice, that the voice as well 
a,s the face can be smiling. Platon Karataev at 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOlEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

night, when Pierre cannot see his face, says some- 
thing to him, " in a voice changed by a smile." 
The living web of art consists in such small but 
striking observations and discoveries. He was the 
first to notice that the sound of horse-hoofs is, as 
it were, a " transparent sound." 

His language, usually simple and measured, does 
not suffer from an excess of epithet. When the 
sensation to be described is so subtle and new that 
by no combination of words can it possibly be 
expressed, he uses concatenations of onomatopoeic 
sounds, which serve children and primitive people 
in the construction of language. 

In his delirium, Prince Andrei heard a low, whisper- 
ing voice, ceaselessly affirming in time " I piti piti 
piti," and then " i ti ti," and again " i piti piti piti," 
and once more " i ti ti." At the same time at the 
sound of this whispered music Prince Andrei felt 
that over his face, over the very middle of it, moved 
some strange airy edifice of fine needles or chips. 
He felt, although it was hard for him, that he must 
assiduously maintain his equilibrium in order that 
this delicate fabric might not fall down. But still 
it did fall down, and slowly rose again to the sounds 
of the rhythmically whispering music. " It rises, 
it rises ! It falls to pieces and yet spreads," said he 
to himself. " I piti piti piti, i ti ti, i piti piti bang, 
a fly has knocked against it." 

Ivan Ilyich, remembering before his death the 
stewed plums " which they advise me to eat now," 
remembered also the " dry, crinkled French prunes 
when I was a child." It would seem the detail was 
sufficiently definite. But the artist enforces it still 

183 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTO'lEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

more. Ivan remembered the peculiar taste of 
plums and " the abundance of saliva when you got 
to the stones." With this sensation of saliva from 
plum stones is connected in his mind a whole series 
of memories, of his nurse, his brother, his toys, of 
his whole childhood, and these memories in their 
turn evoke in him a comparison of the then happiness 
of his life with his present despair and dread of 
death. " No need for that, too painful," he says to 
himself. Such are the generalizations to which, 
in us all, trifling details lead. 

Sonia, when in love with Nicolai Rostov, kisses 
him. Pushkin would have stopped at recording the 
kiss. But Tolstoi, not content, looks for more 
exactness. The thing took place at Christmas, 
Sonia was disguised as a hussar, and moustaches 
had been marked on her lips with burnt cork. And 
so Nicolai remembers "the smell of cork, mixed with 
the feel of the kiss." 

The most intangible gradations and peculiarities 
of sensation are distinguished by him to correspond 
with the character, sex, age, bringing up, and status 
of the person experiencing them. It seems that in 
this region there are no hidden ways for him. His 
sensual experience is inexhaustible, as if he had lived 
hundreds of lives in various shapes of men and 
animals. He fathoms the unusual sensation of 
her bared body to a young girl, before going to her 
first ball. So, too, the feelings of a woman growing 
old and worn out with child bearing, who " shudders 
as she remembers the pain of her quivering breasts, 
experienced with almost every child." Also of a 
nursing mother, who has not yet severed the mys- 

184 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOlEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

terious connexion of her body with that of her 
child, and who " knows for a certainty, by the 
excess of milk in her, that the child is insufficiently 
fed." Lastly, the sensations and thoughts of animals, 
for instance the sporting dog of Levine, to whom 
the face of her master seems " familiar," but his 
eyes " always strange." 

Not only the old Greeks and Romans, but in all 
probability the people of the eighteenth century, 
would not have understood the meaning of the 
" transparent ' sound of horsehoofs, or how there 
can be " a savour of burnt cork mixed with the 
feel of a kiss," or dishes " reflect ' an expression 
of the human countenance, a pleasant smile, or how 
there can be " a roundness " in the savour of a man. 
If our critics, the Draconian judges of the new so- 
called " decadence " of Art, were consistent through- 
out, should they not accuse even Tolstoi of " morbid 
obliquity " ? But the truth is that to determine 
the fixed units of the healthy and the morbid in 
Art is much more difficult than it seems to the 
guardians of the Classical canons. Is not the ' obli- 
quity ' they presuppose only an intensifying, the 
natural and inevitable development, refinement, 
and deepening of healthy sensuality ? Perhaps 
our children, with their unimpaired susceptibility, 
will understand what is unintelligible to our critics 
and will justify Tolstoi. Children are well aware 
of what some fathers have forgotten, viz. ; that the 
different branches of what are called " the five 
senses ' are by no means so sharply divided from 
one another, but blend, interweave, cover and 
supplement one another, so that sounds may seem 

185 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

bright and coloured (" the bright voice of the night- 
ingale," Pushkin has it) and concatenations of 
movements, colours, or even scents may have the 
effect of music (what is called " eurhythmia," ) 
the harmony of movement, as of colours in painting. 
It is usually thought that the physical sensations, 
as opposed to mental, are a constant quantity 
throughout time in the historical development of 
mankind. In reality, the care of physical sensation 
changes with the development of intellect. We see 
and hear what our ancestors did not see or hear. 
However much the admirers of classical antiquity 
may complain of the physical degeneracy of the 
men of to-day, it is scarcely possible to doubt that 
we are creatures more keen-sighted, keen of hearing 
and physically acute, than the heroes of the Iliad 
and the Odyssey. Does not science, too, con- 
jecture that certain sensations, for instance, the last 
colours of the spectrum, have become the general 
achievement of men, only at a comparatively recent 
and historical stage of their existence, and that per- 
haps even Homer confused green with dark blue in 
one epithet, for the hue of seawater ? Does there 
not still go on a similar natural growth and intensi- 
fication in other branches of human sentience ? 
Will not our children's children see and hear what 
we as yet do not see and hear ? Will not the unseen 
be seen to them, though undreamed of by our 
fathers, our critics, men of worn-out sensitiveness 
to impression, nay, even to the boldest and most 
advanced of ourselves ? Will not our present " deca- 
dent ' over-refinement, which so alarms the old 
believers of the day on Art, then seem in its turn 

186 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOl'EVSKI AS ARTISTS 

obvious, primitive, Homeric healthiness and coarse- 
ness ? In this unchecked development, movement 
and flow, where is the fixed standard for dividing 
the lawful from the unlawful, wholesome from mor- 
bid, natural from corrupt ? Yesterday's exception 
becomes to-day's rule. And who shall dare to say 
to the living body, the living spirit, " Here shall 
you stop, no further may you go " ? Why particu- 
larly here ? Why not farther on ? 

However this may be, the special glory of Tolstoi 
lies exactly in the fact that he was the first to 
express (and with what fearless sincerity !), new 
branches, unexhausted and inexhaustible, of over- 
subtilizing physical and mental consciousness. We 
may say that he gave us new bodily sensations, 
new vessels for new wine. 

The Apostle Paul divides human existence into 
three branches, borrowing the division from the 
philosophers of the Alexandrian School, the physical 
man, the spiritual and the natural. The last is the 
connecting link between the first two, something 
intermediate, double, transitional, like twilight ; 
neither Flesh nor Spirit, that in which the Flesh is 
completed and the Spirit begins, in the language 
of psycho-physiology the physico-spiritual pheno- 
menon. 

Tolstoi is the greatest depictor of this physico- 
spiritual region in the natural man ; that side of the 
flesh which approaches the spirit, and that side o 
the spirit which approaches the flesh, the mys- 
terious border-region where the struggle between thef 
animal and the God in man takes place; Therein 
lies the struggle and the tragedy of his own life. 

187 



\J 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOlEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

He is a " man of the senses," half-heathen, half- 
Christian ; neither to the full. 

In proportion as he recedes from this neutral 
ground in either direction, it matters not whether 
towards the region of the cold " pre-animal " 
Nature, that region which seems inorganic, insen- 
tient, inanimate, " material " (the terrible and 
beatific calm of which Turgeniev and Pushkin have 
told so well) ; or as he essays the opposite region ; 
human spirituality, almost set free from the body, 
released from animal nature, the region of pure 
thought (the passionate workings of which are so 
well embodied by Dostoievski and Tiutchev) the 
power of artistic delineation in Tolstoi decreases, and 
in the end collapses, so that there are limits which 
are for him wholly unattainable. But within the 
limits of the purely natural man he is the supreme 
artist of the world. 

In other provinces of Art, for instance the paint- 
ing of the Italian Renaissance and the sculpture of 
the ancient Greeks, there have been artists who 
with greater completeness than Tolstoi depicted the 
bodily man. The music of the present day, and in 
part the literature, penetrate us more deeply. But 
nowhere, and at no time, has the " natural man ' 
appeared with such startling truth and nakedness 
as he appears in the creations of Tolstoi. 



1 88 



CHAPTER X 

TURGENIEV wrote, with reference to Peace and War, 
Tolstoi's novel is an extraordinary affair, but the 
weakest thing in it is just that over which the public 
is enthusiastic, the history and the psychology. 
His history is a puzzle, a deceiving of the eyes with 
thin details. Where is the characteristic feature 
of the epoch ? Where is the historical colouring ? 
The figure of Denisoii is drawn finely, but it would 
be good as an arabesque on a background, only 
there is no such background." 

An unexpected judgment, and one that at first 
sight seems unfair. The vast and endlessly varied 
course of the Tolstoyan epic gives us so much by the 
way that the question of a goal does not occur to 
us. But in the long run it is impossible to evade 
the question, In what measure is the historical 
novel Peace and War true to history ? The well- 
known historical personages depicted Kutuzov, 
Alexander I, Napoleon, Speranski pass before us, 
familiar historical events take place, the battles of 
Austerlitz and Borodino, the burning of Moscow, 
the retreat of the French. We see the whole mov- 
ing, yet unmoved face of History, tossed by emotions 
and for ever turning to stone, like waves suddenly 
petrified. Is the living spirit of its epoch in the 

189 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKY AS ARTISTS 

book ? The spirit of history, the spirit of the time, 
that which Turgeniev calls " historical colouring," 
how difficult, how almost impossible is it to deter- 
mine in what it consists ! Of course every age has 
its own atmosphere, its peculiar savour, nowhere 
and never repeated. In the Decameron of Boccaccio 
we have the savour of the Italy of the early Renais- 
sance, in Mickiewicz's Pan Tadeusz that of the 
Lithuania of the opening of the nineteenth century ; 
in Eugene Oniegin, that of Russia in the thirties. 
And this colouring, the peculiar reflection of the 
historical hour, is reproduced not only in the great, 
but in the trifling, as the glow of the morning or 
evening is reflected, not only on the hilltops, but in 
every blade of grass upon the mountains. Even 
the fashions of clothes, women's headgear, house- 
furniture, in this sense, never recur. 

The more powerful, the more vital the civilization, 
the more clinging and distinctive is its historical 
savour. And as we plunge into the examination 
of a period, it breathes forth, takes hold of us like 
the penetrating, subtle and heavy aroma from a 
long-sealed casket, or like a strange low music that 
goes to the heart. The Napoleonic age is felt, not 
only in the majestic language of the proclamations 
to the army under the Pyramids, or in the articles 
of the Legislative Code, but in the pattern of em- 
broidery, the white tunics of the Empress and her 
smooth white curule chairs. 

In reading Peace and War it is very difficult to 
get rid of the astonishing impression that all the 
events depicted, in spite of their names and familiar 
historical guise, took place in our own day. The 

190 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

characters described, in spite of being portraits, 
are our own contemporaries. The air we breathe 
in Peace and War is the same so familiar to us in 
Anna Karenina and the second half of the nine- 
teenth century. 

Between the Masonic leanings of Pierre Bezukhov 
and the democratic tendencies of Levine, between 
the family life of the Rostovs and that of the Sher- 
batskis, there is just as liltle difference in the his- 
torical colouring. People supposed to be born and 
brought up in the fifties and sixties of the eighteenth 
century on Derjavine, Sumarokov, Novikov, Vol- 
taire, Diderot, and Helvetius, not only speak in 
Peace and War our present tongue, but think and 
feel the same new thoughts and feelings as we. It 
is almost impossible to conceive Prince Andrei, with 
his pitilessly keen, delicate and cold sensitiveness, so 
over-refined, and so morbid, so modern, as the con- 
temporary of Poor Lisa, Vadim, The Thunderers, and 
the Singer in the Camp of the Russian Warriors. He 
seems to have read and felt Byron and Lermontov, 
but also Stendhal> Merimee, and even Flaubert and 
Schopenhauer. Levine, in Anna Karenina, has not 
a single religious doubt which could seem strange 
or unintelligible to Pierre Bezukhov. They are 
not only spiritually akin, but of the same year, his- 
torical inseparables. To imagine Oniegin 1 with- 
out a Childe Harold cloak, or otherwise than in the 
fashionable clothes of a half-Russian, half-English 
dandy, the contemporary of Chateaubriand and 
Byron, or Tatiana, except in the dress of a country 
young lady of the twenties, is as difficult as to fancy 

1 Pushkin's hero: 
191 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

Pierre Bezukhov in stockings and resetted shoes 
and a coloured frock-coat with shiny buttons, or 
Natasha Rostov in the dress of our great-grand- 
mothers. In Tolstoi's historical novel we lose the 
prismatic sense of distance between us and the 
characters ; not because we are transplanted to 
their age, but, on the contrary, because they are 
transplanted to ours. 

The author himself forgets this prism of distance. 
The occasional glimpse of a powdered peruke or 
breeches, or of an old-fashioned phrase, surprises the 
reader like an anachronism. Of the indoor home 
surroundings of a Russian magnate of the Alex- 
andrian age we meet in the whole course of Peace 
and War only one mention, occupying half a line. 
In the Moscow palace of the elder Count Bezukhov, 
there is " a plate-glass hall with two rows of statues 
in niches." Contrast Homer, with his endless de- 
scriptions of the chambers of King Alcinous, or 
depicting the exterior and interior of a human 
dwelling, the arrangement of the rooms, walls, 
beds, ceilings, pillars, beams, cross-beams, and all 
the details of household equipment. The work of 
men's hands, to the maker of the Iliad, is as sacred 
and worthy as the work of divine hands. He de- 
scribes the every-day domestic surroundings of his 
heroes with the same lovingness as the earth, the 
sea, or the sky, and makes instinct with a life in 
sympathy with man the web of Penelope, the shield 
of Achilles, the raft of Odysseus, the amphoras with 
sweet perfumes and the baskets of washed clothes 
which Nausicaa is carrying to bleach by the river. 
In the whole superstructure of man's civilization 

192 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

over the world of elemental Nature, in all that men 
have invented, not only what is artistic, but in 
crafts and industries, in all that is the work of art, 
but never seems to him artificial, the writers of the 
Odyssey imagine something superhuman, divinely 
beautiful, the work and contrivance of the cunning 
worker Hephaestus, something burning with Prome- 
thean fire. And Pushkin, who so understood the 
charm of wild nature, at the same time rejoiced in 
the beauty of the city created by Peter the Tzar, 
' the most soulful of all towns " in the words of 
Dostoievski ; delighted in the ironwork in the rails of 
St. Petersburg gardens, the Admiralty spire, sparkling 
in the moonless glimmer of white nights, and even the 
fashionable luxuries of Oniegin, the tongs, combs and 
files in his dressing case ; finds fault in what sound- 
ing verse with the defects of the Odessa aqueducts 
and admires the gay variegation of the Nijni Nov- 
gorod fair. All that is progressive, all that is human 
and tasteful is to Puskhin as important, and from 
a certain standpoint as natural as the primitive 
and elemental. And so Mickiewicz in Pan Tadeilsz 
makes the features of the comfortable old-world life 
of the Lithuanian squires blend with the features of 
nature in one living organism, in one animated image 
of Lithuania, his sacred country. 

In face of the inexhaustible riches of Tolstoi in 
other quarters, the poverty of the historical, social 
and domestic colouring in his works is striking. So 
called ' things," the humble and silent companions 
of man's life, inanimate but easily animated, re- 
flecting man's image, in Tolstoi have no place. Only 
in Childhood and Youth is there a sympathetic 

193 o 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKY AS ARTISTS 

description of the domestic surroundings of a 
Russian squire's family. In the end this sympathy 
with the life of the class from which he sprang is 
quenched in him and extinguished by his moral 
judgment, and the aim of contrasting that life with 
the life of the common people. Even the popular 
life throughout his books, from Polikushka to The 
Power of Darkness, is shown in darker and darker 
colours. It is shown, not massively or epically, as 
Pushkin drew it, but scattered, mutilated, and de- 
formed by town civilization. Finally, the depiction 
of any kind of human life becomes a mere vehicle 
for abstract moralizing for blame or justification. 
His real and never-failing artistic power is con- 
centrated for Tolstoi, as we have seen, in the physical 
frame, in the external movements and internal 
physical states and the sensations of his characters 
in their " natural man." As he gets further from 
this borderland his light grows dim ; so that we 
ever more faintly distinguish their garments, the 
details of their domestic life, the internal economy 
of their dwellings, the street life of the towns in 
which they live, and lastly, least of all that mental 
and moral atmosphere of ideas, that historical and 
social air which is formed not only of all that is true 
and eternal, but all the prejudices and conventions 
and artificialities that are peculiar to each age. 
Pierre Bezukhov as a Freemason is an unsuccessful 
attempt in this kind, and Tolstoi never afterwards 
made similar attempts. Pushkin's Tatiana listens 
to the stories of her nurse and meditates over the 
artless Martin Zadeka and the sentimental Mar- 
montel. It is clear to us what effect Darwin and 

194 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

Moleshot had on Bazarov, the scientific hero of 
Turgeniev's Fathers and Sons ; and what his attitude 
would have been towards Pushkin and the Sistine 
Madonna. We know well the books depicting 
sexual passions which Madame Bovary read, and 
exactly how they affected the birth and develop- 
ment of her own passion. But we should try in vain' 
to conjecture whether Anna Karenina likes Ler- 
montov or Pushkin the better, Tiutchev 1 or Bara- 
tynski. 2 Besides, she does not care for books. 
Those eyes, so apt to weep and laugh, to glow with 
love or hatred, care nothing for art. 

The mind even of the practical man of to-day is 
the outcome of numberless influences, stratifications, 
aggregations of past ages and civilizations, i.e. 
culture. Which of us does not live two lives, the 
actual and the reflected ? The prober of the minds 
of the men of to-day cannot with impunity neglect 
this blending of two lives. Tolstoi does neglect it, 
and in this point, I think, is therefore inartistic. He 
extracts and lays bare the natural or animally human 
nucleus from its outward social and historical shell. 
All that man has built on to nature, all evolution, 
is to him merely conventional, false, and uninterest- 
ing. With a light heart he passes by, hastening 
away from this atmosphere, which seems to him 
infected and polluted by human breath, to the fresh 
air of all that is primitive and animal. 

But even here, at the last stages of elementally, 

1 A Pantheistic poet (born 1803, died 1876). He was a 
Slavophile, and his descriptions of Nature are excellent. 

2 Baratynski lived from 1800 to 1844. A sentimental 
guardsman and Byronic poet. 

195 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKY AS ARTISTS 

of pre-human and pre-animal nature primal and 
apart from man, seemingly animated by another 
and not human form of life there are bounds 
eternally inaccessible to Tolstoi. Pushkin first dis- 
solved the antagonism of human consciousness and 
primitive unconscious nature into a perfect though 
unprofitable harmony: 

And though at the grave's door 
Young life will ever play, 
And nature ever heedlessly 
Eternal bloom display. 

With Lermontov this antagonism becomes more 
painful and irreconcilable : 

The skies wear majesty 

The earth in the blue radiance sleeps. 

Why thus distressed, thus lorn am I ? 

Amid the viewless field of space 
The ever-fleeing clouds, 
The filing herds, the transient crowds 
Pass over sky and leave no trace.- 

In evil fortune's weary day 
Do thou of them alone take heed, 
The earthly to its earthly need 
Leave, and be careless even as they. 

As if he no longer hoped for complete unification 
with Nature, he says not " be with them," but " be 
as they" 

In Tiutchev this contradiction becomes still more 
acute. There is unbearable discord : 

Whence cometh this discord ? 
And why in the universal choir 
Sings not the heart as sings the sea, 
Or murmurs as the brooding reed ? 

196 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOlEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

Or, lastly, take Turgeniev. The very essence of 
his attitude to Nature lies in this sense of discord 
between the murmurs of the " thinking reed ' ' and 
the meaningless clearness of Nature. 

But Tolstoi's attitude towards Nature is twofold. 
To his consciousness, which would fain be Christian, i 
Nature is something dark, evil, even fiendish. " It 
is that which the Christian should overcome in him- 
self and transfigure into the kingdom of God." On 
the other hand, to Tolstoi's unreasoning pagan sid^ 
man is made one with Nature, and disappears in heir 
like a drop in the ocean. Olenine, steeped in th 
lore of Uncle Yeroshka, feels himself in the woods 
an insect among insects, a leaf among leaves, an 
animal among animals. He would have said, like 
Lermontov, " Be as they," because he is already of 
them. In Tolstoi's Three Deaths the dying young 
lady, in spite of her external conventional veneer of 
culture, is so little given to thinking that it clearly 
does not enter the writer's head to compare " the 
murmur of the brooding reed " with the unre- 
piningness of the dying tree. 

Thus both in the Christian and the pagan Tolstoi j 
we find no sense of opposition between Man and| 
Nature. In the first case Nature disappears in i 
Man ; in the second Man is swallowed up in Nature. \ 

Pushkin hears in the stillness of the night the 
mutter of the old wife, Destiny. 

Tiutchev knows " a certain hour of universal 
silence ' when gloom thickens 

As Chaos on the waters 
Forgetfulness like Atlas weights the land. 
Only the Muse's ever virgin soul 
By Gods in dreams is haunted and fore-awed. 

IQ7 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOEVSKI AS ARTISTS 
And in the breathless July nights he hears 

Only the flashing lightnings, 

Like deaf and dumb daemonic souls, 

Talk to each other. 

In Turgeniev, too, the icy summits of the Fin- 
steraarhorn and the Jungfrau in the deserted pale 
green sky, like the demons, hold converse on man- 
kind, that pitiful human mildew on the surface of 
the globe. 

Such visions of Nature have never disturbed the 
muse of Tolstoi. He has never heard in the stillness 
of the night " the mutter of the old wife, Destiny." 

Does he love Nature ? It may be his feeling for 
her is stronger and deeper than what people call 
" love of Nature." If he does love her, then it is 
not as an elemental being apart from and stranger 
to man, yet akin to man and full of divine and 
daemonic forces. Rather as an elemental comple- 
ment of his own nature as " natural man." He loves 
himself in her, and her in himself, with enthusiasm, 
awe, or intoxication, with that great sober fondness 
with which the ancients loved her, and with which 
none of the men of to-day has yet learnt to love her. 
The strength and weakness of Tolstoi lies precisely 
in this that he never can clearly distinguish the 
civilized from the elemental, or Man from Nature. 

The gloom and mystery of the other world he, 
too, finds in Nature ; but this gloom, this mystery, 
are full only of repellent terror. Sometimes he, too, 
finds the veil of phenomena lifted. 

But behind this lifted veil Tolstoi sees not " the 
living chariot of the Universe, rolling in sight to 

198 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

Heaven's sanctuary," nor " the flight of angels," 
but a mere bottomless black void the " bog " into 
which Ivan Ilyich, with his long inhuman cry, " I 
don't want to o o o ! " is slowly drawn. Even in 
the voice of the night wood Tolstoi only hears that 
dreary rustle of dry mugwort, in the snow-wrapped 
wilderness, which so frightens the dying master in 
Master and Man. But while the veil of day is down 
he clearly and dreamlessly sees Nature as she is, 
nor does her golden tent ever grow for him trans- 
parent, translucent, or luminous. 

Either total darkness or perfect light, either sleep 
or waking. For him there is no twilight hour, 
blending sleep with waking ; no morning or evening 
mist full of " prophetic dreams " ; no spectral twi- 
light, starry and glimmering, like the Pythian 
murmur of Pushkin's Fate nothing fabulous, 
magical, or miraculous. 

We shall see later that on only one occasion ii 
his whole vast creation did he verge on these limits 
that seem unattainable to him, where the super-f 
natural marches with the natural and is seen, not] 
within, but behind and through the natural. Then 
he, as it were, overcame himself, went beyond him- 
self. This is precisely that excessiveness, that final 
miracle of victory over his own nature, which marks 
the highest genius. However, when he verged on 
these boundaries he did not overstep them, but 
drew back. 



199 




CHAPTER XI 

WITH regard to the earlier parts of Peace and We 
Flaubert writes to Turgeniev : " Thanks for ei 
abling me to read Tolstoi's novel. It is a work of 
the highest order. What a painter ! and what a 
psychologist ! The first two volumes are excellent, 
but the third falls off terribly (degringole affreuse- 
ment). He repeats himself and philosophises ; till 
at last you see the gentleman himself (le monsieur), 
the author, and the Russian; whereas up till then 
you had seen only Nature and Mankind." 

The criticism is somewhat hasty and superficial. 
Flaubert is apparently still diffident, overcome with 
astonishment at this literary Leviathan from semi- 
barbarous unknown Russia. " I cried out with 
enthusiasm while I was reading," he owns, ' but 
it is long ! Yet it is powerful, very powerful ! ' 

It is true that there are startling inequalities in 
Peace and War. There are two reservoirs of lan- 
v guage, two tongues. 

Where he depicts reality, especially the primitive 
k " natural ' man, his language is distinguished by 
unequalled simplicity, strength, and accuracy. And 
if he seems at times to write with too much insistence 
and emphasis, in comparison with the winged ease 
of Pushkin's prose, it is the ponderousness and 

200 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOlEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

insistence of the Titan, who piles blocks upon blocks. 
Side by side with these Cyclopean masses how as- 
tonishing seem the acute, diamond-like particles 
and subtleties of his sensual observation ! 

But directly he enters on abstract psychology, 
not of the " natural ' but the " spiritual " man 
' philosophisings ' in Flaubert's phrase, " lucubra- 
tions ' to use his own words as soon as we get to 
the moral transformations of Bezukhov, Nekhliudov, 
Pozdnyshev, or Levine, something strange happens, 
il degringole affreusement, he goes off terribly : his 
language seems to dry up, wither, and become 
helpless, to cling convulsively to the object de- 
picted, and yet to let it escape, like a man half para- 
lyzed. 

Out of a multitude of instances I will only quote 
a few at random. " What crime can there be," says 
Pierre, ' ' in my having wished to do good ? Even 
though I did it badly, or only feebly, yet I did some- 
thing for that end, and you will not only not persuade 
me of this, that that which I did was not good, but 
not even that you did not think so." 

Touching the attitude towards Natasha's illness 
of her father, Count Rostov, and her sister, Sonia, 
he says : ' How would the Count have borne the 
illness of his beloved daughter if he had not known 
that if she did not get better he would not grudge 
thousands more to take her abroad ? What would 
Sonia have done if she had not had the pleasant 
consciousness of this that she had not undressed for 
three nights, in order to be ready precisely to carry 
out all the directions of the doctor, and that she now 
did not get a night's sleep, in order not to let the 

201 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

time pass at which the pills ought to be given. And 
she was also pleased at this that she, by neglecting 
to carry out the instructions, could show that she 
did not believe in doctors." 

Of the hypocritical solicitude of the sick Ivan 
Ilyich's wife we learn that " she had done everything 
for him only for her own sake ; and she told him 
that she did what she had done simply for her own 
sake, as if it were such an improbable thing that he 
was bound to take it the other way about." What 
a strain of imagination is necessary in order to un- 
ravel this grammatical tangle in which the simple 
thought is involved ! 

Numerous instances of this mumbling of repeti- 
tions, and even violation of simple grammatical 
rules, might be given, but these are only found when 
Tolstoi is writing outside his limits. 

Even the sensitiveness, usually so acute and ready 
in him, to the euphonious construction of language 
what Nietzsche calls " the conscience of the ears ' 
deserts him in these cases. 

It is as if his language, like a half-tamed savage 
animal longing for the woods, suddenly rebels. The 
artist struggles with it, vehemently trying to stretch 
it on the Procrustes' bed of Christian " medita- 
tions." There is no spectacle more pitiable and 
instructive. Sometimes he seems proud of careless- 
ness in style, with that special pride peculiar to 
ascetics in the breach of outward decencies. He 
seems to say despotically : " So my style is not 
dainty enough ? As if I cared for style ! I speak 
what I think. My thoughts are their own recom- 
mendation." But owing to an excessive aiming 

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TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

at simplicity he sometimes falls into simplesse, and 
artificiality. 

Turgeniev found the psychology in Peace and War 
weak. " What a psychologist ! ' cries Flaubert 
enthusiastically, in speaking of the same. These 
two judgments, however contradictory they may 
seem, may be reconciled. 

The nearer Tolstoi is to the body, or that which 
connects body and soul the animally primitive 
' natural ' man the more faithful and profound 
is his psychology, or more exactly his psycho-physi- 
ology. 

But in proportion as, leaving this soil that is 
always firm and fruitful under him, he transfers 
his operations into the province of independent 
spirituality, unconnected with the body and bodily 
action, leaving the passions of the heart for the 
passions of the mind (for the mind has its passions, 
not less complex and strong, and Dostoievski is 
their great delineator), the psychology of Tolstoi 
becomes doubtful. 

It is impossible not to believe that the minute 
when Nicolai Rostov saw in the ravine dogs strug- 
gling with the hunted wolf, one of which had the 
quarry by the throat, was " the happiest moment 
in his life." But Christian sentiments, especially 
such Christian ideas as those of Irteniev, 1 Olenine, 
Bezukhov, 1 Levine, 1 and Nekhliudov, 2 excite a 
number of doubts. All these pictures of religious 
or moral revulsions written, as it were, by a 
different man in another style stand out on the 

Characters in Peace and War and Anna Karenina. 
2 In the novel Resurrection 

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TOLSTOI AND DOSTOfEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

ground-fabric of the work sharply and strangely, 
interrupting the clear current of the epic by ab- 
stract philosophisings in huge, spreading, misty 
patches. They do not spring or grow out of the 
living action, or add to it. 

In these very passages the " psychology ' of 
Tolstoi recalls the old Eastern fable of the youth 
who, wishing to learn what was inside an onion, 
began to take off layer after layer, skin after skin, 
but, when he had peeled off the last, nothing, or next 
to nothing, was left of the onion. Tolstoi, in his 
search for eternal truth, takes off layer after layer, 
convention after convention, illusion after illusion, 
stripping off the original and vital with the arti- 
ficial ; on his undoubtedly existing " onion ' next 
to nothing finally remains. 

We see Irteniev, the hero of Childhood and Youth, to 
the end. He is distinct, unforgettable, and humanly 
lear to us ; we see also, though less distinctly, Pierre 
Bezukhov, the vigorous Russian gentleman farmer, 
with his good-natured open face, his short-sighted, 
observant and thoughtful, but not clever eyes. 
Pierre, if he has not a vivid personality, yet has at 
least a vivid face, and is alive. With still less dis- 
tinctness do we see Levine, the ungainly philoso- 
pher, though we are not quite convinced that he exists 
on his own account. With more and more frequency 
there looks out of him Tolstoi himself le monsieur 
et Vauteur. But Pozdnyshev in the Kreuzer Sonata 
and Nekhliudov in Resurrection we certainly no 
longer discern at all. Pozdnyshev is a mere " plain- 
tive voice and a pair of eyes, glowing with feverish 
half-crazy fire." In these eyes and the voice was 

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TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

centred all the life of his mind, soul, and body. 
But we do not even hear the voice of Nekhliudov, 
the hero of Resurrection. We get a crystallized life- 
less abstraction, a moral and religious vehicle for 
a moral and religious deduction. Here is one who 
will never revolt against his Creator, or say or do 
anything unexpected. 

He is a dreary megaphone, through which the 
"gentleman author" behind proclaims his theorems 
to the moral universe. 

Tolstoi, a great creator of human bodies, is only 
to aT modified extent a creator of human souls. He 
touches only the primitive roots of life. Is he the 
creator of what are called " characters " ? Doubt- 
less they are outlined by him, put together and 
moulded, but are they finished, perfected ? do they / 
become separate, individualised, unique and entire, 
living organisms ? 

The delineations of human individualities in 
Tolstoi recall half-rounded human bodies in bas- 
relief, which seem at times to be just going to issue 
and detach themselves from the flatness in which 
they are cast, but which never do detach themselves. 
We never see the other side of them. 

In the figure of Platon Karataev the painter has, 
as it were, achieved the impossible, and succeeded 
in denning a living personality by the absence of 
all defined features and acute angles ; in a special 
" roundness " the effect of which is startlingly 
evident, even geometrical, and proceeding not so 
much from the inward and spiritual as from the 
outward bodily presence. He is a molecule, the 
first and the last, the smallest and the greatest, the 

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TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

beginning and the end. He does not exist of him- 
self : he is only a part of the whole, a drop in the 
ocean of the life of the nation. And this life he 
reproduces in his very impersonality, just as a drop 
of water in its roundness reproduces the world. Be 
that as it may, a miracle of art or a clever optical 
illusion almost takes place. Karataev, in spite of 
his want of personality, seems individual, apart, 
unique. Yet we should like to know the other side 
of hifh. He is good ; but, maybe, just once in his 
life tyrannised over some one. He speaks in pro- 
verbs, but perhaps just once he added to these 
apothegms a word of his own. One word, one un- 
expected trait, and we might have believed him 
flesh and blood. 

But, just at the moment of our most eager ex- 
pectation, he dies, as if to baffle us ; vanishes, is 
transformed like a bubble of water in the ocean. 
And when he becomes definite in death we are ready 
to admit that it would have been impossible for 
him to be definite in life. He has not lived, but has 
been " perfectly rounded," and by this alone ful- 
filled his destiny, so that it only remained for him 
to die. And in our memories, as in that of Pierre 
Bezukhov, he is for ever imprinted, not as a 
living person, but only as a living " personification 
of all that is national, good, and perfected." He 
is a moral generalisation. 

The individuality of Prince Andrei from the 
first we see or conjecture. He becomes to us 
ever more intelligible in his living contradictions, 
combinations of cold reason with fiery dreaminess, 
contempt for men with unquenchable thirst for 

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TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

fame ; " love for men," and outward aristocratic 
harshness ; secret tenderness, and a sort of childishly 
defenceless impressionability of heart. 

But here again, at the very moment when it seems 
only a few more strokes of the chisel are needed and 
his humanity would be complete, Prince Andrei pro- 
ceeds to die. Unlike Karataev, he dies slowly and 
painfully. Death needs a good deal of time to 
smooth down his marked traits, prominent angles, 
and excrescences into the perfect " smoothness " 
of the original molecule, the bubble of water ready 
to mingle with the ocean. So Death tosses and 
rounds him slowly, as the sea rounds an angular 
stone. 

At the time when the process of dying is incom- 
plete, when he is delirious and in great pain, in 
despair, although with lucid intervals, from his 
living face stands out a new, strange, and terrible 
one. And this second face so pushes aside and 
swallows up the first the past life of the man, all 
his living thoughts, feelings, and actions come to 
appear so trivial that in our memories there is 
fixed for ever not the life, but the death of Prince 
Andrei ; not the living individual, but that in- 
comprehended, inhuman, unearthly second face 
of his. 

Then take Natasha Rostov, who seems wholly 
alive, native, national, akin to ourselves, yet indi- 
vidual and unique. How tenderly and firmly is 
tied the knot of her human personality ! Of what 
evasive, fine, and various gradations of spiritual and 
physical life is woven this " chastest model of the 
purest charm!' Like Pushkin's Tatiana, she em- 

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TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

bodies the Muse of the poet, and reflects his own view 
of the " eternal feminine." 

And yet, just at the time when the figure of 
Natasha, ripening, attains its highest charm, the 
artist introduces one fleeting, but strikingly subtle 
and unforgettable trait. The thing happens in the 
fields during coursing : the dogs have just run down 
a hare, and one of the sportsmen gives the hare 
the coup de grace and shakes it about so that the 
blood may run out. All are excited, flushed, pant- 
ing ; in unusual exultation they boast of and 
recount the circumstances of the coursing. Just 
then Natasha, without drawing breath, in her 
delight and enthusiasm, gave so piercing a yell that 
their ears tingled. In this yell she gave expression 
to what the other sportsmen gave vent to by all 
talking at once. And this yell was so strange and 
so wild that she herself would have been ashamed 
of it, and all the others astonished, if it had hap- 
pened at any other time. 

In this wild sportsman's yell of the primordial 
instinct to slay, in this woodcraft of the satyr, the 
charming features of Natasha, stamped with primal 
passion, are almost unrecognizably disfigured. It 
is her :c second face," and recurs for ever. 

Is not something similar to this wild yell heard 
by Pierre Bezukhov ? The same sound is heard in 
the inhuman howl and roar of Kitty when in child- 
birth. It is in the epilogue to Peace and War, when 
Natasha becomes a spouse and a mother, " bears, 
brings forth, and nurses," that her figure at the 
end of the vast epic arrives at final perfection. But 
it does so in unexpected fashion. 

208 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOlEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

After seven years of marriage Natasha " had 
grown stout and broad, so that it was difficult to 
recognize in the stalwart mother the slender, active 
Natasha of old." " She had run wild to such a 
degree that her costumes, her way of doing her hair, 
her inept remarks, her jealousy she was jealous of 
Sonia, of the governess, and of every woman, good- 
looking or ugly were the staple jokes of those about 
her." Now " she troubled herself no longer, either 
about her manners, or the delicacy of her speeches, 
or about showing herself to her husband in be- 
coming attitudes, or about her toilet. Nor did she 
try to avoid annoying her husband by her exacting- 
ness. She violated all these rules." 

To untidiness and neglect she added stinginess." 
There was no intellectual bond between her and 
her husband. Of his scientific occupations " she 
understood nothing." " She has no words of her 
own," says Nicolai Rostov in astonishment, though 
he himself does not excel in intelligence or abundance 
of speech. Everything human, except concern for 
her husband and children, is lost to her. She, as it 
were, has grown wild in family life ; avoids people, 
and takes delight " only in the society of her own 
children, in which, slipshod and in a dressing-gown, 
she could stride from the nursery with a face of 
delight to inspect swaddling clothes with a yellow 
instead of a green stain on them, and hear com- 
forting reports that ' now the child was much 
better.' She frequently seems to have lost her 
soul in her body, and become a mere prolific she- 
animal. 

Has then the artist abandoned the importance 

209 p 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOlEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

he formerly attached to Natasha ? Has the figure 
shrunk and grown dim ? Is there something un- 
foreseen which did not enter into his first conception, 
a contrast between Natasha the girl, full of innate 
grace and mysterious charms the sister of Pushkin's 
Tatiana, the pure and prophetic Muse of Tolstoi- 
and this merely conceiving child-bearing animal- 
mother in whom " you can see face and body, but 
soul not at all ? ' 

Between these two figures, in the eyes of their 
creator, there is not only no discrepancy, but actually 
an inevitable bond of organic consistency and 
development. It was just to this, the trans- 
formation of her into a female, the change of all 
that was characteristic, yet conventional and 
limited, into the elementally impersonal, uncon- 
ventional and universal, that he was leading her 
throughout his vast epic. So Nature leads the bud 
to the fruit ; and it was only for that that he loved 
her. Her figure has neither shrunk nor grown dim, 
but on the contrary has only now attained its 
greatness the greatness of motherly nature. That 
" ceaselessly burning fire of animation ' which 
formed the charm of Natasha the girl has not died 
out in Natasha the mother, but sunk deeper, re- 
maining divine ; not divinely spiritual, only di- 
vinely fleshly. It is a state, not lower than the first, 
but merely the first contemplated from another side. 
The mystic music and aroma were merely a chrysalis, 
a brilliant spring garb, which Nature gave her, as 
she gives to flowers perfume, to the birds voice and 
plumage, and to fish their magically kaleidoscopic 
colouring, for the time of their sexual existence. 

210 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

But this passing charm is at the same time lasting ; 
for here, in the dawn, in the perfection of sex, in 
Love, in the winged and all-winging Eros-desire, is 
most deeply and brightly disclosed the divine 
meaning of all creation ; the prophetic union of every 
breathing creature with the spirit of the life of the 
world. The original figure of Natasha is not lost, 
but only transformed and swallowed up in the 
second. " She felt," Tolstoi tells us, " that those 
charms which instinct had taught her to use before 
would not only be ridiculous in the eyes of her 
husband, to whom from the first moment she had 
given herself wholly, with her whole soul, not 
leaving a single nook hidden from him ; she felt 
that the bond between her and her husband was 
maintained, not by those poetic sentiments which 
had attracted him to her, but by something different, 
undefined but strong, like the link between her own 
soul and body" 

Here you see Tolstoi, as everywhere and at all 
times, reduces everything to this " link between the 
soul and body," the connexion of flesh and spirit, 
the ' natural man," and that golden chain of Eros 

" --^ - - * - **iM^ft<^ kte ^E^^^^^^^ c= 4^viB-rw9viK*=i. i xri0 

as Desire, which the gods, in Homer's phrase, have 
let down from heaven to earth to link together earth 
and heaven and one sex with the other. J 

The spring pairing-season is over : lives already 
fructified, assuaged, are silently collecting their 
forces for parturition and alimentation. All the 
time Natasha's power over her husband, formerly 
given her, did not diminish, but increased. " Na- 
tasha, in her own house," Tolstoi tells us, " though 
she put herself on the footing of the slave of her 

211 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOlEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

husband, and directly it is a question of judgment, 
has no words of her own, uses his words." " Yet 
the general opinion was," adds Tolstoi on his own 
account, " that Pierre was under the thumb of his 
wife ; and it really was so." 

Pierre may philosophise, aim at Christian ' re- 
vival," dream of the good of his fellows and of the 
good of the people as much as he likes. But if 
matters had gone as far as putting the dream into 
execution, or come near a real distribution of the 
property, Natasha would have sooner " put him 
under guardianship ' than agreed to anything of 
the kind. Then " the slave of her husband," the 
mate defending her young, would have shown her 
lord her talons, and doubtless subdued him, because 
behind her was all Nature. 

Matters, however, never come to such a pass. 
Natasha is easy ; Pierre will always merely dream, 
merely " theorize," and his life passes unruffled 
away. He is more moderate and reasonable than 
he seems. Let him philosophise you must do 
anything to soothe a child, thinks the prudent 
Natasha. Or again : 

" The soul of Countess Maria always aimed at 
the endless, the lasting, and the perfect, and there- 
fore she never could be quiet." She had " a secret 
lofty suffering of the soul, overweighted by the 
body." She remarks, however, with naive cyni- 
cism, with regard to the Christian dreams of Pierre 
as to giving away his property : " He forgets that 
we have other and nearer obligations, which God 
Himself has shown us, that we may run risks our- 
selves, but not for our children" 

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TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

All the heroes of Tolstoi either die or come to 
this there is no other issue. 

Pierre and Levine, philosophising rationalism and 
the Christian conscience, are under the thumb 
of their wives. Kitty and Natasha to all their 
' philosophisings ' retort with a silent and irre- 
futable argument, the bringing into the world of 
a fresh child. " And this good thing will always be, 
must always be," the great seer of the body seems to 
say in these characters, against his own will and 
reason. 

Natasha has " no words of her own." But, like 
the statue crowning the very pinnacle of some huge 
elaborate building, the figure of Natasha, the mother, 
silently and majestically reigns over the whole vast 
tale of Peace and War. So that the effect of world- 
wide tragedies, wars, the upheaval of nations, the 
grandeur and the downfall of heroes, seem only the 
pediment to this mother and mate. Austerlitz, 
Borodino, the burning of Moscow, Napoleon, 
Alexander the Blessed, may be or may not be 
-all passes by, all is forgotten, is wiped off the 
tables of universal history by the next wave- 
like letters written on the sand. But never will 
mothers cease to delight in their babies. On the 
very summit of this work, one of the greatest 
edifices ever raised by men, Natasha triumphantly 
waves- ' swaddling clothes, with a yellow stain 
instead of a green," as the guiding banner of man- 
kind. 



213 




V 

CHAPTER XII 

THE swallowing up of the human individual in 
the universal and non-human is one of the prevalent 
'burdens' of the Tolstoy an method. 

As Nature swallows up Uncle Yeroshka (" I die 
and the grass grows ") Death swallows Plat on 
Karataev and the Prince Andrei, childbearing ab- 
sorbs Natasha, so the element of unfruitful extra- 
conjugal, destroying Love which from Tolstoi's 
standpoint is the wicked and sinful " death-bearing 
Eros " swallows up Anna Karenina. From her 
first sight, almost her first silent glance, atVronski, 
to her last sight of him, Anna loves, and only loves. 
We scarcely know what she has felt and thought, how 
she has lived; it would seem that she had really 
no existence until Love came : it is impossible to 
imagine her as not loving. She is all love, as if her 
whole being, soul and body, were compact of love,; 
as the Salamander is of fire, or Undine of water.? 
Between her and Vronski, as between Natasha and; 
Pierre, Kitty and Levine, there is no express and,, 
generally speaking, no spiritual bond. There is only 
the dark and strong physico-spiritual bond, " the? 
bond of the soul on its bodily side." She never 
talks to him about anything but Love. Even her 
love speeches are poor. 

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TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

" ' I danced more at Moscow at that one ball of 
yours than all the winter through at St. Petersburg. 
I must have a rest before travelling.' 

" ' And you are certainly going to-morrow ? 
asked Vronski. 

"'Yes, I think so,' replied Anna, as if astonished 
at the daring of his question. But the unrestrained 
quivering flash of her eyes and smile inflamed him 
as she said this." 

In this society small talk the words express 
nothing, but the eyes and smile complete what is 
left unsaid. It is the deciding moment of their 
passion. 

When Vronski confesses his love for Anna the 
words again are poor. " Do you not know that you 
are all my life to me ? You and I to me are one. 
And I do not foresee the possibility of peace either 
for myself or for you. I see the possibility of 
despair, of misery; or I see the chance of hap- 
piness, such happiness ! Is it really impossible ? ' 
he ended, only shaping the words, yet she heard 
him. 

' She strained all the powers of her mind to say 
what she ought, but instead of that she fixed on 
him her glance, full of love, and made no other 
reply." 

If we compare the awkward, commonplace, 
wretched babble of Vronski with the " triumphant 
hymns of Love ' ' of the Sakuntala, of Solomon and 
the Sulamite, or Romeo and Juliet, how poor it 
seems ! But this voiceless gesture and language 
of Love is much more effective than any words. 

Moreover in Tolstoi the artistic centre of gravity, 

215 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

the force of delineation lies, not in the dramatic, 
but in the descriptive part, not in the dialogues 
Ipetween the characters or in what they say, but in 
rhat is said of them. Their speeches are hurried 
'or senseless, but their silence is unfathomable and 
pregnant. " She was one of those animals," says 
Tolstoi of Frou-frou, Vronski's horse, " who seem 
not to speak, only because the mechanical con- 
struction of their mouths does not admit of it." We 
may say of some of his characters of Vronski and 
Nicolai Rostov, for instance that they only do 
speak because the mechanical conformation of their 
mouths admits of it. 

Anna too " has not words of her own," like 
Natasha, who uses those of her husband, and Platon 
Karataev, who uses those of the people, apothegms 
and proverbs. How many unforgettable, personal 
feelings and sensations of Anna's are preserved in 
our memory, but not a single thought, not a single 
particular or personal expression, even with regard 
to Love. Yet she never seems stupid ; on the con- 
trary, we gather that she is mentally more complex 
and significant than Dolly, Kitty, or Vronski, and 
perhaps (who knows ?) even more so than Levine, 
who talks so much. But her position in the working 
out of the story, her complete absorption in the 
element of passion, are such that they draw her 
away from us on the side of intelligence, will, and 
the highest, most selfless, and passionate life of 
the spirit. Who or what is she, apart from Love ? 
We only know that she is a St. Petersburg woman 
in high society. But, apart from her rank, where 
do the roots of her being find their way into the 

216 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

soil of Russia ? For that being is deep and primi- 
tive enough to have such roots. What does she 
think about in general, about children, people, Duty, \ Q 
Nature, Art, Life, Death, and God ? On this we j . 
know nothing, or almost nothing. But, on the 
other hand, we know exactly how her curls wave 
and flutter on her neck and temples, how her slender 
fingers taper at the end, and what a round, firm, 
polished neck she has ; every expression of her face, 
every movement of her body we know. Her body, 
where it touches the primitive animal point, soul 
her nightly soul we see with startling distinctness. 
With not less distinctness we also see the primitive 
and elemental personality and character of Vron- 
ski's horse Frou-frou, and the horse is one of the 
characters of the tragedy. If it is true that Vronski 
is like a horse in an aide-de-camp's uniform, then 
his mare is like a charming woman. And it is not 
for nothing that Tolstoi emphasizes the marked 
similarity, full of mysterious foreshado wings, of the 
' eternally feminine ' in the charm of Frou-frou 
as of Anna Karenina. 

Frou-frou ' was not perfect according to the 
canons," but it is just these irregular " personal " 
characteristics that attach Vronski to her. When 
he first looks at Anna he is struck by the " race," 
the ' blood ' in her appearance. Frou-frou too 
' had in the highest degree this ' blood,' this ' race ' 
-a quality which made you forget all defects," this 
aristocracy of the body. They have both, the mare 
and the woman, the same definite expression of 
bodily presence, which combines strength and 
tenderness, delicacy and energy. The bones of 

217 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

Frou-frou " below the knee, looked at in front, were 
no thicker than your finger, but sideways seemed 
to be very broad. They both have the same active 
lightness, sureness, as it were wingedness of move- 
ment, the same over-stormy and passionate excess 
of vitality? 1 Between Frou-frou and her master 
there was a strange " spiritual ' bond. She knows 
and loves him for his affection, desires and yet fears 
it. * Directly Vronski came in she drew a deep 
breath, and rolling her prominent eye so that the 
white showed the blood, from the opposite side 
gazed at the newcomers, shaking her headstall and 
nimbly changing her feet. 

' Oh, you beauty, oh ! ' cried Vronski, going up 
to the mare and coaxing her. 

" But the nearer he went the more excited she 
got. Only when he went to her head she suddenly 
became quiet and the muscles quivered under the 
fine delicate skin. Vronski gazed at her strong neck, 
set right on the sharp bit the bar which had shifted, 
and put his face to her nostrils, soft as a bat's wing. 
She noisily drew in and let out again the air, with 
dilated nostrils, quivering, then pricked a sharp 
ear and put out her powerful black muzzle towards 
Vronski, as if meaning to take him by the sleeve. 
But remembering the headstall, she shook it and 
began again to change her polished feet." 
^ Vronski loves the mare almost as a woman. 

" Quiet, my pet, quiet ! " said he, again stroking 
her. The excitement of the mare communicated 
itself to him, and he felt the blood rush to his heart. 
Like the mare he wanted to be in motion, to have 
his fling he felt both ill at ease and lively. 

218 






TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKY AS ARTISTS 

Frou-frou too loves the dreadful mastery of her 
lord, and, like Anna, is submissive, even to death. 
And on both of them is wrought the cruelty of love, 
the boyish sport of death-bearing Eros. At the 
races, when Vronski had distanced every one and 
is nearing the winning-post, Frou-frou, gathering 
her last strength together, flies beneath him like a 
bird. ' Oh, my beauty ! " he thinks, with infinite 
affection and tenderness. She anticipates every 
movement, every thought, every feeling of her rider. 
In the exultation of almost supernatural speed, in 
the glorious intoxication of their flight, man and 
animal are as one body. And then one false ir- 
remediable movement : not keeping time with the 
motion of the horse, he jerked back in the saddle, / 
and suddenly lost his balance." He felt that some- 
thing dreadful had happened. He came to the 
ground with one foot, and the mare rolled on it. 
Scarcely had he succeeded in freeing the foot when 
she fell on one side, breathing heavily and making 
fruitless efforts to raise her slender perspiring neck, 
rolled over on the ground at his feet, like a bird shot 
on the wing. The awkward movement that Vronski 
had made had broken her back. But this he only 
realized much later. For the present he stood 
trembling in deep sticky mud ; and before him, 
panting heavily, lay Frou-frou. Bending her head 
towards him, her beautiful eyes looked at him. 
Still not realizing what had happened, Vronski 
dragged at her by the rein. She again struggled 
like a fish, shaking the flaps of the saddle, and got 
free her fore feet ; but, unable to raise her quarters, 
at once sank down again and fell on her side. With 

219 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKY AS ARTISTS 

a face distorted by passion pale, and his lower jaw 
quivering Vronski struck her with his heel in the 
side, and again began to tug at the rein. She did 
not stir, but, burying her nose in the ground, simply 
stared at her master with speaking eyes. 

" ' Ah, ah ! ' groaned Vronski, clapping his hands 
to his head ; ' Oh, oh ! what have I done, what have 
I done ? ' he cried. * And the race is lost too ! And 
it is my fault, my shameful, unpardonable fault ! ' 

" For the first time in his life he experienced 
misery misery incurable, and of his own making." 

And who knows, did not Fate send him a warning 
in the death of Frou-frou ? Was he not to destroy . 
Anna in just the same way ? Here, as there, it was . 
" one wrong movement " false and irremediable. 
He is driven on by that love which, full of hate the 
thirst of physical possession akin to murder finds 
expression in the most passionate endearments of 
lovers. 

When he looked at the living Anna Vronski " felt 
what a murderer must feel when he sees the body 
of his victim. Repulsive to him was the remem- 
brance of that for which all this terrible price of 
shame had been paid. Shame of spirit overcame 
her and was imparted to him. But in spite of all 
the horror of the murderer in face of the corpse of 
his victim, he must take advantage of what he has 
gained by the murder. And so with fury he rushed 
at this body ; covers it and her shoulders with 
kisses." 

After Anna's suicide (she threw herself, you re- 
member, before a railway train) Vronski sees this 
same body " on the barrack table, shamelessly 

220 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 



^xhibited before strangers, blood-stained, yet full 
of the life that had scarcely left it the head, which 
/was intact, bent backward with its heavy plaits; 
the hair waving at the temples ; and on the charm- 
ing face, with the half-open rosy mouth, a frozen, 
strange, pitiful aspect of the lips, and a terrible look 
in the glazed, unclosed eyes, as if uttering anew 
the harrowing words of parting, ' that he would 
repent of it,' which she had used to him at the time 
of their quarrel." 

Again a misery incurable. Again the blame lay 

with himself. Again the eternal wrong of the strong 

V towards the weak, the crime of Eros the passionate 

\ against Another, who said : " Be ye all one, as Thou, 

my Father, art in me and I in Thee, so that they 

may be one in us." 

Thus, after probing the human till he reaches th* 
animal, and the animal, Frou-frou, till he reaches th 
human, Tolstoi finds in the inmost recesses of bot] 
a ' symbolical," a uniting first principle. But be 
fore he digs his way to these depths through what 
stormy abysses of pain he has to pass ! From 
Anna Karenina, full of involuntary and innocent 
excess of life, to this "blood-stained body, 
shameless on the barrack table," how fearful the 
journey ! 

With Tolstoi the utter denudation of man, the 
bringing of the likeness of God to the image of the 
beast in sensuality, in illness, in childbirth, in 
death sometimes verges on deliberate cruelty. He 
sometimes, like Dante's merry demons, strips despair 
till it becomes cynical and ridiculous. 

Take the swart face of the grunting Tartar, whose 

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TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

back is being probed by the surgeons after the battle 
of Borodino. That snub-nosed, dark face, with its 
gnashing teeth is it not a vision of " Hell," of 
; The Last Judgment"? Or take poor Anatole, 
the pampered darling, and Adonis, sobbing a con- 
vulsive farewell to his own white leg still in its 
boot, but amputated. 

Take the sprawling, dead, ox-like attitude of the 
body of the merchant Brekhunov frozen to death, 
in Master and Man, to save his servant's life ; "to 
rise again," thinks Tolstoi perhaps, " at the last 
trump," but meanwhile to lie monstrously kicking 
and ridiculous. Might not the heroic face of death, 
as with the Greeks, have been decently covered ? 
Might not the insult to the sanctuary of the human 
body have been spared ? 

Or take the account of the illness of Ivan Ilyich. 
Here the artist purposely dwells on the unconquer- 
able human habit of deceiving oneself, of shutting one's 
eyes to the ultimate animalism of one's own body, 
which is perhaps a trifling, but how ineradicable and 
touching, symptom of our super-animal spirituality. 

With what pitiless insistence the artist dwells on 
the contrast between the young, healthy, fresh, 
wholesome, active, powerful, good, simple peasant 
Gerasim, and the unclean, evil-smelling gentleman 
Ivan, decayed to the loss of all human dignity, and 
put to shame by his illness ! 

The ingenuity and subtlety of the devices " burn- 
ings, as of fire, with appetence," " rearings," and 
" throbbings " of complaints, prickings, repentances, 
and terrors through which Tolstoi with a Christian 
motive takes Ivan Ilyich, his hero or victim, recall 

222 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOlEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

the inquiries of the Most Holy Inquisition or the 
secret Commission, presided over by one of Tolstoi's 
ancestors, one of the instruments of the Tsar Peter, 
head of the Secret Chancery the famous Count 
Peter Tolstoi. 

Tolstoi has in his 'books no heroes, no characters, " 
no personalities, but merely contemplative victims, 
who do not struggle or resist. They are swallowed 
by the elements. 

Therefore there is no tragedy. Everywhere 
isolated tragic nodi are tied ; but, not being untied 
by human intervention, these pass once more into 
the impersonal, the inarticulate, the involuntary, 
and the non-human. There is no catastrophe. In 
the ocean of that shoreless Epos everything fluctuates 
wavelike is born, lives, and dies, and is born again, 
without end and without beginning. 

There is no redeeming horror, and there is no re- 
deeming laughter. The air is stifling, low, heavy; 
there seems nothing to breathe. 

The principal victims, or " characters " of Tolstoi, 
are all clever people, and honourable and good, or 
good-hearted, simple, or nai've ; and yet we never 
feel completely at home with them, for they have 
something disturbing, painful, about them. At 
times it seems as if they all, even the most innocent 
girls, ' the chastest models of the chastest charm," 
had that satyr-like animal savour which character- 
izes the old savage, Uncle Yeroshka. Whether this 
is their own doing, or that of the artist that created 
them, you can never be sure but that from out a 
familiar human face will look something different, 
alien, and primally animal, that, to repeat Voltaire's 

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TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

jest on the " social contract ' of Rousseau, his 
most charming girls " will not get on all fours run 
off into the woods, and begin to grunt like the 
Tartar." 

Even Turgeniev remarked on this sensation of 
crampedness in the works of Tolstoi, a sort of absence 
of the highest liberty, of a certain mountain air, 
freshening the spirit's breath and all the mental 
faculties. He tried to explain this defect by Tolstoi's 
deficiency of knowledge. But would not " conscious- 
ness ' be the better word ? "I wish you liberty, 
spiritual liberty," he wrote once to Tolstoi. Peace 
and War he considered one of the greatest produc- 
tions of the world's poesy, but at the same time " the 
most lamentable example of the absence of true 
comprehensive, spiritual liberty, resulting from the 
absence of true knowledge." " Without that at- 
mosphere you cannot breathe at ease." 

Before Borodino, Prince Andrei sees soldiers 
bathing by the hot roadside in a muddy pond. They 
were pelting one another, yelling and shouting. " On 
the banks, on the dam, in the pond everywhere 
white, healthy, muscular bodies. ' It's not half 
bad, your excellency if you would condescend,' 
suggested one of the bathers. ' Dirty,' said the 
prince, frowning and filled with repulsion at the 
sight of so much chair a canon" 

Tolstoi's world must have often appeared to him 
like that muddy pond with the many naked bathers 
disporting themselves under the low heavy sky and 
the red ball of the blazing sun ; or like the low and 
stifling marquee for the wounded. 

If we feel suffocated stifled, as by impending 

224 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOlEVSKl AS ARTISTS 

thunder it is because of Tolstoi's too great sense of V 
the body and too little sense of the spirit. ' 

Sometimes even his hero-victims rebel, and 
struggle towards abstract Christian " musings." 
But what a pitiful, wingless flight it is ! " We may 
run risks ourselves, but not for our children." So 
the family bond of blood speaks, and scarcely have 
the heroes risen, when plump ! they fall still more 
heavily into that rollicking muddy pond. 



225 




CHAPTER XIII 

" GOD'S creature : there's not only ' God's man,' 
but ' God's beast.' " In this popular juxtaposition 
of words, apparently so commonplace, lies a mys- 
tery. 

Man, too, is " God's creature," and God's beast. 
The whole living animal creation is the God-beast. 

" Love all God's creation every grain of sand," 
says the holy old man Zosima in Dostoievski's book, 
" every leaf, every ray of God, you should love. 
Love animals, love plants, love everything. Love 
everything, and you will arrive at God's secret in 
things." 

" God's creature " a peasant phrase, half-pious, 
almost ecclesiastical, but there is something pre- 
Christian, pre-historic, Pan-aryan in the idea. With 
what careless ease the old Greeks, purest of Aryans, 
transform the god-man into the god-beast! The 
limbs of the divinely fair, civilized human body are 
so knit together and interwoven with the limbs of 
animals and plants Pan with the goat, Pasiphae 
with the bull, Leda with the swan, Daphne with the 
laurel that it is difficult to decide where the human 
or the divine ends in a man, and the animal, the 
bestial, the vegetable begins : one is fused into the 

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TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

other. The Greeks are amused by these meta- 
morphoses, as by sensual and merry fables ; and 
play with erstwhile awful religious blendings or 
1 symbols," as with toys. 

But a people as bright and joyous as the Greeks, 
yet more earnest and calm (I mean the Egyptians) 
began pondering over the conjunction in man of the 
divine and the animal, and never ceased to ponder 
over it during a culture of, perhaps, six thousand 
years. Their strange deities, sculptured out of 
black, shining, indestructible diorite, half men, half 
beasts, human bodies with the heads of cats, dogs, 
apes, or crocodiles, or beasts' bodies as those of 
the Sphinxes with the subtle and spiritualized human 
smiles, bear witness to this immovable, unsatisfied, 
terrible, and yet lucid contemplation. 

Then another insignificant race, a handful of 
wandering Semites, shepherds and nomads alien 
to all, persecuted by all, hated and despised, lost 
in the wilderness, and for thousands of years seeing 
nothing above it but the sky, or around it but bare 
dead regions, and before it the solitary horizon 
set to thinking over the unity of the external and 
inward creation. 

With incredible arrogance this paltry tribe 
declared itself the chosen one of all tribes and 
nations, the single people of its God, the one true 
God. And in all living bodies it saw only a soulless 
body, for blood-sacrifices and holocausts to the one 
God of Israel. The face of man, its own face, it 
fenced off and separated as the likeness and image 
of God from all animal beings by an impassable gulf. 
In this idea of terrible loneliness and solitude, in the 

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TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

idea of a jealous God, destroying like fire, there is 
something of the breath of that fiery wilderness 
from which this tribe issued : a breath instantly 
heated, and therefore at times startlingly productive, 
but also death-dealing and parching. 

Judaism at the end of its fight with polyglottism 
and polytheism, at its terrible extreme of exclusive- 
ness, came in contact with late Hellenism in the 
schools of the Alexandrine Neo-platonists, Neo- 
pythagoreans, and Gnostics, the crucible in which 
lo was fused, like Corinthian brass from a number of 
metals, the amalgam called Christian philosophy. 
Here for the first time the spirit of Semitism, the 
spirit of the waste and of laying waste, breathed on 
the magnificent, wild, many-foliaged, magic wood 
of the Indo-Europeans, and infected one of its 
branches with a powerful and infectious poison. 

The freshly arrived and simple northern semi- 
barbarians, who had scarcely left the forest defiles, 
received the ancient and subtle cult with childish sim- 
plicity and coarseness. By Christianity they were 
captivated as by fear, attracted as by a precipice. 
They seized upon that side of Christianity which 
was most alien and opposed to their own nature, 
namely, the exclusively Semitic side ; mortification 
of the irredeemably sinful body, and fear, became 
their faith, and primitive wild nature their Devil 

This spirit of revived Judaism, the spirit of the 
desert in which Israel had wandered, grew stronger 
and stronger in the Middle Ages. It passed like a 
fiery whirlwind over all European civilization, 
withering the last blossoms and fruits of Graeco- 
Roman antiquity, until the very Renaissance, when 

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TOLSTOI AND DOSTOlEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

apparently it fell palsied. It recovered, and is 
rampant to-day. 

We are poisoned by the purely Semitic dread of 
nakedness, of our bodily selves. 

The blighting Eastern simoon passed, however, 
only over the tops of the Aryan forest ; in the thick 
of it, nearer to the soil, to the people, enough of 
the old Western moisture and freshness remained 
partially to revive ; there, in the legendary shade, 
in the storied twilight, still teemed and swarmed 
the many-tongued, many-deitied " creature of God." 
In the national Aryan Church legends of the Middle 
Ages, so akin to the Indo-European Epos, this 
" creature of God ' constantly appears, God's 
animal, the sacred animal the mystic stag of St. 
Hubert, with the cross shining between its antlers ; 
the sheep entering a church, and during the eleva- 
tion of the " Host ' bending its knees with devout 
bleatings, a lamb before the Lamb ; St. Antony of 
Padua blessing the fish ; St. Francis of Assisi preach- 
ing to the birds ; our own Russian hermit, St. 
Sergius of Radonej, taming bears with the cross ; 
Sts. Blasius, Florus, and Laurus protecting domestic 
animals ; the holy martyr Christopher, who, even 
now, is reverenced by the Russian people, and of 
whom it is said in an illuminated missal of the 
seventeenth century, " This wondrous martyr, who 
had a dog's head, came out of the country of the 
man-eaters," that is Ethiopia or Lower Egypt. 

All these bore witness to the pathetic recognition 
of Man's fellowship with the animal. 

It is an immemorially old and ineradicable re- 
ligious idea in man, this sanctity of the animal and 

229 



vX 

TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

of himself as animal. It is also a prophetic idea, 
full of dread and glamour. Man, remembering the 
beast in his own nature (that is, the incomplete, the 
progressive element, transmuted and unlike the 
inorganic, and easily transferable from one physical 
mould to another) has a presentiment that he, him- 
self, man, is not the last attainable goal, the final 
crown of Nature, but merely a means, a transition, 
a mere temporary bridge thrown across the chasm 
between the pre-human and the superhuman, 
between the Beast and the God. 

The dark face of the Beast is turned earthwards, 
but he has wings, which Man has not. 

Prometheus, rebel against Heaven, the ' Fore- 
thinker," breath of the infernal snake-bodied Titans, 
also " called down fire from heaven to earth." No- 
where, perhaps, was the old Semitic dread of the 
animal seen as in the writer of the Revelation who 
allows the unexhausted force, the unrevealed know- 
ledge of the Beast-shaped, Antichrist, to rebel and 
contend with the risen Christ. 

Animals at least know much that we, having 
forgotten, arrogantly call animal instinct. It is a 
nocturnal sight, an innocent direct knowledge ' on 
the far side of good and evil." 

"" Human musing of the cradle, the deathbed 
meditation of Man " : this is the most recondite 
speculation of Tolstoi. Here lie the hidden Titanic 
roots, the secret sources of his creations. Here is the 
loophole and the issue to some other depth, some 
other sky. 

" And you have killed men ? " asks Olenine of 
Uncle Yeroshka. The old man suddenly raised 

230 



V 
TOLSTOI AND DOSTOlEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

himself by both elbows and put his face close to 
Olenine's. "The Devil!" he shouted at him. 
" What are you talking about ? You mustn't say 
that ! It is hard work to take a life, ugh ! hard 
work ! " 

Yes, Uncle Yeroshka, the old hunter, not only 
" knows," but " pities " and " loves " the moths 
and the beasts. He knows them because he loves 
them. He loves even that boar which he stalks in 
the reeds and strikes down. Here is the purely 
Aryan paradox, an elemental offshoot of the tangled 
Aryan forest age, alien and unintelligible to the 
pitiless straight line, the desert spirit of the Semite, 
bare as the limit of the horizon. 

Tolstoi, like Yeroshka, knows the Animal be- 
cause_he loves hini. For the first time after thou- 
sands of years of Semitic desolation and isolation 
this great Aryan has ventured fully and fearlessly to 
combine by " symbolism " the tragedy of the Animal 
and the Man, Anna Karenina and Frou-frou. 

One of his most marvellous pieces of description 
is of a visit to a slaughter-house. 1 

" Man, you are king of the beasts re delle bestie 
for in truth your bestial nature is the greatest," 
writes in his diary Leonardo da Vinci, another great 
Aryan, who did not feed from the " slaughter-house," 
and had pity for every living creature. A Florentine 
traveller of the sixteenth century, in the depths of 
India, in speaking of the Buddhist recluses, remem- 
bers his countryman Leonardo, who, even as they, 
" did not allow harm to be done in his presence to 
any animal or even plant." 

1 In a pamphlet called The First Step. 

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TOLSTOI AND DOSTO'fEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

There is an old Indian legend that once, to tempt 
Buddha, the Saviour of the world, the Evil Spirit in 
the guise of a vulture, pursued a dove ; the dove 
hid in Buddha's bosom, and he wished to protect it, 
but the Spirit said, " By what right do you take 
away my prey ? One of us must die, either it by 
my talons or I of hunger. Why are you sorry for 
him and not for me ? If you are merciful and wish 
none to perish cut me a piece of flesh from your own 
body of the same size as the dove." Then he showed 
him two scales of a balance. The dove settled on 
one. Buddha cut a piece of flesh from his own 
body and laid it in the other scale. But it remained 
motionless. He threw in another piece, and another 
and another, and hacked his whole body, so that the 
blood poured out and the bones showed, but the scale 
still did not sink. Then with a last effort he went 
to it and threw himself into it, and it sank, and the 
scale with the dove rose. We can only save others 
by giving, not a part of ourselves, but the whole. 

Out of this ancient unreasoning Aryan pity for 
live creatures proceeded Buddhism ; and, like a 
flood which bursts the dams, swept away the 
strongest and firmest of the barriers of human 
society, the pitiless caste of India separating Brah- 
min from pariah as widely as God from an animal. 

The shedding of blood, the butchery of numberless 
animals, " where blood flows below and drips from 
above " such is the service acceptable to the 
" jealous God, consuming like a fire," the God of 
Semitism : such is " the sweet savour, pleasing to 
the Lord." All tongues, tribes, and nations of the 
earth are merely flesh for sacrifice. " I will enter 

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TOLSTOI AND DOSTOlEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

My winepress and tread the nations like corn, and 
make red My garments with blood." Messiah was 
to come and reign by extermination. 

And Messiah came, a babe laid among the cattle. 
He came " sitting on an ass and a colt, the foal of 
an ass." " The beasts have their holes and the birds 
their nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to 
lay His head." He teaches men the simplicity and 
wisdom of animals, and the glory of lilies. 

What a change, what a transition towards Aryan- 
ism from the parched, desolate wilderness of Israel, 
from the smoking remains of victims to the blossom- 
ing garden of God ! What an incredible change 
from the mortification of the flesh to the resurrection 
of the body ! 

It is as if on reaching its furthest summit Semitism 
broke down, and overcame itself, and reverted to its 
first state. It was as if the two opposing geniuses 
of the world's progress, the Semitic and the Aryan 
spirit, the spirit of Death and the spirit of Life, had, 
through all ages and races, sought each other, and 
finally coalesced. 

None of the Aryans has approached so near 
(though unconsciously, like a mole, by the nocturnal 
sight of instinct) to this last blending mystery of the 
spirit and body the spiritualized body, as Tolstoi. 

The never-ending last thoughts and tortures of 
Prince Andrei', the unsavouriness, uncleanliness, and 
terrible cry of Ivan Ilyich, " I don't want to o o ! ' 
and this silent oscillating and the dying of the branch 
on the tree that is being felled ! l Gradual is the 
descent of the ladder. Man to animal ; animal to 

1 In The Three Deaths, 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKY AS ARTISTS 

plant ; plant to the cloud, melting in the sky, ever 
stiller and stiller, to the last stillness. But even 
then there is not nothingness, but the beginning of 
life : there is the issue to a new sky : there there is 
" the boundless gloom which is more beautiful than 
any light" in the words of Plotinus. " In thy no- 
thing I shall perchance find everything," replies 
Faust to Mephistopheles as he falls into the abyss 
below with the keys of the kingdom of " the 
Mothers." 

" For five years our garden had been neglected," 
records Tolstoi. " I hired labourers with axes and 
shovels, and worked myself in the garden with them. 
We cut and hacked at the dead wood and rubbish, 
superfluous bushes and trees. The trees that had 
become overgrown and too dense were the poplars 
and the cherries. The poplar grows away from its 
roots, and it is no use digging it up, but you must 
cut the roots out of the ground. Beyond the pond 
was a huge poplar two armsful in girth. About it 
was a field, all overgrown with offshoots of poplars. 
I wanted to dig them up, for I wished the place to 
be more cheerful, and besides I wanted to relieve the 
old poplar, because I thought all these young trees 
came from it and drew the sap from it. When we 
were getting rid of these young poplars it sometimes 
went to my heart to see them dug out of the ground, 
their roots full of sap, and how afterwards we pulled 
four at a time and could not get out the poplar we 
had dug up. It held on with all its might, and did 
not want to die. I thought, it is plain they want to 
live, if they cling so hard to life. But we had to get 
rid of them, and I did. Afterwards, when it was 

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TOLSTOI AND DOSTOlEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

too late, I realized that there was no occasion to 
make an end of them. I thought the offshoots 
sucked the sap from the old tree, but the reverse was 
the case. When I took them down the old poplar 
was already dying. When the leaves came out I 
saw (it had been split into two stems) that one stem 
was bare, and that same summer it withered. It 
had been dying for a long time, and knew it, and 
passed on its life to the offshoots. That was why 
they ran wild so soon, and I wanted to relieve him, 
and only killed all his children." The trees have 
their wisdom. 

" One wild cherry had grown up on the trunk of 
a nut tree and choked the hazel bushes. I thought 
for a long time whether to cut it down or not, for I 
was sorry for it. It was not a shrub, but a tree four 
or five inches in thickness and four toises in height, 
spreading and bushy, and covered with bright white 
fragrant blossom. From a distance you caught its 
perfume. I was not for cutting it down, but one 
of the workmen (I had spoken to him before about 
it) began to do so in my absence. When I came he 
had already cut some three inches into it, and the 
sap flowed under the axe, when he came upon a 
blade imbedded in it. ' There is nothing to be done 
- it is evidently Fate,' I thought, took an axe 
myself, and set to help the man. All work makes 
one cheerful, and so does tree-felling. It is meny 
work to drive the axe deep sideways and then make 
a clean cut on top of that, further and further back 
into the tree. I quite forgot about the tree itself, 
and thought only of how to get it down. When I 
got hot I laid down the axe, leant with the man 

235 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOlEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

against the tree, and tried to push it down, We 
shook it, and its leaves quivered and sent down a 
shower of dew and covered us with the white fra- 
grant petals of its blossoms. It broke off at the 
incision, and with a stagger fell, foliage and blossom, 
on the grass. The branches quivered, and the 
blossom was done for after the fall. 

" ' Ha ! a fine piece of stuff ! ' cried the man ; 
' but I'm bitterly sorry.' And I too felt so sorry 
that I hastened away to the other workmen." 

He is sorry for man, he is sorry for the beast, he 
is sorry for the tree, he is sorry for everything, be- 
cause all is one live whole, all God's creatures. 
What is to be done ? It is sinful to eat from the 
slaughter-house " virtue is incompatible with a 
beefsteak," says this vegetarian we may only eat 
harmless vegetable food. But then he is sorry for 
plants too. " It was as if something cried out and 
wept ' ' when there was a crack in the middle of the 
tree. " Bitterly sorry ! " " Will they not have to 
answer for this ? ' " No, they will not answer," 
the vegetarian reassures us. " This is a senseless, ex- 
aggerated, Buddhistical pity." Yet did not pity for 
animals seem, in former ages, senseless and excessive ? 

Perhaps^ the time_is_coming when all men will 
renounce the slaughter-house. 

To live means to cause death. " We make our 
life out of others' deaths " facciamo la nostra vita 
delle altrui morte says Leonardo da Vinci. The 
limit of love is the limit of life itself, the end of the 
world. And I, for my part, believe that the existing 
world is drawing to a time when, by its own free 
choice, it will reject slaughtered flesh as food. 

236 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTO'l'EVSKI AS ARTISTS 

" When did I begin to be ? " says Tolstoi in the 
fragment Earliest Recollections. " When did my 
life commence ? Did I not live when I had learnt 
to see, to hear, to understand, to speak ; when I 
slept and drank, and kissed the breast,and laughed, 
and delighted my mother ? Yes, I lived, and lived 
happily. Did I not then acquire all that by which 
I now live, and acquired so much, so quickly, that 
all the rest of my life I have not acquired a hundredth 
part of the same ? From the five-year-old child to 
me there is but a step. Between the newborn child 
and the five-year-old there is a terrible distance. Be- 
tween the embryo and the newborn is a gulf. And 
between the non-existent and the embryo lies far, far 
more a distance utterly inaccessible to our con- 
ceptions." 

This inaccessible retreat, this gloomy, lower depth 
the ante-natal " journey " of all living things, 
animal and vegetable (" Consider the lilies of the 
field, how they grow ") always attracted and drew 
Tolstoi. Sagely_and fearlessly has he looked into 
this gulf, and into the last mystery of Flesh and 
Blo_pd. 

The mystery, the secret of Flesh and Blood. 
When Christ revealed it to His disciples it frightened 
yet tempted them ? "He that eateth My Flesh and 
drinketh My Blood has eternal life, and I will raise 
him up at the last day, for My Flesh is meat indeed, 
and My Blood is drink indeed. He that eateth Me 
shall live in Me." W T hat strange words ! Who can 
understand them ? But, like Tolstoi's, these words 
aim at unifying body and spirit divinizing the body. 
They were spoken, we remember, by Him who turned 

237 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKY AS ARTISTS 

water into wine, and wine into blood. And I would 
have you notice that by the false view of later 
Christian asceticism we have carved out the reverse 
process of blood being turned into wine and wine 
into water, the sacred Body into bodiless sanctity, 
the spiritual Flesh into fleshless spirituality, the 
resurrection of the Flesh into the mortification of the 
Flesh. This is a second betrayal as great as the 
first. 

If ever the religious thirst of men goes back to 
this blighting source, then maybe they will re- 
member that Tolstoi, though unconsicously, even 
in many cases against his own judgment, trod this 
path towards this Symbol. 

Apparently with cynical cruelty in reality with 
shamefaced pity he has laid Man bare of all that 
is human : he seeks in him the animal in order to 
make that animal divine. 

" To every true artist," he says, " there comes 
what came to Balaam, who, wishing to bless, found 
himself involuntarily cursing what he ought to have 
cursed and blessing what he ought to have blessed." 

The same thing has happened to Tolstoi himself 
as an artist. Precisely where he sees his shame 
and shortcoming lies his glory and justification. 



238 



CHAPTER XIV 

IF in the literature of all ages and nations we wished 
to find the artist most contrary to Tolstoi we should 
have to point to Dostoievski. I say contrary, but 
not remote, not alien ; for often they come in 
contact, like extremes that meet. 

The ' heroes ' of Tolstoi, as we have seen, are 
not so much heroes as victims. In them the human 
individuality, without being perfected to the full, 
is swallowed up in the elements. And as there is 
not a single heroic will ruling over all, so there is 
not one uniting tragic action : there are only se- 
parate tragic nodi and situations the separate waves 
which rise and fall in purposeless motion, not guided 
by a current within, but only by external forces. 
The fabric of the work, like the fabric of humanity 
itself, apparently begins nowhere and ends nowhere. 

With Dostoievski there is throughout a human 
personality carried to the extremes of individuality, | 
drawing and developing from the dark animal roots 
to the last radiant summits of spirituality. Through- 
out there is the conflict of heroic will with the 
element of moral duty and conscience, as in Raskol- 
nikov ; with that of passion, refined, deliberate, as 
in Svidrigailov and Versilov ; in conflict with the 

239 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

will of the people, the State, the polity, as in Peter 
Verkhovenski, Stavrogine, and Shatov ; and lastly 
in conflict with metaphysical and religious mystery, 
as in Ivan Karamazov, 1 Prince Myshkine, and 
Kirillov. Passing through the furnace of these 
conflicts, the fire of enflaming passions and still more 
enflaming will, the kernel of human individuality, 
the inward ego, remains undissolved and is laid bare, 
" I am bound to display self-will," says Kirillov in 
the D&mons, to whom suicide, which seems the limit 
of self-abnegation, is in fact the highest pitch of the 
assertion of his personality, the limit of ' ' self-will." 
All Dostoievski's heroes might say the same. For 
the last time they oppose themselves to the elements 
that are swallowing them up, and still assert their 
ego, their individuality and self-will, when their end 
is at hand. In this sense even the Christian resigna- 
tion of the Idiot, of Alesha, and old Zosima is an 
insuperable resistance to evil forces about them ; 
submission to God's will, but not to man's, that is 
the inversion of " self-will." The martyr dying for 
his belief, his truth, his God, is also a " hero " : he 
asserts his inward liberty against outward tyranny, 
and so of course " displays self-will." 

In accordance with the predominance of heroic 
struggle the principal works of Dostoievski are in 
reality not novels nor epics, but tragedies. 

Peace and War and Anna Karenina, on the other 
hand, are really novels, original epics. Here, as we 
have seen, the artistic centre of gravity is not in 
the dialogue between the characters, but in the 

1 In The Brothers Karamazov (trad, into French E; 
Halperine et Morice, Paris, 1887); 

240 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

telling of the story ; not in what they say, but in 
what is said of them ; not in what we hear with our 
ears, but in what we see with our eyes. 

With Dostoievski, on the contrary, the narrative 
portion is secondary and subservient to the con- 
struction of the whole work. And this is apparent 
at the first glance ; the story, written always in one 
and the same hasty, sometimes clearly neglected 
language, is now wearisomely drawn out and in- 
volved, heaped with details ; now too concise and 
compact. The story is not quite a text, but, as 
it were, small writing in brackets, notes on the 
drama, explaining the time and place of the action, 
the events that have gone before, the surroundings 
and exterior of the characters ; it is the setting up of 
the scenery, the indispensable theatrical parapher- 
nalia when the characters come on and begin to 
speak then at length the piece begins. In Dos- 
toievski's dialogue is concentrated all the artistic 
power of his delineation i it is in the dialogue that 
all is revealed and unrevealed. There is not in all 
contemporary literature a writer equal to him for 
mastery of dialogue, 

Levine uses just the same language as Pierre Bezu- 
khov or Prince Andrei, Vronski or Pozdnyshev : Anna 
Karnina the same phrases as Dolly, Kitty, or 
Natasha, If we did not know who was talking, we 
should not be able to distinguish one person from 
another by the language, the sound of the voice, as 
it were, with our eyes shut. True, there is in Tolstoi 
a difference between the language of the common 
folk and the gentry, but this is not external or 
personal, but merely internal and according to class, 

241 R 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKY AS ARTISTS 

In its essence the language of all the characters in 
Tolstoi is the same, or all but the same : it is col- 
loquial parlance, as it were the sound of the voice 
of Leo himself, whether in gentleman's or peasant's 
dress. And merely for this reason we overlook 
the fact that in his works it is not what the 
characters say that matters, but how they are silent, 
or else groan, howl, roar, yell, or grunt : it is 
not their human words that matter, but their 
half-animal, inarticulate sounds, or ejaculations- 
as in Prince Andrei's delirium " i titi-titi-titi," 
or the " bleating of Vronski over the dead 
horse, or the sobbing of Anatole over his own 
amputated leg. The repetition of the same vowels, 
a o u, seems sufficient to express the most com- 
plex, terrible, heart-rending, mental and bodily 
emotions. 

>/ In Dosto'ievski it is impossible not to recognize 
the personage speaking, at once, at the first words 
uttered. In the scarcely Russian, strange, involved 
talk of the Nihilist Kirillov we feel something su- 
perior, grating, unpleasant, prophetic, and yet 
painful, strained, and recalling attacks of epilepsy 
and so too in the simple, truly national speech 
of " holy " Prince Myshkine. When Fedor Kara- 
mazov, suddenly getting quite animated and 
ingurgitating, addresses his sons thus : " Heigh, you, 
children, bairns, little sucking pigs, for me all my 
life through there were no such thing as touch-me- 
nots. Even old maids, in them sometimes you 
would make valuable discoveries if you only 
made them open their eyes. A beggar woman, and 
a touch-me-not : it is necessary at the first go off 

242 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOl'EVSKI AS ARTISTS 

to astonish that is the way to deal with them. You 
must astonish 'em to ecstasy, to compunction, to 
shame that such a gentleman has fallen in love with 
such a slut as she." We see the heart of the old man, 
but also his fat, shaking, Adam's apple, and his moist, 
thin lips ; the tiny, shamelessly piercing eyes, and 
his whole savage figure the figure of an old Roman 
of the times of the decadence. When we learn that 
on a packet of money, sealed and tied with ribbon, 
there was also written in his own hand " for my angel 
Grushenka, if she wishes to come," and that three 
days later he added " and the little darling," he 
suddenly stands before us wholly as if alive. We 
could not explain how, or why, but we feel that in 
this belated "and the little darling" we have caught 
some subtle, sensual wrinkle on his face, which make 
us feel physically uncomfortable, like the contact 
of a revolting insect, a huge spider, or daddy-long- 
legs. It is only a word, but it holds flesh and blood. 
It is of course imaginary, but it is almost im- 
possible to believe it is merely imaginary. It is just 
that last little touch which makes the portrait too 
lifelike, as if the painter, going beyond the bounds 
of his art, had created a portrait which is ever on the 
point of stirring and coming out of the frame like 
a spectre or a ghost. 

In this way Dostoievski has no need to describe 
the appearance of his characters, for by their peculiar 
form of language and tones of voices they themselves 
depict, not only their thoughts and feelings, but 
their faces and bodies. 

With Tolstoi the movements and gestures of the 
outward bodily frame, revealing the inward shapes 

243 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOlEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

of mind, often make profoundly significant most 
paltry words of his heroes. Not less distinctness in 
the physical appearance does Dostoi'evski achieve by 
the contrary process : from the internal he arrives 
at the external, from the mental at the physical, 
from the rational and human we guess at the in- 
stinctive and animal. With Tolstoi we hear because 
we see, with the other we see because we hear. Not 
merely the mastery of dialogue, but other character- 
istics of his method bring Dostoi'evski near to the 
current of great tragic art. At times it seems as if 
he only did not write tragedy because the outward 
form of epic narration, that of the novel, was by 
chance the prevailing one in the literature of his 
day, and also because there was no tragic stage 
worthy of him, and what is more, no spectators 
worthy of him. Tragedy is, of course, composed 
only by the creative powers of artist and audience ; 
it is necessary that the public, too, should have the 
tragic faculty in order that tragedy may really be 
engendered. 

Involuntarily and naturally Dostoievski becomes 
subject to that inevitable law of the stage which the 
new drama has so thoughtlessly abrogated, under 
the influence of Shakespeare, and by so doing under- 
mined at the root the tragic action. It is the law 
of the three unities, time, place, and action, which 
gives, in my opinion, such incomparable power, as 
against anything in modern poesy, to the creations 
of the Greek drama. 

In the works of Tolstoi there always, sooner or 
later, comes a moment when the reader finally 
forgets the main action of the story and the fate of 

244 



I 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOlEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

the principal characters. How Prince Andrei dies, 
or how Nicolai Rostov courses hares, how Kitty bears 
children, or Levine does his mowing, are to us so 
important and interesting that we lose sight of 
Napoleon and Alexander I., Anna, and Vronski. It 
is even more interesting, more important to us at 
that moment whether Rostov runs down his hare 
than whether Napoleon wins the battle of Borodino. 
In any case we feel no impatience, we are in no hurry 
to learn the ultimate fate of these persons. We are 
ready to wait, and have our attention distracted as 
much as the author likes. We no longer see the 
shore, and have ceased to think of the destination 
of our voyage. As in every true epic there is nothing 
unimportant ; everything is equally important, 
equally leading. In every drop there is the same 
salt taste, the same chemical composition of water 
as in the whole sea. Every atom of life moves ac- 
cording to the same laws as worlds and constellations. 
Raskolnikov kills an old woman to prove to 
himself that he is already " on the wrong side of 
good and evil," that he is not " a shuddering being," 
but a ** lord of creation." But Raskolnikov in 
Dostoievski's conception is fated to learn that he 
is wrong, that he has killed, not " a principle," but 
an old woman, has not " gone beyond," but merely 
wished to do so. And when he realizes this he is 
bound to turn faint, to get frightened, to get out in 
the square and, falling on his knees, to confess before 
the crowd. And it is precisely to this extreme 
point, to this one last moment in the action of the 
story, that everything is directed, gathers itself up 
and gravitates ; to this tragic catastrophe every 

245 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

thing tends, as towards a cataract the course of a 
river long confined by rocks. 

Here there cannot, should not be, and really is not, 
anything collateral or extraneous, arresting or divert- 
ing the attention from the main action. The events 
follow one another ever more and more rapidly, 
chase one another ever more unrestrainedly, crowd 
together, are heaped on each other, but in reality 
subordinated to the main single object, and are 
crammed in the greatest possible number into the least 
possible space of time. If Dostoi'evski has any rivals 
they are not of the present day, but in ancient litera- 
ture the creators of Orestes and (Edipus : I mean 
in this art of gradual tension, accumulation, increase, 
and alarming concentration of dramatic action. 

* How well I remember the hapless day," Pod- 
rostok cries wonderingly ; "it always seems as if 
all these surprises and unforeseen mishaps conspired 
together and were showered all at once on my head 
from some cornucopia." " It was a day of sur- 
prises," remarks the narrator of The Damons, ' a 
day of untying of old knots and tying of new, sharp 
elucidations, and still worse confusions. In a word, 
it was a day when astounding events happened 
together." And so it is in all his stories everywhere 
that infernal " cornucopia," from which are poured 
on the heads of the heroes unexpected tragedies. 
When we finish the first part of The Idiot fifteen 
chapters, ten printed quires so many events have 
taken place, so many situations have been placed 
before us, in which are entangled the threads of the 
most varied human destinies, and passions and 
consciences have been laid bare, that it would seem 

246 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

that long years had passed since the beginning of 
the story : in reality it is only a day, twelve hours 
from morning to evening. The boundless picture 
of the world's history which is enfolded in The 

tf 

Brothers Karamazov is condensed, if we do not count 
the intervals between the acts, into a few days. 
But even in one day, in one hour, and that almost 
on one and the same spot between a certain seat 
in the Pavlovski Park and the Terminus, between 
Garden Street and Haymarket Square the heroes 
of Dostoievski pass through experiences which 
ordinary mortals do not taste in a lifetime. 

Raskolnikov is standing on the staircase, outside 
the door of the old female usurer. " He looked 
round for the last time, pulled himself together, 
drew himself up, and once more tried the axe on the 
lock. ' Shall I not wait a little longer, till my heart 
ceases to throb ? ' But his heart did not cease. On 
the contrary, as if to spite him, it beat harder and 
harder. And he scarcely felt the presence of the rest 
of his body" 

To all the heroes of Dostoievski there comes the 
moment when they cease " to feel their bodies/' 
They are not beings without flesh and blood, not 
ghosts. We know well what sort of body they had, 
when they still felt its presence. But the highest 
ascent, the greatest tension of mental existence, the 
most burning passions not of the heart and the 
emotions, but of the mind, the will, and the con- - { 
science give them this divorce from the body, a| 
sort of supernatural lightness, wingedness, and 
spiritualization of the flesh. They have the very 
" spiritual, ethereal bodies," of which St. Paul 

247 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

spoke. These are the men who are not suffocated by 
flesh and blood, or the Tolstoyan " human bubble." 
It seems as if, at times, they were bodily invisible, 
only their intense souls could be seen. 

1 We look at you and say, * She has the face of a 
kind sister,' ' says the Idiot, describing the beauty 
of a certain woman. It is curious to compare these 
instantaneous, supersensual descriptions of Dosto'iev- 
ski with those of Tolstoi for instance, the figure of 
Anna Karenina, so full of deep-seated sensuality ; 
the living souls of Dostoi'evski with the overgrown 
beef of Tolstoi. All Dostoievski's heroes live, thanks 
to his higher spirituality, an incredibly rapid, tenfold 
accelerated life : with all of them, as with Raskol- 
nikov, " the heart beats harder and harder and 
harder." They do not walk like ordinary mortals, 
but fly ; and in the intoxication of this flight fly into 
the abyss. 

In the agitation of the waves we feel the increasing 
nearness of the whirlpool. 

At times in Greek tragedy, just before the catas- 
trophe, there suddenly sounds in our ears an unex- 
pectedly joyous chant of the chorus in praise of 
Dionysus, god of wine and blood, of mirth and terror. 
And in this chant the whole tragedy that is in pro- 
gress and almost completed, all the fateful and mys- 
terious that there is in human life, is presented to 
us as the careless sport of the spectator god. This 
mirth in terror, this tragical play, is like the play of 
the rainbow, kindling in the foam of some cataract 
above a gulf. 

Dostoi'evski is nearest of all to us, to the most 
inward and deeply-seated principles of Greek 

248 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

tragedy. We find him depicting catastrophes with 
something of this terrible gaiety of the chorus. 

Tolstoi's " still heat ' before thunder is here 
broken, into what roaring of thunder, what lightning 
of terror ! It is no longer, as in Tolstoi, difficult to 
breathe ; in that dragging, deathly heaviness which 
weighs down the heart in everday life. All expands 
and expands. At times, even in Dostolevski's work, 
we lose our breath from the rapidity of the move- 
ment, the whirl of events, the flight into space. 
And what reviving freshness, what freedom there 
is in this breath of the storm ! The most petty, 
paltry, and commonplace features of human life here 
become splendid under the lightning. 

We may say of the Muse of Tolstoi what Pierre 
Bezukhov once said of Natasha. " Is she clever ? ' 
asked Princess Maria. Pierre hesitated. " I think 
not," he said at last, " or rather, she is. She does 
not condescend to be clever. No, she is resourceful, 
but no more." 

The resourcefulness of Tolstoi's Muse lies pre- 
cisely in this, that she, as it were, " does not conde- 
scend to be clever," that with her you sometimes 
forget the existence of the human mind. 

As for Dostoievski's Muse, we may doubt any 
other qualities of hers we please, only not her in- 
telligence. He remarks in one place that an author 
ought to have a sting ; " this sting," he proceeds to 
explain, " is the rapier point of deep feeling." I 
consider that no Russian writer, except Pushkin, 
was such a master of " the mental rapier of feeling ' 
as Dostoievski himself. 

In contradistinction with the favourite heroes of 

249 








TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 



Tolstoi, who are not so much intelligent as " philoso- 
phising," the principal heroes of Dostoiievski- 
Raskolnikov, Versilov, Stavrogine, Prince Myshkine, 
and Ivan Karamazov are clever men first and 
foremost. Indeed it would seem that, taken on the 
whole, they are the cleverest, most rational, cultured, 
and cosmopolitan of Russians, and are European 
because they " in the highest degree belong to 
Russia." 

We are accustomed to think that the more ab- 
stract thought is, the more cold and dipassionate 
it is. It is not so ; or at least, it is not so with us. 
From the heroes of Dostoievski we may see how 
abstract thought may be passionate, how meta- 
physical theories and deductions are rooted, not only 
in cold reason, but in the heart, emotions and will. 

There are thoughts which pour oil on the fire of 
the passions and enflame man's flesh and blood more 
powerfully than the most unrestrained licence. 
There is a logic of the passions, but there are also 
passions in logic. And these are essentially our 
new passions, peculiar to us and alien to the men 
of former civilizations. 

Raskolniskov " sharpened his casuistry like a 
razor." But with this razor of abstractions he cuts 
himself almost fatally. His transgression is the 
fruit, as the public prosecutor Porphyry puts it, " of 
a heart outraged theoretically." The same may be 
said of all the heroes of Dostoievski : their passions, 
their misdeeds, committed or merely " resolved on 
by conscience," are the natural outcome of their 
dialectic. Icy, razor-sharp, this does not extinguish, 
but kindle and inflame. In it there is fire and ice 

250 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

at once. They feel deeply because they think 
deeply ; they suffer endlessly because they are 
endlessly deliberate ; they dare to will because they 
have dared to think. And the further, apparently, 
it is from life the more abstract, the more fiery 
is their thought, the deeper it enters into their 
lives. O strange young Russia ! 

And the most abstract thought is, at the same 
time, the most passionate: the burning thought of 
God. ' All my life God has tortured me ! ' owns 
the Nihilist Kirillov. And all Dostoievski's heroes 
are ' God- tortured." Not the life of the body, its 
end and beginning, death and birth, as with Tolstoi,^ 
but the life of the spirit, the denial or affirmation 
of God, are with Dostoievski the ever-boiling source 
of all human passions and sufferings. The torrent 
of the most real, the most " living " life, falling only 
from these very highest summits of metaphysics and 
religion, acquires for him that strength of flow, that 
turbulence of action and striving, which carries him 
to his tragical catastrophes. 

The great poets of the past ages, in depicting the 
passions of the heart, left out of consideration the 
passions of the mind, as if they thought them a 
subject out of the reach of the painter's delineation. 
If Faust and Hamlet are nearest to us of all heroes, ^ 
because they think more than any, yet they feel less, 
they act less, precisely because they think more. V 
The tragedy of both men lies in the contradic- 
tion which they cannot solve, between the pas- 
sionate heart and passionless thought. But is not a 
tragedy of thinking passion or passionate thought 
possible ? The future belongs to this tragedy and 

251 




TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

no other. And Dostoievski was one of the first to 
make an approach to it. 

has overcome the superstitious timidity, com- 
mon to modern artists, of feeling in presence of the 
mind. He has recognized and showed us the con- 
nexion there is between the tragedy of our hearts 
and that of our reason, our philosophical and re- 
ligious consciousness. This, in his eyes, is pre- 
eminently the Russian tragedy of to-day. He has 
observed that cultivated Russians have only to come 
together be it in fashionable drawing-rooms like 
the hearers of Prince Myshkine, or in dirty little inns, 
like Podrostok with Versilov, in order to begin to 
dispute about the most abstract of subjects the 
future of European civilization, the immortality of 
the soul, the existence of God. In reality it is not 
only men of culture, but the whole Russian people 
(witness, for instance, the history of our dissenters), 
from the Judaizers of the fifteenth century to the 
present day Skoptsy and Dukhobortsy, who are 
absorbed in these thoughts. " All men philoso- 
phize, all make inquiries about belief on the roads 
and in the places of commerce," complained even 
the holy Joseph Volotski. And it is just by reason 
of this innate philosophical and religious animation 
(so Dostoievski thought) that Russians are, " in the 
highest degree, Europeans " I mean the Europeans 
of the future. This insatiable religious thirst is 
the presage that Russia will share, and perhaps lead, 
the universal civilization of the future. 

As in our bodily impressionability something is 
altered after reading Tolstoi, so after reading Dos- 
toievski something is changed in our spiritual im- 

252 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

pressionability. It is impossible to forget, to either 
reject or accept him with impunity. His reasonings 
penetrate not only into the mind, but into the heart 
and the will. They are momentous events which 
must have consequences. We remember them some 
time or other, and perhaps precisely at the most 
decisive impassioned crises of our lives. ' Once 
touch the heart," he says himself, " and the wound 
remains." Or, as the Apostle Paul puts it, he "is 
quick and powerful, sharper than any two-edged 
sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul 
and spirit, of joints and marrow." 

There are simple-minded readers, with the effem- 
inate, sickly sentimentality of our day, to whom 
Dostoievski will always seem " cruel," merely " a 
cruel genius." In what intolerable, what incredible 
situations he places his heroes I What experiments 
does he not play with them; through what depths 
of moral degeneracy and spiritual trials (contrast 
the bodily trials of Ivan Ilyich) does he not lead 
them, to crime, suicide, even idiocy ! Does he not 
give expression in the humiliating situations in which 
he places human souls to that same cynical malice 
which Tolstoi finds expression for by terrible and 
humiliating physical conditions ? Does it not some- 
times seem as if he tortures his " dear victims ' 
without object, in order to enjoy ? Yes, of a 
truth he is one who delights in torture, a grand 
Inquisitor, " a cruel genius," 

And is all this suffering natural, possible, real ? 
Does it occur ? Where has it been seen ? And even 
if it occurs, what have we sane- thinking people to 
do with these rare among the rare, exceptional among 

253 



- 







TOLSTOI AND DOSTO'IEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

the exceptional cases, these moral and mental 
monstrosities, deformities, and abortions, fancies of 
fever and delirium ? 

Here is the main objection to Dosto'ievski, one 
that all can understand, unnaturalness, unusualness, 
apparent artificiality, the absence of what is called 
" healthy realism." " They call me a psychologist," 
he says himself ; " it is not true, I am only a realist 
in the highest sense of the word, i.e. I depict all the 
soul's depths." This is what Turgeniev meant in 
objecting to Dostoievski's " psychological mole- 



runs." 



But he is a searcher into human nature ; also at 
times " a realist in the highest sense of the word ' 
the realist of a new kind of experimental realism. 
In making scientific researches he surrounds in his 
machines and contrivances the phenomena of Nature 
with artificial and exceptional conditions. He ob- 
serves how, under the influence of those conditions, 
the phenomenon undergoes changes. We might say 
that the essence of all scientific research consists 
precisely in deliberately " artificialising " the sur- 
rounding conditions. Thus the chemist, increasing 
the pressure of atmospheres to a degree impossible 
in the conditions of nature as known to us, gradually 
densifies the air and changes it from gaseous to 
liquid. May we not call unreal, unnatural, super- 
natural, nay miraculous, that transparent liquid, 
dark blue as the clearest sky, evaporating, boiling 
and yet cold, inconceivably colder than ice ? There 
is no such thing as liquid air, at least in terrestrial 
nature as it comes within our scrutiny. It seems a 
miracle. We do not find it; yet it exists. 

254 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

But is anything of the sort done by Dostoievski 
in his experiments with human souls ? He also 
places them in extraordinary and artificial condi- 
tions, not knowing himself, but waiting to see, what 
will become of them. In order that unforeseen 
aspects, the powers hidden " in the depths of man's 
soul," may be revealed he needs a degree of pressure 
of the moral atmosphere rarely met with to-day. 
He submits his characters either to the rarefied icy 
air of abstract dialectics or the fire of elemental 
animal passion, fire at white heat. In these experi- 
ments he sometimes arrives at states of the human 
mind as novel and seemingly impossible as liquefied 
air. Such a state of mind may exist, because the 
spiritual world, like the material, " is full," to use 
Leonardo da Vinci's words, " of countless possi- 
bilities, as yet unembodied." It has never been 
known, yet it is more than natural that it should 
be ; to give the unembodied a body is a natural 
proceeding. 

What is called Dostoievski's psychology is there- 
fore a huge laboratory of the most delicate and exact 
apparatus and contrivances for measuring, testing, 
and weighing humanity. It is easy to imagine that 
to the uninitiated such a laboratory must seem 
something of a " devil's smithy." 

Some of his scientific experiments are dangerous 
to the experimenter himself. We sometimes feel 
alarmed for him. His eyes are the first to see 
the unpermitted. He ventures into " depths " 
into which no one yet ventured before. Will he 
come back ? Will he be able to manage the forces 
he has called up ? In this daring of inquiry there is 

255 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOtEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

something especially modern and characteristic, it 
may be, of European science in general. It is also 
a Russian quality that we find in Tolstoi as well. 
With the same audacious curiosity Tolstoi scruti- 
nizes the body and its past. The two writers supple- 
ment each other's work j " deep calleth unto deep." 
; In Dostoievski's novels there are peculiar passages 
as to which it is difficult to decide (compare some 
poems of Goethe's and drawings of Leonardo da 
Vinci's) whether they are Art or Science. At any 
rate they are not pure Art nor pure Science. 
Here accuracy of knowledge and the instinct of 
genius are mingled. It is a new " blend," of which 
the greatest artists and men of science had a pre- 
vision, and for which there is, as yet, no name. 

And yet we have here " a cruel genius." This 
reproach, like some feeling of vague yet personal 
vexation, remains in the hearts of readers blessed 
with what is called " mental warmth," which we 
sometimes feel inclined to call " mental thaw." 
Why these sharp " shafts," these extremes, this 
" ice and fire " ? Why not a little more good- 
heartedness, a little more warmth ? Perhaps these 
readers are right ; perhaps he really is ' cruel," 
yet he is assuredly more merciful than they can 
conceive, for the object of his cruelty is knowledge. 
There are poisons which kill men, but have no effect 
on animals, Those to whom Dostoi'evski seems 
cruel will probably survive, 

There remains the question, more worthy of our 
attention the question of the cruelty of Dostoievski 
towards himself, his morbidity as an artist. 

What a strange writer, in good sooth, with in- 

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TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

satiable curiosity exploring only the maladies of the 
human soul, and for ever raving about plagues, as 
if he could not, or would not, speak of anything else ! 
And what strange heroes these " lucky dogs," 
hysterical women, sensualists, deformed creatures 
possessed of the devil, idiots, lunatics ! Perhaps it 
is not so much the painter as the healer of mental 
diseases we have here, and withal such a healer that 
to him we must say, " Physician, heal thyself." 
What have we that are whole to do with these, this 
plague-stricken collection of clinical cases ? 

But then we know tests of shameful disease have 
proved permanent sources of healing. Of a truth, 
it is only " by his sickness that we are healed." 
Ought not we, who have had such a warning from 
the history of the world, though we are only nomin- 
ally Christians, to deal with less careless self-confi- 
dence, with more civilized caution, with all 
maladies ? 

For instance, we see too clearly the connexion 
between health and strength, an abundance of 
vitality on the one side and between disease and 
weakness and the loss of vitality on the other. Yet 
does there not exist a less obvious but not less real 
connexion between disease and strength, between 
what seems disease and real strength ? If the 
seed does not sicken and die and decay, then it 
does not bear fruit. If the wingless insect in the 
chrysalis does not sicken, then it never gets wings. 
And " a woman when she is in travail suffereth pain 
because her hour is come." There is a sickness, not 
unto death, but unto life. Whole generations, 
civilizations, and nations are like to die for pain, but 

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TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

this too may be the birth-pang and the natural and 
wholesome sickness. In societies, true, it is im- 
measurably more difficult to distinguish apparent 
from real sickness, Decay from New Birth. Here we 
must feel our way. But there are dangerous diseases 
of society, which depend not on the want, but the 
excess of undeveloped life, of accumulated and 
unvented inward power, from the superabundance 
of health. Our national champions have sometimes 
felt "burdened with strength," as with a load, and 
seemed ailing because too strong. 

The reverse is, of course, also true. Temporary 
excess of vitality and the sharpening of the natural 
capacities is the outcome of real sickness. The too 
strained cord sounds more loudly before it snaps. 

Yes, the more deeply we ponder it the more diffi- 
cult and enigmatical becomes the question of social 
maladies, and of the " sacred," or not sacred, malady 
of Dostoi'evski in particular. Yet it seems clear that 
whether he be great or little, at any rate he is unlike 
any of the family of world-famous writers. Does 
his strength come from his ailment, or his ailment 
from his strength ? Is the real holiness if not of 
the author himself (though those that were about 
him declare that there were times when he, too, 
seemed almost a saint) yet that of the Idiot the 
result of apparent disease ? Or does undoubted 
disease result from the doubtful sanctity ? 

" ' Go to the doctor,' Raskolnikov advises Svid- 
rigailov, who has told him about his ' presenti- 
ments.' 

" ' I know, without your telling me,' is the reply, 
* that I am out of health, though really I don't know 

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TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

in what way. In my own way, I feel sure, I am 
five times as well as you.' 

' I asked, ' Do you believe in previsions pre- 
sentiments ? ' 

1 No ; nothing will induce me to believe in 
them,' cried the other, with a touch of anger. 

; Well now, what is the usual remark on the 
subject ? ' growled Svidrigailov, as if to himself, 
looking on one side and hanging his head down. 
; They say, " You are ill : it is all your fancies 
nothing but imagination, delirium." But there's no 
strict logic in that. I admit that previsions only 
appear to sick men, but then that only argues that 
previsions appear only to sick men, and not that 
they have no existence in themselves.' 

' Certainly they have none,' persisted Raskol- 
nikov irritably. 

" * No ? You think 'so ? ' resumed the other, 
slowly gazing at him. ' Well, how if you settle it 
this way (there, help me) : previsions are, so to say, 
fragments pieces of other worlds, beginnings. The 
healthy man, of course, can't see them anyhow, 
because a healthy man is the most earthly man. 
He must, of course, live only the life of this world 
for completeness and order's sake. But no sooner 
does he fall ill, no sooner is the normal earthly order 
broken in his organism, than straightway the possi- 
bility of another world begins to dawn on him. The 
more ailing he is, the closer, I suggest, his contact 
with the other world.' " x 

1 From The Crime and the Punishment (English transla- 
tion, Vize telly, 1886). 

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TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

We can understand why Raskolnikov is irritated : 
although he himself has a dialectic on which he 
places his whole reliance, " sharpened like a razor," 
he feels that Svidrigailov, whom he despises as a 
moonstruck dreamer, has one still keener. Is Svid- 
rigailov simply laughing at Raskolnikov ? Is he 
merely teasing him with his previsions ? Or is he 
exceedingly serious ? Has he arrived at finally 
doubting even wwbelief ? He once admits that the 
idea of eternity sometimes seems to him discomfort- 
ing : "a chamber something like a village bath- 
house, long neglected, and with spiders' webs in 
all its corners." 

It is curious that Dostoievski in his last diary, 
when expressing his stray thoughts about Christi- 
anity, repeats almost word for word the expression 
of Svidrigailov : " The firm belief of mankind in 
the contact with other worlds, obstinate and en- 
during, is also very significant." Not only so, these 
words of Svidrigailov's are also echoed by the 
" saintly " old Zosima in The Brothers Karamazov : 
" Grown creatures live and are kept alive only by 
the sense of contact with other and mysterious 
worlds." 

In his thoughts about illness as the source of some 
higher life, or at least a state of insight not attain- 
able in health, Svidrigailov and the Idiot agree with 
the " holy " Prince Myshkine. 

" He thought, amongst other things, how, in his 
epileptic condition, there was one stage, just before 
the actual attack, when suddenly in the midst of 
sadness, mental darkness, and oppression, his brain, 
as it were, flamed up, and with an unv/onted out- 

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TOLSTOI AND DOSTOlEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

burst all his vital powers were vivified simultane- 
ously. The sensation of living and of self -conscious- 
ness at such moments was almost decupled. They 
were moments like prolonged lightning. As he 
thought over this afterwards, when in a normal state, 
he often said to himself that all these flashes and 
beams of the highest self-realization and self- 
consciousness and doubtless ' highest existence ' 
were nothing but a disease, the interruption of the 
normal state ; and if so, it was by no means the highest 
state, but on the contrary must be reckoned as the very 
lowest. And yet he came at last to the exceedingly 
paradoxical conclusion, ' What matter if it is a 
morbid state ? ' Finally he decided, ' What difference 
can it make that the tension is abnormal, if the result 
itself, if the moment of sensation, when remembered 
and examined in the healthy state, proves to be in the 
highest degree harmony and beauty ; and gives an 
unheard of and undreamed of feeling of completion of 
balance, of satisfaction, and exultant prayerful fusion 
with the highest synthesis of life ? } If at that, the 
last instant of consciousness before the attack, he 
had happened to say to himself lucidly and de- 
liberately ' Yes, for this moment one might give 
one's whole life,' then certainly that instant of itself 
would be worth a lifetime. However, he did not 
stand out for dialectics : obfuscation, mental dark- 
ness and idiocy stand before him as the obvious 
consequence of these loftiest moments." 

It is a pity that Prince Myshkine did not stand 
out for the dialectical part of his deduction. For 
there is a vast importance attaching to the question, 
whether it is worth while to give for " a moment 

261 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOlEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

of the highest existence ' the life, not merely of a 
man, but of all mankind ? In other words, " 7s 
the goal of the world's evolution an endless continuation 
in time, in the succession of civilizations, in the se- 
quence of the generations, or some final culmination 
of all the destinies of history, all ' times and seasons,' 
in a moment of ' the highest existence ' ; in what 
Christian mysticism calls ' the ending of the world ' ? ' 
This question seems mystical, abstract, aloof from 
actuality, but cannot fail, sooner or later, to have 
an effect on social life of the whole of mankind. 

Before Christianity came mankind lived as the 
beasts live, without thought of death, with a sense 
of animal perdurability. The first, and so far the 
only religion which has felt the imperativeness of the 
thought of the end, of death not only for man in 
particular, but also for the whole of mankind has 
been Christianity. And perhaps it is just in this 
that lies the main distinction of the influence of 
Christianity (an influence that, even yet is not com- 
plete) on the moral and political destinies of Europe. 

And here the idea of the end of the world, the 
last consummation of all earthly destinies in a 
moment, when the angel of the Apocalypse ' shall 
declare to all living that there shall be no more 
time," the moment of the highest harmony of 
" higher existence " last pinnacle of all the civili- 
zation of the world draws near to another idea. 
To the crowning idea of the religion of Christ the 
God-man draws near from another shore the re- 
ligion, the solution of the man-God. Its preacher 
in Dostoievski's pages is the Nihilist Kirillov in the 
book called The Possessed Kirillov whom all his 

262 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

life " God has tortured," who repeats even to the 
startling coincidence in the turns of expression the 
" extreme paradox " uttered on this point by Prince 
Myshkine. 

" Have you moments of eternal harmony, my 
friend ? There are seconds five of six of them 
at most go by at a time and you feel suddenly the 
presence of eternal harmony. It is not earthly, and 
I do not say that it is heavenly, but man in his 
earthly guise cannot bear them. It is necessary to 
be transformed physically or to die. This is a distinct 
feeling and one that cannot be disputed. It is as if 
you suddenly had the sense of aU Nature and ex- 
claimed ' Yes, it is true ' ; just as God, when He 
created the world, at the end of every day said, 
' Behold, it is good.' It is not softening of heart, 
but just a kind of delight. You do not forgive any- 
thing, for there is nothing to forgive. Neither do 
you ' love,' for it is a feeling higher than love. The 
most terrible part is that it is so terribly distinct 
and joyful. For more than five seconds the mind 
cannot bear it, and must break down. In those five 
seconds I live a lifetime, and for them I would give 
my lifetime. 

'' In order to hold out ten seconds you must be 
transformed physically. I think men ought to cease 
to propagate. What is the use of children, or of 
progress, seeing the goal has been attained ? In the 
New Testament it is written that in the resurrection 
they shall not have children, but be as the angels 
of God." 

Here, in reality, Kirillov merely carries to its 
farthest consequences the dialectic of Prince Mysh- 

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TOLSTOI AND DOSTOlEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

kine when he says " For that moment a man might 
give his whole life." Kirillov carries it on and con- 
cludes, " For that moment you might give the life of 
all mankind" However, Prince Myshkine too at 
times seems to approach this pinnacle. He dreads 
it, but it is nevertheless inevitable. " At that 
moment," he says to an intimate old friend, " there 
somehow became intelligible to me that hard saying, 
* There shall be no more time. 9 

" Seriously, of course, he would not have main- 
tained it," unexpectedly and timidly concludes 
Dostoievski. " In his appreciation of that minute 
doubtless there was an error." What error ? " Ob- 
fuscation, mental darkness, and idiocy stood before 
him as the evident consequence of these loftiest 
minutes." But is not this obfuscation, this mental 
darkness, the prospect for every man living ? 
Might not all mankind voluntarily give up its con- 
tinued life for a brief epoch of intensest harmony 
with God ? Would not that be a solution of both 
Pagan and Christian doctrine ? This question is 
rooted in the very heart of Christian, nay, of all 
religion. 

" Does this state often come to you ? " asks 
Shatov of Kirillov, after his admission as to his 
moments of eternal harmony. 

" Once in three days, or once in a week." 

" Have you not got epilepsy ? ' 

" No." 

"Well, it means that you will have it. Take care, 
Kirillov ; I have heard that is just the way epilepsy 
begins. An epileptic described to me in detail his 
sensations before an attack, exactly as you have : 

264 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

he mentioned the five seconds, and declared he could 
not stand more." 

In Prince Myshkirie 1 also the spiritual beauty of 
nature (undoubted in Dostoievski's eyes) results 
from these very flashes of " eternal harmony." 

Kirillov anticipates a gradual but literal " physical 
transformation of man." We seem actually to hear 
echoes of apocalyptic prophecies : " Behold, I make 
all things new. There shall be a new heaven and a 
new earth." " In Christ Jesus a new creature" 
The " physical transformation of man ' is the new 
birth of the flesh the real " resurrection of the 
body." " I tell you a mystery. We shall not all 
die, but we shall all be changed." 

" Then there will be a new life on earth," says 
Kirillov. " Then History will be seen divided into two 
vast epochs, the first from the gorilla to the annihila- 
tion of the conception of God, and, secondly, from the 
extinction of God to " 

" To the gorilla ? ' suggested Stavrogine, with 
cold mockery. 

'' To the transformation of the earth and of man 
physically," resumed Kirillov calmly. " Man will 
be a god, and be physically transformed in his 
powers. The world will be changed, and all things 
will be changed, including thought and emotion." 

The idea of the physical transformation of man 



1 In The Idiot (English translation, Vizetelly, 1887). 
" The theory put forward in The Idiot is, that a brain in 
which some of those springs which we consider essential 
are weakened may yet remain superior, both intellectually 
and morally, to others less affected." WALISZEWSKI. 

265 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

gives Kirillov no rest, and haunts him like a fixed 
idea. 

" I begin and end and open the door. And I 
save," he says to Peter Verkhovenski just before 
his suicide, in prophetic and pitiful enthusiasm. 
" Only this one thing can save all men, and in the 
next generation regenerate them physically ; for in 
his present physical guise, as far as my conceptions 
take me, it is impossible for man to exist anyway 
without a previous God. I have sought for three 
years the attributes of my deity, and have found it : 
his attribute is self-will ! That is the only way I can 
materially show my insubmission and my new and 
terrible liberty." 

To Dostoievski Kirillov is a madman, " possessed, 
perhaps, of some spirit," one of those possessed that 
even Pushkin had foresight of : 

Endless, shapeless, soundless, 
In the moon's dim rays 
Demons circled, many 
As the leaves of November. 

Not for nothing were these lines of Pushkin's 
taken by Dostoievski as a motto for his Possessed. 
He tried to discover in Kirillov to what monstrous 
extremes it is possible for the Russian nature to 
carry the logical dialectics of atheism. 

But then, even Prince Myshkine is also a madman, 
possessed of devils, though only in the eyes of " this 
world," the wisdom of which is " foolishness with 
the Lord," and not in the eyes of his Creator. The 
" moments of highest harmony " which light up the 
figure of the Idiot with such a glow of unearthly 

266 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOfEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

beauty and sanctity are due also, according to his 
own admission, to the " sacred," or daemonic, sick_- 
ness. The most profound and vital thoughts of V, 
Kirillov and Prince Myshkine both are in con- 
nexion with the prophecy " There shall be no more 
time," i.e. that the aim of universal, historical 
evolution is not an endless, earthly continuance, biit 
the ending of mankind. Here Dostoi'evski hesitates. 
He will not fully utter his own thoughts ; he draws 
back before some gulf, and closes his eyes : the 
thinker is lost in the artist. The Idiot and Kirillov 
are two sides of his own being, his two faces one 
open, the other mysterious. Kirillov is the double 
of the Idiot. 

To recognize that there is no God, and at the 
same time not to recognize that you yourself have 
become a God, is folly ; otherwise you would in- 
fallibly kill yourself." So says the daring Kirillov. 
" If there is a God, how can I bear the thought that 
I am not that God ? ' So says Friedrich Nietzsche. 
; There is no God. He is dead. And we have killed 
him. Ought we not to turn ourselves into deities ? 
Never was a deed done greater than this. He who shall 
be born after us by this alone will belong to a higher 
stage in history than any that has gone before." Who 
says this ? Kirillov again ? No, Friedrich Nietz- 
sche. But Kirillov, as we have seen, says the same, 
with his two main epochs of history including the 
extinction of the present conception of God. He too 
foretells the transformation of the earth and of the 
" physical nature of man," i.e. in other words, the 
appearance of the " Man-god," the " Uebermensch." 
Although Nietszche called Dostoi'evski "his great 

267 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOfEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

master," we know that the principal ideas of Nietz- 
sche were framed independently of the latter, under 
the influence of the Hellenic world, and mainly of 
ancient Tragedy, the philosophy of Kant and 
Schopenhauer on the one hand, and on the other the 
conclusions of modern experimental science, the 
ideas of Darwin, Spencer, and Haeckel on the bio- 
logical transformation of species, the world's pro- 
gress, natural metamorphosis, and Evolution, as it 
is called. Nietzsche merely carried on these scientific 
deductions and applied them to questions of soci- 
ology and universal history. Man to him is not the 
end, the last link of the chain, but only one of the links 
of cosmic progress : just as man was the outcome of 
the transmutation of animal species, so a new creative 
will result from the transmutation of civilized human 
species. This very being, the " new creature," is 
the " more than man," or, as with ingenious cynicism 
Dostoievski's Nihilist puts it, our world proceeds 
" from the gorilla to the man, and from man to the 
extinction of God," to the Man-god. 

Here, of course, we have only the generally ac- 
cessible, obvious, and outward aspect of Nietzsche 
one which, in the long run, seemed to himself a coarse 
outer shell. He has also another more profound and 
hidden aspect. " As regards my complaint," he 
owns in one place, " I am undoubtedly more in- 
debted to it than to health. I am indebted to it for 
the highest kind of health, the kind in which a man is 
the stronger for whatever does not kill him. I owe all 
my philosophy to it. Great pain alone is the final 
emancipator of the soul. Only great agony that 
long-drawn, slow torture in which we seem to be 

268 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

burning over damp faggots, a pain which is in no 
hurry only such lets us who are philosophers 
descend to our lowest depths and makes us rely on 
nothing of faith, good will, concealment, softness 
and directness, on which, perhaps, we previously 
based our humanity." This Nietzsche, like The 
Idiot and Kirillov, finds in the birth-pang, in his 
illness, " moments of eternal harmony," the source 
of " the highest state." In the death of the human 
he finds the first lightnings and glimpses of the 

' superhuman." 

' Man is what must be overcome," says Zara- 
thustra. Only by overcoming, by mortifying, both 
in his spirit and in his flesh, all that is "human, too 
human," only by casting off " the old man ' with 
the animal serpent-like wisdom as an old dead 
slough, can man rise to incorruptibility, attain to 
the divine existence for which " there is a new 
heaven and a new earth." 

Pushkin certainly the most healthy and sane 
of our countrymen had already pondered on this 

' physical transformation of man," physical and 
spiritual at once, this regeneration and turning 
of the " fleshly " flesh into spiritual flesh. 

* 

And to my lips he stooped ^ 

Removed my sinful tongue.- 

(Idle of speech and crafty) 

And placed with his blood-stained hand, 

Within my palsied lips, 

The serpent's sting of wisdom.- 

Clove my breast with his glaive, 
My fluttering heart drew forth, 

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TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKY AS ARTISTS 

And a burning fiery coal 
Forced into my bared breast. 
Like a corpse in the desert I lay 
Then God's voice called to me : 
" Prophet, arise 1 ' 

But the Man lying in the desert will arise no longer 
man as we know him. 

If the seed does not die, then it does not germinate. 
The constructive agony of birth is like the destruc- 
tive agony of death. 

" There come, as it were, unnecessary and gratui- 
tous sufferings," says Tolstoi in The Kingdom of God, 
with regard to the inward state, "passing into a new 
form of life, untried as yet by man as he is to-day. 
Something happens akin to childbearing. All is 
ready for the new life, but this life still does not 
make its appearance. The situation seems one from 
which there is no issue." And a few lines later he 
speaks of the flight, the wings, of the new man, who 
' feels himself perfectly free, just as a bird would 
feel in a fenced-round close, as soon as it chose to 
spread its wings." 

Who knows ? In others (not in himself) Tolstoi 
has sometimes found this illness of the present day 
the pang of birth, the pain of the bursting of wings. 
Is he himself as free from such pain as he avers, as 
he would wish to be ? Or is he only more skilful 
than others in hiding weakness by reproving the 
weakness of others ? 

" Every man of our day, if we penetrate the con- 
trast of his judgment and his life, is in a desperate 
condition," he says, as usual speaking of others, of 
the people of " this world." But is there another 

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TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

" man of our day ' whose reason and life are at 
greater variance than his own ? In him the old 
struggle still continues in the subterranean quakings 
and echoes, like the dull roar of earthquake. In 
Tolstoi's Resurrection old Akim celebrates his " new 
birth ' and the death of the " animal ' in him 
what he believes to be his final victory over the 
Beast. But if it be a victory, what a poor one ! 
Does not Tolstoi realize in the penetralia of his 
artistic conscience that it is just here, at the decisive 
moment, that something has broken down and be- 
trayed him ? In this " regeneration ' the morti- 
fication of the flesh has led to what it always leads to, 
the mortification of the spirit. Before our eyes is 
taking place the suicide of a man's genius. 

Was this the " Resurrection ' that we expected 
of him, that he expected of himself ? It is not for 
nothing that he abjures those of his works which he 
owes to his ' ' world-wide fame." In him there was, 
or might have been, a prophet, though by no means 
such a one as he considered himself to be. He must 
content himself with his fame as mere artist. 

Tolstoi has human fame, but not God's fame, 
which is man's absence of fame, the persecution of 
prophets. His pride must be scourged by the servile 
praises of ' innumerable pigmies." The spectacle 
recalls the torments of those wretches who, stripped 
naked, bound and smeared with honey, were exposed 
in the sun for insects to devour. 

He is always silent. Silence is his last refuge. 
He will not admit his sufferings. But yet he knows 
that the hour is at hand when One, to whom nothing 
can be refused, will demand an account. We owe 

271 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

pity to this man of the day in his most desperate 
condition, the most lonely, deserted, and unre- 
garded, in spite of all this fame. But sometimes one 
fancies that, being so great, he deserves no pity. In 
any case, only those who do not love him will believe 
in the health, the peace, and happiness, the ' re- 
generation " of this man. 

His illness is shown by a gradually increasing 
silence, callousness, decline, ossification, and petri- 
fication of the heart, once the warmest of human 
hearts. 

It is because his ailment is inward, because he 
himself is scarcely conscious of it, that it is more 
grievous than the malady of Dostoi'evski or the mad- 
ness of Nietzsche. Pushkin carried to the grave 
the secret of his great health ; Dostoievski that of 
his great sickness. Nietzsche, the corpse of the 
" more-than-man," has gone from us, carrying the 
secret of his wisdom into the madhouse. And 
Tolstoi, too, has deserted us. 

This generation is thrice-deserted, timid, ailing, 
ridiculous even in its own eyes. We have to solve 
a riddle which Gods and Titans could not solve to 
draw the line which separates health in us from 
sickness, life from death, resurrection from decay. 
We can evade this riddle. Have we courage to 
solve it ? 

An almost unbearable burden of responsibility is 
thus laid on our generation. Perhaps the destinies 
of the world never hung so finely in the balance 
before, as if on the edge of a sword between two 
chasms. The spirit of man is faintly conscious that 
the beginning of the end is at hand. 

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TOLSTOI AND DOSTOlEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

Woe to them who awake too early, when all others 
are still asleep. But even if we wished we can no 
longer deceive ourselves and ignore the blinding 
light we behold. 

Among the common people, far down out of hear- 
ing, there are those who are awaking as we. 1 Who 
will be the first to arise and say that he is awake ? 
Who has overcome the fine delusion of our day, 
which confounds in each of us, in minds and life, 
the withering of the seed with its revival, the birth- 
pang with the death-pang, the sickness of Regenera- 
tion with the sickness of Degeneration, the true 
' symbolism " with " decadence " ? Action is first 
needed ; and only when we have acted can we 
speak. Meanwhile here is an end of our open course, 
our words, our contemplation ; and a beginning of 
our secrecy, our silence, and our action. 



1 Merejkowski is thinking of Maxim Gorki. ED; 



273 




CHAPTER XV 

TOLSTOI has simply ignored St. Petersburg : he has 
retired not only from St. Petersburg, but from the 
Moscow the Slavophiles love into the country, the 
backwoods, the body of Russia. And if in the 
country he encounters Petersburg, " Peter's Crea- 
tion," in the shape of the new manufacturing " civili- 
zation ' of concertinas, brandy, and infectious 
diseases, it is only to show that to him the spirit of 
commerce, as of the great world, seems " the power 
of darkness." The action of Peace and War and 
Anna Karenina takes place, it is true, partly in 
St. Petersburg, but there is none of the Petrine spirit 
there. In all Tolstoi's works we have only the 
country, the land, only the body, or dark primitive 
soul of Russia. But of the spirit as the power of 
light, as the new social and national consciousness, 
the quest of the future Russian city, which is beyond 
St. Petersburg the, as yet, unrevealed front and 
head of Russia there is no trace in Tolstoi. Dos- 
toievski, with a different, but not inferior sensi- 
tiveness, realizes both St. Petersburg and Moscow. 
In his The Brothers Karamazov Alesha in the mon- 
astery by the coffin of old Zosima awakes from a 
portentous dream of Cana of Galilee, and goes forth 
from the cell into the garden. " Above him spread 

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TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

wide and boundless the vault of heaven, thick with 
still, shining stars. From the zenith to the horizon 
the as yet dim milky way spread double. The fresh 
yet motionless night enwrapped the earth. The 
white towers and gilded pinnacles of the cathedral 
gleamed in the hyacinthine sky. The luxuriant 
flowers of the autumn in the parterres were slumber- 
ing till the morning. The stillness of the earth 
seemed blended with that of the sky ; its mystery 
in contact with the mystery of the stars." 

These white towers and golden pinnacles of the 
Cathedral, shining in the hyacinth-coloured sky, 
remind us of the mysterious mountains and towns 
depicted with magical detail in the dim background 
of old icons. 

And here is a still more icon-like bit of nature ; 
from the Possessed, where Lizaveta the deformed 
tells about her life in the nunnery. 

" I used to go to the shore of the lake : on one 
side was our nunnery, and on the other our peaked 
mountain, and they call it the Peak. I go up this 
mountain, turn my face to the East, fall on the 
ground, and weep, I forget how long, and then I 
forget everything, and know nothing of it. I get 
up by and by and turn back, but the sun comes up 
such a great, fiery, splendid sun. Do you like 
looking at the sun ? It is fine, yet sad. I turn back 
again towards the east, but the shadow, the shadow 
from our mountain, runs far over the lake like a 
shaft, narrow and long, very long ; and a half 
mile further, right to the island in the lake, and 
this stony island is cut in half by the shadow, and 
as it cuts it in half the sun goes down altogether, 

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TOLSTOI AND DOSTOlEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

and all suddenly grows dark. Then I begin to be 
altogether weary, and then suddenly my memory 
comes back : I am afraid of the dark, Shatushka." 

Here is the free charm of the knightly legends. 
The ballad note is mingled with the peaceful and 
dim monastic legend, with a national music as yet 
unheard. 

There is a notion current that Dosto'ievski. did 
not love Nature. But though he certainly but little 
and rarely describes it, that is, perhaps, just because 
his love for it is too deep not to be restrained. He 
does not wear his heart on his sleeve, but all the more 
in his rare descriptions there is more vigour than in 
anything of the kind in Tolstoi. 

No, Dostoi'evski loved the land not less than he 
loved the " body ' of Russia, but less the " tan- 
gible " frame than the spiritualized face of that land. 

Holy Russia lies to him in the past, and in the 
yet distant future. Neither for the future nor the 
past does he forget the near Russia of St. Petersburg 
to-day. IHs for him " the most fantastic of towns, 
with the most fantastic history of any town on 
the globe"; that boasted "Paradise" of Peter the 
Great, built as if on purpose with "Satanic intent," 
as a mock at men and Nature. 

On one occasion Raskolnikov, 1 after the murder, 
is passing on a summer's day over the Nicolaev 
Bridge, and stops and turns his face towards the 
Neva in the direction of the Palace. " The sky was 
without the slightest speck of cloud, and the water 
almost a deep blue, a rare thing in the Neva. The 

. 

1 In The Crime and the Punishment. 

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TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

cupola of the Cathedral, which does not show up 
better than from this point, from the bridge, shone 
so that through the pure air you could clearly dis- 
tinguish each single ornament. An inexplicable chill 
breathed on him always from all this magnificent 
panorama : this gorgeous picture was to him full 
of a deaf and dumb spirit" 

From this terrible spirit, which seems alien and 
Western, but really is native, the old Russian, 
pre-Christian, " Varangian ' spirit of Pushkin and 
Peter, came Raskolnikov, and in no small measure 
Dostoiievski himself. 

The " burgh of Peter " is not only the " most 
fantastic," but the most prosaic of human cities. 

Who knows St. Petersburg better, and hates it 
more, and feels more overcome by it, than Dostoiev- 
ski ? Yet, as we see, there are moments when he 
suddenly forgives everything, and somehow loves 
the place, as Peter loved his monstrous " Paradise ' 
and as Pushkin loved " Peter's handiwork." The 
foundling of nature," the most outcast of towns, of 
which even its inhabitants are secretly ashamed, 
Dostoievski makes it, by the force of his affection, 
pathetic, piteous, almost lovable and homelike, 
almost beautiful; though curelessly diseased, yet 
with a rare " decadent " beauty not easily attained. 
; If I know of some happy places in St. Peters- 
burg," admits Podrostok, " that is, places where, 
for some reason or other, I have been happy, I save 
up those places, and refrain from going to them for 
as long as possible, for the express purpose of after- 
wards, when I am quite lonely and miserable, going 
there to be sad and remember." 

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TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

He says : "I love it when they sing to the barrel- 
organ of a cold, dark, and damp autumn evening- 
particularly when it is damp and all the passers-by 
have pale-green and suffering faces ; or, still better, 
when a damp snow is falling, quite straight, and the 
air is windless, you know, and the gas lamps glimmer 
through it." 

" He took me," says another character, ' to a 
small inn on the canal, down below. There were 
few customers. A rickety, squeaking organ was 
playing, and there was a smell of dirty napkins. We 
took our seats in a corner. No doubt you do not 
know the place. I like sometimes, when I am bored, 
terribly bored and worried, to go into such dog holes. 
The whole scene, the squeaking aria from ' ' Lucia," 
the waiters in national costumes that are scarcely 
decent, the smoke-room, the cries from the billiard- 
room all that is so commonplace and prosaic that it 
actually borders on the fantastic" 

Precisely such dirty slummy inns, the " servants' 
halls " of St. Petersburg cosmopolitanism, are to be 
found in all Dostoievski's stories. In them take 
place his most important, speculative, and im- 
passioned conversations. And however strange it 
may be, yet you feel that it is just the platitude of 
this " cosmopolitan servants' hall " atmosphere, the 
sordid realism and the commonplaceness, that give 
to these talks their peculiarly modern, national 
flavour, and make their stormy and apocalyptic 
brilliance, like that of the sky before thunder, come 
into full relief. 

The granite pedestal of the Bronze Horseman of 
St. Petersburg, rearing and reined in with an iron 

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TOLSTOI AND DOSTOI'EVSKI AS ARTISTS 

bit, though it seems so firm, yet stands on a shifting 
putrid morass, from which spring ghostly mists. 
' Sometimes," he writes, " it has occurred to me, 
; What if, when this fog scatters and lifts, there 
should depart with it the whole rotten flimsy town 
vanish like smoke and only the old Finnish 
swamp remain, with the Bronze Horseman for 
ornament ? ' 

He was the first of us to feel and realize that 
Peter's Russia, " pulled to her haunches by an iron 
bit," like a plunging horse, "had reached some 
boundary, and is now rearing over an abyss." ' Per- 
haps it is some one's dream. Some one will awake 
of a sudden, who has dreamed all this and then it 
will all disappear." Ah, Dostoi'evski knows, for a 
certainty, that it will disappear ; knows that Russia 
will abandon St. Petersburg ; yet will never go 
back to Moscow for a capital, whither the Slavo- 
philes call her. Nor will she resort still further back 
to Tolstoi's rural Yasnaia Poliana and the plebeian, 
but really squirearchal " Kingdom of God." He 
knows that Russia will not continue at St. Peters- 
burg. 

Dostoi'evski saw in the later years of his life where 
lies the new and final Russian capital. He quite 
definitely realized that Petersburg, the second 
capital of Russia, is merely a spectral and transi- 
tional capital. That third, imperial, and final 
Russian Rome will be Constantinople and the 
Oecumenical Russian Cathedral, the Church of 
St. Sophia. 

What he says about Petersburg, " the most fan- 
tastic of cities," Dostoievski says about his own 

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TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

works, all his artistic creations. " I am dreadfully 
fond of realism in Art, when, so to speak, it is carried 
to the fantastic. What can be more fantastic and 
unexpected than reality ? Nay, what can, at times, 
be more improbable ? What most people call fan- 
tastic is, in my eyes, often the very essence of the 
real." 

All his heroes may be divided into two families, 
opposite, yet having many points of contact. Either, 
like Alesha, the Idiot, and Zosima, they are the men 
of " the city that is to come," of the holy Russia 
that is at once too old and too new, not yet in 
existence ; or, like Ivan Karamazov, Rogojine, 
Raskolnikov, Versilov, Stavrogine, and Svidri- 
gailov, they are the men of the existing city, of 
contemporary actual St. Petersburg, Petrine Russia. 
The first seem spectral, but are real ; the second 
seem real, but are spectral mere " dreams within 
a dream," a pitilessly fantastic dream, which has 
now, for two centuries, been dreamed by Peter the 
Brazen Horseman. 

Raskolnikov sees in a dream the room in which 
he murdered the old woman ; the huge, round, 
copper-red moon was looking straight in at the 
windows. "It is so quiet because of the moon," 
he thought. He stood and waited, waited long, 
and the stiller the moonlight was the harder beat 
his heart, till it ached and stopped ; and still there 
was silence. Suddenly there came a momentary 
dry cackle, as if some one was breaking a piece of 
wood ; then all was silent again. A fly woke up 
and suddenly knocked in its flight against the glass, 
and buzzed a complaint." He saw the old usurer- 

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TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

woman, and struck her with the axe on the crown 
once and again, but she broke out into a low, noise- 
less laugh. The more he struck her the more she 
shook with laughter. " He wanted to cry out, and 
-awoke. He drew his breath hard, but, strange to 
say, his dream seemed still to go on. His door was 
opened wide, and in the doorway stood a man 
totally strange to him, and looked steadily at him. 
' Am I still dreaming or not ? ' he thought. Some 
ten minutes passed. It was still light, but evening 
was coming on. In the room there was perfect still- 
ness. Even from the staircase not a single sound 
came. There was only the buzzing and flapping of 
a large fly, beating its wings against the glass." 

This realistic, connecting " symbolic ' trait, the 
fly buzzing in both the rooms ("all that you have, 
we have too," says the Devil to Ivan Karamazov, 
that is, all in the world of phenomena is also in 
the world of realities "in both rooms "), so knits 
together dream and reality that the reader can 
hardly tell where vision ends and reality begins. 

' At last it grew intolerable. Raskolnikov sud- 
denly sat up on the sofa. ' Well, tell me, what do 
you want ? 3 

; Why, I knew that you were not asleep, but 
only pretending,' was the strange answer of the 
unknown, who laughed calmly. ' Allow me to in- 
troduce myself, Arkadii Svidrigailov.' 

So ends the third part of Crime and Punish- 
ment. 

' Is this a continuation of my dream ? ' thought 
Raskolnikov " ; such is the beginning of the fourth 
part. 

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TOLSTOI AND DOSTOEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

' Cautiously and suspiciously he looked at the 
unexpected visitor. 

" * Svidrigailov ? What nonsense ! It is im- 
possible ! ' he at length cried aloud in amazement." 

And when, after a long interview, partly on busi- 
ness, the visitor went away, Raskolnikov asks his 
comrade, Razumikhin the student, " Did you see 
him ? " 

" * Well yes, I noticed him, noticed him well.' 

" * You saw him distinctly ? Quite clearly ? ' in- 
sisted he. 

" ' Why, yes, I remember him distinctly. I would 
know him in a thousand I have a good memory for 
faces.' 

" Again there was a pause. 

" * Hm so so,' muttered Raskolnikov. ' Well, 
you know I thought it still seems to me that 
it was, perhaps, my fancy. Perhaps I am really 
under a delusion and only saw a ghost.' 

Svidrigailov is the result of his dream, and he 
himself is all a sort of dream, like a thick, dirty- 
yellow St. Petersburg fog. But if it is a ghost, then 
it is one with flesh and blood. In that lies the horror 
of it. There is nothing in it romantic, vague, in- 
definite, or abstract. In the action of the story 
Svidrigailov more and more takes form and sub- 
stance, so that in the long run he proves more real 
than the sanguine, beefy heroes of Tolstoi. Gradu- 
ally we learn that this " most vicious of men," this 
rascal, is capable of chivalrous magnanimity, of 
delicate and unselfish feelings : when Raskolnikov's 
sister Dunya, the innocent girl whom he has enticed 
into a trap in order to seduce her, is already wholly 

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TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

in his power he suddenly sets her free, although he 
knows for a certainty that this violence to himself 
will cost him his own life. Just before his death he 
concerns himself simply and self-sacrincingly, as if 
for his own daughter, on behalf of the orphan girl 
who is a stranger to him, and secures her fortune. 
Are we to believe that he has no existence ? We 
hear the tones of his voice, we see his face so that 
we should " know him at once in a thousand." He 
is more living and real to us than most of the people 
we meet every day in so-called " real life." 

But see, when we have grown finally to believe in 
him, then, just as he emerged from the fog, so, most 
prosaically, he vanishes into it. 

" It was early morning. A milky, thick fog lay 
over the town. Svidrigailov went off along the 
slippery, muddy wood pavement in the direction of 
the Little Neva. Not a passer-by, not a cab, did he 
meet along the Prospect. Unlovely and dirty looked 
the little bright-yellow houses, with their closed 
shutters. The cold and damp seized hold of his 
whole frame. He came in front of a large stone 
house. A tall watch-tower flashed in sight to his 
left. ' Bah ! ' he thought, ' there is the place. At 
any rate I have an official witness.' He almost 
laughed at the novel idea. At the closed great gates 
of the house stood, leaning his shoulder against them, 
a little man, muffled in a grey soldier's cloak, with 
a brass Achilles helmet. His sleepy eyes rested in- 
differently on the approaching Svidrigailov. On 
his face appeared the everlasting, sulky discontent 
which is bitterly imprinted on the faces of all 
Hebrews without exception. They both, Svidri- 

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TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

gailov and the Achilles, for some time looked at 
each other in silence. At last it occurred to Achilles 
that it was irregular for the man not to be drunk 
and stand in front of him three paces off, looking 
point blank at him and saying nothing. 

' Hey, what do you want here ? ' he cried, still 
not stirring or changing his posture. 

" ' Why, nothing, brother. Good morning ! ' re- 
plied Svidrigailov. 

" ' Here is no place for you.' 

" ' I am going to other countries, lad.' 

" ' To other countries ? ' 

" ' To America.' 

" ' To America ? ' 

' Svidrigailov drew out his revolver and cocked 
it. Achilles raised his eyebrows. 

" ' Ah, well, this is no place for that sort of shoke ' 
(joke). 

" ' And why is it not a place ? ' 

" ' Becosh it is not a place.' 

" ' Well, lad, it is all the same to me. The place 
is a good one ; when you are examined, answer that 
I said I was going to America.' 

And he put the revolver to his right temple. 
* But you mushn't here here is no place ! ' 
protested Achilles, opening his eyes still wider. 

" Svidrigailov pulled the trigger." 

This phantasm Svidrigailov is convincing. And 
we, too, " are such stuff as dreams are made of." 

The terror of " ordinary apparitions " lies partly 
in the fact that, as it were, they are conscious of their 
own paltriness and absurdity. 

Does Science profess to exhaust all the actual 

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TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

possibilities of human consciousness ? Science 
answers, " I do not know." But then it is just with 
these ; I don't knows ' that the terror of phe- 
nomena begins ; and the deeper the ' ignoramus ' 
(and when was it deeper than now ?) the more our 
disquiet. We had hoped that all the shadows of the 
non-scientific would vanish in the light of Science, 
but, on the contrary, the brighter the light, the 
blacker, more distinctly defined and mysterious are 
the shadows become. We have but extended the 
field of our ignorance. Men have become scientific, 
and their shadows, the ghosts, imitating and hurrying 
after them, grow scientific too. The phantasms 
themselves do not believe, or at least affect disbelief 
in their own reality, and laughingly style themselves 
delirium, or hallucination. 

Not only do Dostoievski's spectres pursue the 
living, but the living themselves pursue and terrify 
each other like spectres, like their own shadows, like 
their doubles. " You and I are fruit off the same 
tree," says Svidrigailov to Raskolnikov, and in spite 
of all his resistance, his callousness, the latter feels 
that it is true ; that they have certain points in 
common ; that, perhaps, even their personalities 
have a common centre. Svidrigailov has only gone 
immeasurably further along the road which Raskol- 
nikov has barely begun ; and shows him the inevitable 
super-scientific deductions from his own logic about 
good and evil stands him in stead of a magic mirror. 
And being conclusively convinced that Svidrigailov 
is not a delusion or a ghost, but living, he is just for 
that reason far more afraid than ever of his own 
shadow, his own double. " I dread that man," he 

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TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

says. " Do you know what ? ' Ivan Karamazov 
tells his footman Smerdiakov, " I am afraid you are 
a vision, a phantom that is sitting there before me." 
: There is no ghost here, no,' answers Smerdia- 
kov, ' except us two, and some third, other person. 
The third man is between us two? 

" ' Who is ? What other ? What third ? ' cried 
Ivan in alarm, looking about him and hurriedly 
searching all the corners with his eyes." 

This "third' link, in Smerdiakov's opinion, 
Providence, or God, turned out later for Ivan's 
benefit the earthly incarnation of the Smerdiakov 
spirit, the Devil. 

" You have killed," says Smerdiakov to him 
("for you are the murderer, and I only the faithful 
accomplice). It was at your order that I did it." 

Peter Verkhovenski, another character, is also the 
faithful accomplice of his master, his demigod, his 
legendary " Ivan the Tsarevich," Stavrogine. The 
latter plainly says " I laugh at my ape." And this 
dark, withered, monkey-like mask, still an endlessly 
deep and faithful mirror, is not only ridiculous to 
Stavrogine, but terrible. When he chances to call 
Peter a buffoon, the latter retorts with terrific 
vigour, and what seems justifiable heat, "I am a 
buffoon, but I do not wish you, my larger half, to be 
one. Do you understand me ? ' 

' Stavrogine understood, and he alone, it may 
be," adds Dostoievski significantly. Stavrogine 
alone understands Verkhovenski, as God alone under- 
stands the Devil, his everlasting " ape." 

Thus with Dostoievski we often get tragical con- 
trasted couples of lifelike, realistic people, who seem 

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TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

to themselves and others integral personages 
halves of some third divided being, halves that seek 
one another, doubles that shadow one another. 

Says one half to the other what Ivan, with such 
unwarrantable fervour, says to the Devil, " Not for 
a moment do I take you for an actual fact. You are 
a lie, you are my illness ; only I do not know how 
to exorcise you. You are my hallucination, my 
other mask. You are only one side of me : my 
thoughts and feelings, but only the most contemp- 
tible and foolish ones. All that there is of foolish in 
my nature," groans he spitefully, "is long since over, 
recast, thrown aside as rubbish, and you bring it 
to me as a discovery. You say just what I think, 
and are unable to say anything new to me" 

Ah ! there's the rub ! Can the Demon really 
say anything new or not ? All the terror of this 
apparition to Ivan nay, to Dostoievski himself 
lies just in this. Well, what if he can ? In any case 
there is no doubt that the Familiar of Ivan Kara- 
mazov is one of the greatest national creations of 
Dostoievski, unlike anything else in the world's 
literature, a creation that has its roots seated in 
the inmost recess of his consciousness and of his 
unconsciousness. It is not for nothing that he ex- 
presses by the mouth of the Familiar his own most 
oracular thoughts. We might trace how Dostoiev- 
ski arrived at him all through his characters. As 
regards his essence, the Demon speaks in almost the 
same words as Dostoievski himself of the essence 
of his own artistic creations, of the first source of 
that generative power from which all his works 
proceeded. 

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TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

" I am dreadfully fond of realism realism that is, 
so to speak, carried to the fantastic. What most people 
call fantastic to me forms the very essence of the real" 
says the Demon, " and therefore I love your earthly 
realism. Here with you everything is marked out, 
here are formulas and geometry, but with us all is 
a matter of indefinite equations. I walk about here 
and dream. I love to dream. Besides, on earth I 
become superstitious don't laugh, please : I like 
it. I accept all your habits here : I have got to like 
going to the tradesman's baths, that you may 
imagine, and I like steaming in company with 
tradesmen and priests. My dream is to be incar- 
nated, but finally, irrevocably, and therefore in some 
fat eight een-stone tradesman's wife, and to believe 
in all that she believes in." 

This seems coarse and absurd, but we must re- 
member that the keenest and sharpest pain ever 
felt by Dostoievski was hidden under this empty 
mask : the weariness and revolt of the Devil against 
all that is ghostly or fantastic, against all ' in- 
definite equations," are the weariness and revolt 
of himself : it is his own longing for " earthly 
realism," for " incarnation," for the health he had 
lost, the disturbed equilibrium of spirit and flesh. 
For this earthly " geometry," for his clear, precise 
formulas, for his " immutable ' adherence to the 
senses, he loved Pushkin as he did ; constantly torn 
from the earth, carried away by the whirlwind of 
his spectral visions, he sought in Pushkin points of 
support, and convulsively clung to him as to his 
native soil. He went still further, for in his gravita- 
tion towards the " sons of the soil " and the Moscow 

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TOLSTOI AND DOSTOEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

Slavophiles (also in their way " eighteen-stone 
tradesmen's wives") he found a refuge for himself 
from the terrible, sincere, inhuman reality. 

' People take all this comedy ' (the world of 
phenomena) " for something serious, in spite of all 
their undoubted wit," says the Demon further on 
in his talk with Ivan. " In that lies the tragedy. 
Well, they suffer, no doubt, but still they live, they 
live really, not in fancy : for suffering, too, is life." 

But yet the Devil is not for nothing " the third 
between the two," the link between the Russian, 
half -cosmopolitan, " squireen ' Ivan, and the 
national yet cosmopolitan valet, Smerdiakov. The 
Demon smacks of the most modern cosmopolitan 
frivolity : he seems at times old-fashioned, well- 
born, very economical (" has a look of neatness on 
very slender means "), and also recalls the sus- 
picious " gentleman ' of the latest minor press. 
And the apparition seems to take a pride in this 
" human, too human " trait, in this " immortal 
frivolity of mankind," and teases Ivan with it. 

Only at rare intervals, as if by accident, does he 
let slip some word which reminds Ivan with whom 
Ivan has to do. And then there looks out from 
behind the human face " Another " : " All that you 
have, we have ; that one secret of ours I reveal to 
you as a friend in confidence, although it is against 
the rules." 

Here is an incomplete revelation from the region 
of Noumena, a glimpse of something further and 
darker than eye of man has ever reached. This is 
abstract dialectics, the " critique of knowledge ' 
embodied in flesh and blood, laughter and terror. 

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TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

Such " noumenal ' thoughts, or mere shadows of 
thoughts, must have been puzzling Goethe when he 
created the " Mothers " in the second part of Faust, 
and Kant when thinking out his Transcendental 
Aesthetics. 

Ivan, at times, cannot restrain himself ; suddenly 
forgets that the Demon " cannot tell him anything 
new," and gets curious. 

" Is there a God, or not ? ' ' he cries with savage 
persistence. " Oh, so you are in earnest ? My dear 
fellow, by the Lord / don't know. There's a big 
admission for me to make ! ' 

" You don't know, and yet you see Him ? No, I 
forgot, you have no existence of your own you are 
merely my own imagination." 

Ivan is angry because he secretly feels himself 
wrong ; for, in spite of the wretched pun, the Devil, 
by this cynical " I don't know," has answered his 
question about God, an idle "unscientific' ques- 
tion, with the final agnostic verdict of science. 
This " I don't know " is the inevitable fruit, the 
dead and deadening fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, 
ungrafted on the Tree of Life. 

Nietzsche, even at the time when he had over- 
come, as he fancied, all the metaphysical ' sur- 
vivals ' ' could not get rid of one of them the most 
ancient, feared, and obstinate of all. On one oc- 
casion there appears to Zarathustra a dwarf, a 
repulsive hunchback, the spirit of " earthly heavi- 
ness," and reminds him of this inevitable meta- 
physical illusion, the " eternal revisitings." Zara- 
thustra, without answering, is seized with fear and 
consternation, and falls to the ground as one dead. 

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TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

Compare Dostoievski : " You are always thinking 
of our present earth," the Devil says to Ivan. " Why, 
you know, our present earth has been renewed, per- 
haps, a billion times. It has been worn out, frozen, 
cracked, split up, dissolved into its component 
principles, water has again flooded the face of the 
dry land ; then whack ! a comet again. Sun again, 
and the sun has brought back the land ; you see 
this is evolution, already repeated an endless number 
of times, and always in one and the same form to a 
hair. It's a terrible bore." " I tell you candidly," 
Svidrigailov once owns to Raskolnikov, with a 
wonderful air of simplicity, " / am very bored" 

" I like to be magnificently bored." And he orders 
" Lucia di Lammermoor " on the barrel organ. 

This metaphysical ennui is the most terrible of 
human misfortunes and sufferings. In this " earthly 
heaviness," in this terrestrial tedium, there is some- 
thing unearthly, not of this world, as it were primi- 
tive, connected with the similar, likewise " meta- 
physical/' delusion about " immortality," for in- 
stance. " Eternity ' may be sometimes imagined 
as something by no means vast. Say a neglected 
village Turkish bath-room, with musty cobwebs in 
all its corners. 

Svidrigailov, no doubt, is not less aware than the 
Posit i vis ts that " spiders " and " a bath-room " are 
merely " phenomena," things seen, and that bath- 
rooms cannot, of course, exist in the region of the 
Noumena. But then phenomena are merely symbols, 
only the names for what is behind them. 

Sometimes in reading Dostoievski a sort of chill 
comes over me : a chill, perhaps, that is not of this 

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TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKY AS ARTISTS 

earth as it were the chill of the expanses of the 
universe where 

? Tis fearsome, fearsome, in will's despite, 
Amid the viewless plains. . . . . : 

This is the terror of the " eternal revisitings," of 
the endless repetitions of which the Demon speaks 
to Ivan and the dwarf to Zarathustra ; it is the 
weariness of the " neglected bath-room with spiders 
in the corner " the endless monotony in variety 
of cosmic phenomena, risings and settings, ebbings 
and flowings, the kindling and dying out of the 
suns it is that weary " Lucia ' on the cracked 
organ, the " solemnity of boredom ' felt at times, 
even in the roar of the sea waves and the voices of 
the night wind : 

Of what is thy crying, wind of the night ? 
Of what dost thou plain thee so wildly ? 
O sing not these terrible strains 
Of chaos in which thou wast born ! 
How eager the world in the night-mood 
To list to the tale that she loves. 
From a mortal's lorn bosom it bursts, 
Longing to mix with the boundless, 
To wake the storms from their sleep, 
For beneath them stirs chaos and heaves. 

The Demon confesses : "I was there when the 
Word that died on the Cross entered into Heaven, 
bearing on His bosom the soul of the thief that had 
been crucified on His right hand. I heard the joyous 
outcries of the Cherubim, singing and shouting ' Ho- 
sanna ! ' and the thunderous roar of exultation of 
the Seraphim, which shook the sky and the fabric of 
the world ; and I swear by all that is holy I wished 

292 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

to join the choir and cry with them all * Hosanna ! ' ; 
there already escaped, there already broke from my 

breast " 

But at this point, sparing his victim for the time, 
he again hides behind his " human, too human 
mask," and concludes with levity : " I am very sen- 
timental, you know, and artistically susceptible. 
But common sense my most unfortunate quality 
kept me within due limits, and I let the moment pass. 
For what, I asked myself at the time, what would 
have resulted after my ' Hosanna ! ' ? That instant 
all would have come to a standstill in the world, and 
no events would have taken place. And so, simply 
from a sense of duty and my social position, I was 
forced to suppress in myself the good impulse and 
stick to villainy. Some one else takes all the honour 
of doing good to himself, and I am left only the bad 
for my share." 

4 1 know, of course, there is a secret there, but i 
They will not reveal it to me at any price, because, 
forsooth, if I found out the actual facts I should break 
out into a ' Hosanna ! ' and instantly the indispen- 
sable minus quantity would vanish. Reason would 
begin to reign all over the earth, and with it, of 
course, there would be an end of everything. But as 
long as this does not happen, as long as the secret is 
kept, there exist for me two truths, one up yonder, 
Theirs, which is quite unknown to me, and another 
which is mine. And it is still unknown which will 
be the purer of the two." 

These words concerning the two co-existent 
Truths, eternally-correlated, yet distinct, as im- 
mediately afterwards the Fiend explains, to con- 

293 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

elude the interview, are the truths of the God-man 
and that of the Man-god, Christ and Antichrist. 

From the contact and collision of these " two 
Truths " came Dostoievski's fire of doubt. " Really 
I do not believe in Christ and His creed as a boy 
believes, but my Hosanna has passed through a great 
furnace of doubt, as the Devil says in my pages in 
that very story " ; so runs one of his latest diaries. 

These " two Truths " have, of course, always 
existed for Tolstoi too, not in his deliberate judg- 
ment, but in his instinct. But he never had the 
strength or courage, like Dostoi'evski, to look them 
both straight in the face. 

However, even in Dostoi'evski, the strongest of his 
heroes cannot stand this view of the two Truths, 
side by side : Ivan throws a glass at the Fiend like 
a woman, as if in dread that he will in the end really 
tell him something new, too new. And it would 
seem that he himself could not bear the theory, and 
never spoke his last decisive word on the subject. 

His Principle of Evil, of Loss, says merely : ' / 
am leading you between alternate waves of belief and 
disbelief, and that is the object I have in view" 

Does it not seem as if this Fiend, in spite of his 
tail, like a "Great Dane's," and the fact that "philo- 
sophy is not his strong point," had read to advan- 
tage the Critique of Pure Reason ? The Voltaireans 
of the eighteenth and our own century (for there are 
not a few of them in our day, though under other 
names), these " philosophers without mathematics," 
as Halley, the friend of Newton, put it, would cer- 
tainly have managed to deal with him without much 
difficulty. But perhaps minds of more exactitude 

294 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOlEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

and judgment than theirs, minds of the stamp of 
Pascal and Kant, would have had to wrestle in the 
same way, to " put forth their manhood " against 
this phantom, in order to drive out the " ten- 
thousandth part " of doubt or belief, which he still 
inspires. 

Leaving the Romanticists out of the question, 
even such a lover of all that was realistic as Goethe 
sometimes felt that the paltriness of the Europe of 
his day was getting too much for him ; and in his 
search after the supernatural, which, if it did not 
quench, at least assuaged the religious thirst, went 
to the Middle Ages or classical antiquity. Dos- 
toievski first, and so far alone, among writers of 
modern times, has had the strength, while adhering 
to present-day actuality, to master and transform it 
into something more mysterious than all the legends 
of past ages. He was the first to see that what 
seems most trivial, rough, and fleshly marches with 
what is most spiritual, or, as he called it, " fantastic," 
i.e. religious. And he was the first that succeeded 
in finding the sources of the supernatural, not in the 
remote, but in penetrating the ordinary. 

Not in abstract speculations, but in exact experi- 
ments, worthy of our present science, in human souls 
did Dostoievski show that the work of universal 
history, which began with the Renaissance and the 
Reformation, the method of strictly scientific, criti- 
cal, discriminating thought, if not already completed, 
is approaching completion ; that " this road has all 
been traversed to the end, so that there is no further 
to go," and that not only Russia, but all Europe has 
' reached a certain final point and is tottering over 

295 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOlEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

an abyss." At the same time he showed with an 
almost complete clearness of judgment that we must 
inevitably turn to the work of the new thought, 
creative and religious. 

All the veils of obsolete, theological, or meta- 
physical dogmatism have been removed or torn 
away by the criticism of knowledge. But behind 
these veils there proved to be not barren emptiness, 
not unvarying ineptitude (as the facile sceptics of 
the eighteenth century supposed, with their light 
incredulity), but a living and attracting deep, the 
most living and the most attractive ever laid bare 
before men's eyes. The overthrow of dogmatism 
not only does not prevent, but more than anything 
tends to the possibility of a true religion ./Super- 
stitious, fabulous phantasms lose their substance, 
but reality itself beomes merely conditional, not 
superstitious, but only unbelieving, and for some 
reason, all the more it does so, more than ever a 
phantom. Religious and metaphysical dreams lose 
their reality, but waking itself becomes " as real as 
dreams." How much more terrible, much more 
monstrous than Dante's Hell, in which rules a certain 
kind of wild justice, that is religious Cosmos, are 
these " waking dreams," no longer sanctified by any 
kind of religion, and all chaotic : as fantastical and 
yet as real is the raving of Zarathustra about 
" eternal revisitings." Is it possible, in fact, to 
live with such blind ravings, to which science re- 
plies only with her cynical "Go to a doctor," or 
with the dry and laconic " I don't know," like 
knocking one's forehead against a wall ? No, after 
four centuries of labour and critical reflection the 

396 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

world does not remain as terrible and mysterious as 
it was. It has become still more awe-inspiring and 
enigmatic. In spite of all its unspeakable outward 
dulness and poorness, in spite of this commonplace- 
ness, the world has never yet been so ripe for re- 
ligion as in our day, and withal for a religion that 
is final and will complete the world's evolution, 
partly fulfilled at the first, and predicted for the 
second coming of the Word. 

In fact present-day European man has before him 
the unavoidable choice between three courses. The 
first is final recovery from the disease which in that 
case men would have to call the " idea of God." 
This would be recovery to a greater blank than the 
present, because now at least men suffer. Com- 
plete positive recovery from " God " is possible only 
in the complete, but as yet only dimly foreshadowed, 
vacuity of a social tower of Babel. The second 
course is to die of this complaint by final degenera- 
tion, decay, or " decadence," in the madness of 
Nietzsche and Kirillov, the prophets of the Man- 
god, who, forsooth, is to extirpate the God-man. 
And, lastly, the third resort is the religion of a last 
great union, a great Symbolon, the religion of a 
Second Coming, the religion of the voluntary end 
of all. 

Here, by the bye, it is necessary to make a reserva- 
tion. Dostoievski was not fully conscious, or pre- 
tended not to be conscious of the importance to his 
own religious ideas of the most cherished and 
profound idea in Christianity, the idea of the end, 
of the Second Kingdom, which is to complete and 
supplement the first of the Kingdom of the Spirit, 

?97 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

which is to come after that of the Son. Dostoievski 
thought more of the first than of the second, more of 
the reign of the Son than of that of the Spirit ; and 
believed more in Him who was and is than in Him 
who was, is, and is to be. That which men have 
already received in his eyes outweighed that which 
they, as yet, cannot receive. 

He only put his riddles to us. From the ne- 
cessity of solving them he himself was divided only 
by a hair's breadth. But we are face to face with 
them ; we must either solve them, or gradually 
perish. 



298 



CHAPTER XVI 

WHAT is the true relation between Art and Religion ? 
It is a difficult subject. But I may venture to say 
that, in the view taken of beauty by the so-called 
aesthetes in their doctrine of " Art for Art's sake," 
there is something that is, perhaps, true, but in- 
sufficiently modest. Beauty loves to be seen, but 
does not love to be pointed at. Beauty, I say, is 
modest : she seems altogether the most modest 
thing in the world, covering herself as God does, 
who covers His inmost spirit with the half-trans- 
parent veil of phenomena. 

In the aesthetes' view of beauty there is also a 
certain lack of pride. Beauty loves to be served, 
but loves also to serve. The great artists sometimes 
make her a slave, or victim, as if they were sacri- 
ficing or were ready to sacrifice her to higher powers, 
because they know that at the very last minute, 
before the act of sacrifice, like Iphigenia under the 
knife of her father Agamemnon, beauty will become 
fairer than ever ; in sooth, at that last moment, for 
the most part the gods save her by a miracle, and, like 
Iphigenia, carry her to inaccessible coasts, where 
she becomes their immortal daughter. 

Tragedy, the most perfect creation of the Hellenic 
spirit, was the outcome of a religious mystery, and 

299 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOlEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

throughout its evolution, preserved a living con- 
nexion with religion, so that the action of the drama 
was half a religious service, the theatre half a temple. 
Just in the same way all great art in its prime was 
the handmaid of religion. It was only when, by 
contact with the coarser and more outward Roman 
culture, this link of Art with Religion was snapped, 
when they began to collect the gods (from whom 
life had already fled) into Pantheons and museums 
and palaces of the Caesars as objects of luxury and 
gratification, when the phenomena of the beautiful 
were exhausted, that talk about beauty began, and 
Alexandrian "aestheticism," "Art for Art's sake," 
Art as a religion in itself, came into vogue. And this 
doctrine, begotten in a sterile time and generating 
nothing, was the precursor of Roman decline and 
" decadence." 

In the untutored " symbolic " prattle of Christian 
wall-painting in the catacombs the severed bond 
between Art and Religion is again knit and becomes 
more vital, more binding ; from the first subter- 
ranean basilicas, the Galilean legends of the Good 
Shepherd, to the Gothic spires rising into the sky 
of mediaeval cathedrals, and " the consecrated 
gestes," the Mystery plays, from which came the 
new drama. 

The Italian Renaissance seemed once more to 
destroy, but in reality only transformed this bond. 
The face of Christ in Leonardo's Last Supper is not 
the face of the Christ whose vicegerent is the Pope, 
whether he be Gregory, Hildebrand, or Alexander 
Borgia : the " prophets and sibyls on the ceiling of 
the Sistine Chapel are the Old Testament ancestors 

30Q 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

and ancestresses of the New Testament, which has 
no place in the Catholic Church, and cannot have. 
Both the great propagators of the religious spirit of 
the Renaissance, Leonardo and Michael Angelo, are 
nearest to us, and will probably be nearer to our 
descendants than to their own contemporaries. They 
both deepened and strengthened the connexion of 
Art with Religion, but jwith the Religion not of the 
present, but of the future. 

In any case, neither of them enters the territory 
of " Art for Art's sake " : they are more than artists. 
Michael Angelo is a sculptor-painter, a sculptor even 
in his painting, the designer of St. Peter's, the 
builder of Florentine fortifications, the favourite of 
Vittoria Colonna, poet, scholar, thinker, prophet. 
But even he seems almost limited compared with 
Leonardo. The artistic creations and immense 
scientific notebooks of Leonardo, until quite lately 
not explored or appreciated, for want of a similarly 
all-embracing intelligence, give only a feeble idea of 
the actual extent of his powers. Apparently no man 
ever carried with him to the grave such a store of 
well-nigh superhuman possibilities. 

Raphael, as if alarmed at this incredible inheri- , 
tance, took for his province only the smallest and 
least weighty part of it. He immensely contracted 
and narrowed the sphere of his contemplation : he 
confined himself to aiming at the possible, and for 
his pains actually achieved it : he wished only to 
be an artist, and so really was one in a more com- 
plete measure than the two others. But at the same 
time through Raphael, this " fortunate lad " 
' fortunato garzon" as Francia calls him was ac- 

301 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

complished the passage of the great world-historical 
mountain-barrier of the Renaissance the ascent 
was at an end, the descent began. He made possible 
the phenomenon of such an " asthete," the pre- 
cursor of our present-day asthetic repletion and 
monotony, as Pietro Aretino, who scowled at Leo- 
nardo, laughed at Michael Angelo, and defied Titian, 
as the incarnator of " pure beauty," Art, not for 
Religion, but as a Religion, the purely material, posi- 
tive, epicurean, godless religion of self-gratification, 
of " Art for Art's sake." 

Now Tolstoi and Dostoievski have two character- 
istics which approximate them to the great initiators 
of all " Renascence." In the first place the art of 
both is in communion with religion, but that not of 
the present, but the future. In the second they do 
not dwell within the bounds of Art as a self-sufficing 
religion, what is called " pure Art." Their feet 
cannot but transgress these bounds and pass out 
beyond them. 

The weakness and the error of Tolstoi lie not in 
the fact that he wished to be more, but merely in 
this, that in his efforts to be more he sometimes 
became less than an artist ; not in his wishing to 
serve God by his art, but in his serving not his own, 
but another's God. 

And yet in him and such as him we feel the real, 
though not yet realized, possibility of a profounder, 
a more religious theory of Art than the purely 
artistic. Is it not just in this constant inward 
struggle and suffering, in this insatiate and insatiable 
thirst for fame merely as an artist, in this unheard-of 
self-mortification and suicide of genius that lies the 

302 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

true tragic greatness and glory of the man ? For 
even merely to will is sometimes a mark of greatness : 
one must first merely will in order that another may 
both will and achieve. 

As regards Dostoi'evski then, it is already, I fancy, 
quite plain that his creations as little satisfy the 
' aesthetic," the worshippers of " pure beauty," of 
' Art for Art's sake," as their opponents who look 
for the useful and the good in the beautiful, to whom 
Dostoievski will always seem a " cruel genius." He 
not only had in him to fulfil, but in a considerable 
measure realized, one of the greatest possibilities of 
our day. He had not the special gift of Tolstoi, yet 
had one that was not less important. He not only 
wished to be, but was, the proclaimer of a new re- 
ligious view, and a prophet indeed. 

We can understand the consternation of one of 
the worthy Popes at the countless number of bare 
bodies painted by Michael Angelo on the ceiling and 
wall behind the throne of the Sis tine Chapel. He 
could not see that these bodies were sacred and 
spiritual, or at any rate might be spiritualized. 
Perhaps he experienced a feeling like Prince Andrei 
at the sight of " the number of soldiers stripped and 
disporting themselves ' in the muddy pond on the 
Smolensk road, a feeling of terror and aversion. 

In fact it is just here in the Sistine Chapel that ; 
Michael Angelo, with unheard-of boldness, stripped^ 
Man of his thousand-year-old Christian covering and, 
like the ancients, again looked into the mystic depths 
of the body that inaccessible "gulf," as Tolstoi 
calls it. And in the faces of the naked, weeping, 
seemingly intoxicated youths, the elemental Demons 

3<>3 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

round the Old Testament frescoes in the Sistine, as 
in the face of Moses at San Pietro in Vincoli, that 
dread, inhuman face, with the monstrous horns 
instead of a nimbus, Pan-like, Satyr-like, goatish, 
we see revived the Aryan idea, immemorially old, 
yet ever new, of the union of the divine and the 
animal, of " God's creature," of the God-beast. 
These half-gods, half-beasts, by whom the natural 
is carried into the supernatural, these beings, huge- 
sinewed and muscular, in whom " we see only the 
face and the body, but the soul at times seems 
absent," are pjrpgtTarvt with an electric, Bacchic 
excess of animal life, like the " Night " and " Morn- 
ing" of the Medici monument, the "Cumaean Sibyl," 
or the " ^cythian captives," as if they wished, but 
could not awake out of a trance, and with vain, 
incredible effort were striving after thought, con- 
sciousness, spiritualization, deliverance from the 
flesh, the stone, the matter which binds them. 
There is nothing that has less desire to be Christian 
than they. 

Now, as Michael Angelo looked into the abyss of 
the flesh, so Leonardo contemplated its opposite, 
the not less deep abyss of the spirit. He, so to speak, 
started at the point which Michael Angelo had just 
reached. All his productions are " spiritual bodies," 
carried to a degree of ethereality and transparency 
at which it would seem the spirit within burns 
through them : they " scarcely feel that they have 
bodies on them." Leonardo's caricatures of men 
and animals, those faces full of diabolical distortion, 
like the other faces in his drawings, full of angelical 
charm, in which, as Dostoi'evski puts it, ' ' the secret 

304 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOlEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

of the earth mingles with the mystery of the stars," 
are like visions or phantoms, but they are phantoms 
of mathematically-defined and exact construction, 
phantoms with flesh and blood, most fantastic, and 
at the same time most life-like. " I love realism 
when it is carried to the fantastic," says Dostoievski. 
Seemingly both he and Leonardo might say with 
the greatest truth, " I love the fantastic when it is 
carried to the point of realism." To them both " the 
fantastic sometimes constitutes the very essence of the 
actual" They both seek and find " what is sub- 
stantial as a dream" by pushing to the extremest 
limits the realistic and the actual. The creator of 
Monna Lisa, too, is a great psychologist, " a realist 
in the highest sense," because he " explores all the 
depths of the human soul." He, too, makes cruel, 
even criminal " experiments with human souls." 
In these experiments we find our modern scientific 
curiosity that shrinks from nothing, a combination 
of geometrical exactness with enthusiastic insight. 
His most abstract thought is his most passionate 
thought ; it is of God, of the First Mover within the 
divine mechanism, Primo Motore. Mechanics and 
religion, learning and love, ice and fire, go together. 

; Love is the daughter of Learning : the more exact 
the learning, the more fiery the love." Leonardo 
was the first to depict the new tragedy the tragedy 
not only of the heart, but of reason in his Last 
Supper, in the birth of Evil, by which God died in 
Man, through the opposition of the passionate, 

' human, too human," figure of Judas and the calm 
superhuman figure of the Lord. Who was nearer 

than he, to the first secret appearance of the Word 

35 x 



i 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTO'fEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

made Flesh, to the reign of the Son ? Was it not 
only a step that divided the maker of the figure of 
Christ in the Last Supper from the second incarna- 
tion in which I believe, from the ever-intensifying 
reign of the Spirit ? But Leonardo never took that 
step ; and so he never finished the face of Christ on 
the wall of Maria delle Grazie. His dream- " to be 
incarnated finally and without recall ' -thus re- 
mained only a dream. And, in spite of all his love 
for Euclidian formulae, for earthly " realism," he 
yet passed over the earth, scarcely leaving a trace : 
like a shadow, a phantom, a bloodless spirit, with 
silent lips and face avertecLy 

The excess of spiritual sensitiveness, the acuteness 
of it which we find in Leonardo, expressed as much 
morbidity, decadence, incompleteness, as the excess 
of the bodily, the animal, the elemental " whirl of 
chaos " in Michael Angelo. 

Such are these two gods or Demons of the Renais- 
sance in their external contradiction and their 
eternal oneness. 

They were two likenesses of Daemons twain : 

One like the Delphian image, a young form, 

Angered and full of awful majesty 

And breathing all of power beyond these realms. 

The other, womanlike, and formed for passion, 

A dubious phantom and deceptive, 

A witching Demon, fair as he was false. 

Raphael not only failed to reconcile, but failed to 
feel this contradiction. But the truce in him be- 
tween the two chimeras was too facile and super- 
ficial, too cheaply purchased, safe and rational- 
" both ours and yours." This feminine submission 

306 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

./vith regard to Christianity and Paganism, the pro- 
phetic vision of Ezekiel and that of Pope Leo X., 
this insinuating flattery of the " fortunate lad," 
opened in the end the door to the hypocritical, cold 
Philistine and unoriginal convention of " secentism ' 
which ruined the Renaissance and prevented its 
1 ripening " and succeeding. Even now it is await- 
ing completion. 

But this contradiction could not be evaded. It 
awoke with the spirit of the Renaissance in men like 
Goethe and Nietzsche. It could not fail also to j 
affect the two latest exponents of national Renais- 
sance, Tolstoi and Dostoievski. 

We have seen that Tolstoi is the greatest por- 
trayer of the human animal in language, as Michael 
Angelo was in colours and marble. He is the first 
who has dared to strip the human frame of all social 
and historical wrapping and again entertain the 
Aryan idea. Tolstoi is the Russian Michael Angelo, 
the re-discoverer of the human body, and although 
we feel all over his works the Semitic dread of the 
body, yet he has felt the possibility of a final victory 
over this dread, complete as in the days of Praxiteles 
and Phidias. J 

Just as Tolstoi has explored the depths of the 
flesh, so Dostoievski explored those of the spirit, and 
showed that the upper gulf is as deep as the lower, 
-that one degree of human consciousness is often 
divided from another, one thought from another by 
as great an inaccessibility as divides the human 
embryo from non-existence. And he has wrestled 
with the terrors of the Spirit, that of consciouness 
/over-distinct and over-acute, with the terror of all 

307 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

that is abstract, spectral, fantastical, and at the 
same time pitilessly real and matter-of-fact. Men 
feared or hoped that some day reason would dry 
up the spring of the heart, that knowledge would 
kill emotion, not conscious that they are coupled 
and that one is impossible without the other. That 
fact embodies our last and highest hope. 

Raphael, the uniter, or would-be uniter of the two 
opposite poles of the Italian Renaissance, followed 
after Leonardo and Michael Angelo. The order of 
trinity of our Russian Renaissance is reversed. Our 
Raphael is Pushkin. And he precedes Tolstoi and 
Dostoi'evski, who have consciously divided and 
fathomed what was by nature in Pushkin uncon- 
sciously combined. If Tolstoi be the thesis, Dos- 
toi'evski the antithesis, there must, by the law of 
- -' j 

dialectical evolution, follow a final, harmonizing 
Symbolon, higher than Pushkin's, because more 
profound, religious, and deliberate. 

Yet, while thinking of the future, it is impossible 
to leave out of the question the present of our 
national culture. And that is just where our doubt, 
our humility begins. Can we, in fact, disguise from 
ourselves that this present is more than painful, 
that it seems almost hopeless ? It is hard to believe 
that present Russian culture is the same which a 
generation and a half ago gave to the world at once 
in quick succession two such phenomena as Peter 
and Pushkin, and in the following half century 
Tohtoi and Dostoievski. It is hard to believe that 
scarcely a quarter of a century ago, almost within 
the memory of the present generation, the two 
greatest works of the European literature of the 

308 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKI AS ARTISTS 

day were produced in Russia Anna Karenina and 
The Brothers Karamazov. After these two great 
national attainments, what a sudden falling away, 
what an abrupt descent ! 

Russia may be proud of her geniuses, but would 
these geniuses have been proud of their country 
to-day ? 

On all the phenomena of our modern spirit is set 
the seal of philosophic and religious impotence and 
unfruitfulness. 

Would Dostoi'evski the prophet, if now alive, 1 
have abjured his prophecy concerning the world- 
wide destiny of the Russian spirit ? A friend of 
his, once a passionate believer in that destiny, 
wrote at last : 

And lo ! the Lord inexorably 
Has rejected thee, my country ! 

The political and outward social helplessness of 
that social order is vaster still. Nietzsche is the 
culminating point none can go further of the 
revolt against that society. We Russians cannot, 
as we have so often done before, evade the responsi- 
bility put it off our shoulders on to those of 
Western Europe. We must look to ourselves for \ 
salvation, if salvation of Europe there is to be. 

There is a handful of Russians certainly no more 
hungering and thirsting after the fulfilment of 
their new religious Idea : who believe that in a 
fusion between the thought of Tolstoi and that of 
Dostoi'evski will be found the Symbol the union 
to lead and revive. 

1 He died in 1881: 
309 



TOLSTOI AND DOSTOIEVSKY AS ARTISTS 

A child's hand may unseal the invisible will in any 
one of us ; may unseal the spring of immense and 
exploding waters living forces of destruction and 
regeneration. It needs, perhaps, but that the 
meanest of us should say to himself : " Either I 
must do this thing, or none will," and the face of 
the earth will be changed. 



NOTE. The author has continued the above subject in a 
Study of the Religion of Tolstoi and Dostoevski. 
Whether this Study shall be given to the English 
and American public will depend upon the reception 
accorded to his foregoing book. ED. 



Butler & Tanner, The Selwood Printing Works, Frome, and London. 

310 



The Forerunner 

The Romance of Leonardo da Vinci 

By DMITRI MEREJKOWSKI 

Crown 8vo. Price 6s. 

" A novel of very remarkable interest and power. It 
is a most vivid picture of a most vivid and picturesque 
time." Guardian. 

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A CATALOGUE OF BOOKS 

PUBLISHED BY 

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PAGE 

HISTORY, BIOGRAPHY, AND CRITICISM . . 3 
TRAVEL . . . . . . . . . . .14 

SPORT . . ... . . . . . . 17 

NAVAL AND MILITARY . . . . . . . 18 

FINE ART 20 

EDUCATIONAL AND TECHNICAL . aa 

RELIGIOUS 31 

FICTION 33 

POETRY 43 

BOOKS FOR THE YOUNG 47 

INDEX 49 

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INDEX TO AUTHORS 



ADDISON, JOSEPH, 22. 

Alien,' 33. 

Allen, Rev. G. C., 42. 

Andom, R., 33. 

Anitchkow, Michael, 3. 

Anon., 3, 33. 

Arber, Professor Edward, 22-25. 

Argyll, Duke of, 33. 

Armstrong, Arthur Coles, 42. 

Arnold, T. W., 3. 

Arnold, Sir Edwin, 45. 

Ascham, Roger, 22, 23. 

BACON, LORD, 23. 
Bain, R. Nisbet, 3. 
Ballin, Mrs. A., 26. 
Bankes, Roden, 26. 
Barmby, Beatrice Helen, 42. 
Barnfield, Richard, 25. 
Bartholomew, J.G.,F.R.G.S., 14. 
Bates, Arlo, 33. 
Battersby, Caryl, 42. 
Battye, A. Trevor-, F.L.S., 14. 
Baughan, B. E., 42. 
Bayley, Sir Steuart Colvin, 7. 
Beatty, William, M.D., 3. 
Beaumont, Worby, 26. 
Berthet, E., 33. ' 
Bertram, James, 4. 
Bidder, George, 42. 
Bidder, M., 33. 

Birdwood, Sir George, M.D., 
K.C.I.E., C.S.I., LL.D., 15. 
Birrell, Augustine, Q. C. , M. P. , 4. 
Black, C. E. D., 10. 
Blount, Bertram, 26. 
Bonavia, Emmanuel, M.D., 26. 
Boswell, James, 4. 
Bower, Marian, 33. 
Brabant, Arthur Baring, 10. 
Bradley, A. G., 4. 
Brame, J. S. S., 28. 
Bright, Charles, F.R.S.E., 4. 
Bright, Edward Brailston, C.E.,4. 
Brownell, W. C., 20. 



Browning, Robert, 42. 
Bryden, H. A., 33. 
Burroughs, John, 5. 

CAIRNES, CAPT. W. E., 33. 
Campbell, James Dykes, 42. 
Campbell, Lord Archibald, 5. 
Capes, Bernard, 33. 
Carmichael, M., 34. 
Caxton, William, 24. 
' Centurion,' 5. 
Chailley-Bert, J., 5. 
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. Joseph, 

M.P., D.C.L., LL.D., 5. 
Chambers, R. W., 34. 
Charles, Joseph F., 34. 
Charrington, Charles, 34. 
Coldstream, J. P. , 26. 
Cole, Alan S., 20. 
Collins, J. Churton, 5- 
Conway, Sir William Martin, 14. 
Cooper, Bishop Thomas, 25. 
Cooper, E. H., 34. 
Cornish, F. Warre, 34. 
Courtney, W. L., 5. 
Coxon, Ethel, 34. 
CunynHiame, Henry, 20. 
C^ rtt ^ r Maj.-Gen. Fendall, 5. 
Curzori, The Right Hon. George 

N. (Lord Curzon of Kedles- 

ton), 5. 

DALE,T.F. (Stoneclink), 17, 34. 
Daniell, A. E., 20, 31. 
Danvers, Fred. Charles, 7. 
Darnley, Countess of, 34. 
Davidson, Thomas, 6. 
Decker, Thomas, 24. 
Deighton, Kenneth, 6. 
De Bury, Mile. Blaze, 6. 
Denny, Charles E., 34. 
Dinsmore, Charles A. , 6. 
Doughty, Charles, 43. 
Doyle, C. W., 34. 
Dryden, John, 43. 



49 



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Duff, C. M., 6. 
Durand, Lady, 15. 
Dutt, K. C, C.I.E,, 6. 

KAKLE, ALICE MORSE, 12. 
I irle, John, 22. 
l-illiott, Robert H., 15. 
I'.nglehardt, A. P., 15. 

FILIPPI, FlLIPPO DB, 15. 
Fish, Simon, 24. 
Klowerdew, Herbert, 35. 
Forbes- Robertson, Frances, 35. 
Ford, Paul Leicester, 35. 
Fox, Arthur W., 6. 

GAIRDNER, JAMKS, 6. 

Gale, Norman, 43. 

Gall, John, M.A., LL.B., 27. 

Gardner, Edmund, 43. 

Gascoigne, George, 22. 

Gemmer, C. M., 43. 

Glasgow, Ellen, 35. 

Godkin, E. L., 6, 7. 

GofHc, Charles le, 36. 

Gomme, G. Laurence, 7, 36, 37, 

47- 
Googe, Barnabe, 23. 

Gosson, Stephen, 22. 
Graham, David, 43. 
Granby, Marchioness of, 20. 
Greene, Robert, M.A., 24. 
Gribble, Francis, * 
Guillemard, Dr. l*rie, I 
Gwynn, Paul, 35. 

HABINOTON, WILLIAM, 23. 

Hackel, Eduard, 27. 

Hake, A. Egmont, 7. 

Hanna, Col. II. B., 7, 18. 

Hannan, Charles, F.R.G.S., 35. 

Ilarald, J. H., *i. 

Harewood, Fred., 33. 

Harris, Joel Chandler (Uncle 

Remus), 35. 
Hayden, E. G., 7. 
Hewitt, J. F., 7. 
Hewlett, Maurice, 35. 
Hodgson, R. LI., 15, 34. 
Holden, Ed. S., LL.D., 8. 
Holland, Clive, 27. 



Hope, W. II. St. John, 8, 20. 
Houfe, C. A., 8. 
Ilowell, James, 23. 
1 1 (inter, Sir W. W., 8. 
1 1 ut ten, Baroness von, 35. 
Hyde, William, 21. 

IRWIN, SIDNEY T., 8. 

JAMKS, HENRY, 35, 36. 
James, Kinj*, the First, 23. 
James, William, 8. 
J. inline, Hon. Mr. Justice, 16. 
Johnston, Mary, 35, 36. 
Joy, George, 25. 

KENNEDY, ADMIRAL, 17. 
Kingsley, Charles, 36. 
Knox, John, 24. 
Krehbicl, Henry E., 8. 

LACHAMBRE, HENRI, 15. 
Lafargue, Philip, 36. 
Lane-roole, Stanley, 8. 
Latimer, Hugh, 22. 
Leach, A. F., M.A., 8, 27. 
Leaf, Cecil H., M.A., 27. 
Leaf, H. M., M.I.K.E., 27. 
Legg, L. G. Wickliam, 8, 21. 
Lever, Rev. Thomas, 23. 
Lewes, Vivian B., 28. 
Loti, Pierre, 36. 
Lover, Samuel, 36. 
Lyly, John, 22. 
Lytton, Lord, 36. 

MACFARLANE, CHARLES, 37. 
MacGeorge, G. W., 8. 
Machuron, Alexis, 15. 
M;u:Il\v;iine, Herbert C., 37. 
Macleod, Fiona, 37, 48. 
MacNair, Major J. F. A. , 9. 
Machray, Robert, 37. 
Madge, H. D., Rev., 31. 
Marprelate, Martin, 24. 
Mason, A. E. W., 37. 
Masterman, N., 9. 
Mayo, John Horsley, 1 8. 
M'Candlish, J. M., 10. 
Mcllwraith, Jean, 37. 
McLaws, Lafayette, 37. 






2 WHITEHALL GARDENS, WESTMINSTER 



Meakin, A. M. B., 16. 
Meredith, George, 9, 21, 37, 38, 

43- 
Merejkowski, Dmitri, 38. 

Metcalfe, Charles Theophilus, 

C.S.I., 9. 
Meynell, Alice, 21. 
Mills, E. I-, 44. 
Milton, John, 22. 
Mitchell, II. G., 32. 
Monier Williams, Sir M., 

K.C.I. I'.., 7* 

Monk of Evesham, A, 23. 
Montague, Charles, 39. 
More, Sir Thomas, 22. 
M orison, M., 9, 28. 

Morison, Theodore, 9. 
Mowbray, J. P., 39. 
Mlinsterberg, Hugo, 9. 

NANSEN, FRIDTJOK, 16. 
Naunton, Sir Robert, 23. 
Nesbit, E., 44. 
Newberry, Percy E., 10, 21. 
Newman, Mrs., 39. 
Nisbet, John, 10. 

O'DONOGHUE, J. T., 56. 

Ookhtomsky, Prince E. , 16. 
Oppert, Gustav, 10. 

PAINE, ALBERT BIGBLOW, 48. 
Palmer, Walter, M.P., 10. 
Parker, Nella, 39. 
Payne, Will, 39. 
Peel, Mrs., 28. 
Penrose, Mrs. H. H., 39. 
Perks, Mrs. Hartley, 39. 
Piatt, John James, 44. 
Piatt, Mrs., 44. 
Pickering, Sidney, 39. 
Pincott, F., 44. 
Popowski, Joseph, 10. 
Powell, F. York, 42. 
Prichard, Hesketh, 16. 
Prichard, K. & Hesketh, 39. 
Puttenham, George, 23. 

RAIT, R. S., 10, 44, 45. 

Raleigh, Sir Walter, 23. 



Reed, Marcus, 39, 58. 

Rice, Louis, 10. 

Rinder, E. Wingate, 36. 

4 Rita,' 39. 

Roberts, Morley, 16. 

Robertson, David, 27. 

Robinson, Clement, 24. 

Rogers, Alexander, 45. 

Rogers, C. J. , 28. 

Roosevelt, Theodore, II. 

Round, J. Horace, M.A., u. 

Roy, W., 23. 

Russell, W. Clark, 40. 

Ryley, Rev. J. Buchanan, II, 32. 

SANGERMANO, FATHER, 16. 

Sapte, Brand, 7. 

Schweitzer, Georg, 11. 

Scott, Eva, II. 

Scott, Sir Walter, 40. 

Scrutton, Percy E. , 28. 

Selden, John, 22. 

Selfe, Rose E., 12. 

Setoun, Gabriel, 40. 

Shakespeare, William, 45. 

Sharp, William, 40. 

Siborne, Captain William, II, 18. 

Sichel, Edith, 12. 

Sidney, Sir Philip, 22. 

Sinclair, May, 40. 

Sinclair, Ven. Archdeacon, D.D., 

52. 

Skrine, J. Huntley, 32, 45. 
Slaughter, Frances, 34. 
Smith, Edward, 12. 
Smith, F. Hopicinson, 40. 
Smith, Captain John, 25. 
Smythe, A. J., 12. 
Sneath, E. Hershey, 12, 32. 
Soane, John, 40. 
Somervell, Arthur, 48. 
Somerville, William, 43. 
Spalding, Thomas Alfred, 12, 18. 
Spenser, Edmund, 45. 
Stadling, J., 16. 
Stanihurst, Richard, 24. 
Stanton, Frank L., 45. 
Steel, Flora Annie, 40. 
Stein, M. A., 12. 
Stevenson, Wallace, 45. 
Stoker, Bram, 40, 41. 



ARCHIBALD CONSTABLE & CO. LTD 



Stoneclink (T. F. Dale), 6, 17, 34. 
Street, G. S., 12, 41. 
Stuart, John, 12. 
Sturgis, Julian, 41. 

TARVER, J. C., 29. 
Thompson, Francis, 46. 
Thomson, J. J., F.R.S., 29. 
Thomson, James, 46. 
Thorburn, S. S., 41. 
Thornton, Surg. -General, C.B., 

13- 

Torrey, Joseph, 29. 

Tottel, R., 23. 
Townsend, Meredith, 12. 
Traill, H. D., 13. 
Trench, Herbert, 38. 
Turner, H. H., F.R.S., 29. 
Tynan, Katharine, 41. 

UDALL, REV. JOHN, 24. 
Udall, Nicholas, 23. 

VALLERY-RADOT, R., 13. 
Vibart, Colonel Henry M., 13, 19. 
Villiers, George, 22. 



WADDELL, Surg.-Maj. J. A., 16. 

Walker, Charles, 17. 

Warren, Kate M., 28, 30. 

Watson, Thomas, 23. 

Webb, Surgeon-Captain, W. W., 

30. 

Webbe, E., 22. 
Webbe, William, 23. 
Wesslau, O. E., 7. 
White, W. Hale, 42. 
White, Percy, 41. 
White, Stewart .,41. 
Whiteway, R. S., 13. 
Wicksteed, Rev. P. H., 13, 43. 
Wigram, Percy, 7. 
Wilkinson, Spenser, 13, 18, 19. 
Wilson, A. J., 17. 
Wilson, J. M., M.A., 32. 
Wilson, Robert, 46. 
Wilson, Sarah, 32. 
Winslow, Anna Green, 13. 
Wood, Walter, 13. 

YOUNG, ERNEST, 16. 

' ZACK,' 41. 
Zimmermann, Dr. A., 50. 






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Problems of Modern Democracy. 

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Hayden (E. G.) Travels Round our Village. *ZL ^ 

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