Leo Tolstoy Biography. “The hero of my tale, whom I love with all the power of my soul, whom I have tried to portray in all his beauty, who has. Leo Tolstoy Life & Notable Works Literature Leo Tolstoy A BRIEF-BIOGRAPHY & CONTRIBUTIONS TO ENGLISH LITERATURE maroc-evasion.info Rao M.A.(Eng), maroc-evasion.info Examine the life, times, and work of Leo Tolstoy through detailed author biographies on eNotes. Leo Tolstoy Biography print Print; document PDF.
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Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy was one of Russia's greatest writers. He was born on August 28th,. , at Yasnaya Polyana, his father's house in the country. Trace the life and writing career of Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy, author of the acclaimed novels War and Peace, Anna Karenina and The Death. Leo Tolstoy is a world-character who in some If wealth, lineage, and position are an advantage, Leo Tolstoy the way of direct autobiography, and Behrs' Re-.
Tolstoy described the incident as devastating and his first encounter with the preordained reality of death. This state continued for at least one year till After getting over his shock and grieves, Tolstoy accepted the honorary post of Justice of the Peace in During their courtship, Tolstoy gave his personal diaries to Sofia as he wanted her to learn of his faults before they married.
Though she consented to the marriage, she could not get over the shocking content of the diaries for the rest of her life. However in other matter, Sofia proved a good wife and a great help to his literary work. She assisted him with business correspondence, writing drafts and organizing his rough notes. The couple had 12 children, five of whom died in their childhood.
Major Writing Works Tolstoy began to write his masterpiece War and Peace in and six volumes of the book were published between the year and His started his next classic Anna Karenina in , which was a reflection of his own married life, and was first published in the Russian Herald in During this period he experienced his deepest fear of self questioning and self criticizing as father and husband.
He harshly disparaged himself for his egoistical concerns and self interest. These thoughts left him in depths of despair and a state of moral crisis. Overwhelmed by the bouts of remorse and grief upon his previous life, he wrote his Confession in He further wrote a number of books, criticizing the Orthodox Church and government. Conversion and Last Days of Tolstoy In his later life, Tolstoy preached non-violence, vegetarianism and chastity.
He himself gave up meat, alcohol and tobacco, and embraced the teaching of Jesus. His book The Kingdom of God is Within You which came in , is a mirror of his religious and ethical teachings. Tolstoy renounced the authority of Orthodox Church in , and though he never called himself an anarchist, his later teachings can be classified as Christian anarchism. By this time, he had become increasingly interested in the subject of life and death and authored books such as How much land does a man need, War and Peace and Kholstomer, examining the complexity of relationship between life and death.
While his own life had become extremely bitter and painful with his wife Sofia, the only member who did not show hostility towards his teachings, was his youngest daughter Alexandera.
In a hope to start a new life away from his wife, Tolstoy left home with his daughter Alexandra on 28 October and headed for a convent where his sister lived. The journey was cut short as he fell ill on the way near a train station and eventually died on 20 November Only when art has attained to that, will art neither divert nor deprave men as it does now, calling on them to expend their best strength on it, but be what it should be—a vehicle wherewith to transmit religious, Christian perception from the realm of reason and intellect into that of feeling, and really drawing people in actual life nearer to that perfection and unity indicated to them by their religious perception.
Yet there is a strength in Tolstoy's own attempts to write his art of the future that makes us hesitate, partly because Tolstoy seems at moments to have found his way back to an art that never quite was, even in the remote past, and yet something in us wants it to have existed. I myself give that tribute to Hadji Murad, but the tale is a dreadfully impressive nightmare, and yet a vision of reality, irresistible in its Biblical irony. I say "Biblical irony" with precise intention, because Tolstoy's ironies seem to me neither Classical saying one thing while meaning another nor Romantic playing upon contrasts between expectation and fulfillment.
Rather, they resemble the ironies of the Yahwist, and turn always upon the incongruous clash between incommensurate orders of reality, human and divine, eros and the spirit. It is not accidental that Tolstoy was obsessed with the Biblical story of Joseph and his brothers, because in some sense much of Tolstoy's greatest art is a transumption of that story.
To read the tale of Joseph as Tolstoy read it may be a way of seeing what Tolstoy valued in literary representation, and may help us to appreciate more fully the greatness, almost beyond the reach of art, of Hadji Murad.
II It is hardly invidious to say that Hadji Murad is the story that Hemingway always wished to write, but could not accomplish. If we could imagine an early twentieth-century story written by the author of the Iliad, then it would be Hadji Murad.
Like Homer, Tolstoy neither loves battle nor hates it; both epic poets simply accept it as the condition of life. The world of Hadji Murad, whatever precise relation it has to the actuality that Tolstoy experienced as a young soldier in the Caucasus, is a scene where battle is the norm, and open warfare is morally preferable to societal treachery, whether the society be Russian or Tartar, the realm of czar Nicholas or the Imam Shamil.
Overt battle is also nobler than the sad impingements of societal depravity upon those who fight, with the superb exception of Hadji Murad himself and his little band of followers, devoted to the death. In such a fictive cosmos, Hadji Murad the man combines in himself all the positive attributes divided in the Iliad between Achilles and Hector, while being free of the negative qualities of both heroes.
Indeed, of all natural men of heroic eminence in Western literature, Hadji Murad is the most impressive. How does Tolstoy so shape his representation of Hadji Murad as to arouse none of our proper skepticism or his own of the potential heroism of the natural man?
Hemingway's natural vitalists are neither natural nor vital enough, and their sacred innocence is too close to ignorance. Hadji Murad is shrewder as well as more courageous than anyone else in his story. He dies in battle, knowing he must, because he has no alternative. But he dies without Achilles' rage against mortality, or Hector's collapse into passivity. He can die with absolute dignity because he knows that he is not only the best of the Tartars, but superior also in horsemanship, daring, fighting skill, and charismatic leadership to any of the Russians.
Famous for all his exploits, his last stand will be not less famous, and yet he need not comfort himself with such a realization. Perhaps his heroic completeness is implicit comfort enough.
Of the two chief Homeric heroes, Achilles excels in force and Odysseus in craft, but Hadji Murad is foremost in both qualities. Like Achilles, Hadji Murad has chosen immortal fame, and yet, like Odysseus, he wishes to return home, to rescue his women and his son. Unlike Odysseus, he fails, and yet Tolstoy's art makes it impossible to judge Hadji Murad's last exploit as a failure. The hero, in every phase leading up to his hopeless break-out and final battle, remains elemental, a force like wind, a kind of pure flame.
That force and purity are not less elemental in the Tartar hero's dying: all these images passed through his mind without evoking any feeling within him—neither pity nor anger nor any kind of desire: everything seemed so insignificant in comparison with what was beginning, or had already begun, within him.
Elemental dying, strong process as it is, goes on simultaneously with the last spasm of Hadji Murad's sublime vitality: Yet his strong body continued the thing that he had commenced. Gathering together his last strength he rose from behind the bank, fired his pistol at a man who was just running towards him, and hit him. The man fell. Then Hadji Murad got quite out of the ditch, and limping heavily went dagger in hand straight at the foe.
Some shots cracked and he reeled and fell. Several militiamen with trumphant shrieks rushed towards the fallen body. But the body that seemed to be dead suddenly moved. First the uncovered, bleeding, shaven head rose; then the body with hands holding to the trunk of a tree.
He seemed so terrible, that those who were runninig towards him stopped short. But suddenly a shudder passed through him, he staggered away from the tree and fell on his face, stretched out at full length like a thistle that had been mown down, and he moved no more.
He did not move, but still he felt. When Hadji Aga, who was the first to reach him, struck him on the head with a large dagger, it seemed to Hadji Murad that someone was striking him with a hammer and he could not understand who was doing it or why. That was his last consciousness of any connection with his body. He felt nothing more and his enemies kicked and hacked at what had no longer anything in common with him. The synecdoche of the mown-down thistle, called "the Tartar" in the novella's first paragraph, reminds us of Tolstoy's original tribute: "But what energy and tenacity!
With what determination it defended itself, and how dearly it sold its life! But why does this archaic heroism so captivate Tolstoy and, through Tolstoy, the readers of the story? Gorky said of Tolstoy: "He always greatly exalted immortality on the other side of this life, but he preferred it on this side. It is totally persuasive that Hadji Murad is virtually without flaw, granted his context and his tradition.
Tolstoy, as an artist, intends to transume the whole of the heroic concept, from all archaic sources, and in his Hadji Murad he fulfills that intention. The archaic hero falls somewhere between man and a god, but Hadji Murad is only a man. While the archaic hero of epic has as his special excellence what J.
Redfield calls "not integration but potency," Hadji Murad is wholly integrated. What Redfield calls "the ambiguity of the hero" does not apply at all to Hadji Murad, whose elemental force, unlike that of Achilles, has in it none of the latency of the savage beast.
Without in any way moralizing his hero, Tolstoy removes from him the childlike element that never abandons Achilles. After Hadji Murad is dead, and even as his killers rejoice, Tolstoy renders his hero the tribute of a true threnody: The nightingales, that had hushed their songs while the firing lasted, now started their trills once more: first one quite close, then others in the distance.
We can remember the universal adage, that if nature could write, it would be Tolstoy. His art itself is nature, and deserves that Shakespearean praise, despite his jealous dismissal of Shakespeare. He could not rival Shakespeare, but he came near to being Homer's equal. Tolstoy, coming after Turgenev—who was an essentially Western European novelist of disillusionment—created a form of novel which overlaps to the maximum extent into the epic.
Tolstoy's great and truly epic mentality, which has little to do with the novel form, aspires to a life based on a community of feeling among simple human beings closely bound to nature, a life which is intimately adapted to the great rhythm of nature, which moves according to nature's cycle of birth and death and excludes all structures which are not natural, which are petty and disruptive, causing disintegration and stagnation.
Tolstoy about his story Three Deaths. He has felled trees, sown rye, reaped it, he has slaughtered sheep and sheep have been born on his farm, children have come into the world, old men have died, and he knows this law from which he has never turned away as the lady of the manor has done, he knows it well and has looked it straight and simply in the eye. The tree dies Translated by Anna Rostock. Beautifully because it does not lie, makes no grimaces, is afraid of nothing and regrets nothing.
The natural organic world of the old epics was, after all, a culture whose organic character was its specific quality, whereas the nature which Tolstoy posits as the ideal and which he has experienced as existent is, in its innermost essence, meant to be nature and is, therefore, opposed, as such, to culture.
This necessary opposition is the insoluble problematic of Tolstoy's novels. In other words, his epic intention was bound to result in a problematic novel form, not because he failed to overcome culture within himself, not because his relationship to nature as he experienced and depicted it was a sentimental one— not for psychological reasons—but for reasons of form and of the relationship of form to its historicophilosophical substratum.
A totality of men and events is possible only on the basis of culture, whatever one's attitude towards it. Therefore in Tolstoy's epic works the decisive element belongs, both as framework and as concrete content, to the world of culture which he rejects as problematic.
But since nature, although it cannot become an immanently complete totality, is objectively existent, the work contains two layers of realities which are completely heterogeneous from one another both as regards the value attached to them and the quality of their being. And relating them to one another, which would make it possible to construct a work that was a totality, can only take the form of the lived experience of going from one reality to the other.
Or, to put it more precisely, since the direction chosen is a given result of the value attached to both realities, it is the experience of going from culture to nature. And so, as a paradoxical consequence of the paradoxical relationship between the writer's mentality and the historical age in which he finds himself, a sentimental, romantic experience finally becomes the centre of the entire work: the central characters' dissatisfaction with whatever the surrounding world of culture can offer them and their seeking and finding of the second, more essential reality of nature.
The paradoxy arising from this experience is further increased by the fact that this "nature" of Tolstoy's does not have a plentitude and perfection that would make it, like the relatively more substantial world at the end of Goethe's novel, a home in which the characters might arrive and come to rest. Rather, it is a factual assurance that an essential life really does exist beyond conventionality—a life which can be reached through the lived experiences of a full and genuine selfhood, the self-experience of the soul, but from which one must irremediably fall back into the world of convention.
With the heroic ruthlessness of a writer of historic greatness, Tolstoy does not flinch from the grim consequences of his world view; not even the singular position he allocates to love and marriage—a position halfway between nature and culture, at home in both spheres and yet a stranger in each—can mitigate these consequences. In the rhythm of natural life, the rhythm of unpathetic, natural growth and death, love is the point at which the dominant forces of life assume their most concrete and meaningful form.
Yet love as a pure force of nature, love as passion, does not belong to Tolstoy's world of nature; passionate love is too much bound up with the relationship between one individual and another and therefore isolates too much, creates too many degrees and nuances; it is too cultural. The love which occupies the really central place in Tolstoy's world is love as marriage, love as union the fact of being united, of becoming one, being more important than who it is that is thus united , love as the prelude to birth; marriage and the family as a vehicle of the natural continuity of life.
That this introduces a conceptual dichotomy into the edifice would be of little importance artistically if it did not create yet another heterogeneous layer of reality, which cannot be compositionally connected with the other two spheres, in themselves heterogeneous from each other. The more authentically this layer of reality is depicted, the more strongly it is bound to be transformed into the opposite of what was intended: the triumph of such love over culture is meant to be a victory of the natural over the falsely, artifically refined, yet it becomes a miserable swallowing-up by nature of everything that is great and noble in man.
Nature is alive inside man but, when it is lived as culture, it reduces man to the lowest, most mindless, most idea-forsaken conventionality. This is why the mood of the epilogue to War and Peace, with its nursery atmosphere where all passion has been spent and all seeking ended, is more profoundly disconsolate than the endings of the most problematic novels of disillusionment.
Nothing is left of what was there before; as the sand of the desert covers the pyramids, so every spiritual thing has been swamped, annihilated, by animal nature. This unintentional disconsolateness of the ending combines with an intentional one in the description of the conventional world. Tolstoy's evaluating and rejecting attitude extends to every detail he depicts.
The aimlessness and insubstantiality of the life he describes expresses itself not only objectively, for the reader who recognises it, not only as the lived experience of gradual disappointment, but also as an a-prioristic, established, agitated emptiness, a restless ennui. Every conversation, every event bears the stamp of the author's verdict. These two groups of experiences the private world of marriage and the public world of society are contrasted with the experience of the essence of nature.
At very rare, great moments—generally they are moments of death—a reality reveals itself to man in which he suddenly glimpses and grasps the essence that rules over him and works within him, the meaning of his life.
His whole previous life vanishes into nothingness in the face of this experience; all its conflicts, all the sufferings, torments and confusions caused by them, appear petty and inessential.
Meaning has made its appearance and the paths into living life are open to the soul. And here again Tolstoy, with the paradoxical ruthlessness of true genius, shows up the profoundly problematic nature of his form and its foundations: these crucial moments of bliss are the great moments of dying—the experience of Andrey Bolkonsky lying mortally wounded on the field of Austerlitz, the sense of unity experienced by Karenin and Vronsky at Anna's deathbed—and it would be true bliss to die now, to die like that.
But Anna recovers and Andrey returns to life, and the great moments vanish without trace. Life goes on in the world of convention, an aimless, inessential life. The paths which the great moments had revealed lose their direction, their reality, as the great moment passes. Such paths cannot be trodden, and when people believe they are treading them, their experience is a bitter caricature of what the revelation of the great moment had shown.
Levin's experience of God and his clinging to what he has thus attained—despite the fact that it is slipping from his grasp—stems more from the will and theory of Tolstoy the thinker than from the vision of Tolstoy the artist. It is programmatic and lacks the immediate conviction of the other great moments. The few characters who are capable of really living their lived experiences—perhaps Planton Karatayev is the only such character—are, of necessity, secondary characters: events leave them unchanged, their essential nature is never involved in events, their life does not objectivise itself, it cannot be given form but only hinted at, only defined in concrete artistic terms in contrast to the others.
They are not realities but marginal aesthetic concepts. These three layers of reality correspond to the three concepts of time in Tolstoy's world, and the impossibility of uniting them reveals most strongly the inner problematic of his works, rich and profound as they are.
The world of convention is essentially timeless; an eternally recurring, self-repeating monotony, it proceeds upon its course in accordance with meaningless laws of its own; eternal movement without direction, without growth, without death. Characters come and go, but nothing happens as a result of this constant flux because each figure is as insubstantial as the next, and any one can be put in the place of any other.
Whenever one walks on to this stage, whenever one leaves it, one always finds—or has to reject—the same motley inessentiality. Beneath it flows the stream of Tolstoyan nature: the continuity and monotony of an eternal rhythm. That which changes in nature is the individual destiny, and this, too, is inessential.
Individual destiny, caught in the current, rising or sinking with it, possesses no meaning founded upon itself; its relation to the whole does not assimilate its personality but destroys it; as an individual destiny, rather than as an element of a general rhythm side by side with innumerable other, similar and equivalent lives, it is completely immaterial.
The great moments which offer a glimpse of an essential life, a meaningful process, remain mere moments, isolated from the other two worlds and without constitutive reference to them. Thus the three concepts of time are not only mutually heterogeneous and incapable of being united with one another, but moreover none of them expresses real duration, real time, the life-element of the novel.
Going outside and beyond culture has merely destroyed culture but has not put a truer, more essential life in its place; the overlapping into the epic only makes the novel form still more problematic, without coming concretely closer to the desired goal, the problem-free reality of the epic.
In purely artistic terms Tolstoy's novels are novels of disillusionment carried to an extreme, a baroque version of Flaubert's form.
The glimpsed world of essential nature remains an intimation, a lived experience; it is subjective and reflexive so far as the depicted reality is concerned; but in a purely artistic sense, it is nevertheless of the same kind as any other longing for a more adequate reality.
Literary development has not yet gone beyond the novel of disillusionment, and the most recent literature reveals no possibility of creating another type that would be essentially new; what we have now is an eclectic, epigonic imitation of earlier types, whose apparent productive force is confined to the formally inessential areas of lyricism and psychology.
Tolstoy himself, it is true, occupies a dual position.
From the point of view purely of form a point of view which, in Tolstoy's special case, cannot possibly do justice to what matters most in his vision or in his created world , he must be seen as the final expression of European Romanticism. However, in the few overwhelmingly great moments of his works—moments which must be seen as subjective and reflexive in respect of each particular work as a whole—he shows a clearly differentiated, concrete and existent world, which, if it could spread out into a totality, would be completely inaccessible to the categories of the novel and would require a new form of artistic creation: the form of the renewed epic.
This world is the sphere of pure soul-reality in which man exists as man, neither as a social being nor as an isolated, unique, pure and therefore abstract interiority. If ever this world should come into being as something natural and simply experienced, as the only true reality, a new complete totality could be built out of all its substances and relationships. It would be a world to which our divided reality would be a mere backdrop, a world which would have outstripped our dual world of social reality by as much as we have outstripped the world of nature.
But art can never be the agent of such a transformation: the great epic is a form bound to the historical moment, and any attempt to depict the Utopian as existent can only end in destroying the form, not in creating reality. The novel is the form of the epoch of absolute sinfulness, as Fichte said, and it must remain the dominant form so long as the world is ruled by the same stars.
In Tolstoy, intimations of a breakthrough into a new epoch are visible; but they remain polemical, nostalgic and abstract. THOMAS MANN Goethe and Tolstoy Turgenyev, in his last letter to Tolstoy, written on his death-bed in Paris, in which he conjured his friend to return to literature and stop tormenting himself and theology, Turgenyev was the first to give Tolstoy the title of "the great writer of Russia," which he has had ever since, and which seems to mean that he holds in the eyes of his countrymen the same rank that the author of Faust and Wilhelm Meister does in ours.
Tolstoy himself was Christian through and through. Yet his humility was not so exaggerated as to prevent him from setting his name boldly beside the greatest, yes, beside the legendary great. He said of War and Peace: "Modesty aside, it is something like the Iliad. Was that megalomania? To me, frankly, it sounds like plain and simple fact. But Tolstoy subscribed to it. He saw himself always of heroic grandeur; and as early as at thirty-seven, writing in his diary, he ranked his own works, the finished and the still to write, with the great literature of the world.
In the judgment, then, of those competent to render it, the great writer of Russia; by his own estimate, the Homer of his time—but that is not all. After Tolstoy's death Maxim Gorky published a little book of reminiscences, the best book, in my humble opinion, that he has written.
It closes with the words: "And I, who do not believe in God, looked at him timidly, for some dark reason looked at him and thought: The man is godlike.
Nobody ever said or thought that of Dostoyevsky, nobody ever could have thought or said it. He has been called Translated by H.
From Essays of Three Decades. Knopf, Inc. But Goethe and Tolstoy, these two, have been found godlike. The epithet "Olympian" is a commonplace. It was not, however, only as a world-renowned old man of commanding intellect that Goethe had it applied to him; it was while he was still young, still the youth, of whose godlike, compelling gaze Wieland sang, that he had the attribute conferred upon him, a thousand times, by his own contemporaries. Riemer relates that at sixty the old man took occasion to make rather acridly merry over it.
They behave just as they like, they impose on me just the same. People only call a man godlike when he lets them have their own way! He was, Gorky says, more like some sort of Russian god, sitting on a maple throne under a golden lime tree; pagan, then, with a difference, compared with the Zeus of Weimar, but pagan none the less, because gods are pagan. Because they are of the same essence as nature. One does not need to be a follower of Spinoza—as Goethe was, and had his own good reasons for it—to feel God and Nature as one, and the nobility that nature confers as godlike.
And I cite it in this matter of relative greatness. Gorky, for instance, goes on to say: "There is something about him which always makes me want to shout: "Behold what a marvellous man lives upon this earth!
That sounds like something we have heard before. It reminds us of— whom? No, the question of rank, the aristocratic problem, is no problem at all, within the grouping I have chosen. It becomes one only when we change partners: when we take saintly humanity and couple it, by means of the antithetic conjunction, with the godlike; when we say "Goethe and Schiller," "Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. Which is more aristocratic?
I shall not answer either of these. I will let the reader come to his individual conclusion in this matter of value, according to his own taste. Or, less glibly put, according to the conception he has of humanity, which—I must add, sotto voce—will have to be onesided and incomplete to admit of his coming to any decision at all.
Is it not strangely moving to hear that one man had known them both, the creator of Faust and the "great writer of Russia"? For certainly they belonged to different centuries. Tolstoy's life covered the greater part of the nineteenth. He is absolutely its son. As an artist he exhibits all of its characteristics, and, indeed, those of its second half. As for Goethe, the eighteenth century brought him forth, and essential traits of his character and training belong to it—a statement it would be very easy to substantiate.
Yet on the other hand one might say that just as much of the eighteenth, Goethe's century, survived in Tolstoy as there had already come to birth of Tolstoy's, of the nineteenth, in Goethe. Tolstoy's rationalizing Christianity has more in common with the deism of the eighteenth century than it has with Dostoyevsky's violent and mystical religiosity, which was entirely of the nineteenth.
His system of practical religion—the essence of which was a destructive intellectual force that undermined all regulations, human and divine—had more affinity with the social criticism of the eighteenth century than with Dostoyevsky's moralization, although those were, on the one hand, far more profound, on the other far more religious.
And Tolstoy's penchant for Utopias, his hatred of civilization, his passion for rusticity, for a bucolic placidity of the soul—an aristocratic passion, the passion of a nobleman—to all that, the eighteenth century, and indeed the French eighteenth century, can lay claim. And, on the other hand, Goethe. What most astonishes us in that masterpiece of his old age, the sociological novel Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre, is the intuition, the keenness and breadth of vision—they seem positively occult, but are simply the expression of a finer organism, the fruit of the most sensitive penetration— which anticipate the whole social and economic development of the nineteenth century: the industrialization of the old cultural and agrarian countries, the triumph of the machine, the rise of the organized labouring classes, the class conflict, democracy, socialism, Americanism itself, with the intellectual and educational consequences of all these.
But when all is said, and whatever the chronological affinity of these two great men, they cannot be called contemporaries. Only four years did the two of them inhabit this mortal sphere together: from , when Tolstoy was born, to , when Goethe died.
Which does not prevent them from having one cultural element of their intellectual and spiritual make-up in common, and that a very real and positive one—to say nothing of universally human elements like Homer and the Bible. I mean the element Rousseau. What I felt for him was more than enthusiasm; it was worship. At fifteen I wore round my neck, instead of the usual cross, a medallion with his picture. I am so familiar with some of the passages in his works that I feel as though I had written them myself.
And certainly he was Rousseauian more intimately, more personally, more damagingly, so to speak, than was Goethe, who as a man had nothing in common with poor Jean Jacques's enigmatic and not always ingratiating complexities.
Yet hear Goethe I quote from an early review : "Religious conditions, and the social conditions so narrowly bound up with them; the pressure of the laws, the still greater pressure of society, to say nothing of a thousand other factors, leave the civilized man or the civilized nation no soul of his own. They stifle the promptings of nature, they obliterate every trait out of which a characteristic picture could be made. But from the intellectual and historical, it is Rousseauianism.
It bears the impress of revolution, even of anarchy; though in the Russian seeker after God that impress is religious and early Christian, whereas in Goethe's words the humanistic trend can be felt, the irradiation of a cultural and self-developing individualism which Tolstoy would have banned as egoistic and unchristian. But unchristian, egoistic, it is not: it means work on man, on mankind, on humanity, and it issues, as the Wanderjahre shows, in the social world.
What two ideas does the very sound of Rousseau's name inevitably evoke—aside, that is, from the idea of nature, which is, of course, first and foremost? Why, naturally, the idea "education" and the idea "autobiography. Now, both these elements, the pedagogic and the autobiographic, are present in full strength in Goethe as in Tolstoy; they cannot be dissociated from the work or the life of either.
As for Goethe, needless to say, his was a pedagogic nature in the fullest sense of the word. The two great monuments of his life, one in poetry and one in prose, the Faust and the Wilhelm Meister, are both creative treatments of the theme of education. And whereas in the Lehrjahre the idea is still that of the individual forming himself—"for to form myself, just as I am, was darkly, from my youth up, my purpose and my desire," says Wilhelm Meister—in the Wanderjahre the educational idea is objectivated, and issues in social, even in political concepts; while at the heart of the work is, as you know, the stern and beautiful Utopia of the Pedagogic Province.
The second association, the autobiographic, the confessional, is of course easy to attest in both authors. That all of Goethe's works represent "fragments of one great confession" we should know ourselves even if he did not tell us; and is not Dichtung und Wahrheit, next to the Confessions of Saint Augustine and Rousseau, the most famous autobiography in the world?
Well, and Tolstoy too wrote confessions: I mean in the main a book with that title, laid down throughout on the line of the great self-revelations that runs from the African saint to Strindberg, the son of the servant. But Tolstoy is in the same case with Goethe: not by virtue of one book alone is he autobiographical. Beginning with the Childhood, Boyhood, Youth, throughout the whole body of his work, he is autobiographical to an extent that makes it possible for Merezhkovsky, the great Russian critic, to say: "The artistic work of Leo Tolstoy is at bottom nothing else than one tremendous diary, kept for fifty years, one endless, explicit confession.
I may be allowed a comment upon the somewhat euphemistic epithet. One might, if one wanted to be invidious, use a different adjective to characterize this sincerity—an adjective that would suggest what Turgenyev had in mind when he once ironically referred to the shortcomings inevitable in a great writer: by which, obviously, he meant the lack of certain restraints, the absence of a customary reserve, discretion, decency, shame, or, on the positive side, the domination of a definite claim on the love of the world—an absolute claim, indeed, in that it is all one to the revealer whether he reveal virtues or vices.
He craves to be known and loved, loved because known, or loved although known; that is what I mean by an absolute claim on love.
And the remarkable thing is that the world acknowledges and honours the claim. For the impulse a man feels to "fixate" his life, to exhibit its development, to celebrate his own destiny in set literary form and passionately invoke the sympathy of his contemporaries and posterity, has for a premise the same uncommonly lively sense of his own ego which, according to that penetrating saying, is at the bottom of a life full of romantic happenings. Subjectively, for the man himself, but also objectively for the world at large.
Of course, this love of self is something different, something stronger, deeper, more fruitful, than any mere selfcomplacency or self-love of the ordinary kind.
In the finest instances it is what Goethe in the Wanderjahre calls "Ehrfurcht vor sich selbst," and celebrates as the highest form of awe. His name, he feels, his mere name, Leo Tolstoy, this formula for his darkly and mightily stirring ego, should, as it were, serve notice to the world; whereby, for some reason as yet unknown, the world should be greatly impressed, and feel impelled to surround him in grateful throngs.
Long after that, in — at about the same date that Tolstoy posed for an artist friend, sitting at his table and writing—he reads aloud to another friend and admirer, the onetime officer Tchertkov, from the manuscript of his just-completed personal revelations What Does My Faith Consist In?
He reads from this manuscript a categorical reprobation of military service, on the gorunds of his Christianity; which so gratifies the ex-officer that he hears nothing else, ceases to listen, and only rouses out of his absorption when he hears, suddenly uttered, the reader's own name. Tolstoy, coming to the end of his manuscript, had, with particular distinctness, says Tchertkov, enunciated the name signed underneath the text: "Leo Tolstoy. The choice betrays a blissful self-preoccupation.
Now, in one of the poems, a glorious one, he uses this name at the end of a line, where, however, it does not rhyme as according to the structure of the verse it should, and the name which would rhyme if it stood there is another, is Goethe's own; so that the reader involuntarily makes the substitution mentally as he reads.
The Eastern masquerade is abandoned for autobiography, the ear confutes the eye, and Goethe's own name, beloved of men and gods, emerges with peculiar clarity, rhymed to perfection and irradiated by the most beautiful thing the world of sense can show: the rosy dawn. May one call that "self-satisfaction," that awestruck sense of plenitude, of copious abundance, which pervades the consciousness of the darling of the gods?
Goethe all his life had set his face against the affectation that might condemn such a feeling. He let it be known that in his opinion self-condemnation was the business of those who had no ground for anything else. He even openly spoke a good word for ordinary vanity, and said that the suppression of it would mean social decay, adding that the vain man can never be entirely crude.
Whereupon follows the question: Is love of self ever quite distinguishable from love of humanity? And is not young Tolstoy's dream of glory, his craving to be known and loved, evidence of his love to the great Thou of the world?
Love of the ego and love of the world are psychologically not to be divorced; which makes the old question whether love is ever altruistic, and not utterly egotistic, the most idle question in the world.
In love, the contradiction between egotism and altruism is abrogated quite. From which it follows that the autobiographical impulse scarcely ever turns out to be a mere dilettante trifling. It seems to carry its own justification with it. Talent, generally speaking, is a ticklish, difficult conception; the point of which is really less whether a man can do something than whether a man is something. One might almost say that talent is nothing more or less than a high state of adequacy to one's lot in life.
But whose life is it that possesses this dignity in the face of destiny? With brains and sensibility anything can be made out of any life, out of any life a romantic existence can be made. Differing in this from the pure poetic impulse, which so often rests upon sheer self-deception, the autobiographic, as it seems, always presupposes a degree of brains and sensibility which justifies it beforehand; so that it need only become productive to be certain of our sympathy.
Hence the conclusion I drew: that if the world sanction the love of self, which is at the bottom of the impulse, it will as a rule respond to it as well. And this cry it is to which all biography seeks to move the world.
Any human life, given brains and sensibility, can be made interesting and sympathetic, even the most wretched. Rousseau was not precisely one's idea of a darling of the gods.
The father of the French Revolution was an unhappy wretch, half or three-quarters mad, and probably a suicide. Certainly the blend of sensibility and catarrh of the bladder displayed in the Confessions is not, aesthetically speaking, to everybody's taste. Nevertheless, his self-exposure contains and constitutes a claim upon the love of the world, which has been so abundantly honoured, with so many tears, that really one might call poor Jean Jacques the wellbeloved, le.
And this world-wide emotional response he owes to his bond with nature—rather a one-sided bond, it must be owned, for certainly this fool of genius, this exhibitionistic world-shaker, was a stepchild of the All-Mother rather than one of her pets, an accident of birth instead of a god-given miracle of favour and preference. His relation to nature was sentimental in the fullest sense of the word, and the tale of his life swept over the world in a wave of sentiment, not to say sentimentality.
Poor Jean Jacques! No, not in this tone does one refer to the two whom men called godlike, divine; in whom, as we have seen, important traits of Rousseau's character are reproduced. For they were not sentimental, scarcely had they occasion to yearn for nature, they themselves were nature. Their bond with her was not one-sided, like Rousseau's—or if it was, then it was nature who loved them, her darlings, loved them and clung to them, while on their side they drew away, and strove to free themselves from her heavy and earthbound domination; with indifferent success, it must be said, looking at them both singly and together.
Goethe confesses: "So here I am, with all my thousand thoughts, sent back to be a child again, unacquainted with the moment, in darkness about myself. This process of making a Christian and a saint of himself, on the part of a human being and artist so loved of nature that she had endowed him with godlikeness, was, as an effort at spiritual regeneration, most inept.
Anglo-Saxondom hailed it with acclaim, but, after all, the spectacle is painful rather than gratifying, compared with Goethe's high endeavour. For there is no conflict between nature and culture; the second only ennobles the first, it does not repudiate it.
But Tolstoy's method was not the enoblement but the renunciation of self, and that can quite easily become the most mortifying kind of deception. It is true that Goethe, at a certain stage in his development, called Gbtz the work of an undisciplined boy; but never did he so childishly and miserably calumniate his own art as the aging Tolstoy did, when he regretted having written Childhood, Boyhood, Youth, the fruit of his fresh youthful vigour, condemning it as insincere, literary, sinful; or when he spoke at large of "the artistic twaddle" that filled the twelve volumes of his works, and to which "people today ascribe an unmerited significance.
Yet renounce himself as he would in words, his very existence gave him the lie; and Gorky looked at him, the patriarch with the "sly" little smile and the artist hands with their swollen veins, and thought to himself: "The man is like God. Tolstoy, in his Confessions, remarks that as a small child he knew nothing of nature, he had not even noticed her existence. And yet up to my fifth or sixth year I have no memory of what we call nature.
Probably we have to get free from her in order to see her, and I myself was nature. Tolstoy's recollection is that he felt the pain of this separation for the first time when his childhood under the care of nurses came to an end and he moved over to his older brothers and the tutor Feodor Ivanovich in the lower storey.
Never again, he assures us, did he feel so strongly what a sense of duty meant, and what, accordingly, moral and ethical obligation: "the feeling of the Cross, to carry which every one of us is called. It was hard for me to part from all I had known from everlasting. I was sad, sunk in poetical melancholy, less because I had to part from human beings, my nurse, my sisters, my aunt, than because I was leaving my little bed with its curtains and pillows.
Moreover, I was apprehensive of the new life I was entering. This process was felt by Tolstoy as painful and ethical: painful because ethical, and ethical because painful. He gives it a moral and an ascetic significance, as that which actually comprises all man's ethical obligation. To be humanized means, for him, to be denaturalized; and from that moment on, the struggle of his existence consists in this sort of humanizing process: in the divorce from nature, from everything that was natural and to him peculiarly so, for example from the family, the nation, the state, the church, from all the passions of the senses and the instincts, from love, the hunt, at bottom from all of physical life, and especially from art, which meant to him quite essentially the life of the body and the senses.
It is quite wrong to think of this struggle as a crisis of conversion taking place suddenly in his later years; to make its inception roughly coincide with the beginning of old age.