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Title: An Outline of Russian Literature
Author: Baring, Maurice, 1874-1945
Language: English
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               OF MODERN KNOWLEDGE

                   AN OUTLINE

           By the Hon. MAURICE BARING

               WILLIAMS & NORGATE

           HENRY HOLT & CO., NEW YORK
         INDIA: R. & T. WASHBOURNE, LTD.



                MODERN KNOWLEDGE


       HERBERT FISHER, M.A., F.B.A., LL.D.

   Prof. GILBERT MURRAY, D.Litt., LL.D., F.B.A.

      Prof. J. ARTHUR THOMSON, M.A., LL.D.

         Prof. WILLIAM T. BREWSTER, M.A.
          (Columbia University, U.S.A.)

                    NEW YORK

                  AN OUTLINE OF

                   BY THE HON.
                 MAURICE BARING

              RUSSIAN PEOPLE," ETC.


             _First printed 1914/15_


The chief difficulty which Englishmen have experienced in writing
about Russia has, up till quite lately, been the prevailing ignorance
of the English public with regard to all that concerns Russian
affairs. A singularly intelligent Russian, who is connected with the
Art Theatre at Moscow, said to me that he feared the new interest
taken by English intellectuals with regard to Russian literature and
Russian art. He was delighted, of course, that they should be
interested in Russian affairs, but he feared their interest was in
danger of being crystallized in a false shape and directed into
erroneous channels.

This ignorance will always remain until English people go to Russia
and learn to know the Russian people at first hand. It is not enough
to be acquainted with a certain number of Russian writers; I say a
certain number advisedly, because, although it is true that such
writers as Tolstoy and Turgenev have long been naturalized in England,
it is equally true that some of the greatest and most typical of
Russian authors have not yet been translated.

There is in England no complete translation of Pushkin. This is much
the same as though there were in Russia no complete translation of
Shakespeare or Milton. I do not mean by this that Pushkin is as great
a poet as Shakespeare or Milton, but I do mean that he is the most
national and the most important of all Russian writers. There is no
translation of Saltykov, the greatest of Russian satirists; there is
no complete translation of Leskov, one of her greatest novelists,
while Russian criticism and philosophy, as well as almost the whole of
Russian poetry, is completely beyond the ken of England. The knowledge
of what Russian civilisation, with its glorious fruit of literature,
consists in, is still a sealed book so far as England is concerned.

                                                       M. B.


CHAP.                                                   PAGE

      I THE ORIGINS                                        9

     II THE NEW AGE--PUSHKIN                              30

    III LERMONTOV                                        101

     IV THE AGE OF PROSE                                 126

      V THE EPOCH OF REFORM                              159

     VI TOLSTOY AND DOSTOYEVSKY                          196

    VII THE SECOND AGE OF POETRY                         226

        CONCLUSION                                       243

        CHRONOLOGICAL TABLE                              251

        INDEX                                            254

    _The following volumes of kindred interest have already been
                     published in the Library:_

      27. English Literature: Mediæval. By W. P. Ker.

      43. English Literature: Modern. G. H. Mair.

      35. Landmarks of French Literature. G. L. Strachey.

      65. The Literature of Germany. Prof. J. G. Robertson, Ph.D.




For the purposes of the average Russian, and still more for the
purposes of the foreigner, Russian literature begins with the
nineteenth century, that is to say with the reign of Alexander I. It
was then that the literary fruits on which Russia has since fed were
born. The seeds were sown, of course, centuries earlier; but the
history of Russian literature up to the nineteenth century is not a
history of literature, it is the history of Russia. It may well be
objected that it is difficult to separate Russian literature from
Russian history; that for the understanding of Russian literature an
understanding of Russian history is indispensable. This is probably
true; but, in a sketch of this dimension, it would be quite
impossible to give even an adequate outline of all the vicissitudes in
the life of the Russian people which have helped and hindered,
blighted and fostered the growth of the Russian tree of letters. All
that one can do is to mention some of the chief landmarks amongst the
events which directly affected the growth of Russian literature until
the dawn of that epoch when its fruits became palpable to Russia and
to the world.

The first of these facts is the existence of a Slav race on the banks
of the Dnieper in the seventh and eighth centuries, and the growth of
cities and trade centres such as Kiev, Smolensk, and Novgorod, which
seem already to have been considerable settlements when the earliest
Russian records were written. Of these, from the point of view of
literature, Kiev was the most important. Kiev on the Dnieper was the
mother of Russian culture; Moscow and St. Petersburg became afterwards
the heirs of Kiev.

Another factor of vital historical importance which had an indirect
effect on the history of Russian literature was the coming of the
Norsemen into Russia at the beginning of the ninth century. They came
as armed merchants from Scandinavia; they founded and organized
principalities; they took Novgorod and Kiev. The Scandinavian Viking
became the Russian _Kniaz_, and the Varanger principality of Kiev
became the kernel of the Russian State. In the course of time, the
Norsemen became merged in the Slavs, but left traces of their origin
in the Sagas, the _Byliny_, which spread from Kiev all over Russia,
and still survive in some distant governments. Hence the Norse names
Oleg (Helgi), Olga (Helga), Igor (Ingvar). The word Russian, _Rus_,
the origin and etymology of which are shrouded in obscurity, was first
applied to the men-at-arms who formed the higher class of society in
the early Varanger states.

The next determining factor in the early history of Russian literature
is the Church. Vladimir, Prince of Kiev, married the sister of the
Emperor of Byzantium and was baptized; henceforward Christianity began
to spread (987-8), but the momentous fact is that it was the
Christianity of the East. The pearl of the Gospels, says Soloviev, was
covered over with the dust of Byzantium, and Russia was committed to
the Greek tradition, the Greek rivalry with the West and was
consequently excluded from the civilization of the West and the great
intellectual community of which Rome was the centre. This fact is of
far-reaching and momentous importance. No less important was the
introduction of the Slavonic liturgy, which was invented by two Greek
brothers from Saloniki, in the ninth century, who tried to force their
Macedonian dialect on all the Slavs, and succeeded in the case of
Bulgaria and Servia. A century or so later it reached the Russian
Slavs. Through Bulgaria, the Russians acquired a ready-made literature
and a written language in a dialect which was partly Bulgarian and
partly Macedonian, or rather Macedonian with Bulgarian modifications.
The possession of a written language acted as a lever as far as
culture was concerned. In the eleventh century, Kiev was one of the
most enlightened cities in Europe.

The rulers of Kiev were at this time related to the Kings of France,
Hungary, Norway, and even England. The Russian MSS. of the eleventh
century equal the best MSS. of Western Europe of the same period. The
city of Kiev was a home of wealth, learning, and art. Byzantine
artists went to Kiev, and Kiev sent Russian painters to the West.
There seemed at this time to be no barrier between East and West.
Nothing could be more promising than such a beginning; but the course
of Russian history was not destined to run smooth. In the middle of
the eleventh century, the foundations of a durable barrier between
Russia and Western Europe were laid. This was brought about by the
schism of the Eastern and Western Churches. The schism arose out of
the immemorial rivalry between the Greeks and the Latins, a rivalry
which ever since then has continued to exist between Rome and
Byzantium. The Slavs, whom the matter did not concern, and who were
naturally tolerant, were the victims of a racial hatred and a rivalry
wholly alien to them. It may seem unnecessary to dwell upon what some
may regard as an ancient and trivial ecclesiastical dispute. But, in
its effects and in its results, this "Querelle de Moine," as Leo X
said when he heard of Luther's action, was as momentous for the East
as the Reformation was for the West. Sir Charles Eliot says the schism
of the Churches ranks in importance with the foundation of
Constantinople and the Coronation of Charlemagne as one of the turning
points in the relations of West and East. He says that for the East it
was of doleful import, since it prevented the two great divisions from
combining against the common enemy, the Turk. It was of still more
doleful import for Russia, for the schism erected a barrier, which
soon became formidable, between it and the civilizing influences of
Western Europe.

But in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the existence of this
growing barrier was not yet perceptible. The eleventh and twelfth
centuries in Russia were an age of Sagas and "Byliny," already clearly
stamped with the democratic character and ideal that is at the root of
all Russian literature, and which offer so sharp a contrast to Greek
and Western ideals. In the Russian Sagas, the most popular hero is the
peasant's son, who is despised and rejected, but at the critical
moment displays superhuman strength and saves his country from the
enemy; and in return for his services is allowed to drink his fill for
three years in a tavern.

But by far the most interesting remains of the literature of Kiev
which have reached posterity are the _Chronicle of Kiev_, often called
the _Chronicle of Nestor_, finished at the beginning of the twelfth
century, and the _Story of the Raid of Prince Igor_. The _Chronicle of
Kiev_, written in a cloister, rich in that epic detail and democratic
quality that characterize the Sagas, is the basis of all later
chronicles dealing with the early history of Russia. _The Story of the
Raid of Prince Igor_, which also belongs to the twelfth century, a
prose epic, is not only one of the most remarkable memorials of the
ancient written language of Russia; but by virtue of its originality,
its historical truth, its vividness, it holds a unique place in the
literary history of Europe, and offers an interesting contrast to the
_Chanson de Roland_.

_The Story of the Raid of Igor_ tells of an expedition made in the
year 1185 against the Polovtsy, a tribe of nomads, by Igor the son of
Sviatoslav, Prince of Novgorod, together with other Princes. The story
tells how the Princes set out and raid the enemy's country; how,
successful at first, they are attacked by overwhelming numbers and
defeated; how Igor is taken prisoner; and how in the end he escapes
and returns home. The story is written in rhythmical prose, with
passages where the rhythm has a more strongly accentuated quality as
of unrhymed verse. All the incidents recorded in the epic agree in
every respect with the narrative of the same events which is to be
found in the _Chronicle of Kiev_. It is only the manner of presenting
them which is different. What gives the epic a unique interest is that
the author must indubitably have belonged to the militia of
Sviatoslav, Grand Duke of Kiev; and, if he was not an eye-witness of
the events he describes with such wealth of detail, his knowledge was
at any rate first-hand and intimate.

But the epic is as remarkable for the quality of its style as it is
for the historical interest of its subject-matter. It plunges, after a
short introduction, _in medias res_, and the narrative is concentrated
on the dramatic moments which give rise to the expression of lyrical
feeling, pathos and description--such as the battle, the defeat, the
ominous dream of the Grand Duke, and the lament of the wife of Igor on
the walls of Putivl--

        "I will fly"--she says--
    "Like the cuckoo down the Don;
    I will wet my beaver sleeve
    In the river Kayala;
    I will wash the bleeding wounds of the Prince,
    The wounds of his strong body."

        *   *   *   *   *

        "O Wind, little wind,
    Why, Sir,
    Why do you blow so fiercely?
    Why, on your light wings
    Do you blow the arrows of the robbers against my husband's warriors?
    Is it not enough for you to blow high beneath the clouds,
    To rock the ships on the blue sea?
    Why, Sir, have you scattered my joy on the grassy plain?"

Throughout the poem, Nature plays an active part in the events. When
Igor is defeated, the grasses bend with pity and the trees are bowed
to the earth with grief. When Igor escapes, he talks with the river
Don as he fords it, and when the bandits follow him, the woodpeckers
tell them the way with their tapping. The poem, which contains much
lamentation over the quarrels of the Princes and the injury ensuing
from them to the Russian people, ends in the major key. Igor is
restored to his native soil, he goes to Kiev to give thanks in the
Church, and the people acclaim the old Princes and then the young
Princes with song.

A transcript of the poem, made probably at the end of the fourteenth
century, was first discovered in 1795 by Count Musin-Pushkin, and
first published in 1800, when it made the same kind of impression as
the publication of the _Songs of Ossian_. It was not, however, open to
Dr. Johnson's objection--"Show me the originals"--for the fourteenth
century transcript of the original then existed and was inspected and
considered unmistakably genuine by Karamzin and others, but was
unfortunately burnt in the fire of Moscow.[1] The poem has been
translated into English, French and German, and has given rise to a
whole literature of commentaries.

Up to the twelfth century, Russian life was concentrated in the
splendid and prosperous centre of Kiev; but in the thirteenth century
came a crushing blow which was destined to set back the clock of
Russian culture for three hundred years, namely, the Tartar invasion.
Kiev was destroyed in 1240. After this, the South was abandoned;
Lithuania and Poland became entirely separated from the East; the
Eastern principalities centred round Moscow; the Metropolitan of Kiev
transferred his see to Moscow in 1328; and by the fourteenth century
Moscow had taken the place of Kiev, and had become the kernel of
Russian life and culture. Russia under the dominion of the Tartar yoke
was intellectually stagnant. The Church alone retained its
independence, and when Constantinople fell, Moscow declared itself to
be the third and last Rome: but the independence of the Church,
although it kept national feeling alive under the Tartar yoke, made
for stagnation rather than progress, and the barrier between Russia
and the culture of the West was now solid and visible.

From the fourteenth century until the beginning of the nineteenth
century, Russian literature, instead of being a panorama of various
and equally splendid periods of production, such as the Elizabethan
epoch, the Jacobean epoch, and the Georgian epoch, or, as in France,
the Renaissance, the _Grand Siècle_, and the philosophic era of the
eighteenth century, has nothing to show at all to the outward world;
for during all this time the soil from which it was to grow was merely
being prepared, and gradually, with difficulty and delay, gaining
access to such influences as would make any growth possible. All that
is important, as far as literature is concerned, in this period, are
those events and factors which had the effect of making breaches in
the wall which shut Russia off from the rest of Europe; in letting in
that light which was necessary for any literary plants to grow, and in
removing those obstacles which prevented Russia from enjoying her
rightful heritage among the rest of her sister European nations: a
heritage which she had well employed in earlier days, and which she
had lost for a time owing to the barbarian invasion.

The first event which made a breach in the wall was the marriage of
Ivan III, Tsar of Moscow, to Sophia Palæologa, the niece of the last
of the Byzantine Emperors. She brought with her Italian architects and
other foreigners, and the work of Peter the Great, of opening a window
in Russia on to Europe, was begun.

The first printing press was established in Moscow during the reign of
Ivan the Terrible, and the first book was printed in 1564. But
literature was still under the direct control of the Church, and the
Church looked upon all innovations and all foreign learning with the
deepest mistrust. At the beginning of the seventeenth century, Peter
the Great had a strange forerunner in the shape of that enigmatic
historical personage, the false Demetrius, who claimed to be the
murdered son of Ivan the Terrible, and who, in spite of his western
ideas, Polish manners, and Latin culture, succeeded in occupying the
throne of Moscow for a year. His ideal was one of progress; but he
came too soon, and paid for his prematurity with his life.

But it was from Kiev and Poland that the fruitful winds of
enlightenment were next to blow. Kiev, re-risen from its ruins and
recovered from its long slumber, became a centre of learning, and
possessed a college whose curriculum was modelled on the Jesuit
schools; and although Moscow looked upon Kiev with mistrust, an
imperative demand for schools arose in Moscow. In the meantime a
religious question had arisen fraught with consequences for Russia:
namely that of the revision of the Liturgical books, into the text of
which, after continuous copying and recopying, errors had crept. The
demand for revision met with great opposition, and ended ultimately in
producing a great schism in the Russian Church, which has never been
healed. But, with the exception of the Little Russians, there was no
one at Moscow capable of preparing texts for printing or of conducting
schools. The demand for schools and the decision to revise the texts
were simultaneous. The revision was carried out between 1653-7, and a
migration of Kiev scholars to Moscow came about at the same time. In
1665 Latin was taught in Moscow by SIMEON POLOTSKY, who was the first
Russian verse-maker. It is impossible to call him a poet; he wrote
what was called syllabic verse: the number of syllables taking the
place of rhythm. As a pioneer of culture, he deserves fame; but in the
interest of literature, it was a misfortune that his tradition was
followed until the middle of the eighteenth century.

In the latter half of the seventeenth century, another influence
besides that of Kiev and Poland made itself felt. A fresh breach in
the wall came from another quarter. The German suburb in Moscow in the
seventeenth century, called the _Sloboda_, became a centre of European
culture. Here dwelt the foreign officers and soldiers, capitalists and
artisans, who brought with them the technical skill and the culture of
Western Europe. It was here that the Russian stage was born. The
Protestant pastor of the _Sloboda_, Gregory, was commanded to write a
comedy by the Tsar Alexis, in 1672, on the occasion of the birth of
the Tsarevitch. A theatre was built in the village of Preobrazhenskoe
(Transfiguration), and a play on the subject of Esther and Ahasuerus
was produced there. It was here also in 1674 that the ballet was
introduced. A regular company was formed; several plays translated
from the German were produced, and the first original play written in
Russia was _The Prodigal Son_, by Simeon Polotsky.

Thus, at the end of the seventeenth century, Russia was ready for any
one who should be able to give a decisive blow to the now crumbling
wall between herself and the West. For, by the end of the seventeenth
century, Russia, after having been centralized in Moscow by Ivan III,
and enlarged by Ivan IV, had thrown off the Tartar yoke. She had
passed through a period of intestine strife, trouble, anarchy, and
pretenders, not unlike the Wars of the Roses; she had fought Poland
throughout the whole of the seventeenth century, from her darkest hour
of anarchy, when the Poles occupied Moscow. It was then that Russia
had arisen, expelled the invaders, reasserted her nationality and her
independence, and finally emerged out of all these vicissitudes, the
great Slavonic state; while Poland, Russia's superior in culture and
civilization, had sunk into the position of a dependency.

The man whom the epoch needed was forthcoming. His name was Peter. He
carried on the work which had been begun, but in quite an original
manner, and gave it a different character. He not only made a breach
in the wall, but he forced on his stubborn and conservative subjects
the habits and customs of the West. He revolutionized the government
and the Church, and turned the whole country upside down with his
explosive genius. He abolished the Russian Patriarchate, and crushed
the power of the Church once and for all, by making it entirely depend
on the State, as it still does. He simplified the Russian script and
the written language; he caused to be made innumerable translations of
foreign works on history, geography, and jurisprudence. He founded the
first Russian newspaper. But Peter the Great did not try to draw
Russia into an alien path; he urged his country with whip, kick, and
spur to regain its due place, which it had lost by lagging behind, on
the path it was naturally following. Peter the Great's reforms, his
manifold and superhuman activity, produced no immediate fruits in
literature. How could it? To blame him for this would be like blaming
a gardener for not producing new roses at a time when he was relaying
the garden. He was completely successful in opening a window on to
Europe, through which Western influence could stream into Russia. This
was not slow in coming about; and the foreign influence from the end
of the reign of Peter the Great onwards divided directly into two
different currents: the French and the German. The chief
representatives of the German influence in the eighteenth century were
TATISHCHEV, the founder of Russian history, and MICHAEL LOMONOSOV.

Michael Lomonosov (1714-1765), a man with an incredibly wide
intellectual range, was a mathematician, a chemist, an astronomer, a
political economist, a historian, an electrician, a geologist, a
grammarian and a poet. The son of a peasant, after an education
acquired painfully in the greatest privation, he studied at Marburg
and Freiburg. He was the Peter the Great of the Russian language; he
scratched off the crust of foreign barbarisms, and still more by his
example than his precepts--which were pedantic--he displayed it in its
native purity, and left it as an instrument ready tuned for a great
player. He fought for knowledge, and did all he could to further the
founding of the University of Moscow, which was done in 1755 by the
Empress Elizabeth. This last event is one of the most important
landmarks in the history of Russian culture.

The foremost representative of French influence was PRINCE KANTEMIR
(1708-44), who wrote the first Russian literary verse--satires--in the
pseudo-classic French manner, modelled on Boileau. But by far the most
abundant source of French ideas in Russia during the eighteenth
century was Catherine II, the German Princess. During Catherine's
reign, French influence was predominant in Russia. The Empress was the
friend of Voltaire, Montesquieu, and Diderot. Diderot came to St.
Petersburg, and the Russian military schools were flooded with French
teachers. Voltaire and Rousseau were the fashion, and cultured society
was platonically enamoured of the _Rights of Man_. Catherine herself,
besides being a great ruler and diplomatist, was a large-minded
philosopher, an elegant and witty writer. But the French Revolution
had a damping effect on all liberal enthusiasm, for the one thing an
autocrat, however enlightened, finds difficulty in understanding, is a

This change of point of view proved disastrous for the writer of what
is the most thoughtful book of the age: namely RADISHCHEV, an official
who wrote a book in twenty-five chapters called _A Journey from St.
Petersburg to Moscow_. Radishchev gave a simple and true account of
the effects of serfdom, a series of pictures drawn without
exaggeration, showing the appalling evils of the system, and appealing
to the conscience of the slave-owners; the book contained also a
condemnation of the Censorship. It appeared in 1790, with the
permission of the police. It was too late for the times; for in 1790
the events in France were making all the rulers of Europe pensive.
Radishchev was accused of being a rebel, and was condemned to death.
The sentence was commuted to one of banishment to Eastern Siberia. He
was pardoned by the Emperor Paul, and reinstated by the Emperor
Alexander; but he ultimately committed suicide on being threatened in
jest with exile once more. Until 1905 it was very difficult to get a
copy of this book. Thus Radishchev stands out as the martyr of Russian
literature; the first writer to suffer for expressing opinions at the
wrong moment: opinions which had they been stated in this case twenty
years sooner would have coincided with those published by the Empress

Catherine's reign, which left behind it many splendid results, and
had the effect of bestowing European culture on Russia, produced
hardly a single poet or prose-writer whose work can be read with
pleasure to-day, although a great importance was attached to the
writing of verse. There were poets in profusion, especially writers of
Odes, the best known of whom was DERZHAVIN (1743-1816), a brilliant
master of the pseudo-classical, in whose work, in spite of its
antiquated convention, elements of real poetical beauty are to be
found, which entitle him to be called the first Russian poet. But so
far no national literature had been produced. French was the language
of the cultured classes. Literature had become an artificial
plaything, to be played with according to French rules; but the
Russian language was waiting there, a language which possessed, as
Lomonosov said, "the vivacity of French, the strength of German, the
softness of Italian, the richness and powerful conciseness of Greek
and Latin"--waiting for some one who should have the desire and the
power to use it.


[1] Another copy of it was found in 1864 amongst the papers of
Catherine I. Pushkin left a remarkable analysis of the epic.



The value of Russian literature, its peculiar and unique message to the
world, would not be sensibly diminished, had everything it produced
from the twelfth to the beginning of the nineteenth century perished,
with the exception of _The Raid of Prince Igor_. With the beginning of
the nineteenth century, and the accession of Alexander I, the New Age
began, and the real dawn of Russian literature broke. It was soon to be
followed by a glorious sunrise. The literature which sprang up now and
later, was profoundly affected by public events; and public events
during this epoch were intimately linked with the events which were
happening in Western Europe. It was the epoch of the Napoleonic wars,
and Russia played a vital part in that drama. Public opinion, after
enthusiasm had been roused by the deeds of Suvorov, was exasperated
and humiliated by Napoleon's subsequent victories over Russian arms.
But when Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812, a wave of patriotism swept
over the country, and the struggle resulted in an increased sense of
unity and nationality. Russia emerged stronger and more solid from the
struggle. As far as foreign affairs were concerned, the Emperor
Alexander I--on whom everything depended--played his national part
well, and he fitly embodied the patriotic movement of the day. At the
beginning of his reign he raised great hopes of internal reform which
were never fulfilled. He was a dreamer of dreams born out of his due
time; a pupil of La Harpe, the Swiss Jacobin, who instilled into him
aspirations towards liberty, truth and humanity, which throughout
remained his ideals, but which were too vague to lead to anything
practical or definite. His reign was thus a series of more or less
undefined and fitful struggles to put the crooked straight. He desired
to give Russia a constitution, but the attempts he made to do so proved
fruitless; and towards the end of his life he is said to have been
considerably influenced by Metternich. It is at any rate a fact that
during these years reaction once more triumphed.

Nevertheless windows had been opened which could not be shut, and the
light which had streamed in produced some remarkable fruits.

When Alexander I came to the throne, the immediate effect of his
accession was the ungagging of literature, and the first writer of
importance to take advantage of this new state of things was KARAMZIN
(1726-1826). In 1802 he started a new review called the _Messenger of
Europe_. This was not his _début_. In the reign of Catherine, Karamzin
had been brought to Moscow from the provinces, and initiated into
German and English literature. In 1789-90 he travelled abroad and
visited Switzerland, London and Paris. On his return, he published his
impressions in the shape of "Letters of a Russian Traveller" in the
_Moscow Journal_, which he founded himself. His ideals were
republican; he was an enthusiastic admirer of England and the Swiss,
and the reforms of Peter the Great. But his importance in Russian
literature lies in his being the first Russian to write unstudied,
simple and natural prose, Russian as spoken. He published two
sentimental stories in his _Journal_, but the reign of Catherine II
which now came to an end (1796) was followed by a period of
unmitigated censorship, which lasted throughout the reign of the
Emperor Paul, until Alexander I came to the throne. The new review
which Karamzin then started differed radically from all preceding
Russian reviews in that it dealt with politics and made _belles
lettres_ and criticism a permanent feature. As soon as Karamzin had
put this review on a firm basis, he devoted himself to historical
research, and the fruit of his work in this field was his _History of
the Russian Dominion_, in twelve volumes; eight published in 1816, the
rest in 1821-1826. The Russian language was, as has been said, like an
instrument waiting for a great player to play on it, and to make use
of all its possibilities. Karamzin accomplished this, in the domain of
prose. He spoke to the Russian heart by speaking Russian, pure and
unmarred by stilted and alien conventionalisms.

The publication of Karamzin's history was epoch-making. In the first
place, the success of the work was overwhelming. It was the first
time in Russian history that a prose work had enjoyed so immense a
success. Not only were the undreamed-of riches of the Russian language
revealed to the Russians in the style, but the subject-matter came as
a surprise. Karamzin, as Pushkin put it, revealed Russia to the
Russians, just as Columbus discovered America. He made the dry bones
of history live, he wrote a great and glowing prose epic. His
influence on his contemporaries was enormous. His work received at
once the consecration of a classic, and it inspired Pushkin with his
most important if not his finest achievement in dramatic verse (_Boris

The first Russian poet of national importance belongs likewise to this
epoch, namely KRYLOV (1769[2]-1844), although he had written a great
deal for the stage in the preceding reigns, and continued to write for
a long time after the death of Alexander I. Krylov is also a Russian
classic, of quite a different kind. The son of an officer of the line,
he started by being a clerk in the provincial magistrature. Many of
his plays were produced with success, though none of them had any
durable qualities. But it was not until 1805 that he found his
vocation which was to write fables. The first of these were published
in 1806 in the _Moscow Journal_; from that time onward he went on
writing fables until he died in 1844.

His early fables were translations from La Fontaine. They imitate La
Fontaine's free versification and they are written in iambics of
varying length. They were at once successful, and he continued to
translate fables from the French, or to adapt from Æsop or other
sources. But as time went on, he began to invent fables of his own;
and out of the two hundred fables which he left at his death, forty
only are inspired by La Fontaine and seven suggested by Æsop: the
remainder are original. Krylov's translations of La Fontaine are not
so much translations as re-creations. He takes the same subject, and
although often following the original in every single incident, he
thinks out each _motif_ for himself and re-creates it, so that his
translations have the same personal stamp and the same originality as
his own inventions.

This is true even when the original is a masterpiece of the highest
order, such as La Fontaine's _Deux Pigeons_. You would think the
opening lines--

    "Deux pigeons s'amoient d'amour tendre,
    L'un d'eux s'ennuyant au logis
    Fut assez fou pour entreprendre
    Un voyage en lointain pays"--

were untranslatable; that nothing could be subtracted from them, and
that still less could anything be added; one ray the more, one shade
the less, you would think, would certainly impair their nameless
grace. But what does Krylov do? He re-creates the situation, expanding
La Fontaine's first line into six lines, makes it his own, and stamps
on it the impress of his personality and his nationality. Here is a
literal translation of the Russian, in rhyme. (I am not ambitiously
trying a third English version.)

    "Two pigeons lived like sons born of one mother.
    Neither would eat nor drink without the other;
    Where you see one, the other's surely near,
    And every joy they halved and every tear;
    They never noticed how the time flew by,
    They sighed, but it was not a weary sigh."

This gives the sense of Krylov's poem word for word, except for what
is the most important touch of all in the last line. The trouble is
that Krylov has written six lines which are as untranslatable as La
Fontaine's four; and he has made them as profoundly Russian as La
Fontaine's are French. Nothing could be more Russian than the last
line, which it is impossible to translate; because it should run--

    "They were sometimes sad, but they never felt _ennui_"--

literally, "it was never _boring_ to them." The difficulty is that the
word for _boring_ in Russian, _skuchno_, which occurs with the utmost
felicity in contradistinction to _sad_, _grustno_, cannot be rendered
in English in its poetical simplicity. There are no six lines more
tender, musical, wistful, and subtly poetical in the whole of Russian

Krylov's fables, like La Fontaine's, deal with animals, birds, fishes
and men; the Russian peasant plays a large part in them; often they
are satirical; nearly always they are bubbling with humour. A writer
of fables is essentially a satirist, whose aim it is sometimes to
convey pregnant sense, keen mockery or scathing criticism in a veiled
manner, sometimes merely to laugh at human foibles, or to express
wisdom in the form of wit, yet whose aim it always is to amuse. But
Krylov, though a satirist, succeeded in remaining a poet. It has been
said that his images are conventional and outworn--that is to say, he
uses the machinery of Zephyrs, Nymphs, Gods and Demigods,--and that
his conceptions are antiquated. But what splendid use he makes of this
machinery! When he speaks of a Zephyr you feel it is a Zephyr blowing,
for instance, as when the ailing cornflower whispers to the breeze.
Sometimes by the mere sound of his verse he conveys a picture, and
more than a picture, as in the Fable of the Eagle and the Mole, in the
first lines of which he makes you see and hear the eagle and his mate
sweeping to the dreaming wood, and swooping down on to the oak-tree.
Or again, in another fable, the Eagle and the Spider, he gives in a
few words the sense of height and space, as if you were looking down
from a balloon, when the eagle, soaring over the mountains of the
Caucasus, sees the end of the earth, the rivers meandering in the
plains, the woods, the meadows in all their spring glory, and the
angry Caspian Sea, darkling like the wing of a raven in the distance.
But his greatest triumph, in this respect, is the fable of the Ass and
the Nightingale, in which the verse echoes the very trills of the
nightingale, and renders the stillness and the delighted awe of the
listeners,--the lovers and the shepherd. Again a convention, if you
like, but what a felicitous convention!

The fables are discursive like La Fontaine's, and not brief like
Æsop's; but like La Fontaine, Krylov has the gift of summing up a
situation, of scoring a sharp dramatic effect by the sudden evocation
of a whole picture in a terse phrase: as, for instance, in the fable
of the Peasants and the River: the peasants go to complain to the
river of the conduct of the streams which are continually overflowing
and destroying their goods, but when they reach the river, they see
half their goods floating on it. "They looked at each other, and
shaking their heads," says Krylov, "went home." The two words "went
home" in Russian (_poshli domoi_) express their hopelessness more
than pages of rhetoric. This is just one of those terse effects such
as La Fontaine delights in.

Krylov in his youth lived much among the poor, and his language is
peculiarly native, racy, nervous, and near to the soil. It is the
language of the people and of the peasants, and it abounds in humorous
turns. He is, moreover, always dramatic, and his fables are for this
reason most effective when read aloud or recited. He is dramatic not
only in that part of the fable which is narrative, but in the
prologue, epilogue, or moral--the author's commentary; he adapts
himself to the tone of every separate fable, and becomes himself one
of the _dramatis personæ_. Sometimes his fables deal with political
events--the French Revolution, Napoleon's invasion of Russia, the
Congress of Vienna; the education of Alexander I by La Harpe, in the
well-known fable of the Lion who sends his son to be educated by the
Eagle, of whom he consequently learns how to make nests. Sometimes
they deal with internal evils and abuses: the administration of
justice, in fables such as that of the peasant who brings a case
against the sheep and is found guilty by the fox; the censorship is
aimed at in the fable of the nightingale bidden to sing in the cat's
claws; the futility of bureaucratic regulations in the fable of the
sheep who are devoured by their superfluous watchdogs, or in that of
the sheep who are told solemnly and pompously to drag any offending
wolf before the nearest magistrate; or, again, in that of the high
dignitary who is admitted immediately into paradise because on earth
he left his work to be done by his secretaries--for being obviously a
fool, had he done his work himself, the result would have been
disastrous to all concerned. Sometimes they deal merely with human
follies and affairs, and the idiosyncrasies of men.

Krylov's fables have that special quality which only permanent
classics possess of appealing to different generations, to people of
every age, kind and class, for different reasons; so that children can
read them simply for the story, and grown-up people for their
philosophy; their style pleases the unlettered by its simplicity, and
is the envy and despair of the artist in its supreme art. Pushkin
calls him "le plus national et le plus populaire de nos poètes" (this
was true in Pushkin's day), and said his fables were read by men of
letters, merchants, men of the world, servants and children. His work
bears the stamp of ageless modernity just as _The Pilgrim's Progress_
or Cicero's letters seem modern. It also has the peculiarly Russian
quality of unexaggerated realism. He sees life as it is, and writes
down what he sees. It is true that although his style is finished and
polished, he only at times reaches the high-water mark of what can be
done with the Russian language: his style, always idiomatic, pregnant
and natural, is sometimes heavy, and even clumsy; but then he never
sets out to be anything more than a fabulist. In this he is supremely
successful, and since at the same time he gives us snatches of
exquisite poetry, the greater the praise to him. But, when all is said
and done, Krylov has the talisman which defies criticism, baffles
analysis, and defeats time: namely, charm. His fables achieved an
instantaneous popularity, which has never diminished until to-day.

Internal political events proved the next factor in Russian
literature; a factor out of which the so-called romantic movement was
to grow.

During the Napoleonic wars a great many Russian officers had lived
abroad. They came back to Russia after the Congress of Vienna in 1815,
teeming with new ideas and new ideals. They took life seriously, and
were called by Pushkin the Puritans of the North. Their aim was
culture and the public welfare. They were not revolutionaries; on the
contrary, they were anxious to co-operate with the Government. They
formed for their purpose a society, in imitation of the German
_Tugendbund_, called _The Society of Welfare_: its aims were
philanthropic, educational, and economic. It consisted chiefly of
officers of the Guard, and its headquarters were at St. Petersburg.
All this was known and approved of by the Emperor. But when the
Government became reactionary, this peaceful progressive movement
changed its character. The Society of Welfare was closed in 1821, and
its place was taken by two new societies, which, instead of being
political, were social and revolutionary. The success of the
revolutionary movements in Spain and in Italy encouraged these
societies to follow their example.

The death of Alexander I in 1825 forced them to immediate action. The
shape it took was the "Decembrist" rising. Constantine, the Emperor's
brother, renounced his claim to the throne, and was succeeded by his
brother Nicholas. December 14 (O.S.) was fixed for the day on which
the Emperor should receive the oath of allegiance of his troops. An
organized insurrection took place, which was confined to certain
regiments. The Emperor was supported by the majority of the Guards
regiments, and the people showed no signs of supporting the rising,
which was at once suppressed.

One hundred and twenty-five of the conspirators were condemned. Five
of them were hanged, and among them the poet RYLEEV (1795-1826). But
although the political results of the movement were nil, the effect of
the movement on literature was far-reaching. Philosophy took the place
of politics, and liberalism was diverted into the channel of
romanticism; but out of this romantic movement came the springtide of
Russian poetry, in which, for the first time, the soul of the Russian
people found adequate expression. And the very fact that politics
were excluded from the movement proved, in one sense, a boon to
literature: for it gave Russian men of genius the chance to be
writers, artists and poets, and prevented them from exhausting their
whole energy in being inefficient politicians or unsuccessful
revolutionaries. I will dwell on the drawbacks, on the dark side of
the medal, presently.

As far as the actual Decembrist movement is concerned, its concrete
and direct legacy to literature consists in the work of Ryleev, and
its indirect legacy in the most famous comedy of the Russian stage,
_Gore ot Uma_, "The Misfortune of being Clever," by GRIBOYEDOV

Ryleev's life was cut short before his poetical powers had come to
maturity. It is idle to speculate what he might have achieved had he
lived longer. The work which he left is notable for its pessimism, but
still suffers from the old rhetorical conventions of the eighteenth
century and the imitation of French models; moreover he looked on
literature as a matter of secondary importance. "I am not a poet," he
said, "I am a citizen." In spite of this, every now and then there are
flashes of intense poetical inspiration in his work; and he struck
one or two powerful chords--for instance, in his stanzas on the vision
of enslaved Russia, which have a tense strength and fire that remind
one of Emily Brontë. He was a poet as well as a citizen, but even had
he lived to a prosperous old age and achieved artistic perfection in
his work, he could never have won a brighter aureole than that which
his death gained him. The poems of his last days in prison breathe a
spirit of religious humility, and he died forgiving and praying for
his enemies. His name shines in Russian history and Russian
literature, as that of a martyr to a high ideal.

Griboyedov, the author of _Gore ot Uma_, a writer of a very different
order, although not a Decembrist himself, is a product of that period.
His comedy still remains the unsurpassed masterpiece of Russian
comedy, and can be compared with Beaumarchais' _Figaro_ and Sheridan's
_School for Scandal_.

Griboyedov was a Foreign Office official, and he was murdered when
Minister Plenipotentiary at Teheran, on January 30, 1829. He conceived
the plot of his play in 1816, and read aloud some scenes in St.
Petersburg in 1823-24. They caused a sensation in literary circles,
and the play began to circulate rapidly in MSS. Two fragments of the
drama were published in one of the almanacs, which then took the place
of literary reviews. But beyond this, Griboyedov could neither get his
play printed nor acted. Thousands of copies circulated in MSS., but
the play was not produced on the stage until 1831, and then much
mutilated; and it was not printed until 1833.

_Gore ot Uma_ is written in verse, in iambics of varying length, like
Krylov's fables. The unities are preserved. The action takes place in
one day and in the same house--that of Famusov, an elderly gentleman
of the Moscow upper class holding a Government appointment. He is a
widower and has one daughter, Sophia, whose sensibility is greater
than her sense; and the play opens on a scene where the father
discovers her talking to his secretary, Molchalin, and says he will
stand no nonsense. Presently, the friend of Sophia's childhood,
Chatsky, arrives after a three years' absence abroad; Chatsky is a
young man of independent ideas whose misfortune it is to be clever. He
notices that Sophia receives him coldly, and later on he perceives
that she is in love with Molchalin,--a wonderfully drawn type, the
perfect climber, time-server and place-seeker, and the incarnation of
convention,--who does not care a rap for Sophia. Chatsky declaims to
Famusov his contempt for modern Moscow, for the slavish worship by
society of all that is foreign, for its idolatry of fashion and
official rank, its hollowness and its convention. Famusov, the
incarnation of respectable conventionality, does not understand one
word of what he is saying.

At an evening party given at Famusov's house, Chatsky is determined to
find out whom Sophia loves. He decides it is Molchalin, and lets fall
a few biting sarcasms about him to Sophia; and Sophia, to pay him back
for his sarcasm, lets it be understood by one of the guests that he is
mad. The half-spoken hint spreads like lightning; and the spreading of
the news is depicted in a series of inimitable scenes. Chatsky enters
while the subject is being discussed, and delivers a long tirade on
the folly of Moscow society, which only confirms the suspicions of the
guests; and he finds when he gets to the end of his speech that he is
speaking to an empty room.

In the fourth act we see the guests leaving the house after the
party. Chatsky is waiting for his carriage. Sophia appears on the
staircase and calls Molchalin. Chatsky, hearing her voice, hides
behind a pillar. Liza, Sophia's maid, comes to fetch Molchalin, and
knocks at his door. Molchalin comes out, and not knowing that Sophia
or Chatsky are within hearing, makes love to Liza and tells her that
he only loves Sophia out of duty. Then Sophia appears, having heard
everything. Molchalin falls on his knees to her: she is quite
inexorable. Chatsky comes forward and begins to speak his mind--when
all is interrupted by the arrival of Famusov, who speaks his. Chatsky
shakes the dust of the house and of Moscow off his feet, and Sophia is
left without Chatsky and without Molchalin.

The _Gore ot Uma_ is a masterpiece of satire rather than a masterpiece
of dramatic comedy. That is to say that, as a satire of the Moscow
society of the day and of the society of yesterday, and of to-morrow,
it is immortal, and forms a complete work: but as a comedy it does
not. Almost every scene separately is perfect in itself, but
dramatically it does not group itself round one central idea or one
mainspring of action. Judged from the point of view of dramatic
propriety, the behaviour of the hero is wildly improbable throughout;
there is no reason for the spectator to think he should be in love
with Sophia; if he is, there is no reason for him to behave as he
does; if a man behaved like that, declaiming at an evening party long
speeches on the decay of the times, the most frivolous of societies
would be justified in thinking him mad.

Pushkin hit on the weak point of the play as a play when he wrote: "In
_The Misfortune of being Clever_ the question arises, Who is clever?
and the answer is Griboyedov. Chatsky is an honourable young man who
has lived for a long time with a clever man (that is to say with
Griboyedov), and learnt his clever sarcasms; but to whom does he say
them? To Famusov, to the old ladies at the party. This is
unforgivable, because the first sign of a clever man is to know at
once whom he is dealing with."

But what makes the work a masterpiece is the naturalness of the
characters, the dialogue, the comedy of the scenes which represent
Moscow society. It is extraordinary that on so small a scale, in four
short acts, Griboyedov should have succeeded in giving so complete a
picture of Moscow society, and should have given the dialogue, in
spite of its being in verse, the stamp of conversational familiarity.
The portraits are all full-length portraits, and when the play is
produced now, the rendering of each part raises as much discussion in
Russia as a revival of one of Sheridan's comedies in England.

As for the style, nearly three-quarters of the play has passed into
the Russian language. It is forcible, concise, bitingly sarcastic, it
is as neat and dry as W. S. Gilbert, as elegant as La Fontaine, as
clear as an icicle, and as clean as the thrust of a sword. But perhaps
the crowning merit of this immortal satire is its originality. It is a
product of Russian life and Russian genius, and as yet it is without a

Outside the current of politics and political aspirations, there
appeared during this same epoch a poet who exercised a considerable
influence over Russian literature, and who devoted himself exclusively
to poetry. This was BASIL ZHUKOVSKY (1783-1852). He opened the door
of Russian literature on the fields of German and English poetry. The
first poem he published in 1802 was a translation of Gray's _Elegy_;
this, and an imitation of Bürger's _Leonore_, which affected all Slav
literatures, brought him fame. Later, he translated Schiller's _Maid
of Orleans_, his ballads, some of the lyrics of Uhland, Goethe,
Hebbel, and a great quantity of other foreign poems. His translations
were faithful, but in spite of this he gave them the stamp of his own
dreamy personality. He was made tutor to the Tsarevitch
Alexander--afterwards Alexander II,--and for a time his production
ceased; but when this task was finished, he braced himself in his old
age to translate _The Odyssey_, and this translation appeared in
1848-50. In this work he obeyed the first great law of translation,
"Thou shalt not turn a good poem into a bad one." He produced a
beautiful work; but he also did what all other translators of Homer
have done; he took the Homer out and left the Zhukovsky, and with it
something sentimental, elegiac, and didactic.

Zhukovsky's greatest service to Russian literature consisted in his
exploding the superstition that the literature of France was the only
literature that counted, and introducing literary Russia to the poets
of England and Germany rather than of France. But apart from this, he
is the first and best translator in European literature, for what
Krylov did with some of La Fontaine's fables, he did for all the
literature he touched--he re-created it in Russian, and made it his
own. In his translation of Gray's _Elegy_, for instance, he not only
translates the poet's meaning into musical verse, but he conveys the
intangible atmosphere of dreamy landscape, and the poignant accent
which makes that poem the natural language of grief. It is
characteristic of him that, thirty-seven years after he translated the
poem, he visited Stoke Poges, re-read Gray's _Elegy_ there, and made
another translation, which is still more faithful than the first.

The Russian language was by this time purified from all outward
excrescences, released from the bondage of convention and the
pseudo-classical, open to all outside influences, and only waiting,
like a ready-tuned instrument, on which Krylov and Zhukovsky had
already sounded sweet notes and deep tones, and which Karamzin had
proved to be a magnificent vehicle for musical and perspicuous prose,
for a poet of genius to come and sound it from its lowest note to the
top of its compass, for there was indeed much music and excellent
voice to be plucked from it. At the appointed hour the man came. It
was PUSHKIN. He arrived at a time when a battle of words was raging
between the so-called classical and romantic schools. The
pseudo-classical, with all its mythological machinery and conventional
apparatus, was totally alien to Russia, and a direct and slavish
imitation of the French. On the other hand, the utmost confusion
reigned as to what constituted romanticism. To each single writer it
meant a different thing: "Enfonçez Racine," and the unities, in one
case; or ghosts, ballads, legends, local colour in another; or the
defiance of morality and society in another. Zhukovsky, in introducing
German romanticism into Russia, paved the way for its death, and for
the death of all exotic fashions and models; for he paved the way for
Pushkin to render the whole quarrel obsolete by creating models of his
own and by founding a national literature.

Pushkin was born on May 26, 1799, at Moscow. He was of ancient
lineage, and inherited African negro blood on his mother's side, his
mother's grandmother being the daughter of Peter the Great's negro,
Hannibal. Until he was nine years old, he did not show signs of any
unusual precocity; but from then onwards he was seized with a passion
for reading which lasted all his life. He read Plutarch's _Lives_, the
_Iliad_ and the _Odyssey_ in a translation. He then devoured all the
French books he found in his father's library. Pushkin was gifted with
a photographic memory, which retained what he read immediately and
permanently. His first efforts at writing were in French,--comedies,
which he performed himself to an audience of his sisters. He went to
school in 1812 at the Lyceum of Tsarskoe Selo, a suburb of St.
Petersburg. His school career was not brilliant, and his leaving
certificate qualifies his achievements as mediocre, even in Russian.
But during the six years he spent at the Lyceum, he continued to read
voraciously. His favourite poet at this time was Voltaire. He began to
write verse, first in French and then in Russian; some of it was
printed in 1814 and 1815 in reviews, and in 1815 he declaimed his
_Recollections of Tsarskoe Selo_ in public at the Lyceum examination,
in the presence of Derzhavin the poet.

The poems which he wrote at school afterwards formed part of his
collected works. In these poems, consisting for the greater part of
anacreontics and epistles, although they are immature, and imitative,
partly of contemporary authors such as Derzhavin and Zhukovsky, and
partly of the French anacreontic school of poets, such as Voltaire,
Gresset and Parny, the sound of a new voice was unmistakable. Indeed,
not only his contemporaries, but the foremost representatives of the
Russian literature of that day, Derzhavin, Karamzin and Zhukovsky,
made no mistake about it. They greeted the first notes of this new
lyre with enthusiasm. Zhukovsky used to visit the boy poet at school
and read out his verse to him. Derzhavin was enthusiastic over the
recitation of his _Recollections of Tsarskoe Selo_. Thus fame came to
Pushkin as easily as the gift of writing verse. He had lisped in
numbers, and as soon as he began to speak in them, his contemporaries
immediately recognized and hailed the new voice. He did not wake up
and find himself famous like Byron, but he walked into the Hall of
Fame as naturally as a young heir steps into his lawful inheritance.
If we compare Pushkin's school-boy poetry with Byron's _Hours of
Idleness_, it is easy to understand how this came about. In the _Hours
of Idleness_ there is, perhaps, only one poem which would hold out
hopes of serious promise; and the most discerning critics would have
been justified in being careful before venturing to stake any great
hopes on so slender a hint. But in Pushkin's early verse, although the
subject-matter is borrowed, and the style is still irregular and
careless, it is none the less obvious that it flows from the pen of
the author without effort or strain; and besides this, certain coins
of genuine poetry ring out, bearing the image and superscription of a
new mint, the mint of Pushkin.

When the first of his poems to attract the attention of a larger
audience, _Ruslan and Ludmila_, was published, in 1820, it was greeted
with enthusiasm by the public; but it had already won the suffrages of
that circle which counted most, that is to say, the leading men of
letters of the day, who had heard it read out in MSS. For as soon as
Pushkin left school and stepped into the world, he was received into
the literary circle of the day on equal terms. After he had read aloud
the first cantos of _Ruslan and Ludmila_ at Zhukovsky's literary
evenings, Zhukovsky gave him his portrait with this inscription: "To
the pupil, from his defeated master"; and BATYUSHKOV, a poet who,
after having been influenced, like Pushkin, by Voltaire and Parny, had
gone back to the classics, Horace and Tibullus, and had introduced the
classic anacreontic school of poetry into Russia, was astonished to
find a young man of the world outplaying him without any trouble on
the same lyre, and exclaimed, "Oh! how well the rascal has started

The publication of _Ruslan and Ludmila_ sealed Pushkin's reputation
definitely, as far as the general public was concerned, although some
of the professional critics treated the poem with severity. The
subject of the poem was a Russian fairy-tale, and the critics blamed
the poet for having recourse to what they called Russian folk-lore,
which they considered to be unworthy of the poetic muse. One review
complained that Pushkin's choice of subject was like introducing a
bearded unkempt peasant into a drawing-room, while others blamed him
for dealing with national stuff in a flippant spirit. But the curious
thing is that, while the critics blamed him for his choice of subject,
and his friends and the public defended him for it, quoting all sorts
of precedents, the poem has absolutely nothing in common, either in
its spirit, style or characterization, with native Russian folk-lore
and fairy-tales. Much later on in his career, Pushkin was to show what
he could do with Russian folk-lore. But _Ruslan and Ludmila_, which,
as far as its form is concerned, has a certain superficial resemblance
to Ariosto, is in reality the result of the French influence, under
which Pushkin had been ever since his cradle, and which in this poem
blazes into the sky like a rocket, and bursts into a shower of sparks,
never to return again.

There is no passion in the poem and no irony, but it is young, fresh,
full of sensuous, not to say sensual images, interruptions,
digressions, and flippant epigrams. Pushkin wondered afterwards that
nobody noticed the coldness of the poem; the truth was that the eyes
of the public were dazzled by the fresh sensuous images, and their
ears were taken captive by the new voice: for the importance of the
poem lies in this--that the new voice which the literary pundits had
already recognized in the Lyceum of Tsarskoe Selo was now speaking to
the whole world, and all Russia became aware that a young man was
among them "with mouth of gold and morning in his eyes." _Ruslan and
Ludmila_ has just the same sensuous richness, fresh music and
fundamental coldness as Marlowe's _Hero and Leander_. After finishing
the poem, Pushkin added a magnificent and moving Epilogue, written
from the Caucasus in the year of its publication (1820); and when the
second edition was published in 1828, he added a Prologue in his
finest manner which tells of Russian fairy-land.

After leaving school in 1817, until 1820, Pushkin plunged into the gay
life of St. Petersburg. He wanted to be a Hussar, but his father could
not afford it. In default he became a Foreign Office official; but he
did not take this profession seriously. He consorted with the
political youth and young Liberals of the day; he scattered stinging
epigrams and satirical epistles broadcast. He sympathized with the
Decembrists, but took no part in their conspiracy. He would probably
have ended by doing so; but, luckily for Russian literature, he was
transferred in 1820 from the Foreign Office to the Chancery of General
Inzov in the South of Russia; and from 1820 to 1826 he lived first at
Kishinev, then at Odessa, and finally in his own home at Pskov. This
enforced banishment was of the greatest possible service to the poet;
it took him away from the whirl and distractions of St. Petersburg; it
prevented him from being compromised in the drama of the Decembrists;
it ripened and matured his poetical genius; it provided him, since it
was now that he visited the Caucasus and the Crimea for the first
time, with new subject-matter.

During this period he learnt Italian and English, and came under the
influence of André Chénier and Byron. André Chénier's influence is
strongly felt in a series of lyrics in imitation of the classics; but
these lyrics were altogether different from the anacreontics of his
boyhood. Byron's influence is first manifested in a long poem _The
Prisoner of the Caucasus_. It is Byronic in the temperament of the
hero, who talks in the strain of the earlier Childe Harold; he is
young, but feels old; tired of life, he seeks for consolation in the
loneliness of nature in the Caucasus. He is taken prisoner by mountain
tribesmen, and set free by a girl who drowns herself on account of her
unrequited love. Pushkin said later that the poem was immature, but
that there were verses in it that came from his heart. There is one
element in the poem which is by no means immature, and that is the
picture of the Caucasus, which is executed with much reality and
simplicity. Pushkin annexed the Caucasus to Russian poetry. The Crimea
inspired him with another tale, also Byronic in some respects, _The
Fountain of Baghchi-Sarai_, which tells of a Tartar Khan and his
Christian slave, who is murdered out of jealousy by a former
favourite, herself drowned by the orders of the Khan. Here again the
descriptions are amazing, and Pushkin draws out a new stop of rich and
voluptuous music.

In speaking of the influence of Byron over Pushkin it is necessary to
discriminate. Byron helped Pushkin to discover himself; Byron
revealed to him his own powers, showed him the way out of the French
garden where he had been dwelling, and acted as a guide to fresh woods
and pastures new. But what Pushkin took from the new provinces to
which the example of Byron led him was entirely different from what
Byron sought there. Again, the methods and workmanship of the two
poets were radically different. Pushkin is never imitative of Byron;
but Byron opened his eyes to a new world, and indeed did for him what
Chapman's _Homer_ did for Keats. It frequently happens that when a
poet is deeply struck by the work of another poet he feels a desire to
write something himself, but something different. Thus Pushkin's
mental intercourse with Byron had the effect of bracing the talent of
the Russian poet and spurring him on to the conquest of new worlds.

Pushkin's six years' banishment to his own country had the effect of
revealing to him the reality and seriousness of his vocation as a
poet, and the range and strength of his gifts. It was during this
period that besides the works already mentioned he wrote some of his
finest lyrics, _The Conversation between the Bookseller and the
Poet_--perhaps the most perfect of his shorter poems--it contains four
lines to have written which Turgenev said he would have burnt the
whole of his works--a larger poem called _The Gypsies_; his dramatic
chronicle _Boris Godunov_, and the beginning of his masterpiece
_Onegin_; several ballads, including _The Sage Oleg_, and an
unfinished romance, the _Robber Brothers_.

Not only is the richness of his output during this period remarkable,
but the variety and the high level of art maintained in all the
different styles which he attempted and mastered. _The Gypsies_
(1827), which was received with greater favour by the public than any
of his poems, either earlier or later, is the story of a disappointed
man, Aleko, who leaves the world and takes refuge with gypsies. A
tragically ironical situation is the result. The anarchic nature of
the Byronic misanthrope brings tragedy into the peaceful life of the
people, who are lawless because they need no laws. Aleko loves and
marries the gypsy Zemfira, but after a time she tires of him, and
loves a young gypsy. Aleko surprises them and kills them both. Then
Zemfira's father banishes him from the gypsies' camp. He, too, had
been deceived. When his wife Mariula had been untrue and had left him,
he had attempted no vengeance, but had brought up her daughter.

"Leave us, proud man," he says to Aleko. "We are a wild people; we
have no laws, we torture not, neither do we punish; we have no use for
blood or groans; we will not live with a man of blood. Thou wast not
made for the wild life. For thyself alone thou claimest licence; we
are shy and good-natured; thou art evil-minded and presumptuous.
Farewell, and peace be with thee!"

The charm of the poem lies in the descriptions of the gypsy camp and
the gypsy life, the snatches of gypsy song, and the characterization
of the gypsies, especially of the women. It is not surprising the poem
was popular; it breathes a spell, and the reading of it conjures up
before one the wandering life, the camp-fire, the soft speech and the
song; and makes one long to go off with "the raggle-taggle gypsies O!"

Byron's influence soon gave way to that of Shakespeare, who opened a
still larger field of vision to the Russian poet. In 1825 he writes:
"Quel homme que ce Shakespeare! Je n'en reviens pas. Comme Byron le
tragique est mesquin devant lui! Ce Byron qui n'a jamais conçu qu'un
seul caractère et c'est le sien ... ce Byron donc a partagé entre ses
personages tel et tel trait de son caractère: son orgeuil à l'un, sa
haine à l'autre, sa mélancolie au troisième, etc., et c'est ainsi d'un
caractère plein, sombre et énergique, il a fait plusieurs caractères
insignifiants; ce n'est pas là de la tragédie. On a encore une manie.
Quand on a conçu un caractère, tout ce qu'on lui fait dire, même les
choses les plus étranges, en porte essentiellement l'empreinte, comme
les pédants et les marins dans les vieux romans de Fielding. Voyez le
haineux de Byron ... et là-dessus lisez Shakespeare. Il ne craint
jamais de compromettre son personage, il le fait parler avec tout
l'abandon de la vie, car il est sûr en temps et lieu, de lui faire
trouver le langage de son caractère. Vous me demanderez: votre
tragédie est-elle une tragédie de caractère ou de costume? J'ai choisi
le genre le plus aisé, mais j'ai tâché de les unir tous deux. J'écris
et je pense. La plupart des scènes ne demandent que du raisonnement;
quand j'arrive à une scène qui demande de l'inspiration, j'attends ou
je passe dessus."

I quote this letter because it throws light, firstly, on Pushkin's
matured opinion of Byron, and, secondly, on his methods of work; for,
like Leonardo da Vinci, he formed the habit, which he here describes,
of leaving unwritten passages where inspiration was needed, until he
felt the moment of _bien être_ when inspiration came; and this not
only in writing his tragedy, but henceforward in everything that he
wrote, as his note-books testify.

The subject-matter of _Boris Godunov_ was based on Karamzin's history:
it deals with the dramatic episode of the Russian Perkin Warbeck, the
false Demetrius who pretended to be the murdered son of Ivan the
Terrible. The play is constructed on the model of Shakespeare's
chronicle plays, but in a still more disjointed fashion, without a
definite beginning or end: when Mussorgsky made an opera out of it,
the action was concentrated into definite acts; for, as it stands, it
is not a play, but a series of scenes. Pushkin had not the power of
conceiving and executing a drama which should move round one idea to
an inevitable close. He had not the gift of dramatic architectonics,
and still less that of stage carpentry. On the other hand, the scenes,
whether they be tragic and poetical, or scenes of common life, are as
vivid as any in Shakespeare; the characters are all alive, and they
speak a language which is at the same time ancient, living, and

In saying that Pushkin lacks the gift of stage architectonics and
stage carpentry, it is not merely meant that he lacked the gift of
arranging acts that would suit the stage, or that of imagining stage
effects. His whole play is not conceived as a drama; a subject from
which a drama might be written is taken, but the drama is left
unwritten. We see Boris Godunov on the throne, which he has unlawfully
usurped; we know he feels remorse; he tells us so in monologues; we
see his soul stripped before us, bound upon a wheel of fire, and we
watch the wheel revolve; and that is all the moral and spiritual
action that the part contains; he is static and not dynamic, he never
has to make up his mind; his will never has to encounter the shock of
another will during the whole play. Neither does the chronicle centre
round the Pretender. It is true that we see the idea of impersonating
the Tsarevitch dawning in his mind; and it is also true that in one
scene with his Polish love, Marina, we see him dynamically moving in a
dramatic situation. She loves him because she thinks he is the son of
an anointed King. He loves her too much to deceive her, and tells her
the truth. She then says she will have nothing of him; and then he
rises from defeat and shame to the height of the situation, becomes
great, and, not unlike Browning's Sludge, says: "Although I am an
impostor, I am born to be a King all the same; I am one of Nature's
Kings; and I defy you to oust me from the situation. Tell every one
what I have told you. Nobody will believe you." And Marina is
conquered once more by his conduct and bearing.

This scene is sheer drama; it is the conflict of two wills and two
souls. But there the matter ends. The kaleidoscope is shaken, and we
are shown a series of different patterns, in which the heroine plays
no part at all, and in which the hero only makes a momentary
appearance. The fact is there is neither hero nor heroine in the play.
It is not a play, but a chronicle; and it would be foolish to blame
Pushkin for not accomplishing what he never attempted. As a chronicle,
a series of detached scenes, it is supremely successful. There are
certain scenes which attain to sublimity: for instance, that in the
cell of the monastery, where the monk is finishing his chronicle; and
the monologue in which Boris speaks his remorse, and his dying speech
to his son. The verse in these scenes is sealed with the mark of that
God-gifted ease and high seriousness, which belong only to the
inspired great. They are Shakespearean, not because they imitate
Shakespeare, but because they attain to heights of imaginative truth
to which Shakespeare rises more often than any other poet; and the
language in these scenes has a simplicity, an inevitableness, an
absence of all conscious effort and of all visible art and artifice, a
closeness of utterance combined with a width of suggestion which
belong only to the greatest artists, to the Greeks, to Shakespeare, to

_Boris Godunov_ was not published until January 1, 1831, and passed,
with one exception, absolutely unnoticed by the critics. Like so many
great works, it came before its time; and it was not until years
afterwards that the merits of this masterpiece were understood and

In 1826 Pushkin's banishment to the country came to an end; in that
year he was allowed to go to Moscow, and in 1827 to St. Petersburg. In
1826 his poems appeared in one volume, and the second canto of
_Onegin_ (the first had appeared in 1825). In 1827 _The Gypsies_, and
the third canto of _Onegin_; in 1828 the fourth, fifth, and sixth
cantos of _Onegin_; in 1829 _Graf Nulin_, an admirably told _Conte_
such as Maupassant might have written, of a deceived husband and a
wife who, finding herself in the situation of Lucretia, gives the
would-be Tarquin a box on the ears, but succeeds, nevertheless, in
being unfaithful with some one else--the _Cottage of Kolomna_ is
another story in the same vein--and in the same year _Poltava_.

This poem was written in one month, in St. Petersburg. The subject is
Mazepa, with whom the daughter of his hereditary enemy, Kochubey, whom
he afterwards tortures and kills, falls in love. But it is in reality
the epic of Peter the Great.[3] When the poem was published, it
disconcerted the critics and the public. It revealed an entirely new
phase of Pushkin's style, and it should have widened the popular
conception of the poet's powers and versatility. But at the time the
public only knew Pushkin through his lyrics and his early tales;
_Boris Godunov_ had not yet been published; moreover, the public of
that day expected to find in a poem passion and the delineation of the
heart's adventures. This stern objective fragment of an epic, falling
into their sentimental world of keepsakes, ribbons, roses and cupids,
like a bas-relief conceived by a Titan and executed by a god, met with
little appreciation. The poet's verse which, so far as the public
knew it, had hitherto seemed like a shining and luscious fruit, was
exchanged for a concentrated weighty tramp of ringing rhyme, _martelé_
like steel. It is as if Tennyson had followed up his early poems in a
style as concise as that of Pope and as concentrated as that of
Browning's dramatic lyrics. The poem is a fit monument to Peter the
Great, and the great monarch's impetuous genius and passion for
thorough craftsmanship seem to have entered into it.

In 1829 Pushkin made a second journey to the Caucasus, the result of
which was a harvest of lyrics. On his return to St. Petersburg he
sketched the plan of another epic poem, _Galub_, dealing with the
Caucasus, but this remained a fragment.

In 1831 he finished the eighth and last canto of _Onegin_. Originally
there were nine cantos, but when the work was published one of the
cantos dealing with Onegin's travels was left out as being irrelevant.
Pushkin had worked at this poem since 1823. It was Byron's _Beppo_
which gave him the idea of writing a poem on modern life; but here
again, he made of the idea something quite different from any of
Byron's work. _Onegin_ is a novel. Eugene Onegin is the name of the
hero. It is, moreover, the first Russian novel; and as a novel it has
never been surpassed. It is as real as Tolstoy, as finished in
workmanship and construction as Turgenev. It is a realistic novel; not
realistic in the sense that Zola's work was mis-called realistic, but
realistic in the sense that Miss Austen is realistic. The hero is the
average man about St. Petersburg; his father, a worthy public servant,
lives honourably on debts and gives three balls a year. Onegin is
brought up, not too strictly, by "Monsieur l'Abbé"; he goes out in the
world clothed by a London tailor, fluent in French, and able to dance
the Mazurka.

Onegin can touch on every subject, can hold his tongue when the
conversation becomes too serious, and make epigrams. He knows enough
Latin to construe an epitaph, to talk about Juvenal, and put "Vale!"
at the end of his letters, and he can remember two lines of the
_Æneid_. He is severe on Homer and Theocritus, but has read Adam
Smith. The only art in which he is proficient is the _ars amandi_ as
taught by Ovid. He is a patron of the ballet; he goes to balls; he
eats beef-steaks and _paté de foie gras_. In spite of all
this--perhaps because of it--he suffers from spleen, like Childe
Harold, the author says. His father dies, leaving a lot of debts
behind him, but a dying uncle summons him to the country; and when he
gets there he finds his uncle dead, and himself the inheritor of the
estate. In the country, he is just as much bored as he was in St.
Petersburg. A new neighbour arrives in the shape of Lensky, a young
man fresh from Germany, an enthusiast and a poet, and full of Kant,
Schiller, and the German writers. Lensky introduces Onegin to the
neighbouring family, by name Larin, consisting of a widow and two
daughters. Lensky is in love with the younger daughter, Olga, who is
simple, fresh, blue-eyed, with a round face, as Onegin says, like the
foolish moon. The elder sister, Tatiana, is less pretty; shy and
dreamy, she conceals under her retiring and wistful ways a clean-cut
character and a strong will.

Tatiana is as real as any of Miss Austen's heroines; as alive as
Fielding's Sophia Western, and as charming as any of George Meredith's
women; as sensible as Portia, as resolute as Juliet. Turgenev, with
all his magic, and Tolstoy, with all his command over the colours of
life, never created a truer, more radiant, and more typically Russian
woman. She is the type of all that is best in the Russian woman; that
is to say, of all that is best in Russia; and it is a type taken
straight from life, and not from fairy-land--a type that exists as
much to-day as it did in the days of Pushkin. She is the first of that
long gallery of Russian women which Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Dostoyevsky
have given us, and which are the most precious jewels of Russian
literature, because they reflect the crowning glory of Russian life.
Tatiana falls in love with Onegin at first sight. She writes to him
and confesses her love, and in all the love poetry of the world there
is nothing more touching and more simple than this confession. It is
perfect. If Pushkin had written this and this alone, his place among
poets would be unique and different from that of all other poets.

Possibly some people may think that there are finer achievements in
the love poetry of the world; but nothing is so futile and so
impertinent as giving marks to the great poets, as if they were
passing an examination. If a thing is as good as possible in itself,
what is the use of saying that it is less good or better than
something else, which is as good as possible in itself also.
Nevertheless, placed beside any of the great confessions of love in
poetry--Francesca's story in the _Inferno_, Romeo and Juliet's
leavetaking, Phèdre's declaration, Don Juan Tenorio's letter--the
beauty of Tatiana's confession would not be diminished by the
juxtaposition. Of the rest of Pushkin's work at its best and highest,
of the finest passages of _Boris Godunov_, for instance, you can say:
This is magnificent, but there are dramatic passages in other works of
other poets on the same lines and as fine; but in Tatiana's letter
Pushkin has created something unique, which has no parallel, because
only a Russian could have written it, and of Russians, only he. It is
a piece of poetry as pure as a crystal, as spontaneous as a
blackbird's song.

Onegin tells Tatiana he is not worthy of her, that he is not made for
love and marriage; that he would cease to love her at once; that he
feels for her like a brother, or perhaps a little more tenderly. It
then falls out that Onegin, by flirting with Olga at a ball, makes
Lensky jealous. They fight a duel, and Lensky is killed. Onegin is
obliged to leave the neighbourhood, and spends years in travel.
Tatiana remains true to her first love; but she is taken by her
relatives to Moscow, and consents at last under their pressure to
marry a rich man of great position. In St. Petersburg, Onegin meets
her again. Tatiana has become a great lady, but all her old charm is
there. Onegin now falls violently in love with her; but she, although
she frankly confesses that she still loves him, tells him that it is
too late; she has married another, and she means to remain true to
him. And there the story ends.

_Onegin_ is, perhaps, Pushkin's most characteristic work; it is
undoubtedly the best known and the most popular; like _Hamlet_, it is
all quotations. Pushkin in his _Onegin_ succeeded in doing what
Shelley urged Byron to do--to create something new and in accordance
with the spirit of the age, which should at the same time be
beautiful. He did more than this. He succeeded in creating for Russia
a poem that was purely national, and in giving his country a classic,
a model both in construction, matter, form, and inspiration for
future generations. Perhaps the greatest quality of this poem is its
vividness. Pushkin himself speaks, in taking leave, of having seen the
unfettered march of his novel in a magic prism. This is just the
impression that the poem gives; the scenes are as clear as the shapes
in a crystal; nothing is blurred; there are no hesitating notes,
nothing _à peu près_; every stroke comes off; the nail is hit on the
head every time, only so easily that you do not notice the strokes,
and all labour escapes notice. Apart from this the poem is amusing; it
arrests the attention as a story, and it delights the intelligence
with its wit, its digressions, and its brilliance. It is as witty as
Don Juan and as consummately expressed as Pope; and when the occasion
demands it, the style passes in easy transition to serious or tender
tones. _Onegin_ has been compared to Byron's _Don Juan_. There is this
likeness, that both poems deal with contemporary life, and in both
poems the poets pass from grave to gay, from severe to lively, and
often interrupt the narrative to apostrophize the reader. But there
the likeness ends. On the other hand, there is a vast difference.
_Onegin_ contains no adventures. It is a story of everyday life.
Moreover, it is an organic whole: so well constructed that it fits
into a stage libretto--Tchaikovsky made an opera out of it--without
difficulty. There is another difference--a difference which applies to
Pushkin and Byron in general. There is no unevenness in Pushkin; his
work, as far as craft is concerned, is always on the same high level.
You can admire the whole, or cut off any single passage and it will
still remain admirable; whereas Byron must be taken as a whole or not
at all--the reason being that Pushkin was an impeccable artist in form
and expression, and that Byron was not.

In the winter of 1832 Pushkin sought a new field, the field of
historical research; and by the beginning of 1833 he had not only
collected all the materials for a history of Pugachev, the Cossack who
headed a rising in the reign of Catherine II; but his literary
activity was so great that he had also written the rough sketch of a
long story in prose dealing with the same subject, _The Captain's
Daughter_, another prose story of considerable length, _Dubrovsky_,
and portions of a drama, _Rusalka_, The Water Nymph, which was never
finished. Besides _Boris Godunov_ and the _Rusalka_, Pushkin wrote a
certain number of dramatic scenes, or short dramas in one or more
scenes. Of these, one, _The Feast in the Time of Plague_, is taken
from the English of John Wilson (_The City of the Plague_), with
original additions. In _Mozart and Salieri_ we see the contrast
between the genius which does what it must and the talent which does
what it can. The story is based on the unfounded anecdote that Mozart
was poisoned by Salieri out of envy. This dramatic and beautifully
written episode has been set to music as it stands by Rimsky-Korsakov.

_The Covetous Knight_, which bears the superscription, "From the
tragi-comedy of Chenstone"--an unknown English original--tells of the
conflict between a Harpagon and his son: the delineation of the
miser's imaginative passion for his treasures is, both in conception
and execution, in Pushkin's finest manner. This scene has been
recently set to music by Rakhmaninov. _The Guest of Stone_, the story
of Don Juan and the _statua gentilissima del gran Commendatore_, makes
Don Juan life. A scene from _Faust_ between Faust and Mephistopheles
is original and not of great interest; _Angelo_ is the story of
_Measure for Measure_ told as a narrative with two scenes in dialogue.
_Rusalka_, The Water Maid, is taken from the genuine and not the sham
province of national legend, and it is tantalizing that this poetic
fragment remained a fragment.

Pushkin's prose is in some respects as remarkable as his verse. Here,
too, he proved a pioneer. _Dubrovsky_ is the story of a young officer
whose father is ousted, like Naboth, from his small estate by his
neighbour, a rich and greedy landed proprietor, becomes a highway
robber so as to revenge himself, and introduces himself into the
family of his enemy as a French master, but forgoes his revenge
because he falls in love with his enemy's daughter. In this extremely
vivid story he anticipates Gogol in his lifelike pictures of country
life. _The Captain's Daughter_ is equally vivid; the rebel Pugachev
has nothing stagey or melodramatic about him, nothing of Harrison
Ainsworth. Of his shorter stories, such as _The Blizzard_, _The Pistol
Shot_, _The Lady-Peasant_, the most entertaining, and certainly the
most popular, is _The Queen of Spades_, which was so admirably
translated by Mérimée, and formed the subject of one of Tchaikovsky's
most successful operas. As an artistic work _The Egyptian Nights_,
written in 1828, is the most interesting, and ranks among Pushkin's
masterpieces. It tells of an Italian _improvisatore_ who, at a party
in St. Petersburg, improvises verses on Cleopatra and her lovers. The
story is written to lead up to this poem, which gives a gorgeous
picture of the pagan world, and is another example of Pushkin's
miraculous power of assimilation. Pushkin's prose has the same
limpidity and ease as his verse; the characters have the same vitality
and reality as those in his poems and dramatic scenes, and had he
lived longer he might have become a great novelist. As it is, he
furnished Gogol (whose acquaintance he made in 1832) with the subject
of two of his masterpieces--_Dead Souls_ and _The Revisor_.

The province of Russian folk-lore and legend from which Pushkin took
the idea of _Rusalka_ was to furnish him with a great deal of rich
material. It was in 1831 that in friendly rivalry with Zhukovsky he
wrote his first long fairy-tale, imitating the Russian popular style,
_The Tale of Tsar Saltan_. Up till now he had written only a few
ballads in the popular style. This fairy-tale was a brilliant success
as a _pastiche_; but it was a _pastiche_ and not quite the real thing,
as cleverness kept breaking in, and a touch of epigram here and there,
which indeed makes it delightful reading. He followed it by another in
the comic vein, _The Tale of the Pope and his Man Balda_, and by two
more _Märchen_, _The Dead Tsaritsa_ and _The Golden Cock_; but it was
not until two years later that he wrote his masterpiece in this vein,
_The Story of the Fisherman and the Fish_. It is the same story as
Grimm's tale of the Fisherman's wife who wished to be King, Emperor,
and then Pope, and finally lost all by her vaulting ambition. The tale
is written in unrhymed rhythmical, indeed scarcely rhythmical, lines;
all trace of art is concealed; it is a tale such as might have been
handed down by oral tradition in some obscure village out of the
remotest past; it has the real _Volkston_; the good-nature and
simplicity and unobtrusive humour of a real fairy-tale. The subjects
of all these stories were told to Pushkin by his nurse, Anna
Rodionovna, who also furnished him with the subject of his ballad,
_The Bridegroom_. In Pushkin's note-books there are seven fairy-tales
taken down hurriedly from the words of his nurse; and most likely all
that he wrote dealing with the life of the people came from the same
source. Pushkin called Anna Rodionovna his last teacher, and said that
he was indebted to her for counteracting the effects of his first
French education.

In 1833 he finished a poem called _The Brazen Horseman_, the story of
a man who loses his beloved in the great floods in St. Petersburg in
1834, and going mad, imagines that he is pursued by Falconet's
equestrian statue of Peter the Great. The poem contains a magnificent
description of St. Petersburg. During the last years of his life, he
was engaged in collecting materials for a history of Peter the Great.
His power of production had never run dry from the moment he left
school, although his actual work was interrupted from time to time by
distractions and the society of his friends.

All the important larger works of Pushkin have now been mentioned; but
during the whole course of his career he was always pouring out a
stream of lyrics and occasional pieces, many of which are among the
most beautiful things he wrote. His variety and the width of his range
are astonishing. Some of them have a grace and perfection such as we
find in the Greek anthology; others--"Recollections," for instance, in
which in the sleepless hours of the night the poet sees pass before
him the blotted scroll of his past deeds, which he is powerless with
all the tears in the world to wash out--have the intensity of
Shakespeare's sonnets. This poem, for instance, has the same depth of
feeling as "Tired with all these, for restful death I cry," or "The
expense of spirit in a waste of shame." Or he will write an elegy as
tender as Tennyson; or he will draw a picture of a sledge in a
snow-storm, and give you the plunge of the bewildered horses, the
whirling demons of the storm, the bells ringing on the quiet spaces of
snow, in intoxicating rhythms which E. A. Poe would have envied; or
again he will write a description of the Caucasus in eleven short
lines, close in expression and vast in suggestion, such as "The
Monastery on Kazbek"; or he will bring before you the smell of the
autumn morning, and the hoofs ringing out on the half-frozen earth; or
he will write a patriotic poem, such as _To the Slanderers of
Russia_, fraught with patriotic indignation without being offensive;
in this poem Pushkin paints an inspired picture of Russia: "Will not,"
he says, "from Perm to the Caucasus, from Finland's chill rocks to the
flaming Colchis, from the shaken Kremlin to the unshaken walls of
China, glistening with its bristling steel, the Russian earth arise?"
Or he will write a prayer, as lordly in utterance and as humble in
spirit as one of the old Latin hymns; or a love-poem as tender as
Musset and as playful as Heine: he will translate you the spirit of
Horace and the spirit of Mickiewicz the Pole; he will secure the
restraint of André Chénier, and the impetuous gallop of Byron.

Perhaps the most characteristic of Pushkin's poems is the poem which
expresses his view of life in the elegy--

    "As bitter as stale aftermath of wine
    Is the remembrance of delirious days;
    But as wine waxes with the years, so weighs
    The past more sorely, as my days decline.
    My path is dark. The future lies in wait,
    A gathering ocean of anxiety,
    But oh! my friends! to suffer, to create,
    That is my prayer; to live and not to die!
    I know that ecstasy shall still lie there
    In sorrow and adversity and care.
    Once more I shall be drunk on strains divine,
    Be moved to tears by musings that are mine;
    And haply when the last sad hour draws nigh
    Love with a farewell smile shall light the sky."

But the greatest of his short poems is probably "The Prophet." This is
a tremendous poem, and reaches a height to which Pushkin only attained
once. It is Miltonic in conception and Dantesque in expression; the
syllables ring out in pure concent, like blasts from a silver clarion.
It is, as it were, the Pillars of Hercules of the Russian language.
Nothing finer as sound could ever be compounded with Russian vowels
and consonants; nothing could be more perfectly planned, or present,
in so small a vehicle, so large a vision to the imagination. Even a
rough prose translation will give some idea of the imaginative
splendour of the poem--

"My spirit was weary, and I was athirst, and I was astray in the dark
wilderness. And the Seraphim with six wings appeared to me at the
crossing of the ways: And he touched my eyelids, and his fingers were
as soft as sleep: and like the eyes of an eagle that is frightened my
prophetic eyes were awakened. He touched my ears and he filled them
with noise and with sound: and I heard the Heavens shuddering and the
flight of the angels in the height, and the moving of the beasts that
are under the waters, and the noise of the growth of the branches in
the valley. He bent down over me and he looked upon my lips; and he
tore out my sinful tongue, and he took away that which is idle and
that which is evil with his right hand, and his right hand was dabbled
with blood; and he set there in its stead, between my perishing lips,
the tongue of a wise serpent. And he clove my breast asunder with a
sword, and he plucked out my trembling heart, and in my cloven breast
he set a burning coal of fire. Like a corpse in the desert I lay, and
the voice of God called and said unto me, 'Prophet, arise, and take
heed, and hear; be filled with My will, and go forth over the sea and
over the land and set light with My word to the hearts of the

In 1837 came the catastrophe which brought about Pushkin's death. It
was caused by the clash of evil tongues engaged in frivolous gossip,
and Pushkin's own susceptible and violent temperament. A guardsman,
Heckeren-Dantes, had been flirting with his wife. Pushkin received an
anonymous letter, and being wrongly convinced that Heckeren-Dantes was
the author of it, wrote him a violent letter which made a duel
inevitable. A duel was fought on the 27th of February, 1837, and
Pushkin was mortally wounded. Such was his frenzy of rage that, after
lying wounded and unconscious in the snow, on regaining consciousness,
he insisted on going on with the duel, and fired another shot, giving
a great cry of joy when he saw that he had wounded his adversary. It
was only a slight wound in the hand. It was not until he reached home
that his anger passed away. He died on the 29th of February, after
forty-five hours of excruciating suffering, heroically borne; he
forgave his enemies; he wished no one to avenge him; he received the
last sacraments; and he expressed feelings of loyalty and gratitude
to his sovereign. He was thirty-seven years and eight months old.

Pushkin's career falls naturally into two divisions: his life until he
was thirty, and his life after he was thirty. Pushkin began his career
with liberal aspirations, and he disappointed some in the loyalty to
the throne, the Church, the autocracy, and the established order of
things which he manifested later; in turning to religion; in remaining
in the Government service; in writing patriotic poems; in holding the
position of Gentleman of the Bed Chamber at Court; in being, in fact,
what is called a reactionary. But it would be a mistake to imagine
that Pushkin was a Lost Leader who abandoned the cause of liberty for
a handful of silver and a riband to stick in his coat. The liberal
aspirations of Pushkin's youth were the very air that the whole of the
aristocratic youth of that day breathed. Pushkin could not escape
being influenced by it; but he was no more a rebel then, than he was a
reactionary afterwards, when again the very air which the whole of
educated society breathed was conservative and nationalistic. It may
be a pity that it was so; but so it was. There was no liberal
atmosphere in the reign of Nicholas I, and the radical effervescence
of the Decembrists was destroyed by the Decembrists' premature action.
It is no good making a revolution if you have nothing to make it with.
The Decembrists were in the same position as the educated élite of one
regiment at Versailles would have been, had it attempted to destroy
the French monarchy in the days of Louis XIV. The Decembrists by their
premature action put the clock of Russian political progress back for
years. The result was that men of impulse, aspiration, talent and
originality had in the reign of Nicholas to seek an outlet for their
feelings elsewhere than in politics, because politics then were simply

But apart from this, even if the opportunities had been there, it may
be doubted whether Pushkin would have taken them. He was not born with
a passion to reform the world. He was neither a rebel nor a reformer;
neither a liberal nor a conservative; he was a democrat in his love
for the whole of the Russian people; he was a patriot in his love of
his country. He resembled Goethe rather than Socrates, or Shelley, or
Byron; although, in his love of his country and in every other
respect, his fiery temperament both in itself and in its expression
was far removed from Goethe's Olympian calm. He was like Goethe in his
attitude towards society, and the attitude of the social and official
world towards him resembles the attitude of Weimar towards Goethe.

During the first part of his career he gave himself up to pleasure,
passion, and self-indulgence; after he was thirty he turned his mind
to more serious things. It would not be exact to say he _became_
deeply religious, because he was religious by nature, and he soon
discarded a fleeting phase of scepticism; but in spite of this he was
a victim of _amour-propre_; and he wavered between contempt of the
society around him and a petty resentment against it which took the
shape of scathing and sometimes cruel epigrams. It was this dangerous
_amour-propre_, the fact of his being not only passion's slave, but
petty passion's slave, which made him a victim of frivolous gossip and
led to the final catastrophe.

"In Pushkin," says Soloviev, the philosopher, "according to his own
testimony there were two different and separate beings: the inspired
priest of Apollo, and the most frivolous of all the frivolous children
of the world." It was the first Pushkin--the inspired priest--who
predominated in the latter part of his life; but who was unable to
expel altogether the second Pushkin, the frivolous _Weltkind_, who was
prone to be exasperated by the society in which he lived, and when
exasperated was dangerous. There is one fact, however, which accounts
for much. The more serious Pushkin's turn of thought grew, the more
objective, purer, and stronger his work became, the less it was
appreciated; for the public which delighted in the comparatively
inferior work of his youth was not yet ready for his more mature work.
What pleased the public were the dazzling colours, the sensuous and
sometimes libidinous images of his early poems; the romantic
atmosphere; especially anything that was artificial in them. They had
not yet eyes to appreciate the noble lines, nor ears to appreciate the
simpler and more majestic harmonies of his later work. Thus it was
that they passed _Boris Godunov_ by, and were disappointed in the
later cantos of _Onegin_. This was, of course, discouraging.
Nevertheless, it is laughable to rank Pushkin amongst the
misunderstood, among the Shelleys, the Millets, of Literature and Art;
or to talk of his sad fate. To talk of him as one of the victims of
literature is merely to depreciate him.

He was exiled. Yes: but to the Caucasus, which gave him inspiration:
to his own country home, which gave him leisure. He was censored. Yes:
but the Emperor undertook to do the work himself. Had he lived in
England, society--as was proved in the case of Byron--would have been
a far severer censor of his morals and the extravagance of his youth,
than the Russian Government. Besides which, he won instantaneous fame,
and in the society in which he moved he was surrounded by a band not
only of devoted but distinguished admirers, amongst whom were some of
the highest names in Russian literature--Karamzin, Zhukovsky, Gogol.

Pushkin is Russia's national poet, the Peter the Great of poetry, who
out of foreign material created something new, national and Russian,
and left imperishable models for future generations. The chief
characteristic of his genius is its universality. There appeared to be
nothing he could not understand nor assimilate. And it is just this
all-embracing humanity--Dostoyevsky calls him πανάνθρωπος--this
capacity for understanding everything and everybody, which makes him so
profoundly Russian. He is a poet of everyday life: a realistic poet,
and above all things a lyrical poet. He is not a dramatist, and as an
epic writer, though he can mould a bas-relief and produce a noble
fragment, he cannot set crowds in motion. He revealed to the Russians
the beauty of their landscape and the poetry of their people; and they,
with ears full of pompous diction, and eyes full of rococo and romantic
stage properties, did not understand what he was doing: but they
understood later. For a time he fought against the stream, and all in
vain; and then he gave himself up to the great current, which took him
all too soon to the open sea.

He set free the Russian language from the bondage of the conventional;
and all his life he was still learning to become more and more
intimate with the savour and smell of the people's language. Like
Peter the Great, he spent his whole life in apprenticeship, and his
whole energies in craftsmanship. He was a great artist; his style is
perspicuous, plastic, and pure; there is never a blurred outline,
never a smear, never a halting phrase or a hesitating note. His
concrete images are, as it were, transparent, like Donne's description
of the woman whose

          "... pure and eloquent blood
    Spoke in her face, and so distinctly wrought,
    That you might almost think her body thought."

His diction is the inseparable skin of the thought. You seem to hear
him thinking. He was gifted with divine ease and unpremeditated
spontaneity. His soul was sincere, noble, and open; he was frivolous,
a child of the world and of his century; but if he was worldly, he was
human; he was a citizen as well as a child of the world; and it is
that which makes him the greatest of Russian poets.

His career was unromantic; he was rooted to the earth; an aristocrat
by birth, an official by profession, a lover of society by taste. At
the same time, he sought and served beauty, strenuously and
faithfully; he was perhaps too faithful a servant of Apollo; too
exclusive a lover of the beautiful. In his work you find none of the
piteous cries, no beauty of soaring and bleeding wings as in Shelley,
nor the sound of rebellious sobs as in Musset; no tempest of defiant
challenge, no lightnings of divine derision, as in Byron; his is
neither the martyrdom of a fighting Heine, that "brave soldier in the
war of the liberation of humanity," nor the agonized passion of a
suffering Catullus. He never descended into Hell. Every great man is
either an artist or a fighter; and often poets of genius, Byron and
Heine for instance, are more pre-eminently fighters than they are
artists. Pushkin was an artist, and not a fighter. And this is what
makes even his love-poems cold in comparison with those of other
poets. Although he was the first to make notable what was called the
romantic movement; and although at the beginning of his career he
handled romantic subjects in a more or less romantic way, he was
fundamentally a classicist--a classicist as much in the common-sense
and realism and solidity of his conceptions and ideas, as in the
perspicuity and finish of his impeccable form. And he soon cast aside
even the vehicles and clothes of romanticism, and exclusively followed
reality. "He strove with none, for none was worth his strife." And
when his artistic ideals were misunderstood and depreciated, he
retired into himself and wrote to please himself only; but in the
inner court of the Temple of Beauty into which he retired he created
imperishable things; for he loved nature, he loved art, he loved his
country, and he expressed that love in matchless song.

For years, Russian criticism was either neglectful of his work or
unjust towards it; for his serene music and harmonious design left the
generations which came after him, who were tossed on a tempest of
social problems and political aspirations, cold; but in 1881, when
Dostoyevsky unveiled Pushkin's memorial at Moscow, the homage which he
paid to the dead poet voiced the unanimous feeling of the whole of
Russia. His work is beyond the reach of critics, whether favourable or
unfavourable, for it lives in the hearts of his countrymen, and
chiefly upon the lips of the young.


[2] Not 1763, as generally stated in his biographies.

[3] The poem was originally called _Mazepa_: Pushkin changed the title
so as not to clash with Byron. It is interesting to see what Pushkin
says of Byron's poem. In his notes there is the following passage--

"Byron knew Mazepa through Voltaire's history of Charles XII. He was
struck solely by the picture of a man bound to a wild horse and borne
over the steppes. A poetical picture of course; but see what he did
with it. What a living creation! What a broad brush! But do not expect
to find either Mazepa or Charles, nor the usual gloomy Byronic hero.
Byron was not thinking of him. He presented a series of pictures, one
more striking than the other. Had his pen come across the story of the
seduced daughter and the father's execution, it is improbable that
anyone else would have dared to touch the subject."



The romantic movement in Russia was, as far as Pushkin was concerned,
not really a romantic movement at all. Still less was it so in the
case of the Pléiade which followed him. And yet, for want of a better
word, one is obliged to call it the _romantic_ movement, as it was a
new movement, a renascence that arose out of the ashes of the
pseudo-classical eighteenth century convention. Pushkin was followed
by a Pléiade.

The claim of his friend and fellow-student, BARON DELVIG, to fame,
rests rather on his friendship with Pushkin (to whom he played the
part of an admirable critic) than on his own verse. He died in 1831.
included in the Pléiade; all these are lyrical poets of the second
order, and none of them--except Polezhaev, whose real promise of
talent was shattered by circumstances (he died of drink and
consumption after a career of tragic vicissitudes)--has more than an
historical interest.

Pushkin's successor to the throne of Russian letters was Lermontov: no
unworthy heir. The name Lermontov is said to be the same as the Scotch
Learmonth. The story of his short life is a simple one. He was born at
Moscow in 1814. He visited the Caucasus when he was twelve. He was
taught English by a tutor. He went to school at Moscow, and afterwards
to the University. He left in 1832 owing to the disputes he had with
the professors. At the age of eighteen, he entered the Guards' Cadet
School at St. Petersburg; and two years later he became an officer in
the regiment of the Hussars. In 1837 he was transferred to Georgia,
owing to the scandal caused by the outspoken violence of his verse;
but he was transferred to Novgorod in 1838, and was allowed to return
to St. Petersburg in the same year. In 1840 he was again transferred
to the Caucasus for fighting a duel with the son of the French
Ambassador; towards the end of the year, he was once more allowed to
return to St. Petersburg. In 1841 he went back for a third time to
the Caucasus, where he forced a duel on one of his friends over a
perfectly trivial incident, and was killed, on the 15th of July of the
same year.

In all the annals of poetry, there is no more curious figure than
Lermontov. He was like a plant that above all others needed a
sympathetic soil, a favourable atmosphere, and careful attention. As
it was, he came in the full tide of the régime of Nicholas I, a régime
of patriarchal supervision, government interference, rigorous
censorship, and iron discipline,--a grey epoch absolutely devoid of
all ideal aspirations. Considerable light is thrown on the
contradictory and original character of the poet by his novel, _A Hero
of Our Days_, the first psychological novel that appeared in Russia.
The hero, Pechorin, is undoubtedly a portrait of the poet, although he
himself said, and perhaps thought, that he was merely creating a type.

The hero of the story, who is an officer in the Caucasus, analyses his
own character, and lays bare his weaknesses, follies, and faults, with
the utmost frankness. "I am incapable of friendship," he says. "Of two
friends, one is always the slave of the other, although often neither
of them will admit it; I cannot be a slave, and to be a master is a
tiring business." Or he writes: "I have an innate passion for
contradiction.... The presence of enthusiasm turns me to ice, and
intercourse with a phlegmatic temperament would turn me into a
passionate dreamer." Speaking of enemies, he says: "I love enemies,
but not after the Christian fashion." And on another occasion: "Why do
they all hate me? Why? Have I offended any one? No. Do I belong to
that category of people whose mere presence creates antipathy?" Again:
"I despise myself sometimes, is not that the reason that I despise
others? I have become incapable of noble impulses. I am afraid of
appearing ridiculous to myself."

On the eve of fighting a duel Pechorin writes as follows--

"If I die it will not be a great loss to the world, and as for me, I
am sufficiently tired of life. I am like a man yawning at a ball, who
does not go home to bed because the carriage is not there, but as soon
as the carriage is there, Good-bye!"

"I review my past and I ask myself, Why have I lived? Why was I born?
and I think there was a reason, and I think I was called to high
things, for I feel in my soul the presence of vast powers; but I did
not divine my high calling; I gave myself up to the allurement of
shallow and ignoble passions; I emerged from their furnace as hard and
as cold as iron, but I had lost for ever the ardour of noble
aspirations, the flower of life. And since then how often have I
played the part of the axe in the hands of fate. Like the weapon of
the executioner I have fallen on the necks of the victims, often
without malice, always without pity. My love has never brought
happiness, because I have never in the slightest degree sacrificed
myself for those whom I loved. I loved for my own sake, for my own
pleasure.... And if I die I shall not leave behind me one soul who
understood me. Some think I am better, others that I am worse than I
am. Some will say he was a good fellow; others he was a blackguard."

It will be seen from these passages, all of which apply to Lermontov
himself, even if they were not so intended, that he must have been a
trying companion, friend, or acquaintance. He had, indeed, except for
a few intimate friends, an impossible temperament; he was proud,
overbearing, exasperated and exasperating, filled with a savage
_amour-propre_; and he took a childish delight in annoying; he
cultivated "le plaisir aristocratique de déplaire"; he was envious of
what was least enviable in his contemporaries. He could not bear not
to make himself felt, and if he felt that he was unsuccessful in
accomplishing this by pleasant means, he resorted to unpleasant means.
And yet, at the same time, he was warm-hearted, thirsting for love and
kindness, and capable of giving himself up to love--if he chose.

During his period of training at the Cadet School, he led a wild life;
and when he became an officer, he hankered after social and not after
literary success. He did not achieve it immediately; at first he was
not noticed, and when he was noticed he was not liked. His looks were
unprepossessing, and one of his legs was shorter than the other. His
physical strength was enormous--he could bend a ramrod with his
fingers. Noticed he was determined to be; and, as he himself says in
one of his letters, observing that every one in society had some sort
of pedestal--wealth, lineage, position, or patronage--he saw that if
he, not pre-eminently possessing any of these,--though he was, as a
matter of fact, of a good Moscow family,--could succeed in engaging
the attention of one person, others would soon follow suit. This he
set about to do by compromising a girl and then abandoning her: and he
acquired the reputation of a Don Juan. Later, when he came back from
the Caucasus, he was treated as a lion. All this does not throw a
pleasant light on his character, more especially as he criticized in
scathing tones the society in which he was anxious to play a part, and
in which he subsequently enjoyed playing a part. But perhaps both
attitudes of mind were sincere. He probably sincerely enjoyed society,
and hankered after success in it; and equally sincerely despised
society and himself for hankering after it.

As he grew older, his pride and the exasperating provocativeness of
his conduct increased to such an extent that he seemed positively
seeking for serious trouble, and for some one whose patience he could
overtax, and on whom he could fasten a quarrel. And this was not slow
to happen.

At the bottom of all this lay no doubt a deep-seated disgust with
himself and with the world in general, and a complete indifference to
life, resulting from large aspirations which could not find an outlet,
and so recoiled upon himself. The epoch, the atmosphere and the
society were the worst possible for his peculiar nature; and the only
fruitful result of the friction between himself and the society and
the established order of his time, was that he was sent to the
Caucasus, which proved to be a source of inspiration for him, as it
had been for Pushkin. One is inclined to say, "If only he had lived
later or longer"; yet it may be doubted whether, had he been born in a
more favourable epoch, either earlier in the milder régime of
Alexander I, or later, in the enthusiastic epoch of the reforms, he
would have been a happier man and produced finer work.

The curious thing is that his work does not reveal an overwhelming
pessimism like Leopardi's, an accent of revolt like Musset's, or of
combat like Byron's; but rather it testifies to a fundamental
indifference to life, a concentrated pride. If it be true that you can
roughly divide the Russian temperament into two types--the type of
the pure fool, such as Dostoyevsky's _Idiot_, and a type of
unconquerable pride, such as Lucifer--then Lermontov is certainly a
fine example of the second type. You feel that he will never submit or
yield; but then he died young; and the Russian poets often changed,
and not infrequently adopted a compromise which was the same thing as

Lermontov was, like Pushkin, essentially a lyric poet, still more
subjective, and profoundly self-centred. His attempts at the drama
(imitations of Schiller and an attempt at the manner of Griboyedov)
were failures. But, unlike Pushkin, he was a true romantic; and his
work proves to us how essentially different a thing Russian
romanticism is from French, German or English romanticism. He began
with astonishing precocity to write verse when he was twelve. His
earliest efforts were in French. He then began to imitate Pushkin.
While at the Cadet School he wrote a series of cleverly written, more
or less indecent, and more or less Byronic--the Byron of
_Beppo_--tales in verse, describing his love adventures, and episodes
of garrison life. What brought him fame was his "Ode on the Death of
Pushkin," which, although unjustified by the actual facts--he
represents Pushkin as the victim of a bloodthirsty society--strikes
strong and bitter chords. Here, without any doubt, are "thoughts that
breathe and words that burn"--

    "And you, the proud and shameless progeny
    Of fathers famous for their infamy,
    You, who with servile heel have trampled down
    The fragments of great names laid low by chance,
    You, hungry crowd that swarms about the throne,
    Butchers of freedom, and genius, and glory,
    You hide behind the shelter of the law,
    Before you, right and justice must be dumb!
    But, parasites of vice, there's God's assize;
    There is an awful court of law that waits.
    You cannot reach it with the sound of gold;
    It knows your thoughts beforehand and your deeds;
    And vainly you shall call the lying witness;
    That shall not help you any more;
    And not with all the filth of all your gore
    Shall you wash out the poet's righteous blood."

He struck this strong chord more than once, especially in his
indictment of his own generation, called "A Thought"; and in a poem
written on the transfer of Napoleon's ashes to Paris, in which he
pours scorn on the French for deserting Napoleon when he lived and
then acclaiming his ashes.

But it is not in poems such as these that Lermontov's most
characteristic qualities are to be found. Lermontov owed nothing to
his contemporaries, little to his predecessors, and still less to
foreign models. It is true that, as a school-boy, he wrote verses full
of Byronic disillusion and satiety, but these were merely echoes of
his reading. The gloom of spirit which he expressed later on was a
permanent and innate feature of his own temperament. Later, the
reading of Shelley spurred on his imagination to emulation, but not to
imitation. He sought his own path from the beginning, and he remained
in it with obdurate persistence. He remained obstinately himself,
indifferent as a rule to outside events, currents of thought and
feeling. And he clung to the themes which he chose in his youth. His
mind to him a kingdom was, and he peopled it with images and fancies
of his own devising. The path which he chose was a narrow one. It was
a romantic path. He chose for the subject of the poem by which he is
perhaps most widely known, _The Demon_, the love of a demon for a
woman. The subject is as romantic as any chosen by Thomas Moore; but
there is nothing now that appears rococo in Lermontov's work. The
colours are as fresh to-day as when they were first laid on. The
heroine is a Circassian woman, and the action of the poem is in the

The Demon portrayed is not the spirit that denies of Goethe, nor
Byron's Lucifer, looking the Almighty in His face and telling him that
His evil is not good; nor does he cherish--

    "the study of revenge, immortal hate,"

of Milton's Satan; but he is the lost angel of a ruined paradise, who
is too proud to accept oblivion even were it offered to him. He dreams
of finding in Tamara the joys of the paradise he has foregone. "I am
he," he says to her, "whom no one loves, whom every human being
curses." He declares that he has foresworn his proud thoughts, that he
desires to be reconciled with Heaven, to love, to pray, to believe in
good. And he pours out to her one of the most passionate love
declarations ever written, in couplet after couplet of words that glow
like jewels and tremble like the strings of a harp, Tamara yields to
him, and forfeits her life; but her soul is borne to Heaven by the
Angel of Light; she has redeemed her sin by death, and the Demon is
left as before alone in a loveless, lampless universe. The poem is
interspersed with descriptions of the Caucasus, which are as glowing
and splendid as the impassioned utterance of the Demon. They put
Pushkin's descriptions in the shade. Lermontov's landscape-painting
compared with Pushkin's is like a picture of Turner compared with a
Constable or a Bonnington.

Lermontov followed up his first draft of _The Demon_ (originally
planned in 1829, but not finished in its final form until 1841) with
other romantic tales, the scene of which for the most part is laid in
the Caucasus: such as _Izmail Bey_, _Hadji-Abrek_, _Orsha the
Boyar_--the last not a Caucasian tale. These were nearly all of them
sketches in which he tried the colours of his palette. But with
_Mtsyri_, _the Novice_, in which he used some of the materials of the
former tales, he produced a finished picture.

_Mtsyri_ is the story of a Circassian orphan who is educated in a
convent. The child grows up home-sick at heart, and one day his
longing for freedom becomes ungovernable, and he escapes and roams
about in the mountains. He loses his way in the forest and is brought
back to the monastery after three days, dying from starvation,
exertion, and exhaustion. Before he dies he pours out his confession,
which takes up the greater part of the poem. He confesses how in the
monastery he felt his own country and his own people forever calling,
and how he felt he must seek his own people. He describes his
wanderings: how he scrambles down the mountain-side and hears the song
of a Georgian woman, and sees her as she walks down a narrow path with
a pitcher on her head and draws water from the stream. At nightfall he
sees the light of a dwelling-place twinkling like a falling star; but
he dares not seek it. He loses his way in the forest, he encounters
and kills a panther. In the morning, he finds a way out of the woods
when the daylight comes; he lies in the grass exhausted under the
blinding noon, of which Lermontov gives a gorgeous and detailed

    "And on God's world there lay the deep
    And heavy spell of utter sleep,
    Although the landrail called, and I
    Could hear the trill of the dragonfly
    Or else the lisping of the stream ...
    Only a snake, with a yellow gleam
    Like golden lettering inlaid
    From hilt to tip upon a blade,
    Was rustling, for the grass was dry,
    And in the loose sand cautiously
    It slid, and then began to spring
    And roll itself into a ring,
    Then, as though struck by sudden fear,
    Made haste to dart and disappear."

Perishing of hunger and thirst, fever and delirium overtake him, and
he fancies that he is lying at the bottom of a deep stream, where
speckled fishes are playing in the crystal waters. One of them nestles
close to him and sings to him with a silver voice a lullaby,
unearthly, like the song of Ariel, and alluring like the call of the
Erl King's daughter. In this poem Lermontov reaches the high-water
mark of his descriptive powers. Its pages glow with the splendour of
the Caucasus.

To his two masterpieces, _The Demon_ and _Mtsyri_, he was to add a
third: _The Song of the Tsar Ivan Vasilievich, the Oprichnik
(bodyguardsman), and the Merchant Kalashnikov_. The Oprichnik insults
the Merchant's wife, and the Merchant challenges him to fight with his
fists, kills him, and is executed for it. This poem is written as a
folk-story, in the style of the _Byliny_, and it in no way resembles a
_pastiche_. It equals, if it does not surpass, Pushkin's _Boris
Godunov_ as a realistic vision of the past; and as an epic tale, for
simplicity, absolute appropriateness of tone, vividness, truth to
nature and terseness, there is nothing in modern Russian literature to
compare with it. Besides these larger poems, Lermontov wrote a
quantity of short lyrics, many of which, such as "The Sail," "The
Angel," "The Prayer," every Russian child knows by heart.

When we come to consider the qualities of Lermontov's romantic work,
and ask ourselves in what it differs from the romanticism of the
West--from that of Victor Hugo, Heine, Musset, Espronceda--we find
that in Lermontov's work, as in all Russian work, there is mingled
with his lyrical, imaginative, and descriptive powers, a bed-rock of
matter-of-fact common-sense, a root that is deeply embedded in
reality, in the life of everyday. He never escapes into the "intense
inane" of Shelley. Imaginative he is, but he is never lost in the dim
twilight of Coleridge. Romantic he is, but one note of Heine takes us
into a different world: for instance, Heine's quite ordinary
adventures in the Harz Mountains convey a spell and glamour that takes
us over a borderland that Lermontov never crossed.

Nothing could be more splendid than Lermontov's descriptions; but they
are, compared with those of Western poets, concrete, as sharp as views
in a camera obscura. He never ate the roots of "relish sweet, the
honey wild and manna dew" of the "Belle Dame Sans Merci"; he wrote of
places where Kubla Khan might have wandered, of "ancestral voices
prophesying war," but one has only to quote that line to see that
Lermontov's poetic world, compared with Coleridge's, is solid fact
beside intangible dream.

Compared even with Musset and Victor Hugo, how much nearer the earth
Lermontov is than either of them! Victor Hugo dealt with just the
same themes; but in Lermontov, the most splendid painter of mountains
imaginable, you never hear

    "Le vent qui vient à travers la montagne,"

and you know that it will never drive the Russian poet to frenzy. On
the other hand, you never get Victor Hugo's extravagance and
absurdities. Or take Musset; Musset dealt with romantic themes _si
quis alius_; but when he deals with a subject like Don Juan, which of
all subjects belonged to the age of Pushkin and Lermontov, he writes
lines like these--

    "Faible, et, comme le lierre, ayant besoin d'autrui;
    Et ne le cachant pas, et suspendant son âme,
    Comme un luth éolien, aux lèvres de la nuit."

Here again we are confronted with a different kind of imagination. Or
take a bit of sheer description--

    "Pâle comme l'amour, et de pleurs arrosée,
    La nuit aux pieds d'argent descend dans la rosée."

You never find the Russian poet impersonating nature like this, and
creating from objects such as the "yellow bees in the ivy bloom" forms
more real than living man. The objects themselves suffice. Lermontov
sang of disappointed love over and over again, but never did he create
a single image such as--

    "Elle aurait aimé, si l'orgueil
    Pareil à la lampe inutile
    Qu'on allume près d'un cercueil,
    N'eut veillé sur son coeur stérile."

In his descriptive work he is more like Byron; but Byron was far less
romantic and far less imaginative than Lermontov, although he invented
Byronism, and shattered the crumbling walls of the eighteenth century
that surrounded the city of romance, and dallied with romantic themes
in his youth. All his best work, the finest passages of _Childe
Harold_, and the whole of _Don Juan_, were slices of his own life and
observation, _choses vues_; he never created a single character that
was not a reflection of himself; and he never entered into the city
whose walls he had stormed, and where he had planted his flag.

This does not mean that Lermontov is inferior to the Western romantic
poets. It simply means that the Russian poet is--and one might add
the Russian poets are--different. And, indeed, it is this very
difference,--what he did with this peculiar realistic paste in his
composition,--that constitutes his unique excellence. So far from its
being a vice, he made it into his especial virtue. Lermontov
sometimes, in presenting a situation and writing a poem on a fact,
presents that situation and that fact without exaggeration, emphasis,
adornment, imagery, metaphor, or fancy of any kind, in the language of
everyday life, and at the same time he achieves poetry. This was
Wordsworth's ideal, and he fulfilled it.

A case in point is his long poem on the Oprichnik, which has been
mentioned; and some of the most striking examples of this unadorned
and realistic writing are to be found in his lyrics. In the
"Testament," for example, where a wounded officer gives his last
instructions to his friend who is going home on leave--

    "I want to be alone with you,
      A moment quite alone.
    The minutes left to me are few,
      They say I'll soon be gone.
    And you'll be going home on leave,
    Then say ... but why? I do believe
    There's not a soul, who'll greatly care
    To hear about me over there.

    And yet if some one asks you there,
      Let us suppose they do--
    Tell them a bullet hit me here,
      The chest,--and it went through.
    And say I died and for the Tsar,
    And say what fools the doctors are;--
    And that I shook you by the hand,
    And thought about my native land.

    My father and my mother, too!
      They may be dead by now;
    To tell the truth, it wouldn't do
      To grieve them anyhow.
    If one of them is living, say
    I'm bad at writing home, and they
    Have sent us to the front, you see,--
    And that they needn't wait for me.

    We had a neighbour, as you know,
      And you remember I
    And she ... How very long ago
      It is we said good-bye!
    She won't ask after me, nor care,
    But tell her ev'rything, don't spare
    Her empty heart; and let her cry;--
    To her it doesn't signify."

The language is the language of ordinary everyday conversation. Every
word the officer says might have been said by him in ordinary life,
and there is not a note that jars; the speech is the living speech of
conversation without being slang: and the result is a poignant piece
of poetry. Another perhaps still more beautiful and touching example
is the cradle-song which a mother sings to a Cossack baby, in which
again every word has the native savour and homeliness of a Cossack
woman's speech, and every feeling expressed is one that she would have
felt. A third example is "Borodino," an account of the famous battle
told by a veteran, as a veteran would tell it. Lermontov's fishes
never talk like big whales.

All Russian poets have this gift of reality of conception and
simplicity of treatment in a greater or a lesser degree; perhaps none
has it in such a supreme degree as Lermontov. The difference between
Pushkin's style and Lermontov's is that, when you read Pushkin, you
think: "How perfectly and how simply that is said! How in the world
did he do it?" You admire the "magic hand of chance." In reading
Lermontov at his simplest and best, you do not think about the style
at all, you simply respond to what is said, and the style escapes
notice in its absolute appropriateness. Thus, what Matthew Arnold said
about Byron and Wordsworth is true about Lermontov--there are moments
when Nature takes the pen from his hand and writes for him.

In Lermontov there is nothing slovenly; but there is a great deal that
is flat and sullen. But if one reviews the great amount of work he
produced in his short life, one is struck, not by its variety, as in
the case of Pushkin,--it is, on the contrary, limited and monotonous
in subject,--but by his authentic lyrical inspiration, by the
strength, the intensity, the concentration of his genius, the richness
of his imagination, the wealth of his palette, his gorgeous colouring
and the high level of his strong square musical verse. And perhaps
more than by anything else, one is struck by the blend in his nature
and his work which has just been discussed, of romantic imagination
and stern reality, of soaring thought and earthly common-sense, as
though we had before us the temperament of a Thackeray with the wings
of a Shelley. Lermontov is certainly, whichever way you take him, one
of the most astonishing figures, and certainly the greatest purely
lyrical _Erscheinung_ in Russian literature.

With the death of Lermontov in 1841, the springtide of national song
that began in the reign of Alexander I comes to an end; for the only
poet he left behind him did not survive him long. This was his
contemporary KOLTSOV (1809-42), the greatest of Russian folk-poets.
The son of a cattle-dealer, after a fitful and short-lived primary
education at the district school of Voronezh, he adopted his father's
trade, and by a sheer accident a cultivated young man of Moscow came
across him and his verses, and raised funds for their publication.

Koltsov's verse paints peasant life as it is, without any
sentimentality or rhetoric; it is described from the inside, and not
from the outside. This is the great difference between Koltsov and
other popular poets who came later. Moreover, he caught and
reproduced the true _Volkston_ in his lyrics, so that they are
indistinguishable in accent from real folk-poetry. Koltsov sings of
the woods, and the rustling rye, of harvest time and sowing; the song
of the love-sick girl reaping; the lonely grave; the vague dreams and
desires of the peasant's heart. His pictures have the dignity and
truth of Jean François Millet, and his "lyrical cry" is as authentic
as that of Burns. His more literary poems are like Burns' English
poems compared with his work in the Scots. But he died the year after
Lermontov, of consumption, and with his death the curtain was rung
down on the first act of Russian literature. When it was next rung up,
it was on the age of prose.



When the curtain again rose on Russian literature it was on an era of
prose; and the leading protagonist of that era, both by his works of
fiction and his dramatic work, was NICHOLAS GOGOL [1809-52]. It is
true that in the thirties Russia began to produce home-made novels. In
Pushkin's story _The Queen of Spades_, when somebody asks the old
Countess if she wishes to read a Russian novel, she says "A Russian
novel? Are there any?" This stage had been passed; but the novels and
the plays that were produced at this time until the advent of Gogol
have been--deservedly for the greater part--forgotten. And, just as
Lermontov was the successor of Pushkin in the domain of poetry, so in
the domain of satire Gogol was the successor of Griboyedov; and in
creating a national work he was the heir of Pushkin.

Gogol was a Little Russian. He was born in 1809 near Poltava, in the
Cossack country, and was brought up by his grandfather, a Cossack; but
he left the Ukraine and settled in 1829 in St. Petersburg, where he
obtained a place in a Government office. After an unsuccessful attempt
to go on the stage, and a brief career as tutor, he was given a
professorship of History; but he failed here also, and finally turned
to literature. The publication of his first efforts gained him the
acquaintance of the literary men of the day, and he became the friend
of Pushkin, who proved a valuable friend, adviser, and critic, and
urged him to write on the life of the people. He lived in St.
Petersburg from 1829 to 1836; and it was perhaps home-sickness which
inspired him to write his Little Russian sketches--_Evenings on a Farm
on the Dikanka_,--which appeared in 1832, followed by _Mirgorod_, a
second series, in 1834.

Gogol's temperament was romantic. He had a great deal of the dreamer
in him, a touch of the eerie, a delight in the supernatural, an impish
fancy that reminds one sometimes of Hoffmann and sometimes of R. L.
Stevenson, as well as a deep religious vein which was later on to
dominate and oust all his other qualities. But, just as we find in the
Russian poets a curious mixture of romanticism and realism, of
imagination and common-sense, so in Gogol, side by side with his
imaginative gifts, which were great, there is a realism based on
minute observation. In addition to this, and tempering his penetrating
observation, he had a rich streak of humour, a many-sided humour,
ranging from laughter holding both its sides, to a delicate and half
melancholy chuckle, and in his later work to biting irony.

In the very first story of his first book, "The Fair of Sorochinetz,"
we are plunged into an atmosphere that smells of Russia in a way that
no other Russian book has ever yet savoured of the soil. We are
plunged into the South, on a blazing noonday, when the corn is
standing in sheaves and wheat is being sold at the fair; and the fair,
with its noise, its smell and its colour, rises before us as vividly
as Normandy leaps out of the pages of Maupassant, or Scotland from the
pages of Stevenson. And just as Andrew Lang once said that probably
only a Scotsman, and a Lowland Scotsman, could know how true to life
the characters in _Kidnapped_ were, so it is probable that only a
Russian, and indeed a Little Russian, appreciates to the full how true
to life are the people, the talk, and the ambient air in the tales of
Gogol. And then we at once get that hint of the supernatural which
runs like a scarlet thread through all these stories; the rumour that
the _Red Jacket_ has been observed in the fair; and the _Red Jacket_,
so the gossips say, belongs to a little Devil, who being turned out of
Hell as a punishment for some misdemeanour--probably a good
intention--established himself in a neighbouring barn, and from
home-sickness took to drink, and drank away all his substance; so that
he was obliged to pawn his red jacket for a year to a Jew, who sold it
before the year was out, whereupon the buyer, recognizing its unholy
origin, cut it up into bits and threw it away, after which the Devil
appeared in the shape of a pig every year at the fair to find the
pieces. It is on this Red Jacket that the story turns.

In this first volume, the supernatural plays a predominant part
throughout; the stories tell of water-nymphs, the Devil, who steals
the moon, witches, magicians, and men who traffic with the Evil One
and lose their souls. In the second series, _Mirgorod_, realism comes
to the fore in the stories of "The Old-Fashioned Landowners" and "The
Quarrel of the Two Ivans." These two stories contain between them the
sum and epitome of the whole of one side of Gogol's genius, the
realistic side. In the one story, "The Old-Fashioned Landowners," we
get the gentle good humour which tells the charming tale of a South
Russian Philemon and Baucis, their hospitality and kindliness, and the
loneliness of Philemon when Baucis is taken away, told with the art of
La Fontaine, and with many touches that remind one of Dickens. The
other story, "The Quarrel of the Two Ivans," who are bosom friends and
quarrel over nothing, and are, after years, on the verge of making it
up when the mere mention of the word "goose" which caused the quarrel
sets alight to it once more and irrevocably, is in Gogol's richest
farcical vein, with just a touch of melancholy.

And in the same volume, two _nouvelles_, _Tarass Bulba_ and _Viy_, sum
up between them the whole of the other side of Gogol's genius. _Tarass
Bulba_, a short historical novel, with its incomparably vivid picture
of Cossack life, is Gogol's masterpiece in the epic vein. It is as
strong and as direct as a Border ballad. _Viy_, which tells of a
witch, is the most creepy and imaginative of his supernatural stories.

Later, he published two more collections of stories: _Arabesques_
(1834) and _Tales_ (1836). In these, poetry, witches, water-nymphs,
magicians, devils, and epic adventure are all left behind. The element
of the fantastic still subsists, as in the "Portrait," and of the
grotesque, as in the story of the major who loses his nose, which
becomes a separate personality, and wanders about the town. But his
blend of realism and humour comes out strongly in the story of "The
Carriage," and his blend of realism and pathos still more strongly in
the story of "The Overcoat," the story of a minor public servant who
is always shivering and whose dream it is to have a warm overcoat.
After years of privation he saves enough money to buy one, and on the
first day he wears it, it is stolen. He dies of melancholia, and his
ghost haunts the streets. This story is the only begetter of the large
army of pathetic figures of failure that crowd the pages of Russian

While Gogol had been writing and publishing these tales, he had also
been steadily writing for the stage; but here the great difficulty and
obstacle was the Censorship, which was almost as severe as it was in
England at the end of the reign of Edward VII. But, by a curious
paradox, the play, which you would have expected the Censorship to
forbid before all other plays, _The Revisor_, or _Inspector-General_,
was performed. This was owing to the direct intervention of the
Emperor. _The Revisor_ is the second comic masterpiece of the Russian
stage. The plot was suggested to Gogol by Pushkin. The officials of an
obscure country town hear the startling news that a Government
Inspector is arriving incognito to investigate their affairs. A
traveller from St. Petersburg--a fine natural liar--is taken for the
Inspector, plays up to the part, and gets away just before the arrival
of the real Inspector, which is the end of the play. The play is a
satire on the Russian bureaucracy. Almost every single character in it
is dishonest; and the empty-headed, and irrelevant hero, with his
magnificent talent for easy lying, is a masterly creation. The play
at once became a classic, and retains all its vitality and comic force
to-day. There is no play which draws a larger audience on holidays in
St. Petersburg and Moscow.

After the production of _The Revisor_, Gogol left Russia for ever and
settled in Rome. He had in his mind a work of great importance on
which he had already been working for some time. This was his _Dead
Souls_, his most ambitious work, and his masterpiece. It was Pushkin
who gave him the idea of the book. The hero of the book, Chichikov,
conceives a brilliant idea. Every landlord possessed so many serfs,
called "souls." A revision took place every ten years, and the
landlord had to pay for poll-tax on the "souls" who had died during
that period. Nobody looked at the lists between the periods of
revision. Chichikov's idea was to take over the dead souls from the
landlord, who would, of course, be delighted to be rid of the
fictitious property and the real tax, to register his purchases, and
then to mortgage at a bank at St. Petersburg or Moscow, the "souls,"
which he represented as being in some place in the Crimea, and thus
make money enough to buy "souls" of his own. The book tells of the
adventures of Chichikov as he travels over Russia in search of dead
"souls," and is, like Mr. Pickwick's adventures, an Odyssey,
introducing us to every kind and manner of man and woman. The book was
to be divided in three parts. The first part appeared in 1842. Gogol
went on working at the second and third parts until 1852, when he
died. He twice threw the second part of the work into the fire when it
was finished; so that all we possess is the first part, and the second
part printed from an incomplete manuscript. The second part was
certainly finished when he destroyed it, and it is probable that the
third part was sketched. He had intended in the second part to work
out the moral regeneration of Chichikov, and to give to the world his
complete message. Persecuted by a dream he was unable to realize and
an ambition which he was not able to fulfil, Gogol was driven inwards,
and his natural religious feeling grew more intense and made him into
an ascetic and a recluse. This break in the middle of his career is
characteristic of Russia. Tolstoy, of course, furnishes the most
typical example of the same thing. But it is a common Russian
characteristic for men midway in a successful career to turn aside
from it altogether, and seek consolation in the things which are not
of this world.

Gogol's _Dead Souls_ made a deep impression upon educated Russia. It
pleased the enthusiasts for Western Europe by its reality, its
artistic conception and execution, and by its social ideas; and it
pleased the Slavophile Conservatives by its truth to life, and by its
smell of Russia. When the first chapter was read aloud to Pushkin, he
said, when Gogol had finished: "God, what a sad country Russia is!"
And it is certainly true, that amusing as the book is, inexpressibly
comic as so many of the scenes are, Gogol does not flatter his country
or his countrymen; and when Russians read it at the time it appeared,
many must have been tempted to murmur "_doux pays!_"--as they would,
indeed, now, were a writer with the genius of a Gogol to appear and
describe the adventures of a modern Chichikov; for, though
circumstances may be entirely different, although there are no more
"souls" to be bought or sold, Chichikov is still alive--and as Gogol
said, there was probably not one of his readers who after an honest
self-examination, would not wonder if he had not something of
Chichikov in him, and who if he were to meet an acquaintance at that
moment, would not nudge his companion and say: "There goes Chichikov."
"And who and what is Chichikov?" The answer is: "A scoundrel." But
such an entertaining scoundrel, so abject, so shameless, so utterly
devoid of self-respect, such a magnificent liar, so plausible an
impostor, so ingenious a cheat, that he rises from scoundrelism almost
to greatness.

There is, indeed, something of the greatness of Falstaff in this
trafficker of dead "souls." His baseness is almost sublime. He in any
case merits a place in the gallery of humanity's typical and human
rascals, where Falstaff, Tartuffe, Pecksniff, and Count Fosco reign.
He has the great saving merit of being human; nor can he be accused of
hypocrisy. His coachman, Selifan, who got drunk with every "decent
man," is worthy of the creator of Sam Weller. But what distinguishes
Gogol in his _Dead Souls_ from the great satirists of other nations,
and his satire from the _saeva indignatio_ of Swift, for instance, is
that, after laying bare to the bones the rascality of his hero, he
turns round on his audience and tells them that there is no cause for
indignation; Chichikov is only a victim of a ruling passion--gain;
perhaps, indeed, in the chill existence of a Chichikov, there may be
something which will one day cause us to humble ourselves on our knees
and in the dust before the Divine Wisdom. His irony is lined with
indulgence; his sleepless observation is tempered by fundamental
charity. He sees what is mean and common clearer than any one, but he
does not infer from it that life, or mankind, or the world is common
or mean. He infers the opposite. He puts Chichikov no lower morally
than he would put Napoleon, Harpagon, or Don Juan--all of them victims
of a ruling passion, and all of them great by reason of it--for
Chichikov is also great in rascality, just as Harpagon was great in
avarice, and Don Juan great in profligacy. And this large charity
blent with biting irony is again peculiarly Russian.

_Dead Souls_ is a deeper book than any of Gogol's early work. It is
deep in the same way as _Don Quixote_ is deep; and like _Don Quixote_
it makes boys laugh, young men think, and old men weep. Apart from
its philosophy and ideas, _Dead Souls_ had a great influence on
Russian literature as a work of art. Just as Pushkin set Russian
poetry free from the high-flown and the conventional, so did Gogol set
Russian fiction free from the dominion of the grand style. He carried
Pushkin's work--the work which Pushkin had accomplished in verse and
adumbrated in prose--much further; and by depicting ordinary life, and
by writing a novel without any love interest, with a Chichikov for a
hero, he created Russian realism. He described what he saw without
flattery and without exaggeration, but with the masterly touch, the
instinctive economy, the sense of selection of a great artist.

This, at the time it was done, was a revolution. Nobody then would
have dreamed it possible to write a play or a novel without a
love-motive; and just as Pushkin revealed to Russia that there was
such a thing as Russian landscape, Gogol again, going one better,
revealed the fascination, the secret and incomprehensible power that
lay in the flat monotony of the Russian country, and the inexhaustible
source of humour, absurdity, irony, quaintness, farce, comedy in the
everyday life of the ordinary people. So that, however much his
contemporaries might differ as to the merits or demerits, the harm or
the beneficence, of his work, he left his nation with permanent and
classic models of prose and fiction and stories, just as Pushkin had
bequeathed to them permanent models of verse.

Gogol wrote no more fiction after _Dead Souls_. In 1847 _Passages from
a Correspondence with a Friend_ was published, which created a
sensation, because in the book Gogol preached submission to the
Government, both spiritual and temporal. The Western enthusiasts and
the Liberals in general were highly disgusted. One can understand
their disgust; it is less easy to understand their surprise; for Gogol
had never pretended to be a Liberal. He showed up the evils of
Bureaucracy and the follies and weaknesses of Bureaucrats, because
they were there, just as he showed up the stinginess of misers and the
obstinacy of old women. But it is quite as easy for a Conservative to
do this as it is for a Liberal, and quite as easy for an orthodox
believer as for an atheist. But Gogol's contemporaries had not
realized the tempest that had been raging for a long time in Gogol's
soul, and which he kept to himself. He had always been religious, and
now he became exclusively religious; he made a pilgrimage to the Holy
Land; he spent his substance in charity, especially to poor students;
and he lived in asceticism until he died, at the age of forty-three.
What a waste, one is tempted to say--and how often one is tempted to
say this in the annals of Russian literature--and yet, one wonders!

What we possess of the second part of _Dead Souls_ is in Gogol's best
vein, and of course one cannot help bitterly regretting that the rest
was destroyed or possibly never written; but one wonders whether, had
he not had within him the intensity of feeling which led him
ultimately to renounce art, he would have been the artist that he was;
whether he would have been capable of creating so many-coloured a
world of characters, and whether the soil out of which those works
grew was not in reality the kind of soil out of which religious
renunciation was at last bound to flower. However that may be, Gogol
left behind him a rich inheritance. He is one of the great humorists
of European literature, and whoever gives England a really fine
translation of his work, will do his country a service. Mérimée places
Gogol among the best _English_ humorists. His humour and his pathos
were closely allied; but there is no acidity in his irony. His work
may sometimes sadden you, but (as in the case of Krylov's two pigeons)
it will never bore you, and it will never leave you with a feeling of
stale disgust or a taste as of sharp alum, for his work is based on
charity, and it has in its form and accent the precious gift of charm.
Gogol is an author who will always be loved even as much as he is
admired, and his stories are a boon to the young; to many a Russian
boy and girl the golden gates of romance have been opened by Gogol,
the destroyer of Russian romanticism, the inaugurator of Russian

Side by side with fiction, another element grew up in this age of
prose, namely criticism. Karamzin in the twenties had been the first
to introduce literary criticism, and critical appreciations of
Pushkin's work appeared from time to time in the _European Messenger_.
PRINCE VYAZEMSKY, whose literary activity lasted from 1808-78, was a
critic as well as a poet and a satirist, a fine example of the type of
great Russian nobles so frequent in Russian books, who were not only
saturated with culture but enriched literature with their work, and
carried on the tradition of cool, clear wit, clean expression, and
winged phrase that we find in Griboyedov. POLEVOY, a self-educated man
of humble extraction, was the first professional journalist, and
created the tradition of violent and fiery polemics, which has lasted
till this day in Russian journalism. But the real founder of Russian
æsthetic, literary, and journalistic criticism was BELINSKY

Like Polevoy, he was of humble extraction and almost entirely
self-educated. He lived in want and poverty and ill-health. His life
was a long battle against every kind of difficulty and obstacle; his
literary production was more than hampered by the Censorship, but his
influence was far-reaching and deep. He created Russian criticism, and
after passing through several phases--a German phase of Hegelian
philosophy, Gallophobia, enthusiasm for Shakespeare and Goethe and for
objective art, a French phase of enthusiasm for art as practised in
France, ended finally in a didactic phase of which the watchword was
that Life was more important than Art.

The first blossoms of the new generation of writers, Goncharov,
Dostoyevsky, Herzen, and others, grew up under his encouragement. He
expounded Pushkin, Lermontov, Gogol, Griboyedov, Zhukovsky and the
writers of the past. His judgments have remained authoritative; but
some of his final judgments, which were unshaken for generations, such
as for instance his estimates of Pushkin and Lermontov, were much
biassed and coloured by his didacticism. He burnt what he had adored
in the case of Gogol, who, like Pushkin, became for him too much of an
artist, and not enough of a social reformer. Whatever phase Belinsky
went through, he was passionate, impulsive, and violent, incapable of
being objective, or of doing justice to an opponent, or of seeing two
sides to a question. He was a polemical and fanatical knight errant,
the prophet and propagandist of Western influence, the bitter enemy of
the Slavophiles.

The didactic stamp which he gave to Russian æsthetic and literary
criticism has remained on it ever since, and differentiates it from
the literary and æsthetic criticism of the rest of Europe, not only
from that school of criticism which wrote and writes exclusively under
the banner of "Art for Art's Sake," but from those Western critics who
championed the importance of moral ideas in literature, just as
ardently as he did himself, and who deprecated the theory of Art for
Art's sake just as strongly. Thus it is that, from the beginning of
Russian criticism down to the present day, a truly objective criticism
scarcely exists in Russian literature. Æsthetic criticism becomes a
political weapon. "Are you in my camp?" if so, you are a good writer.
"Are you in my opponent's camp?" then your god-gifted genius is mere

The reason of this has been luminously stated by Professor Brückner:
"To the intelligent Russian, without a free press, without the liberty
of assembly, without the right to free expression of opinion,
literature became the last refuge of freedom of thought, the only
means of propagating higher ideas. He expected of his country's
literature not merely æsthetic recreation; he placed it at the service
of his aspirations.... Hence the striking partiality, nay unfairness,
displayed by the Russians towards the most perfect works of their own
literature, when they did not respond to the aims or expectations of
their party or their day." And speaking of the criticism that was
produced after 1855, he says: "This criticism is often, in spite of
all its giftedness, its ardour and fire, only a mockery of all
criticism. The work only serves as an example on which to hang the
critics' own views.... This is no reproach; we simply state the fact,
and fully recognize the necessity and usefulness of the method. With a
backward society, ... this criticism was a means which was sanctified
by the end, the spreading of free opinions.... Unhappily, Russian
literary criticism has remained till to-day almost solely
journalistic, _i. e._ didactic and partisan. See how even now it
treats the most interesting, exceptional, and mighty of all Russians,
Dostoyevsky, merely because he does not fit into the Radical mould!
How unjust it has been towards others! How it has extolled to the
clouds the representatives of its own camp!" I quote Professor
Brückner, lest I should be myself suspected of being partial in this
question. The question, perhaps, may admit of further expansion. It
is not that the Russian critics were merely convinced it was
all-important that art should have ideas at the roots of it, and had
no patience with a merely shallow æstheticism. They went further; the
ideas had to be of one kind. A definite political tendency had to be
discerned; and if the critic disagreed with that political tendency,
then no amount of qualities--not artistic excellence, form, skill,
style, not even genius, inspiration, depth, feeling, philosophy--were

Herein lies the great difference between Russian and Western critics,
between Sainte-Beuve and Belinsky; between Matthew Arnold and his
Russian contemporaries. Matthew Arnold defined the highest poetry as
being a criticism of life; but that would not have prevented him from
doing justice either to a poet so polemical as Byron, or to a poet so
completely unpolitical, so sheerly æsthetic as Keats; to Lord
Beaconsfield as a novelist, to Mr. Morley or Lord Acton as historians,
because their "tendency" or their "politics" were different from his
own. The most biassed of English or French critics is broad-minded
compared to a Russian critic. Had Keats been a Russian poet, Belinsky
would have swept him away with contempt; Wordsworth would have been
condemned as reactionary; and Swinburne's politics alone would have
been taken into consideration. At the present day, almost ten years
after Professor Brückner wrote his _History of Russian Literature_, now
that the press is more or less free, save for occasional pin-pricks,
now that literary output is in any case unfettered, and the stage freer
than it is in England, the same criticism still applies. Russian
literary criticism is still journalistic. There are and there always
have been brilliant exceptions, of course, two of the most notable of
which are VOLYNSKY and MEREZHKOVSKY; but as a rule the political camp
to which the writer belongs is the all-important question; and I know
cases of Russian politicians who have been known to refuse to write,
even in foreign reviews, because they disapproved of the "tendency" of
those reviews, the tendency being non-existent--as is generally the
case with English reviews,--and the review harbouring opinions of every
shade and tendency. You would think that narrow-mindedness could no
further go than to refuse to let your work appear in an impartial
organ, lest in that same organ an opinion opposed to your own might
appear also. But the cause of this is the same now as it used to be,
namely that, in spite of there being a greater measure of freedom in
Russia, political liberty does not yet exist. Liberty of assembly does
not exist; liberty of conscience only partially exists; the press is
annoyed and hampered by restrictions; and the great majority of Russian
writers are still engaged in fighting for these things, and therefore
still ready to sacrifice fairness for the greater end,--the achievement
of political freedom.

Thus criticism in Russia became a question of camps, and the question
arises, what were these camps? From the dawn of the age of pure
literature, Russia was divided into two great camps: The Slavophiles
and the Propagandists of Western Ideas.

The trend towards the West began with the influence of Joseph Le
Maistre and the St. Petersburg Jesuits. In 1836, CHAADAEV, an
ex-guardsman who had served in the Russian campaign in France and
travelled a great deal in Western Europe, and who shared Joseph Le
Maistre's theory that Russia had suffered by her isolation from the
West and through the influence of the former Byzantine Empire,
published the first of his _Lettres sur la Philosophie de l'Histoire_
in the _Telescope_ of Moscow. This letter came like a bomb-shell. He
glorified the tradition and continuity of the Catholic world. He said
that Russia existed, as it were, outside of time, without the
tradition either of the Orient or of the Occident, and that the
universal culture of the human race had not touched it. "The
atmosphere of the West produces ideas of duty, law, justice, order; we
have given nothing to the world and taken nothing from it; ... we have
not contributed anything to the progress of humanity, and we have
disfigured everything we have taken from that progress. Hostile
circumstances have alienated us from the general trend in which the
social idea of Christianity grew up; thus we ought to revise our
faith, and begin our education over again on another basis." The
expression of these incontrovertible sentiments resulted in the exile
of the editor of the _Telescope_, the dismissal of the Censor, and in
the official declaration of Chaadaev's insanity, who was put under
medical supervision for a year.

Chaadaev made disciples who went further than he did, PRINCESS
VOLKONSKY, the authoress of a notable book on the Orthodox Church, and
PRINCE GAGARIN, who both became Catholics. This was one branch of
Westernism. Another branch, to which Belinsky belonged, had no
Catholic leanings, but sought for salvation in socialism and atheism.
The most important figure in this branch is ALEXANDER HERZEN
(1812-1870). His real name was Yakovlev; his father, a wealthy
nobleman, married in Germany, but did not legalize his marriage in
Russia, so his children took their mother's name.

Herzen's career belongs rather to the history of Russia than to the
history of Russian literature; were it not that, besides being one of
the greatest and most influential personalities of his time, he was a
great memoir-writer. He began, after a mathematical training at the
University, with fiction, of which the best example is a novel _Who is
to Blame?_ which paints the _génie sans portefeuille_ of the period
that Turgenev was so fond of depicting. Herzen was exiled on account
of his oral propaganda, first to Perm, and then to Vyatka. In 1847, he
left Russia for ever, and lived abroad for the rest of his life, at
first in Paris, and afterwards in London, where he edited a newspaper
called _The Bell_.

Herzen was a Socialist. Western Europe he considered to be played out.
He looked upon Socialism as a new religion and a new form of
Christianity, which would be to the new world what Christianity had
been to the old. The Russian peasants would play the part of the
Invasion of the Barbarians; and the functions of the State would be
taken over by the Russian Communes on a basis of voluntary and mutual
agreement--the principle of the Commune, of sharing all possessions in
common, being so near the fundamental principle of Christianity.

"A thinking Russian," he wrote, "is the most independent being in the
world. What can stop him? Consideration for the past? But what is the
starting-point of modern Russian history if it be not a total negation
of nationalism and tradition?... What do we care, disinherited minors
that we are, for the duties you have inherited? Can your worn-out
morality satisfy us? Your morality which is neither Christian nor
human, which is used only in copybooks and for the ritual of the
law?" Again: "We are free because we begin with our own liberation; we
are independent; we have nothing to lose or to honour. A Russian will
never be a protestant, or follow the _juste milieu_ ... our
civilization is external, our corrupt morals quite crude."

The great point Herzen was always making was that Russia had escaped
the baleful tradition of Western Europe, and the hereditary infection
of Western corruption. Thus, in his disenchantment with Western
society and his enthusiasm for the communal ownership of land, he was
at one with the Slavophiles; where he differed from them was in
accepting certain Western ideas, and in thinking that a new order of
things, a new heaven and earth, could be created by a social
revolution, which should be carried out by the Slavs. His
influence--he was one of the precursors of Nihilism, for the seed he
sowed, falling on the peculiar soil where it fell, produced the
whirlwind as a harvest--belongs to history. What belongs to literature
are his memoirs, _My Past and my Thoughts_ (_Byloe i Dumy_), which
were written between 1852 and 1855. These memoirs of everyday life
and encounters with all sorts and conditions of extraordinary men are
in their subject-matter as exciting as a novel, and, in their style,
on a level with the masterpieces of Russian prose, through their
subtle psychology, interest, wit, and artistic form.

Herzen lived to see his ideas bearing fruit in the one way which of
all others he would have sought to avoid, namely in "militancy" and
terrorism. When in 1866, an attempt was made by Karakozov to
assassinate Alexander II, and Herzen wrote an article repudiating all
political assassinations as barbarous, the revolutionary parties
solemnly denounced him and his newspaper. _The Bell_, which had
already lost its popularity owing to Herzen's pro-Polish sympathies in
1863, ceased to have any circulation. Thus he lived to see his vast
hopes shattered, the seed he had sown bearing a fruit he distrusted,
his dreams of regeneration burst like a bubble, his ideals exploited
by unscrupulous criminals. He died in 1870, leaving a name which is as
great in Russian literature as it is remarkable in Russian history.

Turning now to the _Slavophiles_, their idea was that Russia was
already in possession of the best possible institutions,--orthodoxy,
autocracy, and communal ownership, and that the West had everything to
learn from Russia. They pointed to the evils arising from the feudal
and aristocratic state, the system of primogeniture in the West, the
higher legal status of women in Russia, and the superiority of a
communal system, which leads naturally to a Consultative National
Assembly with unanimous decisions, over the parliaments and party
systems of the West.

The leader of the Slavophiles was HOMYAKOV, a man of great culture; a
dialectician, a poet, and an impassioned defender of orthodoxy. The
best of his lyrics, which are inspired by a profound love of his
country and belief in it, have great depth of feeling. Besides
Homyakov, there were other poets, such as TYUTCHEV and IVAN AKSAKOV.
Just as the camp of Reform produced in Herzen a supreme writer of
memoirs, that of the Slavophiles also produced a unique memoir writer
in the SERGE AKSAKOV, the father of the poet (1791-1859), who
published his _Family Chronicle_ in 1856, and who describes the life
of the end of the eighteenth century, and the age of Alexander. This
book, one of the most valuable historical documents in Russian, and a
priceless collection of biographical portraits, is also a gem of
Russian prose, exact in its observation, picturesque and perfectly
balanced in its diction.

Aksakov remembered with unclouded distinctness exactly what he had
seen in his childhood, which he spent in the district of Orenburg. He
paints the portraits of his grandfather and his great-aunt. We see
every detail of the life of a backwoodsman of the days of Catherine
II. We see the noble of those days, simple and rustic in his habits as
a peasant, almost entirely unlettered, and yet a gentleman through and
through, unswerving in maintaining the standard of morals and
traditions which he considers due to his ancient lineage. We see every
hour of the day of his life in the country; we hear all the details of
the family life, the marriage of his son, the domestic troubles of his

What strikes one most, perhaps, besides the contrast between the
primitive simplicity of the habits and manners of the life described,
and the astoundingly gentlemanlike feelings of the man who leads this
quiet and rustic life in remote and backward conditions, is that there
is not a hint or suspicion of anything antiquated in the sentiments
and opinions we see at play. The story of Aksakov's grandfather might
be that of any country gentleman in any country, at any epoch, making
allowances for a certain difference in manners and customs and
conditions which were peculiar to the epoch in question, the existence
of serfdom, for instance--although here, too, the feeling with regard
to manners described is startlingly like the ideal of good manners of
any epoch, although the _mœurs_ are sometimes different. The story
is as vivid and as interesting as that of any novel, as that of the
novels of Russian writers of genius, and it has the additional value
of being true. And yet we never feel that Aksakov has a thought of
compiling a historical document for the sake of its historical
interest. He is making history unawares, just as Monsieur Jourdain
talked prose without knowing it; and, whether he was aware of it or
not, he wrote perfect prose. No more perfect piece of prose writing
exists. The style flows on like a limpid river; there is nothing
superfluous, and not a hesitating touch. It is impossible to put down
the narrative after once beginning it, and I have heard of children
who read it like a fairy-tale. One has the sensation, in reading it,
of being told a story by some enchanting nurse, who, when the usual
question, "Is it true?" is put to her, could truthfully answer, "Yes,
it is true." The pictures of nature, the portraits of the people, all
the good and all the bad of the good and the bad old times pass before
one with epic simplicity and the magic of a fairy-tale. One is
spellbound by the charm, the dignity, the good-nature, the gentle,
easy accent of the speaker, in whom one feels convinced not only that
there was nothing common nor mean, but to whom nothing was common or
mean, who was a gentleman by character as well as by lineage, one of
God's as well as one of Russia's nobility.

There is no book in Russian which, for its entrancing interest as well
as for its historical value, so richly deserves translation into
English; only such a translation should be made by a stylist--that is,
by a man who knows how to speak and write his mother tongue
perspicuously and simply.



For seven years after the death of Belinsky in 1848, all literary
development ceased. This period was the darkest hour before the dawn
of the second great renascence of Russian literature. Criticism was
practically non-existent; the Slavophiles were forbidden to write; the
Westernizers were exiled. An increased severity of censorship, an
extreme suspicion and drastic measures on the part of the Government
were brought about by the fears which the Paris revolution of 1848 had
caused. The Westernizers felt the effects of this as much as the
Slavophiles; a group of young literary men, schoolmasters and
officers, the Petrashevtsy, called after their leader, a Foreign
Office official PETRASHEVSKY, met together on Fridays and debated on
abstract subjects; they discussed the emancipation of the serfs, read
Fourier and Lamennais, and considered the establishment of a secret
press: the scheme of a popular propaganda was thought of, but nothing
had got beyond talk--and the whole thing was in reality only
talk--when the society was discovered by the police and its members
were punished with the utmost severity. Twenty-one of them were
condemned to death, among whom was Dostoyevsky, who, being on the army
list, was accused of treason. They were reprieved on the scaffold;
some sent into penal servitude in Siberia, and some into the army.
This marked one of the darkest hours in the history of Russian
literature. And from this date until 1855, complete stagnation
reigned. In 1855 the Emperor Nicholas died during the Crimean War; and
with the accession of his son Alexander II, a new era dawned on
Russian literature, the Era of the Great Reforms. The Crimean War and
the reforms which followed it--the emancipation of the serfs, the
creation of a new judicial system, and the foundation of local
self-government--stabbed the Russian soul into life, relieved it of
its gag, produced a great outburst of literature which enlarged and
enriched the literature of the world, and gave to the world three of
its greatest novelists: Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Dostoyevsky.

IVAN TURGENEV (1816-83), whose name is of Tartar origin, came of an
old family which had frequently distinguished itself in the annals of
Russian literature by a fearless outspokenness. He began his literary
career by writing verse (1843); but, like Maupassant, he soon
understood that verse was not his true vehicle, and in 1847 gave up
writing verse altogether; in that year he published in _The
Contemporary_ his first sketch of peasant life, _Khor and Kalinych_,
which afterwards formed part of his _Sportsman's Sketches_,
twenty-four of which he collected and published in 1852. The
Government rendered Turgenev the same service as it had done to
Pushkin, in exiling him to his own country estate for two years. When,
after the two years, this forced exile came to an end, he went into
another kind of exile of his own accord; he lived at first at Baden,
and then in Paris, and only reappeared in Russia from time to time;
this accounts for the fact that, although Turgenev belongs
chronologically to the epoch of the great reforms, the Russia which he
paints was really more like the Russia before that epoch; and when he
tried to paint the Russia that was contemporary to him his work gave
rise to much controversy.

His _Rudin_ was published in 1856, _The Nest of Gentlefolk_ in 1859,
_On the Eve_ in 1860, _Fathers and Sons_ in 1862, _Smoke_ in 1867.
Turgenev did for Russian literature what Byron did for English
literature; he led the genius of Russia on a pilgrimage throughout all
Europe. And in Europe his work reaped a glorious harvest of praise.
Flaubert was astounded by him, George Sand looked up to him as to a
Master, Taine spoke of his work as being the finest artistic
production since Sophocles. In Turgenev's work, Europe not only
discovered Turgenev, but it discovered Russia, the simplicity and the
naturalness of the Russian character; and this came as a revelation.
For the first time, Europe came across the Russian woman whom Pushkin
was the first to paint; for the first time Europe came into contact
with the Russian soul; and it was the sharpness of this revelation
which accounts for the fact of Turgenev having received in the West an
even greater meed of praise than he was perhaps entitled to.

In Russia, Turgenev attained almost instant popularity. His
_Sportsman's Sketches_ made him known, and his _Nest of Gentlefolk_
made him not only famous but universally popular. In 1862 the
publication of his masterpiece _Fathers and Sons_ dealt his reputation
a blow. The revolutionary elements in Russia regarded his hero,
Bazarov, as a calumny and a libel; whereas the reactionary elements in
Russia looked upon _Fathers and Sons_ as a glorification of Nihilism.
Thus he satisfied nobody. He fell between two stools. This, perhaps,
could only happen in Russia to this extent; and for the same reason as
that which made Russian criticism didactic. The conflicting elements
of Russian society were so terribly in earnest in fighting their
cause, that any one whom they did not regard as definitely for them
was at once considered an enemy, and an impartial delineation of any
character concerned in the political struggle was bound to displease
both parties. If a novelist drew a Nihilist, he must either be a hero
or a scoundrel, if either the revolutionaries or the reactionaries
were to be pleased. If in England the militant suffragists suddenly
had a huge mass of educated opinion behind them and a still larger
mass of educated public opinion against them, and some one were to
draw in a novel an impartial picture of a suffragette, the same thing
would happen. On a small scale, as far as the suffragettes are
concerned, it has happened in the case of Mr. Wells. But, if
Turgenev's popularity suffered a shock in Russia from which it with
difficulty recovered, in Western Europe it went on increasing.
Especially in England, Turgenev became the idol of all that was
eclectic, and admiration for Turgenev a hall-mark of good taste.

In Russia, Turgenev's work recovered from the unpopularity caused by
his _Fathers and Sons_ when Nihilism became a thing of the past, and
revolution took an entirely different shape; but, with the growing up
of new generations, his popularity suffered in a different way and for
different reasons. A new element came into Russian literature with
Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, and later with Gorky, and Turgenev's work began
to seem thin and artificial beside the creations of these stronger
writers; but in Russia, where Turgenev's work has the advantage of
being read in the original, it had an asset which ensured it a
permanent and safe harbour, above and beyond the fluctuations of
literary taste, the strife of political parties, and the conflict of
social ideals; and that was its art, its poetry, its style, which
ensured it a lasting and imperishable niche among the great classics
of Russian literature. And there it stands now. Turgenev's work in
Russia is no longer disputed or a subject of dispute. It is taken for
granted; and, whatever the younger generation will read and admire,
they will always read and admire Turgenev first. His work is a
necessary part of the intellectual baggage of any educated man and,
especially, of the educated adolescent.

The position of Tennyson in England offers in a sense a parallel to
that of Turgenev in Russia. Tennyson, like Turgenev, enjoyed during
his lifetime not only the popularity of the masses, but the
appreciation of all that was most eclectic in the country. Then a
reaction set in. Now I believe the young generation think nothing of
Tennyson at all. And yet nothing is so sure as his permanent place in
English literature; and that permanent place is secured to him by his
incomparable diction. So it is with Turgenev. One cannot expect the
younger generation to be wildly excited about Turgenev's ideas,
characters, and problems. They belong to an epoch which is dead. At
the same time, one cannot help thinking that the most advanced of the
symbolist writers would not have been sorry had he happened by chance
to write _Bezhin Meadow_ and the _Poems in Prose_. Just so one cannot
help thinking that the most modern of our poets, had he by accident
written _The Revenge_ or _Tears, Idle Tears_, would not have thrown
them in the fire!

There is, indeed, something in common between Tennyson and Turgenev.
They both have something mid-Victorian in them. They are both idyllic,
and both of them landscape-lovers and lords of language. They neither
of them had any very striking message to preach; they both of them
seem to halt, except on rare occasions, on the threshold of passion;
they both of them have a rare stamp of nobility; and in both of them
there is an element of banality. They both seem to a certain extent to
be shut off from the world by the trees of old parks, where cultivated
people are enjoying the air and the flowers and the shade, and where
between the tall trees you get glimpses of silvery landscapes and
limpid waters, and soft music comes from the gliding boat. Of course,
there is more than this in Turgenev, but this is the main impression.

Pathos he has, of the finest, and passion he describes beautifully
from the outside, making you feel its existence, but not convincing
you that he felt it himself; but on the other hand what an artist he
is! How beautifully his pictures are painted; and how rich he is in
poetic feeling!

Turgenev is above all things a poet. He carried on the work of
Pushkin, and he did for Russian prose what Pushkin did for Russian
poetry; he created imperishable models of style. His language has the
same limpidity and absence of any blur that we find in Pushkin's work.
His women have the same crystal radiance, transparent simplicity, and
unaffected strength; his pictures of peasant life, and his country
episodes have the same truth to nature; as an artist he had a severe
sense of proportion, a perfect purity of outline, and an absolute
harmony between the thought and the expression. Now that modern Europe
and England have just begun to discover Dostoyevsky, it is possible
that a reaction will set in to the detriment of Turgenev. Indeed, to a
certain extent this reaction has set in in Western Europe, as M.
Haumant, one of Turgenev's ablest critics and biographers, pointed out
not long ago. And, as the majority of Englishmen have not the
advantage of reading him in the original, they will be unchecked in
this reaction, if it comes about, by their appreciation of what is
perhaps most durable in his work. Yet to translate Turgenev
adequately, it would require an English poet gifted with a sense of
form and of words as rare as that of Turgenev himself. However this
may be, there is no doubt about the importance of Turgenev in the
history of Russian literature, whatever the future generations in
Russia or in Europe may think of his work. He was a great novelist
besides being a great poet. Certainly he never surpassed his early
_Sportsman's Sketches_ in freshness of inspiration and the perfection
of artistic execution.

His _Bezhin Meadow_, where the children tell each other bogey stories
in the evening, is a gem with which no other European literature has
anything to compare. _The Singers_, _Death_, and many others are
likewise incomparable. _The Nest of Gentlefolk_, to which Turgenev
owed his great popularity, is quite perfect of its kind, with its
gallery of portraits going back to the eighteenth century and to the
period of Alexander I; its lovable, human hero Lavretsky, and Liza, a
fit descendant of Pushkin's Tatiana, radiant as a star. All Turgenev's
characters are alive; but, with the exception of his women and the
hero of _Fathers and Sons_, they are alive in bookland rather than in
real life.

George Meredith's characters, for instance, are alive, but they belong
to a land or rather a planet of his own making, and we should never
recognize Sir Willoughby Patterne in the street, but we do meet women
sometimes who remind us of Clara Middleton and Carinthia Jane. The
same is true with regard to Turgenev, although it is not another
planet he created, but a special atmosphere and epoch to which his
books exclusively belong, and which some critics say never existed at
all. That is of no consequence. It exists for us in his work.

But perhaps what gave rise to accusations of unreality and caricature
against Turgenev's characters, apart from the intenser reality of
Tolstoy's creations, by comparison with which Turgenev's suffered, was
that Turgenev, while professing to describe the present, and while
believing that he was describing the present, was in reality painting
an epoch that was already dead. _Rudin_, _Smoke_, and _On the Eve_
have suffered more from the passage of time. _Rudin_ is a pathetic
picture of the type that Turgenev was so fond of depicting, the _génie
sans portefeuille_, a latter-day Hamlet who can only unpack his heart
with words, and with his eloquence persuade others to believe in him,
and succeed even in persuading himself to believe in himself, until
the moment for action comes, when he breaks down. The subjects of
_Smoke_ and _Spring Waters_ are almost identical; but, whereas _Spring
Waters_ is one of the most poetical of Turgenev's achievements,
_Smoke_ seems to-day the most banal, and almost to deserve Tolstoy's
criticism: "In _Smoke_ there is hardly any love of anything, and very
little pity; there is only love of light and playful adultery; and
therefore the poetry of that novel is repulsive." _On the Eve_, which
tells of a Bulgarian on the eve of the liberation of his country,
suffers from being written at a time when real Russians were hard at
work at that very task; and it was on this account that the novel
found little favour in Russia, as the fiction paled beside the

It was followed by Turgenev's masterpiece, for which time can only
heighten one's admiration. _Fathers and Sons_ is as beautifully
constructed as a drama of Sophocles; the events move inevitably to a
tragic close. There is not a touch of banality from beginning to end,
and not an unnecessary word; the portraits of the old father and
mother, the young Kirsanov, and all the minor characters are perfect;
and amidst the trivial crowd, Bazarov stands out like Lucifer, the
strongest--the only strong character--that Turgenev created, the first
Nihilist--for if Turgenev was not the first to invent the word, he was
the first to apply it in this sense.

Bazarov is the incarnation of the Lucifer type that recurs again and
again in Russian history and fiction, in sharp contrast to the meek
humble type of Ivan Durak. Lermontov's Pechorin was in some respects
an anticipation of Bazarov; so were the many Russian rebels. He is
the man who denies, to whom art is a silly toy, who detests
abstractions, knowledge, and the love of Nature; he believes in
nothing; he bows to nothing; he can break, but he cannot bend; he does
break, and that is the tragedy, but, breaking, he retains his
invincible pride, and

    "not cowardly he puts off his helmet,"

and he dies "valiantly vanquished."

In the pages which describe his death Turgenev reaches the high-water
mark of his art, his moving quality, his power, his reserve. For manly
pathos they rank among the greatest scenes in literature, stronger
than the death of Colonel Newcome and the best of Thackeray. Among
English novelists it is, perhaps, only Meredith who has struck such
strong, piercing chords, nobler than anything in Daudet or Maupassant,
more reserved than anything in Victor Hugo, and worthy of the great
poets, of the tragic pathos of Goethe and Dante. The character of
Bazarov, as has been said, created a sensation and endless
controversy. The revolutionaries thought him a caricature and a libel,
the reactionaries a scandalous glorification of the Devil; and
impartial men such as Dostoyevsky, who knew the revolutionaries at
first hand, thought the type unreal. It is possible that Bazarov was
not like the Nihilists of the sixties; but in any case as a figure in
fiction, whatever the fact may be, he lives and will continue to live.

In _Virgin Soil_, Turgenev attempted to paint the underground
revolutionary movement; here, in the opinion of all Russian judges, he
failed. The revolutionaries considered their portraits here more
unreal than that of Bazarov; the Conservatives were grossly
caricatured; the hero Nezhdanov was a type of a past world, another
Rudin, and not in the least like--so those who knew them tell us--the
revolutionaries of the day. Solomin, the energetic character in the
book, was considered as unreal as Nezhdanov. The wife of the
reactionary Sipyagin is a _pastiche_ of the female characters of that
type in his other books; cleverly drawn, but a completely conventional
book character. The redeeming feature in the book is Mariana, the
heroine, one of Turgenev's finest ideal women; and it is full, of
course, of gems of descriptive writing. The book was a complete
failure, and after this Turgenev went back to writing short stories.
The result was a great disappointment to Turgenev, who had thought
that, by writing a novel dealing with actual life, he would please and
reconcile all parties. To this later epoch belong his matchless _Poems
in Prose_, one of the latest melodies he sounded, a melody played on
one string of the lyre, but whose sweetness contained the essence of
all his music.

Turgenev's work has a historic as well as an artistic value. He
painted the Russian gentry, and the type of gentry that was
disappearing, as no one else has done. His landscape painting has been
dwelt on; one ought, perhaps, to add that, beautiful as it is, it
still belongs to the region of conventional landscape painting; his
landscape is the orthodox Russian landscape, and is that of the age of
Pushkin, in which no bird except a nightingale is mentioned, no flower
except a rose. This convention was not really broken in prose until
the advent of Gorky.

Reviewing Turgenev's work as a whole, any one who goes back to his
books after a time, and after a course of more modern and rougher,
stormier literature, will, I think, be surprised at its excellence
and perhaps be inclined to heave a deep sigh of relief. Some of it
will appear conventional; he will notice a faint atmosphere of
rose-water; he will feel, if he has been reading the moderns, as a
traveller feels who, after an exciting but painful journey, through
dangerous ways and unpleasant surroundings, suddenly enters a cool
garden, where fountains sob between dark cypresses, and swans float
majestically on artificial lakes. There is an aroma of syringa in the
air; the pleasaunce is artistically laid out, and full of fragrant
flowers. But he will not despise that garden for its elegance and its
tranquil seclusion, for its trees cast large shadows; the nightingale
sings in its thickets, the moon silvers the calm statues, and the
sound of music on the waters goes to the heart. Turgenev reminds one
of a certain kind of music, beautiful in form, not too passionate and
yet full of emotion, Schumann's music, for instance; if Pushkin is the
Mozart of Russian literature, Turgenev is the Schumann; not amongst
the very greatest, but still a poet, full of inspired lyrical feeling;
and a great, a classic artist, the prose Virgil of Russian literature.

What Turgenev did for the country gentry, GONCHAROV (1812-91) did for
the St. Petersburg gentry. The greater part of his work deals with the
forties. Goncharov, a noble (_dvoryanin_) by education, and according
to his own account by descent, though according to another account he
was of merchant extraction, entered the Government service, and then
went round the world in a frigate, a journey which he described in
letters. Of his three novels, _The Everyday Story_, _Oblomov_, and
_The Landslip_, _Oblomov_ is the most famous: in it he created a type
which became immortal; and Oblomov has passed into the Russian
language just as Tartuffe has passed into the French language, or
Pecksniff into the English language. A chapter of the book appeared in
1849, and the whole novel in 1859.

Oblomov is the incarnation of what in Russia is called _Halatnost_,
which means the propensity to live in dressing-gown and slippers. It
is told of Krylov, who was an Oblomov of real life, and who spent most
of his time lying on a sofa, that one day somebody pointed out to him
that the nail on which a picture was hanging just over the sofa on
which he was lying, was loose, and that the picture would probably
fall on his head. "No," said Krylov, not getting up, "the picture will
fall just beyond the sofa. I know the angle." The apathy of Oblomov,
although to the outward eye it resembles this mere physical inertness,
is subtly different. Krylov's apathy was the laziness of a man whose
brain brought forth concrete fruits; and who feels neither the
inclination nor the need of any other exercise, either physical or
intellectual. Oblomov's apathy is that of a brain seething with the
burning desires of a _vie intime_, which all comes to nothing owing to
a kind of spiritual paralysis, "une infirmité morale." It is true he
finds it difficult to put on his socks, still more to get up, when he
is awake, impossible to change his rooms although the ceiling is
falling to bits, and impossible not to lie on the sofa most of the
day; but the reason of this obstinate inertia is not mere physical
disinclination, it is the result of a mixture of seething and
simmering aspirations, indefinite disillusions and apprehensions, that
elude the grasp of the will. Oblomov is really the victim of a dream,
of an aspiration, of an ideal as bright and mobile as a
will-o'-the-wisp, as elusive as thistledown, which refuses to

The tragedy of the book lies in the effort he makes to rise from his
slough of apathy, or rather the effort his friends encourage him to
make. Oblomov's heart is made of pure gold; his soul is of transparent
crystal; there is not a base flaw in the paste of his composition; yet
his will is sapped, not by words, words, words, but by the inability
to formulate the shadows of his inner life. His friend is an energetic
German-Russian. He introduces Oblomov to a charming girl, and together
they conspire to drag him from his apathy. The girl, Olga, at first
succeeds; she falls in love with him, and he with her; he wants to
marry her, but he cannot take the necessary step of arranging his
affairs in a manner which would make that marriage possible; and
gradually he falls back into a new stage of apathy worse than the
first; she realizes the hopelessness of the situation, and they agree
to separate. She marries the energetic friend, and Oblomov sinks into
the comforts of a purely negative life of complete inaction and
seclusion, watched over by a devoted housekeeper, whom he ultimately

The extraordinary subtlety of the psychology of this study lies, as
well as in other things, in the way in which we feel that Olga is not
really happy with her excellent husband; he is the man whom she
respects; but Oblomov is the man whom she loves, till the end; and she
would give worlds to respect him too if he would only give her the
chance. Oblomov often defends his stagnation, while realizing only too
well what a misfortune it is; and we sometimes feel that he is not
altogether wrong. The chapter that tells of his dream in which his
past life and childhood arise before him in a haze of serene laziness
is one of the masterpieces of Russian prose. The book is terribly
real, and almost intolerably sad.

Goncharov's third and last novel deals with the life of a landed
proprietor on the Volga, and its main idea is the contrast between the
old generation before the reforms and the new generation of Alexander
II's day--a paler _Fathers and Sons_.

To go back to criticism, the name of BAKUNIN, the apostle of
destruction and the incarnation of Russian Nihilism, belongs to
history; that of GRIGORIEV must be mentioned as founding a school of
thought which preached the union of arts with the national soil; he
exercised a strong influence over Dostoyevsky. KATKOV, whose influence
was at one time immense, originally belonged to the circle of Herzen
and Bakunin; he became a professor of philosophy, but was driven from
his chair in the reaction of '48, and, being banished from erudition,
he took up a journalistic career and became the Editor of the _Moscow
News_. He was a Slavophile, and when the rising in Poland broke out,
he headed the great wave of nationalist feeling which passed over the
country at that time; he doubled the number of his subscribers, and
dealt a death-blow to Herzen's _Bell_. After 1866, he headed
reactionary journalism and became a Nationalist of the narrowest kind;
but he was of a higher calibre than the Nationalists of later days.
Slavophile critics of another kind were STRAKHOV and DANILEVSKY, like
Dostoyevsky, disciples of Grigoriev, who preached the last word of
Slavophilism and were opposed to all foreign innovations.

On the Radical side the leaders were CHERNYSHEVSKY, DOBROLYUBOV and
PISAREV. Chernyshevsky, who translated John Stuart Mill, and
published a treatise on the æsthetic relations of art and reality,
served a sentence of seven years' hard labour and of twenty years'
exile. His criticism--socialist propaganda, and an attack on all
metaphysics--does not belong to literature, but his novel _Shto
dielat_--"What is to be done?"--had an immense influence on his
generation. It deals with Nihilism. Dobrolyubov, who died when he was
twenty-four, belonged to the same realistic school. His main theory
was that Russian literature is dominated by Oblomov; that Chatsky,
Pechorin, and Rudin are all Oblomovs. Both Pisarev and Dobrolyubov
followed Chernyshevsky in his realistic philosophy, in his rejection
of metaphysics, in his theory that beauty is to be sought in life
only, and that the sole duty of art is to help to illustrate life.
Pisarev recognized that Turgenev's Bazarov was a picture of himself,
and he was pleased with the portrait. Both Pisarev and Dobrolyubov
died young.

VLADIMIR SOLOVIEV (1853-1900), critic as well as poet, moral
philosopher, and theologian, is one of the most interesting figures in
Russian literature. What is most remarkable about him, and what makes
him stand out, a radiant exception in Russian criticism, is his
absolute independence. He belonged to no camp; he was a slave to no
party cry; utterly unselfish, his sole aim was to seek after the truth
for the sake of truth, and to proclaim it. In an age of positivism, he
was a believing Christian, and the dream of his life was a union of
the Eastern and Western Churches. He deals with this idea in a book
which he wrote in French and published in Paris: _L'Église Russe et
l'Église Universelle_. He admired the older Slavophiles, but he
severely attacked the Nationalists, such as Katkov. His range of
subjects was great, and his style was brilliant; like many great
thinkers, he was far ahead of his time, and in his criticism of the
_Intelligentsia_ anticipated some tendencies, which have become
visible since the revolution of 1905. He reminds one at times of Mr.
A. J. Balfour, and even of Mr. G. K. Chesterton, with whose
"orthodoxy" he would have much sympathy; and he deals with questions
such as Woman's Suffrage in a way which exactly fits the present day.
He never became a Catholic, holding that the Eastern Church _qua_
Church had never been cut off from the West, and that only one
definite schism had been condemned; but he believed in the necessity
of a universal Church. He was the first intellectual Russian to point
out to a generation which took atheism as a matter of course that they
were possibly inferior instead of superior to religion. He believed in
Russia; he had nothing against the Slavophile theory that Russia had a
divine mission; only he wished to see that mission divinely performed.
He believed in the East of Christ, and not in that of Xerxes. He died
in 1900, before he had finished his _Magnum Opus_, a work on moral
philosophy written on a religious basis. He preached self-effacement;
pity towards one's fellow men; and reverence towards the supernatural.
His whole work is a defence of moral principles, written with the soul
of a poet, the knowledge of a scholar, and the brilliance of a
dialectician. It is only lately that his books have gained the
appreciation which they deserve; they are certainly more in harmony
with the present generation than with that of the sixties and the
seventies. His _Three Conversations_ has been translated into English.
Vladimir Soloviev stands in a niche of his own, isolated from the
crowd by his own originality, his brilliance, and his prematurity; he
was _intempestivus_.

To the same epoch belong four other important writers, each occupying
a place apart from the current stream of literary or political
influences: one because he was a satirist, one because he wrote for
the stage, and the two others because one impartially, and the other
bitterly, dared to criticize the Radicals.

MICHAEL SALTYKOV (1826-89), who wrote under the name of Shchedrin,
holds a unique place in Russian literature, not only because he is a
writer of genius, but because he is one of the world's great
satirists. Unlike Russian satirists before him, Krylov, Gogol, and
Griboyedov, good-humoured irony or sharp rapier thrusts of wit do not
suffice him; he has in himself the _saeva indignatio_, and he
expresses it with all the concentrated spite that he can muster, which
is all the more deadly from being used with perfect control. His work
is bulky, and fills eleven thick volumes; some of it is quite out of
date and at the present day almost unintelligible; but all that deals
with the fundamental essentials of the Russian character, and not with
the passing episodes of the day, has the freshness of immortality. At
the outset of his career, he was banished to Vyatka, where he remained
from 1848-56, an exile, which gave him a rich store of priceless
material. His experiences appeared in his _Sketches of Provincial
Life_ in 1886-7.

He describes the good old times and the officials of the good old
times, with diabolic malice and with an unequalled eye for the
ironical, the comic, the topsy-turvy, and the true; and while he is as
observant as Gogol, he is as bitter as Swift. He puts his characters
on the stage and makes them relate their experiences; thus we hear how
the collector of the dues manages to combine the maximum amount of
robbery with the minimum amount of inconvenience. In his pictures of
prison life, the prisoners tell their own stories, sometimes with
unaffected frankness, sometimes with startling cynicism, and sometimes
the story is obscured by a whole heap of lies. The prisoners are of
different classes; one is an ex-official who states that he was a
statistician who got into trouble over his figures; wishing to levy
dues on a peasant's property, he had demanded the number, not of
their bee-hives, but of their bees, and wrote in his list: "The
peasant Sidorov possesses two horses, three cows, nine sheep, one
calf, and thirty-nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-seven bees."
Unfortunately he was betrayed by the police inspector.

Saltykov's satire deals entirely with the middle class, the high
officials, the average official, and the minor public servants; and
his best-known work, and one that has not aged any more than Swift has
aged, is his _History of a City according to the original documents_.

In this he tells of the city of _Glupov_, _Fool-City_, where the
people were such fools that they were not content until they found
some one to rule them who was stupider than they were themselves. The
various phases Russia had gone through are touched off; the mania for
regulations, the formalism, the official red-tape, the persecution of
independent thought, and the oppression of original thinkers and
writers; the ultimate ideal is that introduced by the last ruler of
Glupov (the history lasts from 1731 to 1826), of turning the country
into barracks and reducing every one and everything to one level--in
which the régime of the period of Nicholas I is satirized; until in
the final picture, as fine in its way as Pope's close of the
_Dunciad_, the stream rises, and refusing to be stopped by the dam,
carries everything away. The style parodies that of the ancient
chroniclers; and its chief intent lies not in the satirizing of any
particular events or person, but in the shafts of light, sometimes
bitter, and sometimes inexpressibly droll, it throws on the Russian
system of administration and on the Russian character.

In his _Pompaduri_, Saltykov dissects and vivisects the higher
official,--the big-wig,--and in his sketches from the "Domain of
Moderation and Accuracy," he writes, in little, the epic of the minor
public servant--the man who is never heard of, who is included in the
term of "the rest," but who, nevertheless, is a cogwheel in the
machinery, without which the big-wigs cannot act or execute. No more
supreme piece of art than this piece of satire exists. The typical
minor official is drawn in all the variations of his miserable and
pitiable species, and in all the phases of his ignoble and sometimes
tragical career, with a pen dipped in scorn and stinging malice, not
unblent with a grave pity, which always exists in the work of the
greatest satirists--"Peace to all such, but there was one ..." for
instance--and wielded with terrible certainty of touch. This epic of
the _Molchalins_ of life--the typical officials who cease to be
men--was the story of a great part of the Russian population; and in
its essence, a great deal of it remains true to-day, while all of it
remains artistically enjoyable.

Saltykov continued to write during the whole of his long life. His
field of satire ranges from the days before serfdom to the epoch of
the reforms, extends to the days of the Russo-Turkish War, and passes
the frontier into the West. It is impossible here even to name all his
works; but there is one, written in the decline of his life, which has
a solid historical as well as a rich and varied artistic interest.
This is his _Poshenkhonskaya Starina_; it is practically the history
of his childhood, his upbringing, and the state of affairs which
existed at that time, the life lived by his parents and their
neighbours, the landed proprietors and their serfs. With amazing
impartiality, without exaggeration, and yet with evidences of deep
feeling and passionate indignation, all the more striking from being
both rare and expressed with reserve, he paints on a large and crowded
canvas the life of the masters and their serfs. A long gallery of men
and women is opened to one; tragedy, comedy, farce, all are here--in
fact, life--life as it was then in a remote corner of the country.
Here Saltykov's spite and malice give way to higher strokes of tragic
irony and pity; and the work has dignity as well as power In the bulk
of Saltykov's early work there is much dross, much venom, and much
ephemeral tinsel that has faded; the stuff of this book is stern and
enduring; its subject-matter would not lose a particle of interest in
translation. The Russians have been ungrateful towards Saltykov, and
have been inclined to neglect his work, the lasting element of which
is one of the most original, precious, and remarkable possessions of
Russian literature.

The complement of Saltykov is LESKOV (or, as he originally called
himself, _Stebnitsky_). The character of his work, its reception by
the reading public on the one hand, and by the professional critics on
the other, is one of the most striking object-lessons in the history
of Russian literature and Russian literary criticism. Leskov has been
long ago recognized by educated Russia as a writer of the first rank;
what is best in his work, which is bulky and unequal, has the
unmistakable hall-mark of the classics; he is with Gogol and Saltykov,
and the novelists of the first rank. Educated Russia is fully aware of
this. Nobody disputes Leskov his place, nor denies him his supreme
artistic talent, his humour, his vividness, his colour, his satire,
the depth of his feeling, the richness of his invention. In spite of
this, there is no Russian writer who has so acutely suffered from the
didactic and partisan quality of Russian criticism.

His literary career began in 1860. Like Saltykov, he paints the period
of transition that followed the epoch of the great Reforms. In spite
of this, as late as 1902, no critical biography, no serious work of
criticism, had been devoted to his books. All Russia had read him, but
literary criticism had ignored him. It is as if English literary
criticism had ignored Dickens until 1900.

The reason of this neglect is not far to seek. Saltykov was an
independent thinker; he belonged to no literary or political camp; he
criticized the partisans of both camps with equal courage; and the
partisans could not and did not forgive him. Like Saltykov, Leskov saw
what was going on in Russia; with penetrating insight and observation
he realized the evils of the old order; like Saltykov, he was filled
with indignation, and perhaps to a greater degree than Saltykov, he
was filled with pity. But, whereas Saltykov's work was purely
destructive--an onslaught of brooms in the Augean stables--Leskov
begins where Saltykov ends. Like Saltykov and like Gogol before him,
the old order inspires him with laughter, sometimes with bitter
laughter, at the absurdities of the old régime and its results; but he
does not confine himself to destructive irony and sapping satire. With
PISEMSKY, another writer of first-class talent, of the same epoch,
Leskov was the first Russian novelist--Griboyedov had already
anticipated such criticism in _Gore ot Uma_, in his delineation of
Chatsky,--to have the courage to criticize the reformers, the men of
the new epoch; and his criticism was not only negative but creative;
he realized that everything must be "reformed altogether." He then
asked himself whether the new men, who were engaged in the task of
reform, were equal to their task. He came to the conclusion not only
that they were inadequate, but that they were setting about the
business the wrong way, and he had the courage to say so. He was the
first Russian novelist to say he disbelieved in Liberals, although he
believed in Liberalism; and this was a sentiment which no Liberal in
Russia could admit then, and one which they can scarcely admit now.

His criticism of the Liberals was creative, and not negative, in this:
that, instead of confining himself to pointing out their weakness and
the mistaken course they were taking, he did his best to point out the
right path. Dostoyevsky was likewise subjected to the same ostracism.
Turgenev suffered from it; but the genius of Dostoyevsky and the art
of Turgenev overstepped the limits of all barriers and frontiers.
Europe acclaimed them. Leskov's criticism being more local, the
ostracism, although powerless to prevent the popularity of his work in
Russia, succeeded for a time in keeping him from the notice of
Western Europe. This barrier is now being broken down. One of Leskov's
masterpieces, _The Sealed Angel_, was lately translated into English;
but he is one of the most difficult authors to translate because he is
one of the most native.

A far bitterer and more pessimistic note is heard in the work of
Pisemsky. He attacks the new democracy mercilessly, and not from any
predilection towards the old. His most important work, _The Troubled
Sea_ (1862), was a terrific onslaught on Radical Russia; and Pisemsky
paid the same price for his pessimistic analysis as Leskov did for his
impartiality, namely social ostracism.

The work of OSTROVSKY (1823-86) belongs to the history of the Stage,
to which he brought slices of real life from the middle class; the
townsmen, the minor public servants, merchants great and small, and
rogues, a _milieu_ which he had observed in his youth, his father
having been an attorney to a Moscow merchant. Ostrovsky may be called
the founder of modern Russian realistic comedy and drama. In spite of
the epoch at which his plays were written (the fifties and the
sixties), there is not a trace of _Scribisme_, no tricks, no effective
exits or curtains; he thus anticipated the form of the quite modern
drama by about seventy years. His plays hold the stage now in Russia,
and form part of the stock repertories every season. They give,
moreover, just the same lifelike impression whether read or seen
acted; and they are as interesting from a literary as they are from a
historical or dramatic point of view, interesting because they are
intensely national, and as Russian as beer is English.

This brief summary of the epoch would be still more incomplete than it
is without the mention of yet another novelist, GRIGOROVICH. Although
on a lower level of art and creative power than Pisemsky and Leskov,
he was the pioneer in Russian literature of peasant literature. He
anticipated Turgenev's _Sportsman's Sketches_, and for the first time
made Russian readers cry with sympathy over the annals of the peasant.
Like Turgenev, he was a great landscape painter. In his "Fishermen" he
paints the peasant and the artisan's life, and in his "Country Roads"
he gives a picture of the good old times--replete with rich humour,
and in sharp contrast to Saltykov's sunless and trenchant etching of
the same period. Humour, the pathos of the poor, landscape--these are
his chief qualities.



With TOLSTOY and DOSTOYEVSKY, we come not only to the two great
pillars of modern Russian literature which tower above all others like
two colossal statues in the desert, but to two of the greatest figures
in the literature of the world. Russia has not given the world a
universal poet, a Shakespeare, a Dante, a Goethe, or a Molière; for
Pushkin, consummate artist and inspired poet as he was, lacks that
peculiar greatness which conquers all demarcations of frontier and
difference of language, and produces work which becomes a part of the
universal inheritance of all nations; but Russia has given us two
prose-writers whose work has done this very thing. And between them
they sum up in themselves the whole of the Russian soul, and almost
the whole of the Russian character; I say almost the whole of the
Russian _character_, because although between them they sum up all
that is greatest, deepest, and all that is weakest in the Russian
_soul_, there is perhaps one element of the Russian _character_,
which, although they understood it well enough, their genius forbade
them to possess. If you take as ingredients Peter the Great,
Dostoyevsky's Mwyshkin--the idiot, the pure fool who is wiser than the
wise--and the hero of Gogol's _Revisor_, Hlestyakov the liar and
wind-bag, you can, I think, out of these elements, reconstitute any
Russian who has ever lived. That is to say, you will find that every
single Russian is compounded either of one or more of these elements.

For instance, mix Peter the Great with a sufficient dose of
Hlestyakov, and you get Boris Godunov and Bakunin; leave the Peter the
Great element unmixed, and you get Bazarov, and many of Gorky's
heroes; mix it slightly with Hlestyakov, and you get Lermontov; let
the Hlestyakov element predominate, and you get Griboyedov's
Molchalin; let the Mwyshkin element predominate, with a dose of
Hlestyakov, and you get Father Gapon; let it predominate without the
dose of Hlestyakov, and you get Oblomov; mix it with a dose of Peter
the Great, you get Herzen, Chatsky; and so on. Mix all the elements
equally, and you get Onegin, the average man. I do not mean that there
are necessarily all these elements in every Russian, but that you will
meet with no Russian in whom there is not to be found either one or
more than one of them.

Now, in Tolstoy, the Peter the Great element dominates, with a dose of
Mwyshkin, and a vast but unsuccessful aspiration towards the complete
characteristics of Mwyshkin; while in Dostoyevsky the Mwyshkin
predominates, blent with a fiery streak of Peter the Great; but in
neither of them is there a touch of Hlestyakov. In Russia, it
constantly happens that a man in any class, be he a soldier, sailor,
tinker, tailor, rich man, poor man, plough-boy, or thief, will
suddenly leave his profession and avocation and set out on the search
for God and for truth. These men are called _Bogoiskateli_, Seekers
after God. The one fact that the whole world knows about Tolstoy is
that, in the midst of his great and glorious artistic career, he
suddenly abjured literature and art, denounced worldly possessions,
and said that truth was to be found in working like a peasant, and
thus created a sect of Tolstoyists. The world then blamed him for
inconsistency because he went on writing, and lived as before, with
his family and in his own home. But in reality there was no
inconsistency, because there was in reality no break. Tolstoy had been
a _Bogoiskatel_, a seeker after truth and God all his life; it was
only the manner of his search which had changed; but the quest itself
remained unchanged; he was unable, owing to family ties, to push his
premises to their logical conclusion until just before his death; but
push them to their logical conclusion he did at the last, and he died,
as we know, on the road to a monastery.

Tolstoy's manner of search was extraordinary, extraordinary because he
was provided for it with the eyes of an eagle which enabled him to see
through everything; and, as he took nothing for granted from the day
he began his career until the day he died, he was always subjecting
people, objects, ideas, to the searchlight of his vision, and testing
them to see whether they were true or not; moreover, he was gifted
with the power of describing what he saw during this long journey
through the world of fact and the world of ideas, whether it were the
general or the particular, the mass or the detail, the vision, the
panorama, the crowd, the portrait or the miniature, with the strong
simplicity of a Homer, and the colour and reality of a Velasquez. This
made him one of the world's greatest writers, and the world's greatest
artist in narrative fiction. Another peculiarity of his search was
that he pursued it with eagle eyes, but with blinkers.

In 1877 Dostoyevsky wrote: "In spite of his colossal artistic talent,
Tolstoy is one of those Russian minds which only see that which is
right before their eyes, and thus press towards that point. They have
not the power of turning their necks to the right or to the left to
see what lies on one side; to do this, they would have to turn with
their whole bodies. If they do turn, they will quite probably maintain
the exact opposite of what they have been hitherto professing; for
they are rigidly honest." It is this search carried on by eyes of
unsurpassed penetration between blinkers, by a man who every now and
then did turn his whole body, which accounts for the many apparent
changes and contradictions of Tolstoy's career.

Another source of contradiction was that by temperament the Lucifer
element predominated in him, and the ideal he was for ever seeking was
the humility of Mwyshkin, the pure fool, an ideal which he could not
reach, because he could not sufficiently humble himself. Thus when
death overtook him he was engaged on his last and his greatest voyage
of discovery; and there is something solemn and great about his having
met with death at a small railway station.

Tolstoy's works are a long record of this search, and of the memories
and experiences which he gathered on the way. There is not a detail,
not a phase of feeling, not a shade or mood in his spiritual life that
he has not told us of in his works. In his _Childhood, Boyhood and
Youth_, he re-creates his own childhood, boyhood and youth, not always
exactly as it happened in reality; there is _Dichtung_ as well as
_Wahrheit_; but the _Dichtung_ is as true as the _Wahrheit_, because
his aim was to recreate the impressions he had received from his early
surroundings. Moreover, the searchlight of his eyes even then fell
mercilessly upon everything that was unreal, sham and conventional.

As soon as he had finished with his youth, he turned to the life of a
grown-up man in _The Morning of a Landowner_, and told how he tried to
live a landowner's life, and how nothing but dissatisfaction came of
it. He escapes to the Caucasus, and seeks regeneration, and the result
of the search here is a masterpiece, _The Cossacks_. He goes back to
the world, and takes part in the Crimean war; he describes what he saw
in a battery; his eagle eye lays bare the _splendeurs et misères_ of
war more truthfully perhaps than a writer on war has ever done, but
less sympathetically than Alfred de Vigny--the difference being that
Alfred de Vigny is innately modest, and that Tolstoy, as he wrote
himself, at the beginning of the war, "had no modesty."

After the Crimean war, he plunges again into the world and travels
abroad; and on his return to Russia, he settles down at Yasnaya
Polyana and marries. The hero of his novel _Domestic Happiness_
appears to have found his heart's desire in marriage and country life.
It was then that he wrote _War and Peace_, which he began to publish
in 1865. He always had the idea of writing a story on the Decembrist
movement, and _War and Peace_ was perhaps the preface to that
unwritten work, for it ends when that movement was beginning. In _War
and Peace_, he gave the world a modern prose epic, which did not
suffer from the drawback that spoils most historical novels, namely,
that of being obviously false, because it was founded on his own
recollection of his parents' memories. He gives us what we feel to be
the very truth; for the first time in an historical novel, instead of
saying "this is very likely true," or "what a wonderful work of
artistic reconstruction," we feel that we were ourselves there; that
we knew those people; that they are a part of our very own past. He
paints a whole generation of people; and in Pierre Bezukhov, the new
landmarks of his own search are described. Among many other episodes,
there is nowhere in literature such a true and charming picture of
family life as that of the Rostovs, and nowhere a more vital and
charming personality than Natasha; a creation as living as Pushkin's
Tatiana, and alive with a reality even more convincing than Turgenev's
pictures of women, since she is alive with a different kind of life;
the difference being that while you have read in Turgenev's books
about noble and exquisite women, you are not sure whether you have
not known Natasha yourself and in your own life; you are not sure she
does not belong to the borderland of your own past in which dreams and
reality are mingled. _War and Peace_ eclipses all other historical
novels; it has all Stendhal's reality, and all Zola's power of dealing
with crowds and masses. Take, for instance, a masterpiece such as
Flaubert's _Salammbô_; it may and very likely does take away your
breath by the splendour of its language, its colour, and its art, but
you never feel that, even in a dream, you had taken part in the life
which is painted there. The only bit of unreality in _War and Peace_
is the figure of Napoleon, to whom Tolstoy was deliberately unfair.
Another impression which Tolstoy gives us in _War and Peace_ is that
man is in reality always the same, and that changes of manners are not
more important than changes in fashions of clothes. That is why it is
not extravagant to mention _Salammbô_ in this connection. One feels
that, if Tolstoy had written a novel about ancient Rome, we should
have known a score of patricians, senators, scribblers, clients,
parasites, matrons, courtesans, better even than we know Cicero from
his letters; we should not only feel that we _know_ Cicero, but that
we had actually known him. This very task--namely, that of
reconstituting a page out of Pagan history--was later to be attempted
by Merezhkovsky; but brilliant as his work is, he only at times and by
flashes attains to Tolstoy's power of convincing.

_Anna Karenina_ appeared in 1875-76. And here Tolstoy, with the touch
of a Velasquez and upon a huge canvas, paints the contemporary life of
the upper classes in St. Petersburg and in the country. Levin, the
hero, is himself. Here, again, the truth to nature and the reality is
so intense and vivid that a reader unacquainted with Russia will in
reading the book probably not think of Russia at all, but will imagine
the story has taken place in his own country, whatever that may be. He
shows you everything from the inside, as well as from the outside. You
feel, in the picture of the races, what Anna is feeling in looking on,
and what Vronsky is feeling in riding. And with what reality, what
incomparable skill the gradual dawn of Anna's love for Vronsky is
described; how painfully real is her pompous and excellent husband;
and how every incident in her love affair, her visit to her child, her
appearance at the opera, when, after having left her husband, she
defies the world, her gradual growing irritability, down to the final
catastrophe, bears on it the stamp of something which must have
happened just in that very way and no other.

But, as far as Tolstoy's own development is concerned, Levin is the
most interesting figure in the book. This character is another
landmark in Tolstoy's search after truth; he is constantly putting
accepted ideas to the test; he is haunted by the fear of sudden death,
not the physical fear of death in itself, but the fear that in the
face of death the whole of life may be meaningless; a peasant opens a
new door for him and furnishes him with a solution to the problem--to
live for one's soul: life no longer seems meaningless.

Thus Levin marks the stage in Tolstoy's evolution of his abandoning
materialism and of seeking for the truth in the Church. But the Church
does not satisfy him. He rejects its dogmas and its ritual; he turns
to the Gospel, but far from accepting it, he revises it. He comes to
the conclusion that Christianity as it has been taught is mere
madness, and that the Church is a superfluous anachronism. Thus
another change comes about, which is generally regarded as _the_
change cutting Tolstoy's life in half; in reality it is only a fresh
right-about-turn of a man who is searching for truth in blinkers. In
his _Confession_, he says: "I grew to hate myself; and now all has
become clear." He came to believe that property was the source of all
evil; he desired literally to give up all he had. This he was not able
to do. It was not that he shrank from the sacrifice at the last; but
that circumstances and family ties were too strong for him. But his
final flight from home in the last days of his life shows that the
desire had never left him.

Art was also subjected to his new standards and found wanting, both in
his own work and in that of others. Shakespeare and Beethoven were
summarily disposed of; his own masterpieces he pronounced to be
worthless. This more than anything shows the pride of the man. He
could admire no one, not even himself. He scorned the gifts which were
given him, and the greatest gifts of the greatest men. But this
landmark of Tolstoy's evolution, his turning his back on the Church,
and on his work, is a landmark in Russian history as well as in
Russian art. For far less than this Russian thinkers and writers of
high position had been imprisoned and exiled. Nobody dared to touch
Tolstoy. He fearlessly attacked all constituted authority, both
spiritual and temporal, in an epoch of reaction, and such was his
prestige that official Russia raised no finger. His authority was too
great, and this is perhaps the first great victory of the liberty of
individual thought over official tyranny in Russia. There had been
martyrs in plenty before, but no conquerors.

After _Anna Karenina_, Tolstoy, who gave up literature for a time, but
for a time only, nevertheless continued to write; at first he only
wrote stories for children and theological and polemical pamphlets;
but in 1886 he published the terribly powerful peasant drama: _The
Powers of Darkness_. Later came the _Kreutzer Sonata_, the _Death of
Ivan Ilitch_, and _Resurrection_. Here the hero Nehludov is a lifeless
phantom of Tolstoy himself; the episodes and details have the reality
of his early work, so has Maslova, the heroine; but in the squalor
and misery of the prisons he shows no precious balms of humanity and
love, as Dostoyevsky did; and the book has neither the sweep and epic
swing of _War and Peace_, nor the satisfying completeness of _Anna
Karenina_. Since his death, some posthumous works have been published,
among them a novel, and a play: _The Living Corpse_. He died, as he
had lived, still searching, and perhaps at the end he found the object
of his quest.

Tolstoy, even more than Pushkin, was rooted to the soil; all that is
not of the soil--anything mystic or supernatural--was totally alien to
him. He was the oak which could not bend; and being, as he was, the
king of realistic fiction, an unsurpassed painter of pictures,
portraits, men and things, a penetrating analyst of the human heart, a
genius cast in a colossal mould, his work, both by its substance and
its artistic power, exercised an influence beyond his own country,
affected all European nations, and gives him a place among the great
creators of the world. Tolstoy was not a rebel but a heretic, a
heretic not only to religion and the Church, but in philosophy,
opinions, art, and even in food; but what the world will remember of
him are not his heretical theories but his faithful practice, which is
orthodox in its obedience to the highest canons, orthodox as Homer and
Shakespeare are orthodox, and like theirs, one of the greatest earthly
examples of the normal and the sane.

To say that DOSTOYEVSKY is the antithesis to Tolstoy, and the second
great pillar of Russian prose literature, will surprise nobody now.
Had one been writing ten years ago, the expression of such an opinion
would have met with an incredulous smile amongst the majority of
English readers of Russian literature, for Dostoyevsky was practically
unknown save for his _Crime and Punishment_, and to have compared him
with Turgenev would have seemed sacrilegious. Now when Dostoyevsky is
one of the shibboleths of our _intelligentsia_, one can boldly say,
without fear of being misunderstood, that, as a creator and a force in
literature, Dostoyevsky is in another plane than that of Turgenev, and
as far greater than him as Leonardo da Vinci is greater than Vandyke,
or as Wagner is greater than Gounod, while some Russians consider him
even infinitely greater than Tolstoy. Let us say he is his equal and
complement. He is in any case, in almost every respect, his
antithesis. Tolstoy was the incarnation of health, and is above all
things and pre-eminently the painter of the sane and the earthly.
Dostoyevsky was an epileptic, the painter of the abnormal, of
criminals, madmen, degenerates, mystics. Tolstoy led an even,
uneventful life, spending the greater part of it in his own country
house, in the midst of a large family. Dostoyevsky was condemned to
death, served a sentence of four years' hard labour in a convict
settlement in Siberia, and besides this spent six years in exile; when
he returned and started a newspaper, it was prohibited by the
Censorship; a second newspaper which he started came to grief; he
underwent financial ruin; his first wife, his brother, and his best
friend died; he was driven abroad by debt, harassed by the authorities
on the one hand, and attacked by the liberals on the other; abused and
misunderstood, almost starving and never well, working under
overwhelming difficulties, always pressed for time, and ill requited
for his toil. That was Dostoyevsky's life.

Tolstoy was a heretic; at first a materialist, and then a seeker after
a religion of his own; Dostoyevsky was a practising believer, a
vehement apostle of orthodoxy, and died fortified by the Sacraments of
the Church. Tolstoy with his broad unreligious opinions was
narrow-minded. Dostoyevsky with his definite religious opinions was
the most broad-minded man who ever lived. Tolstoy hated the
supernatural, and was alien to all mysticism. Dostoyevsky seems to get
nearer to the unknown, to what lies beyond the flesh, than any other
writer. In Tolstoy, the Peter the Great element of the Russian
character predominated; in Dostoyevsky that of Mwyshkin, the pure
fool. Tolstoy could never submit and humble himself. Submission and
humility and resignation are the keynotes and mainsprings of
Dostoyevsky. Tolstoy despised art, and paid no homage to any of the
great names of literature; and this was not only after the so-called
change. As early as 1862, he said that Pushkin and Beethoven could not
please because of their absolute beauty. Dostoyevsky was catholic and
cosmopolitan, and admired the literature of foreign countries--Racine
as well as Shakespeare, Corneille as well as Schiller. The essence of
Tolstoy is a magnificent intolerance. The essence of Dostoyevsky is
sweet reasonableness. Tolstoy dreamed of giving up all he had to the
poor, and of living like a peasant; Dostoyevsky had to share the hard
labour of the lowest class of criminals. Tolstoy theorized on the
distribution of food; but Dostoyevsky was fed like a beggar. Tolstoy
wrote in affluence and at leisure, and re-wrote his books; Dostoyevsky
worked like a literary hack for his daily bread, ever pressed for time
and ever in crying need of money.

These contrasts are not made in disparagement of Tolstoy, but merely
to point out the difference between the two men and between their
circumstances. Tolstoy wrote about himself from the beginning of his
career to the end; nearly all his work is autobiographical, and he
almost always depicts himself in all his books. We know nothing of
Dostoyevsky from his books. He was an altruist, and he loved others
better than himself.

Dostoyevsky's first book, _Poor Folk_, published in 1846, is a
descendant of Gogol's story _The Cloak_, and bears the influence, to a
slight extent, of Gogol. In this, the story of a minor public servant
battling against want, and finding a ray of light in corresponding
with a girl also in poor circumstances, but who ultimately marries a
rich middle-aged man, we already get all Dostoyevsky's peculiar
sweetness; what Stevenson called his "lovely goodness," his almost
intolerable pathos, his love of the disinherited and of the failures
of life. His next book, _Letters from a Dead House_, has a far more
universal interest. It is the record of his prison experiences, which
is of priceless value, not only on account of its radiant moral
beauty, its perpetual discovery of the soul of goodness in things
evil, its human fraternity, its complete absence of egotism and pose,
and its thrilling human interest, but also on account of the light it
throws on the Russian character, the Russian poor, and the Russian

In 1866 came _Crime and Punishment_, which brought Dostoyevsky fame.
This book, Dostoyevsky's _Macbeth_, is so well known in the French and
English translations that it hardly needs any comment. Dostoyevsky
never wrote anything more tremendous than the portrayal of the anguish
that seethes in the soul of Raskolnikov, after he has killed the old
woman, "mechanically forced," as Professor Brückner says, "into
performing the act, as if he had gone too near machinery in motion,
had been caught by a bit of his clothing and cut to pieces." And not
only is one held spellbound by every shifting hope, fear, and doubt,
and each new pang that Raskolnikov experiences, but the souls of all
the subsidiary characters in the book are revealed to us just as
clearly: the Marmeladov family, the honest Razumikhin, the police
inspector, and the atmosphere of the submerged tenth in St.
Petersburg--the steaming smell of the city in the summer. There is an
episode when Raskolnikov kneels before Sonia, the prostitute, and says
to her: "It is not before you I am kneeling, but before all the
suffering of mankind." That is what Dostoyevsky does himself in this
and in all his books; but in none of them is the suffering of all
mankind conjured up before us in more living colours, and in none of
them is his act of homage in kneeling before it more impressive.

This book was written before the words "psychological novel" had been
invented; but how all the psychological novels which were written
years later by Bourget and others pale before this record written in
blood and tears! _Crime and Punishment_ was followed by _The Idiot_
(1868). The idiot is Mwyshkin, who has been alluded to already, the
wise fool, an epileptic, in whom irony and arrogance and egoism have
been annihilated; and whose very simplicity causes him to pass
unscathed through a den of evil, a world of liars, scoundrels, and
thieves, none of whom can escape the influence of his radiant
personality. He is the same with every one he meets, and with his
unsuspicious sincerity he combines the intuition of utter goodness, so
that he can see through people and read their minds. In this
character, Dostoyevsky has put all his sweetness; it is not a portrait
of himself, but it is a portrait of what he would have liked to be,
and reflects all that is best in him. In contrast to Mwyshkin,
Rogozhin, the merchant, is the incarnation of undisciplined passion,
who ends by killing the thing he loves, Nastasia, also a creature of
unbridled impulses,--because he feels that he can never really and
fully possess her. The catastrophe, the description of the night after
Rogozhin has killed Nastasia, is like nothing else in literature;
lifelike in detail and immense, in the way in which it makes you
listen at the keyhole of the soul, immense with the immensity of a
great revelation. The minor characters in the book are also all of
them remarkable; one of them, the General's wife, Madame Epanchin, has
an indescribable and playful charm.

_The Idiot_ was followed by _The Possessed_, or _Devils_, printed in
1871-72, called thus after the Devils in the Gospel of St. Luke, that
left the possessed man and went into the swine; the Devils in the book
are the hangers-on of Nihilism between 1862 and 1869. The book
anticipated the future, and in it Dostoyevsky created characters who
were identically the same, and committed identically the same crimes,
as men who actually lived many years later in 1871, and later still.
The whole book turns on the exploitation by an unscrupulous,
ingenious, and iron-willed knave of the various weaknesses of a crowd
of idealist dupes and disciples. One of them is a decadent, one of
them is one of those idealists "whom any strong idea strikes all of a
sudden and annihilates his will, sometimes for ever"; one of them is a
maniac whose single idea is the production of the Superman which he
thinks will come, when it will be immaterial to a man whether he lives
or dies, and when he will be prepared to kill himself not out of fear
but in order to kill fear. That man will be God. Not the God-man, but
the Man-God. The plan of the unscrupulous leader, Peter Verkhovensky,
who was founded on Nechaev, a Nihilist of real life, is to create
disorder, and amid the disorder to seize the authority; he imagines a
central committee of which he pretends to be the representative,
organizes a small local committee, and persuades his dupes that a
network of similar small committees exist all over Russia; his aim
being to create them gradually, by persuading people in every plot of
fresh ground that they exist everywhere else.

Thus the idea of the book was to show that the strength of Nihilism
lay, not in high dogmas and theories held by a large and
well-organized society, but in the strength of the will of one or two
men reacting on the weaker herd and exploiting the strength, the
weakness, and the one-sidedness of its ideals, a herd which was
necessarily weak owing to that very one-sidedness. In order to bind
his disciples with a permanent bond, Verkhovensky exploits the _idée
fixe_ of suicide and the superman, which is held by one of his dupes,
to induce him to commit a crime before he kills himself, and thus make
away with another member of the committee who is represented as being
a spy. Once this is done, the whole committee will be jointly
responsible, and bound to him by the ties of blood and fear. But
Verkhovensky is not the hero of the book. The hero is Stavrogin, whom
Verkhovensky regards as his trump card, because of the strength of his
character, which leads him to commit the most outrageous
extravagances, and at the same time to remain as cold as ice; but
Verkhovensky's whole design is shattered on Stavrogin's character, all
the murders already mentioned are committed, the whole scheme comes to
nothing, the conspirators are discovered, and Peter escapes abroad.

When _Devils_ appeared in 1871, it was looked upon as a gross
exaggeration, but real life in subsequent years was to produce
characters and events of the same kind, which were more startling than
Dostoyevsky's fiction. The book is the least well-constructed of
Dostoyevsky's; the narrative is disconnected, and the events,
incidents, and characters so crowded together, that the general effect
is confused; on the other hand, it contains isolated scenes which
Dostoyevsky never surpassed; and in its strength and in its
limitations it is perhaps his most characteristic work.

From 1873-80 Dostoyevsky went back to journalism, and wrote his _Diary
of a Writer_, in which he commented on current events. In 1880, he
united all conflicting and hostile parties and shades of public
opinion, by the speech he made at the unveiling of Pushkin's memorial,
in one common bond of enthusiasm. At the end of the seventies, he
returned to a work already begun, _The Brothers Karamazov_, which,
although it remains the longest of his books, was never finished. It
is the story of three brothers, Dimitri, Ivan, and Alyosha; their
father is a cynical sensualist. The eldest brother is an
undisciplined, passionate character, who expiates his passions by
suffering; the second brother is a materialist, the tragedy of whose
inner life forms a greater part of the book; the third brother,
Alyosha, is a lover of humanity, and a believer in God and man. He
seeks a monastery, but his spiritual father sends him out into the
world, to live and to suffer. He is to go through the furnace of the
world and experience many trials; for the microbe of lust that is in
his family is dormant in him also. The book was called the _History of
a Great Sinner_, and the sinner was to be Alyosha. But Dostoyevsky
died before this part of the subject is even approached.

He died in January 1881; the crowds of men and women of all sorts and
conditions of life that attended his funeral, and the extent and the
sincerity of the grief manifested, gave it an almost mythical
greatness. The people gave him a funeral such as few kings or heroes
have ever had. Without fear of controversy or contradiction one can
now say that Dostoyevsky's place in Russian literature is at the top,
equal and in the opinion of some superior to that of Tolstoy in
greatness. He is also one of the greatest writers the world has ever
produced, not because, like Tolstoy, he saw life steadily and saw it
whole, and painted it with the supreme and easy art of a Velasquez;
nor because, like Turgenev, he wove exquisite pictures into musical
words. Dostoyevsky was not an artist; his work is shapeless; his books
are like quarries where granite and dross, gold and ore are mingled.
He paid no attention to style, and yet so strong and vital is his
spoken word that when the Moscow Art Theatre put some scenes in _The
Brothers Karamazov_ and _Devils_ on the stage, they found they could
not alter one single syllable; and sometimes his words have a power
beyond that of words, a power that only music has. There are pages
where Dostoyevsky expresses the anguish of the soul in the same manner
as Wagner expressed the delirium of dying Tristram. I should indeed
put the matter the other way round, and say that in the last act of
Tristram, Wagner is as great as Dostoyevsky. But Dostoyevsky is great
because of the divine message he gives, not didactically, not by
sermons, but by the goodness that emanates, like a precious balm, from
the characters he creates; because more than any other books in the
world his books reflect not only the teaching and the charity, but the
accent and the divine aura of love that is in the Gospels.

"I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom,
conventionalities, or even of mortal flesh; it is my spirit that
addresses your spirit, just as if both had passed through the grave,
and we stood at God's feet, equal--as we are!" These words, spoken by
Charlotte Brontë's _Jane Eyre_, express what Dostoyevsky's books do.
His spirit addresses our spirit. "Be no man's judge; humble love is a
terrible power which effects more than violence. Only active love can
bring out faith. Love men, and do not be afraid of their sins; love
man in his sin; love all the creatures of God, and pray God to make
you cheerful. Be cheerful as children and as the birds." This was
Father Zosima's advice to Alyosha. And that is the gist of
Dostoyevsky's message to mankind. "Life," Father Zosima also says to
Alyosha, "will bring you many misfortunes, but you will be happy on
account of them, and you will bless life and cause others to bless
it." Here we have the whole secret of Dostoyevsky's greatness. He
blessed life, and he caused others to bless it.

It is objected that his characters are abnormal; that he deals with
the diseased, with epileptics, neurasthenics, criminals, sensualists,
madmen; but it is just this very fact which gives so much strength and
value to the blessing he gave to life; it is owing to this fact that
he causes others to bless life; because he was cast in the nethermost
circle of life's inferno; he was thrown together with the refuse of
humanity, with the worst of men and with the most unfortunate; he saw
the human soul on the rack, and he saw the vilest diseases that
afflict the human soul; he faced the evil without fear or blinkers;
and there, in the inferno, in the dust and ashes, he recognized the
print of divine footsteps and the fragrance of goodness; he cried from
the abyss: "Hosanna to the Lord, for He is just!" and he blessed life.
It is true that his characters are taken almost entirely from the
_Despised and Rejected_, as one of his books was called, and often
from the ranks of the abnormal; but when a great writer wishes to
reveal the greatest adventures and the deepest experiences which the
soul of man can undergo, it is in vain for him to take the normal
type; it has no adventures. The adventures of the soul of Fortinbras
would be of no help to mankind; but the adventures of Hamlet are of
help to mankind, and the adventures of Don Quixote; and neither Don
Quixote nor Hamlet are normal types.

Dostoyevsky wrote the tragedy of life and of the soul, and to do this
he chose circumstances as terrific as those which unhinged the reason
of King Lear, shook that of Hamlet, and made Œdipus blind himself.
His books resemble Greek tragedies by the magnitude of the spiritual
adventures they set forth; they are unlike Greek Tragedies in the
Christian charity and the faith and the hope which goes out of them;
they inspire the reader with courage, never with despair, although
Dostoyevsky, face to face with the last extremities of evil, never
seeks to hide it or to shun it, but merely to search for the soul of
goodness in it. He did not search in vain, and just as, when he was on
his way to Siberia, a conversation he had with a fellow-prisoner
inspired that fellow-prisoner with the feeling that he could go on
living and even face penal servitude, so do Dostoyevsky's books come
to mankind as a message of hope from a radiant country. That is what
constitutes his peculiar greatness.



The fifties, the sixties, and the seventies were, all over Europe, the
epoch of Parnassian poetry. In England, Tennyson was pouring out his
"fervent and faultless melodies," Matthew Arnold was playing his
plaintive harp, and the Pre-Raphaelites were weaving their tapestried
dreams; in France, Gautier was carving his cameos, Banville's
Harlequins and Columbines were dancing on a Watteau-like stage in the
silver twilight of Corot, Baudelaire was at work on his sombre bronze,
Sully-Prudhomme twanged his ivory lyre, and Leconte de Lisle was
issuing his golden coinage. It was, in poetry, the epoch of art for
art's sake.

Russian poetry did not escape the universal tendency; but in Russia
everything was conspiring to put poetry, and especially that kind of
poetry, in the shade. In the first place, events of great magnitude
were happening--the wide reforms, the emancipation of the serfs, the
growth of Nihilism, which was the product of the disillusion at the
result of the reforms: in the second place, criticism under the
influence of Chernyshevsky, Pisarev, and Dobrolyubov was entirely
realistic and positivist, preaching not art for life's sake only, but
the absolute futility of poetry; and, in the third place, work of the
supremest kind was being done in narrative fiction; in the fourth
place, no prophet-poet was forthcoming whose genius was great enough
to voice national aspirations. All this tended to put poetry in the
shade, especially as such poets as did exist were, with one notable
exception, Parnassians, whose talent dwelt aloof from the turbid
stream of life, and who sought to express the adventures of their
souls, which were emotional and artistic, either in dreamy music or in
exquisite shapes and colours. This neglect of verse lasted right up
until the end of the seventies. When, however, in the eighties, the
wave of political crisis reached its climax and, after the
assassination of Alexander II, rolled back into a sea of stagnant
reaction, the poets, who had been hitherto neglected, and quietly
singing all the while, were discovered once more, and the shares in
poetry continued to rise as time went on; thus the poets of the
sixties reaped their due meed of appreciation.

A proof of how widespread and deep this neglect was is that TYUTCHEV,
whose work attracted no attention whatever until 1854, and met with no
wide appreciation until a great deal later, was four years younger
than Pushkin, and a man of thirty when Goethe died. He went on living
until 1873, and can be called the first of the Parnassians.
Politically, he was a Slavophile, and sang the "resignation" and
"long-suffering" of the Russian people, which he preferred to the
stiff-neckedness of the West. But the value of his work lies less in
his Slavophile aspirations than in its depth of thought and lyrical
feeling, in the contrast between the gloomy forebodings of his
imagination and the sunlike images he gives of nature. His verse is
like a spring day, dark with ominous thunderclouds, out of which a
rainbow and a shaft of sunlight fall on a dewy orchard and light it
with a silvery smile. His verse is, on the one hand, full of
foreboding and terror at the fate of man and the shadow of
nothingness, and, on the other hand, it twitters like a bird over the
freshness and sunshine of spring. He sings the spring again and again,
and no Russian poet has ever sung the glory, the mystery, the wonder,
and the terror of night as he has done; his whole work is compounded
of glowing pictures of nature and a world of longing and of
unutterable dreams.

The dreamy dominion of the Parnassian age, on whose threshold Tyutchev
stood, was to be disturbed by the notes of a harsher and stronger

NEKRASOV (1821-77), Russia's "sternest painter," and certainly one of
her best, drew his inspiration direct from life, and sang the
sufferings, the joys, and the life of the people. He is a Russian
Crabbe; nature and man are his subjects, but nature as the friend and
foe of man, as a factor, the most important factor in man's life, and
not as an ideal storehouse from which a Shelley can draw forms more
real than living man, nurslings of immortality, or a Wordsworth reap
harvests of the inward eye. He called his muse the "Muse of Vengeance
and of Grief." He is an uncompromising realist, like Crabbe, and
idealizes nothing in his pictures of the peasant's life. Like Crabbe,
he has a deep note of pathos, and a keen but not so minute an eye for

On the other hand, he at times attains to imaginative sublimity in his
descriptions, as, for instance, in his poem called _The Red-nosed
Frost_, where King Frost approaches a peasant widow who is at work in
the winter forest, and freezes her to death. As Daria is gradually
freezing to death, the frost comes to her like a warrior; and his
semblance and attributes are drawn in a series of splendid stanzas. He
sings to her of his riches that no profusion can decrease, and of his
kingdom of silver and diamonds and pearls: then, as she freezes, she
dreams of a hot summer's day, and of the rye harvest and of the
familiar songs--

    "Away with the song she is soaring,
      She surrenders herself to its stream,
    In the world there is no such sweet singing
      As that which we hear in a dream."

His longest and most ambitious work was a kind of popular epic, _Who
is Happy in Russia?_ written in short lines which have the popular
ring and accent. Some peasants start on a pilgrimage to find out who
is happy in Russia. They fly on a magic carpet, and interview
representatives of the different classes of society, the pope, the
landowner, the peasant woman, each new interview producing a whole
series of stories, sometimes idyllic and sometimes tragic, and all
showing their genius as intimate pictures of various phases of Russian
life. Here, again, the analogy with Crabbe suggests itself, for
Nekrasov's tales, taking into consideration the difference between the
two countries, have a marked affinity, both in their subject matter,
their variety, their stern realism, their pathos, their bitterness,
and their observation of nature, with Crabbe's stories in verse.

Two of Nekrasov's long poems tell the story in the form of
reminiscence,--and here again the naturalness and appropriateness of
the diction is perfect,--of the Russian women, Princess Volkonsky and
Princess Trubetzkoy, who followed their husbands, condemned to penal
servitude for taking part in the Decembrist rising, to Siberia. Here,
again, Nekrasov strikes a note of deep and poignant pathos, all the
more poignant from the absolute simplicity with which the tales are
told. Nekrasov towers among the Parnassians of the time and has only
one rival, whom we shall describe presently.

The Parnassians are represented by three poets, MAIKOV (1821-97), FET
(1820-98), and POLONSKY (1820-98), all three of whom began to write
about the same time, in 1840; none of these three poets was didactic,
and all three remained aloof from political or social questions.

Maikov is attracted by classical themes, by Italy and also by old
ballads, but his strength lies in his plastic form, his colour, and
his pictures of Russian landscape; he writes, for instance, an
exquisite reminiscence of a day's fishing when he was a boy.

The quality of Fet's muse, in contrast to Maikov's concrete
plasticity, is illusiveness; his lyrics express intangible dreams and
impressions; delicate tints and shadows tremble and flit across his
verse, which is soft as the orient of a pearl; and his fancy is as
delicate as a thread of gossamer: he lives in the borderland between
words and music, and catches the vague echoes of that limbo.

    "The world in shadow slipped away
      And, like a silent dream took flight,
    Like Adam, I in Eden lay
      Alone, and face to face with night."

He sings about the southern night amidst the hay; or again about the

    "A whisper, a breath, a shiver,
      The trills of the nightingale,
    A silver light and a quiver
      And a sunlit trail.
    The glimmer of night and the shadows of night
      In an endless race,
    Enchanted changes, flight after flight,
      On the loved one's face.
    The blood of the roses tingling
      In the clouds, and a gleam in the grey,
    And tears and kisses commingling--
      The Dawn, the Dawn, the Day!"

Polonsky's verse, in contrast to Fet's gentle epicurean temperament,
his delicate half-tones and illusive whispers, is made of sterner
stuff; and, in contrast to Maikov's sculptural lines, it is
pre-eminently musical, and reflects a fine and charming personality.
His area of subjects is wide; he can write a child's poem as
transparent and simple as Hans Andersen--as in his conversation
between the sun and the moon--or call up the "glory that was Greece,"
as in the poem when his "Aspasia" listens to the crowds acclaiming
Pericles, and waits in rapturous suspense for his return--an evocation
that Browning would have envied for its life and Swinburne for its

But neither Maikov, Fet, nor Polonsky, exquisite as much of their
writing is, produced anything of the calibre of Nekrasov, even in
their own province; that is to say, they were none of them as great in
the artistic field as he was in his didactic field. Compared with him,
they are minor poets. There is one poet of this epoch who does rival
Nekrasov in another field, and that is COUNT ALEXIS TOLSTOY (1817-75),
who was also a Parnassian and remained aloof from didactic literature;
yet, under the pseudonym of Kuzma Prutkov, he wrote a satire, a
collection of platitudes, that are household words in Russia; also a
short history of Russia in consummately neat and witty satirical
verse. As well as his satires, he wrote an historical novel, _Prince
Serebryany_, and more important still, a trilogy of plays, dealing
with the most dramatic epoch of Russian history, that of Ivan the
Terrible. The trilogy, written in verse, consists of the "Death of
Ivan the Terrible," "The Tsar Feodor Ivanovitch" and "Tsar Boris."
They are all of them acting plays, form part of the current classical
repertory, and are effective, impressive and arresting when played on
the stage.

But it is as a poet and as a lyrical poet that Alexis Tolstoy is most
widely known. Versatile with a versatility that recalls Pushkin, he
writes epical ballads on Russian, Northern, and even Scottish themes,
and dramatic poems on Don Juan, St. John Damascene, and Mary
Magdalene; and, besides these, a whole series of personal lyrics,
which are full of charm, tenderness, music and colour, harmonious in
form and transparent. No Russian poet since Pushkin has written such
tender love lyrics, and nobody has sung the Russian spring, the
Russian summer, and the Russian autumn with such tender lyricism. His
poem on the early spring, when the fern is still tightly curled, the
shepherd's note still but half heard in the morning, and the birch
trees just green, is one of the most tender, fresh, and perfect
expressions of first love, morning, spring, dew, and dawn in the
world's literature. His songs have inspired Tchaikovsky and other
composers. The strongest and highest chord he struck is in his St.
John Damascene; this contains a magnificent dirge for the dead which
can bear comparison even with the _Dies Iræ_ for majesty, solemn
pathos, and plangent rhythm.

His pictures of landscapes have a peculiar charm. The following is an
attempt at a translation--

    "Through the slush and the ruts of the highway,
      By the side of the dam of the stream,
    Where the fisherman's nets are drying,
      The carriage jogs on, and I dream.

    I dream, and I look at the highway,
      At the sky that is sullen and grey,
    At the lake with its shelving reaches,
      And the curling smoke far away.

    By the dam, with a cheerless visage
      Walks a Jew, who is ragged and sere.
    With a thunder of foam and of splashing,
      The waters race over the weir.

    A boy over there is whistling
      On a hemlock flute of his make;
    And the wild ducks get up in a panic
      And call as they sweep from the lake.

    And near the old mill some workmen
      Are sitting upon the green ground,
    With a wagon of sacks, a cart horse
      Plods past with a lazy sound.

    It all seems to me so familiar,
      Although I have never been here,
    The roof of that house out yonder,
      And the boy, and the wood, and the weir.

    And the voice of the grumbling mill-wheel,
      And that rickety barn, I know,
    I have been here and seen this already,
      And forgotten it all long ago.

    The very same horse here was dragging
      Those sacks with the very same sound,
    And those very same workmen were sitting
      By the rickety mill on the ground.

    And that Jew, with his beard, walked past me,
      And those waters raced through the weir;
    Yes, all this has happened already,
      But I cannot tell when or where."

The people also produced a poet during this epoch and gave Koltsov a
successor, in the person of NIKITIN; his themes are taken straight
from life, and he became known through his patriotic songs written
during the Crimean War; but he is most successful in his descriptions
of nature, of sunset on the fields, and dawn, and the swallow's nest
in the grumbling mill. Two other poets, whose work became well known
later, but passed absolutely unnoticed in the sixties, were
SLUCHEVSKY, a philosophical poet, whose verse, excellent in
description, suffers from clumsiness in form, and APUKHTIN, whose
collected poems and ballads, although he began to write in 1859, were
not published until 1886. Apukhtin is a Parnassian. The bulk of his
work, though perfect in form, is uninteresting; but he wrote one or
two lyrics which have a place in any Russian Golden Treasury, and his
poems are largely read now.

In the eighties, a reaction against the anti-poetical tendency set in,
and poets began to spring up like mushrooms. Of these, the most
popular and the most remarkable is NADSON (1862-87); he died when he
was twenty-four, of consumption. Since then his verse has gone through
twenty-one editions, and 110,000 copies have been sold; ten editions
were published in his own lifetime. And there are innumerable musical
settings by various composers to his lyrics. His verse inaugurates a
new epoch in Russian poetry, the distinguishing features of which are
a great attention to form and _technique_, a Parnassian love of colour
and shape, and a deep melancholy.

Nadson sings the melancholy of youth, the dreams and disillusions of
adolescence, and the hopelessness of the stagnant atmosphere of
reaction to which he belonged. This last fact accounted in some
measure for his extraordinary popularity. But it was by no means its
sole cause; his verse is not only exquisite but magically musical, to
an extent which makes the verse of other poets seem a stuff of coarser
clay, and his pictures of nature, of spring, of night, and especially
of night in the Riviera (with a note of passionate home-sickness),
have the aromatic, intoxicating sweetness of syringa. Verse such as
this, sensitive, ultra-delicate, morbid, nervous, and pessimistic, is
bound to have the defects of its qualities, in a marked degree; one is
soon inclined to have enough of its sultry, oppressive atmosphere, its
delicate perfume, its unrelieved gloom and its music, which is nearly
always not only in a minor key but in the same key. Nobody was more
keenly aware of this than Nadson himself, and one of his most
beautiful poems begins thus--

    "Dear friend, I know, I know, I only know too well
    That my verse is barren of all strength, and pale, and delicate,
    And often just because of its debility I suffer
    And often weep in secret in the silence of the night."

And in another poem he writes his apology. He has never used verse as
a toy to chase tedium; the blessed gift of the singer has often been
to him an unbearable cross, and he has often vowed to keep silent;
but, if the wind blows, the Æolian harp must needs respond, and
streams of the hills cannot help rushing to the valley if the sun
melts the snow on the mountain tops. This apologia more than all
criticism defines his gift. His temperament is an Æolian harp, which,
whether it will or no, is sensitive to the breeze; its strings are
few, and tuned to one key; nevertheless some of the strains it has
sobbed have the stamp of permanence as well as that of ethereal magic.

The poets that come after Nadson belong to the present day; there are
many, and they increase in number every year. The so-called "decadent"
school were influenced by Shelley, Verlaine, and the French
symbolists; but there is nothing which is decadent in the ordinary
sense of the word in their verse. Their influence may not be lasting,
but they are factors in Russian literature, and some of them, SOLOGUB,
BRUSOV, BALMONT, and IVANOV, have produced work which any school would
be glad to claim. This is also true of ALEXANDER BLOCH, one of the
most original as well as one of the most exquisite of living Russian


With the death of Turgenev and Dostoyevsky, the great epoch of Russian
literature came to an end. A period of literary as well as of
political stagnation began, which lasted until the Russo-Japanese War.
This was followed by the revolutionary movement, which, in its turn,
produced a literary as well as a political chaos, the effect of which
and of the manifold reactions it brought about are still being felt.
It was only natural, if one considers the extent and the quality of
the productions of the preceding epoch, that the soil of literary
Russia should require a rest.

As it is, one can count the writers of prominence which the epoch of
stagnation produced on one's fingers--CHEKHOV, GARSHIN, KOROLENKO, and
at the end of the period MAXIME GORKY, and apart from them, in a
by-path of his own, MEREZHKOVSKY. Of these Chekhov and Gorky tower
above the others. Chekhov enlarged the range of Russian literature by
painting the middle-class and the _Intelligentsia_, and brought back
to Russian literature the note of humour; and Gorky broke altogether
fresh ground by painting the vagabond, the artisan, the tramp, the
thief, the flotsam and jetsam of the big town and the highway, and by
painting in a new manner.

Gorky's work came like that of Mr. Rudyard Kipling to England, as a
revelation. Not only did his subject matter open the doors on
dominions undreamed of, but his attitude towards life and that of his
heroes towards life seemed to be different from that of all Russian
novelists before his advent; and yet the difference between him and
his forerunners is not so great as it appears at first sight. It is
true that his rough and rebellious heroes, instead of playing the
Hamlet, or of finding the solution of life in charity and humility or
submission, are partisans of the survival of the fittest with a
vengeance, the survival of the strongest fist and the sharpest knife;
yet are these new heroes really so different from the uncompromising
type that we have already seen sharing one half of the Russian stage,
right through the story of Russian literature, from Bazarov back to
Peter the Great, and on whose existence was founded the remark that
Peter the Great was one of the ingredients in the Russian character?
Put Bazarov on the road, or Lermontov, or even Peter the Great, and
you get Gorky's barefooted hero.

Where Gorky created something absolutely new was in the surroundings
and in the manner of life which he described, and in the way he
described them; this is especially true of his treatment of nature:
for the first time in Russian prose literature, we get away from the
"orthodox" landscape of convention, and we are face to face with the
elements. We feel as if a new breath of air had entered into
literature; we feel as people accustomed to the manner in which the
poets treated nature in England in the eighteenth century must have
felt when Wordsworth, Byron, Shelley and Coleridge began to write.

Chekhov worked on older lines. He descends directly from Turgenev,
although his field is a different one. He, more than any other writer
and better than any other writer, painted the epoch of stagnation,
when Russia, as a Russian once said, was playing itself to death at
_vindt_ (an older form of _Bridge_). The tone of his work is grey, and
indeed resembles, as Tolstoy said, that of a photographer, by its
objective realism as well as by its absence of high tones; yet if
Chekhov is a photographer, he is at the same time a supreme artist, an
artist in black and white, and his pessimism is counteracted by two
other factors, his sense of humour and his humanity; were it not so,
the impression of sadness one would derive from the sum of misery
which his crowded stage of merchants, students, squires, innkeepers,
waiters, schoolmasters, magistrates, popes, officials, make up between
them, would be intolerable. Some of Chekhov's most interesting work
was written for the stage, on which he also brought Scenes of Country
Life, which is the sub-title of the play _Uncle Vanya_. There are the
same grey tints, the same weary, amiable, and slack people, bankrupt
of ideals and poor in hope, whom we meet in the stories; and here,
too, behind the sordid triviality and futility, we hear the "still sad
music of humanity." But in order that the tints of Chekhov's delicate
living and breathing photographs can be effective on the stage, very
special acting is necessary, in order to convey the quality of
atmosphere which is his special gift. Fortunately he met with exactly
the right technique and the appropriate treatment at the Art Theatre
at Moscow.

Chekhov died in 1904, soon after the Russo-Japanese War had begun.
Apart from the main stream and tradition of Russian fiction and
Russian prose, Merezhkovsky occupies a unique place, a place which
lies between criticism and imaginative historical fiction, not unlike,
in some respects--but very different in others--that which is occupied
by Walter Pater in English fiction. His best known work, at least his
best known work in Europe, is a prose trilogy, "The Death of the Gods"
(a study of Julian the apostate), "The Resurrection of the Gods" (the
story of Leonardo da Vinci), and "The Antichrist" (the story of Peter
the Great and his son Alexis), which has been translated into nearly
every European language. This trilogy is an essay in imaginative
historical reconstitution; it testifies to a real and deep culture,
and it is lit at times by flashes of imaginative inspiration which
make the scenes of the past live; it is alive with suggestive thought;
but it is not throughout convincing, there is a touch of Bulwer
Lytton as well as a touch of Goethe and Pater in it. Merezhkovsky is
perhaps more successful in his purely critical work, his books on
Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and Gogol, which are infinitely stimulating,
suggestive, and original, than in his historical fiction, although,
needless to say, his criticism appeals to a far narrower public. He is
in any case one of the most brilliant and interesting of Russian
modern writers, and perhaps the best known outside Russia.

During the war, a writer of fiction made his name by a remarkable
book, namely KUPRIN, who in his novel, _The Duel_, gave a vivid and
masterly picture of the life of an officer in the line. Kuprin has
since kept the promise of his early work. At the same time, LEONID
ANDREEV came forward with short stories, plays, a description of war
(_The Red Laugh_), moralities, not uninfluenced by Maeterlinck, and a
limpid and beautiful style in which pessimism seemed to be speaking
its last word.

In 1905 the revolutionary movement broke out, with its great hopes,
its disillusions, its period of anarchy on the one hand and
repression on the other; out of the chaos of events came a chaos of
writing rather than literature, and in its turn this produced, in
literature as well as in life, a reaction, or rather a series of
reactions, towards symbolism, æstheticism, mysticism on the one hand,
and towards materialism--not of theory but of practice--on the other.
But since these various reactions are now going on, and are vitally
affecting the present day, the revolutionary movement of 1905 seems
the right point to take leave of Russian literature. In 1905 a new era
began, and what that era will ultimately produce, it is too soon even
to hazard a guess.

Looking back over the record of Russian literature, the first thing
which must strike us, if we think of the literature of other
countries, is its comparatively short life. There is in Russian
literature no Middle Ages, no Villon, no Dante, no Chaucer, no
Renaissance, no _Grand Siècle_. Literature begins in the nineteenth
century. The second thing which will perhaps strike us is that, in
spite of its being the youngest of all the literatures, it seems to be
spiritually the oldest. In some respects it seems to have become
over-ripe before it reached maturity. But herein, perhaps, lies the
secret of its greatness, and this may be the value of its contribution
to the soul of mankind. It is--

    "Old in grief and very wise in tears":

and its chief gift to mankind is an expression, made with a
naturalness and sincerity that are matchless, and a love of reality
which is unique,--for all Russian literature, whether in prose or
verse, is rooted in reality--of that grief and that wisdom; the grief
and wisdom which come from a great heart; a heart that is large enough
to embrace the world and to drown all the sorrows therein with the
immensity of its sympathy, its fraternity, its pity, its charity, and
its love.


       1113. _The Chronicle of Nestor._

       1692. First play produced in Russia, Gregory.
             Simeon Polotsky's _The Prodigal Son_ acted.

       1703. The first Russian newspaper, _The Russian News_, appears.

       1725. Death of Peter the Great.
             Foundation of the Academy of Science.

       1744. Death of Kantemir.

       1750. Death of Tatishchev.

       1755. University of Moscow founded.

       1762. Accession of Catherine the Great.

       1765. Death of Lomonosov.

       1790. Radishchev's _Journey Through Russia_ published.

       1796. Death of Catherine the Great.

       1800. First edition of _The Story of the Raid of Prince Igor_

       1802. Zhukovsky translates Gray's _Elegy_.
             Death of Radishchev.

       1806. Krylov's first fables published.

       1816. Death of Derzhavin.
             _History of the Russian State_, by Karamzin, published.

       1819. University of St. Petersburg founded.

       1820. Pushkin's _Ruslan and Ludmila_ published.

       1823. Griboyedov's _Misfortune of Being Clever_ circulated.
             First Canto of _Eugene Onegin_ published.

       1825. The Decembrist Attempt.

       1826. Rileev hanged.
             Death of Karamzin.

       1827. Pushkin's _Gypsies_ published.

       1829. Death of Griboyedov.
             Pushkin's _Poltava_ published.

       1831. Pushkin's _Boris Godunov_ published.
             Complete version of _Eugene Onegin_ published.

       1832. Gogol's _Evening on the Farm near the Dikanka_ published.

       1834. Gogol's _Mirgorod_ published.

       1835. Gogol's _Revisor_ produced on the stage.

       1836. Chaadaev's letters published.

       1837. Death of Pushkin.

       1841. Death of Lermontov.

       1842. Death of Koltsov.
             Gogol's _Dead Souls_ published.

       1844. Death of Krylov.

       1847. Gogol's correspondence published.
             Turgenev's _Sportsman's Sketches_ published.
             Death of Belinsky.

       1849. Dostoyevsky imprisoned.

     1856-7. Saltykov's _Government Sketches_ appear.

       1859. Ostrovsky's _Storm_ produced.
             Goncharov's _Oblomov_ published.

       1860. Turgenev's _Fathers and Sons_ published.

       1861. Emancipation of the Serfs.

       1862. Pisemsky's _Troubled Sea_ published.

       1863. Chernyshevsky's _What is to be Done?_ published.

       1865. Leskov's _No Way Out_ published.

  1865-1872. Tolstoy's _War and Peace_ appeared.

       1866. Dostoyevsky's _Crime and Punishment_ published.

       1868. Dostoyevsky's _Idiot_ published.

       1875. Death of Count Alexis Tolstoy.

     1875-6. Tolstoy's _Anna Karenina_ published.

       1877. Death of Nekrasov.

       1881. Death of Dostoyevsky.

       1883. Death of Turgenev.

       1886. Death of Ostrovsky.

       1887. Death of Nadson.

       1889. Death of Saltykov.

       1900. Death of Soloviev.
             Production of Chekhov's _Chaika_ (Seagull).

       1904. Production of Chekhov's _Cherry Orchard_.
             Death of Chekhov.

       1910. Death of Tolstoy.


    Acton, Lord, 146

    Ainsworth, Harrison, 82

    Aksakov, Ivan, 154

    ----, Serge, 154 f.

    Alexander I, 9, 30 f., 44, 124, 169

    ---- II, 52, 153, 160, 179, 227

    Alexis, Tsar, 23

    Andreev, Leonid, 248

    _Anna Karenina_, Tolstoy's, 205 f.

    Apukhtin, 238

    Arnold, Matthew, 123, 146, 226

    Atheism and Socialism, 150 f.

    Bakunin, 179, 180

    Balfour, Mr. A. J., 182

    Balmont, 242

    Bariatinsky, Prince, 101

    Batyushkov, 58

    Baudelaire, 226

    Beaconsfield, Lord, 146

    Belinsky, 142, 150

    _Bell, The_, Herzen edits, 151, 153, 180

    Bloch, Alexander, 242

    _Bogoiskateli_, 198, 199

    Brontë, Charlotte, 222

    ----, Emily, 46

    Brückner, Prof., 144, 145, 147, 214

    Brusov, 242

    Bulgaria, 12

    Bulgaria, liberation of, 170, 171

    Bürger's _Leonore_ translated into Russian, 52

    Burns, Robert, 125

    Byron, 61 f., 66, 67, 71, 72 (footnotes), 73, 98, 119, 123, 146

    Byzantium, Emperor of, 11

    Catherine I, 18 (footnote)

    ---- II, 27, 32, 33, 80, 155

    Chaadaev, 148

    Chekhov, 243, 244 f.

    Chernyshevsky, 180, 181, 227

    Chesterton, Mr. G. K., 182

    Christianity of the East, 11

    _Chronicle of Kiev_, the, 15 f.

    _Chronicle of Nestor_, the, 15 f.

    Church, the, influence on Russian literature, 11, 21

    Constantine, 44

    Corot, 226

    Crabbe, Nekrasov and, 229 f.

    Crimean War, the, 160, 202, 238

    Danilevsky, 180

    Daudet, 172

    "Decembrist" rising, the, 44, 45, 61, 92

    Delvig, Baron, 101

    Demetrius, 21, 67

    Derzhavin, 29, 56

    Diderot, 27

    Dobrolyubov, 180, 181, 227

    Donne, John, 97

    Dostoyevsky, 96, 99, 109, 143, 145, 160, 161, 164, 167, 173, 180,
        192, 196 f., 200, 210 f., 220 f.

    Eastern and Western Churches, schism of, 13, 22, 182, 183

    Eliot, Sir Charles, 13

    Elizabeth, Empress, 26

    Emancipation of the serfs, the, 160, 227

    Falconet's equestrian statue of Peter the Great, 85

    Fet, 232 f.

    Flaubert, 162, 204

    French influence in Russia, 26

    French Revolution, the, 27, 40, 159

    Gagarin, Prince, 150

    Garshin, 243

    Gautier, 226

    German influence in Russia, 26

    Goethe, death of, 228

    ----, Pushkin's resemblance to, 92 f.

    Gogol, Nicholas, 126 f., 190

    Goncharov, 143, 176 f.

    Gorky, Maxime, 164, 243, 244 f.

    Gray's _Elegy_, Russian translations of, 52, 53

    Gregory, Protestant pastor of the Sloboda, 23

    Griboyedov, 45 f., 126, 191

    Grigoriev, 179, 180

    Grigorovich, 194, 195

    Grimm's Fairy Tales, 84

    Haumant, M., 168

    Heckeren-Dantes' duel with Pushkin, 90

    Heine, 98

    Herzen, Alexander, 143, 150 f., 180

    Hoffmann, 127

    Homyakov, 154

    Hugo, Victor, 117, 118, 172

    Ivan III, 20, 21, 24

    ---- IV ("The Terrible"), 24, 67, 235

    Ivanov, 242

    _Jane Eyre_ cited, 222

    Kantemir, Prince, 27

    Karakozov, 153

    Karamzin, 18, 32 f., 141

    Katkov, 180, 182

    Keats, 146

    _Kidnapped_ (Stevenson's), 129

    Kiev, destruction of, 19;
      rebuilding of, 21

    ----, the mother of Russian culture, 10 f.

    Kipling, Mr. Rudyard, 244

    Koltsov, 124 f.

    Korolenko, 243

    Krylov, 34 f., 176 f.

    Kuprin, 248

    La Fontaine, 35 f.

    Lang, Andrew, 128

    Latin language taught in Moscow, 22

    Le Maistre, Joseph, 148, 149

    Leo X, 13

    Lermontov, 102 f., 126

    Leskov, vi, 189 f.

    Lisle, Leconte de, 226

    Literary criticism, 141

    Liturgical books, revision of, 22

    Lomonosov, Michael, 26, 29

    Luther, 13

    Lytton, Bulwer, 248

    Maikov, 232

    Maupassant, 128, 172

    Meredith, George, 169, 172

    Merezhkovsky, 147, 205, 243, 247 f.

    Mérimée, 83, 141

    Mill, John Stuart, 181

    Mickiewicz, the Pole, 87

    Montesquieu, 27

    Morley, John, 146

    Moscow, 10, 19, 21

    Moscow Art Theatre, the, v, 221, 222, 247

    ----, European culture in, 23

    _Moscow Journal_ founded by Karamzin, 32

    Moscow, Pushkin's memorial at, 99, 220

    ----, schools in, 22

    ----, the fire of, 18

    ----, University of, 26

    Mozart of Russian literature, the, 175

    Musin-Pushkin, Count. _See_ Pushkin.

    Musset, 118, 119

    Mussorgsky, 67

    Nadson, 239 f.

    Napoleon, 30 f., 40, 111, 204

    Nechaev, 218

    Nekrasov, 229 f., 234

    Nicholas, 44

    Nicholas, Emperor, 160

    Nicholas I, 103

    Nihilism, 152, 163, 171, 173, 179, 217, 218, 227

    Nikitin, 238

    Norsemen in Russia, 10

    _Odyssey_, the, Russian translation of, 52

    Ostrovsky, 193 f.

    Palæologa, Sophia, 21

    Paris revolution of 1848, the, 159

    Parnassian poetry, the epoch of, 226 f.

    Pater, Walter, 247, 248

    Paul, Emperor, 33

    Peter the Great, 21, 24 f., 71, 85, 97

    ---- ---- of Poetry, the, 95

    Petrashevsky and his followers, 159, 160

    Pisarev, 180, 181, 227

    Pisemsky, 191, 193

    Poe, E. A., 86

    Poland, 21, 24

    Poland, the rising in, 180

    Poles occupy Moscow, 24

    Polevoy, 142

    Polezhaev, 101

    Polonsky, 232, 233 f.

    Polotsky, Simeon, 22 f.

    Preobrazhenskoe and its theatre, 23

    Pre-Raphaelites, the, 226

    Printing press, the first, 21

    Propagandists of Western Ideas the, 148 f.

    Prutkov, Kuzma. _See_ Tolstoy, Count Alexis.

    Pugachev and the Cossack rising, 80

    Pushkin vi, 18, 34, 41, 43, 50, 54 f., 109, 110, 123, 126, 132,
        135, 138, 143, 162, 167, 220

    Radishchev, 27 f.

    Rakhmaninov, 81

    Rimsky-Korsakov, 81

    Rodionovna, Anna, 84, 85

    Rome, Gogol settles in, 133

    Rousseau, 27

    Russia and political liberty, 148

    ----, Norsemen in, 10, 11

    ----, Tartar invasion of, 19, 24

    ----, the revolutionary movement of 1905, 243, 248, 249

    Russian literature, beginnings of, 9 f.

    ---- ----, dawn of, 30 f.

    ---- ----, second renascence of, 159

    ---- ----, the age of prose, 126 f.

    ---- ----, the second age of poetry, 226 f.

    ---- newspaper, the first, 25

    ---- Nihilism. _See_ Nihilism.

    ---- trade centres, 10

    Russia's national poet, 95

    Russo-Japanese War, the, 243

    Ryleev, 44

    Sainte-Beuve, 146

    St. Petersburg, 10

    ---- Jesuits, the, 148

    ----, the great floods of 1834, 85

    Saltykov, Michael, vi, 184 f., 190 f.

    Sand, George, 162

    Schiller's _Maid of Orleans_, Russian translation of, 52

    Schumann of Russian literature, the, 175

    Seekers after God, 198

    Serfs, emancipation of the, 160, 227

    Shakespeare, Pushkin on, 65, 66

    Shchedrin. _See_ Saltykov.

    Siberia, Dostoyevsky at, 160, 213, 225

    ----, Radishchev at, 28

    Slav race, the, 10 f.

    Slavonic liturgy, introduction of, 12

    Slavophiles, the, 143, 148, 152, 154, 159, 180, 228

    Sluchevsky, 238

    Socialism and Atheism, 150 f.

    Society of Welfare, the, 43

    Sologub, 242

    Soloviev, Vladimir, 11, 93, 181 f.

    Stebnitsky. _See_ Leskov.

    Stendhal, 204

    Stevenson, R. L., 127, 128, 129, 214

    Strakhov, 180

    Suffragettes, 163, 164

    Sully-Prudhomme, 226

    Suvorov, 30

    Sviatoslav, 15, 16

    Taine, 162

    Tartar invasion of Russia, the, 19;
      the Tartar yoke thrown off, 24

    Tatishchev, 26

    Tchaikovsky, 80, 236

    Tennyson, Lord, 165, 166, 226

    Thackeray, 172

    Tolstoy, Count Alexis, 234 f.

    ----, Count Leo, 134, 161, 164, 170, 196 f., 211, 246

    Turgenev, Ivan, 64, 161 f., 192

    Tyutchev, 154, 228

    Universal church, Soloviev's views on, 182-183

    University of Moscow, the, 26, 251

    Venevitinov, 101

    Vienna, Congress of, 40, 43

    Vigny, Alfred de, 202

    Vinci, Leonardo da, 67

    Virgil of Russian prose, the, 175

    Vladimir, Prince of Kiev, 11

    Volkonsky, Princess, 150

    Voltaire, 27

    Volynsky, 147

    Vyatka, Saltykov banished to, 185

    Vyazemsky, Prince, 141

    _War and Peace_, publication of, 202 f.

    Wells, Mr., 164

    Wilson, John, 81

    Woman's Suffrage, 182. _Cf._ Suffragettes.

    Wordsworth, 120, 123

    Yakovlev. _Cf._ Herzen, Alexander.

    Yazykov, 101

    Zhukovsky, Basil, 51 f., 83

    Zola, 74, 204

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By Prof. A. C. PIGOU, M.A.


By G. P. GOOCH, M.A.
















_POLITICAL THOUGHT IN ENGLAND: From Bentham to J. S. Mill._ By Prof.

_POLITICAL THOUGHT IN ENGLAND: From Herbert Spencer to To-day._ By






          London: WILLIAMS AND NORGATE
     _And of all Bookshops and Bookstalls._

Transcriber's Note

Minor punctuation errors and printer errors (omitted or transposed
letters) have been repaired. Hyphenation has been made consistent.

The following amendments have also been made:

    Page 22--mas amended to was--"... but in the interest of
    literature, it was a misfortune ..."

    Page 192--be amended to he--"... disbelieved in
    Liberals, although he believed in Liberalism; ..."

    Page 222--Brönte's amended to Brontë's--"These words,
    spoken by Charlotte Brontë's _Jane Eyre_, ..."

    Page 251--Simon amended to Simeon--"1692. ... Simeon
    Polotsky's _The Prodigal Son_ acted."

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