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´╗┐Title: Essays on Russian Novelists
Author: Phelps, William Lyon, 1865-1943
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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ESSAYS ON RUSSIAN NOVELISTS

By William Lyon Phelps



I

RUSSIAN NATIONAL CHARACTER AS SHOWN IN RUSSIAN FICTION



The Japanese war pricked one of the biggest bubbles in history, and
left Russia in a profoundly humiliating situation. Her navy was
practically destroyed, her armies soundly beaten, her offensive power
temporarily reduced to zero, her treasury exhausted, her pride laid in
the dust. If the greatness of a nation consisted in the number and
size of its battleships, in the capacity of its fighting men, or in
its financial prosperity, Russia would be an object of pity. But in
America it is wholesome to remember that the real greatness of a
nation consists in none of these things, but rather in its
intellectual splendour, in the number and importance of the ideas it
gives to the world, in its contributions to literature and art, and to
all things that count in humanity's intellectual advance. When we
Americans swell with pride over our industrial prosperity, we might
profitably reflect for a moment on the comparative value of America's
and Russia's contributions to literature and music.


At the start, we notice a rather curious fact, which sharply
differentiates Russian literature from the literature of England,
France, Spain, Italy, and even from that of Germany. Russia is old;
her literature is new. Russian history goes back to the ninth century;
Russian literature, so far as it interests the world, begins in the
nineteenth. Russian literature and American literature are twins. But
there is this strong contrast, caused partly by the difference in the
age of the two nations. In the early years of the nineteenth century,
American literature sounds like a child learning to talk, and then
aping its elders; Russian literature is the voice of a giant, waking
from a long sleep, and becoming articulate. It is as though the world
had watched this giant's deep slumber for a long time, wondering what
he would say when he awakened. And what he has said has been well
worth the thousand years of waiting.

To an educated native Slav, or to a professor of the Russian language,
twenty or thirty Russian authors would no doubt seem important; but
the general foreign reading public is quite properly mainly interested
in only five standard writers, although contemporary novelists like
Gorki, Artsybashev, Andreev, and others are at this moment deservedly
attracting wide attention. The great five, whose place in the world's
literature seems absolutely secure, are Pushkin, Gogol, Turgenev,
Dostoevski, and Tolstoi. The man who killed Pushkin in a duel survived
till 1895, and Tolstoi died in 1910. These figures show in how short a
time Russian literature has had its origin, development, and full
fruition.

Pushkin, who was born in 1799 and died in 1838, is the founder of
Russian literature, and it is difficult to overestimate his influence.
He is the first, and still the most generally beloved, of all their
national poets. The wild enthusiasm that greeted his verse has never
passed away, and he has generally been regarded in Russia as one of
the great poets of the world. Yet Matthew Arnold announced in his
Olympian manner, "The Russians have not yet had a great poet."* It is
always difficult fully to appreciate poetry in a foreign language,
especially when the language is so strange as Russian. It is certain
that no modern European tongue has been able fairly to represent the
beauty of Pushkin's verse, to make foreigners feel him as Russians
feel him, in any such measure as the Germans succeeded with
Shakespeare, as Bayard Taylor with Goethe, as Ludwig Fulda with
Rostand. The translations of Pushkin and of Lermontov have never
impressed foreign readers in the superlative degree. The glory of
English literature is its poetry; the glory of Russian literature is
its prose fiction.

*Arnold told Sainte-Beuve that he did not think Lamartine was
"important." Sainte-Beuve answered, "He is important for us."

Pushkin was, for a time at any rate, a Romantic, largely influenced,
as all the world was then, by Byron. He is full of sentiment, smiles
and tears, and passionate enthusiasms. He therefore struck out in a
path in which he has had no great followers; for the big men in
Russian literature are all Realists. Romanticism is as foreign to the
spirit of Russian Realism as it is to French Classicism. What is
peculiarly Slavonic about Pushkin is his simplicity, his naivete.
Though affected by foreign models, he was close to the soil. This is
shown particularly in his prose tales, and it is here that his title
as Founder of Russian Literature is most clearly demonstrated. He took
Russia away from the artificiality of the eighteenth century, and
exhibited the possibilities of native material in the native tongue.

The founder of the mighty school of Russian Realism was Gogol. Filled
with enthusiasm for Pushkin, he nevertheless took a different course,
and became Russia's first great novelist. Furthermore, although a
melancholy man, he is the only Russian humorist who has made the world
laugh out loud. Humour is not a salient quality in Russian fiction.
Then came the brilliant follower of Gogol, Ivan Turgenev. In him
Russian literary art reached its climax, and the art of the modern
novel as well. He is not only the greatest master of prose style that
Russia has ever produced; he is the only Russian who has shown genius
in Construction. Perhaps no novels in any language have shown the
impeccable beauty of form attained in the works of Turgenev. George
Moore queries, "Is not Turgenev the greatest artist that has existed
since antiquity?"

Dostoevski, seven years older than Tolstoi, and three years younger
than Turgenev, was not so much a Realist as a Naturalist; his chief
interest was in the psychological processes of the unclassed. His
foreign fame is constantly growing brighter, for his works have an
extraordinary vitality. Finally appeared Leo Tolstoi, whose literary
career extended nearly sixty years. During the last twenty years of
his life, he was generally regarded as the world's greatest living
author; his books enjoyed an enormous circulation, and he probably
influenced more individuals by his pen than any other man of his time.

In the novels of Gogol, Turgenev, Dostoevski, and Tolstoi we ought to
find all the prominent traits in the Russian character.

It is a rather curious thing, that Russia, which has never had a
parliamentary government, and where political history has been very
little influenced by the spoken word, should have so much finer an
instrument of expression than England, where matters of the greatest
importance have been settled by open and public speech for nearly
three hundred years. One would think that the constant use of the
language in the national forum for purposes of argument and persuasion
would help to make it flexible and subtle; and that the almost total
absence of such employment would tend toward narrowness and rigidity.
In this instance exactly the contrary is the case. If we may trust the
testimony of those who know, we are forced to the conclusion that the
English language, compared with the Russian, is nothing but an awkward
dialect. Compared with Russian, the English language is decidedly weak
in synonyms, and in the various shades of meaning that make for
precision. Indeed, with the exception of Polish, Russian is probably
the greatest language in the world, in richness, variety,
definiteness, and elegance. It is also capable of saying much in
little, and saying it with tremendous force. In Turgenev's "Torrents
of Spring," where the reader hears constantly phrases in Italian,
French, and German, it will be remembered that the ladies ask Sanin to
sing something in his mother tongue. "The ladies praised his voice and
the music, but were more struck with the softness and sonorousness of
the Russian language." I remember being similarly affected years ago
when I heard "King Lear" read aloud in Russian. Baron von der Bruggen
says,* "there is the wonderful wealth of the language, which, as a
popular tongue, is more flexible, more expressive of thought than any
other living tongue I know of." No one has paid a better tribute than
Gogol:--

"The Russian people express themselves forcibly; and if they once
bestow an epithet upon a person, it will descend to his race and
posterity; he will bear it about with him, in service, in retreat, in
Petersburg, and to the ends of the earth; and use what cunning he
will, ennoble his career as he will thereafter, nothing is of the
slightest use; that nickname will caw of itself at the top of its
crow's voice, and will show clearly whence the bird has flown. A
pointed epithet once uttered is the same as though it were written
down, and an axe will not cut it out.

*"Russia of To-day," page 203.

"And how pointed is all that which has proceeded from the depths of
Russia, where there are neither Germans nor Finns, nor any other
strange tribes, but where all is purely aboriginal, where the bold and
lively Russian mind never dives into its pocket for a word, and never
broods over it like a sitting-hen: it sticks the word on at one blow,
like a passport, like your nose or lips on an eternal bearer, and
never adds anything afterwards. You are sketched from head to foot in
one stroke.

"Innumerable as is the multitude of churches, monasteries with
cupolas, towers, and crosses, which are scattered over holy, most
pious Russia, the multitude of tribes, races, and peoples who throng
and bustle and variegate the earth is just as innumerable. And every
people bearing within itself the pledge of strength, full of active
qualities of soul, of its own sharply defined peculiarities, and other
gifts of God, has characteristically distinguished itself by its own
special word, by which, while expressing any object whatever, it also
reflects in the expression its own share of its own distinctive
character. The word Briton echoes with knowledge of the heart, and
wise knowledge of life; the word French, which is not of ancient date,
glitters with a light foppery, and flits away; the sagely artistic
word German ingeniously discovers its meaning, which is not attainable
by every one; but there is no word which is so ready, so audacious,
which is torn from beneath the heart itself, which is so burning, so
full of life, as the aptly applied Russian word."*

*"Dead Souls," translated by Isabel Hapgood.

Prosper Merimee, who knew Russian well, and was an absolute master of
the French language, remarked:--

"La langue russe, qui est, autant que j 'en puis juger, le plus riche
des idiomes de l'Europe, semble faite pour exprimer les nuances les
plus delicates. Douee d'une merveilleuse concision qui s'allie a la
clarte, il lui suffit d'un mot pour associer plusieurs idees, qui,
dans une autre langue, exigeralent des phrases entieres."

And no people are more jealous on this very point than the French. In
the last of his wonderful "Poems in Prose," Turgenev cried out: "In
these days of doubt, in these days of painful brooding over the fate
of my country, thou alone art my rod and my staff, O great, mighty,
true and free Russian language! If it were not for thee, how could one
keep from despairing at the sight of what is going on at home? But it
is inconceivable that such a language should not belong to a great
people."

It is significant that Turgenev, who was so full of sympathy for the
ideas and civilization of Western Europe, and who was so often
regarded (unjustly) by his countrymen as a traitor to Russia, should
have written all his masterpieces, not in French, of which he had a
perfect command, but in his own beloved mother-tongue.

We see by the above extracts, that Russia has an instrument of
expression as near perfection as is possible in human speech. Perhaps
one reason for the supremacy of Russian fiction may be found here.


The immense size of the country produces an element of largeness in
Russian character that one feels not only in their novels, but almost
invariably in personal contact and conversation with a more or less
educated Russian. This is not imaginary and fantastic; it is a
definite sensation, and immediately apparent. Bigness in early
environment often produces a certain comfortable largeness of mental
vision. One has only to compare in this particular a man from Russia
with a man from Holland, or still better, a man from Texas with a man
from Connecticut. The difference is easy to see, and easier to feel.
It is possible that the man from the smaller district may be more
subtle, or he may have had better educational advantages; but he is
likely to be more narrow. A Texan told me once that it was eighteen
miles from his front door to his front gate; now I was born in a city
block, with no front yard at all. I had surely missed something.

Russians are moulded on a large scale, and their novels are as wide in
interest as the world itself. There is a refreshing breadth of vision
in the Russian character, which is often as healthful to a foreigner
as the wind that sweeps across the vast prairies. This largeness of
character partly accounts for the impression of Vastness that their
books produce on Occidental eyes. I do not refer at all to the length
of the book--for a book may be very long, and yet produce an
impression of pettiness, like many English novels. No, it is something
that exhales from the pages, whether they be few or many. As
illustrations of this quality of vastness, one has only to recall two
Russian novels--one the longest, and the other very nearly the
shortest, in the whole range of Slavonic fiction. I refer to "War and
Peace," by Tolstoi, and to "Taras Bulba," by Gogol. Both of these
extraordinary works give us chiefly an impression of Immensity--we
feel the boundless steppes, the illimitable wastes of snow, and the
long winter night. It is particularly interesting to compare Taras
Bulba with the trilogy of the Polish genius, Sienkiewicz. The former
is tiny in size, the latter a leviathan; but the effect produced is
the same. It is what we feel in reading Homer, whose influence, by the
way, is as powerful in "Taras Bulba" as it is in "With Fire and
Sword."


The Cosmopolitanism of the Russian character is a striking feature.
Indeed, the educated Russian is perhaps the most complete Cosmopolitan
in the world. This is partly owing to the uncanny facility with which
he acquires foreign languages, and to the admirable custom in Russia
of giving children in more or less wealthy families, French, German,
and English governesses. John Stuart Mill studied Greek at the age of
three, which is the proper time to begin the study of any language
that one intends to master. Russian children think and dream in
foreign words, but it is seldom that a Russian shows any pride in his
linguistic accomplishments, or that he takes it otherwise than as a
matter of course. Stevenson, writing from Mentone to his mother, 7
January 1874, said: "We have two little Russian girls, with the
youngest of whom, a little polyglot button of a three-year-old, I had
the most laughable little scene at lunch to-day. . . . She said
something in Italian which made everybody laugh very much . . .; after
some examination, she announced emphatically to the whole table, in
German, that I was a machen.. . . This hasty conclusion as to my sex
she was led afterwards to revise . . . but her new opinion . . . was
announced in a language quite unknown to me, and probably Russian. To
complete the scroll of her accomplishments, . . . she said good-bye to
me in very commendable English." Three days later, he added, "The
little Russian kid is only two and a half; she speaks six languages."
Nothing excites the envy of an American travelling in Europe more
sharply than to hear Russian men and women speaking European languages
fluently and idiomatically. When we learn to speak a foreign tongue,
we are always acutely conscious of the transition from English to
German, or from German to French, and our hearers are still more so.
We speak French as though it HURT, just as the average tenor sings. I
remember at a polyglot Parisian table, a Russian girl who spoke seven
languages with perfect ease; and she was not in the least a
blue-stocking.

Now every one knows that one of the indirect advantages that result
from the acquisition of a strange tongue is the immediate gain in the
extent of view. It is as though a near-sighted man had suddenly put on
glasses. It is something to be able to read French; but if one has
learned to speak French, the reading of a French book becomes
infinitely more vivid. With a French play in the hand, one can see
clearly the expressions on the faces of the personages, as one follows
the printed dialogue with the eye. Here is where a Russian understands
the American or the French point of view, much better than an American
or a Frenchman understands the Russian's. Indeed, the man from Paris
is nothing like so cosmopolitan as the man from Petersburg. One reason
is, that he is too well satisfied with Paris. The late M. Brunetiere
told me that he could neither read or speak English, and, what is
still more remarkable, he said that he had never been in England! That
a critic of his power and reputation, interested as he was in English
literature, should never have had sufficient intellectual curiosity to
cross the English Channel, struck me as nothing short of amazing.

The acquisition of any foreign language annihilates a considerable
number of prejudices. Henry James, who knew Turgenev intimately, and
who has written a brilliant and charming essay on his personality,
said that the mind of Turgenev contained not one pin-point of
prejudice. It is worth while to pause an instant and meditate on the
significance of such a remark. Think what it must mean to view the
world, the institutions of society, moral ideas, and human character
with an absolutely unprejudiced mind! We Americans are skinful of
prejudices. Of course we don't call them prejudices; we call them
principles. But they sometimes impress others as prejudices; and they
no doubt help to obscure our judgment, and to shorten or refract our
sight. What would be thought of a painter who had prejudices
concerning the colours of skies and fields?

The cosmopolitanism of the Russian novelist partly accounts for the
international effect and influence of his novels. His knowledge of
foreign languages makes his books appeal to foreign readers. When he
introduces German, French, English, and Italian characters into his
books, he not only understands these people, he can think in their
languages, and thus reproduce faithfully their characteristics not
merely by observation but by sympathetic intuition. Furthermore, the
very fact that Tolstoi, for example, writes in an inaccessible
language, makes foreign translations of his works absolutely
necessary. As at the day of Pentecost, every man hears him speak in
his own tongue. Now if an Englishman writes a successful book,
thousands of Russians, Germans, and others will read it in English;
the necessity of translation is not nearly so great. It is interesting
to compare the world-wide appeal made by the novels of Turgenev,
Dostoevski, and Tolstoi with that made by Thackeray and George Eliot,
not to mention Mr. Hardy or the late Mr. Meredith.


The combination of the great age of Russia with its recent
intellectual birth produces a maturity of character, with a wonderful
freshness of consciousness. It is as though a strong, sensible man of
forty should suddenly develop a genius in art; his attitude would be
quite different from that of a growing boy, no matter how precocious
he might be. So, while the Russian character is marked by an extreme
sensitiveness to mental impressions, it is without the rawness and
immaturity of the American. The typical American has some strong
qualities that seem in the typical Russian conspicuously absent; but
his very practical energy, his pride and self-satisfaction, stand in
the way of his receptive power. Now a conspicuous trait of the Russian
is his humility; and his humility enables him to see clearly what is
going on, where an American would instantly interfere, and attempt to
change the course of events.* For, however inspiring a full-blooded
American may be, the most distinguishing feature of his character is
surely not Humility. And it is worth while to remember that whereas
since 1850, at least a dozen great realistic novels have been written
in Russian, not a single completely great realistic novel has ever
been written in the Western Hemisphere.

*It is possible that both the humility and the melancholy of the
Russian character are partly caused by the climate, and the vast
steppes and forests, which seem to indicate the insignificance of man.

This extreme sensitiveness to impression is what has led the Russian
literary genius into Realism; and it is what has produced the greatest
Realists that the history of the novel has seen. The Russian mind is
like a sensitive plate; it reproduces faithfully. It has no more
partiality, no more prejudice than a camera film; it reflects
everything that reaches its surface. A Russian novelist, with a pen in
his hand, is the most truthful being on earth.

To an Englishman or an American, perhaps the most striking trait in
the Russian character is his lack of practical force--the paralysis of
his power of will. The national character among the educated classes
is personified in fiction, in a type peculiarly Russian; and that may
be best defined by calling it the conventional Hamlet. I say the
conventional Hamlet, for I believe Shakespeare's Hamlet is a man of
immense resolution and self-control. The Hamlet of the commentators is
as unlike Shakespeare's Hamlet as systematic theology is unlike the
Sermon on the Mount. The hero of the orthodox Russian novel is a
veritable "L'Aiglon." This national type must be clearly understood
before an American can understand Russian novels at all. In order to
show that it is not imaginary, but real, one has only to turn to
Sienkiewicz's powerful work, "Without Dogma," the very title
expressing the lack of conviction that destroys the hero.

"Last night, at Count Malatesta's reception, I heard by chance these
two words, 'l'improductivite slave.' I experienced the same relief as
does a nervous patient when the physician tells him that his symptoms
are common enough, and that many others suffer from the same disease.
. . . I thought about that 'improductivite slave' all night. He had
his wits about him who summed the thing up in these two words. There
is something in us,--an incapacity to give forth all that is in us.
One might say, God has given us bow and arrow, but refused us the
power to string the bow and send the arrow straight to its aim. I
should like to discuss it with my father, but am afraid to touch a
sore point. Instead of this, I will discuss it with my diary. Perhaps
it will be just the thing to give it any value. Besides, what can be
more natural than to write about what interests me? Everybody carries
within him his tragedy. Mine is this same 'improductivite slave' of
the Ploszowskis. Not long ago, when romanticism flourished in hearts
and poetry, everybody carried his tragedy draped around him as a
picturesque cloak; now it is carried still, but as a jagervest next to
the skin. But with a diary it is different; with a diary one may be
sincere. . . . To begin with, I note down that my religious belief I
carried still intact with me from Metz did not withstand the study of
natural philosophy. It does not follow that I am an atheist. Oh, no!
this was good enough in former times, when he who did not believe in
spirit, said to himself, 'Matter,' and that settled for him the
question. Nowadays only provincial philosophers cling to that worn-out
creed. Philosophy of our times does not pronounce upon the matter; to
all such questions, it says, 'I do not know.' And that 'I do not know'
sinks into and permeates the mind. Nowadays psychology occupies itself
with close analysis and researches of spiritual manifestations; but
when questioned upon the immortality of the soul it says the same, 'I
do not know,' and truly it does not know, and it cannot know. And now
it will be easier to describe the state of my mind. It all lies in
these words: I do not know. In this--in the acknowledged impotence of
the human mind--lies the tragedy. Not to mention the fact that
humanity always has asked, and always will ask, for an answer, they
are truly questions of more importance than anything else in the
world. If there be something on the other side, and that something an
eternal life, then misfortunes and losses on this side are, as
nothing. 'I am content to die,' says Renan, 'but I should like to know
whether death will be of any use to me.' And philosophy replies, 'I do
not know.' And man beats against that blank wall, and like the
bedridden sufferer fancies, if he could lie on this or on that side,
he would feel easier. What is to be done?"*

*Translated by Iza Young.

Those last five words are often heard in Russian mouths. It is a
favourite question. It is, indeed, the title of two Russian books.

The description of the Slavonic temperament given by Sienkiewicz
tallies exactly with many prominent characters in Russian novels.
Turgenev first completely realised it in "Rudin;" he afterwards made
it equally clear in "Torrents of Spring," "Smoke," and other novels.*
Raskolnikov, in Dostoevski's "Crime and Punishment," is another
illustration; he wishes to be a Napoleon, and succeeds only in
murdering two old women. Artsybashev, in his terrible novel, "Sanin,"
has given an admirable analysis of this great Russian type in the
character of Jurii, who finally commits suicide simply because he
cannot find a working theory of life. Writers so different as Tolstoi
and Gorki have given plenty of good examples. Indeed, Gorki, in
"Varenka Olessova," has put into the mouth of a sensible girl an
excellent sketch of the national representative.

*Goncharov devoted a whole novel, "Oblomov," to the elaboration of
this particular type.

"The Russian hero is always silly and stupid, he is always sick of
something; always thinking of something that cannot be understood, and
is himself so miserable, so m--i--serable! He will think, think, then
talk, then he will go and make a declaration of love, and after that
he thinks, and thinks again, till he marries. . . . And when he is
married, he talks all sorts of nonsense to his wife, and then abandons
her."

Turgenev's Bazarov and Artsybashev's Sanin indicate the ardent revolt
against the national masculine temperament; like true Slavs, they go
clear to the other extreme, and bring resolution to a reductio ad
absurdum; for your true Russian knows no middle course, being entirely
without the healthy moderation of the Anglo-Saxon. The great Turgenev
realised his own likeness to Rudin. Mrs. Ritchie has given a very
pleasant unconscious testimony to this fact.

"Just then my glance fell upon Turgenev leaning against the doorpost
at the far end of the room, and as I looked, I was struck, being
shortsighted, by a certain resemblance to my father [Thackeray], which
I tried to realise to myself. He was very tall, his hair was grey and
abundant, his attitude was quiet and reposeful; I looked again and
again while I pictured to myself the likeness. When Turgenev came up
after the music, he spoke to us with great kindness, spoke of our
father, and of having dined at our house, and he promised kindly and
willingly to come and call next day upon my sister and me in Onslow
Gardens. I can remember that next day still; dull and dark, with a
yellow mist in the air. All the afternoon I sat hoping and expecting
that Turgenev might come, but I waited in vain. Two days later, we met
him again at Mrs. Huth's, where we were all once more assembled. Mr.
Turgenev came straight up to me at once. 'I was so sorry that I could
not come and see you,' he said, 'so very sorry, but I was prevented.
Look at my thumbs!' and he held up both his hands with the palms
outwards. I looked at his thumbs, but I could not understand. 'See how
small they are,' he went on; 'people with such little thumbs can never
do what they intend to do, they always let themselves be prevented;'
and he laughed so kindly that I felt as if his visit had been paid all
the time and quite understood the validity of the excuse."*

*"Blackstick Papers," 1908

It is seldom that the national characteristic reveals itself so
playfully; it is more likely to lead to tragedy. This cardinal fact
may militate greatly against Russia's position as a world-power in the
future, as it has in the past. Her capacity for passive resistance is
enormous--Napoleon learned that, and so did Frederick. A remarkable
illustration of it was afforded by the late Japanese war, when Port
Arthur held out long after the possible date assigned by many military
experts. For positive aggressive tactics Russia is just as weak
nationally as her men are individually. What a case in point is the
Duma, of which so much was expected! Were a majority of that Duma
Anglo-Saxons, we should all see something happen, and it would not
happen against Finland. One has only to compare it with the great
parliamentary gatherings in England's history.*


* Gogol said in "Dead Souls," "We Russians have not the slightest
talent for deliberative assemblies."

Perhaps if the membership were exclusively composed of women, positive
results would show. For, in Russian novels, the irresolution of the
men is equalled only by the driving force of the women. The Russian
feminine type, as depicted in fiction, is the incarnation of
singleness of purpose, and a capacity to bring things to pass, whether
for good or for evil. The heroine of "Rudin," of "Smoke," of "On the
Eve," the sinister Maria of "Torrents of Spring," the immortal Lisa of
"A House of Gentlefolk," the girl in Dostoevski's "Poor Folk;" Dunia
and Sonia, in "Crime and Punishment"--many others might be called to
mind. The good Russian women seem immensely superior to the men in
their instant perception and recognition of moral values, which gives
them a chart and compass in life. Possibly, too, the women are
stiffened in will by a natural reaction in finding their husbands and
brothers so stuffed with inconclusive theories. One is appalled at the
prodigious amount of nonsense that Russian wives and daughters are
forced to hear from their talkative and ineffective heads of houses.
It must be worse than the metaphysical discussion between Adam and the
angel, while Eve waited on table, and supplied the windy debaters with
something really useful.


To one who is well acquainted with American university undergraduates,
the intellectual maturity of the Russian or Polish student and his
eagerness for the discussion of abstract problems in sociology and
metaphysics are very impressive. The amount of space given in Russian
novels to philosophical introspection and debate is a truthful
portrayal of the subtle Russian mind. Russians love to talk; they are
strenuous in conversation, and forget their meals and their sleep. I
have known some Russians who will sit up all night, engaged in the
discussion of a purely abstract topic, totally oblivious to the
passage of time. In "A House of Gentlefolk," at four o'clock in the
morning, Mihalevich is still talking about the social duties of
Russian landowners, and he roars out, "We are sleeping, and the time
is slipping away; we are sleeping!" Lavretsky replies, "Permit me to
observe, that we are not sleeping at present, but rather preventing
others from sleeping. We are straining our throats like the
cocks--listen! there is one crowing for the third time." To which
Mihalevich smilingly rejoins, "Good-bye till to-morrow." Then follows,
"But the friends talked for more than an hour longer." In Chirikov's
powerful drama, "The Jews," the scene of animated discussion that
takes place on the stage is a perfect picture of what is happening in
hundreds of Russian towns every night. An admirable description of a
typical Russian conversation is given by Turgenev, in "Virgin Soil":--

"Like the first flakes of snow, swiftly whirling, crossing and
recrossing in the still mild air of autumn, words began flying,
tumbling, jostling against one another in the heated atmosphere of
Golushkin's dining-room--words of all sorts--progress, government,
literature; the taxation question, the church question, the Roman
question, the law-court question; classicism, realism, nihilism,
communism; international, clerical, liberal, capital; administration,
organisation, association, and even crystallisation! It was just this
uproar which seemed to arouse Golushkin to enthusiasm; the real gist
of the matter seemed to consist in this, for him."*

*All citations from Turgenev's novels are from Constance Garnett's
translations.

The Anglo-Saxon is content to allow ideas that are inconsistent and
irreconcilable to get along together as best they may in his mind, in
order that he may somehow get something done. Not so the Russian. Dr.
Johnson, who settled Berkeleian idealism by kicking a stone, and the
problem of free will by stoutly declaring, "I know I'm free and
there's an end on't," would have had an interesting time among the
Slavs.

It is rather fortunate that the Russian love of theory is so often
accompanied by the paralysis of will power, otherwise political crimes
would be much commoner in Russia than they are. The Russian is
tremendously impulsive, but not at all practical. Many hold the most
extreme views, views that would shock a typical Anglo-Saxon out of his
complacency; but they remain harmless and gentle theorists. Many
Russians do not believe in God, or Law, or Civil Government, or
Marriage, or any of the fundamental Institutions of Society; but their
daily life is as regular and conventional as a New Englander's.
Others, however, attempt to live up to their theories, not so much for
their personal enjoyment, as for the satisfaction that comes from
intellectual consistency. In general, it may be said that the Russian
is far more of an extremist, far more influenced by theory, than
people of the West. This is particularly true of the youth of Russia,
always hot-headed and impulsive, and who are constantly attempting to
put into practice the latest popular theories of life. American
undergraduates are the most conservative folk in the world; if any
strange theory in morals or politics becomes noised abroad, the
American student opposes to it the one time-honoured weapon of the
conservative from Aristophanes down,--burlesque. Mock processions and
absurd travesties of "the latest thing" in politics are a feature of
every academic year at an American university. Indeed, an American
student leading a radical political mob is simply unthinkable. It is
common enough in Russia, where in political disturbances students are
very often prominent. If a young Russian gives his intellectual assent
to a theory, his first thought is to illustrate it in his life. One of
the most terrible results of the publication of Artsybashev's novel
"Sanin"--where the hero's theory of life is simply to enjoy it, and
where the Christian system of morals is ridiculed--was the
organisation, in various high schools, among the boys and girls, of
societies zum ungehinderten Geschechtsgenuss. They were simply doing
what Sanin told them they ought to do; and having decided that he was
right, they immediately put his theories into practice. Again, when
Tolstoi finally made up his mind that the Christian system of ethics
was correct, he had no peace until he had attempted to live in every
respect in accordance with those doctrines. And he persuaded thousands
of Russians to attempt the same thing. Now in England and in America,
every minister knows that it is perfectly safe to preach the Sermon on
the Mount every day in the year. There is no occasion for alarm.
Nobody will do anything rash.


The fact that the French language, culture, and manners have been
superimposed upon Russian society should never be forgotten in a
discussion of the Russian national character. For many years, and
until very recently, French was the language constantly used by
educated and aristocratic native Russians, just as it is by the Poles
and by the Roumanians. It will never cease seeming strange to an
American to hear a Russian mother and son talk intimately together in
a language not their own. Even Pushkin, the founder of Russian
literature, the national poet, wrote in a letter to a friend, "Je vous
parlerai la langue de l'Europe, elle m'est plus familiere." Imagine
Tennyson writing a letter in French, with the explanation that French
came easier to him!

It follows, as a consequence, that the chief reading of Russian
society people is French novels; that French customs, morals, and
manners (as portrayed in French fiction) have had an enormous effect
on the educated classes in Russia. If we may believe half the
testimony we hear,--I am not sure that we can,--Russian aristocratic
society is to-day the most corrupt in the world. There is an immense
contrast between Parisians and Russians, and the literature that would
not damage the morals of the former is deadly to the latter. The
spirit of mockery in the Parisian throws off the germs of their
theatre and their fiction. I have seen in a Parisian theatre men,
their wives, and their families laughing unrestrainedly at a piece,
that if exhibited before an American audience would simply disgust
some, and make others morbidly attentive. This kind of literature,
comic or tragic, disseminated as it everywhere is among impulsive and
passionate Russian readers, has been anything but morally healthful.
One might as rationally go about and poison wells. And the Russian
youth are sophisticated to a degree that seems to us almost startling.
In 1903, a newspaper in Russia sent out thousands of blanks to high
school boys and girls all over the country, to discover what books
constituted their favourite reading. Among native authors, Tolstoi was
first, closely followed by Gorki; among foreign writers, Guy de
Maupassant was the most popular! The constant reading of Maupassant by
boys and girls of fifteen and sixteen years, already emancipated from
the domination of religious ideas, can hardly be morally hygienic. And
to-day, in many families all over the Western world, Hygiene has taken
the place of God.

Russian novelists have given us again and again pictures of typical
society women who are thoroughly corrupt. We find them in historical
and in contemporary fiction. They are in "War and Peace," in "Anna
Karenina," in "Dead Souls," in "A House of Gentlefolk," and in the
books of to-day. And it is worth remembering that when Tolstoi was a
young man, his aunt advised him to have an intrigue with a married
woman, for the added polish and ease it would give to his manners,
just as an American mother sends her boy to dancing-school.


Finally, in reading the works of Tolstoi, Turgenev, Dostoevski, Gorki,
Chekhov, Andreev, and others, what is the general impression produced
on the mind of a foreigner? It is one of intense gloom. Of all the
dark books in fiction, no works sound such depths of suffering and
despair as are fathomed by the Russians. Many English readers used to
say that the novels of George Eliot were "profoundly sad,"--it became
almost a hackneyed phrase. Her stories are rollicking comedies
compared with the awful shadow cast by the literature of the Slavs.
Suffering is the heritage of the Russian race; their history is
steeped in blood and tears, their present condition seems intolerably
painful, and the future is an impenetrable cloud. In the life of the
peasants there is of course fun and laughter, as there is in every
human life; but at the root there is suffering, not the loud protest
of the Anglo-Saxon labourer, whose very loudness is a witness to his
vitality--but passive, fatalistic, apathetic misery. Life has been
often defined, but never in a more depressing fashion than by the
peasant in Gorki's novel, who asks quietly:--

"What does the word Life mean to us? A feast? No. Work? No. A battle?
Oh, no!! For us Life is something merely tiresome, dull,--a kind of
heavy burden. In carrying it we sigh with weariness and complain of
its weight. Do we really love Life! The Love of Life! The very words
sound strange to our ears! We love only our dreams of the future--and
this love is Platonic, with no hope of fruition."

Suffering is the corner-stone of Russian life, as it is of Russian
fiction. That is one reason why the Russians produce here and there
such splendid characters, and such mighty books. The Russian capacity
for suffering is the real text of the great works of Dostoevski, and
the reason why his name is so beloved in Russia--he understood the
hearts of his countrymen. Of all the courtesans who have illustrated
the Christian religion on the stage and in fiction, the greatest is
Dostoevski's Sonia. Her amazing sincerity and deep simplicity make us
ashamed of any tribute of tears we may have given to the familiar
sentimental type. She does not know what the word "sentiment" means;
but the awful sacrifice of her daily life is the great modern
illustration of Love. Christ again is crucified. When the refined,
cultivated, philosophical student Raskolnikov stoops to this ignorant
girl and kisses her feet, he says, "I did not bow down to you
individually, but to suffering Humanity in your person." That phrase
gives us an insight into the Russian national character.

The immediate result of all this suffering as set forth in the lives
and in the books of the great Russians, is Sympathy--pity and sympathy
for Humanity. Thousands are purified and ennobled by these sublime
pictures of woe. And one of the most remarkable of contemporary
Russian novels--Andreev's "The Seven Who Were Hanged," a book bearing
on every page the stamp of indubitable genius--radiates a sympathy and
pity that are almost divine.

This growth of Love and Sympathy in the Russian national character is
to me the sign of greatest promise in their future, both as a nation
of men and women, and as a contributor to the world's great works of
literary art. If anything can dispel the black clouds in their dreary
sky, it will be this wonderful emotional power. The political changes,
the Trans-Siberian railway, their industrial and agricultural
progress,--all these are as nothing compared with the immense advance
that Christian sympathy is now making in the hearts of the Russian
people. The books of Dostoevski and Tolstoi point directly to the
Gospel, and although Russia is theoretically a Christian nation, no
country needs real Christianity more than she. The tyranny of the
bureaucracy, the corruption of fashionable society, the sufferings of
the humble classes, the hollow formalism of the Church, make Russia
particularly ripe for the true Gospel--just as true to-day as when
given to the world in Palestine. Sixty years ago Gogol wrote: "What is
it that is most truly Russian? What is the main characteristic of our
Russian nature, that we now try to develop by making it reject
everything strange and foreign to it? The value of the Russian nature
consists in this--that it is capable, more than any other, of
receiving the noble word of the Gospel, which leads man toward
perfection." One cannot read Dostoevski and Tolstoi without thinking
of the truth of Gogol's declaration.

All the philosophy and wisdom of the world have never improved on the
teachings of the Founder of Christianity. What the individual and
society need to-day is not Socialism, Communism, or Nihilism; no
temporary palliative sought in political, social, or financial Reform;
what we each need is a closer personal contact with the simple truths
of the New Testament. The last word on all political, philosophical,
and social questions may still be found in the Sermon on the Mount. It
is a significant fact, that Tolstoi, after a varied and long
experience of human life, after reviewing all the systems of thought
that have influenced modern society, should have finally arrived and
found rest in the statements that most of us learned in childhood from
our mothers' lips.



II

GOGOL



Nikolai Vassilievich Gogol was born at Sorotchinetz, in Little Russia,
in March, 1809. The year in which he appeared on the planet proved to
be the literary annus mirabilis of the century; for in that same
twelvemonth were born Charles Darwin, Alfred Tennyson, Abraham
Lincoln, Poe, Gladstone, and Holmes. His father was a lover of
literature, who wrote dramatic pieces for his own amusement, and who
spent his time on the old family estates, not in managing the farms,
but in wandering about the fields, and beholding the fowls of the air.
The boy inherited much from his father; but, unlike Turgenev, he had
the best of all private tutors, a good mother, of whom his biographer
says, Elle demeure toujours sa plus intime amie.*

*For the facts in Gogol's life, I have relied chiefly on the doctor's
thesis by Raina Tyrneva, Aix, 1901.

At the age of twelve, Nikolai was sent away to the high school at
Nezhin, a town near Kiev. There he remained from 1821 to 1828. He was
an unpromising student, having no enthusiasm for his lessons, and
showing no distinction either in scholarship or deportment.
Fortunately, however, the school had a little theatre of its own, and
Gogol, who hated mathematics, and cared little for the study of modern
languages, here found an outlet for all his mental energy. He soon
became the acknowledged leader of the school in matters dramatic, and
unconsciously prepared himself for his future career. Like Schiller,
he wrote a tragedy, and called it "The Robbers."

I think it is probable that Gogol's hatred for the school curriculum
inspired a passage in "Taras Bulba," though here he ostensibly
described the pedagogy of the fifteenth century.

"The style of education in that age differed widely from the manner of
life. These scholastic, grammatical, rhetorical, and logical
subtleties were decidedly out of consonance with the times, never had
any connection with and never were encountered in actual life. Those
who studied them could not apply their knowledge to anything whatever,
not even the least scholastic of them. The learned men of those days
were even more incapable than the rest, because farther removed from
all experience."*

*Translated by Isabel Hapgood.

In December, 1828, Gogol took up his residence in St. Petersburg,
bringing with him some manuscripts that he had written while at
school. He had the temerity to publish one, which was so brutally
ridiculed by the critics, that the young genius, in despair, burned
all the unsold copies--an unwitting prophecy of a later and more
lamentable conflagration. Then he vainly tried various means of
subsistence. Suddenly he decided to seek his fortune in America, but
he was both homesick and seasick before the ship emerged from the
Baltic, and from Lubeck he fled incontinently back to Petersburg. Then
he tried to become an actor, but lacked the necessary strength of
voice. For a short time he held a minor official position, and a
little later was professor of history, an occupation he did not enjoy,
saying after his resignation, "Now I am a free Cossack again."
Meanwhile his pen was steadily busy, and his sketches of farm life in
the Ukraine attracted considerable attention among literary circles in
the capital.

Gogol suffered from nostalgia all the time he lived at St. Petersburg;
he did not care for that form of society, and the people, he said, did
not seem like real Russians. He was thoroughly homesick for his
beloved Ukraine; and it is significant that his short stories of life
in Little Russia, truthfully depicting the country customs, were
written far off in a strange and uncongenial environment.

In 1831 he had the good fortune to meet the poet Pushkin, and a few
months later in the same year he was presented to Madame Smirnova;
these friends gave him the entree to the literary salons, and the
young author, lonesome as he was, found the intellectual stimulation
he needed. It was Pushkin who suggested to him the subjects for two of
his most famous works, "Revizor" and "Dead Souls." Another friend,
Jukovski, exercised a powerful influence, and gave invaluable aid at
several crises of his career. Jukovski had translated the "Iliad" and
the "Odyssey;" his enthusiasm for Hellenic poetry was contagious; and
under this inspiration Gogol proceeded to write the most Homeric
romance in Russian literature, "Taras Bulba." This story gave the
first indubitable proof of its author's genius, and to-day in the
world's fiction it holds an unassailable place in the front rank. The
book is so short that it can be read through in less than two hours;
but it gives the same impression of vastness and immensity as the huge
volumes of Sienkiewicz.

Gogol followed this amazingly powerful romance by two other works,
which seem to have all the marks of immortality--the comedy "Revizor,"
and a long, unfinished novel, "Dead Souls." This latter book is the
first of the great realistic novels of Russia, of which "Fathers and
Children, "Crime and Punishment," and "Anna Karenina" are such
splendid examples.

From 1836 until his death in 1852, Gogol lived mainly abroad, and
spent much time in travel. His favourite place of residence was Rome,
to which city he repeatedly returned with increasing affection. In
1848 he made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, for Gogol never departed
from the pious Christian faith taught him by his mother; in fact,
toward the end of his life, he became an ascetic and a mystic. The
last years were shadowed by illness and--a common thing among Russian
writers--by intense nervous depression. He died at Moscow, 21 February
1852. His last words were the old saying, "And I shall laugh with a
bitter laugh." These words were placed on his tomb.

Most Russian novels are steeped in pessimism, and their authors were
men of sorrows. Gogol, however, has the double distinction of being
the only great comic writer in the language, and in particular of
being the author of the only Russian drama known all over the world,
and still acted everywhere on the Continent. Although plays do not
come within the scope of this book, a word or two should be said about
this great comedy; for "Revizor" exhibits clearly the double nature of
the author,--his genius for moral satire and his genius for pure fun.
From the moral point of view, it is a terrible indictment against the
most corrupt bureaucracy of modern times, from the comic point of
view, it is an uproarious farce.

The origin of the play is as follows: while travelling in Russia one
day, Pushkin stopped at Nizhni-Novgorod. Here he was mistaken for a
state functionary on tour among the provinces for purposes of
government inspection. This amused the poet so keenly that he narrated
all the circumstances to Gogol and suggested that the latter make a
play with this experience as the basis of the plot. Gogol not only
acted on the suggestion, but instead of a mere farce, he produced a
comedy of manners. Toward the end of his life he wrote: "In "Revizor"
I tried to gather in one heap all that was bad in Russia, as I then
understood it; I wished to turn it all into ridicule. The real
impression produced was that of fear. Through the laughter that I have
never laughed more loudly, the spectator feels my bitterness and
sorrow." The drama was finished on the 4 December 1835, and of course
the immediate difficulty was the censorship. How would it be possible
for such a satire either to be printed or acted in Russia? Gogol's
friend, Madame Smirnova, carried the manuscript to the Czar, Nikolas
I. It was read to him; he roared with laughter, and immediately
ordered that it be acted. We may note also that he became a warm
friend of Gogol, and sent sums of money to him, saying nobly, "Don't
let him know the source of these gifts; for then he might feel obliged
to write from the official point of view."

The first performance was on the 19 April 1836. The Czar attended in
person, and applauded vigorously. The success was immediate, and it
has never quitted the stage. Gogol wrote to a friend: "On the opening
night I felt uncomfortable from the very first as I sat in the
theatre. Anxiety for the approval of the audience did not trouble me.
There was only one critic in the house--myself--that I feared. I heard
clamorous objections within me which drowned all else. However, the
public, as a whole, was satisfied. Half of the audience praised the
play, the other half condemned it, but not on artistic grounds."

"Revizor" is one of the best-constructed comedies in any language; for
not only has it a unified and well-ordered plot, but it does not stop
with the final fall of the curtain. Most plays by attempting to finish
up the story with smooth edges, leave an impression of artificiality
and unreality, for life is not done up in such neat parcels. The
greatest dramas do not solve problems for us, they supply us with
questions. In "Revizor," at the last dumb scene, after all the mirth,
the real trouble is about to begin; and the spectators depart, not
merely with the delightful memory of an evening's entertainment, but
with their imagination aflame. Furthermore, "Revizor" has that
combination of the intensely local element with the universal, so
characteristic of works of genius. Its avowed attempt was to satirise
local and temporal abuses; but it is impossible to imagine any state
of society in the near future where the play will not seem real. If
Gogol had done nothing but write the best comedy in the Russian
language, he would have his place in literature secure.*

*The first production of "Revizor" in America (in English) was given
by the students of Yale University, 20 April, 1908. For all I know to
the contrary, it was the first English production in the world. It was
immensely successful, caused subsequent performances elsewhere, both
amateur and professional, and attracted attention in Russia, where a
journal gave an illustrated account of the Yale representation.

One must never forget in reading Gogol that he was a man of the
South--"homme du Midi." In all countries of the world, there is a
marked difference between the Northern and the Southern temperament.
The southern sun seems to make human nature more mellow. Southerners
are more warm-hearted, more emotional, more hospitable, and much more
free in the expression of their feelings. In the United States, every
one knows the contrast between the New Englander and the man from the
Gulf; in Europe, the difference between the Norman and the Gascon has
always been apparent--how clear it is in the works of Flaubert and of
Rostand! Likewise how interesting is the comparison between the
Prussian and the Bavarian; we may have a wholesome respect for Berlin,
but we love Munich, in some respects the most attractive town on
earth. The parallel holds good in Russia, where the Little Russians,
the men of the Ukraine, have ever shown characteristics that separate
them from the people of the North. The fiery passion, the boundless
aspiration of the Cossack, animates the stories of Gogol with a
veritable flame.

His first book, "Evenings on a Farm near the Dikanka (Veillees de
l'Ukraine)," appeared early in the thirties, and, with all its crudity
and excrescences, was a literary sunrise. It attracted immediate and
wide-spread attention, and the wits of Petersburg knew that Russia had
an original novelist. The work is a collection of short stories or
sketches, introduced with a rollicking humorous preface, in which the
author announces himself as Rudii Panko, raiser of bees. Into this
book the exile in the city of the North poured out all his love for
the country and the village customs of his own Little Russia. He gives
us great pictures of Nature, and little pictures of social life. He
describes with the utmost detail a country fair at the place of his
birth, Sorotchinetz. His descriptions of the simple folk, the beasts,
and the bargainings seem as true as those in "Madame Bovary"--the
difference is in the attitude of the author toward his work. Gogol has
nothing of the aloofness, nothing of the scorn of Flaubert; he himself
loves the revelry and the superstitions he pictures, loves above all
the people. Superstition plays a prominent role in these sketches; the
unseen world of ghosts and apparitions has an enormous influence on
the daily life of the peasants. The love of fun is everywhere in
evidence; these people cannot live without practical jokes, violent
dances, and horse-play. Shadowy forms of amorous couples move silent
in the warm summer night, and the stillness is broken by silver
laughter. Far away, in his room at St. Petersburg, shut in by the long
winter darkness, the homesick man dreamed of the vast landscape he
loved, in the warm embrace of the sky at noon, or asleep in the pale
moonlight. The first sentence of the book is a cry of longing. "What
ecstasy; what splendour has a summer day in Little Russia!" Pushkin
used to say that the Northern summer was a caricature of the Southern
winter.

The "Evenings on a Farm" indicates the possession of great power
rather than consummate skill in the use of it. Full of charm as it is,
it cannot by any stretch of language be called a masterpiece. Two
years later, however, Gogol produced one of the great prose romances
of the world, "Taras Bulba." He had intended to write a history of
Little Russia and a history of the Middle Ages, in eight or nine
volumes. In order to gather material, he read annals diligently, and
collected folk-lore, national songs, and local traditions. Fortunately
out of this welter of matter emerged not a big history, but a short
novel. Short as it is, it has been called an epical poem in the manner
of Homer, and a dramatisation of history in the manner of Shakespeare.
Both remarks are just, though the influence of Homer is the more
evident; in the descriptive passages, the style is deliberately
Homeric, as it is in the romances of Sienkiewicz, which owe so much to
this little book by Gogol. It is astonishing that so small a work can
show such colossal force. Force is its prime quality--physical,
mental, religious. In this story the old Cossacks, centuries dead,
have a genuine resurrection of the body. They appear before us in all
their amazing vitality, their love of fighting, of eating and
drinking, their intense patriotism, and their blazing devotion to
their religious faith. Never was a book more plainly inspired by
passion for race and native land. It is one tremendous shout of joy.
These Cossacks are the veritable children of the steppes, and their
vast passions, their Homeric laughter, their absolute recklessness in
battle, are simply an expression of the boundless range of the mighty
landscape.

"The further they penetrated the steppe, the more beautiful it became.
Then all the South, all that region which now constitutes New Russia,
even to the Black Sea, was a green, virgin wilderness. No plough had
ever passed over the immeasurable waves of wild growth; the horses
alone, hiding themselves in it as in a forest, trod it down. Nothing
in nature could be finer. The whole surface of the earth presented
itself as a green-gold ocean, upon which were sprinkled millions of
different flowers. Through the tall, slender stems of the grass peeped
light-blue, dark-blue, and lilac star-thistles; the yellow broom
thrust up its pyramidal head; the parasol-shaped white flower of the
false flax shimmered on high. A wheat-ear, brought God knows whence,
was filling out to ripening. About their slender roots ran partridges
with out-stretched necks. The air was filled with the notes of a
thousand different birds. In the sky, immovable, hung the hawks, their
wings outspread, and their eyes fixed intently on the grass. The cries
of a cloud of wild ducks, moving up from one side, were echoed from
God knows what distant lake. From the grass arose, with measured
sweep, a gull, and bathed luxuriously in blue waves of air. And now
she has vanished on high, and appears only as a black dot: now she has
turned her wings, and shines in the sunlight. Deuce take you, steppes,
how beautiful you are!"*

*Translated by Isabel Hapgood.

The whole book is dominated by the gigantic figure of old Taras Bulba,
who loves food and drink, but who would rather fight than eat. Like so
many Russian novels, it begins at the beginning, not at the second or
third chapter. The two sons of Taras, wild cubs of the wild old wolf,
return from school, and are welcomed by their loving father, not with
kisses and affectionate greeting, but with a joyous fist combat, while
the anxious mother looks on with tears of dismayed surprise. After the
sublime rage of fighting, which proves to the old man's satisfaction
that his sons are really worthy of him, comes the sublime joy of
brandy, and a prodigious feast, which only the stomachs of fifteenth
century Cossacks could survive. Then despite the anguish of the
mother--there was no place for the happiness of women in Cossack
life--comes the crushing announcement that on the morrow all three
males will away to the wars, from which not one of them will return.
One of the most poignant scenes that Gogol has written is the picture
of the mother, watching the whole night long by her sleeping sons--who
pass the few hours after the long separation and before the eternal
parting, in deep, unconscious slumber.

The various noisy parliaments and bloody combats are pictured by a pen
alive with the subject; of the two sons, one is murdered by his father
for preferring the love of a Capulet to the success of the Montagues;
the other, Ostap, is taken prisoner, and tortured to death. Taras, in
disguise, watches the appalling sufferings of his son; just before his
death, Ostap, who had not uttered a word during the prolonged and
awful agony, cries out to the hostile sky, like the bitter cry "My
God, why hast thou forsaken me?" "Father! where are you? do you hear
all?" and to the amazement of the boy and his torturers, comes, like a
voice from heaven, the shout, "I hear!"

Fearful is the vengeance that Taras Bulba takes on the enemy; fearful
is his own death, lashed to a tree, and burned alive by his foes. He
dies, merrily roaring defiant taunts at his tormentors. And Gogol
himself closes his hero's eyes with the question, "Can any fire,
flames, or power be found on earth, which are capable of overpowering
Russian strength?"

In its particular class of fiction, "Taras Bulba" has no equal except
the Polish trilogy of Sienkiewicz; and Gogol produces the same effect
in a small fraction of the space required by the other. This is of
course Romanticism rampant, which is one reason why it has not been
highly appreciated by the French critics. And it is indeed as contrary
to the spirit of Russian fiction as it is to the French spirit of
restraint. It stands alone in Russian literature, apart from the
regular stream, unique and unapproachable, not so much one of the
great Russian novels as a soul-thrilling poem, commemorating the
immortal Cossack heart.

Gogol followed up the "Evenings on a Farm near the Dikanka" with two
other volumes of stories and sketches, of which the immortal "Taras
Bulba" was included in one. These other tales show an astonishing
advance in power of conception and mastery of style. I do not share
the general enthusiasm for the narrative of the comically grotesque
quarrel between the two Ivans: but the three stories, "Old-fashioned
Farmers," "The Portrait," and "The Cloak," show to a high degree that
mingling of Fantasy with Reality that is so characteristic of this
author. The obsolete old pair of lovers in "Old-fashioned Farmers" is
one of the most charming and winsome things that Gogol wrote at this
period: it came straight from the depths of his immeasurable
tenderness. It appealed to that Pity which, as every one has noticed,
is a fundamental attribute of the national Russian character. In "The
Portrait," which is partly written in the minute manner of Balzac, and
partly with the imaginative fantastic horror of Poe and Hoffmann, we
have the two sides of Gogol's nature clearly reflected. Into this
strange story he has also indicated two of the great guiding
principles of his life: his intense democratic sympathies, and his
devotion to the highest ideals in Art. When the young painter forsakes
poverty and sincerity for wealth and popularity, he steadily
degenerates as an artist and eventually loses his soul. The ending of
the story, with the disappearance of the portrait, is remarkably
clever. The brief tale called "The Cloak" or "The Overcoat" has great
significance in the history of Russian fiction, for all Russian
novelists have been more or less influenced by it. Its realism is so
obviously and emphatically realistic that it becomes exaggeration, but
this does not lessen its tremendous power: then suddenly at the very
end, it leaves the ground, even the air, and soars away into the ether
of Romance.

Although these stories were translated into English by Miss Hapgood
over twenty years ago, they have never had any vogue among
English-speaking people, and indeed they have produced very little
impression anywhere outside of Russia. This is a misfortune for the
world, for Gogol was assuredly one of the great literary geniuses of
the nineteenth century, and he richly repays attentive reading. In
Russia he has been appreciated, immensely respected and admired, from
the day that he published his first book; but his lack of reputation
abroad is indicated by the remark of Mr. Baring in 1910, "the work of
Gogol may be said to be totally unknown in England." This statement is
altogether too sweeping, but it counts as evidence.

Despite Gogol's undoubted claim to be regarded as the founder of
Russian fiction, it is worth remembering that of the three works on
which rests his international fame, two cannot possibly be called
germinal. The drama "Revizor" is the best comedy in the Russian
language; but, partly for that very reason, it produced no school. The
romance "Taras Bulba" has no successful follower in Russian
literature, and brought forth no fruit anywhere for fifty years, until
the appearance of the powerful fiction-chronicles by Sienkiewicz. It
has all the fiery ardour of a young genius; its very exaggeration, its
delight in bloody battle, show a certain immaturity; it breathes
indeed the spirit of youth. With the exception of "The Cloak," Gogol
had by 1840 written little to indicate the direction that the best
part of Russian literature was to take. It was not until the
publication of "Dead Souls" that Russia had a genuine realistic novel.
This book is broad enough in scope and content to serve as the
foundation of Russian fiction, and to sustain the wonderful work of
Turgenev, Tolstoi, and Dostoevski. All the subsequent great novels in
Russia point back to "Dead Souls."

No two books could possibly show a greater contrast than "Taras Bulba"
and "Dead Souls." One reveals an extraordinary power of condensation:
the other an infinite expansion. One deals with heroes and mighty
exploits; the other with positively commonplace individuals and the
most trivial events. One is the revival of the glorious past; the
other a reflection of the sordid present. One is painted with the most
brilliant hues of Romanticism, and glows with the essence of the
Romantic spirit--Aspiration; the other looks at life through an
achromatic lens, and is a catalogue of Realities. To a certain extent,
the difference is the difference between the bubbling energy of youth
and the steady energy of middle age. For, although Gogol was still
young in years when he composed "Dead Souls," the decade that
separated the two works was for the author a constant progress in
disillusion. In the sixth chapter of the latter book, Gogol has
himself revealed the sad transformation that had taken place in his
own mind, and that made his genius express itself in so different a
manner:--

"Once, long ago, in the years of my youth, in those beautiful years
that rolled so swiftly, I was full of joy, charmed when I arrived for
the first time in an unknown place; it might be a farm, a poor little
district town, a large village, a small settlement: my eager, childish
eyes always found there many interesting objects. Every building,
everything that showed an individual touch, enchanted my mind, and
left a vivid impression. . . . To-day I travel through all the obscure
villages with profound indifference, and I gaze coldly at their sad
and wretched appearance: my eyes linger over no object, nothing
grotesque makes me smile: that which formerly made me burst out in a
roar of spontaneous laughter, and filled my soul with cheerful
animation, now passes before my eyes as though I saw it not, and my
mouth, cold and rigid, finds no longer a word to say at the very
spectacle which formerly possessed the secret of filling my heart with
ecstasy. O my youth! O my fine simplicity!"

Gogol spent the last fifteen years of his life writing this book, and
he left it unfinished. Pushkin gave him the subject, as he had for
"Revizor." One day, when the two men were alone together, Pushkin told
him, merely as a brief anecdote, of an unscrupulous promoter, who went
about buying up the names of dead serfs, thus enabling their owners to
escape payment of the taxes which were still in force after the last
registration. The names were made over to the new owner, with all
legal formalities, so that he apparently possessed a large fortune,
measured in slaves; these names the promoter transferred to a remote
district, with the intention of obtaining a big cash loan from some
bank, giving his fictitious property as security; but he was quickly
caught, and his audacious scheme came to nothing. The story stuck in
Gogol's mind, and he conceived the idea of a vast novel, in which the
travels of the collector of dead souls should serve as a panorama of
the Russian people. Both Gogol and Pushkin thought of "Don Quixote,"
the spirit of which is evident enough in this book. Not long after
their interview, Gogol wrote to Pushkin: "I have begun to write "Dead
Souls." The subject expands into a very long novel, and I think it
will be amusing, but now I am only at the third chapter. . . . I wish
to show, at least from one point of view, all Russia." Gogol declared
that he did not write a single line of these early chapters without
thinking how Pushkin would judge it, at what he would laugh, at what
he would applaud. When he read aloud from the manuscript, Pushkin,
who had listened with growing seriousness, cried, "God! what a sad
country is Russia!" and later be added, "Gogol invents nothing; it is
the simple truth, the terrible truth."

The first part of his work, containing the first eleven chapters, or
"songs," was published in May 1842. For the rest of his life, largely
spent abroad, Gogol worked fitfully at the continuation of his
masterpiece. Ill health, nervous depression, and morbid asceticism
preyed upon his mind; in 1845 he burned all that he had written of the
second volume. But he soon began to rewrite it, though he made slow
and painful progress, having too much of improductive slave either to
complete it or to be satisfied with it. At Moscow, a short time before
his death, in a night of wakeful misery, he burned a whole mass of his
manuscripts. Among them was unfortunately the larger portion of the
rewritten second part of Dead Souls. Various reasons have been
assigned as the cause of the destruction of his book--some have said,
it was religious remorse for having written the novel at all; others,
rage at adverse criticism; others, his own despair at not having
reached ideal perfection. But it seems probable that its burning was
simply a mistake. Looking among his papers, a short time after the
conflagration, he cried out, "My God! what have I done! that isn't
what I meant to burn!" But whatever the reason, the precious
manuscript was forever lost; and the second part of the work remains
sadly incomplete, partly written up from rough notes left by the
author, Partly supplied by another hand.

"Dead Souls" is surely a masterpiece, but a masterpiece of life rather
than of art. Even apart from its unfinished shape, it is characterised
by that formlessness so distinctive of the great Russian novelists the
sole exception being Turgenev. The story is so full of disgressions,
of remarks in mock apology addressed to the reader, of comparisons of
the Russian people with other nations, of general disquisitions on
realism, of glowing soliloquies in various moods, that the whole thing
is a kind of colossal note-book. Gogol poured into it all his
observations, reflections, and comments on life. It is not only a
picture of Russia, it is a spiritual autobiography. It is without
form, but not void. Gogol called his work a poem; and he could not
have found a less happy name. Despite lyrical interludes, it is as far
removed from the nature and form of Poetry as it is from Drama. It is
a succession of pictures of life, given with the utmost detail, having
no connection with each other, and absolutely no crescendo, no
movement, no approach to a climax. The only thread that holds the work
together is the person of the travelling promoter, Chichikov, whose
visits to various communities give the author the opportunity he
desired. After one has grasped the plan of the book, the purpose of
Chichikov's mission, which one can do in two minutes, one may read the
chapters in any haphazard order. Fortunately they are all interesting
in their photographic reality.

The whole thing is conceived in the spirit of humour, and its author
must be ranked among the great humorists of all time. There is an
absurdity about the mission of the chief character, which gives rise
to all sorts of ludicrous situations. It takes time for each
serf-owner to comprehend Chichikov's object, and he is naturally
regarded with suspicion. In one community it is whispered that he is
Napoleon, escaped from St. Helena, and travelling in disguise. An old
woman with whom he deals has an avaricious cunning worthy of a Norman
peasant. The dialogue between the two is a masterly commentary on the
root of all evil. But although all Russia is reflected in a comic
mirror, which by its very distortion emphasises the defects of each
character, Gogol was not primarily trying to write a funny book. The
various scenes at dinner parties and at the country inns are
laughable; but Gogol's laughter, like that of most great humorists, is
a compound of irony, satire, pathos, tenderness, and moral
indignation. The general wretchedness of the serfs, the indifference
of their owners to their condition, the pettiness and utter meanness
of village gossip, the ridiculous affectations of small-town society,
the universal ignorance, stupidity, and dulness--all these are
remorselessly revealed in the various bargains made by the hero. And
what a hero! A man neither utterly bad nor very good; shrewd rather
than intelligent; limited in every way. He is a Russian, but a
universal type. No one can travel far in America without meeting
scores of Chichikovs: indeed, he is an accurate portrait of the
American promoter, of the successful commercial traveller, whose
success depends entirely not on the real value and usefulness of his
stock-in-trade, but on his knowledge of human nature and the
persuasive power of his tongue. Chichikov is all things to all men.

Not content with the constant interpolation of side remarks and
comments, queries of a politely ironical nature to the reader, in the
regular approved fashion of English novels, Gogol added after the
tenth chapter a defiant epilogue, in which he explained his reasons
for dealing with fact rather than with fancy, of ordinary people
rather than with heroes, of commonplace events rather than with
melodrama; and then suddenly he tried to jar the reader out of his
self-satisfaction, like Balzac in "Pere Goriot."

"Pleased with yourselves more than ever, you will smile slowly, and
then say with grave deliberation: 'It is true that in some of our
provinces one meets very strange people, people absolutely ridiculous,
and sometimes scoundrels too!'

"Ah, but who among you, serious readers, I address myself to those who
have the humility of the true Christian, who among you, being alone,
in the silence of the evening, at the time when one communes with
oneself, will look into the depths of his soul to ask in all sincerity
this question? 'Might there not be in me something of Chichikov?'"

This whole epilogue is a programme--the programme of the
self-conscious founder of Russian Realism. It came from a man who had
deliberately turned his back on Romanticism, even on the romanticism
of his friend and teacher, Pushkin, and who had decided to venture all
alone on a new and untried path in Russian literature. He fully
realised the difficulties of his task, and the opposition he was bound
to encounter. He asks and answers the two familiar questions
invariably put to the native realist. The first is, "I have enough
trouble in my own life: I see enough misery and stupidity in the
world: what is the use of reading about it in novels?" The second is,
"Why should a man who loves his country uncover her nakedness?"

Gogol's realism differs in two important aspects from the realism of
the French school, whether represented by Balzac, Flaubert, Guy de
Maupassant, or Zola. He had all the French love of veracity, and could
have honestly said with the author of "Une Vie" that he painted
'humble verite. But there are two ground qualities in his realistic
method absent in the four Frenchmen: humour and moral force. Gogol
could not repress the fun that is so essential an element in human
life, any more than he could stop the beating of his heart; he saw men
and women with the eyes of a natural born humorist, to whom the utter
absurdity of humanity and human relations was enormously salient. And
he could not help preaching, because he had boundless sympathy with
the weakness and suffering of his fellow-creatures, and because he
believed with all the tremendous force of his character in the
Christian religion. His main endeavour was to sharpen the sight of his
readers, whether they looked without or within; for not even the
greatest physician can remedy an evil, unless he knows what the evil
is.

Gogol is the great pioneer in Russian fiction. He had the essential
temperament of all great pioneers, whether their goal is material or
spiritual. He had vital energy, resolute courage, clear vision, and an
abiding faith that he was travelling in the right direction. Such a
man will have followers even greater than he, and he rightly shares in
their glory. He was surpassed by Turgenev, Dostoevski, and Tolstoi,
but had he lived, he would have rejoiced in their superior art, just
as every great teacher delights in being outstripped by his pupils. He
is the real leader of the giant three, and they made of his lonely
path a magnificent highway for human thought. They all used him
freely: Tolstoi could hardly have written "The Cossacks" without the
inspiration of Gogol, Turgenev must have taken the most beautiful
chapter in "Virgin Soil" directly from "Old-fashioned Farmers," and
Dostoevski's first book, "Poor Folk," is in many places almost a
slavish imitation of "The Cloak"--and he freely acknowledged the debt
in the course of his story. The uncompromising attitude toward
fidelity in Art which Gogol emphasised in "The Portrait" set the
standard for every Russian writer who has attained prominence since
his day. No one can read Chekhov and Andreev without being conscious
of the hovering spirit of the first master of Russian fiction. He
could truthfully have adapted the words of Joseph Hall:--

I first adventure: follow me who list,
And be the second Russian Realist.



III

TURGENEV



Turgenev was born on the 28 October 1818, at Orel, in south central
Russia, about half-way between Moscow and Kiev. Thus, although the
temperament of Turgenev was entirely different from that of Gogol, he
was born not far from the latter's beloved Ukraine. He came honestly
by the patrician quality that unconsciously animated all his books,
for his family was both ancient and noble. His mother was wealthy, and
in 1817 was married to a handsome, unprincipled military officer six
years younger than herself. Their life together was an excellent
example of the exact opposite of domestic bliss, and in treating the
boy like a culprit, they transformed him--as always happens in similar
cases--into a severe judge of their own conduct. The father's
unbridled sensuality and the mother's unbridled tongue gave a
succession of moving pictures of family discord to the inquisitive
eyes of the future novelist. His childhood was anything but cheerful,
and late in life he said he could distinctly remember the salt taste
of the frequent tears that trickled into the corners of his mouth.
Fortunately for all concerned, the father died while Turgenev was a
boy, leaving him with only one--even if the more formidable--of his
parents to contend with. His mother despised writers, especially those
who wrote in Russian; she insisted that Ivan should make an
advantageous marriage, and "have a career"; but the boy was determined
never to marry, and he had not the slightest ambition for government
favours. The two utterly failed to understand each other, and, weary
of his mother's capricious violence of temper, he became completely
estranged. Years later, in her last illness, Turgenev made repeated
attempts to see her, all of which she angrily repulsed. He endeavoured
to see her at the very last, but she died before his arrival. He was
then informed that on the evening of her death she had given orders to
have an orchestra play dance-music in an adjoining chamber, to
distract her mind during the final agony. And her last thought was an
attempt to ruin Ivan and his brother by leaving orders to have
everything sold at a wretched price, and to set fire to other parts of
the property. His comment on his dead mother was "Enfin, il faut
oublier."

It is significant that Turgenev has nowhere in all his novels
portrayed a mother who combined intelligence with goodness.

French, German, and English Turgenev learned as a child, first from
governesses, and then from regular foreign tutors. The language of his
own country, of which he was to become the greatest master that has
ever lived, he was forced to learn from the house-servants. His father
and mother conversed only in French; his mother even prayed in French.
Later, he studied at the Universities of Moscow, St. Petersburg, and
Berlin. At Berlin he breathed for the first time the free air of
intellectual Europe, and he was never able long to live out of that
element again. One of his closest comrades at the University was
Bakunin, a hot-headed young Radical, who subsequently became a
Nihilist agitator. There is no doubt that his fiery harangues gave
Turgenev much material for his later novels. It is characteristic,
too, that while his student friends went wild at the theatre over
Schiller, Turgenev immensely preferred Goethe, and could practically
repeat the whole first part of "Faust" by heart. Turgenev, like
Goethe, was a natural aristocrat in his manner and in his literary
taste--and had the same dislike for extremists of all kinds. With the
exception of Turgenev's quiet but profound pessimism, his temperament
was very similar to that of the great German--such a man will surely
incur the hatred of the true Reformer type.

Turgenev was one of the best educated among modern men-of-letters; his
knowledge was not superficial and fragmentary, it was solid and
accurate. Of all modern novelists, he is the best exponent of genuine
culture.

Turgenev often ridiculed in his novels the Russian Anglo-maniac; but
in one respect he was more English than the English themselves. This
is seen in his passion for shooting. Nearly all of his trips to
Britain were made solely for this purpose, and most of the
distinguished Englishmen that he met, like Tennyson, he met while
visiting England for grouse. Shooting, to be sure, is common enough in
Russia; it appears in Artsybashev's "Sanin," and there was a time when
Tolstoi was devoted to this sport, though it later appeared on his
long blacklist. But Turgenev had the passion for it characteristic
only of the English race; and it is interesting to observe that this
humane and peace-loving man entered literature with a gun in his hand.
It was on his various shooting excursions in Russia that he obtained
so intimate a knowledge of the peasants and of peasant life; and his
first important book, "A Sportsman's Sketches," revealed to the world
two things: the dawn of a new literary genius, and the wretched
condition of the serfs. This book has often been called the "Uncle
Tom's Cabin" of Russia; no title could be more absurd. In the whole
range of literary history, it would be difficult to find two
personalities more unlike than that of Turgenev and Mrs. Stowe. The
great Russian utterly lacked the temperament of the advocate; but his
innate truthfulness, his wonderful art, and his very calmness made the
picture of woe all the more clear. There is no doubt that the book
became, without its author's intention, a social document; there is no
doubt that Turgenev, a sympathetic and highly civilised man, hated
slavery, and that his picture of it helped in an indirect way to bring
about the emancipation of the serfs. But its chief value is artistic
rather than sociological. It is interesting that "Uncle Tom's Cabin"
and "A Sportsman's Sketches" should have appeared at about the same
time, and that emancipation in each country should have followed at
about the same interval; but the parallel is chronological rather than
logical.*

*There is an interesting and amusing reference to Harriet Beecher
Stowe in the fourth chapter of "Smoke."

The year of the publication of Turgenev's book (1852) saw the death of
Gogol: and the new author quite naturally wrote a public letter of
eulogy. In no other country would such a thing have excited anything
but favourable comment; in Russia it raised a storm; the
government--always jealous of anything that makes for Russia's real
greatness--became suspicious, and Turgenev was banished to his
estates. Like one of his own dogs, he was told to "go home." Home he
went, and continued to write books. Freedom was granted him a few
years later, and he left Russia never to return except as a visitor.
He lived first in Germany, and finally in Paris, one of the literary
lions of the literary capital of the world. There, on the 3 September
1883, he died. His body was taken to Russia, and with that cruel
perversity that makes us speak evil of men while they are alive and
sensitive, and good only when they are beyond the reach of our petty
praise and blame, friends and foes united in one shout of praise whose
echoes filled the whole world.

Turgenev, like Daniel Webster, looked the part. He was a great grey
giant, with the Russian winter in his hair and beard. His face in
repose had an expression of infinite refinement, infinite gentleness,
and infinite sorrow. When the little son of Alphonse Daudet saw
Turgenev and Flaubert come into the room, arm in arm, the boy cried
out, "Why, papa, they are giants!" George Moore said that at a ball in
Montmartre, he saw Turgenev come walking across the hall; he looked
like a giant striding among pigmies. Turgenev had that peculiar gentle
sweetness that so well accompanies great bodily size and strength. His
modesty was the genuine humility of a truly great man. He was always
surprised at the admiration his books received, and amazed when he
heard of their success in America. Innumerable anecdotes are told
illustrating the beauty of his character; the most recent to appear in
print is from the late Mr. Conway, who said that Turgenev was "a grand
man in every way, physically and mentally, intelligence and refinement
in every feature. . . I found him modest almost to shyness, and in his
conversation--he spoke English--never loud or doctrinaire. At the
Walter Scott centennial he was present,--the greatest man at the
celebration,--but did not make himself known. There was an excursion
to Abbotsford, and carriages were provided for guests. One in which I
was seated passed Turgenev on foot. I alighted and walked with him, at
every step impressed by his greatness and his simplicity."

We shall not know until the year 1920 how far Turgenev was influenced
by Madame Viardot, nor exactly what were his relations with this
extraordinary woman. Pauline Garcia was a great singer who made her
first appearance in Petersburg in 1843. Turgenev was charmed with her,
and they remained intimate friends until his death forty years later.
After this event, she published some of his letters. She died in Paris
in 1910, at the age of eighty-nine. It is reported that among her
papers is a complete manuscript novel by Turgenev, which he gave to
her some fifty years ago, on the distinct understanding that it should
not be published until ten years after her death. We must accordingly
wait for this book with what patience we can command. If this novel
really exists, it is surely a strange sensation to know that there is
a manuscript which, when published, is certain to be an addition to
the world's literature. It is infinitely more valuable on that account
than for any light it may throw on the relations between the two
individuals.

When Madame Viardot gave up the opera in 1864, and went to live at
Baden, Turgenev followed the family thither, lived in a little house
close to them, and saw them every day. He was on the most intimate
terms with her, with her husband, and with her daughters, whom he
loved devotedly. He was essentially a lonely man, and in this
household found the only real home he ever knew. It is reported that
he once said that he would gladly surrender all his literary fame if
he had a hearth of his own, where there was a woman who cared whether
he came home late or not. What direction the influence of Madame
Viardot on Turgenev took no one knows. Perhaps she simply supplied him
with music, which was one of the greatest passions and inspirations of
his life. This alone would be sufficient to account for their
intimacy. Perhaps she merely stimulated his literary activity, and
kept him at his desk; for, like all authors except Anthony Trollope,
he hated regular work. His definition of happiness is not only a
self-revelation, it will appeal to many humble individuals who are not
writers at all. Being asked for a definition of happiness, he gave it
in two words--"Remorseless Laziness."

It is one of the curious contradictions in human nature that Tolstoi,
so aggressive an apostle of Christianity, was himself so lacking in
the cardinal Christian virtues of meekness, humility, gentleness, and
admiration for others; and that Turgenev, who was without religious
belief of any kind, should have been so beautiful an example of the
real kindly tolerance and unselfish modesty that should accompany a
Christian faith. There is no better illustration in modern history of
the grand old name of gentleman.

His pessimism was the true Slavonic pessimism, quiet, profound, and
undemonstrative. I heard the late Professor Boyesen say that he had
never personally known any man who suffered like Turgenev from mere
Despair. His pessimism was temperamental, and he very early lost
everything that resembled a definite religious belief. Seated in a
garden, he was the solitary witness of a strife between a snake and a
toad; this made him first doubt God's Providence.

He was far more helpful to Russia, living in Paris, than he could have
been at home. Just as Ibsen found that he could best describe social
conditions in Norway from the distance of Munich or Rome, just as the
best time to describe a snowstorm is on a hot summer's day,--for
poets, as Mrs. Browning said, are always most present with the
distant,--so Turgenev's pictures of Russian character and life are
nearer to the truth than if he had penned them in the hurly-burly of
political excitement. Besides, it was through Turgenev that the
French, and later the whole Western world, became acquainted with
Russian literature; for a long time he was the only Russian novelist
well known outside of his country. It was also owing largely to his
personal efforts that Tolstoi's work first became known in France. He
distributed copies to the leading writers and men of influence, and
asked them to arouse the public. Turgenev had a veritable genius for
admiration; he had recognised the greatness of his younger rival
immediately, and without a twinge of jealousy. When he read
"Sevastopol," he shouted "Hurrah!" and drank the author's health.
Their subsequent friendship was broken by a bitter and melancholy
quarrel which lasted sixteen years. Then after Tolstoi had embraced
Christianity, he considered it his duty to write to Turgenev, and
suggest a renewal of their acquaintance. This was in 1878. Turgenev
replied immediately, saying that all hostile feelings on his part had
long since disappeared; that he remembered only his old friend, and
the great writer whom he had had the good fortune to salute before
others had discovered him. In the summer of that year they had a
friendly meeting in Russia, but Turgenev could not appreciate the
importance of Tolstoi's new religious views; and that very autumn
Tolstoi wrote to Fet, "He is a very disagreeable man." At the same
time Turgenev also wrote to Fet, expressing his great pleasure in the
renewal of the old friendship, and saying that Tolstoi's "name is
beginning to have a European reputation, and we others, we Russians,
have known for a long time that he has no rival among us." In 1880,
Turgenev returned to Russia to participate in the Pushkin celebration,
and was disappointed at Tolstoi's refusal to take part. The truth is,
that Tolstoi always hated Turgenev during the latter's lifetime, while
Turgenev always admired Tolstoi. On his death-bed, he wrote to him one
of the most unselfish and beautiful letters that one great man ever
sent to another.

"For a long time I have not written to you, because I was and I am on
my death-bed. I cannot get well, it is not even to be thought of. I
write to tell you how happy I am to have been your contemporary, and
to send you one last petition. My friend! resume your literary work!
It is your gift, which comes from whence comes everything else. Ah!
how happy I should be if I could only think that my words would have
some influence on you! . . . I can neither eat nor sleep. But it is
tiresome to talk about such things. My friend, great writer of our
Russian land, listen to my request. Let me know if you get this bit of
paper, and permit me once more to heartily embrace you and yours. I
can write no more. I am exhausted."

Tolstoi cannot be blamed for paying no heed to this earnest appeal,
because every man must follow his conscience, no matter whither it may
lead. He felt that he could not even reply to it, as he had grown so
far away from "literature" as he had previously understood it. But the
letter is a final illustration of the modesty and greatness of
Turgenev's spirit; also of his true Russian patriotism, his desire to
see his country advanced in the eyes of the world. When we reflect
that at the moment of his writing this letter, he himself was still
regarded in Europe as Russia's foremost author, there is true nobility
in his remark, "How happy I am to have been your contemporary!" Edwin
Booth said that a Christian was one who rejoiced in the superiority of
a rival. If this be true, how few are they that shall enter into the
kingdom of God.

After the death of Turgenev, Tolstoi realised his greatness as he had
never done before. He even consented to deliver a public address in
honour of the dead man. In order to prepare himself for this, he began
to re-read Turgenev's books, and wrote enthusiastically: "I am
constantly thinking of Turgenev and I love him passionately. I pity
him and I keep on reading him. I live all the time with him. . . . I
have just read "Enough." What an exquisite thing!"* The date was set
for the public address. Intense public excitement was aroused. Then
the government stepped in and prohibited it!

* In 1865, he wrote to Fet, "'Enough' does not please me. Personality
and subjectivity are all right, so long as there is plenty of life and
passion. But his subjectivity is full of pain, without life."

Turgenev, like most novelists, began his literary career with the
publication of verse. He never regarded his poems highly, however, nor
his plays, of which he wrote a considerable number. His reputation
began, as has been said, with the appearance of "A Sportsman's
Sketches," which are not primarily political or social in their
intention, but were written, like all his works, from the serene
standpoint of the artist. They are full of delicate character-analysis,
both of men and of dogs; they clearly revealed, even in their
melancholy humour, the actual condition of the serfs. But perhaps
they are chiefly remarkable for their exquisite descriptions of
nature. Russian fiction as a whole is not notable for nature-pictures;
the writers have either not been particularly sensitive to beauty of
sky and landscape, or like Browning, their interest in the human soul
has been so predominant that everything else must take a subordinate
place. Turgenev is the great exception, and in this field he stands
in Russian literature without a rival, even among the professional
poets.

Although "Sportsman's Sketches" and the many other short tales that
Turgenev wrote at intervals during his whole career are thoroughly
worth reading, his great reputation is based on his seven complete
novels, which should be read in the order of composition, even though
they do not form an ascending climax. All of them are short; compared
with the huge novels so much in vogue at this moment, they look like
tiny models of massive machinery. Turgenev's method was first to write
a story at great length, and then submit it to rigid and remorseless
compression, so that what he finally gave to the public was the
quintessence of his art. It is one of his most extraordinary powers
that he was able to depict so many characters and so many life
histories in so very few words. The reader has a sense of absolute
completeness.

It was in his first novel, "Rudin," that Turgenev made the first
full-length portrait of the typical educated Russian of the nineteenth
century. In doing this, he added an immortal character to the world's
literature. "Such and such a man is a Rudin," has been a common
expression for over fifty years, as we speak of the Tartuffes and the
Pecksniffs. The character was sharply individualised, but he stands as
the representative of an exceedingly familiar Slavonic type, and no
other novelist has succeeded so well, because no other novelist has
understood Rudin so clearly as his creator. It is an entire mistake to
speak of him, as so many do nowadays, as an obsolete or rather a
"transitional" type. The word "transitional" has been altogether
overworked in dealing with Turgenev. Rudins are as common in Russia
to-day as they were in 1850; for although Turgenev diagnosed the
disease in a masterly fashion, he was unable to suggest a remedy. So
late as 1894 Stepniak remarked, "it may be truly said that every
educated Russian of our time has a bit of Dmitri Rudin in him." If
Rudin is a transitional type, why does the same kind of character
appear in Tolstoi, in Dostoevski, in Gorki, in Artsybashev? Why has
Sienkiewicz described the racial temperament in two words,
improductivite slave? It is generally agreed that no man has succeeded
better than Chekhov in portraying the typical Russian of the last
twenty years of the nineteenth century. In 1894 some one sent to him
in writing this question, "What should a Russian desire at this
present time?" He replied, "Desire! he needs most of all desire--force
of character. We have enough of that whining shapelessness." Kropotkin
says of him: "He knew, and more than knew--he felt with every nerve of
his poetical mind--that, apart from a handful of stronger men and
women, the true curse of the Russian 'intellectual' is the weakness of
his will, the insufficient strength of his desires. Perhaps he felt it
in himself. . . . This absence of strong desire and weakness of will
he continually, over and over again, represented in his heroes. But
this predilection was not a mere accident of temperament and
character. It was a direct product of the times he lived in." If it
was, as Kropotkin says, a direct product of the times he lived in,
then Rudin is not a transitional type, for the direct product of the
forties and fifties, when compared with the direct product of the
eighties and nineties, is precisely the same. Turgenev's Rudin is far
from obsolete. He is the educated Slav of all time; he to a large
extent explains mapless Poland, and the political inefficiency of the
great empire of Russia. There is not a single person in any English or
American novel who can be said to represent his national type in the
manner of Rudin. When we remember the extreme brevity of the book, it
was an achievement of the highest genius.

Rudin, like the Duke in "The Statue and the Bust," is a splendid
sheath without a sword, "empty and fine like a swordless sheath." His
mind is covered with the decorations of art, music, philosophy, and
all the ornaments engraved on it by wide travel, sound culture, and
prolonged thought; but he can do no execution with it, because there
is no single, steady, informing purpose inside. The moment the girl's
resolution strikes against him, he gives forth a hollow sound. He is
like a stale athlete, who has great muscles and no vitality. To call
him a hypocrite would be to misjudge him entirely. He is more subtle
and complex than that. One of his acquaintances, hearing him spoken of
as Tartuffe, replies, "No, the point is, he is not a Tartuffe.
Tartuffe at least knew what he was aiming at." A man of small
intelligence who knows exactly what he wants is more likely to get it
than a man of brilliant intelligence who doesn't know what he wants,
is to get anything, or anywhere.

Perhaps Turgenev, who was the greatest diagnostician among all
novelists, felt that by constantly depicting this manner of man Russia
would realise her cardinal weakness, and some remedy might be found
for it--just as the emancipation of the serfs had been partly brought
about by his dispassionate analysis of their condition. Perhaps he
repeated this character so often because he saw Rudin in his own
heart. At all events, he never wearied of showing Russians what they
were, and he took this means of showing it. In nearly all his novels,
and in many of his short tales, he has given us a whole gallery of
Rudins under various names. In "Acia," for example, we have a charming
picture of the young painter, Gagin.

"Gagin showed me all his canvases. In his sketches there was a good
deal of life and truth, a certain breadth and freedom; but not one of
them was finished, and the drawing struck me as careless and
incorrect. I gave candid expression to my opinion.

"'Yes, yes,' he assented, with a sigh, 'you're right; it's all very
poor and crude; what's to be done? I haven't had the training I ought
to have had; besides, one's cursed Slavonic slackness gets the better
of one. While one dreams of work, one soars away in eagle flight; one
fancies one's going to shake the earth out of its place--but when it
comes to doing anything, one's weak and weary directly."

The heroine of "Rudin," the young girl Natalya, is a faint sketch of
the future Lisa. Turgenev's girls never seem to have any fun; how
different they are from the twentieth century American novelist's
heroine, for whom the world is a garden of delight, with exceedingly
attractive young men as gardeners! These Russian young women are
grave, serious, modest, religious, who ask and expect little for
themselves, and who radiate feminine charm. They have indomitable
power of will, characters of rocklike steadfastness, enveloped in a
disposition of ineffable sweetness. Of course they at first fall an
easy prey to the men who have the gift of eloquence; for nothing
hypnotises a woman more speedily than noble sentiments in the mouth of
a man. Her whole being vibrates in mute adoration, like flowers to the
sunlight. The essential goodness of a woman's heart is fertile soil
for an orator, whether he speaks from the platform or in a
conservatory. Natalya is limed almost instantly by the honey of
Rudin's language, and her virgin soul expands at his declaration of
love. Despite the opposition of her mother, despite the iron bonds of
convention, she is ready to forsake all and follow him. To her
unspeakable amazement and dismay, she finds that the great orator is
vox, et praeterea nihil.

"'And what advice can I give you, Natalya Alexyevna?'

"'What advice? You are a man; I am used to trusting to you, I shall
trust you to the end. Tell me, what are your plans?'

"'My plans--Your mother certainly will turn me out of the house.'

"'Perhaps. She told me yesterday that she must break off all
acquaintance with you. But you do not answer my question.'

"'What question?'

"'What do you think we must do now?'

"'What we must do?' replied Rudin, 'of course submit.'

"'Submit?' repeated Natalya slowly, and her lips turned white.

"'Submit to destiny,' continued Rudin 'What is to be done?'"

But, although the average Anglo-Saxon reader is very angry with Rudin,
he is not altogether contemptible If every man were of the Roosevelt
type, the world would become not a fair field, but a free fight. We
need Roosevelts and we need Rudins The Rudins allure to brighter
worlds, even if they do not lead the way. If the ideals they set
before us by their eloquence are true, their own failures do not
negate them. Whose fault is it if we do not reach them? Lezhnyov gives
the inefficient Rudin a splendid eulogy.

"Genius, very likely he has! but as for being natural. . . . That's
just his misfortune, that there's nothing natural in him. . . . I want
to speak of what is good; of what is rare in him. He has enthusiasm;
and believe me, who am a phlegmatic person enough, that is the most
precious quality in our times. We have all become insufferably
reasonable, indifferent, and slothful; we are asleep and cold, and
thanks to any one who will wake us up and warm us! . . . He is not an
actor, as I called him, nor a cheat, nor a scoundrel; he lives at
other people's expense, not like a swindler, but like a child. . . .
He never does anything himself precisely, he has no vital force, no
blood; but who has the right to say that he has not been of use? that
his words have not scattered good seeds in young hearts, to whom
nature has not denied, as she has to him, powers for action, and the
faculty of carrying out their own ideas? . . . I drink to the health
of Rudin! I drink to the comrade of my best years, I drink to youth,
to its hopes, its endeavours, its faith, and its purity, to all that
our hearts beat for at twenty; we have known, and shall know, nothing
better than that in life. . . . I drink to that golden time,--to the
health of Rudin!"

It is plain that the speaker is something of a Rudin himself.

The next novel, "A House of Gentlefolk,"* is, with the possible
exception of "Fathers and Children," Turgenev's masterpiece. I know of
no novel which gives a richer return for repeated re-readings. As the
title implies, this book deals, not with an exciting narrative, but
with a group of characters; who can forget them? Like all of its
author's works, it is a love-story; this passion is the mainspring
of the chief personages, and their minds and hearts are revealed by
its power. It is commonly said that Turgenev lacked passion; one
might say with equal truth that Wordsworth lacked love of nature.
Many of his novels and tales are tremulous with passion, but they
are never noisy with it. Like the true patrician that he was, he
studied restraint and reserve. The garden scene between Lisa and
Lavretsky is the very ecstasy of passion, although, like the two
characters, it is marked by a pure and chaste beauty of word and
action, that seems to prove that Love is something divine. Only the
truly virtuous really understand passion--just as the sorrows of men
are deeper than the sorrows of children, even though the latter be
accompanied by more tears. Those who believe that the master passion
of love expresses itself by floods of words or by abominable imagery,
will understand Turgenev as little as they understand life. In reading
the few pages in which the lovers meet by night in the garden, one
feels almost like an intruder--as one feels at the scene of
reconciliation between Lear and Cordelia. It is the very essence of
intimacy--the air is filled with something high and holy.

* In the original, "A Nobleman's Nest."

Lisa is the greatest of all Turgenev's great heroines. No one can help
being better for knowing such a girl. She is not very beautiful, she
is not very accomplished, not even very quick-witted; but she has eine
schone Seele. There is nothing regal about her; she never tries to
queen it in the drawing-room. She is not proud, high-spirited, and
haughty; she does not constantly "draw herself up to her full height,"
a species of gymnastics in great favour with most fiction-heroines.
But she draws all men unto herself. She is beloved by the two opposite
extremes of manhood--Panshin and Lavretsky. Lacking beauty, wit, and
learning, she has an irrepressible and an irresistible virginal
charm--the exceedingly rare charm of youth when it seeks not its own.
When she appears on the scene, the pages of the book seem illuminated,
and her smile is a benediction. She is exactly the kind of woman to be
loved by Lavretsky, and to be desired by a rake like Panshin. For a
man like Lavretsky will love what is lovely, and a satiated rake will
always eagerly long to defile what is beyond his reach.

It is contemptuously said by many critics--why is it that so many
critics lose sensitiveness to beauty, and are afraid of their own
feelings?--it is said that Lisa, like Rudin, is an obsolete type, the
type of Russian girl of 1850, and that she is now interesting only as
a fashion that has passed away, and because of the enthusiasm she once
awakened. We are informed, with a shade of cynicism, that all the
Russian girls then tried to look like Lisa, and to imitate her manner.
Is her character really out of style and out of date? If this were
true, it would be unfortunate; for the kind of girl that Lisa
represents will become obsolete only when purity, modesty, and
gentleness in women become unattractive. We have not yet progressed
quite so far as that. Instead of saying that Lisa is a type of the
Russian girl of 1850, I should say that she is a type of the
Ewig-weibliche.

At the conclusion of the great garden-scene, Turgenev, by what seems
the pure inspiration of genius, has expressed the ecstasy of love in
old Lemm's wonderful music It is as though the passion of the lovers
had mounted to that pitch where language would be utterly inadequate;
indeed, one feels in reading that scene that the next page must be an
anti-climax. It would have been if the author had not carried us still
higher, by means of an emotional expression far nobler than words. The
dead silence of the sleeping little town is broken by "strains of
divine, triumphant music. . . . The music resounded in still greater
magnificence; a mighty flood of melody--and all his bliss seemed
speaking and singing in its strains. . . The sweet, passionate melody
went to his heart from the first note; it was glowing and languishing
with inspiration, happiness, and beauty; it swelled and melted away;
it touched on all that is precious, mysterious, and holy on earth. It
breathed of deathless sorrow and mounted dying away to the heavens."

Elena, the heroine of "On the Eve," resembles Lisa in the absolute
integrity of her mind, and in her immovable sincerity; but in all
other respects she is a quite different person. The difference is
simply the difference between the passive and the active voice. Lisa
is static, Elena dynamic. The former's ideal is to be good, the
latter's is to do good. Elena was strenuous even as a child, was made
hotly angry by scenes of cruelty or injustice, and tried to help
everything, from stray animals to suffering men and women. As Turgenev
expresses it, "she thirsted for action." She is naturally
incomprehensible to her conservative and ease-loving parents, who have
a well-founded fear that she will eventually do something shocking.
Her father says of her, rather shrewdly: "Elena Nikolaevna I don't
pretend to understand. I am not elevated enough for her. Her heart is
so large that it embraces all nature down to the last beetle or frog,
everything in fact except her own father." In a word, Elena is
unconventional, the first of the innumerable brood of the vigorous,
untrammelled, defiant young women of modern fiction, who puzzle their
parents by insisting on "living their own life." She is only a faint
shadow, however, of the type so familiar to-day in the pages of Ibsen,
Bjornson, and other writers. Their heroines would regard Elena as
timid and conventional, for with all her self-assertion, she still
believes in God and marriage, two ideas that to our contemporary
emancipated females are the symbols of slavery.

Elena, with all her virtues, completely lacks the subtle charm of
Lisa; for an aggressive, independent, determined woman will perhaps
lose something of the charm that goes with mystery. There is no
mystery about Elena, at all events; and she sees through her various
adorers with eyes unblinded by sentiment. To an artist who makes love
to her she says "I believe in your repentance and I believe in your
tears But it seems to me that even your repentance amuses you--yes,
and your tears too." Naturally there is no Russian fit to be the mate
of this incarnation of Will. The hero of the novel, and the man who
captures the proud heart of Elena, is a foreigner--a Bulgarian, who
has only one idea, the liberation of his country. He is purposely
drawn in sharp contrast to the cultivated charming Russian gentlemen
with whom he talks. Indeed, he rather dislikes talk, an unusual trait
in a professional reformer. Elena is immediately conquered by the
laconic answer he makes to her question, "You love your country very
dearly?" "That remains to be shown. When one of us dies for her, then
one can say he loved his country." Perhaps it is hypercritical to
observe that in such a case others would have to say it for him.

He proves that he is a man of action in a humorous incident. At a
picnic, the ladies are insulted by a colossal German, even as Gemma is
insulted by a German in "Torrents of Spring." Insarov is not a
conventional person, but he immediately performs an act that is
exceedingly conventional in fiction, though rare enough in real life.
Although he is neither big, nor strong, nor in good health, he
inflicts corporal chastisement on the brute before his lady's
eyes--something that pleases women so keenly, and soothes man's vanity
so enormously, that it is a great pity it usually happens only in
books. He lifts the giant from the ground and pitches him into a pond.
This is one of the very few scenes in Turgenev that ring false, that
belong to fiction-mongers rather than to fiction-masters. Nothing is
more delightful than to knock down a husky ruffian who has insulted
the woman you love; but it is a desperate undertaking, and rarely
crowned with success. For in real life ruffians are surprisingly
unwilling to play this complaisant role.

Finding himself falling in love with Elena, Insarov determines to go
away like Lancelot, without saying farewell. Elena, however, meets him
in a thunderstorm--not so sinister a storm as the Aeneas adventure in
"Torrents of Spring"-and says "I am braver than you. I was going to
you." She is actually forced into a declaration of love. This is an
exceedingly difficult scene for a novelist, but not too difficult for
Turgenev, who has made it beautiful and sweet. Love, which will ruin
Bazarov, ennobles and stimulates Insarov; for the strong man has found
his mate. She will leave father and mother for his sake, and cleave
unto him. And, notwithstanding the anger and disgust of her parents
she leaves Russia forever with her husband.

All Turgenev's stories are tales of frustration. Rudin is destroyed by
his own temperament. The heroes of "A House of Gentlefolk" and
"Torrents of Spring" are ruined by the malign machinations of satanic
women. Bazarov is snuffed out by a capriciously evil destiny.
Insarov's splendid mind and noble aspirations accomplish nothing,
because his lungs are weak. He falls back on the sofa, and Elena,
thinking he has fainted, calls for help. A grotesque little Italian
doctor, with wig and spectacles, quietly remarks, "Signora, the
foreign gentleman is dead--of aneurism in combination with disease of
the lungs."

This novel caused great excitement in Russia, and the title, "On the
Eve," was a subject for vehement discussion everywhere. What did
Turgenev mean? On the eve of what? Turgenev made no answer; but over
the troubled waters of his story moves the brooding spirit of
creation. Russians must and will learn manhood from foreigners, from
men who die only from bodily disease, who are not sicklied o'er with
the pale cast of thought. At the very close of the book, one man asks
another, "Will there ever be men among us?" And the other "flourished
his fingers and fixed his enigmatical stare into the far distance."
Perhaps Turgenev meant that salvation would eventually come through a
woman--through women like Elena. For since her appearance, many are
the Russian women who have given their lives for their country.*

* See an article in the "Forum" for August, 1910.

The best-known novel of Turgenev, and with the possible exception of
"A House of Gentlefolk," his masterpiece, is "Fathers and Children,"
which perhaps he intended to indicate the real dawn suggested by "On
the Eve." The terrific uproar caused in Russia by this book has not
yet entirely ceased. Russian critics are, as a rule, very bad judges
of Russian literature. Shut off from participation in free, public,
parliamentary political debate, the Russians of 1860 and of to-day are
almost certain to judge the literary value of a work by what they
regard as its political and social tendency. Political bias is
absolutely blinding in an attempt to estimate the significance of any
book by Turgenev; for although be took the deepest interest in the
struggles of his unfortunate country, he was, from the beginning to
the end of his career, simply a supreme artist. He saw life clearly in
its various manifestations, and described it as he saw it, from the
calm and lonely vantage-ground of genius. Naturally he was both
claimed and despised by both parties. Here are some examples from
contemporary Russian criticism* (1862):--

* To the best of my knowledge, these reviews have never before been
translated. These translations were made for me by a Russian friend,
Mr. William S. Gordon.

"This novel differs from others of the same sort in that it is chiefly
philosophical. Turgenev hardly touches on any of the social questions
of his day. His principal aim is to place side by side the philosophy
of the fathers and the philosophy of the children and to show that the
philosophy of the children is opposed to human nature and therefore
cannot be accepted in life. The problem of the novel is, as you see, a
serious one; to solve this problem the author ought to have
conscientiously and impartially studied both systems of speculation
and then only reach certain conclusions. But on its very first pages
you see that the author is deficient in every mental preparation to
accomplish the aim of his novel. He not only has not the slightest
understanding of the new positive philosophy, but even of the old
ideal systems his knowledge is merely superficial and puerile. You
could laugh at the heroes of the novel alone as you read their silly
and 'hashy' discussions on the young generation had not the novel as a
whole been founded on these identical discussions."

The radical critic Antonovich condemned the book in the following
terms:--

"From an artistic standpoint the novel is entirely unsatisfactory, not
to say anything more out of respect for the talent of Turgenev, for
his former merits, and for his numerous admirers. There is no common
thread, no common action which would have tied together all the parts
of the novel; all of it is in some way just separate rhapsodies. . . .
This novel is didactic, a real learned treatise written in dialectic
form, and each character as he appears serves as an expression and
representative of a certain opinion and direction. . . . All the
attention of the author is turned on the principal hero and the other
acting characters, however, not on their personality, not on the
emotions of their souls, their feelings and passions, but rather
almost exclusively on their talks and reasonings. This is the reason
why the novel, with the exception of one nice old woman, does not
contain a single living character, a single living soul, but only some
sort of abstract ideas, and various movements which are personified
and called by proper names. Turgenev's novel is not a creation purely
objective; in it the personality of the author steps out too clearly,
his sympathies, his inspiration, even his personal bitterness and
irritation. From this we get the opportunity to find in the novel the
personal opinions of the author himself, and in this we have one point
to start from--that we should accept as the opinions of the author the
views expressed in the novel, at least those views which have been
expressed with a noticeable feeling for them on the part of the author
and put into the mouths of those characters whom he apparently
favours. Had the author had at least a spark of sympathy for the
'children,' for the young generation, had he had at least a spark of
true and clear understanding of their views and inclinations, it would
have necessarily flashed out somewhere in the run of the novel.

"The 'fathers' as opposed to the 'children' are permeated with love
and poetry; they are men, modestly and quietly doing good deeds; they
would not for the world change their age. Even such an empty nothing
as Pavel Petrovich, even he is raised on stilts and made a nice man.
Turgenev could not solve his problem; instead of sketching the
relations between the 'fathers' and the 'children' he wrote a
panegyric to the 'fathers' and a decrial against the 'children'; but
he did not even understand the children; instead of a decrial it was
nothing but a libel. The spreaders of healthy ideas among the young
generation he wanted to show up as corrupters of youth, the sowers of
discord and evil, haters of good, and in a word, very devils. In
various places of the novel we see that his principal hero is no fool;
on the contrary, a very able and gifted man, who is eager to learn and
works diligently and knows much, but notwithstanding all this, he gets
quite lost in disputes, utters absurdities, and preaches ridiculous
things, which should not be pardoned even in a most narrow and limited
mind. . . . In general the novel is nothing else but a merciless and
destructive criticism on the young generation. In all the
contemporaneous questions, intellectual movements, debates and ideals
with which the young generation is occupied, Turgenev finds not the
least common sense and gives us to understand that they lead only to
demoralisation, emptiness, prosaic shallowness, and cynicism. Turgenev
finds his ideal in quite a different place, namely in the 'fathers,'
in the more or less old generation. Consequently, he draws a parallel
and contrast between the 'fathers' and the 'children,' and we cannot
formulate the sense of the novel in this way; among a number of good
children there are also bad ones who are the ones that are ridiculed
in the novel; this is not its aim, its purpose is quite different and
may be formulated thus: the children are bad and thus are they
represented in the novel in all their ugliness; but the 'fathers' are
good, which is also proven in the novel."

One of the very few criticisms from a truly artistic standpoint
appeared in the "Russian Herald" during the year 1862, from which a
brief quotation must suffice:--

"Everything in this work bears witness to the ripened power of
Turgenev's wonderful talent; the clearness of ideas, the masterly
skill in sketching types, the simplicity of plot and of movement of
the action, and moderation and evenness of the work as a whole; the
dramatic element which comes up naturally from the most ordinary
situations; there is nothing superfluous, nothing retarding, nothing
extraneous. But in addition to these general merits, we are also
interested in Turgenev's novel because in it is caught and held a
current, fleeting moment of a passing phenomenon, and in which a
momentary phase of our life is typically drawn and arrested not only
for the time being but forever."

These prophetically true words constitute a great exception to the
prevailing contemporary criticism, which, as has been seen, was
passionately unjust. Twenty years later, a Russian writer, Boorenin,
was able to view the novel as we see it to-day:--

"We can say with assurance that since the time of "Dead Souls" not a
single Russian novel made such an impression as "Fathers and Children"
has made. A deep mind, a no less deep observation, an incomparable
ability for a bold and true analysis of the phenomena of life, and for
their broadest relations to each other,--all these have shown
themselves in the fundamental thought of this positively historical
creation. Turgenev has explained with lifelike images of 'fathers' and
'children' the essence of that life struggle between the dying period
of the nobility which found its strength in the possession of peasants
and the new period of reforms whose essence made up the principal
element of our 'resurrection' and for which, however, none had found a
real, true (BRIGHT) definition. Turgenev not only gave such a
definition, not only illumined the inner sense of the new movement in
the life of that time, but he also has pointed out its principal
characteristic sign--negation in the name of realism, as the
opposition to the old ideally liberal conservatism. It is known that
he found not only an unusually appropriate nickname for this negation,
but a nickname which later became attached to a certain group of
phenomena and types and as such was accepted not only by Russia alone
but by the whole of Europe. The artist created in the image of Bazarov
an exceedingly characteristic representative of the new formation of
life, of the new movement, and christened it with a wonderfully
fitting word, which made so much noise, which called forth so much
condemnation and praise, sympathy and hatred, timid alarm and bold
raving. We can point out but few instances in the history of
literature of such a deep and lively stir called forth in our literary
midst by an artistic creation and by a type of almost political
significance. This novel even after twenty years appears the same
deep, bright, and truthful reflection of life, as it was at the moment
of its first appearance. Now its depth and truthfulness seem even more
clear and arouse even more wonder and respect for the creative thought
of the artist who wrote it. In our days, when the period of
development pointed at by Turgenev in his celebrated novel is almost
entirely lived through, we can only wonder at that deep insight with
which the author had guessed the fundamental characteristic in that
life movement which had celebrated that period. The struggle of two
social streams, the anti-reform and post-reform stream, the struggle
of two generations; the old brought up on aesthetical idealism for
which the leisure of the nobility, made possible by their rights over
the peasants, afforded such a fertile soil; and the young generation
which was carried away by realism and negation,--this is what made up
the essence of the movement of the epoch in the sixties. Turgenev with
the instinct of genius saw through this fundamental movement in life
and imaged it in living bright pictures with all its positive and
negative, pathetic and humorous sides.

"In his novel Turgenev did not at all side with the 'fathers' as the
unsympathetic progressive critics of that time insisted, he did not
wish to in the least extol them above the 'children' in order to
degrade the latter. Just so he had no intention of showing up in the
character of the representative of the 'children' some kind of model
of a 'thinking realist' to whom the young generation should have bowed
and imitated, as the progressive critics who received the work
sympathetically imagined. Such a one-sided view was foreign to the
author; he sketched both the 'fathers' and the 'children' as far as
possible impartially and analytically. He spared neither the 'fathers'
nor the 'children' and pronounced a cold and severe judgment both on
the ones and the others. He positively sings a requiem to the
'fathers' in the person of the Kirsanovs, and especially Paul
Kirsanov, having shown up their aristocratic idealism, their
sentimental aestheticism, almost in a comical light, ay almost in
caricature, as he himself has justly pointed out. In the prominent
representative of the 'children,' Bazarov, he recognized a certain
moral force, the energy of character, which favourably contrasts this
strong type of realist with the puny, characterless, weak-willed type
of the former generation; but having recognised the positive side of
the young type, he could not but show up their shortcomings to life
and before the people, and thus take their laurels from them. And he
did so. And now when time has sufficiently exposed the shortcomings of
the type of the generation of that time, we see how right the author
was, how deep and far he saw into life, how clearly he perceived the
beginning and the end of its development. Turgenev in "Fathers and
Children" gave us a sample of a real universal novel, notwithstanding
the fact that its plot centres on the usual intimate relations of the
principal characters. And with what wonderful skill the author solves
this puzzling problem--to place in narrow, limited frames the broadest
and newest themes (CONTENT). Hardly one of the novelists of our age,
beginning with Dickens and ending with George Sand and Spielhagen, has
succeeded in doing it so compactly and tersely, with such an absence
of the DIDATIC element which is almost always present in the works of
the above-mentioned authors, the now kings of western literatures,
with such a full insight into the very heart of the life movement
which is reflected in the novel. I repeat again, "Fathers and
Children" is thought of highly by European critics, but years will
pass and it will be thought of even more highly. It will be placed in
a line with those weighty literary creations in which is reflected the
basic movement of the time which created it."

It would have been well for Turgenev if he could have preserved an
absolute silence under the terrific storm of abuse that his most
powerful novel brought down on his head; it would have been well to
let the book speak for itself, and trust to time to make the strong
wine sweet. But this was asking almost too much of human nature. Stung
by the outrageous attacks of the Radicals, and suffering as only a
great artist can suffer under what he regards as a complete
misrepresentation of his purpose, Turgenev wrote letters of
explanation, confession, irony, letters that gained him no affection,
that only increased the perplexity of the public, and which are much
harder to understand than the work itself. The prime difficulty was
that in this book Turgenev had told a number of profound truths about
life; and nobody wanted the truth. The eternal quarrel between the old
and the young generation, the eternal quarrel between conservative and
liberal, was at that time in Russia in an acute stage; and everybody
read "Fathers and Children" with a view to increasing their
ammunition, not with the object of ascertaining the justice of their
cause. The "fathers" were of course angry at Turgenev's diagnosis of
their weakness; the "sons" went into a veritable froth of rage at what
they regarded as a ridiculous burlesque of their ideas. But that is
the penalty that a wise man suffers at a time of strife; for if every
one saw the truth clearly, we should never fight each other at all.

Turgenev's subsequent statement, that so far from Bazarov being a
burlesque, he was his "favourite child," is hard to understand even
to-day. The novelist said that with the exception of Bazarov's views
on art, he himself was in agreement with practically all of the ideas
expressed by the great iconoclast. Turgenev probably thought he was,
but really he was not. Authors are poor judges of their own works, and
their statements about their characters are seldom to be trusted. Many
writers have confessed that when they start to write a book, with a
clear notion in their heads as to how the characters shall develop,
the characters often insist on developing quite otherwise, and guide
the pen of the author in a manner that constantly awakens his surprise
at his own work. Turgenev surely intended originally that we should
love Bazarov; as a matter of fact, nobody really loves him,* and no
other character in the book loves him for long except his parents. We
have a wholesome respect for him, as we respect any ruthless, terrible
force; but the word "love" does not express our feeling toward him. It
is possible that Turgenev, who keenly realised the need in Russia of
men of strong will, and who always despised himself because he could
not have steadily strong convictions, tried to incarnate in Bazarov
all the uncompromising strength of character that he lacked himself;
just as men who themselves lack self-assertion and cannot even look
another man in the eye, secretly idolise the men of masterful
qualities. It is like the sick man Stevenson writing stories of rugged
out-door activity. I heard a student say once that he was sure Marlowe
was a little, frail, weak man physically, and that he poured out all
his longing for virility and power in heroes like Tamburlaine.

*I cannot believe that even Mr. Edward Garnett loves him, though in
his Introduction to Constance Garnett's translation, he says, "we love
him."

Bazarov, as every one knows, was drawn from life. Turgenev had once
met a Russian provincial doctor,* whose straightforward talk made a
profound impression upon him. This man died soon after and had a
glorious resurrection in Bazarov, speaking to thousands and thousands
of people from his obscure and forgotten grave. It is rather
interesting that Turgenev, who drew so many irresolute Russian
characters, should have attained his widest fame by the depiction of a
man who is simply Incarnate Will. If every other person in all
Turgenev's stories should be forgotten, it is safe to say that Bazarov
will always dwell in the minds of those who have once made his
acquaintance.

* It is difficult to find out much about the original of Bazarov.
Haumant says Turgenev met him while travelling by the Rhine in 1860;
but Turgenev himself said that the young doctor had died not long
before 1860, and that the idea of the novel first came to him in
August, 1860, while he was bathing on the Isle of Wight. Almost every
writer on Russian literature has his own set of dates and incidents.

And yet, Turgenev, with all his secret admiration for the Frankenstein
he had created, did not hesitate at the last to crush him both in soul
and body. The one real conviction of Turgenev's life was
pessimism,--the belief that the man of the noblest aspiration and the
man of the most brutish character are treated by Nature with equal
indifference. Bazarov is the strongest individual that the novelist
could conceive; and it is safe to say that most of us live all our
lives through without meeting his equal. But his powerful mind, in its
colossal egotism and with its gigantic ambitions, is an easy prey to
the one thing he despised most of all--sentiment; and his rugged body
goes to the grave through a chance scratch on the finger. Thus the
irony of this book--and I know of no novel in the world that displays
such irony--is not the irony of intentional partisan burlesque. There
is no attempt in the destruction of this proud character to prove that
the "children" were wrong or mistaken; it is the far deeper irony of
life itself, showing the absolute insignificance of the ego in the
presence of eternal and unconscious nature. Thus Bazarov, who seems
intended for a great hero of tragedy, is not permitted to fight for
his cause, nor even to die for it. He is simply obliterated by chance,
as an insect perishes under the foot of a passing traveller, who is
entirely unaware that he has taken an individual life.

Nature herself could hardly be colder or more passive than the woman
with whom it was Bazarov's bad luck to fall in love. The gradual
change wrought in his temperament by Madame Odintsov is shown in the
most subtle manner. To Bazarov, women were all alike, and valuable for
only one thing; he had told this very woman that people were like
trees in a forest; no botanist would think of studying an individual
birch tree. Why, then, should this entirely unimportant individual
woman change his whole nature, paralyse all his ambitions, ruin all
the cheerful energy of his active mind? He fights against this
obsession like a nervous patient struggling with a dreadful depression
that comes over him like a flood. He fights like a man fighting with
an enemy in the dark, whom he cannot see, but whose terrible blows
rain on his face. When he first meets her, he remarks to the shocked
Arkady, "What a magnificent body! Shouldn't I like to see it on the
dissecting table!" But he is unable long to admire her with such
scientific aloofness. "His blood was on fire directly if he merely
thought of her; he could easily have mastered his blood, but something
else was taking root in him, something he had never admitted, at which
he had always jeered, at which all his pride revolted." It is this
bewilderment at meeting the two things that are stronger than
life--love and death--that both stupefy and torture this superman. It
is the harsh amazement of one who, believing himself to be free,
discovers that he is really a slave. Just before he dies, he murmurs:
"You see what a hideous spectacle; the worm half-crushed, but writhing
still. And, you see I thought too: I'd break down so many things, I
wouldn't die, why should I! there were problems to solve, and I was a
giant! And now all the problem for the giant is how to die decently,
though that makes no difference to any one either. . . . I was needed
by Russia. . . . No, it's clear, I wasn't needed."

Madame Odintsov's profound and subtle remark about happiness is the
key to her character, and shows why she never could have been happy
with Bazarov, or have given him any happiness.

"We were talking of happiness, I believe. . . . Tell me why it is that
even when we are enjoying music, for instance, or a fine evening, or a
conversation with sympathetic people, it all seems an intimation of
some measureless happiness existing apart somewhere rather than actual
happiness such, I mean, as we ourselves are in possession of? Why is
it? Or perhaps you have no feeling like that?"

Many of us certainly have feelings like that; but while these two
intellectuals are endeavouring to analyse happiness, and losing it in
the process of analysis, the two young lovers, Arkady and Katya, whose
brows are never furrowed by cerebration, are finding happiness in the
familiar human way. In answer to his declaration of love, she smiled
at him through her tears. "No one who has not seen those tears in the
eyes of the beloved, knows yet to what a point, faint with shame and
gratitude, a man may be happy on earth."

Although the character of Bazarov dominates the whole novel, Turgenev
has, I think, displayed genius of a still higher order in the creation
of that simple-minded pair of peasants, the father and mother of the
young nihilist. These two are old-fashioned, absolutely pious,
dwelling in a mental world millions of miles removed from that of
their son; they have not even a remote idea of what is passing in his
mind, but they look on him with adoration, and believe him to be the
greatest man in all Russia. At the end of a wonderful sketch of the
mother, Turgenev says: "Such women are not common nowadays. God knows
whether we ought to rejoice!"

This humble pair, whom another novelist might have treated with scorn,
are glorified here by their infinite love for their son. Such love as
that seems indeed too great for earth, too great for time, and to
belong only to eternity. The unutterable pathos of this love consists
in the fact that it is made up so largely of fear. They fear their son
as only ignorant parents can fear their educated offspring; it is
something that I have seen often, that every one must have observed,
that arouses the most poignant sympathy in those that understand it.
It is the fear that the boy will be bored at home; that he is longing
for more congenial companionship elsewhere; that the very solicitude
of his parents for his health, for his physical comfort, will irritate
and annoy rather than please him. There is no heart-hunger on earth so
cruel and so terrible as the hunger of father and mother for the
complete sympathy and affection of their growing children. This is why
the pride of so many parents in the development of their children is
mingled with such mute but piercing terror. It is the fear that the
son will grow away from them; that their caresses will deaden rather
than quicken his love for them. They watch him as one watches some
infinitely precious thing that may at any moment disappear forever.
The fear of a mother toward the son she loves is among the deepest
tragedies of earth. She knows he is necessary to her happiness, and
that she is not to his.

Even the cold-hearted Bazarov is shaken by the joy of his mother's
greeting when he returns home, and by her agony at his early
departure. He hates himself for not being able to respond to her
demonstrations of affection. Unlike most sons, he is clever enough to
understand the slavish adoration of his parents; but he realises that
he cannot, especially in the presence of his college friend, relieve
their starving hearts. At the very end, he says "My father will tell
you what a man Russia is losing. . . . That's nonsense, but don't
contradict the old man. Whatever toy will comfort the child . . . you
know. And be kind to mother. People like them aren't to be found in
your great world if you look by daylight with a candle."

The bewildered, helpless anguish of the parents, who cannot understand
why the God they worship takes their son away from them, reaches the
greatest climax of tragedy that I know of anywhere in the whole
history of fiction. Not even the figure of Lear holding the dead body
of Cordelia surpasses in tragic intensity this old pair whose whole
life has for so long revolved about their son. And the novel closes
with the scene in the little village churchyard, where the aged
couple, supporting each other, visit the tomb, and wipe away the dust
from the stone. Even the abiding pessimism of the novelist lifts for a
moment its heavy gloom at this spectacle. "Can it be that their
prayers, their tears, are fruitless? Can it be that love, sacred,
devoted love, is not all-powerful? Oh, no! However passionate,
sinning, and rebellious the heart hidden in the tomb, the flowers
growing over it peep serenely at us with their innocent eyes; they
tell us not of eternal peace alone, of that great peace of indifferent
nature; they tell us too of eternal reconciliation and of life without
end."

This is where the novel "Fathers and Children" rises above a picture
of Russian politics in the sixties, and remains forever an immortal
work of art. For the greatness of this book lies not in the use of the
word Nihilist, nor in the reproduction of ephemeral political
movements; its greatness consists in the fact that it faithfully
portrays not merely the Russian character, nor the nineteenth century,
but the very depths of the human heart as it has manifested itself in
all ages and among all nations.

The next novel, "Smoke," despite its extraordinary brilliancy, is in
many ways unworthy of Turgenev's genius. It was written at Baden,
while he was living with the Viardots, and I suspect that the
influence of Madame Viardot is stronger in this work than in anything
else Turgenev produced. Of course he had discussed again and again
with her the abuse that young Russia had poured on his head for
"Fathers and Children;" and I suspect she incited him to strike and
spare not. The smoke in this novel is meant to represent the idle
vapour of Russian political jargon; all the heated discussions on both
sides are smoke, purposeless, obscure, and transitory as a cloud. But
the smoke really rose from the flames of anger in his own heart,
fanned by a woman's breath, who delighted to see her mild giant for
once smite his enemies with all his force. If "Fathers and Children"
had been received in Russia with more intelligence or more sympathy,
it is certain that "Smoke" would never have appeared. This is the most
bitter and purely satirical of all the works of Turgenev; the
Slavophils, with their ignorance of the real culture of western
Europe, and their unwillingness to learn from good teachers, are hit
hard; but still harder hit are the Petersburg aristocrats, the "idle
rich" (legitimate conventional target for all novelists), who are here
represented as little better in intelligence than grinning apes, and
much worse in morals. No one ever seems to love his compatriots when
he observes them in foreign lands; if Americans complain that Henry
James has satirised them in his international novels, they ought to
read "Smoke," and see how Turgenev has treated his travelling
countrymen. They talk bad German, hum airs out of tune, insist on
speaking French instead of their own tongue, attract everybody's
attention at restaurants and railway-stations,--in short, behave
exactly as each American insists other Americans behave in Europe.

The book is filled with little portraits, made "peradventure with a
pen corroded." First comes the typical Russian gasbag, who talks and
then talks some more.

"He was no longer young, he had a flabby nose and soft cheeks, that
looked as if they had been boiled, dishevelled greasy locks, and a fat
squat person. Everlastingly short of cash, and everlastingly in
raptures over something, Rostislav Bambaev wandered, aimless but
exclamatory, over the face of our long-suffering mother-earth."

Dostoevski was so angry when he read this book that he said it ought
to be burnt by the common hangman. But he must have approved of the
picture of the Petersburg group, who under a thin veneer of polished
manners are utterly inane and cynically vicious. One of them had "an
expression of constant irritability on his face, as though he could
not forgive himself for his own appearance."

The portrait of the Pecksniffian Pishtchalkin: "In exterior, too, he
had begun to resemble a sage of antiquity; his hair had fallen off the
crown of his head, and his full face had completely set in a sort of
solemn jelly of positively blatant virtue."

None but a great master could have drawn such pictures; but it is not
certain that the master was employing his skill to good advantage. And
while representing his hatred of all the Russian bores who had made
his life weary, he selected an old, ruined man, Potugin, to express
his own sentiments--disgust with the present condition of Russia, and
admiration for the culture of Europe and the practical inventive power
of America. Potugin says that he had just visited the exposition at
the Crystal Palace in London, and that he reflected that "our dear
mother, Holy Russia, could go and hide herself in the lower regions,
without disarranging a single nail in the place." Not a single thing
in the whole vast exhibition had been invented by a Russian. Even the
Sandwich Islanders had contributed something to the show. At another
place in the story he declares that his father bought a Russian
threshing machine, which remained five years useless in the barn,
until replaced by an American one.

Such remarks enraged the Slavophils beyond measure, for they were
determined to keep out of Russia foreign inventions and foreign ideas.
But that Turgenev was right is shown in the twentieth century by an
acute German observer, Baron Von der Bruggen. In his interesting book,
"Russia of To-day," he says: "All civilisation is derived from the
West. . . . People are now beginning to understand this in Russia
after having lost considerable time with futile phantasies upon
original Slavonic civilisation. If Russia wishes to progress, her
Western doors must be opened wide in order to facilitate the influx of
European culture." The author of these words was not thinking of
Turgenev: but his language is a faithful echo of Potugin. They sound
like a part of his discourse. Still, the literary value of "Smoke"
does not lie in the fact that Turgenev was a true prophet, or that he
successfully attacked those who had attacked him. If this were all
that the book contained, it would certainly rank low as a work of art.

But this is not all. Turgenev has taken for his hero Litvinov, a young
Russian, thoroughly commonplace, but thoroughly practical and sincere,
the type of man whom Russia needed the most, and has placed him
between two women, who represent the eternal contrast between sacred
and profane love. This situation has all the elements of true drama,
as every one knows who has read or heard "Carmen;" it is needless to
say that Turgenev has developed it with consummate skill. Turgenev
regarded brilliantly wicked women with hatred and loathing, but also
with a kind of terror; and he has never failed to make them sinister
and terrible. Irina as a young girl nearly ruined the life of
Litvinov; and now we find him at Baden, his former passion apparently
conquered, and he himself engaged to Turgenev's ideal woman, Tanya,
not clever, but modest, sensible, and true-hearted, another Lisa. The
contrast between these two women, who instinctively understand each
other immediately and the struggle of each for the soul of the hero,
shows Turgenev at his best. It is remarkable, too, how clearly the
reader sees the heart of the man, so obscure to himself; and how
evident it is that in the very midst of his passion for Irina, his
love for Tanya remains. Irina is a firework, Tanya a star; and even
the biggest skyrockets, that illuminate all the firmament, do not for
long conceal the stars.

Turgenev thoroughly relieved his mind in "Smoke;" and in the novel
that followed it, "Torrents of Spring," he omitted politics and
"movements" altogether, and confined himself to human nature in its
eternal aspect. For this very reason the book attracted little
attention in Russia, and is usually dismissed in one sentence by the
critics. But it is a work of great power; it sings the requiem of lost
youth, a minor melody often played by Turgenev; it gives us a curious
picture of an Italian family living in Germany, and it contains the
portrait of an absolutely devilish but unforgettable woman. We have a
sincere and highly interesting analysis of the Russian, the German,
and the Italian temperament; not shown in their respective political
prejudices, but in the very heart of their emotional life. Once more
the Russian hero is placed between God and Satan; and this time Satan
conquers. Love, however, survives the burnt-out fires of passion; but
it survives only as a vain regret--it survives as youth survives, only
as an unspeakably precious memory. . . . The three most sinister women
that Turgenev has ever drawn are Varvara Pavlovna, in "A House of
Gentlefolk;" Irina, in "Smoke;" and Maria Nikolaevna, in "Torrents of
Spring." All three are wealthy and love luxury; all three are
professional wreckers of the lives of men. The evil that they do rises
from absolute selfishness, rather than from deliberate sensuality. Not
one of them could have been saved by any environment, or by any
husband. Varvara is frivolous, Irina is cold-hearted, and Maria is a
super-woman; she makes a bet with her husband that she can seduce any
man he brings to the house. To each of her lovers she gives an iron
ring, symbol of their slavery; and like Circe, she transforms men into
swine. After she has hypnotised Sanin, and taken away his allegiance
to the pure girl whom he loves, "her eyes, wide and clear, almost
white, expressed nothing but the ruthlessness and glutted joy of
conquest. The hawk, as it clutches a captured bird, has eyes like
that." Turgenev, whose ideal woman is all gentleness, modesty, and
calmness, must have seen many thoroughly corrupt ones, to have been so
deeply impressed with a woman's capacity for evil. In "Virgin Soil,"
when he introduces Mashurina to the reader, he says: "She was a single
woman . . . and a very chaste single woman. Nothing wonderful in that,
some sceptic will say, remembering what has been said of her exterior.
Something wonderful and rare, let us be permitted to say." It is
significant that in not one of Turgenev's seven novels is the villain
of the story a man. Women simply must play the leading role in his
books, for to them he has given the power of will; they lead men
upward, or they drag them downward, but they are always in front.

The virtuous heroine of "Torrents of Spring," Gemma, is unlike any
other girl that Turgenev has created. In fact, all of his good women
are individualised--the closest similarity is perhaps seen in Lisa and
Tanya, but even there the image of each girl is absolutely distinct in
the reader's mind. But Gemma falls into no group, nor is there any
other woman in Turgenev with whom one instinctively classifies or
compares her. Perhaps this is because she is Italian. It is a long
time before the reader can make up his mind whether he likes her or
not--a rare thing in Turgenev, for most of his good women capture us
in five minutes. Indeed, one does not know for some chapters whether
Gemma is sincere or not, and one is angry with Sanin for his moth-like
flitting about her radiance. She at once puzzles and charms the
reader, as she did the young Russian. Her family circle are sketched
with extraordinary skill, and her young brother is unique in
Turgenev's books. He has, as a rule, not paid much attention to
growing boys; but the sympathy and tenderness shown in the depiction
of this impulsive, affectionate, chivalrous, clean-hearted boy prove
that the novelist's powers of analysis were equal to every phase of
human nature. No complete estimate of Turgenev can be made without
reading "Torrents of Spring;" for the Italian menage, the character of
Gemma and her young brother, and the absurd duelling punctilio are not
to be found elsewhere. And Maria is the very Principle of Evil; one
feels that if Satan had spoken to her in the Garden of Eden, she could
easily have tempted him; at all events, he would not have been the
most subtle beast in the field.

In 1876 Turgenev wrote "Virgin Soil." Of the seven novels, this is the
last, the longest, and the least. But it did not deserve then, and
does not deserve now, the merciless condemnation of the critics;
though they still take up stones to stone it. Never was a book about a
revolutionary movement, written by one in sympathy with it, so
lukewarm. Naturally the public could not swallow it, for even God
cannot digest a Laodicean. But the lukewarmness in this instance
arose, not from lack of conviction, but rather from the conviction
that things can really happen only in the fulness of time. Everything
in the story from first to last emphasises this fact and might be
considered a discourse on the text add to knowledge, temperance: and
to temperance, patience. But these virtues have never been in high
favour with revolutionists, which explains why so many revolutions are
abortive, and so many ephemeral. It is commonly said that the leading
character in "Virgin Soil," Solomin, is a failure because he is not
exactly true to life, he is not typically Russian. That criticism
seems to me to miss the main point of the work. Of course he is not
true to life, of course he is not typically Russian. The typical
Russian in the book is Nezhdanov, who is entirely true to life in his
uncertainty and in his futility; he does not know whether or not he is
in love, and he does not know at the last what the "cause" really is.
He fails to understand the woman who accompanies him, he fails to
understand Solomin, and he fails to understand himself. So he finally
does what so many Russian dreamers have done--he places against his
own breast the pistol he had intended for a less dangerous enemy. But
he is a dead man long before that. In sharp contrast with him,
Turgenev has created the character Solomin, who is not at all
"typically Russian," but who must be if the revolutionary cause is to
triumph. He seems unreal because he is unreal; he is the ideal. He is
the man of practical worth, the man who is not passion's slave, and
Turgenev loved him for the same reason that Hamlet loved Horatio. Amid
all the vain babble of the other characters, Solomin stands out
salient, the man who will eventually save Russia without knowing it.
His power of will is in inverse proportion to his fluency of speech.
The typical Russian, as portrayed by Turgenev, says much, and does
little; Solomin lives a life of cheerful, reticent activity. As the
revolution is not at hand, the best thing to do in the interim is to
accomplish something useful. He has learned how to labour and to wait.
"This calm, heavy, not to say clumsy man was not only incapable of
lying or bragging; one might rely on him, like a stone wall." In every
scene, whether among the affected aristocrats or among the futile
revolutionists, Solomin appears to advantage. There is no worse
indictment of human intelligence than the great compliment we pay
certain persons when we call them sane. Solomin is sane, and seems
therefore untrue to life.

It is seldom that Turgenev reminds us of Dickens; but Sipyagin and his
wife might belong to the great Dickens gallery, though drawn with a
restraint unknown to the Englishman. Sipyagin himself is a miniature
Pecksniff, unctuous, polished, and hollow. The dinner-table scenes at
his house are pictured with a subdued but implacable irony. How the
natural-born aristocrat Turgenev hated the Russian aristocracy! When
Solomin appears in this household, he seems like a giant among
manikins, so truly do the simple human virtues tower above the
arrogance of affectation. The woman Marianna is a sister of Elena,
whom we learned to know in "On the Eve;" she has the purity, not of an
angel, but of a noble woman. She has that quiet, steadfast resolution
so characteristic of Russian heroines. As for Mariusha, she is a
specimen of Turgenev's extraordinary power of characterisation. She
appears only two or three times in the entire novel, and remains one
of its most vivid personages This is ever the final mystery of
Turgenev's art--the power of absolutely complete representation in a
few hundred words. In economy of material there has never been his
equal. The whole novel is worth reading, apart from its revolutionary
interest, apart from the proclamation of the Gospel according to
Solomin, for the picture of that anachronistic pair of old lovers,
Fomushka and Finushka.* "There are ponds in the steppes which never
get putrid, though there's no stream through them, because they are
fed by springs from the bottom. And my old dears have such springs too
in the bottom of their hearts, and pure as can be." Only one short
chapter is devoted to this aged couple, at whom we smile but never
laugh At first sight they may seem to be an unimportant episode in the
story, and a blemish on its constructive lines but a little reflection
reveals not only the humorous tenderness that inspired the novelist's
pen in their creation, but contrasts them in their absurd indifference
to time, with the turbulent and meaningless whirlpool where the modern
revolutionists revolve. For just as tranquillity may not signify
stagnation, so revolution is not necessarily progression. This
old-fashioned pair have learned nothing from nineteenth century
thought, least of all its unrest. They have, however, in their own
lives attained the positive end of all progress--happiness. They are
indeed a symbol of eternal peace, the shadow of a great rock in a
weary land. Turgenev, most cultivated of novelists, never fails to
rank simplicity of heart above the accomplishments of the mind.

* I cannot doubt that Turgenev got the hint for this chapter from
Gogol's tale, "Old-fashioned Farmers."

Turgenev's splendid education, his wealth which made him independent,
his protracted residence in Russia, in Germany, and in Paris, his
intimate knowledge of various languages, and his bachelor life gave to
his innate genius the most perfect equipment that perhaps any author
has ever enjoyed. Here was a man entirely without the ordinary
restraints and prejudices, whose mind was always hospitable to new
ideas, who knew life at first hand, and to whose width of experience
was united the unusual faculty of accurately minute observation. He
knew people much better than they knew themselves. He was at various
times claimed and hated by all parties, and belonged to none. His mind
was too spacious to be dominated by one idea. When we reflect that he
had at his command the finest medium of expression that the world has
ever possessed, and that his skill in the use of it has never been
equalled by a single one of his countrymen, it is not surprising that
his novels approach perfection.

His own standpoint was that of the Artist, and each man must be judged
by his main purpose. Here is where he differs most sharply from
Tolstoi, Dostoevski, and Andreev, and explains why the Russians admire
him more than they love him. To him the truth about life was always
the main thing. His novels were never tracts, he wrote them with the
most painstaking care, and in his whole career he never produced a
pot-boiler. His work is invariably marked by that high seriousness
which Arnold worshipped, and love of his art was his main inspiration.
He had a gift for condensation, and a willingness to cultivate it,
such as no other novelist has shown. It is safe to say that his novels
tell more about human nature in less space than any other novels in
the world. Small as they are, they are inexhaustible, and always
reveal beauty unsuspected on the previous reading.

His stories are not stories of incident, but stories of character. The
extraordinary interest that they arouse is confined almost entirely to
our interest in his men and women; the plot, the narrative, the events
are always secondary; he imitated no other novelist, and no other can
imitate him. For this very reason, he can never enjoy the popularity
of Scott or Dumas; he will always be caviare to the general. Henry
James said of him, that he was particularly a favourite with people of
cultivated taste, and that nothing cultivates the taste better than
reading him. It is a surprising proof of the large number of readers
who have good taste, that his novels met with instant acclaim, and
that he enjoyed an enormous reputation during his whole career. After
the publication of his first book, "A Sportsman's Sketches," he was
generally regarded in Russia as her foremost writer, a position
maintained until his death; his novels were translated into French and
English very soon after their appearance, and a few days after his
death, the London "Athenaeum" remarked, "Europe has been unanimous in
according to Turgenev the first rank in contemporary literature." That
a man whose books never on any page show a single touch of melodrama
should have reached the hearts of so many readers, proves how
interesting is the truthful portrayal of human nature.

George Brandes has well said that the relation of Turgenev to his own
characters is in general the same relation to them held by the reader.
This may not be the secret of his power, but it is a partial
explanation of it. Brandes shows that not even men of genius have
invariably succeeded in making the reader take their own attitude to
the characters they have created. Thus, we are often bored by persons
that Balzac intended to be tremendously interesting; and we often
laugh at persons that Dickens intended to draw our tears. With the
single exception of Bazarov, no such mistake is possible in Turgenev's
work; and the misunderstanding in that case was caused principally by
the fact that Bazarov, with all his powerful individuality, stood for
a political principle. Turgenev's characters are never vague, shadowy,
or indistinct; they are always portraits, with every detail so subtly
added, that each one becomes like a familiar acquaintance in real
life. Perhaps his one fault lay in his fondness for dropping the story
midway, and going back over the previous existence or career of a
certain personage. This is the only notable blemish on his art. But
even by this method, which would be exceedingly irritating in a writer
of less skill, additional interest in the character is aroused. It is
as though Turgenev personally introduced his men and women to the
reader, accompanying each introduction with some biographical remarks
that let us know why the introduction was made, and stir our curiosity
to hear what the character will say. Then these introductions are
themselves so wonderfully vivid, are given with such brilliancy of
outline, that they are little works of art in themselves, like the
matchless pen portraits of Carlyle.

Another reason why Turgenev's characters are so interesting, is
because in each case he has given a remarkable combination of
individual and type. Here is where he completely overshadows
Sudermann, even Ibsen, for their most successful personages are
abnormal. Panshin, for example, is a familiar type in any Continental
city; he is merely the representative of the young society man. He is
accomplished, sings fairly well, sketches a little, rides horseback
finely, is a ready conversationalist; while underneath all these
superficial adornments he is shallow and vulgar. Ordinary
acquaintances might not suspect his inherent vulgarity--all Lisa knows
is that she does not like him; but the experienced woman of the world,
the wife of Lavretsky, understands him instantly, and has not the
slightest difficulty in bringing his vulgarity to the surface.
Familiar type as he is,--there are thousands of his ilk in all great
centres of civilisation,--Panshin is individual, and we hate him as
though he had shadowed our own lives. Again, Varvara herself is the
type of society woman whom Turgenev knew well, and whom he both hated
and feared; yet she is as distinct an individual as any that he has
given us. He did not scruple to create abnormal figures when he chose;
it is certainly to be hoped that Maria, in "Torrents of Spring," is
abnormal even among her class; but she is an engine of sin rather than
a real woman, and is not nearly so convincingly drawn as the simple
old mother of Bazarov.

Turgenev represents realism at its best, because he deals with souls
rather than with bodies. It is in this respect that his enormous
superiority over Zola is most clearly shown. When "L'Assommoir" was
published, George Moore asked Turgenev how he liked it, and he
replied: "What difference does it make to me whether a woman sweats in
the middle of her back or under her arm? I want to know how she
thinks, not how she feels." In that concrete illustration, Turgenev
diagnosed the weakness of naturalism. No one has ever analysed the
passion of love more successfully than he; but he is interested in the
growth of love in the mind, rather than in its carnal manifestations.

Finally, Turgenev, although an uncompromising realist, was at heart
always a poet. In reading him we feel that what he says is true, it is
life indeed; but we also feel an inexpressible charm. It is the
mysterious charm of music, that makes our hearts swell and our eyes
swim. He saw life, as every one must see it, through the medium of his
own soul. As Joseph Conrad has said, no novelist describes the world;
he simply describes his own world. Turgenev had the temperament of a
poet, just the opposite temperament from such men of genius as
Flaubert and Guy de Maupassant. Their books receive our mental homage,
and deserve it; but they are without charm. On closing their novels,
we never feel that wonderful afterglow that lingers after the reading
of Turgenev. To read him is not only to be mentally stimulated, it is
to be purified and ennobled; for though he never wrote a sermon in
disguise, or attempted the didactic, the ethical element in his
tragedies is so pervasive that one cannot read him without hating sin
and loving virtue. Thus the works of the man who is perhaps the
greatest novelist in history are in harmony with what we recognise as
the deepest and most eternal truth, both in life and in our own
hearts.

The silver tones and subtle music of Turgenev's clavichord were
followed by the crashing force of Tolstoi's organ harmonies, and by
the thrilling, heart-piercing discords struck by Dostoevski. Still
more sensational sounds come from the younger Russian men of to-day,
and all this bewildering audacity of composition has in certain places
drowned for a time the less pretentious beauty of Turgenev's method.
During the early years of the twentieth century, there has been a
visible reaction against him, an attempt to persuade the world that
after all he was a subordinate and secondary man. This attitude is
shown plainly in Mr. Baring's "Landmarks in Russian Literature," whose
book is chiefly valuable for its sympathetic understanding of the
genius of Dostoevski. How far this reaction has gone may be seen in
the remark of Professor Bruckner, in his "Literary History of Russia":
"The great, healthy artist Turgenev always moves along levelled paths,
in the fair avenues of an ancient landowner's park. Aesthetic pleasure
is in his well-balanced narrative of how Jack and Jill did NOT come
together: deeper ideas he in no wise stirs in us." If "A House of
Gentlefolk" and "Fathers and Children" stir no deeper ideas than that
in the mind of Professor Bruckner, whose fault is it? One can only
pity him. But there are still left some humble individuals, at least
one, who, caring little for politics and the ephemeral nature of
political watchwords and party strife, and still less for faddish
fashions in art, persist in giving their highest homage to the great
artists whose work shows the most perfect union of Truth and Beauty.



IV

DOSTOEVSKI



The life of Dostoevski contrasts harshly with the luxurious ease and
steady level seen in the outward existence of his two great
contemporaries, Turgenev and Tolstoi. From beginning to end he lived
in the very heart of storms, in the midst of mortal coil. He was often
as poor as a rat; he suffered from a horrible disease; he was sick and
in prison, and no one visited him; he knew the bitterness of death.
Such a man's testimony as to the value of life is worth attention; he
was a faithful witness, and we know that his testimony is true.

Fedor Mikhailovich Dostoevski was born on the 30 October 1821, at
Moscow. His father was a poor surgeon, and his mother the daughter of
a mercantile man. He was acquainted with grief from the start, being
born in a hospital. There were five children, and they very soon
discovered the exact meaning of such words as hunger and cold. Poverty
in early years sometimes makes men rather close and miserly in middle
age, as it certainly did in the case of Ibsen, who seemed to think
that charity began and ended at home. Not so Dostoevski: he was often
victimised, he gave freely and impulsively, and was chronically in
debt. He had about as much business instinct as a prize-fighter or an
opera singer. As Merezhkovski puts it: "This victim of poverty dealt
with money as if he held it not an evil, but utter rubbish. Dostoevski
thinks he loves money, but money flees him. Tolstoi thinks he hates
money, but money loves him, and accumulates about him. The one,
dreaming all his life of wealth, lived, and but for his wife's
business qualities would have died, a beggar. The other, all his life
dreaming and preaching of poverty, not only has not given away, but
has greatly multiplied his very substantial possessions." In order to
make an impressive contrast, the Russian critic is here unfair to
Tolstoi, but there is perhaps some truth in the Tolstoi paradox. No
wonder Dostoevski loved children, for he was himself a great child.

He was brought up on the Bible and the Christian religion. The
teachings of the New Testament were with him almost innate ideas.
Thus, although his parents could not give him wealth, or ease, or
comfort, or health, they gave him something better than all four put
together.

When he was twenty-seven years old, having impulsively expressed
revolutionary opinions at a Radical Club to which he belonged, he was
arrested with a number of his mates, and after an imprisonment of some
months, he was led out on the 22 December 1849, with twenty-one
companions, to the scaffold. He passed through all the horror of
dying, for visible preparations had been made for the execution, and
he was certain that in a moment he would cease to live. Then came the
news that the Tsar had commuted the sentence to hard labour; this
saved their lives, but one of the sufferers had become insane.

Then came four years in the Siberian prison, followed by a few years
of enforced military service. His health actually grew better under
the cruel regime of the prison, which is not difficult to understand,
for even a cruel regime is better than none at all, and Dostoevski
never had the slightest notion of how to take care of himself. At what
time his epilepsy began is obscure, but this dreadful disease
faithfully and frequently visited him during his whole adult life.
From a curious hint that he once let fall, reenforced by the manner in
which the poor epileptic in "The Karamazov Brothers" acquired the
falling sickness, we cannot help thinking that its origin came from a
blow given in anger by his father.

Dostoevski was enormously interested in his disease, studied its
symptoms carefully, one might say eagerly, and gave to his friends
minute accounts of exactly how he felt before and after the
convulsions, which tally precisely with the vivid descriptions written
out in his novels. This illness coloured his whole life, profoundly
affected his character, and gave a feverish and hysterical tone to his
books.

Dostoevski had a tremendous capacity for enthusiasm. As a boy, he was
terribly shaken by the death of Pushkin, and he never lost his
admiration for the founder of Russian literature. He read the great
classics of antiquity and of modern Europe with wild excitement, and
wrote burning eulogies in letters to his friends. The flame of his
literary ambition was not quenched by the most abject poverty, nor by
the death of those whom he loved most intensely. After his first wife
died, he suffered agonies of grief, accentuated by wretched health,
public neglect, and total lack of financial resources. But chill
penury could not repress his noble rage. He was always planning and
writing new novels, even when he had no place to lay his head. And the
bodily distress of poverty did not cut him nearly so sharply as its
shame. His letters prove clearly that at times he suffered in the same
way as the pitiable hero of "Poor Folk." That book was indeed a
prophecy of the author's own life.

It is impossible to exaggerate the difficulties under which he wrote
his greatest novels. His wife and children were literally starving. He
could not get money, and was continually harassed by creditors. During
part of the time, while writing in the midst of hunger and freezing
cold, he had an epileptic attack every ten days. His comment on all
this is, "I am only preparing to live," which is as heroic as Paul
Jones's shout, "I have not yet begun to fight."

In 1880 a monument to Pushkin was unveiled, and the greatest Russian
authors were invited to speak at the ceremony. This was the occasion
where Turgenev vainly tried to persuade Tolstoi to appear and
participate. Dostoevski paid his youthful debt to the ever living poet
in a magnificent manner. He made a wonderful oration on Russian
literature and the future of the Russian people, an address that
thrilled the hearts of his hearers, and inspired his countrymen
everywhere. On the 28 January 1881, he died, and forty thousand
mourners saw his body committed to the earth.

Much as I admire the brilliant Russian critic, Merezhkovski, I cannot
understand his statement that Dostoevski "drew little on his personal
experiences, had little self-consciousness, complained of no one." His
novels are filled with his personal experiences, he had an almost
abnormal self-consciousness, and he bitterly complained that Turgenev,
who did not need the money, received much more for his work than he.
Dostoevski's inequalities as a writer are so great that it is no
wonder he has been condemned by some critics as a mere journalistic
maker of melodrama, while others have exhausted their entire stock of
adjectives in his exaltation. His most ardent admirer at this moment
is Mr. Baring, who is at the same time animated by a strange jealousy
of Turgenev's fame, and seems to think it necessary to belittle the
author of "Fathers and Children" in order to magnify the author of
"Crime and Punishment." This seems idle; Turgenev and Dostoevski were
geniuses of a totally different order, and we ought to rejoice in the
greatness of each man, just as we do in the greatness of those two
entirely dissimilar poets, Tennyson and Browning. Much of Mr. Baring's
language is an echo of Merezhkovski; but this Russian critic, while
loving Dostoevski more than Turgenev, was not at all blind to the
latter's supreme qualities. Listen to Mr. Baring:--

"He possesses a certain quality which is different in kind from those
of any other writer, a power of seeming to get nearer to the unknown,
to what lies beyond the flesh, which is perhaps the secret of his
amazing strength; and, besides this, he has certain great qualities
which other writers, and notably other Russian writers, possess also;
but he has them in so far higher a degree that when seen with other
writers he annihilates them. The combination of this difference in
kind and this difference in degree makes something so strong and so
tremendous, that it is not to be wondered at when we find many critics
saying that Dostoevski is not only the greatest of all Russian
writers, but one of the greatest writers that the world has ever seen.
I am not exaggerating when I say that such views are held; for
instance, Professor Bruckner, a most level-headed critic, in his
learned and exhaustive survey of Russian literature, says that it is
not in "Faust," but rather in "Crime and Punishment," that the whole
grief of mankind takes hold of us.

"Even making allowance for the enthusiasm of his admirers, it is true
to say that almost any Russian judge of literature at the present day
would place Dostoevski as being equal to Tolstoi and immeasurably
above Turgenev; in fact, the ordinary Russian critic at the present
day no more dreams of comparing Turgenev with Dostoevski, than it
would occur to an Englishman to compare Charlotte Yonge with Charlotte
Bronte."

This last sentence shows the real animus against Turgenev that
obsesses Mr. Baring's mind; once more the reader queries, Suppose
Dostoevski be all that Mr. Baring claims for him, why is it necessary
to attack Turgenev? Is there not room in Russian literature for both
men? But as Mr. Baring has appealed to Russian criticism, it is only
fair to quote one Russian critic of good standing, Kropotkin. He
says:--

"Dostoevski is still very much read in Russia; and when, some twenty
years ago, his novels were first translated into French, German, and
English, they were received as a revelation. He was praised as one of
the greatest writers of our own time, and as undoubtedly the one who
'had best expressed the mystic Slavonic soul'--whatever that
expression may mean! Turgenev was eclipsed by Dostoevski, and Tolstoi
was forgotten for a time. There was, of course, a great deal of
hysterical exaggeration in all this, and at the present time sound
literary critics do not venture to indulge in such praises. The fact
is, that there is certainly a great deal of power in whatever
Dostoevski wrote: his powers of creation suggest those of Hoffmann;
and his sympathy with the most down-trodden and down-cast products of
the civilisation of our large towns is so deep that it carries away
the most indifferent reader and exercises a most powerful impression
in the right direction upon young readers. His analysis of the most
varied specimens of incipient psychical disease is said to be
thoroughly correct. But with all that, the artistic qualities of his
novels are incomparably below those of any one of the great Russian
masters Tolstoi, Turgenev, or Goncharov. Pages of consummate realism
are interwoven with the most fantastical incidents worthy only of the
most incorrigible romantics. Scenes of a thrilling interest are
interrupted in order to introduce a score of pages of the most
unnatural theoretical discussions. Besides, the author is in such a
hurry that he seems never to have had the time himself to read over
his novels before sending them to the printer. And, worst of all,
every one of the heroes of Dostoevski, especially in his novels of the
later period, is a person suffering from some psychical disease or
from moral perversion. As a result, while one may read some of the
novels of Dostoevski with the greatest interest, one is never tempted
to re-read them, as one re-reads the novels of Tolstoi and Turgenev,
and even those of many secondary novel writers; and the present writer
must confess that he had the greatest pain lately in reading through,
for instance, "The Brothers Karamazov," and never could pull himself
through such a novel as "The Idiot." However, one pardons Dostoevski
everything, because when he speaks of the ill-treated and the
forgotten children of our town civilisation he becomes truly great
through his wide, infinite love of mankind--of man, even in his worst
manifestations."

Mr. Baring's book was published in 1910, Kropotkin's in 1905, which
seems to make Mr. Baring's attitude point to the past, rather than to
the future. Kropotkin seems to imply that the wave of enthusiasm for
Dostoevski is a phase that has already passed, rather than a new and
increasing demonstration, as Mr. Baring would have us believe.

Dostoevski's first book, "Poor Folk," appeared when he was only
twenty-five years old: it made an instant success, and gave the young
author an enviable reputation. The manuscript was given by a friend to
the poet Nekrassov. Kropotkin says that Dostoevski "had inwardly
doubted whether the novel would even be read by the editor. He was
living then in a poor, miserable room, and was fast asleep when at
four o'clock in the morning Nekrassov and Grigorovich knocked at his
door. They threw themselves on Dostoevski's neck, congratulating him
with tears in their eyes. Nekrassov and his friend had begun to read
the novel late in the evening; they could not stop reading till they
came to the end, and they were both so deeply impressed by it that
they could not help going on this nocturnal expedition to see the
author and tell him what they felt. A few days later, Dostoevski was
introduced to the great critic of the time, Bielinski, and from him he
received the same warm reception. As to the reading public, the novel
produced quite a sensation."

The story "Poor Folk" is told in the highly artificial form of
letters, but is redeemed by its simplicity and deep tenderness.
Probably no man ever lived who had a bigger or warmer heart than
Dostoevski, and out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.
All the great qualities of the mature man are in this slender volume:
the wideness of his mercy, the great deeps of his pity, the
boundlessness of his sympathy, and his amazing spiritual force. If
ever there was a person who would forgive any human being anything
seventy times seven, that individual was Dostoevski. He never had to
learn the lesson of brotherly love by long years of experience: the
mystery of the Gospel, hidden from the wise and prudent, was revealed
to him as a babe. The language of these letters is so simple that a
child could understand every word; but the secrets of the human heart
are laid bare. The lover is a grey-haired old man, with the true
Slavonic genius for failure, and a hopeless drunkard; the young girl
is a veritable flower of the slums, shedding abroad the radiance and
perfume of her soul in a sullen and sodden environment. She has a
purity of soul that will not take pollution.

"See how this mere chance-sown deft-nursed seed
That sprang up by the wayside 'neath the foot
Of the enemy, this breaks all into blaze,
Spreads itself, one wide glory of desire
To incorporate the whole great sun it loves
From the inch-height whence it looks and longs!"

No one can read a book like this without being better for it, and
without loving its author.

It is unfortunate that Dostoevski did not learn from his first little
masterpiece the great virtue of compression. This story is short, but
it is long enough; the whole history of two lives, so far as their
spiritual aspect is concerned, is fully given in these few pages. The
besetting sin of Dostoevski is endless garrulity with its accompanying
demon of incoherence: in later years he yielded to that, as he did to
other temptations, and it finally mastered him. He was never to write
again a work of art that had organic unity.

Like all the great Russian novelists, Dostoevski went to school to
Gogol. The influence of his teacher is evident throughout "Poor Folk."
The hero is almost an imitation of the man in Gogol's short story,
"The Cloak," affording another striking example of the germinal power
of that immortal work. Dostoevski seemed fully to realise his debt to
Gogol, and in particular to "The Cloak;" for in "Poor Folk," one
entire letter is taken up with a description of Makar's emotions after
reading that extraordinary tale. Makar assumes that it is a
description of himself. "Why, I hardly dare show myself in the
streets! Everything is so accurately described that one's very gait is
recognisable."

Dostoevski's consuming ambition for literary fame is well indicated in
his first book. "If anything be well written, Varinka, it is
literature. I learned this the day before yesterday. What a wonderful
thing literature is, which, consisting but of printed words, is able
to invigorate, to instruct, the hearts of men!"

So many writers have made false starts in literature that Dostoevski's
instinct for the right path at the very outset is something notable.
His entire literary career was to be spent in portraying the despised
and rejected. Never has a great author's first book more clearly
revealed the peculiar qualities of his mind and heart.

But although he struck the right path, it was a long time before he
found again the right vein. He followed up his first success with a
row of failures, whose cold reception by the public nearly broke his
heart. He was extremely busy, extremely productive, and extremely
careless, as is shown by the fact that during the short period from
1846 to 1849, he launched thirteen original publications, not a single
one of which added anything to his fame. It was not until after the
cruel years of Siberia that the great books began to appear.

Nor did they appear at once. In 1859 he published "The Uncle's Dream,"
a society novel, showing both in its humour and in its ruthless satire
the influence of Gogol. This is an exceedingly entertaining book, and,
a strange thing in Dostoevski, it is, in many places, hilariously
funny. The satire is so enormously exaggerated that it completely
overshoots the mark, but perhaps this very exaggeration adds to the
reader's merriment. The conversation in this story is often brilliant,
full of unexpected quips and retorts delivered in a manner far more
French than Russian. The intention of the author seems to have been to
write a scathing and terrible satire on provincial society, where
every one almost without exception is represented as absolutely
selfish, absolutely conceited, and absolutely heartless. It is a study
of village gossip, a favourite subject for satirists in all languages.
In the middle of the book Dostoevski remarks: "Everybody in the
provinces lives as though he were under a bell of glass. It is
impossible for him to conceal anything whatever from his honourable
fellow-citizens. They know things about him of which he himself is
ignorant. The provincial, by his very nature, ought to be a very
profound psychologist. That is why I am sometimes honestly amazed to
meet in the provinces so few psychologists and so many imbeciles."

Never again did Dostoevski write a book containing so little of
himself, and so little of the native Russian element. Leaving out the
exaggeration, it might apply to almost any village in any country, and
instead of sympathy, it shows only scorn. The scheming mother, who
attempts to marry her beautiful daughter to a Prince rotten with
diseases, is a stock figure on the stage and in novels. The only truly
Russian personage is the young lover, weak-willed and irresolute, who
lives a coward in his own esteem.

This novel was immediately followed by another within the same year,
"Stepanchikovo Village," translated into English with the title "The
Friend of the Family." This has for its hero one of the most
remarkable of Dostoevski's characters, and yet one who infallibly
reminds us of Dickens's Pecksniff. The story is told in the first
person, and while it cannot by any stretch of language be called a
great book, it has one advantage over its author's works of genius, in
being interesting from the first page to the last. Both the uncle and
the nephew, who narrate the tale, are true Russian characters: they
suffer long, and are kind; they hope all things, and believe all
things. The household is such a menagerie that it is no wonder that
the German translation of this novel is called "Tollhaus oder
Herrenhaus"? Some of the inmates are merely abnormal; others are
downright mad. There is not a natural or a normal character in the
entire book, and not one of the persons holds the reader's sympathy,
though frequent drafts are made on his pity. The hero is a colossal
hypocrite, hopelessly exaggerated. If one finds Dickens's characters
to be caricatures, what shall be said of this collection? This is the
very apotheosis of the unctuous gasbag, from whose mouth, eternally
ajar, pours a viscous stream of religious and moral exhortation.
Compared with this Friend of the Family, Tartuffe was unselfish and
noble: Joseph Surface modest and retiring; Pecksniff a humble and
loyal man. The best scene in the story, and one that arouses
outrageous mirth, is the scene where the uncle, who is a kind of Tom
Pinch, suddenly revolts, and for a moment shakes off his bondage. He
seizes the fat hypocrite by the shoulder, lifts him from the floor,
and hurls his carcass through a glass door. All of which is in the
exact manner of Dickens.

One of the most characteristic of Dostoevski's novels, characteristic
in its occasional passages of wonderful beauty and pathos, characteristic
in its utter formlessness and long stretches of uninspired dulness,
is "Downtrodden and Oppressed." Here the author gives us the life he
knew best by actual experience and the life best suited to his natural
gifts of sympathetic interpretation. Stevenson's comment on this story
has attracted much attention. Writing to John Addington Symonds in 1886,
he said: "Another has been translated--"Humilies et Offenses." It is
even more incoherent than "Le Crime et le Chatiment," but breathes much
of the same lovely goodness, and has passages of power. Dostoevski is
a devil of a swell, to be sure." There is no scorn and no satire in
this book; it was written from an overflowing heart. One of the speeches
of the spineless young Russian, Alosha, might be taken as illustrative
of the life-purpose of our novelist: "I am on fire for high and noble
ideals; they may be false, but the basis on which they rest is holy."

"Downtrodden and Oppressed" is full of melodrama and full of tears; it
is four times too long, being stuffed out with interminable
discussions and vain repetitions. It has no beauty of construction, no
evolution, and irritates the reader beyond all endurance. The young
hero is a blazing ass, who is in love with two girls at the same time,
and whose fluency of speech is in inverse proportion to his power of
will. The real problem of the book is how either of the girls could
have tolerated his presence for five minutes. The hero's father is a
melodramatic villain, who ought to have worn patent-leather boots and
a Spanish cloak. And yet, with all its glaring faults, it is a story
the pages of which ought not to be skipped. So far as the narrative
goes, one may skip a score of leaves at will; but in the midst of
aimless and weary gabble, passages of extraordinary beauty and uncanny
insight strike out with the force of a sudden blow. The influence of
Dickens is once more clearly seen in the sickly little girl Nelly,
whose strange caprices and flashes of passion are like Goethe's
Mignon, but whose bad health and lingering death recall irresistibly
Little Nell. They are similar in much more than in name.

Dostoevski told the secrets of his prison-house in his great book
"Memoirs of a House of the Dead"--translated into English with the
title "Buried Alive." Of the many works that have come from
prison-walls to enrich literature, and their number is legion, this is
one of the most powerful, because one of the most truthful and
sincere. It is not nearly so well written as Oscar Wilde's "De
Profundis;" but one cannot escape the suspicion that this latter
masterpiece was a brilliant pose. Dostoevski's "House of the Dead" is
marked by that naive Russian simplicity that goes not to the reader's
head but to his heart. It is at the farthest remove from a
well-constructed novel; it is indeed simply an irregular, incoherent
notebook. But if the shop-worn phrase "human document" can ever be
fittingly applied, no better instance can be found than this. It is a
revelation of Dostoevski's all-embracing sympathy. He shows no
bitterness, no spirit of revenge, toward the government that sent him
into penal servitude; he merely describes what happened there. Nor
does he attempt to arouse our sympathy for his fellow-convicts by
depicting them as heroes, or in showing their innate nobleness. They
are indeed a bad lot, and one is forced to the conviction that they
ought not to be at large. Confinement and hard labour is what most of
them need; for the majority of them in this particular Siberian prison
are not revolutionists, offenders against the government, sent there
for some petty or trumped-up charge, but cold-blooded murderers,
fiendishly cruel assassins, wife-beaters, dull, degraded brutes. But
the regime, as our novelist describes it, does not improve them; the
officers are as brutal as the men, and the floggings do not make for
spiritual culture. One cannot wish, after reading the book, that such
prisoners were free, but one cannot help thinking that something is
rotten in the state of their imprisonment. Dostoevski brings out with
great clearness the utter childishness of the prisoners; mentally,
they are just bad little boys; they seem never to have developed,
except in an increased capacity for sin. They spend what time they
have in silly talk, in purposeless discussions, in endeavours to get
drink, in practical jokes, and in thefts from one another. The cruel
pathos of the story is not in the fact that such men are in prison,
but that a Dostoevski should be among them. Here is a delicate,
sensitive man of genius, in bad health, with a highly organised
nervous system, with a wonderful imagination, condemned to live for
years in slimy misery, with creatures far worse than the beasts of the
field. Indeed, some of the most beautiful parts of the story are where
Dostoevski turns from the men to the prison dog and the prison horse,
and there finds true friendship. His kindness to the neglected dog and
the latter's surprise and subsequent devotion make a deep impression.
The greatness of Dostoevski's heart is shown in the fact that although
his comrades were detestable characters, he did not hate them. His
calm account of their unblushing knavery is entirely free from either
vindictive malice or superior contempt. He loved them because they
were buried alive, he loved them because of their wretchedness, with a
love as far removed from condescension as it was from secret
admiration of their bold wickedness. There was about these men no
charm of personality and no glamour of desperate crime. The delightful
thing about Dostoevski's attitude is that it was so perfect an
exemplification of true Christianity. No pride, no scorn, no envy. He
regarded them as his brothers, and one feels that not one of the men
would ever have turned to Dostoevski for sympathy and encouragement
without meeting an instant and warm response. That prison was a great
training-school for Dostoevski's genius, and instead of casting a
black shadow over his subsequent life, it furnished him with the
necessary light and heat to produce a succession of great novels.

Their production was, however, irregular, and at intervals he
continued to write and publish books of no importance. One of his
poorest stories is called "Memoirs of the Cellarage," or, as the
French translation has it, "L'Esprit Souterrain." The two parts of the
story contain two curious types of women. The hero is the regulation
weak-willed Russian; his singular adventures with an old criminal and
his mistress in the first part of the story, and with a harlot in the
second, have only occasional and languid interest; it is one of the
many books of Dostoevski that one vigorously vows never to read again.
The sickly and impractical Ordinov spends most of his time analysing
his mental states, and indulging in that ecstasy of thought which is
perhaps the most fatal of all Slavonic passions. Soon after appeared a
strange and far better novel, called "The Gambler." This story is told
in the first person, and contains a group of highly interesting
characters, the best being an old woman, whose goodness of heart,
extraordinary vitality, and fondness for speaking her mind recall the
best type of English Duchess of the eighteenth century. There is not a
dull page in this short book; and often as the obsession of gambling
has been represented in fiction, I do not at this moment remember any
other story where the fierce, consuming power of this heart-eating
passion has been more powerfully pictured. No reader will ever forget
the one day in the sensible old lady's life when all her years of
training, all her natural caution and splendid common sense, could not
keep her away from the gaming table. This is a kind of international
novel, where the English, French, German, and Russian temperaments are
analysed, perhaps with more cleverness than accuracy. The Englishman,
Astley, is utterly unreal, Paulina is impossible, and the Slavophil
attacks on the French are rather pointless. Some of the characters are
incomprehensible, but none of them lacks interest.

Of all Dostoevski's novels, the one best known outside of Russia is,
of course, "Crime and Punishment." Indeed, his fame in England and in
America may be said still to depend almost entirely on this one book.
It was translated into French, German, and English in the eighties,
and has been dramatised in France and in America. While it is
assuredly a great work, and one that nobody except a genius could have
written, I do not think it is Dostoevski's most characteristic novel,
nor his best. It is characteristic in its faults; it is abominably
diffuse, filled with extraneous and superfluous matter, and totally
lacking in the principles of good construction. There are scenes of
positively breathless excitement, preceded and followed by dreary
drivel; but the success of the book does not depend on its action, but
rather on the characters of Sonia, her maudlin father, the student
Raskolnikov, and his sister. It is impossible to read "Crime and
Punishment" without reverently saluting the author's power. As is well
known, the story gave Stevenson all kinds of thrills, and in a famous
letter written while completely under the spell he said: "Raskolnikov
is easily the greatest book I have read in ten years; I am glad you
took to it. Many find it dull; Henry James could not finish it; all I
can say is, it nearly finished me. It was like having an illness.
James did not care for it because the character of Raskolnikov was not
objective; and at that I divined a great gulf between us, and, on
further reflection, the existence of a certain impotence in many minds
of to-day, which prevents them from living IN a book or a character,
and keeps them standing afar off, spectators of a puppet show. To such
I suppose the book may seem empty in the centre; to the others it is a
room, a house of life, into which they themselves enter, and are
purified. The Juge d'Instruction I thought a wonderful, weird,
touching, ingenious creation; the drunken father, and Sonia, and the
student friend, and the uncircumscribed, protoplasmic humanity of
Raskolnikov, all upon a level that filled me with wonder; the
execution, also, superb in places."

Dostoevski is fond of interrupting the course of his narratives with
dreams,--dreams that often have no connection with the plot, so far as
there may be said to exist a plot,--but dreams of vivid and sharp
verisimilitude. Whether these dreams were interjected to deceive the
reader, or merely to indulge the novelist's whimsical fancy, is hard
to divine; but one always wakes with surprise to find that it is all a
dream. A few hours before Svidrigailov commits suicide he has an
extraordinary dream of the cold, wet, friendless little girl, whom he
places tenderly in a warm bed, and whose childish eyes suddenly give
him the leer of a French harlot. Both he and the reader are amazed to
find that this is only a dream, so terribly real has it seemed. Then
Raskolnikov's awful dream, so minutely circumstanced, of the cruel
peasants maltreating a horse, their drunken laughter and vicious
conversation, their fury that they cannot kill the mare with one blow,
and the wretched animal's slow death makes a picture that I have long
tried in vain to forget. These dream episodes have absolutely no
connection with the course of the story--they are simply
impressionistic sketches.

Another favourite device of Dostoevski's is to have one of his
characters take a walk, and on this walk undergo some experience that
has nothing whatever to do with the course of the action, but is, as
it were, a miniature story of its own introduced into the novel. One
often remembers these while forgetting many vital constructive
features. That picture of the pretty young girl, fifteen or sixteen
years old, staggering about in the heat of the early afternoon,
completely drunk, while a fat libertine slowly approaches her, like a
vulture after its prey, stirs Raskolnikov to rage and then to
reflection--but the reader remembers it long after it has passed from
the hero's mind. Dostoevski's books are full of disconnected but
painfully oppressive incidents.

Raskolnikov's character cannot be described nor appraised; one must
follow him all the way through the long novel. He is once more the
Rudin type--utterly irresolute, with a mind teeming with ideas and
surging with ambition. He wants to be a Russian Napoleon, with a
completely subservient conscience, but instead of murdering on a large
scale, like his ideal, he butchers two inoffensive old women. Although
the ghastly details of this double murder are given with definite
realism, Dostoevski's interest is wholly in the criminal psychology of
the affair, in the analysis of Raskolnikov's mind before, during, and
chiefly after the murder; for it is the mind, and not the bodily
sensations that constitute the chosen field of our novelist. After
this event, the student passes through almost every conceivable mental
state; we study all these shifting moods under a powerful microscope.
The assassin is redeemed by the harlot Sonia, who becomes his
religious and moral teacher. The scene where the two read together the
story of the resurrection of Lazarus, and where they talk about God,
prayer, and the Christian religion, shows the spiritual force of
Dostoevski in its brightest manifestations. At her persuasion, he
finally confesses his crime, and is deported to Siberia, where his
experiences are copied faithfully from the author's own prison life.
Sonia accompanies him, and becomes the good angel of the convicts, who
adore her. "When she appeared while they were at work, all took off
their hats and made a bow. 'Little mother, Sophia Semenova, thou art
our mother, tender and compassionate,' these churlish and branded
felons said to her. She smiled in return; they loved even to see her
walk, and turned to look upon her as she passed by. They praised her
for being so little, and knew not what not to praise her for. They
even went to her with their ailments."

It is quite possible that Tolstoi got the inspiration for his novel
"Resurrection" from the closing words of "Crime and Punishment."
Raskolnikov and Sonia look forward happily to the time when he will be
released. "Seven years--only seven years! At the commencement of their
happiness they were ready to look upon these seven years as seven
days. They did not know that a new life is not given for nothing; that
it has to be paid dearly for, and only acquired by much patience and
suffering, and great future efforts. But now a new history commences;
a story of the gradual renewing of a man, of his slow, progressive
regeneration, and change from one world to another--an introduction to
the hitherto unknown realities of life. This may well form the theme
of a new tale; the one we wished to offer the reader is ended."

It did indeed form the theme of a new tale--and the tale was Tolstoi's
"Resurrection."

Sonia is the greatest of all Dostoevski's woman characters. The
professional harlot has often been presented on the stage and in the
pages of fiction, but after learning to know Sonia, the others seem
weakly artificial. This girl, whose father's passion for drink is
something worse than madness, goes on the street to save the family
from starvation. It is the sacrifice of Monna Vanna without any reward
or spectacular acclaim. Deeply spiritual, intensely religious, she is
the illumination of the book, and seems to have stepped out of the
pages of the New Testament. Her whole story is like a Gospel parable,
and she has saved many besides Raskolnikov. . . . She dies daily, and
from her sacrifice rises a life of eternal beauty.

Two years later came another book of tremendous and irregular
power--"The Idiot." With the exception of "The Karamazov Brothers,"
this is the most peculiarly characteristic of all Dostoevski's works.
It is almost insufferably long; it reads as though it had never been
revised; it abounds in irrelevancies and superfluous characters. One
must have an unshakable faith in the author to read it through, and
one should never begin to read it without having acquired that faith
through the perusal of "Crime and Punishment." The novel is a
combination of a hospital and an insane asylum; its pages are filled
with sickly, diseased, silly, and crazy folk. It is largely
autobiographical; the hero's epileptic fits are described as only an
epileptic could describe them, more convincingly than even so able a
writer as Mr. De Morgan diagnoses them in "An Affair of Dishonour."
Dostoevski makes the convulsion come unexpectedly; Mr. De Morgan uses
the fit as a kind of moral punctuation point. The author's sensations
when under condemnation of death and expecting the immediate
catastrophe are also minutely given from his own never paling
recollection. Then there are allusions to Russian contemporary
authors, which occur, to be sure, in his other books. One reason why
Dostoevski is able to portray with such detail the thoughts and
fancies of abnormal persons is because he was so abnormal himself; and
because his own life had been filled with such an amazing variety of
amazing experiences. Every single one of his later novels is a
footnote to actual circumstance; with any other author, we should say,
for example, that his accounts of the thoughts that pass in a
murderer's mind immediately before he assassinates his victim were the
fantastical emanation of a diseased brain, and could never have taken
place; one cannot do that in Dostoevski's case, for one is certain
that he is drawing on his Siberian reservoir of fact. These novels are
fully as much a contribution to the study of abnormal psychology as
they are to the history of fiction.

The leading character, the epileptic Idiot, has a magnetic charm that
pulls the reader from the first, and from which it is vain to hope to
escape. The "lovely goodness" that Stevenson found in Dostoevski's
"Downtrodden and Oppressed" shines in this story with a steady
radiance. The most brilliant and beautiful women in the novel fall
helplessly in love with the Idiot, and the men try hard to despise
him, without the least success. He has the sincerity of a child, with
a child's innocence and confidence. His character is almost the
incarnation of the beauty of holiness. Such common and universal sins
as deceit, pretence, revenge, ambition, are not only impossible to
him, they are even inconceivable; he is without taint. From one point
of view, he is a natural-born fool; but the wisdom of this world is
foolishness with him. His utter harmlessness and incapacity to hurt
occasion scenes of extraordinary humour, scenes that make the reader
suddenly laugh out loud, and love him all the more ardently.
Dostoevski loved children and animals, and so-called simple folk; what
is more, he not only loved them, he looked upon them as his greatest
teachers. It is a delight to hear this Idiot talk:--

"What has always surprised me, is the false idea that grown-up people
have of children. They are not even understood by their fathers and
mothers. We ought to conceal nothing from children under the pretext
that they are little and that at their age they should remain ignorant
of certain things. What a sad and unfortunate idea! And how clearly
the children themselves perceive that their parents take them for
babies who can't understand anything, when really they understand
everything! Great folks don't know that in even the most difficult
affairs a child is able to give advice that is of the utmost
importance. O God! when this pretty little bird stares at you with a
happy and confiding look, you are ashamed to deceive him! I call them
little birds because little birds are the finest things in the world."

The Idiot later in the story narrates the following curious incident.
Two friends stopping together at an inn retired to their room
peacefully, when one of them, lusting to possess the other's watch,
drew a knife, sneaked up behind his victim stealthily, raised his eyes
to heaven, crossed himself, and piously murmured this prayer: "O Lord,
pardon me through the merits of Christ!" then stabbed his friend to
death, and quietly took the watch. Naturally the listener roars with
laughter, but the Idiot quietly continues: "I once met a peasant woman
crossing herself so piously, so piously! 'Why do you do that, my
dear?' said I (I am always asking questions). 'Well,' said she, 'just
as a mother is happy when she sees the first smile of her nursling, so
God experiences joy every time when, from the height of heaven, he
sees a sinner lift toward Him a fervent prayer.' It was a woman of the
people who told me that, who expressed this thought so profound, so
fine, so truly religious, which is the very basis of Christianity,
that is to say, the idea that God is our father, that He is delighted
at the sight of a man as a mother is at the sight of her child,--the
chief thought of Christ! A simple peasant woman! To be sure, she was a
mother. . . . The religious sentiment, in its essence, can never be
crushed by reasoning, by a sin, by a crime, by any form of atheism;
there is something there which remains and always will remain beyond
all that, something which the arguments of atheists will never touch.
But the chief thing is, that nowhere does one notice this more clearly
than in the heart of Russia. It is one of the most important
impressions that I first received from our country."

The kindness of the Idiot toward his foes and toward those who are
continually playing on his generosity and exploiting him, enrages
beyond all endurance some of his friends. A beautiful young society
girl impatiently cries: "There isn't a person who deserves such words
from you! here not one of them is worth your little finger, not one
who has your intelligence or your heart! You are more honest than all
of us, more noble than all, better than all, more clever than all!
There isn't one of these people who is fit to pick up the handkerchief
you let fall, so why then do you humiliate yourself and place yourself
below everybody! Why have you crushed yourself, why haven't you any
pride?"

She had begun her acquaintance with him by laughing at him and trying
to cover him with ridicule. But in his presence those who come to
scoff remain to pray. Such men really overcome the world.

He is not the only Idiot in fiction who is able to teach the wise, as
every one knows who remembers his "David Copperfield." How Betsy
Trotwood would have loved Dostoevski's hero! Dickens and Dostoevski
were perhaps the biggest-hearted of all novelists, and their respect
for children and harmless men is notable. The sacredness of mad folk
is a holy tradition, not yet outworn.

"The Eternal Husband" is a story dealing, of course, with an abnormal
character, in abnormal circumstances. It is a quite original variation
on the triangle theme. It has genuine humour, and the conclusion
leaves one in a muse. "The Hobbledehoy," translated into French as "Un
Adolescent," is, on the whole, Dostoevski's worst novel, which is
curious enough, coming at a time when he was doing some of his best
work. He wrote this while his mind was busy with a great masterpiece,
"The Karamazov Brothers," and in this book we get nothing but the
lees. It is a novel of portentous length and utter vacuity. I have
read many dull books, but it is hard to recall a novel where the
steady, monotonous dulness of page after page is quite so oppressive.
For it is not only dull; it is stupid.

Dostoevski's last work, "The Karamazov Brothers," was the result of
ten years' reflection, study, and labour, and he died without
completing it. It is a very long novel as it stands; had he lived five
years more, it would probably have been the longest novel on the face
of the earth, for he seems to have regarded what he left as an
introduction. Even as it is, it is too long, and could profitably be
cut down one-third. It is incomplete, it is badly constructed, it is
very badly written; but if I could have only one of his novels, I
would take "The Karamazov Brothers." For Dostoevski put into it all
the sum of his wisdom, all the ripe fruit of his experience, all his
religious aspiration, and in Alosha he created not only the greatest
of all his characters, but his personal conception of what the ideal
man should be. Alosha is the Idiot, minus idiocy and epilepsy.

The women in this book are not nearly so well drawn as the men. I
cannot even tell them apart, so it would be a waste of labour to write
further about them. But the four men who make up the Karamazov family,
the father and the three sons, are one of the greatest family parties
in the history of fiction. Then the idiotic and epileptic
Smerdakov--for Dostoevski must have his idiot and his fits, and they
make an effective combination--is an absolutely original character out
of whose mouth come from time to time the words of truth and
soberness. The old monk at the head of the chapter is marvellous; he
would find a natural place in one of Ibsen's early historical dramas,
for he is a colossal pontifical figure, and has about him the ancient
air of authority. If one really doubted the genius of Dostoevski, one
would merely need to contemplate the men in this extraordinary story,
and listen to their talk. Then if any one continued to doubt
Dostoevski's greatness as a novelist, he could no longer doubt his
greatness as a man.

The criminal psychology of this novel and the scenes at the trial are
more interesting than those in "Crime and Punishment," for the
prisoner is a much more interesting man than Raskolnikov, and by an
exceedingly clever trick the reader is completely deceived. The
discovery of the murder is as harsh a piece of realism as the most
difficult realist could desire. The corpse lies on its back on the
floor, its silk nightgown covered with blood. The faithful old
servant, smitten down and bleeding copiously, is faintly crying for
help. Close at hand is the epileptic, in the midst of a fearful
convulsion. There are some dramatic moments!

But the story, as nearly always in Dostoevski, is a mere easel for the
portraits. From the loins of the father--a man of tremendous force of
character, all turned hellward, for he is a selfish, sensual
beast--proceed three sons, men of powerful individualities, bound
together by fraternal affection. Mitia is in many respects like his
father, but it is wonderful how we love him in the closing scenes;
Ivan is the sceptic, whose final conviction that he is morally
responsible for his father's murder shows his inability to escape from
the domination of moral ideas; Alosha, the priestly third brother, has
all the family force of character, but in him it finds its only outlet
in love to God and love to man. He has a remarkably subtle mind, but
he is as innocent, as harmless, as sincere, and as pure in heart as a
little child. He invariably returns for injury, not pardon, but active
kindness. No one can be offended in him for long, and his cheerful
conversation and beautiful, upright life are a living witness to his
religious faith, known and read of all men. Angry, sneering, and
selfish folk come to regard him with an affection akin to holy awe.
But he is not in the least a prig or a stuffed curiosity. He is
essentially a reasonable, kind-hearted man, who goes about doing good.
Every one confides in him, all go to him for advice and solace. He is
a multitudinous blessing, with masculine virility and shrewd insight,
along with the sensitiveness and tenderness of a good woman. Seeing
six boys attacking one, he attempts to rescue the solitary fighter,
when to his surprise the gamin turns on him, insults him, strikes him
with a stone, and bites him. Alosha, wrapping up his injured hand,
after one involuntary scream of pain, looks affectionately at the
young scoundrel, and quietly asks, "Tell me, what have I done to you?"
The boy looks at him in amazement. Alosha continues: "I don't know
you, but of course I must have injured you in some way since you treat
me so. Tell me exactly where I have been wrong." The child bursts into
tears, and what no violence of punishment has been able to accomplish,
Alosha's kindness has done in a few moments. Here is a boy who would
gladly die for him.

The conversations in this book have often quite unexpected turns of
humour, and are filled with oversubtle questions of casuistry and
curious reasonings. From one point of view the novel is a huge,
commonplace book, into which Dostoevski put all sorts of whimsies,
queries, and vagaries. Smerdakov, the epileptic, is a thorn in the
side of those who endeavour to instruct him, for he asks questions and
raises unforeseen difficulties that perplex those who regard
themselves as his superiors. No one but Dostoevski would ever have
conceived of such a character, or have imagined such ideas.

If one reads "Poor Folk," "Crime and Punishment," "Memoirs of the
House of the Dead," "The Idiot," and "The Karamazov Brothers," one
will have a complete idea of Dostoevski's genius and of his faults as
a writer, and will see clearly his attitude toward life. In his story
called "Devils" one may learn something about his political opinions;
but these are of slight interest; for a man's opinions on politics are
his views on something of temporary and transient importance, and like
a railway time-table, they are subject to change without notice. But
the ideas of a great man on Religion, Humanity, and Art take hold on
something eternal, and sometimes borrow eternity from the object.

No doubt Dostoevski realised the sad inequalities of his work, and the
great blunders due to haste in composition. He wrote side by side with
Turgenev and Tolstoi, and could not escape the annual comparison in
production. Indeed, he was always measuring himself with these two
men, and they were never long out of his mind. Nor was his soul
without bitterness when he reflected on their fortunate circumstances
which enabled them to write, correct, and polish at leisure, and give
to the public only the last refinement of their work. In the novel
"Downtrodden and Oppressed" Natasha asks the young writer if he has
finished his composition. On being told that it is all done, she says:
"God be praised! But haven't you hurried it too much? Haven't you
spoiled anything?" "Oh, I don't think so," he replied; "when I have a
work that demands a particular tension of the mind, I am in a state of
extraordinary nervous excitement; images are clearer, my senses are
more alert, and for the form, why, the style is plastic, and steadily
becomes better in proportion as the tension becomes stronger." She
sighed, and added: "You are exhausting yourself and you will ruin your
health. Just look at S. He spent two years in writing one short story;
but how he has worked at it and chiselled it down! not the least thing
to revise; no one can detect a blemish." To this stricture the poor
fellow rejoined, "Ah, but those fellows have their income assured,
they are never compelled to publish at a fixed date, while I, why, I
am only a cabhorse!"

Although Dostoevski's sins against art were black and many, it was a
supreme compliment to the Novel as an art-form that such a man should
have chosen it as the channel of his ideas. For he was certainly one
of the most profound thinkers of modern times. His thought dives below
and soars above the regions where even notable philosophers live out
their intellectual lives. He never dodged the ugly facts in the world,
nor even winced before them. Nor did he defy them. The vast knowledge
that he had of the very worst of life's conditions, and of the extreme
limits of sin of which humanity is capable, seemed only to deepen and
strengthen his love of this world, his love of all the creatures on
it, and his intense religious passion. For the religion of Dostoevski
is thrilling in its clairvoyance and in its fervour. That so
experienced and unprejudiced a man, gifted with such a power of subtle
and profound reflection, should have found in the Christian religion
the only solution of the riddle of existence, and the best rule for
daily conduct, is in itself valuable evidence that the Christian
religion is true.

Dostoevski has been surpassed in many things by other novelists. The
deficiencies and the excrescences of his art are glaring. But of all
the masters of fiction, both in Russia and elsewhere, he is the most
truly spiritual.



V

TOLSTOI



On the 6 September 1852, signed only with initials, appeared in a
Russian periodical the first work of Count Leo Tolstoi--"Childhood."
By 1867, his name was just barely known outside of Russia, for in that
year the American diplomat, Eugene Schuyler, in the preface to his
translation of "Fathers and Sons," said, "The success of Gogol brought
out a large number of romance-writers, who abandoned all imitation of
German, French, and English novelists, and have founded a truly
national school of romance." Besides Turgenev, "easily their chief,"
he mentioned five Russian writers, all but one of whom are now unknown
or forgotten in America. The second in his list was "the Count
Tolstoi, a writer chiefly of military novels." During the seventies,
the English scholar Ralston published in a review some paraphrases of
Tolstoi, because, as he said, "Tolstoi will probably never be
translated into English." To-day the works of Tolstoi are translated
into forty-five languages, and in the original Russian the sales have
gone into many millions. During the last ten years of his life he held
an absolutely unchallenged position as the greatest living writer in
the world, there being not a single contemporary worthy to be named in
the same breath.

Tolstoi himself, at the end of the century, divided his life into four
periods:* the innocent, joyous, and poetic time of childhood, from
earliest recollection up to the age of fourteen; the "terrible
twenties," full of ambition, vanity, and licentiousness, lasting till
his marriage at the age of thirty-four; the third period of eighteen
years, when he was honest and pure in family life, but a thorough
egoist; the fourth period, which he hoped would be the last, dating
from his Christian conversion, and during which he tried to shape his
life in accordance with the Sermon on the Mount.

*His own "Memoirs," edited by Birukov, are now the authority for
biographical detail. They are still in process of publication.

He was born at Yasnaya Polyana, in south central Russia, not far from
the birthplace of Turgenev, on the 28 August 1828. His mother died
when he was a baby, his father when he was only nine. An aunt, to whom
he was devotedly attached, and whom he called "Grandmother," had the
main supervision of his education. In 1836 the family went to live at
Moscow, where the boy formed that habit of omnivorous reading which
characterised his whole life. Up to his fourteenth year, the books
that chiefly influenced him were the Old Testament, the "Arabian
Nights," Pushkin, and popular Russian legends. It was intended that he
should follow a diplomatic career, and in preparation for the
University of Kazan, he studied Oriental languages. In 1844 he failed
to pass his entrance examinations, but was admitted some months later.
He left the University in 1847. From his fourteenth to his
twenty-first year the books that he read with the most profit were
Sterne's "Sentimental Journey," under the influence of which he wrote
his first story, Pushkin, Schiller's "Robbers," Lermontov, Gogol,
Turgenev's "A Sportsman's Sketches;" and to a less degree he was
affected by the New Testament, Rousseau, Dickens's "David
Copperfield," and the historical works of the American Prescott. Like
all Russian boys, he of course read the romances of Fenimore Cooper.

On leaving the University, he meant to take up a permanent residence
in the country; but this enthusiasm waned at the close of the summer,
as it does with nearly everybody, and he went to St. Petersburg in the
autumn of 1847, where he entered the University in the department of
law. During all this time he had the habit of almost morbid
introspection, and like so many young people, he wrote resolutions and
kept a diary. In 1851 he went with his brother to the Caucasus, and
entered the military service, as described in his novel, "The
Cossacks." Here he indulged in dissipation, cards, and women, like the
other soldiers. In the midst of his life there he wrote to his aunt,
in French, the language of most of their correspondence, "You recall
some advice you once gave me--to write novels: well, I am of your
opinion, and I am doing literary work. I do not know whether what I
write will ever appear in the world, but it is work that amuses me,
and in which I have persevered for too long a time to give it up." He
noted at this time that the three passions which obstructed the moral
way were gambling, sensuality, and vanity. And he further wrote in his
journal, "There is something in me which makes me think that I was not
born to be just like everybody else." Again: "The man who has no other
goal than his own happiness is a bad man. He whose goal is the good
opinion of others is a weak man. He whose goal is the happiness of
others is a virtuous man. He whose goal is God is a great man!"

He finished his first novel, "Childhood," sent it to a Russian review,
and experienced the most naive delight when the letter of acceptance
arrived. "It made me happy to the limit of stupidity," he wrote in his
diary. The letter was indeed flattering. The publisher recognised the
young author's talent, and was impressed with his "simplicity and
reality," as well he might be, for they became the cardinal qualities
of all Tolstoi's books. It attracted little attention, however, and no
criticism of it appeared for two years. But a little later, when
Dostoevski obtained in Siberia the two numbers of the periodical
containing "Childhood" and "Boyhood," he was deeply moved, and wrote
to a friend, asking, Who is this mysterious L. N. T.? But for a long
time Tolstoi refused to let his name be known.

Tolstoi took part in the Crimean war, not as a spectator or reporter,
but as an officer. He was repeatedly in imminent danger, and saw all
the horrors of warfare, as described in "Sevastopol." Still, he found
time somehow for literary work, wrote "Boyhood," and read Dickens in
English. About this time he decided to substitute the Lord's Prayer in
his private devotions for all other petitions, saying that "Thy will
be done on earth as it is in Heaven" included everything. On the 5
March 1855 he wrote in his diary a curious prophecy of his present
attitude toward religion: "My conversations on divinity and faith have
led me to a great idea, for the realisation of which I am ready to
devote my whole life. This idea is the founding of a new religion,
corresponding to the level of human development, the religion of
Christ, but purified of all dogmas and mysteries, a practical religion
not promising a blessed future life, but bestowing happiness here on
earth."

In this same year he wrote the book which was the first absolute proof
of his genius, and with the publication of which his reputation
began--"Sevastopol in December." This was printed in the same review
that had accepted his first work, was greeted with enthusiasm by
Turgenev and the literary circles at Petersburg, was read by the Tsar,
and translated into French at the imperial command. It was followed by
"Sevastopol in May" and "Sevastopol in August," and Tolstoi found
himself famous.

It was evident that a man so absorbed in religious ideas and so
sensitive to the hideous wholesale murder of war, could not remain for
long in the army. He arrived at Petersburg on the 21 November 1855,
and had a warm reception from the distinguished group of writers who
were at that time contributors to the "Sovremennik* (The Contemporary
Review)," which had published Tolstoi's work. This review had been
founded by Pushkin in 1836, was now edited by Nekrassov, who had
accepted Tolstoi's first article, "Childhood," and had enlisted the
foremost writers of Russia, prominent among whom was, of course,
Turgenev. The books which Tolstoi read with the most profit during
this period were Goethe, Hugo's "Notre-Dame," Plato in French, and
Homer in Russian.

*An amusing caricature of the time represents Turgenev, Ovstrovski,
and Tolstoi bringing rolls of manuscripts to the editors.

Turgenev had a fixed faith in the future of Tolstoi; he was already
certain that a great writer had appeared in Russia. Writing to a
friend from Paris, in 1856, he said, "When this new wine is ripened
there will be a drink fit for the gods." In 1857, after Tolstoi had
visited him in Paris, Turgenev wrote, "This man will go far and will
leave behind him a profound influence." But the two authors had little
in common, and it was evident that there could never be perfect
harmony between them. Explaining why he could not feel wholly at ease
with Tolstoi, he said, "We are made of different clay."

In January 1857, Tolstoi left Moscow for Warsaw by sledge, and from
there travelled by rail for Paris. In March, accompanied by Turgenev,
he went to Dijon, and saw a man executed by the guillotine. He was
deeply impressed both by the horror and by the absurdity of capital
punishment, and, as he said, the affair "pursued" him for a long time.
He travelled on through Switzerland, and at Lucerne he felt the
contrast between the great natural beauty of the scenery and the
artificiality of the English snobs in the hotel. He journeyed on down
the Rhine, and returned to Russia from Berlin. During all these months
of travel, his journal expresses the constant religious fermentation
of his mind, and his intense democratic sentiments. They were the same
ideas held by the Tolstoi of 1900.

On the 3 July 1860, he left Petersburg by steamer, once more to visit
southern Europe. He visited schools, universities, and studied the
German methods of education. He also spent some time in the south of
France, and wrote part of "The Cossacks" there. In Paris he once more
visited Turgenev, and then crossed over to London, where he saw the
great Russian critic Herzen almost every day. Herzen was not at all
impressed by Tolstoi's philosophical views, finding them both weak and
vague. The little daughter of Herzen begged her father for the
privilege of meeting the young and famous author. She expected to see
a philosopher, who would speak of weighty matters: what was her
disappointment when Count Tolstoi appeared, dressed in the latest
English style, looking exactly like a fashionable man of the world,
and talking with great enthusiasm of a cock-fight he had just
witnessed!

After nine months' absence, Tolstoi returned to Russia in April 1861.
He soon went to his home at Yasnaya Polyana, established a school for
the peasants, and devoted himself to the arduous labour of their
education. Here he had a chance to put into practice all the theories
that he had acquired from his observations in Germany and England. He
worked so hard that he injured his health, and in a few months was
forced to travel and rest. In this same year he lost a thousand rubles
playing billiards with Katkov, the well-known editor of the "Russian
Messenger." Not being able to pay cash, he gave Katkov the manuscript
of his novel, "The Cossacks," which was accordingly printed in the
review in January 1863.

On the 23 September 1862, he was married. A short time before this
event he gave his fiancee his diary, which contained a frank and free
account of all the sins of his bachelor life. She was overwhelmed, and
thought of breaking off the engagement. After many nights spent in
wakeful weeping, she returned the journal to him, with a full pardon,
and assurance of complete affection. It was fortunate for him that
this young girl was large-hearted enough to forgive his sins, for she
became an ideal wife, and shared in all his work, copying in her own
hand his manuscripts again and again. In all her relations with the
difficult temperament of her husband, she exhibited the utmost
devotion, and that uncommon quality which we call common sense.

Shortly after the marriage, Tolstoi began the composition of a
leviathan in historical fiction, "War and Peace." While composing it,
he wrote: "If one could only accomplish the hundredth part of what one
conceives, but one cannot even do a millionth part! Still, the
consciousness of Power is what brings happiness to a literary man. I
have felt this power particularly during this year." He suffered,
however, from many paroxysms of despair, and constantly corrected what
he wrote. This made it necessary for his wife to copy out the
manuscript; and it is said that she wrote in her own hand the whole
manuscript of this enormous work seven times!

The publication of the novel began in the "Russki Viesinik (Russian
Messenger)" for January 1865, and the final chapters did not appear
till 1869. It attracted constant attention during the process of
publication, and despite considerable hostile criticism, established
the reputation of its author.

During its composition Tolstoi read all kinds of books, "Pickwick
Papers," Anthony Trollope, whom he greatly admired, and Schopenhauer,
who for a time fascinated him. In 1869 he learned Greek, and was proud
of being able to read the "Anabasis" in a few months. He interested
himself in social problems, and fought hard with the authorities to
save a man from capital punishment. To various schemes of education,
and to the general amelioration of the condition of the peasants, he
gave all the tremendous energy of his mind.

On the 19 March 1873, he began the composition of "Anna Karenina,"
which was to give him his greatest fame outside of Russia. Several
years were spent in its composition and publication. Despite the power
of genius displayed in this masterpiece, he did not enjoy writing it,
and seemed to be unaware of its splendid qualities. In 1875 he wrote,
"For two months I have not soiled my fingers with ink, but now I
return again to this tiresome and vulgar "Anna Karenina," with the
sole wish of getting it done as soon as possible, in order that I may
have time for other work." It was published in the "Russian
Messenger," and the separate numbers drew the attention of critics
everywhere, not merely in Russia, but all over Europe.

The printing began in 1874. All went well enough for two years, as we
see by a letter of the Countess Tolstoi, in December 1876. "At last we
are writing "Anna Karenina comme il faut," that is, without
interruptions. Leo, full of animation, writes an entire chapter every
day, and I copy it off as fast as possible; even now, under this
letter, there are the pages of the new chapter that he wrote
yesterday. Katkov telegraphed day before yesterday to send some
chapters for the December number." But, just before the completion of
the work, Tolstoi and the editor, Katkov, had an irreconcilable
quarrel. The war with Turkey was imminent. Tolstoi was naturally
vehemently opposed to it, while Katkov did everything in his power to
inflame public opinion in favour of the war party; and he felt that
Vronsky's departure for the war, after the death of Anna, with Levin's
comments thereupon, were written in an unpatriotic manner. Ridiculous
as it now seems to give this great masterpiece a political twist, or
to judge it from that point of view, it was for a time the sole
question that agitated the critics. Katkov insisted that Tolstoi
"soften" the objectionable passages. Tolstoi naturally refused, editor
and author quarrelled, and Tolstoi was forced to publish the last
portion of the work in a separate pamphlet. In the number of May 1877,
Katkov printed a footnote to the instalment of the novel, which shows
how little he understood its significance, although the majority of
contemporary Russian critics understood the book no better than he.

"In our last number, at the foot of the novel "Anna Karenina," we
printed, 'Conclusion in the next issue.' But with the death of the
heroine the real story ends. According to the plan of the author,
there will be a short epilogue, in which the reader will learn that
Vronsky, overwhelmed by the death of Anna, will depart for Servia as a
volunteer; that all the other characters remain alive and well; that
Levin lives on his estates and fumes against the Slavonic party and
the volunteers. Perhaps the author will develop this chapter in a
special edition of his novel."

Levin's conversation with the peasant, toward the close of "Anna
Karenina," indicates clearly the religious attitude of Tolstoi, and
prepares us for the crisis that followed. From 1877 to 1879 he passed
through a spiritual struggle, read the New Testament constantly, and
became completely converted to the practical teachings of the Gospel.
Then followed his well-known work, "My Religion," the abandonment of
his former way of life, and his attempts to live like a peasant, in
daily manual labour. Since that time he wrote a vast number of
religious, political, and social tracts, dealing with war, marriage,
law-courts, imprisonment, etc. Many of the religious tracts belong to
literature by the beauty and simple directness of their style. Two
short stories and one long novel, all written with a didactic purpose,
are of this period, and added to their author's reputation: "The Death
of Ivan Ilyich, The Kreuzer Sonata," and "Resurrection."

One cannot but admire the courage of Tolstoi in attempting to live in
accordance with his convictions, just as we admire Milton for his
motives in abandoning poetry for politics. But our unspeakable regret
at the loss to the world in both instances, when its greatest living
author devotes himself to things done much better by men destitute of
talent, makes us heartily sympathise with the attitude of the
Countess, who hardly knew whether to laugh or to cry. In a letter to
her husband, written in October 1884, and filled with terms of
affectionate tenderness, she said: "Yesterday I received your letter,
and it has made me very sad. I see that you have remained at Yasnaya
not for intellectual work, which I place above everything, but to play
'Robinson.' You have let the cook go . . . and from morning to night
you give yourself up to manual toil fit only for young men. . . . You
will say, of course, that this manner of life conforms to your
principles and that it does you good. That's another matter. I can
only say, 'Rejoice and take your pleasure,' and at the same time I
feel sad to think that such an intellectual force as yours should
expend itself in cutting wood, heating the samovar, and sewing boots.
That is all very well as a change of work, but not for an occupation.
Well, enough of this subject. If I had not written this, it would have
rankled in me, and now it has passed and I feel like laughing. I can
calm myself only by this Russian proverb: 'Let the child amuse
himself, no matter how, provided he doesn't cry."

In the last few weeks of his life, the differences of opinion between
the aged couple became so acute that Tolstoi fled from his home, and
refused to see the Countess again. This flight brought on a sudden
illness, and the great writer died early in the morning of the 20
November 1910. He was buried under an oak tree at Yasnaya Polyana.

Although Count Tolstoi divided his life into four distinct periods,
and although critics have often insisted on the great difference
between his earlier and his later work, these differences fade away on
a close scrutiny of the man's whole production, from "Childhood" to
"Resurrection."

"Souls alter not, and mine must still advance," said Browning. This is
particularly true of Tolstoi. He progressed, but did not change; and
he progressed along the path already clearly marked in his first
books. The author of "Sevastopol" and "The Cossacks" was the same man
mentally and spiritually who wrote "Anna Karenina," "Ivan Ilyich,"
"The Kreuzer Sonata," and "Resurrection." Indeed, few great authors
have steered so straight a course as he. No such change took place in
him as occurred with Bjornson. The teaching of the later books is more
evident, the didactic purpose is more obvious, but that is something
that happens to almost all writers as they descend into the vale of
years. The seed planted in the early novels simply came to a perfectly
natural and logical fruition.

Not only do the early novels indicate the direction that Tolstoi's
whole life was bound to assume, but his diary and letters show the
same thing. The extracts from these that I have given above are
substantial proof of this--he saw the truth just as clearly in 1855 as
he saw it in 1885, or in 1905. The difference between the early and
later Tolstoi is not, then, a difference in mental viewpoint, it is a
difference in conduct and action.* The eternal moral law of
self-sacrifice was revealed to him in letters of fire when he wrote
"The Cossacks" and "Sevastopol;" everything that he wrote after was a
mere amplification and additional emphasis. But he was young then; and
although he saw the light, he preferred the darkness. He knew then,
just as clearly as he knew later, that the life in accordance with New
Testament teaching was a better life than that spent in following his
animal instincts; but his knowledge did not save him.

*For a very unfavourable view of Tolstoi's later conduct, the
"Tolstoi legend," see Merezhkovski, Tolstoi as Man and Artist.

Even the revolutionary views on art, which he expressed toward the end
of the century in his book, "What is Art?" were by no means a sudden
discovery, nor do they reveal a change in his attitude. The
accomplished translator, Mr. Maude, said in his preface, "The
fundamental thought expressed in this book leads inevitably to
conclusions so new, so unexpected, and so contrary to what is usually
maintained in literary and artistic circles," etc. But while the
conclusions seemed new (and absurd) to many artists, they were not at
all new to Tolstoi. So early as 1872 he practically held these views.
In a letter to Strakov, expressing his contempt for modern Russian
literature and the language of the great poets and novelists, he said:
"Pushkin himself appears to me ridiculous. The language of the people,
on the contrary, has sounds to express everything that the poet is
able to say, and it is very dear to me." In the same letter he wrote,
"'Poor Lisa' drew tears and received homage, but no one reads her any
more, while popular songs and tales, and folk-lore ballads will live
as long as the Russian language."

In his views of art, in his views of morals, in his views of religion,
Tolstoi developed, but he did not change. He simply followed his ideas
to their farthest possible extreme, so that many Anglo-Saxons
suspected him even of madness. In reality, the method of his thought
is characteristically and purely Russian. An Englishman may be in love
with an idea, and start out bravely to follow it; but if he finds it
leading him into a position contrary to the experience of humanity,
then he pulls up, and decides that the idea must be false, even if he
can detect no flaw in it; not so the Russian; the idea is right, and
humanity is wrong.

No author ever told us so much about himself as Tolstoi. Not only do
we now possess his letters and journals, in which he revealed his
inner life with the utmost clarity of detail, but all his novels, even
those that seem the most objective, are really part of his
autobiography. Through the persons of different characters he is
always talking about himself, always introspective. That is one reason
why his novels seem so amazingly true to life. They seem true because
they are true.

Some one said of John Stuart Mill, "Analysis is the king of his
intellect." This remark is also true of most Russian novelists, and
particularly true of Tolstoi. In all his work, historical romance,
realistic novels, religious tracts, his greatest power was shown in
the correct analysis of mental states. And he took all human nature
for his province. Strictly speaking, there are no minor characters in
his books. The same pains are taken with persons who have little
influence on the course of the story, as with the chief actors. The
normal interests him even more than the abnormal, which is the great
difference between his work and that of Gorki and Andreev, as it was
the most striking difference between Shakespeare and his later
contemporaries. To reveal ordinary people just as they really
are,--sometimes in terrific excitement, sometimes in humdrum
routine,--this was his aim. Natural scenery is occasionally
introduced, like the mountains in "The Cossacks," to show how the
spectacle affects the mind of the person who is looking at it. It is
seldom made use of for a background. Mere description occupied a very
small place in Tolstoi's method. The intense fidelity to detail in the
portrayal of character, whether obsessed by a mighty passion, or
playing with a trivial caprice, is the chief glory of his work. This
is why, after the reading of Tolstoi, so many other "realistic" novels
seem utterly untrue and absurd.

The three stories, "Childhood, Boyhood, Youth," now generally
published as one novel, are the work of a genius, but not a work of
genius. They are interesting in the light of their author's later
books, and they are valuable as autobiography. The fact that he
himself repudiated them, was ashamed of having written them, and
declared that their style was unnatural, means little or much,
according to one's viewpoint. But the undoubted power revealed here
and there in their pages is immature, a mere suggestion of what was to
follow. They are exercises in composition. He learned how to write in
writing these. But the intention of their author is clear enough. His
"stress lay on the incidents in the development of a soul." There is
not a single unusual or sensational event in the whole narrative, nor
did the hero grow up in any strange or remarkable environment. The
interest therefore is not in what happened, but wholly in the ripening
character of the child. The circumstances are partly true of Tolstoi's
own boyhood, partly not; he purposely mixed his own and his friends'
experiences. But mentally the boy is Tolstoi himself, revealed in all
the awkwardness, self-consciousness, and morbidity of youth. The boy's
pride, vanity, and curious mixture of timidity and conceit do not form
a very attractive picture, and were not intended to. Tolstoi himself
as a young man had little charm, and his numerous portraits all
plainly indicate the fact. His Satanic pride made frank friendship
with him almost an impossibility. Despite our immense respect for his
literary power, despite the enormous influence for good that his later
books have effected, it must be said that of all the great Russian
writers, Tolstoi was the most unlovely.

These three sketches, taken as one, are grounded on moral ideas--the
same ideas that later completely dominated the author's life. We feel
his hatred of dissipation and of artificiality. The chapter on Love,
in "Youth," might also form a part of the "Kreuzer Sonata," so fully
does it harmonise with the teaching of the later work.

"I do not speak of the love of a young man for a young girl, and hers
for him; I fear these tendernesses, and I have been so unfortunate in
life as never to have seen a single spark of truth in this species of
love, but only a lie, in which sentiment, connubial relations, money,
a desire to bind or to unbind one's hands, have to such an extent
confused the feeling itself, that it has been impossible to
disentangle it. I am speaking of the love for man."*

*Translated by Isabel Hapgood.

Throughout this book, as in all Tolstoi's work, is the eternal
question WHY? For what purpose is life, and to what end am I living?
What is the real meaning of human ambition and human effort?

Tolstoi's reputation as an artist quite rightly began with the
publication of the three Sevastopol stories, "Sevastopol in December"
[1854], "Sevastopol in May, Sevastopol in August." This is the work,
not of a promising youth, but of a master. There is not a weak or a
superfluous paragraph. Maurice Hewlett has cleverly turned the charge
that those 'who oppose war are sentimentalists, by risposting that the
believers in war are the real sentimentalists: "they do not see the
murder beneath the khaki and the flags." Tolstoi was one of the first
novelists to strip war of its glamour, and portray its dull,
commonplace filth, and its unspeakable horror. In reading that
masterpiece "La Debacle," and every one who believes in war ought to
read it, one feels that Zola must have learned something from Tolstoi.
The Russian novelist stood in the midst of the flying shells, and how
little did any one then realise that his own escape from death was an
event of far greater importance to the world than the outcome of the
war!

There is little patriotic feeling in "Sevastopol," and its success was
artistic rather than political. Of course Russian courage is praised,
but so is the courage of the French. In spite of the fact that Tolstoi
was a Russian officer, actively fighting for his country, he shows a
singular aloofness from party passion in all his descriptions. The
only partisan statement is in the half sentence, "it is a comfort to
think that it was not we who began this war, that we are only
defending our own country," which might profitably be read by those
who believe in "just" wars, along with Tennyson's "Maud," published at
the same time. Tennyson was cock-sure that the English were God's own
people, and in all this bloodshed were doing the blessed work of their
Father in heaven.

"God's just wrath shall be wreak'd on a giant liar."

Throughout the heat of the conflict, Tolstoi felt its utter absurdity,
really holding the same views of war that he held as an old man. "And
why do not Christian people," he wrote in "Sevastopol in May," "who
profess the one great law of love and self-sacrifice, when they behold
what they have wrought, fall in repentance upon their knees before Him
who, when He gave them life, implanted in the soul of each of them,
together with the fear of death, a love of the good and beautiful,
and, with tears of joy and happiness, embrace each other like
brothers?"

Together with the fear of death-this fear is analysed by Tolstoi in
all its manifestations. The fear of the young officer, as he exchanges
the enthusiastic departure from Petersburg for the grim reality of the
bastions; the fear of the still sound and healthy man as he enters the
improvised hospitals; the fear as the men watch the point of
approaching light that means a shell; the fear of the men lying on the
ground, waiting with closed eyes for the shell to burst. It is the
very psychology of death. In reading the account of Praskukhin's
sensations just before death, one feels, as one does in reading the
thoughts of Anna Karenina under the train, that Tolstoi himself must
have died in some previous existence, in order to analyse death so
clearly. And all these officers, who walk in the Valley of the Shadow,
have their selfish ambitions, their absurd social distinctions, and
their overweening, egotistical vanity.

At the end of the middle sketch, "Sevastopol in May," Tolstoi wrote
out the only creed to which he remained consistently true all his
life, the creed of Art.

"Who is the villain, who the hero? All are good and all are evil.

"The hero of my tale, whom I love with all the strength of my soul,
whom I have tried to set forth in all his beauty, and who has always
been, is, and always will be most beautiful, is--the truth."

The next important book, "The Cossacks," is not a great novel. Tolstoi
himself grew tired of it, and never finished it. It is interesting as
an excellent picture of an interesting community, and it is
interesting as a diary, for the chief character, Olenin, is none other
than Leo Tolstoi. He departed for the Caucasus in much the same manner
as the young writer, and his observations and reflections there are
Tolstoi's own. The triple contrast in the book is powerfully shown:
first, the contrast between the majesty of the mountains and the
pettiness of man; second, the contrast between the noble simplicity of
the Cossack women and the artificiality of the padded shapes of
society females; third, the contrast between the two ways of life,
that which Olenin recognises as right, the Christian law of
self-denial, but which he does not follow, and the almost sublime
pagan bodily joy of old Uncle Yeroshka, who lives in exact harmony
with his creed. Yeroshka is a living force, a real character, and
might have been created by Gogol.

Olenin, who is young Tolstoi, and not very much of a man, soliloquises
in language that was echoed word for word by the Tolstoi of the
twentieth century.

"Happiness consists in living for others. This also is clear. Man is
endowed with a craving for happiness; therefore it must be legitimate.
If he satisfies it egotistically,--that is, if he bends his energies
toward acquiring wealth, fame, physical comforts, love, it may happen
that circumstances will make it impossible to satisfy this craving. In
fact, these cravings are illegitimate, but the craving for happiness
is not illegitimate. What cravings can always be satisfied
independently of external conditions? Love, self-denial."*

*Translated by Isabel Hapgood.

His later glorification of physical labour, as the way of salvation
for irresolute and overeducated Russians, is as emphatically stated in
"The Cossacks" as it is in the "Kreuzer Sonata."

"The constant hard field labour, and the duties intrusted to them,
give a peculiarly independent, masculine character to the Greben
women, and have served to develop in them, to a remarkable degree,
physical powers, healthy minds, decision and stability of character."

The chief difference between Turgenev and Tolstoi is that Turgenev was
always an artist; Tolstoi always a moralist. It was not necessary for
him to abandon novels, and write tracts; for in every novel his moral
teaching was abundantly clear.

With the possible exception of "Taras Bulba," "War and Peace" is the
greatest historical romance in the Russian language, perhaps the
greatest in any language. It is not illumined by the humour of any
such character as Zagloba, who brightens the great chronicles of
Sienkiewicz; for if Tolstoi had had an accurate sense of humour, or
the power to create great comic personages, he would never have been
led into the final extremes of doctrine. But although this long book
is unrelieved by mirth, and although as an objective historical
panorama it does not surpass "The Deluge," it is nevertheless a
greater book. It is greater because its psychological analysis is more
profound and more cunning. It is not so much a study of war, or the
study of a vital period in the earth's history, as it is a revelation
of all phases of human nature in a time of terrible stress. It is
filled with individual portraits, amazingly distinct.

Professors of history and military experts have differed widely--as it
is the especial privilege of scholars and experts to differ--concerning
the accuracy of "War and Peace" as a truthful narrative of events. But
this is really a matter of no importance. Shakespeare is the greatest
writer the world has ever seen; but he is not an authority on history;
he is an authority on man. When we wish to study the Wars of the Roses,
we do not turn to his pages, brilliant as they are. Despite all the
geographical and historical research that Tolstoi imposed on himself
as a preliminary to the writing of "War and Peace," he did not write
the history of that epoch, nor would a genuine student quote him as in
authority. He created a prose epic, a splendid historical panorama,
vitalised by a marvellous imagination, where the creatures of his fancy
are more alive than Napoleon and Alexander. Underneath all the march of
armies, the spiritual purpose of the author is clear. The real greatness
of man consists not in fame or pride of place, but in simplicity and
purity of heart. Once more he gives us the contrast between artificiality
and reality.

This novel, like all of Tolstoi's, is by no means a perfect work of
art. Its outline is irregular and ragged; its development devious. It
contains many excrescences, superfluities, digressions. But it is a
dictionary of life, where one may look up any passion, any emotion,
any ambition, any weakness, and find its meaning. Strakov called it a
complete picture of the Russia of that time, and a complete picture of
humanity.

Its astonishing inequalities make the reader at times angrily
impatient, and at other times inspired. One easily understands the
varying emotions of Turgenev, who read the story piecemeal, in the
course of its publication. "The second part of 1805 is weak. How petty
and artificial all that is! . . . where are the real features of the
epoch? where is the historical colour?" Again: "I have just finished
reading the fourth volume. It contains things that are intolerable and
things that are astounding; these latter are the things that dominate
the work, and they are so admirable that never has a Russian written
anything better; I do not believe there has ever been written anything
so good." Again: "How tormenting are his obstinate repetitions of the
same thing: the down on the upper lip of the Princess Bolkonsky. But
with all that, there are in this novel passages that no man in Europe
except Tolstoi could have written, things which put me into a frenzy
of enthusiasm."

Tolstoi's genius reached its climax in "Anna Karenina." Greatly as I
admire some of his other books, I would go so far as to say that if a
forced choice had to be made, I had rather have "Anna Karenina" than
all the rest of his works put together. Leave that out, and his
position in the history of fiction diminishes at once. It is surely
the most powerful novel written by any man of our time, and it would
be difficult to name a novel of any period that surpasses it in
strength. I well remember the excitement with which we American
undergraduates in the eighties read the poor and clipped English
translation of this book. Twenty years' contemplation of it makes it
seem steadily greater.

Yet its composition was begun by a mere freak, by something analogous
to a sporting proposition. He was thinking of writing a historical
romance of the times of Peter the Great, but the task seemed
formidable, and he felt no well of inspiration. One evening, the 19
March 1873, he entered a room where his ten-year-old boy had been
reading aloud from a story by Pushkin. Tolstoi picked up the book and
read the first sentence: "On the eve of the fete the guests began to
arrive." He was charmed by the abrupt opening, and cried: "That's the
way to begin a book! The reader is immediately taken into the action.
Another writer would have begun by a description, but Pushkin, he goes
straight to his goal." Some one in the room suggested playfully to
Tolstoi that he try a similar commencement and write a novel. He
immediately withdrew, and wrote the first sentence of Anna Karenina.
The next day the Countess said in a letter to her sister: "Yesterday
Leo all of a sudden began to write a novel of contemporary life. The
subject: the unfaithful wife and the whole resulting tragedy. I am
very happy."

The suicide of the heroine was taken almost literally from an event
that happened in January 1872. We learn this by a letter of the
Countess, written on the 10 January in that year: "We have just
learned of a very dramatic story. You remember, at Bibikov's, Anna
Stepanova? Well, this Anna Stepanova was jealous of all the
governesses at Bibikov's house. She displayed her jealousy so much
that finally Bibikov became angry and quarrelled with her; then Anna
Stepanova left him and went to Tula. For three days no one knew where
she was. At last, on the third day, she appeared at Yassenky, at five
o'clock in the afternoon, with a little parcel. At the railway station
she gave the coachman a letter for Bibikov, and gave him a ruble for a
tip. Bibikov would not take the letter, and when the coachman returned
to the station, he learned that Anna Stepanova had thrown herself
under the train and was crushed to death. She had certainly done it
intentionally. The judge came, and they read him the letter. It said:
'You are my murderer: be happy, if assassins can be. If you care to,
you can see my corpse on the rails, at Yassenky.' Leo and Uncle Kostia
have gone to the autopsy."

Most of the prominent characters in the book are taken from life, and
the description of the death of Levin's brother is a recollection of
the time when Tolstoi's own brother died in his arms.

Levin is, of course, Tolstoi himself; and all his eternal doubts and
questionings, his total dissatisfaction and condemnation of artificial
social life in the cities, his spiritual despair, and his final
release from suffering at the magic word of the peasant are strictly
autobiographical. When the muzhik told Levin that one man lived for
his belly, and another for his soul, he became greatly excited, and
eagerly demanded further knowledge of his humble teacher. He was once
more told that man must live according to God--according to truth. His
soul was immediately filled, says Tolstoi, with brilliant light. He
was indeed relieved of his burden, like Christian at the sight of the
Cross. Now Tolstoi's subsequent doctrinal works are all amplifications
of the conversation between Levin and the peasant, which in itself
contains the real significance of the whole novel.

Even "Anna Karenina," with all its titanic power, is not an artistic
model of a story. It contains much superfluous matter, and the
balancing off of the two couples, Levin and Kitty, with Vronsky and
Anna, is too obviously arranged by the author. One Russian critic was
so disgusted with the book that he announced the plan of a
continuation of the novel where Levin was to fall in love with his
cow, and Kitty's resulting jealousy was to be depicted.

It has no organic plot--simply a succession of pictures. The plot does
not develop--but the characters do, thus resembling our own individual
human lives. It has no true unity, such as that shown, for example, by
the "Scarlet Letter." Our interest is largely concentrated in Anna,
but besides the parallel story of Kitty, we have many other incidents
and characters which often contribute nothing to the progress of the
novel. They are a part of life, however, so Tolstoi includes them. One
might say there is an attempt at unity, in the person of that sleek
egotist, Stepan--his relation by blood and marriage to both Anna and
Kitty makes him in some sense a link between the two couples. But he
is more successful as a personage than as the keystone of an arch. The
novel would really lose nothing by considerable cancellation. The
author might have omitted Levin's two brothers, the whole Kitty and
Levin history could have been liberally abbreviated, and many of the
conversations on philosophy and politics would never be missed. Yes,
the work could be shortened, but it would take a Turgenev to do it.

Although we may not always find Art in the book, we always find Life.
No novel in my recollection combines wider range with greater
intensity. It is extensive and intensive--broad and deep. The
simplicity of the style in the most impressive scenes is so startling
that it seems as if there were somehow no style and no language there;
nothing whatever between the life in the book and the reader's mind;
not only no impenetrable wall of style, such as Meredith and James
pile up with curious mosaic, so that one cannot see the characters in
the story through the exquisite and opaque structure,--but really no
medium at all, transparent or otherwise. The emotional life of the men
and women enter into our emotions with no let or hindrance, and that
perfect condition of communication is realised which Browning believed
would characterise the future life, when spirits would somehow
converse without the slow, troublesome, and inaccurate means of
language.

I believe that the average man can learn more about life by reading
"Anna Karenina" than he can by his own observation and experience. One
learns much about Russian life in city and country, much about human
nature, and much about one's self, not all of which is flattering, but
perhaps profitable for instruction.

This is the true realism--external and internal. The surface of things,
clothes, habits of speech, manners and fashions, the way people enter
a drawing-room, the way one inhales a cigarette,--everything is truthfully
reported. Then there is the true internal realism, which dives below
all appearances and reveals the dawn of a new passion, the first faint
stir of an ambition, the slow and cruel advance of the poison of jealousy,
the ineradicable egotism, the absolute darkness of unspeakable remorse.
No caprice is too trivial, no passion too colossal, to be beyond the
reach of the author of this book.

Some novels have attained a wide circulation by means of one scene. In
recollecting "Anna Karenina," powerful scenes crowd into the
memory--introspective and analytic as it is, it is filled with
dramatic climaxes. The sheer force of some of these scenes is almost
terrifying. The first meeting of Anna and Vronsky at the railway
station, the midnight interview in the storm on the way back to
Petersburg, the awful dialogue between them after she has fallen
(omitted from the first American translation), the fearful excitement
of the horse race, the sickness of Anna, Karenin's forgiveness, the
humiliation of Vronsky, the latter's attempt at suicide, the steadily
increasing scenes of jealousy with the shadow of death coming nearer,
the clairvoyant power of the author in describing the death of Anna,
and the departure of Vronsky, where the railway station reminds him
with intrusive agony of the contrast between his first and last view
of the woman he loved. No one but Tolstoi would ever have given his
tragic character a toothache at that particular time; but the
toothache, added to the heartache, gives the last touch of reality. No
reader has ever forgotten Vronsky, as he stands for the last time by
the train, his heart torn by the vulture of Memory, and his face
twisted by the steady pain in his tooth.

Every character in the book, major and minor, is a living human being.
Stepan, with his healthy, pampered body, and his inane smile at
Dolly's reproachful face; Dolly, absolutely commonplace and absolutely
real; Yashvin, the typical officer; the English trainer, Cord; Betsy,
always cheerful, always heartless, probably the worst character in the
whole book, Satan's own spawn; Karenin himself, not ridiculous, like
an English Restoration husband, but with an overwhelming power of
creating ennui, in which he lives and moves and has his being.

From the first day of his acquaintance with Anna, Vronsky steadily
rises, and Anna steadily falls. This is in accordance with the
fundamental, inexorable moral law. Vronsky, a handsome man with no
purpose in life, who has had immoral relations with a large variety of
women, now falls for the first time really in love, and his love for
one woman strengthens his mind and heart, gives him an object in life,
and concentrates the hitherto scattered energies of his soul. His
development as a man, his rise in dignity and force of character, is
one of the notable features of the whole book. When we first see him,
he is colourless, a mere fashionable type; he constantly becomes more
interesting, and when we last see him, he has not only our profound
sympathy, but our cordial respect. He was a figure in a uniform, and
has become a man. Devotion to one woman has raised him far above
trivialities.

The woman pays for all this. Never again, not even in the transports
of passion, will she be so happy as when we first see her on that
bright winter day. She grows in intelligence by the fruit of the tree,
and sinks in moral worth and in peace of mind. Never, since the time
of Helen, has there been a woman in literature of more physical charm.
Tolstoi, whose understanding of the body is almost supernatural, has
created in Anna a woman, quite ordinary from the mental and spiritual
point of view, but who leaves on every reader an indelible vision of
surpassing loveliness. One is not surprised at Vronsky's instant and
total surrender.

As a study of sin, the moral force of the story is tremendous. At the
end, the words of Paul come irresistibly into the mind. To be carnally
minded is death; to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

One can understand Tolstoi's enthusiasm for the Gospel in his later
years, and also the prodigious influence of his parables and
evangelistic narratives, by remembering that the Russian mind, which,
as Gogol said, is more capable than any other of receiving the
Christian religion, had been starved for centuries. The Orthodox
Church of Russia seems to have been and to be as remote from the life
of the people as the political bureaucracy. The hungry sheep looked up
and were not fed. The Christian religion is the dominating force in
the works of Gogol, Tolstoi, and Dostoevski. How eager the Russian
people are for the simple Gospel, and with what amazing joy they now
receive it, remind one of the Apostolic age. Accurate testimony to
this fact has lately been given by a dispassionate German observer:--

"In the second half of the nineteenth century the Bible followed in
the track of the knowledge of reading and writing in the Russian
village. It worked, and works, far more powerfully than all the
Nihilists, and if the Holy Synod wishes to be consistent in its policy
of spiritual enslavement, it must begin by checking the distribution
of the Bible. The origin of the 'Stunde,' from the prayer hour of the
German Menonites and other evangelical colonist meetings, is well
known. The religious sense of the Russian, brooding for centuries over
empty forms, combined with the equally repressed longing for spiritual
life,--these quickly seized upon the power of a simple and practical
living religious doctrine, and the 'Stundist' movement spread rapidly
over the whole south of the Empire. Wherever a Bible in the Russian
language is to be found in the village, there a circle rapidly forms
around its learned owner; he is listened to eagerly, and the Word has
its effect. . .

"Pashkov, a colonel of the Guards, who died in Paris at the beginning
of 1902, started in the 'eighties' a movement in St. Petersburg, which
was essentially evangelical, with a methodistical tinge, and which
soon seized upon all the strata of the population in the capital.
Substantially it was a religious revival from the dry-as-dust Greek
church similar to that which in the sixteenth century turned against
the Romish church in Germany and in Switzerland. The Gospel was to
Pashkov himself new, good tidings, and as such he carried it into the
distinguished circles which he assembled at his palace on the Neva,
and as such he brought it amongst the crowds of cabmen, labourers,
laundresses, etc., whom he called from the streets to hear the news.
Pashkov's name was known by the last crossing-sweeper, and many
thousands blessed him, some because they had been moved by the
religious spirit which glowed in him, others because they knew of the
many charitable institutions which he had founded with his own means
and with the help of rich men and women friends. I myself shall never
forget the few hours which I spent in conversation with this man,
simple in spirit as in education, but so rich in religious feeling and
in true humility. To me he could offer nothing new, for all that to
him was new I, the son of Lutheran parents, had known from my
childhood days. But what was new to me was the phenomenon of a man who
had belonged for fifty years to a Christian Church and had only now
discovered as something new what is familiar to every member of an
evangelical community as the sum and substance of Christian teaching.
To him the Gospel itself was something new, a revelation.

"This has been the case of many thousands in the Russian Empire when
they opened the Bible for the first time. The spark flew from village
to village and took fire, because the people were thirsting for a
spiritual, religious life, because it brought comfort in their
material misery, and food for their minds. Holy Vladimir, with his
Byzantine priests, brought no living Christianity into the land, and
the common Russian had not been brought into contact with it during
the nine hundred years which have elapsed since. Wherever it
penetrates to-day with the Bible, there its effect is apparent. It is
such as the best Government could not accomplish by worldly means
alone. But it is diametrically opposed to the State Church; it leads
to secession from orthodoxy, and the State has entered upon a crusade
against it."*

*"Russia of To-day," by Baron E. von der Bruggen. Translated by M.
Sandwith, London, 1904. Pages 165-167.

In "The Power of Darkness, "Ivan Ilyich," and the "Kreuzer Sonata."
Tolstoi has shown the way of Death. In "Resurrection" he has shown the
way of Life. The most sensational of all his books is the "Kreuzer
Sonata;" it was generally misunderstood, and from that time some of
his friends walked no more with him. By a curious freak of the powers
of this world, it was for a time taboo in the United States, and its
passage by post was forbidden; then the matter was taken to the
courts, and a certain upright judge declared that so far from the book
being vicious, it condemned vice and immorality on every page. He not
only removed the ban, but recommended its wider circulation. The
circumstances that gave rise to its composition are described in an
exceedingly interesting article in the New York "Sun" for 10 October
1909, "A Visit to Count Leo Tolstoi in 1887," by Madame Nadine Helbig.
The whole article should be read for the charming picture it gives of
the patriarchal happiness at Yasnaya Polyana, and while she saw
clearly the real comfort enjoyed by Tolstoi, which aroused the fierce
wrath of Merezhkovski, she proved also how much good was accomplished
by the old novelist in the course of a single average day.

"Never shall I forget the evening when the young Polish violinist,
whom I have already mentioned, asked me to play with him Beethoven's
sonata for piano and violin, dedicated to Kreuzer, his favourite
piece, which he had long been unable to play for want of a good piano
player.

"Tolstoi listened with growing attention. He had the first movement
played again, and after the last note of the sonata he went out
quietly without saying, as usual, good night to his family and guests.

"That night was created the 'Kreuzer Sonata' in all its wild force.
Shortly afterward he sent me in Rome the manuscript of it. Tolstoi was
the best listener whom I have ever had the luck to play to. He forgot
himself and his surroundings. His expression changed with the music.
Tears ran down his cheeks at some beautiful adagio, and he would say,
'Tania, just give me a fresh handkerchief; I must have got a cold
to-day.' I had to play generally Beethoven and Schumann to him. He did
not approve of Bach, and on the other hand you could make him raving
mad with Liszt, and still more with Wagner."

Many hundreds of amateur players have struggled through the music of
the "Kreuzer Sonata," trying vainly to see in it what Tolstoi declared
it means. Of course the significance attached to it by Tolstoi existed
only in his vivid imagination, Beethoven being the healthiest of all
great composers. If the novelist had really wished to describe sensual
music, he would have made a much more felicitous choice of "Tristan
und Isolde."

Although his own married life was until the last years happy as man
could wish, Tolstoi introduced into the "Kreuzer Sonata" passages from
his own existence. When Posdnichev is engaged, he gives his fiancee
his memoirs, containing a truthful account of his various liaisons.
She is in utter despair, and for a time thinks of breaking off the
engagement. All this was literally true of the author himself. When a
boy, the hero was led to a house of ill-fame by a friend of his
brother, "a very gay student, one of those who are called good
fellows." This reminds us of a precisely similar attempt described by
Tolstoi in "Youth." Furthermore, Posdnichev's self-righteousness in
the fact that although he had been dissipated, he determined to be
faithful to his wife, was literally and psychologically true in
Tolstoi's own life.

The "Kreuzer Sonata" shows no diminution of Tolstoi's realistic power:
the opening scenes on the train, the analysis of the hero's mind
during the early years of his married life, and especially the murder,
all betray the familiar power of simplicity and fidelity to detail.
The passage of the blade through the corset and then into something
soft has that sensual realism so characteristic of all Tolstoi's
descriptions of bodily sensations. The book is a work of art, and
contains many reflections and bitter accusations against society that
are founded on the truth.

The moral significance of the story is perfectly clear--that men who
are constantly immoral before marriage need not expect happiness in
married life. It is a great pity that Tolstoi did not let the powerful
little novel speak for itself, and that he allowed himself to be
goaded into an explanatory and defensive commentary by the thousands
of enquiring letters from foolish readers. Much of the commentary
contains sound advice, but it leads off into that reductio ad absurdum
so characteristic of Russian thought.

Many of the tracts and parables that Tolstoi wrote are true works of
art, with a Biblical directness and simplicity of style. Their effect
outside of Russia is caused fully as much by their literary style as
by their teaching. I remember an undergraduate, who, reading "Where
Love is there God is Also," said that he was tremendously excited when
the old shoemaker lost his spectacles, and had no peace of mind till
he found them again. This is unconscious testimony to Tolstoi's power
of making trivial events seem real.

The long novel, "Resurrection," is, as Mr. Maude, the English
translator, shows, not merely a story, but a general summary of all
the final conclusions about life reached by its author. The English
volume actually has an "Index to Social Questions, Types," etc.,
giving the pages where the author's views on all such topics are
expressed in the book. Apart from the great transformation wrought in
the character of the hero, which is the motive of the work, there are
countless passages which show the genius of the author, still burning
brightly in his old age. The difference between the Easter kiss and
the kiss of lust is one of the most powerful instances of analysis,
and may be taken as a symbol of the whole work. And the depiction of
the sportsman's feelings when he brings down a wounded bird, half
shame and half rage, will startle and impress every man who has
carried a gun.

"Resurrection" teaches directly what Tolstoi always taught--what he
taught less directly, but with even greater art, in "Anna Karenina."

In reading this work of his old age, we cannot help thinking of what
Carlyle said of the octogenarian Goethe: "See how in that great mind,
beaming in mildest mellow splendour, beaming, if also trembling, like
a great sun on the verge of the horizon, near now to its long
farewell, all these things were illuminated and illustrated."



VI

GORKI



Gorki went up like the sky-rocket, and seems to have had the
traditional descent. From 1900 to 1906 everybody was talking about
him; since 1906 one scarcely hears mention of his name. He was
ridiculously overpraised, but he ought not to be forgotten. As an
artist, he will not bear a moment's comparison with Andreev; but some
of his short stories and his play, "The Night Asylum," have the
genuine Russian note of reality, and a rude strength  much too great
for its owner's control. He has never written a successful long novel,
and his plays have no coherence; but, after all, the man has the real
thing--vitality.

Just at the moment when Chekhov appeared to stand at the head of young
Russian writers, Gorki appeared, and his fame swept from one end of
the world to the other. In Russia, his public was second in numbers
only to Tolstoi's; Kuprin and Andreev both dedicated books to him; in
Germany, France, England, and America, he became literally a household
word. It is probable that there were a thousand foreigners who knew
his name, to one who had heard of Chekhov. Compared with Chekhov, he
had more matter and less art.

His true name, which comparatively few have ever heard, is Alexei
Maximovich Peshkov. "This name," said M. de Vogue, "will remain
forever buried in the parish register." He chose to write under the
name Gorki, which means "bitter," a happy appellation for this modern
Ishmaelite. He was born in 1869, at Nizhni Novgorod, in a dyer's shop.
He lost both father and mother when he was a child, but his real
mother was the river Volga, on whose banks he was born, and on whose
broad breast he has found the only repose he understands. The little
boy was apprenticed to a shoemaker, but ran away, as he did from a
subsequent employer. By a curious irony of fate, this atheist learned
to read out of a prayer-book, and this iconoclast was for a time
engaged in the manufacture of ikons, holy images. As the aristocrat
Turgenev learned Russian from a house servant, Gorki obtained his love
for literature from a cook. This happened on a steamer on the great
river, where Gorki was employed as an assistant in the galley. The
cook was a rough giant, who spent all his spare moments reading,
having an old trunk full of books. It was a miscellaneous assortment,
containing Lives of Saints, stories by Dumas pere, and fortunately
some works by Gogol. This literature gave him a thirst for learning,
and when he was sixteen he went to Kazan, a town on the Volga, where
Tolstoi had studied at the University. He had the notion that
literature and learning were there distributed free to the famished,
like bread in times of famine. He was quickly undeceived; and instead
of receiving intellectual food, he was forced to work in a baker's
shop, for a miserable pittance. These were the darkest days of his
life, and in one of his most powerful stories he has reflected the
wretched daily and nightly toil in a bakery.

Then he went on the road, and became a tramp, doing all kinds of odd
jobs, from peddling to hard manual labour on wharves and railways. At
the age of nineteen, weary of life, he shot himself, but recovered.
Then he followed the Volga to the Black Sea, unconsciously collecting
the material that in a very few years he was to give to the world. In
1892, when twenty-three years old, he succeeded in getting some of his
sketches printed in newspapers. The next year he had the good fortune
to meet at Nizhni Novgorod the famous Russian author Korolenko.
Korolenko was greatly impressed by the young vagabond, believed in his
powers, and gave timely and valuable help. With the older man's
influence, Gorki succeeded in obtaining the entree to the St.
Petersburg magazines; and while the Russian critics were at a loss how
to regard the new genius, the public went wild. He visited the capital
in 1899, and there was intense curiosity to see and to hear him. A
great hall was engaged, and when he mounted the platform to read, the
young people in the audience went into a frenzy.

Gorki has been repeatedly imprisoned for his revolutionary ideas and
efforts; in 1906, at the very apex of his fame, he came to the United
States to collect funds for the cause. The whole country was eager to
receive and to give, and his advent in New York was a notable
occasion. He insisted that he came, not as an anarchist, but as a
socialist, that his mission in the world was not to destroy, but to
fulfil. At first, he was full of enthusiasm about America and New
York, and American writers; he was tremendously impressed by the
sky-scrapers, by the intense activity of the people, and by the Hudson
River, which, as he regarded from his hotel windows, reminded him of
the Volga. He said America would be the first nation to give mankind a
true government, and that its citizens were the incarnation of
progress. He declared that Mark Twain was even more popular in Russia
than in America, that it was "a part of the national Russian
education" to read him, and that he himself had read every translation
of his books.

Incidentally he spoke of his favourite world-authors. Shakespeare he
put first of all, saying he was "staggering," an opinion quite
different from that of Tolstoi. Schopenhauer and Nietzsche were the
philosophers he liked the best. Byron and Heine he read in preference
to most other poets, for there is an invincible strain of lyric
romanticism in this Russian tramp, as there was in his master Gogol.
Flaubert, Goethe, and Dumas pere he read with delight.

A literary dinner was arranged in honour of the distinguished guest,
and inasmuch as all present were ignorant of the next day's
catastrophe, the account given of this love-feast in the New York
"Sun" is worth quoting. "Mark Twain and Gorki recognised each other
before they were introduced, but neither being able to understand the
language of the other, they simply grasped hands and held on more than
a minute. . . . Gorki said he had read Mark Twain's stories when he
was a boy, and that he had gotten much delight from them. Mark
declared that he also had been a reader and admirer of Gorki. The
smile of Gorki was broader and not so dry as the smile of Mark, but
both smiles were distinctly those of fellow-humorists who understood
each other. Gorki made a little speech which was translated by a
Russian who knew English. Gorki said he was glad to meet Mark Twain,
'world famous and in Russia the best known of American writers, a man
of tremendous force and convictions, who, when he hit, hit hard. I
have come to America to get acquainted with the American people and
ask their aid for my suffering countrymen who are fighting for
liberty. The despotism must be overthrown now, and what is needed is
money, money, money!' Mark said he was glad to meet Gorki, adding, 'If
we can help to create the Russian republic, let us start in right away
and do it. The fighting may have to be postponed awhile, but meanwhile
we can keep our hearts on the matter and we can assist the Russians in
being free.'"

A committee was formed to raise funds, and then came the explosion,
striking evidence of the enormous difference between the American and
the Continental point of view in morals. With characteristic Russian
impracticability, Gorki had come to America with a woman whom he
introduced as his wife; but it appeared that his legal wife was in
Russia, and that his attractive and accomplished companion was
somebody else. This fact, which honestly seemed to Gorki an incident
of no importance, took on a prodigious shape. This single mistake cost
the Russian revolutionary cause an enormous sum of money, and may have
altered history. Gorki was expelled from his hotel, and refused
admittance to others; unkindest cut of all, Mark Twain, whose absence
of religious belief had made Gorki believe him to be altogether
emancipated from prejudices, positively refused to have anything more
to do with him. As Gorki had said, "When Mark Twain hit, he hit hard."
Turn whither he would, every door was slammed in his face. I do not
think he has ever recovered from the blank amazement caused by the
American change of front. His golden opportunity was gone, and he
departed for Italy, shaking the dust of America off his feet, and
roundly cursing the nation that he had just declared to be the
incarnation of progress. The affair unquestionably has its ludicrous
side, but it was a terrible blow to the revolutionists. Many of them
believed that the trap was sprung by the government party.

Gorki's full-length novels are far from successful works of art. They
have all the incoherence and slipshod workmanship of Dostoevski,
without the latter's glow of brotherly love. His first real novel,
"Foma Gordeev," an epic of the Volga, has many beautiful descriptive
passages, really lyric and idyllic in tone, mingled with an incredible
amount of drivel. The character who plays the title-role is a typical
Russian windbag, irresolute and incapable, like so many Russian
heroes; but whether drunk or sober, he is destitute of charm. He is
both dreary and dirty. The opening chapters are written with great
spirit, and the reader is full of happy expectation. One goes farther
and fares worse. After the first hundred pages, the book is a
prolonged anti-climax, desperately dull. Altogether the best passage
in the story is the description of the river in spring, impressive not
merely for its beauty and accuracy of language, but because the Volga
is interpreted as a symbol of the spirit of the Russian people, with
vast but unawakened possibilities.

"Between them, in a magnificent sweep, flowed the broad-breasted
Volga; triumphantly, without haste, flow her waters, conscious of
their unconquerable power; the hill-shore was reflected in them like a
dark shadow, but on the left side she was adorned with gold and
emerald velvet by the sandy borders of the reefs, and the broad
meadows. Now here, now there, on the hills, and in the meadows,
appeared villages, the sun sparkled in the window-panes of the
cottages, and upon the roofs of yellow straw; the crosses of the
churches gleamed through the foliage of the trees, the gray wings of
the mills rotated lazily through the air, the smoke from the chimneys
of a factory curled skyward in thick black wreaths. . . . On all sides
was the gleaming water, on all sides were space and freedom,
cheerfully green meadows, and graciously clear blue sky; in the quiet
motion of the water, restrained power could be felt; in the heaven
above it shone the beautiful sun, the air was saturated with the
fragrance of evergreen trees, and the fresh scent of foliage. The
shores advanced in greeting, soothing the eye and the soul with their
beauty, and new pictures were constantly unfolded upon them.

"On everything round about rested the stamp of a certain sluggishness:
everything--nature and people--lived awkwardly, lazily; but in this
laziness there was a certain peculiar grace, and it would seem that
behind the laziness was concealed a huge force, an unconquerable
force, as yet unconscious of itself, not having, as yet, created for
itself clear desires and aims. And the absence of consciousness in
this half-somnolent existence cast upon its whole beautiful expanse a
shade of melancholy. Submissive patience, the silent expectation of
something new and more active was audible even in the call of the
cuckoo, as it flew with the wind from the shore, over the river."*

*Isabel Hapgood's translation.

The novel Varenka Olessova is a tedious book of no importance. The
hero is, of course, the eternal Russian type, a man of good education
and no backbone: he lacks resolution, energy, will-power, and will
never accomplish anything. He has not even force enough to continue
his studies. Contrasted with him is the girl Varenka, a simple child
of nature, who prefers silly romances to Russian novels, and whose
virgin naivete is a constant puzzle to the conceited ass who does not
know whether he is in love with her or not. Indeed, he asks himself if
he is capable of love for any one. The only interesting pages in this
stupid story are concerned with a discussion on reading, between
Varenka and the young man, where her denunciation of Russian fiction
is, of course, meant to proclaim its true superiority. In response to
the question whether she reads Russian authors, the girl answers with
conviction: "Oh, yes! But I don't like them! They are so tiresome, so
tiresome! They always write about what I know already myself, and know
just as well as they do. They can't create anything interesting; with
them almost everything is true. . . . Now with the French, their
heroes are real heroes, they talk and act unlike men in actual life.
They are always brave, amorous, vivacious, while our heroes are simple
little men, without any warm feelings, without any beauty, pitiable,
just like ordinary men in real life. . . In Russian books, one cannot
understand at all why the men continue to live. What's the use of
writing books if the author has nothing remarkable to say?"

The long novel "Mother" is a good picture of life among the
working-people in a Russian factory, that is, life as seen through
Gorki's eyes; all cheerfulness and laughter are, of course, absent,
and we have presented a dull monotone of misery. The factory itself is
the villain of the story, and resembles some grotesque wild beast,
that daily devours the blood, bone, and marrow of the throng of
victims that enter its black jaws. The men, women, and children are
represented as utterly brutalised by toil; in their rare moments of
leisure, they fight and beat each other unmercifully, and even the
little children get dead drunk. Socialist and revolutionary propaganda
are secretly circulated among these stupefied folk, and much of the
narrative is taken up with the difficulties of accomplishing this
distribution; for the whole book itself is nothing but a revolutionary
tract. The characters, including the pitiful Mother herself, are not
vividly drawn, they are not alive, and one forgets them speedily; as
for plot, there is none, and the book closes with the brutal murder of
the old woman. It is a tedious, inartistic novel, with none of the
relief that would exist in actual life. Turgenev's poorest novel,
"Virgin Soil," which also gives us a picture of a factory, is
immensely superior from every point of view.

But if "Mother" is a dull book, "The Spy" is impossible. It is full of
meaningless and unutterably dreary jargon; its characters are sodden
with alcohol and bestial lusts. One abominable woman's fat body
spreads out on an arm-chair "like sour dough." And indeed, this novel
bears about the same relation to a finished work of art that sour
dough bears to a good loaf of bread. The characters are poorly
conceived, and the story is totally without movement. Not only is it
very badly written, it lacks even good material. The wretched boy,
whose idiotic states of mind are described one after the other, and
whose eventual suicide is clear from the start, is a disgusting whelp,
without any human interest. One longs for his death with murderous
intensity, and when, on the last page, he throws himself under the
train, the reader experiences a calm and sweet relief.

Much of Gorki's work is like Swift's poetry, powerful not because of
its cerebration or spiritual force, but powerful only from the
physical point of view, from its capacity to disgust. It appeals to
the nose and the stomach rather than to the mind and the heart. From
the medicinal standpoint, it may have a certain value. Swift sent a
lady one of his poems, and immediately after reading it, she was taken
violently sick. Not every poet has sufficient force to produce so
sudden an effect.

One man, invariably before reading the works of a famous French
author, put on his overshoes.

A distinguished American novelist has said that in Gorki "seems the
body without the soul of Russian fiction, and sodden with despair. The
soul of Russian fiction is the great thing." This is, indeed, the main
difference between his work and that of the giant Dostoevski. In the
latter's darkest scenes the spiritual flame is never extinct.

Gorki lacks either the patient industry or else the knowledge
necessary to make a good novel. He is seen at his best in short
stories, for his power comes in flashes. In "Twenty-six Men and a
Girl," the hideous tale that gave him his reputation in America, one
is conscious of the streak of genius that he undoubtedly possesses.
The helpless, impotent rage felt by the wretched men as they witness
the debauching of a girl's body and the damnation of her soul, is
clearly echoed in the reader's mind. Gorki's notes are always the most
thrilling when played below the range of the conventional instrument
of style. This is not low life, it is sub-life.

He is, after all, a student of sensational effect; and the short story
is peculiarly adapted to his natural talent. He cannot develop
characters, he cannot manage a large group, or handle a progressive
series of events. But in a lurid picture of the pit, in a flash-light
photograph of an underground den, in a sudden vision of a heap of
garbage with unspeakable creatures crawling over it, he is impressive.

I shall never forget the performance of "The Night Asylum, Nachtasyl,"
which I saw acted in Munich by one of the best stock companies in the
world, a combination of players from the "Neues" and "Kleines"
theaters in Berlin. In reading this utterly formless and incoherent
drama, I had been only slightly affected; but when it was presented on
the stage by actors who intelligently incarnated every single
character, the thing took on a terrible intensity. The persons are
all, except old Luka, who talks like a man in one of Tolstoi's recent
parables, dehumanised. The woman dying of consumption before our eyes,
the Baron in an advanced stage of paresis who continually rolls
imaginary cigarettes between his weak fingers, and the alcoholic actor
who has lost his memory are impossible to forget. I can hear that
actor now, as with stupid fascination he continually repeats the
diagnosis a physician once made of his case: "Mein Organismus ist
durch und durch mit Alcool vergiftet!"

Gorki, in spite of his zeal for the revolutionary cause, has no remedy
for the disease he calls Life. He is eaten up with rage at the world
in general, and tries to make us all share his disgust with it. But he
teaches us nothing; he has little to say that we can transmute into
anything valuable. This is perhaps the reason why the world has
temporarily, at any rate, lost interest in him. He was a new
sensation, he shocked us, and gave us strange thrills, after the
manner of new and unexpected sensations. Gorki came up on the literary
horizon like an evil storm, darkening the sky, casting an awful shadow
across the world's mirth and laughter, and making us shudder in the
cold and gloom..

Gorki completely satisfied that strange but almost universal desire of
well-fed and comfortable people to go slumming. In his books men and
women in fortunate circumstances had their curiosity satisfied--all
the world went slumming, with no discomfort, no expense, and no fear
of contagion. With no trouble at all, no personal inconvenience, we
learned the worst of all possible worsts on this puzzling and
interesting planet.

But we soon had enough of it, and our experienced and professional
guide failed to perceive the fact. He showed us more of the same
thing, and then some more. Such sights and sounds--authentic visions
and echoes of hell--merely repeated, began to lose their uncanny
fascination. The man who excited us became a bore. For the worst thing
about Gorki is his dull monotony, and vice is even more monotonous
than virtue, perhaps because it is more common. Open the pages of
almost any of his tales, it is always the same thing, the same
criminals, the same horrors, the same broken ejaculations and brutish
rage. Gorki has shown no capacity for development, no power of variety
and complexity. His passion for mere effect has reacted unfavourably
on himself.*

*His play "Die Letzten" was put on at the "Deutsches Theater," Berlin,
6 September 1910. The press despatch says, "The father is a police
inspector, drunkard, gambler, briber, bribe-taker, adulterer, and
robber."

Is it possible that success robbed him of something? He became a
popular author in conventional environment, surrounded by books and
modern luxuries, living in the pleasant climate of Italy, with no
anxiety about his meals and bed. Is it possible that wealth, comfort,
independence, and leisure have extinguished his original force? Has he
lost something of the picturesque attitude of Gorki the penniless
tramp? He is happily still a young man, and perhaps he may yet achieve
the masterpiece that ten years ago we so confidently expected from his
hands.

He is certainly not a great teacher, but he has the power to ask
awkward questions so characteristic of Andreev, Artsybashev, and
indeed of all Russian novelists. We cannot answer him with a shrug of
the shoulders or a sceptical smile. He shakes the foundations of our
fancied security by boldly questioning what we had come to regard as
axioms. As the late M. de Vogue remarked, when little children sit on
our knee and pelt us with questions that go to the roots of our
philosophy, we get rid of the bother of it by telling the children to
go away and play; but when a Tolstoi puts such questions, we cannot
get rid of him so easily. Russian novelists are a thorn in the side of
complacent optimism.

And yet surely, if life is not so good, as it conceivably might be, it
is not so darkly bitter as the Bitter One would have us believe. In a
short article that he wrote about one of the playgrounds of America,
he betrayed his own incurable jaundice. In the New York "Independent"
for 8 August 1907, Gorki published a brilliant impressionistic sketch
of Coney Island, and called it "Boredom." Gorki at Coney Island is
like Dante at a country fair. Thomas Carlyle was invited out to a
social dinner-party once upon a time, and when he came home he wrote
savagely in his diary of the flippant, light-hearted conversation
among the men and women about the festive board, saying, "to me
through those thin cobwebs Death and Eternity sat glaring." What a
charming guest he must have been on that particular occasion!

Gorki speaks poetically in his article of the "fantastic city all of
fire" that one sees at night. But as he mingles with the throng,
disgust fills his lonely heart.

"The public looks at them silently. It breathes in the moist air, and
feeds its soul with dismal ennui, which extinguishes thought as a wet,
dirty cloth extinguishes the fire of a smouldering coal."

Describing the sensations of the crowd before the tiger's cage, he
says:--

"The man runs about the cage, shoots his pistol and cracks his whip,
and shouts like a madman. His shouts are intended to hide his painful
dread of the animals. The crowd regards the capers of the man, and
waits in suspense for the fatal attack. They wait; unconsciously the
primitive instinct is awakened in them. They crave fight, they want to
feel the delicious shiver produced by the sight of two bodies
intertwining, the splutter of blood and pieces of torn, steaming human
flesh flying through the cage and falling on the floor. They want to
hear the roar, the cries, the shrieks of agony. . . . Then the crowd
breaks into dark pieces, and disperses over the slimy marsh of
boredom.

". . . You long to see a drunken man with a jovial face, who would
push and sing and bawl, happy because he is drunk, and sincerely
wishing all good people the same. . .

"In the glittering gossamer of its fantastic buildings, tens of
thousands of grey people, like patches on the ragged clothes of a
beggar, creep along with weary faces and colourless eyes. . . .

"But the precaution has been taken to blind the people, and they drink
in the vile poison with silent rapture. The poison contaminates their
souls. Boredom whirls about in an idle dance, expiring in the agony of
its inanition.

"One thing alone is good in the garish city: you can drink in hatred
to your soul's content, hatred sufficient to last throughout life,
hatred of the power of stupidity!"

This sketch is valuable not merely because of the impression of a
distinguished foreign writer of one of the sights of America, but
because it raises in our minds an obstinate doubt of his capacity to
tell the truth about life in general. Suppose a person who had never
seen Coney Island should read Gorki's vivid description of it, would
he really know anything about Coney Island? Of course not. The crowds
at Coney Island are as different from Gorki's description of them as
anything could well be. Now then, we who know the dregs of Russian
life only through Gorki's pictures, can we be certain that his
representations are accurate? Are they reliable history of fact, or
are they the revelations of a heart that knoweth its own bitterness?



VII

CHEKHOV



Anton Pavlovich Chekhov, like Pushkin, Lermontov, Bielinski, and
Garshin, died young, and although he wrote a goodly number of plays
and stories which gave him a high reputation in Russia, he did not
live to enjoy international fame. This is partly owing to the nature
of his work, but more perhaps to the total eclipse of other
contemporary writers by Gorki. There are signs now that his delicate
and unpretentious art will outlast the sensational flare of the
other's reputation. Gorki himself has generously tried to help in the
perpetuation of Chekhov's name, by publishing a volume of personal
reminiscences of his dead friend.

Like Gogol and Artsybashev, Chekhov was a man of the South, being born
at Taganrog, a seaport on a gulf of the Black Sea, near the mouth of
the river Don. The date of his birth is the 17 January 1860. His
father was a clever serf, who, by good business foresight, bought his
freedom early in life. Although the father never had much education
himself, he gave his four children every possible advantage. Anton
studied in the Greek school, in his native city, and then entered the
Faculty of Medicine at the University of Moscow. "I don't well
remember why I chose the medical faculty," he remarked later, "but I
never regretted that choice." He took his degree, but entered upon no
regular practice. For a year he worked in a hospital in a small town
near Moscow, and in 1892 he freely offered his medical services during
an epidemic of cholera. His professional experiences were of immense
service to him in analysing the characters of various patients whom he
treated, and his scientific training he always believed helped him
greatly in the writing of his stories and plays, which are all
psychological studies.

He knew that he had not very long to live, for before he had really
begun his literary career signs of tuberculosis had plainly become
manifest. He died in Germany, the 2 July 1904, and his funeral at
Moscow was a national event.

Chekhov was a fine conversationalist, and fond of society; despite the
terrible gloom of his stories, he had distinct gifts as a wit, and was
a great favourite at dinner-parties and social gatherings. He joked
freely on his death-bed. He was warm-hearted and generous, and gave
money gladly to poor students and overworked school-teachers. His
innate modesty and lack of self-assertion made him very slow at
personal advertisement, and his dislike of Tolstoi's views prevented
at first an acquaintance with the old sage. Later, however, Tolstoi,
being deeply interested in him, sought him out, and the two writers
became friends. At this time many Russians believed that Chekhov was
the legitimate heir to Tolstoi's fame.

In 1879, while still in the University of Moscow, Chekhov began to
write short stories, of a more or less humorous nature, which were
published in reviews. His first book appeared in 1887. Some critics
sounded a note of warning, which he heeded. They said "it was too bad
that such a talented young man should spend all his time making people
laugh." This indirect advice, coupled with maturity of years and
incipient disease, changed the writer's point of view, and his best
known work is typically Russian in its tragic intensity.

In Russia he enjoyed an enormous vogue. Kropotkin says that his works
ran through ten to fourteen editions, and that his publications,
appearing as a supplement to a weekly magazine, had a circulation of
two hundred thousand copies in one year. Toward the end of his life
his stories captivated Germany, and one of the Berlin journalists
cried out, as the Germans have so often of Oscar Wilde, "Chekhov und
kein Ende!"

Chekhov, like Gorki and Andreev, was a dramatist as well as a
novelist, though his plays are only beginning to be known outside of
his native land. They resemble the dramatic work of Gorki, Andreev,
and for that matter of practically all Russian playwrights, in being
formless and having no true movement; but they contain some of his
best Russian portraits, and some of his most subtle interpretations of
Russian national life. Russian drama does not compare for an instant
with Russian fiction: I have never read a single well-constructed
Russian play except "Revizor." Most of them are dull to a foreign
reader, and leave him cold and weary. Mr. Baring, in his book
"Landmarks in Russian Literature," has an excellent chapter on the
plays of Chekhov, which partially explains the difficulties an
outsider has in studying Russian drama. But this chapter, like the
other parts of his book, is marred by exaggeration. He says,
"Chekhov's plays are as interesting to read as the work of any
first-rate novelist." And a few sentences farther in the same
paragraph, he adds, "Chekhov's plays are a thousand times more
interesting to see on the stage than they are to read." Any one who
believes Mr. Baring's statement, and starts to read Chekhov's dramas
with the faith that they are as interesting as "Anna Karenina," will
be sadly disappointed. And if on the stage they are a thousand times
more interesting to see than "Anna Karenina" is to read, they must
indeed be thrilling. It is, however, perfectly true that a foreigner
cannot judge the real value of Russian plays by reading them. We ought
to hear them performed by a Russian company. That wonderful actress,
Madame Komisarzhevskaya, who was lately followed to her grave by an
immense concourse of weeping Russians, gave a performance of "The
Cherry Garden" which stirred the whole nation. Madame Nazimova has
said that Chekhov is her favourite writer, but that his plays could
not possibly succeed in America, unless every part, even the minor
ones, could be interpreted by a brilliant actor.

Chekhov is durch und durch echt russisch: no one but a Russian would
ever have conceived such characters, or reported such conversations.
We often wonder that physical exercise and bodily recreation are so
conspicuously absent from Russian books. But we should remember that a
Russian conversation is one of the most violent forms of physical
exercise, as it is among the French and Italians. Although Chekhov
belongs to our day, and represents contemporary Russia, he stands in
the middle of the highway of Russian fiction, and in his method of art
harks back to the great masters. He perhaps resembles Turgenev more
than any other of his predecessors, but he is only a faint echo. He is
like Turgenev in the delicacy and in the aloofness of his art. He has
at times that combination of the absolutely real with the absolutely
fantastic that is so characteristic of Gogol: one of his best stories,
"The Black Monk," might have been written by the author of "The Cloak"
and "The Portrait." He is like Dostoevski in his uncompromising
depiction of utter degradation; but he has little of Dostoevski's
glowing sympathy and heartpower. He resembles Tolstoi least of all.
The two chief features of Tolstoi's work--self-revelation and moral
teaching--must have been abhorrent to Chekhov, for his stories tell us
almost nothing about himself and his own opinions, and they teach
nothing. His art is impersonal, and he is content with mere diagnosis.
His only point of contact with Tolstoi is his grim fidelity to detail,
the peculiar Russian realism common to every Russian novelist. Tolstoi
said that Chekhov resembled Guy de Maupassant. This is entirely wide
of the mark. He resembles Guy de Maupassant merely in the fact that,
like the Frenchman, he wrote short stories.

Among recent writers Chekhov is at the farthest remove from his friend
Gorki, and most akin to Andreev. It is probable that Andreev learned
something from him. Unlike Turgenev, both Chekhov and Andreev study
mental disease. Their best characters are abnormal; they have some
fatal taint in the mind which turns this goodly frame, the earth, into
a sterile promontory; this majestical roof fretted with golden fire,
into a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. Neither Chekhov nor
Andreev have attempted to lift that black pall of despair that hangs
over Russian fiction.

Just as the austere, intellectual beauty of Greek drama forms striking
evidence of the extraordinarily high average of culture in Athenian
life, so the success of an author like Chekhov is abundant proof of
the immense number of readers of truly cultivated taste that are
scattered over Holy Russia. For Chekhov's stories are exclusively
intellectual and subtle. They appeal only to the mind, not to the
passions nor to any love of sensation. In many of them he deliberately
avoids climaxes and all varieties of artificial effect. He would be
simply incomprehensible to the millions of Americans who delight in
musical comedy and in pseudo-historical romance. He wrote only for the
elect, for those who have behind them years of culture and habits of
consecutive thought. That such a man should have a vogue in Russia
such as a cheap romancer enjoys in America, is in itself a significant
and painful fact.

Chekhov's position in the main line of Russian literature and his
likeness to Turgenev are both evident when we study his analysis of
the Russian temperament. His verdict is exactly the same as that given
by Turgenev and Sienkiewicz--slave improductivite. A majority of his
chief characters are Rudins. They suffer from internal injuries,
caused by a diseased will. In his story called "On the Way" the hero
remarks, "Nature has set in every Russian an enquiring mind, a
tendency to speculation, and extraordinary capacity for belief; but
all these are broken into dust against our improvidence, indolence,
and fantastic triviality."*

*The citations from Chekhov are from the translations by Long.

The novelist who wrote that sentence was a physician as well as a man
of letters. It is a professional diagnosis of the national sickness of
mind, which produces sickness of heart.

It is absurd to join in the chorus that calls Turgenev old-fashioned,
when we find his words accurately, if faintly, echoed by a Russian who
died in 1904! Hope springs eternal in the human breast, and wishes
have always been the legitimate fathers of thoughts. My friend and
colleague, Mr. Mandell, the translator of "The Cherry Garden,"* says
that the play indicates that the useless people are dying away, "and
thus making room for the regenerated young generation which is full of
hope and strength to make a fruitful cherry garden of Russia for the
Russian people . . . the prospects of realisation are now bright. But
how soon will this become a practical reality? Let us hope in the near
future!" Yes, let us hope, as Russians hoped in 1870 and in 1900.
Kropotkin says that Chekhov gave an "impressive parting word" to the
old generation, and that we are now on the eve of the "new types which
already are budding in life." Gorki has violently protested against
the irresolute Slav, and Artsybashev has given us in Jurii the Russian
as he is (1903) and in Sanin the Russian as he ought to be. But a
disease obstinately remains a disease until it is cured, and it cannot
be cured by hope or by protest.

*Published at Yale University by the "Yale Courant."

Chekhov was a physician and an invalid; he saw sickness without and
sickness within. Small wonder that his stories deal with the unhealthy
and the doomed. For just as Artsybashev's tuberculosis has made him
create the modern Tamburlaine as a mental enjoyment of physical
activity, so the less turbulent nature of Chekhov has made him
reproduce in his creatures of the imagination his own sufferings and
fears. I think he was afraid of mental as well as physical decay, for
he has studied insanity with the same assiduity as that displayed by
Andreev in his nerve-wrecking story "A Dilemma."

In "Ward No. 6," which no one should read late at night, Chekhov has
given us a picture of an insane asylum, which, if the conditions there
depicted are true to life, would indicate that some parts of Russia
have not advanced one step since Gogol wrote "Revizor." The patients
are beaten and hammered into insensibility by a brutal keeper; they
live amidst intolerable filth. The attending physician is a typical
Russian, who sees clearly the horror and abomination of the place, but
has not sufficient will-power to make a change. He is fascinated by
one of the patients, with whom he talks for hours. His fondness for
this man leads his friends to believe that he is insane, and they
begin to treat him with that humouring condescension and pity which
would be sufficient in itself to drive a man out of his mind. He is
finally invited by his younger colleague to visit the asylum to
examine a strange case; when he reaches the building, he himself is
shoved into Ward No. 6, and realises that the doors are shut upon him
forever. He is obliged to occupy a bed in the same filthy den where he
has so often visited the other patients, and his night-gown has a
slimy smell of dried fish. In about twenty-four hours he dies, but in
those hours he goes through a hell of physical and mental torment.

The fear of death, which to an intensely intellectual people like the
Russians, is an obsession of terror, and shadows all their literature,
--it appears all through Tolstoi's diary and novels,--is analysed in
many forms by Chekhov. In "Ward No. 6" Chekhov pays his respects to
Tolstoi's creed of self-denial, through the lips of the doctor's
favourite madman. "A creed which teaches indifference to wealth,
indifference to the conveniences of life, and contempt for suffering
is quite incomprehensible to the great majority who never knew either
wealth or the conveniences of life, and to whom contempt for suffering
would mean contempt for their own lives, which are made up of feelings
of hunger, cold, loss, insult, and a Hamlet-like terror of death. All
life lies in these feelings, and life may be hated or wearied of, but
never despised. Yes, I repeat it, the teachings of the Stoics can
never have a future; from the beginning of time, life has consisted in
sensibility to pain and response to irritation."

No better indictment has ever been made against those to whom
self-denial and renunciation are merely a luxurious attitude of the
mind.

Chekhov's sympathy with Imagination and his hatred for commonplace
folk who stupidly try to repress its manifestations are shown again
and again in his tales. He loves especially the imagination of
children; and he shows them as infinitely wiser than their practical
parents. In the short sketch "An Event" the children are wild with
delight over the advent of three kittens, and cannot understand their
father's disgust for the little beasts, and his cruel indifference to
their welfare. The cat is their mother, that they know; but who is the
father? The kittens must have a father, so the children drag out the
wooden rocking-horse, and place him beside his wife and offspring.

In the story "At Home" the father's bewilderment at the creative
imagination and the curious caprices of his little boy's mind is
tenderly and beautifully described. The father knows he is not
bringing him up wisely, but is utterly at a loss how to go at the
problem, having none of the intuitive sympathy of a woman. The boy is
busy with his pencil, and represents sounds by shapes, letters by
colours. For example, "the sound of an orchestra he drew as a round,
smoky spot; whistling as a spiral thread." In making letters, he
always painted L yellow, M red, and A black. He draws a picture of a
house with a soldier standing in front of it. The father rebukes him
for bad perspective, and tells him that the soldier in his picture is
taller than the house. But the boy replies, "If you drew the soldier
smaller, you wouldn't be able to see his eyes."

One of Chekhov's favourite pastimes was gardening. This, perhaps,
accounts for his location of the scene in his comedy "The Cherry
Garden," where a business-like man, who had once been a serf, just
like the dramatist's own father, has prospered sufficiently to buy the
orchard from the improvident and highly educated owners; and for all
the details about fruit-gardening given in the powerful story "The
Black Monk." This story infallibly reminds one of Gogol. A man has
repeatedly a vision of a black monk, who visits him through the air,
with whom he carries on long conversations, and who inspires him with
great thoughts and ideals. His wife and friends of course think he is
crazy, and instead of allowing him to continue his intercourse with
the familiar spirit, they persuade him he is ill, and make him take
medicine. The result is wholesale tragedy. His life is ruined, his
wife is separated from him; at last he dies. The idea seems to be that
he should not have been disobedient unto the heavenly vision.
Imagination and inspiration are necessary to life; they are what
separate man from the beasts that perish. The monk asks him, "How do
you know that the men of genius whom all the world trusts have not
also seen visions?"

Chekhov is eternally at war with the practical, with the
narrow-minded, with the commonplace. Where there is no vision, the
people perish.

Professor Bruckner has well said that Chekhov was by profession a
physician, but an artist by the grace of God. He was indeed an
exquisite artist, and if his place in Russian literature is not large,
it seems permanent. He does not rank among the greatest. He lacks the
tremendous force of Tolstoi, the flawless perfection of Turgenev, and
the mighty world-embracing sympathy of Great-heart Dostoevski. But he
is a faithful interpreter of Russian life, and although his art was
objective, one cannot help feeling the essential goodness of the man
behind his work, and loving him for it.



VIII

ARTSYBASHEV



Not the greatest, but the most sensational, novel published in Russia
during the last five years is "Sanin," by Artsybashev. It is not
sensational in the incidents, though two men commit suicide, and two
girls are ruined; it is sensational in its ideas. To make a sensation
in contemporary Russian literature is an achievement, where pathology
is now rampant. But Artsybashev accomplished it, and his novel made a
tremendous noise, the echoes of which quickly were heard all over
curious and eclectic Germany, and have even stirred Paris. Since the
failure of the Revolution, there has been a marked revolt in Russia
against three great ideas that have at different times dominated
Russian literature: the quiet pessimism of Turgenev, the Christian
non-resistance religion of Tolstoi, and the familiar Russian type of
will-less philosophy. Even before the Revolution Gorki had expressed
the spirit of revolt; but his position, extreme as it appears to an
Anglo-Saxon, has been left far behind by Artsybashev, who, with the
genuine Russian love of the reductio ad absurdum, has reached the
farthest limits of moral anarchy in the creation of his hero Sanin.

In an admirable article in the "Westminster Gazette," for 14 May 1910,
by the accomplished scholar and critic, Mr. R. C. Long, called "The
Literature of Self-assertion," we obtain a strong smell of the
hell-broth now boiling in Russian literature. "In the Spring of 1909,
an exhibition was held in the Russian ministry of the Interior of
specimen copies of all books and brochures issued in 1908, to the
number of 70,841,000. How many different books were exhibited the
writer does not know, but he lately came upon an essay by the critic
Ismailoff, in which it was said that there were on exhibition a
thousand different sensational novels, classed as 'Nat Pinkerton and
Sherlock Holmes literature,' with such expressive titles as 'The
Hanged,' 'The Chokers,' 'The Corpse Disinterred,' and 'The
Expropriators.' Ismailoff comments on this as sign and portent. Russia
always had her literature of adventure, and Russian novels of manners
and of psychology became known to Westerners merely because they were
the best, and by no means because they were the only books that
appeared. The popular taste was formerly met with naive and outrageous
'lubotchniya'-books. The new craze for 'Nat Pinkerton and Sherlock
Holmes' stories is something quite different. It foreshadows a
complete change in the psychosis of the Russian reader, the decay of
the literature of passivity, and the rise of a new literature of
action and physical revolt. The literature of passivity reached its
height with the (sic) Chekhov. The best representative of the
transition from Chekhov to the new literature of self-assertion is
Maxim Gorki's friend, Leonid Andreev. . . .

"These have got clear away from the humble, ineffectual individual,
'crushed by life.' Full of learned philosophies from Max Stirner and
Nietzsche, they preach, in Stirner's words, 'the absolute independence
of the individual, master of himself, and of all things.' 'The death
of "Everyday-ism,"' the 'resurrection of myth,' 'orgiasm,' 'Mystical
Anarchism,' and 'universalist individualism' are some of the
shibboleths of these new writers, who are mostly very young, very
clever, and profoundly convinced that they are even cleverer than they
are.

"Anarchism, posing as self-assertion, is the note in most recent
Russian literature, as, indeed, it is in Russian life."

The most powerful among this school of writers, and the only one who
can perhaps be called a man of genius, is Michael Artsybashev. He came
honestly by his hot, impulsive temperament, being, like Gogol, a man
of the South. He was born in 1878. He says of himself: "I am Tartar in
name and in origin, but not a pure-blooded one. In my veins runs
Russian, French, Georgian, and Polish blood. I am glad to name as one
of my ancestors the famous Pole, Kosciusko, who was my maternal
great-grandfather. My father, a retired officer, was a landed
proprietor with very little income. I was only three years old when my
mother died. As a legacy, she bequeathed to me tuberculosis. . . . I
am now living in the Crimea and trying to get well, but with little
faith in my recovery."

"Sanin" appeared at the psychological moment, late in the year 1907.
The Revolution was a failure, and it being impossible to fight the
government or to obtain political liberty, people in Russia of all
classes were ready for a revolt against moral law, the religion of
self-denial, and all the conventions established by society,
education, and the church. At this moment of general desperation and
smouldering rage, appeared a work written with great power and great
art, deifying the natural instincts of man, incarnating the spirit of
liberty in a hero who despises all so-called morality as absurd
tyranny. It was a bold attempt to marshal the animal instincts of
humanity, terrifically strong as they are even in the best citizens,
against every moral and prudential restraint. The effect of the book
will probably not last very long,--already it has been called an
ephemeral sensation,--but it was immediate and tremendous. It was
especially powerful among university students and high school boys and
girls--the "Sanin-morals" of undergraduates were alluded to in a
speech in the Duma.

But although the book was published at the psychological moment, it
was written with no reference to any post-revolution spirit. For
Artsybashev composed his novel in 1903, when he was twenty-four years
old. He tried in vain to induce publishers to print it, and
fortunately for him, was obliged to wait until 1907, when the time
happened to be exactly ripe.

The novel has been allowed to circulate in Russia, because it shows
absolutely no sympathy with the Revolution or with the spirit of
political liberty. Men who waste their time in the discussion of
political rights or in the endeavour to obtain them are ridiculed by
Sanin. The summum bonum is personal, individual happiness, the
complete gratification of desire. Thus, those who are working for the
enfranchisement of the Russian people, for relief from the
bureaucracy, and for more political independence, not only have no
sympathy with the book--they hate it, because it treats their efforts
with contempt. Some of them have gone so far as to express the belief
that the author is in a conspiracy with the government to bring
ridicule on their cause, and to defeat their ever living hopes of
better days. However this may be, Sanin is not in the least a
politically revolutionary book, and critics of that school see no real
talent or literary power in its pages.

But, sinister and damnable as its tendency is, the novel is written
with extraordinary skill, and Artsybashev is a man to be reckoned
with. The style has that simplicity and directness so characteristic
of Russian realism, and the characters are by no means sign-posts of
various opinions; they are living and breathing human beings. I am
sorry that such a book as Sanin has ever been written; but it cannot
be black-balled from the republic of letters.

It is possible that it is a florescence not merely of the author's
genius, but of his sickness. The glorification of Sanin's bodily
strength, of Karsavina's female voluptuousness, and the loud call to
physical joy which rings through the work may be an emanation of
tuberculosis as well as that of healthy mental conviction. Shut out
from active happiness, Artsybashev may have taken this method of
vicarious delight.

The bitterness of his own enforced resignation of active happiness and
the terror inspired by his own disease are incarnated in a decidedly
interesting character, Semionov, who, although still able to walk
about when we first see him, is dying of consumption. He has none of
the hopefulness and cheerfulness so often symptomatic of that malady;
he is peevish, irritable, and at times enraged by contact with his
healthy friends. After a frightful attack of coughing, he says: "I
often think that soon I shall be lying in complete darkness. You
understand, with my nose fallen in and my limbs decayed. And above me,
where you are on the earth, everything will go on, exactly as it does
now, while I still am permitted to see it. You will be living then,
you will look at this very moon, you will breathe, you will pass over
my grave; perhaps you will stop there a moment and despatch some
necessity. And I shall lie and become rotten."

His death at the hospital in the night, with his friends looking on,
is powerfully and minutely described. The fat, stupid priest goes
through the last ceremonies, and is dully amazed at the contempt he
receives from Sanin.

Sanin's beautiful sister Lyda is ruined by a worthless but entirely
conventional officer. Her remorse on finding that she is with child is
perfectly natural, but is ridiculed by her brother, who saves her from
suicide. He is not in the least ashamed of her conduct, and tells her
she has no reason for loss of pride; indeed, he does not think of
blaming the officer. He is ready to commit incest with his sister,
whose physical charm appeals to him; but she is not sufficiently
emancipated for that, so he advises her to get married with a friend
who loves her, before the child is born. This is finally
satisfactorily arranged. Later, Sanin, not because he disapproves of
the libertine officer's affair with his sister, but because he regards
the officer as a blockhead, treats him with scant courtesy; and the
officer, hidebound by convention, sees no way out but a challenge to a
duel. The scene when the two brother officers bring the formal
challenge to Sanin is the only scene in the novel marked by. genuine
humour, and is also the only scene where we are in complete sympathy
with the hero. One of the delegates has all the stiff courtesy and
ridiculous formality which he regards as entirely consistent with his
errand; the other is a big, blundering fellow, who has previously
announced himself as a disciple of Tolstoi. To Sanin's philosophy of
life, duelling is as absurd as religion, morality, or any other stupid
conventionality; and his cold, ruthless logic makes short work of the
polite phrases of the two ambassadors. Both are amazed at his positive
refusal to fight, and hardly know which way to turn; the disciple of
Tolstoi splutters with rage because Sanin shows up his inconsistency
with his creed; both try to treat him like an outcast, but make very
little progress. Sanin informs them that he will not fight a duel,
because he does not wish to take the officer's life, and because he
does not care to risk his own; but that if the officer attempts any
physical attack upon him in the street, he will thrash him on the
spot. Enraged and bewildered by Sanin's unconventional method of
dealing with the difficulty, the discomfited emissaries withdraw.
Later, the challenger meets Sanin in the street, and goaded to frenzy
by his calm and contemptuous stare, strikes him with a whip; he
immediately receives in the face a terrible blow from his adversary's
fist, delivered with all his colossal strength. A friend carries him
to his lodgings, and there he commits suicide. From the conventional
point of view, this was the only course left to him.

In direct contrast to most Russian novels, the man here is endowed
with limitless power of will, and the women characterised by weakness.
The four women in the story, Sanin's sister Lyda, the pretty
school-teacher Karsavina, Jurii's sister, engaged to a young
scientist, who during the engagement cordially invites her brother to
accompany him to a house of ill-fame, and the mother of Sanin, are all
thoroughly conventional, and are meant to be. They are living under
what Sanin regards as the tyranny of social convention. He treats his
mother's shocked amazement with brutal scorn; he ridicules Lyda's
shame at being enceinte; he seduces Karsavina, at the very time when
she is in love with Jurii, and reasons with cold patience against her
subsequent remorse. It is clear that Artsybashev believes that for
some time to come women will not accept the gospel of uncompromising
egoism.

The most interesting character in the book, apart from the hero, is
Jurii, who might easily have been a protagonist in one of Turgenev's
tragedies. He is the typical Russian, the highly educated young man
with a diseased will. He is characterised by that indecision which has
been the bane of so many Russians. All through the book he seeks in
vain for some philosophy of life, some guiding principle. He has
abandoned faith in religion, his former enthusiasm for political
freedom has cooled, but he simply cannot live without some leading
Idea. He is an acute sufferer from that mental sickness diagnosed by
nearly all writers of Russia. He envies and at the same time despises
Sanin for his cheerful energy. Finally, unable to escape from the
perplexities of his own thinking, he commits suicide. His friends
stand about his grave at the funeral, and one of them foolishly asks
Sanin to make some appropriate remarks. Sanin, who always says exactly
what he thinks, and abhors all forms of hypocrisy, delivers the
following funeral oration--heartily endorsed by the reader--in one
sentence: "The world has now one blockhead the less." The
horror-stricken consternation of his friends fills Sanin with such
scorn that he leaves the town, and we last see him in an open field in
the country, giving a glad shout of recognition to the dawn.

The motto that Artsybashev has placed at the beginning of the novel is
taken from Ecclesiastes vii. 29: "God hath made man upright: but they
have sought out many inventions." This same text was used by Kipling
as the title of one of his books, but used naturally in a quite
different way. The Devil has here cited Scripture for his purpose. The
hero of the novel is an absolutely sincere, frank, and courageous
Advocatus Diabou. He is invariably calm and collected; he never loses
his temper in an argument; he questions the most fundamental beliefs
and principles with remorseless logic. Two of his friends are arguing
about Christianity; "at least," says one, "you will not deny that its
influence has been good." "I don't deny that," says the other. Then
Sanin remarks quietly, "But I deny it!" and he adds, with a calmness
provoking to the two disputants, "Christianity has played an
abominable role in history, and the name of Jesus Christ will for some
time yet oppress humanity like a curse."

Sanin insists that it is not necessary to have any theory of life, or
to be guided by any principle; that God may exist or He may not; He
does not at any rate bother about us. The real rational life of man
should be exactly like a bird. He should be controlled wholly by the
desire of the moment. The bird wishes to alight on a branch, and so he
alights; then he wishes to fly, so he flies. That is rational,
declares Sanin; that is the way men and women should live, without
principles, without plans, and without regrets. Drunkenness and
adultery are nothing to be ashamed of, nor in any sense to be called
degrading. Nothing that gives pleasure can ever be degrading. The love
of strong drink and the lust for woman are not sins; in fact, there is
no such thing as sin. These passions are manly and natural, and what
is natural cannot be wrong. There is in Sanin's doctrine something of
Nietzsche and more of Rousseau.

Sanin himself is not at all a contemptible character. He is not
argumentative except when dragged into an argument; he does not
attempt to convert others to his views. He has the inner light which
we more often associate with Christian faith. In the midst of his
troubled and self-tortured comrades, Sanin stands like a pillar, calm,
unshakable. He has found absolute peace, absolute harmony with life.
He thinks, talks, and acts exactly as he chooses, without any regard
whatever to the convenience or happiness of any one else. There is
something refreshing about this perfectly healthy, clear-eyed, quiet,
composed, resolute man--whose way of life is utterly unaffected by
public opinion, who simply does not care a straw for anything or
anybody but himself. Thus he recognises his natural foe in
Christianity, in the person of Jesus Christ, and in His Russian
interpreter, Leo Tolstoi. For if Christianity teaches anything, it
teaches that man must live contrary to his natural instincts. The
endeavour of all so-called "new religions" is rootless, because it is
an attempt to adapt Christianity to modern human convenience. Much
better is Sanin's way: he sees clearly that no adaptation is possible,
and logically fights Christianity as the implacable enemy of the
natural man.

There are many indications that one of the great battle-grounds of
Christianity in the near future is to be the modern novel. For many
years there have been plenty of attacks on the supernatural side of
Christianity, and on Christianity as a religion; nearly all its
opponents, however, have treated its ethics, its practical teachings,
with respect. The novel "Sanin" is perhaps the boldest, but it is only
one of many attacks that are now being made on Christianity as a
system of morals; as was the case with the Greeks and Romans,
scepticism in morals follows hard on scepticism in religion. Those who
believe in Christianity ought to rejoice in this open and fair fight;
they ought to welcome it as a complete unmasking of the foe. If the
life according to "Sanin" is really practicable, if it is a good
substitute for the life according to the Christian Gospel, it is
desirable that it should be clearly set forth, and its working
capacity demonstrated. For the real test of Christianity, and the only
one given by its Founder, is its practical value as a way of life. It
can never be successfully attacked by historical research or by
destructive criticism--all such attacks leave it precisely as they
found it. Those who are determined to destroy Christianity, and among
its relentless foes have always been numbered men of great courage and
great ability, must prove that its promises of peace and rest to those
who really follow it are false, and that its influence on society and
on the individual is bad.



IX

ANDREEV



Leonid Andreev is at this moment regarded by many Russians as the
foremost literary artist among the younger school of writers. He was
born at Orel, the birthplace of Turgenev, in 1871, and is thus only
two years younger than Gorki. He began life as a lawyer at Moscow, but
according to his own statement, he had only one case, and lost that.
He very soon abandoned law for literature, as so many writers have
done, and his rise has been exceedingly rapid. He was appointed
police-court reporter on the Moscow "Courier," where he went through
the daily drudgery without attracting any attention. But when he
published in this newspaper a short story, Gorki sent a telegram to
the office, demanding to know the real name of the writer who signed
himself Leonid Andreev. He was informed that the signature was no
pseudonym. This notice from Gorki gave the young man immediate
prominence. Not long after, he published another story in the Russian
periodical "Life;" into the editor's rooms dashed the famous critic
Merezhkovski, who enquired whether it was Chekhov or Gorki that had
selected this assumed name.

Andreev himself says that he has learned much from Tolstoi, the great
Tolstoi of the sixties and seventies, also from Nietzsche, whom he
reads with enthusiasm, and whose most characteristic book, "Also
Sprach Zarathustra," he translated into Russian. He has read Poe with
profit, but he testifies that his greatest teacher in composition is
the Bible. In a letter to a young admirer, he wrote: "I thank you for
your kind dedication. . . . I note that in one place you write about
the Bible. Yes, that is the best teacher of all--the Bible."*

*Most of the biographical information in this paragraph I have taken
from an interesting article in "The Independent" for 29 July 1909, by
Ivan Lavretski.

Andreev has the gift of admiration, and loves to render homage where
homage is due, having dedicated his first book to Gorki, and his story
of "The Seven Who Were Hanged" to Tolstoi. His style, while marked by
the typical yet always startling Russian simplicity, is nevertheless
entirely his own, and all his tales and plays are stamped by powerful
individuality. He is fast becoming an international celebrity. His
terrible picture of war, "The Red Laugh," has been translated into
German, French, and English, two of his dramas, "Anathema" and "To the
Stars," have been published in America, and other of his short stories
are known everywhere in Germany.

The higher the scale in human intelligence, the more horrible and the
more ridiculous does war appear. That men engaged in peaceful and
intellectual pursuits should leave their families, their congenial
work, their pleasant associations, and go out to torture and murder
men of similar tastes and activities, and become themselves
transformed into hideous wild beasts, has a combination of horror and
absurdity that peculiarly impresses a people so highly sensitive, so
thoroughly intellectual, and so kind-hearted as the Russians. All
Russian war-literature, and there is much of it, points back to
Tolstoi's "Sevastopol," where the great novelist stripped warfare of
all its sentiment and patriotic glitter, and revealed its dull, sordid
misery as well as its hellish tragedies. What Tolstoi did for the
Crimean War, Garshin did for the war with Turkey in the seventies. I
have not seen it mentioned, but I suspect that Andreev owes much to
the reading of this brilliant author. Garshin was an unquestionable
genius; if he had lived, I think he might have become the real
successor to Tolstoi, a title that has been bestowed upon Chekhov,
Gorki, and Andreev, and has not yet been earned by any man. But like
nearly all Russian authors, he suffered from intense melancholia, and
in 1888 committed suicide at the age of thirty-three. His short story
"Four Days on the Field of Slaughter" first brought him into public
notice. One cannot read Andreev's "Red Laugh" to-day without thinking
of it.

"On the edge of the wood there was visible something red, floating
here and there. Sidorov fell suddenly to the ground and stared at me
in silence with great, terrified eyes. Out of his mouth poured a
stream of blood. Yes, I remember it very well." This is the "red
laugh" of Andreev, though until the appearance of his book it lacked
the appropriate name. Garshin describes how a Russian soldier stabs a
Fellah to death with his bayonet, and then, too badly injured to move,
lies for four days and nights, in shivering cold and fearful heat,
beside the putrefying corpse of his dead antagonist. "I did that. I
had no wish to do it. I wished no one evil, as I left home for the
war. The thought that I should kill a man did not enter my head. I
thought only of my own danger. And I went to him and did this. Well,
and what happened? O fool, O idiot! This unfortunate Egyptian is still
less guilty. Before they packed them on a steamer like herrings in a
box, and brought them to Constantinople, he had never heard of Russia,
or of Bulgaria. They told him to go and he went."

In the "Diary of Private lvanov," Garshin gave more pictures of the
hideous suffering of war, with a wonderful portrait of the commander
of the company, who is so harshly tyrannical that his men hate him,
and resolve to slay him in the battle. But he survives both open and
secret foes, and at the end of the conflict they find him lying
prostrate, his whole body shaken with sobs, and saying brokenly,
"Fifty-two! Fifty-two!" Fifty-two of his company had been killed, and
despite his cruelty to them, he had loved them all like children.

Garshin wrote other tales, among them a poetically beautiful story of
a tree, "Attalea Princeps," that reminds one somewhat of Bjornson. But
his chief significance is as a truthful witness to the meaningless
maiming and murder of war, and his attitude is precisely similar to
that of Andreev, and both follow Tolstoi.

Andreev's "Red Laugh" ought to be read in America as a contrast to our
numerous war stories, where war is pictured as a delightful and
exciting tournament. This book has not a single touch of patriotic
sentiment, not a suggestion of "Hurrah for our side!" The soldiers are
on the field because they were sent there, and the uninjured are too
utterly tired, too tormented with lack of sleep, too hungry and
thirsty to let out a single whoop. The first sight of the "Red Laugh"
reminds us of the picturesque story of Napoleon's soldier that
Browning has immortalised in the "Incident of the French Camp."
Tolstoi mentions the same event in "Sevastopol," and his version of it
would have pleased Owen Wister's Virginian more than Browning's. In
Andreev there is no graceful gesture, no French pose, no "smiling
joy"; but there is the nerve-shattering red laugh. The officer who
tells the story in the first half of the book narrates how a young
volunteer came up to him and saluted. The appearance of his face was
so tensely white that the officer enquires, "Are you afraid?" Suddenly
a stream of blood bursts from the young man's body, and his deadly
pale face turns into something unspeakable, a toothless laugh--the red
laugh.

In this gruesome tale of the realities of war, Andreev has given
shocking physical details of torn and bleeding bodies, but true to the
theme that animates all his books, he has concentrated the main
interest on the Mind. Soldiers suffer in the flesh, but infinitely
more in the mind. War points chiefly not to the grave, nor to the
hospital, but to the madhouse. All forms of insanity are bred by the
horror and fatigue of the marches and battles: many shoot themselves,
many become raging maniacs, many become gibbering idiots. Every man
who has studied warfare knows that the least of all perils is the
bullet of the enemy, for only a small proportion are released by that.
The innumerable and subtle forms of disease, bred by exposure and
privation, constitute the real danger. Andreev is the first to show
that the most common and awful form of disease among Russian soldiers
is the disease of the brain. The camp becomes a vast madhouse, with
the peculiar feature that the madmen are at large. The hero of the
story loses both his legs, and apparently completely recovered in
health otherwise, returns home to his family, and gazes wistfully at
his bicycle. A sudden desire animates him to write out the story of
the Japanese war; in the process he becomes insane and dies. His
brother then attempts to complete the narrative from the scattered,
confused notes, but to his horror, whenever he approaches the desk,
the phantom of the dead man is ever there, busily writing: he can hear
the pen squeak on the paper.

No more terrible protest against war has ever been written than
Andreev's "Red Laugh." It shows not merely the inexpressible horror of
the battlefield and the dull, weary wretchedness of the men on the
march, but it follows out the farthest ramifications flowing from the
central cause: the constant tragedies in the families, the letters
received after the telegraph has announced the death of the writer,
the insane wretches who return to the homes they left in normal
health, the whole accumulation of woe.

The first two words of the book are "Madness and Horror!" and they
might serve as a text for Andreev's complete works. There seems to be
some taint in his mind which forces him to dwell forever on the
abnormal and diseased. He is not exactly decadent, but he is decidedly
pathological. Professor Bruckner has said of Andreev's stories, "I do
not recall a single one which would not get fearfully on a man's
nerves." He has deepened the universal gloom of Russian fiction, not
by descending into the slums with Gorki, but by depicting life as seen
through the strange light of a decaying mind. He has often been
compared, especially among the Germans, with Edgar Allan Poe. But he
is really not in the least like Poe. Poe's horrors are nearly all
unreal fantasies, that vaguely haunt our minds like the shadow of a
dream. Andreev is a realist, like his predecessors and contemporaries.
His style is always concrete and definite, always filled with the
sense of fact. There is almost something scientific in his collection
of incurables.

The most cheerful thing he has written is perhaps "The Seven Who Were
Hanged." This is horrible enough to bring out a cold sweat; but it is
redeemed, as the work of Dostoevski is, by a vast pity and sympathy
for the condemned wretches. This is the book he dedicated to Tolstoi,
in recognition of the constant efforts of the old writer to have
capital punishment abolished. No sentimental sympathy with murderers
is shown here; he carries no flowers to the cells where each of the
seven in solitude awaits his fate. Nor are the murderers in the least
degree depicted as heroes--they are all different men and women, but
none of them resembles the Hero-Murderer of romance.

The motive underlying this story is shown plainly by the author in an
interesting letter which he wrote to the American translator, and
which is published at the beginning of the book. "The misfortune of us
all is that we know so little, even nothing, about one another--neither
about the soul, nor the life, the sufferings, the habits, the inclinations,
the aspirations, of one another. Literature, which I have the honour to
serve, is dear to me just because the noblest task it sets before itself
is that of wiping out boundaries and distances." That is, the aim of
Andreev, like that of all prominent Russian novelists, is to study the
secret of secrets, the human heart. And like all specialists in humanity,
like Browning, for example, he feels the impossibility of success.

"About what's under lock and key,
Man's soul!"

Farther on in his letter, we read: "My task was to point out the
horror and the iniquity of capital punishment under any circumstances.
The horror of capital punishment is great when it falls to the lot of
courageous and honest people whose only guilt is their excess of love
and the sense of righteousness--in such instances, conscience revolts.
But the rope is still more horrible when it forms the noose around the
necks of weak and ignorant people. And however strange it may appear,
I look with a lesser grief and suffering upon the execution of the
revolutionists, such as Werner and Musya, than upon the strangling of
ignorant murderers, miserable in mind and heart, like Yanson and
Tsiganok." Spoken like Dostoevski!

These seven are an extraordinary group, ranging from calm, courageous,
enlightened individuals to creatures of such dull stupidity that one
wonders if they ever once were men. Each spends the intervening days
in his cell in a different manner. One goes through daily exercises of
physical culture. One receives a visit from his father and mother,
another from his old mother alone. There is not a false touch in the
sentiment in these painful scenes. The midnight journey to the place
of execution is vividly portrayed, and the different sensations of
each of the seven are strikingly indicated. At the last, Musya, who is
a typical Russian heroine in her splendid resolution and boundless
tenderness, becomes the soul of the whole party, and tries to help
them all by her gentle conduct and her words of love. The whole spirit
of this book is profoundly Christian. One feels as if he were taken
back in history, and were present at the execution of a group of early
Christian martyrs. There are thousands of women in Russia like Musya,
and they are now, as they were in the days of Turgenev, the one hope
of the country.

In Merezhkovski's interesting work "Tolstoi as Man and Artist," the
author says: "We are accustomed to think that the more abstract
thought is, the more cold and dispassionate it is. It is not so; or at
least it is not so with us. From the heroes of Dostoevski we may see
how abstract thought may be passionate, how metaphysical theories and
deductions are rooted, not only in cold reason, but in the heart,
emotions, and will. There are thoughts which pour oil on the fire of
the passions and inflame man's flesh and blood more powerfully than
the most unrestrained license. There is a logic of the passions, but
there are also passions in logic. And these are essentially OUR new
passions, peculiar to us and alien to the men of former civilisations.
. . . They feel deeply because they think deeply; they suffer
endlessly because they are endlessly deliberate; they dare to will
because they have dared to think. And the farther, apparently, it is
from life--the more abstract, the more fiery is their thought, the
deeper it enters into their lives. O strange young Russia!"

Merezhkovski is talking of the heroes of Dostoevski; but his remark is
applicable to the work of nearly all Russian novelists, and especially
to Chekhov and Andreev. It is a profound criticism that, if once
grasped by the foreign reader, will enable him to understand much in
Russian fiction that otherwise would be a sealed book. Every one must
have noticed how Russians are hag-ridden by an idea; but no one except
Merezhkovski has observed the PASSION of abstract thought. In some
characters, such as those Dostoevski has given us, it leads to deeds
of wild absurdity; in Andreev, it usually leads to madness.

One of Andreev's books is indeed a whole commentary on the remark of
Merezhkovski quoted above. The English title of the translation is "A
Dilemma," but as the translator has explained, the name of the story
in the original is "Thought (Mysl)." The chief character is a
physician, Kerzhentsev, who reminds one constantly of Dostoevski's
Raskolnikov, but whose states of mind are even more subtly analysed.
No one should read this story unless his nerves are firm, for the
outcome of the tale is such as to make almost any reader for a time
doubt his own sanity. It is a curious study of the border-line between
reason and madness. The physician, who rejoices in his splendid
health, bodily vigour, and absolute equilibrium of mind, quietly
determines to murder his best friend--to murder him openly and
violently, and to go about it in such a way that he himself will
escape punishment. He means to commit the murder to punish the man's
wife because she had rejected him and married his friend, whom she
loves with all the strength of her powerful nature. His problem,
therefore, is threefold: he must murder the man, the man's wife must
know that he is the murderer, and he must escape punishment. He
therefore begins by feigning madness, and acting so well that his
madness comes upon him only at long intervals; at a dinner-party he
has a violent fit; but he waits a whole month before having another
attack. Everything is beautifully planned; he smashes a plate with his
fist, but no one observes that he has taken care previously to cover
the plate with his napkin, so that his hand will not be cut. His
friends are all too sorry for him to have any suspicion of a sinister
intention; and his friend Alexis is fatuously secure. Not so the wife;
she has an instinctive fear of the coming murder. One evening, when
all three are together, the doctor picks up a heavy iron paper-weight,
and Alexis says that with such an instrument a murderer might break a
man's head. This is interesting. "It was precisely the head, and
precisely with that thing that I had planned to crush it, and now that
same head was telling how it would all end." Therefore he leads Alexis
into a dispute by insisting that the paper-weight is too light. Alexis
becomes angry, and actually makes the doctor take the object in his
hand, and they rehearse his own murder. They are stopped by the wife,
who, terror-stricken, says that she never likes such jokes. Both men
burst into hearty laughter.

A short time after, the doctor crushes the skull of Alexis in the
presence of his wife. In the midst of the horror and confusion of the
household, the murderer slips out, goes home, and is resting calmly,
thinking with intense delight of the splendid success of the plan, and
of the extraordinary skill he had shown in its conception and
execution; when, just as he was dropping off to sleep in delicious
drowsiness, there "languidly" entered into his head this thought: it
speaks to his mind in the third person, as though somebody else had
actually said it: It is very possible that Dr. Kerzhentsev is really
insane. He thought that he simulated, but he is really insane--insane
at this very instant.

After this poison has entered his soul, his condition can be easily
imagined. A terrible debate begins in his own mind, for he is fighting
against himself for his own reason. Every argument that he can think
of to persuade himself of his sanity he marshals; but there are plenty
of arguments on the other side. The story is an excellent example of
what Merezhkovski must mean by the passion of thought.

Another illustration of Andreev's uncanny power is seen in the short
story "Silence." A father does not understand his daughter's silence,
and treats her nervous suffering with harsh practicality. She commits
suicide; the mother is stricken with paralysis; silence reigns in the
house. Silence. The father beseeches his wife to speak to him; there
is no speculation in her wide-open eyes. He cries aloud to his dead
daughter. Silence. Nothing but silence, and the steady approach of
madness.

Andreev is an unflinching realist, with all the Russian power of the
concrete phrase. He would never say, in describing a battle, that the
Russians "suffered a severe loss." He would turn a magnifying glass on
each man. But, although he is a realist and above all a psychologist,
he is also a poet. In the sketch "Silence" there is the very spirit of
poetry. The most recent bit of writing by him that I have seen is
called a Fantasy*--"Life is so Beautiful to the Resurrected." This is
a meditation in a graveyard, written in the manner of one of
Turgenev's "Poems in Prose," though lacking something of that master's
exquisite beauty of style. It is, however, not sentimentally
conventional, but original. The poetic quality in Andreev animates all
his dramas, particularly "To the Stars."

*Translated in "Current Literature," New York, for September 1910.



X

KUPRIN'S PICTURE OF GARRISON LIFE



As Tolstoi, Garshin, and Andreev have shown the horrors of war, so
Kuprin* has shown the utter degradation and sordid misery of garrison
life. If Russian army posts in time of peace bear even a remote
resemblance to the picture given in Kuprin's powerful novel "In
Honour's Name,"** one would think that the soldiers there entombed
would heartily rejoice at the outbreak of war--would indeed welcome
any catastrophe, provided it released them from such an Inferno. It is
interesting to compare stories of American garrisons, or such clever
novels as Mrs. Diver's trilogy of British army posts in India, with
the awful revelations made by Kuprin. Among these Russian officers and
soldiers there is not one gleam of patriotism to glorify the drudgery;
there is positively no ideal, even dim-descried. The officers are a
collection of hideously selfish, brutal, drunken, licentious beasts;
their mental horizon is almost inconceivably narrow, far narrower than
that of mediaeval monks in a monastery. The soldiers are in worse
plight than prisoners, being absolutely at the mercy of the alcoholic
caprices of their superiors. A favourite device of the officer is to
jam the trumpet against the trumpeter's mouth, when he is trying to
obey orders by sounding the call; then they laugh at him derisively as
he spits out blood and broken teeth. The common soldiers are beaten
and hammered unmercifully in the daily drill, so that they are all
bewildered, being in such a state of terror that it is impossible for
them to perform correctly even the simplest manoeuvres. The only
officer in this story who treats his men with any consideration is a
libertine, who seduces the peasants' daughters in the neighbourhood,
and sends them back to their parents with cash payments for their
services.

*Kuprin was born in 1870, and was for a time an officer in the Russian
army.

**Translated by W. F. Harvey: the French translation is called "Une
Petite Garnison Russe;" the German, "Das Duell," after the original
title.

If Kuprin's story be true, one does not need to look far for the utter
failure of the Russian troops in the Japanese war; the soldiers are
here represented as densely ignorant, drilling in abject terror of
their officers' fists and boots, and knowing nothing whatever of true
formations in attack or defence. As for the officers, they are much
worse than the soldiers: their mess is nothing but an indescribably
foul alcoholic den, where sodden drunkenness and filthy talk are the
steady routine. They are all gamblers and debauchees; as soon as a sum
of money can be raised among them, they visit the brothel. The
explanation of the beastly habits of these representatives of the Tsar
is given in the novel in this wise: "Yes, they are all alike, even the
best and most tender-hearted among them. At home they are splendid
fathers of families and excellent husbands; but as soon as they
approach the barracks they become low-minded, cowardly, and idiotic
barbarians. You ask me why this is, and I answer: Because nobody can
find a grain of sense in what is called military service. You know how
all children like to play at war. Well, the human race has had its
childhood--a time of incessant and bloody war; but war was not then
one of the scourges of mankind, but a continued, savage, exultant
national feast to which daring bands of youths marched forth, meeting
victory or death with joy and pleasure. . . . Mankind, however, grew
in age and wisdom; people got weary of the former rowdy, bloody games,
and became more serious, thoughtful, and cautious. The old Vikings of
song and saga were designated and treated as pirates. The soldier no
longer regarded war as a bloody but enjoyable occupation, and had
often to be dragged to the enemy with a noose round his neck. The
former terrifying, ruthless, adored atamens* have been changed into
cowardly, cautious tschinovnih,** who get along painfully enough on
never adequate pay. Their courage is of a new and quite moist kind,
for it is invariably derived from the glass. Military discipline still
exists, but it is based on threats and dread, and undermined by a
dull, mutual hatred. . . . And all this abomination is carefully
hidden under a close veil of tinsel and finery, and foolish, empty
ceremonies, in all ages the charlatan's conditio sine qua non. Is not
this comparison of mine between the priesthood and the military caste
interesting and logical? Here the riassa and the censer; there the
gold-laced uniform and the clank of arms. Here bigotry, hypocritical
humility, sighs and sugary, sanctimonious, unmeaning phrases; there
the same odious grimaces, although its method and means are of another
kind--swaggering manners, bold and scornful looks--'God help the man
who dares to insult me!'--padded shoulders, cock-a-hoop defiance. Both
the former and the latter class live like parasites on society, and
are profoundly conscious of that fact, but fear--especially for their
bellies' sake--to publish it. And both remind one of certain little
blood-sucking animals which eat their way most obstinately into the
surface of a foreign body in proportion as it is slippery and steep."

*Officers.

**Officials.

Apart from the terrible indictment of army life and military
organisation that Kuprin has given, the novel "In Honour's Name" is an
interesting story with living characters. There is not a single good
woman in the book: the officers' wives are licentious, unprincipled,
and eaten up with social ambition. The chief female character is a
subtle, clever, heartless, diabolical person, who plays on her lover's
devotion in the most sinister manner, and eventually brings him to the
grave by a device that startles the reader by its cold-blooded,
calculating cruelty. Surely no novelists outside of Russia have drawn
such evil women. The hero, Romashov, is once more the typical Russian
whom we have met in every Russian novelist, a talker, a dreamer, with
high ideals, harmlessly sympathetic, and without one grain of
resolution or will-power. He spends all his time in aspirations,
sighs, and tears--and never by any chance accomplishes anything. The
author's mouthpiece in the story is the drunkard Nasanski, who
prophesies of the good time of the brotherhood of man far in the
future. This is to be brought about, not by the teachings of Tolstoi,
which he ridicules, but by self-assertion. This self-assertion points
the way to Artsybashev's "Sanin," although in Kuprin it does not take
on the form of absolute selfishness. One of Nasanski's alcoholic
speeches seems to contain the doctrine of the whole book: "Yes, a new,
glorious, and wonderful time is at hand. I venture to say this, for I
myself have lived a good deal in the world, read, seen, experienced,
and suffered much. When I was a schoolboy, the old crows and jackdaws
croaked into our ears: 'Love your neighbour as yourself, and know that
gentleness, obedience, and the fear of God are man's fairest
adornments.' Then came certain strong, honest, fanatical men who said:
'Come and join us, and we'll throw ourselves into the abyss so that
the coming race shall live in light and freedom.' But I never
understood a word of this. Who do you suppose is going to show me, in
a convincing way, in what manner I am linked to this 'neighbour' of
mine--damn him! who, you know, may be a miserable slave, a Hottentot,
a leper, or an idiot? . . . Can any reasonable being tell me why I
should crush my head so that the generation in the year 3200 may
attain a higher standard of happiness? . . . Love of humanity is burnt
out and has vanished from the heart of man. In its stead shall come a
new creed, a new view of life that shall last to the world's end; and
this view of life consists in the individual's love for himself, for
his own powerful intelligence, and the infinite riches of his feelings
and perceptions. . . Ah, a time will come when the fixed belief in
one's own Ego will cast its blessed beams over mankind as did once the
fiery tongues of the Holy Ghost over the Apostles' heads. Then there
shall be no longer slaves and masters; no maimed or cripples; no
malice, no vices, no pity, no hate. Men shall be gods. How shall I
dare to deceive, insult, or ill-treat another man, in whom I see and
feel my fellow, who, like myself, is a god? Then, and then only, shall
life be rich and beautiful.... Our daily life shall be a pleasurable
toil, an enfranchised science, a wonderful music, an everlasting
merrymaking. Love, free and sovereign, shall become the world's
religion."

In considering Russian novelists of to-day, and the promise for the
future, Andreev seems to be the man best worth watching--he is the
most gifted artist of them all. But it is clear that no new writer has
appeared in Russia since the death of Dostoevski in 1881 who can
compare for an instant with the author of "Anna Karenina," and that
the great names in Russian fiction are now, as they were forty years
ago, Gogol, Turgenev, Tolstoi, and Dostoevski. Very few long novels
have been published in Russia since "Resurrection" that, so far as we
can judge, have permanent value. Gorki's novels are worthless; his
power, like that of Chekhov and Andreev, is seen to best advantage in
the short story. Perhaps the younger school have made a mistake in
studying so exclusively the abnormal.





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