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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910)
Critical and Biographical Introduction by William Dean Howells (1837–1920)
 
THERE is a certain unsatisfactory meagerness in the facts of Leo Tolstoy’s life, as they are given outside of his own works. In these he has imparted himself with a fullness which has an air almost of anxiety to leave nothing unsaid,—as if any reticence would rest like a sense of insincerity on his conscience. But such truth as relates to dates and places, and seems the basis of our knowledge concerning other men, is with him hardly at all structural: we do not try to build his moral or intellectual figure upon it or about it.  1
  He is of an aristocratic lineage, which may be traced back to Count Piotr Tolstoy, a friend and comrade of Peter the Great; and he was born in 1828 at Yasnaya Polyana near Tula. His parents died during his childhood, and he was left with their other children to the care of one of his mother’s relatives at Kazan, where he entered the university. He did not stay to take a degree, but returned to Yasnaya Polyana, where he lived in retirement till 1851; when he went into the army, and served in the Caucasus and the Crimea, seeing both the big wars and the little. He quitted the service with the rank of division commander, and gave himself up to literary work at St. Petersburg, where his success was in every sort most brilliant; but when the serfs were set free, he retired to his estates, and took his part in fitting them for freedom by teaching them, personally and through books which he wrote for them.  2
  He learned from these poor people far more than he taught them; and his real life dates from his efforts to make it one with their lives. He had married the daughter of a German physician in Moscow,—the admirable woman who was to remain constant to the idealist through all his changing ideals,—and a family of children was growing up about him; but neither the cares nor the joys of his home sufficed to keep him from the despair which all his military and literary and social success had deepened upon him, and which had begun to oppress him from the earliest moments of moral consciousness.  3
  The wisdom that he learned from toil and poverty was, that life has no meaning and no happiness except as it is spent for others; and it did not matter that the toiling poor themselves illustrated the lesson unwittingly and unwillingly. Tolstoy perceived that they had the true way often in spite of themselves; but that their reluctance or their ignorance could not keep the blessing from them which had been withheld from him, and from all the men of his kind and quality. He found that they took sickness and misfortune simply and patiently, and that when their time came to die, they took death simply and patiently. To them life was not a problem or a puzzle: it was often heavy and hard, but it did not mock or deride them; it was not malign, and it was not ironical. He believed that the happiness he saw in them came first of all from their labor.  4
  So he began to work out his salvation with his own hands. He put labor before everything else in his philosophy, and through all his changes and his seeming changes he kept it there. There had been a time when he thought he must destroy himself, after glory in arms and in letters had failed to suffice him, after the love of wife and children had failed to console him, and nothing would ease the intolerable burden of being. But labor gave him rest; and he tasted the happiness of those whose existence is a continual sacrifice through service to others.  5
  He must work hard every day, or else he must begin to die at heart; and so he believed must every man. But then, for the life which labor renders tolerable and significant, some sort of formulated faith was essential; and Tolstoy began to search the Scriptures. He learned from the teachings of Jesus Christ that he must not only not kill, but he must not hate or despise other men; he must not only keep himself chaste, but he must keep his thoughts from unchastity; he must not only not forswear himself, but he must not swear at all; he must not only not do evil, but he must not resist evil. If his own practice had been the negation of these principles, he could not therefore deny their righteousness; if all civilization, as we see it now, was the negation of these principles, civilization—in so far as it was founded upon war, and pride, and luxury, and oaths, and judgments, and punishments—was wrong and false. The sciences, so far as they failed to better the lot of common men, seemed to him futile; the fine arts, so far as they appealed to the passions, seemed worse than futile; the mechanic arts, with their manifold inventions, were senseless things in the sight of this seer, who sought the kingdom of God. Titles, honors, riches; courts, judges, executioners; nationalities, armies, battles; culture, pleasure, amusement,—he counted these all evil or vain.  6
  The philosophy of Tolstoy is neither more nor less than the doctrine of the gospels, chiefly as he found it in the words of Jesus. Some of us whose lives it accused, have accused him of going beyond Christ in his practice of Christ’s precepts. We say that having himself led a worldly, sensual, and violent life, he naturally wished to atone for it by making every one also lead a poor, dull, and ugly life. It is no part of my business to defend him, or to justify him; but as against this anger against him, I cannot do less than remind the reader that Tolstoy, in confessing himself so freely and fully to the world, and preaching the truth as he feels it, claims nothing like infallibility. He compels no man’s conscience, he shapes no man’s conduct. If the truth which he has learned from the teachings of Jesus, and those other saviors and sages whom he follows less devotedly, compels the conscience and shapes the conduct of the reader, that is because this reader’s soul cannot deny it. If the soul rejects it, that is no more than men have been doing ever since saviors and sages came into the world; and Tolstoy is neither to praise nor to blame.  7
  No sincere person, I believe, will deny his sincerity, which is his authority outside of the gospel’s: if any man will speak simply and truly to us, he masters us; and this and nothing else is what makes us helpless before the spirit of such books as ‘My Confession,’ ‘My Religion,’ ‘Life,’ ‘What to Do,’ and before the ethical quality of Tolstoy’s fictions. We can remind ourselves that he is no more final than he pretends to be; that on so vital a point as the question of a life hereafter, he seems of late to incline to a belief in it, though at first he held such a belief to be a barbarous superstition. We can justly say that he does not lead a life of true poverty if his wife holds the means of keeping him from want, and from that fear of want which is the sorest burden of poverty. We can point out that his labor in making shoes is a worse than useless travesty, since it may deprive some wretched cobbler of his chance to earn his living by making and selling the shoes which Count Tolstoy makes and gives away. In these things we should have a certain truth on our side; though we should have to own that it was not his fault that he had not really declassed himself, and was constrained to the economic safety in which he dwells. We should have to confess that in this the great matter is the will; and that if benevolence stopped to take account of the harm it might work, there could be no such thing as charity in the world. We should have to ask ourselves whether Tolstoy’s conversion to a belief in immortality is not an effect of his unselfish labor; whether his former doubt of immortality was not a lingering effect of the ambition, vanity, and luxury he renounced. It had not indeed remained for him to discover that whenever we love, the truth is added unto us; but possibly it had remained for him to live the fact, to realize that unselfish labor gives so much meaning to human life that its significance cannot be limited to mortality.  8
  However this may be, Tolstoy’s purpose is mainly to make others realize that religion, that Christ, is for this actual world here, and not for some potential world elsewhere. If this is what renders him so hateful to those who postpone the Divine justice to another state of being, they may console themselves with the reflection that his counsel to unselfish labor is almost universally despised. There is so small danger that the kingdom of heaven will come by virtue of his example, that none of all who pray for it need be the least afraid of its coming. In any event his endeavor for a right life cannot be forgotten. Even as a pose, if we are to think so meanly of it as that, it is by far the most impressive spectacle of the century. All that he has said has been the law of Christianity open to any who would read, from the beginning; and he has not differed from most other Christians except in the attempt literally to do the will of Christ. Yet even in this he is not the first. Others have lived the life of labor voluntarily, and have abhorred war, and have suffered evil. But no man so gloriously gifted and so splendidly placed has bowed his neck and taken the yoke upon it. We must recognize Tolstoy as one of the greatest men of all time, before we can measure the extent of his renunciation. He was gifted, noble, rich, famous, honored, courted; and he did his very utmost to become plebeian, poor, obscure, neglected. He sincerely endeavored to cast his lot with the lowliest, and he counted it all joy so far as his efforts succeeded. His scruple against constraining the will of others suffers their will to make his self-sacrifice finally histrionic; but this seems to me not the least part of his self-sacrifice, which it gives a supreme touch of pathos. It is something that in fiction he alone could have imagined, and is akin to the experience of his own Karénin, who in a crucial moment forgives when he perceives that he cannot forgive without being ridiculous. Tolstoy, in allowing his family to keep his wealth, for fear of compelling them to the righteousness which they do not choose, became absurd in his inalienable safety and superiority; but we cannot say that he ought not to have suffered this indignity. There is perhaps a lesson in his fate which we ought not to refuse, if we can learn from it that in our time men are bound together so indissolubly that every advance must include the whole of society, and that even self-renunciation must not accomplish itself at the cost of others’ free choice.  9
  It is usual to speak of the ethical and the æsthetical principles as if they were something separable; but they are hardly even divergent in any artist, and in Tolstoy they have converged from the first. He began to write at a time when realistic fiction was so thoroughly established in Russia that there was no question there of any other. Gogol had found the way out of the mists of romanticism into the open day, and Turgenev had so perfected the realistic methods that the subtlest analysis of character had become the essence of drama. Then Tolstoy arrived, and it was no longer a question of methods. In Turgenev, when the effect sought and produced is most ethical, the process is so splendidly æsthetical that the sense of its perfection is uppermost. In Tolstoy the meaning of the thing is so supreme that the delight imparted by the truth is qualified by no consciousness of the art. Up to his time fiction had been part of the pride of life, and had been governed by the criterions of the world which it amused. But he replaced the artistic conscience by the human conscience. Great as my wonder was at the truth in Tolstoy’s work, my wonder at the love in it was greater yet. Here for the first time, I found the most faithful pictures of life set in the light of that human conscience which I had falsely taught myself was to be ignored in questions of art, as something inadequate and inappropriate. In the august presence of the masterpieces, I had been afraid and ashamed of the highest instincts of my nature as something philistine and provincial. But here I stood in the presence of a master, who told me not to be afraid or ashamed of them, but to judge his work by them, since he had himself wrought in honor of them. I found the tests of conduct which I had used in secret with myself, applied as the rules of universal justice, condemning and acquitting in motive and action, and admitting none of those lawyers’ pleas which baffle our own consciousness of right and wrong. Often in Tolstoy’s ethics I feel a hardness, almost an arrogance (the word says too much); but in his æsthetics I have never felt this. He has transmuted the atmosphere of a realm hitherto supposed unmoral into the very air of heaven. I found nowhere in his work those base and cruel lies which cheat us into the belief that wrong may sometimes be right through passion, or genius, or heroism. There was everywhere the grave noble face of the truth that had looked me in the eyes all my life, and that I knew I must confront when I came to die. But there was something more than this,—infinitely more. There was that love which is before even the truth, without which there is no truth, and which, if there is any last day, must appear the Divine justice.  10
  It is Tolstoy’s humanity which is the grace beyond the reach of art in his imaginative work. It does not reach merely the poor and the suffering: it extends to the prosperous and the proud, and does not deny itself to the guilty. There had been many stories of adultery before ‘Anna Karénina,’—nearly all the great novels outside of English are framed upon that argument,—but in ‘Anna Karénina’ for the first time the whole truth was told about it. Tolstoy has said of the fiction of Maupassant that the truth can never be immoral; and in his own work I have felt that it could never be anything but moral. In the ‘Kreuzer Sonata,’ which gave a bad conscience to Christendom, there was not a moment of indecency or horror that was not purifying and wholesome. It was not the logic of that tremendous drama that marriage was wrong,—though Tolstoy himself pushed on to some such conclusion,—but only that lustful marriage, provoked through appetite and fostered in idleness and luxury, was wrong. It will no doubt seem strange to many of us that he did not see marriage, as he had seen immortality, to be the inevitable deduction from the human postulate. But whatever the process of his reasoning may have been his comment on that novel seems to me his one great mistake, and a discord in the harmony of his philosophy.  11
  It jars the more because what you feel most in Tolstoy is this harmony,—this sense of unity. He cannot admit in his arraignment of civilization the plea of a divided responsibility: he will not suffer the prince, or the judge, or the soldier, personally to shirk the consequences of what he officially does; and he refuses to allow in himself the division of the artist from the man. As I have already more than once said, his ethics and æsthetics are inseparably at one; and this is what gives a vital warmth to all his art. It is never that heartless skill which exists for its own sake, and is content to dazzle with the brilliancy of its triumphs. It seeks always the truth in the love to which alone the truth unveils itself. If Tolstoy is the greatest imaginative writer who ever lived, it is because, beyond all others, he has written in the spirit of kindness, and not denied his own personal complicity with his art.  12
  As for the scope of his work, it would not be easy to measure it; for it seems to include all motives and actions, in good and bad, in high and low, and not to leave life untouched at any point as it shows itself in his vast Russian world. Its chief themes are the old themes of art always,—they are love, passion, death; but they are treated with such a sincerity, such a simplicity, that they seem almost new to art, and as effectively his as if they had not been touched before.  13
  Until we read ‘The Cossacks,’ and witness the impulses of kindness in Olenin, we do not realize how much love has been despised by fiction, and neglected for passion. It is with a sort of fear and trembling that we find ourselves in the presence of this wish to do good to others, as if it might be some sort of mawkish sentimentality. But it appears again and again in the cycle of Tolstoy’s work: in the vague aspirations recorded in ‘Childhood, Boyhood, and Youth’; in the abnegation and shame of the husband in ‘Anna Karénina,’ when he wishes to forgive his wife’s paramour; in the goodness of the muzhik to the loathsome sick man in ‘The Death of Ivan Ilyitch’; in the pitying patience of Prince Andreí Bolkonsky with Anatol Kuragin in ‘War and Peace,’ where amidst his own anguish he realizes that the man next him under the surgeon’s knife is the wretch who robbed him of the innocent love of his betrothed; in the devotion of the master, even to the mergence of conscious identity, to the servant in ‘Master and Man’;—and at no time does it justify our first skeptical shrinking. It is as far as possible from the dramatic tours de force in Hugoesque fiction; it is not a conclusion that is urged or an effect that is solicited: it is the motive to which all beauty of action refers itself; it is human nature,—and it is as frankly treated as if there could be no question of it.  14
  This love—the wish to do good and to be good, which is at the bottom of all our hearts, however we try to exclude it or deny it—is always contrasting itself in Tolstoy’s work with passion, and proving the latter mortal and temporal in itself, and enduring only in its union with love. In most other novelists, passion is treated as if it were something important in itself,—as if its intensity were a merit and its abandon were a virtue,—its fruition Paradise, its defeat perdition. But in Tolstoy, almost for the first time, we are shown that passion is merely a condition; and that it has almost nothing to do with happiness. Other novelists represent lovers as forced by their passion to an ecstasy of selfish joy, or an ecstasy of selfish misery; but he shows us that they are only the more bound by it to the rest of the world. It is in fact, so far as it eventuates in marriage, the beginning of subjection to humanity, and nothing in it concerns the lovers alone.  15
  It is not the less but the more mystical for this; and Tolstoy does full justice to all its mystical beauty, its mystical power. Its power upon Natacha,—that pure, good, wise girl,—whom it suddenly blinds and bewilders till she must be saved from ruin in spite of herself, and almost by violence, and upon Anna Karénina,—that loving mother, true friend, and obedient wife,—are illustrated with a vividness which I know not where to match. Dolly’s wretchedness with her faithless husband, Kitty’s happiness in the constancy of Levine, are neither unalloyed; and in all the instances and examples of passion, we are aware of the author’s sense of its merely provisional character. This appears perhaps most impressively in the scenes of Prince Andreí Bolkonsky’s long dying, where Natacha, when restored and forgiven for her aberration, becomes as little to him at last as if she had succeeded in giving herself to Anatol Kuragin. The theory of such matters is, that the passion which unites them in life must bring them closer still in death; but we are shown that it is not so.  16
  Passion, we have to learn from the great master, who here as everywhere humbles himself to the truth, has in it life and death; but of itself it is something only as a condition precedent to these: without it neither can be; but it is lost in their importance, and is strictly subordinate to their laws. It has never been more charmingly and reverently studied in its beautiful and noble phases than it is in Tolstoy’s fiction; though he has always dealt with it so sincerely, so seriously. As to its obscure and ugly and selfish phases, he is so far above all others who have written of it, that he alone seems truly to have divined it, or portrayed it as experience knows it. He never tries to lift it out of nature in either case, but leaves it more visibly and palpably a part of the lowest as well as the highest humanity.  17
  He is apt to study both aspects of it in relation to death; so apt that I had almost said he is fond of doing it. He often does this in ‘War and Peace’; and in ‘Anna Karénina’ the unity of passion and death might be said to be the principle and argument of the story. In ‘The Death of Ivan Ilyitch’ the unworthy passion of the marriage is a part of the spiritual squalor in which the wretched worldling goes down to his grave. In the ‘Kreuzer Sonata’ it is the very essence of the murder; and in the ‘Powers of Darkness’ it is the spring of the blackest evil. I suppose that one thing which has made Tolstoy most distasteful to man-made society is, that in all sins from passion he holds men chiefly accountable. It is their luxury which is so much to blame for the perversion. I can recall, at the moment, only one woman—the Princess Helena—in whom he censures the same evils; and even in her he lets you feel that her evil is almost passive, and such as man-made society chiefly forced upon her. Tolstoy has always done justice to women’s nature; he has nowhere mocked or satirized them without some touch of pity or extenuation: and he brings Anna Karénina through her passion to her death, with that tender lenity for her sex which recognizes womanhood as indestructibly pure and good.  18
  He comes nearer unriddling life for us than any other writer. He persuades us that it cannot possibly give us any personal happiness; that there is no room for the selfish joy of any one except as it displaces the joy of some other, but that for unselfish joy there is infinite place and occasion. With the same key he unlocks the mystery of death; and he imagines so strenuously that death is neither more nor less than a transport of self-surrender, that he convinces the reason where there can be no proof. The reader will not have forgotten how in those last moments of earth which he has depicted, it is this utter giving up which is made to appear the first moment of heaven. Nothing in his mastery is so wonderful as his power upon us in the scenes of the borderland where his vision seems to pierce the confines of another world. He comes again and again to it, as if this exercise of his seership had for him the same fascination that we feel in it: the closing hours of Prince Andreí, the last sorrowful instants of Anna Karénina, the triumphal abnegation of the philistine Ivan Ilyitch, the illusions and disillusions of the dying soldier in ‘Scenes of the Siege of Sebastopol,’ the transport of the sordid merchant giving his life for his servant’s in ‘Master and Man,’—all these, with perhaps others that fail to occur to me, are qualified by the same conviction, imparting itself so strongly that it is like a proven fact.  19
  Of a man who can be so great in the treatment of great things, we can ask ourselves only after a certain reflection whether he is as great as some lesser men in some lesser things; and I have a certain diffidence in inquiring whether Tolstoy is a humorist. But I incline to think that he is, though the humor of his facts seeks him rather than he it. One who feels life so keenly cannot help feeling its grotesqueness through its perversions, or help smiling at it, with whatever pang in his heart. I should say that his books rather abounded in characters helplessly comic. Oblensky in ‘Anna Karénina,’ the futile and amiably unworthy husband of Dolly, is delicious; and in ‘War and Peace,’ old Count Rostof, perpetually insolvent, is pathetically ridiculous,—as Levine in the first novel often is, and Pierre Bezukhof often is in the second. His irony, without harshness or unkindness, often pursues human nature in its vain twistings and turnings, with effects equally fresh and true; as where Nikolai Rostof, flying before the French, whom he had just been trying his worst to kill, finds it incredible that they should be seeking to harm one whom he knew to be so kind and good as himself. In Polikoushka, where the two muzhiks watching by the peasant’s dead body try to shrink into themselves when some polite people come in, and to make themselves small because they are aware of smelling of the barn-yard, there is the play of such humor as we find only now and then in the supreme humorists. As for pathos, the supposed corollary of humor, I felt that I had scarcely known what it might be till I read Tolstoy. In literature, so far as I know it, there is nothing to match with the passage describing Anna Karénina’s stolen visit to her little son after she has deserted her husband.  20
  I touch this instance and that, in illustration of one thing and another: but I feel after all as if I had touched almost nothing in Tolstoy, so much remains untouched; though I am aware that I should have some such feeling if I multiplied the instances indefinitely. Much is said of the love of nature in writers, who are supposed to love it as they catalogue or celebrate its facts; but in Tolstoy’s work the nature is there just as the human nature is: simple, naked, unconscious. There is the sky that is really over our heads; there is the green earth, the open air; the seasons come and go: it is all actual, palpable,—and the joy of it as uncontrived apparently as the story which it environs, and which gives no more the sense of invention than the history of some veritable passage of human events. In ‘War and Peace’ the fortunes of the fictitious personages are treated in precisely the same spirit, and in the same manner, as the fortunes of the real personages: Bezukhof and Napoleon are alike real.  21
  Of methods in Tolstoy, then, there can scarcely be any talk. He has apparently no method: he has no purpose but to get what he thinks, simply and clearly before us. Of style there seems as little to say; though here, since I know him only in translation, I cannot speak confidently. He may have a very marked style in Russian; but if this was so, I do not see how it could be kept out of the versions. In any case, it is only when you come to ask yourself what it is, that you realize its absence. His books are full of Tolstoy,—his conviction, his experience,—and yet he does not impart his personal quality to the diction as other masters do. It would indeed be as hard to imitate the literature as the life of Tolstoy, which will probably find only a millennial succession.  22
  In the time between the second and third of his great fictions Tolstoy wrote several minor books which I would not have my reader think less than very great. The penetrating conscience so active in ‘My Confession,’ ‘My Religion,’ ‘Life’ and the like is powerfully present in the ‘Kreutzer Sonata’ and in ‘What is Art?’ These polemics are as masterly in their sort as the earlier expressions of the author’s beliefs and feelings and they are not ethically or æsthetically different. After he came to himself in his principles he did not change in his conclusions, but at times he deepened or broadened the base of them so as to let the meaning of them be more clearly felt. His recognition of Maupassant’s excellent art came strangely from such a moralist as himself, whose abhorrence Maupassant’s material must often have been. But Tolstoy has the large inconsistency which seems at times infirm judgment; with the perfect fealty to character which his own fiction always showed, he could be so tolerant of caricature that he accounted Dickens the greatest master of English fiction. In this he might have been swayed by his sense of the humanity of Dickens. His own moral temperament was of the vastness of climate where there was due allowance for all weather; sometimes the weather was very bad, as when he declared Hosea Ballou the of American authors, but this may have been through the defect of knowledge, or it may have been a touch of the cutting humor which he indulged if he thought himself dealing with some humorless inquirer. Or, he may have been really no great critic of literature, while he was so pre-eminently a critic of life, and above all others a censor of the soul. He may appear an inadequate observer of his own methods to the reader of the ‘Chartreuse de Parme’ when he says he has derived them from the method of Stendhal; but there can be no question of his self-criticism when he deals with his conscience and the source of hope which he tells us he found only in the words and acts of Christ, whom above all others he tried to follow. He brings the whole of human conduct in himself and in his neighbor to this test; it is the criterion of his art as it is of his life, and without the test of this he does not value art. This was the cause of his turning upon his fiction at a certain time and accusing it of inadequacy to the need of the spirit amidst the highest things it could give, and recognizing that no one was a better man for the best things that any man had done in art, though he might be exempt from the self-contempt of artificiality and immorality.  23
  It is not clear to me whether in coming back to fiction from the polemics of his middle years he returns to one of his three greatest novels by the way of one which is less rather in size than in scope, but whether ‘Resurrection’ was planned after ‘The Kreutzer Sonata’ or not, I think I may justly imagine that he could not satisfy himself without offering a supreme testimony to the truth as he saw it and felt it in the mystery of the sex sacrificed in love to the lust of the other sex. He is the austerest, the severest censor of the folly and vanity of women, but he is first of those who recognize the essential innocence of the women whom men make their prey. At a certain moment he sees no hope for redemption from this secular iniquity but in celibacy, and he suffered this to become the accepted moral of ‘The Kreutzer Sonata’; but celibacy is not the moral of ‘Resurrection,’ as it was not the moral of the peril and the rescue of Natacha in ‘War and Peace.’ In his final great fiction he explores the tragedy of the wronged woman through all its gruesome and horrifying details, past all possibility of reparation from the man who wronged her, when she can love and marry only a man who has had no part in her wrong or in any moment of the social squalor following from it.  24
  Without having recurred to the book, I am half-minded to declare ‘Resurrection’ the greatest of Tolstoy’s fictions. I came to it after the first fervor of my devotion for him had spent itself, but the surprise of it restored me to my earlier feeling; and now I am not sure but that when the account is finally made up, it will not be decided that ‘Resurrection’ is a truer representation of life and a more perfect work of art than either ‘War and Peace’ or ‘Anna Karénina.’ In form it is certainly more compact, and in spirit it is not less loyal to truth. It is, of course, an awful tragedy, but it is the “noble terror” of tragedy which it strikes into the reader. It makes him partner in its events; he is “the doubter and the doubt” in all the dark course of the cruel betrayal and the atrocious sacrifice of womanhood that follows through the ways that the sin and the sinner keep. The wrong cannot be atoned for by any act of penitence or reparation; yet the victim is not destroyed. This is what Tolstoy shows with his sublime constancy to the truth which he cannot help finding the truth. The event could not be otherwise than it falls out, in his vision; with what is left of her in her ruin the victim must rebuild her life not on the remorse of the man who has wronged her, but upon the love of some other man who has nothing to do with her wrong, and simply offers her his love. A moralist who was not a great artist could not have divined this.  25
  I suppose many will think the last end of Tolstoy, and the conditions tending to it, as tragical as anything he has written. Æsthetically it seems to me more tragical, and it seems to me so because it is more inevitable, more strictly in accord with the law of human experience. The old appear to me nearly always run to earth, hunted down by a fate whose prey, though not whose sport, they are. To save his soul alive Tolstoy had done what he could to renounce himself. He had abjured all that he could of the pride of life, and forbidden himself to hope for any joy of life except through daily toil for daily bread. This alone could bring him release from sorrow and remorse for sin; only this could restore the meaning of existence and take away the terror of death and justify the hope of immortality. But Tolstoy could not earn his daily bread as the poor earned theirs; his was the hard doom of inalienable affluence which he could not divert from those whose due it was in law, and in his helpless love for them he entered upon a hollow mockery of daily toil for daily bread; he sat at the table of the countess, his wife, and ate the coarse food of the peasant. He made shoes which he did not sell for his living, but probably gave away. The world came to look on at the drama, the Inhuman Comedy which did not cease to make its protagonist pitiable. We do not know just how far he was able to bear it or at what moment it became intolerable, or how. We know that it did become intolerable and that at last he fled from it and died apart from his family a sick old man, broken by fate and yielding to despair. He sought to lead the life which he believed that Christ meant us all to live, but he died baffled and defeated. Yet he may after all have had his triumph, or he still may have it; the death on Calvary in the hour of it was not the victory which Christianity has ever since been painting it; and the apparently futile endeavor of Tolstoy may yet have due meaning from the Life which he strove to make his own.  26
 
 
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