First name also transliterated as Lev or Lyof; middle name (patronymic) transliterated as Nikolaevich or Nikolayevich; surname also transliterated as Tolstoi; born September 9 (Gregorian calendar; August 28, Julian calendar), 1828, at Yasnaya Polyana, the family estate in Tula province, Russia; died of pneumonia, November 20 (Gregorian calendar; November 7, Julian calendar), 1910, at railway station of Astapovo, Ryazan Province, Russia; buried at Yasnaya Polyana; son of Nikolay Ilyich Tolstoy (a retired army officer and landowner) and Maria Nikolaevna (Volkonskaya) Tolstaya; married Sofia Andreevna Behrs, September 23, 1862; children: Timofey (illegitimate); Sergey, Tatyana, Ilya, Leo, Marya (Masha), Pyotr (died in childhood), Nikolay (died in infancy), Varvara (died at birth), Andrey, Mikhail, Alexey (died in childhood), Alexandra (Sasha), Ivan (Vanichka). Education: Privately educated by French and German tutors; attended the University of Kazan, 1844-47.
Writer, essayist, philosopher, and spiritual leader. Inherited Yasnaya Polyana about 1847; became a social reformer concerned with improving the lot of the serfs, 1850s; began his writing career while a soldier in the Caucasus, 1852; traveled through Europe during 1856-57 and 1860-61; organized an experimental school for peasant children, 1859; founder and publisher of educational journal Yasnaya Polyana, 1862-63; began to develop his own Christian doctrine based on simplicity, pacifism, and nonresistance to evil, c. 1876; co-founded publishing house The Intermediary, 1883; organized relief for the starving population of Middle Russia, 1891-92; renounced his rights to his books, personal property, and money, 1895-96; excommunicated by the Russian Orthodox church, 1901. Military service: Served in the Russian army in the Caucasus, 1851, and in Sevastopol during the Crimean War, 1853-56.
NOVELS AND NOVELLAS IN ENGLISH TRANSLATION
Childhood (first published as Detstvo in Sovremennik ["The Contemporary"], Volume XXXV, 1852), first translation by M. Von Meysenbug in Childhood and Youth, Bell & Daldy (London), 1862.
Boyhood (first published as Otrochestvo in The Contemporary, Volume XLVII, 1854), translation by Isabel F. Hapgood in Childhood, Boyhood, and Youth, Crowell (New York, NY), 1886.
Youth (first published as Yunost in The Contemporary, Volume LXI, 1857), translation by Hapgood in Childhood, Boyhood, and Youth, Crowell (New York, NY), 1886.
Katia (first published as Semeinoe schaste in Russky Vestnik, Volume XX, 1859), translation from French language version by W. S. Gottsberger, 1887; translation by Nathan Haskell Dole from Russian language version as Family Happiness, Crowell (New York, NY), 1888.
The Cossacks: A Tale of the Caucasus in 1852 (first published as Kazaki in Russky Vestnik, Volume XLIII, 1863), first translation by Eugene Schuyler, Scribner (New York, NY), 1878.
Polikouchka (first published as Polikushka in Russky Vestnik, Volume XLIII, 1863), translation published by Lovell (New York), 1888, and G. Munro, 1888, translation by A. and L. Maude as In the Days of Serfdom in In the Days of Serfdom and Other Stories, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002.
War and Peace (first published as Voini i mir, six volumes, Ris [Moscow], 1863-69), translation by Clara Bell from French-language version, W. S. Gottsberger, 1886, revised edition, Harper (New York, NY), 1886.
Anna Karenina (novel; first published serially in Russky Vestnik, 1875-77), translation by Nathan Haskell Dole, Crowell (New York, NY), 1886.
Ivan Ilyitch (first published as Smert Ivana Ilyicha in Sochineniya, Part XII, [Moscow], 1886), translation by Nathan Haskell Dole published in Ivan Ilyitch, and Other Stories, Crowell (New York, NY), 1887; translation by Constance Garnett published as The Death of Ivan Ilyitch in The Death of Ivan Ilyitch, and Other Stories, Heinemann (London, England), 1902.
The Kreutzer Sonata (first published as Kreitserova sonata, Ber [Berlin], 1890), translation by Benjamin R. Tucker, Ogilvie, 1890.
Master and Man (first published as Khozyain i rabotnik in Severny Vestnik, 1895), translation by Yekaterina Alexandrovna Ludwig and George Bruce Halsted,
The Neomon, 1895.
Resurrection (first published as Voskresenie in Niva, 1899), translation by Nathan Haskell Dole, Hapgood, and others published in International Edition of the Novels and Other Works of Lyof N. Tolstoi, Volumes 21 and 22, Scribner (New York, NY), 1899-1902; translation by William E. Smith published as The Awakening, Street & Smith (New York, NY), 1900.
Father Sergius (first published as Otetz sergii, edited by V. G. Chertkov, A. L. Tolstaya, [Moscow], 1911), translation in Father Sergius, and Other Stories and Plays, Thomas Nelson (London, England), 1911.
The Devil (first published as Dyavol, edited by V.G. Chertkov, A. L. Tolstaya, 1911), translation by Archibald J. Wolf published in Posthumous Works, Volume 3, International Book Publishers, 1920.
Hadji Murad (first published as Khadzhi Murat, edited by V. G. Chertkov, Ladyzhnikov [Berlin], 1912), translation by Aylmer Maude, Dodd (New York, NY), 1912; translation by W. G. Carey published as Hadji Murat: A Tale of the Caucasus, Heinemann (London), 1962.
Memoirs of a Lunatic (first published as Zapiski sumashed-shego, A. L. Tolstaya, 1912), translation published in Hadji Murad, and Other Stories, edited by C. Hagberg Wright, Thomas Nelson (London, England), 1912 (also see below); translation by Louise and Aylmer Maude published as Memoirs of a Madman in Ivan Ilych and Hadji Murad, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1935.
SHORT STORIES IN ENGLISH TRANSLATION
The Raid (first published as Nabeg in The Contemporary, Volume XXXVIII, 1853), translation by L. and A. Maude published in Tales of Army Life, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1935.
Notes of a Billiard-Marker (first published as Zapiski markera in The Contemporary, Volume XLIX, 1855), translation by L. and A. Maude published in Nine Stories, 1855-1863, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1934 (also see below).
The Woodcutting Expedition (first published as Rubka lesa in The Contemporary, Volume LIII, 1855), translation by Nathan Haskell Dole published in The Invaders, and Other Stories, Crowell (New York, NY), 1887; translation by L. and A. Maude published as The Woodfelling in Tales of Army Life, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1935.
Sebastopol (contains "Sevastopol in the Month of December," first published as "Sevastopol v dekabre mesyatze" in The Contemporary, Volume LI, 1855; "Sevastopol in May," first published as "Sevastopol v maye" in The Contemporary, Volume LIII, 1855; "Sevastopol in August 1855," first published as "Sevastopol v auguste 1855 goda" in The Contemporary, Volume LV, 1856), English translation by Frank D. Millet from French language version published as two volumes, with an introduction by William Dean Howells, Harper (New York, NY), 1887; translation by J. Fineberg published as Tales of Sevastopol, Foreign Language Publishing House (Moscow), 1950.
The Snow Storm (first published in The Contemporary, Volume LVI, 1856), translation by Nathan Haskell Dole published as Lost on the Steppe; or, The Snowstorm in The Invaders, and Other Stories, Crowell (New York, NY), 1887.
Two Hussars (first published as Dva gusara in The Contemporary, Volume LVII, 1856), translation by Nathan Haskell Dole published in A Russian Proprietor, and Other Stories, Crowell (New York, NY), 1887.
Meeting a Moscow Acquaintance in the Detachment (first published in Biblioteka dlya Chteniya, Volume CXL, 1856), translation by Nathan Haskell Dole published as An Old Acquaintance in The Invaders, and Other Stories, Crowell (New York, NY), 1887; translation by Leo Wiener published as A Moscow Acquaintance in Illustrated Library Edition of the Complete Works of Count Tolstoy, Volume 2, Colonial Press, 1904-12; translation by L. and A. Maude published as Meeting a Moscow Acquaintance in Tales of Army Life, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1935.
A Landlord's Morning (first published as Utro pomeshchika in Otechestvennye Zapiski, Volume CIX, 1856), translation by L. and A. Maude published in Nine Stories, 1855-1863, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1934.
Lucerne (first published as Lucern in The Contemporary, Volume LXV, 1857), translation by Nathan Haskell Dole published in A Russian Proprietor, and Other Stories, Crowell (New York, NY), 1887.
Albert (first published in The Contemporary, Volume LXX, 1858), translation by Nathan Haskell Dole published in A Russian Proprietor, and Other Stories, Crowell (New York, NY), 1887.
Three Deaths (first published as Tri smerti in Biblioteka dlya Chteniya, Volume CLIII, 1859), translation by Nathan Haskell Dole published in A Russian Proprietor, and Other Stories, Crowell (New York, NY), 1887.
A Prisoner in the Caucasus (first published as Kavkazskii plennik in Zarya, 1872), translation by Nathan Haskell Dole published in A Russian Proprietor, and Other Stories, Crowell (New York, NY), 1887; translation by R. Nisbet Bain published as The Captive in the Caucasus in More Tales from Tolstoi, Jarrold, 1902.
God Sees the Truth, but Waits (first published as Bog pravda vidit, da ne skoro skazhet in Beseda, 1872), translation by L. and A. Maude published in Twenty-three Tales, H. Frowde, 1906; translation by Guy Daniels published as God Sees the Truth in Ivan the Fool, and Other Tales, Macmillan (New York), 1966.
What People Live By (first published as Chem liudi zhivy in Detsky Otdykh, 1881), translation by Aline Delano, D. Lothrop (Boston), 1886; translation by Nathan Haskell Dole published as What Men Live By, Crowell (New York, NY), 1888.
Where Love Is, There God Is Also (first published in Posrednik, 1886), translation by Dole, Crowell (New York, NY), 1887; translation by A. Delano published as Where There Is Love, There Is God in In the Pursuit of Happiness, D. Lothrop, 1887; translation by L. and A. Maude published as Where Love Is, God Is in Twenty-three Tales, H. Frowde, 1906.
Two Old Men (first published as Dva starika in Posrednik, 1886), translation by Nathan Haskell Dole published in Ivan Ilyitch, and Other Stories, Crowell (New York, NY), 1887.
Ivan the Fool (first published in Posrednik, 1886), translation by Count Norraikow published in Ivan the Fool; or, The Old Devil and the Three Small Devils [and] Lost Opportunity [and] Polikushka, illustrations by Valerian Gribayedoff, C. L. Webster, 1891; translation by R. Nisbet Bain published as The Story of Ivan the Fool in More Tales from Tolstoi, Jarrold, 1902, Brentano's, 1903; translation by Guy Daniels published as The Tale of Ivan the Fool in Ivan the Fool, and Other Tales, illustrations by Des Asmussen, Macmillan (New York), 1966.
How Much Land a Man Needs (first published as Mnogo Li cheloveku zemli nuzhno in Russkoe Bogatstvo, 1886), translation by A. Delano published as In the Pursuit of Happiness, D. Lothrop, 1887; translation by L. and A. Maude published as How Much Land Does a Man Need? in What Men Live By, and Other Tales, Stratford Publishing, 1918 (also see below).
The Godson (first published in Knizhki Nedeli, 1886), translation by R. S. Townsend published in Tolstoi for the Young: Selected Tales, Dutton (New York), 1916.
Kholstomir: A Story of a Horse (first published as Kholstomer in Sochineniya grafa, L. N. Tolstogo, 5th edition, Volume III, [Moscow], 1886), translation by Nathan Haskell Dole published in The Invaders, and Other Stories, Crowell (New York, NY), 1887.
Emelian and the Empty Drum (originally published by Elpidine [Geneva], 1891), translation by Townsend published in Tolstoi for the Young: Selected Tales, Dutton (New York), 1916; translation by Ann Dunnigan published as Emelyan and the Empty Drum in Fables and Fairy Tales, illustrations by Sheila Greenwald, foreword by Raymond Rosenthal, New American Library, 1962.
Walk in the Light While Ye Have Light, Elpidine, 1892, translation published in Walk in the Light While There Is Light, compiled by Lawrence Jordan, Fleming Revell (Grand Rapids, MI), 2001.
Three Days in the Village (first published in Vestnik Evropy, 1910), translation by L. and A. Maude published in Three Days in the Village, and Other Sketches, Written from September, 1909 to July, 1910, Free Age Press, 1910.
The Forged Coupon (first published as Falshivy kupon, edited by V. G. Chertkov, A. L. Tolstaya, 1911), translation by Leo Wiener published as Illustrated Library Edition of the Complete Works of Count Tolstoy, Volume 13, Colonial Press, 1904-12.
Alyoshka Gorshok (first published as Alesha gorshok, edited by V. G. Chertkov, A. L. Tolstaya, 1911), translation by Archibald J. Wolfe published inPosthumous Works, Volume 3, International Book Publishers, 1920.
Posthumous Memoirs of the Hermit, Fedor Kuzmich (first published in Svobodnoe Slovo, 1912), edited by V. G. Chertkov, translation by Archibald J. Wolfe published as Posthumous Memoirs of Fedor Kusmitch, the Hermit in Posthumous Works, Volume 1, International Book Publishers, 1920.
OTHER SHORT FICTION
Brazhe lepki, a bozhe krepko (title means "Evil Allures but Good Endures"), 1885.
The Three Hermits, first published in Niva, 1886.
The Candle, first published in Knizhki Nedeli, 1886.
The Restoration of Hell, first published in Svobodnogo Slova, 1903.
After the Ball, edited by V. G. Chertkov, A. L. Tolstaya, 1911.
What I Dreamt, edited by V. G. Chertkov, A. L. Tolstaya, 1911.
The Wisdom of Children, edited by V. G. Chertkov, A. L. Tolstaya, 1911.
No One in the World Is Guilty, edited by V. G. Chertkov, A. L. Tolstaya, 1911.
COLLECTED FICTION IN ENGLISH TRANSLATION
Childhood and Youth (first published as Detstvo i otrochestvo, [Moscow], 1856), translation by Von Meysenbug, Bell & Daldy, 1862.
Childhood, Boyhood, and Youth (first published as Detstvo, otrochestvo i yunost, [Moscow], 1876), translation by Hapgood, Crowell (New York, NY), 1886, translation by Fainna Solasko published as Childhood, Adolescence, and Youth, Progress Publishers (Moscow), 1981.
A Russian Proprietor, and Other Stories, translation by Dole, Crowell (New York, NY), 1887.
The Invaders, and Other Stories, translation by Nathan Haskell Dole, Crowell (New York, NY), 1887.
Ivan Ilyitch, and Other Stories, translation by Nathan Haskell Dole, Crowell (New York, NY), 1887.
My Husband and I, and Other Stories, Brentano's, 1887.
My Husband and I [and] The Death of Ivan Ilitch, Lovell (New York), 1888.
The Long Exile, and Other Stories for Children, translation by Nathan Haskell Dole, Crowell (New York, NY), 1888.
Two Generations, and Other Stories, Lovell (New York), 1888.
The Cossacks, and Other Stories, Vizetelly (London), 1888.
Count Tolstoi's Gospel Stories, translation by Nathan Haskell Dole, Crowell (New York, NY), 1890.
Ivan the Fool; or, The Old Devil and the Three Small Devils [and] A Lost Opportunity [and] Polikushka, translation by Count Norraikow, illustrations by Valerian Gribayedoff, C. L. Webster, 1891.
Life Is Worth Living, and Other Stories, translation by Norraikow, with illustrations by Valerian Gribayedoff, C. L. Webster, 1892.
Tales From Tolstoi, translation, with a biography of the author, by R. Nisbet Bain, Jarrold, 1901.
More Tales from Tolstoi, translated, with an enlarged biography of the author, by R. Nisbet Bain, Jarrold, 1902, Brentano's, 1903.
The Death of Ivan Ilyitch, and Other Stories, translation by Constance Garnett, Heinemann (London, England), 1902, revised translation, Lane, 1915, Dodd, 1927.
Sevastopol, and Other Military Tales, Funk, 1903.
Twenty-three Tales, H. Frowde, 1906.
Hadji Murad, and Other Stories, edited by C. Hagberg Wright, Thomas Nelson (London, England), 1912.
The Forged Coupon, and Other Stories, J. S. Ogilvie, 1912.
Tolstoi for the Young: Selected Tales, translation by R. S. Townsend, Dutton (New York), 1916.
What Men Live By, and Other Tales, Stratford Publishing (Boston), 1918.
The Cossacks, and Other Tales of the Caucasus, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1929.
Nine Stories, 1855-1863, translation by L. and A. Maude, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1934, published as The Snow Storm, and Other Stories, 1966.
Ivan Ilych and Hadji Murad (includes Memoirs of a Madman), with an introduction by A. Maude, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1935, published as The Death of Ivan Ilych, and Other Stories, 1971.
Tales of Army Life, translation by L. and A. Maude, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1935.
The Cossacks [and] The Death of Ivan Ilyich [and] Happy Ever After, translated and introduced by Rosemary Edmonds, Penguin, 1960.
The Cossacks [and] The Raid, translation by Andrew R. MacAndrew, with an afterword by F. D. Reeve, New American Library, 1961.
Fables and Fairy Tales, translation by Ann Dunnigan, illustrations by Sheila Greenwald, foreword by Raymond Rosenthal, New American Library, 1962.
Nikolenka's Childhood (excerpts from Childhood, Boyhood, and Youth), translation by L. and A. Maude, with an introduction by Ernest J. Simmons and illustrations by Maurice Sendak, Pantheon, 1963.
Short Novels: Stories of Love, Seduction, and Peasant Life, edited and introduced by Ernest J. Simmons, translated by L. and A. Maude and J. D. Duff, Modern Library, 1965.
Ivan the Fool, and Other Tales, translation by Guy Daniels, with illustrations by Des Asmussen, Macmillan (New York), 1966.
Great Short Works of Leo Tolstoy, translation by L. and A. Maude, with an introduction by John Bayley, Harper (New York, NY), 1967.
Short Stories, illustrations by Mikhail Rudakov, Progress Publishers, 1968.
Twenty-two Russian Tales for Young Children, selected, translated, and with an afterword by Miriam Morton, illustrations by Eros Keith, Simon & Schuster, 1969.
The Cossacks, Sevastopol, The Invaders, and Other Stories, Books for Libraries, 1970.
Esarhaddon, and Other Tales, translation by L. and A. Maude, with an introduction and letters by Tolstoy, Books for Libraries, 1970.
Little Stories of Leo Tolstoy, illustrations by Erika Klein, Aurora, 1971.
The Kreutzer Sonata, and Other Stories, translation by Benjamin R. Tucker, Books for Libraries, 1971.
Stories for Children, translation by Jacob Furalsky, Progress Publishers, 1973.
Master and Man, and Other Stories, translated, with an introduction by Paul Foote, Penguin, 1977.
Tales of Sevastopol [and] The Cossacks, Progress Publishers, 1982.
The Raid, and Other Stories, translation by L. and A. Maude, with an introduction by P. N. Furbank, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1982.
A Prisoner in the Caucasus, and Other Stories, translation by Angus Roxburgh and Margaret Wettlin, Raduga Publishers, 1983.
The Kreutzer Sonata, and Other Stories, translation by L. and A. Maude, illustrations by Elaine Raphael and Don Bolognese, Franklin Library, 1983.
Walk in the Light and Twenty-three Tales, translation by L. and A. Maude, The Plough (Farmington, PA), 1998.
Tolstoy: Tales of Courage and Conflict, edited with introduction by Charles Neider, Cooper Square Press (New York, NY), 1999.
Divine and Human and Other Stories, translated by Peter Sekirin, Zondervan (Grand Rapids, MI), 2000.
Divine and Human and Other Stories, translated with an introduction by Gordon Spence, Northwestern University Press (Evanston, IL), 2000.
Walk in the Light While There Is Light, compiled by Lawrence Jordan, Fleming Revell (Grand Rapids, MI), 2001.
Where Love Is, There God Is Also, compiled by Lawrence Jordan, Fleming Revell (Grand Rapids, MI), 2001.
The Godson, compiled by Lawrence Jordan, Fleming Revell (Grand Rapids, MI), 2001.
Classic Tales and Fables for Children, edited by Bob Blaisdell, translation by Dole and Weiner, Prometheus Books (Amherst, NY), 2002.
In the Days of Serfdom and Other Stories, translation by L. and A. Maude, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002.
The Devil and Other Stories, Oxford University Press (London, England), 2003.
PLAYS IN ENGLISH TRANSLATION
The First Distiller (six-act; first produced as Pervyvinokur, ili kak chertyonok krayushka zasluzhil in St. Petersburg at the Marionette Theatre of the Porcelain Factory, 1886), first published in Posnednik, 1886, translation by L. and A. Maude published in Plays, Constable (London), 1910.
The Dominion of Darkness: A Drama (five-act; first published in Sochineniya, 6th edition, [Moscow], 1886; first produced as Vlast tmy, ili "kogotok uvyaz, usey ptichke propast" in Paris at the Theatre Libre, February 2, 1888), Vizetelly, 1888; translation by L. and A. Maude published as The Power of Darkness in Plays, Constable, 1910.
The Fruits of Culture: A Comedy in Four Acts (fouract; first produced as Plody prosveshcheniya at Yasnaya Polyana, December 30, 1889; produced in St. Petersburg at the Alexandrinsky Theatre, September 26, 1891); first published in In Memory of S. A. Yuryev, [Moscow], 1890), translation by George Schumm, B. R. Tucker (Boston), 1891; translation published as The Fruits of Enlightenment, J. W. Luce (Boston), 1911.
The Light That Shines in the Darkness (unfinished fiveact; first published as I svet vo t'me svetit, A. L. Tolstaya, 1911), translation published in The Light That Shines in the Darkness, The Man Who Was Dead, The Cause of It All: Dramas by Leo Tolstoy, edited by Hagberg Wright, with a preface by A. Maude, Dodd, 1912.
The Man Who Was Dead (six-act; first produced as Zhivoy trup at the Moscow Art Theatre, September 23, 1911, A. L. Tolstaya, 1912), translation published in The Light That Shines in the Darkness, The Man Who Was Dead, The Cause of It All: Dramas by Leo Tolstoy, edited by Hagberg Wright, preface by A. Maude, Dodd, 1912; translation by Anna Monossowitch Evarts published as The Living Corpse: A Drama in Six Acts and Twelve Tableaux, Brown Brothers (Philadelphia), 1912; translation by L. and A. Maude published as The Live Corpse in Plays, complete edition, Funk, 1914, and asReparation, Constable, 1919, and as The Living Dead, [New York], 1925; translation published as Redemption in Redemption, and Two Other Plays, introduction by Arthur Hopkins, Boni & Liveright (New York), 1919.
The Cause of It All (two-act; first published as Ot ney vse kachestva, A. L. Tolstaya, 1912), translation published in The Light That Shines in the Darkness, The Man Who Was Dead, The Cause of It All: Dramas by Leo Tolstoy, edited by Hagberg Wright, preface by A. Maude, Dodd, 1912.
The Nihilist (three-act; originally titled Nigilist, ili komediya v trekh deystviyakh), translation by Lydia Turin, H. M. Lucas, and C. J. Hogarth published in Stories and Dramas, Dutton (New York), 1926.
The Contaminated Family (five-act; originally titled Zarazhennoye semeystvo; title also translated as The Progressives), translation by Lydia Turin, H. M. Lucas, and C. J. Hogarth published in Stories and Dramas, Dutton (New York), 1926.
COLLECTED PLAYS IN ENGLISH TRANSLATION
Plays: The Power of Darkness, The First Distiller, Fruits of Culture, translation by L. and A. Maude, Constable, 1910.
The Light That Shines in the Darkness, The Man Who Was Dead, The Cause of It All: Dramas by Leo Tolstoy, edited by Hagberg Wright, Dodd (New York, NY), 1912.
Plays, translation by L. and A. Maude, Funk, 1914, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1923.
Redemption, and Two Other Plays, introduction by Arthur Hopkins, Boni & Liveright (New York), 1919.
The Dramatic Works of Lyof N. Tolstoi, translation by Dole, complete edition, Crowell (New York, NY), 1923.
Tolstoy: Plays, translated by Marvin Kantor and Tanya Tulchinsky, Northwestern University Press (Evanston, IL), Volume 1: 1856-1886, 1994, Volume 2: 1886-1889, 1996, Volume 3: 1894-1910, 1998.
NONFICTION IN ENGLISH TRANSLATION
On Public Education (first published in Otechestvennye Zapiski, Volume CCXVI, 1874), translation by Alan Pinch published in Tolstoy on Education: Tolstoy's Educational Writings, 1861-1862, edited by Pinch and Michael Armstrong, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1982.
A Confession (first published as Ispoved, Elpidine [Geneva], 1884), Kegan Paul (London), 1885; revised translation published as How I Came to Believe, Free Age Press, 1901; edited and translated by Leo Wiener as My Confession in Illustrated Library Edition of the Complete Works of Count Tolstoy, Volume 7, Colonial Press (Boston), 1904-12.
My Religion, (first published as V chem moya vera, Kushnerev [Moscow], 1884), translation by Huntington Smith from the French, Crowell (New York, NY), 1885; translation by Constantine Popoff published as What I Believe, W. S. Gottsberger (New York), 1886.
What Is to Be Done? (first published as Tak chto zhe nam delat? in Sochineniya, Part XII, [Moscow], 1886), translation by Dole, Hapgood, and others published in International Edition of the Novels and Other Works of Lyof N. Tolstoi, Volume 18, Scribner (New York, NY), 1899-1902; edited and translated by Leo Wiener as What Shall We Do Then? in Illustrated Library Edition of the Complete Works of Count Tolstoy, Volume 9, Colonial Press, 1904-12; translation with introduction by A. Maude published as What Then Must We Do?, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1925, revised edition, 1935.
Power and Liberty, translation by Huntington Smith from French-language version, Crowell (New York, NY), 1888.
On Life (first published in Sochineniya, Part XIII, [Moscow], 1888), translation by Hapgood, Crowell (New York, NY), 1888.
Labor: The Divine Command Made Known, Augmented, and Edited by Count Lyof Tolstoi, translation by May Cruger, Pollard Publishing Co., 1890.
The Romance of Marriage, translation by Alexina Loranger, Laird & Lee, 1890.
The Gospel in Brief (first published as Kratkoye izlozheniye evangeliya, Elpidine [Geneva], 1890), Crowell (New York, NY), 1896.
A Critique of Dogmatic Theology (first published as Kritika dogmaticheskogo bogoslaviya, Elpidine [Geneva], 1891), edited and translated by Leo Wiener in Illustrated Library Edition of the Complete Works of Count Tolstoy, Volume 7, Colonial Press (Boston, MA), 1904-12.
Why Do Men Stupefy Themselves? (first published as Dyla chego lyudi odurmanibayutsya?, a preface to P. S. Alexeev's "On Drunkenness," in Russkaya Mysl', [Moscow], 1891), translation by A. Maude published in Why Do Men Stupefy Themselves? and Other Writings, edited by Meredith Murray and the editors of 24 Magazine, Strength Books, 1975.
On Hunger, published in The Daily Telegraph, 1892.
The Four Gospels Harmonized and Translated by Leo Tolstoy (first published as Soyedineniye i perevod chetyriokh evangelii, Elpidine [Geneva], Volume I, 1892; Volume II, 1893; Volume III, 1894), translation published in two volumes, W. Scott (London, England), 1895-96.
The Kingdom of God Is within You: Christianity Not as a Mystic Religion but as a New Theory of Life (first published as Tsarstvo bozhie vnutri vas, Diebner [Berlin], 1893), translation by Constance Garnett, Cassell (New York, NY), 1894.
Patriotism and Christianity (first published as Kristiyanstvo i patriotizm, Elpidine [Geneva, Switzerland], 1895), translation by J. C. Kenworthy, W. Scott (London, England), 1896; translation by Leo Wiener published as Christianity and Patriotism in Illustrated Library Edition of the Complete Works of Count Tolstoy, Volume 10, Colonial Press, 1904-12.
What Is Art? (first published as Chto takoe iskusstvo in Voprosy Filosofii i Psikhologii, 1897-98), translation by Charles Johnston, H. Altemus (Philadelphia, PA), 1898.
The Christian Teaching (first published as Khristiyanskoye ucheniye, V. G. Chertkov, [Purleigh, Essex, England], 1898), translation by V. Tchertkoff, Frederick A. Stokes, 1898.
The Slavery of Our Times (first published as Rabstvo nashego vremini in Svobodnoe Slovo, 1900), translation by Aylmer Maude, with an introduction and notes, Dodd (New York, NY), 1900.
"Bethink Yourselves!": Tolstoy's Letter on the Russo-Japanese War (first published in London Times, June 27, 1904), translation by V. Tchertkoff and Isabella Fyvie Mayo, Crowell (New York, NY), 1904; also published as Count Tolstoy on the War Between Russia and Japan: "Bethink Yourselves!," F. A. Stokes (New York, NY), 1904.
A Great Iniquity (first published in London Times, August 1, 1905), translation by V. Tchertkoff and I. F. Mayo, Public Publishing Co. (Chicago, IL), 1905.
On Shakespeare and the Drama (first published as O Shekspire i o drame in Russkoe Slovo, 1906), translation by V. Tchertkoff published in Fortnightly Review (London, England), 1906; translation by Tchertkoff and I. F. Mayo published as Tolstoy on Shakespeare: A Critical Essay on Shakespeare, Funk, 1906.
The Teaching of Jesus (first published in Posrednik, 1908), translation by L. and A. Maude, Harper (London, England), 1909.
The Law of Force and the Law of Love (first published in Svobodnoe Slovo, 1909), translation by L. and A. Maude published in Fortnightly Review (London, England), 1909; translation from the French by Mary Koutouzow Tolstoy published as The Law of Love and the Law of Violence, R. Field (New York, NY), 1948; translation by Vladimir Tchertkoff published as The Law of Violence and the Law of Love, Concord Grove Press (Santa Barbara, CA), 1983.
Death and the Meaning of Life: Selected Spiritual Writings of Leo Tolstoy, selected and translated by Maureen Cote, Nova Science (Commack, NY), 1999.
Tolstoy as Teacher: Leo Tolstoy's Writings on Education, edited by Bob Blaisdell, translated by Christopher Edgar, Teachers and Writers (New York, NY), 2000.
PathofLife (originally titled Put' Zhizni), edited and translated by Maureen Cote, Nova Science (Huntington, NY), 2001.
LETTERS AND DIARIES IN ENGLISH TRANSLATION
Letters on War, Free Age Press, 1900.
Letters of Count Tolstoi to Countess A. A. Tolstoi, 1857-1903, Williams & Norgate (London, England), 1911.
The Diaries of Leo Tolstoy, 1847-1852, translation by C. J. Hogarth and A. Sirnis, edited by V. Tchertkoff, Dutton (New York, NY), 1917.
The Journal of Leo Tolstoy, 1895-1899, translation by Rose Strunsky, Knopf, 1917.
Tolstoi's Love Letters, translation by S. S. Koteliansky and Virginia Woolf, edited by Paul Biryukov, Hogarth Press, 1923.
The Private Diary of Leo Tolstoy, 1853-1857, translation by L. and A. Maude, edited by A. Maude, Doubleday, 1927.
The Final Struggle: Being Countess Tolstoy's Diary for 1910, with Extracts from Leo Tolstoy's Diary of the Same Period (first published as Dnevniki), translation and introduction by A. Maude with a preface by S. L. Tolstoy, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1936.
Leo Tolstoy: His Last Diaries, translation by Lydia Weston-Kesich, edited and introduced by Leon Stilman, Capricorn Books (New York, NY), 1960.
Tolstoy's Letters, edited and translated by R. F. Christian, Volume I: 1828-1879, Volume II: 1880-1910, Scribner (New York, NY), 1978.
Tolstoy's Diaries, edited and translated by R. F. Christian, Scribner (New York, NY), 1985.
Leo Tolstoy-Peter Verigin: Correspondence, translated by John Woodsworth and prepared by Lidia Gromova-Opul'skaya, Legas (New York, NY), 1995.
GENERAL OMNIBUS VOLUMES IN ENGLISH TRANSLATION
What to Do? Thoughts Evoked by the Census of Moscow, translation by Isabel F. Hapgood, Crowell (New York, NY), 1887.
My Confession [and] The Spirit of Christ's Teaching, Crowell (New York, NY), 1887.
In the Pursuit of Happiness, translation by A. Delano, D. Lothrop (Boston), 1887.
Church and State, and Other Essays, translations by Victor Yarres and George Schumm, B. R. Tucker (Boston, MA), 1891.
What Is Religion? and Other New Articles and Letters, by Lyof N. Tolstoi, translation by V. Tchertkoff, A. C. Fifield, and others, Crowell (New York, NY), 1902.
The Life and Teaching of Leo Tolstoy: A Book of Extracts, introduction by G. H. Perris, G. Richards (London, England), 1904.
What Is Religion? [and] What Is Art?, Scribner (New York, NY), 1904.
Essays, Letters, Miscellanies, two volumes, Scribner (New York, NY), 1904.
Essays and Letters, translation by A. Maude, H. Frowde (London, England), 1904, Funk (New York, NY), 1909.
The Forged Coupon, and Other Stories and Dramas, edited by C. Hagberg Wright, Dodd, 1911.
Great Works of Count Lyof Tolstoi, edited by Max Stein, M. Stein (Chicago, IL), 1919.
Posthumous Works, three volumes, translation by Archibald J. Wolfe, International Book Publishers, 1920.
A Confession [and] What I Believe, translation with an introduction, by A. Maude, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1921.
Tolstoy on Art (essays), edited by A. Maude, Small, Maynard (Boston, MA), 1924.
Stories and Dramas, translation by Lydia Turin, H. M. Lucas, and C. J. Hogarth, Dutton (New York, NY), 1926.
War-Patriotism-Peace, edited with an introduction, by Scott Nearing, Vanguard, 1926.
New Light on Tolstoy: Literary Fragments, Letters, and Reminiscences Not Previously Published; Issued under the Authority of the Tolstoy Family, edited by Rene Fulop-Miller, translation by Paul England, Dial, 1931.
What Is Art? and Essays on Art, translation by A. Maude, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1932.
On Life, and Essays on Religion, translation and introduction by A. Maude, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1934.
The Kingdom of God, and Peace Essays, translation by A. Maude, with an introduction by Gilbert Murray, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1935.
Recollections and Essays, translation and introduction by A. Maude, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1937.
A Confession, The Gospel in Brief [and] What I Believe, translation with an introduction by A. Maude, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1940.
First Russian Reader: Tales by L. N. Tolstoy, edited and translated by Louis Segal, Pitman (London, England), 1945.
Lyof Tolstoy: An Anthology, edited with an introduction by Charles R. Joy, Beacon Press, 1958.
Lift Up Your Eyes: The Religious Writings of Leo Tolstoy, introduction by Stanley R. Hopper, Julian Press, 1960.
Six Short Masterpieces by Tolstoy, translation by Margaret Wettlin, with an introduction by F. D. Reeve, Dell, 1963.
Leo Tolstoy on Education, translation by Leo Wiener, compiled by Anne Rawson and Lee Stephens, Roberts Press, 1964.
Selected Essays, translation by A. Maude, with an introduction by Ernest J. Simmons, Modern Library, 1964.
Darkness and Light: Three Short Works by Tolstoy, edited by Peter Rudy, Holt, 1965.
Tolstoy on Education, translation by Wiener, with an introduction by Reginald D. Archambault, University of Chicago Press, 1967.
Tolstoi's Writings on Civil Disobedience and Nonviolence, Bergman Publishers (New York, NY), 1967.
Father Sergius, and Other Stories and Plays, edited by C. Hagberg Wright, with an introduction by A. Maude, Books for Libraries, 1970.
Why Do Men Stupefy Themselves? and Other Writings, edited by Meredith Murray and the editors of 24 Magazine, Strength Books, 1975.
Tolstoy, Advocate of Nonviolence: Selections from Tolstoy's Writings, abridged by Lawrence W. Faucett, L. W. Faucett (San Diego, CA), 1976.
The Portable Tolstoy, edited and introduced by John Bayley, Viking, 1978.
Tolstoy on Education: Tolstoy's Educational Writings, 1861-1862, edited by Alan Pinch and Michael Armstrong, translation by Pinch, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1982.
The Gospel According to Tolstoy, edited and translated by David Patterson, University of Alabama Press, 1991.
An Anthology of Tolstoy's Spiritual Economics, edited and translated by Kenneth C. Wenzer, University of Rochester Press, 1997.
International Edition of the Novels and Other Works of Lyof N. Tolstoi, twenty-two volumes, edited by Nathan Haskell Dole, translation by Dole, Hapgood, and others, illustrations by T. V. Chominski, F. C. Yohn, E. Boyd Smith, and E. H. Garett, Scribner (New York, NY), 1899-1902.
Illustrated Library Edition of the Complete Works of Count Tolstoy, fourteen volumes, edited and translated by Leo Wiener and others, Colonial Press (Boston, MA), 1904-12.
Polnoe sobranie sochineny, ninety volumes, edited by V. G. Chertkov, Gosizdat, 1928-58.
Centenary Edition of the Works of Leo Tolstoy, 21 volumes, translation by L. and A. Maude and others, edited by A. Maude, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1928-37.
ABC Book, Tipografiya Zamyslovskogo (Petersburg), 1872.
New ABC Book, Tipografiya Tarletskogo i Terikhova (Moscow, Russia), 1875.
The Decembrists (fragments; first published in XXV Years: 1859-1884, [St. Petersburg], 1884), edited and translated by Leo Wiener, published in Illustrated Library Edition of the Complete Works of Count Tolstoy, Volume 6, Colonial Press, 1904-12.
The First Step, published in Voprosy Filosofii i Psikhologii, 1892.
Non-acting, published in Severny Vestnik, 1893.
Religion and Morality, published in German, [Berlin, Germany], 1894.
For Every Day, published in Knizhnaya Letopis' and Novaya Rus', 1909-10.
(Compiler) The Pathway of Life (first published in Posrednik, [Moscow, Russia], 1911), two volumes, translation by Archibald J. Wolfe, International Book Publishing Co., 1911.
(Compiler) The Cycle of Reading: Thoughts of the World's Greatest Authors on Truth, on Life, and the Ways Thereof, translation by L. Lewery, International Library Publishing Co., 1919.
Anissia: The Life Story of a Peasant, Revised and Corrected by Leo Tolstoy, translation, with notes and a preface, by Charles Salomon, Geoffrey Bles (London, England), 1924, published in the United States as My Life, as Told by the Peasant Anissia, to T. A. Kouzminskaya, Revised and Corrected by Leo Tolstoy, Duffield, 1924.
(Contributor) William Lloyd Garrison on Non-resistance Together with a Personal Sketch by His Daughter, Fanny Garrison Villard, and a Tribute, by Leo Tolstoi, Nation Press Printing Co. (New York), 1924.
The Sayings of Leo Tolstoy, edited by Robert Pearce, Duckworth, 1995.
(Contributor) Three Stories About Bosnia, Association of Yugoslav Publishers and Booksellers (Belgrade), 1995.
Author of Primer, 1872, and New Primer, 1875. Also author of other writings included in various editions of collected works, and of prefaces to other works, including Guy de Maupassant's Mont-Oriol (first published in Posrednik, [Moscow, Russia], 1894), Edward Carpenter's Modern Science (first published in Severny Vestnik, 1898), and W. von Polenz's Der Buttnerbauer (first published in Posrednik, [Moscow, Russia], 1902). Contributor of short stories and articles to numerous periodicals, including the London Times, Twentieth-Century Magazine, English Review, Forum, Arena, Independent, Atlantic Monthly, Fortnightly Review, and Collier's.
Resurrection, directed by D. W. Griffith, 1909; Masko Film, 1912; Famous Players-Lasky Corp., 1918; United Artists, 1927; Universal Pictures, 1931; as A Woman's Resurrection, William Fox, 1915; as We Live Again, Samuel Goldwyn, 1934.
The Living Corpse, Warner's Features, 1913; Juno Films, 1940; as The Weakness of Man, World Film Corp., 1916; as Atonement, Pioneer Feature Film Corp., 1919; as Redemption, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), 1930.
Anna Karenina, William Fox, 1915; MGM, 1935; British Lion Film Corp., 1948; Warner Brothers, 1997; as Love, MGM, 1927.
The Kreutzer Sonata, 1915; Foreign Cinema Arts, 1938.
The Cossacks, MGM, 1928.
Hadji Murad, adapted as White Devil, UFA, 1930; as The White Warrior, Warner Brothers, 1960.
What Men Live By, directed by Vernon Sewell, 1939.
Where Love Is, There God is Also, adapted as The Guest, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1951.
War and Peace, Paramount Pictures, 1956; Continental Distributing, 1968.
How Much Is Enough?, Kairos Films, 1969.
Tolstoy's works have also been the basis for several foreign-language films.
Anna Karenina, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC-TV), 1961; ten-part miniseries, BBC-TV, 1977; Columbia Broadcasting Service (CBS-TV), 1985; miniseries, Channel 4 Television (UK), 2000.
Resurrection (miniseries), BBC-TV, 1970.
War and Peace, BBC-TV/Public Broadcasting Service (PBS-TV), 1973.
C. Hanau, adapter, Resurrection (four-act; in French) produced in Paris, 1906; English translation by K. H. B. Jaffa published by G. Ricordi, 1925.
Albert Mason Patrick Dawson, adapter, Where Love Is, There God Is Also, National Adult School Union, 1919.
Frederick John Gillman, adapter, The Two Pilgrims, [London], 1920.
Miles Malleson, adapter, Michael (one-act), Samuel French, 1949.
Myrtle Pihlman Pope, adapter, The Death of Ivan Ilyitch, Stephen F. Austin State College, 1958.
Alfred Neumann, adapter, War and Peace, MacGibbon & Kee, 1963.
Eugenie Leontovich, adapter, Anna Karenina, (twoact), Samuel French, 1973.
Jeno Jubay, adapter, Anna Karenina (three-act opera; in German), Universal Edition (Vienna), 1922.
Igino Robiani, adapter, Anna Karenina (opera; in Italian), Sonzogno (Milan), 1924.
Sergei Sergeevich Prokofiev and Mira Mendelson, adapters, War and Peace (opera in Russian), first produced in Leningrad, U.S.S.R., at the Maly Theatre, June 12, 1946; broadcast by National Broadcasting Company, Inc. (NBC-TV), January 13, 1957; excerpt cited by
Hugh Ross published as Four Choruses from the Opera "War and Peace," Russian-American Publishers, 1946.
Tod Machover, adapter, Resurrection (opera), premiered at the Boston Lyric Opera, 2001.
Fables and Fairy Tales, read by Ian Richardson from the translation by Ann Dunnigan, was recorded on Caedmon Records, 1974; excerpts from the translation of Anna Karenina by Constance Garnett, read by Irene Worth, were recorded for Caedmon Records, 1978. Other works by Tolstoy are available as audio recordings.
Few writers and thinkers have had the widespread, long-lasting influence of Russia's Leo Tolstoy. Besides creating War and Peace and Anna Karenina, two of the most celebrated novels in world literature, Tolstoy was a philosopher whose theories of Christian behavior inspired civil rights leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. A member of the nobility who renounced his wealth and position, Tolstoy was held in such high esteem by his countrymen that during his lifetime he was called Russia's "second czar." "If he had merely been a great artist turned into a moral preacher, which is the trite explanation of his development, he would not have been nearly so significant or so human," Hugh l'Anson Fausset explained in Poets and Pundits: Essays and Addresses. "But he was at one and the same time a supreme imaginative writer and the most formidable moralist of the last hundred years. The two sides of his nature could and did function separately, but they were never really dissociated. He was that rare thing, an imaginative moralist, a moralist who felt with all the physical, mental and human immediacy of the artist and to whom therefore the quest of perfection in life was the supreme art."
Tolstoy was born into wealth and privilege in 1828, the fourth son of Count Nikolay Tolstoy and his wife, the former Maria Volkonskaya. The Tolstoys were one of the first families to earn the title of "Count," for service to the Russian crown; Leo's mother was related to several aristocratic families and brought the extensive estate of Yasnaya Polyana ("Bright Meadow") to the marriage. Leo Tolstoy was born on this estate, some 130 miles southwest of Moscow, and would spend most of his life there. His mother died shortly after giving birth to her next child, however, and Nikolay Tolstoy died when his youngest son was only nine. Leo and his siblings were given over to the care of several aunts, whose loving natures he immortalized in several of his works. He attended universities in Kazan and St. Petersburg, where he studied languages and law, but left without earning a degree. He returned to Yasnaya Polyana, which had been left to his management, and spent his time in reading and overseeing the estate. He also, like many aristocratic young men of the day, visited the city to gamble, drink, and indulge himself in other diversions. Even during these adventures, however, Tolstoy aspired to something greater. As he later wrote in A Confession: "I honestly desired to make myself a good and virtuous man; but I was young, I had passions, and I stood alone, altogether alone, in my search after virtue. Every time I tried to express the longings of my heart for a truly virtuous life, I was met with contempt and derisive laughter; but directly I gave way to the lowest of my passions, I was praised and encouraged. . . . I gave way to these passions, and becoming like unto my elders, I felt that the place which I filled in the world satisfied those around me."
Tolstoy, who had kept diaries since his time at university, began writing fiction as a means of opposing these "low passions." These efforts were not sufficient to keep him away from cards and women, however, so in 1851 he decided to join his older brother Nikolay, a lieutenant in the Russian army. He traveled south to the newly conquered Caucasus region, where the army was attempting to quell the rebellious Chechen peoples. He fought bravely with the volunteer forces, but left after a year when he contracted a sexually transmitted disease and its treatment left him in considerable discomfort. He had kept up with his writing, however, and in 1852 the influential journal The Contemporary published Childhood, the first part of a proposed four-part novel. In this autobiographical tale, Nikolay Irtenyev recalls his life, beginning from age ten, as he tries to make sense of the adult world around him. "What emerges is a mixture of portraits, scenes, episodes, digressive reflection, and psychological analysis," as William W. Rowe summarized in his study Leo Tolstoy. "The narrator examines his own developing consciousness, attempting to relate a microscopic analysis of individual moments to large patterns of meaning." The author's attention to detail was seen as excessive by some contemporary critics, but for the most part Childhood was a spectacular success. It drew praise from such noted literary figures as Ivan Turgenev and Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and launched Tolstoy's career virtually overnight.
The author only produced two of the next three installments he originally planned for this moral coming-of-age tale; Boyhood appeared in The Contemporary in 1854, while Youth debuted in 1857. In relating Nikolay's journey into adulthood, Tolstoy again used detailed descriptions and thorough character studies to illustrate Nikolay's emotional and moral development. Nikolay dreams of what he will do when he grows up; he worries whether or not he is ugly; he obsesses over his moral worthiness; and he draws up a set of "rules" by which he hopes to live his life. This intensive re-creation of a young man's coming of age has earned the praise of modern critics, as well; as Prince D. S. Mirsky noted inA History of Russian Literature, "Childhood retains its unique and unfading charm. It has already that wonderful poetry of reality which is attained without the slightest aid of poetical device, without the aid of language (the few sentimental, rhetorical passages rather tend to destroy it), by the sole help of the choice of significant psychological and real detail." Maurice Baring similarly noted in Landmarks in Russian Literature that "in his Childhood and Youth, Tolstoy gives us the most vivid, the most natural, the most sensitive picture of childhood and youth that has ever been penned by the hand of man." Nevertheless, the critic added that "after reading it, one is left half-unconsciously with the impression that the author feels there is something wrong, something unsatisfactory behind it all."
This feeling of dissatisfaction, several critics have observed, is due to the author's constant struggle to find a truly moral way of living. Thus, while Tolstoy's portrayal of Nikolay's childhood cut through social conventions to display something psychologically true-to-life, it was not a reflection of his ideal. In Childhood and its sequels Tolstoy demonstrates that "sophistication, intellect, and even culture itself are seen as obstacles to truth and reality," Edward Wasiolek noted in the Dictionary of Literary Biography. "In that sense the growth of the child's consciousness is also a record of his progressive corruption by society." As North American Review contributors Constance and Edward Garnett similarly explained, Childhood, Boyhood and Youth "is the most remorseless scrutiny of the affectation and self-consciousness of youth and youth's sentimentalism; and, already in this early book, the author is seeking the why and wherefore of life, seeking what can be found worthy under all these veils of illusions and worldly pretences." This concern with how life should be lived was to prove the foundation of all Tolstoy's writings. Childhood and its sequels, Patricia Carden observed in European Writers, are "shaped by the notion of a self unfolding in time, in responsive sympathy with its surroundings and experiences. The emphasis on growth and formation, and the consequent fluid image of the self, was to become a keystone of Tolstoy's vision as artist. Though Tolstoy did not invent this view of the self, he devoted a lifetime of creative work and thought to its examination."
Stories of the South
Tolstoy rejoined the army in 1853, this time enlisting as a commissioned officer. He fought in the Crimean War, in which Russia battled Turkey, France, and England for control of southeastern Europe. He was again stationed in the southern reaches of Russian territory, spending most of his time at Sevastopol, a besieged seaport on the Black Sea. As an officer of aristocratic background, Tolstoy was left with plenty of free time to devote to writing. His wartime experiences served as the inspirations for several works; particularly popular were the stories collectively known as the "Sevastopol Sketches." These three tales were published in 1855 and 1856, and provided the Russian public with an inside account of the suffering caused by the constant bombing of the city. According to Wasiolek, "the stories are on-the-spot descriptions of the siege and as such are historical fact, but they are also fiction in the sense that Tolstoy used his artistic skill to render them dramatic and interesting." "Sevastopol in December" is a straightforward account of the Russian soldiers' bravery, recounting their creation of a temporary hospital, their successful attempts to defend a precariously situated fortification, and one soldier's determination to participate in the war effort despite his wounds. This story won widespread approval, including the praise of Czar Alexander II, but the next installments were partially censored for their criticism of the army's officers. "Sevastopol in May" and "Sevastopol in August, 1855" reflected Tolstoy's growing disillusionment with the war, and included a section viewing the action through the eyes of children. Rowe noted that these early works "clearly anticipate Tolstoy's belief, voiced repeatedly in War and Peace, that the course of war is quite arbitrary, depending less on the strategies of generals than on the spontaneous actions of individual soldiers in the front lines."
Another important work drawn from this period was The Cossacks: A Tale of the Caucasus in 1852; it took Tolstoy almost a decade of polishing before the novel was published in 1863. The autobiographical hero of the novel, Dmitri Olenin, is a young nobleman who seeks to leave his extravagant and immoral city lifestyle behind and make a new life for himself in Russia's mountainous south. He falls in love with a local Cossack girl, Maryanka, but she rejects his advances in favor of Lukashka, one of her own people. Olenin continues to study the Cossacks, and comes to respect their ways; without the restrictions and conventions of city life, they feel more "natural" to him. He attempts to befriend Lukashka, but his efforts are misinterpreted. Olenin comes to realize that adopting the Cossack way of life is no solution to his problems; he must overcome his own pride and sinfulness instead, and so he returns home. The Cossacks contains ideas that would appear in many of the author's works. According to the Garnetts, the novel "enforces Tolstoy's favorite theme of the superiority of the simple, rude life of the peasant, or Cossack, over the cultured, artificial, complex outlook of the upper-class officer."
It may seem that by emphasizing the natural moral superiority of simple peasant people over sophisticated city dwellers, the author was romanticizing the lifestyle of the Cossacks. In fact, Tolstoy was repudiating this idea to some extent. As Philip Rahv noted in Image and Idea: Fourteen Essays on Literary Themes, if The Cossacks "now seem[s] romantic to us, that is largely because of the picturesque material of which [it is] composed." The character of Maryanka, for example, "is portrayed in an authentically natural style, with all the calm strength, unawareness of subjective values, and indifference of a primitive human being," Rahv added. "Though she is a 'child of nature' and therefore an object of poetical associations, she is seen much too soberly to arouse those high-flown sentiments which 'nature' inspires in Romantic poets.... Where the Romantics convert nature into a solace for the trials of civilization, into a theater of lyrical idleness and noble pleasures, Tolstoy identifies nature with work, independence, self-possession." Carden similarly observed that "The Cossacks is filled with much closely observed ethnographic detail, but its main interest lies in Tolstoy's depiction of the psychology of his hero.... The novel traces the gradual displacement of Olenin's romantic image with one more true to life, still noble but infused with the actual complexity of reality itself." As Mirsky remarked, The Cossacks "is probably [Tolstoy's] masterpiece before War and Peace."
Tolstoy was decorated for bravery in the siege of Sevastopol, but mustered out of the army in 1856, after the Crimean War ended with Russia's defeat. He returned to Yasnaya Polyana, where he became heavily involved with the serfs of his estate. Even before Czar Alexander II's emancipation of Russia's serfs in 1861, Tolstoy was giving freedom to the peasants of Yasnaya Polyana. He became interested in their education, and established an experimental school where he tested educational theories, in particular the idea that children learn better when given an open-ended curriculum, without rote learning. He founded a journal of educational theory, titled Yasnaya Polyana, and traveled Europe from 1860 to 1861 in order to study various teaching methods. After the freeing of the serfs, Tolstoy was appointed to arbitrate disputes between landowners and workers, and continued his efforts to establish schools in his area. In 1862, authorities searched his school at Yasnaya Polyana for evidence of "subversive" activities, but a protest from Tolstoy to the czar cleared his name. That same year he met eighteen-year-old Sofia Behrs, the daughter of a childhood friend, and married her. Sofia was to prove a valuable companion, not only bearing Tolstoy thirteen children but also serving as household manager and sometime secretary.
Tolstoy continued producing fiction during the late 1850s and early 1860s, although his concern with moral rather than political issues meant that these works did not receive the same critical attention as his early successes. Many of these works show a lack of finesse, according to Mirsky: "Tolstoy's center of interest is shifted from analysis to morality. These stories . . . are frankly didactic and moralistic, much more so than any of the stories of his last, dogmatic period. The main moral of these stories is the fallacy of civilization and the inferiority of the civilized, conscious, sophisticated man, with his artificially multiplied needs, to natural man." The lone exception for many critics is 1859's Family Happiness (also published as Katia), which provides insight into Tolstoy's later writings despite its often moralistic tone. The novel opens as seventeen-year-old Masha is mourning her mother in the manner convention dictates: by shutting herself off from the world and all of its pleasures. This unnatural behavior only stops when her neighbor, Sergey, visits and insists Masha resume a normal life. In this opening section, Wasiolek stated, the author creates "a remarkable example of how a social form can impoverish life. Such emotions as grief, sorrow, and respect for the dead are not ordinarily seen as impoverishing impulses, but Tolstoy suggests in these opening scenes that they can function as such."
Sergey's "rescue" of Masha leads to courtship and then marriage. She hopes to find true happiness by living for another, as Sergey has taught her, but the conventions of society again seem to trap young Masha. She believes Sergey's romantic attentions will continue after her marriage, an unrealistic expectation that leads her to neglect her family in favor of the excitement of city life. It is only at the conclusion of the novel that the reader sees how Masha has learned the lesson of happiness: that love changes as people change. Sitting in the countryside with Sergey, the two are able to reminisce about the course of their marriage. This forthright look at the potential traps of "romantic love" reflects concerns that would occupy Tolstoy all his life. "With its presentation of the poetic glamor of romantic love," the Garnetts explained, Family Happiness "isasa half-way house of disillusionment on the road to Tolstoy's ascetic ideal of sexual relations, an ideal which we find, years afterward, developed into the absolute asceticism of the Kreutzer Sonata."
Finding Scope for Detail
The early years of Tolstoy's own marriage, however, led to a extraordinarily productive time for the author. In 1863 he began work on a new historical novel which he intended to base on the revolt of the Decembrists, noblemen who unsuccessfully attempted to overthrow the czarist government in 1825. As he researched the event, however, Tolstoy traced its roots back into Russian history, from the political movements of the 1820s to Napoleon's invasion in 1812 and the events that led to this pivotal moment for Russia. The result was the epic novel War and Peace; while the first chapters were published in 1865, the final volumes did not appear until 1869. The novel itself covers the years 1803 to 1813 and features a wide spectrum of characters and events. Much of the work, however, revolves around the emotional journeys of the aristocratic Prince Andrey Bolkonsky, Princess Maria Bolkonskaya, Natasha Rostova, Nicholas Rostov, and Pierre Bezuhov. Self-centered Natasha and intellectual Andrey are engaged, but he calls off the wedding when Natasha is convinced to run away with the brash young Anatole Kuragin. Like her brother Anatole, Helene Kuragina is irresponsible and promiscuous, and she does not take her marriage to Pierre, the newly legitimized heir to his father's estate, very seriously. When Russia is threatened, both Nicholas and Andrey join the military, while Pierre plans to save the country by assassinating Napoleon. Pierre is captured by the French, but during his captivity a fellow prisoner teaches him about the true meaning of love and the cost of living a good life. Natasha overcomes her selfish behavior in time to nurse Andrey after he is wounded; he finds it in his heart to forgive her before his death. Nicholas, in the meantime, has learned responsibility from his wartime experiences, and rescues the self-sacrificing Maria from a peasant rebellion. The novel concludes with Russia's triumph over Napoleon, and the marriages of Nicholas to Maria and Natasha to Pierre.
While these individuals are prominent in War and Peace, the novel contains hundreds of other characters as the story ranges far and wide. There are descriptions of aristocratic society balls in the city and hunts in the country; there are portrayals of peasant life and the harvest; there are epic battle scenes and discourses on historical theory. Throughout, Tolstoy used a wealth of detail to bring a degree of realism to his characters and events that had seldom been seen before. Early reviewers acknowledged this extraordinary realism; for instance, a Nation critic observed in 1885 that "I felt that I was thrown among new men and women, that I lived with them, that I knew them, that none of them could be indifferent to me, that I could never forget them. I entered into their souls, and it seemed almost as if they could enter into mine. Such a power in a writer is almost a miracle." The writer concluded that the novel "is by far the most remarkable work of imagination that has been lately revealed to us." Dial critic William Morton Payne, however, found that the novel "attempts to do more than any single work ought to attempt, and a certain confusion is inevitable." He explained that "the novelist ought to . . . make the world of his creation more intelligible than the everyday world in which we actually live." Nevertheless, the critic concluded that War and Peace is "very remarkable, and, what with the reader of jaded appetites is more to the point, very stimulating in its fresh novelty." But F. W. Farrar believed that Tolstoy's sprawling approach was well-designed, as he wrote in an 1888 Forum article: "His apparent purposelessness is part of his purpose. We find in his pages what we find in the living world, and he leaves us with ineffaceable impressions of the horror, haphazard, and futility of war, and of the thrice-redoubled vanity of a life which is not illuminated from within by the light of the unseen."
Later critics have debated the effectiveness of Tolstoy's combination of detailed description and wide-ranging story. In his The Craft of Fiction, Percy Lubbock argued that the form of the novel is flawed: it really tells two separate stories. "Whether the story was to be the drama of youth and age, or the drama of war and peace, in either case it would have been incomparably more impressive if all the great wealth of the material had been used for its purpose, all brought into one design. And furthermore, in either case again, the story is incomplete; neither of them is finished, neither of them is given its full development, for all the size of the book." Nevertheless, the critic concluded: "That so much remains, in spite of everything, gives the measure of Tolstoy's genius; that becomes the more extraordinary as the chaotic plan of his book is explored. He could work with such lordly neglect of his subject and yet he could produce such a book—it is surely as much as to say that Tolstoy's is the supreme genius among novelists." Baring, however, saw a cohesiveness in the author's method: "He takes one of the largest canvases ever attacked by man; and he writes a prose epic on a period full of tremendous events. His piercing glance sees through all the fictions of national prejudice and patriotic bias; and he gives us what we feel to be the facts as they were, the very truth. No detail is too small for him, no catastrophe too great. He traces the growth of the spreading tree to its minute seed, the course of the great river to its tiny source." The critic concluded: "He makes a whole vanished generation of public and private men live before our eyes in such a way that it is difficult to believe that these people are not a part of our actual experience; and that his creations are not men and women we have seen with our own eyes, and whose voices we have heard with our own ears."
Other critics have similarly singled out Tolstoy's characters for praise. One of the keys to the author's realistic characters, R. F. Christian noted in Tolstoy's "War and Peace": A Study, is in how he introduces them to the reader with little or no immediate background. "This lack of biographical information is important in the sense that it enables us to be introduced to the characters as we usually meet people in real life—that is to say, as they now are, and without any knowledge of the forces which shaped them before we met them and made them what they are." This creates "that immediate lifelikeness which, in the case of Tolstoy's greatest characters, is so strikingly impressive." In his Life of Tolstoy, Aylmer Maude similarly observed an special immediacy in War in Peace: "It is as though one saw what is described and heard the sounds that are uttered. The author hardly speaks in his own person; he brings forward the characters and then allows them to speak, feel, and act; and they do it so that every movement is true and amazingly exact, in full accord with the character of those portrayed. It is as if we had to do with real people, and saw them more clearly than one can in real life." The critic also remarked that "the battles and historic events are usually described not by informing us of the author's conception of them, but by the impression they produce on the characters in the story.... Tolstoy nowhere appears behind the actors or draws events in the abstract; he shows them in the flesh and blood of those who supplied the material for the events." The critic concluded: "In this respect the work is an artistic marvel. Tolstoy has seized not some separate traits but a whole living atmosphere, which varies around different individuals and different classes of society."
With its realistic detail and complexity, as well as its themes of individual growth and change, War and Peace has a universality that has made it an enduring piece of literature. As Carden observed, "the principle of growth itself, rather than the destiny of any character, is Tolstoy's subject [in War and Peace], and so the destinies of this large array of characters cross and recross, not so much to form a plot as to show the vicissitudes of the self's development through time." "Change and development are at the centre of Tolstoy's characterization, and the process is a consistent and logical one," Christian remarked, adding that "it seems to me that the essence of Tolstoy's technique is to show that at every stage in the life of his heroes the likelihood of change is always present, so that at no time are they static, apathetic or inert, but constantly liable to respond to some new external or internal stimulus." As a result, the critic concluded, "in Tolstoy's heroes in War and Peace there is a basic denominator of human experience which is common to all men and women regardless of class, country, age and intellectual attainment. Their mental, spiritual and emotional problems, their pleasures and pursuits, their enthusiasms and their aversions are as relevant to England today as they ever were to Tolstoy's Russia. And it is ultimately this fact which ensures that War and Peace and especially the main heroes of War and Peace will always be a part of the literary heritage of the reading public throughout the world." "War and Peace is, not only in size, but in perfection, the masterpiece of the early Tolstoy," Mirsky asserted. "It is also the most important work in the whole of Russian realistic fiction. If in the whole range of the European novel of the nineteenth century it has equals, it has no superiors.... It was an advanced pioneering work, a work that widened, as few novels have done, the province and the horizon of fiction."
Passion and Guilt
War and Peace marked a high point in Tolstoy's life, for he was enjoying a rich family life as well as literary success. He studied, learning Greek and reading widely, and returned to his educational work as well, writing several primers. By 1873, however, things were taking a turn for the worse. The Tolstoys lost their son Pyotr, followed by two of Leo's beloved aunts, and in 1875 two more infant children died. Tolstoy was struggling with his next novel, whose adulterous yet sympathetic title character was giving him difficulty. Nevertheless, the first chapters of Anna Karenina appeared in 1875, with the completed novel following in 1877. The novel features the relationships of two couples: first is Anna Karenina, the unhappy wife of a government bureaucrat who finds her match in Vronsky, a wealthy Army officer. She abandons her husband and young son for true love, a choice that eventually causes her even more unhappiness and brings her to suicide. Set against this tragic passion is the gradually blossoming courtship between Levin, a nobleman seeking to find meaning in his life, and Kitty, a modest and good-hearted girl. In exploring Anna's moral struggle and Levin's search for truth, Tolstoy used the same intensity of detail that characterized War and Peace, and achieved a similar degree of realism. "The truth is we are not to take Anna Karénine as a work of art; we are to take it as a piece of life," Matthew Arnold noted in the Fortnightly Review. The critic explained that "this [realism] is the result which, by his extraordinary fineness of perception and by his sincere fidelity to it, the author achieves; he works in us a sense of the absolute reality of his personages and their doings."
Other early reviews of the novel were equally favorable. A Nation critic, for instance, observed that "Tolstoi shows us life as it really is, with its complexities, its necessary tedium, its frivolities. He does not deceive us: his finest characters have their weak points; he knows that perfection is not human."
Noting that "Tolstoi's best work is undoubtedly the novel . . . Anna Karenina," Farrar explained in his 1888 Forum review that "it is a picture of Russian life, terrible in the merciless fidelity of its realistic coloring, and interesting in its study of various characters." According to Arnold, the novel demonstrates "an abundant and admirable exhibition of knowledge of human nature, penetrating insight, fearless sincerity, wit, sarcasm, eloquence, style." S. E. Shevitch praised the novel's conclusion in particular, noting in the North American Review that "its tragical grandeur [is] one of the most remarkable dramatic effects in modern literature." The critic added: "as a true and artistic picture of 'high life' this novel is a masterpiece without an equal, perhaps, in any literature." Anna Karenina, Payne asserted in an early Dial review, "is not likely to be soon forgotten. It will be remembered for its minute and unstrained descriptions, for its deep tragedy, unfolded act after act as by the hand of fate, and for its undercurrent of gentle religious feeling, never falling to the offensive level of dogmatism, yet giving a marked character to the book, and revealing unmistakably the spiritual lineaments of the Russian apostle of quietism."
More so than in War and Peace, the individual characters of Anna Karenina have stood out to critics. Baring, for instance, highlighted the ordinariness of Vronsky: "He is not a hero, and he is not a villain.... Nearly every novelist, with the exception of Fielding, ends, in spite of himself, by placing his hero either above or beneath the standard of real life.... No novelist except Tolstoy has ever had the power to put this simple thing, an ordinary man, into a book." It is the contradictions in Anna's character, however, that intrigue most critics; as Wasiolek noted, "the novel has a tension, at times almost unbearable, between a woman's immoral act and the considerable sympathy and even love she provokes." The critic added that "something beyond Anna's control, and perhaps beyond even Tolstoy's understanding, turns her from a beautiful, intelligent, and wise creature into a tormenting and tormented being, wracked by jealousy and determined to visit hurt upon those around her." "No novelist has entered into the instinctive soul of a woman or evoked her physical charm more compellingly than the creator of Anna Karenina," Fausset remarked. "Yet even when he wrote that great novel something in him feared and hated what sense and imagination found so irresistible." This contradiction reflected Tolstoy's own struggle to overcome temptation and find a moral way of living. As James T. Farrell explained in Literature and Morality: "The novel is a presentation of the author's vision of humanity. When we consider the richness of detail, the fullness in the presentation of all the problems of Russia in the very narrative, in the very characterizations, it should be clear that there is a central importance in the fact that Anna's name serves for the title. Anna is the most representative figure in this novel. She is symbolic. She is Tolstoy's image of humanity."
The novel also succeeds in capturing a particular era of Russian life. As Farrell continued: "No other Russian novel of the entire century so concentrates the so-called Russian problem, images and represents it so vividly, so directly, so immediately in terms of direct, vigorously drawn, and humanly credible characterizations." "Anna Karenina is so finely structured, with its echoes and repetitions, its portents and parallels, so cannily plotted that it is impossible not to marvel," Jason Cowley noted in a 1997 New Statesman assessment. "What impresses is Tolstoy's absolute confidence in his own ability; his portrait of 1860s Russia is so vibrantly complete that you move, in a rapture of discovery, through this world as you do through your own." Despite its different setting and narrower approach, however, the "conception of characters and events in Anna Karenina is based on the conception of history which Tolstoy formally stated at the end of War and Peace," Farrell said. "The central problem treated is thus that of freedom, freedom and the self, or the personality." Unlike War and Peace, Anna Karenina "contains no separate philosophical chapters, but a more obtrusive and insidious moral philosophy is diffused throughout the story," according to Mirsky. "The philosophy is less irrational and optimistic, more puritan, and is everywhere felt as distinct from and alien to the main groundwork of the novel.... Anna Karenina leads up to the moral and religious crisis that was so profoundly to revolutionize Tolstoy."
Critics often group Tolstoy's two masterpieces together, both to highlight similarities and point out contrasts. Henri Troyat, for example, observed in his Tolstoy that "although the same description process is used in Anna Karenina and War and Peace, the general tone of the two works is very different.... What the picture loses in scope, it gains in depth. The epic is no longer played out in the open air, but within, in the dark shadows of the conscience. The battles are those of emotions, and they rage with the same incoherence and fury as the others." Carden similarly remarked that "Where War and Peace affirms the power of life to make something even of pain and grief, Anna Karenina shows us that life has infinite capacity to harm and that we are helpless before it." Both novels stand out in terms of quality, however. Along with War and Peace, Anna Karenina "effectually established [Tolstoy's] place in literature; had he done nothing else he would still remain one of the greatest novelists, not only of the nineteenth century, but of all time," Gaius Glenn Atkins asserted in Pilgrims of the Lonely Road. "His novels are something more than novels; they are sections of human life, slow in movement, vast in their inclusiveness." In Ideals and Realities in Russian Literature, Prince Kropotkin commented that "of all the Tolstoy's novels, Anna Karenina is the one which has been the most widely read in all languages. As a work of art it is a master-piece. From the very first appearance of the heroine, you feel that this woman must bring with her a drama; from the very outset her tragical end is as inevitable as it is in a drama of Shakespeare. In that sense the novel is true to life throughout.... For its artistic qualities Anna Karenina stands foremost even amongst the many beautiful things Tolstoy has written."
Crisis and Confession
After the success of Anna Karenina, Tolstoy seemed to have everything a man could want: critical success; financial security; a loving wife; and a growing family. His spirit was still plagued, however, by the moral questions he had been asking his entire life. In his search for life's meaning, Tolstoy studied all the world's major religions and read the Bible in the original Greek and Hebrew. He thought he found an answer in the happiness of the peasant class, and began attending Russian Orthodox services. These efforts did not completely satisfy him, either, and he saw a solution in simplifying his own lifestyle and living by the words of Christ, rather than the precepts of the church. The author explained the beginning of his conversion: "I renounced the life of my own class, for I had come to confess that it was not a real life, only the semblance of one; that its superfluous luxury prevented the possibility of understanding life; and that in order to do so I must know, not an exceptional parasitic life, but the simple life of the working classes, the life which fashions that of the world, and gives it the meaning which the working classes accept." Of course, this new concentration on his spirit found its way into Tolstoy's writing, and he began a period where he left fiction behind in favor of several spiritual works. The first and foremost of these is A Confession, which was banned in Russia but found a publisher in Germany in 1884.
While this account of spiritual crisis may seem a sudden shift in subject for the author, critics have found it completely in character with his fiction. Ernest J. Simmons, for instance, observed in An Introduction to Tolstoy's Writings that "throughout his early years and during the period of writing War and Peace and Anna Karenina, his diary, letters, and even his fiction contain abundant evidence of a preoccupation with religious and moral problems." George Steiner similarly remarked in Tolstoy or Dostoevsky that these earlier works, "sensuous, wondrously serene in their effect, were nevertheless fore-runners and preparers of Tolstoy's sacrificial theology. They establish the world image which that theology will seek to interpret." As T. G. S. Cain explained in his Tolstoy, "To read A Confession is to realise just how close Tolstoy's experience could be to that of his central characters. The religious crisis which we see Levin undergo in Anna Karenina corresponds very closely to that which Tolstoy describes in A Confession." In addition, Tolstoy brought the artistry of his fiction to this new genre; as Rahv stated, "My Confession, with which Tolstoy's later period opens and which appeared immediately after Anna Karenina, is unmistakably a work of the imagination and at the same time a mighty feat of consciousness." In A Confession, Simmons explained, "Tolstoy records the unique and overwhelming personal experience of a man perplexed in the extreme by life's most agonizing problem—the relation of man to the infinite. The result is a masterpiece of the highest art, comparable to the Book of Job in its terrible human urgency of the need to know, as well as in its wonderful language, with biblical echoes, and its compelling use of parables to illustrate ideas."
While A Confession has a similarity of approach and theme to Tolstoy's earlier works, it nevertheless "inaugurates a new style in his writing, one that dominates the work of the final thirty years," Carden noted. "This austere, aphoristic, often biblical style is both closer to conversational forms of the language and more solemn than the narrative style of his earlier literary work." Cain, however, found that the author tended to simplify things for the sake of argument, observing that a "note of wilful distortion and blindness to the complex reality of things again enters A Confession." He added: "Instead of the openness and expansive honesty of the great novelist, we have for the first time in Tolstoy a determined narrowing of vision, a desire to see only part of the truth so that it may be made more manageable." Atkins, however, saw a purpose to this narrowing of focus: "Tolstoy is, in his nobler passages, the master of a most telling style, but he is never a rhetorician and he always writes under restraint. Each stroke of the pen tells. It is this restrained intensity of narration, this paucity of emotion, with a pitiless veracity of fact and detail, which gives the Confessions of Tolstoy their power and significance. He is realistic in confession as in all his literary art. In this, at least, there is not his like in the whole literature of confession." As a result, Aylmer Maude wrote in Sackbut, the Confession "showed that the author's power of infecting his readers with his feelings operated as powerfully when he wrote of fundamental problems as it had done when he wrote fiction, and critics who began by bewailing that the 'great writer of our Russian land' was 'abandoning art,' had gradually to realize that Tolstoy did not cease to be an artist when he had a weighty message to convey, and that the world then listened to his message more eagerly than ever."
International audiences also welcomed further volumes in which Tolstoy's expanded on the ideas of My Confession. In 1884 he published My Religion (also translated as What I Believe), which contains the results of his spiritual questioning and his interpretations of Christ's teaching. According to Simmons, this work contains "the distilled essence of virtually everything he had written or thought on the subject of religion and his relation to it up to this time is clearly and artistically treated. He approached Christ's teaching as a philosophical, moral, and social doctrine, firmly indicated his disbelief in personal resurrection and immortality which, he insisted, had never been asserted by Christ, and for the first time offered a succinct explanation of the position of nonresistance to evil and his reasons for accepting it." This work attracted many readers worldwide; as Sara A. Hubbard noted in a 1887 Dial review, "the inner history of any strong personal experience is instructive; more deeply so when it is that of a man of ardent feeling, of earnest aspiration, and fine intellect. The life of Count Tolstoi, as it has been revealed in his writings, has excited universal interest."
Similarly influential was the 1886 work What Then Must We Do? (also translated as What Is to Be Done? and What Shall We Do Then?). In this work, Tolstoy examined the roots of poverty and questioned the results of charity and the value of money. Rahv called the book one of "the most powerful revolutionary writings of the modern age," while Simmons observed that What Then Must We Do? "is a unique work which, without benefit of the arguments of Marxian economic determinism, did more than any other book up to that time to expose the tremendous contradiction of poverty in modern society. Tolstoy felt the problem acutely, described its unhappy effects with the skill of a great literary artist, and condemned the causes of poverty with all the moral indignation of an eloquent preacher." "In What Shall We Do Then? [Tolstoy's] attack on all the professions is characterized by particular severity but also by stylistic splendor," Fedor Stepun noted in Russian Review. "One feels that here not only social theories are being developed but attacks made on the society of which Tolstoy is bitterly conscious of being a member. In this book, this attack is especially effective, because one has the feeling that it is a direct attack upon himself."
Tolstoy further expounded his theories of morality in 1887's On Life. As Maude summarized the work in Tolstoy and His Problems: "On Life reminds us that besides what we perceive objectively (i.e. all that can be known by the senses) we have also a subjective consciousness of the moral law within us. We must distinguish between our lower nature as animals, and that higher nature which leads a Socrates to sacrifice physical existence for the sake of goodness. This is the root of religion." According to Gary R. Jahn in The Death of Ivan Ilich: An Interpretation, "On Life is Tolstoy's most philosophical work in the sense that of all the major nonfiction writings of the last 30 years of his life it resorts least to the authority of Jesus and the Scriptures in advancing its arguments. Tolstoy offered it as a purely rational investigation of the nature of human life and of such familiar concerns of the human condition as the sources of contentment and happiness, questions of right conduct and behavior, and the existence of evil in the form of illness, suffering, and death." Simmons also found On Life particularly characteristic of Tolstoy's philosophical works, stating that "all the mature wisdom of some ten years of meditation on religion and on man and his relation to the world is to be found in this treatise, and the beliefs expressed were not significantly altered during the remainder of his life."
Searching for Moral Literature
Because of his social station and literary reputation, Tolstoy's philosophical works had widespread impact. Pilgrims came from all over the world to Yasnaya Polyana, and followers in Europe, America, and England set up agricultural colonies according to Tolstoy's principles. He corresponded with philosophers and leaders, including British playwright George Bernard Shaw, India's Mohandas Gandhi, and future U.S. president Woodrow Wilson. Atkins explained Tolstoy's influence: "One of the most distinguished figures in our modern life chose to accept the words of Jesus with sweeping literalness and to live them out with searching fidelity and that, moreover, in doing all this the very station and quality of the man combined to give his spiritual endeavour a picturesque and dramatic quality which made it carry far." More influential writings were to come, however. According to Simmons, "perhaps the most celebrated and influential of all Tolstoy's books on religious and moral problems isThe Kingdom of God Is Within You." Published in 1894, during the years when the author was working on famine relief, the book develops Tolstoy's theories of government and individual response to evil. He believed that governments, in essence, are immoral and serve only the rich and powerful. For the individual, nonviolent "nonresponse" is the only way to deal with governments. "The result," according to Simmons, "is one of the most scathing denunciations of war ever written." Tolstoy did not advocate revolution; instead, "without explicitly stating it in his book, Tolstoy quite clearly anticipated a growing movement of civil disobedience based on the principle of nonresistance to evil, which he was convinced would eventually undermine the whole structure of government," as Simmons explained. These writings would have worldwide influence on reformers from Gandhi to American civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr.
After his burst of philosophical writing, Tolstoy returned to fiction in the mid-1880s. He publicly repudiated his earlier works, and observed of them in his Confession: "During that time I began to write, out of vanity, love of gain, and pride. I followed as a writer the same path which I had chosen as a man." His later works were to illustrate his newly found beliefs. As Carden noted: "Some of his most powerful works—works in a style different from that of his early ones—belong to the last thirty years of his life. Tolstoy was preoccupied with the temptations society puts in the way of its educated members. He was striving to find the way back to the simplicity and faith he saw in the lower classes. These preoccupations shape all his later work." "He had gone through a crisis in which he had seen into the emptiness, absurdity and triviality of human existence with a clarity as painful as that of any twentieth-century explorer of the absurd, and he had refused to accept the finality of that vision," Cain similarly explained. The complexity of a War and Peace no longer held attractions for him, the critic noted; "from now on, his work was to take a different tone, as he judged his experience in the cold and simple light of his new faith.... Almost all of his later fiction is illuminated by one form or another of that ruthlessly simplifying light." Many observers have criticized these later works as moralistic, but New Republic contributor Irving Howe observed that they have artistic merit nonetheless: "The common complaint is that in old age Tolstoy became a scold, but it is beside the point, at least with regard to his fiction. For what happens is not at all an abandonment of art, but a radical change in the aesthetic motivating his art."
The 1886 work The Death of Ivan Ilyitch, for example, "is very likely the greatest [story] ever written on the theme of death," according to Carden. Ivan Ilyitch is an ordinary businessman, obsessed with money and status, when he suffers a painful injury that gradually leads to his death. As he lies dying, he attempts to make sense of his life, and learns from the example of the peasant Gerasim that it is love that matters, not any worldly achievements. Thus Ivan is not really trying to find a meaning in his death, but rather a meaning in his life—just as Tolstoy had done with his Confession. According to Temira Pachmuss in American Slavic and East European Review, "Ivan Ilyich's physical sufferings were insignificant compared with his spiritual pain, which enabled him gradually to understand the complete falsity of his simple, ordinary, and therefore terrible life." In his last, painful days, it is Gerasim who comforts him; the peasant's character illustrates "the familiar Tolstoyan principle that the primary purpose of existence is to live for others and not merely, as did Ivan Il'ic, to gratify one's own will and desires," Irving Halperin remarked in Slavic and East European Journal. "Because of Gerasim's devotion, Ivan Il'ic becomes capable of extending compassion to his wife and son. In this overall perspective, then, Gerasim may be viewed as the true hero of the story." As Pachmuss concluded, "Love is ultimate reality—this is Tolstoy's conclusion.... Without love, Ivan Ilyich's life was empty and meaningless. With the discovery of love, Ivan Ilyich felt that his death was reduced to insignificance."
A more controversial work was the 1890 novella The Kreutzer Sonata. In this work Tolstoy examined the issue of sexual love in marriage and argued for complete abstinence. As the narrator Pozdnyshev relates his story to fellow passengers on a train, he gradually reveals how sexual jealousy of his wife led him to madness and murder. "The fundamental thought of the Kreutzer Sonata is this: Mankind needs guidance in its sexual relations as on all other matters of human conduct," Maude stated in Tolstoy and His Problems. The critic explained that "the fundamental feeling the book seeks to convey is that sexual relations (however inevitable and natural they may be to man's animal self), from the moment a reasonable being deliberately seeks them as a means of pleasure, become revolting to our higher nature." This viewpoint, and the story Tolstoy used to illustrate it, has troubled various critics and readers—not least, Tolstoy's wife, Sofia, who just two years earlier bore the couple's thirteenth child. Translator Isabel Hapgood, for instance, felt that while the morality of the book was sound, the narrator's actions and language were "too plain." As she wrote in the Nation: "Such morbid psychology can hardly be of service, it seems to me, much as I dislike to criticise Count Tolstoi." Christian found the novella's premise "irritating and manifestly unjust," but observed in Tolstoy: A Critical Introduction that the story was "compelling reading" nonetheless. Ruth Crego Benson, however, remarked in Women in Tolstoy: The Ideal and the Erotic that The Kreutzer Sonata and other later works show evidence of a change in Tolstoy's thinking; no longer are women solely to blame for the failure of marriage. His later heroes "achieve self-awareness through discovery of the tragic discrepancy between what they are and what they thought or wanted themselves to be.... To have admitted and expressed man's share in the failure of love and marriage was a great change for Tolstoy."
In the 1895 work Master and Man, Tolstoy reduces the question of living to barest essentials. A greedy merchant and his overburdened servant set off in a snowstorm to find wood, which will bring great profit. The merchant insists on continuing the journey even as the snowstorm worsens, until the two are hopelessly lost and must huddle together for warmth. When the storm breaks the next day, it is the patient servant who has survived, while the selfish master has perished. As Jahn noted, Master and Man "sounds rather familiar to the reader of The Death of Ivan Ilich: the self-satisfied, materialistic protagonist; the poor but pious representative of the lower classes; the confrontation with the inevitable approach of death; and the last minute change of heart and renunciation of the former mode of life." The critic added that Master and Man "epitomize[s] man's life story as a whole, the tension between the spiritual and material ego within the individual, and man's ultimate spiritual resurrection 'accompanied by the loss of his material being.'" Howe noted that "the ethical thrust emerges even before the narrative climax, but no matter: in this sort of quasi-allegorical piece that does no harm. So gratifying is the narrative on its own and so elegantly does the ethical suffuse the action that we become quite content to be led to a foreseeable conclusion.... In part 'Master and Man' is a fable of fraternity, with signs of status brushed aside; it clearly follows Tolstoy's fixed design more than any strong sense of verisimilitude. But Tolstoy's design—some would say his will—is so commanding that we grant him a fusion of image and idea."
The Drama of Living
Tolstoy is not so well known for his plays; he himself faulted much of the genre as immoral in essays such What Is Art? and On Shakespeare and the Drama. After his conversion, however, the author wrote several plays to demonstrate his concept of moral drama. The more direct, focused style of his later years seemed to fit the dramatic form; as Georg Lukacs observed in Studies in European Realism, "it is no accident that Tolstoy's dramatic works were also written in this period." In 1886's The Power of Darkness (also translated as The Dominion of Darkness), the illicit passion between the young worker Nikita and his master's wife, Anisya, leads to moral decay and murder. In a development reminiscent of Shakespeare's Macbeth, Anisya encourages Nikita to murder her husband; the two then marry, but Nikita is driven to drink by the thought of what he has done. He begins sleeping with other women, and impregnates his young stepdaughter. Again Nikita is spurred to commit murder, but this time he does not get away with it, although his female conspirators remain unpunished. The Power of Darkness, according to Clayton Hamilton in Seen on the Stage, "reveals that unity of plot which is demanded by our western minds. It tells a single story with a cumulative intensity. No details are introduced which are extraneous to the essential pattern. A predestined climax is attained at the curtain-fall of the penultimate act; and the play closes with a logical catastrophe that might almost be described as a 'happy ending.' The piece is absorbing in its intellectual interest and overwhelming in its emotional appeal." Modern Dramatists author Ashley Dukes noted that The Power of Darkness "has often been quoted as the masterpiece of naturalism," a movement emphasizing realism and the moral fall of man. Nevertheless, Dukes wrote, "it is not a masterpiece of drama. It has a certain grand barbaric simplicity, and that is all." Hamilton, however, concluded that the play "is appallingly dramatic in the constantly increased intensity of its successive scenes. It is another Macbeth, composed in modern terms and reimagined in the mood of realism. The characters are terribly true; and the dialogue is impressively poignant."
For many critics, Tolstoy's finest play is The Living Corpse (also translated as The Man Who Was Dead), which was produced in 1911, shortly after Tolstoy's death. The plot is similar to that of Anna Karenina, portraying a romantic triangle between the incorrigible Fedya, his long-suffering wife, Liza, and the family friend, Victor, who loves her. In this instance, however, Fedya fakes his suicide so that his "widow" and his friend can legally marry. When Fedya is discovered alive, however, Liza's bigamy threatens her and Victor with disgrace and exile. The problem is only resolved when Fedya enacts a real suicide. "The impossible situation and the living corpse's obsession with a gypsy girl are dramatised with a power equal to that of Tolstoy the novelist at his greatest," a critic for the International Dictionary of Theatre stated. Nevertheless, "the structure of The Living Corpse is utterly unconventional," according to Hamilton. The critic explained that "the novelistic method of The Living Corpse is interesting from the outset because of its originality; and, as the play progresses, the spectator gradually realizes that the construction is not nearly so haphazard as it seems. The piece, in fact, is built like a huge pyramid. In the early episodes, the foundation is laid out upon a broad and ample base. Then, little by little, the superstructure is reared up, growing always narrower and sharper at the same time that it is growing higher, until at last the whole thing culminates in an acute point of dramatic agony." As a result, the critic concluded, in The Living Corpse "the accuracy of his observation, the intimacy of his analysis, the profundity of his sympathy, produce an impression of the immensity of life that is rarely to be met with in the modern theatre."
As the turn of the century approached, Tolstoy continued to produce new essays and works of fiction. He had insisted on donating any profits from his work after 1881 to charity, and in 1899 published the long novel Resurrection specifically in support of the Doukhobors, a religious group who sought to emigrate to Canada to avoid persecution. Tolstoy had spent fifteen years in writing the novel, which follows young Nekhliudov as he seduces a young orphan girl, abandons her into poverty and prostitution, and then finds himself on her jury when she is tried for theft. He attempts to redeem his past behavior by offering to marry the girl, but she refuses, knowing that she would only be reminded of how he wronged her in the first place. The novel portrays the couple's tragic love affair in detail, but also explores "a society in dissolution from top to bottom," as Carden described it. "The scenes of Tolstoy's new panoramic vision take place in the ruined villages, the unjust courts, the prisons, and on the road to Siberian exile." A particular target of Tolstoy's criticism was the Russian Orthodox church and its leaders. Because of this, Tolstoy was formally excommunicated from the church in 1901. The novel was nonetheless popular with readers in Russia and around the world; as Aylmer Maude noted in Tolstoy's Problems, Resurrection is "the only long work of fiction written by Tolstoy during the last twenty years, and one faithfully reflecting his mature opinions on all the great problems of life. That this book—conveying, as it does, feelings (on such subjects as army service, legal proceedings, church services, marriage, etc.) which run counter to those that have grown up and become general in connection with our established order of society—should, nevertheless, have had a great success in many lands, is an instance of the power which literary art exerts among us to-day."
Although Tolstoy had a different intent in writing Resurrection than he had in writing his masterworks War and Peace and Anna Karenina, he brought many of the same skills to the work. Steiner explained that "it is difficult to think of Resurrection as a novel in the ordinary sense.... It reflects [Tolstoy's] changes of mood and a puritanical conception of art. But there are wondrous pages in it, and moments in which Tolstoy gave rein to his unchanging powers.... When Tolstoy opened his eyes on actual scenes and events, instead of keeping them fixed inward on the workings of his anger, his hand moved with matchless artistry." Lafcadio Hearn, in his Life and Literature, had particular praise for "the analysis of the emotions of its characters, and the strange illustration which it affords of the possible result of a single selfish act, and of the tremendous difficulty in the way of repairing that act." "The greatness of [Resurrection] resides not primarily in the narrative of Nekhlyudov's journey from betrayal to contrition, nor in the finely (if faintly) drawn figure of Katusha as innocent maiden and exploited woman," Howe asserted. "It resides in the things that happen near and about these figures; in the events for which they serve mainly as literary auxiliaries or catalysts; in the thickly brushed depictions of what the world calls justice, of the sadism it calls punishment, of the heartlessness of what it declares to be civilization, of the humiliations of those forgotten and obscure souls upon whom it turns its back. Here Tolstoy's 'Christian anarchism' comes into full play, not just as a theoretical option or an ideological position, but as a great upswell of moral fury." As the Garnetts concluded: "It is our contention that Resurrection both demonstrates and vindicates the inner necessity of [Tolstoy's] life's final phase—as a great moral teacher."
A Lasting Legacy
Several of Tolstoy's shorter works were published posthumously to much acclaim, including The Devil, Father Sergius, and Hadji Murad, which Rahv called "one of the finest nouvelles in the Russian language and a model of narrative skill and objective artistry." Set in the Caucasus, the novella tells of the courageous Chechen leader Hadji Murad and his attempts to deal with the Russian conquest of his people. The work "has often been praised as an instance of how the old Tolstoy abandoned his tiresome moralizing and returned to the purity of art," according to Howe. "But that is a misreading," the critic explained, for in reality "this supposedly unmarred narrative advanced all of the aged Tolstoy's ideas and sentiments: the rejection of worldly authority, both Russian and Tatar, which underlies his 'Christian anarchism'. . .; the disdain for all bureaucratic styles of conduct, whether in public affairs or private relations; the sympathy for 'the outsider'.... Seamless, even blithe as the prose surface appears, the story is full of dramatized thought and inducement to persuasion." Carden added that in Hadji Murad Tolstoy "once again . . . created a panoramic view of society, incorporating his major themes into a major summary work. The difference is that he was now able to achieve that breadth in a work a fraction of the size of War and Peace." The critic further explained that "summaries of Tolstoy's work in the late period make it sound hollowly moralistic, but the great works . . . transcend their didacticism through perfection of style. Tolstoy's late work retains the documentary precision of detail of his early work. At his best, he wrote beautiful parables that combine keen realistic observation with the inevitability of prophetic truth." Writing of these later fictions, Rahv similarly noted that "the truth is that in the struggle between the old moralist and the old magician in Tolstoy both gave as good as they got."
Despite the public popularity and worldwide prestige he enjoyed, his last few years proved difficult for Tolstoy. His relations with his wife had worsened since his conversion; they frequently came into conflict over financial matters and his desire to give away his wealth and live simply. He had granted her the management of Yasnaya Polyana, splitting its worth into shares for her and the children, as well as all the royalties from works published prior to 1881. But she resented the interference of his disciples in family finances, particularly their attempts to change the terms of Tolstoy's will. The conflicts proved too much for Tolstoy's nerves, and in the fall of 1910 he left the estate, accompanied by a doctor and his youngest daughter, Alexandra. They boarded a train, but Tolstoy's worsening health forced them to disembark at the station in Astapovo. The station master's house was given over to his use, and the noted author's illness became the focus of intense international attention. His wife journeyed to visit her dying husband, but by the time she was allowed to see him, he had fallen into a coma. On November 7, with the world's press standing outside the station, Tolstoy died. Tolstoy's body was brought back to Yasnaya Polyana for burial as the czar declared a day of national mourning.
In the decades since his death, Tolstoy's reputation has only grown, as critics worldwide have acknowledged both the quality of his writing and the impact of his philosophy. As Simmons remarked, "Tolstoy's superb literary talent and his knowledge of human psychology and sense of drama contribute to this impressive and anguished outcry against man's inhumanity. He struck a note that won response from all thinking people." Isaiah Berlin explained Tolstoy's success in The Hedgehog and the Fox: An Essay on Tolstoy's View of History: "No author who has ever lived has shown such powers of insight into the variety of life—the differences, the contrasts, the collisions of persons and things and situations, each apprehended in its absolute uniqueness and conveyed with a degree of directness and a precision of concrete imagery to be found in no other writer." The critic concluded that "Tolstoy's genius lies in a capacity for marvellously accurate reproduction of the irreproducible, the almost miraculous evocation of the full, untranslatable individuality of the individual, which induces in the reader an acute awareness of the presence of the object itself, and not of a mere description of it."
Other critics have highlighted the author's moral vision as the quality that makes his work memorable: "Other great writers have substituted one vision of life for another, or have dedicated themselves to an ideal which the force of ambivalence may have destroyed," Benson stated. "But few have equaled that relentless testing of moral sensibility and human capacity, that indefatigable urge to break beyond limitations that characterized Tolstoy's life and fiction." German novelist Thomas Mann concurred with this assessment, writing in the Dial that "Tolstoy realized that a new era was at hand, an age which would not be satisfied with an art serving merely to enhance life, but which would put socially significant virtues—leadership, decisiveness, and clear thought—above individual genius; and value morality and intelligence more than irresponsible beauty; and he never sinned against his innate greatness, never claimed a 'great man's' licence to work confusion, atavism, and evil, but to the best of his understanding, in complete humility, laboured for that which is divinely reasonable." This emphasis on morality gave new life to literature, as Lukacs noted: "Artistic traits which in Europe were the symptoms of the decline of realism and contributed to the dissolution of such literary forms as the drama, the novel and the short story, regained their vitality and originality in Tolstoy's hands and served as the elements of a nascent new form which, continuing the traditions of the old great realism in a novel manner and in relation to new problems, rose to heights unsurpassed by the realist literature of any nation."
If you enjoy the works of Leo Tolstoy
If you enjoy the works of Leo Tolstoy, you might want to check out the following books:
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, 1859.
Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, 1880.
Nicolai Gogol, Dead Souls, 1842.
Ivan Sergeevich Turgenev, Fathers and Sons, 1862.
Nevertheless, it is for his great works of fiction that Tolstoy is best known. While acknowledging the worth of the author's spiritual writings, William Dean Howells wrote in My Literary Passions that Tolstoy produced "aesthetical works [that] are as perfect. To my thinking they transcend in truth, which is the highest beauty, all other works of fiction that have been written, and I believe that they do this because they obey the law of the author's own life. His conscience is one ethically and one aesthetically; with his will to be true to himself he cannot be false to his knowledge of others." Howells concluded that "Artistically, he has shown me a greatness that he can never teach me.... His work has been a revelation and a delight to me, such as I am sure I can never know again. I do not believe that in the whole course of my reading, and not even in the early moment of my literary enthusiasms, I have known such utter satisfaction in any writer." "Because Tolstoy shook himself free of position, convention, presupposition and sought, as far as possible, to free himself from the recurrent restlessness of unassuaged desire," Atkins commented, "he saw the contradictions of life, the fundamental inequalities of our social state, the injustices of much which we accept as a matter of course, the tragic sterility of war and its brutalities. His great literary genius, his dramatic position, the appealing qualities of his manhood gave, to his affirmation of all these things, a carrying quality which won him the hearing of the civilized world. Very likely his supreme service to our time is more distinctly here than anywhere else." As the Garnetts concluded: "Leo Tolstoy is one of these giants among writers, to whom future ages will turn for their interpretation of nineteenth century Europe. The greatest novelist, perhaps, of his age, he will, one ventures to think, be studied not so much for the strength and beauty of his great art, as for the challenge flung at modernity by his creed and his spirit, making his life-work of greater significance to humanity than that of any of the great European artists since Byron's day."
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BORN: 1828, Yasnaya Polyana, Russia
DIED: 1910, Astapovo, Russia
GENRE: Fiction, nonfiction
War and Peace (1869)
Anna Karenina (1877)
A Confession (1884)
The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories (1886)
Russian novelist and moral philosopher Leo Tolstoy was one of the great rebels of all time, a man who during a long and stormy life was at odds with the Church, government, literary tradition, and his own family. His novel War and Peace has been called the greatest novel of all time. Tolstoy's brooding concern for death made him one of the precursors of existentialism, yet the bustling spirit that animates his novels seems to convey more life than life itself.
Works in Biographical and Historical Context
Religious Aunt Leaves Strong Impression Leo (Lev Nikolayevich) Tolstoy was born on August 28, 1828, in the Tula Province of Russia, the youngest of four sons. His mother died when he was two years old, whereupon his father's distant cousin Tatyana Ergolsky took charge of the children. In 1837 Tolstoy's father died, and an aunt, Alexandra Osten-Saken, became legal guardian of the children. Her religious fervor was an important early influence on Tolstoy. When she died in 1840, the children were sent to Kazan to live with another sister of their father.
Tolstoy was educated at home by German and French tutors. Not a particularly apt pupil, he was good
at games. In 1843 he entered Kazan University to study Oriental languages, intent on a diplomatic career. Finding these studies too demanding, he switched two years later to study law. Despite the relative ease of this new pursuit, Tolstoy left in 1847 without taking his degree.
Army Life and Early Literary Career Nikolay, Tolstoy's eldest brother, while on furlough from military service, asked Tolstoy to join him in the south. Tolstoy agreed. After a meandering journey, he reached the mountains of the Caucasus, where he sought to join the army as a Junker, or gentleman-volunteer. He passed the necessary exams and was assigned to the 4th Battery of the 20th Artillery Brigade, serving on the Terek River against the rebellious mountaineers.
Tolstoy's border duty on a lonely Cossack outpost consisted of hunting, drinking, sleeping, chasing girls, and occasionally fighting. During the long lulls he first began to write. In 1852 he sent the autobiographical sketch “Childhood” to the leading journal of the day, the Contemporary. Nikolai Nekrasov, its editor, was ecstatic, and when it was published (under Tolstoy's initials), so was all of Russia. Tolstoy now began The Cossacks (1863), a thinly veiled account of his life in the outpost.
From November 1854 to August 1855 Tolstoy served in the battered fortress at Sevastopol. He had requested a transfer to this area, where one of the bloodiest battles of the Crimean War was in process. (The Crimean War of 1853–1856 was a clash between Russia and the allied forces of France, England, Sardinia, and the Ottoman Empire. The war was infamous for brutality and its many examples of military incompetence.) He later fictionalized his experience of the 4th Bastion, the hottest area in the conflict for a long while, in writing and revealed his distinctive Tolstoyan vision of war as a place of confusion, banality, and heroism. The first of the three “Sevastopol Tales” was the talk of Russia, attracting (for almost the last time in Tolstoy's career) the favorable attention of the czar.
School for Peasant Children In 1856 Tolstoy left the service (as a lieutenant) to look after his affairs in Yasnaya Polyana. He made his first trip abroad the following year. He did not like Western Europe, as his stories of this period show. He was becoming increasingly interested in education, however, and he talked with experts in this field wherever he went. In the summer he returned to Yasnaya Polyana and set up a school for peasant children. In 1860–1861 Tolstoy went abroad again, seeking to learn more about education; he also gambled heavily. During this trip he witnessed the death of his brother Nikolay in the south of France. More than all the grisly scenes of battle he had witnessed, this event brought home to Tolstoy the fact of death, the specter of which fascinated and terrified him throughout his long career.
Golden Years of Family Happiness and Professional Productivity In September 1862 Tolstoy wrote his aunt Alexandra, “I, aged, toothless fool that I am, have fallen in love.” He was only thirty-four, but he was sixteen years older than Sofya Andreyevna Bers (or Behrs), whose mother had been one of Tolstoy's childhood friends. Daughter of a prominent Moscow doctor, Bers was handsome, intelligent, and, as the years would show, strong-willed. The first decade of their marriage brought Tolstoy the greatest happiness. Never before or after was his creative life so rich or his personal life so full. In June 1863 his wife had the first of their thirteen children.
Since 1861 Tolstoy had been trying to write a historical novel about the Decembrist uprising of 1825 (a failed revolt against the czar by about 3,000 soldiers). But the more he worked, the farther back in time he went. The work would become the vast War and Peace. The first portion of War and Peace was published in 1865 (in the Russian Messenger) as “The Year 1805.” In 1868 three more chapters appeared; and in 1869 he completed the novel. Tolstoy had been somewhat neglected by critics in the preceding few years because he had not participated in the bitter literary politics of the time. But his new novel created a fantastic outpouring of popular and critical reaction.
From 1873 to 1877 Tolstoy worked on the second of his masterworks, Anna Karenina (1877), which also created a sensation upon its publication. The concluding section of the novel was written during another of Russia's seemingly endless wars with Turkey. The country was in patriotic turmoil. M.N. Katkov, editor of the journal in which Anna Karenina had been appearing serially, was afraid to print the final chapters, which contained an attack on war hysteria. Tolstoy, in a fury, took the text away from Katkov, and with the aid of N. Strakhov published a separate edition that enjoyed huge sales. Tolstoy's family continued to grow, and his royalties made him an extremely rich man.
Spiritual Crisis The ethical quest that began when Tolstoy was a child and that tormented him throughout his younger years now drove him to abandon all else in order to seek the ultimate meaning in life. At first he turned to the Russian Orthodox Church, visiting the Optina-Pustyn monastery in 1877. He found no answers there. When he began reading the Gospels, though, he found the key to his own moral system in Matthew: “Resist not evil.” In 1879–1880 Tolstoy wrote his A Confession (1884) and his Critique of Dogmatic Theology (1891). From this point on his life was dominated by a burning desire to achieve social justice.
In the next few years a new publication was founded (the Mediator) in order to spread Tolstoy's word in tract and fiction, as well as to make good reading available to the poor. In six years almost twenty million copies were distributed. Tolstoy had long been under surveillance by the secret police, and in 1884 copies of What I Believe were seized from the printer.
Tolstoy's relations with his family were becoming increasingly strained. The more of a saint he became in the eyes of the world, the more of a devil he seemed to his wife. He wanted to give his wealth away, but she would not hear of it. An unhappy compromise was reached in 1884, when Tolstoy assigned to his wife the copyright to all his works before 1881.
In 1886 Tolstoy worked on what is possibly his most powerful story, “The Death of Ivan Ilyich,” and his drama of peasant life, The Power of Darkness (which could not be produced until 1895). In 1888, when he was sixty years old, his thirteenth child was born. In the same year he finished his sweeping indictment of carnal love, The Kreutzer Sonata.
Final Years Full of Personal Turmoil In 1892 Tolstoy's estate, valued at the equivalent of $1.5 million, was divided among his wife and his nine living children. Tolstoy's final years were filled with worldwide acclaim and great unhappiness, as he was caught in the strife between his convictions, his followers, and his family. Unable to endure the quarrels at home, he set out on his last journey in October 1910, accompanied by his physician and his youngest daughter, Alexandra. The trip proved too stressful and he died on November 9, 1910.
LITERARY AND HISTORICAL CONTEMPORARIES
Tolstoy's famous contemporaries include:
Alexander Pushkin (1799–1837): Russian Romantic poet known for his verse poem, Eugene Onegin (1833). Pushkin is also a distant cousin of Tolstoy's.
Ivan Turgenev (1818–1883): Aristocratic author of Fathers and Sons (1862) and lifelong friend of Tolstoy's.
Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821–1881): Another of the great Russian writers, and also one who dealt with issues of ethics and morals in his work.
Gustave Flaubert (1821–1880): French writer best known for his novel, Madame Bovary (1857).
Works in Literary Context
An enormously important figure in Russian literature and culture, Tolstoy is famous not only for his novels, short stories, and plays but also for his moral authority. By the turn of the century, he had achieved worldwide recognition and prestige. The influence of his thought was felt not only by virtually all of Russia's leading cultural figures, but also beyond Russia's borders by contemporaries such as George Bernard Shaw, Mohandas Ghandi, William Dean Howells, and Romain Rolland. Tolstoyism has not endured, however; the religious and moral movement he founded did not remain strong after his death in 1910. Rather, his literary masterpieces have survived, retaining their freshness and vitality for new generations of readers.
Didactic Fiction Though Tolstoy was a masterful stylist, his works are never meant purely for entertainment. Embedded in his novels are lessons, morals, that he strives to impart to the reader. This makes his work, especially War and Peace, part of the tradition of didactic literature, or literature that teaches. Tolstoy was always interested in theories of education. Even in his early years he felt a strong sense of responsibility as a writer, and even before his religious conversion in 1880 he wrote many simple, edifying stories for peasants and less sophisticated readers. He printed his theories in his own education journal, Yasnaya Polyana, which he founded in 1862. Tolstoy's writing style frequently made use of structural devices that have been associated with education. For example, he used repetition for emphasis, asked questions and then answered them, enumerated features or characteristics of phenomena he was analyzing, and appealed to logic in support of his views. His fictional writings can be seen broadly as instructional art. War and Peace, for instance, teaches about historical development, just as Anna Karenina teaches about the destructive power of passion. In his later fiction, the moral lessons of his works stand in even sharper outline, and his stories become more schematic.
Works in Critical Context
Tolstoy's novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina were warmly praised in his lifetime and continue to be regarded by critics as among the best examples of the novel as a genre.
War and Peace War and Peace is expansive in conception and execution, supporting a cast of more than six hundred characters who play out their roles against a historical backdrop provided by French leader Napoleon Bonaparte's military campaigns at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The novel's broad sweep, multiple perspectives, and lack of a clear generic identity has raised questions about its unity. Henry James and Percy Lubbock, for example, were critical of the novel's formlessness and lack of a center. Complaining that the work was truly two novels, not just one, Lubbock lamented the absence of a single point of view. Modern critics have responded to the problem of unity with various solutions. In “The Moral Vision: Tolstoy,” Albert Cook, for example, found the novel's unity in its moral orientation; Edward Wasiolek, in Tolstoy's Major Fiction, found the structural principle in War and Peace to be the “interdiction of force in life,” where force is understood as interference, violence, institutional intimidation, and psychological manipulation. This principle, he argued, underlies Tolstoy's entire creative activity.
One character in particular, Natasha Rostova, is universally praised, not only because she is so “full” a character, but also because she represents an ideal—the truly “natural person” Tolstoy strove to embody in his art. Another female character, Princess Marya Bolkonskaya, also occupies an important position. As he stated in A History of Russian Literature, D.S. Mirsky believed that it was with the women in this novel that Tolstoy really triumphed.
Anna Karenina Anna Karenina explores questions of love, sex, and marriage. For the depth of Tolstoy's treatment of these themes, it has achieved recognition as one of the great novels of world literature. Tolstoy's contemporary, Fyodor Dostoevsky, described the book as “flawless.” Twentieth-century Russian writer and critic Vladimir Nabokov echoed Dostoevsky's sentiments, and even turned to Tolstoy's famous work in beginning his own novel about love and family life Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle (1969). Mirsky and others found in the novel's ending a reflection of Tolstoy's own growing spiritual perplexity, which culminated in his crisis and conversion to a new worldview. Tolstoy brought the novel to a conclusion with difficulty; the tragic atmosphere surrounding Anna's death is unsettling. As Mirsky commented, “the novel dies like a cry of anguish in the desert air.”
COMMON HUMAN EXPERIENCE
Tolstoy's most famous work, War and Peace, covers many characters over a long period in a time of war. Here are some other famous war epics:
The Iliad (7th or 8th century B.C.), an epic poem by Homer. This epic poem details the siege of Troy by the Greeks.
Winds of War (1971), a novel by Herman Wouk. Wouk's best-selling World War II epic became a popular mini-series in 1983.
Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), a novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This prize-winning novel follows the lives of three people caught up in the events surrounding Nigeria's civil war in the 1960s.
Responses to Literature
- Take a look at some of Tolstoy's educational writings. Would his ideas still work today? Can you think of any other suggestions to reform the educational system?
- Tolstoy is said to have greatly influenced Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. Take a look at some of their writings, perhaps “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and find connections between the ideas of these later men and those expressed in Tolstoy's works.
- After reading Anna Karenina, examine Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary. How are the title characters similar? How are they different?
- Tolstoy was a bit of a mystic, and Russian culture over the years has been peppered with mystics such as Rasputin. What do you think accounts for these mystical and almost magical beliefs in an otherwise practical culture?
Benson, Ruth. Women in Tolstoy: The Ideal and the Erotic. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1973.
Bulgakov, Valentin. The Last Year of Leo Tolstoy. New York: Dial, 1971.
Christian, R.F. Tolstoy: A Critical Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969.
Davis, Helen Edna. Tolstoy and Nietzsche. New York: Macmillan, 1929.
Goldenweizer, A.B. Talks with Tolstoy, translated by S.S. Koteliansky and Virginia Woolf. New York: Horizon, 1949.
Gorky, Maxim. Reminiscences of Tolstoy, Chekhov, and Andreev, translated by S.S. Koteliansky and Leonard Woolf. New York: Viking, 1959.
Matlaw, Ralph, ed. Tolstoy: A Collection of Critical Essays. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1967.
Mooney, Harry. Tolstoy's Epic Vision: A Study of “War and Peace” and “Anna Karenina”. Tulsa, Okla: University of Tulsa Press, 1948.
Philipson, Morris. The Count Who Wished He Were a Peasant. New York: Random House, 1967.
Tolstoy, Alexandra. The Real Tolstoy. Morristown, N.J.: Henry S. Evans, 1968.
Tolstoy, Alexandra. Tolstoy: A Life of My Father, translated by Isabel F. Hapwood. New York: Harper, 1953.
The Russian novelist and moral philosopher Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) ranks as one of the world's great writers, and his "War and Peace" has been called the greatest novel ever written.
Leo Tolstoy was one of the great rebels of all time, a man who during a long and stormy life was at odds with Church, government, literary tradition, and his own family. Yet he was a conservative, obsessed by the idea of God in an age of scientific positivism. He brought the art of the realistic novel to its highest development. Tolstoy's brooding concern for death made him one of the precursors of existentialism. Yet the bustling spirit that animates his novels conveys—perhaps—more of life than life itself.
Tolstoy's father, Count Nikolay Ilyich Tolstoy, came of a noble family dating back to the 14th century and prominent from the time of Peter I. Both Tolstoy's father and grandfather had a passion for gambling and had exhausted the family wealth. Nikolay recouped his fortunes, however, by marrying Maria Volkonsky, bearer of a great name and heiress to a fortune that included 800 serfs and the estate of Yasnaya Polyana in Tula Province, where Leo (Lev Nikolayevich) was born on Aug. 28, 1828, the youngest of four sons. His mother died when he was 2 years old, whereupon his father's distant cousin Tatyana Ergolsky took charge of the children. In 1837 Tolstoy's father died, and an aunt, Alexandra Osten-Saken, became legal guardian of the children. Her religious fervor was an important early influence on Tolstoy. When she died in 1840, the children were sent to Kazan to another sister of their father, Pelageya Yushkov.
The Yushkovs were among the highest society in the town, Pelageya's father having been governor of the province before his death. Balls and receptions dominated the Yushkovs' social life, and there was much concern about what was comme il faut. Aunt Pelageya told Tolstoy that nothing was better for a young man's development than an affair with an older woman. He was no prude, but he was awkward and proud, being known to his friends as the "Bear."
Tolstoy was educated at home by German and French tutors. He was not a particularly apt pupil, but he was good at games. In 1843 he entered Kazan University; planning on a diplomatic career, he entered the faculty of Oriental languages. Finding these studies too demanding, he switched 2 years later to the notoriously easygoing law faculty. The university, however, had too many second-rate foreigners on its faculty, and Tolstoy left in 1847 without taking his degree.
Tolstoy returned to Yasnaya Polyana, determined to become a model farmer and a "father" to his serfs. His philanthropy failed because of his naiveté in dealing with the peasants and because he spent too much time carousing in Tula and Moscow. During this time he first began making those amazingly honest and self-lacerating diary entries, a practice he maintained until his death. These entries provided much material for his fiction, and in a very real sense his whole oeuvre is one long autobiography. In 1848 Tolstoy attempted to take the law examination, this time in St. Petersburg, but after passing the first two parts he again became disenchanted, returning to the concerts and gambling halls of Moscow when not hunting and drinking at Yasnaya Polyana.
Army Life and Early Literary Career
Nikolay, Tolstoy's eldest brother, visited him at this time in Yasnaya Polyana while on furlough from military service in the Caucasus. Leo greatly loved his brother, and when he asked him to join him in the south, Tolstoy agreed. After a meandering journey, he reached the mountains of the Caucasus, where he sought to join the army as a Junker, or gentleman-volunteer. In the autumn he passed the necessary exams and was assigned to the 4th Battery of the 20th Artillery Brigade, serving on the Terek River against the rebellious mountaineers, Moslem irregulars who had declared a holy war against the encroaching Russians.
Tolstoy's border duty on a lonely Cossack outpost became a kind of pagan idyll, hunting, drinking, sleeping, chasing the girls, and occasionally fighting. During the long lulls he first began to write. In 1852 he sent the autobiographical sketch Childhood to the leading journal of the day, the Contemporary. Nikolai Nekrasov, its editor, was ecstatic, and when it was published (under Tolstoy's initials), so was all of Russia. Tolstoy now began The Cossacks (finished in 1862), a thinly veiled account of his life in the outpost.
From November 1854 to August 1855 Tolstoy served in the battered fortress at Sevastopol. He had requested transfer to this area, where one of the bloodiest battles of the Crimean War was in process. As he directed fire from the 4th Bastion, the hottest area in the conflict for a long while, Tolstoy managed to write Youth, the second part of his autobiographical trilogy. He also wrote the three Sevastopol Tales at this time, revealing the distinctive Tolstoyan vision of war as a place of unparalleled confusion, banality, and heroism, a special space where men, viewed from the author's dispassionate, Godlike point of view, were at their best and worst. Some of these stories were published while the battle they described still raged. The first story was the talk of Russia, attracting (for almost the last time in Tolstoy's career) the favorable attention of the Czar.
When the city fell, Tolstoy was asked to make a study of the artillery action during the final assault and to report with it to the authorities in St. Petersburg. His reception in the capital was triumphal. Because of his name, he was welcomed into the most brilliant society. Because of his stories, he was lionized by the cream of literary society. Tolstoy's photographs at this time show a coarse-looking young man with piercing eyes, spatulate nose, and mustache. He was not tall but very strong.
During the same year Tolstoy visited Moscow, garnering there both success in society and esteem among authors. By the time he returned to St. Petersburg, he was beginning to tire of his new literary acquaintances. He felt that they were insincere talkers. He offended both camps of what soon became a war within the Contemporary group— with the opposing points of view represented by the aristocratic Ivan Turgenev and the radical Nikolai Chernyshevsky. His lifelong friendship with the conservative poet A. A. Fet dated from this time. Tolstoy was never a "professional author"; he avoided literary gossip, and his independent wealth permitted him to remain aloof from the scramble of making a living.
School for Peasant Children
In 1856 Tolstoy left the service (as a lieutenant) to look after his affairs in Yasnaya Polyana; he also worked on The Snowstorm and Two Hussars. In the following year he made his first trip abroad. He did not like Western Europe, as his stories of this period, Lucerne and Albert, show. He was becoming increasingly interested in education, however, and he talked with experts in this field wherever he went. In the summer he returned to Yasnaya Polyana and set up a school for peasant children, where he began his pedagogic experiments. In 1860-1861 Tolstoy went abroad again, seeking to learn more about education; he also gambled heavily. During this trip he witnessed the death of his brother Nikolay in the south of France. More than all the grisly scenes of battle he had witnessed, this event brought home to Tolstoy the fact of death, the specter of which fascinated and terrified him throughout his long career.
After the freeing of the serfs in 1861, Tolstoy became a mediator (posrednik), an official who arbitrated land disputes between serfs and their former masters. In April he had a petty quarrel with Turgenev, actually challenging him to a duel. Turgenev declined, but the two men were on bad terms for years.
Tolstoy's school at Yasnaya Polyana went forward, using pioneering techniques that were later adopted by progressive educationists. In 1862 Tolstoy started a journal to propagate his pedagogical ideas, Yasnaya Polyana. He also took the first of his koumiss cures, traveling to Samara, living in the open, and drinking fermented mare's milk. These cures eventually became an almost annual event.
In September 1862, Tolstoy wrote his aunt Alexandra, "I, aged, toothless fool that I am, have fallen in love." He was only 34, but he was 16 years older than Sofya Andreyevna Bers (or Behrs), whose mother had been one of Tolstoy's childhood friends. Daughter of a prominent Moscow doctor, Bers was handsome, intelligent, and, as the years would show, strong-willed. The first decade of their marriage brought Tolstoy the greatest happiness; never before or after was his creative life so rich or his personal life so full. In June 1863 his wife had the first of their 13 children.
His wife's diary entry for Oct. 28, 1863, reads: "Story about 1812; he is very involved with it." And indeed Tolstoy was. Since 1861 he had been trying to write a historical novel about the Decembrist uprising of 1825. But the more he worked, the farther back in time he went. The first portion of War and Peace was published in 1865 (in the Russian Messenger) as "The Year 1805." In 1868 three more chapters appeared; and in 1869 he completed the novel. Tolstoy had been somewhat neglected by critics in the preceding few years because he had not participated in the bitter literary politics of the time. But his new novel created a fantastic outpouring of popular and critical reaction.
War and Peace represents an apogee in the history of world literature, but it was also the high point of Tolstoy's personal life. He peopled his enormous canvas with almost everyone he had ever met, including all of his relations on both sides of his family. In so doing he celebrated a patriarchal way of life—rich in its country contentments and glittering in its city excitements. Balls and battles, birth and death, all were described in copious and minute detail. In this book the European realistic novel, with its attention to social matrix, exact description, and psychological rendering, found its most complete expression.
The genial scenes of feast and hunt were a reflection of Tolstoy's great personal happiness at this time. His estate prospered, and he was deeply in love with his wife. She worshiped her husband, doing everything in her power to free him from all but his writing. Their son Ilya reported that she copied out the complete text of War and Peace seven times.
But even in this year of Tolstoy's greatest success ominous signs of the future began to appear. The brilliant rhetoric of those passages in War and Peace in which Tolstoy argued for his own idiosyncratic theory of history foreshad-owed the often crotchety tone of the later intransigent moralist. In the midst of all his happiness, in 1869, Tolstoy experienced a deep and mysterious personal trauma. Traveling to buy an estate in Penza Province, he stopped overnight in Arzamas. Awakened by a nightmare, he felt that he was dying. Once again, as when Nikolay had died, he was reminded of his mortality, and his so-called conversion of 1880 may, in a sense, be traced back to this experience.
Tolstoy's next 10 years were equally crowded. He published the Primer and the first four Readers (1872-1875), his attempts to appeal to an audience that would include children and the newly literate peasantry. From 1873 to 1877 he worked on the second of his masterworks, Anna Karenina, which also created a sensation upon its publication. The concluding section of the novel was written during another of Russia's seemingly endless wars with Turkey. The country was in a patriotic ferment. M. N. Katkov, editor of the journal in which Anna Karenina had been appearing serially, was afraid to print the final chapters, which contained an attack on war hysteria. Tolstoy, in a fury, took the text away from Katkov, and with the aid of N. Strakhov he published a separate edition that enjoyed huge sales.
The novel was based partly on events that had occurred on a neighboring estate, where a nobleman's rejected mistress had thrown herself under a train. It again contained great chunks of disguised biography, especially in the scenes describing the courtship and marriage of Kitty and Levin. Tolstoy's family continued to grow, and his royalties were making him an extremely rich man.
The ethical quest that had begun when Tolstoy was a child and that had tormented him throughout his younger years now drove him to abandon all else in order to seek an ultimate meaning in life. At first he turned to the Russian Orthodox Church, visiting the Optina-Pustyn monastery in 1877. But he found no answer. He began reading the Gospels, and he found the key to his own moral system in Matthew: "Resist not evil." In 1879-1880 Tolstoy wrote his Confession (published 1884) and his Critique of Dogmatic Theology. From this point on his life was dominated by a burning desire to achieve social justice and a rationally acceptable ethic.
Tolstoy was a public figure now, and in 1881 he asked Alexander III, in vain, to spare the lives of those who had assassinated the Czar's father. He visited Optina again, this time disguised as a peasant, but his trip failed to bring him peace. In September the family moved to Moscow in order to further the education of the older sons. The following year Tolstoy participated in the census, visiting the worst slums of Moscow, where he was freshly appalled.
Tolstoy had not gone out of his way to propagate his new convictions, but in 1883 he met V. G. Chertkov, a wealthy guards officer who soon became the moving force behind an attempt to start a movement in Tolstoy's name. In the next few years a new publication was founded (the Mediator) in order to spread Tolstoy's word in tract and fiction, as well as to make good reading available to the poor. In 6 years almost 20 million copies were distributed. Tolstoy had long been under surveillance by the secret police, and in 1884 copies of What I Believe were seized from the printer. He now took up cobbling and read deeply in Chinese philosophy. He abstained from cigarettes, meat, white bread, and hunting. His image as a white-bearded patriarch in a peasant's blouse dates from this period.
Tolstoy's relations with his family were becoming increasingly strained. The more of a saint he became in the eyes of the world, the more of a devil he seemed to his wife. He wanted to give his wealth away, but she would not hear of it. An unhappy compromise was reached in 1884, when Tolstoy assigned to his wife the copyright to all his works before 1881.
In 1886 Tolstoy worked on what is possibly his most powerful story, The Death of Ivan Ilyich, and his drama of peasant life, The Power of Darkness (which could not be produced until 1895). In 1888, when he was 60 years old, his thirteenth child was born. In the same year he finished his sweeping indictment of carnal love, The Kreutzer Sonata.
Last Years and Death
In 1892 Tolstoy's estate, valued at the equivalent of $1.5 million, was divided among his wife and his nine living children. Tolstoy was now perhaps the most famous man in the world; people came from all over the globe to Yasnaya Polyana. His activity was unabated. In 1891 and in 1893 he organized famine relief in Ryazan Province. He also worked on some of his finest stories: The Devil (1890, published posthumously) and Father Sergius (1890). In order to raise money for transporting a dissenting religious sect (the Doukhobors) to Canada, Tolstoy published the third, and least successful, of his three long novels, Resurrection (1899). From 1896 to 1904 he worked on the story that was his personal favorite, Hadji Murad, the tale of a Caucasian mountaineer.
Tolstoy's final years were filled with worldwide acclaim and great unhappiness, as he was caught in the strife between his convictions, his followers, and his family. The Holy Synod excommunicated him in 1901. Unable to endure the quarrels at home he set out on his last pilgrimage in October 1910, accompanied by his youngest daughter, Alexandra, and his physician. The trip proved too much, and he died in the home of the stationmaster of the small depot at Astapovo on Nov. 9, 1910. He was buried at Yasnaya Polyana.
Tolstoy's own enormous output (his collected works run to 90 volumes) is exceeded only by the amount of material written about him. Among the memoirs about Tolstoy are A. B. Goldenweizer, Talks with Tolstoy (trans. 1923); Alexandra Tolstoy, Tolstoy: A Life of My Father. (1953); and V. Bulgakov, The Last Year of Leo Tolstoy (trans. 1971). There are two good biographies in English: Ernest J. Simmons, Leo Tolstoy (1946), and Henri Troyat, Tolstoy (1965; trans. 1967). Simmons is more complete and scholarly, but Troyat is more enjoyable to read.
Sir Isaiah Berlin, The Hedgehog and the Fox: An Essay on Tolstoy's View of History (1953), is a brilliant short study. George Steiner, Tolstoy or Dostoevsky: An Essay in the Old Criticism (1959), when it is not being precious, contains many insights into Tolstoy both as artist and thinker. John Bayley, Tolstoy and the Novel (1966), is a good study of Tolstoy's contribution to the genre. Ralph E. Matlaw, ed., Tolstoy: A Collection of Critical Essays (1967), offers stylistic criticism of Tolstoy's work. For background James H. Billington, The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture (1966), is excellent. □
TOLSTOY, LEO (1828–1910), Russian writer. Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy was born on his family's estate of Yasnaia Poliana (Bright Meadow), in Tula Province. His parents, both from the high aristocracy, died in his early boyhood. Tolstoy was a melancholy child, self-centered but filled with the desire to be a better person.
He entered the University of Kazan in 1844, planning to become a diplomat, but left the university in 1847 without taking a degree. That same year, he inherited Yasnaia Poliana and went there to live. In 1849 he opened a school for the village children and was one of its teachers. At this time, as later, he was strongly under the influence of Rousseau.
Tolstoy volunteered in 1851 for army service in the Caucasus, and he subsequently took part in the Crimean War (1854–1856) in the Danube region and at Sevastopol. He left the army in 1856 and returned to Yasnaia Poliana. By the following year he had published a semi-autobiographical trilogy on his childhood and youth and a group of short stories on the war in the Caucasus and at Sevastopol. These works soon brought him fame.
Tolstoy made the first of two trips to western Europe in 1857 and was repelled by the absence of spiritual values and the materialism he found there. In Paris he witnessed a public execution and from it concluded that all governments were immoral. During his second trip abroad in 1860 his favorite brother, Nikolai, who had tuberculosis, died in Tolstoy's arms. The next year Tolstoy returned to Russia and resumed teaching at the Yasnaia Poliana school.
In 1862 Tolstoy married Sof'ia Andreevna Bers, eighteen years old. They had thirteen children, of whom five died. The first decade of his marriage was the happiest time of his life. During this period he wrote War and Peace (1863–1869).
Tolstoy's concern with moral development and religion was evident from his childhood. At the age of nineteen he wrote out rules of behavior for himself that were close to the precepts of his later Christianity. In 1855 he wanted to found a new religion, free of dogma and mysticism. Happiness would be achieved not in heaven but on earth, by following the voice of one's conscience. His letters from the 1850s on, and his literary works from Childhood (1852) to Anna Karenina (1873–1877), reflect the development of his ideas.
Beginning in the early 1870s, Tolstoy engaged in a moral and religious quest that was to continue until the end of his life. He had begun reading Schopenhauer in 1867 and was influenced by Schopenhauer's negative view of life. In the fall of 1869, while on a trip to buy land, he stopped at the provincial town of Arzamas, staying overnight at an inn. There, in the middle of the night, he had a terrifying vision of death. From this time on, Tolstoy was obsessed with thoughts of his own death—although earlier works, like Three Deaths (1859), were witness that the problem of death had been on his mind for years. It was this obsession that led to his search for a viable religious faith, one that would make life worth living and would reconcile him to the bitter fact that he too must die.
Tolstoy's spiritual crisis began during the writing of Anna Karenina and lasted until 1879. It is mirrored in the seekings of Levin, the novel's hero, and is akin to the spiritual quest that had occupied Pierre Bezukhov, the hero of War and Peace. But whereas War and Peace had ended in optimism, in Anna Karenina a dark force seems to take over. Levin cannot accept a materialist explanation for his life. That would be "the mockery of Satan," the power that remains in the universe if there is no God. This power is Schopenhauer's blind force of will, the same force that destroys Anna. Levin thinks that suicide is the only possible escape from his situation.
In A Confession, which he wrote from 1879 to 1882, Tolstoy described his own crisis. Reason and the sciences gave him no answer to his questions, which marriage and family life had stifled only temporarily. He read extensively, but the thinkers he studied—Socrates, Solomon, Buddha, Schopenhauer—all concluded that life was an evil and that the greatest good was to free oneself of one's existence. Tolstoy then turned to the peasants. He saw that their simple faith in God gave their life meaning. They did not fear death, which they regarded as the natural outcome of life. Tolstoy concluded that the answer was simply to believe, without reasoning. Belief in God and in the possibility of moral perfection made life meaningful. The peasants' faith, however, was bound up with Orthodox ritual and dogma, which Tolstoy could not accept. He ended A Confession promising to study the scriptures and the church's doctrines in order to separate the truth in them from falsehood.
Tolstoy taught himself Greek and Hebrew in order to read the biblical texts in the original. In his Translation and Harmony of the Four Gospels (1880–1881) he rearranged the Gospels, rewriting or eliminating material he thought incomprehensible or untrue. Miracles, including the resurrection, were discarded. Tolstoy's version presented the tenets of Christianity as he saw them. He said that this book was the most important thing he had written. The other promised work, A Criticism of Dogmatic Theology (also 1880–1881), was an attack on the Orthodox church. In it, Tolstoy examined the church's doctrines and said they were distortions of the true teachings of Christ, who had wanted only love, humility, and forgiveness.
His next book, What I Believe (1882–1884), was a summing-up of Tolstoy's creed. He listed in it five commandments of Christ: (1) do not be angry; (2) do not lust; (3) do not swear oaths; (4) do not resist evil with force; (5) love all persons without distinction. Observance of these rules would transform life on earth by putting an end to courts of law, governments, and wars between nations. Tolstoy's other religious and moralistic works, such as On Life (1887) and The Kingdom of God Is within You (1892–1893), contained essentially the same ideas as the earlier ones. All of these books, including A Confession, were banned by the censor, but they circulated in underground editions or were published abroad and smuggled into Russia.
Tolstoy's new religion was essentially a system of personal ethics, the same rules he had been trying to live by since boyhood. The church, he said, had obscured true Christianity with ritual, miracles, and symbols. It tried to keep from people the true Christ, a man and not a divine being, who wanted to unite men in peace and make them happy. Tolstoy's Christianity was based primarily on the sermon on the mount, and especially on Christ's principle of turning the other cheek (Mt. 5:38–42). God had placed the light of conscience within each person. By heeding their inner voice, people would act with simple truthfulness and love and would achieve happiness. The only way to combat evil was by a constant effort at self-perfection, not by opposing the evil of others with force. If each person does good whenever possible, evil will die of itself. Nonresistance to evil became Tolstoy's main tenet.
But Tolstoy's Christianity did not bring him peace and did not end his search, any more than Levin's quest in Anna Karenina had ended with his conversion. Never believing in personal immortality, Tolstoy was not able to accept death's physical finality and the thought of his own physical annihilation. He returned again and again to the theme of death, which continued to haunt him. Efforts to include death in his vision of harmony on earth by viewing it as a peaceful merging with nature warred with flashes of nihilism. Only in his last years did he make his peace with death.
After his conversion Tolstoy condemned his own pre-1878 fiction, saying that it contained morally bad feelings. He resumed writing literary works in the mid-1880s, but they had changed. He now used a bare, plain style that would be accessible to every reader. Tolstoy wrote two kinds of works, both fundamentally tracts: short stories for peasants and children that presented his views on love and nonviolence, and longer stories for the educated reader, such as The Death of Ivan Il'ich (1886), Kreutzer Sonata (1889), The Devil (1889), and Father Sergii (1890–1891). He still had all his literary force, but the joy in life that had animated his earlier fiction was gone; the longer stories are dominated by gloomy, strong passions. Most of them express a hatred of the flesh, the source of life and of death.
Tolstoy's last work to be published in his lifetime was Resurrection (1899). It depicts the moral regeneration of Nekhliudov, a nobleman whose early debauchery had ruined the life of a young servant girl. In prison, Nekhliudov observes a religious service during which the priest, after giving communion, "took the cup back with him behind the partition and drank all the remaining blood and finished all the remaining pieces of God's flesh." Because of the heretical passages in Resurrection and his attacks on the church and state, the Holy Synod excommunicated Tolstoy in 1901. On the day the decree was announced, a cheering crowd of supporters gathered around his house.
By the 1880s Tolstoy had numerous disciples in Russia and abroad, many of them misfits or half-mad. One of his followers, Vladimir Chertkov, gained increasing influence over him. Tolstoy's disciples regarded him as a living saint, and Yasnaia Poliana became a goal of pilgrimages. Groups of Tolstoyans formed who tried to live by his ideas. All these groups eventually fell apart. (Many of the early kibbutsim in Palestine, however, were inspired by the ideology of a Russian-Jewish Tolstoyan, Aharon David Gordon.) Tolstoy continued to write in the final years of his life, expressing his views on most of the social, religious, and political issues of the day. He corresponded with Mohandas K. Gandhi, and Gandhi's doctrine of satyagraha was an adaptation of Tolstoy's nonresistance to evil.
Tolstoy's relations with his wife had deteriorated as he became more and more preoccupied with religion. Friction between her and Chertkov made Tolstoy's life at home unbearable and led to his flight from Yasnaia Poliana in late October of 1910. He had long wanted to live quietly in solitude. On the train journey he fell ill and was taken to the stationmaster's house at Astapovo, where he died on November 7.
While Tolstoy's religious writings are peripheral to his literary achievements, his art is unimaginable without the moral and religious vision that informs it. Perhaps he cheated death better than he knew; as artist and seeker he has continued, generation after generation, to attract passionate adherents, and Yasnaia Poliana remains a focus of pilgrimages from all over the world.
In one of his Sevastopol stories, Tolstoy had written: "The hero of my narrative, whom I have tried to render in all its beauty and who was, is, and always will be beautiful, is truth." Tolstoy's brother Nikolai had said that in a certain spot at Yasnaia Poliana there was a green stick on which was written a secret that would destroy evil in men and make them happy. As a boy, Tolstoy searched in the bushes at Yasnaia Poliana for this stick. Much later, he wrote: "I believe that this truth exists, and that it will be disclosed to men and will give them what it promises." According to his wish, Tolstoy was buried at the place where he thought the green stick was hidden.
Aldanov, Mark. Zagadka Tolstogo (1923). Reprint, Providence, R.I., 1969.
Christian, R. F. Tolstoi: A Critical Introduction. London, 1969.
Eikhenbaum, Boris. Lev Tolstoi. 2 vols. Leningrad, 1928.
Maude, Aylmer. The Life of Tolstoi. 2 vols. London, 1929–1930.
Noyes, George Rapall. Tolstoi (1918). Reprint, New York, 1968.
Rolland, Romain. Vie de Tolstoï. Paris, 1928.
Tolstoy, Alexandra. Tolstoi: A Life of My Father. New York, 1953.
Weisbein, Nicolas. L'évolution religieuse de Tolstoï. Paris, 1960.
Sylvia Juran (1987)
TOLSTOY, LEOlife and works
contributions to literature
contributions to social, political, and religious thought
TOLSTOY, LEO (in Russian, Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy; 1828–1910), Russian novelist and moral philosopher.
Leo Tolstoy, a Russian nobleman, was born at his family's estate, Yasnaya Polyana ("clear glade"), on 9 September (28 August, old style) 1828. Orphaned by age ten, he was raised by close relatives. While at Kazan University, he read Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Confessions, which exerted a profound and lifelong influence on him. Rejecting what he perceived as a trivial education, Tolstoy broke off his studies and eventually followed his brother Nikolai to the Crimea to serve in the elite artillery corps.
In the Crimea Tolstoy's literary career began in earnest, with the publication of the autobiographical trilogy Childhood (1852), Boyhood (1854), and Youth (1857), and the remarkable Sevastopol Stories (1855–1856). In late 1859, contemptuous of the vagaries of the writer's life, Tolstoy returned to Yasnaya Polyana intent on bettering the lives of his own peasants. He married Sophia Andreyevna Bers in 1862; they had thirteen children. Tolstoy wrote The Cossacks (1863), and then began his stupendous historical novel War and Peace, written and published between 1865 and 1869. It provoked lively and heated critical debate. He followed it with a tale of modern society, Anna Karenina (1875–1877), which was published serially to good reviews.
In the late 1870s, seized by a profound feeling of hopelessness in the face of the eventuality of death, Tolstoy embarked on a religious transformation detailed in the profound and controversial Confession (1879). The essential elements of Tolstoy's new religious ideas can be found in a trilogy: An Investigation of Dogmatic Theology (1880), A Translation and Harmony of the Four Gospels (1882–1884), and What I Believe (1884). The Kingdom of God Is Within You (1894) details Tolstoy's doctrine of pacifism. Tolstoy's crisis was both aesthetic and moral, so his literary works took on a more overtly didactic tone. Masterful stories of this period include "The Death of Ivan Ilych" (1886), "How Much Land Does a Man Need?" (1886), and "The Kreutzer Sonata" (1891). Master and Man (1895) portrays a man's deathbed conversion. The less successful Resurrection (1899) concerns an impassioned search for justice. Tolstoy's famous work of literary criticism, What Is Art? (1898), vituperatively condemns much of world literature—Tolstoy's own contribution as well as William Shakespeare's—as elitist and corrupting. Art, he argued, should not seduce for the sake of enjoyment, but should edify the masses by infecting them with sympathetic feelings.
Tolstoy's outspoken repudiation of government and church responses to social crises contributed to his excommunication from the Russian Orthodox Church in 1901. His masterful novel Hadji Murat (1904) concerns a protracted war between Caucasian mountaineers and the Russians. Seeking to free himself of the wealth, privilege, and fame that overwhelmed him, Tolstoy left home and died at Astapovo railway station on 20 November (7 November, old style) 1910. At the time of his death Tolstoy was a figure of world renown and an ambivalent leader of his own religious movement. Thousands of Russian peasants accompanied his funeral procession, and the demise of this giant of a man was felt by many to be the passing of a whole era.
Tolstoy himself to Homer's Iliad, the subject of the novel is "life itself," conveyed by Tolstoy through precise detail and sweeping description. Anna Karenina, lauded as one of the world's greatest novels, contrasts the eponymous heroine's adulterous relationship with two other, more or less ideal, marriages. Even upon the publication of Childhood, however, Tolstoy was heralded as a great new literary talent for his extraordinary ability to convey every nuance of conscious thought. His works are rife with luminous moments where the individual's existence melds harmoniously with all creation, as when Levin is mowing hay in Anna Karenina, or Prince Andrei lies dying on the battlefield in War and Peace. Also central to Tolstoy's thought is a strain of anti-individualism that intensifies with time. It manifests itself in his critique of the "great men" theory of historical causation.
For Tolstoy, there exists an eternal truth that is the same for all people in all times. One merely needs to discover what that truth is and live in complete harmony with it. Through most of Tolstoy's literary career, apprehension of the truth occurs through aesthetic means, most insistently through defamiliarization (ostranenie), a method that exposes society's conventions by making them "strange." This device is famously employed in War and Peace, for example, in the scene in which Natasha attends the opera for the first time. Tolstoy also employs repetition, enumeration, and logical sequencing. He effects narrative shifts in point of view that are held together by an omniscient narrator who as often as not contains a measure of the personality of Tolstoy himself. In his postconversion works the aesthetic element is often dominated by social and political commentary, although the best works, such as Hadji Murat, achieve universal clarity.
While at times sympathetic to radicals, liberals, and conservatives, Tolstoy largely remained at odds with the main currents of nineteenth-century Russian intellectual thought. Akin to an eighteenth-century philosophe, Tolstoy, a fierce believer in the equality of all people, envisioned and put into practice at times utopian social and educational reforms. Although he eventually came to a wholesale rejection of his class's way of life, in less dogmatic moments he believed that with privilege came the responsibility to educate those less fortunate than oneself.
After his moral crisis of 1880, Tolstoy came to embrace Christian anarchism. He interpreted Christ's injunction to turn the other cheek as a summons to nonviolent protest against injustice. Tolstoy tended to follow any idea through to its logical conclusions, even if that led him to extreme, even contradictory, positions. For example, he spoke out not against revolutionaries' violent tactics, but against the government's execution of the revolutionaries. He used his notoriety to rail against the legal system, the prisons, private property, the bureaucracy, marriage, education, and agriculture. Tolstoy's pacifism had a profound influence on Mahatma Gandhi, spiritual and political leader of India.
Tolstoy, Leo. Polnoe sobranie sochenenii. Edited by V. G. Chertkov. 90 vols. Moscow, 1928–1958. Definitive Russian edition of Tolstoy's works.
——. Tolstoy Centenary Edition. Translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude. 21 vols. London, 1929–1937. Comprehensive, though incomplete, set of translations.
——. Anna Karenina. Translated by Constance Garnett. Edited and translation revised by Leonard J. Kent and Nina Berberova. New York, 1965. Reprint, 1993.
——. Great Short Works of Leo Tolstoy. Translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude. New York, 1967.
——. War and Peace. Translated by Ann Dunnigan. New York, 1968. Reprint, 1993.
Bloom, Harold, ed. Leo Tolstoy: Modern Critical Views. New York, 1986. Excellent articles by distinguished scholars on key aspects of Tolstoy's work.
Orwin, Donna Tussing. Tolstoy's Art and Thought, 1847–1880. Princeton, N.J., 1993. Brilliant study of the ideas that led Tolstoy to write his masterpieces.
Steiner, George. Tolstoy or Dostoevsky: An Essay in the Old Criticism. 2nd ed. New Haven, Conn., 1996. Good overall interpretation of Tolstoy's works.
The Tolstoy Studies Journal. Toronto, 1998–. Good source for contemporary scholarly articles on Tolstoy.
Sarah A. Krive
Born: August 28, 1828
Tula Province, Russia
Died: November 9, 1910
The Russian novelist and moral philosopher (person who studies good and bad in relation to human life) Leo Tolstoy ranks as one of the world's great writers, and his War and Peace has been called the greatest novel ever written.
Leo (Lev Nikolayevich) Tolstoy was born at Yasnaya Polyana, his family's estate, on August 28, 1828, in Russia's Tula Province, the youngest of four sons. His mother died when he was two years old, whereupon his father's distant cousin Tatyana Ergolsky took charge of the children. In 1837 Tolstoy's father died, and an aunt, Alexandra Osten-Saken, became legal guardian of the children. Her religious dedication was an important early influence on Tolstoy. When she died in 1840, the children were sent to Kazan, Russia, to another sister of their father, Pelageya Yushkov.
Tolstoy was educated at home by German and French tutors. He was not a particularly exceptional student but he was good at games. In 1843 he entered Kazan University. Planning on a diplomatic career, he entered the faculty of Oriental languages. Finding these studies too demanding, he switched two years later to studying law. Tolstoy left the university in 1847 without taking his degree.
Tolstoy returned to Yasnaya Polyana, determined to become a model farmer and a "father" to his serfs (unpaid farmhands). His charity failed because of his foolishness in dealing with the peasants (poor, working class) and because he spent too much time socializing in Tula and Moscow. During this time he first began making amazingly honest diary entries, a practice he maintained until his death. These entries provided much material for his fiction, and in a very real sense the collection is one long autobiography.
Army life and early literary career
Nikolay, Tolstoy's eldest brother, visited him at in 1848 in Yasnaya Polyana while on leave from military service in the Caucasus. Leo greatly loved his brother, and when he asked him to join him in the south, Tolstoy agreed. After a long journey, he reached the mountains of the Caucasus, where he sought to join the army as a Junker, or gentleman-volunteer. Tolstoy's habits on a lonely outpost consisted of hunting, drinking, sleeping, chasing the women, and occasionally fighting. During the long lulls he first began to write. In 1852 he sent the autobiographical sketch Childhood to the leading journal of the day, the Contemporary. Nikolai Nekrasov, its editor, was ecstatic, and when it was published (under Tolstoy's initials), so was all of Russia. Tolstoy then began writing The Cossacks (finished in 1862), an account of his life in the outpost.
From November 1854 to August 1855 Tolstoy served in the battered fortress at Sevastopol in southern Ukraine. He had requested transfer to this area, a sight of one of the bloodiest battles of the Crimean War (1853–1956; when Russia battled England and France over land). As he directed fire from the Fourth Bastion, the hottest area in the conflict for a long while, Tolstoy managed to write Youth, the second part of his autobiographical trilogy. He also wrote the three Sevastopol Tales at this time, revealing the distinctive Tolstoyan vision of war as a place of unparalleled confusion and heroism, a special space where men, viewed from the author's neutral, godlike point of view, were at their best and worst.
When the city fell, Tolstoy was asked to make a study of the artillery action during the final assault and to report with it to the authorities in St. Petersburg, Russia. His reception in the capital was a triumphant success. Because of his name, he was welcomed into the most brilliant society. Because of his stories, he was treated as a celebrity by the cream of literary society.
In September 1862, Tolstoy married Sofya Andreyevna Bers (or Behrs), a woman sixteen years younger than himself. Daughter of a prominent Moscow doctor, Bers was beautiful, intelligent, and, as the years would show, strong-willed. The first decade of their marriage brought Tolstoy the greatest happiness; never before or after was his creative life so rich or his personal life so full. In June 1863 his wife had the first of their thirteen children.
The first portion of War and Peace was published in 1865 (in the Russian Messenger ) as "The Year 1805." In 1868 three more chapters appeared, and in 1869 he completed the novel. His new novel created a fantastic out-pouring of popular and critical reaction.
Tolstoy's War and Peace represents a high point in the history of world literature, but it was also the peak of Tolstoy's personal life. His characters represent almost everyone he had ever met, including all of his relations on both sides of his family. Balls and battles, birth and death, all were described in amazing detail. In this book the European realistic novel, with its attention to social structures, exact description, and psychological rendering, found its most complete expression.
From 1873 to 1877 Tolstoy worked on the second of his masterworks, Anna Karenina, which also created a sensation upon its publication. The concluding section of the novel was written during another of Russia's seemingly endless wars with Turkey. The novel was based partly on events that had occurred on a neighboring estate, where a nobleman's rejected mistress had thrown herself under a train. It again contained great chunks of disguised biography, especially in the scenes describing the courtship and marriage of Kitty and Levin. Tolstoy's family continued to grow, and his royalties (money earned from sales) were making him an extremely rich man.
The ethical quest that had begun when Tolstoy was a child and that had tormented him throughout his younger years now drove him to abandon all else in order to seek an ultimate meaning in life. At first he turned to the Russian Orthodox Church, visiting the Optina-Pustyn monastery in 1877. But he found no answer.
In 1883 Tolstoy met V. G. Chertkov, a wealthy guard officer who soon became the moving force behind an attempt to start a movement in Tolstoy's name. In the next few years a new publication was founded (the Mediator ) in order to spread Tolstoy's word in tract (pamphlets) and fiction, as well as to make good reading available to the poor. In six years almost twenty million copies were distributed. Tolstoy had long been watched by the secret police, and in 1884 copies of What I Believe were seized from the printer.
During this time Tolstoy's relations with his family were becoming increasingly strained. The more of a saint he became in the eyes of the world, the more of a devil he seemed to his wife. He wanted to give his wealth away, but she would not hear of it. An unhappy compromise was reached in 1884, when Tolstoy assigned to his wife the copyright to all his works before 1881.
Tolstoy's final years were filled with worldwide acclaim and great unhappiness, as he was caught in the strife between his beliefs, his followers, and his family. The Holy Synod (the church leaders) excommunicated (kicked him out) him in 1901. Unable to endure the quarrels at home he set out on his last pilgrimage (religious journey) in October 1910, accompanied by his youngest daughter, Alexandra, and his doctor. The trip proved too much, and he died in the home of the stationmaster of the small depot at Astapovo, Russia, on November 9, 1910. He was buried at Yasnaya Polyana.
For More Information
Troyat, Henri. Tolstoy. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1967. Reprint, New York: Grove Press, 2001.
Wilson, A. N. Tolstoy. London: H. Hamilton, 1988.
Lev Nikolaevich (Leo) Tolstoy (1828–1910) was born at Yasnaya Polyana, the Tolstoy family estate a hundred miles south of Moscow on August 28. He died on November 20 at a nearby railroad station, having fled in the night from an increasingly contentious marriage and a set of familial relationships that had been hardened in large part by Tolstoy's attempts to apply his radical moral beliefs to his own life. In the intervening eighty-two years Tolstoy became perhaps the most prominent novelist in an age and place of great authors as well as a vociferous critic of science and modernization.
Tolstoy's international fame rests primarily on two novels, War and Peace (1865–1869) and Anna Karenina (1875–1877). His fictional works also include short masterpieces such as "The Death of Ivan Ilyich" (1886), "The Kreutzer Sonata" (1889), and "Master and Man" (1895). In addition he wrote autobiographical accounts of his childhood (Childhood, Boyhood, Youth [1852–1857]) and his experiences as a soldier in the Crimean War (Sevastopol Sketches ). With regard to issues of science, technology, and ethics Tolstoy's most relevant writings include a variety of short, passionate non-fiction works, particularly "What I Believe" (1884), "What Then Must We Do?" (1887), "On the Significance of Science and Art" (1887), "What Is Art?" (1898), and "I Cannot Be Silent" (1908), all of which address a confluence of moral and intellectual errors he perceived in modern life and thought at the turn of the twentieth century.
Tolstoy directed his most trenchant criticisms at the insensitive intellectuality of the urban elites, which he considered distant from the natural values of the land and its laborers; the modern Western adherence to science and its methods; and thinkers such as Auguste Comte (1798–1857), Georg Hegel (1770–1831), and simplistic interpreters of the philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) who built positivist historical and scientific doctrines on what he considered rickety evidence.
Despite his turn toward the simplicity of peasant agricultural values and the teachings of the Gospels, Tolstoy's commitment to a questioning, empirical worldview was deep. Tolstoy was never interested in a vague and disconnected mysticism. Those who consider themselves capable of circumscribing the infinite multiplicity of the world with their "scientific" theories were deluding themselves, he argued. People are not incapable of knowing or perceiving many of the causes or influences on which the natural and human world has been founded; it is simply that there are far too many influences, causes, and effects for people to remember and record, and to be able to integrate the available material in a scientifically conclusive manner. Positivistic science rests on a lack of respect for the multiplicity of the natural and human worlds. Assuming too much about human capabilities to know and understand is, in the world of social action and belief, morally dangerous.
Like his contemporary Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821–1881), whom he never met, Tolstoy was broadly concerned with the spiritual future of the human race. He attempted to confront the gradual movement away from traditional values with an almost Aristotelian emphasis on the permanent relationships of things, promoting the universality of natural and religious values of love and labor to which he believed the human heart responds. Although the West now knows him as the writer of large and perhaps infrequently read novels, his influence on writers and political dissidents such as Mohandas Gandhi (1869–1948) and Alexander Solzhenitsyn (b. 1918) has been enormous, and his thought provides resources for ethical assessments of science and technology that have not yet been explored fully.
GLENN R. WILLIS
SEE ALSO Russian Perspectives.
Bayley, John O. (1967). Tolstoy and the Novel. New York: Viking Penguin. Regarded by some as the finest, most incisive one-volume study of Tolstoy and his literary legacy.
Berlin, Isaiah. (1978). "The Hedgehog and the Fox" and "Tolstoy and the Enlightenment." In Russian Thinkers. New York: Penguin. Berlin's syntheses of historical and intellectual currents in nineteenth century Russia are accessible and brilliant. "The Hedgehog and the Fox" may be his most famous essay. Berlin's analyses of Tolstoy's influence on his own epoch, and the epoch's influence on Tolstoy, are unsurpassed.
Troyat, Henri. (2001). Tolstoy, trans. Nancy Amphoux. New York: Grove/Atlantic. Troyat's biography of Tolstoy is a new translation from the French. The dominant Tolstoy biography in Europe, it is an aspiring work of literature in itself.
Wilson, A. N. (2001). Tolstoy: A Biography. New York: Norton. Written by a prolific English literary biographer and novelist; more analytic in tone than Troyat's biography.