Leo Tolstoy.

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AT LOS angele;


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Edition de Luxe



Lyof N. Tolstoi





seemed to me the
main end, but I soon ToTih^lnyseir contemplating in its
stead an ideal of general perfectibility ; in other words,
I wished to be better, not in my own eyes nor in God's,
but in the sight of other men. And very soon this striv-
ing to be better in the sight of men feeling again changed
into another, — the desire to have more power than
others, to secure for myself a greater share of fame, of
social di.stinction, and of wealth.



At some future time I may relate the story of my
life, and dwell in detail on the pathetic and instructive
incidents of my youth. I think that many and many
have had the same experiences as I did. I desired with
all my soul to be good ; but I was young, I had passions,
and I was alone, wholly alone, in my search after good-
ness. Every^time I tried to express the longings of my
heart to be mo raIIy\g oQd. I w as niet-wjtj^^ ontempt and
ridicule, buT"as soon as I gave way to low passions, I
was praised and encouraged.

Ambition, love of power, lo ve of gain, lechery, pride,
anger, vengeance, were held in high esteem.^

, As I gave way to these passions, I became like my
elders, and I felt that they were satisfied with me. A
kind-hearted aunt of mine, a really good woman with
whom I lived, used to say to me that there was one thing
above all others which she wished for me — an intrigue
with a married woman : " Rien ne forme nn jenne hovnne,
comme une liaisojt avec une feiujue comme il fatit.'' An-
other of her wishes for my happiness was that I should
become an adjutant, and, if possible, to the Emperor ; the
greatest piece of good fortune of all she thought would
be that I should find a very wealthy bride, who would
bring me as her dowry as many slaves as could be.

I cannot now recall those years without a painful feel-
ing of horror and loathing.

I put men to death in war, I fought duels to slay
others, I lost at cards, wasted my substance wrung from
the sweat of peasants, punished the latter cruelly, rioted
with loose women, and deceived men. Lying, robbery,

adultery of all kinds, drunkenness, violence, murder

There was not one crime which I did not commit, and
yet I was not the less consideredbyjnyec[ual^^j^^^mTb_
paratively jmoral raaQ.

Such was my life during ten years.

Durino: 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. In order to obtain the
fame and.the money for which I wrote, I was obliged
to hide what was good and to say what was evil. Thus
I did. How often while writing have I cudgeled my
brains to conceal under the mask of indifference or
pleasantry those yearnings for something better which
formed the real thought of my life. I succeeded in this
also, and was praised.

At jNyejxty^^ix years of age, on the close of the war, I
came to Petersburg and made the acquaintance of the
authors of the day. I met with a hearty reception and
much flattery.

Before I had time to look around, the prejudices and
views of life common to the writers of the class with
which I associated became my own, and completely put
an end to all my former struggles after a better life.
These views, under the influence of the dissipation of
my life, supplied a theory which justified it.

The view of life taken by these my fellow-writers was

tha,tjif ^ is^a devploprnpn t) and the princrpaj^rp^arrt in that

'development is playecFBy ourselves, th^ ^hinke^ while

among the thinkers the chief influence is again due to

us, the artists, the poets. Our vocation is to teach men.

In order to avoid answering the very natural question,
" What do I know, and what can I teach } " the theory
in question is made to contain the formula that it is not
necessary to know this, but that the artist and the poet
teach unconsciously.

I was myself considered a marvelous artist and poet,
and I therefore very naturally adopted this theory. I,
an artist and poet, wrote and taught I knew^not what_
For doing this I received money ; I keptaspTendid
table, had ex:ellent lodgings, women, society; I had
fame. Naturally what I taught was very good.

The fajth in poet ry.,.aiid thedeyeloppient of life was
a true' faith, and I was oneof its priests. To be one of
its priests was very advantageous and agreeable. I long
remained in this belief, and never once doubted its

But in the second, and especially in the third year of


this way of life, I began to doubt the infallibiUty of the
doctrine, and to examine it more closely. What first led
me to doubt was the fact that I began to notice the P£iest|^^
oL this belief ^dJifit^^gree among themselves. ^ Some
said : — ""^

" We are^the bo^ and mos^useful_^
what is -ne€dfur,;:aBLd:jainHE^:^achL wrong."

They disputed, quarreJ.edjabusejd,deceiYed, and chealed
one anoth'er. 'Moreover, there were many among us who,
quite indifferent to the question who was right or who
was wrong, advanced only their own private interests by
the aid of our activity. All this forced on me doubts as
to the truth of our behef.

Again, having begun to doubt the truth of our literary
faith, I began to study its pr iests more closely, and be-
came convinced that almosfattthe priests of this faith
were immoral men, most of them worthless and insig-
nificaiS7and H^eath the moral level of those with whom
I associated during my former dissipated and mihtary
career; but conceited and self-satisfied as only those can
be who are wholly saints, or those who know not what
holiness is. _^___^=i;,=,i__ r-r_ :^^=r^=^ •

I grew dis^ust gd with manj cind and with -mys^lf. and
I understoo^l^^^S^^^f^^^aridfa^^^'TEe strang-
est thing in all this was that, though T^oon saw the false-
ness of this behef and renounced it, I did not renounce
the rank given me by these men, — the rank of artist,
poet, teacher. I was simple enough to imagine that I
was a poet and artist, and could teach all men without
knowing what I wa^^aching. But so I did.

By my companTonship with these men I had gained a
new vice, — a pride developed to a morbid extreme, and
an jrisane self-^coiyideDi:£jn_teaclyTigj^

When I now think over that time, and remember my
own state of mind and that of these men (a state of mind
common enough among" thousands still), it seems to me
pitiful, terrible, and ridiculous; it excites the feehngs
which overcome us as we pass through a madhouse.

We were all then convinced that it behooved us to


_s]2iiak, to write, and_to. priat as fast as we could, as
fiYifch as we could, and that on this depended the welfare
of the Humaji race. And thousands of us wrote, printed,
and tauj^ht. ami all the while confuted and, abused _one
anotll^r. (Jiijtc uni: onsciojjs - -that-jye~onr s>]vr; s Jtnew
nothini;. that^i'Ihe~sinTpTesroFall problemjsjji life' —
wJiat is ri^dit and wh at is wr^ ui£;>=4^aLJiad-Jig__ajiiwer.
\\'e all woni-jvnj.ijkin;;- tof^rt^^^ ht^r w'Hihqut one to listen^at^
tjmesabetting"and praising one another on con^iEioH that
]we-were abetted and praise d in turn, ^ xJ^agam^tnnTifig^
upon jme -aaSBerrJuil^iajQi^r^iii-sJfiHll^^
^ the scenes^in .a_madhQuss^

Thousands of laborers worked day and night, to the
limit of tRfeir strengtii, setting up the type and printing
millions of words to be_spr^ad_bythe post all~Dver
Russia, and still we 'c^ftHTrcn?d:~t^i"teac^'una51e to teach
enough, angrily complaining the while that we were not
much listened to.

A strange state of things indeed, but now it is compre-
hensible to me. The^ reaLmotive that inspired all our
,T^asonin^ was the desine iof iBiirie^j.ELd praise^^tg^btain
/i^Jucli-wejknewjof no.o^^ means fhaiTlvTTiriig' Koo^s
fjand~newspapefi7^anB~so we did. But in order to hold
'\fast to the conviction that while thus uselessly employed
we were very important men, it was necessary to justify
our occupation to ourselves by another theory, and the
following was the one we adopted : —

Whatever is, is right ; everything that is, is due to
development ; development comes from civilization ; the
measure of civilization is the diffusion of books and
newspapers ; we are paid and honored for the books
ajid. newspapers which we write, and we are therefore
tjie most useful and best of men !

This reasomlTg might have been conclusive had we
all been agreed ; but, as for every opinion expressed by
one of us there instantly appeared from another one
diametrically opposite, we had to hesitate before accept-
ing it. But we did not notice this ; we received money,
and were praised by those of our party, consequently we
— each one of us — considered that we were in the right.



It is now clear to me that between ourselves and the
inhabitants of a madhouse there was no difference : at
the time I only vaguely suspected this, and, like all
madmen, thought all were mad except myself.


I LIVED in this senseless manner another six years,
up to the time of my marriage. During this time I
went abroad. /My life in Europe, and my acquaintance
/ with many emment and learned foreigners, confirmed
my belief in the doctrine of general perfectibility, as I
found the same theory prevailed among them. This

Online LibraryLeo TolstoyComplete works (Volume 9) → online text (page 1 of 37)