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all the uses which we make of our wealth. I have become convinced that
between us, the rich and the poor, there rises a wall, reared by
ourselves out of that very cleanliness and education, and constructed of
our wealth; and that in order to be in a condition to help the poor, we
must needs, first of all, destroy this wall; and that in order to do
this, confrontation after Siutaeff's method should be rendered possible,
and the poor distributed among us. And from another starting-point also
I came to the same conclusion to which the current of my discussions as
to the causes of the poverty in towns had led me: the cause was our
wealth.] {108}


I began to examine the matter from a third and wholly personal point of
view. Among the phenomena which particularly impressed me, during the
period of my charitable activity, there was yet another, and a very
strange one, for which I could for a long time find no explanation. It
was this: every time that I chanced, either on the street on in the
house, to give some small coin to a poor man, without saying any thing to
him, I saw, or thought that I saw, contentment and gratitude on the
countenance of the poor man, and I myself experienced in this form of
benevolence an agreeable sensation. I saw that I had done what the man
wished and expected from me. But if I stopped the poor man, and
sympathetically questioned him about his former and his present life, I
felt that it was no longer possible to give three or twenty kopeks, and I
began to fumble in my purse for money, in doubt as to how much I ought to
give, and I always gave more; and I always noticed that the poor man left
me dissatisfied. But if I entered into still closer intercourse with the
poor man, then my doubts as to how much to give increased also; and, no
matter how much I gave, the poor man grew ever more sullen and
discontented. As a general rule, it always turned out thus, that if I
gave, after conversation with a poor man, three rubles or even more, I
almost always beheld gloom, displeasure, and even ill-will, on the
countenance of the poor man; and I have even known it to happen, that,
having received ten rubles, he went off without so much as saying "Thank
you," exactly as though I had insulted him.

And thereupon I felt awkward and ashamed, and almost guilty. But if I
followed up a poor man for weeks and months and years, and assisted him,
and explained my views to him, and associated with him, our relations
became a torment, and I perceived that the man despised me. And I felt
that he was in the right.

If I go out into the street, and he, standing in that street, begs of me
among the number of the other passers-by, people who walk and ride past
him, and I give him money, I then am to him a passer-by, and a good, kind
passer-by, who bestows on him that thread from which a shirt is made for
the naked man; he expects nothing more than the thread, and if I give it
he thanks me sincerely. But if I stop him, and talk with him as man with
man, I thereby show him that I desire to be something more than a mere
passer-by. If, as often happens, he weeps while relating to me his woes,
then he sees in me no longer a passer-by, but that which I desire that he
should see: a good man. But if I am a good man, my goodness cannot pause
at a twenty-kopek piece, nor at ten rubles, nor at ten thousand; it is
impossible to be a little bit of a good man. Let us suppose that I have
given him a great deal, that I have fitted him out, dressed him, set him
on his feet so that the can live without outside assistance; but for some
reason or other, though misfortune or his own weakness or vices, he is
again without that coat, that linen, and that money which I have given
him; he is again cold and hungry, and he has come again to me, - how can I
refuse him? [For if the cause of my action consisted in the attainment
of a definite, material end, on giving him so many rubles or such and
such a coat I might be at ease after having bestowed them. But the cause
of my action is not this: the cause is, that I want to be a good man,
that is to say, I want to see myself in every other man. Every man
understands goodness thus, and in no other manner.] {111} And therefore,
if he should drink away every thing that you had given him twenty times,
and if he should again be cold and hungry, you cannot do otherwise than
give him more, if you are a good man; you can never cease giving to him,
if you have more than he has. And if you draw back, you will thereby
show that every thing that you have done, you have done not because you
are a good man, but because you wished to appear a good man in his sight,
and in the sight of men.

And thus in the case with the men from whom I chanced to recede, to whom
I ceased to give, and, by this action, denied good, I experienced a
torturing sense of shame.

What sort of shame was this? This shame I had experienced in the
Lyapinsky house, and both before and after that in the country, when I
happened to give money or any thing else to the poor, and in my
expeditions among the city poor.

A mortifying incident that occurred to me not long ago vividly reminded
me of that shame, and led me to an explanation of that shame which I had
felt when bestowing money on the poor.

[This happened in the country. I wanted twenty kopeks to give to a poor
pilgrim; I sent my son to borrow them from some one; he brought the
pilgrim a twenty-kopek piece, and told me that he had borrowed it from
the cook. A few days afterwards some more pilgrims arrived, and again I
was in want of a twenty-kopek piece. I had a ruble; I recollected that I
was in debt to the cook, and I went to the kitchen, hoping to get some
more small change from the cook. I said: "I borrowed a twenty-kopek
piece from you, so here is a ruble." I had not finished speaking, when
the cook called in his wife from another room: "Take it, Parasha," said
he. I, supposing that she understood what I wanted, handed her the
ruble. I must state that the cook had only lived with me a week, and,
though I had seen his wife, I had never spoken to her. I was just on the
point of saying to her that she was to give me some small coins, when she
bent swiftly down to my hand, and tried to kiss it, evidently imaging
that I had given her the ruble. I muttered something, and quitted the
kitchen. I was ashamed, ashamed to the verge of torture, as I had not
been for a long time. I shrank together; I was conscious that I was
making grimaces, and I groaned with shame as I fled from the kitchen.
This utterly unexpected, and, as it seemed to me, utterly undeserved
shame, made a special impression on me, because it was a long time since
I had been mortified, and because I, as an old man, had so lived, it
seemed to me, that I had not merited this shame. I was forcibly struck
by this. I told the members of my household about it, I told my
acquaintances, and they all agreed that they should have felt the same.
And I began to reflect: why had this caused me such shame? To this,
something which had happened to me in Moscow furnished me with an answer.

I meditated on that incident, and the shame which I had experienced in
the presence of the cook's wife was explained to me, and all those
sensations of mortification which I had undergone during the course of my
Moscow benevolence, and which I now feel incessantly when I have occasion
to give any one any thing except that petty alms to the poor and to
pilgrims, which I have become accustomed to bestow, and which I consider
a deed not of charity but of courtesy. If a man asks you for a light,
you must strike a match for him, if you have one. If a man asks for
three or for twenty kopeks, or even for several rubles, you must give
them if you have them. This is an act of courtesy and not of charity.]

This was the case in question: I have already mentioned the two peasants
with whom I was in the habit of sawing wood three yeans ago. One
Saturday evening at dusk, I was returning to the city in their company.
They were going to their employer to receive their wages. As we were
crossing the Dragomilovsky bridge, we met an old man. He asked alms, and
I gave him twenty kopeks. I gave, and reflected on the good effect which
my charity would have on Semyon, with whom I had been conversing on
religious topics. Semyon, the Vladimir peasant, who had a wife and two
children in Moscow, halted also, pulled round the skirt of his kaftan,
and got out his purse, and from this slender purse he extracted, after
some fumbling, three kopeks, handed it to the old man, and asked for two
kopeks in change. The old man exhibited in his hand two three-kopek
pieces and one kopek. Semyon looked at them, was about to take the
kopek, but thought better of it, pulled off his hat, crossed himself, and
walked on, leaving the old man the three-kopek piece.

I was fully acquainted with Semyon's financial condition. He had no
property at home at all. The money which he had laid by on the day when
he gave three kopeks amounted to six rubles and fifty kopeks.
Accordingly, six rubles and twenty kopeks was the sum of his savings. My
reserve fund was in the neighborhood of six hundred thousand. I had a
wife and children, Semyon had a wife and children. He was younger than
I, and his children were fewer in number than mine; but his children were
small, and two of mine were of an age to work, so that our position, with
the exception of the savings, was on an equality; mine was somewhat the
more favorable, if any thing. He gave three kopeks, I gave twenty. What
did he really give, and what did I really give? What ought I to have
given, in order to do what Semyon had done? he had six hundred kopeks;
out of this he gave one, and afterwards two. I had six hundred thousand
rubles. In order to give what Semyon had given, I should have been
obliged to give three thousand rubles, and ask for two thousand in
change, and then leave the two thousand with the old man, cross myself,
and go my way, calmly conversing about life in the factories, and the
cost of liver in the Smolensk market.

I thought of this at the time; but it was only long afterwards that I was
in a condition to draw from this incident that deduction which inevitably
results from it. This deduction is so uncommon and so singular,
apparently, that, in spite of its mathematical infallibility, one
requires time to grow used to it. It does seem as though there must be
some mistake, but mistake there is none. There is merely the fearful
mist of error in which we live.

[This deduction, when I arrived at it, and when I recognized its
undoubted truth, furnished me with an explanation of my shame in the
presence of the cook's wife, and of all the poor people to whom I had
given and to whom I still give money.

What, in point of fact, is that money which I give to the poor, and which
the cook's wife thought I was giving to her? In the majority of cases,
it is that portion of my substance which it is impossible even to express
in figures to Semyon and the cook's wife, - it is generally one millionth
part or about that. I give so little that the bestowal of any money is
not and cannot be a deprivation to me; it is only a pleasure in which I
amuse myself when the whim seizes me. And it was thus that the cook's
wife understood it. If I give to a man who steps in from the street one
ruble or twenty kopeks, why should not I give her a ruble also? In the
opinion of the cook's wife, such a bestowal of money is precisely the
same as the flinging of honey-cakes to the people by gentlemen; it
furnishes the people who have a great deal of superfluous cash with
amusement. I was mortified because the mistake made by the cook's wife
demonstrated to me distinctly the view which she, and all people who are
not rich, must take of me: "He is flinging away his folly, i.e., his
unearned money."

As a matter of fact, what is my money, and whence did it come into my
possession? A portion of it I accumulated from the land which I received
from my father. A peasant sold his last sheep or cow in order to give
the money to me. Another portion of my money is the money which I have
received for my writings, for my books. If my books are hurtful, I only
lead astray those who purchase them, and the money which I receive for
them is ill-earned money; but if my books are useful to people, then the
issue is still more disastrous. I do not give them to people: I say,
"Give me seventeen rubles, and I will give them to you." And as the
peasant sells his last sheep, in this case the poor student or teacher,
or any other poor man, deprives himself of necessaries in order to give
me this money. And so I have accumulated a great deal of money in that
way, and what do I do with it? I take that money to the city, and bestow
it on the poor, only when they fulfil my caprices, and come hither to the
city to clean my sidewalk, lamps, and shoes; to work for me in factories.
And in return for this money, I force from them every thing that I can;
that is to say, I try to give them as little as possible, and to receive
as much as possible from them. And all at once I begin, quite
unexpectedly, to bestow this money as a simple gift, on these same poor
persons, not on all, but on those to whom I take a fancy. Why should not
every poor person expect that it is quite possible that the luck may fall
to him of being one of those with whom I shall amuse myself by
distributing my superfluous money? And so all look upon me as the cook's
wife did.

And I had gone so far astray that this taking of thousands from the poor
with one hand, and this flinging of kopeks with the other, to those to
whom the whim moved me to give, I called good. No wonder that I felt
ashamed.] {116}

Yes, before doing good it was needful for me to stand outside of evil, in
such conditions that I might cease to do evil. But my whole life is
evil. I may give away a hundred thousand rubles, and still I shall not
be in a position to do good because I shall still have five hundred
thousand left. Only when I have nothing shall I be in a position to do
the least particle of good, even as much as the prostitute did which she
nursed the sick women and her child for three days. And that seemed so
little to me! And I dared to think of good myself! That which, on the
first occasion, told me, at the sight of the cold and hungry in the
Lyapinsky house, that I was to blame for this, and that to live as I live
is impossible, and impossible, and impossible, - that alone was true.

What, then, was I to do?


It was hard for me to come to this confession, but when I had come to it
I was shocked at the error in which I had been living. I stood up to my
ears in the mud, and yet I wanted to drag others out of this mud.

What is it that I wish in reality? I wish to do good to others. I wish
to do it so that other people may not be cold and hungry, so that others
may live as it is natural for people to live.

[I wish this, and I see that in consequence of the violence, extortions,
and various tricks in which I take part, people who toil are deprived of
necessaries, and people who do not toil, in whose ranks I also belong,
enjoy in superabundance the toil of other people.

I see that this enjoyment of the labors of others is so arranged, that
the more rascally and complicated the trickery which is employed by the
man himself, or which has been employed by the person from whom he
obtained his inheritance, the more does he enjoy of the labors of others,
and the less does he contribute of his own labor.

First come the Shtiglitzy, Dervizy, Morozovy, the Demidoffs, the
Yusapoffs; then great bankers, merchants, officials, landed proprietors,
among whom I also belong; then the poor - very small traders, dramshop-
keepers, usurers, district judges, overseers, teachers, sacristans,
clerks; then house-porters, lackeys, coachmen, watch-carriers,
cab-drivers, peddlers; and last of all, the laboring
classes - factory-hands and peasants, whose numbers bear the relation to
the first named of ten to one. I see that the life of nine-tenths of the
working classes demands, by reason of its nature, application and toil,
as does every natural life; but that, in consequence of the sharp
practices which take from these people what is indispensable, and place
them in such oppressive conditions, this life becomes more difficult
every year, and more filled with deprivations; but our life, the life of
the non-laboring classes, thanks to the co-operation of the arts and
sciences which are directed to this object, becomes more filled with
superfluities, more attractive and careful, with every year. I see,
that, in our day, the life of the workingman, and, in particular, the
life of old men, of women, and of children of the working population, is
perishing directly from their food, which is utterly inadequate to their
fatiguing labor; and that this life of theirs is not free from care as to
its very first requirements; and that, alongside of this, the life of the
non-laboring classes, to which I belong, is filled more and more, every
year, with superfluities and luxury, and becomes more and more free from
anxiety, and has finally reached such a point of freedom from care, in
the case of its fortunate members, of whom I am one, as was only dreamed
of in olden times in fairy-tales, - the state of the owner of the purse
with the inexhaustible ruble, that is, a condition in which a man is not
only utterly released from the law of labor, but in which he possesses
the possibility of enjoying, without toil, all the blessings of life, and
of transferring to his children, or to any one whom he may see fit, this
purse with the inexhaustible ruble.

I see that the products of the people's toil are more and more
transformed from the mass of the working classes to those who do not
work; that the pyramid of the social edifice seems to be reconstructed in
such fashion that the foundation stones are carried to the apex, and the
swiftness of this transfer is increasing in a sort of geometrical ratio.
I see that the result of this is something like that which would take
place in an ant-heap if the community of ants were to lose their sense of
the common law, if some ants were to begin to draw the products of labor
from the bottom to the top of the heap, and should constantly contract
the foundations and broaden the apex, and should thereby also force the
remaining ants to betake themselves from the bottom to the summit.

I see that the ideal of the Fortunatus' purse has made its way among the
people, in the place of the ideal of a toilsome life. Rich people,
myself among the number, get possession of the inexhaustible ruble by
various devices, and for the purpose of enjoying it we go to the city, to
the place where nothing is produced and where every thing is swallowed

The industrious poor man, who is robbed in order that the rich may
possess this inexhaustible ruble, yearns for the city in his train; and
there he also takes to sharp practices, and either acquires for himself a
position in which he can work little and receive much, thereby rendering
still more oppressive the situation of the laboring classes, or, not
having attained to such a position, he goes to ruin, and falls into the
ranks of those cold and hungry inhabitants of the night-lodging houses,
which are being swelled with such remarkable rapidity.

I belong to the class of those people, who, by divers tricks, take from
the toiling masses the necessaries of life, and who have acquired for
themselves these inexhaustible rubles, and who lead these unfortunates
astray. I desire to aid people, and therefore it is clear that, first of
all, I must cease to rob them as I am doing. But I, by the most
complicated, and cunning, and evil practices, which have been heaped up
for centuries, have acquired for myself the position of an owner of the
inexhaustible ruble, that is to say, one in which, never working myself,
I can make hundreds and thousands of people toil for me - which also I do;
and I imagine that I pity people, and I wish to assist them. I sit on a
man's neck, I weigh him down, and I demand that he shall carry me; and
without descending from his shoulders I assure myself and others that I
am very sorry for him, and that I desire to ameliorate his condition by
all possible means, only not by getting off of him.

Surely this is simple enough. If I want to help the poor, that is, to
make the poor no longer poor, I must not produce poor people. And I
give, at my own selection, to poor men who have gone astray from the path
of life, a ruble, or ten rubles, or a hundred; and I grasp hundreds from
people who have not yet left the path, and thereby I render them poor
also, and demoralize them to boot.

This is very simple; but it was horribly hard for me to understand this
fully without compromises and reservations, which might serve to justify
my position; but it sufficed for me to confess my guilt, and every thing
which had before seemed to me strange and complicated, and lacking in
cleanness, became perfectly comprehensible and simple. But the chief
point was, that my way of life, arising from this interpretation, became
simple, clear and pleasant, instead of perplexed, inexplicable and full
of torture as before.] {122a}

Who am I, that I should desire to help others? I desire to help people;
and I, rising at twelve o'clock after a game of _vint_ {122b} with four
candles, weak, exhausted, demanding the aid of hundreds of people, - I go
to the aid of whom? Of people who rise at five o'clock, who sleep on
planks, who nourish themselves on bread and cabbage, who know how to
plough, to reap, to wield the axe, to chop, to harness, to sew, - of
people who in strength and endurance, and skill and abstemiousness, are a
hundred times superior to me, - and I go to their succor! What except
shame could I feel, when I entered into communion with these people? The
very weakest of them, a drunkard, an inhabitant of the Rzhanoff house,
the one whom they call "the idler," is a hundred-fold more industrious
than I; [his balance, so to speak, that is to say, the relation of what
he takes from people and that which they give him, stands on a thousand
times better footing than my balance, if I take into consideration what I
take from people and what I give to them.] {122a}

And these are the people to whose assistance I go. I go to help the
poor. But who is the poor man? There is no one poorer than myself. I
am a thoroughly enervated, good-for-nothing parasite, who can only exist
under the most special conditions, who can only exist when thousands of
people toil at the preservation of this life which is utterly useless to
every one. And I, that plant-louse, which devours the foliage of trees,
wish to help the tree in its growth and health, and I wish to heal it.

I have passed my whole life in this manner: I eat, I talk and I listen; I
eat, I write or read, that is to say, I talk and listen again; I eat, I
play, I eat, again I talk and listen, I eat, and again I go to bed; and
so each day I can do nothing else, and I understand how to do nothing
else. And in order that I may be able to do this, it is necessary that
the porter, the peasant, the cook, male or female, the footman, the
coachman, and the laundress, should toil from morning till night; I will
not refer to the labors of the people which are necessary in order that
coachman, cooks, male and female, footman, and the rest should have those
implements and articles with which, and over which, they toil for my
sake; axes, tubs, brushes, household utensils, furniture, wax, blacking,
kerosene, hay, wood, and beef. And all these people work hard all day
long and every day, so that I may be able to talk and eat and sleep. And
I, this cripple of a man, have imagined that I could help others, and
those the very people who support me!

It is not remarkable that I could not help any one, and that I felt
ashamed; but the remarkable point is that such an absurd idea could have
occurred to me. The woman who served the sick old man, helped him; the
mistress of the house, who cut a slice from the bread which she had won
from the soil, helped the beggar; Semyon, who gave three kopeks which he
had earned, helped the beggar, because those three kopeks actually
represented his labor: but I served no one, I toiled for no one, and I
was well aware that my money did not represent my labor.


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