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Ch. 1: Tolstoy's Attitude to his Sufferings

I think that to complete what has been said here about Tolstoy's "going away" it would be desirable to look rather more attentively at the growth of Leo Nikolaevitch's inner consciousness in the course of the last decades of his life, and at that side of the development of his spiritual life which is connected with his attitude to suffering, in particular to his own sufferings arising from the conditions of his family life which have been examined in the present book.

Let us listen first of all to Leo Nikolaevitch's own words in regard to the thoughts and feelings he had to pass through in this connection. For this purpose we make use of his diary and private letters. Much precious material on this subject is contained in his diary for 1884, which he personally handed to me to take care of immediately after it was finished, and from which I will make the following extracts. This diary was kept by Leo Nikolaevitch just at that time when the great drama of his family life, which in the end brought him to the tomb, was taking shape. I venture to give publicity to the lines quoted below, written by Leo Nikolaevitch in the most difficult moments of his life, solely for the sake of removing those misunderstandings and false deductions which, as I have indicated before, have accumulated in such numbers since his death around the question of his "going away." I hope that the reader will understand my motives and will approach these private notes of Leo Nikolaevitch with the same feeling of reverence with which I reproduce them here.

From the Diary of L. N. Tolstoy of 1884.

April 16.—It is very painful at home, painful that I cannot sympathise with them. All their joys, examinations, successes in society, music, furniture, shopping, I look upon all of it as a misfortune and evil for them and cannot say that to them. I can and I do say it, but my words do not take hold of anyone. It seems as though they know not the meaning of my words, but that I have a bad habit of saying them. At weak moments—this is one now—I wonder at their heartlessness. How is it they do not see that, not to speak of suffering, I have had no life at all for these three years? I am given the part of a peevish old man and I cannot get out of it in their eyes. If I take part in their life I am false to the truth, and they will be the first to throw that in my face. If I look mournfully now upon their madness, I am a peevish old man like all old men.

April 23.—Shameful, disgusting. Terrible depression. I am all filled with weakness. I must as in a dream be on my guard so as not to spoil in the dream that which is needed for real life. I am drawn and drawn into the mire, and useless are my shudders. If only I am not drawn in without a protest! There has been no spite, little vanity, or none at all, but of weakness, mortal weakness, these days are full. Longing for real death. There is no despair. But I would like to live and not to be on guard on one's life.

April 24.—The same weakness and the same victorious mire sucking one in, drawing one down.

April 26.—Must be happy in an unhappy life, must ... make this the object of my life. And I can do it when I am strong in the spirit.

May 15.—I am miserable. I am an insignificant, useless creature, and am absorbed in myself besides. The one good thing is that I want to die.

May 16.—O Lord, save me from the hateful life which is crushing and destroying me. The one good thing is, I long to die. Better to die than live like this.

May 17.—I dreamed that my wife loved me. How light my heart was, everything grew bright. Nothing like it in reality. And that is destroying my life.... At home still the same general death. Only the little children are alive. A wearisome conversation at tea again. All one's life in terror.

May 26.—I am as in a dream ... when I know that a tiger is coming, and in a minute....

June 1.—Dullness, deadness of soul—that one could bear, but with it insolence, self-confidence ... one must know how to bear that too, if not with love, with pity. I am irritable, gloomy all day. I am bad.... How to live here, how to break through pouring sand. I will try.

June 2.—Conversation at tea with my wife. Angry again. Tried to write, it wouldn't go.... How be a shining light when I am still full of weakness which I have not the strength to overcome?

June 4.—Thought a great deal about my wife. I must love her and not be angry with her, must make her love me; so I will do.

June 6.—After dinner misery ... in the evening revived a little. Could not be loving as I would. I am very bad.

June 7.—I am trying to be bright and happy, but it is very, very hard. Everything I do is wrong, and I suffer horribly from this wrongness. It is as though I alone were not mad in the house of the mad managed by the mad.

June 9.—Agonising struggle, and I do not control myself. I look for the reasons—tobacco, incontinence, absence of imaginative work. It is all nonsense. The only cause is the absence of a loved and loving wife. It began from that time fourteen years ago when the cord snapped and I realised my loneliness.[26] All that is not a reason. I must find a wife in her. I ought, and I can and I will: Lord, help me.

June 10.—It is awful that the luxury, the corruption of life in which I live I have myself created, and I am myself corrupted and I cannot reform it. I can say that I shall reform myself, but so slowly. I cannot give up smoking, and I cannot find a way of treating my wife so as not to hurt her feelings and not to give in to her. I am seeking it, I am trying.

June 16.[27]—It was very painful, longed to go away at once. All that is weakness. Not for men's sake but for God's. Do as one knows best for oneself and not in order to prove something. But it is awfully painful. Of course I am to blame if it hurts me. I struggle, I put out the rising fire, but I feel that it has violently bent the scales. And indeed what use am I to them, what use are all my sufferings? And however hard (though they are easy) the conditions of a vagrant's life, there can be nothing in it like this heartache!

June 23.—I am calmer, stronger in spirit. In the evening a cruel conversation about the Samara revenues.[28] I am trying to act as though in the presence of God, and I cannot avoid anger. This must end.

July 6.—I was reading over the diary of those days when I was seeking the cause of temptation. All nonsense—it is the absence of hard physical labour.[29] I do not sufficiently prize the happiness of freedom from temptation after work. That happiness is cheaply bought at the price of fatigue and aching muscles.

July 5 (isn't it the 8th?).—My wife is very serene and contented and does not see the gulf between us. I try to do what I ought, but what I ought I do not know. I must do as I ought every minute, and everything will turn out as it should.

July 19.—She came in to me and began a hysterical scene—the upshot of which is that nothing can be changed and she is unhappy and wants to run away somewhere. I was sorry for her, but at the same time I recognised that it was hopeless—to the day of my death she will be a millstone round my neck and my children's. I suppose it must be so. I must learn not to drown with a millstone round my neck. But the children? It seems it must be, and it only hurts me because I am short-sighted. I soothed her as though she were ill.

August 8.—I thought; we reproach God, we complain that we meet with obstacles in fulfilling the teaching of Christ. Well, but what if we were all free from families who disagree with us? We should come together and live happily and joyfully. But the others? The others would not know. We want to gather all the light together that it may burn better, but God has scattered the fire among the logs. They are being kindled while we fret that they are not burning.

August 12.—It is all right with my wife, but I am afraid and straining every nerve.

August 14.—Peace and friendliness with my wife, but I am afraid every minute.

August 20.—An outburst against me at dinner.... The sense of peace and welfare had got hold of the family. Every one depressed ... painful conversation in the house. Sonya, feeling that she was to blame tried to justify herself by anger. I was sorry for her.

August 21.—In the morning began a conversation, hotly too but well. I said what ought to be said.... I came home. Sonya was reconciled. How glad I was. Certainly if she would take to being good she would be very good.

September 3.—Something touches them somehow ... but I don't know how.

September 7.—Went looking for mushrooms ... my wife did not follow me but went off by herself not knowing where, only not after me—that is all our life.

September 9.—It is pleasant being with my wife. Told her unpleasant truths and she was not angry.

September 10.—Sonya tidied my room and then shouted disgustingly at Vlass. I am training myself to abstain from indignation and to see in it a moral bump which one must recognise as a fact and face its existence in one's action.

September 15.—Went to look for mushrooms. Miserable.

September 17.—Talk in the morning. And sudden fury. Then she came to me and nagged until I was beside myself. I said nothing and did nothing, but I was very unhappy. She ran away in hysterics, I ran after her, horribly worried.

After this diary of 1884 no diaries so far as I know were left by Leo Nikolaevitch for several years. Did he cease to keep his diary that he might not increase his spiritual sufferings by recording them on paper, preferring to continue his intense struggle with himself in complete solitude before no one but his God? Did he keep a diary and afterwards himself destroy it, not wishing to reveal to anyone the sufferings to which he was subjected? Were the missing diaries lost in some other way, if indeed they ever existed? To these questions there is no answer, and it is hardly likely there will be.

By Leo Nikolaevitch's notes in his later diaries kept from the year 1888, one thing is placed beyond doubt, that is, that his spiritual sufferings and inward struggles in connection with his family relations continued the whole of the rest of his life. And in this struggle his higher consciousness became brighter and brighter, his spiritual force grew and gained strength. As the years passed he gained an amazing mastery of his personal desires and weaknesses. At times, as indeed was inevitable, he recognised with peculiar pain his complete loneliness in the midst of the people surrounding him. To what degree he felt himself a stranger in his own family, how completely he was deprived of that warm, genuine sympathy on the part of his wife which is the most precious thing in married life, can to some extent be judged by the notes in which, with irrepressible grief, he recalls his mother.

His attitude to her memory, as is well known, was always the most reverent. In his Recollections of Childhood he writes of her: "It was necessary for her to love not herself, and one love followed another. Such is the spiritual figure of my mother in my imagination; she stood before me as such a lofty, pure, spiritual being that often in the middle period of my life, when I was struggling with temptations which almost overwhelmed me, I prayed to her soul, entreating her to help me, and this prayer was always a help to me."

Leo Nikolaevitch sometimes invoked the holy image of his mother in his most difficult moments, even in his old age. In the beginning of 1900 he wrote on a scrap of paper, "Dull, miserable state the whole day. Towards evening this mood passed into tenderness—a desire for fondness, for love, longed as children do to press up to a loving, pitying creature and to weep with emotion and to be comforted. But what creature is there to whom I could come close like that? I go over all the people I have loved; not one is suitable to whom I can come close. If I could be little and snuggle up to my mother as I imagine her to myself! Yes, yes, mother whom I called to when I could not speak, yes, she, my highest imagination of pure love,—not cold, divine love, but earthly, warm, motherly. It is to that that my battered, weary soul is drawn. You, mother, you caress me. All this is senseless, but it is all true."

On apparently the next day, calmly analysing the attack of misery he had passed through the day before, he wrote in his diary: "Yesterday particularly oppressed condition. Everything unpleasant felt with peculiar vividness. So I say to myself, but in reality I seek what is unpleasant; I am receptive, absorbent to what is unpleasant. I could not get rid of this feeling anyhow. I have tried everything—prayer and the sense of my own badness—and nothing succeeds. Prayer, that is, vividly picturing my position does not reach to the depths of my consciousness; the recognition of my worthlessness, paltriness does not help. It is not that one wants something, but is miserably dissatisfied one does not know with what. It seems it is with life, one longs to die. Towards evening this condition passed into a feeling of forlornness and an overwhelming desire of fondling, of love; I, an old man, longed to be a baby, to snuggle up to a loving creature, to be petted, to complain and to be fondled and comforted. But who is the being to whom I could snuggle up and on whose arms I could weep and complain? There is no one living. Then what is this? Still the same devil of egoism which in such a new, cunning form is trying to deceive and overpower me. This last feeling has explained to me the state of misery which preceded it. It is only the weakening, the temporary disappearance of spiritual life and the assertion of the claims of egoism which on awakening finds no food for itself and is miserable. The only means to use against it is to serve someone in the simplest way that comes first, to work for someone."—(Diary, March 11, 1906.)

The complete absence in Leo Nikolaevitch of the slightest sentimentality in regard to the spiritual sufferings which he had to endure was apparently connected with his lofty conception of Christ and the deep reverence he felt for his heroic life. In 1885 Leo Nikolaevitch wrote: "Christ conquered the world and saved it not by suffering for us, but by suffering with love and joy, i.e. by conquering suffering, and he taught us thereby."

And indeed to the very last days and hours of his life Leo Nikolaevitch persistently and with striking success strove to train himself to "conquer suffering." In confirmation of my words I quote a series of further extracts from his diaries and letters.

June 15, 1889 (from a diary).—"I am burdened by life, I forget that if one has vital forces they can be used for the service of God, and that there is no getting away, there is no emptiness, everywhere there is contact, and in contact there is life."

July 18, 1889 (from the letters).—"What do I want? To live with God, according to His will, with Him. What is wanted for that? One thing only is wanted: to preserve the talent given to me, my soul, given to me not only to preserve but to make it grow. How make it grow? I know for myself what is needed; to keep what is animal in me in purity, what is human in humility, and what is divine in love. What is wanted for preserving purity? Privations, privations of every sort. Humility? humiliation. Love? the hostility of men. Where and how am I to keep my purity without privations, my humility without humiliation, and my love without hostility? 'And if you love those that love you, that is not love, but love ye your enemies, love ye those that hate you.' One sorrow approaches humiliation and hostility, and these thoughts have revived me. Another sorrow is privation, suffering—the very thing that is needed for the growth of the soul. That is how one must look at it."

July 18, 1889 (from the letters).—All our sorrows have one root, and, strange as it sounds, they all not only can, but ought, to be a blessing.... God grant that we may believe in the possibility of it—that is one thing; and the other is that we may not return in thought to our sorrow, in our imagination changing the conditions in which our sorrow has occurred and correcting our actions. "If we had done this or that this would not have happened." God preserve us from this mistake, with its painful consequences. What has been is, and what is was bound to have been, and all our vital force ought to be directed to the present, to bearing our cross in the best way possible.

December, 1889 (from the letters).—The cross is given according to the strength.... I believe that, and cannot but believe it, because I know by experience that the harder my sufferings have been, if only I have succeeded in taking them in a Christian spirit ... the fuller, more vivid, more joyful and full of meaning life has become. It is so often insincerely repeated that sufferings are good for us and are sent by God, that we have ceased to believe it, and yet it is the simplest, clearest and most indubitable truth. Suffering—what is called suffering—is the condition of spiritual growth. Without suffering growth is impossible, the widening of life is impossible. For this reason sufferings also always accompany death. If a man had no suffering he would be in a bad way; that is why they say among the people that those whom God loves He visits by misfortunes. I understand that a man may be sad and apprehensive when misfortunes have not visited him for a long time. There is no movement, no growth of life. Suffering is only suffering for the heathen, for the man who has not the light of the truth, and for us in the measure in which we have not the light; but sufferings cease to be such for the Christian—they become birth-pangs, even as Christ promised to deliver us from evil. And all this is not rhetoric, but is for me as undoubtedly in accordance with reason and experience as that it is now winter.

1892-3 (from the letters).—Nothing, I imagine, sets a man free from dependence on others and brings him near, or rather may bring him near, to God so much as your position. One only leans upon Him when men compel one to. God help you to bear your cross patiently, submissively, so as to get from it all the good which external suffering gives and can give. Or it will be mortifying that there has been suffering, but struggling with it, indignant and despairing, you did not get from it all that it is capable of giving.

May 17, 1893 (from the letters).—I am forced to live without personal, legitimate joys such as you have: labour, associations with animals, nature; without association (not poisoned by their corruption) with children; without the encouragement of public opinion. What has happened to me is not exactly that the praise of men has destroyed for me the attractiveness of their praise, but their praise has been tainted, has become poisoned. I cannot now desire the praise of men, fame among the crowd, because I have it and know how double-faced it is; if there are some who praise, there are others who revile; that praise of men which you have, the good opinion of estimable men for a good life, at least consistent with your convictions I cannot have. And on the top of all that this praise of men—the way they write abroad and the opinion is current, that I lead a modest, laborious life in poverty—that praise arraigns me every second as a liar, a scoundrel living in luxury, making money out of the sale of his books. If I think of the praise of men it is like a thief who is every minute afraid that he will be caught, so that I have not only to live without the stimulus of lawful joys, and not only without the praise of men, but even with the perpetual consciousness of the shamefulness of life; I have to live by that which I consider men can and ought to live by; that is, by the consciousness of fulfilling the will of Him who sent us. And I see that I am still far from being ready for that, and am still only learning, and life is teaching me. And I ought to rejoice, and I do rejoice.

February 28, 1894 (from the letters).—The longer I live and the nearer I am to death, the more certain to me is the injustice of our wealthy mode of life, and I cannot help suffering by it.

March 27, 1895 (from a diary).—If there is suffering there has been and is egoism. Love does not know suffering, because the loving life is the divine life which can do all. Egoism is the limitation of personality.

December 20, 1896 (from a diary).—Everything just as painful. Help me, O Father. Comfort me. Be strong in me, subdue me, drive out and destroy the unclean flesh and all that I feel through it. It is better now though. Particularly soothing is the problem—the trial of meekness, of humiliation, of quite unexpected humiliation. In fetters, in prison one may be proud of humiliation, but in this case it is merely painful, unless one takes it as a trial sent from God. Yes, I will learn to bear it calmly, joyfully and to love.

January 18, 1897 (from a diary).—Depressing, disgusting. Everything repels me in the life they are living around me. Alternately I get free from misery and suffering and fall into it again. Nothing shows so clearly how far I am from what I want to be. If my life really were spent wholly in the service of God nothing could trouble it.

April 4, 1907 (from a diary).—I have not lost my calm though my soul is agitated, but I am mastering it. O God! if one could but remember that one is His messenger, that the divinity ought to shine through one! But what is hard is that if one only remembers this, one will not live, and yet one must live, live energetically and remember. Help me O Father. I have prayed a great deal of late that life might be better, for I am ashamed and cast down by the consciousness of the unrighteousness of my life.

July 12, 1897 (from the letters).—I understand your trouble and sympathise with all my heart. It is your examination, try not to fail in it. Remember that it is the one chance of applying your faith to life. I always strengthen myself with that in difficult moments, and sometimes with success.

1897 (from the letters).—The doubts as to whether one makes concessions for the sake of not destroying love or for the sake of indulging in one's own weaknesses persist as ever, and the older I get, the more strongly I feel this sin, and I humble myself, but I do not submit, and I hope to rise up again.

March 10, 1899 (from the letters).—It is very difficult and dreary and lonely for me and I am afraid of unpleasantness—of people being angry with me, and people are angry with me.

November 29, 1901 (from a diary).—If you are suffering it is only from your not seeing everything (the time has not yet come). What is accomplished by those sufferings has not been revealed.

January 31, 1903 (from the letters).—Sufferings are profitable just because a man in ordinary worldly life forgets the unbreakable bond which exists between all living creatures; the sufferings which he endures and of which he has been the cause to other people remind him of that bond. This bond is spiritual, seeing that the Son of God is one in all men; physical sufferings drive a man involuntarily into the spiritual sphere in which he feels in union with God and with the world, and in which he ... bears the sufferings caused by others as though caused by himself, and even joyfully takes upon himself the burden of suffering, taking it from others. In that is the profit and fruitfulness of suffering.

June 12, 1905 (from a diary).—More and more I am pained by my abundance and the want surrounding me.

May 29, 1906 (from a diary).—I am very heavy-hearted with shame at my life, and what to do I don't know: Lord, help me.

November 23, 1906 (from a diary).—In a very good spiritual state of love for all. Read the Epistle of St. John. Marvellous, only now I understand it fully. To-day there was a great temptation which I did not fully conquer. Abakumov overtook me with a petition and a complaint at having been sentenced to prison on account of the oak trees. It was very painful. He cannot understand that I, the husband, cannot do as I like, and looks on me as an evil-doer and a Pharisee hiding behind my wife. I had not the strength to bear it lovingly, said that I could not go on living here. And that was wrong. Altogether I am more and more abused on all hands; that's a good thing, it drives me to God—if I could only remain there. Altogether I am conscious of one of the greatest changes which has taken place in me just now. I feel this from my serenity and joyfulness and the good feeling (I dare not say love) for people.

June 7, 1907 (from a diary).—My former ailment has passed, but a new one seems to be beginning. To-day I was very, very sad. I am ashamed to confess it, but I cannot call up joy. My soul is calm and grave, but not joyful. My sadness is chiefly due to the darkness in which people live so persistently. The exasperation of the peasants, our senseless luxury. Experienced the joy of being alone with God ... sorrowful, sorrowful. Lord, help me, burn up the old fleshly man in me. Yes, the one consolation, the one salvation is to live in eternity and not in time.

April 7, 1908 (from the letters).—One thing I can say, that the reasons which restrain me from changing my manner of life as you advise me,—though not changing it, is a source of misery to me—the reasons that hinder me have their origin in the same principles of love, in the name of which the change is desirable both for you and me. It is very probable that I do not know and am not capable, or simply there are bad qualities in me which prevent me from doing what you advise me. But what is to be done? With the utmost effort of my mind and heart I cannot find the means, and I should only be thankful to anyone who will point it out to me. I say this quite sincerely, without any irony.

May 20, 1908 (from a diary).—My life is good in that I bear all the burden of a wealthy life which I detest—the sight of others labouring for me, the begging for help, the censure, the envy, the hatred,—and I do not enjoy its advantages, even that of loving what is done for me and helping those who ask.

July 3, 1908 (from a diary).—The day before yesterday I received a letter full of upbraidings for my wealth and hypocrisy and persecution of the peasants, and, to my shame, it hurt me. To-day I have been sad and ashamed all day. Just now I went for a ride, and it seemed so desirable, so joyful to go away like a beggar, thanking and loving everyone. Yes, I am weak, I cannot perpetually live in my spiritual self, and as soon as one does not live in it, everything vexes one. One thing is good, that I am dissatisfied with myself and ashamed, but I must not be proud of it.

July 9, 1908 (from a diary).—I have passed through very painful feelings; thank God that I have passed through them. An innumerable multitude of people, and all this would be joyful if it were not all poisoned by the consciousness of the senselessness, sinfulness, nastiness, luxury, servants, and poverty and overstrained intensity of labour around. Without ceasing I suffer misery from it, and I alone. I cannot help wishing for death, though I hope as far as I can to make use of what is left.

January 12, 1909 (from a diary).—It grows more and more difficult. I do not know how to thank God that, together with the growing difficulty, the strength to endure it grows also. Together with the burden there is also the strength, and there is incomparably more joy from the consciousness of strength than pain from the burden. Yes, for His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

May 6, 1907 (from the letters).—It is hard for you. God help you to bear your trial without reproaches to others and without infringement of love for them. It is always a great help to me, when anything is difficult, to think and to remember that it is the material—and necessary, good material—upon which I am called to work, and not before men but before God.

July 21, 1909 (from a diary).—Last night Sonya has been weak and irritable. I could not go to sleep till after two o'clock. I woke up feeling weak, I was awakened. Sonya did not sleep all night. I went to her. It was something insane. "Dushan poisoned her," etc. I am tired and cannot stand it any more and feel quite ill. I feel I cannot be loving and reasonable, absolutely cannot. At present I want only to keep away and to take no part. There is nothing else I can do, or else I have seriously thought of escaping. Now then, show your Christianity. C'est le moment ou jamais. But I awfully want to go away. I doubt if my presence here is of any use to anyone. Help me, my God, teach me. There is only one thing I want—to do not my will, but Thine. I write and ask myself: Is it true? Am I posing to myself? Help me, help me, help me!

July 22, 1909 (from a diary).—Yesterday I did not eat anything and did not sleep. As usual I felt very wretched. I am wretched now, but my heart is melted. Yes—to love those that do us evil, you say; will try it. I try, but badly. I think more and more of going away and making a settlement about property.... I don't know what I shall do. Help, help, help! This "help" means that I am weak, bad. It is a good thing that I am at any rate conscious of this....

July 26, 1909 (from a diary).—After dinner I spoke of Sweden; she became terribly, hysterically irritated. She wanted to poison herself with morphia. I tore it out of her hands and threw it under the stairs. I struggled. But when I went to bed and thought it over calmly I decided not to go. I went and told her. She is pitiful; I am truly sorry for her. But how instructive it is! I did nothing except inwardly work at myself. And as soon as I started on my own self, everything was solved. I have been ill all day....

August 28, 1909 (from a diary).—Dreadfully, dreadfully miserable and oppressed; depression partly produced by letter from Berlin, in reference to Sofya Andreyevna's letter and the article in the Petersburg News, saying that Tolstoy is a deceiver and a hypocrite. To my shame I did not rejoice at being reviled, but was hurt, and the whole evening was agonisingly depressed. Go away? More and more often the question presents itself.

August 29, 1909 (from a diary).—Painful feeling and desire (a bad one?) to run away, and uncertainty what is my duty to God. In calm moments, as now, I know that what is necessary above all is to do nothing, to bear all, to remain in love.

September 4, 1909 (from a diary).—The false judgment of men about me, the necessity for remaining in this position—however hard it all is, I begin at times to understand its beneficial effect on my soul.

November 15, 1909 (from a diary).—The misery, almost despair, at my idle life in senseless luxury, in the midst of men who are overworked and deprived of the essentials, of the possibility of satisfying their first needs, keeps growing more intense. It is agonising to live like this, and I do not know how to help myself and them. In weak moments I long to die. Help me, O Father, to do Thy will up to the last minute. Meditation about myself which I am learning, and to which I am giving myself up more and more of late, has advanced me much, very much; but, as always, true progress in goodness ... only reveals one's imperfection more and more.

January 8, 1910 (from the letters).—I live wrongly in wealth, though myself I have nothing, but with those who live in wealth.

January 8, 1910 (from the letters).—If man grows weak he is weaker than water. If he grows strong he is stronger than rock. What strengthens me most in difficult moments is the sense that the very thing that is worrying one is the material on which we are called to work, and the material is the more precious the more difficult the moments.

March 19, 1910 (from the letters).—In bad moments think that what is happening to you is the material on which you are called to work. To me at any rate this thought and the feeling evoked by it is a great help.

April 13, 1910 (from a diary).—I woke at five and kept thinking how to get out, what to do, and I don't know. I thought of writing—and writing is loathsome while I remain in this life. Speak to her? Go away? Change? By degrees ... it seems as though the last is the only thing I shall and can do, and yet it is painful. Perhaps, certainly, indeed that is good. Help me, Thou Who art in me, in everything, and Who exists and Whom I implore and love. I am weeping now as I love.

April 14, 1910 (from the letters).—You ask whether I like the life in which I find myself. No, I don't like it. I don't like it because I am living with my own people in luxury while there are poverty and want around me, and I cannot get away from the luxury, and I cannot help the poverty and want. For this I do not like my life. I like it in that it is in my power to act, and that I can act, and that I do act in the measure of my strength in accordance with the teaching of Christ, to love God and my neighbour. To love God means to love the perfection of goodness and to approach it as far as one can. To love one's neighbour is to love all people alike as one's brothers and sisters. It is this, and this alone, that I am striving for, and since, little by little, however poorly, I am approaching it I do not grieve, but only rejoice. You ask me too, if I rejoice, at what do I rejoice, and what joy do I expect? I rejoice that I can carry out to the measure of my strength the task set me by my Master; to work for the setting up of that Kingdom of God to which we are all striving.

June 4, 1910 (from a diary).—I had a good ride; I came back and found the Circassian who was taking Prokofy. I was horribly distressed and thought of going away, and now at five in the morning I don't look on that as impossible.

July 2, 1910 (from the letters).—All will be well if we do not grow weak.... Very painful, but the better for that.

July 16, 1910 (from the letters).—I feel well ... a little weaker than usual, but still well.... Why, really when I am calm I actually feel that in all this there is more of good than bad, incomparably more. It is absurd even to compare the little unpleasantnesses, agitations, privations, and the sense of growing nearer to God.

July 20, 1910 (from the letters).—I am grateful to you for having helped and helping me to bear the trial that I have deserved and that is needful for my soul.... And please do help us both not to grow weak and not to do anything of which we shall repent.

July 29, 1910 (from the letters).—We will each of us try to act as we ought, and it will be all right. I am trying with all my might, and I feel that that is the only thing that matters.

July 31, 1910 (from the letters).—If only we do not ourselves spoil things all will be as it ought to be—that is, well.

August 7, 1910 (from the letters).—I am sorry for her, and she is undoubtedly more to be pitied than I, so that it would be wrong of me to increase her sufferings out of pity for myself. Though I am tired I am really all right. Ever nearer and nearer comes the revelation of the certainly blessed, fore-divined mystery, and getting near it cannot but rejoice me.

August 9, 1910 (from the letters).—The nearer one is to death, or anyway the more vividly one thinks of it (and thinking of it is thinking of one's own true life which is independent of death), the more important the one needful work of life becomes, and the clearer it is that for the securing of that non-infringement of love with anyone, I must not undertake anything, but only do nothing.

August 14, 1910, morning (from the letters).—I know that all this present particularly morbid state may seem affected, intentionally worked up (to some extent that is so), but the chief point is that it is anyway illness, perfectly obvious illness, that deprives her of will and self-control. If it is said that she is herself to blame for this relaxation of her will, for giving in to her egoism, which began long ago, the fault is of the past, of long ago. Now she is quite irresponsible and one can feel for her nothing but pity, and it is impossible, for me at any rate, utterly impossible, contrecourir (to run counter to) her, and so unmistakably increase her sufferings. I do not believe that the complete vindication of my decision opposed to her wishes would be good for her, and if I did believe it I still could not do that. Apart from the fact that I think that I ought to act in this way, the point is that I know from experience that when I insist, I am miserable, and when I give way I am not only light-hearted, I am even joyful.... I have been ill for the last few days, but to-day I am much better. And I am particularly glad of it to-day, because there is anyway fewer chances of one's saying or doing wrong when one is physically well.

August 14, 1910, evening (from the letters).—I agree that one ought not to make promises to anyone, and especially to a person in the state in which she is now, but I am bound now not by any promise, but simply by pity, by compassion, which I have been feeling particularly strongly to-day as I wrote to you. Her position is very painful, no one can see it and not sympathise with it.

August 20, 1910; Kotchety. (From the letters.)—Without exaggeration I can say that I recognise that what has happened was inevitable, and therefore profitable for my soul. I think so at any rate in my better moments.

August 25, 1910; Kotchety. (From the letters.)—Of myself I may say that I am very well here, even my health, which was affected too by agitation, is far better. I am trying to behave as justly and firmly as possible in regard to Sofya Andreyevna, and it seems as though I am more or less successful in my object of calming her.... I am often terribly sorry for her. When one thinks what it must be for her lying awake alone at nights, for she gets no sleep for the greater part of the night, with a confused but painful consciousness that she is not loved, but is burdensome to everyone except the children, one cannot but pity her.

August 28, 1910; Kotchety. (From the letters.)—Do not think that it is easy for me to advise the manly, serene and even joyful endurance of suffering because I do not myself experience it. Do not think that, because all men are liable to sufferings which may be regarded as objectless torments, or as trials, the mild and religious endurance of which may, strange as it sounds, be transmuted to a greater spiritual blessing. We are all liable to these trials, and often to much harder ones than those which you are enduring. May God who lives in you help you to be conscious of yourself. And when there is that consciousness there is no suffering and there is no death.

August 30, 1910; Kotchety. (From the letters.)—Sofya Andreyevna went away from here yesterday, and took a very touching farewell of me and Tanya and her husband, with evident sincerity begging forgiveness of all with tears in her eyes. She is inexpressibly pathetic. What will happen later I cannot imagine. "Do what you ought before your conscience and God, and what will be will be," I say to myself and try to act on it.

September 9, 1910; Kotchety. (From the letters.)—She was very much irritated, not irritated (ce n'est pas le mot, that is not the right word), but morbidly agitated. I underline that word. She is unhappy and cannot control herself. I have only just been talking to her. She came thinking I should go away with her, but I have refused without fixing the date of my going away, and that greatly distressed her. What I shall do later I don't know. I shall try to bear my cross day by day.

September 16, 1910 (from the letters).—I am still as before in a middling condition physically, and spiritually I try to look upon my painful or rather difficult relations with Sofya Andreyevna as a trial which is good for me, and which it depends upon myself to turn into a blessing, but I rarely succeed in this. One thing I can say: not in my brain but with my sides, as the peasants say, I have come to a clear understanding of the difference between resistance which is returning evil for evil, and the resistance of not giving way in those of one's actions which one recognises as one's duty to one's conscience and to God. I will try.

September 18, 1910 (from the letters).—I understand now from experience that all that we call suffering is for our good.

October 6, 1910 (from the letters).—She is ill and all the rest of it, but it is impossible not to pity her and not to be indulgent to her.

October 17, 1910 (from the letters).—Yesterday was a very serious day. Others will describe the physical details to you, but I want to give you my own account from the inside. I pity and pity her, and rejoice that at times I love her without effort. It was so last night when she came in penitent and began seeing about warming my room, and in spite of her exhaustion and weakness pushed the shutters and screened the windows, taking pains and trouble about my ... bodily comfort. What's to be done if there are people for whom, and I believe only for a time, the reality of spiritual life is unattainable. Yesterday evening I was almost on the point of going away to Kotchety, but now I am glad I did not go. To-day I feel physically weak, but serene in spirit.

October 26, 1910 (from a diary).—It is very oppressive for me in this house of lunatics.

October 26, 1910 (from the letters).—The third thing is not so much a thought as a feeling, and a bad feeling—the desire to change my position. I feel something unbefitting, rather shameful, in my position. Sometimes I look upon it as I ought, as a blessing but sometimes I struggle against it and am revolted....

October 27, 1910 (from a diary).—It seems bad but is really good; the oppressiveness of our relations keeps increasing.

October 29, 1910 (from the letters).—I am waiting to see what will come of the family deliberation—I think, good. In any case, however, my return to my former life has become still more difficult—almost impossible, owing to the reproaches which will now be showered upon me, and the still smaller share of kindness which will be shown me. I cannot and will not enter into any sort of negotiations—what will be will be—only to sin as little as possible.... I cannot boast of my physical and spiritual condition, they are both weak and shattered. I feel most of all sorry for her. If only that pity were quite free from an admixture of rancune (resentment), and that I cannot boast of.

October 29, 1910; Optin Monastery. (From a diary.)—I have been much depressed all day and physically weak.... As I came here I was thinking all the time on the road, of the way out of my and her position, and could not think of any way out of it, but yet there will be one whether one likes it or not; it will come, and not be what one foresees. Yes, think only of how to avoid sin, and let come what will come. That is not my affair. I have taken up ... the Circle of Reading, and, just now, reading Number Twenty-eight was struck by the direct answer to my position: trial is what I need, it is beneficial for me. I am going to bed at once. Help me, O Lord.

November 3, 1910; Station Astapovo. (From a diary; the last words written by Leo Nikolaevitch in his diary.)—Fais ce que doit adv....[30] And it is all for the best both for others and for me.

The extracts from the diary and letters of Tolstoy that have been quoted, though far from exhausting all the material, show sufficiently clearly what Leo Nikolaevitch had to endure in connection with his family and domestic conditions in the course of the last thirty years of his life. In it of course all aspects of his spiritual growth are not touched upon, the whole course of his inner development during that period is not explained. But what is revealed to us in these extracts is sufficient to excite the warmest sympathy for Leo Nikolaevitch in his great and prolonged ordeal, and to inspire the deepest respect for his touching ability to blame himself for everything, and always to strive not towards what he desired but towards his duty. At the same time there is here revealed to us in its general features the path by which he came to the conviction that if we suffer spiritually we are ourselves to blame.

As is the case with everyone for whom the true meaning of life is revealed, after Leo Nikolaevitch's inner awakening at the beginning of the 'eighties, his spiritual consciousness could not, of course, remain at the same point. And indeed from the fragments we have quoted we see that up to the very last days of his life it was growing and becoming more perfect, as he became more and more penetrated with purity and strength.

Becoming convinced that in spite of all his sufferings he could not draw his wife to take part in his efforts, Leo Nikolaevitch began to experience the most agonising distress, which, as we see from his diary of 1884, sometimes became so acute that he hardly had the strength to endure it. He even had moments almost of despair and as it were revolt against his fate, especially when he learned from experience that his wife was too far away from him spiritually to be his companion in the reorganisation of their lives. It was at such a moment that there broke from him that agonising cry of a tortured heart, that she would for ever remain a millstone round his neck and his children's. But at the same time he tried to accept these sufferings with meekness and submission as a trial laid upon him, and to behave with love and patience to her who evoked them. So about the same time, on one of those exceptionally rare occasions when in conversation with me he permitted himself to touch on his relations with his wife, he spoke approximately as follows:

"It is impossible to blame Sofya Andreyevna. It is not her fault that she does not follow me. Why, what she clings to so obstinately now is the very thing in which I trained her for many years. Apart from that, in the early days of my awakening I was too irritable and insisted on trying to convince her that I was right. In those days I put my new conception of life before her in a form so repellent and unacceptable to her that I quite put her off. And now I feel that through my own fault she can never come to the truth by my way. That door is closed for her. But, on the other hand, I notice with joy that by ways peculiar to her alone, and quite incomprehensible to me, she seems at times to be gradually moving in the same direction."

About the same time Leo Nikolaevitch wrote to me:

"'He who loves not his brother, he dwelleth in death.' I have learned, but to my cost. I did not love, I had malice against my neighbours, and I was dying and dead. I began to be afraid of death; not afraid exactly, but bewildered before it. But love had but to rise up and I rose up again. I had forgotten Christ's first precept, 'Be not wrathful.' So simple, so small and so immense! If there is one man whom one does not love one is lost, one is dead. I have learned that by experience."—(Letter, December 28, 1885.)

At that period of his life Leo Nikolaevitch wrote in his diary the reflection which has already appeared in print concerning the chloroform of love, which expresses with remarkable vividness his recognition of the way we ought to help men who have gone astray: "At first I thought, Can one point out to people their mistakes, their sins, their faults, without hurting them? We have chloroform and cocaine for physical pain, but not for the soul. I thought this, and at once it came into my head, it is untrue—there is such a spiritual chloroform. They perform the operation of amputating a leg or an arm with chloroform, but they perform the operation of reforming a man painfully, stifling the reform with pain, exciting the worse disease—vindictiveness. But there is a spiritual chloroform, and it has long been known,—always the same—love. And that is not all: in physical disease one may do good by an operation without chloroform, but the soul is such a sensitive creature that an operation performed upon it without the chloroform of love is never anything but injurious. Patients always know it and ask for chloroform, and know that it ought to be used.... The sick man is in pain and he screams, hides the sore spot and says, 'You won't heal me, you won't heal me, and I don't want to be healed, I would rather get worse if you cannot heal me without pain....' And he is right ... you cannot drag a man straight out when he is tangled in a net—you will hurt him. You must disentangle the netting gently and firmly first. This delay, this disentangling, is the chloroform of love.... This I almost understood before, now I quite understand and begin to feel it...."

(Tolstoy's diary, January 25, 1889. Cf. Biography of L. N. Tolstoy by P. I. Biryukov, Vol. III. chap. iii.)

Striving to work out in himself a patient and loving attitude to the erring, beginning with those who were nearest to him, Leo Nikolaevitch from the earliest days of his domestic ordeal applied all his spiritual forces to avoiding giving way to his spiritual sufferings and throwing the blame for them either on people or on external circumstances. And this consciousness was continually strengthened and confirmed in him, helping him to bestow less and less pity on himself and more and more pity on those at whose hands he suffered. At first, as we have seen, such resignation to destiny was attained only with the greatest spiritual effort; but gradually he succeeded in conquering himself more and more by means of this incessant struggle carried on for many years. Such, anyway, is, it seems to me, the general deduction which may be drawn from his diary and letters. This deduction is confirmed too by the immediate impression which many of those to whose lot it fell to be in close relations with Leo Nikolaevitch in his later years carried away from personal intercourse with him. Even the expression of his face during this last period often seemed lighted up with a peculiar spiritual radiance. Such in its most general features is my conception of the consistent growth of Leo Nikolaevitch's inner consciousness after his spiritual awakening in so far as that growth is connected with his domestic sufferings and going away from home. This conception has been formed, on the one hand, on the basis of my personal intimacy and my spiritual unity with Leo Nikolaevitch as well as my long, intimate acquaintance with his family; and, on the other hand, on an attentive study of all that Leo Nikolaevitch has at various times expressed in his letters.

But the secret of another man's soul is too great and too intricate for anyone to be able to assert with confidence that he has fully grasped it even on any one side. And therefore while expressing here my personal opinion so far as it can have significance for anyone, I feel great satisfaction in the fact that I have been able to a considerable extent to incorporate Leo Nikolaevitch's own words in this book. And thus it will be possible for the reader to draw his own conclusions; at least from those notes of Leo Nikolaevitch's which I have here brought into connection with my argument, and to correct for himself anything in which it may seem to him that I am mistaken. I should like to conclude with two more thoughts of Leo Nikolaevitch's which show his comprehension of the spiritual significance of suffering.

"For a man living a spiritual life suffering is always an encouragement to becoming more perfect and more enlightened, and getting nearer to God. For such people suffering can always be transformed into the business of life."—(Circle of Reading.)

"The cross that is laid upon us is that at which we ought to work. Our whole life is this work. If the cross is illness, then bear it well, with submission; if it is injury at the hands of men, know how to return good for evil; if it is humiliation, be meek; if it is death, accept it with gratitude."—(The Way of Life.)


[26] To what precisely Leo Nikolaevitch ascribed his realisation that in 1870 the "cord had snapped" in the relations between him and his wife I am not in a position to state with certainty. I can only say for the information of the reader that I heard from Leo Nikolaevitch that their relations began to change for the worse from the time when Sofya Andreyevna, contrary to his principles and desire, refused to nurse her second daughter Marya Lvovna, born 1870, and engaged a wet nurse for her who was taken away from her own baby.

[27] It may interest the reader to know that on June 18 Sofya Andreyevna gave birth to her youngest daughter, Alexandra.—Translator's note.

[28] At that period Leo Nikolaevitch's attitude of disapproval of property was beginning to take definite shape. In consequence he did not wish to make use of the revenues from his estate in Samara, considering it unjust to make the peasants work for him and his family. Even the income which his family received from the Yasnaya Polyana estate and from the sale by Sofya Andreyevna of his works he considered as unjust, though he did not yet see clearly how he ought to act in the matter, considering his duties to his family.

[29] Compare entry for June 7.

[30] An unfinished French proverb; translated in full it means, "Do what you ought and let come what may."

Leo Tolstoy

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