Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

IX of the narratives included in the present volume

are representative of Count Tolstoi's literary activity in the years 1856, 1857, and 1859; the first, which gives the volume its name, is of earlier date, having been written in 1852, the same year as "Childhood, Boyhood, and Youth.” Literally translated, the title, Utro Pomyeshchika, means "A Proprietor's Morning," and was probably intended as a part of a projected novel; but it is complete in itself, representing the experiences of a conscientious young Russian in dealing with his serfs, endeavoring to lift them from their degradation, and finding their ingrained obstinacy and conservatism too powerful to overcome. One cannot help feeling that it is autobiographical, or at least founded on similar experiences, Count Tolstor, it will be remembered, having suddenly quitted the University of Kazan, in spite of the entreaties of his friends, and retired to his paternal estate of Yasnaya Polyana near Tula. The aunt, whose letter is cited in the first chapter, must have been Tolstoï's aunt mentioned in the second chapter of "My Confession."

The “Recollections of a Billiard-marker” and “Two Hussars” are both evidently reminiscent of Count Tol : stor's gambling days. Both must have been suggested by some such terrible experience as that told of his gambling debt in the Caucasus. The style of the first is peculiarly rugged and staccato, with a quite wonderful skill in reproducing the slang of the billiard-saloon. The other is a powerful delineation of the contrast between the dissipated, high-handed, bold hussar of the early days, with his freaks of generosity, with his nobility and gallantry, and his son, no less dissipated, but mean, contemptible, and narrow. “Lucerne ” and “Albert ” are likewise evidently tran:

Coast

scripts from the author's own experiences. The Quixotic benefactor, the autobiographic Prince Nekhliudof, who in the one case patronizes the strolling Swiss singer and in the other tries to rescue the drunken violinist from himself, is Count Tolstor.

“ Family Happiness" is a romance complete in itself. It is the autobiography of a young, passionate, and susceptible woman, who, being thrown into the society of her guardian, marries him, and too late discovers that the love which she has to bestow is met by a philosophic liking so cold as thoroughly to disenchant her. She narrowly escapes shipwreck, not through any inherent badness, but by the force of inertia, which lets her drift with the stream toward the chasm of illicit passion, She wins a certain serenity, and happiness returns in her acceptance of the inevitable and in her devotion to duty. It is a wonderful study of a woman's soul, and is the most poetic of Count Tolstoï's works; it is shọt through and through with the music of nightingales.

In interesting contrast to these characteristic stories is the little gem entitled Kavkassky Plyennik, or "A Prisoner in the Caucasus." It is founded on a personal experience thus related by Count Tolstoï's brother-inlaw, C. H. Behrs, in his “Recollections":-

"A certain Sodo, of the tribe of the Tchetchenians, and with whom the count was on friendly terms, had bought a young horse, and one day proposed to him to take a ride into the country surrounding the fortress, where the detachment of the Russian army in which he then served was posted. Two other officers of the artillery joined the party. Though all such excursions had been strictly forbidden by the military authorities in consequence of the serious dangers with which they were accompanied, not one of them, except Sodo, was furnished with any other weapon than the ordinary Circassian saber. Hav. ing tried his own horse, Sodo begged his friend to mount it, and himself leaped on the count's trotter, which, of course, was no good at a fast gallop. They were already about five versts from the fortress when suddenly they saw close before them a band of Tchetchenians, some

« AnteriorContinuar »