Essays in Rebellion eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 343 pages of information about Essays in Rebellion.

Critics have divided his life into artistic and prophetic hemispheres; they have accused him of giving up for man what was meant for artistic circles.  But the seas of both hemispheres are the same, and there was no division in Tolstoy’s main purpose or outlook upon life from first to last.  In his greatest imaginative works (and to me they appear the highest achievement that the human imagination has yet accomplished in prose)—­in the struggles and perplexities and final solutions of Petroff, Nekhludoff, and Levin; in the miserable isolation of Ivan Ilyitch; in the resurrection of the prostitute Maslova; and in the hardly endurable tragedy of Anna Karenin herself, there runs exactly the same deep undercurrent of thought and exactly the same solution of life’s question as in the briefer and more definite statements of the essays and letters.  The greatest men are generally all of a piece, and of no one is this more true than of Tolstoy.  Take him where you please, it is strange if after a few lines you are not able to say, “That is the finger of Tolstoy; there is the widely sympathetic and compassionate heart, so loving mankind that in all his works he has drawn hardly one human soul altogether detested or contemptible.  But at the same time there is the man whose breath is sincerity, and to whom no compromise is possible, and no mediocrity golden.”

To the philosophers of the world his own solution may appear a simple issue, indeed, out of all his questioning, struggles, and rebellions.  It was but a return to well-worn commandments.  “Do not be angry, do not lust, do not swear obedience to external authority, do not resist evil, but love your enemies”—­these commands have a familiar, an almost parochial, sound.  Yet in obedience to such simple orders the chief of rebels found man’s only happiness, and whether we call it obedience to the voice of the soul or the voice of God, he would not have minded much.  “He lives for his soul; he does not forget God,” said one peasant of another in Levin’s hearing; and Tolstoy takes those quiet words as Levin’s revelation in the way of peace.  For him the soul, though finding its highest joy of art and pleasure only in noble communion with other souls, stood always lonely and isolated, bare to the presence of God.  The only submission possible, and the only possible hope of peace, lay in obedience to the self thus isolated and bare.  “O that thou hadst hearkened unto my commandments!” cried the ancient poet, uttering the voice that speaks to the soul in loneliness; “O that thou hadst hearkened unto my commandments!  Then had thy peace been as a river.”



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Essays in Rebellion from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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