Old and New Masters eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 226 pages of information about Old and New Masters.
but from hearsay.  I think Mr. Garnett is wrong.  I have known the counterpart of Insarov among the members of at least one subject nation, and the portrait seems to me to be essentially true and alive.  Luckily, if Turgenev could not put his trust in Russian men, he believed with all his heart in the courage and goodness of Russian women.  He was one of the first great novelists to endow his women with independence of soul.  With the majority of novelists, women are sexual or sentimental accidents.  With Turgenev, women are equal human beings—­saviours of men and saviours of the world. Virgin Soil becomes a book of hope instead of despair as the triumphant figure of Marianna, the young girl of the Revolution, conquers the imagination.  Turgenev, as a creator of noble women, ranks with Browning and Meredith.  His realism was not, in the last analysis, a realism of disparagement, but a realism of affection.  His farewell words, Mr. Garnett tells us, were:  “Live and love others as I have always loved them.”

XIII

THE MADNESS OF STRINDBERG

The mirror that Strindberg held up to Nature was a cracked one.  It was cracked in a double sense—­it was crazy.  It gave back broken images of a world which it made look like the chaos of a lunatic dream.  Miss Lind-af-Hageby, in her popular biography of Strindberg, is too intent upon saying what can be said in his defence to make a serious attempt to analyse the secret of genius which is implicit in those “115 plays, novels, collections of stories, essays, and poems” which will be gathered into the complete edition of his works shortly to be published in Sweden.  The biography will supply the need of that part of the public which has no time to read Strindberg, but has plenty of time to read about him.  It will give them a capably potted Strindberg, and will tell them quietly and briefly much that he himself has told violently and at length in The Son of a Servant, The Confession of a Fool, and, indeed, in nearly everything he wrote.  On the other hand, Miss Lind’s book has little value as an interpretation.  She does not do much to clear up the reasons which have made the writings of this mad Swede matter of interest in every civilized country in the world.  She does, indeed, quote the remark of Gorki, who, at the time of Strindberg’s death, compared him to the ancient Danubian hero, Danko, “who, in order to help humanity out of the darkness of problems, tore his heart out of his breast, lit it, and holding it high, led the way.”  “Strindberg,” Miss Lind declares, “patiently burnt his heart for the illumination of the people, and on the day when his body was laid low in the soil, the flame of his self-immolation was seen, pure and inextinguishable.”  This will not do.  “Patiently” is impossible; so is “pure and inextinguishable.”  Strindberg was at once a man of genius (and therefore noble) and a creature of doom (and therefore to be pitied).  But to sum him up as a spontaneous martyr in the greatest of great causes is to do injustice to language and to the lives of the saints and heroes.  He was a martyr, of course, in the sense in which we call a man a martyr to toothache.  He suffered; but most of his sufferings were due, not to tenderness of soul, but to tenderness of nerves.

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Old and New Masters from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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