Lvov, the husband of Natalia, Kitty’s sister, had spent all his life in foreign capitals, where he had been educated, and had been in the diplomatic service.
During the previous year he had left the diplomatic service, not owing to any “unpleasantness” (he never had any “unpleasantness” with anyone), and was transferred to the department of the court of the palace in Moscow, in order to give his two boys the best education possible.
In spite of the striking contrast in their habits and views and the fact that Lvov was older than Levin, they had seen a great deal of one another that winter, and had taken a great liking to each other.
Lvov was at home, and Levin went in to him unannounced.
Lvov, in a house coat with a belt and in chamois leather shoes, was sitting in an armchair, and with a pince-nez with blue glasses he was reading a book that stood on a reading desk, while in his beautiful hand he held a half-burned cigarette daintily away from him.
His handsome, delicate, and still youthful-looking face, to which his curly, glistening silvery hair gave a still more aristocratic air, lighted up with a smile when he saw Levin.
“Capital! I was meaning to send to you. How’s Kitty? Sit here, it’s more comfortable.” He got up and pushed up a rocking chair. “Have you read the last circular in the Journal de St. Petersbourg? I think it’s excellent,” he said, with a slight French accent.
Levin told him what he had heard from Katavasov was being said in Petersburg, and after talking a little about politics, he told him of his interview with Metrov, and the learned society’s meeting. To Lvov it was very interesting.
“That’s what I envy you, that you are able to mix in these interesting scientific circles,” he said. And as he talked, he passed as usual into French, which was easier to him. “It’s true I haven’t the time for it. My official work and the children leave me no time; and then I’m not ashamed to own that my education has been too defective.”
“That I don’t believe,” said Levin with a smile, feeling, as he always did, touched at Lvov’s low opinion of himself, which was not in the least put on from a desire to seem or to be modest, but was absolutely sincere.
“Oh, yes, indeed! I feel now how badly educated I am. To educate my children I positively have to look up a great deal, and in fact simply to study myself. For it’s not enough to have teachers, there must be someone to look after them, just as on your land you want laborers and an overseer. See what I’m reading”—he pointed to Buslaev’s Grammar on the desk—“it’s expected of Misha, and it’s so difficult.... Come, explain to me.... Here he says...”
Levin tried to explain to him that it couldn’t be understood, but that it had to be taught; but Lvov would not agree with him.