7. What Is Art?
From Introduction To Tolstoy's Writings by Ernest J Simmons (1968)

Art is modest, Tolstoy once said, but his theorizing on the subject in 'what is art?' is perhaps the most immodest contribution to aesthetics ever written. This famous work, which he finished in 1897, marked the culmination of fifteen years of thought and study, a fact unknown or disregarded by captious critics who have treated it as something that leaped full-blown from Tolstoy's brain at a dyspeptic moment when he arbitrarily decided that there ought not to be any more cakes and ale for artists of the world.

Early letters and jottings in his diary reveal that from the time when he first began to write in the 1850's Tolstoy had already become almost morbidly conscious of the techniques of his craft and the perplexing imponderables involved in the theory of literary art. And we have observed that at the end of the 1850's he tried to redefine his relation to art in opposition to the then growing popular trend of social significance in literature, a struggle which eventually disillusioned him with belles-lettres and contributed to turning his major attention to educational theory and practice. But even in that phase of his career it was pointed out that he could not refrain from speculating about aesthetic matters in the course of directing the fascinating experiments of his young students in literature and writing. This reawakened interest in art led him naturally into the creation of those great masterpieces of fiction of the 1860's and 1870's — 'War and Peace' and 'Anna Karenina'.

Then at the beginning of the 1880's, during his spiritual upheaval, Tolstoy took a full reckoning of his views on art. He came to the conclusion that the art he had served for years was a temptation that seduced people from good and led them into evil. He decided to forsake art. Although he never subsequently found it necessary to surrender his fundamental negative position towards other "deceits of culture" — government, law, science, technical progress, and so on — he soon began to doubt his negative attitude toward art. Art was so intimate a part of his being that he could not entirely turn his back on it.

However, with his radically new outlook on life, Tolstoy could not be satisfied with the view of art that he had formerly accepted, and this dissatisfaction inspired a prolonged study of the subject. His main endeavour was to erect a system of aesthetics that would accord with his new understanding of man and his relation to the world. In a real sense, 'what is art?' may be regarded as the aesthetic of his new moral philosophy. Yet he understood that any system he might set up must be comprehensive enough to justify and explain all sincere works of art.

The problem turned out to be much more complicated than Tolstoy had anticipated. His first effort was an attempt to write an article for a Moscow art magazine in 1882, in which he tried to formulate a definition of art that would emphasize the importance of a moral and useful purpose in life. He did not get very far and left the manuscript unfinished, apparently conscious of the fact that he had not thought the matter through. But he had actually begun the long train of formal aesthetic speculation that led to his astounding book, 'what is art?'.

In the course of the next fifteen years, over various periods of time, Tolstoy pondered the subject, defining and redefining his position. He read a great many books on aesthetics, philosophy, and works of belles-lettres, and he studied music, painting, and sculpture, attended the theatre, and heard opera, always with his projected book in mind. Apart from a quantity of miscellaneous notes, there exist eight separate articles, fragments of articles, and drafts. This material, which has been published in Russian in a special volume devoted to the subject, is almost as extensive as his final effort, 'what is art?'.

In all Tolstoy's theorizing during these years, one can detect a growing emphasis upon the ethical principle as the immanent organizing factor in the artistic process. And this view ultimately became the starting point for the aesthetic theory that he finally elaborated in 'what is art?'. The growing popularity of movements such as those of the Decadents and Symbolists during the last decade of the nineteenth century offended both his artistic and moral sense and provided him with a new impetus to complete his study. He worked almost exclusively on it throughout 1897 and finished in December. It appeared in Russia the next year, but was so mutilated by both the editor and the censor that Tolstoy disowned the work. At the same time, it was published in England in a translation made by Aylmer Maude and supervised by Tolstoy, who declared this version to be the first complete and correct edition of 'what is art?'

In this book, Tolstoy approached the subject as he now approached the study of every human endeavour: art is a human activity and hence it must have a clear purpose and aim, discernible by the aid of reason and conscience. And as a human activity, he declared, art cannot exist for its own sake and therefore its value must be weighed in proportion as art is serviceable or harmful to mankind. Again and again in his researches he was confronted by that unholy trinity of the aestheticians — beauty, truth, and goodness, and of these the greatest was beauty. For he found that the commonest definition, repeated in various forms, was that art is an activity dedicated to the cause of beauty. But just what was meant by beauty, no two theorists seemed to agree. The word was used subjectively according to varying tastes of the persons who employed it. In general, Tolstoy's preliminary study of aesthetics led him to conclude that there was no such discipline, because it failed to define the qualities and laws of art which could in turn be applied to artistic productions by way of accepting or rejecting them. This chaos has resulted, he maintained, because the conception of art has been erroneously based on the conception of beauty. Tolstoy then propounded his own definition of art:

To evoke in oneself a feeling one has once experienced and having evoked it in oneself then by means of movements, lines, colours, sounds, or forms expressed in words, so to transmit that feeling that others experience the same feeling — this is the activity of art.
Art is a human activity consisting in this, that one man consciously by means of certain external signs, hands on to others feelings he has lived through, and that others are infected by these feelings and also experience them.
Art is not, as the metaphysicians say, the manifestation of some mysterious Idea of beauty or God; it is not, as the aesthetic physiologists say, a game in which man lets off his excess of stored-up energy; it is not the expression of man's emotions by external signs; it is not the production of pleasing objects; and, above all, it is not pleasure; but it is a means of union among men joining them together in the same feelings, and indispensable for the life and progress towards well-being of individuals and humanity

Before Tolstoy applied his definition as a kind of touchstone of true art, he believed it essential to distinguish between the subject matter and form of art, for he realized that this distinction contained the solution of what was for him the fundamental problem — the relation of art to morality. First he considered art apart from its subject matter and pointed out that what differentiated real art from its counterfeit — and much that passed for art he condemned as counterfeit — was its infectiousness. If a person subjected to an artist's work experiences a mental condition which unites him with the artist and other people who partake of the work of art, then the object evoking that condition is a work of art. And the stronger the infection, the better is the art as art. From this point of view, he declared, art has nothing to do with morality, for the feelings transmitted may be good or bad feelings. But the one great quality that makes a work of art truly contagious, he asserts, is its sincerity.

Up to this point in his book, Tolstoy has been concerned with an internal test in appraising art. He next applied an external test in an effort to determine whether a work of art is refined or genteel (the art of the few, the upper classes) or universal (the art of the people). Those who admire exclusive art, he insisted, which is so often considered the only art, do so because they train themselves to admire it and not because it is necessarily great art. Then he goes on to indicate that the majority of the productions of art of the upper classes, which are admired by them when first produced, are never understood or valued by the masses of mankind. This refined art, he argues, is intended only for the pleasure of genteel people and is incomprehensible as a pleasure to the working men. For almost the only feelings, with their offshoots, that form the subject matter of upper class art, Tolstoy said, are three insignificant and simple ones — the feeling of pride, the feeling of sexual desire, and the feeling of weariness of life.

As soon as the art of the upper classes separated itself from universal art, Tolstoy wrote, a conviction arose that art could be art and yet be incomprehensible to the masses. But all great works of art, he contended, are great because they are accessible and comprehensible to everyone. The majority of people have always had the taste to esteem the highest works of universal art, such as the epic of Genesis, the Gospel parables, and folk-legends, songs, and tales, because they invoke the simple feelings of common life, accessible to all, and yet do not hinder progress towards well-being. Art of this kind, he said, makes us realize to what extent we already are members of the human race and share the feelings of one common human nature.

Though thus far in 'what is art?' one may quarrel with the aesthetics of Tolstoy's position, it compels attention by its originality and consistency. But he provokes sharp reactions from critical readers when he attempts to illustrate his theory. Guided largely by religious and moral convictions, he designates categories among artistic productions in terms of their varying degrees of infectiousness and feelings. In this matter, however, it is well to remember that he attached no special importance to his examples.

"I may mistake for absolute merit" he disarmingly admitted, "the impressions a work produced on me in my youth."

Moreover, the reader today ought perhaps to make allowances, in passing judgment on the illustrations, for all the conditioning factors of literary taste of an age long past, as well as the educational, cultural, and social background of a Russian nobleman born more than a century ago.

In applying the touchstone of feeling to art, Tolstoy asserted, it is essential to differentiate what are the best feelings and what are evil. Only through this distinction will the intimate and inevitable connection between morality and art become apparent. For if art unites men, the better the feelings in which it unites them, the better it will be for humanity. Tolstoy candidly agreed that the definition of the best and highest feelings will differ from age to age. Each age, he said, has possessed a dominant view of life which may be described as its "religious perception ." And the true religious perception of the Christian age is Christ's teaching, which permeates the whole life of man today, and if we accept this religious perception, it must inevitably influence our approval or disapproval of the various feelings transmitted by art. The best and highest feelings of art, then, are those which invoke Christ's love for God and one's neighbour. When this religious perception is consciously acknowledged by all, Tolstoy declared, then the division of art into art for the lower and art for the upper classes will disappear, for art which transmits rejected. feelings incompatible with religious perceptions of our time will be As examples of this highest art "flowing from love of God and man (both of the higher, positive, and the lower, negative kind) in literature," Tolstoy mentioned Schiller's 'The Robbers', Hugo's 'Les Miserables' and 'Les Pauvres Gens', Dickens' 'A Tale of Two Cities', 'A Christmas Carol', and 'The Chimes', Harriet Beecher Stowe's 'Uncle Tom's Cabin', Dostoevsky's 'The House of the Dead', and George Eliot's 'Adam Bede'.

Of course, Tolstoy did not limit the subject matter of art to these highest religious feelings, as some critics suppose. He stressed another major division of art, the universal, which conveys feelings of common life accessible to everyone — such as feelings of merriment, pity, cheerfulness, tranquility, and so forth. With qualifications, and only because of their inner content, he cited as examples of good universal art produced by the upper classes, Cervantes' 'Don Quixote', Moliere's comedies, Dickens' 'David Copperfield' and 'Pickwick Papers', and the tales of Pushkin and Gogol.

But the scope of the artist, Tolstoy said, must in no sense be restricted. The whole world of feelings must be his sphere of activity. Yet he does argue that a folk tale, a little song, or a lullaby that delights millions of children or adults is incomparably more important than a novel or a symphony that will divert some few members of the wealthy class for a short time and then be forever forgotten. Almost untouched, he declared, is this region of art in which the simple feelings are made accessible to all, and like the highest religious art, it tends to unite all mankind. He wrote:

Sometimes people who are together, if not hostile to one an-other, are at least estranged in mood and feelings, till perhaps a story, a performance, a picture, or even a building, but oftenest of all music, unites them all as by an electric flash, and in place of their former isolation or even enmity they are conscious of union and mutual love. Each is glad that another feels what he feels; glad of the communion established not only between him and all present, but also with all now living who will yet share the same impression; and, more than that, he feels the mysterious gladness of a communion which, reaching beyond the grave, unites us with all men of the past who have been moved by the same feelings and with all men of the future who will yet be touched by them. And this effect is produced both by religious art which transmits feelings of love of God and one's neighbour, and by universal art transmitting the very simplest feelings common to all men.

In 'what is art?' with breath-taking execution and that maddening consistency which is as much the hallmark of pride as of humility, Tolstoy consigned to the category of bad art 'War and Peace' and 'Anna Karenina', along with the rest of his fiction up to that point except for two small tales. Nor was he above indulging in some rather ponderous humour at the expense of Wagner's 'Ring of the Nibelung' and the more opaque poetic effusions of the Decadents and Symbolists. Yet in organization and persuasive argumentation, and in the variety of examples drawn from literature and life, Tolstoy never surpassed this achievement in any of his controversial works. Though one may fairly accuse him at times of being whimsical and captious in his aesthetic views, they are never the expressions of a writer's vanity.

In one place in the book Tolstoy remarked that he knew his theory of art would be considered an irrational paradox at which one could only be amazed. Nor did he understate the case. Although George Bernard Shaw, with an aesthetic fissure in his brain as deep and wide as that of Tolstoy, hailed the work with delight, the majority of critics abroad quickly belabored it into an undeserved oblivion from which it has not been exhumed to this day. Perhaps their asperity may be pardoned in the face of Tolstoy's expressed sympathy for the truculent judgment of another author, namely, that "critics are the stupid who discuss the wise." It must be said that for the most part critics failed to come to grips with his altogether challenging definition of art and concentrated their shafts on his withering application of it to certain generally accepted great works of art. Apart from the examples, what deeply offended most foreign reviewers, perhaps because of garbled translations, was their belief that Tolstoy had elevated the simple peasant as a touchstone or criterion of all art. What he actually claimed for the peasant was what he claimed for every man, that is, if his capacity to share another's feelings had not been atrophied or perverted, he would be capable of responding to the art which he personally required.

Tolstoy was never satisfied with 'what is art?'. He felt it to be weak in various places, and he returned to the subject often in his diary and letters. There lurked in his mind a suspicion that something in the "mysterious and important" matter of art had not found its proper place in his aesthetic theory. However, anyone who regards art as not merely an amusement or a recreation, but one of culture's noblest achievements, will discover an enduring interest in Tolstoy's treatise. For its dominant emphasis, unlike that of many books on the subject, is precisely on the theme that the right practice of art in spreading the best feelings among men bears a direct relation to the whole life of humanity.

Though it is his major effort in the field, 'what is art?' does not reflect the full measure of Tolstoy's preoccupation with aesthetics and literary criticism. Scattered through volumes of his diary, many letters, and memoirs of family and friends who quote his judgments is a substantial body of often acute observations on the theatre, painting, music, sculpture, and on literature in particular. In addition he contributed introductions to the literary works of others and also wrote several critical articles on belles-lettres. Only the most significant items of this rich material can be discussed here.

There is a stubborn intellectual honesty in Tolstoy's appraisals of the works of famous Russian authors of his own lifetime, but his arbitrariness is frequently matched by penetrating insights. For example, he once told Chekhov that Gorky invented his psychology and wrote about feelings he had never experienced — a keen and just criticism of major failings in Gorky's fiction. But about Chekhov, whom Tolstoy deeply admired, he wrote:

"Chekhov is an incomparable artist, an artist of life. And the merit of his creative work is that he is understood and accepted not only by every Russian, but by all humanity."

Of all Chekhov's numerous short stories, "The Darling" appears to have been Tolstoy's favourite. Gorky recalls him speaking of it with rapture to a group of listeners who included Chekhov:

"It is like lace," he said, "made by a chaste young girl, there were such lace makers in olden times who used to depict all their lives, all their dreams of happiness in the pattern. They dreamed in designs of all that was dear to them, wove all their pure, uncertain love into their lace."

In fact, Tolstoy wrote a brief article (1900's) on "The Darling," in which he maintained that Chekhov, in the characterization of the heroine, intended to satirize the "new woman of the day, a seeker after equality with men." But, Tolstoy explains, the god of poetry in Chekhov forbade him to ridicule her

"and commanded him to bless, and he blessed, and involuntarily clothed that sweet creature in such a wonderful radiance that she will always remain a type of what woman can be in order to be happy herself and to cause the happiness of those with whom her fate is united. This story is excellent because its effect is unintentional."

Chekhov would have been more amused than irritated if he could have read this gratuitous criticism — it was not published until after his death. He was not poking fun at the "new woman " in "The Darling," and the poetical effect which Tolstoy admired was in no sense unintentional but a conscious achievement of his art. Tolstoy's failure, as here, to plumb the depths of Chekhov's tenderness and charity for those who suffered because of man's inhumanity is also reflected in his comment on Chekhov's "Attack of Nerves," the hero of which, Tolstoy remarked, ought first to have slept with one of the prostitutes before experiencing the anguish of a guilty conscience.

Though Tolstoy's preference for Chekhov's brief early stories, where a simple theme is directly treated with strong emphasis on moral feeling, reflects the aesthetic standards of 'what is art?', he was nevertheless one of the very few during Chekhov's lifetime to perceive that he was much less an imitator of anything than a brilliant innovator who initiated a new development in Russian literature. Tolstoy pointed out once that

"as an artist Chekhov cannot even be compared with the old Russian writers — Turgenev, Dostoevsky, or myself. Chekhov has his own manner, like the Impressionists. You see a man daubing on whatever paint happens to be near at hand, apparently without selection, and it seems as though these paints bear no relation to one another. But if you step back a certain distance and look again, you will get a complete, over-all impression. Before you there is a vivid, unchallengeable picture of nature."

Tolstoy grasped, as few did then, that Chekhov's choice of the short story was a conscious effort to avoid traditional, introductory, biographical build-ups and lengthy descriptions, just as avoidance of detailed linear emphasis was intended to regenerate everyday realism in an impressionistic manner, in order to present a real and not a conventionalized picture of life.

On the whole, Tolstoy, who translated two of Maupassant's tales, favoured him over Chekhov as a short-story writer, because — he thought — the Frenchman distilled greater joy out of life. But Chekhov, he said,

"is cleaner than Maupassant. The illusion of truth in Chekhov is complete, his pieces produce the impression of a stereoscope."

In fact, Tolstoy severely criticized Maupassant's novels in a lengthy article, " Introduction to the Works of Guy de Maupassant " (1894), which launched the second volume of his writings in Russian translation. On first acquaintance with Maupassant's fiction, he praised him as one of the best writers of the age, because — he said — he perfectly understood and valued the negative side of the relations of the sexes as no other writer had done. In the course of working on the article, however, he grew disillusioned with this aspect of Maupassant's fiction. He wrote to his son Leo:

"I am working on the introduction to Maupassant. The wretches have announced that whoever buys the second volume of Maupassant will have Tolstoy's article on Maupassant, and now I must present the article or be scolded. But Maupassant's moral filth has become repugnant to me, and I have thrown away my first introduction and begun to write a new one, in which I wish to say what I think about art, but as yet I have not been able to express it."

The article is a brilliant example of Tolstoy's analytical method in literary criticism but is flawed by his excessive demand for moral content in a work of art. He saw reflected in Maupassant's novels the desire to achieve a cheap 'reclame' by concentrating on the pleasure of sexual love, a subject popular in the literature of bourgeois circles.

"In all his novels after Bel-Ami," Tolstoy wrote, "Maupassant evidently submitted to the theory which ruled not only in his circle in Paris, but which now rules everywhere among artists: that for a work of art it is not only unnecessary to have a clear conception of what is right and wrong, but that on the contrary an artist should completely ignore all moral questions, there being a certain artistic merit in so doing."

On the other hand, in the best of Maupassant's short stories, Tolstoy argues, he wrote about what touched or revolted his moral feelings.

"And it is in this that the wonderful quality of every true artist lives.... His talent teaches its possessor and leads him forward along the path of moral development, compelling him to love what deserves love and to hate what deserves hate. An artist is an artist because he sees things not as he wishes to see them but as they really are."

In short, what he is saying in the article is that Maupassant at times betrays his genius, writing about some worthless Paris seducer with greater love than he feels for his victims, but in the end he cannot help detecting what is good, and it forces him against his will on to the path of truth. That is, vision reveals truth to the real artist, which compels him to face fundamental moral questions that lead to regeneration, the proper function of art.

Though Tolstoy's perverse opinions on Shakespeare are commonly attributed to the intellectual rigidity that took possession of him after his religious conversion, his " dissidence of dissent ," as it were, in all matters intellectual and critical was a characteristic trait of his nature from his youth. In literary no less than in political, social, and religious questions, he seemed to strive always for originality in discussion or writing. As early as 1856 the editor Panaev said to a friend who called on him just as Tolstoy left:

"How sorry I am that you are late. What marvels you would have heard! You would have learned that Shakespeare is an ordinary writer, and that our astonishment and delight over Shakespeare are nothing more than a desire to keep up with others and the habit of repeating foreign opinions."

Forty years later, in 'Shakespeare and the Drama' (1906), a lengthy article that takes on the proportions of a small book, Tolstoy feeds fat the ancient grudge he had for the Bard of Avon, for his dislike had been intensified by the new demands he made upon literature in terms of feeling, infectiousness, form, philosophical outlook, and morality. After declaring that he had always experienced feelings of repulsion, weariness, and bewilderment on reading Shakespeare's plays,

"Now," he says "before writing this article, as an old man of seventy-five [he began the work in 1903] , wishing once more to check my conclusions, I have again read the whole of Shakespeare . . . and have experienced the same feelings still more strongly, no longer with perplexity but with a firm and unshakeable conviction that the undisputed fame Shakespeare enjoys as a great genius — which makes writers of our time imitate him, and readers and spectators, distorting their aesthetic and ethical sense, seek non-existent qualities in him — is a great evil, as every falsehood is."

He then frankly anticipates that the majority of people will not even admit the possibility of his views being correct, but he firmly asserts that he will try as best he can

"to show why I think Shakespeare cannot be admitted to be either a writer of great genius or even an average one."

To prove his point, Tolstoy elected, with perhaps some malice prepense, to make a detailed analysis of 'King Lear', a play which is placed by some Shakespearean scholars today at the very summit of his art. But Tolstoy demonstrates to his own satisfaction that King Lear does not fulfil the most elementary and generally recognized demands of art; that the characters speak not a language of their own, but an unnatural, affected Shakespearean language which no real people could ever have spoken anywhere; that the play lacks a sense of proportion; that its contents reflect a vulgar view of life which regards the elevation of the great ones of the earth as a genuine superiority while despising the common man and repudiating not only religious, but even any humanitarian efforts directed toward the alteration of the existing order of society; and, finally, that the play lacks sincerity. Generalizing on these "faults," Tolstoy finds them present to some extent in most of Shakespeare's plays.

He argues that

"If there is a difference in the speech of Shakespeare's characters, it is only that Shakespeare makes different speeches for his characters, and not that they speak differently."

And the plays, in general, are devoid of a sense of proportion, without which, he asserts,

"there never was or could be an artist, just as without a sense of rhythm there cannot be a musician."

The trouble with those who try to make the praise of Shakespeare convincing, Tolstoy affirms, is that they have composed an aesthetic theory,

"according to which a definite religious view is not at all necessary for the creation of works of art in general or for the drama in particular; that for the inner content of a play it is quite enough to depict passions and human characters; that not only is no religious illumination of the matter presented required, but that art ought to be objective, that is to say, it should depict occurrences quite independently of any valuation of what is good or bad."

It appears that Tolstoy did not intend to publish 'Shakespeare and the Drama' during his lifetime and that he did so in 1906 only upon the urging of his chief disciple, V. G. Chertkov. Its appearance in English translation resulted in an interesting exchange of letters between him and George Bernard Shaw, who was an admirer of Tolstoy and who agreed with his condemnation of certain social and religious evils and with his conviction that civilization would not improve without a moral and intellectual change in man. Although they differed on the means of bringing about this change, it is not surprising that both men, in some few respects, had reached the same position on Shakespeare. When Chertkov was translating 'Shakespeare and the Drama' in England, he wrote Shaw for advice on some points and also gave him a general idea of the conclusions of the work. Shaw replied, enthusiastically embracing Tolstoy's views as Chertkov described them. He agreed that Shakespeare possessed no real philosophy of life, and that his plays revealed no religious, moral, or social thought worthy of consideration.

"After the criticism of Tolstoy," he wrote, "Shakespeare as a thinker must be discarded, for under the scrutiny of such a gigantic, bold critic and realist as Tolstoy, he will in no sense pass the test."

Encouraged by Shaw's attitude, Chertkov finally sent him the complete translation. Upon reading it, Shaw at once realized that he had far overshot the mark in identifying himself with Tolstoy's views on Shakespeare. He hastened to write Chertkov a long letter, soon followed by another, which contained a sharp criticism of 'Shakespeare and the Drama' and, in passing, some of Shaw's best observations on Shakespeare and his plays. Unlike Tolstoy, Shaw made a sharp distinction between Shakespeare the thinker and Shakespeare the artist. He could go along with Tolstoy in dismissing Shakespeare the thinker as inconsequential, but as an artist, he stoutly maintained, Shakespeare was irresistible. In one of the letters, Shaw wrote that in his own criticism of the dramatist

"he had endeavored in no small degree to open the eyes of Englishmen to the emptiness of Shakespeare's philosophy, to the superficiality and unoriginality of his moral views, to his weakness and confusion as a thinker, to his snobbery, to his vulgar prejudices, to his ignorance, to every aspect of his undeserved reputation as a great philosopher." But, he continued, "No one would listen to me if I took it into my head to support my protest by denying his humour, his gaiety, his capacity to create characters more real for us than actual living people, his tenderness, but chiefly his unusual power as a musician of words."

The trouble, Shaw concluded, was that Tolstoy attempted to judge Shakespeare from the point of view of abstract logic.

"Life is not logical" he cautioned, "and it is not for Tolstoy, writing his productions as a poet, to condemn Shakespeare for not writing his as a jurist."

In the end, Shaw allowed that Tolstoy's position on Shakespeare was to a certain extent a healthy one, but that the work as a whole was very bad.

Lovers of Shakespeare might justly call down a plague on both these detractors, but the distinctions that Shaw draws on behalf of Tolstoy are at least arguable by the unprejudiced. That Tolstoy, especially in his later years, often assumed a wrong-headed, indefensible posture on questions of art and literary criticism is demonstrable. Yet with this stricture in mind, there is little he wrote on these subjects that fails to repay the efforts of the curious and objective reader. The position is well summed up by the eminent Shakespearean scholar, Professor G. Wilson Knight, in his article "Shakespeare and Tolstoy." There he describes Tolstoy's writings on art as

"a massive collection of some of the most masculine, incisive, and important criticism that exists; all, whether we agree or disagree, of so rock-like an integrity and simplicity that its effect is invariably tonic and invigorating, and often points us directly, as in this essay on Shakespeare, to facts before unobserved, yet both obvious and extremely significant."