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The Gentle Genius

October 27, 1983

Isaiah Berlin
Font Size: A A A Turgenev’s Letters selected, translated, and edited by A.V. Knowles Scribner’s, 299 pp., $30.00 Ivan Turgenev died one hundred years ago. His letters contain some of his best writing; yet save for quotations in specialist studies, they have been somewhat neglected in English-speaking countries.1 Consequently, the appearance of two new editions of English versions of some of the most interesting of his letters should be a literary event of some importance.2 But this is scarcely likely to happen: it is the fate of gentle and yielding characters to be overshadowed by more formidable contemporaries. And, indeed, Turgenev was after his death duly overshadowed by the gigantic figures of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky; and even now, the centenaries of Marx and Wagner, not surprisingly, have left little room for the worldwide critical appraisal of Turgenev’s writings and personality for which this centenary offers a natural occasion. There are, Mr. Knowles tells us, 6,550 published letters by Turgenev in existence (some still remain unpublished). The life, wit, sharpness of observation, evocative power, and the lyrical quality of his descriptions in some of his letters of the sounds and sights of nature, sky, trees, leaves, the changing light and darkness, birds, and small animals of field and woodland in his part of the country, seem to me to be as remarkable as anything he ever wrote. So, too, are his sharp literary and psychological judgments and his comments on social and political events and issues. It must, therefore, have been a particularly painful experience for Mr. Knowles to have had to choose fewer than two hundred and fifty letters from this vast treasure house of writings. His judgment, on the whole, is very dependable. All the letters selected by him are of some significance, if only for the light they shed upon the author; none could have been written by anyone else. The translation is alive, precise, occasionally anachronistic, but a good deal closer to the style and tone of this most sensitive of authors than, for instance, that of Professor David Lowe, whose two-volume edition does, however, provide versions of well over three hundred letters of equal, at times even greater, interest. Mr. Knowles’s notes are clear, succinct, scholarly, and most informative. It is strange that Anglophone readers should have had to wait so long for the reception of even so small a portion of these riches. One of the strongest impressions conveyed by these letters is that of Turgenev’s profound and lifelong lack of confidence in himself both as a writer and as a man. Success and fame may please him but he is not deceived. He is clear that he is no master: compared to the writers he regards as truly great—Pushkin, Gogol, Goethe, not to speak of Shakespeare or Molière—he is no more than a minor figure. He tells his familiar friend, the critic Pavel Annenkov, in 1852 (the letter is not included here), that one cannot begin to compare the “free, swift brushstrokes” of the

men of natural genius with the “thin squeak” of his own pen, with its puny “insect sounds.” At times, when his work receives praise beyond what seems to him to be its due, he tends to protest that a real masterpiece is far beyond his powers. Great writers are noble, tranquil spirits, and create in sweeping, wholesale fashion; you and I, he tells Annenkov, sit in retail shops and supply the day’s passing needs. Unfriendly reviews almost always seem to him convincing: he is grateful for praise by discriminating friends and admirers, but he is not persuaded. A Sportsman’s Sketches gained him immense celebrity in Russia; the acclaim was immediate and virtually universal. He was made happy by the favor with which the left-wing intelligentsia received his work; he felt pride when told on all sides that he had played a decisive part in the movement for abolition of serfdom. He was particularly pleased when this was referred to by James Bryce, who presented him for an honorary doctorate at Oxford in 1879. He believed, plausibly enough, that his brief incarceration after his glowing obituary of Gogol had partly been caused by the government’s displeasure with the effect of the Sketches on Russian public opinion. Yet “I have reread it,” he writes in the same letter to Annenkov. “A lot of it is pallid, fragmentary, merely hinted at. Some things are wrong, oversalted or else undercooked—still, some notes…do not sound false,” and these, he thinks, will save the book. After Rudin, he knows that as a “writer of belles lettres” he is finished: “Rudin,” he writes to the critic Druzhinin in 1855, “will have settled that.” The hostile reaction by the young radicals to Fathers and Children convinces him that he has failed to achieve what he wanted. The friendly reception of the novel by Dostoevsky, and still more by the left-wing critic Pisarev (who identified himself with the “nihilist” Bazarov) gave him great pleasure; but this could not, as the letters show, begin to make up for the wounds inflicted upon him by the stern young Jacobins, attacks which, he thought, might be deserved. Smoke was on the whole ill received, and not by Dostoevsky alone. Turgenev knew that he had enraged both the right and the left; he shook like an aspen leaf in the storm he had aroused, but, as in the case of Fathers and Children, did not retreat, although the criticism hurt him deeply. The ultimate defeat came with his last novel, Virgin Soil. He wrote to one of his correspondents that in his “heart of hearts” he agreed with the unanimous condemnation of it by the Russian reviewers; in a letter to his brother, he spoke of it as a fiasco. He was grateful to the historian Kavelin for his sympathetic letter about the novel. He sought to explain to one of his editors what he had wished to achieve; but he knew that it was all useless. “I am one of the writers of the interregnum,” he wrote to Sergey Aksakov (the author of A Family Chronicle and Gogol’s friend), “between Gogol and some future master. We all produce bits and pieces…which a greater talent would have compressed into one powerful whole, issuing from the depths.” And again, “I know that there is in my work a great deal that is weak and unfinished, unfinished partly because of indolence, partly—why conceal the guilty secret—because of sheer lack of power.” Four years later he tells his admired friend the pious Countess Lambert, “The other day my heart died. I wish to report this fact.” His life is over; all feeling is dead; he says that he has turned to stone. This haunting sense of lack of true creative power oppressed Turgenev all his life. It was

Turgenev needed reassurance. Viardot. he delared that he had no more strength left. He had a great capacity for enjoyment: the shooting parties in Russia. When Gogol read his Dead Souls to the Aksakovs and their circle. the emotional entanglements. His immense success with the Russian public did not buoy him up. The notion that it might all have turned out otherwise if only one had chosen to behave differently is an illusion. in order to give them pleasure. This state of feeling is reflected in virtually all his writings. He worked best only if propped up by figures stronger than himself— Belinsky. happiness. and accepted criticism even from people he did not like or respect. now too unfair. One cannot imagine this degree of hesitation on the part of. and usually adopted their suggestions.S. whose adoring slave he remained to the end—these were sources of lasting. Characteristically he tended to seek advice from others about his writings before publication. In an excellent article published some years ago in. not of left-wing fanatics. by the flow of the narrative. he did this out of friendship. as it were. say. The constant criticism to which he was exposed in Russia (even while he was one of its most widely read authors) wounded him continuously. who complained that he was now too kind. Yet this was not a pose. Indeed Turgenev said as much in a letter to Tolstoy in 1856: “Your life is directed to the future. and is now over and done with. Late in his life he said that the unsuccessful lovers in his stories. viewed with an all-for-giving understanding for what can only have been as it was. Tolstoy or Dostoevsky. . He kept modifying the character of Rudin—modeled on Bakunin—under pressure from his friends. the lively literary dinners in Moscow and in Paris. Turgenev’s stories look back on something that happened long ago. He nervously tried out more than one of his novels on friends. the sense of bliss in the company of Mme. putting an end to it all: it was this that Dostoevsky mocked so cruelly in the character of Karmazinov in The Possessed. if intermittent. the moments of exaltation. all are by now in some middle distance. Unsure of himself. Annenkov. above all the young in Russia. but of all those right and left of center. saying farewell to literature. and the inevitable defeat and humiliation.” A thin veil of sadness is usually drawn over his narrative. It was highly characteristic of him to complain that he was old at thirty-four. Pritchett pointed out that whereas with Tolstoy the reader is always contemporary with the events described. Viardot. at their pressing request. to his old friend. The great contralto who after all knew him better than anyone (save perhaps Annenkov) once described him as “le plus triste des hommes“: it was all she could do to make him continue to write. read to his companions during a holiday on the Isle of Wight. He was admired by the best writers in France. the tragic and the ludicrous. The web of relationships. are himself. carried forward. Flaubert. I think. So too with Fathers and Children. like Rakitin in his play A Month in the Country. V. the New Statesman. Mme. mine is built on the past. he wished to gain approval not of reactionaries. such as Annenkov and Botkin. like Katkov. but it was for Russia he was writing.more than moments of discouragement—the feeling of inadequacy is never wholly absent even during the happy evenings with his intimate friends in Russia or in Paris. He was perpetually bowing out. at the time a prisoner in the Peter and Paul fortress.

Turgenev’s views had been deeply and permanently influenced by the “Westernism” of the friends of his youth. left Turgenev relatively unaffected. from a different point of view. Viardot in 1849. liberalism. and was not entirely due to personal factors. and it is. Turgenev. Chernyshevsky was concerned. there was a moment in the late 1850s when Tolstoy wrote Botkin about the need for a new periodical to be devoted solely to aesthetic questions and to exclude. the literary life. organic. for instance. after all. such worship of the “peasant’s sheepskin” boded no good for the cause of the progress of reason and individual liberty.” A year later he tells Tolstoy that his . which he saw menaced from all sides. moreover. of Proust by Lukács). The notoriously troubled relationship with Tolstoy is a far more complicated affair. even before his “conversion. provided here).” But this moment passed.” he wrote Mme. subjectivism. so were all forms of irrationalism. In a letter of 1858 (not. It was scarcely likely to endear him to Tolstoy. recorded in these letters. the kind of political and social issues with which. and when I saw that this embarrassed. I retreated too quickly. True. transcendentalism. with their craving for an imaginary. his total failure to touch upon what alone mattered—the life of the spirit—it was this that irritated both Tolstoy and Dostoevsky in their very different fashions (not wholly unlike the disparagement. dusty. deeply upset by the invasion of Hungary by Russian troops to crush the revolution). told Tolstoy that he was wrong to avert his gaze from social questions—”it was not lyrical twittering that the times are calling for. social and intellectual progress. a dirty. Tolstoy began by liking and disliking Turgenev by turns. and especially the nostalgic neo-medievalism of the Slavophiles. There was a strong element of nineteenth-century positivism in Turgenev. alas. above all. aestheticism. indeed. This remained his credo to the end of his life. the visits to the opera. but after the 1850s their relations never grew genuinely warm again. low business. often represented as the archpriest of an aesthetic approach to life. of the meaning and purpose of the life of the human anthill. In the letter to him of 1856 already quoted (Professor Lowe has included it in his edition). the moralist in Tolstoy never allowed it to recur. but then there is dirt and dust in the streets. do without towns. He believed in the light of reason. in the “natural socialism” of the Russian village commune. but scarcely ever self-reproach. pre-Petrine Russian society. It was what seemed to them Turgenev’s preoccupation with trivial emotions of trivial people. nor birds singing on boughs…. You loathe politics. They took a natural interest in each other’s writings. He freely admitted that he found any form of mysticism.” Progressivism. He regarded this as pure fantasy. but was progressively more and more irritated by him. crises in the tedious lives of minor Russian gentry in decaying country houses. after the failure of the revolutions of 1848. yet we cannot. his evasion of the central questions of human existence. were precisely what Tolstoy came to dislike more and more. This inevitably made him deeply skeptical about Herzen’s search for salvation. of good and evil. he tried to attribute the “gulf” between them to his own clumsy attempts to deepen their friendship: “I went too far. visionary religious experience deeply alien to him. irritated you. Dostoevsky’s hysterical attack on Turgenev as a renegade to his country. Most of all he believed in the supreme value of beauty and of art.This resigned determinism is equally true of his letters: there is often regret. Turgenev felt uneasy with Tolstoy from the very beginning. political and individual liberty and democracy (“a man with a heart has only one country—democracy.

the reapers. “there is no development of character…just an immense amount of the old psychological business (‘What do I think? What is thought about me? Do I love or detest?’ etc.” As time went on. the Slavophile gentry. repeated mention of the selfsame small traits. the horse race. “even his grimaces are grimaces of genius.perpetual feeling of repulse of his relationships with others. relations between them deteriorated. Tolstoy .” True. One year later. and similar scenes “first rate. but their friendship need not suffer.” Tolstoy amazes the reader with “the pointed tip of Alexander’s boot. At the same time. but the public falls for it. for others also. Turgenev urged his Paris friends to read War and Peace. a charlatan’s tricks. his lack of real artistic freedom. presumably. “the down on Princess Volkonsky’s upper lip. marvelous…the work of a master beyond compare. When Anna Karenina appeared. “which the readers adore. Turgenev is clear that their paths diverge.” or “Speransky’s laugh…in order to make him think that he knows everything about the matter since he goes into such detail. of course. “do not let life slip between your fingers…. are absolutely farcical. However great his gifts. his habit of going off on irrelevant tangents.’ ” He cannot bear Tolstoy’s quirkiness. This letter is not given here). there is no touch of envy. yet he remains an unapproachable genius. He told one of his correspondents that it was now clear that poor Tolstoy had completely lost his way. after saying that he finds the descriptions of hunts. in 1876. must make his life difficult for him (and. Moreover. like the tedious. sleigh rides at night. his solitary life. only a somewhat worked-up indignation with what he regards as Tolstoy’s occasional sleight of hand as a writer. whereas all he knows are only these small trifles—a trick and no more. say.” and the like.” And again: “There are things here which will not perish so long as the Russian language exists…but there is no trace of any real reconstruction” of the period.” he complains that the historical passages. In letters to Annenkov and Borisov. and urged him not to stay in the army. Baroness Vrevskaya. trivial stuff. but that did nothing to alter his lifelong conviction that Tolstoy was a writer of towering genius.” He speaks of his continual resort to “vibration and oscillation of feeling” as simply a trick. greater than any other living writer. it is difficult not to suppose that the harsh things he says about Tolstoy’s novels are unconnected with Tolstoy’s wounding attitude toward him. there are marvelous things which no one else in the whole of Europe could write.” but all this preoccupation with upperclass life is a great pity. as well as of his own emotions.) which is a kind of monomania on Tolstoy’s part. Even after the celebrated break in their relations. “It is all due to Moscow. his hobby-horses. These are the words of a deeply and deservedly unhappy man. old maids of the Orthodox faith. his amateur philosophizing (which also annoyed Flaubert). He recognized Tolstoy’s genius from the beginning. he repeats it all to his friend. He seems to look for faults in Tolstoy’s writings as he does not dream of doing in those of. but much of the rest was tedious. although their differences will remain. his ridiculous ideological obsessions. Turgenev could restrain himself no longer. and single-handedly arranged the publication of the French translation. “Be warned by my example. “Of course. and which puts me in ‘a chill and fever of esctasy. the set pieces—the hunt. were marvelous. to write. Gogol or Flaubert.” he wrote him in 1858 in a letter not translated here. All this irritates him.

and the like. hostility to everything foreign. it is clear that. he told Sergey Aksakov. . but he did not retreat. but he loved him. but lacking in serious content. hatred of fanaticism. Men have only themselves to look to. Yet Tolstoy’s view is arrogant and false. His letters testify to the opposite. it offers the spectacle of mingled beauty and cruelty. say a few obituary words of mild praise of his gifts and character. Nature (he had read Schopenhauer who had also influenced Tolstoy) is indifferent to human endeavor: omnipotent. the absence of soap. gossip…ignorance. He knew perfectly well. in a word chaos! And this is the chaos in which so gifted a man must perish! But it is what is always happening in Russia! He had recommended Childhood to Mme. the poet and landowner Afanasy Fet. were not rationalizations of timidity and skepticism. he tells Annenkov in 1866. As for Tolstoy. rejection of historical schemas and of all the varieties of teleology dominant in his youth. he thought them well written. belief that only liberal compromises. Nature is not for him the benevolent guide and protectress of eighteenth-century thinkers— Mistress nature. intellectually thought out. unpolitical. “but heavy blows do it no damage. the Slavophiles. and defended them patiently and tenaciously in the face of continued attacks in his own country. nor has the life of society an inbuilt pattern without the understanding of which there can be no salvation. His moderation. We owe to Fet the knowledge that Tolstoy’s dislike for Turgenev was founded on contempt for a man who wasted his gifts on trivialities. self-importance. only gradualism. was a mistake—it is very poor. the officer in him. for his liberal opinions and unfortunate addiction to rational opinions and the enlightened West. historical. passionate belief in human rights. would protect men from brutal oppression and violence. the gentry. He knew that these opinions would not be popular with either conservatives or radicals. Orthodoxy. metaphysical. despite his endless vacillations. After a none-too-successful effort at reconciliation. and Annenkov and Panaev corroborate this. Even on the evidence of this small portion of Turgenev’s published letters. all-devouring. Viardot as a classic: this. to which he had listened as a student in the university of Berlin. the lord of the manor. to his conscious. literary artist. sour cabbage soup. he was principally (and mistakenly) regarded as a greatly gifted. and not revolution. Turgenev held firm and coherent social and political views until the end of his life. he did.” he told Aksakov. and the friendship was restored.” He did quarrel with the archreactionary Fet. at the same time destroys the good and the innocent. After all. In the West. The same force that creates genius and visions of the ideal. after 1861 he took relatively little notice of Turgenev or his novels. Dame nature. but part of a firmly held outlook of an exceptionally intelligent and consistent critical thinker. sincere enough. theological. irresistible. after Turgenev’s death. Differences of view and of styles of life can scarcely alone account for this degree of mutual antipathy. The continuation of a real relationship was evidently unthinkable. Turgenev did not mind being scolded by his other country neighbor. but the broadsides of the traditionalists did not upset him: “a rag can be torn. that the Slavophiles thought him a mere rag. very poor indeed.cannot get out of the Moscow bog into which he has walked.

than anything the cherubim…can see in their heaven.” and will suffer the same fate. Satan. Herzen. nevertheless. its capriciousness. but having learned Spanish. In an early letter to Mme. A decade later. or by what mysterious process Bazarov turned out as he did. individuality. and expect to find it in reason. the kind of public that he knew that he was writing for. since it is. Russia (he tells Herzen in a letter included by Professor Lowe) is not “a Venus of Milo in rags and bonds. he gives a harrowing description of meeting ruined French peasants sitting in helpless misery after their harvest had been destroyed by a hailstorm: the implied protest against the social order which leads to such despair is not far distant from that of Proudhon and Courbet. its fleeting beauty…all that I adore.” He has no religion. its habits. he tells her in an early letter how profoundly moved he is by Calderón’s overwhelming Catholic vision.” and the nightingale that pours forth its marvelous song “while some wretched half-crushed insect is dying in agony in its craw.” He abhorred the violence. Sluchevsky. was. a positive figure for him. is nonsense. Fet. not salvation. I should prefer to watch the hurried movements of a duck at the edge of a lake as it scratches the back of its head with its moist foot. he says: I cannot bear the sky…but life. standing motionless up to its knees in water. doubtless for the sake of Mme. Viardot. he is convinced far too ignorant and reactionary for that. there is a new generation of men of progressive mind.In a letter to Mme. randomness. which seems to him populist patter.” “I may be an atom. Viardot. The Slavophile-populist antithesis of the West as being beautiful without. while Russia is the opposite. but this did not drive him into the arms of either the government or the Slavophile opposition. because what he believes in is fundamentally right: because the rebellion of the sons against the ruling class is not simply a reaction to the cruelty or corruption of the fathers. But it is not for him: he is with those who protest—”Prometheus. or the long gleaming drops of water. Yet “the people” can never itself transform society. Viardot. that Bazarov. he declared that he did not know whether he loved or hated him. egoistic power. they are simply more sensitive to the needs of the people. at the same time it is a source of infinite delight to him. on one of his visits to Russia. reality. not grace. “but I am my own master—I love truth. He worships the beauty of nature. revolt. and recoiled from the extremism of the revolutionary groups. Saltykov-Shchedrin.” the letter continues. he thought that he saw this happening: “it may be that Bazarovs are not needed now. but ugly within. I—I am bound to the earth. patient workers without . Hence his refusal to sign Herzen’s manifesto on the emancipation of the serfs. can do that.” the careless force that creates the stars above “and the warts on my skin. Nature is nothing but a biological process. quiet resolution. she is like her Western sisters. in spite of his unattractive qualities.” he wrote to the feminist Filosofova in 1874. to demand a theodicy to justify it is meaningless. and practical ability—useful men. but he insisted to all his critics. slowly falling from the mouth of a cow after it has drawn its fill from the pond. but not its “greedy. or to a bad upbringing—that would prove nothing—but because coming as they often do from loving homes. only an educated minority. In the famous controversy about the character of Bazarov in Fathers and Children.

The novel—his last—Virgin Soil was badly received by the reviewers. greatness is all around one. was everything to him. and spontaneous. on a journey through past centuries. even when he favored them.” Still Bazarov in his day had been greatly needed. he was a forerunner of things to come.outstanding gifts and brilliance of personality who will radically change things in Russia. Sergey Aksakov. only unable to express . poetry in France is trivial. nor did his financial support for the revolutionary Russian journal in Paris edited by the socialist Lavrov. The letters to his familiar friends at home. poetry. pass unnoticed either by the authorities or the student radicals. his portraits of the young revolutionaries would show them neither as a gang of rogues and crooks nor as ideal heroes. A vein of mingled hope and subdued pessimism runs through virtually all political comments in the letters to his Russian correspondents. felt an almost eighteenth-century horror of the unbridled mob. curiously called Ellis. Like Herzen. Borisov. In his next novel (Turgenev wrote in a letter three years later). In Rome. These Russian letters in the 1850s and 1860s are filled with an obsessive contempt for Parisian culture—it is cold. for all his lifelong disbelief in revolution. did not dispute their verdict. nevertheless. banal. a fiasco. he found the young fanatics who followed Chernyshevsky unbearable—the antipathy was mutual—but he was ready to support any attempt to bring down the Russian autocracy. their fanatical belief in terrorist methods. he wrote to his brother. however. Turgenev. he was repelled by the new hard men of the 1860s. The novel was. Anna Filosofova. according to legend. claimed him for their own. As always. artificial. music tends to cheap vaudeville. Toporov. their contempt for the liberal values of Western civilization. murdered one of Turgenev’s ancestors: it is a nightmare vision of pillage and slaughter conveyed with terrifying power. Today “there is no need to move mountains. He says that he likes only music. He was not too optimistic about the consequences of the social upheavals of his time. always milder and more realistic. Herzen still clung to his Rousseauian faith in the “natural socialism” of the Russian peasant. nature. even intimate friends like Flaubert or the German painter Pietsch. sincere. England is a superior country—the English are genuine. Fet and Polonsky. there is immortal beauty everywhere. dogs. Annenkov. and say a great deal more than the letters to his French and German correspondents. the preservation of a minimum of decency. by their brutality. After Turgenev’s death. His obvious sympathy with the revolutionaries did not. His position remained what it had always been. Baroness Vrevskaya. Turgenev. The precarious framework of humane culture. nature is hideous. even to the satirist Saltykov (who did not greatly like him)—all the letters provided in these collections—are much more free. the young revolutionaries. and one of the scenes he witnesses is that of a savage raid by sixteenth-century Volga piraterebels who. liberated slaves likely to sweep away all that he and his friends lived by. Countess Lambert. as his letters show. narrow. He did not share Herzen’s apocalyptic vision of a barbarian invasion of the West as being. when the criticism was adverse. hunting is quite disgusting. the three favored ladies. he tended to think it basically just. In one of his curious fantasies—in a story called Ghosts—the author is carried aloft by a supernatural female figure. a cleansing storm.

and social events and personalities. The letters to his daughter Paulinette (an odd way of symbolizing his love of Pauline Viardot) are the most painful reading in these volumes. almost perfectly as he knew these languages. there are touching expressions of total love and devotion (often in German). and not to realize how great a proportion of his . the chatter of George Sand” who has “written herself out” (he is writing in 1857). This attitude alters once the Franco-Prussian war is over.themselves—but Paris! He tells Tolstoy that he simply cannot like the French. they all admired and adored him far more deeply than did any writers in Russia. Viardot. he is seized by an unbearable longing for the smells and sights of the Russian autumn. the young Maupassant. Daudet. but apart from wonderful descriptive pages about the shooting country in his corner of the woods. Viardot’s protegé Gounod are approved of. there is much amusing talk about mutual friends. above all he renews his warm relations with Flaubert. Renan. literary. not even the hunting dogs he loved so well. he took great care to educate and set her up in France. It is only too obvious from the tone of his correspondence. the feeble whimperings of Lamartine. arrogance. wisps of smoke. Only Michelet escapes the onslaught.” and the sight of dear Fet himself bustling about his estate with his short cavalryman’s steps. even when he is writing about his own physical or mental states. but his letters show that he is still thinking only about Russia and Russians. set opinions which nothing can alter. tyranny of the Second Empire: “I cannot tell you how deeply I hate everything French and especially Parisian. nor was she grateful enough to Mme. Paulinette seemed to him headstrong and perverse and unresponsive. His letters to Mme.” Their heads are filled with clichés. but only when the Viardots decided to do so. they sprang from the need to be in constant contact with others. Edmond de Goncourt. for all his interest in Russian literature. Perhaps it is a matter of language: he seems to feel and perceive more vividly and authentically when he is in Russia. but. “the plowed. and Mérimée. as he kept repeating to his friends. and he makes friends with the leading writers. it was by them that he wished to be judged. Turgenev loved her after his fashion. Dumas fils. He speaks of the “jangling clatter of Victor Hugo. Zola. and the lack of any deliberate order as he moves from topic to topic. “Everything that is not theirs seems to them wild and stupid. he had too little in common with her: she liked neither music nor literature. to talk to them and be answered. than through the spectacles of French or German. He detests the militarism. Among composers. only Meyerbeer and Mme. He writes about musical.” he writes to his friend Fet in 1860. The Viardot household returns to France. Viardot who had (he kept repeating to her) so generously undertaken to look after her and was so good to her. by now cool. fare little better. that his letters were not written with an eye on posterity. now that Rossini has ceased writing and Bellini is dead. the sound of the head peasant’s boots in the hall. there is relatively little that is either arresting or genuinely intimate. earth. “Why can I not leave Paris?” Why not indeed? The answer is not in doubt: he moved easily enough to Baden Baden. It was for Russians (as he admitted) that he was writing. After 1871 the diatribes against Paris cease. are at times oddly conventional. or thinks in Russian. and whom he idolized to his dying day. to be among friends. bread. who entirely dominated the last thirty years of his life.

it is a pity that. and his editorial skill are wholly admirable—models of their kind. there is Turgenev: Letters. $50. or the strange dream reported to Mme. Bodenstedt.↩ The Great Amateur . the artist and the man are not always one and the same. 1983. he could not have substituted for the largely business letters to such professional acquaintances as Hetzel. a few of the more real letters to Annenkov or Borisov (in which he really lets himself go). inevitably worldly prima donna. even within the severely narrow confines to which he must have been restricted. as may well be imagined. 1983 1. Viardot in 1849 which casts a fascinating light on the element of fantasy in his writings. Knowles’s wish to illustrate the full breadth of Turgenev’s interest. The censorious tone of Turgenev’s letters. Knowles’s volume. but long out of print. But his vignettes of Turgenev’s correspondents. The least interesting. his notes. 2 In addition to Mr. Still. and Ralston. It is strange that of all people the author of A Month in the Country should not have shown a deeper understanding of the humiliating situation of an illegitimate child. the set. Durand. both financially and personally.00). can only have made matters worse. the fullest to date. Knowles's edition. they are a touching but deeply pathetic record of an old man’s last infatuation. He was constantly trying to marry her off. dominating. edited and translated by David Lowe (two volumes.↩ 2. Ardis. 1 Apart from a late Victorian translation of Halpérine-Kaminsky's edition of some of Turgenev's letters in French and two collections of his letters to the actress Savina three years before his death. As for the love letters to the actress Savina. Evidently. or (but this may be getting unfair) the remarkable short letter he wrote to the editor Stasyulevich in January 1877 about Virgin Soil. are the letters about the management of his Russian estates included in Mr. or the letter to Herzen of 1867 in which he gives a particularly vivid account of his views on the “social question” in Russia. Lehrman's selection of 1961. I know of nothing else in English save Edgar H. taken from her serf mother and handed over as a quasiward to a foreign. But one cannot have everything. One can naturally respect Mr. very well made. or even the six lines from the letter to Maria Milyutina (of February 1875) in which he states his basic he had had to spend on her needs. the dutiful but unconvincing affirmations of his love for her. and Mr. and when finally she did marry a Frenchman. His comment on Turgenev’s political naiveté (as opposed to whose wiser views? Tolstoy’s? Herzen’s? Chernyshevsky’s?) itself seems a trifle naive. Letters Corrections November 24. it ended badly. in general. Knowles’s selection is.

exposure. spontaneous. He had an acute. easily stirred. irresistibly readable even today. and especially letters written to intimates or to political correspondents. Turgenev.” These gifts make a good many of Herzen’s essays. in Paris. investigation. easily irritated amour propre. ideas. no Eckermann. he was a brilliant and irrepressible talker. to record his conversation. and a taste for polemical writing. an intimate and life-long friend (the fluctuations of their personal relationship were important in the lives of both. and dramatized himself as a devastating discoverer of their social and moral core. his prose has the vitality of spoken words—it appears to owe nothing to the carefully composed formal sentences of the French philosophes whom he admired or to the terrible philosophical style of the Germans from whom he learned. London. great intellectual energy and biting wit. who had little sympathy with Herzen’s opinions. Although much has been written about Herzen. Tolstoy. Herzen was a marvelously gifted social observer. said toward the end of his life that he had never met anyone with “so rare a combination of scintillating brilliance and depth. imaginative. he had no Boswell. Turgenev. a fiery and poetical temperament. Nor were they altogether unaware of this. We hear his voice— almost too much—in the essays. the loss to posterity (as with Diderot) is probably immense. and later in his life in Russian. 1968 Isaiah Berlin Alexander Herzen. Nice. especially among his countrymen. political situations. French.March 14. but always returning to the main stream of the story or the argument. the autobiography. was an amateur of genius whose opinions and activities changed the direction of social thought in his country. and not only in Russian. like Diderot. the task of his biographers has not been made easier by the fact that he left an incomparable memorial to himself in his own greatest work—translated by Constance Garnett as My Past and Thoughts—a literary masterpiece worthy of being placed by the side of the novels of his contemporaries and countrymen. and was not given to excessive praise of his contemporaries among men of letters. often lyrical. the record of what he saw is unique. He was a man of extreme refinement and sensibility. writing—qualities that combined and reinforced one another in the succession of sharp vignettes of men. this complex and interesting story has never been adequately told) admired him both as a writer and as a revolutionary journalist. His prose is essentially a form of talk. and ironical mind. Geneva—always in an overwhelming flow of ideas and images. events. Dostoevsky. causal notes and reviews. Like Diderot too. self-critical. he saw himself as an expert “unmasker” of appearances and conventions. personal relationships. Civilized. political articles. The celebrated critic Vissarion . and descriptions of entire forms of life in which his writings abound. the pamphlets. He talked equally well in Russian and French to his intimate friends and in the Moscow salons. he was addicted to analysis. nor would he have suffered such a relationship. day-to-day journalism. Tolstoy. as much as in the letters and scraps of notes to his friends. with the vices and virtues of talk: eloquent. Above all. even in the articulate nineteenth century. German. when the issues with which they were concerned are for the most part dead and of interest mainly to historians. and a capacity for vivid. liable to the heightened tones and exaggerations of the born storyteller unable to resist long digressions which themselves carry him into a network of intersecting tributaries of memory or speculation.

German and French. recognized the poetry of his writing. whom he had known in Paris. and acclaimed his extraordinary literary gift when they were both young and relatively unknown. he delighted both in his society and his writings: half a century after their first meeting in London he still remembered the scene vividly. the blinds permanently drawn. during one of his journeys.2 He was a proud. grim. in his lifetime a celebrated European figure. met. some months before the great fire that destroyed the city during Napoleon’s occupation after the battle of Borodino. and at the time of the French invasion was living in bitter and resentful idleness in his house in Moscow. who terrorized his household with his whims and his sarcasm. carefully chosen by his neurotic. He retired before the war of 1812. submissive. and had grown increasingly morose and misanthropic. and neither unfeeling nor unjust. saw virtually nobody. long canonized in his own country not only as a revolutionary but as one of its greatest men of letters. But he was. a good deal younger than himself. Like other rich and well-born members of the Russian gentry. and remained well-disposed toward him until the end of his life. Ivan Alexandrovich Yakovlev. suspicious father. independent. but the boy had every attention lavished upon him. and took back to Moscow with him. the daughter of a minor Württemberg official. For this indiscretion he was sent back to his estates and only allowed to return to Moscow somewhat later. Every care was taken to develop his gifts. 1812. an affair of the heart. even today. His father. he was looked after by a host of nurses and serfs. described. whom he had christened Yegor (George). His father loved him after his fashion: more. He kept all doors and windows locked. irritable. He was a lively and imaginative child and absorbed knowledge easily and eagerly. Shrewd. Yakovlev was a member of the Orthodox Church. During the French occupation he was recognized by Marshal Mortier. that is to say. as if to stress the fact that he was the child of an irregular liaison. He received the normal education of a young Russian nobleman of his time. unable to communicate with his family or indeed anyone else. Mazzini. and Victor Hugo. In his large and gloomy house in the Arbat he brought up his son Alexander. honorable. she remained a Lutheran. devoted. and. and taught by private tutors. half-frozen human being. and. the admired friend of Michelet. shut-in. somewhat colorless girl. and agreed—in return for a safe conduct enabling him to take his family out of the devasted city—to carry a message from Napoleon to the Emperor Alexander. apart from a few old friends and his own brothers. disdainful man. The enjoyment to be obtained from reading his prose—for the most part still untranslated—makes this a strange and gratuitous loss. a “difficult” character like old Prince Bolkonsky in Tolstoy’s War and Peace.1 It is strange that this remarkable writer. by the 1820s. As for Tolstoy. a gentle. Luise Haag. also illegitimate. is. ALEXANDER HERZEN was born in Moscow on April 6. Even the angry and suspicious Dostoevsky excepted him from the virulent hatred with which he regarded pro-Western Russian revolutionaries. a defeated and gloomy recluse. came of an ancient family distantly related to the Romanov dynasty. In later years his son described him as the product of “the encounter of two such . than his other son. to whom he had given the surname Herzen. born ten years earlier. he never married her according to the rites of his own Church. certainly. Luise Haag was never accorded the full status of a wife. he had spent some years abroad. For some reason. perhaps owing to the disparity in their social positions.Belinsky discovered. Garibaldi. not much more than a name in the West. Ivan Yakovlev emerges from his son’s recollections a self-lacerating.

where he was not indeed kept in prison. condemned to imprisonment. to the barbarous conditions that surrounded him in childhood. but could not save his son from being exiled to the provincial city of Vyatka. duly arrested and. he and his intimate friend Nick Ogaryov. and other social prophets whose works were smuggled into Russia in defiance of the censorship. together with most other “unreliable” students. the critic Belinsky. frightened by her foreign surroundings.” and. and seemed to accept her almost Oriental status in the household with uncomplaining resignation. which. Fourier. He learned French (which his father wrote more easily than Russian) and German (which he spoke with his mother) and European. but the facts of his irregular birth and of his mother’s status were brought home to him by listening to the servants’ gossip and. on at least one occasion. as to many others of his class and generation. when his pupil asked him why Louis XVI had been executed. crushed by her husband. whether this was so or not. but put to work in the local administration. she was kind and unassuming. an enthusiastic follower of the new Romantic movement. The Frenchman did not reveal his political opinions. He was a favorite child. history—his tutor was a French refugee who had emigrated to Russia after the French Revolution. had then begun to dominate Russian intellectual life. the memory of these aristocratic martyrs in the cause of Russian constitutional liberty later became a sacred symbol to him. It was probably one of the determining factors of his life. “Because he was a traitor to his country. took a solemn “Hannibalic” oath to avenge these fighters for the rights of man and to dedicate their own lives to the cause for which they had died. trained to behave obsequiously to the son and probable heir of their master. standing on the Sparrow hills above Moscow. Saint-Simon. His father used all his influence to get the sentence mitigated. Herzen was a lonely child. Herzen himself. to this he replied in an altered voice. at once pampered and cramped. so Herzen tells us. threw off his reserve and spoke to him openly about the liberty and equality of men. and affected him for the rest of his days. In due course he became a student at the University of Moscow. especially French books of the Enlightenment. and much spoiled. He was taught Russian literature and history by a young university student. by overhearing a conversation about himself between his father and one of his old army comrades. near the borders of Asia. and somewhat later the French utopian socialists. He later declared that this event was the critical turning point of his life. He tells us that a few years after this. and became a convinced and passionate radical. read Schiller and Goethe.incompatible things as the eighteenth century and Russian life”—a collision of cultures that had destroyed a good many among the more sensitive members of the Russian gentry in the reigns of Catherine II and her successors. particularly in its German form. lively and bored. profound. He was fourteen when the leaders of the Decembrist conspiracy were hanged by the Emperor Nicholas I. attributed the deepest of all his social feelings. The boy escaped with relief from his father’s oppressive and frightening company to the rooms occupied by his mother and the servants. . probably because he declined to repudiate the views imputed to him. according to his own testimony. As for the servants. The shock was. in later years. until one day. He and Ogaryov belonged to a group of students who read forbidden books and discussed dangerous ideas. they were serfs from the Yakovlev estates. finding the boy responsive. he read voraciously in his father’s large library. diagnosed so accurately). rather than Russian. concern for the freedom and dignity of human individuals (which his friend. For this he was.

and Guizot. the future political agitators Bakunin and Katkov (the first in the cause of revolution. he was again sentenced to a period of exile. the yoke of social custom. the critic Belinsky. he was transferred to the city of Vladimir. the second of reaction). in which he had criticized the behavior of the police. He was by then regarded as an established member of the new radical intelligentsia. and savage. and preached the need for return to native. As a result of his father’s ceaseless efforts. indeed. Hegel: Saint-Simon. who. In Vyatka he became involved in a passionate love affair with a married woman. was illegitimate. Western lines. He adopted an uncompromising position. The radicals believed in reform along democratic. He always dealt with the same central theme: the oppression of the individual. they were published. in 1842. and a lawless and brutal autocracy. A leading representative of the dissident Russian gentry. Leroux. widely read and discussed. in any case. and.” but he preserved his links with his Slavophile adversaries. He composed arresting historical and philosophical essays. and suffered agonies of contrition. and began to write in the progressive periodicals of the time. arbitrary misgovernment which maimed and destroyed human beings in the brutal and odious Russian Empire. and with the help of his young Moscow friends. and. hopelessly decadent West. but honorable allies against the Tsarist bureaucracy. and later tended systematically to minimize his differences with them. and resentment of the civilized West. Like the other members of his circle. he displayed administrative gifts and became a far more competent and perhaps even enthusiastic official than he was later prepared to admit. perhaps from . according to them. his own intimate friend Ogaryov. Herzen plunged into the study of German meta-physics and French sociological theory and history—the works of Kant. Mignet. there was the wounded national pride of a powerful and semi-barbarous society. above all. As a result of an indiscreet letter. He regarded the best among them as romantic reactionaries. he was once more permitted to return to Moscow. They were married in Vladimir against their relations’ wishes. society—than to a direct response to the agonizing social problems in his native land: the poverty of the masses. this time to Novgorod. as an honored martyr in its cause. Schelling. behaved badly. and lived as a companion in the house of a rich and despotic aunt. he remained indomitably independent and committed to the radical cause. the Slavophiles retreated into mystical nationalism. WHATEVER HIS AMBITIONS at the time. envy. arranged the elopement of Natalie. Herzen began as an extreme “Westerner. then in its early industrial beginnings. “organic” forms of life and faith that. Two years later. went through a religious phase. serfdom and lack of individual freedom at all levels. he owed his socialist beliefs less to a reaction against the cruelty and chaos of the laissez faire economy of the bourgeois West—for Russia. and helped to expose the corrupt and brutal governor. and.To his astonishment. was still a semi-feudal. like himself. of whom he painted an unfavorable and repulsive portrait. opened by the censors. He read Dante. the humiliation and degradation of men by political and personal tyranny. and suffered from mingled admiration. the dark ignorance. socially and economically primitive. misguided nationalists. He was in due course allowed to return to Moscow and was appointed to a government post in Petersburg. and began a long and passionate correspondence with his first cousin Natalie. and stories dealing with social issues. and created a considerable reputation for their author. had been all but ruined by Peter’s reforms which had merely encouraged a sedulous and humiliating aping of the soulless. he enjoyed this new test of his powers. the literary essayist Annenkov. Augustin-Thierry.3 In addition. the young poet and novelist Turgenev. whose leaders were aware of its backwardness. secular.

anything cautious. his mother and two friends as well as servants. petty. Alexander Herzen. as well as the financial means for supporting other refugees and radical causes. His fortune in Russia and that of his mother were declared confiscated. His Moscow friends for the most part received this with disfavor: they regarded his analyses as characterstic flights of a highly rhetorical fancy. mordant personal observation. which. He left in the same year. when a series of revolutions broke out in country after country in Europe. and burning with a desire (in Fichte’s words that expressed the attitude of a generation) “to be and do something” in the world. add to the force and swiftness of the narrative. of exhilarating conversation by an intellectually gay. was a notable step forward toward universal enlightenment. gallicisms which irritated his nationalistic Russian friends. the capital of the civilized world. SHORTLY AFTER his arrival in Paris. and. calculating. brilliant and unusually honest man endowed with singular powers of observation and expression. By 1848. he found himself with Bakunin and Proudhon on the extreme left wing of revolutionary socialism. a devastating analysis of the degradation of the French bourgeoisie. commercial. in particular. When rumors of his activities reached the Russian Government. lucid. variations on the same theme in many keys. an indictment not surpassed even in the works of his contemporaries Marx and Heine. he was ordered to return immediately. Whether he wished or expected to remain abroad during the rest of his life is uncertain. He plunged at once into the life of the exiled radicals and socialists of many nationalities who played a central role in the fermenting intellectual and artistic activity of that city. he slowly crossed Germany. With immense faith in his own powers. travelling in considerable state. irresponsible extremism. Aided by the efforts of the banker James de Rothschild who had conceived a liking for the young Russian “baron” and was in a position to bring pressure on the Russian Government. interspersed with vivid and never irrelevant digressions. before the revolution. self-satisfied. whatever its shortcomings. verbal inventions. Herzen recovered the major portion of his fortune. he contributed a series of impassioned articles to a Moscow periodical controlled by his friends. Herzen decided to emigrate. This gave him a degree of independence not then enjoyed by many exiles. puns. . and toward the end of 1847 reached the coveted city of Paris. of which Louis Philippe and Guizot are held up as particularly repulsive incarnations. direct. The effect is one of spontaneous improvisation. These early works— The Letters from Avenue Marigny and the Italian Sketches that followed—possess qualities which became characteristic of all his writings: a rapid torrent of descriptive sentences. quotations real and imaginary. He refused. ill-suited to the needs of a misgoverned and backward country compared to which the progress of the middle classes in the West. neologisms. The mood is one of ardent political radicalism imbued with a typically aristocratic (and even more typically Muscovite) contempt for everything narrow. and thereafter experienced no financial want. accompanied by his wife. in which he gave an eloquent and violently critical account of the conditions of life and culture in Paris. but so it turned out to be. so far from either tiring or distracting the reader by their virtuosity. or tending toward compromise and the juste milieu.a desire to see all Russians who were not dead to human feeling ranged in a single vast protest against the evil regime. He left the greater part of his fortune to Luise Haag and her son. and cascades of vivid images and incomparable epigrams. In 1847 Ivan Yakovlev died. fresh.

It would be destroyed by its victims—the slaves who cared nothing for the art and science of their masters. and that it was the failure of the Revolution of 1848 which brought about his disillusionment and a new. national unity. to the vast majority of mankind. barbarous enough in the West. Marx. sacrificed in honor of older divinities—church or monarchy or the feudal order or the sacred customs of the tribe. The old world was crumbling visibly. and indeed. Herzen asks. historical rights. above all. unbridgeable gulf between the humane values of the relatively free and civilized elites (to which he knew himself to belong) and the actual needs. even utopian social idealist. since this civilization. the beginnings of which. like Proudhon. official. have tasted the ripest fruits of civilization. liberty. Such a cataclysm might be not only inevitable but justified. and doubtless would soon again be. reward for the day’s work—Herzen spoke of something even more disquieting—a haunting sense of the ever widening. historic goals—progress. like him. of the great. ideal images of whom floated before the eyes of his Westernizing friends in Russia. or on the contrary to the rule of new masters over new slaves—that ominous note is sounded clearly before the great debacle.4 Even in 1847. that were now discredited as obstacles to the progress of mankind. why should they care? Was it not erected on their suffering and degradation? Young and vigorous. intellectually. immediate goals of identifiable living individuals—specific freedoms. But with this went a deep distrust (something that his allies did not share) of all general formulae as such. would in fact lead to a juster and freer order. even if they were achieved by fearless and intelligent revolutionaries or reformers. desires. wilder still in Russia or the plains of Asia beyond. and with them all that is most sublime and beautiful in Western civilization. violated and slaughtered. equality. any less dreadful. ultimately optimistic revolutionary.Herzen’s outlook in these essays is a combination of optimistic idealism—a vision of a socially. on whose altars human blood was to be shed tomorrow as irrationally and uselessly as the blood of the victims of yesterday or the day before. and Louis Blanc. in contrast with the concrete. faith in the radical revolution which alone could create the conditions for their liberation. shortterm. This does not seem sufficiently borne out by the evidence. and tastes of the vast voiceless masses of mankind. Yet. in particular. Herzen saw danger in the great magnificent abstractions the mere sound of which precipitated merely into violent and meaningless slaughter—new idols. pessimism about the degree to which human beings can be transformed. Herzen (unlike Heine who was prey to not dissimilar doubts). a life without meaning. the new barbarians will raze to the ground the edifices of their oppressors. remained a convinced. more pessimistic realism. it seemed to him. human solidarity—principles and slogans in the name of which men had been. to those who. and their forms of life condemned and destroyed. and it deserved to fall. Like the more extreme of the left-wing disciples of Hegel. IT HAS often been asserted by both Russian and Western critics that Herzen arrived in Paris a passionate. despite this. Yet he does not pretend that this makes the prospect. he saw in the French working class. has offered nothing but suffering. Together with this skepticism about the meaning and value of abstract ideals as such. of the programs and battle cries of all the political parties. in particular like the anarchist Max Stirner. filled with a just hatred of the old world built on their fathers’ bones. and the still deeper skepticism about whether such changes. and morally free society. The spectacle of the workers’ revolt and its brutal . noble and valuable in the eyes of its beneficiaries. the skeptical note.

too. the radical German poet Georg Herwegh. So. love. with his own impressionable. Russian. never self-sparing. friendship. He became a Swiss citizen. and remorselessly egocentric. He gave generously. were tested by this crisis and broken by it. trapped. and he with her: the inflated literary language of the letters conceals more than it reveals. but for all his deep and lifelong belief in individual liberty and the absolute value of personal life and personal relationships. but now it forms part of his memoirs. he took what he needed. All his life Herzen perceived the external world clearly. is a masterpiece of “committed” historical and sociological writing. scarcely understood or tolerated wholly independent lives by the side of his own. he perceived it very dimly. His first-hand description of the events of 1848-9. hope. a friend of Marx and Wagner. He went almost mad with grief and jealousy: his love. Herzen’s progressive. Polish. and his reflections upon them. every moment of anger. He appropriated the feelings of those nearest him as he did the ideas of Hegel or George Sand: that is. suffered a traumatic shock from which he was never fully to recover. It is a harrowing document. if fitfully. views on love. that was in part responsible both for Natalie’s suffocation and for the lack of reticence in his description of what took place: Herzen takes wholly for granted the reader’s understanding. contempt. and to the disasters of the Revolution was added a personal tragedy—the seduction of his adored wife Natalie by the most intimate of his new friends. Italian. We know comparatively little of Natalie’s relationship with Herwegh: she may well have been physically in love with him. but also writing. He did what few others have ever done: described every detail of his own agony. and poured it into the vehement torrent of his own experience. Hungarian. Natalie’s letters and desperate flight to Herwegh show the measure of the increasingly destructive effect of Herzen’s self-absorbed blindness upon her frail and exalté temperament. tragic hero. . perhaps. and still more. The account is not unbalanced—there is no obvious distortion—but it is wholly egocentric. which all his work exhibits. every step of his altering relationship with Natalie. he put his own life into them. He noted every communication that occurred between them. he retains full artistic control of the tragedy which he is living through. No matter how violent his torment. Herzen could not and would not return to Russia. and in proportion. German. his deeper assumptions about the basis of all human relationships.suppression in Italy and in France haunted Herzen all his life. are his sketches of the personalities involved in these upheavals. and irresistibly attracted to her lover. who move on and off the stage on which he himself is always the central. Most of these essays and letters remain untranslated. affection. his description of his agony is scrupulously and bitterly detailed and accurate. hatred. equality of the sexes. He did not publish the story in full during his lifetime. what is clear is that she felt unhappy. self-absorbed. his vanity. but through the medium of his own self-romanticizing personality. the “iron lark” of the German Revolution as he was called half ironically by Heine. mental and emotional life. and the irrationality of bourgeois morality. Austrian. despair. French. this artistic egotism. If Herzen sensed this. every tone and nuance in his own moral and psychological condition are raised to high relief against the background of his public life in the world of exiles and conspirators. with Herwegh and Herwegh’s wife (as they seemed to him in retrospect). his undivided interest in every detail of his own. somewhat Shelleyan. in particular of the drowning in blood of the July revolt in Paris. It is. the writer’s. eloquent but not sentimental. to others. ill-organized self at the center of his universe.

were not intended for them. He revised Part IV. read widely. proud of her civil liberties and her sympathy with the victims of foreign oppression. This is how the book which he conceived on the analogy of David Copperfield came to be composed. It was an opiate against the appalling loneliness of a life lived among uninterested strangers5 while political reaction seemed to envelop the entire world. and there. and with his three surviving children went to England. Their bodies were not found. a deaf-mute. and yet still a part of Europe. he helped to keep Production going. The earliest chapters of My Past and Thoughts appeared in its pages. he continued to pour out a stream of letters and articles in various languages on political and social topics. after the death of Nicholas I had made it possible for him to leave Russia. The final section—Part VIII and almost the whole of Part VII—were written. were published in London7 between 1860 and 1864. He moved further and further into it and found it a source of liberty and strength. but these. worked unremittingly both as a publicist and as an active supporter of left-wing and revolutionary causes. argued. and Polish revolutionaries to many of whom he was bound by ties of warm friendship. even during this. a ship on which his mother and one of his children. and began to publish a periodical in Russian called The Polar Star—the first organ wholly dedicated to uncompromising agitation against the Imperial Russian regime. conceived ideas. By the spring of 1855. besides. the first five parts of the work were completed. Herzen’s life had reached its lowest ebb. were composed in 1857: he could not bring himself to touch upon them until then. political and personal. although usually included in the memoirs. in 1865-7. they were all published by 1857. his most intimate friend. Together they set up a printing press. He left Nice and the circle of Italian. added new chapters to it. Nicholas Ogaryov. After a short while Natalie returned to him in Nice. French. the actor Shchepkin. The first two parts were probably finished by the end of 1853. Consequently.SELF-EXPRESSION—the need to say his own word—and perhaps the craving for recognition by others. leaving no room for hope. Insensibly he was drawn into the past. were primary needs of Herzen’s nature. This was followed by an interval of seven years. Garibaldi (Camicia Rossa). kept up a correspondence with Swiss radicals and Russian émigrés. The sections dealing with his intimate life—his love and the early years of his marriage. America was too far away and. It was then the country most hospitable to political refugees. Independent essays such as those on Robert Owen. only to die in his arms. were traveling from Marseilles. encouraged by this. and composed Part V. in that order. tolerant of eccentricities or indifferent to them. he continued. This was the first section of his Memoirs to be written. he completed the bulk of Part VI by 1858. Shortly before her death. In 1854 a selection which he called Prison and Exile—a title perhaps inspired by Silvio Pellico’s celebrated I Miei Prigioni. In 1851 he went to London. England was no less remote from the scene of his defeats. the painter Ivanov. He wrote by fits and starts.6 He began to write it in the last months of 1852. It was an immediate success. The first complete edition of Parts I-IV appeared in 1861. made notes. He and his children wandered from home to home in London and its suburbs. The memory of the terrible years 1848-51 obsessed Herzen’s thoughts and poisoned his bloodstream: it became an inescapable psychological necessity for him to seek relief by setting down this bitter history. by Russia. . the darkest period of his life. civilized. was published in English. joined them. seemed to him too dull. sank in a storm. by Europe.

he could not bear to see it in print while he lived. to express sympathy or admiration. civilized. and some characteristically entertaining and ironical sketches of some of his old friends among the Russian radicals. written with knowledge.” and (after the first concrete steps toward this had been taken in 1859) his paean of praise to Alexander II under the title of “Thou hast conquered. and other loyal subjects of the Empire were among the many visitors who thronged to see him. both political and literary. Kolokol—The Bell—edited by Herzen and Ogaryov in London and then in Geneva from 1857 until 1867. It was the first systematic instrument of revolutionary propaganda directed against the Russian autocracy. miscarriage of justice. The memoirs formed a vivid and broken background accompaniment to Herzen’s central activity: revolutionary journalism. He reached the peak of his fame. the Russian Revolution of 1917. . and exposed repulsive aspects of Russian life. Russian travelers visited London in order to meet the mysterious leader of the mounting opposition to the Tsar. The copious information that reached Herzen and his friends in clandestine letters and personal messages. after the defeat of Russia in the Crimean War and the death of Nicholas I. O Galilean. It began to penetrate into Russia by secret routes and was regularly read by high officials of State. enlightened. was used to expose specific scandals—cases of bribery. The Bell had an immense success. too. He suppressed. tyranny. But Herzen’s credit stood very high— higher than that of any other Russian in the West. and completed some years after. and dishonesty by officials and influential persons. He omitted also the story of his affairs with Medvedeva in Vyatka and with the serf girl Katerina in Moscow—his confession of them to Natalie cast the first shadow over their relationship. The bulk of it is contained in the most celebrated of all Russian periodicals published abroad. the Emperor himself. including. describing various misdeeds of the Russian bureaucracy. and made it clear that he did not intend to make fun of allies for the entertainment of the common enemy. to which he dedicated his life. a handsome monument of Soviet scholarship— which at the time of writing is still incomplete. asked awkward questions. The fullest version is that published in the new exhaustive edition of Herzen’s works. sincerity. high officials. others to shake his hand. offered documentary evidence. with the motto vivos voco. The open appeal by Herzen to the new Emperor to free the serfs and initiate bold and radical reforms “from above. and mordant eloquence. He genuinely detested the practice of washing the revolutionaries’ dirty linen in public. in which a degree of understanding—perhaps of actual co-operation—could be achieved between Tsardom and its opponents. he was the acknowledged leader of all that was generous. it was rumored. It has since been revised in successive Soviet editions. This state of mind did not last long. The journal gathered round itself all that was uncowed not only in Russia and the Russian colonies abroad. The Bell named names.Herzen deliberately left some sections unpublished: the most intimate details of his personal tragedy appeared posthumously—only a part of the chapter en-titled Oceano Nox was printed in his lifetime. which was begun before. some out of curiosity. In the late Fifties and early Sixties. humane in Russia. but also among Poles and other oppressed nationalities. a chapter on “The Germans in Emigration” which contains his unflattering comments on Marx and his followers. Generals.” helped to create the illusion on both sides of the Russian frontier that a new liberal era had at last dawned. a shadow that never lifted. The first authoritative edition of the Memoirs was compiled by Mikhail Lemke in the first complete edition of Herzen’s works.

Although he supported every liberal beginning in France. bureaucratic. Some among the Polish exiles spontaneously conceded this service to the truth on Herzen’s part. For this there were many reasons. Marrast.8 Although he was half German himself. Perhaps his hatred of Herwegh. untidy. Poland. hierarchical. half-contemptuous description of the grotesque and futile aspects of every political emigration condemned to sterility. abstract formulae that flattened all things to the same rule and pattern—something that had a family resemblance to the animating principle of the great slave states—Prussia. this unswerving avoidance of chauvinism that was among the principal causes of the ultimate collapse of The Bell and Herzen’s own political undoing. was on good terms with Victor Hugo. Garibaldi. Saffi and Orsini. the worship of the state. and rhetoric of the French radical politicians—Lamartine. whom he knew to be a friend both of Marx and of . the suppression of the Roman revolution by the troops of the French Republic. he could not forget the betrayal of the revolution in Paris by the bourgeois parties in 1848. and identified the cause of Russian liberation with that of all her oppressed subject nationalities. weakness. more pronounced than among other émigrés. “truly democratic” Italians. The closest ties bound him to the Italian exiles. the execution of the workers. Herzen counteracted the legend. a strong aversion from what he regarded as the incurable philistinism of the Germans. the vanity. he regarded Louis Blanc as an honest and fearless democrat. After Russia. the martyred nation. like his friend Bakunin. HIS SKETCHES of the lives and behavior of leading French exiles in England are masterpieces of amused. intrigue. subject to rigid forms or rules. whom he believes to possess a deep affinity with the free Russian spirit embodied in the peasant commune with its sense of natural justice and human worth. Herzen’s deepest love was for Italy and the Italians. sullen mass of brutalized peasants on the other—an image that was the by-product of the widespread sympathy for the principal victim of Russian despotism. discipline. he continued to respect him. half-sympathetic. uncrushed. Yet he thought well of individual members of it: he had for a time been a close ally of Proudhon. worked in close sympathy with them. With it he constantly contrasts the decentralized. and of despotic. and what seemed to him a peculiarly unattractive combination of craving for blind authority with a tendency to squalid internecine recriminations in public. whose novels formed a central source of knowledge about Russia in the West. To this ideal even England seemed to him to be far less hostile than legalistic.MORE THAN BAKUNIN and even Turgenev. he felt. Ledru-Rollin. Like Tocqueville (whom he personally disliked). In later years he visited at least one Paris political salon—admittedly. or perhaps because of it. Austria. Russia. he had a distaste for all that was centralized. it was that of a Pole—with evident enjoyment: the Goncourts met him there and left a vivid description in their journal of his appearance and his conversation. silent. calculating France: in such moods he comes close to his romantic Slavophile opponents. despite their differences. and he liked and deeply admired Michelet. his attitude toward her was more ambiguous. Felix Pyat. if only because he was one of the rare Russians who genuinely liked and admired individual Poles. Mazzini. indeed. Moreover. ingrained in the minds of progressive Europeans (of whom Michelet was perhaps the most representative). and. and the dark. France was to him the incarnation of order. and a constant flow of selfjustifying eloquence before a foreign audience too remote or bored to listen. of unity. that Russia was nothing but the Government jack-boot on the one hand. It was.

For the rest. too materialistic and self-satisfied. the wild and tangled wood of her unwritten laws and customs brought the full resources of his romantic imagination into play. He cannot establish any genuine personal rapport with the English. helped him to propagate his views. he seems to have had even less contact with Englishmen than his contemporary and fellow exile. But he could not altogether like them: they remained for him too insular. In general. well-born man of letters. yet there is something genuinely venomous in his account of the German exiles. played some part in this. Moscow gentry. Proudhon. display acute and amused insight into the national characteristics of the English. are closer to him. always intelligent and sometimes penetrating. As for his hosts. he devoted himself to the education of his children. afterwards a friend of Nietzsche and Romain Rolland. that caused him to idealize the Russian peasant. plainly influenced by the views of Fourier. one or two radically inclined Members of Parliament. most of all. the Italians. as much as objective reasons. corrosive selfcriticism. and Owen. barrack-room discipline . His personal life was intertwined with that of his intimate friend Ogaryov. Goethe and Schiller meant more to him than Russian writers.Wagner. and. a member of the Russian and. including a minor minister. He perceived in it the seeds of the development of a non-industrial. uprooted from his native soil. too remote from the moral. they seldom appear in his pages. semianarchist. too indifferent. quite different from the high-spirited sense of comedy with which he describes the idiosyncracies of the other foreign colonies gathered in London in the Fifties and Sixties—a city. and George Sand. He was on reasonably good terms with several editors of radical papers (some of whom. Apart from his central preoccupations. even the Germans. dehumanization of both the oppressor and the oppressed—lay in the preservation of the Russian peasant commune. Herzen had met Mill. a life filled with occasional moments of hope and even exultation. He admired England. exploitation. bitter nostalgia. like Linton and Cowen. if we are to believe Herzen. acid. or the English and the Germans. the English. the Swiss naturalist to whom Herzen was devoted. he lived the life of an affluent. as well as Marx’s onslaughts on Karl Vogt. In spite of this the mutual devotion of the two friends remained unaltered—the Memoirs reveal little of the curious emotional consequences of this relationship. equally unconcerned with their absurdities and their martyrdom. At least three of his most intimate friends were pure Germans. the Swiss. followed by long periods of misery. His judgments about them. The French. Malwida von Meysenbug. and tend to be conventional. a gay and brilliant caricature. Karl Marx. social. He admired her constitution. and of Ogaryov’s wife who became his mistress. Only such a solution. and aesthetic issues which lay closest to his own heart. too unimaginative. “free” socialism. however. When he thinks of mankind he does not think of them. Carlyle. omnivorous. are distant. and to preserve contact with revolutionaries on the continent as well as with clandestine traffic of propaganda to Russia). seemed to him to avoid the crushing. The entertaining passages of My Past and Thoughts in which he compared the French and the English. unable to achieve a settled existence or even the semblance of inward or outward peace. It may be this. and to dream that the answer to the central “social” question of his time—that of growing inequality. more specifically. A description of the trial in London of a French radical who had killed a political opponent in a duel in Windsor Great Park is wonderfully executed but remains a piece of genre painting. overwhelming. which he entrusted in part to an idealistic German lady. certainly the Poles.

At other times he reproaches his old friend Bakunin. although his faith in the values of life for its own sake. . Herzen is neither consistent nor systematic. episodes. remains unshaken. of art. with their faith in the progressive role of developing industrialism preached by the forerunners of social democracy in Germany and France and of the Fabians in England. isolated vignettes. he remained faithful to his belief in the Russian peasant commune as an embryonic form of a life in which the quest for individual freedom was reconcilable with the need for collective activity and responsibility. “The absurdity of facts offends us…it is as though someone had promised that everything in the world will be exquisitely beautiful. At times he modified his view: toward the end of his life he began to recognize the historical significance of the organized urban workers. for wanting to make the revolution too soon. even were it to take the form of a barbarian invasion likely to destroy all the values that he himself holds dear. But all in all. the peasant with his faculties intact. Men desire freedom no more than fish desire to fly. patience and gradualism—not the haste and violence of a Peter the Great—can alone bring about a permanent transformation.demanded by Western Communists from Cabet to Marx. and from the equally suffocating. it is time to realise that nature and history are full of the accidental and senseless. untainted by the corruption and sophistication of the West. He is obsessed by a sense of the power of blind accident. The fact that a few flying fish exist does not demonstrate that fish in general were created to fly. while most human beings only want good government. anarchic peasant.” This is highly characteristic of his mood in the Sixties. all-transforming social order. and he echoes de Maistre’s bitter epigram about Rousseau: “Monsieur Rousseau has asked why it is that men who are born free are nevertheless everywhere in chains. of social freedom. We have marvelled enough at the deep abstract wisdom of nature and history. no matter at whose hands. just and harmonious. of personal relationships. or are not fundamentally quite content to stay below the surface of the water. History has its own tempo. it is as if one were to ask why sheep. perhaps it is the industrial worker who is to be the heir to the new. that the average European of the nineteenth century is too deeply marked by the slavery of the old order to be capable of realizing true freedom. but new men brought up in liberty. and conveys the consuming nostalgia that never leaves him. or to the bold and ruthless planner. it seemed to him. but is a succession of fragments. of muddle and bungling. and. half-socialist doctrines.9 Then again he returns to his early moods of disillusionment and wonders whether men in general really desire freedom: perhaps only a few do so in each generation. Almost all traces of Hegelian influence are gone. unavoidable. revolutionary storm. that it is not the liberated slaves who will build the new order. forever away from the sun and the light. nevertheless everywhere nibble grass. who joined him in London after escaping from his Russian prisons.” Herzen develops this theme. He retained to the end a romantic vision of the inevitable coming of a new. At such moments he wonders whether the future belongs to the free. facts and poetic license. and it is no accident that his exposition is not ordered. collectivist economic order. Sometimes he believes in the need for a great. a mingling of Dichtung and Wahrheit. for not understanding that dwellings for free men cannot be constructed out of the stones of a prison. who are born carnivorous. Then he returns to his earlier optimism and the thought that somewhere—in Russia—there lives the unbroken human being. cleansing. His moods alternate sharply. His style during his middle years has lost the confident touch of his youth. just. far more vulgar and philistine ideals contained in moderate.

There followed. vacillation. He is preserved by this. with no illusions about the prospects of freedom in the West. is necessarily slow. All genuine change. the latent pessimism. of the “soft” generation of the Forties. he began to think in 1847. as he grows older. a new generation of radicals grew up in Russia. only security and contentment. begins to fade. on examination. . he grew more pessimistic. the devotion to civilized values. and betrayal. and is kept morally alive only by his hatred of all injustice. is radical transformation either practicable or desirable? From this follows Herzen’s growing sense of obstacles that may be insurmountable. bitterly hostile to the aestheticism. but a cooling-off. largely ignored the chasm which divided it from the present—whether the Russia of Nicholas. most rudimentary beginnings of slow. His sense of reality is too strong. But if all this is even in small part true. sporadic. and intermittent despair of the middle Sixties. skepticism and suspicion of his own skepticism. all arbitrariness. rightly or wrongly. the replacement of one yoke by another. To them. before he went abroad. be bridged (this becomes an obsessive refrain in later Russian thought). His attitude. and of the central role to be played by the proletariat. the ideals and watchwords of politics turn out. or the corrupt constitutionalism in the West. He no longer feels certain that the gap between the enlightened elite and the masses can ever. since the awakened people may. he cannot deceive himself entirely. was boldly optimistic. a tendency to a more sober and critical outlook. prepared to be hard. determined on more ruthless methods. and by his unquenchable delight in the variety of life and the comical absurdities of human character. filled with contempt for the feeble liberal compromises of 1848. or in the half century that followed. These were men of mixed social origins. the cautious gradualism of his friends Granovsky and Turgenev. for unalterable psychological or sociological reasons. buoyed up by his belief that such evils will destroy themselves. This is not how the majority of Herzen’s Russian left-wing critics interpreted his views in his lifetime. the alternations of hope and gloom. then a backward country in the painful process of the earliest. in order to break the power of their equally ruthless oppressors. despise and reject the gifts of a civilization which will never mean enough to them. For in the Fifties and Sixties. and if need be unscrupulous and cruel. communism is but Tsarism stood on its head. He began with an ideal vision of mankind. the power of tradition (which he at once mocks at and admires in England) is very great. For all his efforts and the efforts of his socialist friends. He oscillates between pessimism and optimism. men are less malleable than was believed in the eighteenth century. all mediocrity as such—in particular by his inability to compromise to any degree with either the brutality of reactionaries or the hypocrisy of bourgeois liberals. by his love for his children and his devoted friends. accepting as true only what the sciences can prove. Slavophile nostalgia. which seemed to him designed to ensure the triumph of the new bourgeois class. his empiricism. as well as Hegelian appeals to patience and rational conformity to the inescapable rhythms of history.But this Rousseau-inspired vision. to be empty formulae to which devout fanatics happily slaughter hecatombs of their fellows. limits that may be impassable. inefficient industrialization. On the whole. In his youth he glorified Jacobin radicalism and condemned its opponents in Russia—blind conservatism. not indeed a change of view. nor do they truly seek liberty. in principle. these doctrines seemed symptomatic of retreat. skepticism. THIS IS the attitude10 which some Soviet scholars interpret as the beginning of an approach on his part toward a quasi-Marxist recognition of the inexorable laws of social development—in particular the inevitability of industrialism.

Herzen realized that the criticism and abuse showered upon him as an obsolete aristocratic dilettante by these “nihilists” (as they came to be called after Turgenev’s novel Fathers and Sons.” he wrote in a letter. with the greatest admiration. order. in which this conflict is vividly presented for the first time) was not altogether different from the disdain that he had himself felt in his own youth for the aristocratic and ineffective reformers of Alexander I’s reign. When.” What irritated Tolstoy most was Herzen’s socialism. he recognized not only the inescapable necessity but the historic justice of the coming cataclysm. Tolstoy went on. I shall go mine. most anti-rationalist moods. but this did not make his position easier to bear. who said more than once that the censorship of Herzen’s works in Russia was a characteristic blunder on the part of the government. Tolstoy seems to have felt a certain lack of personal sympathy for Herzen and his public position—even a kind of jealousy. he had been reading Herzen’s writings with mingled admiration and irritation: “Herzen is a man of scattered intellect. Tolstoy argued. Nevertheless. That which was ill-received by the tough-minded revolutionaries pleased Tolstoy. In 1896. In 1908 he complained that Herzen was “a narrow socialist. . Herzen’s had trodden this very path.” even if he was “head and shoulders above the other politicians of his age and ours. of a revolution in Russia—a violent transformation followed by a just. “but his breadth. even the probability. From 1862 onward. he would not join Herzen or march under his banner: “he goes his way. would have proved a better antidote to the “revolutionary nihilism” which Tolstoy condemned. and morbid amour-propre. that is a socialist. Herzen fell under this general ban. that the great rebellion would extinguish values to which he was himself dedicated—in particular. In 1860.” From time to time various correspondents record the fact that Tolstoy read Herzen. “What has Herzen said that is of the slightest use?”—as for those who maintained that the generation of the Forties could not say what it wanted to say because of the rigid Russian censorship. was both a wicked. Tolstoy had declared his hostility to faith in liberal reform and improvement of human life by legal or institutional change. it is true. the government. and from the point of view of those who did not desire a violent revolution. Tolstoy spoke (perhaps not very seriously) of leaving Russia forever. elegance of mind are Russian.” He greatly underrated Herzen’s revolutionary temperament and instincts. ability. he would say that whatever he did. than Herzen’s brilliant analyses. in moments of deep discouragement and irritation. in its anxiety to stop young men from marching toward the revolutionary morass. soon or late. goodness. during one of his angriest. Moreover. while they were still on the broad highway. at times aloud to his family.” Nothing. he had seen the chasm and warned against it. Herzen wrote in perfect freedom in Paris. and yet managed to say “nothing useful. Tolstoy was less generous. “Our young generation would not have been the same if Herzen had been read by them during the last twenty years. he said. close his eyes to the possibility. He did not. However skeptical Herzen may have been of specific revolutionary doctrines or plans in Russia—and no one was more so—he believed to the end of his life in the moral and social need and the inevitable coming. six months before they met. seized them and swept them off to Siberia or prison long before they were even in sight of it. particularly in his “Letters to an Old Comrade.” Suppression of his books. an idiotic policy. At other times. the freedoms without which he and others like him could not breathe.” The fact that he believed in politics as a weapon was sufficient to condemn him in Tolstoy’s eyes.

and. his respect for human values. When this periodical. self-analysis. laws. objective realm. lost him sympathy even among Russian liberals. But what survives today of all that unceasing and feverish activity. Even in his gradualist phase he remained an agitator.His moral tastes. turn into a cautious. that the day and the hour were ends in themselves. have all claimed him as an ancestor. reformist. It was not prudence or moderation that led him to his unwavering support of Poland in her insurrection against Russia in 1863. broken both morally and physically. before the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War. to these distant ends must always lead to cruel and futile forms of human sacrifice. but were nonetheless binding upon those who lived in their light. and political description. useless in the violent social struggles to come. which has immortalized his name. failed. and poetry. too. but he did not. empirically discovered truth. still writing with concentrated intelligence and force. but a handful of essays. and the summer lightning of individual happiness: these are the only real goods we have. individual action. The circulation of The Bell declined. or the immediate and foreseeable future. He believed that values were not found in an impersonal. It is this in him that both the Russian populists and the Russian Marxists— Mikhailovsky and Lenin—recognized and saluted. There he died of pleurisy. A life-sized statue still marks his grave. But he tended to suspect that faith in general formulae. He was fully conscious of what he believed. and he described what he saw in language of exceptional vitality. where he is buried beside his wife. socialists and communists. sometimes catastrophic. observation. not a means to another day or another experience. is not a system or a doctrine. divided him from the tough-minded younger radicals of the Sixties. and a socialist to the end. unintended. which he felt with an intensity which not even his uniquely rich and flexible prose could fully express. to escape from the uncertainty and unpredictable variety of life to the false security of our own symmetrical fantasies. but not disillusioned. psychological analysis. scientific method. What remains is. the preacher of antiquated humanistic views. whether on the right or on the left. The new. and the extraordinary amalgam of memory. an egalitarian. wedded to a major literary talent. his entire style of life. even in his native country. above all. and infallible knowledge neither attainable nor needed. His body was taken to Nice. that faith in them was a fatal illusion. a passionate and inextinguishable temperament and a sense of the life and ferment of nature. precision. moral passion. he visited his friends in Florence. some remarkable letters. He had obtained his knowledge at the cost of painful. prescription in human affairs was an attempt. He believed in reason. returning to Paris early in 1870. an infinity of unpredictable possibilities. HERZEN’S IDEAS have long since entered into the general texture of Russian political thought —liberals and radicals. always irrational. that suffering was inescapable. despite all his distrust of political fanaticism. that to sacrifice the present. populists and anarchists.” he declared in a self-revealing passage of the . The wave of passionate Russian nationalism which accompanied its suppression. His purely personal credo remained unaltered from his earliest days: “Art. He believed that remote ends were a dream. “hard” revolutionaries needed his money. at times. but made it plain that they looked upon him as a liberal dinosaur. He believed that the ultimate goal of life was life itself. He left London in the late Sixties and attempted to produce a French edition of The Bell in Geneva. liberal constitutionalist. but were literally created by human beings and changed with the generations of men.

'Lively. untouched by the forces of decay. entire cultures. in which things. He stood head and shoulders above all the politicians of his own and of our time. in the words of Gorky’s tribute to him. responsive. in the solid world which his memory. I have never met a more attractive man. My Past and Thoughts is the Noah’s ark in which he saved himself. he created a style. a country into which he transplanted all that he touched. feelings. and not himself alone. private and public events. most lasting monument to the civilized. their vitality and fascination have not declined in the hundred years that have passed since the first chapters saw the light. morally preoccupied and gifted Russian society to which Herzen belonged. perhaps. Yet even they and their descendants did not and do not reject his artistic and intellectual achievement. “an entire province. pp. and for which alone he wrote. concerned largely with European issues and figures.' Lev Nikolaevich explained (as usual illustrating every shade of meaning by appropriate movements of his hands) 'Herzen at once began talking to me as if we had known each other for a long time. interesting. © 1968 by Isaiah Berlin.)↩ 2. persons. an outlook. 1911. Genuine art transcends its immediate purpose and lives on. sensations. who generated electric energy. from the destructive flood in which many idealistic radicals of the Forties were drowned. and have stood up. were given shape and life by his powerful and coherent historical imagination. and. built out of material provided by his own predicament—out of exile. Letters Herzen's Circle June 20. 1 P. Moscow. says that Tolstoy told him in 1908 that he had a very clear recollection of his visit to Herzen in his London house in March 1861. not recognized by the Orthodox Church. Tolstoi i ego sovremenniki. 13-14. "Lev Nikolaevich remembered him as a not very large. The structure that Herzen built in the first place.' " (P. sensitive.kind that so deeply shocked the stern young Russian revolutionaries in the Sixties. Sergeyenko. and had no wish to be. solitude. ideas. Herzen was not. although it is not conclusive. in his book on Tolstoy. these reminiscences are a great. an impartial observer. 1968 1. his intelligence. institutions. Sergeyenko. despair—survives intact. that she was married to him according to the Lutheran rite. plump little man. perhaps the greatest. I found his personality enchanting. for his own personal salvation. 2 There is evidence.↩ 3. a country astonishingly rich in ideas.”11 where everything is immediately recognizable as being his and his alone. and his artistic genius recovered and reconstructed. Written abroad. intelligent. 3 . No less than the poets and the novelists of his nation.

5 Herzen had made no genuine friends in England." which took a long time to die.…clear. His voice is . Suave in his manner. J.↩ 7. he was a subtle and profound thinker. The impression that they made did a good deal. witty. One of these. both pre. courteous. "verve and inimitable grace" and "marvellous variety" of a Southerner. humility was not among his virtues. And in his European Republicans.↩ 4. Carr's treatment of Herzen in The Romantic Exiles and elsewhere. 4 The clearest formulation of this familiar and almost universal thesis is to be found in Mr. 7 In The Bell: see below. E. Turgenev and Herzen were the first Russians to move freely in European society. H. London. greying beard and hair." he said in one of his letters in the early Sixties. and rather ruddy complexion. Perhaps it is not altogether dead yet. the best. with a frank and pleasing manner. but with an intense power of irony. in his last days inclined to corpulence. he spoke of him as "hospitable and taking pleasure in society. long chestnut hair and beard. though perhaps not enough. 146-7). small.↩ 6.↩ 5. luminous eyes.The historical and sociological explanation of the origins of Russian socialism and of Herzen's part in it cannot be attempted here. allies. looked like a Goth. with a grand head. concise and impressive.' yet generous and humane" (Memories. 6 "Copperfield is Dickens's Past and Thoughts.and post-revolutionary. As he talks there is a constant ironical chuckle which rises and falls in his throat. pp. vivacity. with all the passionate nature of the 'barbarian." and said that the Spanish radical Castelar said that Herzen. Linton. …a good conversationalist. Malia's book almost alone avoids it. published two years earlier. stoutly built. to dispel the myth of the "Slav soul. most detailed and original study of this topic is Alexander Herzen and the Birth of Russian Socialism by Martin Malia. It has been treated in a number of (untranslated) Russian monographs. the radical journalist W. Mr. 8 See entry in the Journal for 8th February. and admirers. with his fair hair and beard.↩ 8. but possessed the warmth. described him as "short of stature. although he had associates. 1895. 1865—"Dinner at Charles Edmond's (Chojecki)… A Socratic mask with the warm and transparent flesh of a Rubens portrait. a red mark between the eyebrows as from a branding iron. to whose English Republic Herzen had contributed articles.

↩ 9. walking in the night in his empty palace.)↩ . This was followed by anecdotes about English habits and manners—"a country which he loves as the land of liberty"—to illustrate its absurd. p. with the heavy. of his eleven months in prison. the ideas are fine. his first words to Herzen were 'Can one get oysters here?"' Herzen delighted the Goncourts with stories about the Emperor Nicholas. They go on to report the story of how James de Rothschild managed to save Herzen's property in Russia. pungent. classconscious. of his return by way of California. 11 Istoriya Russkoy Literatury. chained to a wall. of his escape from Siberia by the Amur River. where. moist embrace. 206. The Goncourts quote a characteristic epigram made by Herzen to illustrate the difference between the French and the English characters.↩ 11. but which always possess the felicitous quality of French as it is spoken by a civilized and witty foreigner.↩ 10. after the fall of Eupatoria during the Crimean War. after a stormy. 10 See footnote 9.soft and slow. 9 This is the thesis in which orthodox Soviet scholars claim to discern the beginnings of a belated approach to the doctrines of Marx. without any of the coarseness one might have expected from the huge neck. of his arrival in London. unyielding traditionalism. particularly noticeable in the relations of masters and servants. 1939. delicate. unearthly steps of the stone statue of the Commander in Don Juan. illuminated by words that take time to arrive. (Moscow. always definite. at times subtle. "He speaks of Bakunin.