Part 2 out of 4
thing is the doctor, the enema, the temperature. You cannot
begin a conversation but little Pierre comes running in with an
anxious air to ask if he may eat an apple, or what jacket he
shall put on, or else it is the servant who enters with a
"Regular, steady family life does not exist. Where you live, and
consequently what you do, depends upon the health of the little
ones, the health of the little ones depends upon nobody, and,
thanks to the doctors, who pretend to aid health, your entire
life is disturbed. It is a perpetual peril. Scarcely do we
believe ourselves out of it when a new danger comes: more
attempts to save. Always the situation of sailors on a
foundering vessel. Sometimes it seemed to me that this was done
on purpose, that my wife feigned anxiety in order to conquer me,
since that solved the question so simply for her benefit. It
seemed to me that all that she did at those times was done for
its effect upon me, but now I see that she herself, my wife,
suffered and was tortured on account of the little ones, their
health, and their diseases.
"A torture to both of us, but to her the children were also a
means of forgetting herself, like an intoxication. I often
noticed, when she was very sad, that she was relieved, when a
child fell sick, at being able to take refuge in this
intoxication. It was involuntary intoxication, because as yet
there was nothing else. On every side we heard that Mrs.
So-and-so had lost children, that Dr. So-and-so had saved the
child of Mrs. So-and-so, and that in a certain family all had
moved from the house in which they were living, and thereby saved
the little ones. And the doctors, with a serious air, confirmed
this, sustaining my wife in her opinions. She was not prone to
fear, but the doctor dropped some word, like corruption of the
blood, scarlatina, or else--heaven help us--diphtheria, and off
"It was impossible for it to be otherwise. Women in the old days
had the belief that 'God has given, God has taken away,' that the
soul of the little angel is going to heaven, and that it is
better to die innocent than to die in sin. If the women of
to-day had something like this faith, they could endure more
peacefully the sickness of their children. But of all that there
does not remain even a trace. And yet it is necessary to believe
in something; consequently they stupidly believe in medicine, and
not even in medicine, but in the doctor. One believes in X,
another in Z, and, like all believers, they do not see the idiocy
of their beliefs. They believe quia absurdum, because, in
reality, if they did not believe in a stupid way, they would see
the vanity of all that these brigands prescribe for them.
Scarlatina is a contagious disease; so, when one lives in a large
city, half the family has to move away from its residence (we did
it twice), and yet every man in the city is a centre through
which pass innumerable diameters, carrying threads of all sorts
of contagions. There is no obstacle: the baker, the tailor, the
coachman, the laundresses.
"And I would undertake, for every man who moves on account of
contagion, to find in his new dwelling-place another contagion
similar, if not the same.
"But that is not all. Every one knows rich people who, after a
case of diphtheria, destroy everything in their residences, and
then fall sick in houses newly built and furnished. Every one
knows, likewise, numbers of men who come in contact with sick
people and do not get infected. Our anxieties are due to the
people who circulate tall stories. One woman says that she has
an excellent doctor. 'Pardon me,' answers the other, 'he killed
such a one,' or such a one. And vice versa. Bring her another,
who knows no more, who learned from the same books, who treats
according to the same formulas, but who goes about in a carriage,
and asks a hundred roubles a visit, and she will have faith in
"It all lies in the fact that our women are savages. They have
no belief in God, but some of them believe in the evil eye, and
the others in doctors who charge high fees. If they had faith
they would know that scarlatina, diphtheria, etc., are not so
terrible, since they cannot disturb that which man can and should
love,--the soul. There can result from them only that which none
of us can avoid,--disease and death. Without faith in God, they
love only physically, and all their energy is concentrated upon
the preservation of life, which cannot be preserved, and which
the doctors promise the fools of both sexes to save. And from
that time there is nothing to be done; the doctors must be
"Thus the presence of the children not only did not improve our
relations as husband and wife, but, on the contrary, disunited
us. The children became an additional cause of dispute, and the
larger they grew, the more they became an instrument of struggle.
One would have said that we used them as weapons with which to
combat each other. Each of us had his favorite. I made use of
little Basile (the eldest), she of Lise. Further, when the
children reached an age where their characters began to be
defined, they became allies, which we drew each in his or her own
direction. They suffered horribly from this, the poor things,
but we, in our perpetual hubbub, were not clear-headed enough to
think of them. The little girl was devoted to me, but the eldest
boy, who resembled my wife, his favorite, often inspired me with
"We lived at first in the country, then in the city, and, if the
final misfortune had not happened, I should have lived thus until
my old age and should then have believed that I had had a good
life,--not too good, but, on the other hand, not bad,--an
existence such as other people lead. I should not have
understood the abyss of misfortune and ignoble falsehood in which
I floundered about, feeling that something was not right. I
felt, in the first place, that I, a man, who, according to my
ideas, ought to be the master, wore the petticoats, and that I
could not get rid of them. The principal cause of my subjection
was the children. I should have liked to free myself, but I
could not. Bringing up the children, and resting upon them, my
wife ruled. I did not then realize that she could not help
ruling, especially because, in marrying, she was morally superior
to me, as every young girl is incomparably superior to the man,
since she is incomparably purer. Strange thing! The ordinary
wife in our society is a very commonplace person or worse,
selfish, gossiping, whimsical, whereas the ordinary young girl,
until the age of twenty, is a charming being, ready for
everything that is beautiful and lofty. Why is this so?
Evidently because husbands pervert them, and lower them to their
"In truth, if boys and girls are born equal, the little girls
find themselves in a better situation. In the first place, the
young girl is not subjected to the perverting conditions to which
we are subjected. She has neither cigarettes, nor wine, nor
cards, nor comrades, nor public houses, nor public functions.
And then the chief thing is that she is physically pure, and that
is why, in marrying, she is superior to her husband. She is
superior to man as a young girl, and when she becomes a wife in
our society, where there is no need to work in order to live, she
becomes superior, also, by the gravity of the acts of generation,
birth, and nursing.
"Woman, in bringing a child into the world, and giving it her
bosom, sees clearly that her affair is more serious than the
affair of man, who sits in the Zemstvo, in the court. She knows
that in these functions the main thing is money, and money can be
made in different ways, and for that very reason money is not
inevitably necessary, like nursing a child. Consequently woman
is necessarily superior to man, and must rule. But man, in our
society, not only does not recognize this, but, on the contrary,
always looks upon her from the height of his grandeur, despising
what she does.
"Thus my wife despised me for my work at the Zemstvo, because she
gave birth to children and nursed them. I, in turn, thought that
woman's labor was most contemptible, which one might and should
"Apart from the other motives, we were also separated by a mutual
contempt. Our relations grew ever more hostile, and we arrived
at that period when, not only did dissent provoke hostility, but
hostility provoked dissent. Whatever she might say, I was sure
in advance to hold a contrary opinion; and she the same. Toward
the fourth year of our marriage it was tacitly decided between us
that no intellectual community was possible, and we made no
further attempts at it. As to the simplest objects, we each held
obstinately to our own opinions. With strangers we talked upon
the most varied and most intimate matters, but not with each
other. Sometimes, in listening to my wife talk with others in my
presence, I said to myself: 'What a woman! Everything that she
says is a lie!' And I was astonished that the person with whom
she was conversing did not see that she was lying. When we were
together; we were condemned to silence, or to conversations
which, I am sure, might have been carried on by animals.
"'What time is it? It is bed-time. What is there for dinner
to-day? Where shall we go? What is there in the newspaper? The
doctor must be sent for, Lise has a sore throat.'
"Unless we kept within the extremely narrow limits of such
conversation, irritation was sure to ensue. The presence of a
third person relieved us, for through an intermediary we could
still communicate. She probably believed that she was always
right. As for me, in my own eyes, I was a saint beside her.
"The periods of what we call love arrived as often as formerly.
They were more brutal, without refinement, without ornament; but
they were short, and generally followed by periods of irritation
without cause, irritation fed by the most trivial pretexts. We
had spats about the coffee, the table-cloth, the carriage, games
of cards,--trifles, in short, which could not be of the least
importance to either of us. As for me, a terrible execration was
continually boiling up within me. I watched her pour the tea,
swing her foot, lift her spoon to her mouth, and blow upon hot
liquids or sip them, and I detested her as if these had been so
"I did not notice that these periods of irritation depended very
regularly upon the periods of love. Each of the latter was
followed by one of the former. A period of intense love was
followed by a long period of anger; a period of mild love induced
a mild irritation. We did not understand that this love and this
hatred were two opposite faces of the same animal feeling. To
live thus would be terrible, if one understood the philosophy of
it. But we did not perceive this, we did not analyze it. It is
at once the torture and the relief of man that, when he lives
irregularly, he can cherish illusions as to the miseries of his
situation. So did we. She tried to forget herself in sudden and
absorbing occupations, in household duties, the care of the
furniture, her dress and that of her children, in the education
of the latter, and in looking after their health. These were
occupations that did not arise from any immediate necessity, but
she accomplished them as if her life and that of her children
depended on whether the pastry was allowed to burn, whether a
curtain was hanging properly, whether a dress was a success,
whether a lesson was well learned, or whether a medicine was
"I saw clearly that to her all this was, more than anything else,
a means of forgetting, an intoxication, just as hunting,
card-playing, and my functions at the Zemstvo served the same
purpose for me. It is true that in addition I had an
intoxication literally speaking,--tobacco, which I smoked in
large quantities, and wine, upon which I did not get drunk, but
of which I took too much. Vodka before meals, and during meals
two glasses of wine, so that a perpetual mist concealed the
turmoil of existence.
"These new theories of hypnotism, of mental maladies, of hysteria
are not simple stupidities, but dangerous or evil stupidities.
Charcot, I am sure, would have said that my wife was hysterical,
and of me he would have said that I was an abnormal being, and he
would have wanted to treat me. But in us there was nothing
requiring treatment. All this mental malady was the simple
result of the fact that we were living immorally. Thanks to this
immoral life, we suffered, and, to stifle our sufferings, we
tried abnormal means, which the doctors call the 'symptoms' of a
"There was no occasion in all this to apply for treatment to
Charcot or to anybody else. Neither suggestion nor bromide would
have been effective in working our cure. The needful thing was
an examination of the origin of the evil. It is as when one is
sitting on a nail; if you see the nail, you see that which is
irregular in your life, and you avoid it. Then the pain stops,
without any necessity of stifling it. Our pain arose from the
irregularity of our life, and also my jealousy, my irritability,
and the necessity of keeping myself in a state of perpetual
semi-intoxication by hunting, card-playing, and, above all, the
use of wine and tobacco. It was because of this irregularity
that my wife so passionately pursued her occupations. The sudden
changes of her disposition, from extreme sadness to extreme
gayety, and her babble, arose from the need of forgetting
herself, of forgetting her life, in the continual intoxication of
varied and very brief occupations.
"Thus we lived in a perpetual fog, in which we did not
distinguish our condition. We were like two galley-slaves
fastened to the same ball, cursing each other, poisoning each
other's existence, and trying to shake each other off. I was
still unaware that ninety-nine families out of every hundred live
in the same hell, and that it cannot be otherwise. I had not
learned this fact from others or from myself. The coincidences
that are met in regular, and even in irregular life, are
surprising. At the very period when the life of parents becomes
impossible, it becomes indispensable that they go to the city to
live, in order to educate their children. That is what we did."
Posdnicheff became silent, and twice there escaped him, in the
half-darkness, sighs, which at that moment seemed to me like
suppressed sobs. Then he continued.
"So we lived in the city. In the city the wretched feel less
sad. One can live there a hundred years without being noticed,
and be dead a long time before anybody will notice it. People
have no time to inquire into your life. All are absorbed.
Business, social relations, art, the health of children, their
education. And there are visits that must be received and made;
it is necessary to see this one, it is necessary to hear that one
or the other one. In the city there are always one, two, or
three celebrities that it is indispensable that one should visit.
Now one must care for himself, or care for such or such a little
one, now it is the professor, the private tutor, the governesses,
. . . and life is absolutely empty. In this activity we were
less conscious of the sufferings of our cohabitation. Moreover,
in the first of it, we had a superb occupation,--the arrangement
of the new dwelling, and then, too, the moving from the city to
the country, and from the country to the city.
"Thus we spent a winter. The following winter an incident
happened to us which passed unnoticed, but which was the
fundamental cause of all that happened later. My wife was
suffering, and the rascals (the doctors) would not permit her to
conceive a child, and taught her how to avoid it. I was
profoundly disgusted. I struggled vainly against it, but she
insisted frivolously and obstinately, and I surrendered. The
last justification of our life as wretches was thereby
suppressed, and life became baser than ever.
"The peasant and the workingman need children, and hence their
conjugal relations have a justification. But we, when we have a
few children, have no need of any more. They make a superfluous
confusion of expenses and joint heirs, and are an embarrassment.
Consequently we have no excuses for our existence as wretches,
but we are so deeply degraded that we do not see the necessity of
a justification. The majority of people in contemporary society
give themselves up to this debauchery without the slightest
remorse. We have no conscience left, except, so to speak, the
conscience of public opinion and of the criminal code. But in
this matter neither of these consciences is struck. There is not
a being in society who blushes at it. Each one practices it,--X,
Y, Z, etc. What is the use of multiplying beggars, and depriving
ourselves of the joys of social life? There is no necessity of
having conscience before the criminal code, or of fearing it:
low girls, soldiers' wives who throw their children into ponds or
wells, these certainly must be put in prison. But with us the
suppression is effected opportunely and properly.
"Thus we passed two years more. The method prescribed by the
rascals had evidently succeeded. My wife had grown stouter and
handsomer. It was the beauty of the end of summer. She felt it,
and paid much attention to her person. She had acquired that
provoking beauty that stirs men. She was in all the brilliancy
of the wife of thirty years, who conceives no children, eats
heartily, and is excited. The very sight of her was enough to
frighten one. She was like a spirited carriage-horse that has
long been idle, and suddenly finds itself without a bridle. As
for my wife, she had no bridle, as for that matter, ninety-nine
hundredths of our women have none."
Posdnicheff's face had become transformed; his eyes were
pitiable; their expression seemed strange, like that of another
being than himself; his moustache and beard turned up toward the
top of his face; his nose was diminished, and his mouth enlarged,
"Yes," he resumed "she had grown stouter since ceasing to
conceive, and her anxieties about her children began to
disappear. Not even to disappear. One would have said that she
was waking from a long intoxication, that on coming to herself
she had perceived the entire universe with its joys, a whole
world in which she had not learned to live, and which she did not
"'If only this world shall not vanish! When time is past, when
old age comes, one cannot recover it.' Thus, I believe, she
thought, or rather felt. Moreover, she could neither think nor
feel otherwise. She had been brought up in this idea that there
is in the world but one thing worthy of attention,--love. In
marrying, she had known something of this love, but very far from
everything that she had understood as promised her, everything
that she expected. How many disillusions! How much suffering!
And an unexpected torture,--the children! This torture had told
upon her, and then, thanks to the obliging doctor, she had
learned that it is possible to avoid having children. That had
made her glad. She had tried, and she was now revived for the
only thing that she knew,--for love. But love with a husband
polluted by jealousy and ill-nature was no longer her ideal. She
began to think of some other tenderness; at least, that is what I
thought. She looked about her as if expecting some event or some
being. I noticed it, and I could not help being anxious.
"Always, now, it happened that, in talking with me through a
third party (that is, in talking with others, but with the
intention that I should hear), she boldly expressed,--not
thinking that an hour before she had said the opposite,--half
joking, half seriously, this idea that maternal anxieties are a
delusion; that it is not worth while to sacrifice one's life to
children. When one is young, it is necessary to enjoy life. So
she occupied herself less with the children, not with the same
intensity as formerly, and paid more and more attention to
herself, to her face,--although she concealed it,--to her
pleasures, and even to her perfection from the worldly point of
view. She began to devote herself passionately to the piano,
which had formerly stood forgotten in the corner. There, at the
piano, began the adventure.
"The MAN appeared."
Posdnicheff seemed embarrassed, and twice again there escaped him
that nasal sound of which I spoke above. I thought that it gave
him pain to refer to the MAN, and to remember him. He made an
effort, as if to break down the obstacle that embarrassed him,
and continued with determination.
"He was a bad man in my eyes, and not because he has played such
an important role in my life, but because he was really such.
For the rest, from the fact that he was bad, we must conclude
that he was irresponsible. He was a musician, a violinist. Not
a professional musician, but half man of the world, half artist.
His father, a country proprietor, was a neighbor of my father's.
The father had become ruined, and the children, three boys, were
all sent away. Our man, the youngest, was sent to his godmother
at Paris. There they placed him in the Conservatory, for he
showed a taste for music. He came out a violinist, and played in
On the point of speaking evil of the other, Posdnicheff checked
himself, stopped, and said suddenly:
"In truth, I know not how he lived. I only know that that year
he came to Russia, and came to see me. Moist eyes of almond
shape, smiling red lips, a little moustache well waxed, hair
brushed in the latest fashion, a vulgarly pretty face,--what the
women call 'not bad,'--feebly built physically, but with no
deformity; with hips as broad as a woman's; correct, and
insinuating himself into the familiarity of people as far as
possible, but having that keen sense that quickly detects a false
step and retires in reason,--a man, in short, observant of the
external rules of dignity, with that special Parisianism that is
revealed in buttoned boots, a gaudy cravat, and that something
which foreigners pick up in Paris, and which, in its peculiarity
and novelty, always has an influence on our women. In his
manners an external and artificial gayety, a way, you know, of
referring to everything by hints, by unfinished fragments, as if
everything that one says you knew already, recalled it, and could
supply the omissions. Well, he, with his music, was the cause of
"At the trial the affair was so represented that everything
seemed attributable to jealousy. It is false,--that is, not
quite false, but there was something else. The verdict was
rendered that I was a deceived husband, that I had killed in
defence of my sullied honor (that is the way they put it in their
language), and thus I was acquitted. I tried to explain the
affair from my own point of view, but they concluded that I
simply wanted to rehabilitate the memory of my wife. Her
relations with the musician, whatever they may have been, are now
of no importance to me or to her. The important part is what I
have told you. The whole tragedy was due to the fact that this
man came into our house at a time when an immense abyss had
already been dug between us, that frightful tension of mutual
hatred, in which the slightest motive sufficed to precipitate the
crisis. Our quarrels in the last days were something terrible,
and the more astonishing because they were followed by a brutal
passion extremely strained. If it had not been he, some other
would have come. If the pretext had not been jealousy, I should
have discovered another. I insist upon this point,--that all
husbands who live the married life that I lived must either
resort to outside debauchery, or separate from their wives, or
kill themselves, or kill their wives as I did. If there is any
one in my case to whom this does not happen, he is a very rare
exception, for, before ending as I ended, I was several times on
the point of suicide, and my wife made several attempts to poison
"In order that you may understand me, I must tell you how this
happened. We were living along, and all seemed well. Suddenly
we began to talk of the children's education. I do not remember
what words either of us uttered, but a discussion began,
reproaches, leaps from one subject to another. 'Yes, I know it.
It has been so for a long time.' . . . 'You said that.' . . .
'No, I did not say that.' . . . 'Then I lie?' etc.
"And I felt that the frightful crisis was approaching when I
should desire to kill her or else myself. I knew that it was
approaching; I was afraid of it as of fire; I wanted to restrain
myself. But rage took possession of my whole being. My wife
found herself in the same condition, perhaps worse. She knew
that she intentionally distorted each of my words, and each of
her words was saturated with venom. All that was dear to me she
disparaged and profaned. The farther the quarrel went, the more
furious it became. I cried, 'Be silent,' or something like that.
She bounded out of the room and ran toward the children. I tried
to hold her back to finish my insults. I grasped her by the arm,
and hurt her. She cried: 'Children, your father is beating me.'
I cried: 'Don't lie.' She continued to utter falsehoods for the
simple purpose of irritating me further. 'Ah, it is not the
first time,' or something of that sort. The children rushed
toward her and tried to quiet her. I said: 'Don't sham.' She
said: 'You look upon everything as a sham. You would kill a
person and say he was shamming. Now I understand you. That is
what you want to do.' 'Oh, if you were only dead!' I cried.
"I remember how that terrible phrase frightened me. Never had I
thought that I could utter words so brutal, so frightful, and I
was stupefied at what had just escaped my lips. I fled into my
private apartment. I sat down and began to smoke. I heard her
go into the hall and prepare to go out. I asked her: 'Where are
you going? She did not answer. 'Well, may the devil take you!'
said I to myself, going back into my private room, where I lay
down again and began smoking afresh. Thousands of plans of
vengeance, of ways of getting rid of her, and how to arrange
this, and act as if nothing had happened,--all this passed
through my head. I thought of these things, and I smoked, and
smoked, and smoked. I thought of running away, of making my
escape, of going to America. I went so far as to dream how
beautiful it would be, after getting rid of her, to love another
woman, entirely different from her. I should be rid of her if
she should die or if I should get a divorce, and I tried to think
how that could be managed. I saw that I was getting confused,
but, in order not to see that I was not thinking rightly, I kept
"And the life of the house went on as usual. The children's
teacher came and asked: 'Where is Madame? When will she return?'
The servants asked if they should serve the tea. I entered the
dining-room. The children, Lise, the eldest girl, looked at me
with fright, as if to question me, and she did not come. The
whole evening passed, and still she did not come. Two sentiments
kept succeeding each other in my soul,--hatred of her, since she
tortured myself and the children by her absence, but would
finally return just the same, and fear lest she might return and
make some attempt upon herself. But where should I look for her?
At her sister's? It seemed so stupid to go to ask where one's
wife is. Moreover, may God forbid, I hoped, that she should be
at her sister's! If she wishes to torment any one, let her
torment herself first. And suppose she were not at her sister's.
Suppose she were to do, or had already done, something.
"Eleven o'clock, midnight, one o'clock. . . . I did not sleep. I
did not go to my chamber. It is stupid to lie stretched out all
alone, and to wait. But in my study I did not rest. I tried to
busy myself, to write letters, to read. Impossible! I was
alone, tortured, wicked, and I listened. Toward daylight I went
to sleep. I awoke. She had not returned. Everything in the
house went on as usual, and all looked at me in astonishment,
questioningly. The children's eyes were full of reproach for me.
And always the same feeling of anxiety about her, and of hatred
because of this anxiety.
"Toward eleven o'clock in the morning came her sister, her
ambassadress. Then began the usual phrases: 'She is in a
terrible state. What is the matter?' 'Why, nothing has
happened.' I spoke of her asperity of character, and I added
that I had done nothing, and that I would not take the first
step. If she wants a divorce, so much the better! My
sister-in-law would not listen to this idea, and went away
without having gained anything. I was obstinate, and I said
boldly and determinedly, in talking to her, that I would not take
the first step. Immediately she had gone I went into the other
room, and saw the children in a frightened and pitiful state, and
there I found myself already inclined to take this first step.
But I was bound by my word. Again I walked up and down, always
smoking. At breakfast I drank brandy and wine, and I reached the
point which I unconsciously desired, the point where I no longer
saw the stupidity and baseness of my situation.
"Toward three o'clock she came. I thought that she was appeased,
or admitted her defeat. I began to tell her that I was provoked
by her reproaches. She answered me, with the same severe and
terribly downcast face, that she had not come for explanations,
but to take the children, that we could not live together. I
answered that it was not my fault, that she had put me beside
myself. She looked at me with a severe and solemn air, and said:
'Say no more. You will repent it.' I said that I could not
tolerate comedies. Then she cried out something that I did not
understand, and rushed toward her room. The key turned in the
lock, and she shut herself up. I pushed at the door. There was
no response. Furious, I went away.
"A half hour later Lise came running all in tears. 'What! Has
anything happened? We cannot hear Mamma!' We went toward my
wife's room. I pushed the door with all my might. The bolt was
scarcely drawn, and the door opened. In a skirt, with high
boots, my wife lay awkwardly on the bed. On the table an empty
opium phial. We restored her to life. Tears and then
reconciliation! Not reconciliation; internally each kept the
hatred for the other, but it was absolutely necessary for the
moment to end the scene in some way, and life began again as
before. These scenes, and even worse, came now once a week, now
every month, now every day. And invariably the same incidents.
Once I was absolutely resolved to fly, but through some
inconceivable weakness I remained.
"Such were the circumstances in which we were living when the MAN
came. The man was bad, it is true. But what! No worse than we
"When we moved to Moscow, this gentleman--his name was
Troukhatchevsky--came to my house. It was in the morning. I
received him. In former times we had been very familiar. He
tried, by various advances, to re-establish the familiarity, but
I was determined to keep him at a distance, and soon he gave it
up. He displeased me extremely. At the first glance I saw that
he was a filthy debauche. I was jealous of him, even before he
had seen my wife. But, strange thing! some occult fatal power
kept me from repulsing him and sending him away, and, on the
contrary, induced me to suffer this approach. What could have
been simpler than to talk with him a few minutes, and then
dismiss him coldly without introducing him to my wife? But no, as
if on purpose, I turned the conversation upon his skill as a
violinist, and he answered that, contrary to what I had heard, he
now played the violin more than formerly. He remembered that I
used to play. I answered that I had abandoned music, but that my
wife played very well.
"Singular thing! Why, in the important events of our life, in
those in which a man's fate is decided,--as mine was decided in
that moment,--why in these events is there neither a past nor a
future? My relations with Troukhatchevsky the first day, at the
first hour, were such as they might still have been after all
that has happened. I was conscious that some frightful
misfortune must result from the presence of this man, and, in
spite of that, I could not help being amiable to him. I
introduced him to my wife. She was pleased with him. In the
beginning, I suppose, because of the pleasure of the violin
playing, which she adored. She had even hired for that purpose a
violinist from the theatre. But when she cast a glance at me,
she understood my feelings, and concealed her impression. Then
began the mutual trickery and deceit. I smiled agreeably,
pretending that all this pleased me extremely. He, looking at my
wife, as all debauches look at beautiful women, with an air of
being interested solely in the subject of conversation,--that is,
in that which did not interest him at all.
"She tried to seem indifferent. But my expression, my jealous or
false smile, which she knew so well, and the voluptuous glances
of the musician, evidently excited her. I saw that, after the
first interview, her eyes were already glittering, glittering
strangely, and that, thanks to my jealousy, between him and her
had been immediately established that sort of electric current
which is provoked by an identity of expression in the smile and
in the eyes.
"We talked, at the first interview, of music, of Paris, and of
all sorts of trivialities. He rose to go. Pressing his hat
against his swaying hip, he stood erect, looking now at her and
now at me, as if waiting to see what she would do. I remember
that minute, precisely because it was in my power not to invite
him. I need not have invited him, and then nothing would have
happened. But I cast a glance first at him, then at her. 'Don't
flatter yourself that I can be jealous of you,' I thought,
addressing myself to her mentally, and I invited the other to
bring his violin that very evening, and to play with my wife.
She raised her eyes toward me with astonishment, and her face
turned purple, as if she were seized with a sudden fear. She
began to excuse herself, saying that she did not play well
enough. This refusal only excited me the more. I remember the
strange feeling with which I looked at his neck, his white neck,
in contrast with his black hair, separated by a parting, when,
with his skipping gait, like that of a bird, he left my house. I
could not help confessing to myself that this man's presence
caused me suffering. 'It is in my power,' thought I, 'to so
arrange things that I shall never see him again. But can it be
that I, _I_, fear him? No, I do not fear him. It would be too
"And there in the hall, knowing that my wife heard me, I insisted
that he should come that very evening with his violin. He
promised me, and went away. In the evening he arrived with his
violin, and they played together. But for a long time things did
not go well; we had not the necessary music, and that which we
had my wife could not play at sight. I amused myself with their
difficulties. I aided them, I made proposals, and they finally
executed a few pieces,--songs without words, and a little sonata
by Mozart. He played in a marvellous manner. He had what is
called the energetic and tender tone. As for difficulties, there
were none for him. Scarcely had he begun to play, when his face
changed. He became serious, and much more sympathetic. He was,
it is needless to say, much stronger than my wife. He helped
her, he advised her simply and naturally, and at the same time
played his game with courtesy. My wife seemed interested only in
the music. She was very simple and agreeable. Throughout the
evening I feigned, not only for the others, but for myself, an
interest solely in the music. Really, I was continually tortured
by jealousy. From the first minute that the musician's eyes met
those of my wife, I saw that he did not regard her as a
disagreeable woman, with whom on occasion it would be unpleasant
to enter into intimate relations.
"If I had been pure, I should not have dreamed of what he might
think of her. But I looked at women, and that is why I
understood him and was in torture. I was in torture, especially
because I was sure that toward me she had no other feeling than
of perpetual irritation, sometimes interrupted by the customary
sensuality, and that this man,--thanks to his external elegance
and his novelty, and, above all, thanks to his unquestionably
remarkable talent, thanks to the attraction exercised under the
influence of music, thanks to the impression that music produces
upon nervous natures,--this man would not only please, but would
inevitably, and without difficulty, subjugate and conquer her,
and do with her as he liked.
"I could not help seeing this. I could not help suffering, or
keep from being jealous. And I was jealous, and I suffered, and
in spite of that, and perhaps even because of that, an unknown
force, in spite of my will, impelled me to be not only polite,
but more than polite, amiable. I cannot say whether I did it for
my wife, or to show him that I did not fear HIM, or to deceive
myself; but from my first relations with him I could not be at my
ease. I was obliged, that I might not give way to a desire to
kill him immediately, to 'caress' him. I filled his glass at the
table, I grew enthusiastic over his playing, I talked to him with
an extremely amiable smile, and I invited him to dinner the
following Sunday, and to play again. I told him that I would
invite some of my acquaintances, lovers of his art, to hear him.
"Two or three days later I was entering my house, in conversation
with a friend, when in the hall I suddenly felt something as
heavy as a stone weighing on my heart, and I could not account
for it. And it was this, it was this: in passing through the
hall, I had noticed something which reminded me of HIM. Not
until I reached my study did I realize what it was, and I
returned to the hall to verify my conjecture. Yes, I was not
mistaken. It was his overcoat (everything that belonged to him,
I, without realizing it, had observed with extraordinary
attention). I questioned the servant. That was it. He had come.
I passed near the parlor, through my children's study-room.
Lise, my daughter, was sitting before a book, and the old nurse,
with my youngest child, was beside the table, turning the cover
of something or other. In the parlor I heard a slow arpeggio,
and his voice, deadened, and a denial from her. She said: 'No,
no! There is something else!' And it seemed to me that some one
was purposely deadening the words by the aid of the piano.
"My God! How my heart leaped! What were my imaginations! When
I remember the beast that lived in me at that moment, I am seized
with fright. My heart was first compressed, then stopped, and
then began to beat like a hammer. The principal feeling, as in
every bad feeling, was pity for myself. 'Before the children,
before the old nurse,' thought I, 'she dishonors me. I will go
away. I can endure it no longer. God knows what I should do if.
. . . But I must go in.'
The old nurse raised her eyes to mine, as if she understood, and
advised me to keep a sharp watch. 'I must go in,' I said to
myself, and, without knowing what I did, I opened the door. He
was sitting at the piano and making arpeggios with his long,
white, curved fingers. She was standing in the angle of the
grand piano, before the open score. She saw or heard me first,
and raised her eyes to mine. Was she stunned, was she pretending
not to be frightened, or was she really not frightened at all?
any case, she did not tremble, she did not stir. She blushed, but
only a little later.
"'How glad I am that you have come! We have not decided what we
will play Sunday,' said she, in a tone that she would not have
had if she had been alone with me.
"This tone, and the way in which she said 'we' in speaking of
herself and of him, revolted me. I saluted him silently. He
shook hands with me directly, with a smile that seemed to me full
of mockery. He explained to me that he had brought some scores,
in order to prepare for the Sunday concert, and that they were
not in accord as to the piece to choose,--whether difficult,
classic things, notably a sonata by Beethoven, or lighter pieces.
And as he spoke, he looked at me. It was all so natural, so
simple, that there was absolutely nothing to be said against it.
And at the same time I saw, I was sure, that it was false, that
they were in a conspiracy to deceive me.
"One of the most torturing situations for the jealous (and in our
social life everybody is jealous) are those social conditions
which allow a very great and dangerous intimacy between a man and
a woman under certain pretexts. One must make himself the
laughing stock of everybody, if he desires to prevent
associations in the ball-room, the intimacy of doctors with their
patients, the familiarity of art occupations, and especially of
music. In order that people may occupy themselves together with
the noblest art, music, a certain intimacy is necessary, in which
there is nothing blameworthy. Only a jealous fool of a husband
can have anything to say against it. A husband should not have
such thoughts, and especially should not thrust his nose into
these affairs, or prevent them. And yet, everybody knows that
precisely in these occupations, especially in music, many
adulteries originate in our society.
"I had evidently embarrassed them, because for some time I was
unable to say anything. I was like a bottle suddenly turned
upside down, from which the water does not run because it is too
full. I wanted to insult the man, and to drive him away, but I
could do nothing of the kind. On the contrary, I felt that I was
disturbing them, and that it was my fault. I made a presence of
approving everything, this time also, thanks to that strange
feeling that forced me to treat him the more amiably in
proportion as his presence was more painful to me. I said that I
trusted to his taste, and I advised my wife to do the same. He
remained just as long as it was necessary in order to efface the
unpleasant impression of my abrupt entrance with a frightened
face. He went away with an air of satisfaction at the
conclusions arrived at. As for me, I was perfectly sure that, in
comparison with that which preoccupied them, the question of
music was indifferent to them. I accompanied him with especial
courtesy to the hall (how can one help accompanying a man who has
come to disturb your tranquillity and ruin the happiness of the
entire family?), and I shook his white, soft hand with fervent
"All that day I did not speak to my wife. I could not. Her
proximity excited such hatred that I feared myself. At the table
she asked me, in presence of the children, when I was to start
upon a journey. I was to go the following week to an assembly of
the Zemstvo, in a neighboring locality. I named the date. She
asked me if I would need anything for the journey. I did not
answer. I sat silent at the table, and silently I retired to my
study. In those last days she never entered my study, especially
at that hour. Suddenly I heard her steps, her walk, and then a
terribly base idea entered my head that, like the wife of Uri,
she wished to conceal a fault already committed, and that it was
for this reason that she came to see me at this unseasonable
hour. 'Is it possible,' thought I, 'that she is coming to see
me?' On hearing her step as it approached: 'If it is to see me
that she is coming, then I am right.'
"An inexpressible hatred invaded my soul. The steps drew nearer,
and nearer, and nearer yet. Would she pass by and go on to the
other room? No, the hinges creaked, and at the door her tall,
graceful, languid figure appeared. In her face, in her eyes, a
timidity, an insinuating expression, which she tried to hide, but
which I saw, and of which I understood the meaning. I came near
suffocating, such were my efforts to hold my breath, and,
continuing to look at her, I took my cigarette, and lighted it.
"'What does this mean? One comes to talk with you, and you go to
"And she sat down beside me on the sofa, resting against my
shoulder. I recoiled, that I might not touch her.
"'I see that you are displeased with what I wish to play on
Sunday,' said she.
"'I am not at all displeased,' said I.
"'Can I not see?'
"'Well, I congratulate you on your clairvoyance. Only to you
every baseness is agreeable, and I abhor it.'
"'If you are going to swear like a trooper, I am going away.'
"'Then go away. Only know that, if the honor of the family is
nothing to you, to me it is dear. As for you, the devil take
"'What! What is the matter?'
"'Go away, in the name of God.'
"But she did not go away. Was she pretending not to understand,
or did she really not understand what I meant? But she was
offended and became angry.
"'You have become absolutely impossible,' she began, or some such
phrase as that regarding my character, trying, as usual, to give
me as much pain as possible. 'After what you have done to my
sister (she referred to an incident with her sister, in which,
beside myself, I had uttered brutalities; she knew that that
tortured me, and tried to touch me in that tender spot) nothing
will astonish me.'
"'Yes, offended, humiliated, and dishonored, and after that to
hold me still responsible,' thought I, and suddenly a rage, such
a hatred invaded me as I do not remember to have ever felt
before. For the first time I desired to express this hatred
physically. I leaped upon her, but at the same moment I
understood my condition, and I asked myself whether it would be
well for me to abandon myself to my fury. And I answered myself
that it would be well, that it would frighten her, and, instead
of resisting, I lashed and spurred myself on, and was glad to
feel my anger boiling more and more fiercely.
"'Go away, or I will kill you!' I cried, purposely, with a
frightful voice, and I grasped her by the arm. She did not go
away. Then I twisted her arm, and pushed her away violently.
"'What is the matter with you? Come to your senses!' she
"'Go away,' roared I, louder than ever, rolling my eyes wildly.
'It takes you to put me in such a fury. I do not answer for
myself! Go away!'
"In abandoning myself to my anger, I became steeped in it, and I
wanted to commit some violent act to show the force of my fury.
I felt a terrible desire to beat her, to kill her, but I realized
that that could not be, and I restrained myself. I drew back
from her, rushed to the table, grasped the paper-weight, and
threw it on the floor by her side. I took care to aim a little
to one side, and, before she disappeared (I did it so that she
could see it), I grasped a candlestick, which I also hurled, and
then took down the barometer, continuing to shout:
"'Go away! I do not answer for myself!'
"She disappeared, and I immediately ceased my demonstrations. An
hour later the old servant came to me and said that my wife was
in a fit of hysterics. I went to see her. She sobbed and
laughed, incapable of expressing anything, her whole body in a
tremble. She was not shamming, she was really sick. We sent for
the doctor, and all night long I cared for her. Toward daylight
she grew calmer, and we became reconciled under the influence of
that feeling which we called 'love.' The next morning, when,
after the reconciliation, I confessed to her that I was jealous
of Troukhatchevsky, she was not at all embarrassed, and began to
laugh in the most natural way, so strange did the possibility of
being led astray by such a man appear to her.
"'With such a man can an honest woman entertain any feeling
beyond the pleasure of enjoying music with him? But if you like,
I am ready to never see him again, even on Sunday, although
everybody has been invited. Write him that I am indisposed, and
that will end the matter. Only one thing annoys me,--that any
one could have thought him dangerous. I am too proud not to
detest such thoughts.'
"And she did not lie. She believed what she said. She hoped by
her words to provoke in herself a contempt for him, and thereby
to defend herself. But she did not succeed. Everything was
directed against her, especially that abominable music. So ended
the quarrel, and on Sunday our guests came, and Troukhatchevsky
and my wife again played together.
"I think that it is superfluous to say that I was very vain. If
one has no vanity in this life of ours, there is no sufficient
reason for living. So for that Sunday I had busied myself in
tastefully arranging things for the dinner and the musical
soiree. I had purchased myself numerous things for the dinner,
and had chosen the guests. Toward six o'clock they arrived, and
after them Troukhatchevsky, in his dress-coat, with diamond
shirt-studs, in bad taste. He bore himself with ease. To all
questions he responded promptly, with a smile of contentment and
understanding, and that peculiar expression which was intended to
mean: 'All that you may do and say will be exactly what I
expected.' Everything about him that was not correct I now
noticed with especial pleasure, for it all tended to tranquillize
me, and prove to me that to my wife he stood in such a degree of
inferiority that, as she had told me, she could not stoop to his
level. Less because of my wife's assurances than because of the
atrocious sufferings which I felt in jealousy, I no longer
allowed myself to be jealous.
"In spite of that, I was not at ease with the musician or with
her during dinner-time and the time that elapsed before the
beginning of the music. Involuntarily I followed each of their
gestures and looks. The dinner, like all dinners, was tiresome
and conventional. Not long afterward the music began. He went
to get his violin; my wife advanced to the piano, and rummaged
among the scores. Oh, how well I remember all the details of
that evening! I remember how he brought the violin, how he
opened the box, took off the serge embroidered by a lady's hand,
and began to tune the instrument. I can still see my wife sit
down, with a false air of indifference, under which it was plain
that she hid a great timidity, a timidity that was especially due
to her comparative lack of musical knowledge. She sat down with
that false air in front of the piano, and then began the usual
preliminaries,--the pizzicati of the violin and the arrangement
of the scores. I remember then how they looked at each other,
and cast a glance at their auditors who were taking their seats.
They said a few words to each other, and the music began. They
played Beethoven's 'Kreutzer Sonata.' Do you know the first
presto? Do you know it? Ah!" . . .
Posdnicheff heaved a sigh, and was silent for a long time.
"A terrible thing is that sonata, especially the presto! And a
terrible thing is music in general. What is it ? Why does it do
what it does? They say that music stirs the soul. Stupidity! A
lie! It acts, it acts frightfully (I speak for myself), but not
in an ennobling way. It acts neither in an ennobling nor a
debasing way, but in an irritating way. How shall I say it?
Music makes me forget my real situation. It transports me into a
state which is not my own. Under the influence of music I really
seem to feel what I do not feel, to understand what I do not
understand, to have powers which I cannot have. Music seems to me
to act like yawning or laughter; I have no desire to sleep, but I
yawn when I see others yawn; with no reason to laugh, I laugh
when I hear others laugh. And music transports me immediately
into the condition of soul in which he who wrote the music found
himself at that time. I become confounded with his soul, and
with him I pass from one condition to another. But why that? I
know nothing about it? But he who wrote Beethoven's 'Kreutzer
Sonata' knew well why he found himself in a certain condition.
That condition led him to certain actions, and for that reason to
him had a meaning, but to me none, none whatever. And that is
why music provokes an excitement which it does not bring to a
conclusion. For instance, a military march is played; the
soldier passes to the sound of this march, and the music is
finished. A dance is played; I have finished dancing, and the
music is finished. A mass is sung; I receive the sacrament, and
again the music is finished. But any other music provokes an
excitement, and this excitement is not accompanied by the thing
that needs properly to be done, and that is why music is so
dangerous, and sometimes acts so frightfully.
"In China music is under the control of the State, and that is
the way it ought to be. Is it admissible that the first comer
should hypnotize one or more persons, and then do with them as he
likes? And especially that the hypnotizer should be the first
immoral individual who happens to come along? It is a frightful
power in the hands of any one, no matter whom. For instance,
should they be allowed to play this 'Kreutzer Sonata,' the first
presto,--and there are many like it,--in parlors, among ladies
wearing low necked dresses, or in concerts, then finish the
piece, receive the applause, and then begin another piece? These
things should be played under certain circumstances, only in
cases where it is necessary to incite certain actions
corresponding to the music. But to incite an energy of feeling
which corresponds to neither the time nor the place, and is
expended in nothing, cannot fail to act dangerously. On me in
particular this piece acted in a frightful manner. One would have
said that new sentiments, new virtualities, of which I was
formerly ignorant, had developed in me. 'Ah, yes, that's it!
Not at all as I lived and thought before! This is the right way
"Thus I spoke to my soul as I listened to that music. What was
this new thing that I thus learned? That I did not realize, but
the consciousness of this indefinite state filled me with joy.
In that state there was no room for jealousy. The same faces,
and among them HE and my wife, I saw in a different light. This
music transported me into an unknown world, where there was no
room for jealousy. Jealousy and the feelings that provoke it
seemed to me trivialities, nor worth thinking of.
"After the presto followed the andante, not very new, with
commonplace variations, and the feeble finale. Then they played
more, at the request of the guests,--first an elegy by Ernst, and
then various other pieces. They were all very well, but did not
produce upon me a tenth part of the impression that the opening
piece did. I felt light and gay throughout the evening. As for
my wife, never had I seen her as she was that night. Those
brilliant eyes, that severity and majestic expression while she
was playing, and then that utter languor, that weak, pitiable,
and happy smile after she had finished,--I saw them all and
attached no importance to them, believing that she felt as I did,
that to her, as to me, new sentiments had been revealed, as
through a fog. During almost the whole evening I was not
"Two days later I was to start for the assembly of the Zemstvo,
and for that reason, on taking leave of me and carrying all his
scores with him, Troukhatchevsky asked me when I should return.
I inferred from that that he believed it impossible to come to my
house during my absence, and that was agreeable to me. Now I was
not to return before his departure from the city. So we bade
each other a definite farewell. For the first time I shook his
hand with pleasure, and thanked him for the satisfaction that he
had given me. He likewise took leave of my wife, and their
parting seemed to me very natural and proper. All went
marvellously. My wife and I retired, well satisfied with the
evening. We talked of our impressions in a general way, and we
were nearer together and more friendly than we had been for a
"Two days later I started for the assembly, having bid farewell
to my wife in an excellent and tranquil state of mind. In the
district there was always much to be done. It was a world and a
life apart. During two days I spent ten hours at the sessions.
The evening of the second day, on returning to my district
lodgings, I found a letter from my wife, telling me of the
children, of their uncle, of the servants, and, among other
things, as if it were perfectly natural, that Troukhatchevsky had
been at the house, and had brought her the promised scores. He
had also proposed that they play again, but she had refused.
"For my part, I did not remember at all that he had promised any
score. It had seemed to me on Sunday evening that he took a
definite leave, and for this reason the news gave me a
disagreeable surprise. I read the letter again. There was
something tender and timid about it. It produced an extremely
painful impression upon me. My heart swelled, and the mad beast
of jealousy began to roar in his lair, and seemed to want to leap
upon his prey. But I was afraid of this beast, and I imposed
silence upon it.
"What an abominable sentiment is jealousy! 'What could be more
natural than what she has written?' said I to myself. I went to
bed, thinking myself tranquil again. I thought of the business
that remained to be done, and I went to sleep without thinking of
"During these assemblies of the Zemstvo I always slept badly in
my strange quarters. That night I went to sleep directly, but,
as sometimes happens, a sort of sudden shock awoke me. I thought
immediately of her, of my physical love for her, of
Troukhatchevsky, and that between them everything had happened.
And a feeling of rage compressed my heart, and I tried to quiet
"'How stupid!' said I to myself; 'there is no reason, none at
all. And why humiliate ourselves, herself and myself, and
especially myself, by supposing such horrors? This mercenary
violinist, known as a bad man,--shall I think of him in
connection with a respectable woman, the mother of a family, MY
wife? How silly!' But on the other hand, I said to myself: 'Why
should it not happen?'
"Why? Was it not the same simple and intelligible feeling in the
name of which I married, in the name of which I was living with
her, the only thing I wanted of her, and that which,
consequently, others desired, this musician among the rest? He
was not married, was in good health (I remember how his teeth
ground the gristle of the cutlets, and how eagerly he emptied the
glass of wine with his red lips), was careful of his person, well
fed, and not only without principles, but evidently with the
principle that one should take advantage of the pleasure that
offers itself. There was a bond between them, music,--the most
refined form of sensual voluptuousness. What was there to
restrain them? Nothing. Everything, on the contrary, attracted
them. And she, she had been and had remained a mystery. I did
not know her. I knew her only as an animal, and an animal
nothing can or should restrain. And now I remember their faces
on Sunday evening, when, after the 'Kreutzer Sonata,' they played
a passionate piece, written I know not by whom, but a piece
passionate to the point of obscenity.
"'How could I have gone away?' said I to myself, as I recalled
their faces. 'Was it not clear that between them everything was
done that evening? Was it not clear that between them not only
there were no more obstacles, but that both--especially she--felt
a certain shame after what had happened at the piano? How
weakly, pitiably, happily she smiled, as she wiped the
perspiration from her reddened face! They already avoided each
other's eyes, and only at the supper, when she poured some water
for him, did they look at each other and smile imperceptibly.'
"Now I remember with fright that look and that scarcely
perceptible smile. 'Yes, everything has happened,' a voice said
to me, and directly another said the opposite. 'Are you mad? It
is impossible!' said the second voice.
"It was too painful to me to remain thus stretched in the
darkness. I struck a match, and the little yellow-papered room
frightened me. I lighted a cigarette, and, as always happens,
when one turns in a circle of inextricable contradiction, I began
to smoke. I smoked cigarette after cigarette to dull my senses,
that I might not see my contradictions. All night I did not
sleep, and at five o'clock, when it was not yet light, I decided
that I could stand this strain no longer, and that I would leave
directly. There was a train at eight o'clock. I awakened the
keeper who was acting as my servant, and sent him to look for
horses. To the assembly of Zemstvo I sent a message that I was
called back to Moscow by pressing business, and that I begged
them to substitute for me a member of the Committee. At eight
o'clock I got into a tarantass and started off.
"I had to go twenty-five versts by carriage and eight hours by
train. By carriage it was a very pleasant journey. The coolness
of autumn was accompanied by a brilliant sun. You know the
weather when the wheels imprint themselves upon the dirty road.
The road was level, and the light strong, and the air
strengthening. The tarantass was comfortable. As I looked at
the horses, the fields, and the people whom we passed, I forgot
where I was going. Sometimes it seemed to me that I was
travelling without an object,--simply promenading,--and that I
should go on thus to the end of the world. And I was happy when
I so forgot myself. But when I remembered where I was going, I
said to myself: 'I shall see later. Don't think about it.'
"When half way, an incident happened to distract me still
further. The tarantass, though new, broke down, and had to be
repaired. The delays in looking for a telegue, the repairs, the
payment, the tea in the inn, the conversation with the dvornik,
all served to amuse me. Toward nightfall all was ready, and I
started off again. By night the journey was still pleasanter
than by day. The moon in its first quarter, a slight frost, the
road still in good condition, the horses, the sprightly coachman,
all served to put me in good spirits. I scarcely thought of what
awaited me, and was gay perhaps because of the very thing that
awaited me, and because I was about to say farewell to the joys
"But this tranquil state, the power of conquering my
preoccupation, all ended with the carriage drive. Scarcely had
I entered the cars, when the other thing began. Those eight
hours on the rail were so terrible to me that I shall never
forget them in my life. Was it because on entering the car I had
a vivid imagination of having already arrived, or because the
railway acts upon people in such an exciting fashion? At any
rate, after boarding the train I could no longer control my
imagination, which incessantly, with extraordinary vivacity, drew
pictures before my eyes, each more cynical than its predecessor,
which kindled my jealousy. And always the same things about what
was happening at home during my absence. I burned with
indignation, with rage, and with a peculiar feeling which steeped
me in humiliation, as I contemplated these pictures. And I could
not tear myself out of this condition. I could not help looking
at them, I could not efface them, I could not keep from evoking
"The more I looked at these imaginary pictures, the more I
believed in their reality, forgetting that they had no serious
foundation. The vivacity of these images seemed to prove to me
that my imaginations were a reality. One would have said that a
demon, against my will, was inventing and breathing into me the
most terrible fictions. A conversation which dated a long time
back, with the brother of Troukhatchevsky, I remembered at that
moment, in a sort of ecstasy, and it tore my heart as I connected
it with the musician and my wife. Yes, it was very long ago.
The brother of Troukhatchevsky, answering my questions as to
whether he frequented disreputable houses, said that a
respectable man does not go where he may contract a disease, in a
low and unclean spot, when one can find an honest woman. And
here he, his brother, the musician, had found the honest woman.
'It is true that she is no longer in her early youth. She has
lost a tooth on one side, and her face is slightly bloated,'
thought I for Troukhatchevsky. 'But what is to be done? One
must profit by what one has.'
"'Yes, he is bound to take her for his mistress,' said I to
myself again; 'and besides, she is not dangerous.'
"'No, it is not possible' I rejoined in fright. 'Nothing, nothing
of the kind has happened, and there is no reason to suppose there
has. Did she not tell me that the very idea that I could be
jealous of her because of him was humiliating to her?' 'Yes, but
she lied,' I cried, and all began over again.
"There were only two travellers in my compartment: an old woman
with her husband, neither of them very talkative; and even they
got out at one of the stations, leaving me all alone. I was like
a beast in a cage. Now I jumped up and approached the window,
now I began to walk back and forth, staggering as if I hoped to
make the train go faster by my efforts, and the car with its
seats and its windows trembled continually, as ours does
And Posdnicheff rose abruptly, took a few steps, and sat down
"Oh, I am afraid, I am afraid of railway carriages. Fear seizes
me. I sat down again, and I said to myself: 'I must think of
something else. For instance, of the inn keeper at whose house I
took tea.' And then, in my imagination arose the dvornik, with
his long beard, and his grandson, a little fellow of the same age
as my little Basile. My little Basile! My little Basile! He
will see the musician kiss his mother! What thoughts will pass
through his poor soul! But what does that matter to her! She
"And again it all began, the circle of the same thoughts. I
suffered so much that at last I did not know what to do with
myself, and an idea passed through my head that pleased me much,
--to get out upon the rails, throw myself under the cars, and
thus finish everything. One thing prevented me from doing so.
It was pity! It was pity for myself, evoking at the same time a
hatred for her, for him, but not so much for him. Toward him I
felt a strange sentiment of my humiliation and his victory, but
toward her a terrible hatred.
"'But I cannot kill myself and leave her free. She must suffer,
she must understand at least that I have suffered,' said I to
"At a station I saw people drinking at the lunch counter, and
directly I went to swallow a glass of vodki. Beside me stood a
Jew, drinking also. He began to talk to me, and I, in order not
to be left alone in my compartment, went with him into his
third-class, dirty, full of smoke, and covered with peelings and
sunflower seeds. There I sat down beside the Jew, and, as it
seemed, he told many anecdotes.
"First I listened to him, but I did not understand what he said.
He noticed it, and exacted my attention to his person. Then I
rose and entered my own compartment.
"'I must consider,' said I to myself, 'whether what I think is
true, whether there is any reason to torment myself.' I sat
down, wishing to reflect quietly; but directly, instead of the
peaceful reflections, the same thing began again. Instead of the
reasoning, the pictures.
"'How many times have I tormented myself in this way,' I thought
(I recalled previous and similar fits of jealousy), 'and then
seen it end in nothing at all? It is the same now. Perhaps,
yes, surely, I shall find her quietly sleeping. She will awaken,
she will be glad, and in her words and looks I shall see that
nothing has happened, that all this is vain. Ah, if it would
only so turn out!' 'But no, that has happened too often! Now the
end has come,' a voice said to me.
"And again it all began. Ah, what torture! It is not to a
hospital filled with syphilitic patients that I would take a
young man to deprive him of the desire for women, but into my
soul, to show him the demon which tore it. The frightful part
was that I recognized in myself an indisputable right to the body
of my wife, as if her body were entirely mine. And at the same
time I felt that I could not possess this body, that it was not
mine, that she could do with it as she liked, and that she liked
to do with it as I did not like. And I was powerless against him
and against her. He, like the Vanka of the song, would sing,
before mounting the gallows, how he would kiss her sweet lips,
etc., and he would even have the best of it before death. With
her it was still worse. If she HAD NOT DONE IT, she had the
desire, she wished to do it, and I knew that she did. That was
worse yet. It would be better if she had already done it, to
relieve me of my uncertainty.
"In short, I could not say what I desired. I desired that she
might not want what she MUST want. It was complete madness.
"At the station before the last, when the conductor came to take
the tickets, I took my baggage and went out on the car platform,
and the consciousness that the climax was near at hand only added
to my agitation. I was cold, my jaw trembled so that my teeth
chattered. Mechanically I left the station with the crowd, I
took a tchik, and I started. I looked at the few people passing
in the streets and at the dvorniks. I read the signs, without
thinking of anything. After going half a verst my feet began to
feel cold, and I remembered that in the car I had taken off my
woollen socks, and had put them in my travelling bag. Where had
I put the bag? Was it with me? Yes, and the basket?
"I bethought myself that I had totally forgotten my baggage. I
took out my check, and then decided it was not worth while to
return. I continued on my way. In spite of all my efforts to
remember, I cannot at this moment make out why I was in such a
hurry. I know only that I was conscious that a serious and
menacing event was approaching in my life. It was a case of real
auto-suggestion. Was it so serious because I thought it so? Or
had I a presentiment? I do not know. Perhaps, too, after what
has happened, all previous events have taken on a lugubrious tint
in my memory.
"I arrived at the steps. It was an hour past midnight. A few
isvotchiks were before the door, awaiting customers, attracted by
the lighted windows (the lighted windows were those of our parlor
and reception room). Without trying to account for this late
illumination, I went up the steps, always with the same
expectation of something terrible, and I rang. The servant, a
good, industrious, and very stupid being, named Gregor, opened
the door. The first thing that leaped to my eyes in the hall, on
the hat-stand, among other garments, was an overcoat. I ought to
have been astonished, but I was not astonished. I expected it.
'That's it!' I said to myself.
"When I had asked Gregor who was there, and he had named
Troukhatchevsky, I inquired whether there were other visitors.
He answered: 'Nobody.' I remember the air with which he said
that, with a tone that was intended to give me pleasure, and
dissipate my doubts. 'That's it! that's it!' I had the air of
saying to myself. 'And the children?'
"'Thank God, they are very well. They went to sleep long ago.'
"I scarcely breathed, and I could not keep my jaw from trembling.
Then it was not as I thought. I had often before returned home
with the thought that a misfortune had awaited me, but had been
mistaken, and everything was going on as usual. But now things
were not going on as usual. All that I had imagined, all that I
believed to be chimeras, all really existed. Here was the truth.
"I was on the point of sobbing, but straightway the demon
whispered in my ear: 'Weep and be sentimental, and they will
separate quietly, and there will be no proofs, and all your life
you will doubt and suffer.' And pity for myself vanished, and
there remained only the bestial need of some adroit, cunning, and
energetic action. I became a beast, an intelligent beast.
"'No, no,' said I to Gregor, who was about to announce my
arrival. 'Do this, take a carriage, and go at once for my
baggage. Here is the check. Start.'
"He went along the hall to get his overcoat. Fearing lest he
might frighten them, I accompanied him to his little room, and
waited for him to put on his things. In the dining-room could be
heard the sound of conversation and the rattling of knives and
plates. They were eating. They had not heard the ring. 'Now if
they only do not go out,' I thought.
"Gregor put on his fur-collared coat and went out. I closed the
door after him. I felt anxious when I was alone, thinking that
directly I should have to act. How? I did not yet know. I knew
only that all was ended, that there could be no doubt of his
innocence, and that in an instant my relations with her were
going to be terminated. Before, I had still doubts. I said to
myself: 'Perhaps this is not true. Perhaps I am mistaken.' Now
all doubt had disappeared. All was decided irrevocably.
Secretly, all alone with him, at night! It is a violation of all
duties! Or, worse yet, she may make a show of that audacity, of
that insolence in crime, which, by its excess, tends to prove
innocence. All is clear. No doubt. I feared but one
thing,--that they might run in different directions, that they
might invent some new lie, and thus deprive me of material proof,
and of the sorrowful joy of punishing, yes, of executing them.
"And to surprise them more quickly, I started on tiptoe for the
dining-room, not through the parlor, but through the hall and the
children's rooms. In the first room slept the little boy. In
the second, the old nurse moved in her bed, and seemed on the
point of waking, and I wondered what she would think when she
knew all. And pity for myself gave me such a pang that I could
not keep the tears back. Not to wake the children, I ran lightly
through the hall into my study. I dropped upon the sofa, and
sobbed. 'I, an honest man, I, the son of my parents, who all my
life long have dreamed of family happiness, I who have never
betrayed! . . . And here my five children, and she embracing a
musician because he has red lips! No, she is not a woman! She
is a bitch, a dirty bitch! Beside the chamber of the children,
whom she had pretended to love all her life! And then to think
of what she wrote me! And how do I know? Perhaps it has always
been thus. Perhaps all these children, supposed to be mine, are
the children of my servants. And if I had arrived to-morrow, she
would have come to meet me with her coiffure, with her corsage,
her indolent and graceful movements (and I see her attractive and
ignoble features), and this jealous animal would have remained
forever in my heart, tearing it. What will the old nurse say?
And Gregor? And the poor little Lise? She already understands
things. And this impudence, this falsehood, this bestial
sensuality, that I know so well,' I said to myself.
"I tried to rise. I could not. My heart was beating so
violently that I could not hold myself upon my legs. 'Yes, I
shall die of a rush of blood. She will kill me. That is what
she wants. What is it to her to kill? But that would be too
agreeable to him, and I will not allow him to have this pleasure.
Yes, here I am, and there they are. They are laughing, they. . .
. Yes, in spite of the fact that she is no longer in her early
youth, he has not disdained her. At any rate, she is by no means
ugly, and above all, not dangerous to his dear health, to him.
Why did I not stifle her then?' said I to myself, as I remembered
that other scene of the previous week, when I drove her from my
study, and broke the furniture.
"And I recalled the state in which I was then. Not only did I
recall it, but I again entered into the same bestial state. And
suddenly there came to me a desire to act, and all reasoning,
except such as was necessary to action, vanished from my brain,
and I was in the condition of a beast, and of a man under the
influence of physical excitement pending a danger, who acts
imperturbably, without haste, and yet without losing a minute,
pursuing a definite object.
"The first thing that I did was to take off my boots, and now,
having only stockings on, I advanced toward the wall, over the
sofa, where firearms and daggers were hanging, and I took down a
curved Damascus blade, which I had never used, and which was very
sharp. I took it from its sheath. I remember that the sheath
fell upon the sofa, and that I said to myself: 'I must look for
it later; it must not be lost.'
"Then I took off my overcoat, which I had kept on all the time,
and with wolf-like tread started for THE ROOM. I do not remember
how I proceeded, whether I ran or went slowly, through what
chambers I passed, how I approached the dining-room, how I opened
the door, how I entered. I remember nothing about it.
"I Remember only the expression of their faces when I opened the
door. I remember that, because it awakened in me a feeling of
sorrowful joy. It was an expression of terror, such as I
desired. Never shall I forget that desperate and sudden fright
that appeared on their faces when they saw me. He, I believe,
was at the table, and, when he saw or heard me, he started,
jumped to his feet, and retreated to the sideboard. Fear was the
only sentiment that could be read with certainty in his face. In
hers, too, fear was to be read, but accompanied by other
impressions. And yet, if her face had expressed only fear,
perhaps that which happened would not have happened. But in the
expression of her face there was at the first moment--at least, I
thought I saw it--a feeling of ennui, of discontent, at this
disturbance of her love and happiness. One would have said that
her sole desire was not to be disturbed IN THE MOMENT OF HER
HAPPINESS. But these expressions appeared upon their faces only
for a moment. Terror almost immediately gave place to
interrogation. Would they lie or not? If yes, they must begin.
If not, something else was going to happen. But what?
"He gave her a questioning glance. On her face the expression of
anguish and ennui changed, it seemed to me, when she looked at
him, into an expression of anxiety for HIM. For a moment I stood
in the doorway, holding the dagger hidden behind my back.
Suddenly he smiled, and in a voice that was indifferent almost to
the point of ridicule, he said:
"'We were having some music.'
"'I did not expect--,' she began at the same time, chiming in
with the tone of the other.
"But neither he nor she finished their remarks. The same rage
that I had felt the previous week took possession of me. I felt
the need of giving free course to my violence and 'the joy of
"No, they did not finish. That other thing was going to begin,
of which he was afraid, and was going to annihilate what they
wanted to say. I threw myself upon her, still hiding the dagger,
that he might not prevent me from striking where I desired, in
her bosom, under the breast. At that moment he saw . . . and,
what I did not expect on his part, he quickly seized my hand, and
"'Come to your senses! What are you doing? Help! Help!'
"I tore my hands from his grasp, and leaped upon him. I must
have been very terrible, for he turned as white as a sheet, to
his lips. His eyes scintillated singularly, and--again what I
did not expect of him--he scrambled under the piano, toward the
other room. I tried to follow him, but a very heavy weight fell
upon my left arm. It was she.
"I made an effort to clear myself. She clung more heavily than
ever, refusing to let go. This unexpected obstacle, this burden,
and this repugnant touch only irritated me the more. I perceived
that I was completely mad, that I must be frightful, and I was
glad of it. With a sudden impulse, and with all my strength, I
dealt her, with my left elbow, a blow squarely in the face.
"She uttered a cry and let go my arm. I wanted to follow the
other, but I felt that it would be ridiculous to pursue in my
stockings the lover of my wife, and I did not wish to be
grotesque, I wished to be terrible. In spite of my extreme rage,
I was all the time conscious of the impression that I was making
upon others, and even this impression partially guided me.
"I turned toward her. She had fallen on the long easy chair,
and, covering her face at the spot where I had struck her, she
looked at me. Her features exhibited fear and hatred toward me,
her enemy, such as the rat exhibits when one lifts the rat-trap.
At least, I saw nothing in her but that fear and hatred, the fear
and hatred which love for another had provoked. Perhaps I still
should have restrained myself, and should not have gone to the
last extremity, if she had maintained silence. But suddenly she
began to speak; she grasped my hand that held the dagger.
"'Come to your senses! What are you doing? What is the matter
with you? Nothing has happened, nothing, nothing! I swear it to
"I might have delayed longer, but these last words, from which I
inferred the contrary of what they affirmed,--that is, that
EVERYTHING had happened,--these words called for a reply. And the
reply must correspond to the condition into which I had lashed
myself, and which was increasing and must continue to increase.
Rage has its laws.
"'Do not lie, wretch. Do not lie!' I roared.
"With my left hand I seized her hands. She disengaged herself.
Then, without dropping my dagger, I seized her by the throat,
forced her to the floor, and began to strangle her. With her two
hands she clutched mine, tearing them from her throat, stifling.
Then I struck her a blow with the dagger, in the left side,
between the lower ribs.
"When people say that they do not remember what they do in a fit
of fury, they talk nonsense. It is false. I remember everything.
I did not lose my consciousness for a single moment. The more I
lashed myself to fury, the clearer my mind became, and I could
not help seeing what I did. I cannot say that I knew in advance
what I would do, but at the moment when I acted, and it seems to
me even a little before, I knew what I was doing, as if to make
it possible to repent, and to be able to say later that I could
"I knew that I struck the blow between the ribs, and that the
"At the second when I did it, I knew that I was performing a
horrible act, such as I had never performed,--an act that would
have frightful consequences. My thought was as quick as
lightning, and the deed followed immediately. The act, to my
inner sense, had an extraordinary clearness. I perceived the
resistance of the corset and then something else, and then the
sinking of the knife into a soft substance. She clutched at the
dagger with her hands, and cut herself with it, but could not
restrain the blow.
"Long afterward, in prison when the moral revolution had been
effected within me, I thought of that minute, I remembered it as
far as I could, and I co-ordinated all the sudden changes. I
remembered the terrible consciousness which I felt,--that I was
killing a wife, MY wife.
"I well remember the horror of that consciousness and I know
vaguely that, having plunged in the dagger, I drew it out again
immediately, wishing to repair and arrest my action. She
straightened up and cried:
"'Nurse, he has killed me!'
"The old nurse, who had heard the noise, was standing in the
doorway. I was still erect, waiting, and not believing myself in
what had happened. But at that moment, from under her corset,
the blood gushed forth. Then only did I understand that all
reparation was impossible, and promptly I decided that it was not
even necessary, that all had happened in accordance with my wish,
and that I had fulfilled my desire. I waited until she fell, and
until the nurse, exclaiming, 'Oh, my God!' ran to her; then only
I threw away the dagger and went out of the room.
"'I must not be agitated. I must be conscious of what I am
doing,' I said to myself, looking neither at her nor at the old
nurse. The latter cried and called the maid. I passed through
the hall, and, after having sent the maid, started for my study.
"'What shall I do now?' I asked myself.
"And immediately I understood what I should do. Directly after
entering the study, I went straight to the wall, took down the
revolver, and examined it attentively. It was loaded. Then I
placed it on the table. Next I picked up the sheath of the
dagger, which had dropped down behind the sofa, and then I sat
down. I remained thus for a long time. I thought of nothing, I
did not try to remember anything. I heard a stifled noise of
steps, a movement of objects and of tapestries, then the arrival
of a person, and then the arrival of another person. Then I saw
Gregor bring into my room the baggage from the railway; as if any
one needed it!
"'Have you heard what has happened?' I asked him. 'Have you told
the dvornik to inform the police?'
"He made no answer, and went out. I rose, closed the door, took
the cigarettes and the matches, and began to smoke. I had not
finished one cigarette, when a drowsy feeling came over me and
sent me into a deep sleep. I surely slept two hours. I remember
having dreamed that I was on good terms with her, that after a
quarrel we were in the act of making up, that something prevented
us, but that we were friends all the same.
"A knock at the door awoke me.
"'It is the police,' thought I, as I opened my eyes. 'I have
killed, I believe. But perhaps it is SHE; perhaps nothing has
"Another knock. I did not answer. I was solving the question:
'Has it happened or not? Yes, it has happened.'
"I remembered the resistance of the corset, and then. . . .
'Yes, it has happened. Yes, it has happened. Yes, now I must
execute myself,' said I to myself.
"I said it, but I knew well that I should not kill myself.
Nevertheless, I rose and took the revolver, but, strange thing, I
remembered that formerly I had very often had suicidal ideas,
that that very night, on the cars, it had seemed to me easy,
especially easy because I thought how it would stupefy her. Now
I not only could not kill myself, but I could not even think of
"'Why do it?' I asked myself, without answering.
"Another knock at the door.
"'Yes, but I must first know who is knocking. I have time
"I put the revolver back on the table, and hid it under my
newspaper. I went to the door and drew back the bolt.
"It was my wife's sister,--a good and stupid widow.
"'Basile, what does this mean?' said she, and her tears, always
ready, began to flow.
"'What do you want?' I asked roughly.
"I saw clearly that there was no necessity of being rough with
her, but I could not speak in any other tone.
"'Basile, she is dying. Ivan Fedorowitch says so.'
"Ivan Fedorowitch was the doctor, HER doctor, her counsellor.
"'Is he here?' I inquired.
"And all my hatred of her arose anew.
"'Basile, go to her! Ah! how terrible it is!' said she.
"'Go to her?' I asked myself; and immediately I made answer to
myself that I ought to go, that probably that was the thing that
is usually done when a husband like myself kills his wife, that
it was absolutely necessary that I should go and see her.
"'If that is the proper thing, I must go,' I repeated to myself.
'Yes, if it is necessary, I shall still have time,' said I to
myself, thinking of my intention of blowing my brains out.
"And I followed my sister-in-law. 'Now there are going to be
phrases and grimaces, but I will not yield,' I declared to
"'Wait,' said I to my sister-in-law, 'it is stupid to be without
boots. Let me at least put on my slippers.'
"Strange thing! Again, when I had left my study, and was passing
through the familiar rooms, again the hope came to me that
nothing had happened. But the odor of the drugs, iodoform and
phenic acid, brought me back to a sense of reality.
"'No, everything has happened.'
"In passing through the hall, beside the children's chamber, I
saw little Lise. She was looking at me, with eyes that were full
of fear. I even thought that all the children were looking at
me. As I approached the door of our sleeping-room, a servant
opened it from within, and came out. The first thing that I
noticed was HER light gray dress upon a chair, all dark with
blood. On our common bed she was stretched, with knees drawn up.
She lay very high, upon pillows, with her chemise half open.
Linen had been placed upon the wound. A heavy smell of iodoform
filled the room. Before, and more than anything else, I was
astonished at her face, which was swollen and bruised under the
eyes and over a part of the nose. This was the result of the
blow that I had struck her with my elbow, when she had tried to
hold me back. Of beauty there was no trace left. I saw
something hideous in her. I stopped upon the threshold.
"'Approach, approach her,' said her sister.
"'Yes, probably she repents,' thought I; 'shall I forgive her?
Yes, she is dying, I must forgive her,' I added, trying to be
"I approached the bedside. With difficulty she raised her eyes,
one of which was swollen, and uttered these words haltingly:
"'You have accomplished what you desired. You have killed me.'
"And in her face, through the physical sufferings, in spite of
the approach of death, was expressed the same old hatred, so
familiar to me.
"'The children . . . I will not give them to you . . . all the
same. . . . She (her sister) shall take them.' . . .
"But of that which I considered essential, of her fault, of her
treason, one would have said that she did not think it necessary
to say even a word.
"'Yes, revel in what you have done.'
"And she sobbed.
"At the door stood her sister with the children.
"'Yes, see what you have done!'
"I cast a glance at the children, and then at her bruised and
swollen face, and for the first time I forgot myself (my rights,
my pride), and for the first time I saw in her a human being, a
"And all that which a moment before had been so offensive to me
now seemed to me so petty,--all this jealousy,--and, on the
contrary, what I had done seemed to me so important that I felt
like bending over, approaching my face to her hand, and saying:
"But I did not dare. She was silent, with eyelids lowered,
evidently having no strength to speak further. Then her deformed
face began to tremble and shrivel, and she feebly pushed me
"'Why has all this happened? Why?'
"'Forgive me,' said I.
"'Yes, if you had not killed me,' she cried suddenly, and her
eyes shone feverishly. 'Forgiveness--that is nothing. . . . If
I only do not die! Ah, you have accomplished what you desired!
I hate you!'
"Then she grew delirious. She was frightened, and cried:
"'Fire, I do not fear . . . but strike them all . . . He has
gone. . . . He has gone.' . . .
"The delirium continued. She no longer recognized the children,
not even little Lise, who had approached. Toward noon she died.
As for me, I was arrested before her death, at eight o'clock in
the morning. They took me to the police station, and then to
prison, and there, during eleven months, awaiting the verdict, I
reflected upon myself, and upon my past, and I understood it.
Yes, I began to understand from the third day. The third day
they took me to the house." . . .
Posdnicheff seemed to wish to add something, but, no longer
having the strength to repress his sobs, he stopped. After a few
minutes, having recovered his calmness, he resumed:
"I began to understand only when I saw her in the coffin." . . .
He uttered a sob, and then immediately continued, with haste:
"Then only, when I saw her dead face, did I understand all that I
had done. I understood that it was I, I, who had killed her. I
understood that I was the cause of the fact that she, who had
been a moving, living, palpitating being, had now become
motionless and cold, and that there was no way of repairing this
thing. He who has not lived through that cannot understand it."
We remained silent a long time. Posdnicheff sobbed and trembled
before me. His face had become delicate and long, and his mouth
had grown larger.
"Yes," said he suddenly, "if I had known what I now know, I
should never have married her, never, not for anything."
Again we remained silent for a long time.
"Yes, that is what I have done, that is my experience, We must
understand the real meaning of the words of the Gospel,--Matthew,
V. 28,--'that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath
committed adultery'; and these words relate to the wife, to the
sister, and not only to the wife of another, but especially to
one's own wife."
If the reading of this book has interested you, do not fail to
get its sequel, entitled "KREUTZER SONATA BEARING FRUIT, by
Pauline Grayson, which is an exceedingly interesting narrative
showing one of the results of the ideas set forth in "Kreutzer
Sonata." It is bound in paper covers and will be sent by mail,
postage paid, upon receipt of 25 cents. Address all orders to J.
S. OGILVIE PUBLISHING COMPANY, 57 Rose Street, New York.
LESSON OF "THE KREUTZER SONATA."
I have received, and still continue to receive, numbers of
letters from persons who are perfect strangers to me, asking me
to state in plain and simple language my own views on the subject
handled in the story entitled "The Kreutzer Sonata." With this
request I shall now endeavor to comply.
My views on the question may be succinctly stated as follows:
Without entering into details, it will be generally admitted that
I am accurate in saying that many people condone in young men a
course of conduct with regard to the other sex which is
incompatible with strict morality, and that this dissoluteness is
pardoned generally. Both parents and the government, in
consequence of this view, may be said to wink at profligacy, and
even in the last resource to encourage its practice. I am of
opinion that this is not right.
It is not possible that the health of one class should
necessitate the ruin of another, and, in consequence, it is our
first duty to turn a deaf ear to such an essential immoral
doctrine, no matter how strongly society may have established or
law protected it. Moreover, it needs to be fully recognized that
men are rightly to be held responsible for the consequences of
their own acts, and that these are no longer to be visited on the
woman alone. It follows from this that it is the duty of men who
do not wish to lead a life of infamy to practice such continence
in respect to all woman as they would were the female society in
which they move made up exclusively of their own mothers and
A more rational mode of life should be adopted which would
include abstinence from all alcoholic drinks, from excess in
eating and from flesh meat, on the one hand, and recourse to
physical labor on the other. I am not speaking of gymnastics, or
of any of those occupations which may be fitly described as
playing at work; I mean the genuine toil that fatigues. No one
need go far in search of proofs that this kind of abstemious
living is not merely possible, but far less hurtful to health
than excess. Hundreds of instances are known to every one. This
is my first contention.
In the second place, I think that of late years, through various
reasons which I need not enter, but among which the
above-mentioned laxity of opinion in society and the frequent
idealization of the subject in current literature and painting
may be mentioned, conjugal infidelity has become more common and
is considered less reprehensible. I am of opinion that this is
not right. The origin of the evil is twofold. It is due, in the
first place, to a natural instinct, and, in the second, to the
elevation of this instinct to a place to which it does not
rightly belong. This being so, the evil can only be remedied by
effecting a change in the views now in vogue about "falling in
love" and all that this term implies, by educating men and women
at home through family influence and example, and abroad by means
of healthy public opinion, to practice that abstinence which
morality and Christianity alike enjoin. This is my second
In the third place I am of opinion that another consequence of
the false light in which "falling in love," and what it leads to,
are viewed in our society, is that the birth of children has lost
its pristine significance, and that modern marriages are
conceived less and less from the point of view of the family. I
am of opinion that this is not right. This is my third
In the fourth place, I am of opinion that the children (who in
our society are considered an obstacle to enjoyment--an unlucky
accident, as it were) are educated not with a view to the problem
which they will be one day called on to face and to solve, but
solely with an eye to the pleasure which they may be made to
yield to their parents. The consequence is, that the children of
human beings are brought up for all the world like the young of
animals, the chief care of their parents being not to train them
to such work as is worthy of men and women, but to increase their
weight, or add a cubit to their stature, to make them spruce,
sleek, well-fed, and comely. They rig them out in all manner of
fantastic costumes, wash them, over-feed them, and refuse to make
them work. If the children of the lower orders differ in this
last respect from those of the well-to-do classes, the difference
is merely formal; they work from sheer necessity, and not because
their parents recognize work as a duty. And in over-fed
children, as in over-fed animals, sensuality is engendered
Fashionable dress to-day, the course of reading, plays, music,
dances, luscious food, all the elements of our modern life, in a
word, from the pictures on the little boxes of sweetmeats up to
the novel, the tale, and the poem, contribute to fan this
sensuality into a strong, consuming flame, with the result that
sexual vices and diseases have come to be the normal conditions
of the period of tender youth, and often continue into the riper
age of full-blown manhood. And I am of opinion that this is not
It is high time it ceased. The children of human beings should
not be brought up as if they were animals; and we should set up
as the object and strive to maintain as the result of our labors
something better and nobler than a well-dressed body. This is my
In the fifth place, I am of opinion that, owing to the
exaggerated and erroneous significance attributed by our society
to love and to the idealized states that accompany and succeed
it, the best energies of our men and women are drawn forth and
exhausted during the most promising period of life; those of the
men in the work of looking for, choosing, and winning the most
desirable objects of love, for which purpose lying and fraud are
held to be quite excusable; those of the women and girls in
alluring men and decoying them into liaisons or marriage by the
most questionable means conceivable, as an instance of which the
present fashions in evening dress may be cited. I am of opinion
that this is not right.
The truth is, that the whole affair has been exalted by poets and
romancers to an undue importance, and that love in its various
developments is not a fitting object to consume the best energies
of men. People set it before them and strive after it, because
their view of life is as vulgar and brutish as is that other
conception frequently met with in the lower stages of
development, which sees in luscious and abundant food an end
worthy of man's best efforts. Now, this is not right and should
not be done. And, in order to avoid doing it, it is only needful
to realize the fact that whatever truly deserves to be held up as
a worthy object of man's striving and working, whether it be the
service of humanity, of one's country, of science, of art, not to
speak of the service of God, is far above and beyond the sphere
of personal enjoyment. Hence, it follows that not only to form a
liaison, but even to contract marriage, is, from a Christian
point of view, not a progress, but a fall. Love, and all the
states that accompany and follow it, however we may try in prose
and verse to prove the contrary, never do and never can
facilitate the attainment of an aim worthy of men, but always
make it more difficult. This is my fifth contention.
How about the human race? If we admit that celibacy is better
and nobler than marriage, evidently the human race will come to
an end. But, if the logical conclusion of the argument is that
the human race will become extinct, the whole reasoning is wrong.
To that I reply that the argument is not mine; I did not invent
it. That it is incumbent on mankind so to strive, and that
celibacy is preferable to marriage, are truths revealed by Christ
1,900 years ago, set forth in our catechisms, and professed by us
as followers of Christ.