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The Moscow Census - From "What to do?" by Lyof N. Tolstoi

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Please be advised that David sent the two Moscow Census pieces to me
as one file, and that I split it into two, since some people have a
bit of trouble when we put two titles in one file. However, I did NOT
change the numbering of the footnotes, so they all appear at the end
of each file.

This etext was produced by David Price, email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk,
from the 1887 Thomas Y. Crowell edition.

by Count Lyof N. Tolstoi

Translated from the Russian by
Isabel F. Hapgood


And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then?

He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him
impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do
likewise--LUKE iii. 10. 11.

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust
doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:

But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor
rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single,
thy whole body shall be full of light.

But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness.
If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and
love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the
other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye
shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye
shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than
raiment?--MATT. vi. 19-25.

Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall
we drink? Or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?

(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly
Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all
these things shall be added unto you.

Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take
thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the
evil thereof.--MATT. vi. 31-34.

For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a
rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.--MATT. xix. 24; MARK x.
25; LUKE xviii. 25.


I had lived all my life out of town. When, in 1881, I went to live
in Moscow, the poverty of the town greatly surprised me. I am
familiar with poverty in the country; but city poverty was new and
incomprehensible to me. In Moscow it was impossible to pass along
the street without encountering beggars, and especially beggars who
are unlike those in the country. These beggars do not go about with
their pouches in the name of Christ, as country beggars are
accustomed to do, but these beggars are without the pouch and the
name of Christ. The Moscow beggars carry no pouches, and do not ask
for alms. Generally, when they meet or pass you, they merely try to
catch your eye; and, according to your look, they beg or refrain from
it. I know one such beggar who belongs to the gentry. The old man
walks slowly along, bending forward every time he sets his foot down.
When he meets you, he rests on one foot and makes you a kind of
salute. If you stop, he pulls off his hat with its cockade, and bows
and begs: if you do not halt, he pretends that that is merely his
way of walking, and he passes on, bending forward in like manner on
the other foot. He is a real Moscow beggar, a cultivated man. At
first I did not know why the Moscow beggars do not ask alms directly;
afterwards I came to understand why they do not beg, but still I did
not understand their position.

Once, as I was passing through Afanasievskaya Lane, I saw a policeman
putting a ragged peasant, all swollen with dropsy, into a cab. I
inquired: "What is that for?"

The policeman answered: "For asking alms."

"Is that forbidden?"

"Of course it is forbidden," replied the policeman.

The sufferer from dropsy was driven off. I took another cab, and
followed him. I wanted to know whether it was true that begging alms
was prohibited and how it was prohibited. I could in no wise
understand how one man could be forbidden to ask alms of any other
man; and besides, I did not believe that it was prohibited, when
Moscow is full of beggars. I went to the station-house whither the
beggar had been taken. At a table in the station-house sat a man
with a sword and a pistol. I inquired:

"For what was this peasant arrested?"

The man with the sword and pistol gazed sternly at me, and said:

"What business is it of yours?"

But feeling conscious that it was necessary to offer me some
explanation, he added:

"The authorities have ordered that all such persons are to be
arrested; of course it had to be done."

I went out. The policeman who had brought the beggar was seated on
the window-sill in the ante-chamber, staring gloomily at a note-book.
I asked him:

"Is it true that the poor are forbidden to ask alms in Christ's

The policeman came to himself, stared at me, then did not exactly
frown, but apparently fell into a doze again, and said, as he sat on
the window-sill:-

"The authorities have so ordered, which shows that it is necessary,"
and betook himself once more to his note-book. I went out on the
porch, to the cab.

"Well, how did it turn out? Have they arrested him?" asked the
cabman. The man was evidently interested in this affair also.

"Yes," I answered. The cabman shook his head. "Why is it forbidden
here in Moscow to ask alms in Christ's name?" I inquired.

"Who knows?" said the cabman.

"How is this?" said I, "he is Christ's poor, and he is taken to the

"A stop has been put to that now, it is not allowed," said the cab-

On several occasions afterwards, I saw policemen conducting beggars
to the station house, and then to the Yusupoff house of correction.
Once I encountered on the Myasnitzkaya a company of these beggars,
about thirty in number. In front of them and behind them marched
policemen. I inquired: "What for?"--"For asking alms."

It turned out that all these beggars, several of whom you meet with
in every street in Moscow, and who stand in files near every church
during services, and especially during funeral services, are
forbidden to ask alms.

But why are some of them caught and locked up somewhere, while others
are left alone?

This I could not understand. Either there are among them legal and
illegal beggars, or there are so many of them that it is impossible
to apprehend them all; or do others assemble afresh when some are

There are many varieties of beggars in Moscow: there are some who
live by this profession; there are also genuine poor people, who have
chanced upon Moscow in some manner or other, and who are really in

Among these poor people, there are many simple, common peasants, and
women in their peasant costume. I often met such people. Some of
them have fallen ill here, and on leaving the hospital they can
neither support themselves here, nor get away from Moscow. Some of
them, moreover, have indulged in dissipation (such was probably the
case of the dropsical man); some have not been ill, but are people
who have been burnt out of their houses, or old people, or women with
children; some, too, were perfectly healthy and able to work. These
perfectly healthy peasants who were engaged in begging, particularly
interested me. These healthy, peasant beggars, who were fit for
work, also interested me, because, from the date of my arrival in
Moscow, I had been in the habit of going to the Sparrow Hills with
two peasants, and sawing wood there for the sake of exercise. These
two peasants were just as poor as those whom I encountered on the
streets. One was Piotr, a soldier from Kaluga; the other Semyon, a
peasant from Vladimir. They possessed nothing except the wages of
their body and hands. And with these hands they earned, by dint of
very hard labor, from forty to forty-five kopeks a day, out of which
each of them was laying by savings, the Kaluga man for a fur coat,
the Vladimir man in order to get enough to return to his village.
Therefore, on meeting precisely such men in the streets, I took an
especial interest in them.

Why did these men toil, while those others begged?

On encountering a peasant of this stamp, I usually asked him how he
had come to that situation. Once I met a peasant with some gray in
his beard, but healthy. He begs. I ask him who is he, whence comes
he? He says that he came from Kaluga to get work. At first he found
employment chopping up old wood for use in stoves. He and his
comrade finished all the chopping which one householder had; then
they sought other work, but found none; his comrade had parted from
him, and for two weeks he himself had been struggling along; he had
spent all his money, he had no saw, and no axe, and no money to buy
anything. I gave him money for a saw, and told him of a place where
he could find work. I had already made arrangements with Piotr and
Semyon, that they should take an assistant, and they looked up a mate
for him.

"See that you come. There is a great deal of work there."

"I will come; why should I not come? Do you suppose I like to beg?
I can work."

The peasant declares that he will come, and it seems to me that he is
not deceiving me, and that he intents to come.

On the following day I go to my peasants, and inquire whether that
man has arrived. He has not been there; and in this way several men
deceived me. And those also deceived me who said that they only
required money for a ticket in order to return home, and who chanced
upon me again in the street a week later. Many of these I
recognized, and they recognized me, and sometimes, having forgotten
me, they repeated the same trick on me; and others, on catching sight
of me, beat a retreat. Thus I perceived, that in the ranks of this
class also deceivers existed. But these cheats were very pitiable
creatures: all of them were but half-clad, poverty-stricken, gaunt,
sickly men; they were the very people who really freeze to death, or
hang themselves, as we learn from the newspapers.


When I mentioned this poverty of the town to inhabitants of the town,
they always said to me: "Oh, all that you have seen is nothing. You
ought to see the Khitroff market-place, and the lodging-houses for
the night there. There you would see a regular 'golden company.'"
{1} One jester told me that this was no longer a company, but a
GOLDEN REGIMENT: so greatly had their numbers increased. The jester
was right, but he would have been still more accurate if he had said
that these people now form in Moscow neither a company nor a
regiment, but an entire army, almost fifty thousand in number, I
think. [The old inhabitants, when they spoke to me about the poverty
in town, always referred to it with a certain satisfaction, as though
pluming themselves over me, because they knew it. I remember that
when I was in London, the old inhabitants there also rather boasted
when they spoke of the poverty of London. The case is the same with
us.] {2}

And I wanted to have a sight of this poverty of which I had been
told. Several times I set out in the direction of the Khitroff
market-place, but on every occasion I began to feel uncomfortable and
ashamed. "Why am I going to gaze on the sufferings of people whom I
cannot help?" said one voice. "No, if you live here, and see all the
charms of city life, go and view this also," said another voice. In
December three years ago, therefore, on a cold and windy day, I
betook myself to that centre of poverty, the Khitroff market-place.
This was at four o'clock in the afternoon of a week-day. As I passed
through the Solyanka, I already began to see more and more people in
old garments which had not originally belonged to them, and in still
stranger foot-gear, people with a peculiar, unhealthy hue of
countenance, and especially with a singular indifference to every
thing around them, which was peculiar to them all. A man in the
strangest of all possible attire, which was utterly unlike any thing
else, walked along with perfect unconcern, evidently without a
thought of the appearance which he must present to the eyes of
others. All these people were making their way towards a single
point. Without inquiring the way, with which I was not acquainted, I
followed them, and came out on the Khitroff market-place. On the
market-place, women both old and young, of the same description, in
tattered cloaks and jackets of various shapes, in ragged shoes and
overshoes, and equally unconcerned, notwithstanding the hideousness
of their attire, sat, bargained for something, strolled about, and
scolded. There were not many people in the market itself. Evidently
market-hours were over, and the majority of the people were ascending
the rise beyond the market and through the place, all still
proceeding in one direction. I followed them. The farther I
advanced, the greater in numbers were the people of this sort who
flowed together on one road. Passing through the market-place and
proceeding along the street, I overtook two women; one was old, the
other young. Both wore something ragged and gray. As they walked
they were discussing some matter. After every necessary word, they
uttered one or two unnecessary ones, of the most improper character.
They were not intoxicated, but merely troubled about something; and
neither the men who met them, nor those who walked in front of them
and behind them, paid any attention to the language which was so
strange to me. In these quarters, evidently, people always talked
so. Ascending the rise, we reached a large house on a corner. The
greater part of the people who were walking along with me halted at
this house. They stood all over the sidewalk of this house, and sat
on the curbstone, and even the snow in the street was thronged with
the same kind of people. On the right side of the entrance door were
the women, on the left the men. I walked past the women, past the
men (there were several hundred of them in all) and halted where the
line came to an end. The house before which these people were
waiting was the Lyapinsky free lodging-house for the night. The
throng of people consisted of night lodgers, who were waiting to be
let in. At five o'clock in the afternoon, the house is opened, and
the people permitted to enter. Hither had come nearly all the people
whom I had passed on my way.

I halted where the line of men ended. Those nearest me began to
stare at me, and attracted my attention to them by their glances.
The fragments of garments which covered these bodies were of the most
varied sorts. But the expression of all the glances directed towards
me by these people was identical. In all eyes the question was
expressed: "Why have you, a man from another world, halted here
beside us? Who are you? Are you a self-satisfied rich man who wants
to enjoy our wretchedness, to get rid of his tedium, and to torment
us still more? or are you that thing which does not and can not
exist,--a man who pities us?" This query was on every face. You
glance about, encounter some one's eye, and turn away. I wished to
talk with some one of them, but for a long time I could not make up
my mind to it. But our glances had drawn us together already while
our tongues remained silent. Greatly as our lives had separated us,
after the interchange of two or three glances we felt that we were
both men, and we ceased to fear each other. The nearest of all to me
was a peasant with a swollen face and a red beard, in a tattered
caftan, and patched overshoes on his bare feet. And the weather was
eight degrees below zero. {3} For the third or fourth time I
encountered his eyes, and I felt so near to him that I was no longer
ashamed to accost him, but ashamed not to say something to him. I
inquired where he came from? he answered readily, and we began to
talk; others approached. He was from Smolensk, and had come to seek
employment that he might earn his bread and taxes. "There is no
work," said he: "the soldiers have taken it all away. So now I am
loafing about; as true as I believe in God, I have had nothing to eat
for two days." He spoke modestly, with an effort at a smile. A
sbiten{4}-seller, an old soldier, stood near by. I called him up.
He poured out his sbiten. The peasant took a boiling-hot glassful in
his hands, and as he tried before drinking not to let any of the heat
escape in vain, and warmed his hands over it, he related his
adventures to me. These adventures, or the histories of them, are
almost always identical: the man has been a laborer, then he has
changed his residence, then his purse containing his money and ticket
has been stolen from him in the night lodging-house; now it is
impossible to get away from Moscow. He told me that he kept himself
warm by day in the dram-shops; that he nourished himself on the bits
of bread in these drinking places, when they were given to him; and
when he was driven out of them, he came hither to the Lyapinsky house
for a free lodging. He was only waiting for the police to make their
rounds, when, as he had no passport, he would be taken to jail, and
then despatched by stages to his place of settlement. "They say that
the inspection will be made on Friday," said he, "then they will
arrest me. If I can only get along until Friday." (The jail, and
the journey by stages, represent the Promised Land to him.)

As he told his story, three men from among the throng corroborated
his statements, and said that they were in the same predicament. A
gaunt, pale, long-nosed youth, with merely a shirt on the upper
portion of his body, and that torn on the shoulders, and a cap
without a visor, forced his way sidelong through the crowd. He
shivered violently and incessantly, but tried to smile disdainfully
at the peasants' remarks, thinking by this means to adopt the proper
tone with me, and he stared at me. I offered him some sbiten; he
also, on taking the glass, warmed his hands over it; but no sooner
had he begun to speak, than he was thrust aside by a big, black,
hook-nosed individual, in a chintz shirt and waistcoat, without a
hat. The hook-nosed man asked for some sbiten also. Then came a
tall old man, with a mass of beard, clad in a great-coat girded with
a rope, and in bast shoes, who was drunk. Then a small man with a
swollen face and tearful eyes, in a brown nankeen round-jacket, with
his bare knees protruding from the holes in his summer trousers, and
knocking together with cold. He shivered so that he could not hold
his glass, and spilled it over himself. The men began to reproach
him. He only smiled in a woe-begone way, and went on shivering.
Then came a crooked monster in rags, with pattens on his bare feet;
then some sort of an officer; then something in the ecclesiastical
line; then something strange and nose-less,--all hungry and cold,
beseeching and submissive, thronged round me, and pressed close to
the sbiten. They drank up all the sbiten. One asked for money, and
I gave it. Then another asked, then a third, and the whole crowd
besieged me. Confusion and a press resulted. The porter of the
adjoining house shouted to the crowd to clear the sidewalk in front
of his house, and the crowd submissively obeyed his orders. Some
managers stepped out of the throng, and took me under their
protection, and wanted to lead me forth out of the press; but the
crowd, which had at first been scattered over the sidewalk, now
became disorderly, and hustled me. All stared at me and begged; and
each face was more pitiful and suffering and humble than the last. I
distributed all that I had with me. I had not much money, something
like twenty rubles; and in company with the crowd, I entered the
Lyapinsky lodging-house. This house is huge. It consists of four
sections. In the upper stories are the men's quarters; in the lower,
the women's. I first entered the women's place; a vast room all
occupied with bunks, resembling the third-class bunks on the railway.
These bunks were arranged in two rows, one above the other. The
women, strange, tattered creatures, both old and young, wearing
nothing over their dresses, entered and took their places, some below
and some above. Some of the old ones crossed themselves, and uttered
a petition for the founder of this refuge; some laughed and scolded.
I went up-stairs. There the men had installed themselves; among them
I espied one of those to whom I had given money. [On catching sight
of him, I all at once felt terribly abashed, and I made haste to
leave the room. And it was with a sense of absolute crime that I
quitted that house and returned home. At home I entered over the
carpeted stairs into the ante-room, whose floor was covered with
cloth; and having removed my fur coat, I sat down to a dinner of five
courses, waited on by two lackeys in dress-coats, white neckties, and
white gloves.

Thirty years ago I witnessed in Paris a man's head cut off by the
guillotine in the presence of thousands of spectators. I knew that
the man was a horrible criminal. I was acquainted with all the
arguments which people have been devising for so many centuries, in
order to justify this sort of deed. I knew that they had done this
expressly, deliberately. But at the moment when head and body were
severed, and fell into the trough, I groaned, and apprehended, not
with my mind, but with my heart and my whole being, that all the
arguments which I had heard anent the death-penalty were arrant
nonsense; that, no matter how many people might assemble in order to
perpetrate a murder, no matter what they might call themselves,
murder is murder, the vilest sin in the world, and that that crime
had been committed before my very eyes. By my presence and non-
interference, I had lent my approval to that crime, and had taken
part in it. So now, at the sight of this hunger, cold, and
degradation of thousands of persons, I understood not with my mind,
but with my heart and my whole being, that the existence of tens of
thousands of such people in Moscow, while I and other thousands dined
on fillets and sturgeon, and covered my horses and my floors with
cloth and rugs,--no matter what the wise ones of this world might say
to me about its being a necessity,--was a crime, not perpetrated a
single time, but one which was incessantly being perpetrated over and
over again, and that I, in my luxury, was not only an accessory, but
a direct accomplice in the matter. The difference for me between
these two impressions was this, that I might have shouted to the
assassins who stood around the guillotine, and perpetrated the
murder, that they were committing a crime, and have tried with all my
might to prevent the murder. But while so doing I should have known
that my action would not prevent the murder. But here I might not
only have given sbiten and the money which I had with me, but the
coat from my back, and every thing that was in my house. But this I
had not done; and therefore I felt, I feel, and shall never cease to
feel, myself an accomplice in this constantly repeated crime, so long
as I have superfluous food and any one else has none at all, so long
as I have two garments while any one else has not even one.] {5}


That very evening, on my return from the Lyapinsky house, I related
my impressions to a friend. The friend, an inhabitant of the city,
began to tell me, not without satisfaction, that this was the most
natural phenomenon of town life possible, that I only saw something
extraordinary in it because of my provincialism, that it had always
been so, and always would be so, and that such must be and is the
inevitable condition of civilization. In London it is even worse.
Of course there is nothing wrong about it, and it is impossible to be
displeased with it. I began to reply to my friend, but with so much
heat and ill-temper, that my wife ran in from the adjoining room to
inquire what had happened. It appears that, without being conscious
of it myself, I had been shouting, with tears in my voice, and
flourishing my hands at my friend. I shouted: "It's impossible to
live thus, impossible to live thus, impossible!" They made me feel
ashamed of my unnecessary warmth; they told me that I could not talk
quietly about any thing, that I got disagreeably excited; and they
proved to me, especially, that the existence of such unfortunates
could not possibly furnish any excuse for imbittering the lives of
those about me.

I felt that this was perfectly just, and held my peace; but in the
depths of my soul I was conscious that I was in the right, and I
could not regain my composure.

And the life of the city, which had, even before this, been so
strange and repellent to me, now disgusted me to such a degree, that
all the pleasures of a life of luxury, which had hitherto appeared to
me as pleasures, become tortures to me. And try as I would, to
discover in my own soul any justification whatever for our life, I
could not, without irritation, behold either my own or other people's
drawing-rooms, nor our tables spread in the lordly style, nor our
equipages and horses, nor shops, theatres, and assemblies. I could
not behold alongside these the hungry, cold, and down-trodden
inhabitants of the Lyapinsky house. And I could not rid myself of
the thought that these two things were bound up together, that the
one arose from the other. I remember, that, as this feeling of my
own guilt presented itself to me at the first blush, so it persisted
in me, but to this feeling a second was speedily added which
overshadowed it.

When I mentioned my impressions of the Lyapinsky house to my nearest
friends and acquaintances, they all gave me the same answer as the
first friend at whom I had begun to shout; but, in addition to this,
they expressed their approbation of my kindness of heart and my
sensibility, and gave me to understand that this sight had so
especially worked upon me because I, Lyof Nikolaevitch, was very kind
and good. And I willingly believed this. And before I had time to
look about me, instead of the feeling of self-reproach and regret,
which I had at first experienced, there came a sense of satisfaction
with my own kindliness, and a desire to exhibit it to people.

"It really must be," I said to myself, "that I am not especially
responsible for this by the luxury of my life, but that it is the
indispensable conditions of existence that are to blame. In truth, a
change in my mode of life cannot rectify the evil which I have seen:
by altering my manner of life, I shall only make myself and those
about me unhappy, and the other miseries will remain the same as
ever. And therefore my problem lies not in a change of my own life,
as it had first seemed to me, but in aiding, so far as in me lies, in
the amelioration of the situation of those unfortunate beings who
have called forth my compassion. The whole point lies here,--that I
am a very kind, amiable man, and that I wish to do good to my
neighbors." And I began to think out a plan of beneficent activity,
in which I might exhibit my benevolence. I must confess, however,
that while devising this plan of beneficent activity, I felt all the
time, in the depths of my soul, that that was not the thing; but, as
often happens, activity of judgment and imagination drowned that
voice of conscience within me. At that juncture, the census came up.
This struck me as a means for instituting that benevolence in which I
proposed to exhibit my charitable disposition. I knew of many
charitable institutions and societies which were in existence in
Moscow, but all their activity seemed to me both wrongly directed and
insignificant in comparison with what I intended to do. And I
devised the following scheme: to arouse the sympathy of the wealthy
for the poverty of the city, to collect money, to get people together
who were desirous of assisting in this matter, and to visit all the
refuges of poverty in company with the census, and, in addition to
the work of the census, to enter into communion with the unfortunate,
to learn the particulars of their necessities, and to assist them
with money, with work, by sending them away from Moscow, by placing
their children in school, and the old people in hospitals and
asylums. And not only that, I thought, but these people who
undertake this can be formed into a permanent society, which, by
dividing the quarters of Moscow among its members, will be able to
see to it that this poverty and beggary shall not be bred; they will
incessantly annihilate it at its very inception; then they will
fulfil their duty, not so much by healing as by a course of hygiene
for the wretchedness of the city. I fancied that there would be no
more simply needy, not to mention abjectly poor persons, in the town,
and that all of us wealthy individuals would thereafter be able to
sit in our drawing-rooms, and eat our five-course dinners, and ride
in our carriages to theatres and assemblies, and be no longer annoyed
with such sights as I had seen at the Lyapinsky house.

Having concocted this plan, I wrote an article on the subject; and
before sending it to the printer, I went to some acquaintances, from
whom I hoped for sympathy. I said the same thing to every one whom I
met that day (and I applied chiefly to the rich), and nearly the same
that I afterwards printed in my memoir; proposed to take advantage of
the census to inquire into the wretchedness of Moscow, and to succor
it, both by deeds and money, and to do it in such a manner that there
should be no poor people in Moscow, and so that we rich ones might be
able, with a quiet conscience, to enjoy the blessings of life to
which we were accustomed. All listened to me attentively and
seriously, but nevertheless the same identical thing happened with
every one of them without exception. No sooner did my hearers
comprehend the question, than they seemed to feel awkward and
somewhat mortified. They seemed to be ashamed, and principally on my
account, because I was talking nonsense, and nonsense which it was
impossible to openly characterize as such. Some external cause
appeared to compel my hearers to be forbearing with this nonsense of

"Ah, yes! of course. That would be very good," they said to me. "It
is a self-understood thing that it is impossible not to sympathize
with this. Yes, your idea is a capital one. I have thought of that
myself, but . . . we are so indifferent, as a rule, that you can
hardly count on much success . . . however, so far as I am concerned,
I am, of course, ready to assist."

They all said something of this sort to me. They all agreed, but
agreed, so it seemed to me, not in consequence of my convictions, and
not in consequence of their own wish, but as the result of some
outward cause, which did not permit them not to agree. I had already
noticed this, and, since not one of them stated the sum which he was
willing to contribute, I was obliged to fix it myself, and to ask:
"So I may count on you for three hundred, or two hundred, or one
hundred, or twenty-five rubles?" And not one of them gave me any
money. I mention this because, when people give money for that which
they themselves desire, they generally make haste to give it. For a
box to see Sarah Bernhardt, they will instantly place the money in
your hand, to clinch the bargain. Here, however, out of all those
who agreed to contribute, and who expressed their sympathy, not one
of them proposed to give me the money on the spot, but they merely
assented in silence to the sum which I suggested. In the last house
which I visited on that day, in the evening, I accidentally came upon
a large company. The mistress of the house had busied herself with
charity for several years. Numerous carriages stood at the door,
several lackeys in rich liveries were sitting in the ante-chamber.
In the vast drawing-room, around two tables and lamps, sat ladies and
young girls, in costly garments, dressing small dolls; and there were
several young men there also, hovering about the ladies. The dolls
prepared by these ladies were to be drawn in a lottery for the poor.

The sight of this drawing-room, and of the people assembled in it,
struck me very unpleasantly. Not to mention the fact that the
property of the persons there congregated amounted to many millions,
not to mention the fact that the mere income from the capital here
expended on dresses, laces, bronzes, brooches, carriages, horses,
liveries, and lackeys, was a hundred-fold greater than all that these
ladies could earn; not to mention the outlay, the trip hither of all
these ladies and gentlemen; the gloves, linen, extra time, the
candles, the tea, the sugar, and the cakes had cost the hostess a
hundred times more than what they were engaged in making here. I saw
all this, and therefore I could understand, that precisely here I
should find no sympathy with my mission: but I had come in order to
make my proposition, and, difficult as this was for me, I said what I
intended. (I said very nearly the same thing that is contained in my
printed article.)

Out of all the persons there present, one individual offered me
money, saying that she did not feel equal to going among the poor
herself on account of her sensibility, but that she would give money;
how much money she would give, and when, she did not say. Another
individual and a young man offered their services in going about
among the poor, but I did not avail myself of their offer. The
principal person to whom I appealed, told me that it would be
impossible to do much because means were lacking. Means were lacking
because all the rich people in Moscow were already on the lists, and
all of them were asked for all that they could possibly give; because
on all these benefactors rank, medals, and other dignities were
bestowed; because in order to secure financial success, some new
dignities must be secured from the authorities, and that this was the
only practical means, but this was extremely difficult.

On my return home that night, I lay down to sleep not only with a
presentment that my idea would come to nothing, but with shame and a
consciousness that all day long I had been engaged in a very
repulsive and disgraceful business. But I did not give up this
undertaking. In the first place, the matter had been begun, and
false shame would have prevented my abandoning it; in the second
place, not only the success of this scheme, but the very fact that I
was busying myself with it, afforded me the possibility of continuing
to live in the conditions under which I was then living; failure
entailed upon me the necessity of renouncing my present existence and
of seeking new paths of life. And this I unconsciously dreaded, and
I could not believe the inward voice, and I went on with what I had

Having sent my article to the printer, I read the proof of it to the
City Council (Dum). I read it, stumbling, and blushing even to
tears, I felt so awkward. And I saw that it was equally awkward for
all my hearers. In answer to my question at the conclusion of my
reading, as to whether the superintendents of the census would accept
my proposition to retain their places with the object of becoming
mediators between society and the needy, an awkward silence ensued.
Then two orators made speeches. These speeches in some measure
corrected the awkwardness of my proposal; sympathy for me was
expressed, but the impracticability of my proposition, which all had
approved, was demonstrated. Everybody breathed more freely. But
when, still desirous of gaining my object, I afterwards asked the
superintendents separately: Were they willing, while taking the
census, to inquire into the needs of the poor, and to retain their
posts, in order to serve as go-betweens between the poor and the
rich? they all grew uneasy again. They seemed to say to me with
their glances: "Why, we have just condoned your folly out of respect
to you, and here you are beginning it again!" Such was the
expression of their faces, but they assured me in words that they
agreed; and two of them said in the very same words, as though they
had entered into a compact together: "We consider ourselves MORALLY
BOUND to do this." The same impression was produced by my
communication to the student-census-takers, when I said to them, that
while taking our statistics, we should follow up, in addition to the
objects of the census, the object of benevolence. When we discussed
this, I observed that they were ashamed to look the kind-hearted man,
who was talking nonsense, in the eye. My article produced the same
impression on the editor of the newspaper, when I handed it to him;
on my son, on my wife, on the most widely different persons. All
felt awkward, for some reason or other; but all regarded it as
indispensable to applaud the idea itself, and all, immediately after
this expression of approbation, began to express their doubts as to
its success, and began for some reason (and all of them, too, without
exception) to condemn the indifference and coldness of our society
and of every one, apparently, except themselves.

In the depths of my own soul, I still continued to feel that all this
was not at all what was needed, and that nothing would come of it;
but the article was printed, and I prepared to take part in the
census; I had contrived the matter, and now it was already carrying
me a way with it.


At my request, there had been assigned to me for the census, a
portion of the Khamovnitchesky quarter, at the Smolensk market, along
the Prototchny cross-street, between Beregovoy Passage and Nikolsky
Alley. In this quarter are situated the houses generally called the
Rzhanoff Houses, or the Rzhanoff fortress. These houses once
belonged to a merchant named Rzhanoff, but now belong to the Zimins.
I had long before heard of this place as a haunt of the most terrible
poverty and vice, and I had accordingly requested the directors of
the census to assign me to this quarter. My desire was granted.

On receiving the instructions of the City Council, I went alone, a
few days previous to the beginning of the census, to reconnoitre my
section. I found the Rzhanoff fortress at once, from the plan with
which I had been furnished.

I approached from Nikolsky Alley. Nikolsky Alley ends on the left in
a gloomy house, without any gates on that side; I divined from its
appearance that this was the Rzhanoff fortress.

Passing down Nikolsky Street, I overtook some lads of from ten to
fourteen years of age, clad in little caftans and great-coats, who
were sliding down hill, some on their feet, and some on one skate,
along the icy slope beside this house. The boys were ragged, and,
like all city lads, bold and impudent. I stopped to watch them. A
ragged old woman, with yellow, pendent cheeks, came round the corner.
She was going to town, to the Smolensk market, and she groaned
terribly at every step, like a foundered horse. As she came
alongside me, she halted and drew a hoarse sigh. In any other
locality, this old woman would have asked money of me, but here she
merely addressed me.

"Look there," said she, pointing at the boys who were sliding, "all
they do is to play their pranks! They'll turn out just such Rzhanoff
fellows as their fathers."

One of the boys clad in a great-coat and a visorless cap, heard her
words and halted: "What are you scolding about?" he shouted to the
old woman. "You're an old Rzhanoff nanny-goat yourself!"

I asked the boy:

"And do you live here?"

"Yes, and so does she. She stole boot-legs," shouted the boy; and
raising his foot in front, he slid away.

The old woman burst forth into injurious words, interrupted by a
cough. At that moment, an old man, all clad in rags, and as white as
snow, came down the hill in the middle of the street, flourishing his
hands [in one of them he held a bundle with one little kalatch and
baranki" {6}]. This old man bore the appearance of a person who had
just strengthened himself with a dram. He had evidently heard the
old woman's insulting words, and he took her part.

"I'll give it to you, you imps, that I will!" he screamed at the
boys, seeming to direct his course towards them, and taking a circuit
round me, he stepped on to the sidewalk. This old man creates
surprise on the Arbata by his great age, his weakness, and his
indigence. Here he was a cheery laboring-man returning from his
daily toil.

I followed the old man. He turned the corner to the left, into
Prototchny Alley, and passing by the whole length of the house and
the gate, he disappeared through the door of the tavern.

Two gates and several doors open on Prototchny Alley: those
belonging to a tavern, a dram-shop, and several eating and other
shops. This is the Rzhanoff fortress itself. Every thing here is
gray, dirty, and malodorous--both buildings and locality, and court-
yards and people. The majority of the people whom I met here were
ragged and half-clad. Some were passing through, others were running
from door to door. Two were haggling over some rags. I made the
circuit of the entire building from Prototchny Alley and Beregovoy
Passage, and returning I halted at the gate of one of these houses.
I wished to enter, and see what was going on inside, but I felt that
it would be awkward. What should I say when I was asked what I
wanted there? I hesitated, but went in nevertheless. As soon as I
entered the court-yard, I became conscious of a disgusting odor. The
yard was frightfully dirty. I turned a corner, and at the same
instant I heard to my left and overhead, on the wooden balcony, the
tramp of footsteps of people running, at first along the planks of
the balcony, and then on the steps of the staircase. There emerged,
first a gaunt woman, with her sleeves rolled up, in a faded pink
gown, and little boots on her stockingless feet. After her came a
tattered man in a red shirt and very full trousers, like a petticoat,
and with overshoes. The man caught the woman at the bottom of the

"You shall not escape," he said laughing.

"See here, you cock-eyed devil," began the woman, evidently flattered
by this pursuit; but catching sight of me, she shrieked viciously,
"What do you want?"

As I wanted nothing, I became confused and beat a retreat. There was
nothing remarkable about the place; but this incident, after what I
had witnessed on the other side of the yard, the cursing old woman,
the jolly old man, and the lads sliding, suddenly presented the
business which I had concocted from a totally different point of
view. I then comprehended for the first time, that all these
unfortunates to whom I was desirous of playing the part of
benefactor, besides the time, when, suffering from cold and hunger,
they awaited admission into the house, had still other time, which
they employed to some other purpose, that there were four and twenty
hours in every day, that there was a whole life of which I had never
thought, up to that moment. Here, for the first time, I understood,
that all those people, in addition to their desire to shelter
themselves from the cold and to obtain a good meal, must still, in
some way, live out those four and twenty hours each day, which they
must pass as well as everybody else. I comprehended that these
people must lose their tempers, and get bored, show courage, and
grieve and be merry. Strange as this may seem, when put into words,
I understood clearly for the first time, that the business which I
had undertaken could not consist alone in feeding and clothing
thousands of people, as one would feed and drive under cover a
thousand sheep, but that it must consist in doing good to them.

And then I understood that each one of those thousand people was
exactly such a man,--with precisely the same past, with the same
passions, temptations, failings, with the same thoughts, the same
perplexities,--exactly such a man as myself, and then the thing that
I had undertaken suddenly presented itself to me as so difficult that
I felt my powerlessness; but the thing had been begun, and I went on
with it.


On the first appointed day, the student enumerators arrived in the
morning, and I, the benefactor, joined them at twelve o'clock. I
could not go earlier, because I had risen at ten o'clock, then I had
drunk my coffee and smoked, while waiting on digestion. At twelve
o'clock I reached the gates of the Rzhanoff house. A policeman
pointed out to me the tavern with a side entrance on Beregovoy
Passage, where the census-takers had ordered every one who asked for
them to be directed. I entered the tavern. It was very dark, ill-
smelling, and dirty. Directly opposite the entrance was the counter,
on the left was a room with tables, covered with soiled cloths, on
the right a large apartment with pillars, and the same sort of little
tables at the windows and along the walls. Here and there at the
tables sat men both ragged and decently clad, like laboring-men or
petty tradesmen, and a few women drinking tea. The tavern was very
filthy, but it was instantly apparent that it had a good trade.

There was a business-like expression on the face of the clerk behind
the counter, and a clever readiness about the waiters. No sooner had
I entered, than one waiter prepared to remove my coat and bring me
whatever I should order. It was evident that they had been trained
to brisk and accurate service. I inquired for the enumerators.

"Vanya!" shouted a small man, dressed in German fashion, who was
engaged in placing something in a cupboard behind the counter; this
was the landlord of the tavern, a Kaluga peasant, Ivan Fedotitch, who
hired one-half of the Zimins' houses and sublet them to lodgers. The
waiter, a thin, hooked-nosed young fellow of eighteen, with a yellow
complexion, hastened up.

"Conduct this gentleman to the census-takers; they went into the main
building over the well." The young fellow threw down his napkin, and
donned a coat over his white jacket and white trousers, and a cap
with a large visor, and, tripping quickly along with his white feet,
he led me through the swinging door in the rear. In the dirty,
malodorous kitchen, in the out-building, we encountered an old woman
who was carefully carrying some very bad-smelling tripe, wrapped in a
rag, off somewhere. From the out-building we descended into a
sloping court-yard, all encumbered with small wooden buildings on
lower stories of stone. The odor in this whole yard was extremely
powerful. The centre of this odor was an out-house, round which
people were thronging whenever I passed it. It merely indicated the
spot, but was not altogether used itself. It was impossible, when
passing through the yard, not to take note of this spot; one always
felt oppressed when one entered the penetrating atmosphere which was
emitted by this foul smell.

The waiter, carefully guarding his white trousers, led me cautiously
past this place of frozen and unfrozen uncleanness to one of the
buildings. The people who were passing through the yard and along
the balconies all stopped to stare at me. It was evident that a
respectably dressed man was a curiosity in these localities.

The young man asked a woman "whether she had seen the census-takers?"
And three men simultaneously answered his question: some said that
they were over the well, but others said that they had been there,
but had come out and gone to Nikita Ivanovitch. An old man dressed
only in his shirt, who was wandering about the centre of the yard,
said that they were in No. 30. The young man decided that this was
the most probable report, and conducted me to No. 30 through the
basement entrance, and darkness and bad smells, different from that
which existed outside. We went down-stairs, and proceeded along the
earthen floor of a dark corridor. As we were passing along the
corridor, a door flew open abruptly, and an old drunken man, in his
shirt, probably not of the peasant class, thrust himself out. A
washerwoman, wringing her soapy hands, was pursuing and hustling the
old man with piercing screams. Vanya, my guide, pushed the old man
aside, and reproved him.

"It's not proper to make such a row," said me, "and you an officer,
too!" and we went on to the door of No. 30.

Vanya gave it a little pull. The door gave way with a smack, opened,
and we smelled soapy steam, and a sharp odor of spoilt food and
tobacco, and we entered into total darkness. The windows were on the
opposite side; but the corridors ran to right and left between board
partitions, and small doors opened, at various angles, into the rooms
made of uneven whitewashed boards. In a dark room, on the left, a
woman could be seen washing in a tub. An old woman was peeping from
one of these small doors on the right. Through another open door we
could see a red-faced, hairy peasant, in bast shoes, sitting on his
wooden bunk; his hands rested on his knees, and he was swinging his
feet, shod in bast shoes, and gazing gloomily at them.

At the end of the corridor was a little door leading to the apartment
where the census-takers were. This was the chamber of the mistress
of the whole of No. 30; she rented the entire apartment from Ivan
Feodovitch, and let it out again to lodgers and as night-quarters.
In her tiny room, under the tinsel images, sat the student census-
taker with his charts; and, in his quality of investigator, he had
just thoroughly interrogated a peasant wearing a shirt and a vest.
This latter was a friend of the landlady, and had been answering
questions for her. The landlady herself, an elderly woman, was there
also, and two of her curious tenants. When I entered, the room was
already packed full. I pushed my way to the table. I exchanged
greetings with the student, and he proceeded with his inquiries. And
I began to look about me, and to interrogate the inhabitants of these
quarters for my own purpose.

It turned out, that in this first set of lodgings, I found not a
single person upon whom I could pour out my benevolence. The
landlady, in spite of the fact that the poverty, smallness and dirt
of these quarters struck me after the palatial house in which I
dwell, lived in comfort, compared with many of the poor inhabitants
of the city, and in comparison with the poverty in the country, with
which I was thoroughly familiar, she lived luxuriously. She had a
feather-bed, a quilted coverlet, a samovar, a fur cloak, and a
dresser with crockery. The landlady's friend had the same
comfortable appearance. He had a watch and a chain. Her lodgers
were not so well off, but there was not one of them who was in need
of immediate assistance: the woman who was washing linen in a tub,
and who had been abandoned by her husband and had children, an aged
widow without any means of livelihood, as she said, and that peasant
in bast shoes, who told me that he had nothing to eat that day. But
on questioning them, it appeared that none of these people were in
special want, and that, in order to help them, it would be necessary
to become well acquainted with them.

When I proposed to the woman whose husband had abandoned her, to
place her children in an asylum, she became confused, fell into
thought, thanked me effusively, but evidently did not wish to do so;
she would have preferred pecuniary assistance. The eldest girl
helped her in her washing, and the younger took care of the little
boy. The old woman begged earnestly to be taken to the hospital, but
on examining her nook I found that the old woman was not particularly
poor. She had a chest full of effects, a teapot with a tin spout,
two cups, and caramel boxes filled with tea and sugar. She knitted
stockings and gloves, and received monthly aid from some benevolent
lady. And it was evident that what the peasant needed was not so
much food as drink, and that whatever might be given him would find
its way to the dram-shop. In these quarters, therefore, there were
none of the sort of people whom I could render happy by a present of
money. But there were poor people who appeared to me to be of a
doubtful character. I noted down the old woman, the woman with the
children, and the peasant, and decided that they must be seen to; but
later on, as I was occupied with the peculiarly unfortunate whom I
expected to find in this house, I made up my mind that there must be
some order in the aid which we should bestow; first came the most
wretched, and then this kind. But in the next quarters, and in the
next after that, it was the same story, all the people had to be
narrowly investigated before they could be helped. But unfortunates
of the sort whom a gift of money would convert from unfortunate into
fortunate people, there were none. Mortifying as it is to me to avow
this, I began to get disenchanted, because I did not find among these
people any thing of the sort which I had expected. I had expected to
find peculiar people here; but, after making the round of all the
apartments, I was convinced that the inhabitants of these houses were
not peculiar people at all, but precisely such persons as those among
whom I lived. As there are among us, just so among them; there were
here those who were more or less good, more or less stupid, happy and
unhappy. The unhappy were exactly such unhappy beings as exist among
us, that is, unhappy people whose unhappiness lies not in their
external conditions, but in themselves, a sort of unhappiness which
it is impossible to right by any sort of bank-note whatever.


The inhabitants of these houses constitute the lower class of the
city, which numbers in Moscow, probably, one hundred thousand.
There, in that house, are representatives of every description of
this class. There are petty employers, and master-artisans,
bootmakers, brush-makers, cabinet-makers, turners, shoemakers,
tailors, blacksmiths; there are cab-drivers, young women living
alone, and female pedlers, laundresses, old-clothes dealers, money-
lenders, day-laborers, and people without any definite employment;
and also beggars and dissolute women.

Here were many of the very people whom I had seen at the entrance to
the Lyapinsky house; but here these people were scattered about among
the working-people. And moreover, I had seen these people at their
most unfortunate time, when they had eaten and drunk up every thing,
and when, cold, hungry, and driven forth from the taverns, they were
awaiting admission into the free night lodging-house, and thence into
the promised prison for despatch to their places of residence, like
heavenly manna; but here I beheld them and a majority of workers, and
at a time, when by one means or another, they had procured three or
five kopeks for a lodging for the night, and sometimes a ruble for
food and drink.

And strange as the statement may seem, I here experienced nothing
resembling that sensation which I had felt in the Lyapinsky house;
but, on the contrary, during the first round, both I and the students
experienced an almost agreeable feeling,--yes, but why do I say
"almost agreeable"? This is not true; the feeling called forth by
intercourse with these people, strange as it may sound, was a
distinctly agreeable one.

Our first impression was, that the greater part of the dwellers here
were working people and very good people at that.

We found more than half the inhabitants at work: laundresses bending
over their tubs, cabinet-makers at their lathes, cobblers on their
benches. The narrow rooms were full of people, and cheerful and
energetic labor was in progress. There was an odor of toilsome sweat
and leather at the cobbler's, of shavings at the cabinet-maker's;
songs were often to be heard, and glimpses could be had of brawny
arms with sleeves roiled high, quickly and skilfully making their
accustomed movements. Everywhere we were received cheerfully and
politely: hardly anywhere did our intrusion into the every-day life
of these people call forth that ambition, and desire to exhibit their
importance and to put us down, which the appearance of the
enumerators in the quarters of well-to-do people evoked. It not only
did not arouse this, but, on the contrary, they answered all other
questions properly, and without attributing any special significance
to them. Our questions merely served them as a subject of mirth and
jesting as to how such and such a one was to be set down in the list,
when he was to be reckoned as two, and when two were to be reckoned
as one, and so forth.

We found many of them at dinner, or tea; and on every occasion to our
greeting: "bread and salt," or "tea and sugar," they replied: "we
beg that you will partake," and even stepped aside to make room for
us. Instead of the den with a constantly changing population, which
we had expected to find here, it turned out, that there were a great
many apartments in the house where people had been living for a long
time. One cabinet-maker with his men, and a boot-maker with his
journeymen, had lived there for ten years. The boot-maker's quarters
were very dirty and confined, but all the people at work were very
cheerful. I tried to enter into conversation with one of the
workmen, being desirous of inquiring into the wretchedness of his
situation and his debt to his master, but the man did not understand
me and spoke of his master and his life from the best point of view.

In one apartment lived an old man and his old woman. They peddled
apples. Their little chamber was warm, clean, and full of goods. On
the floor were spread straw mats: they had got them at the apple-
warehouse. They had chests, a cupboard, a samovar, and crockery. In
the corner there were numerous images, and two lamps were burning
before them; on the wall hung fur coats covered with sheets. The old
woman, who had star-shaped wrinkles, and who was polite and
talkative, evidently delighted in her quiet, comfortable, existence.

Ivan Fedotitch, the landlord of the tavern and of these quarters,
left his establishment and came with us. He jested in a friendly
manner with many of the landlords of apartments, addressing them all
by their Christian names and patronymics, and he gave us brief
sketches of them. All were ordinary people, like everybody else,--
Martin Semyonovitches, Piotr Piotrovitches, Marya Ivanovnas,--people
who did not consider themselves unhappy, but who regarded themselves,
and who actually were, just like the rest of mankind.

We had been prepared to witness nothing except what was terrible.
And, all of a sudden, there was presented to us, not only nothing
that was terrible, but what was good,--things which involuntarily
compelled our respect. And there were so many of these good people,
that the tattered, corrupt, idle people whom we came across now and
then among them, did not destroy the principal impression.

This was not so much of a surprise to the students as to me. They
simply went to fulfil a useful task, as they thought, in the
interests of science, and, at the same time, they made their own
chance observations; but I was a benefactor, I went for the purpose
of aiding the unfortunate, the corrupt, vicious people, whom I
supposed that I should meet with in this house. And, behold, instead
of unfortunate, corrupt, and vicious people, I saw that the majority
were laborious, industrious, peaceable, satisfied, contented,
cheerful, polite, and very good folk indeed.

I felt particularly conscious of this when, in these quarters, I
encountered that same crying want which I had undertaken to

When I encountered this want, I always found that it had already been
relieved, that the assistance which I had intended to render had
already been given. This assistance had been rendered before my
advent, and rendered by whom? By the very unfortunate, depraved
creatures whom I had undertaken to reclaim, and rendered in such a
manner as I could not compass.

In one basement lay a solitary old man, ill with the typhus fever.
There was no one with the old man. A widow and her little daughter,
strangers to him, but his neighbors round the corner, looked after
him, gave him tea and purchased medicine for him out of their own
means. In another lodging lay a woman in puerperal fever. A woman
who lived by vice was rocking the baby, and giving her her bottle;
and for two days, she had been unremitting in her attention. The
baby girl, on being left an orphan, was adopted into the family of a
tailor, who had three children of his own. So there remained those
unfortunate idle people, officials, clerks, lackeys out of place,
beggars, drunkards, dissolute women, and children, who cannot be
helped on the spot with money, but whom it is necessary to know
thoroughly, to be planned and arranged for. I had simply sought
unfortunate people, the unfortunates of poverty, those who could be
helped by sharing with them our superfluity, and, as it seemed to me,
through some signal ill-luck, none such were to be found; but I hit
upon unfortunates to whom I should be obliged to devote my time and


The unfortunates whom I noted down, divided themselves, according to
my ideas, into three sections, namely: people who had lost their
former advantageous position, and who were awaiting a return to it
(there were people of this sort from both the lower and the higher
class); next, dissolute women, of whom there are a great many in
these houses; and a third division, children. More than all the
rest, I found and noted down people of the first division, who had
forfeited their former advantageous position, and who hoped to regain
it. Of such persons, especially from the governmental and official
world, there are a very great number in these houses. In almost all
the lodgings which we entered, with the landlord, Ivan Fedotitch, he
said to us: "Here you need not write down the lodger's card
yourself; there is a man here who can do it, if he only happens not
to be intoxicated to-day."

And Ivan Fedotitch called by name and patronymic this man, who was
always one of those persons who had fallen from a lofty position. At
Ivan Fedotitch's call, there crawled forth from some dark corner, a
former wealthy member of the noble or official class, generally
intoxicated and always undressed. If he was not drunk, he always
readily acceded to the task proposed to him, nodded significantly,
frowned, set down his remarks in learned phraseology, held the card
neatly printed on red paper in his dirty, trembling hands, and
glanced round at his fellow-lodgers with pride and contempt, as
though now triumphing in his education over those who had so often
humiliated him. He evidently enjoyed intercourse with that world in
which cards are printed on red paper, and with that world of which he
had once formed a part. Nearly always, in answer to my inquiries
about his life, the man began, not only willingly, but eagerly, to
relate the story of the misfortunes which he had undergone,--which he
had learned by rote like a prayer,--and particularly of his former
position, in which he ought still to be by right of his education.

A great many such people were scattered over all the corners of the
Rzhanoff house. But one lodging was densely occupied by them alone--
both men and women. After we had already entered, Ivan Fedotitch
said to us: "Now, here are some of the nobility." The lodging was
perfectly crammed; nearly all of the people, forty in number, were at
home. More demoralized countenances, unhappy, aged, and swollen,
young, pallid, and distracted, were not to be seen in the whole
building. I conversed with several of them. The story was nearly
identical in all cases, only in various stages of development. Every
one of them had been rich, or his father, his brother or his uncle
was still wealthy, or his father or he himself had had a very fine
position. Then misfortune had overtaken him, the blame for which
rested either on envious people, or on his own kind-heartedness, or
some special chance, and so he had lost every thing, and had been
forced to condescend to these surroundings to which he was not
accustomed, and which were hateful to him--among lice, rags, among
drunkards and corrupt persons, and to nourish himself on bread and
liver, and to extend his hand in beggary. All the thoughts, desires,
memories of these people were directed exclusively to the past. The
present appeared to them something unreal, repulsive, and not worthy
of attention. Not one of them had any present. They had only
memories of the past, and expectations from the future, which might
be realized at any moment, and for the realization of which only a
very little was required; but this little they did not possess, it
was nowhere to be obtained, and this had been ruining their whole
future life in vain, in the case of one man, for a year, of a second
for five years, and of a third for thirty years. All one needed was
merely to dress respectably, so that he could present himself to a
certain personage, who was well-disposed towards him another only
needed to be able to dress, pay off his debts, and get to Orel; a
third required to redeem a small property which was mortgaged, for
the continuation of a law-suit, which must be decided in his favor,
and then all would be well once more. They all declare that they
merely require something external, in order to stand once more in the
position which they regard as natural and happy in their own case.

Had my mind not been obscured by my pride as a benefactor, a glance
at their faces, both old and young, which were mostly weak and
sensitive, but amiable, would have given me to understand that their
misfortunes were irreparable by any external means, that they could
not be happy in any position whatever, if their views of life were to
remain unchanged, that they were in no wise remarkable people, in
remarkably unfortunate circumstances, but that they were the same
people who surround us on all sides, and just like ourselves. I
remember that intercourse with this sort of unfortunates was
peculiarly difficult for me. I now understand why this was so; in
them I beheld myself, as in a mirror. If I had reflected on my own
life and on the life of the people in our circle, I should have seen
that no real difference existed between them.

If those about me dwell in spacious quarters, and in their own houses
on the Sivtzevy Vrazhok and on the Dimitrovka, and not in the
Rzhanoff house, and still eat and drink dainties, and not liver and
herrings with bread, that does not prevent them from being exactly as
unhappy. They are just as dissatisfied with their own positions,
they mourn over the past, and pine for better things, and the
improved position for which they long is precisely the same as that
which the inhabitants of the Rzhanoff house long for; that is to say,
one in which they may do as little work as possible themselves, and
derive the utmost advantage from the labors of others. The
difference is merely one of degrees and time. If I had reflected at
that time, I should have understood this; but I did not reflect, and
I questioned these people, and wrote them down, supposing, that,
having learned all the particulars of their various conditions and
necessities, I could aid them LATER ON. I did not understand that
such a man can only be helped by changing his views of the world.
But in order to change the views of another, one must needs have
better views himself, and live in conformity with them; but mine were
precisely the same as theirs, and I lived in accordance with those
views, which must undergo a change, in order that these people might
cease to be unhappy.

I did not see that these people were unhappy, not because they had
not, so to speak, nourishing food, but because their stomachs had
been spoiled, and because their appetites demanded not nourishing but
irritating viands; and I did not perceive that, in order to help
them, it was not necessary to give them food, but that it was
necessary to heal their disordered stomachs. Although I am
anticipating by so doing, I will mention here, that, out of all these
persons whom I noted down, I really did not help a single one, in
spite of the fact that for some of them, that was done which they
desired, and that which, apparently, might have raised them. Three
of their number were particularly well known to me. All three, after
repeated rises and falls, are now in precisely the same situation in
which they were three years ago.


The second class of unfortunates whom I also expected to assist later
on, were the dissolute women; there were a very great many of them,
of all sorts, in the Rzhanoff house--from those who were young and
who resembled women, to old ones, who were frightful and horrible,
and who had lost every semblance of humanity. The hope of being of
assistance to these women, which I had not at first entertained,
occurred to me later. This was in the middle of our rounds. We had
already worked out several mechanical tricks of procedure.

When we entered a new establishment, we immediately questioned the
landlady of the apartment; one of us sat down, clearing some sort of
a place for himself where he could write, and another penetrated the
corners, and questioned each man in all the nooks of the apartment
separately, and reported the facts to the one who did the writing.

On entering a set of rooms in the basement, a student went to hunt up
the landlady, while I began to interrogate all who remained in the
place. The apartment was thus arranged: in the centre was a room
six arshins square, {7} and a small oven. From the oven radiated
four partitions, forming four tiny compartments. In the first, the
entrance slip, which had four bunks, there were two persons--an old
man and a woman. Immediately adjoining this, was a rather long slip
of a room; in it was the landlord, a young fellow, dressed in a
sleeveless gray woollen jacket, a good-looking, very pale citizen.
{8} On the left of the first corner, was a third tiny chamber; there
was one person asleep there, probably a drunken peasant, and a woman
in a pink blouse which was loose in front and close-fitting behind.
The fourth chamber was behind the partition; the entrance to it was
from the landlord's compartment.

The student went into the landlord's room, and I remained in the
entrance compartment, and questioned the old man and woman. The old
man had been a master-printer, but now had no means of livelihood.
The woman was the wife of a cook. I went to the third compartment,
and questioned the woman in the blouse about the sleeping man. She
said that he was a visitor. I asked the woman who she was. She
replied that she was a Moscow peasant. "What is your business?" She
burst into a laugh, and did not answer me. "What do you live on?" I
repeated, thinking that she had not understood my question. "I sit
in the taverns," she said. I did not comprehend, and again I
inquired: "What is your means of livelihood?" She made no reply and
laughed. Women's voices in the fourth compartment which we had not
yet entered, joined in the laugh. The landlord emerged from his
cabin and stepped up to us. He had evidently heard my questions and
the woman's replies. He cast a stern glance at the woman and turned
to me: "She is a prostitute," said he, apparently pleased that he
knew the word in use in the language of the authorities, and that he
could pronounce it correctly. And having said this, with a
respectful and barely perceptible smile of satisfaction addressed to
me, he turned to the woman. And no sooner had he turned to her, than
his whole face altered. He said, in a peculiar, scornful, hasty
tone, such as is employed towards dogs: "What do you jabber in that
careless way for? 'I sit in the taverns.' You do sit in the
taverns, and that means, to talk business, that you are a
prostitute," and again he uttered the word. "She does not know the
name for herself." This tone offended me. "It is not our place to
abuse her," said I. "If all of us lived according to the laws of
God, there would be none of these women."

"That's the very point," said the landlord, with an awkward smile.

"Therefore, we should not reproach but pity them. Are they to

I do not recollect just what I said, but I do remember that I was
vexed by the scornful tone of the landlord of these quarters which
were filled with women, whom he called prostitutes, and that I felt
compassion for this woman, and that I gave expression to both
feelings. No sooner had I spoken thus, than the boards of the bed in
the next compartment, whence the laugh had proceeded, began to creak,
and above the partition, which did not reach to the ceiling, there
appeared a woman's curly and dishevelled head, with small, swollen
eyes, and a shining, red face, followed by a second, and then by a
third. They were evidently standing on their beds, and all three
were craning their necks, and holding their breath with strained
attention, and gazing silently at us.

A troubled pause ensued. The student, who had been smiling up to
this time, became serious; the landlord grew confused and dropped his
eyes. All the women held their breath, stared at me, and waited. I
was more embarrassed than any of them. I had not, in the least,
anticipated that a chance remark would produce such an effect. Like
Ezekiel's field of death, strewn with dead men's bones, there was a
quiver at the touch of the spirit, and the dead bones stirred. I had
uttered an unpremeditated word of love and sympathy, and this word
had acted on all as though they had only been waiting for this very
remark, in order that they might cease to be corpses and might live.
They all stared at me, and waited for what would come next. They
waited for me to utter those words, and to perform those actions by
reason of which these bones might draw together, clothe themselves
with flesh, and spring into life. But I felt that I had no such
words, no such actions, by means of which I could continue what I had
begun; I was conscious, in the depths of my soul, that I had lied
[that I was just like them], {9} and there was nothing further for me
to say; and I began to inscribe on the cards the names and callings
of all the persons in this set of apartments.

This incident led me into a fresh dilemma, to the thought of how
these unfortunates also might be helped. In my self-delusion, I
fancied that this would be very easy. I said to myself: "Here, we
will make a note of all these women also, and LATER ON when we [I did
not specify to myself who "we" were] write every thing out, we will
attend to these persons too." I imagined that we, the very ones who
have brought and have been bringing these women to this condition for
several generations, would take thought some fine day and reform all
this. But, in the mean time, if I had only recalled my conversation
with the disreputable woman who had been rocking the baby of the
fever-stricken patient, I might have comprehended the full extent of
the folly of such a supposition.

When we saw this woman with the baby, we thought that it was her
child. To the question, "Who was she?" she had replied in a
straightforward way that she was unmarried. She did not say--a
prostitute. Only the master of the apartment made use of that
frightful word. The supposition that she had a child suggested to me
the idea of removing her from her position. I inquired:

"Is this your child?"

"No, it belongs to that woman yonder."

"Why are you taking care of it?"

"Because she asked me; she is dying."

Although my supposition proved to be erroneous, I continued my
conversation with her in the same spirit. I began to question her as
to who she was, and how she had come to such a state. She related
her history very readily and simply. She was a Moscow myeshchanka,
the daughter of a factory hand. She had been left an orphan, and had
been adopted by an aunt. From her aunt's she had begun to frequent
the taverns. The aunt was now dead. When I asked her whether she
did not wish to alter her mode of life, my question, evidently, did
not even arouse her interest. How can one take an interest in the
proposition of a man, in regard to something absolutely impossible?
She laughed, and said: "And who would take me in with my yellow

"Well, but if a place could be found somewhere as cook?" said I.

This thought occurred to me because she was a stout, ruddy woman,
with a kindly, round, and rather stupid face. Cooks are often like
that. My words evidently did not please her. She repeated:

"A cook--but I don't know how to make bread," said she, and she
laughed. She said that she did not know how; but I saw from the
expression of her countenance that she did not wish to become a cook,
that she regarded the position and calling of a cook as low.

This woman, who in the simplest possible manner was sacrificing every
thing that she had for the sick woman, like the widow in the Gospels,
at the same time, like many of her companions, regarded the position
of a person who works as low and deserving of scorn. She had been
brought up to live not by work, but by this life which was considered
the natural one for her by those about her. In that lay her
misfortune. And she fell in with this misfortune and clung to her
position. This led her to frequent the taverns. Which of us--man or
woman--will correct her false view of life? Where among us are the
people to be found who are convinced that every laborious life is
more worthy of respect than an idle life,--who are convinced of this,
and who live in conformity with this belief, and who in conformity
with this conviction value and respect people? If I had thought of
this, I might have understood that neither I, nor any other person
among my acquaintances, could heal this complaint.

I might have understood that these amazed and affected heads thrust
over the partition indicated only surprise at the sympathy expressed
for them, but not in the least a hope of reclamation from their
dissolute life. They do not perceive the immorality of their life.
They see that they are despised and cursed, but for what they are
thus despised they cannot comprehend. Their life, from childhood,
has been spent among just such women, who, as they very well know,
always have existed, and are indispensable to society, and so
indispensable that there are governmental officials to attend to
their legal existence. Moreover, they know that they have power over
men, and can bring them into subjection, and rule them often more
than other women. They see that their position in society is
recognized by women and men and the authorities, in spite of their
continual curses, and therefore, they cannot understand why they
should reform.

In the course of one of the tours, one of the students told me that
in a certain lodging, there was a woman who was bargaining for her
thirteen-year-old daughter. Being desirous of rescuing this girl, I
made a trip to that lodging expressly. Mother and daughter were
living in the greatest poverty. The mother, a small, dark-
complexioned, dissolute woman of forty, was not only homely, but
repulsively homely. The daughter was equally disagreeable. To all
my pointed questions about their life, the mother responded curtly,
suspiciously, and in a hostile way, evidently feeling that I was an
enemy, with evil intentions; the daughter made no reply, did not look
at her mother, and evidently trusted the latter fully. They inspired
me with no sincere pity, but rather with disgust. But I made up my
mind that the daughter must be rescued, and that I would interest
ladies who pitied the sad condition of these women, and send them
hither. But if I had reflected on the mother's long life in the
past, of how she had given birth to, nursed and reared this daughter
in her situation, assuredly without the slightest assistance from
outsiders, and with heavy sacrifices--if I had reflected on the view
of life which this woman had formed, I should have understood that
there was, decidedly, nothing bad or immoral in the mother's act:
she had done and was doing for her daughter all that she could, that
is to say, what she considered the best for herself. This daughter
could be forcibly removed from her mother; but it would be impossible
to convince the mother that she was doing wrong, in selling her
daughter. If any one was to be saved, then it must be this woman--
the mother ought to have been saved; [and that long before, from that
view of life which is approved by every one, according to which a
woman may live unmarried, that is, without bearing children and
without work, and simply for the satisfaction of the passions. If I
had thought of this, I should have understood that the majority of
the ladies whom I intended to send thither for the salvation of that
little girl, not only live without bearing children and without
working, and serving only passion, but that they deliberately rear
their daughters for the same life; one mother takes her daughter to
the taverns, another takes hers to balls. But both mothers hold the
same view of the world, namely, that a woman must satisfy man's
passions, and that for this she must be fed, dressed, and cared for.
Then how are our ladies to reform this woman and her daughter? {10} ]


Still more remarkable were my relations to the children. In my role
of benefactor, I turned my attention to the children also, being
desirous to save these innocent beings from perishing in that lair of
vice, and noting them down in order to attend to them AFTERWARDS.

Among the children, I was especially struck with a twelve-year-old
lad named Serozha. I was heartily sorry for this bold, intelligent
lad, who had lived with a cobbler, and who had been left without a
shelter because his master had been put in jail, and I wanted to do
good to him.

I will here relate the upshot of my benevolence in his case, because
my experience with this child is best adapted to show my false
position in the role of benefactor. I took the boy home with me and
put him in the kitchen. It was impossible, was it not, to take a
child who had lived in a den of iniquity in among my own children?
And I considered myself very kind and good, because he was a care,
not to me, but to the servants in the kitchen, and because not I but
the cook fed him, and because I gave him some cast-off clothing to
wear. The boy staid a week. During that week I said a few words to
him as I passed on two occasions and in the course of my strolls, I
went to a shoemaker of my acquaintance, and proposed that he should
take the lad as an apprentice. A peasant who was visiting me,
invited him to go to the country, into his family, as a laborer; the
boy refused, and at the end of the week he disappeared. I went to
the Rzhanoff house to inquire after him. He had returned there, but
was not at home when I went thither. For two days already, he had
been going to the Pryesnensky ponds, where he had hired himself out
at thirty kopeks a day in some procession of savages in costume, who
led about elephants. Something was being presented to the public
there. I went a second time, but he was so ungrateful that he
evidently avoided me. Had I then reflected on the life of that boy
and on my own, I should have understood that this boy was spoiled
because he had discovered the possibility of a merry life without
labor, and that he had grown unused to work. And I, with the object
of benefiting and reclaiming him, had taken him to my house, where he
saw--what? My children,--both older and younger than himself, and of
the same age,--who not only never did any work for themselves, but
who made work for others by every means in their power, who soiled
and spoiled every thing about them, who ate rich, dainty, and sweet
viands, broke china, and flung to the dogs food which would have been
a tidbit to this lad. If I had rescued him from the abyss, and had
taken him to that nice place, then he must acquire those views which
prevailed in the life of that nice place; but by these views, he
understood that in that fine place he must so live that he should not
toil, but eat and drink luxuriously, and lead a joyous life. It is
true that he did not know that my children bore heavy burdens in the
acquisition of the declensions of Latin and Greek grammar, and that
he could not have understood the object of these labors. But it is
impossible not to see that if he had understood this, the influence
of my children's example on him would have been even stronger. He
would then have comprehended that my children were being educated in
this manner, so that, while doing no work now, they might be in a
position hereafter, also profiting by their diplomas, to work as
little as possible, and to enjoy the pleasures of life to as great an
extent as possible. He did understand this, and he would not go with
the peasant to tend cattle, and to eat potatoes and kvas with him,
but he went to the zoological garden in the costume of a savage, to
lead the elephant at thirty kopeks a day.

I might have understood how clumsy I was, when I was rearing my
children in the most utter idleness and luxury, to reform other
people and their children, who were perishing from idleness in what I
called the den of the Rzhanoff house, where, nevertheless, three-
fourths of the people toil for themselves and for others. But I
understood nothing of this.

There were a great many children in the Rzhanoff house, who were in
the same pitiable plight; there were the children of dissolute women,
there were orphans, there were children who had been picked up in the
streets by beggars. They were all very wretched. But my experience
with Serozha showed me that I, living the life I did, was not in a
position to help them.

While Serozha was living with us, I noticed in myself an effort to
hide our life from him, in particular the life of our children. I
felt that all my efforts to direct him towards a good, industrious
life, were counteracted by the examples of our lives and by that of
our children. It is very easy to take a child away from a
disreputable woman, or from a beggar. It is very easy, when one has
the money, to wash, clean and dress him in neat clothing, to support
him, and even to teach him various sciences; but it is not only
difficult for us, who do not earn our own bread, but quite the
reverse, to teach him to work for his bread, but it is impossible,
because we, by our example, and even by those material and valueless
improvements of his life, inculcate the contrary. A puppy can be
taken, tended, fed, and taught to fetch and carry, and one may take
pleasure in him: but it is not enough to tend a man, to feed and
teach him Greek; we must teach the man how to live,--that is, to take
as little as possible from others, and to give as much as possible;
and we cannot help teaching him to do the contrary, if we take him
into our houses, or into an institution founded for this purpose.


This feeling of compassion for people, and of disgust with myself,
which I had experienced in the Lyapinsky house, I experienced no
longer. I was completely absorbed in the desire to carry out the
scheme which I had concocted,--to do good to those people whom I
should meet here. And, strange to say, it would appear, that, to do
good--to give money to the needy--is a very good deed, and one that
should dispose me to love for the people, but it turned out the
reverse: this act produced in me ill-will and an inclination to
condemn people. But during our first evening tour, a scene occurred
exactly like that in the Lyapinsky house, and it called forth a
wholly different sentiment.

It began by my finding in one set of apartments an unfortunate
individual, of precisely the sort who require immediate aid. I found
a hungry woman who had had nothing to eat for two days.

It came about thus: in one very large and almost empty night-
lodging, I asked an old woman whether there were many poor people who
had nothing to eat? The old woman reflected, and then told me of
two; and then, as though she had just recollected, "Why, here is one
of them," said she, glancing at one of the occupied bunks. "I think
that woman has had no food."

"Really? Who is she?"

"She was a dissolute woman: no one wants any thing to do with her
now, so she has no way of getting any thing. The landlady has had
compassion on her, but now she means to turn her out . . . Agafya,
hey there, Agafya!" cried the woman.

We approached, and something rose up in the bunk. It was a woman
haggard and dishevelled, whose hair was half gray, and who was as
thin as a skeleton, dressed in a ragged and dirty chemise, and with
particularly brilliant and staring eyes. She looked past us with her
staring eyes, clutched at her jacket with one thin hand, in order to
cover her bony breast which was disclosed by her tattered chemise,
and oppressed, she cried, "What is it? what is it?" I asked her
about her means of livelihood. For a long time she did not
understand, and said, "I don't know myself; they persecute me." I
asked her,--it puts me to shame, my hand refuses to write it,--I
asked her whether it was true that she had nothing to eat? She
answered in the same hurried, feverish tone, staring at me the
while,--"No, I had nothing yesterday, and I have had nothing to-day."

The sight of this woman touched me, but not at all as had been the
case in the Lyapinsky house; there, my pity for these people made me
instantly feel ashamed of myself: but here, I rejoiced because I had
at last found what I had been seeking,--a hungry person.

I gave her a ruble, and I recollect being very glad that others saw
it. The old woman, on seeing this, immediately begged money of me
also. It afforded me such pleasure to give, that, without finding
out whether it was necessary to give or not, I gave something to the
old woman too. The old woman accompanied me to the door, and the
people standing in the corridor heard her blessing me. Probably the
questions which I had put with regard to poverty, had aroused
expectation, and several persons followed us. In the corridor also,
they began to ask me for money. Among those who begged were some
drunken men, who aroused an unpleasant feeling in me; but, having
once given to the old woman, I had no might to refuse these people,
and I began to give. As long as I continued to give, people kept
coming up; and excitement ran through all the lodgings. People made
them appearance on the stairs and galleries, and followed me. As I
emerged into the court-yard, a little boy ran swiftly down one of the
staircases thrusting the people aside. He did not see me, and
exclaimed hastily: "He gave Agashka a ruble!" When he reached the
ground, the boy joined the crowd which was following me. I went out
into the street: various descriptions of people followed me, and
asked for money. I distributed all my small change, and entered an
open shop with the request that the shopkeeper would change a ten-
ruble bill for me. And then the same thing happened as at the
Lyapinsky house. A terrible confusion ensued. Old women, noblemen,
peasants, and children crowded into the shop with outstretched hands;
I gave, and interrogated some of them as to their lives, and took
notes. The shopkeeper, turning up the furred points of the collar of
his coat, sat like a stuffed creature, glancing at the crowd
occasionally, and then fixing his eyes beyond them again. He
evidently, like every one else, felt that this was foolish, but he
could not say so.

The poverty and beggary in the Lyapinsky house had horrified me, and
I felt myself guilty of it; I felt the desire and the possibility of
improvement. But now, precisely the same scene produced on me an
entirely different effect; I experienced, in the first place, a
malevolent feeling towards many of those who were besieging me; and
in the second place, uneasiness as to what the shopkeepers and
porters would think of me.

On my return home that day, I was troubled in my soul. I felt that
what I had done was foolish and immoral. But, as is always the
result of inward confusion, I talked a great deal about the plan
which I had undertaken, as though I entertained not the slightest
doubt of my success.

On the following day, I went to such of the people whom I had
inscribed on my list, as seemed to me the most wretched of all, and
those who, as it seemed to me, would be the easiest to help. As I
have already said, I did not help any of these people. It proved to
be more difficult to help them than I had thought. And either
because I did not know how, or because it was impossible, I merely
imitated these people, and did not help any one. I visited the
Rzhanoff house several times before the final tour, and on every
occasion the very same thing occurred: I was beset by a throng of
beggars in whose mass I was completely lost. I felt the
impossibility of doing any thing, because there were too many of
them, and because I felt ill-disposed towards them because there were
so many of them; and in addition to this, each one separately did not
incline me in his favor. I was conscious that every one of them was
telling me an untruth, or less than the whole truth, and that he saw
in me merely a purse from which money might be drawn. And it very
frequently seemed to me, that the very money which they squeezed out
of me, rendered their condition worse instead of improving it. The
oftener I went to that house, the more I entered into intercourse
with the people there, the more apparent became to me the
impossibility of doing any thing; but still I did not give up any
scheme until the last night tour.

The remembrance of that last tour is particularly mortifying to me.
On other occasions I had gone thither alone, but twenty of us went
there on this occasion. At seven o'clock, all who wished to take
part in this final night round, began to assemble at my house.
Nearly all of them were strangers to me,--students, one officer, and
two of my society acquaintances, who, uttering the usual, "C'est tres
interessant!" had asked me to include them in the number of the

My worldly acquaintances had dressed up especially for this, in some
sort of hunting-jacket, and tall, travelling boots, in a costume in
which they rode and went hunting, and which, in their opinion, was
appropriate for an excursion to a night-lodging-house. They took
with them special note-books and remarkable pencils. They were in
that peculiarly excited state of mind in which men set off on a hunt,
to a duel, or to the wars. The most apparent thing about them was
their folly and the falseness of our position, but all the rest of us
were in the same false position. Before we set out, we held a
consultation, after the fashion of a council of war, as to how we
should begin, how divide our party, and so on.

This consultation was exactly such as takes place in councils,
assemblages, committees; that is to say, each person spoke, not
because he had any thing to say or to ask, but because each one
cudgelled his brain for something that he could say, so that he might
not fall short of the rest. But, among all these discussions, no one
alluded to that beneficence of which I had so often spoken to them
all. Mortifying as this was to me, I felt that it was indispensable
that I should once more remind them of benevolence, that is, of the
point, that we were to observe and take notes of all those in
destitute circumstances whom we should encounter in the course of our
rounds. I had always felt ashamed to speak of this; but now, in the
midst of all our excited preparations for our expedition, I could
hardly utter the words. All listened to me, as it seemed to me, with
sorrow, and, at the same time, all agreed in words; but it was
evident that they all knew that it was folly, and that nothing would
come of it, and all immediately began again to talk about something
else. This went on until the time arrived for us to set out, and we

We reached the tavern, roused the waiters, and began to sort our
papers. When we were informed that the people had heard about this
round, and were leaving their quarters, we asked the landlord to lock
the gates; and we went ourselves into the yard to reason with the
fleeing people, assuring them that no one would demand their tickets.
I remember the strange and painful impression produced on me by these
alarmed night-lodgers: ragged, half-dressed, they all seemed tall to
me by the light of the lantern and the gloom of the court-yard.
Frightened and terrifying in their alarm, they stood in a group
around the foul-smelling out-house, and listened to our assurances,
but they did not believe us, and were evidently prepared for any
thing, like hunted wild beasts, provided only that they could escape
from us. Gentlemen in divers shapes--as policemen, both city and
rural, and as examining judges, and judges--hunt them all their
lives, in town and country, on the highway and in the streets, and in
the taverns, and in night-lodging houses; and now, all of a sudden,
these gentlemen had come and locked the gates, merely in order to
count them: it was as difficult for them to believe this, as for
hares to believe that dogs have come, not to chase but to count them.
But the gates were locked, and the startled lodgers returned: and
we, breaking up into groups, entered also. With me were the two
society men and two students. In front of us, in the dark, went
Vanya, in his coat and white trousers, with a lantern, and we
followed. We went to quarters with which I was familiar. I knew all
the establishments, and some of the people; but the majority of the
people were new, and the spectacle was new, and more dreadful than
the one which I had witnessed in the Lyapinsky house. All the
lodgings were full, all the bunks were occupied, not by one person
only, but often by two. The sight was terrible in that narrow space
into which the people were huddled, and men and women were mixed
together. All the women who were not dead drunk slept with men; and
women with two children did the same. The sight was terrible, on
account of the poverty, dirt, rags, and terror of the people. And it
was chiefly dreadful on account of the vast numbers of people who
were in this situation. One lodging, and then a second like it, and
a third, and a tenth, and a twentieth, and still there was no end to
them. And everywhere there was the same foul odor, the same close
atmosphere, the same crowding, the same mingling of the sexes, the
same men and women intoxicated to stupidity, and the same terror,
submission and guilt on all faces; and again I was overwhelmed with
shame and pain, as in the Lyapinsky house, and I understood that what
I had undertaken was abominable and foolish and therefore
impracticable. And I no longer took notes of anybody, and I asked no
questions, knowing that nothing would come of this.

I was deeply pained. In the Lyapinsky house I had been like a man
who has seen a fearful wound, by chance, on the body of another man.
He is sorry for the other man, he is ashamed that he has not pitied
the man before, and he can still rise to the succor of the sufferer.
But now I was like a physician, who has come with his medicine to the
sick man, has uncovered his sore, and examined it, and who must
confess to himself that every thing that he has done has been in
vain, and that his remedy is good for nothing.


This visit dealt the final blow to my self-delusion. It now appeared
indisputable to me, that what I had undertaken was not only foolish
but loathsome.

But, in spite of the fact that I was aware of this, it seemed to me
that I could not abandon the whole thing on the spot. It seemed to
me that I was bound to carry out this enterprise, in the first place,
because by my article, by my visits and promises, I had aroused the
expectations of the poor; in the second, because by my article also,
and by my talk, I had aroused the sympathies of benevolent persons,
many of whom had promised me their co-operation both in personal
labor and in money. And I expected that both sets of people would
turn to me for an answer to this.

What happened to me, so far as the appeal of the needy to me is
concerned, was as follows: By letter and personal application I
received more than a hundred; these applications were all from the
wealthy-poor, if I may so express myself. I went to see some of
them, and some of them received no answer. Nowhere did I succeed in
doing any thing. All applications to me were from persons who had
once occupied privileged positions (I thus designate those in which
people receive more from others than they give), who had lost them,
and who wished to occupy them again. To one, two hundred rubles were
indispensable, in order that he might prop up a failing business, and
complete the education of his children which had been begun; another
wanted a photographic outfit; a third wanted his debts paid, and
respectable clothing purchased for him; a fourth needed a piano, in
order to perfect himself and support his family by giving lessons.
But the majority did not stipulate for any given sum of money, and
simply asked for assistance; and when I came to examine into what was
required, it turned out that their demands grew in proportion to the
aid, and that there was not and could not be any way of satisfying
them. I repeat, that it is very possible that this arose from the
fact that I did not understand how; but I did not help any one,
although I sometimes endeavored to do so.

A very strange and unexpected thing happened to me as regards the co-
operation of the benevolently disposed. Out of all the persons who
had promised me financial aid, and who had even stated the number of
rubles, not a single one handed to me for distribution among the poor
one solitary ruble. But according to the pledges which had been
given me, I could reckon on about three thousand rubles; and out of
all these people, not one remembered our former discussions, or gave
me a single kopek. Only the students gave the money which had been
assigned to them for their work on the census, twelve rubles, I
think. So my whole scheme, which was to have been expressed by tens
of thousands of rubles contributed by the wealthy, for hundreds and
thousands of poor people who were to be rescued from poverty and
vice, dwindled down to this, that I gave away, haphazard, a few
scores of rubles to those people who asked me for them, and that
there remained in my hands twelve rubies contributed by the students,
and twenty-five sent to me by the City Council for my labor as a
superintendent, and I absolutely did not know to whom to give them.

The whole matter came to an end. And then, before my departure for
the country, on the Sunday before carnival, I went to the Rzhanoff
house in the morning, in order to get rid of those thirty-seven
rubles before I should leave Moscow, and to distribute them to the
poor. I made the round of the quarters with which I was familiar,
and in them found only one sick man, to whom I gave five rubles.
There was no one else there to give any to. Of course many began to
beg of me. But as I had not known them at first, so I did not know
them now, and I made up my mind to take counsel with Ivan Fedotitch,
the landlord of the tavern, as to the persons upon whom it would be
proper to bestow the remaining thirty-two rubies.

It was the first day of the carnival. Everybody was dressed up, and
everybody was full-fed, and many were already intoxicated. In the
court-yard, close to the house, stood an old man, a rag-picker, in a
tattered smock and bast shoes, sorting over the booty in his basket,
tossing out leather, iron, and other stuff in piles, and breaking
into a merry song, with a fine, powerful voice. I entered into
conversation with him. He was seventy years old, he was alone in the
world, and supported himself by his calling of a rag-picker; and not
only did he utter no complaints, but he said that he had plenty to
eat and drink. I inquired of him as to especially needy persons. He
flew into a rage, and said plainly that there were no needy people,
except drunkards and lazy men; but, on learning my object, he asked
me for a five-kopek piece to buy a drink, and ran off to the tavern.
I too entered the tavern to see Ivan Fedotitch, and commission him to
distribute the money which I had left. The tavern was full; gayly-
dressed, intoxicated girls were flitting in and out; all the tables
were occupied; there were already a great many drunken people, and in
the small room the harmonium was being played, and two persons were
dancing. Out of respect to me, Ivan Fedotitch ordered that the dance
should be stopped, and seated himself with me at a vacant table. I
said to him, that, as he knew his tenants, would not he point out to
me the most needy among them; that I had been entrusted with the
distribution of a little money, and, therefore, would he indicate the
proper persons? Good-natured Ivan Fedotitch (he died a year later),
although he was pressed with business, broke away from it for a time,
in order to serve me. He meditated, and was evidently undecided. An
elderly waiter heard us, and joined the conference.

They began to discuss the claims of persons, some of whom I knew, but
still they could not come to any agreement. "The Paramonovna,"
suggested the waiter. "Yes, that would do. Sometimes she has
nothing to eat. Yes, but then she tipples."--"Well, what of that?
That makes no difference."--"Well, Sidoron Ivanovitch has children.
He would do." But Ivan Fedotitch had his doubts about Sidoron
Ivanovitch also. "Akulina shall have some. There, now, give
something to the blind." To this I responded. I saw him at once.
He was a blind old man of eighty years, without kith or kin. It
seemed as though no condition could be more painful, and I went
immediately to see him. He was lying on a feather-bed, on a high
bedstead, drunk; and, as he did not see me, he was scolding his
comparatively youthful female companion in a frightful bass voice,
and in the very worst kind of language. They also summoned an
armless boy and his mother. I saw that Ivan Fedotitch was in great
straits, on account of his conscientiousness, for me knew that
whatever was given would immediately pass to his tavern. But I had
to get rid of my thirty-two rubles, so I insisted; and in one way and
another, and half wrongfully to boot, we assigned and distributed
them. Those who received them were mostly well dressed, and we had
not far to go to find them, as they were there in the tavern. The
armless boy appeared in wrinkled boots, and a red shirt and vest.
With this my charitable career came to an end, and I went off to the
country; irritated at others, as is always the case, because I myself
had done a stupid and a bad thing. My benevolence had ended in
nothing, and it ceased altogether, but the current of thoughts and
feelings which it had called up with me not only did not come to an
end, but the inward work went on with redoubled force.


What was its nature?

I had lived in the country, and there I was connected with the rustic
poor. Not out of humility, which is worse than pride, but for the
sake of telling the truth, which is indispensable for the
understanding of the whole course of my thoughts and sentiments, I
will say that in the country I did very little for the poor, but the
demands which were made upon me were so modest that even this little
was of use to the people, and formed around me an atmosphere of
affection and union with the people, in which it was possible to
soothe the gnawing sensation of remorse at the independence of my
life. On going to the city, I had hoped to be able to live in the
same manner. But here I encountered want of an entirely different
sort. City want was both less real, and more exacting and cruel,
than country poverty. But the principal point was, that there was so
much of it in one spot, that it produced on me a frightful
impression. The impression which I experienced in the Lyapinsky
house had, at the very first, made me conscious of the deformity of
my own life. This feeling was genuine and very powerful. But,
notwithstanding its genuineness and power, I was, at that time, so
weak that I feared the alteration in my life to which this feeling
commended me, and I resorted to a compromise. I believed what
everybody told me, and everybody has said, ever since the world was
made,--that there is nothing evil in wealth and luxury, that they are
given by God, that one may continue to live as a rich man, and yet
help the needy. I believed this, and I tried to do it. I wrote an
essay, in which I summoned all rich people to my assistance. The
rich people all acknowledged themselves morally bound to agree with
me, but evidently they either did not wish to do any thing, or they
could not do any thing or give any thing to the poor. I began to
visit the poor, and I beheld what I had not in the least expected.
On the one hand, I beheld in those dens, as I called them, people
whom it was not conceivable that I should help, because they were
working people, accustomed to labor and privation, and therefore
standing much higher and having a much firmer foothold in life than
myself; on the other hand, I saw unfortunate people whom I could not
aid because they were exactly like myself. The majority of the
unfortunates whom I saw were unhappy only because they had lost the
capacity, desire, and habit of earning their own bread; that is to
say, their unhappiness consisted in the fact that they were precisely
such persons as myself.

I found no unfortunates who were sick, hungry, or cold, to whom I
could render immediate assistance, with the solitary exception of
hungry Agafya. And I became convinced, that, on account of my
remoteness from the lives of those people whom I desired to help, it
would be almost impossible to find any such unfortunates, because all
actual wants had already been supplied by the very people among whom
these unfortunates live; and, most of all, I was convinced that money
cannot effect any change in the life led by these unhappy people.

I was convinced of all this, but out of false shame at abandoning
what I had once undertaken, because of my self-delusion as a
benefactor, I went on with this matter for a tolerably long time,--
and would have gone on with it until it came to nothing of itself,--
so that it was with the greatest difficulty that, with the help of
Ivan Fedotitch, I got rid, after a fashion, as well as I could, in
the tavern of the Rzhanoff house, of the thirty-seven rubles which I
did not regard as belonging to me.

Of course I might have gone on with this business, and have made out
of it a semblance of benevolence; by urging the people who had
promised me money, I might have collected more, I might have
distributed this money, and consoled myself with my charity; but I
perceived, on the one hand, that we rich people neither wish nor are

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