by MAUREEN VINCENT
Leo Tolstoy by J. S. Collis (Burns Oates 25s.)
IE0 TOLSTOY was born a 4 Russian aristocrat, member of a wealthy landowning family. His life could have been one of luxury and ease, yet his character and convictions were such that most of his eighty-odd years were spent in a sincere endeavour to renounce property and live as simply as did the peasants of his beloved home estate. Yasnaya Polyana,
John Stewart Collis provides a glimpse of a man of genius and of deep spiritual commitment, forced by circumstances to an unhappy compromise between his own idealistic concepts of how life should be lived and the traditional and property-conscious attitudes of some members of his immediate family, particularly his wife.
Tolstoy's marriage appears to have been an emotional tragedy. His wife, domineering and rather stupid, waged incessant war on his desire to relinquish material possessions. Her melodramatic threats of suicide, her absurd diary, kept to record for his perusal every word of their verbal skirmishes, her constant reproaches and appeals to others for sympathy finally drove him, pathetically, from his own home, to die in a stranger's house miles away from those he loved.
He was a deeply spiritual man, although his views were considered unorthodox. Above all, he was a humble man, who would accept as merited verbal abuse from people who accused him of hypocrisy for advocating one way of life and living in another.
This short biography has an abundance of fascinating photographs.