©2008 NewFoundations

Tolstoy On "Woman"

edited 8/19/11

Tolstoy was the patriarch of Russian literature, but his stature as a moralist ultimately transcended his literary fame. He criticized the political, economic, social, and religious institutions of czarist Russia, and championed universal brotherhood, selfless simplicity, and a passive resistance to evil. Unable to reconcile the incongruities of his existence as a passionate aristocrat, on the one hand, and a penitent moral reformer, on the other, he was constantly at odds with himself and the world.

Unlike his contemporaries, the youthful Tolstoy was not satisfied with casual flirtations and romances. He stilled the demands of his concupiscible appetite in brothels, and suffered in consequence--both physically and spiritually.

Following his famous “conversion” Tolstoy came to believe that marriage was holy and obligatory and that the ideal woman was a wife and mother whose only concern should be her family. Ironically his own devoted wife, seeking to protect their children from impoverishment, refused to allow Tolstoy to surrender his estates to the peasants thus preventing him from fulfilling his own teaching.

Driven to madness by the death of their youngest son, the Countess Tolstoy became pathologically suspicious of her famous husband. This ultimately drove him from his home. He perished of pneumonia in an obscure Russian town where he had sought refuge.



Count Leo Tolstoy (l828-1910) -- Social reformer, dramatist, essayist, and religious thinker who is widely regarded as one of Russia’s greatest novelists

A woman’s thoughts are far more comprehensible in French.
-- Letter, April 14, 1858

A good woman sees everything with her husband’s eyes except other women.
-- Letter, May 1, 1858

Women have only one moral weapon in place of all our male arsenal -- and that is love.
-- Letter, November 26-7, 1865

Women do not consider the demands of reason binding upon themselves and cannot progress according to them. They haven’t got this sail spread. They row without a rudder.
-- Journal, February 16, 1897

Oh, how I would like to show to woman the whole significance of chaste women. The chaste woman (not in vain is the legend of Mary) will save the world.
-- Journal, August 3, 1898

One of the most necessary tasks of humanity consists in the bringing up of chaste women.
-- Journal, August 24, 1898