gall and gumption

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Tolstoy on Blogging

From the mailbag, Bob B. sends me under the above title two quotations from Tolstoy's essay on Amiel's Journal. It seems to me a book I used to see around a lot that I don't see any more.

The Tolstoy essay is not online; it's in a collection of his essays on art, What Is Art? And Essays on Art, translated by Aylmer Maude. It's one of the old hardbound pocketsized indestructible OUP World's Classics that I am so fond of (thank you Bob), so if you see it get it because the title essay is both provoking and important.

Here are the quotes:

"For a writer is precious and necessary to us only to the extent to which he reveals to us the inner labour of his soul--supposing, of course, that his work is new and has not been done before. Whatever he may write--a play, a learned work, a story, a philosophic treastise, lyric verse, a criticism, a satire--what is precious to us in an author's work is only that inner labour of his soul, and not the architectural structure in which usually, and I think perhaps always, distorting it, he packs his thoughts and feelings.

All that Amiel poured into a ready mould: his lectures, treatises, poems, are dead; but his Journal, where without thinking of the form he only talked to himself, is full of life, wisdom, instruction, consolation, and will ever remain one of those best of all books which have been left to us accidentally by such men as Marcus Aurelius, Pascal, and Epictetus."


Amiel's whole life, as presented to us in this Journal, is full of this suffering and whole-hearted search for God. And the contemplation of this search is the more instructive because it never ceases to be a search, never becomes settled, and never passes into a consciousness of
having attained the truth, or into a teaching. Amiel is not saying either to himself or to others, 'I now know the truth--hear me!' On the contrary it seems to him, as is natural to one who is sincerely seeking truth, that the more he knows the more he needs to know, and he unceasingly does all he can to learn more and more of the truth, and is therefore constantly aware of his ignorance. ... He is talking to himself, not thinking that he is overheard, neither attempting to appear convinced of what he is not convinced of, nor hiding his sufferings and his search."It is as if one were present without a man's knowledge at the most secret, profound, impassioned, inner working of his soul, usually hidden from an outsider's view.


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