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translated from the russian

13 Astor Place

Copyright, 1887,

electrotyped and printed


Books which are prohibited by the Russian Censor are not always inaccessible.  An enterprising publishing-house in Geneva makes a specialty of supplying the natural craving of man for forbidden fruit, under which heading some of Count L. N. Tolstoi’s essays belong.  These essays circulate in Russia in manuscript; and it is from one of these manuscripts, which fell into the hands of the Geneva firm, that the first half of the present translation has been made.  It is thus that the Censor’s omissions have been noted, even in cases where such omissions are in no way indicated in the twelfth volume of Count Tolstoi’s collected works, published in Moscow.  As an interesting detail in this connection, I may mention that this twelfth volume contains all that the censor allows of “My Religion,” amounting to a very much abridged scrap of Chapter X. in the last-named volume as known to the public outside of Russia.  The last half of the present book has not been published by the Geneva house, and omissions cannot be marked.


Boston, Sept. 1, 1887


The object of a census is scientific.  A census is a sociological investigation.  And the object of the science of sociology is the happiness of the people.  This science and its methods differ sharply from all other sciences.

Its peculiarity lies in this, that sociological investigations are not conducted by learned men in their cabinets, observatories and laboratories, but by two thousand people from the community.  A second peculiarity is this, that the investigations of other sciences are not conducted on living people, but here living people are the subjects.  A third peculiarity is, that the aim of every other science is simply knowledge, while here it is the good of the people.  One man may investigate a nebula, but for the investigation of Moscow, two thousand persons are necessary.  The object of the study of nebulæ is merely that we may know about nebulæ; the object of the study of inhabitants is that sociological laws may be deduced, and that, on the foundation of these laws, a better life for the people may be established.  It makes no difference to the nebula whether it is studied or not, and it has waited long, and is ready to wait a great while longer; but it is not a matter of indifference to the inhabitants of Moscow, especially to those unfortunates who constitute the most interesting subjects of the science of sociology.

The census-taker enters a night lodging-house; in the basement he finds a man dying of hunger, and he politely inquires his profession, his name, his native place, the character of his occupation, and after a little hesitation as to whether he is to be entered in the list as alive, he writes him in and goes his way.

And thus will the two thousand young men proceed.  This is not as it should be.

Science does its work, and the community, summoned in the persons of these two thousand young men to aid science, must do its work.  A statistician drawing his deductions from figures may feel indifferent towards people, but we census-takers, who see these people and who have no scientific prepossessions, cannot conduct ourselves towards them in an inhuman manner.  Science fulfils its task, and its work is for its objects and in the distant future, both useful and necessary to us.  For men of science, we can calmly say, that in 1882 there were so many beggars, so many prostitutes, and so many uncared-for children.  Science may say this with composure and with pride, because it knows that the confirmation of this fact conduces to the elucidation of the laws of sociology, and that the elucidation of the laws of sociology leads to a better constitution of society.  But what if we, the unscientific people, say: “You are perishing in vice, you are dying of hunger, you are pining away, and killing each other; so do not grieve about this; when you shall have all perished, and hundreds of thousands more like you, then, possibly, science may be able to arrange everything in an excellent manner.”  For men of science, the census has its interest; and for us also, it possesses an interest of a wholly different significance.  The interest and significance of the census for the community lie in this, that it furnishes it with a mirror into which, willy nilly, the whole community, and each one of us, gaze.

The figures and deductions will be the mirror.  It is possible to refrain from reading them, as it is possible to turn away from the looking-glass.  It is possible to glance cursorily at both figures and mirror, and it is also possible to scrutinize them narrowly.  To go about in connection with the census as thousands of people are now about to do, is to scrutinize one’s self closely in the mirror.

What does this census, that is about to be made, mean for us people of Moscow, who are not men of science?  It means two things.  In the first place, this, that we may learn with certainty, that among us tens of thousands who live in ease, there dwell tens of thousands of people who lack bread, clothing and shelter; in the second place, this, that our brothers and sons will go and view this and will calmly set down according to the schedules, how many have died of hunger and cold.

And both these things are very bad.

All cry out upon the instability of our social organization, about the exceptional situation, about revolutionary tendencies.  Where lies the root of all this?  To what do the revolutionists point?  To poverty, to inequality in the distribution of wealth.  To what do the conservatives point?  To the decline in moral principle.  If the opinion of the revolutionists is correct, what must be done?  Poverty and the inequality of wealth must be lessened.  How is this to be effected?  The rich must share with the poor.  If the opinion of the conservatives is correct, that the whole evil arises from the decline in moral principle, what can be more immoral and vicious than the consciously indifferent survey of popular sufferings, with the sole object of cataloguing them?  What must be done?  To the census we must add the work of affectionate intercourse of the idle and cultivated rich, with the oppressed and unenlightened poor.

Science will do its work, let us perform ours also.  Let us do this.  In the first place, let all of us who are occupied with the census, superintendents and census-takers, make it perfectly clear to ourselves what we are to investigate and why.  It is the people, and the object is that they may be happy.  Whatever may be one’s view of life, every one will agree that there is nothing more important than human life, and that there is no more weighty task than to remove the obstacles to the development of this life, and to assist it.

This idea, that the relations of men to poverty are at the foundation of all popular suffering, is expressed in the Gospels with striking harshness, but at the same time, with decision and clearness for all.

“He who has clothed the naked, fed the hungry, visited the prisoner, that man has clothed Me, fed Me, visited Me,” that is, has done the deed for that which is the most important thing in the world.

However a man may look upon things, every one knows that this is more important than all else on earth.

And this must not be forgotten, and we must not permit any other consideration to veil from us the most weighty fact of our existence.  Let us inscribe, and reckon, but let us not forget that if we encounter a man who is hungry and without clothes, it is of more moment to succor him than to make all possible investigations, than to discover all possible sciences.  Perish the whole census if we may but feed an old woman.  The census will be longer and more difficult, but we cannot pass by people in the poorer quarters and merely note them down without taking any heed of them and without endeavoring, according to the measure of our strength and moral sensitiveness, to aid them.  This in the first place.  In the second, this is what must be done: All of us, who are to take part in the census, must refrain from irritation because we are annoyed; let us understand that this census is very useful for us; that if this is not cure, it is at least an effort to study the disease, for which we should be thankful; that we must seize this occasion, and, in connection with it, we must seek to recover our health, in some small degree.  Let all of us, then, who are connected with the census, endeavor to take advantage of this solitary opportunity in ten years to purify ourselves somewhat; let us not strive against, but assist the census, and assist it especially in this sense, that it may not have merely the harsh character of the investigation of a hopelessly sick person, but may have the character of healing and restoration to health.  For the occasion is unique: eighty energetic, cultivated men, having under their orders two thousand young men of the same stamp, are to make their way over the whole of Moscow, and not leave a single man in Moscow with whom they have not entered into personal relations.  All the wounds of society, the wounds of poverty, of vice, of ignorance—all will be laid bare.  Is there not something re-assuring in this?  The census-takers will go about Moscow, they will set down in their lists, without distinction, those insolent with prosperity, the satisfied, the calm, those who are on the way to ruin, and those who are ruined, and the curtain will fall.  The census-takers, our sons and brothers, these young men will behold all this.  They will say: “Yes, our life is very terrible and incurable,” and with this admission they will live on like the rest of us, awaiting a remedy for the evil from this or that extraneous force.  But those who are perishing will go on dying, in their ruin, and those on the road to ruin will continue in their course.  No, let us rather grasp the idea that science has its task, and that we, on the occasion of this census, have our task, and let us not allow the curtain once lifted to be dropped, but let us profit by the opportunity in order to remove the immense evil of the separation existing between us and the poor, and to establish intercourse and the work of redressing the evil of unhappiness and ignorance, and our still greater misfortune,—the indifference and aimlessness of our life.

I already hear the customary remark: “All this is very fine, these are sounding phrases; but do you tell us what to do and how to do it?”  Before I say what is to be done, it is indispensable that I should say what is not to be done.  It is indispensable, first of all, in my opinion, in order that something practical may come of this activity, that no society should be formed, that there should be no publicity, that there should be no collection of money by balls, bazaars or theatres; that there should be no announcement that Prince A. has contributed one thousand rubles, and the honorable citizen B. three thousand; that there shall be no collection, no calling to account, no writing up,—most of all, no writing up, so that there may not be the least shadow of any institution, either governmental or philanthropic.

But in my opinion, this is what should be done instantly: Firstly, All those who agree with me should go to the directors, and ask for their shares the poorest sections, the poorest dwellings; and in company with the census-takers, twenty-three, twenty-four or twenty-five in number, they should go to these quarters, enter into relations with the people who are in need of assistance, and labor for them.

Secondly: We should direct the attention of the superintendents and census-takers to the inhabitants in need of assistance, and work for them personally, and point them out to those who wish to work over them.  But I am asked: What do you mean by working over them?  I reply; Doing good to people.  The words “doing good” are usually understood to mean, giving money.  But, in my opinion, doing good and giving money are not only not the same thing, but two different and generally opposite things.  Money, in itself, is evil.  And therefore he who gives money gives evil.  This error of thinking that the giving of money means doing good, arose from the fact, that generally, when a man does good, he frees himself from evil, and from money among other evils.  And therefore, to give money is only a sign that a man is beginning to rid himself of evil.  To do good, signifies to do that which is good for man.  But, in order to know what is good for man, it is necessary to be on humane, i.e., on friendly terms with him.  And therefore, in order to do good, it is not money that is necessary, but, first of all, a capacity for detaching ourselves, for a time at least, from the conditions of our own life.  It is necessary that we should not be afraid to soil our boots and clothing, that we should not fear lice and bedbugs, that we should not fear typhus fever, diphtheria, and small-pox.  It is necessary that we should be in a condition to seat ourselves by the bunk of a tatterdemalion and converse earnestly with him in such a manner, that he may feel that the man who is talking with him respects and loves him, and is not putting on airs and admiring himself.  And in order that this may be so, it is necessary that a man should find the meaning of life outside himself.  This is what is requisite in order that good should be done, and this is what it is difficult to find.

When the idea of assisting through the medium of the census occurred to me, I discussed the matter with divers of the wealthy, and I saw how glad the rich were of this opportunity of decently getting rid of their money, that extraneous sin which they cherish in their hearts.  “Take three hundred—five hundred rubles, if you like,” they said to me, “but I cannot go into those dens myself.”  There was no lack of money.  Remember Zaccheus, the chief of the Publicans in the Gospel.  Remember how he, because he was small of stature, climbed into a tree to see Christ, and how when Christ announced that he was going to his house, having understood but one thing, that the Master did not approve of riches, he leaped headlong from the tree, ran home and arranged his feast.  And how, as soon as Christ entered, Zaccheus instantly declared that he gave the half of his goods to the poor, and if he had wronged any man, to him he would restore fourfold.  And remember how all of us, when we read the Gospel, set but little store on this Zaccheus, and involuntarily look with scorn on this half of his goods, and fourfold restitution.  And our feeling is correct.  Zaccheus, according to his lights, performed a great deed.  He had not even begun to do good.  He had only begun in some small measure to purify himself from evil, and so Christ told him.

He merely said to him: “To-day is salvation come nigh unto this house.”

What if the Moscow Zaccheuses were to do the same that he did?  Assuredly, more than one milliard could be collected.  Well, and what of that?  Nothing.  There would be still greater sin if we were to think of distributing this money among the poor.  Money is not needed.  What is needed is self-sacrificing action; what is needed are people who would like to do good, not by giving extraneous sin-money, but by giving their own labor, themselves, their lives.  Where are such people to be found?  Here they are, walking about Moscow.  They are the student enumerators.  I have seen how they write out their charts.  The student writes in the night lodging-house, by the bedside of a sick man.  “What is your disease?”—“Small-pox.”  And the student does not make a wry face, but proceeds with his writing.  And this he does for the sake of some doubtful science.  What would he do if he were doing it for the sake of his own undoubted good and the good of others?

When children, in merry mood, feel a desire to laugh, they never think of devising some reason for laughter, but they laugh without any reason, because they are gay; and thus these charming youths sacrifice themselves.  They have not, as yet, contrived to devise any means of sacrificing themselves, but they devote their attention, their labor, their lives, in order to write out a chart, from which something does or does not appear.  What would it be if this labor were something really worth their while?  There is and there always will be labor of this sort, which is worthy of the devotion of a whole life, whatever the man’s life may be.  This labor is the loving intercourse of man with man, and the breaking-down of the barriers which men have erected between themselves, so that the enjoyment of the rich man may not be disturbed by the wild howls of the men who are reverting to beasts, and by the groans of helpless hunger, cold and disease.

This census will place before the eyes of us well-to-do and so-called cultivated people, all the poverty and oppression which is lurking in every corner of Moscow.  Two thousand of our brothers, who stand on the highest rung of the ladder, will come face to face with thousands of people who stand on the lowest round of society.  Let us not miss this opportunity of communion.  Let us, through these two thousand men, preserve this communion, and let us make use of it to free ourselves from the aimlessness and the deformity of our lives, and to free the condemned from that indigence and misery which do not allow the sensitive people in our ranks to enjoy our good fortune in peace.

This is what I propose: (1) That all our directors and enumerators should join to their business of the census a task of assistance,—of work in the interest of the good of these people, who, in our opinion, are in need of assistance, and with whom we shall come in contact; (2) That all of us, directors and enumerators, not by appointment of the committee of the City Council, but by the appointment of our own hearts, shall remain in our posts,—that is, in our relations to the inhabitants of the town who are in need of assistance,—and that, at the conclusion of the work of the census, we shall continue our work of aid.  If I have succeeded in any degree in expressing what I feel, I am sure that the only impossibility will be getting the directors and enumerators to abandon this, and that others will present themselves in the places of those who leave; (3) That we should collect all those inhabitants of Moscow, who feel themselves fit to work for the needy, into sections, and begin our activity now, in accordance with the hints of the census-takers and directors, and afterwards carry it on; (4) That all who, on account of age, weakness, or other causes, cannot give their personal labor among the needy, shall intrust the task to their young, strong, and willing relatives.  (Good consists not in the giving of money, it consists in the loving intercourse of men.  This alone is needed.)

Whatever may be the outcome of this, any thing will be better than the present state of things.

Then let the final act of our enumerators and directors be to distribute a hundred twenty-kopek pieces to those who have no food; and this will be not a little, not so much because the hungry will have food, but because the directors and enumerators will conduct themselves in a humane manner towards a hundred poor people.  How are we to compute the possible results which will accrue to the balance of public morality from the fact that, instead of the sentiments of irritation, anger, and envy which we arouse by reckoning the hungry, we shall awaken in a hundred instances a sentiment of good, which will be communicated to a second and a third, and an endless wave which will thus be set in motion and flow between men?  And this is a great deal.  Let those of the two thousand enumerators who have never comprehended this before, come to understand that, when going about among the poor, it is impossible to say, “This is very interesting;” that a man should not express himself with regard to another man’s wretchedness by interest only; and this will be a good thing.  Then let assistance be rendered to all those unfortunates, of whom there are not so many as I at first supposed in Moscow, who can easily be helped by money alone to a great extent.  Then let those laborers who have come to Moscow and have eaten their very clothing from their backs, and who cannot return to the country, be despatched to their homes; let the abandoned orphans receive supervision; let feeble old men and indigent old women, who subsist on the charity of their companions, be released from their half-famished and dying condition.  (And this is very possible.  There are not very many of them.)  And this will also be a very, very great deal accomplished.  But why not think and hope that more and yet more will be done?  Why not expect that that real task will be partially carried out, or at least begun, which is effected, not by money, but by labor; that weak drunkards who have lost their health, unlucky thieves, and prostitutes who are still capable of reformation, should be saved?  All evil may not be exterminated, but there will arise some understanding of it, and the contest with it will not be police methods, but by inward modes,—by the brotherly intercourse of the men who perceive the evil, with the men who do not perceive it because they are a part of it.

No matter what may be accomplished, it will be a great deal.  But why not hope that every thing will be accomplished?  Why not hope that we shall accomplish thus much, that there shall not exist in Moscow a single person in want of clothing, a single hungry person, a single human being sold for money, nor a single individual oppressed by the judgment of man, who shall not know that there is fraternal aid for him?  It is not surprising that this should not be so, but it is surprising that this should exist side by side with our superfluous leisure and wealth, and that we can live on composedly, knowing that these things are so.  Let us forget that in great cities and in London, there is a proletariat, and let us not say that so it must needs be.  It need not be this, and it should not, for this is contrary to our reason and our heart, and it cannot be if we are living people.  Why not hope that we shall come to understand that there is not a single duty incumbent upon us, not to mention personal duty, for ourselves, nor our family, nor social, nor governmental, nor scientific, which is more weighty than this?  Why not think that we shall at last come to apprehend this?  Only because to do so would be too great a happiness.  Why not hope that some the people will wake up, and will comprehend that every thing else is a delusion, but that this is the only work in life?  And why should not this “some time” be now, and in Moscow?  Why not hope that the same thing may happen in society and humanity which suddenly takes place in a diseased organism, when the moment of convalescence suddenly sets in?  The organism is diseased this means, that the cells cease to perform their mysterious functions; some die, others become infected, others still remain in perfect condition, and work on by themselves.  But all of a sudden the moment comes when every living cell enters upon an independent and healthy activity: it crowds out the dead cells, encloses the infected ones in a living wall, it communicates life to that which was lifeless; and the body is restored, and lives with new life.

Why should we not think and expect that the cells of our society will acquire fresh life and re-invigorate the organism?  We know not in what the power of the cells consists, but we do know that our life is in our own power.  We can show forth the light that is in us, or we may extinguish it.

Let one man approach the Lyapinsky house in the dusk, when a thousand persons, naked and hungry, are waiting in the bitter cold for admission, and let that one man attempt to help, and his heart will ache till it bleeds, and he will flee thence with despair and anger against men; but let a thousand men approach that other thousand with a desire to help, and the task will prove easy and delightful.  Let the mechanicians invent a machine for lifting the weight that is crushing us—that is a good thing; but until they shall have invented it, let us bear down upon the people, like fools, like muzhiki, like peasants, like Christians, and see whether we cannot raise them.

And now, brothers, all together, and away it goes!


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 darkness!

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 name?”

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 station-house.”

“A stop has been put to that now, it is not allowed,” said the cab-driver.

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 removed?

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 want.

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.’” [21a]  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.] [21b]

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. [24a]  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[24b]-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.] [28]


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 mine.

“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 begun.

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[39]].  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 steps.

“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 alleviate.

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 care.


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, [59] 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. [60]  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 blame?”

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], [62] 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 ticket?”

“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? [66] ]


Still more remarkable were my relations to the children.  In my rôle 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 rôle 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 zoölogical 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 très intèressant!” had asked me to include them in the number of the census-takers.

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 started.

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 able to share a portion of our a superfluity with the poor (we have so many wants of our own), and that money should not be given to any one, if the object really be to do good and not to give money itself at haphazard, as I had done in the Rzhanoff tavern.  And I gave up the whole thing, and went off to the country with despair in my heart.

In the country I tried to write an essay about all this that I had experienced, and to tell why my undertaking had not succeeded.  I wanted to justify myself against the reproaches which had been made to me on the score of my article on the census; I wanted to convict society of its in difference, and to state the causes in which this city poverty has its birth, and the necessity of combating it, and the means of doing so which I saw.

I began this essay at once, and it seemed to me that in it I was saying a very great deal that was important.  But toil as I would over it, and in spite of the abundance of materials, in spite of the superfluity of them even, I could not get though that essay; and so I did not finish it until the present year, because of the irritation under the influence of which I wrote, because I had not gone through all that was requisite in order to bear myself properly in relation to this essay, because I did not simply and clearly acknowledge the cause of all this,—a very simple cause, which had its root in myself.

In the domain of morals, one very remarkable and too little noted phenomenon presents itself.

If I tell a man who knows nothing about it, what I know about geology, astronomy, history, physics, and mathematics, that man receives entirely new information, and he never says to me: “Well, what is there new in that?  Everybody knows that, and I have known it this long while.”  But tell that same man the most lofty truth, expressed in the clearest, most concise manner, as it has never before been expressed, and every ordinary individual, especially one who takes no particular interest in moral questions, or, even more, one to whom the moral truth stated by you is displeasing, will infallibly say to you: “Well, who does not know that?  That was known and said long ago.”  It really seems to him that this has been said long ago and in just this way.  Only those to whom moral truths are dear and important know how important and precious they are, and with what prolonged labor the elucidation, the simplification, of moral truths, their transit from the state of a misty, indefinitely recognized supposition, and desire, from indistinct, incoherent expressions, to a firm and definite expression, unavoidably demanding corresponding concessions, are attained.

We have all become accustomed to think that moral instruction is a most absurd and tiresome thing, in which there can be nothing new or interesting; and yet all human life, together with all the varied and complicated activities, apparently independent, of morality, both governmental and scientific, and artistic and commercial, has no other aim than the greater and greater elucidation, confirmation, simplification, and accessibility of moral truth.

I remember that I was once walking along the street in Moscow, and in front of me I saw a man come out and gaze attentively at the stones of the sidewalk, after which he selected one stone, seated himself on it, and began to plane (as it seemed to me) or to rub it with the greatest diligence and force.  “What is he doing to the sidewalk?” I said to myself.  On going close to him, I saw what the man was doing.  He was a young fellow from a meat-shop; he was whetting his knife on the stone of the pavement.  He was not thinking at all of the stones when he scrutinized them, still less was he thinking of them when he was accomplishing his task: he was whetting his knife.  He was obliged to whet his knife so that he could cut the meat; but to me it seemed as though he were doing something to the stones of the sidewalk.  Just so it appears as though humanity were occupied with commerce, conventions, wars, sciences, arts; but only one business is of importance to it, and with only one business is it occupied: it is elucidating to itself those moral laws by which it lives.  The moral laws are already in existence; humanity is only elucidating them, and this elucidation seems unimportant and imperceptible for any one who has no need of moral laws, who does not wish to live by them.  But this elucidation of the moral law is not only weighty, but the only real business of all humanity.  This elucidation is imperceptible just as the difference between the dull and the sharp knife is imperceptible.  The knife is a knife all the same, and for a person who is not obliged to cut any thing with this knife, the difference between the dull and the sharp one is imperceptible.  For the man who has come to an understanding that his whole life depends on the greater or less degree of sharpness in the knife,—for such a man, every whetting of it is weighty, and that man knows that the knife is a knife only when it is sharp, when it cuts that which needs cutting.

This is what happened to me, when I began to write my essay.  It seemed to me that I knew all about it, that I understood every thing connected with those questions which had produced on me the impressions of the Lyapinsky house, and the census; but when I attempted to take account of them and to demonstrate them, it turned out that the knife would not cut, and that it must be whetted.  And it is only now, after the lapse of three years, that I have felt that my knife is sufficiently sharp, so that I can cut what I choose.  I have learned very little that is new.  My thoughts are all exactly the same, but they were duller then, and they all scattered and would not unite on any thing; there was no edge to them; they would not concentrate on one point, on the simplest and clearest decision, as they have now concentrated themselves.


I remember that during the entire period of my unsuccessful efforts at helping the inhabitants of the city, I presented to myself the aspect of a man who should attempt to drag another man out of a swamp while he himself was standing on the same unstable ground.  Every attempt of mine had made me conscious of the untrustworthy character of the soil on which I stood.  I felt that I was in the swamp myself, but this consciousness did not cause me to look more narrowly at my own feet, in order to learn upon what I was standing; I kept on seeking some external means, outside myself, of helping the existing evil.

I then felt that my life was bad, and that it was impossible to live in that manner.  But from the fact that my life was bad, and that it was impossible to live in that manner, I did not draw the very simple and clear deduction that it was necessary to amend my life and to live better, but I knew the terrible deduction that in order to live well myself, I must needs reform the lives of others; and so I began to reform the lives of others.  I lived in the city, and I wished to reform the lives of those who lived in the city; but I soon became convinced that this I could not by any possibility accomplish, and I began to meditate on the inherent characteristics of city life and city poverty.

“What are city life and city poverty?  Why, when I am living in the city, cannot I help the city poor?”

I asked myself.  I answered myself that I could not do any thing for them, in the first place, because there were too many of them here in one spot; in the second place, because all the poor people here were entirely different from the country poor.  Why were there so many of them here? and in what did their peculiarity, as opposed to the country poor, consist?  There was one and the same answer to both questions.  There were a great many of them here, because here all those people who have no means of subsistence in the country collect around the rich; and their peculiarity lies in this, that they are not people who have come from the country to support themselves in the city (if there are any city paupers, those who have been born here, and whose fathers and grandfathers were born here, then those fathers and grandfathers came hither for the purpose of earning their livelihood).  What is the meaning of this: to earn one’s livelihood in the city?  In the words “to earn one’s livelihood in the city,” there is something strange, resembling a jest, when you reflect on their significance.  How is it that people go from the country,—that is to say, from the places where there are forests, meadows, grain, and cattle, where all the wealth of the earth lies,—to earn their livelihood in a place where there are neither trees, nor grass, nor even land, and only stones and dust?  What is the significance of the words “to earn a livelihood in the city,” which are in such constant use, both by those who earn the livelihood, and by those who furnish it, as though it were something perfectly clear and comprehensible?

I recall the hundreds and thousands of city people, both those who live well and the needy, with whom I have conversed on the reason why they came hither: and all without exception said, that they had come from the country to earn their living; that in Moscow, where people neither sow nor reap,—that in Moscow there is plenty of every thing, and that, therefore, it is only in Moscow that they can earn the money which they require in the country for bread and a cottage and a horse, and articles of prime necessity.  But assuredly, in the country lies the source of all riches; there only is real wealth,—bread, and forests, and horses, and every thing.  And why, above all, take away from the country that which dwellers in the country need,—flour, oats, horses, and cattle?

Hundreds of times did I discuss this matter with peasants living in town; and from my discussions with them, and from my observations, it has been made apparent to me, that the congregation of country people in the city is partly indispensable because they cannot otherwise support themselves, partly voluntary, and that they are attracted to the city by the temptations of the city.

It is true, that the position of the peasant is such that, for the satisfaction of his demands made on him in the country, he cannot extricate himself otherwise than by selling the grain and the cattle which he knows will be indispensable to him; and he is forced, whether he will or no, to go to the city in order there to win back his bread.  But it is also true, that the luxury of city life, and the comparative ease with which money is there to be earned, attract him thither; and under the pretext of gaining his living in the town, he betakes himself thither in order that he may have lighter work, better food, and drink tea three times a day, and dress well, and even lead a drunken and dissolute life.  The cause of both is identical,—the transfer of the riches of the producers into the hands of non-producers, and the accumulation of wealth in the cities.  And, in point of fact, when autumn has come, all wealth is collected in the country.  And instantly there arise demands for taxes, recruits, the temptations of vodka, weddings, festivals; petty pedlers make their rounds through the villages, and all sorts of other temptations crop up; and by this road, or, if not, by some other, wealth of the most varied description—vegetables, calves, cows, horses, pigs, chickens, eggs, butter, hemp, flax, rye, oats, buckwheat, pease, hempseed, and flaxseed—all passes into the hands of strangers, is carried off to the towns, and thence to the capitals.  The countryman is obliged to surrender all this to satisfy the demands that are made upon him, and temptations; and, having parted with his wealth, he is left with an insufficiency, and he is forced to go whither his wealth has been carried and there he tries, in part, to obtain the money which he requires for his first needs in the country, and in part, being himself led away by the blandishments of the city, he enjoys, in company with others, the wealth that has there accumulated.  Everywhere, throughout the whole of Russia,—yes, and not in Russia alone, I think, but throughout the whole world,—the same thing goes on.  The wealth of the rustic producers passes into the hands of traders, landed proprietors, officials, and factory-owners; and the people who receive this wealth wish to enjoy it.  But it is only in the city that they can derive full enjoyment from this wealth.  In the country, in the first place, it is difficult to satisfy all the requirements of rich people, on account of the sparseness of the population; banks, shops, hotels, every sort of artisan, and all sorts of social diversions, do not exist there.  In the second place, one of the chief pleasures procured by wealth—vanity, the desire to astonish and outshine other people—is difficult to satisfy in the country; and this, again, on account of the lack of inhabitants.  In the country, there is no one to appreciate elegance, no one to be astonished.  Whatever adornments in the way of pictures and bronzes the dweller in the country may procure for his house, whatever equipages and toilets he may provide, there is no one to see them and envy them, and the peasants cannot judge of them.  [And, in the third place, luxury is even disagreeable and dangerous in the country for the man possessed of a conscience and fear.  It is an awkward and delicate matter, in the country, to have baths of milk, or to feed your puppies on it, when directly beside you there are children who have no milk; it is an awkward and delicate matter to build pavilions and gardens in the midst of people who live in cots banked up with dung, which they have no means of warming.  In the country there is no one to keep the stupid peasants in order, and in their lack of cultivation they might disarrange all this.] [94]

And accordingly rich people congregate, and join themselves to other rich people with similar requirements, in the city, where the gratification of every luxurious taste is carefully protected by a numerous police force.  Well-rooted inhabitants of the city of this sort, are the governmental officials; every description of artisan and professional man has sprung up around them, and with them the wealthy join their forces.  All that a rich man has to do there is to take a fancy to a thing, and he can get it.  It is also more agreeable for a rich man to live there, because there he can gratify his vanity; there is some one with whom he can vie in luxury; there is some one to astonish, and there is some one to outshine.  But the principal reason why it is more comfortable in the city for a rich man is that formerly, in the country, his luxury made him awkward and uneasy; while now, on the contrary, it would be awkward for him not to live luxuriously, not to live like all his peers around him.  That which seemed dreadful and awkward in the country, here appears to be just as it should be.  [Rich people congregate in the city; and there, under the protection of the authorities, they calmly demand every thing that is brought thither from the country.  And the countryman is, in some measure, compelled to go thither, where this uninterrupted festival of the wealthy which demands all that is taken from him is in progress, in order to feed upon the crumbs which fall from the tables of the rich; and partly, also, because, when he beholds the care-free, luxurious life, approved and protected by everybody, he himself becomes desirous of regulating his life in such a way as to work as little as possible, and to make as much use as possible of the labors of others.

And so he betakes himself to the city, and finds employment about the wealthy, endeavoring, by every means in his power, to entice from them that which he is in need of, and conforming to all those conditions which the wealthy impose upon him, he assists in the gratification of all their whims; he serves the rich man in the bath and in the inn, and as cab-driver and prostitute, and he makes for him equipages, toys, and fashions; and he gradually learns from the rich man to live in the same manner as the latter, not by labor, but by divers tricks, getting away from others the wealth which they have heaped together; and he becomes corrupt, and goes to destruction.  And this colony, demoralized by city wealth, constitutes that city pauperism which I desired to aid and could not.

All that is necessary, in fact, is for us to reflect on the condition of these inhabitants of the country, who have removed to the city in order to earn their bread or their taxes,—when they behold, everywhere around them, thousands squandered madly, and hundreds won by the easiest possible means; when they themselves are forced by heavy toil to earn kopeks,—and we shall be amazed that all these people should remain working people, and that they do not all of them take to an easier method of getting gain,—by trading, peddling, acting as middlemen, begging, vice, rascality, and even robbery.  Why, we, the participants in that never-ceasing orgy which goes on in town, can become so accustomed to our life, that it seems to us perfectly natural to dwell alone in five huge apartments, heated by a quantity of beech logs sufficient to cook the food for and to warm twenty families; to drive half a verst with two trotters and two men-servants; to cover the polished wood floor with rugs; and to spend, I will not say, on a ball, five or ten thousand rubles, and twenty-five thousand on a Christmas-tree.  But a man who is in need of ten rubles to buy bread for his family, or whose last sheep has been seized for a tax-debt of seven rubles, and who cannot raise those rubles by hard labor, cannot grow accustomed to this.  We think that all this appears natural to poor people there are even some ingenuous persons who say in all seriousness, that the poor are very grateful to us for supporting them by this luxury.] [96]

But poor people are not devoid of human understanding simply because they are poor, and they judge precisely as we do.  As the first thought that occurs to us on hearing that such and such a man has gambled away or squandered ten or twenty thousand rubles, is: “What a foolish and worthless fellow he is to uselessly squander so much money! and what a good use I could have made of that money in a building which I have long been in need of, for the improvement of my estate, and so forth!”—just so do the poor judge when they behold the wealth which they need, not for caprices, but for the satisfaction of their actual necessities, of which they are frequently deprived, flung madly away before their eyes.  We make a very great mistake when we think that the poor can judge thus, reason thus, and look on indifferently at the luxury which surrounds them.

They never have acknowledged, and they never will acknowledge, that it can be just for some people to live always in idleness, and for other people to fast and toil incessantly; but at first they are amazed and insulted by this; then they scrutinize it more attentively, and, seeing that these arrangements are recognized as legitimate, they endeavor to free themselves from toil, and to take part in the idleness.  Some succeed in this, and they become just such carousers themselves; others gradually prepare themselves for this state; others still fail, and do not attain their goal, and, having lost the habit of work, they fill up the disorderly houses and the night-lodging houses.

Two years ago, we took from the country a peasant boy to wait on table.  For some reason, he did not get on well with the footman, and he was sent away: he entered the service of a merchant, won the favor of his master, and now he goes about with a vest and a watch-chain, and dandified boots.  In his place, we took another peasant, a married man: he became a drunkard, and lost money.  We took a third: he took to drunk, and, having drank up every thing he had, he suffered for a long while from poverty in the night-lodging house.  An old man, the cook, took to drink and fell sick.  Last year a footman who had formerly been a hard drinker, but who had refrained from liquor for five years in the country, while living in Moscow without his wife who encouraged him, took to drink again, and ruined his whole life.  A young lad from our village lives with my brother as a table-servant.  His grandfather, a blind old man, came to me during my sojourn in the country, and asked me to remind this grandson that he was to send ten rubies for the taxes, otherwise it would be necessary for him to sell his cow.  “He keeps saying, I must dress decently,” said the old man: “well, he has had some shoes made, and that’s all right; but what does he want to set up a watch for?” said the grandfather, expressing in these words the most senseless supposition that it was possible to originate.  The supposition really was senseless, if we take into consideration that the old man throughout Lent had eaten no butter, and that he had no split wood because he could not possibly pay one ruble and twenty kopeks for it; but it turned out that the old man’s senseless jest was an actual fact.  The young fellow came to see me in a fine black coat, and shoes for which he had paid eight rubles.  He had recently borrowed ten rubles from my brother, and had spent them on these shoes.  And my children, who have known the lad from childhood, told me that he really considers it indispensable to fit himself out with a watch.  He is a very good boy, but he thinks that people will laugh at him so long as he has no watch; and a watch is necessary.  During the present year, a chambermaid, a girl of eighteen, entered into a connection with the coachman in our house.  She was discharged.  An old woman, the nurse, with whom I spoke in regard to the unfortunate girl, reminded me of a girl whom I had forgotten.  She too, ten yeans ago, during a brief stay of ours in Moscow, had become connected with a footman.  She too had been discharged, and she had ended in a disorderly house, and had died in the hospital before reaching the age of twenty.  It is only necessary to glance about one, to be struck with terror at the pest which we disseminate directly by our luxurious life among the people whom we afterwards wish to help, not to mention the factories and establishments which serve our luxurious tastes.

[And thus, having penetrated into the peculiar character of city poverty, which I was unable to remedy, I perceived that its prime cause is this, that I take absolute necessaries from the dwellers in the country, and carry them all to the city.  The second cause is this, that by making use here, in the city, of what I have collected in the country, I tempt and lead astray, by my senseless luxury, those country people who come hither because of me, in order in some way to get back what they have been deprived of in the country.] [99]


I reached the same conclusion from a totally different point.  On recalling all my relations with the city poor during that time, I saw that one of the reasons why I could not help the city poor was, that the poor were disingenuous and untruthful with me.  They all looked upon me, not as a man, but as means.  I could not get near them, and I thought that perhaps I did not understand how to do it; but without uprightness, no help was possible.  How can one help a man who does not disclose his whole condition?  At first I blamed them for this (it is so natural to blame some one else); but a remark from an observing man named Siutaeff, who was visiting me at the time, explained this matter to me, and showed me where the cause of my want of success lay.  I remember that Siutaeff’s remark struck me very forcibly at the time; but I only understood its full significance later on.  It was at the height of my self-delusion.  I was sitting with my sister, and Siutaeff was there also at her house; and my sister was questioning me about my undertaking.  I told her about it, and, as always happens when you have no faith in your course, I talked to her with great enthusiasm and warmth, and at great length, of what I had done, and of what might possibly come of it.  I told her every thing,—how we were going to keep track of pauperism in Moscow, how we were going to keep an eye on the orphans and old people, how we were going to send away all country people who had grown poor here, how we were going to smooth the pathway to reform for the depraved; how, if only the matter could be managed, there would not be a man left in Moscow, who could not obtain assistance.  My sister sympathized with me, and we discussed it.  In the middle of our conversation, I glanced at Siutaeff.  As I was acquainted with his Christian life, and with the significance which he attached to charity, I expected his sympathy, and spoke so that he understood this; I talked to my sister, but directed my remarks more at him.  He sat immovable in his dark tanned sheepskin jacket,—which he wore, like all peasants, both out of doors and in the house,—and as though he did not hear us, but were thinking of his own affairs.  His small eyes did not twinkle, and seemed to be turned inwards.  Having finished what I had to say, I turned to him with a query as to what he thought of it.

“It’s all a foolish business,” said he.


“Your whole society is foolish, and nothing good can come out of it,” he repeated with conviction.

“Why not?  Why is it a stupid business to help thousands, at any rate hundreds, of unfortunate beings?  Is it a bad thing, according to the Gospel, to clothe the naked, and feed the hungry?”

“I know, I know, but that is not what you are doing.  Is it necessary to render assistance in that way?  You are walking along, and a man asks you for twenty kopeks.  You give them to him.  Is that alms?  Do you give spiritual alms,—teach him.  But what is it that you have given?  It was only for the sake of getting rid of him.”

“No; and, besides, that is not what we are talking about.  We want to know about this need, and then to help by both money and deeds; and to find work.”

“You can do nothing with those people in that way.”

“So they are to be allowed to die of hunger and cold?”

“Why should they die?  Are there many of them there?”

“What, many of them?” said I, thinking that he looked at the matter so lightly because he was not aware how vast was the number of these people.

“Why, do you know,” said I, “I believe that there are twenty thousand of these cold and hungry people in Moscow.  And how about Petersburg and the other cities?”

He smiled.

“Twenty thousand!  And how many households are there in Russia alone, do you think?  Are there a million?”

“Well, what then?”

“What then?” and his eyes flashed, and he grew animated.  “Come, let us divide them among ourselves.  I am not rich, I will take two persons on the spot.  There is the lad whom you took into your kitchen; I invited him to come to my house, and he did not come.  Were there ten times as many, let us divide them among us.  Do you take some, and I will take some.  We will work together.  He will see how I work, and he will learn.  He will see how I live, and we will sit down at the same table together, and he will hear my words and yours.  This charity society of yours is nonsense.”

These simple words impressed me.  I could not but admit their justice; but it seemed to me at that time, that, in spite of their truth, still that which I had planned might possibly prove of service.  But the further I carried this business, the more I associated with the poor, the more frequently did this remark recur to my mind, and the greater was the significance which it acquired for me.

I arrive in a costly fur coat, or with my horses; or the man who lacks shoes sees my two-thousand-ruble apartments.  He sees how, a little while ago, I gave five rubles without begrudging them, merely because I took a whim to do so.  He surely knows that if I give away rubles in that manner, it is only because I have hoarded up so many of them, that I have a great many superfluous ones, which I not only have not given away, but which I have easily taken from other people.  [What else could he see in me but one of those persons who have got possession of what belongs to him?  And what other feeling can he cherish towards me, than a desire to obtain from me as many of those rubles, which have been stolen from him and from others, as possible?  I wish to get close to him, and I complain that he is not frank; and here I am, afraid to sit down on his bed for fear of getting lice, or catching something infectious; and I am afraid to admit him to my room, and he, coming to me naked, waits, generally in the vestibule, or, if very fortunate, in the ante-chamber.  And yet I declare that he is to blame because I cannot enter into intimate relations with him, and because me is not frank.

Let the sternest man try the experiment of eating a dinner of five courses in the midst of people who have had very little or nothing but black bread to eat.  Not a man will have the spirit to eat, and to watch how the hungry lick their chops around him.  Hence, then, in order to eat daintily amid the famishing, the first indispensable requisite is to hide from them, in order that they may not see it.  This is the very thing, and the first thing, that we do.

And I took a simpler view of our life, and perceived that an approach to the poor is not difficult to us through accidental causes, but that we deliberately arrange our lives in such a fashion so that this approach may be rendered difficult.

Not only this; but, on taking a survey of our life, of the life of the wealthy, I saw that every thing which is considered desirable in that life consists in, or is inseparably bound up with, the idea of getting as far away from the poor as possible.  In fact, all the efforts of our well-endowed life, beginning with our food, dress, houses, our cleanliness, and even down to our education,—every thing has for its chief object, the separation of ourselves from the poor.  In procuring this seclusion of ourselves by impassable barriers, we spend, to put it mildly, nine-tenths of our wealth.  The first thing that a man who was grown wealthy does is to stop eating out of one bowl, and he sets up crockery, and fits himself out with a kitchen and servants.  And he feeds his servants high, too, so that their mouths may not water over his dainty viands; and he eats alone; and as eating in solitude is wearisome, he plans how he may improve his food and deck his table; and the very manner of taking his food (dinner) becomes a matter for pride and vain glory with him, and his manner of taking his food becomes for him a means of sequestering himself from other men.  A rich man cannot think of such a thing as inviting a poor man to his table.  A man must know how to conduct ladies to table, how to bow, to sit down, to eat, to rinse out the mouth; and only rich people know all these things.  The same thing occurs in the matter of clothing.  If a rich man were to wear ordinary clothing, simply for the purpose of protecting his body from the cold,—a short jacket, a coat, felt and leather boots, an under-jacket, trousers, shirt,—he would require but very little, and he would not be unable, when he had two coats, to give one of them to a man who had none.  But the rich man begins by procuring for himself clothing which consists entirely of separate pieces, and which is fit only for separate occasions, and which is, therefore, unsuited to the poor man.  He has frock-coats, vests, pea-jackets, lacquered boots, cloaks, shoes with French heels, garments that are chopped up into bits to conform with the fashion, hunting-coats, travelling-coats, and so on, which can only be used under conditions of existence far removed from poverty.  And his clothing also furnishes him with a means of keeping at a distance from the poor.  The same is the case, and even more clearly, with his dwelling.  In order that one may live alone in ten rooms, it is indispensable that those who live ten in one room should not see it.  The richer a man is, the more difficult is he of access; the more porters there are between him and people who are not rich, the more impossible is it to conduct a poor man over rugs, and seat him in a satin chair.

The case is the same with the means of locomotion.  The peasant driving in a cart, or a sledge, must be a very ill-tempered man when he will not give a pedestrian a lift; and there is both room for this and a possibility of doing it.  But the richer the equipage, the farther is a man from all possibility of giving a seat to any person whatsoever.  It is even said plainly, that the most stylish equipages are those meant to hold only one person.

It is precisely the same thing with the manner of life which is expressed by the word cleanliness.

Cleanliness!  Who is there that does not know people, especially women, who reckon this cleanliness in themselves as a great virtue? and who is not acquainted with the devices of this cleanliness, which know no bounds, when it can command the labor of others?  Which of the people who have become rich has not experienced in his own case, with what difficulty he carefully trained himself to this cleanliness, which only confirms the proverb, “Little white hands love other people’s work”?

To-day cleanliness consists in changing your shirt once a day; to-morrow, in changing it twice a day.  To-day it means washing the face, and neck, and hands daily; to-morrow, the feet; and day after to-morrow, washing the whole body every day, and, in addition and in particular, a rubbing-down.  To-day the table-cloth is to serve for two days, to-morrow there must be one each day, then two a day.  To-day the footman’s hands must be clean; to-morrow he must wear gloves, and in his clean gloves he must present a letter on a clean salver.  And there are no limits to this cleanliness, which is useless to everybody, and objectless, except for the purpose of separating oneself from others, and of rendering impossible all intercourse with them, when this cleanliness is attained by the labors of others.

Moreover, when I studied the subject, I because convinced that even that which is commonly called education is the very same thing.

The tongue does not deceive; it calls by its real name that which men understand under this name.  What the people call culture is fashionable clothing, political conversation, clean hands,—a certain sort of cleanliness.  Of such a man, it is said, in contradistinction to others, that he is an educated man.  In a little higher circle, what they call education means the same thing as with the people; only to the conditions of education are added playing on the pianoforte, a knowledge of French, the writing of Russian without orthographical errors, and a still greater degree of external cleanliness.  In a still more elevated sphere, education means all this with the addition of the English language, and a diploma from the highest educational institution.  But education is precisely the same thing in the first, the second, and the third case.  Education consists of those forms and acquirements which are calculated to separate a man from his fellows.  And its object is identical with that of cleanliness,—to seclude us from the herd of poor, in order that they, the poor, may not see how we feast.  But it is impossible to hide ourselves, and they do see us.

And accordingly I have become convinced that the cause of the inability of us rich people to help the poor of the city lies in the impossibility of our establishing intercourse with them; and that this impossibility of intercourse is caused by ourselves, by the whole course of our lives, by all the uses which we make of our wealth.  I have become convinced that between us, the rich and the poor, there rises a wall, reared by ourselves out of that very cleanliness and education, and constructed of our wealth; and that in order to be in a condition to help the poor, we must needs, first of all, destroy this wall; and that in order to do this, confrontation after Siutaeff’s method should be rendered possible, and the poor distributed among us.  And from another starting-point also I came to the same conclusion to which the current of my discussions as to the causes of the poverty in towns had led me: the cause was our wealth.] [108]


I began to examine the matter from a third and wholly personal point of view.  Among the phenomena which particularly impressed me, during the period of my charitable activity, there was yet another, and a very strange one, for which I could for a long time find no explanation.  It was this: every time that I chanced, either on the street on in the house, to give some small coin to a poor man, without saying any thing to him, I saw, or thought that I saw, contentment and gratitude on the countenance of the poor man, and I myself experienced in this form of benevolence an agreeable sensation.  I saw that I had done what the man wished and expected from me.  But if I stopped the poor man, and sympathetically questioned him about his former and his present life, I felt that it was no longer possible to give three or twenty kopeks, and I began to fumble in my purse for money, in doubt as to how much I ought to give, and I always gave more; and I always noticed that the poor man left me dissatisfied.  But if I entered into still closer intercourse with the poor man, then my doubts as to how much to give increased also; and, no matter how much I gave, the poor man grew ever more sullen and discontented.  As a general rule, it always turned out thus, that if I gave, after conversation with a poor man, three rubles or even more, I almost always beheld gloom, displeasure, and even ill-will, on the countenance of the poor man; and I have even known it to happen, that, having received ten rubles, he went off without so much as saying “Thank you,” exactly as though I had insulted him.

And thereupon I felt awkward and ashamed, and almost guilty.  But if I followed up a poor man for weeks and months and years, and assisted him, and explained my views to him, and associated with him, our relations became a torment, and I perceived that the man despised me.  And I felt that he was in the right.

If I go out into the street, and he, standing in that street, begs of me among the number of the other passers-by, people who walk and ride past him, and I give him money, I then am to him a passer-by, and a good, kind passer-by, who bestows on him that thread from which a shirt is made for the naked man; he expects nothing more than the thread, and if I give it he thanks me sincerely.  But if I stop him, and talk with him as man with man, I thereby show him that I desire to be something more than a mere passer-by.  If, as often happens, he weeps while relating to me his woes, then he sees in me no longer a passer-by, but that which I desire that he should see: a good man.  But if I am a good man, my goodness cannot pause at a twenty-kopek piece, nor at ten rubles, nor at ten thousand; it is impossible to be a little bit of a good man.  Let us suppose that I have given him a great deal, that I have fitted him out, dressed him, set him on his feet so that the can live without outside assistance; but for some reason or other, though misfortune or his own weakness or vices, he is again without that coat, that linen, and that money which I have given him; he is again cold and hungry, and he has come again to me,—how can I refuse him?  [For if the cause of my action consisted in the attainment of a definite, material end, on giving him so many rubles or such and such a coat I might be at ease after having bestowed them.  But the cause of my action is not this: the cause is, that I want to be a good man, that is to say, I want to see myself in every other man.  Every man understands goodness thus, and in no other manner.] [111]  And therefore, if he should drink away every thing that you had given him twenty times, and if he should again be cold and hungry, you cannot do otherwise than give him more, if you are a good man; you can never cease giving to him, if you have more than he has.  And if you draw back, you will thereby show that every thing that you have done, you have done not because you are a good man, but because you wished to appear a good man in his sight, and in the sight of men.

And thus in the case with the men from whom I chanced to recede, to whom I ceased to give, and, by this action, denied good, I experienced a torturing sense of shame.

What sort of shame was this?  This shame I had experienced in the Lyapinsky house, and both before and after that in the country, when I happened to give money or any thing else to the poor, and in my expeditions among the city poor.

A mortifying incident that occurred to me not long ago vividly reminded me of that shame, and led me to an explanation of that shame which I had felt when bestowing money on the poor.

[This happened in the country.  I wanted twenty kopeks to give to a poor pilgrim; I sent my son to borrow them from some one; he brought the pilgrim a twenty-kopek piece, and told me that he had borrowed it from the cook.  A few days afterwards some more pilgrims arrived, and again I was in want of a twenty-kopek piece.  I had a ruble; I recollected that I was in debt to the cook, and I went to the kitchen, hoping to get some more small change from the cook.  I said: “I borrowed a twenty-kopek piece from you, so here is a ruble.”  I had not finished speaking, when the cook called in his wife from another room: “Take it, Parasha,” said he.  I, supposing that she understood what I wanted, handed her the ruble.  I must state that the cook had only lived with me a week, and, though I had seen his wife, I had never spoken to her.  I was just on the point of saying to her that she was to give me some small coins, when she bent swiftly down to my hand, and tried to kiss it, evidently imaging that I had given her the ruble.  I muttered something, and quitted the kitchen.  I was ashamed, ashamed to the verge of torture, as I had not been for a long time.  I shrank together; I was conscious that I was making grimaces, and I groaned with shame as I fled from the kitchen.  This utterly unexpected, and, as it seemed to me, utterly undeserved shame, made a special impression on me, because it was a long time since I had been mortified, and because I, as an old man, had so lived, it seemed to me, that I had not merited this shame.  I was forcibly struck by this.  I told the members of my household about it, I told my acquaintances, and they all agreed that they should have felt the same.  And I began to reflect: why had this caused me such shame?  To this, something which had happened to me in Moscow furnished me with an answer.

I meditated on that incident, and the shame which I had experienced in the presence of the cook’s wife was explained to me, and all those sensations of mortification which I had undergone during the course of my Moscow benevolence, and which I now feel incessantly when I have occasion to give any one any thing except that petty alms to the poor and to pilgrims, which I have become accustomed to bestow, and which I consider a deed not of charity but of courtesy.  If a man asks you for a light, you must strike a match for him, if you have one.  If a man asks for three or for twenty kopeks, or even for several rubles, you must give them if you have them.  This is an act of courtesy and not of charity.] [113]

This was the case in question: I have already mentioned the two peasants with whom I was in the habit of sawing wood three yeans ago.  One Saturday evening at dusk, I was returning to the city in their company.  They were going to their employer to receive their wages.  As we were crossing the Dragomilovsky bridge, we met an old man.  He asked alms, and I gave him twenty kopeks.  I gave, and reflected on the good effect which my charity would have on Semyon, with whom I had been conversing on religious topics.  Semyon, the Vladimir peasant, who had a wife and two children in Moscow, halted also, pulled round the skirt of his kaftan, and got out his purse, and from this slender purse he extracted, after some fumbling, three kopeks, handed it to the old man, and asked for two kopeks in change.  The old man exhibited in his hand two three-kopek pieces and one kopek.  Semyon looked at them, was about to take the kopek, but thought better of it, pulled off his hat, crossed himself, and walked on, leaving the old man the three-kopek piece.

I was fully acquainted with Semyon’s financial condition.  He had no property at home at all.  The money which he had laid by on the day when he gave three kopeks amounted to six rubles and fifty kopeks.  Accordingly, six rubles and twenty kopeks was the sum of his savings.  My reserve fund was in the neighborhood of six hundred thousand.  I had a wife and children, Semyon had a wife and children.  He was younger than I, and his children were fewer in number than mine; but his children were small, and two of mine were of an age to work, so that our position, with the exception of the savings, was on an equality; mine was somewhat the more favorable, if any thing.  He gave three kopeks, I gave twenty.  What did he really give, and what did I really give?  What ought I to have given, in order to do what Semyon had done? he had six hundred kopeks; out of this he gave one, and afterwards two.  I had six hundred thousand rubles.  In order to give what Semyon had given, I should have been obliged to give three thousand rubles, and ask for two thousand in change, and then leave the two thousand with the old man, cross myself, and go my way, calmly conversing about life in the factories, and the cost of liver in the Smolensk market.

I thought of this at the time; but it was only long afterwards that I was in a condition to draw from this incident that deduction which inevitably results from it.  This deduction is so uncommon and so singular, apparently, that, in spite of its mathematical infallibility, one requires time to grow used to it.  It does seem as though there must be some mistake, but mistake there is none.  There is merely the fearful mist of error in which we live.

[This deduction, when I arrived at it, and when I recognized its undoubted truth, furnished me with an explanation of my shame in the presence of the cook’s wife, and of all the poor people to whom I had given and to whom I still give money.

What, in point of fact, is that money which I give to the poor, and which the cook’s wife thought I was giving to her?  In the majority of cases, it is that portion of my substance which it is impossible even to express in figures to Semyon and the cook’s wife,—it is generally one millionth part or about that.  I give so little that the bestowal of any money is not and cannot be a deprivation to me; it is only a pleasure in which I amuse myself when the whim seizes me.  And it was thus that the cook’s wife understood it.  If I give to a man who steps in from the street one ruble or twenty kopeks, why should not I give her a ruble also?  In the opinion of the cook’s wife, such a bestowal of money is precisely the same as the flinging of honey-cakes to the people by gentlemen; it furnishes the people who have a great deal of superfluous cash with amusement.  I was mortified because the mistake made by the cook’s wife demonstrated to me distinctly the view which she, and all people who are not rich, must take of me: “He is flinging away his folly, i.e., his unearned money.”

As a matter of fact, what is my money, and whence did it come into my possession?  A portion of it I accumulated from the land which I received from my father.  A peasant sold his last sheep or cow in order to give the money to me.  Another portion of my money is the money which I have received for my writings, for my books.  If my books are hurtful, I only lead astray those who purchase them, and the money which I receive for them is ill-earned money; but if my books are useful to people, then the issue is still more disastrous.  I do not give them to people: I say, “Give me seventeen rubles, and I will give them to you.”  And as the peasant sells his last sheep, in this case the poor student or teacher, or any other poor man, deprives himself of necessaries in order to give me this money.  And so I have accumulated a great deal of money in that way, and what do I do with it?  I take that money to the city, and bestow it on the poor, only when they fulfil my caprices, and come hither to the city to clean my sidewalk, lamps, and shoes; to work for me in factories.  And in return for this money, I force from them every thing that I can; that is to say, I try to give them as little as possible, and to receive as much as possible from them.  And all at once I begin, quite unexpectedly, to bestow this money as a simple gift, on these same poor persons, not on all, but on those to whom I take a fancy.  Why should not every poor person expect that it is quite possible that the luck may fall to him of being one of those with whom I shall amuse myself by distributing my superfluous money?  And so all look upon me as the cook’s wife did.

And I had gone so far astray that this taking of thousands from the poor with one hand, and this flinging of kopeks with the other, to those to whom the whim moved me to give, I called good.  No wonder that I felt ashamed.] [116]

Yes, before doing good it was needful for me to stand outside of evil, in such conditions that I might cease to do evil.  But my whole life is evil.  I may give away a hundred thousand rubles, and still I shall not be in a position to do good because I shall still have five hundred thousand left.  Only when I have nothing shall I be in a position to do the least particle of good, even as much as the prostitute did which she nursed the sick women and her child for three days.  And that seemed so little to me!  And I dared to think of good myself!  That which, on the first occasion, told me, at the sight of the cold and hungry in the Lyapinsky house, that I was to blame for this, and that to live as I live is impossible, and impossible, and impossible,—that alone was true.

What, then, was I to do?


It was hard for me to come to this confession, but when I had come to it I was shocked at the error in which I had been living.  I stood up to my ears in the mud, and yet I wanted to drag others out of this mud.

What is it that I wish in reality?  I wish to do good to others.  I wish to do it so that other people may not be cold and hungry, so that others may live as it is natural for people to live.

[I wish this, and I see that in consequence of the violence, extortions, and various tricks in which I take part, people who toil are deprived of necessaries, and people who do not toil, in whose ranks I also belong, enjoy in superabundance the toil of other people.

I see that this enjoyment of the labors of others is so arranged, that the more rascally and complicated the trickery which is employed by the man himself, or which has been employed by the person from whom he obtained his inheritance, the more does he enjoy of the labors of others, and the less does he contribute of his own labor.

First come the Shtiglitzy, Dervizy, Morozovy, the Demidoffs, the Yusapoffs; then great bankers, merchants, officials, landed proprietors, among whom I also belong; then the poor—very small traders, dramshop-keepers, usurers, district judges, overseers, teachers, sacristans, clerks; then house-porters, lackeys, coachmen, watch-carriers, cab-drivers, peddlers; and last of all, the laboring classes—factory-hands and peasants, whose numbers bear the relation to the first named of ten to one.  I see that the life of nine-tenths of the working classes demands, by reason of its nature, application and toil, as does every natural life; but that, in consequence of the sharp practices which take from these people what is indispensable, and place them in such oppressive conditions, this life becomes more difficult every year, and more filled with deprivations; but our life, the life of the non-laboring classes, thanks to the co-operation of the arts and sciences which are directed to this object, becomes more filled with superfluities, more attractive and careful, with every year.  I see, that, in our day, the life of the workingman, and, in particular, the life of old men, of women, and of children of the working population, is perishing directly from their food, which is utterly inadequate to their fatiguing labor; and that this life of theirs is not free from care as to its very first requirements; and that, alongside of this, the life of the non-laboring classes, to which I belong, is filled more and more, every year, with superfluities and luxury, and becomes more and more free from anxiety, and has finally reached such a point of freedom from care, in the case of its fortunate members, of whom I am one, as was only dreamed of in olden times in fairy-tales,—the state of the owner of the purse with the inexhaustible ruble, that is, a condition in which a man is not only utterly released from the law of labor, but in which he possesses the possibility of enjoying, without toil, all the blessings of life, and of transferring to his children, or to any one whom he may see fit, this purse with the inexhaustible ruble.

I see that the products of the people’s toil are more and more transformed from the mass of the working classes to those who do not work; that the pyramid of the social edifice seems to be reconstructed in such fashion that the foundation stones are carried to the apex, and the swiftness of this transfer is increasing in a sort of geometrical ratio.  I see that the result of this is something like that which would take place in an ant-heap if the community of ants were to lose their sense of the common law, if some ants were to begin to draw the products of labor from the bottom to the top of the heap, and should constantly contract the foundations and broaden the apex, and should thereby also force the remaining ants to betake themselves from the bottom to the summit.

I see that the ideal of the Fortunatus’ purse has made its way among the people, in the place of the ideal of a toilsome life.  Rich people, myself among the number, get possession of the inexhaustible ruble by various devices, and for the purpose of enjoying it we go to the city, to the place where nothing is produced and where every thing is swallowed up.

The industrious poor man, who is robbed in order that the rich may possess this inexhaustible ruble, yearns for the city in his train; and there he also takes to sharp practices, and either acquires for himself a position in which he can work little and receive much, thereby rendering still more oppressive the situation of the laboring classes, or, not having attained to such a position, he goes to ruin, and falls into the ranks of those cold and hungry inhabitants of the night-lodging houses, which are being swelled with such remarkable rapidity.

I belong to the class of those people, who, by divers tricks, take from the toiling masses the necessaries of life, and who have acquired for themselves these inexhaustible rubles, and who lead these unfortunates astray.  I desire to aid people, and therefore it is clear that, first of all, I must cease to rob them as I am doing.  But I, by the most complicated, and cunning, and evil practices, which have been heaped up for centuries, have acquired for myself the position of an owner of the inexhaustible ruble, that is to say, one in which, never working myself, I can make hundreds and thousands of people toil for me—which also I do; and I imagine that I pity people, and I wish to assist them.  I sit on a man’s neck, I weigh him down, and I demand that he shall carry me; and without descending from his shoulders I assure myself and others that I am very sorry for him, and that I desire to ameliorate his condition by all possible means, only not by getting off of him.

Surely this is simple enough.  If I want to help the poor, that is, to make the poor no longer poor, I must not produce poor people.  And I give, at my own selection, to poor men who have gone astray from the path of life, a ruble, or ten rubles, or a hundred; and I grasp hundreds from people who have not yet left the path, and thereby I render them poor also, and demoralize them to boot.

This is very simple; but it was horribly hard for me to understand this fully without compromises and reservations, which might serve to justify my position; but it sufficed for me to confess my guilt, and every thing which had before seemed to me strange and complicated, and lacking in cleanness, became perfectly comprehensible and simple.  But the chief point was, that my way of life, arising from this interpretation, became simple, clear and pleasant, instead of perplexed, inexplicable and full of torture as before.] [122a]

Who am I, that I should desire to help others?  I desire to help people; and I, rising at twelve o’clock after a game of vint [122b] with four candles, weak, exhausted, demanding the aid of hundreds of people,—I go to the aid of whom?  Of people who rise at five o’clock, who sleep on planks, who nourish themselves on bread and cabbage, who know how to plough, to reap, to wield the axe, to chop, to harness, to sew,—of people who in strength and endurance, and skill and abstemiousness, are a hundred times superior to me,—and I go to their succor!  What except shame could I feel, when I entered into communion with these people?  The very weakest of them, a drunkard, an inhabitant of the Rzhanoff house, the one whom they call “the idler,” is a hundred-fold more industrious than I; [his balance, so to speak, that is to say, the relation of what he takes from people and that which they give him, stands on a thousand times better footing than my balance, if I take into consideration what I take from people and what I give to them.] [122a]

And these are the people to whose assistance I go.  I go to help the poor.  But who is the poor man?  There is no one poorer than myself.  I am a thoroughly enervated, good-for-nothing parasite, who can only exist under the most special conditions, who can only exist when thousands of people toil at the preservation of this life which is utterly useless to every one.  And I, that plant-louse, which devours the foliage of trees, wish to help the tree in its growth and health, and I wish to heal it.

I have passed my whole life in this manner: I eat, I talk and I listen; I eat, I write or read, that is to say, I talk and listen again; I eat, I play, I eat, again I talk and listen, I eat, and again I go to bed; and so each day I can do nothing else, and I understand how to do nothing else.  And in order that I may be able to do this, it is necessary that the porter, the peasant, the cook, male or female, the footman, the coachman, and the laundress, should toil from morning till night; I will not refer to the labors of the people which are necessary in order that coachman, cooks, male and female, footman, and the rest should have those implements and articles with which, and over which, they toil for my sake; axes, tubs, brushes, household utensils, furniture, wax, blacking, kerosene, hay, wood, and beef.  And all these people work hard all day long and every day, so that I may be able to talk and eat and sleep.  And I, this cripple of a man, have imagined that I could help others, and those the very people who support me!

It is not remarkable that I could not help any one, and that I felt ashamed; but the remarkable point is that such an absurd idea could have occurred to me.  The woman who served the sick old man, helped him; the mistress of the house, who cut a slice from the bread which she had won from the soil, helped the beggar; Semyon, who gave three kopeks which he had earned, helped the beggar, because those three kopeks actually represented his labor: but I served no one, I toiled for no one, and I was well aware that my money did not represent my labor.


Into the delusion that I could help others I was led by the fact that I fancied that my money was of the same sort as Semyon’s.  But this was not the case.

A general idea prevails, that money represents wealth; but wealth is the product of labor; and, therefore, money represents labor.  But this idea is as just as that every governmental regulation is the result of a compact (contrat social).

Every one likes to think that money is only a medium of exchange for labor.  I have made shoes, you have raised grain, he has reared sheep: here, in order that we may the more readily effect an exchange, we will institute money, which represents a corresponding quantity of labor, and, by means of it, we will barter our shoes for a breast of lamb and ten pounds of flour.  We will exchange our products through the medium of money, and the money of each one of us represents our labor.

This is perfectly true, but true only so long as, in the community where this exchange is effected, the violence of one man over the rest has not made its appearance; not only violence over the labors of others, as happens in wars and slavery, but where he exercises no violence for the protection of the products of their labor from others.  This will be true only in a community whose members fully carry out the Christian law, in a community where men give to him who asks, and where he who takes is not asked to make restitution.  But just so soon as any violence whatever is used in the community, the significance of money for its possessor loses its significance as a representative of labor, and acquires the significance of a right founded, not on labor, but on violence.

As soon as there is war, and one man has taken any thing from any other man, money can no longer be always the representative of labor; money received by a warrior for the spoils of war, which he sells, even if he is the commander of the warriors, is in no way a product of labor, and possesses an entirely different meaning from money received for work on shoes.  As soon as there are slave-owners and slaves, as there always have been throughout the whole world, it is utterly impossible to say that money represents labor.

Women have woven linen, sold it, and received money; serfs have woven for their master, and the master has sold them and received the money.  The money is identical in both cases; but in the one case it is the product of labor, in the other the product of violence.  In exactly the same way, a stranger or my own father has given me money; and my father, when he gave me that money, knew, and I know, and everybody knows, that no one can take this money away from me; but if it should occur to any one to take it away from me, or even not to hand it over at the date when it was promised, the law would intervene on my behalf, and would compel the delivery to me of the money; and, again, it is evident that this money can in no wise be called the equivalent of labor, on a level with the money received by Semyon for chopping wood.  So that in any community where there is any thing that in any manner whatever controls the labor of others, or where violence hedges in, by means of money, its possessions from others, there money is no longer invariably the representative of labor.  In such a community, it is sometimes the representative of labor, and sometimes of violence.

Thus it would be where only one act of violence from one man against others, in the midst of perfectly free relations, should have made its appearance; but now, when centuries of the most varied deeds of violence have passed for accumulations of money, when these deeds of violence are incessant, and merely alter their forms; when, as every one admits, money accumulated itself represents violence; when money, as a representative of direct labor, forms but a very small portion of the money which is derived from every sort of violence,—to say nowadays that money represents the labor of the person who possesses it, is a self-evident error or a deliberate lie.

It may be said, that thus it should be; it may be said, that this is desirable; but by no means can it be said, that thus it is.

Money represents labor.  Yes.  Money does represent labor; but whose?  In our society only in the very rarest, rarest of instances, does money represent the labor of its possessor, but it nearly always represents the labor of other people, the past or future labor of men; it is a representative of the obligation of others to labor, which has been established by force.

Money, in its most accurate and at the same the simple application, is the conventional stamp which confers a right, or, more correctly, a possibility, of taking advantage of the labors of other people.  In its ideal significance, money should confer this right, or this possibility, only when it serves as the equivalent of labor, and such money might be in a community in which no violence existed.  But just as soon as violence, that is to say, the possibility of profiting by the labors of others without toil of one’s own, exists in a community, then that profiting by the labors of other men is also expressed by money, without any distinction of the persons on whom that violence is exercised.

The landed proprietor has imposed upon his serfs natural debts, a certain quantity of linen, grain, and cattle, or a corresponding amount of money.  One household has procured the cattle, but has paid money in lieu of linen.  The proprietor takes the money to a certain amount only, because he knows that for that money they will make him the same quantity of linen, (generally he takes a little more, in order to be sure that they will make it for the same amount); and this money, evidently, represents for the proprietor the obligation of other people to toil.

The peasant gives the money as an obligation, to he knows not whom, but to people, and there are many of them, who undertake for this money to make so much linen.  But the people who undertake to make the linen, do so because they have not succeeded in raising sheep, and in place of the sheep, they must pay money; but the peasant who takes money for his sheep takes it because he must pay for grain which did not bear well this year.  The same thing goes on throughout this realm, and throughout the whole world.

A man sells the product of his labor, past, present or to come, sometimes his food, and generally not because money constitutes for him a convenient means of exchange.  He could have effected the barter without money, but he does so because money is exacted from him by violence as a lien on his labor.

When the sovereign of Egypt exacted labor from his slaves, the slaves gave all their labor, but only their past and present labor, their future labor they could not give.  But with the dissemination of money tokens, and the credit which had its rise in them, it became possible to sell one’s future toil for money.  Money, with co-existent violence in the community, only represents the possibility of a new form of impersonal slavery, which has taken the place of personal slavery.  The slave-owner has a right to the labor of Piotr, Ivan, and Sidor.  But the owner of money, in a place where money is demanded from all, has a right to the toil of all those nameless people who are in need of money.  Money has set aside all the oppressive features of slavery, under which an owner knows his right to Ivan, and with them it has set aside all humane relations between the owner and the slave, which mitigated the burden of personal thraldom.

I will not allude to the fact, that such a condition of things is, possibly, necessary for the development of mankind, for progress, and so forth,—that I do not contest.  I have merely tried to elucidate to myself the idea of money, and that universal error into which I fell when I accepted money as the representative of labor.  I became convinced, after experience, that money is not the representative of labor, but, in the majority of cases, the representative of violence, or of especially complicated sharp practices founded on violence.

Money, in our day, has completely lost that significance which it is very desirable that it should possess, as the representative of one’s own labor; such a significance it has only as an exception, but, as a general rule, it has been converted into a right or a possibility of profiting by the toil of others.

The dissemination of money, of credit, and of all sorts of money tokens, confirms this significance of money ever more and more.  Money is a new form of slavery, which differs from the old form of slavery only in its impersonality, its annihilation of all humane relations with the slave.

Money—money, is a value which is always equal to itself, and is always considered legal and righteous, and whose use is regarded as not immoral, just as the right of slavery was regarded.

In my young days, the game of loto was introduced into the clubs.  Everybody rushed to play it, and, as it was said, many ruined themselves, rendered their families miserable, lost other people’s money, and government funds, and committed suicide; and the game was prohibited, and it remains prohibited to this day.

I remember to have seen old and unsentimental gamblers, who told me that this game was particularly pleasing because you did not see from whom you were winning, as is the case in other games; a lackey brought, not money, but chips; each man lost a little stake, and his disappointment was not visible . . .  It is the same with roulette, which is everywhere prohibited, and not without reason.

It is the same with money.  I possess a magic, inexhaustible ruble; I cut off my coupons, and have retired from all the business of the world.  Whom do I injure,—I, the most inoffensive and kindest of men?  But this is nothing more than playing at loto or roulette, where I do not see the man who shoots himself, because of his losses, after procuring for me those coupons which I cut off from the bonds so accurately with a strictly right-angled corner.

I have done nothing, I do nothing, and I shall do nothing, except cut off those coupons; and I firmly believe that money is the representative of labor!  Surely, this is amazing!  And people talk of madmen, after that!  Why, what degree of lunacy can be more frightful than this?  A sensible, educated, in all other respects sane man lives in a senseless manner, and soothes himself for not uttering the word which it is indispensably necessary that he should utter, with the idea that there is some sense in his conclusions, and he considers himself a just man.  Coupons—the representatives of toil!  Toil!  Yes, but of whose toil?  Evidently not of the man who owns them, but of him who labors.

Slavery is far from being suppressed.  It has been suppressed in Rome and in America, and among us: but only certain laws have been abrogated; only the word, not the thing, has been put down.  Slavery is the freeing of ourselves alone from the toil which is necessary for the satisfaction of our demands, by the transfer of this toil to others; and wherever there exists a man who does not work, not because others work lovingly for him, but where he possesses the power of not working, and forces others to work for him, there slavery exists.  There too, where, as in all European societies, there are people who make use of the labor of thousands of men, and regard this as their right,—there slavery exists in its broadest measure.

And money is the same thing as slavery.  Its object and its consequences are the same.  Its object is—that one may rid one’s self of the first born of all laws, as a profoundly thoughtful writer from the ranks of the people has expressed it; from the natural law of life, as we have called it; from the law of personal labor for the satisfaction of our own wants.  And the results of money are the same as the results of slavery, for the proprietor; the creation, the invention of new and ever new and never-ending demands, which can never be satisfied; the enervation of poverty, vice, and for the slaves, the persecution of man and their degradation to the level of the beasts.

Money is a new and terrible form of slavery, and equally demoralizing with the ancient form of slavery for both slave and slave-owner; only much worse, because it frees the slave and the slave-owner from their personal, humane relations.]


I am always surprised by the oft-repeated words: “Yes, this is so in theory, but how is it in practice?”  Just as though theory were fine words, requisite for conversation, but not for the purpose of having all practice, that is, all activity, indispensably founded on them.  There must be a fearful number of stupid theories current in the world, that such an extraordinary idea should have become prevalent.  Theory is what a man thinks on a subject, but its practice is what he does.  How can a man think it necessary to do so and so, and then do the contrary?  If the theory of baking bread is, that it must first be mixed, and then set to rise, no one except a lunatic, knowing this theory, would do the reverse.  But it has become the fashion with us to say, that “this is so in theory, but how about the practice?”

In the matter which interests me now, that has been confirmed which I have always thought,—that practice infallibly flows from theory, and not that it justifies it, but it cannot possibly be otherwise, for if I have understood the thing of which I have been thinking, then I cannot carry out this thing otherwise than as I have understood it.

I wanted to help the unfortunate only because I had money, and I shared the general belief that money was the representative of labor, or, on the whole, something legal and good.  But, having begun to give away this money, I saw, when I gave the bills which I had accumulated from poor people, that I was doing precisely that which was done by some landed proprietors who made some of their serfs wait on others.  I saw that every use of money, whether for making purchases, or for giving away without an equivalent to another, is handing over a note for extortion from the poor, or its transfer to another man for extortion from the poor.  I saw that money in itself was not only not good, but evidently evil, and that it deprives us of our highest good,—labor, and thereby of the enjoyment of our labor, and that that blessing I was not in a position to confer on any one, because I was myself deprived of it: I do not work, and I take no pleasure in making use of the labor of others.

It would appear that there is something peculiar in this abstract argument as to the nature of money.  But this argument which I have made not for the sake of argument, but for the solution of the problem of my life, of my sufferings, was for me an answer to my question: What is to be done?

As soon as I grasped the meaning of riches, and of money, it not only became clear and indisputable to me, what I ought to do, but also clear and indisputable what others ought to do, because they would infallibly do it.  I had only actually come to understand what I had known for a long time previously, the theory which was given to men from the very earliest times, both by Buddha, and Isaiah, and Lao-Tze, and Socrates, and in a peculiarly clear and indisputable manner by Jesus Christ and his forerunner, John the Baptist.  John the Baptist, in answer to the question of the people,—What were they to do? replied simply, briefly, and clearly: “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).  In a similar manner, but with even greater clearness, and on many occasions, Christ spoke.  He said: “Blessed are the poor, and woe to the rich.”  He said that it is impossible to serve God and mammon.  He forbade his disciples to take not only money, but also two garments.  He said to the rich young man, that he could not enter into the kingdom of heaven because he was rich, and that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.  He said that he who should not leave every thing, houses and children and lands, and follow him, could not be his disciple.  He told the parable of the rich man who did nothing bad, like our own rich men, but who only arrayed himself in costly garments, and ate and drank daintily, and who lost his soul thereby; and of poor Lazarus, who had done nothing good, but who was saved merely because he was poor.

This theory was sufficiently familiar to me, but the false teachings of the world had so obscured it that it had become for me a theory in the sense which people are fond of attributing to that term, that is to say, empty words.  But as soon as I had succeeded in destroying in my consciousness the sophisms of worldly teaching, theory conformed to practice, and the truth with regard to my life and to the life of the people about me became its conclusion.

I understood that man, besides life for his own personal good, is unavoidably bound to serve the good of others also; that, if we take an illustration from the animal kingdom,—as some people are fond of doing, defending violence and conflict by the conflict for existence in the animal kingdom,—the illustration must be taken from gregarious animals, like bees; that consequently man, not to mention the love to his neighbor incumbent on him, is called upon, both by reason and by his nature, to serve other people and the common good of humanity.  I comprehended that the natural law of man is that according to which only he can fulfil destiny, and therefore be happy.  I understood that this law has been and is broken hereby,—that people get rid of labor by force (like the robber bees), make use of the toil of others, directing this toil, not to the common weal, but to the private satisfaction of swift-growing desires; and, precisely as in the case of the robber bees, they perish in consequence.  [I understood that the original form of this disinclination for the law is the brutal violence against weaker individuals, against women, wars and imprisonments, whose sequel is slavery, and also the present reign of money.  I understood that money is the impersonal and concealed enslavement of the poor.  And, once having perceived the significance of money as slavery, I could not but hate it, nor refrain from doing all in my power to free myself from it.] [135]

When I was a slave-owner, and comprehended the immorality of my position, I tried to escape from it.  My escape consisted in this, that I, regarding it as immoral, tried to exercise my rights as slave-owner as little as possible, but to live, and to allow other people to live, as though that right did not exist.  And I cannot refrain from doing the same thing now in reference to the present form of slavery,—exercising my right to the labor of others as little as possible, i.e., hiring and purchasing as little as possible.

The root of every slavery is the use of the labor of others; and hence, the compelling others to it is founded indifferently on my right to the slave, or on my possession of money which is indispensable to him.  If I really do not approve, and if I regard as an evil, the employment of the labor of others, then I shall use neither my right nor my money for that purpose; I shall not compel others to toil for me, but I shall endeavor to free them from the labor which they have performed for me, as far as possible, either by doing without this labor or by performing it for myself.

And this very simple and unavoidable deduction enters into all the details of my life, effects a total change in it, and at one blow releases me from those moral sufferings which I have undergone at the sight of the sufferings and the vice of the people, and instantly annihilates all three causes of my inability to aid the poor, which I had encountered while seeking the cause of my lack of success.

The first cause was the herding of the people in towns, and the absorption there of the wealth of the country.  All that a man needs is to understand how every hiring or purchase is a handle to extortion from the poor, and that therefore he must abstain from them, and must try to fulfil his own requirements; and not a single man will then quit the country, where all wants can be satisfied without money, for the city, where it is necessary to buy every thing: and in the country he will be in a position to help the needy, as has been my own experience and the experience of every one else.

The second cause is the estrangement of the rich from the poor.  A man needs but to refrain from buying, from hiring, and, disdaining no sort of work, to satisfy his requirements himself, and the former estrangement will immediately be annihilated, and the man, having rejected luxury and the services of others, will amalgamate with the mass of the working people, and, standing shoulder to shoulder with the working people, he can help them.

The third cause was shame, founded on a consciousness of immorality in my owning that money with which I desired to help people.  All that is required is: to understand the significance of money as impersonal slavery, which it has acquired among us, in order to escape for the future from falling into the error according to which money, though evil in itself, can be an instrument of good, and in order to refrain from acquiring money; and to rid one’s self of it in order to be in a position to do good to people, that is, to bestow on them one’s labor, and not the labor of another.


[I saw that money is the cause of suffering and vice among the people, and that, if I desired to help people, the first thing that was required of me was not to create those unfortunates whom I wished to assist.

I came to the conclusion that the man who does not love vice and the suffering of the people should not make use of money, thus presenting an inducement to extortion from the poor, by forcing them to work for him; and that, in order not to make use of the toil of others, he must demand as little from others as possible, and work as much as possible himself.] [138]

By dint of a long course of reasoning, I came to this inevitable conclusion, which was drawn thousands of years ago by the Chinese in the saying, “If there is one idle man, there is another dying with hunger to offset him.

[Then what are we to do?  John the Baptist gave the answer to this very question two thousand years ago.  And when the people asked him, “What are we to do?” he said, “Let him that hath two garments impart to him that hath none, and let him that hath meat do the same.”  What is the meaning of giving away one garment out of two, and half of one’s food?  It means giving to others every superfluity, and thenceforth taking nothing superfluous from people.

This expedient, which furnishes such perfect satisfaction to the moral feelings, kept my eyes fast bound, and binds all our eyes; and we do not see it, but gaze aside.

This is precisely like a personage on the stage, who had entered a long time since, and all the spectators see him, and it is obvious that the actors cannot help seeing him, but the point on the stage lies in the acting characters pretending not to see him, and in suffering from his absence.] [139]

Thus we, in our efforts to recover from our social diseases, search in all quarters, governmental and anti-governmental, and in scientific and in philanthropic superstitions; and we do not see what is perfectly visible to every eye.

For the man who really suffers from the sufferings of the people who surround us, there exists the very plainest, simplest, and easiest means; the only possible one for the cure of the evil about us, and for the acquisition of a consciousness of the legitimacy of his life; the one given by John the Baptist, and confirmed by Christ: not to have more than one garment, and not to have money.  And not to have any money, means, not to employ the labor of others, and hence, first of all, to do with our own hands every thing that we can possibly do.

This is so clear and simple!  But it is clear and simple when the requirements are simple.  I live in the country.  I lie on the oven, and I order my debtor, my neighbor, to chop wood and light my fire.  It is very clear that I am lazy, and that I tear my neighbor away from his affairs, and I shall feel mortified, and I shall find it tiresome to lie still all the time; and I shall go and split my wood for myself.

But the delusion of slavery of all descriptions lies so far back, so much of artificial exaction has sprung up upon it, so many people, accustomed in different degrees to these habits, are interwoven with each other, enervated people, spoiled for generations, and such complicated delusions and justifications for their luxury and idleness have been devised by people, that it is far from being so easy for a man who stands at the summit of the ladder of idle people to understand his sin, as it is for the peasant who has made his neighbor build his fire.

It is terribly difficult for people at the top of this ladder to understand what is required of them.  [Their heads are turned by the height of this ladder of lies, upon which they find themselves when a place on the ground is offered to them, to which they must descend in order to begin to live, not yet well, but no longer cruelly, inhumanly; for this reason, this clear and simple truth appears strange to these people.  For the man with ten servants, liveries, coachmen, cooks, pictures, pianofortes, that will infallibly appear strange, and even ridiculous, which is the simplest, the first act of—I will not say every good man—but of every man who is not wicked: to cut his own wood with which his food is cooked, and with which he warms himself; to himself clean those boots with which he has heedlessly stepped in the mire; to himself fetch that water with which he preserves his cleanliness, and to carry out that dirty water in which he has washed himself.] [140]

But, besides the remoteness of people from the truth, there is another cause which prevents people from seeing the obligation for them of the simplest and most natural personal, physical labor for themselves: this is the complication, the inextricability of the conditions, the advantage of all the people who are bound together among themselves by money, in which the rich man lives: My luxurious life feeds people.  What would become of my old valet if I were to discharge him?  What! we must all do every thing necessary,—make our clothes and hew wood? . . .  And how about the division of labor?”

[This morning I stepped out into the corridor where the fires were being built.  A peasant was making a fire in the stove which warms my son’s room.  I went in; the latter was asleep.  It was eleven o’clock in the morning.  To-day is a holiday: there is some excuse, there are no lessons.

The smooth-skinned, eighteen-year-old youth, with a beard, who had eaten his fill on the preceding evening, sleeps until eleven o’clock.  But the peasant of his age had been up at dawn, and had got through a quantity of work, and was attending to his tenth stove, while the former slept.  “The peasant shall not make the fire in his stove to warm that smooth, lazy body of his!” I thought.  But I immediately recollected that this stove also warmed the room of the housekeeper, a woman forty years of age, who, on the evening before, had been making preparations up to three o’clock in the morning for the supper which my son had eaten, and that she had cleared the table, and risen at seven, nevertheless.  The peasant was building the fire for her also.  And under her name the lazybones was warming himself.

It is true that the interests of all are interwoven; but, even without any prolonged reckoning, the conscience of each man will say on whose side lies labor, and on whose idleness.  But although conscience says this, the account-book, the cash-book, says it still more clearly.  The more money any one spends, the more idle he is, that is to say, the more he makes others work for him.  The less he spends, the more he works.] [142]  But trade, but public undertakings, and, finally, the most terrible of words, culture, the development of sciences, and the arts,—what of them?

[If I live I will make answer to those points, and in detail; and until such answer I will narrate the following.] [142]



Last year, in March, I was returning home late at night.  As I turned from the Zubova into Khamovnitchesky Lane, I saw some black spots on the snow of the Dyevitchy Pole (field).  Something was moving about in one place.  I should not have paid any attention to this, if the policeman who was standing at the end of the street had not shouted in the direction of the black spots,—

“Vasily! why don’t you bring her in?”

“She won’t come!” answered a voice, and then the spot moved towards the policeman.

I halted and asked the police-officer, “What is it?”

He said,—“They are taking a girl from the Rzhanoff house to the station-house; and she is hanging back, she won’t walk.”  A house-porter in a sheepskin coat was leading her.  She was walking forward, and he was pushing her from behind.  All of us, I and the porter and the policeman, were dressed in winter clothes, but she had nothing on over her dress.  In the darkness I could make out only her brown dress, and the kerchiefs on her head and neck.  She was short in stature, as is often the case with the prematurely born, with small feet, and a comparatively broad and awkward figure.

“We’re waiting for you, you carrion.  Get along, what do you mean by it?  I’ll give it to you!” shouted the policeman.  He was evidently tired, and he had had too much of her.  She advanced a few paces, and again halted.

The little old porter, a good-natured fellow (I know him), tugged at her hand.  “Here, I’ll teach you to stop!  On with you!” he repeated, as though in anger.  She staggered, and began to talk in a discordant voice.  At every sound there was a false note, both hoarse and whining.

“Come now, you’re shoving again.  I’ll get there some time!”

She stopped and then went on.  I followed them.

“You’ll freeze,” said the porters

“The likes of us don’t freeze: I’m hot.”

She tried to jest, but her words sounded like scolding.  She halted again under the lantern which stands not far from our house, and leaned against, almost hung over, the fence, and began to fumble for something among her skirts, with benumbed and awkward hands.  Again they shouted at her, but she muttered something and did something.  In one hand she held a cigarette bent into a bow, in the other a match.  I paused behind her; I was ashamed to pass her, and I was ashamed to stand and look on.  But I made up my mind, and stepped forward.  Her shoulder was lying against the fence, and against the fence it was that she vainly struck the match and flung it away.  I looked in her face.  She was really a person prematurely born; but, as it seemed to me, already an old woman.  I credited her with thirty years.  A dirty hue of face; small, dull, tipsy eyes; a button-like nose; curved moist lips with drooping corners, and a short wisp of harsh hair escaping from beneath her kerchief; a long flat figure, stumpy hands and feet.  I paused opposite her.  She stared at me, and burst into a laugh, as though she knew all that was going on in my mind.

I felt that it was necessary to say something to her.  I wanted to show her that I pitied her.

“Are your parents alive?” I inquired.

She laughed hoarsely, with an expression which said, “he’s making up queer things to ask.”

“My mother is,” said she.  “But what do you want?”

“And how old are you?”

“Sixteen,” said she, answering promptly to a question which was evidently customary.

“Come, march, you’ll freeze, you’ll perish entirely,” shouted the policeman; and she swayed away from the fence, and, staggering along, she went down Khamovnitchesky Lane to the police-station; and I turned to the wicket, and entered the house, and inquired whether my daughters had returned.  I was told that they had been to an evening party, had had a very merry time, had come home, and were in bed.

Next morning I wanted to go to the station-house to learn what had been done with this unfortunate woman, and I was preparing to go out very early, when there came to see me one of those unlucky noblemen, who, through weakness, have dropped from the gentlemanly life to which they are accustomed, and who alternately rise and fall.  I had been acquainted with this man for three years.  In the course of those three years, this man had several times made way with every thing that he had, and even with all his clothes; the same thing had just happened again, and he was passing the nights temporarily in the Rzhanoff house, in the night-lodging section, and he had come to me for the day.  He met me as I was going out, at the entrance, and without listening to me he began to tell me what had taken place in the Rzhanoff house the night before.  He began his narrative, and did not half finish it; all at once (he is an old man who has seen men under all sorts of aspects) he burst out sobbing, and flooded has countenance with tears, and when he had become silent, turned has face to the wall.  This is what he told me.  Every thing that he related to me was absolutely true.  I authenticated his story on the spot, and learned fresh particulars which I will relate separately.

In that night-lodging house, on the lower floor, in No. 32, in which my friend had spent the night, among the various, ever-changing lodgers, men and women, who came together there for five kopeks, there was a laundress, a woman thirty years of age, light-haired, peaceable and pretty, but sickly.  The mistress of the quarters had a boatman lover.  In the summer her lover kept a boat, and in the winter they lived by letting accommodations to night-lodgers: three kopeks without a pillow, five kopeks with a pillow.

The laundress had lived there for several months, and was a quiet woman; but latterly they had not liked her, because she coughed and prevented the women from sleeping.  An old half-crazy woman eighty years old, in particular, also a regular lodger in these quarters, hated the laundress, and imbittered the latter’s life because she prevented her sleeping, and cleared her throat all night like a sheep.  The laundress held her peace; she was in debt for her lodgings, and was conscious of her guilt, and therefore she was bound to be quiet.  She began to go more and more rarely to her work, as her strength failed her, and therefore she could not pay her landlady; and for the last week she had not been out to work at all, and had only poisoned the existence of every one, especially of the old woman, who also did not go out, with her cough.  Four days before this, the landlady had given the laundress notice to leave the quarters: the latter was already sixty kopeks in debt, and she neither paid them, nor did the landlady foresee any possibility of getting them; and all the bunks were occupied, and the women all complained of the laundress’s cough.

When the landlady gave the laundress notice, and told her that she must leave the lodgings if she did not pay up, the old woman rejoiced and thrust the laundress out of doors.  The laundress departed, but returned in an hour, and the landlady had not the heart to put her out again.  And the second and the third day, she did not turn her out.  “Where am I to go?” said the laundress.  But on the third day, the landlady’s lover, a Moscow man, who knew the regulations and how to manage, sent for the police.  A policeman with sword and pistol on a red cord came to the lodgings, and with courteous words he led the laundress into the street.

It was a clear, sunny, but freezing March day.  The gutters were flowing, the house-porters were picking at the ice.  The cabman’s sleigh jolted over the icy snow, and screeched over the stones.  The laundress walked up the street on the sunny side, went to the church, and seated herself at the entrance, still on the sunny side.  But when the sun began to sink behind the houses, the puddles began to be skimmed over with a glass of frost, and the laundress grew cold and wretched.  She rose, and dragged herself . . . whither?  Home, to the only home where she had lived so long.  While she was on her way, resting at times, dusk descended.  She approached the gates, turned in, slipped, groaned and fell.

One man came up, and then another.  “She must be drunk.”  Another man came up, and stumbled over the laundress, and said to the potter: “What drunken woman is this wallowing at your gate?  I came near breaking my head over her; take her away, won’t you?”

The porter came.  The laundress was dead.  This is what my friend told me.  It may be thought that I have wilfully mixed up facts,—I encounter a prostitute of fifteen, and the story of this laundress.  But let no one imagine this; it is exactly what happened in the course of one night (only I do not remember which) in March, 1884.  And so, after hearing my friend’s tale, I went to the station-house, with the intention of proceeding thence to the Rzhanoff house to inquire more minutely into the history of the laundress.  The weather was very beautiful and sunny; and again, through the stars of the night-frost, water was to be seen trickling in the shade, and in the glare of the sun on Khamovnitchesky square every thing was melting, and the water was streaming.  The river emitted a humming noise.  The trees of the Neskutchny garden looked blue across the river; the reddish-brown sparrows, invisible in winter, attracted attention by their sprightliness; people also seemed desirous of being merry, but all of them had too many cares.  The sound of the bells was audible, and at the foundation of these mingling sounds, the sounds of shots could be heard from the barracks, the whistle of rifle-balls and their crack against the target.

I entered the station-house.  In the station some armed policemen conducted me to their chief.  He was similarly armed with sword and pistol, and he was engaged in taking some measures with regard to a tattered, trembling old man, who was standing before him, and who could not answer the questions put to him, on account of his feebleness.  Having finished his business with the old man, he turned to me.  I inquired about the girl of the night before.  At first he listened to me attentively, but afterwards he began to smile, at my ignorance of the regulations, in consequence of which she had been taken to the station-house; and particularly at my surprise at her youth.

“Why, there are plenty of them of twelve, thirteen, or fourteen years of age,” he said cheerfully.

But in answer to my question about the girl whom I had seen on the preceding evening, he explained to me that she must have been sent to the committee (so it appeared).  To my question where she had passed the night, he replied in an undecided manner.  He did not recall the one to whom I referred.  There were so many of them every day.

In No. 32 of the Rzhanoff house I found the sacristan already reading prayers over the dead woman.  They had taken her to the bunk which she had formerly occupied; and the lodgers, all miserable beings, had collected money for the masses for her soul, a coffin and a shroud, and the old women had dressed her and laid her out.  The sacristan was reading something in the gloom; a woman in a long wadded cloak was standing there with a wax candle; and a man (a gentleman, I must state) in a clean coat with a lamb’s-skin collar, polished overshoes, and a starched shirt, was holding one like it.  This was her brother.  They had hunted him up.

I went past the dead woman to the landlady’s nook, and questioned her about the whole business.

She was alarmed at my queries; she was evidently afraid that she would be blamed for something; but afterwards she began to talk freely, and told me every thing.  As I passed back, I glanced at the dead woman.  All dead people are handsome, but this dead woman was particularly beautiful and touching in her coffin; her pure, pale face, with closed swollen eyes, sunken cheeks, and soft reddish hair above the lofty brow,—a weary and kind and not a sad but a surprised face.  And in fact, if the living do not see, the dead are surprised.

On the same day that I wrote the above, there was a great ball in Moscow.

That night I left the house at nine o’clock.  I live in a locality which is surrounded by factories, and I left the house after the factory-whistles had sounded, releasing the people for a day of freedom after a week of unremitting toil.

Factory-hands overtook me, and I overtook others of them, directing their steps to the drinking-shops and taverns.  Many were already intoxicated, many were women.  Every morning at five o’clock we can hear one whistle, a second, a third, a tenth, and so forth, and so forth.  That means that the toil of women, children, and of old men has begun.  At eight o’clock another whistle, which signifies a breathing-spell of half an hour.  At twelve, a third: this means an hour for dinner.  And a fourth at eight, which denotes the end of the day.

By an odd coincidence, all three of the factories which are situated near me produce only articles which are in demand for balls.

In one factory, the nearest, only stockings are made; in another opposite, silken fabrics; in the third, perfumes and pomades.

It is possible to listen to these whistles, and connect no other idea with them than as denoting the time: “There’s the whistle already, it is time to go to walk.”  But one can also connect with those whistles that which they signify in reality; that first whistle, at five o’clock, means that people, often all without exception, both men and women, sleeping in a damp cellar, must rise, and hasten to that building buzzing with machines, and must take their places at their work, whose end and use for themselves they do not see, and thus toil, often in heat and a stifling atmosphere, in the midst of dirt, and with the very briefest breathing-spells, an hour, two hours, three hours, twelve, and even more hours in succession.  They fall into a doze, and again they rise.  And this, for them, senseless work, to which they are driven only by necessity, is continued over and over again.

And thus one week succeeds another with the breaks of holidays; and I see these work-people released on one of these holidays.  They emerge into the street.  Everywhere there are drinking-shops, taverns, and loose girls.  And they, in their drunken state, drag by the hand each other, and girls like the one whom I saw taken to the station-house; they drag with them cabmen, and they ride and they walk from one tavern to another; and they curse and stagger, and say they themselves know not what.  I had previously seen such unsteady gait on the part of factory-hands, and had turned aside in disgust, and had been on the point of rebuking them; but ever since I have been in the habit of hearing those whistles every day, and understand their meaning, I am only amazed that they, all the men, do not come to the condition of the “golden squad,” of which Moscow is full, [152a] [and the women to the state of the one whom I had seen near my house]. [152b]

Thus I walked along, and scrutinized these factory-hands, as long as they roamed the streets, which was until eleven o’clock.  Then their movements began to calm down.  Some drunken men remained here and there, and here and there I encountered men who were being taken to the station-house.  And then carriages began to make their appearance on all sides, directing their course toward one point.

On the box sits a coachman, sometimes in a sheepskin coat; and a footman, a dandy, with a cockade.  Well-fed horses in saddle-cloths fly through the frost at the rate of twenty versts an hour; in the carriages sit ladies muffled in round cloaks, and carefully tending their flowers and head-dresses.  Every thing from the horse-trappings, the carriages, the gutta-percha wheels, the cloth of the coachman’s coat, to the stockings, shoes, flowers, velvet, gloves, and perfumes,—every thing is made by those people, some of whom often roll drunk into their dens or sleeping-rooms, and some stay with disreputable women in the night-lodging houses, while still others are put in jail.  Thus past them in all their work, and over them all, ride the frequenters of balls; and it never enters their heads, that there is any connection between these balls to which they make ready to go, and these drunkards at whom their coachman shouts so roughly.

These people enjoy themselves at the ball with the utmost composure of spirit, and assurance that they are doing nothing wrong, but something very good.  Enjoy themselves!  Enjoy themselves from eleven o’clock until six in the morning, in the very dead of night, at the very hour when people are tossing and turning with empty stomachs in the night-lodging houses, and while some are dying, as did the laundress.

Their enjoyment consists in this,—that the women and young girls, having bared their necks and arms, and applied bustles behind, place themselves in a situation in which no uncorrupted woman or maiden would care to display herself to a man, on any consideration in the world; and in this half-naked condition, with their uncovered bosoms exposed to view, with arms bare to the shoulder, with a bustle behind and tightly swathed hips, under the most brilliant light, women and maidens, whose chief virtue has always been modesty, exhibit themselves in the midst of strange men, who are also clad in improperly tight-fitting garments; and to the sound of maddening music, they embrace and whirl.  Old women, often as naked as the young ones, sit and look on, and eat and drink savory things; old men do the same.  It is not to be wondered at that this should take place at night, when all the common people are asleep, so that no one may see them.  But this is not done with the object of concealment: it seems to them that there is nothing to conceal; that it is a very good thing; that by this merry-making, in which the labor of thousands of toiling people is destroyed, they not only do not injure any one, but that by this very act they furnish the poor with the means of subsistence.  Possibly it is very merry at balls.  But how does this come about?  When we see that there is a man in the community, in our midst, who has had no food, or who is freezing, we regret our mirth, and we cannot be cheerful until he is fed and warmed, not to mention the impossibility of imagining people who can indulge in such mirth as causes suffering to others.  The mirth of wicked little boys, who pitch a dog’s tail in a split stick, and make merry over it, is repulsive and incomprehensible to us.

In the same manner here, in these diversions of ours, blindness has fallen upon us, and we do not see the split stick with which we have pitched all those people who suffer for our amusement.

[We live as though there were no connection between the dying laundress, the prostitute of fourteen, and our own life; and yet the connection between them strikes us in the face.

We may say: “But we personally have not pinched any tail in a stick;” but we have no right, to deny that had the tail not been pitched, our merry-making would not have taken place.  We do not see what connection exists between the laundress and our luxury; but that is not because no such connection does exist, but because we have placed a screen in front of us, so that we may not see.

If there were no screen, we should see that which it is impossible not to see.] [154]

Surely all the women who attended that ball in dresses worth a hundred and fifty rubles each were born not in a ballroom, or at Madame Minanguoit’s; but they have lived in the country, and have seen the peasants; they know their own nurse and maid, whose father and brother are poor, for whom the earning of a hundred and fifty rubles for a cottage is the object of a long, laborious life.  Each woman knows this.   How could she enjoy herself, when she knew that she wore on her bared body at that ball the cottage which is the dream of her good maid’s father and brother?  But let us suppose that she could not make this reflection; but since velvet and silk and flowers and lace and dresses do not grow of themselves, but are made by people, it would seem that she could not help knowing what sort of people make all these things, and under what conditions, and why they do it.  She cannot fail to know that the seamstress, with whom she has already quarrelled, did not make her dress in the least out of love for her; therefore, she cannot help knowing that all these things were made for her as a matter of necessity, that her laces, flowers, and velvet have been made in the same way as her dress.

But possibly they are in such darkness that they do not consider this.  One thing she cannot fail to know,—that five or six elderly and respectable, often sick, lackeys and maids have had no sleep, and have been put to trouble on her account.  She has seen their weary, gloomy faces.  She could not help knowing this also, that the cold that night reached twenty-eight degrees below zero, [155] and that the old coachman sat all night long in that temperature on his box.  But I know that they really do not see this.  And if they, these young women and girls, do not see this, on account of the hypnotic state superinduced in them by balls, it is impossible to condemn them.  They, poor things, have done what is considered right by their elders; but how are their elders to explain away this their cruelty to the people?

The elders always offer the explanation: “I compel no one.  I purchase my things; I hire my men, my maid-servants, and my coachman.  There is nothing wrong in buying and hiring.  I force no one’s inclination: I hire, and what harm is there in that?”

I recently went to see an acquaintance.  As I passed through one of the rooms, I was surprised to see two women seated at a table, as I knew that my friend was a bachelor.  A thin, yellow, old-fashioned woman, thirty years of age, in a dress that had been carelessly thrown on, was doing something with her hands and fingers on the table, with great speed, trembling nervously the while, as though in a fit.  Opposite her sat a young girl, who was also engaged in something, and who trembled in the same manner.  Both women appeared to be afflicted with St. Vitus’ dance.  I stepped nearer to them, and looked to see what they were doing.  They raised their eyes to me, but went on with their work with the same intentness.  In front of them lay scattered tobacco and paper cases.  They were making cigarettes.  The woman rubbed the tobacco between her hands, pushed it into the machine, slipped on the cover, thrust the tobacco through, then tossed it to the girl.  The girl twisted the paper, and, making it fast, threw it aside, and took up another.  All thus was done with such swiftness, with such intentness, as it is impossible to describe to a man who has never seen it done.  I expressed my surprise at their quickness.

“I have been doing nothing else for fourteen years,” said the woman.

“Is it hard?”

“Yes: it pains my chest, and makes my breathing hard.”

It was not necessary for her to add this, however.  A look at the girl sufficed.  She had worked at this for three years, but any one who had not seen her at this occupation would have said that here was a strong organism which was beginning to break down.

My friend, a kind and liberal man, hires these women to fill his cigarettes at two rubles fifty kopeks the thousand.  He has money, and he spends it for work.  What harm is there in that?  My friend rises at twelve o’clock.  He passes the evening, from six until two, at cards, or at the piano.  He eats and drinks savory things; others do all his work for him.  He has devised a new source of pleasure,—smoking.  He has taken up smoking within my memory.

Here is a woman, and here is a girl, who can barely support themselves by turning themselves into machines, and they pass their whole lives inhaling tobacco, and thereby running their health.  He has money which he never earned, and he prefers to play at whist to making his own cigarettes.  He gives these women money on condition that they shall continue to live in the same wretched manner in which they are now living, that is to say, by making his cigarettes.

I love cleanliness, and I give money only on the condition that the laundress shall wash the shirt which I change twice a day; and that shirt has destroyed the laundress’s last remaining strength, and she has died.  What is there wrong about that?  People who buy and hire will continue to force other people to make velvet and confections, and will purchase them, without me; and no matter what I may do, they will hire cigarettes made and shirts washed.  Then why should I deprive myself of velvet and confections and cigarettes and clean shirts, if things are definitively settled thus?  This is the argument which I often, almost always, hear.  This is the very argument which makes the mob which is destroying something, lose its senses.  This is the very argument by which dogs are guided when one of them has flung himself on another dog, and overthrown him, and the rest of the pack rush up also, and tear their comrade in pieces.  Other people have begun it, and have wrought mischief; then why should not I take advantage of it?  Well, what will happen if I wear a soiled shirt, and make my own cigarettes?  Will that make it easier for anybody else? ask people who would like to justify their course.  If it were not so far from the truth, it would be a shame to answer such a question, but we have become so entangled that this question seems very natural to us; and hence, although it is a shame, it is necessary to reply to it.

What difference will it make if I wear one shirt a week, and make may own cigarettes, or do not smoke at all?  This difference, that some laundress and some cigarette-maker will exert their strength less, and that what I have spent for washing and for the making of cigarettes I can give to that very laundress, or even to other laundresses and toilers who are worn out with their labor, and who, instead of laboring beyond their strength, will then be able to rest, and drink tea.  But to this I hear an objection.  (It is so mortifying to rich and luxurious people to understand their position.)  To this they say: “If I go about in a dirty shirt, and give up smoking, and hand over this money to the poor, the poor will still be deprived of every thing, and that drop in the sea of yours will help not at all.”

Such an objection it is a shame to answer.  It is such a common retort. [158]

If I had gone among savages, and they had regaled me with cutlets which struck me as savory, and if I should learn on the following day that these savory cutlets had been made from a prisoner whom they had slain for the sake of the savory cutlets, if I do not admit that it is a good thing to eat men, then, no matter how dainty the cutlets, no matter how universal the practice of eating men may be among my fellows, however insignificant the advantage to prisoners, prepared for consumption, may be my refusal to eat of the cutlets, I will not and I can not eat any more of them.  I may, possibly, eat human flesh, when hunger compels me to it; but I will not make a feast, and I will not take part in feasts, of human flesh, and I will not seek out such feasts, and pride myself on my share in them.


But what is to be done?  Surely it is not we who have done this?  And if not we, who then?

We say: “We have not done this, this has done itself;” as the children say, when they break any thing, that it broke itself.  We say, that, so long as there is a city already in existence, we, by living in it, support the people, by purchasing their labor and services.  But this is not so.  And this is why.  We only need to look ourselves, at the way we have in the country, and at the manner in which we support people there.

The winter passes in town.  Easter Week passes.  On the boulevards, in the gardens in the parks, on the river, there is music.  There are theatres, water-trips, walks, all sorts of illuminations and fireworks.  But in the country there is something even better,—there are better air, trees and meadows, and the flowers are fresher.  One should go thither where all these things have unfolded and blossomed forth.  And the majority of wealthy people do go to the country to breathe the superior air, to survey these superior forests and meadows.  And there the wealthy settle down in the country, and the gray peasants, who nourish themselves on bread and onions, who toil eighteen hours a day, who get no sound sleep by night, and who are clad in blouses.  Here no one has led these people astray.  There have been no factories nor industrial establishments, and there are none of those idle hands, of which there are so many in the city.  Here the whole population never succeeds, all summer long, in completing all their tasks in season; and not only are there no idle hands, but a vast quantity of property is ruined for the lack of hands, and a throng of people, children, old men, and women, will perish through overstraining their powers in work which is beyond their strength.  How do the rich order their lives there?  In this fashion:—

If there is an old-fashioned house, built under the serf régime, that house is repaired and embellished; if there is none, then a new one is erected, of two or three stories.  The rooms, of which there are from twelve to twenty, and even more, are all six arshins in height. [161a]  Wood floors are laid down.  The windows consist of one sheet of glass.  There are rich rugs and costly furniture.  The roads around the house are macadamized, the ground is levelled, flower-beds are laid out, croquet-grounds are prepared, swinging-rings for gymnastics are erected, reflecting globes, often orangeries, and hotbeds, and lofty stables always with complicated scroll-work on the gables and ridges.

And here, in the country, an honest educated official, or noble family dwells.  All the members of the family and their guests have assembled in the middle of June, because up to June, that is to say, up to the beginning of mowing-time, they have been studying and undergoing examinations; and they live there until September, that is to say, until harvest and sowing-time.  The members of this family (as is the case with nearly every one in that circle) have lived in the country from the beginning of the press of work, the suffering time, not until the end of the season of toil (for in September sowing is still in progress, as well as the digging of potatoes), but until the strain of work has relaxed a little.  During the whole of their residence in the country, all around them and beside them, that summer toil of the peasantry has been going on, of whose fatigues, no matter how much we may have heard, no matter how much we may have heard about it, no matter how much we may have gazed upon it, we can form no idea, unless we have had personal experience of it.  And the members of this family, about ten in number, live exactly as they do in the city.

At St. Peter’s Day, [161b] a strict fast, when the people’s food consists of kvas, bread, and onions, the mowing begins.

The business which is effected in mowing is one of the most important in the commune.  Nearly every year, through the lack of hands and time, the hay crop may be lost by rain; and more or less strain of toil decides the question, as to whether twenty or more per cent of hay is to be added to the wealth of the people, or whether it is to rot or die where it stands.  And additional hay means additional meat for the old, and additional milk for the children.  Thus, in general and in particular, the question of bread for each one of the mowers, and of milk for himself and his children, in the ensuing winter, is then decided.  Every one of the toilers, both male and female, knows this; even the children know that this is an important matter, and that it is necessary to strain every nerve to carry the jug of kvas to their father in the meadow at his mowing, and, shifting the heavy pitcher from hand to hand, to run barefooted as rapidly as possible, two versts from the village, in order to get there in season for dinner, and so that their fathers may not scold them.

Every one knows, that, from the mowing season until the hay is got in, there will be no break in the work, and that there will be no time to breathe.  And there is not the mowing alone.  Every one of them has other affairs to attend to besides the mowing: the ground must be turned up and harrowed; and the women have linen and bread and washing to attend to; and the peasants have to go to the mill, and to town, and there are communal matters to attend to, and legal matters before the judge and the commissary of police; and the wagons to see to, and the horses to feed at night: and all, old and young, and sickly, labor to the last extent of their powers.  The peasants toil so, that on every occasion, the mowers, before the end of the third stint, whether weak, young, or old, can hardly walk as they totter past the last rows, and only with difficulty are they able to rise after the breathing-spell; and the women, often pregnant, or nursing infants, work in the same way.  The toil is intense and incessant.  All work to the extreme bounds of their strength, and expend in this toil, not only the entire stock of their scanty nourishment, but all their previous stock.  All of them—and they are not fat to begin with—grow gaunt after the “suffering” season.

Here a little association is working at the mowing; three peasants,—one an old man, the second his nephew, a young married man, and a shoemaker, a thin, sinewy man.  This hay-harvest will decide the fate of all of them for the winter.  They have been laboring incessantly for two weeks, without rest.  The rain has delayed their work.  After the rain, when the hay has dried, they have decided to stack it, and, in order to accomplish this as speedily as possible, that two women for each of them shall follow their scythes.  On the part of the old man go his wife, a woman of fifty, who has become unfit for work, having borne eleven children, who is deaf, but still a tolerably stout worker; and a thirteen-year-old daughter, who is short of stature, but a strong and clever girl.  On the part of his nephew go his wife, a woman as strong and well-grown as a sturdy peasant, and his daughter-in-law, a soldier’s wife, who is about to become a mother.  On the part of the shoemaker go his wife, a stout laborer, and her aged mother, who has reached her eightieth year, and who generally goes begging.  They all stand in line, and labor from morning till night, in the full fervor of the June sun.  It is steaming hot, and rain threatens.  Every hour of work is precious.  It is a pity to tear one’s self from work to fetch water or kvas.  A tiny boy, the old woman’s grandson, brings them water.  The old woman, evidently only anxious lest she shall be driven away from her work, will not let the rake out of her hand, though it is evident that she can barely move, and only with difficulty.  The little boy, all bent over, and stepping gently, with his tiny bare feet, drags along a jug of water, shifting it from hand to hand, for it is heavier than he.  The young girl flings over her shoulder a load of hay which is also heavier than herself, advances a few steps, halts, and drops it, without the strength to carry it.  The old woman of fifty rakes away without stopping, and with her kerchief awry she drags the hay, breathing heavily and tottering.  The old woman of eighty only rakes the hay, but even this is beyond her strength; she slowly drags along her feet, shod with bast shoes, and, frowning, she gazes gloomily before her, like a seriously ill or dying person.  The old man has intentionally sent her farther away than the rest, to rake near the cocks of hay, so that she may not keep in line with the others; but she does not fall in with this arrangement, and she toils on as long as the others do, with the same death-like, gloomy countenance.  The sun is already setting behind the forest; but the cocks are not yet all heaped together, and much still remains to do.  All feel that it is time to stop, but no one speaks, waiting until the others shall say it.  Finally the shoemaker, conscious that his strength is exhausted, proposes to the old man, to leave the cocks until the morrow; and the old man consents, and the women instantly run for the garments, jugs, pitchforks; and the old woman immediately sits down just where she has been standings and then lies back with the same death-like look, staring straight in front of her.  But the women are going; and she rises with a groan, and drags herself after them.  And this will go on in July also, when the peasants, without obtaining sufficient sleep, reap the oats by night, lest it should fall, and the women rise gloomily to thresh out the straw for the bands to tie the sheaves; when this old woman, already utterly cramped by the labor of mowing, and the woman with child, and the young children, injure themselves overworking and over-drinking; and when neither hands, nor horses, nor carts will suffice to bring to the ricks that grain with which all men are nourished, and millions of poods [165] of which are daily required in Russia to keep people from perishing.

And we live as though there were no connection between the dying laundress, the prostitute of fourteen years, the toilsome manufacture of cigarettes by women, the strained, intolerable, insufficiently fed toil of old women and children around us; we live as though there were no connection between this and our own lives.

It seems to us, that suffering stands apart by itself, and our life apart by itself.  We read the description of the life of the Romans, and we marvel at the inhumanity of those soulless Luculli, who satiated themselves on viands and wines while the populace were dying with hunger.  We shake our heads, and we marvel at the savagery of our grandfathers, who were serf-owners, supporters of household orchestras and theatres, and of whole villages devoted to the care of their gardens; and we wonder, from the heights of our grandeur, at their inhumanity.  We read the words of Isa. v. 8: “Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth!  (11.) Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them!  (12.) And the harp and the viol, and tabret and pipe, and wine are in their feasts; but they regard not the work of the Lord, neither consider the operation of his hands.  (18.) Woe unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart-rope.  (20.) Woe unto then that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! (21.) Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight—(22.) Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink.”

We read these words, and it seems to us that this has no reference to us.  We read in the Gospels (Matt. iii. 10): “And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire.”

And we are fully convinced that the good tree which bringeth forth good fruit is ourselves; and that these words are not spoken to us, but to some other and wicked people.

We read the words of Isa. vi. 10: “Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert and be healed.  (11.) Then said I: Lord, how long?  And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate.”

We read, and are fully convinced that this marvellous deed is not performed on us, but on some other people.  And because we see nothing it is, that this marvellous deed is performed, and has been performed, on us.  We hear not, we see not, and we understand not with our heart.  How has this happened?

Whether that God, or that natural law by virtue of which men exist in the world, has acted well or ill, yet the position of men in the world, ever since we have known it, has been such, that naked people, without any hair on their bodies, without lairs in which they could shelter themselves, without food which they could find in the fields,—like Robinson [167] on his island,—have all been reduced to the necessity of constantly and unweariedly contending with nature in order to cover their bodies, to make themselves clothing, to construct a roof over their heads, and to earn their bread, that two or three times a day they may satisfy their hunger and the hunger of their helpless children and of their old people who cannot work.

Wherever, at whatever time, in whatever numbers we may have observed people, whether in Europe, in America, in China, or in Russia, whether we regard all humanity, or any small portion of it, in ancient times, in a nomad state, or in our own times, with steam-engines and sewing-machines, perfected agriculture, and electric lighting, we behold always one and the same thing,—that man, toiling intensely and incessantly, is not able to earn for himself and his little ones and his old people clothing, shelter, and food; and that a considerable portion of mankind, as in former times, so at the present day, perish through insufficiency of the necessaries of life, and intolerable toil in the effort to obtain them.

Wherever we have, if we draw a circle round us of a hundred thousand, a thousand, or ten versts, or of one verst, and examine into the lives of the people comprehended within the limits of our circle, we shall see within that circle prematurely-born children, old men, old women, women in labor, sick and weak persons, who toil beyond their strength, and who have not sufficient food and rest for life, and who therefore die before their time.  We shall see people in the flower of their age actually slain by dangerous and injurious work.

We see that people have been struggling, ever since the world has endured, with fearful effort, privation, and suffering, against this universal want, and that they cannot overcome it . . . [168]



. . . [169] The justification of all persons who have freed themselves from toil is now founded on experimental, positive science.  The scientific theory is as follows:—

“For the study of the laws of life of human societies, there exists but one indubitable method,—the positive, experimental, critical method

“Only sociology, founded on biology, founded on all the positive sciences, can give us the laws of humanity.  Humanity, or human communities, are the organisms already prepared, or still in process of formation, and which are subservient to all the laws of the evolution of organisms.

“One of the chief of these laws is the variation of destination among the portions of the organs.  Some people command, others obey.  If some have in superabundance, and others in want, this arises not from the will of God, not because the empire is a form of manifestation of personality, but because in societies, as in organisms, division of labor becomes indispensable for life as a whole.  Some people perform the muscular labor in societies; others, the mental labor.”

Upon this doctrine is founded the prevailing justification of our time.

Not long ago, their reigned in the learned, cultivated world, a moral philosophy, according to which it appeared that every thing which exists is reasonable; that there is no such thing as evil or good; and that it is unnecessary for man to war against evil, but that it is only necessary for him to display intelligence,—one man in the military service, another in the judicial, another on the violin.  There have been many and varied expressions of human wisdom, and these phenomena were known to the men of the nineteenth century.  The wisdom of Rousseau and of Lessing, and Spinoza and Bruno, and all the wisdom of antiquity; but no one man’s wisdom overrode the crowd.  It was impossible to say even this,—that Hegel’s success was the result of the symmetry of this theory.  There were other equally symmetrical theories,—those of Descartes, Leibnitz, Fichte, Schopenhauer.  There was but one reason why this doctrine won for itself, for a season, the belief of the whole world; and this reason was, that the deductions of that philosophy winked at people’s weaknesses.  These deductions were summed up in this,—that every thing was reasonable, every thing good; and that no one was to blame.

When I began my career, Hegelianism was the foundation of every thing.  It was floating in the air; it was expressed in newspaper and periodical articles, in historical and judicial lectures, in novels, in treatises, in art, in sermons, in conversation.  The man who was not acquainted with Hegal had no right to speak.  Any one who desired to understand the truth studied Hegel.  Every thing rested on him.  And all at once the forties passed, and there was nothing left of him.  There was not even a hint of him, any more than if he had never existed.  And the most amazing thing of all was, that Hegelianism did not fall because some one overthrew it or destroyed it.  No!  It was the same then as now, but all at once it appeared that it was of no use whatever to the learned and cultivated world.

There was a time when the Hegelian wise men triumphantly instructed the masses; and the crowd, understanding nothing, blindly believed in every thing, finding confirmation in the fact that it was on hand; and they believed that what seemed to them muddy and contradictory there on the heights of philosophy was all as clear as the day.  But that time has gone by.  That theory is worn out: a new theory has presented itself in its stead.  The old one has become useless; and the crowd has looked into the secret sanctuaries of the high priests, and has seen that there is nothing there, and that there has been nothing there, save very obscure and senseless words.  This has taken place within my memory.

“But this arises,” people of the present science will say, “from the fact that all that was the raving of the theological and metaphysical period; but now there exists positive, critical science, which does not deceive, since it is all founded on induction and experiment.  Now our erections are not shaky, as they formerly were, and only in our path lies the solution of all the problems of humanity.”

But the old teachers said precisely the same, and they were no fools; and we know that there were people of great intelligence among them.  And precisely thus, within my memory, and with no less confidence, with no less recognition on the part of the crowd of so-called cultivated people, spoke the Hegelians.  And neither were our Herzens, our Stankevitches, or our Byelinskys fools.  But whence arose that marvellous manifestation, that sensible people should preach with the greatest assurance, and that the crowd should accept with devotion, such unfounded and unsupportable teachings?  There is but one reason,—that the teachings thus inculcated justified people in their evil life.

A very poor English writer, whose works are all forgotten, and recognized as the most insignificant of the insignificant, writes a treatise on population, in which he devises a fictitious law concerning the increase of population disproportionate to the means of subsistence.  This fictitious law, this writer encompasses with mathematical formulæ founded on nothing whatever; and then he launches it on the world.  From the frivolity and the stupidity of this hypothesis, one would suppose that it would not attract the attention of any one, and that it would sink into oblivion, like all the works of the same author which followed it; but it turned out quite otherwise.  The hack-writer who penned this treatise instantly becomes a scientific authority, and maintains himself upon that height for nearly half a century.  Malthus!  The Malthusian theory,—the law of the increase of the population in geometrical, and of the means of subsistence in arithmetical proportion, and the wise and natural means of restricting the population,—all these have become scientific, indubitable truths, which have not been confirmed, but which have been employed as axioms, for the erection of false theories.  In this manner have learned and cultivated people proceeded; and among the herd of idle persons, there sprung up a pious trust in the great laws expounded by Malthus.  How did this come to pass?  It would seem as though they were scientific deductions, which had nothing in common with the instincts of the masses.  But this can only appear so for the man who believes that science, like the Church, is something self-contained, liable to no errors, and not simply the imaginings of weak and erring folk, who merely substitute the imposing word “science,” in place of the thoughts and words of the people, for the sake of impressiveness.

All that was necessary was to make practical deductions from the theory of Malthus, in order to perceive that this theory was of the most human sort, with the best defined of objects.  The deductions directly arising from this theory were the following: The wretched condition of the laboring classes was such in accordance with an unalterable law, which does not depend upon men; and, if any one is to blame in this matter, it is the hungry laboring classes themselves.  Why are they such fools as to give birth to children, when they know that there will be nothing for the children to eat?  And so this deduction, which is valuable for the herd of idle people, has had this result: that all learned men overlooked the incorrectness, the utter arbitrariness of these deductions, and their insusceptibility to proof; and the throng of cultivated, i.e., of idle people, knowing instinctively to what these deductions lead, saluted this theory with enthusiasm, conferred upon it the stamp of truth, i.e., of science, and dragged it about with them for half a century.

Is not this same thing the cause of the confidence of men in positive critical-experimental science, and of the devout attitude of the crowd towards that which it preaches?  At first it seems strange, that the theory of evolution can in any manner justify people in their evil ways; and it seems as though the scientific theory of evolution has to deal only with facts, and that it does nothing else but observe facts.

But this only appears to be the case.

Exactly the same thing appeared to be the case with the Hegelian doctrine, in a greater degree, and also in the special instance of the Malthusian doctrine.  Hegelianism was, apparently, occupied only with its logical constructions, and bore no relation to the life of mankind.  Precisely this seemed to be the case with the Malthusian theory.  It appeared to be busy itself only with statistical data.  But this was only in appearance.

Contemporary science is also occupied with facts alone: it investigates facts.  But what facts?  Why precisely these facts, and no others?

The men of contemporary science are very fond of saying, triumphantly and confidently, “We investigate only facts,” imagining that these words contain some meaning.  It is impossible to investigate facts alone, because the facts which are subject to our investigation are innumerable (in the definite sense of that word),—innumerable.  Before we proceed to investigate facts, we must have a theory on the foundation of which these or those facts can be inquired into, i.e., selected from the incalculable quantity.

And this theory exists, and is even very definitely expressed, although many of the workers in contemporary science do not know it, or often pretend that they do not know it.  Exactly thus has it always been with all prevailing and guiding doctrines.  The foundations of every doctrine are always stated in a theory, and the so-called learned men merely invent further deductions from the foundations once stated.  Thus contemporary science is selecting its facts on the foundation of a very definite theory, which it sometimes knows, sometimes refuses to know, and sometimes really does not know; but the theory exists.

The theory is as follows: All mankind is an undying organism; men are the particles of that organism, and each one of them has his own special task for the service of others.  In the same manner, the cells united in an organism share among them the labor of fight for existence of the whole organism; they magnify the power of one capacity, and weaken another, and unite in one organ, in order the better to supply the requirements of the whole organism.  And exactly in the same manner as with gregarious animals,—ants or bees,—the separate individuals divide the labor among them.  The queen lays the egg, the drone fructifies it; the bee works his whole life long.  And precisely this thing takes place in mankind and in human societies.  And therefore, in order to find the law of life for man, it is necessary to study the laws of the life and the development of organisms.

In the life and development of organisms, we find the following laws: the law of differentiation and integration, the law that every phenomenon is accompanied not by direct consequences alone, another law regarding the instability of type, and so on.  All this seems very innocent; but it is only necessary to draw the deductions from all these laws, in order to immediately perceive that these laws incline in the same direction as the law of Malthus.  These laws all point to one thing; namely, to the recognition of that division of labor which exists in human communities, as organic, that is to say, as indispensable.  And therefore, the unjust position in which we, the people who have freed ourselves from labor, find ourselves, must be regarded not from the point of view of common-sense and justice, but merely as an undoubted fact, confirming the universal law.

Moral philosophy also justified every sort of cruelty and harshness; but this resulted in a philosophical manner, and therefore wrongly.  But with science, all this results scientifically, and therefore in a manner not to be doubted.

How can we fail to accept so very beautiful a theory?  It is merely necessary to look upon human society as an object of contemplation; and I can console myself with the thought that my activity, whatever may be its nature, is a functional activity of the organism of humanity, and that therefore there cannot arise any question as to whether it is just that I, in employing the labor of others, am doing only that which is agreeable to me, as there can arise no question as to the division of labor between the brain cells and the muscular cells.  How is it possible not to admit so very beautiful a theory, in order that one may be able, ever after, to pocket one’s conscience, and have a perfectly unbridled animal existence, feeling beneath one’s self that support of science which is not to be shaken nowadays!

And it is on this new doctrine that the justification for men’s idleness and cruelty is now founded.


This doctrine had its rise not so very long—fifty years—ago.  Its principal founder was the French savant Comte.  There occurred to Comte,—a systematist, and a religious man to boot,—under the influence of the then novel physiological investigations of Biche, the old idea already set forth by Menenius Agrippa,—the idea that human society, all humanity even, might be regarded as one whole, as an organism; and men as living parts of the separate organs, having each his own definite appointment to serve the entire organism.

This idea so pleased Comte, that upon it he began to erect a philosophical theory; and this theory so carried him away, that he utterly forgot that the point of departure for his theory was nothing more than a very pretty comparison, which was suitable for a fable, but which could by no means serve as the foundation for science.  He, as frequently happens, mistook his pet hypothesis for an axiom, and imagined that his whole theory was erected on the very firmest of foundations.  According to his theory, it seemed that since humanity is an organism, the knowledge of what man is, and of what should be his relations to the world, was possible only through a knowledge of the features of this organism.  For the knowledge of these qualities, man is enabled to take observations on other and lower organisms, and to draw conclusions from their life.  Therefore, in the fist place, the true and only method, according to Comte, is the inductive, and all science is only such when it has experiment as its basis; in the second place, the goal and crown of sciences is formed by that new science dealing with the imaginary organism of humanity, or the super-organic being,—humanity,—and this newly devised science is sociology.

And from this view of science it appears, that all previous knowledge was deceitful, and that the whole story of humanity, in the sense of self-knowledge, has been divided into three, actually into two, periods: the theological and metaphysical period, extending from the beginning of the world to Comte, and the present period,—that of the only true science, positive science,—beginning with Comte.

All this was very well.  There was but one error, and that was this,—that the whole edifice was erected on the sand, on the arbitrary and false assertion that humanity is an organism.  This assertion was arbitrary, because we have just as much right to admit the existence of a human organism, not subject to observation, as we have to admit the existence of any other invisible, fantastic being.  This assertion was erroneous, because for the understanding of humanity, i.e., of men, the definition of an organism was incorrectly constructed, while in humanity itself all actual signs of organism,—the centre of feeling or consciousness, are lacking. [178]

But, in spite of the arbitrariness and incorrectness of the fundamental assumption of positive philosophy, it was accepted by the so-called cultivated world with the greatest sympathy.  In this connection, one thing is worthy of note: that out of the works of Comte, consisting of two parts, of positive philosophy and of positive politics, only the first was adopted by the learned world,—that part which justifieth, on new promises, the existent evil of human societies; but the second part, treating of the moral obligations of altruism, arising from the recognition of mankind as an organism, was regarded as not only of no importance, but as trivial and unscientific.  It was a repetition of the same thing that had happened in the case of Kant’s works.  The “Critique of Pure Reason” was adopted by the scientific crowd; but the “Critique of Applied Reason,” that part which contains the gist of moral doctrine, was repudiated.  In Kant’s doctrine, that was accepted as scientific which subserved the existent evil.  But the positive philosophy, which was accepted by the crowd, was founded on an arbitrary and erroneous basis, was in itself too unfounded, and therefore unsteady, and could not support itself alone.  And so, amid all the multitude of the idle plays of thought of the men professing the so-called science, there presents itself an assertion equally devoid of novelty, and equally arbitrary and erroneous, to the effect that living beings, i.e., organisms, have had their rise in each other,—not only one organism from another, but one from many; i.e., that in a very long interval of time (in a million of years, for instance), not only could a duck and a fish proceed from one ancestor, but that one animal might result from a whole hive of bees.  And this arbitrary and erroneous assumption was accepted by the learned world with still greater and more universal sympathy.  This assumption was arbitrary, because no one has ever seen how one organism is made from another, and therefore the hypothesis as to the origin of species will always remain an hypothesis, and not an experimental fact.   And this hypothesis was also erroneous, because the decision of the question as to the origin of species—that they have originated, in consequence of the law of heredity and fitness, in the course of an interminably long time—is no solution at all, but merely a re-statement of the problem in a new form.

According to Moses’ solution of the question (in the dispute with whom the entire significance of this theory lies), it appears that the diversity of the species of living creatures proceeded according to the will of God, and according to His almighty power; but according to the theory of evolution, it appears that the difference between living creatures arose by chance, and on account of varying conditions of heredity and surroundings, through an endless period of time.  The theory of evolution, to speak in simple language, merely asserts, that by chance, in an incalculably long period of time, out of any thing you like, any thing else that you like may develop.

This is no answer to the problem.  And the same problem is differently expressed: instead of will, chance is offered, and the co-efficient of the eternal is transposed from the power to the time.  But this fresh assertion strengthened Comte’s assertion.  And, moreover, according to the ingenuous confession of the founder of Darwin’s theory himself, his idea was aroused in him by the law of Malthus; and he therefore propounded the theory of the struggle of living creatures and people for existence, as the fundamental law of every living thing.  And lo! only this was needed by the throng of idle people for their justification.

Two insecure theories, incapable of sustaining themselves on their feet, upheld each other, and acquired the semblance of stability.  Both theories bore with them that idea which is precious to the crowd, that in the existent evil of human societies, men are not to blame, and that the existing order of things is that which should prevail; and the new theory was adopted by the throng with entire faith and unheard-of enthusiasm.  And behold, on the strength of these two arbitrary and erroneous hypotheses, accepted as dogmas of belief, the new scientific doctrine was ratified.

Spencer, for example, in one of his first works, expresses this doctrine thus:—

“Societies and organisms,” he says, “are alike in the following points:—

“1.  In that, beginning as tiny aggregates, they imperceptibly grow in mass, so that some of them attain to the size of ten thousand times their original bulk.

“2.  In that while they were, in the beginning, of such simple structure, that they can be regarded as destitute of all structure, they acquire during the period of their growth a constantly increasing complication of structure.

“3.  In that although in their early, undeveloped period, there exists between them hardly any interdependence of parts, their parts gradually acquire an interdependence, which eventually becomes so strong, that the life and activity of each part becomes possible only on condition of the life and activity of the remaining parts.

“4.  In that life and the development of society are independent, and more protracted than the life and development of any one of the units constituting it, which are born, grow, act, reproduce themselves, and die separately; while the political body formed from them, continues to live generation after generation, developing in mass in perfection and functional activity.”

The points of difference between organisms and society go farther; and it is proved that these differences are merely apparent, but that organisms and societies are absolutely similar.

For the uninitiated man the question immediately presents itself: “What are you talking about?  Why is mankind an organism, or similar to an organism?”

You say that societies resemble organisms in these four features; but it is nothing of the sort.  You only take a few features of the organism, and beneath them you range human communities.  You bring forward four features of resemblance, then you take four features of dissimilarity, which are, however, only apparent (according to you); and you thence conclude that human societies can be regarded as organisms.  But surely, this is an empty game of dialectics, and nothing more.  On the same foundation, under the features of an organism, you may range whatever you please.  I will take the fist thing that comes into my head.  Let us suppose it to be a forest,—the manner in which it sows itself in the plain, and spreads abroad.  1. Beginning with a small aggregate, it increases imperceptibly in mass, and so forth.  Exactly the same thing takes place in the fields, when they gradually seed themselves down, and bring forth a forest.  2. In the beginning the structure is simple: afterwards it increases in complication, and so forth.  Exactly the same thing happens with the forest,—in the first place, there were only bitch-trees, then came brush-wood and hazel-bushes; at first all grow erect, then they interlace their branches.  3. The interdependence of the parts is so augmented, that the life of each part depends on the life and activity of the remaining parts.  It is precisely so with the forest,—the hazel-bush warms the tree-boles (cut it down, and the other trees will freeze), the hazel-bush protects from the wind, the seed-bearing trees carry on reproduction, the tall and leafy trees afford shade, and the life of one tree depends on the life of another.  4. The separate parts may die, but the whole lives.  Exactly the case with the forest.  The forest does not mourn one tree.

Having proved that, in accordance with this theory, you may regard the forest as an organism, you fancy that you have proved to the disciples of the organic doctrine the error of their definition.  Nothing of the sort.  The definition which they give to the organism is so inaccurate and so elastic that under this definition they may include what they will.  “Yes,” they say; “and the forest may also be regarded as an organism.  The forest is mutual re-action of individuals, which do not annihilate each other,—an aggregate; its parts may also enter into a more intimate union, as the hive of bees constitutes itself an organism.”  Then you will say, “If that is so, then the birds and the insects and the grass of this forest, which re-act upon each other, and do not destroy each other, may also be regarded as one organism, in company with the trees.”  And to this also they will agree.  Every collection of living individuals, which re-act upon each other, and do not destroy each other, may be regarded as organisms, according to their theory.  You may affirm a connection and interaction between whatever you choose, and, according to evolution, you may affirm, that, out of whatever you please, any other thing that you please may proceed, in a very long period of time.

And the most remarkable thing of all is, that this same identical positive science recognizes the scientific method as the sign of true knowledge, and has itself defined what it designates as the scientific method.

By the scientific method it means common-sense.

And common-sense convicts it at every step.  As soon as the Popes felt that nothing holy remained in them, they called themselves most holy.

As soon as science felt that no common-sense was left in her she called herself sensible, that is to say, scientific science.


Division of labor is the law of all existing things, and, therefore, it should be present in human societies.  It is very possible that this is so; but still the question remains, Of what nature is that division of labor which I behold in my human society? is it that division of labor which should exist?  And if people regard a certain division of labor as unreasonable and unjust, then no science whatever can convince men that that should exist which they regard as unreasonable and unjust.

Division of labor is the condition of existence of organisms, and of human societies; but what, in these human societies, is to be regarded as an organic division of labor?  And, to whatever extent science may have investigated the division of labor in the cells of worms, all these observations do not compel a man to acknowledge that division of labor to be correct which his own sense and conscience do not recognize as correct.  No matter how convincing may be the proofs of the division of labor of the cells in the organisms studied, man, if he has not parted with his judgment, will say, nevertheless, that a man should not weave calico all his life, and that this is not division of labor, but persecution of the people.  Spencer and others say that there is a whole community of weavers, and that the profession of weaving is an organic division of labor.  There are weavers; so, of course, there is such a division of labor.  It would be well enough to speak thus if the colony of weavers had arisen by the free will of its member’s; but we know that it is not thus formed of their initiative, but that we make it.  Hence it is necessary to find out whether we have made these weavers in accordance with an organic law, or with some other.

Men live.  They support themselves by agriculture, as is natural to all men.  One man has set up a blacksmith’s forge, and repaired his plough; his neighbor comes to him, and asks him to mend his also, and promises him in return either work or money.  A third comes, and a fourth; and in the community formed by these men, there arises the following division of labor,—a blacksmith is created.  Another man has instructed his children well; his neighbor brings his children to him, and requests him to teach them also, and a teacher is created.  But both blacksmith and teacher have been created, and continue to be such, merely because they have been asked; and they remain such as long as they are requested to be blacksmith and teacher.  If it should come to pass that many blacksmiths and teachers should set themselves up, or that their work is not requited, they will immediately, as common-sense demands and as always happens when there is no occasion for disturbing the regular course of division of labor,—they will immediately abandon their trade, and betake themselves once more to agriculture.

Men who behave thus are guided by their sense, their conscience; and hence we, the men endowed with sense and conscience, all assert that such a division of labor is right.  But if it should chance that the blacksmiths were able to compel other people to work for them, and should continue to make horse-shoes when they were not wanted, and if the teachers should go on teaching when there was no one to teach, then it is obvious to every sane man, as a man, i.e., as a being endowed with reason and conscience, that this would not be division, but appropriation, of labor.  And yet precisely that sort of activity is what is called division of labor by scientific science.  People do that which others do not think of requiring, and demand that they shall be supported for so doing, and say that this is just because it is division of labor.

That which constitutes the cause of the economical poverty of our age is what the English call over-production (which means that a mass of things are made which are of no use to anybody, and with which nothing can be done).

It would be odd to see a shoemaker, who should consider that people were bound to feed him because he incessantly made boots which had been of no use to any one for a long time; but what shall we say of those men who make nothing,—who not only produce nothing that is visible, but nothing that is of use for people at large,—for whose wares there are no customers, and who yet demand, with the same boldness, on the ground of division of labor, that they shall be supplied with fine food and drink, and that they shall be dressed well?  There may be, and there are, sorcerers for whose services a demand makes itself felt, and for this purpose there are brought to them pancakes and flasks; but it is difficult to imagine the existence of sorcerers whose spells are useless to every one, and who boldly demand that they shall be luxuriously supported because they exercise sorcery.  And it is the same in our world.  And all this comes about on the basis of that false conception of the division of labor, which is defined not by reason and conscience, but by observation, which men of science avow with such unanimity.

Division of labor has, in reality, always existed, and still exists; but it is right only when man decides with his reason and his conscience that it should be so, and not when he merely investigates it.  And reason and conscience decide the question for all men very simply, unanimously, and in a manner not to be doubted.  They always decide it thus: that division of labor is right only when a special branch of man’s activity is so needful to men, that they, entreating him to serve them, voluntarily propose to support him in requital for that which he shall do for them.  But, when a man can live from infancy to the age of thirty years on the necks of others, promising to do, when he shall have been taught, something extremely useful, for which no one asks him; and when, from the age of thirty until his death, he can live in the same manner, still merely on the promise to do something, for which there has been no request, this will not be division of labor (and, as a matter of fact, there is no such thing in our society), but it will be what it already is,—merely the appropriation, by force, of the toil of others; that same appropriation by force of the toil of others which the philosophers formerly designated by various names,—for instance, as indispensable forms of life,—but which scientific science now calls the organic division of labor.

The whole significance of scientific science lies in this alone.  It has now become a distributer of diplomas for idleness; for it alone, in its sanctuaries, selects and determines what is parasitical, and what is organic activity, in the social organism.  Just as though every man could not find this out for himself much more accurately and more speedily, by taking counsel of his reason and his conscience.  It seems to men of scientific science, that there can be no doubt of this, and that their activity is also indubitably organic; they, the scientific and artistic workers, are the brain cells, and the most precious cells in the whole organism.

Ever since men—reasoning beings—have existed, they have distinguished good from evil, and have profited by the fact that men have made this distinction before them; they have warred against evil, and have sought the good, and have slowly but uninterruptedly advanced in that path.  And divers delusions have always stood before men, hemming in this path, and having for their object to demonstrate to them, that it was not necessary to do this, and that it was not necessary to live as they were living.  With fearful conflict and difficulty, men have freed themselves from many delusions.  And behold, a new and a still more evil delusion has sprung up in the path of mankind,—the scientific delusion.

This new delusion is precisely the same in nature as the old ones; its gist lies in secretly leading astray the activity of our reason and conscience, and of those who have lived before us, by something external.  In scientific science, this external thing is—investigation.

The cunning of this science consists in this,—that, after pointing out to men the coarsest false interpretations of the activity of the reason and conscience of man, it destroys in them faith in their own reason and conscience, and assures them that every thing which their reason and conscience say to them, that all that these have said to the loftiest representatives of man heretofore, ever since the world has existed,—that all this is conventional and subjective.  “All this must be abandoned,” they say; “it is impossible to understand the truth by the reason, for we may be mistaken.  But there exists another unerring and almost mechanical path: it is necessary to investigate facts.”

But facts must be investigated on the foundation of scientific science, i.e., of the two hypotheses of positivism and evolution, which are not borne out by any thing, and which give themselves out as undoubted truths.  And the reigning science announces, with delusive solemnity, that the solution of all problems of life is possible only through the study of facts, of nature, and, in particular, of organisms.  The credulous mass of young people, overwhelmed by the novelty of this authority, which has not yet been overthrown or even touched by criticism, flings itself into the study of natural sciences, into that sole path, which, according to the assertion of the reigning science, can lead to the elucidation of the problems of life.

But the farther the disciples proceed in this study, the farther and farther does not only the possibility, but even the very idea, of the solution of the problems of life withdraw from them, and the more and more do they become accustomed, not so much to investigate, as to believe in the assertions of other investigators (to believe in cells, in protoplasm, in the fourth condition of bodies, and so forth); the more and more does the form veil the contents from them; the more and more do they lose the consciousness of good and evil, and the capacity of understanding those expressions and definitions of good and evil which have been elaborated through the whole foregoing life of mankind; and the more and more do they appropriate to themselves the special scientific jargon of conventional expressions, which possesses no universally human significance; and the deeper and deeper do they plunge into the débris of utterly unilluminated investigations; the more and more do they lose the power, not only of independent thought, but even of understanding the fresh human thought of others, which lies beyond the bounds of their Talmud.  But the principal thing is, that they pass their best years in getting disused to life; they grow accustomed to consider their position as justifiable; and they convert themselves physically into utterly useless parasites, and mentally they dislocate their brains and become mental eunuchs.  And in precisely the same manner, according to the measure of their folly, do they acquire self-conceit, which deprives them forever of all possibility of return to a simple life of toil, to a simple, clear, and universally human train of reasoning.

Division of labor always has existed in human communities, and will probably always exist; but the question for us lies not in the fact that it has existed, and that it will exist, but in this,—how are we to govern ourselves so that this division shall be right?  But if we take investigation as our rule of action, we by this very act repudiate all rule; then in that case we shall regard as right every division of labor which we shall descry among men, and which appears to us to be right—to which conclusion the prevailing scientific science also leads.

Division of labor!

Some are busied in mental or moral, others in muscular or physical, labor.  With what confidence people enunciate this!  They wish to think so, and it seems to them that, in point of fact, a perfectly regular exchange of services does take place.

But we, in our blindness, have so completely lost sight of the responsibility which we have assumed, that we have even forgotten in whose name our labor is prosecuted; and the very people whom we have undertaken to serve have become the objects of our scientific and artistic activity.  We study and depict them for our amusement and diversion.  We have totally forgotten that what we need to do is not to study and depict them, but to serve them.  To such a degree have we lost sight of this duty which we have taken upon us, that we have not even noticed that what we have undertaken to perform in the realm of science and art has been accomplished not by us, but by others, and that our place has turned out to be occupied.

It proves that while we have been disputing, one about the spontaneous origin of organisms, another as to what else there is in protoplasm, and so on, the common people have been in need of spiritual food; and the unsuccessful and rejected of art and science, in obedience to the mandate of adventurers who have in view the sole aim of profit, have begun to furnish the people with this spiritual food, and still so furnish them.  For the last forty years in Europe, and for the last ten years with us here in Russia, millions of books and pictures and song-books have been distributed, and stalls have been opened, and the people gaze and sing and receive spiritual nourishment, but not from us who have undertaken to provide it; while we, justifying our idleness by that spiritual food which we are supposed to furnish, sit by and wink at it.

But it is impossible for us to wink at it, for our last justification is slipping from beneath our feet.  We have become specialized.  We have our particular functional activity.  We are the brains of the people.  They support us, and we have undertaken to teach them.  It is only under this pretence that we have excused ourselves from work.  But what have we taught them, and what are we now teaching them?  They have waited for years—for tens, for hundreds of years.  And we keep on diverting our minds with chatter, and we instruct each other, and we console ourselves, and we have utterly forgotten them.  We have so entirely forgotten them, that others have undertaken to instruct them, and we have not even perceived it.  We have spoken of the division of labor with such lack of seriousness, that it is obvious that what we have said about the benefits which we have conferred on the people was simply a shameless evasion.


Science and art have arrogated to themselves the right of idleness, and of the enjoyment of the labor of others, and have betrayed their calling.  And their errors have arisen merely because their servants, having set forth a falsely conceived principle of the division of labor, have recognized their own right to make use of the labor of others, and have lost the significance of their vocation; having taken for their aim, not the profit of the people, but the mysterious profit of science and art, and delivered themselves over to idleness and vice—not so much of the senses as of the mind.

They say, “Science and art have bestowed a great deal on mankind.”

Science and art have bestowed a great deal on mankind, not because the men of art and science, under the pretext of a division of labor, live on other people, but in spite of this.

The Roman Republic was powerful, not because her citizens had the power to live a vicious life, but because among their number there were heroic citizens.  It is the same with art and science.  Art and science have bestowed much on mankind, but not because their followers formerly possessed on rare occasions (and now possess on every occasion) the possibility of getting rid of labor; but because there have been men of genius, who, without making use of these rights, have led mankind forward.

The class of learned men and artists, which has advanced, on the fictitious basis of a division of labor, its demands to the right of using the labors of others, cannot co-operate in the success of true science and true art, because a lie cannot bring forth the truth.

We have become so accustomed to these, our tenderly reared or weakened representatives of mental labor, that it seems to us horrible that a man of science or an artist should plough or cart manure.  It seems to us that every thing would go to destruction, and that all his wisdom would be rattled out of him in the cart, and that all those grand picturesque images which he bears about in his breast would be soiled in the manure; but we have become so inured to this, that it does not strike us as strange that our servitor of science—that is to say, the servant and teacher of the truth—by making other people do for him that which he might do for himself, passes half his time in dainty eating, in smoking, in talking, in free and easy gossip, in reading the newspapers and romances, and in visiting the theatres.  It is not strange to us to see our philosopher in the tavern, in the theatre, and at the ball.  It is not strange in our eyes to learn that those artists who sweeten and ennoble our souls have passed their lives in drunkenness, cards, and women, if not in something worse.

Art and science are very beautiful things; but just because they are so beautiful they should not be spoiled by the compulsory combination with them of vice: that is to say, a man should not get rid of his obligation to serve his own life and that of other people by his own labor.  Art and science have caused mankind to progress.  Yes; but not because men of art and science, under the guise of division of labor, have rid themselves of the very first and most indisputable of human obligations,—to labor with their hands in the universal struggle of mankind with nature.

“But only the division of labor, the freedom of men of science and of art from the necessity of earning them living, has rendered possible that remarkable success of science which we behold in our day,” is the answer to this.  “If all were forced to till the soil, those vast results would not have been attained which have been attained in our day; there would have been none of those striking successes which have so greatly augmented man’s power over nature, were it not for these astronomical discoveries which are so astounding to the mind of man, and which have added to the security of navigation; there would be no steamers, no railways, none of those wonderful bridges, tunnels, steam-engines and telegraphs, photography, telephones, sewing-machines, phonographs, electricity, telescopes, spectroscopes, microscopes, chloroform, Lister’s bandages, and carbolic acid.”

I will not enumerate every thing on which our age thus prides itself.  This enumeration and pride of enthusiasm over ourselves and our exploits can be found in almost any newspaper and popular pamphlet.  This enthusiasm over ourselves is often repeated to such a degree that none of us can sufficiently rejoice over ourselves, that we are seriously convinced that art and science have never made such progress as in our own time.  And, as we are indebted for all this marvellous progress to the division of labor, why not acknowledge it?

Let us admit that the progress made in our day is noteworthy, marvellous, unusual; let us admit that we are fortunate mortals to live in such a remarkable epoch: but let us endeavor to appraise this progress, not on the basis of our self-satisfaction, but of that principle which defends itself with this progress,—the division of labor.  All this progress is very amazing; but by a peculiarly unlucky chance, admitted even by the men of science, this progress has not so far improved, but it has rather rendered worse, the position of the majority, that is to say, of the workingman.

If the workingman can travel on the railway, instead of walking, still that same railway has burned down his forest, has carried off his grain under his very nose, and has brought his condition very near to slavery—to the capitalist.  If, thanks to steam-engines and machines, the workingman can purchase inferior calico at a cheap rate, on the other hand these engines and machines have deprived him of work at home, and have brought him into a state of abject slavery to the manufacturer.  If there are telephones and telescopes, poems, romances, theatres, ballets, symphonies, operas, picture-galleries, and so forth, on the other hand the life of the workingman has not been bettered by all this; for all of them, by the same unlucky chance, are inaccessible to him.

So that, on the whole (and even men of science admit this), up to the present time, all these remarkable discoveries and products of science and art have certainly not ameliorated the condition of the workingman, if, indeed, they have not made it worse.  So that, if we set against the question as to the reality of the progress attained by the arts and sciences, not our own rapture, but that standard upon the basis of which the division of labor is defended,—the good of the laboring man,—we shall see that we have no firm foundations for that self-satisfaction in which we are so fond of indulging.

The peasant travels on the railway, the woman buys calico, in the isbá (cottage) there will be a lamp instead of a pine-knot, and the peasant will light his pipe with a match,—this is convenient; but what right have I to say that the railway and the factory have proved advantageous to the people?

If the peasant rides on the railway, and buys calico, a lamp, and matches, it is only because it is impossible to forbid the peasant’s buying them; but surely we are all aware that the construction of railways and factories has never been carried out for the benefit of the lower classes: so why should a casual convenience which the workingman enjoys lead to a proof of the utility of all these institutions for the people?

There is something useful in every injurious thing.  After a conflagration, one can warm one’s self, and light one’s pipe with a firebrand; but why declare that the conflagration is beneficial?

Men of art and science might say that their pursuits are beneficial to the people, only when men of art and science have assigned to themselves the object of serving the people, as they now assign themselves the object of serving the authorities and the capitalists.  We might say this if men of art and science had taken as their aim the needs of the people; but there are none such.  All scientists are busy with their priestly avocations, out of which proceed investigations into protoplasm, the spectral analyses of stars, and so on.  But science has never once thought of what axe or what hatchet is the most profitable to chop with, what saw is the most handy, what is the best way to mix bread, from what flour, how to set it, how to build and heat an oven, what food and drink, and what utensils, are the most convenient and advantageous under certain conditions, what mushrooms may be eaten, how to propagate them, and how to prepare them in the most suitable manner.  And yet all this is the province of science.

I am aware, that, according to its own definition, science ought to be useless, i.e., science for the sake of science; but surely this is an obvious evasion.  The province of science is to serve the people.  We have invented telegraphs, telephones, phonographs; but what advances have we effected in the life, in the labor, of the people?  We have reckoned up two millions of beetles!  And we have not tamed a single animal since biblical times, when all our animals were already domesticated; but the reindeer, the stag, the partridge, the heath-cock, all remain wild.

Our botanists have discovered the cell, and in the cell protoplasm, and in that protoplasm still something more, and in that atom yet another thing.  It is evident that these occupations will not end for a long time to come, because it is obvious that there can be no end to them, and therefore the scientist has no time to devote to those things which are necessary to the people.  And therefore, again, from the time of Egyptian and Hebrew antiquity, when wheat and lentils had already been cultivated, down to our own times, not a single plant has been added to the food of the people, with the exception of the potato, and that was not obtained by science.

Torpedoes have been invented, and apparatus for taxation, and so forth.  But the spinning-whined, the woman’s weaving-loom, the plough, the hatchet, the chain, the rake, the bucket, the well-sweep, are exactly the same as they were in the days of Rurik; and if there has been any change, then that change has not been effected by scientific people.

And it is the same with the arts.  We have elevated a lot of people to the rank of great writers; we have picked these writers to pieces, and have written mountains of criticism, and criticism on the critics, and criticism on the critics of the critics.  And we have collected picture-galleries, and have studied different schools of art in detail; and we have so many symphonies and orchestras and operas, that it is becoming difficult even for us to listen to them.  But what have we added to the popular bylini [the epic songs], legends, tales, songs?  What music, what pictures, have we given to the people?

On the Nikolskaya books are manufactured for the people, and harmonicas in Tula; and in neither have we taken any part.  The falsity of the whole direction of our arts and sciences is more striking and more apparent in precisely those very branches, which, it would seem, should, from their very nature, be of use to the people, and which, in consequence of their false attitude, seem rather injurious than useful.  The technologist, the physician, the teacher, the artist, the author, should, in virtue of their very callings, it would seem, serve the people.  And, what then?  Under the present règime, they can do nothing but harm to the people.

The technologist or the mechanic has to work with capital.  Without capital he is good for nothing.  All his acquirements are such that for their display he requires capital, and the exploitation of the laboring-man on the largest scale; and—not to mention that he is trained to live, at the lowest, on from fifteen hundred to two thousand a year, and that, therefore, he cannot go to the country, where no one can give him such wages,—he is, by virtue of his very occupation, unfitted for serving the people.  He knows how to calculate the highest mathematical arch of a bridge, how to calculate the force and transfer of the motive power, and so on; but he is confounded by the simplest questions of a peasant: how to improve a plough or a cart, or how to make irrigating canals.  All this in the conditions of life in which the laboring man finds himself.  Of this, he neither knows nor understands any thing,—less, indeed, than the very stupidest peasant.  Give him workshops, all sorts of workmen at his desire, an order for a machine from abroad, and he will get along.  But how to devise means of lightening toil, under the conditions of labor of millions of men,—this is what he does not and can not know; and because of his knowledge, his habits, and his demands on life, he is unfitted for this business.

In a still worse predicament is the physician.  His fancied science is all so arranged, that he only knows how to heal those persons who do nothing.  He requires an incalculable quantity of expensive preparations, instruments, drugs, and hygienic apparatus.

He has studied with celebrities in the capitals, who only retain patients who can be cured in the hospital, or who, in the course of their cure, can purchase the appliances requisite for healing, and even go at once from the North to the South, to some baths or other.  Science is of such a nature, that every rural physic-man laments because there are no means of curing working-men, because he is so poor that he has not the means to place the sick man in the proper hygienic conditions; and at the same time this physician complains that there are no hospitals, and that he cannot get through with his work, that he needs assistants, more doctors and practitioners.

What is the inference?  This: that the people’s principal lack, from which diseases arise, and spread abroad, and refuse to be healed, is the lack of means of subsistence.  And here Science, under the banner of the division of labor, summons her warriors to the aid of the people.  Science is entirely arranged for the wealthy classes, and it has adopted for its task the healing of the people who can obtain every thing for themselves; and it attempts to heal those who possess no superfluity, by the same means.

But there are no means, and therefore it is necessary to take them from the people who are ailing, and pest-stricken, and who cannot recover for lack of means.  And now the defenders of medicine for the people say that this matter has been, as yet, but little developed.  Evidently it has been but little developed, because if (which God forbid!) it had been developed, and that through oppressing the people,—instead of two doctors, midwives, and practitioners in a district, twenty would have settled down, since they desire this, and half the people would have died through the difficulty of supporting this medical staff, and soon there would be no one to heal.

Scientific co-operation with the people, of which the defenders of science talk, must be something quite different.  And this co-operation which should exist has not yet begun.  It will begin when the man of science, technologist or physician, will not consider it legal to take from people—I will not say a hundred thousand, but even a modest ten thousand, or five hundred rubles for assisting them; but when he will live among the toiling people, under the same conditions, and exactly as they do, then he will be able to apply his knowledge to the questions of mechanics, technics, hygiene, and the healing of the laboring people.  But now science, supporting itself at the expense of the working-people, has entirely forgotten the conditions of life among these people, ignores (as it puts it) these conditions, and takes very grave offence because its fancied knowledge finds no adherents among the people.

The domain of medicine, like the domain of technical science, still lies untouched.  All questions as to how the time of labor is best divided, what is the best method of nourishment, with what, in what shape, and when it is best to clothe one’s self, to shoe one’s self, to counteract dampness and cold, how best to wash one’s self, to feed the children, to swaddle them, and so on, in just those conditions in which the working-people find themselves,—all these questions have not yet been propounded.

The same is the case with the activity of the teachers of science,—pedagogical teachers.  Exactly in the same manner science has so arranged this matter, that only wealthy people are able to study science, and teachers, like technologists and physicians, cling to money.

And this cannot be otherwise, because a school built on a model plan (as a general rule, the more scientifically built the school, the more costly it is), with pivot chains, and globes, and maps, and library, and petty text-books for teachers and scholars and pedagogues, is a sort of thing for which it would be necessary to double the taxes in every village.  This science demands.  The people need money for their work; and the more there is needed, the poorer they are.

Defenders of science say: “Pedagogy is even now proving of advantage to the people, but give it a chance to develop, and then it will do still better.”  Yes, if it does develop, and instead of twenty schools in a district there are a hundred, and all scientific, and if the people support these schools, they will grow poorer than ever, and they will more than ever need work for their children’s sake.  “What is to be done?” they say to this.  The government will build the schools, and will make education obligatory, as it is in Europe; but again, surely, the money is taken from the people just the same, and it will be harder to work, and they will have less leisure for work, and there will be no education even by compulsion.  Again the sole salvation is this: that the teacher should live under the conditions of the working-men, and should teach for that compensation which they give him freely and voluntarily.

Such is the false course of science, which deprives it of the power of fulfilling its obligation, which is, to serve the people.

But in nothing is this false course of science so obviously apparent, as in the vocation of art, which, from its very significance, ought to be accessible to the people.  Science may fall back on its stupid excuse, that science acts for science, and that when it turns out learned men it is laboring for the people; but art, if it is art, should be accessible to all the people, and in particular to those in whose name it is executed.  And our definition of art, in a striking manner, convicts those who busy themselves with art, of their lack of desire, lack of knowledge, and lack of power, to be useful to the people.

The painter, for the production of his great works, must have a studio of at least such dimensions that a whole association of carpenters (forty in number) or shoemakers, now sickening or stifling in lairs, would be able to work in it.  But this is not all; he must have a model, costumes, travels.  Millions are expended on the encouragement of art, and the products of this art are both incomprehensible and useless to the people.  Musicians, in order to express their grand ideas, must assemble two hundred men in white neckties, or in costumes, and spend hundreds of thousands of rubles for the equipment of an opera.  And the products of this art cannot evoke from the people—even if the latter could at any time enjoy it—any thing except amazement and ennui.

Writers—authors—it appears, do not require surroundings, studios, models, orchestras, and actors; but it then appears that the author needs (not to mention comfort in his quarters) all the dainties of life for the preparation of his great works, travels, palaces, cabinets, libraries, the pleasures of art, visits to theatres, concerts, the baths, and so on.  If he does not earn a fortune for himself, he is granted a pension, in order that he may compose the better.  And again, these compositions, so prized by us, remain useless lumber for the people, and utterly unserviceable to them.

And if still more of these dealers in spiritual nourishment are developed further, as men of science desire, and a studio is erected in every village; if an orchestra is set up, and authors are supported in those conditions which artistic people regard as indispensable for themselves,—I imagine that the working-classes will sooner take an oath never to look at any pictures, never to listen to a symphony, never to read poetry or novels, than to feed all these persons.

And why, apparently, should art not be of service to the people?  In every cottage there are images and pictures; every peasant man and woman sings; many own harmonicas; and all recite stories and verses, and many read.  It is as if those two things which are made for each other—the lock and the key—had parted company; they have sprung so far apart, that not even the possibility of uniting them presents itself.  Tell the artist that he should paint without a studio, model, or costumes, and that he should paint five-kopek pictures, and he will say that that is tantamount to abandoning his art, as he understands it.  Tell the musician that he should play on the harmonica, and teach the women to sing songs; say to the poet, to the author, that he ought to cast aside his poems and romances, and compose song-books, tales, and stories, comprehensible to the uneducated people,—they will say that you are mad.

The service of the people by science and art will only be performed when people, dwelling in the midst of the common folk, and, like the common folk, putting forward no demands, claiming no rights, shall offer to the common folk their scientific and artistic services; the acceptance or rejection of which shall depend wholly on the will of the common folk.

It is said that the activity of science and art has aided in the forward march of mankind,—meaning by this activity, that which is now called by that name; which is the same as saying that an unskilled banging of oars on a vessel that is floating with the tide, which merely hinders the progress of the vessel, is assisting the movement of the ship.  It only retards it.  The so-called division of labor, which has become in our day the condition of activity of men of science and art, was, and has remained, the chief cause of the tardy forward movement of mankind.

The proofs of this lie in that confession of all men of science, that the gains of science and art are inaccessible to the laboring masses, in consequence of the faulty distribution of riches.  The irregularity of this distribution does not decrease in proportion to the progress of science and art, but only increases.  Men of art and science assume an air of deep pity for this unfortunate circumstance which does not depend upon them.  But this unfortunate circumstance is produced by themselves; for this irregular distribution of wealth flows solely from the theory of the division of labor.

Science maintains the division of labor as a unalterable law; it sees that the distribution of wealth, founded on the division of labor, is wrong and ruinous; and it affirms that its activity, which recognizes the division of labor, will lead people to bliss.  The result is, that some people make use of the labor of others; but that, if they shall make use of the labor of others for a very long period of time, and in still larger measure, then this wrongful distribution of wealth, i.e., the use of the labor of others, will come to an end.

Men stand beside a constantly swelling spring of water, and are occupied with the problem of diverting it to one side, away from the thirsty people, and they assert that they are producing this water, and that soon enough will be collected for all.  But this water which has flowed, and which still flows unceasingly, and nourishes all mankind, not only is not the result of the activity of the men who, standing at its source, turn it aside, but this water flows and gushes out, in spite of the efforts of these men to obstruct its flow.

There have always existed a true science, and a true art; but true science and art are not such because they called themselves by that name.  It always seems to those who claim at any given period to be the representatives of science and art, that they have performed, and are performing, and—most of all—that they will presently perform, the most amazing marvels, and that beside them there never has been and there is not any science or any art.  Thus it seemed to the sophists, the scholastics, the alchemists, the cabalists, the talmudists; and thus it seems to our own scientific science, and to our art for the sake of art.


“But art,—science!  You repudiate art and science; that is, you repudiate that by which mankind lives!”  People are constantly making this—it is not a reply—to me, and they employ this mode of reception in order to reject my deductions without examining into them.  “He repudiates science and art, he wants to send people back again into a savage state; so what is the use of listening to him and of talking to him?”  But this is unjust.  I not only do not repudiate art and science, but, in the name of that which is true art and true science, I say that which I do say; merely in order that mankind may emerge from that savage state into which it will speedily fall, thanks to the erroneous teaching of our time,—only for this purpose do I say that which I say.

Art and science are as indispensable as food and drink and clothing,—more indispensable even; but they become so, not because we decide that what we designate as art and science are indispensable, but simply because they really are indispensable to people.

Surely, if hay is prepared for the bodily nourishment of men, the fact that we are convinced that hay is the proper food for man will not make hay the food of man.  Surely I cannot say, “Why do not you eat hay, when it is the indispensable food?”  Food is indispensable, but it may happen that that which I offer is not food at all.  This same thing has occurred with our art and science.  It seems to us, that if we add to a Greek word the word “logy,” and call that a science, it will be a science; and, if we call any abominable thing—like the dancing of nude females—by a Greek word, choreography, that that is art, and that it will be art.  But no matter how much we may say this, the business with which we occupy ourselves when we count beetles, and investigate the chemical constituents of the stars in the Milky Way, when we paint nymphs and compose novels and symphonies,—our business will not become either art or science until such time as it is accepted by those people for whom it is wrought.

If it were decided that only certain people should produce food, and if all the rest were forbidden to do this, or if they were rendered incapable of producing food, I suppose that the quality of food would be lowered.  If the people who enjoyed the monopoly of producing food were Russian peasants, there would be no other food than black bread and cabbage-soup, and so on, and kvas,—nothing except what they like, and what is agreeable to them.  The same thing would happen in the case of that loftiest human pursuit, of arts and sciences, if one caste were to arrogate to itself a monopoly of them: but with this sole difference, that, in the matter of bodily food, there can be no great departure from nature, and bread and cabbage-soup, although not very savory viands, are fit for consumption; but in spiritual food, there may exist the very greatest departures from nature, and some people may feed themselves for a long time on poisonous spiritual nourishment, which is directly unsuitable for, or injurious to, them; they may slowly kill themselves with spiritual opium or liquors, and they may offer this same food to the masses.

It is this very thing that is going on among us.  And it has come about because the position of men of science and art is a privileged one, because art and science (in our day), in our world, are not at all a rational occupation of all mankind without exception, exerting their best powers for the service of art and science, but an occupation of a restricted circle of people holding a monopoly of these industries, and entitling themselves men of art and science, and who have, therefore, perverted the very idea of art and science, and have lost all the meaning of their vocation, and who are only concerned in amusing and rescuing from crushing ennui their tiny circle of idle mouths.

Ever since men have existed, they have always had science and art in the simplest and broadest sense of the term.  Science, in the sense of the whole of knowledge acquired by mankind, exists and always has existed, and life without it is not conceivable; and there is no possibility of either attacking or defending science, taken in this sense.

But the point lies here,—that the scope of the knowledge of all mankind as a whole is so multifarious, ranging from the knowledge of how to extract iron to the knowledge of the movements of the planets, that man loses himself in this multitude of existing knowledge,—knowledge capable of endless possibilities, if he have no guiding thread, by the aid of which he can classify this knowledge, and arrange the branches according to the degrees of their significance and importance.

Before a man undertakes to learn any thing whatever, he must make up his mind that that branch of knowledge is of weight to him, and of more weight and importance than the countless other objects of study with which he is surrounded.  Before undertaking the study of any thing, a man decides for what purpose he is studying this subject, and not the others.  But to study every thing, as the men of scientific science in our day preach, without any idea of what is to come out of such study, is downright impossible, because the number of subjects of study is endless; and hence, no matter how many branches we may acquire, their acquisition can possess no significance or reason.  And, therefore, in ancient times, down to even a very recent date, until the appearance of scientific science, man’s highest wisdom consisted in finding that guiding thread, according to which the knowledge of men should be classified as being of primary or of secondary importance.  And this knowledge, which forms the guide to all other branches of knowledge, men have always called science in the strictest acceptation of the word.  And such science there has always been, even down to our own day, in all human communities which have emerged from their primal state of savagery.

Ever since mankind has existed, teachers have always arisen among peoples, who have enunciated science in this restricted sense,—the science of what it is most useful for man to know.  This science has always had for its object the knowledge of what is the true ground of the well-being of each individual man, and of all men, and why.  Such was the science of Confucius, of Buddha, of Socrates, of Mahomet, and of others; such is this science as they understood it, and as all men—with the exception of our little circle of so-called cultured people—understand it.  This science has not only always occupied the highest place, but has been the only and sole science, from which the standing of the rest has been determined.  And this was the case, not in the least because, as the so-called scientific people of our day think, cunning priestly teachers of this science attributed to it such significance, but because in reality, as every one knows, both by personal experience and by reflection, there can be no science except the science of that in which the destiny and welfare of man consist.  For the objects of science are incalculable in number,—I undermine the word “incalculable” in the exact sense in which I understand it,—and without the knowledge of that in which the destiny and welfare of all men consist, there is no possibility of making a choice amid this interminable multitude of subjects; and therefore, without this knowledge, all other arts and branches of learning will become, as they have become among us, an idle and hurtful diversion.

Mankind has existed and existed, and never has it existed without the science of that in which the destiny and the welfare of men consist.  It is true that the science of the welfare of men appears different on superficial observation, among the Buddhists, the Brahmins, the Hebrews, the Confucians, the Tauists; but nevertheless, wherever we hear of men who have emerged from a state of savagery, we find this science.  And all of a sudden it appears that the men of our day have decided that this same science, which has hitherto served as the guiding thread of all human knowledge, is the very thing which hinders every thing.  Men erect buildings; and one architect has made one estimate of cost, a second has made another, and a third yet another.  The estimates differ somewhat; but they are correct, so that any one can see, that, if the whole is carried out in accordance with the calculations, the building will be erected.  Along come people, and assert that the chief point lies in having no estimates, and that it should be built thus—by the eye.  And this “thus,” men call the most accurate of scientific science.  Men repudiate every science, the very substance of science,—the definition of the destiny and the welfare of men,—and this repudiation they designate as science.

Ever since men have existed, great minds have been born into their midst, which, in the conflict with reason and conscience, have put to themselves questions as to “what constitutes welfare,—the destiny and welfare, not of myself alone, but of every man?”  What does that power which has created and which leads me, demand of me and of every man?  And what is it necessary for me to do, in order to comply with the requirements imposed upon me by the demands of individual and universal welfare?  They have asked themselves: “I am a whole, and also a part of something infinite, eternal; what, then, are my relations to other parts similar to myself, to men and to the whole—to the world?”

And from the voices of conscience and of reason, and from a comparison of what their contemporaries and men who had lived before them, and who had propounded to themselves the same questions, had said, these great teachers have deduced their doctrines, which were simple, clear, intelligible to all men, and always such as were susceptible of fulfilment.  Such men have existed of the first, second, third, and lowest ranks.  The world is full of such men.  Every living man propounds the question to himself, how to reconcile the demands of welfare, and of his personal existence, with conscience and reason; and from this universal labor, slowly but uninterruptedly, new forms of life, which are more in accord with the requirements of reason and of conscience, are worked out.

All at once, a new caste of people makes its appearance, and they say, “All this is nonsense; all this must be abandoned.”  This is the deductive method of ratiocination (wherein lies the difference between the deductive and the inductive method, no one can understand); these are the dogmas of the technological and metaphysical period.  Every thing that these men discover by inward experience, and which they communicate to one another, concerning their knowledge of the law of their existence (of their functional activity, according to their own jargon), every thing that the grandest minds of mankind have accomplished in this direction, since the beginning of the world,—all this is nonsense, and has no weight whatever.  According to this new doctrine, it appears that you are cells: and that you, as a cell, have a very definite functional activity, which you not only fulfil, but which you infallibly feel within you; and that you are a thinking, talking, understanding cell, and that you, for this reason, can ask another similar talking cell whether it is just the same, and in this way verify your own experience; that you can take advantage of the fact that speaking cells, which have lived before you, have written on the same subject, and that you have millions of cells which confirm your observations by their agreement with the cells which have written down their thoughts,—all this signifies nothing; all this is an evil and an erroneous method.

The true scientific method is this: If you wish to know in what the destiny and the welfare of all mankind and of all the world consists, you must, first of all, cease to listen to the voices of your conscience and of your reason, which present themselves in you and in others like you; you must cease to believe all that the great teachers of mankind have said with regard to your conscience and reason, and you must consider all this as nonsense, and begin all over again.  And, in order to understand every thing from the beginning, you must look through microscopes at the movements of amœbæ, and cells in worms, or, with still greater composure, believe in every thing that men with a diploma of infallibility shall say to you about them.  And as you gaze at the movements of these cells, or read about what others have seen, you must attribute to these cells your own human sensations and calculations as to what they desire, whither they are directing themselves, how they compare and discuss, and to what they have become accustomed; and from these observations (in which there is not a word about an error of thought or of expression) you must deduce a conclusion by analogy as to what you are, what is your destiny, wherein lies the welfare of yourself and of other cells like you.  In order to understand yourself, you must study not only the worms which you see, but microscopic creatures which you can barely see, and transformations from one set of creatures into others, which no one has ever beheld, and which you, most assuredly, will never behold.  And the same with art.  Where there has been true science, art has always been its exponent.

Ever since men have been in existence, they have been in the habit of deducing, from all pursuits, the expressions of various branches of learning concerning the destiny and the welfare of man, and the expression of this knowledge has been art in the strict sense of the word.

Ever since men have existed, there have been those who were peculiarly sensitive and responsive to the doctrine regarding the destiny and welfare of man; who have given expression to their own and the popular conflict, to the delusions which lead them astray from their destinies, their sufferings in this conflict, their hopes in the triumph of good, them despair over the triumph of evil, and their raptures in the consciousness of the approaching bliss of man, on viol and tabret, in images and words.  Always, down to the most recent times, art has served science and life,—only then was it what has been so highly esteemed of men.  But art, in its capacity of an important human activity, disappeared simultaneously with the substitution for the genuine science of destiny and welfare, of the science of any thing you choose to fancy.  Art has existed among all peoples, and will exist until that which among us is scornfully called religion has come to be considered the only science.

In our European world, so long as there existed a Church, as the doctrine of destiny and welfare, and so long as the Church was regarded as the only true science, art served the Church, and remained true art: but as soon as art abandoned the Church, and began to serve science, while science served whatever came to hand, art lost its significance.  And notwithstanding the rights claimed on the score of ancient memories, and of the clumsy assertion which only proves its loss of its calling, that art serves art, it has become a trade, providing men with something agreeable; and as such, it inevitably comes into the category of choreographic, culinary, hair-dressing, and cosmetic arts, whose practitioners designate themselves as artists, with the same right as the poets, printers, and musicians of our day.

Glance backward into the past, and you will see that in the course of thousands of years, out of milliards of people, only half a score of Confucius’, Buddhas, Solomons, Socrates, Solons, and Homers have been produced.  Evidently, they are rarely met with among men, in spite of the fact that these men have not been selected from a single caste, but from mankind at large.  Evidently, these true teachers and artists and learned men, the purveyors of spiritual nourishment, are rare.  And it is not without reason that mankind has valued and still values them so highly.

But it now appears, that all these great factors in the science and art of the past are no longer of use to us.  Nowadays, scientific and artistic authorities can, in accordance with the law of division of labor, be turned out by factory methods; and, in one decade, more great men have been manufactured in art and science, than have ever been born of such among all nations, since the foundation of the world.  Nowadays there is a guild of learned men and artists, and they prepare, by perfected methods, all that spiritual food which man requires.  And they have prepared so much of it, that it is no longer necessary to refer to the elder authorities, who have preceded them,—not only to the ancients, but to those much nearer to us.  All that was the activity of the theological and metaphysical period,—all that must be wiped out: but the true, the rational activity began, say, fifty years ago, and in the course of those fifty years we have made so many great men, that there are about ten great men to every branch of science.  And there have come to be so many sciences, that, fortunately, it is easy to make them.  All that is required is to add the Greek word “logy” to the name, and force them to conform to a set rubric, and the science is all complete.  They have created so many sciences, that not only can no one man know them all, but not a single individual can remember all the titles of all the existing sciences; the titles alone form a thick lexicon, and new sciences are manufactured every day.  They have been manufactured on the pattern of that Finnish teacher who taught the landed proprietor’s children Finnish instead of French.  Every thing has been excellently inculcated; but there is one objection,—that no one except ourselves can understand any thing of it, and all this is reckoned as utterly useless nonsense.  However, there is an explanation even for this.  People do not appreciate the full value of scientific science, because they are under the influence of the theological period, that profound period when all the people, both among the Hebrews, and the Chinese, and the Indians, and the Greeks, understood every thing that their great teachers said to them.

But, from whatever cause this has come about, the fact remains, that sciences and arts have always existed among mankind, and, when they really did exist, they were useful and intelligible to all the people.  But we practise something which we call science and art, but it appears that what we do is unnecessary and unintelligible to man.  And hence, however beautiful may be the things that we accomplish, we have no right to call them arts and sciences.


“But you only furnish a different definition of arts and sciences, which is stricter, and is incompatible with science,” I shall be told in answer to this; “nevertheless, scientific and artistic activity does still exist.  There are the Galileos, Brunos, Homers, Michael Angelos, Beethovens, and all the lesser learned men and artists, who have consecrated their entire lives to the service of science and art, and who were, and will remain, the benefactors of mankind.”

Generally this is what people say, striving to forget that new principle of the division of labor, on the basis of which science and art now occupy their privileged position, and on whose basis we are now enabled to decide without grounds, but by a given standard: Is there, or is there not, any foundation for that activity which calls itself science and art, to so magnify itself?

When the Egyptian or the Grecian priests produced their mysteries, which were unintelligible to any one, and stated concerning these mysteries that all science and all art were contained in them, I could not verify the reality of their science on the basis of the benefit procured by them to the people, because science, according to their assertions, was supernatural.  But now we all possess a very simple and clear definition of the activity of art and science, which excludes every thing supernatural: science and art promise to carry out the mental activity of mankind, for the welfare of society, or of all the human race.

The definition of scientific science and art is entirely correct; but, unfortunately, the activity of the present arts and sciences does not come under this head.  Some of them are directly injurious, others are useless, others still are worthless,—good only for the wealthy.  They do not fulfil that which, by their own definition, they have undertaken to accomplish; and hence they have as little right to regard themselves as men of art and science, as a corrupt priesthood, which does not fulfil the obligations which it has assumed, has the right to regard itself as the bearer of divine truth.

And it can be understood why the makers of the present arts and sciences have not fulfilled, and cannot fulfil, their vocation.  They do not fulfil it, because out of their obligations they have erected a right.

Scientific and artistic activity, in its real sense, is only fruitful when it knows no rights, but recognizes only obligations.  Only because it is its property to be always thus, does mankind so highly prize this activity.  If men really were called to the service of others through artistic work, they would see in that work only obligation, and they would fulfil it with toil, with privations, and with self-abnegation.

The thinker or the artist will never sit calmly on Olympian heights, as we have become accustomed to represent them to ourselves.  The thinker or the artist should suffer in company with the people, in order that he may find salvation or consolation.  Besides this, he will suffer because he is always and eternally in turmoil and agitation: he might decide and say that that which would confer welfare on men, would free them from suffering, would afford them consolation; but he has not said so, and has not presented it as he should have done; he has not decided, and he has not spoken; and to-morrow, possibly, it will be too late,—he will die.  And therefore suffering and self-sacrifice will always be the lot of the thinker and the artist.

Not of this description will be the thinker and artist who is reared in an establishment where, apparently, they manufacture the learned man or the artist (but in point of fact, they manufacture destroyers of science and of art), who receives a diploma and a certificate, who would be glad not to think and not to express that which is imposed on his soul, but who cannot avoid doing that to which two irresistible forces draw him,—an inward prompting, and the demand of men.

There will be no sleek, plump, self-satisfied thinkers and artists.  Spiritual activity, and its expression, which are actually necessary to others, are the most burdensome of all man’s avocations; a cross, as the Gospels phrase it.  And the sole indubitable sign of the presence of a vocation is self-devotion, the sacrifice of self for the manifestation of the power that is imposed upon man for the benefit of others.

It is possible to study out how many beetles there are in the world, to view the spots on the sun, to write romances and operas, without suffering; but it is impossible, without self-sacrifice, to instruct people in their true happiness, which consists solely in renunciation of self and the service of others, and to give strong expression to this doctrine, without self-sacrifice.

Christ did not die on the cross in vain; not in vain does the sacrifice of suffering conquer all things.

But our art and science are provided with certificates and diplomas; and the only anxiety of all men is, how to still better guarantee them, i.e., how to render the service of the people impracticable for them.

True art and true science possess two unmistakable marks: the first, an inward mark, which is this, that the servitor of art and science will fulfil his vocation, not for profit but with self-sacrifice; and the second, an external sign,—his productions will be intelligible to all the people whose welfare he has in view.

No matter what people have fixed upon as their vocation and their welfare, science will be the doctrine of this vocation and welfare, and art will be the expression of that doctrine.  That which is called science and art, among us, is the product of idle minds and feelings, which have for their object to tickle similar idle minds and feelings.  Our arts and sciences are incomprehensible, and say nothing to the people, for they have not the welfare of the common people in view.

Ever since the life of men has been known to us, we find, always and everywhere, the reigning doctrine falsely designating itself as science, not manifesting itself to the common people, but obscuring for them the meaning of life.  Thus it was among the Greeks the sophists, then among the Christians the mystics, gnostics, scholastics, among the Hebrews the Talmudists and Cabalists, and so on everywhere, down to our own times.

How fortunate it is for us that we live in so peculiar an age, when that mental activity which calls itself science, not only does not err, but finds itself, as we are assured, in a remarkably flourishing condition!  Does not this peculiar good fortune arise from the fact that man can not and will not see his own hideousness?  Why is there nothing left of those sciences, and sophists, and Cabalists, and Talmudists, but words, while we are so exceptionally happy?  Surely the signs are identical.  There is the same self-satisfaction and blind confidence that we, precisely we, and only we, are on the right path, and that the real thing is only beginning with us.  There is the same expectation that we shall discover something remarkable; and that chief sign which leads us astray convicts us of our error: all our wisdom remains with us, and the common people do not understand, and do not accept, and do not need it.

Our position is a very difficult one, but why not look at it squarely?

It is time to recover our senses, and to scrutinize ourselves.  Surely we are nothing else than the scribes and Pharisees, who sit in Moses’ seat, and who have taken the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and will neither go in ourselves, nor permit others to go in.  Surely we, the high priests of science and art, are ourselves worthless deceivers, possessing much less right to our position than the most crafty and depraved priests.  Surely we have no justification for our privileged position.  The priests had a right to their position: they declared that they taught the people life and salvation.  But we have taken their place, and we do not instruct the people in life,—we even admit that such instruction is unnecessary,—but we educate our children in the same Talmudic-Greek and Latin grammar, in order that they may be able to pursue the same life of parasites which we lead ourselves.  We say, “There used to be castes, but there are none among us.”  But what does it mean, that some people and their children toil, while other people and their children do not toil?

Bring hither an Indian ignorant of our language, and show him European life, and our life, for several generations, and he will recognize the same leading, well-defined castes—of laborers and non-laborers—as there are in his own country.  And as in his land, so in ours, the right of refusing to labor is conferred by a peculiar consecration, which we call science and art, or, in general terms, culture.  It is this culture, and all the distortions of sense connected with it, which have brought us to that marvellous madness, in consequence of which we do not see that which is so clear and indubitable.


Then, what is to be done?  What are we to do?

This question, which includes within itself both an admission that our life is evil and wrong, and in connection with this,—as though it were an exercise for it,—that it is impossible, nevertheless, to change it, this question I have heard, and I continue to hear, on all sides.  I have described my own sufferings, my own gropings, and my own solution of this question.  I am the same kind of a man as everybody else; and if I am in any wise distinguished from the average man of our circle, it is chiefly in this respect, that I, more than the average man, have served and winked at the false doctrine of our world; I have received more approbation from men professing the prevailing doctrine: and therefore, more than others, have I become depraved, and wandered from the path.  And therefore I think that the solution of the problem, which I have found in my own case, will be applicable to all sincere people who are propounding the same question to themselves.

First of all, in answer to the question, “What is to be done?” I told myself: “I must lie neither to other people nor to myself.  I must not fear the truth, whithersoever it may lead me.”

We all know what it means to lie to other people, but we are not afraid to lie to ourselves; yet the very worst downright lie, to other people, is not to be compared in its consequences with the lie to ourselves, upon which we base our whole life.

This is the lie of which we must not be guilty if we are to be in a position to answer the question: “What is to be done?”  And, in fact, how am I to answer the question, “What is to be done?” when every thing that I do, when my whole life, is founded on a lie, and when I carefully parade this lie as the truth before others and before myself?  Not to lie, in this sense, means not to fear the truth, not to devise subterfuges, and not to accept the subterfuges devised by others for the purpose of hiding from myself the deductions of my reason and my conscience; not to fear to part company with all those who surround me, and to remain alone in company with reason and conscience; not to fear that position to which the truth shall lead me, being firmly convinced that that position to which truth and conscience shall conduct me, however singular it may be, cannot be worse than the one which is founded on a lie.  Not to lie, in our position of privileged persons of mental labor, means, not to be afraid to reckon one’s self up wrongly.  It is possible that you are already so deeply indebted that you cannot take stock of yourself; but to whatever extent this may be the case, however long may be the account, however far you have strayed from the path, it is still better than to continue therein.  A lie to other people is not alone unprofitable; every matter is settled more directly and more speedily by the truth than by a lie.  A lie to others only entangles matters, and delays the settlement; but a lie to one’s self, set forth as the truth, ruins a man’s whole life.  If a man, having entered on the wrong path, assumes that it is the true one, then every step that he takes on that path removes him farther from his goal.  If a man who has long been travelling on this false path divines for himself, or is informed by some one, that his course is a mistaken one, but grows alarmed at the idea that he has wandered very far astray and tries to convince himself that he may, possibly, still strike into the right road, then he never will get into it.  If a man quails before the truth, and, on perceiving it, does not accept it, but does accept a lie for the truth, then he never will learn what he ought to do.  We, the not only wealthy, but privileged and so-called cultivated persons, have advanced so far on the wrong road, that a great deal of determination, or a very great deal of suffering on the wrong road, is required, in order to bring us to our senses and to the acknowledgment of the lie in which we are living.  I have perceived the lie of our lives, thanks to the sufferings which the false path entailed upon me, and, having recognized the falseness of this path on which I stood, I have had the boldness to go at first in thought only—whither reason and conscience led me, without reflecting where they would bring me out.  And I have been rewarded for this boldness.

All the complicated, broken, tangled, and incoherent phenomena of life surrounding me, have suddenly become clear; and my position in the midst of these phenomena, which was formerly strange and burdensome, has become, all at once, natural, and easy to bear.

In this new position, my activity was defined with perfect accuracy; not at all as it had previously presented itself to me, but as a new and much more peaceful, loving, and joyous activity.  The very thing which had formerly terrified me, now began to attract me.  Hence I think, that the man who will honestly put to himself the question, “What is to be done?” and, replying to this query, will not lie to himself, but will go whither his reason leads, has already solved the problem.

There is only one thing that can hinder him in his search for an issue,—an erroneously lofty idea of himself and of his position.  This was the case with me; and then another, arising from the first answer to the question: “What is to be done?” consisted for me in this, that it was necessary for me to repent, in the full sense of that word,—i.e., to entirely alter my conception of my position and my activity; to confess the hurtfulness and emptiness of my activity, instead of its utility and gravity; to confess my own ignorance instead of culture; to confess my immorality and harshness in the place of my kindness and morality; instead of my elevation, to acknowledge my lowliness.  I say, that in addition to not lying to myself, I had to repent, because, although the one flows from the other, a false conception of my lofty importance had so grown up with me, that, until I sincerely repented and cut myself free from that false estimate which I had formed of myself, I did not perceive the greater part of the lie of which I had been guilty to myself.  Only when I had repented, that is to say, when I had ceased to look upon myself as a regular man, and had begun to regard myself as a man exactly like every one else,—only then did my path become clear before me.  Before that time I had not been able to answer the question: “What is to be done?” because I had stated the question itself wrongly.

As long as I did not repent, I put the question thus: “What sphere of activity should I choose, I, the man who has received the education and the talents which have fallen to my shame?  How, in this fashion, make recompense with that education and those talents, for what I have taken, and for what I still take, from the people?”  This question was wrong, because it contained a false representation, to the effect that I was not a man just like them, but a peculiar man called to serve the people with those talents and with that education which I had won by the efforts of forty years.

I propounded the query to myself; but, in reality, I had answered it in advance, in that I had in advance defined the sort of activity which was agreeable to me, and by which I was called upon to serve the people.  I had, in fact, asked myself: “In what manner could I, so very fine a writer, who had acquired so much learning and talents, make use of them for the benefit of the people?”

But the question should have been put as it would have stood for a learned rabbi who had gone through the course of the Talmud, and had learned by heart the number of letters in all the holy books, and all the fine points of his art.  The question for me, as for the rabbi, should stand thus: “What am I, who have spent, owing to the misfortune of my surroundings, the year’s best fitted for study in the acquisition of grammar, geography, judicial science, poetry, novels and romances, the French language, pianoforte playing, philosophical theories, and military exercises, instead of inuring myself to labor; what am I, who have passed the best years of my life in idle occupations which are corrupting to the soul,—what am I to do in defiance of these unfortunate conditions of the past, in order that I may requite those people who during the whole time have fed and clothed, yes, and who even now continue to feed and clothe me?”  Had the question then stood as it stands before me now, after I have repented,—“What am I, so corrupt a man, to do?” the answer would have been easy: “To strive, first of all, to support myself honestly; that is, to learn not to live upon others; and while I am learning, and when I have learned this, to render aid on all possible occasions to the people, with my hands, and my feet, and my brain, and my heart, and with every thing to which the people should present a claim.”

And therefore I say, that for the man of our circle, in addition to not lying to himself or to others, repentance is also necessary, and that he should scrape from himself that pride which has sprung up in us, in our culture, in our refinements, in our talents; and that he should confess that he is not a benefactor of the people and a distinguished man, who does not refuse to share with the people his useful acquirements, but that he should confess himself to be a thoroughly guilty, corrupt, and good-for-nothing man, who desires to reform himself and not to behave benevolently towards the people, but simply to cease wounding and insulting them.

I often hear the questions of good young men who sympathize with the renunciatory part of my writings, and who ask, “Well, and what then shall I do?  What am I to do, now that I have finished my course in the university, or in some other institution, in order that I may be of use?”  Young men ask this, and in the depths of their soul it is already decided that the education which they have received constitutes their privilege and that they desire to serve the people precisely by means of thus superiority.  And hence, one thing which they will in no wise do, is to bear themselves honestly and critically towards that which they call their culture, and ask themselves, are those qualities which they call their culture good or bad?  If they will do this, they will infallibly be led to see the necessity of renouncing their culture, and the necessity of beginning to learn all over again; and this is the one indispensable thing.  They can in no wise solve the problem, “What to do?” because this question does not stand before them as it should stand.  The question must stand thus: “In what manner am I, a helpless, useless man, who, owing to the misfortune of my conditions, have wasted my best years of study in conning the scientific Talmud which corrupts soul and body, to correct this mistake, and learn to serve the people?”  But it presents itself to them thus: “How am I, a man who has acquired so much very fine learning, to turn this very fine learning to the use of the people?”  And such a man will never answer the question, “What is to be done?” until he repents.  And repentance is not terrible, just as truth is not terrible, and it is equally joyful and fruitful.  It is only necessary to accept the truth wholly, and to repent wholly, in order to understand that no one possesses any rights, privileges, or peculiarities in the matter of this life of ours, but that there are no ends or bounds to obligation, and that a man’s first and most indubitable duty is to take part in the struggle with nature for his own life and for the lives of others.

And this confession of a man’s obligation constitutes the gist of the third answer to the question, “What is to be done?”

I tried not to lie to myself: I tried to cast out from myself the remains of my false conceptions of the importance of my education and talents, and to repent; but on the way to a decision of the question, “What to do?” a fresh difficulty arose.  There are so many different occupations, that an indication was necessary as to the precise one which was to be adopted.  And the answer to this question was furnished me by sincere repentance for the evil in which I had lived.

“What to do?  Precisely what to do?” all ask, and that is what I also asked so long as, under the influence of my exalted idea of any own importance, I did not perceive that my first and unquestionable duty was to feed myself, to clothe myself, to furnish my own fuel, to do my own building, and, by so doing, to serve others, because, ever since the would has existed, the first and indubitable duty of every man has consisted and does consist in this.

In fact, no matter what a man may have assumed to be his vocation,—whether it be to govern people, to defend his fellow-countrymen, to divine service, to instruct others, to invent means to heighten the pleasures of life, to discover the laws of the world, to incorporate eternal truths in artistic representations,—the duty of a reasonable man is to take part in the struggle with nature, for the sustenance of his own life and of that of others.  This obligation is the first of all, because what people need most of all is their life; and therefore, in order to defend and instruct the people, and render their lives more agreeable, it is requisite to preserve that life itself, while my refusal to share in the struggle, my monopoly of the labors of others, is equivalent to annihilation of the lives of others.  And, therefore, it is not rational to serve the lives of men by annihilating the lives of men; and it is impossible to say that I am serving men, when, by my life, I am obviously injuring them.

A man’s obligation to struggle with nature for the acquisition of the means of livelihood will always be the first and most unquestionable of all obligations, because this obligation is a law of life, departure from which entails the inevitable punishment of either bodily or mental annihilation of the life of man.  If a man living alone excuses himself from the obligation of struggling with nature, he is immediately punished, in that his body perishes.  But if a man excuses himself from this obligation by making other people fulfil it for him, then also he is immediately punished by the annihilation of his mental life; that is to say, of the life which possesses rational thought.

In this one act, man receives—if the two things are to be separated—full satisfaction of the bodily and spiritual demands of his nature.  The feeding, clothing, and taking care of himself and his family, constitute the satisfaction of the bodily demands and requirements; and doing the same for other people, constitutes the satisfaction of his spiritual requirements.  Every other employment of man is only legal when it is directed to the satisfaction of this very first duty of man; for the fulfilment of this duty constitutes the whole life of man.

I had been so turned about by my previous life, this first and indubitable law of God or of nature is so concealed in our sphere of society, that the fulfilment of this law seemed to me strange, terrible, even shameful; as though the fulfilment of an eternal, unquestionable law, and not the departure from it, can be terrible, strange, and shameful.

At first it seemed to me that the fulfilment of this matter required some preparation, arrangement or community of men, holding similar views,—the consent of one’s family, life in the country; it seemed to me disgraceful to make a show of myself before people, to undertake a thing so improper in our conditions of existence, as bodily toil, and I did not know how to set about it.  But it was only necessary for me to understand that this is no exclusive occupation which requires to be invented and arranged for, but that this employment was merely a return from the false position in which I found myself, to a natural one; was only a rectification of that lie in which I was living.  I had only to recognize this fact, and all these difficulties vanished.  It was not in the least necessary to make preparations and arrangements, and to await the consent of others, for, no matter in what position I had found myself, there had always been people who had fed, clothed and warmed me, in addition to themselves; and everywhere, under all conditions, I could do the same for myself and for them, if I had the time and the strength.  Neither could I experience false shame in an unwonted occupation, no matter how surprising it might be to people, because, through not doing it, I had already experienced not false but real shame.

And when I had reached this confession and the practical deduction from it, I was fully rewarded for not having quailed before the deductions of reason, and for following whither they led me.  On arriving at this practical deduction, I was amazed at the ease and simplicity with which all the problems which had previously seemed to me so difficult and so complicated, were solved.

To the question, “What is it necessary to do?” the most indubitable answer presented itself: first of all, that which it was necessary for me to do was, to attend to my own samovar, my own stove, my own water, my own clothing; to every thing that I could do for myself.  To the question, “Will it not seem strange to people if you do this?” it appeared that this strangeness lasted only a week, and after the lapse of that week, it would have seemed strange had I returned to my former conditions of life.  With regard to the question, “Is it necessary to organize this physical labor, to institute an association in the country, on my land?” it appeared that nothing of the sort was necessary; that labor, if it does not aim at the acquisition of all possible leisure, and the enjoyment of the labor of others,—like the labor of people bent on accumulating money,—but if it have for its object the satisfaction of requirements, will itself be drawn from the city to the country, to the land, where this labor is the most fruitful and cheerful.  But it is not requisite to institute any association, because the man who labors, naturally and of himself, attaches himself to the existing association of laboring men.

To the question, whether this labor would not monopolize all my time, and deprive me of those intellectual pursuits which I love, to which I am accustomed, and which, in my moments of self-conceit, I regard as not useless to others? I received a most unexpected reply.  The energy of my intellectual activity increased, and increased in exact proportion with bodily application, while freeing itself from every thing superfluous.  It appeared that by dedicating to physical toil eight hours, that half of the day which I had formerly passed in the oppressive state of a struggle with ennui, eight hours remained to me, of which only five of intellectual activity, according to my terms, were necessary to me.  For it appeared, that if I, a very voluminous writer, who had done nothing for nearly forty years except write, and who had written three hundred printed sheets;—if I had worked during all those forty years at ordinary labor with the working-people, then, not reckoning winter evenings and leisure days, if I had read and studied for five hours every day, and had written a couple of pages only on holidays (and I have been in the habit of writing at the rate of one printed sheet a day), then I should have written those three hundred sheets in fourteen years.  The fact seemed startling: yet it is the most simple arithmetical calculation, which can be made by a seven-year-old boy, but which I had not been able to make up to this time.  There are twenty-four hours in the day; if we take away eight hours, sixteen remain.  If any man engaged in intellectual occupations devote five hours every day to his occupation, he will accomplish a fearful amount.  And what is to be done with the remaining eleven hours?

It proved that physical labor not only does not exclude the possibility of mental activity, but that it improves its quality, and encourages it.

In answer to the question, whether this physical toil does not deprive me of many innocent pleasures peculiar to man, such as the enjoyment of the arts, the acquisition of learning, intercourse with people, and the delights of life in general, it turned out exactly the reverse: the more intense the labor, the more nearly it approached what is considered the coarsest agricultural toil, the more enjoyment and knowledge did I gain, and the more did I come into close and loving communion with men, and the more happiness did I derive from life.

In answer to the question (which I have so often heard from persons not thoroughly sincere), as to what result could flow from so insignificant a drop in the sea of sympathy as my individual physical labor in the sea of labor ingulfing me, I received also the most satisfactory and unexpected of answers.  It appeared that all I had to do was to make physical labor the habitual condition of my life, and the majority of my false, but precious, habits and my demands, when physically idle, fell away from me at once of their own accord, without the slightest exertion on my part.  Not to mention the habit of turning day into night and vice versa, my habits connected with my bed, with my clothing, with conventional cleanliness,—which are downright impossible and oppressive with physical labor,—and my demands as to the quality of my food, were entirely changed.  In place of the dainty, rich, refined, complicated, highly-spiced food, to which I had formerly inclined, the most simple viands became needful and most pleasing of all to me,—cabbage-soup, porridge, black bread, and tea v prikusku. [238]  So that, not to mention the influence upon me of the example of the simple working-people, who are content with little, with whom I came in contact in the course of my bodily toil, my very requirements underwent a change in consequence of my toilsome life; so that my drop of physical labor in the sea of universal labor became larger and larger, in proportion as I accustomed myself to, and appropriated, the habits of the laboring classes; in proportion, also, to the success of my labor, my demands for labor from others grew less and less, and my life naturally, without exertion or privations, approached that simple existence of which I could not even dream without fulfilling the law of labor.

It proved that my dearest demands from life, namely, my demands for vanity, and diversion from ennui, arose directly from my idle life.  There was no place for vanity, in connection with physical labor; and no diversions were needed, since my time was pleasantly occupied, and, after my fatigue, simple rest at tea over a book, or in conversation with my fellows, was incomparably more agreeable than theatres, cards, conceits, or a large company,—all which things are needed in physical idleness, and which cost a great deal.

In answer to the question, Would not this unaccustomed toil ruin that health which is indispensable in order to render service to the people possible? it appeared, in spite of the positive assertions of noted physicians, that physical exertion, especially at my age, might have the most injurious consequences (but that Swedish gymnastics, the massage treatment, and so on, and other expedients intended to take the place of the natural conditions of man’s life, were better), that the more intense the toil, the stronger, more alert, more cheerful, and more kindly did I feel.  Thus it undoubtedly appeared, that, just as all those cunning devices of the human mind, newspapers, theatres, concerts, visits, balls, cards, journals, romances, are nothing else than expedients for maintaining the spiritual life of man outside his natural conditions of labor for others,—just so all the hygienic and medical devices of the human mind for the preparation of food, drink, lodging, ventilation, heating, clothing, medicine, water, massage, gymnastics, electric, and other means of healing,—all these clever devices are merely an expedient to sustain the bodily life of man removed from its natural conditions of labor.  It turned out that all these devices of the human mind for the agreeable arrangement of the physical existence of idle persons are precisely analogous to those artful contrivances which people might invent for the production in vessels hermetically sealed, by means of mechanical arrangements, of evaporation, and plants, of the air best fitted for breathing, when all that is needed is to open the window.  All the inventions of medicine and hygiene for persons of our sphere are much the same as though a mechanic should hit upon the idea of heating a steam-boiler which was not working, and should shut all the valves so that the boiler should not burst.  Only one thing is needed, instead of all these extremely complicated devices for pleasure, for comfort, and for medical and hygienic preparations, intended to save people from their spiritual and bodily ailments, which swallow up so much labor,—to fulfil the law of life; to do that which is proper not only to man, but to the animal; to fire off the charge of energy taken win in the shape of food, by muscular exertion; to speak in plain language, to earn one’s bread.  Those who do not work should not eat, or they should earn as much as they have eaten.

And when I clearly comprehended all this, it struck me as ridiculous.  Through a whole series of doubts and searchings, I had arrived, by a long course of thought, at this remarkable truth: if a man has eyes, it is that he may see with them; if he has ears, that he may hear; and feet, that he may walk; and hands and back, that he may labor; and that if a man will not employ those members for that purpose for which they are intended, it will be the worse for him.

I came to this conclusion, that, with us privileged people, the same thing has happened which happened with the horses of a friend of mine.  His steward, who was not a lover of horses, nor well versed in them, on receiving his master’s orders to place the best horses in the stable, selected them from the stud, placed them in stalls, and fed and watered them; but fearing for the valuable steeds, he could not bring himself to trust them to any one, and he neither rode nor drove them, nor did he even take them out.  The horses stood there until they were good for nothing.  The same thing has happened with us, but with this difference: that it was impossible to deceive the horses in any way, and they were kept in bonds to prevent their getting out; but we are kept in an unnatural position that is equally injurious to us, by deceits which have entangled us, and which hold us like chains.

We have arranged for ourselves a life that is repugnant both to the moral and the physical nature of man, and all the powers of our intelligence we concentrate upon assuring man that this is the most natural life possible.  Every thing which we call culture,—our sciences, art, and the perfection of the pleasant thing’s of life,—all these are attempts to deceive the moral requirements of man; every thing that is called hygiene and medicine, is an attempt to deceive the natural physical demands of human nature.  But these deceits have their bounds, and we advance to them.  “If such be the real human life, then it is better not to live at all,” says the reigning and extremely fashionable philosophy of Schopenhauer and Hartmann.  If such is life, ’tis better for the coming generation not to live,” say corrupt medical science and its newly devised means to that end.

In the Bible, it is laid down as the law of man: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, and in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children;” but “nous avons changé tout ca,” as Molière’s character says, when expressing himself with regard to medicine, and asserting that the liver was on the left side.  We have changed all that.  Men need not work in order to eat, and women need not bear children.

A ragged peasant roams the Krapivensky district.  During the war he was an agent for the purchase of grain, under an official of the commissary department.  On being brought in contact with the official, and seeing his luxurious life, the peasant lost his mind, and thought that he might get along without work, like gentlemen, and receive proper support from the Emperor.  This peasant now calls himself “the Most Serene Warrior, Prince Blokhin, purveyor of war supplies of all descriptions.”  He says of himself that he has “passed through all the ranks,” and that when he shall have served out his term in the army, he is to receive from the Emperor an unlimited bank account, clothes, uniforms, horses, equipages, tea, pease and servants, and all sorts of luxuries.  This man is ridiculous in the eyes of many, but to me the significance of his madness is terrible.  To the question, whether he does not wish to work, he always replies proudly: “I am much obliged.  The peasants will attend to all that.”  When you tell him that the peasants do not wish to work, either, he answers: “It is not difficult for the peasant.”

He generally talks in a high-flown style, and is fond of verbal substantives.  “Now there is an invention of machinery for the alleviation of the peasants,” he says; “there is no difficulty for them in that.”  When he is asked what he lives for, he replies, “To pass the time.”  I always look on this man as on a mirror.  I behold in him myself and all my class.  To pass through all the ranks (tchini) in order to live for the purpose of passing the time, and to receive an unlimited bank account, while the peasants, for whom this is not difficult, because of the invention of machinery, do the whole business,—this is the complete formula of the idiotic creed of the people of our sphere in society.

When we inquire precisely what we are to do, surely, we ask nothing, but merely assert—only not in such good faith as the Most Serene Prince Blokhin, who has been promoted through all ranks, and lost his mind—that we do not wish to do any thing.

He who will reflect for a moment cannot ask thus, because, on the one hand, every thing that he uses has been made, and is made, by the hands of men; and, on the other side, as soon as a healthy man has awakened and eaten, the necessity of working with feet and hands and brain makes itself felt.  In order to find work and to work, he need only not hold back: only a person who thinks work disgraceful—like the lady who requests her guest not to take the trouble to open the door, but to wait until she can call a man for this purpose—can put to himself the question, what he is to do.

The point does not lie in inventing work,—you can never get through all the work that is to be done for yourself and for others,—but the point lies in weaning one’s self from that criminal view of life in accordance with which I eat and sleep for my own pleasure; and in appropriating to myself that just and simple view with which the laboring man grows up and lives,—that man is, first of all, a machine, which loads itself with food in order to sustain itself, and that it is therefore disgraceful, wrong, and impossible to eat and not to work; that to eat and not to work is the most impious, unnatural, and, therefore, dangerous position, in the nature of the sin of Sodom.  Only let this acknowledgement be made, and there will be work; and work will always be joyous and satisfying to both spiritual and bodily requirements.

The matter presented itself to me thus: The day is divided for every man, by food itself, into four parts, or four stints, as the peasants call it: (1) before breakfast; (2) from breakfast until dinner; (3) from dinner until four o’clock; (4) from four o’clock until evening.

A man’s employment, whatever it may be that he feels a need for in his own person, is also divided into four categories: (1) the muscular employment of power, labor of the hands, feet, shoulders, back,—hard labor, from which you sweat; (2) the employment of the fingers and wrists, the employment of artisan skill; (3) the employment of the mind and imagination; (4) the employment of intercourse with others.

The benefits which man enjoys are also divided into four categories.  Every man enjoys, in the first place, the product of hard labor,—grain, cattle, buildings, wells, ponds, and so forth; in the second place, the results of artisan toil,—clothes, boots, utensils, and so forth; in the third place, the products of mental activity,—science, art; and, in the forth place, established intercourse between people.

And it struck me, that the best thing of all would be to arrange the occupations of the day in such a manner as to exercise all four of man’s capacities, and myself produce all these four sorts of benefits which men make use of, so that one portion of the day, the first, should be dedicated to hard labor; the second, to intellectual labor; the third, to artisan labor; and the forth, to intercourse with people.  It struck me, that only then would that false division of labor, which exists in our society, be abrogated, and that just division of labor established, which does not destroy man’s happiness.

I, for example, have busied myself all my life with intellectual labor.  I said to myself, that I had so divided labor, that writing, that is to say, intellectual labor, is my special employment, and the other matters which were necessary to me I had left free (or relegated, rather) to others.  But this, which would appear to have been the most advantageous arrangement for intellectual toil, was precisely the most disadvantageous to mental labor, not to mention its injustice.

All my life long, I have regulated my whole life, food, sleep, diversion, in view of these hours of special labor, and I have done nothing except this work.  The result of this has been, in the first place, that I have contracted my sphere of observations and knowledge, and have frequently had no means for the study even of problems which often presented themselves in describing the life of the people (for the life of the common people is the every-day problem of intellectual activity).  I was conscious of my ignorance, and was obliged to obtain instruction, to ask about things which are known by every man not engaged in special labor.  In the second place, the result was, that I had been in the habit of sitting down to write when I had no inward impulse to write, and when no one demanded from me writing, as writing, that is to say, my thoughts, but when my name was merely wanted for journalistic speculation.  I tried to squeeze out of myself what I could.  Sometimes I could extract nothing; sometimes it was very wretched stuff, and I was dissatisfied and grieved.  But now that I have learned the indispensability of physical labor, both hard and artisan labor, the result is entirely different.  My time has been occupied, however modestly, at least usefully and cheerfully, and in a manner instructive to me.  And therefore I have torn myself from that indubitably useful and cheerful occupation for my special duties only when I felt an inward impulse, and when I saw a demand made upon me directly for my literary work.

And these demands called into play only good nature, and therefore the usefulness and the joy of my special labor.  Thus it turned out, that employment in those physical labors which are indispensable to me, as they are to every man, not only did not interfere with my special activity, but was an indispensable condition of the usefulness, worth, and cheerfulness of that activity.

The bird is so constructed, that it is indispensable that it should fly, walk, peek, combine; and when it does all this, it is satisfied and happy,—then it is a bird.  Just so man, when he walks, turns, raises, drags, works with his fingers, with his eyes, with his ears, with his tongue, with his brain,—only then is he satisfied, only then is he a man.

A man who acknowledges his appointment to labor will naturally strive towards that rotation of labor which is peculiar to him, for the satisfaction of his inward requirements; and he can alter this labor in no other way than when he feels within himself an irresistible summons to some exclusive form of labor, and when the demands of other men for that labor are expressed.

The character of labor is such, that the satisfaction of all a man’s requirements demands that same succession of the sorts of work which renders work not a burden but a joy.  Only a false creed, δοξα, to the effect that labor is a curse, could have led men to rid themselves of certain kinds of work; i.e., to the appropriation of the work of others, demanding the forced occupation with special labor of other people, which they call division of labor.

We have only grown used to our false comprehension of the regulation of labor, because it seems to us that the shoemaker, the machinist, the writer, or the musician will be better off if he gets rid of the labor peculiar to man.  Where there is no force exercised over the labor of others, or any false belief in the joy of idleness, not a single man will get rid of physical labor, necessary for the satisfaction of his requirements, for the sake of special work; because special work is not a privilege, but a sacrifice which man offers to inward pressure and to his brethren.

The shoemaker in the country, who abandons his wonted labor in the field, which is so grateful to him, and betakes himself to his trade, in order to repair or make boots for his neighbors, always deprives himself of the pleasant toil of the field, simply because he likes to make boots, because he knows that no one else can do it so well as he, and that people will be grateful to him for it; but the desire cannot occur to him, to deprive himself, for the whole period of his life, of the cheering rotation of labor.

It is the same with the starosta [village elder], the machinist, the writer, the learned man.  To us, with our corrupt conception of things, it seems, that if a steward has been relegated to the position of a peasant by his master, or if a minister has been sent to the colonies, he has been chastised, he has been ill-treated.  But in reality a benefit has been conferred on him; that is to say, his special, hard labor has been changed into a cheerful rotation of labor.  In a naturally constituted society, this is quite otherwise.  I know of one community where the people supported themselves.  One of the members of this society was better educated than the rest; and they called upon him to read, so that he was obliged to prepare himself during the day, in order that he might read in the evening.  This he did gladly, feeling that he was useful to others, and that he was performing a good deed.  But he grew weary of exclusively intellectual work, and his health suffered from it.  The members of the community took pity on him, and requested him to go to work in the fields.

For men who regard labor as the substance and the joy of life, the basis, the foundation of life will always be the struggle with nature,—labor both agricultural and mechanical, and intellectual, and the establishment of communion between men.  Departure from one or from many of these varieties of labor, and the adoption of special labor, will then only occur when the man possessed of a special branch, and loving this work, and knowing that he can perform it better than others, sacrifices his own profit for the satisfaction of the direct demands made upon him.  Only on condition of such a view of labor, and of the natural division of labor arising from it, is that curse which is laid upon our idea of labor abrogated, and does every sort of work becomes always a joy; because a man will either perform that labor which is undoubtedly useful and joyous, and not dull, or he will possess the consciousness of self-abnegation in the fulfilment of more difficult and restricted toil, which he exercises for the good of others.

But the division of labor is more profitable.  More profitable for whom?  It is more profitable in making the greatest possible quantity of calico, and boots in the shortest possible time.  But who will make these boots and this calico?  There are people who, for whole generations, make only the heads of pins.  Then how can this be more profitable for men?  If the point lies in manufacturing as much calico and as many pins as possible, then this is so.  But the point concerns men and their welfare.  And the welfare of men lies in life.  And life is work.  How, then, can the necessity for burdensome, oppressive toil be more profitable for people?  For all men, that one thing is more profitable which I desire for myself,—the utmost well-being, and the gratification of all those requirements, both bodily and spiritual, of the conscience and of the reason, which are imposed upon me.  And in my own case I have found, that for my own welfare, and for the satisfaction of these needs of mine, all that I require is to cure myself of that folly in which I had been living, in company with the Krapivensky madman, and which consisted in presupposing that some people need not work, and that certain other people should direct all this, and that I should therefore do only that which is natural to man, i.e., labor for the satisfaction of their requirements; and, having discovered this, I convinced myself that labor for the satisfaction of one’s own needs falls of itself into various kinds of labor, each one of which possesses its own charm, and which not only do not constitute a burden, but which serve as a respite to one another.  I have made a rough division of this labor (not insisting on the justice of this arrangement), in accordance with my own needs in life, into four parts, corresponding to the four stints of labor of which the day is composed; and I seek in this manner to satisfy my requirements.

These, then, are the answers which I have found for myself to the question, “What is to be done?”

First, Not to lie to myself, however far removed my path in life may be from the true path which my reason discloses to me.

Second, To renounce my consciousness of my own righteousness, my superiority especially over other people; and to acknowledge my guilt.

Third, To comply with that eternal and indubitable law of humanity,—the labor of my whole being, feeling no shame at any sort of work; to contend with nature for the maintenance of my own life and the lives of others.


I concluded, after having said every thing that concerned myself; but I cannot refrain, from a desire to say something more which concerns everybody, from verifying the deductions which I have drawn, by comparisons.  I wish to say why it seems to me that a very large number of our social class ought to come to the same thing to which I have come; and also to state what will be the result if a number of people should come to the same conclusion.

I think that many will come to the point which I have attained: because if the people of our sphere, of our caste, will only take a serious look at themselves, then young persons, who are in search of personnel happiness, will stand aghast at the ever-increasing wretchedness of their life, which is plainly leading them to destruction; conscientious people will be shocked at the cruelty and the illegality of their life; and timid people will be terrified by the danger of their mode of life.

The Wretchedness of our Life:—However much we rich people may reform, however much we may bolster up this delusive life of ours with the aid of our science and art, this life will become, with every year, both weaker and more diseased; with every year the number of suicides, and the refusals to bear children, will increase; with every year we shall feel the growing sadness of our life; with every generation, the new generations of people of this sphere of society will become more puny.

It is obvious that in this path of the augmentation of the comforts and the pleasures of life, in the path of every sort of cure, and of artificial preparations for the improvements of the sight, the hearing, the appetite, false teeth, false hair, respiration, massage, and so on, there can be no salvation.  That people who do not make use of these perfected preparations are stronger and healthier, has become such a truism, that advertisements are printed in the newspapers of stomach-powders for the wealthy, under the heading, “Blessings for the poor,” [252] in which it is stated that only the poor are possessed of proper digestive powers, and that the rich require assistance, and, among other various sorts of assistance, these powders.  It is impossible to set the matter right by any diversions, comforts, and powders, whatever; only a change of life can rectify it.

The Inconsistency of our Life with our Conscience:—however we may seek to justify our betrayal of humanity to ourselves, all our justifications will crumble into dust in the presence of the evidence.  All around us, people are dying of excessive labor and of privation; we ruin the labor of others, the food and clothing which are indispensable to them, merely with the object of procuring diversion and variety for our wearisome lives.  And, therefore, the conscience of a man of our circle, if even a spark of it be left in him, cannot be lulled to sleep, and it poisons all these comforts and those pleasures of life which our brethren, suffering and perishing in their toil, procure for us.  But not only does every conscientious man feel this himself,—he would be glad to forget it, but this he cannot do.

The new, ephemeral justifications of science for science, of art for art, do not exclude the light of a simple, healthy judgment.  The conscience of man cannot be quieted by fresh devices; and it can only be calmed by a change of life, for which and in which no justification will be required.

Two causes prove to the people of the wealthy classes the necessity for a change of life: the requirements of their individual welfare, and of the welfare of those most nearly connected with them, which cannot be satisfied in the path in which they now stand; and the necessity of satisfying the voice of conscience, the impossibility of accomplishing which is obvious in their present course.  These causes, taken together, should lead people of the wealthy classes to alter their mode of life, to such a change as shall satisfy their well-being and their conscience.

And there is only one such change possible: they must cease to deceive, they must repent, they must acknowledge that labor is not a curse, but the glad business of life.  “But what will be the result if I do toil for ten, or eight, or five hours at physical work, which thousands of peasants will gladly perform for the money which I possess?” people say to this.

The first, simplest, and indubitable result will be, that you will become a more cheerful, a healthier, a more alert, and a better man, and that you will learn to know the real life, from which you have hidden yourself, or which has been hidden from you.

The second result will be, that, if you possess a conscience, it will not only cease to suffer as it now suffers when it gazes upon the toil of others, the significance of which we, through ignorance, either always exaggerate or depreciate, but you will constantly experience a glad consciousness that, with every day, you are doing more and more to satisfy the demands of your conscience, and you will escape from that fearful position of such an accumulation of evil heaped upon your life that there exists no possibility of doing good to people; you will experience the joy of living in freedom, with the possibility of good; you will break a window,—an opening into the domain of the moral world which has been closed to you.

“But this is absurd,” people usually say to you, for people of our sphere, with profound problems standing before us,—problems philosophical, scientific, artistic, ecclesiastical and social.  It would be absurd for us ministers, senators, academicians professors, artists, a quarter of an hour of whose time is so prized by people, to waste our time on any thing of that sort, would it not?—on the cleaning of our boots, the washing of our shirts, in hoeing, in planting potatoes, or in feeding our chickens and our cows, and so on; in those things which are gladly done for us, not only by our porter or our cook, but by thousands of people who value our time?

But why should we dress ourselves, wash and comb our hair? why should we hand chairs to ladies, to guests? why should we open and shut doors, hand ladies, into carriages, and do a hundred other things which serfs formerly did for us?  Because we think that it is necessary so to do; that human dignity demands it; that it is the duty, the obligation, of man.

And the same is the case with physical labor.  The dignity of man, his sacred duty and obligation, consists in using the hands and feet which have been given to him, for that for which they were given to him, and that which consumes food on the labor which produces that food; and that they should be used, not on that which shall cause them to pine away, not as objects to wash and clean, and merely for the purpose of stuffing into one’s mouth food, drink, and cigarettes.  This is the significance that physical labor possesses for man in every community; but in our community, where the avoidance of this law of labor has occasioned the unhappiness of a whole class of people, employment in physical labor acquires still another significance,—the significance of a sermon, and of an occupation which removes a terrible misfortune that is threatening mankind.

To say that physical labor is an insignificant occupation for a man of education, is equivalent to saying, in connection with the erection of a temple: “What does it matter whether one stone is laid accurately in its place?”  Surely, it is precisely under conditions of modesty, simplicity, and imperceptibleness, that every magnificent thing is accomplished; it is impossible to plough, to build, to pasture cattle, or even to think, amid glare, thunder, and illumination.  Grand and genuine deeds are always simple and modest.  And such is the grandest of all deeds which we have to deal with,—the reconciliation of those fearful contradictions amid which we are living.  And the deeds which will reconcile these contradictions are those modest, imperceptible, apparently ridiculous ones, the serving one’s self, physical labor for one’s self, and, if possible, for others also, which we rich people must do, if we understand the wretchedness, the unscrupulousness, and the danger of the position into which we have drifted.

What will be the result if I, or some other man, or a handful of men, do not despise physical labor, but regard it as indispensable to our happiness and to the appeasement of our conscience?  This will be the result, that there will be one man, two men, or a handful of men, who, coming into conflict with no one, without governmental or revolutionary violence, will decide for ourselves the terrible question which stands before all the world, and which sets people at variance, and that we shall settle it in such wise that life will be better to them, that their conscience will be more at peace, and that they will have nothing to fear; the result will be, that other people will see that the happiness which they are seeking everywhere, lies there around them; that the apparently unreconcilable contradictions of conscience and of the constitution of this world will be reconciled in the easiest and most joyful manner; and that, instead of fearing the people who surround us, it will become necessary for us to draw near to them and to love them.

The apparently insoluble economical and social problem is merely the problem of Kriloff’s casket. [256]  The casket will simply open.  And it will not open, so long as people do not do simply that first and simple thing—open it.

A man sets up what he imagines to be his own peculiar library, his own private picture-gallery, his own apartments and clothing, he accumulates his own money in order therewith to purchase every thing that he needs; and the end of it all is, that engaged with this fancied property of his, as though it were real, he utterly loses his sense of that which actually constitutes his property, on which he can really labor, which can really serve him, and which will always remain in his power, and of that which is not and cannot be his own property, whatever he may call it, and which cannot serve as the object of his occupation.

Words always possess a clear significance until we deliberately attribute to them a false sense.

What does property signify?

Property signifies that which has been given to me, which belongs to me exclusively; that with which I can always do any thing I like; that which no one can take away from me; that which will remain mine to the end of my life, and precisely that which I am bound to use, increase, and improve.  Now, there exists but one such piece of property for any man,—himself.

Hence it results that half a score of men may till the soil, hew wood, and make shoes, not from necessity, but in consequence of an acknowledgment of the fact that man should work, and that the more he works the better it will be for him.  It results, that half a score of men,—or even one man, may demonstrate to people, both by his confession and by his actions, that the terrible evil from which they are suffering is not a law of fate, the will of God, or any historical necessity; but that it is merely a superstition, which is not in the least powerful or terrible, but weak and insignificant, in which we must simply cease to believe, as in idols, in order to rid ourselves of it, and in order to rend it like a paltry spider’s web.  Men who will labor to fulfil the glad law of their existence, that is to say, those who work in order to fulfil the law of toil, will rid themselves of that frightful superstition of property for themselves.

If the life of a man is filled with toil, and if he knows the delights of rest, he requires no chambers, furniture, and rich and varied clothing; he requires less costly food; he needs no means of locomotion, or of diversion.  But the principal thing is, that the man who regards labor as the business and the joy of his life will not seek that relief from his labor which the labors of others might afford him.  The man who regards life as a matter of labor will propose to himself as his object, in proportion as he acquires understanding, skill, and endurance, greater and greater toil, which shall constantly fill his life to a greater and greater degree.  For such a man, who sees the meaning of his life in work itself, and not in its results, for the acquisition of property, there can be no question as to the implements of labor.  Although such a man will always select the most suitable implements, that man will receive the same satisfaction from work and rest, when he employs the most unsuitable implements.  If there be a steam-plough, he will use it; if there is none, he will till the soil with a horse-plough, and, if there is none, with a primitive curved bit of wood shod with iron, or he will use a rake; and, under all conditions, he will equally attain his object.  He will pass his life in work that is useful to men, and he will therefore win complete satisfaction.

And the position of such a man, both in his external and internal conditions, will be more happy than that of the man who devotes his life to the acquisition of property.  Such a man will never suffer need in his outward circumstances, because people, perceiving his desire to work, will always try to provide him with the most productive work, as they proportion a mill to the water-power.  And they will render his material existence free from care, which they will not do for people who are striving to acquire property.  And freedom from anxiety in his material conditions is all that a man needs.  Such a man will always be happier in his internal conditions, than the one who seeks wealth, because the first will never gain that which he is striving for, while the latter always will, in proportion to his powers.  The feeble, the aged, the dying, according to the proverb, “With the written absolution in his hands,” will receive full satisfaction, and the love and sympathy of men.

What, then, will be the outcome of a few eccentric individuals, or madmen, tilling the soil, making shoes, and so on, instead of smoking cigarettes, playing whist, and roaming about everywhere to relieve their tedium, during the space of the ten leisure hours a day which every intellectual worker enjoys?  This will be the outcome: that these madmen will show in action, that that imaginary property for which men suffer, and for which they torment themselves and others, is not necessary for happiness; that it is oppressive, and that it is mere superstition; that property, true property, consists only in one’s own head and hands; and that, in order to actually exploit this real property with profit and pleasure, it is necessary to reject the false conception of property outside one’s own body, upon which we expend the best efforts of our lives.  The outcome us, that these men will show, that only when a man ceases to believe in imaginary property, only when he brings into play his real property, his capacities, his body, so that they will yield him fruit a hundred-fold, and happiness of which we have no idea,—only then will he be so strong, useful, and good a man, that, wherever you may fling him, he will always land on his feet; that he will everywhere and always be a brother to everybody; that he will be intelligible to everybody, and necessary, and good.  And men looking on one, on ten such madmen, will understand what they must all do in order to loose that terrible knot in which the superstition regarding property has entangled them, in order to free themselves from the unfortunate position in which they are all now groaning with one voice, not knowing whence to find an issue from it.

But what can one man do amid a throng which does not agree with him?  There is no argument which could more clearly demonstrate the terror of those who make use of it than this.  The burlaki [260] drag their bark against the current.  There cannot be found a burlak so stupid that he will refuse to pull away at his towing-rope because he alone is not able to drag the bark against the current.  He who, in addition to his rights to an animal life, to eat and sleep, recognizes any sort of human obligation, knows very well in what that human obligation lies, just as the boatman knows it when the tow-rope is attached to him.  The boatman knows very well that all he has to do is to pull at the rope, and proceed in the given direction.  He will seek what he is to do, and how he is to do it, only when the tow-rope is removed from him.  And as it is with these boatmen and with all people who perform ordinary work, so it is with the affairs of all humanity.  All that each man needs is not to remove the tow-rope, but to pull away on it in the direction which his master orders.  And, for this purpose, one sort of reason is bestowed on all men, in order that the direction may be always the same.  And this direction has obviously been so plainly indicated, that both in the life of all the people about us, and in the conscience of each individual man, only he who does not wish to work can say that he does not see it.  Then, what is the outcome of this?

This: that one, perhaps two men, will pull; a third will look on, and will join them; and in this manner the best people will unite until the affair begins to start, and make progress, as though itself inspiring and bidding thereto even those who do not understand what is being done, and why it is being done.  First, to the contingent of men who are consciously laboring in order to comply with the law of God, there will be added the people who only half understand and who only half confess the faith; then a still greater number of people who admit the same doctrine will join them, merely on the faith of the originators; and finally the majority of mankind will recognize this, and then it will come to pass, that men will cease to ruin themselves, and will find happiness.

This will happen,—and it will be very speedily,—when people of our set, and after them a vast majority, shall cease to think it disgraceful to pay visits in untanned boots, and not disgraceful to walk in overshoes past people who have no shoes at all; that it is disgraceful not to understand French, and not disgraceful to eat bread and not to know how to set it; that it is disgraceful not to have a starched shirt and clean clothes, and not disgraceful to go about in clean garments thereby showing one’s idleness; that it is disgraceful to have dirty hands, and not disgraceful not to have hands with callouses.

All this will come to pass when the sense of the community shall demand it.  But the sense of the community will demand this when those delusions in the imagination of men, which have concealed the truth from them, shall have been abolished.  Within my own recollection, great changes have taken place in this respect.  And these changes have taken place only because the general opinion has undergone an alteration.  Within my memory, it has come to pass, that whereas it used to be disgraceful for wealthy people not to drive out with four horses and two footmen, and not to keep a valet or a maid to dress them, wash them, put on their shoes, and so forth; it has now suddenly become discreditable for one not to put on one’s own clothes and shoes for one’s self, and to drive with footmen.  Public opinion has effected all these changes.  Are not the changes which public opinion is now preparing clear?

All that was necessary five and twenty years ago was to abolish the delusion which justified the right of serfdom, and public opinion as to what was praiseworthy and what was discreditable changed, and life changed also.  All that is now requisite is to annihilate the delusion which justifies the power of money over men, and public opinion will undergo a change as to what is creditable and what is disgraceful, and life will be changed also; and the annihilation of the delusion, of the justification of the moneyed power, and the change in public opinion in this respect, will be promptly accomplished.  This delusion is already flickering, and the truth will very shortly be disclosed.  All that is required is to gaze steadfastly, in order to perceive clearly that change in public opinion which has already taken place, and which is simply not recognized, not fitted with a word.  The educated man of our day has but to reflect ever so little on what will be the outcome of those views of the world which he professes, in order to convince himself that the estimate of good and bad, by which, by virtue of his inertia, he is guided in life, directly contradict his views of the world.

All that the man of our century has to do is to break away for a moment from the life which runs on by force of inertia, to survey it from the one side, and subject it to that same standard which arises from his whole view of the world, in order to be horrified at the definition of his whole life, which follows from his views of the world.  Let us take, for instance, a young man (the energy of life is greater in the young, and self-consciousness is more obscured).  Let us take, for instance, a young man belonging to the wealthy classes, whatever his tendencies may chance to be.

Every good young man considers it disgraceful not to help an old man, a child, or a woman; he thinks, in a general way, that it is a shame to subject the life or health of another person to danger, or to shun it himself.  Every one considers that shameful and brutal which Schuyler relates of the Kirghiz in times of tempest,—to send out the women and the aged females to hold fast the corners of the kibitka [tent] during the storm, while they themselves continue to sit within the tent, over their kumis [fermented mare’s-milk].  Every one thinks it shameful to make a week man work for one; that it is still more disgraceful in time of danger—on a burning ship, for example,—being strong, to be the first to seat one’s self in the lifeboat,—to thrust aside the weak and leave them in danger, and so on.

All men regard this as disgraceful, and would not do it upon any account, in certain exceptional circumstances; but in every-day life, the very same actions, and others still worse, are concealed from them by delusions, and they perpetrate them incessantly.  The establishment of this new view of life is the business of public opinion.  Public opinion, supporting such a view, will speedily be formed.

Women form public opinion, and women are especially powerful in our day.


As stated in the Bible, a law was given to the man and the woman,—to the man, the law of labor; to the woman, the law of bearing children.  Although we, with our science, avons changé tout ça, the law for the man, as for woman, remains as unalterable as the liver in its place, and departure from it is equally punished with inevitable death.  The only difference lies in this, that departure from the law, in the case of the man, is punished so immediately in the future, that it may be designated as present punishment; but departure from the law, in the case of the woman, receives its chastisement in a more distant future.

The general departure of all men from the law exterminates people immediately; the departure from it of all women annihilates it in the succeeding generation.  But the evasion by some men and some women does not exterminate the human race, and only deprives those who evade it of the rational nature of man. The departure of men from this law began long ago, among those classes who were in a position to subject others, and, constantly spreading, it has continued down to our own times; and in our own day it has reached folly, the ideal consisting in evasion of the law,—the ideal expressed by Prince Blokhin, and shared in by Renan and by the whole cultivated world: “Machines will work, and people will be bundles of nerves devoted to enjoyment.”

There was hardly any departure from the law in the part of women, it was expressed only in prostitution, and in the refusal to bear children—in private cases.  The women belonging to the wealthy classes fulfilled their law, while the men did not comply with theirs; and therefore the women became stronger, and continued to rule, and must rule, over men who have evaded the law, and who have, therefore, lost their senses.  It is generally stated that woman (the woman of Paris in particular is childless) has become so bewitching, through making use of all the means of civilization, that she has gained the upper hand over man by this fascination of hers.  This is not only unjust, but precisely the reverse of the truth.  It is not the childless woman who has conquered man, but the mother, that woman who has fulfilled her law, while the man has not fulfilled his.  That woman who deliberately remains childless, and who entrances man with her shoulders and her locks, is not the woman who rules over men, but the one who has been corrupted by man, who has descended to his level,—to the level of the vicious man,—who has evaded the law equally with himself, and who has lost, in company with him, every rational idea of life.

From this error springs that remarkable piece of stupidity which is called the rights of women.  The formula of these rights of women is as follows: “Here! you man,” says the woman, “you have departed from your law of real labor, and you want us to bear the burden of our real labor.  No, if this is to be so, we understand, as well as you do, how to perform those semblances of labor which you exercise in banks, ministries, universities, and academies; we desire, like yourselves, under the pretext of the division of labor, to make use of the labor of others, and to live for the gratification of our caprices alone.”  They say this, and prove by their action that they understand no worse, if not better, than men, how to exercise this semblance of labor.

This so-called woman question has come up, and could only come up, among men who have departed from the law of actual labor.  All that is required is, to return to that, and this question cannot exist.  Woman, having her own inevitable task, will never demand the right to share the toil of men in the mines and in the fields.  She could only demand to share in the fictitious labors of the men of the wealthy classes.

The woman of our circle has been, and still is, stronger than the man, not by virtue of her fascinations, not through her cleverness in performing the same pharisaical semblance of work as man, but because she has not stepped out from under the law that she should undergo that real labor, with danger to her life, with exertion to the last degree, from which the man of the wealthy classes has excused herself.

But, within my memory, a departure from this law on the part of woman, that is to say, her fall, has begun; and, within my memory, it has become more and more the case.  Woman, having lost the law, has acquired the belief that her strength lies in the witchery of her charms, or in her skill in pharisaical pretences at intellectual work.  And both things are bad for the children.  And, within my memory, women of the wealthy classes have come to refuse to bear children.  And so mothers who hold the power in their hands let it escape them, in order to make way for the dissolute women, and to put themselves on a level with them.  The evil is already wide-spread, and is extending farther and farther every day; and soon it will lay hold on all the women of the wealthy classes, and then they will compare themselves with men: and in company with them, they will lose the rational meaning of life.  But there is still time.

If women would but comprehend their destiny, their power, and use it for the salvation of their husbands, brothers, and children,—for the salvation of all men!

Women of the wealthy classes who are mothers, the salvation of the men of our world from the evils from which they are suffering, lies in your hands.

Not those women who are occupied with their dainty figures, with their bustles, their hair-dressing, and their attraction for men, and who bear children against their will, with despair, and hand them over to nurses; nor those who attend various courses of lectures, and discourse of psychometric centres and differentiation, and who also endeavor to escape bearing children, in order that it may not interfere with their folly which they call culture: but those women and mothers, who, possessing the power to refuse to bear children, consciously and in a straightforward way submit to this eternal, unchangeable law, knowing that the burden and the difficulty of such submission is their appointed lot in life,—these are the women and mothers of our wealthy classes, in whose hands, more than in those of any one else, lies the salvation of the men of our sphere in society from the miseries that oppress them.

Ye women and mothers who deliberately submit yourselves to the law of God, you alone in our wretched, deformed circle, which has lost the semblance of humanity, you alone know the whole of the real meaning of life, according to the law of God; and you alone, by your example, can demonstrate to people that happiness in life, in submission to the will of God, of which they are depriving themselves.  You alone know those raptures and those joys which invade the whole being, that bliss which is appointed for the man who does not depart from the law of God.  You know the happiness of love for your husbands,—a happiness which does not come to an end, which does not break off short, like all other forms of happiness, and which constitutes the beginning of a new happiness,—of love for your child.  You alone, when you are simple and obedient to the will of God, know not that farcical pretence of labor which the men of our circle call work, and know that the labor imposed by God on men, and know its true rewards, the bliss which it confers.  You know this, when, after the raptures of love, you await with emotion, fear, and terror that torturing state of pregnancy which renders you ailing for nine months, which brings you to the verge of death, and to intolerable suffering and pain.  You know the conditions of true labor, when, with joy, you await the approach and the increase of the most terrible torture, after which to you alone comes the bliss which you well know.  You know this, when, immediately after this torture, without respite, without a break, you undertake another series of toils and sufferings,—nursing,—in which process you at one and the same time deny yourselves, and subdue to your feelings the very strongest human need, that of sleep, which, as the proverb says, is dearer than father or mother; and for months and years you never get a single sound, unbroken might’s rest, and sometimes, nay, often, you do not sleep at all for a period of several nights in succession, but with failing arms you walk alone, punishing the sick child who is breaking your heart.  And when you do all this, applauded by no one, and expecting no praises for it from any one, nor any reward,—when you do this, not as an heroic deed, but like the laborer in the Gospel when he came from the field, considering that you have done only that which was your duty, then you know what the false, pretentious labor of men performed for glory really is, and that true labor is fulfilling the will of God, whose command you feel in your heart.  You know that if you are a true mother it makes no difference that no one has seen your toil, that no one has praised you for it, but that it has only been looked upon as what must needs be so, and that even those for whom your have labored not only do not thank you, but often torture and reproach you.  And with the next child you do the same: again you suffer, again you undergo the fearful, invisible labor; and again you expect no reward from any one, and yet you feel the sane satisfaction.

If you are like this, you will not say after two children, or after twenty, that you have done enough, just as the laboring man fifty years of age will not say that he has worked enough, while he still continues to eat and to sleep, and while his muscles still demand work; if you are like this, your will not cast the task of nursing and care-taking upon some other mother, just as a laboring man will not give another man the work which he has begun, and almost completed, to finish: because into this work you will throw your life.  And therefore the more there is of this work, the fuller and the happier is your life.

And when you are like this, for the good fortune of men, you will apply that law of fulfilling God’s will, by which you guide your life, to the lives of your husband, of your children, and of those most nearly connected with you.  If your are like this, and know from your own experience, that only self-sacrificing, unseen, unrewarded labor, accompanied with danger to life and to the extreme bounds of endurance, for the lives of others, is the appointed lot of man, which affords him satisfaction, then you will announce these demands to others; you will urge your husband to the same toil; and you will measure and value the dignity of men acceding to this toil; and for this toil you will also prepare your children.

Only that mother who looks upon children as a disagreeable accident, and upon love, the comforts of life, costume, and society, as the object of life, will rear her children in such a manner that they shall have as much enjoyment as possible out of life, and that they shall make the greatest possible use of it; only she will feed them luxuriously, deck them out, amuse them artificially; only she will teach them, not that which will fit them for self-sacrificing masculine or feminine labor with danger of their lives, and to the last limits of endurance, but that which will deliver them from this labor.  Only such a woman, who has lost the meaning of her life, will sympathize with that delusive and false male labor, by means of which her husband, having rid himself of the obligations of a man, is enabled to enjoy, in her company, the work of others.  Only such a woman will choose a similar man for the husband of her daughter, and will estimate men, not by what they are personally, but by that which is connected with them,—position, money, or their ability to take advantage of the labor of others.

But the true mother, who actually knows the will of God, will fit her children to fulfil it also.  For such a mother, to see her child overfed, enervated, decked out, will mean suffering; for all this, as she well knows, will render difficult for him the fulfilment of the law of God in which she has instructed him.  Such a mother will teach, not that which will enable her son and her daughter to rid themselves of labor, but that which will help them to endure the toils of life.  She will have no need to inquire what she shall teach her children, for what she shall prepare them.  Such a woman will not only not encourage her husband to false and delusive labor, which has but one object, that of using the labors of others; but she will bear herself with disgust and horror towards such an employment, which serves as a double temptation to her children.  Such a woman will not choose a husband for her daughter on account of the whiteness of his hands and the refinement of manner; but, well aware that labor and deceit will exist always and everywhere, she will, beginning with her husband, respect and value in men, and will require from them, real labor, with expenditure and risk of life, and she will despise that deceptive labor which has for its object the ridding one’s self of all true toil.

Such a mother, who brings forth children and nurses them, and will herself, rather than any other, feed her offspring and prepare their food, and sew, and wash, and teach her children, and sleep and talk with them, because in this she grounds the business of her life,—only such a mother will not seek for her children external guaranties in the form of her husband’s money, and the children’s diplomas; but she will rear them to that same capacity for the self-sacrificing fulfilment of the will of God which she is conscious of herself possessing,—a capacity for enduring toil with expenditure and risk of life,—because she knows that in this lies the sole guaranty, and the only well-being in life.  Such a mother will not ask other people what she ought to do; she will know every thing, and will fear nothing.

If there can exist any doubt for the man and for the childless woman, as to the path in which the fulfilment of the will of God lies, this path is firmly and clearly defined for the woman who is a mother; and if she has complied with it in submissiveness and in simplicity of spirit, she, standing on that loftiest height of bliss which the human being is permitted to attain, will become a guiding-star for all men who are seeking good.  Only the mother can calmly say before her death, to Him who sent her into this world, and to Him whom she has served by bearing and rearing children more dear than herself,—only she can say calmly, having served Him who has imposed this service upon her: “Now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace.”  And this is the highest perfection, towards which, as towards the highest bliss, men are striving.

Such are the women, who, having fulfilled their destiny, reign over powerful men; such are the women who prepare the new generations of people, and fix public opinion: and, therefore, in the hands of these women lies the highest power of saving men from the prevailing and threatening evils of our times.

Yes, ye women and mothers, in your hands, more than in those of all others, lies the salvation of the world!


[21a]  The fine, tall members of a regiment, selected and placed together to form a showy squad.

[21b]  [] Omitted by the Censor in the authorized edition printed in Russia, in the set of Count Tolstoï’s works.

[24a]  Réaumur.

[24b]  A drink made of water, honey, and laurel or salvia leaves, which is drunk as tea, especially by the poorer classes.

[28]  [] Omitted by the censor from the authorized edition published in Russia in the set of count Tolstoi’s works.  The omission is indicated thus . . .

[39]  Kalatch, a kind of roll: baranki, cracknels of fine flour.

[59]  An arshin is twenty-eight inches.

[60]  A myeshchanin, or citizen, who pays only poll-tax and not a guild tax.

[62]  Omitted in authorized edition.

[66]  Omitted by the censor in the authorized edition.

[94]  Omitted by the Censor in the authorized edition.

[96]  Omitted by the Censor in the authorized edition.

[99]  Omitted by the Censor in the authorized edition.

[108]  Omitted by the Censor from the authorized edition.

[111]  Omitted by the Censor in the authorized edition.

[113]  Omitted by the Censor in the authorized edition

[116]  Omitted by the Censor in the authorized edition.

[122a]  Omitted by the Censor in the authorized edition.

[122b]  A very complicated sort of whist.

[124]  The whole of this chapter is omitted by the Censor in the authorized edition, and is there represented by the following sentence: “And I felt that in money, in money itself, in the possession of it, there was something immoral; and I asked myself, What is money?”

[135]  Omitted by the Censor in the authorized edition.

[138]  Omitted by the Censor in the authorized edition.

[139]  The above passage is omitted in the authorized edition, and the following is added: “I came to the simple and natural conclusion, that, if I pity the tortured horse upon which I am riding, the first thing for me to do is to alight, and to walk on my own feet.”

[140]  Omitted in the authorized edition.

[142]  Omitted in the authorized edition.

[152a]  “Into a worse state,” in the authorized edition.

[152b]  Omitted in the authorized edition.

[154]  Omitted in the authorized edition.

[155]  Réaumur.

[158]  In the Moscow edition (authorized by the Censor), the concluding paragraph is replaced by the following:—“They say: The action of a single man is but a drop in the sea.  A drop in the sea!

“There is an Indian legend relating how a man dropped a pearl into the sea, and in order to recover it he took a bucket, and began to bail out, and to pour the water on the shore.  Thus he toiled without intermission, and on the seventh day the spirit of the sea grew alarmed lest the man should dip the sea dry, and so he brought him his pearl.  If our social evil of persecuting man were the sea, then that pearl which we have lost is equivalent to devoting our lives to bailing out the sea of that evil.  The prince of this world will take fright, he will succumb more promptly than did the spirit of the sea; but this social evil is not the sea, but a foul cesspool, which we assiduously fill with our own uncleanness.  All that is required is for us to come to our senses, and to comprehend what we are doing; to fall out of love with our own uncleanness,—in order that that imaginary sea should dry away, and that we should come into possession of that priceless pearl,—fraternal, humane life.”

[161a]  An arshin is twenty-eight inches.

[161b]  The fast extends from the 5th to the 30th of June, O.S.  (June 27 to July 12, N.S.)

[165]  A pood is thirty-six pounds.

[167]  Robinson Crusoe.

[168]  Here something has been omitted by the Censor, which I am unable to supply.—Trans.

[169]  An omission by the censor, which I am unable to supply.  Trans.

[178]  We designate as organisms the elephant and the bacterian, only because we assume by analogy in those creatures the same conjunction of feeling and consciousness that we know to exist in ourselves.  But in human societies and in humanity, this actual sign is absent; and therefore, however many other signs we may discover in humanity and in organism, without this substantial token the recognition of humanity as an organism is incorrect.

[238]  v prikusku, when a lump of sugar is held in the teeth instead or being put into the tea.

[252]  In English in the text.

[256]  An excellent translation of Kriloff’s Fables, by Mr. W. R. S. Ralston, is published in London.

[260]  Burlak, pl. burlaki, is a boatman on the River Volga.

Transcribed from the 1887 Tomas Y. Crowell edition by David Price, email