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Chapter 16

Sergey Ivanovitch, being practiced in argument, did not reply,
but at once turned the conversation to another aspect of the

"Oh, if you want to learn the spirit of the people by
arithmetical computation, of course it's very difficult to arrive
at it. And voting has not been introduced among us and cannot be
introduced, for it does not express the will of the people; but
there are other ways of reaching that. It is felt in the air, it
is felt by the heart. I won't speak of those deep currents which
are astir in the still ocean of the people, and which are evident
to every unprejudiced man; let us look at society in the narrow
sense. All the most diverse sections of the educated public,
hostile before, are merged in one. Every division is at an end,
all the public organs say the same thing over and over again, all
feel the mighty torrent that has overtaken them and is carrying
them in one direction."

"Yes, all the newspapers do say the same thing," said the prince.
"That's true. But so it is the same thing that all the frogs
croak before a storm. One can hear nothing for them."

"Frogs or no frogs, I'm not the editor of a paper and I don't
want to defend them; but I am speaking of the unanimity in the
intellectual world," said Sergey Ivanovitch, addressing his
brother. Levin would have answered, but the old prince
interrupted him.

"Well, about that unanimity, that's another thing, One may say,"
said the prince. "There's my son-in-law, Stepan Arkadyevitch,
you know him. He's got a place now on the committee of a
commission and something or other, I don't remember. Only
there's nothing to do in it--why, Dolly, it's no secret!--and a
salary of eight thousand. You try asking him whether his post is
of use, he'll prove to you that it's most necessary. And he's a
truthful man too, but there's no refusing to believe in the
utility of eight thousand roubles."

"Yes, he asked me to give a message to Darya Alexandrovna about
the post," said Sergey Ivanovitch reluctantly, feeling the
prince's remark to be ill-timed.

"So it is with the unanimity of the press. That's been explained
to me: as soon as there's war their incomes are doubled. How can
they help believing in the destinies of the people and the
Slavonic races...and all that?"

"I don't care for many of the papers, but that's unjust," said
Sergey Ivanovitch.

"I would only make one condition," pursued the old prince.
"Alphonse Karr said a capital thing before the war with Prussia:
'You consider war to be inevitable? Very good. Let everyone who
advocates war be enrolled in a special regiment of
advance-guards, for the front of every storm, of every attack, to
lead them all!'"

"A nice lot the editors would make!" said Katavasov, with a loud
roar, as he pictured the editors he knew in this picked legion.

"But they'd run," said Dolly, "they'd only be in the way."

"Oh, if they ran away, then we'd have grape-shot or Cossacks with
whips behind them," said the prince.

"But that's a joke, and a poor one too, if you'll excuse my
saying so, prince," said Sergey Ivanovitch.

"I don't see that it was a joke, that..." Levin was beginning,
but Sergey Ivanovitch interrupted him.

"Every member of society is called upon to do his own special
work," said he. "And men of thought are doing their work when
they express public opinion. And the single-hearted and full
expression of public opinion is the service of-the press and a
phenomenon to rejoice us at the same time. Twenty years ago we
should have been silent, but now we have heard the voice of the
Russian people, which is ready to rise as one man and ready to
sacrifice itself for its oppressed brethren; that is a great step
and a proof of strength."

"But it's not only making a sacrifice. but killing Turks," said
Levin timidly. "The people make sacrifices and are ready to make
sacrifices for their soul, but not for murder," he added,
instinctively connecting the conversation with the ideas that had
been absorbing his mind.

"For their soul? That's a most puzzling expression for a natural
science man, do you understand? What sort of thing is the soul?"
said Katavasov, smiling.

"Oh, you know!"

"No, by God, I haven't the faintest idea!" said Katavasov with a
loud roar of laughter.

"'I bring not peace, but a sword,' says Christ," Sergey
Ivanovitch rejoined for his part, quoting as simply as though it
were the easiest thing to understand the very passage that had
always puzzled Levin most.

"That's so, no doubt," the old man repeated again. He was
standing near them and responded to a chance glance turned in his

"Ah, my dear fellow, you're defeated, utterly defeated!" cried
Katavasov good-humoredly.

Levin reddened with vexation, not at being defeated, but at
having failed to control himself and being drawn into argument.

"No, I can't argue with them," he thought; "they wear
impenetrable armor, while I'm naked."

He saw that it was impossible to convince his brother and
Katavasov, and he saw even less possibility of himself agreeing
with them. What they advocated was the very pride of intellect
that had almost been his ruin. He could not admit that some
dozens of men, among them his brother, had the right, on the
ground of what they were told by some hundreds of glib volunteers
swarming to the capital, to say that they and the newspapers were
expressing the will and feeling of the people, and a feeling
which was expressed in vengeance and murder. He could not admit
this, because he neither saw the expression of such feelings in
the people among whom he was living, nor found them in himself
(and he could not but consider himself one of the persons making
up the Russian people), and most of all because he, like the
people, did not know and could not know what is for the general
good, though he knew beyond a doubt that this general good could
be attained only by the strict observance of that law of right
and wrong which has been revealed to every man, and therefore he
could not wish for war or advocate war for any general objects
whatever. He said as Mihalitch did and the people, who had
expressed their feeling in the traditional invitations of the
Varyagi: "Be princes and rule over us. Gladly we promise
complete submission. All the labor, all humiliations, all
sacrifices we take upon ourselves; but we will not judge and
decide." And now, according to Sergey Ivanovitch's account, the
people had foregone this privilege they had bought at such a
costly price.

He wanted to say too that if public opinion were an infallible
guide, then why were not revolutions and the commune as lawful as
the movement in favor of the Slavonic peoples? But these were
merely thoughts that could settle nothing. One thing could be
seen beyond doubt--that was that at the actual moment the
discussion was irritating Sergey Ivanovitch, and so it was wrong
to continue it. And Levin ceased speaking and then called the
attention of his guests to the fact that the storm clouds were
gathering, and that they had better be going home before it

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Fiction - Russian literature
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