FictionForest

PART FOUR : Chapter 10

Leo TolstoyAug 24, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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Pestsov liked thrashing an argument
out to the end, and was not satisfied with Sergey
Ivanovitch’s words, especially as he felt the
injustice of his view.

“I did not mean,” he said
over the soup, addressing Alexey Alexandrovitch, “mere
density of population alone, but in conjunction with
fundamental ideas, and not by means of principles.”

“It seems to me,” Alexey
Alexandrovitch said languidly, and with no haste,
“that that’s the same thing.  In my
opinion, influence over another people is only possible
to the people which has the higher development, which…”

“But that’s just the question,”
Pestsov broke in in his bass.

He was always in a hurry to speak,
and seemed always to put his whole soul into what
he was saying.  “In what are we to make
higher development consist?  The English, the
French, the Germans, which is at the highest stage
of development?  Which of them will nationalize
the other?  We see the Rhine provinces have been
turned French, but the Germans are not at a lower stage!”
he shouted.  “There is another law at work
there.”

“I fancy that the greater influence
is always on the side of true civilization,”
said Alexey Alexandrovitch, slightly lifting his eyebrows.

“But what are we to lay down
as the outward signs of true civilization?”
said Pestsov.

“I imagine such signs are generally
very well known,” said Alexey Alexandrovitch.

“But are they fully known?”
Sergey Ivanovitch put in with a subtle smile. 
“It is the accepted view now that real culture
must be purely classical; but we see most intense disputes
on each side of the question, and there is no denying
that the opposite camp has strong points in its favor.”

“You are for classics, Sergey
Ivanovitch.  Will you take red wine?” said
Stepan Arkadyevitch.

“I am not expressing my own
opinion of either form of culture,” Sergey Ivanovitch
said, holding out his glass with a smile of condescension,
as to a child.  “I only say that both sides
have strong arguments to support them,” he went
on, addressing Alexey Alexandrovitch.  “My
sympathies are classical from education, but in this
discussion I am personally unable to arrive at a conclusion. 
I see no distinct grounds for classical studies being
given a preeminence over scientific studies.”

“The natural sciences have just
as great an educational value,” put in Pestsov. 
“Take astronomy, take botany, or zoology with
its system of general principles.”

“I cannot quite agree with that,”
responded Alexey Alexandrovitch “It seems to
me that one must admit that the very process of studying
the forms of language has a peculiarly favorable influence
on intellectual development.  Moreover, it cannot
be denied that the influence of the classical authors
is in the highest degree moral, while, unfortunately,
with the study of the natural sciences are associated
the false and noxious doctrines which are the curse
of our day.”

Sergey Ivanovitch would have said
something, but Pestsov interrupted him in his rich
bass.  He began warmly contesting the justice
of this view.  Sergey Ivanovitch waited serenely
to speak, obviously with a convincing reply ready.

“But,” said Sergey Ivanovitch,
smiling subtly, and addressing Karenin, “One
must allow that to weigh all the advantages and disadvantages
of classical and scientific studies is a difficult
task, and the question which form of education was
to be preferred would not have been so quickly and
conclusively decided if there had not been in favor
of classical education, as you expressed it just now,
its moral ­disóns mot ­anti-nihilist
influence.”

“Undoubtedly.”

“If it had not been for the
distinctive property of anti-nihilistic influence
on the side of classical studies, we should have considered
the subject more, have weighed the arguments on both
sides,” said Sergey Ivanovitch with a subtle
smile, “we should have given elbow-room to both
tendencies.  But now we know that these little
pills of classical learning possess the medicinal
property of anti-nihilism, and we boldly prescribe
them to our patients….  But what if they had
no such medicinal property?” he wound up humorously.

At Sergey Ivanovitch’s little
pills, everyone laughed; Turovtsin in especial roared
loudly and jovially, glad at last to have found something
to laugh at, all he ever looked for in listening to
conversation.

Stepan Arkadyevitch had not made a
mistake in inviting Pestsov.  With Pestsov intellectual
conversation never flagged for an instant.  Directly
Sergey Ivanovitch had concluded the conversation with
his jest, Pestsov promptly started a new one.

“I can’t agree even,”
said he, “that the government had that aim. 
The government obviously is guided by abstract considerations,
and remains indifferent to the influence its measures
may exercise.  The education of women, for instance,
would naturally be regarded as likely to be harmful,
but the government opens schools and universities
for women.”

And the conversation at once passed
to the new subject of the education of women.

Alexey Alexandrovitch expressed the
idea that the education of women is apt to be confounded
with the emancipation of women, and that it is only
so that it can be considered dangerous.

“I consider, on the contrary,
that the two questions are inseparably connected together,”
said Pestsov; “it is a vicious circle. 
Woman is deprived of rights from lack of education,
and the lack of education results from the absence
of rights.  We must not forget that the subjection
of women is so complete, and dates from such ages
back that we are often unwilling to recognize the
gulf that separates them from us,” said he.

“You said rights,” said
Sergey Ivanovitch, waiting till Pestsov had finished,
“meaning the right of sitting on juries, of voting,
of presiding at official meetings, the right of entering
the civil service, of sitting in parliament…”

“Undoubtedly.”

“But if women, as a rare exception,
can occupy such positions, it seems to me you are
wrong in using the expression ‘rights.’ 
It would be more correct to say duties.  Every
man will agree that in doing the duty of a juryman,
a witness, a telegraph clerk, we feel we are performing
duties.  And therefore it would be correct to
say that women are seeking duties, and quite legitimately. 
And one can but sympathize with this desire to assist
in the general labor of man.”

“Quite so,” Alexey Alexandrovitch
assented.  “The question, I imagine, is
simply whether they are fitted for such duties.”

“They will most likely be perfectly
fitted,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, “when
education has become general among them.  We
see this…”

“How about the proverb?”
said the prince, who had a long while been intent
on the conversation, his little comical eyes twinkling. 
“I can say it before my daughter:  her hair
is long, because her wit is…”

“Just what they thought of the
negroes before their emancipation!” said Pestsov
angrily.

“What seems strange to me is
that women should seek fresh duties,” said Sergey
Ivanovitch, “while we see, unhappily, that men
usually try to avoid them.”

“Duties are bound up with rights ­power,
money, honor; those are what women are seeking,”
said Pestsov.

“Just as though I should seek
the right to be a wet-nurse and feel injured because
women are paid for the work, while no one will take
me,” said the old prince.

Turovtsin exploded in a loud roar
of laughter and Sergey Ivanovitch regretted that he
had not made this comparison.  Even Alexey Alexandrovitch
smiled.

“Yes, but a man can’t
nurse a baby,” said Pestsov, “while a
woman…”

“No, there was an Englishman
who did suckle his baby on board ship,” said
the old prince, feeling this freedom in conversation
permissible before his own daughters.

“There are as many such Englishmen
as there would be women officials,” said Sergey
Ivanovitch.

“Yes, but what is a girl to
do who has no family?” put in Stepan Arkadyevitch,
thinking of Masha Tchibisova, whom he had had in his
mind all along, in sympathizing with Pestsov and supporting
him.

“If the story of such a girl
were thoroughly sifted, you would find she had abandoned
a family ­her own or a sister’s, where
she might have found a woman’s duties,”
Darya Alexandrovna broke in unexpectedly in a tone
of exasperation, probably suspecting what sort of
girl Stepan Arkadyevitch was thinking of.

“But we take our stand on principle
as the ideal,” replied Pestsov in his mellow
bass.  “Woman desires to have rights, to
be independent, educated.  She is oppressed,
humiliated by the consciousness of her disabilities.”

“And I’m oppressed and
humiliated that they won’t engage me at the
Foundling,” the old prince said again, to the
huge delight of Turovtsin, who in his mirth dropped
his asparagus with the thick end in the sauce.

 

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