Bookman (review date 1895)
SOURCE: A review of Master and Man, in Bookman, Vol. 1, No. 6, July, 1895, pp. 409-10.
[In the following laudatory review of Tolstoy's story, the critic deems Master and Man “beautiful in conception, so masterly in development, so skillfully delicate in workmanship.”]
Tolstoy has warm admirers who could only under severe compulsion read The Kingdom of God is Within You, just as he has others who read War and Peace and Anna Karénina, in the rather vain hopes of extracting a gospel from them. The former had grown to think that the vein they valued was completely worked out; but the inventive faculty and the power of scenic representation, when they are as strong as they were in Tolstoy, are not easily exhausted or weakened. In his case an absorbing mission, and perhaps some ascetic principles, have had far more to do with the arrest of his artistic career than any decay of genius. The proof is, that now and again in his later peasant stories, written purposely for an uncultured audience, the old strength and beauty of phrase and incident refuse to be suppressed. Notably is this so in Master and Man; and surely we may be allowed to rejoice freely at the reappearance of the earlier Tolstoy. After all, next to life we learn most from art. Precept and homily have not half its reach. And the best reason for rejoicing he himself involuntarily provides. As a story-writer he is a fastidious artist; none more eager to search for the word, or, at least, the circumstance that will produce the desired effect on our imagination; there is nothing casual or haphazard in word or arrangement. He has plainly loved his imaginings, and tended them till they have become fair. In his books of precept, on the other hand, in spite of their striking thought, the form is as careless, and often as unsatisfactory as it could be. Unconsciously, and against his will, he has himself apportioned the respective values to be set on his two orders of books.
(The entire section is 840 words.)