Page images
PDF
EPUB
[graphic]

in the direction of alleviating distress is not clear Certainly it does not seem that a friend of the Rus. sian Government or a friend of the Russian people could knowingly and wilfully seek to deter those who want to give from following the dictates of their hearts. Yet such has been the result of the widely-published interviews of this kind which have been appearing lately and which flatly contradict statements from unquestionable sources as to the ex. tent and severity of the famine.

Every effort is being put forth by the Northwestern Miller and its corps of co-workers to swell the amount of the subscription. Agents have been appointed in every milling State east of the Rocky Mountains ; but to cover such a wide field takes time, and in order that the flour may arrive in opportune season it is necessary to have it start on its long journey as soon as possible.

It is desirable to get the ship out of port early in February; and if by that time three or four million pounds of flour are in New York ready for shipment it is probable that this amount will be sent forward, the remainder to follow as soon as possible. It is the intention to preserve the character of the cargo -to keep it as it is, distinctly a gift from the millers of America. Those outside the trade who desire to contribute will be allowed to do so, but the shipment will go under the auspices of no society or organization whatever. It will be a business men's movement, and the flour contributed will be handled from the mill to the port of destination by business men exclusively. It will go consigned to the two

COL. CHARLES M'C. REEVE. commissioners who are entrusted with its distribu- One of the commissioners, Colonel Reeve, is a tion. To all intents and purposes it will be their prominent citizen of Minneapolis and the owner of private property and they will be solely responsible the Holly Flour Mill of that city; he is also colonel for its proper delivery.

of the First Regiment of the Minnesota National The commissioners expect to leave for Russia some Guard, a member of the State Legislature, and well time in February. Upon arrival of the cargo they known throughout the Northwest in business and will receive it, and having by that time convinced other circles. He is a man of wealth, culture, and themselves by actual observation of the merits of ability who has travelled extensively, and is particthe various systems of relief now at work in Russia, ularly well fitted to discharge faithfully and intelliwill consign it to those who are competent to make a gently the duty he has undertaken. The other memproper distribution. They will witness this distri. ber, as has already been explained, is editor and bution, return to the United States, and report to the manager of the Northwestern Miller, the journal Governor of Minnesota and the millers of America. which inaugurated the movement.

II. HOW TOLSTOÏ IS WORKING IN THE FAMINE DISTRICTS.

BY OUR RUSSIAN CORRESPONDENT, E. J. DILLON, OF ST. PETERSBURG.

CINCE Count Leo Tolstoï finished “Anna Kare. D nina” his intellectual activity has never been greater or more varied than during the past twelve. month, and his vast plans for future literary efforts were equalled only by the intense application with which he set himself to carry out the work of the hour. While absorbed in these labors he heard the peasants' piteous cry for bread, and throwing up all literary work and leaving his home and family, he sallied forth in peasant's garb to help them. He is

now in the Dankovsky district, moving about from house to house, from village to village, from canton to canton, gathering information about the needs of each family and individual, feeding the hungry, tending the sick, comforting those who have lost. their bread-winners, and utterly forgetful of him. self. He has opened several tea-stands, soup.booths, and corn and clothing stores, whither the peasants flock in large numbers and are served in batches; first the children and women, then the old men, and.

last of all the able-bodied who can find no work to do-all of them blessing him as their brother and savior.

From morning until night he is on his legs, dis. tributing, administering, organizing, as if endowed with youthful vigor and an iron constitution. Hail, rain, snow, intense cold, and abominable roads are nothing to him; and as if all this were not enough

some fortunate peasants who obtained trifling sums of money and went about from place to place seeking to purchase corn, but could find none; and he winds up with an appeal, or rather a demand, for help from society at large. And not content with these efforts, he despatched his two daughters and three of his sons to co-operate in the work of relieving the hungry, while Countess Tolstoï is re. ceiving subscriptions in Moscow, carrying on a large correspondence, and distributing alms to the desti tute.

The example of the count and countess and their appeal for co-operation are producing marvellous results. “I happened to be in the countess' house at Moscow," writes a correspondent, “the day on which her letter appeared in the Russian Gazette. People of all classes and conditions were coming up on foot or in carriages, entering the house, crossing themselves before the icons, putting packets of bank. notes upon her table, and going their ways. In a short space of time the table was literally covered with bank note. Scarcely any one would consent to take a receipt for the money. The countess was engaged in sealing up these offerings and sending them off at once to her sons and daughters, who are in charge of the tea-stalls and corn stores in the famine-stricken districts. In that one day, to my knowledge, several thousand roubles were thus col. lected." *

THE COUNT'S SOUP-BOOTH. The following sketch of one of the soup-booths alluded to above was written by one of the count's daughters, and lately appeared in various organs of the press : "I have just been in two of these soupbooths. In one of them, which is located in a tiny smoky hovel, a widow is cooking for twenty-five persons. When I entered I saw a numerous assem. blage of children sitting very sedately, holding lumps of black bread over their spoons and dipping them into the shtshee. Their food is composed exclusively of this shtshee and black bread, which is rarely varied by cold beet-root soup. Round about stood a number of old women, patiently waiting for their turn to come. I entered into conversation with one of them, but no sooner had she begun to tell me the sad story of her life than she burst into tears, and all the other poor creatures forthwith commenced to cry in unison. It seems that the poor things are kept alive by this gratuitous soup, and by this alone. They have absolutely nothing at home, and they are ravenously hungry by the time this, their dinner hour, comes round. Here they get a meal twice a day, and this, inclusive of fuel, costs from ninety copecks to one rouble and thirty copecks [40 cents) to

[graphic]

COUNT LEO TOLSTOÏ. to satisfy his appetite for work, he has found time to compose a little epilogue for a literary miscellany, which will be shortly edited and sold for the benefit of the poor, and to contribute to a daily paper an article on the famine, entitled “A Terrible Ques tion.” In this paper he dissipates all doubts as to the vast proportions of the famine, which certain organs of the press evinced a tendency to deny, and he unwittingly makes use of expressions which have laid him open to the grave charge of conspiring against the state. The obnoxious expression is * private society!"

FIGHTING THE FAMINE. The authorities, he asserts, can very easily convince themselves that the distress is fearfully widespread by collecting data which are lying to hand, waiting, so to say, to be registered. “This information," he adds, “may be gathered by the author ities, the zemstvo, and more satisfactorily still by a private society formed for this express purpose. ... I am willing myself to undertake to collect this in. formation, concerning one-fourth of the Dankovsky district in which I am actually residing, in the space of one week.” He then gives a brief but vivid description of some of the sights that met his eyes ; and among other things and persons he speaks of

* Cf. Northern Messenger, December, 1891, p. 75. For the information of such persons in the United States and England who may feel disposed to contribute to this fund (and few persons or institutions are better qualified to distribute the relief to the peasants than Count Tolstoi), we give the countess' address: ('ountess Sophia Andreievan Tolstoi, 17 Dolgo-Khamovnitshesky Pereulok, Moscow.

+ A kind of Spartan broth made of sour cabbage,

60 cents a month for each person." * Count Tolstoï has opened twenty-two such soup-kitchens in fif teen different villages.

AN UNWORTHY JOURNALIST. These endeavors to rescue from the horrors of death by hunger a class of beings who are too often treated as if they were outside the pale of human sympathy will seem to many foreigners worthy of a St. Francis de Sales or a Vincent de Paul. “What could be simpler and more natural," asks the Messenger of Europe, “than the letter of the countess; what more harmless than the proposal made by the count in the article entitled 'A Terrible Question'?" And yet they were viewed from a very different angle of vision by certain persons who are accus tomed to look with mistrust upon every manifestation of individualism, upon all who refuse to swim with the current and bow down in adoration before

* Northern Messenger, loc. cit.

the idols of the hour. The baiting began in the Moscow Gazette (the organ of the late M. Katkoff), which scoffed and sneered at Countess Tolstoï's letter announcing as an uncommonly important event “the departure of the whole high-born family of his excellency for the famine stricken districts, to bring relief to the destitute."

A BOGUS CONSPIRACY. B ut this onslaught on the “high born family of his excellency" was but the prelude to the storm raised in the Moscow press against Count Tolstoï himself. And while some journals were reproaching him for having said nothing new, the Moscow Gazette discovered in his article one of the links of a widespread conspiracy. Although the suggestion made by the count was not by any means original, the method of realizing it was; and the idea of private persons forming, perhaps, a private society, going about collecting information about the famine, ter

[graphic]

TOLSTOÏ'S DAUGHTER TATIANA, NOW WITH HER PARENTS IN THE FAMINE DISTRICTS.

of straining one's muscles and toiling and drudging simply because one of the main characteristics of that society has been and is its tendency to shirk all such exertions and to profit by the drudgery of the poor ignorant masses without making any return.

“The very first token of his sincerity which a man in our social sphere can give when he professes his adherence to Christian, philosophical, or humani. tarian principles, is a genuine effort to swim against the current with all his might and main, and to cease as far as may be from perpetuating the injustice. And the simplest and readiest way to effect this is to fall back upon honest toil and begin by sufficing to ourselves.

rified and enraged the Moscow Gazette.* “ Among the other members of this widespread conspiracy” was the well-known Russian philosopher, Vladimir Solovieff. t It is very curious, and for newspaper readers instructive, to note that the phrase "wide. spread conspiracy” was interpreted au pied de la lettre by unsuspecting newspaper correspondents, in consequence of which English and Continental journals contained, next day, an important telegram to the effect that “in Moscow a widespread conspiracy” had just been providentially brought to light.

COUNT TOLSTOÏ ON MANUAL LABOR. Nor is it only in connection with his campaign against the famine that Count Tolstoï is become a conspirator and an anathema in the eyes of some of his Slavophile brethren ; some of his least orthodox writings, what one may aptly term his Latter-day Pamphlets, have at last been published in Russia, and have become a target for the enveuomed critical arrows of his enemies. The little volume which has just appeared in Moscow, with the knowledge and permission of the emperor, contains the “Kreut. zer Sonata " and the “Epilogue ; '† some of the last chapters of his treatise on “Life”-mainly those which discourse of death ; " Why People Stupefy their Brains ;" S " The Fruits of Enlightenment;" an extract from a private letter, and one or two short articles. The extracts from the “ Letter to a Frenchman " con tain the count's views on manual labor in such a concise, apothegmatic form that, although they embody no new views on the subject, they are as well worth reading as anything that Emerson or Thoreau ever penned

“I have never regarded manual toil,” he writes, " as a fundamental principle, but only as one of the simplest and most natural applications of moral principles-one so self-evident that it does not need to be pointed out to any truly sincere man. In our effete society, which people persist in calling civilized, one is obliged to lay stress upon the necessity

THE NEW GOLDEN RULE. “The least complicated and shortest rule of morals is this : Get others to work for you as little as possible, and work yourself as much as possible for them ; make the fewest calls upon the services of your neighbors, and render them the maximum number of services yourself.

“The observance of this rule gives coherence to our acts, imparts a meaning to our lives, confers a blessing on our persons, solves all doubts and difficulties that perplex us, and causes all the factors of our existence, including intellectual activity, sci. ence and art, to fall naturally into their proper places. This is why I never feel happy or even content unless when quite certain that my work is helpful to others. As for the satisfaction of those for whose behoof I labor, I take no thought of that ; it is a superfluity, a satiety of bliss, which does not enter into my calculations, and is utterly powerless to influence the choice of my actions.

“My firm conviction that the work I am spending myself in is not harmful nor worthless, but beneficial to others, is the tap-root of my happiness. And this is precisely the reason why the genuinely moral man instinctively puts physical toil above scientific and artistic work.”

III. MADAME NOVIKOFF ON THE SITUATION.

A LETTER FROM MADAME NOVIKOFF TO "THE REVIEW OF REVIEWS.”

M ANY people in England express their surprise

I at our [Russian] Government's positively declining any official help from other countries. “What right have they to refuse bread to people threatened with starvation? Pride, dignity, inde. pendence, have no right to be exhibited on occasions of such pressing need and calamity,” is often ob. served to me. Perhaps I may be allowed to say a

word on this subject from a Russian point of view. We not only share our Government's views upon the matter, but are thankful that it realizes so thoroughly the feelings of our country at large. In international intercourse the predominant principle is that of give and take. Anybody who cares to study history may get easily convinced that Russia has always been particularly anxious to remember every kind turn done to her. She could never “startle the world with her ingratitude.” On the contrary, she not only invariably returned the capital of grat. itude, but willingly added a large percentage for every loan ; unaided, she remains quite free from any obligation. To become a friend and ally of Russia means to strengthen one's own position and to guarantee one's future. Ingratitude implies a meanness of character incompatible with our moral standard. Those who understand thoroughly what gratitude means are naturally hesitating in accepting help.

* Messenger of Europe, December, 1891, p. 870. + Ibid.

1 Published in the Universal Review under the title “Marriage, Morality, and Christianity.. by Count L. Tolstoi. June, 1890.

Published for the first time in English. It appeared in the Contemporary Review for February, 1891. under the title "The Ethics of Drinking and Smoking."

But private charity has quite a different meaning. Separate individuals, sympathizing with our mis

feature of English life no doubt commands universal respect and admiration, .

But in judging our positions, the English press seems to be doubtful of the urgent necessity to take pity on our famine sufferers.

Isolated voices also in Russia have expressed curious doubts to the same effect. I therefore venture to translate a letter which my son, Alexander Nov. ikoff, a Zemztvo chief (a Zemskoy Natchalnik) in the Government of Tamboff, has just addressed to the Moscow Gazette, which contains good information and shows how to render gratuitous help most beneficent. These are his very words :

"I am often asked : 'Why should we help? Is our money not going to be used in drink, and if not act. ually in drink, at all events on people who used to squander their property in public-houses?' The de. moralizing influence of gratuitous help is pointed out even oftener. And it seems strange, no doubt, why anybody should work who feels sure that his daily bread will not fail to come. ... The other day a person, who desired to remain unknown, offered me a thousand roubles [$500] for the benefit of one of the most needy villages, provided that that sum should not be given gratuitously, but only as a loan, which, when paid back, should be again spent on that same village, but in the shape of a school.

"In places where these already exist there are other ways of using the money only lent, not given, to those who need it. A reserve capital, for instance, might be formed, or at least a compendium of a reserve capital, in every village.

“Even those who possess no land of their own, but only live in the country, should be compelled to return the money for the benefit of the village in which they are dwelling. In this way the millions of roubles, far from being sacrificed in vain, achieve two objects: they will feed the starvelings now, and later on they will contribute either to the moral or the material development of our rural population.

“I was told that my requisition to get back the money might, perhaps, wound the feelings of the donor, who does not care to be repaid. This I cannot admit. In fact, I am even certain that if we say to any benefactor that his money represents today food, but when the calamity is over, instead of being invested in drink, it will be spent on schools, he will not only be glad to hear it, but will, perhaps, even increase his donation.

“The peasants may refuse help granted only on condition of repayment.' This also is quite out of the question. Nothing is easier than to make them realize the necessity of accepting the obligation, which can only contribute to their own welfare.

“Others remark: 'What use is there in giving when help is so insignificant that a whole village, for instance, only gets ten roubles?' I again insist upon saying that even a small help is better than nothing; besides, the principle of charity ought to be maintained.

“To sum up the above, I say that all the offerings

[graphic][merged small]

fortune and sharing with us whatever they can, are doing a Christian work for which every Russian is beartily obliged. Private committees are founded all over Russia. The central St. Petersburg Committee is presided over by our heir-apparent, and the Moscow Committee by our emperor's sister-inlaw-the greatly-beloved Grand Duchess Serge.

Thus anybody who wants to help, not with some concealed political object, but simply as a Christian, äin God's name, can offer his help, and be assured that his offering will be received in many quarters with heartfelt gratitude.

No country in the world has been more famous for voluntary contributions than England, and that

« PreviousContinue »