Reminiscences of Tolstoy
IN the summer, when both families were together at Yasnaya, our own and the
Kuzminsky's, when both the house and the annex were full of the family and their guests,
we used our letter-box.
It originated long before, when I was still small and had only just learned to write, and it
continued with intervals till the middle of the eighties.
It hung on the landing at the top of the stairs beside the grandfather's clock; and every one
dropped his compositions into it, the verses, articles, or stories that he had written on
topical subjects in the course of the week.
On Sundays we would all collect at the round table in the zala, the box would be
solemnly opened, and one of the grown-ups, often my father himself, would read the
All the papers were unsigned, and it was a point of honor not to peep at the handwriting;
but, despite this, we almost always guessed the author, either by the style, by his self-
consciousness, or else by the strained indifference of his expression.
When I was a boy, and for the first time wrote a set of French verses for the letter-box, I
was so shy when they were read that I hid under the table, and sat there the whole
evening until I was pulled out by force.
For a long time after, I wrote no more, and was always fonder of hearing other people's
compositions read than my own.
All the events of our life at Yasnaya Polyana found their echo in one way or another in
the letter-box, and no one was spared, not even the grown-ups.
All our secrets, all our love-affairs, all the incidents of our complicated life were revealed
in the letter-box, and both household and visitors were good-humoredly made fun of.
Unfortunately, much of the correspondence has been lost, but bits of it have been
preserved by some of us in copies or in memory. I cannot recall everything interesting
that there was in it, but here are a few of the more interesting things from the period of
THE old fogy continues his questions. Why, when women or old men enter the room,
does every well-bred person not only offer them a seat, but give them up his own?