Natasha, Pierre, Being Ordinary

andie nachgeborenen andie_nachgeborenen at
Wed Dec 18 14:33:20 PST 2002

Joanna notes that "Tolstoy could "see" ...but not all the way through."

This is beautiful, Joanna. For the rest, I don't buy what Carrol says here either about Milton or Tolstoi. Not, I mean, about having to take them with their historical horizons. I agree with that. But while Carrol klnows Milton better than I ever will (alas), I refuse to accept Milton the radical individualist, turning from revolution to the bosom of Abraham. Of course he was a Christian, but I think Chritopher Hill was right and CS Lewis wrong about the sort of Christian he was. He was no Leveller, no Winstandley, perhaps, but he saw the Good Old Cause as bringing the Kingdom of Goid to Earth, and necessary for it.

I refer Carrol here to Hill; I have no doubt that if it comes to detailed argument on Milton Carrol can beat me silly, but I won't be persuaded otherwise. I love Milton too much. (Years ago, when I was in grad school in England, I wrote a high school English teacher I had had who mentored me and who was very conservative, that I had discovered Milton. He wrote nack, "Don't read him! He's a revolutionary, and very seductive." But it was too late for me.) I'd like to see Carrol's critique of Hill, though.

As for Tolstoi, anyone who was a contemporary of Marx and indeed of Lenin has no excuse for "historical limitations" of the sort Carrol evokes. One wouldn't necessarily expecxt him to be a Marxist. He would have fit in poorly with the RSDLP. But he was in no worse a position that they to grasp matters by the root.


I think that that comment applies to all writers whose 'vision' reaches the horizon of their historical context. I think particularly of the Iliad-poet, Milton, & Austen. Milton's closing lines --

The World was all before them, where to choose Thir place of rest, and Providence thir guide: They hand in hand with wandring steps and slow, Through Eden took thir solitarie way

-- are as offensive as the First Epilogue to W&P if you refuse him his historical horizon. The world had perhaps closed in on Tolstoi in comparison to Milton, so his couple are hunkering down rather than reaching out, but the core is the same. As a Christian critic of Milton put it, Adam and Eve are ourselves, at any point in history, venturing on an unknown life. Milton's world is radically individualistic with a future, Tolstoi's radically individualistic with a perceived boundary. Of course Milton _had_ experienced, been part of, a revolution, though a limited one.


(It's been almost 50 years since I read W&P -- but I read it every June for about 6 years and remember it fairly well.)


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