Anna karenina, p.111
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       Anna Karenina, p.111

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 10

  Pestsov liked thrashing an argument out to the end, and was notsatisfied with Sergey Ivanovitch's words, especially as he felt theinjustice of his view.

  "I did not mean," he said over the soup, addressing AlexeyAlexandrovitch, "mere density of population alone, but in conjunctionwith fundamental ideas, and not by means of principles."

  "It seems to me," Alexey Alexandrovitch said languidly, and with nohaste, "that that's the same thing. In my opinion, influence overanother people is only possible to the people which has the higherdevelopment, 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 wholesoul into what he was saying. "In what are we to make higher developmentconsist? The English, the French, the Germans, which is at the higheststage of development? Which of them will nationalize the other? We seethe Rhine provinces have been turned French, but the Germans are not ata lower stage!" he shouted. "There is another law at work there."

  "I fancy that the greater influence is always on the side of truecivilization," said Alexey Alexandrovitch, slightly lifting hiseyebrows.

  "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 AlexeyAlexandrovitch.

  "But are they fully known?" Sergey Ivanovitch put in with a subtlesmile. "It is the accepted view now that real culture must be purelyclassical; but we see most intense disputes on each side of thequestion, and there is no denying that the opposite camp has strongpoints in its favor."

  "You are for classics, Sergey Ivanovitch. Will you take red wine?" saidStepan Arkadyevitch.

  "I am not expressing my own opinion of either form of culture," SergeyIvanovitch said, holding out his glass with a smile of condescension, asto a child. "I only say that both sides have strong arguments to supportthem," he went on, addressing Alexey Alexandrovitch. "My sympathies areclassical from education, but in this discussion I am personally unableto arrive at a conclusion. I see no distinct grounds for classicalstudies being given a preeminence over scientific studies."

  "The natural sciences have just as great an educational value," put inPestsov. "Take astronomy, take botany, or zoology with its system ofgeneral principles."

  "I cannot quite agree with that," responded Alexey Alexandrovitch "Itseems to me that one must admit that the very process of studying theforms of language has a peculiarly favorable influence on intellectualdevelopment. Moreover, it cannot be denied that the influence of theclassical authors is in the highest degree moral, while, unfortunately,with the study of the natural sciences are associated the false andnoxious doctrines which are the curse of our day."

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

  "But," said Sergey Ivanovitch, smiling subtly, and addressing Karenin,"One must allow that to weigh all the advantages and disadvantages ofclassical and scientific studies is a difficult task, and the questionwhich form of education was to be preferred would not have been soquickly and conclusively decided if there had not been in favor ofclassical education, as you expressed it just now, its moral--disons lemot--anti-nihilist influence."

  "Undoubtedly."

  "If it had not been for the distinctive property of anti-nihilisticinfluence on the side of classical studies, we should have consideredthe subject more, have weighed the arguments on both sides," said SergeyIvanovitch with a subtle smile, "we should have given elbow-room to bothtendencies. But now we know that these little pills of classicallearning possess the medicinal property of anti-nihilism, and we boldlyprescribe them to our patients.... But what if they had no suchmedicinal property?" he wound up humorously.

  At Sergey Ivanovitch's little pills, everyone laughed; Turovtsin inespecial roared loudly and jovially, glad at last to have foundsomething to laugh at, all he ever looked for in listening toconversation.

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

  "I can't agree even," said he, "that the government had that aim. Thegovernment obviously is guided by abstract considerations, and remainsindifferent to the influence its measures may exercise. The education ofwomen, for instance, would naturally be regarded as likely to beharmful, but the government opens schools and universities for women."

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

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

  "I consider, on the contrary, that the two questions are inseparablyconnected together," said Pestsov; "it is a vicious circle. Woman isdeprived of rights from lack of education, and the lack of educationresults from the absence of rights. We must not forget that thesubjection of women is so complete, and dates from such ages back thatwe are often unwilling to recognize the gulf that separates them fromus," said he.

  "You said rights," said Sergey Ivanovitch, waiting till Pestsov hadfinished, "meaning the right of sitting on juries, of voting, ofpresiding 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 seemsto me you are wrong in using the expression 'rights.' It would be morecorrect to say duties. Every man will agree that in doing the duty of ajuryman, 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 toassist in the general labor of man."

  "Quite so," Alexey Alexandrovitch assented. "The question, I imagine, issimply 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 beenintent on the conversation, his little comical eyes twinkling. "I cansay it before my daughter: her hair is long, because her wit is..."

  "Just what they thought of the negroes before their emancipation!" saidPestsov angrily.

  "What seems strange to me is that women should seek fresh duties," saidSergey Ivanovitch, "while we see, unhappily, that men usually try toavoid them."

  "Duties are bound up with rights--power, money, honor; those are whatwomen are seeking," said Pestsov.

  "Just as though I should seek the right to be a wet-nurse and feelinjured 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 Ivanovitchregretted that he had not made this comparison. Even AlexeyAlexandrovitch 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 permissiblebefore 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 StepanArkadyevitch, thinking of Masha Tchibisova, whom he had had in his mindall along, in sympathizing with Pestsov and supporting him.

  "If the story of such a girl were thoroughly sifted, you would find shehad abandoned a family--her own or a sister's, where she might havefound a woman's duties," Darya Alexandrovna broke in unexpectedly in atone of exasperation, probably suspecting what sort of girl StepanArkadyevitch was thinking of.

  "But we take our stand on principle as the ideal," replie
d Pestsov inhis mellow bass. "Woman desires to have rights, to be independent,educated. She is oppressed, humiliated by the consciousness of herdisabilities."

  "And I'm oppressed and humiliated that they won't engage me at theFoundling," 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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