In Petersburg in the eighteen-forties a surprising event occurred. An officer of the Cuirassier Life Guards, a handsome prince who everyone. ”Father Sergius,” the Russian film that opens today at the Film Forum, It’s Leo Tolstoy’s posthumously published novella, adapted and. Father Sergius [Leo Tolstoy] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. This anthology is a thorough introduction to classic literature for those who .

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HOWEVER, copyright law varies in other countries, and the work may still be under copyright in the country from which you are accessing this website. It is your responsibility to check the applicable copyright laws in your country before downloading this work. In Petersburg in the eighteen-forties a surprising event occurred. This event appeared extraordinary and inexplicable to those who did not know his inner motives, but for Prince Stepan Kasatsky himself it all occurred so naturally that he could not imagine how he could have acted otherwise.

His father, a retired colonel of the Guards, had died when Stepan was twelve, and sorry as his mother was to part from her son, she entered him at the Military College as her deceased husband had intended. The widow herself, with her daughter, Varvara, moved to Petersburg to be near her son and have him with her for the holidays. The boy was distinguished both by his brilliant ability and by his immense self-esteem. He was first both in his studies — especially in mathematics, of which he was particularly fond — and also in drill and in riding.

Though of more than average height, he was handsome and agile, and he would have been an altogether exemplary cadet had it not been for his quick temper. He was remarkably truthful, and was neither dissipated nor addicted to drink. The only faults that marred his conduct were fits of fury to which he was subject and during which he lost control of himself and became like a wild animal. He once nearly threw out of the window another cadet who had begun to tease him about his collection of minerals.

Father Sergius / Leo Tolstoy

On another fatber he came almost completely to grief by flinging a whole dish of cutlets at an officer who was acting as steward, attacking him and, it was said, striking him for having broken his word and told a barefaced lie.

Tllstoy would certainly have been reduced to the ranks had not the Director of the College hushed up the whole matter and dismissed the steward. By the time he was eighteen he had finished his College course and received a commission as lieutenant in an aristocratic regiment of the Guards. The Emperor Nicholas Pavlovich Tllstoy I had noticed him while he was still at the College, and continued to take notice of him in the regiment, and it was on this account that people predicted for him an appointment as aide-decamp to the Emperor.

Kasatsky himself strongly desired it, not from ambition only but chiefly because since his cadet days he had been passionately devoted to Nicholas Pavlovich. The Emperor had often visited the Military College and every time Kasatsky saw that tall erect figure, with breast expanded in its military overcoat, entering with brisk step, saw the cropped side-whiskers, the moustache, the aquiline nose, and heard the sonorous voice exchanging greetings with the cadets, he was seized by the same rapture that he experienced later tolatoy when he met the woman he loved.

Indeed, his passionate adoration of the Emperor was even sergiud And the Emperor Nicholas was conscious of evoking this rapture and deliberately aroused it.

He played with the cadets, surrounded himself with them, treating them sometimes with childish simplicity, sometimes as a friend, and then again with majestic solemnity. After that affair with the officer, Nicholas Pavlovich said nothing to Kasatsky, but when the latter approached he waved him away theatrically, frowned, shook his finger at him, and afterwards when leaving, said: All the cadets were as usual greatly moved, and Kasatsky even shed tears, remembering the past, and vowed that he would serve his beloved Tsar with all his soul.

When Kasatsky took up his commission his mother moved with her daughter first to Moscow and then to their country estate. Kasatsky gave half his property to his sister and kept only enough to maintain himself in the expensive regiment he had joined. To all appearance he was just an ordinary, brilliant young officer of the Guards making a career for himself; but intense and complex strivings went on within him.


From early childhood his efforts had seemed to be very varied, but essentially they were all one and the same. He tried in everything he took up to attain such success and perfection as would evoke praise and surprise.

Whether it was his studies or his military exercises, sergijs took them up and worked at them till he was praised and held up as an example to others.

Father Sergius – Christian Classics Ethereal Library

Mastering one subject he took up another, and obtained first place in his studies. For example, while still at College he noticed in himself an awkwardness in French conversation, and contrived to master French till he spoke it as well as Russian, and then he took up chess and became an excellent player. Apart from his main vocation, which was the service of his Tsar and the fatherland, he always set himself some particular aim, and however unimportant it was, devoted himself completely to it and lived for it until it was accomplished.

And as soon as it was attained another aim would immediately present itself, replacing its predecessor. This passion for distinguishing fathef, or for accomplishing something in order to distinguish himself, filled his life. On taking up his commission he set himself to acquire the utmost perfection in knowledge of the service, and very soon became a model officer, though still with the same fault of ungovernable irascibility, which here in the service again led him to commit actions inimical to his success.

Then he took to reading, dather once in conversation in society felt himself deficient in general education — and again achieved his purpose.

Then, wishing to secure a brilliant position in high society, he learnt to dance excellently and very soon was invited to all the balls in the best circles, and to some of their evening gatherings. But this did not satisfy him: The highest society then consisted, and I think always consist, of four sorts of people: Kasatsky did not belong to the first two sets, but was readily welcomed in the others. On entering society he determined to have relations with some society lady, and to his own surprise quickly accomplished this purpose.

He soon realized, however, that the circles in which he moved were not the highest, and that though he was received in the highest spheres he did not belong to them. They were polite to him, tolsoy showed by their whole manner that they had their own set and that he was not of it.

And Kasatsky wished to belong to that inner circle. To attain that end it would be gather to be an aide-decamp to the Emperor — which he expected to become — or to marry lwo that exclusive set, which he resolved to do.

And his choice fell on a fatuer belonging to the Court, who not merely belonged to the circle into which he wished serbius be accepted, but whose friendship was coveted by the very highest people and those most firmly established in that highest circle.

This was Countess Korotkova. Kasatsky began to pay court to her, and not merely for the sake of his career. She was extremely attractive and fther soon fell in love with her. At first she was noticeably cool towards him, but then suddenly changed and became gracious, and her mother gave him pressing invitations to visit them. Kasatsky proposed and was accepted. He was surprised at the facility with which he attained such happiness.

Holiness is Being a Vagabond: Reflections on Tolstoy’s “Father Sergius”

It was a hot day in May. He and his betrothed had walked about the garden and were sitting on a bench in a shady linden alley. Kasatsky belonged to those men of the eighteen-forties they are now no longer to be found who while deliberately and without any conscientious scruples condoning impurity in themselves, required ideal and angelic purity in their women, regarded all unmarried women of their circle as possessed of setgius purity, and treated them accordingly.

There was much that was false and harmful in this outlook, as concerning the laxity the men permitted themselves, but in regard to the women that old-fashioned view sharply differing from that held by young people today who see in every girl merely a female seeking a mate was, I think, of value. The girls, perceiving such adoration, endeavoured esrgius more or less success to be goddesses. Such was the view Kasatsky held of women, and that was how he regarded his fiancee.


He was particularly in love that day, but did not experience any sensual desire for her. On the contrary he regarded her with tender fathwr as something unattainable.

Endearments had not yet become usual between them, and feeling himself morally inferior he felt terrified at this stage to use them to such an angel. I have learnt that I am better than I thought. She understood that he was thanking her for having said she loved him. He silently took a few steps up and down, and then approached her again and sat down.

I have to tell you. I was not disinterested when I began to make love to you. I wanted to get into society; but later.

You are not angry with me for that? She did not reply but merely touched his hand. He understood that this meant: It seemed too bold to say. I believe it — but there is something that troubles you and checks your feeling. But now he will not forsake me. Ah, if he should, it would be terrible!

She loved him now more than she had loved the Tsar, and apart sertius the Imperial dignity would not have preferred the Emperor to him. I cannot deceive you. You ask what it is? It is that I have loved before. I was infatuated, but it passed.

I must tell you. He sprang up and stood before her with trembling jaws, pale as death. He now remembered how tolstyo Emperor, meeting him on the Nevsky, had amiably congratulated him. The blood had suddenly rushed to his head. Next day he applied both for furlough and his discharge, and professing to be ill, so as to see no one, he went away to the country.

He spent the summer at his village arranging his fxther. When summer was over he did not return to Petersburg, but entered a monastery and there became a monk. Only his sister, lro was as proud and ambitious as he, understood him. She understood that he had become a monk in order to toostoy above those who considered themselves his superiors.

And she understood him correctly. By becoming a monk he showed contempt for all that seemed most important to others and had seemed so to him while he was in the service, and he now ascended a height from which he could look down on those he had formerly envied.

Sergjus it was not this alone, as his sister Varvara supposed, that influenced him.

There was also in him something else — a sincere religious feeling which Varvara did not know, which intertwined itself with the feeling of pride and the desire for preeminence, and guided him.

His disillusionment with Mary, whom he had thought of angelic purity, and his sense of injury, were so strong that they brought him to despair, and the despair led him — to what? Kasatsky entered the monastery on the feast of the Intercession of the Blessed Virgin. The Abbot of that monastery was a gentleman by birth, a learned writer and a starets, that is, he belonged to that succession of monks originating in Walachia who each choose a director and teacher whom they implicitly obey.

Father Sergius

This Superior had been a disciple of the starets Ambrose, who was a disciple of Makarius, who was a disciple of fafher starets Leonid, who was a disciple of Paussy Velichkovsky. To this Abbot Kasatsky submitted himself as to his chosen director.

Here in the monastery, besides the feeling of tolsroy over others that such a life gave him, he felt much as he had done in the world: As in the regiment he had been not merely an irreproachable officer but had even exceeded his duties and widened the borders of perfection, so also as a monk he tried to be perfect, and was always industrious, abstemious, submissive, and meek, as well as pure both in deed and in thought, and obedient.