The Secret Diary of Vladimir Chertkov, Aged 54 1/12

Tolstoy and ChertkovLeo Tolstoy’s relationship with his wife Sonya was very tumultuous– today it would probably be called dysfunctional. Circumstances weren’t improved by the constant presence of the count’s disciple Vladimir Chertkov. The prototypical Kato Kaelin, Chertkov wrote down every word of the Tolstoys’ quarrels in a journal he later published.

December 1, 1908:

“Sonya Andreyevna, turning to Lev Nikolaevich, irately asserts that the property rights of all his written, unpublished works belong to the family. Lev Nikolaevich objects. She runs to her room and fetches a pocket diary written in her hand and reads her own record to the effect that Lev Nikolaevich had given as public property only those writings which had appeared in print during his lifetime (and after 1881). Lev Nikolaevich begins to object. She shouts him down. Finally in a resolute, authoritative tone, he obliges her to hear him. (She had just said that she was not concerned about herself, but that her children would assert their own claims.) Lev Nikolaevich: ‘You imagine that our children are like rogues who want me to do something opposed to that which is most dear to me.’ Sonya Andreyevna: ‘Well, as for being rogues, I do not know, but…’ Lev Nikolaevich (firmly): ‘No, let me finish speaking. According to you it appears that the children will play the dirtiest trick possible on me. And a dirtier trick is is impossible to play. You know the principles for which I’ve renounced these rights– the principles of my faith, and what do you wish, that these principles should be turned into hypocrisy? I gave you my fortune, I gave you my early writings, and now it seems that I ought to give my own life– that for which I live. Yet I daily receive abusive letters, accusing me of hypocrisy. And now that you desire that in very fact I should become a hypocrite and a scoundrel. It is astonishing to me how you torment yourself without any need.’ And he left the room, firmly closing the door behind him.”

Sonya: The Life of Countess Tolstoy, Anne Edwards, Simon and Schuster, 1981.