quote by William Ernest Henley

There are two men in Tolstoy. He is a mystic and he is also a realist. He is addicted to the practice of a pietism that for all its sincerity is nothing if not vague and sentimental; and he is the most acute and dispassionate of observers, the most profound and earnest student of character and emotion.

— William Ernest Henley

Sensational Tolstoy quotations

I don't hold with shamans, witch doctors, or psychiatrists.

Shakespeare, Tolstoy, or even Dickens, understood more about the human condition than ever occurred to any of you. You overrated bunch of charlatans deal with the grammar of human problems, and the writers I've mentioned with the essence.


It's like Tolstoy said. Happiness is an allegory, unhappiness a story.

I'm through with Tolstoy. He has ceased to exist for me.... If I eat a bowl of soup and like it, I know by that fact alone and with absolute certainty that Tolstoy will find it bad, and vice versa.

I was nothing more than a thug with Tolstoy in my pocket.

I'm not going to get into the ring with Tolstoy.


Freddie experienced the sort of abysmal soul-sadness which afflicts one of Tolstoy's Russian peasants when, after putting in a heavy day's work strangling his father, beating his wife, and dropping the baby into the city's reservoir, he turns to the cupboards, only to find the vodka bottle empty.

When I was in prison, I was wrapped up in all those deep books.

That Tolstoy crap - people shouldn't read that stuff.

People who have never had a broken heart will never understand dead roses, Tolstoy, airport lounges, Albinoni's Adagio in G Minor, neat brandy, the moon and drizzle.

I'm always stunned when I find out people like Roosevelt and Tolstoy weren't Jewish. How could I love them so much?

I love the Russian classics very much, the Russian classical literature.

But I also read modern literature. As far as Russian literature is concerned, I am very fond of Tolstoy and Chekhov, and I also enjoy reading Gogol very much.


I very much enjoyed Leo Tolstoy's What is Art? I can't quote it, it's been a while, but at the end of the day, the idea is that "art that does good in the world is art, and what doesn't is not. It's propaganda or something else. It's bad."

Vermeer's woman reading a letter is as full of latent or subliminal kitsch as Tolstoy's War and Peace.

Poverty is not dated. Homeless people have looked the same since the thirteenth century. Go back to the times of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. Look at photographs. It's amazing. The face on a homeless person is timeless.

But this thing, whatever it was, this mistlike something, hung there inside my body like a certain kind of potential. I wanted to give it a name, but the word refused to come to mind. I’m terrible at finding the right words for things. I’m sure Tolstoy would have been able to come up with exactly the right word

The world is kept alive only by heretics: the heretic Christ, the heretic Copernicus, the heretic Tolstoy. Our symbol of faith is heresy...


We search for happiness everywhere, but we are like Tolstoy's fabled beggar who spent his life sitting on a pot of gold, under him the whole time. Your treasure--your perfection--is within you already. But to claim it, you must leave the buy commotion of the mind and abandon the desires of the ego and enter into the silence of the heart.

Watergate is an immensely complicated scandal with a cast of characters as varied as a Tolstoy novel.

Russia is a place of great culture. If you've read Tolstoy's "War and Peace", Dostoyevsky, Pushkin, Chekhov...the culture of the great Russian literature is amazing. The human narrative you get out of "War and Peace" is universal.

The women in my life have all been librarians, English teachers, or booksellers.

If they couldn't speak pidgin Tolstoy, articulate Henry James, or give me directions to Usher and Ox, it was no go. I have always longed for education, and pillow talk's the best.

Woman, I hold, is the personification of self-sacrifice, but unfortunately today she does not realize what a tremendous advantage she has over man. As Tolstoy used to say, they are laboring under the hypnotic influence of man. If they would realize the strength of non-violence they would not consent to be called the weaker sex.


That’s how stories happen — with a turning point, an unexpected twist.

There’s only one kind of happiness, but misfortune comes in all shapes and sizes. It’s like Tolstoy said. Happiness is an allegory, unhappiness a story.

Leo Tolstoy ... defines patriotism as the principle that will justify the training of wholesale murderers.

I cannot stand Tolstoy, and reading him was the most boring literary duty I ever had to perform, his philosophy and his sense of life are not merely mistaken, but evil, and yet, from a purely literary viewpoint, on his own terms, I have to evaluate him as a good writer.

I agree with the Lev Tolstoy quote completely, but I also feel like there's more to it. What is a happy family and an unhappy family? We're probably both of those things at the same time.

Leo Tolstoy said the purpose of art is to teach you to love life. And that's what I want.


How many really great writers are there who are totally non-political? You can hear the French Revolution in the poetry of [Percy Bysshe] Shelly and [John] Wordsworth; you can sense the vast inequalities of Tsarist Russia in [Anton] Chekhov and [Lev] Tolstoy.

Tolstoy's definition of art is the inverse of the truth;

the task of art is to transform not perception into feeling, but feeling into perception.

Isaiah Berlin once said that there are two kinds of writers, hedgehogs and foxes. He said the fox knows many things, the hedgehog knows just one thing. So Shakespeare is a typical fox; Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky are typical hedgehogs. Now, I'm a typical hedgehog. I know just one thing, and I repeat it over and over again. I try to approach it from different angles to make it look different, but it's the same thing.

People try so hard to believe in leaders now, pitifully hard.

But we no sooner get a popular reformer or politician or soldier or writer or philosopher --a Roosevelt, a Tolstoy, a Wood, a Shaw, a Nietzsche, than the cross-currents of criticism wash him away. My Lord, no man can stand prominence these days. It's the surest path to obscurity. People get sick of hearing the same name over and over.

But the not-very-highbrow truth of the matter was that the reading was how I got my ya-yas out. For the sake of my bookish reputation I upgraded to Tolstoy and Steinbeck before I understood them, but my dark secret was that really, I preferred the junk. The Dragonriders of Pern, Flowers in the Attic, The Clan of the Cave Bear. This stuff was like my stash of Playboys under the mattress.


Excellent teachers showered on to us like meteors: Biology teachers holding up human brains, English teachers inspiring us with a personal ideological fierceness about Tolstoy and Plato, Art teachers leading us through the slums of Boston, then back to the easel to hurl public school gouache with social awareness and fury.

I think that maybe happy families don't need stories the way unhappy families need stories. Maybe they're too busy living that they don't actually step back and talk about life like the Anton Chekhov quote. I prefer Anton Chekhov to Lev Tolstoy, and the reason is because of what he leaves out. Sometimes I think Tolstoy had a theory that he was proving and he proved it. Chekhov is more ambiguous.

At the age of 9, I read David Copperfield by Dickens.

At 14, I read War and Peace by Tolstoy. They're both books I have reread regularly since.

I'm a reader. I like - I'm a great reader. I keep going back, though, to certain authors, just like I love film, but I keep going back to just five or six certain filmmakers. In literature I like Chekhov, for example; I think he's my favorite. And Flaubert - you know, that kind of concision. But I also like Tolstoy; I love those romances that, you know, weigh 500 pounds and take months and months and months to read.