chapter  7
16 Pages

Ouida and the Russians: Aristocratic Francophilia to Tolstoyism

ByDiana Maltz

Writing to Sydney Cockerell in 1901 to thank him for the gift of several translations from the Russian and later in 1904 following Cockerell’s visit to Russia, Ouida declared her frustration with the novelist and moralist Leo Tolstoy. It is not clear which of Tolstoy’s books Cockerell had sent her. They were likely neither War and Peace (1869) nor Anna Karenina (1877), but instead, later Christian writings, possibly the novel Resurrection (1899) or the influential treatise The Kingdom of God Is Within You (1894). In such texts, Tolstoy had envisioned a world of universal voluntary altruism in which people treated one another kindly without the need for policing. Ouida wondered at his dismissal of the basic human instincts of violence and carnality: ‘Tolstoy must know as well as I do that numbers of people are born hopelessly vile or bad. … The mere sentimental “do unto others” etc. etc. cannot restrain the passions or rein in the appetites, or solve the problems of life.’2 ‘Fighting is natural to man,’ she continued, insisting, ‘Men would not live in peace together if armies were abolished.’3 In other letters, she pronounced his views ‘on the relations of the sexes … most mischievous,’ again because of his naïveté: ‘his morality and monogamy are against common sense and Nature.’4