DescriptionLeo Tolstoy Letter Signed Outlining His Philosophy of Life. Five pages in French, 8.375" x 10.5", Toula, Russia, July 10/23, 1901, to "Mon Prince," Prince Mirza Reza Khan Arfa, the former Persian Minister in St. Petersburg. A highly important letter, outlining his entire philosophy of life. Signed at close: "Leon Tolstoy", a rare signature as he generally signed "Leo" rather than "Leon." Included with this lot is a copy of a 1992-dated Certificate of Authenticity from Charles Hamilton who calls this "A wonderful letter from a great writer..."
Tolstoy thanks the recipient for sending him a poem, responding to the views of a character in it -- that the roots of evil are egoism and ignorance -- with a summation of his own personal credo: that the most important ignorance is ignorance of the 'true religion ... within the reach of all men, founded upon reason, common to all peoples and therefore imperative for all. The principle of this religion is expressed in the Gospel by these words: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you"'. Tolstoy cannot concur with his correspondent's view that a sense of brotherhood is possible between states and their heads, holding that true brotherhood would render obsolete all distinctions of authority -- 'All should obey God and not man' -- and also that wars, which are perpetuated by the self-interest of governments, would be abolished by the 'true religion', which would make the killing of others and by extension military service ('which is nothing other than preparation for murder') impossible: 'Wars can only be abolished by the individuals who are their victims. They will only be abolished when the true religion will be so widespread that the majority of men will be ready to suffer violence rather than to use it'. He ends by offering his excuses for not writing in his own hand, for he is ill and in bed.
Mirza Reza Khan Arfa'-ed-Dowleh, a distinguished Persian diplomat who ultimately became ambassador plenipotentiary at the Sublime Porte, received the title Khan for devising a reformed alphabet which better adapted the Arabic alphabet to Persian. Tolstoy's idiosyncratic religious views dominated his life and literary output from the time of A Confession (1882) onward; in 1901 he was excommunicated by the Orthodox Church; by the time of the present letter he had fallen seriously ill, to the extent that he was to spend a significant period of recuperation in the Crimea. Tolstoy's espousal of non-violence was to be a significant influence on Gandhi and Martin Luther King.
Condition: Small tears at top left and right corners, otherwise fine.
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