Notable Quotes
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Pure and complete sorrow is as impossible as pure and complete joy.

LEO TOLSTOY, War and Peace

Art is not a handicraft, it is the transmission of feeling the artist has experienced.

LEO TOLSTOY, What is Art?

Art is a microscope which the artist fixes on the secrets of his soul, and shows to people these secrets which are common to all.


Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly.

LEO TOLSTOY, War and Peace

I sit on a man's back, choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am very sorry for him and wish to ease his lot by all possible means -- except by getting off his back.

LEO TOLSTOY, What Then Must We Do?

In order to obtain and hold power, a man must love it.

LEO TOLSTOY, The Kingdom of God Is Within You

At the approach of danger there are always two voices that speak with equal force in the heart of man: one very reasonably tells the man to consider the nature of the danger and the means of avoiding it; the other even more reasonable says that it is too painful and harassing to think of the danger, since it is not a man's power to provide for everything and escape from the general march of events; and that it is therefore better to turn aside from the painful subject till it has come, and to think of what is pleasant. In solitude a man generally yields to the first voice; in society to the second.

LEO TOLSTOY, War and Peace

A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food; therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite. And to act so is immoral.

LEO TOLSTOY, On Civil Disobedience

If a man aspires towards a righteous life, his first act of abstinence is from injury to animals.

LEO TOLSTOY, The First Step

Teach French and unteach sincerity.

LEO TOLSTOY, Anna Karenina

It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness.

LEO TOLSTOY, The Kreutzer Sonata

In historical events great men—so-called—are but labels serving to give a name to the event, and like labels they have the least possible connection with the event itself. Every action of theirs, that seems to them an act of their own free will, is in an historical sense not free at all, but in bondage to the whole course of previous history, and predestined from all eternity.

LEO TOLSTOY, War and Peace

God is that infinite All of which man knows himself to be a finite part.


All happy families resemble each other, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

LEO TOLSTOY, Anna Karenina

The strongest of all warriors are these two -- Time and Patience.

LEO TOLSTOY, War and Peace

Art lifts man from his personal life into the universal life.


Great works of art are only great because they are accessible and comprehensible to everyone.


Real art, like the wife of an affectionate husband, needs no ornaments. But counterfeit art, like a prostitute, must always be decked out. The cause of production of real art is the artist's inner need to express a feeling that has accumulated, just as for a mother the cause of sexual conception is love. The cause of counterfeit art, as of prostitution, is gain. The consequence of true art is the introduction of a new feeling into the intercourse of life, as the consequence of a wife's love is the birth of a new man into life. The consequences of counterfeit art are the perversion of man, pleasure which never satisfies, and the weakening of man's spiritual strength.


Art is the uniting of the subjective with the objective, of nature with reason, of the unconscious with the conscious, and therefore art is the highest means of knowledge.


In our day the feeling of patriotism is an unnatural, irrational, and harmful feeling, and a cause of a great part of the ills from which mankind is suffering; and ... consequently, this feeling should not be cultivated, as is now being done, but should, on the contrary, be suppressed and eradicated by all means available to rational men.

LEO TOLSTOY, Essays and Letters

The idea of beauty is the fundamental idea of everything. In the world we see only distortions of the fundamental idea, but art, by imagination, may lift itself to the height of this idea. Art is therefore akin to creation.


The Lord had given them the day and the Lord had given them the strength. And the day and the strength had been dedicated to labor, and the labor was its reward. Who was the labor for? What would be its fruits? These were irrelevant and idle questions.

LEO TOLSTOY, Anna Karenina

By patriotism is meant, not only spontaneous, instinctive love for one's own nation, and preference for it above all other nations, but also the belief that such love and preference are good and useful.

LEO TOLSTOY, letter to a Polish journalist, Sept. 1895

Life is everything. Life is God. Everything changes and moves and that movement is God. And while there is life there is joy in consciousness of the divine. To love life is to love God.

LEO TOLSTOY, War and Peace

The role of the disappointed lover of a maiden or of any single woman might be ridiculous; but the role of a man who was pursuing a married woman, and who made it the purpose of his life at all cost to draw her into adultery, was one which had in it something beautiful and dignified and could never be ridiculous.

LEO TOLSTOY, Anna Karenina

And all people live, not by reason of any care they have for themselves, but by the love for them that is in other people.

LEO TOLSTOY, Tales from Tolstoy

But every acquisition that is disproportionate to the labor spent on it is dishonest.

LEO TOLSTOY, Anna Karenina

In the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you.

LEO TOLSTOY, "Stop and Think!", Essays, Letters, Miscellanies

All violence consists in some people forcing others, under threat of suffering or death, to do what they do not want to do.

LEO TOLSTOY, The Law of Love and the Law of Violence

Spring is the time of plans and projects.

LEO TOLSTOY, Anna Karenina

For a long time I was timid in the presence in learning, and I fancied that the insufficiency of the answers which I received was not its fault, but was owing to my own gross ignorance, but this thing was not a joke or a pastime with me, but the business of my life, and I was at last forced, willy-nilly, to the conclusion that these questions of mine were the only legitimate questions underlying all knowledge, and that it was not I that was in fault in putting them, but science in pretending to have an answer for them.

LEO TOLSTOY, A Confession

Respect was invented to cover the empty place where love should be.

LEO TOLSTOY, Anna Karenina

Therefore it is that the evil principle of violence relegated to authority is ever increasing, and the evil becomes in time worse than that which it is supposed to control.

LEO TOLSTOY, The Kingdom of God is Within You

When conquest is achieved, the authority of the conqueror put an end to internal strife, and the social life-conception was justified. But this justification is only temporary. Internal feuds cease only when the pressure of authority is brought to bear with greater weight upon individuals formerly inimical to one another. The violence of the internal struggle, not annihilated by authority, is the offspring of authority itself. Authority is in the hands of men who, like all the rest, are ever ready to sacrifice the common weal if their own personal interests are at stake; with the sole difference that these men, encountering no resistance from the oppressed, are wholly subject to the corrupting influence of authority itself.

LEO TOLSTOY, The Kingdom of God is Within You

In the best, the friendliest and simplest relations flattery or praise is necessary, just as grease is necessary to keep wheels turning.

LEO TOLSTOY, War and Peace

Kings are the slaves of history.

LEO TOLSTOY, War and Peace

No feats of heroism are needed to achieve the greatest and most important changes in the existence of humanity; neither the armament of millions of soldiers, nor the construction of new roads and machines, nor the arrangement of exhibitions, nor the organization of workmen's unions, nor revolutions, nor barricades, nor explosions, nor the perfection of aerial navigation; but a change in public opinion.

LEO TOLSTOY, Patriotism and Christianity

Individuality is, to the rational man, the same that breath, the circulation of blood, is to the animal.

LEO TOLSTOY, What Is To Be Done?

Patriotism in its simplest, clearest, and most undoubted meaning is for rulers nothing else but a means of realizing their ambitions and venal ends; for the governed it is a renouncing of human dignity, intelligence, and conscience, and a slavish submission to the rulers. Wherever patriotism is championed, it is preached invariably in that shape. Patriotism is slavery.

LEO TOLSTOY, The Open Court, Jul. 16, 1896


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