Sophia Tolstaya

Russian writer

Countess Sophia Andreyevna Tolstaya (née Behrs; 22 August 1844 – 4 November 1919), was a Russian diarist, and the wife of Leo Tolstoy.

We live in such isolation, and here I am again with my silent friend, my diary.
My jealousy is a congenital illness, or maybe in loving him I have nothing else to love.
If I could kill him and create a new person exactly the same as he is now, I would do so happily.



The Diaries of Sophia Tolstoy

Trans. Cathy Porter. Random House, 1985.
  • My diary again. It's sad to be going back to old habits I gave up since I got married. I used to write when I felt depressed €”– now I suppose it's for the same reason. Relations with my husband have been so simple these past two weeks and I felt so happy with him; he was my diary and I had nothing to hide from him. But ever since yesterday, when he told me he didn't trust my love, I have been feeling terrible. I know why he doesn't trust me, but I don't think I shall ever be able to say or write what I really think.
    • 8 October 1862
  • If I could kill him and create a new person exactly the same as he is now, I would do so happily.
    • 16 December 1862
  • My jealousy is a congenital illness, or maybe in loving him I have nothing else to love.
    • 11 January 1863
  • It is always the way, the richer the imagination the poorer the life. One can imagine anything – thousands of different worlds – yet one has to live in one's own little circle.
    • 22 May 1863
  • We live in such isolation, and here I am again with my silent friend, my diary.
    • 15 September 1876
  • I am so tired of all this intellectualising – attacking this and denying that, and searching not for truth, for that would be good, but for anything startling, shocking or original, anything that hasn't been said before – and it is so tedious. When people endure heart-ache and suffering in their search for truth, that is fine and honourable, but it's wrong merely to try and shock others. Each person should seek the truth for himself.
    • 29 July 1897
  • His coldness is a torture to me, and I have started to seek other things to fill my inner life, and have learnt to love music, to read into it and discern the complicated human emotions contained in it; but not only is music disapproved of in this house, I am bitterly criticised for it, so once again I feel that my life has no purpose, and bowing my back I copy out some boring article on art for the tenth time, trying to find some consolation in doing my duty, but my lively nature resents it and I long for a life of my own, and when there's an icy wind blowing I rush out of the house, run through the forest to the Voronka and throw myself into the freezing water, and there's some pleasure in the physical emotion.
    • 4 September 1897
  • Everyone wants love, but there are so few who can give it. Or else you offer it passionately, selflessly, and it's rejected, your love is not wanted, it's a burden.
    • 19 September 1897
  • L.N. said that before one spoke about women's inequality and oppression one should first talk about people's inequality in general. And he said that if a woman raises this question herself, there is something immodest, unwomanly and impertinent about it. I think he is right. It's not freedom we women need, but help. Help mainly in educating our sons, setting them on the right road of life, influencing them to be brave, independent, hardworking and honest.
    • 18 March 1898
  • Those last days of my girlhood were extraordinarily intense, lit by a dazzling brightness and a sudden awakening of the soul. I have had this same sense of spiritual elation on two other occasions in my life, and it was these rare and extraordinary awakenings of the soul that have done more than anything else to convince me that it has an independent life of its own €”that it is immortal, and it is when the body dies and it is liberated that it finds its freedom.
    • "L.N. Tolstoy's Marriage"
  • Lev Nikolaevich has described our wedding beautifully in his account of Levin and Kitty's wedding in his novel Anna Karenina. Not only did he paint a brilliantly imaginative picture of the ceremony, he also described the whole psychological process taking place in Levin's mind.
    • "L.N. Tolstoy's Marriage"

Quotes about Sophia Tolstaya

  • Persistent and undiscerning almost to the point of criminality as far as resources were concerned, this woman was of immeasurable hindrance to her husband, her children and humankind as a whole.
    • Victor Lebrun, Leo Tolstoy, trans. Victor P. Epp (, 2005), p. 123.
  • How difficult it is to recognize spiritual illness in a person close to you, especially if the habit of years has established that person's power and authority. Had I realized that my mother was ill, my whole attitude toward her would have been different. But people far more experienced than I were equally blind. With every day Mother grew more nervous. Everything irritated her, made her weep, have hysterics, outbursts of temper.
    • Alexandra Tolstoy, Tolstoy: A Life of My Father, trans. Elizabeth R. Hapgood (London: V. Gollancz Ltd, 1953), p. 476.
  • My father was accustomed to say that disorders of the mind are simply a heightened form of egoism. And it was certainly in this form that my mother's psychological anomalies presented themselves. She who had once been always ready to give of herself totally, without any thought of self, now fell prey to a single morbid preoccupation: what other people were saying about her. What would they say about her in the future? Might they one day, after her death, treat her as a Xantippe? And she had some grounds for such fears, since she was surrounded by people who pitied her husband for all she made him endure.
  • Calm had come to her during her final years. Her husband's dream for her had in part come true, that transformation for which he would have sacrificed all his fame. My father's ideas had become less alien to her. She had become a vegetarian. She was kind to those around her. But she had retained one weakness: she was still afraid of what people would say and write about her when she had gone, she feared for her reputation. As a result she never let slip the slightest opportunity of justifying her words and actions.
  • The chief personage in the house was my Mother. She settled everything. She interviewed Nikolái, the cook, and ordered dinner; she sent us out for walks, made our shirts, was always nursing some baby at the breast; all day long she was bustling about the house with hurried steps. One could be naughty with her, though she was sometimes angry and punished us. She knew more about everything than anybody else. She knew that one must wash every day, that one must eat soup at dinner, that one must talk French, learn not to crawl about on all fours, not to put one's elbows on the table; and if she said that one was not to go out walking because it was just going to rain, she was sure to be right, and one must do as she said. When I coughed she gave me liquorice or King of Denmark drops; so I was very fond of coughing. When my Mother put me to bed and went upstairs to play duets with Father, I found it very hard to go to sleep, and I was annoyed at being left alone; so I started coughing and went on until Nurse went and fetched Mamma, and I was angry with her for coming so slowly. I entirely refused to go to sleep until she had come to my rescue and measured out exactly ten drops in a wineglass and given them to me.
    • Ilya Tolstoy, Reminiscences of Tolstoy, trans. George Calderon (London: Chapman & Hall, 1914), pp. 6–7.
  • My mother was the source of Tolstoi's greatest happiness, and the real author of his greatness. If there is sometimes ground for thinking, while reading the works of Tolstoi, "Do what I do, and not what I say!" such things can never be said in reading the book of my mother's life, for she was not only a model and devoted wife, a tender and affectionate mother to her children, a born housekeeper, a woman of society and an author's wife, but she was also the celebrated Russian writer's greatest moral support, without which he would never have attained the position he holds in the eyes of the world today.
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