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Commettee of Youth Affairs

Commettee of Youth Affairs
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Commettee of Youth Affairs

Peter Pan Club

Essay: Lev Tolstoy and England.

Performer: Mikhail Rostovtsev Adviser: O.M.Rostovtseva Tula 2000 CONTENT


1.Things in Yasnaya Polyana, which remind us about England.

Maria Nikolaevna Volkonskaya.

2.Lev Tolstoy studies English, goes abroad, visits London. Lev Tolstoy comes to Herzen in England.

3.English governesses and Tolstoy’s children. Hanna Tarsey.

4.Tolstoy’s descendants in Great Britain nowadays.


First when I came to Yasnaya Polyana I was 6 years old. I liked it very much. It was very quite there, everything all around was covered with snow: the garden, the alleys and the houses. There was a school,“Philipok,” organised in the estate-museum and we studied many things there, read Lev Tolstoy’s “Primer” for children, talked about his relatives and children. We had classes in Volkonsky’s House and I liked to climb the old staircase very much. We studied English there as well: we had puppet performances and played a lot learning knew English words and expressions. But most of all I liked the house where Lev Tolstoy lived. There were a lot of books there, many of which were written in English. The master read all of them in the original. There were a lot of pictures on the walls where we could see the writer and his children. They also read those books and knew many foreign languages. How had Lev Tolstoy and his children learnt English so well? It was interesting for me but I was a little boy then and was too shy to ask the teacher… Now in my report I’ll try to find the answer myself.

1. Tolstoy’s house and things, which remind us about England.

The first thing we see in the hall as we cross the threshold of Yasnaya Polyana house are the birchwood cases packed with books in many different languages on all manner of subjects. Books not only greet guests but accompany them all over the house. Many of the books are English. Lev Tolstoy read them in the original. John Galsworthy, Bernard Show and H.Wells sent him their books with their own granting signatures.

On the upper landing of the staircase we can see the 18-th century grandfather’s English clock that has a mahogany case with a turret on top. According to a family legend Tolstoy’s grandfather - Prince Nikolai Volconsky, bought it. The clock was made by the London firm of FArdley Norton and is still going. It has a very melodic chime and shows not only the hours, minutes and seconds, but the day of the month as well.

In the mornings Tolstoy liked to walk in the park Kliny that had been also planned according to his grandfather Prince Volconsky’s order and smoothly turned into English garden with a cascade of artificial ponds. There are ancient limes there planted very close to each other with narrow alleys between them. The crowns of the trees are interlaced so tight that even when the day is very hot there is always shade there and it’s rather cool in the park. It is called Kliny (“ Gores” in English) because the park consists of 8 gores. When Prince Volkonsky and his daughter took their morning walk, a serf orchestra played for them from the bandstand in the centre of the garden. Lev Tolstoy liked to work in the park as well: sometimes in summer he asked to bring his table and arm-chair in the park and wrote there. In the centre of the square formed by the gores, apple-trees were planted in Tolstoy’s lifetime, they had enough sunlight and bore fruit. Tolstoy often debated with Turgenev whose park is better and insisted that his own park was better of course.

One of the ponds in the English garden was used for swimming. Tolstoy’s son Sergey remembered how they caught tritons there being small boys. The same thing their grandchildren did since 50 years. Besides they caught grass-snakes in the garden, there were lots of them there. Tolstoy’s children played hide-and-seek in the low part of the park that was always quite and mysterious like a wild wood. According to a family legend that was the favourite spot of Tolstoy’s mother in the garden. There, sitting on the bench near the pond or in the summer-house, which rises in the very corner of the garden she often waited for arriving of her husband when he was away. She also liked to walk there with her children.

That was the reason why that part of the garden reminded Tolstoy about his mother. He lost his mother when he was less than 2 years old in 1830.

Lev Tolstoy’ mother Maria Nikolaevna Volkonskaya.

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