THE LIFE OF TOLSTOY
to Europe in order to learn—to see how the West was living, and whether he could not find something to adopt for his own country—when, shortly after his arrival in Paris, he witnessed an execution by guillotine.
"When I saw how the head was separated from the body," he says in his "Confession," "and as it dropped noisily into the basket, I understood, not with my reason but with my whole being, that no theories of the rationality of modern civilisation and its institutions could justify this act; that if all the people in the world, from the very beginning of the world, by whatever theory, had found it necessary, I knew that it was useless, that it was evil. I knew, also, that the standard of good and evil was not what people said or did, not progress, but myself and my own heart."
The day after the execution he wrote in his diary: "I got up before seven and went to see the execution. A thick, white, and healthy neck and chest; he kissed the New Testament, and then death. What nonsense! It made a strong impression which has not been in vain. I am not a political man. Morality and Art I know, I love. . . . The guillotine prevented me a long time from sleeping, and made me start often."