"TOLSTOY WAS THE VERY EMBODIMENT OF TRUTH IN HIS AGE" (GANDHI)
TOLSTOY, Count Leo. 'The Kingdom of God Is Within You' Christianity Not as a Mystic Religion But as a New Theory of Life. London: William Heinemann, 1894. Two volumes. Octavo, original dark green cloth, uncut. $3200.
First edition in English of Tolstoy's powerful spiritual work, banned in Russia in his lifetime, a seminal influence on Gandhi who described being "overwhelmed" by its message of non-violence as a means of resistance, featuring the key translation of Constance Garnett.
In his final years Tolstoy believed that "political instincts became the evil that must be overcome in order for the Kingdom of God to be established on earth." He began working on Kingdom of God in 1891, a time when his fame as a "spiritual leader and social critic" prompted Russian authorities to "try unsuccessfully to counter [his] influence through censorship." On completing it in 1893, Tolstoy's "denunciation of government on the basis of his theory of all non-resistance" was key in its suppression. Kingdom of God (Tsarstvo Bozhie vnutri vas) was sent abroad to be translated and published, first in German (Berlin, 1893-4), then in this first edition in English, featuring Constance Garnett's translation from the Russian (Cambridge Companion). To one of his biographers, there is a side of Tolstoy's nature "which is not merely a reader of Rousseau, but also a decent individual [who] believes that public opinion will eventually become so strong that wars and floggings and tortures and the oppression of the poor must, eventually, come to an end… Tolstoy could not conceive that there should dawn a day in Russia where there would be a government who did not merely fail to share his ideas of decency, but regard them with derision, Kingdom of God… is as far as an 18th-century rationalist can go in pointing out how human beings have fallen short of the ideals of Christ" (Wilson, Tolstoy, 7, 409-12).
Gandhi was among those powerfully influenced by this work. In his Autobiography Gandhi memorably wrote that Tolstoy's Kingdom of God "overwhelmed me." In a famous speech on the centenary of Tolstoy's birth, Gandhi also spoke about Kingdom of God and its impact: "The title means that God's Kingdom is in our heart, that if we search for it outside we shall find it nowhere… Tolstoy was the very embodiment of truth in this age… I know of no author in the West who has written as much and as effectively for the cause of non-violence as Tolstoy" (Young India, September 20, 1928). Preface by Tolstoy dated in print, "May 14-26, 1893"; "Translator's Note" of Constance Garnett, dated in print, "January 1894." Garnett traveled to Russia in the early weeks of 1894, near the same time her translation of Kingdom of God was published in London. In Moscow she met Tolstoy, "who praised her current translation and encouraged her to attempt others… Without her translations, H. E. Bates believed, modern English literature itself could not have been what it is" (ODNB). As the "most enduring English-language translator," Garnett also translated "all of Dostoyevsky's novels; hundreds of Chekhov's stories and two volumes of his plays; all of Turgenev's principal works and nearly all of Tolstoy's," including Anna Karenina (1901), and War and Peace (1903) (New Yorker). LEG 69. Each volume with early gift inscriptions to blank half title versos. Volume I with black-and-white illustration of Tolstoy affixed to preliminary blank.
Text fresh with only lightest scattered foxing mainly to preliminaries, inner paper hinges expertly reinforced, minimal edge-wear to bright gilt cloth. A lovely about-fine copy.