The Project Gutenberg EBook of Comrade Kropotkin, by Victor Robinson
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Title: Comrade Kropotkin
Author: Victor Robinson
Release Date: December 24, 2010 [EBook #34745]
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Peter Alexeivitch Kropotkin
Born in the Old Esquerries' Quarter of Moscow in 1842
LIVES OF GREAT ALTRURIANS
BY VICTOR ROBINSON
"To liberate one's country!" she
said. "It is terrible even to utter
those words, they are so grand."
Turgenev: "On the Eve."
PRICE, ONE DOLLAR
12 Mount Morris Park West
New York City
This book is not copyrighted—
How could it be?
|Under Nicholas I.
|Scenes from Serfdom
|The Fortress of Peter and Paul
|The Open Gate
|From the Printing Press
|In Later Life
|The Historian of the Revolution
|The Scaffold's Bride
|Before the Search
I dedicate this work. I need not say why. He will know—
Everyone will know. With tears, during the night,
I have read your book, thou earnest truth-seeker.
O compassionate traveler, what a man you must have been!
For the weary Siberian exiles called you
'Dear George Ivanovich!' With a heart
Full of thankfulness for the work you have done,
I lay my bitter and bloody pages at your feet.
Bernard Shaw calls us a nation of villagers. To a large extent this
appellation holds good. We are so self-sufficient unto ourselves that
the most important events in the world leave us cold if they take place
outside of the realm of the star-spangled banner.
A wonderful and terrible thing is happening in the largest empire on
earth; a downtrodden people is engaged in a death-grapple with its
merciless rulers; and never were masters so inhuman, and never were
people so heroic. In comparison with this titanic struggle the French
Revolution itself sinks into insignificance. But what do we know about
it? And what do we care? Russia is far away.... Once in a while the
report of a particularly atrocious massacre, or a particularly cruel
torture inflicted upon a young girl revolutionist will shock our
sensibilities, will cause a pang in our hearts, will perhaps make our
hair stand on end,—but in a day or two we forget all about it. We are so busy!
No wonder that this battle-drama appeals with special force, and exerts
a special charm on the young of all lands,—the young who worship
Freedom, and whose breasts beat warmly for Ideals. No wonder therefore
that it appeals to Victor Robinson.
This essay was written at the age of twenty, and the youth of the author
will serve as an apology, if apology be needed, for the sharpness of
some of the expressions found in these pages. But is excuse really
necessary? I hardly think so. No language can be too strong when
condemning the Russian Bureaucracy, no judgment can be too severe when
pronounced on czardom and its cruel minions. In fact the English
language sometimes seems inadequate....
A remarkable commentary on the conditions in Russia is the fact that he
who studies them carefully and thoroly, be he the gentlest and sweetest
youth who would not harm a fly or tread on a worm, becomes saturated
with the conviction that in Russia, the rebel's bomb and pistol and
dagger are not only legitimate and necessary, but even noble weapons of
defense and offense.
I refrain from any remarks as to the intrinsic value of this book, as it
is perhaps not quite proper for a father to criticize, favorably or
otherwise, the literary productions of his son. One comment however I
would like to make: For one who is utterly unfamiliar with the Russian
language, and who has worked alone and unaided, (in the leisure moments
left over by strenuous college studies), the author has accomplished a
rather noteworthy feat. He has succeeded in imbuing the book with such
an atmosphere, in presenting such vivid and faithful glimpses of Russian
life and literature, and exhibiting such wide and varied knowledge of
the subject, that even a Russian writer would not be ashamed to have his
name appear on the title-page of this volume.
Love understandeth all things.
Dr. William J. Robinson.
New York City, November 11, 1908.
UNDER NICHOLAS I.
I understand that doom awaits him who first rises against the
oppressors of the people. When has Liberty been redeemed without
victims? Fate has already condemned me. I shall perish for my
native land. I feel it, I know it, and gladly bless my
fabled king of Thrace fed his horses on human flesh, but a real czar
of Russia washed his streets with blood. On his accession to the red
throne, the Iron Despot immediately expelled progress from his empire by
butchering the Decembrists—those pioneers of freedom who fought for a
constitution and the abolition of serfdom. Exiles began to tramp the
lonely Siberian highway, and from the time of that Nicholas I. to this
Nicholas II.—a period of 75 years—over a million political prisoners
have taken the 'long journey.'
The mighty country was turned into a military camp. The term of service
was twenty-five years. The life was so hard that when a man was
recruited, his relatives followed him as if to his grave. His mother ran
after him, and sometimes fell dead on the spot. The emperor spent his
time reviewing troops and altering uniforms. If an officer appeared
in the streets with the hooks of his uncomfortable collar unfastened, he
was liable to be degraded to the rank of a common soldier and deported
to some distant province. If a soldier complained of his diet, or was
guilty of the slightest infraction of the most insignificant rule, he
was condemned to run the gauntlet. He was stripped naked, his hands were
tied behind him, and he was brought between two long rows of pawing
privates and eager 'non-coms,' equipped and armed with sticks, whips and
gun-stocks. Behind the soldiers stood officers commanding, "Harder!
Harder!" Thru these lines the victim was compelled to run—because in
yesterday's paltry parade conducted by a petty sergeant, he scratched
his itching neck. At first it was his shoulders which they struck, but
before he had gone very far he had no longer a back, but only a bleeding
mass of quivering flesh thru which parts of the bones protruded. A
doctor was always present to see that the culprit did not die before
receiving his full punishment. That is, if he were booked for 500 blows
and was on the point of succumbing after receiving 300, it was the
physician's duty to send him to a hospital to regain sufficient strength
to allow the additional 200 to be administered. However, in spite of the
medicus, the mangled men often perished before their time, and then
there was nothing to do but beat the corpse.
During this reign originated the widespread system of stealing Jewish
children from their homes, separating them from their families, severing
them from their faith, and bringing them up to serve in the army. These
were the Cantonists. Thus it came about that when a mother of Israel
gave birth to a boy, she did not rejoice as for one born and living, but
lamented as for one dead and departed. (Sometimes Jewish mothers saved
their children from the army by cutting off their fingers, or taking out
one of their eyes).
Liberty was so shackeled she did not even dare weep aloud. Since that
unlucky day when Ryleev, Pestel, Bestuzhev, Kakovsky and
Muraviov-Apostol dangled from a tall straight post and a strong
crossbar, no revolutionist arose to oppose tyranny. During all the many
years of the reign of Nicholas-with-the-Stick, no ray of light
brightened a darkened nation, no torch glimmered in the bloody gloom.
Hope was dead. Freedom was buried. Literature was in exile. Knowledge
lay in a closed coffin. But censorship was alive, and autocracy had more
eyes than Argus.
An anonymous pamphlet, toward the end of his reign, cried out that the
czar had rolled a great stone before the door of the sepulchure of
Truth, that he had placed a strong guard round her tomb, and in the
exultation of his heart had exclaimed, "For thee, no resurrection!"
So thoroly was liberalism crushed, so completely was absolutism supreme,
that 'Nikolaus Palkin' walked the streets of bleeding Russia unattended and unafraid.
Alas, when a nation has only knees to bend, but no hands to strike!
After his shadow had obscured the sun for a quarter of a century, a
brilliant festival was given in his honor at Moscow—called the Holy
City because it contains a Miracle Monastery for glorifying God and a
Kremlin Fortress for crucifying Man. It was a fancy-dress ball, and a
thousand gorgeous uniforms were there, from the leather coat of the
Tungus to the embroidered flummery of the chamberlain. In this affair
the children of the nobility played an important part. They were
lavishly attired, and each carried an ensign representing the arms of
the provinces of the Russian empire. At a given signal the little
emblem-bearers began to march, and on reaching the purple platform upon
which the royal family sat, all standards were lowered. The inflexible
autocrat viewed the scene with satisfaction—all the provinces bowed
before him. When the children retired to the rear of the immense hall,
someone pulled the smallest of the boys from the ranks and placed him on
the imperial elevation. The lad was arrayed as a Persian prince, and
wore a jewel-covered belt and a high bonnet. Nicholas I. looked at his
chubby face all surrounded with pretty curls and taking him to the
czarevna Marie Alexandrovna, said in his military voice, "This is the
sort of boy you must bring me." The woman was gravid at the time, and
the soldier-like joke made her blush.
"Will you have some sweets?" asked the emperor.
"I want some of those tiny biscuits which were served at tea," eagerly
responded the child. A waiter was called and he emptied a full tray into the tall bonnet.
"I will take them home to Sasha," said the curly little cherub.
Mikhael—the czar's brother—now paid attention to the little visitor.
"When you are a good boy," he said, "they treat you so," and he passed
his rough hand downwards over the rotund features of the diminutive
would-be Persian; "but when you are naughty, they treat you so," and he
rubbed the child's nose upward.
The poor innocent did his best to restrain himself, but unhappily the
gushing tears could not be repressed. The ladies at once took his part,
and Marie Alexandrovna set him by her side on a velvet chair with a
gilded back—William Morris being then unknown. Soon the big eyes began
to close, and drowsily putting his beautiful head in the lap of the
future empress, the boy fell soundly asleep.
And the frolic went on. Under the glittering chandeliers the dancers
glided. Over the waxen floors the merry feet waltzed. Wine disappeared
by barrels, and revelry ran riot. Swords, spurs, buckles, medals,
diamonds—how they all sparkled! The smooth-cheeked courtiers and the
slick-tongued cavaliers gaily jested, and the silk-swathed ladies
flirted their proverbial fans and smiled flatteringly at their wit, but
not the wisest of them knew that someday this babe would awake and make
his name terrible to the ears of tyrants!
SCENES FROM SERFDOM
To be sold, three coachmen, well-trained and handsome; and two
girls, the one eighteen and the other fifteen years of age, both of
them good-looking and well acquainted with various kinds of
handiwork. In the same house there are for sale two hairdressers;
the one twenty-one years of age can read, write, play on a musical
instrument, and act as huntsman; the other can dress ladies' and
gentlemen's hair. In the same house are sold pianos and organs.
Advertisement in the Moscow Gazette, 1801.
eter Kropotkin's father was a general and a prince. His family
originated with a grandson of Rostislav Mstislavich the Bold. His
ancestors had been Grand Princes of Smolensk. He was a descendant of the
house of Rurik, and judged from the standpoint of heredity, had more
right to the throne than the Romanoffs. Incidentally he was like most
military men—barbarous, pitiless, merciless. He owned twelve hundred
male serfs. We do not know how many maids. Neither do we know how many
were scarred by the knout, how many were flogged till the breath of life
left them, nor how many hanged themselves under his window.
If this brave warrior—who received the cross of Saint Anne for
gallantry, because his servant Froll rushed into the flames to save a
child—became imbued with the notion that there was not sufficient hay
in the barn, he would call one of his serfs, strike him in the face, and
accuse him of overfeeding the horses. In order to prove he was right he
would make another calculation, and come to the conclusion there was too
much hay. So he would bang his slave again for not giving the equidae
enuf. Suddenly he would sit down and write a note: Take So and So to the
police station, and let 100 lashes with the birch rod be administered to him.
On such occasions Peter would run out—his rosy cheeks wet with
weeping—catch the unhappy soul in a dark passage, and try to kiss his
hand. The serf would tear it away, and say bitterly, "Let me alone; you
too, when you grow up, will you not be just the same?"
"No, no, never!" cried the child, while the hot tears choked him and
made him cough for breath.
The females of all animals, having dislikes and preferences, exercise
the right of selection; rejecting one and receiving another; sending
away a male who is repulsive to them, and accepting a wooer they find
Such absurd liberty was never allowed the serfs. They married when,
where and whom the master wished. The Kropotkins owned a woman named
Polya—intelligent and artistic—an exceptional serf. Her body was
bound; her hands were doomed to labor; her talents brought benefits not
to herself; her skill was at the service of others; her industry
profited her owners; she was a chattel, chained and confined—but her
heart could not be controlled. She deeply loved a neighboring servant,
and was with child from him. The lover, forgetting the Russian proverb,
"One cannot break a stone wall with his forehead," implored permission
to marry her.... The Kropotkins owned also a dwarf called 'bandy-legged
Filka.' Because of a terrible kick which he received in his boyhood, he
ceased to grow. His legs were crooked, his feet were turned inward, his
nose was broken, his jaw was deformed. It was the General's will that
the refined Polya should wed this unsightly imp. She was forced to
obey. The 'happy couple' were sent to the estate of Ryazan.
During the sixth year of the reign of Alexander II., a servant dashed
wildly into Peter Kropotkin's room. It was early in the morning, and
Kropotkin was still in bed. But the servant brandished the tea tray and
babbled excitedly, "Prince, freedom! The manifesto is posted on the
Gostinoi Dvor." In a moment Kropotkin was dressed and began to run out.
Just then a friend came running in. "Kropotkin, freedom!" he shouted,
"Here is the manifesto!"
Kropotkin read it. His eyes beamed. He stamped his feet. O happy day! No
more slavery—serfdom was abolished—the muzhiks were free. Not the dark
ghosts of reaction, but the luminous sons of light had triumphed. Not
Shuvaloff, Muravioff, and Trepoff, but Herzen, Turgenev and
That afternoon Kropotkin attended the last performance of the Italian
Opera. Baveri, the conductor of the band, raised his baton; the
musicians began to play, but human voices drowned the notes, for the
people were shouting for their czar—Redeemer!—Deliverer! Then Baveri
stopped, but the hurrahs did not. Again Baveri waved his stick wildly in
the air, the fiddlers grasped tightly their bows, the drummers beat with
all their strength, the players inflated their lungs and blew the brazen
instruments with might and main, but from that powerful band not a bar
of music could be heard, for the people were shouting for their
czar—Immanuel!—Illustrious! Strangers met in the streets, embraced,
kissed each other thrice on the cheek, and shouted for their
czar—Father!—Messiah! In front of the royal palace, peasants and
professors mingled, and shouted for their czar—Emancipator!—Liberator!
When he really appeared, crowds eager and immense, ran after the
carriage and shouted for their czar—Tsar Osvoboditel!
As a dream disappears at dawn, so died this enthusiasm. The brief moment
of promise was followed by an eternal hour of despair; the short day was
succeeded by the endless night. Hell may not be Hell, but a Romanoff is
a Romanoff. Only one year later, the despot in Alexander awoke—mature
and monstrous. If the dead could touch the living, Nicholas would have
hugged his son. The steps of the scaffold became slippery with the blood
of the best. The rope of the hangman was jerked day and night, and the
key of the jailer creaked in a thousand locks. Reaction had won, and
liberalism lay covered with a crimson shroud.
The Valuev volcano vomited its smothering lava as far as Siberia, and
General Kukel who with Kropotkin's help was preparing a long list of
necessary reforms, was dismissed from his post because another place had
been found for him—in prison.
On the other hand there was a district chief who robbed the peasants and
whipped their wives, and whose brutality and dishonesty were so
unanswerably exposed by the energetic Kropotkin that this officer was
also transfered—to a higher position in Kamchatka where he found more
roubles for his purse and more women for his knout.
When Kropotkin returned to St. Petersburg on an official commission, a
high functionary said to him, "Do you know that Chernishevsky has been
arrested? He is now in the fortress."
"Chernishevsky? What has he done?"
"Nothing in particular, nothing! But mon cher, you know—state
considerations!... Such a clever man, awfully clever! And such an
influence he has upon the youth. You understand that a government cannot
tolerate that: that's impossible! intolerable mon cher, dans un Etat
For these mad acts of a drunken despotism, there was neither shadow of
excuse nor shade of reason, except that a Romanoff was hungry and
thirsty for victims, satisfying the blood-craving spirit that cried
within him, demanding that the brightest youths and the noblest girls be
changed to lifeless corpses.
Is it any wonder that men who on the great day of emancipation quoted
with tears in their eyes the beautiful article by Herzen, "Thou hast
conquered, Galilean," now recited these other words by the same exile:
"Alexander Nikolaevich, why did you not die on that day? Your name would
have been transmitted in history as that of a hero."
And at the same time falls upon his ear the plaintive song of the
Russian peasant; all wailing and lamentation, in which so many ages
of suffering seem concentrated. His squalid misery, his whole life
stands forth full of sorrow and outrage. Look at him; exhausted by
hunger, broken down by toil, the eternal slave of the privileged
classes, working without pause, without hope of redemption. For the
government purposely keeps him ignorant, and every one robs him,
every one tramples on him, and no one stretches out a hand to
assist him. No one? Not so. The young man knows now "what to do."
He will stretch forth his hand. He will tell the peasant how to
free himself and how to become happy. His heart throbs for this
poor sufferer who can only weep. The flush of enthusiasm mounts to
his brow, and with burning glances he takes in his heart a solemn
oath to concentrate all his life, all his strength, all his
thoughts, to the liberation of this population which drains its
life blood in order that he, the favored son of privilege, may live
at his ease, study, and instruct himself. He will take off the fine
clothes that burn into his very flesh; he will put on the rough
coat and the wooden shoes of the peasant, and abandoning the
splendid paternal palace which oppresses him like the reproach of a
crime, he will go forth "among the people" in some remote district,
and there, the slender and delicate descendant of a noble race, he
will do the hard work of the peasant, enduring every privation in
order to carry to him the words of redemption, the Gospel of our
age,—Socialism. What matters to him if the cut-throats of the
Government lay hands upon him? What to him are exile, Siberia,
death? Full of his sublime idea, clear, splendid, vivifying as the
mid-day sun, he defies suffering, and would meet death with a
glance of enthusiasm and a smile of happiness.—Stepniak:
eter Kropotkin came into life sailing on its topmost wave. The fat of
the land, and its milk and honey were his. Personally, nothing was
denied him. All the gifts had been lavished upon him. Position was his,
health he had in abundance, he was as handsome as the characters in
Tolstoy's War and Peace, and his talents were many and varied. To use
the Russian vernacular, he was born in his shirt.
But not praise from princes or bows from beauties could induce him to
fritter away his splendid energies in senseless dinky-dinks at Moscow or
foppish balls at Petersburg. He wished to exercise head, hand and heart,
for he agreed with John Ruskin that whatever else you are, you must not
be useless and you must not be cruel—two adjectives which best portray
the average official.
As has already been said, while still a youth Kropotkin went to Siberia
to aid Kukel improve the prisons, the exile system, etc. But when the
Herzen-reading Kukel was recalled, and it was no longer permitted to
mention the word "reform," Kropotkin became an explorer.
Being clever, he soon made several important discoveries—the
border-ridge of the Khingan, the tertiary volcanoes of the Uyun
Kholdonsti, a direct route to the Amur.
Also it is interesting to remember that he was among the first Europeans
who entered Manchuria, and he went at the risk of being put in a
cage and conveyed across the Gobi on a camel's back. It was impossible
to go as an officer, so Kropotkin disguised himself as a trader, put on
a long blue cotton dress, and acted like a Muscovite merchant—sitting
on the edge of the chair, pouring his tea in the saucer, blowing on it
with puffed-out cheeks and staring eyes, and nibbling tiny particles
from his lump of sugar.
One night as he wandered thru a Chinese town, the inhabitants by signs
asked him why such a young man wore a beard. Answering by the same
means, Kropotkin told them that if he had nothing else to eat he could
eat the beard. This caused the Celestials to roar with laughter, and
they petted him tenderly, showed him their houses, and offered him more
pipes than Skitaletz's Gavril Petrovitch could have smoked.
In 1866, Kropotkin found what previous explorers had vainly sought—a
communication between the gold mines of Yakutsk and Transbaikalia.
Then came what he considers his chief contribution to science: the
important discovery that the maps of Northern Asia were incorrect,
because the main lines of structure run neither north and south, nor
east and west, but from the southwest to the northeast.
Later Kropotkin was to lead an expedition to the Arctic seas, but as the
government was spending enormous sums in erecting scaffolds, it could
not spare a poltinik for explorations in unknown regions. However the
Geographical Society sent him to Finland to study the glacial deposits.
Here he made valuable researches relative to the glaciation of the
country. He conceived the idea of writing a monumental physical
geography of Northern Europe. His chief ambition was to become the
Secretary of the Society, for then he would be in a condition to
considerably advance the cause of science.
But because he now had more leisure than formerly, he began seriously to
think of another subject—The People. When he crossed a plain which had
no interest for a geologist, he thought of their sufferings. When he
walked from one gravel pit to another, he mused on their downtrodden
hopes. Sometimes the hammer would pause in mid-air before it struck the
chisel, because the naturalist was dreaming of these plundered beings.
After collecting an immense amount of evidence, he anticipated what keen
joy he would have in analysing and arranging it for publication; but
then another feeling would assert itself—what right had he to this
happiness when all around him were men and women and children
struggling and slaving for a bit of mouldy bread? Yes, yes, Kropotkin
was thinking about the hungry people.
It was in the autumn of 1871, as he looked over the hillocks of Finland,
and saw with his scientific eye the ice accumulating in the archipelagos
at the dawn of mankind, that he received this telegram from the
Geographical Society: "The council begs you to accept the position of
secretary to the society."
At last Kropotkin was in a position to realise his old dream, but he
pondered much before answering, for he now dreamed a new dream—how to
lighten the burdens of the overworked people.
A voice in the wind said, "To work for Science is great."
Then another voice spoke saying, "To toil for Humanity is greater."
So Kropotkin wired, "Most cordial thanks, but cannot accept." The chisel
of the geologist slipped from his fingers, and from that day on Peter
Kropotkin carried in his upraised hand a burning torch for the weary people.
"He is a nihilist."
"What!" cried his father. As to Paul Petrovitch, he raised his
knife, on the end of which was a small bit of butter, and remained
"He is a nihilist," repeated Arcadi.
"A nihilist," said Nicholas Petrovitch. "This word must come from
the Latin Nihil, nothing, as far as I can judge; and consequently
it signifies a man who ... who recognizes nothing?"
"Or rather who respects nothing," said Paul Petrovitch; and he
began again to butter his bread.
"A man who looks at everything from a critical point of view," said Arcadi.
"Does that not come to the same thing?" asked his uncle.
"No, not at all; a nihilist is a man who bows before no authority,
who accepts no principle without examination, no matter what credit
the principle has."—Turgenev: Fathers and Sons.
t was a cheerless Saint Petersburg to which Kropotkin returned—a city
in the grip of the powers of darkness. The officials despoiled the
muzhiks of their last copecks, and if the poor peasants sought redress
in institutions ironically known as "courts of justice," they were
either imprisoned for life or murdered outright—at the order of the
very men who were fleshed with pillage.
The best writers had escaped abroad, or languished in faraway Siberia,
or had departed upon a still longer journey.
Where was Lavrov? Who heard of Mikhailov? What fortress held Pisarev?
Why sat no ardent youths at Chernishevsky's feet?
The reformers who had worked for the abolition of serfdom were still. An
uncanny fear possessed them. They trembled at the thought of Trepoff.
They shuddered at the sight of Shuvaloff. They wished nothing but
obscurity; they prayed only for oblivion to cover them. They denied with
pale faces that they had ever held advanced opinions. They were a
pitiful lot, but it is hard to blame them. Like a blood-crazed beast
Alexander roamed his empire, slaughtering human beings with a ferocity
that would have made a pack of wolves protest. In the dead of the night
they were shot—and sometimes at dawn. No reasons were assigned, no
questions answered. Russia prostrated herself at the feet of
power—poisoned with the fangs of force. Little wonder the old
generation was frightened.
The lime had grown in their bones, and to have these bones crushed by
Katkoff in the casemates of the Fortress of Peter and Paul was not
pleasant. The fathers withdrew from the society of their sons. Even the
older brothers held aloof. At every step the young people heard,
"Prudence, young man." Never before was youth so deserted, and never
before was youth so splendid, so supreme, so sublime. Was it for them to
follow the craven footsteps of a cowardly generation? Let the
overcrowded prisons answer! Let the youngster-jammed dungeons reply!
From the army came the young officer and cast aside his uniform. From
the palace stepped forth the young prince and threw off his costly
mantle. From the general's family hastened the young heiress and put
away her silken dresses.
It is not for a halting tongue to celebrate this youthful band of
pioneers. It is not for a faltering pen to chant praises to those whose
glory is unrivalled. History has not seen their equals. They deserve the
worship of a better world than this. We who have no faith in God or
reverence for Government, may well bow our heads at the recollection of
men who left comfortable firesides to expose themselves to maddening
tortures. We may well fall right down on our knees at the thought of
women who bade farewell to wealthy parents to bare their breasts to the
sabre of the gendarme and the embrace of the cossack.
Authorities they rejected. The chains of custom they rent asunder. Even
the axiomatic they re-examined. With the luke-warm, half-hearted
agnosticism of Huxley, they were dissatisfied. Out-and-out apostles of
Atheism were they, and one of the first books they printed was Ludwig
Buchner's. The theory of transformism they eagerly accepted, and more
than any English evolutionist they would gladly have died to prove
Darwin right and Cuvier wrong.
Only one mistake they made—they spat upon Art. They found no joy in
beauty. An arched rainbow, a Grecian urn, a vine-covered cottage, were
nothing to them. They scorned the laurels of the golden-haired Apollo.
They claimed a shoemaker was superior to Raphael because he makes useful
things while the other does not.
The Scaffold's Bride
It is for such girls that the czar buys rope.
Their sacred watchword was: To The People. This great movement—which
Turgenev named Nihilism—spread rapidly. Many schools were
established and enormous numbers of peasants flocked to them. The old
sat on the benches with their grandchildren and did their best to learn.
Teachers and the taught were enthused with the great idea. Leaders and
the led were comrades. The youths did not spend a couple of hours with
the peasants and then run off to indulge in an abnormal orgy prepared by
a pathic Grand Duke. Altho several were heirs to fortunes, they refused
to accept any money from their parents. They lived exactly like the
peasants, several in a room, ate black bread and dressed in boots and
sheepskin. Many of the girls formerly owned a trunkful of jewels and a
houseful of servants, but now they dispensed with chignon and crinoline.
They cropped their hair close and put on blue spectacles so they might
not be fair in the eyes of men. They wanted no love affairs. They wanted
to educate the ignorant. Children of the rich, offsprings of
aristocrats, scions of nobility, brought up in luxury, encouraged in
idleness, unused to manual work, unaccustomed to physical labor, they
now toiled fifteen hours a day in the factories. To look peasant-like,
the prettiest maidens rubbed their cheeks with grease and steeped their
hands in brine. All the woes of the commoners they accepted for
themselves. Were there ever before such luminous sons, such divine
daughters? Ask history for a parallel, and Clio's scroll is blank!
Let this statement stand—indeed not even the twisted intellect of the
perverted W. T. Stead could demolish it—had the autocracy
permitted these young teachers to continue their educative work among
the peasants, Russia to-day would not be a nation of illiterate muzhiks,
and millions who are now hopelessly blind would have eyes that see.
In July 1906, I was in Bialystok. A pogrom had just been started. I
saw women who were repeatedly raped before the eyes of their
husbands and their fathers. I saw a child, four years old,
deliberately shot in the arm by a soldier. I saw a girl of twelve
shot in the stomach. I saw a hospital that was purposely fired upon
by soldiers merely to create a panic among the patients. The local
schoolmaster was killed by three gendarmes driving nails into his
skull. The whole reason for the massacre was to terrify the
population into submitting meekly to various governmental
impositions. The massacre is a recognized weapon of the Russian
Government, often used to shape political ends. By what standards
of the eternal verities is it wrong to combat this kind of
slaughter by removing the official or officials responsible? To
assassinate an Alikhanov, a Pavlov, a Min, a Dubossov, a Sergius, a
Plehve, is, to my mind, precisely like killing a rattlesnake that
has crawled into a nursery, or stamping out a pest, or blowing up a
building to stop the further spread of the flames.
Kellogg Durland: The Necessity for
Terrorism in Russia.
t is not often remembered—tho it should be—that at this time these
Nihilists were not politicals, and did not fight czarism. Their object
was to teach the alphabet, not to overthrow the dynasty. It was only
when the government condemned to a slow death in Siberia every one who
printed a leaflet, or distributed a pamphlet, or attended a meeting, or
listened to a speaker, or joined a co-operative association, or started
an experimental farm, or went to a technical school, or taught a
peasant—that they commenced to oppose the Romanoff regime. It was only
when the ultimatum, "No schools allowed!" was for several years
rammed down their throats at the point of the bayonet that the Nihilists
became Terrorists. It was only when the prisons overflowed with their
young warm blood that Sophia Perovskaya waved her handkerchief.
The shaft of truth is naked, and so armored with bias is the mind of
man, that the missle cannot pierce the mail. In spite of the
unanswerable array of historical data, many will still exclaim, "We do
not believe in using force in Russia. We believe in education."
O huge Sviatogor, giant-hero of the primitive Russians, endow us with
your mighty nerves, lest we burst!
There was a girl—Miss Gukovskaya. A young girl—fourteen years old.
She addressed a crowd—about Kovalsky. She was transported to a remote
part of Siberia for life. The child could not endure the wilderness and
drowned herself in the Yenisei.
There was another girl who gave a single pamphlet to a worker. Her
punishment was nine years of hard labor and then life-long exile among Siberian snows.
A young man was found reading a book not admired by the censor. He was
put in prison and kept there until he committed suicide.
When the gay and gentle Starinyevitch was a student, a manifesto was
found in his possession. Unwilling to incriminate another, he refused to
say from whom he received it. For this omission he spent twenty years
in filthy prisons.
While searching the room of Rosovsky who was not yet twenty, the police
discovered a proclamation of the Executive Committee.
"Who gave it to you?"
"That I cannot say. I am not a spy."
He was sentenced to death and died on the scaffold.
Kropotkin mentions another youth of nineteen who posted a circular in a
railway station. He was caught and killed—hanged I think. "He was a
boy," says Kropotkin, "He was a boy but he died like a man."
Ask a Revolutionist if he knows Sophia Bardina and his glowing eyes will
answer yes. Because she read a couple of articles in public, she was
condemned to several years' penal servitude, which by special favor of
the czar was commuted to life-long exile.
Leo Deutsch in his mild and modest Sixteen Tears in Siberia, tells of
a few girls of Romny who hit upon the plan of loaning one another books
and making notes on them. Soon a few young men joined, and thus was
formed a small reading society, such as might help to pass away the long
winter evenings in the dull provincial town. For this—and for
absolutely nothing but this—"the conspirators of Romny" were deported
across the Urals.
Only a couple of years ago, several schoolteachers met at Tiflis to
discuss the best method of improving their educational curricula. A
commander entered and cried, "Disperse!" Turning to his cossacks he
said, "These women are yours"—and all were raped with impunity.
As long as the Romanoffs rule Russia, only idiots opaque and impervious
to reason, can speak of education without action.
If education were permitted, revolutionary violence would not be,
because terrorism is the last straw to which the drowning nation
clutches. They cling to this because under existing circumstances
nothing else is possible, nothing, nothing, nothing.
Russia has produced no greater Terrorist than Gregory Gershuni, and when
this glorious Jew stood before his "judges" he told them: "History will
forgive you everything; the centuries of oppression, the millions you
have starved to death, the other millions you have sent to be butchered
on the battlefield; everything but this—that you have driven us who
mean well with our fatherland to seek recourse in murder."
Men cannot meet for purposes of discussion, because if they do, they
will be beaten and bayoneted. Children cannot, for they will be hacked
to pieces. Women cannot, for their bodies will be utilized to warm the
beds of cossacks.
Such liberticide must be answered by tyrannicide! And the hand that
holds a dagger, red with the blood of a despot, is the noblest hand of all!
All the condemned died like heroes. Kibalkitch and Geliabov
appeared very calm and resigned. Timothy Mikhailov pale but firm;
Rysakov calm and under control, but his face was as white as a
sheet. Sophia Perovskaya's courage struck us all with astonishment.
Not a sign of fear of death in her lovely countenance. Her cheeks
wore the fresh roses of youth and health, and a heroine's soul
gleamed from her gentle, but firm and serious face.
—From the reactionary Kolnische Zeitung.
ussia has long been famous for its circles, which far surpass in
interest and excellence, those of any other country. According to the
calculation of the police, each member contributes to the society either
a pint or a quart of blood, but this computation is too conservative.
Those who join Russian Circles do not measure the amount, but are ready
to give unto the last drop. At these meetings, chairmen and ceremony are
unknown. Those present sit on chairs, lean against the window-sill, or
squat on a broken sofa. They sing melancholy songs, smoke cigarettes and
overwork the samovar. They dress carelessly in loose blouses of colored
calico. Their hair is disheveled, their faces are flushed, their eyes
are blazing. All argue at once, and in order to make themselves heard,
interrupt each other, shout animatedly, bang the table, and rattle the
spoon in the glass. The noise is deafening, but from the din of the
debate fly forth sparks which may eventually inflame even this outraged
empire of officials and icons.
In 1872, Kropotkin joined the most important of these groups—the Circle
of Chaykovsky. Kropotkin was now a thoro-going revolutionist, and it is
foolish to ask as Grand Duke Nicholas did, "When did you begin to
entertain such ideas?"
In a country like Russia, where the present government incites the
troops to massacre the people, hoping in this way to prolong its
existence; where the wardens do a thriving business by turning over
the female prisoners to the soldiers at so much a piece; where the
Dnieper-Demons beat women to the ground and ride their horses over their
bosoms; where they toss children in the air and catch them on their
"The Father of the Russian Revolution."
bayonets; where they hack babes in twain and hurl the bleeding
pieces at their agonized mothers; where they hammer spikes thru the
heads of old men; where youths are exiled for life for reading a
forbidden author; where vulgar officers command refined women to become
their mistresses or pay the penalty of having their families shipped
to that side of the tear-drenched monument which says, "Asia;" where
officials who plan pogroms are promoted, and those who protest are
imprisoned where tortures like pricking out the eyes and
striking the stomach are perpetrated; where virgin and matron are used
to glut the lust of the cossack; where such crimes are openly
committed from dawn to dusk and thru the darkness of the black night,
that at mere thought of them the suffering brain reels, and the
horrified senses faint—in a land like this could a Peter Kropotkin
remain Chamberlain to the Czarina?
Such rare-souled characters formed this Circle, that Kropotkin spent
here the two happiest years of his life. To pass whole days with
Nicholas Chaykovsky, to speak with the Kornilov sisters, to work with
the young Kuprianov, to grasp the honest hand of Stepniak, to enter the
room at night in top-boots after lecturing to peasants, and see sweet
Sophia Perovskaya say severely, "How dare you bring so much mud in this
house!"—what life could be intenser?
The Circle of Chaykovsky held its meetings in a little dwelling in the
suburbs of Saint Petersburg. There was nothing about it to excite
suspicion. The neighbors often saw the mistress attending to her
business. They knew her to be an artisan's wife, an ordinary
workingwoman. She wore a cotton dress and men's shoes, her head was
covered with a fancy kerchief, and she trudged slowly along, carrying on
her shoulders full pails of water from the Neva River.
But they did not know that she belonged to the highest aristocracy; that
one of her ancestors was the morganatic husband of Empress Elizabeth,
daughter of Peter the Great; that her grandfather was Minister of Public
Instruction; that her uncle was a renowned conqueror in Asia Minor; that
her father was Governor General of St. Petersburg; that she herself had
shone in the most fashionable drawing rooms of the capital, and that her
name was Sophia Perovskaya,—a name which thrills the soul of every
rebel to its center.
Physically she was like a novelist's heroine. She had golden hair and
her eyes were blue. A lissom figure, a musical voice, a charming
laugh. Pure with a maiden's modesty, chaste with a virginal shyness.
So graceful and girlish that she never looked more than eighteen—even
when she was twenty-six. Of such a sympathetic nature that when she
became a nurse, sufferers whose nerves quivered in distress, claimed
their agony abated as soon as she entered. Her mother she loved to
adoration, and often at the risk of her life, she left her hiding-place
to give Varvara Sergyevna the joy of folding her hunted child in her
aching arms. Her father had human form, but was in reality a fiend, yet
rejoice that he lived, for from his ultra-reactionary loins was born the
white queen of the red revolution.
From her sixteenth year, Sonya was ready to die for the Cause—with a
smile on her beautiful lips and a wave of her graceful hand, with the
crimson banner above her head, and upon her bosom a red carnation. I
speak figuratively. She would not have worn these things. She was
altogether too simple.
Hers was a life full of pain, and in 1881 came the supreme sorrow. Her
heart twitched with the torture, for Andrew Geliabov, the man she loved
so fondly, was in the casemate of the fortress, and all knew, and Sonya
knew too, that soon around his beloved neck would be a bluish streak.
Yet her brilliant intellect was not dimmed or darkened. That will of
iron and those nerves of steel, neither broke nor faltered. It was then
that she arranged every detail for the assassination of Alexander II.
She may have wept in private, but to her comrades she said with dry
eyes, "When I give the signal, throw the bomb."
The appointed day came. In a metal-clad carriage, the czar drove to the
parade. Behind him in a sledge rode Colonel Dvorjitsky. Burning eyes
looked at a girl. A handkerchief fluttered in the air—Sonya's signal!
Rysakov threw his bomb. The Emperor alighted—unhurt. Then Grinevetsky
too, flung a blessed ball of Kibalkitch's make, and within a few hours
the old despot and the young martyr passed out of the world.
Sophia Perovskaya inspired the greatest stanzas of the Poet of the
Sierras, for usually the verse of the slangy Joaquin Miller is mediocre.
But how grand are these!:
"A storm burst forth! From out the storm
The clean, red lightning leapt,
And lo, a prostrate royal form ...
And Alexander slept!
Down thru the snow, all smoking, warm
Like any blood, his crept.
Yea, one lay dead, for millions dead!
One red spot in the snow
For one long damning line of red,
Where exiles endless go—
The babe at breast, the mother's head
Bowed down and dying so.
And did a woman do this deed?
Then build her scaffold high,
That all may on her forehead read
The martyr's right to die!
Ring Cossack round on royal steed!
Now lift her to the sky!
But see! From out the black hood shines
A light few look upon!
Lorn exiles, see, from dark, deep mines,
A star at burst of dawn!...
A thud! A creak of hangman's lines!—
A frail shape jerked and drawn!..."
Before stepping upon the scaffold, Sophia Perovskaya wrote a note. (I
know it has often been printed, but how can I help publishing it again?)
Think you she laments that one so gifted should perish so young? Read:
"Mother, mother! Beloved, beloved one! If you only knew how cruelly I
suffer at the thought of the sorrow and torture I have caused you,
dearest—! I beg and beseech you not to rack your tender heart for my
sake. Spare yourself, and think of all those who are round you at home,
and who love you no less than I do—and need you constantly; and who,
more than I, are entitled to your love and affection. Spare yourself
too, for the sake of me, who would be so happy if only the agonizing
thought of the sorrow I have caused you did not torture me so
unspeakably. Sorrow not over my fate which I created for myself, as you
know, at the strict behest of my conscience. You know that I could not
have acted differently, that I was obliged to do what my heart ordered,
that I had to go and leave you, beloved mother, when my country called
me. Do not think that the death that inevitably awaits me has any terror
for my soul. That which has happened is only, you know, what I have been
expecting every day, every hour, during all those years, and what sooner
or later, must overtake me and my friends. Soon, in the course of a few
days, I must die for the cause, for the idea, for which I devoted my
life and all the powers of my soul and body. How happy I should be then,
dearest, beloved! Once more I beseech you not to mourn for me. You are
well aware how ineffably I love you, I have always, always, loved you.
By this love I conjure you to forgive your Sonya! Again and again I kiss
your beloved hands, and on my knees, thank you for all you have given me
during every moment of my life. On my knees I beseech you to bear to all
the dear ones at home my last loving greetings! To-morrow I shall stand
once more in the presence of my judges; probably for the last time. But
my clothes are so shabby, and I wanted to tidy myself up a bit. Buy and
send me, dearest mama, a little white collar and a pair of simple loose
sleeves with links. Perhaps it will be vouchsafed us once again to
She was hanged in her twenties, but her name is as immortal as the
meet. Till then, farewell! Do not forget my last fervent prayer, my
last thought: forgive me and do not bewail me."
Yes, this is her letter. "Buy and send me, dearest mama, a little white
collar and a pair of simple loose sleeves with links."
A woman still—but glorified, radiant, resplendent—a woman all
inspired, upraised, exalted, uplifted, aureoled.
THE FORTRESS OF PETER AND PAUL
A strange feeling came over me when I saw that I was being conveyed
to this prison, used by the Government of the Czars for political
offenders only; a place never spoken of in Russia without a
shudder.—Leo Deutsch: Sixteen Years in Siberia.
he Circle of Chaykovsky exerted an immense influence all over the
empire, forming branches in every province, and producing the greatest
of the Russian Revolutionists. Yet the particular group to which
Kropotkin belonged was daily decreasing, on account of the imprisonment
of its members.
In January 1874, the police became so vigilant that the remaining
comrades thought it wise for Stepniak to leave St. Petersburg. But this
noble and lovable giant, whose simplicity earned him the epithet of
"Baby," refused to obey. He protested warmly, and remained at his risky
post until the Nihilists actually forced him to depart to a safer city.
It was also time for Kropotkin—who had become famous by his speeches to
the 'prostoi narod'—to conceal himself, but in his case a strange
circumstance prevented. He had just completed his essay on the glacial
formations, and it was necessary to read it at a meeting of the
Geographical Society. When he finished, an animated discussion began,
but laurels were on Kropotkin's head; it was admitted that all old
theories concerning the diluvial period in Russia were erroneous. This
paper produced such an excellent impression that it was proposed to
nominate the author president of the Physical Geography section. So
Kropotkin sat among the fine gentlemen, and shook hands with the
dignified professors, and smilingly thanked the learned savants for the
honors they conferred upon him, but inwardly he asked himself if he
would not spend that very night in the prison of the Third Section.
His guess was not a bad one. He was soon arrested. After certain tedious
formalities, he was put in a cab. A colossal Circassian sat at his side.
The genial Kropotkin spoke to him, but the mass of meat only snored.
Many of Kropotkin's comrades were already entombed in Litovsky prison,
but his question if he too were going there was unanswered. Then the cab
crossed Palace Bridge, and it was no longer necessary to interrogate the
guardian. Peter Kropotkin knew he was bound for that silent coffin of
stone which darkly rises like a Hell-on-Earth—the Fortress of Saint
Peter and Saint Paul.
He leaned over and looked at the flowing Neva, knowing he would not soon
see the graceful river again. Over the gulf of Finland, clouds were
hanging, but the prisoner searched for patches of blue sky. The sun was
going down, wearily perhaps, but proudly, for as it slowly sank below
the horizon it left behind it gossamer colors of sapphire and scarlet,
with glint and glow of gold. (And the officer snored.)
The carriage turned to the left and entered a dark passage. Kropotkin
was now within the gate of the Cemetery for the Living, the mouldy,
murderous Tomb of Torture. Thru his mind flashed all the horrors of this
famous prison whose dreaded name is uttered only in a voice hushed and
awed. Within these walls the Decembrists became martyrs. Here
Nechaev—in the gloomy Alexis ravelin—was kept a prisoner for life.
Here Perovskaya had been confined. Here was incarcerated the
poet-prince Odoevsky, about whose early death the banished Lermontov
wrote so tender an elegy.
The carriage stopped before another gate which was opened by soldiers.
Here Catherine II. buried alive all who opposed her abominations.
Here the terrible Minich tortured his enemies until they expired from
the agony. Here Princess Tarakanova was locked in a cell which filled
with water, causing the rats to climb upon her body to save themselves
from drowning. Here in the awful loneliness of the silent dungeons, an
army of unfortunates had gone insane.
The carriage rested again and Kropotkin was taken to a third iron gate
which opened into a dark room where he could vaguely see several
soldiers in soft felt boots gliding noiselessly about as if they were
phantoms from another world. He recalled that here was caged much of the
winged glory of Russian Literature—Ryleev, the poet of freedom whose
forbidden ballads Kropotkin's mother copied in her note-books;
Griboyedov who wrote one immortal masterpiece and then put pen no
more to paper because the censor mutilated his work beyond recognition;
Shevchenko who dipped his quill in a soul of tears and wrote
heart-breaking poetry about his fellow-serfs; Dostoyevsky, the sensitive
novelist who described so well the injured and insulted; Pisarev, a
truly marvellous critic whose voice was a trumpet-call arousing the
youth to a higher life; Chernishevsky, the profoundest thinker of his
time, as great a genius as the race of man has produced. These—and
how many more!—had spent weary years in the fortress where he was now walking.
He remembered that in one of these cells the dauntless Karakozov was
frightfully maltreated by being deprived of sleep. The gendarmes, who
were changed every two hours, were ordered to keep him awake. Karakozov
was inventive, and as he sat on his small stool he would cross his legs,
and swing one of them to make his tormentors believe he was up;
meanwhile he would steal a nap, continuing to swing his leg. When the
gendarmes—depraved, imbruted blood-spillers—discovered the deception,
they shook him every few moments whether he swung his limb or not. It is
also quite certain that all his joints were crushed, for when he was
taken out from the fortress to be hanged, he looked like a lump of
rubber or heap of jelly. His head, arms, legs, trunk, were altogether
loose as if they contained no bones or only broken ones. It was terrible
to see the strenuous efforts he made to ascend the scaffold.
Kropotkin was taken to another black hall where armed sentries were
moving. He thought of the mighty Bakunin, who was kept in an Austrian
prison chained to the wall for two years, and then spent six more in
this Fortress of Peter and Paul, and yet came out as fresh and pink as a boy.
He was put into a cell—a casemate originally intended for a cannon. A
heavy oak door was shut behind him, a huge key turned in the lock, and
the prince who had slept in the lap of an empress, who had been petted
by Nicholas I., and who as sergeant of the corps of pages became the
closest personal attendant of Alexander II., was left alone in a darksome reduit.
The prisoner examined his cell. High up in the granite wall a hole was
cut. Kropotkin dragged his stool there, looked out and listened.
Emptiness—no sound. He tapped the walls—no response. He struck the
floor with his foot—no reply. He spoke to the sentry—no answer. The
coldness, the dampness, the darkness were bad enuf, but this utter
silence, this intense stillness, this grave-like deadness were maddening.
No human being addressed him; no living thing held intercourse with
him—except the pigeons which came morning and afternoon to his window
to receive food thru the grating. Only the bells of the fortress
cathedral were heard. Every quarter of an hour they chimed to the glory
of Jesus, and every midnight they pealed forth, "God save the Czar."
Then all was mute ... and nothing more....
Not only did no one speak to him, he was not even permitted to speak to
himself. When the killing silence first began to oppress him, he hummed
a tune. Then the spirit of song took hold of him, and he raised his
voice. He sang from his favorite opera, Glinka's Ruslan and
Ludmila—"Have I then to say farewell to love forever?"
"Sir," said a bass voice thru the food-window, "do not sing!"
A few days later, Peter Kropotkin could not sing.
The worst is, that the gendarmes cannot live without political
plots; if they have none to deal with in reality, they must invent
some; otherwise they run the risk of seeing their budget diminished
for the next year. This is the reason why alarming reports as to
future political attempts circulate as a rule a few weeks and even
months before the renewal of the special budget serving to pay this
sort of people.—Maxim Kovalevsky: Russian Political
o time crept on with crippled feet, halting and limping on its broken
crutches, held back by heavy ball and clanking chain. Thru the five feet
of granite the sun could not penetrate, but grief came in thru the
mortar. No oxygen passed the Judas, but with noisy wings sorrow flew in
the embrasure. The oaken doors held freedom out, but sadness passed the bars of iron.
A great blow came to Kropotkin. He heard news which sickened him. Life
lost its meaning. His stool remained unused in the corner. All the
day long, and during the endless hours of night, he wandered up and
down his cell like a dazed animal. Friendly faces could not see him, but
distress was his warder, and despair became his familiar visitor. He had
learnt of the arrest of his brother Alexander—the Sasha for whom he
had saved the tiny tea-cakes.
The history of Peter Kropotkin can never be written and the name of
Alexander left out. Tho only a year older, Sasha was in advance of him
intellectually. This alone shows what a remarkable child he was, for
Peter also was precocious: at twelve he dropped his title of prince,
signing himself merely P. Kropotkin; at fourteen he wrote articles in
favor of a constitution; and while still at school, he became the author
of a text-book on physics which was printed for the use of his class-mates.
But more than anyone else, it was Sasha who opened unknown vistas to
him, who stimulated his mind, who guided his studies, and directed his reading.
"What happiness," wrote Kropotkin many years later, "it was for me to
have such a brother! To him I owe the best part of my development."
However, we soon forget Sasha's abilities—great as they were—in the
contemplation of his white soul, of his spotless character, of his open
heart, of his affectionate and exceptional personality.
When he grew to manhood, he departed from Russia. His spirit was too
lofty to exist in this blood-soaked hell of ghoulish czars. He needed
freedom like the eagle needs the mountain crag. Had he shared his
brother's views, he would have remained to work and die for the Cause.
But as it was his opinion that a popular uprising was an impossibility,
he could take no part in political agitation, and he went to Switzerland
with wife and child. Here his great scientific work assumed monumental
proportions; it was to be a nineteenth century counterpart of the
renowned Tableau de la Nature of the Encyclopædists. He labored in
love, for science was to him what it was to Darwin.
Then he heard of Kropotkin's arrest. In a twinkling he left everything.
He re-entered the gore-dripping cave of the Bloody Bear. For his loved
brother's sake he breathed again the murderous miasma. Once more he
walked in that cursed country where the nagaika of the cossack beats
freedom to death.
Better than anyone else, he knew that if Kropotkin could not write, he
would die. The Geographical Society and the Academy of Sciences wished
the prisoner to finish a volume on the glacial period, and using this as
a support, Sasha petitioned the authorities to allow his brother resume
work. He made every scholar in the capital miserable, and plagued every
scientific association until they agreed to support his application.
The fruit of this labor was that the governor entered Kropotkin's cell
bearing precious gifts. It would take an Ippolit Mishkin in his most
eloquent moment to describe the captive's unfathomable joy when he felt
the paper beneath his palm and clutched in his hungry fingers, an inked pen!
In the presence of gendarmes, the brothers were permitted to see each
other. Sasha was much agitated. He hated the very sight of the
uniforms of the executioners, and was too frank to keep his feelings to
himself. Kropotkin was happy to see his honest face, his eyes full of
love, and yet he wished him as far away as Zurich, for he knew that tho
Sasha now came to the Third Section by day of his own free will, the
time would come when he would be brought there by night under the escort
of blue-garbed gendarmes.
Kropotkin was right. Sasha wrote a letter to his friend, the famous
refugee and profound thinker, P. L. Lavrov, in which he mentioned his
fears that his brother will fall ill in his armored chamber.
The Third Section intercepted the letter and arrested the writer. This
was the story which leaked into Kropotkin's cell and broke him down.
There is a touching little poem by Nora Perry about two attractive young
ladies who come home after the ball. It is late, and they sit on the bed
in their pretty nightgowns, stockingless, slipperless, combing their
beautiful hair. Their dresses and flowers and ribbons are scattered over
the room. They talk of the evening's revel, and laugh idly at the waltz
and merry quadrille. Yet the hearts of these girls are not quite as
light as their lips, for they both
Before the Search"—By Kolinichenko
A Russian student burning his papers.
love one man and they fall asleep
dreaming of him—his face shines out like a star. Here the poetess leans
over the alluring sleepers and whispers if they could but peep into the
future, they would not be jealous of each other, for ere another year
rolls by, one will be ready for bridal and the other for burial. The
eyes of one will sparkle among her jewels; her cheeks will blush thru
her curls, but the other will be in that cabalistic country where there
is neither wish nor want.
Yet is it not well that we cannot lift the mysterious veil and peer
behind the darksome curtain? Otherwise would not we see future tragedies
that would rob us of all strength to live thru the present?
Certain it is that had Kropotkin guessed the fate that was to befall
Sasha, he would soon have left the fortress—carried out.
It may be a mooted point as to whether cossacks or gendarmes have been
more successful in violating women, but all will agree that the former
are pre-eminent in sabering students, while the latter receive the palm
when it comes to searching houses. When half a dozen of them,
accompanied by an officer, burst into Sasha's flat after midnight,
on Christmas eve, they excelled themselves. Against Alexander Kropotkin
there was no accusation except that he had written a personal letter to
a personal friend. Yet the Third Section kept him a prisoner for several months.
At this time his charming child, whom illness rendered still more
affectionate and intelligent, was dying from consumption. It was not
Sasha's nature to ask favors from his enemies, but when Death beckons
with its bony finger, one cannot be proud. So Sasha asked permission to
see his son for the last time. The request was refused. He begged to be
allowed to go home for one hour, promising on his word of honor to
return. The request was refused. Then the high-souled man cast his
spirit in the dust before them and implored to be taken there in chains,
and guarded by gendarmes. The request was refused.
The child died; the mother went half mad with grief; Sasha was told he
would be transported to one of the loneliest towns in farthest Siberia;
that he would travel in a cart between two gendarmes; that his wife
could not go with him, but might follow later.
A year passed, and Sasha remained in exile. Another year, and he was
still in Siberia. His sister Helene, without asking anyone, wrote a
petition to the czar. She gave it to her cousin Dmitri Kropotkin, an
unfeeling scoundrel who was afterwards killed by the revolutionist
Goldenberg. At this time he was governor-general of Kharkoff,
aide-de-camp of the emperor, and a favorite of the court. Heartless as
he was, he thought it unjust for a non-political to be exiled so long,
and he handed the petition personally to Alexander II., adding words of
his own in support of it. Romanoff took the document and wrote upon it:
"Let him remain there."
Ten years later. Sasha was still in bleak Siberia, cut off from his
scientific work, severed from the intellectual world. A gloomy
night—the wolves howled and Sasha lived. But these things could not go
on forever. A silent night—the wail of the wolf ceased, and the soul of
Sasha escaped. Helene wrote no petitions to Death, but it was Death
that liberated him.
THE OPEN GATE
The autumn night is dark as the crime of the traitor. But darker
still, piercing the mist like a gloomy vision, stands—the prison.
The sentinels are striding idly around, and in the deepness of the
night is heard their groanlike melancholy "Lis-ten!" Tho the walls
of the barrier are strong, tho the iron locks are unbreakable, tho
the eyes of the gaolers are keen, and everywhere are shining
bayonets, still the prison is not a morgue. Thou sentinel, be not
negligent, trust not the darkness, be careful, Lis-ten!...
he plague of the prisons was upon Kropotkin—he was sick with
scurvy and dying from insufficient oxidation of the blood. The
wretches who lifted the shutter of the Judas and spied upon him,
believed he would soon change his silent casemate for a silent coffin.
His relatives heard about his condition, and their alarm was great. His
sister Helene tried to obtain his release on bail, but the procureur
turned himself like a golden pheasant and said with a sinister smile,
"If you bring me a doctor's certificate that he will die in ten days, I
will release him." The girl fell in a chair and sobbed aloud. Shubin
smiled again, for like Gorky's Tchizhik in Orloff and his Wife, he was
fond of gratuitous entertainments.
But a prince is not a peasant, and Kropotkin was examined by a thoroly
competent physician who ordered his transfer to the military hospital
(where politicals were sent when it was thought they would soon require an undertaker).
Kropotkin improved at once. With a full chest he breathed the blest air
which he had missed so long. The rays of the sun warmed him, and the
scent of flowers gladdened his life. The immense window of his spacious
room may have been grated, but it was never closed. He sat there all day
gazing at the rows of trees. Later he was taken out for an hour's walk
in the prison yard—large, and full of sweet growing grass. The first
moment he entered it, he stopped on the doorstep unable to move. Before
him was a gate, and it was open! He tried not to look at it, yet stared
at it all the time.
The desire of the moth for the flame, the attraction of steel for
loadstone, the bond between chlorine and hydrogen, the affinity of
kalium for the halogens—what are these compared to the passion of a
prisoner for an open gate?
Kropotkin trembled as if in a fever. From head to foot his body shook,
while the heart leaped and his pulses throbbed. He soon managed to let
his Circle know how near he was to liberty, and immediately the comrades
determined to aid him in escaping. Plans and plots were devised and
disposed of, till Kropotkin feared all would be too late. He violated
the rules of hygiene, hoping to keep in bad health, for he knew his
walks would be stopped as soon as the doctor pronounced him well. Alas!
in spite of all his efforts, his weight increased, his eyes brightened,
his complexion cleared, his digestion improved. All symptoms of scurvy
left him,—the livid spots under the skin and the oozy spongy gums disappeared.
At last all was ready. The revolutionists were sentimental, and decided
the escape should occur June 29th, Old Style, for this is the day of
Peter and Paul. It was arranged that Kropotkin's signal that all was
well should be the taking off of his hat, and if all were right outside,
the comrades would send up a red toy balloon. The day of the "saints"
came. At the usual time—four o'clock—Kropotkin was brought out for his
walk. He took off his hat, and waited for the little balloon. But in the
air no red ball arose, and at the end of an awful hour, he returned to
his cell—sick, crushed and broken.
A peculiar thing had happened. Usually hundreds of balloons could be
bought near the Gostinoi Dvor. Yet that day not a red one was seen—only
blue and white ones were there. Later one was discovered in the
possession of a child, but it was damaged and could not ascend. The
comrades rushed into an optician's shop, bought an apparatus for making
hydrogen, and filled the rubber with the gas. Had they pumped it full of
fluorine, the result would not have been worse. No inflation occurred,
and the unexpanded balloon did not fly—but time did. The comrades grew
worried. Then a lady attached the useless toy to her umbrella, and
holding it above her head walked along the prison wall. But Kropotkin
saw nothing because the wall was high and the lady was short.
The next day, at two, another lady came to the prison, bringing
Kropotkin a watch. Not dreaming that a pocket time-piece could contain
anything dangerous, the authorities passed it along without examination.
Kropotkin did not look at the hour, but pulled off the lid, and found a
tiny cipher note containing a new plan. (Had one of the officials
performed this operation the lady's life would have been forfeited.)
This time the comrades rented the bungalow opposite the hospital. A
musician was there ready to play on his violin if all were well. For a
mile around every cab had been hired to render pursuit difficult. But
what was to be done with the soldier who was posted at the gate and who
could easily prevent Kropotkin from gaining the street, by merely
stepping in front of him with lowered bayonet? Ah, the comrades, like
Chitchikoff in Gogol's Dead Souls, had an idea. This soldier had once
worked in the laboratory of the hospital, and therefore they appointed
one of their number to divert his attention by a discussion on microscopes.
At four o'clock Kropotkin was escorted to the yard. He waited a moment,
wiped his brow as if it were hot, and took off his hat. From the little
gray house a violin sounded. The tones fell sweetly on Kropotkin's ears.
He moved toward the gate intending to run in a moment. Suddenly—the
music ceased. His heart hurt. Something writhed. One painful minute
passed ... Two ... Three ... Four ... Five ... Ten minutes ... No music
... A quarter of an hour.... Some heavily loaded carts entered the gate,
and Kropotkin understood the cause of the interruption.
Immediately the violin trilled. Kropotkin listened with interest. The
musician was talented, and performed with much feeling. You felt that if
three of the strings broke, like Paganini he would still make ravishing
music on the fourth. Moreover his technique was perfect. He was playing
a mazurka from Kontsky—wild, eager, thrilling,—a mad mazurka. It
attracted Kropotkin like a magnet. It pulled him to the end of the
footpath. He trembled lest it should stop again, but the intoxicated
sounds floated over the prison yard, louder and louder, with
ever-increasing passion and freedom.
Kropotkin glanced at the sentry. This hero followed a line parallel to
his, but five paces nearer the gate. He was supposed to walk directly
behind the prisoner, but as Kropotkin always crawled feebly along at a
snail's pace, the able-bodied sentry who was too vigorous to creep, hit
upon the above device.
Five paces nearer the gate—that was bad. But the sentry was only a
sentry, while Peter Kropotkin was a mathematician and a psychologist. He
calculated that if he began to run, the soldier instead of heading
directly for the gate to cut off his escape, would obey his natural
instinct and endeavor to seize him as quickly as possible. He would thus
describe two sides of a triangle, of which Kropotkin would describe the third alone.
Fortissimo—how loudly that violin played! Kropotkin ran!
No sooner had he taken a few steps than some peasants who were piling
wood, shouted, "He runs! Stop him"! It was for the people that Kropotkin
was in prison; it was for them that he descended from his high estate;
it was for them that he was ready to die at any moment. But the blocks
with the slanted brows did not understand. At night when they lay on
their rotting straw, they thanked the good gods for sending them such
good masters. Now they called out, "Stop him! Stop him!"
When Kropotkin heard that cry, he fled with a speed equal to Commandant
Masyukov's, when Madame Sigida struck him. Already the sentry—doing
just what Kropotkin expected him to do—was at his heels. Three soldiers
who were sitting on the doorstep, followed. The athletic sentinel was so
confident he could outrun the invalid that he did not fire, but flung
his rifle forward, trying to give the fleeing patient a bayonet-blow in
the back. But it is never safe to take chances with even a sick runner,
when he is sprinting for his life.
"Did you ever see what a big tail that louse has under the microscope?"
asked the scientific comrade of the soldier at the gate.
"What, man! A tail? Why, man, you're crazy!"
"That's right. It has a tail as long as that."
"Come man, none of your tales now. Do you take me for a fool? I know a
thing or two about the microscope myself."
"But I tell you it has. I aught to know better. That's the very first
thing I saw under the microscope."
At this moment Kropotkin ran past them unnoticed, and tho usually much
interested in convex lenses, took absolutely no part in the animated argument.
On gaining the street he was dumfounded to see that the huge man who
occupied the carriage wore a military cap. The unhappy thought came to
him that he had been betrayed. But on running nearer he saw it was a friend.
"Jump in! Jump in!" cried this modern Mikoula Selaninovich in a terrible
voice, calling him a vile name. Leaning over to the coachman, he shoved
a revolver in his face, screaming, "Gallop! Gallop! I will kill you,
you——!!" using language abusive enuf to have made every foul-mouthed
cossack in the cavalry stare in mute admiration.
Springing into the air from a forefoot, the beautiful horse—a famous
trotter named Barbar—flew along as if it were shod not with steel but
with wings. When the cause of Revolution is triumphant, this flying
quadruped should receive a statue of purest gold, for two years later it
rendered another magnificent service to the movement by bearing to
safety the Nihilist Stepniak, after he helped assassinate the monstrous
Mezentsov—murderer of many.
Like lightning it leapt thru a narrow lane; they entered the immense
Nevsky Prospect; they turned into a side-street; Kropotkin ran up a
stair-case; the smiling comrade-coachman drove away. At the top of the
steps waiting with painful anxiety was his sister-in-law. Physiologists
claim it is impossible to do two things at one instant, but Kropotkin
says that when he fell into her arms, she laughed and cried at once,
and at the same time bade him change his clothes and crop his beard. Ten
minutes later, he and his muscular Mikoula left the house, and took a
cab. About an hour after, the house was searched, but as Kropotkin was
not there, and it was necessary to arrest someone, the police took his
sister and his sister-in-law.
Kropotkin was puzzled where to spend the time till evening, but his big
friend knew. He called out to the cabman, "To Donon!" which has the same
significance in Saint Petersburg that Delmonico has in New York, or
Cecil in London, or Doree in Paris, or Bristol in Berlin, or Sacher in Vienna.
The decision was wise, for the police searched the dirty slums, but not
the swell West End. So Kropotkin, dressed in an elegant costume, entered
the aristocratic restaurant, and as he walks thru the halls flooded with
light and crowded with guests, let us fill the biggest bumper with the
richest wine, and quaff congratulations to the noblest prince that was
ever imprisoned—and escaped.
Then softly let us retreat on tiptoe, and glance at his products for the bookshelf.
FROM THE PRINTING PRESS
You poets, painters, sculptors, musicians, if you understand your
true mission and the very interests of art itself, come with us.
Place your pen, your pencil, your chisel, your ideas at the service
of the revolution. Figure forth to us, in your eloquent style, or
your impressive pictures, the heroic struggles of the people
against their oppressors, fire the hearts of our youth with that
glorious revolutionary enthusiasm which inflamed the souls of our
ancestors; tell women what a noble career is that of a husband who
devotes his life to the great cause of social emancipation! Show
the people how hideous is their actual life, and place your hands
on the causes of its ugliness; tell us what a rational life would
be, if it did not encounter at every step the follies and ignomies
of our present social order.—P. Kropotkin: An Appeal to the
eter Kropotkin's writings range from obscure articles in unknown papers
read by a handful of faithful subscribers, to cloth-bound far-famed
volumes translated into several languages; include contributions to
periodicals as revolutionary as Revolte and as respectable as the
Atlantic Monthly; embrace all subjects from machinery to music, and
from Tolstoyism to Terrorism.
Judged from a literary standpoint, his work is distinctly
disappointing. It is styleless. But it has one redeeming feature:
clearness. The man is straight. He is not ashamed of his ideas. He
speaks right out. He is one of the few authors who writes for the
peculiar purpose of being understood. He does not bury the flower of his
thought in a wilderness of words.
It cannot be contended that Kropotkin gave up his style because he
writes for workers who are unable to appreciate the beauty of literary
composition. A man may refuse a title with an oath as Carlyle did, or
give it up as Kropotkin himself did, but he who has a style relinquishes
it not, for this is a gift besides which the 'boast of heraldry' is as a
puppy's snappish yelp unto the lion's mighty roar.
Neither can it be claimed that Kropotkin's stylistic deficiency is due
to the fact that he is an economist. So was Henry George, and yet there
is a magical music in Progress and Poverty which makes the phrases
flow like a poem of Pushkin's.
Nor can it be argued that his style has been spoilt by the circumstance
that he writes in various languages, for in none of his work is there
epigram, imagery or imagination—the glorious trinity of the stylists.
But what has a foreign tongue to do with it? Was not Kossuth just as
much an artist in English as in his native pepper? Even when he cried
that we must seize the opportunity by the front hair? Many waters
cannot quench love, and strange alphabets do not wipe out style.
What is a stylist? He is one who handles words, who licks phrases into
shape, who moulds clauses to his bidding, who compels a sentence to
leave a deathless impression, who weaves a connected chain of harmony
from the scattered links of language.
Kropotkin has written very much, but practice does not make a stylist
any more than learning the rules in the Rationale of Verse makes one
capable of producing The Raven. The secret of style is revealed to
few. Its essence is a mystery in which only a handful are initiated. The
elusive occultism of art consists in this—that a single expression has
the power to either damn a passage into oblivion, or to emblazon it
forever in eternity.
To give a striking instance: When Edgar Poe first wrote To Helen,
these lines composed the second stanza:
"On desperate seas long wont to roam,
Thy hyacinth hair, thy classic face,
Thy Naiad airs have brought me home
To the beauty of fair Greece,
And the grandeur of old Rome."
In this case the concluding couplet is cheap and commonplace—"fair
Greece" and "old Rome" being anemic expressions unfit to live. Poe amended it to read:
"To the glory that was Greece,
And the grandeur that was Rome."
Miracle of Art! This is not a change, but an apotheosis. We now have two
lines which lay before us in gorgeous perfection a picture of the past;
two lines as splendid as they were sickly, as magnificent as formerly
they were mediocre. Yet the idea is the same in both cases. What then is
it which makes so much difference? It is the manner of expression—it is
style—it is art.
There is no reason why one man should be a stylist and another should
not, but so it is. Huxley was a stylist; Darwin was not; Herzen, yes; Kropotkin, no.
Being anxious to know Kropotkin's exact attitude towards Art, I wrote to
him asking categorically: "In your opinion, have exquisite poets like
Keats and Pushkin—who never touched social questions, but celebrated
only beauty—been of much benefit to mankind?"
He answered thus: "Not in a direct way, but perhaps very much in an
indirect way: Pushkin by creating language, and Keats by teaching
love of nature. As to "exquisiteness," have we not had too much of those egotistic sweets?"
Closely analysed, and reduced to its ultimate elements, this answer
shows that Kropotkin has no use for art per se. According to him Keats
and Pushkin are benefactors not because of their beautiful verses, but
because of other reasons. Exquisiteness he condemns altogether. He
rejects the doctrine of Art for the sake of Art. He does not subscribe
to the creed of Flaubert, Gautier, Bouilhet, Maupassant, Anatole France
and Lafcadio Hearn.
I think Kropotkin is wrong, and I believe that because his work lacks
artistic finish, much of it is doomed to perish.
Maxim Gorky, in speaking of a brief period when the Russian Censorship
was somewhat suspended, said, "Books fell over the land like flakes of
snow, but their effect was as sparks of fire!"
If Kropotkin wished to express the same idea, he would say it something
like this: "Numerous books of all descriptions were published and
distributed thruout Russia."
How fine Gorky's; how poor Kropotkin's. How vivid the former; how weak
the latter. This is the difference between style and lack of it. Not in
the entire range of Kropotkin's writings is there a single sentence in
any way comparing with the above one of Gorky's; for he who writes
without art holds a crippled pen. I may be mistaken, but in my opinion
this single quotation from the Bitter One is worth all Kropotkin's
Freedom Pamphlets. It is sublime in its similes and exquisite in its
antitheses. There is a power in it which unchains enthusiasm and awakens
intensity. "Books fell over the land like flakes of snow, but their
effect was as sparks of fire." It is art. It is unforgettable, while to
remember a phrase from Modern Science and Anarchism is impossible.
With this introduction, we may proceed to examine his work, much of
which is necessary and valuable, tho none of it is of primal or
epoch-making importance. Stepniak is right when he says, "He is not a
mere manufacturer of books. Beyond his purely scientific labors, he has
never written any work of much moment." And as Herzen said of Ogaryov,
we may remark of Kropotkin: "His chief life-work was the working out of
such an ideal personality as he is himself."
The majority of prominent periodicals in England and America to which
Kropotkin has contributed, are listed in the Reader's Guide which can
be found in any library, and those interested can look them up. Of
course, many of these articles are first-class, but I can stop to
mention only two. See Russia and the Student Riots (Outlook, April
6, 1901), which deals with the disturbances which caused the young
revolutionist, Peter Karpowitch, to kill Bogolepov, Minister of Public
Instruction. It shows with painful clearness the extreme and useless
savagery of that cruel, repulsive, Stead-praised, arch-murderer, Nicholas II.
See also the Present Crisis in Russia, (North American Review, May
1901). In this excellent essay he refers to the Procurator of the Holy
Synod in these words: "Pobedonostzeff, a narrow-minded fanatic of the
state religion, who—if it were only in his power—would have burnt at
the stake all protestants against Orthodoxy and Catholicism."
Who should answer this article, but Pobedonostzeff himself! (Russia and
Popular Education, N. A. R. September 1901). How strange when Light
and Darkness are arrayed against each other! Pobedonostzeff calls
Kropotkin "a learned geographer and sociologist;" but says; "Tho a
Russian, he (Kropotkin) does not understand Russia, and is incapable of
understanding his country; for the soul of the Russian people is a
closed book to him which he has never opened." It is noteworthy that he
does not attempt to deny Kropotkin's charge that if it were only in his
power he would burn at the stake all protestants against orthodoxy and
catholicism. Doubtless he considers this his chief crown of glory.
There was a further response from Kropotkin, (Russian Schools and the
Holy Synod, N. A. R. April 1902).
Among his pamphlets which are used assiduously by the anarchists of all
countries for propaganda, and which often cause the arrest of the
devoted distributer, are: Anarchism: Its Philosophy and Ideal. The
State: Its Historic Role. War. Law and Authority. The Paris Commune.
Organized Vengeance—called Justice. Anarchist Communism: Its Basis and
Principles. An Appeal to the Young. The Psychology of Revolution. The
Wage System. These tracts are valuable as eye-openers to uneducated
workmen, but they possess no merit whatsoever for cultured liberals.
Altho Kropotkin has written more than thirty geographical articles for
the Encyclopedia Britannica, it is difficult to think of this
revolutionaire as a contributor to this backward publication. The
Encyclopedia Britannica is not on the trail for truth—it wants
current prejudices. For instance, Professor Samuel Davidson, D. D., LL.
D., was asked to contribute an essay on the Canon. Happening to be a
scholar as well as a theolog, the venerable man was not satisfied with
the logic of Father Irenaeus, that since the earth has four corners, and
there are four winds, and animals have four legs, there must be four
Gospels. His article was so mutilated by the editors of the
Encyclopedia, that in justice to himself, he was obliged to publish
the original version in book form, The Canon of the Bible. When the
Encyclopedia mentions liberty, it is from the reactionary viewpoint.
The American Supplement follows its parent in this respect, for here
are eulogistic accounts of the second and third Alexanders, by Nathan
Haskell Dole. This literat is so ignorant of the most important
epochs in the Russian Revolution, that he writes, "Vera Zasulich
murdered General Trepov;" when all the world knows that Trepov was only
wounded and soon recovered. Luxuriously abound the weeds of his
misstatements. He speaks of the 'private virtues' of Alexander III.
They must have been very private indeed, for no one ever discovered
them. He speaks of his 'noble aspirations,' but the son of Maria of
Hesse-Darmstadt had only this one aspiration: to wipe out freedom as
effectually as a whirlwind blows away a puff of smoke. Such is the
famous publication to which all school-girls resort when they must
prepare a composition on Milton.
Kropotkin's strictly scientific works, the Orography of Asia and the
Glacial Period were written in Russian and have not been translated into English.
During his imprisonment at Clairvaux, appeared his Words of a Rebel,
1885, in French, published by Elisee Reclus. It is a critical exposition
In 1886 he published his first book in English, In Russian and French
Prisons. This work soon disappeared from the market. Kropotkin himself
offered a high price for a copy, but could not obtain one. It seems the
agents of the Russian government bought up the entire edition and destroyed it.
In 1892 appeared his Conquest of Bread, in French, which has been
translated into Dutch, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Norwegian, English.
It is perhaps his most important work and has been much reviewed and
quoted. Notice to those who wish to think: Study this volume.
In 1898 appeared his Fields, Factories and Workshops. This highly
excellent work is the splendid outcome of several essays which were
written a decade previous for the Nineteenth Century (1880-1890), and
one for the Forum, (Possibilities of Agriculture, August 1890). If
nations would follow this book, how great would be their gain in
prosperity and happiness!
This book is a plea for intensive agriculture, and in view of the great
cry, "Back to the land!" which is sweeping over the nations, it is a
fulfilled prophecy. It is the remedy for social ills—the solution of
the labor problem. Kropotkin shows that by the new method of scientific
farming, a man can make a living from an acre of ground, and as soon
as the workingman realizes this fact—and can get a bit of land—he will
be able to discharge his employer and bounce his boss. By all means read
the chapters on The Possibilities of Agriculture: no fairy-tale is
In 1899 appeared in book form the Memoirs of a Revolutionist which had
first run serially in the Atlantic Monthly, (September 1898 to
September 1899), under the title, Autobiography of a Revolutionist. In
the magazine, the introduction is by Robert Erskine Ely, who was
Kropotkin's host when the Russian traveled in America. In the book,
however, the preface is by Brandes. Neither of these forewords is
brilliant, but the latter is the worse. When we think of Norway, we
think of only one man—Ibsen. When we think of Denmark, we think of only
one man—Brandes. But in this case his preface was a fizzle. In fact, it
is almost as bad as the erudite Lavrov's preface to Stepniak's splendid
Underground Russia. No better and nobler book than these Memoirs has
been written; nothing higher and purer could be written. Only one thing
is lacking; indeed, it is the chief omission in the cosmos of
Kropotkin—the poetic note. He is good and great, but the passionate
fire is denied him. His soul is not aflame with poesy's burning brand.
He could never cry out like the student Ivan Kalayev, "My soul is
burning with stormy passion; my heart is full of battle-boldness. O, if
I could only see the coming of liberty! O, to pull the mask of falsehood
from the face of the murderer, to strike the tyrant with the steel-arm!
Enuf tears! Let the glorious, victorious struggle arise! The people are
calling us! It is a shame, it is a crime to wait longer! Fall upon the
enemy, my honest hereditary sword! I am thine, altogether thine, O my
country, my mother!" But leaving divine enthusiasm aside, this volume is
perfection. He who peruses its loving pages, gains a tender brother
whose body is unseen, but whose memory becomes imperishable. When you
read it, you cry a little, because the man who wrote it was so kind.
Across the miles you seem to hear his fraternal voice, and you know if
you write to him, he will answer you thus: "Dear Comrade."—If you have
time to read but a single volume a year, and desire one by a Russian,
and ask my advice, I say: Read one of these—Underground Russia, by
Stepniak; or Memoirs of a Revolutionist, by Kropotkin.
In 1902 he wrote Modern Science and Anarchism, a booklet of about one
hundred pages which is much admired and extensively advertised by the anarchists.
By far his most important work of recent years is, Mutual Aid: A Factor
in Evolution. His contention is that in progressive evolution,
mutual aid plays a greater part than mutual struggle. He claims that
most Darwinians have misinterpreted Darwin's ideas. For an able analysis
of this great book, see the review by Professor Vladimir G.
Simkhovitch, (Popular Science Quarterly, December 1903).
In 1905 appeared his Russian Literature—a very good and useful
text-book—which originated in a series of eight lectures, delivered
March 1901, at the Lowell Institute in Boston. It is not perfect, but
this is not the author's fault. With only three hundred pages at his
disposal, it is impossible to treat all adequately, while some writers
had to be omitted entirely. For example, there is not a line about the
famous anti-militarist novelist, Vsevolod Garshin (1855-1888), or of
Simon Nadson (1862-1887), the exquisite and melancholy poet who chanted
songs not at sunrise, but in shadow and solitude, and died in youth and
sadness, leaving to the Outcasts of the Ages another great name to
In reading this book we experience a peculiarly uneasy sensation:—
We read of Lomonosov, by far the greatest Russian of his age, whose life
was broken by political persecution.
We read of the moral Novikov, whom Catherine II. sentenced to serve
fifteen years in a secret cell in Schusselburg.
We read of Labzin, who wrote against corruption, and consequently was
forced to end his days in exile.
We read of Radischeff—the first to point out the horrors of
serfdom—who was imprisoned, deported, and died by suicide.
We read of the epoch-making Pushkin who was exiled to Kishinev at
twenty, and later to Mikhailovskoye, and who escaped permanent political
exile in Siberia by accident.
We read of the Byronic Lermontov who was banished to the Caucasus for
writing a poem on the death of Pushkin.
We read of Ryleev, Odoevsky, Shevchenko, Griboyedov, Pisarev,
Chernishevsky, whose martyrdoms I have already mentioned.
We read of the brilliant and poetic Polezhaev, who was send to the
barracks when a minor and died there from consumption.
We read of the popular novelist Bestuzhev, who was exiled to Siberia and
then sent to the Caucasus as a soldier.
We read of the great Gogol who suffered at the hands of the censorship.
We read of Turgenev who was arrested and exiled to his distant estates
for writing a brief obituary notice of Gogol. Had it not been for his
influential friends he would have gone to Siberia.
We read of Leo Tolstoy whose excellent educational experiment was
violently abolished by the government, so enraging this extraordinary
man that he warned Alexander II. he would shoot the first police officer
who would again dare to enter his home.
We read of the high-strung Dostoyevsky who for no reason at all was
sentenced to death, brought to the gibbet, pardoned there, condemned to
hard labor, imprisoned, exiled, deprived of literary work, beaten with
the cat-o'-nine-tails, tortured in a thousand ways, year after year,
till he became a mental and physical wreck. In all the history of the
human race, from the day that primitive man roamed the untamed forests,
and stubbing his naked toe against a root, fell down to worship it, to
placate it, to appease it, until the scientific time that a biologist
like Haeckel absolutely denied the existence of god and soul,—there
has been nothing more horribly cruel than the czarish treatment which
the Russian government meted out to the gifted youth who produced a work
in his early twenties that caused Nekrasov to cry out to Belinsky, "A
new Gogol is born to us!"
We read of Plescheev, one of Russia's foremost poets, who was sent as a
soldier to the Orenburg region, and endured persecution for years.
We read of Mikhail Mikhailov—one of the most valued contributors to the
Sovremennik. (The Contemporary), a wonderful periodical numbering
among its contributors, Chernishevsky, Dobrolubov, Tolstoy,
Nekrasov—who was condemned to hard labor in Siberia where he soon died.
We read of Ostrovsky, the Father of the Russian Drama, who was placed
under police supervision as a suspect.
We read of the loving Levitov—"a pure flower of the Russian
steppes"—who while a student was exiled to the far north, and later
removed to Vologda where he was forced to live in complete isolation
from everything intellectual and in awful poverty verging on starvation.
We read of Petropavlovsky who was early exiled to the Siberian
government of Tobolsk, where he was kept many years and from which he
was released only to die soon after from consumption.
We read of Saltykoff (Schedrin), the greatest of satirists, who was
exiled for several years in the miserable provincial town of Vyatka.
We read of Belinsky, the greatest of critics, who fortunately died young
enuf to escape the fortress. When he was dying an agent of the
state-police would call from time to time to ascertain if he were still
alive. Had he recovered he would have been transfered to Peter and Paul.
We read of the persecution of Palm and Potyekhin; of the years that
Melshin, Korolenko, Zasodimsky, Elpatievsky, etc, spent in exile. By
this time a terrible truth dawns upon the startled mind: In Romanoff's
Russia, scarcely one single writer of worth has escaped imprisonment or
banishment. And these prophets who have been thus persecuted were
not despicable rhymers like Alfred Austin, or duke-and-duchess novelists
like Harold MacGrath. They were great-brained men whose mission was to
uplift a nation. Had the Catherines, Nicholases, and Alexanders been
less powerful, Russia would not now be the foulest blot on our
Ivan Federof was the first of Russian printers. In 1564 he cast the
Slavonic characters. Being accused of heresy, he fled for his life. The
Lithuanian magnates with whom he sought refuge, forced him to till the
soil. Unhappy Federof said, "It was not my work to sow the grain, but to
scatter thru the earth food for the mind, nourishment for the souls of
all mankind." He perished in Lemberg in extreme poverty. Woful was
his fate—symbolic of the sad destiny which was to befall every
literary man in Knoutland.
Let the Russian who intends to become an author prepare his last will
and testament, and notify the nearest undertaker. No night will be too
dark to keep gendarmes from bursting into his room and hauling him off
to a prison from which he may never emerge. (If he comes from an
aristocratic family let him adopt an empty-eyed skull and yellow
cross-bones as a suitable coat-of-arms). In the den of the bloody bear
there is a blackness as of many clouds. Within this deep shadow, Virtue
is slaughtered and Genius treated like an unwelcome cur.
IN LATER LIFE
There are at this moment only two great Russians who think for the
Russian people, and whose thoughts belong to mankind,—Leo Tolstoy
and Peter Kropotkin.—Georg Brandes
storm careered madly over the Northern Sea, its impatient waves
heaving and howling, leaping with a burning frenzy, the fuming raging
billows surging and swelling, calling and crying, roaring louder and
louder, vaulting higher and higher.
The steamer shook and swayed and struggled; the frightened passengers
sought shelter in their state-rooms, but one of them sat for hours upon
the stem of the deck, enjoying the tempest intensely, putting out his
face so it could be watered by the foam of the dashing waves. This was
Kropotkin. After the years he had spent in the charnel cell, no wonder
every fibre in his body was trembling and throbbing to meet the force
and passion of the sea-storm.
He landed safely in the country where Herzen founded The Bell, where
Lavrov edited Forward, where Felix Volkhovsky was to conduct Free
Russia, and where he himself was to start Freedom.
For over thirty years he has remained abroad. He never returned to
Russia. He is one of the few revolutionists who never went back to that
sunken swamp where liberty's wrapped in her winding-sheets, while
tyranny's robed in ermine. There are two reasons for this. In the first
place he became interested in a new-born idea—Anarchism—and felt he
could be more useful as an apostle of this movement than as a rebel in
Trepovdom. As is well-known, his lectures and writings on the subject
have earned him the title, "Father of Anarchist-Communism." Secondly,
when the Nihilists were changed (by purple butchers) into Terrorists,
they dropped their propaganda of pamphlets to study the properties of
petroleum, and thus were forced to neglect the varletry. However,
Kropotkin's sympathies drew him more and more towards those human
machines who toil so hard for their bread that if you cut their pennies
open, the blood would gush from them.
About a year after his escape, Kropotkin attended an important labor
congress in Belgium (1877). A few days later the police received an
order to arrest him. At this time the theologians were in power, and
the Belgian comrades knowing a clerical ministry would be only too
willing to turn him over to the blood-sucking czar, insisted upon his
leaving the country. On returning to his hotel, he found his good friend
James Guillaume—small physically, big in all other respects—barring
the way to his room, and sternly announcing that Kropotkin could enter
only by using force against him.
The next morning the ejected delegate sailed for London, but soon went
to Paris where he helped to form radical groups. Again he was wanted by
the police, but by mistake they arrested a Russian student (1878). Later
he left for Switzerland where he founded an anarchistic paper, Le Revolte (1879).
Two years later Alexander II. was assassinated. The government hanged
the revolutionists at home, but pretended the exiles abroad were
responsible for the deed. The Holy League was formed to execute the
refugees. An officer who knew Kropotkin when he was a page de chambre,
was appointed to kill him. A woman was sent from Petersburg to Geneva to
lead the conspiracy. Kropotkin took matters coolly, collected a pile of
threatening letters—of which the police later relieved him—and
nothing happened except that Helvetia was told if it did not expel the
agitator, then Alexander III., the Lord's Anointed, would drive out from
Russia all the Swiss governesses and ladies' maids, while the czarina
would refuse to eat Swiss cheese. This was more than the little republic
could stand, and Kropotkin was told to go. He says he did not take umbrage at this.
He went once more to London, where he met his old comrade Chaykovsky,
and together they began to preach their gospel of freedom. Always to
work for the liberation of humanity—that isn't such a bad idea, is
At this time there was no movement in the Island which had imbibed the
narcotic of reaction and lay in a wakeless torpor, and Kropotkin and his
devoted wife felt so lonely among the napping Britons that they decided
to cross the channel. "Better a prison in France than this grave," they
said. They were followed by an army of informers, freely furnished by
the loving Russian Government which cannot bear to see its children
travel without suitable protection. Not to be outdone in courtesy, the
French police soon escorted him to the official lodging-house.
Kropotkin was incarcerated in the central prison of Clairvaux where had
been confined old Blanqui—the communard at whose burial Louise Michel
spoke words which will have no funeral. Kropotkin was well-treated, the
officials were polite, and he was permitted to give his fellow-prisoners
instruction in physics, languages, geometry and cosmography.
Unfortunately, Clairvaux is built on marshy ground, and Kropotkin fell
sick from malaria. His wife who was studying in Paris, preparing for the
degree of Doctor of Science, hastened from Wurtz's laboratory to the
prison-town. She remained there until her iconoclast was released. This
event occurred after three years' imprisonment. He then went to the
capital, lectured to an audience of several thousand, and left France
immediately to avoid a forcible expulsion.
Such are some of the scenes in the life of Peter Kropotkin—imprisoned
by governments, pursued by police, followed by spies, hounded by
agents of autocracy.
This peace-loving man whose name is synonym for kindness, this tender
soul as modest as Newton, as gentle as Darwin, has been hunted from
frontier to border-line. Against none of his persecutors does he utter a
single invective. He is the epitome of mildness, the incarnation of
Ask anyone who has seen Kropotkin for an hour or has known him for a
generation, to describe his most characteristic trait, and the
invariable answer will be: simplicity. His is a great spirit—it has
cast out flam. "Kropotkin is one of the most sincere and frank of men,"
says Stepniak. "He always says the truth, pure and simple, without any
regard for the amour propre of his hearers, or for any consideration
whatever. This is the most striking and sympathetic feature of his
character. Every word he says may be absolutely believed. His sincerity
is such, that sometimes in the ardour of discussion an entirely fresh
consideration unexpectedly presents itself to his mind, and sets him
thinking. He immediately stops, remains quite absorbed for a moment, and
then begins to think aloud, speaking as tho he were an opponent. At
other times he carries on this discussion mentally, and after some
moments of silence, turning to his astonished adversary, smilingly says,
'You are right.' This absolute sincerity renders him the best of
friends, and gives especial weight to his praise and blame."
Most of Kropotkin's Russian revolutionary comrades—using the term
Comrade in its broad sense—ended their days in misery. Kroutikoff
strangled himself with a piece of linen; Stransky poisoned himself;
Zapolsky cut his throat with a pair of scissors; Leontovitch and
Bogomoloff hacked theirs with a bit of glass; Zhutin died in chains
bound to the wall; Kolenkin perished from wounds torn open by fetters;
Rodin poisoned himself with matches; Nathalie Armfeldt died of prison
consumption; Beverly was wounded with bullets and murdered with
bayonet-thrusts; Ivan Cherniavsky and wife and child were transported to
Irkutsk, the temperature was thirty degrees below zero, and the baby
died, while the mother went mad, howled, laughed, prayed,
Indulging in a favorite Russian pastime.
rocked the dead infant in her arms and sang nursery songs;
Semyonovsky shot himself; Uspensky hanged himself; Martinova was dragged
to the police station on the very day that she expected to become a
mother; Gratchevsky threw kerosene from his lamp over himself, set it on
fire and died shrieking—but at least he escaped from Schlusselburg;
Edelson was marched to the Arctic zone even after he had become insane;
Mukhanov was killed with a volley of balls; Sergius Pik was struck in
the head, his jaw was smashed by the gendarmes' guns, a ghastly hole was
made above his eye, his blood and brains oozed and fell on his
chest; Sophia Gurevitch was ripped open with bayonets; Sherstnova
was shot to death for signaling with a hand-mirror; the young wife of
Felix Volkhovsky shot herself thru the head; the wonderful Kuprianov
died in prison at the age of nineteen; Shtchedrin was chained to the
barrow, became insane and so perished; Nadyeshda Sigida was flogged to
death; Marie Vetrova was raped and murdered; Jessy Helfman was
tortured indescribably; Bobohov swallowed a handful of opium; Ossinsky's
hair turned white in five minutes; Maria Kovalevskaya—cover thy face,
freedom—suffered, took poison and died in the prison infirmary;
Yakimova stayed up nights in the Trubetzkoi Ravelin to prevent the rats
from devouring her baby; Olga Lubatovitch was stripped naked by men and
beaten; Malyovany died in exile; the student Schmidt was murdered in his
cell by his jailers; Spiridonova was violated by a cossack officer and
by a police chief; the high-minded Plotnikoff ended his days in an
asylum; Bogulubov became a raving lunatic; Serdukov was so broken that
he shot himself after his release; the poet Polivanoff also committed
suicide thus—(Ah, those twenty long years in Schlusselburg!); the noble
Balmaschoff was hanged; the beautiful Zinaida too; Isaiev, Okladsky,
Zubkovsky went mad; Kviotkovsky, Presniakoff, Soukanoff died in Skipper
Peter's Prison; Buzinsky, Gellis, Ignatius Ivanoff succumbed in the
Key-Town Fortress; to Federoff was reserved a fate worse than death,
worse than torture, worse than madness, for it was his destiny to become
a dupe of the Black Hundreds and unwittingly slay Georg Iollos—lover of
liberty; Ludmila Volkenstein,—but why continue an unhappy list
which has neither beginning nor end? I could fill a library with such cases.
Such individual torments fell not to the lot of Peter Kropotkin.
Personally he has been favored by fortune. He has touched existence on
every side and lived every life. The wisdom of the world is in his
brain, and within his heart is lodged all its goodness. His experience
has been unusually wide. He has been on intimate terms with czar and
serf, he has met millionaire and mendicant, he has hobnobbed with prince
and pauper. He has lectured to aristocratic audiences who gazed calmly
at him thru gilded lorgnettes and foppish monocles, and to
empty-stomached workmen who cried loudly, "Pierre! Pierre! Notre
The finest men of all nations have honored him. When a prisoner at
Clairvaux, a petition for his release was signed by such geniuses as
Herbert Spencer, Victor Hugo and Algernon Swinburne. When he required
books, Ernest Renan put his library at his service. While at Paris,
Turgenev—who won immortality by a single word—wished to be introduced
to him and celebrate his escape by a little banquet. When Catherine
Breshkovskaya journeyed for the first time to Petersburg, Kropotkin was
on the same train; they discussed problems, and this extraordinary woman
says his words thrilled like fire. Elie Reclus was his brother.
Elisee published his writings and asked him to contribute to his
Geography—the greatest in existence. Jean Grave is his disciple. Ernest
Crosby loved him. Georg Brandes praises him lavishly. Zola paid his work
a high compliment. Elizabeth Cady Stanton spent an interesting day at
his home. J. Scott Keltie, the eminent authority on African history, is
one of his warmest friends. Bates, the Naturalist on the Amazons whom
Darwin mentions so often, appreciated his scientific ability. Enrico
Ferri closely studied his works. The learned Lavrov was his comrade.
Denjiro Kotoku, the Japanese essayist who founded the radical
Heiminshimbun, considers him one of the greatest humanitarians of the
nineteenth century. At the home of Edward Clodd he argued with Grant
Allen. When at East Aurora, I saw only one picture over the desk of
Elbert Hubbard, and that was Kropotkin. Those who have read De
Profundis will recall in what high pure words Oscar Wilde speaks of
him. Tolstoy calls him a learned man. The authors of Russian Traits
and Terrors speak of him as "one whose scientific accuracy and
objectivity is beyond praise." James Knowles so respected him that he
allowed him to write anarchistic articles for his high-toned Nineteenth
Century. Laurence Gronlound gives him as a type of the ideal anarchist.
In the soul of every libertarian swings a fragrant censer which offers
up olibanum to the stainless character of the great revolutionist. Put
those who love Kropotkin on one side, and those who don't on the other,
and you will have separated the heralds of the morning from the spooks
of the night. It is no more necessary to be an anarchist-communist to
have a warm spot in your heart for Peter Kropotkin, than it is necessary
to believe in Adam and Eve to enjoy Milton's Paradise Lost.
THE HISTORIAN OF THE REVOLUTION
The heroism of our Russian comrades in the face of torture and
death will be told in days to come by generations made rich by
their sacrifices. History will pay an eternal homage to the victims
of the bloody tyranny which now rules Russia.—J. Ramsay
MacDonald, M. P.
o the present generation of Russian Revolutionists Kropotkin is not an
influence, but an inspiration. He is not a leader but an elder brother.
He is to them a type of the man who without a moment's hesitation leaves
everything for the Cause. He is a powerful voice crying out loudly
against the oppressors of mankind. Voices like these they hear
distinctly, and follow eagerly, tho they lead to a cold Siberian grave.
With the lavishness of the mountain cataract that wastes its waters on
the rocks, the young radicals of Russia pour out their blood for an
ignorant and ungrateful people. As willingly as lovers walk to the
altar, they go to the slaughter. They die as serenely as if they had a
thousand lives to lose instead of one. When a Revolutionist is hanged,
another takes his place while the gallow-grass around the choked neck is
still visible. Imprison them for a quarter of a century, and on the day
of their release they will conspire against czardom. Torture them in
the mines of Nerchinsk, beat the men with the plet, rape the girls at
will, thrust them into black holes swarming with vermin and rodents,
taunt them, starve them, chill them, strike them to the ground, stamp on
their faces with military boots, deprive them of air, worry their nerves
to the breaking-point, string them up on slippery scaffolds, and they
will only shout, "Long live the Revolution!"
Liberty is the goddess they worship, and for her sake, when necessary,
they taste no food by day and touch no pillow by night. For her they put
away books and handle bombs, and exchange palaces for prisons, and leave
desks for dungeons, and go from colleges to coffins. Their backs are
ready for the lash, their throats are prepared for the noose.
If the end comes at dawn in the yard of the Schlusselburg Prison, or at
noon below the level of the Neva in the Fortress of Peter and Paul, or
at midnight among the silent snows of Saghalien,—O liberty, how thy
lovers meet it!
Against an autocracy as powerful as the Romanoff dynasty, rebels have
never before contended. In all the world no men and women like those of
Young Russia. From primal days to modern times, no martyrs like these.
Such sacrifices were never seen before. Few expect to live beyond
twenty, and thousands upon thousands perish long before that age.
They offer themselves to be nipped in the fairest hour of their proudest
bloom. O brilliant-eyed youth, O rosy-cheeked maid, be not so heedless
of yourselves. Think a little of the pleasures of life. Leave the stupid
muzhik to his fate, and cross the sea to a freer land.
But from the foot of the scaffold there comes a cry, and from the
steppes of Siberia is heard a voice, and from the saltworks of Usolie
rings an answer, and from the gold-mines of Kara comes a response, and
from the Butirki of Moscow someone speaks, and from the prison of
Akatui, Young Russia utters the same word—Svoboda! Svoboda! Svoboda!
Sometime in the future, when the true historian of the Russian
Revolution appears, he will write of men and women of so exalted a
nature, that antiquity will be dumb and boast no more her classic heroes.
He will write of Bakunin, the Jupiter from whose forehead leaped a
Of Dobroluboff, the genius who perished at twenty-five with a vaster
wisdom to his credit than any youngster of whom we have record;
Of Olga Lubatovitch, the immortal girl in whose great heart burnt the
undying fire of insurrection;
Of Vera Figner, the poetess, a woman of the rarest beauty and the
highest talents, who passed her life behind stone walls;
Of Aaron Sundelevitch, the thoughtful Jew who established the first free
printing press in Saint Petersburg;
Of Zuckerman, who was so merry that even in hell he jested, but who
after all was only human and committed suicide in the wilds of Yakutsk;
Of Maria Kutitonskaya, who was ready to be hanged with a baby in her womb;
Of Eugene Semyonovsky, who wrote a letter to his father before
committing suicide, that would make everything on earth—except of
course an official—weep;
Of the taciturn Kibalchitch, who was arrested for giving a pamphlet to a
peasant, and who, hearing in prison that an attempt had been made to
exterminate the imperial family, broke his habitual silence by
exclaiming, "It's good! It's fine! If they don't send me to Siberia,
I'll study nitroglycerine,"—and who kept his promise, for he was the
chemist who prepared the bomb that caused the blood of Alexander to
redden the snow;
Of Ippolit Mishkin, the hero of the Case where all were heroes, whose
oratory inflamed all Russia, who was sentenced because he tried to
rescue Chernishevsky, who received fifteen additional years for making a
speech in prison over the dead body of Comrade Leo Dmohovsky, a man whom
Turgenev wished to know, and whom Perovskaya wished to save;
Of Demetrius Lisogub, the millionaire who lived like a pauper, giving
everything to the Cause and spending nothing on himself, grudging every
coin he had to pay for his bread, dressing in rags even during the
severest winters, supporting for a time the whole revolutionary
movement, but continually sorrowing that in order not to forfeit his
wealth he could take no active part in the battle, and smiling with
happiness only when brought to the scaffold in the hangman's cart, for
at last he could bestow more than money—he could sacrifice himself;
Of the printer Maria Kriloff who tho old, ill and half-blind, worked
with so much devotion that she excelled young and strong compositors,
and who stuck to her post until she was arrested, weapons in hand, in
the secret printing-office of Cherny Perediel;
Of the intrepid Sophia Bogomoletz, who left husband and child for the
Revolution, and spent her life in prison;
Of Nicholas Blinoff, who was slaughtered in the Jewish pogrom in
Zhitomir with the word 'Brother' on his noble lips;
Of young Leo Weinstein, who fell in the same massacre crying 'Comrades;'
Of the child Silin of Warsaw, who when only fifteen years of age was
condemned to death; when he was led out with bandaged eyes to be shot on
the sand-hills, he wept so bitterly that the soldiers called to him, "Do
not cry, there is no pain," upon which he shouted back, "I am crying
because I must die before accomplishing anything."
He will tell how Valerian Ossinsky died, and then we will not think of
Christ upon the Cross.
He will write of those soft-eyed, sweet-voiced, tender Terrorists whose
blessed bombs and bullets laid tyrants low: Zinaida who shot Min;
Spiridonova who slew Lujenovsky; Bizenko who killed Sakharoff; Eserskaja
who assassinated Klingenberg; Ragozinnikova who destroyed Maximoffsky.
Of those noble and daring youths who struck to the death their country's
oppressors: Kaltourin and Gelvakov who dispatched Strelnikoff;
Balmaschoff who executed Sipyagin; Karpowitch who ended the days of
Bogolepoff; Kalayev who removed Sergius; Schaumann who aimed well at
Bobrikoff; Sazonov who wiped out Plehve.
Of these he will write and of many, many more whose names are unknown to
an ignorant public which yells itself hoarse for empty-headed officials,
but whose memories encircle the hearts of freedom's orphans.
He will write too, of a revolutionary thinker who dreams a philosophy
which would dethrone tyranny and upraise liberty, the humanitarian who
harbors a love which reaches to the uttermost ends of the earth, the
true World-Man of the Better-Day—Comrade Kropotkin.
Reader, I press your hand warmly
Lives of Great Altrurians
BY VICTOR ROBINSON
This is to be a series of biographies of men and women whose life-work
was the liberation of humanity from bondage. Not of bishops and warriors
will Victor Robinson write, but of the Great Companions whose lances
struck the shields of despotism. These lives are to be of no standard
size and will not be written on contract-time. A great deal of
inclination and a little bit of opportunity will be the determining
Out of this series, two numbers have already been published:
William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft
The rest of the subjects are still lodged within the cerebral cells of
the author. The following are in preparation for precious print:
William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft
BY VICTOR ROBINSON
Written in the Author's Eighteenth Year
William Godwin was the father of philosophic radicalism in England. His
wife, Mary Wollstonecraft, was the pioneer of the woman suffrage
movement. Yet the present generation of reformers knows little about
these glorious Liberals. This booklet tells briefly of Godwin's early
life, of his development from orthodoxy to rationalism, of his
epoch-making "Political Justice," of his narrow escape from imprisonment
on the charge of high treason, of his first meeting and dislike of Mary
Wollstonecraft, of his later love and marriage with her, of her former
marriage and attempt at suicide, of their views on the marriage
relation, of the storm which Mary Wollstonecraft caused by writing "A
Vindication of the Rights of Woman," of her lamented death, of her
talented daughter who eloped with Shelley, of Godwin's subsequent love
affairs, of his philosophy, of his old age, etc.
Pierre Ramus: in "Die Freie Generation:"
Selten wohl, dass uns eine kleine Broschurenschrift in die Hände
fiel, die mit ähnlicher Glut des edelsten Idealismus verfasst ist,
wie jene unseres amerikanischen Genossen Victor Robinson.
Eugene V. Debs, in "Appeal to Reason:"
The story of William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft is now in
pamphlet form, fresh from the gifted pen of Victor Robinson. It is
a story of two great souls charmingly told by another.
Elbert Hubbard, editor of "The Philistine:"
At the Roycroft Chapel, Victor gave us a most admirable address on
Godwin—quite the best thing he ever did.
John Sherwin Crosby, author of "Government:" I shall prize your
very graphic sketch because of its intrinsic worth.
William Lloyd Garrison, the son of the great Abolitionist:
I have read with pleasure your estimate of these brave thinkers.
What surviving qualities have truth and courage!
Clinton P. Farrell, brother-in-law and publisher of Ingersoll:
Many many thanks for this beautiful booklet—a gem. May you live
long and continue in the making of good books.
Voltairine de Cleyre, the most radical woman in Philadelphia:
I am glad that some one has taken up the work I began some fifteen
years ago,—that of compelling the deserved recognition due to Mary
Wollstonecraft from the English-speaking radical world.
Champe S. Andrews, counsel of the Medical Society of New York:
I am indebted to you for the very delightful monograph on the lives
of William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft. I value this book on
account of its excellent literary and biographical value.
Henry J. Weeks, lover of our furred and feathered brothers:
As soon as I received your book, my wife read it to me from
beginning to end, starting with loving interest and ending with
sympathetic tears. Then I read it again myself. Then I called upon
my friend Fred Heath, editor of "The Social Democratic Herald," and
talked to him about my "William and Mary," and together we hied to
the public library and made a search for all we could find about
the lives of these interesting friends.
Artistically printed Illustrated with portraits
25 cents, postpaid
12 Mt. Morris Park, West, New York City
A Symposium on Humanitarians
"Name your 10 favorite humanitarians of the 19th century." To this
interesting question, replies have been received from 100 men and women,
many of them of national and some of international fame. Among the
Alfred Russel Wallace
Rose Hartwick Thorpe
Benjamin R. Tucker
William Marion Reedy
Edward Bliss Foote
Hubert Howe Bancroft
Harriot Stanton Blatch
Herbert N. Casson
Voltairine de Cleyre
Harrison Grey Fiske
Wm. Lloyd Garrison
Geo. Wharton James
Andrew D. White
Rose Pastor Stokes
Louis F. Post
Finely printed. Paper 25c. Cloth 50c.
12 Mt. Morris Park, West, New York City
Graphic Stories of the Evils of Sexual Ignorance
BY DR. WILLIAM J. ROBINSON
It is time that these tales should no longer remain "Never Told Tales."
It is time that the ignorance which costs so much health, so much
happiness, so many lives, should no longer be permitted to hold its
blighting sway in our midst; it is time that life-destroying prudery
should give way to vitalizing knowledge; it is time that sanctimonious
hypocracy should give way to common-sense. It is time in short, that
darkness should give way to light, and misery to happiness—it is time,
therefore, that the "Never-Told Tales" should at last be told!
The author is convinced that if these tales were put into the hands of
every man and woman about to marry, and into the hands of every father
and mother who have adolescent children, much misery would be prevented
and much good would be accomplished. Hence does he send them forth into
From the Author's Preface.
Artistically bound and printed. Cloth $1, postpaid
12 Mount Morris Park West
New York City
End of the Project Gutenberg EBook of Comrade Kropotkin, by Victor Robinson
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