Moskva: Posrednik, 1906. First Russian Edition. Slim octavo (20cm.); original green photo-illustrated wrappers; 85pp. Wrappers rather faded and toned along extremities, general wear from handling, small dampstain to upper cover, else About Very Good overall. Contemporary ownership signature to upper cover.
Autobiographical essay on the author's spiritual evolution penned shortly after Tolstoy turned to Christian anarchism in his late-middle age. Inspired by his reading of Schopenhauer's "The World as Will and Representation," the author describes emerging from a midlife crisis and a break from his literary past. Tolstoy was raised in the Greek Orthodox Church, though by his teenage years was no longer practicing his childhood faith. Instead, the author writes early on in this essay, "I endeavoured to reach perfection in intellectual attainments" (as quoted from Thomas Sharper Knowlson's Leo Tolstoy: A Biographical and Critical Study (1904), p. 42). By late middle age the prospect of reaching literary and intellectual perfection no longer appealed to Tolstoy, who instead turned towards spiritual introspection. As he describes it, his melancholia immediately lessened when he said "God is life," though the author would not write of his Christian beliefs until the publication of What I Believe (also known as My Religion) in 1884. The influence of Tolstoy's religious works have been far-reaching, especially in their bid for nonviolent resistance, the most notable reader and practitioner arguably being Mahatma Gandhi, who wrote to Tolstoy after reading his Letter to a Hindu (1908).
The present work would eventually serve as an introduction to a series of three works on religion which Tolstoy himself considered to be his best and most important work. First published in Russkaya Mysl, no. 5, in 1882, Ispoved was almost immediately banned by the Orthodox Church censorship. The text resurfaced again in Geneva in 1884, though it would not be until this 1906 edition that the piece appeared in Russia in book form, published by Posrednik, Tolstoy's non-profit publishing house. OCLC locates no copies in North America as of July, 2016.