18 JUNE 1898, Page 21

Tourgueneff and his French Circle is a translation, by Ethel

M. Arnold (T. Fisher ITnwin. 7s. 6d.), of some letters written by the Russian novelist to celebrated French writers, notably Zola, Flaubert, George Sand, &c The collection is made by E. Halperin Kaminsky, in order, we gather, to defend Tourgu6neff fro,n a charge of disloyalty to his French friends ; a charge to which some " Souvenirs " published after his death gave currency. The letters contain a few interesting scraps of criticism and a few revelations of character, but they are for the most part unimportant notes, acceptances of invitations, or, more often, refusals of them on the score of gout, toothache, or colds in the head. Why the receivers kept them, let alone allowed them to be published, we cannot think. A letter written to Flaubert. when Tourgueneff was visiting London in 1871 strikes us as one of the few in the book worth preserving. It contains a very remarkable simile. "If I have not answered your letter before it is because I have not had the courage to do so—the events in Paris have stupefied me. I was silent as one is silent in a train when it is going through a tunnel—the fearful noise fills one's ears and deadens one's brain." Another letter (also to Flaubert) is of value for the pleasant light it throws on the character of the nervous man of letters. It dates from Tourgu6neff's Russian estate "I have kicked out a bailiff who had robbed me to the tune of something like 130,000 francs. A fairly large slice of my fortune. Why was I such a fool ? I let myself drift, from idleness and blind confidence, though I knew quite well when I looked at his smug, heavy face that it belonged to a rogue. Well, so much the worse for me, and may he digest my money !" The loss of £5,200 could hardly have been taken in better part. The following criticism of " War and Peace" Tourgueneff quotes from Flaubert and incloses to Tolstoi :—" Thank you for having made me read Tolstoi's novel. It belongs to the very first rank. What a word-painter and what a psychologist! The two first volumes are sublime, but the third goes off horribly. He repeats himself, and he philosophises. In a word, one realises the man himself, the author, and the Russian, while till then one had realised nothing but nature and humanity. Occasionally, it seems to me, there are things worthy of Shakespeare. I kept uttering long cries of admiration as I read it and it is long." After this inclosure comes Tourgu6neff's answer to Flaubert :—" Yes, he is a great man, and yet you have put your finger on a weak spot. He has made for himself a system of philosophy, mystical, childish, and uncompromising all at once, which has terribly spoiled his second novel, written after La Guerre et la Paix (Anna Karenina), and in which there are also some first-rate things." Of Balzac, Tourgueneff said :—" That writer is so utterly foreign and unsympathetic to my nature that I have never been able to read ten pages on end." Humbler critics in quoting this sentence may " snatch a fearful joy" behind a great man.