When he wrote his first diary entry in March of 1847, Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy was 18 years old and six days into a spell at hospital being treated for gonorrhoea, motivated to keep a record of his days as he was “concerned with the development of [his] own faculties.” For 63 years he continued, his final entry arriving on 3rd November 1910 with death fast approaching, a string of incredible achievements behind him. The following entry was written in 1851 when Tolstoy was still young and in love—or maybe imagining that he was. There were rules to live by, parties to attend, and large mammals to regret buying.
The Diary Entry
I’ve fallen in love or imagine that I have; went to a party and lost my head. Bought a horse which I don’t need at all.
Rules. Don’t offer a price for a thing you don’t need. On arriving at a ball, ask someone to dance at once and take a turn with her at a waltz or a polka.
Think about ways of putting my affairs in order this evening. Stay at home.
Since 1917 various English language translations of Tolstoy’s diaries have emerged, some of which can be found online. But it’s definitely worth buying the diaries as edited and translated in the 1980s by Professor Reginald F. Christian, who died in 2018. In 2010, his work was reissued by Faber in two chunks: Volume 1: 1847-1894 & Volume 2: 1895-1910. Both are highly recommended.
Diary entry excerpted from Tolstoy’s Diaries, Volume 1, 1847-1894, Athlone Press 1985, reprinted by Faber & Faber in 2010. Edited and translated by R. F. Christian; quoted by kind permission of his daughter, Jessica Christian Stiller.