The Autobiography of Countess Sophie Tolstoi


Hogarth Press First Edition of The Autobiography of Countess Sophia Tolstoy

Source: Washington State University Library, Rare Books and Special Collections

The Autobiography of Countess Sophie Tolstoi






The Autobiography of Countess Sophie Tolstoi was was originally written after it was solicited by a publisher in Russia, S. A. Vegenrov, in 1913. Vegenerov hoped that it might offer insight into the controversy around Leo Tolstoi’s last years in which his radically ascetic ideals interfered in serious ways with his family life and caused what subsequent biographers have described as one of the unhappiest marriages in literary history. However, the autobiography was never published in Sophie Tolstoi's lifetime, and the text itself was discovered among Vegenrov’s papers after his death in 1920. It was subsequently published in Nachala, a Russian review periodical, by Vasilii Spiridonov. The Hogarth Press published the text, brought to them by S. S. Koteliansky, very shortly after the first public appearance of the work in Russia.  The short autobiography is framed by a translation of Spiridonov’s fairly extensive preface to the Nachala text, a translators’ preface written by Leonard Woolf and Koteliansky and a number of notes explaining the contextual details around Sophia Tolstoi’s own account of her life and marriage, which were new paratexts for English readers.