Sofia Tolstoy: Diaries

16 October 2018



I am to gratify his pleasure and nurse his child, I am a piece of household furniture, I am a woman. I try to suppress all human feelings. When the machine is working properly it heats the milk, knits a blanket, makes little requests and bustles about trying not to think.
This was written at the age of 19, one year into her marriage to Leo and as she was pregnant with the first of his 13 children.

A few years later, when she was around 25:

I am so often alone with my thoughts that the need to write in my diary comes quite naturally … Now I am well again and not pregnant—it terrifies me how often I have been in that condition. He said that for him being young meant “I can achieve anything”. For me […] reason tells me that there is nothing I either want or can do beyond nursing, eating, drinking, sleeping, and loving and caring for my husband and babies, all of which I know is happiness of a kind, but why do I feel so woeful all the time, and weep as I did yesterday? I am writing this now with the pleasantly exciting sense that nobody will ever read it, so I can be quite frank with myself.
During her 12th pregnancy she wrote about taking scalding baths and jumping from high pieces of furniture to try and miscarry. And at one point while reading her husband’s diary (which he told her to read) she found the sentence:
There is no such thing as love, only the physical need for intercourse and the practical need for a life companion.
In her own diary she wrote:
They ebb and flow like waves, these times when I realise how lonely I am and want only to cry…
A few years before her husband’s death, she published a cycle of prose poems titled “Groans”, under the pseudonym “A Tired Woman”.
I have served a genius for almost forty years. Hundreds of times I have felt my intellectual energy stir within me and all sorts of desires - a longing for education, a love of music and the arts… And time and again I have crushed and smothered these longings… Everyone asks, “But why should a worthless woman like you need an intellectual or artistic life?” To this question I can only reply: “I don’t know, but eternally suppressing it to serve a genius is a great misfortune."

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