I was thinking about rising souls, so much more brilliant than our physical selves.
Home from the Crimean War and consumed with the notion that family life as he idealized it would be the key to his contentment, Count Leo Tolstoy set his sights on young Valeria Arseneva, orphaned and living on a neighboring estate. Access was easy; he was her brother’s guardian, older and trusted. Flattered by the attention, she fell for him, moved by his professions of love and his worldliness; they were quickly engaged. Valeria was isolated on her country estate and longed for high society and social interaction, but these were the very elements aristocratic life that Tolstoy, already gaining a reputation as a writer and political agitator, disdained. He balked and chided, pushing her ever harder to fit his ideal. While his words captivated her, his controlling moodiness did not. Six months into the relationship and within a month of sending her these beautiful words, she penned an outraged letter demanding he desist in his attentions. He received it with relief, responding that “love and marriage would have given us nothing but misery.” His ideal evaporated, and Tolstoy used the lessons of his self-described poor treatment of Valeria as the inspiration for an early novella, Family Happiness, in which his glum prediction comes true.