Tolstoy offers sage editorial advice—"Continue not in the sense of making it longer, but in the sense of reworking it for the sake of clarity and thus shortening it"
Extremely rare ALS in Russian, signed “L. Tolstoy,” three pages on two adjoining sheets, 5 x 8, August 2, 1903. Letter to Pyotr Petrovich Nikolaev, in full (translated): "Well then, dear Pyotr Petrovich, I've read your manuscript and am returning it. It was a pleasure to read it. The entire direction of your ideas is dear, close and precious to me. I would like to say a lot, but won't, not only because it's awkward to do so in a letter, but because, and this is the main thing, it's not necessary. You yourself in all likelihood would make the same comments and corrections that I would like to make if you continue this work—continue not in the sense of making it longer, but in the sense of reworking it for the sake of clarity and thus shortening it. I would advise you to set forth everything in concise theses and, this is the main thing, don't be in a hurry. Set this work aside for a time, jotting down individual ideas that are connected to it. It wouldn't be bad to have the manuscript printed now—people might find it useful, but it would be better to have it printed when it has been improved as much as possible. I was very happy to read your manuscript, to see you, and to learn that you are still working on yourself in the same, one and true direction." In fine condition, with a few light stains.
Nikolaev was a writer, philosopher, and follower of Tolstoy, who, in mid-July 1903, had sent Tolstoy a letter enclosing his manuscript on the 'distortions of the teachings of Christ.' This wonderful missive, which was printed in Tolstoy's Complete Works in 90 Volumes, volume 74, presents Tolstoy offering his kind editorial advice, suggesting to Nikolaev to rework his manuscript “for the sake of clarity and thus shortening it,” counsel not entirely surprising given Tolstoy’s clear and concise style. The year this letter was written, Tolstoy published a set of four short stories—Esarhaddon, King of Assyria; Work, Death, and Sickness; Three Questions; and After the Ball—and one philosophical work entitled To the Orthodox Clergy. The first handwritten Tolstoy letter we have offered in nearly eight years.