Tolstoy so admired Dostoevsky’s The House of the Dead that he wrote ‘I don’t know a better book in all literature’ and asked a mutual friend to ‘please tell him that I love him’. It was to Tolstoy that the writer Strakhov, who worked with Dostoevsky on literary journals during the 1860s and 1870s, spread the wicked rumour that Dostoevsky had sexually assaulted a nine-year-old girl in a public bathhouse. It is good to find that Sekirin gives this tale no credence.
Dostoevsky in his turn expressed great admiration for Anna Karenina, in his own widely read and influential Writer’s Diary. Both passionate — and heterodox — Christians, the two giants were very aware of each other but never met. Dostoevsky acknowledged that he was jealous of his rival’s wealth and equally of his success, and once referred rudely to ‘landlord literature’ with its patrician and pastoral calm. One month before he died in January 1881 Dostoevsky again showed himself ambivalent when announcing that ‘Tolstoy is powerful. He is a great talent. He did not say all he could.’