What Men Live By, Leo Tolstoy
What Men Live By
Leo Tolstoy
1:00 h Novels Lvl 6.38
"What Men Live By" is a short story written by Russian author Leo Tolstoy in 1885. A kind, humble and poor shoemaker named Simon goes out one day to purchase sheep-skins in order to sew a winter coat for his wife and himself to share. Usually, the little money which Simon earns would be spent to purchase food for everyone. Simon decides that in order to afford the skins he must go on a collection to receive the five rubles and twenty kopeks owed to him by his customers. As he heads out to collect the money he also borrows a three-rouble note from his wife's money box. While going on his collection he only manages to collect the twenty kopeks rather than the full amount.

What Men Live by

Leo Tolstoy

What Men Live By

What Men Live by

We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. (First Ep. of John, iii. 14.)

But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth, up his heart from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? (Ib. iii. 17.)

My children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. (Ib. iii. 18.)

Love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. (Ib. iv. 7.)

He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. (Ib. iv. 8.)

No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us. (Ib. iv. 12.)

God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. (Ib. iv. 16.)

If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen. (Ib. iv. 20.)


A shoemaker was lodging with his wife and children at the house of a peasant. He had no house, no land of his own, and supported his family by his shoemaker’s trade. Bread was dear, but work was cheap, and he spent everything he made. The shoemaker and his wife had one fur coat between them, and even that was all worn to tatters; this was the second year that the shoemaker had been meaning to buy a sheepskin for a new fur coat.

Toward fall the shoemaker had saved some money: three roubles in paper lay in his wife’s coffer, and five roubles and twenty kopeks were outstanding in the village.

In the morning the shoemaker went to the village to get him that fur coat. He put on his wife’s wadded nankeen jacket over his shirt, and over it his cloth caftan; he put the three-rouble bill into his pocket, broke off a stick, and started after breakfast. He thought:

“I shall get the five roubles from the peasant, will add my own three, and with that will buy me a sheepskin for the fur coat.”

The shoemaker came to the village, and called on the peasant: he was not at home, and his wife promised to send her husband with the money, but gave him none herself. He went to another peasant, but the peasant swore that he had no money, and gave him only twenty kopeks for mending a pair of boots. The shoemaker made up his mind to take the sheepskin on credit, but the furrier would not give it to him.

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