On Turgenev: He knew from Lavrov that I was an enthusiastic admirer of his writings; and one day, as we were returning in a carriage from a visit to Antokolsky's studio, he asked me what I thought of Bazarov. I frankly replied, 'Bazaraov is an admirable painting of the nihilist, but one feels that you did not love him as mush as you did your other heroes.'
'On the contrary, I loved him, intensely loved him,' Turgenev replied, with an unexpected vigor. 'When we get home I will show you my diary, in which I have noted how I wept when I had ended the novel with Bazarov's death.'
Turgenev certainly loved the intellectual aspect of Bazarov. He so identified himself with the nihilist philosophy of his hero that he even kept a diary in his name, appreciating the current events from Bazarov's point of view. But I think that he admired him more than he loved him. In a brilliant lecture on Hamlet and Don Quixote, he divided the history makers of mankind into two classes, represented by one or the other of these characters. 'Analysis first of all, and then egotism, and therefore no faith,--an egotist cannot even believe in himself:' so he characterized Hamlet. 'Therefore he is a skeptic, and never will achieve anything; while Don Quixote, who fights against windmills, and takes a barber's plate for the magic helmet of Mambrino (who of us has never made the same mistake?), is a leader of the masses, because the masses always follow those who, taking no heed of the sarcasms of the majority, or even of persecutions, march straight forward, keeping their eyes fixed upon a goal which is seen, perhaps, by no one but themselves. They search, they fall, but they rise again and find it,--and by right, too. Yet, although Hamlet is a skeptic, and disbelieves in Good, he does not disbelieve in Evil. He hates it; Evil and Deceit are his enemies; and his skepticism is not indifferentism, but only negation and doubt, which finally consume his will.'
These thought of Turgenev give, I think, the true key for understanding his relations to his heroes. He himself and several of his best friends belonged more or less to the Hamlets. He loved Hamlet, and admired Don Quixote. So he admired also Bazarov. He represented his superiority admirably well, he understood the tragic character of his isolated position, but he could not surround him with that tender, poetical love which he bestowed as on a sick friend, when his heroes approached the Hamlet type. It would have been out of place.