In this scene (Volume II, Part Five, Chapter III) we see how seamlessly Tolstoy ties together the story line with history. Once again we are witnessing the verbal abuse of Prince Nikolai Andreich towards his daughter Princess Marya. I always find these passages unbearable. He is such a bully and she seems to have little choice other than to bear it as best she can. He insults her constantly. He says to her, "if only some fool would marry her". This is just before a small dinner party they are hosting which includes an eligible bachelor or two.
At the dinner they discuss how in 1810 Napoleon has abolished the independence of the Hanseatic towns of Hamburg, Bremen and Lubeck in northern Germany because they did not support his continental blockade. He also seized the lands of the duke of Oldenburg which was the final straw and caused the beginning of this war.
It is just amazing how he pulls together all these separate strands into one organic whole. And not only that, but there are many long passages of Tolstoy's reflections on timeless topics such as love, religion, spirituality. Sometimes I wonder -- are we really ripping up this book? Are we doing anything worthwhile to make this sacrifice? -- Lola
from page 681-682 of original text
page 543-544 Pevear/Volokhonsky translation