Monday, January 20, 2003

The Intimate Journal of Henri Amiel: March 25, 1878

March 25, 1878

The feminine tendency is to a swift and usurping assimilation. Things that they remember they convert at once into personal finds. They think things have happened for the first time ... The critical need to indicate one's sources, to acknowledge one's borrowings, to cite there from wham one has borrowed, to give others their rights is not properly feminine. The echo pretends to originality. The small additional element of recombination poses as the equal of the mother-wit that creates. The talent of the pupil considers itself the equivalent of the master's genius. And this illusion has its good faith, or at least it guards itself against any examination of conscience that might disturb it. Women do not wish to distinguish between giving birth and procreating, between exploiting and originating, between the power of imitation and that of innovation. The moon, which reflects, imagines also that it is a light by itself, and secretly thinks itself a little sun. Eagerness to receive, facility in reproducing are, however, only secondary qualifies of the intelligence. The male alone labours over things and creates something new. The feminine mind pumps ideas out of man and imagines it has drawn them from nature itself. This perpetual unconfessed larceny is the comedy of cultivated epochs. Women are a good deal like those stewards who contrive to collect in their money-boxes the gold that has been produced by the unceasing toil of other men, and who think they are superior to those who produce it because they have carried it off.--The drones of the intellectual hive mock the bees who make the honey and think themselves better than their collaborators.

The imaginative faculty is not the same thing as the imagination. Woman does not produce the fruitful ideas, but she discovers the details, she dresses, polishes, finishes, perfects, she observes the overlooked, she embellishes the exterior. She represents adroitness and taste, finesse and care. In a word, to be done well a work should be created, hewn by man, finished by woman. To one the architecture belongs, to the other the dressing and trimming. Masterpieces, in fact, demand both genius and talent, one providing the stuff and the proportions, the other eliminating the seams and the defects. And humbler works demand no less the concert of two forces, both of which indeed exist in the artist, but one of which as a rule predominates in one of the sexes.--I have therefore been very fortunate and highly favoured in having been able to review à deux everything I have done during the last few years. This auxiliary and this check is very useful to me, not to mention my great advantage in having, instead of a simple copyist, an intelligent, sympathetic and zealous secretary.

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