Monday, January 20, 2003

The Intimate Journal of Henri Amiel: May 13, 1869

May 13, 1869

A break in the clouds, and through the
blue interstices a bright sun throws flickering and uncer-
tain rays. Storms, smiles, whims, anger, tears--it is May,
and nature is in its feminine phase! She pleases our fancy,
stirs our heart, and wears out our reason by the endless
succession of her caprices and the unexpected violence of
her whims.

This recalls to me the 213th verse of the second book of
the Laws of Manou. "It is in the nature of the feminine
sex to seek here below to corrupt men, and therefore wise
men never abandon themselves to the seductions of
women." The same code, however, says: "Wherever
women are honored the gods are satisfied." And again:
"In every family where the husband takes pleasure in his
wife, and the wife in her husband, happiness is ensured."
And again: "One mother is more venerable than a thous-
and fathers." But knowing what stormy and irrational
elements there are in this fragile and delightful creature,
Manou concludes: "At no age ought a woman to be
allowed to govern herself as she pleases."

Up to the present day, in several contemporary and
neighboring codes, a woman is a minor all her life. Why?
Because of her dependence upon nature, and of her sub-
jection to passions which are the diminutives of madness;
in other words, because the soul of a woman has some-
thing obscure and mysterious in it, which lends itself to
all superstitions and weakens the energies of man. To
man belong law, justice, science, and philosophy, all that
is disinterested, universal, and rational. Women, on the
contrary, introduce into everything favor, exception, and
personal prejudice. As soon as a man, a people, a litera-
ture, an epoch, become feminine in type, they sink in the
scale of things. As soon as a woman quits the state of
subordination in which her merits have free play, we see a
rapid increase in her natural defects. Complete equality
with man makes her quarrelsome; a position of supremacy
makes her tyrannical. To honor her and to govern her
will be for a long time yet the best solution. When educa-
tion has formed strong, noble, and serious women in whom
conscience and reason hold sway over the effervescence of
fancy and sentimentality, then we shall be able not only
to honor woman, but to make a serious end of gaining her
consent and adhesion. Then she will be truly an equal,
a work-fellow, a companion. At present she is so only in
theory. The moderns are at work upon the problem, and
have not solved it yet.
Previous Index Next