Monday, January 20, 2003

The Intimate Journal of Henri Amiel: May 6, 1852

May 6, 1852

Oddly enough, women are the sex that is at once most one and most different; the most alike from the moral point of view, the most different from the social point of view. Women are a sisterhood in the first case, in the second a hierarchy. All the degrees of culture and condition are sharply marked in their exterior, their manners and their tastes; the inner community is found in their feelings, their instincts and desires. The feminine sex thus represents the equality of nature and the inequality of human his- tory; it maintains the unity of the species and separates the cate- gories of society. Woman has therefore an essentially conservative mission. She preserves, on the one hand, the work of God, that which is permanent in man, the beautiful, the great, the human; she preserves, on the other hand, that which is the work of circum- stances, the usages, absurdities, prejudices, pettinesses--the good and the bad, the serious and the frivolous. How could one wish it otherwise? Accept the smoke, if you would have the fire. This is a law that is providential and consequently good.--Woman is tradi- tion, as man is progress; without both there would be no life. His- tory, like all that has life, is the product of two forces; if its father is progress, tradition is its mother. Each sex has its part to play in the common work of the race.

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