Henri-Frédéric Amiel

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Henri-Frédéric Amiel

Henri Frédéric Amiel (27 September 1821 – 11 May 1881) was a Swiss philosopher, poet and critic.

Born in Geneva in 1821, he was descended from a Huguenot family driven to Switzerland by the revocation of the Edict of Nantes.

After losing his parents at an early age, Amiel travelled widely, became intimate with the intellectual leaders of Europe, and made a special study of German philosophy in Berlin. In 1849 he was appointed professor of aesthetics at the academy of Geneva, and in 1854 became professor of moral philosophy. These appointments, conferred by the democratic party, deprived him of the support of the aristocratic party, which comprised nearly all the culture of the city.

This isolation inspired the one book by which Amiel is still known, the Journal Intime ("Private Journal"), which, published after his death, obtained a European reputation. It was translated into English by Mary A. Ward at the instigation of Mark Pattison.

Although modest in volume of output, Amiel's mind was of no inferior quality, and his Journal gained a sympathy that the author had failed to obtain in his life. In addition to the Journal, he produced several volumes of poetry and wrote studies on Erasmus, Madame de Stael and other writers. He died in Geneva.

Poetical works[edit]

  • Grains de mil
  • II penseroso
  • Part du rêve
  • Les Etrangères
  • Charles le Téméraire
  • Romancero historiquan
  • Jour à jour

Quotes[edit]

  • "Our duty is to be useful, not according to our desires, but according to our powers"
  • "Learn to limit yourself, to content yourself with some definite thing, and some definite work; dare to be what you are, and learn to resign with a good grace all that you are not and to believe in your own individuality."
  • "Life is short, and we have never too much time for gladdening the hearts of those who are traveling the dark journey with us. Oh be swift to love, make haste to be kind."
  • "The man who insists on seeing with perfect clearness before he decides, never decides."
  • "The test of every religious, political, or educational system, is the man which it forms. If a system injures the intelligence it is bad. If it injures the character it is vicious. If it injures the conscience it is criminal."
  • "Analysis kills spontaneity. The grain once ground into flour springs and germinates no more."
  • "Truth is not only violated by falsehood; it may be equally outraged by silence"
  • "The great artist is the simplifier."
  • "A man without passion is only a latent force, only a possibility, like a stone waiting for the blow from the iron to give forth sparks."
  • "Is all my scribbling collected together—my correspondence, these thousands of pages, my lectures, my articles, my verses, my various memodanda—anything but a collection of dry leaves? To whom and for what have I been of use? And will my name live for even a day after me, and will it have any meaning to anyone? An insignificant, empty life! Vie Nulle!"
  • "I find myself regarding existence as though from beyond the tomb, from another world; all is strange to me; I am, as it were, outside my own body and individuality; I am depersonalized, detached, cut adrift. Is this madness?"
  • "The man who has no refuge in himself, who lives, so to speak, in his front rooms, in the outer whirlwind of things and opinions, is not properly a personality at all. He floats with the current, who does not guide himself according to higher principles, who has no ideal, no convictions--such a man is a mere article of furniture--a thing moved, instead of a living and moving being--an echo, not a voice. The man who has no inner life is the slave of his surroundings, as the barometer is the obedient servant of the air at rest, and the weathercock the humble servant of the air in motion."
  • "Doing easily what others find difficult is talent; doing what is impossible for talent is genius."
  • "[...] respect in yourself the oscillations of feeling. They are your life and your nature [...]. Do not abandon yourself altogether either to instinct or to will. Instinct is a siren, will a despot. Be neither the slave of your impulses and sensations of the moment, nor of an abstract and general plan; be open to what life brings from within and without, and welcome the unforeseen; but give to your life unity, and bring the unforeseen within the lines of your plan. Let what is natural in you raise itself to the level of the spiritual, and let the spiritual become once more natural. Thus will your development be harmonious [...]"
  • "The highest function of the teacher consists not so much in imparting knowledge as in stimulating the pupil in its love and pursuit. To know how to suggest is the art of teaching."
  • "When a conflict arises between the natural world and the moral world, between reality and the conscience, the conscience must be right."
  • "What we call little things are merely the causes of great things; they are the beginning, the embryo, and it is the point of departure which, generally speaking, decides the whole future of an existence. One single black speck may be the beginning of gangrene, of a storm, of a revolution."
  • "We receive everything, both life and happiness; but the manner in which we receive, this is what is still ours. Let us then receive trustfully without shame or anxiety. Let us humbly accept from God even our own nature, and treat it charitably, firmly, intelligently. Not that we are called upon to accept the evil and disease in us, but let us accept ourselves in spite of the evil and the disease."
  • "Will localizes us, thought universalizes us."
  • "He who is silent is forgotten; he who abstains is taken at his word; he who does not advance, falls back; he who stops is overwhelmed, distanced, crushed; he who ceases to grow greater becomes smaller; he who leaves off, gives up; the stationary condition is the beginning of the end—it is the terrible symptom which precedes death. To live, is to achieve a perpetual triumph: it is to assert one's self against destruction, against sickness, against the annulling and dispersion of one's physical and moral being. It is to will without ceasing, or rather to refresh one's will day by day."
  • "Women wish to be loved not because they are pretty, or good, or well bred, or graceful, or intelligent, but because they are themselves."
  • "If nationality is consent, the state is compulsion."

References[edit]

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