Amiel’s Journal

Photo by M.A.D.

Here’s a little jewel from the past, Amiel’s Journal. I picked up this book years ago at a flea market, and now I am making the time to finally read it. It was among a large quantity of books spread on the ground, of many topics, many of them old, and this one caught my eye. It was originally written in the mid 1800s although this particular edition is from 1863 and is in very lovely, almost pristine condition. It amazes me how a little book like this one can survive more than a century, 159 years to be exact. This is volume two. I wished I had located volume one as well.

It was written by Henri Frederick Amiel, a Swiss moral philosopher, poet, critic, and a traveler. However, it was translated by Mrs. Humphry Ward (Mary Augusta Ward), a British novelist who wrote under her married name. She was a prolific writer but also a critic, journalist, memoirist, very active in society, and believe it or not, was actively against women’s right to vote. That truly surprised me coming from a very accomplished woman at that time. Puzzling.

As I read it, there are so many juicy bits found in its pages. If I were to be harsh, I would say that the book is Amiel’s mid-life crisis bordering in depression and disgust; however, as I read, I understand it is so much more than that. I have laughed, but also found myself saying out loud, “Oh no, he didn’t.” Of course, one has to understand the cultural and societal views of the times and read it under that context. For example, on page 13, he logs on his journal a few lines about what he is reading at the moment. Then, he expresses what I thought was a brutal book review, ouch! On page 16, on another entry, the reader can appreciate his understanding of the many characteristics a woman possesses, and he calls her “monstre incomprehensible, delight and terror of men.” More than once, he talks about Christianity at that time, and his view of Christianity (as a religion) permeates throughout. He writes, “The religion to which Jesus professed must be disentangled from the religion which has taken Jesus for its object.” I understand his sentiment, what he is trying to say, although I not necessarily agree. In my opinion, Jesus is Christianity, but Christianity does not necessarily reflect Jesus, on this day and throughout history. Maybe that was his point after all. There is so much more inside this journal. The fact that it is the year 2022 and I am writing a blog post about what this gentleman wrote on his diary over a century ago blows my mind.

I am enjoying this little book immensely. Eventually, I will be offering this jewel in my shop. Very old books deserve a longer journey.

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