Henri Frédéric Amiel.

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First Edition 1885. Second Edition April 1889
Reprinted August 1889, January 1890, August i8qo, March 1891,
September 1891, 1892, 1894, 1898, 1901,
1904, 1906, 1909, 1913, 1915, 1918, 1921


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• 1 • • •


In this second edition of the English translation of Amiel's
Journal Intime, I have inserted a good many new passages,
taken from the last French edition (Cinquihrm Edition, revue ei
augmentde). But I have not translated all the fresh material
to be found in that edition, nor have I omitted certain sec-
tions of the Journal which in these two recent volumes have
been omitted by their French editors. It would be of no
interest to give my reasons for these variations at length.
They depend upon certain differences between the English
and the French public, which are more readily felt than
explained. Some of the passages which I have left untrans-
lated seemed to me to overweight the introspective side of
the Journal, already so full — to overweight it, at any rate,
for English readers. Others which 1 have retained, though
they often relate to local names and books, more or less
unfamiliar to the general public, yet seemed to me valuable
as supplying some of that surrounding detail, that setting,
which helps one to understand a life. Besides, we English
are in many ways more akin to Protestant and Puritan
Geneva than the French readers to whom the original Journal
primarily addresses itself, and some of the entries I have kept
have probably, by the nature of things, more savour for us
than for them,

M. A W.


The new and enlarged Index affixed to the present Edition is
due to the care and pains of Mr. George Seton of St. Bennet's,
Edinburgh, to whom the Translator desires to express her sincere


This translation of Amiel's Journal Infime is primarily ad-
dressed to those whose knowledge of French, while it may be
sufficient to carry them with more or less complete under-
standing through a novel or a newspaper, is yet not enough to
allow them to understand and appreciate a book containing
subtle and complicated forms of expression. I believe there
are many such to be found among the reading public, and
among those who would naturally take a strong interest in
such a life and mind as Amiel's, were it not for the barrier of
language. It is, at any rate, in the hope that a certain
number of additional readers may be thereby attracted to
the Journal Intime that this translation of it has been under-

The difficulties of the translation have been sometimes
considerable, owing, hrst of all, to those elliptical modes of
speech which a man naturally employs when he is writing for
himself and not for the public, but which a translator at all
events is bound in some degree to expand. Every here and
there Amiel expresses himself in a kind of shorthand, perfectly
inteUigible to a Frenchman, but for which an English
equivalent, at once terse and clear, is hard to find. Another
difficulty has been his constant use of a technical philosophical
language, which, according to his French critics, is not French
— even philosophical French — but German. Very often it
has been impossible to give any other than a literal rendering
of such passages, if the thought of the original was to be
preserved ; but in those cases where a choice was open to me,
I have preferred the more literary to the more technical ex-
pression ; and I have been encouraged to do so by the fact
that Amiel, when he came to prepare for publication a certain


number of Pens^es, extracted from the Journal, and ])rinted at
the end of a volume of poems published in 1853, frequently
softened his phrases, so that sentences which survive in the
Journal in a more technical form are to be found in a more
literary form in the Grains de Mil.

In two or three cases — not more, I think — T have allowed
myself to transpose a sentence bodily, and in a few instances
I have added some explanatory words to the text, which,
wherever the addition was of any importance, are indicated
by square brackets.

My warmest thanks are due to my friend and critic, M.
Edmond Scherer, from whose valuable and interesting study,
prefixed to the French Journal, as well as from certain
materials in his possession which he has very kindly allowed
me to make use of, I have drawn by far the greater part of
the biographical material embodied in the Introduction. M.
Scherer has also given me help and advice through the whole
process of translation — advice which his scholarly knowledge
of English has made especially worth having.

In the translation of the more technical philosophical
passages I have been greatly helped by another friend, Mr.
Bernard Bosanquet, Fellow of University College, Oxford, the
translator of Lotze, of whose care and pains in the matter I
cherish a grateful remembrance.

But with all the help that has been so freely given me, not
only by these friends but by others, I confide the little book
to the public with many a misgiving ! May it at least win a
few more friends and readers here and there for one who
lived alone, and died sadly persuaded that his life had been a
barren mistake ; whereas, all the while — such is the irony of
things — he had been in reality working out the mission assigned
him in the spiritual economy, and faithfully obeying the
secret mandate which had imj)ressed itself upon his youthful
consciousness: — ^ Let the living live; and you, gather together
your thoughts, leave behind you a legacy of feeling and ideas ; you
will be most useful so.'



It was iu the last days of DecemLer 1882 that the first volume ol
Henri Frederic Amiel's Journal Intime was published at Geneva.
The book, of wliich the general literary world kneAv nothing prior to
its appearance, contained a long and remarkable Introduction from
the pen of M. Edmond Scherer, the well-known French critic, who
had been for many years one of Amiel's most valued friends, and it
was prefaced also by a little Avertissement, in which tlie ' Editors'
• — that is to say, the Genevese friends to whom the care and publi-
cation of the Journal had been in the first instance entrusted —
described in a few reserved and sober words the genesis and objects
of the publication. Some thousands of sheets of Journal, covering
a period of more than thirty years, had come into the hands of
Amiel's literary heirs. ' They were written,' said the Avertissement,
^ with several ends in view. Amiel recorded in them his various
occupations, and the incidents of each day. He preserved in them
his psychological observations, and the impressions produced on him
by books. But his Journal was, above all, the confidant of his
most private and intimate thoughts ; a means whereby tlie thinker
became conscious of his owm inner life ; a safe shelter wherein his
questionings of fate and the future, the voice of grief, of seK-ex-
amination and confession, the soul's cry for iuward peace, might
make themselves freely heard. ... In the directions concerning
his papers which he left behind him, Amiel expressed the wish
that his literary executors should publish those parts of the Journal
which might seem to them to possess either interest as thought or
value as experience. The publication of this volume is the ful-
filment of this desire. — Tlie reader will find in it, not a,volume oj
Memoirs, but the confidences of a solitary thinker, the meditations
of a philosopher for whom the things of the soul were the sovereign
realities of existence.'

Thus modestly announced, the little volume made its quiet
d/but. It contained nothing, or almost nothing, of ordinary


biographical material M. Scherer's Introduction supplied such
facts as were absolutely necessary to the understanding of Amiel's
intellectual history, but nothing more. Everj'thing of a local or
private character that could be excluded was excluded. The object
of the Editors in their choice of passages for publication was de-
clared to be simply * the reproduction of the moral and intellectual
physiognomy of their friend,' while M. Scherer expressly disclaimed
any biographical intentions, and limited his Introduction as far as
possible to ' a study of the character and thought of Amiel.' The
contents of the volume, then, were purely literary and philoso-
phical ; its prevailing tone was a tone of introspection, and the
public which can admit the claims and overlook the inherent de-
fects of introspective literature has always been a small one. The
writer of the Journal had been during his lifetime wholly unknown
to the general European public. In Geneva itself he had been
commonly regarded as a man who had signally disappointed the
hopes and expectations of his friends, whose reserve and indecision
of character had in many respects spoilt his life, and alienated the
society around liim ; while his professorial lectures were generally
pronounced dry and unattractive, and the few volumes of poems
which represented almost his only contributions to literature had
nowhere met with any real cordiality of reception. Those con-
cerned, therefore, in the publication of the first volume of the
Journal can hardly have had much expectation of a wide succesa
Geneva is not a favourable starting-point for a French book, and it
may well have seemed that not even the support of M. Scherer's
name would be likely to carry the volume beyond a small local

But 'wisdom is justified of her children!' It is now nearly
three years since the first volume of the Journal Intime appeared ;
the impression made by it was deepened and extended by the
publication of the second volume in 1884 ; and it is now not too
much to say that this remarkable record of a life has made its way
to what promises to be a permanent place in literature. Among
those who think and read it is beginning to be generally recognised
that another book has been added to the books which live — not to
those, perhaps, which live in the public view, much discussed,
much praised, the objects of feeling and of struggle, but to those in
which a germ of permanent life has been deposited silently, almost
secretly, which compel no homage and excite no rivalry, and which
owe the place that the world half-unconsciously yields to them to
nothing but that indestructible sympathy of man with man, that
eternal answering of feeling to feeling, which is one of the great


priuciples, perhaps the greatest principle, at the root of literature.
M. Scherer naturally was the first among the recognised guides of
opinion to attempt the placing of his friend's Journal. 'The man
who, during his lifetime, was incapahle of giving us any deliberate
or conscious work worthy of his powers, has now left us, after his
death, a book which will not die. For the secret of Amiel'a
malady is sublime, and the expression of it wonderfuU So ran
one of the last paragraphs of the Introduction, and one may see in
the sentences another instance of that courage, that reasoned rash-
ness, which distinguishes the good from the mediocre critic. For
it is as true now as it was in the days when La Bruy^re rated the
critics of his time for their incapacity to praise, and praise at once,
that ' the surest test of a man's critical poM'er is his judgment of
contemporaries,' M. Renan, I think, with that exquisite literary
sense of his, was the next among the authorities to mention Araiel's
name with the emphasis it deserved. He quoted a passage from
the Journal in his Preface to the Souvenirs d'Enfance et de Jeunesse,
describing it as the saying ' d^uii penseur distingu^, M.Amid de Genhe.'
Since then M. Renan has devoted two curious articles to the com-
pleted Journal in the Journal des Dehats. The object of these
reviews, no doubt, was not so much the critical appreciation of
Amiel as the development of certain paradoxes which have been
haunting various corners of M. Renan's mind for several years past,
and to which it is to be hoped he has now given expression with
sufficient emphasis and hrusquerie to satisfy even his passion for
intellectual adventure. Still, the rank of the book was fully recog-
nised, and the first article especially contained some remarkable criti-
cisms, to which we shall find occasion to recur. ' In these two volumes
of pens^es,' said M. Renan, * without any sacrifice of truth to artistic
effect, we have both the perfect mirror of a modem mind of the
best type, matured by the best modem culture, and also a striking
picture of the sufferings which beset the sterility of genius. These
two volumes may certainly be reckoned among the most, interesting
philosophical writings which have appeared of late years.'

M. Caro's article on the first volume of the Journal, in the
Revue des Deux Mondes for February 1883, may perhaps count as
the first introduction of the book to the general cultivated public.
He gave a careful analysis of the first half of the Journal, — resumed
eighteen months later in tlie same periodical on the appearance of
the second volume, — and, while protesting against what he con-
ceived to be the general tendency and effect of Amiel's mental story, he
showed himself fully conscious of the rare and delicate qualities of
the new writer. * La riverie a re'ussi a notre anteur,' he says, a little


reluctantly — for M. Caro has his doubts as to the legitimacy ol
riverie ; ' il en a fait line ceuvre qui resterti.' The same final judg-
ment, accompanied by a very different series of comments, was
pronounced on the Journal a year later by M. Paul Bourget, a
young and rising writer, whose article is perhaps chiefly interesting
as showing the kind of effect produced by Amiel's thought on minds
of a type essentially alien from his own. There is a leaven of
something positive and austere, of something which, for want of a
better name, one calls Puritanism, in Amiel, which escapes the
author of Uiie Gruelle Enigine. But whether he has understood
Amiel or no, M. Bourget is fully alive to the mark which the
Journal is likely to make among modern records of mental history.
He, too, insists that the book is already famous and will remain so ;
in the first place, because of its inexorable realism and sincerity ; in
the second, because it is the most perfect example available of a
certain variety of the modern mind.

Amongst ourselves, although the Journal has attracted the atten-
tion of all who keep a vigilant eye on the progress of foreign litera-
ture, and although one or two appreciative articles have appeared on
it in the magazines, the book has still to become generally known.
One remarkable English testimony to it, however, must be quoted.
Six months after the publication of the first volume, the late Mark
Pattison, who since then has himself bequeathed to literature a
strange and memorable fragment of autobiography, addressed a letter
to M. Scherer as the editor of the Journal Iniime, which ^I. Scherer
has since published, nearly a year after the death of the writer.
The words have a strong and melancholy interest for all who knew
Mark Pattison ; and they certainly deserve a place in any attempt
to estimate the impression already made on contemporary thought
by the Journal Intime.

' I wish to convey to you, sir,' writes the Rector of Lincoln,
' the thanks of one at least of the public for giving the light to thia
precious record of a unique experience. I say unique, but I can
vouch that there is in existence at least one other soul which haa
lived through the same struggles, mental and moral, as AmieL In
your i)athetic description of the volonU qui voudrait vouloir, mais im-
puismnte a se fournir a elle-mSme des motifs, — of the repugnance for
all action — the soul petrified by the sentiment of the infinite, in all
this I recognise ni} self. Celui qui a dechiffre le secret de la vie finie,
qui en a lu le mot, e.4 sorti du monde des vivants, il est wort de fait.
I can feel forcibly the truth of this, as it applies to myself !

Mt is not, however, with the view of thrusting my egotism upou
you that I have ventuied upon addressing you. As I cannot pup-


pose tKat so peculiar a psychological revelation will enjoy a wide
popularity, I think it a duty to the editor to assure him that there
are persons in the worhl whose souls respond, in the depths of their
inmost nature, to the cry of anguish w^hich makes itself heard in the
pages of these remarkable confessions.'

So much for the place which the Journal — the fruit of so many
years of painful thought and disappointed effort — seems to be at last
securing for its author among those contemporaries who in his life-
time knew nothing of him. It is a natural consequence of the
success of the book that the more it penetrates, the greater desire
there is to know something more than its original editors and M.
Scherer have yet told us about the personal history of the man who
wrote it — about his education, his habits, and his friends. Perhaps
some day this wish may find its satisfaction. It is an innocent one,
and the public may even be said to have a kind of right to know
as much as can be told it of the personalities which move and stir
it. At present the biographical material available is extremely
scanty, and if it were not for the kindness of ]\L Scherer, who has
allowed the present writer access to certain manuscript mateiial in
his possession, even the sketch which follow^s, vague and imperfect
as it necessarily is, would have been impossible.*

Henri Frederic Amiel was born at Geneva in September 1821.
He belonged to one of the emigrant families, of which a more or
less steady supply had eni-iched the little Republic during the three
centuries following the Reformation. Amiel's ancestors, like those
of Sismondi, left Languedoc for Geneva after the revocation of the
Edict of Nantes. His father must have been a youth at the time
when Geneva passed into the power of the French Republic, and
would seem to have married and settled in the halcyon days fol-
lowing the restoration of Genevese independence in 1814. Amiel
was born when the prosperity of Geneva was at its height, when
the little State was administered by men of European reputation,
and Genevese society had power to attract distinguished visitors
and admirers from all parts. The veteran Bonstetten, who had
been the friend of Gray and the associate of Voltaire, was still talk-
ing and enjoying life in his appartement overlooking the woods of
La Batie. Rossi and Sismondi were busy lecturing to the Genevese
youth, or taking part in Genevese legislation ; an active scientific

* Four or five articles on the subject of Amiel's life have been contri-
buted to the E4vue Internationale by Mdlle. Berthe Vadier during the
passage of the present book through the press. I^Iy knowledge of them,
however, came too late to enable me to make use of them for the purposes
of the present introduction.


group, headed by the Pictets, De la Rive, and the botanist Auguste-
Pyranie de CandoUe, kept the country abreast of European thought
and speculation, while the mixed nationality of the place — the blend-
ing in it of French keenness with Protestant enthusiasms and Pro-
testant solidity — was beginning to find inimitable and characteristic
expression in the stories of Topffer. The country was governed by an
aristocracy, which was not so much an aristocracy of birth as one of
merit and intellect, and the moderate constitutional ideas which repre-
sented the Liberalism of the post- Waterloo period were nowhere more
warmly embraced or more intelligently carried out than in Geneva.

During the years, however, which immediately followed Amiel's
birth, some signs of decadence began to be visible in this brilliant
Genevese society. The generation which had waited for, prepared,
and controlled, the Restoration of 1814, was falling into the back-
ground, and the younger generation, with all its respectabiUty,
wanted energy, above all, wanted leaders. The revolutionary forces
in the State, which had made themselves violently felt during the
civil turmoils of the period preceding the assembly of the French
States General, and had afterwards produced the miniature Terror
which forced Sismondi into exile, had been for a while laid to sleep
by the events of 1814, But the slumber was a short one at Geneva
as elsewhere, and when Rossi quitted the Republic for France in
1833, he did so w'ith a mind full of misgivings as to the political
future of the little State which had given him — an exile and a
Catholic — so generous a welcome in 1819. The ideas of 1830
were shaking the fabric and disturbing the equilibrium of the Swiss
Confederation as a whole, and of many of the cantons composing it.
Geneva was still apparently tranquil while her neighbours were
disturbed, but no one looking back on the history of the Republic,
and able to measure the strength of the Radical force in Europe
after the fall of Charles X., could have felt much doubt but that a
few more years would bring Geneva also into the whirlpool of poli-
tical change.

In the same year — 1833 — that M. Rossi had left Geneva, Henri
Fr^d(^.ric Amiel, at twelve years old, was left orphaned of both his
parents. They had died comparatively young, — his mother was
only just over thirty, and his father cannot have been much older.
On the death of the mother the little faudly was broken up, the
boy passing into the care of one relative, his two sisters into that of
another. Certain notes in M. Scherer's possession throw a little
light here and there upon a childhood and youth which must
necessarily have been a little bare and forlorn. They show us a
sensitive impressionable boy, of health rather delicate Uiau robuat,


already disposed to a more or less melancholy and dreamy view of
life, and showing a deep interest in those religious problems and
ideas in which the air of Geneva has been steeped since the days of
Calvin. The religious teaching which a Genevese lad undergoes
prior to his admission to full Church membership, made a deep
impression on him, and certain mystical elements of character,
which remained strong in him to the end, showed themselves very
early. At the College or Public School of Geneva, and at the
Academic, he would seem to have done only moderately as far as
prizes and honours were concerned. We are told, however, that he
read enormously, and that he was, generally speaking, inclined
rather to make friends with men older than himself than wdth his
contemporaries. He fell specially under the influence of Adolphe
Pictet, a brilliant philologist and man of letters belonging to a well-
known Genevese family, and in later life he was able, while review-
ing one of ^L Pictet's books, to give grateful expression to his sense
of obligation.

Writing in 1856 he describes the effect produced in Geneva by
M. Pictefs Lectures on Esthetics in 1840 — the first ever delivered
in a town in which the Beautiful had been for centuries regarded
as the rival and enemy of the True. ' He who is now writing,'
says Amiel, ' was then among M. Pictet's youngest hearers. Since
then twenty experiences of the same kind have followed each other
in his intellectual experience, yet none has effaced the deep impres-
sion made upon him by these lectures. Coming as they did at a
favourable moment, and answering many a positive question and
many a vague aspiration of youth, they exercised a decisive in-
fluence over his thought ; they were to him an important step in
that continuous initiation which we call life, they filled him with
fresh intuitions, they brought near to him the horizons of his
dreams. And, as always happens with a first-rate man, what struck

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