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Mme. de Staël on Wit

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de-stael

Montesquieu dit que l’esprit consiste à connaître la resemblance des choses diverses et la difference des choses semblables. S’il pouvait exister une théorie qui apprît à devenir un homme d’esprit, ce serait celle de l’entendement telle que les Allemands la conçoivent; il n’est pas de plus favorable aux rapprochements ingénieux entre les objets extérieurs et les facultés de l’esprit; ce sont les divers rayons d’un même centre.

Montesquieu tells us that intelligence lies in recognizing the resemblance among things which differ and the difference between things which are alike. If there were a theory that teaches how to become a man of intellect, it would be that of understanding as the Germans have conceived it; there is no theory that better favors the ingenious reconciliation between exterior objects and mental processes; these are but different spokes emanating from the same center.

Anne Louise Germaine Necker Baronne de Staël-Holstein, De l’Allemagne, pt. 3, ch. 8, p. 446 (1813) (S.H. transl.)

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