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[112]

It may come, first, from the closer observation of details by women, the result of the early training of their lives, this being also based on a quality of original temperament. Now details are what we need in a letter; for philosophy and general grasp we go to a book. Method, order, combination, are quite unimportant in a letter; we need to know what each man or woman described was doing at a certain time — where they stood, what they wore, what they appeared to have had for breakfast or to expect for dinner. This is what a letter should bring us; the logic and the deductions may come in separate packages. Now the letters of women will vary with the period; they may be stiff or they may be gushing, but they will give details. I remember an educated American who, on returning from Egypt, could only say, when asked to describe the Pyramids, “Oh yes, enormous things-enormous things!” But the stupidest woman that ever climbed a Pyramid could at least tell you afterwards, when she had recovered her breath, something about the Arab who dragged her up and the terror that took her down; and it is by comparison with these that we find the Pyramid truly enormous.

De Quincey's own theory of the advantage enjoyed by women as letter-writers is somewhat different from this; he attributes their superiority to

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Thomas De Quincey (1)
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