[personal profile] philobiblius
"This quality of genius is, sometimes, difficult to be distinguished from talent, because high genius includes talent. It is talent, and something more. The usual distinction between genius and talent is, that one represents creative thought, the other practical skill ; one invents, the other applies. But the truth is, that high genius applies its own inventions better than talent alone can do. A man who has mastered the higher mathematics, does not, on that account, lose his knowledge of arithmetic. Hannibal, Napoleon, Shakespeare, Newton, Scott, Burke, Arkwright, were they not men of talent as well as men of genius’! Because a great man does not, always, do what many smaller men can often do as well, smaller men must not, therefore, affect to pity him as a visionary, and pretend to lick into shape his formless theories.

But, still, there doubtless is a marked distinction between men of genius and men simply of talent. Talent repeats ; genius creates. Talent is a cistern ; genius a fountain. Talent deals with the actual, with discovered and realized truths, analyzing, arranging, combining, applying positive knowledge,and,in action, looking to precedents. Genius deals with the possible, creates new combinations, discovers new laws, and acts from an insight into new principles. Talent jogs to conclusions to which genius takes giant leaps. Talent accumulates knowledge, and has it packed up in the memory ; genius assimilates it with its own substance, grows with every new accession, and converts knowledge into power. Talent gives out what it has taken in ; genius, what has risen from its unsounded wells of living thought. Talent, in difficult situations, strives to untie knots, which genius instantly cuts with one swift decision. Talent is full of thoughts ; genius, of thought. One has definite acquisitions; the other, indefinite power.

But the most important distinction between the two qualities is this : one, in conception, follows mechanical processes ; the other, vital. Talent feebly conceives objects with the senses and understanding; genius, fusing all its powers together in the alembic of an impassioned imagination, clutches every thing in the concrete, conceives objects as living realities, gives body to spiritual abstractions, and spirit to bodily appearances..."

~Edwin Percy Whipple, excerpted from an 1850 speech:
http://books.google.com/books?id=sCcvVc20xRwC&pg=PA203&lpg=PA203&dq=%22Talent+is+a+cistern;+Genius,+a+fountain%22&source=bl&ots=2jCQzpf7vE&sig=_g0dnqfzqj2I8S9j28Dlrsu0h_Y&hl=en&sa=X&ei=T1sWVLH-KJGcyASQ4IHACQ&ved=0CEUQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=%22Talent%20is%20a%20cistern%3B%20Genius%2C%20a%20fountain%22&f=false

(For the curious, Edwin Percy Whipple and Guy Montrose Whipple (researcher in the field of IQ testing and giftedness) were 6th cousins, once removed, and though they lived comparatively near each other, it is unlikely that they knew each other. Edwin died when Guy was 10 years old.)

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philobiblius

February 2017

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