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Title: Rousseau (Volume 1 and 2)
Author: Morley, John, 1838-1923
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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_All rights reserved_

_First printed in this form 1886_
_Reprinted 1888, 1891, 1896, 1900, 1905_



This work differs from its companion volume in offering something more
like a continuous personal history than was necessary in the case of
such a man as Voltaire, the story of whose life may be found in more
than one English book of repute. Of Rousseau there is, I believe, no
full biographical account in our literature, and even France has nothing
more complete under this head than Musset-Pathay's _Histoire de la Vie
et des Ouvrages de J.J. Rousseau_ (1821). This, though a meritorious
piece of labour, is extremely crude and formless in composition and
arrangement, and the interpreting portions are devoid of interest.

The edition of Rousseau's works to which the references have been made
is that by M. Auguis, in twenty-seven volumes, published in 1825 by
Dalibon. In 1865 M. Streckeisen-Moultou published from the originals,
which had been deposited in the library of Neuchâtel by Du Peyrou, the
letters addressed to Rousseau by various correspondents. These two
interesting volumes, which are entitled _Rousseau, ses Amis et ses
Ennemis_, are mostly referred to under the name of their editor.

_February_, 1873.

       *       *       *       *       *

The second edition in 1878 was revised; some portions were considerably
shortened, and a few additional footnotes inserted. No further changes
have been made in the present edition.

_January_, 1886.




The Revolution                                                1
Rousseau its most direct speculative precursor                2
His distinction among revolutionists                          4
His personality                                               5



Birth and descent                                             8
Predispositions                                              10
First lessons                                                11
At M. Lambercier's                                           15
Early disclosure of sensitive temperament                    19
Return to Geneva                                             20
Two apprenticeships                                          26
Flight from Geneva                                           30
Savoyard proselytisers                                       31
Rousseau sent to Anncey, and thence to Turin                 34
Conversion to Catholicism                                    35
Takes service with Madame de Vercellis                       39
Then with the Count de Gouvon                                42
Returns to vagabondage                                       43
And to Madame de Warens                                      45



Influence of women upon Rousseau                             46
Account of Madame de Warens                                  48
Rousseau takes up his abode with her                         54
His delight in life with her                                 54
The seminarists                                              57
To Lyons                                                     58
Wanderings to Freiburg, Neuchâtel, and elsewhere             60
Through the east of France                                   62
Influence of these wanderings upon him                       67
Chambéri                                                     69
Household of Madame de Warens                                70
Les Charmettes                                               73
Account of his feeling for nature                            79
His intellectual incapacity at this time                     83
Temperament                                                  84
Literary interests, and method                               85
Joyful days with his benefactress                            90
To Montpellier: end of an episode                            92
Dates                                                        94



Tutorship at Lyons                                           95
Goes to Paris in search of fortune                           97
His appearance at this time                                  98
Made secretary to the ambassador at Venice                  100
His journey thither and life there                          103
Return to Paris                                             106
Theresa Le Vasseur                                          107
Character of their union                                    110
Rousseau's conduct towards her                              113
Their later estrangements                                   115
Rousseau's scanty means                                     119
Puts away his five children                                 120
His apologies for the crime                                 122
Their futility                                              126
Attempts to recover the children                            128
Rousseau never married to Theresa                           129
Contrast between outer and inner life                       130



Local academies in France                                   132
Circumstances of the composition of the first Discourse     133
How far the paradox was original                            135
His visions for thirteen years                              136
Summary of the first Discourse                          138-145
Obligations to Montaigne                                    145
And to the Greeks                                           145
Semi-Socratic manner                                        147
Objections to the Discourse                                 148
Ways of stating its positive side                           149
Dangers of exaggerating this positive side                  151
Its excess                                                  152
Second Discourse                                            154
Ideas of the time upon the state of nature                  155
Their influence upon Rousseau                               156
Morelly, as his predecessor                                 156
Summary of the second Discourse                         159-170
Criticism of its method                                     171
Objection from its want of evidence                         172
Other objections to its account of primitive nature         173
Takes uniformity of process for granted                     176
In what the importance of the second Discourse consisted    177
Its protest against the mockery of civilisation             179
The equality of man, how true, and how false                180
This doctrine in France, and in America                     182
Rousseau's Discourses, a reaction against the historic
    method                                                  183
Mably, and socialism                                        184



Influence of Geneva upon Rousseau                           187
Two sides of his temperament                                191
Uncongenial characteristics of Parisian society             191
His associates                                              195
Circumstances of a sudden moral reform                      196
Arising from his violent repugnance for the manners of
    the time                                                202
His assumption of a seeming cynicism                        207
Protests against atheism                                    209
The Village Soothsayer at Fontainebleau                     212
Two anedotes of his moral singularity                       214
Revisits Geneva                                             216
End of Madame de Warens                                     217
Rousseau's re-conversion to Protestantism                   220
The religious opinions then current in Geneva               223
Turretini and other rationalisers                           226
Effect upon Rousseau                                        227
Thinks of taking up his abode in Geneva                     227
Madame d'Epinay offers him the Hermitage                    229
Retires thither against the protests of his friends         231



Distinction between the old and the new anchorite           234
Rousseau's first days at the Hermitage                      235
Rural delirium                                              237
Dislike of society                                          242
Meditates work on Sensitive Morality                        243
Arranges the papers of the Abbé de Saint Pierre             244
His remarks on them                                         246
Violent mental crisis                                       247
First conception of the New Heloïsa                         250
A scene of high morals                                      254
Madame d'Houdetot                                           255
Erotic mania becomes intensified                            256
Interviews with Madame d'Houdetot                           258
Saint Lambert interposes                                    262
Rousseau's letter to Saint Lambert                          264
Its profound falsity                                        265
Saint Lambert's reply                                       267
Final relations with him and with Madame d'Houdetot         268
Sources of Rousseau's irritability                          270
Relations with Diderot                                      273
With Madame d'Epinay                                        276
With Grimm                                                  279
Grimm's natural want of sympathy with Rousseau              282
Madame d'Epinay's journey to Geneva                         284
Occasion of Rousseau's breach with Grimm                    285
And with Madame d'Epinay                                    288
Leaves the Hermitage                                        289



General character of Rousseau's aim in music                291
As composer                                                 292
Contest on the comparative merits of French and Italian
    music                                                   293
Rousseau's Letter on French Music                           293
His scheme of musical notation                              296
Its chief element                                           298
Its practical value                                         299
His mistake                                                 300
Two minor objections                                        300



Position of Voltaire                                        302
General differences between him and Rousseau                303
Rousseau not the profounder of the two                      305
But he had a spiritual element                              305
Their early relations                                       308
Voltaire's poem on the Earthquake of Lisbon                 309
Rousseau's wonder that he should have written it            310
His letter to Voltaire upon it                              311
Points to the advantages of the savage state                312
Reproduces Pope's general position                          313
Not an answer to the position taken by Voltaire             314
Confesses the question insoluble, but still argues          316
Curious close of the letter                                 318
Their subsequent relations                                  319
D'Alembert's article on Geneva                              321
The church and the theatre                                  322
Jeremy Collier: Bossuet                                     323
Rousseau's contention on stage plays                        324
Rude handling of commonplace                                325
The true answer to Rousseau as to theory of dramatic
    morality                                                326
His arguments relatively to Geneva                          327
Their meaning                                               328
Criticism on the Misanthrope                                328
Rousseau's contrast between Paris and an imaginary Geneva   329
Attack on love as a poetic theme                            332
This letter, the mark of his schism from the party of the
    philosophers                                            336


Born                                                     1712
Fled from Geneva                           _March_, 1728
Changes religion at Turin                  _April_,  "
With Madame de Warens, including various
    intervals, until                       _April_, 1740
Goes to Paris with musical schemes                       1741
Secretary at Venice                       _Spring_, 1743

Paris, first as secretary to M. Francueil, then  {       1744
    as composer, and copyist                     {        to
                                                 {       1756
The Hermitage                            _April 9_, 1756
Montmorency                              _Dec. 15_, 1757
Yverdun                                  _June 14_, 1762
Motiers-Travers                          _July 10_, 1762
Isle of St. Peter                          _Sept._, 1765
Strasburg                                   _Nov._,  "
Paris                                   _December_,  "
Arrives in England                       _Jan. 13_, 1766
Leaves Dover                              _May 22_, 1767
Fleury                                      _June_,  "
Trye                                        _July_,  "
Dauphiny                                    _Aug._, 1768
Paris                                       _June_, 1770
Death                                     _July 2_, 1778


Discourse on the Influence of Learning and
    Art                                           PUBLISHED 1750
Discourse on Inequality                               "     1754
Letter to D'Alembert                                  "     1758
New Heloïsa (began 1757, finished in winter
    of 1759-60)                                       "     1761
Social Contract                                       "     1762
Emilius                                               "     1762
Letters from the Mountain                             "     1764
Confessions (written 1766-70)                     {  Pt. I  1781
                                                  {  Pt. II 1788
Rêveries (written 1777-78).

     _Comme dans les étangs assoupis sous les bois,
     Dans plus d'une âme on voit deux choses à la fois:
     Le ciel, qui teint les eaux à peine remuées
     Avec tous ses rayons et toutes ses nueés;
     Et la vase, fond morne, affreux, sombre et dormant,
     Où des reptiles noirs fourmillent vaguement._




Christianity is the name for a great variety of changes which took place
during the first centuries of our era, in men's ways of thinking and
feeling about their spiritual relations to unseen powers, about their
moral relations to one another, about the basis and type of social
union. So the Revolution is now the accepted name for a set of changes
which began faintly to take a definite practical shape first in America,
and then in France, towards the end of the eighteenth century; they had
been directly prepared by a small number of energetic thinkers, whose
speculations represented, as always, the prolongation of some old lines
of thought in obedience to the impulse of new social and intellectual
conditions. While one movement supplied the energy and the principles
which extricated civilisation from the ruins of the Roman empire, the
other supplies the energy and the principles which already once, between
the Seven Years' War and the assembly of the States General, saved
human progress in face of the political fatuity of England and the
political nullity of France; and they are now, amid the distraction of
the various representatives of an obsolete ordering, the only forces to
be trusted at once for multiplying the achievements of human
intelligence stimulated by human sympathy, and for diffusing their
beneficent results with an ampler hand and more far-scattering arm.
Faith in a divine power, devout obedience to its supposed will, hope of
ecstatic, unspeakable reward, these were the springs of the old
movement. Undivided love of our fellows, steadfast faith in human
nature, steadfast search after justice, firm aspiration towards
improvement, and generous contentment in the hope that others may reap
whatever reward may be, these are the springs of the new.

There is no given set of practical maxims agreed to by all members of
the revolutionary schools for achieving the work of release from the
pressure of an antiquated social condition, any more than there is one
set of doctrines and one kind of discipline accepted by all Protestants.
Voltaire was a revolutionist in one sense, Diderot in another, and
Rousseau in a third, just as in the practical order, Lafayette, Danton,
Robespierre, represented three different aspirations and as many
methods. Rousseau was the most directly revolutionary of all the
speculative precursors, and he was the first to apply his mind boldly to
those of the social conditions which the revolution is concerned by one
solution or another to modify. How far his direct influence was
disastrous in consequence of a mischievous method, we shall have to
examine. It was so various that no single answer can comprehend an
exhaustive judgment. His writings produced that glow of enthusiastic
feeling in France, which led to the all-important assistance rendered by
that country to the American colonists in a struggle so momentous for
mankind. It was from his writings that the Americans took the ideas and
the phrases of their great charter, thus uniting the native principles
of their own direct Protestantism with principles that were strictly
derivative from the Protestantism of Geneva. Again, it was his work more
than that of any other one man, that France arose from the deadly decay
which had laid hold of her whole social and political system, and found
that irresistible energy which warded off dissolution within and
partition from without. We shall see, further, that besides being the
first immediately revolutionary thinker in politics, he was the most
stirring of reactionists in religion. His influence formed not only
Robespierre and Paine, but Chateaubriand, not only Jacobinism, but the
Catholicism of the Restoration. Thus he did more than any one else at
once to give direction to the first episodes of revolution, and force to
the first episode of reaction.

There are some teachers whose distinction is neither correct thought,
nor an eye for the exigencies of practical organisation, but simply
depth and fervour of the moral sentiment, bringing with it the
indefinable gift of touching many hearts with love of virtue and the
things of the spirit. The Christian organisations which saved western
society from dissolution owe all to St. Paul, Hildebrand, Luther,
Calvin; but the spiritual life of the west during all these generations
has burnt with the pure flame first lighted by the sublime mystic of the
Galilean hills. Aristotle acquired for men much knowledge and many
instruments for gaining more; but it is Plato, his master, who moves the
soul with love of truth and enthusiasm for excellence. There is peril in
all such leaders of souls, inasmuch as they incline men to substitute
warmth for light, and to be content with aspiration where they need
direction. Yet no movement goes far which does not count one of them in
the number of its chiefs. Rousseau took this place among those who
prepared the first act of that revolutionary drama, whose fifth act is
still dark to us.

At the heart of the Revolution, like a torrid stream flowing
undiscernible amid the waters of a tumbling sea, is a new way of
understanding life. The social changes desired by the various assailants
of the old order are only the expression of a deeper change in moral
idea, and the drift of the new moral idea is to make life simpler. This
in a sense is at the bottom of all great religious and moral movements,
and the Revolution emphatically belongs to the latter class. Like such
movements in the breast of the individual, those which stir an epoch
have their principle in the same craving for disentanglement of life.
This impulse to shake off intricacies is the mark of revolutionary
generations, and it was the starting-point of all Rousseau's mental
habits, and of the work in which they expressed themselves. His mind
moved outwards from this centre, and hence the fact that he dealt
principally with government and education, the two great agencies which,
in an old civilisation with a thousand roots and feelers, surround
external life and internal character with complexity. Simplification of
religion by clearing away the overgrowth of errors, simplification of
social relations by equality, of literature and art by constant return
to nature, of manners by industrious homeliness and thrift,--this is the
revolutionary process and ideal, and this is the secret of Rousseau's
hold over a generation that was lost amid the broken maze of
fallen systems.

       *       *       *       *       *

The personality of Rousseau has most equivocal and repulsive sides. It
has deservedly fared ill in the esteem of the saner and more rational of
those who have judged him, and there is none in the history of famous
men and our spiritual fathers that begat us, who make more constant
demands on the patience or pity of those who study his life. Yet in no
other instance is the common eagerness to condense all predication about
a character into a single unqualified proposition so fatally inadequate.
If it is indispensable that we should be for ever describing, naming,
classifying, at least it is well, in speaking of such a nature as his,
to enlarge the vocabulary beyond the pedantic formulas of unreal ethics,
and to be as sure as we know how to make ourselves, that each of the
sympathies and faculties which together compose our power of spiritual
observation, is in a condition of free and patient energy. Any less open
and liberal method, which limits our sentiments to absolute approval or
disapproval, and fixes the standard either at the balance of common
qualities which constitutes mediocrity, or at the balance of uncommon
qualities which is divinity as in a Shakespeare, must leave in a cloud
of blank incomprehensibleness those singular spirits who come from time
to time to quicken the germs of strange thought and shake the quietness
of the earth.

We may forget much in our story that is grievous or hateful, in
reflecting that if any man now deems a day basely passed in which he has
given no thought to the hard life of garret and hovel, to the forlorn
children and trampled women of wide squalid wildernesses in cities, it
was Rousseau who first in our modern time sounded a new trumpet note for
one more of the great battles of humanity. He makes the poor very proud,
it was truly said. Some of his contemporaries followed the same vein of
thought, as we shall see, and he was only continuing work which others
had prepared. But he alone had the gift of the golden mouth. It was in
Rousseau that polite Europe first hearkened to strange voices and faint
reverberation from out of the vague and cavernous shadow in which the
common people move. Science has to feel the way towards light and
solution, to prepare, to organise. But the race owes something to one
who helped to state the problem, writing up in letters of flame at the
brutal feast of kings and the rich that civilisation is as yet only a
mockery, and did furthermore inspire a generation of men and women with
the stern resolve that they would rather perish than live on in a world
where such things can be.



Jean Jacques Rousseau was born at Geneva, June 28, 1712. He was of old
French stock. His ancestors had removed from Paris to the famous city of
refuge as far back as 1529, a little while before Farel came thither to
establish the principles of the Reformation, and seven years before the
first visit of the more extraordinary man who made Geneva the mother
city of a new interpretation of Christianity, as Rome was the mother
city of the old. Three generations in a direct line separated Jean
Jacques from Didier Rousseau, the son of a Paris bookseller, and the
first emigrant.[1] Thus Protestant tradition in the Rousseau family
dates from the appearance of Protestantism in Europe, and seems to have
exerted the same kind of influence upon them as it did, in conjunction
with the rest of the surrounding circumstances, upon the other citizens
of the ideal state of the Reformation. It is computed by the historians
that out of three thousand families who composed the population of
Geneva towards the end of the seventeenth century, there were hardly
fifty who before the Reformation had acquired the position of
burgess-ship. The curious set of conditions which thus planted a colony
of foreigners in the midst of a free polity, with a new doctrine and
newer discipline, introduced into Europe a fresh type of character and
manners. People declared they could recognise in the men of Geneva
neither French vivacity, nor Italian subtlety and clearness, nor Swiss
gravity. They had a zeal for religion, a vigorous energy in government,
a passion for freedom, a devotion to ingenious industries, which marked
them with a stamp unlike that of any other community.[2] Towards the
close of the seventeenth century some of the old austerity and rudeness
was sensibly modified under the influence of the great neighbouring
monarchy. One striking illustration of this tendency was the rapid
decline of the Savoyard patois in popular use. The movement had not gone
far enough when Rousseau was born, to take away from the manners and
spirit of his country their special quality and individual note.

The mother of Jean Jacques, who seems to have been a simple, cheerful,
and tender woman, was the daughter of a Genevan minister; her maiden
name, Bernard. The birth of her son was fatal to her, and the most
touching and pathetic of all the many shapes of death was the fit
beginning of a life preappointed to nearly unlifting cloud. "I cost my
mother her life," he wrote, "and my birth was the first of my woes."[3]
Destiny thus touches us with magical finger, long before consciousness
awakens to the forces that have been set to work in our personality,
launching us into the universe with country, forefathers, and physical
predispositions, all fixed without choice of ours. Rousseau was born
dying, and though he survived this first crisis by the affectionate care
of one of his father's sisters, yet his constitution remained infirm and

Inborn tendencies, as we perceive on every side, are far from having
unlimited irresistible mastery, if they meet early encounter from some
wise and patient external will. The father of Rousseau was unfortunately
cast in the same mould as his mother, and the child's own morbid
sensibility was stimulated and deepened by the excessive sensibility of
his first companion. Isaac Rousseau, in many of his traits, was a
reversion to an old French type. In all the Genevese there was an
underlying tendency of this kind. "Under a phlegmatic and cool air,"
wrote Rousseau, when warning his countrymen against the inflammatory
effects of the drama, "the Genevese hide an ardent and sensitive
character, that is more easily moved than controlled."[4] And some of
the episodes in their history during the eighteenth century might be
taken for scenes from the turbulent dramas of Paris. But Isaac
Rousseau's restlessness, his eager emotion, his quick and punctilious
sense of personal dignity, his heedlessness of ordered affairs, were not
common in Geneva, fortunately for the stability of her society and the
prosperity of her citizens. This disorder of spirit descended in
modified form to the son; it was inevitable that he should be indirectly
affected by it. Before he was seven years old he had learnt from his
father to indulge a passion for the reading of romances. The child and
the man passed whole nights in a fictitious world, reading to one
another in turn, absorbed by vivid interest in imaginary situations,
until the morning note of the birds recalled them to a sense of the
conditions of more actual life, and made the elder cry out in confusion
that he was the more childish of the two.

The effect of this was to raise passion to a premature exaltation in the
young brain. "I had no idea of real things," he said, "though all the
sentiments were already familiar to me. Nothing had come to me by
conception, everything by sensation. These confused emotions, striking
me one after another, did not warp a reason that I did not yet possess,
but they gradually shaped in me a reason of another cast and temper,
and gave me bizarre and romantic ideas of human life, of which neither
reflection nor experience has ever been able wholly to cure me."[5] Thus
these first lessons, which have such tremendous influence over all that
follow, had the direct and fatal effect in Rousseau's case of deadening
that sense of the actual relations of things to one another in the
objective world, which is the master-key and prime law of sanity.

In time the library of romances came to an end (1719), and Jean Jacques
and his father fell back on the more solid and moderated fiction of
history and biography. The romances had been the possession of the
mother; the more serious books were inherited from the old minister, her
father. Such books as Nani's History of Venice, and Le Sueur's History
of the Church and the Empire, made less impression on the young Rousseau
than the admirable Plutarch; and he used to read to his father during
the hours of work, and read over again to himself during all hours,
those stories of free and indomitable souls which are so proper to
kindle the glow of generous fire. Plutarch was dear to him to the end of
his life; he read him in the late days when he had almost ceased to
read, and he always declared Plutarch to be nearly the only author to
whom he had never gone without profit."[6] "I think I see my father now,"
he wrote when he had begun to make his mark in Paris, "living by the
work of his hands, and nourishing his soul on the sublimest truths. I
see Tacitus, Plutarch, and Grotius, lying before him along with the
tools of his craft. I see at his side a cherished son receiving
instruction from the best of fathers, alas, with but too little
fruit."[7] This did little to implant the needed impressions of the
actual world. Rousseau's first training continued to be in an excessive
degree the exact reverse of our common method; this stirs the
imagination too little, and shuts the young too narrowly within the
strait pen of present and visible reality. The reader of Plutarch at the
age of ten actually conceived himself a Greek or a Roman, and became the
personage whose strokes of constancy and intrepidity transported him
with sympathetic ecstasy, made his eyes sparkle, and raised his voice to
heroic pitch. Listeners were even alarmed one day as he told the tale of
Scaevola at table, to see him imitatively thrust forth his arm over a
hot chafing-dish.[8]

Rousseau had one brother, on whom the spirit of the father came down in
ample measure, just as the sensibility of the mother descended upon Jean
Jacques. He passed through a boyhood of revolt, and finally ran away
into Germany, where he was lost from sight and knowledge of his kinsmen
for ever. Jean Jacques was thus left virtually an only child,[9] and he
commemorates the homely tenderness and care with which his early years
were surrounded. Except in the hours which he passed in reading by the
side of his father, he was always with his aunt, in the self-satisfying
curiosity of childhood watching her at work with the needle and busy
about affairs of the house, or else listening to her with contented
interest, as she sang the simple airs of the common people. The
impression of this kind and cheerful figure was stamped on his memory to
the end; her tone of voice, her dress, the quaint fashion of her hair.
The constant recollection of her shows, among many other signs, how he
cherished that conception of the true unity of a man's life, which
places it in a closely-linked chain of active memories, and which most
of us lose in wasteful dispersion of sentiment and poor fragmentariness
of days. When the years came in which he might well say, I have no
pleasure in them, and after a manhood of distress and suspicion and
diseased sorrows had come to dim those blameless times, he could still
often surprise himself unconsciously humming the tune of one of his
aunt's old songs, with many tears in his eyes.[10]

This affectionate schooling came suddenly to an end. Isaac Rousseau in
the course of a quarrel in which he had involved himself, believed that
he saw unfairness in the operation of the law, for the offender had
kinsfolk in the Great Council. He resolved to leave his country rather
than give way, in circumstances which compromised his personal honour
and the free justice of the republic. So his house was broken up, and
his son was sent to school at the neighbouring village of Bossey (1722),
under the care of a minister, "there to learn along with Latin all the
medley of sorry stuff with which, under the name of education, they
accompany Latin."[11] Rousseau tells us nothing of the course of his
intellectual instruction here, but he marks his two years' sojourn under
the roof of M. Lambercier by two forward steps in that fateful
acquaintance with good and evil, which is so much more important than
literary knowledge. Upon one of these fruits of the tree of nascent
experience, men usually keep strict silence. Rousseau is the only person
that ever lived who proclaimed to the whole world as a part of his own
biography the ignoble circumstances of the birth of sensuality in
boyhood. Nobody else ever asked us to listen while he told of the
playmate with which unwarned youth takes its heedless pleasure, which
waxes and strengthens with years, until the man suddenly awakens to find
the playmate grown into a master, grotesque and foul, whose unclean grip
is not to be shaken off, and who poisons the air with the goatish fume
of the satyr. It is on this side that the unspoken plays so decisive a
part, that most of the spoken seems but as dust in the balance; it is
here that the flesh spreads gross clouds over the firmament of the
spirit. Thinking of it, we flee from talk about the high matters of will
and conscience, of purity of heart and the diviner mind, and hurry to
the physician. Manhood commonly saves itself by its own innate
healthiness, though the decent apron bequeathed to us in the old legend
of the fall, the thick veil of a more than legendary reserve, prevents
us from really measuring the actual waste of delicacy and the finer
forces. Rousseau, most unhappily for himself, lacked this innate
healthiness; he never shook off the demon which would be so ridiculous,
if it did not hide such terrible power. With a moral courage, that it
needs hardly less moral courage in the critic firmly to refrain from
calling cynical or shameless, he has told the whole story of this
lifelong depravation. In the present state of knowledge, which in the
region of the human character the false shamefacedness of science, aided
and abetted by the mutilating hand of religious asceticism, has kept
crude and imperfect, there is nothing very profitable to be said on all
this. When the great art of life has been more systematically conceived
in the long processes of time and endeavour, and when more bold,
ffective, and far-reaching advance has been made in defining those
pathological manifestations which deserve to be seriously studied, as
distinguished from those of a minor sort which are barely worth
registering, then we should know better how to speak, or how to be
silent, in the present most unwelcome instance. As it is, we perhaps do
best in chronicling the fact and passing on. The harmless young are
allowed to play without monition or watching among the deep open graves
of temperament; and Rousseau, telling the tale of his inmost experience,
unlike the physician and the moralist who love decorous surfaces of
things, did not spare himself nor others a glimpse of the ignominies to
which the body condemns its high tenant, the soul.[12]

The second piece of experience which he acquired at Bossey was the
knowledge of injustice and wrongful suffering as things actual and
existent. Circumstances brought him under suspicion of having broken the
teeth of a comb which did not belong to him. He was innocent, and not
even the most terrible punishment could wring from him an untrue
confession of guilt. The root of his constancy was not in an abhorrence
of falsehood, which is exceptional in youth, and for which he takes no
credit, but in a furious and invincible resentment against the violent
pressure that was unjustly put upon him. "Picture a character, timid and
docile in ordinary life, but ardent, impetuous, indomitable in its
passions; a child always governed by the voice of reason, always treated
with equity, gentleness, and consideration, who had not even the idea of
injustice, and who for the first time experiences an injustice so
terrible, from the very people whom he most cherishes and respects! What
a confusion of ideas, what disorder of sentiments, what revolution in
heart, in brain, in every part of his moral and intellectual being!" He
had not learnt, any more than other children, either to put himself in
the place of his elders, or to consider the strength of the apparent
case against him. All that he felt was the rigour of a frightful
chastisement for an offence of which he was innocent. And the
association of ideas was permanent. "This first sentiment of violence
and injustice has remained so deeply engraved in my soul, that all the
ideas relating to it bring my first emotion back to me; and this
sentiment, though only relative to myself in its origin, has taken such
consistency, and become so disengaged from all personal interest, that
my heart is inflamed at the sight or story of any wrongful action, just
as much as if its effect fell on my own person. When I read of the
cruelties of some ferocious tyrant, or the subtle atrocities of some
villain of a priest, I would fain start on the instant to poniard such
wretches, though I were to perish a hundred times for the deed.... This
movement may be natural to me, and I believe it is so; but the profound
recollection of the first injustice I suffered was too long and too fast
bound up with it, not to have strengthened it enormously."[13]

To men who belong to the silent and phlegmatic races like our own, all
this may possibly strike on the ear like a false or strained note. Yet a
tranquil appeal to the real history of one's own strongest impressions
may disclose their roots in facts of childish experience, which
remoteness of time has gradually emptied of the burning colour they once
had. This childish discovery of the existence in his own world of that
injustice which he had only seen through a glass very darkly in the
imaginary world of his reading, was for Rousseau the angry dismissal
from the primitive Eden, which in one shape and at one time or another
overtakes all men. "Here," he says, "was the term of the serenity of my
childish days. From this moment I ceased to enjoy a pure happiness, and
I feel even at this day that the reminiscence of the delights of my
infancy here comes to an end.... Even the country lost in our eyes that
charm of sweetness and simplicity which goes to the heart; it seemed
sombre and deserted, and was as if covered by a veil, hiding its
beauties from our sight. We no longer tended our little gardens, our
plants, our flowers. We went no more lightly to scratch the earth,
shouting for joy as we discovered the germ of the seed we had sown."

Whatever may be the degree of literal truth in the Confessions, the
whole course of Rousseau's life forbids us to pass this passionate
description by as overcharged or exaggerated. We are conscious in it of
a constitutional infirmity. We perceive an absence of healthy power of
reaction against moral shock. Such shocks are experienced in many
unavoidable forms by all save the dullest natures, when they first come
into contact with the sharp tooth of outer circumstance. Indeed, a man
must be either miraculously happy in his experiences, or exceptionally
obtuse in observing and feeling, or else be the creature of base and
cynical ideals, if life does not to the end continue to bring many a
repetition of that first day of incredulous bewilderment. But the urgent
demands for material activity quickly recall the mass of men to normal
relations with their fellows and the outer world. A vehement objective
temperament, like Voltaire's, is instantly roused by one of these
penetrative stimuli into angry and tenacious resistance. A proud and
collected soul, like Goethe's, loftily follows its own inner aims,
without taking any heed of the perturbations that arise from want of
self-collection in a world still spelling its rudiments. A sensitive and
depressed spirit, like Rousseau's or Cowper's, finds itself without any
of these reacting kinds of force, and the first stroke of cruelty or
oppression is the going out of a divine light.

Leaving Bossey, Rousseau returned to Geneva, and passed two or three
years with his uncle, losing his time for the most part, but learning
something of drawing and something of Euclid, for the former of which he
showed special inclination.[14] It was a question whether he was to be
made a watchmaker, a lawyer, or a minister. His own preference, as his
after-life might have led us to suppose, was in favour of the last of
the three; "for I thought it a fine thing," he says, "to preach." The
uncle was a man of pleasure, and as often happens in such
circumstances, his love of pleasure had the effect of turning his wife
into a pietist. Their son was Rousseau's constant comrade. "Our
friendship filled our hearts so amply, that if we were only together,
the simplest amusements were a delight." They made kites, cages, bows
and arrows, drums, houses; they spoiled the tools of their grandfather,
in trying to make watches like him. In the same cheerful imitative
spirit, which is the main feature in childhood when it is not disturbed
by excess of literary teaching, after Geneva had been visited by an
Italian showman with a troop of marionettes, they made puppets and
composed comedies for them; and when one day the uncle read aloud an
elegant sermon, they abandoned their comedies, and turned with blithe
energy to exhortation. They had glimpses of the rougher side of life in
the biting mockeries of some schoolboys of the neighbourhood. These
ended in appeal to the god of youthful war, who pronounced so plainly
for the bigger battalions, that the release of their enemies from school
was the signal for the quick retreat of our pair within doors. All this
is an old story in every biography written or unwritten. It seldom fails
to touch us, either in the way of sympathetic reminiscence, or if life
should have gone somewhat too hardly with a man, then in the way of
irony, which is not less real and poetic than the eironeia of a Greek
dramatist, for being concerned with more unheroic creatures.

And this rough play of the streets always seemed to Rousseau a manlier
schooling than the effeminate tendencies which he thought he noticed in
Genevese youth in after years. "In my time," he says admiringly,
"children were brought up in rustic fashion and had no complexion to
keep.... Timid and modest before the old, they were bold, haughty,
combative among themselves; they had no curled locks to be careful of;
they defied one another at wrestling, running, boxing. They returned
home sweating, out of breath, torn; they were true blackguards, if you
will, but they made men who have zeal in their heart to serve their
country and blood to shed for her. May we be able to say as much one day
of our fine little gentlemen, and may these men at fifteen not turn out
children at thirty."[15]

Two incidents of this period remain to us, described in Rousseau's own
words, and as they reveal a certain sweetness in which his life
unhappily did not afterwards greatly abound, it may help our equitable
balance of impressions about him to reproduce them. Every Sunday he used
to spend the day at Pâquis at Mr. Fazy's, who had married one of his
aunts, and who carried on the production of printed calicoes. "One day I
was in the drying-room, watching the rollers of the hot press; their
brightness pleased my eye; I was tempted to lay my fingers on them, and
I was moving them up and down with much satisfaction along the smooth
cylinder, when young Fazy placed himself in the wheel and gave it a
half-quarter turn so adroitly, that I had just the ends of my two
longest fingers caught, but this was enough to crush the tips and tear
the nails. I raised a piercing cry; Fazy instantly turned back the
wheel, and the blood gushed from my fingers. In the extremity of
consternation he hastened to me, embraced me, and besought me to cease
my cries, or he would be undone. In the height of my own pain, I was
touched by his; I instantly fell silent, we ran to the pond, where he
helped me to wash my fingers and to staunch the blood with moss. He
entreated me with tears not to accuse him; I promised him that I would
not, and Ï kept my word so well that twenty years after no one knew the
origin of the scar. I was kept in bed for more than three weeks, and for
more than two months was unable to use my hand. But I persisted that a
large stone had fallen and crushed my fingers."[16]

The other story is of the same tenour, though there is a new touch of
sensibility in its concluding words. "I was playing at ball at Plain
Palais, with one of my comrades named Plince. We began to quarrel over
the game; we fought, and in the fight he dealt me on my bare head a
stroke so well directed, that with a stronger arm it would have dashed
my brains out. I fell to the ground, and there never was agitation like
that of this poor lad, as he saw the blood in my hair. He thought he had
killed me. He threw himself upon me, and clasped me eagerly in his arms,
while his tears poured down his cheeks, and he uttered shrill cries. I
returned his embrace with all my force, weeping like him, in a state of
confused emotion which was not without a kind of sweetness. Then he
tried to stop the blood which kept flowing, and seeing that our two
handkerchiefs were not enough, he dragged me off to his mother's; she
had a small garden hard by. The good woman nearly fell sick at sight of
me in this condition; she kept strength enough to dress my wound, and
after bathing it well, she applied flower-de-luce macerated in brandy,
an excellent remedy much used in our country. Her tears and those of her
son, went to my very heart, so that I looked upon them for a long while
as my mother and my brother."[17]

If it were enough that our early instincts should be thus amiable and
easy, then doubtless the dismal sloughs in which men and women lie
floundering would occupy a very much more insignificant space in the
field of human experience. The problem, as we know, lies in the
discipline of this primitive goodness. For character in a state of
society is not a tree that grows into uprightness by the law of its own
strength, though an adorable instance here and there of rectitude and
moral loveliness that seem intuitive may sometimes tempt us into a
moment's belief in a contrary doctrine. In Rousseau's case this serious
problem was never solved; there was no deliberate preparation of his
impulses, prepossessions, notions; no foresight on the part of elders,
and no gradual acclimatisation of a sensitive and ardent nature in the
fixed principles which are essential to right conduct in the frigid zone
of our relations with other people. It was one of the most elementary of
Rousseau's many perverse and mischievous contentions, that it is their
education by the older which ruins or wastes the abundant capacity for
virtue that subsists naturally in the young. His mind seems never to
have sought much more deeply for proof of this, than the fact that he
himself was innocent and happy so long as he was allowed to follow
without disturbance the easy simple proclivities of his own temperament.
Circumstances were not indulgent enough to leave the experiment to
complete itself within these very rudimentary conditions.

Rousseau had been surrounded, as he is always careful to protest, with a
religious atmosphere. His father, though a man of pleasure, was
possessed also not only of probity but of religion as well. His three
aunts were all in their degrees gracious and devout. M. Lambercier at
Bossey, "although Churchman and preacher," was still a sincere believer
and nearly as good in act as in word. His inculcation of religion was so
hearty, so discreet, so reasonable, that his pupils, far from being
wearied by the sermon, never came away without being touched inwardly
and stirred to make virtuous resolutions. With his Aunt Bernard devotion
was rather more tiresome, because she made a business of it.[18] It
would be a distinct error to suppose that all this counted for nothing,
for let us remember that we are now engaged with the youth of the one
great religious writer of France in the eighteenth century. When after
many years Rousseau's character hardened, the influences which had
surrounded his boyhood came out in their full force and the historian of
opinion soon notices in his spirit and work a something which had no
counterpart in the spirit and work of men who had been trained in Jesuit
colleges. At the first outset, however, every trace of religious
sentiment was obliterated from sight, and he was left unprotected
against the shocks of the world and the flesh.

At the age of eleven Jean Jacques was sent into a notary's office, but
that respectable calling struck him in the same repulsive and
insufferable way in which it has struck many other boys of genius in all
countries. Contrary to the usual rule, he did not rebel, but was
ignominiously dismissed by his master[19] for dulness and inaptitude;
his fellow-clerks pronounced him stupid and incompetent past hope. He
was next apprenticed to an engraver,[20] a rough and violent man, who
seems to have instantly plunged the boy into a demoralised stupefaction.
The reality of contact with this coarse nature benumbed as by touch of
torpedo the whole being of a youth who had hitherto lived on pure
sensations and among those ideas which are nearest to sensations. There
were no longer heroic Romans in Rousseau's universe. "The vilest
tastes, the meanest bits of rascality, succeeded to my simple
amusements, without even leaving the least idea behind. I must, in spite
of the worthiest education, have had a strong tendency to degenerate."
The truth was that he had never had any education in its veritable
sense, as the process, on its negative side, of counteracting the
inborn. There are two kinds, or perhaps we should more correctly say two
degrees, of the constitution in which the reflective part is weak. There
are the men who live on sensation, but who do so lustily, with a certain
fulness of blood and active energy of muscle. There are others who do so
passively, not searching for excitement, but acquiescing. The former by
their sheer force and plenitude of vitality may, even in a world where
reflection is a first condition, still go far. The latter succumb, and
as reflection does nothing for them, and as their sensations in such a
world bring them few blandishments, they are tolerably early surrounded
with a self-diffusing atmosphere of misery. Rousseau had none of this
energy which makes oppression bracing. For a time he sank.

It would be a mistake to let the story of the Confessions carry us into
exaggerations. The brutality of his master and the harshness of his life
led him to nothing very criminal, but only to wrong acts which are
despicable by their meanness, rather than in any sense atrocious. He
told lies as readily as the truth. He pilfered things to eat. He
cunningly found a means of opening his master's private cabinet, and of
using his master's best instruments by stealth. He wasted his time in
idle and capricious tasks. When the man, with all the ravity of an adult
moralist, describes these misdeeds of the boy, they assume a certain
ugliness of mien, and excites a strong disgust which, when the misdeeds
themselves are before us in actual life, we experience in a far more
considerate form. The effect of calm, retrospective avowal is to create
a kind of feeling which is essentially unlike our feeling at what is
actually avowed. Still it is clear that his unlucky career as apprentice
brought out in Rousseau slyness, greediness, slovenliness,
untruthfulness, and the whole ragged regiment of the squalider vices.
The evil of his temperament now and always was of the dull smouldering
kind, seldom breaking out into active flame. There is a certain
sordidness in the scene. You may complain that the details which
Rousseau gives of his youthful days are insipid. Yet such things are the
web and stuff of life, and these days of transition from childhood to
full manhood in every case mark a crisis. These insipidities test the
education of home and family, and they presage definitely what is to
come. The roots of character, good or bad, are shown for this short
space, and they remain unchanged, though most people learn from their
fellows the decent and useful art of covering them over with a little
dust, in the shape of accepted phrases and routine customs and a silence
which is not oblivion.

After a time the character of Jean Jacques was absolutely broken down.
He says little of the blows with which his offences were punished by his
master, but he says enough to enable us to discern that they were
terrible to him. This cowardice, if we choose to give the name to an
overmastering physical horror, at length brought his apprentice days to
an end. He was now in his sixteenth year. He was dragged by his comrades
into sports for which he had little inclination, though he admits that
once engaged in them he displayed an impetuosity that carried him beyond
the others. Such pastimes naturally led them beyond the city walls, and
on two occasions Rousseau found the gates closed on his return. His
master when he presented himself in the morning gave him such greeting
as we may imagine, and held out things beyond imagining as penalty for a
second sin in this kind. The occasion came, as, alas, it nearly always
does. "Half a league from the town," says Rousseau, "I hear the retreat
sounded, and redouble my pace; I hear the drum beat, and run at the top
of my speed: I arrive out of breath, bathed in sweat; my heart beats
violently, I see from a distance the soldiers at their post, and call
out with choking voice. It was too late. Twenty paces from the outpost
sentinel, I saw the first bridge rising. I shuddered, as I watched those
terrible horns, sinister and fatal augury of the inevitable lot which
that moment was opening for me."[21]

In manhood when we have the resource of our own will to fall back upon,
we underestimate the unsurpassed horror and anguish of such moments as
this in youth, when we know only the will of others, and that this will
is inexorable against us. Rousseau dared not expose himself to the
fulfilment of his master's menace, and he ran away (1728). But for this,
wrote the unhappy man long years after, "I should have passed, in the
bosom of my religion, of my native land, of my family, and my friends, a
mild and peaceful life, such as my character required, in the uniformity
of work which suited my taste, and of a society after my heart. I should
have been a good Christian, good citizen, good father of a family, good
friend, good craftsman, good man in all. I should have been happy in my
condition, perhaps I might have honoured it; and after living a life
obscure and simple, but even and gentle, I should have died peacefully
in the midst of my own people. Soon forgotten, I should at any rate have
been regretted as long as any memory of me was left."[22]

As a man knows nothing about the secrets of his own individual
organisation, this illusory mapping out of a supposed Possible need
seldom be suspected of the smallest insincerity. The poor madman who
declares that he is a king kept out of his rights only moves our pity,
and we perhaps owe pity no less to those in all the various stages of
aberration uncertificated by surgeons, down to the very edge of most
respectable sanity, who accuse the injustice of men of keeping them out
of this or that kingdom, of which in truth their own composition
finally disinherited them at the moment when they were conceived in a
mother's womb. The first of the famous Five Propositions of Jansen,
which were a stumbling-block to popes and to the philosophy of the
eighteenth-century foolishness, put this clear and permanent truth into
a mystic and perishable formula, to the effect that there are some
commandments of God which righteous and good men are absolutely unable
to obey, though ever so disposed to do them, and God does not give them
so much grace that they are able to observe them.

If Rousseau's sensations in the evening were those of terror, the day
and its prospect of boundless adventures soon turned them into entire
delight. The whole world was before him, and all the old conceptions of
romance were instantly revived by the supposed nearness of their
realisation. He roamed for two or three days among the villages in the
neighbourhood of Geneva, finding such hospitality as he needed in the
cottages of friendly peasants. Before long his wanderings brought him to
the end of the territory of the little republic. Here he found himself
in the domain of Savoy, where dukes and lords had for ages been the
traditional foes of the freedom and the faith of Geneva, Rousseau came
to the village of Confignon, and the name of the priest of Confignon
recalled one of the most embittered incidents of the old feud. This feud
had come to take new forms; instead of midnight expeditions to scale the
city walls, the descendants of the Savoyard marauders of the sixteenth
century were now intent with equivocal good will on rescuing the souls
of the descendants of their old enemies from deadly heresy. At this time
a systematic struggle was going on between the priests of Savoy and the
ministers of Geneva, the former using every effort to procure the
conversion of any Protestant on whom they could lay hands.[23] As it
happened, the priest of Confignon was one of the most active in this
good work.[24] He made the young Rousseau welcome, spoke to him of the
heresies of Geneva and of the authority of the holy Church, and gave him
some dinner. He could hardly have had a more easy convert, for the
nature with which he had to deal was now swept and garnished, ready for
the entrance of all devils or gods. The dinner went for much. "I was too
good a guest," writes Rousseau in one of his few passages of humour, "to
be a good theologian, and his Frangi wine, which struck me as excellent,
was such a triumphant argument on his side, that I should have blushed
to oppose so capital a host."[25] So it was agreed that he should be put
in a way to be further instructed of these matters. We may accept
Rousseau's assurance that he was not exactly a hypocrite in this rapid
complaisance. He admits that any one who should have seen the artifices
to which he resorted, might have thought him very false. But, he
argues, "flattery, or rather concession, is not always a vice; it is
oftener a virtue, especially in the young. The kindness with which a man
receives us, attaches us to him; it is not to make a fool of him that we
give way, but to avoid displeasing him, and not to return him evil for
good." He never really meant to change his religion; his fault was like
the coquetting of decent women, who sometimes, to gain their ends,
without permitting anything or promising anything, lead men to hope more
than they mean to hold good.[26] Thereupon follow some austere
reflections on the priest, who ought to have sent him back to his
friends; and there are strictures even upon the ministers of all
dogmatic religions, in which the essential thing is not to do but to
believe; their priests therefore, provided that they can convert a man
to their faith, are wholly indifferent alike as to his worth and his
worldly interests. All this is most just; the occasion for such a strain
of remark, though so apposite on one side, is hardly well chosen to
impress us. We wonder, as we watch the boy complacently hoodwinking his
entertainer, what has become of the Roman severity of a few months back.
This nervous eagerness to please, however, was the complementary element
of a character of vague ambition, and it was backed by a stealthy
consciousness of intellectual superiority, which perhaps did something,
though poorly enough, to make such ignominy less deeply degrading.

The die was cast. M. Pontverre despatched his brand plucked from the
burning to a certain Madame de Warens, a lady living at Annecy, and
counted zealous for the cause of the Church. In an interview whose
minutest circumstances remained for ever stamped in his mind (March 21,
1728), Rousseau exchanged his first words with this singular personage,
whose name and character he has covered with doubtful renown. He
expected to find some gray and wrinkled woman, saving a little remnant
of days in good works. Instead of this, there turned round upon him a
person not more than eight-and-twenty years old, with gentle caressing
air, a fascinating smile, a tender eye. Madame de Warens read the
letters he brought, and entertained their bearer cheerfully. It was
decided after consultation that the heretic should be sent to a
monastery at Turin, where he might be brought over in form to the true
Church. At the monastery not only would the spiritual question of faith
and the soul be dealt with, but at the same time the material problem of
shelter and subsistence for the body would be solved likewise. Elated
with vanity at the thought of seeing before any of his comrades the
great land of promise beyond the mountains, heedless of those whom he
had left, and heedless of the future before him and the object which he
was about, the young outcast made his journey over the Alps in all
possible lightness of heart. "Seeing country is an allurement which
hardly any Genevese can ever resist. Everything that met my eye seemed
the guarantee of my approaching happiness. In the houses I imagined
rustic festivals; in the fields, joyful sports; along the streams,
bathing and fishing; on the trees, delicious fruits; under their shade,
voluptuous interviews; on the mountains, pails of milk and cream, a
charming idleness, peace, simplicity, the delight of going forward
without knowing whither."[27] He might justly choose out this interval
as more perfectly free from care or anxiety than any other of his life.
It was the first of the too rare occasions when his usually passive
sensuousness was stung by novelty and hope into an active energy.

The seven or eight days of the journey came to an end, and the youth
found himself at Turin without money or clothes, an inmate of a dreary
monastery, among some of the very basest and foulest of mankind, who
pass their time in going from one monastery to another through Spain and
Italy, professing themselves Jews or Moors for the sake of being
supported while the process of their conversion was going slowly
forward. At the Hospice of the Catechumens the work of his conversion
was begun in such earnest as the insincerity of at least one of the
parties to it might allow. It is needless to enter into the
circumstances of Rousseau's conversion to Catholicism. The mischievous
zeal for theological proselytising has led to thousands of such hollow
and degrading performances, but it may safely be said that none of them
was ever hollower than this. Rousseau avows that he had been brought up
in the heartiest abhorrence of the older church, and that he never lost
this abhorrence. He fully explains that he accepted the arguments with
which he was not very energetically plied, simply because he could not
bear the idea of returning to Geneva, and he saw no other way out of his
present destitute condition. "I could not dissemble from myself that the
holy deed I was about to do, was at the bottom the action of a bandit."
"The sophism which destroyed me," he says in one of those eloquent
pieces of moralising, which bring ignoble action into a relief that
exaggerates our condemnation, "is that of most men, who complain of lack
of strength when it is already too late for them to use it. It is only
through our own fault that virtue costs us anything; if we could be
always sage, we should rarely feel the need of being virtuous. But
inclinations that might be easily overcome, drag us on without
resistance; we yield to light temptations of which we despise the
hazard. Insensibly we fall into perilous situations, against which we
could easily have shielded ourselves, but from which we can afterwards
only make a way out by heroic efforts that stupefy us, and so we sink
into the abyss, crying aloud to God, Why hast thou made me so weak? But
in spite of ourselves, God gives answer to our conscience, 'I made thee
too weak to come out from the pit, because I made thee strong enough to
avoid falling into it.'"[28] So the hopeful convert did fall in, not as
happens to the pious soul "too hot for certainties in this our life,"
to find rest in liberty of private judgment and an open Bible, but
simply as a means of getting food, clothing, and shelter.[29] The boy
was clever enough to make some show of resistance, and he turned to good
use for this purpose the knowledge of Church history and the great
Reformation controversy which he had picked up at M. Lambercier's. He
was careful not to carry things too far, and exactly nine days after his
admission into the Hospice, he "abjured the errors of the sect."[30] Two
days after that he was publicly received into the kindly bosom of the
true Church with all solemnity, to the high edification of the devout of
Turin, who marked their interest in the regenerate soul by contributions
to the extent of twenty francs in small money.

With that sum and formal good wishes the fathers of the Hospice of the
Catechumens thrust him out of their doors into the broad world. The
youth who had begun the day with dreams of palaces, found himself at
night sleeping in a den where he paid a halfpenny for the privilege of
resting in the same room with the rude woman who kept the house, her
husband, her five or six children, and various other lodgers. This rough
awakening produced no consciousness of hardship in a nature which,
beneath all fantastic dreams, always remained true to its first sympathy
with the homely lives of the poor. The woman of the house swore like a
carter, and was always dishevelled and disorderly: this did not prevent
Rousseau from recognising her kindness of heart and her staunch
readiness to befriend. He passed his days in wandering about the streets
of Turin, seeing the wonders of a capital, and expecting some adventure
that should raise him to unknown heights. He went regularly to mass,
watched the pomp of the court, and counted upon stirring a passion in
the breast of a princess. À more important circumstance was the effect
of the mass in awakening in his own breast his latent passion for music;
a passion so strong that the poorest instrument, if it were only in
tune, never failed to give him the liveliest pleasure. The king of
Sardinia was believed to have the best performers in Europe; less than
that was enough to quicken the musical susceptibility which is perhaps
an invariable element in the most completely sensuous natures.

When the end of the twenty francs began to seem a thing possible, he
tried to get work as an engraver. A young woman in a shop took pity on
him, gave him work and food, and perhaps permitted him to make dumb and
grovelling love to her, until her husband returned home and drove her
client away from the door with threats and the waving of a wand not
magical.[31] Rousseau's self-love sought an explanation in the natural
fury of an Italian husband's jealousy; but we need hardly ask for any
other cause than a shopkeeper's reasonable objection to vagabonds.

The next step of this youth, who was always dreaming of the love of
princesses, was to accept with just thankfulness the position of lackey
or footboy in the household of a widow. With Madame de Vercellis he
passed three months, and at the end of that time she died. His stay here
was marked by an incident that has filled many pages with stormful
discussion. When Madame de Vercellis died, a piece of old rose-coloured
ribbon was missing; Rousseau had stolen it, and it was found in his
possession. They asked him whence he had taken it. He replied that it
had been given to him by Marion, a young and comely maid in the house.
In her presence and before the whole household he repeated his false
story, and clung to it with a bitter effrontery that we may well call
diabolic, remembering how the nervous terror of punishment and exposure
sinks the angel in man. Our phrase, want of moral courage, really
denotes in the young an excruciating physical struggle, often so keen
that the victim clutches after liberation with the spontaneous tenacity
and cruelty of a creature wrecked in mastering waters. Undisciplined
sensations constitute egoism in the most ruthless of its shapes, and at
this epoch, owing either to the brutalities which surrounded his
apprentice life at Geneva, or to that rapid tendency towards
degeneration which he suspected in his own character, Rousseau was the
slave of sensations which stained his days with baseness. "Never," he
says, in his account of this hateful action, "was wickedness further
from me than at this cruel moment; and when I accused the poor girl, it
is contradictory and yet it is true that my affection for her was the
cause of what I did. She was present to my mind, and I threw the blame
from myself on to the first object that presented itself. When I saw her
appear my heart was torn, but the presence of so many people was too
strong for my remorse. I feared punishment very little; I only feared
disgrace, but I feared that more than death, more than crime, more than
anything in the world. I would fain have buried myself in the depths of
the earth; invincible shame prevailed over all, shame alone caused my
effrontery, and the more criminal I became, the more intrepid was I made
by the fright of confessing it. I could see nothing but the horror of
being recognised and declared publicly to my face a thief, liar, and
traducer."[32] When he says that he feared punishment little, his
analysis of his mind is most likely wrong, for nothing is clearer than
that a dread of punishment in any physical form was a peculiarly strong
feeling with him at this time. However that may have been, the same
over-excited imagination which put every sense on the alarm and led him
into so abominable a misdemeanour, brought its own penalties. It led him
to conceive a long train of ruin as having befallen Marion in
consequence of his calumny against her, and this dreadful thought
haunted him to the end of his life. In the long sleepless nights he
thought he saw the unhappy girl coming to reproach him with a crime that
seemed as fresh to him as if it had been perpetrated the day before.[33]
Thus the same brooding memory which brought back to him the sweet pain
of his gentle kinswoman's household melody, preserved the darker side of
his history with equal fidelity and no less perfect continuousness.
Rousseau expresses a hope and belief that this burning remorse would
serve as expiation for his fault; as if expiation for the destruction of
another soul could be anything but a fine name for self-absolution. We
may, however, charitably and reasonably think that the possible
consequences of his fault to the unfortunate Marion were not actual, but
were as much a hallucination as the midnight visits of her reproachful
spirit. Indeed, we are hardly condoning evil, in suggesting that the
whole story from its beginning is marked with exaggeration, and that we
who have our own lives to lead shall find little help in criticising at
further length the exact heinousness of the ignoble falsehood of a boy
who happened to grow up into a man of genius.[34]

After an interval of six weeks, which were passed in the garret or
cellar of his rough patroness with kind heart and ungentle tongue,
Rousseau again found himself a lackey in the house of a Piedmontese
person of quality. This new master, the Count of Gouvon, treated him
with a certain unusual considerateness, which may perhaps make us doubt
the narrative. His son condescended to teach the youth Latin, and
Rousseau presumed to entertain a passion for one of the daughters of the
house, to whom he paid silent homage in the odd shape of attending to
her wants at table with special solicitude. In this situation he had, or
at least he supposed that he had, an excellent chance of ultimate
advancement. But advancement here or elsewhere means a measure of
stability, and Rousseau's temperament in his youth was the archtype of
the mutable. An old comrade from Geneva visited him,[35] and as almost
any incident is stimulating enough to fire the restlessness of
imaginative youth, the gratitude which he professed to the Count of
Gouvon and his family, the prudence with which he marked his prospects,
the industry with which he profited by opportunity, all faded quickly
into mere dead and disembodied names of virtues. His imagination again
went over the journey across the mountains; the fields, the woods, the
streams, began to absorb his whole life. He recalled with delicious
satisfaction how charming the journey had seemed to him, and thought how
far more charming it would be in the society of a comrade of his own age
and taste, without duty, or constraint, or obligation to go or stay
other than as it might please them. "It would be madness to sacrifice
such a piece of good fortune to projects of ambition, which were slow,
difficult, doubtful of execution, and which, even if they should one day
be realised, were not with all their glory worth a quarter of an hour of
true pleasure and freedom in youth."[36]

On these high principles he neglected his duties so recklessly that he
was dismissed from his situation, and he and his comrade began their
homeward wanderings with more than apostolic heedlessness as to what
they should eat or wherewithal they should be clothed. They had a toy
fountain; they hoped that in return for the amusement to be conferred by
this wonder they should receive all that they might need. Their hopes
were not fulfilled. The exhibition of the toy fountain did not excuse
them from their reckoning. Before long it was accidentally broken, and
to their secret satisfaction, for it had lost its novelty. Their naked,
vagrancy was thus undisguised. They made their way by some means or
other across the mountains, and their enjoyment of vagabondage was
undisturbed by any thought of a future. "To understand my delirium at
this moment," Rousseau says, in words which shed much light on darker
parts of his history than fits of vagrancy, "it is necessary to know to
what a degree my heart is subject to get aflame with the smallest
things, and with what force it plunges into the imagination of the
object that attracts it, vain as that object may be. The most grotesque,
the most childish, the maddest schemes come to caress my favourite idea,
and to show me the reasonableness of surrendering myself to it."[37] It
was this deep internal vehemence which distinguished Rousseau all
through his life from the commonplace type of social revolter. A vagrant
sensuous temperament, strangely compounded with Genevese austerity; an
ardent and fantastic imagination, incongruously shot with threads of
firm reason; too little conscience and too much; a monstrous and
diseased love of self, intertwined with a sincere compassion and keen
interest for the great fellowship of his brothers; a wild dreaming of
dreams that were made to look like sanity by the close and specious
connection between conclusions and premisses, though the premisses
happened to have the fault of being profoundly unreal:--this was the
type of character that lay unfolded in the youth who, towards the autumn
of 1729, reached Annecy, penniless and ragged, throwing himself once
more on the charity of the patroness who had given him shelter eighteen
months before. Few figures in the world at that time were less likely to
conciliate the favour or excite the interest of an observer, who had not
studied the hidden convolutions of human character deeply enough to know
that a boy of eighteen may be sly, sensual, restless, dreamy, and yet
have it in him to say things one day which may help to plunge a world
into conflagration.


[1] Here is the line:--

Didier Rousseau. | Jean | ----------------------- | | David. Noah. | |
Isaac (b. 1680-5, d. 1745-7). Jean François. | | | -------------- | |
| JEAN JACQUES. Jean. Theodore.

(_Musset-Pathay_, ii. 283.)

[2] Picot's _Hist. de Genève_, iii. 114.

[3] _Conf._, i. 7.

[4] _Lettre à D'Alembert_, p. 187. Also _Nouv. Hél._, VI. v. 239.

[5] _Conf._, i. 9. Also Second Letter to M. de Malesherbes, p. 356.

[6] _Rêveries_, iv. p. 189. "My master and counsellor, Plutarch," he
says, when he lends a volume to Madame d'Epinay in 1756. _Corr._, i.

[7] Dedication of the _Discours sur l'Origine de l'Inégalité_, p. 201.
(June, 1754.)

[8] _Conf._, i. 1.

[9] _Ib_, i. 12.

[10] The tenacity of this grateful recollection is shown in letters to
her (Madame Gonceru)--one in 1754 (_Corr._, i. 204), another as late
as 1770 (vi. 129), and a third in 1762 (_Oeuvr. et Corr. Inéd._, 392).

[11] _Conf._, i. 17-32.

[12] See also _Conf._, i. 43; iii. 185; vii. 73; xii. 188, _n._ 2.

[13] _Conf._, i. 27-31.

[14] _Conf._, i. 38-47.

[15] _Lettre à D'Alembert_(1758), 178, 179.

[16] _Rêveries_, iv. 211, 212.

[17] _Conf._ 212, 213.

[18] _Conf._, ii. 102, 103.

[19] M. Masseron.

[20] M. Ducommun.

[21] _Conf._, i. 69.

[22] _Conf._, i. 72.

[23] J. Gaberel's _Histoire de l'Église de Genève_ (Geneva, 1853-62),
vol. iii. p. 285.

[24] There is a minute in the register of the company of ministers, to
the effect that the Sieur de Pontverre "is attracting many young men
from this town, and changing their religion, and that the public ought
to be warned." (Gaberel, iii. 224.)

[25] _Conf._, ii. 76.

[26] _Conf._, ii. 77.

[27] _Conf._, ii. 90-97.

[28] _Conf._, ii. 107

[29] See _Émile_, iv. 124, 125, where the youth who was born a
Calvinist, finding himself a stranger in a strange land, without
resource, "changed his religion to get bread."

[30] In the _Confessions_ (ii. 115) he has grace enough to make the
period a month; but the extract from the register of his baptism
(Gaberel's _Hist. de l'Église de Genève_, iii. 224), which has been
recently published, shows that this is untrue: "Jean Jacques Rousseau,
de Genève (Calviniste), entré à l'hospice à l'âge de 16 ans, le 12
avril, 1728. Abjura les erreurs de la secte le 21; et le 23 du même
mois lui fut administré le saint baptême, ayant pour parrain le sieur
André Ferrero et pour marraine Françoise Christine Rora (ou Rovea)."

A little further on (p. 119) he speaks of having been shut up "for two
months," but this is not true even on his own showing.

[31] Madame Basile. _Conf._, ii. 121-135.

[32] _Conf._ ii. ad finem.

[33] _Conf._, ii. 144.

[34] Another version of the story mentioned by Musset-Pathay (i. 7)
makes the object of the theft a diamond, but there is really no
evidence in the matter beyond that given by Rousseau himself.

[35] Bacle, by name.

[36] _Conf._, iii. 168.

[37] _Conf._, iii. 170. A slightly idealised account of the situation
is given in _Émile_, Bk. iv. 125.



The commonplace theory which the world takes for granted as to the
relations of the sexes, makes the woman ever crave the power and
guidance of her physically stronger mate. Even if this be a true account
of the normal state, there is at any rate a kind of temperament among
the many types of men, in which it seems as if the elements of character
remain mere futile and dispersive particles, until compelled into unity
and organisation by the creative shock of feminine influence. There are
men, famous or obscure, whose lives might be divided into a number of
epochs, each defined and presided over by the influence of a woman. For
the inconstant such a calendar contains many divisions, for the constant
it is brief and simple; for both alike it marks the great decisive
phases through which character has moved.

Rousseau's temperament was deeply marked by this special sort of
susceptibility in one of its least agreeable forms. His sentiment was
neither robustly and courageously animal, nor was it an intellectual
demand for the bright and vivacious sympathies in which women sometimes
excel. It had neither bold virility, nor that sociable energy which
makes close emotional companionship an essential condition of freedom of
faculty and completeness of work. There is a certain close and sickly
air round all his dealings with women and all his feeling for them. We
seem to move not in the star-like radiance of love, nor even in the
fiery flames of lust, but among the humid heats of some unknown abode of
things not wholesome or manly. "I know a sentiment," he writes, "which
is perhaps less impetuous than love, but a thousand times more
delicious, which sometimes is joined to love, and which is very often
apart from it. Nor is this sentiment friendship only; it is more
voluptuous, more tender; I do not believe that any one of the same sex
could be its object; at least I have been a friend, if ever man was, and
I never felt this about any of my friends."[38] He admits that he can
only describe this sentiment by its effects; but our lives are mostly
ruled by elements that defy definition, and in Rousseau's case the
sentiment which he could not describe was a paramount trait of his
mental constitution. It was as a voluptuous garment; in it his
imagination was cherished into activity, and protected against that
outer air of reality which braces ordinary men, but benumbs and
disintegrates the whole vital apparatus of such an organisation as
Rousseau's. If he had been devoid of this feeling about women, his
character might very possibly have remained sterile. That feeling was
the complementary contribution, without which could be no fecundity.

When he returned from his squalid Italian expedition in search of bread
and a new religion, his mind was clouded with the vague desire, the
sensual moodiness, which in such natures stains the threshold of
manhood. This unrest, with its mysterious torments and black delights,
was banished, or at least soothed into a happier humour, by the
influence of a person who is one of the most striking types to be found
in the gallery of fair women.


A French writer in the eighteenth century, in a story which deals with a
rather repulsive theme of action in a tone that is graceful, simple, and
pathetic, painted the portrait of a creature for whom no moralist with a
reputation to lose can say a word; and we may, if we choose, fool
ourselves by supposing her to be without a counterpart in the
better-regulated world of real life, but, in spite of both these
objections, she is an interesting and not untouching figure to those who
like to know all the many-webbed stuff out of which their brothers and
sisters are made. The Manon Lescaut of the unfortunate Abbé Prevost,
kindly, bright, playful, tender, but devoid of the very germ of the idea
of that virtue which is counted the sovereign recommendation of woman,
helps us to understand Madame de Warens. There are differences enough
between them, and we need not mistake them for one and the same type.
Manon Lescaut is a prettier figure, because romance has fewer
limitations than real life; but if we think of her in reading of
Rousseau's benefactress, the vision of the imaginary woman tends to
soften our judgment of the actual one, as well as to enlighten our
conception of a character that eludes the instruments of a commonplace

She was born at Vevai in 1700; she married early, and early disagreed
with her husband, from whom she eventually went away, abandoning family,
religion, country, and means of subsistence, with all gaiety of heart.
The King of Sardinia happened to be keeping his court at a small town on
the southern shores of the lake of Geneva, and the conversion of Madame
de Warens to Catholicism by the preaching of the Bishop of Annecy,[40]
gave a zest to the royal visit, as being a successful piece of sport in
that great spiritual hunt which Savoy loved to pursue at the expense of
the reformed church in Switzerland. The king, to mark his zeal for the
faith of his house, conferred on the new convert a small pension for
life; but as the tongues of the scandalous imputed a less pure motive
for such generosity in a parsimonious prince, Madame de Warens removed
from the court and settled at Annecy. Her conversion was hardly more
serious than Rousseau's own, because seriousness was no condition of her
intelligence on any of its sides or in any of its relations. She was
extremely charitable to the poor, full of pity for all in misfortune,
easily moved to forgiveness of wrong or ingratitude; careless, gay,
open-hearted; having, in a word, all the good qualities which spring in
certain generous soils from human impulse, and hardly any of those which
spring from reflection, or are implanted by the ordering of society. Her
reason had been warped in her youth by an instructor of the devil's
stamp;[41] finding her attached to her husband and to her duties, always
cold, argumentative, and impregnable on the side of the senses, he
attacked her by sophisms, and at last persuaded her that the union of
the sexes is in itself a matter of the most perfect indifference,
provided only that decorum of appearance be preserved, and the peace of
mind of persons concerned be not disturbed.[42] This execrable lesson,
which greater and more unselfish men held and propagated in grave books
before the end of the century, took root in her mind. If we accept
Rousseau's explanation, it did so the more easily as her temperament was
cold, and thus corroborated the idea of the indifference of what public
opinion and private passion usually concur in investing with such
enormous weightiness. "I will even dare to say," Rousseau declares,
"that she only knew one true pleasure in the world, and that was to give
pleasure to those whom she loved."[43] He is at great pains to protest
how compatible this coolness of temperament is with excessive
sensibility of character; and neither ethological theory nor practical
observation of men and women is at all hostile to what he is so anxious
to prove. The cardinal element of character is the speed at which its
energies move; its rapidity or its steadiness, concentration or
volatility; whether the thought and feeling travel as quickly as light
or as slowly as sound. A rapid and volatile constitution like that of
Madame de Warens is inconsistent with ardent and glowing warmth, which
belongs to the other sort, but it is essentially bound up with
sensibility, or readiness of sympathetic answer to every cry from
another soul. It is the slow, brooding, smouldering nature, like
Rousseau's own, in which we may expect to find the tropics.

To bring the heavy artillery of moral reprobation to bear upon a poor
soul like Madame de Warens is as if one should denounce flagrant want
of moral purpose in the busy movements of ephemera. Her activity was
incessant, but it ended in nothing better than debt, embarrassment, and
confusion. She inherited from her father a taste for alchemy, and spent
much time in search after secret elixirs and the like. "Quacks, taking
advantage of her weakness, made themselves her master, constantly
infested her, ruined her, and wasted, in the midst of furnaces and
chemicals, intelligence, talents, and charms which would have made her
the delight of the best societies."[44] Perhaps, however, the too
notorious vagrancy of her amours had at least as much to do with her
failure to delight the best societies as her indiscreet passion for
alchemy. Her person was attractive enough. "She had those points of
beauty," says Rousseau, "which are desirable, because they reside rather
in expression than in feature. She had a tender and caressing air, a
soft eye, a divine smile, light hair of uncommon beauty. You could not
see a finer head or bosom, finer arms or hands."[45] She was full of
tricks and whimsies. She could not endure the first smell of the soup
and meats at dinner; when they were placed on the table she nearly
swooned, and her disgust lasted some time, until at the end of half an
hour or so she took her first morsel.[46] On the whole, if we accept the
current standard of sanity, Madame de Warens must be pronounced ever so
little flighty; but a monotonous world can afford to be lenient to
people with a slight craziness, if it only has hearty benevolence and
cheerfulness in its company, and is free from egoism or
rapacious vanity.

This was the person within the sphere of whose attraction Rousseau was
decisively brought in the autumn of 1729, and he remained, with certain
breaks of vagabondage, linked by a close attachment to her until 1738.
It was in many respects the truly formative portion of his life. He
acquired during this time much of his knowledge of books, such as it
was, and his principles of judging them. He saw much of the lives of the
poor and of the world's ways with them. Above all his ideal was
revolutionised, and the recent dreams of Plutarchian heroism, of
grandeur, of palaces, princesses, and a glorious career full in the
world's eye, were replaced by a new conception of blessedness of life,
which never afterwards faded from his vision, and which has held a front
place in the imagination of literary Europe ever since. The notions or
aspirations which he had picked up from a few books gave way to notions
and aspirations which were shaped and fostered by the scenes of actual
life into which he was thrown, and which found his character soft for
their impression. In one way the new pictures of a future were as
dissociated from the conditions of reality as the old had been, and the
sensuous life of the happy valley in Savoy as little fitted a man to
compose ideals for our gnarled and knotted world as the mental life
among the heroics of sentimental fiction had done.

Rousseau's delight in the spot where Madame de Warens lived at Annecy
was the mark of the new ideal which circumstances were to engender in
him, and after him to spread in many hearts. His room looked over
gardens and a stream, and beyond them stretched a far landscape. "It was
the first time since leaving Bossey that I had green before my windows.
Always shut in by walls, I had nothing under my eye but house-tops and
the dull gray of the streets. How moving and delicious this novelty was
to me! It brightened all the tenderness of my disposition. I counted the
landscape among the kindnesses of my dear benefactress; it seemed as if
she had brought it there expressly for me. I placed myself there in all
peacefulness with her; she was present to me everywhere among the
flowers and the verdure; her charms and those of spring were all mingled
together in my eyes. My heart, which had hitherto been stifled, found
itself more free in this ample space, and my sighs had more liberal vent
among these orchard gardens."[47] Madame de Warens was the semi-divine
figure who made the scene live, and gave it perfect and harmonious
accent. He had neither transports nor desires by her side, but existed
in a state of ravishing calm, enjoying without knowing what. "I could
have passed my whole life and eternity itself in this way, without an
instant of weariness. She is the only person with whom I never felt that
dryness in conversation, which turns the duty of keeping it up into a
torment. Our intercourse was not so much conversation as an
inexhaustible stream of chatter, which never came to an end until it was
interrupted from without. I only felt all the force of my attachment for
her when she was out of my sight. So long as I could see her I was
merely happy and satisfied, but my disquiet in her absence went so far
as to be painful. I shall never forget how one holiday, while she was at
vespers, I went for a walk outside the town, my heart full of her image
and of an eager desire to pass all my days by her side. I had sense
enough to see that for the present this was impossible, and that the
bliss which I relished so keenly must be brief. This gave to my musing a
sadness which was free from everything sombre, and which was moderated
by pleasing hope. The sound of the bells, which has always moved me to a
singular degree, the singing of the birds, the glory of the weather, the
sweetness of the landscape, the scattered rustic dwellings in which my
imagination placed our common home;--all this so struck me with a vivid,
tender, sad, and touching impression that I saw myself as in an ecstasy
transported into the happy time and the happy place where my heart,
possessed of all the felicity that could bring it delight, without even
dreaming of the pleasures of sense, should share joys

There was still, however, a space to be bridged between the doubtful now
and this delicious future. The harshness of circumstance is ever
interposing with a money question, and for a vagrant of eighteen the
first of all problems is a problem of economics. Rousseau was submitted
to the observation of a kinsman of Madame de Warens,[49] and his verdict
corresponded with that of the notary of Geneva, with whom years before
Rousseau had first tried the critical art of making a living. He
pronounced that in spite of an animated expression, the lad was, if not
thoroughly inept, at least of very slender intelligence, without ideas,
almost without attainments, very narrow indeed in all respects, and that
the honour of one day becoming a village priest was the highest piece of
fortune to which he had any right to aspire.[50] So he was sent to the
seminary, to learn Latin enough for the priestly offices. He began by
conceiving a deadly antipathy to his instructor, whose appearance
happened to be displeasing to him. A second was found,[51] and the
patient and obliging temper, the affectionate and sympathetic manner of
his new teacher made a great impression on the pupil, though the
progress in intellectual acquirement was as unsatisfactory in one case
as in the other. It is characteristic of that subtle impressionableness
to physical comeliness, which in ordinary natures is rapidly effaced by
press of more urgent considerations, but which Rousseau's strongly
sensuous quality retained, that he should have remembered, and thought
worth mentioning years afterwards, that the first of his two teachers at
the seminary of Annecy had greasy black hair, a complexion as of
gingerbread, and bristles in place of beard, while the second had the
most touching expression he ever saw in his life, with fair hair and
large blue eyes, and a glance and a tone which made you feel that he was
one of the band predestined from their birth to unhappy days. While at
Turin, Rousseau had made the acquaintance of another sage and benevolent
priest,[52] and uniting the two good men thirty years after he conceived
and drew the character of the Savoyard Vicar.[53]

Shortly the seminarists reported that, though not vicious, their pupil
was not even good enough for a priest, so deficient was he in
intellectual faculty. It was next decided to try music, and Rousseau
ascended for a brief space into the seventh heaven of the arts. This was
one of the intervals of his life of which he says that he recalls not
only the times, places, persons, but all the surrounding objects, the
temperature of the air, its odour, its colour, a certain local
impression only felt there, and the memory of which stirs the old
transports anew. He never forgot a certain tune, because one Advent
Sunday he heard it from his bed being sung before daybreak on the steps
of the cathedral; nor an old lame carpenter who played the counter-bass,
nor a fair little abbé who played the violin in the choir.[54] Yet he
was in so dreamy, absent, and distracted a state, that neither his
good-will nor his assiduity availed, and he could learn nothing, not
even music. His teacher, one Le Mâitre, belonged to that great class of
irregular and disorderly natures with which Rousseau's destiny, in the
shape of an irregular and disorderly temperament of his own, so
constantly brought him into contact. Le Mâitre could not work without
the inspiration of the wine cup, and thus his passion for his art landed
him a sot. He took offence at a slight put upon him by the precentor of
the cathedral of which he was choir-master, and left Annecy in a furtive
manner along with Rousseau, whom the too comprehensive solicitude of
Madame de Warens despatched to bear him company. They went together as
far as Lyons; here the unfortunate musician happened to fall into an
epileptic fit in the street. Rousseau called for help, informed the
crowd of the poor man's hotel, and then seizing a moment when no one was
thinking about him, turned the street corner and finally disappeared,
the musician being thus "abandoned by the only friend on whom he had a
right to count."[55] It thus appears that a man maybe exquisitely moved
by the sound of bells, the song of birds, the fairness of smiling
gardens, and yet be capable all the time without a qualm of misgiving of
leaving a friend senseless in the road in a strange place. It has ceased
to be wonderful how many ugly and cruel actions are done by people with
an extraordinary sense of the beauty and beneficence of nature. At the
moment Rousseau only thought of getting back to Annecy and Madame de
Warens. "It is not," he says in words of profound warning, which many
men have verified in those two or three hours before the tardy dawn that
swell into huge purgatorial æons,--"it is not when we have just done a
bad action, that it torments us; it is when we recall it long after, for
the memory of it can never be thrust out."[56]


When he made his way homewards again, he found to his surprise and
dismay that his benefactress had left Annecy, and had gone for an
indefinite time to Paris. He never knew the secret of this sudden
departure, for no man, he says, was ever so little curious as to the
private affairs of his friends. His heart, completely occupied with the
present, filled its whole capacity and entire space with that, and
except for past pleasures no empty corner was ever left for what was
done with.[57] He says he was too young to take the desertion deeply to
heart. Where he found subsistence we do not know. He was fascinated by a
flashy French adventurer,[58] in whose company he wasted many hours, and
the precious stuff of youthful opportunity. He passed a summer day in
joyful rustic fashion with two damsels whom he hardly ever saw again,
but the memory of whom and of the holiday that they had made with him
remained stamped in his brain, to be reproduced many a year hence in
some of the traits of the new Heloïsa and her friend Claire.[59] Then he
accepted an invitation from a former waiting-woman of Madame de Warens
to attend her home to Freiburg. On this expedition he paid an hour's
visit to his father, who had settled and remarried at Nyon. Returning
from Freiburg, he came to Lausanne, where, with an audacity that might
be taken for the first presage of mental disturbance, he undertook to
teach music. "I have already," he says, "noted some moments of
inconceivable delirium, in which I ceased to be myself. Behold me now a
teacher of singing, without knowing how to decipher an air. Without the
least knowledge of composition, I boasted of my skill in it before all
the world; and without ability to score the slenderest vaudeville, I
gave myself out for a composer. Having been presented to M. de
Treytorens, a professor of law, who loved music and gave concerts at his
house, I insisted on giving him a specimen of my talent, and I set to
work to compose a piece for his concert with as much effrontery as if I
knew all about it." The performance came off duly, and the strange
impostor conducted it with as much gravity as the profoundest master.
Never since the beginning of opera has the like charivari greeted the
ears of men.[60] Such an opening was fatal to all chance of scholars,
but the friendly tavern-keeper who had first taken him in did not lack
either hope or charity. "How is it," Rousseau cried, many years after
this, "that having found so many good people in my youth, I find so few
in my advanced life? Is their stock exhausted? No; but the class in
which I have to seek them now is not the same as that in which I found
them then. Among the common people, where great passions only speak at
intervals, the sentiments of nature make themselves heard oftener. In
the higher ranks they are absolutely stifled, and under the mask of
sentiment it is only interest or vanity that speaks."[61]

From Lausanne he went to Neuchâtel, where he had more success, for,
teaching others, he began himself to learn. But no success was marked
enough to make him resist a vagrant chance. One day in his rambles
falling in with an archimandrite of the Greek church, who was traversing
Europe in search of subscriptions for the restoration of the Holy
Sepulchre, he at once attached himself to him in the capacity of
interpreter. In this position he remained for a few weeks, until the
French minister at Soleure took him away from the Greek monk, and
despatched him to Paris to be the attendant of a young officer.[62] A
few days in the famous city, which he now saw for the first time, and
which disappointed his expectations just as the sea and all other
wonders disappointed them,[63] convinced him that here was not what he
sought, and he again turned his face southwards in search of Madame de
Warens and more familiar lands.

The interval thus passed in roaming over the eastern face of France, and
which we may date in the summer of 1732,[64] was always counted by
Rousseau among the happy epochs of his life, though the weeks may seem
grievously wasted to a generation which is apt to limit its ideas of
redeeming the time to the two pursuits of reading books or making money.
He travelled alone and on foot from Soleure to Paris and from Paris back
again to Lyons, and this was part of the training which served him in
the stead of books. Scarcely any great writer since the revival of
letters has been so little literary as Rousseau, so little indebted to
literature for the most characteristic part of his work. He was formed
by life; not by life in the sense of contact with a great number of
active and important persons, or with a great number of persons of any
kind, but in the rarer sense of free surrender to the plenitude of his
own impressions. A world composed of such people, all dispensing with
the inherited portion of human experience, and living independently on
their own stock, would rapidly fall backwards into dissolution. But
there is no more rash idea of the right composition of a society than
one which leads us to denounce a type of character for no better reason
than that, if it were universal, society would go to pieces. There is
very little danger of Rousseau's type becoming common, unless lunar or
other great physical influences arise to work a vast change in the
cerebral constitution of the species. We may safely trust the prodigious
_vis inertioe_ of human nature to ward off the peril of an eccentricity
beyond bounds spreading too far. At present, however, it is enough,
without going into the general question, to notice the particular fact
that while the other great exponents of the eighteenth century movement,
Hume, Voltaire, Diderot, were nourishing their natural strength of
understanding by the study and practice of literature, Rousseau, the
leader of the reaction against that movement, was wandering a beggar and
an outcast, craving the rude fare of the peasant's hut, knocking at
roadside inns, and passing nights in caves and holes in the fields, or
in the great desolate streets of towns.

If such a life had been disagreeable to him, it would have lost all the
significance that it now has for us. But where others would have found
affliction, he had consolation, and where they would have lain desperate
and squalid, he marched elate and ready to strike the stars. "Never," he
says, "did I think so much, exist so much, be myself so much, as in the
journeys that I have made alone and on foot. Walking has something about
it which animates and enlivens my ideas. I can hardly think while I am
still; my body must be in motion, to move my mind. The sight of the
country, the succession of agreeable views, open air, good appetite, the
freedom of the alehouse, the absence of everything that could make me
feel dependence, or recall me to my situation--all this sets my soul
free, gives me a greater boldness of thought. I dispose of all nature as
its sovereign lord; my heart, wandering from object to object, mingles
and is one with the things that soothe it, wraps itself up in charming
images, and is intoxicated by delicious sentiment. Ideas come as they
please, not as I please: they do not come at all, or they come in a
crowd, overwhelming me with their number and their force. When I came to
a place I only thought of eating, and when I left it I only thought of
walking. I felt that a new paradise awaited me at the door, and I
thought of nothing but of hastening in search of it."[65]

Here again is a picture of one whom vagrancy assuredly did not
degrade:--"I had not the least care for the future, and I awaited the
answer [as to the return of Madame de Warens to Savoy], lying out in the
open air, sleeping stretched out on the ground or on some wooden bench,
as tranquilly as on a bed of roses. I remember passing one delicious
night outside the town [Lyons], in a road which ran by the side of
either the Rhone or the Saône, I forget which of the two. Gardens raised
on a terrace bordered the other side of the road. It had been very hot
all day, and the evening was delightful; the dew moistened the parched
grass, the night was profoundly still, the air fresh without being cold;
the sun in going down had left red vapours in the heaven, and they
turned the water to rose colour; the trees on the terrace sheltered
nightingales, answering song for song. I went on in a sort of ecstasy,
surrendering my heart and every sense to the enjoyment of it all, and
only sighing for regret that I was enjoying it alone. Absorbed in the
sweetness of my musing, I prolonged my ramble far into the night,
without ever perceiving that I was tired. At last I found it out. I lay
down luxuriously on the shelf of a niche or false doorway made in the
wall of the terrace; the canopy of my bed was formed by overarching
tree-tops; a nightingale was perched exactly over my head, and I fell
asleep to his singing. My slumber was delicious, my awaking more
delicious still. It was broad day, and my opening eyes looked on sun and
water and green things, and an adorable landscape. I rose up and gave
myself a shake; I felt hungry and started gaily for the town, resolved
to spend on a good breakfast the two pieces of money which I still had
left. I was in such joyful spirits that I went along the road singing

There is in this the free expansion of inner sympathy; the natural
sentiment spontaneously responding to all the delicious movement of the
external world on its peaceful and harmonious side, just as if the world
of many-hued social circumstance which man has made for himself had no
existence. We are conscious of a full nervous elation which is not the
product of literature, such as we have seen so many a time since, and
which only found its expression in literature in Rousseau's case by
accident. He did not feel in order to write, but felt without any
thought of writing. He dreamed at this time of many lofty destinies,
among them that of marshal of France, but the fame of authorship never
entered into his dreams. When the time for authorship actually came,
his work had all the benefit of the absence of self-consciousness, it
had all the disinterestedness, so to say, with which the first fresh
impressions were suffered to rise in his mind.

One other picture of this time is worth remembering, as showing that
Rousseau was not wholly blind to social circumstances, and as
illustrating, too, how it was that his way of dealing with them was so
much more real and passionate, though so much less sagacious in some of
its aspects, than the way of the other revolutionists of the century.
One day, when he had lost himself in wandering in search of some site
which he expected to find beautiful, he entered the house of a peasant,
half dead with hunger and thirst. His entertainer offered him nothing
more restoring than coarse barley bread and skimmed milk. Presently,
after seeing what manner of guest he had, the worthy man descended by a
small trap into his cellar, and brought up some good brown bread, some
meat, and a bottle of wine, and an omelette was added afterwards. Then
he explained to the wondering Rousseau, who was a Swiss, and knew none
of the mysteries of the French fisc, that he hid away his wine on
account of the duties, and his bread on account of the _taille_, and
declared that he would be a ruined man if they suspected that he was not
dying of hunger. All this made an impression on Rousseau which he never
forgot. "Here," he says, "was the germ of the inextinguishable hatred
which afterwards grew up in my heart against the vexations that harass
the common people, and against all their oppressors. This man actually
did not dare to eat the bread which he had won by the sweat of his brow,
and only avoided ruin by showing the same misery as reigned
around him."[67]

It was because he had thus seen the wrongs of the poor, not from without
but from within, not as a pitying spectator but as of their own company,
that Rousseau by and by brought such fire to the attack upon the old
order, and changed the blank practice of the elder philosophers into a
deadly affair of ball and shell. The man who had been a servant, who had
wanted bread, who knew the horrors of the midnight street, who had slept
in dens, who had been befriended by rough men and rougher women, who saw
the goodness of humanity under its coarsest outside, and who above all
never tried to shut these things out from his memory, but accepted them
as the most interesting, the most touching, the most real of all his
experiences, might well be expected to penetrate to the root of the
matter, and to protest to the few who usurp literature and policy with
their ideas, aspirations, interests, that it is not they but the many,
whose existence stirs the heart and fills the eye with the great prime
elements of the human lot.


It was, then, some time towards the middle of 1732 that Rousseau arrived
at Chambéri, and finally took up his residence with Madame de Warens, in
the dullest and most sombre room of a dull and sombre house. She had
procured him employment in connection with a land survey which the
government of Charles Emmanuel III. was then executing. It was only
temporary, and Rousseau's function was no loftier than that of clerk,
who had to copy and reduce arithmetical calculations. We may imagine how
little a youth fresh from nights under the summer sky would relish eight
hours a day of surly toil in a gloomy office, with a crowd of dirty and
ill-smelling fellow-workers.[68] If Rousseau was ever oppressed by any
set of circumstances, his method was invariable: he ran away from them.
So now he threw up his post, and again tried to earn a little money by
that musical instruction in which he had made so many singular and
grotesque endeavours. Even here the virtues which make ordinary life a
possible thing were not his. He was pleased at his lessons while there,
but he could not bear the idea of being bound to be there, nor the
fixing of an hour. In time this experiment for a subsistence came to the
same end as all the others. He next rushed to Besançon in search of the
musical instruction which he wished to give to others, but his baggage
was confiscated at the frontier, and he had to return.[69] Finally he
abandoned the attempt, and threw himself loyally upon the narrow
resources of Madame de Warens, whom he assisted in some singularly
indefinite way in the transaction of her very indefinite and
miscellaneous affairs,--if we are here, as so often, to give the name of
affairs to a very rapid and heedless passage along a shabby road
to ruin.

The household at this time was on a very remarkable footing. Madame de
Warens was at its head, and Claude Anet, gardener, butler, steward, was
her factotum. He was a discreet person, of severe probity and few words,
firm, thrifty, and sage. The too comprehensive principles of his
mistress admitted him to the closest intimacy, and in due time, when
Madame de Warens thought of the seductions which ensnare the feet of
youth, Rousseau was delivered from them in an equivocal way by
solicitous application of the same maxims of comprehension. "Although
Claude Anet was as young as she was, he was so mature and so grave, that
he looked upon us as two children worthy of indulgence, and we both
looked upon him as a respectable man, whose esteem it was our business
to conciliate. Thus there grew up between us three a companionship,
perhaps without another example like it upon earth. All our wishes, our
cares, our hearts were in common; nothing seemed to pass outside our
little circle. The habit of living together, and of living together
exclusively, became so strong that if at our meals one of the three was
absent, or there came a fourth, all was thrown out; and in spite of our
peculiar relations, a _tête-à-tête_ was less sweet than a meeting of all
three."[70] Fate interfered to spoil this striking attempt after a new
type of the family, developed on a duandric base. Claude Anet was seized
with illness, a consequence of excessive fatigue in an Alpine expedition
in search of plants, and he came to his end.[71] In him Rousseau always
believed that he lost the most solid friend he ever possessed, "a rare
and estimable man, in whom nature served instead of education, and who
nourished in obscure servitude all the virtues of great men."[72] The
day after his death, Rousseau was speaking of their lost friend to
Madame de Warens with the liveliest and most sincere affliction, when
suddenly in the midst of the conversation he remembered that he should
inherit the poor man's clothes, and particularly a handsome black coat.
A reproachful tear from his Maman, as he always somewhat nauseously
called Madame de Warens, extinguished the vile thought and washed away
its last traces.[73] After all, those men and women are exceptionally
happy, who have no such involuntary meanness of thought standing against
themselves in that unwritten chapter of their lives which even the most
candid persons keep privately locked up in shamefast recollection.

Shortly after his return to Chambéri, a wave from the great tide of
European affairs surged into the quiet valleys of Savoy. In the February
of 1733, Augustus the Strong died, and the usual disorder followed in
the choice of a successor to him in the kingship of Poland. France was
for Stanislaus, the father-in-law of Lewis XV., while the Emperor
Charles VI. and Anne of Russia were for August III., elector of Saxony.
Stanislaus was compelled to flee, and the French Government, taking up
his quarrel, declared war against the Emperor (October 14, 1733). The
first act of this war, which was to end in the acquisition of Naples and
the two Sicilies by Spanish Bourbons, and of Lorraine by France, was the
despatch of a French expedition to the Milanese under Marshall Villars,
the husband of one of Voltaire's first idols. This took place in the
autumn of 1733, and a French column passed through Chambéri, exciting
lively interest in all minds, including Rousseau's. He now read the
newspapers for the first time, with the most eager sympathy for the
country with whose history his own name was destined to be so
permanently associated. "If this mad passion," he says, "had only been
momentary, I should not speak of it; but for no visible reason it took
such root in my heart, that when I afterwards at Paris played the stern
republican, I could not help feeling in spite of myself a secret
predilection for the very nation that I found so servile, and the
government I made bold to assail."[74] This fondness for France was
strong, constant, and invincible, and found what was in the eighteenth
century a natural complement in a corresponding dislike of England.[75]

Rousseau's health began to show signs of weakness. His breath became
asthmatic, he had palpitations, he spat blood, and suffered from a slow
feverishness from which he never afterwards became entirely free.[76]
His mind was as feverish as his body, and the morbid broodings which
active life reduces to their lowest degree in most young men, were left
to make full havoc along with the seven devils of idleness and vacuity.
An instinct which may flow from the unrecognised animal lying deep down
in us all, suggested the way of return to wholesomeness. Rousseau
prevailed upon Madame de Warens to leave the stifling streets for the
fresh fields, and to deliver herself by retreat to rural solitude from
the adventurers who made her their prey. Les Charmettes, the modest
farm-house to which they retired, still stands. The modern traveller,
with a taste for relieving an imagination strained by great historic
monuments and secular landmarks, with the sight of spots associated with
the passion and meditation of some far-shining teacher of men, may walk
a short league from where the gray slate roofs of dull Chambéri bake in
the sun, and ascending a gently mounting road, with high leafy bank on
the right throwing cool shadows over his head, and a stream on the left
making music at his feet, he sees an old red housetop lifted lonely
above the trees. The homes in which men have lived now and again lend
themselves to the beholder's subjective impression; they seemed to be
brooding in forlorn isolation like some life-wearied gray-beard over
ancient and sorrow-stricken memories. At Les Charmettes a pitiful
melancholy penetrates you. The supreme loveliness of the scene, the
sweet-smelling meadows, the orchard, the water-ways, the little vineyard
with here and there a rose glowing crimson among the yellow stunted
vines, the rust-red crag of the Nivolet rising against the sky far
across the broad valley; the contrast between all this peace, beauty,
silence, and the diseased miserable life of the famous man who found a
scanty span of paradise in the midst of it, touches the soul with a
pathetic spell. We are for the moment lifted out of squalor, vagrancy,
and disorder, and seem to hear some of the harmonies which sounded to
this perturbed spirit, soothing it, exalting it, and stirring those
inmost vibrations which in truth make up all the short divine part of a
man's life.[77]

"No day passes," he wrote in the very year in which he died, "in which
I do not recall with joy and tender effusion this single and brief time
in my life, when I was fully myself, without mixture or hindrance, and
when I may say in a true sense that I lived. I may almost say, like the
prefect when disgraced and proceeding to end his days tranquilly in the
country, 'I have passed seventy years on the earth, and I have lived but
seven of them.' But for this brief and precious space, I should perhaps
have remained uncertain about myself; for during all the rest of my life
I have been so agitated, tossed, plucked hither and thither by the
passions of others, that, being nearly passive in a life so stormy, I
should find it hard to distinguish what belonged to me in my own
conduct,--to such a degree has harsh necessity weighed upon me. But
during these few years I did what I wished to do, I was what I wished to
be."[78] The secret of such rare felicity is hardly to be described in
words. It was the ease of a profoundly sensuous nature with every sense
gratified and fascinated. Caressing and undivided affection within
doors, all the sweetness and movement of nature without, solitude,
freedom, and the busy idleness of life in gardens,--these were the
conditions of Rousseau's ideal state. "If my happiness," he says, in
language of strange felicity, "consisted in facts, actions, or words, I
might then describe and represent it in some way; but how say what was
neither said nor done nor even thought, but only enjoyed and felt
without my being able to point to any other object of my happiness than
the very feeling itself? I arose with the sun and I was happy; I went
out of doors and I was happy; I saw Maman and I was happy; I left her
and I was happy; I went among the woods and hills, I wandered about in
the dells, I read, I was idle, I dug in the garden, I gathered fruit, I
helped them indoors, and everywhere happiness followed me. It was not in
any given thing, it was all in myself, and could never leave me for a
single instant."[79] This was a true garden of Eden, with the serpent in
temporary quiescence, and we may count the man rare since the fall who
has found such happiness in such conditions, and not less blessed than
he is rare. The fact that he was one of this chosen company was among
the foremost of the circumstances which made Rousseau seem to so many
men in the eighteenth century as a spring of water in a thirsty land.

All innocent and amiable things moved him. He used to spend hours
together in taming pigeons; he inspired them with such confidence that
they would follow him about, and allow him to take them wherever he
would, and the moment that he appeared in the garden two or three of
them would instantly settle on his arms or his head. The bees, too,
gradually came to put the same trust in him, and his whole life was
surrounded with gentle companionship. He always began the day with the
sun, walking on the high ridge above the slope on which the house lay,
and going through his form of worship. "It did not consist in a vain
moving of the lips, but in a sincere elevation of heart to the author of
the tender nature whose beauties lay spread out before my eyes. This act
passed rather in wonder and contemplation than in requests; and I always
knew that with the dispenser of true blessings, the best means of
obtaining those which are needful for us, is less to ask than to deserve
them."[80] These effusions may be taken for the beginning of the
deistical reaction in the eighteenth century. While the truly scientific
and progressive spirits were occupied in laborious preparation for
adding to human knowledge and systematising it, Rousseau walked with his
head in the clouds among gods, beneficent authors of nature, wise
dispensers of blessings, and the like. "Ah, madam," he once said,
"sometimes in the privacy of my study, with my hands pressed tight over
my eyes or in the darkness of the night, I am of his opinion that there
is no God. But look yonder (pointing with his hand to the sky, with head
erect, and an inspired glance): the rising of the sun, as it scatters
the mists that cover the earth and lays bare the wondrous glittering
scene of nature, disperses at the same moment all cloud from my soul. I
find my faith again, and my God, and my belief in him. I admire and
adore him, and I prostrate myself in his presence."[81] As if that
settled the question affirmatively, any more than the absence of such
theistic emotion in many noble spirits settles it negatively. God became
the highest known formula for sensuous expansion, the synthesis of all
complacent emotions, and Rousseau filled up the measure of his delight
by creating and invoking a Supreme Being to match with fine scenery and
sunny gardens. We shall have a better occasion to mark the attributes of
this important conception when we come to _Emilius_, where it was
launched in a panoply of resounding phrases upon a Europe which was
grown too strong for Christian dogma, and was not yet grown strong
enough to rest in a provisional ordering of the results of its own
positive knowledge. Walking on the terrace at Les Charmettes, you are at
the very birth-place of that particular Être Suprême to whom Robespierre
offered the incense of an official festival.

Sometimes the reading of a Jansenist book would make him unhappy by the
prominence into which it brought the displeasing idea of hell, and he
used now and then to pass a miserable day in wondering whether this
cruel destiny should be his. Madame de Warens, whose softness of heart
inspired her with a theology that ought to have satisfied a seraphic
doctor, had abolished hell, but she could not dispense with purgatory
because she did not know what to do with the souls of the wicked, being
unable either to damn them, or to instal them among the good until they
had been purified into goodness. In truth it must be confessed, says
Rousseau, that alike in this world and the other the wicked are
extremely embarrassing.[82] His own search after knowledge of his fate
is well known. One day, amusing himself in a characteristic manner by
throwing stones at trees, he began to be tormented by fear of the
eternal pit. He resolved to test his doom by throwing a stone at a
particular tree; if he hit, then salvation; if he missed, then
perdition. With a trembling hand and beating heart he threw; as he had
chosen a large tree and was careful not to place himself too far away,
all was well.[83] As a rule, however, in spite of the ugly phantoms of
theology, he passed his days in a state of calm. Even when illness
brought it into his head that he should soon know the future lot by more
assured experiment, he still preserved a tranquillity which he justly
qualifies as sensual.

In thinking of Rousseau's peculiar feeling for nature, which acquired
such a decisive place in his character during his life at Les
Charmettes, it is to be remembered that it was entirely devoid of that
stormy and boisterous quality which has grown up in more modern
literature, out of the violent attempt to press nature in her most awful
moods into the service of the great revolt against a social and
religious tradition that can no longer be endured. Of this revolt
Rousseau was a chief, and his passion for natural aspects was connected
with this attitude, but he did not seize those of them which the poet of
_Manfred_, for example, forced into an imputed sympathy with his own
rebellion. Rousseau always loved nature best in her moods of quiescence
and serenity, and in proportion as she lent herself to such moods in
men. He liked rivulets better than rivers. He could not bear the sight
of the sea; its infertile bosom and blind restless tumblings filled him
with melancholy. The ruins of a park affected him more than the ruins of
castles.[84] It is true that no plain, however beautiful, ever seemed so
in his eyes; he required torrents, rocks, dark forests, mountains, and
precipices.[85] This does not affect the fact that he never moralised
appalling landscape, as post-revolutionary writers have done, and that
the Alpine wastes which throw your puniest modern into a rapture, had no
attraction for him. He could steep himself in nature without climbing
fifteen thousand feet to find her. In landscape, as has been said by one
with a right to speak, Rousseau was truly a great artist, and you can,
if you are artistic too, follow him with confidence in his wanderings;
he understood that beauty does not require a great stage, and that the
effect of things lies in harmony.[86] The humble heights of the Jura,
and the lovely points of the valley of Chambéri, sufficed to give him
all the pleasure of which he was capable. In truth a man cannot escape
from his time, and Rousseau at least belonged to the eighteenth century
in being devoid of the capacity for feeling awe, and the taste for
objects inspiring it. Nature was a tender friend with softest bosom, and
no sphinx with cruel enigma. He felt neither terror, nor any sense of
the littleness of man, nor of the mysteriousness of life, nor of the
unseen forces which make us their sport, as he peered over the precipice
and heard the water roaring at the bottom of it; he only remained for
hours enjoying the physical sensation of dizziness with which it turned
his brain, with a break now and again for hurling large stones, and
watching them roll and leap down into the torrent, with as little
reflection and as little articulate emotion as if he had been a

Just as it is convenient for purposes of classification to divide a man
into body and soul, even when we believe the soul to be only a function
of the body, so people talk of his intellectual side and his emotional
side, his thinking quality and his feeling quality, though in fact and
at the roots these qualities are not two but one, with temperament for
the common substratum. During this period of his life the whole of
Rousseau's true force went into his feelings, and at all times feeling
predominated over reflection, with many drawbacks and some advantages of
a very critical kind for subsequent generations of men. Nearly every one
who came into contact with him in the way of testing his capacity for
being instructed pronounced him hopeless. He had several excellent
opportunities of learning Latin, especially at Turin in the house of
Count Gouvon, and in the seminary at Annecy, and at Les Charmettes he
did his best to teach himself, but without any better result than a very
limited power of reading. In learning one rule he forgot the last; he
could never master the most elementary laws of versification; he learnt
and re-learnt twenty times the Eclogues of Virgil, but not a single word
remained with him.[88] He was absolutely without verbal memory, and he
pronounces himself wholly incapable of learning anything from masters.
Madame de Warens tried to have him taught both dancing and fencing; he
could never achieve a minuet, and after three months of instruction he
was as clumsy and helpless with his foil as he had been on the first
day. He resolved to become a master at the chessboard; he shut himself
up in his room, and worked night and day over the books with
indescribable efforts which covered many weeks. On proceeding to the
café to manifest his powers, he found that all the moves and
combinations had got mixed up in his head, he saw nothing but clouds on
the board, and as often as he repeated the experiment he only found
himself weaker than before. Even in music, for which he had a genuine
passion and at which he worked hard, he never could acquire any facility
at sight, and he was an inaccurate scorer, even when only copying the
score of others.[89]

Two things nearly incompatible, he writes in an important passage, are
united in me without my being able to think how; an extremely ardent
temperament, lively and impetuous passions, along with ideas that are
very slow in coming to birth, very embarrassed, and which never arise
until after the event. "One would say that my heart and my intelligence
do not belong to the same individual.... I feel all, and see nothing; I
am carried away, but I am stupid.... This slowness of thinking, united
with such vivacity of feeling, possesses me not only in conversation,
but when I am alone and working. My ideas arrange themselves in my head
with incredible difficulty; they circulate there in a dull way and
ferment until they agitate me, fill me with heat, and give me
palpitations; in the midst of this stir I see nothing clearly, I could
not write a single word. Insensibly the violent emotion grows still, the
chaos is disentangled, everything falls into its place, but very slowly
and after long and confused agitation."[90]

So far from saying that his heart and intelligence belonged to two
persons, we might have been quite sure, knowing his heart, that his
intelligence must be exactly what he describes its process to have been.
The slow-burning ecstasy in which he knew himself at his height and was
most conscious of fulness of life, was incompatible with the rapid and
deliberate generation of ideas. The same soft passivity, the same
receptiveness, which made his emotions like the surface of a lake under
sky and breeze, entered also into the working of his intellectual
faculties. But it happens that in this region, in the attainment of
knowledge, truth, and definite thoughts, even receptiveness implies a
distinct and active energy, and hence the very quality of temperament
which left him free and eager for sensuous impressions, seemed to muffle
his intelligence in a certain opaque and resisting medium, of the
indefinable kind that interposes between will and action in a dream. His
rational part was fatally protected by a non-conducting envelope of
sentiment; this intercepted clear ideas on their passage, and even cut
off the direct and true impress of those objects and their relations,
which are the material of clear ideas. He was no doubt right in his
avowal that objects generally made less impression on him than the
recollection of them; that he could see nothing of what was before his
eyes, and had only his intelligence in cases where memories were
concerned; and that of what was said or done in his presence, he felt
and penetrated nothing.[91] In other words, this is to say that his
material of thought was not fact but image. When he plunged into
reflection, he did not deal with the objects of reflection at first hand
and in themselves, but only with the reminiscences of objects, which he
had never approached in a spirit of deliberate and systematic
observation, and with those reminiscences, moreover, suffused and
saturated by the impalpable but most potent essences of a fermenting
imagination. Instead of urgently seeking truth with the patient energy,
the wariness, and the conscience, with the sharpened instruments, the
systematic apparatus, and the minute feelers and tentacles of the
genuine thinker and solid reasoner, he only floated languidly on a
summer tide of sensation, and captured premiss and conclusion in a
succession of swoons. It would be a mistake to contend that no work can
be done for the world by this method, or that truth only comes to those
who chase her with logical forceps. But one should always try to
discover how a teacher of men came by his ideas, whether by careful
toil, or by the easy bequest of generous phantasy.

To give a zest to rural delight, and partly perhaps to satisfy the
intellectual interest which must have been an instinct in one who became
so consummate a master in the great and noble art of composition,
Rousseau, during the time when he lived with Madame de Warens, tried as
well as he knew how to acquire a little knowledge of what fruit the
cultivation of the mind of man had hitherto brought forth. According to
his own account, it was Voltaire's Letters on the English which first
drew him seriously to study, and nothing which that illustrious man
wrote at this time escaped him. His taste for Voltaire inspired him with
the desire of writing with elegance, and of imitating "the fine and
enchanting colour of Voltaire's style"[92]--an object in which he cannot
be held to have in the least succeeded, though he achieved a superb
style of his own. On his return from Turin Madame de Warens had begun in
some small way to cultivate a taste for letters in him, though he had
lost the enthusiasm of his childhood for reading. Saint Evremond,
Puffendorff, the Henriade, and the Spectator happened to be in his room,
and he turned over their pages. The Spectator, he says, pleased him
greatly and did him much good.[93] Madame de Warens was what he calls
protestant in literary taste, and would talk for ever of the great
Bayle, while she thought more of Saint Evremond than she could ever
persuade Rousseau to think. Two or three years later than this he began
to use his own mind more freely, and opened his eyes for the first time
to the greatest question that ever dawns upon any human intelligence
that has the privilege of discerning it, the problem of a philosophy and
a body of doctrine.

His way of answering it did not promise the best results. He read an
introduction to the Sciences, then he took an Encyclopædia and tried to
learn all things together, until he repented and resolved to study
subjects apart. This he found a better plan for one to whom long
application was so fatiguing, that he could not with any effect occupy
himself for half an hour on any one matter, especially if following the
ideas of another person.[94] He began his morning's work, after an hour
or two of dispersive chat, with the Port-Royal Logic, Locke's Essay on
the Human Understanding, Malebranche, Leibnitz, Descartes.[95] He found
these authors in a condition of such perpetual contradiction among
themselves, that he formed the chimerical design of reconciling them
with one another. This was tedious, so he took up another method, on
which he congratulated himself to the end of his life. It consisted in
simply adopting and following the ideas of each author, without
comparing them either with one another or with those of other writers,
and above all without any criticism of his own. Let me begin, he said,
by collecting a store of ideas, true or false, but at any rate clear,
until my head is well enough stocked to enable me to compare and choose.
At the end of some years passed "in never thinking exactly, except after
other people, without reflecting so to speak, and almost without
reasoning," he found himself in a state to think for himself. "In spite
of beginning late to exercise my judicial faculty, I never found that it
had lost its vigour, and when I came to publish my own ideas, I was
hardly accused of being a servile disciple."[96]

To that fairly credible account of the matter, one can only say that
this mutually exclusive way of learning the thoughts of others, and
developing thoughts of your own, is for an adult probably the most
mischievous, where it is not the most impotent, fashion in which
intellectual exercise can well be taken. It is exactly the use of the
judicial faculty, criticising, comparing, and defining, which is
indispensable in order that a student should not only effectually
assimilate the ideas of a writer, but even know what those ideas come to
and how much they are worth. And so when he works at ideas of his own, a
judicial faculty which has been kept studiously slumbering for some
years, is not likely to revive in full strength without any preliminary
training. Rousseau was a man of singular genius, and he set an
extraordinary mark on Europe, but this mark would have been very
different if he had ever mastered any one system of thought, or if he
had ever fully grasped what systematic thinking means. Instead of this,
his debt to the men whom he read was a debt of piecemeal, and his
obligation an obligation for fragments; and this is perhaps the worst
way of acquiring an intellectual lineage, for it leaves out the vital
continuity of temper and method. It is a small thing to accept this or
that of Locke's notions upon education or the origin of ideas, if you do
not see the merit of his way of coming by his notions. In short,
Rousseau has distinctions in abundance, but the distinction of knowing
how to think, in the exact sense of that term, was hardly among them,
and neither now nor at any other time did he go through any of that
toilsome and vigorous intellectual preparation to which the ablest of
his contemporaries, Diderot, Voltaire, D'Alembert, Turgot, Condorcet,
Hume, all submitted themselves. His comfortable view was that "the
sensible and interesting conversations of a woman of merit are more
proper to form a young man than all the pedantical philosophy of

Style, however, in which he ultimately became such a proficient, and
which wrought such marvels as only style backed by passion can work,
already engaged his serious attention. We have already seen how Voltaire
implanted in him the first root idea, which so many of us never perceive
at all, that there is such a quality of writing as style. He evidently
took pains with the form of expression and thought about it, in
obedience to some inborn harmonious predisposition which is the source
of all veritable eloquence, though there is no strong trace now nor for
many years to come of any irresistible inclination for literary
composition. We find him, indeed, in 1736 showing consciousness of a
slight skill in writing,[98] but he only thought of it as a possible
recommendation for a secretaryship to some great person. He also appears
to have practised verses, not for their own sake, for he always most
justly thought his own verses mediocre, and they are even worse; but on
the ground that verse-making is a rather good exercise for breaking
one's self to elegant inversions, and learning a greater ease in
prose.[99] At the age of one and twenty he composed a comedy, long
afterwards damned as _Narcisse_. Such prelusions, however, were of small
importance compared with the fact of his being surrounded by a moral
atmosphere in which his whole mind was steeped. It is not in the study
of Voltaire or another, but in the deep soft soil of constant mood and
old habit that such a style as Rousseau's has its growth.

It was the custom to return to Chambéri for the winter, and the day of
their departure from Les Charmettes was always a day blurred and tearful
for Rousseau; he never left it without kissing the ground, the trees,
the flowers; he had to be torn away from it as from a loved companion.
At the first melting of the winter snows they left their dungeon in
Chambéri, and they never missed the earliest song of the nightingale.
Many a joyful day of summer peace remained vivid in Rousseau's memory,
and made a mixed heaven and hell for him long years after in the
stifling dingy Paris street, and the raw and cheerless air of a
Derbyshire winter.[100] "We started early in the morning," he says,
describing one of these simple excursions on the day of St. Lewis, who
was the very unconscious patron saint of Madame de Warens, "together and
alone; I proposed that we should go and ramble about the side of the
valley opposite to our own, which we had not yet visited. We sent our
provisions on before us, for we were to be out all day. We went from
hill to hill and wood to wood, sometimes in the sun and often in the
shade, resting from time to time and forgetting ourselves for whole
hours; chatting about ourselves, our union, our dear lot, and offering
unheard prayers that it might last. All seemed to conspire for the bliss
of this day. Rain had fallen a short time before; there was no dust, and
the little streams were full; a light fresh breeze stirred the leaves,
the air was pure, the horizon without a cloud, and the same serenity
reigned in our own hearts. Our dinner was cooked in a peasant's cottage,
and we shared it with his family. These Savoyards are such good souls!
After dinner we sought shade under some tall trees, where, while I
collected dry sticks for making our coffee, Maman amused herself by
botanising among the bushes, and the expedition ended in transports of
tenderness and effusion."[101] This is one of such days as the soul
turns back to when the misery that stalks after us all has seized it,
and a man is left to the sting and smart of the memory of
irrecoverable things.

He was resolved to bind himself to Madame de Warens with an inalterable
fidelity for all the rest of his days; he would watch over her with all
the dutiful and tender vigilance of a son, and she should be to him
something dearer than mother or wife or sister. What actually befell was
this. He was attacked by vapours, which he characterises as the disorder
of the happy. One symptom of his disease was the conviction derived from
the rash perusal of surgeon's treatises, that he was suffering from a
polypus in the heart. On the not very chivalrous principle that if he
did not spend Madame de Warens' money, he was only leaving it for
adventurers and knaves, he proceeded to Montpellier to consult the
physicians, and took the money for his expenses out of his
benefactress's store, which was always slender because it was always
open to any hand. While on the road, he fell into an intrigue with a
travelling companion, whom critics have compared to the fair Philina of
Wilhelm Meister. In due time, the Montpellier doctor being unable to
discover a disease, declared that the patient had none. The scenery was
dull and unattractive, and this would have counterbalanced the
weightiest prudential reasons with him at any time. Rousseau debated
whether he should keep tryst with his gay fellow-traveller, or return to
Chambéri. Remorse and that intractable emptiness of pocket which is the
iron key to many a deed of ingenuous-looking self-denial and Spartan
virtue, directed him homewards. Here he had a surprise, and perhaps
learnt a lesson. He found installed in the house a personage whom he
describes as tall, fair, noisy, coxcombical, flat-faced, flat-souled.
Another triple alliance seemed a thing odious in the eyes of a man whom
his travelling diversions had made a Pharisee for the hour. He
protested, but Madame de Warens was a woman of principle, and declined
to let Rousseau, who had profited by the doctrine of indifference, now
set up in his own favour the contrary doctrine of a narrow and churlish
partiality. So a short, delicious, and never-forgotten episode came to
an end: this pair who had known so much happiness together were happy
together no more, and the air became peopled for Rousseau with wan
spectres of dead joys and fast gathering cares.

The dates of the various events described in the fifth and sixth books
of the Confessions are inextricable, and the order is evidently inverted
more than once. The inversion of order is less serious than the
contradictions between the dates of the Confessions and the more
authentic and unmistakable dates of his letters. For instance, he
describes a visit to Geneva as having been made shortly before Lautrec's
temporary pacification of the civic troubles of that town; and that
event took place in the spring of 1738. This would throw the Montpellier
journey, which he says came after the visit to Geneva, into 1738, but
the letters to Madame de Warens from Grenoble and Montpellier are dated
in the autumn and winter of 1737.[102] Minor verifications attest the
exactitude of the dates of the letters,[103] and we may therefore
conclude that he returned from Montpellier, found his place taken and
lost his old delight in Les Charmettes, in the early part of 1738. In
the tenth of the Rêveries he speaks of having passed "a space of four or
five years" in the bliss of Les Charmettes, and it is true that his
connection with it in one way and another lasted from the middle of 1736
until about the middle of 1741. But as he left for Montpellier in the
autumn of 1737, and found the obnoxious Vinzenried installed in 1738,
the pure and characteristic felicity of Les Charmettes perhaps only
lasted about a year or a year and a half. But a year may set a deep mark
on a man, and give him imperishable taste of many things bitter
and sweet.


[38] _Conf._, iii. 177.

[39] Lamartine in _Raphael_ defies "a reasonable man to recompose with
any reality the character that Rousseau gives to his mistress, out of
the contradictory elements which he associates in her nature. One of
these elements excludes the other." It is worth while for any who care
for this kind of study to compare Madame de Warens with the Marquise
de Courcelles, whom Sainte-Beuve has well called the Manon Lescaut of
the seventeenth century.

[40] Described by Rousseau in a memorandum for the biographer of M. de
Bernex, printed in _Mélanges_, pp. 139-144.

[41] De Tavel, by name. Disorderly ideas as to the relations of the
sexes began to appear in Switzerland along with the reformation of
religion. In the sixteenth century a woman appeared at Geneva with the
doctrine that it is as inhuman and as unjustifiable to refuse the
gratification of this appetite in a man as to decline to give food and
drink to the starving. Picot's _Hist. de Genève_, vol. ii.

[42] _Conf._, v. 341. Also ii. 83; and vi. 401.

[43] _Conf._, v. 345.

[44] _Conf._, ii. 83.

[45] _Ib._ ii. 82.

[46] _Ib._ iii. 179. See also 200.

[47] _Conf._, iii. 177, 178.

[48] _Conf._, iii. 183.

[49] M. d'Aubonne.

[50] _Conf._, iii 192.

[51] M. Gatier.

[52] M. Gaime.

[53] _Conf._, iii. 204.

[54] _Ib._ iii. 209, 210.

[55] _Conf._, iii. 217-222.

[56] _Conf._, iv. 227.

[57] _Ib._ iii. 224.

[58] One Venture de Villeneuve, who visited him years afterwards
(1755) in Paris, when Rousseau found that the idol of old days was a
crapulent debauchee. _Ib._ viii. 221.

[59] Mdlles. de Graffenried and Galley. _Conf._, iv. 231.

[60] _Ib._ iv. 254-256.

[61] _Conf._, iv. 253.

[62] While in the ambassador's house at Soleure, he was lodged in a
room which had once belonged to his namesake, Jean Baptiste Rousseau
(_b. 1670--d. 1741_), whom the older critics astonishingly insist on
counting the first of French lyric poets. There was a third Rousseau,
Pierre [_b. 1725--d. 1785_], who wrote plays and did other work now
well forgotten. There are some lines imperfectly commemorative of the

Trois auteurs que Rousseau l'on nomme, Connus de Paris jusqu'à Rome,
Sont différens; voici par où; Rousseau de Paris fut grand homme;
Rousseau de Genève est un fou; Rousseau de Toulouse un atome.

Jean Jacques refers to both his namesakes in his letter to Voltaire,
Jan. 30, 1750. _Corr._, i. 145.

[63] The only object which ever surpassed his expectation was the
great Roman structure near Nismes, the Pont du Gard. _Conf._, vi. 446.

[64] Rousseau gives 1732 as the probable date of his return to
Chambéri, after his first visit to Paris [_Conf._, v. 305], and the
only objection to this is his mention of the incident of the march of
the French troops, which could not have happened until the winter of
1733, as having taken place "some months" after his arrival.
Musset-Pathay accepts this as decisive, and fixes the return in the
spring of 1733 [i. 12]. My own conjectural chronology is this: Returns
from Turin towards the autumn of 1729; stays at Annecy until the
spring of 1731; passes the winter of 1731-2 at Neuchâtel; first visits
Paris in spring of 1732; returns to Savoy in the early summer of 1732.
But a precise harmonising of the dates in the Confessions is
impossible; Rousseau wrote them three and thirty years after our
present point [in 1766 at Wootton], and never claimed to be exact in
minuteness of date. Fortunately such matters in the present case are
absolutely devoid of importance.

[65] _Conf._, iv. 279, 280.

[66] _Conf._, iv. 290, 291,

[67] _Conf._, iv. 281-283.

[68] _Conf._, v. 325.

[69] _Conf._, v. 360-364. _Corr._, i. 21-24.

[70] _Conf._, v. 349, 350.

[71] Apparently in the summer of 1736, though, the reference to the
return of the French troops at the peace [_Ib._ v. 365] would place it
in 1735.

[72] _Ib._ v. 356

[73] _Ib._

[74] _Conf._, v. 315, 316.

[75] _Ib._ iv. 276. _Nouv. Hél._, II. xiv. 381, etc.

[76] He refers to the ill-health of his youth, _Conf._, vii. 32, and
describes an ominous head seizure while at Chambéri, _Ib._ vi. 396.

[77] Rousseau's description of Les Charmettes is at the end of the
fifth book. The present proprietor keeps the house arranged as it used
to be, and has gathered one or two memorials of its famous tenant,
including his poor _clavecin_ and his watch. In an outside wall,
Hérault de Sechelles, when Commissioner from the Convention in the
department of Mont Blanc, inserted a little white stone with two most
lapidary stanzas inscribed upon it, about _génie, solitude, fierté,
gloire, vérité, envie_, and the like.

[78] _Rêveries_, x. 336 (1778).

[79] _Conf._, vi. 393.

[80] _Conf._, vi. 412.

[81] _Mém. de Mdme. d'Epinay_, i. 394. (M. Boiteau's edition:
Charpentier. 1865.)

[82] _Conf._, vi. 399.

[83] _Ib._ vi. 424. Goethe made a similar experiment; see Mr. Lewes's
_Life_, p. 126.

[84] Bernardin de Saint Pierre tells us this. _Oeuvres_ (Ed. 1818),
xii. 70, etc.

[85] _Conf._, iv. 297. See also the description of the scenery of the
Valais, in the _Nouv. Hél._, Pt. I. Let. xxiii.

[86] George Sand in _Mademoiselle la Quintinie_ (p. 27), a book
containing some peculiarly subtle appreciations of the Savoy

[87] _Conf._, iv. 298.

[88] _Conf._, vi. 416, 422, etc.; iii. 164; iii. 203; v. 347; v. 383,
384. Also vii. 53.

[89] _Conf._, v. 313, 367; iv. 293; ix. 353. Also _Mém. de Mdme.
d'Epinay_, ii. 151.

[90] _Ib._ iii. 192, 193.

[91] _Conf._, iv. 301; iii. 195.

[92] _Conf._, v. 372, 373. The mistaken date assigned to the
correspondence between Voltaire and Frederick is one of many instances
how little we can trust the Confessions for minute accuracy, though
their substantial veracity is confirmed by all the collateral evidence
that we have.

[93] _Ib._ iii. 188. For his debt in the way of education to Madame de
Warens, see also _Ib._ vii. 46.

[94] _Conf._, vi. 409.

[95] _Ib._ vi. 413. He adds a suspicious-looking "_et cetera_."

[96] _Conf._, vi. 414

[97] _Conf._, iv. 295. See also v. 346.

[98] _Corr._, 1736, pp. 26, 27.

[99] _Conf._, iv. 271, where he says further that he never found
enough attraction in French poetry to make him think of pursuing it.

[100] The first part of the Confessions was written in Wootton in
Derbyshire, in the winter of 1766-1767.

[101] _Conf._, vi. 422.

[102] _Corr._, i. 43, 46, 62, etc.

[103] Musset-Pathay, i. 23, _n._



Men like Rousseau, who are most heedless in letting their delight
perish, are as often as not most loth to bury what they have slain, or
even to perceive that life has gone out of it. The sight of simple
hearts trying to coax back a little warm breath of former days into a
present that is stiff and cold with indifference, is touching enough.
But there is a certain grossness around the circumstances in which
Rousseau now and too often found himself, that makes us watch his
embarrassment with some composure. One cannot easily think of him as a
simple heart, and we feel perhaps as much relief as he, when he resolves
after making all due efforts to thrust out the intruder and bring Madame
de Warens over from theories which had become too practical to be
interesting, to leave Les Charmettes and accept a tutorship at Lyons.
His new patron was a De Mably, elder brother of the philosophic abbé of
the same name (1709-85), and of the still more notable Condillac

The future author of the most influential treatise on education that has
ever been written, was not successful in the practical and far more
arduous side of that master art.[104] We have seen how little training
he had ever given himself in the cardinal virtues of collectedness and
self-control, and we know this to be the indispensable quality in all
who have to shape young minds for a humane life. So long as all went
well, he was an angel, but when things went wrong, he is willing to
confess that he was a devil. When his two pupils could not understand
him, he became frantic; when they showed wilfulness or any other part of
the disagreeable materials out of which, along with the rest, human
excellence has to be ingeniously and painfully manufactured, he was
ready to kill them. This, as he justly admits, was not the way to render
them either well learned or sage. The moral education of the teacher
himself was hardly complete, for he describes how he used to steal his
employer's wine, and the exquisite draughts which he enjoyed in the
secrecy of his own room, with a piece of cake in one hand and some dear
romance in the other. We should forgive greedy pilferings of this kind
more easily if Rousseau had forgotten them more speedily. These are
surely offences for which the best expiation is oblivion in a throng of
worthier memories.

It is easy to understand how often Rousseau's mind turned from the
deadly drudgery of his present employment to the beatitude of former
days. "What rendered my present condition insupportable was the
recollection of my beloved Charmettes, of my garden, my trees, my
fountain, my orchard, and above all of her for whom I felt myself born
and who gave life to it all. As I thought of her, of our pleasures, our
guileless days, I was seized by a tightness in my heart, a stopping of
my breath, which robbed me of all spirit."[105] For years to come this
was a kind of far-off accompaniment, thrumming melodiously in his ears
under all the discords of a miserable life. He made another effort to
quicken the dead. Throwing up his office with his usual promptitude in
escaping from the irksome, after a residence of something like a year at
Lyons (April, 1740--spring of 1741), he made his way back to his old
haunts. The first half-hour with Madame de Warens persuaded him that
happiness here was really at an end. After a stay of a few months, his
desolation again overcame him. It was agreed that he should go to Paris
to make his fortune by a new method of musical notation which he had
invented, and after a short stay at Lyons, he found himself for the
second time in the famous city which in the eighteenth century had
become for the moment the centre of the universe.[106]

It was not yet, however, destined to be a centre for him. His plan of
musical notation was examined by a learned committee of the Academy, no
member of whom was instructed in the musical art. Rousseau, dumb,
inarticulate, and unready as usual, was amazed at the ease with which
his critics by the free use of sounding phrases demolished arguments and
objections which he perceived that they did not at all understand. His
experience on this occasion suggested to him the most just reflection,
how even without breadth of intelligence, the profound knowledge of any
one thing is preferable in forming a judgment about it, to all possible
enlightenment conferred by the cultivation of the sciences, without
study of the special matter in question. It astonished him that all
these learned men, who knew so many things, could yet be so ignorant
that a man should only pretend to be a judge in his own craft.[107]

His musical path to glory and riches thus blocked up, he surrendered
himself not to despair but to complete idleness and peace of mind. He
had a few coins left, and these prevented him from thinking of a future.
He was presented to one or two great ladies, and with the blundering
gallantry habitual to him he wrote a letter to one of the greatest of
them, declaring his passion for her. Madame Dupin was the daughter of
one, and the wife of another, of the richest men in France, and the
attentions of a man whose acquaintance Madame Beuzenval had begun by
inviting him to dine in the servants' hall, were not pleasing to
her.[108] She forgave the impertinence eventually, and her stepson, M.
Francueil, was Rousseau's patron for some years.[109] On the whole,
however, in spite of his own account of his social ineptitude, there
cannot have been anything so repulsive in his manners as this account
would lead us to think. There is no grave anachronism in introducing
here the impression which he made on two fine ladies not many years
after this. "He pays compliments, yet he is not polite, or at least he
is without the air of politeness. He seems to be ignorant of the usages
of society, but it is easily seen that he is infinitely intelligent. He
has a brown complexion, while eyes that overflow with fire give
animation to his expression. When he has spoken and you look at him, he
appears comely; but when you try to recall him, his image is always
extremely plain. They say that he has bad health, and endures agony
which from some motive of vanity he most carefully conceals. It is
this, I fancy, which gives him from time to time an air of
sullenness."[110] The other lady, who saw him at the same time, speaks
of "the poor devil of an author, who's as poor as Job for you, but with
wit and vanity enough for four.... They say his history is as queer as
his person, and that is saying a good deal.... Madame Maupeou and I
tried to guess what it was. 'In spite of his face,' said she (for it is
certain he is uncommonly plain), 'his eyes tell that love plays a great
part in his romance.' 'No,' said I, 'his nose tells me that it is
vanity.' 'Well then, 'tis both one and the other.'"[111]

One of his patronesses took some trouble to procure him the post of
secretary to the French ambassador at Venice, and in the spring of 1743
our much-wandering man started once more in quest of meat and raiment in
the famous city of the Adriatic. This was one of those steps of which
there are not a few in a man's life, that seem at the moment to rank
foremost in the short line of decisive acts, and then are presently seen
not to have been decisive at all, but mere interruptions conducting
nowhither. In truth the critical moments with us are mostly as points in
slumber. Even if the ancient oracles of the gods were to regain their
speech once more on the earth, men would usually go to consult them on
days when the answer would have least significance, and could guide
them least far. That one of the most heedless vagrants in Europe, and as
it happened one of the men of most extraordinary genius also, should
have got a footing in the train of the ambassador of a great government,
would naturally seem to him and others as chance's one critical stroke
in his life. In reality it was nothing. The Count of Montaigu, his
master, was one of the worst characters with whom Rousseau could for his
own profit have been brought into contact. In his professional quality
he was not far from imbecile. The folly and weakness of the government
at Versailles during the reign of Lewis XV., and its indifference to
competence in every department except perhaps partially in the fisc, was
fairly illustrated in its absurd representative at Venice. The
secretary, whose renown has preserved his master's name, has recorded
more amply than enough the grounds of quarrel between them. Rousseau is
for once eager to assert his own efficiency, and declares that he
rendered many important services for which he was repaid with
ingratitude and persecution.[112] One would be glad to know what the
Count of Montaigu's version of matters was, for in truth Rousseau's
conduct in previous posts makes us wonder how it was that he who had
hitherto always been unfaithful over few things, suddenly touched
perfection when he became lord over many.

There is other testimony, however, to the ambassador's morbid quality,
of which, after that general imbecility which was too common a thing
among men in office to be remarkable, avarice was the most striking
trait. For instance, careful observation had persuaded him that three
shoes are equivalent to two pairs, because there is always one of a pair
which is more worn than its fellow; and hence he habitually ordered his
shoes in threes.[113] It was natural enough that such a master and such
a secretary should quarrel over perquisites. That slightly cringing
quality which we have noticed on one or two occasions in Rousseau's
hungry youthful time, had been hardened out of him by circumstance or
the strengthening of inborn fibre. He would now neither dine in a
servants' hall because a fine lady forgot what was due to a musician,
nor share his fees with a great ambassador who forgot what was due to
himself. These sordid disputes are of no interest now to anybody, and we
need only say that after a period of eighteen months passed in
uncongenial company, Rousseau parted from his count in extreme dudgeon,
and the diplomatic career which he had promised to himself came to the
same close as various other careers had already done.

He returned to Paris towards the end of 1744, burning with indignation
at the unjust treatment which he believed himself to have suffered, and
laying memorial after memorial before the minister at home. He assures
us that it was the justice and the futility of his complaints, that left
in his soul the germ of exasperation against preposterous civil
institutions, "in which the true common weal and real justice are always
sacrificed to some seeming order or other, which is in fact destructive
of all order, and only adds the sanction of public authority to the
oppression of the weak and the iniquity of the strong."[114]

One or two pictures connected with the Venetian episode remain in the
memory of the reader of the Confessions, and among them perhaps with
most people is that of the quarantine at Genoa in Rousseau's voyage to
his new post. The travellers had the choice of remaining on board the
felucca, or passing the time in an unfurnished lazaretto. This, we may
notice in passing, was his first view of the sea; he makes no mention of
the fact, nor does the sight or thought of the sea appear to have left
the least mark in any line of his writings. He always disliked it, and
thought of it with melancholy. Rousseau, as we may suppose, found the
want of space and air in the boat the most intolerable of evils, and
preferred to go alone to the lazaretto, though it had neither
window-sashes nor tables nor chairs nor bed, nor even a truss of straw
to lie down upon. He was locked up and had the whole barrack to himself.
"I manufactured," he says, "a good bed out of my coats and shirts,
sheets out of towels which I stitched together, a pillow out of my old
cloak rolled up. I made myself a seat of one trunk placed flat, and a
table of the other. I got out some paper and my writing-desk, and
arranged some dozen books that I had by way of library. In short I made
myself so comfortable, that, with the exception of curtains and windows,
I was nearly as well off in this absolutely naked lazaretto as in my
lodgings in Paris. My meals were served with much pomp; two grenadiers,
with bayonets at their musket-ends, escorted them; the staircase was my
dining-room, the landing did for table and the lower step for a seat,
and when my dinner was served, they rang a little bell as they withdrew,
to warn me to seat myself at table. Between my meals, when I was neither
writing nor reading, nor busy with my furnishing, I went for a walk in
the Protestant graveyard, or mounted into a lantern which looked out on
to the port, and whence I could see the ships sailing in and out. I
passed a fortnight in this way, and I could have spent the whole three
weeks of the quarantine without feeling an instant's weariness."[115]

These are the occasions when we catch glimpses of the true Rousseau; but
his residence in Venice was on the whole one of his few really sociable
periods. He made friends and kept them, and there was even a certain
gaiety in his life. He used to tell people their fortunes in a way that
an earlier century would have counted unholy.[116] He rarely sought
pleasure in those of her haunts for which the Queen of the Adriatic had
a guilty renown, but he has left one singular anecdote, showing the
degree to which profound sensibility is capable of doing the moralist's
work in a man, and how a stroke of sympathetic imagination may keep one
from sin more effectually than an ethical precept.[117] It is pleasanter
to think of him as working at the formation of that musical taste which
ten years afterwards led him to amaze the Parisians by proving that
French melody was a hollow idea born of national self-delusion. A
Venetian experiment, whose evidence in the special controversy is less
weighty perhaps than Rousseau supposed, was among the facts which
persuaded him that Italian is the language of music. An Armenian who had
never heard any music was invited to listen first of all to a French
monologue, and then to an air of Galuppi's. Rousseau observed in the
Armenian more surprise than pleasure during the performance of the
French piece. The first notes of the Italian were no sooner struck, than
his eyes and whole expression softened; he was enchanted, surrendered
his whole soul to the ravishing impressions of the music, and could
never again be induced to listen to the performance of any
French air.[118]

More important than this was the circumstance that the sight of the
defects of the government of the Venetian Republic first drew his mind
to political speculation, and suggested to him the composition of a
book that was to be called Institutions Politiques.[119] The work, as
thus designed and named, was never written, but the idea of it, after
many years of meditation, ripened first in the Discourse on Inequality,
and then in the Social Contract.

If Rousseau's departure for Venice was a wholly insignificant element in
his life, his return from it was almost immediately followed by an event
which counted for nothing at the moment, which his friends by and by
came to regard as the fatal and irretrievable disaster of his life, but
which he persistently described as the only real consolation that heaven
permitted him to taste in his misery, and the only one that enabled him
to bear his many sore burdens.[120]

He took up his quarters at a small and dirty hotel not far from the
Sorbonne, where he had alighted on the occasion of his second arrival in
Paris.[121] Here was a kitchen-maid, some two-and-twenty years old, who
used to sit at table with her mistress and the guests of the house. The
company was rough, being mainly composed of Irish and Gascon abbés, and
other people to whom graces of mien and refinement of speech had come
neither by nature nor cultivation. The hostess herself pitched the
conversation in merry Rabelaisian key, and the apparent modesty of her
serving-woman gave a zest to her own licence. Rousseau was moved with
pity for a maid defenceless against a ribald storm, and from pity he
advanced to some warmer sentiment, and he and Theresa Le Vasseur took
each other for better for worse, in a way informal but sufficiently
effective. This was the beginning of a union which lasted for the length
of a generation and more, down to the day of Rousseau's most tragical
ending.[122] She thought she saw in him a worthy soul; and he was
convinced that he saw in her a woman of sensibility, simple and free
from trick, and neither of the two, he says, was deceived in respect of
the other. Her intellectual quality was unique. She could never be
taught to read with any approach to success. She could never follow the
order of the twelve months of the year, nor master a single arithmetical
figure, nor count a sum of money, nor reckon the price of a thing. A
month's instruction was not enough to give knowledge of the hours of the
day on the dial-plate. The words she used were often the direct
opposites of the words that she meant to use.[123]

The marriage choice of others is the inscrutable puzzle of those who
have no eye for the fact that such choice is the great match of cajolery
between purpose and invisible hazard; the blessedness of many lives is
the stake, as intention happens to cheat accident or to be cheated by
it. When the match is once over, deep criticism of a game of pure chance
is time wasted. The crude talk in which the unwise deliver their
judgments upon the conditions of success in the relations between men
and women, has flowed with unprofitable copiousness as to this not very
inviting case. People construct an imaginary Rousseau out of his
writings, and then fetter their elevated, susceptible, sensitive, and
humane creation, to the unfortunate woman who could never be taught that
April is the month after March, or that twice four and a half are nine.
Now we have already seen enough of Rousseau to know for how infinitely
little he counted the gift of a quick wit, and what small store he set
either on literary varnish or on capacity for receiving it. He was
touched in people with whom he had to do, not by attainment, but by
moral fibre or his imaginary impression of their moral fibre. Instead of
analysing a character, bringing its several elements into the balance,
computing the more or less of this faculty or that, he loved to feel its
influence as a whole, indivisible, impalpable, playing without sound or
agitation around him like soft light and warmth and the fostering air.
The deepest ignorance, the dullest incapacity, the cloudiest faculties
of apprehension, were nothing to him in man or woman, provided he could
only be sensible of that indescribable emanation from voice and eye and
movement, that silent effusion of serenity around spoken words, which
nature has given to some tranquillising spirits, and which would have
left him free in an even life of indolent meditation and unfretted
sense. A woman of high, eager, stimulating kind would have been a more
fatal mate for him than the most stupid woman that ever rivalled the
stupidity of man. Stimulation in any form always meant distress to
Rousseau. The moist warmth of the Savoy valleys was not dearer to him
than the subtle inhalations of softened and close enveloping
companionship, in which the one needful thing is not intellectual
equality, but easy, smooth, constant contact of feeling about the
thousand small matters that make up the existence of a day. This is not
the highest ideal of union that one's mind can conceive from the point
of view of intense productive energy, but Rousseau was not concerned
with the conditions of productive energy. He only sought to live, to be
himself, and he knew better than any critics can know for him, what kind
of nature was the best supplement for his own. As he said in an
apophthegm with a deep melancholy lying at the bottom of it,--you never
can cite the example of a thoroughly happy man, for no one but the man
himself knows anything about it.[124] "By the side of people we love,"
he says very truly, "sentiment nourishes the intelligence as well as the
heart, and we have little occasion to seek ideas elsewhere. I lived with
my Theresa as pleasantly as with the finest genius in the

Theresa Le Vasseur would probably have been happier if she had married a
stout stable-boy, as indeed she did some thirty years hence by way of
gathering up the fragments that were left; but there is little reason to
think that Rousseau would have been much happier with any other mate
than he was with Theresa. There was no social disparity between the two.
She was a person accustomed to hardship and coarseness, and so was he.
And he always systematically preferred the honest coarseness of the
plain people from whom he was sprung and among whom he had lived, to the
more hateful coarseness of heart which so often lurks under fine manners
and a complete knowledge of the order of the months in the year and the
arithmetical table. Rousseau had been a serving-man, and there was no
deterioration in going with a serving-woman.[126] However this may be,
it is certain that for the first dozen years or so of his
partnership--and many others as well as he are said to have found in
this term a limit to the conditions of the original contract,--Rousseau
had perfect and entire contentment in the Theresa whom all his friends
pronounced as mean, greedy, jealous, degrading, as she was avowedly
brutish in understanding. Granting that she was all these things, how
much of the responsibility for his acts has been thus shifted from the
shoulders of Rousseau himself, whose connection with her was from
beginning to end entirely voluntary? If he attached himself deliberately
to an unworthy object by a bond which he was indisputably free to break
on any day that he chose, were not the effects of such a union as much
due to his own character which sought, formed, and perpetuated it, as to
the character of Theresa Le Vasseur? Nothing, as he himself said in a
passage to which he appends a vindication of Theresa, shows the true
leanings and inclinations of a man better than the sort of attachments
which he forms.[127]

It is a natural blunder in a literate and well-mannered society to
charge a mistake against a man who infringes its conventions in this
particular way. Rousseau knew what he was about, as well as politer
persons. He was at least as happy with his kitchen wench as Addison was
with his countess, or Voltaire with his marchioness, and he would not
have been what he was, nor have played the part that he did play in the
eighteenth century, if he had felt anything derogatory or unseemly in a
kitchen wench. The selection was probably not very deliberate; as it
happened, Theresa served as a standing illustration of two of his most
marked traits, a contempt for mere literary culture, and a yet deeper
contempt for social accomplishments and social position. In time he
found out the grievous disadvantages of living in solitude with a
companion who did not know how to think, and whose stock of ideas was so
slight that the only common ground of talk between them was gossip and
quodlibets. But her lack of sprightliness, beauty, grace, refinement,
and that gentle initiative by which women may make even a sombre life so
various, went for nothing with him. What his friends missed in her, he
did not seek and would not have valued; and what he found in her, they
were naturally unable to appreciate, for they never were in the mood for
detecting it. "I have not seen much of happy men," he wrote when near
his end, "perhaps nothing; but I have many a time seen contented hearts,
and of all the objects that have struck me, I believe it is this which
has always given most contentment to myself."[128] This moderate
conception of felicity, which was always so characteristic with him, as
an even, durable, and rather low-toned state of the feelings, accounts
for his prolonged acquiescence in a companion whom men with more elation
in their ideal would assuredly have found hostile even to the most
modest contentment.

"The heart of my Theresa," he wrote long after the first tenderness had
changed into riper emotion on his side, and, alas, into indifference on
hers, "was that of an angel; our attachment waxed stronger with our
intimacy, and we felt more and more each day that we were made for one
another. If our pleasures could be described, their simplicity would
make you laugh; our excursions together out of town, in which I would
munificently expend eight or ten halfpence in some rural tavern; our
modest suppers at my window, seated in front of one another on two small
chairs placed on a trunk that filled up the breadth of the embrasure.
Here the window did duty for a table, we breathed the fresh air, we
could see the neighbourhood and the people passing by, and though on the
fourth story, could look down into the street as we ate. Who shall
describe, who shall feel the charms of those meals, consisting of a
coarse quartern loaf, some cherries, a tiny morsel of cheese, and a pint
of wine which we drank between us? Ah, what delicious seasoning there is
in friendship, confidence, intimacy, gentleness of soul! We used
sometimes to remain thus until midnight, without once thinking of the

Men and women are often more fairly judged by the way in which they bear
the burden of what they have done, than by the prime act which laid the
burden on their lives.[130] The deeper part of us shows in the manner of
accepting consequences. On the whole, Rousseau's relations with this
woman present him in a better light than those with any other person
whatever. If he became with all the rest of the world suspicious, angry,
jealous, profoundly diseased in a word, with her he was habitually
trustful, affectionate, careful, most long-suffering. It sometimes even
occurs to us that his constancy to Theresa was only another side of the
morbid perversity of his relations with the rest of the world. People of
a certain kind not seldom make the most serious and vital sacrifices for
bare love of singularity, and a man like Rousseau was not unlikely to
feel an eccentric pleasure in proving that he could find merit in a
woman who to everybody else was desperate. One who is on bad terms with
the bulk of his fellows may contrive to save his self-respect and
confirm his conviction that they are all in the wrong, by preserving
attachment to some one to whom general opinion is hostile; the private
argument being that if he is capable of this degree of virtue and
friendship in an unfavourable case, how much more could he have
practised it with others, if they would only have allowed him. Whether
this kind of apology was present to his mind or not, Rousseau could
always refer those who charged him with black caprice, to his steady
kindness towards Theresa Le Vasseur. Her family were among the most
odious of human beings, greedy, idle, and ill-humoured, while her mother
had every fault that a woman could have in Rousseau's eyes, including
that worst fault of setting herself up for a fine wit. Yet he bore with
them all for years, and did not break with Madame Le Vasseur until she
had poisoned the mind of her daughter, and done her best by rapacity and
lying to render him contemptible to all his friends.

In the course of years Theresa herself gave him unmistakable signs of a
change in her affections. "I began to feel," he says, at a date of
sixteen or seventeen years from our present point, "that she was no
longer for me what she had been in our happy years, and I felt it all
the more clearly as I was still the same towards her."[131] This was in
1762, and her estrangement grew deeper and her indifference more open,
until at length, seven years afterwards, we find that she had proposed a
separation from him. What the exact reasons for this gradual change may
have been we do not know, nor have we any right in ignorance of the
whole facts to say that they were not adequate and just. There are two
good traits recorded of the woman's character. She could never console
herself for having let her father be taken away to end his days
miserably in a house of charity.[132] And the repudiation of her
children, against which the glowing egoism of maternity always rebelled,
remained a cruel dart in her bosom as long as she lived. We may suppose
that there was that about household life with Rousseau which might have
bred disgusts even in one as little fastidious as Theresa was. Among
other things which must have been hard to endure, we know that in
composing his works he was often weeks together without speaking a word
to her.[133] Perhaps again it would not be difficult to produce some
passages in Rousseau's letters and in the Confessions, which show traces
of that subtle contempt for women that lurks undetected in many who
would blush to avow it. Whatever the causes may have been, from
indifference she passed to something like aversion, and in the one
place where a word of complaint is wrung from him, he describes her as
rending and piercing his heart at a moment when his other miseries were
at their height. His patience at any rate was inexhaustible; now old,
worn by painful bodily infirmities, racked by diseased suspicion and the
most dreadful and tormenting of the minor forms of madness, nearly
friendless, and altogether hopeless, he yet kept unabated the old
tenderness of a quarter of a century before, and expressed it in words
of such gentleness, gravity, and self-respecting strength, as may touch
even those whom his books leave unmoved, and who view his character with
deepest distrust. "For the six-and-twenty years, dearest, that our union
has lasted, I have never sought my happiness except in yours, and have
never ceased to try to make you happy; and you saw by what I did
lately,[134] that your honour and happiness were one as dear to me as
the other. I see with pain that success does not answer my solicitude,
and that my kindness is not as sweet to you to receive, as it is sweet
to me to show. I know that the sentiments of honour and uprightness with
which you were born will never change in you; but as for those of
tenderness and attachment which were once reciprocal between us, I feel
that they now only exist on my side. Not only, dearest of all friends,
have you ceased to find pleasure in my company, but you have to tax
yourself severely even to remain a few minutes with me out of
complaisance. You are at your ease with all the world but me. I do not
speak to you of many other things. We must take our friends with their
faults, and I ought to pass over yours, as you pass over mine. If you
were happy with me I could be content, but I see clearly that you are
not, and this is what makes my heart sore. If I could do better for your
happiness, I would do it and hold my peace; but that is not possible. I
have left nothing undone that I thought would contribute to your
felicity. At this moment, while I am writing to you, overwhelmed with
distress and misery, I have no more true or lively desire than to finish
my days in closest union with you. You know my lot,--it is such as one
could not even dare to describe, for no one could believe it. I never
had, my dearest, other than one single solace, but that the sweetest; it
was to pour out all my heart in yours; when I talked of my miseries to
you, they were soothed; and when you had pitied me, I needed pity no
more. My every resource, my whole confidence, is in you and in you only;
my soul cannot exist without sympathy, and cannot find sympathy except
with you. It is certain that if you fail me and I am forced to live
alone, I am as a dead man. But I should die a thousand times more
cruelly still, if we continued to live together in misunderstanding, and
if confidence and friendship were to go out between us. It would be a
hundred times better to cease to see each other; still to live, and
sometimes to regret one another. Whatever sacrifice may be necessary on
my part to make you happy, be so at any cost, and I shall be content.
We have faults to weep over and to expiate, but no crimes; let us not
blot out by the imprudence of our closing days the sweetness and purity
of those we have passed together."[135] Think ill as we may of
Rousseau's theories, and meanly as we may of some parts of his conduct,
yet to those who can feel the pulsing of a human life apart from a man's
formulæ, and can be content to leave to sure circumstance the tragic
retaliation for evil behaviour, this letter is like one of the great
master's symphonies, whose theme falls in soft strokes of melting pity
on the heart. In truth, alas, the union of this now diverse pair had
been stained by crimes shortly after its beginning. In the estrangement
of father and mother in their late years we may perhaps hear the rustle
and spy the pale forms of the avenging spectres of their lost children.

At the time when the connection with Theresa Le Vasseur was formed,
Rousseau did not know how to gain bread. He composed the musical
diversion of the Muses Galantes, which Rameau rightly or wrongly
pronounced a plagiarism, and at the request of Richelieu he made some
minor re-adaptations in Voltaire's Princesse de Navarre, which Rameau
had set to music--that "farce of the fair" to which the author of Zaïre
owed his seat in the Academy.[136] But neither task brought him money,
and he fell back on a sort of secretaryship, with perhaps a little of
the valet in it, to Madame Dupin and her son-in-law, M. de Francueil,
for which he received the too moderate income of nine hundred francs. On
one occasion he returned to his room expecting with eager impatience the
arrival of a remittance, the proceeds of some small property which came
to him by the death of his father.[137] He found the letter, and was
opening it with trembling hands, when he was suddenly smitten with shame
at his want of self-control; he placed it unopened on the chimney-piece,
undressed, slept better than usual, and when he awoke the next morning,
he had forgotten all about the letter until it caught his eye. He was
delighted to find that it contained his money, but "I can swear," he
adds, "that my liveliest delight was in having conquered myself." An
occasion for self-conquest on a more considerable scale was at hand. In
these tight straits, he received grievous news from the unfortunate
Theresa. He made up his mind cheerfully what to do; the mother
acquiesced after sore persuasion and with bitter tears; and the new-born
child was dropped into oblivion in the box of the asylum for foundlings.
Next year the same easy expedient was again resorted to, with the same
heedlessness on the part of the father, the same pain and reluctance on
the part of the mother. Five children in all were thus put away, and
with such entire absence of any precaution with a view to their
identification in happier times, that not even a note was kept of the
day of their birth.[138]

People have made a great variety of remarks upon this transaction, from
the economist who turns it into an illustration of the evil results of
hospitals for foundlings in encouraging improvident unions, down to the
theologian who sees in it new proof of the inborn depravity of the human
heart and the fall of man. Others have vindicated it in various ways,
one of them courageously taking up the ground that Rousseau had good
reason to believe that the children were not his own, and therefore was
fully warranted in sending the poor creatures kinless into the
universe.[139] Perhaps it is not too transcendental a thing to hope that
civilisation may one day reach a point when a plea like this shall count
for an aggravation rather than a palliative; when a higher conception of
the duties of humanity, familiarised by the practice of adoption as well
as by the spread of both rational and compassionate considerations as to
the blameless little ones, shall have expelled what is surely as some
red and naked beast's emotion of fatherhood. What may be an excellent
reason for repudiating a woman, can never be a reason for abandoning a
child, except with those whom reckless egoism has made willing to think
it a light thing to fling away from us the moulding of new lives and the
ensuring of salutary nurture for growing souls.

We are, however, dispensed from entering into these questions of the
greater morals by the very plain account which the chief actor has given
us, almost in spite of himself. His crime like most others was the
result of heedlessness, of the overriding of duty by the short dim-eyed
selfishness of the moment. He had been accustomed to frequent a tavern,
where the talk turned mostly upon topics which men with much
self-respect put as far from them, as men with little self-respect will
allow them to do. "I formed my fashion of thinking from what I perceived
to reign among people who were at bottom extremely worthy folk, and I
said to myself, Since it is the usage of the country, as one lives here,
one may as well follow it. So I made up my mind to it cheerfully, and
without the least scruple."[140] By and by he proceeded to cover this
nude and intelligible explanation with finer phrases, about preferring
that his children should be trained up as workmen and peasants rather
than as adventurers and fortune-hunters, and about his supposing that in
sending them to the hospital for foundlings he was enrolling himself a
citizen in Plato's Republic.[141] This is hardly more than the talk of
one become famous, who is defending the acts of his obscurity on the
high principles which fame requires. People do not turn citizens of
Plato's Republic "cheerfully and without the least scruple," and if a
man frequents company where the despatch of inconvenient children to the
hospital was an accepted point of common practice, it is superfluous to
drag Plato and his Republic into the matter. Another turn again was
given to his motives when his mind had become clouded by suspicious
mania. Writing a year or two before his death he had assured himself
that his determining reason was the fear of a destiny for his children a
thousand times worse than the hard life of foundlings, namely, being
spoiled by their mother, being turned into monsters by her family, and
finally being taught to hate and betray their father by his plotting
enemies.[142] This is obviously a mixture in his mind of the motives
which led to the abandonment of the children and justified the act to
himself at the time, with the circumstances that afterwards reconciled
him to what he had done; for now he neither had any enemies plotting
against him, nor did he suppose that he had. As for his wife's family,
he showed himself quite capable, when the time came, of dealing
resolutely and shortly with their importunities in his own case, and he
might therefore well have trusted his power to deal with them in the
case of his children. He was more right when in 1770, in his important
letter to M. de St. Germain, he admitted that example, necessity, the
honour of her who was dear to him, all united to make him entrust his
children to the establishment provided for that purpose, and kept him
from fulfilling the first and holiest of natural duties. "In this, far
from excusing, I accuse myself; and when my reason tells me that I did
what I ought to have done in my situation, I believe that less than my
heart, which bitterly belies it."[143] This coincides with the first
undisguised account given in the Confessions, which has been already
quoted, and it has not that flawed ring of cant and fine words which
sounds through nearly all his other references to this great stain upon
his life, excepting one, and this is the only further document with
which we need concern ourselves. In that,[144] which was written while
the unholy work was actually being done, he states very distinctly that
the motives were those which are more or less closely connected with
most unholy works, motives of money--the great instrument and measure of
our personal convenience, the quantitative test of our self-control in
placing personal convenience behind duty to other people. "If my misery
and my misfortunes rob me of the power of fulfilling a duty so dear,
that is a calamity to pity me for, rather than a crime to reproach me
with. I owe them subsistence, and I procured a better or at least a
surer subsistence for them than I could myself have provided; this
condition is above all others." Next comes the consideration of their
mother, whose honour must be kept. "You know my situation; I gained my
bread from day to day painfully enough; how then should I feed a family
as well? And if I were compelled to fall back on the profession of
author, how would domestic cares and the confusion of children leave me
peace of mind enough in my garret to earn a living? Writings which
hunger dictates are hardly of any use, and such a resource is speedily
exhausted. Then I should have to resort to patronage, to intrigue, to
tricks ... in short to surrender myself to all those infamies, for which
I am penetrated with such just horror. Support myself, my children, and
their mother on the blood of wretches? No, madame, it were better for
them to be orphans than to have a scoundrel for their father.... Why
have I not married, you will ask? Madame, ask it of your unjust laws. It
was not fitting for me to contract an eternal engagement; and it will
never be proved to me that my duty binds me to it. What is certain is
that I have never done it, and that I never meant to do it. But we ought
not to have children when we cannot support them. Pardon me, madame;
nature means us to have offspring, since the earth produces sustenance
enough for all; but it is the rich, it is your class, which robs mine of
the bread of my children.... I know that foundlings are not delicately
nurtured; so much the better for them, they become more robust. They
have nothing superfluous given to them, but they have everything that is
necessary. They do not make gentlemen of them, but peasants or
artisans.... They would not know how to dance, or ride on horseback, but
they would have strong unwearied legs. I would neither make authors of
them, nor clerks; I would not practise them in handling the pen, but the
plough, the file, and the plane, instruments for leading a healthy,
laborious, innocent life.... I deprived myself of the delight of seeing
them, and I have never tasted the sweetness of a father's embrace. Alas,
as I have already told you, I see in this only a claim on your pity, and
I deliver them from misery at my own expense."[145] We may see here that
Rousseau's sophistical eloquence, if it misled others, was at least as
powerful in misleading himself, and it may be noted that this letter,
with its talk of the children of the rich taking bread out of the mouths
of the children of the poor, contains the first of those socialistic
sentences by which the writer in after times gained so famous a name. It
is at any rate clear from this that the real motive of the abandonment
of the children was wholly material. He could not afford to maintain
them, and he did not wish to have his comfort disturbed by
their presence.

There is assuredly no word to be said by any one with firm reason and
unsophisticated conscience in extenuation of this crime. We have only to
remember that a great many other persons in that lax time, when the
structure of the family was undermined alike in practice and
speculation, were guilty of the same crime; that Rousseau, better than
they, did not erect his own criminality into a social theory, but was
tolerably soon overtaken by a remorse which drove him both to confess
his misdeed, and to admit that it was inexpiable; and that the atrocity
of the offence owes half the blackness with which it has always been
invested by wholesome opinion, to the fact that the offender was by and
by the author of the most powerful book by which parental duty has been
commended in its full loveliness and nobility. And at any rate, let
Rousseau be a little free from excessive reproach from all clergymen,
sentimentalists, and others, who do their worst to uphold the common and
rather bestial opinion in favour of reckless propagation, and who, if
they do not advocate the despatch of children to public institutions,
still encourage a selfish incontinence which ultimately falls in burdens
on others than the offenders, and which turns the family into a scene of
squalor and brutishness, producing a kind of parental influence that is
far more disastrous and demoralising than the absence of it in public
institutions can possibly be. If the propagation of children without
regard to their maintenance be either a virtue or a necessity, and if
afterwards the only alternatives are their maintenance in an asylum on
the one hand, and their maintenance in the degradation of a
poverty-stricken home on the other, we should not hesitate to give
people who act as Rousseau acted, all that credit for self-denial and
high moral courage which he so audaciously claimed for himself. It
really seems to be no more criminal to produce children with the
deliberate intention of abandoning them to public charity, as Rousseau
did, than it is to produce them in deliberate reliance on the besotted
maxim that he who sends mouths will send meat, or any other of the
spurious saws which make Providence do duty for self-control, and add to
the gratification of physical appetite the grotesque luxury of
religious unction.

In 1761 the Maréchale de Luxembourg made efforts to discover Rousseau's
children, but without success. They were gone beyond hope of
identification, and the author of _Emitius_ and his sons and daughters
lived together in this world, not knowing one another. Rousseau with
singular honesty did not conceal his satisfaction at the fruitlessness
of the charitable endeavours to restore them to him. "The success of
your search," he wrote, "could not give me pure and undisturbed
pleasure; it is too late, too late.... In my present condition this
search interested me more for another person [Theresa] than myself; and
considering the too easily yielding character of the person in question,
it is possible that what she had found already formed for good or for
evil, might turn out a sorry boon to her."[146] We may doubt, in spite
of one or two charming and graceful passages, whether Rousseau was of a
nature to have any feeling for the pathos of infancy, the bright blank
eye, the eager unpurposed straining of the hand, the many turns and
changes in murmurings that yet can tell us nothing. He was both too
self-centred and too passionate for warm ease and fulness of life in all
things, to be truly sympathetic with a condition whose feebleness and
immaturity touch us with half-painful hope.

Rousseau speaks in the Confessions of having married Theresa
five-and-twenty years after the beginning of their acquaintance,[147]
but we hardly have to understand that any ceremony took place which
anybody but himself would recognise as constituting a marriage. What
happened appears to have been this. Seated at table with Theresa and two
guests, one of them the mayor of the place, he declared that she was his
wife. "This good and seemly engagement was contracted," he says, "in all
the simplicity but also in all the truth of nature, in the presence of
two men of worth and honour.... During the short and simple act, I saw
the honest pair melted in tears."[148] He had at this time whimsically
assumed the name of Renou, and he wrote to a friend that of course he
had married in this name, for he adds, with the characteristic insertion
of an irrelevant bit of magniloquence, "it is not names that are
married; no, it is persons." "Even if in this simple and holy ceremony
names entered as a constituent part, the one I bear would have sufficed,
since I recognise no other. If it were a question of property to be
assured, then it would be another thing, but you know very well that is
not our case."[149] Of course, this may have been a marriage according
to the truth of nature, and Rousseau was as free to choose his own rites
as more sacramental performers, but it is clear from his own words about
property that there was no pretence of a marriage in law. He and Theresa
were on profoundly uncomfortable terms about this time,[150] and
Rousseau is not the only person by many thousands who has deceived
himself into thinking that some form of words between man and woman must
magically transform the substance of their characters and lives, and
conjure up new relations of peace and steadfastness.

       *       *       *       *       *

We have, however, been outstripping slow-footed destiny, and have now to
return to the time when Theresa did not drink brandy, nor run after
stable-boys, nor fill Rousseau's soul with bitterness and suspicion, but
sat contentedly with him in an evening taking a stoic's meal in the
window of their garret on the fourth floor, seasoning it with
"confidence, intimacy, gentleness of soul," and that general comfort of
sensation which, as we know to our cost, is by no means an invariable
condition either of duty done externally or of spiritual growth within.
It is perhaps hard for us to feel that we are in the presence of a great
religious reactionist; there is so little sign of the higher graces of
the soul, there are so many signs of the lowering clogs of the flesh.
But the spirit of a man moves in mysterious ways, and expands like the
plants of the field with strange and silent stirrings. It is one of the
chief tests of worthiness and freedom from vulgarity of soul in us, to
be able to have faith that this expansion is a reality, and the most
important of all realities. We do not rightly seize the type of Socrates
if we can never forget that he was the husband of Xanthippe, nor David's
if we can only think of him as the murderer of Uriah, nor Peter's if we
can simply remember that he denied his master. Our vision is only
blindness, if we can never bring ourselves to see the possibilities of
deep mystic aspiration behind the vile outer life of a man, or to
believe that this coarse Rousseau, scantily supping with his coarse
mate, might yet have many glimpses of the great wide horizons that are
haunted by figures rather divine than human.


[104] In theory he was even now curiously prudent and almost
sagacious; witness the Projet pour l'Education, etc., submitted to M.
de Mably, and printed in the volume of his Works entitled _Mélanges_,
pp. 106-136. In the matter of Latin, it may be worth noting that
Rousseau rashly or otherwise condemns the practice of writing it, as a
vexatious superfluity (p. 132).

[105] _Conf._, vi. 471.

[106] _Ib._, vi. 472-475; vii. 8.

[107] _Conf._, vii. 18, 19.

[108] Musset-Pathay (ii. 72) quotes the passage from Lord
Chesterfield's Letters, where the writer suggests Madame Dupin as a
proper person with whom his son might in a regular and business-like
manner open the elevating game of gallant intrigue.

[109] M. Dupin deserves honourable mention as having helped the
editors of the Encyclopædia by procuring information for them as to
salt-works (D'Alembert's _Discours Préliminaire_). His son M. Dupin de
Francueil, it may be worth noting, is a link in the genealogical chain
between two famous personages. In 1777, the year before Rousseau's
death, he married (in the chapel of the French embassy in London)
Aurora de Saxe, a natural daughter of the marshal, himself the natural
son of August the Strong, King of Poland. From this union was born
Maurice Dupin, and Maurice Dupin was the father of Madame George Sand.
M. Francueil died in 1787.

[110] _Mém. de Mdme. d'Epinay_, vol. i. ch. iv. p. 176.

[111] _Ib._ vol. i. ch. iv. pp. 178, 179.

[112] _Conf._, vii. 46, 51, 52, etc. A diplomatic piece in Rousseau's
handwriting has been found in the archives of the French consulate at
Constantinople, as M. Girardin informs us. Voltaire unworthily spread
the report that Rousseau had been the ambassador's private attendant.
For Rousseau's reply to the calumny, see _Corr._, v. 75 (Jan. 5,
1767); also iv. 150.

[113] Bernardin de St. Pierre, _Oeuv._, xii. 55 _seq._

[114] _Conf._, vii. 92.

[115] _Conf._, vii. 38, 39.

[116] _Lettres de la Montagne_, iii. 266.

[117] _Conf._, vii. 75-84. Also a second example, 84-86. For Byron's
opinion of one of these stories, see Lockhart's _Life of Scott_, vi.
132. (Ed. 1837.)

[118] _Lettre sur la Musique Française_ (1753), p. 186.

[119] _Conf._, ix. 232.

[120] _Ib._ vii. 97.

[121] Hôtel St. Quentin, rue des Cordiers, a narrow street running
between the rue St. Jacques and the rue Victor Cousin. The still
squalid hostelry is now visible as Hôtel J.J. Rousseau. There is some
doubt whether he first saw Theresa in 1743 or 1745. The account in Bk.
vii. of the _Confessions_ is for the latter date (see also _Corr._,
ii. 207), but in the well-known letter to her in 1769 (_Ib._ vi. 79),
he speaks of the twenty-six years of their union. Their so-called
marriage took place in 1768, and writing in that year he speaks of the
five-and-twenty years of their attachment (_Ib._ v. 323), and in the
_Confessions_ (ix. 249) he fixes their marriage at the same date; also
in the letter to Saint-Germain (vi. 152). Musset-Pathay, though giving
1745 in one place (i. 45), and 1743 in another (ii. 198), has with
less than his usual care paid no attention to the discrepancy.

[122] _Conf._, vii. 97-100.

[123] _Conf._, vii. 101. A short specimen of her composition may be
interesting, at any rate to hieroglyphic students: "Mesiceuras ancor
mien re mies quan geu ceures o pres deu vous, e deu vous temoes tous
la goies e latandres deu mon querque vous cones ces que getou gour e
rus pour vous, e qui neu finiraes quotobocs ces mon quere qui vous
paleu ces paes mes le vre ... ge sui avestous lamities e la reu conec
caceu posible e la tacheman mon cher bonnamies votreau enble e bon
amiess theress le vasseur." Of which dark words this is the
interpretation:--"Mais il sera encore mieux remis quand je sera auprès
de vous, et de vous témoigner toute la joie et la tendresse de mon
coeur que vous connaissez que j'ai toujours eue pour vous, et qui ne
finira qu'au tombeau; c'est mon coeur qui vous parle, c'est pas mes
lèvres.... Je suis avec toute l'amitié et la reconnaissance possibles,
et l'attachement, mon cher bon ami, votre humble et bonne amie,
Thérèse Le Vasseur." (_Rousseau, ses Amis et ses Ennemis_, ii. 450.)
Certainly it was not learning and arts which hindered Theresa's
manners from being pure.

[124] _Oeuv. et Corr. Inéd._, 365.

[125] _Conf._, vii. 102. See also _Corr._, v. 373 (Oct. 10, 1768). On
the other hand, _Conf._, ix. 249.

[126] M. St. Marc Girardin, in one of his admirable papers on
Rousseau, speaks of him as "a bourgeois unclassed by an alliance with
a tavern servant" (_Rev. des Deux Mondes_, Nov. 1852, p. 759); but
surely Rousseau had unclassed himself long before, in the houses of
Madame Vercellis, Count Gouvon, and even Madame de Warens, and by his
repudiation, from the time when he ran away from Geneva, of nearly
every bourgeois virtue and bourgeois prejudice.

[127] _Conf._, vii. 11. Also footnote.

[128] _Rêveries_, ix. 309.

[129] _Conf._, viii. 142, 143.

[130] The other day I came for the first time upon the following in
the sayings of Madame de Lambert:--"Ce ne sont pas toujours les fautes
qui nous perdent; c'est la manière de se conduire aprés les avoir
faites." [1877.]

[131] _Conf._, xii. 187, 188.

[132] _Ib._, viii. 221.

[133] Bernardin de St. Pierre, _Oeuv._, xii. 103. See _Conf._, xii
188, and _Corr._, v. 324.

[134] Referring, no doubt, to the ceremony which he called their
marriage, and which had taken place in 1768.

[135] _Corr._, vi. 79-86. August 12, 1769.

[136] Composed in 1745. The _Fêtes de Ramire_ was represented at
Versailles at the very end of this year.

[137] Some time in 1746-7. _Conf._, vii. 113, 114.

[138] Probably in the winter of 1746-7. _Corr._, ii. 207. _Conf._,
vii. 120-124. _Ib._, viii. 148. _Corr._, ii. 208. June 12, 1761, to
the Maréchale de Luxembourg.

[139] George Sand,--in an eloquent piece entitled _À Propos des
Charmettes (Revue des Deux Mondes_, November 15, 1863), in which she
expresses her own obligations to Jean Jacques. In 1761 Rousseau
declares that he had never hitherto had the least reason to suspect
Theresa's fidelity. _Corr._, ii. 209

[140] _Conf._, vii. 123.

[141] _Ib._, viii. 145-151.

[142] _Rêveries_, ix. 313. The same reason is given, _Conf._, ix. 252;
also in Letter to Madame B., January 17, 1770 (_Corr._, vi. 117).

[143] _Corr._, vi. 152, 153. Feb. 27, 1770.

[144] Letter to Madame de Francueil, April 20, 1751. _Corr._, i. 151.

[145] _Corr._, i. 151-155

[146] August 10, 1761. _Corr._, ii. 220. The Maréchale de Luxembourg's
note on the subject, to which this is a reply, is given in _Rousseau,
ses Amis et ses Ennemis_, i. 444.

[147] _Conf._, x. 249. See above, p. 106, _n._

[148] To Lalliaud, Aug 31, 1768. _Corr._, v. 324. See also D'Escherny,
quoted in Musset-Pathay, i. 169, 170.

[149] To Du Peyrou, Sept. 26, 1768. _Corr._, v. 360.

[150] To Mdlle. Le Vasseur, July 25, 1768. _Corr._, v. 116-119.



The busy establishment of local academies in the provincial centres of
France only preceded the outbreak of the revolution by ten or a dozen
years; but one or two of the provincial cities, such as Bordeaux, Rouen,
Dijon, had possessed academies in imitation of the greater body of Paris
for a much longer time. Their activity covered a very varied ground,
from the mere commonplaces of literature to the most practical details
of material production. If they now and then relapsed into inquiries
about the laws of Crete, they more often discussed positive and
scientific theses, and rather resembled our chambers of agriculture than
bodies of more learned pretension. The academy of Dijon was one of the
earliest of these excellent institutions, and on the whole the list of
its theses shows it to have been among the most sensible in respect of
the subjects which it found worth thinking about. Its members, however,
could not entirely resist the intellectual atmosphere of the time. In
1742 they invited discussion of the point, whether the natural law can
conduct society to perfection without the aid of political laws.[151]
In 1749 they proposed this question as a theme for their prize essay:
_Has the restoration of the sciences contributed to purify or to corrupt
manners?_ Rousseau was one of fourteen competitors, and in 1750 his
discussion of the academic theme received the prize.[152] This was his
first entry on the field of literature and speculation. Three years
afterwards the same academy propounded another question: _What is the
origin of inequality among men, and is it authorised by the natural
law?_ Rousseau again competed, and though his essay neither gained the
prize, nor created as lively an agitation as its predecessor had done,
yet we may justly regard the second as a more powerful supplement to
the first.

It is always interesting to know the circumstances under which pieces
that have moved a world were originally composed, and Rousseau's account
of the generation of his thoughts as to the influence of enlightenment
on morality, is remarkable enough to be worth transcribing. He was
walking along the road from Paris to Vincennes one hot summer afternoon
on a visit to Diderot, then in prison for his Letter on the Blind
(1749), when he came across in a newspaper the announcement of the theme
propounded by the Dijon academy. "If ever anything resembled a sudden
inspiration, it was the movement which began in me as I read this. All
at once I felt myself dazzled by a thousand sparkling lights; crowds of
vivid ideas thronged into my mind with a force and confusion that threw
me into unspeakable agitation; I felt my head whirling in a giddiness
like that of intoxication. A violent palpitation oppressed me; unable to
walk for difficulty of breathing, I sank under one of the trees of the
avenue, and passed half an hour there in such a condition of excitement,
that when I arose I saw that the front of my waistcoat was all wet with
my tears, though I was wholly unconscious of shedding them. Ah, if I
could ever have written the quarter of what I saw and felt under that
tree, with what clearness should I have brought out all the
contradictions of our social system; with what simplicity I should have
demonstrated that man is good naturally, and that by institutions only
is he made bad."[153] Diderot encouraged him to compete for the prize,
and to give full flight to the ideas which had come to him in this
singular way.[154]

People have held up their hands at the amazing originality of the idea
that perhaps sciences and arts have not purified manners. This sentiment
is surely exaggerated, if we reflect first that it occurred to the
academicians of Dijon as a question for discussion, and second that, if
you are asked whether a given result has or has not followed from
certain circumstances, the mere form of the question suggests No quite
as readily as Yes. The originality lay not in the central contention,
but in the fervour, sincerity, and conviction of a most unacademic sort
with which it was presented and enforced. There is less originality in
denouncing your generation as wicked and adulterous than there is in
believing it to be so, and in persuading the generation itself both that
you believe it and that you have good reasons to give. We have not to
suppose that there was any miracle wrought by agency celestial or
infernal in the sudden disclosure of his idea to Rousseau. Rousseau had
been thinking of politics ever since the working of the government of
Venice had first drawn his mind to the subject. What is the government,
he had kept asking himself, which is most proper to form a sage and
virtuous nation? What government by its nature keeps closest to the law?
What is this law? And whence?[155] This chain of problems had led him to
what he calls the historic study of morality, though we may doubt
whether history was so much his teacher as the rather meagrely nourished
handmaid of his imagination. Here was the irregular preparation, the
hidden process, which suddenly burst into light and manifested itself
with an exuberance of energy, that passed to the man himself for an
inward revolution with no precursive sign.

Rousseau's ecstatic vision on the road to Vincennes was the opening of a
life of thought and production which only lasted a dozen years, but
which in that brief space gave to Europe a new gospel. Emilius and the
Social Contract were completed in 1761, and they crowned a work which if
you consider its origin, influence, and meaning with due and proper
breadth, is marked by signal unity of purpose and conception. The key to
it is given to us in the astonishing transport at the foot of the
wide-spreading oak. Such a transport does not come to us of cool and
rational western temperament, but more often to the oriental after
lonely sojourning in the wilderness, or in violent reactions on the road
to Damascus and elsewhere. Jean Jacques detected oriental quality in his
own nature,[156] and so far as the union of ardour with mysticism, of
intense passion with vague dream, is to be defined as oriental, he
assuredly deserves the name. The ideas stirred in his mind by the Dijon
problem suddenly "opened his eyes, brought order into the chaos in his
head, revealed to him another universe. From the active effervescence
which thus began in his soul, came sparks of genius which people saw
glittering in his writings through ten years of fever and delirium, but
of which no trace had been seen in him previously, and which would
probably have ceased to shine henceforth, if he should have chanced to
wish to continue writing after the access was over. Inflamed by the
contemplation of these lofty objects, he had them incessantly present to
his mind. His heart, made hot within him by the idea of the future
happiness of the human race, and by the honour of contributing to it,
dictated to him a language worthy of so high an enterprise ... and for a
moment, he astonished Europe by productions in which vulgar souls saw
only eloquence and brightness of understanding, but in which those who
dwell in the ethereal regions recognised with joy one of their

This was his own account of the matter quite at the end of his life, and
this is the only point of view from which we are secure against the
vulgarity of counting him a deliberate hypocrite and conscious
charlatan. He was possessed, as holier natures than his have been, by an
enthusiastic vision, an intoxicated confidence, a mixture of sacred rage
and prodigious love, an insensate but absolutely disinterested revolt
against the stone and iron of a reality which he was bent on melting in
a heavenly blaze of splendid aspiration and irresistibly persuasive
expression. The last word of this great expansion was Emilius, its first
and more imperfectly articulated was the earlier of the two Discourses.

Rousseau's often-repeated assertion that here was the instant of the
ruin of his life, and that all his misfortunes flowed from that unhappy
moment, has been constantly treated as the word of affectation and
disguised pride. Yet, vain as he was, it may well have represented his
sincere feeling in those better moods when mental suffering was strong
enough to silence vanity. His visions mastered him for these thirteen
years, _grande mortalis oevi spatium_. They threw him on to that turbid
sea of literature for which he had so keen an aversion, and from which,
let it be remarked, he fled finally away, when his confidence in the
ease of making men good and happy by words of monition had left him. It
was the torment of his own enthusiasm which rent that veil of placid
living, that in his normal moments he would fain have interposed between
his existence and the tumult of a generation with which he was
profoundly out of sympathy. In this way the first Discourse was the
letting in of much evil upon him, as that and the next and the Social
Contract were the letting in of much evil upon all Europe.

Of this essay the writer has recorded his own impression that, though
full of heat and force, it is absolutely wanting in logic and order, and
that of all the products of his pen, it is the feeblest in reasoning and
the poorest in numbers and harmony. "For," as he justly adds, "the art
of writing is not learnt all at once."[158] The modern critic must be
content to accept the same verdict; only a generation so in love as
this was with anything that could tickle its intellectual curiousness,
would have found in the first of the two Discourses that combination of
speculative and literary merit which was imputed to Rousseau on the
strength of it, and which at once brought him into a place among the
notables of an age that was full of them.[159] We ought to take in
connection with it two at any rate of the vindications of the Discourse,
which the course of controversy provoked from its author, and which
serve to complete its significance. It is difficult to analyse, because
in truth it is neither closely argumentative, nor is it vertebrate, even
as a piece of rhetoric. The gist of the piece, however, runs somewhat in
this wise:--

Before art had fashioned our manners, and taught our passions to use a
too elaborate speech, men were rude but natural, and difference of
conduct announced at a glance difference of character. To-day a vile and
most deceptive uniformity reigns over our manners, and all minds seem as
if they had been cast in a single mould. Hence we never know with what
sort of person we are dealing, hence the hateful troop of suspicions,
fears, reserves, and treacheries, and the concealment of impiety,
arrogance, calumny, and scepticism, under a dangerous varnish of
refinement. So terrible a set of effects must have a cause. History
shows that the cause here is to be found in the progress of sciences and
arts. Egypt, once so mighty, becomes the mother of philosophy and the
fine arts; straightway behold its conquest by Cambyses, by Greeks, by
Romans, by Arabs, finally by Turks. Greece twice conquered Asia, once
before Troy, once in its own homes; then came in fatal sequence the
progress of the arts, the dissolution of manners, and the yoke of the
Macedonian. Rome, founded by a shepherd and raised to glory by
husbandmen, began to degenerate with Ennius, and the eve of her ruin was
the day when she gave a citizen the deadly title of arbiter of good
taste. China, where letters carry men to the highest dignities of the
state, could not be preserved by all her literature from the conquering
power of the ruder Tartar. On the other hand, the Persians, Scythians,
Germans, remain in history as types of simplicity, innocence, and
virtue. Was not he admittedly the wisest of the Greeks, who made of his
own apology a plea for ignorance, and a denunciation of poets, orators,
and artists? The chosen people of God never cultivated the sciences, and
when the new law was established, it was not the learned, but the simple
and lowly, fishers and workmen, to whom Christ entrusted his teaching
and its ministry.[160]

This, then, is the way in which chastisement has always overtaken our
presumptuous efforts to emerge from that happy ignorance in which
eternal wisdom placed us; though the thick veil with which that wisdom
has covered all its operations seemed to warn us that we were not
destined to fatuous research. All the secrets that Nature hides from us
are so many evils against which she would fain shelter us.

Is probity the child of ignorance, and can science and virtue be really
inconsistent with one another? These sounding contrasts are mere
deceits, because if you look nearly into the results of this science of
which we talk so proudly, you will perceive that they confirm the
results of induction from history. Astronomy, for instance, is born of
superstition; geometry from the desire of gain; physics from a futile
curiosity; all of them, even morals, from human pride. Are we for ever
to be the dupes of words, and to believe that these pompous names of
science, philosophy, and the rest, stand for worthy and profitable
realities?[161] Be sure that they do not.

How many errors do we pass through on our road to truth, errors a
thousandfold more dangerous than truth is useful? And by what marks are
we to know truth, when we think that we have found it? And above all, if
we do find it, who of us can be sure that he will make good use of it?
If celestial intelligences cultivated science, only good could result;
and we may say as much of great men of the stamp of Socrates, who are
born to be the guides of others.[162] But the intelligences of common
men are neither celestial nor Socratic.

Again, every useless citizen may be fairly regarded as a pernicious man;
and let us ask those illustrious philosophers who have taught us what
insects reproduce themselves curiously, in what ratio bodies attract
one another in space, what curves have conjugate points, points of
inflection or reflection, what in the planetary revolutions are the
relations of areas traversed in equal times--let us ask those who have
attained all this sublime knowledge, by how much the worse governed,
less flourishing, or less perverse we should have been if they had
attained none of it? Now if the works of our most scientific men and
best citizens lead to such small utility, tell us what we are to think
of the crowd of obscure writers and idle men of letters who devour the
public substance in pure loss.

Then it is in the nature of things that devotion to art leads to luxury,
and luxury, as we all know from our own experience, no less than from
the teaching of history, saps not only the military virtues by which
nations preserve their independence, but also those moral virtues which
make the independence of a nation worth preserving. Your children go to
costly establishments where they learn everything except their duties.
They remain ignorant of their own tongue, though they will speak others
not in use anywhere in the world; they gain the faculty of composing
verses which they can barely understand; without capacity to distinguish
truth from error, they possess the art of rendering them
indistinguishable to others by specious arguments. Magnanimity, equity,
temperance, courage, humanity, have no real meaning to them; and if they
hear speak of God, it breeds more terror than awful fear.

Whence spring all these abuses, if not from the disastrous inequality
introduced among men by the distinction of talents and the cheapening of
virtue?[163] People no longer ask of a man whether he has probity, but
whether he is clever; nor of a book whether it is useful, but whether it
is well written. And after all, what is this philosophy, what are these
lessons of wisdom, to which we give the prize of enduring fame? To
listen to these sages, would you not take them for a troop of
charlatans, all bawling out in the market-place, Come to me, it is only
I who never cheat you, and always give good measure? One maintains that
there is no body, and that everything is mere representation; the other
that there is no entity but matter, and no God but the universe: one
that moral good and evil are chimeras; the other that men are wolves and
may devour one another with the easiest conscience in the world. These
are the marvellous personages on whom the esteem of contemporaries is
lavished so long as they live, and to whom immortality is reserved after
their death. And we have now invented the art of making their
extravagances eternal, and thanks to the use of typographic characters
the dangerous speculations of Hobbes and Spinoza will endure for ever.
Surely when they perceive the terrible disorders which printing has
already caused in Europe, sovereigns will take as much trouble to
banish this deadly art from their states as they once took to
introduce it.

If there is perhaps no harm in allowing one or two men to give
themselves up to the study of sciences and arts, it is only those who
feel conscious of the strength required for advancing their subjects,
who have any right to attempt to raise monuments to the glory of the
human mind. We ought to have no tolerance for those compilers who rashly
break open the gate of the sciences, and introduce into their sanctuary
a populace that is unworthy even to draw near to it. It may be well that
there should be philosophers, provided only and always that the people
do not meddle with philosophising.[164]

In short, there are two kinds of ignorance: one brutal and ferocious,
springing from a bad heart, multiplying vices, degrading the reason, and
debasing the soul: the other "a reasonable ignorance, which consists in
limiting our curiosity to the extent of the faculties we have received;
a modest ignorance, born of a lively love for virtue, and inspiring
indifference only for what is not worthy of filling a man's heart, or
fails to contribute to its improvement; a sweet and precious ignorance,
the treasure of a pure soul at peace with itself, which finds all its
blessedness in inward retreat, in testifying to itself its own
innocence, and which feels no need of seeking a warped and hollow
happiness in the opinion of other people as to its enlightenment."[165]

       *       *       *       *       *

Some of the most pointed assaults in this Discourse, such for instance
as that on the pedantic parade of wit, or that on the excessive
preponderance of literary instruction in the art of education, are due
to Montaigne; and in one way, the Discourse might be described as
binding together a number of that shrewd man's detached hints by means
of a paradoxical generalisation. But the Rousseau is more important than
the Montaigne in it. Another remark to be made is that its vigorous
disparagement of science, of the emptiness of much that is called
science, of the deadly pride of intellect, is an anticipation in a very
precise way of the attitude taken by the various Christian churches and
their representatives now and for long, beginning with De Maistre, the
greatest of the religious reactionaries after Rousseau. The vilification
of the Greeks is strikingly like some vehement passages in De Maistre's
estimate of their share in sophisticating European intellect. At last
Rousseau even began to doubt whether "so chattering a people could ever
have had any solid virtues, even in primitive times."[166] Yet
Rousseau's own thinking about society is deeply marked with opinions
borrowed exactly from these very chatterers. His imagination was
fascinated from the first by the freedom and boldness of Plato's social
speculations, to which his debt in a hundred details of his political
and educational schemes is well known. What was more important than any
obligation of detail was the fatal conception, borrowed partly from the
Greeks and partly from Geneva, of the omnipotence of the Lawgiver in
moulding a social state after his own purpose and ideal. We shall
presently quote the passage in which he holds up for our envy and
imitation the policy of Lycurgus at Sparta, who swept away all that he
found existing and constructed the social edifice afresh from foundation
to roof.[167] It is true that there was an unmistakable decay of Greek
literary studies in France from the beginning of the eighteenth century,
and Rousseau seems to have read Plato only through Ficinus's
translation. But his example and its influence, along with that of Mably
and others, warrant the historian in saying that at no time did Greek
ideas more keenly preoccupy opinion than during this century.[168]
Perhaps we may say that Rousseau would never have proved how little
learning and art do for the good of manners, if Plato had not insisted
on poets being driven out of the Republic. The article on Political
Economy, written by him for the Encyclopædia (1755), rings with the
names of ancient rulers and lawgivers; the project of public education
is recommended by the example of Cretans, Lacedæmonians, and Persians,
while the propriety of the reservation of a state domain is suggested
by Romulus.

It may be added that one of the not too many merits of the essay is the
way in which the writer, more or less in the Socratic manner, insists on
dragging people out of the refuge of sonorous general terms, with a
great public reputation of much too well-established a kind to be
subjected to the affront of analysis. It is true that Rousseau himself
contributed nothing directly to that analytic operation which Socrates
likened to midwifery, and he set up graven images of his own in place of
the idols which he destroyed. This, however, did not wholly efface the
distinction, which he shares with all who have ever tried to lead the
minds of men into new tracks, of refusing to accept the current coins of
philosophical speech without test or measurement. Such a treatment of
the great trite words which come so easily to the tongue and seem to
weigh for so much, must always be the first step towards bringing
thought back into the region of real matter, and confronting phrases,
terms, and all the common form of the discussion of an age, with the
actualities which it is the object of sincere discussion to penetrate.

The refutation of many parts of Rousseau's main contention on the
principles which are universally accepted among enlightened men in
modern society is so extremely obvious that to undertake it would merely
be to draw up a list of the gratulatory commonplaces of which we hear
quite enough in the literature and talk of our day. In this direction,
perhaps it suffices to say that the Discourse is wholly one-sided,
admitting none of the conveniences, none of the alleviations of
suffering of all kinds, nothing of the increase of mental stature, which
the pursuit of knowledge has brought to the race. They may or may not
counterbalance the evils that it has brought, but they are certainly to
be put in the balance in any attempt at philosophic examination of the
subject. It contains no serious attempt to tell us what those alleged
evils really are, or definitely to trace them one by one, to abuse of
the thirst for knowledge and defects in the method of satisfying it. It
omits to take into account the various other circumstances, such as
climate, government, race, and the disposition of neighbours, which must
enter equally with intellectual progress into whatever demoralisation
has marked the destinies of a nation. Finally it has for the base of its
argument the entirely unsupported assumption of there having once been
in the early history of each society a stage of mild, credulous, and
innocent virtue, from which appetite for the fruit of the forbidden tree
caused an inevitable degeneration. All evidence and all scientific
analogy are now well known to lead to the contrary doctrine, that the
history of civilisation is a history of progress and not of decline from
a primary state. After all, as Voltaire said to Rousseau in a letter
which only showed a superficial appreciation of the real drift of the
argument, we must confess that these thorns attached to literature are
only as flowers in comparison with the other evils that have deluged the
earth. "It was not Cicero nor Lucretius nor Virgil nor Horace, who
contrived the proscriptions of Marius, of Sulla, of the debauched
Antony, of the imbecile Lepidus, of that craven tyrant basely surnamed
Augustus. It was not Marot who produced the St. Bartholomew massacre,
nor the tragedy of the Cid that led to the wars of the Fronde. What
really makes, and always will make, this world into a valley of tears,
is the insatiable cupidity and indomitable insolence of men, from Kouli
Khan, who did not know how to read, down to the custom-house clerk, who
knows nothing but how to cast up figures. Letters nourish the soul, they
strengthen its integrity, they furnish a solace to it,"--and so on in
the sense, though without the eloquence, of the famous passage in
Cicero's defence of Archias the poet.[169] All this, however, in our
time is in no danger of being forgotten, and will be present to the mind
of every reader. The only danger is that pointed out by Rousseau
himself: "People always think they have described what the sciences do,
when they have in reality only described what the sciences ought
to do."[170]

What we are more likely to forget is that Rousseau's piece has a
positive as well as a negative side, and presents, in however vehement
and overstated a way, a truth which the literary and speculative
enthusiasm of France in the eighteenth century, as is always the case
with such enthusiasm whenever it penetrates either a generation or an
individual, was sure to make men dangerously ready to forget.[171] This
truth may be put in different terms. We may describe it as the
possibility of eminent civic virtue existing in people, without either
literary taste or science or speculative curiosity. Or we may express it
as the compatibility of a great amount of contentment and order in a
given social state, with a very low degree of knowledge. Or finally, we
may give the truth its most general expression, as the subordination of
all activity to the promotion of social aims. Rousseau's is an elaborate
and roundabout manner of saying that virtue without science is better
than science without virtue; or that the well-being of a country depends
more on the standard of social duty and the willingness of citizens to
conform to it, than on the standard of intellectual culture and the
extent of its diffusion. In other words, we ought to be less concerned
about the speculative or scientific curiousness of our people than about
the height of their notion of civic virtue and their firmness and
persistency in realising it. It is a moralist's way of putting the
ancient preacher's monition, that they are but empty in whom is not the
wisdom of God. The importance of stating this is in our modern era
always pressing, because there is a constant tendency on the part of
energetic intellectual workers, first, to concentrate their energies on
a minute specialty, leaving public affairs and interests to their own
course. Second, they are apt to overestimate their contributions to the
stock of means by which men are made happier, and what is more serious,
to underestimate in comparison those orderly, modest, self-denying,
moral qualities, by which only men are made worthier, and the continuity
of society is made surer. Third, in consequence of their greater command
of specious expression and their control of the organs of public
opinion, they both assume a kind of supreme place in the social
hierarchy, and persuade the majority of plain men unsuspectingly to take
so very egregious an assumption for granted. So far as Rousseau's
Discourse recalled the truth as against this sort of error it was full
of wholesomeness.

Unfortunately his indignation against the overweening pretensions of the
verse-writer, the gazetteer, and the great band of socialists at large,
led him into a general position with reference to scientific and
speculative energy, which seems to involve a perilous misconception of
the conditions of this energy producing its proper results. It is easy
now, as it was easy for Rousseau in the last century, to ask in an
epigrammatical manner by how much men are better or happier for having
found out this or that novelty in transcendental mathematics, biology,
or astronomy; and this is very well as against the discoverer of small
marvels who shall give himself out for the benefactor of the human
race. But both historical experience and observation of the terms on
which the human intelligence works, show us that we can only make sure
of intellectual activity on condition of leaving it free to work all
round, in every department and in every remotest nook of each
department, and that its most fruitful epochs are exactly those when
this freedom is greatest, this curiosity most keen and minute, and this
waste, if you choose to call the indispensable superfluity of force in a
natural process waste, most copious and unsparing. You will not find
your highest capacity in statesmanship, nor in practical science, nor in
art, nor in any other field where that capacity is most urgently needed
for the right service of life, unless there is a general and vehement
spirit of search in the air. If it incidentally leads to many
industrious futilities and much learned refuse, this is still the sign
and the generative element of industry which is not futile, and of
learning which is something more than mere water spilled upon
the ground.

We may say in fine that this first Discourse and its vindications were a
dim, shallow, and ineffective feeling after the great truth, that the
only normal state of society is that in which neither the love of virtue
has been thrust far back into a secondary place by the love of
knowledge, nor the active curiosity of the understanding dulled,
blunted, and made ashamed by soft, lazy ideals of life as a life only of
the affections. Rousseau now and always fell into the opposite extreme
from that against which his whole work was a protest. We need not
complain very loudly that while remonstrating against the restless
intrepidity of the rationalists of his generation, he passed over the
central truth, namely that the full and ever festal life is found in
active freedom of curiosity and search taking significance, motive,
force, from a warm inner pulse of human love and sympathy. It was not
given to Rousseau to see all this, but it was given to him to see the
side of it for which the most powerful of the men living with him had no
eyes, and the first Discourse was only a moderately successful attempt
to bring his vision before Europe. It was said at the time that he did
not believe a word of what he had written.[172] It is a natural
characteristic of an age passionately occupied with its own set of
ideas, to question either the sincerity or the sanity of anybody who
declares its sovereign conceptions to be no better than foolishness. We
cannot entertain such a suspicion. Perhaps the vehemence of controversy
carries him rather further than he quite meant to go, when he declares
that if he were a chief of an African tribe, he would erect on his
frontier a gallows, on which he would hang without mercy the first
European who should venture to pass into his territory, and the first
native who should dare to pass out of it.[173] And there are many other
extravagances of illustration, but the main position is serious enough,
as represented in the emblematic vignette with which the essay was
printed--the torch of science brought to men by Prometheus, who warns a
satyr that it burns; the satyr, seeing fire for the first time and being
fain to embrace it, is the symbol of the vulgar men who, seduced by the
glitter of literature, insist on delivering themselves up to its
study.[174] Rousseau's whole doctrine hangs compactly together, and we
may see the signs of its growth after leaving his hands in the crude
formula of the first Discourse, if we proceed to the more audacious
paradox of the second.


The Discourse on the Origin of Inequality among men opens with a
description of the natural state of man, which occupies considerably
more than half of the entire performance. It is composed in a vein which
is only too familiar to the student of the literature of the time,
picturing each habit and thought, and each step to new habits and
thoughts, with the minuteness, the fulness, the precision, of one who
narrates circumstances of which he has all his life been the close
eye-witness. The natural man reveals to us every motive, every process
internal and external, every slightest circumstance of his daily life,
and each element that gradually transformed him into the non-natural
man. One who had watched bees or beetles for years could not give us a
more full or confident account of their doings, their hourly goings in
and out, than it was the fashion in the eighteenth century to give of
the walk and conversation of the primeval ancestor. The conditions of
primitive man were discussed by very incompetent ladies and gentlemen at
convivial supper parties, and settled with complete assurance.[175]

Rousseau thought and talked about the state of nature because all his
world was thinking and talking about it. He used phrases and formulas
with reference to it which other people used. He required no more
evidence than they did, as to the reality of the existence of the
supposed set of conditions to which they gave the almost sacramental
name of state of nature. He never thought of asking, any more than
anybody else did in the middle of the eighteenth century, what sort of
proof, how strong, how direct, was to be had, that primeval man had such
and such habits, and changed them in such a way and direction, and for
such reasons. Physical science had reached a stage by this time when its
followers were careful to ask questions about evidence, correct
description, verification. But the idea of accurate method had to be
made very familiar to men by the successes of physical science in the
search after truths of one kind, before the indispensableness of
applying it in the search after truths of all kinds had extended to the
science of the constitution and succession of social states. In this
respect Rousseau was not guiltier than the bulk of his contemporaries.
Voltaire's piercing common sense, Hume's deep-set sagacity,
Montesquieu's caution, prevented them from launching very far on to this
metaphysical sea of nature and natural laws and states, but none of them
asked those critical questions in relation to such matters which occur
so promptly in the present day to persons far inferior to them in
intellectual strength. Rousseau took the notion of the state of nature
because he found it to his hand; he fitted to it his own characteristic
aspirations, expanding and vivifying a philosophic conception with all
the heat of humane passion; and thus, although, at the end of the
process when he had done with it, the state of nature came out blooming
as the rose, it was fundamentally only the dry, current abstraction of
his time, artificially decorated to seduce men into embracing a strange
ideal under a familiar name.

Before analysing the Discourse on Inequality, we ought to make some
mention of a remarkable man whose influence probably reached Rousseau in
an indirect manner through Diderot; I mean Morelly.[176] In 1753 Morelly
published a prose poem called the Basiliade, describing the corruption
of manners introduced by the errors of the lawgiver, and pointing out
how this corruption is to be amended by return to the empire of nature
and truth. He was no doubt stimulated by what was supposed to be the
central doctrine of Montesquieu, then freshly given to the world, that
it is government and institutions which make men what they are. But he
was stimulated into a reaction, and in 1754 he propounded his whole
theory, in a piece which in closeness, consistency, and thoroughness is
admirably different from Rousseau's rhetoric.[177] It lacked the
sovereign quality of persuasiveness, and so fell on deaf ears. Morelly
accepts the doctrine that men are formed by the laws, but insists that
moralists and statesmen have always led us wrong by legislating and
prescribing conduct on the false theory that man is bad, whereas he is
in truth a creature endowed with natural probity. Then he strikes to the
root of society with a directness that Rousseau could not imitate, by
the position that "these laws by establishing a monstrous division of
the products of nature, and even of their very elements--by dividing
what ought to have remained entire, or ought to have been restored to
entireness if any accident had divided them, aided and favoured the
break-up of all sociability." All political and all moral evils are the
effects of this pernicious cause--private property. He says of
Rousseau's first Discourse that the writer ought to have seen that the
corruption of manners which he set down to literature and art really
came from this venomous principle of property, which infects all that
it touches.[178] Christianity, it is true, assailed this principle and
restored equality or community of possessions, but Christianity had the
radical fault of involving such a detachment from earthly affections, in
order to deliver ourselves to heavenly meditation, as brought about a
necessary degeneration in social activity. The form of government is a
matter of indifference, provided you can only assure community of goods.
Political revolutions are at bottom the clash of material interests, and
until you have equalised the one you will never prevent the other.[179]

Let us turn from this very definite position to one of the least
definite productions to be found in all literature.

       *       *       *       *       *

It will seem a little odd that more than half of a discussion on the
origin of inequality among men should be devoted to a glowing imaginary
description, from which no reader could conjecture what thesis it was
designed to support. But we have only to remember that Rousseau's object
was to persuade people that the happier state is that in which
inequality does not subsist, that there had once been such a state, and
that this was first the state of nature, and then the state only one
degree removed from it, in which we now find the majority of savage
tribes. At the outset he defines inequality as a word meaning two
different things; one, natural or physical inequality, such as
difference of age, of health, of physical strength, of attributes of
intelligence and character; the other, moral or political inequality,
consisting in difference of privileges which some enjoy to the detriment
of the rest, such as being richer, more honoured, more powerful. The
former differences are established by nature, the latter are authorised,
if they were not established, by the consent of men.[180] In the state
of nature no inequalities flow from the differences among men in point
of physical advantage and disadvantage, and which remain without
derivative differences so long as the state of nature endures
undisturbed. Nature deals with men as the law of Sparta dealt with the
children of its citizens; she makes those who are well constituted
strong and robust, and she destroys all the rest.

The surface of the earth is originally covered by dense forest, and
inhabited by animals of every species. Men, scattered among them,
imitate their industry, and so rise to the instinct of the brutes, with
this advantage that while each species has only its own, man, without
anything special, appropriates the instincts of all. This admirable
creature, with foes on every side, is forced to be constantly on the
alert, and hence to be always in full possession of all his faculties,
unlike civilised man, whose native force is enfeebled by the mechanical
protections with which he has surrounded himself. He is not afraid of
the wild beasts around him, for experience has taught him that he is
their master. His health is better than ours, for we live in a time when
excess of idleness in some, excess of toil in others, the heating and
over-abundant diet of the rich, the bad food of the poor, the orgies and
excesses of every kind, the immoderate transport of every passion, the
fatigue and strain of spirit,--when all these things have inflicted more
disorders upon us than the vaunted art of medicine has been able to keep
pace with. Even if the sick savage has only nature to hope from, on the
other hand he has only his own malady to be afraid of. He has no fear of
death, for no animal can know what death is, and the knowledge of death
and its terrors is one of the first of man's terrible acquisitions
after abandoning his animal condition.[181] In other respects, such as
protection against weather, such as habitation, such as food, the
savage's natural power of adaptation, and the fact that his demands are
moderate in proportion to his means of satisfying them, forbid us to
consider him physically unhappy. Let us turn to the intellectual and
moral side.

If you contend that men were miserable, degraded, and outcast during
these primitive centuries because the intelligence was dormant, then do
not forget, first, that you are drawing an indictment against
nature,--no trifling blasphemy in those days--and second, that you are
attributing misery to a free creature with tranquil spirit and healthy
body, and that must surely be a singular abuse of the term. We see
around us scarcely any but people who complain of the burden of their
lives; but who ever heard of a savage in full enjoyment of his liberty
ever dreaming of complaint about his life or of self-destruction?

With reference to virtues and vices in a state of nature, Hobbes is
wrong in declaring that man in this state is vicious, as not knowing
virtue. He is not vicious, for the reason that he does not know what
being good is. It is not development of enlightenment nor the
restrictions of law, but the calm of the passions and ignorance of vice,
which keep them from doing ill. _Tanto plus in illis profitcit vitiorum
ignoratio, quam in his cognitio virtutis._

Besides man has one great natural virtue, that of pity, which precedes
in him the use of reflection, and which indeed he shares with some of
the brutes. Mandeville, who was forced to admit the existence of this
admirable quality in man, was absurd in not perceiving that from it flow
all the social virtues which he would fain deny. Pity is more energetic
in the primitive condition than it is among ourselves. It is reflection
which isolates one. It is philosophy which teaches the philosopher to
say secretly at sight of a suffering wretch, Perish if it please thee; I
am safe and sound. They may be butchering a fellow-creature under your
window; all you have to do is to clap your hands to your ears, and argue
a little with yourself to hinder nature in revolt from making you feel
as if you were in the case of the victim.[182] The savage man has not
got this odious gift. In the state of nature it is pity that takes the
place of laws, manners, and virtue. It is in this natural sentiment
rather than in subtle arguments that we have to seek the reluctance that
every man would feel to do ill, even without the precepts of

Finally, the passion of love, which produces such disasters in a state
of society, where the jealousy of lovers and the vengeance of husbands
lead each day to duels and murders, where the duty of eternal fidelity
only serves to occasion adulteries, and where the law of continence
necessarily extends the debauching of women and the practice of
procuring abortion[184]--this passion in a state of nature, where it is
purely physical, momentary, and without any association of durable
sentiment with the object of it, simply leads to the necessary
reproduction of the species and nothing more.

"Let us conclude, then, that wandering in the forests, without industry,
without speech, without habitation, without war, without connection of
any kind, without any need of his fellows or without any desire to harm
them, perhaps even without ever recognising one of them individually,
savage man, subject to few passions and sufficing to himself, had only
the sentiments and the enlightenment proper to his condition. He was
only sensible of his real wants, and only looked because he thought he
had an interest in seeing; and his intelligence made no more progress
than his vanity. If by chance he hit on some discovery, he was all the
less able to communicate it; as he did not know even his own children.
An art perished with its inventor. There was neither education nor
progress; generations multiplied uselessly; and as each generation
always started from the same point, centuries glided away in all the
rudeness of the first ages, the race was already old, the individual
remained always a child."

This brings us to the point of the matter. For if you compare the
prodigious diversities in education and manner of life which reign in
the different orders of the civil condition, with the simplicity and
uniformity of the savage and animal life, where all find nourishment in
the same articles of food, live in the same way, and do exactly the same
things, you will easily understand to what degree the difference between
man and man must be less in the state of nature than in that of
society.[185] Physical inequality is hardly perceived in the state of
nature, and its indirect influences there are almost non-existent.

Now as all the social virtues and other faculties possessed by man
potentially were not bound by anything inherent in him to develop into
actuality, he might have remained to all eternity in his admirable and
most fitting primitive condition, but for the fortuitous concurrence of
a variety of external changes. What are these different changes, which
may perhaps have perfected human reason, while they certainly have
deteriorated the race, and made men bad in making them sociable?

What, then, are the intermediary facts between the state of nature and
the state of civil society, the nursery of inequality? What broke up the
happy uniformity of the first times? First, difference in soil, in
climate, in seasons, led to corresponding differences in men's manner of
living. Along the banks of rivers and on the shores of the sea, they
invented hooks and lines, and were eaters of fish. In the forests they
invented bows and arrows, and became hunters. In cold countries they
covered themselves with the skins of beasts. Lightning, volcanoes, or
some happy chance acquainted them with fire, a new protection against
the rigours of winter. In company with these natural acquisitions, grew
up a sort of reflection or mechanical prudence, which showed them the
kind of precautions most necessary to their security. From this
rudimentary and wholly egoistic reflection there came a sense of the
existence of a similar nature and similar interests in their
fellow-creatures. Instructed by experience that the love of well-being
and comfort is the only motive of human actions, the savage united with
his neighbours when union was for their joint convenience, and did his
best to blind and outwit his neighbours when their interests were
adverse to his own, and he felt himself the weaker. Hence the origin of
certain rude ideas of mutual obligation.[186]

Soon, ceasing to fall asleep under the first tree, or to withdraw into
caves, they found axes of hard stone, which served them to cut wood, to
dig the ground, and to construct hovels of branches and clay. This was
the epoch of a first revolution, which formed the establishment and
division of families, and which introduced a rough and partial sort of
property. Along with rudimentary ideas of property, though not
connected with them, came the rudimentary forms of inequality. When men
were thrown more together, then he who sang or danced the best, the
strongest, the most adroit, or the most eloquent, acquired the most
consideration--that is, men ceased to take uniform and equal place. And
with the coming of this end of equality there passed away the happy
primitive immunity from jealousy, envy, malice, hate.

On the whole, though men had lost some of their original endurance, and
their natural pity had already undergone a certain deterioration, this
period of the development of the human faculties, occupying a just
medium between the indolence of the primitive state and the petulant
activity of our modern self-love, must have been at once the happiest
and the most durable epoch. The more we reflect, the more evident we
find it that this state was the least subject to revolutions and the
best for man. "So long as men were content with their rustic hovels, so
long as they confined themselves to stitching their garments of skin
with spines or fish bones, to decking their bodies with feathers and
shells and painting them in different colours, to perfecting and
beautifying their bows and arrows--in a word, so long as they only
applied themselves to works that one person could do, and to arts that
needed no more than a single hand, then they lived free, healthy, good,
and happy, so far as was compatible with their natural constitution, and
continued to enjoy among themselves the sweetness of independent
intercourse. But from the moment that one man had need of the help of
another, as soon as they perceived it to be useful for one person to
have provisions for two, then equality disappeared, property was
introduced, labour became necessary, and the vast forests changed into
smiling fields, which had to be watered by the sweat of men, and in
which they ever saw bondage and misery springing up and growing ripe
with the harvests."[187]

The working of metals and agriculture have been the two great agents in
this revolution. For the poet it is gold and silver, but for the
philosopher it is iron and corn, that have civilised men and undone the
human race. It is easy to see how the latter of the two arts was
suggested to men by watching the reproducing processes of vegetation. It
is less easy to be sure how they discovered metal, saw its uses, and
invented means of smelting it, for nature had taken extreme precautions
to hide the fatal secret. It was probably the operation of some volcano
which first suggested the idea of fusing ore. From the fact of land
being cultivated its division followed, and therefore the institution of
property in its full shape. From property arose civil society. "The
first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, could think of saying,
_This is mine_, and found people simple enough to believe him, was the
real founder of civil society. How many crimes, wars, murders, miseries,
and horrors would not have been spared to the human race by one who,
plucking up the stakes, or filling in the trench, should have called out
to his fellows: Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if
you forget that the earth belongs to no one, and that its fruits are for

Things might have remained equal even in this state, if talents had only
been equal, and if for example the employment of iron and the
consumption of agricultural produce had always exactly balanced one
another. But the stronger did more work; the cleverer got more advantage
from his work; the more ingenious found means of shortening his labour;
the husbandman had more need of metal, or the smith more need of grain;
and while working equally, one got much gain, and the other could
scarcely live. This distinction between Have and Have-not led to
confusion and revolt, to brigandage on the one side and constant
insecurity on the other.

Hence disorders of a violent and interminable kind, which gave rise to
the most deeply designed project that ever entered the human mind. This
was to employ in favour of property the strength of the very persons who
attacked it, to inspire them with other maxims, and to give them other
institutions which should be as favourable to property as natural law
had been contrary to it. The man who conceived this project, after
showing his neighbours the monstrous confusion which made their lives
most burdensome, spoke in this wise: "Let us unite to shield the weak
from oppression, to restrain the proud, and to assure to each the
possession of what belongs to him; let us set up rules of justice and
peace, to which all shall be obliged to conform, without respect of
persons, and which may repair to some extent the caprices of fortune, by
subjecting the weak and the mighty alike to mutual duties. In a word,
instead of turning our forces against one another, let us collect them
into one supreme power to govern us by sage laws, to protect and defend
all the members of the association, repel their common foes, and
preserve us in never-ending concord." This, and not the right of
conquest, must have been the origin of society and laws, which threw new
chains round the poor and gave new might to the rich; and for the profit
of a few grasping and ambitious men, subjected the whole human race
henceforth and for ever to toil and bondage and wretchedness
without hope.

The social constitution thus propounded and accepted was radically
imperfect from the outset, and in spite of the efforts of the sagest
lawgivers, it has always remained imperfect, because it was the work of
chance, and because, inasmuch as it was ill begun, time, while revealing
defects and suggesting remedies, could never repair its vices; _people
went on incessantly repairing and patching, instead of which it was
indispensable to begin by making a clean surface and by throwing aside
all the old materials, just as Lycurgus did in Sparta_.

Put shortly, the main positions are these. In the state of nature each
man lived in entire isolation, and therefore physical inequality was as
if it did not exist. After many centuries, accident, in the shape of
difference of climate and external natural conditions, enforcing for the
sake of subsistence some degree of joint labour, led to an increase of
communication among men, to a slight development of the reasoning and
reflective faculties, and to a rude and simple sense of mutual
obligation, as a means of greater comfort in the long run. The first
state was good and pure, but the second state was truly perfect. It was
destroyed by a fresh succession of chances, such as the discovery of the
arts of metal-working and tillage, which led first to the institution of
property, and second to the prominence of the natural or physical
inequalities, which now began to tell with deadly effectiveness. These
inequalities gradually became summed up in the great distinction between
rich and poor; and this distinction was finally embodied in the
constitution of a civil society, expressly adapted to consecrate the
usurpation of the rich, and to make the inequality of condition between
them and the poor eternal.

We thus see that the Discourse, unlike Morelly's terse exposition,
contains no clear account of the kind of inequality with which it deals.
Is it inequality of material possession or inequality of political
right? Morelly tells you decisively that the latter is only an accident,
flowing from the first; that the key to renovation lies in the abolition
of the first. Rousseau mixes the two confusedly together under a single
name, bemoans each, but shrinks from a conclusion or a recommendation
as to either. He declares property to be the key to civil society, but
falls back from any ideas leading to the modification of the institution
lying at the root of all that he deplores.

The first general criticism, which in itself contains and covers nearly
all others, turns on Method. "Conjectures become reasons when they are
the most likely that you can draw from the nature of things," and "it is
for philosophy in lack of history to determine the most likely facts."
In an inductive age this royal road is rigorously closed. Guesses drawn
from the general nature of things can no longer give us light as to the
particular nature of the things pertaining to primitive men, any more
than such guesses can teach us the law of the movement of the heavenly
bodies, or the foundations of jurisprudence. Nor can deduction from
anything but propositions which have themselves been won by laborious
induction, ever lead us to the only kind of philosophy which has fair
pretension to determine the most probable of the missing facts in the
chain of human history. That quantitative and differentiating knowledge
which is science, was not yet thought of in connection with the
movements of our own race upon the earth. It is to be said, further,
that of the two possible ways of guessing about the early state, the
conditions of advance from it, and the rest, Rousseau's guess that all
movement away from it has been towards corruption, is less supported by
subsequent knowledge than the guess of his adversaries, that it has
been a movement progressive and upwards.

This much being said as to incurable vice of method, and there are
fervent disciples of Rousseau now living who will regard one's craving
for method in talking about men as a foible of pedantry, we may briefly
remark on one or two detached objections to Rousseau's story. To begin
with, there is no certainty as to there having ever been a state of
nature of a normal and organic kind, any more than there is any one
normal and typical state of society now. There are infinitely diverse
states of society, and there were probably as many diverse states of
nature. Rousseau was sufficiently acquainted with the most recent
metaphysics of his time to know that you cannot think of a tree in
general, nor of a triangle in general, but only of some particular tree
or triangle.[189] In a similar way he might have known that there never
was any such thing as a state of nature in the general and abstract,
fixed, typical, and single. He speaks of the savage state also, which
comes next, as one, identical, normal. It is, of course, nothing of the
kind. The varieties of belief and habit and custom among the different
tribes of savages, in reference to every object that can engage their
attention, from death and the gods and immortality down to the uses of
marriage and the art of counting and the ways of procuring subsistence,
are infinitely numerous; and the more we know about this vast diversity,
the less easy is it to think of the savage state in general. When
Rousseau extols the savage state as the veritable youth of the world, we
wonder whether we are to think of the negroes of the Gold Coast, or the
Dyaks of Borneo, Papuans or Maoris, Cheyennes or Tierra-del-Fuegians or
the fabled Troglodytes; whether in the veritable youth of the world they
counted up to five or only to two; whether they used a fire-drill, and
if so what kind of drill; whether they had the notion of personal
identity in so weak a shape as to practise the couvade; and a hundred
other points, which we should now require any writer to settle, who
should speak of the savage state as sovereign, one, and indivisible, in
the way in which Rousseau speaks of it, and holds it up to our vain

Again, if the savage state supervened upon the state of nature in
consequence of certain climatic accidents of a permanent kind, such as
living on the banks of a river or in a dense forest, how was it that the
force of these accidents did not begin to operate at once? How could the
isolated state of nature endure for a year in face of them? Or what was
the precipitating incident which suddenly set them to work, and drew the
primitive men from an isolation so profound that they barely recognised
one another, into that semi-social state in which the family
was founded?

We cannot tell how the state of nature continued to subsist, or, if it
ever subsisted, how and why it ever came to an end, because the agencies
which are alleged to have brought it to an end must have been coeval
with the appearance of man himself. If gods had brought to men seed,
fire, and the mechanical arts, as in one of the Platonic myths,[190] we
could understand that there was a long stage preliminary to these
heavenly gifts. But if the gods had no part nor lot in it, and if the
accidents that slowly led the human creature into union were as old as
that nature, of which indeed they were actually the component elements,
then man must have quitted the state of nature the very day on which he
was born into it. And what can be a more monstrous anachronism than to
turn a flat-headed savage into a clever, self-conscious, argumentative
utilitarian of the eighteenth century; working the social problem out in
his flat head with a keenness, a consistency, a grasp of first
principles, that would have entitled him to a chair in the institute of
moral sciences, and entering the social union with the calm and
reasonable deliberation of a great statesman taking a critical step in
policy? Aristotle was wiser when he fixed upon sociability as an
ultimate quality of human nature, instead of making it, as Rousseau and
so many others have done, the conclusion of an unimpeachable train of
syllogistic reasoning.[191] Morelly even, his own contemporary, and
much less of a sage than Aristotle, was still sage enough to perceive
that this primitive human machine, "though composed of intelligent
parts, generally operates independently of its reason; its deliberations
are forestalled, and only leave it to look on, while sentiment does its
work."[192] It is the more remarkable that Rousseau should have fallen
into this kind of error, as it was one of his distinctions to have
perceived and partially worked out the principle, that men guide their
conduct rather from passion and instinct than from reasoned
enlightenment.[193] The ultimate quality which he named pity is, after
all, the germ of sociability, which is only extended sympathy. But he
did not firmly adhere to this ultimate quality, nor make any effort
consistently to trace out its various products.

We do not find, however, in Rousseau any serious attempt to analyse the
composition of human nature in its primitive stages. Though constantly
warning his readers very impressively against confounding domesticated
with primitive men, he practically assumes that the main elements of
character must always have been substantially identical with such
elements and conceptions as are found after the addition of many ages of
increasingly complex experience. There is something worth considering in
his notion that civilisation has had effects upon man analogous to those
of domestication upon animals, but he lacked logical persistency enough
to enable him to adhere to his own idea, and work out conclusions
from it.

It might further be pointed out in another direction that he takes for
granted that the mode of advance into a social state has always been one
and the same, a single and uniform process, marked by precisely the same
set of several stages, following one another in precisely the same
order. There is no evidence of this; on the contrary, evidence goes to
show that civilisation varies in origin and process with race and other
things, and that though in all cases starting from the prime factor of
sociableness in man, yet the course of its development has depended on
the particular sets of circumstances with which that factor has had to
combine. These are full of variety, according to climate and racial
predisposition, although, as has been justly said, the force of both
these two elements diminishes as the influence of the past in giving
consistency to our will becomes more definite, and our means of
modifying climate and race become better known. There is no sign that
Rousseau, any more than many other inquirers, ever reflected whether the
capacity for advance into the state of civil society in any highly
developed form is universal throughout the species, or whether there are
not races eternally incapable of advance beyond the savage state.
Progress would hardly be the exception which we know it to be in the
history of communities if there were not fundamental diversities in the
civilisable quality of races. Why do some bodies of men get on to the
high roads of civilisation, while others remain in the jungle and
thicket of savagery; and why do some races advance along one of these
roads, and others advance by different roads?

Considerations of this sort disclose the pinched frame of trim theory
with which Rousseau advanced to set in order a huge mass of boundlessly
varied, intricate, and unmanageable facts. It is not, however, at all
worth while to extend such criticism further than suffices to show how
little his piece can stand the sort of questions which may be put to it
from a scientific point of view. Nothing that Rousseau had to say about
the state of nature was seriously meant for scientific exposition, any
more than the Sermon on the Mount was meant for political economy. The
importance of the Discourse on Inequality lay in its vehement
denunciation of the existing social state. To the writer the question
of the origin of inequality is evidently far less a matter at heart,
than the question of its results. It is the natural inclination of one
deeply moved by a spectacle of depravation in his own time and country,
to extol some other time or country, of which he is happily ignorant
enough not to know the drawbacks. Rousseau wrote about the savage state
in something of the same spirit in which Tacitus wrote the Germania. And
here, as in the Discourse on the influence of science and art upon
virtue, there is a positive side. To miss this in resentment of the
unscientific paradox that lies about it, is to miss the force of the
piece, and to render its enormous influence for a generation after it
was written incomprehensible. We may always be quite sure that no set of
ideas ever produced this resounding effect on opinion, unless they
contained something which the social or spiritual condition of the men
whom they inflamed made true for the time, and true in an urgent sense.
Is it not tenable that the state of certain savage tribes is more
normal, offers a better balance between desire and opportunity, between
faculty and performance, than the permanent state of large classes in
western countries, the broken wreck of civilisation?[194] To admit this
is not to conclude, as Rousseau so rashly concluded, that the movement
away from the primitive stages has been productive only of evil and
misery even to the masses of men, the hewers of wood and the drawers of
water; or that it was occasioned, and has been carried on by the
predominance of the lower parts and principles of human nature. Our
provisional acquiescence in the straitness and blank absence of outlook
or hope of the millions who come on to the earth that greets them with
no smile, and then stagger blindly under dull burdens for a season, and
at last are shovelled silently back under the ground,--our acquiescence
can only be justified in the sight of humanity by the conviction that
this is one of the temporary conditions of a vast process, working
forwards through the impulse and agency of the finer human spirits, but
needing much blood, many tears, uncounted myriads of lives, and
immeasurable geologic periods of time, for its high and beneficent
consummation. There is nothing surprising, perhaps nothing deeply
condemnable, in the burning anger for which this acquiescence is often
changed in the more impatient natures. As against the ignoble host who
think that the present ordering of men, with all its prodigious
inequalities, is in foundation and substance the perfection of social
blessedness, Rousseau was almost in the right. If the only alternative
to the present social order remaining in perpetuity were a retrogression
to some such condition as that of the islanders of the South Sea, a
lover of his fellow-creatures might look upon the result, so far as it
affected the happiness of the bulk of them, with tolerably complete
indifference. It is only the faith that we are moving slowly away from
the existing order, as our ancestors moved slowly away from the old want
of order, that makes the present endurable, and makes any tenacious
effort to raise the future possible.

       *       *       *       *       *

An immense quantity of nonsense has been talked about the equality of
man, for which those who deny that doctrine and those who assert it may
divide the responsibility. It is in reality true or false, according to
the doctrines with which it is confronted. As against the theory that
the existing way of sharing the laboriously acquired fruits and delights
of the earth is a just representation and fair counterpart of natural
inequalities among men in merit and capacity, the revolutionary theory
is true, and the passionate revolutionary cry for equality of external
chance most righteous and unanswerable. But the issues do not end here.
Take such propositions as these:--there are differences in the capacity
of men for serving the community; the well-being of the community
demands the allotment of high function in proportion to high faculty;
the rights of man in politics are confined to a right of the same
protection for his own interests as is given to the interests of others.
As against these principles, the revolutionary deductions from the
equality of man are false. And such pretensions as that every man could
be made equally fit for every function, or that not only each should
have an equal chance, but that he who uses his chance well and sociably
should be kept on a level in common opinion and trust with him who uses
it ill and unsociably, or does not use it at all,--the whole of this is
obviously most illusory and most disastrous, and in whatever decree any
set of men have ever taken it up, to that degree they have paid
the penalty.

What Rousseau's Discourse meant, what he intended it to mean, and what
his first direct disciples understood it as meaning, is not that all men
are born equal. He never says this, and his recognition of natural
inequality implies the contrary proposition. His position is that the
artificial differences, springing from the conditions of the social
union, do not coincide with the differences in capacity springing from
original constitution; that the tendency of the social union as now
organised is to deepen the artificial inequalities, and make the gulf
between those endowed with privileges and wealth and those not so
endowed ever wider and wider. It would have been very difficult a
hundred years ago to deny the truth of this way of stating the case. If
it has to some extent already ceased to be entirely true, and if violent
popular forces are at work making it less and less true, we owe the
origin of the change, among other causes and influences, not least to
the influence of Rousseau himself, and those whom he inspired. It was
that influence which, though it certainly did not produce, yet did as
certainly give a deep and remarkable bias, first to the American
Revolution, and a dozen years afterwards to the French Revolution.

It would be interesting to trace the different fortunes which awaited
the idea of the equality of man in America and in France. In America it
has always remained strictly within the political order, and perhaps
with the considerable exception of the possibles share it may have had,
along with Christian notions of the brotherhood of man, and
statesmanlike notions of national prosperity, in leading to the
abolition of slavery, it has brought forth no strong moral sentiment
against the ethical and economic bases of any part of the social order.
In France, on the other hand, it was the starting-point of movements
that have had all the fervour and intensity of religions, and have made
men feel about social inequalities the burning shame and wrath with
which a Christian saw the flourishing temples of unclean gods. This
difference in the interpretation and development of the first doctrine
may be explained in various ways,--by difference of material
circumstance between America and France; difference of the political and
social level from which the principle of equality had to start; and not
least by difference of intellectual temperament. This last was itself
partly the product of difference in religion, which makes the English
dread the practical enforcement of logical conclusions, while the French
have hitherto been apt to dread and despise any tendency to stop
short of that.

       *       *       *       *       *

Let us notice, finally, the important fact that the appearance of
Rousseau's Discourses was the first sign of reaction against the
historic mode of inquiry into society that had been initiated by
Montesquieu. The Spirit of Laws was published in 1748, with a truly
prodigious effect. It coloured the whole of the social literature in
France during the rest of the century. A history of its influence would
be a history of one of the most important sides of speculative activity.
In the social writings of Rousseau himself there is hardly a chapter
which does not contain tacit reference to Montesquieu's book. The
Discourses were the beginning of a movement in an exactly opposite
direction; that is, away from patient collection of wide multitudes of
facts relating to the conditions of society, towards the promulgation of
arbitrary systems of absolute social dogmas. Mably, the chief dogmatic
socialist of the century, and one of the most dignified and austere
characters, is an important example of the detriment done by the
influence of Rousseau to that of Montesquieu, in the earlier stages of
the conflict between the two schools. Mably (1709-1785), of whom the
remark is to be made that he was for some years behind the scenes of
government as De Tencin's secretary and therefore was versed in affairs,
began his inquiries with Greece and Rome. "You will find everything in
ancient history," he said.[195] And he remained entirely in this groove
of thought until Rousseau appeared. He then gradually left Montesquieu.
"To find the duties of a legislator," he said, "I descend into the
abysses of my heart, I study my sentiments." He opposed the Economists,
the other school that was feeling its way imperfectly enough to a
positive method. "As soon as I see landed property established," he
wrote, "then I see unequal fortunes; and from these unequal fortunes
must there not necessarily result different and opposed interests, all
the vices of riches, all the vices of poverty, the brutalisation of
intelligence, the corruption of civil manners?" and so forth.[196] In
his most important work, published in 1776, we see Rousseau's notions
developed, with a logic from which their first author shrunk, either
from fear, or more probably from want of firmness and consistency as a
reasoner. "It is to equality that nature has attached the preservation
of our social faculties and happiness: and from this I conclude that
legislation will only be taking useless trouble, unless all its
attention is first of all directed to the establishment of equality in
the fortune and condition of citizens."[197] That is to say not only
political equality, but economic communism. "What miserable folly, that
persons who pass for philosophers should go on repeating after one
another that without property there can be no society. Let us leave
illusion. It is property that divides us into two classes, rich and
poor; the first will alway prefer their fortune to that of the state,
while the second will never love a government or laws that leave them in
misery."[198] This was the kind of opinion for which Rousseau's diffuse
and rhetorical exposition of social necessity had prepared France some
twenty years before. After powerfully helping the process of general
dissolution, it produced the first fruits specifically after its own
kind some twenty years later in the system of Baboeuf.[199]

The unflinching application of principles is seldom achieved by the men
who first launch them. The labour of the preliminary task seems to
exhaust one man's stock of mental force. Rousseau never thought of the
subversion of society or its reorganisation on a communistic basis.
Within a few months of his profession of profound lament that the first
man who made a claim to property had not been instantly unmasked as the
arch foe of the race, he speaks most respectfully of property as the
pledge of the engagements of citizens and the foundation of the social
pact, while the first condition of that pact is that every one should be
maintained in peaceful enjoyment of what belongs to him.[200] We need
not impute the apparent discrepancy to insincerity. Rousseau was always
apt to think in a slipshod manner. He sensibly though illogically
accepted wholesome practical maxims, as if they flowed from theoretical
premisses that were in truth utterly incompatible with them.


[151] Delandine's _Couronnes Académiques, ou Recueil de prix proposés
par les Sociétés Savantes_. (Paris, 2 vols., 1787.)

[152] Musset-Pathay has collected the details connected with the award
of the prize, ii. 365-367.

[153] Second Letter to M. de Malesherbes, p. 358. Also _Conf._, viii.

[154] Diderot's account (_Vie de Sénèque_, sect. 66, _Oeuv._, iii. 98;
also ii. 285) is not inconsistent with Rousseau's own, so that we may
dismiss as apocryphal Marmontel's version of the story (_Mém._ VIII.),
to the effect that Rousseau was about to answer the question with a
commonplace affirmative, until Diderot persuaded him that a paradox
would attract more attention. It has been said also that M. de
Francueil, and various others, first urged the writer to take a
negative line of argument. To suppose this possible is to prove one's
incapacity for understanding what manner of man Rousseau was.

[155] _Conf._, ix. 232, 233.

[156] _Rousseau Juge de Jean Jacques, Dialogues_, i. 252.

[157] _Dialogues_, i. 275, 276.

[158] _Conf._, viii. 138.

[159] "It made a kind of revolution in Paris," says Grimm. _Corr.
Lit._, i. 108.

[160] _Rép. au Roi de Pologne_, p. 111 and p. 113.

[161] _Rép. à M. Bordes_, 138.

[162] _Ib._ 137.

[163] "The first source of the evil is inequality; from inequality
come riches ... from riches are born luxury and idleness; from luxury
come the fine arts, and from idleness the sciences." _Rép. au Roi de
Pologne_, 120, 121.

[164] _Rép. à M. Bordes_, 147. In the same spirit he once wrote the
more wholesome maxim, "We should argue with the wise, and never with
the public." _Corr._, i. 191.

[165] _Rép. au Roi de Pologne_, 128, 129.

[166] _Rép. à M. Bordes_, 150-161.

[167] P. 174.

[168] Egger's _Hellénisme en France_, 28ième leçon, p. 265.

[169] Voltaire to J.J.R. Aug. 30, 1755.

[170] _Rép. au Roi de Pologne_, 105.

[171] In 1753 the French Academy, by way no doubt of summoning a
counter-blast to Rousseau, boldly offered as the subject of their
essay the thesis that "The love of letters inspires the love of
virtue," and the prize was won fitly enough by a Jesuit professor of
rhetoric. See Delandine, i. 42.

[172] Preface to _Narcisse_, 251.

[173] _Rép. à M. Bordes_, 167.

[174] P. 187.

[175] See for instance a strange discussion about _morale universelle_
and the like in _Mém. de Mdme. d'Epinay_, i. 217-226.

[176] Often described as Morelly the Younger, to distinguish him from
his father, who wrote an essay on the human heart, and another on the
human intelligence.

[177] _Code de la Nature, ou le véritable esprit de ses loix, de tout
tems négligé ou méconnu._

[178] P. 169. Rousseau did not see it then, but he showed himself on
the track.

[179] At the end of the _Code de la Nature_ Morelly places a complete
set of rules for the organisation of a model community. The base of it
was the absence of private property--a condition that was to be
preserved by vigilant education of the young in ways of thinking, that
should make the possession of private property odious or
inconceivable. There are to be sumptuary laws of a moderate kind. The
government is to be in the hands of the elders. The children are to be
taken away from their parents at the age of five; reared and educated
in public establishments; and returned to their parents at the age of
sixteen or so when they will marry. Marriage is to be dissoluble at
the end of ten years, but after divorce the woman is not to marry a
man younger than herself, nor is the man to marry a woman younger than
the wife from whom he has parted. The children of a divorced couple
are to remain with the father, and if he marries again, they are to be
held the children of the second wife. Mothers are to suckle their own
children (p. 220). The whole scheme is fuller of good ideas than such
schemes usually are.

[180] P. 218.

[181] This is obviously untrue. Animals do not know death in the sense
of scientific definition, and probably have no abstract idea of it as
a general state; but they know and are afraid of its concrete
phenomena, and so are most savages.

[182] This is one of the passages in the Discourse, the harshness of
which was afterwards attributed by Rousseau to the influence of
Diderot. _Conf._, viii. 205, _n._

[183] P. 261.

[184] As if sin really came by the law in this sense; as if a law
defining and prohibiting a malpractice were the cause of the
commission of the act which it constituted a malpractice. As if giving
a name and juristic classification to any kind of conduct were adding
to men's motives for indulging in it.

[185] P. 269.

[186] P. 278.

[187] Pp. 285-287.

[188] P. 273.

[189] P. 250.

[190] _Politicus_, 268 D-274 E.

[191] Here for instance is D'Alembert's story:--"The necessity of
shielding our own body from pain and destruction leads us to examine
among external objects those which are useful and those which are
hurtful, so that we may seek the one and flee the others. But we
hardly begin our search into such objects before we discover among
them a great number of beings which strike us as exactly like
ourselves; that is, whose form is just like our own, and who, so far
as we can judge at the first glance, appear to have the same
perceptions. Everything therefore leads us to suppose that they have
also the same wants, and consequently the same interest in satisfying
them, whence it results that we must find great advantage in joining
with them for the purpose of distinguishing in nature what has the
power of preserving us from what has the power of hurting us. The
communication of ideas is the principle and the stay of this union,
and necessarily demands the invention of signs; such is the origin of
the formation of societies." _Discours Préliminaire de
l'Encyclopédie._ Contrast this with Aristotle's sensible statement
(_Polit._ I. ii. 15) that "there is in men by nature a strong impulse
to enter into such union."

[192] _Code de la Nature._

[193] See, for example, his criticism on the Abbé de St. Pierre.
_Conf._, viii. 264. And also in the analysis of this very Discourse,
above, vol. i. p. 163.

[194] "I have lived with communities of savages in South America and
in the East, who have no laws or law courts but the public opinion of
the visage freely expressed. Each man scrupulously respects the rights
of his fellow, and any infraction of those rights rarely or never
takes place. In such a community all are nearly equal. There are none
of those wide distinctions of education and ignorance, wealth and
poverty, master and servant, which are the products of our
civilisation; there is none of that widespread division of labour
which, while it increases wealth, produces also conflicting interests;
there is not that severe competition and struggle for existence, or
for wealth, which the dense population of civilised countries
inevitably creates. All incitements to great crimes are thus wanting,
and petty ones are repressed, partly by the influence of public
opinion, but chiefly by that natural sense of justice and of his
neighbour's right, which seems to be in some degree inherent in every
race of man. Now, although we have progressed vastly beyond the savage
state in intellectual achievements, we have not advanced equally in
morals. It is true that among those classes who have no wants that
cannot be easily supplied, and among whom public opinion has great
influence, the rights of others are fully respected. It is true, also,
that we have vastly extended the sphere of those rights, and include
within them all the brotherhood of man. But it is not too much to say,
that the mass of our populations have not at all advanced beyond the
savage code of morals, and have in many cases sunk below it."
Wallace's _Malay Archipelago_, vol. ii. pp. 460-461.

[195] So too Bougainville, a brother of the navigator, said in 1760,
"For an attentive observer who sees nothing in events of the utmost
diversity of appearance but the natural effects of a certain number of
causes differently combined, Greece is the universe in small, and the
history of Greece an excellent epitome of universal history." (Quoted
in Egger's _Hellénisme en France_, ii. 272.) The revolutionists of the
next generation, who used to appeal so unseasonably to the ancients,
were only following a literary fashion set by their fathers.

[196] _Doutes sur l'Ordre Naturel_; _Oeuv._, xi. 80. (Ed. 1794, 1795.)

[197] _La Législation_, I. i.

[198] _Ibid._

[199] It is not within our province to examine the vexed question
whether the Convention was fundamentally socialist, and not merely
political. That socialist ideas were afloat in the minds of some
members, one can hardly doubt. See Von Sybel's _Hist. of the French
Revolution_, Bk. II. ch. iv., on one side, and Quinet's _La
Révolution_, ii. 90-107, on the other.

[200] _Economie Politique_, pp. 41, 53, etc.




By what subtle process did Rousseau, whose ideal had been a summer life
among all the softnesses of sweet gardens and dappled orchards, turn
into panegyrist of the harsh austerity of old Cato and grim Brutus's
civic devotion? The amiability of eighteenth century France--and France
was amiable in spite of the atrocities of White Penitents at Toulouse,
and black Jansenists at Paris, and the men and women who dealt in
_lettres-de-cachet_ at Versailles--was revolted by the name of the cruel
patriot who slew his son for the honour of discipline.[201] How came
Rousseau of all men, the great humanitarian of his time, to rise to the
height of these unlovely rigours?

The answer is that he was a citizen of Geneva transplanted. He had been
bred in puritan and republican tradition, with love of God and love of
law and freedom and love of country all penetrating it, and then he had
been accidentally removed to a strange city that was in active ferment
with ideas that were the direct abnegation of all these. In Paris the
idea of a God was either repudiated along with many other ancestral
conceptions, or else it was fatally entangled with the worst
superstition and not seldom with the vilest cruelties. The idea of
freedom was unknown, and the idea of law was benumbed by abuses and
exceptions. The idea of country was enfeebled in some and displaced in
others by a growing passion for the captivating something styled
citizenship of the world. If Rousseau could have ended his days among
the tranquil lakes and hills of Savoy, Geneva might possibly never have
come back to him. For it depends on circumstance, which of the chances
that slumber within us shall awake, and which shall fall unroused with
us into the darkness. The fact of Rousseau ranking among the greatest of
the writers of the French language, and the yet more important fact that
his ideas found their most ardent disciples and exploded in their most
violent form in France, constantly make us forget that he was not a
Frenchman, but a Genevese deeply imbued with the spirit of his native
city. He was thirty years old before he began even temporarily to live
in France: he had only lived there some five or six years when he wrote
his first famous piece, so un-French in all its spirit; and the ideas of
the Social Contract were in germ before he settled in France at all.

There have been two great religious reactions, and the name of Geneva
has a fundamental association with each of them. The first was that
against the paganised Catholicism of the renaissance, and of this
Calvin was a prime leader; the second was that against the materialism
of the eighteenth century, of which the prime leader was Rousseau. The
diplomatist was right who called Geneva the fifth part of the world. At
the congress of Vienna, some one, wearied at the enormous place taken by
the hardly visible Geneva in the midst of negotiations involving
momentous issues for the whole habitable globe, called out that it was
after all no more than a grain of sand. But he was not wrong who made
bold to reply, "Geneva is no grain of sand; 'tis a grain of musk that
perfumes all Europe."[202] We have to remember that it was at all events
as a grain of musk ever pervading the character of Rousseau. It happened
in later years that he repudiated his allegiance to her, but however
bitterly a man may quarrel with a parent, he cannot change blood, and
Rousseau ever remained a true son of the city of Calvin. We may perhaps
conjecture without excessive fancifulness that the constant spectacle
and memory of a community, free, energetic, and prosperous, whose
institutions had been shaped and whose political temper had been
inspired by one great lawgiver, contributed even more powerfully than
what he had picked up about Lycurgus and Lacedæmon, to give him a turn
for Utopian speculation, and a conviction of the artificiality and easy
modifiableness of the social structure. This, however, is less certain
than that he unconsciously received impressions in his youth from the
circumstances of Geneva, both as to government and religion, as to
freedom, order, citizenship, manners, which formed the deepest part of
him on the reflective side, and which made themselves visible whenever
he exchanged the life of beatified sense for moods of speculative
energy, "Never," he says, "did I see the walls of that happy city, I
never went into it, without feeling a certain faintness at my heart, due
to excess of tender emotion. At the same time that the noble image of
freedom elevated my soul, those of equality, of union, of gentle
manners, touched me even to tears."[203] His spirit never ceased to
haunt city and lake to the end, and he only paid the debt of an owed
acknowledgment in the dedication of his Discourse on Inequality to the
republic of Geneva.[204] It was there it had its root. The honour in
which industry was held in Geneva, the democratic phrases that
constituted the dialect of its government, the proud tradition of the
long battle which had won and kept its independence, the severity of its
manners, the simplicity of its pleasures,--all these things awoke in his
memory as soon as ever occasion drew him to serious thought. More than
that, he had in a peculiar manner drawn in with the breath of his
earliest days in this theocratically constituted city, the vital idea
that there are sacred things and objects of reverence among men. And
hence there came to him, though with many stains and much misdirection,
the most priceless excellence of a capacity for devout veneration.

There is certainly no real contradiction between the quality of
reverence and the more equivocal quality of a sensuous temperament,
though a man may well seem on the surface, as the first succeeds the
second in rule over him, to be the contradiction to his other self. The
objects of veneration and the objects of sensuous delight are externally
so unlike and so incongruous, that he who follows both in their turns is
as one playing the part of an ironical chorus in the tragi-comic drama
of his own life. You may perceive these two to be mere imperfect or
illusory opposites, when you confront a man like Rousseau with the true
opposite of his own type; with those who are from their birth analysts
and critics, keen, restless, urgent, inexorably questioning. That
energetic type, though not often dead or dull on the side of sense, yet
is incapable of steeping itself in the manifold delights of eye and ear,
of nostril and touch, with the peculiar intensity of passive absorption
that seeks nothing further nor deeper than unending continuance of this
profound repose of all filled sensation, just as it is incapable of the
kindred mood of elevated humility and joyful unasking devoutness in the
presence of emotions and dim thoughts that are beyond the compass
of words.

The citizen of Geneva with this unseen fibre of Calvinistic veneration
and austerity strong and vigorous within him, found a world that had
nothing sacred and took nothing for granted; that held the past in
contempt, and ever like old Athenians asked for some new thing; that
counted simplicity of life an antique barbarism, and literary
curiousness the master virtue. There were giants in this world, like the
panurgic Diderot. There were industrious, worthy, disinterested men, who
used their minds honestly and actively with sincere care for truth, like
D'Holbach. There was poured around the whole, like a high stimulating
atmosphere to the stronger, and like some evil mental aphrodisiac to the
weaker, the influence of Voltaire, the great indomitable chieftain of
them all. Intellectual size half redeems want of perfect direction by
its generous power and fulness. It was not the strong men, atheists and
philosophisers as they were, who first irritated Rousseau into revolt
against their whole system of thought in all its principles. The dissent
between him and them was fundamental and enormous, and in time it flamed
out into open war. Conflict of theory, however, was brought home to him
first by slow-growing exasperation at the follies in practice of the
minor disciples of the gospel of knowing and acting, as distinguished
from his own gospel of placid being. He craved beliefs that should
uphold men in living their lives, substantial helps on which they might
lean without examination and without mistrust: his life in Paris was
thrown among people who lived in the midst of open questions, and
revelled in a reflective and didactic morality, which had no root in the
heart and so made things easy for the practical conscience. He sought
tranquillity and valued life for its own sake, not as an arena and a
theme for endless argument and debate: he found friends who knew no
higher pleasure than the futile polemics of mimic philosophy over
dessert, who were as full of quibble as the wrong-headed interlocutors
in a Platonic dialogue, and who babbled about God and state of nature,
about virtue and the spirituality of the soul, much as Boswell may have
done when Johnson complained of him for asking questions that would make
a man hang himself. The highest things were thus brought down to the
level of the cheapest discourse, and subjects which the wise take care
only to discuss with the wise, were here everyday topics for all comers.

The association with such high themes of those light qualities of tact,
gaiety, complaisance, which are the life of the superficial commerce of
men and women of the world, probably gave quite as much offence to
Rousseau as the doctrines which some of his companions had the honest
courage or the heedless fatuity to profess. It was an outrage to all the
serious side of him to find persons of quality introducing materialism
as a new fashion, and atheism as the liveliest of condiments. The
perfume of good manners only made what he took for bad principles the
worse, and heightened his impatience at the flippancy of pretensions to
overthrow the beliefs of a world between two wines.

Doctrine and temperament united to set him angrily against the world
around him. The one was austere and the other was sensuous, and the
sensuous temperament in its full strength is essentially solitary. The
play of social intercourse, its quick transitions, and incessant
demands, are fatal to free and uninterrupted abandonment to the flow of
soft internal emotions. Rousseau, dreaming, moody, indolently,
meditative, profoundly enwrapped in the brooding egoism of his own
sensations, had to mix with men and women whose egoism took the contrary
form of an eager desire to produce flashing effects on other people. We
may be sure that as the two sides of his character--his notions of
serious principle, and his notions of personal comfort--both went in the
same direction, the irritation and impatience with which they inspired
him towards society did not lessen with increased communication, but
naturally deepened with a more profoundly settled antipathy.

Rousseau lived in Paris for twelve years, from his return from Venice in
1744 until his departure in 1756 for the rustic lodge in a wood which
the good-will of Madame d'Epinay provided for him. We have already seen
one very important side of his fortunes during these years, in the
relations he formed with Theresa, and the relations which he repudiated
with his children. We have heard too the new words with which during
these years he first began to make the hearts of his contemporaries wax
hot within them. It remains to examine the current of daily circumstance
on which his life was embarked, and the shores to which it was
bearing him.

His patrons were at present almost exclusively in the circle of
finance. Richelieu, indeed, took him for a moment by the hand, but even
the introduction to him was through the too frail wife of one of the
greatest of the farmers general.[205] Madame Dupin and Madame d'Epinay,
his two chief patronesses, were also both of them the wives of magnates
of the farm. The society of the great people of this world was marked by
all the glare, artificiality, and sentimentalism of the epoch, but it
had also one or two specially hollow characteristics of its own. As is
always the case when a new rich class rises in the midst of a community
possessing an old caste, the circle of Parisian financiers made it their
highest social aim to thrust and strain into the circle of the
Versailles people of quality. They had no normal life of their own, with
independent traditions and self-respect; and for the same reason that an
essentially worn-out aristocracy may so long preserve a considerable
degree of vigour and even of social utility under certain circumstances
by means of tenacious pride in its own order, a new plutocracy is
demoralised from the very beginning of its existence by want of a
similar kind of pride in itself, and by the ignoble necessity of craving
the countenance of an upper class that loves to despise and humiliate
it. Besides the more obvious evils of a position resting entirely on
material opulence, and maintaining itself by coarse and glittering
ostentation, there is a fatal moral hollowness which infects both
serious conduct and social diversion. The result is seen in imitative
manners, affected culture, and a mixture of timorous self-consciousness
within and noisy self-assertion without, which completes the most
distasteful scene that any collected spirit can witness.

Rousseau was, as has been said, the secretary of Madame Dupin and her
stepson Francueil. He occasionally went with them to Chenonceaux in
Touraine, one of Henry the Second's castles built for Diana of Poitiers,
and here he fared sumptuously every day. In Paris his means, as we know,
were too strait. For the first two years he had a salary of nine hundred
francs; then his employers raised it to as much as fifty louis. For the
first of the Discourses the publisher gave him nothing, and for the
second he had to extract his fee penny by penny, and after long waiting.
His comic opera, the Village Soothsayer, was a greater success; it
brought him the round sum of two hundred louis from the court, and some
five and twenty more from the bookseller, and so, he says, "the
interlude, which cost me five or six weeks of work, produced nearly as
much money as Emilius afterwards did, which had cost me twenty years of
meditation and three years of composition."[206] Before the arrival of
this windfall, M. Francueil, who was receiver-general, offered him the
post of cashier in that important department, and Rousseau attended for
some weeks to receive the necessary instructions. His progress was tardy
as usual, and the complexities of accounts were as little congenial to
him as notarial complexities had been three and twenty years previously.
It is, however, one of the characteristics of times of national break-up
not to be peremptory in exacting competence, and Rousseau gravely sat at
the receipt of custom, doing the day's duty with as little skill as
liking. Before he had been long at his post, his official chief going on
a short journey left him in charge of the chest, which happened at the
moment to contain no very portentous amount. The disquiet with which the
watchful custody of this moderate treasure harassed and afflicted
Rousseau, not only persuaded him that nature had never designed him to
be the guardian of money chests, but also threw him into a fit of very
painful illness. The surgeons let him understand that within six months
he would be in the pale kingdoms. The effect of such a hint on a man of
his temper, and the train of reflections which it would be sure to set
aflame, are to be foreseen by us who know Rousseau's fashion of dealing
with the irksome. Why sacrifice the peace and charm of the little
fragment of days left to him, to the bondage of an office for which he
felt nothing but disgust? How reconcile the austere principles which he
had just adopted in his denunciation of sciences and arts, and his
panegyric on the simplicity of the natural life, with such duties as he
had to perform? And how preach disinterestedness and frugality from amid
the cashboxes of a receiver-general? Plainly it was his duty to pass in
independence and poverty the little time that was yet left to him, to
bring all the forces of his soul to bear in breaking the fetters of
opinion, and to carry out courageously whatever seemed best to himself,
without suffering the judgment of others to interpose the slightest
embarrassment or hindrance.[207]

With Rousseau, to conceive a project of this kind for simplifying his
life was to hasten urgently towards its realisation, because such
projects harmonised with all his strongest predispositions. His design
mastered and took whole possession of him. He resolved to earn his
living by copying music, as that was conformable to his taste, within
his capacity, and compatible with entire personal freedom. His patron
did as the world is so naturally ready to do with those who choose the
stoic's way; he declared that Rousseau was gone mad.[208] Talk like this
had no effect on a man whom self-indulgence led into a path that others
would only have been forced into by self-denial. Let it be said,
however, that this is a form of self-indulgence of which society is
never likely to see an excess, and meanwhile we may continue to pay it
some respect as assuredly leaning to virtue's side. Rousseau's many
lapses from grace perhaps deserve a certain gentleness of treatment,
after the time when with deliberation and collected effort he set
himself to the hard task of fitting his private life to his public
principles. Anything that heightens the self-respect of the race is good
for us to behold, and it is a permanent source of comfort to all who
thirst after reality in teachers, whether their teaching happens to be
our own or not, to find that the prophet of social equality was not a
fine gentleman, nor the teacher of democracy a hanger-on to the silly
skirts of fashion.

Rousseau did not merely throw up a post which would one day have made
him rich. Stoicism on the heroic, peremptory scale is not so difficult
as the application of the same principle to trifles. Besides this
greater sacrifice, he gave up the pleasant things for which most men
value the money that procures them, and instituted an austere sumptuary
reform in truly Genevese spirit. His sword was laid aside; for flowing
peruke was substituted the small round wig; he left off gilt buttons and
white stockings, and he sold his watch with the joyful and singular
thought that he would never again need to know the time. One sacrifice
remained to be made. Part of his equipment for the Venetian embassy had
been a large stock of fine linen, and for this he retained a particular
affection, for both now and always Rousseau had a passion for personal
cleanliness, as he had for corporeal wholesomeness. He was seasonably
delivered from bondage to his fine linen by aid from without. One
Christmas Eve it lay drying in a garret in the rather considerable
quantity of forty-two shirts, when a thief, always suspected to be the
brother of Theresa, broke open the door and carried off the treasure,
leaving Rousseau henceforth to be the contented wearer of coarser

We may place this reform towards the end of the year 1750, or the
beginning of 1751, when his mind was agitated by the busy discussion
which his first Discourse excited, and by the new ideas of literary
power which its reception by the public naturally awakened in him. "It
takes," wrote Diderot, "right above the clouds; never was such a
success."[210] We can hardly have a surer sign of a man's fundamental
sincerity than that his first triumph, the first revelation to him of
his power, instead of seducing him to frequent the mischievous and
disturbing circle of his applauders, should throw him inwards upon
himself and his own principles with new earnestness and refreshed
independence. Rousseau very soon made up his mind what the world was
worth to him; and this, not as the ordinary sentimentalist or satirist
does, by way of set-off against the indulgence of personal foibles, but
from recognition of his own qualities, of the bounds set to our capacity
of life, and of the limits of the world's power to satisfy us. "When my
destiny threw me into the whirlpool of society," he wrote in his last
meditation on the course of his own life, "I found nothing there to
give a moment's solace to my heart. Regret for my sweet leisure followed
me everywhere; it shed indifference or disgust over all that might have
been within my reach, leading to fortune and honours. Uncertain in the
disquiet of my desires, I hoped for little, I obtained less, and I felt
even amid gleams of prosperity that if I obtained all that I supposed
myself to be seeking, I should still not have found the happiness for
which my heart was greedily athirst, though without distinctly knowing
its object. Thus everything served to detach my affections from society,
even before the misfortunes which were to make me wholly a stranger to
it. I reached the age of forty, floating between indigence and fortune,
between wisdom and disorder, full of vices of habit without any evil
tendency at heart, living by hazard, distracted as to my duties without
despising them, but often without much clear knowledge what they

A brooding nature gives to character a connectedness and unity that is
in strong contrast with the dispersion and multiformity of the active
type. The attractions of fame never cheated Rousseau into forgetfulness
of the commanding principle that a man's life ought to be steadily
composed to oneness with itself in all its parts, as by mastery of an
art of moral counterpoint, and not crowded with a wild mixture of aim
and emotion like distracted masks in high carnival. He complains of the
philosophers with whom he came into contact, that their philosophy was
something foreign to them and outside of their own lives. They studied
human nature for the sake of talking learnedly about it, not for the
sake of self-knowledge; they laboured to instruct others, not to
enlighten themselves within. When they published a book, its contents
only interested them to the extent of making the world accept it,
without seriously troubling themselves whether it were true or false,
provided only that it was not refuted. "For my own part, when I desired
to learn, it was to know things myself, and not at all to teach others.
I always believed that before instructing others it was proper to begin
by knowing enough for one's self; and of all the studies that I have
tried to follow in my life in the midst of men, there is hardly one that
I should not have followed equally if I had been alone, and shut up in a
desert island for the rest of my days."[212]

When we think of Turgot, whom Rousseau occasionally met among the
society which he denounces, such a denunciation sounds a little
outrageous. But then Turgot was perhaps the one sane Frenchman of the
first eminence in the eighteenth century. Voltaire chose to be an exile
from the society of Paris and Versailles as pertinaciously as Rousseau
did, and he spoke more bitterly of it in verse than Rousseau ever spoke
bitterly of it in prose.[213] It was, as has been so often said, a
society dominated by women, from the king's mistress who helped to ruin
France, down to the financier's wife who gave suppers to flashy men of
letters. The eighteenth century salon has been described as having three
stages; the salon of 1730, still retaining some of the stately
domesticity, elegance, dignity of the age of Lewis XIV.; that of 1780,
grave, cold, dry, given to dissertation; and between the two, the salon
of 1750, full of intellectual stir, brilliance, frivolous originality,
glittering wastefulness.[214] Though this division of time must not be
pressed too closely, it is certain that the era of Rousseau's advent in
literature with his Discourses fell in with the climax of social
unreality in the surface intercourse of France, and that the same date
marks the highest point of feminine activity and power.

The common mixture of much reflective morality in theory with much
light-hearted immorality in practice, never entered so largely into
manners. We have constantly to wonder how they analysed and defined the
word Virtue, to which they so constantly appealed in letters,
conversation, and books, as the sovereign object for our deepest and
warmest adoration. A whole company of transgressors of the marriage law
would melt into floods of tears over a hymn to virtue, which they must
surely have held of too sacred an essence to mix itself with any one
virtue in particular, except that very considerable one of charitably
letting all do as they please. It is much, however, that these tears,
if not very burning, were really honest. Society, though not believing
very deeply in the supernatural, was not cursed with an arid, parching,
and hardened scepticism about the genuineness of good emotions in a man,
and so long as people keep this baleful poison out of their hearts,
their lives remain worth having.

It is true that cynicism in the case of some women of this time
occasionally sounded in a diabolic key, as when one said, "It is your
lover to whom you should never say that you don't believe in God; to
one's husband that does not matter, because in the case of a lover one
must reserve for one's self some door of escape, and devotional scruples
cut everything short."[215] Or here: "I do not distrust anybody, for
that is a deliberate act; but I do not trust anybody, and there is no
trouble in this."[216] Or again in the word thrown to a man vaunting the
probity of some one: "What! can a man of intelligence like you accept
the prejudice of _meum_ and _tuum_?"[217] Such speech, however, was
probably most often a mere freak of the tongue, a mode and fashion, as
who should go to a masked ball in guise of Mephistopheles, without
anything more Mephistophelian about him than red apparel and peaked
toes. "She was absolutely charming," said one of a new-comer; "she did
not utter one single word that was not a paradox."[218] This was the
passing taste. Human nature is able to keep itself wholesome in
fundamentals even under very great difficulties, and it is as wise as it
is charitable in judging a sharp and cynical tone to make large
allowances for mere costume and assumed character.

In respect of the light companionship of common usage, however, it is
exactly the costume which comes closest to us, and bad taste in that is
most jarring and least easily forgiven. There is a certain stage in an
observant person's experience of the heedlessness, indolence, and native
folly of men and women--and if his observation be conducted in a
catholic spirit, he will probably see something of this not merely in
others--when the tolerable average sanity of human arrangements strikes
him as the most marvellous of all the fortunate accidents in the
universe. Rousseau could not even accept the fact of this miraculous
result, the provisional and temporary sanity of things, and he
confronted society with eyes of angry chagrin. A great lady asked him
how it was that she had not seen him for an age. "Because when I wish to
see you, I wish to see no one but you. What do you want me to do in the
midst of your society? I should cut a sorry figure in a circle of
mincing tripping coxcombs; they do not suit me." We cannot wonder that
on some occasion when her son's proficiency was to be tested before a
company of friends, Madame d'Epinay prayed Rousseau to be of them, on
the ground that he would be sure to ask the child outrageously absurd
questions, which would give gaiety to the affair.[219] As it happened,
the father was unwise. He was a man of whom it was said that he had
devoured two million francs, without either saying or doing a single
good thing. He rewarded the child's performance with the gift of a
superb suit of cherry-coloured velvet, extravagantly trimmed with costly
lace; the peasant from whose sweat and travail the money had been wrung,
went in heavy rags, and his children lived as the beasts of the field.
The poor youth was ill dealt with. "That is very fine," said rude
Duclos, "but remember that a fool in lace is still a fool." Rousseau, in
reply to the child's importunity, was still blunter: "Sir, I am no judge
of finery, I am only a judge of man; I wished to talk with you a little
while ago, but I wish so no longer."[220]

Marmontel, whose account may have been coloured by retrospection in
later years, says that before the success of the first Discourse,
Rousseau concealed his pride under the external forms of a politeness
that was timid even to obsequiousness; in his uneasy glance you
perceived mistrust and observant jealousy; there was no freedom in his
manner, and no one ever observed more cautiously the hateful precept to
live with your friends as though they were one day to be your
enemies.[221] Grimm's description is different and more trustworthy.
Until he began to affect singularity, he says, Rousseau had been gallant
and overflowing with artificial compliment, with manners that were
honeyed and even wearisome in their soft elaborateness. All at once he
put on the cynic's cloak, and went to the other extreme. Still in spite
of an abrupt and cynical tone he kept much of his old art of elaborate
fine speeches, and particularly in his relations with women.[222] Of his
abruptness, he tells a most displeasing tale. "One day Rousseau told us
with an air of triumph, that as he was coming out of the opera where he
had been seeing the first representation of the Village Soothsayer, the
Duke of Zweibrücken had approached him with much politeness, saying,
'Will you allow me to pay you a compliment?' and that he replied, 'Yes,
if it be very short.' Everybody was silent at this, until I said to him
laughingly, 'Illustrious citizen and co-sovereign of Geneva, since there
resides in you a part of the sovereignty of the republic, let me
represent to you that, for all the severity of your principles, you
should hardly refuse to a sovereign prince the respect due to a
water-carrier, and that if you had met a word of good-will from a
water-carrier with an answer as rough and brutal as that, you would have
had to reproach yourself with a most unseasonable piece of

There were still more serious circumstances when exasperation at the
flippant tone about him carried him beyond the ordinary bounds of that
polite time. A guest at table asked contemptuously what was the use of a
nation like the French having reason, if they did not use it. "They mock
the other nations of the earth, and yet are the most credulous of all."
ROUSSEAU: "I forgive them for their credulity, but not for condemning
those who are credulous in some other way." Some one said that in
matters of religion everybody was right, but that everybody should
remain in that in which he had been born. ROUSSEAU, with warmth: "Not
so, by God, if it is a bad one, for then it can do nothing but harm."
Then some one contended that religion always did some good, as a kind of
rein to the common people who had no other morality. All the rest cried
out at this in indignant remonstrance, one shrewd person remarking that
the common people had much livelier fear of being hanged than of being
damned. The conversation was broken off for a moment by the hostess
calling out, "After all, one must nourish the tattered affair we call
our body, so ring and let them bring us the joint." This done, the
servants dismissed, and the door shut, the discussion was resumed with
such vehemence by Duclos and Saint Lambert, that, says the lady who
tells us the story, "I feared they were bent on destroying all religion,
and I prayed for some mercy to be shown at any rate to natural
religion." There was not a whit more sympathy for that than for the
rest. Rousseau declared himself _paullo infirmior_, and clung to the
morality of the gospel as the natural morality which in old times
constituted the whole and only creed. "But what is a God," cried one
impetuous disputant, "who gets angry and is appeased again?" Rousseau
began to murmur between grinding teeth, and a tide of pleasantries set
in at his expense, to which came this: "If it is a piece of cowardice to
suffer ill to be spoken of one's friend behind his back, 'tis a crime to
suffer ill to be spoken of one's God, who is present; and for my part,
sirs, I believe in God." "I admit," said the atheistic champion, "that
it is a fine thing to see this God bending his brow to earth and
watching with admiration the conduct of a Cato. But this notion is, like
many others, very useful in some great heads, such as Trajan, Marcus
Aurelius, Socrates, where it can only produce heroism, but it is the
germ of all madnesses." ROUSSEAU: "Sirs, I leave the room if you say
another word more," and he was rising to fulfil his threat, when the
entry of a new-comer stopped the discussion.[224]

His words on another occasion show how all that he saw helped to keep up
a fretted condition of mind, in one whose soft tenacious memory turned
daily back to simple and unsophisticated days among the green valleys,
and refused to acquiesce in the conditions of changed climate. So
terrible a thing is it to be the bondsman of reminiscence. Madame
d'Epinay was suspected, wrongfully as it afterwards proved, of having
destroyed some valuable papers belonging to a dead relative. There was
much idle and cruel gossip in an ill-natured world. Rousseau, her
friend, kept steadfast silence: she challenged his opinion. "What am I
to say?" he answered; "I go and come, and all that I hear outrages and
revolts me. I see the one so evidently malicious and so adroit in their
injustice; the other so awkward and so stupid in their good intentions,
that I am tempted (and it is not the first time) to look on Paris as a
cavern of brigands, of whom every traveller in his turn is the victim.
What gives me the worst idea of society is to see how eager each person
is to pardon himself, by reason of the number of the people who are like

Notwithstanding his hatred of this cavern of brigands, and the little
pains he took to conceal his feelings from any individual brigand,
whether male or female, with whom he had to deal, he found out that "it
is not always so easy as people suppose to be poor and independent."
Merciless invasion of his time in every shape made his life weariness.
Sometimes he had the courage to turn and rend the invader, as in the
letter to a painter who sent him the same copy of verses three times,
requiring immediate acknowledgment. "It is not just," at length wrote
the exasperated Rousseau, "that I should be tyrannised over for your
pleasure; not that my time is precious, as you say; it is either passed
in suffering or it is lost in idleness; but when I cannot employ it
usefully for some one, I do not wish to be hindered from wasting it in
my own fashion. A single minute thus usurped is what all the kings of
the universe could not give me back, and it is to be my own master that
I flee from the idle folk of towns,--people as thoroughly wearied as
they are thoroughly wearisome,--who, because they do not know what to do
with their own time, think they have a right to waste that of
others."[226] The more abruptly he treated visitors, persecuting
dinner-givers, and all the tribe of the importunate, the more obstinate
they were in possessing themselves of his time. In seizing the hours
they were keeping his purse empty, as well as keeping up constant
irritation in his soul. He appears to have earned forty sous for a
morning's work, and to have counted this a fair fee, remarking modestly
that he could not well subsist on less.[227] He had one chance of a
pension, which he threw from him in a truly characteristic manner.

When he came to Paris he composed his musical diversion of the Muses
Galantes, which was performed (1745) in the presence of Rameau, under
the patronage of M. de la Popelinière. Rameau apostrophised the unlucky
composer with much violence, declaring that one-half of the piece was
the work of a master, while the other was that of a person entirely
ignorant of the musical rudiments; the bad work therefore was
Rousseau's own, and the good was a plagiarism.[228] This repulse did not
daunt the hero. Five or six years afterwards on a visit to Passy, as he
was lying awake in bed, he conceived the idea of a pastoral interlude
after the manner of the Italian comic operas. In six days the Village
Soothsayer was sketched, and in three weeks virtually completed. Duclos
procured its rehearsal at the Opera, and after some debate it was
performed before the court at Fontainebleau. The Plutarchian stoic, its
author, went from Paris in a court coach, but his Roman tone deserted
him, and he felt shamefaced as a schoolboy before the great world, such
divinity doth hedge even a Lewis XV., and even in a soul of Genevan
temper. The piece was played with great success, and the composer was
informed that he would the next day have the honour of being presented
to the king, who would most probably mark his favour by the bestowal of
a pension.[229] Rousseau was tossed with many doubts. He would fain have
greeted the king with some word that should show sensibility to the
royal graciousness, without compromising republican severity, "clothing
some great and useful truth in a fine and deserved compliment." This
moral difficulty was heightened by a physical one, for he was liable to
an infirmity which, if it should overtake him in presence of king and
courtiers, would land him in an embarrassment worse than death. What
would become of him if mind or body should fail, if either he should be
driven into precipitate retreat, or else there should escape him,
instead of the great truth wrapped delicately round in veracious
panegyric, a heavy, shapeless word of foolishness? He fled in terror,
and flung up the chance of pension and patronage. We perceive the born
dreamer with a phantasmagoric imagination, seizing nothing in just
proportion and true relation, and paralysing the spirit with terror of
unrealities; in short, with the most fatal form of moral cowardice,
which perhaps it is a little dangerous to try to analyse into
finer names.

When Rousseau got back to Paris he was amazed to find that Diderot spoke
to him of this abandonment of the pension with a fire that he could
never have expected from a philosopher, Rousseau plainly sharing the
opinion of more vulgar souls that philosopher is but fool writ large.
"He said that if I was disinterested on my own account, I had no right
to be so on that of Madame Le Vasseur and her daughter, and that I owed
it to them not to let pass any possible and honest means of giving them
bread.... This was the first real dispute I had with him, and all our
quarrels that followed were of the same kind; he laying down for me what
he insisted that I should do, and I refusing because I thought that I
ought not to do it."[230]

Let us abstain, at this and all other points, from being too sure that
we easily see to the bottom of our Rousseau. When we are most ready to
fling up the book and to pronounce him all selfishness and sophistry,
some trait is at hand to revive moral interest in him, and show him
unlike common men, reverent of truth and human dignity. There is a
slight anecdote of this kind connected with his visit to Fontainebleau.
The day after the representation of his piece, he happened to be taking
his breakfast in some public place. An officer entered, and, proceeding
to describe the performance of the previous day, told at great length
all that had happened, depicted the composer with much minuteness, and
gave a circumstantial account of his conversation. In this story, which
was told with equal assurance and simplicity, there was not a word of
truth, as was clear from the fact that the author of whom he spoke with
such intimacy sat unknown and unrecognised before his eyes. The effect
on Rousseau was singular enough. "The man was of a certain age; he had
no coxcombical or swaggering air; his expression bespoke a man of merit,
and his cross of St. Lewis showed that he was an old officer. While he
was retailing his untruths, I grew red in the face, I lowered my eyes, I
sat on thorns; I tried to think of some means of believing him to have
made a mistake in good faith. At length trembling lest some one should
recognise me and confront him, I hastened to finish my chocolate without
saying a word; and stooping down as I passed in front of him, I went
out as fast as possible, while the people present discussed his tale. I
perceived in the street that I was bathed in sweat, and I am sure that
if any one had recognised me and called me by name before I got out,
they would have seen in me the shame and embarrassment of a culprit,
simply from a feeling of the pain the poor man would have had to suffer
if his lie had been discovered."[231] One who can feel thus vividly
humiliated by the meanness of another, assuredly has in himself the
wholesome salt of respect for the erectness of his fellows; he has the
rare sentiment that the compromise of integrity in one of them is as a
stain on his own self-esteem, and a lowering of his own moral stature.
There is more deep love of humanity in this than in giving many alms,
and it was not the less deep for being the product of impulse and
sympathetic emotion, and not of a logical sorites.

Another scene in a café is worth referring to, because it shows in the
same way that at this time Rousseau's egoism fell short of the
fatuousness to which disease or vicious habit eventually depraved it. In
1752 he procured the representation of his comedy of Narcisse, which he
had written at the age of eighteen, and which is as well worth reading
or playing as most comedies by youths of that amount of experience of
the ways of the world and the heart of man. Rousseau was amazed and
touched by the indulgence of the public, in suffering without any sign
of impatience even a second representation of his piece. For himself,
he could not so much as sit out the first; quitting the theatre before
it was over, he entered the famous café de Procope at the other side of
the street, where he found critics as wearied as himself. Here he called
out, "The new piece has fallen flat, and it deserved to fall flat; it
wearied me to death. It is by Rousseau of Geneva, and I am that very
Rousseau."[232] The relentless student of mental pathology is very
likely to insist that even this was egoism standing on its head and not
on its feet, choosing to be noticed for an absurdity, rather than not be
noticed at all. It may be so, but this inversion of the ordinary form of
vanity is rare enough to be not unrefreshing, and we are very loth to
hand Rousseau wholly over to the pathologist before his hour has come.


In the summer of 1754 Rousseau, in company with his Theresa, went to
revisit the city of his birth, partly because an exceptionally
favourable occasion presented itself, but in yet greater part because he
was growing increasingly weary of the uncongenial world in which he
moved. On his road he turned aside to visit her who had been more than
even his birth-place to him. He felt the shock known to all who cherish
a vision for a dozen years, and then suddenly front the changed reality.
He had not prepared himself by recalling the commonplace which we only
remember for others, how time wears hard and ugly lines into the face
that recollection at each new energy makes lovelier with an added
sweetness. "I saw her," he says, "but in what a state, O God, in what
debasement! Was this the same Madame de Warens, in those days so
brilliant, to whom the priest of Pontverre had sent me! How my heart was
torn by the sight!" Alas, as has been said with a truth that daily
experience proves to those whom pity and self-knowledge have made most
indulgent, as to those whom pinched maxims have made most
rigorous,--_morality is the nature of things_.[233] We may have a humane
tenderness for our Manon Lescaut, but we have a deep presentiment all
the time that the poor soul must die in a penal settlement. It is partly
a question of time; whether death comes fast enough to sweep you out of
reach of the penalties which the nature of things may appoint, but which
in their fiercest shape are mostly of the loitering kind. Death was
unkind to Madame de Warens, and the unhappy creature lived long enough
to find that morality does mean something after all; that the old hoary
world has not fixed on prudence in the outlay of money as a good thing,
out of avarice or pedantic dryness of heart; nor on some continence and
order in the relations of men and women as a good thing, out of
cheerless grudge to the body, but because the breach of such virtues is
ever in the long run deadly to mutual trust, to strength, to freedom, to
collectedness, which are the reserve of humanity against days of ordeal.

Rousseau says that he tried hard to prevail upon his fallen benefactress
to leave Savoy, to come and take up her abode peacefully with him, while
he and Theresa would devote their days to making her happy. He had not
forgotten her in the little glimpse of prosperity; he had sent her money
when he had it.[234] She was sunk in indigence, for her pension had long
been forestalled, but still she refused to change her home. While
Rousseau was at Geneva she came to see him. "She lacked money to
complete her journey; I had not enough about me; I sent it to her an
hour afterwards by Theresa. Poor Maman! Let me relate this trait of her
heart. The only trinket she had left was a small ring; she took it from
her finger to place it on Theresa's, who instantly put it back, as she
kissed the noble hand and bathed it with her tears." In after years he
poured bitter reproaches upon himself for not quitting all to attach his
lot to hers until her last hour, and he professes always to have been
haunted by the liveliest and most enduring remorse.[235] Here is the
worst of measuring duty by sensation instead of principle; if the
sensations happen not to be in right order at the critical moment, the
chance goes by, never to return, and then, as memory in the best of
such temperaments is long though not without intermittence, old
sentiment revives and drags the man into a burning pit. Rousseau appears
not to have seen her again, but the thought of her remained with him to
the end, like a soft vesture fragrant with something of the sweet
mysterious perfume of many-scented night in the silent garden at
Charmettes. She died in a hovel eight years after this, sunk in disease,
misery, and neglect, and was put away in the cemetery on the heights
above Chambéri.[236] Rousseau consoled himself with thoughts of another
world that should reunite him to her and be the dawn of new happiness;
like a man who should illusorily confound the last glistening of a
wintry sunset seen through dark yew-branches, with the broad-beaming
strength of the summer morning. "If I thought," he said, "that I should
not see her in the other life, my poor imagination would shrink from the
idea of perfect bliss, which I would fain promise myself in it."[237] To
pluck so gracious a flower of hope on the edge of the sombre unechoing
gulf of nothingness into which our friend has slid silently down, is a
natural impulse of the sensitive soul, numbing remorse and giving a
moment's relief to the hunger and thirst of a tenderness that has been
robbed of its object. Yet would not men be more likely to have a deeper
love for those about them, and a keener dread of filling a house with
aching hearts, if they courageously realised from the beginning of their
days that we have none of this perfect companionable bliss to promise
ourselves in other worlds, that the black and horrible grave is indeed
the end of our communion, and that we know one another no more?

The first interview between Rousseau and Madame de Warens was followed
by his ludicrous conversion to Catholicism (1728); the last was
contemporary with his re-conversion to the faith in which he had been
reared. The sight of Geneva gave new fire to his Republican enthusiasm;
he surrendered himself to transports of patriotic zeal. The thought of
the Parisian world that he had left behind, its frivolity, its
petulance, its disputation over all things in heaven and on the earth,
its profound deadness to all civic activity, quickened his admiration
for the simple, industrious, and independent community from which he
never forgot that he was sprung. But no Catholic could enjoy the rights
of citizenship. So Rousseau proceeded to reflect that the Gospel is the
same for all Christians, and the substance of dogma only differs,
because people interposed with explanations of what they could not
understand; that therefore it is in each country the business of the
sovereign to fix both the worship and the amount and quality of
unintelligible dogma; that consequently it is the citizen's duty to
admit the dogma, and follow the worship by law appointed. "The society
of the Encyclopædists, far from shaking my faith, had confirmed it by my
natural aversion for partisanship and controversy. The reading of the
Bible, especially of the Gospel, to which I had applied myself for
several years, had made me despise the low and childish interpretation
put upon the words of Christ by the people who were least worthy to
understand him. In a word, philosophy by drawing me towards the
essential in religion, had drawn me away from that stupid mass of
trivial formulas with which men had overlaid and darkened it."[238] We
may be sure that if Rousseau had a strong inclination towards a given
course of action, he would have no difficulty in putting his case in a
blaze of the brightest light, and surrounding it with endless emblems
and devices of superlative conviction. In short, he submitted himself
faithfully to the instruction of the pastor of his parish; was closely
catechised by a commission of members of the consistory; received from
them a certificate that he had satisfied the requirements of doctrine in
all points; was received to partake of the Communion, and finally
restored to all his rights as a citizen.[239]

This was no farce, such as Voltaire played now and again at the expense
of an unhappy bishop or unhappier parish priest; nor such as Rousseau
himself had played six-and-twenty years before, at the expense of those
honest Catholics of Turin whose helpful donation of twenty francs had
marked their enthusiasm over a soul that had been lost and was found
again. He was never a Catholic, any more than he was ever an atheist,
and if it might be said in one sense that he was no more a Protestant
than he was either of these two, yet he was emphatically the child of
Protestantism. It is hardly too much to say that one bred in Catholic
tradition and observance, accustomed to think of the whole life of men
as only a manifestation of the unbroken life of the Church, and of all
the several communities of men as members of that great organisation
which binds one order to another, and each generation to those that have
gone before and those that come after, would never have dreamed that
monstrous dream of a state of nature as a state of perfection. He would
never have held up to ridicule and hate the idea of society as an
organism with normal parts and conditions of growth, and never have left
the spirit of man standing in bald isolation from history, from his
fellows, from a Church, from a mediator, face to face with the great
vague phantasm. Nor, on the other hand, is it likely that one born and
reared in the religious school of authority with its elaborately
disciplined hierarchy, would have conceived that passion for political
freedom, that zeal for the rights of peoples against rulers, that
energetic enthusiasm for a free life, which constituted the fire and
essence of Rousseau's writing. As illustration of this, let us remark
how Rousseau's teaching fared when it fell upon a Catholic country like
France: so many of its principles were assimilated by the revolutionary
schools as were wanted for violent dissolvents, while the rest dropped
away, and in this rejected portion was precisely the most vital part of
his system. In other words, in no country has the power of collective
organisation been so pressed and exalted as in revolutionised France,
and in no country has the free life of the individual been made to count
for so little. With such force does the ancient system of temporal and
spiritual organisation reign in the minds of those who think most
confidently that they have cast it wholly out of them. The use of reason
may lead a man far, but it is the past that has cut the groove.

In re-embracing the Protestant confession, therefore, Rousseau was not
leaving Catholicism, to which he had never really passed over; he was
only undergoing in entire gravity of spirit a formality which reconciled
him with his native city, and reunited those strands of spiritual
connection with it which had never been more than superficially parted.
There can be little doubt that the four months which he spent in Geneva
in 1754 marked a very critical time in the formation of some of the most
memorable of his opinions. He came from Paris full of inarticulate and
smouldering resentment against the irreverence and denial of the
materialistic circle which used to meet at the house of D'Holbach. What
sort of opinions he found prevailing among the most enlightened of the
Genevese pastors we know from an abundance of sources. D'Alembert had
three or four years later than this to suffer a bitter attack from
them, but the account of the creed of some of the ministers which he
gave in his article on Geneva in the Encyclopedia, was substantially
correct. "Many of them," he wrote, "have ceased to believe in the
divinity of Jesus Christ. Hell, one of the principal points in our
belief, is no longer one with many of the Genevese pastors, who contend
that it is an insult to the Divinity to imagine that a being full of
goodness and justice can be capable of punishing our faults by an
eternity of torment. In a word, they have no other creed than pure
Socinianism, rejecting everything that they call mysteries, and
supposing the first principle of a true religion to be that it shall
propose nothing for belief which clashes with reason. Religion here is
almost reduced to the adoration of one single God, at least among nearly
all who do not belong to the common people; and a certain respect for
Jesus Christ and the Scriptures is nearly the only thing that
distinguishes the Christianity of Geneva from pure Deism."[240] And it
would be easy to trace the growth of these rationalising tendencies.
Throughout the seventeenth century men sprang up who anticipated some of
the rationalistic arguments of the eighteenth, in denying the Trinity,
and so forth,[241] but the time was not then ripe. The general
conditions grew more favourable. Burnet, who was at Geneva in 1685-6,
says that though there were not many among the Genevese of the first
form of learning, "yet almost everybody here has a good tincture of a
learned education."[242] The pacification of civic troubles in 1738 was
followed by a quarter of a century of extreme prosperity and
contentment, and it is in such periods that the minds of men previously
trained are wont to turn to the great matters of speculation. There was
at all times a constant communication, both public and private, going on
between Geneva and Holland, as was only natural between the two chief
Protestant centres of the Continent. The controversy of the seventeenth
century between the two churches was as keenly followed in Geneva as at
Leyden, and there is more than one Genevese writer who deserves a place
in the history of the transition in the beginning of the eighteenth
century from theology proper to that metaphysical theology, which was
the first marked dissolvent of dogma within the Protestant bodies. To
this general movement of the epoch, of course, Descartes supplied the
first impulse. The leader of the movement in Geneva, that is of an
attempt to pacify the Christian churches on the basis of some such Deism
as was shortly to find its passionate expression in the Savoyard
Vicar's Confession of Faith, was John Alphonse Turretini (1661-1737). He
belonged to a family of Italian refugees from Lucca, and his grandfather
had been sent on a mission to Holland for aid in defence of Geneva
against Catholic Savoy. He went on his travels in 1692; he visited
Holland, where he saw Bayle, and England, where he saw Newton, and
France, where he saw Bossuet. Chouet initiated him into the mysteries of
Descartes. All this bore fruit when he returned home, and his eloquent
exposition of rationalistic ideas aroused the usual cry of heresy from
the people who justly insist that Deism is not Christianity. There was
much stir for many years, but he succeeded in holding his own and in
finding many considerable followers.[243] For example, some three years
or so after his death, a work appeared in Geneva under the title of _La
Religion Essentielle a l'Homme_, showing that faith in the existence of
a God suffices, and treating with contempt the belief in the
inspiration of the Gospels.[244]

Thus we see what vein of thought was running through the graver and more
active minds of Geneva about the time of Rousseau's visit. Whether it be
true or not that the accepted belief of many of the preachers was a pure
Deism, it is certain that the theory was fully launched among them, and
that those who could not accept it were still pressed to refute it, and
in refuting, to discuss. Rousseau's friendships were according to his
own account almost entirely among the ministers of religion and the
professors of the academy, precisely the sort of persons who would be
most sure to familiarise him, in the course of frequent conversations,
with the current religious ideas and the arguments by which they were
opposed or upheld. We may picture the effect on his mind of the
difference in tone and temper in these grave, candid, and careful men,
and the tone of his Parisian friends in discussing the same high themes;
how this difference would strengthen his repugnance, and corroborate his
own inborn spirit of veneration; how he would here feel himself in his
own world. For as wise men have noticed, it is not so much difference of
opinion that stirs resentment in us, at least in great subjects where
the difference is not trivial but profound, as difference in gravity of
humour and manner of moral approach. He returned to Paris (Oct. 1754)
warm with the resolution to give up his concerns there, and in the
spring go back once and for all to the city of liberty and virtue, where
men revered wisdom and reason instead of wasting life in the frivolities
of literary dialectic.[245]

The project, however, grew cool. The dedication of his Discourse on
Inequality to the Republic was received with indifference by some and
indignation by others.[246] Nobody thought it a compliment, and some
thought it an impertinence. This was one reason which turned his purpose
aside. Another was the fact that the illustrious Voltaire now also
signed himself Swiss, and boasted that if he shook his wig the powder
flew over the whole of the tiny Republic. Rousseau felt certain that
Voltaire would make a revolution in Geneva, and that he should find in
his native country the tone, the air, the manners which were driving him
from Paris. From that moment he counted Geneva lost. Perhaps he ought to
make head against the disturber, but what could he do alone, timid and
bad talker as he was, against a man arrogant, rich, supported by the
credit of the great, of brilliant eloquence, and already the very idol
of women and young men?[247] Perhaps it would not be uncharitable to
suspect that this was a reason after the event, for no man was ever so
fond as Rousseau, or so clever a master in the art, of covering an
accident in a fine envelope of principle, and, as we shall see, he was
at this time writing to Voltaire in strains of effusive panegyric. In
this case he almost tells us that the one real reason why he did not
return to Geneva was that he found a shelter from Paris close at hand.
Even before then he had begun to conceive characteristic doubts whether
his fellow-citizens at Geneva would not be nearly as hostile to his love
of living solitarily and after his own fashion as the good people
of Paris.

Rousseau has told us a pretty story, how one day he and Madame d'Epinay
wandering about the park came upon a dilapidated lodge surrounded by
fruit gardens, in the skirts of the forest of Montmorency; how he
exclaimed in delight at its solitary charm that here was the very place
of refuge made for him; and how on a second visit he found that his good
friend had in the interval had the old lodge pulled down, and replaced
by a pretty cottage exactly arranged for his own household. "My poor
bear," she said, "here is your place of refuge; it was you who chose it,
'tis friendship offers it; I hope it will drive away your cruel notion
of going from me."[248] Though moved to tears by such kindness,
Rousseau did not decide on the spot, but continued to waver for some
time longer between this retreat and return to Geneva.

In the interval Madame d'Epinay had experience of the character she was
dealing with. She wrote to Rousseau pressing him to live at the cottage
in the forest, and begging him to allow her to assist him in assuring
the moderate annual provision which he had once accidentally declared to
mark the limit of his wants.[249] He wrote to her bitterly in reply,
that her proposition struck ice into his soul, and that she could have
but sorry appreciation of her own interests in thus seeking to turn a
friend into a valet. He did not refuse to listen to what she proposed,
if only she would remember that neither he nor his sentiments were for
sale.[250] Madame d'Epinay wrote to him patiently enough in return, and
then Rousseau hastened to explain that his vocabulary needed special
appreciation, and that he meant by the word valet "the degradation into
which the repudiation of his principles would throw his soul. The
independence I seek is not immunity from work; I am firm for winning my
own bread, I take pleasure in it; but I mean not to subject myself to
any other duty, if I can help it. I will never pledge any portion of my
liberty, either for my own subsistence or that of any one else. I intend
to work, but at my own will and pleasure, and even to do nothing, if it
happens to suit me, without any one finding fault except my
stomach."[251] We may call this unamiable, if we please, but in a
frivolous world amiability can hardly go with firm resolve to live an
independent life after your own fashion. The many distasteful sides of
Rousseau's character ought not to hinder us from admiring his
steadfastness in refusing to sacrifice his existence to the first person
who spoke him civilly. We may wish there had been more of rugged
simplicity in his way of dealing with temptations to sell his birthright
for a mess of pottage; less of mere irritability. But then this
irritability is one side of soft temperament. The soft temperament is
easily agitated, and this unpleasant disturbance does not stir up true
anger nor lasting indignation, but only sends quick currents of eager
irritation along the sufferer's nerves. Rousseau, quivering from head to
foot with self-consciousness, is sufficiently unlike our plain Johnson,
the strong-armoured; yet persistent withstanding of the patron is as
worthy of our honour in one instance as in the other. Indeed, resistance
to humiliating pressure is harder for such a temper as Rousseau's, in
which deliberate endeavour is needed, than it is for the naturally
stoical spirit which asserts itself spontaneously and rises
without effort.

When our born solitary, wearied of Paris and half afraid of the too
friendly importunity of Geneva, at length determined to accept Madame
d'Epinay's offer of the Hermitage on conditions which left him an
entire sentiment of independence of movement and freedom from all sense
of pecuniary obligation, he was immediately exposed to a very copious
torrent of pleasantry and remonstrance from the highly social circle who
met round D'Holbach's dinner-table. They deemed it sheer midsummer
madness, or even a sign of secret depravity, to quit their cheerful
world for the dismal solitude of woods and fields. "Only the bad man is
alone," wrote Diderot in words which Rousseau kept resentfully in his
memory as long as he lived. The men and women of the eighteenth century
had no comprehension of solitude, the strength which it may impart to
the vigorous, the poetic graces which it may shed about the life of
those who are less than vigorous; and what they did not comprehend, they
dreaded and abhorred, and thought monstrous in the one man who did
comprehend it. They were all of the mind of Socrates when he said to
Phædrus, "Knowledge is what I love, and the men who dwell in the town
are my teachers, not trees and landscape."[252] Sarcasms fell on him
like hail, and the prophecies usual in cases where a stray soul does not
share the common tastes of the herd. He would never be able to live
without the incense and the amusements of the town; he would be back in
a fortnight; he would throw up the whole enterprise within three
months.[253] Amid a shower of such words, springing from men's perverse
blindness to the binding propriety of keeping all propositions as to
what is the best way of living in respect of place, hours,
companionship, strictly relative to each individual case, Rousseau
stubbornly shook the dust of the city from off his feet, and sought new
life away from the stridulous hum of men. Perhaps we are better pleased
to think of the unwearied Diderot spending laborious days in factories
and quarries and workshops and forges, while friendly toilers patiently
explained to him the structure of stocking looms and velvet looms, the
processes of metal-casting and wire-drawing and slate-cutting, and all
the other countless arts and ingenuities of fabrication, which he
afterwards reproduced to a wondering age in his spacious and magnificent
repertory of human thought, knowledge, and practical achievement. And it
is yet more elevating to us to think of the true stoic, the great
high-souled Turgot, setting forth a little later to discharge beneficent
duty in the hard field of his distant Limousin commissionership,
enduring many things and toiling late and early for long years, that the
burden of others might be lighter, and the welfare of the land more
assured. But there are many paths for many men, and if only magnanimous
self-denial has the power of inspiration, and can move us with the deep
thrill of the heroic, yet every truthful protest, even of excessive
personality, against the gregarious trifling of life in the social
groove, has a side which it is not ill for us to consider, and perhaps
for some men and women in every generation to seek to imitate.


[201] _Rép. à M. Bordes_, 163.

[202] Pictet de Sergy., i. 18.

[203] _Conf._, iv. 248.

[204] _Ib._ ix. 279. Also _Economie Politique_.

[205] Madame de la Popelinière, whose adventures and the misadventures
of her husband are only too well known to the reader of Marmontel's

[206] The passages relating to income during his first residence in
Paris (1744-1756) are at pp. 119, 145, 153, 165, 200, 227, in Books
vii.-ix. of the _Confessions_. Rousseau told Bernardin de St. Pierre
(_Oeuv._, xii. 74) that Emile was sold for 7000 livres. In the
_Confessions_ (xi. 126), he says 6000 livres, and one or two hundred
copies. It may be worth while to add that Diderot and D'Alembert
received 1200 livres a year apiece for editing the Encyclopædia.
Sterne received £650 for two volumes of _Tristram Shandy_ in 1780.
Walpole's _Letters_, in. 298.

[207] _Conf._, viii. 154-157.

[208] _Ib._ viii. 160.

[209] _Conf._, viii. 160, 161.

[210] _Ib._ viii. 159.

[211] _Réveries_, iii 168.

[212] _Rêveries_, iii. 166.

[213] See the _Epître à Mdme. la Marquise du Châtelet, sur la

[214] _La Femme au 18ième siècle_, par MM. de Goncourt, p. 40.

[215] Madame d'Epinay's _Mém._, i. 295.

[216] Quoted in Goncourt's _Femme au 18ième siècle_, p. 378.

[217] _Ib._, p. 337.

[218] Mdlle. L'Espinasse's _Letters_, ii. 89.

[219] Madame d'Epinay's _Mém._, ii. 47, 48.

[220] _Ib._, ii. 55.

[221] _Mém._, Bk. iv. 327.

[222] _Corr. Lit._, iii. 58.

[223] _Ib._, 54.

[224] Madame d'Epinay's _Mém._, i. 378-381. Saint Lambert formulated
his atheism afterwards in the _Catéchisme Universel_.

[225] Madame d'Epinay's _Mém._, i. 443.

[226] _Corr._, i. 317. Sept. 14, 1756.

[227] Letter to Madame de Créqui, 1752. _Corr._, i. 171.

[228] _Conf_,., vii. 104.

[229] The _Devin du Village_ was played at Fontainebleau on October
18, 1752, and at the Opera in Paris in March 1753. Madame de Pompadour
took a part in it in a private performance. See Rousseau's note to
her, _Corr._, i. 178.

[230] _Conf._, viii. 190.

[231] _Conf._, viii. 183.

[232] _Conf._, viii. 202; and Musset-Pathay, ii. 439. When in
Strasburg, in 1765, he could not bring himself to be present at its
representation. _Oeuv. et Corr. Inéd._, p. 434.

[233] Madame de Staël insisted that her father said this, and Necker
insisted that it was his daughter's.

[234] _Corr._, i. 176. Feb. 13, 1753.

[235] _Conf._, viii. 208-210.

[236] She died on July 30, 1762, aged "about sixty-three years."
Arthur Young, visiting Chambéri in 1789, with some trouble procured
the certificate of her death, which may be found in his _Travels_, i.
272. See a letter of M. de Conzié to Rousseau, in M.
Streckeisen-Moultou's collection, ii. 445.

[237] _Conf._, xii. 233.

[238] _Conf._, viii. 210.

[239] Gaberel's _Rousseau et les Genevois_, p. 62. _Conf._, viii. 212.

[240] The venerable Company of Pastors and Professors of the Church
and Academy of Geneva appointed a committee, as in duty bound, to
examine these allegations, and the committee, equally in duty bound,
reported (Feb. 10, 1758) with mild indignation, that they were
unfounded, and that the flock was untainted by unseasonable use of its
mind. See on this Rousseau's _Lettres écrites de la Montagne_, ii.

[241] See Picot's _Hist. de Genève_, ii. 415.

[242] _Letters containing an account of Switzerland, Italy, etc., in
1685-86._ By G. Burnet, p. 9.

[243] J.A. Turretini's complete works were published as late as 1776,
including among much besides that no longer interests men, an _Oratio
de Scientiarum Vanitate et Proestantia_ (vol. iii. 437), not at all in
the vein of Rousseau's Discourse, and a treatise in four parts, _De
Legibus Naturalibus_, in which, among other matters, he refutes Hobbes
and assails the doctrine of Utility (i. 173, etc.), by limiting its
definition to [Greek: to pros heauton] in its narrowest sense. He
appears to have been a student of Spinoza (i. 326). Francis Turretini,
his father, took part in the discussion as to the nature of the treaty
or contract between God and man, in a piece entitled _Foedus Naturæ a
primo homine ruptum, ejusque Proevaricationem posteris imputatam_

[244] Gaberel's _Eglise de Genève_, iii. 188.

[245] _Corr._, i. 223 (to Vernes, April 5, 1755).

[246] _Conf._, viii. 215, 216. _Corr._, i. 218 (to Perdriau, Nov. 28,

[247] _Conf._, viii. 218.

[248] _Conf._, viii. 217. It is worth noticing as bearing on the
accuracy of the Confessions, that Madame d'Epinay herself (_Mém._, ii.
115) says that when she began to prepare the Hermitage for Rousseau he
had never been there, and that she was careful to lead him to believe
that the expense had not been incurred for him. Moreover her letter to
him describing it could only have been written to one who had not seen
it, and though her Memoirs are full of sheer imagination and romance,
the documents in them are substantially authentic, and this letter is
shown to be so by Rousseau's reply to it.

[249] _Mém._, ii. 116.

[250] _Corr._ (1755), i. 242.

[251] _Corr._, i. 245.

[252] _Phædrus_, 230.

[253] _Conf._, viii. 221, etc.



It would have been a strange anachronism if the decade of the
Encyclopædia and the Seven Years' War had reproduced one of those scenes
which are as still resting-places amid the ceaseless forward tramp of
humanity, where some holy man turned away from the world, and with
adorable seriousness sought communion with the divine in mortification
of flesh and solitude of spirit. Those were the retreats of firm hope
and beatified faith. The hope and faith of the eighteenth century were
centred in action, not in contemplation, and the few solitaries of that
epoch, as well as of another nearer to our own, fled away from the
impotence of their own will, rather than into the haven of satisfied
conviction and clear-eyed acceptance. Only one of them--Wordsworth, the
poetic hermit of our lakes--impresses us in any degree like one of the
great individualities of the ages when men not only craved for the
unseen, but felt the closeness of its presence over their heads and
about their feet. The modern anchorite goes forth in the spirit of the
preacher who declared all the things that are under the sun to be
vanity, not in the transport of the saint who knew all the things that
are under the sun to be no more than the shadow of a dream in the light
of a celestial brightness to come.

Rousseau's mood, deeply tinged as it was by bitterness against society
and circumstance, still contained a strong positive element in his
native exultation in all natural objects and processes, which did not
leave him vacantly brooding over the evil of the world he had quitted.
The sensuousness that penetrated him kept his sympathy with life
extraordinarily buoyant, and all the eager projects for the disclosure
of a scheme of wisdom became for a time the more vividly desired, as the
general tide of desire flowed more fully within him. To be surrounded
with the simplicity of rural life was with him not only a stimulus, but
an essential condition to free intellectual energy. Many a time, he
says, when making excursions into the country with great people, "I was
so tired of fine rooms, fountains, artificial groves and flower beds,
and the still more tiresome people who displayed all these; I was so
worn out with pamphlets, card-playing, music, silly jokes, stupid airs,
great suppers, that as I spied a poor hawthorn copse, a hedge, a
farmstead, a meadow, as in passing through a hamlet I snuffed the odour
of a good chervil omelette, as I heard from a distance the rude refrain
of the shepherd's songs, I used to wish at the devil the whole tale of
rouge and furbelows."[254] He was no anchorite proper, one weary of the
world and waiting for the end, but a man with a strong dislike for one
kind of life and a keen liking for another kind. He thought he was now
about to reproduce the old days of the Charmettes, true to his
inveterate error that one may efface years and accurately replace a
past. He forgot that instead of the once vivacious and tender
benefactress who was now waiting for slow death in her hovel, his
house-mates would be a poor dull drudge and her vile mother. He forgot,
too, that since those days the various processes of intellectual life
had expanded within him, and produced a busy fermentation which makes a
man's surroundings very critical. Finally, he forgot that in proportion
as a man suffers the smooth course of his thought to depend on anything
external, whether on the greenness of the field or the gaiety of the
street or the constancy of friends, so comes he nearer to chance of
making shipwreck. Hence his tragedy, though the very root of the tragedy
lay deeper,--in temperament.


Rousseau's impatience drove him into the country almost before the walls
of his little house were dry (April 9, 1756). "Although it was cold, and
snow still lay upon the ground, the earth began to show signs of life;
violets and primroses were to be seen; the buds on the trees were
beginning to shoot; and the very night of my arrival was marked by the
first song of the nightingale. I heard it close to my window in a wood
that touched the house. After a light sleep I awoke, forgetting that I
was transplanted; I thought myself still in the Rue de Grenelle, when in
an instant the warbling of the birds made me thrill with delight. My
very first care was to surrender myself to the impression of the rustic
objects about me. Instead of beginning by arranging things inside my
quarters, I first set about planning my walks, and there was not a path
nor a copse nor a grove round my cottage which I had not found out
before the end of the next day. The place, which was lonely rather than
wild, transported me in fancy to the end of the world, and no one could
ever have dreamed that we were only four leagues from Paris."[255]

This rural delirium, as he justly calls it, lasted for some days, at the
end of which he began seriously to apply himself to work. But work was
too soon broken off by a mood of vehement exaltation, produced by the
stimulus given to all his senses by the new world of delight in which he
found himself. This exaltation was in a different direction from that
which had seized him half a dozen years before, when he had discarded
the usage and costume of politer society, and had begun to conceive an
angry contempt for the manners, prejudices, and maxims of his time.
Restoration to a more purely sensuous atmosphere softened this
austerity. No longer having the vices of a great city before his eyes,
he no longer cherished the wrath which they had inspired in him. "When I
did not see men, I ceased to despise them; and when I had not the bad
before my eyes, I ceased to hate them. My heart, little made as it is
for hate, now did no more than deplore their wretchedness, and made no
distinction between their wretchedness and their badness. This state, so
much more mild, if much less sublime, soon dulled the glowing enthusiasm
that had long transported me."[256] That is to say, his nature remained
for a moment not exalted but fairly balanced. It was only for a moment.
And in studying the movements of impulse and reflection in him at this
critical time of his life, we are hurried rapidly from phase to phase.
Once more we are watching a man who lived without either intellectual or
spiritual direction, swayed by a reminiscence, a passing mood, a
personality accidentally encountered, by anything except permanent aim
and fixed objects, and who would at any time have surrendered the most
deliberately pondered scheme of persistent effort to the fascination of
a cottage slumbering in a bounteous landscape. Hence there could be no
normally composed state for him; the first soothing effect of the rich
life of forest and garden on a nature exasperated by the life of the
town passed away, and became transformed into an exaltation that swept
the stoic into space, leaving sensuousness to sovereign and uncontrolled
triumph, until the delight turned to its inevitable ashes and

At first all was pure and delicious. In after times when pain made him
gloomily measure the length of the night, and when fever prevented him
from having a moment of sleep, he used to try to still his suffering by
recollection of the days that he had passed in the woods of Montmorency,
with his dog, the birds, the deer, for his companions. "As I got up with
the sun to watch his rising from my garden, if I saw the day was going
to be fine, my first wish was that neither letters nor visits might come
to disturb its charm. After having given the morning to divers tasks
which I fulfilled with all the more pleasure that I could put them off
to another time if I chose, I hastened to eat my dinner, so as to escape
from the importunate and make myself a longer afternoon. Before one
o'clock, even on days of fiercest heat, I used to start in the blaze of
the sun, along with my faithful Achates, hurrying my steps lest some one
should lay hold of me before I could get away. But when I had once
passed a certain corner, with what beating of the heart, with what
radiant joy, did I begin to breathe freely, as I felt myself safe and my
own master for the rest of the day! Then with easier pace I went in
search of some wild and desert spot in the forest, where there was
nothing to show the hand of man, or to speak of servitude and
domination; some refuge where I could fancy myself its discoverer, and
where no inopportune third person came to interfere between nature and
me. She seemed to spread out before my eyes a magnificence that was
always new. The gold of the broom and the purple of the heather struck
my eyes with a glorious splendour that went to my very heart; the
majesty of the trees that covered me with their shadow, the delicacy of
the shrubs that surrounded me, the astonishing variety of grasses and
flowers that I trod under foot, kept my mind in a continual alternation
of attention and delight.... My imagination did not leave the earth thus
superbly arrayed without inhabitants. I formed a charming society, of
which I did not feel myself unworthy; I made a golden age to please my
own fancy, and filling up these fair days with all those scenes of my
life that had left sweet memories behind, and all that my heart could
yet desire or hope in scenes to come, I waxed tender even to shedding
tears over the true pleasures of humanity, pleasures so delicious, so
pure, and henceforth so far from the reach of men. Ah, if in such
moments any ideas of Paris, of the age, of my little aureole as author,
came to trouble my dreams, with what disdain did I drive them out, to
deliver myself without distraction to the exquisite sentiments of which
I was so full. Yet in the midst of it all, the nothingness of my
chimeras sometimes broke sadly upon my mind. Even if every dream had
suddenly been transformed into reality, it would not have been enough;
I should have dreamed, imagined, yearned still." Alas, this deep
insatiableness of sense, the dreary vacuity of soul that follows fulness
of animal delight, the restless exactingness of undirected imagination,
was never recognised by Rousseau distinctly enough to modify either his
conduct or his theory of life. He filled up the void for a short space
by that sovereign aspiration, which changed the dead bones of old
theology into the living figure of a new faith. "From the surface of the
earth I raised my ideas to all the existences in nature, to the
universal system of things, to the incomprehensible Being who embraces
all. Then with mind lost in that immensity, I did not think, I did not
reason, I did not philosophise; with a sort of pleasure I felt
overwhelmed by the weight of the universe, I surrendered myself to the
ravishing confusion of these vast ideas. I loved to lose myself in
imagination in immeasurable space; within the limits of real existences
my heart was too tightly compressed; in the universe I was stifled; I
would fain have launched myself into the infinite. I believe that if I
had unveiled all the mysteries of nature, I should have found myself in
a less delicious situation than that bewildering ecstasy to which my
mind so unreservedly delivered itself, and which sometimes transported
me until I cried out, 'O mighty Being! O mighty Being!' without power of
any other word or thought."[257]

It is not wholly insignificant that though he could thus expand his
soul with ejaculatory delight in something supreme, he could not endure
the sight of one of his fellow-creatures. "If my gaiety lasted the whole
night, that showed that I had passed the day alone; I was very different
after I had seen people, for I was rarely content with others and never
with myself. Then in the evening I was sure to be in taciturn or
scolding humour." It is not in every condition that effervescent passion
for ideal forms of the religious imagination assists sympathy with the
real beings who surround us. And to this let us add that there are
natures in which all deep emotion is so entirely associated with the
ideal, that real and particular manifestations of it are repugnant to
them as something alien; and this without the least insincerity, though
with a vicious and disheartening inconsistency. Rousseau belonged to
this class, and loved man most when he saw men least. Bad as this was,
it does not justify us in denouncing his love of man as artificial; it
was one side of an ideal exaltation, which stirred the depths of his
spirit with a force as genuine as that which is kindled in natures of
another type by sympathy with the real and concrete, with the daily walk
and conversation and actual doings and sufferings of the men and women
whom we know. The fermentation which followed his arrival at the
Hermitage, in its first form produced a number of literary schemes. The
idea of the Political Institutions, first conceived at Venice, pressed
upon his meditations. He had been earnestly requested to compose a
treatise on education. Besides this, his thoughts wandered confusedly
round the notion of a treatise to be called Sensitive Morality, or the
Materialism of the Sage, the object of which was to examine the
influence of external agencies, such as light, darkness, sound, seasons,
food, noise, silence, motion, rest, on our corporeal machine, and thus
indirectly upon the soul also. By knowing these and acquiring the art of
modifying them according to our individual needs, we should become surer
of ourselves and fix a deeper constancy in our lives. An external system
of treatment would thus be established, which would place and keep the
soul in the condition most favourable to virtue.[258] Though the
treatise was never completed, and the sketch never saw the light, we
perceive at least that Rousseau would have made the means of access to
character wide enough, and the material influences that impress it and
produce its caprices, multitudinous enough, instead of limiting them
with the medical specialist to one or two organs, and one or two of the
conditions that affect them. Nor, on the other hand, do the words in
which he sketches his project in the least justify the attribution to
him of the doctrine of the absolute power of the physical constitution
over the moral habits, whether that doctrine would be a credit or a
discredit to his philosophical thoroughness of perception. No one denies
the influence of external conditions on the moral habits, and Rousseau
says no more than that he proposed to consider the extent and the
modifiableness of this influence. It was not then deemed essential for a
spiritualist thinker to ignore physical organisation.

A third undertaking of a more substantial sort was to arrange and edit
the papers and printed works of the Abbé de Saint Pierre (1658-1743),
confided to him through the agency of Saint Lambert, and partly also of
Madame Dupin, the warm friend of that singular and good man.[259] This
task involved reading, considering, and picking extracts from
twenty-three diffuse and chaotic volumes, full of prolixity and
repetition. Rousseau, dreamer as he was, yet had quite keenness of
perception enough to discern the weakness of a dreamer of another sort;
and he soon found out that the Abbé de Saint Pierre's views were
impracticable, in consequence of the author's fixed idea that men are
guided rather by their lights than by their passions. In fact, Saint
Pierre was penetrated with the eighteenth-century faith to a peculiar
degree. As with Condorcet afterwards, he was led by his admiration for
the extent of modern knowledge to adopt the principle that perfected
reason is capable of being made the base of all institutions, and would
speedily terminate all the great abuses of the world. "He went wrong,"
says Rousseau, "not merely in having no other passion but that of
reason, but by insisting on making all men like himself, instead of
taking them as they are and as they will continue to be." The critic's
own error in later days was not very different from this, save that it
applied to the medium in which men live, rather than to themselves, by
refusing to take complex societies as they are, even as starting-points
for higher attempts at organisation. Rousseau had occasionally seen the
old man, and he preserved the greatest veneration for his memory,
speaking of him as the honour of his age and race, with a fulness of
enthusiasm very unusual towards men, though common enough towards
inanimate nature. The sincerity of this respect, however, could not make
the twenty-three volumes which the good man had written, either fewer in
number or lighter in contents, and after dealing as well as he could
with two important parts of Saint Pierre's works, he threw up the
task.[260] It must not be supposed that Rousseau would allow that
fatigue or tedium had anything to do with a resolve which really needed
no better justification. As we have seen before, he had amazing skill in
finding a certain ingeniously contrived largeness for his motives. Saint
Pierre's writings were full of observations on the government of France,
some of them remarkably bold in their criticism, but he had not been
punished for them because the ministers always looked upon him as a
kind of preacher rather than a genuine politician, and he was allowed to
say what he pleased, because it was observed that no one listened to
what he said. Besides, he was a Frenchman, and Rousseau was not, and
hence the latter, in publishing Saint Pierre's strictures on French
affairs, was exposing himself to a sharp question why he meddled with a
country that did not concern him. "It surprised me," says Rousseau,
"that the reflection had not occurred to me earlier," but this
coincidence of the discovery that the work was imprudent, with the
discovery that he was weary of it, will surprise nobody versed in study
of a man who lives in his sensations, and yet has vanity enough to
dislike to admit it.

The short remarks which Rousseau appended to his abridgment of Saint
Pierre's essays on Perpetual Peace, and on a Polysynodia, or Plurality
of Councils, are extremely shrewd and pointed, and would suffice to show
us, if there were nothing else to do so, the right kind of answer to
make to the more harmful dreams of the Social Contract. Saint Pierre's
fault is said, with entire truth, to be a failure to make his views
relative to men, to times, to circumstances; and there is something that
startles us when we think whose words we are reading, in the declaration
that, "whether an existing government be still that of old times, or
whether it have insensibly undergone a change of nature, it is equally
imprudent to touch it: if it is the same, it must be respected, and if
it has degenerated, that is due to the force of time and circumstance,
and human sagacity is powerless." Rousseau points to France, asking his
readers to judge the peril of once moving by an election the enormous
masses comprising the French monarchy; and in another place, after a
wise general remark on the futility of political machinery without men
of a certain character, he illustrates it by this scornful question:
When you see all Paris in a ferment about the rank of a dancer or a wit,
and the affairs of the academy or the opera making everybody forget the
interest of the ruler and the glory of the nation, what can you hope
from bringing political affairs close to such a people, and removing
them from the court to the town?[261] Indeed, there is perhaps not one
of these pages which Burke might not well have owned.[262]

A violent and prolonged crisis followed this not entirely unsuccessful
effort after sober and laborious meditation. Rousseau was now to find
that if society has its perils, so too has solitude, and that if there
is evil in frivolous complaisance for the puppet-work of a world that is
only a little serious, so there is evil in a passionate tenderness for
phantoms of an imaginary world that is not serious at all. To the pure
or stoical soul the solitude of the forest is strength, but then the
imagination must know the yoke. Rousseau's imagination, in no way of the
strongest either as receptive or inventive, was the free accomplice of
his sensations. The undisciplined force of animal sensibility gradually
rose within him, like a slowly welling flood. The spectacle does not
either brighten or fortify the student's mind, yet if there are such
states, it is right that those who care to speak of human nature should
have an opportunity of knowing its less glorious parts. They may be
presumed to exist, though in less violent degree, in many people whom we
meet in the street and at the table, and there can be nothing but danger
in allowing ourselves to be so narrowed by our own virtuousness,
viciousness being conventionally banished to the remoter region of the
third person, as to forget the presence of "the brute brain within the
man's." In Rousseau's case, at any rate, it was no wicked broth nor
magic potion that "confused the chemic labour of the blood," but the too
potent wine of the joyful beauty of nature herself, working misery in a
mental structure that no educating care nor envelope of circumstance had
ever hardened against her intoxication. Most of us are protected against
this subtle debauch of sensuous egoism by a cool organisation, while
even those who are born with senses and appetites of great strength and
keenness, are guarded by accumulated discipline of all kinds from
without, especially by the necessity for active industry which brings
the most exaggerated native sensibility into balance. It is the constant
and rigorous social parade which keeps the eager regiment of the senses
from making furious rout. Rousseau had just repudiated all social
obligation, and he had never gone through external discipline. He was at
an age when passion that has never been broken in has the beak of the
bald vulture, tearing and gnawing a man; but its first approach is in
fair shapes.

Wandering and dreaming "in the sweetest season of the year, in the month
of June, under the fresh groves, with the song of the nightingale and
the soft murmuring of the brooks in his ear," he began to wonder
restlessly why he had never tasted in their plenitude the vivid
sentiments which he was conscious of possessing in reserve, or any of
that intoxicating delight which he felt potentially existent in his
soul. Why had he been created with faculties so exquisite, to be left
thus unused and unfruitful? The feeling of his own quality, with this of
a certain injustice and waste superadded, brought warm tears which he
loved to let flow. Visions of the past, from girl playmates of his youth
down to the Venetian courtesan, thronged in fluttering tumult into his
brain. He saw himself surrounded by a seraglio of houris whom he had
known, until his blood was all aflame and his head in a whirl. His
imagination was kindled into deadly activity. "The impossibility of
reaching to the real beings plunged me into the land of chimera; and
seeing nothing actual that rose to the height of my delirium, I
nourished it in an ideal world, which my creative imagination had soon
peopled with beings after my heart's desire. In my continual ecstasies,
I made myself drunk with torrents of the most delicious sentiments that
ever entered the heart of man. Forgetting absolutely the whole human
race, I invented for myself societies of perfect creatures, as heavenly
for their virtues as their beauties; sure, tender, faithful friends,
such as I never found in our nether world. I had such a passion for
haunting this empyrean with all its charming objects, that I passed
hours and days in it without counting them as they went by; and losing
recollection of everything else, I had hardly swallowed a morsel in hot
haste, before I began to burn to run off in search of my beloved groves.
If, when I was ready to start for the enchanted world, I saw unhappy
mortals coming to detain me on the dull earth, I could neither moderate
nor hide my spleen, and, no longer master over myself, I used to give
them greeting so rough that it might well be called brutal."[263]

This terrific malady was something of a very different kind from the
tranquil sensuousness of the days in Savoy, when the blood was young,
and life was not complicated with memories, and the sweet freshness of
nature made existence enough. Then his supreme expansion had been
attended with a kind of divine repose, and had found edifying voice in
devout acknowledgment in the exhilaration of the morning air of the
goodness and bounty of a beneficent master. In this later and more
pitiable time the beneficent master hid himself, and creation was only
not a blank because it was veiled by troops of sirens not in the flesh.
Nature without the association of some living human object, like Madame
de Warens, was a poison to Rousseau, until the advancing years which
slowly brought decay of sensual force thus brought the antidote. At our
present point we see one stricken with an ugly disease. It was almost
mercy when he was laid up with a sharp attack of the more painful, but
far less absorbing and frightful disorder, to which Rousseau was subject
all his life long. It gave pause to what he misnames his angelic loves.
"Besides that one can hardly think of love when suffering anguish, my
imagination, which is animated by the country and under the trees,
languishes and dies in a room and under roof-beams." This interval he
employed with some magnanimity, in vindicating the ways and economy of
Providence, in the letter to Voltaire which we shall presently examine.
The moment he could get out of doors again into the forest, the
transport returned, but this time accompanied with an active effort in
the creative faculties of his mind to bring the natural relief to these
over-wrought paroxysms of sensual imagination. He soothed his emotions
by associating them with the life of personages whom he invented, and by
introducing into them that play and movement and changing relation which
prevented them from bringing his days to an end in malodorous fever. The
egoism of persistent invention and composition was at least better than
the egoism of mere unreflecting ecstasy in the charm of natural
objects, and took off something from the violent excess of sensuous
force. His thought became absorbed in two female figures, one dark and
the other fair, one sage and the other yielding, one gentle and the
other quick, analogous in character but different, not handsome but
animated by cheerfulness and feeling. To one of these he gave a lover,
to whom the other was a tender friend. He planted them all, after much
deliberation and some changes, on the shores of his beloved lake at
Vevay, the spot where his benefactress was born, and which he always
thought the richest and loveliest in all Europe.

This vicarious or reflected egoism, accompanied as it was by a certain
amount of productive energy, seemed to mark a return to a sort of moral
convalescence. He walked about the groves with pencil and tablets,
assigning this or that thought or expression to one or other of the
three companions of his fancy. When the bad weather set in, and he was
confined to the house (the winter of 1756-7), he tried to resume his
ordinary indoor labour, the copying of music and the compilation of his
Musical Dictionary. To his amazement he found that this was no longer
possible. The fever of that literary composition of which he had always
such dread had strong possession of him. He could see nothing on any
side but the three figures and the objects about them made beautiful by
his imagination. Though he tried hard to dismiss them, his resistance
was vain, and he set himself to bringing some order into his thoughts
"so as to produce a kind of romance." We have a glimpse of his mental
state in the odd detail, that he could not bear to write his romance on
anything but the very finest paper with gilt edges; that the powder with
which he dried the ink was of azure and sparkling silver; and that he
tied up the quires with delicate blue riband.[264] The distance from all
this to the state of nature is obviously very great indeed. It must not
be supposed that he forgot his older part as Cato, Brutus, and the other
Plutarchians. "My great embarrassment," he says honestly, "was that I
should belie myself so clearly and thoroughly. After the severe
principles I had just been laying down with so much bustle, after the
austere maxims I had preached so energetically, after so many biting
invectives against the effeminate books that breathed love and soft
delights, could anything be imagined more shocking, more unlooked-for,
than to see me inscribe myself with my own hand among the very authors
on whose books I had heaped this harsh censure? I felt this
inconsequence in all its force, I taxed myself with it, I blushed over
it, and was overcome with mortification; but nothing could restore me to
reason."[265] He adds that perhaps on the whole the composition of the
New Heloïsa was turning his madness to the best account. That may be
true, but does not all this make the bitter denunciation, in the Letter
to D'Alembert, of love and of all who make its representation a
considerable element in literature or the drama, at the very time when
he was composing one of the most dangerously attractive romances of his
century, a rather indecent piece of invective? We may forgive
inconsistency when it is only between two of a man's theories, or two
self-concerning parts of his conduct, but hardly when it takes the form
of reviling in others what the reviler indulgently permits to himself.

We are more edified by the energy with which Rousseau refused connivance
with the public outrages on morality perpetrated by a patron. M.
d'Epinay went to pay him a visit at the Hermitage, taking with him two
ladies with whom his relations were less than equivocal, and for whom
among other things he had given Rousseau music to copy. "They were
curious to see the eccentric man," as M. d'Epinay afterwards told his
scandalised wife, for it was in the manners of the day on no account to
parade even the most notorious of these unblessed connections. "He was
walking in front of the door; he saw me first; he advanced cap in hand;
he saw the ladies; he saluted us, put on his cap, turned his back, and
stalked off as fast as he could. Can anything be more mad?"[266] In the
miserable and intricate tangle of falsity, weakness, sensuality, and
quarrel, which make up this chapter in Rousseau's life, we are glad of
even one trait of masculine robustness. We should perhaps be still more
glad if the unwedded Theresa were not visible in the background of this
scene of high morals.


The New Heloïsa was not to be completed without a further extension of
morbid experience of a still more burning kind than the sufferings of
compressed passion. The feverish torment of mere visions of the air
swarming impalpable in all his veins, was replaced when the earth again
began to live and the sap to stir in plants, by the more concentred fire
of a consuming passion for one who was no dryad nor figure of a dream.
In the spring of 1757 he received a visit from Madame d'Houdetot, the
sister-in-law of Madame d'Epinay.[267] Her husband had gone to the war
(we are in the year of Rossbach), and so had her lover, Saint Lambert,
whose passion had been so fatal to Voltaire's Marquise du Châtelet eight
years before. She rode over in man's guise to the Hermitage from a house
not very far off, where she was to pass her retreat during the absence
of her two natural protectors. Rousseau had seen her before on various
occasions; she had been to the Hermitage the previous year, and had
partaken of its host's homely fare.[268] But the time was not ripe; the
force of a temptation is not from without but within. Much, too,
depended with our hermit on the temperature; one who would have been a
very ordinary mortal to him in cold and rain, might grow to Aphrodite
herself in days when the sun shone hot and the air was aromatic. His
fancy was suddenly struck with the romantic guise of the female
cavalier, and this was the first onset of a veritable intoxication,
which many men have felt, but which no man before or since ever invited
the world to hear the story of. He may truly say that after the first
interview with her in this disastrous spring, he was as one who had
thirstily drained a poisoned bowl. A sort of palsy struck him. He lay
weeping in his bed at night, and on days when he did not see the
sorceress he wept in the woods.[269] He talked to himself for hours, and
was of a black humour to his house-mates. When approaching the object of
this deadly fascination, his whole organisation seemed to be dissolved.
He walked in a dream that filled him with a sense of sickly torture,
commixed with sicklier delight.

People speak with precisely marked division of mind and body, of will,
emotion, understanding; the division is good in logic, but its
convenient lines are lost to us as we watch a being with soul all
blurred, body all shaken, unstrung, poisoned, by erotic mania, rising in
slow clouds of mephitic steam from suddenly heated stagnancies of the
blood, and turning the reality of conduct and duty into distant
unmeaning shadows. If such a disease were the furious mood of the brute
in spring-time, it would be less dreadful, but shame and remorse in the
ever-struggling reason of man or woman in the grip of the foul thing,
produces an aggravation of frenzy that makes the mental healer tremble.
Add to all this lurking elements of hollow rage that his passion was not
returned; of stealthy jealousy of the younger man whose place he could
not take, and who was his friend besides; of suspicion that he was a
little despised for his weakness by the very object of it, who saw that
his hairs were sprinkled with gray,--and the whole offers a scene of
moral humiliation that half sickens, half appals, and we turn away with
dismay as from a vision of the horrid loves of heavy-eyed and scaly
shapes that haunted the warm primeval ooze.

Madame d'Houdetot, the unwilling enchantress bearing in an unconscious
hand the cup of defilement, was not strikingly singular either in
physical or mental attraction. She was now seven-and-twenty. Small-pox,
the terrible plague of the country, had pitted her face and given a
yellowish tinge to her complexion; her features were clumsy and her brow
low; she was short-sighted, and in old age at any rate was afflicted by
an excessive squint. This homeliness was redeemed by a gentle and
caressing expression, and by a sincerity, a gaiety of heart, and free
sprightliness of manner, that no trouble could restrain. Her figure was
very slight, and there was in all her movements at once awkwardness and
grace. She was natural and simple, and had a fairly good judgment of a
modest kind, in spite of the wild sallies in which her spirits sometimes
found vent. Capable of chagrin, she was never prevented by it from
yielding to any impulse of mirth. "She weeps with the best faith in the
world, and breaks out laughing at the same moment; never was anybody so
happily born," says her much less amiable sister-in-law.[270] Her
husband was indifferent to her. He preserved an attachment to a lady
whom he knew before his marriage, whose society he never ceased to
frequent, and who finally died in his arms in 1793. Madame d'Houdetot
found consolation in the friendship of Saint Lambert. "We both of us,"
said her husband, "both Madame d'Houdetot and I, had a vocation for
fidelity, only there was a mis-arrangement." She occasionally composed
verses of more than ordinary point, but she had good sense enough not to
write them down, nor to set up on the strength of them for poetess and
wit.[271] Her talk in her later years, and she lived down to the year of
Leipsic, preserved the pointed sententiousness of earlier time. One day,
for instance, in the era of the Directory, a conversation was going on
as to the various merits and defects of women; she heard much, and then
with her accustomed suavity of voice contributed this light
summary:--"Without women, the life of man would be without aid at the
beginning, without pleasure in the middle, and without solace at the

We may be sure that it was not her power of saying things of this sort
that kindled Rousseau's flame, but rather the sprightly naturalness,
frankness, and kindly softness of a character which in his opinion
united every virtue except prudence and strength, the two which Rousseau
would be least likely to miss. The bond of union between them was
subtle. She found in Rousseau a sympathetic listener while she told the
story of her passion for Saint Lambert, and a certain contagious force
produced in him a thrill which he never felt with any one else before or
after. Thus, as he says, there was equally love on both sides, though it
was not reciprocal. "We were both of us intoxicated with passion, she
for her lover, I for her; our sighs and sweet tears mingled. Tender
confidants, each of the other, our sentiments were of such close kin
that it was impossible for them not to mix; and still she never forgot
her duty for a moment, while for myself, I protest, I swear, that if
sometimes drawn astray by my senses, still"--still he was a paragon of
virtue, subject to rather new definition. We can appreciate the author
of the New Heloïsa; we can appreciate the author of Emilius; but this
strained attempt to confound those two very different persons by
combining tearful erotics with high ethics, is an exhibition of
self-delusion that the most patient analyst of human nature might well
find hard to suffer. "The duty of privation exalted my soul. The glory
of all the virtues adorned the idol of my heart in my sight; to soil its
divine image would have been to annihilate it," and so forth.[273]
Moon-lighted landscape gave a background for the sentimentalist's
picture, and dim groves, murmuring cascades, and the soft rustle of the
night air, made up a scene which became for its chief actor "an immortal
memory of innocence and delight." "It was in this grove, seated with her
on a grassy bank, under an acacia heavy with flowers, that I found
expression for the emotions of my heart in words that were worthy of
them. 'Twas the first and single time of my life; but I was sublime, if
you can use the word of all the tender and seductive things that the
most glowing love can bring into the heart of a man. What intoxicating
tears I shed at her knees, what floods she shed in spite of herself! At
length in an involuntary transport, she cried out, 'Never was man so
tender, never did man love as you do! But your friend Saint Lambert
hears us, and my heart cannot love twice.'"[274] Happily, as we learn
from another source, a breath of wholesome life from without brought the
transcendental to grotesque end. In the climax of tears and
protestations, an honest waggoner at the other side of the park wall,
urging on a lagging beast launched a round and far-sounding oath out
into the silent night. Madame d'Houdetot answered with a lively
continuous peal of young laughter, while an angry chill brought back the
discomfited lover from an ecstasy that was very full of peril.[275]

Rousseau wrote in the New Heloïsa very sagely that you should grant to
the senses nothing when you mean to refuse them anything. He admits that
the saying was falsified by his relations with Madame d'Houdetot.
Clearly the credit of this happy falsification was due to her rather
than to himself. What her feelings were, it is not very easy to see.
Honest pity seems to have been the strongest of them. She was idle and
unoccupied, and idleness leaves the soul open for much stray generosity
of emotion, even towards an importunate lover. She thought him mad, and
she wrote to Saint Lambert to say so. "His madness must be very strong,"
said Saint Lambert, "since she can perceive it."[276]

Character is ceaselessly marching, even when we seem to have sunk into a
fixed and stagnant mood. The man is awakened from his dream of passion
by inexorable event; he finds the house of the soul not swept and
garnished for a new life, but possessed by demons who have entered
unseen. In short, such profound disorder of spirit, though in its first
stage marked by ravishing delirium, never escapes a bitter sequel. When
a man lets his soul be swept away from the narrow track of conduct
appointed by his relations with others, still the reality of such
relations survives. He may retreat to rural lodges; that will not save
him either from his own passion, or from some degree of that kinship
with others which instantly creates right and wrong like a wall of brass
around him. Let it be observed that the natures of finest stuff suffer
most from these forced reactions, and it was just because Rousseau had
innate moral sensitiveness, and a man like Diderot was without it, that
the first felt his fall so profoundly, while the second was unconscious
of having fallen at all.

One day in July Rousseau went to pay his accustomed visit. He found
Madame d'Houdetot dejected, and with the flush of recent weeping on her
cheeks. A bird of the air had carried the matter. As usual, the matter
was carried wrongly, and apparently all that Saint Lambert suspected was
that Rousseau's high principles had persuaded Madame d'Houdetot of the
viciousness of her relations with her lover.[277] "They have played us
an evil turn," cried Madame d'Houdetot; "they have been unjust to me,
but that is no matter. Either let us break off at once, or be what you
ought to be."[278] This was Rousseau's first taste of the ashes of
shame into which the lusciousness of such forbidden fruit, plucked at
the expense of others, is ever apt to be transformed. Mortification of
the considerable spiritual pride that was yet alive after this lapse,
was a strong element in the sum of his emotion, and it was pointed by
the reflection which stung him so incessantly, that his monitress was
younger than himself. He could never master his own contempt for the
gallantry of grizzled locks.[279] His austerer self might at any rate
have been consoled by knowing that this scene was the beginning of the
end, though the end came without any seeking on his part and without
violence. To his amazement, one day Saint Lambert and Madame d'Houdetot
came to the Hermitage, asking him to give them dinner, and much to the
credit of human nature's elasticity, the three passed a delightful
afternoon. The wronged lover was friendly, though a little stiff, and he
passed occasional slights which Rousseau would surely not have forgiven,
if he had not been disarmed by consciousness of guilt. He fell asleep,
as we can well imagine that he might do, while Rousseau read aloud his
very inadequate justification of Providence against Voltaire.[280]

In time he returned to the army, and Rousseau began to cure himself of
his mad passion. His method, however, was not unsuspicious, for it
involved the perilous assistance of Madame d'Houdetot. Fortunately her
loyalty and good sense forced a more resolute mode upon him. He found,
or thought he found her distracted, emharrassed, indifferent. In despair
at not being allowed to heal his passionate malady in his own fashion,
he did the most singular thing that he could have done under the
circumstances. He wrote to Saint Lambert.[281] His letter is a prodigy
of plausible duplicity, though Rousseau in some of his mental states had
so little sense of the difference between the actual and the imaginary,
and was moreover so swiftly borne away on a flood of fine phrases, that
it is hard to decide how far this was voluntary, and how far he was his
own dupe. Voluntary or not, it is detestable. We pass the false whine
about "being abandoned by all that was dear to him," as if he had not
deliberately quitted Paris against the remonstrance of every friend he
had; about his being "solitary and sad," as if he was not ready at this
very time to curse any one who intruded on his solitude, and hindered
him of a single half-hour in the desert spots that he adored.
Remembering the scenes in moon-lighted groves and elsewhere, we read
this:--"Whence comes her coldness to me? Is it possible that you can
have suspected me of wronging you with her, and of turning perfidious in
consequence of an unseasonably rigorous virtue? A passage in one of your
letters shows a glimpse of some such suspicion. No, no, Saint Lambert,
the breast of J.J. Rousseau never held the heart of a traitor, and I
should despise myself more than you suppose, if I had ever tried to rob
you of her heart.... Can you suspect that her friendship for me may hurt
her love for you? Surely natures endowed with sensibility are open to
all sorts of affections, and no sentiment can spring up in them which
does not turn to the advantage of the dominant passion. Where is the
lover who does not wax the more tender as he talks to his friend of her
whom he loves? And is it not sweeter for you in your banishment that
there should be some sympathetic creature to whom your mistress loves to
talk of you, and who loves to hear?"

Let us turn to another side of his correspondence. The way in which the
sympathetic creature in the present case loved to hear his friend's
mistress talk of him, is interestingly shown in one or two passages from
a letter to her; as when he cries, "Ah, how proud would even thy lover
himself be of thy constancy, if he only knew how much it has
surmounted.... I appeal to your sincerity. You, the witness and the
cause of this delirium, these tears, these ravishing ecstasies, these
transports which were never made for mortal, say, have I ever tasted
your favours in such a way that I deserve to lose them?... Never once
did my ardent desires nor my tender supplications dare to solicit
supreme happiness, without my feeling stopped by the inner cries of a
sorrow-stricken soul.... O Sophie, after moments so sweet, the idea of
eternal privation is too frightful for one who groans that he cannot
identify himself with thee. What, are thy tender eyes never again to be
lowered with a delicious modesty, intoxicating me with pleasure? What,
are my burning lips never again to lay my very soul on thy heart along
with my kisses? What, may I never more feel that heavenly shudder, that
rapid and devouring fire, swifter than lightning?"[282].... We see a
sympathetic creature assuredly, and listen to the voice of a nature
endowed with sensibility even more than enough, but with decency,
loyalty, above all with self-knowledge, far less than enough.

One more touch completes the picture of the fallen desperate man. He
takes great trouble to persuade Saint Lambert that though the rigour of
his principles constrains him to frown upon such breaches of social law
as the relations between Madame d'Houdetot and her lover, yet he is so
attached to the sinful pair that he half forgives them. "Do not
suppose," he says, with superlative gravity, "that you have seduced me
by your reasons; I see in them the goodness of your heart, not your
justification. I cannot help blaming your connection: you can hardly
approve it yourself; and so long as you both of you continue dear to me,
I will never leave you in careless security as to the innocence of your
state. Yet love such as yours deserves considerateness.... I feel
respect for a union so tender, and cannot bring myself to attempt to
lead it to virtue along the path of despair" (p. 401).

Ignorance of the facts of the case hindered Saint Lambert from
appreciating the strange irony of a man protesting about leading to
virtue along the path of despair a poor woman whom he had done as much
as he could to lead to vice along the path of highly stimulated sense.
Saint Lambert was as much a sentimentalist as Rousseau was, but he had a
certain manliness, acquired by long contact with men, which his
correspondent only felt in moods of severe exaltation. Saint Lambert
took all the blame on himself. He had desired that his mistress and his
friend should love one another; then he thought he saw some coolness in
his mistress, and he set the change down to his friend, though not on
the true grounds. "Do not suppose that I thought you perfidious or a
traitor; I knew the austerity of your principles; people had spoken to
me of it; and she herself did so with a respect that love found hard to
bear." In short, he had suspected Rousseau of nothing worse than being
over-virtuous, and trying in the interest of virtue to break off a
connection sanctioned by contemporary manners, but not by law or
religion. If Madame d'Houdetot had changed, it was not that she had
ceased to honour her good friend, but only that her lover might be
spared a certain chagrin, from suspecting the excess of scrupulosity and
conscience in so austere an adviser.[283]

It is well known how effectively one with a germ of good principle in
him is braced by being thought better than he is. With this letter in
his hands and its words in his mind, Rousseau strode off for his last
interview with Madame d'Houdetot. Had Saint Lambert, he says, been less
wise, less generous, less worthy, I should have been a lost man. As it
was, he passed four or five hours with her in a delicious calm,
infinitely more delightful than the accesses of burning fever which had
seized him before. They formed the project of a close companionship of
three, including the absent lover; and they counted on the project
coming more true than such designs usually do, "since all the feelings
that can unite sensitive and upright hearts formed the foundation of it,
and we three united talents enough as well as knowledge enough to
suffice to ourselves, without need of aid or supplement from others."
What happened was this. Madame d'Houdetot for the next three or four
months, which were among the most bitter in Rousseau's life, for then
the bitterness which became chronic was new and therefore harder to be
borne, wrote him the wisest, most affectionate, and most considerate
letters that a sincere and sensible woman ever wrote to the most
petulant, suspicious, perverse, and irrestrainable of men. For patience
and exquisite sweetness of friendship some of these letters are
matchless, and we can only conjecture the wearing querulousness of the
letters to which they were replies. If through no fault of her own she
had been the occasion of the monstrous delirium of which he never shook
off the consequences, at least this good soul did all that wise counsel
and grave tenderness could do, to bring him out of the black slough of
suspicion and despair into which he was plunged.[284] In the beginning
of 1758 there was a change. Rousseau's passion for her somehow became
known to all the world; it reached the ears of Saint Lambert, and was
the cause of a passing disturbance between him and his mistress. Saint
Lambert throughout acted like a man who is thoroughly master of himself.
At first, we learn, he ceased for a moment to see in Rousseau the virtue
which he sought in him, and which he was persuaded that he found in him.
"Since then, however," wrote Madame d'Houdetot, "he pities you more for
your weakness than he reproaches you, and we are both of us far from
joining the people who wish to blacken your character; we have and
always shall have the courage to speak of you with esteem."[285] They
saw one another a few times, and on one occasion the Count and Countess
d'Houdetot, Saint Lambert, and Rousseau all sat at table together,
happily without breach of the peace.[286] One curious thing about this
meeting was that it took place some three weeks after Rousseau and Saint
Lambert had interchanged letters on the subject of the quarrel with
Diderot, in which each promised the other contemptuous oblivion.[287]
Perpetuity of hate is as hard as perpetuity of love for our poor
short-spanned characters, and at length the three who were once to have
lived together in self-sufficing union, and then in their next mood to
have forgotten one another instantly and for ever, held to neither of
the extremes, but settled down into an easier middle path of indifferent
good-will. The conduct of all three, said the most famous of them, may
serve for an example of the way in which sensible people separate, when
it no longer suits them to see one another.[288] It is at least certain
that in them Rousseau lost two of the most unimpeachably good friends
that he ever possessed.


The egoistic character that loves to brood and hates to act, is big with
catastrophe. We have now to see how the inevitable law accomplished
itself in the case of Rousseau. In many this brooding egoism produces a
silent and melancholy insanity; with him it was developed into something
of acridly corrosive quality. One of the agents in this disastrous
process was the wearing torture of one of the most painful of disorders.
This disorder, arising from an internal malformation, harassed him from
his infancy to the day of his death. Our fatuous persistency in reducing
man to the spiritual, blinds the biographer to the circumstance that the
history of a life is the history of a body no less than that of a soul.
Many a piece of conduct that divides the world into two factions of
moral assailants and moral vindicators, provoking a thousand ingenuities
of ethical or psychological analysis, ought really to have been nothing
more than an item in a page of a pathologist's case-book. We are not to
suspend our judgment on action; right and wrong can depend on no man's
malformations. In trying to know the actor, it is otherwise; here it is
folly to underestimate the physical antecedents of mental phenomena. In
firm and lofty character, pain is mastered; in a character so little
endowed with cool tenacious strength as Rousseau's, pain such as he
endured was enough to account, not for his unsociality, which flowed
from temperament, but for the bitter, irritable, and suspicious form
which this unsociality now first assumed. Rousseau was never a saintly
nature, but far the reverse, and in reading the tedious tale of his
quarrels with Grimm and Madame d'Epinay and Diderot--a tale of
labyrinthine nightmares--let us remember that we may even to this point
explain what happened, without recourse to the too facile theory of
insanity, unless one defines that misused term so widely as to make many
sane people very uncomfortable.

His own account was this: "In my quality of solitary, I am more
sensitive than another; if I am wrong with a friend who lives in the
world, he thinks of it for a moment, and then a thousand distractions
make him forget it for the rest of the day; but there is nothing to
distract me as to his wrong towards me; deprived of my sleep, I busy
myself with him all night long; solitary in my walks, I busy myself with
him from sunrise until sunset; my heart has not an instant's relief, and
the harshness of a friend gives me in one day years of anguish. In my
quality of invalid, I have a title to the considerateness that humanity
owes to the weakness or irritation of a man in agony. Who is the friend,
who is the good man, that ought not to dread to add affliction to an
unfortunate wretch tormented with a painful and incurable malady?"[289]
We need not accept this as an adequate extenuation of perversities, but
it explains them without recourse to the theory of uncontrollable
insanity. Insanity came later, the product of intellectual excitation,
public persecution, and moral reaction after prolonged tension.
Meanwhile he may well be judged by the standards of the sane; knowing
his temperament, his previous history, his circumstances, we have no
difficulty in accounting for his conduct. Least of all is there any need
for laying all the blame upon his friends. There are writers whom
enthusiasm for the principles of Jean Jacques has driven into fanatical
denigration of every one whom he called his enemy, that is to say,
nearly every one whom he ever knew.[290] Diderot said well, "Too many
honest people would be wrong, if Jean Jacques were right."

The first downright breach was with Grimm, but there were angry passages
during the year 1757, not only with him, but with Diderot and Madame
d'Epinay as well. Diderot, like many other men of energetic nature
unchastened by worldly wisdom, was too interested in everything that
attracted his attention to keep silence over the indiscretion of a
friend. He threw as much tenacity and zeal into a trifle, if it had once
struck him, as he did into the Encyclopædia. We have already seen how
warmly he rated Jean Jacques for missing the court pension. Then he
scolded and laughed at him for turning hermit. With still more
seriousness he remonstrated with him for remaining in the country
through the winter, thus endangering the life of Theresa's aged mother.
This stirred up hot anger in the Hermitage, and two or three bitter
letters were interchanged,[291] those of Diderot being pronounced by a
person who was no partisan of Rousseau decidedly too harsh.[292] Yet
there is copious warmth of friendship in these very letters, if only the
man to whom they were written had not hated interference in his affairs
as the worst of injuries. "I loved Diderot tenderly, I esteemed him
sincerely," says Rousseau, "and I counted with entire confidence upon
the same sentiments in him. But worn out by his unwearied obstinacy in
everlastingly thwarting my tastes, my inclinations, my ways of living,
everything that concerned myself only; revolted at seeing a younger man
than myself insist with all his might on governing me like a child;
chilled by his readiness in giving his promise and his negligence in
keeping it; tired of so many appointments which he made and broke, and
of his fancy for repairing them by new ones to be broken in their turn;
provoked at waiting for him to no purpose three or four times a month on
days which he had fixed, and of dining alone in the evening, after going
on as far as St. Denis to meet him and waiting for him all day,--I had
my heart already full of a multitude of grievances."[293] This
irritation subsided in presence of the storms that now rose up against
Diderot. He was in the thick of the dangerous and mortifying
distractions stirred up by the foes of the Encyclopædia. Rousseau in
friendly sympathy went to see him; they embraced, and old wrongs were
forgotten until new arose.[294]

There is a less rose-coloured account than this. Madame d'Epinay assigns
two motives to Rousseau: a desire to find an excuse for going to Paris,
in order to avoid seeing Saint Lambert; secondly, a wish to hear
Diderot's opinion of the two first parts of the New Heloïsa. She says
that he wanted to borrow a portfolio in which to carry the manuscripts
to Paris; Rousseau says that they had already been in Diderot's
possession for six months.[295] As her letters containing this very
circumstantial story were written at the moment, it is difficult to
uphold the Confessions as valid authority against them. Thirdly,
Rousseau told her that he had not taken his manuscripts to Paris (p.
302), whereas Grimm writing a few days later (p. 309) mentions that he
has received a letter from Diderot, to the effect that Rousseau's visit
had no other object than the revision of these manuscripts. The scene is
characteristic. "Rousseau kept him pitilessly at work from Saturday at
ten o'clock in the morning till eleven at night on Monday, hardly giving
him time to eat and drink. The revision at an end, Diderot chats with
him about a plan he has in his head, and begs Rousseau to help him in
contriving some incident which he cannot yet arrange to his taste. 'It
is too difficult,' replies the hermit coldly, 'it is late, and I am not
used to sitting up. Good night; I am off at six in the morning, and 'tis
time for bed.' He rises from his chair, goes to bed, and leaves Diderot
petrified at his behaviour. The day of his departure, Diderot's wife saw
that her husband was in bad spirits, and asked the reason. 'It is that
man's want of delicacy,' he replied, 'which afflicts me; he makes me
work like a slave, but I should never have found that out, if he had not
so drily refused to take an interest in me for a quarter of an hour.'
'You are surprised at that,' his wife answered; 'do you not know him? He
is devoured with envy; he goes wild with rage when anything fine appears
that is not his own. You will see him one day commit some great crime
rather than let himself be ignored. I declare I would not swear that he
will not join the ranks of the Jesuits, and undertake their

Of course we cannot be sure that Grimm did not manipulate these letters
long after the event, but there is nothing in Rousseau's history to make
us perfectly sure that he was incapable either of telling a falsehood to
Madame d'Epinay, or of being shamelessly selfish in respect of Diderot.
I see no reason to refuse substantial credit to Grimm's account, and the
points of coincidence between that and the Confessions make its truth

Rousseau's relations with Madame d'Epinay were more complex, and his
sentiments towards her underwent many changes. There was a prevalent
opinion that he was her lover, for which no real foundation seems to
have existed.[297] Those who disbelieved that he had reached this
distinction, yet made sure that he had a passion for her, which may or
may not have been true.[298] Madame d'Epinay herself was vain enough to
be willing that this should be generally accepted, and it is certain
that she showed a friendship for him which, considering the manners of
the time, was invitingly open to misconception. Again, she was jealous
of her sister-in-law, Madame d'Houdetot, if for no other reason than
that the latter, being the wife of a Norman noble, had access to the
court, and this was unattainable by the wife of a farmer-general. Hence
Madame d'Epinay's barely-concealed mortification when she heard of the
meetings in the forest, the private suppers, the moonlight rambles in
the park. When Saint Lambert first became uneasy as to the relations
between Rousseau and his mistress, and wrote to her to say that he was
so, Rousseau instantly suspected that Madame d'Epinay had been his
informant. Theresa confirmed the suspicion by tales of baskets and
drawers ransacked by Madame d'Epinay in search of Madame d'Houdetot's
letters to him. Whether these tales were true or not, we can never know;
we can only say that Madame d'Epinay was probably not incapable of these
meannesses, and that there is no reason to suppose that she took the
pains to write directly to Saint Lambert a piece of news which she was
writing to Grimm, knowing that he was then in communication with Saint
Lambert. She herself suspected that Theresa had written to Saint
Lambert,[299] but it may be doubted whether Theresa's imagination could
have risen to such feat as writing to a marquis, and a marquis in what
would have seemed to her to be remote and inaccessible parts of the
earth. All this, however, has become ghostly for us; a puzzle that can
never be found out, nor be worth finding out. Rousseau was persuaded
that Madame d'Epinay was his betrayer, and was seized by one of his
blackest and most stormful moods. In reply to an affectionate letter
from her, inquiring why she had not seen him for so long, he wrote thus:
"I can say nothing to you yet. I wait until I am better informed, and
this I shall be sooner or later. Meanwhile, be certain that accused
innocence will find a champion ardent enough to make calumniators
repent, whoever they may be." It is rather curious that so strange a
missive as this, instead of provoking Madame d'Epinay to anger, was
answered by a warmer and more affectionate letter than the first. To
this Rousseau replied with increased vehemence, charged with dark and
mysteriously worded suspicion. Still Madame d'Epinay remained willing to
receive him. He began to repent of his imprudent haste, because it would
certainly end by compromising Madame d'Houdetot, and because, moreover,
he had no proof after all that his suspicions had any foundation. He
went instantly to the house of Madame d'Epinay; at his approach she
threw herself on his neck and melted into tears. This unexpected
reception from so old a friend moved him extremely; he too wept
abundantly. She showed no curiosity as to the precise nature of his
suspicions or their origin, and the quarrel came to an end.[300]

Grimm's turn followed. Though they had been friends for many years,
there had long been a certain stiffness in their friendship. Their
characters were in fact profoundly antipathetic. Rousseau we
know,--sensuous, impulsive, extravagant, with little sense of the
difference between reality and dreams. Grimm was exactly the opposite;
judicious, collected, self-seeking, coldly upright. He was a German
(born at Ratisbon), and in Paris was first a reader to the Duke of Saxe
Gotha, with very scanty salary. He made his way, partly through the
friendship of Rousseau, into the society of the Parisian men of letters,
rapidly acquired a perfect mastery of the French language, and with the
inspiring help of Diderot, became an excellent critic. After being
secretary to sundry high people, he became the literary correspondent of
various German sovereigns, keeping them informed of what was happening
in the world of art and letters, just as an ambassador keeps his
government informed of what happens in politics. The sobriety,
impartiality, and discrimination of his criticism make one think highly
of his literary judgment; he had the courage, or shall we say he
preserved enough of the German, to defend both Homer and Shakespeare
against the unhappy strictures of Voltaire.[301] This is not all,
however; his criticism is conceived in a tone which impresses us with
the writer's integrity. And to this internal evidence we have to add the
external corroboration that in the latter part of his life he filled
various official posts, which implied a peculiar confidence in his
probity on the part of those who appointed him. At the present moment
(1756-57), he was acting as secretary to Marshal d'Estrées, commander of
the French army in Westphalia at the outset of the Seven Years' War. He
was an able and helpful man, in spite of his having a rough manner,
powdering his face, and being so monstrously scented as to earn the name
of the musk-bear. He had that firmness and positivity which are not
always beautiful, but of which there is probably too little rather than
too much in the world, certainly in the France of his time, and of which
there was none at all in Rousseau. Above all things he hated
declamation. Apparently cold and reserved, he had sensibility enough
underneath the surface to go nearly out of his mind for love of a singer
at the opera who had a thrilling voice. As he did not believe in the
metaphysical doctrine about the freedom of the will, he accepted from
temperament the necessity which logic confirmed, of guiding the will by
constant pressure from without. "I am surprised," Madame d'Epinay said
to him, "that men should be so little indulgent to one another." "Nay,
the want of indulgence comes of our belief in freedom; it is because the
established morality is false and bad, inasmuch as it starts from this
false principle of liberty." "Ah, but the contrary principle, by making
one too indulgent, disturbs order." "It does nothing of the kind. Though
man does not wholly change, he is susceptible of modification; you can
improve him; hence it is not useless to punish him. The gardener does
not cut down a tree that grows crooked; he binds up the branch and keeps
it in shape; that is the effect of public punishment."[302] He applied
the same doctrine, as we shall see, to private punishment for social

It is easy to conceive how Rousseau's way of ordering himself would
gradually estrange so hard a head as this. What the one thought a
weighty moral reformation, struck the other as a vain desire to attract
attention. Rousseau on the other hand suspected Grimm of intriguing to
remove Theresa from him, as well as doing his best to alienate all his
friends. The attempted alienation of Theresa consisted in the secret
allowance to her mother and her by Grimm and Diderot of some sixteen
pounds a year.[303] Rousseau was unaware of this, but the whisperings
and goings and comings to which it gave rise, made him darkly uneasy.
That the suspicions in other respects were in a certain sense not wholly
unfounded, is shown by Grimm's own letters to Madame d'Epinay. He
disapproved of her installing Rousseau in the Hermitage, and warned her
in a very remarkable prophecy that solitude would darken his
imagination.[304] "He is a poor devil who torments himself, and does not
dare to confess the true subject of all his sufferings, which is in his
cursed head and his pride; he raises up imaginary matters, so as to have
the pleasure of complaining of the whole human race."[305] More than
once he assures her that Rousseau will end by going mad, it being
impossible that so hot and ill-organised a head should endure
solitude.[306] Rousseauite partisans usually explain all this by
supposing that Grimm was eager to set a woman for whom he had a passion,
against a man who was suspected of having a passion for her; and it is
possible that jealousy may have stimulated the exercise of his natural
shrewdness. But this shrewdness, added to entire want of imagination and
a very narrow range of sympathy, was quite enough to account for Grimm's
harsh judgment, without the addition of any sinister sentiment. He was
perfectly right in suspecting Rousseau of want of loyalty to Madame
d'Epinay, for we find our hermit writing to her in strains of perfect
intimacy, while he was writing of her to Madame d'Houdetot as "your
unworthy sister."[307] On the other hand, while Madame d'Epinay was
overwhelming him with caressing phrases, she was at the same moment
describing him to Grimm as a master of impertinence and intractableness.
As usual where there is radical incompatibility of character, an
attempted reconciliation between Grimm and Rousseau (some time in the
early part of October 1757) had only made the thinly veiled antipathy
more resolute. Rousseau excused himself for wrongs of which in his heart
he never thought himself guilty. Grimm replied by a discourse on the
virtues of friendship and his own special aptitude for practising them.
He then conceded to the impetuous penitent the kiss of peace, in a
slight embrace which was like the accolade given by a monarch to new
knights.[308] The whole scene is ignoble. We seem to be watching an
unclean cauldron, with Theresa's mother, a cringing and babbling crone,
standing witch-like over it and infusing suspicion, falsehood, and
malice. When minds are thus surcharged, any accident suffices to
release the evil creatures that lurk in an irritated imagination.

One day towards the end of the autumn of 1757, Rousseau learned to his
unbounded surprise that Madame d'Epinay had been seized with some
strange disorder, which made it advisable that she should start without
any delay for Geneva, there to place herself under the care of Tronchin,
who was at that time the most famous doctor in Europe. His surprise was
greatly increased by the expectation which he found among his friends
that he would show his gratitude for her many kindnesses to him, by
offering to bear her company on her journey, and during her stay in a
town which was strange to her and thoroughly familiar to him. It was to
no purpose that he protested how unfit was one invalid to be the nurse
of another; and how great an incumbrance a man would be in a coach in
the bad season, when for many days he was absolutely unable to leave his
chamber without danger. Diderot, with his usual eagerness to guide a
friend's course, wrote him a letter urging that his many obligations,
and even his grievances in respect of Madame d'Epinay, bound him to
accompany her, as he would thus repay the one and console himself for
the other. "She is going into a country where she will be like one
fallen from the clouds. She is ill; she will need amusement and
distraction. As for winter, are you worse now than you were a month
back, or than you will be at the opening of the spring? For me, I
confess that if I could not bear the coach, I would take a staff and
follow her on foot."[309] Rousseau trembled with fury, and as soon as
the transport was over, he wrote an indignant reply, in which he more or
less politely bade the panurgic one to attend to his own affairs, and
hinted that Grimm was making a tool of him. Next he wrote to Grimm
himself a letter, not unfriendly in form, asking his advice and
promising to follow it, but hardly hiding his resentment. By this time
he had found out the secret of Madame d'Epinay's supposed illness and
her anxiety to pass some months away from her family, and the share
which Grimm had in it. This, however, does not make many passages of his
letter any the less ungracious or unseemly. "If Madame d'Epinay has
shown friend' ship to me, I have shown more to her.... As for benefits,
first of all I do not like them, I do not want them, and I owe no thanks
for any that people may burden me with by force. Madame d'Epinay, being
so often left alone in the country, wished me for company; it was for
that she had kept me. After making one sacrifice to friendship, I must
now make another to gratitude. A man must be poor, must be without a
servant, must be a hater of constraint, and he must have my character,
before he can know what it is for me to live in another person's house.
For all that, I lived two years in hers, constantly brought into bondage
with the finest harangues about liberty, served by twenty domestics, and
cleaning my own shoes every morning, overloaded with gloomy indigestion,
and incessantly sighing for my homely porringer.... Consider how much
money an hour of the life and the time of a man is worth; compare the
kindnesses of Madame d'Epinay with the sacrifice of my native country
and two years of serfdom; and then tell me whether the obligation is
greater on her side or mine." He then urges with a torrent of impetuous
eloquence the thoroughly sound reasons why it was unfair and absurd for
him, a beggar and an invalid, to make the journey with Madame d'Epinay,
rich and surrounded by attendants. He is particularly splenetic that the
philosopher Diderot, sitting in his own room before a good fire and
wrapped in a well-lined dressing-gown, should insist on his doing his
five and twenty leagues a day on foot, through the mud in winter.[310]

The whole letter shows, as so many incidents in his later life showed,
how difficult it was to do Rousseau a kindness with impunity, and how
little such friends as Madame d'Epinay possessed the art of soothing
this unfortunate nature. They fretted him by not leaving him
sufficiently free to follow his own changing moods, while he in turn
lost all self-control, and yielded in hours of bodily torment to angry
and resentful fancies. But let us hasten to an end. Grimm replied to his
eloquent manifesto somewhat drily, to the effect that he would think the
matter over, and that meanwhile Rousseau had best keep quiet in his
hermitage. Rousseau burning with excitement at once conceived a thousand
suspicions, wholly unable to understand that a cold and reserved German
might choose to deliberate at length, and finally give an answer with
brevity. "After centuries of expectation in the cruel uncertainty in
which this barbarous man had plunged me"--that is after eight or ten
days, the answer came, apparently not without a second direct
application for one.[311] It was short and extremely pointed, not
complaining that Rousseau had refused to accompany Madame d'Epinay but
protesting against the horrible tone of the apology which he had sent to
him for not accompanying her. "It has made me quiver with indignation;
so odious are the principles it contains, so full is it of blackness and
duplicity. You venture to talk to me of your slavery, to me who for more
than two years have been the daily witness of all the marks of the
tenderest and most generous friendship that you have received at the
hands of that woman. If I could pardon you, I should think myself
unworthy of having a single friend. I will never see you again while I
live, and I shall think myself happy if I can banish the recollection of
your conduct from my mind."[312] A flash of manly anger like this is
very welcome to us, who have to thread a tedious way between morbid
egoistic irritation on the one hand, and sly pieces of equivocal
complaisance on the other. The effect on Rousseau was terrific. In a
paroxysm he sent Grimm's letter back to him, with three or four lines in
the same key. He wrote note after note to Madame d'Houdetot, in
shrieks. "Have I a single friend left, man or woman? One word, only one
word, and I can live." A day or two later: "Think of the state I am in.
I can bear to be abandoned by all the world, but you! You who know me so
well! Great God! am I a scoundrel? a scoundrel, I!"[313] And so on,
raving. It was to no purpose that Madame d'Houdetot wrote him soothing
letters, praying him to calm himself, to find something to busy himself
with, to remain at peace with Madame d'Epinay, "who had never appeared
other than the most thoughtful and warm-hearted friend to him."[314] He
was almost ready to quarrel with Madame d'Houdetot herself because she
paid the postage of her letters, which he counted an affront to his
poverty.[315] To Madame d'Epinay he had written in the midst of his
tormenting uncertainty as to the answer which Grimm would make to his
letter. It was an ungainly assertion that she was playing a game of
tyranny and intrigue at his cost. For the first time she replied with
spirit and warmth. "Your letter is hardly that of a man who, on the eve
of my departure, swore to me that he could never in his life repair the
wrongs he had done me." She then tersely remarks that it is not natural
to pass one's life in suspecting and insulting one's friends, and that
he abuses her patience. To this he answered with still greater terseness
that friendship was extinct between them, and that he meant to leave the
Hermitage, but as his friends desired him to remain there until the
spring he would with her permission follow their counsel. Then she, with
a final thrust of impatience, in which we perhaps see the hand of Grimm:
"Since you meant to leave the Hermitage, and felt you ought to do so, I
am astonished that your friends could detain you. For me, I don't
consult mine as to my duties, and I have nothing more to say to you as
to yours." This was the end. Rousseau returned for a moment from ignoble
petulance to dignity and self-respect. He wrote to her that if it is a
misfortune to make a mistake in the choice of friends, it is one not
less cruel to awake from so sweet an error, and two days before he
wrote, he left her house. He found a cottage at Montmorency, and
thither, nerved with fury, through snow and ice he carried his scanty
household goods (Dec. 15, 1757).[316]

We have a picture of him in this fatal month. Diderot went to pay him a
visit (Dec. 5). Rousseau was alone at the bottom of his garden. As soon
as he saw Diderot, he cried in a voice of thunder and with his eyes all
aflame: "What have you come here for?" "I want to know whether you are
mad or malicious." "You have known me for fifteen years; you are well
aware how little malicious I am, and I will prove to you that I am not
mad: follow me." He then drew Diderot into a room, and proceeded to
clear himself, by means of letters, of the charge of trying to make a
breach between Saint Lambert and Madame d'Houdetot. They were in fact
letters that convicted him, as we know, of trying to persuade Madame
d'Houdetot of the criminality of her relations with her lover, and at
the same time to accept himself in the very same relation. Of all this
we have heard more than enough already. He was stubborn in the face of
Diderot's remonstrance, and the latter left him in a state which he
described in a letter to Grimm the same night. "I throw myself into your
arms, like one who has had a shock of fright: that man intrudes into my
work; he fills me with trouble, and I am as if I had a damned soul at my
side. May I never see him again; he would make me believe in devils and
hell."[317] And thus the unhappy man who had began this episode in his
life with confident ecstasy in the glories and clear music of spring,
ended it looking out from a narrow chamber upon the sullen crimson of
the wintry twilight and over fields silent in snow, with the haggard
desperate gaze of a lost spirit.


[254] _Conf._, ix. 247.

[255] _Conf._, ix. 230. Madame d'Epinay (_Mém._, ii. 132) has given an
account of the installation, with a slight discrepancy of date. When
Madame d'Epinay's son-in-law emigrated at the Revolution, the
Hermitage--of which nothing now stands--along with the rest of the
estate became national property, and was bought after other purchasers
by Robespierre, and afterwards by Grétry the composer, who paid 10,000
livres for it.

[256] _Conf._, ix. 255.

[257] Third letter to Malesherbes, 364-368.

[258] _Conf._, ix. 239.

[259] _Conf._, ix. 237, 238, and 263, etc.

[260] The extract from the Project for Perpetual Peace and the
Polysynodia, together with Rousseau's judgments on them, are found at
the end of the volume containing the Social Contract. The first, but
without the judgment, was printed separately without Rousseau's
permission, in 1761, by Bastide, to whom he had sold it for twelve
louis for publication in his journal only. _Conf._, xi. 107. _Corr._,
ii. 110, 128.

[261] P. 485.

[262] For a sympathetic account of the Abbé de Saint Pierre's life and
speculations, see M. Léonce de Lavergne's _Economistes français du
18ième siècle_ (Paris: 1870). Also Comte's _Lettres à M. Valat_, p.

[263] _Conf._, ix. 270-274.

[264] _Conf._, ix. 289.

[265] _Ib._ ix. 286.

[266] D'Epinay, ii. 153.

[267] Madame d'Houdetot, (_b._ 1730--_d._ 1813) was the daughter of M.
de Bellegarde, the father of Madame d'Epinay's husband. Her marriage
with the Count d'Houdetot, of high Norman stock, took place in 1748.
The circumstances of the marriage, which help to explain the lax view
of the vows common among the great people of the time, are given with
perhaps a shade too much dramatic colouring in Madame d'Epinay's
_Mém._, i 101.

[268] _Conf._, ix. 281.

[269] D'Epinay, ii. 246.

[270] D'Epinay, ii. 269.

[271] Musset-Pathay has collected two or three trifles of her
composition, ii. 136-138. Heal so quotes Madame d'Allard's account of
her, pp. 140, 141.

[272] Quoted by M. Girardin, _Rev. des Deux Mondes_, Sept. 1853, p.

[273] _Conf._, ix. 304.

[274] _Ib._ ix. 305. Slightly modified version in _Corr._, i. 377.

[275] M. Boiteau's note to Madame d'Epinay, ii. 273.

[276] Grimm, to Madame d'Epinay, ii. 305.

[277] This is shown partly by Saint Lambert's letter to Rousseau, to
which we come presently, and partly by a letter of Madame d'Houdetot
to Rousseau in May, 1758 (Streckeisen-Moultou, i. 411-413), where she
distinctly says that she concealed his mad passion for her from Saint
Lambert, who first heard of it in common conversation.

[278] _Conf._, ix. 311.

[279] Besides the many hints of reference to this in the Confessions,
see the phrenetic Letters to Sarah, printed in the _Mélanges_, pp.

[280] _Conf._, ix. 337.

[281] _Corr._, i. 398. Sept. 4, 1757.

[282] To Madame d'Houdetot. _Corr._, i. 376-387. June 1757.

[283] Saint Lambert to Rousseau, from Wolfenbuttel, Oct. 11, 1757.
Streckeisen-Moultou, i. 415.

[284] These letters are given in M. Streckeisen-Moultou's first volume
(pp. 354-414). The thirty-second of them (Jan. 10, 1758) is perhaps
the one best worth turning to.

[285] Streckeisen-Moultou, i. 412. May 6, 1768. _Conf._, x. 15.

[286] _Ib._ x. 22.

[287] _Ib._ x. 18. Streckeisen, i. 422.

[288] _Conf._, x. 24.

[289] To Madame d'Epinay, 1757. _Corr._, i. 362, 353. See also
_Conf._, ix. 307.

[290] One of the most unflinching in this kind is an _Essai sur la vie
et le caractère de J.J. Rousseau_, by G.H. Morin (Paris: 1851): the
laborious production of a bitter advocate, who accepts the
Confessions, Dialogues, Letters, etc., with the reverence due to
verbal inspiration, and writes of everybody who offended his hero,
quite in the vein of Marat towards aristocrats.

[291] _Corr._, i. 327-335. D'Epinay, ii. 165-182

[292] D'Epinay, ii. 173.

[293] _Conf._, ix. 325.

[294] _Ib._, ix. 334.

[295] _Mém._, ii. 297. She also places the date many mouths later than
Rousseau, and detaches the reconciliation from the quarrel in the
winter of 1756-1757.

[296] The same story is referred to in Madame de Vandeul's _Mém. de
Diderot, _p. 61.

[297] _Conf._, ix. 245, 246.

[298] Grimm to Madame d'Epinay, ii. 259, 269, 313, 326. _Conf._, x.

[299] _Mém._, ii. 318.

[300] _Conf._, ix. 322. Madame d'Epinay (_Mém._, ii. 326), writing to
Grimm, gives a much colder and stiffer colour to the scene of
reconciliation, but the nature of her relations with him would account
for this. The same circumstance, as M. Girardin has pointed out (_Rev.
des Deux Mondes_, Sept. 1853), would explain the discrepancy between
her letters as given in the Confessions, and the copies of them sent
to Grimm, and printed in her Memoirs. M. Sainte Beuve, who is never
perfectly master of himself in dealing with the chiefs of the
revolutionary schools, as might indeed have been expected in a writer
with his predilections for the seventeenth century, rashly hints
(_Causeries_, vii. 301) that Rousseau was the falsifier. The
publication from the autograph originals sets this at rest.

[301] For Shakespeare, see _Corr. Lit._, iv. 143, etc.

[302] D'Epinay, ii. 188.

[303] D'Epinay, ii. 150. Also Vandeul's _Mém. de Diderot_, p. 61.

[304] _Mém._ ii. 128.

[305] P. 258. See also p. 146.

[306] Pp. 282, 336, etc.

[307] _Corr._, i. 386. June 1757.

[308] _Conf._, ix. 355. For Madame d'Epinay's equally credible
version, assigning all the stiffness and arrogance to Rousseau, see
_Mém._, ii. 355-358. Saint Lambert refers to the momentary
reconciliation in his letter to Rousseau of Nov. 21 (Streckeisen, i.
418), repeating what he had said before (p. 417), that Grimm always
spoke of Mm in amicable terms, though complaining of Rousseau's

[309] _Conf._, ix. 372.

[310] _Corr._, i. 404-416. Oct 19, 1757.

[311] Grimm to Diderot, in Madame d'Epinay's _Mém._ ii. 386. Nov. 3,

[312] D'Epinay, ii. 387. Nov. 3.

[313] _Corr._, i. 425. Nov. 8. _Ib._ 426.

[314] Streckeisen-Moultou, i. 381-383.

[315] _Ib._ 387. Many years after, Rousseau told Bernardin de St.
Pierre (_Oeuv._, xii. 57) that one of the reasons which made him leave
the Hermitage was the indiscretion of friends who insisted on sending
him letters by some conveyance that cost 4 francs, when it might
equally well have been sent for as many sous.

[316] The sources of all this are in the following places. _Corr._, i.
416. Oct. 29. Streckeisen, i. 349. Nov. 12. _Conf._, ix. 377. _Corr._,
i. 427. Nov. 23. _Conf._, ix. 381. Dec. 1. _Ib._, ix. 383. Dec. 17.

[317] Diderot to Grimm; D'Epinay, ii. 397. Diderot's _Oeuv._, xix.
446. See also 449 and 210.



Simplification has already been used by us as the key-word to Rousseau's
aims and influence. The scheme of musical notation with which he came to
try his fortune in Paris in 1741, his published vindication of it, and
his musical compositions afterwards all fall under this term. Each of
them was a plea for the extrication of the simple from the cumbrousness
of elaborated pedantry, and for a return to nature from the unmeaning
devices of false art. And all tended alike in the popular direction,
towards the extension of enjoyment among the common people, and the
glorification of their simple lives and moods, in the art designed for
the great.

The Village Soothsayer was one of the group of works which marked a
revolution in the history of French music, by putting an end to the
tyrannical tradition of Lulli and Rameau, and preparing the way through
a middle stage of freshness, simplicity, naturalism, up to the noble
severity of Gluck (1714-1787). This great composer, though a Bohemian by
birth, found his first appreciation in a public that had been trained
by the Italian pastoral operas, of which Rousseau's was one of the
earliest produced in France. Grétri, the Fleming (1741-1813), who had a
hearty admiration for Jean Jacques, and out of a sentiment of piety
lived for a time in his Hermitage, came in point of musical excellence
between the group of Rousseau, Philidor, Duni, and the rest, and Gluck.
"I have not produced exaltation in people's heads by tragical
superlative," Grétri said, "but I have revealed the accent of truth,
which I have impressed deeper in men's hearts."[318] These words express
sufficiently the kind of influence which Rousseau also had. Crude as the
music sounds to us who are accustomed to more sumptuous schools, we can
still hear in it the note which would strike a generation weary of
Rameau. It was the expression in one way of the same mood which in
another way revolted against paint, false hair, and preposterous costume
as of savages grown opulent. Such music seems without passion or
subtlety or depth or magnificence. Thus it had hardly any higher than a
negative merit, but it was the necessary preparation for the acceptance
of a more positive style, that should replace both the elaborate false
art of the older French composers and the too colourless realism of the
pastoral comic opera, by the austere loveliness and elevation of _Orfeo_
and _Alceste_.

In 1752 an Italian company visited Paris, and performed at the Opera a
number of pieces by Pergolese, and other composers of their country. A
violent war arose, which agitated Paris far more intensely than the
defeat of Rossbach and the loss of Canada did afterwards. The quarrel
between the Parliament and the Clergy was at its height. The Parliament
had just been exiled, and the gravest confusion threatened the State.
The operatic quarrel turned the excitement of the capital into another
channel. Things went so far that the censor was entreated to prohibit
the printing of any work containing the damnable doctrine and position
that Italian music is good. Rousseau took part enthusiastically with the
Italians.[319] His Letter on French Music (1753) proved to the great
fury of the people concerned, that the French had no national music, and
that it would be so much the worse for them if they ever had any. Their
language, so proper to be the organ of truth and reason, was radically
unfit either for poetry or music. All national music must derive its
principal characteristics from the language. Now if there is a language
in Europe fit for music, it is certainly the Italian, for it is sweet,
sonorous, harmonious, and more accentuated than any other, and these are
precisely the four qualities which adapt a language to singing. It is
sweet because the articulations are not composite, because the meeting
of consonants is both infrequent and soft, and because a great number of
the syllables being only formed of vowels, frequent elisions make its
pronunciation more flowing. It is sonorous because most of the vowels
are full, because it is without composite diphthongs, because it has
few or no nasal vowels. Again, the inversions of the Italian are far
more favourable to true melody than the didactic order of French. And so
onwards, with much close grappling of the matter. French melody does not
exist; it is only a sort of modulated plain-song which has nothing
agreeable in itself, which only pleases with the aid of a few capricious
ornaments, and then only pleases those who have agreed to find it

The letter contains a variety of acute remarks upon music, and includes
a vigorous protest against fugues, imitations, double designs, and the
like. Scarcely any one succeeds in them, and success even when obtained
hardly rewards the labour. As for counterfugues, double fugues, and
"other difficult fooleries that the ear cannot endure nor the reason
justify," they are evidently relics of barbarism and bad taste which
only remain, like the porticoes of our gothic churches, to the disgrace
of those who had patience enough to construct them.[321] The last
phrase-and both Voltaire and Turgot used gothic architecture as the
symbol for the supreme of rudeness and barbarism--shows that even a man
who seems to run counter to the whole current of his time yet does not
escape its influence.

Grimm, after remarking on the singularity of a demonstration of the
impossibility of setting melody to French words on the part of a writer
who had just produced the Village Soothsayer, informs us that the letter
created a furious uproar, and set all Paris in a blaze. He had himself
taken the side of the Italians in an amusing piece of pleasantry, which
became a sort of classic model for similar facetiousness in other
controversies of the century. The French, as he said, forgive everything
in favour of what makes them laugh, but Rousseau talked reason and
demolished the pretensions of French music with great sounding strokes
as of an axe.[322] Rousseau expected to be assassinated, and gravely
assures us that there was a plot to that effect, as well as a design to
put him in the Bastille. This we may fairly surmise to have been a
fiction of his own imagination, and the only real punishment that
overtook him was the loss of his right to free admission to the Opera.
After what he had said of the intolerable horrors of French music, the
directors of the theatre can hardly be accused of vindictiveness in
releasing him from them.[323] Some twenty years after (1774), when Paris
was torn asunder by the violence of the two great factions of the
Gluckists and Piccinists, Rousseau retracted his opinion as to the
impossibility of wedding melody to French words.[324] He went as often
as he could to hear the works both of Grétri and Gluck, and _Orfeo_
delighted him, while the _Fausse magie_ of the former moved him to say
to the composer, "Your music stirs sweet sensations to which I thought
my heart had long been closed."[325] This being so, and life being as
brief as art is long, we need not further examine the controversy. It
may be worth adding that Rousseau wrote some of the articles on music
for the Encyclopædia, and that in 1767 he published a not inconsiderable
Musical Dictionary of his own.

His scheme of a new musical notation and the principles on which he
defended it are worth attention, because some of the ideas are now
accepted as the base of a well-known and growing system of musical
instruction. The aim of the scheme, let us say to begin with, was at
once practical and popular; to reduce the difficulty of learning music
to the lowest possible point, and so to bring the most delightful of the
arts within the reach of the largest possible number of people. Hence,
although he maintains the fitness of his scheme for instrumental as well
as vocal performances, it is clearly the latter which he has most at
heart, evidently for the reason that this is the kind of music most
accessible to the thousands, and it was always the thousands of whom
Rousseau thought. This is the true distinction of music, it is for the
people; and the best musical notation is that which best enables persons
to sing at sight. The difficulty of the old notation had come
practically before him as a teacher. The quantity of details which the
pupil was forced to commit to memory before being able to sing from the
open book, struck him then as the chief obstacle to anything like
facility in performance, and without some of this facility he rightly
felt that music must remain a luxury for the few. So genuine was his
interest in the matter, that he was not very careful to fight for the
originality of his own scheme. Our present musical signs, he said, are
so imperfect and so inconvenient that it is no wonder that several
persons have tried to re-cast or amend them; nor is it any wonder that
some of them should have hit upon the same device in selecting the signs
most natural and proper, such as numerical figures. As much, however,
depends on the way of dealing with these figures, as with their
adoption, and here he submitted that his own plan was as novel as it was
advantageous.[326] Thus we have to bear in mind that Rousseau's scheme
was above all things a practical device, contrived for making the
teaching and the learning of musical elements an easier process.[327]

The chief element of the project consists in the substitution of a
relative series of notes or symbols in place of an absolute series. In
the common notation any given note, say the A of the treble clef, is
uniformly represented by the same symbol, namely, the position of second
space in the clef, whatever key it may belong to. Rousseau, insisting on
the varying quality impressed on any tone of a given pitch by the
key-note of the scale to which it belongs, protested against the same
name being given to the tone, however the quality of it might vary. Thus
Re or D, which is the second tone in the key of C, ought, according to
him, to have a different name when found as the fifth in the key of G,
and in every case the name should at once indicate the interval of a
tone from its key-note. His mode of effecting this change is as follows.
The names _ut, re_, and the rest, are kept for the fixed order of the
tones, C, D, E, and the rest. The key of a piece is shown by prefixing
one of these symbols, and this determines the absolute quality of the
melody as to pitch. That settled, every tone is expressed by a number
bearing a relation to the key-note. This tonic note is represented by
one, the other six tones of the scale are expressed by the numbers from
two to seven. In the popular Tonic Sol-Fa notation, which corresponds
so closely to Rousseau's in principle, the key-note is always styled Do,
and the other symbols, _mi_, _la_, and the rest, indicate at once the
relative position of these tones in their particular key or scale. Here
the old names were preserved as being easily sung; Rousseau selected
numbers because he supposed that they best expressed the generation of
the sounds.[328]

Rousseau attempted to find a theoretic base for this symbolic
establishment of the relational quality of tones, and he dimly guessed
that the order of the harmonics or upper tones of a given tonic would
furnish a principle for forming the familiar major scale,[329] but his
knowledge of the order was faulty. He was perhaps groping after the idea
by which Professor Helmholtz has accounted for the various mental
effects of the several intervals in a key--namely, the degree of natural
affinity, measured by means of the upper tones, existing between the
given tone and its tonic. Apart from this, however, the practical value
of his ideas in instruction in singing is clearly shown by the
circumstance that at any given time many thousands of young children are
now being taught to read melody in the Sol-Fa notation in a few weeks.
This shows how right Rousseau was in continually declaring the ease of
hitting a particular tone, when the relative position of the tone in
respect to the key-note is clearly manifested. A singer in trying to hit
the tone is compelled to measure the interval between it and the
preceding tone, and the simplest and easiest mode of doing this is to
associate every tone with the tonics, thus constituting it a term of a
relation with this fundamental tone.

Rousseau made a mistake when he supposed that his ideas were just as
applicable to instrumental as they were to vocal music. The requirements
of the singer are not those of the player. To a performer on the piano,
who has to light rapidly and simultaneously on a number of tones, or to
a violinist who has to leap through several octaves with great rapidity,
the most urgent need is that of a definite and fixed mark, by which the
absolute pitch of each successive tone may be at once recognised.
Neither of these has any time to think about the melodious relation of
the tones; it is quite as much as they can do to find their place on the
key-board or the string. Rousseau's scheme, or any similar one, fails to
supply the clear and obvious index to pitch supplied by the old system.
Old Rameau pointed this out to Rousseau when the scheme was laid before
him, and Rousseau admitted that the objection was decisive,[330] though
his admission was not practically deterrent.

His device for expressing change of octave by means of points would
render the rapid seizing of a particular tone by the performer still
more difficult, and it is strange that he should have preferred this to
the other plan suggested, of indicating height of octave by visible
place above or below a horizontal line. Again, his attempt to simplify
the many varieties of musical time by reducing them all to the two modes
of double and triple time, though laudable enough, yet implies an
imperfect recognition of the full meaning of time, by omitting all
reference to the distribution of accent and to the average time value of
the tones in a particular movement.


[318] Quoted in Martin's _Hist. de France_, xvi. 158.

[319] _Conf._, viii. 197. Grimm, _Corr. Lit._, i. 27.

[320] _Lettre sur la Musique Française_, 178, etc., 187.

[321] P. 197.

[322] _Corr. Lit._, i. 92. His own piece was _Le petit prophète de
Boehmischbroda_, the style of which will be seen in a subsequent

[323] He was burnt in effigy by the musicians of the Opera. Grimm,
_Corr. Lit._, i. 113.

[324] This is Turgot's opinion on the controversy (Letter to Caillard,
_Oeuv._, ii. 827):--"Tous avez donc vu Jean-Jacques; la musique est un
excellent passe-port auprès de lui. Quant à l'impossibilité de faire
de la musique française, je ne puis y croire, et votre raison ne me
paraît pas bonne; car il n'est point vrai que l'essence de la langue
française est d'être sans accent. Point de conversation animée sans
beaucoup d'accent; mais l'accent est libre et déterminé seulement par
l'affection de celui qui parle, sans être fixé par des conventions sur
certaines syllabes, quoique nous ayons aussi dans plusieurs mots des
syllabes dominantes qui seules peuvent être accentuées."

[325] Musset-Pathay, i. 289.

[326] Preface to _Dissertation sur la Musique Moderne_, pp. 32, 33.

[327] I am indebted to Mr. James Sully, M.A., for furnishing me with
notes on a technical subject with which I have too little

[328] _Dissertation_, p. 42.

[329] P. 52.

[330] _Conf._, vii. 18, 19. Also _Dissertation_, pp. 74, 75.



Everybody in the full tide of the eighteenth century had something to do
with Voltaire, from serious personages like Frederick the Great and
Turgot, down to the sorriest poetaster who sent his verses to be
corrected or bepraised. Rousseau's debt to him in the days of his
unformed youth we have already seen, as well as the courtesies with
which they approached one another, when Richelieu employed the
struggling musician to make some modifications in the great man's
unconsidered court-piece. Neither of them then dreamed that their two
names were destined to form the great literary antithesis of the
century. In the ten years that elapsed between their first interchange
of letters and their first fit of coldness, it must have been tolerably
clear to either of them, if either of them gave thought to the matter,
that their dissidence was increasing and likely to increase. Their
methods were different, their training different, their points of view
different, and above all these things, their temperaments were different
by a whole heaven's breadth.

A great number of excellent and pointed half-truths have been uttered
by various persons in illustration of all these contrasts. The
philosophy of Voltaire, for instance, is declared to be that of the
happy, while Rousseau is the philosopher of the unhappy. Voltaire steals
away their faith from those who doubt, while Rousseau strikes doubt into
the mind of the unbeliever. The gaiety of the one saddens, while the
sadness of the other consoles. If we pass from the marked divergence in
tendencies, which is imperfectly hinted at in such sayings as these, to
the divergence between them in all the fundamental conditions of
intellectual and moral life, then the variation which divided the
revolutionary stream into two channels, flowing broadly apart through
unlike regions and climates down to the great sea, is intelligible
enough. Voltaire was the arch-representative of all those elements in
contemporary thought, its curiosity, irreverence, intrepidity,
vivaciousness, rationality, to which, as we have so often had to say,
Rousseau's temperament and his Genevese spirit made him profoundly
antipathetic. Voltaire was the great high priest, robed in the dazzling
vestments of poetry and philosophy and history, of that very religion of
knowledge and art which Rousseau declared to be the destroyer of the
felicity of men. The glitter has faded away from Voltaire's philosophic
raiment since those days, and his laurel bough lies a little leafless.
Still this can never make us forget that he was in his day and
generation one of the sovereign emancipators, because he awoke one
dormant set of energies, just as Rousseau presently came to awake
another set. Each was a power, not merely by virtue of some singular
preeminence of understanding or mysterious unshared insight of his own,
but for a far deeper reason. No partial and one-sided direction can
permanently satisfy the manifold aspirations and faculties of the human
mind in the great average of common men, and it is the common average of
men to whom exceptional thinkers speak, whom they influence, and by whom
they are in turn influenced, depressed, or buoyed up, just as a painter
or a dramatist is affected. Voltaire's mental constitution made him
eagerly objective, a seeker of true things, quivering for action,
admirably sympathetic with all life and movement, a spirit restlessly
traversing the whole world. Rousseau, far different from this, saw in
himself a reflected microcosm of the outer world, and was content to
take that instead of the outer world, and as its truest version. He made
his own moods the premisses from which he deduced a system of life for
humanity, and so far as humanity has shared his moods or some parts of
them, his system was true, and has been accepted. To him the bustle of
the outer world was only a hindrance to that process of self-absorption
which was his way of interpreting life. Accessible only to interests of
emotion and sense, he was saved from intellectual sterility, and made
eloquent, by the vehemence of his emotion and the fire of his senses. He
was a master example of sensibility, as Voltaire was a master example
of clear-eyed penetration.

This must not be taken for a rigid piece of mutually exclusive division,
for the edges of character are not cut exactly sharp, as words are.
Especially when any type is intense, it seems to meet and touch its
opposite. Just as Voltaire's piercing activity and soundness of
intelligence made him one of the humanest of men, so Rousseau's
emotional susceptibility endowed him with the gift of a vision that
carried far into the social depths. It was a very early criticism on the
pair, that Voltaire wrote on more subjects, but that Rousseau was the
more profound. In truth one was hardly much more profound than the
other. Rousseau had the sonorousness of speech which popular confusion
of thought is apt to identify with depth. And he had seriousness. If
profundity means the quality of seeing to the heart of subjects,
Rousseau had in a general way rather less of it than the shrewd-witted
crusher of the Infamous. What the distinction really amounts to is that
Rousseau had a strong feeling for certain very important aspects of
human life, which Voltaire thought very little about, or never thought
about at all, and that while Voltaire was concerned with poetry,
history, literature, and the more ridiculous parts of the religious
superstition of his time, Rousseau thought about social justice and duty
and God and the spiritual consciousness of men, with a certain attempt
at thoroughness and system. As for the substance of his thinking, as we
have already seen in the Discourses, and shall soon have an opportunity
of seeing still more clearly, it was often as thin and hollow as if he
had belonged to the company of the epigrammatical, who, after all, have
far less of a monopoly of shallow thinking than is often supposed. The
prime merit of Rousseau, in comparing him with the brilliant chief of
the rationalistic school of the time, is his reverence; reverence for
moral worth in however obscure intellectual company, for the dignity of
human character and the loftiness of duty, for some of those cravings of
the human mind after the divine and incommensurable, which may indeed
often be content with solutions proved by long time and slow experience
to be inadequate, but which are closely bound up with the highest
elements of nobleness of soul.

It was this spiritual part of him which made Rousseau a third great
power in the century, between the Encyclopædic party and the Church. He
recognised a something in men, which the Encyclopædists treated as a
chimera imposed on the imagination by theologians and others for their
own purposes. And he recognised this in a way which did not offend the
rational feeling of the times, as the Catholic dogmas offended it. In a
word he was religious. In being so, he separated himself from Voltaire
and his school, who did passably well without religion. Again, he was a
puritan. In being this, he was cut off from the intellectually and
morally unreformed church, which was then the organ of religion in
France. Nor is this all. It was Rousseau, and not the feeble
controversialists put up from time to time by the Jesuits and other
ecclesiastical bodies, who proved the effective champion of religion,
and the only power who could make head against the triumphant onslaught
of the Voltaireans. He gave up Christian dogmas and mysteries, and,
throwing himself with irresistible ardour upon the emotions in which all
religions have their root and their power, he breathed new life into
them, he quickened in men a strong desire to have them satisfied, and he
beat back the army of emancipators with the loud and incessantly
repeated cry that they were not come to deliver the human mind, but to
root out all its most glorious and consolatory attributes. This immense
achievement accomplished,--the great framework of a faith in God and
immortality and providential government of the world thus preserved, it
was an easy thing by and by for the churchmen to come back, and once
more unpack and restore to their old places the temporarily discredited
paraphernalia of dogma and mystery. How far all this was good or bad for
the mental elevation of France and Europe, we shall have a better
opportunity of considering presently.

We have now only to glance at the first skirmishes between the religious
reactionist, on the one side, and, on the other, the leader of the
school who believed that men are better employed in thinking as
accurately, and knowing as widely, and living as humanely, as all those
difficult processes are possible, than in wearying themselves in futile
search after gods who dwell on inaccessible heights.

       *       *       *       *       *

Voltaire had acknowledged Rousseau's gift of the second Discourse with
his usual shrewd pleasantry: "I have received your new book against the
human race, and thank you for it. Never was such cleverness used in the
design of making us all stupid. One longs in reading your book to walk
on all fours. But as I have lost that habit for more than sixty years, I
feel unhappily the impossibility of resuming it. Nor can I embark in
search of the savages of Canada, because the maladies to which I am
condemned render a European surgeon necessary to me; because war is
going on in those regions; and because the example of our actions has
made the savages nearly as bad as ourselves. So I content myself with
being a very peaceable savage in the solitude which I have chosen near
your native place, where you ought to be too." After an extremely
inadequate discussion of one or two points in the essay,[331] he
concludes:--"I am informed that your health is bad; you ought to come to
set it up again in your native air, to enjoy freedom, to drink with me
the milk of our cows and browse our grass."[332] Rousseau replied to all
this in a friendly way, recognising Voltaire as his chief, and actually
at the very moment when he tells us that the corrupting presence of the
arrogant and seductive man at Geneva helped to make the idea of
returning to Geneva odious to him, hailing him in such terms as
these:--"Sensible of the honour you do my country, I share the gratitude
of my fellow-citizens, and hope that it will increase when they have
profited by the lessons that you of all men are able to give them.
Embellish the asylum you have chosen; enlighten a people worthy of your
instruction; and do you who know so well how to paint virtue and
freedom, teach us to cherish them in our walls."[333]

Within a year, however, the bright sky became a little clouded. In 1756
Voltaire published one of the most sincere, energetic, and passionate
pieces to be found in the whole literature of the eighteenth century,
his poem on the great earthquake of Lisbon (November 1755). No such word
had been heard in Europe since the terrible images in which Pascal had
figured the doom of man. It was the reaction of one who had begun life
by refuting Pascal with doctrines of cheerfulness drawn from the
optimism of Pope and Leibnitz, who had done Pope's Essay on Man
(1732-34) into French verse as late as 1751,[334] and whose imagination,
already sombred by the triumphant cruelty and superstition which raged
around him, was suddenly struck with horror by a catastrophe which, in a
world where whatever is is best, destroyed hundreds of human creatures
in the smoking ashes and engulfed wreck of their city. How, he cried,
can you persist in talking of the deliberate will of a free and
benevolent God, whose eternal laws necessitated such an appalling climax
of misery and injustice as this? Was the disaster retributive? If so,
why is Lisbon in ashes, while Paris dances? The enigma is desperate and
inscrutable, and the optimist lives in the paradise of the fool. We ask
in vain what we are, where we are, whither we go, whence we came. We are
tormented atoms on a clod of earth, whom death at last swallows up, and
with whom destiny meanwhile makes cruel sport. The past is only a
disheartening memory, and if the tomb destroys the thinking creature,
how frightful is the present!

Whatever else we may say of Voltaire's poem, it was at least the first
sign of the coming reaction of sympathetic imagination against the
polished common sense of the great Queen Anne school, which had for more
than a quarter of a century such influence in Europe.[335] It is a
little odd that Voltaire, the most brilliant and versatile branch of
this stock, should have broken so energetically away from it, and that
he should have done so, shows how open and how strong was the feeling in
him for reality and actual circumstance.

Rousseau was amazed that a man overwhelmed as Voltaire was with
prosperity and glory, should declaim against the miseries of this life
and pronounce that all is evil and vanity. "Voltaire in seeming always
to believe in God, never really believed in anybody but the devil, since
his pretended God is a maleficent being who according to him finds all
his pleasure in working mischief. The absurdity of this doctrine is
especially revolting in a man crowned with good things of every sort,
and who from the midst of his own happiness tries to fill his
fellow-creatures with despair, by the cruel and terrible image of the
serious calamities from which he is himself free."[336]

As if any doctrine could be more revolting than this which Rousseau so
quietly takes for granted, that if it is well with me and I am free from
calamities, then there must needs be a beneficent ruler of the universe,
and the calamities of all the rest of the world, if by chance they catch
the fortunate man's eye, count for nothing in our estimate of the method
of the supposed divine government. It is hard to imagine a more
execrable emotion than the complacent religiosity of the prosperous.
Voltaire is more admirable in nothing than in the ardent humanity and
far-spreading lively sympathy with which he interested himself in all
the world's fortunes, and felt the catastrophe of Lisbon as profoundly
as if the Geneva at his gates had been destroyed. He relished his own
prosperity keenly enough, but his prosperity became ashes in his mouth
when he heard of distress or wrong, and he did not rest until he had
moved heaven and earth to soothe the distress and repair the wrong. It
was his impatience in the face of the evils of the time which wrung from
him this desperate cry, and it is precisely because these evils did not
touch him in his own person, that he merits the greater honour for the
surpassing energy and sincerity of his feeling for them.

Rousseau, however, whose biographer has no such stories to tell as those
of Calas and La Barre, Sirven and Lally, but only tales of a maiden
wrongfully accused of theft, and a friend left senseless on the pavement
of a strange town, and a benefactress abandoned to the cruelty of her
fate, still was moved in the midst of his erotic visions in the forest
of Montmorency to speak a jealous word in vindication of the divine
government of our world. For him at any rate life was then warm and the
day bright and the earth very fair, and he lauded his gods accordingly.
It was his very sensuousness, as we are so often saying, that made him
religious. The optimism which Voltaire wished to destroy was to him a
sovereign element of comfort. "Pope's poem," he says, "softens my
misfortunes and inclines me to patience, while yours sharpens all my
pains, excites me to murmuring, and reduces me to despair. Pope and
Leibnitz exhort me to resignation by declaring calamities to be a
necessary effect of the nature and constitution of the universe. You
cry, Suffer for ever, unhappy wretch; if there be a God who created
thee, he could have stayed thy pains if he would: hope for no end to
them, for there is no reason to be discerned for thy existence, except
to suffer and to perish."[337] Rousseau then proceeds to argue the
matter, but he says nothing really to the point which Pope had not said
before, and said far more effectively. He begins, however, originally
enough by a triumphant reference to his own great theme of the
superiority of the natural over the civil state. Moral evil is our own
work, the result of our liberty; so are most of our physical evils,
except death, and that is mostly an evil only from the preparations that
we make for it. Take the case of Lisbon. Was it nature who collected the
twenty thousand houses, all seven stories high? If the people of Lisbon
had been dispersed over the face of the country, as wild tribes are,
they would have fled at the first shock, and they would have been seen
the next day twenty leagues away, as gay as if nothing had happened. And
how many of them perished in the attempt to rescue clothes or papers or
money? Is it not true that the person of a man is now, thanks to
civilisation, the least part of himself, and is hardly worth saving
after loss of the rest? Again, there are some events which lose much of
their horror when we look at them closely. A premature death is not
always a real evil and may be a relative good; of the people crushed to
death under the ruins of Lisbon, many no doubt thus escaped still worse
calamities. And is it worse to be killed swiftly than to await death in
prolonged anguish?[338]

The good of the whole is to be sought before the good of the part.
Although the whole material universe ought not to be dearer to its
Creator than a single thinking and feeling being, yet the system of the
universe which produces, preserves, and perpetuates all thinking and
feeling beings, ought to be dearer to him than any one of them, and he
may, notwithstanding his goodness, or rather by reason of his goodness,
sacrifice something of the happiness of individuals to the preservation
of the whole. "That the dead body of a man should feed worms or wolves
or plants is not, I admit, a compensation for the death of such a man;
but if in the system of this universe, it is necessary for the
preservation of the human race that there should be a circulation of
substance between men, animals, vegetables, then the particular mishap
of an individual contributes to the general good. I die, I am eaten by
worms; but my children, my brothers, will live as I have lived; my body
enriches the earth of which they will consume the fruits; and so I do,
by the order of nature and for all men, what Codrus, Curtius, the Decii,
and a thousand others, did of their own free will for a small part of
men." (p. 305.)

All this is no doubt very well said, and we are bound to accept it as
true doctrine. Although, however, it may make resignation easier by
explaining the nature of evil, it does not touch the point of Voltaire's
outburst, which is that evil exists, and exists in shapes which it is a
mere mockery to associate with the omnipotence of a benevolent
controller of the world's forces. According to Rousseau, if we go to the
root of what he means, there is no such thing as evil, though much that
to our narrow and impatient sight has the look of it. This may be true
if we use that fatal word in an arbitrary and unreal sense, for the
avoidable, the consequent without antecedent, or antecedent without
consequent. If we consent to talk in this way, and only are careful to
define terms so that there is no doubt as to their meaning, it is hardly
deniable that evil is a mere word and not a reality, and whatever is is
indeed right and best, because no better is within our reach. Voltaire,
however, like the man of sense that he was, exclaimed that at any rate
relatively to us poor creatures the existence of pain, suffering, waste,
whether caused or uncaused, whether in accordance with stern immutable
law or mere divine caprice, is a most indisputable reality: from our
point of view it is a cruel puerility to cry out at every calamity and
every iniquity that all is well in the best of possible worlds, and to
sing hymns of praise and glory to the goodness and mercy of a being of
supreme might, who planted us in this evil state and keeps us in it.
Voltaire's is no perfect philosophy; indeed it is not a philosophy at
all, but a passionate ejaculation; but it is perfect in comparison with
a cut and dried system like this of Rousseau's, which rests on a mocking
juggle with phrases, and the substitution by dexterous sleight of hand
of one definition for another.

Rousseau really gives up the battle, by confessing frankly that the
matter is beyond the light of reason, and that, "if the theist only
founds his sentiment on probabilities, the atheist with still less
precision only founds his on the alternative possibilities." The
objections on both sides are insoluble, because they turn on things of
which men can have no veritable idea; "yet I believe in God as strongly
as I believe any other truth, because believing and not believing are
the last things in the world that depend on me." So be it. But why take
the trouble to argue in favour of one side of an avowedly insoluble
question? It was precisely because he felt that the objections on both
sides cannot be answered, that Voltaire, hastily or not, cried out that
he faced the horrors of such a catastrophe as the Lisbon earthquake
without a glimpse of consolation. The upshot of Rousseau's remonstrance
only amounted to this, that he could not furnish one with any
consolation out of the armoury of reason, that he himself found this
consolation, but in a way that did not at all depend upon his own effort
or will, and was therefore as incommunicable as the advantage of having
a large appetite or being six feet high. The reader of Rousseau becomes
accustomed to this way of dealing with subjects of discussion. We see
him using his reason as adroitly as he knows how for three-fourths of
the debate, and then he suddenly flings himself back with a triumphant
kind of weariness into the buoyant waters of emotion and sentiment. "You
sir, who are a poet," once said Madame d'Epinay to Saint Lambert, "will
agree with me that the existence of a Being, eternal, all powerful, and
of sovereign intelligence, is at any rate the germ of the finest
enthusiasm."[339] To take this position and cleave to it may be very
well, but why spoil its dignity and repose by an unmeaning and
superfluous flourish of the weapons of the reasoner?

With the same hasty change of direction Rousseau says the true question
is not whether each of us suffers or not, but whether it is good that
the universe should be, and whether our misfortunes were inevitable in
its constitution. Then within a dozen lines he admits that there can be
no direct proof either way; we must content ourselves with settling it
by means of inference from the perfections of God. Of course, it is
clear that in the first place what Rousseau calls the true question
consists of two quite distinct questions. Is the universe in its present
ordering on the whole good relatively either to men, or to all sentient
creatures? Next was evil an inevitable element in that ordering? Second,
this way of putting it does not in the least advance the case against
Voltaire, who insisted that no fine phrases ought to hide from us the
dreadful power and crushing reality of evil and the desolate plight in
which we are left. This is no exhaustive thought, but a deep cry of
anguish at the dark lot of men, and of just indignation against the
philosophy which to creatures asking for bread gave the brightly
polished stone of sentimental theism. Rousseau urged that Voltaire
robbed men of their only solace. What Voltaire really did urge was that
the solace derived from the attribution of humanity and justice to the
Supreme Being, and from the metaphysical account of evil, rests on too
narrow a base either to cover the facts, or to be a true solace to any
man who thinks and observes. He ought to have gone on, if it had only
been possible in those times, to persuade his readers that there is no
solace attainable, except that of an energetic fortitude, and that we do
best to go into life not in a softly lined silken robe, but with a sharp
sword and armour thrice tempered. As between himself and Rousseau, he
saw much the more keenly of the two, and this was because he approached
the matter from the side of the facts, while the latter approached it
from the side of his own mental comfort and the preconceptions
involved in it.

The most curious part of this curious letter is the conclusion, where
Rousseau, loosely wandering from his theme, separates Voltaire from the
philosopher, and beseeches him to draw up a moral code or profession of
civil faith that should contain positively the social maxims that
everybody should be bound to admit, and negatively the intolerant maxims
that everybody should be forced to reject as seditious. Every religion
in accord with the code should be allowed, and every religion out of
accord with it proscribed, or a man might be free to have no other
religion but the code itself.

Voltaire was much too clear-headed a person to take any notice of
nonsense like this. Rousseau's letter remained unanswered, nor is there
any reason to suppose that Voltaire ever got through it, though Rousseau
chose to think that _Candide_ (1759) was meant for a reply to him.[340]
He is careful to tell us that he never read that incomparable satire,
for which one would be disposed to pity any one except Rousseau, whose
appreciation of wit, if not of humour also, was probably more deficient
than in any man who ever lived, either in Geneva or any other country
fashioned after Genevan guise. Rousseau's next letter to Voltaire was
four years later, and by that time the alienation which had no
definitely avowed cause, and can be marked by no special date, had
become complete. "I hate you, in fact," he concluded, "since you have so
willed it; but I hate you like a man still worthier to have loved you,
if you had willed it. Of all the sentiments with which my heart was full
towards you, there only remains the admiration that we cannot refuse to
your fine genius, and love for your writings. If there is nothing in you
which I can honour but your talents, that is no fault of mine."[341] We
know that Voltaire did not take reproach with serenity, and he behaved
with bitter violence towards Rousseau in circumstances when silence
would have been both more magnanimous and more humane. Rousseau
occasionally, though not very often, retaliated in the same vein.[342]
On the whole his judgment of Voltaire, when calmly given, was not meant
to be unkind. "Voltaire's first impulse," he said, "is to be good; it is
reflection that makes him bad."[343] Tronchin had said in the same way
that Voltaire's heart was the dupe of his understanding. Rousseau is
always trying to like him, he always recognises him as the first man of
the time, and he subscribed his mite for the erection of a statue to
him. It was the satire and mockery in Voltaire which irritated Rousseau
more than the doctrines or denial of doctrine which they cloaked; in his
eyes sarcasm was always the veritable dialect of the evil power. It says
something for the sincerity of his efforts after equitable judgment,
that he should have had the patience to discern some of the fundamental
merit of the most remorseless and effective mocker that ever made
superstition look mean, and its doctors ridiculous.


Voltaire was indirectly connected with Rousseau's energetic attack upon
another great Encyclopædist leader, the famous Letter to D'Alembert on
Stage Plays. "There," Rousseau said afterwards, "is my favourite book,
my Benjamin, because I produced it without effort, at the first
inspiration, and in the most lucid moments of my life."[344] Voltaire,
who to us figures so little as a poet and dramatist, was to himself and
to his contemporaries of this date a poet and dramatist before all else,
the author of _Zaïre_ and _Mahomet_, rather than of _Candide_ and the
_Philosophical Dictionary_. D'Alembert was Voltaire's staunchest
henchman. He only wrote his article on Geneva for the Encyclopædia to
gratify the master. Fresh from a visit to him when he composed it, he
took occasion to regret that the austerity of the tradition of the city
deprived it of the manifold advantages of a theatre. This suggestion had
its origin partly in a desire to promote something that would please the
eager vanity of the dramatist whom Geneva now had for so close a
neighbour, and who had just set her the example by setting up a theatre
of his own; and partly, also, because it gave the writer an opportunity
of denouncing the intolerant rigour with which the church nearer home
treated the stage and all who appeared on it. Geneva was to set an
example that could not be resisted, and France would no longer see
actors on the one hand pensioned by the government, and on the other an
object of anathema, excommunicated by priests and regarded with contempt
by citizens.[345]

The inveterate hostility of the church to the theatre was manifested by
the French ecclesiastics in the full eighteenth century as bitterly as
ever. The circumstance that Voltaire was the great play-writer of the
time would not tend to soften their traditional prejudice, and the
persecution of players by priests was in some sense an episode of the
war between the priest and the philosophers. The latter took up the
cause of the stage partly because they hoped to make the drama an
effective rival to the teaching of pulpit and confessional, partly from
their natural sympathy with an elevated form of intellectual
manifestation, and partly from their abhorrence of the practical
inhumanity with which the officers of the church treated stage
performers. While people of quality eagerly sought the society of those
who furnished them as much diversion in private as in public, the church
refused to all players the marriage blessing; when an actor or actress
wished to marry, they were obliged to renounce the stage, and the
Archbishop of Paris diligently resisted evasion or subterfuge.[346] The
atrocities connected with the refusal of burial, as well in the case of
players as of philosophers, are known to all readers in a dozen
illustrious instances, from Molière and Adrienne Lecouvreur downwards.

Here, as along the whole line of the battle between new light and old
prejudice, Rousseau took part, if not with the church, at least against
its adversaries. His point of view was at bottom truly puritanical.
Jeremy Collier in his _Short View of the Profaneness and Immorality of
the English Stage_ (1698) takes up quite a different position. This once
famous piece was not a treatment of the general question, but an attack
on certain specific qualities of the plays of his time--their indecency
of phrase, their oaths, their abuse of the clergy, the gross libertinism
of the characters. One can hardly deny that this was richly deserved by
the English drama of the Restoration, and Collier's strictures were not
applicable, nor meant to apply, either to the ancients, for he has a
good word even for Aristophanes, or to the French drama. Bossuet's
loftier denunciation, like Rousseau's, was puritanical, and it extended
to the whole body of stage plays. He objected to the drama as a school
of concupiscence, as a subtle or gross debaucher of the gravity and
purity of the understanding, as essentially a charmer of the senses, and
therefore the most equivocal and untrustworthy of teachers. He appeals
to the fathers, to Scripture, to Plato, and even to Christ, who cried,
_Woe unto you that laugh_.[347] There is a fine austerity about
Bossuet's energetic criticism; it is so free from breathless eagerness,
and so severe without being thinly bitter. The churchmen of a generation
or two later had fallen from this height into gloomy peevishness.

Rousseau's letter on the theatre, it need hardly be said, is meant to be
an appeal to the common sense and judgment of his readers, and not
conceived in the ecclesiastical tone of unctuous anathema and fulgurant
menace. It is no bishop's pastoral, replete with solecisms of thought
and idiom, but a piece of firm dialectic in real matter. His position is
this: that the moral effect of the stage can never be salutary in
itself, while it may easily be extremely pernicious, and that the habit
of frequenting the theatre, the taste for imitating the style of the
actors, the cost in money, the waste in time, and all the other
accessory conditions, apart from the morality of the matter represented,
are bad things in themselves, absolutely and in every circumstance.
Secondly, these effects in all kinds are specially bad in relation to
the social condition and habits of Geneva.[348] The first part of the
discussion is an ingenious answer to some of the now trite pleas for
the morality of the drama, such as that tragedy leads to pity through
terror, that comedy corrects men while amusing them, that both make
virtue attractive and vice hateful.[349] Rousseau insists with abundance
of acutely chosen illustration that the pity that is awaked by tragedy
is a fleeting emotion which subsides when the curtain falls; that comedy
as often as not amuses men at the expense of old age, uncouth virtue,
paternal carefulness, and other objects which we should be taught rather
to revere than to ridicule; and that both tragedy and comedy, instead of
making vice hateful, constantly win our sympathy for it. Is not the
French stage, he asks, as much the triumph of great villains, like
Catilina, Mahomet, Atreus, as of illustrious heroes?

This rude handling of accepted commonplace is always one of the most
interesting features in Rousseau's polemic. It was of course a
characteristic of the eighteenth century always to take up the ethical
and high prudential view of whatever had to be justified, and Rousseau
seems from this point to have been successful in demolishing arguments
which might hold of Greek tragedy at its best, but which certainly do
not hold of any other dramatic forms. The childishness of the old
criticism which attaches the label of some moral from the copybook to
each piece, as its lesson and point of moral aim, is evident. In
repudiating this Rousseau was certainly right.[350] Both the assailants
and the defenders of the stage, however, commit the double error, first
of supposing that the drama is always the same thing, from the Agamemnon
down to the last triviality of a London theatre, and next of pitching
the discussion in too high a key, as if the effect or object of a stage
play in the modern era, where grave sentiment clothes itself in other
forms, were substantially anything more serious than an evening's
amusement. Apart from this, and in so far as the discussion is confined
to the highest dramatic expression, the true answer to Rousseau is now a
very plain one. The drama does not work in the sphere of direct
morality, though like everything else in the world it has a moral or
immoral aspect. It is an art of ideal presentation, not concerned with
the inculcation of immediate practical lessons, but producing a stir in
all our sympathetic emotions, quickening the imagination, and so
communicating a wider life to the character of the spectator. This is
what the drama in the hands of a worthy master does; it is just what
noble composition in music does, and there is no more directly
moralising effect in the one than in the other. You must trust to the
sum of other agencies to guide the interest and sympathy thus quickened
into channels of right action. Rousseau, like most other
controversialists, makes an attack of which the force rests on the
assumption that the special object of the attack is the single
influencing element and the one decisive instrument in making men had or
good. What he says about the drama would only be true if the public went
to the play all day long, and were accessible to no other moral force
whatever, modifying and counteracting such lessons as they might learn
at the theatre. He failed here as in the wider controversy on the
sciences and arts, to consider the particular subject of discussion in
relation to the whole of the general medium in which character moves,
and by whose manifold action and reaction it is incessantly affected and
variously shaped.

So when he passed on from the theory of dramatic morality to the matter
which he had more at heart, namely, the practical effects of introducing
the drama into Geneva, he keeps out of sight all the qualities in the
Genevese citizen which would protect him against the evil influence of
the stage, though it is his anxiety for the preservation of these very
qualities that gives all its fire to his eloquence. If the citizen
really was what Rousseau insisted that he was, then his virtues would
surely neutralise the evil of the drama; if not, the drama would do him
no harm. We need not examine the considerations in which Rousseau
pointed out the special reasons against introducing a theatre into his
native town. It would draw the artisans away from their work, cause
wasteful expenditure of money in amusements, break up the harmless and
inexpensive little clubs of men and the social gatherings of women. The
town was not populous enough to support a theatre, therefore the
government would have to provide one, and this would mean increased
taxation. All this was the secondary and merely colourable support by
argumentation, of a position that had been reached and was really held
by sentiment. Rousseau hated the introduction of French plays in the
same way that Cato hated the introduction of fine talkers from Greece.
It was an innovation, and so habitual was it with Rousseau to look on
all movement in the direction of what the French writers called taste
and cultivation as depraving, that he cannot help taking for granted
that any change in manners associated with taste must necessarily be a
change for the worse. Thus the Letter to D'Alembert was essentially a
supplement to the first Discourse; it was an application of its
principles to a practical case. It was part of his general reactionary
protest against philosophers, poets, men of letters, and all their
works, without particular apprehension on the side of the drama. Hence
its reasoning is much less interesting than its panegyric on the
simplicity, robust courage, and manliness of the Genevese, and its
invective against the effeminacy and frivolity of the Parisian. One of
the most significant episodes in the discussion is the lengthy criticism
on the immortal Misanthrope of Molière. Rousseau admits it for the
masterpiece of the comic muse, though with characteristic perversity he
insists that the hero is not misanthropic enough, nor truly misanthropic
at all, because he flies into rage at small things affecting himself,
instead of at the large follies of the race. Again, he says that Molière
makes Alceste ridiculous, virtuous as he is, in order to win the
applause of the pit. It is for the character of Philinte, however, that
Rousseau reserves all his spleen. He takes care to describe him in terms
which exactly hit Rousseau's own conception of his philosophic enemies,
who find all going well because they have no interest in anything going
better; who are content with everybody, because they do not care for
anybody; who round a full table maintain that it is not true that the
people are hungry. As criticism, one cannot value this kind of analysis.
D'Alembert replied with a much more rational interpretation of the great
comedy, but finding himself seized with the critic's besetting
impertinence of improving masterpieces, he suddenly stopped with the
becoming reflection--"But I perceive, sir, that I am giving lessons to

The constant thought of Paris gave Rousseau an admirable occasion of
painting two pictures in violent contrast, each as over-coloured as the
other by his mixed conceptions of the Plutarchian antique and imaginary
pastoral. We forget the depravation of the stage and the ill living of
comedians in magnificent descriptions of the manly exercises and
cheerful festivities of the free people on the shores of the Lake of
Geneva, and in scornful satire on the Parisian seraglios, where some
woman assembles a number of men who are more like women than their
entertainers. We see on the one side the rude sons of the republic,
boxing, wrestling, running, in generous emulation, and on the other the
coxcombs of cultivated Paris imprisoned in a drawing-room, "rising up,
sitting down, incessantly going and coming to the fire-place, to the
window, taking up a screen and putting it down again a hundred times,
turning over books, flitting from picture to picture, turning and
pirouetting about the room, while the idol stretched motionless on a
couch all the time is only alive in her tongue and eyes" (p. 161). If
the rough patriots of the Lake are less polished in speech, they are all
the weightier in reason; they do not escape by a pleasantry or a
compliment; each feeling himself attacked by all the forces of his
adversary, he is obliged to employ all his own to defend himself, and
this is how a mind acquires strength and precision. There may be here
and there a licentious phrase, but there is no ground for alarm in that.
It is not the least rude who are always the most pure, and even a rather
clownish speech is better than that artificial style in which the two
sexes seduce one another, and familiarise themselves decently with vice.
'Tis true our Swiss drinks too much, but after all let us not calumniate
even vice; as a rule drinkers are cordial and frank, good, upright,
just, loyal, brave, and worthy folk. Wherever people have most
abhorrence of drunkenness, be sure they have most reason to fear lest
its indiscretion should betray intrigue and treachery. In Switzerland it
is almost thought well of, while at Naples they hold it in horror; but
at bottom which is the more to be dreaded, the intemperance of the Swiss
or the reserve of the Italian? It is hardly surprising to learn that the
people of Geneva were as little gratified by this well-meant panegyric
on their jollity as they had been by another writer's friendly eulogy on
their Socinianism.[352]

The reader who was not moved to turn brute and walk on all fours by the
pictures of the state of nature in the Discourses, may find it more
difficult to resist the charm of the brotherly festivities and simple
pastimes which in the Letter to D'Alembert the patriot holds up to the
admiration of his countrymen and the envy of foreigners. The writer is
in Sparta, but he tempers his Sparta with a something from Charmettes.
Never before was there so attractive a combination of martial austerity
with the grace of the idyll. And the interest of these pictures is much
more than literary; it is historic also. They were the original version
of those great gatherings in the Champ de Mars and strange suppers of
fraternity during the progress of the Revolution in Paris, which have
amused the cynical ever since, but which pointed to a not unworthy
aspiration. The fine gentlemen whom Rousseau did so well to despise had
then all fled, and the common people under Rousseauite leaders were
doing the best they could to realise on the banks of the Seine the
imaginary joymaking and simple fellowship which had been first dreamed
of for the banks of Lake Leman, and commended with an eloquence that
struck new chords in minds satiated or untouched by the brilliance of
mere literature. There was no real state of things in Geneva
corresponding to the gracious picture which Rousseau so generously
painted, and some of the citizens complained that his account of their
social joys was as little deserved as his ingenious vindication of their
hearty feeling for barrel or bottle was little founded.[353]

The glorification of love of country did little for the Genevese for
whom it was meant, but it penetrated many a soul in the greater nation
that lay sunk in helpless indifference to its own ruin. Nowhere else
among the writers who are the glory of France at this time, is any
serious eulogy of patriotism. Rousseau glows with it, and though he
always speaks in connection with Geneva, yet there is in his words a
generous breadth and fire which gave them an irresistible
contagiousness. There are many passages of this fine persuasive force in
the Letter to D'Alembert; perhaps this, referring to the citizens of
Geneva who had gone elsewhere in search of fortune, is as good as
another. Do you think that the opening of a theatre, he asks, will bring
them back to their mother city? No; "each of them must feel that he can
never find anywhere else what he has left behind in his own land; an
invincible charm must call him back to the spot that he ought never to
have quitted; the recollection of their first exercises, their first
pleasures, their first sights, must remain deeply graven in their
hearts; the soft impressions made in the days of their youth must abide
and grow stronger with advancing years, while a thousand others wax dim;
in the midst of the pomp of great cities and all their cheerless
magnificence, a secret voice must for ever cry in the depth of the
wanderer's soul, Ah, where are the games and holidays of my youth? Where
is the concord of the townsmen, where the public brotherhood? Where is
pure joy and true mirth? Where are peace, freedom, equity? Let us hasten
to seek all these. With the heart of a Genevese, with a city as smiling,
a landscape as full of delight, a government as just, with pleasures so
true and so pure, and all that is needed to be able to relish them, how
is it that we do not all adore our birth-land? It was thus in old times
that by modest feasts and homely games her citizens were called back by
that Sparta which I can never quote often enough as an example for us;
thus in Athens in the midst of fine art, thus in Susa in the very bosom
of luxury and soft delights, the wearied Spartan sighed after his coarse
pastimes and exhausting exercises" (p. 211).[354]

Any reference to this powerfully written, though most sophistical
piece, would be imperfect which should omit its slightly virulent
onslaught upon women and the passion which women inspire. The modern
drama, he said, being too feeble to rise to high themes, has fallen back
on love; and on this hint he proceeds to a censure of love as a poetic
theme, and a bitter estimate of women as companions for men, which might
have pleased Calvin or Knox in his sternest mood. The same eloquence
which showed men the superior delights of the state of nature, now shows
the superior fitness of the oriental seclusion of women; it makes a
sympathetic reader tremble at the want of modesty, purity, and decency,
in the part which women are allowed to take by the infatuated men of a
modern community.

All this, again, is directed against "that philosophy of a day, which is
born and dies in the corner of a city, and would fain stifle the cry of
nature and the unanimous voice of the human race" (p. 131). The same
intrepid spirits who had brought reason to bear upon the current notions
of providence, inspiration, ecclesiastical tradition, and other
unlighted spots in the human mind, had perceived that the subjection of
women to a secondary place belonged to the same category, and could not
any more successfully be defended by reason. Instead of raging against
women for their boldness, their frivolousness, and the rest, as our
passionate sentimentalist did, the opposite school insisted that all
these evils were due to the folly of treating women with gallantry
instead of respect, and to the blindness of refusing an equally vigorous
and masculine education to those who must be the closest companions of
educated man. This was the view forced upon the most rational observers
of a society where women were so powerful, and so absolutely unfit by
want of intellectual training for the right use of social power.
D'Alembert expressed this view in a few pages of forcible pleading in
his reply to Rousseau,[355] and some thirty-two years later, when all
questions had become political (1790), Condorcet ably extended the same
line of argument so as to make it cover the claims of women to all the
rights of citizenship.[356] From the nature of the case, however, it is
impossible to confute by reason a man who denies that the matter in
dispute is within the decision and jurisdiction of reason, and who
supposes that his own opinion is placed out of the reach of attack when
he declares it to be the unanimous voice of the human race. We may
remember that the author of this philippic against love was at the very
moment brooding over the New Heloïsa, and was fresh from strange
transports at the feet of the Julie whom we know.

The Letter on the Stage was the definite mark of Rousseau's schism from
the philosophic congregation. Has Jean Jacques turned a father of the
church? asked Voltaire. Deserters who fight against their country ought
to be hung. The little flock are falling to devouring one another. This
arch-madman, who might have been something, if he would only have been
guided by his brethren of the Encyclopædia, takes it into his head to
make a band of his own. He writes against the stage, after writing a bad
play of his own. He finds four or five rotten staves of Diogenes' tub,
and instals himself therein to bark at his friends.[357] D'Alembert was
more tolerant, but less clear-sighted. He insisted that the little flock
should do its best to heal divisions instead of widening them. Jean
Jacques, he said, "is a madman who is very clever, and who is only
clever when he is in a fever; it is best therefore neither to cure nor
to insult him."

Rousseau made the preface to the Letter on the Stage an occasion for a
proclamation of his final breach with Diderot. "I once," he said,
"possessed a severe and judicious Aristarchus; I have him no longer, and
wish for him no longer." To this he added in a footnote a passage from
Ecclesiasticus, to the effect that if you have drawn a sword on a friend
there still remains a way open, and if you have spoken cheerless words
to him concord is still possible, but malicious reproach and the
betrayal of a secret--these things banish friendship beyond return. This
was the end of his personal connection with the men whom he always
contemptuously called the Holbachians. After 1760 the great stream
divided into two; the rationalist and the emotional schools became
visibly antipathetic, and the voice of the epoch was no longer single or


[331] See above p. 149.

[332] Voltaire to Rousseau. Aug. 30, 1755.

[333] _Corr._, i. 237. Sept. 10, 1755.

[334] _La Loi Naturelle._

[335] In 1754 the Berlin Academy proposed for a prize essay, An
Examination of Pope's System, and Lessing the next year wrote a
pamphlet to show that Pope had no system, but only a patchwork. See
Mr. Pattison's _Introduction to Pope's Essay on Man_, p. 12. Sime's
_Lessing_, i. 128.

[336] _Conf._ ix. 276.

[337] _Corr._, i. 289-316. Aug. 18, 1756.

[338] Joseph De Maistre put all this much more acutely; _Soirées_, iv.

[339] Madame d'Epinay, _Mém._, i. 380.

[340] _Conf._, ix. 277. Also _Corr._, iii. 326. March 11, 1764.
Tronchin's long letter, to which Rousseau refers in this passage, is
given in M. Streckeisen-Moultou's collection, i. 323, and is
interesting to people who care to know how Voltaire looked to a doctor
who saw him closely.

[341] _Corr._, ii. 132. June 17, 1760. Also _Conf._, x. 91.

[342] Some other interesting references to Voltaire in Rousseau's
letters are--ii. 170 (Nov. 29, 1760), denouncing Voltaire as "that
trumpet of impiety, that fine genius, and that low soul," and so
forth; iii. 29 (Oct. 30, 1762), accusing Voltaire of malicious
intrigues against him in Switzerland; iii. 168 (Mar. 21, 1763), that
if there is to be any reconciliation, Voltaire must make first
advances; iii. 280 (Dec., 1763), described a trick played by Voltaire;
iv. 40 (Jan. 31, 1765) 64; _Corr._, v. 74 (Jan. 5, 1767), replying to
Voltaire's calumnious account of his early life; note on this subject
giving Voltaire the lie direct, iv. 150 (May 31, 1765); the _Lettre à
D'Almbert_, p. 193, etc.

[343] Bernardin St. Pierre, xii. 96. In the same sense, in Dusaulx,
_Mes Rapports avec J.J.R._, (Paris: 1798), p. 101. See also _Corr._,
iv. 254. Dec. 30, 1765. And again, iv. 276, Feb. 28, 1766, and p. 356.

[344] Dusaulx, p. 102.

[345] This part of D'Alembert's article is reproduced in Rousseau's
preface, and the whole is given at the end of the volume in M.
Auguis's edition, p. 409.

[346] Goncourt, _Femme au 18ième siècle_, p. 256. Grimm, _Corr. Lit._,
vi. 248.

[347] _Maximes sur la Comédie_, §15, etc. They were written in reply
to a plea for Comedy by Caffaro, a Jesuit father.

[348] The letter may be conveniently divided into three parts: I. pp.
1-89, II. pp. 90-145, III. pp. 146 to the end. Of course if Rousseau
in saying that tragedy leads to pity through terror, was thinking of
the famous passage in the sixth chapter of Aristotle's _Poetics_, he
was guilty of a shocking mistranslation.

[349] Some of the arguments seem drawn from Plato; see, besides the
well-known passages in the _Republic_, the _Laws_, iv. 719, and still
more directly, _Gorgias_, 502.

[350] Yet D'Alembert in his very cool and sensible reply (p. 245)
repeats the old saws, as that in _Catilina_ we learn the lesson of the
harm which may be done to the human race by the abuse of great
talents, and so forth.

[351] _Lettre à M. J.J. Rousseau_, p. 258.

[352] D'Alembert's _Lettre à J.J. Rousseau_, p. 277. Rousseau has a
passage to the same effect, that false people are always sober, in the
_Nouv. Hél., _Pt. I. xxiii. 123.

[353] Tronchin, for instance, in a letter to Rousseau, in M.
Streckeisen-Moultou's collection, i. 325.

[354] A troop of comedians had been allowed to play for a short time
in Geneva, with many protests, during the mediation of 1738. In 1766,
eight years after Rousseau's letter, the government gave permission
for the establishment of a theatre in the town. It was burnt down in
1768, and Voltaire spitefully hinted that the catastrophe was the
result of design, instigated by Rousseau (_Corr._ v. 299, April 26,
1768). The theatre was not re-erected until 1783, when the oligarchic
party regained the ascendancy and brought back with them the drama,
which the democrats in their reign would not permit.

[355] _Lettre à J.J. Rousseau_, pp. 265-271.

[356] _Oeuv._, x. 121.

[357] To Thieriot, Sept. 17, 1758. To D'Alembert, Oct. 20, 1761. _Ib._
March 19, 1761.


_Printed by_ R. & R. CLARK, LIMITED, _Edinburgh_

                       *  *  *  *  *






_All rights reserved_

_First printed in this form 1886_
_Reprinted 1888, 1891, 1896, 1900, 1905_




Conditions preceding the composition of the New Heloïsa 1

The Duke and Duchess of Luxembourg 2

Rousseau and his patrician acquaintances 4

Peaceful life at Montmorency 9

Equivocal prudence occasionally shown by Rousseau 12

His want of gratitude for commonplace service 13

Bad health, and thoughts of suicide 16

Episode of Madame Latour de Franqueville 17

Relation of the New Heloïsa to Rousseau's general doctrine 20

Action of the first part of the story 25

Contrasted with contemporary literature 25

And with contemporary manners 27

Criticism of the language and principal actors 28, 29

Popularity of the New Heloïsa 31

Its reactionary intellectual direction 33

Action of the second part 35, 36

Its influence on Goethe and others 38

Distinction between Rousseau and his school 40

Singular pictures of domesticity 42

Sumptuary details 44

The slowness of movement in the work justified 46

Exaltation of marriage 47

Equalitarian tendencies 49

Not inconsistent with social quietism 51

Compensation in the political consequences of the triumph of sentiment

Circumstances of the publication of the New Heloïsa 55

Nature of the trade in books 57

Malesherbes and the printing of Emilius 61

Rousseau's suspicions 62

The great struggle of the moment 64

Proscription of Emilius 67

Flight of the author 67



Rousseau's journey from Switzerland 69

Absence of vindictiveness 70

Arrival at Yverdun 72

Repairs to Motiers 73

Relations with Frederick the Great 74

Life at Motiers 77

Lord Marischal 79

Voltaire 81

Rousseau's letter to the Archbishop of Paris 83

Its dialectic 86

The ministers of Neuchâtel 90

Rousseau's singular costume 92

His throng of visitors 93

Lewis, prince of Würtemberg 95

Gibbon 96

Boswell 98

Corsican affairs 99

The feud at Geneva 102

Rousseau renounces his citizenship 105

The Letters from the Mountain 106

Political side 107

Consequent persecution at Motiers 107

Flight to the isle of St. Peter 108

The fifth of the _Rêveries_ 109

Proscription by the government of Berne 116

Rousseau's singular request 116

His renewed flight 117

Persuaded to seek shelter in England 118



Rousseau's reaction against perfectibility 119

Abandonment of the position of the Discourses 121

Doubtful idea of equality 121

The Social Contract, a repudiation of the historic method 124

Yet it has glimpses of relativity 127

Influence of Greek examples 129

And of Geneva 131

Impression upon Robespierre and Saint Just 132

Rousseau's scheme implied a small territory 135

Why the Social Contract made fanatics 137

Verbal quality of its propositions 138

The doctrine of public safety 143

The doctrine of the sovereignty of peoples 144

Its early phases 144

Its history in the sixteenth century 146

Hooker and Grotius 148

Locke 149

Hobbes 151

Central propositions of the Social Contract--

  1. Origin of society in compact 154
     Different conception held by the Physiocrats 156

  2. Sovereignty of the body thus constituted 158
     Difference from Hobbes and Locke 159
     The root of socialism 160
     Republican phraseology 161

  3. Attributes of sovereignty 162

  4. The law-making power 163
     A contemporary illustration 164
     Hints of confederation 166

  5. Forms of government 168
     Criticism on the common division 169
     Rousseau's preference for elective aristocracy 172

  6. Attitude of the state to religion 173
     Rousseau's view, the climax of a reaction 176
     Its effect at the French Revolution 179
     Its futility 180

Another method of approaching the philosophy of government--

  Origin of society not a compact 183

  The true reason of the submission of a minority to a majority 184

  Rousseau fails to touch actual problems 186

  The doctrine of resistance, for instance 188

  Historical illustrations 190

  Historical effect of the Social Contract in France and Germany 193

  Socialist deductions from it 194



Rousseau touched by the enthusiasm of his time 197

Contemporary excitement as to education, part of the revival of
  naturalism 199

I.--Locke, on education 202
    Difference between him and Rousseau 204
    Exhortations to mothers 205
    Importance of infantile habits 208
    Rousseau's protest against reasoning with children 209
    Criticised 209
    The opposite theory 210
    The idea of property 212
    Artificially contrived incidents 214
    Rousseau's omission of the principle of authority 215
    Connected with his neglect of the faculty of sympathy 219

II.--Rousseau's ideal of living 221
    The training that follows from it 222
    The duty of knowing a craft 223
    Social conception involved in this moral conception 226

III.--Three aims before the instructor 229
      Rousseau's omission of training for the social conscience 230
      No contemplation of society as a whole 232
      Personal interest, the foundation of the morality of Emilius 233
      The sphere and definition of the social conscience 235

IV.--The study of history 237
     Rousseau's notions upon the subject 239

V.--Ideals of life for women 241
    Rousseau's repudiation of his own principles 242
    His oriental and obscurantist position 243
    Arising from his want of faith in improvement 244
    His reactionary tendencies in this region eventually
      neutralised 248

VI.--Sum of the merits of Emilius 249
     Its influence in France and Germany 251
     In England 252



Shallow hopes entertained by the dogmatic atheists 256

The good side of the religious reaction 258

Its preservation of some parts of Christian influence 259

Earlier forms of deism 260

The deism of the Savoyard Vicar 264

The elevation of man, as well as the restoration of a divinity 265

A divinity for fair weather 268

Religious self-denial 269

The Savoyard Vicar's vital omission 270

His position towards Christianity 272

Its effectiveness as a solvent 273

Weakness of the subjective test 276

The Savoyard Vicar's deism not compatible with growing intellectual
  conviction 276

The true satisfaction of the religious emotion 277



Rousseau's English portrait 281

His reception in Paris 282

And in London 283

Hume's account of him 284

Settlement at Wootton 286

The quarrel with Hume 287

Detail of the charges against Hume 287-291

Walpole's pretended letter from Frederick 291

Baselessness of the whole delusion 292

Hume's conduct in the quarrel 293

The war of pamphlets 295

Common theory of Rousseau's madness 296

Preparatory conditions 297

Extension of disorder from the affective life to the intelligence 299

The Confessions 301

His life at Wootton 306

Flight from Derbyshire 306

And from England 308



The elder Mirabeau 309

Shelters Rousseau at Fleury 311

Rousseau at Trye 312

In Dauphiny 314

Return to Paris 314

The _Rêveries_ 315

Life in Paris 316

Bernardin de St. Pierre's account of him 317

An Easter excursion 320

Rousseau's unsociality 322

Poland and Spain 324

Withdrawal to Ermenonville 326

His death 326




The many conditions of intellectual productiveness are still hidden in
such profound obscurity that we are unable to explain why a period of
stormy moral agitation seems to be in certain natures the
indispensable antecedent of their highest creative effort. Byron is
one instance, and Rousseau is another, in which the current of
stimulating force made this rapid way from the lower to the higher
parts of character, and only expended itself after having traversed
the whole range of emotion and faculty, from their meanest, most
realistic, most personal forms of exercise, up to the summit of what
is lofty and ideal. No man was ever involved in such an odious
complication of moral maladies as beset Rousseau in the winter of
1758. Yet within three years of this miserable epoch he had completed
not only the New Heloïsa, which is the monument of his fall, but the
Social Contract, which was the most influential, and Emilius, which
was perhaps the most elevated and spiritual, of all the productions of
the prolific genius of France in the eighteenth century. A poor
light-hearted Marmontel thought that the secret of Rousseau's success
lay in the circumstance that he began to write late, and it is true
that no other author, so considerable as Rousseau, waited until the
age of fifty for the full vigour of his inspiration. No tale of years,
however, could have ripened such fruit without native strength and
incommunicable savour. Nor can the mechanical movement of those better
ordered characters which keep the balance of the world even, impart to
literature that peculiar quality, peculiar but not the finest, that
comes from experience of the black unlighted abysses of the soul.

The period of actual production was externally calm. The New Heloïsa
was completed in 1759, and published in 1761. The Social Contract was
published in the spring of 1762, and Emilius a few weeks later.
Throughout this period Rousseau was, for the last time in his life, at
peace with most of his fellows. Though he never relented from his
antipathy to the Holbachians, for the time it slumbered, until a more
real and serious persecution than any which he imputed to them,
transformed his antipathy into a gloomy frenzy.

The new friends whom he made at Montmorency were among the greatest
people in the kingdom. The Duke of Luxembourg (1702-64) was a marshal
of France, and as intimate a friend of the king as the king was
capable of having. The Maréchale de Luxembourg (1707-87) had been one
of the most beautiful, and continued to be one of the most brilliant
leaders of the last aristocratic generation that was destined to sport
on the slopes of the volcano. The former seems to have been a loyal
and homely soul; the latter, restless, imperious, penetrating,
unamiable. Their dealings with Rousseau were marked by perfect
sincerity and straightforward friendship. They gave him a convenient
apartment in a small summer lodge in the park, to which he retreated
when he cared for a change from his narrow cottage. He was a constant
guest at their table, where he met the highest personages in France.
The marshal did not disdain to pay him visits, or to walk with him, or
to discuss his private affairs. Unable as ever to shine in
conversation, yet eager to show his great friends that they had to do
with no common mortal, Rousseau bethought him of reading the New
Heloïsa aloud to them. At ten in the morning he used to wait upon the
maréchale, and there by her bedside he read the story of the love, the
sin, the repentance of Julie, the distraction of Saint Preux, the
wisdom of Wolmar, and the sage friendship of Lord Edward, in tones
which enchanted her both with his book and its author for all the rest
of the day, as all the women in France were so soon to be
enchanted.[1] This, as he expected, amply reconciled her to the
uncouthness and clumsiness of his conversation, which was at least as
maladroit and as spiritless in the presence of a duchess as it was in
presences less imposing.

One side of character is obviously tested by the way in which a man
bears himself in his relations with those of greater social
consideration. Rousseau was taxed by some of his plebeian enemies with
a most unheroic deference to his patrician friends. He had a dog whose
name was _Duc_. When he came to sit at a duke's table, he changed his
dog's name to _Turc_.[2] Again, one day in a transport of tenderness
he embraced the old marshal--the duchess embraced Rousseau ten times a
day, for the age was effusive--"Ah, monsieur le maréchal, I used to
hate the great before I knew you, and I hate them still more, since
you make me feel so strongly how easy it would be for them to have
themselves adored."[3] On another occasion he happened to be playing
at chess with the Prince of Conti, who had come to visit him in his
cottage.[4] In spite of the signs and grimaces of the attendants, he
insisted on beating the prince in a couple of games. Then he said with
respectful gravity, "Monseigneur, I honour your serene highness too
much not to beat you at chess always."[5] A few days after, the
vanquished prince sent him a present of game which Rousseau duly
accepted. The present was repeated, but this time Rousseau wrote to
Madame de Boufflers that he would receive no more, and that he loved
the prince's conversation better than his gifts.[6] He admits that
this was an ungracious proceeding, and that to refuse game "from a
prince of the blood who throws such good feeling into the present, is
not so much the delicacy of a proud man bent on preserving his
independence, as the rusticity of an unmannerly person who does not
know his place."[7] Considering the extreme virulence with which
Rousseau always resented gifts even of the most trifling kind from his
friends, one may perhaps find some inconsistency in this condemnation
of a sort of conduct to which he tenaciously clung on all other
occasions. If the fact of the donor being a prince of the blood is
allowed to modify the quality of the donation, that is hardly a
defensible position in the austere citizen of Geneva. Madame de
Boufflers,[8] the intimate friend of our sage Hume, and the yet more
intimate friend of the Prince of Conti, gave him a judicious warning
when she bade him beware of laying himself open to a charge of
affectation, lest it should obscure the brightness of his virtue and
so hinder its usefulness. "Fabius and Regulus would have accepted such
marks of esteem, without feeling in them any hurt to their
disinterestedness and frugality."[9] Perhaps there is a flutter of
self-consciousness that is not far removed from this affectation, in
the pains which Rousseau takes to tell us that after dining at the
castle, he used to return home gleefully to sup with a mason who was
his neighbour and his friend.[10] On the whole, however, and so far as
we know, Rousseau conducted himself not unworthily with these high
people. His letters to them are for the most part marked by
self-respect and a moderate graciousness, though now and again he
makes rather too much case of the difference of rank, and asserts his
independence with something too much of protestation.[11] Their
relations with him are a curious sign of the interest which the
members of the great world took in the men who were quietly preparing
the destruction both of them and their world. The Maréchale de
Luxembourg places this squalid dweller in a hovel on her estate in the
place of honour at her table, and embraces his Theresa. The Prince of
Conti pays visits of courtesy and sends game to a man whom he employs
at a few sous an hour to copy manuscript for him. The Countess of
Boufflers, in sending him the money, insists that he is to count her
his warmest friend.[12] When his dog dies, the countess writes to
sympathise with his chagrin, and the prince begs to be allowed to
replace it.[13] And when persecution and trouble and infinite
confusion came upon him, they all stood as fast by him as their own
comfort would allow. Do we not feel that there must have been in the
unhappy man, besides all the recorded pettinesses and perversities
which revolt us in him, a vein of something which touched men, and
made women devoted to him, until he splenetically drove both men and
women away from him? With Madame d'Epinay and Madame d'Houdetot, as
with the dearer and humbler patroness of his youth, we have now parted
company. But they are instantly succeeded by new devotees. And the
lovers of Rousseau, in all degrees, were not silly women led captive
by idle fancy. Madame de Boufflers was one of the most distinguished
spirits of her time. Her friendship for him was such, that his
sensuous vanity made Rousseau against all reason or probability
confound it with a warmer form of emotion, and he plumes himself in a
manner most displeasing on the victory which he won over his own
feelings on the occasion.[14] As a matter of fact he had no feelings
to conquer, any more than the supposed object of them ever bore him
any ill-will for his indifference, as in his mania of suspicion he
afterwards believed.

There was a calm about the too few years he passed at Montmorency,
which leaves us in doubt whether this mania would ever have afflicted
him, if his natural irritation had not been made intense and
irresistible by the cruel distractions that followed the publication
of Emilius. He was tolerably content with his present friends. The
simplicity of their way of dealing with him contrasted singularly, as
he thought, with the never-ending solicitudes, as importunate as they
were officious, of the patronising friends whom he had just cast
off.[15] Perhaps, too, he was soothed by the companionship of persons
whose rank may have flattered his vanity, while unlike Diderot and his
old literary friends in Paris, they entered into no competition with
him in the peculiar sphere of his own genius. Madame de Boufflers,
indeed, wrote a tragedy, but he told her gruffly enough that it was a
plagiarism from Southerne's Oroonoko.[16] That Rousseau was
thoroughly capable of this pitiful emotion of sensitive literary
jealousy is proved, if by nothing else, by his readiness to suspect
that other authors were jealous of him. No one suspects others of a
meanness of this kind unless he is capable of it himself. The
resounding success which followed the New Heloïsa and Emilius put an
end to these apprehensions. It raised him to a pedestal in popular
esteem as high as that on which Voltaire stood triumphant. That very
success unfortunately brought troubles which destroyed Rousseau's last
chance of ending his days in full reasonableness.

Meanwhile he enjoyed his final interval of moderate wholesomeness and
peace. He felt his old healthy joy in the green earth. One of the
letters commemorates his delight in the great scudding south-west
winds of February, soft forerunners of the spring, so sweet to all who
live with nature.[17] At the end of his garden was a summer-house, and
here even on wintry days he sat composing or copying. It was not music
only that he copied. He took a curious pleasure in making transcripts
of his romance, and he sold them to the Duchess of Luxembourg and
other ladies for some moderate fee.[18] Sometimes he moved from his
own lodging to the quarters in the park which his great friends had
induced him to accept. "They were charmingly neat; the furniture was
of white and blue. It was in this perfumed and delicious solitude, in
the midst of woods and streams and choirs of birds of every kind,
with the fragrance of the orange-flower poured round me, that I
composed in a continual ecstasy the fifth book of Emilius. With what
eagerness did I hasten every morning at sunrise to breathe the balmy
air! What good coffee I used to make under the porch in company with
my Theresa! The cat and the dog made up the party. That would have
sufficed me for all the days of my life, and I should never have known
weariness." And so to the assurance, so often repeated under so many
different circumstances, that here was a true heaven upon earth, where
if fates had only allowed he would have known unbroken innocence and
lasting happiness.[19]

Yet he had the wisdom to warn others against attempting a life such as
he craved for himself. As on a more memorable occasion, there came to
him a young man who would fain have been with him always, and whom he
sent away exceeding sorrowful. "The first lesson I should give you
would be not to surrender yourself to the taste you say you have for
the contemplative life. It is only an indolence of the soul, to be
condemned at any age, but especially so at yours. Man is not made to
meditate, but to act. Labour therefore in the condition of life in
which you have been placed by your family and by providence: that is
the first precept of the virtue which you wish to follow. If residence
at Paris, joined to the business you have there, seems to you
irreconcilable with virtue, do better still, and return to your own
province. Go live in the bosom of your family, serve and solace your
honest parents. There you will be truly fulfilling the duties that
virtue imposes on you."[20] This intermixture of sound sense with
unutterable perversities almost suggests a doubt how far the
perversities were sincere, until we remember that Rousseau even in the
most exalted part of his writings was careful to separate immediate
practical maxims from his theoretical principles of social

Occasionally his good sense takes so stiff and unsympathetic a form as
to fill us with a warmer dislike for him than his worst paradoxes
inspire. A correspondent had written to him about the frightful
persecutions which were being inflicted on the Protestants in some
district of France. Rousseau's letter is a masterpiece in the style of
Eliphaz the Temanite. Our brethren must surely have given some pretext
for the evil treatment to which they were subjected. One who is a
Christian must learn to suffer, and every man's conduct ought to
conform to his doctrine. Our brethren, moreover, ought to remember
that the word of God is express upon the duty of obeying the laws set
up by the prince. The writer cannot venture to run any risk by
interceding in favour of our brethren with the government. "Every one
has his own calling upon the earth; mine is to tell the public harsh
but useful truths. I have preached humanity, gentleness, tolerance, so
far as it depended upon me; 'tis no fault of mine if the world has not
listened. I have made it a rule to keep to general truths; I produce
no libels, no satires; I attack no man, but men; not an action, but a
vice."[22] The worst of the worthy sort of people, wrote Voltaire, is
that they are such cowards: a man groans over a wrong, he holds his
tongue, he takes his supper, and he forgets all about it.[23] If
Voltaire could not write like Fénelon, at least he could never talk
like Tartufe; he responded to no tale of wrong with words about his
mission, with strings of antitheses, but always with royal anger and
the spring of alert and puissant endeavour. In an hour of oppression
one would rather have been the friend of the saviour of the Calas and
of Sirven, than of the vindicator of theism.

Rousseau, however, had good sense enough in less equivocal forms than
this. For example, in another letter he remonstrates with a
correspondent for judging the rich too harshly. "You do not bear in
mind that having from their childhood contracted a thousand wants
which we are without, then to bring them down to the condition of the
poor, would be to make them more miserable than the poor. We should be
just towards all the world, even to those who are not just to us. Ah,
if we had the virtues opposed to the vices which we reproach in them,
we should soon forget that such people were in the world. One word
more. To have any right to despise the rich, we ought ourselves to be
prudent and thrifty, so as to have no need of riches."[24] In the
observance of this just precept Rousseau was to the end of his life
absolutely without fault. No one was more rigorously careful to make
his independence sure by the fewness of his wants and by minute
financial probity. This firm limitation of his material desires was
one cause of his habitual and almost invariable refusal to accept
presents, though no doubt another cause was the stubborn and
ungracious egoism which made him resent every obligation.

It is worth remembering in illustration of the peculiar susceptibility
and softness of his character where women were concerned--it was not
quite without exception--that he did not fly into a fit of rage over
their gifts, as he did over those of men. He remonstrated, but in
gentler key. "What could I do with four pullets?" he wrote to a lady
who had presented them to him. "I began by sending two of them to
people to whom I am indifferent. That made me think of the difference
there is between a present and a testimony of friendship. The first
will never find in me anything but a thankless heart; the second....
Ah, if you had only given me news of yourself without sending me
anything else, how rich and how grateful you would have made me;
instead of that the pullets are eaten, and the best thing I can do is
to forget all about them; let us say no more."[25] Rude and repellent
as this may seem, and as it is, there is a rough kind of playfulness
about it, when compared with the truculence which he was not slow to
exhibit to men. If a friend presumed to thank him for any service, he
was peremptorily rebuked for his ignorance of the true qualities of
friendship, with which thankfulness has no connection. He
ostentatiously refused to offer thanks for services himself, even to a
woman whom he always treated with so much consideration as the
Maréchale de Luxembourg. He once declared boldly that modesty is a
false virtue,[26] and though he did not go so far as to make gratitude
the subject of a corresponding formula of denunciation, he always
implied that this too is really one of the false virtues. He confessed
to Malesherbes, without the slightest contrition, that he was
ungrateful by nature.[27] To Madame d'Epinay he once went still
further, declaring that he found it hard not to hate those who had
used him well.[28] Undoubtedly he was right so far as this, that
gratitude answering to a spirit of exaction in a benefactor is no
merit; a service done in expectation of gratitude is from that fact
stripped of the quality which makes gratitude due, and is a mere piece
of egoism in altruistic disguise. Kindness in its genuine forms is a
testimony of good feeling, and conventional speech is perhaps a little
too hard, as well as too shallow and unreal, in calling the recipient
evil names because he is unable to respond to the good feeling.
Rousseau protested against a conception of friendship which makes of
what ought to be disinterested helpfulness a title to everlasting
tribute. His way of expressing this was harsh and unamiable, but it
was not without an element of uprightness and veracity. As in his
greater themes, so in his paradoxes upon private relations, he hid
wholesome ingredients of rebuke to the unquestioning acceptance of
common form. "I am well pleased," he said to a friend, "both with thee
and thy letters, except the end, where thou say'st thou art more mine
than thine own. For there thou liest, and it is not worth while to
take the trouble to _thee_ and _thou_ a man as thine intimate, only to
tell him untruths."[29] Chesterfield was for people with much
self-love of the small sort, probably a more agreeable person to meet
than Doctor Johnson, but Johnson was the more wholesome companion for
a man.

Occasionally, though not very often, he seems to have let spleen take
the place of honest surliness, and so drifted into clumsy and
ill-humoured banter, of a sort that gives a dreary shudder to one
fresh from Voltaire. "So you have chosen for yourself a tender and
virtuous mistress! I am not surprised; all mistresses are that. You
have chosen her in Paris! To find a tender and virtuous mistress in
Paris is to have not such bad luck. You have made her a promise of
marriage? My friend, you have made a blunder; for if you continue to
love, the promise is superfluous, and if you do not, then it is no
avail. You have signed it with your blood? That is all but tragic; but
I don't know that the choice of the ink in which he writes, gives
anything to the fidelity of the man who signs."[30]

We can only add that the health in which a man writes may possibly
excuse the dismal quality of what he writes, and that Rousseau was now
as always the prey of bodily pain which, as he was conscious, made him
distraught. "My sufferings are not very excruciating just now," he
wrote on a later occasion, "but they are incessant, and I am not out
of pain a single moment day or night, and this quite drives me mad. I
feel bitterly my wrong conduct and the baseness of my suspicions; but
if anything can excuse me, it is my mournful state, my loneliness,"
and so on.[31] This prolonged physical anguish, which was made more
intense towards the end of 1761 by the accidental breaking of a
surgical instrument,[32] sometimes so nearly wore his fortitude away
as to make him think of suicide.[33] In Lord Edward's famous letter on
suicide in the New Heloïsa, while denying in forcible terms the right
of ending one's days merely to escape from intolerable mental
distress, he admits that inasmuch as physical disorders only grow
incessantly worse, violent and incurable bodily pain may be an excuse
for a man making away with himself; he ceases to be a human being
before dying, and in putting an end to his life he only completes his
release from a body that embarrasses him, and contains his soul no
longer.[34] The thought was often present to him in this form.
Eighteen months later than our last date, the purpose grew very
deliberate under an aggravation of his malady, and he seriously looked
upon his own case as falling within the conditions of Lord Edward's
exception.[35] It is difficult, in the face of outspoken declarations
like these, to know what writers can be thinking of when, with respect
to the controversy on the manner of Rousseau's death, they pronounce
him incapable of such a dereliction of his own most cherished
principles as anything like self-destruction would have been.

As he sat gnawed by pain, with surgical instruments on his table, and
sombre thoughts of suicide in his head, the ray of a little episode of
romance shone in incongruously upon the scene. Two ladies in Paris,
absorbed in the New Heloïsa, like all the women of the time,
identified themselves with the Julie and the Claire of the novel that
none could resist. They wrote anonymously to the author, claiming
their identification with characters fondly supposed to be immortal.
"You will know that Julie is not dead, and that she lives to love you;
I am not this Julie, you perceive it by my style; I am only her
cousin, or rather her friend, as Claire was." The unfortunate Saint
Preux responded as gallantly as he could be expected to do in the
intervals of surgery. "You do not know that the Saint Preux to whom
you write is tormented with a cruel and incurable disorder, and that
the very letter he writes to you is often interrupted by distractions
of a very different kind."[36] He figures rather uncouthly, but the
unknown fair were not at first disabused, and one of them never was.
Rousseau was deeply suspicious. He feared to be made the victim of a
masculine pleasantry. From women he never feared anything. His letters
were found too short, too cold. He replied to the remonstrance by a
reference of extreme coarseness. His correspondents wrote from the
neighbourhood of the Palais Royal, then and for long after the haunt
of mercenary women. "You belong to your quarter more than I thought,"
he said brutally.[37] The vulgarity of the lackey was never quite
obliterated in him, even when the lackey had written Emilius. This
was too much for the imaginary Claire. "I have given myself three good
blows on my breast for the correspondence that I was silly enough to
open between you," she wrote to Julie, and she remained implacable.
The Julie, on the contrary, was faithful to the end of Rousseau's
life. She took his part vehemently in the quarrel with Hume, and wrote
in defence of his memory after he was dead. She is the most remarkable
of all the instances of that unreasoning passion which the New Heloïsa
inflamed in the breasts of the women of that age. Madame Latour
pursued Jean Jacques with a devotion that no coldness could repulse.
She only saw him three times in all, the first time not until 1766,
when he was on his way through Paris to England. The second time, in
1772, she visited him without mentioning her name, and he did not
recognise her; she brought him some music to copy, and went away
unknown. She made another attempt, announcing herself: he gave her a
frosty welcome, and then wrote to her that she was to come no more.
With a strange fidelity she bore him no grudge, but cherished his
memory and sorrowed over his misfortunes to the day of her death. He
was not an idol of very sublime quality, but we may think kindly of
the idolatress.[38] Worshippers are ever dearer to us than their
graven images. Let us turn to the romance which touched women in this
way, and helped to give a new spirit to an epoch.


As has been already said, it is the business of criticism to separate
what is accidental in form, transitory in manner, and merely local in
suggestion, from the general ideas which live under a casual and
particular literary robe. And so we have to distinguish the external
conditions under which a book like the New Heloïsa is produced, from
the living qualities in the author which gave the external conditions
their hold upon him, and turned their development in one direction
rather than another. We are only encouraging poverty of spirit, when
we insist on fixing our eyes on a few of the minutiæ of construction,
instead of patiently seizing larger impressions and more durable
meanings; when we stop at the fortuitous incidents of composition,
instead of advancing to the central elements of the writer's

These incidents in the case of the New Heloïsa we know; the sensuous
communion with nature in her summer mood in the woods of Montmorency,
the long hours and days of solitary expansion, the despairing passion
for the too sage Julie of actual experience. But the power of these
impressions from without depended on secrets of conformation within.
An adult with marked character is, consciously or unconsciously, his
own character's victim or sport. It is his whole system of impulses,
ideas, pre-occupations, that make those critical situations ready,
into which he too hastily supposes that an accident has drawn him. And
this inner system not only prepares the situation; it forces his
interpretation of the situation. Much of the interest of the New
Heloïsa springs from the fact that it was the outcome, in a sense of
which the author himself was probably unconscious, of the general
doctrine of life and conduct which he only professed to expound in
writings of graver pretension. Rousseau generally spoke of his romance
in phrases of depreciation, as the monument of a passing weakness. It
was in truth as entirely a monument of the strength, no less than the
weakness, of his whole scheme, as his weightiest piece. That it was
not so deliberately, only added to its effect. The slow and musing air
which underlies all the assumption of ardent passion, made a way for
the doctrine into sensitive natures, that would have been untouched by
the pretended ratiocination of the Discourses, and the didactic manner
of the Emilius.

Rousseau's scheme, which we must carefully remember was only present
to his own mind in an informal and fragmentary way, may be shortly
described as an attempt to rehabilitate human nature in as much of the
supposed freshness of primitive times, as the hardened crust of civil
institutions and social use might allow. In this survey, however
incoherently carried out, the mutual passion of the two sexes was the
very last that was likely to escape Rousseau's attention. Hence it was
with this that he began. The Discourses had been an attack upon the
general ordering of society, and an exposition of the mischief that
society has done to human nature at large. The romance treated one set
of emotions in human nature particularly, though it also touches the
whole emotional sphere indirectly. And this limitation of the field
was accompanied by a total revolution in the method. Polemic was
abandoned; the presence of hostility was forgotten in appearance, if
not in the heart of the writer; instead of discussion, presentation;
instead of abstract analysis of principles, concrete drawing of
persons and dramatic delineation of passion. There is, it is true, a
monstrous superfluity of ethical exposition of most doubtful value,
but then that, as we have already said, was in the manners of the
time. All people in those days with any pretensions to use their
minds, wrote and talked in a superfine ethical manner, and violently
translated the dictates of sensibility into formulas of morality. The
important thing to remark is not that this semi-didactic strain is
present, but that there is much less of it, and that it takes a far
more subordinate place, than the subject and the reigning taste would
have led us to expect. It is true, also, that Rousseau declared his
intention in the two characters of Julie and of Wolmar, who eventually
became Julie's husband, of leading to a reconciliation between the two
great opposing parties, the devout and the rationalistic; of teaching
them the lesson of reciprocal esteem, by showing the one that it is
possible to believe in a God without being a hypocrite, and the other
that it is possible to be an unbeliever without being a scoundrel.[39]
This intention, if it was really present to Rousseau's mind while he
was writing, and not an afterthought characteristically welcomed for
the sake of giving loftiness and gravity to a composition of which he
was always a little ashamed, must at any rate have been of a very pale
kind. It would hardly have occurred to a critic, unless Rousseau had
so emphatically pointed it out, that such a design had presided over
the composition, and contemporary readers saw nothing of it. In the
first part of the story, which is wholly passionate, it is certainly
not visible, and in the second part neither of the two contending
factions was likely to learn any lesson with respect to the other.
Churchmen would have insisted that Wolmar was really a Christian
dressed up as an atheist, and philosophers would hardly have accepted
Julie as a type of the too believing people who broke Calas on the
wheel, and cut off La Barre's head.

French critics tell us that no one now reads the New Heloïsa in France
except deliberate students of the works of Rousseau, and certainly few
in this generation read it in our own country.[40] The action is very
slight, and the play of motives very simple, when contrasted with the
ingenuity of invention, the elaborate subtleties of psychological
analysis, the power of rapid change from one perturbing incident or
excited humour to another, which mark the modern writer of sentimental
fiction. As the title warns us, it is a story of a youthful tutor and
a too fair disciple, straying away from the lessons of calm philosophy
into the heated places of passion. The high pride of Julie's father
forbade all hope of their union, and in very desperation the unhappy
pair lost the self-control of virtue, and threw themselves into the
pit that lies so ready to our feet. Remorse followed with quick step,
for Julie had with her purity lost none of the other lovelinesses of a
dutiful character. Her lover was hurried away from the country by the
generous solicitude of an English nobleman, one of the bravest,
tenderest, and best of men. Julie, left undisturbed by her lover's
presence, stricken with affliction at the death of a sweet and
affectionate mother, and pressed by the importunities of a father whom
she dearly loved, in spite of all the disasters which his will had
brought upon her, at length consented to marry a foreign baron from
some northern court. Wolmar was much older than she was; a devotee of
calm reason, without a system and without prejudices, benevolent,
orderly, above all things judicious. The lover meditated suicide, from
which he was only diverted by the arguments of Lord Edward, who did
more than argue; he hurried the forlorn man on board the ship of
Admiral Anson, then just starting for his famous voyage round the
world. And this marks the end of the first episode.

Rousseau always urged that his story was dangerous for young girls,
and maintained that Richardson was grievously mistaken in supposing
that they could be instructed by romances. It was like setting fire to
the house, he said, for the sake of making the pumps play.[41] As he
admitted so much, he is not open to attack on this side, except from
those who hold the theory that no books ought to be written which may
not prudently be put into the hands of the young,--a puerile and
contemptible doctrine that must emasculate all literature and all art,
by excluding the most interesting of human relations and the most
powerful of human passions. There is not a single composition of the
first rank outside of science, from the Bible downwards, that could
undergo the test. The most useful standard for measuring the
significance of a book in this respect is found in the manners of the
time, and the prevailing tone of contemporary literature. In trying to
appreciate the meaning of the New Heloïsa and its popularity, it is
well to think of it as a delineation of love, in connection not only
with such a book as the Pucelle, where there is at least wit, but with
a story like Duclos's, which all ladies both read and were not in the
least ashamed to acknowledge that they had read; or still worse, such
an abomination as Diderot's first stories; or a story like Laclos's,
which came a generation later, and with its infinite briskness and
devilry carried the tradition of artistic impurity to as vigorous a
manifestation as it is capable of reaching.[42] To a generation whose
literature is as pure as the best English, American, and German
literature is in the present day, the New Heloïsa might without doubt
be corrupting. To the people who read Crébillon and the Pucelle, it
was without doubt elevating.

The case is just as strong if we turn from books to manners. Without
looking beyond the circle of names that occur in Rousseau's own
history, we see how deep the depravity had become. Madame d'Epinay's
gallant sat at table with the husband, and the husband was perfectly
aware of the relations between them. M. d'Epinay had notorious
relations with two public women, and was not ashamed to refer to them
in the presence of his wife, and even to seek her sympathy on an
occasion when one of them was in some trouble. Not only this, but
husband and lover used to pursue their debaucheries in the town
together in jovial comradeship. An opera dancer presided at the table
of a patrician abbé in his country house, and he passed weeks in her
house in the town. As for shame, says Barbier on one occasion, "'tis
true the king has a mistress, but who has not?--except the Duke of
Orleans; he has withdrawn to Ste. Geneviève, and is thoroughly
despised in consequence, and rightly."[43] Reeking disorder such as
all this illustrates, made the passion of the two imaginary lovers of
the fair lake seem like a breath from the garden of Eden. One virtue
was lost in that simple paradise, but even that loss was followed by
circumstances of mental pain and far circling distress, which banished
the sin into a secondary place; and what remained to strike the
imagination of the time were delightful pictures of fast union between
two enchanting women, of the patience and compassionateness of a grave
mother, of the chivalrous warmth and helpfulness of a loyal friend.
Any one anxious to pick out sensual strokes and turns of grossness
could make a small collection of such defilements from the New Heloïsa
without any difficulty. They were in Rousseau's character, and so they
came out in his work. Saint Preux afflicts us with touches of this
kind, just as we are afflicted with similar touches in the
Confessions. They were not noticed at that day, when people's ears did
not affect to be any chaster than the rest of them.

A historian of opinion is concerned with the general effect that was
actually produced by a remarkable book, and with the causes that
produced it. It is not his easy task to produce a demonstration that
if the readers had all been as wise and as virtuous as the moralist
might desire them to be, or if they had all been discriminating and
scientific critics, not this, but a very different impression would
have followed. Today we may wonder at the effect of the New Heloïsa.
A long story told in letters has grown to be a form incomprehensible
and intolerable to us. We find Richardson hard to be borne, and he put
far greater vivacity and wider variety into his letters than Rousseau
did, though he was not any less diffuse, and he abounds in repetitions
as Rousseau does not. Rousseau was absolutely without humour; that
belongs to the keenly observant natures, and to those who love men in
the concrete, not only humanity in the abstract. The pleasantries of
Julie's cousin, for instance, are heavy and misplaced. Thus the whole
book is in one key, without the dramatic changes of Richardson, too
few even as those are. And who now can endure that antique fashion of
apostrophising men and women, hot with passion and eager with all
active impulses, in oblique terms of abstract qualities, as if their
passion and their activity were only the inconsiderable embodiment of
fine general ideas? We have not a single thrill, when Saint Preux
being led into the chamber where his mistress is supposed to lie
dying, murmurs passionately, "What shall I now see in the same place
of refuge where once all breathed the ecstasy that intoxicated my
soul, in this same object who both caused and shared my transports!
the image of death, virtue unhappy, beauty expiring!"[44] This
rhetorical artificiality of phrase, so repulsive to the more realistic
taste of a later age, was as natural then as that facility of shedding
tears, which appears so deeply incredible a performance to a
generation that has lost that particular fashion of sensibility,
without realising for the honour of its ancestors the physiological
truth of the power of the will over the secretions.

The characters seem as stiff as some of the language, to us who are
accustomed to an Asiatic luxuriousness of delineation. Yet the New
Heloïsa was nothing less than the beginning of that fresh, full,
highly-coloured style which has now taught us to find so little charm
in the source and original of it. Saint Preux is a personage whom no
widest charity, literary, philosophic, or Christian, can make
endurable. Egoism is made thrice disgusting by a ceaseless redundance
of fine phrases. The exaggerated conceits of love in our old poets
turn graciously on the lover's eagerness to offer every sacrifice at
the feet of his mistress. Even Werther, stricken creature as he was,
yet had the stoutness to blow his brains out, rather than be the
instrument of surrounding the life of his beloved with snares. Saint
Preux's egoism is unbrightened by a single ray of tender abnegation,
or a single touch of the sweet humility of devoted passion. The slave
of his sensations, he has no care beyond their gratification. With
some rotund nothing on his lips about virtue being the only path to
happiness, his heart burns with sickly desire. He writes first like a
pedagogue infected by some cantharidean philter, and then like a
pedagogue without the philter, and that is the worse of the two.
Lovelace and the Count of Valmont are manly and hopeful characters in
comparison. Werther, again, at least represents a principle of
rebellion, in the midst of all his self-centred despair, and he
retains strength enough to know that his weakness is shameful. His
despair, moreover, is deeply coloured with repulsed social
ambition.[45] He feels the world about him. His French prototype, on
the contrary, represents nothing but the unalloyed selfishness of a
sensual love for which there is no universe outside of its own fevered

Julie is much less displeasing, partly perhaps for the reason that she
belongs to the less displeasing sex. At least, she preserves
fortitude, self-control, and profound considerateness for others. At a
certain point her firmness even moves a measure of enthusiasm. If the
New Heloïsa could be said to have any moral intention, it is here
where women learn from the example of Julie's energetic return to
duty, the possibility and the satisfaction of bending character back
to comeliness and honour. Excellent as this is from a moral point of
view, the reader may wish that Julie had been less of a preacher, as
well as less of a sinner. And even as sinner, she would have been more
readily forgiven if she had been less deliberate. A maiden who
sacrifices her virtue in order that the visible consequences may force
her parents to consent to a marriage, is too strategical to be
perfectly touching. As was said by the cleverest, though not the
greatest, of all the women whose youth was fascinated by Rousseau,
when one has renounced the charms of virtue, it is at least well to
have all the charms that entire surrender of heart can bestow.[46] In
spite of this, however, Julie struck the imagination of the time, and
struck it in a way that was thoroughly wholesome. The type taught men
some respect for the dignity of women, and it taught women a firmer
respect for themselves. It is useless, even if it be possible, to
present an example too lofty for the comprehension of an age. At this
moment the most brilliant genius in the country was filling France
with impish merriment at the expense of the greatest heroine that
France had then to boast. In such an atmosphere Julie had almost the
halo of saintliness.

We may say all we choose about the inconsistency, the excess of
preaching, the excess of prudence, in the character of Julie. It was
said pungently enough by the wits of the time.[47] Nothing that could
be said on all this affected the fact, that the women between 1760
and the Revolution were intoxicated by Rousseau's creation to such a
pitch that they would pay any price for a glass out of which Rousseau
had drunk, they would kiss a scrap of paper that contained a piece of
his handwriting, and vow that no woman of true sensibility could
hesitate to consecrate her life to him, if she were only certain to be
rewarded by his attachment.[48] The booksellers were unable to meet
the demand. The book was let out at the rate of twelve sous a volume,
and the volume could not be detained beyond an hour. All classes
shared the excitement, courtiers, soldiers, lawyers, and
bourgeois.[49] Stories were told of fine ladies, dressed for the ball,
who took the book up for half an hour until the time should come for
starting; they read until midnight, and when informed that the
carriage waited, answered not a word, and when reminded by and by that
it was two o'clock, still read on, and then at four, having ordered
the horses to be taken out of the carriage, disrobed, went to bed, and
passed the remainder of the night in reading. In Germany the effect
was just as astonishing. Kant only once in his life failed to take his
afternoon walk, and this unexampled omission was due to the witchery
of the New Heloïsa. Gallantry was succeeded by passion, expansion,
exaltation; moods far more dangerous for society, as all enthusiasm is
dangerous, but also far higher and pregnant with better hopes for
character. To move the sympathetic faculties is the first step towards
kindling all the other energies which make life wiser and more
fruitful. It is especially worth noticing that nothing in the
character of Julie concentrates this outburst of sympathy in
subjective broodings. Julie is the representative of one recalled to
the straight path by practical, wholesome, objective sympathy for
others, not of one expiring in unsatisfied yearnings for the sympathy
of others for herself, and in moonstruck subjective aspirations. The
women who wept over her romance read in it the lesson of duty, not of
whimpering introspection. The danger lay in the mischievous
intellectual direction which Rousseau imparted to this effusion.

The stir which the Julie communicated to the affections in so many
ways, marked progress, but in all the elements of reason she was the
most perilous of reactionaries. So hard it is with the human mind,
constituted as it is, to march forward a space further to the light,
without making some fresh swerve obliquely towards old darkness. The
great effusion of natural sentiment was in the air before the New
Heloïsa appeared, to condense and turn it into definite channels. One
beautiful character, Vauven argues (1715-1747), had begun to teach the
culture of emotional instinct in some sayings of exquisite sweetness
and moderation, as that "Great thoughts come from the heart." But he
came too soon, and, alas for us all, he died young, and he made no
mark. Moderation never can make a mark in the epochs when men are
beginning to feel the urgent spirit of a new time. Diderot strove with
more powerful efforts, in the midst of all his herculean labours for
the acquisition and ordering of knowledge, in the same direction
towards the great outer world of nature, and towards the great inner
world of nature in the human breast. His criticisms on the paintings
of each year, mediocre as the paintings were, are admirable even now
for their richness and freshness. If Diderot had been endowed with
emotional tenacity, as he was with tenacity of understanding and of
purpose, the student of the eighteenth century would probably have
been spared the not perfectly agreeable task of threading a way along
the sinuosities of the character and work of Rousseau. But Rousseau
had what Diderot lacked--sustained ecstatic moods, and fervid trances;
his literary gesture was so commanding, his apparel so glistening, his
voice so rich in long-drawn notes of plangent vibration. His words
are the words of a prophet; a prophet, it is understood, who had lived
in Paris, and belonged to the eighteenth century, and wrote in French
instead of Hebrew. The mischief of his work lay in this, that he
raised feeling, now passionate, now quietest, into the supreme place
which it was to occupy alone, and not on an equal throne and in equal
alliance with understanding. Instead of supplementing reason, he
placed emotion as its substitute. And he made this evil doctrine come
from the lips of a fictitious character, who stimulated fancy and
fascinated imagination. Voltaire laughed at the _baisers âcres_ of
Madame de Wolmar, and declared that a criticism of the Marquis of
Ximénès had crushed the wretched romance.[50] But Madame de Wolmar was
so far from crushed, that she turned the flood of feeling which her
own charms, passion, remorse, and conversion had raised, in a
direction that Voltaire abhorred, and abhorred in vain.

It is after the marriage of Julie to Wolmar that the action of the
story takes the turn which sensible men like Voltaire found laughable.
Saint Preux is absent with Admiral Anson for some years. On his return
to Europe he is speedily invited by the sage Wolmar, who knows his
past history perfectly well, to pay them a visit. They all meet with
leapings on the neck and hearty kisses, the unprejudiced Wolmar
preserving an open, serene, and smiling air. He takes his young friend
to a chamber, which is to be reserved for him and for him only. In a
few days he takes an opportunity of visiting some distant property,
leaving his wife and Saint Preux together, with the sublime of
magnanimity. At the same time he confides to Claire his intention of
entrusting to Saint Preux the education of his children. All goes
perfectly well, and the household presents a picture of contentment,
prosperity, moderation, affection, and evenly diffused happiness,
which in spite of the disagreeableness of the situation is even now
extremely charming. There is only one cloud. Julie is devoured by a
source of hidden chagrin. Her husband, "so sage, so reasonable, so far
from every kind of vice, so little under the influence of human
passions, is without the only belief that makes virtue precious, and
in the innocence of an irreproachable life he carries at the bottom of
his heart the frightful peace of the wicked."[51] He is an atheist.
Julie is now a pietest, locking herself for hours in her chambers,
spending days in self-examination and prayer, constantly reading the
pages of the good Fénelon.[52] "I fear," she writes to Saint Preux,
"that you do not gain all you might from religion in the conduct of
your life, and that philosophic pride disdains the simplicity of the
Christian. You believe prayers to be of scanty service. That is not,
you know, the doctrine of Saint Paul, nor what our Church professes.
We are free, it is true, but we are ignorant, feeble, prone to ill.
And whence should light and force come, if not from him who is their
very well-spring?... Let us be humble, to be sage; let us see our
weakness, and we shall be strong."[53] This was the opening of the
deistical reaction; it was thus, associated with everything that
struck imagination and moved the sentiment of his readers, that
Rousseau brought back those sophistical conclusions which Pascal had
drawn from premisses of dark profound truth, and that enervating
displacement of reason by celestial contemplation, which Fénelon had
once made beautiful by the persuasion of virtuous example. He was
justified in saying, as he afterwards did, that there was nothing in
the Savoyard Vicar's Profession of Faith which was not to be found in
the letters of Julie. These were the effective preparations for that
more famous manifesto; they surrounded belief with all the attractions
of an interesting and sympathetic preacher, and set it to a harmony of
circumstance that touched softer fibres.

For, curiously enough, while the first half of the romance is a scene
of disorderly passion, the second is the glorification of the family.
A modern writer of genius has inveighed with whimsical bitterness
against the character of Wolmar,--supposed, we may notice in passing,
to be partially drawn from D'Holbach,--a man performing so long an
experiment on these two souls, with the terrible curiosity of a
surgeon engaged in vivisection.[54] It was, however, much less
difficult for contemporaries than it is for us to accept so
unwholesome and prurient a situation. They forgot all the evil that
was in it, in the charm of the account of Wolmar's active, peaceful,
frugal, sunny household. The influence of this was immense.[55] It may
be that the overstrained scene where Saint Preux waits for Julie in
her room, suggested the far lovelier passage of Faust in the chamber
of the hapless Margaret. But we may, at least, be sure that Werther
(1774) would not have found Charlotte cutting bread and butter, if
Saint Preux had not gone to see Julie take cream and cakes with her
children and her female servants. And perhaps the other and nobler
Charlotte of the _Wahlverwandtschaften_ (1809) would not have detained
us so long with her moss hut, her terrace, her park prospect, if Julie
had not had her elysium, where the sweet freshness of the air, the
cool shadows, the shining verdure, flowers diffusing fragrance and
colour, water running with soft whisper, and the song of a thousand
birds, reminded the returned traveller of Tinian and Juan Fernandez.
There is an animation, a variety, an accuracy, a realistic brightness
in this picture, which will always make it enchanting, even to those
who cannot make their way through any other letter in the New
Heloïsa.[56] Such qualities place it as an idyllic piece far above
such pieces in Goethe's two famous romances. They have a clearness
and spontaneous freshness which are not among the bountiful gifts of
Goethe. There are other admirable landscapes in the New Heloïsa,
though not too many of them, and the minute and careful way in which
Rousseau made their features real to himself, is accidentally shown in
his urgent prayer for exactitude in the engraving of the striking
scene where Saint Preux and Julie visit the monuments of their old
love for one another.[57] "I have traversed all Rousseau's ground with
the Heloïsa before me," said Byron, "and am struck to a degree I
cannot express, with the force and accuracy of his descriptions and
the beauty of their reality."[58] They were memories made true by long
dreaming, by endless brooding. The painter lived with these scenes
ever present to the inner eye. They were his real world, of which the
tamer world of meadow and woodland actually around him only gave
suggestion. He thought of the green steeps, the rocks, the mountain
pines, the waters of the lake, "the populous solitude of bees and
birds," as of some divine presence, too sublime for personality. And
they were always benign, standing in relief with the malignity or
folly of the hurtful insect, Man. He was never a manichæan towards
nature. To him she was all good and bounteous. The demon forces that
so fascinated Byron were to Rousseau invisible. These were the
compositions that presently inspired the landscapes of _Paul and
Virginia_ (1788), of _Atala_ and _René_ (1801), and of _Obermann_
(1804), as well as those punier imitators who resemble their masters
as the hymns of a methodist negro resemble the psalms of David. They
were the outcome of eager and spontaneous feeling for nature, and not
the mere hackneyed common-form and inflated description of the
literary pastoral.[59]

This leads to another great and important distinction to be drawn
between Rousseau and the school whom in other respects he inspired.
The admirable Sainte Beuve perplexes one by his strange remark, that
the union of the poetry of the family and the hearth with the poetry
of nature is essentially wanting to Rousseau.[60] It only shows that
the great critic had for the moment forgotten the whole of the second
part of the New Heloïsa, and his failure to identify Cowper's allusion
to the _matinée à l'anglaise_ certainly proves that he had at any rate
forgotten one of the most striking and delicious scenes of the hearth
in French literature.[61] The tendency to read Rousseau only in the
Byronic sense is one of those foregone conclusions which are
constantly tempting the critic to travel out of his record. Rousseau
assuredly had a Byronic side, but he is just as often a Cowper done
into splendid prose. His pictures are full of social animation and
domestic order. He had exalted the simplicity of the savage state in
his Discourses, but when he came to constitute an ideal life, he found
it in a household that was more, and not less, systematically
disciplined than those of the common society around him. The paradise
in which his Julie moved with Wolmar and Saint Preux, was no more and
no less than an establishment of the best kind of the rural
middle-class, frugal, decorous, wholesome, tranquilly austere. No most
sentimental savage could have found it endurable, or could himself
without profound transformation of his manners have been endured in
it. The New Heloïsa ends by exalting respectability, and putting the
spirit of insurrection to shame. Self-control, not revolt, is its last

This is what separates Rousseau here and throughout from Sénancour,
Byron, and the rest. He consummates the triumph of will, while their
reigning mood is grave or reckless protest against impotence of will,
the little worth of common aims, the fretting triviality of common
rules. Franklin or Cobbett might have gloried in the regularity of
Madame de Wolmar's establishment. The employment of the day was marked
out with precision. By artful adjustment of pursuits, it was contrived
that the men-servants should be kept apart from the maid-servants,
except at their repasts. The women, namely, a cook, a housemaid, and a
nurse, found their pastime in rambles with their mistress and her
children, and lived mainly with them. The men were amused by games for
which their master made regulated provision, now for summer, now for
winter, offering prizes of a useful kind for prowess and adroitness.
Often on a Sunday night all the household met in an ample chamber,
and passed the evening in dancing. When Saint Preux inquired whether
this was not a rather singular infraction of puritan rule, Julie
wisely answered that pure morality is so loaded with severe duties,
that if you add to them the further burden of indifferent forms, it
must always be at the cost of the essential.[62] The servants were
taken from the country, never from the town. They entered the
household young, were gradually trained, and never went away except to
establish themselves.

The vulgar and obvious criticism on all this is that it is utopian,
that such households do not generally exist, because neither masters
nor servants possess the qualities needed to maintain these relations
of unbroken order and friendliness. Perhaps not; and masters and
servants will be more and more removed from the possession of such
qualities, and their relations further distant from such order and
friendliness, if writers cease to press the beauty and serviceableness
of a domesticity that is at present only possible in a few rare cases,
or to insist on the ugliness, the waste of peace, the deterioration of
character, that are the results of our present system. Undoubtedly it
is much easier for Rousseau to draw his picture of semi-patriarchal
felicity, than for the rest of us to realise it. It was his function
to press ideals of sweeter life on his contemporaries, and they may be
counted fortunate in having a writer who could fulfil this function
with Rousseau's peculiar force of masterly persuasion. His scornful
diatribes against the domestic police of great houses, and the
essential inhumanity of the ordinary household relations, are both
excellent and of permanent interest. There is the full breath of a new
humaneness in them. They were the right way of attacking the
decrepitude of feudal luxury and insolence, and its imitation among
the great farmers-general. This criticism of the conditions of
domestic service marks a beginning of true democracy, as distinguished
from the mere pulverisation of aristocracy. It rests on the claim of
the common people to an equal consideration, as equally useful and
equally capable of virtue and vice; and it implies the essential
priority of social over political reform.

The story abounds in sumptuary detail. The table partakes of the
general plenty, but this plenty is not ruinous. The senses are
gratified without daintiness. The food is common, but excellent of its
kind. The service is simple, yet exquisite. All that is mere show, all
that depends on vulgar opinion, all fine and elaborate dishes whose
value comes of their rarity, and whose names you must know before
finding any goodness in them, are banished without recall. Even in
such delicacies as they permit themselves, our friends abstain every
day from certain things which are reserved for feasts on special
occasions, and which are thus made more delightful without being more
costly. What do you suppose these delicacies are? Rare game, or fish
from the sea, or dainties from abroad? Better than all that; some
delicious vegetable of the district, one of the savoury things that
grow in our garden, some fish from the lake dressed in a peculiar way,
some cheese from our mountains. The service is modest and rustic, but
clean and smiling. Neither gold-laced liveries in sight of which you
die of hunger, nor tall crystals laden with flowers for your only
dessert, here take the place of honest dishes. Here people have not
the art of nourishing the stomach through the eyes, but they know how
to add grace to good cheer, to eat heartily without inconvenience, to
drink merrily without losing reason, to sit long at table without
weariness, and always to rise from it without disgust.[63]

One singularity in this ideal household was the avoidance of those
middle exchanges between production and consumption, which enrich the
shopkeeper but impoverish his customers. Not one of these exchanges is
made without loss, and the multiplication of these losses would weaken
even a man of fortune. Wolmar seeks those real exchanges in which the
convenience of each party to the bargain serves as profit for both.
Thus the wool is sent to the factories, from which they receive cloth
in exchange; wine, oil, and bread are produced in the house; the
butcher pays himself in live cattle; the grocer receives grain in
return for his goods; the wages of the labourers and the
house-servants are derived from the produce of the land which they
render valuable.[64] It was reserved for Fourier, Cabet, and the rest,
to carry to its highest point this confusion of what is so
fascinating in a book with what is practicable in society.

The expatiation on the loveliness of a well-ordered interior may
strike the impatient modern as somewhat long, and the movement as very
slow, just as people complain of the same things in Goethe's
_Wahlverwandtschaften_. Such complaint only proves inability, which is
or is not justifiable, to seize the spirit of the writer. The
expatiation was long and the movement slow, because Rousseau was full
of his thoughts; they were a deep and glowing part of himself, and did
not merely skim swiftly and lightly through his mind. Anybody who
takes the trouble may find out the difference between this expression
of long mental brooding, and a merely elaborated diction.[65] The
length is an essential part of the matter. The whole work is the
reflection of a series of slow inner processes, the many careful
weavings of a lonely and miserable man's dreams. And Julie expressed
the spirit and the joy of these dreams when she wrote, "People are
only happy before they are happy. Man, so eager and so feeble, made to
desire all and obtain little, has received from heaven a consoling
force which brings all that he desires close to him, which subjects it
to his imagination, which makes it sensible and present before him,
which delivers it over to him. The land of chimera is the only one in
this world that is worth dwelling in, and such is the nothingness of
the human lot, that except the being who exists in and by himself,
there is nothing beautiful except that which does not exist."[66]

Closely connected with the vigorous attempt to fascinate his public
with the charm of a serene, joyful, and ordered house, is the
restoration of marriage in the New Heloïsa to a rank among high and
honourable obligations, and its representation as the best support of
an equable life of right conduct and fruitful harmonious emotion.
Rousseau even invested it with the mysterious dignity as of some
natural sacrament. "This chaste knot of nature is subject neither to
the sovereign power nor to paternal authority," he cried, "but only to
the authority of the common Father." And he pointed his remark by a
bitter allusion to a celebrated case in which a great house had
prevailed on the courts to annul the marriage of an elder son with a
young actress, though her character was excellent, and though she had
befriended him when he was abandoned by everybody else.[67] This was
one of the countless democratic thrusts in the book. In the case of
its heroine, however, the author associated the sanctity of marriage
not only with equality but with religion. We may imagine the spleen
with which the philosophers, with both their hatred of the faith, and
their light esteem of marriage bonds, read Julie's eloquent account of
her emotions at the moment of her union with Wolmar. "I seemed to
behold the organ of Providence and to hear the voice of God, as the
minister gravely pronounced the words of the holy service. The purity,
the dignity, the sanctity of marriage, so vividly set forth in the
words of scripture; its chaste and sublime duties, so important to the
happiness, order, and peace of the human race, so sweet to fulfil even
for their own sake--all this made such an impression on me that I
seemed to feel within my breast a sudden revolution. An unknown power
seemed all at once to arrest the disorder of my affections, and to
restore them to accordance with the law of duty and of nature. The
eternal eye that sees everything, I said to myself, now reads to the
depth of my heart."[68] She has all the well-known fervour of the
proselyte, and never wearies of extolling the peace of the wedded
state. Love is no essential to its perfection. "Worth, virtue, a
certain accord not so much in condition and age as in character and
temper, are enough between husband and wife; and this does not prevent
the growth from such a union of a very tender attachment, which is
none the less sweet for not being exactly love, and is all the more
lasting."[69] Years after, when Saint Preux has returned and is
settled in the household, she even tries to persuade him to imitate
her example, and find contentment in marriage with her cousin. The
earnestness with which she presses the point, the very sensible but
not very delicate references to the hygienic drawbacks of celibacy,
and the fact that the cousin whom she would fain have him marry, had
complaisantly assisted them in their past loves, naturally drew the
fire of Rousseau's critical enemies.

Such matters did not affect the general enthusiasm. When people are
weary of a certain way of surveying life, and have their faces eagerly
set in some new direction, they read in a book what it pleases them to
read; they assimilate as much as falls in with their dominant mood,
and the rest passes away unseen. The French public were bewitched by
Julie, and were no more capable of criticising her than Julie was
capable of criticising Saint Preux in the height of her passion for
him. When we say that Rousseau was the author of this movement, all we
mean is that his book and its chief personage awoke emotion to
self-consciousness, gave it a dialect, communicated an impulse in
favour of social order, and then very calamitously at the same moment
divorced it from the fundamental conditions of progress, by divorcing
it from disciplined intelligence and scientific reason.

Apart from the general tendency of the New Heloïsa in numberless
indirect ways to bring the manners of the great into contempt, by the
presentation of the happiness of a simple and worthy life, thrifty,
self-sufficing, and homely, there is one direct protest of singular
eloquence and gravity. Julie's father is deeply revolted at the bare
notion of marrying his daughter to a teacher. Rousseau puts his
vigorous remonstrance against pride of birth into the mouth of an
English nobleman. This is perhaps an infelicitous piece of
prosopopoeia, but it is interesting as illustrative of the idea of
England in the eighteenth century as the home of stout-hearted
freedom. We may quote one piece from the numerous bits of very
straightforward speaking in which our representative expressed his
mind as to the significance of birth. "My friend has nobility," cried
Lord Edward, "not written in ink on mouldering parchments, but graven
in his heart in characters that can never be effaced. For my own part,
by God, I should be sorry to have no other proof of my merit but that
of a man who has been in his grave these five hundred years. If you
know the English nobility, you know that it is the most enlightened,
the best informed, the wisest, the bravest in Europe. That being so, I
don't care to ask whether it is the oldest or not. We are not, it is
true, the slaves of the prince, but his friends; nor the tyrants of
the people, but their leaders. We hold the balance true between
people, and monarch. Our first duty is towards the nation, our second
towards him who governs; it is not his will but his right that we
consider.... We suffer no one in the land to say _God and my sword_,
nor more than this, _God and my right_."[70] All this was only
putting Montesquieu into heroics, it is true, but a great many people
read the romance who were not likely to read the graver book. And
there was a wide difference between the calm statement of a number of
political propositions about government, and their transformation into
dramatic invective against the arrogance of all social inequality that
does not correspond with inequalities of worth.

There is no contradiction between this and the social quietism of
other parts of the book. Moral considerations and the paramount place
that they hold in Rousseau's way of thinking, explain at once his
contempt for the artificial privileges and assumptions of high rank,
and his contempt for anything like discontent with the conditions of
humble rank. Simplicity of life was his ideal. He wishes us to despise
both those who have departed from it, and those who would depart from
it if they could. So Julie does her best to make the lot of the
peasants as happy as it is capable of being made, without ever helping
them to change it for another. She teaches them to respect their
natural condition in respecting themselves. Her prime maxim is to
discourage change of station and calling, but above all to dissuade
the villager, whose life is the happiest of all, from leaving the true
pleasures of his natural career for the fever and corruption of
towns.[71] Presently a recollection of the sombre things that he had
seen in his rambles through France crossed Rousseau's pastoral
visions, and he admitted that there were some lands in which the
publican devours the fruits of the earth; where the misery that covers
the fields, the bitter greed of some grasping farmer, the inflexible
rigour of an inhuman master, take something from the charm of his
rural scenes. "Worn-out horses ready to expire under the blows they
receive, wretched peasants attenuated by hunger, broken by weariness,
clad in rags, hamlets all in ruins--these things offer a mournful
spectacle to the eye: one is almost sorry to be a man, as we think of
the unhappy creatures on whose blood we have to feed."[72]

Yet there is no hint in the New Heloïsa of the socialism which Morelly
and Mably flung themselves upon, as the remedy for all these desperate
horrors. Property, in every page of the New Heloïsa, is held in full
respect; the master has the honourable burden of patriarchal duty; the
servant the not less honourable burden of industry and faithfulness;
disobedience or vice is promptly punished with paternal rigour and
more than paternal inflexibility. The insurrectionary quality and
effect of Rousseau's work lay in no direct preaching or vehement
denunciation of the abuses that filled France with cruelty on the one
hand and sodden misery on the other. It lay in pictures of a social
state in which abuses and cruelty cannot exist, nor any miseries save
those which are inseparable from humanity. The contrast between the
sober, cheerful, prosperous scenes of romance, and the dreariness of
the reality of the field life of France,--this was the element that
filled generous souls with an intoxicating transport.

Rousseau's way of dealing with the portentous questions that lay about
that tragic scene of deserted fields, ruined hamlets, tottering
brutes, and hunger-stricken men, may be gathered from one of the many
traits in Julie which endeared her to that generation, and might
endear her even to our own if it only knew her. Wolmar's house was
near a great high-road, and so was daily haunted by beggars. Not one
of these was allowed to go empty away. And Julie had as many excellent
reasons to give for her charity, as if she had been one of the
philosophers of whom she thought so surpassingly ill. If you look at
mendicancy merely as a trade, what is the harm of a calling whose end
is to nourish feelings of humanity and brotherly love? From the point
of view of talent, why should I not pay the eloquence of a beggar who
stirs my pity, as highly as that of a player who makes me shed tears
over imaginary sorrows? If the great number of beggars is burdensome
to the state, of how many other professions that people encourage, may
you not say the same? How can I be sure that the man to whom I give
alms is not an honest soul, whom I may save from perishing? In short,
whatever we may think of the poor wretches, if we owe nothing to the
beggar, at least we owe it to ourselves to pay honour to suffering
humanity or to its image.[73] Nothing could be more admirably
illustrative of the author's confidence that the first thing for us to
do is to satisfy our fine feelings, and that then all the rest shall
be added unto us. The doctrine spread so far, that Necker,--a sort of
Julie in a frock-coat, who had never fallen, the incarnation of this
doctrine on the great stage of affairs,--was hailed to power to ward
off the bankruptcy of the state by means of a good heart and moral
sentences, while Turgot with science and firmness for his resources
was driven away as an economist and a philosopher.

At a first glance, it may seem that there was compensation for the
triumph of sentiment over reason, and that if France was ruined by the
dreams in which Rousseau encouraged the nation to exult, she was saved
by the fervour and resoluteness of the aspirations with which he
filled the most generous of her children. No wide movement, we may be
sure, is thoroughly understood until we have mastered both its
material and its ideal sides. Materially, Rousseau's work was
inevitably fraught with confusion because in this sphere not to be
scientific, not to be careful in tracing effects to their true causes,
is to be without any security that the causes with which we try to
deal will lead to the effects that we desire. A Roman statesman who
had gone to the Sermon on the Mount for a method of staying the
economic ruin of the empire, its thinning population, its decreasing
capital, would obviously have found nothing of what he sought. But the
moral nature of man is redeemed by teaching that may have no bearing
on economics, or even a bearing purely mischievous, and which has to
be corrected by teaching that probably goes equally far in the
contrary direction of moral mischief. In the ideal sphere, the
processes are very complex. In measuring a man's influence within it
we have to balance. Rousseau's action was undoubtedly excellent in
leading men and women to desire simple lives, and a more harmonious
social order. Was this eminent benefit more than counterbalanced by
the eminent disadvantage of giving a reactionary intellectual
direction? By commending irrational retrogression from active use of
the understanding back to dreamy contemplation?

To one teacher is usually only one task allotted. We do not reproach
want of science to the virtuous and benevolent Channing; his goodness
and effusion stirred women and the young, just as Rousseau did, to
sentimental but humane aspiration. It was this kind of influence that
formed the opinion which at last destroyed American slavery. We owe a
place in the temple that commemorates human emancipation, to every man
who has kindled in his generation a brighter flame of moral
enthusiasm, and a more eager care for the realisation of good and
virtuous ideals.


The story of the circumstances of the publication of Emilius and the
persecution which befell its author in consequence, recalls us to the
distinctively evil side of French history in this critical epoch, and
carries us away from light into the thick darkness of political
intrigue, obscurantist faction, and a misgovernment which was at once
tyrannical and decrepit. It is almost impossible for us to realise the
existence in the same society of such boundless license of thought,
and such unscrupulous restraint upon its expression. Not one of
Rousseau's three chief works, for instance, was printed in France. The
whole trade in books was a sort of contraband, and was carried on with
the stealth, subterfuge, daring, and knavery that are demanded in
contraband dealings. An author or a bookseller was forced to be as
careful as a kidnapper of coolies or the captain of a slaver would be
in our own time. He had to steer clear of the court, of the
parliament, of Jansenists, of Jesuits, of the mistresses of the king
and the minister, of the friends of the mistresses, and above all of
that organised hierarchy of ignorance and oppression in all times and
places where they raise their masked heads,--the bishops and
ecclesiastics of every sort and condition. Palissot produced his
comedy to please the devout at the expense of the philosophers (1760).
Madame de Robecq, daughter of Rousseau's marshal of Luxembourg,
instigated and protected him, for Diderot had offended her.[74]
Morellet replied in a piece in which the keen vision of feminine spite
detected a reference to Madame de Robecq. Though dying, she still had
relations with Choiseul, and so Morellet was flung into the
Bastile.[75] Diderot was thrown for three months into Vincennes, where
we saw him on a memorable occasion, for his Letter on the Blind
(1748), nominally because it was held to contain irreligious doctrine,
really because he had given offence to D'Argenson's mistress by
hinting that she might be very handsome, but that her judgment on
scientific experiment was of no value.[76]

The New Heloïsa could not openly circulate in France so long as it
contained the words, "I would rather be the wife of a charcoal-burner
than the mistress of a king." The last word was altered to "prince,"
and then Rousseau was warned that he would offend the Prince de Conti
and Madame de Boufflers.[77] No work of merit could appear without
more or less of slavish mutilation, and no amount of slavish
mutilation could make the writer secure against the accidental grudge
of people who had influence in high quarters.[78]

If French booksellers in the stirring intellectual time of the
eighteenth century needed all the craft of a smuggler, their morality
was reduced to an equally low level in dealing not only with the
police, but with their own accomplices, the book-writers. They excused
themselves from paying proper sums to authors, on the ground that they
were robbed of the profits that would enable them to pay such sums, by
the piracy of their brethren in trade. But then they all pirated the
works of one another. The whole commerce was a mass of fraud and
chicane, and every prominent author passed his life between two fires.
He was robbed, his works were pirated, and, worse than robbery and
piracy, they were defaced and distorted by the booksellers. On the
other side he was tormented to death by the suspicion and timidity,
alternately with the hatred and active tyranny of the administration.
As we read the story of the lives of all these strenuous men, their
struggles, their incessant mortifications, their constantly reviving
and ever irrepressible vigour and interest in the fight, we may wish
that the shabbiness and the pettiness of the daily lives of some of
them had faded away from memory, and left us nothing to think of in
connection with their names but the alertness, courage, tenacity,
self-sacrifice, and faith with which they defended the cause of human
emancipation and progress. Happily the mutual hate of the Christian
factions, to which liberty owes at least as much as charity owes to
their mutual love, prevented a common union for burning the
philosophers as well as their books. All torments short of this they
endured, and they had the great merit of enduring them without any
hope of being rewarded after their death, as truly good men must
always be capable of doing.

Rousseau had no taste for martyrdom, nor any intention of courting it
in even its slightest forms. Holland was now the great printing press
of France, and when we are counting up the contributions of
Protestantism to the enfranchisement of Europe, it is just to remember
the indispensable services rendered by the freedom of the press in
Holland to the dissemination of French thought in the eighteenth
century, as well as the shelter that it gave to the French thinkers in
the seventeenth, including Descartes, the greatest of them all. The
monstrous tediousness of printing a book at Amsterdam or the Hague,
the delay, loss, and confusion in receiving and transmitting the
proofs, and the subterranean character of the entire process,
including the circulation of the book after it was once fairly
printed, were as grievous to Rousseau as to authors of more impetuous
temper. He agreed with Rey, for instance, the Amsterdam printer, to
sell him the Social Contract for 1000 francs. The manuscript had then
to be cunningly conveyed to Amsterdam. Rousseau wrote it out in very
small characters, sealed it carefully up, and entrusted it to the care
of the chaplain of the Dutch embassy, who happened to be a native of
Vaud. In passing the barrier, the packet fell into the hands of the
officials. They tore it open and examined it, happily unconscious that
they were handling the most explosive kind of gunpowder that they had
ever meddled with. It was not until the chaplain claimed it in the
name of ambassadorial privilege, that the manuscript was allowed to go
on its way to the press.[79] Rousseau repeats a hundred times, not
only in the Confessions, but also in letters to his friends, how
resolutely and carefully he avoided any evasion of the laws of the
country in which he lived. The French government was anxious enough on
all grounds to secure for France the production of the books of which
France was the great consumer, but the severity of its censorship
prevented this.[80] The introduction of the books, when printed, was
tolerated or connived at, because the country would hardly have
endured to be deprived of the enjoyment of its own literature. By a
greater inconsistency the reprinting of a book which had once found
admission into the country, was also connived at. Thus M. de
Malesherbes, out of friendship for Rousseau, wished to have an edition
of the New Heloïsa printed in France, and sold for the benefit of the
author. That he should have done so is a curious illustration of the
low morality engendered by a repressive system imperfectly carried
out. For Rousseau had sold the book to Rey. Rey had treated with a
French bookseller in the usual way, that is, had sent him half the
edition printed, the bookseller paying either in cash or other books
for all the copies he received. Therefore to print an independent
edition in Paris was to injure, not Rey the foreigner, but the French
bookseller who stood practically in Rey's place. It was setting two
French booksellers to ruin one another. Rousseau emphatically declined
to receive any profit from such a transaction. But, said Malesherbes,
you sold to Rey a right which you had not got, the right of sole
proprietorship, excluding the competition of a pirated reprint. Then,
answered Rousseau, if the right which I sold happens to prove less
than I thought, it is clear that far from taking advantage of my
mistake, I owe to Rey compensation for any loss that he may

The friendship of Malesherbes for the party of reason was shown on
numerous occasions. As director of the book trade he was really the
censor of the literature of the time.[82] The story of his service to
Diderot is well known--how he warned Diderot that the police were
about to visit his house and overhaul his papers, and how when Diderot
despaired of being able to put them out of sight in his narrow
quarters, Malesherbes said, "Then send them all to me," and took care
of them until the storm was overpast. The proofs of the New Heloïsa
came through his hands, and now he made himself Rousseau's agent in
the affairs relative to the printing of Emilius. Rousseau entrusted
the whole matter to him and to Madame de Luxembourg, being confident
that, in acting through persons of such authority and position, he
should be protected against any unwitting illegality. Instead of being
sent to Rey, the manuscript was sold to a bookseller in Paris for six
thousand francs.[83] A long time elapsed before any proofs reached the
author, and he soon perceived that an edition was being printed in
France as well as in Holland. Still, as Malesherbes was in some sort
the director of the enterprise, the author felt no alarm. Duclos came
to visit him one day, and Rousseau read aloud to him the Savoyard
Vicar's Profession of Faith. "What, citizen," he cried, "and that is
part of a book that they are printing at Paris! Be kind enough not to
tell any one that you read this to me."[84] Still Rousseau remained
secure. Then the printing came to a standstill, and he could not find
out the reason, because Malesherbes was away, and the printer did not
take the trouble to answer his letters. "My natural tendency," he
says, and as the rest of his life only too abundantly proved, "is to
be afraid of darkness; mystery always disturbs me, it is utterly
antipathetic to my character, which is open even to the pitch of
imprudence. The aspect of the most hideous monster would alarm me
little, I verily believe; but if I discern at night a figure in a
white sheet, I am sure to be terrified out of my life."[85] So he at
once fancied that by some means the Jesuits had got possession of his
book, and knowing him to be at death's door, designed to keep the
Emilius back until he was actually dead, when they would publish a
truncated version of it to suit their own purposes.[86] He wrote
letter upon letter to the printer, to Malesherbes, to Madame de
Luxembourg, and if answers did not come, or did not come exactly when
he expected them, he grew delirious with anxiety. If he dropped his
conviction that the Jesuits were plotting the ruin of his book and the
defilement of his reputation, he lost no time in fastening a similar
design upon the Jansenists, and when the Jansenists were acquitted,
then the turn of the philosophers came. We have constantly to remember
that all this time the unfortunate man was suffering incessant pain,
and passing his nights in sleeplessness and fever. He sometimes threw
off the black dreams of unfathomable suspicion, and dreamed in their
stead of some sunny spot in pleasant Touraine, where under a mild
climate and among a gentle people he should peacefully end his
days.[87] At other times he was fond of supposing M. de Luxembourg
not a duke, nor a marshal of France, but a good country squire living
in some old mansion, and himself not an author, not a maker of books,
but with moderate intelligence and slight attainment, finding with the
squire and his dame the happiness of his life, and contributing to the
happiness of theirs.[88] Alas, in spite of all his precautions, he had
unwittingly drifted into the stream of great affairs. He and his book
were sacrificed to the exigencies of faction; and a persecution set
in, which destroyed his last chance of a composed life, by giving his
reason, already disturbed, a final blow from which it never recovered.

Emilius appeared in the crisis of the movement against the Jesuits.
That formidable order had offended Madame de Pompadour by a refusal to
recognise her power and position,--a manly policy, as creditable to
their moral vigour as it was contrary to the maxims which had made
them powerful. They had also offended Choiseul by the part they had
taken in certain hostile intrigues at Versailles. The parliaments had
always been their enemies. This was due first to the jealousy with
which corporations of lawyers always regard corporations of
ecclesiastics, and next to their hatred of the bull Unigenitus, which
had been not only an infraction of French liberties, but the occasion
of special humiliation to the parliaments. Then the hostility of the
parliaments to the Jesuits was caused by the harshness with which the
system of confessional tickets was at this time being carried out.
Finally, the once powerful house of Austria, the protector of all
retrograde interests, was now weakened by the Seven Years' War; and
was unable to bring effective influence to bear on Lewis XV. At last
he gave his consent to the destruction of the order. The commercial
bankruptcy of one of their missions was the immediate occasion of
their fall, and nothing could save them. "I only know one man," said
Grimm, "in a position to have composed an apology for the Jesuits in
fine style, if it had been in his way to take the side of that tribe,
and this man is M. Rousseau." The parliaments went to work with
alacrity, but they were quite as hostile to the philosophers as they
were to the Jesuits, and hence their anxiety to show that they were no
allies of the one even when destroying the other.

Contemporaries seldom criticise the shades and variations of
innovating speculation with any marked nicety. Anything with the stamp
of rationality on its phrases or arguments was roughly set down to the
school of the philosophers, and Rousseau was counted one of their
number, like Voltaire or Helvétius. The Emilius appeared in May 1762.
On the 11th of June the parliament of Paris ordered the book to be
burnt by the public executioner, and the writer to be arrested. For
Rousseau always scorned the devices of Voltaire and others; he
courageously insisted on placing his name on the title-page of all his
works,[89] and so there was none of the usual difficulty in
identifying the author. The grounds of the proceedings were alleged
irreligious tendencies to be found in the book.[90]

The indecency of the requisition in which the advocate-general
demanded its proscription, was admitted even by people who were least
likely to defend Rousseau.[91] The author was charged with saying not
only that man may be saved without believing in God, but even that the
Christian religion does not exist--paradox too flagrant even for the
writer of the Discourse on Inequality. No evidence was produced either
that the alleged assertions were in the book, or that the name of the
author was really the name on its title-page. Rousseau fared no worse,
but better, than his fellows, for there was hardly a single man of
letters of that time who escaped arbitrary imprisonment.

The unfortunate author had news of the ferment which his work was
creating in Paris, and received notes of warning from every hand, but
he could not believe that the only man in France who believed in God
was to be the victim of the defenders of Christianity.[92] On the 8th
of June he spent a merry day with two friends, taking their dinner in
the fields. "Ever since my youth I had a habit of reading at night in
my bed until my eyes grew heavy. Then I put out the candle, and tried
to fall asleep for a few minutes, but they seldom lasted long. My
ordinary reading at night was the Bible, and I have read it
continuously through at least five or six times in this way. That
night, finding myself more wakeful than usual, I prolonged my reading,
and read through the whole of the book which ends with the Levite of
Ephraim, and which if I mistake not is the book of Judges. The story
affected me deeply, and I was busy over it in a kind of dream, when
all at once I was roused by lights and noises."[93]

It was two o'clock in the morning. A messenger had come in hot haste
to carry him to Madame de Luxembourg. News had reached her of the
proposed decree of the parliament. She knew Rousseau well enough to be
sure that if he were seized and examined, her own share and that of
Malesherbes in the production of the condemned book would be made
public, and their position uncomfortably compromised. It was to their
interest that he should avoid arrest by flight, and they had no
difficulty in persuading him to fall in with their plans. After a
tearful farewell with Theresa, who had hardly been out of his sight
for seventeen years, and many embraces from the greater ladies of the
castle, he was thrust into a chaise and despatched on the first stage
of eight melancholy years of wandering and despair, to be driven from
place to place, first by the fatuous tyranny of magistrates and
religious doctors, and then by the yet more cruel spectres of his own
diseased imagination, until at length his whole soul became the home
of weariness and torment.


[1] _Conf._, x. 62.

[2] _Conf._, x.

[3] _Ib._ x. 70.

[4] Louis François de Bourbon, Prince de Conti (1717-1776), was
great-grandson of the brother of the Great Condé. He performed
creditable things in the war of the Austrian Succession (in Piedmont
1744, in Belgium 1745); had a scheme of foreign policy as director of
the secret diplomacy of Lewis XV. (1745-1756), which was to make
Turkey, Poland, Sweden, Prussia, a barrier against Russia primarily,
and Austria secondarily; lastly went into moderate opposition to the
court, protesting against the destruction of the _parlements_ (1771),
and afterwards opposing the reforms of Turgot (1776). Finally he had
the honour of refusing the sacraments of the church on his deathbed.
See Martin's _Hist. de France_, xv. and xvi.

[5] _Conf._, 97. _Corr._, v. 215.

[6] _Corr._, ii. 144. Oct. 7, 1760.

[7] _Conf._, x. 98.

[8] The reader will distinguish this correspondent of Rousseau's,
_Comtesse_ de Boufflers-Rouveret (1727-18--), from the _Duchesse_ de
Boufflers, which was the title of Rousseau's Maréchale de Luxembourg
before her second marriage. And also from the _Marquise_ de Boufflers,
said to be the mistress of the old king Stanislaus at Lunéville, and
the mother of the Chevalier de Boufflers (who was the intimate of
Voltaire, sat in the States General, emigrated, did homage to
Napoleon, and finally died peaceably under Lewis XVIII.). See Jal's
_Dict. Critique_, 259-262. Sainte Beuve has an essay on our present
Comtesse de Boufflers (_Nouveaux Lundis_, iv. 163). She is the Madame
de Boufflers who was taken by Beauclerk to visit Johnson in his Temple
chambers, and was conducted to her coach by him in a remarkable manner
(Boswell's _Life_, ch. li. p. 467). Also much talked of in H.
Walpole's Letters. See D'Alembert to Frederick, April 15, 1768.

[9] Streckeisen, ii. 32.

[10] _Conf._, x. 71.

[11] For instance, _Corr._ ii. 85, 90, 92, etc. 1759.

[12] Streckeisen, ii. 28, etc.

[13] _Ib._, 29.

[14] _Conf._, x. 99.

[15] _Ib._, x. 57.

[16] _Ib._, xi. 119.

[17] _Corr._, ii. 196. Feb. 16, 1761.

[18] _Ib._, ii. 102, 176, etc.

[19] _Conf._, x. 60.

[20] _Corr._, ii. 12.

[21] As M. St. Marc Girardin has put it: "There are in all Rousseau's
discussions two things to be carefully distinguished from one another;
the maxims of the discourse, and the conclusions of the controversy.
The maxims are ordinarily paradoxical; the conclusions are full of
good sense." _Rev. des Deux Mondes_, Aug. 1852, p. 501.

[22] _Corr._, ii. 244-246. Oct. 24, 1761.

[23] _Ib._, 1766. _Oeuv._, lxxv. 364.

[24] _Corr._, ii. 32. (1758.)

[25] _Corr._, ii. 63. Jan. 15, 1779.

[26] Bernardin de St. Pierre, xii. 102.

[27] 4th Letter, p. 375.

[28] _Mém._, ii. 299.

[29] _Corr._, ii. 98. July 10, 1759.

[30] _Corr._, ii. 106. Nov. 10, 1759.

[31] _Ib._, ii. 179. Jan. 18, 1761.

[32] _Ib._, ii. 268. Dec. 12, 1761.

[33] _Ib._, ii. 28. Dec. 23, 1761.

[34] _Nouv. Hél._, III. xxii. 147. In 1784 Hume's suppressed essays on
"Suicide and the Immortality of the Soul" were published in
London:--"With Remarks, intended as an Antidote to the Poison
contained in these Performances, by the Editor; to which is added, Two
Letters on Suicide, from Rousseau's Eloisa." In the preface the reader
is told that these "two very masterly letters have been much
celebrated." See Hume's _Essays_, by Green and Grose, i. 69, 70.

[35] _Corr._, iii. 235. Aug. 1, 1763.

[36] _Corr._, ii. 226. Sept. 29, 1761.

[37] P. 294. Jan. 11, 1762.

[38] Madame Latour (Nov. 7, 1730-Sept. 6, 1789) was the wife of a man
in the financial world, who used her ill and dissipated as much of her
fortune as he could, and from whom she separated in 1775. After that
she resumed her maiden name and was known as Madame de Franqueville.
Musset-Pathay, ii. 182, and Sainte Beuve, _Causeries_, ii. 63.

[39] _Corr._, ii. 214. _Conf._, ix. 289.

[40] English translations of Rousseau's works appeared very speedily
after the originals. A second edition of the Heloïsa was called for as
early as May 1761. See _Corr._ ii. 223. A German translation of the
Heloïsa appeared at Leipzig in 1761, in six duodecimos.

[41] For instance, _Corr._, ii. 168. Nov. 19, 1762.

[42] Choderlos de La Clos: 1741-1803.

[43] Journal, iv. 496. (Ed. Charpentier, 1857.)

[44] _Nouv. Hél._, III. xiv. 48.

[45] _E.g._ Letters, 40-46.

[46] Madame de Staël (1765-1817), in her _Lettres sur les écrits et le
caractère de J.J. Rousseau_, written when she was twenty, and her
first work of any pretensions. _Oeuv._, i. 41. Ed. 1820.

[47] Nowhere more pungently than in a little piece of some half-dozen
pages, headed, _Prédiction tirée d'un vieux Manuscrit_, the form of
which is borrowed from Grimm's squib in the dispute about French
music, _Le petit Prophète de Boehmischbroda_, though it seems to me to
be superior to Grimm in pointedness. Here are a few verses from the
supposed prophecy of the man who should come--and of what he should
do. "Et la multitude courra sur ses pas et plusieurs croiront en lui.
Et il leur dira: Vous êtes des scélérats et des fripons, vos femmes
sont toutes des femmes perdues, et je viens vivre parmi vous. Et il
ajoutera tous les hommes sont vertueux dans le pays où je suis né, et
je n'habiterai jamais le pays où je suis né.... Et il dira aussi qu'il
est impossible d'avoir des moeurs, et de lire des Romans, et il fera
un Roman; et dans son Roman le vice sera en action et la vertu en
paroles, et ses personages seront forcenés d'amour et de philosophie.
Et dans son Roman on apprendra l'art de suborner philosophiquement une
jeune fille. Et l'Ecolière perdra toute honte et toute pudeur, et elle
fera avec son maître des sottises et des maximes.... Et le bel Ami
étant dans un Bateau seul avec sa Maîtresse voudra le jetter dans
l'eau et se précipiter avec elle. Et ils appelleront tout cela de la
Philosophie et de la Vertu," and so on, humorously enough in its way.

[48] See passages in Goncourt's _La Femme au 18ième siècle_, p. 380.

[49] Musset-Pathay, II. 361. See Madame Roland's _Mém._, i. 207.

[50] _Corr._, March 3, and March 19, 1761. The criticisms of Ximénès,
a thoroughly mediocre person in all respects, were entirely literary,
and were directed against the too strained and highly coloured quality
of the phrases--"baisers âcres"--among them.

[51] _Nouv. Hél._, V. v. 115.

[52] VI. vii.

[53] VI. vi.

[54] Michelet's _Louis XV. et Louis XVI._, p. 58.

[55] See Hettner's _Literaturgeschichte_, II. 486.

[56] IV. xi.

[57] IV. xvii. See vol. iii. 423.

[58] In 1816. Moore's _Life_, iii. 247; also 285. And the note to the
stanzas in the Third Canto,--a note curious for a slight admixture of
transcendentalism, so rare a thing with Byron, who, sentimental though
he was, usually rejoiced in a truly Voltairean common sense.

[59] "The present fashion in France, of passing some time in the
country, is new; at this time of the year, and for many weeks past,
Paris is, comparatively speaking, empty. Everybody who has a country
seat is at it, and such as have none visit others who have. This
remarkable revolution in the French manners is certainly one of the
best customs they have taken from England; and its introduction was
effected the easier, being assisted by the magic of Rousseau's
writings. Mankind are much indebted to that splendid genius, who, when
living, was hunted from country to country, to seek an asylum, with as
much venom as if he had been a mad dog; thanks to the vile spirit of
bigotry, which has not received its death wound. Women of the first
fashion in France are now ashamed of not nursing their own children;
and stays are universally proscribed from the bodies of the poor
infants, which were for so many ages torture to them, as they are
still in Spain. The country residence may not have effects equally
obvious; but they will be no less sure in the end, and in all respects
beneficial to every class in the state." Arthur Young's _Travels_, i.

[60] _Causeries_, xi. 195.

[61] _Nouv. Hél._, V. iii. "You remember Rousseau's description of an
English morning: such are the mornings I spend with these good
people."--Cowper to Joseph Hill, Oct. 25, 1765. _Works_, iii. 269. In
a letter to William Unwin (Sept. 21, 1779), speaking of his being
engaged in mending windows, he says, "Rousseau would have been charmed
to have seen me so occupied, and would have exclaimed with rapture
that he had found the Emilius who, he supposed, had subsisted only in
his own idea." For a description illustrative of the likeness between
Rousseau and Cowper in their feeling for nature, see letter to Newton
(Sept. 18, 1784, v. 78), and compare it with the description of Les
Charmettes, making proper allowance for the colour of prose.

[62] IV. x. 260.

[63] V. ii. 37.

[64] V. ii. 47-52.

[65] Rousseau considered that the Fourth and Sixth parts of the New
Heloïsa were masterpieces of diction. _Conf._ ix. 334.

[66] VI. viii.. 298. _Conf._, xi. 106.

[67] The La Bédoyère case, which began in 1745. See Barbier, iv. 54,
59, etc.

[68] III. xviii. 84.

[69] III. xx. 116. In the letter to Christopher de Beaumont (p. 102),
he fires a double shot against the philosophers on the one hand, and
the church on the other; exalting continence and purity, of which the
philosophers in their reaction against asceticism thought lightly, and
exalting marriage over the celibate state, which the churchmen
associated with mysterious sanctity.

[70] I. lxii.

[71] V. ii.

[72] V. vii. 141.

[73] V. ii. 31-33.

[74] For the Robecq family, see Saint Simon, xviii. 58.

[75] Morellet's _Mém._, i. 89-93. Rousseau, _Conf._, x. 85, etc. This
_Vision_ is also in the style of Grimm's _Pétit Prophète_, like the
piece referred to in a previous note, vol. ii. p. 31.

[76] Madame de Vandeul's _Mém. sur Diderot_, p. 27. Rousseau, _Conf._,
vii. 130.

[77] _Nouv. Hél._, V. xiii. 194. _Conf._, x. 43.

[78] The reader will find a fuller mention of the French book trade in
my _Diderot_, ch. vi.

[79] _Conf._, xi. 127.

[80] See a letter from Rousseau to Malesherbes, Nov. 5, 1760. _Corr._,
ii. 157.

[81] _Corr._, ii. 157.

[82] C.G. de Lamoignon de Malesherbes (p. 1721--guillotined, 1794),
son of the chancellor, and one of the best instructed and most
enlightened men of the century--a Turgot of the second rank--was
Directeur de la Librairie from 1750-1763. The process was this: a book
was submitted to him; he named a censor for it; on the censor's report
the director gave or refused permission to print, or required
alterations. Even after these formalities were complied with, the book
was liable to a decree of the royal council, a decree of the
parliament, or else a _lettre-de-cachet_ might send the author to the
Bastile. See Barbier, vii. 126.

After Lord Shelburne saw Malesherbes, he said, "I have seen for the
first time in my life what I never thought could exist--a man whose
soul is absolutely free from hope or fear, and yet who is full of life
and ardour." Mdlle. Lespinasse's _Lettres_, 90.

[83] See note, p. 132.

[84] _Conf._, xi. 134.

[85] _Conf._, xi. 139.

[86] _Ib._, xi. 139. _Corr._, ii. 270, etc. Dec. 12, 1761, etc.

[87] _Conf._, xi. 150.

[88] Fourth Letter to Malesherbes, p. 377.

[89] With one trifling exception, the Letter to Grimm on the Opera of
Omphale (1752): _Écrits sur la Musique_, p. 337.

[90] See Barbier's Journal, viii. 45 (Ed. Charpentier, 1857). A
succinct contemporary account of the general situation is to be found
in D'Alembert's little book, the _Destruction des Jésuites_.

[91] Grimm, for instance: _Corr. Lit._, iii. 117.

[92] _Corr._, ii. 337. June 7, 1672. _Conf._, xi. 152, 162.

[93] _Conf._, xi. 162. The Levite's story is to be read in _Judges_,
ch. xix.



Those to whom life consists in the immediate consciousness of
their own direct relations with the people and circumstances that are
in close contact with them, find it hard to follow the moods of a man
to whom such consciousness is the least part of himself, and such
relations the least real part of his life. Rousseau was no sooner in
the post-chaise which was bearing him away towards Switzerland, than
the troubles of the previous day at once dropped into a pale and
distant past, and he returned to a world where was neither parliament,
nor decree for burning books, nor any warrant for personal arrest. He
took up the thread where harassing circumstances had broken it, and
again fell musing over the tragic tale of the Levite of Ephraim. His
dream absorbed him so entirely as to take specific literary form, and
before the journey was at an end he had composed a long impassioned
version of the Bible story. Though it has Rousseau's usual fine
sonorousness in a high degree, no man now reads it; the author himself
always preserved a certain tenderness for it.[95] The contrast
between this singular quietism and the angry stir that marked
Voltaire's many flights in post-chaises, points like all else to the
profound difference between the pair. Contrast with Voltaire's shrill
cries under any personal vexation, this calm utterance:--"Though the
consequences of this affair have plunged me into a gulf of woes from
which I shall never come up again so long as I live, I bear these
gentlemen no grudge. I am aware that their object was not to do me any
harm, but only to reach ends of their own. I know that towards me they
have neither liking nor hate. I was found in their way, like a pebble
that you thrust aside with the foot without even looking at it. They
ought not to say they have performed their duty, but that they have
done their business."[96] A new note from a persecuted writer.

Rousseau, in spite of the belief which henceforth possessed him that
he was the victim of a dark unfathomable plot, and in spite of passing
outbreaks of gloomy rage, was incapable of steady glowing and active
resentments. The world was not real enough to him for this. A throng
of phantoms pressed noiselessly before his sight, and dulled all sense
of more actual impression. "It is amazing," he wrote, "with what ease
I forget past ill, however fresh it may be. In proportion as the
anticipation of it alarms and confuses me when I see it coming, so
the memory of it returns feebly to my mind and dies out the moment
after it has arrived. My cruel imagination, which torments itself
incessantly in anticipating woes that are still unborn, makes a
diversion for my memory, and hinders me from recalling those which
have gone. I exhaust disaster beforehand. The more I have suffered in
foreseeing it, the more easily do I forget it; while on the contrary,
being incessantly busy with my past happiness, I recall it and brood
and ruminate over it, so as to enjoy it over again whenever I
wish."[97] The same turn of humour saved him from vindictiveness. "I
concern myself too little with the offence, to feel much concern about
the offender. I only think of the hurt that I have received from him,
on account of the hurt that he may still do me; and if I were sure he
would do me no more, what he had already done would be forgotten
straightway." Though he does not carry the analysis any further, we
may easily perceive that the same explanation covers what he called
his natural ingratitude. Kindness was not much more vividly understood
by him than malice. It was only one form of the troublesome
interposition of an outer world in his life; he was fain to hurry back
from it to the real world of his dreams. If any man called practical
is tempted to despise this dreaming creature, as he fares in his
chaise from stage to stage, let him remember that one making that
journey through France less than thirty years later might have seen
the castles of the great flaring in the destruction of a most
righteous vengeance, the great themselves fleeing ignobly from the
land to which their selfishness, and heedlessness, and hatred of
improvement, and inhuman pride had been a curse, while the legion of
toilers with eyes blinded by the oppression of ages were groping with
passionate uncertain hand for that divine something which they thought
of as justice and right. And this was what Rousseau both partially
foresaw and helped to prepare,[98] while the common politicians, like
Choiseul or D'Aiguillon, played their poor game--the elemental forces
rising unseen into tempest around them.

He reached the territory of the canton of Berne, and alighted at the
house of an old friend at Yverdun,[99] where native air, the beauty of
the spot, and the charms of the season, immediately repaired all
weariness and fatigue.[100] Friends at Geneva wrote letters of sincere
feeling, joyful that he had not followed the precedent of Socrates too
closely by remaining in the power of a government eager to destroy
him.[101] A post or two later brought worse news. The Council at
Geneva ordered not only Emilius, but the Social Contract also, to be
publicly burnt, and issued a warrant of arrest against their author,
if he should set foot in the territory of the republic (June
19).[102] Rousseau could hardly believe it possible that the free
Government which he had held up to the reverence of Europe, could have
condemned him unheard, but he took occasion in a highly characteristic
manner to chide severely a friend at Geneva who had publicly taken his
part.[103] Within a fortnight this blow was followed by another. His
two books were reported to the senate of Berne, and Rousseau was
informed by one of the authorities that a notification was on its way
admonishing him to quit the canton within the space of fifteen
days.[104] This stroke he avoided by flight to Motiers, a village in
the principality of Neuchâtel (July 10), then part of the dominions of
the King of Prussia.[105] Rousseau had some antipathy to Frederick,
both because he had beaten the French, whom Rousseau loved, and
because his maxims and his conduct alike seemed to trample under foot
respect for the natural law and not a few human duties. He had
composed a verse to the effect that Frederick thought like a
philosopher and acted like a king, philosopher and king notoriously
being words of equally evil sense in his dialect. There was also a
passage in Emilius about Adrastus, King of the Daunians, which was
commonly understood to mean Frederick, King of the Prussians. Still
Rousseau was acute enough to know that mean passions usually only rule
the weak, and have little hold over the strong. He boldly wrote both
to the king and to Lord Marischal, the governor of the principality,
informing them that he was there, and asking permission to remain in
the only asylum left for him upon the earth.[106] He compared himself
loftily to Coriolanus among the Volscians, and wrote to the king in a
vein that must have amused the strong man. "I have said much ill of
you, perhaps I shall still say more; yet, driven from France, from
Geneva, from the canton of Berne, I am come to seek shelter in your
states. Perhaps I was wrong in not beginning there; this is eulogy of
which you are worthy. Sire, I have deserved no grace from you, and I
seek none, but I thought it my duty to inform your majesty that I am
in your power, and that I am so of set design. Your majesty will
dispose of me as shall seem good to you."[107] Frederick, though no
admirer of Rousseau or his writings,[108] readily granted the required
permission. He also, says Lord Marischal, "gave me orders to furnish
him his small necessaries if he would accept them; and though that
king's philosophy be very different from that of Jean Jacques, yet he
does not think that a man of an irreproachable life is to be
persecuted because his sentiments are singular. He designs to build
him a hermitage with a little garden, which I find he will not accept,
nor perhaps the rest, which I have not yet offered him."[109] When the
offer of the flour, wine, and firewood was at length made in as
delicate terms as possible, Rousseau declined the gift on grounds
which may raise a smile, but which are not without a rather touching
simplicity.[110] "I have enough to live on for two or three years," he
said, "but if I were dying of hunger, I would rather in the present
condition of your good prince, and not being of any service to him, go
and eat grass and grub up roots, than accept a morsel of bread from
him."[111] Hume might well call this a phenomenon in the world of
letters, and one very honourable for the person concerned.[112] And we
recognise its dignity the more when we contrast it with the baseness
of Voltaire, who drew his pension from the King of Prussia while
Frederick was in his most urgent straits, and while the poet was
sportively exulting to all his correspondents in the malicious
expectation that he would one day have to allow the King of Prussia
himself a pension.[113] And Rousseau was a poor man, living among the
poor and in their style. His annual outlay at this time was covered by
the modest sum of sixty louis.[114] What stamps his refusal of
Frederick's gifts as true dignity, is the fact that he not only did
not refuse money for any work done, but expected and asked for it.
Malesherbes at this very time begged him to collect plants for him.
Joyfully, replied Rousseau, "but as I cannot subsist without the aid
of my own labour, I never meant, in spite of the pleasure that it
might otherwise have been to me, to offer you the use of my time for
nothing."[115] In the same year, we may add, when the tremendous
struggle of the Seven Years' War was closing, the philosopher wrote a
second terse epistle to the king, and with this their direct
communication came to an end. "Sire, you are my protector and my
benefactor; I would fain repay you if I can. You wish to give me
bread; is there none of your own subjects in want of it? Take that
sword away from my sight, it dazzles and pains me. It has done its
work only too well; the sceptre is abandoned. Great is the career for
kings of your stuff, and you are still far from the term; time
presses, you have not a moment to lose. Fathom well your heart, O
Frederick! Can you dare to die without having been the greatest of
men? Would that I could see Frederick, the just and the redoubtable,
covering his states with multitudes of men to whom he should be a
father; then will J.J. Rousseau, the foe of kings, hasten to die at
the foot of his throne."[116] Frederick, strong as his interest was in
all curious persons who could amuse him, was too busy to answer this,
and Rousseau was not yet recognised as Voltaire's rival in power and

Motiers is one of the half-dozen decent villages standing in the flat
bottom of the Val de Travers, a widish valley that lies between the
gorges of the Jura and the Lake of Neuchâtel, and is famous in our day
for its production of absinthe and of asphalt. The flat of the valley,
with the Reuss making a bald and colourless way through the midst of
it, is nearly treeless, and it is too uniform to be very pleasing. In
winter the climate is most rigorous, for the level is high, and the
surrounding hills admit the sun's rays late and cut them off early.
Rousseau's description, accurate and recognisable as it is,[117]
strikes an impartial tourist as too favourable. But when a piece of
scenery is a home to a man, he has an eye for a thousand outlines,
changes of light, soft variations of colour; the landscape lives for
him with an unspoken suggestion and intimate association, to all of
which the swift passing stranger is very cold.

His cottage, which is still shown, was in the midst of the other
houses, and his walks, which were at least as important to him as the
home in which he dwelt, lay mostly among woody heights with streaming
cascades. The country abounded in natural curiosities of a humble
sort, and here that interest in plants which had always been strong in
him, began to grow into a passion. Rousseau had so curious a feeling
about them, that when in his botanical expeditions he came across a
single flower of its kind, he could never bring himself to pluck it.
His sight, though not good for distant objects, was of the very finest
for things held close; his sense of smell was so acute and subtle
that, according to a good witness, he might have classified plants by
odours, if language furnished as many names as nature supplies
varieties of fragrance.[118] He insisted in all botanising and other
walking excursions on going bareheaded, even in the heat of the
dog-days; he declared that the action of the sun did him good. When
the days began to turn, the summer was straightway at an end for him:
"My imagination," he said, in a phrase which went further through his
life than he supposed, "at once brings winter." He hated rain as much
as he loved sun, so he must once have lost all the mystic fascination
of the green Savoy lakes gleaming luminous through pale showers, and
now again must have lost the sombre majesty of the pines of his valley
dripping in torn edges of cloud, and all those other sights in
landscape that touch subtler parts of us than comforted sense.

One of his favourite journeys was to Colombier, the summer retreat of
Lord Marischal. For him he rapidly conceived the same warm friendship
which he felt for the Duke of Luxembourg, whom he had just left. And
the sagacious, moderate, silent Scot had as warm a liking for the
strange refugee who had come to him for shelter, or shall we call it a
kind of shaggy compassion, as of a faithful inarticulate creature. His
letters, which are numerous enough, abound in expressions of hearty
good-will. These, if we reflect on the genuine worth, veracity,
penetration, and experience of the old man who wrote them, may fairly
be counted the best testimony that remains to the existence of
something sterling at the bottom of Rousseau's character.[119] It is
here no insincere fine lady of the French court, but a homely and
weather-beaten Scotchman, who speaks so often of his refugee's
rectitude of heart and true sensibility.[120]

He insisted on being allowed to settle a small sum on Theresa, who
had joined Rousseau at Motiers, and in other ways he showed a true
solicitude and considerateness both for her and for him.[121] It was
his constant dream, that on his return to Scotland, Jean Jacques
should accompany him, and that with David Hume, they would make a trio
of philosophic hermits; that this was no mere cheery pleasantry is
shown by the pains he took in settling the route for the journey.[122]
The plan only fell through in consequence of Frederick's cordial
urgency that his friend should end his days with him; he returned to
Prussia and lived at Sans Souci until the close, always retaining
something of his good-will for "his excellent savage," as he called
the author of the Discourses. They had some common antipathies,
including the fundamental one of dislike to society, and especially to
the society of the people of Neuchâtel, the Gascons of Switzerland.
"Rousseau is gay in company," Lord Marischal wrote to Hume, "polite,
and what the French call _aimable_, and gains ground daily in the
opinion of even the clergy here. His enemies elsewhere continue to
persecute him, and he is pestered with anonymous letters."[123]

Some of these were of a humour that disclosed the master hand.
Voltaire had been universally suspected of stirring up the feeling of
Geneva against its too famous citizen,[124] though for a man of less
energy the affair of the Calas, which he was now in the thick of,
might have sufficed. Voltaire's letters at this time show how hard he
found it in the case of Rousseau to exercise his usual pity for the
unfortunate. He could not forget that the man who was now tasting
persecution had barked at philosophers and stage-plays; that he was a
false brother, who had fatuously insulted the only men who could take
his part; that he was a Judas who had betrayed the sacred cause.[125]
On the whole, however, we ought probably to accept his word, though
not very categorically given,[126] that he had nothing to do with the
action taken against Rousseau. That action is quite adequately
explained, first by the influence of the resident of France at Geneva,
which we know to have been exerted against the two fatal books,[127]
and second by the anxiety of the oligarchic party to keep out of their
town a man whose democratic tendencies they now knew so well and so
justly dreaded.[128] Moultou, a Genevese minister, in the full tide
of devotion and enthusiasm for the author of Emilius, met Voltaire at
the house of a lady in Geneva. All will turn out well, cried the
patriarch; "the syndics will say M. Rousseau, you have done ill to
write what you have written; promise for the future to respect the
religion of your country. Jean Jacques will promise, and perhaps he
will say that the printer took the liberty of adding a sheet or two to
his book." "Never," cried the ardent Moultou; "Jean Jacques never puts
his name to works to disown them after."[129] Voltaire disowned his
own books with intrepid and sustained mendacity, yet he bore no grudge
to Moultou for his vehemence. He sent for him shortly afterwards,
professed an extreme desire to be reconciled with Rousseau, and would
talk of nothing else. "I swear to you," wrote Moultou, "that I could
not understand him the least in the world; he is a marvellous actor; I
could have sworn that he loved you."[130] And there really was no
acting in it. The serious Genevese did not see that he was dealing
with "one all fire and fickleness, a child."

Rousseau soon found out that he had excited not only the band of
professed unbelievers, but also the tormenting wasps of orthodoxy. The
doctors of the Sorbonne, not to be outdone in fervour for truth by the
lawyers of the parliament, had condemned Emilius as a matter of
course. In the same spirit of generous emulation, Christopher de
Beaumont, "by the divine compassion archbishop of Paris, Duke of Saint
Cloud, peer of France, commander of the order of the Holy Ghost," had
issued (Aug. 20, 1762) one of those hateful documents in which
bishops, Catholic and Protestant, have been wont for the last century
and a half to hide with swollen bombastic phrase their dead and
decomposing ideas. The windy folly of these poor pieces is usually in
proportion to the hierarchic rank of those who promulgate them, and an
archbishop owes it to himself to blaspheme against reason and freedom
in superlatives of malignant unction. Rousseau's reply (Nov. 18, 1762)
is a masterpiece of dignity and uprightness. Turning to it from the
mandate which was its provocative, we seem to grasp the hand of a man,
after being chased by a nightmare of masked figures. Rousseau never
showed the substantial quality of his character more surely and
unmistakably than in controversy. He had such gravity, such austere
self-command, such closeness of grip. Most of us feel pleasure in
reading the matchless banter with which Voltaire assailed his
theological enemies. Reading Rousseau's letter to De Beaumont we
realise the comparative lowness of the pleasure which Voltaire had
given us. We understand how it was that Rousseau made fanatics, while
Voltaire only made sceptics. At the very first words, the mitre, the
crosier, the ring, fall into the dust; the Archbishop of Paris, the
Duke of Saint Cloud, the peer of France, the commander of the Holy
Ghost, is restored from the disguises of his enchantment, and becomes
a human being. We hear the voice of a man hailing a man. Voltaire
often sank to the level of ecclesiastics. Rousseau raised the
archbishop to his own level, and with magnanimous courtesy addressed
him as an equal. "Why, my lord, have I anything to say to you? What
common tongue can we use? How are we to understand one another? And
what is there between me and you?" And he persevered in this distant
lofty vein, hardly permitting himself a single moment of acerbity. We
feel the ever-inspiring breath of seriousness and sincerity. This was
because, as we repeat so often, Rousseau's ideas, all engendered of
dreams as they were, yet lived in him and were truly rooted in his
character. He did not merely say, as any of us can say so fluently,
that he craved reality in human relations, that distinctions of rank
and post count for nothing, that our lives are in our own hands and
ought not to be blown hither and thither by outside opinion and words
heedlessly scattered; that our faith, whatever it may be, is the most
sacred of our possessions, organic, indissoluble, self-sufficing; that
our passage across the world, if very short, is yet too serious to be
wasted in frivolous disrespect for ourselves, and angry disrespect for
others. All this was actually his mind. And hence the little
difficulty he had in keeping his retort to the archbishop, as to his
other antagonists, on a worthy level.

Only once or twice does his sense of the reckless injustice with which
he had been condemned, and of the persecution which was inflicted on
him by one government after another, stir in him a blaze of high
remonstrance. "You accuse me of temerity," he cried; "how have I
earned such a name, when I only propounded difficulties, and even that
with so much reserve; when I only advanced reasons, and even that with
so much respect; when I attacked no one, nor even named one? And you,
my lord, how do you dare to reproach with temerity a man of whom you
speak with such scanty justice and so little decency, with so small
respect and so much levity? You call me impious, and of what impiety
can you accuse me--me who never spoke of the Supreme Being except to
pay him the honour and glory that are his due, nor of man except to
persuade all men to love one another? The impious are those who
unworthily profane the cause of God by making it serve the passions of
men. The impious are those who, daring to pass for the interpreters of
divinity, and judges between it and man, exact for themselves the
honours that are due to it only. The impious are those who arrogate to
themselves the right of exercising the power of God upon earth, and
insist on opening and shutting the gates of heaven at their own good
will and pleasure. The impious are those who have libels read in the
church. At this horrible idea my blood is enkindled, and tears of
indignation fall from my eyes. Priests of the God of peace, you shall
render an account one day, be very sure, of the use to which you have
dared to put his house.... My lord, you have publicly insulted me:
you are now convicted of heaping calumny upon me. If you were a
private person like myself, so that I could cite you before an
equitable tribunal, and we could both appear before it, I with my
book, and you with your mandate, assuredly you would be declared
guilty; you would be condemned to make reparation as public as the
wrong was public. But you belong to a rank that relieves you from the
necessity of being just, and I am nothing. Yet you who profess the
gospel, you, a prelate appointed to teach others their duty, you know
what your own duty is in such a case. Mine I have done: I have nothing
more to say to you, and I hold my peace."[131]

The letter was as good in dialectic as it was in moral tone. For this
is a little curious, that Rousseau, so diffuse in expounding his
opinions, and so unscientific in his method of coming to them, should
have been one of the keenest and most trenchant of the
controversialists of a very controversial time. Some of his strokes in
defence of his first famous assault on civilisation are as hard, as
direct, and as effective as any in the records of polemical
literature. We will give one specimen from the letter to the
Archbishop of Paris; it has the recommendation of touching an argument
that is not yet quite universally recognised for slain. The Savoyard
Vicar had dwelt on the difficulty of accepting revelation as the voice
of God, on account of the long distance of time between us, and the
questionableness of the supporting testimony. To which the archbishop
thus:--"But is there not then an infinity of facts, even earlier than
those of the Christian revelation, which it would be absurd to doubt?
By what way other than that of human testimony has our author himself
known the Sparta, the Athens, the Rome, whose laws, manners, and
heroes he extols with such assurance? How many generations of men
between him and the historians who have preserved the memory of these
events?" First, says Rousseau in answer, "it is in the order of things
that human circumstances should be attested by human evidence, and
they can be attested in no other way. I can only know that Rome and
Sparta existed, because contemporaries assure me that they existed. In
such a case this intermediate communication is indispensable. But why
is it necessary between God and me? Is it simple or natural that God
should have gone in search of Moses to speak to Jean Jacques Rousseau?
Second, nobody is obliged to believe that Sparta once existed, and
nobody will be devoured by eternal flames for doubting it. Every fact
of which we are not witnesses is only established by moral proofs, and
moral proofs have various degrees of strength. Will the divine justice
hurl me into hell for missing the exact point at which a proof becomes
irresistible? If there is in the world an attested story, it is that
of vampires; nothing is wanting for judicial proof,--reports and
certificates from notables, surgeons, clergy, magistrates. But who
believes in vampires, and shall we all be damned for not believing?
Third, _my constant experience and that of all men is stronger in
reference to prodigies than the testimony of some men_."

He then strikes home with a parable. The Abbé Pâris had died in the
odour of Jansenist sanctity (1727), and extraordinary doings went on
at his tomb; the lame walked, men and women sick of the palsy were
made whole, and so forth. Suppose, says Rousseau, that an inhabitant
of the Rue St. Jacques speaks thus to the Archbishop of Paris, "My
lord, I know that you neither believe in the beatitude of St. Jean de
Pâris, nor in the miracles which God has been pleased publicly to work
upon his tomb in the sight of the most enlightened and most populous
city in the world; but I feel bound to testify to you that I have just
seen the saint in person raised from the dead in the spot where his
bones were laid." The man of the Rue St. Jacques gives all the detail
of such a circumstance that could strike a beholder. "I am persuaded
that on hearing such strange news, you will begin by interrogating him
who testifies to its truth, as to his position, his feelings, his
confessor, and other such points; and when from his air, as from his
speech, you have perceived that he is a poor workman, and when having
no confessional ticket to show you, he has confirmed your notion that
he is a Jansenist, Ah, ah, you will say to him, you are a
convulsionary, and have seen Saint Pâris resuscitated. There is
nothing wonderful in that; you have seen so many other wonders!" The
man would insist that the miracle had been seen equally by a number of
other people, who though Jansenists, it is true, were persons of sound
sense, good character, and excellent reputation. Some would send the
man to Bedlam, "but you after a grave reprimand, will be content with
saying: I know that two or three witnesses, good people and of sound
sense, may attest the life or the death of a man, but I do not know
how many more are needed to establish the resurrection of a Jansenist.
Until I find that out, go, my son, and try to strengthen your brain: I
give you a dispensation from fasting, and here is something for you to
make your broth with. That is what you would say, and what any other
sensible man would say in your place. Whence I conclude that even
according to you and to every other sensible man, the moral proofs
which are sufficient to establish facts that are in the order of moral
possibilities, are not sufficient to establish facts of another order
and purely supernatural."[132]

Perhaps, however, the formal denunciation by the Archbishop of Paris
was less vexatious than the swarming of the angrier hive of ministers
at his gates. "If I had declared for atheism," he says bitterly, "they
would at first have shrieked, but they would soon have left me in
peace like the rest. The people of the Lord would not have kept watch
over me; everybody would not have thought he was doing me a high
favour in not treating me as a person cut off from communion, and I
should have been quits with all the world. The holy women in Israel
would not have written me anonymous letters, and their charity would
not have breathed devout insults. They would not have taken the
trouble to assure me in all humility of heart that I was a castaway,
an execrable monster, and that the world would have been well off if
some good soul had been at the pains to strangle me in my cradle.
Worthy people on their side would not torment themselves and torment
me to bring me back to the way of salvation; they would not charge at
me from right and left, nor stifle me under the weight of their
sermons, nor force me to bless their zeal while I cursed their
importunity, nor to feel with gratitude that they are obeying a call
to lay me in my very grave with weariness."[133]

He had done his best to conciliate the good opinion of his vigilant
neighbours. Their character for contentious orthodoxy was well known.
It was at Neuchâtel that the controversy as to the eternal punishment
of the wicked raged with a fury that ended in a civil outbreak. The
peace of the town was violently disturbed, ministers were suspended,
magistrates were interdicted, life was lost, until at last Frederick
promulgated his famous bull:--"Let the parsons who make for themselves
a cruel and barbarous God, be eternally damned as they desire and
deserve; and let those parsons who conceive God gentle and merciful,
enjoy the plenitude of his mercy."[134] When Rousseau came within the
territory, preparations were made to imitate the action of Paris,
Geneva, and Berne. It was only the king's express permission that
saved him from a fourth proscription. The minister at Motiers was of
the less inhuman stamp, and Rousseau, feeling that he could not,
without failing in his engagements and his duty as a citizen, neglect
the public profession of the faith to which he had been restored eight
years before, attended the religious services with regularity. He even
wrote to the pastor a letter in vindication of his book, and
protesting the sincerity of his union with the reformed
congregation.[135] The result of this was that the pastor came to tell
him how great an honour he held it to count such a member in his
flock, and how willing he was to admit him without further examination
to partake of the communion.[136] Rousseau went to the ceremony with
eyes full of tears and a heart swelling with emotion. We may respect
his mood as little or as much as we please, but it was certainly more
edifying than the sight of Voltaire going through the same rite,
merely to harass a priest and fill a bishop with fury.

In all other respects he lived a harmless life during the three years
of his sojourn in the Val de Travers. As he could never endure what he
calls the inactive chattering of the parlour--people sitting in front
of one another with folded hands and nothing in motion except the
tongue--he learnt the art of making laces; he used to carry his pillow
about with him, or sat at his own door working like the women of the
village, and chatting with the passers-by. He made presents of his
work to young women about to marry, always on the condition that they
should suckle their children when they came to have them. If a little
whimsical, it was a harmless and respectable pastime. It is pleasanter
to think of a philosopher finding diversion in weaving laces, than of
noblemen making it the business of their lives to run after ribands. A
society clothed in breeches was incensed about the same time by
Rousseau's adoption of the Armenian costume, the vest, the furred
bonnet, the caftan, and the girdle. There was nothing very wonderful
in this departure from use. An Armenian tailor used often to visit
some friends at Montmorency. Rousseau knew him, and reflected that
such a dress would be of singular comfort to him in the circumstances
of his bodily disorder.[137] Here was a solid practical reason for
what has usually been counted a demonstration of a turned brain.
Rousseau had as good cause for going about in a caftan as Chatham had
for coming to the House of Parliament wrapped in flannel. Vanity and a
desire to attract notice may, we admit, have had something to do with
Rousseau's adoption of an uncommon way of dressing. Shrewd wits like
the Duke of Luxembourg and his wife did not suppose that it was so.
We, living a hundred years after, cannot possibly know whether it was
so or not, and our estimate of Rousseau's strange character would be
very little worth forming, if it only turned on petty singularities of
this kind. The foolish, equivocally gifted with the quality of
articulate speech, may, if they choose, satisfy their own self-love by
reducing all action out of the common course to a series of variations
on the same motive in others. Men blessed by the benignity of
experience will be thankful not to waste life in guessing evil about
unknowable trifles.

During his stay at Motiers Rousseau's time was hardly ever his own.
Visitors of all nations, drawn either by respect for his work or by
curiosity to see a man who had been prescribed by so many governments,
came to him in throngs. His partisans at Geneva insisted on sending
people to convince themselves how good a man they were persecuting. "I
had never been free from strangers for six weeks," he writes. "Two
days after, I had a Westphalian gentleman and one from Genoa; six days
later, two persons from Zurich, who stayed a week; then a Genevese,
recovering from an illness, and coming for change of air, fell ill
again, and he has only just gone away."[138] One visitor, writing home
to his wife of the philosopher to whom he had come on a pilgrimage,
describes his manners in terms which perhaps touch us with
surprise:--"Thou hast no idea how charming his society is, what true
politeness there is in his manners, what a depth of serenity and
cheerfulness in his talk. Didst thou not expect quite a different
picture, and figure to thyself an eccentric creature, always grave and
sometimes even abrupt? Ah, what a mistake! To an expression of great
mildness he unites a glance of fire, and eyes of a vivacity the like
of which never was seen. When you handle any matter in which he takes
an interest, then his eyes, his lips, his hands, everything about him
speaks. You would be quite wrong to picture in him an everlasting
grumbler. Not at all; he laughs with those who laugh, he chats and
jokes with children, he rallies his housekeeper."[139] He was not so
civil to all the world, and occasionally turned upon his pursuers with
a word of most sardonic roughness.[140] But he could also be very
generous. We find him pressing a loan from his scanty store on an
outcast adventurer, and warning him, "When I lend (which happens
rarely enough), 'tis my constant maxim never to count on repayment,
nor to exact it."[141] He received hundreds of letters, some seeking
an application of his views on education to a special case, others
craving further exposition of his religious doctrines. Before he had
been at Motiers nine months he had paid ten louis for the postage of
letters, which after all contained little more than reproaches,
insults, menaces, imbecilities.[142]

Not the least curious of his correspondence at this time is that with
the Prince of Würtemberg, then living near Lausanne.[143] The prince
had a little daughter four months old, and he was resolved that her
upbringing should be carried on as the author of Emilius might please
to direct. Rousseau replied courteously that he did not pretend to
direct the education of princes or princesses.[144] His undaunted
correspondent sent him full details of his babe's habits and
faculties, and continued to do so at short intervals, with the
fondness of a young mother or an old nurse. Rousseau was interested,
and took some trouble to draw up rules for the child's nurture and
admonition. One may smile now and then at the prince's ingenuous zeal,
but his fervid respect and devotion for the teacher in whom he thought
he had found the wisest man that ever lived, and who had at any rate
spoken the word that kindled the love of virtue and truth in him, his
eagerness to know what Rousseau thought right, and his equal eagerness
in trying to do it, his care to arrange his household in a simple and
methodical way to please his master, his discipular patience when
Rousseau told him that his verses were poor, or that he was too fond
of his wife,--all this is a little uncommon in a prince, and deserves
a place among the ample mass of other evidence of the power which
Rousseau's pictures of domestic simplicity and wise and humane
education had in the eighteenth century. It gives us a glimpse, close
and direct, of the naturalist revival reaching up into high places.
But the trade of philosopher in such times is perhaps an irksome one,
and Rousseau was the private victim of his public action. His prince
sent multitudes of Germans to visit the sage, and his letters, endless
with their details of the nursery, may well have become a little
tedious to a worn-out creature who only wanted to be left alone.[145]
The famous Prince Henry, Frederick's brother, thought a man happy who
could have the delight of seeing Rousseau as often as he chose.[146]
People forgot the other side of this delight, and the unlucky
philosopher found in a hundred ways alike from enemies and the friends
whose curiosity makes them as bad as enemies, that the pedestal of
glory partakes of the nature of the pillory or the stocks.

It is interesting to find the famous English names of Gibbon and
Boswell in the list of the multitudes with whom he had to do at this
time.[147] The former was now at Lausanne, whither he had just
returned from that memorable visit to England which persuaded him that
his father would never endure his alliance with the daughter of an
obscure Swiss pastor. He had just "yielded to his fate, sighed as a
lover, and obeyed as a son." "How sorry I am for our poor Mademoiselle
Curchod," writes Moultou to Rousseau; "Gibbon whom she loves, and to
whom she has sacrificed, as I know, some excellent matches, has come
to Lausanne, but cold, insensible, and as entirely cured of his old
passion as she is far from cure. She has written me a letter that
makes my heart ache." He then entreats Rousseau to use his influence
with Gibbon, who is on the point of starting for Motiers, by extolling
to him the lady's worth and understanding.[148] "I hope Mr. Gibbon
will not come," replied the sage; "his coldness makes me think ill of
him. I have been looking over his book again [the _Essai sur l'étude
de la littérature_, 1761]; he runs after brilliance too much, and is
strained and stilted. Mr. Gibbon is not the man for me, and I do not
think he is the man for Mademoiselle Curchod either."[149] Whether
Gibbon went or not, we do not know. He knew in after years what had
been said of him by Jean Jacques, and protested with mild pomp that
this extraordinary man should have been less precipitate in
condemning the moral character and the conduct of a stranger.[150]

Boswell, as we know, had left Johnson "rolling his majestic frame in
his usual manner" on Harwich beach in 1763, and was now on his
travels. Like many of his countrymen, he found his way to Lord
Marischal, and here his indomitable passion for making the personal
acquaintance of any one who was much talked about, naturally led him
to seek so singular a character as the man who was now at Motiers.
What Rousseau thought of one who was as singular a character as
himself in another direction, we do not know.[151] Lord Marischal
warned Rousseau that his visitor is of excellent disposition, but full
of visionary ideas, even having seen spirits--a serious proof of
unsoundness to a man who had lived in the very positive atmosphere of
Frederick's court at Berlin. "I only hope," says the sage Scot, of the
Scot who was not sage, "that he may not fall into the hands of people
who will turn his head: he was very pleased with the reception you
gave him."[152] As it happens, he was the means of sending Boswell to
a place where his head was turned, though not very mischievously.
Rousseau was at that time full of Corsican projects, of which this is
the proper place for us very briefly to speak.

The prolonged struggles of the natives of Corsica to assert their
independence of the oppressive administration of the Genoese, which
had begun in 1729, came to end for a moment in 1755, when Paoli
(1726-1807) defeated the Genoese, and proceeded to settle the
government of the island. In the Social Contract Rousseau had said,
"There is still in Europe one country capable of legislation, and that
is the island of Corsica. The valour and constancy with which this
brave people has succeeded in recovering and defending its liberty,
entitle it to the good fortune of having some wise man to teach them
how to preserve it. I have a presentiment that this little isle will
one day astonish Europe,"[153]--a presentiment that in a sense came
true enough long after Rousseau was gone, in a man who was born on the
little island seven years later than the publication of this passage.
Some of the Corsican leaders were highly flattered, and in August
1764, Buttafuoco entered into correspondence with Rousseau for the
purpose of inducing him to draw up a set of political institutions and
a code of laws. Paoli himself was too shrewd to have much belief in
the application of ideal systems, and we are assured that he had no
intention of making Rousseau the Solon of his island, but only of
inducing him to inflame the gallantry of its inhabitants by writing a
history of their exploits.[154] Rousseau, however, did not understand
the invitation in this narrower sense. He replied that the very idea
of such a task as legislation transported his soul, and he entered
into it with the liveliest ardour. He resolved to quarter himself with
Theresa in a cottage in some lonely district in the island; in a year
he would collect the necessary information as to the manners and
opinions of the inhabitants, and three years afterwards he would
produce a set of institutions that should be fit for a free and
valorous people.[155] In the midst of this enthusiasm (May 1765) he
urged Boswell to visit Corsica, and gave him a letter to Paoli, with
results which we know in the shape of an Account of Corsica (1768),
and in a feverishness of imagination upon the subject for many a long
day afterwards. "Mind your own affairs," at length cried Johnson
sternly to him, "and leave the Corsicans to theirs; I wish you would
empty your head of Corsica."[156] At the end of 1765, the immortal
hero-worshipper on his return expected to come upon his hero at
Motiers, but finding that he was in Paris wrote him a wonderful letter
in wonderful French. "You will forget all your cares for many an
evening, while I tell you what I have seen. I owe you the deepest
obligation for sending me to Corsica. The voyage has done me
marvellous good. It has made me as if all the lives of Plutarch had
sunk into my soul.... I am devoted to the Corsicans heart and soul; if
you, illustrious Rousseau, the philosopher whom they have chosen to
help them by your lights to preserve and enjoy the liberty which they
have acquired with so much heroism--if you have cooled towards these
gallant islanders, why then I am sorry for you, that is all I can

Alas, by this time the gallant islanders had been driven out of
Rousseau's mind by personal mishaps. First, Voltaire or some other
enemy had spread the rumour that the invitation to become the Lycurgus
of Corsica was a practical joke, and Rousseau's suspicious temper
found what he took for confirmation of this in some trifling incidents
with which we certainly need not concern ourselves.[158] Next, a very
real storm had burst upon him which drove him once more to seek a new
place of shelter, other than an island occupied by French troops. For
France having begun by despatching auxiliaries to the assistance of
the Genoese (1764), ended by buying the island from the Genoese
senate, with a sort of equity of redemption (1768)--an iniquitous
transaction, as Rousseau justly called it, equally shocking to
justice, humanity, reason, and policy.[159] Civilisation would have
been saved one of its sorest trials if Genoa could have availed
herself of her equity, and so have delivered France from the
acquisition of the most terrible citizen that ever scourged a

The condemnation of Rousseau by the Council in 1762 had divided Geneva
into two camps, and was followed by a prolonged contention between his
partisans and his enemies. The root of the contention was political
rather than theological. To take Rousseau's side was to protest
against the oligarchic authority which had condemned him, and the
quarrel about Emilius was only an episode in the long war between the
popular and aristocratic parties. This strife, after coming to a
height for the first time in 1734, had abated after the pacification
of 1738, but the pacification was only effective for a time, and the
roots of division were still full of vitality. The lawfulness of the
authority and the regularity of the procedure by which Rousseau had
been condemned, offered convenient ground for carrying on the dispute,
and its warmth was made more intense by the suggestion on the popular
side that perhaps the religion of the book which the oligarchs had
condemned was more like Christianity than the religion of the
oligarchs who condemned it.

Rousseau was too near the scene of the quarrel, too directly involved
in its issues, too constantly in contact with the people who were
engaged in it, not to feel the angry buzzings very close about his
ears. If he had been as collected and as self-possessed as he loved to
fancy, they would have gone for very little in the life of the day.
But Rousseau never stood on the heights whence a strong man surveys
with clear eye and firm soul the unjust or mean or furious moods of
the world. Such achievement is not hard for the creature who is
wrapped up in himself; who is careless of the passions of men about
him, because he thinks they cannot hurt him, and not because he has
measured them, and deliberately assigned them a place among the
elements in which a man's destiny is cast. It is only hard for one who
is penetrated by true interest in the opinion and action of his
fellows, thus to keep both sympathy warm and self-sufficience true.
The task was too hard for Rousseau, though his patience under long
persecution far surpassed that of any of the other oppressed teachers
of the time. In the spring of 1763 he deliberately renounced in all
due forms his rights of burgess-ship and citizenship in the city and
republic of Geneva.[161] And at length he broke forth against his
Genevese persecutors in the Letters from the Mountain (1764), a long
but extremely vigorous and adroit rejoinder to the pleas which his
enemies had put forth in Tronchin's Letters from the Country. If any
one now cares to satisfy himself how really unjust and illegal the
treatment was, which Rousseau received at the hands of the authorities
of his native city, he may do so by examining these most forcible
letters. The second part of them may interest the student of political
history by its account of the working of the institutions of the
little republic. We seem to be reading over again the history of a
Greek city; the growth of a wealthy class in face of an increasing
number of poor burgesses, the imposition of burdens in unfair
proportions upon the metoikoi, the gradual usurpation of legislative
and administrative function (including especially the judicial) by the
oligarchs, and the twisting of democratic machinery to oligarchic
ends; then the growth of staseis or violent factions, followed by
metabolé or overthrow of the established constitution, ending in
foreign intervention. The Four Hundred at Athens would have treated
any Social Contract that should have appeared in their day, just as
sternly as the Two Hundred or the Twenty-five treated the Social
Contract that did appear, and for just the same reasons.

Rousseau proved his case with redundancy of demonstration. A body of
burgesses had previously availed themselves (Nov. 1763) of a legal
right, and made a technical representation to the Lesser Council that
the laws had been broken in his case. The Council in return availed
itself of an equally legal right, its _droit négatif_, and declined to
entertain the representation, without giving any reasons.
Unfortunately for Rousseau's comfort, the ferment which his new
vindication of his cause stirred up, did not end with the condemnation
and burning of his manifesto. For the parliament of Paris ordered the
Letters from the Mountain to be burned, and the same decree and the
same faggot served for that and for Voltaire's Philosophical
Dictionary (April 1765).[162] It was also burned at the Hague (Jan.
22). An observer by no means friendly to the priests noticed that at
Paris it was not the fanatics of orthodoxy, but the encyclopædists and
their flock, who on this occasion raised the storm and set the zeal of
the magistrates in motion.[163] The vanity and egoism of rationalistic
sects can be as fatal to candour, justice, and compassion as the
intolerant pride of the great churches.

Persecution came nearer to Rousseau and took more inconvenient shapes
than this. A terrible libel appeared (Feb. 1765), full of the coarsest
calumnies. Rousseau, stung by their insolence and falseness, sent it
to Paris to be published there with a prefatory note, stating that it
was by a Genevese pastor whom he named. This landed him in fresh
mortification, for the pastor disavowed the libel, Rousseau declined
to accept the disavowal, and sensible men were wearied by acrimonious
declarations, explanations, protests.[164] Then the clergy of
Neuchâtel were not able any longer to resist the opportunity of
inflicting such torments as they could, upon a heretic whom they might
more charitably have left to those ultimate and everlasting torments
which were so precious to their religious imagination. They began to
press the pastor of the village where Rousseau lived, and with whom he
had hitherto been on excellent terms. The pastor, though he had been
liberal enough to admit his singular parishioner to the communion, in
spite of the Savoyard Vicar, was not courageous enough to resist the
bigotry of the professional body to which he belonged. He warned
Rousseau not to present himself at the next communion. The philosopher
insisted that he had a right to do this, until formally cast out by
the consistory. The consistory, composed mainly of a body of peasants
entirely bound to their minister in matters of religion, cited him to
appear, and answer such questions as might test his loyalty to the
faith. Rousseau prepared a most deliberate vindication of all that he
had written, which he intended to speak to his rustic judges. The eve
of the morning on which he had to appear, he knew his discourse by
heart; when morning came he could not repeat two sentences. So he fell
back on the instrument over which he had more mastery than he had over
tongue or memory, and wrote what he wished to say. The pastor, in whom
irritated egoism was probably by this time giving additional heat to
professional zeal, was for fulminating a decree of excommunication,
but there appears to have been some indirect interference with the
proceedings of the consistory by the king's officials at Neuchâtel,
and the ecclesiastical bolt was held back.[165] Other weapons were not
wanting. The pastor proceeded to spread rumours among his flock that
Rousseau was a heretic, even an atheist, and most prodigious of all,
that he had written a book containing the monstrous doctrine that
women have no souls. The pulpit resounded with sermons proving to the
honest villagers that antichrist was quartered in their parish in very
flesh. The Armenian apparel gave a high degree of plausibleness to
such an opinion, and as the wretched man went by the door of his
neighbours, he heard cursing and menace, while a hostile pebble now
and again whistled past his ear. His botanising expeditions were
believed to be devoted to search for noxious herbs, and a man who
died in the agonies of nephritic colic, was supposed to have been
poisoned by him.[166] If persons went to the post-office for letters
for him, they were treated with insult.[167] At length the ferment
against him grew hot enough to be serious. A huge block of stone was
found placed so as to kill him when he opened his door; and one night
an attempt was made to stone him in his house.[168] Popular hate shown
with this degree of violence was too much for his fortitude, and after
a residence of rather more than three years (September 8-10, 1765), he
fled from the inhospitable valley to seek refuge he knew not where.

In his rambles of a previous summer he had seen a little island in the
lake of Bienne, which struck his imagination and lived in his memory.
Thither he now, after a moment of hesitation, turned his steps, with
something of the same instinct as draws a child towards a beam of the
sun. He forgot or was heedless of the circumstance that the isle of
St. Peter lay in the jurisdiction of the canton of Berne, whose
government had forbidden him their territory. Strong craving for a
little ease in the midst of his wretchedness extinguished thought of
jurisdictions and proscriptive decrees.

The spot where he now found peace for a brief space usually
disappoints the modern hunter for the picturesque, who after wearying
himself with the follies of a capital seeks the most violent tonic
that he can find in the lonely terrors of glacier and peak, and sees
only tameness in a pygmy island, that offers nothing sublimer than a
high grassy terrace, some cool over-branching avenues, some mimic
vales, and meadows and vineyards sloping down to the sheet of blue
water at their feet. Yet, as one sits here on a summer day, with tired
mowers sleeping on their grass heaps in the sun, in a stillness
faintly broken by the timid lapping of the water in the sedge, or the
rustling of swift lizards across the heated sand, while the Bernese
snow giants line a distant horizon with mysterious solitary shapes, it
is easy to know what solace life in such a scene might bring to a man
distracted by pain of body and pain and weariness of soul. Rousseau
has commemorated his too short sojourn here in the most perfect of all
his compositions.[169]

     "I found my existence so charming, and led a life so
     agreeable to my humour, that I resolved here to end my days.
     My only source of disquiet was whether I should be allowed
     to carry my project out. In the midst of the presentiments
     that disturbed me, I would fain have had them make a
     perpetual prison of my refuge, to confine me in it for all
     the rest of my life. I longed for them to cut off all chance
     and all hope of leaving it; to forbid me holding any
     communication with the mainland, so that, knowing nothing
     of what was going on in the world, I might have forgotten
     the world's existence, and people might have forgotten mine
     too. They only suffered me to pass two months in the island,
     but I could have passed two years, two centuries, and all
     eternity, without a moment's weariness, though I had not,
     with my companion, any other society than that of the
     steward, his wife, and their servants. They were in truth
     honest souls and nothing more, but that was just what I
     wanted.... Carried thither in a violent hurry, alone and
     without a thing, I afterwards sent for my housekeeper, my
     books, and my scanty possessions, of which I had the delight
     of unpacking nothing, leaving my boxes and chests just as
     they had come, and dwelling in the house where I counted on
     ending my days, exactly as if it were an inn whence I must
     needs set forth on the morrow. All things went so well, just
     as they were, that to think of ordering them better were to
     spoil them. One of my greatest joys was to leave my books
     safely fastened up in their boxes, and to be without even a
     case for writing. When any luckless letter forced me to take
     up a pen for an answer, I grumblingly borrowed the steward's
     inkstand, and hurried to give it back to him with all the
     haste I could, in the vain hope that I should never have
     need of the loan any more. Instead of meddling with those
     weary quires and reams and piles of old books, I filled my
     chamber with flowers and grasses, for I was then in my first
     fervour for botany. Having given up employment that would be
     a task to me, I needed one that would be an amusement, nor
     cause me more pains than a sluggard might choose to take. I
     undertook to make the _Flora petrinsularis_, and to describe
     every single plant on the island, in detail enough to occupy
     me for the rest of my days. In consequence of this fine
     scheme, every morning after breakfast, which we all took in
     company, I used to go with a magnifying glass in my hand and
     my Systema Naturæ under my arm, to visit some district of
     the island. I had divided it for that purpose into small
     squares, meaning to go through them one after another in
     each season of the year. At the end of two or three hours I
     used to return laden with an ample harvest, a provision for
     amusing myself after dinner indoors, in case of rain. I
     spent the rest of the morning in going with the steward, his
     wife, and Theresa, to see the labourers and the harvesting,
     and I generally set to work along with them; many a time
     when people from Berne came to see me, they found me perched
     on a high tree, with a bag fastened round my waist; I kept
     filling it with fruit and then let it down to the ground
     with a rope. The exercise I had taken in the morning and the
     good humour that always comes from exercise, made the repose
     of dinner vastly pleasant to me. But if dinner was kept up
     too long, and fine weather invited me forth, I could not
     wait, but was speedily off to throw myself all alone into a
     boat, which, when the water was smooth enough, I used to
     pull out to the middle of the lake. There, stretched at full
     length in the boat's bottom, with my eyes turned up to the
     sky, I let myself float slowly hither and thither as the
     water listed, sometimes for hours together, plunged in a
     thousand confused delicious musings, which, though they had
     no fixed nor constant object, were not the less on that
     account a hundred times dearer to me than all that I had
     found sweetest in what they call the pleasures of life.
     Often warned by the going down of the sun that it was time
     to return, I found myself so far from the island that I was
     forced to row with all my might to get in before it was
     pitch dark. At other times, instead of losing myself in the
     midst of the waters, I had a fancy to coast along the green
     shores of the island, where the clear waters and cool
     shadows tempted me to bathe. But one of my most frequent
     expeditions was from the larger island to the less; there I
     disembarked and spent my afternoon, sometimes in mimic
     rambles among wild elders, persicaries, willows, and shrubs
     of every species, sometimes settling myself on the top of a
     sandy knoll, covered with turf, wild thyme, flowers, even
     sainfoin and trefoil that had most likely been sown there in
     old days, making excellent quarters for rabbits. They might
     multiply in peace without either fearing anything or harming
     anything. I spoke of this to the steward. He at once had
     male and female rabbits brought from Neuchâtel, and we went
     in high state, his wife, one of his sisters, Theresa, and I,
     to settle them in the little islet. The foundation of our
     colony was a feast-day. The pilot of the Argonauts was not
     prouder than I, as I bore my company and the rabbits in
     triumph from our island to the smaller one....

     When the lake was too rough for me to sail, I spent my
     afternoon in going up and down the island, gathering plants
     to right and left; seating myself now in smiling lonely
     nooks to dream at my ease, now on little terraces and
     knolls, to follow with my eyes the superb and ravishing
     prospect of the lake and its shores, crowned on one side by
     the neighbouring hills, and on the other melting into rich
     and fertile plains up to the feet of the pale blue mountains
     on their far-off edge.

     As evening drew on, I used to come down from the high ground
     and sit on the beach at the water's brink in some hidden
     sheltering place. There the murmur of the waves and their
     agitation, charmed all my senses and drove every other
     movement away from my soul; they plunged it into delicious
     dreamings, in which I was often surprised by night. The flux
     and reflux of the water, its ceaseless stir-swelling and
     falling at intervals, striking on ear and sight, made up for
     the internal movements which my musings extinguished; they
     were enough to give me delight in mere existence, without
     taking any trouble of thinking. From time to time arose some
     passing thought of the instability of the things of this
     world, of which the face of the waters offered an image; but
     such light impressions were swiftly effaced in the
     uniformity of the ceaseless motion, which rocked me as in a
     cradle; it held me with such fascination that even when
     called at the hour and by the signal appointed, I could not
     tear myself away without summoning all my force.

     After supper, when the evening was fine, we used to go all
     together for a saunter on the terrace, to breathe the
     freshness of the air from the lake. We sat down in the
     arbour, laughing, chatting, or singing some old song, and
     then we went home to bed, well pleased with the day, and
     only craving another that should be exactly like it on the

     All is in a continual flux upon the earth. Nothing in it
     keeps a form constant and determinate; our affections,
     fastening on external things, necessarily change and pass
     just as they do. Ever in front of us or behind us, they
     recall the past that is gone, or anticipate a future that in
     many a case is destined never to be. There is nothing solid
     to which the heart can fix itself. Here we have little more
     than a pleasure that comes and passes away; as for the
     happiness that endures, I cannot tell if it be so much as
     known among men. There is hardly in the midst of our
     liveliest delights a single instant when the heart could
     tell us with real truth--"_I would this instant might last
     for ever_." And how can we give the name of happiness to a
     fleeting state that all the time leaves the heart unquiet
     and void, that makes us regret something gone, or still long
     for something to come?

     But if there is a state in which the soul finds a situation
     solid enough to comport with perfect repose, and with the
     expansion of its whole faculty, without need of calling back
     the past, or pressing on towards the future; where time is
     nothing for it, and the present has no ending; with no mark
     for its own duration and without a trace of succession;
     without a single other sense of privation or delight, of
     pleasure or pain, of desire or apprehension, than this
     single sense of existence--so long as such a state endures,
     he who finds himself in it may talk of bliss, not with a
     poor, relative, and imperfect happiness such as people find
     in the pleasures of life, but with a happiness full,
     perfect, and sufficing, that leaves in the soul no conscious
     unfilled void. Such a state was many a day mine in my
     solitary musings in the isle of St. Peter, either lying in
     my boat as it floated on the water, or seated on the banks
     of the broad lake, or in other places than the little isle
     on the brink of some broad stream, or a rivulet murmuring
     over a gravel bed.

     What is it that one enjoys in a situation like this? Nothing
     outside of one's self, nothing except one's self and one's
     own existence.... But most men, tossed as they are by
     unceasing passion, have little knowledge of such a state;
     they taste it imperfectly for a few moments, and then retain
     no more than an obscure confused idea of it, that is too
     weak to let them feel its charm. It would not even be good
     in the present constitution of things, that in their
     eagerness for these gentle ecstasies, they should fall into
     a disgust for the active life in which their duty is
     prescribed to them by needs that are ever on the increase.
     But a wretch cut off from human society, who can do nothing
     here below that is useful and good either for himself or for
     other people, may in such a state find for all lost human
     felicities many recompenses, of which neither fortune nor
     men can ever rob him.

     'Tis true that these recompenses cannot be felt by all
     souls, nor in all situations. The heart must be in peace,
     nor any passion come to trouble its calm. There must be in
     the surrounding objects neither absolute repose nor excess
     of agitation, but a uniform and moderated movement without
     shock, without interval. With no movement, life is only
     lethargy. If the movement be unequal or too strong, it
     awakes us; by recalling us to the objects around, it
     destroys the charm of our musing, and plucks us from within
     ourselves, instantly to throw us back under the yoke of
     fortune and man, in a moment to restore us to all the
     consciousness of misery. Absolute stillness inclines one to
     gloom. It offers an image of death: then the help of a
     cheerful imagination is necessary, and presents itself
     naturally enough to those whom heaven has endowed with such
     a gift. The movement which does not come from without then
     stirs within us. The repose is less complete, it is true;
     but it is also more agreeable when light and gentle ideas,
     without agitating the depths of the soul, only softly skim
     the surface. This sort of musing we may taste whenever there
     is tranquillity about us, and I have thought that in the
     Bastile, and even in a dungeon where no object struck my
     sight, I could have dreamed away many a thrice pleasurable

     But it must be said that all this came better and more
     happily in a fruitful and lonely island, where nothing
     presented itself to me save smiling pictures, where nothing
     recalled saddening memories, where the fellowship of the few
     dwellers there was gentle and obliging, without being
     exciting enough to busy me incessantly, where, in short, I
     was free to surrender myself all day long to the promptings
     of my taste or to the most luxurious indolence.... As I came
     out from a long and most sweet musing fit, seeing myself
     surrounded by verdure and flowers and birds, and letting my
     eyes wander far over romantic shores that fringed a wide
     expanse of water bright as crystal, I fitted all these
     attractive objects into my dreams; and when at last I slowly
     recovered myself and recognised what was about me, I could
     not mark the point that cut off dream from reality, so
     equally did all things unite to endear to me the lonely
     retired life I led in this happy spot! Why can that life not
     come back to me again? Why can I not go finish my days in
     the beloved island, never to quit it, never again to see in
     it one dweller from the mainland, to bring back to me the
     memory of all the woes of every sort that they have
     delighted in heaping on my head for all these long years?...
     Freed from the earthly passions engendered by the tumult of
     social life, my soul would many a time lift itself above
     this atmosphere, and commune beforehand with the heavenly
     intelligences, into whose number it trusts to be ere long

The exquisite dream, thus set to words of most soothing music, came
soon to its end. The full and perfect sufficience of life was abruptly
disturbed. The government of Berne gave him notice to quit the island
and their territory within fifteen days. He represented to the
authorities that he was infirm and ill, that he knew not whither to
go, and that travelling in wintry weather would be dangerous to his
life. He even made the most extraordinary request that any man in
similar straits ever did make. "In this extremity," he wrote to their
representative, "I only see one resource for me, and however frightful
it may appear, I will adopt it, not only without repugnance, but with
eagerness, if their excellencies will be good enough to give their
consent. It is that it should please them for me to pass the rest of
my days in prison in one of their castles, or such other place in
their states as they may think fit to select. I will there live at my
own expense, and I will give security never to put them to any cost. I
submit to be without paper or pen, or any communication from without,
except so far as may be absolutely necessary, and through the channel
of those who shall have charge of me. Only let me have left, with the
use of a few books, the liberty to walk occasionally in a garden, and
I am content. Do not suppose that an expedient, so violent in
appearance, is the fruit of despair. My mind is perfectly calm at this
moment; I have taken time to think about it, and it is only after
profound consideration that I have brought myself to this decision.
Mark, I pray you, that if this seems an extraordinary resolution, my
situation is still more so. The distracted life that I have been made
to lead for several years without intermission would be terrible for a
man in full health; judge what it must be for a miserable invalid worn
down with weariness and misfortune, and who has now no wish save only
to die in a little peace."[170]

That the request was made in all sincerity we may well believe. The
difference between being in prison and being out of it was really not
considerable to a man who had the previous winter been confined to his
chamber for eight months without a break.[171] In other respects the
world was as cheerless as any prison could be. He was an exile from
the only places he knew, and to him a land unknown was terrible. He
had thought of Vienna, and the Prince of Würtemburg had sought the
requisite permission for him, but the priests were too strong in the
court of the house of Austria.[172] Madame d'Houdetot offered him a
resting-place in Normandy, and Saint Lambert in Lorraine.[173] He
thought of Potsdam. Rey, the printer, pressed him to go to Holland. He
wondered if he should have strength to cross the Alps and make his way
to Corsica. Eventually he made up his mind to go to Berlin, and he
went as far as Strasburg on his road thither.[174] Here he began to
fear the rude climate of the northern capital; he changed his plans,
and resolved to accept the warm invitations that he had received to
cross over to England. His friends used their interest to procure a
passport for him,[175] and the Prince of Conti offered him an
apartment in the privileged quarter of the Temple, on his way through
Paris. His own purpose seems to have been irresolute to the last, but
his friends acted with such energy and bustle on his behalf that the
English scheme was adopted, and he found himself in Paris (Dec. 17,
1765), on his way to London, almost before he had deliberately
realised what he was doing. It was a step that led him into many fatal
vexations, as we shall presently see. Meanwhile we may pause to
examine the two considerable books which had involved his life in all
this confusion and perplexity.


[94] June, 1762-December, 1765.

[95] _Conf._, xi. 175. It is generally printed in the volume of his
works entitled _Mélanges_.

[96] _Corr._, iii. 416.

[97] _Conf._, xi. 172.

[98] For a remarkable anticipation of the ruin of France, see _Conf._,
xi. 136.

[99] M. Roguin. June 14, 1762.

[100] _Corr._, ii. 347.

[101] Streckeisen, i. 35.

[102] His friend Moultou wrote him the news, Streckeisen, i. 43.
Geneva was the only place at which the Social Contract was burnt. Here
there were peculiar reasons, as we shall see.

[103] _Corr._, ii. 356.

[104] _Ib._, ii. 358, 369, etc.

[105] The principality of Neuchâtel had fallen by marriage (1504) to
the French house of Orleans-Longueville, which with certain
interruptions retained it until the extinction of the line by the
death of Marie, Duchess of Nemours (1707). Fifteen claimants arose
with fifteen varieties of far-off title, as well as a party for
constituting Neuchâtel a Republic and making it a fourteenth canton.
(Saint Simon, v. 276.) The Estates adjudged the sovereignty to the
Protestant house of Prussia (Nov. 3, 1707). Lewis XIV., as heir of the
pretensions of the extinct line, protested. Finally, at the peace of
Utrecht (1713), Lewis surrendered his claim in exchange for the
cession by Prussia of the Principality of Orange, and Prussia held it
until 1806. The disturbed history of the connection between Prussia
and Neuchâtel from 1814, when it became the twenty-first canton of the
Swiss Confederation, down to 1857, does not here concern us.

[106] _Corr._, ii. 370.

[107] _Corr._, ii. 371. July 1762.

[108] D'Alembert, who knew Frederick better than any of the
philosophers, to Voltaire, Nov. 22, 1765.

[109] Letter to Hume; Burton's _Life of Hume_, ii. 105, corroborating
_Conf._, xii. 196.

[110] Marischal to J.J.R.; Streckeisen, ii. 70.

[111] _Corr._, iii. 40. Nov. 1, 1762.

[112] Burton's _Life_, ii. 113.

[113] Voltaire's _Corr._ (1758). _Oeuv._, lxxv. pp. 31 and 80.

[114] _Conf._, xii. 237.

[115] _Corr._, iii. 41. Nov. 11, 1762.

[116] _Corr._, iii. 38. Oct. 30, 1762.

[117] _Ib._, iii. 110-115. Jan. 28, 1763.

[118] Bernardin de St. Pierre, xii. 103, 59, etc.

[119] George Keith (1685-1778) was elder brother of Frederick's famous
field-marshal, James Keith. They had taken part in the Jacobite rising
of 1715, and fled abroad on its failure. James Keith brought his
brother into the service of the King of Prussia, who sent him as
ambassador to Paris (1751), afterwards made him Governor of Neuchâtel
(1754), and eventually prevailed on the English Government to
reinstate him in the rights which he had forfeited by his share in the
rebellion (1763).

[120] Streckeisen, ii. 98, etc.

[121] One of Rousseau's chief distresses hitherto arose from the
indigence in which Theresa would be placed in case of his death. Rey,
the bookseller, gave her an annuity of about £16 a year, and Lord
Marischal's gift seems to have been 300 louis, the only money that
Rousseau was ever induced to accept from any one in his life. See
Streckeisen, ii. 99; _Corr._, iii. 336. The most delicate and sincere
of the many offers to provide for Theresa was made by Madame de
Verdelin (Streckeisen, ii. 506). The language in which Madame de
Verdelin speaks of Theresa in all her letters is the best testimony to
character that this much-abused creature has to produce.

[122] _Ib._, 90, 92, etc. Summer of 1763.

[123] Burton's _Life of Hume_, ii. 105. Oct. 2, 1762.

[124] The Confessions are not our only authority for this. See
Streckeisen, ii. 64; also D'Alembert to Voltaire, Sept. 8, 1762.

[125] Voltaire's _Corr._ _Oeuv._, lxvii. 458, 459, 485, etc.

[126] To D'Alembert, Sept. 15, 1762.

[127] Moultou to Rousseau, Streckeisen, i. 85, 87.

[128] Moultou to Rousseau, Streckeisen, i. 85, 87.

[129] Streckeisen, i. 50.

[130] _Ib._, i. 76.

[131] _Lettre à Christophe de Beaumont_, pp. 163-166.

[132] _Lettre à Christophe de Beaumont_, pp. 130-135.

[133] _Lettre à Christophe de Beaumont_, p. 93.

[134] Carlyle's _Frederick_, Bk. xxi. ch. iv. Rousseau, _Corr._, iii.

[135] _Corr._, iii. 57. Nov. 1762. To M. Montmollin.

[136] _Conf._, xii. 206.

[137] _Conf._, xii. 198.

[138] _Corr._, iii. 295. Dec. 25, 1763.

[139] Quoted in Musset-Pathay, ii. 500.

[140] For instance, _Corr._, iii. 249.

[141] _Ib._, iii. 364, 381.

[142] _Corr._, iii. 181-186, etc.

[143] Prince Lewis Eugene, son of Charles Alexander (reigning duke
from 1733 to 1737); a younger brother of Charles Eugene, known as
Schiller's Duke of Würtemberg, who reigned up to 1793. Frederick
Eugene, known in the Seven Years' War, was another brother. Rousseau's
correspondent became reigning duke in 1793, but only lived a year and
a half afterwards.

[144] _Corr._, iii. 250. Sept. 29, 1763.

[145] The prince's letters are given in the Streckeisen collection,
vol. ii.

[146] Streckeisen, ii. 202.

[147] Possibly Wilkes also; _Corr._, iv. 200.

[148] Streckeisen, i. 89. June 1, 1763.

[149] _Corr._, iii. 202. June 4, 1763.

[150] _Memoirs of my Life_, p. 55, _n._ (Ed. 1862). Necker
(1732-1804), whom Mdlle. Curchod ultimately married, was an eager
admirer of Rousseau. "Ah, how close the tender, humane, and virtuous
soul of Julie," he wrote to her author, "has brought me to you. How
the reading of those letters gratified me! how many good emotions did
they stir or fortify! How many sublimities in a thousand places in
these six volumes; not the sublimity that perches itself in the
clouds, but that which pushes everyday virtues to their highest
point," and so on. Feb. 16, 1761. Streckeisen, i. 333.

[151] Boswell's name only occurs twice in Rousseau's letters, I
believe; once (_Corr._, iv. 394) as the writer of a letter which Hume
was suspected of tampering with, and previously (iv. 70) as the bearer
of a letter. See also Streckeisen, i. 262.

[152] Streckeisen, ii. 111. Jan. 18, 1765.

[153] Bk. ii. ch. x.

[154] Boswell's _Account of Corsica_, p. 367.

[155] The correspondence between Rousseau and Buttafuoco has been
published in the _Oeuvres et Corr. Inédites de J.J.R._, 1861. See pp.
35, 43, etc.

[156] Boswell's _Life_, 179, 193, etc. (Ed. 1866).

[157] _"Je suis tout homme de pouvoir vous regarder avec pitié!"_
Letter dated Jan. 4, 1766, and given by Musset-Pathay as from a Scotch
lord, unnamed. Boswell had the honour of conducting Theresa to
England, after Hume had taken Rousseau over. "This young gentleman,"
writes Hume, "very good-humoured, very agreeable, and very mad--has
such a rage for literature that I dread some circumstance fatal to our
friend's honour. You remember the story of Terentia, who was first
married to Cicero, then to Sallust, and at last in her old age married
a young nobleman, who imagined that she must possess some secret which
would convey to him eloquence and genius." Burton's _Life_, ii. 307,
308. Boswell mentions that he met Rousseau in England (_Account of
Corsica_, p. 340), and also gives Rousseau's letter introducing him to
Paoli (p. 266).

[158] To Buttafuoco, p. 48, etc.

[159] _Corr._, vi. 176. Feb. 26, 1770.

[160] It may be worth noticing, as a link between historic personages,
that Napoleon Bonaparte's first piece was a _Lettre à Matteo
Buttafuoco_ (1791), the same Buttafuoco with whom Rousseau
corresponded, who had been Choiseul's agent in the union of the island
to France, was afterwards sent as deputy to the Constituent, and
finally became the bitterest enemy of Paoli and the patriotic party.

[161] _Corr._, iii. 190. To the First Syndic, May 12, 1763.

[162] Grimm's _Corr. Lit._, iv. 235. For Rousseau's opinion of his
book's companion at the stake, see _Corr._, iii. 442.

[163] Streckeisen, ii. 526.

[164] There appears to be no doubt that Rousseau was wrong in
attributing to Vernes the _Sentimens des Citoyens_.

[165] _Corr._, iv. 116, 122 (April 1765), 165-196 (August); also
_Conf._, xii. 245.

[166] Note to M. Auguis's edition, _Corr._, v. 395.

[167] _Corr._, iv. 204.

[168] _Conf._, xii. 259. This lapidation has sometimes been doubted,
and treated as an invention of Rousseau's morbid suspicion. The
official documents prove that his account was substantially true (see
Musset-Pathay, ii. 559.)

[169] The fifth of the _Rêveries_. See also _Conf._, 262-279, and
_Corr._, iv. 206-224. His stay in the island was from the second week
in September down to the last in October, 1765.

[170] _Corr._, iv. 221. Oct. 20, 1765.

[171] _Ib._, iv. 136, etc. April 27, 1765.

[172] Streckeisen-Moultou, ii. 209, 212.

[173] _Ib._, ii. 554.

[174] He arrived at Strasburg on the 2d or 3d of November, left it
about the end of the first week in December, and arrived in Paris on
the 16th of December 1765. A sort of apocryphal tradition is said to
linger in the island about Rousseau's last evening on the island, how
after supper he called for a lute, and sang some passably bad verses.
See M. Bougy's _J.J. Rousseau_, p. 179 (Paris: 1853.)

[175] Madame de Verdelin to J.J.R. Streckeisen, ii. 532. The minister
even expressed his especial delight at being able to serve Rousseau,
so little seriousness was there now in the formalities of absolution.
_Ib._ 547.



The dominant belief of the best minds of the latter half of
the eighteenth century was a passionate faith in the illimitable
possibilities of human progress. Nothing short of a general overthrow
of the planet could in their eyes stay the ever upward movement of
human perfectibility. They differed as to the details of the
philosophy of government which they deduced from this philosophy of
society, but the conviction that a golden era of tolerance,
enlightenment, and material prosperity was close at hand, belonged to
them all. Rousseau set his face the other way. For him the golden era
had passed away from our globe many centuries ago. Simplicity had fled
from the earth. Wisdom and heroism had vanished from out of the minds
of leaders. The spirit of citizenship had gone from those who should
have upheld the social union in brotherly accord. The dream of human
perfectibility which nerved men like Condorcet, was to Rousseau a sour
and fantastic mockery. The utmost that men could do was to turn their
eyes to the past, to obliterate the interval, to try to walk for a
space in the track of the ancient societies. They would hardly
succeed, but endeavour might at least do something to stay the plague
of universal degeneracy. Hence the fatality of his system. It placed
the centre of social activity elsewhere than in careful and rational
examination of social conditions, and in careful and rational effort
to modify them. As we began by saying, it substituted a retrograde
aspiration for direction, and emotion for the discovery of law. We can
hardly wonder, when we think of the intense exaltation of spirit
produced both by the perfectibilitarians and the followers of
Rousseau, and at the same time of the political degradation and
material disorder of France, that so violent a contrast between the
ideal and the actual led to a great volcanic outbreak. Alas, the
crucial difficulty of political change is to summon new force without
destroying the sound parts of a structure which it has taken so many
generations to erect. The Social Contract is the formal denial of the
possibility of successfully overcoming the difficulty.

"Although man deprives himself in the civil state of many advantages
which he holds from nature, yet he acquires in return others so great,
his faculties exercise and develop themselves, his ideas extend, his
sentiments are ennobled, his whole soul is raised to such a degree,
that if the abuses of this new condition did not so often degrade him
below that from which he has emerged, he would be bound to bless
without ceasing the happy moment which rescued him from it for ever,
and out of a stupid and blind animal made an intelligent being and a
man."[176] The little parenthesis as to the frequent degradation
produced by the abuses of the social condition, does not prevent us
from recognising in the whole passage a tolerably complete surrender
of the main position which was taken up in the two Discourses. The
short treatise on the Social Contract is an inquiry into the just
foundations and most proper form of that very political society, which
the Discourses showed to have its foundation in injustice, and to be
incapable of receiving any form proper for the attainment of the full
measure of human happiness.

Inequality in the same way is no longer denounced, but accepted and
defined. Locke's influence has begun to tell. The two principal
objects of every system of legislation are declared to be liberty and
equality. By equality we are warned not to understand that the degrees
of power and wealth should be absolutely the same, but that in respect
of power, such power should be out of reach of any violence, and be
invariably exercised in virtue of the laws; and in respect of riches,
that no citizen should be wealthy enough to buy another, and none poor
enough to sell himself. Do you say this equality is a mere chimera? It
is precisely because the force of things is constantly tending to
destroy equality, that the force of legislation ought as constantly to
be directed towards upholding it.[177] This is much clearer than the
indefinite way of speaking which we have already noticed in the second
Discourse. It means neither more nor less than that equality before
the law which is one of the elementary marks of a perfectly free

The idea of the law being constantly directed to counteract the
tendencies to violent inequalities in material possessions among
different members of a society, is too vague to be criticised. Does it
cover and warrant so sweeping a measure as the old _seisachtheia_ of
Solon, voiding all contracts in which the debtor had pledged his land
or his person; or such measures as the agrarian laws of Licinius and
the Gracchi? Or is it to go no further than to condemn such a law as
that which in England gives unwilled lands to the eldest son? We can
only criticise accurately a general idea of this sort in connection
with specific projects in which it is applied. As it stands, it is no
more than the expression of what the author thinks a wise principle of
public policy. It assumes the existence of property just as completely
as the theory of the most rigorous capitalist could do; it gives no
encouragement, as the Discourse did, to the notion of an equality in
being without property. There is no element of communism in a
principle so stated, but it suggests a social idea, based on the moral
claim of men to have equality of opportunity. This ideal stamped
itself on the minds of Robespierre and the other revolutionary
leaders, and led to practical results in the sale of the Church and
other lands in small lots, so as to give the peasant a market to buy
in. The effect of the economic change thus introduced happened to work
in the direction in which Rousseau pointed, for it is now known that
the most remarkable and most permanent of the consequences of the
revolution in the ownership of land was the erection, between the two
extreme classes of proprietors, of an immense body of middle-class
freeholders. This state is not equality, but gradation, and there is
undoubtedly an immense difference between the two. Still its origin is
an illustration on the largest scale in history of the force of
legislation being exerted to counteract an irregularity that had
become unbearable.[178]

Notwithstanding the disappearance of the more extravagant elements of
the old thesis, the new speculation was far from being purged of the
fundamental errors that had given such popularity to its predecessors.
"If the sea," he says in one place, "bathes nothing but inaccessible
rocks on your coasts, remain barbarous ichthyophagi; you will live all
the more tranquilly for it, better perhaps, and assuredly more
happily."[179] Apart from an outburst like this, the central idea
remained the same, though it was approached from another side and with
different objects. The picture of a state of nature had lost none of
its perilous attraction, though it was hung in a slightly changed
light. It remained the starting-point of the right and normal
constitution of civil society, just as it had been the starting-point
of the denunciation of civil society as incapable of right
constitution, and as necessarily and for ever abnormal. Equally with
the Discourses, the Social Contract is a repudiation of that historic
method which traces the present along a line of ascertained
circumstances, and seeks an improved future in an unbroken
continuation of that line. The opening words, which sent such a thrill
through the generation to which they were uttered in two continents,
"Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains," tell us at the
outset that we are as far away as ever from the patient method of
positive observation, and as deeply buried as ever in deducing
practical maxims from a set of conditions which never had any other
than an abstract and phantasmatic existence. How is a man born free?
If he is born into isolation, he perishes instantly. If he is born
into a family, he is at the moment of his birth committed to a state
of social relation, in however rudimentary a form; and the more or
less of freedom which this state may ultimately permit to him, depends
upon circumstances. Man was hardly born free among Romans and
Athenians, when both law and public opinion left a father at perfect
liberty to expose his new-born infant. And the more primitive the
circumstances, the later the period at which he gains freedom. A child
was not born free in the early days of the Roman state, when the
_patria potestas_ was a vigorous reality. Nor, to go yet further back,
was he born free in the times of the Hebrew patriarchs, when Abraham
had full right of sacrificing his son, and Jephthah of sacrificing his

But to speak thus is to speak what we do know. Rousseau was not open
to such testimony. "My principles," he said in contempt of Grotius,
"are not founded on the authority of poets; they come from the nature
of things and are based on reason."[180] He does indeed in one place
express his reverence for the Judaic law, and administers a just
rebuke to the philosophic arrogance which saw only successful
impostors in the old legislators.[181] But he paid no attention to
the processes and usages of which this law was the organic expression,
nor did he allow himself to learn from it the actual conditions of the
social state which accepted it. It was Locke, whose essay on civil
government haunts us throughout the Social Contract, who had taught
him that men are born free, equal, and independent. Locke evaded the
difficulty of the dependence of childhood by saying that when the son
comes to the estate that made his father a free man, he becomes a free
man too.[182] What of the old Roman use permitting a father to sell
his son three times? In the same metaphysical spirit Locke had laid
down the absolute proposition that "conjugal society is made by a
voluntary compact between man and woman."[183] This is true of a small
number of western societies in our own day, but what of the primitive
usages of communal marriages, marriages by capture, purchase, and the
rest? We do not mean it as any discredit to writers upon government in
the seventeenth century that they did not make good out of their own
consciousness the necessary want of knowledge about primitive
communities. But it is necessary to point out, first, that they did
not realise all the knowledge within their reach, and next that, as a
consequence of this, their propositions had a quality that vitiated
all their speculative worth. Filmer's contention that man is not
naturally free was truer than the position of Locke and Rousseau, and
it was so because Filmer consulted and appealed to the most authentic
of the historic records then accessible.[184]

It is the more singular that Rousseau should have thus deliberately
put aside all but the most arbitrary and empirical historical lessons,
and it shows the extraordinary force with which men may be mastered by
abstract prepossessions, even when they have a partial knowledge of
the antidote; because Rousseau in several places not only admits, but
insists upon, the necessity of making institutions relative to the
state of the community, in respect of size, soil, manners, occupation,
morality, character. "It is in view of such relations as these that we
must assign to each people a particular system, which shall be the
best, not perhaps in itself, but for the state for which it is
destined."[185] In another place he calls attention to manners,
customs, above all to opinion, as the part of a social system on which
the success of all the rest depends; particular rules being only the
arching of the vault, of which manners, though so much tardier in
rising, form a key-stone that can never be disturbed.[186] This was
excellent so far as it went, but it was one of the many great truths,
which men may hold in their minds without appreciating their full
value. He did not see that these manners, customs, opinions, have old
roots which must be sought in a historic past; that they are connected
with the constitution of human nature, and that then in turn they
prepare modifications of that constitution. His narrow, symmetrical,
impatient humour unfitted him to deal with the complex tangle of the
history of social growths. It was essential to his mental comfort that
he should be able to see a picture of perfect order and logical system
at both ends of his speculation. Hence, he invented, to begin with,
his ideal state of nature, and an ideal mode of passing from that to
the social state. He swept away in his imagination the whole series of
actual incidents between present and past; and he constructed a system
which might be imposed upon all societies indifferently by a
legislator summoned for that purpose, to wipe out existing uses, laws,
and institutions, and make afresh a clear and undisturbed beginning of
national life. The force of habit was slowly and insensibly to be
substituted for that of the legislator's authority, but the existence
of such habits previously as forces to be dealt with, and the
existence of certain limits of pliancy in the conditions of human
nature and social possibility, are facts of which the author of the
Social Contract takes not the least account.

Rousseau knew hardly any history, and the few isolated pieces of old
fact which he had picked up in his very slight reading were exactly
the most unfortunate that a student in need of the historic method
could possibly have fallen in with. The illustrations which are
scantily dispersed in his pages,--and we must remark that they are no
more than illustrations for conclusions arrived at quite independently
of them, and not the historical proof and foundations of his
conclusions,--are nearly all from the annals of the small states of
ancient Greece, and from the earlier times of the Roman republic. We
have already pointed out to what an extent his imagination was struck
at the time of his first compositions by the tale of Lycurgus. The
influence of the same notions is still paramount. The hopelessness of
giving good laws to a corrupt people is supposed to be demonstrated by
the case of Minos, whose legislation failed in Crete because the
people for whom he made laws were sunk in vices; and by the further
example of Plato, who refused to give laws to the Arcadians and
Cyrenians, knowing that they were too rich and could never suffer
equality.[187] The writer is thinking of Plato's Laws, when he says
that just as nature has fixed limits to the stature of a well-formed
man, outside of which she produces giants and dwarfs, so with
reference to the best constitution for a state, there are bounds to
its extent, so that it may be neither too large to be capable of good
government, nor too small to be independent and self-sufficing. The
further the social bond is extended, the more relaxed it becomes, and
in general a small state is proportionally stronger than a large
one.[188] In the remarks with which he proceeds to corroborate this
position, we can plainly see that he is privately contrasting an
independent Greek community with the unwieldy oriental monarchy
against which at one critical period Greece had to contend. He had
never realised the possibility of such forms of polity as the Roman
Empire, or the half-federal dominion of England which took such
enormous dimensions in his time, or the great confederation of states
which came to birth two years before he died. He was the servant of
his own metaphor, as the Greek writers so often were. His argument
that a state must be of a moderate size because the rightly shapen man
is neither dwarf nor giant, is exactly on a par with Aristotle's
argument to the same effect, on the ground that beauty demands size,
and there must not be too great nor too small size, because a ship
sails badly if it be either too heavy or too light.[189] And when
Rousseau supposes the state to have ten thousand inhabitants, and
talks about the right size of its territory,[190] who does not think
of the five thousand and forty which the Athenian Stranger prescribed
to Cleinias the Cretan as the exactly proper number for the perfectly
formed state?[191] The prediction of the short career which awaits a
state that is cursed with an extensive and accessible seaboard,
corresponds precisely with the Athenian Stranger's satisfaction that
the new city is to be eighty stadia from the coast.[192] When Rousseau
himself began to think about the organisation of Corsica, he praised
the selection of Corte as the chief town of a patriotic
administration, because it was far from the sea, and so its
inhabitants would long preserve their simplicity and uprightness.[193]
And in later years still, when meditating upon a constitution for
Poland, he propounded an economic system essentially Spartan; the
people were enjoined to think little about foreigners, to give
themselves little concern about commerce, to suppress stamped paper,
and to put a tithe upon the land.[194]

The chapter on the Legislator is in the same region. We are again
referred to Lycurgus; and to the circumstance that Greek towns usually
confided to a stranger the sacred task of drawing up their laws. His
experience in Venice and the history of his native town supplemented
the examples of Greece. Geneva summoned a stranger to legislate for
her, and "those who only look on Calvin as a theologian have a scanty
idea of the extent of his genius; the preparation of our wise edicts,
in which he had so large a part, do him as much honour as his
Institutes."[195] Rousseau's vision was too narrow to let him see the
growth of government and laws as a co-ordinate process, flowing from
the growth of all the other parts and organs of society, and advancing
in more or less equal step along with them. He could begin with
nothing short of an absolute legislator, who should impose a system
from without by a single act, a structure hit upon once for all by his
individual wisdom, not slowly wrought out by many minds, with popular
assent and co-operation, at the suggestion of changing social
circumstances and need.[196]

All this would be of very trifling importance in the history of
political literature, but for the extraordinary influence which
circumstances ultimately bestowed upon it. The Social Contract was the
gospel of the Jacobins, and much of the action of the supreme party in
France during the first months of the year 1794 is only fully
intelligible when we look upon it as the result and practical
application of Rousseau's teaching. The conception of the situation
entertained by Robespierre and Saint Just was entirely moulded on all
this talk about the legislators of Greece and Geneva. "The transition
of an oppressed nation to democracy is like the effort by which nature
rose from nothingness to existence. You must entirely refashion a
people whom you wish to make free--destroy its prejudices, alter its
habits, limit its necessities, root up its vices, purify its desires.
The state therefore must lay hold on every human being at his birth,
and direct his education with powerful hand. Solon's weak confidence
threw Athens into fresh slavery, while Lycurgus's severity founded the
republic of Sparta on an immovable basis."[197] These words, which
come from a decree of the Committee of Public Safety, might well be
taken for an excerpt from the Social Contract. The fragments of the
institutions by which Saint Just intended to regenerate his country,
reveal a man with the example of Lycurgus before his eyes in every
line he wrote.[198] When on the eve of the Thermidorian revolution
which overthrew him and his party, he insisted on the necessity of a
dictatorship, he was only thinking of the means by which he should at
length obtain the necessary power for forcing his regenerating
projects on the country; for he knew that Robespierre, whom he named
as the man for the dictatorship, accepted his projects, and would lend
the full force of the temporal arm to the propagation of ideas which
they had acquired together from Jean Jacques, and from the Greeks to
whom Jean Jacques had sent them for example and instruction.[199] No
doubt the condition of France after 1792 must naturally have struck
any one too deeply imbued with the spirit of the Social Contract to
look beneath the surface of the society with which the Convention had
to deal, as urgently inviting a lawgiver of the ancient stamp. The old
order in church and state had been swept away, no organs for the
performance of the functions of national life were visible, the moral
ideas which had bound the social elements together in the extinct
monarchy seemed to be permanently sapped. A politician who had for
years been dreaming about Minos and Lycurgus and Calvin, especially if
he lived in a state with such a tradition of centralisation as ruled
in France, was sure to suppose that here was the scene and the moment
for a splendid repetition on an immense scale of those immortal
achievements. The futility of the attempt was the practical and ever
memorable illustration of the defect of Rousseau's geometrical method.
It was one thing to make laws for the handful of people who lived in
Geneva in the sixteenth century, united in religious faith, and
accepting the same form and conception of the common good. It was a
very different thing to try to play Calvin over some twenty-five
millions of a heterogeneously composed nation, abounding in variations
of temperament, faith, laws, and habits and weltering in unfathomable
distractions. The French did indeed at length invite a heaven-sent
stranger from Corsica to make laws for them, but not until he had set
his foot upon their neck; and even Napoleon Bonaparte, who had begun
life like the rest of his generation by writing Rousseauite essays,
made a swift return to the historic method in the equivocal shape of
the Concordat.

Not only were Rousseau's schemes of polity conceived from the point of
view of a small territory with a limited population. "You must not,"
he says in one place, "make the abuses of great states an objection to
a writer who would fain have none but small ones."[200] Again, when he
said that in a truly free state the citizens performed all their
services to the community with their arms and none by money, and that
he looked upon the corvée (or compulsory labour on the public roads)
as less hostile to freedom than taxes,[201] he showed that he was
thinking of a state not greatly passing the dimensions of a parish.
This was not the only defect of his schemes. They assumed a sort of
state of nature in the minds of the people with whom the lawgiver had
to deal. Saint Just made the same assumption afterwards, and trusted
to his military school to erect on these bare plots whatever
superstructure he might think fit to appoint. A society that had for
so many centuries been organised and moulded by a powerful and
energetic church, armed with a definite doctrine, fixing the same
moral tendencies in a long series of successive generations, was not
in the naked mental state which the Jacobins postulated. It was not
prepared to accept free divorce, the substitution of friendship for
marriage, the displacement of the family by the military school, and
the other articles in Saint Just's programme of social renovation. The
twelve apostles went among people who were morally swept and
garnished, and they went armed with instruments proper to seize the
imagination of their hearers. All moral reformers seek the ignorant
and simple, poor fishermen in one scene, labourers and women in
another, for the good reason that new ideas only make way on ground
that is not already too heavily encumbered with prejudices. But France
in 1793 was in no condition of this kind. Opinion in all its spheres
was deepened by an old and powerful organisation, to a degree which
made any attempt to abolish the opinion, as the organisation appeared
to have been abolished, quite hopeless until the lapse of three or
four hundred years had allowed due time for dissolution. After all it
was not until the fourth century of our era that the work of even the
twelve apostles began to tell decisively and quickly. As for the
Lycurgus of whom the French chattered, if such a personality ever
existed out of the region of myth, he came to his people armed with an
oracle from the gods, just as Moses did, and was himself regarded as
having a nature touched with divinity. No such pretensions could well
be made by any French legislator within a dozen years or so of the
death of Voltaire.

Let us here remark that it was exactly what strikes us as the
desperate absurdity of the assumptions of the Social Contract, which
constituted the power of that work, when it accidentally fell into the
hands of men who surveyed a national system wrecked in all its parts.
The Social Contract is worked out precisely in that fashion which, if
it touches men at all, makes them into fanatics. Long trains of
reasoning, careful allegation of proofs, patient admission on every
hand of qualifying propositions and multitudinous limitations, are
essential to science, and produce treatises that guide the wise
statesman in normal times. But it is dogma that gives fervour to a
sect. There are always large classes of minds to whom anything in the
shape of a vigorously compact system is irresistibly fascinating, and
to whom the qualification of a proposition, or the limitation of a
theoretic principle is distressing or intolerable. Such persons always
come to the front for a season in times of distraction, when the party
that knows its own aims most definitely is sure to have the best
chance of obtaining power. And Rousseau's method charmed their
temperament. A man who handles sets of complex facts is necessarily
slow-footed, but one who has only words to deal with, may advance with
a speed, a precision, a consistency, a conclusiveness, that has a
magical potency over men who insist on having politics and theology
drawn out in exact theorems like those of Euclid.

Rousseau traces his conclusions from words, and develops his system
from the interior germs of phrases. Like the typical schoolman, he
assumes that analysis of terms is the right way of acquiring new
knowledge about things; he mistakes the multiplication of propositions
for the discovery of fresh truth. Many pages of the Social Contract
are mere logical deductions from verbal definitions: the slightest
attempt to confront them with actual fact would have shown them to be
not only valueless, but wholly meaningless, in connection with real
human nature and the visible working of human affairs. He looks into
the word, or into his own verbal notion, and tells us what is to be
found in that, whereas we need to be told the marks and qualities that
distinguish the object which the word is meant to recall. Hence arises
his habit of setting himself questions, with reference to which we
cannot say that the answers are not true, but only that the questions
themselves were never worth asking. Here is an instance of his method
of supposing that to draw something from a verbal notion is to find
out something corresponding to fact. "We can distinguish in the
magistrate three essentially different wills: 1st, the will peculiar
to him as an individual, which only tends to his own particular
advantage; 2nd, the common will of the magistrates, which refers only
to the advantage of the prince [_i.e._ the government], and this we
may name corporate will, which is general in relation to the
government, and particular in relation to the state of which the
government is a part; 3rd, the will of the people or sovereign will,
which is general, as well in relation to the state considered as a
whole, as in relation to the government considered as part of the
whole."[202] It might be hard to prove that all this is not true, but
then it is unreal and comes to nothing, as we see if we take the
trouble to turn it into real matter. Thus a member of the British
House of Commons, who is a magistrate in Rousseau's sense, has three
essentially different wills: first, as a man, Mr. So-and-so; second,
his corporate will, as member of the chamber, and this will is general
in relation to the legislature, but particular in relation to the
whole body of electors and peers; third, his will as a member of the
great electoral body, which is a general will alike in relation to the
electoral body and to the legislature. An English publicist is
perfectly welcome to make assertions of this kind, if he chooses to do
so, and nobody will take the trouble to deny them. But they are
nonsense. They do not correspond to the real composition of a member
of parliament, nor do they shed the smallest light upon any part
either of the theory of government in general, or the working of our
own government in particular. Almost the same kind of observation
might be made of the famous dogmatic statements about sovereignty.
"Sovereignty, being only the exercise of the general will, can never
be alienated, and the sovereign, who is only a collective being, can
only be represented by himself: the power may be transmitted, but not
the will;"[203] sovereignty is indivisible, not only in principle, but
in object;[204] and so forth. We shall have to consider these remarks
from another point of view. At present we refer to them as
illustrating the character of the book, as consisting of a number of
expansions of definitions, analysed as words, not compared with the
facts of which the words are representatives. This way of treating
political theory enabled the writer to assume an air of certitude and
precision, which led narrow deductive minds completely captive. Burke
poured merited scorn on the application of geometry to politics and
algebraic formulas to government, but then it was just this seeming
demonstration, this measured accuracy, that filled Rousseau's
disciples with a supreme and undoubting confidence which leaves the
modern student of these schemes in amazement unspeakable. The thinness
of Robespierre's ideas on government ceases to astonish us, when we
remember that he had not trained himself to look upon it as the art of
dealing with huge groups of conflicting interests, of hostile
passions, of hardly reconcilable aims, of vehemently opposed forces.
He had disciplined his political intelligence on such meagre and
unsubstantial argumentation as the following:--"Let us suppose the
state composed of ten thousand citizens. The sovereign can only be
considered collectively and as a body; but each person, in his quality
as subject, is considered as an individual unit; thus the sovereign is
to the subject as ten thousand is to one; in other words, each member
of the state has for his share only the ten-thousandth part of the
sovereign authority, though he is submitted to it in all his own
entirety. If the people be composed of a hundred thousand men, the
condition of the subjects does not change, and each of them bears
equally the whole empire of the laws, while his suffrage, reduced to a
hundred-thousandth, has ten times less influence in drawing them up.
Then, the subject remaining still only one, the relation of the
sovereign augments in the ratio of the number of the citizens. Whence
it follows that, the larger the state becomes, the more does liberty

Apart from these arithmetical conceptions, and the deep charm which
their assurance of expression had for the narrow and fervid minds of
which England and Germany seem to have got finally rid in Anabaptists
and Fifth Monarchy men, but which still haunted France, there were
maxims in the Social Contract of remarkable convenience for the
members of a Committee of Public Safety. "How can a blind multitude,"
the writer asks in one place, "which so often does not know its own
will, because it seldom knows what is good for it, execute of itself
an undertaking so vast and so difficult as a system of
legislation?"[206] Again, "as nature gives to each man an absolute
power over all his members, so the social pact gives to the body
politic an absolute power over all its members; and it is this same
power which, when directed by the general will, bears, as I have said,
the name of sovereignty."[207] Above all, the little chapter on a
dictatorship is the very foundation of the position of the
Robespierrists in the few months immediately preceding their fall. "It
is evidently the first intention of the people that the state should
not perish," and so on, with much criticism of the system of
occasional dictatorships, as they were resorted to in old Rome.[208]
Yet this does not in itself go much beyond the old monarchic doctrine
of Prerogative, as a corrective for the slowness and want of immediate
applicability of mere legal processes in cases of state emergency; and
it is worth noticing again and again that in spite of the shriekings
of reaction, the few atrocities of the Terror are an almost invisible
speck compared with the atrocities of Christian churchmen and lawful
kings, perpetrated in accordance with their notion of what constituted
public safety. So far as Rousseau's intention goes, we find in his
writings one of the strongest denunciations of the doctrine of public
safety that is to be found in any of the writings of the century. "Is
the safety of a citizen," he cries, "less the common cause than the
safety of the state? They may tell us that it is well that one should
perish on behalf of all. I will admire such a sentence in the mouth of
a virtuous patriot, who voluntarily and for duty's sake devotes
himself to death for the salvation of his country. But if we are to
understand that it is allowed to the government to sacrifice an
innocent person for the safety of the multitude, I hold this maxim for
one of the most execrable that tyranny has ever invented, and the most
dangerous that can be admitted."[209] It may be said that the
Terrorists did not sacrifice innocent life, but the plea is frivolous
on the lips of men who proscribed whole classes. You cannot justly
draw a capital indictment against a class. Rousseau, however, cannot
fairly be said to have had a share in the responsibility for the more
criminal part of the policy of 1793, any more than the founder of
Christianity is responsible for the atrocities that have been
committed by the more ardent worshippers of his name, and justified by
stray texts caught up from the gospels. Helvétius had said, "All
becomes legitimate and even virtuous on behalf of the public safety."
Rousseau wrote in the margin, "The public safety is nothing unless
individuals enjoy security."[210] The author of a theory is not
answerable for the applications which may be read into it by the
passions of men and the exigencies of a violent crisis. Such
applications show this much and no more, that the theory was
constructed with an imperfect consideration of the qualities of human
nature, with too narrow a view of the conditions of society, and
therefore with an inadequate appreciation of the consequences which
the theory might be drawn to support.

It is time to come to the central conception of the Social Contract,
the dogma which made of it for a time the gospel of a nation, the
memorable doctrine of the sovereignty of peoples. Of this doctrine
Rousseau was assuredly not the inventor, though the exaggerated
language of some popular writers in France leads us to suppose that
they think of him as nothing less. Even in the thirteenth century the
constitution of the Orders, and the contests of the friars with the
clergy, had engendered faintly democratic ways of thinking.[211] Among
others the great Aquinas had protested against the juristic doctrine
that the law is the pleasure of the prince. The will of the prince, he
says, to be a law, must be directed by reason; law is appointed for
the common good, and not for a special or private good: it follows
from this that only the reason of the multitude, or of a prince
representing the multitude, can make a law.[212] A still more
remarkable approach to later views was made by Marsilio of Padua,
physician to Lewis of Bavaria, who wrote a strong book on his master's
side, in the great contest between him and the pope (1324). Marsilio
in the first part of his work not only lays down very elaborately the
proposition that laws ought to be made by the "_universitas civium_";
he places this sovereignty of the people on the true basis (which
Rousseau only took for a secondary support to his original compact),
namely, the greater likelihood of laws being obeyed in the first
place, and being good laws in the second, when they are made by the
body of the persons affected. "No one knowingly does hurt to himself,
or deliberately asks what is unjust, and on that account all or a
great majority must wish such law as best suits the common interest of
the citizens."[213] Turning from this to the Social Contract, or to
Locke's essay on Government, the identity in doctrine and
correspondence in dialect may teach us how little true originality
there can he among thinkers who are in the same stage; how a
metaphysician of the thirteenth century and a metaphysician of the
eighteenth hit on the same doctrine; and how the true classification
of thinkers does not follow intervals of time, but is fixed by
differences of method. It is impossible that in the constant play of
circumstances and ideas in the minds of different thinkers, the same
combinations of form and colour in a philosophic arrangement of such
circumstances and ideas should not recur. Signal novelties in thought
are as limited as signal inventions in architectural construction. It
is only one of the great changes in method, that can remove the limits
of the old combinations, by bringing new material and fundamentally
altering the point of view.

In the sixteenth century there were numerous writers who declared the
right of subjects to depose a bad sovereign, but this position is to
be distinguished from Rousseau's doctrine. Thus, if we turn to the
great historic event of 1581, the rejection of the yoke of Spain by
the Dutch, we find the Declaration of Independence running, "that if a
prince is appointed by God over the land, it is to protect them from
harm, even as a shepherd to the guardianship of his flock. The
subjects are not appointed by God for the behoof of the prince, but
the prince for his subjects, without whom he is no prince." This is
obviously divine right, fundamentally modified by a popular
principle, accepted to meet the exigencies of the occasion, and to
justify after the event a measure which was dictated by urgent need
for practical relief. Such a notion of the social compact was still
emphatically in the semi-patriarchal stage, and is distinct as can be
from the dogma of popular sovereignty as Rousseau understood it. But
it plainly marked a step on the way. It was the development of
Protestant principles which produced and necessarily involved the
extreme democratic conclusion. Time was needed for their full
expansion in this sense, but the result could only have been avoided
by a suppression of the Reformation, and we therefore count it
inevitable. Bodin (1577) had defined sovereignty as residing in the
supreme legislative authority, without further inquiry as to the
source or seat of that authority, though he admits the vague position
which even Lewis XIV. did not deny, that the object of political
society is the greatest good of every citizen or the whole state. In
1603 a Protestant professor of law in Germany, Althusen by name,
published a treatise of Politics, in which the doctrine of the
sovereignty of peoples was clearly formulated, to the profound
indignation both of Jesuits and of Protestant jurists.[214] Rousseau
mentions his name;[215] it does not appear that he read Althusen's
rather uncommon treatise, but its teaching would probably have a place
in the traditions of political theorising current at Geneva, to the
spirit of whose government it was so congenial. Hooker, vindicating
episcopacy against the democratic principles of the Puritans, had
still been led, apparently by way of the ever dominant idea of a law
natural, to base civil government on the assent of the governed, and
had laid down such propositions as these: "Laws they are not, which
public approbation hath not made so. Laws therefore human, of what
kind soever, are available by consent," and so on.[216] The views of
the Ecclesiastical Polity were adopted by Locke, and became the
foundation of the famous essay on Civil Government, from which popular
leaders in our own country drew all their weapons down to the outbreak
of the French Revolution. Grotius (1625) starting from the principle
that the law of nature enjoins that we should stand by our agreements,
then proceeded to assume either an express, or at any rate a tacit and
implied, promise on the part of all who become members of a community,
to obey the majority of the body, or a majority of those to whom
authority has been delegated.[217] This is a unilateral view of the
social contract, and omits the element of reciprocity which in
Rousseau's idea was cardinal.

Locke was Rousseau's most immediate inspirer, and the latter affirmed
himself to have treated the same matters exactly on Locke's
principles. Rousseau, however, exaggerated Locke's politics as greatly
as Condillac exaggerated his metaphysics. There was the important
difference that Locke's essay on Civil Government was the
justification in theory of a revolution which had already been
accomplished in practice, while the Social Contract, tinged as it was
by silent reference in the mind of the writer to Geneva, was yet a
speculation in the air. The circumstances under which it was written
gave to the propositions of Locke's piece a reserve and moderation
which savour of a practical origin and a special case. They have not
the wide scope and dogmatic air and literary precision of the
corresponding propositions in Rousseau. We find in Locke none of those
concise phrases which make fanatics. But the essential doctrine is
there. The philosopher of the Revolution of 1688 probably carried its
principles further than most of those who helped in the Revolution had
any intention to carry them, when he said that "the legislature being
only a fiduciary power to act for certain ends, there remains still in
the people a supreme power to remove or alter the legislative."[218]
It may be questioned how many of the peers of that day would have
assented to the proposition that the people--and did Locke mean by the
people the electors of the House of Commons, or all males over
twenty-one, or all householders paying rates?--could by any expression
of their will abolish the legislative power of the upper chamber, or
put an end to the legislative and executive powers of the crown. But
Locke's statements are direct enough, though he does not use so terse
a label for his doctrine as Rousseau affixed to it.

Again, besides the principle of popular sovereignty, Locke most likely
gave to Rousseau the idea of the origin of this sovereignty in the
civil state in a pact or contract, which was represented as the
foundation and first condition of the civil state. From this naturally
flowed the connected theory, of a perpetual consent being implied as
given by the people to each new law. We need not quote passages from
Locke to demonstrate the substantial correspondence of assumption
between him and the author of the Social Contract. They are found in
every chapter.[219] Such principles were indispensable for the defence
of a Revolution like that of 1688, which was always carefully marked
out by its promoters, as well as by its eloquent apologist and
expositor a hundred years later, the great Burke, as above all things
a revolution within the pale of the law or the constitution. They
represented the philosophic adjustment of popular ideas to the
political changes wrought by shifting circumstances, as distinguished
from the biblical or Hebraic method of adjusting such ideas, which had
prevailed in the contests of the previous generation.

Yet there was in the midst of those contests one thinker of the first
rank in intellectual power, who had constructed a genuine philosophy
of government. Hobbes's speculations did not fit in with the theory of
either of the two bodies of combatants in the Civil War. They were
each in the theological order of ideas, and neither of them sought or
was able to comprehend the application of philosophic principles to
their own case or to that of their adversaries.[220] Hebrew precedents
and bible texts, on the one hand; prerogative of use and high church
doctrine, on the other. Between these was no space for the acceptance
of a secular and rationalistic theory, covering the whole field of a
social constitution. Now the influence of Hobbes upon Rousseau was
very marked, and very singular. There were numerous differences
between the philosopher of Geneva and his predecessor of Malmesbury.
The one looked on men as good, the other looked on them as bad. The
one described the state of nature as a state of peace, the other as a
state of war. The one believed that laws and institutions had depraved
man, the other that they had improved him.[221] But these differences
did not prevent the action of Hobbes on Rousseau. It resulted in a
curious fusion between the premisses and the temper of Hobbes and the
conclusions of Locke. This fusion produced that popular absolutism of
which the Social Contract was the theoretical expression, and Jacobin
supremacy the practical manifestation. Rousseau borrowed from Hobbes
the true conception of sovereignty, and from Locke the true conception
of the ultimate seat and original of authority, and of the two
together he made the great image of the sovereign people. Strike the
crowned head from that monstrous figure which is the frontispiece of
the Leviathan, and you have a frontispiece that will do excellently
well for the Social Contract. Apart from a multitude of other
obligations, good and bad, which Rousseau owed to Hobbes, as we shall
point out, we may here mention that of the superior accuracy of the
notion of law in the Social Contract over the notion of law in
Montesquieu's work. The latter begins, as everybody knows, with a
definition inextricably confused: "Laws are necessary relations
flowing from the nature of things, and in this sense all beings have
their laws, divinity has its laws, the material world has its laws,
the intelligences superior to men have their laws, the beasts have
their laws, man has his laws.... There is a primitive reason, and laws
are the relations to be found between that and the different beings,
and the relations of these different beings among one another."[222]
Rousseau at once put aside these divergent meanings, made the proper
distinction between a law of nature and the imperative law of a state,
and justly asserted that the one could teach us nothing worth knowing
about the other.[223] Hobbes's phraseology is much less definite than
this, and shows that he had not himself wholly shaken off the same
confusion as reigned in Montesquieu's account a century later. But
then Hobbes's account of the true meaning of sovereignty was so clear,
firm, and comprehensive, as easily to lead any fairly perspicuous
student who followed him, to apply it to the true meaning of law. And
on this head of law not so much fault is to be found with Rousseau, as
on the head of larger constitutional theory. He did not look long
enough at given laws, and hence failed to seize all their distinctive
qualities; above all he only half saw, if he saw at all, that a law is
a command and not a contract, and his eyes were closed to this,
because the true view was incompatible with his fundamental assumption
of contract as the base of the social union.[224] But he did at all
events grasp the quality of generality as belonging to laws proper,
and separated them justly from what he calls decrees, which we are now
taught to name occasional or particular commands.[225] This is worth
mentioning, because it shows that, in spite of his habits of
intellectual laxity, Rousseau was capable, where he had a clear-headed
master before him, of a very considerable degree of precision of
thought, however liable it was to fall into error or deficiency for
want of abundant comparison with bodies of external fact. Let us now
proceed to some of the central propositions of the Social Contract.

1. The origin of society dates from the moment when the obstacles
which impede the preservation of men in a state of nature are too
strong for such forces as each individual can employ in order to keep
himself in that state. At this point they can only save themselves by
aggregation. Problem: to find a form of association which defends and
protects with the whole common force the person and property of each
associate, and by which, each uniting himself to all, still only obeys
himself, and remains as free as he was before. Solution: a social
compact reducible to these words, "Each of us places in common his
person and his whole power under the supreme direction of the general
will; and we further receive each member as indivisible part of the
whole." This act of association constitutes a moral and collective
body, a public person.

The practical importance and the mischief of thus suffering society to
repose on conventions which the human will had made, lay in the
corollary that the human will is competent at any time to unmake them,
and also therefore to devise all possible changes that fell short of
unmaking them. This was the root of the fatal hypothesis of the
dictator, or divinely commissioned lawgiver. External circumstance and
human nature alike were passive and infinitely pliable; they were the
material out of which the legislator was to devise conventions at
pleasure, without apprehension as to their suitableness either to the
conditions of society among which they were to work, or to the
passions and interests of those by whom they were to be carried out,
and who were supposed to have given assent to them. It would be unjust
to say that Rousseau actually faced this position and took the
consequences. He expressly says in more places than one that the
science of Government is only a science of combinations, applications,
and exceptions, according to time, place, and circumstance.[226] But
to base society on conventions is to impute an element of
arbitrariness to these combinations and applications, and to make them
independent, as they can never be, of the limits inexorably fixed by
the nature of things. The notion of compact is the main source of all
the worst vagaries in Rousseau's political speculation.

It is worth remarking in the history of opinion, that there was at
this time in France a little knot of thinkers who were nearly in full
possession of the true view of the limits set by the natural ordering
of societies to the power of convention and the function of the
legislators. Five years after the publication of the Social Contract,
a remarkable book was written by one of the economic sect of the
Physiocrats, the later of whom, though specially concerned with the
material interests of communities, very properly felt the necessity of
connecting the discussion of wealth with the assumption of certain
fundamental political conditions. They felt this, because it is
impossible to settle any question about wages or profits, for
instance, until you have first settled whether you are assuming the
principles of liberty and property. This writer with great consistency
found the first essential of all social order in conformity of
positive law and institution to those qualities of human nature, and
their relations with those material instruments of life, which, and
not convention, were the true origin, as they are the actual grounds,
of the perpetuation of our societies.[227] This was wiser than
Rousseau's conception of the lawgiver as one who should change human
nature, and take away from man the forces that are naturally his own,
to replace them by others comparatively foreign to him.[228] Rousseau
once wrote, in a letter about Rivière's book, that the great problem
in politics, which might be compared with the quadrature of the circle
in geometry, is to find a form of government which shall place law
above man.[229] A more important problem, and not any less difficult
for the political theoriser, is to mark the bounds at which the
authority of the law is powerless or mischievous in attempting to
control the egoistic or non-social parts of man. This problem Rousseau
ignored, and that he should do so was only natural in one who
believed that man had bound himself by a convention, strictly to
suppress his egoistic and non-social parts, and who based all his
speculation on this pact as against the force, or the paternal
authority, or the will of a Supreme Being, in which other writers
founded the social union.

2. The body thus constituted by convention is the sovereign. Each
citizen is a member of the sovereign, standing in a definite relation
to individuals _qua_ individuals; he is also as an individual a member
of the state and subject to the sovereign, of which from the first
point of view he is a component element. The sovereign and the body
politic are one and the same thing.[230]

Of the antecedents and history of this doctrine enough has already
been said. Its general truth as a description either of what is, or
what ought to be and will be, demands an ampler discussion than there
is any occasion to carry on here. We need only point out its place as
a kind of intermediate dissolvent for which the time was most ripe. It
breaks up the feudal conception of political authority as a property
of land-ownership, noble birth, and the like, and it associates this
authority widely and simply with the bare fact of participation in any
form of citizenship in the social union. The later and higher idea of
every share of political power as a function to be discharged for the
good of the whole body, and not merely as a right to be enjoyed for
the advantage of its possessor, was a form of thought to which
Rousseau did not rise. That does not lessen the effectiveness of the
blow which his doctrine dealt to French feudalism, and which is its
main title to commemoration in connection with his name.

The social compact thus made is essentially different from the social
compact which Hobbes described as the origin of what he calls
commonwealths by institution, to distinguish them from commonwealths
by acquisition, that is to say, states formed by conquest or resting
on hereditary rule. "A commonwealth," Hobbes says, "is said to be
instituted when a multitude of men do agree and covenant, every one
with every one, that to whatsoever man or assembly of men shall be
given by the major part the right to present the person of them all,
that is to say, to be their representative; every one ... shall
authorise all the actions and judgments of that man or assembly of
men, in the same manner as if they were his own, to the end to live
peaceably among themselves, and be protected against other men."[231]
But Rousseau's compact was an act of association among equals, who
also remained equals. Hobbes's compact was an act of surrender on the
part of the many to one or a number. The first was the constitution of
civil society, the second was the erection of a government. As nobody
now believes in the existence of any such compact in either one form
or the other, it would be superfluous to inquire which of the two is
the less inaccurate. All we need do is to point out that there was
this difference. Rousseau distinctly denied the existence of any
element of contract in the erection of a government; there is only one
contract in the state, he said, and it is that of association.[232]
Locke's notion of the compact which was the beginning of every
political society is indefinite on this point; he speaks of it
indifferently as an agreement of a body of free men to unite and
incorporate into a society, and an agreement to set up a
government.[233] Most of us would suppose the two processes to be as
nearly identical as may be; Rousseau drew a distinction, and from this
distinction he derived further differences.

Here, we may remark, is the starting-point in the history of the ideas
of the revolution, of one of the most prominent of them all, that of
Fraternity. If the whole structure of society rests on an act of
partnership entered into by equals on behalf of themselves and their
descendants for ever, the nature of the union is not what it would be,
if the members of the union had only entered it to place their
liberties at the feet of some superior power. Society in the one case
is a covenant of subjection, in the other a covenant of social
brotherhood. This impressed itself deeply on the feelings of men like
Robespierre, who were never so well pleased as when they could find
for their sentimentalism a covering of neat political logic. The same
idea of association came presently to receive a still more remarkable
and momentous extension, when it was translated from the language of
mere government into that of the economic organisation of communities.
Rousseau's conception went no further than political association, as
distinct from subjection. Socialism, which came by and by to the front
place, carried the idea to its fullest capacity, and presented all the
relations of men with one another as fixed by the same bond. Men had
entered the social union as brethren, equal, and co-operators, not
merely for purposes of government, but for purposes of mutual succour
in all its aspects. This naturally included the most important of all,
material production. They were not associated merely as equal
participants in political sovereignty; they were equal participants in
all the rest of the increase made to the means of human happiness by
united action. Socialism is the transfer of the principle of fraternal
association from politics, where Rousseau left it, to the wider sphere
of industrial force.

It is perhaps worth notice that another famous revolutionary term
belongs to the same source. All the associates of this act of union,
becoming members of the city, are as such to be called Citizens, as
participating in the sovereign authority.[234] The term was in
familiar use enough among the French in their worst days, but it was
Rousseau's sanction which marked it in the new times with a sort of
sacramental stamp. It came naturally to him, because it was the name
of the first of the two classes which constituted the active portion
of the republic of Geneva, and the only class whose members were
eligible to the chief magistracies.

3. We next have a group of propositions setting forth the attributes
of sovereignty. It is inalienable.[235] It is indivisible.

These two propositions, which play such a part in the history of some
of the episodes of the French Revolution, contain no more than was
contended for by Hobbes, and has been accepted in our own times by
Austin. When Hobbes says that "to the laws which the sovereign maketh,
the sovereign is not subject, for if he were subject to the civil laws
he were subject to himself, which were not subjection but freedom,"
his notion of sovereignty is exactly that expressed by Rousseau in his
unexplained dogma of the inalienableness of sovereignty. So Rousseau
means no more by the dogma that sovereignty is indivisible, than
Austin meant when he declared of the doctrine that the legislative
sovereign powers and the executive sovereign powers belong in any
society to distinct parties, that it is a supposition too palpably
false to endure a moment's examination.[236] The way in which this
account of the indivisibleness of sovereignty was understood during
the revolution, twisted it into a condemnation of the dreaded idea of
Federalism. It might just as well have been interpreted to condemn
alliances between nations; for the properties of sovereignty are
clearly independent of the dimensions of the sovereign unit. Another
effect of this doctrine was the rejection by the Constituent Assembly
of the balanced parliamentary system, which the followers of
Montesquieu would fain have introduced on the English model. Whether
that was an evil or a good, publicists will long continue to dispute.

4. The general will of the sovereign upon an object of common interest
is expressed in a law. Only the sovereign can possess this law-making
power, because no one but the sovereign has the right of declaring the
general will. The legislative power cannot be exerted by delegation or
representation. The English fancy that they are a free nation, but
they are grievously mistaken. They are only free during the election
of members of parliament; the members once chosen, the people are
slaves, nay, as people they have ceased to exist.[237] It is
impossible for the sovereign to act, except when the people are
assembled. Besides such extraordinary assemblies as unforeseen events
may call for, there must be fixed periodical meetings that nothing can
interrupt or postpone. Do you call this chimerical? Then you have
forgotten the Roman comitia, as well as such gatherings of the people
as those of the Macedonians and the Franks and most other nations in
their primitive times. What has existed is certainly possible.[238]

It is very curious that Rousseau in this part of his subject should
have contented himself with going back to Macedonia and Rome, instead
of pointing to the sovereign states that have since become confederate
with his native republic. A historian in our own time has described
with an enthusiasm that equals that of the Social Contract, how he saw
the sovereign people of Uri and the sovereign people of Appenzell
discharge the duties of legislation and choice of executive, each in
the majesty of its corporate person.[239] That Rousseau was influenced
by the free sovereignty of the states of the Swiss confederation, as
well as by that of his own city, we may well believe. Whether he was
or not, it must always be counted a serious misfortune that a writer
who was destined to exercise such power in a crisis of the history of
a great nation, should have chosen his illustrations from a time and
from societies so remote, that the true conditions of their political
system could not possibly be understood with any approach to reality,
while there were, within a few leagues of his native place,
communities where the system of a sovereign public in his own sense
was actually alive and flourishing and at work. From them the full
meaning of his theories might have been practically gathered, and
whatever useful lessons lay at the bottom of them might have been made
plain. As it was, it came to pass singularly enough that the effect of
the French Revolution was the suppression, happily only for a time, of
the only governments in Europe where the doctrine of the favourite
apostle of the Revolution was a reality. The constitution of the
Helvetic Republic in 1798 was as bad a blow to the sovereignty of
peoples in a true sense, as the old house of Austria or Charles of
Burgundy could ever have dealt. That constitution, moreover, was
directly opposed to the Social Contract in setting up what it called
representative democracy, for representative democracy was just what
Rousseau steadily maintained to be a nullity and a delusion.

The only lesson which the Social Contract contained for a statesman
bold enough to take into his hands the reconstruction of France,
undoubtedly pointed in the direction of confederation. At one place,
where he became sensible of the impotence which his assumption of a
small state inflicted on his whole speculation, Rousseau said he would
presently show how the good order of a small state might be united to
the external power of a great people. Though he never did this, he
hints in a footnote that his plan belonged to the theory of
confederations, of which the principles were still to be
established.[240] When he gave advice for the renovation of the
wretched constitution of Poland, he insisted above all things that
they should apply themselves to extend and perfect the system of
federate governments, "the only one that unites in itself all the
advantages of great and small states."[241] A very few years after the
appearance of his book, the great American union of sovereign states
arose to point the political moral. The French revolutionists missed
the force alike of the practical example abroad, and of the theory of
the book which they took for gospel at home. How far they were driven
to this by the urgent pressure of foreign war, or whether they would
have followed the same course without that interference, merely in
obedience to the catholic and monarchic absolutism which had sunk so
much deeper into French character than people have been willing to
admit, we cannot tell. The fact remains that the Jacobins, Rousseau's
immediate disciples, at once took up the chain of centralised
authority where it had been broken off by the ruin of the monarchy.
They caught at the letter of the dogma of a sovereign people, and lost
its spirit. They missed the germ of truth in Rousseau's scheme,
namely, that for order and freedom and just administration the unit
should not be too large to admit of the participation of the persons
concerned in the management of their own public affairs. If they had
realised this and applied it, either by transforming the old monarchy
into a confederacy of sovereign provinces, or by some less sweeping
modification of the old centralised scheme of government, they might
have saved France.[242] But, once more, men interpret a political
treatise on principles which either come to them by tradition; or
else spring suddenly up from roots of passion.[243]

5. The government is the minister of the sovereign. It is an
intermediate body set up between sovereign and subjects for their
mutual correspondence, charged with the execution of the laws and the
maintenance of civil and political freedom. The members comprising it
are called magistrates or kings, and to the whole body so composed,
whether of one or of more than one, is given the name of prince. If
the whole power is centred in the hands of a single magistrate, from
whom all the rest hold their authority, the government is called a
monarchy. If there are more persons simply citizens than there are
magistrates, this is an aristocracy.[244] If more citizen magistrates
than simple private citizens, that is a democracy. The last government
is as a general rule best fitted for small states, and the first for
large ones--on the principle that the number of the supreme
magistrates ought to be in the inverse ratio of that of the citizens.
But there is a multitude of circumstances which may furnish reasons
for exceptions to this general rule.

This common definition of the three forms of governments according to
the mere number of the participants in the chief magistracy, though
adopted by Hobbes and other writers, is certainly inadequate and
uninstructive, without some further qualification. Aristotle, for
instance, furnishes such a qualification, when he refers to the
interests in which the government is carried on, whether the interest
of a small body or of the whole of the citizens.[245] Montesquieu's
well-known division, though logically faulty, still has the merit of
pointing to conditions of difference among forms of government,
outside of and apart from the one fact of the number of the sovereign.
To divide governments, as Montesquieu did, into republics, monarchies,
and despotisms, was to use two principles of division, first the
number of the sovereign, and next something else, namely, the
difference between a constitutional and an absolute monarch. Then he
returned to the first principle of division, and separated a republic
into a government of all, which is a democracy, and a government by a
part, which is aristocracy.[246] Still, to have introduced the element
of law-abidingness in the chief magistracy, whether of one or more,
was to have called attention to the fact that no single distinction is
enough to furnish us with a conception of the real and vital
differences which may exist between one form of government and

The important fact about a government lies quite as much in the
qualifying epithet which is to be affixed to any one of the three
names, as in the name itself. We know nothing about a monarchy, until
we have been told whether it is absolute or constitutional; if
absolute, whether it is administered in the interests of the realm,
like that of Prussia under Frederick the Great, or in the interests of
the ruler, like that of an Indian principality under a native prince;
if constitutional, whether the real power is aristocratic, as in Great
Britain a hundred years ago, or plutocratic, as in Great Britain
to-day, or popular, as it may be here fifty years hence. And so with
reference to each of the other two forms; neither name gives us any
instruction, except of a merely negative kind, until it has been made
precise by one or more explanatory epithets. What is the common
quality of the old Roman republic, the republics of the Swiss
confederation, the republic of Venice, the American republic, the
republic of Mexico? Plainly the word republic has no further effect
beyond that of excluding the idea of a recognised dynasty.

Rousseau is perhaps less open to this kind of criticism than other
writers on political theory, for the reason that he distinguishes the
constitution of the state from the constitution of the government. The
first he settles definitely. The whole body of the people is to be
sovereign, and to be endowed alone with what he conceived as the only
genuinely legislative power. The only question which he considers open
is as to the form in which the _delegated executive authority_ shall
be organised. Democracy, the immediate government of all by all, he
rejects as too perfect for men; it requires a state so small that each
citizen knows all the others, manners so simple that the business may
be small and the mode of discussion easy, equality of rank and fortune
so general as not to allow of the overriding of political equality by
material superiority, and so forth.[248] Monarchy labours under a
number of disadvantages which are tolerably obvious. "One essential
and inevitable defect, which must always place monarchic below
republican government, is that in the latter the public voice hardly
ever promotes to the first places any but capable and enlightened men
who fill them with honour; whereas those who get on in monarchies, are
for the most part small busybodies, small knaves, small intriguers, in
whom the puny talents which are the secret of reaching substantial
posts in courts, only serve to show their stupidity to the public as
soon as they have made their way to the front. The people is far less
likely to make a blunder in a choice of this sort, than the prince,
and a man of true merit is nearly as rare in the ministry, as a fool
at the head of the government of a republic."[249] There remains
aristocracy. Of this there are three sorts: natural, elective, and
hereditary. The first can only thrive among primitive folk, while the
third is the worst of all governments. The second is the best, for it
is aristocracy properly so called. If men only acquire rule in virtue
of election, then purity, enlightenment, experience, and all the other
grounds of public esteem and preference, become so many new guarantees
that the administration shall be wise and just. It is the best and
most natural order that the wisest should govern the multitude,
provided you are sure that they will govern the multitude for its
advantage, and not for their own. If aristocracy of this kind requires
one or two virtues less than a popular executive, it also demands
others which are peculiar to itself, such as moderation in the rich
and content in the poor. For this form comports with a certain
inequality of fortune, for the reason that it is well that the
administration of public affairs should be confided to those who are
best able to give their whole time to it. At the same time it is of
importance that an opposite choice should occasionally teach the
people that in the merit of men there are more momentous reasons of
preference than wealth.[250] Rousseau, as we have seen, had pronounced
English liberty to be no liberty at all, save during the few days once
in seven years when the elections to parliament take place. Yet this
scheme of an elective aristocracy was in truth a very near approach
to the English form as it is theoretically presented in our own day,
with a suffrage gradually becoming universal. If the suffrage were
universal, and if its exercise took place once a year, our system, in
spite of the now obsolescent elements of hereditary aristocracy and
nominal monarchy, would be as close a realisation of the scheme of the
Social Contract as any representative system permits. If Rousseau had
further developed his notions of confederation, the United States
would most have resembled his type.

6. What is to be the attitude of the state in respect of religion?
Certainly not that prescribed by the policy of the middle ages. The
separation of the spiritual from the temporal power, indicated by
Jesus Christ, and developed by his followers in the course of many
subsequent generations, was in Rousseau's eyes most mischievous,
because it ended in the subordination of the temporal power to the
spiritual, and that is incompatible with an efficient polity. Even the
kings of England, though they style themselves heads of the church,
are really its ministers and servants.[251]

The last allegation evinces Rousseau's usual ignorance of history, and
need not be discussed, any more than his proposition on which he lays
so much stress, that Christians cannot possibly be good soldiers, nor
truly good citizens, because their hearts being fixed upon another
world, they must necessarily be indifferent to the success or failure
of such enterprises as they may take up in this.[252] In reading the
Social Contract, and some other of the author's writings besides, we
have constantly to interpret the direct, positive, categorical form of
assertion into something of this kind--"Such and such consequences
ought logically to follow from the meaning of the name, or the
definition of a principle, or from such and such motives." The change
of this moderate form of provisional assertion into the unconditional
statement that such and such consequences have actually followed,
constantly lands the author in propositions which any reader who tests
them by an appeal to the experience of mankind, written and unwritten,
at once discovers to be false and absurd. Rousseau himself took less
trouble to verify his conclusions by such an appeal to experience than
any writer that ever lived in a scientific age. The other remark to be
made on the above section is that the rejection of the Christian or
ecclesiastical division of the powers of the church and the powers of
the state, is the strongest illustration that could be found of the
debt of Rousseau's conception of a state to the old pagan conception.
It was the main characteristic of the polities which Christian
monotheism and feudalism together succeeded in replacing, to recognise
no such division as that between church and state, pope and emperor.
Rousseau resumed the old conception. But he adjusted it in a certain
degree to the spirit of his own time, and imposed certain
philosophical limitations upon it. His scheme is as follows.

Religion, he says, in its relation to the state, may be considered as
of three kinds. First, natural religion, without temple, altar, or
rite, the true and pure theism of the natural conscience of man.
Second, local, civil, or positive religion, with dogmas, rites,
exercises; a theology of a primitive people, exactly co-extensive with
all the rights and all the duties of men. Third, a religion like the
Christianity of the Roman church, which gives men two sets of laws,
two chiefs, two countries, submits them to contradictory duties, and
prevents them from being able to be at once devout and patriotic. The
last of these is so evidently pestilent as to need no discussion. The
second has the merit of teaching men to identify duty to their gods
with duty to their country; under this to die for the land is
martyrdom, to break its laws impiety, and to subject a culprit to
public execration is to devote him to the anger of the gods. But it is
bad, because it is at bottom a superstition, and because it makes a
people sanguinary and intolerant. The first of all, which is now
styled a Christian theism, having no special relation with the body
politic, adds no force to the laws. There are many particular
objections to Christianity flowing from the fact of its not being a
kingdom of this world, and this above all, that Christianity only
preaches servitude and dependence.[253] What then is to be done? The
sovereign must establish a purely civil profession of faith. It will
consist of the following positive dogmas:--the existence of a
divinity, powerful, intelligent, beneficent and foreseeing; the life
to come; the happiness of the just, the chastisement of the wicked;
the sanctity of the social contract and the laws. These articles of
belief are imposed, not as dogmas of religion exactly, but as
sentiments of sociability. If any one declines to accept them, he
ought to be exiled, not for being impious, but for being unsociable,
incapable of sincere attachment to the laws, or of sacrificing his
life to his duty. If any one, after publicly recognising these dogmas,
carries himself as if he did not believe them, let him be punished by
death, for he has committed the worst of crimes, he has lied before
the laws.[254]

Rousseau thus, unconsciously enough, brought to its climax that
reaction against the absorption of the state in the church which had
first taken a place in literature in the controversy between legists
and canonists, and had found its most famous illustration in the De
Monarchiâ of the great poet of catholicism. The division of two
co-equal realms, one temporal, the other spiritual, was replaced in
the Genevese thinker by what he admitted to be "pure Hobbism." This,
the rigorous subordination of the church to the state, was the end, so
far as France went, of the speculative controversy which had occupied
Europe for so many ages, as to the respective powers of pope and
emperor, of positive law and law divine. The famous civil constitution
of the clergy (1790), which was the expression of Rousseau's principle
as formulated by his disciples in the Constituent Assembly, was the
revolutionary conclusion to the world-wide dispute, whose most
melodramatic episode had been the scene in the courtyard of Canossa.

Rousseau's memorable prescription, banishing all who should not
believe in God, or a future state, or in rewards and punishments for
the deeds done in the body, and putting to death any who, after
subscribing to the required profession, should seem no longer to hold
it, has naturally created a very lively horror in a tolerant
generation like our own, some of whose finest spirits have rejected
deliberately and finally the articles of belief, without which they
could not have been suffered to exist in Rousseau's state. It seemed
to contemporaries, who were enthusiastic above all things for humanity
and infinite tolerance, these being the prizes of the long conflict
which they hoped they were completing, to be a return to the horrors
of the Holy Office. Men were as shocked as the modern philosopher is,
when he finds the greatest of the followers of Socrates imposing in
his latest piece the penalty of imprisonment for five years, to be
followed in case of obduracy by death, on one who should not believe
in the gods set up for the state by the lawmaker.[255] And we can
hardly comfort ourselves, as Milton did about Plato, who framed laws
which no city ever yet received, and "fed his fancy with making many
edicts to his airy burgomasters, which they who otherwise admire him,
wish had been rather buried and excused in the genial cups of an
academic night-sitting."[256] Rousseau's ideas fell among men who were
most potent and corporeal burgomasters. In the winter of 1793 two
parties in Paris stood face to face; the rationalistic, Voltairean
party of the Commune, named improperly after Hébert, but whose best
member was Chaumette, and the sentimental, Rousseauite party, led by
Robespierre. The first had industriously desecrated the churches, and
consummated their revolt against the gods of the old time by the
public worship of the Goddess of Reason, who was prematurely set up
for deity of the new time. Robespierre retaliated with the mummeries
of the Festival of the Supreme Being, and protested against atheism as
the crime of aristocrats. Presently the atheistic party succumbed.
Chaumette was not directly implicated in the proceedings which led to
their fall, but he was by and by accused of conspiring with Hébert,
Clootz, and the rest, "to destroy all notion of Divinity and base the
government of France on atheism." "They attack the immortality of the
soul," cried Saint Just, "the thought which consoled Socrates in his
dying moments, and their dream is to raise atheism into a worship."
And this was the offence, technically and officially described, for
which Chaumette and Clootz were sent to the guillotine (April 1794),
strictly on the principle which had been laid down in the Social
Contract, and accepted by Robespierre.[257]

It would have been odd in any writer less firmly possessed with the
infallibility of his own dreams than Rousseau was, that he should not
have seen the impossibility in anything like the existing conditions
of human nature, of limiting the profession of civil faith to the
three or four articles which happened to constitute his own belief.
Having once granted the general position that a citizen may be
required to profess some religious faith, there is no speculative
principle, and there is no force in the world, which can fix any bound
to the amount or kind of religious faith which the state has the right
thus to exact. Rousseau said that a man was dangerous to the city who
did not believe in God, a future state, and divine reward and
retribution. But then Calvin thought a man dangerous who did not
believe both that there is only one God, and also that there are
three Gods. And so Chaumette went to the scaffold, and Servetus to the
stake, on the one common principle that the civil magistrate is
concerned with heresy. And Hébert was only following out the same
doctrine in a mild and equitable manner, when he insisted on
preventing the publication of a book in which the author professed his
belief in a God. A single step in the path of civil interference with
opinion leads you the whole way.

The history of the Protestant churches is enough to show the pitiable
futility of the proviso for religious tolerance with which Rousseau
closed his exposition. "If there is no longer an exclusive national
religion, then every creed ought to be tolerated which tolerates other
creeds, so long as it contains nothing contrary to the duties of the
citizen. But whoever dares to say, _Out of the church, no salvation_,
ought to be banished from the state." The reason for which Henry IV.
embraced the Roman religion--namely, that in that he might be saved,
in the opinion alike of Protestants and Catholics, whereas in the
reformed faith, though he was saved according to Protestants, yet
according to Catholics he was necessarily damned,--ought to have made
every honest man, and especially every prince, reject it. It was the
more curious that Rousseau did not see the futility of drawing the
line of tolerance at any given set of dogmas, however simple and
slight and acceptable to himself they might be, because he invited
special admiration for D'Argenson's excellent maxim that "in the
republic everybody is perfectly free in what does not hurt
others."[258] Surely this maxim has very little significance or value,
unless we interpret it as giving entire liberty of opinion, because no
opinion whatever can hurt others, until it manifests itself in act,
including of course speech, which is a kind of act. Rousseau admitted
that over and above the profession of civil faith, a citizen might
hold what opinions he pleased, in entire freedom from the sovereign's
cognisance or jurisdiction; "for as the sovereign has no competence in
the other world, the fate of subjects in that other world is not his
affair, provided they are good citizens in this." But good citizenship
consists in doing or forbearing from certain actions, and to punish
men on the inference that forbidden action is likely to follow from
the rejection of a set of opinions, or to exact a test oath of
adherence to such opinions on the same principle, is to concede the
whole theory of civil intolerance, however little Rousseau may have
realised the perfectly legitimate applications of his doctrine. It was
an unconscious compromise. He was thinking of Calvin in practice and
Hobbes in theory, and he was at the same time influenced by the
moderate spirit of his time, and the comparatively reasonable
character of his personal belief. He praised Hobbes as the only author
who had seen the right remedy for the conflict of the spiritual and
temporal jurisdictions, by proposing to unite the two heads of the
eagle, and reducing all to political unity, without which never will
either state or government be duly constituted. But Hobbes was
consistent without flinching. He refused to set limits to the
religious prescriptions which a sovereign might impose, for "even when
the civil sovereign is an infidel, every one of his own subjects that
resisteth him, sinneth against the laws of God (for such are the laws
of nature), and rejecteth the counsel of the apostles, that
admonisheth all Christians to obey their princes.... And for their
faith, it is internal and invisible: they have the licence that Naaman
had, and need not put themselves into danger for it; but if they do,
they ought to expect their reward in heaven, and not complain of their
lawful sovereign."[259] All this flowed from the very idea and
definition of sovereignty, which Rousseau accepted from Hobbes, as we
have already seen. Such consequences, however, stated in these bold
terms, must have been highly revolting to Rousseau; he could not
assent to an exercise of sovereignty which might be atheistic,
Mahometan, or anything else unqualifiedly monstrous. He failed to see
the folly of trying to unite the old notions of a Christian
commonwealth with what was fundamentally his own notion of a
commonwealth after the ancient type. He stripped the pagan republics,
which he took for his model, of their national and official
polytheism, and he put on in its stead a scanty remnant of theism
slightly tinged with Christianity.

Then he practically accepted Hobbes's audacious bidding to the man who
should not be able to accept the state creed, to go courageously to
martyrdom, and leave the land in peace. For the modern principle,
which was contained in D'Argenson's saying previously quoted, that the
civil power does best absolutely and unreservedly to ignore
spirituals, he was not prepared either by his emancipation from the
theological ideas of his youth, or by his observation of the working
and tendencies of systems, which involved the state in some more or
less close relations with the church, either as superior, equal, or
subordinate. Every test is sure to insist on mental independence
ending exactly where the speculative curiosity of the time is most
intent to begin.

Let us now shortly confront Rousseau's ideas with some of the
propositions belonging to another method of approaching the philosophy
of government, that have for their key-note the conception of
expediency or convenience, and are tested by their conformity to the
observed and recorded experience of mankind. According to this method,
the ground and origin of society is not a compact; that never existed
in any known case, and never was a condition of obligation either in
primitive or developed societies, either between subjects and
sovereign, or between the equal members of a sovereign body. The true
ground is an acceptance of conditions which came into existence by the
sociability inherent in man, and were developed by man's spontaneous
search after convenience. The statement that while the constitution
of man is the work of nature, that of the state is the work of
art,[260] is as misleading as the opposite statement that governments
are not made but grow.[261] The truth lies between them, in such
propositions as that institutions owe their existence and development
to deliberate human effort, working in accordance with circumstances
naturally fixed both in human character and in the external field of
its activity. The obedience of the subject to the sovereign has its
root not in contract but in force,--the force of the sovereign to
punish disobedience. A man does not consent to be put to death if he
shall commit a murder, for the reason alleged by Rousseau, namely, as
a means of protecting his own life against murder.[262] There is no
consent in the transaction. Some person or persons, possessed of
sovereign authority, promulgated a command that the subject should not
commit murder, and appointed penalties for such commission and it was
not a fictitious assent to these penalties, but the fact that the
sovereign was strong enough to enforce them, which made the command

Supposing a law to be passed in an assembly of the sovereign people by
a majority; what binds a member of the minority to obedience?
Rousseau's answer is this:--When the law is proposed, the question
put is not whether they approve or reject the proposition, but whether
it is conformable to the general will: the general will appears from
the votes: if the opinion contrary to my own wins the day, that only
proves that I was mistaken, and that what I took for the general will
was not really so.[263] We can scarcely imagine more nonsensical
sophistry than this. The proper answer evidently is, that either
experience or calculation has taught the citizens in a popular
government that in the long run it is most expedient for the majority
of votes to decide the law. In other words, the inconvenience to the
minority of submitting to a law which they dislike, is less than the
inconvenience of fighting to have their own way, or retiring to form a
separate community. The minority submit to obey laws which were made
against their will, because they cannot avoid the necessity of
undergoing worse inconveniences than are involved in this submission.
The same explanation partially covers what is unfortunately the more
frequent case in the history of the race, the submission of the
majority to the laws imposed by a minority of one or more. In both
these cases, however, as in the general question of the source of our
obedience to the laws, deliberate and conscious sense of convenience
is as slight in its effect upon conduct here, as it is in the rest of
the field of our moral motives. It is covered too thickly over and
constantly neutralised by the multitudinous growths of use, by the
many forms of fatalistic or ascetic religious sentiment, by physical
apathy of race, and all other conditions that interpose to narrow or
abrogate the authority of pure reason over human conduct. Rousseau,
expounding his conception of a normal political state, was no doubt
warranted in leaving these complicating conditions out of account,
though to do so is to rob any treatise on government of much of its
possible value. The same excuse cannot warrant him in basing his
political institutions upon a figment, instead of upon the substantial
ground of propositions about human nature, which the average of
experience in given races and at given stages of advancement has shown
to be true within those limits. There are places in his writings where
he reluctantly admits that men are only moved by their interests, and
he does not even take care to qualify this sufficiently.[264] But
throughout the Social Contract we seem to be contemplating the
erection of a machine which is to work without reference to the only
forces that can possibly impart movement to it.

The consequence of this is that Rousseau gives us not the least help
towards the solution of any of the problems of actual government,
because these are naturally both suggested and guided by
considerations of expediency and improvement. It is as if he had never
really settled the ends for which government exists, beyond the
construction of the symmetrical machine of government itself. He is a
geometer, not a mechanician; or shall we say that he is a mechanician,
and not a biologist concerned with the conditions of a living
organism. The analogy of the body politic to the body natural was as
present to him as it had been to all other writers on society, but he
failed to seize the only useful lessons which such an analogy might
have taught him--diversity of structure, difference of function,
development of strength by exercise, growth by nutrition--all of which
might have been serviceably translated into the dialect of political
science, and might have bestowed on his conception of political
society more of the features of reality. We see no room for the free
play of divergent forces, the active rivalry of hostile interests, the
regulated conflict of multifarious personal aims, which can never be
extinguished, except in moments of driving crisis, by the most sincere
attachment to the common causes of the land. Thus the modern question
which is of such vital interest for all the foremost human societies,
of the union of collective energy with the encouragement of individual
freedom, is, if not wholly untouched, at least wholly unillumined by
anything that Rousseau says. To tell us that a man on entering a
society exchanges his natural liberty for civil liberty which is
limited by the general will,[265] is to give us a phrase, where we
seek a solution. To say that if it is the opposition of private
interests which made the establishment of societies necessary, it is
the accord of those interests which makes them possible,[266] is to
utter a truth which feeds no practical curiosity. The opposition of
private interests remains, in spite of the yoke which their accord has
imposed upon it, but which only controls and does not suppress such an
opposition. What sort of control? What degree? What bounds?

So again let us consider the statement that the instant the government
usurps the sovereignty, then the social pact is broken, and all the
citizens, restored by right to their natural liberty, are forced but
not morally obliged to obey.[267] He began by telling his readers that
man, though born free, is now everywhere in chains; and therefore it
would appear that in all existing cases the social pact has been
broken, and the citizens living under the reign of force, are free to
resume their natural liberty, if they are only strong enough to do so.
This declaration of the general duty of rebellion no doubt had its
share in generating that fervid eagerness that all other peoples
should rise and throw off the yoke, which was one of the most
astonishing anxieties of the French during their revolution. That was
not the worst quality of such a doctrine. It made government
impossible, by basing the right or duty of resistance on a question
that could not be reached by positive evidence, but must always be
decided by an arbitrary interpretation of an arbitrarily imagined
document. The moderate proposition that resistance is lawful if a
government is a bad one, and if the people are strong enough to
overthrow it, and if their leaders have reason to suppose they can
provide a less bad one in its place, supplies tests that are capable
of application. Our own writers in favour of the doctrine of
resistance partly based their arguments upon the historic instances of
the Old Testament, and it is one of the most striking contributions of
Protestantism to the cause of freedom, that it sent people in an
admiring spirit to the history of the most rebellious nation that ever
existed, and so provided them in Hebrew insurgency with a corrective
for the too submissive political teaching of the Gospel. But these
writers have throughout a tacit appeal to expediency, as writers might
always be expected to have, who were really meditating on the
possibility of their principles being brought to the test of practice.
There can be no evidence possible, with a test so vague as the fact of
the rupture of a compact whose terms are authentically known to nobody
concerned. Speak of bad laws and good, wise administration or unwise,
just government or unjust, extravagant or economical, civically
elevating or demoralising; all these are questions which men may apply
themselves to settle with knowledge, and with a more or less definite
degree of assurance. But who can tell how he is to find out whether
sovereignty has been usurped, and the social compact broken? Was there
a usurpation of sovereignty in France not many years ago, when the
assumption of power by the prince was ratified by many millions of

The same case, we are told, namely, breach of the social compact and
restoration of natural liberty, occurs when the members of the
government usurp separately the power which they ought only to
exercise in a body.[268] Now this description applies very fairly to
the famous episode in our constitutional history, connected with
George the Third's first attack of madness in 1788. Parliament cannot
lawfully begin business without a declaration of the cause of summons
from the crown. On this occasion parliament both met and deliberated
without communication from the crown. What was still more important
was a vote of the parliament itself, authorising the passing of
letters patent under the great seal for opening parliament by
commission, and for giving assent to a Regency Bill. This was a
distinct usurpation of regal authority. Two members of the government
(in Rousseau's sense of the term), namely the houses of parliament,
usurped the power which they ought only to have exercised along with
the crown.[269] The Whigs denounced the proceeding as a fiction, a
forgery, a phantom, but if they had been readers of the Social
Contract, and if they had been bitten by its dogmatic temper, they
would have declared the compact of union violated, and all British
citizens free to resume their natural rights. Not even the bitter
virulence of faction at that time could tempt any politician to take
up such a line, though within half a dozen years each of the
democratic factions in France had worked at the overthrow of every
other in turn, on the very principle which Rousseau had formulated and
Robespierre had made familiar, that usurped authority is a valid
reason for annihilating a government, no matter under what
circumstances, nor how small the chance of replacing it by a better,
nor how enormous the peril to the national well-being in the process.
The true opposite to so anarchic a doctrine is assuredly not that of
passive obedience either to chamber or monarch, but the right and duty
of throwing off any government which inflicts more disadvantages than
it confers advantages. Rousseau's whole theory tends inevitably to
substitute a long series of struggles after phrases and shadows in the
new era, for the equally futile and equally bloody wars of dynastic
succession which have been the great curse of the old. Men die for a
phrase as they used to die for a family. The other theory, which all
English politicians accept in their hearts, and so many commanding
French politicians have seemed in their hearts to reject, was first
expounded in direct view of Rousseau's teaching by Paley.[270] Of
course the greatest, widest, and loftiest exposition of the bearings
of expediency on government and its conditions, is to be found in the
magnificent and immortal pieces of Burke, some of them suggested by
absolutist violations of the doctrine in our own affairs, and some of
them by anarchic violation of it in the affairs of France, after the
seed sown by Rousseau had brought forth fruit.

We should, however, be false to our critical principle, if we did not
recognise the historical effect of a speculation scientifically
valueless. There has been no attempt to palliate either the
shallowness or the practical mischievousness of the Social Contract.
But there is another side to its influence. It was the match which
kindled revolutionary fire in generous breasts throughout Europe. Not
in France merely, but in Germany as well, its phrases became the
language of all who aspired after freedom. Schiller spoke of Rousseau
as one who "converted Christians into human beings," and the _Robbers_
(1778) is as if it had been directly inspired by the doctrine that
usurped sovereignty restores men to their natural rights. Smaller men
in the violent movement which seized all the youth of Germany at that
time, followed the same lead, if they happened to have any feeling
about the political condition of their enslaved countries.

There was alike in France and Germany a craving for a return to nature
among the whole of the young generation.[271] The Social Contract
supplied a dialect for this longing on one side, just as the Emilius
supplied it on another. Such parts in it as people did not understand
or did not like, they left out. They did not perceive its direction
towards that "perfect Hobbism," which the author declared to be the
only practical alternative to a democracy so austere as to be
intolerable. They grasped phrases about the sovereignty of the people,
the freedom for which nature had destined man, the slavery to which
tyrants and oppressors had brought him. Above all they were struck by
the patriotism which shines so brightly in every page, like the fire
on the altar of one of those ancient cities which had inspired the
writer's ideal.

Yet there is a marked difference in the channels along which
Rousseau's influence moved in the two countries. In France it was
drawn eventually into the sphere of direct politics. In Germany it
inspired not a great political movement, but an immense literary
revival. In France, as we have already said, the patriotic flame
seemed extinct. The ruinous disorder of the whole social system made
the old love of country resemble love for a phantom, and so much of
patriotic speech as survived was profoundly hollow. Even a man like
Turgot was not so much a patriot as a passionate lover of improvement,
and with the whole school of which this great spirit was the noblest
and strongest, a generous citizenship of the world had replaced the
narrower sentiment which had inflamed antique heroism. Rousseau's
exaltation of the Greek and Roman types in all their concentration and
intensity, touches mortals of commoner mould. His theory made the
native land what it had been to the citizens of earlier date, a true
centre of existence, round which all the interests of the community,
all its pursuits, all its hopes, grouped themselves with entire
singleness of convergence, just as religious faith is the centre of
existence to a church. It was the virile and patriotic energy thus
evoked which presently saved France from partition.

We complete the estimate of the positive worth and tendencies of the
Social Contract by adding to this, which was for the time the cardinal
service, of rekindling the fire of patriotism, the rapid deduction
from the doctrine of the sovereignty of peoples of the great truth,
that a nation with a civilised polity does not consist of an order or
a caste, but of the great body of its members, the army of toilers who
make the most painful of the sacrifices that are needed for the
continuous nutrition of the social organisation. As Condorcet put it,
and he drew inspiration partly from the intellectual school of
Voltaire, and partly from the social school of Rousseau, all
institutions ought to have for their aim the physical, intellectual,
and moral amelioration of the poorest and most numerous class.[272]
This is the People. Second, there gradually followed from the
important place given by Rousseau to the idea of equal association, as
at once the foundation and the enduring bond of a community, those
schemes of Mutualism, and all the other shapes of collective action
for a common social good, which have possessed such commanding
attraction for the imagination of large classes of good men in France
ever since. Hitherto these forms have been sterile and deceptive, and
they must remain so, until the idea of special function has been
raised to an equal level of importance with that of united forces
working together to a single end.

In these ways the author of the Social Contract did involuntarily and
unconsciously contribute to the growth of those new and progressive
ideas, in which for his own part he lacked all faith. Præ-Newtonians
knew not the wonders of which Newton was to find the key; and so we,
grown weary of waiting for the master intelligence who may effect the
final combination of moral and scientific ideas needed for a new
social era, may be inclined to lend a half-complacent ear to the arid
sophisters who assume that the last word of civilisation has been
heard in existing arrangements. But we may perhaps take courage from
history to hope that generations will come, to whom our system of
distributing among a few the privileges and delights that are procured
by the toil of the many, will seem just as wasteful, as morally
hideous, and as scientifically indefensible, as that older system
which impoverished and depopulated empires, in order that a despot or
a caste might have no least wish ungratified, for which the lives or
the hard-won treasure of others could suffice.


[176] _Cont. Soc._, I. viii.

[177] _Cont. Soc._, II. xi. He had written in much the same sense in
his article on Political Economy in the Encyclopædia, p. 34.

[178] Robespierre disclaimed the intention of attacking property, and
took up a position like that of Rousseau--teaching the poor contempt
for the rich, not envy. "I do not want to touch your treasures," he
cried, on one occasion, "however impure their source. It is far more
an object of concern to me to make poverty honourable, than to
proscribe wealth; the thatched hut of Fabricius never need envy the
palace of Crassus. I should be at least as content, for my own part,
to be one of the sons of Aristides, brought up in the Prytaneium at
the public expense, as the heir presumptive of Xerxes, born in the
mire of royal courts, to sit on a throne decorated by the abasement of
the people, and glittering with the public misery." Quoted in Malon's
_Exposé des Ecoles Socialistes françaises_, 15. Baboeuf carried
Rousseau's sentiments further towards their natural conclusion by such
propositions as these: "The goal of the revolution is to destroy
inequality, and to re-establish the happiness of all." "The revolution
is not finished, because the rich absorb all the property, and hold
exclusive power; while the poor toil like born slaves, languish in
wretchedness, and are nothing in the state." _Exposé des Ecoles
Socialistes françaises_, p. 29.

[179] _Cont. Soc._, II. xi.

[180] _Cont. Soc._, I. iv.

[181] _Ib._, II. vii.

[182] Ch. vi. (vol. v. 371; edit. 1801).

[183] Ch. vii. (p. 383.)

[184] Goguet, in his _Origine des Lois, des Arts, et des Sciences_
(1758), really attempted as laboriously as possible to carry out a
notion of the historical method, but the fact that history itself at
that time had never been subjected to scientific examination made his
effort valueless. He accumulates testimony which would be excellent
evidence, if only it had been sifted, and had come out of the process
substantially undiminished. Yet even Goguet, who thus carefully
followed the accounts of early societies given in the Bible and other
monuments, intersperses abstract general statements about man being
born free and independent (i. 25), and entering society as the result
of deliberate reflection.

[185] _Cont. Soc._, II. xi. Also III. viii.

[186] II. xi. Also ch. viii.

[187] II. viii.

[188] II. ix.

[189] _Politics_, VII. iv. 8, 10.

[190] _Cont. Soc._, II. x.

[191] Plato's _Laws_, v. 737.

[192] _Ib._, iv. 705.

[193] _Projet de Constitution pour la Corse_, p. 75.

[194] _Gouvernement de Pologne_, ch. xi.

[195] _Cont. Soc._, II. vii.

[196] Goguet was much nearer to a true conception of this kind; see,
for instance, _Origine des Lois_, i. 46.

[197] Decree of the Committee, April 20, 1794, reported by
Billaud-Varennes. Compare ch. iv. of Rousseau's _Considérations sur le
Gouvernement de Pologne_.

[198] Here are some of Saint Just's regulations:--No servants, nor
gold or silver vessels; no child under 16 to eat meat, nor any adult
to eat meat on three days of the decade; boys at the age of 7 to be
handed over to the school of the nation, where they were to be brought
up to speak little, to endure hardships, and to train for war; divorce
to be free to all; friendship ordained a public institution, every
citizen on coming to majority being bound to proclaim his friends, and
if he had none, then to be banished; if one committed a crime, his
friends were to be banished. Quoted in Von Sybel's _Hist. French
Rev._, iv. 49. When Morelly dreamed his dream of a model community in
1754 (see above, vol. i. p. 158) he little supposed, one would think,
that within forty years a man would be so near trying the experiment
in France as Saint Just was. Baboeuf is pronounced by La Harpe to have
been inspired by the Code de la Nature, which La Harpe impudently set
down to Diderot, on whom every great destructive piece was
systematically fathered.

[199] I forget where I have read the story of some member of the
Convention being very angry because the library contained no copy of
the laws which Minos gave to the Cretans.

[200] III. xiii.

[201] III. xv. He actually recommended the Poles to pay all public
functionaries in kind, and to have the public works executed on the
system of corvée. _Gouvernement de Pologne_, ch. xi.

[202] _Cont. Soc._, III. ii.

[203] II. i.

[204] II. ii.

[205] III. i.

[206] II. vi.

[207] II. iv.

[208] IV. vi.

[209] _Economie Politique_, p. 30.

[210] _Mélanges_, p. 310.

[211] See for instance Green's _History of the English People_, i.

[212] _Summa_, xc.-cviii. (1265-1273). See Maurice's _Moral and
Metaphysical Philosophy_, i. 627, 628. Also Franck's _Réformateurs et
Publicistes de l'Europe_, p. 48, etc.

[213] _Defensor Pacis_, Pt. I., ch. xii. This, again, is an example of
Marsilio's position:--"Convenerunt enim homines ad civilem
communicationem propter commodum et vitæ sufficientiam consequendam,
et opposita declinandum. Quæ igitur omnium tangere possunt commodum et
incommodum, ab omnibus sciri debent et audiri, ut commodum assequi et
oppositum repellere possint." The whole chapter is a most interesting
anticipation, partly due to the influence of Aristotle, of the notions
of later centuries.

[214] See Bayle's Dict., s.v. _Althusius_.

[215] _Lettres de la Montagne_, I. vi. 388.

[216] _Eccles. Polity_, Bk. i.; bks. i.-iv., 1594; bk. v., 1597; bks.
vi.-viii., 1647,--being forty-seven years after the author's death.

[217] Goguet (_Origine des Lois_, i. 22) dwells on tacit conventions
as a kind of engagement to which men commit themselves with extreme
facility. He was thus rather near the true idea of the spontaneous
origin and unconscious acceptance of early institutions.

[218] Of Civil Government, ch. xiii. See also ch. xi. "This
legislative is not only the supreme power of the commonwealth, but
sacred and unalterable in the hands where the community have once
placed it; nor can any edict of anybody else, in what form soever
conceived, or by what power soever backed, have the force and
obligation of a law, which has not its sanction from that legislative
which the public has chosen and appointed; for without this the law
could not have that which is absolutely necessary to its being a
law--the consent of the society; over whom nobody can have a power to
make laws, but by their own consent, and by authority received from
them." If Rousseau had found no neater expression for his doctrine
than this, the Social Contract would assuredly have been no explosive.

[219] See especially ch. viii.

[220] Hence the antipathy of the clergy, catholic, episcopalian, and
presbyterian, to which, as Austin has pointed out (_Syst. of
Jurisprudence_, i. 288, _n._), Hobbes mainly owes his bad repute.

[221] See Diderot's article on _Hobbisme_ in the Encyclopædia,
_Oeuv._, xv. 122.

[222] _Esprit des Lois_, I. i.

[223] _Cont. Soc._, II. vi. 50.

[224] Goguet has the merit of seeing distinctly that command is the
essence of law.

[225] _Cont. Soc._, II. vi. 51-53. See Austin's _Jurisprudence_, i.
95, etc.; also _Lettres écrites de la Montagne_, I. vi. 380, 381.

[226] See, for instance, letter to Mirabeau (_l'ami des hommes_), July
26, 1767. _Corr._, v. 179. The same letter contains his criticism on
the good despot of the Economists.

[227] _L'Ordre Naturel et Essentiel des Sociétés Politiques_ (1767).
By Mercier de la Rivière. One episode in the life of Mercier de la
Rivière is worth recounting, as closely connected with the subject we
are discussing. Just as Corsicans and Poles applied to Rousseau,
Catherine of Russia, in consequence of her admiration for Rivière's
book, summoned him to Russia to assist her in making laws. "Sir," said
the Czarina, "could you point out to me the best means for the good
government of a state?" "Madame, there is only one way, and that is
being just; in other words, in keeping order and exacting obedience to
the laws." "But on what base is it best to make the laws of an empire
repose?" "There is only one base, Madame: the nature of things and of
men." "Just so; but when you wish to give laws to a people, what are
the rules which indicate most surely such laws as are most suitable?"
"To give or make laws, Madame, is a task that God has left to none.
Ah, who is the man that should think himself capable of dictating laws
for beings that he does not know, or knows so ill? And by what right
can he impose laws on beings whom God has never placed in his hands?"
"To what, then, do you reduce the science of government?" "To studying
carefully; recognising and setting forth the laws which God has graven
so manifestly in the very organisation of men, when he called them
into existence. To wish to go any further would be a great misfortune
and a most destructive undertaking." "Sir, I am very pleased to have
heard what you have to say; I wish you good day." Quoted from
Thiébault's _Souvenirs de Berlin_, in M. Daire's edition of the
_Physiocrates_, ii. 432.

[228] _Cont. Soc._, II. vii.

[229] _Corr._, v. 181.

[230] _Cont. Soc._, I. v., vi., vii.

[231] _Leviathan_, II., ch. xviii. vol. iii. 159 (Molesworth's

[232] _Cont. Soc._, III. xvi.

[233] _Civil Government_, ch. viii. § 99.

[234] I. vi. Especially the footnote.

[235] _Cont. Soc._, II. i.

[236] _Syst. of Jurisprudence_, i. 256.

[237] _Cont. Soc._, III. xv. 137. It was not long, however, before
Rousseau found reason to alter his opinion in this respect. The
champions of the Council at Geneva compared the _droit négatif_, in
the exercise of which the Council had refused to listen to the
representations of Rousseau's partisans (see above, vol. ii. p. 105)
to the right of veto possessed by the crown in Great Britain. Rousseau
seized upon this egregious blunder, which confused the power of
refusing assent to a proposed law, with the power of refusing justice
under law already passed. He at once found illustrations of the
difference, first in the case of the printers of No. 45 of the _North
Briton_, who brought actions for false imprisonment (1763), and next
in the proceedings against Wilkes at the same time. If Wilkes, said
Rousseau, had written, printed, published, or said, one-fourth against
the Lesser Council at Geneva of what he said, wrote, printed, and
published openly in London against the court and the government, he
would have been heavily punished, and most likely put to death. And so
forth, until he has proved very pungently how different degrees of
freedom are enjoyed in Geneva and in England. _Lettres écrites de la
Montague_, ix. 491-500. When he wrote this he was unaware that the
Triennial Act had long been replaced by the Septennial Act of the 1
Geo. I. On finding out, as he did afterwards, that a parliament could
sit for seven years, he thought as meanly of our liberty as ever.
_Considérations sur les gouvernement de Pologne_, ch. vii. 253-260. In
his _Projet de Constitution pour la Corse_, p. 113, he says that "the
English do not love liberty for itself, but because it is most
favourable to money-making."

[238] III., xi., xii., and xiii.

[239] Mr. Freeman's _Growth of the English Constitution_, c. i.

[240] _Cont. Soc._, III. xv. 140. A small manuscript containing his
ideas on confederation was given by Rousseau to the Count d'Antraigues
(afterwards an _émigré_), who destroyed it in 1789, lest its arguments
should be used to sap the royal authority. See extract from his
pamphlet, prefixed to M. Auguis's edition of the Social Contract, pp.
xxiii, xxiv.

[241] _Gouvernement de Pologne_, v. 246.

[242] Of course no such modification as that proposed by Comte
(_Politique Positive_, iv. 421) would come within the scope of the
doctrine of the Social Contract. For each of the seventeen Intendances
into which Comte divides France, is to be ruled by a chief, "always
appointed and removed by the central power." There is no room for the
sovereignty of the people here, even in things parochial.

[243] There was one extraordinary instance during the revolution of
attempting to make popular government direct on Rousseau's principle,
in the scheme (1790) of which Danton was a chief supporter, for
reorganising the municipal administration of Paris. The assemblies of
sections were to sit permanently; their vote was to be taken on
current questions; and action was to follow the aggregate of their
degrees. See Von Sybel's _Hist. Fr. Rev._ i. 275; M. Louis Blanc's
_History_, Bk. III. ch. ii.

[244] This was also Bodin's definition of an aristocratic state; "si
minor pars civium cæteris imperat."

[245] _Politics_, III. vi.-vii.

[246] _Esprit des Lois_, II. i. ii.

[247] Rousseau gave the name of _tyrant_ to a usurper of royal
authority in a kingdom, and _despot_ to a usurper of the sovereign
authority (_i.e._ [Greek: tyrannos] in the Greek sense). The former
might govern according to the laws, but the latter placed himself
above the laws (_Cont. Soc._, III. x.) This corresponded to Locke's
distinction: "As usurpation is the exercise of power which another
hath a right to, so tyranny is the exercise of a power beyond right,
which nobody can have a right to." _Civil Gov._, ch. xviii.

[248] III. iv.

[249] III. vi.

[250] III. v.

[251] _Cont. Soc._, IV. viii.

[252] _Cont. Soc._, IV. viii. 197-201.

[253] This is not unlike what Tocqueville says somewhere, that
Christianity bids you render unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's,
but seems to discourage any inquiry whether Cæsar is an usurper or a
lawful ruler.

[254] _Cont. Soc._, IV. viii. 203. As we have already seen, he had
entreated Voltaire, of all men in the world, to draw up a civil
profession of faith. See vol. i. 326.

In the New Heloïsa (V. v. 117, _n._) Rousseau expresses his opinion
that "no true believer could be intolerant or a persecutor. _If I were
a magistrate, and if the law pronounced the penalty of death against
atheists, I would begin by burning as such whoever should come to
inform against another._"

[255] Plato's _Laws_, Bk. x. 909, etc.

[256] _Areopagitica_, p. 417. (Edit. 1867.)

[257] See a speech of his, which is Rousseau's "civil faith" done into
rhetoric, given in M. Louis Blanc's _Hist. de la Rév. Française_, Bk.
x. c. xiv.

[258] _Considérations sur le gouvernement ancien et présent de la
France_ (1764). Quoted by Rousseau from a manuscript copy.

[259] _Leviathan_, ch. xliii. 601. Also ch. xlii.

[260] _Cont. Soc._, III. xi. Borrowed from Hobbes, who said, "Magnus
ille Leviathan quæ civitas appellatur, opificium artis est."

[261] Mackintosh's.

[262] _Cont. Soc._, II. v.

[263] IV. ii.

[264] For instance, _Gouvernement de la Pologne_, ch. xi. p. 305. And
_Corr._, v. 180.

[265] _Cont. Soc._, I. viii.

[266] _Cont. Soc._, II. i.

[267] _Ib._, III. x. "Let every individual who may usurp the
sovereignty be instantly put to death by free men." Robespierre's
_Déclaration des droits de l'homme_, § 27. "When the government
violates the rights of the people, insurrection becomes for the people
the most sacred of rights and the most indispensable of duties." § 35.

[268] _Cont. Soc._, III. x.

[269] See May's _Constitutional Hist. of England_, ch. iii; and Lord
Stanhope's _Life of Pitt_, vol. ii. ch. xii.

[270] In the 6th book of the _Moral Philosophy_ (1785), ch. iii., and
elsewhere. In the preface he refers to the effect which Rousseau's
political theory was supposed to have had in the civil convulsions of
Geneva, as one of the reasons which encouraged him to publish his own

[271] One side of this was the passion for geographical exploration
which took possession of Europe towards the middle of the eighteenth
century. See the _Life of Humboldt_, i. 28, 29. (_Eng. Trans._ by

[272] Rousseau's influence on Condorcet is seen in the latter's maxim,
which has found such favour in the eyes of socialist writers, that
"not only equality of right, but equality of fact, is the goal of the
social art."



One whose most intense conviction was faith in the goodness
of all things and creatures as they are first produced by nature, and
so long as they remain unsophisticated by the hand and purpose of man,
was in some degree bound to show a way by which this evil process of
sophistication might be brought to the lowest possible point, and the
best of all natural creatures kept as near as possible to his high
original. Rousseau, it is true, held in a sense of his own the
doctrine of the fall of man. That doctrine, however, has never made
people any more remiss in the search after a virtue, which if they
ought to have regarded it as hopeless according to strict logic, is
still indispensable in actual life. Rousseau's way of believing that
man had fallen was so coloured at once by that expansion of sanguine
emotion which marked his century, and by that necessity for repose in
idyllic perfection of simplicity which marked his own temperament,
that enthusiasm for an imaginary human creature effectually shut out
the dogma of his fatal depravation. "How difficult a thing it is,"
Madame d'Epinay once said to him, "to bring up a child." "Assuredly
it is," answered Rousseau; "because the father and mother are not made
by nature to bring it up, nor the child to be brought up."[273] This
cynical speech can only have been an accidental outbreak of spleen. It
was a contradiction to his one constant opinion that nature is all
good and bounteous, and that the inborn capacity of man for reaching
true happiness knows no stint.

In writing Emilius, he sat down to consider what man is, and what can
be made of him. Here, as in all the rest of his work, he only obeyed
the tendencies of his time in choosing a theme. An age touched by the
spirit of hope inevitably turns to the young; for with the young lies
fulfilment. Such epochs are ever pressing with the question, how is
the future to be shaped? Our answer depends on the theory of human
disposition, and in these epochs the theory is always optimistic.
Rousseau was saved, as so many thousands of men have been alike in
conduct and speculation, by inconsistency, and not shrinking from two
mutually contradictory trains of thought. Society is corrupt, and
society is the work of man. Yet man, who has engendered this corrupted
birth, is good and whole. The strain in the argument may be pardoned
for the hopefulness of the conclusion. It brought Rousseau into
harmony with the eager effort of the time to pour young character into
finer mould, and made him the most powerful agent in giving to such
efforts both fervour and elevation. While others were content with
the mere enunciation of maxims and precepts, he breathed into them the
spirit of life, and enforced them with a vividness of faith that
clothed education with the augustness and unction of religion. The
training of the young soul to virtue was surrounded with something of
the awful holiness of a sacrament; and those who laboured in this
sanctified field were exhorted to a constancy of devotion, and were
promised a fulness of recompense, that raised them from the rank of
drudges to a place of highest honour among the ministers of nature.

Everybody at this time was thinking about education, partly perhaps on
account of the suppression of the Jesuits, the chief instructors of
the time, and a great many people were writing about it. The Abbé de
Saint Pierre had had new ideas on education, as on all the greater
departments of human interest. Madame d'Epinay wrote considerations
upon the bringing up of the young.[274] Madame de Grafigny did the
same in a less grave shape.[275] She received letters from the
precociously sage Turgot, abounding in the same natural and sensible
precepts which ten years later were commended with more glowing
eloquence in the pages of Emilius.[276] Grimm had an elaborate scheme
for a treatise on education.[277] Helvétius followed his exploration
of the composition of the human mind, by a treatise on the training
proper for the intellectual and moral faculties. Education by these
and other writers was being conceived in a wider sense than had been
known to ages controlled by ecclesiastical collegians. It slowly came
to be thought of in connection with the family. The improvement of
ideas upon education was only one phase of that great general movement
towards the restoration of the family, which was so striking a
spectacle in France after the middle of the century. Education now
came to comprehend the whole system of the relations between parents
and their children, from earliest infancy to maturity. The direction
of this wider feeling about such relations tended strongly towards an
increased closeness in them, more intimacy, and a more continuous
suffusion of tenderness and long attachment. All this was part of the
general revival of naturalism. People began to reflect that nature was
not likely to have designed infants to be suckled by other women than
their own mothers, nor that they should be banished from the society
of those who are most concerned in their well-being, from the cheerful
hearth and wise affectionate converse of home, to the frigid
discipline of colleges and convents and the unamiable monition of

Then the rising rebellion against the church and its faith perhaps
contributed something towards a movement which, if it could not break
the religious monopoly of instruction, must at least introduce the
parent as a competitor with the priestly instructor for influence over
the ideas, habits, and affections of his children. The rebellion was
aimed against the spirit as well as the manner of the established
system. The church had not fundamentally modified the significance of
the dogma of the fall and depravity of man; education was still
conceived as a process of eradication and suppression of the mystical
old Adam. The new current flowed in channels far away from that black
folly of superstition. Men at length ventured once more to look at one
another with free and generous gaze. The veil of the temple was rent,
and the false mockeries of the shrine of the Hebrew divinity made
plain to scornful eyes. People ceased to see one another as guilty
victims cowering under a divine curse. They stood erect in
consciousness of manhood. The palsied conception of man, with his
large discourse of reason looking before and after, his lofty and
majestic patience in search for new forms of beauty and new secrets of
truth, his sense of the manifold sweetness and glory and awe of the
universe, above all, his infinite capacity of loyal pity and love for
his comrades in the great struggle, and his high sorrow for his own
wrong-doing,--the palsied and crushing conception of this excellent
and helpful being as a poor worm, writhing under the vindictive and
meaningless anger of an omnipotent tyrant in the large heavens, only
to be appeased by sacerdotal intervention, was fading back into those
regions of night, whence the depth of human misery and the
obscuration of human intelligence had once permitted its escape, to
hang evilly over the western world for a season. So vital a change in
the point of view quickly touched the theory and art of the upbringing
of the young. Education began to figure less as the suppression of the
natural man, than his strengthening and development; less as a process
of rooting out tares, more as the grateful tending of shoots abounding
in promise of richness. What had been the most drearily mechanical of
duties, was transformed into a task that surpassed all others in
interest and hope. If man be born not bad but good, under no curse,
but rather the bestower and receiver of many blessings, then the
entire atmosphere of young life, in spite of the toil and the peril,
is made cheerful with the sunshine and warmth of the great folded
possibilities of excellence, happiness, and well-doing.


Locke in education, as in metaphysics and in politics, was the pioneer
of French thought. In education there is less room for scientific
originality. The sage of a parish, provided only she began her trade
with an open and energetic mind, may here pass philosophers. Locke was
nearly as sage, as homely, as real, as one of these strenuous women.
The honest plainness of certain of his prescriptions for the
preservation of physical health perhaps keeps us somewhat too near the
earth. His manner throughout is marked by the stout wisdom of the
practical teacher, who is content to assume good sense in his hearers,
and feels no necessity for kindling a blaze or raising a tempest. He
gives us a practical manual for producing a healthy, instructed,
upright, well-mannered young English squire, who shall be rightly
fitted to take his own life sensibly in hand, and procure from it a
fair amount of wholesome satisfaction both for himself and the people
with whom he is concerned. Locke's treatise is one of the most
admirable protests in the world against effeminacy and pedantry, and
parents already moved by grave desire to do their duty prudently to
their sons, will hardly find another book better suited to their ends.
Besides Locke, we must also count Charron, and the amazing educator of
Gargantua, and Montaigne before either, among the writers whom
Rousseau had read, with that profit and increase which attends the
dropping of the good ideas of other men into fertile minds.

There is an immense class of natures, and those not the lowest, which
the connection of duty with mere prudence does not carry far enough.
They only stir when something has moved their feeling for the ideal,
and raised the mechanical offices of the narrow day into association
with the spaciousness and height of spiritual things. To these
Rousseau came. For both the tenour and the wording of the most
striking precepts of the Emilius, he owes much to Locke. But what was
so realistic in him becomes blended in Rousseau with all the power and
richness and beauty of an ideal that can move the most generous parts
of human character. The child is treated as the miniature of humanity;
it thus touches the whole sphere of our sympathies, warms our
curiosity as to the composition of man's nature, and becomes the very
eye and centre of moral and social aspirations.

Accordingly Rousseau almost at once begins by elaborating his
conception of the kind of human creature which it is worth while to
take the trouble to rear, and the only kind which pure nature will
help you in perfecting. Hence Emilius, besides being a manual for
parents, contains the lines of a moral type of life and character for
all others. The old thought of the Discourses revives in full vigour.
The artifices of society, the perverting traditions of use, the feeble
maxims of indolence, convention, helpless dependence on the aid or the
approval of others, are routed at the first stroke. The old regimen of
accumulated prejudice is replaced, in dealing alike with body and
soul, by the new system of liberty and nature. In saying this we have
already said that the exaltation of Spartan manners which runs through
Rousseau's other writings has vanished, and that every trace of the
much-vaunted military and public training has yielded before the
attractive thought of tender parents and a wisely ruled home. Public
instruction, we learn, can now no longer exist, because there is no
longer such a thing as country, and therefore there can no longer be
citizens. Only domestic education can now help us to rear the man
according to nature,--the man who knows best among us how to bear
the mingled good and ill of our life.

The artificial society of the time, with its aspirations after a
return to nature, was moved to the most energetic enthusiasm by
Rousseau's famous exhortations to mothers to nourish their own little
ones. Morelly, as we have seen, had already enjoined the adoption of
this practice. So too had Buffon. But Morelly's voice had no
resonance, Buffon's reasons were purely physical, and children were
still sent out to nurse, until Rousseau's more passionate moral
entreaties awoke maternal conscience. "Do these tender mothers," he
exclaimed, "who, when they have got rid of their infants, surrender
themselves gaily to all the diversions of the town, know what sort of
usage the child in the village is receiving, fastened in his swaddling
band? At the least interruption that comes, they hang him up by a nail
like a bundle of rags, and there the poor creature remains thus
crucified, while the nurse goes about her affairs. Every child found
in this position had a face of purple; as the violent compression of
the chest would not allow the blood to circulate, it all went to the
head, and the victim was supposed to be very quiet, just because it
had not strength enough to cry out."[278] But in Rousseau, as in
Beethoven, a harsh and rugged passage is nearly always followed by
some piece of exquisite and touching melody. The force of these
indignant pictures was heightened and relieved by moving appeal to
all the tender joys of maternal solicitude, and thoughts of all that
this solicitude could do for the happiness of the home, the father,
and the young. The attraction of domestic life is pronounced the best
antidote to the ill living of the time. The bustle of children, which
you now think so importunate, gradually becomes delightful; it brings
father and mother nearer to one another; and the lively animation of a
family added to domestic cares, makes the dearest occupation of the
wife, and the sweetest of all his amusements to the husband. If women
will only once more become mothers again, men will very soon become
fathers and husbands.[279]

The physical effect of this was not altogether wholesome. Rousseau's
eloquence excited women to an inordinate pitch of enthusiasm for the
duty of suckling their infants, but his contemptuous denunciation of
the gaieties of Paris could not extinguish the love of amusement.

    Quid quod libelli Stoici inter sericos
      Jacere pulvillos amant?

So young mothers tried as well as they could to satisfy both desires,
and their babes were brought to them at all unseasonable hours, while
they were full of food and wine, or heated with dancing or play, and
there received the nurture which, but for Rousseau, they would have
drawn in more salutary sort from a healthy foster-mother in the
country. This, however, was only an incidental drawback to a movement
which was in its main lines full of excellent significance. The
importance of giving freedom to the young limbs, of accustoming the
body to rudeness and vicissitude of climate, of surrounding youth with
light and cheerfulness and air, and even a tiny detail such as the
propriety of substituting for coral or ivory some soft substance
against which the growing teeth might press a way without irritation,
all these matters are handled with a fervid reality of interest that
gives to the tedium of the nursery a genuine touch of the poetic.
Swathings, bandages, leading-strings, are condemned with a warmth like
that with which the author had denounced comedy.[280] The city is held
up to indignant reprobation as the gulf of infant life, just as it had
been in his earlier pieces as the gulf of all the loftiest energies of
the adult life. Every child ought to be born and nursed in the
country, and it would be all the better if it remained in the country
to the last day of its existence. You must accustom it little by
little to the sight of disagreeable objects, such as toads and snakes;
also in the same gradual manner to the sound of alarming noises,
beginning with snapping a cap in a pistol. If the infant cries from
pain which you cannot remove, make no attempt to soothe it; your
caresses will not lessen the anguish of its colic, while the child
will remember what it has to do in order to be coaxed and to get its
own way. The nurse may amuse it by songs and lively cries, but she is
not to din useless words into its ears; the first articulations that
come to it should be few, easy, distinct, frequently repeated, and
only referring to objects which may be shown to the child. "Our
unlucky facility in cheating ourselves with words that we do not
understand, begins earlier than we suppose." Let there be no haste in
inducing the child to speak articulately. The evil of precipitation in
this respect is not that children use and hear words without sense,
but that they use and hear them in a different sense from our own,
without our perceiving it. Mistakes of this sort, committed thus
early, have an influence, even after they are cured, over the turn of
the mind for the rest of the creature's life. Hence it is a good thing
to keep a child's vocabulary as limited as possible, lest it should
have more words than ideas, and should say more than it can possibly
realise in thought.[281]

In moral as in intellectual habits, the most perilous interval in
human life is that between birth and the age of twelve. The great
secret is to make the early education purely negative; a process of
keeping the heart, naturally so good, clear of vice, and the
intelligence, naturally so true, clear of error. Take for first,
second, and third precept, to follow nature and leave her free to the
performance of her own tasks. Until the age of reason, there can be no
idea of moral beings or social relations. Therefore, says Rousseau, no
moral discussion. Locke's maxim in favour of constantly reasoning with
children was a mistake. Of all the faculties of man, reason, which is
only a compound of the rest, is that which is latest in development,
and yet it is this which we are to use to develop those which come
earliest of all. Such a course is to begin at the end, and to turn the
finished work into an instrument. "In speaking to children in these
early years a language which they do not comprehend, we accustom them
to cheat themselves with words, to criticise what is said to them, to
think themselves as wise as their masters, to become disputatious and
mutinous." If you forget that nature meant children to be children
before growing into men, you only force a fruit that has neither
ripeness nor savour, and must soon go bad; you will have youthful
doctors and old infants.

To all this, however, there is certainly another side which Rousseau
was too impetuous to see. Perfected reason is truly the tardiest of
human endowments, but it can never be perfected at all unless the
process be begun, and, within limits, the sooner the beginning is
made, the earlier will be the ripening. To know the grounds of right
conduct is, we admit, a different thing from feeling a disposition to
practise it. But nobody will deny the expediency of an intelligent
acquaintance with the reasons why one sort of conduct is bad, and its
opposite good, even if such an acquaintance can never become a
substitute for the spontaneous action of thoroughly formed habit. For
one thing, cases are constantly arising in a man's life that demand
the exercise of reason, to settle the special application of
principles which may have been acquired without knowledge of their
rational foundation. In such cases, which are the critical and testing
points of character, all depends upon the possession of a more or less
justly trained intelligence, and the habit of using it. Now, as we
have said, it is one of the great merits of the Emilius that it calls
such attention to the early age at which mental influences begin to
operate. Why should the gradual formation of the master habit of using
the mind be any exception?

Belief in the efficacy of preaching is the bane of educational
systems. Verbal lessons seem as if they ought to be so deeply
effective, if only the will and the throng of various motives which
guide it, instantly followed impression of a truth upon the
intelligence. And they are, moreover, so easily communicated, saving
the parent a lifetime of anxious painstaking in shaping his own
character, after such a pattern as shall silently draw all within its
influence to pursuit of good and honourable things. The most valuable
of Rousseau's notions about education, though he by no means
consistently adhered to them, was his urgent contempt for this
fatuous substitution of spoken injunctions and prohibitions, for the
deeper language of example, and the more living instruction of visible
circumstance. The vast improvements that have since taken place in the
theory and the art of education all over Europe, and of which he has
the honour of being the first and most widely influential promoter,
may all be traced to the spread of this wise principle, and its
adoption in various forms. The change in the up-bringing of the young
exactly corresponds to the change in the treatment of the insane. We
may look back to the old system of endless catechisms, apophthegms,
moral fables, and the rest of the paraphernalia of moral didactics,
with the same horror with which we regard the gags, strait-waistcoats,
chains, and dark cells, of poor mad people before the intervention of

It is clear now to everybody who has any opinion on this most
important of all subjects, that spontaneousness is the first quality
in connection with right doing, which you can develop in the young,
and this spontaneousness of habit is best secured by associating it
with the approval of those to whom the child looks. Sympathy, in a
word, is the true foundation from which to build up the structure of
good habit. The young should be led to practise the elementary parts
of right conduct from the desire to please, because that is a securer
basis than the conclusions of an embryo reason, applied to the most
complex conditions of action, while the grounds on which action is
justified or condemned may be made plain in the fulness of time, when
the understanding is better able to deal with the ideas and terms
essential to the matter. You have two aims to secure, each without
sacrifice of the other. These are, first, that the child shall grow up
with firm and promptly acting habit; second, that it shall retain
respect for reason and an open mind. The latter may be acquired in the
less immature years, but if the former be not acquired in the earlier
times, a man grows up with a drifting unsettledness of will, that
makes his life either vicious by quibbling sophistries, or helpless
for want of ready conclusions.

The first idea which is to be given to a child, little as we might
expect such a doctrine from the author of the Second Discourse, is
declared to be that of property. And he can only acquire this idea by
having something of his own. But how are we to teach him the
significance of a thing being one's own? It is a prime rule to attempt
to teach nothing by a verbal lesson; all instruction ought to be left
to experience.[282] Therefore you must contrive some piece of
experience which shall bring this notion of property vividly into a
child's mind; the following for instance. Emilius is taken to a piece
of garden; his instructor digs and dresses the ground for him, and the
boy takes possession by sowing some beans. "We come every day to water
them, and see them rise out of the ground with transports of joy. I
add to this joy by saying, This belongs to you. Then explaining the
term, I let him feel that he has put into the ground this time,
labour, trouble, his person in short; that there is in this bit of
ground something of himself which he may maintain against every comer,
as he might withdraw his own arm from the hand of another man who
would fain retain it in spite of him." One day Emilius comes to his
beloved garden, watering-pot in hand, and finds to his anguish and
despair that all the beans have been plucked up, that the ground has
been turned over, and that the spot is hardly recognisable. The
gardener comes up, and explains with much warmth that he had sown the
seed of a precious Maltese melon in that particular spot long before
Emilius had come with his trumpery beans, and that therefore it was
his land; that nobody touches the garden of his neighbour, in order
that his own may remain untouched; and that if Emilius wants a piece
of garden, he must pay for it by surrendering to the owner half the
produce.[283] Thus, says Rousseau, the boy sees how the notion of
property naturally goes back to the right of the first occupant as
derived from labour. We should have thought it less troublesome, as it
is certainly more important, to teach a boy the facts of property
positively and imperatively. This rather elaborate ascent to origins
seems an exaggerated form of that very vice of over-instructing the
growing reason in abstractions, which Rousseau had condemned so short
a time before.

Again, there is the very strong objection to conveying lessons by
artificially contrived incidents, that children are nearly always
extremely acute in suspecting and discovering such contrivances. Yet
Rousseau recurs to them over and over again, evidently taking delight
in their ingenuity. Besides the illustration of the origin and
significance of property, there is the complex fancy in which a
juggler is made to combine instruction as to the properties of the
magnet with certain severe moral truths.[284] The tutor interests
Emilius in astronomy and geography by a wonderful stratagem indeed.
The poor youth loses his way in a wood, is overpowered by hunger and
weariness, and then is led on by his cunning tutor to a series of
inferences from the position of the sun and so forth, which convince
him that his home is just over the hedge, where it is duly found to
be.[285] Here, again, is the way in which the instructor proposes to
stir activity of limb in the young Emilius. "In walking with him of an
afternoon, I used sometimes to put in my pocket two cakes of a sort he
particularly liked; we each of us ate one. One day he perceived that I
had three cakes; he could easily have eaten six; he promptly
despatches his own, to ask me for the third. Nay, I said to him, I
could well eat it myself, or we would divide it, but I would rather
see it made the prize of a running match between the two little boys
there." The little boys run their race, and the winner devours the
cake. This and subsequent repetitions of the performance at first
only amused Emilius, but he presently began to reflect, and perceiving
that he also had two legs, he began privately to try how fast he could
run. When he thought he was strong enough, he importuned his tutor for
the third cake, and on being refused, insisted on being allowed to
compete for it. The habit of taking exercise was not the only
advantage gained. The tutor resorted to a variety of further
stratagems in order to induce the boy to find out and practise visual
compass, and so forth.[286] If we consider, as we have said, first the
readiness of children to suspect a stratagem wherever instruction is
concerned, and next their resentment on discovering artifice of that
kind, all this seems as little likely to be successful as it is
assuredly contrary to Rousseau's general doctrine of leaving
circumstances to lead.

In truth Rousseau's appreciation of the real nature of spontaneousness
in the processes of education was essentially inadequate, and that it
was so, arose from a no less inadequate conception of the right
influence upon the growing character, of the great principle of
authority. His dread lest the child should ever be conscious of the
pressure of a will external to its own, constituted a fundamental
weakness of his system. The child, we are told with endless
repetition, ought always to be led to suppose that it is following its
own judgment or impulses, and has only them and their consequences to
consider. But Rousseau could not help seeing, as he meditated on the
actual development of his Emilius, that to leave him thus to the
training of accident would necessarily end in many fatal gaps and
chasms. Yet the hand and will of the parent or the master could not be
allowed to appear. The only alternative, therefore, was the secret
preparation of artificial sets of circumstances, alike in work and in
amusement. Jean Paul was wiser than Jean Jacques. "Let not the teacher
after the work also order and regulate the games. It is decidedly
better not to recognise or make any order in games, than to keep it up
with difficulty and send the zephyrets of pleasure through artistic
bellows and air-pumps to the little flowers."[287]

The spontaneousness which we ought to seek, does not consist in
promptly willing this or that, independently of an authority imposed
from without, but in a self-acting desire to do what is right under
all its various conditions, including what the child finds pleasant to
itself on the one hand, and what it has good reason to suppose will be
pleasant to its parents on the other. "You must never," Rousseau
gravely warns us, "inflict punishment upon children as punishment; it
should always fall upon them as a natural consequence of their
ill-behaviour."[288] But why should one of the most closely following
of all these consequences be dissembled or carefully hidden from
sight, namely, the effect of ill-behaviour upon the contentment of the
child's nearest friend? Why are the effects of conduct upon the
actor's own physical well-being to be the only effects honoured with
the title of being natural? Surely, while we leave to the young the
widest freedom of choice, and even habitually invite them to decide
for themselves between two lines of conduct, we are bound afterwards
to state our approval or disapproval of their decision, so that on the
next occasion they may take this anger or pleasure in others into
proper account in their rough and hasty forecast, often less hasty
than it seems, of the consequences of what they are about to do. One
of the most important of educating influences is lost, if the young
are not taught to place the feelings of others in a front place, when
they think in their own simple way of what will happen to them from
yielding to a given impulse. Rousseau was quite right in insisting on
practical experience of consequences as the only secure foundation for
self-acting habit; he was fatally wrong in mutilating this experience
by the exclusion from it of the effects of perceiving, resisting,
accepting, ignoring, all will and authority from without. The great,
and in many respects so admirable, school of Rousseauite
philanthropists, have always been feeble on this side, alike in the
treatment of the young by their instructors, and the treatment of
social offenders by a government.

Again, consider the large group of excellent qualities which are
associated with affectionate respect for a more fully informed
authority. In a world where necessity stands for so much, it is no
inconsiderable gain to have learnt the lesson of docility on easy
terms in our earliest days. If in another sense the will of each
individual is all-powerful over his own destinies, it is best that
this idea of firm purpose and a settled energy that will not be
denied, should grow up in the young soul in connection with a riper
wisdom and an ampler experience than its own; for then, when the time
for independent action comes, the force of the association will
continue. Finally, although none can be vicariously wise, none sage by
proxy, nor any pay for the probation of another, yet is it not a
puerile wastefulness to send forth the young all bare to the ordeal,
while the armour of old experience and tempered judgment hangs idle on
the wall? Surely it is thus by accumulation of instruction from
generation to generation, that the area of right conduct in the world
is extended. Such instruction must with youth be conveyed by military
word of command as often as by philosophical persuasion of its worth.
Nor is the atmosphere of command other than bracing, even to those who
are commanded. If education is to be mainly conducted by force of
example, it is a dreadful thing that the child is ever to have before
its eyes as living type and practical exemplar the pale figure of
parents without passions, and without a will as to the conduct of
those who are dependent on them. Even a slight excess of anger,
impatience, and the spirit of command, would be less demoralising to
the impressionable character than the constant sight of a man
artificially impassive. Rousseau is perpetually calling upon men to
try to lay aside their masks; yet the model instructor whom he has
created for us is to be the most artfully and elaborately masked of
all men; unless he happens to be naturally without blood and without

Rousseau, then, while he put away the old methods which imprisoned the
young spirit in injunctions and over-solicitous monitions, yet did
none the less in his own scheme imprison it in a kind of hothouse,
which with its regulated temperature and artificially contrived access
of light and air, was in many respects as little the method of nature,
that is to say it gave as little play for the spontaneous working and
growth of the forces of nature in the youth's breast, as that regimen
of the cloister which he so profoundly abhorred. Partly this was the
result of a ludicrously shallow psychology. He repeats again and again
that self-love is the one quality in the youthful embryo of character,
from which you have to work. From this, he says, springs the desire of
possessing pleasure and avoiding pain, the great fulcrum on which the
lever of experience rests. Not only so, but from this same
unslumbering quality of self-love you have to develop regard for
others. The child's first affection for his nurse is a result of the
fact that she serves his comfort, and so down to his passion in later
years for his mistress. Now this is not the place for a discussion as
to the ultimate atom of the complex moral sentiments of men and women,
nor for an examination of the question whether the faculty of
sympathy has or has not an origin independent of self-love. However
that may be, no one will deny that sympathy appears in good natures
extremely early, and is susceptible of rapid cultivation from the very
first. Here is the only adequate key to that education of the
affections, from their rudimentary expansion in the nursery, until
they include the complete range of all the objects proper to them.

One secret of Rousseau's omission of this, the most important of all
educating agencies, from the earlier stages of the formation of
character, was the fact which is patent enough in every page, that he
was not animated by that singular tenderness and almost mystic
affection for the young, which breathes through the writings of some
of his German followers, of Richter above all others, and which
reveals to those who are sensible of it, the hold that may so easily
be gained for all good purposes upon the eager sympathy of the
youthful spirit. The instructor of Emilius speaks the words of a wise
onlooker, sagely meditating on the ideal man, rather than of a parent
who is living the life of his child through with him. Rousseau's
interest in children, though perfectly sincere, was still æsthetic,
moral, reasonable, rather than that pure flood of full-hearted feeling
for them, which is perhaps seldom stirred except in those who have
actually brought up children of their own. He composed a vindication
of his love for the young in an exquisite piece;[289] but it has none
of the yearnings of the bowels of tenderness.


Education being the art of preparing the young to grow into
instruments of happiness for themselves and others, a writer who
undertakes to speak about it must naturally have some conception of
the kind of happiness at which his art aims. We have seen enough of
Rousseau's own life to know what sort of ideal he would be likely to
set up. It is a healthier epicureanism, with enough stoicism to make
happiness safe in case that circumstances should frown. The man who
has lived most is not he who has counted most years, but he who has
most felt life.[290] It is mere false wisdom to throw ourselves
incessantly out of ourselves, to count the present for nothing, ever
to pursue without ceasing a future which flees in proportion as we
advance, to try to transport ourselves from whence we are not, to some
place where we shall never be.[291] He is happiest who suffers fewest
pains, and he is most miserable who feels fewest pleasures. Then we
have a half stoical strain. The felicity of man here below is only a
negative state, to be measured by the more or less of the ills he
undergoes. It is in the disproportion between desires and faculties
that our misery consists. Happiness, therefore, lies not in
diminishing our desires, nor any more in extending our faculties, but
in diminishing the excess of desire over faculty, and in bringing
power and will into perfect balance.[292] Excepting health, strength,
respect for one's self, all the goods of this life reside in opinion;
excepting bodily pain and remorse of conscience, all our ills are in
imagination. Death is no evil; it is only made so by half-knowledge
and false wisdom. "Live according to nature, be patient, and drive
away physicians; you will not avoid death, but you will only feel it
once, while they on the other hand would bring it daily before your
troubled imagination, and their false art, instead of prolonging your
days, only hinders you from enjoying them. Suffer, die, or recover;
but above all things live, live up to your last hour." It is
foresight, constantly carrying us out of ourselves, that is the true
source of our miseries.[293] O man, confine thy existence within
thyself, and thou wilt cease to be miserable. Thy liberty, thy power,
reach exactly as far as thy natural forces, and no further; all the
rest is slavery and illusion. The only man who has his own will is he
who does not need in order to have it the arms of another person at
the end of his own.[294]

The training that follows from this is obvious. The instructor has
carefully to distinguish true or natural need from the need which is
only fancied, or which only comes from superabundance of life.
Emilius, who is brought up in the country, has nothing in his room to
distinguish it from that of a peasant.[295] If he is taken to a
luxurious banquet, he is bidden, instead of heedlessly enjoying it, to
reflect austerely how many hundreds or thousands of hands have been
employed in preparing it.[296] His preference for gay colours in his
clothes is to be consulted, because this is natural and becoming to
his age, but the moment he prefers a stuff merely because it is rich,
behold a sophisticated creature.[297] The curse of the world is
inequality, and inequality springs from the multitude of wants, which
cause us to be so much the more dependent. What makes man essentially
good is to have few wants, and to abstain from comparing himself with
others; what makes him essentially bad, is to have many wants, and to
cling much to opinion.[298] Hence, although Emilius happened to have
both wealth and good birth, he is not brought up to be a gentleman,
with the prejudices and helplessness and selfishness too naturally
associated with that abused name.

This cardinal doctrine of limitation of desire, with its corollary of
self-sufficience, contains in itself the great maxim that Emilius and
every one else must learn some trade. To work is an indispensable duty
in the social man. Rich or poor, powerful or weak, every idle citizen
is a knave. And every boy must learn a real trade, a trade with his
hands. It is not so much a matter of learning a craft for the sake of
knowing one, as for the sake of conquering the prejudices which
despise it. Labour for glory, if you have not to labour from
necessity. Lower yourself to the condition of the artisan, so as to be
above your own. In order to reign in opinion, begin by reigning over
it. All things well considered, the trade most to be preferred is
that of carpenter; it is clean, useful, and capable of being carried
on in the house; it demands address and diligence in the workman, and
though the form of the work is determined by utility, still elegance
and taste are not excluded.[299] There are few prettier pictures than
that where Sophie enters the workshop, and sees in amazement her young
lover at the other end, in his white shirt-sleeves, his hair loosely
fastened back, with a chisel in one hand and a mallet in the other,
too intent upon his work to perceive even the approach of his

When the revolution came, and princes and nobles wandered in indigent
exile, the disciples of Rousseau pointed in unkind triumph to the
advantage these unfortunate wretches would have had if they had not
been too puffed up with the vanity of feudalism to follow the prudent
example of Emilius in learning a craft. That Rousseau should have laid
so much stress on the vicissitudes of fortune, which might cause even
a king to be grateful one day that he had a trade at the end of his
arms, is sometimes quoted as a proof of his foresight of troublous
times. This, however, goes too far, because, apart from the instances
of such vicissitudes among the ancients, the King of Syracuse keeping
school at Corinth, or Alexander, son of Perseus, becoming a Roman
scrivener, he actually saw Charles Edward, the Stuart pretender,
wandering from court to court in search of succour and receiving only
rebuffs; and he may well have known that after the troubles of 1738 a
considerable number of the oligarchs of his native Geneva had gone
into exile, rather than endure the humiliation of their party.[301]
Besides all this, the propriety of being able to earn one's bread by
some kind of toil that would be useful in even the simplest societies,
flowed necessarily from every part of his doctrine of the aims of life
and the worth of character. He did, however, say, "We approach a state
of crisis and an age of revolutions," which proved true, but he added
too much when he pronounced it impossible that the great monarchies of
Europe could last long.[302] And it is certain that the only one of
the great monarchies which did actually fall would have had a far
better chance of surviving if Lewis XVI. had been as expert in the
trade of king as he was in that of making locks and bolts.

From this semi-stoical ideal there followed certain social notions,
of which Rousseau had the distinction of being the most powerful
propagator. As has so often been said, his contemporaries were willing
to leave social questions alone, provided only the government would
suffer the free expression of opinion in literature and science.
Rousseau went deeper. His moral conception of individual life and
character contained in itself a social conception, and he did not
shrink from boldly developing it. The rightly constituted man suffices
for himself and is free from prejudices. He has arms, and knows how to
use them; he has few wants, and knows how to satisfy them. Nurtured in
the most absolute freedom, he can think of no worse ill than
servitude. He attaches himself to the beauty which perishes not,
limiting his desires to his condition, learning to lose whatever may
be taken away from him, to place himself above events, and to detach
his heart from loved objects without a pang.[303] He pities miserable
kings, who are the bondsmen of all that seems to obey them; he pities
false sages, who are fast bound in the chains of their empty renown;
he pities the silly rich, martyrs to their own ostentation.[304] All
the sympathies of such a man therefore naturally flow away from these,
the great of the earth, to those who lead the stoic's life perforce.
"It is the common people who compose the human race; what is not the
people is hardly worth taking into account. Man is the same in all
ranks; that being so, the ranks which are most numerous deserve most
respect. Before one who reflects, all civil distinctions vanish: he
marks the same passions and the same feelings in the clown as in the
man covered with reputation; he can only distinguish their speech, and
a varnish more or less elaborately laid on. Study people of this
humble condition; you will perceive that under another sort of
language, they have as much intelligence as you, and more good sense.
Respect your species: reflect that it is essentially made up of the
collection of peoples; that if every king and every philosopher were
cut off from among them, they would scarcely be missed, and the world
would go none the worse."[305] As it is, the universal spirit of the
law in every country is invariably to favour the strong against the
weak, and him who has, against him who has not. The many are
sacrificed to the few. The specious names of justice and subordination
serve only as instruments for violence and arms for iniquity. The
ostentatious orders who pretend to be useful to the others, are in
truth only useful to themselves at the expense of the others.[306]

This was carrying on the work which had already been begun in the New
Heloïsa, as we have seen, but in the Emilius it is pushed with a
gravity and a directness, that could not be imparted to the picture of
a fanciful and arbitrarily chosen situation. The only writer who has
approached Rousseau, so far as I know, in fulness and depth of
expression in proclaiming the sorrows and wrongs of the poor blind
crowd, who painfully drag along the car of triumphant civilisation
with its handful of occupants, is the author of the Book of the
People. Lamennais even surpasses Rousseau in the profundity of his
pathos; his pictures of the life of hut and hovel are as sincere and
as touching; and there is in them, instead of the anger and bitterness
of the older author, righteous as that was, a certain heroism of pity
and devoted sublimity of complaint, which lift the soul up from
resentment into divine moods of compassion and resolve, and stir us
like a tale of noble action.[307] It was Rousseau, however, who first
sounded the note of which the religion that had once been the champion
and consoler of the common people, seemed long to have lost even the
tradition. Yet the teaching was not constructive, because the ideal
man was not made truly social. Emilius is brought up in something of
the isolation of the imaginary savage of the state of nature. He
marries, and then he and his wife seem only fitted to lead a life of
detachment from the interests of the world in which they are placed.
Social or political education, that is the training which character
receives from the medium in which it grows, is left out of account,
and so is the correlative process of preparation for the various
conditions and exigencies which belong to that medium, until it is too
late to take its natural place in character. Nothing can be clumsier
than the way in which Rousseau proposes to teach Emilius the existence
and nature of his relations with his fellows. And the reason of this
was that he had never himself in the course of his ruminations,
willingly thought of Emilius as being in a condition of active social
relation, the citizen of a state.


There appear to be three dominant states of mind, with groups of
faculties associated with each of them, which it is the business of
the instructor firmly to establish in the character of the future man.
The first is a resolute and unflinching respect for Truth; for the
conclusions, that is to say, of the scientific reason, comprehending
also a constant anxiety to take all possible pains that such
conclusions shall be rightly drawn. Connected with this is the
discipline of the whole range of intellectual faculties, from the
simple habit of correct observation, down to the highly complex habit
of weighing and testing the value of evidence. This very important
branch of early discipline, Rousseau for reasons of his own which we
have already often referred to, cared little about, and he throws very
little light upon it, beyond one or two extremely sensible precepts of
the negative kind, warning us against beginning too soon and forcing
an apparent progress too rapidly. The second fundamental state in a
rightly formed character is a deep feeling for things of the spirit
which are unknown and incommensurable; a sense of awe, mystery,
sublimity, and the fateful bounds of life at its beginning and its
end. Here is the Religious side, and what Rousseau has to say of this
we shall presently see. It is enough now to remark that Emilius was
never to hear the name of a God or supreme being until his reason was
fairly ripened. The third state, which is at least as difficult to
bring to healthy perfection as either of the other two, is a passion
for Justice.

The little use which Rousseau made of this momentous and
much-embracing word, which names the highest peak of social virtue, is
a very striking circumstance. The reason would seem to be that his
sense of the relations of men with one another was not virile enough
to comprehend the deep austerer lines which mark the brow of the
benignant divinity of Justice. In the one place in his writings where
he speaks of justice freely, he shows a narrowness of idea, which was
perhaps as much due to intellectual confusion as to lack of moral
robustness. He says excellently that "love of the human race is
nothing else in us but love of justice," and that "of all the virtues,
justice is that which contributes most to the common good of men."
While enjoining the discipline of pity as one of the noblest of
sentiments, he warns us against letting it degenerate into weakness,
and insists that we should only surrender ourselves to it when it
accords with justice.[308] But that is all. What constitutes justice,
what is its standard, what its source, what its sanction, whence the
extraordinary holiness with which its name has come to be invested
among the most highly civilised societies of men, we are never told,
nor do we ever see that our teacher had seen the possibility of such
questions being asked. If they had been propounded to him, he would,
it is most likely, have fallen back upon the convenient mystery of the
natural law. This was the current phrase of that time, and it was
meant to embody a hypothetical experience of perfect human relations
in an expression of the widest generality. If so, this would have to
be impressed upon the mind of Emilius in the same way as other
mysteries. As a matter of fact, Emilius was led through pity up to
humanity, or sociality in an imperfect signification, and there he was
left without a further guide to define the marks of truly social

This imperfection was a necessity, inseparable from Rousseau's
tenacity in keeping society in the background of the picture of life
which he opened to his pupil. He said, indeed, "We must study society
by men, and men by society; those who would treat politics and
morality apart will never understand anything about either one or the
other."[309] This is profoundly true, but we hardly see in the
morality which is designed for Emilius the traces of political
elements. Yet without some gradually unfolded presentation of society
as a whole, it is scarcely possible to implant the idea of justice
with any hope of large fertility. You may begin at a very early time
to develop, even from the primitive quality of self-love, a notion of
equity and a respect for it, but the vast conception of social justice
can only find room in a character that has been made spacious by
habitual contemplation of the height and breadth and close
compactedness of the fabric of the relations that bind man to man, and
of the share, integral or infinitesimally fractional, that each has in
the happiness or woe of other souls. And this contemplation should
begin when we prepare the foundation of all the other maturer habits.
Youth can hardly recognise too soon the enormous unresting machine
which bears us ceaselessly along, because we can hardly learn too soon
that its force and direction depend on the play of human motives, of
which our own for good or evil form an inevitable part when the ripe
years come. To one reared with the narrow care devoted to Emilius, or
with the capricious negligence in which the majority are left to grow
to manhood, the society into which they are thrown is a mere moral
wilderness. They are to make such way through it as they can, with
egotism for their only trusty instrument. This egotism may either be a
bludgeon, as with the most part, or it may be a delicately adjusted
and fastidiously decorated compass, as with an Emilius. In either case
is no perception that the gross outer contact of men with another is
transformed by worthiness of common aim and loyal faith in common
excellences, into a thing beautiful and generous. It is our business
to fix and root the habit of thinking of that _moral_ union, into
which, as Kant has so admirably expressed it, the _pathological_
necessities of situation that first compelled social concert, have
been gradually transmuted. Instead of this, it is exactly the
primitive pathological conditions that a narrow theory of education
brings first into prominence; as if knowledge of origins were
indispensable to a right attachment to the transformed conditions of a
maturer system.

It has been said that Rousseau founds all morality upon personal
interest, perhaps even more specially than Helvétius himself. The
accusation is just. Emilius will enter adult life without the germs of
that social conscience, which animates a man with all the associations
of duty and right, of gratitude for the past and resolute hope for the
future, in face of the great body of which he finds himself a part. "I
observe," says Rousseau, "that in the modern ages men have no hold
upon one another save through force and interest, while the ancients
on the other hand acted much more by persuasion and the affections of
the soul."[310] The reason was that with the ancients, supposing him
to mean the Greeks and Romans, the social conscience was so much wider
in its scope than the comparatively narrow fragment of duty which is
supposed to come under the sacred power of conscience in the more
complex and less closely contained organisation of a modern state. The
neighbours to whom a man owed duty in those times comprehended all the
members of his state. The neighbours of the modern preacher of duty
are either the few persons with whom each of us is brought into actual
and palpable contact, or else the whole multitude of dwellers on the
earth,--a conception that for many ages to come will remain with the
majority of men and women too vague to exert an energetic and
concentrating influence upon action, and will lead them no further
than an uncoloured and nerveless cosmopolitanism.

What the young need to have taught to them in this too little
cultivated region, is that they are born not mere atoms floating
independent and apart for a season through a terraqueous medium, and
sucking up as much more than their share of nourishment as they can
seize; nor citizens of the world with no more definite duty than to
keep their feelings towards all their fellows in a steady simmer of
bland complacency; but soldiers in a host, citizens of a polity whose
boundaries are not set down in maps, members of a church the
handwriting of whose ordinances is not in the hieroglyphs of idle
mystery, nor its hope and recompense in the lands beyond death. They
need to be taught that they owe a share of their energies to the great
struggle which is in ceaseless progress in all societies in an endless
variety of forms, between new truth and old prejudice, between love of
self or class and solicitous passion for justice, between the
obstructive indolence and inertia of the many and the generous mental
activity of the few. This is the sphere and definition of the social
conscience. The good causes of enlightenment and justice in all
lands,--here is the church militant in which we should early seek to
enrol the young, and the true state to which they should be taught
that they owe the duties of active and arduous citizenship. These are
the struggles with which the modern instructor should associate those
virtues of fortitude, tenacity, silent patience, outspoken energy,
readiness to assert ourselves and readiness to efface ourselves,
willingness to suffer and resolution to inflict suffering, which men
of old knew how to show for their gods or their sovereign. But the
ideal of Emilius was an ideal of quietism; to possess his own soul in
patience, with a suppressed intelligence, a suppressed sociality,
without a single spark of generous emulation in the courses of
strong-fibred virtue, or a single thrill of heroical pursuit after so
much as one great forlorn cause.

"If it once comes to him, in reading these parallels of the famous
ancients, to desire to be another rather than himself, were this other
Socrates, were he Cato, you have missed the mark; he who begins to
make himself a stranger to himself, is not long before he forgets
himself altogether."[311] But if a man only nurses the conception of
his own personality, for the sake of keeping his own peace and
self-contained comfort at a glow of easy warmth, assuredly the best
thing that can befall him is that he should perish, lest his example
should infect others with the same base contagion. Excessive
personality when militant is often wholesome, excessive personality
that only hugs itself is under all circumstances chief among unclean
things. Thus even Rousseau's finest monument of moral enthusiasm is
fatally tarnished by the cold damp breath of isolation, and the very
book which contained so many elements of new life for a state, was at
bottom the apotheosis of social despair.


The great agent in fostering the rise to vigour and uprightness of a
social conscience, apart from the yet more powerful instrument of a
strong and energetic public spirit at work around the growing
character, must be found in the study of history rightly directed with
a view to this end. It is here, in observing the long processes of
time and appreciating the slowly accumulating sum of endeavour, that
the mind gradually comes to read the great lessons how close is the
bond that links men together. It is here that he gradually begins to
acquire the habit of considering what are the conditions of wise
social activity, its limits, its objects, its rewards, what is the
capacity of collective achievement, and of what sort is the
significance and purport of the little span of time that cuts off the
yesterday of our society from its to-morrow.

Rousseau had very rightly forbidden the teaching of history to young
children, on the ground that the essence of history lies in the moral
relations between the bare facts which it recounts, and that the terms
and ideas of these relations are wholly beyond the intellectual grasp
of the very young.[312] He might have based his objections equally
well upon the impossibility of little children knowing the meaning of
the multitude of descriptive terms which make up a historical manual,
or realising the relations between events in bare point of time,
although childhood may perhaps be a convenient period for some
mechanical acquisition of dates. According to Rousseau, history was to
appear very late in the educational course, when the youth was almost
ready to enter the world. It was to be the finishing study, from which
he should learn not sociality either in its scientific or its higher
moral sense, but the composition of the heart of man, in a safer way
than through actual intercourse with society. Society might make him
either cynical or frivolous. History would bring him the same
information, without subjecting him to the same perils. In society you
only hear the words of men; to know man you must observe his actions,
and actions are only unveiled in history.[313] This view is hardly
worth discussing. The subject of history is not the heart of man, but
the movements of societies. Moreover, the oracles of history are
entirely dumb to one who seeks from them maxims for the shaping of
daily conduct, or living instruction as to the motives, aims,
caprices, capacities of self-restraint, self-sacrifice, of those with
whom the occasions of life bring us into contact.

It is true that at the close of the other part of his education,
Emilius was to travel and there find the comment upon the completed
circle of his studies.[314] But excellent as travel is for some of the
best of those who have the opportunity, still for many it is
valueless for lack of the faculty of curiosity. For the great
majority it is impossible for lack of opportunity. To trust so much as
Rousseau did to the effect of travelling, is to leave a large chasm in
education unbridged.

It is interesting, however, to notice some of Rousseau's notions about
history as an instrument for conveying moral instruction, a few of
them are so good, others are so characteristically narrow. "The worst
historians for a young man," he says, "are those who judge. The facts,
the facts; then let him judge for himself. If the author's judgment is
for ever guiding him, he is only seeing with the eye of another, and
as soon as this eye fails him, he sees nothing." Modern history is not
fit for instruction, not only because it has no physiognomy, all our
men being exactly like one another, but because our historians, intent
on brilliance above all other things, think of nothing so much as
painting highly coloured portraits, which for the most part represent
nothing at all.[315] Of course such a judgment as this implies an
ignorance alike of the ends and meaning of history, which, considering
that he was living in the midst of a singular revival of historical
study, is not easy to pardon. If we are to look only to perfection of
form and arrangement, it may have been right for one living in the
middle of the last century to place the ancients in the first rank
without competitors. But the author of the Discourse upon literature
and the arts might have been expected to look beyond composition, and
the contemporary of Voltaire's _Essai sur les Moeurs_ (1754-1757)
might have been expected to know that the profitable experience of the
human race did not close with the fall of the Roman republic. Among
the ancient historians, he counted Thucydides to be the true model,
because he reports facts without judging, and omits none of the
circumstances proper for enabling us to judge of them for
ourselves--though how Rousseau knew what facts Thucydides has omitted,
I am unable to divine. Then come Cæsar's Commentaries and Xenophon's
Retreat of the Ten Thousand. The good Herodotus, without portraits and
without maxims, but abounding in details the most capable of
interesting and pleasing, would perhaps be the best of historians, if
only these details did not so often degenerate into puerilities. Livy
is unsuited to youth, because he is political and a rhetorician.
Tacitus is the book of the old; you must have learnt the art of
reading facts, before you can be trusted with maxims.

The drawback of histories such as those of Thucydides and Cæsar,
Rousseau admits to be that they dwell almost entirely on war, leaving
out the true life of nations, which belongs to the unwritten
chronicles of peace. This leads him to the equally just reflection
that historians while recounting facts omit the gradual and
progressive causes which led to them. "They often find in a battle
lost or won the reason of a revolution, which even before the battle
was already inevitable. War scarcely does more than bring into full
light events determined by moral causes, which historians can seldom
penetrate."[316] A third complaint against the study which he began by
recommending as a proper introduction to the knowledge of man, is that
it does not present men but actions, or at least men only in their
parade costume and in certain chosen moments, and he justly reproaches
writers alike of history and biography, for omitting those trifling
strokes and homely anecdotes, which reveal the true physiognomy of
character. "Remain then for ever, without bowels, without nature;
harden your hearts of cast iron in your trumpery decency, and make
yourselves despicable by force of dignity."[317] And so after all, by
a common stroke of impetuous inconsistency, he forsakes history, and
falls back upon the ancient biographies, because, all the low and
familiar details being banished from modern style, however true and
characteristic, men are as elaborately tricked out by our authors in
their private lives as they were tricked out upon the stage of the


As women are from the constitution of things the educators of us all
at the most critical periods, and mainly of their own sex from the
beginning to the end of education, the writer of the most imperfect
treatise on this world-interesting subject can hardly avoid saying
something on the upbringing of women. Such a writer may start from
one of three points of view; he may consider the woman as destined to
be a wife, or a mother, or a human being; as the companion of a man,
as the rearer of the young, or as an independent personality, endowed
with gifts, talents, possibilities, in less or greater number, and
capable, as in the case of men, of being trained to the worst or the
best uses. Of course to every one who looks into life, each of these
three ideals melts into the other two, and we can only think of them
effectively when they are blended. Yet we test a writer's appreciation
of the conditions of human progress by observing the function which he
makes most prominent. A man's whole thought of the worth and aim of
womanhood depends upon the generosity and elevation of the ideal which
is silently present in his mind, while he is specially meditating the
relations of woman as wife or as mother. Unless he is really capable
of thinking of them as human beings, independently of these two
functions, he is sure to have comparatively mean notions in connection
with them in respect of the functions which he makes paramount.

Rousseau breaks down here. The unsparing fashion in which he developed
the theory of individualism in the case of Emilius, and insisted on
man being allowed to grow into the man of nature, instead of the man
of art and manufacture, might have led us to expect that when he came
to speak of women, he would suffer equity and logic to have their way,
by giving equally free room in the two halves of the human race, for
the development of natural force and capacity. If, as he begins by
saying, he wishes to bring up Emilius, not to be a merchant nor a
physician nor a soldier nor to the practice of any other special
calling, but to be first and above all a man, why should not Sophie
too be brought up above all to be a human being, in whom the special
qualifications of wifehood and motherhood may be developed in their
due order? Emilius is a man first, a husband and a father afterwards
and secondarily. How can Sophie be a companion for him, and an
instructor for their children, unless she likewise has been left in
the hands of nature, and had the same chances permitted to her as were
given to her predestined mate? Again, the pictures of the New Heloïsa
would have led us to conceive the ideal of womanly station not so much
in the wife, as in the house-mother, attached by esteem and sober
affection to her husband, but having for her chief functions to be the
gentle guardian of her little ones, and the mild, firm, and prudent
administrator of a cheerful and well-ordered household. In the last
book of the Emilius, which treats of the education of girls, education
is reduced within the compass of an even narrower ideal than this. We
are confronted with the oriental conception of women. Every principle
that has been followed in the education of Emilius is reversed in the
education of women. Opinion, which is the tomb of virtue among men, is
among women its high throne. The whole education of women ought to be
relative to men; to please them, to be useful to them, to make
themselves loved and honoured by them, to console them, to render
their lives agreeable and sweet to them,--these are the duties which
ought to be taught to women from their childhood. Every girl ought to
have the religion of her mother, and every wife that of her husband.
Not being in a condition to judge for themselves, they ought to
receive the decision of fathers and husbands as if it were that of the
church. And since authority is the rule of faith for women, it is not
so much a matter of explaining to them the reasons for belief, as for
expounding clearly to them what to believe. Although boys are not to
hear of the idea of God until they are fifteen, because they are not
in a condition to apprehend it, yet girls who are still less in a
condition to apprehend it, are _therefore_ to have it imparted to them
at an earlier age. Woman is created to give way to man, and to suffer
his injustice. Her empire is an empire of gentleness, mildness, and
complaisance. Her orders are caresses, and her threats are tears.
Girls must not only be made laborious and vigilant; they must also
very early be accustomed to being thwarted and kept in restraint. This
misfortune, if they feel it one, is inseparable from their sex, and if
ever they attempt to escape from it, they will only suffer misfortunes
still more cruel in consequence.[318]

After a series of oriental and obscurantist propositions of this kind,
it is of little purpose to tell us that women have more intelligence
and men more genius; that women observe, while men reason; that men
will philosophise better upon the human heart, while women will be
more skilful in reading it.[319] And it is a mere mockery to end the
matter by a fervid assurance, that in spite of prejudices that have
their origin in the manners of the time, the enthusiasm for what is
worthy and noble is no more foreign to women than it is to men, and
that there is nothing which under the guidance of nature may not be
obtained from them as well as from ourselves.[320] Finally there is a
complete surrender of the obscurantist position in such a sentence as
this: "I only know for either sex two really distinct classes; one the
people who think, the other the people who do not think, and this
difference comes almost entirely from education. A man of the first of
these classes ought not to marry into the other; for the greatest
charm of companionship is wanting, when in spite of having a wife he
is reduced to think by himself. It is only a cultivated spirit that
provides agreeable commerce, and 'tis a cheerless thing for a father
of a family who loves his home, to be obliged to shut himself up
within himself, and to have no one about him who understands him.
Besides, how is a woman who has no habits of reflection to bring up
her children?"[321] Nothing could be more excellently urged. But how
is a woman to have habits of reflection, when she has been constantly
brought up in habits of the closest mental bondage, trained always to
consider her first business to be the pleasing of some man, and her
instruments not reasonable persuasion but caressing and crying?

This pernicious nonsense was mainly due, like nearly all his most
serious errors, to Rousseau's want of a conception of improvement in
human affairs. If he had been filled with that conception as Turgot,
Condorcet, and others were, he would have been forced as they were, to
meditate upon changes in the education and the recognition accorded to
women, as one of the first conditions of improvement. For lack of
this, he contributed nothing to the most important branch of the
subject that he had undertaken to treat. He was always taunting the
champions of reigning systems of training for boys, with the vicious
or feeble men whom he thought he saw on every hand around him. The
same kind of answer obviously meets the current idea, which he adopted
with a few idyllic decorations of his own, of the type of the
relations between men and women. That type practically reduces
marriage in ninety-nine cases out of every hundred to a dolorous
parody of a social partnership. It does more than any one other cause
to keep societies back, because it prevents one half of the members of
a society from cultivating all their natural energies. Thus it
produces a waste of helpful quality as immeasurable as it is
deplorable, and besides rearing these creatures of mutilated faculty
to be the intellectually demoralising companions of the remaining half
of their own generation, makes them the mothers and the earliest and
most influential instructors of the whole of the generation that comes
after.[322] Of course, if any one believes that the existing
arrangements of a western community are the most successful that we
can ever hope to bring into operation, we need not complain of
Rousseau. If not, then it is only reasonable to suppose that a
considerable portion of the change will be effected in the hitherto
neglected and subordinate half of the race. That reconstitution of the
family, which Rousseau and others among his contemporaries rightly
sought after as one of the most pressing needs of the time, was
essentially impossible, so long as the typical woman was the adornment
of a semi-philosophic seraglio, a sort of compromise between the
frowzy ideal of an English bourgeois and the impertinent ideal of a
Parisian gallant. Condorcet and others made a grievous mistake in
defending the free gratification of sensual passion, as one of the
conditions of happiness and making the most of our lives.[323] But
even this was not at bottom more fatal to the maintenance and order of
the family, than Rousseau's enervating notion of keeping women in
strict intellectual and moral subjection was fatal to the family as
the true school of high and equal companionship, and the fruitful
seed-ground of wise activities and new hopes for each fresh

This was one side of Rousseau's reactionary tendencies. Fortunately
for the revolution of thirty years later, which illustrated the
gallery of heroic women with some of its most splendid names, his
power was in this respect neutralised by other stronger tendencies in
the general spirit of the age. The aristocracy of sex was subjected to
the same destructive criticism as the aristocracy of birth. The same
feeling for justice which inspired the demand for freedom and equality
of opportunity among men, led to the demand for the same freedom and
equality of opportunity between men and women. All this was part of
the energy of the time, which Rousseau disliked with undisguised
bitterness. It broke inconveniently in upon his quietest visions. He
had no conception, with his sensuous brooding imagination, never
wholly purged of grossness, of that high and pure type of women whom
French history so often produced in the seventeenth century, and who
were not wanting towards the close of the eighteenth, a type in which
devotion went with force, and austerity with sweetness, and divine
candour and transparent innocence with energetic loyalty and
intellectual uprightness and a firmly set will. Such thoughts were not
for Rousseau, a dreamer led by his senses. Perhaps they are for none
of us any more. When we turn to modern literature from the pages in
which Fénelon speaks of the education of girls, who does not feel that
the world has lost a sacred accent, as if some ineffable essence has
passed out from our hearts?

The fifth book of Emilius is not a chapter on the education of women,
but an idyll. We have already seen the circumstances under which
Rousseau composed it, in a profound and delicious solitude, in the
midst of woods and streams, with the fragrance of the orange-flower
poured around him, and in continual ecstasy. As an idyll it is
delicious; as a serious contribution to the hardest of problems it is
naught. The sequel, by a stroke of matchless whimsicality, unless it
be meant, as it perhaps may have been, for a piece of deep tragic
irony, is the best refutation that Rousseau's most energetic adversary
could have desired. The Sophie who has been educated on the oriental
principle, has presently to confess a flagrant infidelity to the
blameless Emilius, her lord.[324]


Yet the sum of the merits of Emilius as a writing upon education is
not to be lightly counted. Its value lies, as has been said of the New
Heloïsa, in the spirit which animates it and communicates itself with
vivid force to the reader. It is one of the seminal books in the
history of literature, and of such books the worth resides less in the
parts than in the whole. It touched the deeper things of character. It
filled parents with a sense of the dignity and moment of their task.
It cleared away the accumulation of clogging prejudices and obscure
inveterate usage, which made education one of the dark formalistic
arts. It admitted floods of light and air into the tightly closed
nurseries and schoolrooms. It effected the substitution of growth for
mechanism. A strong current of manliness, wholesomeness, simplicity,
self-reliance, was sent by it through Europe, while its eloquence was
the most powerful adjuration ever addressed to parental affection to
cherish the young life in all love and considerate solicitude. It was
the charter of youthful deliverance. The first immediate effect of
Emilius in France was mainly on the religious side. It was the
Christian religion that needed to be avenged, rather than education
that needed to be amended, and the press overflowed with replies to
that profession of faith which we shall consider in the next chapter.
Still there was also an immense quantity of educational books and
pamphlets, which is to be set down, first to the suppression of the
Jesuits, the great educating order, and the vacancy which they left;
and next to the impulse given by the Emilius to a movement from which
the book itself had originally been an outcome.[325] But why try to
state the influence of Emilius on France in this way? To strike the
account truly would be to write the history of the first French
Revolution.[326] All mothers, as Michelet says, were big with
Emilius. "It is not without good reason that people have noted the
children born at this glorious moment, as animated by a superior
spirit, by a gift of flame and genius. It is the generation of
revolutionary Titans: the other generation not less hardy in science.
It is Danton, Vergniaud, Desmoulins; it is Ampère, La Place, Cuvier,
Geoffroy Saint Hilaire."[327]

In Germany Emilius had great power. There it fell in with the
extraordinary movement towards naturalness and freedom of which we
have already spoken.[328] Herder, whom some have called the Rousseau
of the Germans, wrote with enthusiasm to his then beloved Caroline of
the "divine Emilius," and he never ceased to speak of Rousseau as his
inspirer and his master.[329] Basedow (1723), that strange, restless,
and most ill-regulated person, was seized with an almost phrenetic
enthusiasm for Rousseau's educational theories, translated them into
German, and repeated them in his works over and over again with an
incessant iteration. Lavater (1741-1801), who differed from Basedow in
being a fervent Christian of soft mystic faith, was thrown into
company with him in 1774, and grew equally eager with him in the cause
of reforming education in the Rousseauite sense.[330] Pestalozzi
(1746-1827), the most systematic, popular, and permanently successful
of all the educational reformers, borrowed his spirit and his
principles mainly from the Emilius, though he gave larger extension
and more intelligent exactitude to their application. Jean Paul the
Unique, in the preface to his Levana, or Doctrine of Education (1806),
one of the most excellent of all books on the subject, declares that
among previous works to which he owes a debt, "first and last he names
Rousseau's Emilius; no preceding work can be compared to his; in no
previous work on education was the ideal so richly combined with the
actual," and so forth.[331] It was not merely a Goethe, a Schiller, a
Herder, whom Rousseau fired with new thoughts. The smaller men, such
as Fr. Jacobi, Heinse, Klinger, shared the same inspiration. The
worship of Rousseau penetrated all classes, and touched every degree
of intelligence.[332]

In our own country Emilius was translated as soon as it appeared, and
must have been widely read, for a second version of the translation
was called for in a very short time. So far as a cursory survey gives
one a right to speak, its influence here in the field of education is
not very perceptible. That subject did not yet, nor for some time to
come, excite much active thought in England. Rousseau's speculations
on society both in the Emilius and elsewhere seem to have attracted
more attention. Reference has already been made to Paley.[333] Adam
Ferguson's celebrated Essay on the History of Civil Society (1767) has
many allusions, direct and indirect, to Rousseau.[334] Kames's
Sketches of the History of Man (1774) abounds still more copiously in
references to Emilius, sometimes to controvert its author, more often
to cite him as an authority worthy of respect, and Rousseau's crude
notions about women are cited with special acceptance.[335] Cowper was
probably thinking of the Savoyard Vicar when he wrote the energetic
lines in the Task, beginning "Haste now, philosopher, and set him
free," scornfully defying the deist to rescue apostate man.[336] Nor
should we omit what was counted so important a book in its day as
Godwin's Enquiry concerning Political Justice (1793). It is perhaps
more French in its spirit than any other work of equal consequence in
our literature of politics, and in its composition the author was
avowedly a student of Rousseau, as well as of the members of the
materialistic school.

In fine we may add that Emilius was the first expression of that
democratic tendency in education, which political and other
circumstances gradually made general alike in England, France, and
Germany; a tendency, that is, to look on education as a process
concerning others besides the rich and the well-born. As has often
been remarked, Ascham, Milton, Locke, Fénelon, busy themselves about
the instruction of young gentlemen and gentlewomen. The rest of the
world are supposed to be sufficiently provided for by the education of
circumstance. Since the middle of the eighteenth century this
monopolising conception has vanished, along with and through the same
general agencies as the corresponding conception of social monopoly.
Rousseau enforced the production of a natural and self-sufficing man
as the object of education, and showed, or did his best to show, the
infinite capacity of the young for that simple and natural
cultivation. This easily and directly led people to reflect that such
a capacity was not confined to the children of the rich, nor the hope
of producing a natural and sufficing man narrowed to those who had
every external motive placed around them for being neither natural nor

Voltaire pronounced Emilius a stupid romance, but admitted that it
contained fifty pages which he would have bound in morocco. These, we
may be sure, concerned religion; in truth it was the Savoyard Vicar's
profession of faith which stirred France far more than the upbringing
of the natural man in things temporal. Let us pass to that eloquent
document which is inserted in the middle of the Emilius, as the
expression of the religious opinion that best befits the man of
nature--a document most hyperbolically counted by some French
enthusiasts for the spiritualist philosophy and the religion of
sentiment, as the noblest monument of the eighteenth century.


[273] _Mém. de Mdme. d'Epinay_, ii. 276, 278.

[274] _Lettres à mon Fils_ (1758), and _Les Conversations d'Emilie_

[275] _Lettres Péruviennes._

[276] _Oeuv._, ii. 785-794.

[277] _Corr. Lit._, iii. 65.

[278] _Emile_, I. 27.

[279] It is interesting to recall a similar movement in the Roman
society of the second century of our era. See the advice of Favorinus
to mothers, in Aulus Gellius, xii. 1. M. Boissier, contrasting the
solicitude of Tacitus and Marcus Aurelius for the infant young with
the brutality of Cicero, remarks that in the time of Seneca men
discussed in the schools the educational theories of Rousseau's
Emilius. (_La Relig. Romaine_, ii. 202.)

[280] See also his diatribe against whalebone and tight-lacing for
girls, V. 27.

[281] _Emile_, I. 93, etc.

[282] _Emile_, II. 141.

[283] _Emile_, II. 156-160.

[284] _Emile_, III. 338-345.

[285] III. 358, etc.

[286] _Emile_, II. 263-267.

[287] _Levana_, ch. iii. § 54.

[288] _Emile_, II. 163.

[289] The Ninth Promenade (_Rêveries_, 309).

[290] _Emile_, I. 23.

[291] II. 109.

[292] II. 111.

[293] _Emile_, II. 113-117.

[294] II. 121.

[295] II. 143.

[296] _Emile_, III. 382.

[297] II. 227.

[298] IV. 10.

[299] _Emile_, III. 394.

[300] V. 199.

[301] The reader will not forget the famous supper-party of princes in

[302] _Emile_, III. 392, and note. A still more remarkable passage, as
far as it goes, is that in the _Confessions_ (xi. 136):--"The
disasters of an unsuccessful war, all of which came from the fault of
the government, the incredible disorder of the finances, the continual
dissensions of the administration, divided as it was among two or
three ministers at open war with one another, and who for the sake of
hurting one another dragged the kingdom into ruin; the general
discontent of the people, and of all the orders of the state; the
obstinacy of a wrong-headed woman, who, always sacrificing her better
judgment, if indeed she had any, to her tastes, dismissed the most
capable from office, to make room for her favourites ... all this
prospect of a coming break-up made me think of seeking shelter

[303] _Emile_, V. 220.

[304] IV. 85.

[305] _Emile_, IV. 38, 39. Hence, we suppose, the famous reply to
Lavoisier's request that his life might be spared from the guillotine
for a fortnight, in order that he might complete some experiments,
that the Republic has no need of chemists.

[306] IV. 65. Jefferson, who was American minister in France from 1784
to 1789, and absorbed a great many of the ideas then afloat, writes in
words that seem as if they were borrowed from Rousseau:--"I am
convinced that those societies (as the Indians) which live without
government, enjoy in their general mass an infinitely greater degree
of happiness than those who live under European governments. Among the
former public opinion is in the state of law, and restrains morals as
powerfully as laws ever did anywhere. Among the latter, under pretence
of governing, they have divided their nation into two classes, wolves
and sheep. I do not exaggerate; this is a true picture of Europe."
Tucker's _Life of Jefferson_, i. 255.

[307] Lamennais was influenced by Rousseau throughout. In the _Essay
on Indifference_ he often appeals to him as the vindicator of the
religious sentiment (_e.g._ i. 21, 52, iv. 375, etc. Ed. 1837). The
same influence is seen still more markedly in the _Words of a
Believer_ (1835), when dogma had departed, and he was left with a kind
of dual deism, thus being less estranged from Rousseau than in the
first days (_e.g._ § xix. "Tous naissent égaux," etc., § xxi., etc.)
The _Book of the People_ is thoroughly Rousseauite.

[308] _Emile_, IV. 105.

[309] _Emile_, IV. 63.

[310] _Emile_, IV. 273.

[311] _Emile_, IV. 83.

[312] _Emile_, II. 185. See the previous page for some equally prudent
observations on the folly of teaching geography to little children.

[313] _Emile_, IV. 68.

[314] V. 231, etc.

[315] _Emile_, IV. 71.

[316] _Emile_, IV. 73.

[317] IV. 77.

[318] _Emile_, V. 22, 53, 54, 101, 128-132.

[319] _Emile_, V. 78.

[320] V. 122.

[321] V. 129, 130.

[322] Well did Jean Paul say, "If we regard all life as an educational
institution, a circumnavigator of the world is less influenced by all
the nations he has seen than by his nurse."--_Levana._

[323] _Tableau des Progrès de l'Esprit Humain._ _Oeuv._, vi. pp. 264,
523-526, and elsewhere. [Ed. 1847-1849.]

[324] _Emile et Sophie_, i.

[325] For an account of some of these, see Grimm's _Corr. Lit._, iii.
211, 252, 347, etc. Also _Corr. Inéd._, p. 143.

[326] For the early date at which Rousseau's power began to meet
recognition, see D'Alembert to Voltaire, July 31, 1762.

[327] _Louis xv. et xvi._, p. 226.

[328] See above, vol. ii. p. 193.

[329] Hettner, III. iii., 2, p. 27, _s.v._ Herder.

[330] The suggestion of the speculation with which Lavater's name is
most commonly associated, is to be found in the Emilius. "It is
supposed that physiognomy is only a development of features already
marked by nature. For my part, I should think that besides this
development, the features of a man's countenance form themselves
insensibly and take their expression from the frequent and habitual
wearing into them of certain affections of the soul. These affections
mark themselves in the countenance, nothing is more certain; and when
they grow into habits, they must leave durable impressions upon it."
IV. 49, 50.

[331] Author's Preface, x.

[332] See an excellent page in M. Joret's _Herder_, 322.

[333] See above, vol. ii. p. 191.

[334] _E.g._ pp. 8, 198, 204, 205.

[335] _E.g._ Bk. I. § 5, p. 279. § 6, p. 406, 419, etc. (the portion
concerning the female sex).

[336] Vv. 670-703. We have already seen (above, vol. ii. p. 41, _n._)
that Cowper had read Emilius, and the mocking reference to the Deist
as "an Orpheus and omnipotent in song," coincides with Rousseau's
comparison of the Savoyard Vicar to "the divine Orpheus singing the
first hymn" (_Emile_, IV. 205).



The band of dogmatic atheists who met round D'Holbach's
dinner-table indulged a shallow and futile hope, if it was not an
ungenerous one, when they expected the immediate advent of a
generation with whom a humane and rational philosophy should displace,
not merely the superstitions which had grown around the Christian
dogma, but every root and fragment of theistic conception. A hope of
this kind implied a singularly random idea, alike of the hold which
Christianity had taken of the religious emotion in western Europe, and
of the durableness of those conditions in human character, to which
some belief in a deity with a greater or fewer number of good
attributes brings solace and nourishment. A movement like that of
Christianity does not pass through a group of societies, and then
leave no trace behind. It springs from many other sources besides that
of adherence to the truth of its dogmas. The stream of its influence
must continue to flow long after adherence to the letter has been
confined to the least informed portions of a community. The
Encyclopædists knew that they had sapped religious dogma and shaken
ecclesiastical organisation. They forgot that religious sentiment on
the one hand, and habit of respect for authority on the other, were
both of them still left behind. They had convinced themselves by a
host of persuasive analogies that the universe is an automatic
machine, and man only an industrious particle in the stupendous whole;
that a final cause is not cognisable by our limited intelligence; and
that to make emotion in this or any other respect a test of objective
truth and a ground of positive belief, is to lower both truth and the
reason which is its single arbiter. They forgot that imagination is as
active in man as his reason, and that a craving for mental peace may
become much stronger than passion for demonstrated truth. Christianity
had given to this craving in western Europe a definite mould, which
was not to be effaced in a day, and one or two of its lines mark a
permanent and noble acquisition to the highest forces of human nature.
There will have to be wrought a profounder and more far-spreading
modification than any which the French atheists could effect, before
all debilitating influences in the old creed can be effaced, its
elevating influences finally separated from them, and then permanently
preserved in more beneficent form and in an association less
questionable to the understanding.

Neither a purely negative nor a direct attack can ever suffice. There
must be a coincidence of many silently oppugnant forces, emotional,
scientific, and material. And, above all, there must be the slow
steadfast growth of some replacing faith, which shall retain all the
elements of moral beauty that once gave light to the old belief that
has disappeared, and must still possess a living force in the new.

Here we find the good side of a religious reaction such as that which
Rousseau led in the last century, and of which the Savoyard Vicar's
profession of faith was the famous symbol. Evil as this reaction was
in many respects, and especially in the check which it gave to the
application of positive methods and conceptions to the most important
group of our beliefs, yet it had what was the very signal merit under
the circumstances of the time, of keeping the religious emotions alive
in association with a tolerant, pure, lofty, and living set of
articles of faith, instead of feeding them on the dead superstitions
which were at that moment the only practical alternative. The deism of
Rousseau could not in any case have acquired the force of the
corresponding religious reaction in England, because the former never
acquired a compact and vigorous external organisation, as the latter
did, especially in Wesleyanism and Evangelicalism, the most remarkable
of its developments. In truth the vague, fluid, purely subjective
character of deism disqualifies it from forming the doctrinal basis of
any great objective and visible church, for it is at bottom the
sublimation of individualism. But in itself it was a far less
retrogressive, as well as a far less powerful, movement. It kept fewer
of those dogmas which gradual change of intellectual climate had
reduced to the condition of rank superstitions. It preserved some of
its own, which a still further extension of the same change is
assuredly destined to reduce to the same condition; but, nevertheless,
along with them it cherished sentiments which the world will never
willingly let die.

The one cardinal service of the Christian doctrine, which is of course
to be distinguished from the services rendered to civilisation in
early times by the Christian church, has been the contribution to the
active intelligence of the west, of those moods of holiness, awe,
reverence, and silent worship of an Unseen not made with hands, which
the Christianising Jews first brought from the east. Of the fabric
which four centuries ago looked so stupendous and so enduring, with
its magnificent whole and its minutely reticulated parts of belief and
practice, this gradual creation of a new temperament in the religious
imagination of Western Europe and the countries that take their mental
direction from her, is perhaps the only portion that will remain
distinctly visible, after all the rest has sunk into the repose of
histories of opinion. Whether this be the case or not, the fact that
these deeper moods are among the richest acquisitions of human nature,
will not be denied either by those who think that Christianity
associates them with objects destined permanently to awake them in
their loftiest form, or by others who believe that the deepest moods
of which man is capable, must ultimately ally themselves with
something still more purely spiritual than the anthropomorphised
deities of the falling church. And if so, then Rousseau's deism, while
intercepting the steady advance of the rationalistic assault and
diverting the current of renovating energy, still did something to
keep alive in a more or less worthy shape those parts of the slowly
expiring system which men have the best reasons for cherishing.

Let us endeavour to characterise Rousseau's deism with as much
precision as it allows. It was a special and graceful form of a
doctrine which, though susceptible, alike in theory and in the
practical history of religious thought, of numberless wide varieties
of significance, is commonly designated by the name of deism, without
qualification. People constantly speak as if deism only came in with
the eighteenth century. It would be impossible to name any century
since the twelfth, in which distinct and abundant traces could not be
found within the dominion of Christianity of a belief in a
supernatural power apart from the supposed disclosure of it in a
special revelation.[337] A præter-christian deism, or the principle of
natural religion, was inevitably contained in the legal conception of
a natural law, for how can we dissociate the idea of law from the idea
of a definite lawgiver? The very scholastic disputations themselves,
by the sharpness and subtlety which they gave to the reasoning
faculty, set men in search of novelties, and these novelties were not
always of a kind which orthodox views of the Christian mysteries could
have sanctioned. It has been said that religion is at the cradle of
every nation, and philosophy at its grave; it is at least true that
the cradle of philosophy is the open grave of religion. Wherever there
is argumentation, there is sure to be scepticism. When people begin to
reason, a shadow has already fallen across faith, though the reasoners
might have shrunk with horror from knowledge of the goal of their
work, and though centuries may elapse before the shadow deepens into
eclipse. But the church was strong and alert in the times when free
thought vainly tried to rear a dangerous head in Italy. With the
Protestant revolution came slowly a wider freedom, while the prolonged
and tempestuous discussion between the old church and the reformed
bodies, as well as the manifold variations among those bodies at
strife with one another, stimulated the growth of religious thought in
many directions that tended away from the exclusive pretensions of
Christianity to be the oracle of the divine Spirit. The same feeling
which thrust aside the sacerdotal interposition between the soul of
man and its sovereign creator and inspirer, gradually worked towards
the dethronement of those mediators other than sacerdotal, in whom the
moral timidity of a dark and stricken age had once sought shade from
the too dazzling brightness of the All-powerful and the Everlasting.
The assertion of the rights and powers of the individual reason within
the limits of the sacred documents, began in less than a hundred years
to grow into an assertion of the same rights and powers beyond those
limits. The rejection of tradition as a substitute for independent
judgment, in interpreting or supplementing the records of revelation,
gradually impaired the traditional authority both of the records
themselves, and of the central doctrines which all churches had in one
shape or another agreed to accept. The Trinitarian controversy of the
sixteenth century must have been a stealthy solvent. The deism of
England in the eighteenth century, which Voltaire was the prime agent
in introducing in its negative, colourless, and essentially futile
shape into his own country, had its main effect as a process of

All this, however, down to the deistical movement which Rousseau found
in progress at Geneva in 1754,[338] was distinctly the outcome in a
more or less marked way of a rationalising and philosophic spirit, and
not of the religious spirit. The sceptical side of it with reference
to revealed religion, predominated over the positive side of it with
reference to natural religion. The wild pantheism of which there were
one or two extraordinary outbursts during the latter part of the
middle ages, to mark the mystical influence which Platonic studies
uncorrected by science always exert over certain temperaments, had
been full of religiosity, such as it was. These had all passed away
with a swift flash. There were, indeed, mystics like the author of the
immortal _De Imitatione_, in whom the special qualities of Christian
doctrine seem to have grown pale in a brighter flood of devout
aspiration towards the perfections of a single Being. But this was not
the deism with which either Christianity on the one side, or atheism
on the other, had ever had to deal in France. Deism, in its formal
acceptation, was either an idle piece of vaporous sentimentality, or
else it was the first intellectual halting-place for spirits who had
travelled out of the pale of the old dogmatic Christianity, and lacked
strength for the continuance of their onward journey. In the latter
case, it was only another name either for the shrewd rough conviction
of the man of the world, that his universe could not well be imagined
to go on without a sort of constitutional monarch, reigning but not
governing, keeping evil-doers in order by fear of eternal punishment,
and lending a sacred countenance to the indispensable doctrines of
property, the gradation of rank and station, and the other moral
foundations of the social structure. Or else it was a name for a
purely philosophic principle, not embraced with fervour as the basis
of a religion, but accepted with decorous satisfaction as the
alternative to a religion; not seized upon as the mainspring of
spiritual life, but held up as a shield in a controversy.

The deism which the Savoyard Vicar explained to Emilius in his
profession of faith was pitched in a very different tone from this.
Though the Vicar's conception of the Deity was lightly fenced round
with rationalistic supports of the usual kind, drawn from the
evidences of will and intelligence in the vast machinery of the
universe, yet it was essentially the product not of reason, but of
emotional expansion, as every fundamental article of a faith that
touches the hearts of many men must always be. The Savoyard Vicar did
not believe that a God had made the great world, and rules it with
majestic power and supreme justice, in the same way in which he
believed that any two sides of a triangle are greater than the third
side. That there is a mysterious being penetrating all creation with
force, was not a proposition to be demonstrated, but only the poor
description in words of an habitual mood going far deeper into life
than words can ever carry us. Without for a single moment falling off
into the nullities of pantheism, neither did he for a single moment
suffer his thought to stiffen and grow hard in the formal lines of a
theological definition or a systematic credo. It remains firm enough
to give the religious imagination consistency and a centre, yet
luminous enough to give the spiritual faculty a vivifying
consciousness of freedom and space. A creed is concerned with a number
of affirmations, and is constantly held with honest strenuousness by
multitudes of men and women who are unfitted by natural temperament
for knowing what the glow of religious emotion means to the human
soul,--for not every one that saith, Lord, Lord, enters the kingdom of
heaven. The Savoyard Vicar's profession of faith was not a creed, and
so has few affirmations; it was a single doctrine, melted in a glow of
contemplative transport. It is impossible to set about disproving it,
for its exponent repeatedly warns his disciple against the idleness of
logomachy, and insists that the existence of the Divinity is traced
upon every heart in letters that can never be effaced, if we are only
content to read them with lowliness and simplicity. You cannot
demonstrate an emotion, nor prove an aspiration. How reason, asks the
Savoyard Vicar, about that which we cannot conceive? Conscience is the
best of all casuists, and conscience affirms the presence of a being
who moves the universe and ordains all things, and to him we give the
name of God.

"To this name I join the ideas of intelligence, power, will, which I
have united in one, and that of goodness, which is a necessary
consequence flowing from them. But I do not know any the better for
this the being to whom I have given the name; he escapes equally from
my senses and my understanding; the more I think of him, the more I
confound myself. I have full assurance that he exists, and that he
exists by himself. I recognise my own being as subordinate to his and
all the things that are known to me as being absolutely in the same
case. I perceive God everywhere in his works; I feel him in myself; I
see him universally around me. But when I fain would seek where he is,
what he is, of what substance, he glides away from me, and my troubled
soul discerns nothing."[339]

"In fine, the more earnestly I strive to contemplate his infinite
essence, the less do I conceive it. But it is, and that suffices me.
The less I conceive it, the more I adore. I bow myself down, and say
to him, O being of beings, I am because thou art; to meditate
ceaselessly on thee by day and night, is to raise myself to my
veritable source and fount. The worthiest use of my reason is to make
itself as naught before thee. It is the ravishment of my soul, it is
the solace of my weakness, to feel myself brought low before the awful
majesty of thy greatness."[340]

Souls weary of the fierce mockeries that had so long been flying like
fiery shafts against the far Jehovah of the Hebrews, and the silent
Christ of the later doctors and dignitaries, and weary too of the
orthodox demonstrations that did not demonstrate, and leaden
refutations that could not refute, may well have turned with ardour to
listen to this harmonious spiritual voice, sounding clear from a
region towards which their hearts yearned with untold aspiration, but
from which the spirit of their time had shut them off with brazen
barriers. It was the elevation and expansion of man, as much as it was
the restoration of a divinity. To realise this, one must turn to such
a book as Helvétius's, which was supposed to reveal the whole inner
machinery of the heart. Man was thought of as a singular piece of
mechanism principally moved from without, not as a conscious organism,
receiving nourishment and direction from the medium in which it is
placed, but reacting with a life of its own from within. It was this
free and energetic inner life of the individual which the Savoyard
Vicar restored to lawful recognition, and made once more the centre of
that imaginative and spiritual existence, without which we live in a
universe that has no sun by day nor any stars by night. A writer in
whom learning has not extinguished enthusiasm, compares this to the
advance made by Descartes, who had given certitude to the soul by
turning thought confidently upon itself; and he declares that the
Savoyard Vicar is for the emancipation of sentiment what the Discourse
upon Method was for the emancipation of the understanding.[341] There
is here a certain audacity of panegyric; still the fact that Rousseau
chose to link the highest forms of man's ideal life with a fading
projection of the lofty image which had been set up in older days,
ought not to blind us to the excellent energies which, notwithstanding
defect of association, such a vindication of the ideal was certain to
quicken. And at least the lines of that high image were nobly traced.

Yet who does not feel that it is a divinity for fair weather?
Rousseau, with his fine sense of a proper and artistic setting,
imagined the Savoyard Vicar as leading his youthful convert at break
of a summer day to the top of a high hill, at whose feet the Po flowed
between fertile banks; in the distance the immense chain of the Alps
crowned the landscape; the rays of the rising sun projected long level
shadows from the trees, the slopes, the houses, and accented with a
thousand lines of light the most magnificent of panoramas.[342] This
was the fitting suggestion, so serene, warm, pregnant with power and
hope, and half mysterious, of the idea of godhead which the man of
peace after an interval of silent contemplation proceeded to expound.
Rousseau's sentimental idea at least did not revolt moral sense; it
did not afflict the firmness of intelligence; nor did it silence the
diviner melodies of the soul. Yet, once more, the heavens in which
such a deity dwells are too high, his power is too impalpable, the
mysterious air which he has poured around his being is too awful and
impenetrable, for the rays from the sun of such majesty to reach more
than a few contemplative spirits, and these only in their hours of
tranquillity and expansion. The thought is too vague, too far, to
bring comfort and refreshment to the mass of travailing men, or to
invest duty with the stern ennobling quality of being done, "if I have
grace to use it so as ever in the great Taskmaster's eye."

The Savoyard Vicar was consistent with the sublimity of his own
conception. He meditated on the order of the universe with a reverence
too profound to allow him to mingle with his thoughts meaner desires
as to the special relations of that order to himself. "I penetrate all
my faculties," he said, "with the divine essence of the author of the
world; I melt at the thought of his goodness, and bless all his gifts,
but I do not pray to him. What should I ask of him? That for me he
should change the course of things, and in my favour work miracles?
Could I, who must love above all else the order established by his
wisdom and upheld by his providence, presume to wish such order
troubled for my sake? Nor do I ask of him the power of doing
righteousness; why ask for what he has given me? Has he not bestowed
on me conscience to love what is good, reason to ascertain it, freedom
to choose it? If I do ill, I have no excuse; I do it because I will
it. To pray to him to change my will, is to seek from him what he
seeks from me; it is to wish no longer to be human, it is to wish
something other than what is, it is to wish disorder and evil."[343]
We may admire both the logical consistency of such self-denial and the
manliness which it would engender in the character that were strong
enough to practise it. But a divinity who has conceded no right of
petition is still further away from our lives than the divinities of
more popular creeds.

Even the fairest deism is of its essence a faith of egotism and
complacency. It does not incorporate in the very heart of the
religious emotion the pitifulness and sorrow which Christianity first
clothed with associations of sanctity, and which can never henceforth
miss their place in any religious system to be accepted by men. Why is
this? Because a religion that leaves them out, or thrusts them into a
hidden corner, fails to comprehend at least one half, and that the
most touching and impressive half, of the most conspicuous facts of
human life. Rousseau was fuller of the capacity of pity than ordinary
men, and this pity was one of the deepest parts of himself. Yet it did
not enter into the composition of his religious faith, and this shows
that his religious faith, though entirely free from suspicion of
insincerity or ostentatious assumption, was like deism in so many
cases, whether rationalistic or emotional, a kind of gratuitously
adopted superfluity, not the satisfaction of a profound inner craving
and resistless spiritual necessity. He speaks of the good and the
wicked with the precision and assurance of the most pharisaic
theologian, and he begins by asking of what concern it is to him
whether the wicked are punished with eternal torment or not, though he
concludes more graciously with the hope that in another state the
wicked, delivered from their malignity, may enjoy a bliss no less than
his own.[344] But the divine pitifulness which we owe to
Christianity, and which will not be the less eagerly cherished by
those who repudiate Christian tradition and doctrines, enjoins upon us
that we should ask, Who are the wicked, and which is he that is
without sin among us? Rousseau answered this glibly enough by some
formula of metaphysics, about the human will having been left and
constituted free by the creator of the world; and that man is the bad
man who abuses his freedom. Grace, fate, destiny, force of
circumstances, are all so many names for the protests which the frank
sense of fact has forced from man against this miserably inadequate
explanation of the foundations of moral responsibility.

Whatever these foundations may be, the theories of grace and fate had
at any rate the quality of connecting human conduct with the will of
the gods. Rousseau's deism, severing the influence of the Supreme
Being upon man, at the very moment when it could have saved him from
the guilt that brings misery,--that is at the moment when conduct
begins to follow the preponderant motives or the will,--did thus
effectually cut off the most admirable and fertile group of our
sympathies from all direct connection with religious sentiment.
Toiling as manfully as we may through the wilderness of our seventy
years, we are to reserve our deepest adoration for the being who has
left us there, with no other solace than that he is good and just and
all-powerful, and might have given us comfort and guidance if he
would. This was virtually the form which Pelagius had tried to impose
upon Christianity in the fifth century, and which the souls of men,
thirsting for consciousness of an active divine presence, had then
under the lead of Augustine so energetically cast away from them. The
faith to which they clung while rejecting this great heresy, though
just as transcendental, still had the quality of satisfying a
spiritual want. It was even more readily to be accepted by the human
intelligence, for it endowed the supreme power with the father's
excellence of compassion, and presented for our reverence and
gratitude and devotion a figure who drew from men the highest love for
the God whom they had not seen, along with the warmest pity and love
for their brethren whom they had seen.

The Savoyard Vicar's own position to Christianity was one of
reverential scepticism. "The holiness of the gospel," he said, "is an
argument that speaks to my heart and to which I should even be sorry
to find a good answer. Look at the books of the philosophers with all
their pomp; how puny they are by the side of that! Is there here the
tone of an enthusiast or an ambitious sectary? What gentleness, what
purity, in his manners, what touching grace in his teaching, what
loftiness in his maxims! Assuredly there was something more than human
in such teaching, such a character, such a life, such a death. If the
life and death of Socrates were those of a sage, the life and death
of Jesus are those of a god. Shall we say that the history of the
gospels is invented at pleasure? My friend, that is not the fashion of
invention; and the facts about Socrates are less attested than the
facts about Christ.[345] Yet with all that, this same gospel abounds
in things incredible, which are repugnant to reason, and which it is
impossible for any sensible man to conceive or admit. What are we to
do in the midst of all these contradictions? To be ever modest and
circumspect, my son; to respect in silence what one can neither reject
nor understand, and to make one's self lowly before the great being
who alone knows the truth."[346]

"I regard all particular religions as so many salutary institutions,
which prescribe in every country a uniform manner of honouring God by
public worship. I believe them all good, so long as men serve God
fittingly in them. The essential worship is the worship of the heart.
God never rejects this homage, under whatever form it be offered to
him. In other days I used to say mass with the levity which in time
infects even the gravest things, when we do them too often. Since
acquiring my new principles I celebrate it with more veneration; I am
overwhelmed by the majesty of the Supreme Being, by his presence, by
the insufficiency of the human mind, which conceives so little what
pertains to its author. When I approach the moment of consecration, I
collect myself for performing the act with all the feelings required
by the church, and the majesty of the sacrament; I strive to
annihilate my reason before the supreme intelligence, saying, 'Who art
thou, that thou shouldest measure infinite power?'"[347]

A creed like this, whatever else it may be, is plainly a powerful
solvent of every system of exclusive dogma. If the one essential to
true worship, the worship of the heart and the inner sentiment, be
mystic adoration of an indefinable Supreme, then creeds based upon
books, prophecies, miracles, revelations, all fall alike into the
second place among things that may be lawful and may be expedient, but
that can never be exacted from men by a just God as indispensable to
virtue in this world or to bliss in the next. No better answer has
ever been given to the exclusive pretensions of sect, Christian,
Jewish, or Mahometan, than that propounded by the Savoyard Vicar with
such energy, closeness, and most sarcastic fire.[348] It was turning
an unexpected front upon the presumptuousness of all varieties of
theological infallibilists, to prove to them that if you insist upon
acceptance of this or that special revelation, over and above the
dictates of natural religion, then you are bound not only to grant,
but imperatively to enjoin upon all men, a searching inquiry and
comparison, that they may spare no pains in an affair of such
momentous issue in proving to themselves that this, and none of the
competing revelations, is the veritable message of eternal safety.
"Then no other study will be possible but that of religion: hardly
shall one who has enjoyed the most robust health, employed his time
and used his reason to best purpose, and lived the greatest number of
years, hardly shall such an one in his extreme age be quite sure what
to believe, and it will be a marvel if he finds out before he dies, in
what faith he ought to have lived." The superiority of the sceptical
parts of the Savoyard Vicar's profession, as well as those of the
Letters from the Mountain to which we referred previously, over the
biting mockeries which Voltaire had made the fashionable method of
assault, lay in this fact. The latter only revolted and irritated all
serious temperaments to whom religion is a matter of honest concern,
while the former actually appealed to their religious sense in support
of his doubts; and the more intelligent and sincere this sense
happened to be, the more surely would Rousseau's gravely urged
objections dissolve the hard particles of dogmatic belief. His
objections were on a moral level with the best side of the religion
that they oppugned. Those of Voltaire were only on a level with its
lowest side, and that was the side presented by the gross and
repulsive obscurantism of the functionaries of the church.

Unfortunately Rousseau had placed in the hands of the partisans of
every exclusive revelation an instrument which was quite enough to
disperse all his objections to the winds, and which was the very
instrument that defended his own cherished religion. If he was
satisfied with replying to the atheist and the materialist, that he
knew there is a supreme God, and that the soul must have here and
hereafter an existence apart from the body, because he found these
truths ineffaceably written upon his own heart, what could prevent the
Christian or the Mahometan from replying to Rousseau that the New
Testament or the Koran is the special and final revelation from the
Supreme Power to his creatures? If you may appeal to the voice of the
heart and the dictate of the inner sentiment in one case, why not in
the other also? A subjective test necessarily proves anything that any
man desires, and the accident of the article proved appearing either
reasonable or monstrous to other people, cannot have the least bearing
on its efficacy or conclusiveness.

Deism like the Savoyard Vicar's opens no path for the future, because
it makes no allowance for the growth of intellectual conviction, and
binds up religion with mystery, with an object whose attributes can
neither be conceived nor defined, with a Being too all-embracing to be
able to receive anything from us, too august, self-contained, remote,
to be able to bestow on us the humble gifts of which we have need. The
temperature of thought is slowly but without an instant's recoil
rising to a point when a mystery like this, definite enough to be
imposed as a faith, but too indefinite to be grasped by understanding
as a truth, melts away from the emotions of religion. Then those
instincts of holiness, without which the world would be to so many of
its highest spirits the most dreary of exiles, will perhaps come to
associate themselves less with unseen divinities, than with the long
brotherhood of humanity seen and unseen. Here we shall move with an
assurance that no scepticism and no advance of science can ever shake,
because the benefactions which we have received from the strenuousness
of human effort can never be doubted, and each fresh acquisition in
knowledge or goodness can only kindle new fervour. Those who have the
religious imagination struck by the awful procession of man from the
region of impenetrable night, by his incessant struggle with the
hardness of the material world, and his sublimer struggle with the
hard world of his own egotistic passions, by the pain and sacrifice by
which generation after generation has added some small piece to the
temple of human freedom or some new fragment to the ever incomplete
sum of human knowledge, or some fresh line to the types of strong or
beautiful character,--those who have an eye for all this may indeed
have no ecstasy and no terror, no heaven nor hell, in their religion,
but they will have abundant moods of reverence, deep-seated gratitude,
and sovereign pitifulness.

And such moods will not end in sterile exaltation, or the deathly
chills of spiritual reaction. They will bring forth abundant fruit in
new hope and invigorated endeavour. This devout contemplation of the
experience of the race, instead of raising a man into the clouds,
brings him into the closest, loftiest, and most conscious relations
with his kind, to whom he owes all that is of value in his own life,
and to whom he can repay his debt by maintaining the beneficent
tradition of service, by cherishing honour for all the true and sage
spirits that have shone upon the earth, and sorrow and reprobation for
all the unworthier souls whose light has gone out in baseness. A man
with this faith can have no foul spiritual pride, for there is no
mysteriously accorded divine grace in which one may be a larger
participant than another. He can have no incentives to that mutilation
with which every branch of the church, from the oldest to the youngest
and crudest, has in its degree afflicted and retarded mankind, because
the key-note of his religion is the joyful energy of every faculty,
practical, reflective, creative, contemplative, in pursuit of a
visible common good. And he can be plunged into no fatal and
paralysing despair by any doctrine of mortal sin, because active faith
in humanity, resting on recorded experience, discloses the many
possibilities of moral recovery, and the work that may be done for men
in the fragment of days, redeeming the contrite from their burdens by
manful hope. If religion is our feeling about the highest forces that
govern human destiny, then as it becomes more and more evident how
much our destiny is shaped by the generation of the dead who have
prepared the present, and by the purport of our hopes and the
direction of our activity for the generations that are to fill the
future, the religious sentiment will more and more attach itself to
the great unseen host of our fellows who have gone before us and who
are to come after. Such a faith is no rag of metaphysic floating in
the sunshine of sentimentalism, like Rousseau's faith. It rests on a
positive base, which only becomes wider and firmer with the widening
of experience and the augmentation of our skill in interpreting it.
Nor is it too transcendent for practical acceptance. One of the most
scientific spirits of the eighteenth century, while each moment
expecting the knock of the executioner at his door, found as religious
a solace as any early martyr had ever found in his barbarous
mysteries, when he linked his own efforts for reason and freedom with
the eternal chain of the destinies of man. "This contemplation," he
wrote and felt, "is for him a refuge into which the rancour of his
persecutors can never follow him; in which, living in thought with man
reinstated in the rights and the dignity of his nature, he forgets man
tormented and corrupted by greed, by base fear, by envy; it is here
that he truly abides with his fellows, in an elysium that his reason
has known how to create for itself, and that his love for humanity
adorns with all purest delights."[349]

This, to the shame of those wavering souls who despair of progress at
the first moment when it threatens to leave the path that they have
marked out for it, was written by a man at the very close of his days,
when every hope that he had ever cherished seemed to one without the
eye of faith to be extinguished in bloodshed, disorder, and barbarism.
But there is a still happier season in the adolescence of generous
natures that have been wisely fostered, when the horizons of the
dawning life are suddenly lighted up with a glow of aspiration towards
good and holy things. Commonly, alas, this priceless opportunity is
lost in a fit of theological exaltation, which is gradually choked out
by the dusty facts of life, and slowly moulders away into dry
indifference. It would not be so, but far different, if the Savoyard
Vicar, instead of taking the youth to the mountain-top, there to
contemplate that infinite unseen which is in truth beyond
contemplation by the limited faculties of man, were to associate these
fine impulses of the early prime with the visible, intelligible, and
still sublime possibilities of the human destiny,--that imperial
conception, which alone can shape an existence of entire proportion in
all its parts, and leave no natural energy of life idle or athirst. Do
you ask for sanctions! One whose conscience has been strengthened from
youth in this faith, can know no greater bitterness than the stain
cast by wrong act or unworthy thought on the high memories with which
he has been used to walk, and the discord wrought in hopes that have
become the ruling harmony of his days.


[337] See Hallam's _Literature of Europe_, Pt. I. ch. ii. § 64. Again
(for the 16th century), Pt. II. ch. ii. § 53. See also for mention of
a sect of deists at Lyons about 1560, Bayle's Dictionary, _s.v._

[338] See above, vol. i. pp. 223-227.

[339] _Emile_, IV. 163.

[340] IV. 183-185.

[341] M. Henri Martin's _Hist. de France_, xvi. 101, where there is an
interesting, but, as it seems to the present writer, hardly a
successful attempt, to bring the Savoyard Vicar's eloquence into
scientific form.

[342] _Emile_, IV. 135.

[343] _Emile_, IV. 204.

[344] _Emile_, IV. 181, 182. In a letter to Vernes (Feb. 18, 1758.
_Corr._, ii. 9) he expresses his suspicion that possibly the souls of
the wicked may be annihilated at their death, and that being and
feeling may prove the first reward of a good life. In this letter he
asks also, with the same magnanimous security as the Savoyard Vicar,
"of what concern the destiny of the wicked can be to him."

[345] A similar disparagement of Socrates, in comparison with the
Christ of the Gospels, is to be found in the long letter of Jan. 15,
1769 (_Corr._, vi. 59, 60), to M----, accompanied by a violent
denigration of the Jews, conformably to the philosophic prejudice of
the time.

[346] _Emile_, IV. 241, 242.

[347] _Emile_, IV. 243.

[348] IV. 210-236.

[349] Condorcet's _Progrès de l'Esprit Humain_ (1794). _Oeuv._, vi.



There is in an English collection a portrait of Jean Jacques,
which was painted during his residence in this country by a provincial
artist. Singular and displeasing as it is, yet this picture lights up
for us many a word and passage in Rousseau's life here and elsewhere,
which the ordinary engravings, and the trim self-complacency of the
statue on the little island at Geneva, would leave very
incomprehensible. It is almost as appalling in its realism as some of
the dark pits that open before the reader of the Confessions. Hard
struggles with objective difficulty and external obstacle wear deep
furrows in the brow; they throw into the glance a solicitude, half
penetrating and defiant, half dejected. When a man's hindrances have
sprung up from within, and the ill-fought battle of his days has been
with his own passions and morbid broodings and unchastened dreams, the
eye and the facial lines tell the story of that profound moral defeat
which is unlighted by the memories of resolute combat with evil and
weakness, and leaves only eternal desolation and the misery that is
formless. Our English artist has produced a vision from that prose
Inferno which is made so populous in the modern epoch by impotence of
will. Those who have seen the picture may easily understand how
largely the character of the original must have been pregnant with
harassing confusion and distress.

Four years before this (1762), Hume, to whom Lord Marischal had told
the story of Rousseau's persecutions, had proffered his services, and
declared his eagerness to help in finding a proper refuge for him in
England. There had been an exchange of cordial letters,[351] and then
the matter had lain quiet, until the impossibility of remaining longer
in Neuchâtel had once more set his friends on procuring a safe
establishment for their rather difficult refugee. Rousseau's
appearance in Paris had created the keenest excitement. "People may
talk of ancient Greece as they please," wrote Hume from Paris, "but no
nation was ever so proud of genius as this, and no person ever so much
engaged their attention as Rousseau! Voltaire and everybody else are
quite eclipsed by him." Even Theresa Le Vasseur, who was declared very
homely and very awkward, was more talked of than the Princess of
Morocco or the Countess of Egmont, on account of her fidelity towards
him. His very dog had a name and reputation in the world.[352]
Rousseau is always said to have liked the stir which his presence
created, but whether this was so or not, he was very impatient to be
away from it as soon as possible.

In company with Hume, he left Paris in the second week of January
1766. They crossed from Calais to Dover by night in a passage that
lasted twelve hours. Hume, as the orthodox may be glad to know, was
extremely ill, while Rousseau cheerfully passed the whole night upon
deck, taking no harm, though the seamen were almost frozen to
death.[353] They reached London on the thirteenth of January, and the
people of London showed nearly as lively an interest in the strange
personage whom Hume had brought among them, as the people of Paris had
done. A prince of the blood at once went to pay his respects to the
Swiss philosopher. The crowd at the playhouse showed more curiosity
when the stranger came in than when the king and queen entered. Their
majesties were as interested as their subjects, and could scarcely
keep their eyes off the author of Emilius. George III., then in the
heyday of his youth, was so pleased to have a foreigner of genius
seeking shelter in his kingdom, that he readily acceded to Conway's
suggestion, prompted by Hume, that Rousseau should have a pension
settled on him. The ever illustrious Burke, then just made member of
Parliament, saw him nearly every day, and became persuaded that "he
entertained no principle either to influence his heart, or guide his
understanding, but vanity."[354] Hume, on the contrary, thought the
best things of his client; "He has an excellent warm heart, and in
conversation kindles often to a degree of heat which looks like
inspiration; I love him much, and hope that I have some share in his
affections.... He is a very modest, mild, well-bred, gentle-spirited
and warm-hearted man, as ever I knew in my life. He is also to
appearance very sociable. I never saw a man who seems better
calculated for good company, nor who seems to take more pleasure in
it." "He is a very agreeable, amiable man; but a great humorist. The
philosophers of Paris foretold to me that I could not conduct him to
Calais without a quarrel; but I think I could live with him all my
life in mutual friendship and esteem. I believe one great source of
our concord is that neither he nor I are disputatious, which is not
the case with any of them. They are also displeased with him, because
they think he over-abounds in religion; and it is indeed remarkable
that the philosopher of this age who has been most persecuted, is by
far the most devout."[355]

What the Scotch philosopher meant by calling his pupil a humorist, may
perhaps be inferred from the story of the trouble he had in prevailing
upon Rousseau to go to the play, though Garrick had appointed a
special occasion and set apart a special box for him. When the hour
came, Rousseau declared that he could not leave his dog behind him.
"The first person," he said, "who opens the door, Sultan will run into
the streets in search of me and will be lost." Hume told him to lock
Sultan up in the room, and carry away the key in his pocket. This was
done, but as they proceeded downstairs, the dog began to howl; his
master turned back and avowed he had not resolution to leave him in
that condition. Hume, however, caught him in his arms, told him that
Mr. Garrick had dismissed another company in order to make room for
him, that the king and queen were expecting to see him, and that
without a better reason than Sultan's impatience it would be
ridiculous to disappoint them. Thus, a little by reason, but more by
force, he was carried off.[356] Such a story, whatever else we may
think of it, shows at least a certain curious and not untouching
simplicity. And singularity which made Rousseau like better to keep
his dog company at home, than to be stared at by a gaping pit, was too
private in its reward to be the result of that vanity and affectation
with which he was taxed by men who lived in another sphere of motive.

There was considerable trouble in settling Rousseau. He was eager to
leave London almost as soon as he arrived in it. Though pleased with
the friendly reception which had been given him, he pronounced London
to be as much devoted to idle gossip and frivolity as other capitals.
He spent a few weeks in the house of a farmer at Chiswick, thought
about fixing himself in the Isle of Wight, then in Wales, then
somewhere in our fair Surrey, whose scenery, one is glad to know,
greatly attracted him. Finally arrangements were made by Hume with Mr.
Davenport for installing him in a house belonging to the latter, at
Wootton, near Ashbourne, in the Peak of Derbyshire.[357] Hither
Rousseau proceeded with Theresa, at the end of March. Mr. Davenport
was a gentleman of large property, and as he seldom inhabited this
solitary house, was very willing that Rousseau should take up his
abode there without payment. This, however, was what Rousseau's
independence could not brook, and he insisted that his entertainer
should receive thirty pounds a year for the board of himself and
Theresa.[358] So here he settled, in an extremely bitter climate,
knowing no word of the language of the people about him, with no
companionship but Theresa's, and with nothing to do but walk when the
weather was fair, play the harpsicord when it rained, and brood over
the incidents which had occurred to him since he had left Switzerland
six months before. The first fruits of this unfortunate leisure were a
bitter quarrel with Hume, one of the most famous and far-resounding of
all the quarrels of illustrious men, but one about which very little
needs now be said. The merits of it are plain, and all significance
that may ever have belonged to it is entirely dead. The incubation of
his grievances began immediately after his arrival at Wootton, but two
months elapsed before they burst forth in full flame.[359]

The general charge against Hume was that he was a member of an
accursed triumvirate; Voltaire and D'Alembert were the other partners;
and their object was to blacken the character of Rousseau and render
his life miserable. The particular acts on which this belief was
established were the following:--

(1) While Rousseau was in Paris, there appeared a letter nominally
addressed to him by the King of Prussia, and written in an ironical
strain, which persuaded Jean Jacques himself that it was the work of
Voltaire.[360] Then he suspected D'Alembert. It was really the
composition of Horace Walpole, who was then in Paris. Now Hume was the
friend of Walpole, and had given Rousseau a card of introduction to
him for the purpose of entrusting Walpole with the carriage of some
papers. Although the false letter produced the liveliest amusement at
Rousseau's cost, first in Paris and then in London, Hume, while
feigning to be his warm friend and presenting him to the English
public, never took any pains to tell the world that the piece was a
forgery, nor did he break with its wicked author.[361] (2) When
Rousseau assured Hume that D'Alembert was a cunning and dishonourable
man, Hume denied it with an amazing heat, although he well knew the
latter to be Rousseau's enemy.[362] (3) Hume lived in London with the
son of Tronchin, the Genevese surgeon, and the most mortal of all the
foes of Jean Jacques.[363] (4) When Rousseau first came to London, his
reception was a distinguished triumph for the victim of persecution
from so many governments. England was proud of being his place of
refuge, and justly vaunted the freedom of her laws and administration.
Suddenly and for no assignable cause the public tone changed, the
newspapers either fell silent or else spoke unfavourably, and Rousseau
was thought of no more. This must have been due to Hume, who had much
influence among people of credit, and who went about boasting of the
protection which he had procured for Jean Jacques in Paris.[364] (5)
Hume resorted to various small artifices for preventing Rousseau from
making friends, for procuring opportunities of opening Rousseau's
letters, and the like.[365] (6) A violent satirical letter against
Rousseau appeared in the English newspapers, with allusions which
could only have been supplied by Hume. (7) On the first night after
their departure from Paris, Rousseau, who occupied the same room with
Hume, heard him call out several times in the middle of the night in
the course of his dreams, _Je tiens Jean Jacques Rousseau_, with
extreme vehemence--which words, in spite of the horribly sardonic tone
of the dreamer, he interpreted favourably at the time, but which later
event proved to have been full of malign significance.[366] (8)
Rousseau constantly found Hume eyeing him with a glance of sinister
and diabolic import that filled him with an astonishing disquietude,
though he did his best to combat it. On one of these occasions he was
seized with remorse, fell upon Hume's neck, embraced him warmly, and,
suffocated with sobs and bathed in tears, cried out in broken accents,
_No, no, David Hume is no traitor_, with many protests of affection.
The phlegmatic Hume only returned his embrace with politeness, stroked
him gently on the back, and repeated several times in a tranquil
voice, _Quoi, mon cher monsieur! Eh! mon cher monsieur! Quoi donc, mon
cher monsieur!_[367] (9) Although for many weeks Rousseau had kept a
firm silence to Hume, neglecting to answer letters that plainly called
for answer, and marking his displeasure in other unmistakable ways,
yet Hume had never sought any explanation of what must necessarily
have struck him as so singular, but continued to write as if nothing
had happened. Was not this positive proof of a consciousness of

Some years afterwards he substituted another shorter set of
grievances, namely, that Hume would not suffer Theresa to sit at table
with him; that he made a show of him; and that Hume had an engraving
executed of himself, which made him as beautiful as a cherub, while in
another engraving, which was a pendant to his own, Jean Jacques was
made as ugly as a bear.[368]

It would be ridiculous for us to waste any time in discussing these
charges. They are not open to serious examination, though it is
astonishing to find writers in our own day who fully believe that Hume
was a traitor, and behaved extremely basely to the unfortunate man
whom he had inveigled over to a barbarous island. The only part of the
indictment about which there could be the least doubt, was the
possibility of Hume having been an accomplice in Walpole's very small
pleasantry. Some of his friends in Paris suspected that he had had a
hand in the supposed letter from the King of Prussia. Although the
letter constituted no very malignant jest, and could not by a sensible
man have been regarded as furnishing just complaint against one who,
like Walpole, was merely an impudent stranger, yet if it could be
shown that Hume had taken an active part either in the composition or
the circulation of a spiteful bit of satire upon one towards whom he
was pretending a singular affection, then we should admit that he
showed such a want of sense of the delicacy of friendship as amounted
to something like treachery. But a letter from Walpole to Hume sets
this doubt at rest. "I cannot be precise as to the time of my writing
the King of Prussia's letter, but ... I not only suppressed the letter
while you stayed there, out of delicacy to you, but it was the reason
why, out of delicacy to myself, I did not go to see him as you often
proposed to me, thinking it wrong to go and make a cordial visit to a
man, with a letter in my pocket to laugh at him."[369]

With this all else falls to the ground. It would be as unwise in us,
as it was in Rousseau himself, to complicate the hypotheses. Men do
not act without motives, and Hume could have no motive in entering
into any plot against Rousseau, even if the rival philosophers in
France might have motives. We know the character of our David Hume
perfectly well, and though it was not faultless, its fault certainly
lay rather in an excessive desire to make the world comfortable for
everybody, than in anything like purposeless malignity, of which he
never had a trace. Moreover, all that befell Rousseau through Hume's
agency was exceedingly to his advantage. Hume was not without vanity,
and his letters show that he was not displeased at the addition to his
consequence which came of his patronage of a man who was much talked
about and much stared at. But, however this was, he did all for
Rousseau that generosity and thoughtfulness could do. He was at great
pains in establishing him; he used his interest to procure for him the
grant of a pension from the king; when Rousseau provisionally refused
the pension rather than owe anything to Hume, the latter, still
ignorant of the suspicion that was blackening in Rousseau's mind,
supposed that the refusal came from the fact of the pension being kept
private, and at once took measures with the minister to procure the
removal of the condition of privacy. Besides undeniable acts like
these, the state of Hume's mind towards his curious ward is abundantly
shown in his letters to all his most intimate friends, just as
Rousseau's gratitude to him is to be read in all his early letters
both to Hume and other persons. In the presence of such facts on the
one side, and in the absence of any particle of intelligible evidence
to neutralise them on the other, to treat Rousseau's charges with
gravity is irrational.

If Hume had written back in a mild and conciliatory strain, there can
be no doubt that the unfortunate victim of his own morbid imagination
would, for a time at any rate, have been sobered and brought to a
sense of his misconduct. But Hume was incensed beyond control at what
he very pardonably took for a masterpiece of atrocious ingratitude. He
reproached Rousseau in terms as harsh as those which Grimm had used
nine years before. He wrote to all his friends, withdrawing the kindly
words he had once used of Rousseau's character, and substituting in
their place the most unfavourable he could find. He gave the
philosophic circle in Paris exquisite delight by the confirmation
which his story furnished of their own foresight, when they had warned
him that he was taking a viper to his bosom. Finally, in spite of the
advice of Adam Smith, of one of the greatest of men, Turgot, and one
of the smallest, Horace Walpole, he published a succinct account of
the quarrel, first in French, and then in English. This step was
chiefly due to the advice of the clique of whom D'Alembert was the
spokesman, though it is due to him to mention that he softened various
expressions in Hume's narrative, which he pronounced too harsh. It may
be true that a council of war never fights; a council of men of
letters always does. The governing committee of a literary,
philosophical, or theological clique form the very worst advisers any
man can have.

Much must be forgiven to Hume, stung as he was by what appeared the
most hateful ferocity in one on whom he had heaped acts of affection.
Still, one would have been glad on behalf of human dignity, if he had
suffered with firm silence petulant charges against which the
consciousness of his own uprightness should have been the only answer.
That high pride, of which there is too little rather than too much in
the world, and which saves men from waste of themselves and others in
pitiful accusations, vindications, retaliations, should have helped
humane pity in preserving him from this poor quarrel. Long afterwards
Rousseau said, "England, of which they paint such fine pictures in
France, has so cheerless a climate; my soul, wearied with many shocks,
was in a condition of such profound melancholy, that in all that
passed I believe I committed many faults. But are they comparable to
those of the enemies who persecuted me, supposing them even to have
done no more than published our private quarrels?"[370] An ampler
contrition would have been more seemly in the first offender, but
there is a measure of justice in his complaint. We need not, however,
reproach the good Hume. Before six months were over, he admits that he
is sometimes inclined to blame his publication, and always to regret
it.[371] And his regret was not verbal merely. When Rousseau had
returned to France, and was in danger of arrest, Hume was most urgent
in entreating Turgot to use his influence with the government to
protect the wretched wanderer, and Turgot's answer shows both how
sincere this humane interposition was, and how practically

Meanwhile there ensued a horrible fray in print. Pamphlets appeared in
Paris and London in a cloud. The Succinct Exposure was followed by
succinct rejoinders. Walpole officiously printed his own account of
his own share in the matter. Boswell officiously wrote to the
newspapers defending Rousseau and attacking Walpole. King George
followed the battle with intense curiosity. Hume with solemn
formalities sent the documents to the British Museum. There was
silence only in one place, and that was at Wootton. The unfortunate
person who had done all the mischief printed not a word.

The most prompt and quite the least instructive of the remarks
invariably made upon any one who has acted in an unusual manner, is
that he must be mad. This universal criticism upon the unwonted really
tells us nothing, because the term may cover any state of mind from a
warranted dissent from established custom, down to absolute dementia.
Rousseau was called mad when he took to wearing convenient clothes and
living frugally. He was called mad when he quitted the town and went
to live in the country. The same facile explanation covered his
quarrel with importunate friends at the Hermitage. Voltaire called him
mad for saying that if there were perfect harmony of taste and
temperament between the king's daughter and the executioner's son, the
pair ought to be allowed to marry. We who are not forced by
conversational necessities to hurry to a judgment, may hesitate to
take either taste for the country, or for frugal living, or even for
democratic extravagances, as a mark of a disordered mind.[373] That
Rousseau's conduct towards Hume was inconsistent with perfect mental
soundness is quite plain. But to say this with crude trenchancy,
teaches us nothing. Instead of paying ourselves with phrases like
monomania, it is more useful shortly to trace the conditions which
prepared the way for mental derangement, because this is the only
means of understanding either its nature, or the degree to which it
extended. These conditions in Rousseau's case are perfectly simple and
obvious to any one who recognises the principle, that the essential
facts of such mental disorder as his must be sought not in the
symptoms, but from the whole range of moral and intellectual
constitution, acted on by physical states and acting on them in turn.

Rousseau was born with an organisation of extreme sensibility. This
predisposition was further deepened by the application in early youth
of mental influences specially calculated to heighten juvenile
sensibility. Corrective discipline from circumstance and from formal
instruction was wholly absent, and thus the particular excess in his
temperament became ever more and more exaggerated, and encroached at a
rate of geometrical progression upon all the rest of his impulses and
faculties; these, if he had been happily placed under some of the many
forms of wholesome social pressure, would then on the contrary have
gradually reduced his sensibility to more normal proportion. When the
vicious excess had decisively rooted itself in his character, he came
to Paris, where it was irritated into further activity by the
uncongeniality of all that surrounded him. Hence the growth of a
marked unsociality, taking literary form in the Discourses, and
practical form in his retirement from the town. The slow depravation
of the affective life was hastened by solitude, by sensuous expansion,
by the long musings of literary composition. Well does Goethe's
Princess warn the hapless Tasso:--

                                   Dieser Pfad
    Verleitet uns, durch einsames Gebüsch,
    Durch stille Thäler fortzuwandern; mehr
    Und mehr verwöhnt sich das Gemüth und strebt
    Die goldne Zeit, die ihm von aussen mangelt,
    In seinem Innern wieder herzustellen,
    So wenig der Versuch gelingen will.

Then came harsh and unjust treatment prolonged for many months, and
this introduced a slight but genuinely misanthropic element of
bitterness into what had hitherto been an excess of feeling about
himself, rather than any positive feeling of hostility or suspicion
about others. Finally and perhaps above all else, he was the victim of
tormenting bodily pain, and of sleeplessness which resulted from it.
The agitation and excitement of the journey to England, completed the
sum of the conditions of disturbance, and as soon as ever he was
settled at Wootton, and had leisure to brood over the incidents of
the few weeks since his arrival in England, the disorder which had
long been spreading through his impulses and affections, suddenly but
by a most natural sequence extended to the faculties of his
intelligence, and he became the prey of delusion, a delusion which was
not yet fixed, but which ultimately became so.

"He has only _felt_ during the whole course of his life," wrote Hume
sympathetically; "and in this respect his sensibility rises to a pitch
beyond what I have seen any example of; but it still gives him a more
acute feeling of pain than of pleasure. He is like a man who was
stripped not only of his clothes, but of his skin, and turned out in
that situation to combat with the rude and boisterous elements."[374]
A morbid affective state of this kind and of such a degree of
intensity, was the sure antecedent of a morbid intellectual state,
general or partial, depressed or exalted. One who is the prey of
unsound feelings, if they are only marked enough and persistent
enough, naturally ends by a correspondingly unsound arrangement of all
or some of his ideas to match. The intelligence is seduced into
finding supports in misconception of circumstances, for a
misconception of human relation which had its root in disordered
emotion. This completes the breach of correspondence between the man's
nature and the external facts with which he has to deal, though the
breach may not, and in Rousseau's case certainly did not, extend along
the whole line of feeling and judgment. Rousseau's delusion about
Hume's sinister feeling and designs, which was the first definite
manifestation of positive unsoundness in the sphere of the
intelligence, was a last result of the gradual development of an
inherited predisposition to affective unsoundness, which unhappily for
the man's history had never been counteracted either by a strenuous
education, or by the wholesome urgencies of life.

We have only to remember that with him, as with the rest of us, there
was entire unity of nature, without cataclysm or marvel or
inexplicable rupture of mental continuity. All the facts came in an
order that might have been foretold; they all lay together, with their
foundations down in physical temperament; the facts which made
Rousseau's name renowned and his influence a great force, along with
those which made his life a scandal to others and a misery to himself.
The deepest root of moral disorder lies in an immoderate expectation
of happiness, and this immoderate unlawful expectation was the mark
both of his character and his work. The exaltation of emotion over
intelligence was the secret of his most striking production; the same
exaltation, by gaining increased mastery over his whole existence, at
length passed the limit of sanity and wrecked him. The tendency of the
dominant side of a character towards diseased exaggeration is a fact
of daily observation. The ruin which the excess of strong religious
imagination works in natures without the quality of energetic
objective reaction, was shown in the case of Rousseau's contemporary,
Cowper. This gentle poet's delusions about the wrath of God were
equally pitiable and equally a source of torment to their victim, with
Rousseau's delusions about the malignity of his mysterious plotters
among men. We must call such a condition unsound, but the important
thing is to remember that insanity was only a modification of certain
specially marked tendencies of the sufferer's sanity.

The desire to protect himself against the defamation of his enemies
led him at this time to compose that account of his own life, which is
probably the only one of his writings that continues to be generally
read. He composed the first part of the Confessions at Wootton, during
the autumn and winter of 1766. The idea of giving his memoirs to the
public was an old one, originally suggested by one of his publishers.
To write memoirs of one's own life was one of the fancies of the time,
but like all else, it became in Rousseau's hand something more
far-reaching and sincere than a passing fashion. Other people wrote
polite histories of their outer lives, amply coloured with romantic
decorations. Rousseau with unquailing veracity plunged into the inmost
depths, hiding nothing that would be likely to make him either
ridiculous or hateful in common opinion, and inventing nothing that
could attract much sympathy or much admiration. Though, as has been
pointed out already, the Confessions abound in small inaccuracies of
date, hardly to be avoided by an oldish man in reference to the facts
of his boyhood, whether a Rousseau or a Goethe, and though one or two
of the incidents are too deeply coloured with the hues of sentimental
reminiscence, and one or two of them are downright impossible, yet
when all these deductions have been made, the substantial truthfulness
of what remains is made more evident with every addition to our
materials for testing them. When all the circumstances of Rousseau's
life are weighed, and when full account has been taken of his proved
delinquencies, we yet perceive that he was at bottom a character as
essentially sincere, truthful, careful of fact and reality, as is
consistent with the general empire of sensation over untrained
intelligence.[375] As for the egotism of the Confessions, it is hard
to see how a man is to tell the story of his own life without egotism.
And it may be worth adding that the self-feeling which comes to the
surface and asserts itself, is in a great many cases far less vicious
and debilitating than the same feeling nursed internally with a
troglodytish shyness. But Rousseau's egotism manifested itself
perversely. This is true to a certain small extent, and one or two of
the disclosures in the Confessions are in very nauseous matter, and
are made moreover in a very nauseous manner. There are some vices
whose grotesqueness stirs us more deeply than downright atrocities,
and we read of certain puerilities avowed by Rousseau, with a livelier
impatience than old Benvenuto Cellini quickens in us, when he
confesses to a horrible assassination. This morbid form of
self-feeling is only less disgusting than the allied form which
clothes itself in the phrases of religious exaltation. And there is
not much of it. Blot out half a dozen pages from the Confessions, and
the egotism is no more perverted than in the confessions of Augustine
or of Cardan.

These remarks are not made to extenuate Rousseau's faults, or to raise
the popular estimate of his character, but simply in the interests of
a greater precision of criticism. In England criticism has nearly
always been of the most vulgar superficiality in respect to Rousseau,
from the time of Horace Walpole downwards. The Confessions in their
least agreeable parts, or rather especially in those parts, are the
expression on a new side and in a peculiar way of the same notion of
the essential goodness of nature and the importance of understanding
nature and restoring its reign, which inspired the Discourses and
Emilius. "I would fain show to my fellows," he began, "a man in all
the truth of nature," and he cannot be charged with any failure to
keep his word. He despised opinion, and hence was careless to observe
whether or no this revelation of human nakedness was likely to add to
the popular respect for nature and the natural man. After all,
considering that literature is for the most part a hollow and
pretentious phantasmagoria of mimic figures posing in breeches and
peruke, we may try to forgive certain cruel blows to the dignified
assumptions, solemn words, and high heels of convention, in one who
would not lie, nor dissemble kinship with the four-footed. Intense
subjective preoccupations in markedly emotional natures all tend to
come to the same end. The distance from Rousseau's odious erotics to
the glorified ecstasies of many a poor female saint is not far. In any
case, let us know the facts about human nature, and the pathological
facts no less than the others. These are the first thing, and the
second, and the third also.

The exaltation of the opening page of the Confessions is shocking. No
monk nor saint ever wrote anything more revolting in its blasphemous
self-feeling. But the exaltation almost instantly became calm, when
the course of the story necessarily drew the writer into dealings with
objective facts, even muffled as they were by memory and imagination.
The broodings over old reminiscence soothed him, the labour of
composition occupied him, and he forgot, as the modern reader would
never know from internal evidence, that he was preparing a vindication
of his life and character against the infamies with which Hume and
others were supposed to be industriously blackening them. While he was
writing this famous composition, severed by so vast a gulf from the
modes of English provincial life, he was on good terms with one or two
of the great people in his neighbourhood, and kept up a gracious and
social correspondence with them. He was greatly pleased by a
compliment that was paid to him by the government, apparently through
the interest of General Conway. The duty that had been paid upon
certain boxes forwarded to Rousseau from Switzerland was recouped by
the treasury,[376] and the arrangements for the annual pension of one
hundred pounds were concluded and accepted by him, after he had duly
satisfied himself that Hume was not the indirect author of the
benefaction.[377] The weather was the worst possible, but whenever it
allowed him to go out of doors, he found delight in climbing the
heights around him in search of curious mosses; for he had now come to
think the discovery of a single new plant a hundred times more useful
than to have the whole human race listening to your sermons for half a
century.[378] "This indolent and contemplative life that you do not
approve," he wrote to the elder Mirabeau, "and for which I pretend to
make no excuses, becomes every day more delicious to me: to wander
alone among the trees and rocks that surround my dwelling; to muse or
rather to extravagate at my ease, and as you say to stand gaping in
the air; when my brain gets too hot, to calm it by dissecting some
moss or fern; in short, to surrender myself without restraint to my
phantasies, which, heaven be thanked, are all under my own
control,--all that is for me the height of enjoyment, to which I can
imagine nothing superior in this world for a man of my age and in my

This contentment did not last long. The snow kept him indoors. The
excitement of composition abated. Theresa harassed him by ignoble
quarrels with the women in the kitchen. His delusions returned with
greater force than before. He believed that the whole English nation
was in a plot against him, that all his letters were opened before
reaching London and before leaving it, that all his movements were
closely watched, and that he was surrounded by unseen guards to
prevent any attempt at escape.[380] At length these delusions got such
complete mastery over him, that in a paroxysm of terror he fled away
from Wootton, leaving money, papers, and all else behind him. Nothing
was heard of him for a fortnight, when Mr. Davenport received a letter
from him dated at Spalding in Lincolnshire. Mr. Davenport's conduct
throughout was marked by a humanity and patience that do him the
highest honour. He confesses himself "quite moved to read poor
Rousseau's mournful epistle." "You shall see his letter," he writes to
Hume, "the first opportunity; but God help him, I can't for pity give
a copy; and 'tis so much mixed with his own poor little private
concerns, that it would not be right in me to do it."[381] This is
the generosity which makes Hume's impatience and that of his
mischievous advisers in Paris appear petty. Rousseau had behaved quite
as ill to Mr. Davenport as he had done to Hume, and had received at
least equal services from him.[382] The good man at once sent a
servant to Spalding in search of his unhappy guest, but Rousseau had
again disappeared. The parson of the parish had passed several hours
of each day in his company, and had found him cheerful and
good-humoured. He had had a blue coat made for himself, and had
written a long letter to the lord chancellor, praying him to appoint a
guard, at Rousseau's own expense, to escort him in safety out of the
kingdom where enemies were plotting against his life.[383] He was next
heard of at Dover (May 18), whence he wrote a letter to General
Conway, setting forth his delusion in full form.[384] He is the victim
of a plot; the conspirators will not allow him to leave the island,
lest he should divulge in other countries the outrages to which he has
been subjected here; he perceives the sinister manoeuvres that will
arrest him if he attempts to put his foot on board ship. But he warns
them that his tragical disappearance cannot take place without
creating inquiry. Still if General Conway will only let him go, he
gives his word of honour that he will not publish a line of the
memoirs he has written, nor ever divulge the wrongs which he has
suffered in England. "I see my last hour approaching," he concluded;
"I am determined, if necessary, to advance to meet it, and to perish
or be free; there is no longer any other alternative." On the same
evening on which he wrote this letter (about May 20-22), the forlorn
creature took boat and landed at Calais, where he seems at once to
have recovered his composure and a right mind.


[350] Jan. 1766--May 1767.

[351] Streckeisen, ii. 275, etc. _Corr._, iii.

[352] Burton, ii. 299.

[353] The materials for this chapter are taken from Rousseau's
_Correspondence_ (vols. iv. and v.), and from Hume's letters to
various persons, given in the second volume of Mr. Burton's _Life of
Hume_. Everybody who takes an interest in Rousseau is indebted to Mr.
Burton for the ample documents which he has provided. Yet one cannot
but regret the satire on Rousseau with which he intersperses them, and
which is not always felicitous. For one instance, he implies (p. 295)
that Rousseau invented the story given in the Confessions, of Hume's
correcting the proofs of Wallace's book against himself. The story may
be true or not, but at any rate Rousseau had it very circumstantially
from Lord Marischal; see letter from Lord M. to J.J.R., in
Streckeisen, ii. 67. Again, such an expression as Rousseau's
"_occasional_ attention to small matters" (p. 321) only shows that the
writer has not read Rousseau's letters, which are indeed not worth
reading, except by those who wish to have a right to speak about
Rousseau's character. The numerous pamphlets on the quarrel between
Hume and Rousseau, if I may judge from those of them which I have
turned over, really shed no light on the matter, though they added
much heat. For the journey, see _Corr._, iv. 307; Burton, ii. 304.

[354] _Letter to a Member of the National Assembly._ The same passage
contains some strong criticism on Rousseau's style.

[355] Burton, 304, 309, 310.

[356] _Ib._ ii. 309, _n._

[357] Mr. Howitt has given an account of Rousseau's quarters at
Wootton, in his _Visits to Remarkable Places_. One or two aged
peasants had some confused memory of "old Ross-hall." For Rousseau's
own description, see his letters to Mdme. de Luze, May 10, 1766.
_Corr._, iv. 326.

[358] Burton, 313. It has been stated that Rousseau never paid this;
at any rate when he fled, he left between thirty and forty pounds in
Mr. Davenport's hands. See Davenport to Hume; Burton, 367. Rousseau's
accurate probity in affairs of money is absolutely unimpeachable.

[359] _Corr._ iv. 312. April 9, 1766.

[360] Here is a translation of this rather poor piece of sarcasm:--"My
dear Jean Jacques--You have renounced Geneva, your native place. You
have caused your expulsion from Switzerland, a country so extolled in
your writings; France has issued a warrant against you; so do you come
to me. I admire your talents; I am amused by your dreamings, though
let me tell you they absorb you too much and for too long. You must at
length be sober and happy; you have caused enough talk about yourself
by oddities which in truth are hardly becoming a really great man.
Prove to your enemies that you can now and then have common sense.
That will annoy them and do you no harm. My states offer you a
peaceful retreat. I wish you well, and will treat you well, if you
will let me. But if you persist in refusing my help, do not reckon
upon my telling any one that you did so. If you are bent on tormenting
your spirit to find new misfortunes, choose whatever you like best. I
am a king, and can procure them for you at your pleasure; and what
will certainly never happen to you in respect of your enemies, I will
cease to persecute you as soon as you cease to take a pride in being
persecuted. Your good friend, FREDERICK."

[361] _Corr._, iv. 313, 343, 388, 398.

[362] _Ib._ 395.

[363] _Ib._ 389, etc.

[364] _Ib._ 384.

[365] _Ib._ 343, 344, 387, etc.

[366] _Corr._, iv. 346.

[367] _Ib._ 390. A letter from Hume to Blair, long before the rupture
overt, shows the former to have been by no means so phlegmatic on this
occasion as he may have seemed. "I hope," he writes, "you have not so
bad an opinion of me as to think I was not melted on this occasion; I
assure you I kissed him and embraced him twenty times, with a
plentiful effusion of tears. I think no scene of my life was ever more
affecting." Burton, ii. 315. The great doubters of the eighteenth
century could without fear have accepted the test of the ancient
saying, that men without tears are worth little.

[368] Bernardin de St. Pierre, _Oeuv._, xii. 79.

[369] Walpole's _Letters_, v. 7 (Cunningham's edition). For other
letters from the shrewd coxcomb on the same matter, see pp. 23-28. A
corroboration of the statement that Hume knew nothing of the letter
until he was in England, may be inferred from what he wrote to Madame
de Boufflers; Burton, ii. 306, and _n._ 2.

[370] Bernardin de St. Pierre, _Oeuv._, xii. 79.

[371] To Adam Smith. Burton, 380.

[372] Burton, 381.

[373] A very common but random opinion traces Rousseau's insanity to
certain disagreeable habits avowed in the Confessions. They may have
contributed in some small degree to depression of vital energies,
though for that matter Rousseau's strength and power of endurance were
remarkable to the end. But they certainly did not produce a mental
state in the least corresponding to that particular variety of
insanity, which possesses definitely marked features.

[374] Burton, ii. 314.

[375] For an instructive and, as it appears to me, a thoroughly
trustworthy account of the temper in which the Confessions were
written, see the 4th of the _Rêveries_.

[376] Letter to the Duke of Grafton, Feb. 27, 1767. _Corr._, v. 98:
also 118.

[377] _Ib._ v. 133; also to General Conway (March 26), p. 137, etc.

[378] _Corr._, v. 37.

[379] _Corr._, v. 88.

[380] See the letters to Du Peyrou, of the 2d and 4th of April 1767.
_Corr._, v. 140-147.

[381] Davenport to Hume; Burton, 367-371.

[382] J.J.R. to Davenport, Dec. 22, 1766, and April 30, 1767. _Corr._,
v. 66, 152.

[383] Burton, 369, 375.

[384] _Corr._, v. 153.



Before leaving England, Rousseau had received more than one
long and rambling letter from a man who was as unlike the rest of
mankind as he was unlike them himself. This was the Marquis of
Mirabeau (1715-89), the violent, tyrannical, pedantic, humoristic sire
of a more famous son. Perhaps we might say that Mirabeau and Rousseau
were the two most singular originals then known to men, and Mirabeau's
originality was in some respects the more salient of the two. There is
less of the conventional tone of the eighteenth century Frenchman in
him than in any other conspicuous man of the time, though like many
other headstrong and despotic souls he picked up the current notions
of philanthropy and human brotherhood. He really was by very force of
temperament that rebel against the narrowness, trimness, and moral
formalism of the time which Rousseau only claimed and attempted to be,
with the secondary degree of success that follows vehemence without
native strength. Mirabeau was a sort of Swift, who had strangely taken
up the trade of friendship for man and adopted the phrases of
perfectibility; while Rousseau on the other hand was meant for a
Fénelon, save that he became possessed of unclean devils.

Mirabeau, like Jean Jacques himself, was so impressed by the marked
tenor of contemporary feeling, its prudential didactics, its
formulistic sociality, that his native insurgency only found vent in
private life, while in public he played pedagogue to the human race.
Friend of Quesnai and orthodox economist as he was, he delighted in
Rousseau's books: "I know no morality that goes deeper than yours; it
strikes like a thunderbolt, and advances with the steady assurance of
truth, for you are always true, according to your notions for the
moment." He wrote to tell him so, but he told him at the same time at
great length, and with a caustic humour and incoherency less academic
than Rabelaisian, that he had behaved absurdly in his quarrel with
Hume. There is nothing more quaint than the appearance of a few of the
sacramental phrases of the sect of the economists, floating in the
midst of a copious stream of egoistic whimsicalities. He concludes
with a diverting enumeration of all his country seats and demesnes,
with their respective advantages and disadvantages, and prays Rousseau
to take up his residence in whichever of them may please him

Immediately on landing at Calais Rousseau informed Mirabeau, and
Mirabeau lost no time in conveying him stealthily, for the warrant of
the parliament of Paris was still in force, to a house at Fleury. But
the Friend of Men, to use his own account of himself, "bore letters as
a plum-tree bears plums," and wrote to his guest with strange
humoristic volubility and droll imperturbable temper, as one who knew
his Jean Jacques. He exhorts him in many sheets to harden himself
against excessive sensibility, to be less pusillanimous, to take
society more lightly, as his own light estimate of its worth should
lead him to do. "No doubt its outside is a shifting surface-picture,
nay even ridiculous, if you will; but if the irregular and ceaseless
flight of butterflies wearies you in your walk, it is your own fault
for looking continuously at what was only made to adorn and vary the
scene. But how many social virtues, how much gentleness and
considerateness, how many benevolent actions, remain at the bottom of
it all."[386] Enormous manifestoes of the doctrine of perfectibility
were not in the least degree either soothing or interesting to
Rousseau, and the thrusts of shrewd candour at his expense might touch
his fancy on a single occasion, but not oftener. Two humorists are
seldom successful in amusing one another. Besides, Mirabeau insisted
that Jean Jacques should read this or that of his books. Rousseau
answered that he would try, but warned him of the folly of it. "I do
not engage always to follow what you say, because it has always been
painful to me to think, and fatiguing to follow the thoughts of other
people, and at present I cannot do so at all."[387] Though they
continued to be good friends, Rousseau only remained three or four
weeks at Fleury. His old acquaintance at Montmorency, the Prince of
Conti, partly perhaps from contrition at the rather unchivalrous
fashion in which his great friends had hustled the philosopher away at
the time of the decree of the parliament of Paris, offered him refuge
at one of his country seats at Trye near Gisors. Here he installed
Rousseau under the name of Renou, either to silence the indiscreet
curiosity of neighbours, or to gratify a whim of Rousseau himself.

Rousseau remained for a year (June 1767-June 1768), composing the
second part of the Confessions, in a condition of extreme mental
confusion. Dusky phantoms walked with him once more. He knew the
gardener, the servants, the neighbours, all to be in the pay of Hume,
and that he was watched day and night with a view to his
destruction.[388] He entirely gave up either reading or writing, save
a very small number of letters, and he declared that to take up the
pen even for these was like lifting a load of iron. The only interest
he had was botany, and for this his passion became daily more intense.
He appears to have been as contented as a child, so long as he could
employ himself in long expeditions in search of new plants, in
arranging a herbarium, in watching the growth of the germ of some rare
seed which needed careful tending. But the story had once more the
same conclusion. He fled from Trye, as he had fled from Wootton. He
meant apparently to go to Chambéri, drawn by the deep magnetic force
of old memories that seemed long extinct. But at Grenoble on his way
thither he encountered a substantial grievance. A man alleged that he
had lent Rousseau a few francs seven years previously. He was
undoubtedly mistaken, and was fully convicted of his mistake by proper
authorities, but Rousseau's correspondents suffered none the less for
that. We all know when monomania seizes a man, how adroitly and how
eagerly it colours every incident. The mistaken