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Produced by Paul Murray, Charlie Kirschner (Vol. 1), Linda
Cantoni (Vol. 2), and the Online Distributed Proofreading
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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
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.



Online LibraryJohn MorleyRousseau (Volume 1 and 2) → online text (page 1 of 45)