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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.

FOOTNOTES:

[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
Memoirs.

[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
Calomnie_.

[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.
231.

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



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