The interval thus passed in roaming over the eastern face of France, and which we may date in the summer of 1732, 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."
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 Saone, 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 lustily."
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."
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 Chamberi, 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. 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 Besancon 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. 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 tete-a-tete was less sweet than a meeting of all three." 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. 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." 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. 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 Chamberi, 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 Chamberi, 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." 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.
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. 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 Chamberi 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.
"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." 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." 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." 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." 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 Etre Supreme 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. 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. 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. It is true that no plain, however beautiful, ever seemed so in his eyes; he required torrents, rocks, dark forests, mountains, and precipices. 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. The humble heights of the Jura, and the lovely points of the valley of Chamberi, 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 child.
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. 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 cafe 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.
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."
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. 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"—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. 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 Encyclopaedia 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. 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. 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."
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 books."
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, 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. 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 Chamberi 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 Chamberi, 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. "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." 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 Chamberi. 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. Minor verifications attest the exactitude of the dates of the letters, 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 Reveries 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.
 Conf., iii. 177.
 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.
 Described by Rousseau in a memorandum for the biographer of M. de Bernex, printed in Melanges, pp. 139-144.
 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 Geneve, vol. ii.
 Conf., v. 341. Also ii. 83; and vi. 401.
 Conf., v. 345.
 Conf., ii. 83.
 Ib. ii. 82.
 Ib. iii. 179. See also 200.
 Conf., iii. 177, 178.
 Conf., iii. 183.
 M. d'Aubonne.
 Conf., iii 192.
 M. Gatier.
 M. Gaime.
 Conf., iii. 204.
 Ib. iii. 209, 210.
 Conf., iii. 217-222.
 Conf., iv. 227.
 Ib. iii. 224.
 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.
 Mdlles. de Graffenried and Galley. Conf., iv. 231.
 Ib. iv. 254-256.
 Conf., iv. 253.
 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 trio—
Trois auteurs que Rousseau l'on nomme, Connus de Paris jusqu'a Rome, Sont differens; voici par ou; Rousseau de Paris fut grand homme; Rousseau de Geneve 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.
 The only object which ever surpassed his expectation was the great Roman structure near Nismes, the Pont du Gard. Conf., vi. 446.
 Rousseau gives 1732 as the probable date of his return to Chamberi, 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 Neuchatel; 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.
 Conf., iv. 279, 280.
 Conf., iv. 290, 291,
 Conf., iv. 281-283.
 Conf., v. 325.
 Conf., v. 360-364. Corr., i. 21-24.
 Conf., v. 349, 350.
 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.
 Ib. v. 356
 Conf., v. 315, 316.
 Ib. iv. 276. Nouv. Hel., II. xiv. 381, etc.
 He refers to the ill-health of his youth, Conf., vii. 32, and describes an ominous head seizure while at Chamberi, Ib. vi. 396.
 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, Herault 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 genie, solitude, fierte, gloire, verite, envie, and the like.
 Reveries, x. 336 (1778).
 Conf., vi. 393.
 Conf., vi. 412.
 Mem. de Mdme. d'Epinay, i. 394. (M. Boiteau's edition: Charpentier. 1865.)
 Conf., vi. 399.
 Ib. vi. 424. Goethe made a similar experiment; see Mr. Lewes's Life, p. 126.
 Bernardin de Saint Pierre tells us this. Oeuvres (Ed. 1818), xii. 70, etc.
 Conf., iv. 297. See also the description of the scenery of the Valais, in the Nouv. Hel., Pt. I. Let. xxiii.
 George Sand in Mademoiselle la Quintinie (p. 27), a book containing some peculiarly subtle appreciations of the Savoy landscape.
 Conf., iv. 298.
 Conf., vi. 416, 422, etc.; iii. 164; iii. 203; v. 347; v. 383, 384. Also vii. 53.
 Conf., v. 313, 367; iv. 293; ix. 353. Also Mem. de Mdme. d'Epinay, ii. 151.
 Ib. iii. 192, 193.
 Conf., iv. 301; iii. 195.
 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.
 Ib. iii. 188. For his debt in the way of education to Madame de Warens, see also Ib. vii. 46.
 Conf., vi. 409.
 Ib. vi. 413. He adds a suspicious-looking "et cetera."
 Conf., vi. 414
 Conf., iv. 295. See also v. 346.
 Corr., 1736, pp. 26, 27.
 Conf., iv. 271, where he says further that he never found enough attraction in French poetry to make him think of pursuing it.
 The first part of the Confessions was written in Wootton in Derbyshire, in the winter of 1766-1767.
 Conf., vi. 422.
 Corr., i. 43, 46, 62, etc.
 Musset-Pathay, i. 23, n.
THERESA LE VASSEUR.
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 abbe of the same name (1709-85), and of the still more notable Condillac (1714-80).
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. 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." 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.
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.
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. She forgave the impertinence eventually, and her stepson, M. Francueil, was Rousseau's patron for some years. 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." 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.'"
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. 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. 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."
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."
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. 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. 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.
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. 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.
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. 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 abbes, 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. 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.
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. "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 universe."
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. 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.
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." 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 time."
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. 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." 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. 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. 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, 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." 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 formulae, 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 Zaire owed his seat in the Academy. 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. 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.
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. 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." 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. 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. 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." 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, 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." 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 Marechale 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." 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.