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The Confessions of J. J. Rousseau, Book 3 by Jean Jacques Rousseau

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This etext was produced by David Widger

[NOTE: There is a short list of bookmarks, or pointers, at the end of the
file for those who may wish to sample the author's ideas before making an
entire meal of them. D.W.]

(In 12 books)

Privately Printed for the Members of the Aldus Society

London, 1903


Leaving the service of Madam de Vercellis nearly as I had entered it,
I returned to my former hostess, and remained there five or six weeks;
during which time health, youth, and laziness, frequently rendered my
temperament importunate. I was restless, absent, and thoughtful: I wept
and sighed for a happiness I had no idea of, though at the same time
highly sensible of some deficiency. This situation is indescribable,
few men can even form any conception of it, because, in general, they
have prevented that plenitude of life, at once tormenting and delicious.
My thoughts were incessantly occupied with girls and women, but in a
manner peculiar to myself: these ideas kept my senses in a perpetual and
disagreeable activity, though, fortunately, they did not point out the
means of deliverance. I would have given my life to have met with a Miss
Goton, but the time was past in which the play of infancy predominated;
increase of years had introduced shame, the inseparable companion of a
conscious deviation from rectitude, which so confirmed my natural
timidity as to render it invincible; and never, either at that time or
since, could I prevail on myself to offer a proposition favorable to my
wishes (unless in a manner constrained to it by previous advances) even
with those whose scruples I had no cause to dread.

My stay at Madam de Vercellis's had procured me some acquaintance, which
I thought might be serviceable to me, and therefore wished to retain.
Among others, I sometimes visited a Savoyard abbe, M. Gaime, who was
tutor to the Count of Melarede's children. He was young, and not much
known, but possessed an excellent cultivated understanding, with great
probity, and was, altogether, one of the best men I ever knew. He was
incapable of doing me the service I then stood most in need of, not
having sufficient interest to procure me a situation, but from him I
reaped advantages far more precious, which have been useful to me through
life, lessons of pure morality, and maxims of sound judgment.

In the successive order of my inclinations and ideas, I had ever been too
high or too low. Achilles or Thersites; sometimes a hero, at others a
villain. M. Gaime took pains to make me properly acquainted with myself,
without sparing or giving me too much discouragement. He spoke in
advantageous terms of my disposition and talents, adding, that he foresaw
obstacles which would prevent my profiting by them; thus, according to
him, they were to serve less as steps by which I should mount to fortune,
than as resources which might enable me to exist without one. He gave me
a true picture of human life, of which, hitherto, I had formed but a very
erroneous idea, teaching me, that a man of understanding, though destined
to experience adverse fortune, might, by skilful management, arrive at
happiness; that there was no true felicity without virtue, which was
practicable in every situation. He greatly diminished my admiration of
grandeur, by proving that those in a superior situation are neither
better nor happier than those they command. One of his maxims has
frequently returned to my memory: it was, that if we could truly read the
hearts of others we should feel more inclination to descend than rise:
this reflection, the truth of which is striking without extravagance,
I have found of great utility, in the various exigences of my life, as it
tended to make me satisfied with my condition. He gave me the first just
conception of relative duties, which my high-flown imagination had ever
pictured in extremes, making me sensible that the enthusiasm of sublime
virtues is of little use in society; that while endeavoring to rise too
high we are in danger of falling; and that a virtuous and uniform
discharge of little duties requires as great a degree of fortitude as
actions which are called heroic, and would at the same time procure more
honor and happiness. That it was infinitely more desirable to possess
the lasting esteem of those about us, than at intervals to attract

In properly arranging the various duties between man and man, it was
necessary to ascend to principles; the step I had recently taken, and of
which my present situation was the consequence, naturally led us to speak
of religion. It will easily be conceived that the honest M. Gaime was,
in a great measure, the original of the Savoyard Vicar; prudence only
obliging him to deliver his sentiments, on certain points, with more
caution and reserve, and explain himself with less freedom; but his
sentiments and councils were the same, not even excepting his advice to
return to my country; all was precisely as I have since given it to the
pubic. Dwelling no longer, therefore, on conversations which everyone
may see the substance of, I shall only add, that these wise instructions
(though they did not produce an immediate effect) were as so many seeds
of virtue and religion in my heart which were never rooted out, and only
required the fostering cares of friendship to bring to maturity.

Though my conversation was not very sincere, I was affected by his
discourses, and far from being weary, was pleased with them on account of
their clearness and simplicity, but above all because his heart seemed
interested in what he said. My disposition is naturally tender, I have
ever been less attached to people for the good they have really done me
than for that they designed to do, and my feelings in this particular
have seldom misled me: thus I truly esteemed M. Gaime. I was in a manner
his second disciple, which even at that time was of inestimable service
in turning me from a propensity to vice into which my idleness was
leading me.

One day, when I least expected it, I was sent for by the Count de la
Roque. Having frequently called at his house, without being able to
speak with him, I grew weary, and supposing he had either forgot me or
retained some unfavorable impression of me, returned no more: but I was
mistaken in both these conjectures. He had more than once witnessed the
pleasure I took in fulfilling my duty to his aunt: he had even mentioned
it to her, and afterwards spoke of it, when I no longer thought of it

He received me graciously, saying that instead of amusing me with useless
promises, he had sought to place me to advantage; that he had succeeded,
and would put me in a way to better my situation, but the rest must
depend on myself. That the family into which he should introduce me
being both powerful and esteemed, I should need no other patrons; and
though at first on the footing of a servant, I might he assured, that if
my conduct and sentiments were found above that station, I should not
long remain in it. The end of this discourse cruelly disappointed the
brilliant hopes the beginning had inspired. "What! forever a footman?"
said I to myself, with a bitterness which confidence presently effaced,
for I felt myself too superior to that situation to fear long remaining

He took me to the Count de Gauvon, Master of the Horse to the Queen, and
Chief of the illustrious House of Solar. The air of dignity conspicuous
in this respectable old man, rendered the affability with which he
received me yet more interesting. He questioned me with evident
interest, and I replied with sincerity. He then told the Count de la
Roque, that my features were agreeable, and promised intellect, which he
believed I was not deficient in; but that was not enough, and time must
show the rest; after which, turning to me, he said, "Child, almost all
situations are attended with difficulties in the beginning; yours,
however, shall not have too great a portion of them; be prudent, and
endeavor to please everyone, that will be almost your only employment;
for the rest fear nothing, you shall be taken care of." Immediately
after he went to the Marchioness de Breil, his daughter-in-law, to whom
he presented me, and then to the Abbe de Gauvon, his son. I was elated
with this beginning, as I knew enough of the world already to conclude,
that so much ceremony is not generally used at the reception of a
footman. In fact, I was not treated like one. I dined at the steward's
table; did not wear a livery; and the Count de Favria (a giddy youth)
having commanded me to get behind his coach, his grandfather ordered that
I should get behind no coach, nor follow any one out of the house.
Meantime, I waited at table, and did, within doors, the business of a
footman; but I did it, as it were, of my own free will, without being
appointed to any particular service; and except writing some letters,
which were dictated to me, and cutting out some ornaments for the Count
de Favria, I was almost the absolute master of my time. This trial of my
discretion, which I did not then perceive, was certainly very dangerous,
and not very humane; for in this state of idleness I might have
contracted vices which I should not otherwise have given into.
Fortunately, it did not produce that effect; my memory retained the
lessons of M. Gaime, they had made an impression on my heart, and I
sometimes escaped from the house of my patron to obtain a repetition of
them. I believe those who saw me going out, apparently by stealth, had
no conception of my business. Nothing could be more prudent than the
advice he gave me respecting my conduct. My beginning was admirable; so
much attention, assiduity, and zeal, had charmed everyone. The Abby
Gaime advised me to moderate this first ardor, lest I should relax, and
that relaxation should be considered as neglect. "Your setting out,"
said he, "is the rule of what will be expected of you; endeavor gradually
to increase your attentions, but be cautious how you diminish them."

As they paid but little attention to my trifling talents, and supposed I
possessed no more than nature had given me, there was no appearance
(notwithstanding the promises of Count de Gauvon) of my meeting with any
particular consideration. Some objects of more consequence had
intervened. The Marquis de Breil, son of the Count de Gauvon, was then
ambassador at Vienna; some circumstances had occurred at that court which
for some weeks kept the family in continual agitation, and left them no
time to think of me. Meantime I had relaxed but little in my attentions,
though one object in the family did me both good and harm, making me more
secure from exterior dissipation, but less attentive to my duty.

Mademoiselle de Breil was about my own age, tolerably handsome, and very
fair complexioned, with black hair, which notwithstanding, gave her
features that air of softness so natural to the flaxen, and which my
heart could never resist. The court dress, so favorable to youth, showed
her fine neck and shape to advantage, and the mourning, which was then
worn, seemed to add to her beauty. It will be said, a domestic should
not take notice of these things; I was certainly to blame, yet I
perceived all this, nor was I the only one; the maitre d' hotel and valet
de chambre spoke of her sometimes at table with a vulgarity that pained
me extremely. My head, however, was not sufficiently turned to allow of
my being entirely in love; I did not forget myself, or my situation.
I loved to see Mademoiselle de Breil; to hear her utter anything that
marked wit, sense, or good humor: my ambition, confined to a desire of
waiting on her, never exceeded its just rights. At table I was ever
attentive to make the most of them; if her footman quitted her chair,
I instantly supplied his place; in default of this, I stood facing her,
seeking in her eyes what she was about to ask for, and watching the
moment to change her plate. What would I not have given to hear her
command, to have her look at, or speak the smallest word to me! but no,
I had the mortification to be beneath her regard; she did not even
perceive I was there. Her brother, who frequently spoke to me while at
table, having one day said something which I did not consider obliging,
I made him so arch and well-turned an answer, that it drew her attention;
she cast her eyes upon me, and this glance was sufficient to fill me with
transport. The next day, a second occasion presented itself, which I
fortunately made use of. A great dinner was given; and I saw, with
astonishment, for the first time, the maitre d' hotel waiting at table,
with a sword by his side, and hat on his head. By chance, the discourse
turned on the motto of the house of Solar, which was, with the arms,
worked in the tapestry: 'Tel fiert qui ne fue pas'. As the Piedmontese
are not in general very perfect in the French language, they found fault
with the orthography, saying, that in the word fiert there should be no
't'. The old Count de Gauvon was going to reply, when happening to cast
his eyes on me, he perceived I smiled without daring to say anything;
he immediately ordered me to speak my opinion. I then said, I did not
think the 't' superfluous, 'fiert' being an old French word, not derived
from the noun 'ferus', proud, threatening; but from the verb 'ferit', he
strikes, he wounds; the motto, therefore, did not appear to mean, some
threat, but, 'Some strike who do not kill'. The whole company fixed
their eyes on me, then on each other, without speaking a word; never was
a greater degree of astonishment; but what most flattered me, was an air
of satisfaction which I perceived on the countenance of Mademoiselle de
Breil. This scornful lady deigned to cast on me a second look at least
as valuable as the former, and turning to her grandfather, appeared to
wait with impatience for the praise that was due to me, and which he
fully bestowed, with such apparent satisfaction, that it was eagerly
chorused by the whole table. This interval was short, but delightful in
many respects; it was one of those moments so rarely met with, which
place things in their natural order, and revenge depressed merit for the
injuries of fortune. Some minutes after Mademoiselle de Breil again
raised her eyes, desiring me with a voice of timid affability to give her
some drink. It will easily be supposed I did not let her wait, but
advancing towards her, I was seized with such a trembling, that having
filled the glass too full, I spilled some of the water on her plate,
and even on herself. Her brother asked me, giddily, why I trembled thus?
This question increased my confusion, while the face of Mademoiselle de
Breil was suffused with a crimson blush.

Here ended the romance; where it may be remarked (as with Madam Basile,
and others in the continuation of my life) that I was not fortunate in
the conclusion of my amours. In vain I placed myself in the antechamber
of Madam de Breil, I could not obtain one mark of attention from her
daughter; she went in and out without looking at me, nor had I the
confidence to raise my eyes to her; I was even so foolishly stupid, that
one day, on dropping her glove as she passed, instead of seizing and
covering it with kisses, as I would gladly have done, I did not dare to
quit my place, but suffered it to be taken up by a great booby of a
footman, whom I could willingly have knocked down for his officiousness.
To complete my timidity, I perceived I had not the good fortune to please
Madam de Breil; she not only never ordered, but even rejected, my
services; and having twice found me in her antechamber, asked me, dryly,
"If I had nothing to do?" I was obliged, therefore, to renounce this
dear antechamber; at first it caused me some uneasiness, but other things
intervening, I presently thought no more of it.

The disdain of Madam de Breil was fully compensated by the kindness of
her father-in-law, who at length began to think of me. The evening after
the entertainment, I have already mentioned, he had a conversation with
me that lasted half an hour, which appeared to satisfy him, and
absolutely enchanted me. This good man had less sense than Madam de
Vercellis, but possessed more feeling; I therefore succeeded much better
with him. He bade me attach myself to his son, the Abbe Gauvon, who had
an esteem for me, which, if I took care to cultivate, might be
serviceable in furnishing me with what was necessary to complete their
views for my future establishment. The next morning I flew to M. the
Abbe, who did not receive me as a servant, but made me sit by his
fireside, and questioned me with great affability. He soon found that my
education, which had attempted many things, had completed none; but
observing that I understood something of Latin, he undertook to teach me
more, and appointed me to attend him every morning. Thus, by one of the
whimsicalities which have marked the whole course of my life, at once
above and below my natural situation, I was pupil and footman in the same
house: and though in servitude, had a preceptor whose birth entitled him
to supply that place only to the children of kings.

The Abbe de Gauvon was a younger son, and designed by his family for a
bishopric, for which reason his studies had been pursued, further than is
usual with people of quality. He had been sent to the university of
Sienna, where he had resided some years, and from whence he had brought a
good portion of cruscantism, designing to be that at Turin which the Abbe
de Dangeau was formerly at Paris. Being disgusted with theology, he gave
in to the belle-lettres, which is very frequent in Italy, with those who
have entered the career of prelacy. He had studied the poets, and wrote
tolerable Latin and Italian verses; in a word, his taste was calculated
to form mine, and give some order to that chaos of insignificant trash
with which my brain was encumbered; but whether my prating had misled
him, or that he could not support the trouble of teaching the elementary
parts of Latin, he put me at first too high; and I had scarcely
translated a few fables of Phoedrus before he put me into Virgil, where I
could hardly understand anything. It will be seen hereafter that I was
destined frequently to learn Latin, but never to attain it. I labored
with assiduity, and the abbe bestowed his attention with a degree of
kindness, the remembrance of which, even at this time, both interests and
softens me. I passed the greater part of the morning with him as much
for my own instruction as his service; not that he ever permitted me to
perform any menial office, but to copy, or write from his dictating; and
my employment of secretary was more useful than that of scholar, and by
this means I not only learned the Italian in its utmost purity, but also
acquired a taste for literature, and some discernment of composition,
which could not have been at La Tribu's, and which was useful to me when
I afterwards wrote alone.

At this period of my life, without being romantic, I might reasonably
have indulged the hope of preferment. The abbe, thoroughly pleased with
me, expressed his satisfaction to everyone, while his father had such a
singular affection for me, that I was assured by the Count de Favria,
that he had spoken of me to the king; even Madam de Breil had laid aside
her disdainful looks; in short I was a general favorite, which gave great
jealousy to the other servants, who seeing me honored by the instructions
of their master's son, were persuaded I should not remain their equal.

As far as I could judge by some words dropped at random, and which I
reflected on afterwards, it appeared to me, that the House of Solar,
wishing to run the career of embassies, and hoping perhaps in time to
arrive at the ministry, wished to provide themselves with a person of
merit and talents, who depending entirely on them, might obtain their
confidence, and be of essential service. This project of the Count de
Gauvon was judicious, magnanimous, and truly worthy of a powerful
nobleman, equally provident and generous; but besides my not seeing, at
that time, its full extent, it was far too rational for my brain, and
required too much confinement.

My ridiculous ambition sought for fortune in the midst of brilliant
adventures, and not finding one woman in all this scheme, it appeared
tedious, painful and melancholy; though I should rather have thought it
more honorable on this account, as the species of merit generally
patronized by women is certainly less worthy that I was supposed to

Everything succeeded to my wish: I had obtained, almost forced, the
esteem of all; the trial was over, and I was universally considered as a
young man with flattering prospects, who was not at present in his proper
sphere, but was expected soon to reach it; but my place was not assigned
me by man, and I was to reach it by very difficult paths. I now come to
one of those characteristic traits, which are so natural to me, and
which, indeed, the reader might have observed without this reflection.

There were at Turin several new converts of my own stamp, whom I neither
liked nor wish to see; but I had met with some Genevese who were not of
this description, and among others a M. Mussard, nicknamed Wryneck, a
miniature painter, and a distant relation. This M. Mussard, having
learned my situation at the Count de Gauvon's, came to see me, with
another Genevese, named Bacle, who had been my comrade during my
apprenticeship. This Bacle was a very sprightly, amusing young fellow,
full of lively sallies, which at his time of life appeared extremely
agreeable. At once, then, behold me delighted with M. Bacle; charmed to
such a degree that I found it impossible to quit him. He was shortly to
depart for Geneva; what a loss had I to sustain! I felt the whole force
of it, and resolving to make the best use of this precious interval, I
determined not to leave him, or, rather, he never quitted me, for my head
was not yet sufficiently turned to think of quitting the house without
leave, but it was soon perceived that he engrossed my whole time, and he
was accordingly forbid the house. This so incensed me, that forgetting
everything but my friend Bacle, I went neither to the abbe nor the count,
and was no longer to be found at home. I paid no attention to repeated
reprimands, and at length was threatened with dismissal. This threat was
my ruin, as it suggested the idea that it was not absolutely necessary
that Bacle should depart alone. From that moment I could think of no
other pleasure, no other situation or happiness than taking this journey.
To render the felicity still more complete, at the end of it (though at
an immense distance) I pictured to myself Madam de Warrens; for as to
returning to Geneva, it never entered into my imagination. The hills,
fields, brooks and villages, incessantly succeeded each other with new
charms, and this delightful jaunt seemed worthy to absorb my whole
existence. Memory recalled, with inexpressible pleasure, how charming
the country had appeared in coming to Turin; what then must it be, when,
to the pleasure of independence, should be added the company of a good-
humored comrade of my own age and disposition, without any constraint or
obligation, but free to go or stay as we pleased? Would it not be
madness to sacrifice the prospect of so much felicity to projects of
ambition, slow and difficult in their execution, and uncertain in their
event? But even supposing them realized, and in their utmost splendor,
they were not worth one quarter of an hour of the sweet pleasure and
liberty of youth.

Full of these wise conclusions, I conducted myself so improperly, that
(not indeed without some trouble) I got myself dismissed; for on my
return one night the maitre de hotel gave me warning on the part of the
count. This was exactly what I wanted; for feeling, spite of myself,
the extravagance of my conduct, I wished to excuse it by the addition of
injustice and ingratitude, by throwing the blame on others, and
sheltering myself under the idea of necessity.

I was told the Count de Favria wished to speak with me the next morning
before my departure; but, being sensible that my head was so far turned
as to render it possible for me to disobey the injunction, the maitre de
hotel declined paying the money designed me, and which certainly I had
very ill earned, till after this visit; for my kind patrons being
unwilling to place me in the situation of a footman, I had not any fixed

The Count de Favria, though young and giddy, talked to me on this
occasion in the most sensible and serious manner: I might add, if it
would not be thought vain, with the utmost tenderness. He reminded me,
in the most flattering terms, of the cares of his uncle, and intentions
of his grandfather; after having drawn in lively colors what I was
sacrificing to ruin, he offered to make my peace, without stipulating any
conditions, but that I should no more see the worthless fellow who had
seduced me.

It was so apparent that he did not say all this of himself, that
notwithstanding my blind stupidity, I powerfully felt the kindness of my
good old master, but the dear journey was too firmly printed on my
imagination for any consideration to balance the charm. Bereft of
understanding, firm to my purpose, I hardened myself against conviction,
and arrogantly answered, that as they had thought fit to give me warning,
I had resolved to take it, and conceived it was now too late to retract,
since, whatever might happen to me, I was fully resolved not to be driven
a second time from the same house. The count, justly irritated, bestowed
on me some names which I deserved, and putting me out of his apartment by
the shoulders, shut the door on me. I departed triumphant, as if I had
gained the greatest victory, and fearful of sustaining a second combat
even had the ingratitude to leave the house without thanking the abbe for
his kindness.

To form a just conception of my delirium at that moment, the excess to
which my heart is subject to be heated by the most trifling incidents,
and the ardor with which my imagination seizes on the most attractive
objects should be conceived. At these times, plans the most ridiculous,
childish, and void of sense, flatter my favorite idea, and persuade me
that it is reasonable to sacrifice everything to the possession of it.
Would it be believed, that when near nineteen, any one could be so stupid
as to build his hopes of future subsistence on an empty phial? For

The Abbe de Gauvon had made me a present, some weeks before, of a very
pretty heron fountain, with which I was highly delighted. Playing with
this toy, and speaking of our departure, the sage Bacle and myself
thought it might be of infinite advantage, and enable us to lengthen our
journey. What in the world was so curious as a heron fountain? This
idea was the foundation on which we built our future fortune: we were to
assemble the country people in every village we might pass through, and
delight them with the sight of it, when feasting and good cheer would be
sure to pour on us abundantly; for we were both firmly persuaded, that
provisions could cost nothing to those who grew and gathered them, and if
they did not stuff travellers, it was downright ill-nature.

We pictured in all parts entertainments and weddings, reckoning that
without any expense but wind from our lungs, and the water of our
fountain, we should be maintained through Piedmont, Savoy, France, and
indeed, all the world over. There was no end to our projected travels,
and we immediately directed our course northward, rather for the pleasure
of crossing the Alps, than from a supposed necessity of being obliged to
stop at any place.

Such was the plan on which I set out, abandoning without regret, my
preceptors, studies, and hopes, with the almost certain attainment of a
fortune, to lead the life of a real vagabond. Farewell to the capital;
adieu to the court, ambition, love, the fair, and all the great
adventures into which hope had led me during the preceding year! I
departed with my fountain and my friend Bacle, a purse lightly furnished,
but a heart over-flowing with pleasure, and only thinking how to enjoy
the extensive felicity which I supposed my project encircled.

This extravagant journey was performed almost as agreeably as I had
expected, though not exactly on the same plan; not but our fountain
highly amused the hostess and servants for some minutes at all the ale-
houses where we halted, yet we found it equally necessary to pay on our
departure; but that gave us no concern, as we never thought of depending
on it entirely until our money should be expended. An accident spared us
that trouble, our fountain was broken near Bramant, and in good time, for
we both felt (though without daring to own it to each other) that we
began to be weary of it. This misfortune rendered us gayer than ever; we
laughed heartily at our giddiness in having forgotten that our clothes
and shoes would wear out, or trusting to renew them by the play of our
fountain. We continued our journey as merrily as we had begun it, only
drawing faster towards that termination where our drained purses made it
necessary for us to arrive.

At Chambery I became pensive; not for the folly I had committed, for
never did any one think less of the past, but on account of the reception
I should meet with from Madam de Warrens; for I looked on her house as my
paternal home. I had written her an account of my reception at the Count
de Gauvon's; she knew my expectancies, and, in congratulating me on my
good fortune, had added some wise lessons on the return I ought to make
for the kindness with which they treated me. She looked on my fortune as
already made, if not destroyed by my own negligence; what then would she
say on my arrival? for it never entered my mind that she might shut the
door against me, but I dreaded the uneasiness I might give her; I dreaded
her reproaches, to me more wounding than want; I resolved to bear all in
silence, and, if possible to appease her. I now saw nothing but Madam de
Warrens in the whole universe, and to live in disgrace with her was

I was most concerned about my companion, whom I did not wish to offend,
and feared I should not easily get rid of. I prefaced this separation by
an affected coldness during the last day's journey. The drole understood
me perfectly; in fact, he was rather giddy than deficient in point of
sense--I expected he would have been hurt at my inconstancy, but I was
quite mistaken; nothing affected my friend Bacle, for hardly had we set
foot in town, on our arrival in Annecy, before he said, "You are now at
home,"--embraced--bade me adieu--turned on his heel, and disappeared; nor
have I ever heard of him since.

How did my heart beat as I approached the habitation of Madam de Warrens!
my legs trembled under me, my eyes were clouded with a mist, I neither
saw, heard, nor recollected any one, and was obliged frequently to stop
that I might draw breath, and recall my bewildered senses. Was it fear
of not obtaining that succor I stood in need of, which agitated me to
this degree? At the age I then was, does the fear of perishing with
hunger give such alarms? No: I declare with as much truth as pride, that
it was not in the power of interest or indigence, at any period of my
life, to expand or contract my heart. In the course of a painful life,
memorable for its vicissitudes, frequently destitute of an asylum, and
without bread, I have contemplated, with equal indifference, both
opulence and misery. In want I might have begged or stolen, as others
have done, but never could feel distress at being reduced to such
necessities. Few men have grieved more than myself, few have shed so
many tears; yet never did poverty, or the fear of falling into it, make
me heave a sigh or moisten my eyelids. My soul, in despite of fortune,
has only been sensible of real good and evil, which did not depend on
her; and frequently, when in possession of everything that could make
life pleasing, I have been the most miserable of mortals.

The first glance of Madam de Warrens banished all my fears--my heart
leaped at the sound of her voice; I threw myself at her feet, and in
transports of the most lively joy, pressed my lips upon her hand.
I am ignorant whether she had received any recent information of me.
I discovered but little surprise on her countenance, and no sorrow.
"Poor child!" said she, in an affectionate tone, "art thou here again?
I knew you were too young for this journey; I am very glad, however, that
it did not turn out so bad as I apprehended." She then made me recount
my history; it was not long, and I did it faithfully: suppressing only
some trifling circumstances, but on the whole neither sparing nor
excusing myself.

The question was, where I could lodge: she consulted her maid on this
point--I hardly dared to breathe during the deliberation; but when I
heard I was to sleep in the house, I could scarce contain my joy; and saw
the little bundle I brought with me carried into my destined apartment
with much the same sensations as St. Preux saw his chaise put up at Madam
de Wolmar's. To complete all, I had the satisfaction to find that this
favor was not to be transitory; for at a moment when they thought me
attentive to something else, I heard Madam de Warrens say, "They may talk
as they please, but since Providence has sent him back, I am determined
not to abandon him."

Behold me, then, established at her house; not, however, that I date the
happiest days of my life from this period, but this served to prepare me
for them. Though that sensibility of heart, which enables us truly to
enjoy our being, is the work of Nature, and perhaps a mere effect of
organization, yet it requires situations to unfold itself, and without a
certain concurrence of favorable circumstances, a man born with the most
acute sensibility may go out of the world without ever having been
acquainted with his own temperament. This was my case till that time,
and such perhaps it might have remained had I never known Madam de
Warrens, or even having known her, had I not remained with her long
enough to contract that pleasing habit of affectionate sentiments with
which she inspired me. I dare affirm, that those who only love, do not
feel the most charming sensations we are capable of: I am acquainted with
another sentiment, less impetuous, but a thousand times more delightful;
sometimes joined with love, but frequently separated from it. This
feeling is not simply friendship; it is more enchanting, more tender; nor
do I imagine it can exist between persons of the same sex; at least I
have been truly a friend, if ever a man was, and yet never experienced it
in that kind. This distinction is not sufficiently clear, but will
become so hereafter: sentiments are only distinguishable by their

Madam de Warrens inhabited an old house, but large enough to have a
handsome spare apartment, which she made her drawing-room. I now
occupied this chamber, which was in the passage I have before mentioned
as the place of our first meeting. Beyond the brook and gardens was a
prospect of the country, which was by no means uninteresting to the young
inhabitant, being the first time, since my residence at Bossey, that I
had seen anything before my windows but walls, roofs, or the dirty
street. How pleasing then was this novelty! it helped to increase the
tenderness of my disposition, for I looked on this charming landscape as
the gift of my dear patroness, who I could almost fancy had placed it
there on purpose for me. Peaceably seated, my eyes pursued her amidst
the flowers and the verdure; her charms seemed to me confounded with
those of the spring; my heart, till now contracted, here found means to
expand itself, and my sighs exhaled freely in this charming retreat.

The magnificence I had been accustomed to at Turin was not to be found at
Madam de Warrens, but in lieu of it there was neatness, regularity, and a
patriarchal abundance, which is seldom attached to pompous ostentation.
She had very little plate, no china, no game in her kitchen, or foreign
wines in her cellar, but both were well furnished, and at every one's
service; and her coffee, though served in earthenware cups, was
excellent. Whoever came to her house was invited to dine there, and
never did laborer, messenger, or traveller, depart without refreshment.
Her family consisted of a pretty chambermaid from Fribourg, named
Merceret; a valet from her own country called Claude Anet (of whom I
shall speak hereafter), a cook, and two hired chairmen when she visited,
which seldom happened. This was a great deal to be done out of two
thousand livres a year; yet, with good management, it might have been
sufficient in a country where land is extremely good, and money very
scarce. Unfortunately, economy was never her favorite virtue; she
contracted debts--paid them--thus her money passed from hand to hand like
a weaver's shuttle, and quickly disappeared.

The arrangement of her housekeeping was exactly what I should have
chosen, and I shared it with satisfaction. I was least pleased with the
necessity of remaining too long at table. Madam de Warrens was so much
incommoded with the first smell of soup or meat, as almost to occasion
fainting; from this she slowly recovered, talking meantime, and never
attempting to eat for the first half hour. I could have dined thrice in
the time, and had ever finished my meal long before she began; I then ate
again for company; and though by this means I usually dined twice, felt
no inconvenience from it. In short, I was perfectly at my ease, and the
happier as my situation required no care. Not being at this time
instructed in the state of her finances, I supposed her means were
adequate to her expense; and though I afterwards found the same
abundance, yet when instructed in her real situation, finding her pension
ever anticipated, prevented me from enjoying the same tranquility.
Foresight with me has always embittered enjoyment; in vain I saw the
approach of misfortunes, I was never the more likely to avoid them.

From the first moment of our meeting, the softest familiarity was
established between us: and in the same degree it continued during the
rest of her life. Child was my name, Mamma was hers, and child and mamma
we have ever continued, even after a number of years had almost effaced
the apparent difference of age between us. I think those names convey an
exact idea of our behavior, the simplicity of our manners, and above all,
the similarity of our dispositions. To me she was the tenderest of
mothers, ever preferring my welfare to her own pleasure; and if my own
satisfaction found some interest in my attachment to her, it was not to
change its nature, but only to render it more exquisite, and infatuate me
with the charm of having a mother young and handsome, whom I was
delighted to caress: I say literally, to caress, for never did it enter
into her imagination to deny me the tenderest maternal kisses and
endearments, or into my heart to abuse them. It will be said, at length
our connection was of a different kind: I confess it; but have patience,
that will come in its turn.

The sudden sight of her, on our first interview, was the only truly
passionate moment she ever inspired me with; and even that was
principally the work of surprise. With her I had neither transports nor
desires, but remained in a ravishing calm, sensible of a happiness I
could not define, and thus could I have passed my whole life, or even
eternity, without feeling an instant of uneasiness.

She was the only person with whom I never experienced that want of
conversation, which to me is so painful to endure. Our tete-a-tetes were
rather an inexhaustible chat than conversation, which could only conclude
from interruption. So far from finding discourse difficult, I rather
thought it a hardship to be silent; unless, when contemplating her
projects, she sunk into a reverie; when I silently let her meditate, and
gazing on her, was the happiest of men. I had another singular fancy,
which was that without pretending to the favor of a tete-a-tete, I was
perpetually seeking occasion to form them, enjoying such opportunities
with rapture; and when importunate visitors broke in upon us, no matter
whether it was man or woman, I went out murmuring, not being able to
remain a secondary object in her company; then, counting the minutes in
her antechamber, I used to curse these eternal visitors, thinking it
inconceivable how they could find so much to say, because I had still

If ever I felt the full force of my attachment, it was when I did not see
her. When in her presence, I was only content; when absent, my
uneasiness reached almost to melancholy, and a wish to live with her gave
me emotions of tenderness even to tears. Never shall I forget one great
holiday, while she was at vespers, when I took a walk out of the city,
my heart full of her image, and the ardent wish to pass my life with her.
I could easily enough see that at present this was impossible; that the
happiness I enjoyed would be of short duration, and this idea gave to my
contemplations a tincture of melancholy, which, however, was not gloomy,
but tempered with a flattering hope. The ringing of bells, which ever
particularly affects me, the singing of birds, the fineness of the day,
the beauty of the landscape, the scattered country houses, among which in
idea I placed our future dwelling, altogether struck me with an
impression so lively, tender, melancholy, and powerful, that I saw myself
in ecstasy transported into that happy time and abode, where my heart,
possessing all the felicity it could desire, might taste it with raptures

I never recollect to have enjoyed the future with such force of illusions
as at that time; and what has particularly struck me in the recollection
of this reverie, is that when realized, I found my situation exactly as I
had imagined it. If ever waking dream had an appearance of a prophetic
vision, it was assuredly this; I was only deceived in its imaginary
duration, for days, years, and life itself, passed ideally in perfect
tranquility, while the reality lasted but a moment. Alas! my most
durable happiness was but as a dream, which I had no sooner had a glimpse
of, than I instantly awoke.

I know not when I should have done, if I was to enter into a detail of
all the follies that affection for my dear Madam de Warrens made me
commit. When absent from her, how often have I kissed the bed on a
supposition that she had slept there; the curtains and all the furniture
of my chamber, on recollecting they were hers, and that her charming
hands had touched them; nay, the floor itself, when I considered she had
walked there. Sometimes even in her presence, extravagancies escaped me,
which only the most violent passions seemed capable of inspiring; in a
word, there was but one essential difference to distinguish me from an
absolute lover, and that particular renders my situation almost

I had returned from Italy, not absolutely as I went there, but as no one
of my age, perhaps, ever did before, being equally unacquainted with
women. My ardent constitution had found resources in those means by
which youth of my disposition sometimes preserve their purity at the
expense of health, vigor, and frequently of life itself. My local
situation should likewise be considered--living with a pretty woman,
cherishing her image in the bottom of my heart, seeing her during the
whole day, at night surrounded with objects that recalled her incessantly
to my remembrance, and sleeping in the bed where I knew she had slept.
What a situation! Who can read this without supposing me on the brink of
the grave? But quite the contrary; that which might have ruined me,
acted as a preservative, at least for a time. Intoxicated with the charm
of living with her, with the ardent desire of passing my life there,
absent or present I saw in her a tender mother, an amiable sister, a
respected friend, but nothing more; meantime, her image filled my heart,
and left room far no other object. The extreme tenderness with which she
inspired me excluded every other woman from my consideration, and
preserved me from the whole sex: in a word, I was virtuous, because I
loved her. Let these particulars, which I recount but indifferently, be
considered, and then let any one judge what kind of attachment I had for
her: for my part, all I can say, is, that if it hitherto appears
extraordinary, it will appear much more so in the sequel.

My time passed in the most agreeable manner, though occupied in a way
which was by no means calculated to please me; such as having projects to
digest, bills to write fair, receipts to transcribe, herbs to pick, drugs
to pound, or distillations to attend; and in the midst of all this, came
crowds of travellers, beggars, and visitors of all denominations. Some
times it was necessary to converse at the same time with a soldier, an
apothecary, a prebendary, a fine lady, and a lay brother. I grumbled,
swore, and wished all this troublesome medley at the devil, while she
seemed to enjoy it, laughing at my chagrin till the tears ran down her
cheeks. What excited her mirth still more, was to see that my anger was
increased by not being able myself to refrain from laughter. These
little intervals, in which I enjoyed the pleasure of grumbling, were
charming; and if, during the dispute, another importunate visitor
arrived, she would add to her amusement by maliciously prolonging the
visit, meantime casting glances at me for which I could almost have beat
her; nor could she without difficulty refrain from laughter on seeing my
constrained politeness, though every moment glancing at her the look of
a fury, while, even in spite of myself, I thought the scene truly

All this, without being pleasing in itself, contributed to amuse, because
it made up a part of a life which I thought delightful. Nothing that was
performed around me, nothing that I was obliged to do, suited my taste,
but everything suited my heart; and I believe, at length, I should have
liked the study of medicine, had not my natural distaste to it
perpetually engaged us in whimsical scenes, that prevented my thinking of
it in a serious light. It was, perhaps, the first time that this art
produced mirth. I pretended to distinguish a physical book by its smell,
and what was more diverting, was seldom mistaken. Madam de Warrens made
me taste the most nauseous drugs; in vain I ran, or endeavored to defend
myself; spite of resistance or wry faces, spite of my struggles, or even
of my teeth, when I saw her charming fingers approach my lips, I was
obliged to give up the contest.

When shut up in an apartment with all her medical apparatus, any one who
had heard us running and shouting amidst peals of laughter would rather
have imagined we had been acting a farce than preparing opiates or

My time, however, was not entirely passed in these fooleries; in the
apartment which I occupied I found a few books: there was the Spectator,
Puffendorf, St. Everemond, and the Henriade. Though I had not my old
passion for books, yet I amused myself with reading a part of them. The
Spectator was particularly pleasing and serviceable to me. The Abbe de
Gauvon had taught me to read less eagerly, and with a greater degree of
attention, which rendered my studies more serviceable. I accustomed
myself to reflect on elocution and the elegance of composition;
exercising myself in discerning pure French from my provincial idiom.
For example, I corrected an orthographical fault (which I had in common
with all Genevese) by these two lines of the Henriade:

Soit qu' un ancient respect pour le sang de leurs maitres,
Parlat encore pour lui dans le coeur de ces traitres

I was struck with the word 'parlat', and found a 't' was necessary to
form the third person of the subjunctive, whereas I had always written
and pronounced it parla, as in the present of the indicative.

Sometimes my studies were the subject of conversation with Madam de
Warrens; sometimes I read to her, in which I found great satisfaction;
and as I endeavored to read well, it was extremely serviceable to me.
I have already observed that her mind was cultivated; her understanding
was at this time in its meridian. Several people of learning having been
assiduous to ingratiate themselves, had taught her to distinguish works
of merit; but her taste (if I may so express myself) was rather
Protestant; ever speaking warmly of Bayle, and highly esteeming St.
Evremond, though long since almost forgotten in France: but this did not
prevent her having a taste for literature, or expressing her thoughts
with elegance. She had been brought up with polite company, and coming
young to Savoy, by associating with people of the best fashion, had lost
the affected manners of her own country, where the ladies mistake wit for
sense, and only speak in epigram.

Though she had seen the court but superficially, that glance was
sufficient to give her a competent idea of it; and notwithstanding secret
jealousies and the murmurs excited by her conduct and running in debt,
she ever preserved friends there, and never lost her pension. She knew
the world, and was useful. This was her favorite theme in our
conversations, and was directly opposite to my chimerical ideas, though
the kind of instruction I particularly had occasion for. We read Bruyere
together; he pleased her more than Rochefoucault, who is a dull,
melancholy author, particularly to youth, who are not fond of
contemplating man as he really is. In moralizing she sometimes
bewildered herself by the length of her discourse; but by kissing her
lips or hand from time to time I was easily consoled, and never found
them wearisome.

This life was too delightful to be lasting; I felt this, and the
uneasiness that thought gave me was the only thing that disturbed my
enjoyment. Even in playfulness she studied my disposition, observed and
interrogated me, forming projects for my future fortune, which I could
readily have dispensed with. Happily it was not sufficient to know my
disposition, inclinations and talents; it was likewise necessary to find
a situation in which they would be useful, and this was not the work of a
day. Even the prejudices this good woman had conceived in favor of my
merit put off the time of calling it into action, by rendering her more
difficult in the choice of means; thus (thanks to the good opinion she
entertained of me), everything answered to my wish; but a change soon
happened which put a period to my tranquility.

A relation of Madam de Warrens, named M. d'Aubonne, came to see her; a
man of great understanding and intrigue, being, like her, fond of
projects, though careful not to ruin himself by them. He had offered
Cardinal Fleury a very compact plan for a lottery, which, however, had
not been approved of, and he was now going to propose it to the court of
Turin, where it was accepted and put into execution. He remained some
time at Annecy, where he fell in love with the Intendant's lady, who was
very amiable, much to my taste and the only person I saw with pleasure at
the house of Madam de Warrens. M. d'Aubonne saw me, I was strongly
recommended by his relation; he promised, therefore, to question and see
what I was fit for, and, if he found me capable to seek me a situation.
Madam de Warrens sent me to him two or three mornings, under pretense of
messages, without acquainting me with her real intention. He spoke to me
gayly, on various subjects, without any appearance of observation; his
familiarity presently set me talking, which by his cheerful and jesting
manner he encouraged without restraint--I was absolutely charmed with
him. The result of his observations was, that notwithstanding the
animation of my countenance, and promising exterior, if not absolutely
silly, I was a lad of very little sense, and without ideas of learning;
in fine, very ignorant in all respects, and if I could arrive at being
curate of some village, it was the utmost honor I ought ever to aspire
to. Such was the account he gave of me to Madam de Warrens. This was
not the first time such an opinion had been formed of me, neither was it
the last; the judgment of M. Masseron having been repeatedly confirmed.

The cause of these opinions is too much connected with my character not
to need a particular explanation; for it will not be supposed that I can
in conscience subscribe to them; and with all possible impartiality,
whatever M. Masseron, M. d'Aubonne and many others may have said, I
cannot help thinking them mistaken.

Two things very opposite, unite in me, and in a manner which I cannot
myself conceive. My disposition is extremely ardent, my passions lively
and impetuous, yet my ideas are produced slowly, with great embarrassment
and after much afterthought. It might be said my heart and understanding
do not belong to the same individual. A sentiment takes possession of my
soul with the rapidity of lightning, but instead of illuminating, it
dazzles and confounds me; I feel all, but see nothing; I am warm, but
stupid; to think I must be cool. What is astonishing, my conception is
clear and penetrating, if not hurried: I can make excellent impromptus at
leisure, but on the instant, could never say or do anything worth notice.
I could hold a tolerable conversation by the post, as they say the
Spaniards play at chess, and when I read that anecdote of a duke of
Savoy, who turned himself round, while on a journey, to cry out 'a votre
gorge, marchand de Paris!' I said, "Here is a trait of my character!"

This slowness of thought, joined to vivacity of feeling, I am not only
sensible of in conversation, but even alone. When I write, my ideas are
arranged with the utmost difficulty. They glance on my imagination and
ferment till they discompose, heat, and bring on a palpitation; during
this state of agitation, I see nothing properly, cannot write a single
word, and must wait till it is over. Insensibly the agitation subsides,
the chaos acquires form, and each circumstance takes its proper place.
Have you never seen an opera in Italy? where during the change of scene
everything is in confusion, the decorations are intermingled, and any one
would suppose that all would be overthrown; yet by little and little,
everything is arranged, nothing appears wanting, and we feel surprised to
see the tumult succeeded by the most delightful spectacle. This is a
resemblance of what passes in my brain when I attempt to write; had I
always waited till that confusion was past, and then pointed, in their
natural beauties, the objects that had presented themselves, few authors
would have surpassed me.

Thence arises the extreme difficulty I find in writing; my manuscripts,
blotted, scratched, and scarcely legible, attest the trouble they cost
me; nor is there one of them but I have been obliged to transcribe four
or five times before it went to press. Never could I do anything when
placed at a table, pen in hand; it must be walking among the rocks, or in
the woods; it is at night in my bed, during my wakeful hours, that I
compose; it may be judged how slowly, particularly for a man who has not
the advantage of verbal memory, and never in his life could retain by
heart six verses. Some of my periods I have turned and returned in my
head five or six nights before they were fit to be put to paper: thus it
is that I succeed better in works that require laborious attention, than
those that appear more trivial, such as letters, in which I could never
succeed, and being obliged to write one is to me a serious punishment;
nor can I express my thoughts on the most trivial subjects without it
costing me hours of fatigue. If I write immediately what strikes me, my
letter is a long, confused, unconnected string of expressions, which,
when read, can hardly be understood.

It is not only painful to me to give language to my ideas but even to
receive them. I have studied mankind, and think myself a tolerable
observer, yet I know nothing from what I see, but all from what I
remember, nor have I understanding except in my recollections. From all
that is said, from all that passes in my presence, I feel nothing,
conceive nothing, the exterior sign being all that strikes me; afterwards
it returns to my remembrance; I recollect the place, the time, the
manner, the look, and gesture, not a circumstance escapes me; it is then,
from what has been done or said, that I imagine what has been thought,
and I have rarely found myself mistaken.

So little master of my understanding when alone, let any one judge what I
must be in conversation, where to speak with any degree of ease you must
think of a thousand things at the same time: the bare idea that I should
forget something material would be sufficient to intimidate me. Nor can
I comprehend how people can have the confidence to converse in large
companies, where each word must pass in review before so many, and where
it would be requisite to know their several characters and histories to
avoid saying what might give offence. In this particular, those who
frequent the world would have a great advantage, as they know better
where to be silent, and can speak with greater confidence; yet even they
sometimes let fall absurdities; in what predicament then must he be who
drops as it were from the clouds? it is almost impossible he should speak
ten minutes with impunity.

In a tete-a-tete there is a still worse inconvenience; that is; the
necessity of talking perpetually, at least, the necessity of answering
when spoken to, and keeping up the conversation when the other is silent.
This insupportable constraint is alone sufficient to disgust me with
variety, for I cannot form an idea of a greater torment than being
obliged to speak continually without time for recollection. I know not
whether it proceeds from my mortal hatred of all constraint; but if I am
obliged to speak, I infallibly talk nonsense. What is still worse,
instead of learning how to be silent when I have absolutely nothing to
say, it is generally at such times that I have a violent inclination: and
endeavoring to pay my debt of conversation as speedily as possible, I
hastily gabble a number of words without ideas, happy when they only
chance to mean nothing; thus endeavoring to conquer or hide my
incapacity, I rarely fail to show it.

I think I have said enough to show that, though not a fool, I have
frequently passed for one, even among people capable of judging; this was
the more vexatious, as my physiognomy and eyes promised otherwise, and
expectation being frustrated, my stupidity appeared the more shocking.
This detail, which a particular occasion gave birth to, will not be
useless in the sequel, being a key to many of my actions which might
otherwise appear unaccountable; and have been attributed to a savage
humor I do not possess. I love society as much as any man, was I not
certain to exhibit myself in it, not only disadvantageously, but totally
different from what I really am. The plan I have adopted of writing and
retirement, is what exactly suits me. Had I been present, my worth would
never have been known, no one would even have suspected it; thus it was
with Madam Dupin, a woman of sense, in whose house I lived for several
years; indeed, she has often since owned it to me: though on the whole
this rule may be subject to some exceptions. I shall now return to my

The estimate of my talents thus fixed, the situation I was capable of
promised, the question only remained how to render her capable of
fulfilling my destined vocation. The principle difficulty was, I did not
know Latin enough for a priest. Madam de Warrens determined to have me
taught for some time at the seminary, and accordingly spoke of it to the
Superior, who was a Lazarist, called M. Gras, a good-natured little
fellow, half blind, meagre, gray-haired, insensible, and the least
pedantic of any Lazarist I ever knew; which, in fact, is saying no great

He frequently visited Madam de Warrens, who entertained, caressed, and
made much of him, letting him sometimes lace her stays, an office he was
willing enough to perform. While thus employed, she would run about the
room, this way or that, as occasion happened to call her. Drawn by the
lace, Monsieur the Superior followed, grumbling, repeating at every
moment, "Pray, madam, do stand still;" the whole forming a scene truly

M. Gras willingly assented to the project of Madam de Warrens, and, for a
very moderate pension, charged himself with the care of instructing me.
The consent of the bishop was all that remained necessary, who not only
granted it, but offered to pay the pension, permitting me to retain the
secular habit till they could judge by a trial what success they might
have in my improvement.

What a change! but I was obliged to submit; though I went to the seminary
with about the same spirits as if they had been taking me to execution.
What a melancholy abode! especially for one who left the house of a
pretty woman. I carried one book with me, that I had borrowed of Madam
de Warrens, and found it a capital resource! it will not be easily
conjectured what kind of book this was--it was a music book. Among the
talents she had cultivated, music was not forgotten; she had a tolerable
good voice, sang agreeably, and played on the harpsichord. She had taken
the pains to give me some lessons in singing, though before I was very
uninformed in that respect, hardly knowing the music of our psalms.
Eight or ten interrupted lessons, far from putting me in a condition to
improve myself, did not teach me half the notes; notwithstanding, I had
such a passion for the art, that I determined to exercise myself alone.
The book I took was not of the most easy kind; it was the cantatas of
Clerambault. It may be conceived with what attention and perseverance I
studied, when I inform my reader, that without knowing anything of
transposition or quantity, I contrived to sing with tolerable
correctness, the first recitative and air in the cantata of Alpheus and
Arethusa; it is true this air is, so justly set, that it is only
necessary to recite the verses in their just measure to catch the music.

There was at the seminary a curst Lazarist, who by undertaking to teach
me Latin made me detest it. His hair was coarse, black and greasy, his
face like those formed in gingerbread, he had the voice of a buffalo, the
countenance of an owl, and the bristles of a boar in lieu of a beard; his
smile was sardonic, and his limbs played like those of a puppet moved by
wires. I have forgotten his odious name, but the remembrance of his
frightful precise countenance remains with me, though hardly can I
recollect it without trembling; especially when I call to mind our
meeting in the gallery, when he graciously advanced his filthy square cap
as a sign for me to enter his apartment, which appeared more dismal in my
apprehension than a dungeon. Let any one judge the contrast between my
present master and the elegant Abbe de Gauvon.

Had I remained two months at the mercy of this monster, I am certain my
head could not have sustained it; but the good M. Gras, perceiving I was
melancholy, grew thin, and did not eat my victuals, guessed the cause of
my uneasiness (which indeed was not very difficult) and taking me from
the claws of this beast, by another yet more striking contrast, placed me
with the gentlest of men, a young Faucigneran abbe, named M. Gatier,
who studied at the seminary, and out of complaisance for M. Gras, and
humanity to myself, spared some time from the prosecution of his own
studies in order to direct mine. Never did I see a more pleasing
countenance than that of M. Gatier. He was fair complexioned, his beard
rather inclined to red; his behavior like that of the generality of his
countrymen (who under a coarseness of countenance conceal much
understanding), marked in him a truly sensible and affectionate soul.
In his large blue eyes there was a mixture of softness, tenderness, and
melancholy, which made it impossible to see him without feeling one's
self interested. From the looks and manner of this young abbe he might
have been supposed to have foreseen his destiny, and that he was born to
be unhappy.

His disposition did not belie his physiognomy: full of patience and
complaisance, he rather appeared to study with than to instruct me.
So much was not necessary to make me love him, his predecessor having
rendered that very easy; yet, notwithstanding all the time he bestowed on
me, notwithstanding our mutual good inclinations, and that his plan of
teaching was excellent, with much labor, I made little progress. It is
very singular, that with a clear conception I could never learn much from
masters except my father and M. Lambercier; the little I know besides I
have learned alone, as will be seen hereafter. My spirit, impatient of
every species of constraint, cannot submit to the law of the moment; even
the fear of not learning prevents my being attentive, and a dread of
wearying those who teach, makes me feign to understand them; thus they
proceed faster than I can comprehend, and the conclusion is I learn
nothing. My understanding must take its own time and cannot submit to
that of another.

The time of ordination being arrived, M. Gatier returned to his province
as deacon, leaving me with gratitude, attachment, and sorrow for his
loss. The vows I made for him were no more answered than those I offered
for myself. Some years after, I learned, that being vicar of a parish,
a young girl was with child by him, being the only one (though he
possessed a very tender heart) with whom he was ever in love. This was a
dreadful scandal in a diocese severely governed, where the priests (being
under good regulation) ought never to have children--except by married
women. Having infringed this politic law, he was put in prison, defamed,
and driven from his benefice. I know not whether it was ever after in
his power to reestablish his affairs; but the remembrance of his
misfortunes, which were deeply engraven on my heart, struck me when I
wrote Emilius, and uniting M. Gatier with M. Gaime, I formed from these
two worthy priests the character of the Savoyard Vicar, and flatter
myself the imitation has not dishonored the originals.

While I was at the seminary, M. d'Aubonne was obliged to quit Annecy,
Moultou being displeased that he made love to his wife, which was acting
like a dog in the manger, for though Madam Moultou was extremely amiable,
he lived very ill with her, treating her with such brutality that a
separation was talked of. Moultou, by repeated oppressions, at length
procured a dismissal from his employment: he was a disagreeable man; a
mole could not be blacker, nor an owl more knavish. It is said the
provincials revenge themselves on their enemies by songs; M. d'Aubonne
revenged himself on his by a comedy, which he sent to Madam de Warrens,
who showed it to me. I was pleased with it, and immediately conceived
the idea of writing one, to try whether I was so silly as the author had
pronounced me. This project was not executed till I went to Chambery,
where I wrote 'The Lover of Himself'. Thus when I said in the preface to
that piece, "it was written at eighteen," I cut off a few years.

Nearly about this time an event happened, not very important in itself,
but whose consequence affected me, and made a noise in the world when I
had forgotten it. Once a week I was permitted to go out; it is not
necessary to say what use I made of this liberty. Being one Sunday at
Madam de Warrens, a building belonging to the Cordeliers, which joined
her house, took fire; this building which contained their oven, being
full of dry fagots, blazed violently and greatly endangered the house;
for the wind happening to drive the flames that way, it was covered with
them. The furniture, therefore, was hastily got out and carried into the
garden which fronted the windows, on the other side the before-mentioned
brook. I was so alarmed that I threw indiscriminately everything that
came to hand out of the window, even to a large stone mortar, which at
another time I should have found it difficult to remove, and should have
thrown a handsome looking-glass after it had not some one prevented me.
The good bishop, who that day was visiting Madam de Warrens, did not
remain idle; he took her into the garden, where they went to prayers with
the rest that were assembled there, and where sometime afterwards,
I found them on their knees, and presently joined them. While the good
man was at his devotions, the wind changed, so suddenly and critically,
that the flames which had covered the house and began to enter the
windows, were carried to the other side of the court, and the house
received no damage. Two years after, Monsieur de Berner being dead, the
Antoines, his former brethren, began to collect anecdotes which might
serve as arguments of his beatification; at the desire of Father Baudet,
I joined to these an attestation of what I have just related, in doing
which, though I attested no more than the truth, I certainly acted ill,
as it tended to make an indifferent occurrence pass for a miracle. I had
seen the bishop in prayer, and had likewise seen the wind change during
the prayer, and even much to the purpose, all this I could certify truly;
but that one of these facts was the cause of the other, I ought not to
have attested, because it is what I could not possibly be assured of.
Thus much I may say, that as far as I can recollect what my ideas were at
that time, I was sincerely, and in good earnest a Catholic. Love of the
marvellous is natural to the human heart; my veneration for the virtuous
prelate, and secret pride in having, perhaps, contributed to the event in
question, all helped to seduce me; and certainly, if this miracle was the
effect of ardent prayer, I had a right to claim a share of the merits.

More than thirty years after, when I published the 'Lettres de la
Montagne', M. Feron (I know not by what means) discovered this
attestation, and made use of it in his paper. I must confess the
discovery was very critically timed, and appeared very diverting,
even to me.

I was destined to be the outcast of every condition; for notwithstanding
M. Gatier gave the most favorable account he possibly could of my
studies, they plainly saw the improvement I received bore no proportion
to the pains taken to instruct me, which was no encouragement to continue
them: the bishop and superior, therefore, were disheartened, and I was
sent back to Madam de Warrens, as a subject not even fit to make a priest
of; but as they allowed, at the same time, that I was a tolerably good
lad, and far from being vicious, this account counterbalanced the former,
and determined her not to abandon me.

I carried back in triumph the dear music book, which had been so useful
to me, the air of Alpheus and Arethusa being almost all I had learned at
the seminary. My predilection for this art started the idea of making a
musician of, me. A convenient opportunity offered; once a week, at
least, she had a concert at her house, and the music-master from the
cathedral, who directed this little band, came frequently to see her.
This was a Parisian, named M. le Maitre, a good composer, very lively,
gay, young, well made, of little understanding, but, upon the whole, a
good sort of man. Madam de Warrens made us acquainted; I attached myself
to him, and he seemed not displeased with me. A pension was talked of,
and agreed on; in short, I went home with him, and passed the winter the
more agreeably at his chambers, as they were not above twenty paces
distant from Madam de Warrens', where we frequently supped together.
It may easily be supposed that this situation, ever gay, and singing with
the musicians and children of the choir, was more pleasing to me than the
seminary and fathers of St. Lazarus. This life, though free, was
regular; here I learned to prize independence, but never to abuse it.
For six whole months I never once went out except to see Madam de
Warrens, or to church, nor had I any inclination to it. This interval is
one of those in which I enjoyed the greatest satisfaction, and which I
have ever recollected with pleasure. Among the various situations I have
been placed in, some were marked with such an idea of virtuous
satisfaction, that the bare remembrance affects me as if they were yet
present. I vividly recollect the time, the place, the persons, and even
the temperature of the air, while the lively idea of a certain local
impression peculiar to those times, transports me back again to the very
spot; for example, all that was repeated at our meetings, all that was
sung in the choir, everything that passed there; the beautiful and noble
habits of the canons, the chasubles of the priests, the mitres of the
singers, the persons of the musicians; an old lame carpenter who played
the counter-bass, a little fair abbe who performed on the violin, the
ragged cassock which M. le Maitre, after taking off his sword, used to
put over his secular habit, and the fine surplice with which he covered
the rags of the former, when he went to the choir; the pride with which I
held my little flute to my lips, and seated myself in the orchestra, to
assist in a recitative which M. le Maitre had composed on purpose for me;
the good dinner that afterwards awaited us, and the good appetites we
carried to it. This concourse of objects, strongly retraced in my
memory, has charmed me a hundred time as much, or perhaps more, than ever
the reality had done. I have always preserved an affection for a certain
air of the 'Conditor alme Syderum', because one Sunday in Advent I heard
that hymn sung on the steps of the cathedral, (according to the custom of
that place) as I lay in bed before daybreak. Mademoiselle Merceret,
Madam de Warrens' chambermaid, knew something of music; I shall never
forget a little piece that M. le Maitre made me sing with her, and which
her mistress listened to with great satisfaction. In a word, every
particular, even down to the servant Perrine, whom the boys of the choir
took such delight in teasing. The remembrance of these times of
happiness and innocence frequently returning to my mind, both ravish and
affect me.

I lived at Annecy during a year without the least reproach, giving
universal satisfaction. Since my departure from Turin I had been guilty
of no folly, committed none while under the eye of Madam de Warrens.
She was my conductor, and ever led me right; my attachment for her became
my only passion, and what proves it was not a giddy one, my heart and
understanding were in unison. It is true that a single sentiment,
absorbing all my faculties, put me out of a capacity of learning even
music: but this was not my fault, since to the strongest inclination,
I added the utmost assiduity. I was attentive and thoughtful; what could
I do? Nothing was wanting towards my progress that depended on me;
meantime, it only required a subject that might inspire me to occasion
the commission of new follies: that subject presented itself, chance
arranged it, and (as will be seen hereafter) my inconsiderate head gave
in to it.

One evening, in the month of February, when it was very cold, being all
sat round the fire, we heard some one knock at the street door. Perrine
took a light, went down and opened it: a young man entering, came
upstairs, presented himself with an easy air, and making M. Maitre a
short, but well-turned compliment, announced himself as a French
musician, constrained by the state of his finances to take this liberty.
The hart of the good Le Maitre leaped at the name of a French musician,
for he passionately loved both his country and profession; he therefore
offered the young traveller his service--and use of his apartment, which
he appeared to stand much in need of, and which he accepted without much
ceremony. I observed him while he was chatting and warming himself
before supper; he was short and thick, having some fault in his shape,
though without any particular deformity; he had (if I may so express
myself) an appearance of being hunchbacked, with flat shoulders, and I
think he limped. He wore a black coat, rather worn than old, which hung
in tatters, a very fine but dirty shirt, frayed ruffles; a pair of
splatterdashes so large that he could have put both legs into either of
them, and, to secure himself from the snow, a little hat, only fit to be
carried under his arm. With this whimsical equipage, he had, however,
something elegant in his manners and conversation; his countenance was
expressive and agreeable, and he spoke with facility if not with modesty;
in short, everything about him bore the mark of a young debauchee, who
did not crave assistance like a beggar, but as a thoughtless madcap.
He told us his name was Venture de Villeneuve, that he came from Paris,
had lost his way, and seeming to forget that he had announced himself for
a musician, added that he was going to Grenoble to see a relation that
was a member of Parliament.

During supper we talked of music, on which subject he spoke well: he knew
all the great virtuosi, all the celebrated works, all the actors,
actresses, pretty women, and powerful lords; in short nothing was
mentioned but what he seemed thoroughly acquainted with. Though no
sooner was any topic started, than by some drollery, which set every one
a-laughing, he made them forget what had been said. This was on a
Saturday; the next day there was to be music at the cathedral: M. le
Maitre asked if he would sing there--"Very willingly."--"What part would
he chose?"--"The counter-tenor:" and immediately began speaking of other
things. Before he went to church they offered him his part to peruse,
but he did not even look at it. This Gasconade surprised Le Maitre--
"You'll see," said he, whispering to me, "that he does not know a single
note."--I replied: "I am very much afraid of him." I followed them into
the church; but was extremely uneasy, and when they began, my heart beat
violently, so much was I interested in his behalf.

I was presently out of pain: he sung his two recitatives with all
imaginable taste and judgment; and what was yet more, with a very
agreeable voice. I never enjoyed a more pleasing surprise. After mass,
M. Venture received the highest compliments from the canons and
musicians, which he answered jokingly, though with great grace. M. le
Maitre embraced him heartily; I did the same; he saw I was rejoiced at
his success, and appeared pleased at my satisfaction.

It will easily be surmised, that after having been delighted with M.
Bacle, who had little to attract my admiration, I should be infatuated
with M. Venture, who had education, wit, talents, and a knowledge of the
world, and might be called an agreeable rake. This was exactly what
happened, and would, I believe, have happened to any other young man in
my place; especially supposing him possessed of better judgment to
distinguish merit, and more propensity to be engaged by it; for Venture
doubtless possessed a considerable share, and one in particular, very
rare at his age, namely, that of never being in haste to display his
talents. It is true, he boasted of many things he did not understand,
but of those he knew (which were very numerous) he said nothing,
patiently waiting some occasion to display them, which he then did with
ease, though without forwardness, and thus gave them more effect.
As there was ever some intermission between the proofs of his various
abilities, it was impossible to conjecture whether he had ever discovered
all his talents. Playful, giddy, inexhaustible, seducing in
conversation, ever smiling, but never laughing, and repeating the rudest
things in the most elegant manner--even the most modest women were
astonished at what they endured from him: it was in vain for them to
determine to be angry; they could not assume the appearance of it.
It was extraordinary that with so many agreeable talents, in a country
where they are so well understood, and so much admired, he so long
remained only a musician.

My attachment to M. Venture, more reasonable in its cause, was also less
extravagant in its effects, though more lively and durable than that I
had conceived for M. Bacle. I loved to see him, to hear him, all his
actions appeared charming, everything he said was an oracle to me, but
the enchantment did not extend far enough to disable me from quitting
him. I spoke of him with transport to Madam de Warrens, Le Maitre
likewise spoke in his praise, and she consented we should bring him to
her house. This interview did not succeed; he thought her affected, she
found him a libertine, and, alarmed that I had formed such an ill
acquaintance, not only forbade me bringing him there again, but likewise
painted so strongly the danger I ran with this young man, that I became a
little more circumspect in giving in to the attachment; and very happily,
both for my manners and wits, we were soon separated.

M. le Maitre, like most of his profession, loved good wine; at table he
was moderate, but when busy in his closet he must drink. His maid was so
well acquainted with this humor that no sooner had he prepared his paper
to compose, and taken his violoncello, than the bottle and glass arrived,
and was replenished from time to time: thus, without being ever
absolutely intoxicated, he was usually in a state of elevation. This was
really unfortunate, for he had a good heart, and was so playful that
Madam de Warrens used to call him the kitten. Unhappily, he loved his
profession, labored much and drank proportionately, which injured his
health, and at length soured his temper. Sometimes he was gloomy and
easily offended, though incapable of rudeness, or giving offence to any
one, for never did he utter a harsh word, even to the boys of the choir:
on the other hand, he would not suffer another to offend him, which was
but just: the misfortune was, having little understanding, he did not
properly discriminate, and was often angry without cause.

The Chapter of Geneva, where so many princes and bishops formerly thought
it an honor to be seated, though in exile it lost its ancient splendor,
retained (without any diminution) its pride. To be admitted, you must
either be a gentleman or Doctor of Sorbonne. If there is a pardonable
pride, after that derived from personal merit, it is doubtless that
arising from birth, though, in general, priests having laymen in their
service treat them with sufficient haughtiness, and thus the canons
behaved to poor Le Maitre. The chanter, in particular, who was called
the Abbe de Vidonne, in other respects a well-behaved man, but too full
of his nobility, did not always show him the attention his talents
merited. M. le Maitre could not bear these indignities patiently;
and this year, during passion week, they had a more serious dispute than
ordinary. At an institution dinner that the bishop gave the canons, and
to which M. Maitre was always invited, the abbe failed in some formality,
adding, at the same time, some harsh words, which the other could not
digest; he instantly formed the resolution to quit them the following
night; nor could any consideration make him give up his design, though
Madam de Warrens (whom he went to take leave of) spared no pains to
appease him. He could not relinquish the pleasure of leaving his tyrants
embarrassed for the Easter feast, at which time he knew they stood in
greatest need of him. He was most concerned about his music, which he
wished to take with him; but this could not easily be accomplished, as it
filled a large case, and was very heavy, and could not be carried under
the arm.

Madam de Warrens did what I should have done in her situation; and
indeed, what I should yet do: after many useless efforts to retain him,
seeing he was resolved to depart, whatever might be the event, she formed
the resolution to give him every possible assistance. I must confess Le
Maitre deserved it of her, for he was (if I may use the expression)
dedicated to her service, in whatever appertained to either his art or
knowledge, and the readiness with which he obliged gave a double value to
his complaisance: thus she only paid back, on an essential occasion, the
many favors he had been long conferring on her; though I should observe,
she possessed a soul that, to fulfill such duties, had no occasion to be
reminded of previous obligations. Accordingly she ordered me to follow
Le Maitre to Lyons, and to continue with him as long as he might have
occasion for my services. She has since avowed, that a desire of
detaching me from Venture had a great hand in this arrangement. She
consulted Claude Anet about the conveyance of the above-mentioned case.
He advised, that instead of hiring a beast at Annecy, which would
infallibly discover us, it would be better, at night, to take it to some
neighboring village, and there hire an ass to carry it to Seyssel, which
being in the French dominions, we should have nothing to fear. This plan
was adopted; we departed the same night at seven, and Madam de Warrens,
under pretense of paying my expenses, increased the purse of poor Le
Maitre by an addition that was very acceptable. Claude Anet, the
gardiner, and myself, carried the case to the first village, then hired
an ass, and the same night reached Seyssel.

I think I have already remarked that there are times in which I am so
unlike myself that I might be taken for a man of a direct opposite
disposition; I shall now give an example of this. M. Reydelet, curate of
Seyssel, was canon of St. Peter's, consequently known to M. le Maitre,
and one of the people from whom he should have taken most pains to
conceal himself; my advice, on the contrary, was to present ourselves to
him, and, under some pretext, entreat entertainment as if we visited him
by consent of the chapter. Le Maitre adopted the idea, which seemed to
give his revenge the appearance of satire and waggery; in short, we went
boldly to Reydelet, who received us very kindly. Le Maitre told him he
was going to Bellay by desire of the bishop, that he might superintend
the music during the Easter holidays, and that he proposed returning that
way in a few days. To support this tale, I told a hundred others, so
naturally that M. Reydelet thought me a very agreeable youth, and treated
me with great friendship and civility. We were well regaled and well
lodged: M. Reydelet scarcely knew how to make enough of us; and we parted
the best friends in the world, with a promise to stop longer on our
return. We found it difficult to refrain from laughter, or wait till we
were alone to give free vent to our mirth: indeed, even now, the bare
recollection of it forces a smile, for never was waggery better or more
fortunately maintained. This would have made us merry during the
remainder of our journey, if M. le Maitre (who did not cease drinking)
had not been two or three times attacked with a complaint that he
afterwards became very subject to, and which resembled an epilepsy.
These fits threw me into the most fearful embarrassments, from which I
resolved to extricate myself with the first opportunity.

According to the information given to M. Reydelet, we passed our Easter
holidays at Bellay, and though not expected there, were received by the
music--master, and welcomed by every one with great pleasure. M. le
Maitre was of considerable note in his profession, and, indeed, merited
that distinction. The music-master of Bellay (who was fond of his own
works) endeavored to obtain the approbation of so good a judge; for
besides being a connoisseur, M. le Maitre was equitable, neither a
jealous, ill-natured critic, nor a servile flatterer. He was so superior
to the generality of country music-masters and they were so sensible of
it, that they treated him rather as their chief than a brother musician.

Having passed four or five days very agreeably at Bellay, we departed,
and continuing our journey without meeting with any accidents, except
those I have just spoken of, arrived at Lyons, and were lodged at Notre
Dame de Pitie. While we waited for the arrival of the before-mentioned
case (which by the assistance of another lie, and the care of our good
patron, M. Reydelet, we had embarked on the Rhone) M. le Maitre went to
visit his acquaintance, and among others Father Cato, a Cordelier, who
will be spoken of hereafter, and the Abbe Dortan, Count of Lyons, both of
whom received him well, but afterwards betrayed him, as will be seen
presently; indeed, his good fortune terminated with M. Reydelet.

Two days after our arrival at Lyons, as we passed a little street not far
from our inn, Le Maitre was attacked by one of his fits; but it was now
so violent as to give me the utmost alarm. I screamed with terror,
called for help, and naming our inn, entreated some one to bear him to
it, then (while the people were assembled, and busy round a man that had
fallen senseless in the street) he was abandoned by the only friend on
whom he could have any reasonable dependence; I seized the instant when
no one heeded me, turned the corner of the street and disappeared.
Thanks to Heaven, I have made my third painful confession; if many such
remained, I should certainly abandon the work I have undertaken.

Of all the incidents I have yet related, a few traces are remaining in
the places where I have lived; but what I have to relate in the following
book is almost entirely unknown; these are the greatest extravagancies of
my life, and it is happy they had not worse conclusions. My head, (if I
may use the simile) screwed up to the pitch of an instrument it did not
naturally accord with, had lost its diapason; in time it returned to it
again, when I discontinued my follies, or at least gave in to those more
consonant to my disposition. This epoch of my youth I am least able to
recollect, nothing having passed sufficiently interesting to influence my
heart, to make me clearly retrace the remembrance. In so many successive
changes, it is difficult not to make some transpositions of time or
place. I write absolutely from memory, without notes or materials to
help my recollection. Some events are as fresh in my idea as if they had
recently happened, but there are certain chasms which I cannot fill up
but by the aid of recital, as confused as the remaining traces of those
to which they refer. It is possible, therefore, that I may have erred in
trifles, and perhaps shall again, but in every matter of importance I can
answer that the account is faithfully exact, and with the same veracity
the reader may depend I shall be careful to continue it.

My resolution was soon taken after quitting Le Maitre; I set out
immediately for Annecy. The cause and mystery of our departure had
interested me for the security of our retreat: this interest, which
entirely employed my thoughts for some days, had banished every other
idea; but no sooner was I secure and in tranquility, than my predominant
sentiment regained its place. Nothing flattered, nothing tempted me, I
had no wish but to return to Madam de Warrens; the tenderness and truth
of my attachment to her had rooted from my heart every imaginable
project, and all the follies of ambition, I conceived no happiness but
living near her, nor could I take a step without feeling that the
distance between us was increased. I returned, therefore, as soon as
possible, with such speed, and with my spirits in such a state of
agitation, that though I recall with pleasure all my other travels, I
have not the least recollection of this, only remembering my leaving
Lyons and reaching Annecy. Let anyone judge whether this last event can
have slipped my memory, when informed that on my arrival I found Madam de
Warrens was not there, having set out for Paris.

I was never well informed of the motives of this journey. I am certain
she would have told me had I asked her, but never was man less curious to
learn the secrets of his friend. My heart is ever so entirely filled
with the present, or with past pleasures, which become a principal part
of my enjoyment, that there is not a chink or corner for curiosity to
enter. All that I conceive from what I heard of it, is, that in the
revolution caused at Turin by the abdication of the King of Sardinia,
she feared being forgotten, and was willing by favor of the intrigues of
M. d' Aubonne to seek the same advantage in the court of France, where
she has often told me she should, have preferred it, as the multiplicity
of business there prevents your conduct from being so closely inspected.
If this was her business, it is astonishing that on her return she was
not ill received; be that as it will, she continued to enjoy her
allowance without any interruption. Many people imagined she was charged
with some secret commission, either by the bishop, who then had business
at the court of France, where he himself was soon after obliged to go,
or some one yet more powerful, who knew how to insure her a gracious
reception at her return. If this was the case, it is certain the
ambassadress was not ill chosen, since being young and handsome, she had
all the necessary qualifications to succeed in a negotiation.


A subject not even fit to make a priest of
Endeavoring to hide my incapacity, I rarely fail to show it
Endeavoring to rise too high we are in danger of falling
Foresight with me has always embittered enjoyment
Hat only fit to be carried under his arm
Love of the marvellous is natural to the human heart
Mistake wit for sense
Priests ought never to have children--except by married women
Rather appeared to study with than to instruct me
Though not a fool, I have frequently passed for one

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