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The Confessions of J. J. Rousseau, Complete by Jean Jacques Rousseau

Part 8 out of 13

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continually expressed himself relative to me in the most insulting terms,
calling me that 'petit cuistre': the little college pedant, or servitor
in a college, without, however, being able to charge me with having done
either to himself or any person to whom he was attached the most trifling
injury. In this manner he verified my fears and predictions, I am of
opinion my pretended friends would have pardoned me for having written
books, and even excellent ones, because this merit was not foreign to
themselves; but that they could not forgive my writing an opera, nor the
brilliant success it had; because there was not one amongst them capable
of the same, nor in a situation to aspire to like honors. Duclos, the
only person superior to jealousy, seemed to become more attached to me:
he introduced me to Mademoiselle Quinault, in whose house I received
polite attention, and civility to as great an extreme, as I had found a
want of it in that of M. d'Holbach.

Whilst the performance of the 'Devin du Village' was continued at the
opera-house, the author of it had an advantageous negotiation with the
managers of the French comedy. Not having, during seven or eight years,
been able to get my 'Narcissis' performed at the Italian theatre, I had,
by the bad performance in French of the actors, become disgusted with it,
and should rather have had my piece received at the French theatre than
by them. I mentioned this to La None, the comedian, with whom I had
become acquainted, and who, as everybody knows, was a man of merit and an
author. He was pleased with the piece, and promised to get it performed
without suffering the name of the author to be known; and in the meantime
procured me the freedom of the theatre, which was extremely agreeable to
me, for I always preferred it to the two others. The piece was favorably
received, and without the author's name being mentioned; but I have
reason to believe it was known to the actors and actresses, and many
other persons. Mademoiselles Gauffin and Grandval played the amorous
parts; and although the whole performance was, in my opinion,
injudicious, the piece could not be said to be absolutely ill played.
The indulgence of the public, for which I felt gratitude, surprised me;
the audience had the patience to listen to it from the beginning to the
end, and to permit a second representation without showing the least sign
of disapprobation. For my part, I was so wearied with the first, that I
could not hold out to the end; and the moment I left the theatre, I went
into the Cafe de Procope, where I found Boissi, and others of my
acquaintance, who had probably been as much fatigued as myself. I there
humbly or haughtily avowed myself the author of the piece, judging it as
everybody else had done. This public avowal of an author of a piece
which had not succeeded, was much admired, and was by no means painful to
myself. My self-love was flattered by the courage with which I made it:
and I am of opinion, that, on this occasion, there was more pride in
speaking, than there would have been foolish shame in being silent.
However, as it was certain the piece, although insipid in the performance
would bear to be read, I had it printed: and in the preface, which is one
of the best things I ever wrote, I began to make my principles more
public than I had before done.

I soon had an opportunity to explain them entirely in a work of the
greatest importance: for it was, I think, this year, 1753, that the
programma of the Academy of Dijon upon the 'Origin of the Inequality of
Mankind' made its appearance. Struck with this great question, I was
surprised the academy had dared to propose it: but since it had shown
sufficient courage to do it, I thought I might venture to treat it, and
immediately undertook the discussion.

That I might consider this grand subject more at my ease, I went to St.
Germain for seven or eight days with Theresa, our hostess, who was a good
kind of woman, and one of her friends. I consider this walk as one of
the most agreeable ones I ever took. The weather was very fine. These
good women took upon themselves all the care and expense. Theresa amused
herself with them; and I, free from all domestic concerns, diverted
myself, without restraint, at the hours of dinner and supper. All the
rest of the day wandering in the forest, I sought for and found there the
image of the primitive ages of which I boldly traced the history. I
confounded the pitiful lies of men; I dared to unveil their nature; to
follow the progress of time, and the things by which it has been
disfigured; and comparing the man of art with the natural man, to show
them, in their pretended improvement, the real source of all their
misery. My mind, elevated by these contemplations, ascended to the
Divinity, and thence, seeing my fellow creatures follow in the blind
track of their prejudices that of their errors and misfortunes, I cried
out to them, in a feeble voice, which they could not hear: "Madmen! know
that all your evils proceed from yourselves!"

From these meditations resulted the discourse on Inequality, a work more
to the taste of Diderot than any of my other writings, and in which his
advice was of the greatest service to me.

[At the time I wrote this, I had not the least suspicion of the
grand conspiracy of Diderot and Grimm. otherwise I should easily.
have discovered how much the former abused my confidence, by giving
to my writings that severity and melancholy which were not to be
found in them from the moments he ceased to direct me. The passage
of the philosopher, who argues with himself, and stops his ears
against the complaints of a man in distress, is after his manner:
and he gave me others still more extraordinary; which I could never
resolve to make use of. But, attributing, this melancholy to that
he had acquired in the dungeon of Vincennes, and of which there is a
very sufficient dose in his Clairoal, I never once suspected the
least unfriendly dealing. ]

It was, however, understood but by few readers, and not one of these
would ever speak of it. I had written it to become a competitor for the
premium, and sent it away fully persuaded it would not obtain it; well
convinced it was not for productions of this nature that academies were

This excursion and this occupation enlivened my spirits and was of
service to my health. Several years before, tormented by my disorder,
I had entirely given myself up to the care of physicians, who, without
alleviating my sufferings, exhausted my strength and destroyed my
constitution. At my return from St. Germain, I found myself stronger and
perceived my health to be improved. I followed this indication, and
determined to cure myself or die without the aid of physicians and
medicine. I bade them forever adieu, and lived from day to day, keeping
close when I found myself indisposed, and going abroad the moment I had
sufficient strength to do it. The manner of living in Paris amidst
people of pretensions was so little to my liking; the cabals of men of
letters, their little candor in their writings, and the air of importance
they gave themselves in the world, were so odious to me; I found so
little mildness, openness of heart and frankness in the intercourse even
of my friends; that, disgusted with this life of tumult, I began ardently
to wish to reside in the country, and not perceiving that my occupation
permitted me to do it, I went to pass there all the time I had to spare.
For several months I went after dinner to walk alone in the Bois de
Boulogne, meditating on subjects for future works, and not returning
until evening.

Gauffecourt, with whom I was at that time extremely intimate, being on
account of his employment obliged to go to Geneva, proposed to me the
journey, to which I consented. The state of my health was such as to
require the care of the governess; it was therefore decided she should
accompany us, and that her mother should remain in the house. After thus
having made our arrangements, we set off on the first of June, 1754.

This was the period when at the age of forty-two, I for the first time in
my life felt a diminution of my natural confidence to which I had
abandoned myself without reserve or inconvenience. We had a private
carriage, in which with the same horses we travelled very slowly.
I frequently got out and walked. We had scarcely performed half our
journey when Theresa showed the greatest uneasiness at being left in the
carriage with Gauffecourt, and when, notwithstanding her remonstrances,
I would get out as usual, she insisted upon doing the same, and walking
with me. I chid her for this caprice, and so strongly opposed it, that
at length she found herself obliged to declare to me the cause whence it
proceeded. I thought I was in a dream; my astonishment was beyond
expression, when I learned that my friend M. de Gauffecourt, upwards of
sixty years of age, crippled by the gout, impotent and exhausted by
pleasures, had, since our departure, incessantly endeavored to corrupt a
person who belonged to his friend, and was no longer young nor handsome,
by the most base and shameful means, such as presenting to her a purse,
attempting to inflame her imagination by the reading of an abominable
book, and by the sight of infamous figures, with which it was filled.
Theresa, full of indignation, once threw his scandalous book out of the
carriage; and I learned that on the first evening of our journey, a
violent headache having obliged me to retire to bed before supper, he had
employed the whole time of this tete-a-tete in actions more worthy of a
satyr than a man of worth and honor, to whom I thought I had intrusted my
companion and myself. What astonishment and grief of heart for me!
I, who until then had believed friendship to be inseparable from every
amiable and noble sentiment which constitutes all its charm, for the
first time in my life found myself under the necessity of connecting it
with disdain, and of withdrawing my confidence from a man for whom I had
an affection, and by whom I imagined myself beloved! The wretch
concealed from me his turpitude; and that I might not expose Theresa,
I was obliged to conceal from him my contempt, and secretly to harbor in
my heart such sentiments as were foreign to its nature. Sweet and sacred
illusion of friendship! Gauffecourt first took the veil from before my
eyes. What cruel hands have since that time prevented it from again
being drawn over them!

At Lyons I quitted Gauffecourt to take the road to Savoy, being unable to
be so near to mamma without seeing her. I saw her--Good God, in what a
situation! How contemptible! What remained to her of primitive virtue?
Was it the same Madam de Warrens, formerly so gay and lively, to whom the
vicar of Pontverre had given me recommendations? How my heart was
wounded! The only resource I saw for her was to quit the country. I
earnestly but vainly repeated the invitation I had several times given
her in my letters to come and live peacefully with me, assuring her I
would dedicate the rest of my life, and that of Theresa, to render her
happy. Attached to her pension, from which, although it was regularly
paid, she had not for a long time received the least advantage, my offers
were lost upon her. I again gave her a trifling part of the contents of
my purse, much less than I ought to have done, and considerably less than
I should have offered her had not I been certain of its not being of the
least service to herself. During my residence at Geneva, she made a
journey into Chablais, and came to see me at Grange-canal. She was in
want of money to continue her journey: what I had in my pocket was
insufficient to this purpose, but an hour afterwards I sent it her by
Theresa. Poor mamma! I must relate this proof of the goodness of her
heart. A little diamond ring was the last jewel she had left. She took
it from her finger, to put it upon that of Theresa, who instantly
replaced it upon that whence it had been taken, kissing the generous hand
which she bathed with her tears. Ah! this was the proper moment to
discharge my debt! I should have abandoned everything to follow her,
and share her fate: let it be what it would. I did nothing of the kind.
My attention was engaged by another attachment, and I perceived the
attachment I had to her was abated by the slender hopes there were of
rendering it useful to either of us. I sighed after her, my heart was
grieved at her situation, but I did not follow her. Of all the remorse I
felt this was the strongest and most lasting. I merited the terrible
chastisement with which I have since that time incessantly been
overwhelmed: may this have expiated my ingratitude! Of this I appear
guilty in my conduct, but my heart has been too much distressed by what I
did ever to have been that of an ungrateful man.

Before my departure from Paris I had sketched out the dedication of my
discourse on the 'Inequality of Mankind'. I finished it at Chambery, and
dated it from that place, thinking that, to avoid all chicane, it was
better not to date it either from France or Geneva. The moment I arrived
in that city I abandoned myself to the republican enthusiasm which had
brought me to it. This was augmented by the reception I there met with.
Kindly treated by persons of every description, I entirely gave myself up
to a patriotic zeal, and mortified at being excluded from the rights of a
citizen by the possession of a religion different from that of my
forefathers, I resolved openly to return to the latter. I thought the
gospel being the same for every Christian, and the only difference in
religious opinions the result of the explanations given by men to that
which they did not understand, it was the exclusive right of the
sovereign power in every country to fix the mode of worship, and these
unintelligible opinions; and that consequently it was the duty of a
citizen to admit the one, and conform to the other in the manner
prescribed by the law. The conversation of the encyclopaedists, far from
staggering my faith, gave it new strength by my natural aversion to
disputes and party. The study of man and the universe had everywhere
shown me the final causes and the wisdom by which they were directed.
The reading of the Bible, and especially that of the New Testament, to
which I had for several years past applied myself, had given me a
sovereign contempt for the base and stupid interpretations given to the
words of Jesus Christ by persons the least worthy of understanding his
divine doctrine. In a word, philosophy, while it attached me to the
essential part of religion, had detached me from the trash of the little
formularies with which men had rendered it obscure. Judging that for a
reasonable man there were not two ways of being a Christian, I was also
of opinion that in each country everything relative to form and
discipline was within the jurisdiction of the laws. From this principle,
so social and pacific, and which has brought upon me such cruel
persecutions, it followed that, if I wished to be a citizen of Geneva,
I must become a Protestant, and conform to the mode of worship
established in my country. This I resolved upon; I moreover put myself
under the instructions of the pastor of the parish in which I lived,
and which was without the city. All I desired was not to appear at the
consistory. However, the ecclesiastical edict was expressly to that
effect; but it was agreed upon to dispense with it in my favor, and a
commission of five or six members was named to receive my profession of
faith. Unfortunately, the minister Perdriau, a mild and an amiable man,
took it into his head to tell me the members were rejoiced at the
thoughts of hearing me speak in the little assembly. This expectation
alarmed me to such a degree that having night and day during three weeks
studied a little discourse I had prepared, I was so confused when I ought
to have pronounced it that I could not utter a single word, and during
the conference I had the appearance of the most stupid schoolboy. The
persons deputed spoke for me, and I answered yes and no, like a
blockhead; I was afterwards admitted to the communion, and reinstated in
my rights as a citizen. I was enrolled as such in the lists of guards,
paid by none but citizens and burgesses, and I attended at a
council-general extraordinary to receive the oath from the syndic
Mussard. I was so impressed with the kindness shown me on this occasion
by the council and the consistory, and by the great civility and
obliging behavior of the magistrates, ministers and citizens, that,
pressed by the worthy De Luc, who was incessant in his persuasions, and
still more so by my own inclination, I did not think of going back to
Paris for any other purpose than to break up housekeeping, find a
situation for M. and Madam le Vassear, or provide for their subsistence,
and then return with Theresa to Geneva, there to settle for the rest of
my days.

After taking this resolution I suspended all serious affairs the better
to enjoy the company of my friends until the time of my departure.
Of all the amusements of which I partook, that with which I was most
pleased, was sailing round the lake in a boat, with De Luc, the father,
his daughter-in-law, his two sons, and my Theresa. We gave seven days to
this excursion in the finest weather possible. I preserved a lively
remembrance of the situation which struck me at the other extremity of
the lake, and of which I, some years afterwards, gave a description in my
New Eloisa.

The principal connections I made at Geneva, besides the De Lucs, of which
I have spoken, were the young Vernes, with whom I had already been
acquainted at Paris, and of whom I then formed a better opinion than I
afterwards had of him. M. Perdriau, then a country pastor, now professor
of Belles Lettres, whose mild and agreeable society will ever make me
regret the loss of it, although he has since thought proper to detach
himself from me; M. Jalabert, at that time professor of natural
philosophy, since become counsellor and syndic, to whom I read my
discourse upon Inequality (but not the dedication), with which he seemed
to be delighted; the Professor Lullin, with whom I maintained a
correspondence until his death, and who gave me a commission to purchase
books for the library; the Professor Vernet, who, like most other people,
turned his back upon me after I had given him proofs of attachment and
confidence of which he ought to, have been sensible, if a theologian can
be affected by anything; Chappins, clerk and successor to Gauffecourt,
whom he wished to supplant, and who, soon afterwards, was him self
supplanted; Marcet de Mezieres, an old friend of my father's, and who had
also shown himself to be mine: after having well deserved of his country,
he became a dramatic author, and, pretending to be of the council of two
hundred, changed his principles, and, before he died, became ridiculous.
But he from whom I expected most was M. Moultout, a very promising young
man by his talents and his brilliant imagination, whom I have always
loved, although his conduct with respect to me was frequently equivocal,
and, not withstanding his being connected with my most cruel enemies,
whom I cannot but look upon as destined to become the defender of my
memory and the avenger of his friend.

In the midst of these dissipations, I neither lost the taste for my
solitary excursions, nor the habit of them; I frequently made long ones
upon the banks of the lake, during which my mind, accustomed to
reflection, did not remain idle; I digested the plan already formed
of my political institutions, of which I shall shortly have to speak;
I meditated a history of the Valais; the plan of a tragedy in prose,
the subject of which, nothing less than Lucretia, did not deprive me of
the hope of succeeding, although I had dared again to exhibit that
unfortunate heroine, when she could no longer be suffered upon any French
stage. I at that time tried my abilities with Tacitus, and translated
the first books of his history, which will be found amongst my papers.

After a residence of four months at Geneva, I returned in the month of
October to Paris; and avoided passing through Lyons that I might not
again have to travel with Gauffecourt. As the arrangement I had made did
not require my being at Geneva until the spring following, I returned,
during the winter, to my habits and occupations; the principal of the
latter was examining the proof sheets of my discourse on the Inequality
of Mankind, which I had procured to be printed in Holland, by the
bookseller Rey, with whom I had just become acquainted at Geneva. This
work was dedicated to the republic; but as the publication might be
unpleasing to the council, I wished to wait until it had taken its effect
at Geneva before I returned thither. This effect was not favorable to
me; and the dedication, which the most pure patriotism had dictated,
created me enemies in the council, and inspired even many of the
burgesses with jealousy. M. Chouet, at that time first syndic, wrote me
a polite but very cold letter, which will be found amongst my papers. I
received from private persons, amongst others from Du Luc and De
Jalabert, a few compliments, and these were all. I did not perceive that
a single Genevese was pleased with the hearty zeal found in the work.
This indifference shocked all those by whom it was remarked. I remember
that dining one day at Clichy, at Madam Dupin's, with Crommelin, resident
from the republic, and M. de Mairan, the latter openly declared the
council owed me a present and public honors for the work, and that it
would dishonor itself if it failed in either. Crommelin, who was a black
and mischievous little man, dared not reply in my presence, but he made a
frightful grimace, which however forced a smile from Madam Dupin. The
only advantage this work procured me, besides that resulting from the
satisfaction of my own heart, was the title of citizen given me by
my friends, afterwards by the public after their example, and which I
afterwards lost by having too well merited.

This ill success would not, however, have prevented my retiring to
Geneva, had not more powerful motives tended to the same effect.
M. D'Epinay, wishing to add a wing which was wanting to the chateau of
the Chevrette, was at an immense expense in completing it. Going one day
with Madam D'Epinay to see the building, we continued our walk a quarter
of a league further to the reservoir of the waters of the park which
joined the forest of Montmorency, and where there was a handsome kitchen
garden, with a little lodge, much out of repair, called the Hermitage.
This solitary and very agreeable place had struck me when I saw it for
the first time before my journey to Geneva. I had exclaimed in my
transport: "Ah, madam, what a delightful habitation! This asylum was
purposely prepared for me." Madam D'Epinay did not pay much attention to
what I said; but at this second journey I was quite surprised to find,
instead of the old decayed building, a little house almost entirely new,
well laid out, and very habitable for a little family of three persons.
Madam D'Epinay had caused this to be done in silence, and at a very small
expense, by detaching a few materials and some of the work men from the
castle. She now said to me, on remarking my surprise: "My dear, here
behold your asylum; it is you who have chosen it; friendship offers it to
you. I hope this will remove from you the cruel idea of separating from
me." I do not think I was ever in my life more strongly or more
deliciously affected. I bathed with tears the beneficent hand of my
friend; and if I were not conquered from that very instant even, I was
extremely staggered. Madam D'Epinay, who would not be denied, became so
pressing, employed so many means, so many people to circumvent me,
proceeding even so far as to gain over Madam le Vasseur and her daughter,
that at length she triumphed over all my resolutions. Renouncing the idea
of residing in my own country, I resolved, I promised, to inhabit the
Hermitage; and, whilst the building was drying, Madam D'Epinay took care
to prepare furniture, so that everything was ready the following spring.

One thing which greatly aided me in determining, was the residence
Voltaire had chosen near Geneva; I easily comprehended this man would
cause a revolution there, and that I should find in my country the
manners, which drove me from Paris; that I should be under the necessity
of incessantly struggling hard, and have no other alternative than that
of being an unsupportable pedant, a poltroon, or a bad citizen.
The letter Voltaire wrote me on my last work, induced me to insinuate
my fears in my answer; and the effect this produced confirmed them.
From that moment I considered Geneva as lost, and I was not deceived.
I perhaps ought to have met the storm, had I thought myself capable of
resisting it. But what could I have done alone, timid, and speaking
badly, against a man, arrogant, opulent, supported by the credit of the
great, eloquent, and already the idol of the women and young men? I was
afraid of uselessly exposing myself to danger to no purpose. I listened
to nothing but my peaceful disposition, to my love of repose, which, if
it then deceived me, still continues to deceive me on the same subject.
By retiring to Geneva, I should have avoided great misfortunes; but I
have my doubts whether, with all my ardent and patriotic zeal, I should
have been able to effect anything great and useful for my country.

Tronchin, who about the same time went to reside at Geneva, came
afterwards to Paris and brought with him treasures. At his arrival he
came to see me, with the Chevalier Jaucourt. Madam D'Epinay had a strong
desire to consult him in private, but this it was not easy to do.
She addressed herself to me, and I engaged Tronchin to go and see her.
Thus under my auspices they began a connection, which was afterwards
increased at my expense. Such has ever been my destiny: the moment I had
united two friends who were separately mine, they never failed to combine
against me. Although, in the conspiracy then formed by the Tronchins,
they must all have borne me a mortal hatred. He still continued friendly
to me: he even wrote me a letter after his return to Geneva, to propose
to me the place of honorary librarian. But I had taken my resolution,
and the offer did not tempt me to depart from it.

About this time I again visited M. d'Holbach. My visit was occasioned
by the death of his wife, which, as well as that of Madam Francueil,
happened whilst I was at Geneva. Diderot, when he communicated to me
these melancholy events, spoke of the deep affliction of the husband.
His grief affected my heart. I myself was grieved for the loss of that
excellent woman, and wrote to M. d'Holbach a letter of condolence.
I forgot all the wrongs he had done me, and at my return from Geneva,
and after he had made the tour of France with Grimm and other friends
to alleviate his affliction, I went to see him, and continued my visits
until my departure for the Hermitage. As soon as it was known in his
circle that Madam D'Epinay was preparing me a habitation there,
innumerable sarcasms, founded upon the want I must feel of the flattery
and amusement of the city, and the supposition of my not being able to
support the solitude for a fortnight, were uttered against me. Feeling
within myself how I stood affected, I left him and his friends to say
what they pleased, and pursued my intention. M. d'Holbach rendered me
some services--

[This is an instance of the treachery of my memory. A long time
after I had written what I have stated above, I learned, in
conversing with my wife, that it was not M. d'Holbach, but M. de
Chenonceaux, then one of the administrators of the Hotel Dieu, who
procured this place for her father. I had so totally forgotten the
circumstance, and the idea of M. d'Holbach's having done it was so
strong in my mind that I would have sworn it had been him.]

in finding a place for the old Le Vasseur, who was eighty years of age
and a burden to his wife, from which she begged me to relieve her.
He was put into a house of charity, where, almost as soon as he arrived
there, age and the grief of finding himself removed from his family sent
him to the grave. His wife and all his children, except Theresa, did not
much regret his loss. But she, who loved him tenderly, has ever since
been inconsolable, and never forgiven herself for having suffered him,
at so advanced an age, to end his days in any other house than her own.

Much about the same time I received a visit I little expected, although
it was from a very old acquaintance. My friend Venture, accompanied by
another man, came upon me one morning by surprise. What a change did I
discover in his person! Instead of his former gracefulness, he appeared
sottish and vulgar, which made me extremely reserved with him. My eyes
deceived me, or either debauchery had stupefied his mind, or all his
first splendor was the effect of his youth, which was past. I saw him
almost with indifference, and we parted rather coolly. But when he was
gone, the remembrance of our former connection so strongly called to my
recollection that of my younger days, so charmingly, so prudently
dedicated to that angelic woman (Madam de Warrens) who was not much less
changed than himself; the little anecdotes of that happy time, the
romantic day of Toune passed with so much innocence and enjoyment between
those two charming girls, from whom a kiss of the hand was the only
favor, and which, notwithstanding its being so trifling, had left me such
lively, affecting and lasting regrets; and the ravishing delirium of a
young heart, which I had just felt in all its force, and of which I
thought the season forever past for me. The tender remembrance of these
delightful circumstances made me shed tears over my faded youth and its
transports for ever lost to me. Ah! how many tears should I have shed
over their tardy and fatal return had I foreseen the evils I had yet to
suffer from them.

Before I left Paris, I enjoyed during the winter which preceded my
retreat, a pleasure after my own heart, and of which I tasted in all its
purity. Palissot, academician of Nancy, known by a few dramatic
compositions, had just had one of them performed at Luneville before the
King of Poland. He perhaps thought to make his court by representing in
his piece a man who had dared to enter into a literary dispute with the
king. Stanislaus, who was generous, and did not like satire, was filled
with indignation at the author's daring to be personal in his presence.
The Comte de Tressan, by order of the prince, wrote to M. d'Alembert, as
well as to myself, to inform me that it was the intention of his majesty
to have Palissot expelled his academy. My answer was a strong
solicitation in favor of Palissot, begging M. de Tressan to intercede
with the king in his behalf. His pardon was granted, and M. de Tressan,
when he communicated to me the information in the name of the monarch,
added that the whole of what had passed should be inserted in the
register of the academy. I replied that this was less granting a pardon
than perpetuating a punishment. At length, after repeated solicitations,
I obtained a promise, that nothing relative to the affair should be
inserted in the register, and that no public trace should remain of it.
The promise was accompanied, as well on the part of the king as on that
of M. de Tressan, with assurance of esteem and respect, with which I was
extremely flattered; and I felt on this occasion that the esteem of men
who are themselves worthy of it, produced in the mind a sentiment
infinitely more noble and pleasing than that of vanity. I have
transcribed into my collection the letters of M. de Tressan, with my
answers to them: and the original of the former will be found amongst my
other papers.

I am perfectly aware that if ever these memoirs become public, I here
perpetuate the remembrance of a fact which I would wish to efface every
trace; but I transmit many others as much against my inclination.
The grand object of my undertaking, constantly before my eyes, and the
indispensable duty of fulfilling it to its utmost extent, will not permit
me to be turned aside by trifling considerations, which would lead me
from my purpose. In my strange and unparalleled situation, I owe too
much to truth to be further than this indebted to any person whatever.
They who wish to know me well must be acquainted with me in every point
of view, in every relative situation, both good and bad. My confessions
are necessarily connected with those of many other people: I write both
with the same frankness in everything that relates to that which has
befallen me; and am not obliged to spare any person more than myself,
although it is my wish to do it. I am determined always to be just and
true, to say of others all the good I can, never speaking of evil except
when it relates to my own conduct, and there is a necessity for my so
doing. Who, in the situation in which the world has placed me, has a
right to require more at my hands? My confessions are not intended to
appear during my lifetime, nor that of those they may disagreeably
affect. Were I master of my own destiny, and that of the book I am now
writing, it should never be made public until after my death and theirs.
But the efforts which the dread of truth obliges my powerful enemies to
make to destroy every trace of it, render it necessary for me to do
everything, which the strictest right, and the most severe justice, will
permit, to preserve what I have written. Were the remembrance of me to
be lost at my dissolution, rather than expose any person alive, I would
without a murmur suffer an unjust and momentary reproach. But since my
name is to live, it is my duty to endeavor to transmit with it to
posterity the remembrance of the unfortunate man by whom it was borne,
such as he really was, and not such as his unjust enemies incessantly
endeavored to describe him.

(In 12 books)

Privately Printed for the Members of the Aldus Society

London, 1903


My impatience to inhabit the Hermitage not permitting me to wait until
the return of fine weather, the moment my lodging was prepared I hastened
to take possession of it, to the great amusement of the 'Coterie
Holbachaque', which publicly predicted I should not be able to support
solitude for three months, and that I should unsuccessfully return to
Paris, and live there as they did. For my part, having for fifteen years
been out of my element, finding myself upon the eve of returning to it,
I paid no attention to their pleasantries. Since contrary to my
inclinations, I have again entered the world, I have incessantly
regretted my dear Charmettes, and the agreeable life I led there. I felt
a natural inclination to retirement and the country: it was impossible
for me to live happily elsewhere. At Venice, in the train of public
affairs, in the dignity of a kind of representation, in the pride of
projects of advancement; at Paris, in the vortex of the great world, in
the luxury of suppers, in the brilliancy of spectacles, in the rays of
splendor; my groves, rivulets, and solitary walks, constantly presented
themselves to my recollection, interrupted my thought, rendered me
melancholy, and made me sigh with desire. All the labor to which I had
subjected myself, every project of ambition which by fits had animated my
ardor, all had for object this happy country retirement, which I now
thought near at hand. Without having acquired a genteel independence,
which I had judged to be the only means of accomplishing my views, I
imagined myself, in my particular situation, to be able to do without it,
and that I could obtain the same end by a means quite opposite. I had no
regular income; but I possessed some talents, and had acquired a name.
My wants were few, and I had freed myself from all those which were most
expensive, and which merely depended on prejudice and opinion. Besides
this, although naturally indolent, I was laborious when I chose to be so.
and my idleness was less that of an indolent man, than that of an
independent one who applies to business when it pleases him.
My profession of a copyist of music was neither splendid nor lucrative,
but it was certain. The world gave me credit for the courage I had shown
in making choice of it. I might depend upon having sufficient employment
to enable me to live. Two thousand livres which remained of the produce
of the 'Devin du Village', and my other writings, were a sum which kept
me from being straitened, and several works I had upon the stocks
promised me, without extorting money from the booksellers, supplies
sufficient to enable me to work at my ease without exhausting myself,
even by turning to advantage the leisure of my walks. My little family,
consisting of three persons, all of whom were usefully employed, was not
expensive to support. Finally, from my resources, proportioned to my
wants and desires, I might reasonably expect a happy and permanent
existence, in that manner of life which my inclination had induced me to

I might have taken the interested side of the question, and, instead of
subjecting my pen to copying, entirely devoted it to works which, from
the elevation to which I had soared, and at which I found myself capable
of continuing, might have enabled me to live in the midst of abundance,
nay, even of opulence, had I been the least disposed to join the
manoeuvres of an author to the care of publishing a good book. But I
felt that writing for bread would soon have extinguished my genius, and
destroyed my talents, which were less in my pen than in my heart, and
solely proceeded from an elevated and noble manner of thinking, by which
alone they could be cherished and preserved. Nothing vigorous or great
can come from a pen totally venal. Necessity, nay, even avarice,
perhaps, would have made me write rather rapidly than well. If the
desire of success had not led me into cabals, it might have made me
endeavor to publish fewer true and useful works than those which might be
pleasing to the multitude; and instead of a distinguished author, which I
might possibly become, I should have been nothing more than a scribbler.
No: I have always felt that the profession of letters was illustrious in
proportion as it was less a trade. It is too difficult to think nobly
when we think for a livelihood. To be able to dare even to speak great
truths, an author must be independent of success. I gave my books to the
public with a certainty of having written for the general good of
mankind, without giving myself the least concern about what was to
follow. If the work was thrown aside, so much the worse for such as did
not choose to profit by it. Their approbation was not necessary to
enable me to live, my profession was sufficient to maintain me had not my
works had a sale, for which reason alone they all sold.

It was on the ninth of August, 1756, that I left cities, never to reside
in them again: for I do not call a residence the few days I afterwards
remained in Paris, London, or other cities, always on the wing, or
contrary to my inclinations. Madam d'Epinay came and took us all three
in her coach; her farmer carted away my little baggage, and I was put
into possession the same day. I found my little retreat simply
furnished, but neatly, and with some taste. The hand which had lent its
aid in this furnishing rendered it inestimable in my eyes, and I thought
it charming to be the guest of my female friend in a house I had made
choice of, and which she had caused to be built purposely for me.

Although the weather was cold, and the ground lightly covered with snow,
the earth began to vegetate: violets and primroses already made their
appearance, the trees began to bud, and the evening of my arrival was
distinguished by the song of the nightingale, which was heard almost
under my window, in a wood adjoining the house. After a light sleep,
forgetting when I awoke my change of abode, I still thought myself in the
Rue Grenelle, when suddenly this warbling made me give a start, and I
exclaimed in my transport: "At length, all my wishes are accomplished!"
The first thing I did was to abandon myself to the impression of the
rural objects with which I was surrounded. Instead of beginning to set
things in order in my new habitation, I began by doing it for my walks,
and there was not a path, a copse, a grove, nor a corner in the environs
of my place of residence that I did not visit the next day. The more I
examined this charming retreat, the more I found it to my wishes. This
solitary, rather than savage, spot transported me in idea to the end of
the world. It had striking beauties which are but seldom found near
cities, and never, if suddenly transported thither, could any person have
imagined himself within four leagues of Paris.

After abandoning myself for a few days to this rural delirium, I began to
arrange my papers, and regulate my occupations. I set apart, as I had
always done, my mornings to copying, and my afternoons to walking,
provided with my little paper book and a pencil, for never having been
able to write and think at my ease except 'sub dio', I had no inclination
to depart from this method, and I was persuaded the forest of
Montmorency, which was almost at my door, would in future be my closet
and study. I had several works begun; these I cast my eye over. My mind
was indeed fertile in great projects, but in the noise of the city the
execution of them had gone on but slowly. I proposed to myself to use
more diligence when I should be less interrupted. I am of opinion I have
sufficiently fulfilled this intention; and for a man frequently ill,
often at La Chevrette, at Epinay, at Raubonne, at the castle of
Montmorency, at other times interrupted by the indolent and curious, and
always employed half the day in copying, if what I produced during the
six years I passed at the Hermitage and at Montmorency be considered, I
am persuaded it will appear that if, in this interval, I lost my time, it
was not in idleness.

Of the different works I had upon the stocks, that I had longest resolved
in my mind which was most to my taste; to which I destined a certain
portion of my life, and which, in my opinion, was to confirm the
reputation I had acquired, was my 'Institutions Politiques. I had,
fourteen years before, when at Venice, where I had an opportunity of
remarking the defects of that government so much boasted of, conceived
the first idea of them. Since that time my views had become much more
extended by the historical study of morality. I had perceived everything
to be radically connected with politics, and that, upon whatever
principles these were founded, a people would never be more than that
which the nature of the government made them; therefore the great
question of the best government possible appeared to me to be reduced to
this: What is the nature of a government the most proper to form the most
virtuous and enlightened, the wisest and best people, taking the last
epithet in its most extensive meaning? I thought this question was much
if not quite of the same nature with that which follows: What government
is that which, by its nature, always maintains itself nearest to the
laws, or least deviates from the laws. Hence, what is the law? and a
series of questions of similar importance. I perceived these led to
great truths, useful to the happiness of mankind, but more especially to
that of my country, wherein, in the journey I had just made to it, I had
not found notions of laws and liberty either sufficiently just or clear.
I had thought this indirect manner of communicating these to my
fellow-citizens would be least mortifying to their pride, and might
obtain me forgiveness for having seen a little further than themselves.

Although I had already labored five or six years at the work, the
progress I had made in it was not considerable. Writings of this kind
require meditation, leisure and tranquillity. I had besides written the
'Institutions Politiques', as the expression is, 'en bonne fortune', and
had not communicated my project to any person; not even to Diderot.
I was afraid it would be thought too daring for the age and country in
which I wrote, and that the fears of my friends would restrain me from
carrying it into execution.

[It was more especially the wise severity of Duclos which inspired
me with this fear; as for Diderot, I know not by what means all my
conferences with him tended to make me more satirical than my
natural disposition inclined me to be. This prevented me from
consulting him upon an undertaking, in which I wished to introduce
nothing but the force of reasoning without the least appearance of
ill humor or partiality. The manner of this work may be judged of
by that of the 'Contrat Social', which is taken from it.]

I did not yet know that it would be finished in time, and in such a
manner as to appear before my decease. I wished fearlessly to give to my
subject everything it required; fully persuaded that not being of a
satirical turn, and never wishing to be personal, I should in equity
always be judged irreprehensible. I undoubtedly wished fully to enjoy
the right of thinking which I had by birth; but still respecting the
government under which I lived, without ever disobeying its laws, and
very attentive not to violate the rights of persons, I would not from
fear renounce its advantages.

I confess, even that, as a stranger, and living in France, I found my
situation very favorable in daring to speak the truth; well knowing that
continuing, as I was determined to do, not to print anything in the
kingdom without permission, I was not obliged to give to any person in it
an account of my maxims nor of their publication elsewhere. I should
have been less independent even at Geneva, where, in whatever place my
books might have been printed, the magistrate had a right to criticise
their contents. This consideration had greatly contributed to make me
yield to the solicitations of Madam d'Epinay, and abandon the project of
fixing my residence at Geneva. I felt, as I have remarked in my Emilius,
that unless an author be a man of intrigue, when he wishes to render his
works really useful to any country whatsoever, he must compose them in
some other.

What made me find my situation still more happy, was my being persuaded
that the government of France would, perhaps, without looking upon me
with a very favorable eye, make it a point to protect me, or at least not
to disturb my tranquillity. It appeared to me a stroke of simple, yet
dexterous policy, to make a merit of tolerating that which there was no
means of preventing; since, had I been driven from France, which was all
government had the right to do, my work would still have been written,
and perhaps with less reserve; whereas if I were left undisturbed, the
author remained to answer for what he wrote, and a prejudice, general
throughout all Europe, would be destroyed by acquiring the reputation of
observing a proper respect for the rights of persons.

They who, by the event, shall judge I was deceived, may perhaps be
deceived in their turn. In the storm which has since broken over my
head, my books served as a pretence, but it was against my person that
every shaft was directed. My persecutors gave themselves but little
concern about the author, but they wished to ruin Jean Jacques; and the
greatest evil they found in my writings was the honor they might possibly
do me. Let us not encroach upon the future. I do not know that this
mystery, which is still one to me, will hereafter be cleared up to my
readers; but had my avowed principles been of a nature to bring upon me
the treatment I received, I should sooner have become their victim, since
the work in which these principles are manifested with most courage, not
to call it audacity, seemed to have had its effect previous to my retreat
to the Hermitage, without I will not only say my having received the
least censure, but without any steps having been taken to prevent the
publication of it in France, where it was sold as publicly as in Holland.
The New Eloisa afterwards appeared with the same facility, I dare add;
with the same applause: and, what seems incredible, the profession of
faith of this Eloisa at the point of death is exactly similar to that of
the Savoyard vicar. Every strong idea in the Social Contract had been
before published in the discourse on Inequality; and every bold opinion
in Emilius previously found in Eloisa. This unrestrained freedom did not
excite the least murmur against the first two works; therefore it was not
that which gave cause to it against the latter.

Another undertaking much of the same kind, but of which the project was
more recent, then engaged my attention: this was the extract of the works
of the Abbe de Saint Pierre, of which, having been led away by the thread
of my narrative, I have not hitherto been able to speak. The idea was
suggested to me, after my return from Geneva, by the Abbe Malby, not
immediately from himself, but by the interposition of Madam Dupin, who
had some interest in engaging me to adopt it. She was one of the three
or four-pretty women of Paris, of whom the Abbe de Saint Pierre had been
the spoiled child, and although she had not decidedly had the preference,
she had at least partaken of it with Madam d'Aiguillon. She preserved
for the memory of the good man a respect and an affection which did honor
to them both; and her self-love would have been flattered by seeing the
still-born works of her friend brought to life by her secretary. These
works contained excellent things, but so badly told that the reading of
them was almost insupportable; and it is astonishing the Abbe de Saint
Pierre, who looked upon his readers as schoolboys, should nevertheless
have spoken to them as men, by the little care he took to induce them to
give him a hearing. It was for this purpose that the work was proposed
to me as useful in itself, and very proper for a man laborious in
manoeuvre, but idle as an author, who finding the trouble of thinking
very fatiguing, preferred, in things which pleased him, throwing a light
upon and extending the ideas of others, to producing any himself.
Besides, not being confined to the functions of a translator, I was at
liberty sometimes to think for myself; and I had it in my power to give
such a form to my work, that many important truths would pass in it under
the name of the Abbe de Saint Pierre, much more safely than under mine.
The undertaking also was not trifling; the business was nothing less than
to read and meditate twenty-three volumes, diffuse, confused, full of
long narrations and periods, repetitions, and false or little views, from
amongst which it was necessary to select some few that were good and
useful, and sufficiently encouraging to enable me to support the painful
labor. I frequently wished to have given it up, and should have done so,
could I have got it off my hands with a great grace; but when I received
the manuscripts of the abbe, which were given to me by his nephew, the
Comte de Saint Pierre, I had, by the solicitation of St. Lambert, in some
measure engaged to make use of them, which I must either have done, or
have given them back. It was with the former intention I had taken the
manuscripts to the Hermitage, and this was the first work to which I
proposed to dedicate my leisure hours.

I had likewise in my own mind projected a third, the idea of which I owed
to the observations I had made upon myself and I felt the more disposed
to undertake this work, as I had reason to hope I could make it a truly
useful one, and perhaps, the most so of any that could be offered to the
world, were the execution equal to the plan I had laid down. It has been
remarked that most men are in the course of their lives frequently unlike
themselves, and seem to be transformed into others very different from
what they were. It was not to establish a thing so generally known that
I wished to write a book; I had a newer and more important object. This
was to search for the causes of these variations, and, by confining my
observations to those which depend on ourselves, to demonstrate in what
manner it might be possible to direct them, in order to render us better
and more certain of our dispositions. For it is undoubtedly more painful
to an honest man to resist desires already formed, and which it is his
duty to subdue, than to prevent, change, or modify the same desires in
their source, were he capable of tracing them to it. A man under
temptation resists once because he has strength of mind, he yields
another time because this is overcome; had it been the same as before he
would again have triumphed.

By examining within myself, and searching in others what could be the
cause of these different manners of being, I discovered that, in a great
measure they depended on the anterior impressions of external objects;
and that, continually modified by our senses and organs, we, without
knowing it, bore in our ideas, sentiments, and even actions, the effect
of these modifications. The striking and numerous observations I had
collected were beyond all manner of dispute, and by their natural
principle seemed proper to furnish an exterior regimen, which varied
according to circumstances, might place and support the mind in the state
most favorable to virtue. From how many mistakes would reason be
preserved, how many vices would be stifled in their birth, were it
possible to force animal economy to favor moral order, which it so
frequently disturbs! Climate, seasons, sounds, colors, light, darkness,
the elements, ailments, noise, silence, motion, rest, all act on the
animal machine, and consequently on the mind: all offer a thousand means,
almost certain of directing in their origin the sentiments by which we
suffer ourselves to be governed. Such was the fundamental idea of which
I had already made a sketch upon paper, and whence I hoped for an effect
the more certain, in favor of persons well disposed, who, sincerely
loving virtue, were afraid of their own weakness, as it appeared to me
easy to make of it a book as agreeable to read as it was to compose.
I have, however, applied myself but very little to this work, the title
of which was to have been 'Morale Sensitive' ou le Materialisme du Sage.
--[Sensitive Morality, or the Materialism of the Sage.]--Interruptions,
the cause of which will soon appear, prevented me from continuing it, and
the fate of the sketch, which is more connected with my own than it may
appear to be, will hereafter be seen.

Besides this, I had for some time meditated a system of education, of
which Madam de Chenonceaux, alarmed for her son by that of her husband,
had desired me to consider. The authority of friendship placed this
object, although less in itself to my taste, nearer to my heart than any
other. On which account this subject, of all those of which I have just
spoken, is the only one I carried to its utmost extent. The end I
proposed to myself in treating of it should, I think, have procured the
author a better fate. But I will not here anticipate this melancholy
subject. I shall have too much reason to speak of it in the course of my

These different objects offered me subjects of meditation for my walks;
for, as I believed I had already observed, I am unable to reflect when I
am not walking: the moment I stop, I think no more, and as soon as I am
again in motion my head resumes its workings. I had, however, provided
myself with a work for the closet upon rainy days. This was my
dictionary of music, which my scattered, mutilated, and unshapen
materials made it necessary to rewrite almost entirely. I had with me
some books necessary to this purpose; I had spent two months in making
extracts from others, I had borrowed from the king's library, whence I
was permitted to take several to the Hermitage. I was thus provided with
materials for composing in my apartment when the weather did not permit
me to go out, and my copying fatigued me. This arrangement was so
convenient that it made it turn to advantage as well at the Hermitage as
at Montmorency, and afterwards even at Motiers, where I completed the
work whilst I was engaged in others, and constantly found a change of
occupation to be a real relaxation.

During a considerable time I exactly followed the distribution I had
prescribed myself, and found it very agreeable; but as soon as the fine
weather brought Madam d'Epinay more frequently to Epinay, or to the
Chervette, I found that attentions, in the first instance natural to me,
but which I had not considered in my scheme, considerably deranged my
projects. I have already observed that Madam d'Epinay had many amiable
qualities; she sincerely loved her friends; served them with zeal; and,
not sparing for them either time or pains, certainly deserved on their
part every attention in return. I had hitherto discharged this duty
without considering it as one, but at length I found that I had given
myself a chain of which nothing but friendship prevented me from feeling
the weight, and this was still aggravated by my dislike to numerous
societies. Madam d' Epinay took advantage of these circumstances to make
me a proposition seemingly agreeable to me, but which was more so to
herself; this was to let me know when she was alone, or had but little
company. I consented, without perceiving to what a degree I engaged
myself. The consequence was that I no longer visited her at my own hour
--but at hers, and that I never was certain of being master of myself for
a day together. This constraint considerably diminished the pleasure
I had in going to see her. I found the liberty she had so frequently
promised was given me upon no other condition than that of my never
enjoying it; and once or twice when I wished to do this there were so
many messages, notes, and alarms relative to my health, that I perceived
that I could have no excuse but being confined to my bed, for not
immediately running to her upon the first intimation. It was necessary
I should submit to this yoke, and I did it, even more voluntarily than
could be expected from so great an enemy to dependence: the sincere
attachment I had to Madam D'Epinay preventing me, in a great measure,
from feeling the inconvenience with which it was accompanied. She,
on her part, filled up, well or ill, the void which the absence of her
usual circle left in her amusements. This for her was but a very slender
supplement, although preferable to absolute solitude, which she could not
support. She had the means of doing it much more at her ease after she
began with literature, and at all events to write novels, letters,
comedies, tales, and other trash of the same kind. But she was not so
much amused in writing these as in reading them; and she never scribbled
over two or three pages--at one sitting--without being previously assured
of having, at least, two or three benevolent auditors at the end of so
much labor. I seldom had the honor of being one of the chosen few except
by means of another. When alone, I was, for the most part, considered as
a cipher in everything; and this not only in the company of Madam
D'Epinay, but in that of M. d'Holbach, and in every place where Grimm
gave the 'ton'. This nullity was very convenient to me, except in a
tete-a-tete, when I knew not what countenance to put on, not daring to
speak of literature, of which it was not for me to say a word; nor of
gallantry, being too timid, and fearing, more than death, the
ridiculousness of an old gallant; besides that, I never had such an idea
when in the company of Madam D'Epinay, and that it perhaps would never
have occurred to me, had I passed my whole life with her; not that her
person was in the least disagreeable to me; on the contrary, I loved her
perhaps too much as a friend to do it as a lover. I felt a pleasure in
seeing and speaking to her. Her conversation, although agreeable enough
in a mixed company, was uninteresting in private; mine, not more elegant
or entertaining than her own, was no great amusement to her. Ashamed of
being long silent, I endeavored to enliven our tete-a-tete and, although
this frequently fatigued me, I was never disgusted with it. I was happy
to show her little attentions, and gave her little fraternal kisses,
which seemed not to be more sensual to herself; these were all. She was
very thin, very pale, and had a bosom which resembled the back of her hand.
This defect alone would have been sufficient to moderate my most ardent
desires; my heart never could distinguish a woman in a person who had it;
and besides other causes useless to mention, always made me forget the sex
of this lady.

Having resolved to conform to an assiduity which was necessary,
I immediately and voluntarily entered upon it, and for the first year at
least, found it less burthensome than I could have expected. Madam
d'Epinay, who commonly passed the summer in the country, continued there
but a part of this; whether she was more detained by her affairs in
Paris, or that the absence of Grimm rendered the residence of the
Chevrette less agreeable to her, I know not. I took the advantage of
the intervals of her absence, or when the company with her was numerous,
to enjoy my solitude with my good Theresa and her mother, in such a
manner as to taste all its charms. Although I had for several years
passed been frequently in the country, I seldom had enjoyed much of its
pleasures; and these excursions, always made in company with people who
considered themselves as persons of consequence, and rendered insipid by
constraint, served to increase in me the natural desire I had for rustic
pleasures. The want of these was the more sensible to me as I had the
image of them immediately before my eyes. I was so tired of saloons,
jets d'eau, groves, parterres, and of more fatiguing persons by whom they
were shown; so exhausted with pamphlets, harpsichords, trios,
unravellings of plots, stupid bon mots, insipid affections, pitiful
storytellers, and great suppers; that when I gave a side glance at a poor
simple hawthorn bush, a hedge, a barn, or a meadow; when, in passing
through a hamlet, I scented a good chervil omelette, and heard at a
distance the burden of a rustic song of the Bisquieres; I wished all
rouge, furbelows and amber at the d---l, and envying the dinner of the
good housewife, and the wine of her own vineyard, I heartily wished to
give a slap on the chaps to Monsieur le Chef and Monsieur le Maitre, who
made me dine at the hour of supper, and sup when I should have been
asleep, but especially to Messieurs the lackeys, who devoured with their
eyes the morsel I put into my mouth, and upon pain of my dying with
thirst, sold me the adulterated wine of their master, ten times dearer
than that of a better quality would have cost me at a public house.

At length I was settled in an agreeable and solitary asylum, at liberty
to pass there the remainder of my days, in that peaceful, equal, and
independent life for which I felt myself born. Before I relate the
effects this situation, so new to me, had upon my heart, it is proper I
should recapitulate its secret affections, that the reader may better
follow in their causes the progress of these new modifications.

I have always considered the day on which I was united to Theresa as that
which fixed my moral existence. An attachment was necessary for me,
since that which should have been sufficient to my heart had been so
cruelly broken. The thirst after happiness is never extinguished in the
heart of man. Mamma was advancing into years, and dishonored herself!
I had proofs that she could never more be happy here below; it therefore
remained to me to seek my own happiness, having lost all hopes of
partaking of hers. I was sometimes irresolute, and fluctuated from one
idea to another, and from project to project. My journey to Venice would
have thrown me into public life, had the man with whom, almost against my
inclination, I was connected there had common sense. I was easily
discouraged, especially in undertakings of length and difficulty. The
ill success of this disgusted me with every other; and, according to my
old maxims, considering distant objects as deceitful allurements, I
resolved in future to provide for immediate wants, seeing nothing in life
which could tempt me to make extraordinary efforts.

It was precisely at this time we became acquainted. The mild character
of the good Theresa seemed so fitted to my own, that I united myself to
her with an attachment which neither time nor injuries have been able to
impair, and which has constantly been increased by everything by which it
might have been expected to be diminished. The force of this sentiment
will hereafter appear when I come to speak of the wounds she has given my
heart in the height of my misery, without my ever having, until this
moment, once uttered a word of complaint to any person whatever.

When it shall be known, that after having done everything, braved
everything, not to separate from her; that after passing with her twenty
years in despite of fate and men; I have in my old age made her my wife,
without the least expectation or solicitation on her part, or promise or
engagement on mine, the world will think that love bordering upon
madness, having from the first moment turned my head, led me by degrees
to the last act of extravagance; and this will no longer appear doubtful
when the strong and particular reasons which should forever have
prevented me from taking such a step are made known. What, therefore,
will the reader think when I shall have told him, with all the truth he
has ever found in me, that, from the first moment in which I saw her,
until that wherein I write, I have never felt the least love for her,
that I never desired to possess her more than I did to possess Madam de
Warrens, and that the physical wants which were satisfied with her person
were, to me, solely those of the sex, and by no means proceeding from the
individual? He will think that, being of a constitution different from
that of other men, I was incapable of love, since this was not one of the
sentiments which attached me to women the most dear to my heart.
Patience, O my dear reader! the fatal moment approaches in which you
will be but too much undeceived.

I fall into repetitions; I know it; and these are necessary. The first
of my wants, the greatest, strongest and most insatiable, was wholly in
my heart; the want of an intimate connection, and as intimate as it could
possibly be: for this reason especially, a woman was more necessary to me
than a man, a female rather than a male friend. This singular want was
such that the closest corporal union was not sufficient: two souls would
have been necessary to me in the same body, without which I always felt a
void. I thought I was upon the point of filling it up forever. This
young person, amiable by a thousand excellent qualities, and at that time
by her form, without the shadow of art or coquetry, would have confined
within herself my whole existence, could hers, as I had hoped it would,
have been totally confined to me. I had nothing to fear from men; I am
certain of being the only man she ever really loved and her moderate
passions seldom wanted another not even after I ceased in this respect to
be one to her. I had no family; she had one; and this family was
composed of individuals whose dispositions were so different from mine,
that I could never make it my own. This was the first cause of my
unhappiness. What would I not have given to be the child of her mother?
I did everything in my power to become so, but could never succeed.
I in vain attempted to unite all our interests: this was impossible.
She always created herself one different from mine, contrary to it, and
to that even of her daughter, which already was no longer separated from
it. She, her other children, and grand-children, became so many leeches,
and the least evil these did to Theresa was robbing her. The poor girl,
accustomed to submit, even to her nieces, suffered herself to be pilfered
and governed without saying a word; and I perceived with grief that by
exhausting my purse, and giving her advice, I did nothing that could be
of any real advantage to her. I endeavored to detach her from her
mother; but she constantly resisted such a proposal. I could not but
respect her resistance, and esteemed her the more for it; but her refusal
was not on this account less to the prejudice of us both. Abandoned to
her mother and the rest of her family, she was more their companion than
mine, and rather at their command than mistress of herself. Their
avarice was less ruinous than their advice was pernicious to her; in
fact, if, on account of the love she had for me, added to her good
natural disposition, she was not quite their slave, she was enough so to
prevent in a great measure the effect of the good maxims I endeavored to
instil into her, and, notwithstanding all my efforts, to prevent our
being united.

Thus was it, that notwithstanding a sincere and reciprocal attachment,
in which I had lavished all the tenderness of my heart, the void in that
heart was never completely filled. Children, by whom this effect should
have been produced, were brought into the world, but these only made
things worse. I trembled at the thought of intrusting them to a family
ill brought up, to be still worse educated. The risk of the education of
the foundling hospital was much less. This reason for the resolution I
took, much stronger than all those I stated in my letter to Madam de
Francueil, was, however, the only one with which I dared not make her
acquainted; I chose rather to appear less excusable than to expose to
reproach the family of a person I loved. But by the conduct of her
wretched brother, notwithstanding all that can be said in his defence,
it will be judged whether or not I ought to have exposed my children to
an education similar to his.

Not having it in my power to taste in all its plentitude the charms of
that intimate connection of which I felt the want, I sought for
substitutes which did not fill up the void, yet they made it less
sensible. Not having a friend entirely devoted to me, I wanted others,
whose impulse should overcome my indolence; for this reason I cultivated
and strengthened my connection with Diderot and the Abbe de Condillac,
formed with Grimm a new one still more intimate, till at length by the
unfortunate discourse, of which I have related some particulars,
I unexpectedly found myself thrown back into a literary circle which
I thought I had quitted forever.

My first steps conducted me by a new path to another intellectual world,
the simple and noble economy of which I cannot contemplate without
enthusiasm. I reflected so much on the subject that I soon saw nothing
but error and folly in the doctrine of our sages, and oppression and
misery in our social order. In the illusion of my foolish pride,
I thought myself capable of destroying all imposture; and thinking that,
to make myself listened to, it was necessary my conduct should agree with
my principles, I adopted the singular manner of life which I have not
been permitted to continue, the example of which my pretended friends
have never forgiven me, which at first made me ridiculous, and would at
length have rendered me respectable, had it been possible for me to

Until then I had been good; from that moment I became virtuous, or at
least infatuated with virtue. This infatuation had begun in my head, but
afterwards passed into my heart. The most noble pride there took root
amongst the ruins of extirpated vanity. I affected nothing; I became
what I appeared to be, and during four years at least, whilst this
effervescence continued at its greatest height, there is nothing great
and good that can enter the heart of man, of which I was not capable
between heaven and myself. Hence flowed my sudden eloquence; hence, in
my first writings, that fire really celestial, which consumed me, and
whence during forty years not a single spark had escaped, because it was
not yet lighted up.

I was really transformed; my friends and acquaintance scarcely knew me.
I was no longer that timid, and rather bashful than modest man, who
neither dared to present himself, nor utter a word; whom a single
pleasantry disconcerted, and whose face was covered with a blush the
moment his eyes met those of a woman. I became bold, haughty, intrepid,
with a confidence the more firm, as it was simple, and resided in my soul
rather than in my manner. The contempt with which my profound
meditations had inspired me for the manners, maxims and prejudices of the
age in which I lived, rendered me proof against the raillery of those by
whom they were possessed, and I crushed their little pleasantries with a
sentence, as I would have crushed an insect with my fingers.

What a change! All Paris repeated the severe and acute sarcasms of the
same man who, two years before, and ten years afterwards, knew not how to
find what he had to say, nor the word he ought to employ. Let the
situation in the world the most contrary to my natural disposition be
sought after, and this will be found. Let one of the short moments of my
life in which I became another man, and ceased to be myself, be
recollected, this also will be found in the time of which I speak; but,
instead of continuing only six days, or six weeks, it lasted almost six
years, and would perhaps still continue, but for the particular
circumstances which caused it to cease, and restored me to nature, above
which I had, wished to soar.

The beginning of this change took place as soon as I had quitted Paris,
and the sight of the vices of that city no longer kept up the indignation
with which it had inspired me. I no sooner had lost sight of men than I
ceased to despise them, and once removed from those who designed me evil,
my hatred against them no longer existed. My heart, little fitted for
hatred, pitied their misery, and even their wickedness. This situation,
more pleasing but less sublime, soon allayed the ardent enthusiasm by
which I had so long been transported; and I insensibly, almost to myself
even, again became fearful, complaisant and timid; in a word, the same
Jean Jacques I before had been.

Had this resolution gone no further than restoring me to myself, all
would have been well; but unfortunately it rapidly carried me away to the
other extreme. From that moment my mind in agitation passed the line of
repose, and its oscillations, continually renewed, have never permitted
it to remain here. I must enter into some detail of this second
revolution; terrible and fatal era, of a fate unparalleled amongst

We were but three persons in our retirement; it was therefore natural our
intimacy should be increased by leisure and solitude. This was the case
between Theresa and myself. We passed in conversations in the shade the
most charming and delightful hours, more so than any I had hitherto
enjoyed. She seemed to taste of this sweet intercourse more than I had
until then observed her to do; she opened her heart, and communicated to
me, relative to her mother and family, things she had had resolution
enough to conceal for a great length of time. Both had received from
Madam Dupin numerous presents, made them on my account, and mostly for
me, but which the cunning old woman, to prevent my being angry, had
appropriated to her own use and that of her other children, without
suffering Theresa to have the least share, strongly forbidding her to say
a word to me of the matter: an order the poor girl had obeyed with an
incredible exactness.

But another thing which surprised me more than this had done, was the
discovery that besides the private conversations Diderot and Grimm had
frequently had with both to endeavor to detach them from me, in which,
by means of the resistance of Theresa, they had not been able to succeed,
they had afterwards had frequent conferences with the mother, the subject
of which was a secret to the daughter. However, she knew little presents
had been made, and that there were mysterious goings backward and
forward, the motive of which was entirely unknown to her. When we left
Paris, Madam le Vasseur had long been in the habit of going to see Grimm
twice or thrice a month, and continuing with him for hours together, in
conversation so secret that the servant was always sent out of the room.

I judged this motive to be of the same nature with the project into which
they had attempted to make the daughter enter, by promising to procure
her and her mother, by means of Madam d'Epinay, a salt huckster's
license, or snuff-shop; in a word, by tempting her with the allurements
of gain. They had been told that, as I was not in a situation to do
anything for them, I could not, on their account, do anything for myself.
As in all this I saw nothing but good intentions, I was not absolutely
displeased with them for it. The mystery was the only thing which gave
me pain, especially on the part of the old woman, who moreover daily
became more parasitical and flattering towards me. This, however, did
not prevent her from reproaching her daughter in private with telling me
everything, and loving me too much, observing to her she was a fool and
would at length be made a dupe.

This woman possessed, to a supreme degree, the art of multiplying the
presents made her, by concealing from one what she received from another,
and from me what she received from all. I could have pardoned her
avarice, but it was impossible I should forgive her dissimulation. What
could she have to conceal from me whose happiness she knew principally
consisted in that of herself and her daughter? What I had done for the
daughter I had done for myself, but the services I rendered the mother
merited on her part some acknowledgment. She ought, at least, to have
thought herself obliged for them to her daughter, and to have loved me
for the sake of her by whom I was already beloved. I had raised her from
the lowest state of wretchedness; she received from my hands the means of
subsistence, and was indebted to me for her acquaintance with the persons
from whom she found means to reap considerable benefit. Theresa had long
supported her by her industry, and now maintained her with my bread.
She owed everything to this daughter, for whom she had done nothing, and
her other children, to whom she had given marriage portions, and on whose
account she had ruined herself, far from giving her the least aid,
devoured her substance and mine. I thought that in such a situation she
ought to consider me as her only friend and most sure protector, and
that, far from making of my own affairs a secret to me, and conspiring
against me in my house, it was her duty faithfully to acquaint me with
everything in which I was interested, when this came to her knowledge
before it did to mine. In what light, therefore, could I consider her
false and mysterious conduct? What could I think of the sentiments with
which she endeavored to inspire her daughter? What monstrous ingratitude
was hers, to endeavor to instil it into her from whom I expected my
greatest consolation?

These reflections at length alienated my affections from this woman, and
to such a degree that I could no longer look upon her but with contempt.
I nevertheless continued to treat with respect the mother of the friend
of my bosom, and in everything to show her almost the reverence of a son;
but I must confess I could not remain long with her without pain, and
that I never knew how to bear restraint.

This is another short moment of my life, in which I approached near to
happiness without being able to attain it, and this by no fault of my
own. Had the mother been of a good disposition we all three should have
been happy to the end of our days; the longest liver only would have been
to be pitied. Instead of which, the reader will see the course things
took, and judge whether or not it was in my power to change it.

Madam le Vasseur, who perceived I had got more full possession of the
heart of Theresa, and that she had lost ground with her, endeavored to
regain it; and instead of striving to restore herself to my good opinion
by the mediation of her daughter attempted to alienate her affections
from me. One of the means she employed was to call her family to her
aid. I had begged Theresa not to invite any of her relations to the
Hermitage, and she had promised me she would not. These were sent for in
my absence, without consulting her, and she was afterwards prevailed upon
to promise not to say anything of the matter. After the first step was
taken all the rest were easy. When once we make a secret of anything to
the person we love, we soon make little scruple of doing it in
everything; the moment I was at the Chevrette the Hermitage was full of
people who sufficiently amused themselves. A mother has always great
power over a daughter of a mild disposition; yet notwithstanding all the
old woman could do, she was never able to prevail upon Theresa to enter
into her views, nor to persuade her to join in the league against me.
For her part, she resolved upon doing it forever, and seeing on one side
her daughter and myself, who were in a situation to live, and that was
all; on the other, Diderot, Grimm, D' Holbach and Madam d'Epinay, who
promised great things, and gave some little ones, she could not conceive
it was possible to be in the wrong with the wife of a farmer-general and
baron. Had I been more clear sighted, I should from this moment have
perceived I nourished a serpent in my bosom. But my blind confidence,
which nothing had yet diminished, was such that I could not imagine she
wished to injure the person she ought to love. Though I saw numerous
conspiracies formed on every side, all I complain of was the tyranny of
persons who called themselves my friends, and who, as it seemed, would
force me to be happy in the manner they should point out, and not in that
I had chosen for myself.

Although Theresa refused to join in the confederacy with her mother, she
afterwards kept her secret. For this her motive was commendable,
although I will not determine whether she did it well or ill. Two women,
who have secrets between them, love to prattle together; this attracted
them towards each other, and Theresa, by dividing herself, sometimes let
me feel I was alone; for I could no longer consider as a society that
which we all three formed.

I now felt the neglect I had been guilty of during the first years of our
connection, in not taking advantage of the docility with which her love
inspired her, to improve her talents and give her knowledge, which, by
more closely connecting us in our retirement would agreeably have filled
up her time and my own, without once suffering us to perceive the length
of a private conversation. Not that this was ever exhausted between us,
or that she seemed disgusted with our walks; but we had not a sufficient
number of ideas common to both to make ourselves a great store, and we
could not incessantly talk of our future projects which were confined to
those of enjoying the pleasures of life. The objects around us inspired
me with reflections beyond the reach of her comprehension. An attachment
of twelve years' standing had no longer need of words: we were too well
acquainted with each other to have any new knowledge to acquire in that
respect. The resource of puns, jests, gossiping and scandal, was all
that remained. In solitude especially is it, that the advantage of
living with a person who knows how to think is particularly felt. I
wanted not this resource to amuse myself with her; but she would have
stood in need of it to have always found amusement with me. The worst of
all was our being obliged to hold our conversations when we could; her
mother, who become importunate, obliged me to watch for opportunities to
do it. I was under constraint in my own house: this is saying
everything; the air of love was prejudicial to good friendship. We had
an intimate intercourse without living in intimacy.

The moment I thought I perceived that Theresa sometimes sought for a
pretext to elude the walks I proposed to her, I ceased to invite her to
accompany me, without being displeased with her for not finding in them
so much amusement as I did. Pleasure is not a thing which depends upon
the will. I was sure of her heart, and the possession of this was all I
desired. As long as my pleasures were hers, I tasted of them with her;
when this ceased to be the case I preferred her contentment to my own.

In this manner it was that, half deceived in my expectation, leading a
life after my own heart, in a residence I had chosen with a person who
was dear to me, I at length found myself almost alone. What I still
wanted prevented me from enjoying what I had. With respect to happiness
and enjoyment, everything or nothing, was what was necessary to me. The
reason of these observations will hereafter appear. At present I return
to the thread of my narrative.

I imagined that I possessed treasures in the manuscripts given me by the
Comte de St. Pierre. On examination I found they were a little more
than the collection of the printed works of his uncle, with notes and
corrections by his own hand, and a few other trifling fragments which had
not yet been published. I confirmed myself by these moral writings in
the idea I had conceived from some of his letters, shown me by Madam de
Crequi, that he had more sense and ingenuity than at first I had
imagined; but after a careful examination of his political works,
I discerned nothing but superficial notions, and projects that were
useful but impracticable, in consequence of the idea from which the
author never could depart, that men conducted themselves by their
sagacity rather than by their passions. The high opinion he had of the
knowledge of the moderns had made him adopt this false principle of
improved reason, the basis of all the institutions he proposed, and the
source of his political sophisms. This extraordinary man, an honor to
the age in which he lived, and to the human species, and perhaps the only
person, since the creation of mankind, whose sole passion was that of
reason, wandered in all his systems from error to error, by attempting to
make men like himself, instead of taking them as they were, are, and will
continue to be. He labored for imaginary beings, while he thought
himself employed for the benefit of his contemporaries.

All these things considered, I was rather embarrassed as to the form I
should give to my work. To suffer the author's visions to pass was doing
nothing useful; fully to refute them would have been unpolite, as the
care of revising and publishing his manuscripts, which I had accepted,
and even requested, had been intrusted to me; this trust had imposed on
me the obligation of treating the author honorably. I at length
concluded upon that which to me appeared the most decent, judicious, and
useful. This was to give separately my own ideas and those of the
author, and, for this purpose, to enter into his views, to set them in a
new light, to amplify, extend them, and spare nothing which might
contribute to present them in all their excellence.

My work therefore was to be composed of two parts absolutely distinct:
one, to explain, in the manner I have just mentioned, the different
projects of the author; in the other, which was not to appear until the
first had had its effect, I should have given my opinion upon these
projects, which I confess might sometimes have exposed them to the fate
of the sonnet of the misanthrope. At the head of the whole was to have
been the life of the author. For this I had collected some good
materials, and which I flattered myself I should not spoil in making use
of them. I had been a little acquainted with the Abbe de St. Pierre, in
his old age, and the veneration I had for his memory warranted to me,
upon the whole, that the comte would not be dissatisfied with the manner
in which I should have treated his relation.

I made my first essay on the 'Perpetual Peace', the greatest and most
elaborate of all the works which composed the collection; and before I
abandoned myself to my reflections I had the courage to read everything
the abbe had written upon this fine subject, without once suffering
myself to be disgusted either by his slowness or his repetitions. The
public has seen the extract, on which account I have nothing to say upon
the subject. My opinion of it has not been printed, nor do I know that
it ever will be; however, it was written at the same time the extract was
made. From this I passed to the 'Polysynodie', or Plurality of Councils,
a work written under the regent to favor the administration he had
chosen, and which caused the Abbe de Saint Pierre to be expelled from the
academy, on account of some remarks unfavorable to the preceding
administration, and with which the Duchess of Maine and the Cardinal de
Polignac were displeased. I completed this work as I did the former,
with an extract and remarks; but I stopped here without intending to
continue the undertaking which I ought never to have begun.

The reflection which induced me to give it up naturally presents itself,
and it was astonishing I had not made it sooner.

Most of the writings of the Abbe de Saint Pierre were either
observations, or contained observations, on some parts of the government
of France, and several of these were of so free a nature, that it was
happy for him he had made them with impunity. But in the offices of all
the ministers of state the Abbe de St. Pierre had ever been considered as
a kind of preacher rather than a real politician, and he was suffered to
say what he pleased, because it appeared that nobody listened to him.
Had I procured him readers the case would have been different. He was a
Frenchman, and I was not one; and by repeating his censures, although in
his own name, I exposed myself to be asked, rather rudely, but without
injustice, what it was with which I meddled. Happily before I proceeded
any further, I perceived the hold I was about to give the government
against me, and I immediately withdrew. I knew that, living alone in the
midst of men more powerful than myself, I never could by any means
whatever be sheltered from the injury they chose to do me. There was but
one thing which depended upon my own efforts: this was, to observe such a
line of conduct that whenever they chose to make me feel the weight of
authority they could not do it without being unjust. The maxim which
induced me to decline proceeding with the works of the Abbe de Saint
Pierre, has frequently made me give up projects I had much more at heart.
People who are always ready to construe adversity into a crime, would be
much surprised were they to know the pains I have taken, that during my
misfortunes it might never with truth be said of me, Thou hast deserved

After having given up the manuscript, I remained some time without
determining upon the work which should succeed it, and this interval of
inactivity was destructive; by permitting me to turn my reflections on
myself, for want of another object to engage my attention. I had no
project for the future which could amuse my imagination. It was not even
possible to form any, as my situation was precisely that in which all my
desires were united. I had not another to conceive, and yet there was a
void in my heart. This state was the more cruel, as I saw no other that
was to be preferred to it. I had fixed my most tender affections upon a
person who made me a return of her own. I lived with her without
constraint, and, so to speak, at discretion. Notwithstanding this, a
secret grief of mind never quitted me for a moment, either when she was
present or absent. In possessing Theresa, I still perceived she wanted
something to her happiness; and the sole idea of my not being everything
to her had such an effect upon my mind that she was next to nothing to

I had friends of both sexes, to whom I was attached by the purest
friendship and most perfect esteem; I depended upon a real return on
their part, and a doubt of their sincerity never entered my mind; yet
this friendship was more tormenting than agreeable to me, by their
obstinate perseverance and even by their affectation, in opposing my
taste, inclinations and manner of living; and this to such a degree, that
the moment I seemed to desire a thing which interested myself only, and
depended not upon them, they immediately joined their efforts to oblige
me to renounce it. This continued desire to control me in all my wishes,
the more unjust, as I did not so much as make myself acquainted with
theirs, became so cruelly oppressive, that I never received one of their
letters without feeling a certain terror as I opened it, and which was
but too well justified by the contents. I thought being treated like a
child by persons younger than myself, and who, of themselves, stood in
great need of the advice they so prodigally bestowed on me, was too much:
"Love me," said I to them, "as I love you, but, in every other respect,
let my affairs be as indifferent to you, as yours are to me: this is all
I ask." If they granted me one of these two requests, it was not the

I had a retired residence in a charming solitude, was master of my own
house, and could live in it in the manner I thought proper, without being
controlled by any person. This habitation imposed on me duties agreeable
to discharge, but which were indispensable. My liberty was precarious.
In a greater state of subjection than a person at the command of another,
it was my duty to be so by inclination. When I arose in the morning,
I never could say to myself, I will employ this day as I think proper.
And, moreover, besides my being subject to obey the call of Madam
d'Epinay, I was exposed to the still more disagreeable importunities of
the public and chance comers. The distance I was at from Paris did not
prevent crowds of idlers, not knowing how to spend their time, from daily
breaking in upon me, and, without the least scruple, freely disposing of
mine. When I least expected visitors I was unmercifully assailed by
them, and I seldom made a plan for the agreeable employment of the day
that was not counteracted by the arrival of some stranger.

In short, finding no real enjoyment in the midst of the pleasures I had
been most desirous to obtain, I, by sudden mental transitions, returned
in imagination to the serene days of my youth, and sometimes exclaimed
with a sigh: "Ah! this is not Les Charmettes!"

The recollection of the different periods of my life led me to reflect
upon that at which I was arrived, and I found I was already on the
decline, a prey to painful disorders, and imagined I was approaching the
end of my days without having, tasted, in all its plentitude, scarcely
anyone of the pleasures after which my heart had so much thirsted, or
having given scope to the lively sentiments I felt it had in reserve.
I had not favored even that intoxicating voluptuousness with which my
mind was richly stored, and which, for want of an object, was always
compressed, an never exhaled but by signs.

How was it possible that, with a mind naturally expansive, I, with whom
to live was to love, should not hitherto have found a friend entirely
devoted to me; a real friend: I who felt myself so capable of being such
a friend to another? How can it be accounted for that with such warm
affections, such combustible senses, and a heart wholly made up of love,
I had not once, at least, felt its flame for a determinate object?
Tormented by the want of loving, without ever having been able to satisfy
it, I perceived myself approaching the eve of old age, and hastening on
to death without having lived.

These melancholy but affecting recollections led me to others, which,
although accompanied with regret, were not wholly unsatisfactory. I
thought something I had not yet received was still due to me from

To what end was I born with exquisite faculties? To suffer them to
remain unemployed? the sentiment of conscious merit, which made me
consider myself as suffering injustice, was some kind of reparation, and
caused me to shed tears which with pleasure I suffered to flow.

These were my mediations during the finest season of the year, in the
month of June, in cool shades, to the songs of the nightingale, and the
warbling of brooks. Everything concurred in plunging me into that too
seducing state of indolence for which I was born, and from which my
austere manner, proceeding from a long effervescence, should forever have
delivered me. I unfortunately remembered the dinner of the Chateau de
Toune, and my meeting with the two charming girls in the same season, in
places much resembling that in which I then was. The remembrance of
these circumstances, which the innocence that accompanied them rendered
to me still more dear, brought several others of the nature to my
recollection. I presently saw myself surrounded by all the objects
which, in my youth, had given me emotion. Mademoiselle Galley,
Mademoiselle de Graffenried, Mademoiselle de Breil, Madam Basile, Madam
de Larnage, my pretty scholars, and even the bewitching Zulietta, whom my
heart could not forget. I found myself in the midst of a seraglio of
houris of my old acquaintance, for whom the most lively inclination was
not new to me. My blood became inflamed, my head turned, notwithstanding
my hair was almost gray, and the grave citizen of Geneva, the austere
Jean Jacques, at forty-five years of age, again became the fond shepherd.
The intoxication, with which my mind was seized, although sudden and
extravagant, was so strong and lasting, that, to enable me to recover
from it, nothing less than the unforeseen and terrible crisis it brought
on was necessary.

This intoxication, to whatever degree it was carried, went not so far as
to make me forget my age and situation, to flatter me that I could still
inspire love, nor to make me attempt to communicate the devouring flame
by which ever since my youth I had felt my heart in vain consumed. For
this I did not hope; I did not even desire it. I knew the season of love
was past; I knew too well in what contempt the ridiculous pretensions of
superannuated gallants were held, ever to add one to the number, and I
was not a man to become an impudent coxcomb in the decline of life, after
having been so little such during the flower of my age. Besides, as a
friend to peace, I should have been apprehensive of domestic dissensions;
and I too sincerely loved Theresa to expose her to the mortification of
seeing me entertain for others more lively sentiments than those with
which she inspired me for herself.

What step did I take upon this occasion? My reader will already have
guessed it, if he has taken the trouble to pay the least attention to my
narrative. The impossibility of attaining real beings threw me into the
regions of chimera, and seeing nothing in existence worthy of my
delirium, I sought food for it in the ideal world, which my imagination
quickly peopled with beings after my own heart. This resource never came
more apropos, nor was it ever so fertile. In my continual ecstasy I
intoxicated my mind with the most delicious sentiments that ever entered
the heart of man. Entirely forgetting the human species, I formed to
myself societies of perfect beings, whose virtues were as celestial as
their beauty, tender and faithful friends, such as I never found here
below. I became so fond of soaring in the empyrean, in the midst of the
charming objects with which I was surrounded, that I thus passed hours
and days without perceiving it; and, losing the remembrance of all other
things, I scarcely had eaten a morsel in haste before I was impatient to
make my escape and run to regain my groves. When ready to depart for the
enchanted world, I saw arrive wretched mortals who came to detain me upon
earth, I could neither conceal nor moderate my vexation; and no longer
master of myself, I gave them so uncivil a reception, that it might
justly be termed brutal. This tended to confirm my reputation as a
misanthrope, from the very cause which, could the world have read my
heart, should have acquired me one of a nature directly opposite.

In the midst of my exultation I was pulled down like a paper kite, and
restored to my proper place by means of a smart attack of my disorder.
I recurred to the only means that had before given me relief, and thus
made a truce with my angelic amours; for besides that it seldom happens
that a man is amorous when he suffers, my imagination, which is animated
in the country and beneath the shade of trees, languishes and becomes
extinguished in a chamber, and under the joists of a ceiling. I
frequently regretted that there existed no dryads; it would certainly
have been amongst these that I should have fixed my attachment.

Other domestic broils came at the same time to increase my chagrin.
Madam le Vasseur, while making me the finest compliments in the world,
alienated from me her daughter as much as she possibly could. I received
letters from my late neighborhood, informing me that the good old lady
had secretly contracted several debts in the name of Theresa, to whom
these became known, but of which she had never mentioned to me a word.
The debts to be paid hurt me much less than the secret that had been made
of them. How could she, for whom I had never had a secret, have one from
me? Is it possible to dissimulate with persons whom we love? The
'Coterie Holbachique', who found I never made a journey to Paris, began
seriously to be afraid I was happy and satisfied in the country, and
madman enough to reside there.

Hence the cabals by which attempts were made to recall me indirectly to
the city. Diderot, who did not immediately wish to show himself, began
by detaching from me De Leyre, whom I had brought acquainted with him,
and who received and transmitted to me the impressions Diderot chose to
give without suspecting to what end they were directed.

Everything seemed to concur in withdrawing me from my charming and mad
reverie. I was not recovered from the late attack I had when I received
the copy of the poem on the destruction of Lisbon, which I imagined to be
sent by the author. This made it necessary I should write to him and
speak of his composition. I did so, and my letter was a long time
afterwards printed without my consent, as I shall hereafter have occasion
to remark.

Struck by seeing this poor man overwhelmed, if I may so speak, with
prosperity and honor, bitterly exclaiming against the miseries of this
life, and finding everything to be wrong, I formed the mad project of
making him turn his attention to himself, and of proving to him that
everything was right. Voltaire, while he appeared to believe in God,
never really believed in anything but the devil; since his pretended
deity is a malicious being, who, according to him, had no pleasure but in
evil. The glaring absurdity of this doctrine is particularly disgusting
from a man enjoying the greatest prosperity; who, from the bosom of
happiness, endeavors, by the frightful and cruel image of all the
calamities from which he is exempt, to reduce his fellow creatures to
despair. I, who had a better right than he to calculate and weigh all
the evils of human life, impartially examine them, and proved to him that
of all possible evils there was not one to be attributed to Providence,
and which had not its source rather in the abusive use man made of his
faculties than in nature. I treated him, in this letter, with the
greatest respect and delicacy possible. Yet, knowing his self-love to be
extremely irritable, I did not send the letter immediately to himself,
but to Doctor Tronchin, his physician and friend, with full power either
to give it him or destroy it. Voltaire informed me in a few lines that
being ill, having likewise the care of a sick person, he postponed his
answer until some future day, and said not a word on the subject.
Tronchin, when he sent me the letter, inclosed in it another, in which he
expressed but very little esteem for the person from whom he received it.

I have never published, nor even shown, either of these two letters, not
liking to make a parade of such little triumphs; but the originals are in
my collections. Since that time Voltaire has published the answer he
promised me, but which I never received. This is the novel of 'Candide',
of which I cannot speak because I have not read it.

All these interruptions ought to have cured me of my fantastic amours,
and they were perhaps the means offered me by Heaven to prevent their
destructive consequences; but my evil genius prevailed, and I had
scarcely begun to go out before my heart, my head, and my feet returned
to the same paths. I say the same in certain respects; for my ideas,
rather less exalted, remained this time upon earth, but yet were busied
in making so exquisite a choice of all that was to be found there amiable
of every kind, that it was not much less chimerical than the imaginary
world I had abandoned.

I figured to myself love and friendship, the two idols of my heart, under
the most ravishing images. I amused myself in adorning them with all the
charms of the sex I had always adored. I imagined two female friends
rather than two of my own sex, because, although the example be more
rare, it is also more amiable. I endowed them with different characters,
but analogous to their connection, with two faces, not perfectly
beautiful, but according to my taste, and animated with benevolence and
sensibility. I made one brown and the other fair, one lively and the
other languishing, one wise and the other weak, but of so amiable a
weakness that it seemed to add a charm to virtue. I gave to one of the
two a lover, of whom the other was the tender friend, and even something
more, but I did not admit either rivalry, quarrels, or jealousy: because
every painful sentiment is painful for me to imagine, and I was unwilling
to tarnish this delightful picture by anything which was degrading to
nature. Smitten with my two charming models, I drew my own portrait in
the lover and the friend, as much as it was possible to do it; but I made
him young and amiable, giving him, at the same time, the virtues and the
defects which I felt in myself.

That I might place my characters in a residence proper for them, I
successively passed in review the most beautiful places I had seen in my
travels. But I found no grove sufficiently delightful, no landscape that
pleased me. The valleys of Thessaly would have satisfied me had I but
once had a sight of them; but my imagination, fatigued with invention,
wished for some real place which might serve it as a point to rest upon,
and create in me an illusion with respect to the real existence of the
inhabitants I intended to place there. I thought a good while upon the
Boromean Islands, the delightful prospect of which had transported me,
but I found in them too much art and ornament for my lovers. I however
wanted a lake, and I concluded by making choice of that about which my
heart has never ceased to wander. I fixed myself upon that part of the
banks of this lake where my wishes have long since placed my residence in
the imaginary happiness to which fate has confined me. The native place
of my poor mamma had still for me a charm. The contrast of the
situations, the richness and variety of the sites, the magnificence, the
majesty of the whole, which ravishes the senses, affects, the heart, and
elevates the mind, determined me to give it the preference, and I placed
my young pupils at Vervey. This is what I imagined at the first sketch;
the rest was not added until afterwards.

I for a long time confined myself to this vague plan, because it was
sufficient to fill my imagination with agreeable objects, and my heart
with sentiments in which it delighted. These fictions, by frequently
presenting themselves, at length gained a consistence, and took in my
mind a determined form. I then had an inclination to express upon paper
some of the situations fancy presented to me, and, recollecting
everything I had felt during my youth, thus, in some measure, gave an
object to that desire of loving, which I had never been able to satisfy,
and by which I felt myself consumed.

I first wrote a few incoherent letters, and when I afterwards wished to
give them connection, I frequently found a difficulty in doing it. What
is scarcely credible, although most strictly true, is my having written
the first two parts almost wholly in this manner, without having any plan
formed, and not foreseeing I should one day be tempted to make it a
regular work. For this reason the two parts afterwards formed of
materials not prepared for the place in which they are disposed, are full
of unmeaning expressions not found in the others.

In the midst of my reveries I had a visit from Madam d'Houdetot, the
first she had ever made me, but which unfortunately was not the last, as
will hereafter appear. The Comtesse d'Houdetot was the daughter of the
late M. de Bellegarde, a farmer-general, sister to M. d'Epinay, and
Messieurs de Lalive and De la Briche, both of whom have since been
introductors to ambassadors. I have spoken of the acquaintance I made
with her before she was married: since that event I had not seen her,
except at the fetes at La Chevrette, with Madam d'Epinay, her
sister-in-law. Having frequently passed several days with her, both at
La Chevrette and Epinay, I always thought her amiable, and that she seemed
to be my well-wisher. She was fond of walking with me; we were both good
walkers, and the conversation between us was inexhaustible. However, I
never went to see her in Paris, although she had several times requested
and solicited me to do it. Her connections with M. de St. Lambert, with
whom I began to be intimate, rendered her more interesting to me, and it
was to bring me some account of that friend who was, I believe, then at
Mahon, that she came to see me at the Hermitage.

This visit had something of the appearance of the beginning of a romance.
She lost her way. Her coachman, quitting the road, which turned to the
right, attempted to cross straight over from the mill of Clairvaux to the
Hermitage: her carriage stuck in a quagmire in the bottom of the valley,
and she got out and walked the rest of the road. Her delicate shoes were
soon worn through; she sunk into the dirt, her servants had the greatest
difficulty in extricating her, and she at length arrived at the Hermitage
in boots, making the place resound with her laughter, in which I most
heartily joined. She had to change everything. Theresa provided her
with what was necessary, and I prevailed upon her to forget her dignity
and partake of a rustic collation, with which she seemed highly
satisfied. It was late, and her stay was short; but the interview was so
mirthful that it pleased her, and she seemed disposed to return. She did
not however put this project into execution until the next year: but,
alas! the delay was not favorable to me in anything.

I passed the autumn in an employment no person would suspect me of
undertaking: this was guarding the fruit of M. d'Epinay. The Hermitage
was the reservoir of the waters of the park of the Chevrette; there was a
garden walled round and planted with espaliers and other trees, which
produced M. d'Epinay more fruit than his kitchen-garden at the Chevrette,
although three-fourths of it were stolen from him. That I might not be a
guest entirely useless, I took upon myself the direction of the garden
and the inspection of the conduct of the gardener. Everything went on
well until the fruit season, but as this became ripe, I observed that it
disappeared without knowing in what manner it was disposed of. The
gardener assured me it was the dormice which eat it all. I destroyed a
great number of these animals, notwithstanding which the fruit still
diminished. I watched the gardener's motions so narrowly, that I found
he was the great dormouse. He lodged at Montmorency, whence he came in
the night with his wife and children to take away the fruit he had
concealed in the daytime, and which he sold in the market at Paris as
publicly as if he had brought it from a garden of his own. The wretch
whom I loaded with kindness, whose children were clothed by Theresa, and
whose father, who was a beggar, I almost supported, robbed us with as
much ease as effrontery, not one of the three being sufficiently vigilant
to prevent him: and one night he emptied my cellar.

Whilst he seemed to address himself to me only, I suffered everything,
but being desirous of giving an account of the fruit, I was obliged to
declare by whom a great part of it had been stolen. Madam d'Epinay
desired me to pay and discharge him, and look out for another; I did so.
As this rascal rambled about the Hermitage in the night, armed with a
thick club staff with an iron ferrule, and accompanied by other villains
like himself, to relieve the governesses from their fears, I made his
successor sleep in the house with us; and this not being sufficient to
remove their apprehensions, I sent to ask M. d'Epinay for a musket, which
I kept in the chamber of the gardener, with a charge not to make use of
it except an attempt was made to break open the door or scale the walls
of the garden, and to fire nothing but powder, meaning only to frighten
the thieves. This was certainly the least precaution a man indisposed
could take for the common safety of himself and family, having to pass
the winter in the midst of a wood, with two timid women. I also procured
a little dog to serve as a sentinel. De Leyre coming to see me about
this time, I related to him my situation, and we laughed together at my
military apparatus. At his return to Paris he wished to amuse Diderot
with the story, and by this means the 'Coterie d'Holbachique' learned
that I was seriously resolved to pass the winter at the Hermitage. This
perseverance, of which they had not imagined me to be capable,
disconcerted them, and, until they could think of some other means of
making my residence disagreeable to me, they sent back, by means of
Diderot, the same De Leyre, who, though at first he had thought my
precautions quite natural, now pretended to discover that they were
inconsistent with my principles, and styled them more than ridiculous in
his letters, in which he overwhelmed me with pleasantries sufficiently
bitter and satirical to offend me had I been the least disposed to take
offence. But at that time being full of tender and affectionate
sentiments, and not susceptible of any other, I perceived in his biting
sarcasms nothing more than a jest, and believed him only jocose when
others would have thought him mad.

By my care and vigilance I guarded the garden so well, that, although
there had been but little fruit that year the produce was triple that of
the preceding years; it is true, I spared no pains to preserve it, and I
went so far as to escort what I sent to the Chevrette and to Epinay, and
to carry baskets of it myself. The aunt and I carried one of these,
which was so heavy that we were obliged to rest at every dozen steps, and
which we arrived with it we were quite wet with perspiration.

As soon as the bad season began to confine me to the house, I wished to
return to my indolent amusements, but this I found impossible. I had
everywhere two charming female friends before my eyes, their friend,
everything by which they were surrounded, the country they inhabited, and
the objects created or embellished for them by my imagination. I was no
longer myself for a moment, my delirium never left me. After many
useless efforts to banish all fictions from my mind, they at length
seduced me, and my future endeavors were confined to giving them order
and coherence, for the purpose of converting them into a species of

What embarrassed me most was, that I had contradicted myself so openly
and fully. After the severe principles I had just so publicly asserted,
after the austere maxims I had so loudly preached, and my violent
invectives against books, which breathed nothing but effeminacy and love,
could anything be less expected or more extraordinary, than to see me,
with my own hand, write my name in the list of authors of those books I
had so severely censured? I felt this incoherence in all its extent. I
reproached myself with it, I blushed at it and was vexed; but all this
could not bring me back to reason. Completely overcome, I was at all
risks obliged to submit, and to resolve to brave the What will the world
say of it? Except only deliberating afterwards whether or not I should
show my work, for I did not yet suppose I should ever determine to
publish it.

This resolution taken, I entirely abandoned myself to my reveries, and,
by frequently resolving these in my mind, formed with them the kind of
plan of which the execution has been seen. This was certainly the
greatest advantage that could be drawn from my follies; the love of good
which has never once been effaced from my heart, turned them towards
useful objects, the moral of which might have produced its good effects.
My voluptuous descriptions would have lost all their graces, had they
been devoid of the coloring of innocence.

A weak girl is an object of pity, whom love may render interesting, and
who frequently is not therefore the less amiable; but who can see without
indignation the manners of the age; and what is more disgusting than the
pride of an unchaste wife, who, openly treading under foot every duty,
pretends that her husband ought to be grateful for her unwillingness to
suffer herself to be taken in the fact? Perfect beings are not in
nature, and their examples are not near enough to us. But whoever says
that the description of a young person born with good dispositions, and a
heart equally tender and virtuous, who suffers herself, when a girl, to
be overcome by love, and when a woman, has resolution enough to conquer
in her turn, is upon the whole scandalous and useless, is a liar and a
hypocrite; hearken not to him.

Besides this object of morality and conjugal chastity which is radically
connected with all social order, I had in view one more secret in behalf
of concord and public peace, a greater, and perhaps more important object
in itself, at least for the moment for which it was created. The storm
brought on by the 'Encyclopedie', far from being appeased, was at the
time at its height. Two parties exasperated against each other to the
last degree of fury soon resembled enraged wolves, set on for their
mutual destruction, rather than Christians and philosophers, who had a
reciprocal wish to enlighten and convince each other, and lead their
brethren to the way of truth. Perhaps nothing more was wanting to each
party than a few turbulent chiefs, who possessed a little power, to make
this quarrel terminate in a civil war; and God only knows what a civil
war of religion founded on each side upon the most cruel intolerance
would have produced. Naturally an enemy to all spirit of party, I had
freely spoken severe truths to each, of which they had not listened.
I thought of another expedient, which, in my simplicity, appeared to me
admirable: this was to abate their reciprocal hatred by destroying their
prejudices, and showing to each party the virtue and merit which in the
other was worthy of public esteem and respect. This project, little
remarkable for its wisdom, which supported sincerity in mankind, and
whereby I fell into the error with which I reproached the Abbe de Saint
Pierre, had the success that was to be expected from it: It drew together
and united the parties for no other purpose than that of crushing the
author. Until experience made me discover my folly, I gave my attention
to it with a zeal worthy of the motive by which I was inspired; and I
imagined the two characters of Wolmar and Julia in an ecstasy, which made
me hope to render them both amiable, and, what is still more, by means of
each other.

Satisfied with having made a rough sketch of my plan, I returned to the
situations in detail, which I had marked out; and from the arrangement I
gave them resulted the first two parts of the Eloisa, which I finished
during the winter with inexpressible pleasure, procuring gilt-paper to
receive a fair copy of them, azure and silver powder to dry the writing,
and blue narrow ribbon to tack my sheets together; in a word, I thought
nothing sufficiently elegant and delicate for my two charming girls,
of whom, like another Pygmalion, I became madly enamoured. Every
evening, by the fireside, I read the two parts to the governesses. The
daughter, without saying a word, was like myself moved to tenderness,
and we mingled our sighs; her mother, finding there were no compliments,
understood nothing of the matter, remained unmoved, and at the intervals
when I was silent always repeated: "Sir, that is very fine."

Madam d'Epinay, uneasy at my being alone, in winter, in a solitary house,
in the midst of woods, often sent to inquire after my health. I never
had such real proofs of her friendship for me, to which mine never more
fully answered. It would be wrong in me were not I, among these proofs,
to make special mention of her portrait, which she sent me, at the same
time requesting instructions from me in what manner she might have mine,
painted by La Tour, and which had been shown at the exhibition. I ought
equally to speak of another proof of her attention to me, which, although
it be laughable, is a feature in the history of my character, on account
of the impression received from it. One day when it froze to an extreme
degree, in opening a packet she had sent me of several things I had
desired her to purchase for me, I found a little under-petticoat of
English flannel, which she told me she had worn, and desired I would make
of it an under-waistcoat.

This care, more than friendly, appeared to me so tender, and as if she
had stripped herself to clothe me, that in my emotion I repeatedly
kissed, shedding tears at the same time, both the note and the petticoat.
Theresa thought me mad. It is singular that of all the marks of
friendship Madam d'Epinay ever showed me this touched me the most, and
that ever since our rupture I have never recollected it without being
very sensibly affected. I for a long time preserved her little note, and
it would still have been in my possession had not it shared the fate of
my other notes received at the same period.

Although my disorder then gave me but little respite in winter, and a
part of the interval was employed in seeking relief from pain, this was
still upon the whole the season which since my residence in France I had
passed with most pleasure and tranquillity. During four or five months,
whilst the bad weather sheltered me from the interruptions of importunate
visits, I tasted to a greater degree than I had ever yet or have since
done, of that equal simple and independent life, the enjoyment of which
still made it more desirable to me; without any other company than the
two governesses in reality, and the two female cousins in idea. It was
then especially that I daily congratulated myself upon the resolution I
had had the good sense to take, unmindful of the clamors of my friends,
who were vexed at seeing me delivered from their tyranny; and when I
heard of the attempt of a madman, when De Leyre and Madam d'Epinay spoke
to me in letters of the trouble and agitation which reigned in Paris, how
thankful was I to Heaven for having placed me at a distance from all such
spectacles of horror and guilt. These would have been continued and
increased the bilious humor which the sight of public disorders had given
me; whilst seeing nothing around me in my retirement but gay and pleasing
objects, my heart was wholly abandoned to sentiments which were amiable.

I remark here with pleasure the course of the last peaceful moments that
were left me. The spring succeeding to this winter, which had been so
calm, developed the germ of the misfortunes I have yet to describe; in
the tissue of which, alike interval, wherein I had leisure to respite,
will not be found.

I think however, I recollect, that during this interval of peace, and in
the bosom of my solitude, I was not quite undisturbed by the Holbachiens.
Diderot stirred me up some strife, and I am much deceived if it was not
in the course of this winter that the 'Fils Naturel'--[Natural Son]--of
which I shall soon have occasion to speak, made its appearance.
Independently of the causes which left me but few papers relative to that
period, those even which I have been able to preserve are not very exact
with respect to dates. Diderot never dated his letters--Madam d'Epinay
and Madam d' Houdetot seldom dated theirs except the day of the week, and
De Leyre mostly confined himself to the same rules. When I was desirous
of putting these letters in order I was obliged to supply what was
wanting by guessing at dates, so uncertain that I cannot depend upon
them. Unable therefore to fix with certainty the beginning of these
quarrels, I prefer relating in one subsequent article everything I can
recollect concerning them.

The return of spring had increased my amorous delirium, and in my
melancholy, occasioned by the excess of my transports, I had composed for
the last parts of Eloisa several letters, wherein evident marks of the
rapture in which I wrote them are found. Amongst others I may quote
those from the Elysium, and the excursion upon the lake, which, if my
memory does not deceive me, are at the end of the fourth part. Whoever,
in reading these letters, does not feel his heart soften and melt into
the tenderness by which they were dictated, ought to lay down the book:
nature has refused him the means of judging of sentiment.

Precisely at the same time I received a second unforeseen visit from
Madam d'Houdetot, in the absence of her husband, who was captain of the
Gendarmarie, and of her lover, who was also in the service. She had come
to Eaubonne, in the middle of the Valley of Montmorency, where she had
taken a pretty house, from thence she made a new excursion to the
Hermitage. She came on horseback, and dressed in men's clothes.
Although I am not very fond of this kind of masquerade, I was struck with
the romantic appearance she made, and, for once, it was with love. As
this was the first and only time in all my life, the consequence of which
will forever render it terrible to my remembrance, I must take the
permission to enter into some particulars on the subject.

The Countess d'Houdetot was nearly thirty years of age, and not handsome;
her face was marked with the smallpox, her complexion coarse, she was
short-sighted, and her eyes were rather round; but she had fine long
black hair, which hung down in natural curls below her waist; her figure
was agreeable, and she was at once both awkward and graceful in her
motions; her wit was natural and pleasing; to this gayety, heedlessness
and ingenuousness were perfectly suited: she abounded in charming
sallies, after which she so little sought, that they sometimes escaped
her lips in spite of herself. She possessed several agreeable talents,
played the harpsichord, danced well, and wrote pleasing poetry. Her
character was angelic--this was founded upon a sweetness of mind, and
except prudence and fortitude, contained in it every virtue. She was
besides so much to be depended upon in all intercourse, so faithful in
society, even her enemies were not under the necessity of concealing from
her their secrets. I mean by her enemies the men, or rather the women,
by whom she was not beloved; for as to herself she had not a heart
capable of hatred, and I am of opinion this conformity with mine greatly
contributed towards inspiring me with a passion for her. In confidence
of the most intimate friendship, I never heard her speak ill of persons
who were absent, nor even of her sister-in-law. She could neither
conceal her thoughts from anyone, nor disguise any of her sentiments, and
I am persuaded she spoke of her lover to her husband, as she spoke of him

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