Confessions (Rousseau)

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"The Stealing of The Apple" Aldus edition, 1903

The Confessions is an autobiographical book by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Covering the first fifty-three years of Rousseau's life, up to 1765, it was completed in 1769, but not published until 1782, four years after Rousseau's death, even though Rousseau did read excerpts of his manuscript publicly at various salons and other meeting places.

Les Confessions (full text online)

Quotes[edit]

  • I know nothing which exercises a more powerful influence upon my heart than an act of courage, performed at an opportune moment, on behalf of the weak who are unjustly oppressed
  • I can understand how it is that the inhabitants of cities, who see nothing but walls, streets and crimes, have so little religious belief; but I cannot understand how those who live in the country, especially in solitude, can have none. How is it that their soul is not lifted up in ecstasy a hundred times a day to the Author of the wonders which strike them?
  • I have learned to doubt whether a man, who is the possessor of a large fortune, whoever he may be, can be sincerely fond of my principles and their originator.
  • An enemy to everything that comes under the denomination of party, faction, and cabal, I have never expected any good from those who belong to them.
  • So difficult is it to manage the irritable amour-propre of literary men, and such great care is necessary, in paying them compliments, to leave nothing which can even be suspected of a double meaning.
  • It is in the country that one learns to love and serve humanity; one only learns to despise it in cities.
  • for the first time since the existence of the world, an author permits himself, by a single stroke of the pen, to make so many villains without distinction.
  • I might have thrown myself entirely into the most lucrative path, and, instead of lowering my pen to copying, I might have devoted it entirely to writings, which, in the flight which I had taken, and which I felt myself capable of continuing, might have enabled me to live in opulence, even in luxury, if only I had been disposed to combine, in the smallest degree, an author’s tricks with carefulness to produce good books. But I felt that writing for bread would soon have stifled my genius and destroyed my talents, which were more those of the heart than of the pen, and arose solely from a proud and elevated manner of thinking, which alone could support them.
  • It is too difficult to think nobly, when one thinks only in order to live. In order to be able and to venture to utter great truths, one must not be dependent upon success. I threw my books amongst the public with the sure consciousness of having spoken for the general good, without caring for anything else. If the work was rejected, so much the worse for those who refused to profit by it. As for myself, I did not need their approval in order to live; my profession would support me, if my books did not sell; and it was just this which made them sell.
  • even if the sacrifices which are made to duty and virtue are painful to make, they are well repaid by the sweet recollections which they leave at the bottom of the heart.
  • Nothing shows a man’s true inclinations better than the character of those whom he loves.
  • There is no soul so vile, no heart so barbarous, that it is not susceptible of some kind of attachment.
  • I worship freedom; I abhor restraint, trouble, dependence. As long as the money in my purse lasts, it assures my independence; it relieves me of the trouble of finding expedients to replenish it, a necessity which always inspired me with dread; but the fear of seeing it exhausted makes me hoard it carefully. The money which a man possesses is the instrument of freedom; that which we eagerly pursue is the instrument of slavery. Therefore I hold fast to that which I have, and desire nothing.
  • So true it is that, in every condition of life, the strong man who is guilty saves himself at the expense of the innocent who is weak.
  • I knew that my talent consisted entirely in a certain lively interest in the subjects which I had to treat, and that nothing but the love of the great, the true, and the beautiful, could enliven my genius.
  • It was thought that I could write according to the rules of a trade, like all other literary men, whereas I have never been able to write except from inspiration.
  • All that had just occurred had completely disgusted me with literary men, and I had cause to feel that it was impossible for me to pursue the same career, without coming into contact with them. I was equally disgusted with men of the world, and, in general, with the mixed life which I had recently led, half by myself, and half in society for which I was utterly unfitted. I felt more than ever, from constant experience, that all association on unequal terms is always prejudicial to the weaker party.
  • My views were even more hostile to their principles and influence than the unbelief of my colleagues, since atheistic and religious fanaticism, which approach closely in their common intolerance, are even capable of uniting, as they have done in China, and as they do now against myself; whereas rational and moral religion, which takes away all human control over the conscience, deprives of further resource those who claim that power.
  • When alone, I have never known what it is to feel weary, even when I am entirely unemployed; my imagination fills up every void, and is alone sufficient to occupy me. It is only the idle gossip of a room, when people sit opposite each other, moving nothing but their tongues, that I have never been able to endure. When walking or moving, I can put up with it; the feet and eyes are at least employed; but, to remain with folded arms, talking about the weather and the flies buzzing round, or, what is worse, exchanging compliments, that is to me unendurable torture.
  • The first, the greatest, the most powerful, the most irrepressible of all my needs was entirely in my heart; it was the need of a companionship as intimate as was possible; it was for that purpose especially that I needed a woman rather than a man, a female rather than a male friend.
  • I had come to see that everything was radically connected with politics, and that, however one proceeded, no people would be other than the nature of its government made it; thus this great question of the best government possible appeared to me to reduce itself to the following: What kind of government is best adapted to produce the most virtuous, the most enlightened, the wisest, and, in short, the best people, taking the word ‘best’ in its widest signification? I thought that I perceived that this question was very closely connected with another, very nearly, although not quite the same. What is the government which, from its nature, always keeps closest to the law? This leads to the question, What is the law? and to a series of questions equally important. I saw that all this led me on to great truths conducive to the happiness of the human race, above all, to that of my country, in which I had not found, in the journey I had ust made thither, sufficiently clear or correct notions of liberty and the laws to satisfy me; and I believed that this indirect method of communicating them was the best suited to spare the pride of those whom it concerned, and to secure my own forgiveness for having been able to see a little further than themselves. Although I had been already engaged five or six years upon this work, it was still in a very backward state. Books of this kind require meditation, leisure, and tranquillity. Besides, I worked at it, as the saying is, en bonne fortune, without communicating my intention to anyone, not even to Diderot. I was afraid that it might appear too foolhardy, considering the age and country in which I wrote, and that the alarm of my friends would embarrass me in its execution.
  • Such has ever been my lot; no sooner have I brought together separate friends of my own, than they have infallibly combined against me.
  • I believe that my friends would have forgiven me for writing books – even excellent books – because such a reputation was attainable by themselves; but they were unable to forgive me for having composed an opera, or for its brilliant success, because not one of them was capable of following the same career, or aspiring to the same honour.
  • Thus the Opera kept my piece and defrauded me of the recompense for which I had surrendered my rights in it. Between the weak and the strong, this would be called robbery; between the strong and the weak, it is simply called the appropriation of what belongs to one’s neighbour.
  • I was a man who was so soon understood, that, after the first day, there was nothing more to be seen in me.
  • I had a tolerably large number of acquaintances, but only two chosen friends, Diderot and Grimm. Owing to the desire, which I always feel, to bring together all who are dear to me, I was so devoted a friend of both, that it was unavoidable that they should soon become equally devoted to each other.
  • Thrown, in spite of myself, into the great world, without possessing its manners, and unable to acquire or conform to them, I took it into my head to adopt manners of my own, which might enable me to dispense with them. Being unable to overcome my foolish and disagreeable shyness, which proceeded from the fear of offending against the rules of polite society, I resolved, in order to give myself courage, to trample them underfoot. Shame made me cynical and sarcastic. I affected to despise the politeness which I did not know how to practise.
  • Ignacio Emmanuel de Altuna was one of those rare individuals, whom Spain alone produces, too seldom for her own glory. He was not a man of the violent national passions common to his countrymen; the idea of revenge was as far from his mind as the desire of it from his heart. He was too proud to be vindictive, and I have often heard him say, with great sang-froid, that no living man could offend him. He was gallant without being tender; he played with women as if they had been pretty children; he amused himself with his friends’ mistresses, but I never knew him to have one himself, or even to desire it. The flames of the virtue which consumed his heart never suffered the passions of desire to become excited.
  • After his travels, he married, died young, and left children; and I am as convinced as I am of my own existence, that his wife was the first and only woman with whom he enjoyed the pleasures of love. Outwardly, he was devout, like a Spaniard; in his heart he had the piety of an angel. With the exception of myself, he is the only tolerant person I have ever seen in my life. He never asked anyone what his religious views were. It made little difference to him whether his friend was a Jew, Protestant, Turk, bigot, or atheist, provided he was an honest man.
  • He divided and settled in advance the occupations of his day, by hours, quarters, and minutes, and he adhered so scrupulously to this arrangement, that, if the hour had struck while he was in the middle of a sentence, he would have shut the book without finishing it. Each of these portions of time, thus broken up, was set apart for a different occupation; reflection, conversation, divine service, Locke, telling his beads, visiting, music, painting; no pleasure, temptation, or desire to oblige, was permitted to interrupt this arrangement; only a duty to be fulfilled could have done so. When he gave me the list of his distribution of time, in order that I might follow it, I began by laughing, and ended with tears of admiration.
  • I took great delight in M. Salomon’s conversation; it seemed to me that, while in his company, I was acquiring a foretaste of that higher knowledge, which was reserved for my soul, when it had lost the fetters which confined it. My predilection for him extended to the subjects which he discussed, and I began to look for books which might help me to understand him better.
  • A man who, at the age of five-and-twenty, knows nothing and wishes to learn everything, is bound to make the best use of his time. Not knowing at what point destiny or death might arrest my zeal, I desired, in any case, to get an idea of everything, in order to discover the special bent of my natural abilities, and also to judge for myself what was worthy of cultivation.
  • I certainly cannot have been born for study, for continuous application tires me to such an extent, that I am utterly unable to devote more than half an hour together to the close study of the same subject, especially when following another’s train of thought; for it has sometimes happened that I have been able to devote myself to my own ideas longer, and even with tolerable success. When I have read a few pages of an author who must be read carefully, my mind wanders from him, and is lost in the clouds. If I persist, I exhaust myself to no purpose; I become dazed, and cease to see anything. But if different subjects follow each other, even without interruption, one relieves me from the other, and, without feeling the need of any relaxation, I follow them more easily. I profited by this observation in my plan of study, and I combined them in such a manner that I was busy the whole day without ever fatiguing myself.
  • I began with some philosophical treatise, such as the Logic of Port-Royal, Locke’s Essay, Malebranche, Leibnitz, Descartes, &c. I soon observed that all these authors nearly always contradicted each other, and I conceived the fanciful idea of reconciling them, which fatigued me greatly, and made me lose considerable time. I muddled my head without making any progress. At last, abandoning this plan, I adopted one that was infinitely better, to which I attribute all the progress which, in spite of my want of talent, I may have made; for it is certain that I never had much capacity for study. As I read each author, I made a practice of adopting and following up all his ideas, without any admixture of my own or of those of anyone else, and without ever attempting to argue with him.
  • I did not find that my critical faculties had lost their vigour owing to my having begun to exercise them late; and, when I published my own ideas, I have never been accused of being a servile disciple, or of swearing in verba magistri.
  • During my walk I offered a prayer, which did not consist merely of idle, stammering words, but of a sincere uplifting of the heart to the Creator of this delightful Nature, whose beauties were spread before my eyes. I never like to pray in a room: it has always seemed to me as if the walls and all the petty handiwork of man interposed between myself and God. I love to contemplate him in His works, while my heart uplifts itself to Him.
  • I have always found singular pleasure in taming animals, especially such as are shy and wild. It appeared to me delightful to inspire them with a confidence which I have never abused. I desired their fondness for me to be perfectly unrestricted.
  • It is sometimes said that the sword wears out the scabbard. That is my history. My passions have made me live, and my passions have killed me. What passions? will be asked. Trifles, the most childish things in the world, which, however, excited me as much as if the possession of Helen or the throne of the universe had been at stake. In the first place – women. When I possessed one, my senses were calm; my heart, never. The needs of love devoured me in the midst of enjoyment; I had a tender mother, a dear friend; but I needed a mistress.
  • But this project, the carrying out of which would probably have plunged me into the study of botany, for which, as it appears to me, I was born, failed in consequence of one of those unexpected accidents which overthrow the best concerted plans. I was fated to become by degrees an example of human misery
  • Although we did not require a very profound knowledge of arithmetic for our calculations, we required enough to sometimes cause me some trouble. To overcome this difficulty, I bought some books on arithmetic, and learned the subject well, for I learned it alone.
  • The colouring of the maps of our geometricians had also given me a taste for drawing. I bought some colours, and began to paint flowers and landscapes. It was a pity that I found I possessed but little talent for this art, for I was entirely devoted to it. I could have spent whole months in the midst of my crayons and pencils without going out. As this occupation occupied too much of my attention, they were compelled to drag me away from it. It is always the same with all the pursuits to which I begin to devote myself; they grow upon me, become a passion, and soon I see nothing else in the world but my favourite amusement. Age has not cured me of this fault, it has not even diminished it; even while I write this, I sit like an old twaddler, infatuated with another study, which is useless to me and of which I understand nothing, which even those who have devoted themselves to it during their youth, are obliged to give up at the age when I want to begin it.
  • What did I care for readers, the public, or the whole world, while I was mounting to the skies? Besides, did I carry pens and paper with me? If I had thought of all that, nothing would have occurred to me. I did not foresee that I should have ideas; they come to me when it pleases them, not when it pleases me. They either do not come at all, or they come in crowds, and overwhelm me with their force and number. Ten volumes a day would not have been sufficient. When could I find time to write them? When I arrived at any town, I thought of nothing but a good dinner; when I left it, of nothing but a good walk, I felt that a new paradise was waiting for me at the door. I thought only of going to find it.
  • What I most regret in regard to the details of my life which have escaped my memory, is that I never kept a diary of my travels. I have never thought so much, existed so much, lived so much, been so much myself, if I may venture to use the phrase, as in the journeys which I have made alone and on foot. There is something in walking which animates and enlivens my ideas. I can scarcely think when I remain still; my body must be in motion to make my mind active. The sight of the country, a succession of pleasant views, the open air, a good appetite, the sound health which walking gives me, the free life of the inns, the absence of all that makes me conscious of my dependent position, of all that reminds me of my condition – all this sets my soul free, gives me greater boldness of thought, throws me, so to speak, into the immensity of things, so that I can combine, select, and appropriate them at pleasure, without fear or restraint.
  • I dispose of Nature in its entirety as its lord and master; my heart, roaming from object to object, mingles and identifies itself with those which soothe it, wraps itself up in charming fancies, and is intoxicated with delicious sensations. If, in order to render them permanent, I amuse myself by describing them by myself, what vigorous outlines, what fresh colouring, what power of expression I give them! All this, it is said, has been found in my works, although written in my declining years.
  • The least trifling pleasure which is within my reach tempts me more than the joys of Paradise.
  • I think this is enough to make it intelligible how, although not a fool, I have often been taken for one, even by people who were in a position to judge correctly; what aggravates my misfortune is the fact that my eyes and features give promise of something better, and the failure of this hope makes my stupidity more startling to others. This detailed explanation, to which a special circumstance has led me, is not without its use in reference to what follows. It contains the solution of many extraordinary things which I have done, and which are attributed to an unsociable disposition which I by no means possess. I should be as fond of society as anyone else, if I was not sure of appearing in it, not only to my own disadvantage, but quite a different person from what I really am. My resolution to write and live in seclusion, is exactly that which suits me. If I had been present, my powers would never have been known, or even suspected
  • However, in spite of all the time that he devoted to me, in spite of the hearty goodwill with which we both devoted ourselves to our studies, and although he went quite the right way to work, I made little progress, although I worked hard. It is singular that, although endowed with considerable powers of apprehension, I have never been able to learn anything with tutors, with the exception of my father and M. Lambercier. The little additional knowledge I possess I owe to my own unaided efforts, as will be presently seen. My spirit, impatient of any kind of constraint, cannot submit to the laws of the moment; even the fear of not learning prevents my attention; for fear of making those who are talking to me impatient, I pretend to understand them; they accordingly go on, and I understand nothing. My mind must fix its own time for work; it cannot submit to that which is fixed by another.
  • I find no compulsion more terrible than the obligation of speaking continuously and on the spur of the moment. I do not know whether this has anything to do with my mortal aversion to constraint of any kind; but to be absolutely obliged to speak is enough to make me infallibly talk nonsense.
  • The sound of the bells, which always singularly affects me, the song of the birds, the beauty of the daylight, the enchanting landscape, the scattered country dwellings in which my fancy placed our common home – all these produced upon me an impression so vivid, tender, melancholy and touching, that I saw myself transported, as it were, in ecstasy, into that happy time and place, wherein my heart, possessing all the happiness it could desire, tasted it with inexpressible rapture, without even a thought of sensual pleasure.
  • I thought that a man must be a fool to sacrifice such good fortune to ambitious plans, slow, difficult, and uncertain of fulfilment, which, even supposing them to be someday realised, in spite of all their brilliancy, were not worth a quarter of an hour of real pleasure and youthful freedom.
  • He did not receive me as a servant, but made me sit down by the side of the fire, and, questioning me with the greatest gentleness, soon discovered that my education, which had been commenced in so many things, was complete in none. Finding, especially, that I knew very little Latin, he undertook to teach me more. It was arranged that I should go to him every morning, and I commenced the following day. Thus, by one of those curious coincidences, which will often be found in the course of my life, I was at once above and below my station – I was pupil and valet in the same house; and, while still a servant, I had a tutor of such noble birth that he ought to have been the tutor of none but kings’ sons.
  • but I gained from him still more precious advantages, which have been of use to me all my life, lessons of healthy morality and principles of sound reason. In my alternating tastes and ideas, I had always been too high or too low – Achilles or Thersites: now a hero, now a good-for-nothing. M. Gaime undertook to put me in my place, and to show me to myself in my true colours, without sparing or discouraging me. He spoke to me with due recognition of my natural talents, but added that he saw obstacles arising from them which would prevent me from making the best use of them; so that, in his opinion, they would be less useful to me as steps to fortune than as a means to enable me to do without it. He put before me a true picture of human life, of which I had only false ideas; he showed me how, in the midst of contrary fortune, the wise man can always strive after happiness and sail against the wind in order to reach it; that there is no true happiness without prudence, and that prudence belongs to all conditions of life. He damped my admiration for external grandeur, by proving that those who ruled others were neither happier nor wiser than the ruled. He told me one thing, which I have often remembered since then – that, if every man could read the hearts of all other men, there would be found more people willing to descend than to rise in life. This reflection, the truth of which is striking, and in which there is no exaggeration, has been of great service to me during the course of my life, by helping to make me quietly content with my position. He gave me the first true ideas of what was honourable, which my inflated genius had only grasped in its exaggerated forms. He made me feel that the enthusiasm of lofty virtues was rarely shown in society; that, in trying to climb too high, one was in danger of falling; that a continued round of trifling duties, always well performed, required no less effort than heroic actions; that from them a man gained more in the matter of honour and happiness; and that it was infinitely better to enjoy the esteem of one’s fellow men at all times, than their admiration occasionally.
  • if ever a child received a sensible and sound education, it was myself. I belonged to a family which was distinguished by its manners from the common people; from all my relations I had learnt nothing but lessons of wisdom, and had had honourable examples before my eyes. My father, although fond of pleasure, was not only a man of strict integrity but of considerable religious feeling. A man of gallantry in the world and a Christian at heart, he had early instilled into me the sentiments which he felt. Of my three aunts, who were all prudent and virtuous, the two eldest were pious; the youngest, a girl full of grace, talent and good sense, was perhaps even more pious, although she made less show of it. From the bosom of this estimable family I went to M. Lambercier, who, though a churchman and preacher, was at heart a believer, and nearly always practised what he preached. He and his sister, by gentle and judicious training, cultivated the principles of piety which they found in my heart. These worthy people, with this object, employed means so sincere, so prudent and so sensible that, far from being wearied by their preaching, I always felt deeply affected by it and formed the best resolutions, which I rarely forgot to carry out when I thought of them.
  • I consequently knew as much about religion as was possible for a child of my age. I even knew more, for why should I conceal my thoughts? My childhood was not that of a child; I always felt and thought as a man. It was only when I grew up that I re-entered the class of ordinary individuals; as a child I did not belong to it. The reader will laugh to find me modestly representing myself as a prodigy. So be it; but when he has laughed sufficiently, let him find a child who, in his sixth year, is so attracted, interested and carried away by romances as to shed hot tears over them; then I shall feel that my vanity is ridiculous, and will confess that I am wrong. If I have said that we ought not to speak about religion to children, if we wish them to possess any, and, further, that they are incapable of knowing God, even according to our ideas, I have drawn this conviction from my observations, not from my own experience, for I knew that no conclusion could be drawn from it in regard to others. Find me Jean-Jacques Rousseaus of six years old, and speak to them of God when they are seven; I will guarantee that you run no risk.
  • From these I have drawn the great moral lesson, perhaps the only one of any practical value, to avoid those situations of life which bring our duties into conflict with our interests, and which show us our own advantage in the misfortunes of others; for it is certain that, in such situations, however sincere our love of virtue, we must, sooner or later, inevitably grow weak without perceiving it, and become unjust and wicked in act, without having ceased to be just and good in our hearts.
  • This principle, deeply imprinted on the bottom of my heart, which, although somewhat late, in practice guided my whole conduct, is one of those which have caused me to appear a very strange and foolish creature in the eyes of the world, and, above all, amongst my acquaintances. I have been reproached with wanting to pose as an original, and different from others. In reality, I have never troubled about acting like other people or differently from them. I sincerely desired to do what was right. I withdrew, as far as it lay in my power, from situations which opposed my interests to those of others, and might, consequently, inspire me with a secret, though involuntary, desire of injuring them.
  • The vilest tastes, the lowest street-blackguardism took the place of my simple amusements and effaced even the remembrance of them. I must, in spite of a most upright training, have had a great propensity to degenerate; for the change took place with great rapidity, without the least trouble, and never did soprecocious a Caesar so rapidly become a Laridon.
  • My new master, M. Ducommun, was a rough and violent young man, who in a short time succeeded in tarnishing all the brightness of my childhood, stupefying my loving and lively nature, and reducing me, in mind as well as in position, to a real state of apprenticeship. My Latin, my antiquities, my history, were all for a long time forgotten; I did not even remember that there had ever been any Romans in the world.
  • My master’s tyranny at length made the work, of which I should have been very fond, altogether unbearable, and filled me with vices which I should otherwise have hated, such as lying, idleness and thieving. The recollection of the alteration produced in me by that period of my life has taught me, better than anything else, the difference between filial dependence and abject servitude. Naturally shy and timid, no fault was more foreign to my disposition than impudence; but I had enjoyed an honourable liberty, which hitherto had only been gradually restrained, and at length disappeared altogether. I was bold with my father, unrestrained with M. Lambercier, and modest with my uncle; I became timid with my master, and from that moment I was a lost child. Accustomed to perfect equality in my intercourse with my superiors, knowing no pleasure which was not within my reach, seeing no dish of which I could not have a share, having no desire which I could not have openly expressed, and carrying my heart upon my lips – it is easy to judge what I was bound to become, in a house in which I did not venture to open my mouth, where I was obliged to leave the table before the meal was half over, and the room as soon as I had nothing more to do there; where, incessantly fettered to my work, I saw only objects of enjoyment for others and of privation for myself; where the sight of the liberty enjoyed by my master and companions increased the weight of my servitude; where, in disputes about matters as to which I was best informed, I did not venture to open my mouth; where, in short, everything that I saw became for my heart an object of longing, simply because I was deprived of all. From that time my ease of manner, my gaiety, the happy expressions which, in former times, when I had done something wrong, had gained me immunity from punishment – all were gone.
  • It is nearly always good, but badly-directed principles, that make a child take the first step towards evil. In spite of continual privations and temptations, I had been more than a year with my master without being able to make up my mind to take anything, even eatables. My first theft was a matter of obliging someone else, but it opened the door to others, the motive of which was not so praiseworthy.
  • In this manner I learnt to covet in silence, to dissemble, to lie, and, lastly, to steal – an idea which, up to that time, had never even entered my mind, and of which since then I have never been able to cure myself completely. Covetousness and weakness always lead in that direction. This explains why all servants are rogues, and why all apprentices ought to be; but the latter, in a peaceful state of equality, where all that they see is within their reach, lose, as they grow up, this disgraceful propensity. Not having had the same advantages, I have not been able to reap the same benefits.
  • In this strange situation, my restless imagination entered upon an occupation which saved me from myself and calmed my growing sensuality. This consisted in feeding myself upon the situations which had interested me in the course of my reading, in recalling them, in varying them, in combining them, in making them so truly my own that I became one of the persons who filled my imagination, and always saw myself in the situations most agreeable to my taste; and that, finally, the fictitious state in which I succeeded in putting myself made me forget my actual state with which I was so dissatisfied. This love of imaginary objects, and the readiness with which I occupied myself with them, ended by disgusting me with everything around me, and decided that liking for solitude which has never left me.
  • Completely devoted to my new hobby, I did nothing but read, and no longer stole. Here again is one of my characteristic peculiarities. In the midst of a certain attachment to any manner of life, a mere trifle distracts me, alters me, rivets my attention, and finally becomes a passion. Then everything is forgotten; I no longer think of anything except the new object which engrosses my attention. My heart beat with impatience to turn over the leaves of the new book which I had in my pocket; I pulled it out as soon as I was alone, and thought no more of rummaging my master’s work-room.
  • I should never finish these details if I were t follow all the paths along which, during my apprenticeship, I descended from the sublimity of heroism to the depths of worthlessness. And yet, although I adopted the vices of my position, I could not altogether acquire a taste for them. I wearied of the amusements of my companions; and when excessive restraint had rendered work unendurable to me, I grew tired of everything. This renewed my taste for reading, which I had for some time lost. This reading, for which I stole time from my work, became a new offence which brought new punishment upon me. The taste for it, provoked by constraint, became a passion, and soon a regular madness. La Tribu, a well-known lender of books, provided me with all kinds of literature. Good or bad, all were alike to me; I had no choice, and read everything with equal avidity. I read at the work-table, I read on my errands, I read in the wardrobe, and forgot myself for hours together; my head became giddy with reading; I could do nothing else. My master watched me, surprised me, beat me, took away my books. How many volumes were torn, burnt, and thrown out of the window!
  • My liveliest desire was to be loved by all who came near me. I was of a gentle disposition; my cousin and our guardians were the same. During two whole years I was neither the witness nor the victim of any violent feeling. Everything nourished in my heart those tendencies which it received from Nature. I knew no higher happiness than to see all the world satisfied with me and with everything. I shall never forget how, if I happened to hesitate when saying my catechism in church, nothing troubled me more than to observe signs of restlessness and dissatisfaction on Mademoiselle Lambercier’s face. That alone troubled me more than the disgrace of failing in public, which, nevertheless, affected me greatly: for, although little susceptible to praise, I felt shame keenly; and I may say here that the thought of Mademoiselle’s reproaches caused me less uneasiness than the fear of offending her.
  • Failure to please grieved me more than punishment, and signs of dissatisfaction hurt me more than corporal chastisement.
  • For some time she was content with threats, and this threat of a punishment that was quite new to me appeared very terrible; but, after it had been carried out, I found the reality less terrible than the expectation; and, what was still more strange, this chastisement made me still more devoted to her who had inflicted it. It needed all the strength of this devotion and all my natural docility to keep myself from doing something which would have deservedly brought upon me a repetition of it; for I had found in the pain, even in the disgrace, a mixture of sensuality which had left me less afraid than desirous of experiencing it again from the same hand. No doubt some precocious sexual instinct was mingled with this feeling.
  • Who would believe that this childish punishment, inflicted upon me when only eight years old by a young woman of thirty, disposed of my tastes, my desires, my passions, and my own self for the remainder of my life, and that in a manner exactly contrary to that which should have been the natural result? When my feelings were once inflamed, my desires so went astray that, limited to what I had already felt, they did not trouble themselves to look for anything else. In spite of my hot blood, which has been inflamed with sensuality almost from my birth, I kept myself free from every taint until the age when the coldest and most sluggish temperaments begin to develop. In torments for a long time, without knowing why, I devoured with burning glances all the pretty women I met; my imagination unceasingly recalled them to me, only to make use of them in my own fashion.
  • In this manner, then, in spite of an ardent, lascivious and precocious temperament, I passed the age of puberty without desiring, even without knowing of any other sensual pleasures than those of which Mademoiselle Lambercier had most innocently given me the idea; and when, in course of time, I became a man, that which should have destroyed me again preserved me. My old childish taste, instead of disappearing, became so associated with the other, that I could never banish it from the desires kindled by my senses; and this madness, joined to my natural shyness, has always made me very unenterprising with women, for want of courage to say all or power to do all.
  • Thus I have spent my life in idle longing, without saying a word, in the presence of those whom I loved most. Too bashful to declare my taste, I at least satisfied it in situations which had reference to it and kept up the idea of it. To lie at the feet of an imperious mistress, to obey her commands, to ask her forgiveness – this was for me a sweet enjoyment; and, the more my lively imagination heated my blood, the more I presented the appearance of a bashful lover. It may be easily imagined that this manner of making love does not lead to very speedy results, and is not very dangerous to the virtue of those who are its object. For this reason I have rarely possessed, but have none the less enjoyed myself in my own way – that is to say, in imagination. Thus it has happened that my senses, in harmony with my timid disposition and my romantic spirit, have kept my sentiments pure and my morals blameless, owing to the very tastes which, combined with a little more impudence, might have plunged me into the most brutal sensuality.
  • One may judge what such confessions have cost me, from the fact that, during the whole course of my life, I have never dared to declare my folly to those whom I loved with the frenzy of a passion which deprived me of sight and hearing, which robbed me of my senses and caused me to tremble all over with a convulsive movement.
  • Imagine a child, shy and obedient in ordinary life, but fiery, proud, and unruly in his passions: a child who had always been led by the voice of reason and always treated with gentleness, justice, and consideration, who had not even a notion of injustice, and who for the first time becomes acquainted with so terrible an example of it on the part of the very people whom he most loves and respects! What an upset of ideas! what a disturbance of feelings! what revolution in his heart, in his brain, in the whole of his little intellectual and moral being! Imagine all this, I say, if possible. As for myself, I feel incapable of disentangling and following up the least trace of what then took place within me.
  • That first feeling of violence and injustice has remained so deeply graven on my soul, that all the ideas connected with it bring back to me my first emotion; and this feeling, which, in its origin, had reference only to myself, has become so strong in itself and so completely detached from all personal interest, that, when I see or hear of any act of injustice – whoever is the victim of it, and wherever it is committed – my heart kindles with rage, as if the effect of it recoiled upon myself. When I read of the cruelties of a ferocious tyrant, the crafty atrocities of a rascally priest, I would gladly set out to plunge a dagger into the heart of such wretches, although I had to die for it a hundred times. I have often put myself in a perspiration, pursuing or stoning a cock, a cow, a dog, or any animal which I saw tormenting another merely because it felt itself the stronger. This impulse may be natural to me, and I believe that it is; but the profound impression left upon me by the first injustice I suffered was too long and too strongly connected with it, not to have greatly strengthened it.
  • I felt before I thought: this is the common lot of humanity. I experienced it more than others. I do not know what I did until I was five or six years old. I do not know how I learned to read; I only remember my earliest reading, and the effect it had upon me; from that time I date my uninterrupted self-consciousness. My mother had left some romances behind her, which my father and I began to read after supper. At first it was only a question of practising me in reading by the aid of amusing books; but soon the interest became so lively, that we used to read in turns without stopping, and spent whole nights in this occupation. We were unable to leave off until the volume was finished. Sometimes, my father, hearing the swallows begin to twitter in the early morning, would say, quite ashamed, ‘Let us go to bed; I am more of a child than yourself.’ In a short time I acquired, by this dangerous method, not only extreme facility in reading and understanding what I read, but a knowledge of the passions that was unique in a child of my age. I had no idea of things in themselves, although all the feelings of actual life were already known to me. I had conceived nothing, but felt everything. These confused emotions, which I felt one after the other, certainly did not warp the reasoning powers which I did not as yet possess; but they shaped them in me of a peculiar stamp, and gave me odd and romantic notions of human life, of which experience and reflection have never been able wholly to cure me.
  • This interesting reading, and the conversations between my father and myself to which it gave rise, formed in me the free and republican spirit, the proud and indomitable character unable to endure slavery or servitude, which has tormented me throughout my life in situations the least fitted to afford it scope.
  • Unceasingly occupied with thoughts of Rome and Athens, living as it were amongst their great men, myself by birth the citizen of a republic and the son of a father whose patriotism was his strongest passion, I was fired by his example; I believed myself a Greek or a Roman; I lost my identity in that of the individual whose life I was reading; the recitals of the qualities of endurance and intrepidity which arrested my attention made my eyes glisten and strengthened my voice.
  • I had a brother seven years older than myself, who was learning my father’s trade. The excessive affection which was lavished upon myself caused him to be somewhat neglected, which treatment I cannot approve of. His education felt the consequences of this neglect. He took to evil courses before he was old enough to be a regular profligate. He was put with another master, from whom he was continually running away, as he had done from home. I hardly ever saw him; I can scarcely say that I knew him; but I never ceased to love him tenderly, and he loved me as much as a vagabond can love anything.Read more at location 241
  • I remember that, on one occasion, when my father was chastising him harshly and in anger, I threw myself impetuously between them and embraced him closely. In this manner I covered his body with mine, and received the blows which were aimed at him; I so obstinately maintained my position that at last my father was obliged to leave off, being either disarmed by my cries and tears, or afraid of hurting me more than him. At last, my brother turned out so badly that he ran away and disappeared altogether. Some time afterwards we heard that he was in Germany. He never once wrote to us. From that time nothing more has been heard of him, and thus I have remained an only son.
  • I am commencing an undertaking, hitherto without precedent, and which will never find an imitator. I desire to set before my fellows the likeness of a man in all the truth of nature, and that man myself.
  • Myself alone! I know the feelings of my heart, and I know men. I am not made like any of those I have seen; I venture to believe that I am not made like any of those who are in existence. If I am not better, at least I am different.
  • Two things, almost incompatible, are united in me in a manner which I am unable to understand: a very ardent temperament, lively and tumultuous passions, and, at the same time, slowly developed and confused ideas, which never present themselves until it is too late. One might say that my heart and my mind do not belong to the same person. Feeling takes possession of my soul more rapidly than a flash of lightning; but, instead of illuminating, inflames and dazzles me. I feel everything and see nothing. I am carried away by my passions, but stupid; in order to think, I must be cool. The astonishing thing is that, notwithstanding, I exhibit tolerably sound judgement, penetration, even finesse, if I am not hurried; with sufficient leisure I can compose excellent impromptus; but I have never said or done anything worthy of notice on the spur of the moment.
  • This sluggishness of thought, combined with such liveliness of feeling, not only enters into my conversation, but I feel it even when alone and at work. My ideas arrange themselves in my head with almost incredible difficulty; they circulate in it with uncertain sound, and ferment till they excite and heat me, and make my heart beat fast; and, in the midst of this excitement, I see nothing clearly and am unable to write a single word – I am obliged to wait. Imperceptibly this great agitation subsides, the confusion clears up, everything takes its proper place, but slowly, and only after a period of long and confused agitation.
  • Hence comes the extreme difficulty which I find in writing. My manuscripts, scratched, smeared, muddled and almost illegible, bear witness to the trouble they have cost me. There is not one of them which I have not been obliged to copy four or five times before I could give it to the printer. I have never been able to produce anything, pen in hand, in front of my table and paper; it is during a walk, in the midst of rocks and forests, at night in my bed while lying awake, that I write in my brain; one may judge how slowly, especially in the case of a man utterly without verbal memory and who has never been able to learn six lines by heart in his life. Many of my periods have been turned and turned again five or six nights in my head before they were fit to be set down on paper. This, also, is the reason why I succeed better in works which require labour than in those which require to be written with a certain lightness of style, such as letters – a style of which I have never been able to properly catch the tone, so that such occupation is a perfect torture to me. I cannot write a letter on the most trifling subject, which does not cost me hours of fatigue; or, if I try to write down immediately what occurs to me, I know neither how to begin nor how to end; my letter is a long and confused mass of verbosity, and, when it is read, my meaning is difficult to make out. Not only is it painful for me to put my ideas into shape: I also find a difficulty in grasping them. I have studied mankind, and believe that I am a fairly shrewd observer; nevertheless, I cannot see clearly anything of all that I perceive; I only see clearly what I remember, and only show intelligence in my recollections. Of all that is said, of all that is done, of all that goes on in my presence, I feel nothing, I see through nothing. The outward sign is the only thing that strikes me. But, later, all comes back to me; I recall place, time, manner, look, gesture, and circumstance: nothing escapes me. Then, from what people have said or done, I discover what they have thought; and I am rarely mistaken. If, when alone with myself, I am so little master of my intellectual capacity, it may be imagined what I must be in conversation, when, in order to speak to the purpose, it is necessary to think of a thousand things at the same time and at once.
  • The justice and uselessness of my complaints left in my mind the seeds of indignation against our foolish civil institutions, whereby the real welfare of the public and true justice are always sacrificed to an apparent order, which is in reality subversive of all order, and of which the only effect is, to bestow the sanction of public authority upon the oppression of the weak and the injustice of the strong.
  • Two causes prevented these seeds from developing at that time, as they did afterwards. In the first place, it was a matter that concerned myself: and private interest, which has never produced anything great or noble, cannot draw from my heart the divine flights which only the purest love of the just and the beautiful can produce; in the second place, the charm of friendship moderated and calmed my anger by the ascendency of a gentler feeling.
  • My first appearance led me by a new path into another intellectual world, the simple and lofty economy of which I was unable to look upon without enthusiasm. My continued attention to it soon convinced me, that there was nothing but error and folly in the doctrine of our philosophers, and misery and oppression in our social arrangements. Deluded by my foolish pride, I thought that I was born to destroy all these illusions, and, believing that, in order to gain a hearing, it was necessary for my manner of life to harmonise with my principles, I adopted the singular course which I have not been permitted to continue, in which I set an example for which my pretended friends have never forgiven me, which at first made me ridiculous, and would have ended by making me respectable, if it had been possible for me to persevere in it.
  • Hitherto I had been good; from that moment I became virtuous, or, at least, intoxicated with virtue. This intoxication had commenced in my head, but had passed on into my heart. The noblest pride sprang up therein on the ruins of uprooted vanity. I pretended nothing; I became really what I seemed; and, for the four years at least, during which this state of effervescence lasted in all its force, there was nothing great or beautiful, which a man’s heart could contain, of which I was not capable between heaven and myself. This was the origin of my sudden eloquence, of the truly celestial fire which inflamed me and spread over my first writings, and which for forty years had not emitted the least spark, since it was not yet kindled.
  • I was truly transformed; my friends and acquaintances no longer recognised me. I was no longer the shy, bashful rather than modest man, who did not venture to show himself or utter a word, whom a playful remark disconcerted, whom a woman’s glance caused to blush. Audacious, proud, undaunted, I carried with me everywhere a confidence, which was firmer in proportion to its simplicity, and had its abode rather in my soul than in my outward demeanour. The contempt for the manners, principles, and prejudices of my age, with which my deep meditations had inspired me, rendered me insensible to the raillery of those who possessed them, and I pulverised their trifling witticisms with my maxims, as I should have crushed an insect between my fingers. What a change! All Paris repeated the penetrating and biting sarcasms of the man who, two years before and ten years afterwards, never knew how to find the thing he ought to say, nor the expression he ought to use. Anyone who endeavours to find the condition of all others most contrary to my nature will find it in this. If he desires to recall one of those brief moments in my life during which I ceased to be myself, and became another, he will find it again in the time of which I speak; but, instead of lasting six days or six weeks, it lasted nearly six years, and would, perhaps, have lasted until now, had it not been for the special circumstances which put an end to it, and restored me to Nature, above which I had attempted to elevate myself.
  • This change began as soon as I had left Paris and the sight of the vices of the great city ceased to keep up the indignation with which it had inspired me. As soon as I lost sight of men, I ceased to despise them; as soon as I lost sight of the wicked, I ceased to hate them. My heart, little adapted for hatred, only caused me to deplore their wretchedness, from which it did not distinguish their wickedness. This gentler, but far less lofty, frame of mind soon dulled the burning enthusiasm which had so long carried me away, and, without anyone perceiving it, even without perceiving it myself, I became again shy, courteous, and timid; in a word, the same Jean-Jacques as I had been before. If this revolution had merely restored me to myself, and had gone no further, all would have been well; but, unfortunately, it went much further, and carried me away rapidly to the other extreme. From that time my soul, in a state of agitation, no longer kept its centre of gravity, and its oscillations, ever renewed, always destroyed it. I must describe at some length this second revolution – the terrible and fatal epoch of a destiny without example among mankind.
  • Besides, how could I reconcile the strict principles which I had just adopted with a situation which harmonised so ill with them? Would it not have been very bad taste in me, cashier of a Receiver-General of Finance, to preach disinterestedness and poverty? These ideas fermented so strongly in my head together with the fever, and combined so powerfully, that from that time nothing could uproot them, and, during the period of my recovery, I quietly determined to carry out the resolutions which I had made during my delirium. I renounced for ever all plans of fortune and promotion. Resolved to pass my few remaining days in poverty and independence, I employed all my strength of mind in breaking away from the bonds of the opinion of the world, and in courageously carrying out everything which appeared to me to be right, without troubling myself about what the world might think of it. The obstacles which I had to overcome, the efforts which I made to triumph over them, are incredible.
  • while I trampled underfoot the senseless judgements of the common herd of the so-called great and wise, I suffered myself to be subjugated and led like a child by so-called friends, who, jealous of seeing me strike out a new path by myself, thought of nothing but how to make me appear ridiculous, and began by doing their utmost to degrade me, in order to raise an outcry against me. It was the change in my character, dating from this period, rather than my literary celebrity, that drew their jealousy upon me; they would perhaps have forgiven me for distinguishing myself in the art of writing; but they could not forgive me for setting an example, in my change of life, which seemed likely to cause them inconvenience.
  • In order to moderate my pace, I bethought myself of taking a book with me. One day I took the Mercure de France, and, while reading as I walked, I came upon the subject proposed by the Academy of Dijon as a prize essay for the following year: ‘Has the progress of the arts and sciences contributed more to the corruption or purification of morals?’
  • From the moment I read these words, I beheld another world and became another man. Although I have a lively recollection of the impression which they produced upon me, the details have escaped me since I committed them to paper in one of my four letters to M. de Malesherbes. This is one of the peculiarities of my memory which deserves to be mentioned. It only serves me so long as I am dependent upon it. As soon as I commit its contents to paper it forsakes me, and when I have once written a thing down, I completely forget it. This peculiarity follows me even into music. Before I learned it, I knew a number of songs by heart. As soon as I was able to sing from notes, I could not retain a single one in my memory, and I doubt whether I should now be able to repeat, from beginning to end, a single one of those which were my greatest favourites. What I distinctly remember on this occasion is, that on my arrival at Vincennes I was in a state of agitation bordering upon madness. Diderot perceived it. I told him the reason, and read to him the Prosopopoea of Fabricius, written in pencil under an oak-tree. He encouraged me to allow my ideas to have full play, and to compete for the prize. I did so, and from that moment I was lost. The misfortunes of the remainder of my life were the inevitable result of this moment of madness.
  • With inconceivable rapidity, my feelings became elevated to the tone of my ideas. All my petty passions were stifled by the enthusiasm of truth, liberty and virtue; and the most astonishing thing is, that this fervour continued in my heart for more than four or five years, in a higher degree, perhaps, than has ever been the case with the heart of any other man.
  • I worked at this Essay in a very curious manner, which I have adopted in almost all my other works. I devoted to it the hours of the night when I was unable to sleep. I meditated in bed with my eyes shut, and turned and re-turned my periods in my head with incredible labour. Then, when I was finally satisfied with them, I stored them up in my memory until I was able to commit them to paper; but the time spent in getting up and dressing myself made me forget everything, and when I sat down in front of my paper I could recall scarcely anything of what I had composed.
  • When she came, I dictated to her from my bed the result of my labours of the preceding night; and this plan, to which I have long adhered, has saved me from forgetting much.
  • When the essay was finished, I showed it to Diderot, who was pleased with it, and suggested a few corrections. This production, however, although full of warmth and vigour, is altogether destitute of logic and arrangement. Of all the works that have proceeded from my pen, it is the weakest in argument and the poorest in harmony and proportion; but, however great a man’s natural talents may be, the art of writing cannot be learnt all at once.
  • In the following year (1750) I heard that my Essay, of which I had not thought any more, had gained the prize at Dijon. This news awoke again all the ideas which had suggested it to me, animated them with fresh vigour, and stirred up in my heart the first leavening of virtue and heroism, which my father, my country, and Plutarch had deposited there in my infancy.
  • The success of my first Essay made it easier for me to carry out this resolution. After it had gained the prize, Diderot undertook to get it printed. While I was in bed he wrote me a note, informing me of its publication and the effect it had produced. ‘It has gone up like a rocket,’ he told me; ‘such a success has never been seen before.’
  • I soon had an opportunity to disclose them unreservedly in a work of greater importance; for it was, I think, in this year (1753) that the ‘Origin of Inequality amongst Mankind’ appeared as the subject proposed for discussion by the Academy of Dijon. Struck by this great question, I felt surprised that this Academy had ventured to propose it; but since it had had the courage to do so, I thought I might have the courage to discuss it, and undertook the task.
  • The remainder of the day, I buried myself in the forest, where I sought and found the picture of those primitive times, of which I boldly sketched the history. I demolished the pitiful lies of mankind; I dared to expose their nature in all its nakedness, to follow the progress of time and of the things which have disfigured this nature; and, comparing the man, as man has made him, with the natural man, I showed him, in his pretended perfection, the true source of his misery.
  • He took it into his head to propose to teach me chess, which he himself played a little. I tried it, almost against my inclination; and, after I had learnt the moves indifferently, I made such rapid progress that, before the end of the first sitting, I was able to give him the rook which at first he had given me. That was enough; I was mad for chess from that moment. I bought a chess-board and a ‘Calabrois’; I shut myself up in my room, and spent days and nights in trying to learn all the openings by heart, in stuffing them into my head by force, and in playing by myself without rest or relaxation. After two or three months of this praiseworthy occupation and these incredible efforts, I went to the café, thin, sallow, and almost stupid. I tried my hand, I played again with M. Bagueret; he beat me once, twice, twenty times; all the different combinations had become mixed up in my head, and my imagination was so enfeebled, that I saw nothing but a cloud before my eyes. Whenever I wished, with the help of Philidor or Stamma, to practise myself in studying different games, the same thing happened to me; and, after exhausting myself with fatigue, I found myself weaker than before. For the rest, whether I gave up chess for a time, or endeavoured to improve myself by constant practice, I never made the slightest progress after the first sitting, and always found myself just where I was when it was over. I might practise for thousands of generations and not be able to do more than give Bagueret the rook, and nothing else. Time well employed! you will say; and I employed not a little of it in this way. I did not finish the first attempt, until I no longer had strength to continue it. When I left my room, I looked like a corpse, and, if I had continued to live in the same manner, I should certainly not have remained long above ground.
  • The recollections of the different periods of my life led me to reflect upon the point which I had reached, and I saw myself, already in my declining years, a prey to painful evils, and believed that I was approaching the end of my career, without having enjoyed in its fulness scarcely one single pleasure of those for which my heart yearned, without having given scope to the lively feelings which I felt it had in reserve, without having tasted or even sipped that intoxicating pleasure which I felt was in my soul in all its force, and which, for want of an object, always found itself kept in check, and unable to give itself vent in any other way but through my sighs. How came it to pass that I, a man of naturally expansive soul, for whom to live was to love, had never yet been able to find a friend entirely devoted to myself, a true friend – I, who felt admirably adapted to be one myself? How came it to pass that, with feelings so easily set on ire, with a heart full of affection, I had never once been inflamed with the love of a definite object? Consumed by the desire of loving, without ever having been able to satisfy it completely, I saw myself approaching the portals of old age, and dying without having lived.
  • These melancholy but touching reflections caused me to turn my thoughts towards myself with a regret which was not without its pleasure. It seemed to me that destiny owed me something which it had not yet granted me. Why had I been born with delicate faculties, if they were to remain unemployed to the end?
  • This recollection, rendered still more charming by the breath of innocence which pervaded it, brought back others of the same kind. Presently, I saw gathered round me all the objects which had touched my heart with emotion during my youth – Mademoiselle Galley, Mademoiselle de Graffenried, Mademoiselle de Breil, Madame Basile, Madame de Larnage, my young pupils, even the piquant Zulietta, whom my heart can never forget. I saw myself surrounded by a seraglio of houris and by my old acquaintances, the liveliest desire for whom was no new sensation for me. My blood became heated and inflamed, my head swam, in spite of my hairs already growing grey: and the serious citizen of Geneva, the austere Jean-Jacques, close upon his forty-fifth year, suddenly became again the love-sick shepherd. The intoxication which seized me, although so sudden and extravagant, was, notwithstanding, so strong and lasting, that nothing less than the unforeseen and terrible crisis of the unhappiness into which it plunged me would have been able to cure me of it.
  • However, this intoxication, to whatever point it was carried, did not go so far as to make me forget my age and my position, flatter me with the idea that I could still inspire love, or make me attempt to communicate this devouring, but barren fire, by which, from childhood, I felt my heart in vain consumed. I did not hope, I did not even desire it; I knew that the time for love was over; I was too keenly conscious of the ridicule heaped upon elderly beaux, to expose myself to it, and I was not the man to become presumptuous and self-confident in my declining years, after having so rarely displayed such qualities during my best days. Besides, as a friend of peace, I should have dreaded domestic storms, and I loved Thérèse too sincerely, to expose her to the annoyance of seeing me entertain livelier feelings for others than those with which she herself inspired me. What did I do on this occasion? The reader must have already guessed, if he has hitherto followed me with the least attention. The impossibility of grasping realities threw me into the land of chimeras, and, seeing nothing in existence which was worthy of my enthusiasm, I sought nourishment for it in an ideal world, which my fertile imagination soon peopled with beings after my own heart. This resource was never so welcome to me or so fruitful. In my continual ecstasies, I intoxicated myself with full draughts of the most delightful sensations that have ever entered the heart of man. I entirely forgot the human race, and created for myself societies of perfect beings, heavenly alike in their beauties and virtues; trusty, tender, and loyal friends such as I never found in this world below. I found such pleasure in soaring into the empyrean, in the midst of the charming objects by which I was surrounded, that I passed the hours and days in it without taking count of them, and, forgetting everything else, no sooner had I hastily eaten a morsel of food, than I burned to escape, in order to run to my groves again.
  • When ready to set out for my world of enchantment, if I saw some wretched mortals arrive who came to keep me back upon earth, I was unable to conceal or restrain my annoyance, and, losing control over myself, I gave them so rude a reception, that it might almost have been called brutal. This only increased my reputation as a misanthrope, whereas it would have gained for me a very different one, if the world had read my heart better.
  • When the bad weather began again, and I was confined to the house, I tried to resume my stay-at-home occupations, but found it impossible. I saw everywhere nothing but my two charming friends, their friend, their surroundings, the country in which they lived, the objects which my fancy created or embellished for them. I no longer belonged to myself for a single moment. My delirium never left me. After several fruitless attempts to banish all these imaginary creations from my mind, I became at last completely seduced by them, and all my efforts were thenceforth devoted to reducing them to some sort of order and coherence, in order to work them up into a kind of romance.
  • It is quite true that I wrote this romance in a state of most feverish ecstasy, but they were wrong in thinking that it had needed real objects to produce this condition; they were far from understanding to what an extent I am capable of being inflamed by beings of the imagination.
  • At last I arrived; I saw Madame de Warens. That epoch of my life decided my character; I cannot bring myself to pass lightly over it. I was in the middle of my sixteenth year. Without being what is called a handsome lad, I was well set up, I had a pretty foot, a fine leg, an easy manner, lively features, a pretty little mouth, black hair and eyebrows, small and even sunken eyes, which, however, vigorously darted forth the fire with which my blood was kindled.
  • I had pictured to myself an old, grim, religious enthusiast; in my opinion, M. de Pontverre’s pious lady could be nothing else. Instead, I beheld a face full of charm, beautiful blue eyes – full of gentleness – a dazzling complexion, the outlines of an enchanting throat. Nothing escaped the rapid glance of the young proselyte – for at that moment I became hers, feeling convinced that a religion preached by such apostles must inevitably lead to paradise. With a smile, she took the letter which I presented to her with a trembling hand, opened it, glanced at that of M. de Pontverre, returned to mine, read it through, and would have read it again, had not her servant reminded her that it was time to go in. ‘Well, my child,’ she said to me in a tone which made me tremble, ‘so you are wandering about the country at your age; that is indeed a pity.’ Then, without waiting for me to answer, she added, ‘Go and wait for me; tell them to give you some breakfast. After mass I will come and talk to you.’
  • She had been six years in Annecy when I arrived there, and was twenty-eight years of age, having been born with the century. Her beauty was of the kind which lasts, consisting rather in the expression than the features; besides, hers was still in its first brilliancy.
  • Those who deny the sympathy of souls may explain, if they can, how, from the first interview, from the first word, from the first look, Madame de Warens inspired me, not only with the liveliest feelings of attachment, but with a perfect confidence which has never belied itself. Granted that my sentiments for her were really love, which will at least appear doubtful to those who follow the history of our relations, how came it that this passion was from the outset accompanied by the feelings which it least inspires – peace of heart, calm, cheerfulness, confidence, trust? How was it that, when for the first time I approached an amiable, refined, and dazzlingly beautiful woman, a lady of higher position than my own, the like of whom I had never addressed, upon whom my destiny in a manner depended, according as she interested herself more or less on my behalf – how came it, I repeat, that, in spite of all this, I immediately felt as free and completely at my ease as if I had been perfectly certain of pleasing her? How was it that I did not for a single moment experience a feeling of embarrassment, timidity, or awkwardness? Naturally bashful and easily put out of countenance, knowing nothing of the world, how was it that from the first day, from the first moment, I was able to assume with her the easy manners, the tender language, the familiar tone which prevailed between us ten years later, when our close intimacy had made it natural?
  • Madame de Warens wanted to know the details of my little history; and in relating them I recovered all the fire and vivacity which I had lost during my apprenticeship.
  • Madame de Warens, seeing that her efforts were unavailing, did not persist in them, to avoid compromising herself, but she said to me, with a look of compassion, ‘Poor little one, you must go where God calls you; but when you are grown up, you will think of me.’ I believe she herself had no idea how cruelly this prediction was to be fulfilled.
  • Although Turin was further than Geneva, I judged that, being the capital, it was more closely connected with Annecy than a town of different faith and in a foreign land; and, besides, as I was setting out in obedience to Madame de Warens, I considered myself as remaining under her guidance, and that was more than living in her neighbourhood.
  • At Chambéri I became thoughtful, not on account of the folly which I had just committed – no man ever knew how to console himself so rapidly or so completely in regard to the past – but in regard to the reception which awaited me from Madame de Warens; for I looked upon her house quite as my own home. I had written to inform her of my entry into the Comte de Gouvon’s house; she knew on what footing I stood there, and, while congratulating me, she had given me some excellent advice as to the manner in which I ought to requite the kindness shown to me. She looked upon my fortune as assured, unless I destroyed it by my own fault. What would she say when she saw me arrive?
  • How my heart beat as I drew near to her house! My legs trembled beneath me; my eyes seemed covered with a veil; I saw nothing, I heard nothing, I should not have recognised anybody; I was obliged to stop several times to recover my breath and compose myself.
  • No sooner had I shown myself to Madame de Warens, than her manner reassured me. I trembled at the first sound of her voice. I threw myself at her feet, and, in transports of liveliest joy, I fastened my lips upon her hand. I do not know whether she had heard any news of me, but her face showed little surprise and no displeasure. ‘Poor little one,’ she said, in a caressing voice, ‘here you are again then?
  • From the first day, the most complete intimacy was established between us, which has continued during the rest of her life. ‘Little one’ was my name; ‘Mamma’ was hers; and we always remained ‘Little one’ and ‘Mamma’, even when advancing years had almost obliterated the difference between us. I find that these two names give a wonderfully good idea of the tone of our intercourse, of the simplicity of our manners, and, above all, of the mutual relation of our hearts.For me she was the tenderest of mothers, who never sought her own pleasure, but always what was best for me; and if sensuality entered at all into her attachment for me, it did not alter its character, but only rendered it more enchanting, and intoxicated me with the delight of having a young and pretty mamma whom it was delightful to me to caress – I say caress in the strictest sense of the word, for it never occurred to her to be sparing of kisses and the tenderest caresses of a mother, and it certainly never entered my mind to abuse them. It will be objected that, in the end, we had relations of a different character; I admit it, but I must wait a little – I cannot say all at once.
  • As soon as anyone came – whether man or woman, it did not matter which – I left the room grumbling, being unable to remain with her in the presence of a third party. I counted the minutes in her ante-room, cursing these eternal visitors a thousand times, and unable to imagine how it was that they had so much, because I myself had still more, to say.
  • I only felt the full strength of my attachment when I no longer saw her. When I saw her, I was only content; but, during her absence, my restlessness became painful. The need of living with her caused me outbreaks of tenderness which often ended in tears. I shall never forget how, on the day of a great festival, while she was at vespers, I went for a walk outside the town, my heart full of her image and a burning desire to spend my life with her.
  • At table one day, just when she had put a piece of food into her mouth, I exclaimed that I saw a hair in it; she put back the morsel on her plate, and I eagerly seized and swallowed it. In a word, between myself and the most passionate lover there was only one, but that an essential, point of distinction, which makes my condition almost unintelligible and inconceivable.
  • Add to this habit the circumstances of my position, living as I was with a beautiful woman, caressing her image in the bottom of my heart, seeing her continually throughout the day, surrounded in the evening by objects which reminded me of her, sleeping in the bed in which I knew she had slept! What causes for excitement! Many a reader, who reflects upon them, no doubt already considers me as half-dead! Quite the contrary; that which ought to have destroyed me was just the thing that saved me, at least for a time. Intoxicated with the charm of living with her, with the ardent desire of spending my life with her, I always saw in her, whether she were absent or present, a tender mother, a beloved sister, a delightful friend, and nothing more. I saw her always thus, always the same, and I never saw anyone but her. Her image, ever present to my heart, left room for no other; she was for me the only woman in the world; and the extreme sweetness of the feelings with which she inspired me did not allow my senses time to awake for others, and protected me against her and all her sex. In a word, I was chaste, because I loved her.
  • In the midst of all this, chance travellers, beggars, and visitors of all classes kept coming in crowds; we were obliged to entertain at one and the same time a soldier, an apothecary, a canon, a fine lady, and a lay brother. I cursed, I grumbled, I swore, I wished the whole accursed gang at the devil. Madame de Warens, who took it all good-humouredly, laughed at my rage till she cried; and what made her laugh still more was to see me the more furious, as I was unable to prevent even myself from laughing. These brief interruptions, during which I had the pleasure of grumbling, were delightful, and, if another unwelcome visitor arrived during the dispute, she knew how to extract amusement from it by maliciously prolonging his visit, casting glances at me for which I should have liked to beat her. She could hardly keep from bursting out laughing, when she saw me, restrained and kept in check by politeness, glaring at her like one possessed, while in the bottom of my heart, and even in spite of myself, I found it all very amusing.
  • I have not spoken of poor mamma for some time; but it would be a mistake to think that I also forgot her. I never ceased to think of her and to long to find her again, not only to satisfy the needs of existence, but still more those of my heart. My devotion to her, lively and tender as it was, did not prevent me from loving others, but not in the same way. All alike owed my tenderness to their charms; but, whereas in the case of others these were the only cause of it, and it would have disappeared with them, mamma might have grown old and ugly, and I should have loved her as fondly as ever. My heart had completely transferred to her person the homage which it at first rendered to her beauty; and, whatever change she might have suffered, my feelings towards her could never have changed, provided that she had still remained herself. I knew very well that I owed her my gratitude; but in reality I did not think of that. Whatever she might have done for me or not, it would always have been the same. I loved her neither from a feeling of duty or self-interest, nor from motives of convenience; I loved her because I was born to love her. When I fell in love with any other woman, I admit that it distracted my attention, and I thought of her less frequently; but I thought of her with the same feelings of pleasure, and, whether in love or not, I never occupied my thoughts with her without feeling that there could never be any real happiness for me in life, as long as I was separated from her.
  • Be that as it may, mamma saw that, in order to rescue me from the perils of my youth, she must treat me as a man, which she immediately proceeded to do, but in the most singular manner that ever occurred to a woman in similar circumstances. I found her manner more serious, and her utterances more moral than usual. The playful gaiety, which was usually mingled with her advice, was all at once succeeded by a sustained gravity, neither familiar nor severe, which seemed to pave the way for an explanation. After having in vain asked myself the reason of this change, I asked her, which was just what she expected. She proposed a walk in the little garden on the following day; the next morning found us there.
  • as soon as I understood, which was by no means easy, the novelty of the idea, which had never once entered my head all the time I had been living with her, it so completely took possession of me, that I was no longer in a state to pay attention to what she said to me. I only thought of her, and did not listen to her.
  • she attached to the agreement the most solemn formalities, and gave me eight days to think over them, which, like a hypocrite, I assured her I did not require; for, to crown the singularity of the whole affair, I was really glad of the respite, so greatly had the novelty of these ideas struck me, and so disordered did I feel the state of my own to be, that I wanted time to set them in order. It will be imagined that those eight days seemed eight centuries to me; on the contrary, I could have wished that they had really lasted as long. I do not know how to describe my condition; it was a kind of fright mingled with impatience, during which I was so afraid of what I longed for, that I sometimes seriously endeavoured to think of some decent way of avoiding the promised happiness.
  • Consider my ardent and lascivious temperament, my heated blood, my heart intoxicated with love, my vigorous health, my age. Remember that, in this condition, thirsting after women, I had never yet touched one; that imagination, need, vanity, and curiosity, all combined to devour me with the burning desire of being a man and showing myself one. Add to this, above all – for it must never be forgotten – that my tender and lively attachment to her, far from diminishing, had only become warmer every day, that I was never happy except with her; that I never left her except to think of her; that my heart was full, not only of her goodness and amiability, but of her sex, her form, her person; in a word, of her, under every aspect in which she could be dear to me.
  • How then was it that, in the flower of my youth, I felt so little eagerness for the first enjoyment? How was it that I could see the hour approach with more pain than pleasure? How was it that, instead of the rapture which should have intoxicated me, I almost felt repugnance and fear? There is no doubt that, if I had been able to escape my happiness with decency, I should have done so with all my heart. I have promised singularities in the history of my attachment to her; this is surely one which would never have been expected.
  • The reader, already disgusted, is doubtless of opinion that, being already possessed by another man, she degraded herself in my eyes by distributing her favours, and that a feeling of disesteem cooled those with which she had inspired me. He is mistaken. This distribution was certainly very painful to me, as much in consequence of a very natural feeling of delicacy as because I really considered it unworthy of her and myself; but it never altered my feelings towards her, and I can swear that I never loved her more tenderly than when I had so little desire to possess her.
  • Having so long called her mamma, having enjoyed with her the intimacy of a son, I had become accustomed to look upon myself as one. I believe that this was really the cause of the little eagerness I felt to possess her, although she was so dear to me. I well remember that my early feelings, without being livelier, were more sensual. At Annecy, I was intoxicated; at Chambéri, I was no longer so. I still loved her as passionately as possible; but I loved her more for her own sake than for my own, or, at least, I sought happiness with her, rather than enjoyment; she was for me more than a sister, more than a mother, more than a friend, even more than a mistress; and for that very reason she was not a mistress for me. In short, I loved her too well to desire to possess her.
  • Another thing worthy of notice is that, after her first weakness, she rarely bestowed her favours except upon the unfortunate; persons of distinction spent their labour upon her in vain; but, if she once began to feel sympathy for a man, he must have been little deserving of love if she did not end by loving him. If she sometimes chose those who were unworthy of her, the blame rested, not on any low inclinations, which were far removed from her noble heart, but nly on her too generous, too kindly, too compassionate, and too feeling disposition, which she did not always control with sufficient judgement
  • We began, without thinking of it, to be inseparable, to share, as it were, our existence in common; and feeling that we were not only necessary, but sufficient, for each other, we accustomed ourselves to think of nothing that was foreign to us, to limit our happiness and all our desires to that possession of each other, which was, perhaps, unique of its kind amongst human beings, which, as I have said, was not love, but a more real possession, which, without being dependent upon the senses, sex, age or personal appearance, was concerned with all that which makes one what one is, and which one can only lose by ceasing to exist.
  • I proposed to her to leave it altogether, and to settle in pleasant solitude, in some little house, at a sufficient distance from the town to baffle troublesome visitors. She would have done so, and the resolution, which her good angel and mine suggested to me, would probably have assured us a happy and peaceful life, until death should have separated us. But we were not destined for such a lot. Mamma was fated to experience all the miseries of want and discomfort, after having passed her life in abundance, to enable her to quit it with less regret; while I, overwhelmed with misfortunes of all kinds, was destined one day to serve as a warning to all who, inspired solely by love of justice and the public welfare, and trusting to the strength of their innocence alone, have the courage to tell the truth openly to the world, without the support of cabals, and without having formed a party to protect them.
  • I arrived, then, punctual to the moment. When I was still some distance off, I looked ahead in the hope of seeing her on the road; my heart beat more violently, the nearer I approached. I arrived out of breath, for I had left my carriage in town; I saw no one in the court, at the door, or at the window. I began to feel uneasy and afraid that some accident had happened. I entered: everything was quiet: some workmen were eating in the kitchen: there were no signs that I was expected. The maid appeared surprised to see me: she knew nothing about my coming. I went up stairs; at last I saw her, my dear mamma, whom I loved so tenderly, so deeply and so purely; I ran up to her, and threw myself at her feet. ‘Ah!’ said she, embracing me, ‘you are back again then, little one! have you had a pleasant journey? how are you?’ This reception somewhat surprised me. I asked her whether she had received my letter. She answered, ‘Yes.’ ‘I should not have thought so,’ I said, and the explanation ended there. A young man was with her. I remembered having seen him in the house before I left, but now he seemed stablished there, as in fact he was. In a word, I found my place filled.
  • The reader must have gained some knowledge of my heart, and of its truest and most constant feelings, especially those which brought me back to her at this moment. What a sudden and complete upset of my whole being.
  • To judge of it, let the reader put himself in my place. I saw all the happy future which I had depicted to myself vanish in a moment. All the dreams of happiness which I had so fondly cherished disappeared, and I, who from my youth had never considered my existence except in connection with hers, for the first time found myself alone. This moment was frightful! those which followed were all gloomy. I was still young, but the pleasant feeling of enjoyment and hope which animates youth, deserted me for ever. From that time my sensible being was half-dead. I saw nothing before me but the melancholy remains of an insipid life: and, if now and again an image of happiness floated lightly across my desires, this happiness was no longer that which was peculiarly my own: I felt that, even if I succeeded in obtaining it, I should still not be really happy.
  • ‘Ah, mamma,’ I said to her, with a heart wrung with grief, ‘what do you dare to tell me? What a reward for such devotion as mine! Have you so often saved my life, only in order to deprive me of that which made it dear to me? It will kill me, but you will regret my loss.’ She replied, with a calmness calculated to drive me mad, that I was a child, that people did not die of such things, that I should lose nothing, that we should be equally good friends, equally intimate in all respects, and that her tender attachment to me could neither diminish nor end except with her own life. In short, she gave me to understand that all my privileges would remain the same, and that, while sharing them with another, I should not find them in any way curtailed. Never did the purity, truth and strength of my attachment for her, never did the sincerity and uprightness of my soul make itself more plainly felt than at that moment. I threw myself at her feet, and, shedding floods of tears, clasped her knees. ‘No, mamma,’ I exclaimed, half distracted, ‘I love you too deeply to degrade you; the possession of you is too precious for me to be able to share it with another; the regrets which I felt when you first bestowed yourself upon me have increased with my affection; I cannot retain possession of you at the same price. I shall always worship you: remain worthy of it: I have still greater need to respect than to possess you. I resign you to yourself; to the union of our hearts I sacrifice all my pleasures I would rather die a thousand times than seek an enjoyment which degrades one whom I love.’
  • I observed this new intrigue, and was beside myself with indignation; but at the same time I perceived something else, which affected me still more deeply, and dispirited me more than anything else which had as yet occurred. This was a growing coldness in mamma’s behaviour towards me.
  • The privation which I had imposed upon myself, and of which she had pretended to approve, is one of those things which women never pardon, however they pretend to take it; not so much for the sake of that of which they are themselves deprived, as by reason of the feeling of indifference which they consider it implies.
  • Take the most sensible, the most philosophical, the least sensual woman: the most unpardonable crime that a man, for whom in other respects she cares nothing, can be guilty of towards her, is not to enjoy her favours when he has the chance of doing so. There can be no exception to this rule, since a sympathy, at once so natural and so deep, was impaired in her in consequence of an abstinence, the only motives of which were virtue, attachment, and esteem. From that moment, I no longer found in her that intimacy of hearts which had always afforded the sweetest enjoyment to my own. She no longer unbosomed herself to me, except when she had occasion to complain of the newcomer. When they were on good terms, I was rarely admitted to her confidence. At length, by degrees, she became entirely estranged from me. She still seemed pleased to see me, but no longer found my company indispensable; even had I passed whole days without seeing her, she would not have noticed it.
  • I left everything, I renounced everything, I set out, I flew, and, arriving in all the transports of my early youth, found myself again at her feet. Ah! I should have died for joy, if I had found again in her reception, in her eyes, in her caresses, or, lastly in her heart, one quarter of that which I had formerly found there, and which I myself still brought back to her. Alas for the terrible illusions of human life! She received me with the same excellent heart, which could only die with her; but I sought in vain the past which was gone, never to return.
  • The first time I saw this girl appear at table, I was struck by her modest behaviour, and, still more, by her lively and gentle looks, which, in my eyes, at that time appeared incomparable. The company at table, besides M. de Bonnefond, consisted of several Irish priests, Gascons, and others of the same description. Our hostess herself had led an irregular life. I was the only person who spoke and behaved decently. They teased the girl, I took her part, and immediately their railleries were turned against me. Even if I had not felt naturally inclined towards this poor girl, a feeling of compassion, even of opposition, would have aroused my sympathy. I have always admired decency in words and manners, especially in the opposite sex. I openly avowed myself her champion. I saw that she was touched by my sympathy, and her looks, enlivened by gratitude which she dared not express, were thereby rendered more eloquent. She was very bashful, and so was I. The intimacy, which this similarity of disposition seemed to keep at a distance, was, however, very speedily formed. The landlady, who perceived it, became furious, and her brutal behaviour gained me greater favour with the little one, who, having no one in the house except myself to help her, was grieved to see me go out, and sighed for her protector’s return. The relation of our hearts, and the similarity of our dispositions, soon exercised their usual effect. She thought that she saw in me an honourable man, and she was not mistaken. I thought that I saw in her a feeling, simple girl, free from coquetry, and I was not deceived either.
  • Her fear that it would annoy me not to find in her that which she believed I expected, delayed my happiness more than anything else. I saw that she was disturbed and confused before she gave herself up to me, anxious to make herself understood, and yet afraid to explain herself. Far from suspecting the real cause of her embarrassment, I quite wrongly attributed it to another, the idea of which was highly insulting to her character. Believing that she intended me to understand that my health might be endangered, I was greatly perplexed, and, although this did not restrain my feelings, for several days it poisoned my happiness. As neither of us understood the other, our conversations on the subject were so many riddles and ridiculous misunderstandings. She was inclined to believe that I was utterly mad, and I hardly knew what to think of her.
  • I found in Thérèse the substitute that I needed. Thanks to her, I lived happily, as far as the course of events permitted. At first I tried to improve her mind, but my efforts were useless. Her mind is what Nature has made it; culture and teaching are without influence upon it. I am not ashamed to confess that she has never learnt how to read properly, although she can write fairly well.
  • When I went to live in the Rue Neuve-des-Petits-Champs, opposite my windows, at the Hôtel de Pontchartrain, there was a clock. For more than a month I did my utmost to teach her how to tell the time by it, but, even now, she can hardly do so. She has never been able to give the names of the twelve months of the year in correct order, and does not know a single figure, in spite of all the trouble I have taken to teach her. She can neither count money nor reckon the price of anything. The words which she uses in speaking are often the very opposite of those which she means. I once made a dictionary of the phrases she used, to amuse Madame de Luxembourg, and her absurd mistakes have become famous in the society in which I lived. But this person, so limited in understanding – so stupid, if you will – is a most excellent adviser in cases of difficulty. Frequently, in Switzerland, in England, and in France, at the time of the misfortunes which befell me, she saw what I did not see myself, gave me the best advice to follow, rescued me from dangers into which I was rushing blindly, and, in the presence of ladies of the highest rank, of princes and the great ones of the world, her opinions, her good sense, her answers, and her behaviour have gained for her the esteem of all, and for me, compliments upon her good qualities, which I felt convinced were sincere. When we are with those we love, sentiment nourishes the mind as well as the heart, and we have little need to search for ideas elsewhere. I lived with my Thérèse as pleasantly as with the most brilliant genius in the world.
  • If I was wrong in my conclusions, nothing can be more remarkable than the calmness with which I abandoned myself to them. If I had been one of those low-born men, who are deaf to the gentle voice of Nature, in whose heart no real sentiment of justice or humanity ever springs up, this hardening of my heart would have been quite easy to understand. But is it possible that my warm-heartedness, lively sensibility, readiness to form attachments, the powerful hold which they exercise over me, the cruel heart-breakings I experience when forced to break them off, my natural goodwill towards all my fellow-creatures, my ardent love of the great, the true, the beautiful, and the just; my horror of evil of every kind, my utter inability to hate or injure, or even to think of it; the sweet and lively emotion which I feel at the sight of all that is virtuous, generous, and amiable; is it possible, I ask, that all these can ever agree in the same heart with the depravity which, without the least scruple, tramples underfoot the sweetest of obligations? No! I feel and loudly assert – it is impossible. Never, for a single moment in his life, could Jean-Jacques have been a man without feeling, without compassion, or an unnatural father. I may have been mistaken, never hardened. If I were to state my reasons, I should say too much. Since they were strong enough to mislead me, they might mislead many others, and I do not desire to expose young people, who may read my works, to the danger of allowing themselves to be misled by the same error. I will content myself with observing, that my error was such that, in handing over my children to the State to educate, for want of means to bring them up myself, in deciding to fit them for becoming workmen and peasants rather than adventurers and fortune-hunters, I thought that I was behaving like a citizen and a father.
  • I do know that they would have been brought up to hate, perhaps to betray, their parents; it is a hundred times better that they have never known them. My third child was accordingly taken to the Foundling Hospital, like the other two. The two next were disposed of in the same manner, for I had five altogether. This arrangement appeared to me so admirable, so rational, and so legitimate, that, if I did not openly boast of it, this was solely out of regard for the mother
  • What then will the reader think, when I declare to him, in all the sincerity which he must now recognise as part of my character, that, from the first moment when I saw her up to this day, I never felt the least spark of love for her; that I no more desired her possession than that of Madame de Warens, and that the sensual needs, which I satisfied in her person, were only for me those of sexual impulse, without being in any way connected with the individual?
  • Not that our conversation ever flagged, or that she showed any signs of weariness during our walks; but we had not a sufficient number of ideas in common to make a great stock. We could no longer speak incessantly of our plans, which henceforth were limited to plans of enjoyment. The objects around us inspired me with reflections which were beyond her comprehension. An attachment of twelve years had no longer need of words; we knew each other too well to be able to find anything fresh. The only resource left was gossip, scandal, and feeble jokes. It is in solitude especially that one feels the advantage of living with someone who knows how to think. I had no need of this resource to amuse myself in her society; but she would have needed it, in order to be able always to amuse herself in mine.
  • I had long since observed that her affection for me had cooled. I felt that she no longer was towards me what she had been in our best days; and I felt it the more, as I was always the same towards her. I was conscious again of an unpleasantness, the effects of which I had formerly felt when with mamma; and the effect was the same with Thérèse.

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