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Book I

I have entered upon a performance which is without example, whose
accomplishment will have no imitator. I mean to present my
fellow-mortals with a man in all the integrity of nature; and this man
shall be myself.

I know my heart, and have studied mankind; I am not made like any one I
have been acquainted with, perhaps like no one in existence; if not
better, I at least claim originality, and whether Nature did wisely in
breaking the mould with which she formed me, can only be determined after
having read this work.

Whenever the last trumpet shall sound, I will present myself before the
sovereign judge with this book in my hand, and loudly proclaim, thus have
I acted; these were my thoughts; such was I. With equal freedom and
veracity have I related what was laudable or wicked, I have concealed no
crimes, added no virtues; and if I have sometimes introduced superfluous
ornament, it was merely to occupy a void occasioned by defect of memory:
I may have supposed that certain, which I only knew to be probable, but
have never asserted as truth, a conscious falsehood. Such as I was, I
have declared myself; sometimes vile and despicable, at others, virtuous,
generous and sublime; even as thou hast read my inmost soul: Power
eternal! assemble round thy throne an innumerable throng of my
fellow-mortals, let them listen to my confessions, let them blush at my
depravity, let them tremble at my sufferings; let each in his turn expose
with equal sincerity the failings, the wanderings of his heart, and, if
he dare, aver, I was better than that man.

I was born at Geneva, in 1712, son of Isaac Rousseau and Susannah
Bernard, citizens. My father's share of a moderate competency, which was
divided among fifteen children, being very trivial, his business of a
watchmaker (in which he had the reputation of great ingenuity) was his
only dependence. My mother's circumstances were more affluent; she was
daughter of a Mons. Bernard, minister, and possessed a considerable share
of modesty and beauty; indeed, my father found some difficulty in
obtaining her hand.

The affection they entertained for each other was almost as early as
their existence; at eight or nine years old they walked together every
evening on the banks of the Treille, and before they were ten, could not
support the idea of separation. A natural sympathy of soul confined
those sentiments of predilection which habit at first produced; born with
minds susceptible of the most exquisite sensibility and tenderness, it
was only necessary to encounter similar dispositions; that moment
fortunately presented itself, and each surrendered a willing heart.

The obstacles that opposed served only to give a decree of vivacity to
their affection, and the young lover, not being able to obtain his
mistress, was overwhelmed with sorrow and despair. She advised him to
travel--to forget her. He consented--he travelled, but returned more
passionate than ever, and had the happiness to find her equally constant,
equally tender. After this proof of mutual affection, what could they
resolve?--to dedicate their future lives to love! the resolution was
ratified with a vow, on which Heaven shed its benediction.

Fortunately, my mother's brother, Gabriel Bernard, fell in love with one
of my father's sisters; she had no objection to the match, but made the
marriage of his sister with her brother an indispensable preliminary.
Love soon removed every obstacle, and the two weddings were celebrated
the same day: thus my uncle became the husband of my aunt, and their
children were doubly cousins german. Before a year was expired, both had
the happiness to become fathers, but were soon after obliged to submit to
a separation.

My uncle Bernard, who was an engineer, went to serve in the empire and
Hungary, under Prince Eugene, and distinguished himself both at the siege
and battle of Belgrade. My father, after the birth of my only brother,
set off, on recommendation, for Constantinople, and was appointed
watchmaker to the Seraglio. During his absence, the beauty, wit, and

[They were too brilliant for her situation, the minister, her
father, having bestowed great pains on her education. She was aught
drawing, singing, and to play on the theorbo; had learning, and
wrote very agreeable verses. The following is an extempore piece
which she composed in the absence of her husband and brother, in a
conversation with some person relative to them, while walking with
her sister--in--law, and their two children:

Ces deux messieurs, qui sont absens,
Nous sont chers e bien des manieres;
Ce sont nos amiss, nos amans,
Ce sont nos maris et nos freres,
Et les peres de ces enfans.

These absent ones, who just claim
Our hearts, by every tender name,
To whom each wish extends
Our husbands and our brothers are,
The fathers of this blooming pair,
Our lovers and our friends.]

of my mother attracted a number of admirers, among whom Mons. de la
Closure, Resident of France, was the most assiduous in his attentions.
His passion must have been extremely violent, since after a period of
thirty years I have seen him affected at the very mention of her name.
My mother had a defence more powerful even than her virtue; she tenderly
loved my father, and conjured him to return; his inclination seconding
his request, he gave up every prospect of emolument, and hastened to

I was the unfortunate fruit of this return, being born ten months after,
in a very weakly and infirm state; my birth cost my mother her life, and
was the first of my misfortunes. I am ignorant how my father supported
her loss at that time, but I know he was ever after inconsolable. In me
he still thought he saw her he so tenderly lamented, but could never
forget I had been the innocent cause of his misfortune, nor did he ever
embrace me, but his sighs, the convulsive pressure of his arms, witnessed
that a bitter regret mingled itself with his caresses, though, as may be
supposed, they were not on this account less ardent. When he said to me,
"Jean Jacques, let us talk of your mother," my usual reply was, "Yes,
father, but then, you know, we shall cry," and immediately the tears
started from his eyes. "Ah!" exclaimed he, with agitation, "Give me back
my wife; at least console me for her loss; fill up, dear boy, the void
she has left in my soul. Could I love thee thus wert thou only my son?"
Forty years after this loss he expired in the arms of his second wife,
but the name of the first still vibrated on his lips, still was her image
engraved on his heart.

Such were the authors of my being: of all the gifts it had pleased Heaven
to bestow on them, a feeling heart was the only one that descended to me;
this had been the source of their felicity, it was the foundation of all
my misfortunes.

I came into the world with so few signs of life, that they entertained
but little hope of preserving me, with the seeds of a disorder that has
gathered strength with years, and from which I am now relieved at
intervals, only to suffer a different, though more intolerable evil.
I owed my preservation to one of my father's sisters, an amiable and
virtuous girl, who took the most tender care of me; she is yet living,
nursing, at the age of four--score, a husband younger than herself, but
worn out with excessive drinking. Dear aunt! I freely forgive your
having preserved my life, and only lament that it is not in my power to
bestow on the decline of your days the tender solicitude and care you
lavished on the first dawn of mine. My nurse, Jaqueline, is likewise
living: and in good health--the hands that opened my eyes to the light of
this world may close them at my death. We suffer before we think; it is
the common lot of humanity. I experienced more than my proportion of it.
I have no knowledge of what passed prior to my fifth or sixth year; I
recollect nothing of learning to read, I only remember what effect the
first considerable exercise of it produced on my mind; and from that
moment I date an uninterrupted knowledge of myself.

Every night, after supper, we read some part of a small collection of
romances which had been my mother's. My father's design was only to
improve me in reading, and he thought these entertaining works were
calculated to give me a fondness for it; but we soon found ourselves so
interested in the adventures they contained, that we alternately read
whole nights together, and could not bear to give over until at the
conclusion of a volume. Sometimes, in a morning, on hearing the swallows
at our window, my father, quite ashamed of this weakness, would cry,
"Come, come, let us go to bed; I am more a child than thou art."

I soon acquired, by this dangerous custom, not only an extreme facility
in reading and comprehending, but, for my age, a too intimate
acquaintance with the passions. An infinity of sensations were familiar
to me, without possessing any precise idea of the objects to which they
related--I had conceived nothing--I had felt the whole. This confused
succession of emotions did not retard the future efforts of my reason,
though they added an extravagant, romantic notion of human life, which
experience and reflection have never been able to eradicate.

My romance reading concluded with the summer of 1719, the following
winter was differently employed. My mother's library being quite
exhausted, we had recourse to that part of her father's which had
devolved to us; here we happily found some valuable books, which was by
no means extraordinary, having been selected by a minister that truly
deserved that title, in whom learning (which was the rage of the times)
was but a secondary commendation, his taste and good sense being most
conspicuous. The history of the Church and Empire by Le Sueur,
Bossuett's Discourses on Universal History, Plutarch's Lives, the history
of Venice by Nani, Ovid's Metamorphoses, La Bruyere, Fontenelle's World,
his Dialogues of the Dead, and a few volumes of Moliere, were soon ranged
in my father's closet, where, during the hours he was employed in his
business, I daily read them, with an avidity and taste uncommon, perhaps
unprecedented at my age.

Plutarch presently became my greatest favorite. The satisfaction I
derived from repeated readings I gave this author, extinguished my
passion for romances, and I shortly preferred Agesilaus, Brutus, and
Aristides, to Orondates, Artemenes, and Juba. These interesting
studies, seconded by the conversations they frequently occasioned with my
father, produced that republican spirit and love of liberty, that haughty
and invincible turn of mind, which rendered me impatient of restraint or
servitude, and became the torment of my life, as I continually found
myself in situations incompatible with these sentiments. Incessantly
occupied with Rome and Athens, conversing, if I may so express myself
with their illustrious heroes; born the citizen of a republic, of a
father whose ruling passion was a love of his country, I was fired with
these examples; could fancy myself a Greek or Roman, and readily give
into the character of the personage whose life I read; transported by the
recital of any extraordinary instance of fortitude or intrepidity,
animation flashed from my eyes, and gave my voice additional strength and
energy. One day, at table, while relating the fortitude of Scoevola,
they were terrified at seeing me start from my seat and hold my hand over
a hot chafing--dish, to represent more forcibly the action of that
determined Roman.

My brother, who was seven years older than myself, was brought up to my
father's profession. The extraordinary affection they lavished on me
might be the reason he was too much neglected: this certainly was a fault
which cannot be justified. His education and morals suffered by this
neglect, and he acquired the habits of a libertine before he arrived at
an age to be really one. My father tried what effect placing him with a
master would produce, but he still persisted in the same ill conduct.
Though I saw him so seldom that it could hardly be said we were
acquainted. I loved him tenderly, and believe he had as strong an
affection for me as a youth of his dissipated turn of mind could be
supposed capable of. One day, I remember, when my father was correcting
him severely, I threw myself between them, embracing my brother, whom I
covered with my body, receiving the strokes designed for him; I persisted
so obstinately in my protection, that either softened by my cries and
tears, or fearing to hurt me most, his anger subsided, and he pardoned
his fault. In the end, my brother's conduct became so bad that he
suddenly disappeared, and we learned some time after that he was in
Germany, but he never wrote to us, and from that day we heard no news of
him: thus I became an only son.

If this poor lad was neglected, it was quite different with his brother,
for the children of a king could not be treated with more attention and
tenderness than were bestowed on my infancy, being the darling of the
family; and what is rather uncommon, though treated as a beloved, never
a spoiled child; was never permitted, while under paternal inspection,
to play in the street with other children; never had any occasion to
contradict or indulge those fantastical humors which are usually
attributed to nature, but are in reality the effects of an injudicious
education. I had the faults common to my age, was talkative, a glutton,
and sometimes a liar, made no scruple of stealing sweetmeats, fruits,
or, indeed, any kind of eatables; but never took delight in mischievous
waste, in accusing others, or tormenting harmless animals. I recollect,
indeed, that one day, while Madam Clot, a neighbor of ours, was gone to
church, I made water in her kettle: the remembrance even now makes me
smile, for Madame Clot (though, if you please, a good sort of creature)
was one of the most tedious grumbling old women I ever knew. Thus have I
given a brief, but faithful, history of my childish transgressions.

How could I become cruel or vicious, when I had before my eyes only
examples of mildness, and was surrounded by some of the best people in
the world? My father, my aunt, my nurse, my relations, our friends, our
neighbors, all I had any connection with, did not obey me, it is true,
but loved me tenderly, and I returned their affection. I found so little
to excite my desires, and those I had were so seldom contradicted, that I
was hardly sensible of possessing any, and can solemnly aver I was an
absolute stranger to caprice until after I had experienced the authority
of a master.

Those hours that were not employed in reading or writing with my father,
or walking with my governess, Jaqueline, I spent with my aunt; and
whether seeing her embroider, or hearing her sing, whether sitting or
standing by her side, I was ever happy. Her tenderness and unaffected
gayety, the charms of her figure and countenance have left such indelible
impressions on my mind, that her manner, look, and attitude are still
before my eyes; I recollect a thousand little caressing questions; could
describe her clothes, her head-dress, nor have the two curls of fine
black hair which hung on her temples, according to the mode of that time,
escaped my memory.

Though my taste, or rather passion, for music, did not show itself until
a considerable time after, I am fully persuaded it is to her I am
indebted for it. She knew a great number of songs, which she sung with
great sweetness and melody. The serenity and cheerfulness which were
conspicuous in this lovely girl, banished melancholy, and made all round
her happy.

The charms of her voice had such an effect on me, that not only several
of her songs have ever since remained on my memory, but some I have not
thought of from my infancy, as I grow old, return upon my mind with a
charm altogether inexpressible. Would any one believe that an old dotard
like me, worn out with care and infirmity, should sometime surprise
himself weeping like a child, and in a voice querulous, and broken by
age, muttering out one of those airs which were the favorites of my
infancy? There is one song in particular, whose tune I perfectly
recollect, but the words that compose the latter half of it constantly
refuse every effort to recall them, though I have a confused idea of the
rhymes. The beginning, with what I have been able to recollect of the
remainder, is as follows:

Tircis, je n'ose
Ecouter ton Chalumeau
Sous l'Ormeau;
Car on en cause
Deja dans notre hameau.
---- ---- -------
------ --- un Berger
sans danger,
Et toujours l'epine est sons la rose.

I have endeavored to account for the invincible charm my heart feels on
the recollection of this fragment, but it is altogether inexplicable.
I only know, that before I get to the end of it, I always find my voice
interrupted by tenderness, and my eyes suffused with tears. I have a
hundred times formed the resolution of writing to Paris for the remainder
of these words, if any one should chance to know them: but I am almost
certain the pleasure I take in the recollection would be greatly
diminished was I assured any one but my poor aunt Susan had sung them.

Such were my affections on entering this life. Thus began to form and
demonstrate itself, a heart, at once haughty and tender, a character
effeminate, yet invincible; which, fluctuating between weakness and
courage, luxury and virtue, has ever set me in contradiction to myself;
causing abstinence and enjoyment, pleasure and prudence, equally to shun

This course of education was interrupted by an accident, whose
consequences influenced the rest of my life. My father had a quarrel
with M. G----, who had a captain's commission in France, and was related
to several of the Council. This G----, who was an insolent, ungenerous
man, happening to bleed at the nose, in order to be revenged, accused my
father of having drawn his sword on him in the city, and in consequence
of this charge they were about to conduct him to prison. He insisted
(according to the law of this republic) that the accuser should be
confined at the same time; and not being able to obtain this, preferred a
voluntary banishment for the remainder of his life, to giving up a point
by which he must sacrifice his honor and liberty.

I remained under the tuition of my uncle Bernard, who was at that time
employed in the fortifications of Geneva. He had lost his eldest
daughter, but had a son about my own age, and we were sent together to
Bossey, to board with the Minister Lambercier. Here we were to learn
Latin, with all the insignificant trash that has obtained the name of

Two years spent in this village softened, in some degree, my Roman
fierceness, and again reduced me to a state of childhood. At Geneva,
where nothing was exacted, I loved reading, which was, indeed, my
principal amusement; but, at Bossey, where application was expected,
I was fond of play as a relaxation. The country was so new, so charming
in my idea, that it seemed impossible to find satiety in its enjoyments,
and I conceived a passion for rural life, which time has not been able to
extinguish; nor have I ever ceased to regret the pure and tranquil
pleasures I enjoyed at this place in my childhood; the remembrance having
followed me through every age, even to that in which I am hastening again
towards it.

M. Lambercier was a worthy, sensible man, who, without neglecting our
instruction, never made our acquisitions burthensome, or tasks tedious.
What convinces me of the rectitude of his method is, that notwithstanding
my extreme aversion to restraint, the recollection of my studies is never
attended with disgust; and, if my improvement was trivial, it was
obtained with ease, and has never escaped memory.

The simplicity of this rural life was of infinite advantage in opening my
heart to the reception of true friendship. The sentiments I had hitherto
formed on this subject were extremely elevated, but altogether imaginary.
The habit of living in this peaceful manner soon united me tenderly to my
cousin Bernard; my affection was more ardent than that I had felt for my
brother, nor has time ever been able to efface it. He was a tall, lank,
weakly boy, with a mind as mild as his body was feeble, and who did not
wrong the good opinion they were disposed to entertain for the son of my
guardian. Our studies, amusements, and tasks, were the same; we were
alone; each wanted a playmate; to separate would in some measure, have
been to annihilate us. Though we had not many opportunities of
demonstrating our attachment to each other, it was certainly extreme; and
so far from enduring the thought of separation, we could not even form an
idea that we should ever be able to submit to it. Each of a disposition
to be won by kindness, and complaisant, when not soured by contradiction,
we agreed in every particular. If, by the favor of those who governed us
he had the ascendant while in their presence, I was sure to acquire it
when we were alone, and this preserved the equilibrium so necessary in
friendship. If he hesitated in repeating his task, I prompted him; when
my exercises were finished, I helped to write his; and, in our
amusements, my disposition being most active, ever had the lead. In a
word, our characters accorded so well, and the friendship that subsisted
between us was so cordial, that during the five years we were at Bossey
and Geneva we were inseparable: we often fought, it is true, but there
never was any occasion to separate us. No one of our quarrels lasted
more than a quarter of an hour, and never in our lives did we make any
complaint of each other. It may be said, these remarks are frivolous;
but, perhaps, a similiar example among children can hardly be produced.

The manner in which I passed my time at Bossey was so agreeable to my
disposition, that it only required a longer duration absolutely to have
fixed my character, which would have had only peaceable, affectionate,
benevolent sentiments for its basis. I believe no individual of our kind
ever possessed less natural vanity than myself. At intervals, by an
extraordinary effort, I arrived at sublime ideas, but presently sunk
again into my original languor. To be loved by every one who knew me was
my most ardent wish. I was naturally mild, my cousin was equally so, and
those who had the care of us were of similiar dispositions. Everything
contributed to strengthen those propensities which nature had implanted
in my breast, and during the two years I was neither the victim nor
witness of any violent emotions.

I knew nothing so delightful as to see every one content, not only with
me, but all that concerned them. When repeating our catechism at church,
nothing could give me greater vexation, on being obliged to hesitate,
than to see Miss Lambercier's countenance express disapprobation and
uneasiness. This alone was more afflicting to me than the shame of
faltering before so many witnesses, which, notwithstanding, was
sufficiently painful; for though not oversolicitous of praise, I was
feelingly alive to shame; yet I can truly affirm, the dread of being
reprimanded by Miss Lambercier alarmed me less than the thought of making
her uneasy.

Neither she nor her brother were deficient in a reasonable severity, but
as this was scarce ever exerted without just cause, I was more afflicted
at their disapprobation than the punishment. Certainly the method of
treating youth would be altered if the distant effects, this
indiscriminate, and frequently indiscreet method produces, were more
conspicuous. I would willingly excuse myself from a further explanation,
did not the lesson this example conveys (which points out an evil as
frequent as it is pernicious) forbid my silence.

As Miss Lambercier felt a mother's affection, she sometimes exerted a
mother's authority, even to inflicting on us when we deserved it, the
punishment of infants. She had often threatened it, and this threat of a
treatment entirely new, appeared to me extremely dreadful; but I found
the reality much less terrible than the idea, and what is still more
unaccountable, this punishment increased my affection for the person who
had inflicted it. All this affection, aided by my natural mildness, was
scarcely sufficient to prevent my seeking, by fresh offences, a return of
the same chastisement; for a degree of sensuality had mingled with the
smart and shame, which left more desire than fear of a repetition. I was
well convinced the same discipline from her brother would have produced a
quite contrary effect; but from a man of his disposition this was not
probable, and if I abstained from meriting correction it was merely from
a fear of offending Miss Lambercier, for benevolence, aided by the
passions, has ever maintained an empire over me which has given law to my

This event, which, though desirable, I had not endeavored to accelerate,
arrived without my fault; I should say, without my seeking; and I
profited by it with a safe conscience; but this second, was also the last
time, for Miss Lambercier, who doubtless had some reason to imagine this
chastisement did not produce the desired effect, declared it was too
fatiguing, and that she renounced it for the future. Till now we had
slept in her chamber, and during the winter, even in her bed; but two
days after another room was prepared for us, and from that moment I had
the honor (which I could very well have dispensed with) of being treated
by her as a great boy.

Who would believe this childish discipline, received at eight years old,
from the hands of a woman of thirty, should influence my propensities,
my desires, my passions, for the rest of my life, and that in quite a
contrary sense from what might naturally have been expected? The very
incident that inflamed my senses, gave my desires such an extraordinary
turn, that, confined to what I had already experienced, I sought no
further, and, with blood boiling with sensuality, almost from my birth,
preserved my purity beyond the age when the coldest constitutions lose
their insensibility; long tormented, without knowing by what, I gazed on
every handsome woman with delight; imagination incessantly brought their
charms to my remembrance, only to transform them into so many Miss

If ever education was perfectly chaste, it was certainly that I received;
my three aunts were not only of exemplary prudence, but maintained a
degree of modest reserve which women have long since thought unnecessary.
My father, it is true, loved pleasure, but his gallantry was rather of
the last than the present century, and he never expressed his affection
for any woman he regarded in terms a virgin could have blushed at;
indeed, it was impossible more attention should be paid to that regard we
owe the morals of children than was uniformly observed by every one I had
any concern with. An equal degree of reserve in this particular was
observed at M. Lambercier's, where a good maid-servant was discharged for
having once made use of an expression before us which was thought to
contain some degree of indelicacy. I had no precise idea of the ultimate
effect of the passions, but the conception I had formed was extremely
disgusting; I entertained a particular aversion for courtesans, nor could
I look on a rake without a degree of disdain mingled with terror.

These prejudices of education, proper in themselves to retard the first
explosions of a combustible constitution, were strengthened, as I have
already hinted, by the effect the first moments of sensuality produced in
me, for notwithstanding the troublesome ebullition of my blood, I was
satisfied with the species of voluptuousness I had already been
acquainted with, and sought no further.

Thus I passed the age of puberty, with a constitution extremely ardent,
without knowing or even wishing for any other gratification of the
passions than what Miss Lambercier had innocently given me an idea of;
and when I became a man, that childish taste, instead of vanishing, only
associated with the other. This folly, joined to a natural timidity, has
always prevented my being very enterprising with women, so that I have
passed my days in languishing in silence for those I most admired,
without daring to disclose my wishes.

To fall at the feet of an imperious mistress, obey her mandates, or
implore pardon, were for me the most exquisite enjoyments, and the more
my blood was inflamed by the efforts of a lively imagination the more I
acquired the appearance of a whining lover.

It will be readily conceived that this mode of making love is not
attended with a rapid progress or imminent danger to the virtue of its
object; yet, though I have few favors to boast of, I have not been
excluded from enjoyment, however imaginary. Thus the senses, in
concurrence with a mind equally timid and romantic, have preserved my
moral chaste, and feelings uncorrupted, with precisely the same
inclinations, which, seconded with a moderate portion of effrontery,
might have plunged me into the most unwarrantable excesses.

I have made the first, most difficult step, in the obscure and painful
maze of my Confessions. We never feel so great a degree of repugnance in
divulging what is really criminal, as what is merely ridiculous. I am
now assured of my resolution, for after what I have dared disclose,
nothing can have power to deter me. The difficulty attending these
acknowledgments will be readily conceived, when I declare, that during
the whole of my life, though frequently laboring under the most violent
agitation, being hurried away with the impetuosity of a passion which
(when in company with those I loved) deprived me of the faculty of sight
and hearing, I could never, in the course of the most unbounded
familiarity, acquire sufficient resolution to declare my folly, and
implore the only favor that remained to bestow.

In thus investigating the first traces of my sensible existence, I find
elements, which, though seemingly incompatible, have united to produce a
simple and uniform effect; while others, apparently the same, have, by
the concurrence of certain circumstances, formed such different
combinations, that it would never be imagined they had any affinity; who
would believe, for example, that one of the most vigorous springs of my
soul was tempered in the identical source from whence luxury and ease
mingled with my constitution and circulated in my veins? Before I quit
this subject, I will add a striking instance of the different effects
they produced.

One day, while I was studying in a chamber contiguous to the kitchen, the
maid set some of Miss Lambercier's combs to dry by the fire, and on
coming to fetch them some time after, was surprised to find the teeth of
one of them broken off. Who could be suspected of this mischief? No one
but myself had entered the room: I was questioned, but denied having any
knowledge of it. Mr. and Miss Lambercier consult, exhort, threaten, but
all to no purpose; I obstinately persist in the denial; and, though this
was the first time I had been detected in a confirmed falsehood,
appearances were so strong that they overthrew all my protestations.
This affair was thought serious; the mischief, the lie, the obstinacy,
were considered equally deserving of punishment, which was not now to be
administered by Miss Lambercier. My uncle Bernard was written to; he
arrived; and my poor cousin being charged with a crime no less serious,
we were conducted to the same execution, which was inflicted with great
severity. If finding a remedy in the evil itself, they had sought ever
to allay my depraved desires, they could not have chosen a shorter method
to accomplish their designs, and, I can assure my readers, I was for a
long time freed from the dominion of them.

As this severity could not draw from me the expected acknowledgment,
which obstinacy brought on several repetitions, and reduced me to a
deplorable situation, yet I was immovable, and resolutely determined to
suffer death rather than submit. Force, at length, was obliged to yield
to the diabolical infatuation of a child, for no better name was bestowed
on my constancy, and I came out of this dreadful trial, torn, it is true,
but triumphant. Fifty years have expired since this adventure--the fear
of punishment is no more. Well, then, I aver, in the face of Heaven, I
was absolutely innocent: and, so far from breaking, or even touching the
comb, never came near the fire. It will be asked, how did this mischief
happen? I can form no conception of it, I only know my own innocence.

Let any one figure to himself a character whose leading traits were
docility and timidity, but haughty, ardent, and invincible, in its
passions; a child, hitherto governed by the voice of reason, treated with
mildness, equity, and complaisance, who could not even support the idea
of injustice, experiencing, for the first time, so violent an instance of
it, inflicted by those he most loved and respected. What perversion of
ideas! What confusion in the heart, the brain, in all my little being,
intelligent and moral!--let any one, I say, if possible, imagine all
this, for I am incapable of giving the least idea of what passed in my
mind at that period.

My reason was not sufficiently established to enable me to put myself in
the place of others, and judge how much appearances condemned me, I only
beheld the rigor of a dreadful chastisement, inflicted for a crime I had
not committed; yet I can truly affirm, the smart I suffered, though
violent, was inconsiderable compared to what I felt from indignation,
rage, and despair. My cousin, who was almost in similar circumstances,
having been punished for an involuntary fault as guilty of a premediated
crime, became furious by my example. Both in the same bed, we embraced
each other with convulsive transport; we were almost suffocated; and when
our young hearts found sufficient relief to breathe out our indigination,
we sat up in the bed, and with all our force, repeated a hundred times,
Carnifex! Carnifex! Carnifex! executioner, tormentor.

Even while I write this I feel my pulse quicken, and should I live a
hundred thousand years, the agitation of that moment would still be fresh
in my memory. The first instance of violence and oppression is so deeply
engraved on my soul, that every relative idea renews my emotion: the
sentiment of indignation, which in its origin had reference only to
myself, has acquired such strength, and is at present so completely
detached from personal motives, that my heart is as much inflamed at the
sight or relation of any act of injustice (whatever may be the object, or
wheresoever it may be perpetrated) as if I was the immediate sufferer.
When I read the history of a merciless tyrant, or the dark and the subtle
machination of a knavish designing priest, I could on the instant set off
to stab the miscreants, though I was certain to perish in the attempt.

I have frequently fatigued myself by running after and stoning a cock, a
cow, a dog, or any animal I saw tormenting another, only because it was
conscious of possessing superior strength. This may be natural to me,
and I am inclined to believe it is, though the lively impression of the
first injustice I became the victim of was too long and too powerfully
remembered not to have added considerable force to it.

This occurrence terminated my infantine serenity; from that moment I
ceased to enjoy a pure unadulterated happiness, and on a retrospection of
the pleasure of my childhood, I yet feel they ended here. We continue at
Bossey some months after this event, but were like our first parents in
the Garden of Eden after they had lost their innocence; in appearance our
situation was the same, in effect it was totally different.

Affection, respect; intimacy, confidence, no longer attached the pupils
to their guides; we beheld them no longer as divinities, who could read
the secrets of our hearts; we were less ashamed of committing faults,
more afraid of being accused of them: we learned to dissemble, to rebel,
to lie: all the vices common to our years began to corrupt our happy
innocence, mingle with our sports, and embitter our amusements. The
country itself, losing those sweet and simple charms which captivate the
heart, appeared a gloomy desert, or covered with a veil that concealed
its beauties. We cultivated our little gardens no more: our flowers were
neglected. We no longer scratched away the mould, and broke out into
exclamations of delight, on discovering that the grain we had sown began
to shoot. We were disgusted with our situation; our preceptors were
weary of us. In a word, my uncle wrote for our return, and we left Mr.
and Miss Lambercier without feeling any regret at the separation.

Near thirty years passed away from my leaving Bossey, without once
recalling the place to my mind with any degree of satisfaction; but after
having passed the prime of life, as I decline into old age (while more
recent occurrences are wearing out apace) I feel these remembrances
revive and imprint themselves on my heart, with a force and charm that
every day acquires fresh strength; as if, feeling life fleet from me,
I endeavored to catch it again by its commencement. The most trifling
incident of those happy days delight me, for no other reason than being
of those days. I recall every circumstance of time, place, and persons;
I see the maid or footman busy in the chamber, a swallow entering the
window, a fly settling on my hand while repeating my lessons. I see the
whole economy of the apartment; on the right hand Mr. Lambercier's
closet, with a print representing all the popes, a barometer, a large
almanac, the windows of the house (which stood in a hollow at the bottom
of the garden) shaded by raspberry shrubs, whose shoots sometimes found
entrance; I am sensible the reader has no occasion to know all this, but
I feel a kind of necessity for relating it. Why am I not permitted to
recount all the little anecdotes of that thrice happy age, at the
recollection of whose joys I ever tremble with delight? Five or six
particularly--let us compromise the matter--I will give up five, but
then I must have one, and only one, provided I may draw it out to its
utmost length, in order to prolong my satisfaction.

If I only sought yours, I should choose that of Miss Lambercier's
backside, which by an unlucky fall at the bottom of the meadow, was
exposed to the view of the King of Sardinia, who happened to be passing
by; but that of the walnut tree on the terrace is more amusing to me,
since here I was an actor, whereas, in the abovementioned scene I was
only a spectator; and I must confess I see nothing that should occasion
risibility in an accident, which, however laughable in itself, alarmed me
for a person I loved as a mother, or perhaps something more.

Ye curious readers, whose expectations are already on the stretch for the
noble history of the terrace, listen to the tragedy, and abstain from
trembling, if you can, at the horrible catastrophe!

At the outside of the courtyard door, on the left hand, was a terrace;
here they often sat after dinner; but it was subject to one
inconvenience, being too much exposed to the rays of the sun; to obviate
this defect, Mr. Lambercier had a walnut tree set there, the planting of
which was attended with great solemnity. The two boarders were
godfathers, and while the earth was replacing round the root, each held
the tree with one hand, singing songs of triumph. In order to water it
with more effect, they formed a kind of luson around its foot: myself and
cousin, who were every day ardent spectators of this watering, confirmed
each other in the very natural idea that it was nobler to plant trees on
the terrace than colors on a breach, and this glory we were resolved to
procure without dividing it with any one.

In pursuance of this resolution, we cut a slip off a willow, and planted
it on the terrace, at about eight or ten feet distance from the august
walnut tree. We did not forget to make a hollow round it, but the
difficulty was how to procure a supply of water, which was brought from a
considerable distance, and we not permitted to fetch it: but water was
absolutely necessary for our willow, and we made use of every stratagem
to obtain it.

For a few days everything succeeded so well that it began to bud, and
throw out small leaves, which we hourly measured convinced (tho' now
scarce a foot from the ground) it would soon afford us a refreshing
shade. This unfortunate willow, by engrossing our whole time, rendered
us incapable of application to any other study, and the cause of our
inattention not being known, we were kept closer than before. The fatal
moment approached when water must fail, and we were already afflicted
with the idea that our tree must perish with drought. At length
necessity, the parent of industry, suggested an invention, by which we
might save our tree from death, and ourselves from despair; it was to
make a furrow underground, which would privately conduct a part of the
water from the walnut tree to our willow. This undertaking was executed
with ardor, but did not immediately succeed--our descent was not
skilfully planned--the water did not run, the earth falling in and
stopping up the furrow; yet, though all went contrary, nothing
discouraged us, 'omnia vincit labor improbus'. We made the bason deeper,
to give the water a more sensible descent; we cut the bottom of a box
into narrow planks; increased the channel from the walnut tree to our
willow and laying a row flat at the bottom, set two others inclining
towards each other, so as to form a triangular channel; we formed a kind
of grating with small sticks at the end next the walnut tree, to prevent
the earth and stones from stopping it up, and having carefully covered
our work with well--trodden earth, in a transport of hope and fear
attended the hour of watering. After an interval, which seemed an age of
expectation, this hour arrived. Mr. Lambercier, as usual, assisted at
the operation; we contrived to get between him and our tree, towards
which he fortunately turned his back. They no sooner began to pour the
first pail of water, than we perceived it running to the willow; this
sight was too much for our prudence, and we involuntarily expressed our
transport by a shout of joy. The sudden exclamation made Mr. Lambercier
turn about, though at that instant he was delighted to observe how
greedily the earth, which surrounded the root of his walnut tree, imbibed
the water. Surprised at seeing two trenches partake of it, he shouted in
his turn, examines, perceives the roguery, and, sending instantly for a
pick axe, at one fatal blow makes two or three of our planks fly, crying
out meantime with all his strength, an aqueduct! an aqueduct! His
strokes redoubled, every one of which made an impression on our hearts;
in a moment the planks, the channel, the bason, even our favorite willow,
all were ploughed up, nor was one word pronounced during this terrible
transaction, except the above mentioned exclamation. An aqueduct!
repeated he, while destroying all our hopes, an aqueduct! an aqueduct!

It maybe supposed this adventure had a still more melancholy end for the
young architects; this, however, was not the case; the affair ended here.
Mr. Lambercier never reproached us on this account, nor was his
countenance clouded with a frown; we even heard him mention the
circumstance to his sister with loud bursts of laughter. The laugh of
Mr. Lambercier might be heard to a considerable distance. But what is
still more surprising after the first transport of sorrow had subsided,
we did not find ourselves violently afflicted; we planted a tree in
another spot, and frequently recollected the catastrophe of the former,
repeating with a significant emphasis, an aqueduct! an aqueduct!
Till then, at intervals, I had fits of ambition, and could fancy myself
Brutus or Aristides, but this was the first visible effect of my vanity.
To have constructed an aqueduct with our own hands, to have set a slip of
willow in competition with a flourishing tree, appeared to me a supreme
degree of glory! I had a juster conception of it at ten than Caesar
entertained at thirty.

The idea of this walnut tree, with the little anecdotes it gave rise to,
have so well continued, or returned to my memory, that the design which
conveyed the most pleasing sensations, during my journey to Geneva, in
the year 1754, was visiting Bossey, and reviewing the monuments of my
infantine amusement, above all, the beloved walnut tree, whose age at
that time must have been verging on a third of a century, but I was so
beset with company that I could not find a moment to accomplish my
design. There is little appearance now of the occasion being renewed;
but should I ever return to that charming spot, and find my favorite
walnut tree still existing, I am convinced I should water it with my

On my return to Geneva, I passed two or three years at my uncle's,
expecting the determination of my friends respecting my future
establishment. His own son being devoted to genius, was taught drawing,
and instructed by his father in the elements of Euclid; I partook of
these instructions, but was principally fond of drawing. Meantime, they
were irresolute, whether to make me a watchmaker, a lawyer, or a
minister. I should have preferred being a minister, as I thought it must
be a charming thing to preach, but the trifling income which had been my
mother's, and was to be divided between my brother and myself, was too
inconsiderable to defray the expense attending the prosecution of my
studies. As my age did not render the choice very pressing, I remained
with my uncle, passing my time with very little improvement, and paying
pretty dear, though not unreasonably, for my board.

My uncle, like my father, was a man of pleasure, but had not learned,
like him, to abridge his amusements for the sake of instructing his
family, consequently our education was neglected. My aunt was a devotee,
who loved singing psalms better than thinking of our improvement, so that
we were left entirely to ourselves, which liberty we never abused.

Ever inseparable, we were all the world to each other; and, feeling no
inclination to frequent the company of a number of disorderly lads of our
own age, we learned none of those habits of libertinism to which our idle
life exposed us. Perhaps I am wrong in charging myself and cousin with
idleness at this time, for, in our lives, we were never less so; and what
was extremely fortunate, so incessantly occupied with our amusements,
that we found no temptation to spend any part of our time in the streets.
We made cages, pipes, kites, drums, houses, ships, and bows; spoiled the
tools of my good old grandfather by endeavoring to make watches in
imitation of him; but our favorite amusement was wasting paper, in
drawing, washing, coloring, etc. There came an Italian mountebank to
Geneva, called Gamber-Corta, who had an exhibition of puppets, that he
made play a kind of comedy. We went once to see them, but could not
spare time to go again, being busily employed in making puppets of our
own and inventing comedies, which we immediately set about making them
perform, mimicking to the best of our abilities the uncouth voice of
Punch; and, to complete the business, my good aunt and uncle Bernard had
the patience to see and listen to our imitations; but my uncle, having
one day read an elaborate discourse to his family, we instantly gave up
our comedies, and began composing sermons.

These details, I confess, are not very amusing, but they serve to
demonstrate that the former part of our education was well directed,
since being, at such an early age, the absolute masters of our time,
we found no inclination to abuse it; and so little in want of other
companions, that we constantly neglected every occasion of seeking them.
When taking our walks together, we observed their diversions without
feeling any inclination to partake of them. Friendship so entirely
occupied our hearts, that, pleased with each other's company the simplest
pastimes were sufficient to delight us.

We were soon remarked for being thus inseparable: and what rendered us
more conspicuous, my cousin was very tall, myself extremely short, so
that we exhibited a very whimsical contrast. This meagre figure, small,
sallow countenance, heavy air, and supine gait, excited the ridicule of
the children, who, in the gibberish of the country, nicknamed him 'Barna
Bredanna'; and we no sooner got out of doors than our ears were assailed
with a repetition of "Barna Bredanna." He bore this indignity with
tolerable patience, but I was instantly for fighting. This was what the
young rogues aimed at. I engaged accordingly, and was beat. My poor
cousin did all in his power to assist me, but he was weak, and a single
stroke brought him to the ground. I then became furious, and received
several smart blows, some of which were aimed at 'Barna Bredanna'. This
quarrel so far increased the evil, that, to avoid their insults, we could
only show ourselves in the streets while they were employed at school.

I had already become a redresser of grievances; there only wanted a lady
in the way to be a knight-errant in form. This defect was soon supplied;
I presently had two. I frequently went to see my father at Nion, a small
city in the Vaudois country, where he was now settled. Being universally
respected, the affection entertained for him extended to me: and, during
my visits, the question seemed to be, who should show me most kindness.
A Madame de Vulson, in particular, loaded me with caresses; and, to
complete all, her daughter made me her gallant. I need not explain what
kind of gallant a boy of eleven must be to a girl of two and twenty; the
artful hussies know how to set these puppets up in front, to conceal more
serious engagements. On my part I saw no inequality between myself and
Miss Vulson, was flattered by the circumstance, and went into it with my
whole heart, or rather my whole head, for this passion certainly reached
no further, though it transported me almost to madness, and frequently
produced scenes sufficient to make even a cynic expire with laughter.

I have experienced two kinds of love, equally real, which have scarce any
affinity, yet each differing materially from tender friendship. My whole
life has been divided between these affections, and I have frequently
felt the power of both at the same instant. For example, at the very
time I so publically and tyrannically claimed Miss Vulson, that I could
not suffer any other of my sex to approach her, I had short, but
passionate, assignations with a Miss Goton, who thought proper to act the
schoolmistress with me. Our meetings, though absolutely childish,
afforded me the height of happiness. I felt the whole charm of mystery,
and repaid Miss Vulson in kind, when she least expected it, the use she
made of me in concealing her amours. To my great mortification, this
secret was soon discovered, and I presently lost my young schoolmistress.

Miss Goton was, in fact, a singular personage. She was not handsome,
yet there was a certain something in her figure which could not easily
be forgotten, and this for an old fool, I am too often convinced of.
Her eyes, in particular, neither corresponded with her age, her height,
nor her manner; she had a lofty imposing air, which agreed extremely well
with the character she assumed, but the most extraordinary part of her
composition was a mixture of forwardness and reserve difficult to be
conceived; and while she took the greatest liberties with me, would never
permit any to be taken with her in return, treating me precisely like a
child. This makes me suppose she had either ceased herself to be one,
or was yet sufficiently so to behold us play the danger to which this
folly exposed her.

I was so absolutely in the power of both these mistresses, that when in
the presence of either, I never thought of her who was absent; in other
respects, the effects they produced on me bore no affinity. I could have
passed my whole life with Miss Vulson, without forming a wish to quit
her; but then, my satisfaction was attended with a pleasing serenity;
and, in numerous companies, I was particularly charmed with her. The
sprightly sallies of her wit, the arch glance of her eye, even jealousy
itself, strengthened my attachment, and I triumphed in the preference she
seemed to bestow on me, while addressed by more powerful rivals;
applause, encouragement, and smiles, gave animation to my happiness.
Surrounded by a throng of observers, I felt the whole force of love--I
was passionate, transported; in a tete-a-tete, I should have been
constrained, thoughtful, perhaps unhappy. If Miss Vulson was ill, I
suffered with her; would willingly have given up my own health to
establish hers (and, observe I knew the want of it from experience); if
absent, she employed my thoughts, I felt the want of her; when present,
her caresses came with warmth and rapture to my heart, though my senses
were unaffected. The familiarities she bestowed on me I could not have
supported the idea of her granting to another; I loved her with a
brother's affection only, but experienced all the jealousy of a lover.

With Miss Goton this passion might have acquired a degree of fury; I
should have been a Turk, a tiger, had I once imagined she bestowed her
favors on any but myself. The pleasure I felt on approaching Miss Vulson
was sufficiently ardent, though unattended with uneasy sensations; but at
sight of Miss Goton, I felt myself bewildered--every sense was absorbed
in ecstasy. I believe it would have been impossible to have remained
long with her; I must have been suffocated with the violence of my
palpitations. I equally dreaded giving either of them displeasure; with
one I was more complaisant; with the other, more submissive. I would not
have offended Miss Vulson for the world; but if Miss Goton had commanded
me to throw myself into the flames, I think I should have instantly
obeyed her. Happily, both for her and myself, our amours; or rather
rendezvous, were not of long duration: and though my connection with Miss
Vulson was less dangerous, after a continuance of some greater length,
that likewise had its catastrophe; indeed the termination of a love
affair is good for nothing, unless it partakes of the romantic, and can
furnish out at least an exclamation.

Though my correspondence with Miss Vulson was less animated, it was
perhaps more endearing; we never separated without tears, and it can
hardly be conceived what a void I felt in my heart. I could neither
think nor speak of anything but her. These romantic sorrows were not
affected, though I am inclined to believe they did not absolutely centre
in her, for I am persuaded (though I did not perceive it at that time)
being deprived of amusement bore a considerable share in them.

To soften the rigor of absence, we agreed to correspond with each other,
and the pathetic expressions these letters contained were sufficient to
have split a rock. In a word, I had the honor of her not being able to
endure the pain of separation. She came to see me at Geneva.

My head was now completely turned; and during the two days she remained
here, I was intoxicated with delight. At her departure, I would have
thrown myself into the water after her, and absolutely rent the air with
my cries. The week following she sent me sweetmeats, gloves, etc. This
certainly would have appeared extremely gallant, had I not been informed
of her marriage at the same instant, and that the journey I had thought
proper to give myself the honor of, was only to buy her wedding suit.

My indignation may easily be conceived; I shall not attempt to describe
it. In this heroic fury, I swore never more to see the perfidious girl,
supposing it the greatest punishment that could be inflicted on her.
This, however, did not occasion her death, for twenty years after, while
on a visit to my father, being on the lake, I asked who those ladies were
in a boat not far from ours. "What!" said my father smiling, "does not
your heart inform you? It is your former flame, it is Madame Christin,
or, if you please, Miss Vulson." I started at the almost forgotten name,
and instantly ordered the waterman to turn off, not judging it worth
while to be perjured, however favorable the opportunity for revenge, in
renewing a dispute of twenty years past, with a woman of forty.

Thus, before my future destination was determined, did I fool away the
most precious moments of my youth. After deliberating a long time on the
bent of my natural inclination, they resolved to dispose of me in a
manner the most repugnant to them. I was sent to Mr. Masseron, the City
Register, to learn (according to the expression of my uncle Bernard) the
thriving occupation of a scraper. This nickname was inconceivably
displeasing to me, and I promised myself but little satisfaction in the
prospect of heaping up money by a mean employment. The assiduity and
subjection required, completed my disgust, and I never set foot in the
office without feeling a kind of horror, which every day gained fresh

Mr. Masseron, who was not better pleased with my abilities than I was
with the employment, treated me with disdain, incessantly upbraiding me
with being a fool and blockhead, not forgetting to repeat, that my uncle
had assured him I was a knowing one, though he could not find that I knew
anything. That he had promised to furnish him with a sprightly boy, but
had, in truth, sent him an ass. To conclude, I was turned out of the
registry, with the additional ignominy of being pronounced a fool by all
Mr. Masseron's clerks, and fit only to handle a file.

My vocation thus determined, I was bound apprentice; not, however, to a
watchmaker, but to an engraver, and I had been so completely humiliated
by the contempt of the register, that I submitted without a murmur. My
master, whose name was M. Ducommon, was a young man of a very violent and
boorish character, who contrived in a short time to tarnish all the
amiable qualities of my childhood, to stupefy a disposition naturally
sprightly, and reduce my feelings, as well as my condition, to an
absolute state of servitude. I forgot my Latin, history, and
antiquities; I could hardly recollect whether such people as Romans ever
existed. When I visited my father, he no longer beheld his idol, nor
could the ladies recognize the gallant Jean Jacques; nay, I was so well
convinced that Mr. and Miss Lambercier would scarce receive me as their
pupil, that I endeavored to avoid their company, and from that time have
never seen them. The vilest inclinations, the basest actions, succeeded
my amiable amusements and even obliterated the very remembrance of them.
I must have had, in spite of my good education, a great propensity to
degenerate, else the declension could not have followed with such ease
and rapidity, for never did so promising a Caesar so quickly become a

The art itself did not displease me. I had a lively taste for drawing.
There was nothing displeasing in the exercise of the graver; and as it
required no very extraordinary abilities to attain perfection as a
watchcase engraver, I hoped to arrive at it. Perhaps I should have
accomplished my design, if unreasonable restraint, added to the brutality
of my master, had not rendered my business disgusting. I wasted his
time, and employed myself in engraving medals, which served me and my
companions as a kind of insignia for a new invented order of chivalry,
and though this differed very little from my usual employ, I considered
it as a relaxation. Unfortunately, my master caught me at this
contraband labor, and a severe beating was the consequence. He
reproached me at the same time with attempting to make counterfeit money
because our medals bore the arms of the Republic, though, I can truly
aver, I had no conception of false money, and very little of the true,
knowing better how to make a Roman As than one of our threepenny pieces.

My master's tyranny rendered insupportable that labor I should otherwise
have loved, and drove me to vices I naturally despised, such as
falsehood, idleness, and theft. Nothing ever gave me a clearer
demonstration of the difference between filial dependence and abject
slavery, than the remembrance of the change produced in me at that
period. Hitherto I had enjoyed a reasonable liberty; this I had suddenly
lost. I was enterprising at my father's, free at Mr. Lambercier's,
discreet at my uncle's; but, with my master, I became fearful, and from
that moment my mind was vitiated. Accustomed to live on terms of perfect
equality, to be witness of no pleasures I could not command, to see no
dish I was not to partake of, or be sensible of a desire I might not
express; to be able to bring every wish of my heart to my lips--what a
transition!--at my master's I was scarce allowed to speak, was forced to
quit the table without tasting what I most longed for, and the room when
I had nothing particular to do there; was incessantly confined to my
work, while the liberty my master and his journeymen enjoyed, served only
to increase the weight of my subjection. When disputes happened to
arise, though conscious that I understood the subject better than any of
them, I dared not offer my opinion; in a word, everything I saw became an
object of desire, for no other reason than because I was not permitted to
enjoy anything. Farewell gayety, ease, those happy turns of expressions,
which formerly even made my faults escape correction. I recollect, with
pleasure, a circumstance that happened at my father's, which even now
makes me smile. Being for some fault ordered to bed without my supper,
as I was passing through the kitchen, with my poor morsel of bread in my
hand, I saw the meat turning on the spit; my father and the rest were
round the fire; I must bow to every one as I passed. When I had gone
through this ceremony, leering with a wistful eye at the roast meat,
which looked so inviting, and smelt so savory, I could not abstain from
making that a bow likewise, adding in a pitiful tone, good bye, roast
meal! This unpremeditated pleasantry put them in such good humor, that I
was permitted to stay, and partake of it. Perhaps the same thing might
have produced a similar effect at my master's, but such a thought could
never have occurred to me, or, if it had, I should not have had courage
to express it.

Thus I learned to covet, dissemble, lie, and, at length, to steal, a
propensity I never felt the least idea of before, though since that time
I have never been able entirely to divest myself of it. Desire and
inability united naturally led to this vice, which is the reason
pilfering is so common among footmen and apprentices, though the latter,
as they grow up, and find themselves in a situation where everything is
at their command, lose this shameful propensity. As I never experienced
the advantage, I never enjoyed the benefit.

Good sentiments, ill-directed, frequently lead children into vice.
Notwithstanding my continual wants and temptations, it was more than a
year before I could resolve to take even eatables. My first theft was
occasioned by complaisance, but it was productive of others which had not
so plausible an excuse.

My master had a journeyman named Verrat, whose mother lived in the
neighborhood, and had a garden at a considerable distance from the house,
which produced excellent asparagus. This Verrat, who had no great plenty
of money, took it in his head to rob her of the most early production of
her garden, and by the sale of it procure those indulgences he could not
otherwise afford himself; but not being very nimble, he did not care to
run the hazard of a surprise. After some preliminary flattery, which I
did not comprehend the meaning of, he proposed this expedition to me, as
an idea which had that moment struck him. At first I would not listen to
the proposal; but he persisted in his solicitation, and as I could never
resist the attacks of flattery, at length prevailed. In pursuance of
this virtuous resolution, I every morning repaired to the garden,
gathered the best of the asparagus, and took it to the Holard where some
good old women, who guessed how I came by it, wishing to diminish the
price, made no secret of their suspicions; this produced the desired
effect, for, being alarmed, I took whatever they offered, which being
taken to Mr. Verrat, was presently metamorphosed into a breakfast, and
divided with a companion of his; for, though I procured it, I never
partook of their good cheer, being fully satisfied with an inconsiderable

I executed my roguery with the greatest fidelity, seeking only to please
my employer; and several days passed before it came into my head, to rob
the robber, and tithe Mr. Verrat's harvest. I never considered the
hazard I run in these expeditions, not only of a torrent of abuse, but
what I should have been still more sensible of, a hearty beating; for the
miscreant, who received the whole benefit, would certainly have denied
all knowledge of the fact, and I should only have received a double
portion of punishment for daring to accuse him, since being only an
apprentice, I stood no chance of being believed in opposition to a
journeyman. Thus, in every situation, powerful rogues know how to save
themselves at the expense of the feeble.

This practice taught me it was not so terrible to thieve as I had
imagined: I took care to make this discovery turn to some account,
helping myself to everything within my reach, that I conceived an
inclination for. I was not absolutely ill-fed at my master's, and
temperance was only painful to me by comparing it with the luxury he
enjoyed. The custom of sending young people from table precisely when
those things are served up which seem most tempting, is calculated to
increase their longing, and induces them to steal what they conceive to
be so delicious. It may be supposed I was not backward in this
particular: in general my knavery succeeded pretty well, though quite the
reverse when I happened to be detected.

I recollect an attempt to procure some apples, which was attended with
circumstances that make me smile and shudder even at this instant. The
fruit was standing in the pantry, which by a lattice at a considerable
height received light from the kitchen. One day, being alone in the
house, I climbed up to see these precious apples, which being out of my
reach, made this pantry appear the garden of Hesperides. I fetched the
spit--tried if it would reach them--it was too short--I lengthened it
with a small one which was used for game,--my master being very fond of
hunting, darted at them several times without success; at length was more
fortunate; being transported to find I was bringing up an apple, I drew
it gently to the lattice--was going to seize it when (who can express my
grief and astonishment!) I found it would not pass through--it was too
large. I tried every expedient to accomplish my design, sought
supporters to keep the spits in the same position, a knife to divide the
apple, and a lath to hold it with; at length, I so far succeeded as to
effect the division, and made no doubt of drawing the pieces through; but
it was scarcely separated, (compassionate reader, sympathize with my
affliction) when both pieces fell into the pantry.

Though I lost time by this experiment, I did not lose courage, but,
dreading a surprise, I put off the attempt till next day, when I hoped to
be more successful, and returned to my work as if nothing had happened,
without once thinking of what the two obvious witnesses I had left in the
pantry deposed against me.

The next day (a fine opportunity offering) I renew the trial. I fasten
the spits together; get on the stool; take aim; am just going to dart at
my prey--unfortunately the dragon did not sleep; the pantry door opens,
my master makes his appearance, and, looking up, exclaims, "Bravo!"
--The horror of that moment returns--the pen drops from my hand.

A continual repetition of ill treatment rendered me callous; it seemed a
kind of composition for my crimes, which authorized me to continue them,
and, instead of looking back at the punishment, I looked forward to
revenge. Being beat like a slave, I judged I had a right to all the
vices of one. I was convinced that to rob and be punished were
inseparable, and constituted, if I may so express myself, a kind of
traffic, in which, if I perform my part of the bargain, my master would
take care not to be deficient in his; that preliminary settled, I applied
myself to thieving with great tranquility, and whenever this
interrogatory occurred to my mind, "What will be the consequence?" the
reply was ready, "I know the worst, I shall be beat; no matter, I was
made for it."

I love good eating; am sensual, but not greedy; I have such a variety of
inclinations to gratify, that this can never predominate; and unless my
heart is unoccupied, which very rarely happens, I pay but little
attention to my appetite; to purloining eatables, but extended this
propensity to everything I wished to possess, and if I did not become a
robber in form, it was only because money never tempted me.

My master had a closet in the workshop, which he kept locked; this I
contrived to open and shut as often as I pleased, and laid his best
tools, fine drawings, impressions, in a word, everything he wished to
keep from me, under contribution.

These thefts were so far innocent, that they were always employed in his
service, but I was transported at having the trifles in my possession,
and imagined I stole the art with its productions. Besides what I have
mentioned, his boxes contained threads of gold and silver, a number of
small jewels, valuable medals, and money; yet, though I seldom had five
sous in my pocket, I do not recollect ever having cast a wishful look at
them; on the contrary, I beheld these valuables rather with terror than
with delight.

I am convinced the dread of taking money was, in a great measure, the
effect of education. There was mingled with the idea of it the fear of
infamy, a prison, punishment, and death: had I even felt the temptation,
these objects would have made me tremble; whereas my failings appeared a
species of waggery, and, in truth, they were little else; they could but
occasion a good trimming, and this I was already prepared for. A sheet
of fine drawing paper was a greater temptation than money sufficient to
have purchased a ream. This unreasonable caprice is connected with one
of the most striking singularities of my character, and has so far
influenced my conduct, that it requires a particular explanation.

My passions are extremely violent; while under their influence, nothing
can equal my impetuosity; I am an absolute stranger to discretion,
respect, fear, or decorum; rude, saucy, violent, and intrepid: no shame
can stop, no danger intimidate me. My mind is frequently so engrossed by
a single object, that beyond it the whole world is not worth a thought;
this is the enthusiasm of a moment, the next, perhaps, I am plunged in a
state of annihilation. Take me in my moments of tranquility, I am
indolence and timidity itself; a word to speak, the least trifle to
perform, appear an intolerable labor; everything alarms and terrifies me;
the very buzzing of a fly will make me shudder; I am so subdued by fear
and shame, that I would gladly shield myself from mortal view.

When obliged to exert myself, I am ignorant what to do! when forced to
speak, I am at a loss for words; and if any one looks at me, I am
instantly out of countenance. If animated with my subject, I express my
thoughts with ease, but, in ordinary conversations, I can say nothing
--absolutely nothing; and, being obliged to speak, renders them

I may add, that none of my predominant inclinations centre in those
pleasures which are to be purchased: money empoisons my delight; I must
have them unadulterated; I love those of the table, for instance, but
cannot endure the restraints of good company, or the intemperance of
taverns; I can enjoy them only with a friend, for alone it is equally
impossible; my imagination is then so occupied with other things, that I
find no pleasure in eating. Women who are to be purchased have no charms
for me; my beating heart cannot be satisfied without affection; it is the
same with every other enjoyment, if not truly disinterested, they are
absolutely insipid; in a word, I am fond of those things which are only
estimable to minds formed for the peculiar enjoyment of them.

I never thought money so desirable as it is usually imagined; if you
would enjoy you must transform it; and this transformation is frequently
attended with inconvenience; you must bargain, purchase, pay dear, be
badly served, and often duped. I buy an egg, am assured it is new-laid
--I find it stale; fruit in its utmost perfection--'tis absolutely green.
I love good wine, but where shall I get it? Not at my wine merchant's
--he will poison me to a certainty. I wish to be universally respected;
how shall I compass my design? I must make friends, send messages, write
letters, come, go, wait, and be frequently deceived. Money is the
perpetual source of uneasiness; I fear it more than I love good wine.

A thousand times, both during and since my apprenticeship, have I gone
out to purchase some nicety, I approach the pastry-cook's, perceive some
women at the counter, and imagine they are laughing at me. I pass a
fruit shop, see some fine pears, their appearance tempts me; but then two
or three young people are near, or a man I am acquainted with is standing
at the door; I take all that pass for persons I have some knowledge of,
and my near sight contributes to deceive me. I am everywhere
intimidated, restrained by some obstacle, and with money in my pocket
return as I went, for want of resolution to purchase what I long for.

I should enter into the most insipid details was I to relate the trouble,
shame, repugnance, and inconvenience of all kinds which I have
experienced in parting with my money, whether in my own person, or by the
agency of others; as I proceed, the reader will get acquainted with my
disposition, and perceive all this without my troubling him with the

This once comprehended, one of my apparent contradictions will be easily
accounted for, and the most sordid avarice reconciled with the greatest
contempt of money. It is a movable which I consider of so little value,
that, when destitute of it, I never wish to acquire any; and when I have
a sum I keep it by me, for want of knowing how to dispose of it to my
satisfaction; but let an agreeable and convenient opportunity present
itself, and I empty my purse with the utmost freedom; not that I would
have the reader imagine I am extravagant from a motive of ostentation,
quite the reverse; it was ever in subservience to my pleasures, and,
instead of glorying in expense, I endeavor to conceal it. I so well
perceive that money is not made to answer my purposes, that I am almost
ashamed to have any, and, still more, to make use of it.

Had I ever possessed a moderate independence, I am convinced I should
have had no propensity to become avaricious. I should have required no
more, and cheerfully lived up to my income; but my precarious situation
has constantly and necessarily kept me in fear. I love liberty, and I
loathe constraint, dependence, and all their kindred annoyances. As long
as my purse contains money it secures my independence, and exempts me
from the trouble of seeking other money, a trouble of which I have always
had a perfect horror; and the dread of seeing the end of my independence,
makes me proportionately unwilling to part with my money. The money that
we possess is the instrument of liberty, that which we lack and strive to
obtain is the instrument of slavery. Thence it is that I hold fast to
aught that I have, and yet covet nothing more.

My disinterestedness, then, is in reality only idleness, the pleasure of
possessing is not in my estimation worth the trouble of acquiring: and my
dissipation is only another form of idleness; when we have an opportunity
of disbursing pleasantly we should make the best possible use of it.

I am less tempted by money than by other objects, because between the
moment of possessing the money and that of using it to obtain the desired
object there is always an interval, however short; whereas to possess the
thing is to enjoy it. I see a thing and it tempts me; but if I see not
the thing itself but only the means of acquiring it, I am not tempted.
Therefore it is that I have been a pilferer, and am so even now, in the
way of mere trifles to which I take a fancy, and which I find it easier
to take than to ask for; but I never in my life recollect having taken a
farthing from any one, except about fifteen years ago, when I stole seven
francs and ten sous. The story is worth recounting, as it exhibits a
concurrence of ignorance and stupidity I should scarcely credit, did it
relate to any but myself.

It was in Paris: I was walking with M. de Franceul at the Palais Royal;
he pulled out his watch, he looked at it, and said to me, "Suppose we go
to the opera?"--"With all my heart." We go: he takes two box tickets,
gives me one, and enters himself with the other; I follow, find the door
crowded; and, looking in, see every one standing; judging, therefore,
that M. de Franceul might suppose me concealed by the company, I go out,
ask for my ticket, and, getting the money returned, leave the house,
without considering, that by then I had reached the door every one would
be seated, and M. de Franceul might readily perceive I was not there.

As nothing could be more opposite to my natural inclination than this
abominable meanness, I note it, to show there are moments of delirium
when men ought not to be judged by their actions: this was not stealing
the money, it was only stealing the use of it, and was the more infamous
for wanting the excuse of a temptation.

I should never end these accounts, was I to describe all the gradations
through which I passed, during my apprenticeship, from the sublimity of a
hero to the baseness of a villain. Though I entered into most of the
vices of my situation, I had no relish for its pleasures; the amusements
of my companions were displeasing, and when too much restraint had made
my business wearisome, I had nothing to amuse me. This renewed my taste
for reading which had long been neglected. I thus committed a fresh
offence, books made me neglect my work, and brought on additional
punishment, while inclination, strengthened by constraint, became an
unconquerable passion. La Tribu, a well-known librarian, furnished me
with all kinds; good or bad, I perused them with avidity, and without

It will be said; "at length, then, money became necessary"--true; but
this happened at a time when a taste for study had deprived me both of
resolution and activity; totally occupied by this new inclination, I only
wished to read, I robbed no longer. This is another of my peculiarities;
a mere nothing frequently calls me off from what I appear the most
attached to; I give in to the new idea; it becomes a passion, and
immediately every former desire is forgotten.

Reading was my new hobby; my heart beat with impatience to run over the
new book I carried in my pocket; the first moment I was alone, I seized
the opportunity to draw it out, and thought no longer of rummaging my
master's closet. I was even ashamed to think that I had been guilty of
such meanness; and had my amusements been more expensive, I no longer
felt an inclination to continue it. La Tribu gave me credit, and when
once I had the book in my possession, I thought no more of the trifle I
was to pay for it; as money came it naturally passed to this woman; and
when she chanced to be pressing, nothing was so conveniently at hand as
my own effects; to steal in advance required foresight, and robbing to
pay was no temptation.

The frequent blows I received from my master, with my private and
ill-chosen studies, rendered me reserved, unsociable, and almost
deranged my reason. Though my taste had not preserved me from silly
unmeaning books, by good fortune I was a stranger to licentious or
obscene ones; not that La Tribu (who was very accommodating) had any
scruple of lending these, on the contrary, to enhance their worth she
spoke of them with an air of mystery; this produced an effect she had
not foreseen, for both shame and disgust made me constantly refuse them.
Chance so well seconded my bashful disposition, that I was past the age
of thirty before I saw any of those dangerous compositions.

In less than a year I had exhausted La Tribu's scanty library, and was
unhappy for want of further amusement. My reading, though frequently
bad, had worn off my childish follies, and brought back my heart to
nobler sentiments than my condition had inspired; meantime disgusted with
all within my reach, and thinking everything charming that was out of it,
my present situation appeared extremely miserable. My passions began to
acquire strength, I felt their influence, without knowing whither they
would conduct me. I sometimes, indeed, thought of my former follies, but
sought no further.

At this time my imagination took a turn which helped to calm my
increasing emotions; it was, to contemplate those situations in the books
I had read, which produced the most striking effect on my mind; to
recall, combine, and apply them to myself in such a manner, as to become
one of the personages my recollection presented, and be continually in
those fancied circumstances which were most agreeable to my inclinations;
in a word, by contriving to place myself in these fictitious situations,
the idea of my real one was in a great measure obliterated.

This fondness for imaginary objects, and the facility with which I could
gain possession of them, completed my disgust for everything around me,
and fixed that inclination for solitude which has ever since been
predominant. We shall have more than once occasion to remark the effects
of a disposition, misanthropic and melancholy in appearance, but which
proceed, in fact, from a heart too affectionate, too ardent, which, for
want of similar dispositions, is constrained to content itself with
nonentities, and be satisfied with fiction. It is sufficient, at
present, to have traced the origin of a propensity which has modified my
passions, set bounds to each, and by giving too much ardor to my wishes,
has ever rendered me too indolent to obtain them.

Thus I attained my sixteenth year, uneasy, discontented with myself and
everything that surrounded me; displeased with my occupation; without
enjoying the pleasures common to my age, weeping without a cause, sighing
I knew not why, and fond of my chimerical ideas for want of more valuable

Every Sunday, after sermon-time, my companions came to fetch me out,
wishing me to partake of their diversions. I would willingly have been
excused, but when once engaged in amusement, I was more animated and
enterprising than any of them; it was equally difficult to engage or
restrain me; indeed, this was ever a leading trait in my character.
In our country walks I was ever foremost, and never thought of returning
till reminded by some of my companions. I was twice obliged to be from
my master's the whole night, the city gates having been shut before I
could reach them. The reader may imagine what treatment this procured me
the following mornings; but I was promised such a reception for the
third, that I made a firm resolution never to expose myself to the danger
of it. Notwithstanding my determination, I repeated this dreaded
transgression, my vigilance having been rendered useless by a cursed
captain, named M. Minutoli, who, when on guard, always shut the gate he
had charge of an hour before the usual time. I was returning home with
my two companions, and had got within half a league of the city, when I
heard them beat the tattoo; I redouble my pace, I run with my utmost
speed, I approach the bridge, see the soldiers already at their posts, I
call out to them in a suffocated voice--it is too late; I am twenty paces
from the guard, the first bridge is already drawn up, and I tremble to
see those terrible horns advanced in the air which announce the fatal and
inevitable destiny, which from this moment began to pursue me.

I threw myself on the glacis in a transport of despair, while my
companions, who only laughed at the accident, immediately determined what
to do. My resolution, though different from theirs, was equally sudden;
on the spot, I swore never to return to my master's, and the next
morning, when my companions entered the city, I bade them an eternal
adieu, conjuring them at the same time to inform my cousin Bernard of my
resolution, and the place where he might see me for the last time.

From the commencement of my apprenticeship I had seldom seen him; at
first, indeed, we saw each other on Sundays, but each acquiring different
habits, our meetings were less frequent. I am persuaded his mother
contributed greatly towards this change; he was to consider himself as a
person of consequence, I was a pitiful apprentice; notwithstanding our
relationship, equality no longer subsisted between us, and it was
degrading himself to frequent my company. As he had a natural good heart
his mother's lessons did not take an immediate effect, and for some time
he continued to visit me.

Having learned my resolution, he hastened to the spot I had appointed,
not, however, to dissuade me from it, but to render my flight agreeable,
by some trifling presents, as my own resources would not have carried me
far. He gave me among other things, a small sword, which I was very
proud of, and took with me as far as Turin, where absolute want
constrained me to dispose of it. The more I reflect on his behavior at
this critical moment, the more I am persuaded he followed the
instructions of his mother, and perhaps his father likewise: for, had he
been left to his own feelings, he would have endeavored to retain, or
have been tempted to accompany me; on the contrary, he encouraged the
design, and when he saw me resolutely determined to pursue it, without
seeming much affected, left me to my fate. We never saw or wrote to each
other from that time; I cannot but regret this loss, for his heart was
essentially good, and we seemed formed for a more lasting friendship.

Before I abandon myself to the fatality of my destiny, let me contemplate
for a moment the prospect that awaited me had I fallen into the hands of
a better master. Nothing could have been more agreeable to my
disposition, or more likely to confer happiness, than the peaceful
condition of a good artificer, in so respectable a line as engravers are
considered at Geneva. I could have obtained an easy subsistence, if not
a fortune; this would have bounded my ambition; I should have had means
to indulge in moderate pleasures, and should have continued in my natural
sphere, without meeting with any temptation to go beyond it. Having an
imagination sufficiently fertile to embellish with its chimeras every
situation, and powerful enough to transport me from one to another, it
was immaterial in which I was fixed: that was best adapted to me, which,
requiring the least care or exertion, left the mind most at liberty; and
this happiness I should have enjoyed. In my native country, in the bosom
of my religion, family and friends, I should have passed a calm and
peaceful life, in the uniformity of a pleasing occupation, and among
connections dear to my heart. I should have been a good Christian, a
good citizen, a good friend, a good man. I should have relished my
condition, perhaps have been an honor to it, and after having passed a
life of happy obscurity, surrounded by my family, I should have died at
peace. Soon it may be forgotten, but while remembered it would have been
with tenderness and regret.

Instead of this--what a picture am I about to draw!--Alas! why should I
anticipate the miseries I have endured? The reader will have but too
much of the melancholy subject.

Jean Jacques Rousseau

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