BOOK V - After age 20 (marriage, family, and the education of females)
We have reached the last act of youth's drams; we are approaching
its closing scene.
It is not good that man should be alone. Emile is now a man, and
we must give him his promised helpmeet. That helpmeet is Sophy.
Where is her dwelling-place, where shall she be found? We must
know beforehand what she is, and then we can decide where to look
for her. And when she is found, our task is not ended. "Since our
young gentleman," says Locke, "is about to marry, it is time to leave
him with his mistress." And with these words he ends his book. As
I have not the honour of educating "A young gentleman," I shall
take care not to follow his example.
SOPHY, OR WOMAN
Sophy should be as truly a woman as Emile is a man, i.e., she
must possess all those characters of her sex which are required to
enable her to play her part in the physical and moral order. Let
us inquire to begin with in what respects her sex differs from our
But for her sex, a woman is a man; she has the same organs, the
same needs, the same faculties. The machine is the same in its
construction; its parts, its working, and its appearance are similar.
Regard it as you will the difference is only in degree.
Yet where sex is concerned man and woman are unlike; each is the
complement of the other; the difficulty in comparing them lies in
our inability to decide, in either case, what is a matter of sex,
and what is not. General differences present themselves to the
comparative anatomist and even to the superficial observer; they
seem not to be a matter of sex; yet they are really sex differences,
though the connection eludes our observation. How far such differences
may extend we cannot tell; all we know for certain is that where man
and woman are alike we have to do with the characteristics of the
species; where they are unlike, we have to do with the characteristics
of sex. Considered from these two standpoints, we find so many
instances of likeness and unlikeness that it is perhaps one of the
greatest of marvels how nature has contrived to make two beings so
like and yet so different.
These resemblances and differences must have an influence on the
moral nature; this inference is obvious, and it is confirmed by
experience; it shows the vanity of the disputes as to the superiority
or the equality of the sexes; as if each sex, pursuing the path
marked out for it by nature, were not more perfect in that very
divergence than if it more closely resembled the other. A perfect
man and a perfect woman should no more be alike in mind than in
face, and perfection admits of neither less nor more.
In the union of the sexes each alike contributes to the common
end, but in different ways. From this diversity springs the first
difference which may be observed between man and woman in their
moral relations. The man should be strong and active; the woman
should be weak and passive; the one must have both the power and
the will; it is enough that the other should offer little resistance.
When this principle is admitted, it follows that woman is specially
made for man's delight. If man in his turn ought to be pleasing
in her eyes, the necessity is less urgent, his virtue is in his
strength, he pleases because he is strong. I grant you this is not
the law of love, but it is the law of nature, which is older than
If woman is made to please and to be in subjection to man, she
ought to make herself pleasing in his eyes and not provoke him to
anger; her strength is in her charms, by their means she should
compel him to discover and use his strength. The surest way of
arousing this strength is to make it necessary by resistance. Thus
pride comes to the help of desire and each exults in the other's
victory. This is the origin of attack and defence, of the boldness
of one sex and the timidity of the other, and even of the shame
and modesty with which nature has armed the weak for the conquest
of the strong.
Who can possibly suppose that nature has prescribed the same advances
to the one sex as to the other, or that the first to feel desire
should be the first to show it? What strange depravity of judgment!
The consequences of the act being so different for the two sexes,
is it natural that they should enter upon it with equal boldness?
How can any one fail to see that when the share of each is so
unequal, if the one were not controlled by modesty as the other is
controlled by nature, the result would be the destruction of both,
and the human race would perish through the very means ordained
for its continuance?
Women so easily stir a man's senses and fan the ashes of a dying
passion, that if philosophy ever succeeded in introducing this
custom into any unlucky country, especially if it were a warm
country where more women are born than men, the men, tyrannised
over by the women, would at last become their victims, and would
be dragged to their death without the least chance of escape.
Female animals are without this sense of shame, but what of that?
Are their desires as boundless as those of women, which are curbed
by this shame? The desires of the animals are the result of necessity,
and when the need is satisfied, the desire ceases; they no longer
make a feint of repulsing the male, they do it in earnest. Their
seasons of complaisance are short and soon over. Impulse and
restraint are alike the work of nature. But what would take the
place of this negative instinct in women if you rob them of their
The Most High has deigned to do honour to mankind; he has endowed
man with boundless passions, together with a law to guide them, so
that man may be alike free and self-controlled; though swayed by
these passions man is endowed with reason by which to control them.
Woman is also endowed with boundless passions; God has given her
modesty to restrain them. Moreover, he has given to both a present
reward for the right use of their powers, in the delight which
springs from that right use of them, i.e., the taste for right
conduct established as the law of our behaviour. To my mind this
is far higher than the instinct of the beasts.
Whether the woman shares the man's passion or not, whether she is
willing or unwilling to satisfy it, she always repulses him and
defends herself, though not always with the same vigour, and therefore
not always with the same success. If the siege is to be successful,
the besieged must permit or direct the attack. How skilfully can
she stimulate the efforts of the aggressor. The freest and most
delightful of activities does not permit of any real violence;
reason and nature are alike against it; nature, in that she has
given the weaker party strength enough to resist if she chooses;
reason, in that actual violence is not only most brutal in itself,
but it defeats its own ends, not only because the man thus declares
war against his companion and thus gives her a right to defend her
person and her liberty even at the cost of the enemy's life, but
also because the woman alone is the judge of her condition, and a
child would have no father if any man might usurp a father's rights.
Thus the different constitution of the two sexes leads us to a third
conclusion, that the stronger party seems to be master, but is as
a matter of fact dependent on the weaker, and that, not by any foolish
custom of gallantry, nor yet by the magnanimity of the protector,
but by an inexorable law of nature. For nature has endowed woman
with a power of stimulating man's passions in excess of man's power
of satisfying those passions, and has thus made him dependent on
her goodwill, and compelled him in his turn to endeavour to please
her, so that she may be willing to yield to his superior strength.
Is it weakness which yields to force, or is it voluntary self-surrender?
This uncertainty constitutes the chief charm of the man's victory,
and the woman is usually cunning enough to leave him in doubt. In
this respect the woman's mind exactly resembles her body; far from
being ashamed of her weakness, she is proud of it; her soft muscles
offer no resistance, she professes that she cannot lift the lightest
weight; she would be ashamed to be strong. And why? Not only to
gain an appearance of refinement; she is too clever for that; she
is providing herself beforehand with excuses, with the right to be
weak if she chooses.
The experience we have gained through our vices has considerably
modified the views held in older times; we rarely hear of violence
for which there is so little occasion that it would hardly be
credited, Yet such stories are common enough among the Jews and
ancient Greeks; for such views belong to the simplicity of nature,
and have only been uprooted by our profligacy. If fewer deeds
of violence are quoted in our days, it is not that men are more
temperate, but because they are less credulous, and a complaint
which would have been believed among a simple people would only
excite laughter among ourselves; therefore silence is the better
course. There is a law in Deuteronomy, under which the outraged
maiden was punished, along with her assailant, if the crime were
committed in a town; but if in the country or in a lonely place,
the latter alone was punished. "For," says the law, "the maiden
cried for help, and there was none to hear." From this merciful
interpretation of the law, girls learnt not to let themselves be
surprised in lonely places.
This change in public opinion has had a perceptible effect on our
morals. It has produced our modern gallantry. Men have found that
their pleasures depend, more than they expected, on the goodwill
of the fair sex, and have secured this goodwill by attentions which
have had their reward.
See how we find ourselves led unconsciously from the physical to
the moral constitution, how from the grosser union of the sexes
spring the sweet laws of love. Woman reigns, not by the will of
man, but by the decrees of nature herself; she had the power long
before she showed it. That same Hercules who proposed to violate
all the fifty daughters of Thespis was compelled to spin at the
feet of Omphale, and Samson, the strong man, was less strong than
Delilah. This power cannot be taken from woman; it is hers by right;
she would have lost it long ago, were it possible.
The consequences of sex are wholly unlike for man and woman. The
male is only a male now and again, the female is always a female,
or at least all her youth; everything reminds her of her sex; the
performance of her functions requires a special constitution. She
needs care during pregnancy and freedom from work when her child
is born; she must have a quiet, easy life while she nurses her
children; their education calls for patience and gentleness, for
a zeal and love which nothing can dismay; she forms a bond between
father and child, she alone can win the father's love for his
children and convince him that they are indeed his own. What loving
care is required to preserve a united family! And there should be
no question of virtue in all this, it must be a labour of love,
without which the human race would be doomed to extinction.
The mutual duties of the two sexes are not, and cannot be, equally
binding on both. Women do wrong to complain of the inequality of
man-made laws; this inequality is not of man's making, or at any
rate it is not the result of mere prejudice, but of reason. She
to whom nature has entrusted the care of the children must hold
herself responsible for them to their father. No doubt every breach
of faith is wrong, and every faithless husband, who robs his wife
of the sole reward of the stern duties of her sex, is cruel and
unjust; but the faithless wife is worse; she destroys the family
and breaks the bonds of nature; when she gives her husband children
who are not his own, she is false both to him and them, her crime
is not infidelity but treason. To my mind, it is the source of
dissension and of crime of every kind. Can any position be more
wretched than that of the unhappy father who, when he clasps his
child to his breast, is haunted by the suspicion that this is the
child of another, the badge of his own dishonour, a thief who is
robbing his own children of their inheritance. Under such circumstances
the family is little more than a group of secret enemies, armed
against each other by a guilty woman, who compels them to pretend
to love one another.
Thus it is not enough that a wife should be faithful; her husband,
along with his friends and neighbours, must believe in her fidelity;
she must be modest, devoted, retiring; she should have the witness
not only of a good conscience, but of a good reputation. In a word,
if a father must love his children, he must be able to respect their
mother. For these reasons it is not enough that the woman should
be chaste, she must preserve her reputation and her good name. From
these principles there arises not only a moral difference between
the sexes, but also a fresh motive for duty and propriety, which
prescribes to women in particular the most scrupulous attention
to their conduct, their manners, their behaviour. Vague assertions
as to the equality of the sexes and the similarity of their duties
are only empty words; they are no answer to my argument.
It is a poor sort of logic to quote isolated exceptions against
laws so firmly established. Women, you say, are not always bearing
children. Granted; yet that is their proper business. Because there
are a hundred or so of large towns in the world where women live
licentiously and have few children, will you maintain that it is
their business to have few children? And what would become of your
towns if the remote country districts, with their simpler and purer
women, did not make up for the barrenness of your fine ladies?
There are plenty of country places where women with only four or
five children are reckoned unfruitful. In conclusion, although here
and there a woman may have few children, what difference does it
make? [Footnote: Without this the race would necessarily diminish;
all things considered, for its preservation each woman ought to have
about four children, for about half the children born die before
they can become parents, and two must survive to replace the father
and mother. See whether the towns will supply them?] Is it any the
less a woman's business to be a mother? And to not the general laws
of nature and morality make provision for this state of things?
Even if there were these long intervals, which you assume, between
the periods of pregnancy, can a woman suddenly change her way of life
without danger? Can she be a nursing mother to-day and a soldier
to-morrow? Will she change her tastes and her feelings as a chameleon
changes his colour? Will she pass at once from the privacy of
household duties and indoor occupations to the buffeting of the
winds, the toils, the labours, the perils of war? Will she be now
timid, [Footnote: Women's timidity is yet another instinct of nature
against the double risk she runs during pregnancy.] now brave, now
fragile, now robust? If the young men of Paris find a soldier's
life too hard for them, how would a woman put up with it, a woman
who has hardly ventured out of doors without a parasol and who has
scarcely put a foot to the ground? Will she make a good soldier at
an age when even men are retiring from this arduous business?
There are countries, I grant you, where women bear and rear
children with little or no difficulty, but in those lands the men
go half-naked in all weathers, they strike down the wild beasts,
they carry a canoe as easily as a knapsack, they pursue the chase
for 700 or 800 leagues, they sleep in the open on the bare ground,
they bear incredible fatigues and go many days without food. When
women become strong, men become still stronger; when men become
soft, women become softer; change both the terms and the ratio
I am quite aware that Plato, in the Republic, assigns the same
gymnastics to women and men. Having got rid of the family there is
no place for women in his system of government, so he is forced to
turn them into men. That great genius has worked out his plans in
detail and has provided for every contingency; he has even provided
against a difficulty which in all likelihood no one would ever have
raised; but he has not succeeded in meeting the real difficulty. I
am not speaking of the alleged community of wives which has often
been laid to his charge; this assertion only shows that his detractors
have never read his works. I refer to that political promiscuity
under which the same occupations are assigned to both sexes alike,
a scheme which could only lead to intolerable evils; I refer to that
subversion of all the tenderest of our natural feelings, which he
sacrificed to an artificial sentiment which can only exist by their
aid. Will the bonds of convention hold firm without some foundation
in nature? Can devotion to the state exist apart from the love of
those near and dear to us? Can patriotism thrive except in the soil
of that miniature fatherland, the home? Is it not the good son,
the good husband, the good father, who makes the good citizen?
When once it is proved that men and women are and ought to be
unlike in constitution and in temperament, it follows that their
education must be different. Nature teaches us that they should work
together, but that each has its own share of the work; the end is
the same, but the means are different, as are also the feelings
which direct them. We have attempted to paint a natural man, let
us try to paint a helpmeet for him.
You must follow nature's guidance if you would walk aright. The
native characters of sex should be respected as nature's handiwork.
You are always saying, "Women have such and such faults, from which
we are free." You are misled by your vanity; what would be faults
in you are virtues in them; and things would go worse, if they
were without these so-called faults. Take care that they do not
degenerate into evil, but beware of destroying them.
On the other hand, women are always exclaiming that we educate them
for nothing but vanity and coquetry, that we keep them amused with
trifles that we may be their masters; we are responsible, so they
say, for the faults we attribute to them. How silly! What have men
to do with the education of girls? What is there to hinder their
mothers educating them as they please? There are no colleges for
girls; so much the better for them! Would God there were none for
the boys, their education would be more sensible and more wholesome.
Who is it that compels a girl to waste her time on foolish trifles?
Are they forced, against their will, to spend half their time over
their toilet, following the example set them by you? Who prevents
you teaching them, or having them taught, whatever seems good
in your eyes? Is it our fault that we are charmed by their beauty
and delighted by their airs and graces, if we are attracted and
flattered by the arts they learn from you, if we love to see them
prettily dressed, if we let them display at leisure the weapons
by which we are subjugated? Well then, educate them like men. The
more women are like men, the less influence they will have over
men, and then men will be masters indeed.
All the faculties common to both sexes are not equally shared
between them, but taken as a whole they are fairly divided. Woman
is worth more as a woman and less as a man; when she makes a good
use of her own rights, she has the best of it; when she tries to
usurp our rights, she is our inferior. It is impossible to controvert
this, except by quoting exceptions after the usual fashion of the
partisans of the fair sex.
To cultivate the masculine virtues in women and to neglect their
own is evidently to do them an injury. Women are too clear-sighted
to be thus deceived; when they try to usurp our privileges they do
not abandon their own; with this result: they are unable to make use
of two incompatible things, so they fall below their own level as
women, instead of rising to the level of men. If you are a sensible
mother you will take my advice. Do not try to make your daughter a
good man in defiance of nature. Make her a good woman, and be sure
it will be better both for her and us.
Does this mean that she must be brought up in ignorance and kept
to housework only? Is she to be man's handmaid or his help-meet?
Will he dispense with her greatest charm, her companionship? To keep
her a slave will he prevent her knowing and feeling? Will he make
an automaton of her? No, indeed, that is not the teaching of nature,
who has given women such a pleasant easy wit. On the contrary,
nature means them to think, to will, to love, to cultivate their
minds as well as their persons; she puts these weapons in their
hands to make up for their lack of strength and to enable them to
direct the strength of men. They should learn many things, but only
such things as are suitable.
When I consider the special purpose of woman, when I observe
her inclinations or reckon up her duties, everything combines to
indicate the mode of education she requires. Men and women are made
for each other, but their mutual dependence differs in degree; man
is dependent on woman through his desires; woman is dependent on
man through her desires and also through her needs; he could do
without her better than she can do without him. She cannot fulfil
her purpose in life without his aid, without his goodwill, without
his respect; she is dependent on our feelings, on the price we
put upon her virtue, and the opinion we have of her charms and her
deserts. Nature herself has decreed that woman, both for herself
and her children, should be at the mercy of man's judgment.
Worth alone will not suffice, a woman must be thought worthy; nor
beauty, she must be admired; nor virtue, she must be respected.
A woman's honour does not depend on her conduct alone, but on her
reputation, and no woman who permits herself to be considered vile
is really virtuous. A man has no one but himself to consider, and
so long as he does right he may defy public opinion; but when a
woman does right her task is only half finished, and what people
think of her matters as much as what she really is. Hence her
education must, in this respect, be different from man's education.
"What will people think" is the grave of a man's virtue and the
throne of a woman's.
The children's health depends in the first place on the mother's,
and the early education of man is also in a woman's hands; his
morals, his passions, his tastes, his pleasures, his happiness
itself, depend on her. A woman's education must therefore be planned
in relation to man. To be pleasing in his sight, to win his respect
and love, to train him in childhood, to tend him in manhood, to
counsel and console, to make his life pleasant and happy, these
are the duties of woman for all time, and this is what she should
be taught while she is young. The further we depart from this
principle, the further we shall be from our goal, and all our
precepts will fail to secure her happiness or our own.
Every woman desires to be pleasing in men's eyes, and this is right;
but there is a great difference between wishing to please a man of
worth, a really lovable man, and seeking to please those foppish
manikins who are a disgrace to their own sex and to the sex which
they imitate. Neither nature nor reason can induce a woman to love
an effeminate person, nor will she win love by imitating such a
If a woman discards the quiet modest bearing of her sex, and
adopts the airs of such foolish creatures, she is not following
her vocation, she is forsaking it; she is robbing herself of the
rights to which she lays claim. "If we were different," she says,
"the men would not like us." She is mistaken. Only a fool likes
folly; to wish to attract such men only shows her own foolishness. If
there were no frivolous men, women would soon make them, and women
are more responsible for men's follies than men are for theirs.
The woman who loves true manhood and seeks to find favour in its
sight will adopt means adapted to her ends. Woman is a coquette by
profession, but her coquetry varies with her aims; let these aims
be in accordance with those of nature, and a woman will receive a
Even the tiniest little girls love finery; they are not content to
be pretty, they must be admired; their little airs and graces show
that their heads are full of this idea, and as soon as they can
understand they are controlled by "What will people think of you?"
If you are foolish enough to try this way with little boys, it
will not have the same effect; give them their freedom and their
sports, and they care very little what people think; it is a work
of time to bring them under the control of this law.
However acquired, this early education of little girls is an
excellent thing in itself. As the birth of the body must precede
the birth of the mind, so the training of the body must precede
the cultivation of the mind. This is true of both sexes; but the
aim of physical training for boys and girls is not the same; in the
one case it is the development of strength, in the other of grace;
not that these qualities should be peculiar to either sex, but that
their relative values should be different. Women should be strong
enough to do anything gracefully; men should be skilful enough to
do anything easily.
The exaggeration of feminine delicacy leads to effeminacy in men.
Women should not be strong like men but for them, so that their
sons may be strong. Convents and boarding-schools, with their plain
food and ample opportunities for amusements, races, and games in
the open air and in the garden, are better in this respect than
the home, where the little girl is fed on delicacies, continually
encouraged or reproved, where she is kept sitting in a stuffy room,
always under her mother's eye, afraid to stand or walk or speak
or breathe, without a moment's freedom to play or jump or run or
shout, or to be her natural, lively, little self; there is either
harmful indulgence or misguided severity, and no trace of reason.
In this fashion heart and body are alike destroyed.
In Sparta the girls used to take part in military sports just like
the boys, not that they might go to war, but that they might bear
sons who could endure hardship. That is not what I desire. To provide
the state with soldiers it is not necessary that the mother should
carry a musket and master the Prussian drill. Yet, on the whole, I
think the Greeks were very wise in this matter of physical training.
Young girls frequently appeared in public, not with the boys, but
in groups apart. There was scarcely a festival, a sacrifice, or a
procession without its bands of maidens, the daughters of the chief
citizens. Crowned with flowers, chanting hymns, forming the chorus
of the dance, bearing baskets, vases, offerings, they presented a
charming spectacle to the depraved senses of the Greeks, a spectacle
well fitted to efface the evil effects of their unseemly gymnastics.
Whatever this custom may have done for the Greek men, it was well
fitted to develop in the Greek women a sound constitution by means
of pleasant, moderate, and healthy exercise; while the desire to
please would develop a keen and cultivated taste without risk to
When the Greek women married, they disappeared from public life;
within the four walls of their home they devoted themselves to
the care of their household and family. This is the mode of life
prescribed for women alike by nature and reason. These women gave
birth to the healthiest, strongest, and best proportioned men who
ever lived, and except in certain islands of ill repute, no women
in the whole world, not even the Roman matrons, were ever at once
so wise and so charming, so beautiful and so virtuous, as the women
of ancient Greece.
It is admitted that their flowing garments, which did not cramp
the figure, preserved in men and women alike the fine proportions
which are seen in their statues. These are still the models of
art, although nature is so disfigured that they are no longer to
be found among us. The Gothic trammels, the innumerable bands which
confine our limbs as in a press, were quite unknown. The Greek
women were wholly unacquainted with those frames of whalebone in
which our women distort rather than display their figures. It seems
to me that this abuse, which is carried to an incredible degree of
folly in England, must sooner or later lead to the production of
a degenerate race. Moreover, I maintain that the charm which these
corsets are supposed to produce is in the worst possible taste; it
is not a pleasant thing to see a woman cut in two like a wasp--it
offends both the eye and the imagination. A slender waist has
its limits, like everything else, in proportion and suitability,
and beyond these limits it becomes a defect. This defect would be
a glaring one in the nude; why should it be beautiful under the
I will not venture upon the reasons which induce women to incase
themselves in these coats of mail. A clumsy figure, a large waist,
are no doubt very ugly at twenty, but at thirty they cease to offend
the eye, and as we are bound to be what nature has made us at any
given age, and as there is no deceiving the eye of man, such defects
are less offensive at any age than the foolish affectations of a
young thing of forty.
Everything which cramps and confines nature is in bad taste; this
is as true of the adornments of the person as of the ornaments of
the mind. Life, health, common-sense, and comfort must come first;
there is no grace in discomfort, languor is not refinement, there
is no charm in ill-health; suffering may excite pity, but pleasure
and delight demand the freshness of health.
Boys and girls have many games in common, and this is as it should
be; do they not play together when they are grown up? They have also
special tastes of their own. Boys want movement and noise, drums,
tops, toy-carts; girls prefer things which appeal to the eye,
and can be used for dressing-up--mirrors, jewellery, finery, and
specially dolls. The doll is the girl's special plaything; this shows
her instinctive bent towards her life's work. The art of pleasing
finds its physical basis in personal adornment, and this physical
side of the art is the only one which the child can cultivate.
Here is a little girl busy all day with her doll; she is always
changing its clothes, dressing and undressing it, trying new
combinations of trimmings well or ill matched; her fingers are
clumsy, her taste is crude, but there is no mistaking her bent; in
this endless occupation time flies unheeded, the hours slip away
unnoticed, even meals are forgotten. She is more eager for adornment
than for food. "But she is dressing her doll, not herself," you
will say. Just so; she sees her doll, she cannot see herself; she
cannot do anything for herself, she has neither the training, nor
the talent, nor the strength; as yet she herself is nothing, she is
engrossed in her doll and all her coquetry is devoted to it. This
will not always be so; in due time she will be her own doll.
We have here a very early and clearly-marked bent; you have only to
follow it and train it. What the little girl most clearly desires
is to dress her doll, to make its bows, its tippets, its sashes,
and its tuckers; she is dependent on other people's kindness in all
this, and it would be much pleasanter to be able to do it herself.
Here is a motive for her earliest lessons, they are not tasks
prescribed, but favours bestowed. Little girls always dislike learning
to read and write, but they are always ready to learn to sew. They
think they are grown up, and in imagination they are using their
knowledge for their own adornment.
The way is open and it is easy to follow it; cutting out, embroidery,
lace-making follow naturally. Tapestry is not popular; furniture is
too remote from the child's interests, it has nothing to do with
the person, it depends on conventional tastes. Tapestry is a woman's
amusement; young girls never care for it.
This voluntary course is easily extended to include drawing, an
art which is closely connected with taste in dress; but I would not
have them taught landscape and still less figure painting. Leaves,
fruit, flowers, draperies, anything that will make an elegant
trimming for the accessories of the toilet, and enable the girl
to design her own embroidery if she cannot find a pattern to her
taste; that will be quite enough. Speaking generally, if it is
desirable to restrict a man's studies to what is useful, this is
even more necessary for women, whose life, though less laborious,
should be even more industrious and more uniformly employed in a
variety of duties, so that one talent should not be encouraged at
the expense of others.
Whatever may be said by the scornful, good sense belongs to both
sexes alike. Girls are usually more docile than boys, and they
should be subjected to more authority, as I shall show later on,
but that is no reason why they should be required to do things
in which they can see neither rhyme nor reason. The mother's art
consists in showing the use of everything they are set to do, and
this is all the easier as the girl's intelligence is more precocious
than the boy's. This principle banishes, both for boys and girls,
not only those pursuits which never lead to any appreciable results,
not even increasing the charms of those who have pursued them, but
also those studies whose utility is beyond the scholar's present age
and can only be appreciated in later years. If I object to little
boys being made to learn to read, still more do I object to it
for little girls until they are able to see the use of reading; we
generally think more of our own ideas than theirs in our attempts
to convince them of the utility of this art. After all, why should
a little girl know how to read and write! Has she a house to manage?
Most of them make a bad use of this fatal knowledge, and girls are
so full of curiosity that few of them will fail to learn without
compulsion. Possibly cyphering should come first; there is nothing
so obviously useful, nothing which needs so much practice or gives
so much opportunity for error as reckoning. If the little girl
does not get the cherries for her lunch without an arithmetical
exercise, she will soon learn to count.
I once knew a little girl who learnt to write before she could read,
and she began to write with her needle. To begin with, she would
write nothing but O's; she was always making O's, large and small,
of all kinds and one within another, but always drawn backwards.
Unluckily one day she caught a glimpse of herself in the glass
while she was at this useful work, and thinking that the cramped
attitude was not pretty, like another Minerva she flung away her
pen and declined to make any more O's. Her brother was no fonder
of writing, but what he disliked was the constraint, not the look
of the thing. She was induced to go on with her writing in this way.
The child was fastidious and vain; she could not bear her sisters
to wear her clothes. Her things had been marked, they declined to
mark them any more, she must learn to mark them herself; there is
no need to continue the story.
Show the sense of the tasks you set your little girls, but keep them
busy. Idleness and insubordination are two very dangerous faults,
and very hard to cure when once established. Girls should be
attentive and industrious, but this is not enough by itself; they
should early be accustomed to restraint. This misfortune, if such
it be, is inherent in their sex, and they will never escape from it,
unless to endure more cruel sufferings. All their life long, they
will have to submit to the strictest and most enduring restraints,
those of propriety. They must be trained to bear the yoke from the
first, so that they may not feel it, to master their own caprices
and to submit themselves to the will of others. If they were always
eager to be at work, they should sometimes be compelled to do
nothing. Their childish faults, unchecked and unheeded, may easily
lead to dissipation, frivolity, and inconstancy. To guard against
this, teach them above all things self-control. Under our senseless
conditions, the life of a good woman is a perpetual struggle against
self; it is only fair that woman should bear her share of the ills
she has brought upon man.
Beware lest your girls become weary of their tasks and infatuated
with their amusements; this often happens under our ordinary methods
of education, where, as Fenelon says, all the tedium is on one side
and all the pleasure on the other. If the rules already laid down
are followed, the first of these dangers will be avoided, unless the
child dislikes those about her. A little girl who is fond of her
mother or her friend will work by her side all day without getting
tired; the chatter alone will make up for any loss of liberty. But
if her companion is distasteful to her, everything done under her
direction will be distasteful too. Children who take no delight
in their mother's company are not likely to turn out well; but to
judge of their real feelings you must watch them and not trust to
their words alone, for they are flatterers and deceitful and soon
learn to conceal their thoughts. Neither should they be told that
they ought to love their mother. Affection is not the result of
duty, and in this respect constraint is out of place. Continual
intercourse, constant care, habit itself, all these will lead
a child to love her mother, if the mother does nothing to deserve
the child's ill-will. The very control she exercises over the
child, if well directed, will increase rather than diminish the
affection, for women being made for dependence, girls feel themselves
made to obey.
Just because they have, or ought to have, little freedom, they are
apt to indulge themselves too fully with regard to such freedom
as they have; they carry everything to extremes, and they devote
themselves to their games with an enthusiasm even greater than that
of boys. This is the second difficulty to which I referred. This
enthusiasm must be kept in check, for it is the source of several
vices commonly found among women, caprice and that extravagant
admiration which leads a woman to regard a thing with rapture to-day
and to be quite indifferent to it to-morrow. This fickleness of
taste is as dangerous as exaggeration; and both spring from the same
cause. Do not deprive them of mirth, laughter, noise, and romping
games, but do not let them tire of one game and go off to another;
do not leave them for a moment without restraint. Train them to
break off their games and return to their other occupations without
a murmur. Habit is all that is needed, as you have nature on your
This habitual restraint produces a docility which woman requires
all her life long, for she will always be in subjection to a man,
or to man's judgment, and she will never be free to set her own
opinion above his. What is most wanted in a woman is gentleness;
formed to obey a creature so imperfect as man, a creature often
vicious and always faulty, she should early learn to submit to
injustice and to suffer the wrongs inflicted on her by her husband
without complaint; she must be gentle for her own sake, not his.
Bitterness and obstinacy only multiply the sufferings of the wife
and the misdeeds of the husband; the man feels that these are
not the weapons to be used against him. Heaven did not make women
attractive and persuasive that they might degenerate into bitterness,
or meek that they should desire the mastery; their soft voice was
not meant for hard words, nor their delicate features for the frowns
of anger. When they lose their temper they forget themselves; often
enough they have just cause of complaint; but when they scold they
always put themselves in the wrong. We should each adopt the tone
which befits our sex; a soft-hearted husband may make an overbearing
wife, but a man, unless he is a perfect monster, will sooner or
later yield to his wife's gentleness, and the victory will be hers.
Daughters must always be obedient, but mothers need not always be
harsh. To make a girl docile you need not make her miserable; to
make her modest you need not terrify her; on the contrary, I should
not be sorry to see her allowed occasionally to exercise a little
ingenuity, not to escape punishment for her disobedience, but
to evade the necessity for obedience. Her dependence need not be
made unpleasant, it is enough that she should realise that she is
dependent. Cunning is a natural gift of woman, and so convinced
am I that all our natural inclinations are right, that I would
cultivate this among others, only guarding against its abuse.
For the truth of this I appeal to every honest observer. I do not
ask you to question women themselves, our cramping institutions may
compel them to sharpen their wits; I would have you examine girls,
little girls, newly-born so to speak; compare them with boys of the
same age, and I am greatly mistaken if you do not find the little
boys heavy, silly, and foolish, in comparison. Let me give one
illustration in all its childish simplicity.
Children are commonly forbidden to ask for anything at table, for
people think they can do nothing better in the way of education
than to burden them with useless precepts; as if a little bit of
this or that were not readily given or refused without leaving a
poor child dying of greediness intensified by hope. Every one knows
how cunningly a little boy brought up in this way asked for salt
when he had been overlooked at table. I do not suppose any one will
blame him for asking directly for salt and indirectly for meat;
the neglect was so cruel that I hardly think he would have been
punished had he broken the rule and said plainly that he was hungry.
But this is what I saw done by a little girl of six; the circumstances
were much more difficult, for not only was she strictly forbidden
to ask for anything directly or indirectly, but disobedience would
have been unpardonable, for she had eaten of every dish; one only
had been overlooked, and on this she had set her heart. This is what
she did to repair the omission without laying herself open to the
charge of disobedience; she pointed to every dish in turn, saying,
"I've had some of this; I've had some of this;" however she omitted
the one dish so markedly that some one noticed it and said, "Have
not you had some of this?" "Oh, no," replied the greedy little girl
with soft voice and downcast eyes. These instances are typical of
the cunning of the little boy and girl.
What is, is good, and no general law can be bad. This special skill
with which the female sex is endowed is a fair equivalent for its
lack of strength; without it woman would be man's slave, not his
helpmeet. By her superiority in this respect she maintains her equality
with man, and rules in obedience. She has everything against her,
our faults and her own weakness and timidity; her beauty and her
wiles are all that she has. Should she not cultivate both? Yet beauty
is not universal; it may be destroyed by all sorts of accidents,
it will disappear with years, and habit will destroy its influence.
A woman's real resource is her wit; not that foolish wit which is
so greatly admired in society, a wit which does nothing to make
life happier; but that wit which is adapted to her condition, the
art of taking advantage of our position and controlling us through
our own strength. Words cannot tell how beneficial this is to
man, what a charm it gives to the society of men and women, how it
checks the petulant child and restrains the brutal husband; without
it the home would be a scene of strife; with it, it is the abode
of happiness. I know that this power is abused by the sly and the
spiteful; but what is there that is not liable to abuse? Do not
destroy the means of happiness because the wicked use them to our
The toilet may attract notice, but it is the person that wins our
hearts. Our finery is not us; its very artificiality often offends,
and that which is least noticeable in itself often wins the most
attention. The education of our girls is, in this respect, absolutely
topsy-turvy. Ornaments are promised them as rewards, and they are
taught to delight in elaborate finery. "How lovely she is!" people
say when she is most dressed up. On the contrary, they should be
taught that so much finery is only required to hide their defects,
and that beauty's real triumph is to shine alone. The love of
fashion is contrary to good taste, for faces do not change with the
fashion, and while the person remains unchanged, what suits it at
one time will suit it always.
If I saw a young girl decked out like a little peacock, I should
show myself anxious about her figure so disguised, and anxious what
people would think of her; I should say, "She is over-dressed with
all those ornaments; what a pity! Do you think she could do with
something simpler? Is she pretty enough to do without this or that?"
Possibly she herself would be the first to ask that her finery might
be taken off and that we should see how she looked without it. In
that case her beauty should receive such praise as it deserves. I
should never praise her unless simply dressed. If she only regards
fine clothes as an aid to personal beauty, and as a tacit confession
that she needs their aid, she will not be proud of her finery, she
will be humbled by it; and if she hears some one say, "How pretty
she is," when she is smarter than usual, she will blush for shame.
Moreover, though there are figures that require adornment there
are none that require expensive clothes. Extravagance in dress is
the folly of the class rather than the individual, it is merely
conventional. Genuine coquetry is sometimes carefully thought out,
but never sumptuous, and Juno dressed herself more magnificently
than Venus. "As you cannot make her beautiful you are making her
fine," said Apelles to an unskilful artist who was painting Helen
loaded with jewellery. I have also noticed that the smartest clothes
proclaim the plainest women; no folly could be more misguided. If
a young girl has good taste and a contempt for fashion, give her a
few yards of ribbon, muslin, and gauze, and a handful of flowers,
without any diamonds, fringes, or lace, and she will make herself
a dress a hundredfold more becoming than all the smart clothes of
Good is always good, and as you should always look your best, the
women who know what they are about select a good style and keep
to it, and as they are not always changing their style they think
less about dress than those who can never settle to any one style.
A genuine desire to dress becomingly does not require an elaborate
toilet. Young girls rarely give much time to dress; needlework and
lessons are the business of the day; yet, except for the rouge,
they are generally as carefully dressed as older women and often
in better taste. Contrary to the usual opinion, the real cause of
the abuse of the toilet is not vanity but lack of occupation. The
woman who devotes six hours to her toilet is well aware that she
is no better dressed than the woman who took half an hour, but she
has got rid of so many of the tedious hours and it is better to
amuse oneself with one's clothes than to be sick of everything.
Without the toilet how would she spend the time between dinner and
supper. With a crowd of women about her, she can at least cause
them annoyance, which is amusement of a kind; better still she avoids
a tete-a-tete with the husband whom she never sees at any other
time; then there are the tradespeople, the dealers in bric-a-brac,
the fine gentlemen, the minor poets with their songs, their verses,
and their pamphlets; how could you get them together but for the
toilet. Its only real advantage is the chance of a little more
display than is permitted by full dress, and perhaps this is less
than it seems and a woman gains less than she thinks. Do not be
afraid to educate your women as women; teach them a woman's business,
that they be modest, that they may know how to manage their house
and look after their family; the grand toilet will soon disappear,
and they will be more tastefully dressed.
Growing girls perceive at once that all this outside adornment is
not enough unless they have charms of their own. They cannot make
themselves beautiful, they are too young for coquetry, but they
are not too young to acquire graceful gestures, a pleasing voice,
a self-possessed manner, a light step, a graceful bearing, to choose
whatever advantages are within their reach. The voice extends its
range, it grows stronger and more resonant, the arms become plumper,
the bearing more assured, and they perceive that it is easy to
attract attention however dressed. Needlework and industry suffice
no longer, fresh gifts are developing and their usefulness is
I know that stern teachers would have us refuse to teach little
girls to sing or dance, or to acquire any of the pleasing arts.
This strikes me as absurd. Who should learn these arts--our boys?
Are these to be the favourite accomplishments of men or women? Of
neither, say they; profane songs are simply so many crimes, dancing
is an invention of the Evil One; her tasks and her prayers we all
the amusement a young girl should have. What strange amusements
for a child of ten! I fear that these little saints who have been
forced to spend their childhood in prayers to God will pass their
youth in another fashion; when they are married they will try to
make up for lost time. I think we must consider age as well as sex;
a young girl should not live like her grandmother; she should be
lively, merry, and eager; she should sing and dance to her heart's
content, and enjoy all the innocent pleasures of youth; the time
will come, all too soon, when she must settle down and adopt a more
But is this change in itself really necessary? Is it not merely
another result of our own prejudices? By making good women the slaves
of dismal duties, we have deprived marriage of its charm for men.
Can we wonder that the gloomy silence they find at home drives them
elsewhere, or inspires little desire to enter a state which offers
so few attractions? Christianity, by exaggerating every duty, has
made our duties impracticable and useless; by forbidding singing,
dancing, and amusements of every kind, it renders women sulky,
fault-finding, and intolerable at home. There is no religion which
imposes such strict duties upon married life, and none in which
such a sacred engagement is so often profaned. Such pains has been
taken to prevent wives being amiable, that their husbands have
become indifferent to them. This should not be, I grant you, but
it will be, since husbands are but men. I would have an English
maiden cultivate the talents which will delight her husband as
zealously as the Circassian cultivates the accomplishments of an
Eastern harem. Husbands, you say, care little for such accomplishments.
So I should suppose, when they are employed, not for the husband,
but to attract the young rakes who dishonour the home. But imagine
a virtuous and charming wife, adorned with such accomplishments
and devoting them to her husband's amusement; will she not add to
his happiness? When he leaves his office worn out with the day's
work, will she not prevent him seeking recreation elsewhere? Have
we not all beheld happy families gathered together, each contributing
to the general amusement? Are not the confidence and familiarity
thus established, the innocence and the charm of the pleasures thus
enjoyed, more than enough to make up for the more riotous pleasures
of public entertainments?
Pleasant accomplishments have been made too formal an affair of
rules and precepts, so that young people find them very tedious
Instead of a mere amusement or a merry game as they ought to be.
Nothing can be more absurd than an elderly singing or dancing
master frowning upon young people, whose one desire is to laugh,
and adopting a more pedantic and magisterial manner in teaching his
frivolous art than if he were teaching the catechism. Take the case
of singing; does this art depend on reading music; cannot the voice
be made true and flexible, can we not learn to sing with taste and
even to play an accompaniment without knowing a note? Does the same
kind of singing suit all voices alike? Is the same method adapted
to every mind? You will never persuade me that the same attitudes,
the same steps, the same movements, the same gestures, the same
dances will suit a lively little brunette and a tall fair maiden
with languishing eyes. So when I find a master giving the same
lessons to all his pupils I say, "He has his own routine, but he
knows nothing of his art!"
Should young girls have masters or mistresses? I cannot say; I wish
they could dispense with both; I wish they could learn of their
own accord what they are already so willing to learn. I wish there
were fewer of these dressed-up old ballet masters promenading our
streets. I fear our young people will get more harm from intercourse
with such people than profit from their instruction, and that their
jargon, their tone, their airs and graces, will instil a precocious
taste for the frivolities which the teacher thinks so important,
and to which the scholars are only too likely to devote themselves.
Where pleasure is the only end in view, any one may serve as
teacher--father, mother, brother, sister, friend, governess, the
girl's mirror, and above all her own taste. Do not offer to teach,
let her ask; do not make a task of what should be a reward, and in
these studies above all remember that the wish to succeed is the
first step. If formal instruction is required I leave it to you
to choose between a master and a mistress. How can I tell whether
a dancing master should take a young pupil by her soft white hand,
make her lift her skirt and raise her eyes, open her arms and advance
her throbbing bosom? but this I know, nothing on earth would induce
me to be that master.
Taste is formed partly by industry and partly by talent, and by
its means the mind is unconsciously opened to the idea of beauty
of every kind, till at length it attains to those moral ideas which
are so closely related to beauty. Perhaps this is one reason why
ideas of propriety and modesty are acquired earlier by girls than
by boys, for to suppose that this early feeling is due to the
teaching of the governesses would show little knowledge of their
style of teaching and of the natural development of the human mind.
The art of speaking stands first among the pleasing arts; it alone
can add fresh charms to those which have been blunted by habit. It
is the mind which not only gives life to the body, but renews, so
to speak, its youth; the flow of feelings and ideas give life and
variety to the countenance, and the conversation to which it gives
rise arouses and sustains attention, and fixes it continuously on
one object. I suppose this is why little girls so soon learn to
prattle prettily, and why men enjoy listening to them even before
the child can understand them; they are watching for the first
gleam of intelligence and sentiment.
Women have ready tongues; they talk earlier, more easily, and more
pleasantly than men. They are also said to talk more; this may
be true, but I am prepared to reckon it to their credit; eyes and
mouth are equally busy and for the same cause. A man says what he
knows, a woman says what will please; the one needs knowledge, the
other taste; utility should be the man's object; the woman speaks
to give pleasure. There should be nothing in common but truth.
You should not check a girl's prattle like a boy's by the harsh
question, "What is the use of that?" but by another question at
least as difficult to answer, "What effect will that have?" At this
early age when they know neither good nor evil, and are incapable
of judging others, they should make this their rule and never say
anything which is unpleasant to those about them; this rule is all
the more difficult to apply because it must always be subordinated
to our first rule, "Never tell a lie."
I can see many other difficulties, but they belong to a later stage.
For the present it is enough for your little girls to speak the
truth without grossness, and as they are naturally averse to what
is gross, education easily teaches them to avoid it. In social
intercourse I observe that a man's politeness is usually more
helpful and a woman's more caressing. This distinction is natural,
not artificial. A man seeks to serve, a woman seeks to please. Hence
a woman's politeness is less insincere than ours, whatever we may
think of her character; for she is only acting upon a fundamental
instinct; but when a man professes to put my interests before his
own, I detect the falsehood, however disguised. Hence it is easy
for women to be polite, and easy to teach little girls politeness.
The first lessons come by nature; art only supplements them and
determines the conventional form which politeness shall take. The
courtesy of woman to woman is another matter; their manner is so
constrained, their attentions so chilly, they find each other so
wearisome, that they take little pains to conceal the fact, and
seem sincere even in their falsehood, since they take so little
pains to conceal it. Still young girls do sometimes become sincerely
attached to one another. At their age good spirits take the place
of a good disposition, and they are so pleased with themselves that
they are pleased with every one else. Moreover, it is certain that
they kiss each other more affectionately and caress each other more
gracefully in the presence of men, for they are proud to be able
to arouse their envy without danger to themselves by the sight of
favours which they know will arouse that envy.
If young boys must not be allowed to ask unsuitable questions, much
more must they be forbidden to little girls; if their curiosity is
satisfied or unskilfully evaded it is a much more serious matter,
for they are so keen to guess the mysteries concealed from them and
so skilful to discover them. But while I would not permit them to
ask questions, I would have them questioned frequently, and pains
should be taken to make them talk; let them be teased to make them
speak freely, to make them answer readily, to loosen mind and
tongue while it can be done without danger. Such conversation always
leading to merriment, yet skilfully controlled and directed, would
form a delightful amusement at this age and might instil into these
youthful hearts the first and perhaps the most helpful lessons in
morals which they will ever receive, by teaching them in the guise
of pleasure and fun what qualities are esteemed by men and what is
the true glory and happiness of a good woman.
If boys are incapable of forming any true idea of religion, much
more is it beyond the grasp of girls; and for this reason I would
speak of it all the sooner to little girls, for if we wait till
they are ready for a serious discussion of these deep subjects we
should be in danger of never speaking of religion at all. A woman's
reason is practical, and therefore she soon arrives at a given
conclusion, but she fails to discover it for herself. The social
relation of the sexes is a wonderful thing. This relation produces
a moral person of which woman is the eye and man the hand, but the
two are so dependent on one another that the man teaches the woman
what to see, while she teaches him what to do. If women could
discover principles and if men had as good heads for detail, they
would be mutually independent, they would live in perpetual strife,
and there would be an end to all society. But in their mutual
harmony each contributes to a common purpose; each follows the
other's lead, each commands and each obeys.
As a woman's conduct is controlled by public opinion, so is her
religion ruled by authority. The daughter should follow her mother's
religion, the wife her husband's. Were that religion false, the
docility which leads mother and daughter to submit to nature's
laws would blot out the sin of error in the sight of God. Unable
to judge for themselves they should accept the judgment of father
and husband as that of the church.
While women unaided cannot deduce the rules of their faith, neither
can they assign limits to that faith by the evidence of reason;
they allow themselves to be driven hither and thither by all sorts
of external influences, they are ever above or below the truth. Extreme
in everything, they are either altogether reckless or altogether
pious; you never find them able to combine virtue and piety. Their
natural exaggeration is not wholly to blame; the ill-regulated
control exercised over them by men is partly responsible. Loose
morals bring religion into contempt; the terrors of remorse make
it a tyrant; this is why women have always too much or too little
As a woman's religion is controlled by authority it is more
important to show her plainly what to believe than to explain the
reasons for belief; for faith attached to ideas half-understood
is the main source of fanaticism, and faith demanded on behalf of
what is absurd leads to madness or unbelief. Whether our catechisms
tend to produce impiety rather than fanaticism I cannot say, but
I do know that they lead to one or other.
In the first place, when you teach religion to little girls never
make it gloomy or tiresome, never make it a task or a duty, and
therefore never give them anything to learn by heart, not even
their prayers. Be content to say your own prayers regularly in their
presence, but do not compel them to join you. Let their prayers
be short, as Christ himself has taught us. Let them always be said
with becoming reverence and respect; remember that if we ask the
Almighty to give heed to our words, we should at least give heed
to what we mean to say.
It does not much matter that a girl should learn her religion young,
but it does matter that she should learn it thoroughly, and still
more that she should learn to love it. If you make religion a
burden to her, if you always speak of God's anger, if in the name
of religion you impose all sorts of disagreeable duties, duties
which she never sees you perform, what can she suppose but that
to learn one's catechism and to say one's prayers is only the duty
of a little girl, and she will long to be grown-up to escape, like
you, from these duties. Example! Example! Without it you will never
succeed in teaching children anything.
When you explain the Articles of Faith let it be by direct teaching,
not by question and answer. Children should only answer what they
think, not what has been drilled into them. All the answers in the
catechism are the wrong way about; it is the scholar who instructs
the teacher; in the child's mouth they are a downright lie, since
they explain what he does not understand, and affirm what he cannot
believe. Find me, if you can, an intelligent man who could honestly
say his catechism. The first question I find in our catechism is as
follows: "Who created you and brought you into the world?" To which
the girl, who thinks it was her mother, replies without hesitation,
"It was God." All she knows is that she is asked a question which
she only half understands and she gives an answer she does not
understand at all.
I wish some one who really understands the development of children's
minds would write a catechism for them. It might be the most useful
book ever written, and, in my opinion, it would do its author no
little honour. This at least is certain--if it were a good book it
would be very unlike our catechisms.
Such a catechism will not be satisfactory unless the child can
answer the questions of its own accord without having to learn the
answers; indeed the child will often ask the questions itself. An
example is required to make my meaning plain and I feel how ill
equipped I am to furnish such an example. I will try to give some
sort of outline of my meaning.
To get to the first question in our catechism I suppose we must
begin somewhat after the following fashion.
NURSE: Do you remember when your mother was a little girl?
CHILD: No, nurse.
NURSE: Why not, when you have such a good memory?
CHILD: I was not alive.
NURSE: Then you were not always alive!
NURSE: Will you live for ever!
NURSE: Are you young or old?
CHILD: I am young.
NURSE: Is your grandmamma old or young?
CHILD: She is old.
NURSE: Was she ever young?
NURSE: Why is she not young now?
CHILD: She has grown old.
NURSE: Will you grow old too?
CHILD: I don't know.
NURSE: Where are your last year's frocks?
CHILD: They have been unpicked.
CHILD: Because they were too small for me.
NURSE: Why were they too small?
CHILD: I have grown bigger.
NURSE: Will you grow any more!
CHILD: Oh, yes.
NURSE: And what becomes of big girls?
CHILD: They grow into women.
NURSE: And what becomes of women!
CHILD: They are mothers.
NURSE: And what becomes of mothers?
CHILD: They grow old.
NURSE: Will you grow old?
CHILD: When I am a mother.
NURSE: And what becomes of old people?
CHILD: I don't know.
NURSE: What became of your grandfather?
CHILD: He died. [Footnote: The child will say this because she has
heard it said; but you must make sure she knows what death is, for
the idea is not so simple and within the child's grasp as people
think. In that little poem "Abel" you will find an example of the way
to teach them. This charming work breathes a delightful simplicity
with which one should feed one's own mind so as to talk with
NURSE: Why did he die?
CHILD: Because he was so old.
NURSE: What becomes of old people!
CHILD: They die.
NURSE: And when you are old----?
CHILD: Oh nurse! I don't want to die!
NURSE: My dear, no one wants to die, and everybody dies.
CHILD: Why, will mamma die too!
NURSE: Yes, like everybody else. Women grow old as well as men,
and old age ends in death.
CHILD: What must I do to grow old very, very slowly?
NURSE: Be good while you are little.
CHILD: I will always be good, nurse.
NURSE: So much the better. But do you suppose you will live for
CHILD: When I am very, very old----
CHILD: When we are so very old you say we must die?
NURSE: You must die some day.
CHILD: Oh dear! I suppose I must.
NURSE: Who lived before you?
CHILD: My father and mother.
NURSE: And before them?
CHILD: Their father and mother.
NURSE: Who will live after you?
CHILD: My children.
NURSE: Who will live after them?
CHILD: Their children.
In this way, by concrete examples, you will find a beginning and end
for the human race like everything else--that is to say, a father
and mother who never had a father and mother, and children who will
never have children of their own.
It is only after a long course of similar questions that we are
ready for the first question in the catechism; then alone can we
put the question and the child may be able to understand it. But
what a gap there is between the first and the second question which
is concerned with the definitions of the divine nature. When will
this chasm be bridged? "God is a spirit." "And what is a spirit?"
Shall I start the child upon this difficult question of metaphysics
which grown men find so hard to understand? These are no questions
for a little girl to answer; if she asks them, it is as much or more
than we can expect. In that case I should tell her quite simply,
"You ask me what God is; it is not easy to say; we can neither
hear nor see nor handle God; we can only know Him by His works. To
learn what He is, you must wait till you know what He has done."
If our dogmas are all equally true, they are not equally important.
It makes little difference to the glory of God that we should perceive
it everywhere, but it does make a difference to human society, and
to every member of that society, that a man should know and do the
duties which are laid upon him by the law of God, his duty to his
neighbour and to himself. This is what we should always be teaching
one another, and it is this which fathers and mothers are specially
bound to teach their little ones. Whether a virgin became the mother
of her Creator, whether she gave birth to God, or merely to a man
into whom God has entered, whether the Father and the Son are of
the same substance or of like substance only, whether the Spirit
proceeded from one or both of these who are but one, or from both
together, however important these questions may seem, I cannot
see that it is any more necessary for the human race to come to a
decision with regard to them than to know what day to keep Easter,
or whether we should tell our beads, fast, and refuse to eat meat,
speak Latin or French in church, adorn the walls with statues,
hear or say mass, and have no wife of our own. Let each think as
he pleases; I cannot see that it matters to any one but himself;
for my own part it is no concern of mine. But what does concern my
fellow-creatures and myself alike is to know that there is indeed
a judge of human fate, that we are all His children, that He bids
us all be just, He bids us love one another, He bids us be kindly
and merciful, He bids us keep our word with all men, even with our
own enemies and His; we must know that the apparent happiness of
this world is naught; that there is another life to come, in which
this Supreme Being will be the rewarder of the just and the judge
of the unjust. Children need to be taught these doctrines and others
like them and all citizens require to be persuaded of their truth.
Whoever sets his face against these doctrines is indeed guilty; he
is the disturber of the peace, the enemy of society. Whoever goes
beyond these doctrines and seeks to make us the slaves of his private
opinions, reaches the same goal by another way; to establish his
own kind of order he disturbs the peace; in his rash pride he makes
himself the interpreter of the Divine, and in His name demands the
homage and the reverence of mankind; so far as may be, he sets himself
in God's place; he should receive the punishment of sacrilege if
he is not punished for his intolerance.
Give no heed, therefore, to all those mysterious doctrines which
are words without ideas for us, all those strange teachings, the
study of which is too often offered as a substitute for virtue, a
study which more often makes men mad rather than good. Keep your
children ever within the little circle of dogmas which are related
to morality. Convince them that the only useful learning is that which
teaches us to act rightly. Do not make your daughters theologians
and casuists; only teach them such things of heaven as conduce
to human goodness; train them to feel that they are always in the
presence of God, who sees their thoughts and deeds, their virtue
and their pleasures; teach them to do good without ostentation and
because they love it, to suffer evil without a murmur, because God
will reward them; in a word to be all their life long what they
will be glad to have been when they appear in His presence. This
is true religion; this alone is incapable of abuse, impiety, or
fanaticism. Let those who will, teach a religion more sublime,
but this is the only religion I know.
Moreover, it is as well to observe that, until the age when the
reason becomes enlightened, when growing emotion gives a voice to
conscience, what is wrong for young people is what those about have
decided to be wrong. What they are told to do is good; what they
are forbidden to do is bad; that is all they ought to know: this
shows how important it is for girls, even more than for boys,
that the right people should be chosen to be with them and to have
authority over them. At last there comes a time when they begin to
judge things for themselves, and that is the time to change your
method of education.
Perhaps I have said too much already. To what shall we reduce the
education of our women if we give them no law but that of conventional
prejudice? Let us not degrade so far the set which rules over us,
and which does us honour when we have not made it vile. For all
mankind there is a law anterior to that of public opinion. All other
laws should bend before the inflexible control of this law; it is
the judge of public opinion, and only in so far as the esteem of
men is in accordance with this law has it any claim on our obedience.
This law is our individual conscience. I will not repeat what has
been said already; it is enough to point out that if these two
laws clash, the education of women will always be imperfect. Right
feeling without respect for public opinion will not give them that
delicacy of soul which lends to right conduct the charm of social
approval; while respect for public opinion without right feeling
will only make false and wicked women who put appearances in the
place of virtue.
It is, therefore, important to cultivate a faculty which serves
as judge between the two guides, which does not permit conscience
to go astray and corrects the errors of prejudice. That faculty
is reason. But what a crowd of questions arise at this word. Are
women capable of solid reason; should they cultivate it, can they
cultivate it successfully? Is this culture useful in relation to the
functions laid upon them? Is it compatible with becoming simplicity?
The different ways of envisaging and answering these questions lead
to two extremes; some would have us keep women indoors sewing and
spinning with their maids; thus they make them nothing more than
the chief servant of their master. Others, not content to secure
their rights, lead them to usurp ours; for to make woman our superior
in all the qualities proper to her sex, and to make her our equal
in all the rest, what is this but to transfer to the woman the
superiority which nature has given to her husband? The reason which
teaches a man his duties is not very complex; the reason which
teaches a woman hers is even simpler. The obedience and fidelity
which she owes to her husband, the tenderness and care due to her
children, are such natural and self-evident consequences of her
position that she cannot honestly refuse her consent to the inner
voice which is her guide, nor fail to discern her duty in her
I would not altogether blame those who would restrict a woman to
the labours of her sex and would leave her in profound ignorance
of everything else; but that would require a standard of morality
at once very simple and very healthy, or a life withdrawn from the
world. In great towns, among immoral men, such a woman would be
too easily led astray; her virtue would too often be at the mercy
of circumstances; in this age of philosophy, virtue must be able
to resist temptation; she must know beforehand what she may hear
and what she should think of it.
Moreover, in submission to man's judgment she should deserve his
esteem; above all she should obtain the esteem of her husband;
she should not only make him love her person, she should make him
approve her conduct; she should justify his choice before the world,
and do honour to her husband through the honour given to the wife.
But how can she set about this task if she is ignorant of our
institutions, our customs, our notions of propriety, if she knows
nothing of the source of man's judgment, nor the passions by which
it is swayed! Since she depends both on her own conscience and
on public opinion, she must learn to know and reconcile these two
laws, and to put her own conscience first only when the two are
opposed to each other. She becomes the judge of her own judges,
she decides when she should obey and when she should refuse her
obedience. She weighs their prejudices before she accepts or rejects
them; she learns to trace them to their source, to foresee what
they will be, and to turn them in her own favour; she is careful
never to give cause for blame if duty allows her to avoid it. This
cannot be properly done without cultivating her mind and reason.
I always come back to my first principle and it supplies the
solution of all my difficulties. I study what is, I seek its cause,
and I discover in the end that what is, is good. I go to houses
where the master and mistress do the honours together. They are
equally well educated, equally polite, equally well equipped with
wit and good taste, both of them are inspired with the same desire
to give their guests a good reception and to send every one away
satisfied. The husband omits no pains to be attentive to every
one; he comes and goes and sees to every one and takes all sorts
of trouble; he is attention itself. The wife remains in her place;
a little circle gathers round her and apparently conceals the rest
of the company from her; yet she sees everything that goes on,
no one goes without a word with her; she has omitted nothing which
might interest anybody, she has said nothing unpleasant to any
one, and without any fuss the least is no more overlooked than
the greatest. Dinner is announced, they take their places; the
man knowing the assembled guests will place them according to his
knowledge; the wife, without previous acquaintance, never makes
a mistake; their looks and bearing have already shown her what is
wanted and every one will find himself where he wishes to be. I
do not assert that the servants forget no one. The master of the
house may have omitted no one, but the mistress perceives what you
like and sees that you get it; while she is talking to her neighbour
she has one eye on the other end of the table; she sees who is not
eating because he is not hungry and who is afraid to help himself
because he is clumsy and timid. When the guests leave the table
every one thinks she has had no thought but for him, everybody thinks
she has had no time to eat anything, but she has really eaten more
When the guests are gone, husband and wife tails over the events
of the evening. He relates what was said to him, what was said and
done by those with whom he conversed. If the lady is not always
quite exact in this respect, yet on the other hand she perceived
what was whispered at the other end of the room; she knows what
so-and-so thought, and what was the meaning of this speech or that
gesture; there is scarcely a change of expression for which she
has not an explanation in readiness, and she is almost always right.
The same turn of mind which makes a woman of the world such an
excellent hostess, enables a flirt to excel in the art of amusing
a number of suitors. Coquetry, cleverly carried out, demands an
even finer discernment than courtesy; provided a polite lady is
civil to everybody, she has done fairly well in any case; but the
flirt would soon lose her hold by such clumsy uniformity; if she
tries to be pleasant to all her lovers alike, she will disgust them
all. In ordinary social intercourse the manners adopted towards
everybody are good enough for all; no question is asked as to
private likes or dislikes provided all are alike well received. But
in love, a favour shared with others is an insult. A man of feeling
would rather be singled out for ill-treatment than be caressed with
the crowd, and the worst that can befall him is to be treated like
every one else. So a woman who wants to keep several lovers at
her feet must persuade every one of them that she prefers him, and
she must contrive to do this in the sight of all the rest, each of
whom is equally convinced that he is her favourite.
If you want to see a man in a quandary, place him between two
women with each of whom he has a secret understanding, and see what
a fool he looks. But put a woman in similar circumstances between
two men, and the results will be even more remarkable; you will be
astonished at the skill with which she cheats them both, and makes
them laugh at each other. Now if that woman were to show the same
confidence in both, if she were to be equally familiar with both,
how could they be deceived for a moment? If she treated them alike,
would she not show that they both had the same claims upon her?
Oh, she is far too clever for that; so far from treating them just
alike, she makes a marked difference between them, and she does
it so skilfully that the man she flatters thinks it is affection,
and the man she ill uses think it is spite. So that each of them
believes she is thinking of him, when she is thinking of no one
A general desire to please suggests similar measures; people would
be disgusted with a woman's whims if they were not skilfully managed,
and when they are artistically distributed her servants are more
than ever enslaved.
"Usa ogn'arte la donna, onde sia colto
Nella sua rete alcun novello amante;
Ne con tutti, ne sempre un stesso volto
Serba; ma cangia a tempo atto e sembiante."
Tasso, Jerus. Del., c. iv., v. 87.
What is the secret of this art? Is it not the result of a delicate
and continuous observation which shows her what is taking place in
a man's heart, so that she is able to encourage or to check every
hidden impulse? Can this art be acquired? No; it is born with women;
it is common to them all, and men never show it to the same degree.
It is one of the distinctive characters of the sex. Self-possession,
penetration, delicate observation, this is a woman's science; the
skill to make use of it is her chief accomplishment.
This is what is, and we have seen why it is so. It is said that
women are false. They become false. They are really endowed with
skill not duplicity; in the genuine inclinations of their sex they
are not false even when they tell a lie. Why do you consult their
words when it is not their mouths that speak? Consult their eyes,
their colour, their breathing, their timid manner, their slight
resistance, that is the language nature gave them for your answer.
The lips always say "No," and rightly so; but the tone is not
always the same, and that cannot lie. Has not a woman the same needs
as a man, but without the same right to make them known? Her fate
would be too cruel if she had no language in which to express her
legitimate desires except the words which she dare not utter. Must
her modesty condemn her to misery? Does she not require a means
of indicating her inclinations without open expression? What skill
is needed to hide from her lover what she would fain reveal! Is it
not of vital importance that she should learn to touch his heart
without showing that she cares for him? It is a pretty story that
tale of Galatea with her apple and her clumsy flight. What more
is needed? Will she tell the shepherd who pursues her among the
willows that she only flees that he may follow? If she did, it would
be a lie; for she would no longer attract him. The more modest
a woman is, the more art she needs, even with her husband. Yes,
I maintain that coquetry, kept within bounds, becomes modest and
true, and out of it springs a law of right conduct.
One of my opponents has very truly asserted that virtue is one;
you cannot disintegrate it and choose this and reject the other.
If you love virtue, you love it in its entirety, and you close your
heart when you can, and you always close your lips to the feelings
which you ought not to allow. Moral truth is not only what is,
but what is good; what is bad ought not to be, and ought not to be
confessed, especially when that confession produces results which
might have been avoided. If I were tempted to steal, and in confessing
it I tempted another to become my accomplice, the very confession
of my temptation would amount to a yielding to that temptation. Why
do you say that modesty makes women false? Are those who lose their
modesty more sincere than the rest? Not so, they are a thousandfold
more deceitful. This degree of depravity is due to many vices, none
of which is rejected, vices which owe their power to intrigue and
falsehood. [Footnote: I know that women who have openly decided on
a certain course of conduct profess that their lack of concealment
is a virtue in itself, and swear that, with one exception, they are
possessed of all the virtues; but I am sure they never persuaded
any but fools to believe them. When the natural curb is removed
from their sex, what is there left to restrain them? What honour
will they prize when they have rejected the honour of their sex?
Having once given the rein to passion they have no longer any reason
for self-control. "Nec femina, amissa pudicitia, alia abnuerit."
No author ever understood more thoroughly the heart of both sexes
than Tacitus when he wrote those words.]
On the other hand, those who are not utterly shameless, who take no
pride in their faults, who are able to conceal their desires even
from those who inspire them, those who confess their passion most
reluctantly, these are the truest and most sincere, these are they
on whose fidelity you may generally rely.
The only example I know which might be quoted as a recognised exception
to these remarks is Mlle. de L'Enclos; and she was considered a
prodigy. In her scorn for the virtues of women, she practised, so
they say, the virtues of a man. She is praised for her frankness
and uprightness; she was a trustworthy acquaintance and a faithful
friend. To complete the picture of her glory it is said that she
became a man. That may be, but in spite of her high reputation I
should no more desire that man as my friend than as my mistress.
This is not so irrelevant as it seems. I am aware of the tendencies
of our modern philosophy which make a jest of female modesty and
its so-called insincerity; I also perceive that the most certain
result of this philosophy will be to deprive the women of this
century of such shreds of honour as they still possess.
On these grounds I think we may decide in general terms what sort
of education is suited to the female mind, and the objects to which
we should turn its attention in early youth.
As I have already said, the duties of their sex are more easily
recognised than performed. They must learn in the first place
to love those duties by considering the advantages to be derived
from them--that is the only way to make duty easy. Every age and
condition has its own duties. We are quick to see our duty if we
love it. Honour your position as a woman, and in whatever station
of life to which it shall please heaven to call you, you will be
well off. The essential thing is to be what nature has made you;
women are only too ready to be what men would have them.
The search for abstract and speculative truths, for principles and
axioms in science, for all that tends to wide generalisation, is
beyond a woman's grasp; their studies should be thoroughly practical.
It is their business to apply the principles discovered by men, it
is their place to make the observations which lead men to discover
those principles. A woman's thoughts, beyond the range of her immediate
duties, should be directed to the study of men, or the acquirement
of that agreeable learning whose sole end is the formation of taste;
for the works of genius are beyond her reach, and she has neither
the accuracy nor the attention for success in the exact sciences; as
for the physical sciences, to decide the relations between living
creatures and the laws of nature is the task of that sex which
is more active and enterprising, which sees more things, that sex
which is possessed of greater strength and is more accustomed to
the exercise of that strength. Woman, weak as she is and limited
in her range of observation, perceives and judges the forces at
her disposal to supplement her weakness, and those forces are the
passions of man. Her own mechanism is more powerful than ours; she
has many levers which may set the human heart in motion. She must
find a way to make us desire what she cannot achieve unaided and
what she considers necessary or pleasing; therefore she must have
a thorough knowledge of man's mind; not an abstract knowledge of
the mind of man in general, but the mind of those men who are about
her, the mind of those men who have authority over her, either by
law or custom. She must learn to divine their feelings from speech
and action, look and gesture. By her own speech and action, look
and gesture, she must be able to inspire them with the feelings she
desires, without seeming to have any such purpose. The men will
have a better philosophy of the human heart, but she will read
more accurately in the heart of men. Woman should discover, so to
speak, an experimental morality, man should reduce it to a system.
Woman has more wit, man more genius; woman observes, man reasons;
together they provide the clearest light and the profoundest
knowledge which is possible to the unaided human mind; in a word,
the surest knowledge of self and of others of which the human race
is capable. In this way art may constantly tend to the perfection
of the instrument which nature has given us.
The world is woman's book; if she reads it ill, it is either her
own fault or she is blinded by passion. Yet the genuine mother of
a family is no woman of the world, she is almost as much of a recluse
as the nun in her convent. Those who have marriageable daughters
should do what is or ought to be done for those who are entering
the cloisters: they should show them the pleasures they forsake
before they are allowed to renounce them, lest the deceitful picture
of unknown pleasures should creep in to disturb the happiness of
their retreat. In France it is the girls who live in convents and
the wives who flaunt in society. Among the ancients it was quite
otherwise; girls enjoyed, as I have said already, many games and
public festivals; the married women lived in retirement. This was
a more reasonable custom and more conducive to morality. A girl
may be allowed a certain amount of coquetry, and she may be mainly
occupied at amusement. A wife has other responsibilities at home,
and she is no longer on the look-out for a husband; but women
would not appreciate the change, and unluckily it is they who set
the fashion. Mothers, let your daughters be your companions. Give
them good sense and an honest heart, and then conceal from them
nothing that a pure eye may behold. Balls, assemblies, sports, the
theatre itself; everything which viewed amiss delights imprudent
youth may be safely displayed to a healthy mind. The more they
know of these noisy pleasures, the sooner they will cease to desire
I can fancy the outcry with which this will be received. What girl
will resist such an example? Their heads are turned by the first
glimpse of the world; not one of them is ready to give it up. That
may be; but before you showed them this deceitful prospect, did
you prepare them to behold it without emotion? Did you tell them
plainly what it was they would see? Did you show it in its true
light? Did you arm them against the illusions of vanity? Did you
inspire their young hearts with a taste for the true pleasures
which are not to be met with in this tumult? What precautions, what
steps, did you take to preserve them from the false taste which
leads them astray? Not only have you done nothing to preserve
their minds from the tyranny of prejudice, you have fostered that
prejudice; you have taught them to desire every foolish amusement
they can get. Your own example is their teacher. Young people on
their entrance into society have no guide but their mother, who
is often just as silly as they are themselves, and quite unable to
show them things except as she sees them herself. Her example is
stronger than reason; it justifies them in their own eyes, and the
mother's authority is an unanswerable excuse for the daughter. If
I ask a mother to bring her daughter into society, I assume that
she will show it in its true light.
The evil begins still earlier; the convents are regular schools
of coquetry; not that honest coquetry which I have described, but
a coquetry the source of every kind of misconduct, a coquetry which
turns out girls who are the most ridiculous little madams. When
they leave the convent to take their place in smart society, young
women find themselves quite at home. They have been educated for
such a life; is it strange that they like it? I am afraid what I
am going to say may be based on prejudice rather than observation,
but so far as I can see, one finds more family affection, more good
wives and loving mothers in Protestant than in Catholic countries;
if that is so, we cannot fail to suspect that the difference is
partly due to the convent schools.
The charms of a peaceful family life must be known to be enjoyed;
their delights should be tasted in childhood. It is only in our
father's home that we learn to love our own, and a woman whose
mother did not educate her herself will not be willing to educate
her own children. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as home
education in our large towns. Society is so general and so mixed there
is no place left for retirement, and even in the home we live in
public. We live in company till we have no family, and we scarcely
know our own relations, we see them as strangers; and the simplicity
of home life disappears together with the sweet familiarity which
was its charm. In this wise do we draw with our mother's milk a
taste for the pleasures of the age and the maxims by which it is
Girls are compelled to assume an air of propriety so that men may
be deceived into marrying them by their appearance. But watch these
young people for a moment; under a pretence of coyness they barely
conceal the passion which devours them, and already you may read
in their eager eyes their desire to imitate their mothers. It is
not a husband they want, but the licence of a married woman. What
need of a husband when there are so many other resources; but
a husband there must be to act as a screen. [Footnote: The way of
a man in his youth was one of the four things that the sage could
not understand; the fifth was the shamelessness of an adulteress.
"Quae comedit, et tergens os suum dicit; non sum operata malum."
Prov. xxx. 20.] There is modesty on the brow, but vice in the
heart; this sham modesty is one of its outward signs; they affect
it that they may be rid of it once for all. Women of Paris and
London, forgive me! There may be miracles everywhere, but I am not
aware of them; and if there is even one among you who is really
pure in heart, I know nothing of our institutions.
All these different methods of education lead alike to a taste for
the pleasures of the great world, and to the passions which this
taste so soon kindles. In our great towns depravity begins at birth;
in the smaller towns it begins with reason. Young women brought up
in the country are soon taught to despise the happy simplicity of
their lives, and hasten to Paris to share the corruption of ours.
Vices, cloaked under the fair name of accomplishments, are the sole
object of their journey; ashamed to find themselves so much behind
the noble licence of the Parisian ladies, they hasten to become
worthy of the name of Parisian. Which is responsible for the
evil--the place where it begins, or the place where it is accomplished?
I would not have a sensible mother bring her girl to Paris to show
her these sights so harmful to others; but I assert that if she
did so, either the girl has been badly brought up, or such sights
have little danger for her. With good taste, good sense, and a love
of what is right, these things are less attractive than to those
who abandon themselves to their charm. In Paris you may see giddy
young things hastening to adopt the tone and fashions of the town
for some six months, so that they may spend the rest of their life
in disgrace; but who gives any heed to those who, disgusted with
the rout, return to their distant home and are contented with their
lot when they have compared it with that which others desire. How
many young wives have I seen whose good-natured husbands have taken
them to Paris where they might live if they pleased; but they have
shrunk from it and returned home more willingly than they went,
saying tenderly, "Ah, let us go back to our cottage, life is happier
there than in these palaces." We do not know how many there are who
have not bowed the knee to Baal, who scorn his senseless worship.
Fools make a stir; good women pass unnoticed.
If so many women preserve a judgment which is proof against temptation,
in spite of universal prejudice, in spite of the bad education of
girls, what would their judgment have been, had it been strengthened
by suitable instruction, or rather left unaffected by evil teaching,
for to preserve or restore the natural feelings is our main business?
You can do this without preaching endless sermons to your daughters,
without crediting them with your harsh morality. The only effect
of such teaching is to inspire a dislike for the teacher and the
lessons. In talking to a young girl you need not make her afraid
of her duties, nor need you increase the burden laid upon her by
nature. When you explain her duties speak plainly and pleasantly;
do not let her suppose that the performance of these duties is
a dismal thing--away with every affectation of disgust or pride.
Every thought which we desire to arouse should find its expression
in our pupils, their catechism of conduct should be as brief and
plain as their catechism of religion, but it need not be so serious.
Show them that these same duties are the source of their pleasures
and the basis of their rights. Is it so hard to win love by love,
happiness by an amiable disposition, obedience by worth, and honour
by self-respect? How fair are these woman's rights, how worthy of
reverence, how dear to the heart of man when a woman is able to
show their worth! These rights are no privilege of years; a woman's
empire begins with her virtues; her charms are only in the bud,
yet she reigns already by the gentleness of her character and
the dignity of her modesty. Is there any man so hard-hearted and
uncivilised that he does not abate his pride and take heed to his
manners with a sweet and virtuous girl of sixteen, who listens but
says little; her bearing is modest, her conversation honest, her
beauty does not lead her to forget her sex and her youth, her very
timidity arouses interest, while she wins for herself the respect
which she shows to others?
These external signs are not devoid of meaning; they do not rest
entirely upon the charms of sense; they arise from that conviction
that we all feel that women are the natural judges of a man's
worth. Who would be scorned by women? not even he who has ceased
to desire their love. And do you suppose that I, who tell them such
harsh truths, am indifferent to their verdict? Reader, I care more
for their approval than for yours; you are often more effeminate
than they. While I scorn their morals, I will revere their justice;
I care not though they hate me, if I can compel their esteem.
What great things might be accomplished by their influence if only
we could bring it to bear! Alas for the age whose women lose their
ascendancy, and fail to make men respect their judgment! This
is the last stage of degradation. Every virtuous nation has shown
respect to women. Consider Sparta, Germany, and Rome; Rome the
throne of glory and virtue, if ever they were enthroned on earth.
The Roman women awarded honour to the deeds of great generals, they
mourned in public for the fathers of the country, their awards and
their tears were alike held sacred as the most solemn utterance of
the Republic. Every great revolution began with the women. Through
a woman Rome gained her liberty, through a woman the plebeians
won the consulate, through a woman the tyranny of the decemvirs
was overthrown; it was the women who saved Rome when besieged by
Coriolanus. What would you have said at the sight of this procession,
you Frenchmen who pride yourselves on your gallantry, would you
not have followed it with shouts of laughter? You and I see things
with such different eyes, and perhaps we are both right. Such
a procession formed of the fairest beauties of France would be an
indecent spectacle; but let it consist of Roman ladies, you will
all gaze with the eyes of the Volscians and feel with the heart of
I will go further and maintain that virtue is no less favourable
to love than to other rights of nature, and that it adds as much
to the power of the beloved as to that of the wife or mother. There
is no real love without enthusiasm, and no enthusiasm without an
object of perfection real or supposed, but always present in the
imagination. What is there to kindle the hearts of lovers for
whom this perfection is nothing, for whom the loved one is merely
the means to sensual pleasure? Nay, not thus is the heart kindled,
not thus does it abandon itself to those sublime transports which
form the rapture of lovers and the charm of love. Love is an
illusion, I grant you, but its reality consists in the feelings it
awakes, in the love of true beauty which it inspires. That beauty
is not to be found in the object of our affections, it is the
creation of our illusions. What matter! do we not still sacrifice
all those baser feelings to the imaginary model? and we still feed
our hearts on the virtues we attribute to the beloved, we still
withdraw ourselves from the baseness of human nature. What lover is
there who would not give his life for his mistress? What gross and
sensual passion is there in a man who is willing to die? We scoff
at the knights of old; they knew the meaning of love; we know
nothing but debauchery. When the teachings of romance began to seem
ridiculous, it was not so much the work of reason as of immorality.
Natural relations remain the same throughout the centuries, their
good or evil effects are unchanged; prejudices, masquerading as
reason, can but change their outward seeming; self-mastery, even
at the behest of fantastic opinions, will not cease to be great
and good. And the true motives of honour will not fail to appeal to
the heart of every woman who is able to seek happiness in life in
her woman's duties. To a high-souled woman chastity above all must
be a delightful virtue. She sees all the kingdoms of the world before
her and she triumphs over herself and them; she sits enthroned in
her own soul and all men do her homage; a few passing struggles
are crowned with perpetual glory; she secures the affection, or it
may be the envy, she secures in any case the esteem of both sexes
and the universal respect of her own. The loss is fleeting, the gain
is permanent. What a joy for a noble heart--the pride of virtue
combined with beauty. Let her be a heroine of romance; she will
taste delights more exquisite than those of Lais and Cleopatra; and
when her beauty is fled, her glory and her joys remain; she alone
can enjoy the past.
The harder and more important the duties, the stronger and clearer
must be the reasons on which they are based. There is a sort of
pious talk about the most serious subjects which is dinned in vain
into the ears of young people. This talk, quite unsuited to their
ideas and the small importance they attach to it in secret, inclines
them to yield readily to their inclinations, for lack of any
reasons for resistance drawn from the facts themselves. No doubt
a girl brought up to goodness and piety has strong weapons against
temptation; but one whose heart, or rather her ears, are merely
filled with the jargon of piety, will certainly fall a prey to the
first skilful seducer who attacks her. A young and beautiful girl
will never despise her body, she will never really deplore sins which
her beauty leads men to commit, she will never lament earnestly in
the sight of God that she is an object of desire, she will never
be convinced that the tenderest feeling is an invention of the Evil
One. Give her other and more pertinent reasons for her own sake,
for these will have no effect. It will be worse to instil, as is
often done, ideas which contradict each other, and after having
humbled and degraded her person and her charms as the stain of sin,
to bid her reverence that same vile body as the temple of Jesus
Christ. Ideas too sublime and too humble are equally ineffective
and they cannot both be true. A reason adapted to her age and sex
is what is needed. Considerations of duty are of no effect unless
they are combined with some motive for the performance of our duty.
"Quae quia non liceat non facit, illa facit."
OVID, Amor. I. iii. eleg. iv.
One would not suspect Ovid of such a harsh judgment.
If you would inspire young people with a love of good conduct avoid
saying, "Be good;" make it their interest to be good; make them
feel the value of goodness and they will love it. It is not enough
to show this effect in the distant future, show it now, in the
relations of the present, in the character of their lovers. Describe
a good man, a man of worth, teach them to recognise him when they
see him, to love him for their own sake; convince them that such
a man alone can make them happy as friend, wife, or mistress. Let
reason lead the way to virtue; make them feel that the empire of
their sex and all the advantages derived from it depend not merely
on the right conduct, the morality, of women, but also on that of
men; that they have little hold over the vile and base, and that
the lover is incapable of serving his mistress unless he can do
homage to virtue. You may then be sure that when you describe the
manners of our age you will inspire them with a genuine disgust;
when you show them men of fashion they will despise them; you
will give them a distaste for their maxims, an aversion to their
sentiments, and a scorn for their empty gallantry; you will arouse a
nobler ambition, to reign over great and strong souls, the ambition
of the Spartan women to rule over men. A bold, shameless, intriguing
woman, who can only attract her lovers by coquetry and retain
them by her favours, wins a servile obedience in common things; in
weighty and important matters she has no influence over them. But
the woman who is both virtuous, wise, and charming, she who, in
a word, combines love and esteem, can send them at her bidding to
the end of the world, to war, to glory, and to death at her behest.
This is a fine kingdom and worth the winning.
This is the spirit in which Sophy has been educated, she has been
trained carefully rather than strictly, and her taste has been
followed rather than thwarted. Let us say just a word about her
person, according to the description I have given to Emile and the
picture he himself has formed of the wife in whom he hopes to find
I cannot repeat too often that I am not dealing with prodigies.
Emile is no prodigy, neither is Sophy. He is a man and she is a
woman; this is all they have to boast of. In the present confusion
between the sexes it is almost a miracle to belong to one's own
sex. Sophy is well born and she has a good disposition; she is
very warm-hearted, and this warmth of heart sometimes makes her
imagination run away with her. Her mind is keen rather than accurate,
her temper is pleasant but variable, her person pleasing though
nothing out of the common, her countenance bespeaks a soul and it
speaks true; you may meet her with indifference, but you will not
leave her without emotion. Others possess good qualities which
she lacks; others possess her good qualities in a higher degree,
but in no one are these qualities better blended to form a happy
disposition. She knows how to make the best of her very faults,
and if she were more perfect she would be less pleasing.
Sophy is not beautiful; but in her presence men forget the fairer
women, and the latter are dissatisfied with themselves. At first
sight she is hardly pretty; but the more we see her the prettier
she is; she wins where so many lose, and what she wins she keeps.
Her eyes might be finer, her mouth more beautiful, her stature more
imposing; but no one could have a more graceful figure, a finer
complexion, a whiter hand, a daintier foot, a sweeter look, and
a more expressive countenance. She does not dazzle; she arouses
interest; she delights us, we know not why.
Sophy is fond of dress, and she knows how to dress; her mother has
no other maid; she has taste enough to dress herself well; but she
hates rich clothes; her own are always simple but elegant. She does
not like showy but becoming things. She does not know what colours
are fashionable, but she makes no mistake about those that suit
her. No girl seems more simply dressed, but no one could take
more pains over her toilet; no article is selected at random, and
yet there is no trace of artificiality. Her dress is very modest
in appearance and very coquettish in reality; she does not display
her charms, she conceals them, but in such a way as to enhance
them. When you see her you say, "That is a good modest girl," but
while you are with her, you cannot take your eyes or your thoughts
off her and one might say that this very simple adornment is only
put on to be removed bit by bit by the imagination.
Sophy has natural gifts; she is aware of them, and they have not
been neglected; but never having had a chance of much training she
is content to use her pretty voice to sing tastefully and truly;
her little feet step lightly, easily, and gracefully, she can always
make an easy graceful courtesy. She has had no singing master but
her father, no dancing mistress but her mother; a neighbouring
organist has given her a few lessons in playing accompaniments
on the spinet, and she has improved herself by practice. At first
she only wished to show off her hand on the dark keys; then she
discovered that the thin clear tone of the spinet made her voice
sound sweeter; little by little she recognised the charms of
harmony; as she grew older she at last began to enjoy the charms
of expression, to love music for its own sake. But she has taste
rather than talent; she cannot read a simple air from notes.
Needlework is what Sophy likes best; and the feminine arts have
been taught her most carefully, even those you would not expect,
such as cutting out and dressmaking. There is nothing she cannot
do with her needle, and nothing that she does not take a delight in
doing; but lace-making is her favourite occupation, because there
is nothing which requires such a pleasing attitude, nothing which
calls for such grace and dexterity of finger. She has also studied
all the details of housekeeping; she understands cooking and
cleaning; she knows the prices of food, and also how to choose it;
she can keep accounts accurately, she is her mother's housekeeper.
Some day she will be the mother of a family; by managing her father's
house she is preparing to manage her own; she can take the place
of any of the servants and she is always ready to do so. You cannot
give orders unless you can do the work yourself; that is why her
mother sets her to do it. Sophy does not think of that; her first
duty is to be a good daughter, and that is all she thinks about for
the present. Her one idea is to help her mother and relieve her of
some of her anxieties. However, she does not like them all equally
well. For instance, she likes dainty food, but she does not like
cooking; the details of cookery offend her, and things are never
clean enough for her. She is extremely sensitive in this respect
and carries her sensitiveness to a fault; she would let the whole
dinner boil over into the fire rather than soil her cuffs. She has
always disliked inspecting the kitchen-garden for the same reason.
The soil is dirty, and as soon as she sees the manure heap she
fancies there is a disagreeable smell.
This defect is the result of her mother's teaching. According to
her, cleanliness is one of the most necessary of a woman's duties,
a special duty, of the highest importance and a duty imposed by
nature. Nothing could be more revolting than a dirty woman, and a
husband who tires of her is not to blame. She insisted so strongly
on this duty when Sophy was little, she required such absolute
cleanliness in her person, clothing, room, work, and toilet, that
use has become habit, till it absorbs one half of her time and
controls the other; so that she thinks less of how to do a thing
than of how to do it without getting dirty.
Yet this has not degenerated into mere affectation and softness;
there is none of the over refinement of luxury. Nothing but clean
water enters her room; she knows no perfumes but the scent of
flowers, and her husband will never find anything sweeter than her
breath. In conclusion, the attention she pays to the outside does
not blind her to the fact that time and strength are meant for greater
tasks; either she does not know or she despises that exaggerated
cleanliness of body which degrades the soul. Sophy is more than
clean, she is pure.
I said that Sophy was fond of good things. She was so by nature; but
she became temperate by habit and now she is temperate by virtue.
Little girls are not to be controlled, as little boys are, to
some extent, through their greediness. This tendency may have ill
effects on women and it is too dangerous to be left unchecked.
When Sophy was little, she did not always return empty handed if
she was sent to her mother's cupboard, and she was not quite to be
trusted with sweets and sugar-almonds. Her mother caught her, took
them from her, punished her, and made her go without her dinner.
At last she managed to persuade her that sweets were bad for the
teeth, and that over-eating spoiled the figure. Thus Sophy overcame
her faults; and when she grew older other tastes distracted her from
this low kind of self-indulgence. With awakening feeling greediness
ceases to be the ruling passion, both with men and women. Sophy
has preserved her feminine tastes; she likes milk and sweets; she
likes pastry and made-dishes, but not much meat. She has never
tasted wine or spirits; moreover, she eats sparingly; women, who do
not work so hard as men, have less waste to repair. In all things
she likes what is good, and knows how to appreciate it; but she
can also put up with what is not so good, or can go without it.
Sophy's mind is pleasing but not brilliant, and thorough but not
deep; it is the sort of mind which calls for no remark, as she
never seems cleverer or stupider than oneself. When people talk to
her they always find what she says attractive, though it may not be
highly ornamental according to modern ideas of an educated woman;
her mind has been formed not only by reading, but by conversation
with her father and mother, by her own reflections, and by her
own observations in the little world in which she has lived. Sophy
is naturally merry; as a child she was even giddy; but her mother
cured her of her silly ways, little by little, lest too sudden a
change should make her self-conscious. Thus she became modest and
retiring while still a child, and now that she is a child no longer,
she finds it easier to continue this conduct than it would have
been to acquire it without knowing why. It is amusing to see her
occasionally return to her old ways and indulge in childish mirth
and then suddenly check herself, with silent lips, downcast eyes,
and rosy blushes; neither child nor woman, she may well partake of
Sophy is too sensitive to be always good humoured, but too gentle
to let this be really disagreeable to other people; it is only
herself who suffers. If you say anything that hurts her she does
not sulk, but her heart swells; she tries to run away and cry. In
the midst of her tears, at a word from her father or mother she
returns at once laughing and playing, secretly wiping her eyes and
trying to stifle her sobs.
Yet she has her whims; if her temper is too much indulged
it degenerates into rebellion, and then she forgets herself. But
give her time to come round and her way of making you forget her
wrong-doing is almost a virtue. If you punish her she is gentle
and submissive, and you see that she is more ashamed of the fault
than the punishment. If you say nothing, she never fails to make
amends, and she does it so frankly and so readily that you cannot
be angry with her. She would kiss the ground before the lowest servant
and would make no fuss about it; and as soon as she is forgiven,
you can see by her delight and her caresses that a load is taken
off her heart. In a word, she endures patiently the wrong-doing of
others, and she is eager to atone for her own. This amiability is
natural to her sex when unspoiled. Woman is made to submit to man
and to endure even injustice at his hands. You will never bring
young lads to this; their feelings rise in revolt against injustice;
nature has not fitted them to put up with it.
"Gravem Pelidae stomachum cedere nescii."
HORACE, lib. i. ode vi.
Sophy's religion is reasonable and simple, with few doctrines and
fewer observances; or rather as she knows no course of conduct but
the right her whole life is devoted to the service of God and to
doing good. In all her parents' teaching of religion she has been
trained to a reverent submission; they have often said, "My little
girl, this is too hard for you; your husband will teach you when
you are grown up." Instead of long sermons about piety, they have
been content to preach by their example, and this example is engraved
on her heart.
Sophy loves virtue; this love has come to be her ruling passion;
she loves virtue because there is nothing fairer in itself, she
loves it because it is a woman's glory and because a virtuous woman
is little lower than the angels; she loves virtue as the only road
to real happiness, because she sees nothing but poverty, neglect,
unhappiness, shame, and disgrace in the life of a bad woman; she
loves virtue because it is dear to her revered father and to her
tender and worthy mother; they are not content to be happy in their
own virtue, they desire hers; and she finds her chief happiness
in the hope of making them happy. All these feelings inspire an
enthusiasm which stirs her heart and keeps all its budding passions
in subjection to this noble enthusiasm. Sophy will be chaste and
good till her dying day; she has vowed it in her secret heart, and
not before she knew how hard it would be to keep her vow; she made
this vow at a time when she would have revoked it had she been the
slave of her senses.
Sophy is not so fortunate as to be a charming French woman,
cold-hearted and vain, who would rather attract attention than
give pleasure, who seeks amusement rather than delight. She suffers
from a consuming desire for love; it even disturbs and troubles
her heart in the midst of festivities; she has lost her former
liveliness, and her taste for merry games; far from being afraid of
the tedium of solitude she desires it. Her thoughts go out to him
who will make solitude sweet to her. She finds strangers tedious,
she wants a lover, not a circle of admirers. She would rather give
pleasure to one good man than be a general favourite, or win that
applause of society which lasts but a day and to-morrow is turned
A woman's judgment develops sooner than a man's; being on the
defensive from her childhood up, and intrusted with a treasure so
hard to keep, she is earlier acquainted with good and evil. Sophy
is precocious by temperament in everything, and her judgment is
more formed than that of most girls of her age. There is nothing
strange in that, maturity is not always reached at the same age.
Sophy has been taught the duties and rights of her own sex and
of ours. She knows men's faults and women's vices; she also knows
their corresponding good qualities and virtues, and has them
by heart. No one can have a higher ideal of a virtuous woman, but
she would rather think of a virtuous man, a man of true worth; she
knows that she is made for such a man, that she is worthy of him,
that she can make him as happy as he will make her; she is sure
she will know him when she sees him; the difficulty is to find him.
Women are by nature judges of a man's worth, as he is of theirs;
this right is reciprocal, and it is recognised as such both by men
and women. Sophy recognises this right and exercises it, but with
the modesty becoming her youth, her inexperience, and her position;
she confines her judgment to what she knows, and she only forms an
opinion when it may help to illustrate some useful precept. She
is extremely careful what she says about those who are absent,
particularly if they are women. She thinks that talking about each
other makes women spiteful and satirical; so long as they only talk
about men they are merely just. So Sophy stops there. As to women
she never says anything at all about them, except to tell the good
she knows; she thinks this is only fair to her sex; and if she
knows no good of any woman, she says nothing, and that is enough.
Sophy has little knowledge of society, but she is observant and
obliging, and all that she does is full of grace. A happy disposition
does more for her than much art. She has a certain courtesy of her
own, which is not dependent on fashion, and does not change with
its changes; it is not a matter of custom, but it arises from a
feminine desire to please. She is unacquainted with the language
of empty compliment, nor does she invent more elaborate compliments
of her own; she does not say that she is greatly obliged, that you
do her too much honour, that you should not take so much trouble,
etc. Still less does she try to make phrases of her own. She responds
to an attention or a customary piece of politeness by a courtesy or
a mere "Thank you;" but this phrase in her mouth is quite enough.
If you do her a real service, she lets her heart speak, and its
words are no empty compliment. She has never allowed French manners
to make her a slave to appearances; when she goes from one room
to another she does not take the arm of an old gentleman, whom she
would much rather help. When a scented fop offers her this empty
attention, she leaves him on the staircase and rushes into the
room saying that she is not lame. Indeed, she will never wear high
heels though she is not tall; her feet are small enough to dispense
Not only does she adopt a silent and respectful attitude towards
women, but also towards married men, or those who are much older
than herself; she will never take her place above them, unless
compelled to do so; and she will return to her own lower place as
soon as she can; for she knows that the rights of age take precedence
of those of sex, as age is presumably wiser than youth, and wisdom
should be held in the greatest honour.
With young folks of her own age it is another matter; she requires a
different manner to gain their respect, and she knows how to adopt
it without dropping the modest ways which become her. If they
themselves are shy and modest, she will gladly preserve the friendly
familiarity of youth; their innocent conversation will be merry but
suitable; if they become serious they must say something useful;
if they become silly, she soon puts a stop to it, for she has an
utter contempt for the jargon of gallantry, which she considers an
insult to her sex. She feels sure that the man she seeks does not
speak that jargon, and she will never permit in another what would
be displeasing to her in him whose character is engraved on her
heart. Her high opinion of the rights of women, her pride in the
purity of her feelings, that active virtue which is the basis of
her self-respect, make her indignant at the sentimental speeches
intended for her amusement. She does not receive them with open
anger, but with a disconcerting irony or an unexpected iciness.
If a fair Apollo displays his charms, and makes use of his wit in
the praise of her wit, her beauty, and her grace; at the risk of
offending him she is quite capable of saying politely, "Sir, I am
afraid I know that better than you; if we have nothing more interesting
to talk about, I think we may put an end to this conversation." To
say this with a deep courtesy, and then to withdraw to a considerable
distance, is the work of a moment. Ask your lady-killers if it is
easy to continue to babble to such, an unsympathetic ear.
It is not that she is not fond of praise if it is really sincere,
and if she thinks you believe what you say. You must show that you
appreciate her merit if you would have her believe you. Her proud
spirit may take pleasure in homage which is based upon esteem,
but empty compliments are always rejected; Sophy was not meant to
practise the small arts of the dancing-girl.
With a judgment so mature, and a mind like that of a woman of
twenty, Sophy, at fifteen, is no longer treated as a child by her
parents. No sooner do they perceive the first signs of youthful
disquiet than they hasten to anticipate its development, their
conversations with her are wise and tender. These wise and tender
conversations are in keeping with her age and disposition. If her
disposition is what I fancy why should not her father speak to her
somewhat after this fashion?
"You are a big girl now, Sophy, you will soon be a woman. We
want you to be happy, for our own sakes as well as yours, for our
happiness depends on yours. A good girl finds her own happiness
in the happiness of a good man, so we must consider your marriage;
we must think of it in good time, for marriage makes or mars our
whole life, and we cannot have too much time to consider it.
"There is nothing so hard to choose as a good husband, unless it
is a good wife. You will be that rare creature, Sophy, you will
be the crown of our life and the blessing of our declining years;
but however worthy you are, there are worthier people upon earth.
There is no one who would not do himself honour by marriage with
you; there are many who would do you even greater honour than
themselves. Among these we must try to find one who suits you, we
must get to know him and introduce you to him.
"The greatest possible happiness in marriage depends on so many
points of agreement that it is folly to expect to secure them all.
We must first consider the more important matters; if others are
to be found along with them, so much the better; if not we must do
without them. Perfect happiness is not to be found in this world,
but we can, at least, avoid the worst form of unhappiness, that
for which ourselves are to blame.
"There is a natural suitability, there is a suitability of established
usage, and a suitability which is merely conventional. Parents
should decide as to the two latters, and the children themselves
should decide as to the former. Marriages arranged by parents only
depend on a suitability of custom and convention; it is not two
people who are united, but two positions and two properties; but
these things may change, the people remain, they are always there;
and in spite of fortune it is the personal relation that makes a
happy or an unhappy marriage.
"Your mother had rank, I had wealth; this was all that our parents
considered in arranging our marriage. I lost my money, she lost
her position; forgotten by her family, what good did it do her to
be a lady born? In the midst of our misfortunes, the union of our
hearts has outweighed them all; the similarity of our tastes led
us to choose this retreat; we live happily in our poverty, we are
all in all to each other. Sophy is a treasure we hold in common,
and we thank Heaven which has bestowed this treasure and deprived
us of all others. You see, my child, whither we have been led
by Providence; the conventional motives which brought about our
marriage no longer exist, our happiness consists in that natural
suitability which was held of no account.
"Husband and wife should choose each other. A mutual liking should
be the first bond between them. They should follow the guidance of
their own eyes and hearts; when they are married their first duty
will be to love one another, and as love and hatred do not depend
on ourselves, this duty brings another with it, and they must begin
to love each other before marriage. That is the law of nature, and
no power can abrogate it; those who have fettered it by so many
legal restrictions have given heed rather to the outward show of
order than to the happiness of marriage or the morals of the citizen.
You see, my dear Sophy, we do not preach a harsh morality. It tends
to make you your own mistress and to make us leave the choice of
your husband to yourself.
"When we have told you our reasons for giving you full liberty, it
is only fair to speak of your reasons for making a wise use of that
liberty. My child, you are good and sensible, upright and pious, you
have the accomplishments of a good woman and you are not altogether
without charms; but you are poor; you have the gifts most worthy
of esteem, but not those which are most esteemed. Do not seek what
is beyond your reach, and let your ambition be controlled, not by
your ideas or ours, but by the opinion of others. If it were merely
a question of equal merits, I know not what limits to impose on
your hopes; but do not let your ambitions outrun your fortune, and
remember it is very small. Although a man worthy of you would not
consider this inequality an obstacle, you must do what he would not
do; Sophy must follow her mother's example and only enter a family
which counts it an honour to receive her. You never saw our wealth,
you were born in our poverty; you make it sweet for us, and you
share it without hardship. Believe me, Sophy, do not seek those
good things we indeed thank heaven for having taken from us; we
did not know what happiness was till we lost our money.
"You are so amiable that you will win affection, and you are not
go poor as to be a burden. You will be sought in marriage, it may
be by those who are unworthy of you. If they showed themselves in
their true colours, you would rate them at their real value; all
their outward show would not long deceive you; but though your
judgment is good and you know what merit is when you see it, you
are inexperienced and you do not know how people can conceal their
real selves. A skilful knave might study your tastes in order to
seduce you, and make a pretence of those virtues which he does not
possess. You would be ruined, Sophy, before you knew what you were
doing, and you would only perceive your error when you had cause to
lament it. The most dangerous snare, the only snare which reason
cannot avoid, is that of the senses; if ever you have the misfortune
to fall into its toils, you will perceive nothing but fancies and
illusions; your eyes will be fascinated, your judgment troubled,
your will corrupted, your very error will be dear to you, and even
if you were able to perceive it you would not be willing to escape
from it. My child, I trust you to Sophy's own reason; I do not
trust you to the fancies of your own heart. Judge for yourself so
long as your heart is untouched, but when you love betake yourself
to your mother's care.
"I propose a treaty between us which shows our esteem for you, and
restores the order of nature between us. Parents choose a husband
for their daughter and she is only consulted as a matter of form;
that is the custom. We shall do just the opposite; you will choose,
and we shall be consulted. Use your right, Sophy, use it freely
and wisely. The husband suitable for you should be chosen by you
not us. But it is for us to judge whether he is really suitable,
or whether, without knowing it, you are only following your own
wishes. Birth, wealth, position, conventional opinions will count
for nothing with us. Choose a good man whose person and character
suit you; whatever he may be in other respects, we will accept
him as our son-in-law. He will be rich enough if he has bodily
strength, a good character, and family affection. His position will
be good enough if it is ennobled by virtue. If everybody blames
us, we do not care. We do not seek the approbation of men, but your
I cannot tell my readers what effect such words would have upon
girls brought up in their fashion. As for Sophy, she will have no
words to reply; shame and emotion will not permit her to express
herself easily; but I am sure that what was said will remain engraved
upon her heart as long as she lives, and that if any human resolution
may be trusted, we may rely on her determination to deserve her
At worst let us suppose her endowed with an ardent disposition
which will make her impatient of long delays; I maintain that her
judgment, her knowledge, her taste, her refinement, and, above all,
the sentiments in which she has been brought up from childhood, will
outweigh the impetuosity of the senses, and enable her to offer a
prolonged resistance, if not to overcome them altogether. She would
rather die a virgin martyr than distress her parents by marrying
a worthless man and exposing herself to the unhappiness of an
ill-assorted marriage. Ardent as an Italian and sentimental as an
Englishwoman, she has a curb upon heart and sense in the pride of
a Spaniard, who even when she seeks a lover does not easily discover
one worthy of her.
Not every one can realise the motive power to be found in a love of
what is right, nor the inner strength which results from a genuine
love of virtue. There are men who think that all greatness is a
figment of the brain, men who with their vile and degraded reason
will never recognise the power over human passions which is wielded
by the very madness of virtue. You can only teach such men by
examples; if they persist in denying their existence, so much the
worse for them. If I told them that Sophy is no imaginary person,
that her name alone is my invention, that her education, her conduct,
her character, her very features, really existed, and that her loss
is still mourned by a very worthy family, they would, no doubt,
refuse to believe me; but indeed why should I not venture to relate
word for word the story of a girl so like Sophy that this story
might be hers without surprising any one. Believe it or no, it is
all the same to me; call my history fiction if you will; in any
case I have explained my method and furthered my purpose.
This young girl with the temperament which I have attributed to
Sophy was so like her in other respects that she was worthy of the
name, and so we will continue to use it. After the conversation
related above, her father and mother thought that suitable husbands
would not be likely to offer themselves in the hamlet where they
lived; so they decided to send her to spend the winter in town,
under the care of an aunt who was privately acquainted with the
object of the journey; for Sophy's heart throbbed with noble pride
at the thought of her self-control; and however much she might
want to marry, she would rather have died a maid than have brought
herself to go in search of a husband.
In response to her parents' wishes her aunt introduced her to her
friends, took her into company, both private and public, showed
her society, or rather showed her in society, for Sophy paid little
heed to its bustle. Yet it was plain that she did not shrink from
young men of pleasing appearance and modest seemly behaviour.
Her very shyness had a charm of its own, which was very much like
coquetry; but after talking to them once or twice she repulsed them.
She soon exchanged that air of authority which seems to accept men's
homage for a humbler bearing and a still more chilling politeness.
Always watchful over her conduct, she gave them no chance of doing
her the least service; it was perfectly plain that she was determined
not to accept any one of them.
Never did sensitive heart take pleasure in noisy amusements, the
empty and barren delights of those who have no feelings, those who
think that a merry life is a happy life. Sophy did not find what
she sought, and she felt sure she never would, so she got tired
of the town. She loved her parents dearly and nothing made up for
their absence, nothing could make her forget them; she went home
long before the time fixed for the end of her visit.
Scarcely had she resumed her home duties when they perceived that
her temper had changed though her conduct was unaltered, she was
forgetful, impatient, sad, and dreamy; she wept in secret. At first
they thought she was in love and was ashamed to own it; they spoke
to her, but she repudiated the idea. She protested she had seen no
one who could touch her heart, and Sophy always spoke the truth.
Yet her languor steadily increased, and her health began to give
way. Her mother was anxious about her, and determined to know the
reason for this change. She took her aside, and with the winning
speech and the irresistible caresses which only a mother can employ,
she said, "My child, whom I have borne beneath my heart, whom I bear
ever in my affection, confide your secret to your mother's bosom.
What secrets are these which a mother may not know? Who pities
your sufferings, who shares them, who would gladly relieve them,
if not your father and myself? Ah, my child! would you have me die
of grief for your sorrow without letting me share it?"
Far from hiding her griefs from her mother, the young girl asked
nothing better than to have her as friend and comforter; but she
could not speak for shame, her modesty could find no words to describe
a condition so unworthy of her, as the emotion which disturbed her
senses in spite of all her efforts. At length her very shame gave
her mother a clue to her difficulty, and she drew from her the
humiliating confession. Far from distressing her with reproaches
or unjust blame, she consoled her, pitied her, wept over her; she
was too wise to make a crime of an evil which virtue alone made so
cruel. But why put up with such an evil when there was no necessity
to do so, when the remedy was so easy and so legitimate? Why did
she not use the freedom they had granted her? Why did she not take
a husband? Why did she not make her choice? Did she not know that
she was perfectly independent in this matter, that whatever her
choice, it would be approved, for it was sure to be good? They had
sent her to town, but she would not stay; many suitors had offered
themselves, but she would have none of them. What did she expect?
What did she want? What an inexplicable contradiction?
The reply was simple. If it were only a question of the partner of
her youth, her choice would soon be made; but a master for life is
not so easily chosen; and since the two cannot be separated, people
must often wait and sacrifice their youth before they find the man
with whom they could spend their life. Such was Sophy's case; she
wanted a lover, but this lover must be her husband; and to discover
a heart such as she required, a lover and husband were equally
difficult to find. All these dashing young men were only her equals
in age, in everything else they were found lacking; their empty
wit, their vanity, their affectations of speech, their ill-regulated
conduct, their frivolous imitations alike disgusted her. She sought
a man and she found monkeys; she sought a soul and there was none
to be found.
"How unhappy I am!" said she to her mother; "I am compelled to love
and yet I am dissatisfied with every one. My heart rejects every
one who appeals to my senses. Every one of them stirs my passions
and all alike revolt them; a liking unaccompanied by respect cannot
last. That is not the sort of man for your Sophy; the delightful
image of her ideal is too deeply graven in her heart. She can love
no other; she can make no one happy but him, and she cannot be
happy without him. She would rather consume herself in ceaseless
conflicts, she would rather die free and wretched, than driven
desperate by the company of a man she did not love, a man she
would make as unhappy as herself; she would rather die than live
Amazed at these strange ideas, her mother found them so peculiar
that she could not fail to suspect some mystery. Sophy was neither
affected nor absurd. How could such exaggerated delicacy exist in
one who had been so carefully taught from her childhood to adapt
herself to those with whom she must live, and to make a virtue
of necessity? This ideal of the delightful man with which she was
so enchanted, who appeared so often in her conversation, made her
mother suspect that there was some foundation for her caprices
which was still unknown to her, and that Sophy had not told her
all. The unhappy girl, overwhelmed with her secret grief, was only
too eager to confide it to another. Her mother urged her to speak;
she hesitated, she yielded, and leaving the room without a word,
she presently returned with a book in her hand. "Have pity on your
unhappy daughter, there is no remedy for her grief, her tears cannot
be dried. You would know the cause: well, here it is," said she,
flinging the book on the table. Her mother took the book and opened
it; it was The Adventures of Telemachus. At first she could make
nothing of this riddle; by dint of questions and vague replies, she
discovered to her great surprise that her daughter was the rival
Sophy was in love with Telemachus, and loved him with a passion
which nothing could cure. When her father and mother became aware
of her infatuation, they laughed at it and tried to cure her by
reasoning with her. They were mistaken, reason was not altogether
on their side; Sophy had her own reason and knew how to use it.
Many a time did she reduce them to silence by turning their own
arguments against them, by showing them that it was all their own
fault for not having trained her to suit the men of that century;
that she would be compelled to adopt her husband's way of thinking
or he must adopt hers, that they had made the former course impossible
by the way she had been brought up, and that the latter was just
what she wanted. "Give me," said she, "a man who holds the same
opinions as I do, or one who will be willing to learn them from me,
and I will marry him; but until then, why do you scold me? Pity me;
I am miserable, but not mad. Is the heart controlled by the will?
Did my father not ask that very question? Is it my fault if I love
what has no existence? I am no visionary; I desire no prince, I
seek no Telemachus, I know he is only an imaginary person; I seek
some one like him. And why should there be no such person, since
there is such a person as I, I who feel that my heart is like his?
No, let us not wrong humanity so greatly, let us not think that
an amiable and virtuous man is a figment of the imagination. He
exists, he lives, perhaps he is seeking me; he is seeking a soul
which is capable of love for him. But who is he, where is he? I
know not; he is not among those I have seen; and no doubt I shall
never see him. Oh! mother, why did you make virtue too attractive?
If I can love nothing less, you are more to blame than I."
Must I continue this sad story to its close? Must I describe the
long struggles which preceded it? Must I show an impatient mother
exchanging her former caresses for severity? Must I paint an angry
father forgetting his former promises, and treating the most virtuous
of daughters as a mad woman? Must I portray the unhappy girl, more
than ever devoted to her imaginary hero, because of the persecution
brought upon her by that devotion, drawing nearer step by step
to her death, and descending into the grave when they were about
to force her to the altar? No; I will not dwell upon these gloomy
scenes; I have no need to go so far to show, by what I consider
a sufficiently striking example, that in spite of the prejudices
arising from the manners of our age, the enthusiasm for the good
and the beautiful is no more foreign to women than to men, and that
there is nothing which, under nature's guidance, cannot be obtained
from them as well as from us.
You stop me here to inquire whether it is nature which teaches us
to take such pains to repress our immoderate desires. No, I reply,
but neither is it nature who gives us these immoderate desires.
Now, all that is not from nature is contrary to nature, as I have
proved again and again.
Let us give Emile his Sophy; let us restore this sweet girl to life
and provide her with a less vivid imagination and a happier fate.
I desired to paint an ordinary woman, but by endowing her with a
great soul, I have disturbed her reason. I have gone astray. Let us
retrace our steps. Sophy has only a good disposition and an ordinary
heart; her education is responsible for everything in which she
excels other women.
In this book I intended to describe all that might be done and to
leave every one free to choose what he could out of all the good
things I described. I meant to train a helpmeet for Emile, from the
very first, and to educate them for each other and with each other.
But on consideration I thought all these premature arrangements
undesirable, for it was absurd to plan the marriage of two children
before I could tell whether this union was in accordance with
nature and whether they were really suited to each other. We must
not confuse what is suitable in a state of savagery with what is
suitable in civilised life. In the former, any woman will suit any
man, for both are still in their primitive and undifferentiated
condition; in the latter, all their characteristics have been
developed by social institutions, and each mind, having taken its
own settled form, not from education alone, but by the co-operation,
more or less well-regulated, of natural disposition and education,
we can only make a match by introducing them to each other to see
if they suit each other in every respect, or at least we can let them
make that choice which gives the most promise of mutual suitability.
The difficulty is this: while social life develops character
it differentiates classes, and these two classifications do not
correspond, so that the greater the social distinctions, the greater
the difficulty of finding the corresponding character. Hence we
have ill-assorted marriages and all their accompanying evils; and
we find that it follows logically that the further we get from
equality, the greater the change in our natural feelings; the wider
the distance between great and small, the looser the marriage tie;
the deeper the gulf between rich and poor the fewer husbands and
fathers. Neither master nor slave belongs to a family, but only to
If you would guard against these abuses, and secure happy marriages,
you must stifle your prejudices, forget human institutions, and
consult nature. Do not join together those who are only alike in
one given condition, those who will not suit one another if that
condition is changed; but those who are adapted to one another in
every situation, in every country, and in every rank in which they
may be placed. I do not say that conventional considerations are
of no importance in marriage, but I do say that the influence of
natural relations is so much more important, that our fate in life
is decided by them alone, and that there is such an agreement of
taste, temper, feeling, and disposition as should induce a wise
father, though he were a prince, to marry his son, without a moment's
hesitation, to the woman so adapted to him, were she born in a bad
home, were she even the hangman's daughter. I maintain indeed that
every possible misfortune may overtake husband and wife if they are
thus united, yet they will enjoy more real happiness while they
mingle their tears, than if they possessed all the riches of the
world, poisoned by divided hearts.
Instead of providing a wife for Emile in childhood, I have waited
till I knew what would suit him. It is not for me to decide, but
for nature; my task is to discover the choice she has made. My
business, mine I repeat, not his father's; for when he entrusted his
son to my care, he gave up his place to me. He gave me his rights;
it is I who am really Emile's father; it is I who have made a man
of him. I would have refused to educate him if I were not free to
marry him according to his own choice, which is mine. Nothing but
the pleasure of bestowing happiness on a man can repay me for the
cost of making him capable of happiness.
Do not suppose, however, that I have delayed to find a wife for
Emile till I sent him in search of her. This search is only a pretext
for acquainting him with women, so that he may perceive the value
of a suitable wife. Sophy was discovered long since; Emile may even
have seen her already, but he will not recognise her till the time
Although equality of rank is not essential in marriage, yet this
equality along with other kinds of suitability increases their
value; it is not to be weighed against any one of them, but, other
things being equal, it turns the scale.
A man, unless he is a king, cannot seek a wife in any and every
class; if he himself is free from prejudices, he will find them in
others; and this girl or that might perhaps suit him and yet she
would be beyond his reach. A wise father will therefore restrict
his inquiries within the bounds of prudence. He should not wish to
marry his pupil into a family above his own, for that is not within
his power. If he could do so he ought not desire it; for what
difference does rank make to a young man, at least to my pupil?
Yet, if he rises he is exposed to all sorts of real evils which
he will feel all his life long. I even say that he should not try
to adjust the balance between different gifts, such as rank and
money; for each of these adds less to the value of the other than
the amount deducted from its own value in the process of adjustment;
moreover, we can never agree as to a common denominator; and
finally the preference, which each feels for his own surroundings,
paves the way for discord between the two families and often to
difficulties between husband and wife.
It makes a considerable difference as to the suitability of
a marriage whether a man marries above or beneath him. The former
case is quite contrary to reason, the latter is more in conformity
with reason. As the family is only connected with society through
its head, it is the rank of that head which decides that of the
family as a whole. When he marries into a lower rank, a man does
not lower himself, he raises his wife; if, on the other hand, he
marries above his position, he lowers his wife and does not raise
himself. Thus there is in the first case good unmixed with evil,
in the other evil unmixed with good. Moreover, the law of nature
bids the woman obey the man. If he takes a wife from a lower class,
natural and civil law are in accordance and all goes well. When he
marries a woman of higher rank it is just the opposite case; the
man must choose between diminished rights or imperfect gratitude;
he must be ungrateful or despised. Then the wife, laying claim to
authority, makes herself a tyrant over her lawful head; and the
master, who has become a slave, is the most ridiculous and miserable
of creatures. Such are the unhappy favourites whom the sovereigns
of Asia honour and torment with their alliance; people tell us that
if they desire to sleep with their wife they must enter by the foot
of the bed.
I expect that many of my readers will remember that I think women
have a natural gift for managing men, and will accuse me of contradicting
myself; yet they are mistaken. There is a vast difference between
claiming the right to command, and managing him who commands. Woman's
reign is a reign of gentleness, tact, and kindness; her commands
are caresses, her threats are tears. She should reign in the home
as a minister reigns in the state, by contriving to be ordered to
do what she wants. In this sense, I grant you, that the best managed
homes are those where the wife has most power. But when she despises
the voice of her head, when she desires to usurp his rights and
take the command upon herself, this inversion of the proper order
of things leads only to misery, scandal, and dishonour.
There remains the choice between our equals and our inferiors; and
I think we ought also to make certain restrictions with regard to
the latter; for it is hard to find in the lowest stratum of society
a woman who is able to make a good man happy; not that the lower
classes are more vicious than the higher, but because they have so
little idea of what is good and beautiful, and because the injustice
of other classes makes its very vices seem right in the eyes of
By nature man thinks but seldom. He learns to think as he acquires
the other arts, but with even greater difficulty. In both sexes
alike I am only aware of two really distinct classes, those who
think and those who do not; and this difference is almost entirely
one of education. A man who thinks should not ally himself with a
woman who does not think, for he loses the chief delight of social
life if he has a wife who cannot share his thoughts. People who
spend their whole life in working for a living have no ideas beyond
their work and their own interests, and their mind seems to reside
in their arms. This ignorance is not necessarily unfavourable either
to their honesty or their morals; it is often favourable; we often
content ourselves with thinking about our duties, and in the end
we substitute words for things. Conscience is the most enlightened
philosopher; to be an honest man we need not read Cicero's De
Officiis, and the most virtuous woman in the world is probably she
who knows least about virtue. But it is none the less true that
a cultivated mind alone makes intercourse pleasant, and it is a
sad thing for a father of a family, who delights in his home, to
be forced to shut himself up in himself and to be unable to make
Moreover, if a woman is quite unaccustomed to think, how can she
bring up her children? How will she know what is good for them? How
can she incline them to virtues of which she is ignorant, to merit
of which she has no conception? She can only flatter or threaten,
she can only make them insolent or timid; she will make them
performing monkeys or noisy little rascals; she will never make
them intelligent or pleasing children.
Therefore it is not fitting that a man of education should choose
a wife who has none, or take her from a class where she cannot be
expected to have any education. But I would a thousand times rather
have a homely girl, simply brought up, than a learned lady and a
wit who would make a literary circle of my house and install herself
as its president. A female wit is a scourge to her husband, her
children, her friends, her servants, to everybody. From the lofty
height of her genius she scorns every womanly duty, and she is
always trying to make a man of herself after the fashion of Mlle.
de L'Enclos. Outside her home she always makes herself ridiculous
and she is very rightly a butt for criticism, as we always are when
we try to escape from our own position into one for which we are
unfitted. These highly talented women only get a hold over fools.
We can always tell what artist or friend holds the pen or pencil
when they are at work; we know what discreet man of letters dictates
their oracles in private. This trickery is unworthy of a decent
woman. If she really had talents, her pretentiousness would degrade
them. Her honour is to be unknown; her glory is the respect of
her husband; her joys the happiness of her family. I appeal to my
readers to give me an honest answer; when you enter a woman's room
what makes you think more highly of her, what makes you address
her with more respect--to see her busy with feminine occupations,
with her household duties, with her children's clothes about her,
or to find her writing verses at her toilet table surrounded with
pamphlets of every kind and with notes on tinted paper? If there
were none but wise men upon earth such a woman would die an old
"Quaeris cur nolim te ducere, galla? diserta es."
Martial xi. 20.
Looks must next be considered; they are the first thing that strikes
us and they ought to be the last, still they should not count for
nothing. I think that great beauty is rather to be shunned than
sought after in marriage. Possession soon exhausts our appreciation
of beauty; in six weeks' time we think no more about it, but its
dangers endure as long as life itself. Unless a beautiful woman
is an angel, her husband is the most miserable of men; and even if
she were an angel he would still be the centre of a hostile crowd
and she could not prevent it. If extreme ugliness were not repulsive
I should prefer it to extreme beauty; for before very long the
husband would cease to notice either, but beauty would still have
its disadvantages and ugliness its advantages. But ugliness which
is actually repulsive is the worst misfortune; repulsion increases
rather than diminishes, and it turns to hatred. Such a union is a
hell upon earth; better death than such a marriage.
Desire mediocrity in all things, even in beauty. A pleasant attractive
countenance, which inspires kindly feelings rather than love, is
what we should prefer; the husband runs no risk, and the advantages
are common to husband and wife; charm is less perishable than
beauty; it is a living thing, which constantly renews itself, and
after thirty years of married life, the charms of a good woman
delight her husband even as they did on the wedding-day.
Such are the considerations which decided my choice of Sophy.
Brought up, like Emile, by Nature, she is better suited to him than
any other; she will be his true mate. She is his equal in birth and
character, his inferior in fortune. She makes no great impression
at first sight, but day by day reveals fresh charms. Her chief
influence only takes effect gradually, it is only discovered in
friendly intercourse; and her husband will feel it more than any
one. Her education is neither showy nor neglected; she has taste
without deep study, talent without art, judgment without learning.
Her mind knows little, but it is trained to learn; it is well-tilled
soil ready for the sower. She has read no book but Bareme and
Telemachus which happened to fall into her hands; but no girl who
can feel so passionately towards Telemachus can have a heart without
feeling or a mind without discernment. What charming ignorance!
Happy is he who is destined to be her tutor. She will not be her
husband's teacher but his scholar; far from seeking to control his
tastes, she will share them. She will suit him far better than
a blue-stocking and he will have the pleasure of teaching her
everything. It is time they made acquaintance; let us try to plan
When we left Paris we were sorrowful and wrapped in thought. This
Babel is not our home. Emile casts a scornful glance towards the
great city, saying angrily, "What a time we have wasted; the bride
of my heart is not there. My friend, you knew it, but you think
nothing of my time, and you pay no heed to my sufferings." With
steady look and firm voice I reply, "Emile, do you mean what you
say?" At once he flings his arms round my neck and clasps me to
his breast without speaking. That is his answer when he knows he
is in the wrong.
And now we are wandering through the country like true knights-errant;
yet we are not seeking adventures when we leave Paris; we are escaping
from them; now fast now slow, we wander through the country like
knights-errants. By following my usual practice the taste for it
has become established; and I do not suppose any of my readers are
such slaves of custom as to picture us dozing in a post-chaise with
closed windows, travelling, yet seeing nothing, observing nothing,
making the time between our start and our arrival a mere blank,
and losing in the speed of our journey, the time we meant to save.
Men say life is short, and I see them doing their best to shorten
it. As they do not know how to spend their time they lament the
swiftness of its flight, and I perceive that for them it goes only
too slowly. Intent merely on the object of their pursuit, they behold
unwillingly the space between them and it; one desires to-morrow,
another looks a month ahead, another ten years beyond that. No
one wants to live to-day, no one contents himself with the present
hour, all complain that it passes slowly. When they complain that
time flies, they lie; they would gladly purchase the power to hasten
it; they would gladly spend their fortune to get rid of their whole
life; and there is probably not a single one who would not have
reduced his life to a few hours if he had been free to get rid of
those hours he found tedious, and those which separated him from
the desired moment. A man spends his whole life rushing from Paris
to Versailles, from Versailles to Paris, from town to country, from
country to town, from one district of the town to another; but he
would not know what to do with his time if he had not discovered
this way of wasting it, by leaving his business on purpose to find
something to do in coming back to it; he thinks he is saving the
time he spends, which would otherwise be unoccupied; or maybe he
rushes for the sake of rushing, and travels post in order to return
in the same fashion. When will mankind cease to slander nature? Why
do you complain that life is short when it is never short enough
for you? If there were but one of you, able to moderate his desires,
so that he did not desire the flight of time, he would never find
life too short; for him life and the joy of life would be one and
the same; should he die young, he would still die full of days.
If this were the only advantage of my way of travelling it would
be enough. I have brought Emile up neither to desire nor to wait,
but to enjoy; and when his desires are bent upon the future, their
ardour is not so great as to make time seem tedious. He will not
only enjoy the delights of longing, but the delights of approaching
the object of his desires; and his passions are under such restraint
that he lives to a great extent in the present.
So we do not travel like couriers but like explorers. We do not
merely consider the beginning and the end, but the space between.
The journey itself is a delight. We do not travel sitting, dismally
imprisoned, so to speak, in a tightly closed cage. We do not travel
with the ease and comfort of ladies. We do not deprive ourselves
of the fresh air, nor the sight of the things about us, nor the
opportunity of examining them at our pleasure. Emile will never
enter a post-chaise, nor will he ride post unless in a great hurry.
But what cause has Emile for haste? None but the joy of life. Shall
I add to this the desire to do good when he can? No, for that is
itself one of the joys of life.
I can only think of one way of travelling pleasanter than travelling
on horseback, and that is to travel on foot. You start at your own
time, you stop when you will, you do as much or as little as you
choose. You see the country, you turn off to the right or left;
you examine anything which interests you, you stop to admire every
view. Do I see a stream, I wander by its banks; a leafy wood, I
seek its shade; a cave, I enter it; a quarry, I study its geology.
If I like a place, I stop there. As soon as I am weary of it, I go
on. I am independent of horses and postillions; I need not stick
to regular routes or good roads; I go anywhere where a man can
go; I see all that a man can see; and as I am quite independent of
everybody, I enjoy all the freedom man can enjoy. If I am stopped
by bad weather and I find myself getting bored, then I take horses.
If I am tired--but Emile is hardly ever tired; he is strong; why
should he get tired? There is no hurry? If he stops, why should he
be bored? He always finds some amusement. He works at a trade; he
uses his arms to rest his feet.
To travel on foot is to travel in the fashion of Thales, Plato,
and Pythagoras. I find it hard to understand how a philosopher can
bring himself to travel in any other way; how he can tear himself
from the study of the wealth which lies before his eyes and beneath
his feet. Is there any one with an interest in agriculture, who
does not want to know the special products of the district through
which he is passing, and their method of cultivation? Is there
any one with a taste for natural history, who can pass a piece of
ground without examining it, a rock without breaking off a piece
of it, hills without looking for plants, and stones without seeking
Your town-bred scientists study natural history in cabinets; they
have small specimens; they know their names but nothing of their
nature. Emile's museum is richer than that of kings; it is the
whole world. Everything is in its right place; the Naturalist who
is its curator has taken care to arrange it in the fairest order;
Dauberton could do no better.
What varied pleasures we enjoy in this delightful way of travelling,
not to speak of increasing health and a cheerful spirit. I notice
that those who ride in nice, well-padded carriages are always wrapped
in thought, gloomy, fault-finding, or sick; while those who go on
foot are always merry, light-hearted, and delighted with everything.
How cheerful we are when we get near our lodging for the night!
How savoury is the coarse food! How we linger at table enjoying
our rest! How soundly we sleep on a hard bed! If you only want to
get to a place you may ride in a post-chaise; if you want to travel
you must go on foot.
If Sophy is not forgotten before we have gone fifty leagues in the
way I propose, either I am a bungler or Emile lacks curiosity; for
with an elementary knowledge of so many things, it is hardly to be
supposed that he will not be tempted to extend his knowledge. It
is knowledge that makes us curious; and Emile knows just enough to
want to know more.
One thing leads on to another, and we make our way forward. If I
chose a distant object for the end of our first journey, it is not
difficult to find an excuse for it; when we leave Paris we must
seek a wife at a distance.
A few days later we had wandered further than usual among hills and
valleys where no road was to be seen and we lost our way completely.
No matter, all roads are alike if they bring you to your journey's
end, but if you are hungry they must lead somewhere. Luckily we
came across a peasant who took up to his cottage; we enjoyed his
poor dinner with a hearty appetite. When he saw how hungry and
tired we were he said, "If the Lord had led you to the other side
of the hill you would have had a better welcome, you would have
found a good resting place, such good, kindly people! They could
not wish to do more for you than I, but they are richer, though
folks say they used to be much better off. Still they are not
reduced to poverty, and the whole country-side is the better for
what they have."
When Emile heard of these good people his heart warmed to them. "My
friend," said he, looking at me, "let us visit this house, whose
owners are a blessing to the district; I shall be very glad to
see them; perhaps they will be pleased to see us too; I am sure we
shall be welcome; we shall just suit each other."
Our host told us how to find our way to the house and we set off,
but lost our way in the woods. We were caught in a heavy rainstorm,
which delayed us further. At last we found the right path and in
the evening we reached the house, which had been described to us.
It was the only house among the cottages of the little hamlet, and
though plain it had an air of dignity. We went up to the door and
asked for hospitality. We were taken to the owner of the house, who
questioned us courteously; without telling him the object of our
journey, we told him why we had left our path. His former wealth
enabled him to judge a man's position by his manners; those who
have lived in society are rarely mistaken; with this passport we
The room we were shown into was very small, but clean and comfortable;
a fire was lighted, and we found linen, clothes, and everything
we needed. "Why," said Emile, in astonishment, "one would think
they were expecting us. The peasant was quite right; how kind and
attentive, how considerate, and for strangers too! I shall think I
am living in the times of Homer." "I am glad you feel this," said
I, "but you need not be surprised; where strangers are scarce, they
are welcome; nothing makes people more hospitable than the fact
that calls upon their hospitality are rare; when guests are frequent
there is an end to hospitality. In Homer's time, people rarely
travelled, and travellers were everywhere welcome. Very likely we
are the only people who have passed this way this year." "Never
mind," said he, "to know how to do without guests and yet to give
them a kind welcome, is its own praise."
Having dried ourselves and changed our clothes, we rejoined the
master of the house, who introduced us to his wife; she received
us not merely with courtesy but with kindness. Her glance rested
on Emile. A mother, in her position, rarely receives a young man
into her house without some anxiety or some curiosity at least.
Supper was hurried forward on our account. When we went into the
dining-room there were five places laid; we took our seats and the
fifth chair remained empty. Presently a young girl entered, made
a deep courtesy, and modestly took her place without a word. Emile
was busy with his supper or considering how to reply to what was
said to him; he bowed to her and continued talking and eating.
The main object of his journey was as far from his thoughts as he
believed himself to be from the end of his journey. The conversation
turned upon our losing our way. "Sir," said the master of the house
to Emile, "you seem to be a pleasant well-behaved young gentleman,
and that reminds me that your tutor and you arrived wet and weary
like Telemachus and Mentor in the island of Calypso." "Indeed,"
said Emile, "we have found the hospitality of Calypso." His Mentor
added, "And the charms of Eucharis." But Emile knew the Odyssey and
he had not read Telemachus, so he knew nothing of Eucharis. As for
the young girl, I saw she blushed up to her eyebrows, fixed her
eyes on her plate, and hardly dared to breathe. Her mother, noticing
her confusion, made a sign to her father to turn the conversation.
When he talked of his lonely life, he unconsciously began to relate
the circumstances which brought him into it; his misfortunes, his
wife's fidelity, the consolations they found in their marriage,
their quiet, peaceful life in their retirement, and all this without
a word of the young girl; it is a pleasing and a touching story,
which cannot fail to interest. Emile, interested and sympathetic,
leaves off eating and listens. When finally this best of men
discourses with delight of the affection of the best of women, the
young traveller, carried away by his feelings, stretches one hand
to the husband, and taking the wife's hand with the other, he kisses
it rapturously and bathes it with his tears. Everybody is charmed
with the simple enthusiasm of the young man; but the daughter, more
deeply touched than the rest by this evidence of his kindly heart,
is reminded of Telemachus weeping for the woes of Philoctetus. She
looks at him shyly, the better to study his countenance; there is
nothing in it to give the lie to her comparison.
His easy bearing shows freedom without pride; his manners are
lively but not boisterous; sympathy makes his glance softer and his
expression more pleasing; the young girl, seeing him weep, is ready
to mingle her tears with his. With so good an excuse for tears,
she is restrained by a secret shame; she blames herself already for
the tears which tremble on her eyelids, as though it were wrong to
weep for one's family.
Her mother, who has been watching her ever since she sat down to
supper, sees her distress, and to relieve it she sends her on some
errand. The daughter returns directly, but so little recovered that
her distress is apparent to all. Her mother says gently, "Sophy,
control yourself; will you never cease to weep for the misfortunes
of your parents? Why should you, who are their chief comfort, be
more sensitive than they are themselves?"
At the name of Sophy you would have seen Emile give a start. His
attention is arrested by this dear name, and he awakes all at once
and looks eagerly at one who dares to bear it. Sophy! Are you the
Sophy whom my heart is seeking? Is it you that I love? He looks at
her; he watches her with a sort of fear and self-distrust. The face
is not quite what he pictured; he cannot tell whether he likes it
more or less. He studies every feature, he watches every movement,
every gesture; he has a hundred fleeting interpretations for them
all; he would give half his life if she would but speak. He looks
at me anxiously and uneasily; his eyes are full of questions and
reproaches. His every glance seems to say, "Guide me while there
is yet time; if my heart yields itself and is deceived, I shall
never get over it."
There is no one in the world less able to conceal his feelings than
Emile. How should he conceal them, in the midst of the greatest
disturbance he has ever experienced, and under the eyes of four
spectators who are all watching him, while she who seems to heed
him least is really most occupied with him. His uneasiness does
not escape the keen eyes of Sophy; his own eyes tell her that she
is its cause; she sees that this uneasiness is not yet love; what
matter? He is thinking of her, and that is enough; she will be
very unlucky if he thinks of her with impunity.
Mothers, like daughters, have eyes; and they have experience too.
Sophy's mother smiles at the success of our schemes. She reads the
hearts of the young people; she sees that the time has come to
secure the heart of this new Telemachus; she makes her daughter
speak. Her daughter, with her native sweetness, replies in a timid
tone which makes all the more impression. At the first sound of
her voice, Emile surrenders; it is Sophy herself; there can be no
doubt about it. If it were not so, it would be too late to deny
The charms of this maiden enchantress rush like torrents through
his heart, and he begins to drain the draughts of poison with which
he is intoxicated. He says nothing; questions pass unheeded; he
sees only Sophy, he hears only Sophy; if she says a word, he opens
his mouth; if her eyes are cast down, so are his; if he sees her
sigh, he sighs too; it is Sophy's heart which seems to speak in
his. What a change have these few moments wrought in her heart! It
is no longer her turn to tremble, it is Emile's. Farewell liberty,
simplicity, frankness. Confused, embarrassed, fearful, he dare not
look about him for fear he should see that we are watching him.
Ashamed that we should read his secret, he would fain become
invisible to every one, that he might feed in secret on the sight
of Sophy. Sophy, on the other hand, regains her confidence at the
sight of Emile's fear; she sees her triumph and rejoices in it.
"No'l mostra gia, ben che in suo cor ne rida."
Tasso, Jerus. Del., c. iv. v. 33.
Her expression remains unchanged; but in spite of her modest look
and downcast eyes, her tender heart is throbbing with joy, and it
tells her that she has found Telemachus.
If I relate the plain and simple tale of their innocent affections
you will accuse me of frivolity, but you will be mistaken. Sufficient
attention is not given to the effect which the first connection
between man and woman is bound to produce on the future life of
both. People do not see that a first impression so vivid as that
of love, or the liking which takes the place of love, produces
lasting effects whose influence continues till death. Works on
education are crammed with wordy and unnecessary accounts of the
imaginary duties of children; but there is not a word about the most
important and most difficult part of their education, the crisis
which forms the bridge between the child and the man. If any part
of this work is really useful, it will be because I have dwelt at great
length on this matter, so essential in itself and so neglected by
other authors, and because I have not allowed myself to be discouraged
either by false delicacy or by the difficulties of expression. The
story of human nature is a fair romance. Am I to blame if it is
not found elsewhere? I am trying to write the history of mankind.
If my book is a romance, the fault lies with those who deprave
This is supported by another reason; we are not dealing with a
youth given over from childhood to fear, greed, envy, pride, and
all those passions which are the common tools of the schoolmaster;
we have to do with a youth who is not only in love for the first
time, but with one who is also experiencing his first passion of
any kind; very likely it will be the only strong passion he will
ever know, and upon it depends the final formation of his character.
His mode of thought, his feelings, his tastes, determined by
a lasting passion, are about to become so fixed that they will be
incapable of further change.
You will easily understand that Emile and I do not spend the whole
of the night which follows after such an evening in sleep. Why! Do
you mean to tell me that a wise man should be so much affected by
a mere coincidence of name! Is there only one Sophy in the world?
Are they all alike in heart and in name? Is every Sophy he meets
his Sophy? Is he mad to fall in love with a person of whom he knows
so little, with whom he has scarcely exchanged a couple of words?
Wait, young man; examine, observe. You do not even know who our
hosts may be, and to hear you talk one would think the house was
This is no time for teaching, and what I say will receive scant
attention. It only serves to stimulate Emile to further interest
in Sophy, through his desire to find reasons for his fancy. The
unexpected coincidence in the name, the meeting which, so far as he
knows, was quite accidental, my very caution itself, only serve as
fuel to the fire. He is so convinced already of Sophy's excellence,
that he feels sure he can make me fond of her.
Next morning I have no doubt Emile will make himself as smart as
his old travelling suit permits. I am not mistaken; but I am amused
to see how eager he is to wear the clean linen put out for us. I
know his thoughts, and I am delighted to see that he is trying to
establish a means of intercourse, through the return and exchange
of the linen; so that he may have a right to return it and so pay
another visit to the house.
I expected to find Sophy rather more carefully dressed too; but I
was mistaken. Such common coquetry is all very well for those who
merely desire to please. The coquetry of true love is a more delicate
matter; it has quite another end in view. Sophy is dressed, if
possible, more simply than last night, though as usual her frock is
exquisitely clean. The only sign of coquetry is her self-consciousness.
She knows that an elaborate toilet is a sign of love, but she does
not know that a careless toilet is another of its signs; it shows
a desire to be like not merely for one's clothes but for oneself.
What does a lover care for her clothes if he knows she is thinking
of him? Sophy is already sure of her power over Emile, and she is
not content to delight his eyes if his heart is not hers also; he
must not only perceive her charms, he must divine them; has he not
seen enough to guess the rest?
We may take it for granted that while Emile and I were talking last
night, Sophy and her mother were not silent; a confession was made
and instructions given. The morning's meeting is not unprepared.
Twelve hours ago our young people had never met; they have never
said a word to each other; but it is clear that there is already
an understanding between them. Their greeting is formal, confused,
timid; they say nothing, their downcast eyes seem to avoid each
other, but that is in itself a sign that they understand, they
avoid each other with one consent; they already feel the need of
concealment, though not a word has been uttered. When we depart we
ask leave to come again to return the borrowed clothes in person,
Emile's words are addressed to the father and mother, but his eyes
seek Sophy's, and his looks are more eloquent than his words. Sophy
says nothing by word or gesture; she seems deaf and blind, but she
blushes, and that blush is an answer even plainer than that of her
We receive permission to come again, though we are not invited to
stay. This is only fitting; you offer shelter to benighted travellers,
but a lover does not sleep in the house of his mistress.
We have hardly left the beloved abode before Emile is thinking of
taking rooms in the neighbourhood; the nearest cottage seems too
far; he would like to sleep in the next ditch. "You young fool!" I
said in a tone of pity, "are you already blinded by passion? Have
you no regard for manners or for reason? Wretched youth, you call
yourself a lover and you would bring disgrace upon her you love!
What would people say of her if they knew that a young man who has
been staying at her house was sleeping close by? You say you love
her! Would you ruin her reputation? Is that the price you offer
for her parents' hospitality? Would you bring disgrace on her who
will one day make you the happiest of men?" "Why should we trouble
ourselves about the empty words and unjust suspicions of other
people?" said he eagerly. "Have you not taught me yourself to make
light of them? Who knows better than I how greatly I honour Sophy,
what respect I desire to show her? My attachment will not cause
her shame, it will be her glory, it shall be worthy of her. If my
heart and my actions continually give her the homage she deserves,
what harm can I do her?" "Dear Emile," I said, as I clasped him to
my heart, "you are thinking of yourself alone; learn to think for
her too. Do not compare the honour of one sex with that of the
other, they rest on different foundations. These foundations are
equally firm and right, because they are both laid by nature, and
that same virtue which makes you scorn what men say about yourself,
binds you to respect what they say of her you love. Your honour
is in your own keeping, her honour depends on others. To neglect
it is to wound your own honour, and you fail in what is due to
yourself if you do not give her the respect she deserves."
Then while I explain the reasons for this difference, I make him
realise how wrong it would be to pay no attention to it. Who can
say if he will really be Sophy's husband? He does not know how she
feels towards him; her own heart or her parents' will may already
have formed other engagements; he knows nothing of her, perhaps
there are none of those grounds of suitability which make a
happy marriage. Is he not aware that the least breath of scandal
with regard to a young girl is an indelible stain, which not even
marriage with him who has caused the scandal can efface? What man
of feeling would ruin the woman he loves? What man of honour would
desire that a miserable woman should for ever lament the misfortune
of having found favour in his eyes?
Always prone to extremes, the youth takes alarm at the consequences
which I have compelled him to consider, and now he thinks that
he cannot be too far from Sophy's home; he hastens his steps to
get further from it; he glances round to make sure that no one is
listening; he would sacrifice his own happiness a thousand times
to the honour of her whom he loves; he would rather never see her
again than cause her the least unpleasantness. This is the first
result of the pains I have taken ever since he was a child to make
him capable of affection.
We must therefore seek a lodging at a distance, but not too far.
We look about us, we make inquiries; we find that there is a town
at least two leagues away. We try and find lodgings in this town,
rather than in the nearer villages, where our presence might give
rise to suspicion. It is there that the new lover takes up his abode,
full of love, hope, joy, above all full of right feeling. In this
way, I guide his rising passion towards all that is honourable and
good, so that his inclinations unconsciously follow the same bent.
My course is drawing to a close; the end is in view. All the chief
difficulties are vanquished, the chief obstacles overcome; the
hardest thing left to do is to refrain from spoiling my work by
undue haste to complete it. Amid the uncertainty of human life, let
us shun that false prudence which seeks to sacrifice the present
to the future; what is, is too often sacrificed to what will never
be. Let us make man happy at every age lest in spite of our care
he should die without knowing the meaning of happiness. Now if there
is a time to enjoy life, it is undoubtedly the close of adolescence,
when the powers of mind and body have reached their greatest
strength, and when man in the midst of his course is furthest from
those two extremes which tell him "Life is short." If the imprudence
of youth deceives itself it is not in its desire for enjoyment, but
because it seeks enjoyment where it is not to be found, and lays
up misery for the future, while unable to enjoy the present.
Consider my Emile over twenty years of age, well formed, well developed
in mind and body, strong, healthy, active, skilful, robust, full
of sense, reason, kindness, humanity, possessed of good morals and
good taste, loving what is beautiful, doing what is good, free from
the sway of fierce passions, released from the tyranny of popular
prejudices, but subject to the law of wisdom, and easily guided
by the voice of a friend; gifted with so many useful and pleasant
accomplishments, caring little for wealth, able to earn a living
with his own hands, and not afraid of want, whatever may come. Behold
him in the intoxication of a growing passion; his heart opens to
the first beams of love; its pleasant fancies reveal to him a whole
world of new delights and enjoyments; he loves a sweet woman, whose
character is even more delightful than her person; he hopes, he
expects the reward which he deserves.
Their first attachment took its rise in mutual affection, in community
of honourable feelings; therefore this affection is lasting. It
abandons itself, with confidence, with reason, to the most delightful
madness, without fear, regret, remorse, or any other disturbing
thought, but that which is inseparable from all happiness. What
lacks there yet? Behold, inquire, imagine what still is lacking,
that can be combined with present joys. Every happiness which can
exist in combination is already present; nothing could be added
without taking away from what there is; he is as happy as man can
be. Shall I choose this time to cut short so sweet a period? Shall
I disturb such pure enjoyment? The happiness he enjoys is my life's
reward. What could I give that could outweigh what I should take
away? Even if I set the crown to his happiness I should destroy
its greatest charm. That supreme joy is a hundredfold greater in
anticipation than in possession; its savour is greater while we wait
for it than when it is ours. O worthy Emile! love and be loved!
prolong your enjoyment before it is yours; rejoice in your love and
in your innocence, find your paradise upon earth, while you await
your heaven. I shall not cut short this happy period of life. I will
draw out its enchantments, I will prolong them as far as possible.
Alas! it must come to an end and that soon; but it shall at least
linger in your memory, and you will never repent of its joys.
Emile has not forgotten that we have something to return. As soon
as the things are ready, we take horse and set off at a great pace,
for on this occasion he is anxious to get there. When the heart
opens the door to passion, it becomes conscious of the slow flight
of time. If my time has not been wasted he will not spend his life
Unluckily the road is intricate and the country difficult. We
lose our way; he is the first to notice it, and without losing his
temper, and without grumbling, he devotes his whole attention to
discovering the path; he wanders for a long time before he knows
where he is and always with the same self-control. You think nothing
of that; but I think it a matter of great importance, for I know
how eager he is; I see the results of the care I have taken from
his infancy to harden him to endure the blows of necessity.
We are there at last! Our reception is much simpler and more friendly
than on the previous occasion; we are already old acquaintances.
Emile and Sophy bow shyly and say nothing; what can they say in our
presence? What they wish to say requires no spectators. We walk in
the garden; a well-kept kitchen-garden takes the place of flower-beds,
the park is an orchard full of fine tall fruit trees of every
kind, divided by pretty streams and borders full of flowers. "What
a lovely place!" exclaims Emile, still thinking of his Homer,
and still full of enthusiasm, "I could fancy myself in the garden
of Alcinous." The daughter wishes she knew who Alcinous was;
her mother asks. "Alcinous," I tell them, "was a king of Coreyra.
Homer describes his garden and the critics think it too simple and
unadorned. [Footnote: "'When you leave the palace you enter a vast
garden, four acres in extent, walled in on every side, planted
with tall trees in blossom, and yielding pears, pomegranates, and
other goodly fruits, fig-trees with their luscious burden and green
olives. All the year round these fair trees are heavy with fruit;
summer and winter the soft breath of the west wind sways the trees
and ripens the fruit. Pears and apples wither on the branches, the
fig on the fig-tree, and the clusters of grapes on the vine. The
inexhaustible stock bears fresh grapes, some are baked, some are
spread out on the threshing floor to dry, others are made into
wine, while flowers, sour grapes, and those which are beginning
to wither are left upon the tree. At either end is a square garden
filled with flowers which bloom throughout the year, these gardens
are adorned by two fountains, one of these streams waters the
garden, the other passes through the palace and is then taken to a
lofty tower in the town to provide drinking water for its citizens.'
Such is the description of the royal garden of Alcinous in the 7th
book of the Odyssey, a garden in which, to the lasting disgrace
of that old dreamer Homer and the princes of his day, there were
neither trellises, statues, cascades, nor bowling-greens."] This
Alcinous had a charming daughter who dreamed the night before her
father received a stranger at his board that she would soon have
a husband." Sophy, taken unawares, blushed, hung her head, and
bit her lips; no one could be more confused. Her father, who was
enjoying her confusion, added that the young princess bent herself
to wash the linen in the river. "Do you think," said he, "she would
have scorned to touch the dirty clothes, saying, that they smelt of
grease?" Sophy, touched to the quick, forgot her natural timidity
and defended herself eagerly. Her papa knew very well all the
smaller things would have had no other laundress if she had been
allowed to wash them, and she would gladly have done more had she
been set to do it. [Footnote: I own I feel grateful to Sophy's
mother for not letting her spoil such pretty hands with soap, hands
which Emile will kiss so often.] Meanwhile she watched me secretly
with such anxiety that I could not suppress a smile, while I read
the terrors of her simple heart which urged her to speak. Her
father was cruel enough to continue this foolish sport, by asking
her, in jest, why she spoke on her own behalf and what had she in
common with the daughter of Alcinous. Trembling and ashamed she
dared hardly breathe or look at us. Charming girl! This is no time
for feigning, you have shown your true feelings in spite of yourself.
To all appearance this little scene is soon forgotten; luckily for
Sophy, Emile, at least, is unaware of it. We continue our walk,
the young people at first keeping close beside us; but they find
it hard to adapt themselves to our slower pace, and presently they
are a little in front of us, they are walking side by side, they
begin to talk, and before long they are a good way ahead. Sophy
seems to be listening quietly, Emile is talking and gesticulating
vigorously; they seem to find their conversation interesting. When
we turn homewards a full hour later, we call them to us and they
return slowly enough now, and we can see they are making good
use of their time. Their conversation ceases suddenly before they
come within earshot, and they hurry up to us. Emile meets us with
a frank affectionate expression; his eyes are sparkling with joy;
yet he looks anxiously at Sophy's mother to see how she takes it.
Sophy is not nearly so much at her ease; as she approaches us she
seems covered with confusion at finding herself tete-a-tete with
a young man, though she has met so many other young men frankly
enough, and without being found fault with for it. She runs up to
her mother, somewhat out of breath, and makes some trivial remark,
as if to pretend she had been with her for some time.
From the happy expression of these dear children we see that
this conversation has taken a load off their hearts. They are no
less reticent in their intercourse, but their reticence is less
embarrassing, it is only due to Emile's reverence and Sophy's
modesty, to the goodness of both. Emile ventures to say a few words
to her, she ventures to reply, but she always looks at her mother
before she dares to answer. The most remarkable change is in her
attitude towards me. She shows me the greatest respect, she watches
me with interest, she takes pains to please me; I see that I am
honoured with her esteem, and that she is not indifferent to mine.
I understand that Emile has been talking to her about me; you might
say they have been scheming to win me over to their side; yet it
is not so, and Sophy herself is not so easily won. Perhaps Emile
will have more need of my influence with her than of hers with
me. What a charming pair! When I consider that the tender love of
my young friend has brought my name so prominently into his first
conversation with his lady-love, I enjoy the reward of all my
trouble; his affection is a sufficient recompense.
Our visit is repeated. There are frequent conversations between the
young people. Emile is madly in love and thinks that his happiness
is within his grasp. Yet he does not succeed in winning any formal
avowal from Sophy; she listens to what he says and answers nothing.
Emile knows how modest she is, and is not surprised at her reticence;
he feels sure that she likes him; he knows that parents decide whom
their daughters shall marry; he supposes that Sophy is awaiting
her parents' commands; he asks her permission to speak to them, and
she makes no objection. He talks to me and I speak on his behalf
and in his presence. He is immensely surprised to hear that Sophy
is her own mistress, that his happiness depends on her alone. He
begins to be puzzled by her conduct. He is less self-confident,
he takes alarm, he sees that he has not made so much progress as
he expected, and then it is that his love appeals to her in the
tenderest and most moving language.
Emile is not the sort of man to guess what is the matter; if no one
told him he would never discover it as long as he lived, and Sophy
is too proud to tell him. What she considers obstacles, others would
call advantages. She has not forgotten her parents' teaching. She
is poor; Emile is rich; so much she knows. He must win her esteem;
his deserts must be great indeed to remove this inequality. But
how should he perceive these obstacles? Is Emile aware that he is
rich? Has he ever condescended to inquire? Thank heaven, he has
no need of riches, he can do good without their aid. The good he
does comes from his heart, not his purse. He gives the wretched
his time, his care, his affection, himself; and when he reckons
up what he has done, he hardly dares to mention the money spent on
As he does not know what to make of his disgrace, he thinks it is
his own fault; for who would venture to accuse the adored one of
caprice. The shame of humiliation adds to the pangs of disappointed
love. He no longer approaches Sophy with that pleasant confidence
of his own worth; he is shy and timid in her presence. He no longer
hopes to win her affections, but to gain her pity. Sometimes he
loses patience and is almost angry with her. Sophy seems to guess
his angry feelings and she looks at him. Her glance is enough to
disarm and terrify him; he is more submissive than he used to be.
Disturbed by this stubborn resistance, this invincible silence, he
pours out his heart to his friend. He shares with him the pangs of
a heart devoured by sorrow; he implores his help and counsel. "How
mysterious it is, how hard to understand! She takes an interest
in me, that I am sure; far from avoiding me she is pleased to see
me; when I come she shows signs of pleasure, when I go she shows
regret; she receives my attentions kindly, my services seem to
give her pleasure, she condescends to give me her advice and even
her commands. Yet she rejects my requests and my prayers. When
I venture to speak of marriage, she bids me be silent; if I say
a word, she leaves me at once. Why on earth should she wish me to
be hers but refuse to be mine? She respects and loves you, and she
will not dare to refuse to listen to you. Speak to her, make her
answer. Come to your friend's help, and put the coping stone to all
you have done for him; do not let him fall a victim to your care!
If you fail to secure his happiness, your own teaching will have
been the cause of his misery."
I speak to Sophy, and have no difficulty in getting her to confide
her secret to me, a secret which was known to me already. It is not
so easy to get permission to tell Emile; but at last she gives me
leave and I tell him what is the matter. He cannot get over his
surprise at this explanation. He cannot understand this delicacy;
he cannot see how a few pounds more or less can affect his character
or his deserts. When I get him to see their effect on people's
prejudices he begins to laugh; he is so wild with delight that he
wants to be off at once to tear up his title deeds and renounce his
money, so as to have the honour of being as poor as Sophy, and to
return worthy to be her husband.
"Why," said I, trying to check him, and laughing in my turn at his
impetuosity, "will this young head never grow any older? Having
dabbled all your life in philosophy, will you never learn to reason?
Do not you see that your wild scheme would only make things worse,
and Sophy more obstinate? It is a small superiority to be rather
richer than she, but to give up all for her would be a very
great superiority; if her pride cannot bear to be under the small
obligation, how will she make up her mind to the greater? If she
cannot bear to think that her husband might taunt her with the fact
that he has enriched her, would she permit him to blame her for
having brought him to poverty? Wretched boy, beware lest she suspects
you of such a plan! On the contrary, be careful and economical
for her sake, lest she should accuse you of trying to gain her by
cunning, by sacrificing of your own free will what you are really
wasting through carelessness.
"Do you really think that she is afraid of wealth, and that she is
opposed to great possessions in themselves? No, dear Emile; there
are more serious and substantial grounds for her opinion, in the
effect produced by wealth on its possessor. She knows that those
who are possessed of fortune's gifts are apt to place them first.
The rich always put wealth before merit. When services are reckoned
against silver, the latter always outweighs the former, and those
who have spent their life in their master's service are considered
his debtors for the very bread they eat. What must you do, Emile,
to calm her fears? Let her get to know you better; that is not done
in a day. Show her the treasures of your heart, to counterbalance
the wealth which is unfortunately yours. Time and constancy will
overcome her resistance; let your great and noble feelings make her
forget your wealth. Love her, serve her, serve her worthy parents.
Convince her that these attentions are not the result of a foolish
fleeting passion, but of settled principles engraved upon your
heart. Show them the honour deserved by worth when exposed to the
buffets of Fortune; that is the only way to reconcile it with that
worth which basks in her smiles."
The transports of joy experienced by the young man at these words
may easily be imagined; they restore confidence and hope, his good
heart rejoices to do something to please Sophy, which he would
have done if there had been no such person, or if he had not been
in love with her. However little his character has been understood,
anybody can see how he would behave under such circumstances.
Here am I, the confidant of these two young people and the mediator
of their affection. What a fine task for a tutor! So fine that
never in all my life have I stood so high in my own eyes, nor felt
so pleased with myself. Moreover, this duty is not without its
charms. I am not unwelcome in the home; it is my business to see
that the lovers behave themselves; Emile, ever afraid of offending
me, was never so docile. The little lady herself overwhelms me with
a kindness which does not deceive me, and of which I only take my
proper share. This is her way of making up for her severity towards
Emile. For his sake she bestows on me a hundred tender caresses,
though she would die rather than bestow them on him; and he, knowing
that I would never stand in his way, is delighted that I should
get on so well with her. If she refuses his arm when we are out
walking, he consoles himself with the thought that she has taken
mine. He makes way for me without a murmur, be clasps my hand, and
voice and look alike whisper, "My friend, plead for me!" and his
eyes follow us with interest; he tries to read our feelings in our
faces, and to interpret our conversation by our gestures; he knows
that everything we are saying concerns him. Dear Sophy, how frank
and easy you are when you can talk to Mentor without being overheard
by Telemachus. How freely and delightfully you permit him to read
what is passing in your tender little heart! How delighted you are
to show him how you esteem his pupil! How cunningly and appealingly
you allow him to divine still tenderer sentiments. With what
a pretence of anger you dismiss Emile when his impatience leads
him to interrupt you? With what pretty vexation you reproach his
indiscretion when he comes and prevents you saying something to
his credit, or listening to what I say about him, or finding in my
words some new excuse to love him!
Having got so far as to be tolerated as an acknowledged lover,
Emile takes full advantage of his position; he speaks, he urges, he
implores, he demands. Hard words or ill treatment make no difference,
provided he gets a hearing. At length Sophy is persuaded, though
with some difficulty, to assume the authority of a betrothed, to
decide what he shall do, to command instead of to ask, to accept
instead of to thank, to control the frequency and the hours of his
visits, to forbid him to come till such a day or to stay beyond
such an hour. This is not done in play, but in earnest, and if it
was hard to induce her to accept these rights, she uses them so
sternly that Emile is often ready to regret that he gave them to
her. But whatever her commands, they are obeyed without question,
and often when at her bidding he is about to leave her, he glances
at me his eyes full of delight, as if to say, "You see she has taken
possession of me." Yet unknown to him, Sophy, with all her pride,
is observing him closely, and she is smiling to herself at the
pride of her slave.
Oh that I had the brush of an Alban or a Raphael to paint their
bliss, or the pen of the divine Milton to describe the pleasures
of love and innocence! Not so; let such hollow arts shrink back
before the sacred truth of nature. In tenderness and pureness of
heart let your imagination freely trace the raptures of these young
lovers, who under the eyes of parents and tutor, abandon themselves
to their blissful illusions; in the intoxication of passion they
are advancing step by step to its consummation; with flowers and
garlands they are weaving the bonds which are to bind them till
death do part. I am carried away by this succession of pictures,
I am so happy that I cannot group them in any sort of order or
scheme; any one with a heart in his breast can paint the charming
picture for himself and realise the different experiences of father,
mother, daughter, tutor, and pupil, and the part played by each
and all in the union of the most delightful couple whom love and
virtue have ever led to happiness.
Now that he is really eager to please, Emile begins to feel the
value of the accomplishments he has acquired. Sophy is fond of
singing, he sings with her; he does more, he teaches her music.
She is lively and light of foot, she loves skipping; he dances
with her, he perfects and develops her untrained movements into the
steps of the dance. These lessons, enlivened by the gayest mirth,
are quite delightful, they melt the timid respect of love; a lover
may enjoy teaching his betrothed--he has a right to be her teacher.
There is an old spinet quite out of order. Emile mends and tunes
it; he is a maker and mender of musical instruments as well as a
carpenter; it has always been his rule to learn to do everything he
can for himself. The house is picturesquely situated and he makes
several sketches of it, in some of which Sophy does her share, and
she hangs them in her father's study. The frames are not gilded,
nor do they require gilding. When she sees Emile drawing, she draws
too, and improves her own drawing; she cultivates all her talents,
and her grace gives a charm to all she does. Her father and mother
recall the days of their wealth, when they find themselves surrounded
by the works of art which alone gave value to wealth; the whole
house is adorned by love; love alone has enthroned among them,
without cost or effort, the very same pleasures which were gathered
together in former days by dint of toil and money.
As the idolater gives what he loves best to the shrine of the object
of his worship, so the lover is not content to see perfection in
his mistress, he must be ever trying to add to her adornment. She
does not need it for his pleasure, it is he who needs the pleasure
of giving, it is a fresh homage to be rendered to her, a fresh
pleasure in the joy of beholding her. Everything of beauty seems
to find its place only as an accessory to the supreme beauty.
It is both touching and amusing to see Emile eager to teach Sophy
everything he knows, without asking whether she wants to learn
it or whether it is suitable for her. He talks about all sorts of
things and explains them to her with boyish eagerness; he thinks
he has only to speak and she will understand; he looks forward to
arguing, and discussing philosophy with her; everything he cannot
display before her is so much useless learning; he is quite ashamed
of knowing more than she.
So he gives her lessons in philosophy, physics, mathematics, history,
and everything else. Sophy is delighted to share his enthusiasm
and to try and profit by it. How pleased Emile is when he can get
leave to give these lessons on his knees before her! He thinks
the heavens are open. Yet this position, more trying to pupil than
to teacher, is hardly favourable to study. It is not easy to know
where to look, to avoid meeting the eyes which follow our own, and
if they meet so much the worse for the lesson.
Women are no strangers to the art of thinking, but they should
only skim the surface of logic and metaphysics. Sophy understands
readily, but she soon forgets. She makes most progress in the moral
sciences and aesthetics; as to physical science she retains some
vague idea of the general laws and order of this world. Sometimes in
the course of their walks, the spectacle of the wonders of nature
bids them not fear to raise their pure and innocent hearts to
nature's God; they are not afraid of His presence, and they pour
out their hearts before him.
What! Two young lovers spending their time together talking of
religion! Have they nothing better to do than to say their catechism!
What profit is there in the attempt to degrade what is noble? Yes,
no doubt they are saying their catechism in their delightful land
of romance; they are perfect in each other's eyes; they love one
another, they talk eagerly of all that makes virtue worth having.
Their sacrifices to virtue make her all the dearer to them. Their
struggles after self-control draw from them tears purer than the
dew of heaven, and these sweet tears are the joy of life; no human
heart has ever experienced a sweeter intoxication. Their very
renunciation adds to their happiness, and their sacrifices increase
their self-respect. Sensual men, bodies without souls, some day
they will know your pleasures, and all their life long they will
recall with regret the happy days when they refused the cup of
In spite of this good understanding, differences and even quarrels
occur from time to time; the lady has her whims, the lover has a hot
temper; but these passing showers are soon over and only serve to
strengthen their union. Emile learns by experience not to attach too
much importance to them, he always gains more by the reconciliation
than he lost by the quarrel. The results of the first difference
made him expect a like result from all; he was mistaken, but even
if he does not make any appreciable step forward, he has always the
satisfaction of finding Sophy's genuine concern for his affection
more firmly established. "What advantage is this to him?" you
would ask. I will gladly tell you; all the more gladly because it
will give me an opportunity to establish clearly a very important
principle, and to combat a very deadly one.
Emile is in love, but he is not presuming; and you will easily
understand that the dignified Sophy is not the sort of girl to allow
any kind of familiarity. Yet virtue has its bounds like everything
else, and she is rather to be blamed for her severity than for
indulgence; even her father himself is sometimes afraid lest her
lofty pride should degenerate into a haughty spirit. When most
alone, Emile dare not ask for the slightest favour, he must not
even seem to desire it; and if she is gracious enough to take his
arm when they are out walking, a favour which she will never permit
him to claim as a right, it is only occasionally that he dare venture
with a sigh to press her hand to his heart. However, after a long
period of self-restraint, he ventured secretly to kiss the hem of
her dress, and several times he was lucky enough to find her willing
at least to pretend she was not aware of it. One day he attempts
to take the same privilege rather more openly, and Sophy takes it
into her head to be greatly offended. He persists, she gets angry
and speaks sharply to him; Emile will not put up with this without
reply; the rest of the day is given over to sulks, and they part
in a very ill temper.
Sophy is ill at ease; her mother is her confidant in all things,
how can she keep this from her? It is their first misunderstanding,
and the misunderstanding of an hour is such a serious business.
She is sorry for what she has done, she has her mother's permission
and her father's commands to make reparation.
The next day Emile returns somewhat earlier than usual and in a
state of some anxiety. Sophy is in her mother's dressing-room and
her father is also present. Emile enters respectfully but gloomily.
Scarcely have her parents greeted him than Sophy turns round and
holding out her hand asks him in an affectionate tone how he is.
That pretty hand is clearly held out to be kissed; he takes it but
does not kiss it. Sophy, rather ashamed of herself, withdraws her
hand as best she may. Emile, who is not used to a woman's whims,
and does not know how far caprice may be carried, does not forget
so easily or make friends again all at once. Sophy's father, seeing
her confusion, completes her discomfiture by his jokes. The poor
girl, confused and ashamed, does not know what to do with herself
and would gladly have a good cry. The more she tries to control
herself the worse she feels; at last a tear escapes in spite of all
she can do to prevent it. Emile, seeing this tear, rushes towards
her, falls on his knees, takes her hand and kisses it again
and again with the greatest devotion. "My word, you are too kind
to her," says her father, laughing; "if I were you, I should deal
more severely with these follies, I should punish the mouth that
wronged me." Emboldened by these words, Emile turns a suppliant
eye towards her mother, and thinking she is not unwilling, he
tremblingly approaches Sophy's face; she turns away her head, and
to save her mouth she exposes a blushing cheek. The daring young
man is not content with this; there is no great resistance. What
a kiss, if it were not taken under her mother's eyes. Have a care,
Sophy, in your severity; he will be ready enough to try to kiss
your dress if only you will sometimes say "No."
After this exemplary punishment, Sophy's father goes about his
business, and her mother makes some excuse for sending her out of
the room; then she speaks to Emile very seriously. "Sir," she says,
"I think a young man so well born and well bred as yourself, a man
of feeling and character, would never reward with dishonour the
confidence reposed in him by the friendship of this family. I am
neither prudish nor over strict; I know how to make excuses for
youthful folly, and what I have permitted in my own presence is
sufficient proof of this. Consult your friend as to your own duty,
he will tell you there is all the difference in the world between
the playful kisses sanctioned by the presence of father and mother,
and the same freedom taken in their absence and in betrayal of
their confidence, a freedom which makes a snare of the very favours
which in the parents' presence were wholly innocent. He will tell
you, sir, that my daughter is only to blame for not having perceived
from the first what she ought never to have permitted; he will tell
you that every favour, taken as such, is a favour, and that it is
unworthy of a man of honour to take advantage of a young girl's
innocence, to usurp in private the same freedom which she may
permit in the presence of others. For good manners teach us what
is permitted in public; but we do not know what a man will permit
to himself in private, if he makes himself the sole judge of his
After this well-deserved rebuke, addressed rather to me than to
my pupil, the good mother leaves us, and I am amazed by her rare
prudence, in thinking it a little thing that Emile should kiss
her daughter's lips in her presence, while fearing lest he should
venture to kiss her dress when they are alone. When I consider
the folly of worldly maxims, whereby real purity is continually
sacrificed to a show of propriety, I understand why speech becomes
more refined while the heart becomes more corrupt, and why etiquette
is stricter while those who conform to it are most immoral.
While I am trying to convince Emile's heart with regard to these
duties which I ought to have instilled into him sooner, a new idea
occurs to me, an idea which perhaps does Sophy all the more credit,
though I shall take care not to tell her lover; this so-called
pride, for which she has been censured, is clearly only a very
wise precaution to protect her from herself. Being aware that,
unfortunately, her own temperament is inflammable, she dreads the
least spark, and keeps out of reach so far as she can. Her sternness
is due not to pride but to humility. She assumes a control over
Emile because she doubts her control of herself; she turns the one
against the other. If she had more confidence in herself she would
be much less haughty. With this exception is there anywhere on earth
a gentler, sweeter girl? Is there any who endures an affront with
greater patience, any who is more afraid of annoying others? Is
there any with less pretension, except in the matter of virtue?
Moreover, she is not proud of her virtue, she is only proud in order
to preserve her virtue, and if she can follow the guidance of her
heart without danger, she caresses her lover himself. But her wise
mother does not confide all this even to her father; men should
not hear everything.
Far from seeming proud of her conquest, Sophy has grown more friendly
and less exacting towards everybody, except perhaps the one person
who has wrought this change. Her noble heart no longer swells with
the feeling of independence. She triumphs modestly over a victory
gained at the price of her freedom. Her bearing is more restrained,
her speech more timid, since she has begun to blush at the word
"lover"; but contentment may be seen beneath her outward confusion
and this very shame is not painful. This change is most noticeable
in her behaviour towards the young men she meets. Now that she
has ceased to be afraid of them, much of her extreme reserve has
disappeared. Now that her choice is made, she does not hesitate
to be gracious to those to whom she is quite indifferent; taking
no more interest in them, she is less difficult to please, and she
always finds them pleasant enough for people who are of no importance
If true love were capable of coquetry, I should fancy I saw traces
of it in the way Sophy behaves towards other young men in her
lover's presence. One would say that not content with the ardent
passion she inspires by a mixture of shyness and caresses, she is
not sorry to rouse this passion by a little anxiety; one would say
that when she is purposely amusing her young guests she means to
torment Emile by the charms of a freedom she will not allow herself
with him; but Sophy is too considerate, too kindly, too wise to
really torment him. Love and honour take the place of prudence and
control the use of this dangerous weapon. She can alarm and reassure
him just as he needs it; and if she sometimes makes him uneasy she
never really gives him pain. The anxiety she causes to her beloved
may be forgiven because of her fear that he is not sufficiently
But what effect will this little performance have upon Emile?
Will he be jealous or not? That is what we must discover; for such
digressions form part of the purpose of my book, and they do not
lead me far from my main subject.
I have already shown how this passion of jealousy in matters
of convention finds its way into the heart of man. In love it is
another matter; then jealousy is so near akin to nature, that it
is hard to believe that it is not her work; and the example of the
very beasts, many of whom are madly jealous, seems to prove this
point beyond reply. Is it man's influence that has taught cooks to
tear each other to pieces or bulls to fight to the death?
No one can deny that the aversion to everything which may disturb
or interfere with our pleasures is a natural impulse. Up to a
certain point the desire for the exclusive possession of that which
ministers to our pleasure is in the same case. But when this desire
has become a passion, when it is transformed into madness, or into
a bitter and suspicious fancy known as jealousy, that is quite
another matter; such a passion may be natural or it may not; we
must distinguish between these different cases.
I have already analysed the example of the animal world in my
Discourse on Inequality, and on further consideration I think I may
refer my readers to that analysis as sufficiently thorough. I will
only add this further point to those already made in that work, that
the jealousy which springs from nature depends greatly on sexual
power, and that when sexual power is or appears to be boundless, that
jealousy is at its height; for then the male, measuring his rights
by his needs, can never see another male except as an unwelcome
rival. In such species the females always submit to the first
comer, they only belong to the male by right of conquest, and they
are the cause of unending strife.
Among the monogamous species, where intercourse seems to give rise
to some sort of moral bond, a kind of marriage, the female who
belongs by choice to the male on whom she has bestowed herself
usually denies herself to all others; and the male, having this
preference of affection as a pledge of her fidelity, is less uneasy
at the sight of other males and lives more peaceably with them.
Among these species the male shares the care of the little ones; and
by one of those touching laws of nature it seems as if the female
rewards the father for his love for his children.
Now consider the human species in its primitive simplicity; it is
easy to see, from the limited powers of the male, and the moderation
of his desires, that nature meant him to be content with one female;
this is confirmed by the numerical equality of the two sexes, at any
rate in our part of the world; an equality which does not exist in
anything like the same degree among those species in which several
females are collected around one male. Though a man does not brood
like a pigeon, and though he has no milk to suckle the young, and
must in this respect be classed with the quadrupeds, his children
are feeble and helpless for so long a time, that mother and children
could ill dispense with the father's affection, and the care which
results from it.
All these observations combine to prove that the jealous fury of
the males of certain animals proves nothing with regard to man;
and the exceptional case of those southern regions were polygamy
is the established custom, only confirms the rule, since it is the
plurality of wives that gives rise to the tyrannical precautions
of the husband, and the consciousness of his own weakness makes
the man resort to constraint to evade the laws of nature.
Among ourselves where these same laws are less frequently evaded in
this respect, but are more frequently evaded in another and even
more detestable manner, jealousy finds its motives in the passions of
society rather than in those of primitive instinct. In most irregular
connections the hatred of the lover for his rivals far exceeds his
love for his mistress; if he fears a rival in her affections it
is the effect of that self-love whose origin I have already traced
out, and he is moved by vanity rather than affection. Moreover,
our clumsy systems of education have made women so deceitful,
[Footnote: The kind of deceit referred to here is just the opposite
of that deceit becoming in a woman, and taught her by nature;
the latter consists in concealing her real feelings, the former
in feigning what she does not feel. Every society lady spends her
life in boasting of her supposed sensibility, when in reality she
cares for no one but herself.] and have so over-stimulated their
appetites, that you cannot rely even on the most clearly proved
affection; they can no longer display a preference which secures
you against the fear of a rival.
True love is another matter. I have shown, in the work already
referred to, that this sentiment is not so natural as men think,
and that there is a great difference between the gentle habit which
binds a man with cords of love to his helpmeet, and the unbridled
passion which is intoxicated by the fancied charms of an object
which he no longer sees in its true light. This passion which is
full of exclusions and preferences, only differs from vanity in
this respect, that vanity demands all and gives nothing, so that
it is always harmful, while love, bestowing as much as it demands,
is in itself a sentiment full of equity. Moreover, the more
exacting it is, the more credulous; that very illusion which gave
rise to it, makes it easy to persuade. If love is suspicious, esteem
is trustful; and love will never exist in an honest heart without
esteem, for every one loves in another the qualities which he
himself holds in honour.
When once this is clearly understood, we can predict with confidence
the kind of jealousy which Emile will be capable of experiencing;
as there is only the smallest germ of this passion in the human
heart, the form it takes must depend solely upon education: Emile,
full of love and jealousy, will not be angry, sullen, suspicious,
but delicate, sensitive, and timid; he will be more alarmed than vexed;
he will think more of securing his lady-love than of threatening his
rival; he will treat him as an obstacle to be removed if possible
from his path, rather than as a rival to be hated; if he hates
him, it is not because he presumes to compete with him for Sophy's
affection, but because Emile feels that there is a real danger of
losing that affection; he will not be so unjust and foolish as to
take offence at the rivalry itself; he understands that the law
of preference rests upon merit only, and that honour depends upon
success; he will redouble his efforts to make himself acceptable,
and he will probably succeed. His generous Sophy, though she has
given alarm to his love, is well able to allay that fear, to atone
for it; and the rivals who were only suffered to put him to the
proof are speedily dismissed.
But whither am I going? O Emile! what art thou now? Is this my pupil?
How art thou fallen! Where is that young man so sternly fashioned,
who braved all weathers, who devoted his body to the hardest tasks
and his soul to the laws of wisdom; untouched by prejudice or
passion, a lover of truth, swayed by reason only, unheeding all that
was not hers? Living in softness and idleness he now lets himself
be ruled by women; their amusements are the business of his life,
their wishes are his laws; a young girl is the arbiter of his
fate, he cringes and grovels before her; the earnest Emile is the
plaything of a child.
So shift the scenes of life; each age is swayed by its own motives,
but the man is the same. At ten his mind was set upon cakes, at
twenty it is set upon his mistress; at thirty it will be set upon
pleasure; at forty on ambition, at fifty on avarice; when will
he seek after wisdom only? Happy is he who is compelled to follow
her against his will! What matter who is the guide, if the end is
attained. Heroes and sages have themselves paid tribute to this
human weakness; and those who handled the distaff with clumsy
fingers were none the less great men.
If you would prolong the influence of a good education through
life itself, the good habits acquired in childhood must be carried
forward into adolescence, and when your pupil is what he ought to
be you must manage to keep him what he ought to be. This is the
coping-stone of your work. This is why it is of the first importance
that the tutor should remain with young men; otherwise there is
little doubt they will learn to make love without him. The great
mistake of tutors and still more of fathers is to think that one way
of living makes another impossible, and that as soon as the child
is grown up, you must abandon everything you used to do when he was
little. If that were so, why should we take such pains in childhood,
since the good or bad use we make of it will vanish with childhood
itself; if another way of life were necessarily accompanied by
other ways of thinking?
The stream of memory is only interrupted by great illnesses, and the
stream of conduct, by great passions. Our tastes and inclinations
may change, but this change, though it may be sudden enough, is
rendered less abrupt by our habits. The skilful artist, in a good
colour scheme, contrives so to mingle and blend his tints that the
transitions are imperceptible; and certain colour washes are spread
over the whole picture so that there may be no sudden breaks. So
should it be with our likings. Unbalanced characters are always
changing their affections, their tastes, their sentiments; the
only constant factor is the habit of change; but the man of settled
character always returns to his former habits and preserves to old
age the tastes and the pleasures of his childhood.
If you contrive that young people passing from one stage of life
to another do not despise what has gone before, that when they form
new habits, they do not forsake the old, and that they always love
to do what is right, in things new and old; then only are the fruits
of your toil secure, and you are sure of your scholars as long as
they live; for the revolution most to be dreaded is that of the age
over which you are now watching. As men always look back to this
period with regret so the tastes carried forward into it from
childhood are not easily destroyed; but if once interrupted they
are never resumed.
Most of the habits you think you have instilled into children and
young people are not really habits at all; they have only been
acquired under compulsion, and being followed reluctantly they
will be cast off at the first opportunity. However long you remain
in prison you never get a taste for prison life; so aversion is
increased rather than diminished by habit. Not so with Emile; as
a child he only did what he could do willingly and with pleasure,
and as a man he will do the same, and the force of habit will
only lend its help to the joys of freedom. An active life, bodily
labour, exercise, movement, have become so essential to him that
he could not relinquish them without suffering. Reduce him all at
once to a soft and sedentary life and you condemn him to chains
and imprisonment, you keep him in a condition of thraldom and
constraint; he would suffer, no doubt, both in health and temper.
He can scarcely breathe in a stuffy room, he requires open air,
movement, fatigue. Even at Sophy's feet he cannot help casting
a glance at the country and longing to explore it in her company.
Yet he remains if he must; but he is anxious and ill at ease;
he seems to be struggling with himself; he remains because he is
a captive. "Yes," you will say, "these are necessities to which
you have subjected him, a yoke which you have laid upon him." You
speak truly, I have subjected him to the yoke of manhood.
Emile loves Sophy; but what were the charms by which he was first
attracted? Sensibility, virtue, and love for things pure and honest.
When he loves this love in Sophy, will he cease to feel it himself?
And what price did she put upon herself? She required all her
lover's natural feelings--esteem of what is really good, frugality,
simplicity, generous unselfishness, a scorn of pomp and riches.
These virtues were Emile's before love claimed them of him. Is he
really changed? He has all the more reason to be himself; that is
the only difference. The careful reader will not suppose that all
the circumstances in which he is placed are the work of chance.
There were many charming girls in the town; is it chance that his
choice is discovered in a distant retreat? Is their meeting the work
of chance? Is it chance that makes them so suited to each other?
Is it chance that they cannot live in the same place, that he is
compelled to find a lodging so far from her? Is it chance that he
can see her so seldom and must purchase the pleasure of seeing her
at the price of such fatigue? You say he is becoming effeminate.
Not so, he is growing stronger; he must be fairly robust to stand
the fatigue he endures on Sophy's account.
He lives more than two leagues away. That distance serves to temper
the shafts of love. If they lived next door to each other, or if
he could drive to see her in a comfortable carriage, he would love
at his ease in the Paris fashion. Would Leander have braved death
for the sake of Hero if the sea had not lain between them? Need I
say more; if my reader is able to take my meaning, he will be able
to follow out my principles in detail.
The first time we went to see Sophy, we went on horseback, so as
to get there more quickly. We continue this convenient plan until
our fifth visit. We were expected; and more than half a league
from the house we see people on the road. Emile watches them, his
pulse quickens as he gets nearer, he recognises Sophy and dismounts
quickly; he hastens to join the charming family. Emile is fond of
good horses; his horse is fresh, he feels he is free, and gallops
off across the fields; I follow and with some difficulty I succeed
in catching him and bringing him back. Unluckily Sophy is afraid
of horses, and I dare not approach her. Emile has not seen what
happened, but Sophy whispers to him that he is giving his friend
a great deal of trouble. He hurries up quite ashamed of himself,
takes the horses, and follows after the party. It is only fair
that each should take his turn and he rides on to get rid of our
mounts. He has to leave Sophy behind him, and he no longer thinks
riding a convenient mode of travelling. He returns out of breath
and meets us half-way.
The next time, Emile will not hear of horses. "Why," say I, "we need
only take a servant to look after them." "Shall we put our worthy
friends to such expense?" he replies. "You see they would insist
on feeding man and horse." "That is true," I reply; "theirs is the
generous hospitality of the poor. The rich man in his niggardly
pride only welcomes his friends, but the poor find room for their
friends' horses." "Let us go on foot," says he; "won't you venture
on the walk, when you are always so ready to share the toilsome
pleasures of your child?" "I will gladly go with you," I reply at
once, "and it seems to me that love does not desire so much show."
As we draw near, we meet the mother and daughter even further from
home than on the last occasion. We have come at a great pace. Emile
is very warm; his beloved condescends to pass her handkerchief
over his cheeks. It would take a good many horses to make us ride
there after this.
But it is rather hard never to be able to spend an evening together.
Midsummer is long past and the days are growing shorter. Whatever
we say, we are not allowed to return home in the dark, and unless
we make a very early start, we have to go back almost as soon as
we get there. The mother is sorry for us and uneasy on our account,
and it occurs to her that, though it would not be proper for us to
stay in the house, beds might be found for us in the village, if
we liked to stay there occasionally. Emile claps his hands at this
idea and trembles with joy; Sophy, unwittingly, kisses her mother
rather oftener than usual on the day this idea occurs to her.
Little by little the charm of friendship and the familiarity
of innocence take root and grow among us. I generally accompany
my young friend on the days appointed by Sophy or her mother, but
sometimes I let him go alone. The heart thrives in the sunshine
of confidence, and a man must not be treated as a child; and what
have I accomplished so far, if my pupil is unworthy of my esteem?
Now and then I go without him; he is sorry, but he does not complain;
what use would it be? And then he knows I shall not interfere with
his interests. However, whether we go together or separately you
will understand that we are not stopped by the weather; we are only
too proud to arrive in a condition which calls for pity. Unluckily
Sophy deprives us of this honour and forbids us to come in bad
weather. This is the only occasion on which she rebels against
the rules which I laid down for her in private.
One day Emile had gone alone and I did not expect him back till the
following day, but he returned the same evening. "My dear Emile,"
said I, "have you come back to your old friend already?" But instead
of responding to my caresses he replied with some show of temper,
"You need not suppose I came back so soon of my own accord;
she insisted on it; it is for her sake not yours that I am here."
Touched by his frankness I renewed my caresses, saying, "Truthful
heart and faithful friend, do not conceal from me anything I ought
to know. If you came back for her sake, you told me so for my own;
your return is her doing, your frankness is mine. Continue to
preserve the noble candour of great souls; strangers may think what
they will, but it is a crime to let our friends think us better
than we are."
I take care not to let him underrate the cost of his confession
by assuming that there is more love than generosity in it, and by
telling him that he would rather deprive himself of the honour of
this return, than give it to Sophy. But this is how he revealed
to me, all unconsciously, what were his real feelings; if he had
returned slowly and comfortably, dreaming of his sweetheart, I
should know he was merely her lover; when he hurried back, even if
he was a little out of temper, he was the friend of his Mentor.
You see that the young man is very far from spending his days with
Sophy, and seeing as much of her as he wants. One or two visits
a week are all that is permitted, and these visits are often only
for the afternoon and are rarely extended to the next day. He spends
much more of his time in longing to see her, or in rejoicing that
he has seen her, than he actually spends in her presence. Even when
he goes to see her, more time is spent in going and returning than
by her side. His pleasures, genuine, pure, delicious, but more
imaginary than real, serve to kindle his love but not to make him
On the days when he does not see Sophy he is not sitting idle at
home. He is Emile himself and quite unchanged. He usually scours
the country round in pursuit of its natural history; he observes
and studies the soil, its products, and their mode of cultivation;
he compares the methods he sees with those with which he is already
familiar; he tries to find the reasons for any differences; if he
thinks other methods better than those of the locality, he introduces
them to the farmers' notice; if he suggests a better kind of
plough, he has one made from his own drawings; if he finds a lime
pit he teaches them how to use the lime on the land, a process
new to them; he often lends a hand himself; they are surprised to
find him handling all manner of tools more easily than they can
themselves; his furrows are deeper and straighter than theirs,
he is a more skilful sower, and his beds for early produce are
more cleverly planned. They do not scoff at him as a fine talker,
they see he knows what he is talking about. In a word, his zeal
and attention are bestowed on everything that is really useful to
everybody; nor does he stop there. He visits the peasants in their
homes; inquires into their circumstances, their families, the
number of their children, the extent of their holdings, the nature
of their produce, their markets, their rights, their burdens, their
debts, etc. He gives away very little money, for he knows it is
usually ill spent; but he himself directs the use of his money,
and makes it helpful to them without distributing it among them.
He supplies them with labourers, and often pays them for work done
by themselves, on tasks for their own benefit. For one he has the
falling thatch repaired or renewed; for another he clears a piece
of land which had gone out of cultivation for lack of means; to
another he gives a cow, a horse, or stock of any kind to replace
a loss; two neighbours are ready to go to law, he wins them over,
and makes them friends again; a peasant falls ill, he has him cared
for, he looks after him himself; [Footnote: To look after a sick
peasant is not merely to give him a pill, or medicine, or to send
a surgeon to him. That is not what these poor folk require in
sickness; what they want is more and better food. When you have
fever, you will do well to fast, but when your peasants have it, give
them meat and wine; illness, in their case, is nearly always due to
poverty and exhaustion; your cellar will supply the best draught,
your butchers will be the best apothecary.] another is harassed by
a rich and powerful neighbor, he protects him and speaks on his
behalf; young people are fond of one another, he helps forward their
marriage; a good woman has lost her beloved child, he goes to see
her, he speaks words of comfort and sits a while with her; he does
not despise the poor, he is in no hurry to avoid the unfortunate;
he often takes his dinner with some peasant he is helping, and he
will even accept a meal from those who have no need of his help;
though he is the benefactor of some and the friend of all, he is
none the less their equal. In conclusion, he always does as much
good by his personal efforts as by his money.
Sometimes his steps are turned in the direction of the happy abode;
he may hope to see Sophy without her knowing, to see her out walking
without being seen. But Emile is always quite open in everything
he does; he neither can nor would deceive. His delicacy is of that
pleasing type in which pride rests on the foundation of a good
conscience. He keeps strictly within bounds, and never comes near
enough to gain from chance what he only desires to win from Sophy
herself. On the other hand, he delights to roam about the neighbourhood,
looking for the trace of Sophy's steps, feeling what pains she has
taken and what a distance she has walked to please him.
The day before his visit, he will go to some neighbouring farm and
order a little feast for the morrow. We shall take our walk in that
direction without any special object, we shall turn in apparently
by chance; fruit, cakes, and cream are waiting for us. Sophy likes
sweets, so is not insensible to these attentions, and she is quite
ready to do honour to what we have provided; for I always have my
share of the credit even if I have had no part in the trouble; it
is a girl's way of returning thanks more easily. Her father and I
have cakes and wine; Emile keeps the ladies company and is always
on the look-out to secure a dish of cream in which Sophy has dipped
The cakes lead me to talk of the races Emile used to run. Every
one wants to hear about them; I explain amid much laughter; they
ask him if he can run as well as ever. "Better," says he; "I should
be sorry to forget how to run." One member of the company is dying
to see him run, but she dare not say so; some one else undertakes
to suggest it; he agrees and we send for two or three young men
of the neighbourhood; a prize is offered, and in imitation of our
earlier games a cake is placed on the goal. Every one is ready,
Sophy's father gives the signal by clapping his hands. The nimble
Emile flies like lightning and reaches the goal almost before the
others have started. He receives his prize at Sophy's hands, and
no less generous than Aeneas, he gives gifts to all the vanquished.
In the midst of his triumph, Sophy dares to challenge the victor,
and to assert that she can run as fast as he. He does not refuse to
enter the lists with her, and while she is getting ready to start,
while she is tucking up her skirt at each side, more eager to show
Emile a pretty ankle than to vanquish him in the race, while she
is seeing if her petticoats are short enough, he whispers a word
to her mother who smiles and nods approval. Then he takes his place
by his competitor; no sooner is the signal given than she is off
like a bird.
Women were not meant to run; they flee that they may be overtaken.
Running is not the only thing they do ill, but it is the only thing
they do awkwardly; their elbows glued to their sides and pointed
backwards look ridiculous, and the high heels on which they are
perched make them look like so many grasshoppers trying to run
instead of to jump.
Emile, supposing that Sophy runs no better than other women, does
not deign to stir from his place and watches her start with a smile
of mockery. But Sophy is light of foot and she wears low heels;
she needs no pretence to make her foot look smaller; she runs so
quickly that he has only just time to overtake this new Atalanta
when he sees her so far ahead. Then he starts like an eagle dashing
upon its prey; he pursues her, clutches her, grasps her at last
quite out of breath, and gently placing his left arm about her,
he lifts her like a feather, and pressing his sweet burden to his
heart, he finishes the race, makes her touch the goal first, and
then exclaiming, "Sophy wins!" he sinks on one knee before her and
owns himself beaten.
Along with such occupations there is also the trade we learnt. One
day a week at least, and every day when the weather is too bad for
country pursuits, Emile and I go to work under a master-joiner.
We do not work for show, like people above our trade; we work in
earnest like regular workmen. Once when Sophy's father came to see
us, he found us at work, and did not fail to report his wonder to
his wife and daughter. "Go and see that young man in the workshop,"
said he, "and you will soon see if he despises the condition of
the poor." You may fancy how pleased Sophy was at this! They talk
it over, and they decide to surprise him at his work. They question
me, apparently without any special object, and having made sure of
the time, mother and daughter take a little carriage and come to
town on that very day.
On her arrival, Sophy sees, at the other end of the shop, a young
man in his shirt sleeves, with his hair all untidy, so hard at work
that he does not see her; she makes a sign to her mother. Emile,
a chisel in one hand and a hammer in the other, is just finishing
a mortise; then he saws a piece of wood and places it in the vice
in order to polish it. The sight of this does not set Sophy laughing;
it affects her greatly; it wins her respect. Woman, honour your
master; he it is who works for you, he it is who gives you bread
to eat; this is he!
While they are busy watching him, I perceive them and pull Emile by
the sleeve; he turns round, drops his tools, and hastens to them
with an exclamation of delight. After he has given way to his first
raptures, he makes them take a seat and he goes back to his work.
But Sophy cannot keep quiet; she gets up hastily, runs about the
workshop, looks at the tools, feels the polish of the boards, picks
up shavings, looks at our hands, and says she likes this trade, it
is so clean. The merry girl tries to copy Emile. With her delicate
white hand she passes a plane over a bit of wood; the plane slips
and makes no impression. It seems to me that Love himself is hovering
over us and beating his wings; I think I can hear his joyous cries,
"Hercules is avenged."
Yet Sophy's mother questions the master. "Sir, how much do you pay
these two men a day?" "I give them each tenpence a day and their
food; but if that young fellow wanted he could earn much more, for
he is the best workman in the country." "Tenpence a day and their
food," said she looking at us tenderly. "That is so, madam," replied
the master. At these words she hurries up to Emile, kisses him,
and clasps him to her breast with tears; unable to say more she
repeats again and again, "My son, my son!"
When they had spent some time chatting with us, but without
interrupting our work, "We must be going now," said the mother to
her daughter, "it is getting late and we must not keep your father
waiting." Then approaching Emile she tapped him playfully on the
cheek, saying, "Well, my good workman, won't you come with us?" He
replied sadly, "I am at work, ask the master." The master is asked
if he can spare us. He replies that he cannot. "I have work on
hand," said he, "which is wanted the day after to-morrow, so there
is not much time. Counting on these gentlemen I refused other
workmen who came; if they fail me I don't know how to replace them
and I shall not be able to send the work home at the time promised."
The mother said nothing, she was waiting to hear what Emile would
say. Emile hung his head in silence. "Sir," she said, somewhat
surprised at this, "have you nothing to say to that?" Emile looked
tenderly at her daughter and merely said, "You see I am bound to
stay." Then the ladies left us. Emile went with them to the door,
gazed after them as long as they were in sight, and returned to
his work without a word.
On the way home, the mother, somewhat vexed at his conduct, spoke
to her daughter of the strange way in which he had behaved. "Why,"
said she, "was it so difficult to arrange matters with the master
without being obliged to stay. The young man is generous enough
and ready to spend money when there is no need for it, could not
he spend a little on such a fitting occasion?" "Oh, mamma," replied
Sophy, "I trust Emile will never rely so much on money as to use it
to break an engagement, to fail to keep his own word, and to make
another break his! I know he could easily give the master a trifle
to make up for the slight inconvenience caused by his absence; but
his soul would become the slave of riches, he would become accustomed
to place wealth before duty, and he would think that any duty might
be neglected provided he was ready to pay. That is not Emile's way
of thinking, and I hope he will never change on my account. Do you
think it cost him nothing to stay? You are quite wrong, mamma; it
was for my sake that he stayed; I saw it in his eyes."
It is not that Sophy is indifferent to genuine proofs of love; on
the contrary she is imperious and exacting; she would rather not
be loved at all than be loved half-heartedly. Hers is the noble
pride of worth, conscious of its own value, self-respecting and
claiming a like honour from others. She would scorn a heart that
did not recognise the full worth of her own; that did not love
her for her virtues as much and more than for her charms; a heart
which did not put duty first, and prefer it to everything. She did
not desire a lover who knew no will but hers. She wished to reign
over a man whom she had not spoilt. Thus Circe, having changed into
swine the comrades of Ulysses, bestowed herself on him over whom
she had no power.
Except for this sacred and inviolable right, Sophy is very jealous
of her own rights; she observes how carefully Emile respects them,
how zealously he does her will; how cleverly he guesses her wishes,
how exactly he arrives at the appointed time; she will have him
neither late nor early; he must arrive to the moment. To come early
is to think more of himself than of her; to come late is to neglect
her. To neglect Sophy, that could not happen twice. An unfounded
suspicion on her part nearly ruined everything, but Sophy is really
just and knows how to atone for her faults.
They were expecting us one evening; Emile had received his orders.
They came to meet us, but we were not there. What has become of us?
What accident have we met with? No message from us! The evening
is spent in expectation of our arrival. Sophy thinks we are dead;
she is miserable and in an agony of distress; she cries all the night
through. In the course of the evening a messenger was despatched to
inquire after us and bring back news in the morning. The messenger
returns together with another messenger sent by us, who makes our
excuses verbally and says we are quite well. Then the scene is
changed; Sophy dries her tears, or if she still weeps it is for
anger. It is small consolation to her proud spirit to know that we
are alive; Emile lives and he has kept her waiting.
When we arrive she tries to escape to her own room; her parents
desire her to remain, so she is obliged to do so; but deciding at
once what course she will take she assumes a calm and contented
expression which would deceive most people. Her father comes forward
to receive us saying, "You have made your friends very uneasy;
there are people here who will not forgive you very readily." "Who
are they, papa," said Sophy with the most gracious smile she could
assume. "What business is that of yours," said her father, "if it
is not you?" Sophy bent over her work without reply. Her mother
received us coldly and formally. Emile was so confused he dared not
speak to Sophy. She spoke first, inquired how he was, asked him to
take a chair, and pretended so cleverly that the poor young fellow,
who as yet knew nothing of the language of angry passions, was quite
deceived by her apparent indifference, and ready to take offence
on his own account.
To undeceive him I was going to take Sophy's hand and raise it to
my lips as I sometimes did; she drew it back so hastily, with the
word, "Sir," uttered in such a strange manner that Emile's eyes
were opened at once by this involuntary movement.
Sophy herself, seeing that she had betrayed herself, exercised less
control over herself. Her apparent indifference was succeeded by
scornful irony. She replied to everything he said in monosyllables
uttered slowly and hesitatingly as if she were afraid her anger
should show itself too plainly. Emile half dead with terror stared
at her full of sorrow, and tried to get her to look at him so that
his eyes might read in hers her real feelings. Sophy, still more
angry at his boldness, gave him one look which removed all wish
for another. Luckily for himself, Emile, trembling and dumbfounded,
dared neither look at her nor speak to her again; for had he not
been guilty, had he been able to endure her wrath, she would never
have forgiven him.
Seeing that it was my turn now, and that the time was ripe for
explanation, I returned to Sophy. I took her hand and this time
she did not snatch it away; she was ready to faint. I said gently,
"Dear Sophy, we are the victims of misfortune; but you are just and
reasonable; you will not judge us unheard; listen to what we have
to say." She said nothing and I proceeded--
"We set out yesterday at four o'clock; we were told to be here at
seven, and we always allow ourselves rather more time than we need,
so as to rest a little before we get here. We were more than half
way here when we heard lamentable groans, which came from a little
valley in the hillside, some distance off. We hurried towards the
place and found an unlucky peasant who had taken rather more wine
than was good for him; on his way home he had fallen heavily from
his horse and broken his leg. We shouted and called for help; there
was no answer; we tried to lift the injured man on his horse, but
without success; the least movement caused intense agony. We decided
to tie up the horse in a quiet part of the wood; then we made a
chair of our crossed arms and carried the man as gently as possible,
following his directions till we got him home. The way was long,
and we were constantly obliged to stop and rest. At last we got
there, but thoroughly exhausted. We were surprised and sorry to find
that it was a house we knew already and that the wretched creature
we had carried with such difficulty was the very man who received
us so kindly when first we came. We had all been so upset that
until that moment we had not recognised each other.
"There were only two little children. His wife was about to present
him with another, and she was so overwhelmed at the sight of him
brought home in such a condition, that she was taken ill and a few
hours later gave birth to another little one. What was to be done
under such circumstances in a lonely cottage far from any help?
Emile decided to fetch the horse we had left in the wood, to ride
as fast as he could into the town and fetch a surgeon. He let the
surgeon have the horse, and not succeeding in finding a nurse all
at once, he returned on foot with a servant, after having sent a
messenger to you; meanwhile I hardly knew what to do between a man
with a broken leg and a woman in travail, but I got ready as well
as I could such things in the house as I thought would be needed
for the relief of both.
"I will pass over the rest of the details; they are not to the
point. It was two o'clock in the morning before we got a moment's
rest. At last we returned before daybreak to our lodging close at
hand, where we waited till you were up to let you know what had
happened to us."
That was all I said. But before any one could speak Emile,
approaching Sophy, raised his voice and said with greater firmness
than I expected, "Sophy, my fate is in your hands, as you very well
know. You may condemn me to die of grief; but do not hope to make
me forget the rights of humanity; they are even more sacred in my
eyes than your own rights; I will never renounce them for you."
For all answer, Sophy rose, put her arm round his neck, and kissed
him on the cheek; then offering him her hand with inimitable grace
she said to him, "Emile, take this hand; it is yours. When you will,
you shall be my husband and my master; I will try to be worthy of
Scarcely had she kissed him, when her delighted father clapped his
hands calling, "Encore, encore," and Sophy without further ado,
kissed him twice on the other cheek; but afraid of what she had done
she took refuge at once in her mother's arms and hid her blushing
face on the maternal bosom.
I will not describe our happiness; everybody will feel with us.
After dinner Sophy asked if it were too far to go and see the
poor invalids. It was her wish and it was a work of mercy. When we
got there we found them both in bed--Emile had sent for a second
bedstead; there were people there to look after them--Emile had
seen to it. But in spite of this everything was so untidy that they
suffered almost as much from discomfort as from their condition.
Sophy asked for one of the good wife's aprons and set to work to
make her more comfortable in her bed; then she did as much for the
man; her soft and gentle hand seemed to find out what was hurting
them and how to settle them into less painful positions. Her
very presence seemed to make them more comfortable; she seemed to
guess what was the matter. This fastidious girl was not disgusted
by the dirt or smells, and she managed to get rid of both without
disturbing the sick people. She who had always appeared so modest
and sometimes so disdainful, she who would not for all the world
have touched a man's bed with her little finger, lifted the sick
man and changed his linen without any fuss, and placed him to rest
in a more comfortable position. The zeal of charity is of more
value than modesty. What she did was done so skilfully and with
such a light touch that he felt better almost without knowing she
had touched him. Husband and wife mingled their blessings upon the
kindly girl who tended, pitied, and consoled them. She was an angel
from heaven come to visit them; she was an angel in face and manner,
in gentleness and goodness. Emile was greatly touched by all this
and he watched her without speaking. O man, love thy helpmeet. God
gave her to relieve thy sufferings, to comfort thee in thy troubles.
This is she!
The new-born baby was baptised. The two lovers were its god-parents,
and as they held it at the font they were longing, at the bottom of
their hearts, for the time when they should have a child of their
own to be baptised. They longed for their wedding day; they thought
it was close at hand; all Sophy's scruples had vanished, but mine
remained. They had not got so far as they expected; every one must
have his turn.
One morning when they had not seen each other for two whole days,
I entered Emile's room with a letter in my hands, and looking
fixedly at him I said to him, "What would you do if some one told
you Sophy were dead?" He uttered a loud cry, got up and struck his
hands together, and without saying a single word, he looked at me
with eyes of desperation. "Answer me," I continued with the same
calmness. Vexed at my composure, he then approached me with eyes
blazing with anger; and checking himself in an almost threatening
attitude, "What would I do? I know not; but this I do know, I would
never set eyes again upon the person who brought me such news."
"Comfort yourself," said I, smiling, "she lives, she is well, and
they are expecting us this evening. But let us go for a short walk
and we can talk things over."
The passion which engrosses him will no longer permit him to devote
himself as in former days to discussions of pure reason; this very
passion must be called to our aid if his attention is to be given
to my teaching. That is why I made use of this terrible preface;
I am quite sure he will listen to me now.
"We must be happy, dear Emile; it is the end of every feeling
creature; it is the first desire taught us by nature, and the only
one which never leaves us. But where is happiness? Who knows? Every
one seeks it, and no one finds it. We spend our lives in the search
and we die before the end is attained. My young friend, when I
took you, a new-born infant, in my arms, and called God himself to
witness to the vow I dared to make that I would devote my life to
the happiness of your life, did I know myself what I was undertaking?
No; I only knew that in making you happy, I was sure of my own
happiness. By making this useful inquiry on your account, I made
it for us both.
"So long as we do not know what to do, wisdom consists in doing
nothing. Of all rules there is none so greatly needed by man, and
none which he is less able to obey. In seeking happiness when we
know not where it is, we are perhaps getting further and further
from it, we are running as many risks as there are roads to choose
from. But it is not every one that can keep still. Our passion
for our own well-being makes us so uneasy, that we would rather
deceive ourselves in the search for happiness than sit still and do
nothing; and when once we have left the place where we might have
known happiness, we can never return.
"In ignorance like this I tried to avoid a similar fault. When
I took charge of you I decided to take no useless steps and to
prevent you from doing so too. I kept to the path of nature, until
she should show me the path of happiness. And lo! their paths were
the same, and without knowing it this was the path I trod.
"Be at once my witness and my judge; I will never refuse to accept
your decision. Your early years have not been sacrificed to those
that were to follow, you have enjoyed all the good gifts which
nature bestowed upon you. Of the ills to which you were by nature
subject, and from which I could shelter you, you have only experienced
such as would harden you to bear others. You have never suffered
any evil, except to escape a greater. You have known neither hatred
nor servitude. Free and happy, you have remained just and kindly;
for suffering and vice are inseparable, and no man ever became bad
until he was unhappy. May the memory of your childhood remain with
you to old age! I am not afraid that your kind heart will ever
recall the hand that trained it without a blessing upon it.
"When you reached the age of reason, I secured you from the influence
of human prejudice; when your heart awoke I preserved you from the
sway of passion. Had I been able to prolong this inner tranquillity
till your life's end, my work would have been secure, and you would
have been as happy as man can be; but, my dear Emile, in vain did
I dip you in the waters of Styx, I could not make you everywhere
invulnerable; a fresh enemy has appeared, whom you have not yet
learnt to conquer, and from whom I cannot save you. That enemy
is yourself. Nature and fortune had left you free. You could face
poverty, you could bear bodily pain; the sufferings of the heart
were unknown to you; you were then dependent on nothing but your
position as a human being; now you depend on all the ties you have
formed for yourself; you have learnt to desire, and you are now
the slave of your desires. Without any change in yourself, without
any insult, any injury to yourself, what sorrows may attack your
soul, what pains may you suffer without sickness, how many deaths
may you die and yet live! A lie, an error, a suspicion, may plunge
you in despair.
"At the theatre you used to see heroes, abandoned to depths of woe,
making the stage re-echo with their wild cries, lamenting like
women, weeping like children, and thus securing the applause of the
audience. Do you remember how shocked you were by those lamentations,
cries, and groans, in men from whom one would only expect deeds of
constancy and heroism. 'Why,' said you, 'are those the patterns we
are to follow, the models set for our imitation! Are they afraid
man will not be small enough, unhappy enough, weak enough, if his
weakness is not enshrined under a false show of virtue.' My young
friend, henceforward you must be more merciful to the stage; you
have become one of those heroes.
"You know how to suffer and to die; you know how to bear the heavy
yoke of necessity in ills of the body, but you have not yet learnt
to give a law to the desires of your heart; and the difficulties
of life arise rather from our affections than from our needs. Our
desires are vast, our strength is little better than nothing. In his
wishes man is dependent on many things; in himself he is dependent
on nothing, not even on his own life; the more his connections are
multiplied, the greater his sufferings. Everything upon earth has
an end; sooner or later all that we love escapes from our fingers,
and we behave as if it would last for ever. What was your terror at
the mere suspicion of Sophy's death? Do you suppose she will live
for ever? Do not young people of her age die? She must die, my son,
and perhaps before you. Who knows if she is alive at this moment?
Nature meant you to die but once; you have prepared a second death
"A slave to your unbridled passions, how greatly are you to be
pitied! Ever privations, losses, alarms; you will not even enjoy
what is left. You will possess nothing because of the fear of losing
it; you will never be able to satisfy your passions, because you
desired to follow them continually. You will ever be seeking that
which will fly before you; you will be miserable and you will
become wicked. How can you be otherwise, having no care but your
unbridled passions! If you cannot put up with involuntary privations
how will you voluntarily deprive yourself? How can you sacrifice
desire to duty, and resist your heart in order to listen to your
reason? You would never see that man again who dared to bring you
word of the death of your mistress; how would you behold him who
would deprive you of her living self, him who would dare to tell
you, 'She is dead to you, virtue puts a gulf between you'? If you
must live with her whatever happens, whether Sophy is married or
single, whether you are free or not, whether she loves or hates
you, whether she is given or refused to you, no matter, it is your
will and you must have her at any price. Tell me then what crime
will stop a man who has no law but his heart's desires, who knows
not how to resist his own passions.
"My son, there is no happiness without courage, nor virtue without
a struggle. The word virtue is derived from a word signifying
strength, and strength is the foundation of all virtue. Virtue is
the heritage of a creature weak by nature but strong by will; that
is the whole merit of the righteous man; and though we call God good
we do not call Him virtuous, because He does good without effort.
I waited to explain the meaning of this word, so often profaned,
until you were ready to understand me. As long as virtue is quite
easy to practise, there is little need to know it. This need arises
with the awakening of the passions; your time has come.
"When I brought you up in all the simplicity of nature, instead
of preaching disagreeable duties, I secured for you immunity from
the vices which make such duties disagreeable; I made lying not
so much hateful as unnecessary in your sight; I taught you not so
much to give others their due, as to care little about your own
rights; I made you kindly rather than virtuous. But the kindly man
is only kind so long as he finds it pleasant; kindness falls to
pieces at the shook of human passions; the kindly man is only kind
"What is meant by a virtuous man? He who can conquer his affections;
for then he follows his reason, his conscience; he does his duty;
he is his own master and nothing can turn him from the right way.
So far you have had only the semblance of liberty, the precarious
liberty of the slave who has not received his orders. Now is the
time for real freedom; learn to be your own master; control your
heart, my Emile, and you will be virtuous.
"There is another apprenticeship before you, an apprenticeship more
difficult than the former; for nature delivers us from the evils
she lays upon us, or else she teaches us to submit to them; but
she has no message for us with regard to our self-imposed evils;
she leaves us to ourselves; she leaves us, victims of our own
passions, to succumb to our vain sorrows, to pride ourselves on
the tears of which we should be ashamed.
"This is your first passion. Perhaps it is the only passion worthy
of you. If you can control it like a man, it will be the last; you
will be master of all the rest, and you will obey nothing but the
passion for virtue.
"There is nothing criminal in this passion; I know it; it is as
pure as the hearts which experience it. It was born of honour and
nursed by innocence. Happy lovers! for you the charms of virtue do
but add to those of love; and the blessed union to which you are
looking forward is less the reward of your goodness than of your
affection. But tell me, O truthful man, though this passion is
pure, is it any the less your master? Are you the less its slave?
And if to-morrow it should cease to be innocent, would you strangle
it on the spot? Now is the time to try your strength; there is no
time for that in hours of danger. These perilous efforts should be
made when danger is still afar. We do not practise the use of our
weapons when we are face to face with the enemy, we do that before
the war; we come to the battle-field ready prepared.
"It is a mistake to classify the passions as lawful and unlawful,
so as to yield to the one and refuse the other. All alike are good
if we are their masters; all alike are bad if we abandon ourselves to
them. Nature forbids us to extend our relations beyond the limits
of our strength; reason forbids us to want what we cannot get,
conscience forbids us, not to be tempted, but to yield to temptation.
To feel or not to feel a passion is beyond our control, but we can
control ourselves. Every sentiment under our own control is lawful;
those which control us are criminal. A man is not guilty if he
loves his neighbour's wife, provided he keeps this unhappy passion
under the control of the law of duty; he is guilty if he loves his
own wife so greatly as to sacrifice everything to that love.
"Do not expect me to supply you with lengthy precepts of morality,
I have only one rule to give you which sums up all the rest. Be a
man; restrain your heart within the limits of your manhood. Study
and know these limits; however narrow they may be, we are not
unhappy within them; it is only when we wish to go beyond them that
we are unhappy, only when, in our mad passions, we try to attain
the impossible; we are unhappy when we forget our manhood to make
an imaginary world for ourselves, from which we are always slipping
back into our own. The only good things, whose loss really affects
us, are those which we claim as our rights. If it is clear that
we cannot obtain what we want, our mind turns away from it; wishes
without hope cease to torture us. A beggar is not tormented by a
desire to be a king; a king only wishes to be a god when he thinks
himself more than man.
"The illusions of pride are the source of our greatest ills; but
the contemplation of human suffering keeps the wise humble. He
keeps to his proper place and makes no attempt to depart from it;
he does not waste his strength in getting what he cannot keep; and
his whole strength being devoted to the right employment of what
he has, he is in reality richer and more powerful in proportion as
he desires less than we. A man, subject to death and change, shall
I forge for myself lasting chains upon this earth, where everything
changes and disappears, whence I myself shall shortly vanish! Oh,
Emile! my son! if I were to lose you, what would be left of myself?
And yet I must learn to lose you, for who knows when you may be
taken from me?
"Would you live in wisdom and happiness, fix your heart on the
beauty that is eternal; let your desires be limited by your position,
let your duties take precedence of your wishes; extend the law of
necessity into the region of morals; learn to lose what may be taken
from you; learn to forsake all things at the command of virtue,
to set yourself above the chances of life, to detach your heart
before it is torn in pieces, to be brave in adversity so that you
may never be wretched, to be steadfast in duty that you may never
be guilty of a crime. Then you will be happy in spite of fortune,
and good in spite of your passions. You will find a pleasure that
cannot be destroyed, even in the possession of the most fragile
things; you will possess them, they will not possess you, and you
will realise that the man who loses everything, only enjoys what
he knows how to resign. It is true you will not enjoy the illusions
of imaginary pleasures, neither will you feel the sufferings which
are their result. You will profit greatly by this exchange, for
the sufferings are real and frequent, the pleasures are rare and
empty. Victor over so many deceitful ideas, you will also vanquish
the idea that attaches such an excessive value to life. You will
spend your life in peace, and you will leave it without terror; you
will detach yourself from life as from other things. Let others,
horror-struck, believe that when this life is ended they cease to
be; conscious of the nothingness of life, you will think that you
are but entering upon the true life. To the wicked, death is the
close of life; to the just it is its dawn."
Emile heard me with attention not unmixed with anxiety. After such
a startling preface he feared some gloomy conclusion. He foresaw
that when I showed him how necessary it is to practise the strength
of the soul, I desired to subject him to this stern discipline; he
was like a wounded man who shrinks from the surgeon, and fancies
he already feels the painful but healing touch which will cure the
Uncertain, anxious, eager to know what I am driving at, he does
not answer, he questions me but timidly. "What must I do?" says
he almost trembling, not daring to raise his eyes. "What must you
do?" I reply firmly. "You must leave Sophy." "What are you saying?"
he exclaimed angrily. "Leave Sophy, leave Sophy, deceive her, become
a traitor, a villain, a perjurer!" "Why!" I continue, interrupting
him; "does Emile suppose I shall teach him to deserve such titles?"
"No," he continued with the same vigour. "Neither you nor any one
else; I am capable of preserving your work; I shall not deserve
I was prepared for this first outburst; I let it pass unheeded. If
I had not the moderation I preach it would not be much use preaching
it! Emile knows me too well to believe me capable of demanding
any wrong action from him, and he knows that it would be wrong to
leave Sophy, in the sense he attaches to the phrase. So he waits
for an explanation. Then I resume my speech.
"My dear Emile, do you think any man whatsoever can be happier than
you have been for the last three months? If you think so, undeceive
yourself. Before tasting the pleasures of life you have plumbed
the depths of its happiness. There is nothing more than you have
already experienced. The joys of sense are soon over; habit invariably
destroys them. You have tasted greater joys through hope than you
will ever enjoy in reality. The imagination which adorns what we
long for, deserts its possession. With the exception of the one
self-existing Being, there is nothing beautiful except that which
is not. If that state could have lasted for ever, you would have
found perfect happiness. But all that is related to man shares his
decline; all is finite, all is fleeting in human life, and even
if the conditions which make us happy could be prolonged for ever,
habit would deprive us of all taste for that happiness. If external
circumstances remain unchanged, the heart changes; either happiness
forsakes us, or we forsake her.
"During your infatuation time has passed unheeded. Summer is over,
winter is at hand. Even if our expeditions were possible, at such
a time of year they would not be permitted. Whether we wish it or
no, we shall have to change our way of life; it cannot continue.
I read in your eager eyes that this does not disturb you greatly;
Sophy's confession and your own wishes suggest a simple plan
for avoiding the snow and escaping the journey. The plan has its
advantages, no doubt; but when spring returns, the snow will melt
and the marriage will remain; you must reckon for all seasons.
"You wish to marry Sophy and you have only known her five months!
You wish to marry her, not because she is a fit wife for you,
but because she pleases you; as if love were never mistaken as to
fitness, as if those, who begin with love, never ended with hatred!
I know she is virtuous; but is that enough? Is fitness merely a matter
of honour? It is not her virtue I misdoubt, it is her disposition.
Does a woman show her real character in a day? Do you know how
often you must have seen her and under what varying conditions to
really know her temper? Is four months of liking a sufficient pledge
for the rest of your life? A couple of months hence you may have
forgotten her; as soon as you are gone another may efface your
image in her heart; on your return you may find her as indifferent
as you have hitherto found her affectionate. Sentiments are not
a matter of principle; she may be perfectly virtuous and yet cease
to love you. I am inclined to think she will be faithful and true;
but who will answer for her, and who will answer for you if you
are not put to the proof? Will you postpone this trial till it is
too late, will you wait to know your true selves till parting is
no longer possible?
"Sophy is not eighteen, and you are barely twenty-two; this is the
age for love, but not for marriage. What a father and mother for
a family! If you want to know how to bring up children, you should
at least wait till you yourselves are children no longer. Do you
not know that too early motherhood has weakened the constitution,
destroyed the health, and shortened the life of many young women?
Do you not know that many children have always been weak and sickly
because their mother was little more than a child herself? When
mother and child are both growing, the strength required for their
growth is divided, and neither gets all that nature intended; are
not both sure to suffer? Either I know very little of Emile, or
he would rather wait and have a healthy wife and children, than
satisfy his impatience at the price of their life and health.
"Let us speak of yourself. You hope to be a husband and a father;
have you seriously considered your duties? When you become the head
of a family you will become a citizen of your country. And what is
a citizen of the state? What do you know about it? You have studied
your duties as a man, but what do you know of the duties of a
citizen? Do you know the meaning of such terms as government, laws,
country? Do you know the price you must pay for life, and for what
you must be prepared to die? You think you know everything, when
you really know nothing at all. Before you take your place in the
civil order, learn to perceive and know what is your proper place.
"Emile, you must leave Sophy; I do not bid you forsake her; if you
were capable of such conduct, she would be only too happy not to
have married you; you must leave her in order to return worthy of
her. Do not be vain enough to think yourself already worthy. How
much remains to be done! Come and fulfil this splendid task; come
and learn to submit to absence; come and earn the prize of fidelity,
so that when you return you may indeed deserve some honour, and
may ask her hand not as a favour but as a reward."
Unaccustomed to struggle with himself, untrained to desire one thing
and to will another, the young man will not give way; he resists,
he argues. Why should he refuse the happiness which awaits him?
Would he not despise the hand which is offered him if he hesitated
to accept it? Why need he leave her to learn what he ought to know?
And if it were necessary to leave her why not leave her as his
wife with a certain pledge of his return? Let him be her husband,
and he is ready to follow me; let them be married and he will leave
her without fear. "Marry her in order to leave her, dear Emile! what
a contradiction! A lover who can leave his mistress shows himself
capable of great things; a husband should never leave his wife
unless through necessity. To cure your scruples, I see the delay
must be involuntary on your part; you must be able to tell Sophy
you leave her against your will. Very well, be content, and since
you will not follow the commands of reason, you must submit to
another master. You have not forgotten your promise. Emile, you
must leave Sophy; I will have it."
For a moment or two he was downcast, silent, and thoughtful,
then looking me full in the face he said, "When do we start?" "In
a week's time," I replied; "Sophy must be prepared for our going.
Women are weaker than we are, and we must show consideration for
them; and this parting is not a duty for her as it is for you, so
she may be allowed to bear it less bravely."
The temptation to continue the daily history of their love up
to the time of their separation is very great; but I have already
presumed too much upon the good nature of my readers; let us abridge
the story so as to bring it to an end. Will Emile face the situation
as bravely at his mistress' feet as he has done in conversation
with his friend? I think he will; his confidence is rooted in the
sincerity of his love. He would be more at a loss with her, if it
cost him less to leave her; he would leave her feeling himself to
blame, and that is a difficult part for a man of honour to play;
but the greater the sacrifice, the more credit he demands for it
in the sight of her who makes it so difficult. He has no fear that
she will misunderstand his motives. Every look seems to say, "Oh,
Sophy, read my heart and be faithful to me; your lover is not
Sophy tries to bear the unforeseen blow with her usual pride
and dignity. She tries to seem as if she did not care, but as the
honours of war are not hers, but Emile's, her strength is less
equal to the task. She weeps, she sighs against her will, and the
fear of being forgotten embitters the pain of parting. She does
not weep in her lover's sight, she does not let him see her terror;
she would die rather than utter a sigh in his presence. I am the
recipient of her lamentations, I behold her tears, it is I who am
supposed to be her confidant. Women are very clever and know how to
conceal their cleverness; the more she frets in private, the more
pains she takes to please me; she feels that her fate is in my
I console and comfort her; I make myself answerable for her lover,
or rather for her husband; let her be as true to him as he to
her and I promise they shall be married in two years' time. She
respects me enough to believe that I do not want to deceive her.
I am guarantor to each for the other. Their hearts, their virtue,
my honesty, the confidence of their parents, all combine to reassure
them. But what can reason avail against weakness? They part as if
they were never to meet again.
Then it is that Sophy recalls the regrets of Eucharis, and fancies
herself in her place. Do not let us revive that fantastic affection
during his absence "Sophy," say I one day, "exchange books with
Emile; let him have your Telemachus that he may learn to be like
him, and let him give you his Spectator which you enjoy reading.
Study the duties of good wives in it, and remember that in two years'
time you will undertake those duties." The exchange gave pleasure
to both and inspired them with confidence. At last the sad day
arrived and they must part.
Sophy's worthy father, with whom I had arranged the whole business,
took affectionate leave of me, and taking me aside, he spoke
seriously and somewhat emphatically, saying, "I have done everything
to please you; I knew I had to do with a man of honour; I have only
one word to say. Remembering your pupil has signed his contract of
marriage on my daughter's lips."
What a difference in the behaviour of the two lovers! Emile,
impetuous, eager, excited, almost beside himself, cries aloud
and sheds torrents of tears upon the hands of father, mother, and
daughter; with sobs he embraces every one in the house and repeats
the same thing over and over again in a way that would be ludicrous
at any other time. Sophy, pale, sorrowful, doleful, and heavy-eyed,
remains quiet without a word or a tear, she sees no one, not even
Emile. In vain he takes her hand, and clasps her in his arms; she
remains motionless, unheeding his tears, his caresses, and everything
he does; so far as she is concerned, he is gone already. A sight
more moving than the prolonged lamentations and noisy regrets of her
lover! He sees, he feels, he is heartbroken. I drag him reluctantly
away; if I left him another minute, he would never go. I am delighted
that he should carry this touching picture with him. If he should
ever be tempted to forget what is due to Sophy, his heart must
have strayed very far indeed if I cannot bring it back to her by
recalling her as he saw her last.
Is it good for young people to travel? The question is often asked
and as often hotly disputed. If it were stated otherwise--Are
men the better for having travelled?--perhaps there would be less
difference of opinion.
The misuse of books is the death of sound learning. People think
they know what they have read, and take no pains to learn. Too much
reading only produces a pretentious ignoramus. There was never so
much reading in any age as the present, and never was there less
learning; in no country of Europe are so many histories and books
of travel printed as in France, and nowhere is there less knowledge
of the mind and manners of other nations. So many books lead us to
neglect the book of the world; if we read it at all, we keep each
to our own page. If the phrase, "Can one become a Persian," were
unknown to me, I should suspect on hearing it that it came from
the country where national prejudice is most prevalent and from
the sex which does most to increase it.
A Parisian thinks he has a knowledge of men and he knows only
Frenchmen; his town is always full of foreigners, but he considers
every foreigner as a strange phenomenon which has no equal in the
universe. You must have a close acquaintance with the middle classes
of that great city, you must have lived among them, before you can
believe that people could be at once so witty and so stupid. The
strangest thing about it is that probably every one of them has
read a dozen times a description of the country whose inhabitants
inspire him with such wonder.
To discover the truth amidst our own prejudices and those of the
authors is too hard a task. I have been reading books of travels
all my life, but I never found two that gave me the same idea of
the same nation. On comparing my own scanty observations with what
I have read, I have decided to abandon the travellers and I regret
the time wasted in trying to learn from their books; for I am
quite convinced that for that sort of study, seeing not reading is
required. That would be true enough if every traveller were honest,
if he only said what he saw and believed, and if truth were not
tinged with false colours from his own eyes. What must it be when
we have to disentangle the truth from the web of lies and ill-faith?
Let us leave the boasted resources of books to those who are content
to use them. Like the art of Raymond Lully they are able to set
people chattering about things they do not know. They are able to
set fifteen-year-old Platos discussing philosophy in the clubs, and
teaching people the customs of Egypt and the Indies on the word of
Paul Lucas or Tavernier.
I maintain that it is beyond dispute that any one who has only seen
one nation does not know men; he only knows those men among whom
he has lived. Hence there is another way of stating the question
about travel: "Is it enough for a well-educated man to know his
fellow-countrymen, or ought he to know mankind in general?" Then
there is no place for argument or uncertainty. See how greatly the
solution of a difficult problem may depend on the way in which it
But is it necessary to travel the whole globe to study mankind? Need
we go to Japan to study Europeans? Need we know every individual
before we know the species? No, there are men so much alike that it
is not worth while to study them individually. When you have seen
a dozen Frenchmen you have seen them all. Though one cannot say
as much of the English and other nations, it is, however, certain
that every nation has its own specific character, which is derived
by induction from the study, not of one, but many of its members.
He who has compared a dozen nations knows men, just he who has
compared a dozen Frenchmen knows the French.
To acquire knowledge it is not enough to travel hastily through a
country. Observation demands eyes, and the power of directing them
towards the object we desire to know. There are plenty of people
who learn no more from their travels than from their books, because
they do not know how to think; because in reading their mind is
at least under the guidance of the author, and in their travels
they do not know how to see for themselves. Others learn nothing,
because they have no desire to learn. Their object is so entirely
different, that this never occurs to them; it is very unlikely
that you will see clearly what you take no trouble to look for. The
French travel more than any other nation, but they are so taken up
with their own customs, that everything else is confused together.
There are Frenchmen in every corner of the globe. In no country
of the world do you find more people who have travelled than in
France. And yet of all the nations of Europe, that which has seen
most, knows least. The English are also travellers, but they travel
in another fashion; these two nations must always be at opposite
extremes. The English nobility travels, the French stays at home;
the French people travel, the English stay at home. This difference
does credit, I think, to the English. The French almost always
travel for their own ends; the English do not seek their fortune
in other lands, unless in the way of commerce and with their hands
full; when they travel it is to spend their money, not to live by
their wits; they are too proud to cringe before strangers. This
is why they learn more abroad than the French who have other fish
to fry. Yet the English have their national prejudices; but these
prejudices are not so much the result of ignorance as of feeling.
The Englishman's prejudices are the result of pride, the Frenchman's
are due to vanity.
Just as the least cultivated nations are usually the best, so those
travel best who travel least; they have made less progress than we
in our frivolous pursuits, they are less concerned with the objects
of our empty curiosity, so that they give their attention to what
is really useful. I hardly know any but the Spaniards who travel
in this fashion. While the Frenchman is running after all the
artists of the country, while the Englishman is getting a copy of
some antique, while the German is taking his album to every man
of science, the Spaniard is silently studying the government, the
manners of the country, its police, and he is the only one of the
four who from all that he has seen will carry home any observation
useful to his own country.
The ancients travelled little, read little, and wrote few books;
yet we see in those books that remain to us, that they observed each
other more thoroughly than we observe our contemporaries. Without
going back to the days of Homer, the only poet who transports us
to the country he describes, we cannot deny to Herodotus the glory
of having painted manners in his history, though he does it rather
by narrative than by comment; still he does it better than all our
historians whose books are overladen with portraits and characters.
Tacitus has described the Germans of his time better than any
author has described the Germans of to-day. There can be no doubt
that those who have devoted themselves to ancient history know more
about the Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Gauls, and Persians than
any nation of to-day knows about its neighbours.
It must also be admitted that the original characteristics of
different nations are changing day by day, and are therefore more
difficult to grasp. As races blend and nations intermingle, those
national differences which formerly struck the observer at first
sight gradually disappear. Before our time every nation remained
more or less cut off from the rest; the means of communication were
fewer; there was less travelling, less of mutual or conflicting
interests, less political and civil intercourse between nation and
nation; those intricate schemes of royalty, miscalled diplomacy,
were less frequent; there were no permanent ambassadors resident
at foreign courts; long voyages were rare, there was little foreign
trade, and what little there was, was either the work of princes,
who employed foreigners, or of people of no account who had no
influence on others and did nothing to bring the nations together.
The relations between Europe and Asia in the present century are
a hundredfold more numerous than those between Gaul and Spain in
the past; Europe alone was less accessible than the whole world is
Moreover, the peoples of antiquity usually considered themselves
as the original inhabitants of their country; they had dwelt there
so long that all record was lost of the far-off times when their
ancestors settled there; they had been there so long that the
place had made a lasting impression on them; but in modern Europe
the invasions of the barbarians, following upon the Roman conquests,
have caused an extraordinary confusion. The Frenchmen of to-day
are no longer the big fair men of old; the Greeks are no longer
beautiful enough to serve as a sculptor's model; the very face of
the Romans has changed as well as their character; the Persians,
originally from Tartary, are daily losing their native ugliness
through the intermixture of Circassian blood. Europeans are no longer
Gauls, Germans, Iberians, Allobroges; they are all Scythians, more
or less degenerate in countenance, and still more so in conduct.
This is why the ancient distinctions of race, the effect of soil
and climate, made a greater difference between nation and nation
in respect of temperament, looks, manners, and character than can
be distinguished in our own time, when the fickleness of Europe
leaves no time for natural causes to work, when the forests are
cut down and the marshes drained, when the earth is more generally,
though less thoroughly, tilled, so that the same differences between
country and country can no longer be detected even in purely physical
If they considered these facts perhaps people would not be in such
a hurry to ridicule Herodotus, Ctesias, Pliny for having described
the inhabitants of different countries each with its own peculiarities
and with striking differences which we no longer see. To recognise
such types of face we should need to see the men themselves; no
change must have passed over them, if they are to remain the same.
If we could behold all the people who have ever lived, who can
doubt that we should find greater variations between one century
and another, than are now found between nation and nation.
At the same time, while observation becomes more difficult, it
is more carelessly and badly done; this is another reason for the
small success of our researches into the natural history of the
human race. The information acquired by travel depends upon the
object of the journey. If this object is a system of philosophy, the
traveller only sees what he desires to see; if it is self-interest,
it engrosses the whole attention of those concerned. Commerce and
the arts which blend and mingle the nations at the same time prevent
them from studying each other. If they know how to make a profit
out of their neighbours, what more do they need to know?
It is a good thing to know all the places where we might live, so
as to choose those where we can live most comfortably. If every
one lived by his own efforts, all he would need to know would be
how much land would keep him in food. The savage, who has need of
no one, and envies no one, neither knows nor seeks to know any other
country but his own. If he requires more land for his subsistence
he shuns inhabited places; he makes war upon the wild beasts
and feeds on them. But for us, to whom civilised life has become
a necessity, for us who must needs devour our fellow-creatures,
self-interest prompts each one of us to frequent those districts
where there are most people to be devoured. This is why we all
flock to Rome, Paris, and London. Human flesh and blood are always
cheapest in the capital cities. Thus we only know the great nations,
which are just like one another.
They say that men of learning travel to obtain information; not so,
they travel like other people from interested motives. Philosophers
like Plato and Pythagoras are no longer to be found, or if they
are, it must be in far-off lands. Our men of learning only travel
at the king's command; they are sent out, their expenses are paid,
they receive a salary for seeing such and such things, and the
object of that journey is certainly not the study of any question
of morals. Their whole time is required for the object of their
journey, and they are too honest not to earn their pay. If in any
country whatsoever there are people travelling at their own expense,
you may be sure it is not to study men but to teach them. It is
not knowledge they desire but ostentation. How should their travels
teach them to shake off the yoke of prejudice? It is prejudice that
sends them on their travels.
To travel to see foreign lands or to see foreign nations are two
very different things. The former is the usual aim of the curious,
the latter is merely subordinate to it. If you wish to travel as
a philosopher you should reverse this order. The child observes
things till he is old enough to study men. Man should begin by
studying his fellows; he can study things later if time permits.
It is therefore illogical to conclude that travel is useless
because we travel ill. But granting the usefulness of travel, does
it follow that it is good for all of us? Far from it; there are
very few people who are really fit to travel; it is only good for
those who are strong enough in themselves to listen to the voice
of error without being deceived, strong enough to see the example
of vice without being led away by it. Travelling accelerates the
progress of nature, and completes the man for good or evil. When
a man returns from travelling about the world, he is what he will
be all his life; there are more who return bad than good, because
there are more who start with an inclination towards evil. In the
course of their travels, young people, ill-educated and ill-behaved,
pick up all the vices of the nations among whom they have sojourned,
and none of the virtues with which those vices are associated; but
those who, happily for themselves, are well-born, those whose good
disposition has been well cultivated, those who travel with a real
desire to learn, all such return better and wiser than they went.
Emile will travel in this fashion; in this fashion there travelled
another young man, worthy of a nobler age; one whose worth was the
admiration of Europe, one who died for his country in the flower
of his manhood; he deserved to live, and his tomb, ennobled by his
virtues only, received no honour till a stranger's hand adorned it
Everything that is done in reason should have its rules. Travel,
undertaken as a part of education, should therefore have its rules.
To travel for travelling's sake is to wander, to be a vagabond; to
travel to learn is still too vague; learning without some definite
aim is worthless. I would give a young man a personal interest
in learning, and that interest, well-chosen, will also decide the
nature of the instruction. This is merely the continuation of the
method I have hitherto practised.
Now after he has considered himself in his physical relations
to other creatures, in his moral relations with other men, there
remains to be considered his civil relations with his fellow-citizens.
To do this he must first study the nature of government in general,
then the different forms of government, and lastly the particular
government under which he was born, to know if it suits him to live
under it; for by a right which nothing can abrogate, every man,
when he comes of age, becomes his own master, free to renounce the
contract by which he forms part of the community, by leaving the
country in which that contract holds good. It is only by sojourning
in that country, after he has come to years of discretion, that
he is supposed to have tacitly confirmed the pledge given by his
ancestors. He acquires the right to renounce his country, just as
he has the right to renounce all claim to his father's lands; yet
his place of birth was a gift of nature, and in renouncing it, he
renounces what is his own. Strictly speaking, every man remains in
the land of his birth at his own risk unless he voluntarily submits
to its laws in order to acquire a right to their protection.
For example, I should say to Emile, "Hitherto you have lived under
my guidance, you were unable to rule yourself. But now you are
approaching the age when the law, giving you the control over your
property, makes you master of your person. You are about to find
yourself alone in society, dependent on everything, even on your
patrimony. You mean to marry; that is a praiseworthy intention,
it is one of the duties of man; but before you marry you must know
what sort of man you want to be, how you wish to spend your life,
what steps you mean to take to secure a living for your family
and for yourself; for although we should not make this our main
business, it must be definitely considered. Do you wish to be
dependent on men whom you despise? Do you wish to establish your
fortune and determine your position by means of civil relations which
will make you always dependent on the choice of others, which will
compel you, if you would escape from knaves, to become a knave
In the next place I would show him every possible way of using his
money in trade, in the civil service, in finance, and I shall show
him that in every one of these there are risks to be taken, every
one of them places him in a precarious and dependent position, and
compels him to adapt his morals, his sentiments, his conduct to
the example and the prejudices of others.
"There is yet another way of spending your time and money; you may
join the army; that is to say, you may hire yourself out at very
high wages to go and kill men who never did you any harm. This trade
is held in great honour among men, and they cannot think too highly
of those who are fit for nothing better. Moreover, this profession,
far from making you independent of other resources, makes them all
the more necessary; for it is a point of honour in this profession
to ruin those who have adopted it. It is true they are not all
ruined; it is even becoming fashionable to grow rich in this as in
other professions; but if I told you how people manage to do it,
I doubt whether you would desire to follow their example.
"Moreover, you must know that, even in this trade, it is no longer
a question of courage or valour, unless with regard to the ladies;
on the contrary, the more cringing, mean, and degraded you are, the
more honour you obtain; if you have decided to take your profession
seriously, you will be despised, you will be hated, you will very
possibly be driven out of the service, or at least you will fall a
victim to favouritism and be supplanted by your comrades, because
you have been doing your duty in the trenches, while they have been
attending to their toilet."
We can hardly suppose that any of these occupations will be much
to Emile's taste. "Why," he will exclaim, "have I forgotten the
amusements of my childhood? Have I lost the use of my arms? Is
my strength failing me? Do I not know how to work? What do I care
about all your fine professions and all the silly prejudices of
others? I know no other pride than to be kindly and just; no other
happiness than to live in independence with her I love, gaining
health and a good appetite by the day's work. All these difficulties
you speak of do not concern me. The only property I desire is
a little farm in some quiet corner. I will devote all my efforts
after wealth to making it pay, and I will live without a care. Give
me Sophy and my land, and I shall be rich."
"Yes, my dear friend, that is all a wise man requires, a wife and
land of his own; but these treasures are scarcer than you think.
The rarest you have found already; let us discuss the other.
"A field of your own, dear Emile! Where will you find it, in what
remote corner of the earth can you say, 'Here am I master of myself
and of this estate which belongs to me?' We know where a man may
grow rich; who knows where he can do without riches? Who knows
where to live free and independent, without ill-treating others
and without fear of being ill-treated himself! Do you think it is
so easy to find a place where you can always live like an honest man?
If there is any safe and lawful way of living without intrigues,
without lawsuits, without dependence on others, it is, I admit,
to live by the labour of our hands, by the cultivation of our own
land; but where is the state in which a man can say, 'The earth
which I dig is my own?' Before choosing this happy spot, be sure
that you will find the peace you desire; beware lest an unjust
government, a persecuting religion, and evil habits should disturb
you in your home. Secure yourself against the excessive taxes which
devour the fruits of your labours, and the endless lawsuits which
consume your capital. Take care that you can live rightly without
having to pay court to intendents, to their deputies, to judges,
to priests, to powerful neighbours, and to knaves of every kind,
who are always ready to annoy you if you neglect them. Above all,
secure yourself from annoyance on the part of the rich and great;
remember that their estates may anywhere adjoin your Naboth's vineyard.
If unluckily for you some great man buys or builds a house near
your cottage, make sure that he will not find a way, under some
pretence or other, to encroach on your lands to round off his estate,
or that you do not find him at once absorbing all your resources
to make a wide highroad. If you keep sufficient credit to ward off
all these disagreeables, you might as well keep your money, for it
will cost you no more to keep it. Riches and credit lean upon each
other, the one can hardly stand without the other.
"I have more experience than you, dear Emile; I see more clearly
the difficulties in the way of your scheme. Yet it is a fine scheme
and honourable; it would make you happy indeed. Let us try to carry
it out. I have a suggestion to make; let us devote the two years
from now till the time of your return to choosing a place in
Europe where you could live happily with your family, secure from
all the dangers I have just described. If we succeed, you will
have discovered that true happiness, so often sought for in vain;
and you will not have to regret the time spent in its search. If
we fail, you will be cured of a mistaken idea; you will console
yourself for an inevitable ill, and you will bow to the law of
I do not know whether all my readers will see whither this suggested
inquiry will lead us; but this I do know, if Emile returns from his
travels, begun and continued with this end in view, without a full
knowledge of questions of government, public morality, and political
philosophy of every kind, we are greatly lacking, he in intelligence
and I in judgment.
The science of politics is and probably always will be unknown.
Grotius, our leader in this branch of learning, is only a child,
and what is worse an untruthful child. When I hear Grotius praised
to the skies and Hobbes overwhelmed with abuse, I perceive how
little sensible men have read or understood these authors. As a
matter of fact, their principles are exactly alike, they only differ
in their mode of expression. Their methods are also different:
Hobbes relies on sophism; Grotius relies on the poets; they are
agreed in everything else. In modern times the only man who could
have created this vast and useless science was the illustrious
Montesquieu. But he was not concerned with the principles of
political law; he was content to deal with the positive laws of
settled governments; and nothing could be more different than these
two branches of study.
Yet he who would judge wisely in matters of actual government is
forced to combine the two; he must know what ought to be in order
to judge what is. The chief difficulty in the way of throwing light
upon this important matter is to induce an individual to discuss
and to answer these two questions. "How does it concern me; and
what can I do?" Emile is in a position to answer both.
The next difficulty is due to the prejudices of childhood, the
principles in which we were brought up; it is due above all to the
partiality of authors, who are always talking about truth, though
they care very little about it; it is only their own interests
that they care for, and of these they say nothing. Now the nation
has neither professorships, nor pensions, nor membership of the
academies to bestow. How then shall its rights be established by
men of that type? The education I have given him has removed this
difficulty also from Emile's path. He scarcely knows what is meant
by government; his business is to find the best; he does not want
to write books; if ever he did so, it would not be to pay court to
those in authority, but to establish the rights of humanity.
There is a third difficulty, more specious than real; a difficulty
which I neither desire to solve nor even to state; enough that I am
not afraid of it; sure I am that in inquiries of this kind, great
talents are less necessary than a genuine love of justice and a
sincere reverence for truth. If matters of government can ever be
fairly discussed, now or never is our chance.
Before beginning our observations we must lay down rules of procedure;
we must find a scale with which to compare our measurements. Our
principles of political law are our scale. Our actual measurements
are the civil law of each country.
Our elementary notions are plain and simple, being taken directly
from the nature of things. They will take the form of problems
discussed between us, and they will not be formulated into principles,
until we have found a satisfactory solution of our problems.
For example, we shall begin with the state of nature, we shall see
whether men are born slaves or free, in a community or independent;
is their association the result of free will or of force? Can the
force which compels them to united action ever form a permanent
law, by which this original force becomes binding, even when another
has been imposed upon it, so that since the power of King Nimrod,
who is said to have been the first conqueror, every other power
which has overthrown the original power is unjust and usurping,
so that there are no lawful kings but the descendants of Nimrod or
their representatives; or if this original power has ceased, has
the power which succeeded it any right over us, and does it destroy
the binding force of the former power, so that we are not bound to
obey except under compulsion, and we are free to rebel as soon as
we are capable of resistance? Such a right is not very different
from might; it is little more than a play upon words.
We shall inquire whether man might not say that all sickness comes
from God, and that it is therefore a crime to send for the doctor.
Again, we shall inquire whether we are bound by our conscience to
give our purse to a highwayman when we might conceal it from him,
for the pistol in his hand is also a power.
Does this word power in this context mean something different from
a power which is lawful and therefore subject to the laws to which
it owes its being?
Suppose we reject this theory that might is right and admit the
right of nature, or the authority of the father, as the foundation
of society; we shall inquire into the extent of this authority; what
is its foundation in nature? Has it any other grounds but that of
its usefulness to the child, his weakness, and the natural love
which his father feels towards him? When the child is no longer
feeble, when he is grown-up in mind as well as in body, does not
he become the sole judge of what is necessary for his preservation?
Is he not therefore his own master, independent of all men, even
of his father himself? For is it not still more certain that the
son loves himself, than that the father loves the son?
The father being dead, should the children obey the eldest brother,
or some other person who has not the natural affection of a father?
Should there always be, from family to family, one single head to
whom all the family owe obedience? If so, how has power ever come
to be divided, and how is it that there is more than one head to
govern the human race throughout the world?
Suppose the nations to have been formed each by its own choice; we
shall then distinguish between right and fact; being thus subjected
to their brothers, uncles, or other relations, not because they
were obliged, but because they choose, we shall inquire whether
this kind of society is not a sort of free and voluntary association?
Taking next the law of slavery, we shall inquire whether a man can
make over to another his right to himself, without restriction,
without reserve, without any kind of conditions; that is to say,
can he renounce his person, his life, his reason, his very self,
can he renounce all morality in his actions; in a word, can he
cease to exist before his death, in spite of nature who places him
directly in charge of his own preservation, in spite of reason and
conscience which tell him what to do and what to leave undone?
If there is any reservation or restriction in the deed of slavery,
we shall discuss whether this deed does not then become a true
contract, in which both the contracting powers, having in this respect
no common master, [Footnote: If they had such a common master, he
would be no other than the sovereign, and then the right of slavery
resting on the right of sovereignty would not be its origin.]
remain their own judge as to the conditions of the contract, and
therefore free to this extent, and able to break the contract as
soon as it becomes hurtful.
If then a slave cannot convey himself altogether to his master,
how can a nation convey itself altogether to its head? If a slave
is to judge whether his master is fulfilling his contract, is not
the nation to judge whether its head is fulfilling his contract?
Thus we are compelled to retrace our steps, and when we consider
the meaning of this collective nation we shall inquire whether some
contract, a tacit contract at the least, is not required to make
a nation, a contract anterior to that which we are assuming.
Since the nation was a nation before it chose a king, what made it
a nation, except the social contract? Therefore the social contract
is the foundation of all civil society, and it is in the nature of
this contract that we must seek the nature of the society formed
We will inquire into the meaning of this contract; may it not be
fairly well expressed in this formula? As an individual every one
of us contributes his goods, his person, his life, to the common
stock, under the supreme direction of the general will; while as
a body we receive each member as an indivisible part of the whole.
Assuming this, in order to define the terms we require, we shall
observe that, instead of the individual person of each contracting
party, this deed of association produces a moral and collective body,
consisting of as many members as there are votes in the Assembly.
This public personality is usually called the body politic, which
is called by its members the State when it is passive, and the
Sovereign when it is active, and a Power when compared with its
equals. With regard to the members themselves, collectively they
are known as the nation, and individually as citizens as members
of the city or partakers in the sovereign power, and subjects as
obedient to the same authority.
We shall note that this contract of association includes a mutual
pledge on the part of the public and the individual; and that each
individual, entering, so to speak, into a contract with himself,
finds himself in a twofold capacity, i.e., as a member of the
sovereign with regard to others, as member of the state with regard
to the sovereign.
We shall also note that while no one is bound by any engagement to
which he was not himself a party, the general deliberation which
may be binding on all the subjects with regard to the sovereign,
because of the two different relations under which each of them is
envisaged, cannot be binding on the state with regard to itself.
Hence we see that there is not, and cannot be, any other fundamental
law, properly so called, except the social contract only. This does
not mean that the body politic cannot, in certain respects, pledge
itself to others; for in regard to the foreigner, it then becomes
a simple creature, an individual.
Thus the two contracting parties, i.e., each individual and the
public, have no common superior to decide their differences; so we
will inquire if each of them remains free to break the contract at
will, that is to repudiate it on his side as soon as he considers
To clear up this difficulty, we shall observe that, according to
the social pact, the sovereign power is only able to act through
the common, general will; so its decrees can only have a general
or common aim; hence it follows that a private individual cannot
be directly injured by the sovereign, unless all are injured, which
is impossible, for that would be to want to harm oneself. Thus the
social contract has no need of any warrant but the general power,
for it can only be broken by individuals, and they are not therefore
freed from their engagement, but punished for having broken it.
To decide all such questions rightly, we must always bear in mind
that the nature of the social pact is private and peculiar to
itself, in that the nation only contracts with itself, i.e., the
people as a whole as sovereign, with the individuals as subjects;
this condition is essential to the construction and working of the
political machine, it alone makes pledges lawful, reasonable, and
secure, without which it would be absurd, tyrannical, and liable
to the grossest abuse.
Individuals having only submitted themselves to the sovereign, and
the sovereign power being only the general will, we shall see that
every man in obeying the sovereign only obeys himself, and how much
freer are we under the social part than in the state of nature.
Having compared natural and civil liberty with regard to persons,
we will compare them as to property, the rights of ownership and
the rights of sovereignty, the private and the common domain. If
the sovereign power rests upon the right of ownership, there is no
right more worthy of respect; it is inviolable and sacred for the
sovereign power, so long as it remains a private individual right; as
soon as it is viewed as common to all the citizens, it is subject
to the common will, and this will may destroy it. Thus the sovereign
has no right to touch the property of one or many; but he may
lawfully take possession of the property of all, as was done in
Sparta in the time of Lycurgus; while the abolition of debts by
Solon was an unlawful deed.
Since nothing is binding on the subjects except the general will,
let us inquire how this will is made manifest, by what signs we may
recognise it with certainty, what is a law, and what are the true
characters of the law? This is quite a fresh subject; we have still
to define the term law.
As soon as the nation considers one or more of its members, the
nation is divided. A relation is established between the whole and
its part which makes of them two separate entities, of which the
part is one, and the whole, minus that part, is the other. But the
whole minus the part is not the whole; as long as this relation
exists, there is no longer a whole, but two unequal parts.
On the other hand, if the whole nation makes a law for the whole
nation, it is only considering itself; and if a relation is set
up, it is between the whole community regarded from one point of
view, and the whole community regarded from another point of view,
without any division of that whole. Then the object of the statute
is general, and the will which makes that statute is general too.
Let us see if there is any other kind of decree which may bear the
name of law.
If the sovereign can only speak through laws, and if the law can
never have any but a general purpose, concerning all the members
of the state, it follows that the sovereign never has the power
to make any law with regard to particular cases; and yet it is
necessary for the preservation of the state that particular oases
should also be dealt with; let us see how this can be done.
The decrees of the sovereign can only be decrees of the general
will, that is laws; there must also be determining decrees, decrees
of power or government, for the execution of those laws; and these,
on the other hand, can only have particular aims. Thus the decrees
by which the sovereign decides that a chief shall be elected is
a law; the decree by which that chief is elected, in pursuance of
the law, is only a decree of government.
This is a third relation in which the assembled people may be
considered, i.e., as magistrates or executors of the law which it
has passed in its capacity as sovereign. [Footnote: These problems
and theorems are mostly taken from the Treatise on the Social
Contract, itself a summary of a larger work, undertaken without
due consideration of my own powers, and long since abandoned.]
We will now inquire whether it is possible for the nation to deprive
itself of its right of sovereignty, to bestow it on one or more
persons; for the decree of election not being a law, and the people
in this decree not being themselves sovereign, we do not see how
they can transfer a right which they do not possess.
The essence of sovereignty consisting in the general will, it is
equally hard to see how we can be certain that an individual will
shall always be in agreement with the general will. We should
rather assume that it will often be opposed to it; for individual
interest always tends to privileges, while the common interest
always tends to equality, and if such an agreement were possible,
no sovereign right could exist, unless the agreement were either
necessary or indestructible.
We will inquire if, without violating the social pact, the heads of
the nation, under whatever name they are chosen, can ever be more
than the officers of the people, entrusted by them with the duty
of carrying the law into execution. Are not these chiefs themselves
accountable for their administration, and are not they themselves
subject to the laws which it is their business to see carried out?
If the nation cannot alienate its supreme right, can it entrust
it to others for a time? Cannot it give itself a master, cannot it
find representatives? This is an important question and deserves
If the nation can have neither sovereign nor representatives we
will inquire how it can pass its own laws; must there be many laws;
must they be often altered; is it easy for a great nation to be
its own lawgiver?
Was not the Roman people a great nation?
Is it a good thing that there should be great nations?
It follows from considerations already established that there is
an intermediate body in the state between subjects and sovereign;
and this intermediate body, consisting of one or more members, is
entrusted with the public administration, the carrying out of the
laws, and the maintenance of civil and political liberty.
The members of this body are called magistrates or kings, that is
to say, rulers. This body, as a whole, considered in relation to
its members, is called the prince, and considered in its actions
it is called the government.
If we consider the action of the whole body upon itself, that is
to say, the relation of the whole to the whole, of the sovereign
to the state, we can compare this relation to that of the extremes
in a proportion of which the government is the middle term. The
magistrate receives from the sovereign the commands which he gives
to the nation, and when it is reckoned up his product or his power
is in the same degree as the product or power of the citizens
who are subjects on one side of the proportion and sovereigns on
the other. None of the three terms can be varied without at once
destroying this proportion. If the sovereign tries to govern, and
if the prince wants to make the laws, or if the subject refuses to
obey them, disorder takes the place of order, and the state falls
to pieces under despotism or anarchy.
Let us suppose that this state consists of ten thousand citizens.
The sovereign can only be considered collectively and as a body,
but each individual, as a subject, has his private and independent
existence. Thus the sovereign is as ten thousand to one; that is
to say, every member of the state has, as his own share, only one
ten-thousandth part of the sovereign power, although he is subject
to the whole. Let the nation be composed of one hundred thousand
men, the position of the subjects is unchanged, and each continues
to bear the whole weight of the laws, while his vote, reduced to the
one hundred-thousandth part, has ten times less influence in the
making of the laws. Thus the subject being always one, the sovereign
is relatively greater as the number of the citizens is increased.
Hence it follows that the larger the state the less liberty.
Now the greater the disproportion between private wishes and the
general will, i.e., between manners and laws, the greater must be
the power of repression. On the other side, the greatness of the
state gives the depositaries of public authority greater temptations
and additional means of abusing that authority, so that the more
power is required by the government to control the people, the more
power should there be in the sovereign to control the government.
From this twofold relation it follows that the continued proportion
between the sovereign, the prince, and the people is not an arbitrary
idea, but a consequence of the nature of the state. Moreover, it
follows that one of the extremes, i.e., the nation, being constant,
every time the double ratio increases or decreases, the simple
ratio increases or diminishes in its turn; which cannot be unless
the middle term is as often changed. From this we may conclude that
there is no single absolute form of government, but there must
be as many different forms of government as there are states of
If the greater the numbers of the nation the less the ratio between
its manners and its laws, by a fairly clear analogy, we may also
say, the more numerous the magistrates, the weaker the government.
To make this principle clearer we will distinguish three essentially
different wills in the person of each magistrate; first, his
own will as an individual, which looks to his own advantage only;
secondly, the common will of the magistrates, which is concerned
only with the advantage of the prince, a will which may be called
corporate, and one which is general in relation to the government
and particular in relation to the state of which the government
forms part; thirdly, the will of the people, or the sovereign will,
which is general, as much in relation to the state viewed as the
whole as in relation to the government viewed as a part of the
whole. In a perfect legislature the private individual will should
be almost nothing; the corporate will belonging to the government
should be quite subordinate, and therefore the general and sovereign
will is the master of all the others. On the other hand, in the
natural order, these different wills become more and more active in
proportion as they become centralised; the general will is always
weak, the corporate will takes the second place, the individual
will is preferred to all; so that every one is himself first, then
a magistrate, and then a citizen; a series just the opposite of
that required by the social order.
Having laid down this principle, let us assume that the government
is in the hands of one man. In this case the individual and the
corporate will are absolutely one, and therefore this will has
reached the greatest possible degree of intensity. Now the use of
power depends on the degree of this intensity, and as the absolute
power of the government is always that of the people, and therefore
invariable, it follows that the rule of one man is the most active
form of government.
If, on the other hand, we unite the government with the supreme
power, and make the prince the sovereign and the citizens so many
magistrates, then the corporate will is completely lost in the general
will, and will have no more activity than the general will, and it
will leave the individual will in full vigour. Thus the government,
though its absolute force is constant, will have the minimum of
These rules are incontestable in themselves, and other considerations
only serve to confirm them. For example, we see the magistrates
as a body far more active than the citizens as a body, so that the
individual will always counts for more. For each magistrate usually
has charge of some particular duty of government; while each citizen,
in himself, has no particular duty of sovereignty. Moreover, the
greater the state the greater its real power, although its power
does not increase because of the increase in territory; but the
state remaining unchanged, the magistrates are multiplied in vain,
the government acquires no further real strength, because it is
the depositary of that of the state, which I have assumed to be
constant. Thus, this plurality of magistrates decreases the activity
of the government without increasing its power.
Having found that the power of the government is relaxed in
proportion as the number of magistrates is multiplied, and that
the more numerous the people, the more the controlling power must
be increased, we shall infer that the ratio between the magistrates
and the government should be inverse to that between subjects and
sovereign, that is to say, that the greater the state, the smaller
the government, and that in like manner the number of chiefs should
be diminished because of the increased numbers of the people.
In order to make this diversity of forms clearer, and to assign
them their different names, we shall observe in the first place
that the sovereign may entrust the care of the government to the
whole nation or to the greater part of the nation, so that there
are more citizen magistrates than private citizens. This form of
government is called Democracy.
Or the sovereign may restrict the government in the hands of a lesser
number, so that there are more plain citizens than magistrates;
and this form of government is called Aristocracy.
Finally, the sovereign may concentrate the whole government in the
hands of one man. This is the third and commonest form of government,
and is called Monarchy or royal government.
We shall observe that all these forms, or the first and second at
least, may be less or more, and that within tolerably wide limits.
For the democracy may include the whole nation, or may be confined
to one half of it. The aristocracy, in its turn, may shrink from
the half of the nation to the smallest number. Even royalty may be
shared, either between father and son, between two brothers, or in
some other fashion. There were always two kings in Sparta, and in
the Roman empire there were as many as eight emperors at once, and
yet it cannot be said that the empire was divided. There is a point
where each form of government blends with the next; and under the
three specific forms there may be really as many forms of government
as there are citizens in the state.
Nor is this all. In certain respects each of these governments is
capable of subdivision into different parts, each administered in
one of these three ways. From these forms in combination there may
arise a multitude of mixed forms, since each may be multiplied by
all the simple forms.
In all ages there have been great disputes as to which is the best
form of government, and people have failed to consider that each
is the best in some cases and the worst in others. For ourselves,
if the number of magistrates [Footnote: You will remember that
I mean, in this context, the supreme magistrates or heads of the
nation, the others being only their deputies in this or that respect.]
in the various states is to be in inverse ratio to the number of
the citizens, we infer that generally a democratic government is
adapted to small states, an aristocratic government to those of
moderate size, and a monarchy to large states.
These inquiries furnish us with a clue by which we may discover
what are the duties and rights of citizens, and whether they can
be separated one from the other; what is our country, in what does
it really consist, and how can each of us ascertain whether he has
a country or no?
Having thus considered every kind of civil society in itself, we
shall compare them, so as to note their relations one with another;
great and small, strong and weak, attacking one another, insulting
one another, destroying one another; and in this perpetual action
and reaction causing more misery and loss of life than if men had
preserved their original freedom. We shall inquire whether too much
or too little has not been accomplished in the matter of social
institutions; whether individuals who are subject to law and to
men, while societies preserve the independence of nature, are not
exposed to the ills of both conditions without the advantages of
either, and whether it would not be better to have no civil society
in the world rather than to have many such societies. Is it not
that mixed condition which partakes of both and secures neither?
"Per quem neutrum licet, nec tanquam in bello paratum esse, nec
tanquam in pace securum."--Seneca De Trang: Animi, cap. I.
Is it not this partial and imperfect association which gives rise
to tyranny and war? And are not tyranny and war the worst scourges
Finally we will inquire how men seek to get rid of these difficulties
by means of leagues and confederations, which leave each state
its own master in internal affairs, while they arm it against any
unjust aggression. We will inquire how a good federal association
may be established, what can make it lasting, and how far the rights
of the federation may be stretched without destroying the right of
The Abbe de Saint-Pierre suggested an association of all the states
of Europe to maintain perpetual peace among themselves. Is this
association practicable, and supposing that it were established,
would it be likely to last? These inquiries lead us straight to all
the questions of international law which may clear up the remaining
difficulties of political law. Finally we shall lay down the real
principles of the laws of war, and we shall see why Grotius and
others have only stated false principles.
I should not be surprised if my pupil, who is a sensible young man,
should interrupt me saying, "One would think we were building our
edifice of wood and not of men; we are putting everything so exactly
in its place!" That is true; but remember that the law does not
bow to the passions of men, and that we have first to establish
the true principles of political law. Now that our foundations are
laid, come and see what men have built upon them; and you will see
some strange sights!
Then I set him to read Telemachus, and we pursue our journey; we
are seeking that happy Salentum and the good Idomeneus made wise
by misfortunes. By the way we find many like Protesilas and no
Philocles, neither can Adrastes, King of the Daunians, be found.
But let our readers picture our travels for themselves, or take
the same journeys with Telemachus in their hand; and let us not
suggest to them painful applications which the author himself avoids
or makes in spite of himself.
Moreover, Emile is not a king, nor am I a god, so that we are not
distressed that we cannot imitate Telemachus and Mentor in the good
they did; none know better than we how to keep to our own place,
none have less desire to leave it. We know that the same task
is allotted to all; that whoever loves what is right with all his
heart, and does the right so far as it is in his power, has fulfilled
that task. We know that Telemachus and Mentor are creatures of the
imagination. Emile does not travel in idleness and he does more
good than if he were a prince. If we were kings we should be no
greater benefactors. If we were kings and benefactors we should
cause any number of real evils for every apparent good we supposed
we were doing. If we were kings and sages, the first good deed we
should desire to perform, for ourselves and for others, would be
to abdicate our kingship and return to our present position.
I have said why travel does so little for every one. What makes it
still more barren for the young is the way in which they are sent
on their travels. Tutors, more concerned to amuse than to instruct,
take them from town to town, from palace to palace, where if they
are men of learning and letters, they make them spend their time
in libraries, or visiting antiquaries, or rummaging among old
buildings transcribing ancient inscriptions. In every country they
are busy over some other century, as if they were living in another
country; so that after they have travelled all over Europe at great
expense, a prey to frivolity or tedium, they return, having seen
nothing to interest them, and having learnt nothing that could be
of any possible use to them.
All capitals are just alike, they are a mixture of all nations and
all ways of living; they are not the place in which to study the
nations. Paris and London seem to me the same town. Their inhabitants
have a few prejudices of their own, but each has as many as the
other, and all their rules of conduct are the same. We know the
kind of people who will throng the court. We know the way of living
which the crowds of people and the unequal distribution of wealth
will produce. As soon as any one tells me of a town with two hundred
thousand people, I know its life already. What I do not know about
it is not worth going there to learn.
To study the genius and character of a nation you should go to the
more remote provinces, where there is less stir, less commerce,
where strangers seldom travel, where the inhabitants stay in one
place, where there are fewer changes of wealth and position. Take
a look at the capital on your way, but go and study the country
far away from that capital. The French are not in Paris, but in
Touraine; the English are more English in Mercia than in London,
and the Spaniards more Spanish in Galicia than in Madrid. In these
remoter provinces a nation assumes its true character and shows
what it really is; there the good or ill effects of the government
are best perceived, just as you can measure the arc more exactly
at a greater radius.
The necessary relations between character and government have been
so clearly pointed out in the book of L'Esprit des Lois, that one
cannot do better than have recourse to that work for the study of
those relations. But speaking generally, there are two plain and
simple standards by which to decide whether governments are good or
bad. One is the population. Every country in which the population
is decreasing is on its way to ruin; and the countries in which
the population increases most rapidly, even were they the poorest
countries in the world, are certainly the best governed. [Footnote:
I only know one exception to this rule--it is China.] But this
population must be the natural result of the government and the
national character, for if it is caused by colonisation or any other
temporary and accidental cause, then the remedy itself is evidence
of the disease. When Augustus passed laws against celibacy, those
laws showed that the Roman empire was already beginning to decline.
Citizens must be induced to marry by the goodness of the government,
not compelled to marry by law; you must not examine the effects
of force, for the law which strives against the constitution has
little or no effect; you should study what is done by the influence
of public morals and by the natural inclination of the government,
for these alone produce a lasting effect. It was the policy of
the worthy Abbe de Saint-Pierre always to look for a little remedy
for every individual ill, instead of tracing them to their common
source and seeing if they could not all be cured together. You
do not need to treat separately every sore on a rich man's body;
you should purify the blood which produces them. They say that in
England there are prizes for agriculture; that is enough for me;
that is proof enough that agriculture will not flourish there much
The second sign of the goodness or badness of the government and
the laws is also to be found in the population, but it is to be
found not in its numbers but in its distribution. Two states equal
in size and population may be very unequal in strength; and the
more powerful is always that in which the people are more evenly
distributed over its territory; the country which has fewer large
towns, and makes less show on this account, will always defeat the
other. It is the great towns which exhaust the state and are the
cause of its weakness; the wealth which they produce is a sham
wealth, there is much money and few goods. They say the town of
Paris is worth a whole province to the King of France; for my own
part I believe it costs him more than several provinces. I believe
that Paris is fed by the provinces in more senses than one, and
that the greater part of their revenues is poured into that town
and stays there, without ever returning to the people or to the
king. It is inconceivable that in this age of calculators there
is no one to see that France would be much more powerful if Paris
were destroyed. Not only is this ill-distributed population not
advantageous to the state, it is more ruinous than depopulation
itself, because depopulation only gives as produce nought, and
the ill-regulated addition of still more people gives a negative
result. When I hear an Englishman and a Frenchman so proud of the
size of their capitals, and disputing whether London or Paris has
more inhabitants, it seems to me that they are quarrelling as to
which nation can claim the honour of being the worst governed.
Study the nation outside its towns; thus only will you really get
to know it. It is nothing to see the apparent form of a government,
overladen with the machinery of administration and the jargon
of the administrators, if you have not also studied its nature as
seen in the effects it has upon the people, and in every degree of
administration. The difference of form is really shared by every
degree of the administration, and it is only by including every
degree that you really know the difference. In one country you
begin to feel the spirit of the minister in the manoeuvres of his
underlings; in another you must see the election of members of
parliament to see if the nation is really free; in each and every
country, he who has only seen the towns cannot possibly know what
the government is like, as its spirit is never the same in town
and country. Now it is the agricultural districts which form the
country, and the country people who make the nation.
This study of different nations in their remoter provinces, and
in the simplicity of their native genius, gives a general result
which is very satisfactory, to my thinking, and very consoling to
the human heart; it is this: All the nations, if you observe them
in this fashion, seem much better worth observing; the nearer they
are to nature, the more does kindness hold sway in their character;
it is only when they are cooped up in towns, it is only when they
are changed by cultivation, that they become depraved, that certain
faults which were rather coarse than injurious are exchanged for
pleasant but pernicious vices.
From this observation we see another advantage in the mode of
travel I suggest; for young men, sojourning less in the big towns
which are horribly corrupt, are less likely to catch the infection
of vice; among simpler people and less numerous company, they will
preserve a surer judgment, a healthier taste, and better morals.
Besides this contagion of vice is hardly to be feared for Emile;
he has everything to protect him from it. Among all the precautions
I have taken, I reckon much on the love he bears in his heart.
We do not know the power of true love over youthful desires, because
we are ourselves as ignorant of it as they are, and those who have
control over the young turn them from true love. Yet a young man
must either love or fall into bad ways. It is easy to be deceived
by appearances. You will quote any number of young men who are said
to live very chastely without love; but show me one grown man, a
real man, who can truly say that his youth was thus spent? In all
our virtues, all our duties, people are content with appearances;
for my own part I want the reality, and I am much mistaken if there
is any other way of securing it beyond the means I have suggested.
The idea of letting Emile fall in love before taking him on his
travels is not my own. It was suggested to me by the following
I was in Venice calling on the tutor of a young Englishman. It was
winter and we were sitting round the fire. The tutor's letters were
brought from the post office. He glanced at them, and then read
them aloud to his pupil. They were in English; I understood not a
word, but while he was reading I saw the young man tear some fine
point lace ruffles which he was wearing, and throw them in the fire
one after another, as quietly as he could, so that no one should
see it. Surprised at this whim, I looked at his face and thought
I perceived some emotion; but the external signs of passion, though
much alike in all men, have national differences which may easily
lead one astray. Nations have a different language of facial expression
as well as of speech. I waited till the letters were finished and
then showing the tutor the bare wrists of his pupil, which he did
his best to hide, I said, "May I ask the meaning of this?"
The tutor seeing what had happened began to laugh; he embraced his
pupil with an air of satisfaction and, with his consent, he gave
me the desired explanation.
"The ruffles," said he, "which Mr. John has just torn to pieces,
were a present from a lady in this town, who made them for him not
long ago. Now you must know that Mr. John is engaged to a young
lady in his own country, with whom he is greatly in love, and she
well deserves it. This letter is from the lady's mother, and I will
translate the passage which caused the destruction you beheld.
"'Lucy is always at work upon Mr. John's ruffles. Yesterday Miss
Betty Roldham came to spend the afternoon and insisted on doing
some of her work. I knew that Lucy was up very early this morning
and I wanted to see what she was doing; I found her busy unpicking
what Miss Betty had done. She would not have a single stitch in
her present done by any hand but her own.'"
Mr. John went to fetch another pair of ruffles, and I said to his
tutor: "Your pupil has a very good disposition; but tell me is
not the letter from Miss Lucy's mother a put up job? Is it not an
expedient of your designing against the lady of the ruffles?" "No,"
said he, "it is quite genuine; I am not so artful as that; I have
made use of simplicity and zeal, and God has blessed my efforts."
This incident with regard to the young man stuck in my mind; it
was sure to set a dreamer like me thinking.
But it is time we finished. Let us take Mr. John back to Miss Lucy,
or rather Emile to Sophy. He brings her a heart as tender as ever,
and a more enlightened mind, and he returns to his native land all
the bettor for having made acquaintance with foreign governments
through their vices and foreign nations through their virtues.
I have even taken care that he should associate himself with some
man of worth in every nation, by means of a treaty of hospitality
after the fashion of the ancients, and I shall not be sorry if this
acquaintance is kept up by means of letters. Not only may this be
useful, not only is it always pleasant to have a correspondent in
foreign lands, it is also an excellent antidote against the sway
of patriotic prejudices, to which we are liable all through our
life, and to which sooner or later we are more or less enslaved.
Nothing is better calculated to lessen the hold of such prejudices
than a friendly interchange of opinions with sensible people whom
we respect; they are free from our prejudices and we find ourselves
face to face with theirs, and so we can set the one set of prejudices
against the other and be safe from both. It is not the same thing
to have to do with strangers in our own country and in theirs.
In the former case there is always a certain amount of politeness
which either makes them conceal their real opinions, or makes them
think more favourably of our country while they are with us; when
they get home again this disappears, and they merely do us justice.
I should be very glad if the foreigner I consult has seen my country,
but I shall not ask what he thinks of it till he is at home again.
When we have spent nearly two years travelling in a few of the
great countries and many of the smaller countries of Europe, when
we have learnt two or three of the chief languages, when we have
seen what is really interesting in natural history, government,
arts, or men, Emile, devoured by impatience, reminds me that our
time is almost up. Then I say, "Well, my friend, you remember the
main object of our journey; you have seen and observed; what is
the final result of your observations? What decision have you come
to?" Either my method is wrong, or he will answer me somewhat after
"What decision have I come to? I have decided to be what you made
me; of my own free will I will add no fetters to those imposed
upon me by nature and the laws. The more I study the works of men
in their institutions, the more clearly I see that, in their efforts
after independence, they become slaves, and that their very freedom
is wasted in vain attempts to assure its continuance. That they
may not be carried away by the flood of things, they form all sorts
of attachments; then as soon as they wish to move forward they are
surprised to find that everything drags them back. It seems to me
that to set oneself free we need do nothing, we need only continue
to desire freedom. My master, you have made me free by teaching
me to yield to necessity. Let her come when she will, I follow her
without compulsion; I lay hold of nothing to keep me back. In our
travels I have sought for some corner of the earth where I might
be absolutely my own; but where can one dwell among men without
being dependent on their passions? On further consideration I have
discovered that my desire contradicted itself; for were I to hold
to nothing else, I should at least hold to the spot on which I had
settled; my life would be attached to that spot, as the dryads were
attached to their trees. I have discovered that the words liberty
and empire are incompatible; I can only be master of a cottage by
ceasing to be master of myself.
"'Hoc erat in votis, modus agri non ita magnus.'
Horace, lib. ii., sat. vi.
"I remember that my property was the origin of our inquiries. You
argued very forcibly that I could not keep both my wealth and my
liberty; but when you wished me to be free and at the same time
without needs, you desired two incompatible things, for I could
only be independent of men by returning to dependence on nature.
What then shall I do with the fortune bequeathed to me by my
parents? To begin with, I will not be dependent on it; I will cut
myself loose from all the ties which bind me to it; if it is left
in my hands, I shall keep it; if I am deprived of it, I shall not
be dragged away with it. I shall not trouble myself to keep it,
but I shall keep steadfastly to my own place. Rich or poor, I shall
be free. I shall be free not merely in this country or in that; I
shall be free in any part of the world. All the chains of prejudice
are broken; as far as I am concerned I know only the bonds of
necessity. I have been trained to endure them from my childhood,
and I shall endure them until death, for I am a man; and why should
I not wear those chains as a free man, for I should have to wear
them even if I were a slave, together with the additional fetters
"What matters my place in the world? What matters it where I am?
Wherever there are men, I am among my brethren; wherever there
are none, I am in my own home. So long as I may be independent and
rich, and have wherewithal to live, and I shall live. If my wealth
makes a slave of me, I shall find it easy to renounce it. I have
hands to work, and I shall get a living. If my hands fail me, I
shall live if others will support me; if they forsake me I shall
die; I shall die even if I am not forsaken, for death is not the
penalty of poverty, it is a law of nature. Whensoever death comes
I defy it; it shall never find me making preparations for life; it
shall never prevent me having lived.
"My father, this is my decision. But for my passions, I should be
in my manhood independent as God himself, for I only desire what
is and I should never fight against fate. At least, there is only
one chain, a chain which I shall ever wear, a chain of which I may
be justly proud. Come then, give me my Sophy, and I am free."
"Dear Emile, I am glad indeed to hear you speak like a man, and
to behold the feelings of your heart. At your age this exaggerated
unselfishness is not unpleasing. It will decrease when you have
children of your own, and then you will be just what a good father
and a wise man ought to be. I knew what the result would be before
our travels; I knew that when you saw our institutions you would be
far from reposing a confidence in them which they do not deserve.
In vain do we seek freedom under the power of the laws. The laws!
Where is there any law? Where is there any respect for law? Under
the name of law you have everywhere seen the rule of self-interest
and human passion. But the eternal laws of nature and of order
exist. For the wise man they take the place of positive law; they
are written in the depths of his heart by conscience and reason;
let him obey these laws and be free; for there is no slave but the
evil-doer, for he always does evil against his will. Liberty is
not to be found in any form of government, she is in the heart of
the free man, he bears her with him everywhere. The vile man bears
his slavery in himself; the one would be a slave in Geneva, the
other free in Paris.
"If I spoke to you of the duties of a citizen, you would perhaps
ask me, 'Which is my country?' And you would think you had put me
to confusion. Yet you would be mistaken, dear Emile, for he who
has no country has, at least, the land in which he lives. There is
always a government and certain so-called laws under which he has
lived in peace. What matter though the social contract has not been
observed, if he has been protected by private interest against the
general will, if he has been secured by public violence against
private aggressions, if the evil he has beheld has taught him to
love the good, and if our institutions themselves have made him
perceive and hate their own iniquities? Oh, Emile, where is the
man who owes nothing to the land in which he lives? Whatever that
land may be, he owes to it the most precious thing possessed by
man, the morality of his actions and the love of virtue. Born in
the depths of a forest he would have lived in greater happiness
and freedom; but being able to follow his inclinations without a
struggle there would have been no merit in his goodness, he would
not have been virtuous, as he may be now, in spite of his passions.
The mere sight of order teaches him to know and love it. The public
good, which to others is a mere pretext, is a real motive for him.
He learns to fight against himself and to prevail, to sacrifice
his own interest to the common weal. It is not true that he gains
nothing from the laws; they give him courage to be just, even in
the midst of the wicked. It is not true that they have failed to
make him free; they have taught him to rule himself.
"Do not say therefore, 'What matter where I am?' It does matter
that you should be where you can best do your duty; and one of
these duties is to love your native land. Your fellow-countrymen
protected you in childhood; you should love them in your manhood.
You should live among them, or at least you should live where you
can serve them to the best of your power, and where they know where
to find you if ever they are in need of you. There are circumstances
in which a man may be of more use to his fellow-countrymen outside
his country than within it. Then he should listen only to his own
zeal and should bear his exile without a murmur; that exile is one
of his duties. But you, dear Emile, you have not undertaken the
painful task of telling men the truth, you must live in the midst
of your fellow-creatures, cultivating their friendship in pleasant
intercourse; you must be their benefactor, their pattern; your
example will do more than all our books, and the good they see you
do will touch them more deeply than all our empty words.
"Yet I do not exhort you to live in a town; on the contrary, one
of the examples which the good should give to others is that of a
patriarchal, rural life, the earliest life of man, the most peaceful,
the most natural, and the most attractive to the uncorrupted heart.
Happy is the land, my young friend, where one need not seek peace
in the wilderness! But where is that country? A man of good will
finds it hard to satisfy his inclinations in the midst of towns,
where he can find few but frauds and rogues to work for. The welcome
given by the towns to those idlers who flock to them to seek their
fortunes only completes the ruin of the country, when the country
ought really to be repopulated at the cost of the towns. All the
men who withdraw from high society are useful just because of their
withdrawal, since its vices are the result of its numbers. They are
also useful when they can bring with them into the desert places
life, culture, and the love of their first condition. I like
to think what benefits Emile and Sophy, in their simple home, may
spread about them, what a stimulus they may give to the country,
how they may revive the zeal of the unlucky villagers.
"In fancy I see the population increasing, the land coming under
cultivation, the earth clothed with fresh beauty. Many workers and
plenteous crops transform the labours of the fields into holidays; I
see the young couple in the midst of the rustic sports which they
have revived, and I hear the shouts of joy and the blessings of
those about them. Men say the golden age is a fable; it always will
be for those whose feelings and taste are depraved. People do not
really regret the golden age, for they do nothing to restore it.
What is needed for its restoration? One thing only, and that is an
impossibility; we must love the golden age.
"Already it seems to be reviving around Sophy's home; together you
will only complete what her worthy parents have begun. But, dear
Emile, you must not let so pleasant a life give you a distaste for
sterner duties, if every they are laid upon you; remember that the
Romans sometimes left the plough to become consul. If the prince
or the state calls you to the service of your country, leave all
to fulfil the honourable duties of a citizen in the post assigned
to you. If you find that duty onerous, there is a sure and honourable
means of escaping from it; do your duty so honestly that it will
not long be left in your hands. Moreover, you need not fear the
difficulties of such a test; while there are men of our own time,
they will not summon you to serve the state."
Why may I not paint the return of Emile to Sophy and the end of
their love, or rather the beginning of their wedded love! A love
founded on esteem which will last with life itself, on virtues
which will not fade with fading beauty, on fitness of character
which gives a charm to intercourse, and prolongs to old age the
delights of early love. But all such details would be pleasing but
not useful, and so far I have not permitted myself to give attractive
details unless I thought they would be useful. Shall I abandon
this rule when my task is nearly ended? No, I feel that my pen is
weary. Too feeble for such prolonged labours, I should abandon
this if it were not so nearly completed; if it is not to be left
imperfect it is time it were finished.
At last I see the happy day approaching, the happiest day of
Emile's life and my own; I see the crown of my labours, I begin to
appreciate their results. The noble pair are united till death do
part; heart and lips confirm no empty vows; they are man and wife.
When they return from the church, they follow where they are led;
they know not where they are, whither they are going, or what is
happening around them. They heed nothing, they answer at random;
their eyes are troubled and they see nothing. Oh, rapture! Oh,
human weakness! Man is overwhelmed by the feeling of happiness, he
is not strong enough to bear it.
There are few people who know how to talk to the newly-married
couple. The gloomy propriety of some and the light conversation
of others seem to me equally out of place. I would rather their
young hearts were left to themselves, to abandon themselves to an
agitation which is not without its charm, rather than that they
should be so cruelly distressed by a false modesty, or annoyed by
coarse witticisms which, even if they appealed to them at other
times, are surely out of place on such a day.
I behold our young people, wrapped in a pleasant languor, giving
no heed to what is said. Shall I, who desire that they should enjoy
all the days of their life, shall I let them lose this precious
day? No, I desire that they shall taste its pleasures and enjoy
them. I rescue them from the foolish crowd, and walk with them in
some quiet place; I recall them to themselves by speaking of them
I wish to speak, not merely to their ears, but to their hearts,
and I know that there is only one subject of which they can think
"My children," say I, taking a hand of each, "it is three years
since I beheld the birth of the pure and vigorous passion which is
your happiness to-day. It has gone on growing; your eyes tell me
that it has reached its highest point; it must inevitably decline."
My readers can fancy the raptures, the anger, the vows of Emile,
and the scornful air with which Sophy withdraws her hand from mine;
how their eyes protest that they will adore each other till their
latest breath. I let them have their way; then I continue:
"I have often thought that if the happiness of love could continue
in marriage, we should find a Paradise upon earth. So far this has
never been. But if it were not quite impossible, you two are quite
worthy to set an example you have not received, an example which
few married couples could follow. My children, shall I tell you
what I think is the way, and the only way, to do it?"
They look at one another and smile at my simplicity. Emile thanks
me curtly for my prescription, saying that he thinks Sophy has a
better, at any rate it is good enough for him. Sophy agrees with
him and seems just as certain. Yet in spite of her mockery, I think
I see a trace of curiosity. I study Emile; his eager eyes are fixed
upon his wife's beauty; he has no curiosity for anything else; and
he pays little heed to what I say. It is my turn to smile, and I
say to myself, "I will soon get your attention."
The almost imperceptible difference between these two hidden impulses
is characteristic of a real difference between the two sexes; it
is that men are generally less constant than women, and are sooner
weary of success in love. A woman foresees man's future inconstancy,
and is anxious; it is this which makes her more jealous. [Footnote:
In France it is the wives who first emancipate themselves; and
necessarily so, for having very little heart, and only desiring
attention, when a husband ceases to pay them attention they
care very little for himself. In other countries it is not so; it
is the husband who first emancipates himself; and necessarily so,
for women, faithful, but foolish, importune men with their desires
and only disgust them. There may be plenty of exceptions to these
general truths; but I still think they are truths.] When his
passion begins to cool she is compelled to pay him the attentions
he used to bestow on her for her pleasure; she weeps, it is her
turn to humiliate herself, and she is rarely successful. Affection
and kind deeds rarely win hearts, and they hardly ever win them
back. I return to my prescription against the cooling of love in
"It is plain and simple," I continue. "It consists in remaining
lovers when you are husband and wife."
"Indeed," said Emile, laughing at my secret, "we shall not find
"Perhaps you will find it harder than you think. Pray give me time
"Cords too tightly stretched are soon broken. This is what happens
when the marriage bond is subjected to too great a strain. The
fidelity imposed by it upon husband and wife is the most sacred of
all rights; but it gives to each too great a power over the other.
Constraint and love do not agree together, and pleasure is not to
be had for the asking. Do not blush, Sophy, and do not try to run
away. God forbid that I should offend your modesty! But your fate
for life is at stake. For so great a cause, permit a conversation
between your husband and your father which you would not permit
"It is not so much possession as mastery of which people tire, and
affection is often more prolonged with regard to a mistress than
a wife. How can people make a duty of the tenderest caresses, and
a right of the sweetest pledges of love? It is mutual desire which
gives the right, and nature knows no other. The law may restrict
this right, it cannot extend it. The pleasure is so sweet in itself!
Should it owe to sad constraint the power which it cannot gain from
its own charms? No, my children, in marriage the hearts are bound,
but the bodies are not enslaved. You owe one another fidelity, but
not complaisance. Neither of you may give yourself to another, but
neither of you belongs to the other except at your own will.
"If it is true, dear Emile, that you would always be your wife's
lover, that she should always be your mistress and her own, be a
happy but respectful lover; obtain all from love and nothing from
duty, and let the slightest favours never be of right but of grace.
I know that modesty shuns formal confessions and requires to be
overcome; but with delicacy and true love, will the lover ever be
mistaken as to the real will? Will not he know when heart and eyes
grant what the lips refuse? Let both for ever be master of their
person and their caresses, let them have the right to bestow them
only at their own will. Remember that even in marriage this pleasure
is only lawful when the desire is mutual. Do not be afraid, my
children, that this law will keep you apart; on the contrary, it
will make both more eager to please, and will prevent satiety. True
to one another, nature and love will draw you to each other."
Emile is angry and cries out against these and similar suggestions.
Sophy is ashamed, she hides her face behind her fan and says nothing.
Perhaps while she is saying nothing, she is the most annoyed. Yet
I insist, without mercy; I make Emile blush for his lack of delicacy;
I undertake to be surety for Sophy that she will undertake her
share of the treaty. I incite her to speak, you may guess she will
not dare to say I am mistaken. Emile anxiously consults the eyes of
his young wife; he beholds them, through all her confusion, filled
with a, voluptuous anxiety which reassures him against the dangers
of trusting her. He flings himself at her feet, kisses with rapture
the hand extended to him, and swears that beyond the fidelity he
has already promised, he will renounce all other rights over her.
"My dear wife," said he, "be the arbiter of my pleasures as you are
already the arbiter of my life and fate. Should your cruelty cost
me life itself I would yield to you my most cherished rights. I
will owe nothing to your complaisance, but all to your heart."
Dear Emile, be comforted; Sophy herself is too generous to let you
fall a victim to your generosity.
In the evening, when I am about to leave them, I say in the most
solemn tone, "Remember both of you, that you are free, that there
is no question of marital rights; believe me, no false deference.
Emile will you come home with me? Sophy permits it." Emile is ready
to strike me in his anger. "And you, Sophy, what do you say? Shall
I take him away?" The little liar, blushing, answers, "Yes." A
tender and delightful falsehood, better than truth itself!
The next day. ... Men no longer delight in the picture of bliss;
their taste is as much depraved by the corruption of vice as their
hearts. They can no longer feel what is touching or perceive what
is truly delightful. You who, as a picture of voluptuous joys, see
only the happy lovers immersed in pleasure, your picture is very
imperfect; you have only its grosser part, the sweetest charms
of pleasure are not there. Which of you has seen a young couple,
happily married, on the morrow of their marriage? their chaste
yet languid looks betray the intoxication of the bliss they have
enjoyed, the blessed security of innocence, and the delightful
certainty that they will spend the rest of their life together. The
heart of man can behold no more rapturous sight; this is the real
picture of happiness; you have beheld it a hundred times without
heeding it; your hearts are so hard that you cannot love it. Sophy,
peaceful and happy, spends the day in the arms of her tender mother;
a pleasant resting place, after a night spent in the arms of her
The day after I am aware of a slight change. Emile tries to look
somewhat vexed; but through this pretence I notice such a tender
eagerness, and indeed so much submission, that I do not think there
is much amiss. As for Sophy she is merrier than she was yesterday;
her eyes are sparkling and she looks very well pleased with herself;
she is charming to Emile; she ventures to tease him a little and
vexes him still more.
These changes are almost imperceptible, but they do not escape me;
I am anxious and I question Emile in private, and I learn that,
to his great regret, and in spite of all entreaties, he was not
permitted last night to share Sophy's bed. That haughty lady had
made haste to assert her right. An explanation takes place. Emile
complains bitterly, Sophy laughs; but at last, seeing that Emile is
really getting angry, she looks at him with eyes full of tenderness
and love, and pressing my hand, she only says these two words, but
in a tone that goes to his heart, "Ungrateful man!" Emile is too
stupid to understand. But I understand, and I send Emile away and
speak to Sophy privately in her turn.
"I see," said I, "the reason for this whim. No one could be more
delicate, and no one could use that delicacy so ill. Dear Sophy, do
not be anxious, I have given you a man; do not be afraid to treat
him as such. You have had the first fruits of his youth; he has not
squandered his manhood and it will endure for you. My dear child,
I must explain to you why I said what I did in our conversation of
the day before yesterday. Perhaps you only understood it as a way
of restraining your pleasures to secure their continuance. Oh,
Sophy, there was another object, more worthy of my care. When Emile
became your husband, he became your head, it is yours to obey; this
is the will of nature. When the wife is like Sophy, it is, however,
good for the man to be led by her; that is another of nature's
laws, and it is to give you as much authority over his heart, as
his sex gives him over your person, that I have made you the arbiter
of his pleasures. It will be hard for you, but you will control him
if you can control yourself, and what has already happened shows me
that this difficult art is not beyond your courage. You will long
rule him by love if you make your favours scarce and precious, if
you know how to use them aright. If you want to have your husband
always in your power, keep him at a distance. But let your sternness
be the result of modesty not caprice; let him find you modest not
capricious; beware lest in controlling his love you make him doubt
your own. Be all the dearer for your favours and all the more
respected when you refuse them; let him honour his wife's chastity,
without having to complain of her coldness.
"Thus, my child, he will give you his confidence, he will listen
to your opinion, will consult you in his business, and will decide
nothing without you. Thus you may recall him to wisdom, if he strays,
and bring him back by a gentle persuasion, you may make yourself
lovable in order to be useful, you may employ coquetry on behalf
of virtue, and love on behalf of reason.
"Do not think that with all this, your art will always serve your
purpose. In spite of every precaution pleasures are destroyed by
possession, and love above all others. But when love has lasted long
enough, a gentle habit takes its place and the charm of confidence
succeeds the raptures of passion. Children form a bond between
their parents, a bond no less tender and a bond which is sometimes
stronger than love itself. When you cease to be Emile's mistress you
will be his friend and wife; you will be the mother of his children.
Then instead of your first reticence let there be the fullest
intimacy between you; no more separate beds, no more refusals, no
more caprices. Become so truly his better half that he can no longer
do without you, and if he must leave you, let him feel that he is
far from himself. You have made the charms of home life so powerful
in your father's home, let them prevail in your own. Every man who
is happy at home loves his wife. Remember that if your husband is
happy in his home, you will be a happy wife.
"For the present, do not be too hard on your lover; he deserves
more consideration; he will be offended by your fears; do not care
for his health at the cost of his happiness, and enjoy your own
happiness. You must neither wait for disgust nor repulse desire;
you must not refuse for the sake of refusing, but only to add to
the value of your favours."
Then, taking her back to Emile, I say to her young husband, "One must
bear the yoke voluntarily imposed upon oneself. Let your deserts be
such that the yoke may be lightened. Above all, sacrifice to the
graces, and do not think that sulkiness will make you more amiable."
Peace is soon made, and everybody can guess its terms. The treaty
is signed with a kiss, after which I say to my pupil, "Dear Emile,
all his life through a man needs a guide and counsellor. So far
I have done my best to fulfil that duty; my lengthy task is now
ended, and another will undertake this duty. To-day I abdicate the
authority which you gave me; henceforward Sophy is your guardian."
Little by little the first raptures subside and they can peacefully
enjoy the delights of their new condition. Happy lovers, worthy
husband and wife! To do honour to their virtues, to paint their
felicity, would require the history of their lives. How often does
my heart throb with rapture when I behold in them the crown of my
life's work! How often do I take their hands in mine blessing God
with all my heart! How often do I kiss their clasped hands! How
often do their tears of joy fall upon mine! They are touched by
my joy and they share my raptures. Their worthy parents see their
own youth renewed in that of their children; they begin to live,
as it were, afresh in them; or rather they perceive, for the first
time, the true value of life; they curse their former wealth, which
prevented them from enjoying so delightful a lot when they were
young. If there is such a thing as happiness upon earth, you must
seek it in our abode.
One morning a few months later Emile enters my room and embraces
me, saying, "My master, congratulate your son; he hopes soon to
have the honour of being a father. What a responsibility will be
ours, how much we shall need you! Yet God forbid that I should let
you educate the son as you educated the father. God forbid that so
sweet and holy a task should be fulfilled by any but myself, even
though I should make as good a choice for my child as was made for
me! But continue to be the teacher of the young teachers. Advise
and control us; we shall be easily led; as long as I live I shall
need you. I need you more than ever now that I am taking up the
duties of manhood. You have done your own duty; teach me to follow
your example, while you enjoy your well-earned leisure."
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