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Rousseau's language on the supplement

Page history last edited by Tonya Howe 13 years, 5 months ago

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Confessions (from Book VII, pg 267, 272-273)

I am obliged to write in haste, and very imperfectly, a work which requires the leisure and tranquility I do not enjoy. If ever providence in its goodness grants me days more calm, I shall destine them to new modelling this work, should I be able to do it, or at least to giving a supplement, of which I perceive it stands in the greatest need.—[I have given up this project.]


At first amusement was my only object; I perceived I had gone further and had given myself a companion. A little intimate connection with this excellent girl, and a few reflections upon my situation, made me discover that, while thinking of nothing more than my pleasures, I had done a great deal towards my happiness. In the place of extinguished ambition, a life of sentiment, which had entire possession of my heart, was necessary to me. In a word, I wanted a successor to mamma: since I was never again to live with her, it was necessary some person should live with her pupil, and a person, too, in whom I might find that simplicity and docility of mind and heart which she had found in me. It was, moreover, necessary that the happiness of domestic life should indemnify me for the splendid career I had just renounced. When I was quite alone there was a void in my heart, which wanted nothing more than another heart to fill it up. Fate had deprived me of this, or at least in part alienated me from that for which by nature I was formed. From that moment I was alone, for there never was for me the least thing intermediate between everything and nothing. I found in Theresa the supplement of which I stood in need; by means of her I lived as happily as I possibly could do, according to the course of events.

I at first attempted to improve her mind. In this my pains were useless. Her mind is as nature formed it: it was not susceptible of cultivation. I do not blush in acknowledging she never knew how to read well, although she writes tolerably. When I went to lodge in the Rue Neuve des Petits Champs, opposite to my windows at the Hotel de Ponchartrain, there was a sun-dial, on which for a whole month I used all my efforts to teach her to know the hours; yet, she scarcely knows them at present. She never could enumerate the twelve months of the year in order, and cannot distinguish one numeral from another, notwithstanding all the trouble I took endeavoring to teach them to her. She neither knows how to count money, nor to reckon the price of anything. The word which when she speaks, presents itself to her mind, is frequently opposite to that of which she means to make use. I formerly made a dictionary of her phrases, to amuse M. de Luxembourg, and her 'qui pro quos' often became celebrated among those with whom I was most intimate. But this person, so confined in her intellects, and, if the world pleases, so stupid, can give excellent advice in cases of difficulty. In Switzerland, in England and in France, she frequently saw what I had not myself perceived; she has often given me the best advice I could possibly follow; she has rescued me from dangers into which I had blindly precipitated myself, and in the presence of princes and the great, her sentiments, good sense, answers, and conduct have acquired her universal esteem, and myself the most sincere congratulations on her merit. With persons whom we love, sentiment fortifies the mind as well as the heart; and they who are thus attached, have little need of searching for ideas elsewhere.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Émile (from Book IV, para. 1165)

Therefore, watch carefully over the young man; he can protect himself from all other foes, but it is for you to protect him against himself. Never leave him night or day, or at least share his room; never let him go to bed till he is sleepy, and let him rise as soon as he wakes. Distrust instinct as soon as you cease to rely altogether upon it. Instinct was good while he acted under its guidance only; now that he is in the midst of human institutions, instinct is not to be trusted. It must not be destroyed, it must be controlled, which is perhaps a more difficult matter. It would be very dangerous if instinct taught your pupil to divert these senses and to supplement the occasions for satisfying them. If once he acquires this dangerous supplement he is lost. From then on, body and soul will be enervated; he will carry to the grave the sad effects of this habit, the most fatal habit which a young man can be subjected to.

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