Confessions (Rousseau)/Book XII
With this book begins the work of darkness, in which I have for the last eight years been enveloped, though it has not by any means been possible for me to penetrate the dreadful obscurity. In the abyss of evil into which I am plunged, I feel the blows reach me, without perceiving the hand by which they are directed or the means it employs. Shame and misfortune seem of themselves to fall upon me. When in the affliction of my heart I suffer a groan to escape me, I have the appearance of a man who complains without reason, and the authors of my ruin have the inconceivable art of rendering the public unknown to itself, or without its perceiving the effects of it, accomplice in their conspiracy. Therefore, in my narrative of circumstances relative to myself, of the treatment I have received, and all that has happened to me, I shall not be able to indicate the hand by which the whole has been directed, nor assign the causes, while I state the effect. The primitive causes are all given in the preceding books; and everything in which I am interested, and all the secret motives pointed out. But it is impossible for me to explain, even by conjecture, that in which the different causes are combined to operate the strange events of my life. If amongst my readers one even of them should be generous enough to wish to examine the mystery to the bottom, and discover the truth, let him carefully read over a second time the three preceding books, afterwards at each fact he shall find stated in the books which follow, let him gain such information as is within his reach, and go back from intrigue to intrigue, and from agent to agent, until he comes to the first mover of all. I know where his researches will terminate; but in the meantime I lose myself in the crooked and obscure subterraneous path through which his steps must be directed.
During my stay at Yverdon, I became acquainted with all the family of my friend Roguin, and amongst others with his niece, Madam Boy de la Tour, and her daughters, whose father, as I think I have already observed, I formerly knew at Lyons. She was at Yverdon, upon a visit to her uncle and his sister; her eldest daughter, about fifteen years of age, delighted me by her fine understanding and excellent disposition. I conceived the most tender friendship for the mother and the daughter. The latter was destined by M. Rougin to the colonel, his nephew, a man already verging towards the decline of life, and who showed me marks of great esteem and affection; but although the heart of the uncle was set upon this marriage, which was much wished for by the nephew also, and I was greatly desirous to promote the satisfaction of both, the great disproportion of age, and the extreme repugnancy of the young lady, made me join with the mother in postponing the ceremony, and the affair was at length broken off. The colonel has since married Mademoiselle Dillan, his relation, beautiful, and amiable as my heart could wish, and who has made him the happiest of husbands and fathers. However, M. Rougin has not yet forgotten my opposition to his wishes. My consolation is in the certainty of having discharged to him, and his family, the duty of the most pure friendship, which does not always consist in being agreeable, but in advising for the best.
I did not remain long in doubt about the reception which awaited me at Geneva, had I chosen to return to that city. My book was burned there, and on the 18th of June, nine days after an order to arrest me had been given at Paris, another to the same effect was determined upon by the republic. So many incredible absurdities were stated in this second decree, in which the ecclesiastical edict was formally violated, that I refused to believe the first accounts I heard of it, and when these were well confirmed, I trembled lest so manifest an infraction of every law, beginning with that of common-sense, should create the greatest confusion in the city. I was, however, relieved from my fears; everything remained quiet. If there was any rumor amongst the populace, it was unfavorable to me, and I was publicly treated by all the gossips and pedants like a scholar threatened with a flogging for not having said his catechism.
These two decrees were the signal for the cry of malediction, raised against me with unexampled fury in every part of Europe. All the gazettes, journals and pamphlets, rang the alarm-bell. The French especially, that mild, generous, and polished people, who so much pique themselves upon their attention and proper condescension to the unfortunate, instantly forgetting their favorite virtues, signalized themselves by the number and violence of the outrages with which, while each seemed to strive who should afflict me most, they overwhelmed me. I was impious, an atheist, a madman, a wild beast, a wolf. The continuator of the Journal of Trevoux was guilty of a piece of extravagance in attacking my pretended Lycanthropy, which was by no means proof of his own. A stranger would have thought an author in Paris was afraid of incurring the animadversion of the police, by publishing a work of any kind without cramming into it some insult to me. I sought in vain the cause of this unanimous animosity, and was almost tempted to believe the world was gone mad. What! said I to myself, the editor of the 'Perpetual Peace', spread discord; the author of the 'Confession of the Savoyard Vicar', impious; the writer of the 'New Eloisa', a wolf; the author of 'Emilius', a madman! Gracious God! what then should I have been had I published the 'Treatise de l'Esprit', or any similar work? And yet, in the storm raised against the author of that book, the public, far from joining the cry of his persecutors, revenged him of them by eulogium. Let his book and mine, the receptions the two works met with, and the treatment of the two authors in the different countries of Europe, be compared; and for the difference let causes satisfactory to, a man of sense be found, and I will ask no more.
I found the residence of Yverdon so agreeable that I resolved to yield to the solicitations of M. Roguin and his family, who, were desirous of keeping me there. M. de Moiry de Gingins, bailiff of that city, encouraged me by his goodness to remain within his jurisdiction. The colonel pressed me so much to accept for my habitation a little pavilion he had in his house between the court and the garden, that I complied with his request, and he immediately furnished it with everything necessary for my little household establishment.
The banneret Roguin, one of the persons who showed me the most assiduous attention, did not leave me for an instant during the whole day. I was much flattered by his civilities, but they sometimes importuned me. The day on which I was to take possession of my new habitation was already fixed, and I had written to Theresa to come to me, when suddenly a storm was raised against me in Berne, which was attributed to the devotees, but I have never been able to learn the cause of it. The senate, excited against me, without my knowing by whom, did not seem disposed to suffer me to remain undisturbed in my retreat. The moment the bailiff was informed of the new fermentation, he wrote in my favor to several of the members of the government, reproaching them with their blind intolerance, and telling them it was shameful to refuse to a man of merit, under oppression, the asylum which such a numerous banditti found in their states. Sensible people were of opinion the warmth of his reproaches had rather embittered than softened the minds of the magistrates. However this may be, neither his influence nor eloquence could ward off the blow. Having received an intimation of the order he was to signify to me, he gave me a previous communication of it; and that I might wait its arrival, I resolved to set off the next day. The difficulty was to know where to go, finding myself shut out from Geneva and all France, and foreseeing that in the affair each state would be anxious to imitate its neighbor.
Madam Boy de la Tour proposed to me to go and reside in an uninhabited but completely furnished house, which belonged to her son in the village of Motiers, in the Val de Travers, in the county of Neuchatel. I had only a mountain to cross to arrive at it. The offer came the more opportunely, as in the states of the King of Prussia I should naturally be sheltered from all persecution, at least religion could not serve as a pretext for it. But a secret difficulty: improper for me at that moment to divulge, had in it that which was very sufficient to make me hesitate. The innnate love of justice, to which my heart was constantly subject, added to my secret inclination to France, had inspired me with an aversion to the King of Prussia, who by his maxims and conduct, seemed to tread under foot all respect for natural law and every duty of humanity. Amongst the framed engravings, with which I had decorated my alcove at Montmorency, was a portrait of this prince, and under it a distich, the last line of which was as follows:
- [Il pense en philosophe, et se conduit en roi.
- [He thinks like a philosopher, and acts like a king.]
This verse, which from any other pen would have been a fine eulogium, from mine had an unequivocal meaning, and too clearly explained the verse by which it was preceded. The distich had been, read by everybody who came to see me, and my visitors were numerous. The Chevalier de Lorenzy had even written it down to give it to D'Alembert, and I had no doubt but D' Alembert had taken care to make my court with it to the prince. I had also aggravated this first fault by a passage in 'Emilius', where under the name of Adrastus, king of the Daunians, it was clearly seen whom I had in view, and the remark had not escaped critics, because Madam de Boufflers had several times mentioned the subject to me. I was, therefore, certain of being inscribed in red ink in the registers of the King of Prussia, and besides, supposing his majesty to have the principles I had dared to attribute to him, he, for that reason, could not but be displeased with my writings and their author; for everybody knows the worthless part of mankind, and tyrants have never failed to conceive the most mortal hatred against me, solely on reading my works, without being acquainted with my person.
However, I had presumption enough to depend upon his mercy, and was far from thinking I ran much risk. I knew none but weak men were slaves to the base passions, and that these had but little power over strong minds, such as I had always thought his to be. According to his art of reigning, I thought he could not but show himself magnanimous on this occasion, and that being so in fact was not above his character. I thought a mean and easy vengeance would not for a moment counterbalance his love of glory, and putting myself in his place, his taking advantage of circumstances to overwhelm with the weight of his generosity a man who had dared to think ill of him, did not appear to me impossible. I therefore went to settle at Motiers, with a confidence of which I imagined he would feel all the value, and said to myself: When Jean Jacques rises to the elevation of Coriolanus, will Frederick sink below the General of the Volsci?
Colonel Roguin insisted on crossing the mountain with me, and installing me at Moiters. A sister-in-law to Madam Boy de la Tour, named Madam Girardier, to whom the house in which I was going to live was very convenient, did not see me arrive there with pleasure; however, she with a good grace put me in possession of my lodgings, and I eat with her until Theresa came, and my little establishment was formed.
Perceiving at my departure from Montmorency I should in future be a fugitive upon the earth, I hesitated about permitting her to come to me and partake of the wandering life to which I saw myself condemned. I felt the nature of our relation to each other was about to change, and that what until then had on my part been favor and friendship, would in future become so on hers. If her attachment was proof against my misfortunes, to this I knew she must become a victim, and that her grief would add to my pain. Should my disgrace weaken her affections, she would make me consider her constancy as a sacrifice, and instead of feeling the pleasure I had in dividing with her my last morsel of bread, she would see nothing but her own merit in following me wherever I was driven by fate.
I must say everything; I have never concealed the vices either of my poor mamma or myself; I cannot be more favorable to Theresa, and whatever pleasure I may have in doing honor to a person who is dear to me, I will not disguise the truth, although it may discover in her an error, if an involuntary change of the affections of the heart be one. I had long perceived hers to grow cooler towards me, and that she was no longer for me what she had been in our younger days. Of this I was the more sensible, as for her I was what I had always been. I fell into the same inconvenience as that of which I had felt the effect with mamma, and this effect was the same now I was with Theresa. Let us not seek for perfection, which nature never produces; it would be the same thing with any other woman. The manner in which I had disposed of my children, however reasonable it had appeared to me, had not always left my heart at ease. While writing my 'Treatise on Education', I felt I had neglected duties with which it was not possible to dispense. Remorse at length became so strong that it almost forced from me a public confession of my fault at the beginning of my 'Emilius', and the passage is so clear, that it is astonishing any person should, after reading it, have had the courage to reproach me with my error. My situation was however still the same, or something worse, by the animosity of my enemies, who sought to find me in a fault. I feared a relapse, and unwilling to run the risk, I preferred abstinence to exposing Theresa to a similar mortification. I had besides remarked that a connection with women was prejudicial to my health; this double reason made me form resolutions to which I had but sometimes badly kept, but for the last three or four years I had more constantly adhered to them. It was in this interval I had remarked Theresa's coolness; she had the same attachment to me from duty, but not the least from love. Our intercourse naturally became less agreeable, and I imagined that, certain of the continuation of my cares wherever she might be, she would choose to stay at Paris rather than to wander with me. Yet she had given such signs of grief at our parting, had required of me such positive promises that we should meet again, and, since my departure, had expressed to the Prince de Conti and M. de Luxembourg so strong a desire of it, that, far from having the courage to speak to her of separation, I scarcely had enough to think of it myself; and after having felt in my heart how impossible it was for me to do without her, all I thought of afterwards was to recall her to me as soon as possible. I wrote to her to this effect, and she came. It was scarcely two months since I had quitted her; but it was our first separation after a union of so many years. We had both of us felt it most cruelly. What emotion in our first embrace! O how delightful are the tears of tenderness and joy! How does my heart drink them up! Why have I not had reason to shed them more frequently?
On my arrival at Motiers I had written to Lord Keith, marshal of Scotland and governor of Neuchatel, informing him of my retreat into the states of his Prussian majesty, and requesting of him his protection. He answered me with his well-known generosity, and in the manner I had expected from him. He invited me to his house. I went with M. Martinet, lord of the manor of Val de Travers, who was in great favor with his excellency. The venerable appearance of this illustrious and virtuous Scotchman, powerfully affected my heart, and from that instant began between him and me the strong attachment, which on my part still remains the same, and would be so on his, had not the traitors, who have deprived me of all the consolation of life, taken advantage of my absence to deceive his old age and depreciate me in his esteem.
George Keith, hereditary marshal of Scotland, and brother to the famous General Keith, who lived gloriously and died in the bed of honor, had quitted his country at a very early age, and was proscribed on account of his attachment to the house of Stuart. With that house, however, he soon became disgusted with the unjust and tyrannical spirit he remarked in the ruling character of the Stuart family. He lived a long time in Spain, the climate of which pleased him exceedingly, and at length attached himself, as his brother had done, to the service of the King of Prussia, who knew men and gave them the reception they merited. His majesty received a great return for this reception, in the services rendered him by Marshal Keith, and by what was infinitely more precious, the sincere friendship of his lordship. The great mind of this worthy man, haughty and republican, could stoop to no other yoke than that of friendship, but to this it was so obedient, that with very different maxims he saw nothing but Frederic the moment he became attached to him. The king charged the marshal with affairs of importance, sent him to Paris, to Spain, and at length, seeing he was already advanced in years, let him retire with the government of Neuchatel, and the delightful employment of passing there the remainder of his life in rendering the inhabitants happy.
The people of Neuchatel, whose manners are trivial, know not how to distinguish solid merit, and suppose wit to consist in long discourses. When they saw a sedate man of simple manners appear amongst them, they mistook his simplicity for haughtiness, his candor for rusticity, his laconism for stupidity, and rejected his benevolent cares, because, wishing to be useful, and not being a sycophant, he knew not how to flatter people he did not esteem. In the ridiculous affair of the minister Petitpierre, who was displaced by his colleagues, for having been unwilling they should be eternally damned, my lord, opposing the usurpations of the ministers, saw the whole country of which he took the part, rise up against him, and when I arrived there the stupid murmur had not entirely subsided. He passed for a man influenced by the prejudices with which he was inspired by others, and of all the imputations brought against him it was the most devoid of truth. My first sentiment on seeing this venerable old man, was that of tender commiseration, on account of his extreme leanness of body, years having already left him little else but skin and bone; but when I raised my eyes to his animated, open, noble countenance, I felt a respect, mingled with confidence, which absorbed every other sentiment. He answered the very short compliment I made him when I first came into his presence by speaking of something else, as if I had already been a week in his house. He did not bid us sit down. The stupid chatelain, the lord of the manor, remained standing. For my part I at first sight saw in the fine and piercing eye of his lordship something so conciliating that, feeling myself entirely at ease, I without ceremony, took my seat by his side upon the sofa. By the familiarity of his manner I immediately perceived the liberty I took gave him pleasure, and that he said to himself: This is not a Neuchatelois.
Singular effect of the similarity of characters! At an age when the heart loses its natural warmth, that of this good old man grew warm by his attachment to me to a degree which surprised everybody. He came to see me at Motiers under the pretence of quail shooting, and stayed there two days without touching a gun. We conceived such a friendship for each other that we knew not how to live separate; the castle of Colombier, where he passed the summer, was six leagues from Motiers; I went there at least once a fortnight, and made a stay of twenty-four hours, and then returned like a pilgrim with my heart full of affection for my host. The emotion I had formerly experienced in my journeys from the Hermitage to Raubonne was certainly very different, but it was not more pleasing than that with which I approached Columbier.
What tears of tenderness have I shed when on the road to it, while thinking of the paternal goodness, amiable virtues, and charming philosophy of this respectable old man! I called him father, and he called me son. These affectionate names give, in some measure, an idea of the attachment by which we were united, but by no means that of the want we felt of each other, nor of our continual desire to be together. He would absolutely give me an apartment at the castle of Columbier, and for a long time pressed me to take up my residence in that in which I lodged during my visits. I at length told him I was more free and at my ease in my own house, and that I had rather continue until the end of my life to come and see him. He approved of my candor, and never afterwards spoke to me on the subject. Oh, my good lord! Oh, my worthy father! How is my heart still moved when I think of your goodness? Ah, barbarous wretches! how deeply did they wound me when they deprived me of your friendship? But no, great man, you are and ever will be the same for me, who am still the same. You have been deceived, but you are not changed. My lord marechal is not without faults; he is a man of wisdom, but he is still a man. With the greatest penetration, the nicest discrimination, and the most profound knowledge of men, he sometimes suffers himself to be deceived, and never recovers his error. His temper is very singular and foreign to his general turn of mind. He seems to forget the people he sees every day, and thinks of them in a moment when they least expect it; his attention seems ill-timed; his presents are dictated by caprice and not by propriety. He gives or sends in an instant whatever comes into his head, be the value of it ever so small. A young Genevese, desirous of entering into the service of Prussia, made a personal application to him; his lordship, instead of giving him a letter, gave him a little bag of peas, which he desired him to carry to the king. On receiving this singular recommendation his majesty gave a commission to the bearer of it. These elevated geniuses have between themselves a language which the vulgar will never understand. The whimsical manner of my lord marechal, something like the caprice of a fine woman, rendered him still more interesting to me. I was certain, and afterwards had proofs, that it had not the least influence over his sentiments, nor did it affect the cares prescribed by friendship on serious occasions, yet in his manner of obliging there is the same singularity as in his manners in general. Of this I will give one instance relative to a matter of no great importance. The journey from Motiers to Colombier being too long for me to perform in one day, I commonly divided it by setting off after dinner and sleeping at Brot, which is half way. The landlord of the house where I stopped, named Sandoz, having to solicit at Berlin a favor of importance to him, begged I would request his excellency to ask it in his behalf. "Most willingly," said I, and took him with me. I left him in the antechamber, and mentioned the matter to his lordship, who returned me no answer. After passing with him the whole morning, I saw as I crossed the hall to go to dinner, poor Sandoz, who was fatigued to death with waiting. Thinking the governor had forgotten what I had said to him, I again spoke of the business before we sat down to table, but still received no answer. I thought this manner of making me feel I was importunate rather severe, and, pitying the poor man in waiting, held my tongue. On my return the next day I was much surprised at the thanks he returned me for the good dinner his excellency had given him after receiving his paper. Three weeks afterwards his lordship sent him the rescript he had solicited, dispatched by the minister, and signed by the king, and this without having said a word either to myself or Sandoz concerning the business, about which I thought he did not wish to give himself the least concern.
I could wish incessantly to speak of George Keith; from him proceeds my recollection of the last happy moments I have enjoyed: the rest of my life, since our separation, has been passed in affliction and grief of heart. The remembrance of this is so melancholy and confused that it was impossible for me to observe the least order in what I write, so that in future I shall be under the necessity of stating facts without giving them a regular arrangement.
I was soon relieved from my inquietude arising from the uncertainty of my asylum, by the answer from his majesty to the lord marshal, in whom, as it will readily be believed, I had found an able advocate. The king not only approved of what he had done, but desired him, for I must relate everything, to give me twelve louis. The good old man, rather embarrassed by the commission, and not knowing how to execute it properly, endeavored to soften the insult by transforming the money into provisions, and writing to me that he had received orders to furnish me with wood and coal to begin my little establishment; he moreover added, and perhaps from himself, that his majesty would willingly build me a little house, such a one as I should choose to have, provided I would fix upon the ground. I was extremely sensible of the kindness of the last offer, which made me forget the weakness of the other. Without accepting either, I considered Frederic as my benefactor and protector, and became so sincerely attached to him, that from that moment I interested myself as much in his glory as until then I had thought his successes unjust. At the peace he made soon after, I expressed my joy by an illumination in a very good taste: it was a string of garlands, with which I decorated the house I inhabited, and in which, it is true, I had the vindictive haughtiness to spend almost as much money as he had wished to give me. The peace ratified, I thought as he was at the highest pinnacle of military and political fame, he would think of acquiring that of another nature, by reanimating his states, encouraging in them commerce and agriculture, creating a new soil, covering it with a new people, maintaining peace amongst his neighbors, and becoming the arbitrator, after having been the terror, of Europe. He was in a situation to sheath his sword without danger, certain that no sovereign would oblige him again to draw it. Perceiving he did not disarm, I was afraid he would profit but little by the advantages he had gained, and that he would be great only by halves. I dared to write to him upon the subject, and with a familiarity of a nature to please men of his character, conveying to him the sacred voice of truth, which but few kings are worthy to hear. The liberty I took was a secret between him and myself. I did not communicate it even to the lord marshal, to whom I sent my letter to the king sealed up. His lordship forwarded my dispatch without asking what it contained. His majesty returned me no answer and the marshal going soon after to Berlin, the king told him he had received from me a scolding. By this I understood my letter had been ill received, and the frankness of my zeal had been mistaken for the rusticity of a pedant. In fact, this might possibly be the case; perhaps I did not say what was necessary, nor in the manner proper to the occasion. All I can answer for is the sentiment which induced me to take up the pen.
Shortly after my establishment at Motiers, Travers having every possible assurance that I should be suffered to remain there in peace, I took the Armenian habit. This was not the first time I had thought of doing it. I had formerly had the same intention, particularly at Montmorency, where the frequent use of probes often obliging me to keep my chamber, made me more clearly perceive the advantages of a long robe. The convenience of an Armenian tailor, who frequently came to see a relation he had at Montmorency, almost tempted me to determine on taking this new dress, troubling myself but little about what the world would say of it. Yet, before I concluded about the matter, I wished to take the opinion of M. de Luxembourg, who immediately advised me to follow my inclination. I therefore procured a little Armenian wardrobe, but on account of the storm raised against me, I was induced to postpone making use of it until I should enjoy tranquillity, and it was not until some months afterwards that, forced by new attacks of my disorder, I thought I could properly, and without the least risk, put on my new dress at Motiers, especially after having consulted the pastor of the place, who told me I might wear it even in the temple without indecency. I then adopted the waistcoat, caffetan, fur bonnet, and girdle; and after having in this dress attended divine service, I saw no impropriety in going in it to visit his lordship. His excellency in seeing me clothed in this manner made me no other compliment than that which consisted in saying "Salaam aliakum," i.e., "Peace be with you;" the common Turkish salutation; after which nothing more was said upon the subject, and I continued to wear my new dress.
Having quite abandoned literature, all I now thought of was leading a quiet life, and one as agreeable as I could make it. When alone, I have never felt weariness of mind, not even in complete inaction; my imagination filling up every void, was sufficient to keep up my attention. The inactive babbling of a private circle, where, seated opposite to each other, they who speak move nothing but the tongue, is the only thing I have ever been unable to support. When walking and rambling about there is some satisfaction in conversation; the feet and eyes do something; but to hear people with their arms across speak of the weather, of the biting of flies, or what is still worse, compliment each other, is to me an insupportable torment. That I might not live like a savage, I took it into my head to learn to make laces. Like the women, I carried my cushion with me, when I went to make visits, or sat down to work at my door, and chatted with passers-by. This made me the better support the emptiness of babbling, and enabled me to pass my time with my female neighbors without weariness. Several of these were very amiable and not devoid of wit. One in particular, Isabella d'Ivernois, daughter of the attorney-general of Neuchatel, I found so estimable as to induce me to enter with her into terms of particular friendship, from which she derived some advantage by the useful advice I gave her, and the services she received from me on occasions of importance, so that now a worthy and virtuous mother of a family, she is perhaps indebted to me for her reason, her husband, her life, and happiness. On my part, I received from her gentle consolation, particularly during a melancholy winter, through out the whole of which when my sufferings were most cruel, she came to pass with Theresa and me long evenings, which she made very short for us by her agreeable conversation, and our mutual openness of heart. She called me papa, and I called her daughter, and these names, which we still give to each other, will, I hope, continue to be as dear to her as they are to me. That my laces might be of some utility, I gave them to my young female friends at their marriages, upon condition of their suckling their children; Isabella's eldest sister had one upon these terms, and well deserved it by her observance of them; Isabella herself also received another, which, by intention she as fully merited. She has not been happy enough to be able to pursue her inclination. When I sent the laces to the two sisters, I wrote each of them a letter; the first has been shown about in the world; the second has not the same celebrity: friendship proceeds with less noise.
Amongst the connections I made in my neighborhood, of which I will not enter into a detail, I must mention that with Colonel Pury, who had a house upon the mountain, where he came to pass the summer. I was not anxious to become acquainted with him, because I knew he was upon bad terms at court, and with the lord marshal, whom he did not visit. Yet, as he came to see me, and showed me much attention, I was under the necessity of returning his visit; this was repeated, and we sometimes dined with each other. At his house I became acquainted with M. du Perou, and afterwards too intimately connected with him to pass his name over in silence.
M. du Perou was an American, son to a commandant of Surinam, whose successor, M. le Chambrier, of Neuchatel, married his widow. Left a widow a second time, she came with her son to live in the country of her second husband.
Du Perou, an only son, very rich, and tenderly beloved by his mother, had been carefully brought up, and his education was not lost upon him. He had acquired much knowledge, a taste for the arts, and piqued himself upon his having cultivated his rational faculty: his Dutch appearance, yellow complexion, and silent and close disposition, favored this opinion. Although young, he was already deaf and gouty. This rendered his motions deliberate and very grave, and although he was fond of disputing, he in general spoke but little because his hearing was bad. I was struck with his exterior, and said to myself, this is a thinker, a man of wisdom, such a one as anybody would be happy to have for a friend. He frequently addressed himself to me without paying the least compliment, and this strengthened the favorable opinion I had already formed of him. He said but little to me of myself or my books, and still less of himself; he was not destitute of ideas, and what he said was just. This justness and equality attracted my regard. He had neither the elevation of mind, nor the discrimination of the lord marshal, but he had all his simplicity: this was still representing him in something. I did not become infatuated with him, but he acquired my attachment from esteem; and by degrees this esteem led to friendship, and I totally forgot the objection I made to the Baron Holbach: that he was too rich.
For a long time I saw but little of Du Perou, because I did not go to Neuchatel, and he came but once a year to the mountain of Colonel Pury. Why did I not go to Neuchatel? This proceeded from a childishness upon which I must not be silent.
Although protected by the King of Prussia and the lord marshal, while I avoided persecution in my asylum, I did not avoid the murmurs of the public, of municipal magistrates and ministers. After what had happened in France it became fashionable to insult me; these people would have been afraid to seem to disapprove of what my persecutors had done by not imitating them. The 'classe' of Neuchatel, that is, the ministers of that city, gave the impulse, by endeavoring to move the council of state against me. This attempt not having succeeded, the ministers addressed themselves to the municipal magistrate, who immediately prohibited my book, treating me on all occasions with but little civility, and saying, that had I wished to reside in the city I should not have been suffered to do it. They filled their Mercury with absurdities and the most stupid hypocrisy, which, although, it makes every man of sense laugh, animated the people against me. This, however, did not prevent them from setting forth that I ought to be very grateful for their permitting me to live at Motiers, where they had no authority; they would willingly have measured me the air by the pint, provided I had paid for it a dear price. They would have it that I was obliged to them for the protection the king granted me in spite of the efforts they incessantly made to deprive me of it. Finally, failing of success, after having done me all the injury they could, and defamed me to the utmost of their power, they made a merit of their impotence, by boasting of their goodness in suffering me to stay in their country. I ought to have laughed at their vain efforts, but I was foolish enough to be vexed at them, and had the weakness to be unwilling to go to Neuchatel, to which I yielded for almost two years, as if it was not doing too much honor to such wretches, to pay attention to their proceedings, which, good or bad, could not be imputed to them, because they never act but from a foreign impulse. Besides, minds without sense or knowledge, whose objects of esteem are influence, power and money, and far from imagining even that some respect is due to talents, and that it is dishonorable to injure and insult them.
A certain mayor of a village, who from sundry malversations had been deprived of his office, said to the lieutenant of Val de Travers, the husband of Isabella: "I am told this Rousseau has great wit,--bring him to me that I may see whether he has or not." The disapprobation of such a man ought certainly to have no effect upon those on whom it falls.
After the treatment I had received at Paris, Geneva, Berne, and even at Neuchatel, I expected no favor from the pastor of this place. I had, however, been recommended to him by Madam Boy de la Tour, and he had given me a good reception; but in that country where every new-comer is indiscriminately flattered, civilities signify but little. Yet, after my solemn union with the reformed church, and living in a Protestant country, I could not, without failing in my engagements, as well as in the duty of a citizen, neglect the public profession of the religion into which I had entered; I therefore attended divine service. On the other hand, had I gone to the holy table, I was afraid of exposing myself to a refusal, and it was by no means probable, that after the tumult excited at Geneva by the council, and at Neuchatel by the classe (the ministers), he would, without difficulty administer to me the sacrament in his church. The time of communion approaching, I wrote to M. de Montmollin, the minister, to prove to him my desire of communicating, and declaring myself heartily united to the Protestant church; I also told him, in order to avoid disputing upon articles of faith, that I would not hearken to any particular explanation of the point of doctrine. After taking these steps I made myself easy, not doubting but M. de Montmollin would refuse to admit me without the preliminary discussion to which I refused to consent, and that in this manner everything would be at an end without any fault of mine. I was deceived: when I least expected anything of the kind, M. de Montmollin came to declare to me not only that he admitted me to the communion under the condition which I had proposed, but that he and the elders thought themselves much honored by my being one of their flock. I never in my whole life felt greater surprise or received from it more consolation. Living always alone and unconnected, appeared to me a melancholy destiny, especially in adversity. In the midst of so many proscriptions and persecutions, I found it extremely agreeable to be able to say to myself: I am at least amongst my brethren; and I went to the communion with an emotion of heart, and my eyes suffused with tears of tenderness, which perhaps were the most agreeable preparation to Him to whose table I was drawing near.
Sometime afterwards his lordship sent me a letter from Madam de Boufflers, which he had received, at least I presumed so, by means of D'Alembert, who was acquainted with the marechal. In this letter, the first this lady had written to me after my departure from Montmorency, she rebuked me severely for having written to M. de Montmollin, and especially for having communicated. I the less understood what she meant by her reproof, as after my journey to Geneva, I had constantly declared myself a Protestant, and had gone publicly to the Hotel de Hollande without incurring the least censure from anybody. It appeared to me diverting enough, that Madam de Boufflers should wish to direct my conscience in matters of religion. However, as I had no doubt of the purity of her intention, I was not offended by this singular sally, and I answered her without anger, stating to her my reasons.
Calumnies in print were still industriously circulated, and their benign authors reproached the different powers with treating me too mildly. For my part, I let them say and write what they pleased, without giving myself the least concern about the matter. I was told there was a censure from the Sorbonne, but this I could not believe. What could the Sorbonne have to do in the matter? Did the doctors wish to know to a certainty that I was not a Catholic? Everybody already knew I was not one. Were they desirous of proving I was not a good Calvinist? Of what consequence was this to them? It was taking upon themselves a singular care, and becoming the substitutes of our ministers. Before I saw this publication I thought it was distributed in the name of the Sorbonne, by way of mockery: and when I had read it I was convinced this was the case. But when at length there was not a doubt of its authenticity, all I could bring myself to believe was, that the learned doctors would have been better placed in a madhouse than they were in the college.
I was more affected by another publication, because it came from a man for whom I always had an esteem, and whose constancy I admired, though I pitied his blindness. I mean the mandatory letter against me by the archbishop of Paris. I thought to return an answer to it was a duty I owed myself. This I felt I could do without derogating from my dignity; the case was something similar to that of the King of Poland. I had always detested brutal disputes, after the manner of Voltaire. I never combat but with dignity, and before I deign to defend myself I must be certain that he by whom I am attacked will not dishonor my retort. I had no doubt but this letter was fabricated by the Jesuits, and although they were at that time in distress, I discovered in it their old principle of crushing the wretched. I was therefore at liberty to follow my ancient maxim, by honoring the titulary author, and refuting the work which I think I did completely.
I found my residence at Motiers very agreeable, and nothing was wanting to determine me to end my days there, but a certainty of the means of subsistence. Living is dear in that neighborhood, and all my old projects had been overturned by the dissolution of my household arrangements at Montmorency, the establishment of others, the sale or squandering of my furniture, and the expenses incurred since my departure. The little capital which remained to me daily diminished. Two or three years were sufficient to consume the remainder without my having the means of renewing it, except by again engaging in literary pursuits: a pernicious profession which I had already abandoned. Persuaded that everything which concerned me would change, and that the public, recovered from its frenzy, would make my persecutors blush, all my endeavors tended to prolong my resources until this happy revolution should take place, after which I should more at my ease choose a resource from amongst those which might offer themselves. To this effect I took up my Dictionary of Music, which ten years' labor had so far advanced as to leave nothing wanting to it but the last corrections. My books which I had lately received, enabled me to finish this work; my papers sent me by the same conveyance, furnished me with the means of beginning my memoirs to which I was determined to give my whole attention. I began by transcribing the letters into a book, by which my memory might be guided in the order of fact and time. I had already selected those I intended to keep for this purpose, and for ten years the series was not interrupted. However, in preparing them for copying I found an interruption at which I was surprised. This was for almost six months, from October, 1756, to March following. I recollected having put into my selection a number of letters from Diderot, De Leyre, Madam d' Epinay, Madam de Chenonceaux, etc., which filled up the void and were missing. What was become of them? Had any person laid their hands upon my papers whilst they remained in the Hotel de Luxembourg? This was not conceivable, and I had seen M. de Luxembourg take the key of the chamber in which I had deposited them. Many letters from different ladies, and all those from Diderot, were without date, on which account I had been under the necessity of dating them from memory before they could be put in order, and thinking I might have committed errors, I again looked them over for the purpose of seeing whether or not I could find those which ought to fill up the void. This experiment did not succeed. I perceived the vacancy to be real, and that the letters had certainly been taken away. By whom and for what purpose? This was what I could not comprehend. These letters, written prior to my great quarrels, and at the time of my first enthusiasm in the composition of 'Eloisa', could not be interesting to any person. They contained nothing more than cavillings by Diderot, jeerings from De Leyre, assurances of friendship from M. de Chenonceaux, and even Madam d'Epinay, with whom I was then upon the best of terms. To whom were these letters of consequence? To what use were they to be put? It was not until seven years afterwards that I suspected the nature of the theft. The deficiency being no longer doubtful, I looked over my rough drafts to see whether or not it was the only one. I found several, which on account of the badness of my memory, made me suppose others in the multitude of my papers. Those I remarked were that of the 'Morale Sensitive', and the extract of the adventures of Lord Edward. The last, I confess, made me suspect Madam de Luxembourg. La Roche, her valet de chambre, had sent me the papers, and I could think of nobody but herself to whom this fragment could be of consequence; but what concern could the other give her, any more than the rest of the letters missing, with which, even with evil intentions, nothing to my prejudice could be done, unless they were falsified? As for the marechal, with whose friendship for me, and invariable integrity, I was perfectly acquainted, I never could suspect him for a moment. The most reasonable supposition, after long tormenting my mind in endeavoring to discover the author of the theft, that which imputed it to D'Alembert, who, having thrust himself into the company of Madam de Luxembourg, might have found means to turn over these papers, and take from amongst them such manuscripts and letters as he might have thought proper, either for the purpose of endeavoring to embroil me with the writer of them, or to appropriate those he should find useful to his own private purposes. I imagined that, deceived by the title of Morale Sensitive, he might have supposed it to be the plan of a real treatise upon materialism, with which he would have armed himself against me in a manner easy to be imagined. Certain that he would soon be undeceived by reading the sketch and determined to quit all literary pursuits, these larcenies gave me but little concern. They besides were not the first the same hand had committed upon me without having complained of these pilferings.
- [I had found in his 'Elemens de Musique' (Elements of Music)
- several things taken from what I had written for the 'Encyclopedie',
- and which were given to him several years before the publication of
- his elements. I know not what he may have had to do with a book
- entitled 'Dictionaire des Beaux Arts' (Dictionary of the Fine Arts)
- but I found in it articles transcribed word for word from mine, and
- this long before the same articles were printed in the
In a very little time I thought no more of the trick that had been played me than if nothing had happened, and began to collect the materials I had left for the purpose of undertaking my projected confessions.
I had long thought the company of ministers, or at least the citizens and burgesses of Geneva, would remonstrate against the infraction of the edict in the decree made against me. Everything remained quiet, at least to all exterior appearance; for discontent was general, and ready, on the first opportunity, openly to manifest itself. My friends, or persons calling themselves such, wrote letter after letter exhorting me to come and put myself at their head, assuring me of public separation from the council. The fear of the disturbance and troubles which might be caused by my presence, prevented me from acquiescing with their desires, and, faithful to the oath I had formerly made, never to take the least part in any civil dissension in my country, I chose rather to let the offence remain as it was, and banish myself forever from the country, than to return to it by means which were violent and dangerous. It is true, I expected the burgesses would make legal remonstrances against an infraction in which their interests were deeply concerned; but no such steps were taken. They who conducted the body of citizens sought less the real redress of grievances than an opportunity to render themselves necessary. They caballed but were silent, and suffered me to be bespattered by the gossips and hypocrites set on to render me odious in the eyes of the populace, and pass upon them their boistering for a zeal in favor of religion.
After having, during a whole year, vainly expected that some one would remonstrate against an illegal proceeding, and seeing myself abandoned by my fellow-citizens, I determined to renounce my ungrateful country in which I never had lived, from which I had not received either inheritance or services, and by which, in return for the honor I had endeavored to do it, I saw myself so unworthily treated by unanimous consent, since they, who should have spoken, had remained silent. I therefore wrote to the first syndic for that year, to M. Favre, if I remember right, a letter in which I solemnly gave up my freedom of the city of Geneva, carefully observing in it, however, that decency and moderation, from which I have never departed in the acts of haughtiness which, in my misfortunes, the cruelty of my enemies have frequently forced upon me,
This step opened the eyes of the citizens, who feeling they had neglected their own interests by abandoning my defence, took my part when it was too late. They had wrongs of their own which they joined to mine, and made these the subject of several well-reasoned representations, which they strengthened and extended, as the refusal of the council, supported by the ministry of France, made them more clearly perceive the project formed to impose on them a yoke. These altercations produced several pamphlets which were undecisive, until that appeared entitled 'Lettres ecrites de la Campagne', a work written in favor of the council, with infinite art, and by which the remonstrating party, reduced to silence, was crushed for a time. This production, a lasting monument of the rare talents of its author, came from the Attorney-General Tronchin, a man of wit and an enlightened understanding, well versed in the laws and government of the republic. 'Siluit terra'.
The remonstrators, recovered from their first overthrow, undertook to give an answer, and in time produced one which brought them off tolerably well. But they all looked to me, as the only person capable of combating a like adversary with hope of success. I confess I was of their opinion, and excited by my former fellow-citizens, who thought it was my duty to aid them with my pen, as I had been the cause of their embarrassment, I undertook to refute the 'Lettres ecrites de la Campagne', and parodied the title of them by that of 'Lettres ecrites de la Montagne,' which I gave to mine. I wrote this answer so secretly, that at a meeting I had at Thonon, with the chiefs of the malcontents to talk of their affairs, and where they showed me a sketch of their answer, I said not a word of mine, which was quite ready, fearing obstacles might arise relative to the impression of it, should the magistrate or my enemies hear of what I had done. This work was, however known in France before the publication; but government chose rather to let it appear, than to suffer me to guess at the means by which my secret had been discovered. Concerning this I will state what I know, which is but trifling: what I have conjectured shall remain with myself.
I received, at Motiers, almost as many visits as at the Hermitage and Montmorency; but these, for the most part were a different kind. They who had formerly come to see me were people who, having taste, talents, and principles, something similar to mine, alleged them as the causes of their visits, and introduced subjects on which I could converse. At Motiers the case was different, especially with the visitors who came from France. They were officers or other persons who had no taste for literature, nor had many of them read my works, although, according to their own accounts, they had travelled thirty, forty, sixty, and even a hundred leagues to come and see me, and admire the illustrious man, the very celebrated, the great man, etc. For from the time of my settling at Motiers, I received the most impudent flattery, from which the esteem of those with whom I associated had formerly sheltered me. As but few of my new visitors deigned to tell me who or what they were, and as they had neither read nor cast their eye over my works, nor had their researches and mine been directed to the same objects, I knew not what to speak to them upon: I waited for what they had to say, because it was for them to know and tell me the purpose of their visit. It will naturally be imagined this did not produce conversations very interesting to me, although they, perhaps, were so to my visitors, according to the information they might wish to acquire; for as I was without suspicion, I answered without reserve, to every question they thought proper to ask me, and they commonly went away as well informed as myself of the particulars of my situation.
I was, for example, visited in this manner by M. de Feins, equerry to the queen, and captain of cavalry, who had the patience to pass several days at Motiers, and to follow me on foot even to La Ferriere, leading his horse by the bridle, without having with me any point of union, except our acquaintance with Mademoiselle Fel, and that we both played at 'bilboquet'. [A kind of cup and ball.]
Before this I had received another visit much more extraordinary. Two men arrived on foot, each leading a mule loaded with his little baggage, lodging at the inn, taking care of their mules and asking to see me. By the equipage of these muleteers they were taken for smugglers, and the news that smugglers were come to see me was instantly spread. Their manner of addressing me sufficiently showed they were persons of another description; but without being smugglers they might be adventurers, and this doubt kept me for some time on my guard. They soon removed my apprehensions. One was M. de Montauban, who had the title of Comte de la Tour du Pin, gentleman to the dauphin; the other, M. Dastier de Carpentras, an old officer who had his cross of St. Louis in his pocket, because he could not display it. These gentlemen, both very amiable, were men of sense, and their manner of travelling, so much to my own taste, and but little like that of French gentlemen, in some measure gained them my attachment, which an intercourse with them served to improve. Our acquaintance did not end with the visit; it is still kept up, and they have since been several times to see me, not on foot, that was very well for the first time; but the more I have seen of these gentlemen the less similarity have I found between their taste and mine; I have not discovered their maxims to be such as I have ever observed, that my writings are familiar to them, or that there is any real sympathy between them and myself. What, therefore, did they want with me? Why came they to see me with such an equipage? Why repeat their visit? Why were they so desirous of having me for their host? I did not at that time propose to myself these questions; but they have sometimes occurred to me since.
Won by their advances, my heart abandoned itself without reserve, especially to M. Dastier, with whose open countenance I was more particularly pleased. I even corresponded with him, and when I determined to print the 'Letters from the Mountains', I thought of addressing myself to him, to deceive those by whom my packet was waited for upon the road to Holland. He had spoken to me a good deal, and perhaps purposely, upon the liberty of the press at Avignon; he offered me his services should I have anything to print there: I took advantage of the offer and sent him successively by the post my first sheets. After having kept these for some time, he sent them back to me, "Because," said he, "no bookseller dared to sell them;" and I was obliged to have recourse to Rey taking care to send my papers, one after the other, and not to part with those which succeeded until I had advice of the reception of those already sent. Before the work was published, I found it had been seen in the office of the ministers, and D'Escherny, of Neuchatel, spoke to me of the book, entitled 'Del' Homme de la Monlagne', which D'Holbach had told him was by me. I assured him, and it was true, that I never had written a book which bore that title. When the letters appeared he became furious, and accused me of falsehood; although I had told him truth. By this means I was certain my manuscript had been read; as I could not doubt the fidelity of Rey, the most rational conjecture seemed to be, that my packets had been opened at the post-house.
Another acquaintance I made much about the same time, but which was begun by letters, was that with M. Laliand of Nimes, who wrote to me from Paris, begging I would send him my profile; he said he was in want of it for my bust in marble, which Le Moine was making for him to be placed in his library. If this was a pretence invented to deceive me, it fully succeeded. I imagined that a man who wished to have my bust in marble in his library had his head full of my works, consequently of my principles, and that he loved me because his mind was in unison with mine. It was natural this idea should seduce me. I have since seen M. Laliand. I found him very ready to render me many trifling services, and to concern himself in my little affairs, but I have my doubts of his having, in the few books he ever read, fallen upon any one of those I have written. I do not know that he has a library, or that such a thing is of any use to him; and for the bust he has a bad figure in plaster, by Le Moine, from which has been engraved a hideous portrait that bears my name, as if it bore to me some resemblance.
The only Frenchman who seemed to come to see me, on account of my sentiments, and his taste for my works, was a young officer of the regiment of Limousin, named Seguier de St. Brisson. He made a figure in Paris, where he still perhaps distinguishes himself by his pleasing talents and wit. He came once to Montmorency, the winter which preceded my catastrophe. I was pleased with his vivacity. He afterwards wrote to me at Motiers, and whether he wished to flatter me, or that his head was turned with Emilius, he informed me he was about to quit the service to live independently, and had begun to learn the trade of a carpenter. He had an elder brother, a captain in the same regiment, the favorite of the mother, who, a devotee to excess, and directed by I know not what hypocrite, did not treat the youngest son well, accusing him of irreligion, and what was still worse, of the unpardonable crime of being connected with me. These were the grievances, on account of which he was determined to break with his mother, and adopt the manner of life of which I have just spoken, all to play the part of the young Emilius. Alarmed at his petulance, I immediately wrote to him, endeavoring to make him change his resolution, and my exhortations were as strong as I could make them. They had their effect. He returned to his duty, to his mother, and took back the resignation he had given the colonel, who had been prudent enough to make no use of it, that the young man might have time to reflect upon what he had done. St. Brisson, cured of these follies, was guilty of another less alarming, but, to me, not less disagreeable than the rest: he became an author. He successively published two or three pamphlets which announced a man not devoid of talents, but I have not to reproach myself with having encouraged him by my praises to continue to write.
Some time afterwards he came to see me, and we made together a pilgrimage to the island of St. Pierre. During this journey I found him different from what I saw of him at Montmorency. He had, in his manner, something affected, which at first did not much disgust me, although I have since thought of it to his disadvantage. He once visited me at the hotel de St. Simon, as I passed through Paris on my way to England. I learned there what he had not told me, that he lived in the great world, and often visited Madam de Luxembourg. Whilst I was at Trie, I never heard from him, nor did he so much as make inquiry after me, by means of his relation Mademoiselle Seguier, my neighbor. This lady never seemed favorably disposed towards me. In a word, the infatuation of M. de St. Brisson ended suddenly, like the connection of M. de Feins: but this man owed me nothing, and the former was under obligations to me, unless the follies I prevented him from committing were nothing more than affectation; which might very possibly be the case.
I had visits from Geneva also. The Delucs, father and son, successively chose me for their attendant in sickness. The father was taken ill on the road, the son was already sick when he left Geneva; they both came to my house. Ministers, relations, hypocrites, and persons of every description came from Geneva and Switzerland, not like those from France, to laugh at and admire me, but to rebuke and catechise me. The only person amongst them, who gave me pleasure, was Moultou, who passed with me three or four days, and whom I wished to remain much longer; the most persevering of all, the most obstinate, and who conquered me by importunity, was a M. d'Ivernois, a merchant at Geneva, a French refugee, and related to the attorney-general of Neuchatel. This man came from Geneva to Motiers twice a year, on purpose to see me, remained with me several days together from morning to night, accompanied me in my walks, brought me a thousand little presents, insinuated himself in spite of me into my confidence, and intermeddled in all my affairs, notwithstanding there was not between him and myself the least similarity of ideas, inclination, sentiment, or knowledge. I do not believe he ever read a book of any kind throughout, or that he knows upon what subject mine are written. When I began to herbalize, he followed me in my botanical rambles, without taste for that amusement, or having anything to say to me or I to him. He had the patience to pass with me three days in a public house at Goumoins, whence, by wearying him and making him feel how much he wearied me, I was in hopes of driving him away. I could not, however, shake his incredible perseverance, nor by any means discover the motive of it.
Amongst these connections, made and continued by force, I must not omit the only one that was agreeable to me, and in which my heart was really interested: this was that I had with a young Hungarian who came to live at Neuchatel, and from that place to Motiers, a few months after I had taken up my residence there. He was called by the people of the country the Baron de Sauttern, by which name he had been recommended from Zurich. He was tall, well made, had an agreeable countenance, and mild and social qualities. He told everybody, and gave me also to understand that he came to Neuchatel for no other purpose, than that of forming his youth to virtue, by his intercourse with me. His physiognomy, manner, and behavior, seemed well suited to his conversation, and I should have thought I failed in one of the greatest duties had I turned my back upon a young man in whom I perceived nothing but what was amiable, and who sought my acquaintance from so respectable a motive. My heart knows not how to connect itself by halves. He soon acquired my friendship, and all my confidence, and we were presently inseparable. He accompanied me in all my walks, and become fond of them. I took him to the marechal, who received him with the utmost kindness. As he was yet unable to explain himself in French, he spoke and wrote to me in Latin, I answered in French, and this mingling of the two languages did not make our conversations either less smooth or lively. He spoke of his family, his affairs, his adventures, and of the court of Vienna, with the domestic details of which he seemed well acquainted. In fine, during two years which we passed in the greatest intimacy, I found in him a mildness of character proof against everything, manners not only polite but elegant, great neatness of person, an extreme decency in his conversation, in a word, all the marks of a man born and educated a gentleman, and which rendered him in my eyes too estimable not to make him dear to me.
At the time we were upon the most intimate and friendly terms, D' Ivernois wrote to me from Geneva, putting me upon my guard against the young Hungarian who had taken up his residence in my neighborhood; telling me he was a spy whom the minister of France had appointed to watch my proceedings. This information was of a nature to alarm me the more, as everybody advised me to guard against the machinations of persons who were employed to keep an eye upon my actions, and to entice me into France for the purpose of betraying me. To shut the mouths, once for all, of these foolish advisers, I proposed to Sauttern, without giving him the least intimation of the information I had received, a journey on foot to Pontarlier, to which he consented. As soon as we arrived there I put the letter from D'Ivernois into his hands, and after giving him an ardent embrace, I said: "Sauttern has no need of a proof of my confidence in him, but it is necessary I should prove to the public that I know in whom to place it." This embrace was accompanied with a pleasure which persecutors can neither feel themselves, nor take away from the oppressed.
I will never believe Sauttern was a spy, nor that he betrayed me: but I was deceived by him. When I opened to him my heart without reserve, he constantly kept his own shut, and abused me by lies. He invented I know not what kind of story, to prove to me his presence was necessary in his own country. I exhorted him to return to it as soon as possible. He setoff, and when I thought he was in Hungary, I learned he was at Strasbourgh. This was not the first time he had been there. He had caused some disorder in a family in that city; and the husband knowing I received him in my house, wrote to me. I used every effort to bring the young woman back to the paths of virtue, and Sauttern to his duty.
When I thought they were perfectly detached from each other, they renewed their acquaintance, and the husband had the complaisance to receive the young man at his house; from that moment I had nothing more to say. I found the pretended baron had imposed upon me by a great number of lies. His name was not Sauttern, but Sauttersheim. With respect to the title of baron, given him in Switzerland, I could not reproach him with the impropriety, because he had never taken it; but I have not a doubt of his being a gentleman, and the marshal, who knew mankind, and had been in Hungary, always considered and treated him as such.
He had no sooner left my neighborhood, than the girl at the inn where he eat, at Motiers, declared herself with child by him. She was so dirty a creature, and Sauttern, generally esteemed in the country for his conduct and purity of morals, piqued himself so much upon cleanliness, that everybody was shocked at this impudent pretension. The most amiable women of the country, who had vainly displayed to him their charms, were furious: I myself was almost choked with indignation. I used every effort to get the tongue of this impudent woman stopped, offering to pay all expenses, and to give security for Sauttersheim. I wrote to him in the fullest persuasion, not only that this pregnancy could not relate to him, but that it was feigned, and the whole a machination of his enemies and mine. I wished him to return and confound the strumpet, and those by whom she was dictated to. The pusillanimity of his answer surprised me. He wrote to the master of the parish to which the creature belonged, and endeavored to stifle the matter. Perceiving this, I concerned myself no more about it, but I was astonished that a man who could stoop so low should have been sufficiently master of himself to deceive me by his reserve in the closest familiarity.
From Strasbourgh, Sauttersheim went to seek his fortune in Paris, and found there nothing but misery. He wrote to me acknowledging his error. My compassion was excited by the recollection of our former friendship, and I sent him a sum of money. The year following, as I passed through Paris, I saw him much in the same situation; but he was the intimate friend of M. de Laliand, and I could not learn by what means he had formed this acquaintance, or whether it was recent or of long standing. Two years afterwards Sauttersheim returned to Strasbourgh, whence he wrote to me and where he died. This, in a few words, is the history of our connection, and what I know of his adventures; but while I mourn the fate of the unhappy young man, I still, and ever shall, believe he was the son of people of distinction, and the impropriety of his conduct was the effect of the situations to which he was reduced.
Such were the connections and acquaintance I acquired at Motiers. How many of these would have been necessary to compensate the cruel losses I suffered at the same time.
The first of these was that of M. de Luxembourg, who, after having been long tormented by the physicians, at length became their victim, by being treated for the gout which they would not acknowledge him to have, as for a disorder they thought they could cure.
According to what La Roche, the confidential servant of Madam de Luxembourg, wrote to me relative to what had happened, it is by this cruel and memorable example that the miseries of greatness are to be deplored.
The loss of this good nobleman afflicted me the more, as he was the only real friend I had in France, and the mildness of his character was such as to make me quite forget his rank, and attach myself to him as his equal. Our connection was not broken off on account of my having quitted the kingdom; he continued to write to me as usual.
I nevertheless thought I perceived that absence, or my misfortune, had cooled his affection for me. It is difficult to a courtier to preserve the same attachment to a person whom he knows to be in disgrace with courts. I moreover suspected the great ascendancy Madam de Luxembourg had over his mind, had been unfavorable to me, and that she had taken advantage of our separation to injure me in his esteem. For her part, notwithstanding a few affected marks of regard, which daily became less frequent, she less concealed the change in her friendship. She wrote to me four or five times into Switzerland, after which she never wrote to me again, and nothing but my prejudice, confidence and blindness, could have prevented my discovering in her something more than a coolness towards me.
Guy the bookseller, partner with Duchesne, who, after I had left Montmorency, frequently went to the hotel de Luxembourg, wrote to me that my name was in the will of the marechal. There was nothing in this either incredible or extraordinary, on which account I had no doubt of the truth of the information. I deliberated within myself whether or not I should receive the legacy. Everything well considered, I determined to accept it, whatever it might be, and to do that honor to the memory of an honest man, who, in a rank in which friendship is seldom found, had had a real one for me. I had not this duty to fulfill. I heard no more of the legacy, whether it were true or false; and in truth I should have felt some pain in offending against one of the great maxims of my system of morality, in profiting by anything at the death of a person whom I had once held dear. During the last illness of our friend Mussard, Leneips proposed to me to take advantage of the grateful sense he expressed for our cares, to insinuate to him dispositions in our favor. "Ah! my dear Leneips," said I, "let us not pollute by interested ideas the sad but sacred duties we discharge towards our dying friend. I hope my name will never be found in the testament of any person, at least not in that of a friend." It was about this time that my lord marshal spoke to me of his, of what he intended to do in it for me, and that I made him the answer of which I have spoken in the first part of my memoirs.
My second loss, still more afflicting and irreparable, was that of the best of women and mothers, who, already weighed down with years, and overburthened with infirmities and misery, quitted this vale of tears for the abode of the blessed, where the amiable remembrance of the good we have done here below is the eternal reward of our benevolence. Go, gentle and beneficent shade, to those of Fenelon, Berneg, Catinat, and others, who in a more humble state have, like them, opened their hearts to pure charity; go and taste of the fruit of your own benevolence, and prepare for your son the place he hopes to fill by your side. Happy in your misfortunes that Heaven, in putting to them a period, has spared you the cruel spectacle of his! Fearing, lest I should fill her heart with sorrow by the recital of my first disasters, I had not written to her since my arrival in Switzerland; but I wrote to M. de Conzie, to inquire after her situation, and it was from him I learned she had ceased to alleviate the sufferings of the afflicted, and that her own were at an end. I myself shall not suffer long; but if I thought I should not see her again in the life to come, my feeble imagination would less delight in the idea of the perfect happiness I there hope to enjoy.
My third and last loss, for since that time I have not had a friend to lose, was that of the lord marshal. He did not die but tired of serving the ungratful, he left Neuchatel, and I have never seen him since. He still lives, and will, I hope, survive me: he is alive, and thanks to him all my attachments on earth are not destroyed. There is one man still worthy of my friendship; for the real value of this consists more in what we feel than in that which we inspire; but I have lost the pleasure I enjoyed in his, and can rank him in the number of those only whom I love, but with whom I am no longer connected. He went to England to receive the pardon of the king, and acquired the possession of the property which formerly had been confiscated. We did not separate without an intention of again being united, the idea of which seemed to give him as much pleasure as I received from it. He determined to reside at Keith Hall, near Aberdeen, and I was to join him as soon as he was settled there: but this project was too flattering to my hopes to give me any of its success. He did not remain in Scotland. The affectionate solicitations of the King of Prussia induced him to return to Berlin, and the reason of my not going to him there will presently appear.
Before this departure, foreseeing the storm which my enemies began to raise against me, he of his own accord sent me letters of naturalization, which seemed to be a certain means of preventing me from being driven from the country. The community of the Convent of Val de Travers followed the example of the governor, and gave me letters of Communion, gratis, as they were the first. Thus, in every respect, become a citizen, I was sheltered from legal expulsion, even by the prince; but it has never been by legitimate means, that the man who, of all others, has shown the greatest respect for the laws, has been persecuted. I do not think I ought to enumerate, amongst the number of my losses at this time, that of the Abbe Malby. Having lived sometime at the house of his mother, I have been acquainted with the abbe, but not very intimately, and I have reason to believe the nature of his sentiments with respect to me changed after I acquired a greater celebrity than he already had. But the first time I discovered his insincerity was immediately after the publication of the 'Letters from the Mountain'. A letter attributed to him, addressed to Madam Saladin, was handed about in Geneva, in which he spoke of this work as the seditious clamors of a furious demagogue.
The esteem I had for the Abbe Malby, and my great opinion of his understanding, did not permit me to believe this extravagant letter was written by him. I acted in this business with my usual candor. I sent him a copy of the letter, informing him he was said to be the author of it. He returned me no answer. This silence astonished me: but what was my surprise when by a letter I received from Madam de Chenonceaux, I learned the Abbe was really the author of that which was attributed to him, and found himself greatly embarrassed by mine. For even supposing for a moment that what he stated was true, how could he justify so public an attack, wantonly made, without obligation or necessity, for the sole purpose of overwhelming in the midst of his greatest misfortunes, a man to whom he had shown himself a well-wisher, and who had not done anything that could excite his enmity? In a short time afterwards the 'Dialogues of Phocion', in which I perceived nothing but a compilation, without shame or restraint, from my writings, made their appearance.
In reading this book I perceived the author had not the least regard for me, and that in future I must number him among my most bitter enemies. I do not believe he has ever pardoned me for the Social Contract, far superior to his abilities, or the Perpetual Peace; and I am, besides, of opinion that the desire he expressed that I should make an extract from the Abby de St. Pierre, proceeded from a supposition in him that I should not acquit myself of it so well.
The further I advance in my narrative, the less order I feel myself capable of observing. The agitation of the rest of my life has deranged in my ideas the succession of events. These are too numerous, confused, and disagreeable to be recited in due order. The only strong impression they have left upon my mind is that of the horrid mystery by which the cause of them is concealed, and of the deplorable state to which they have reduced me. My narrative will in future be irregular, and according to the events which, without order, may occur to my recollection. I remember about the time to which I refer, full of the idea of my confessions, I very imprudently spoke of them to everybody, never imagining it could be the wish or interest, much less within the power of any person whatsoever, to throw an obstacle in the way of this undertaking, and had I suspected it, even this would not have rendered me more discreet, as from the nature of my disposition it is totally impossible for me to conceal either my thoughts or feelings. The knowledge of this enterprise was, as far as I can judge, the cause of the storm that was raised to drive me from Switzerland, and deliver me into the hands of those by whom I might be prevented from executing it.
I had another project in contemplation which was not looked upon with a more favorable eye by those who were afraid of the first: this was a general edition of my works. I thought this edition of them necessary to ascertain what books, amongst those to which my name was affixed, were really written by me, and to furnish the public with the means of distinguishing them from the writings falsely attributed to me by my enemies, to bring me to dishonor and contempt. This was besides a simple and an honorable means of insuring to myself a livelihood, and the only one that remained to me. As I had renounced the profession of an author, my memoirs not being of a nature to appear during my lifetime; as I no longer gained a farthing in any manner whatsoever, and constantly lived at a certain expense, I saw the end of my resources in that of the produce of the last things I had written. This reason had induced me to hasten the finishing of my Dictionary of Music, which still was incomplete. I had received for it a hundred louis(guineas) and a life annuity of three hundred livres; but a hundred louis could not last long in the hands of a man who annually expended upwards of sixty, and three-hundred livres (twelve guineas) a year was but a trifling sum to one upon whom parasites and beggarly visitors lighted like a swarm of flies.
A company of merchants from Neuchatel came to undertake the general edition, and a printer or bookseller of the name of Reguillat, from Lyons, thrust himself, I know not by what means, amongst them to direct it. The agreement was made upon reasonable terms, and sufficient to accomplish my object. I had in print and manuscript, matter for six volumes in quarto. I moreover agreed to give my assistance in bringing out the edition. The merchants were, on their part, to pay me a thousand crowns (one hundred and twenty-five pounds) down, and to assign me an annuity of sixteen hundred livres (sixty-six pounds) for life.
The agreement was concluded but not signed, when the Letters from the Mountain appeared. The terrible explosion caused by this infernal work, and its abominable author, terrified the company, and the undertaking was at an end.
I would compare the effect of this last production to that of the Letter on French Music, had not that letter, while it brought upon me hatred, and exposed me to danger, acquired me respect and esteem. But after the appearance of the last work, it was a matter of astonishment at Geneva and Versailles that such a monster as the author of it should be suffered to exist. The little council, excited by Resident de France, and directed by the attorney-general, made a declaration against my work, by which, in the most severe terms, it was declared to be unworthy of being burned by the hands of the hangman, adding, with an address which bordered upon the burlesque, there was no possibility of speaking of or answering it without dishonor. I would here transcribe the curious. piece of composition, but unfortunately I have it not by me. I ardently wish some of my readers, animated by the zeal of truth and equity, would read over the Letters from the Mountain: they will, I dare hope, feel the stoical moderation which reigns throughout the whole, after all the cruel outrages with which the author was loaded. But unable to answer the abuse, because no part of it could be called by that name nor to the reasons because these were unanswerable, my enemies pretended to appear too much enraged to reply: and it is true, if they took the invincible arguments it contains, for abuse, they must have felt themselves roughly treated.
The remonstrating party, far from complaining of the odious declaration, acted according to the spirit of it, and instead of making a trophy of the Letters from the Mountain, which they veiled to make them serve as a shield, were pusillanimous enough not to do justice or honor to that work, written to defend them, and at their own solicitation. They did not either quote or mention the letters, although they tacitly drew from them all their arguments, and by exactly following the advice with which they conclude, made them the sole cause of their safety and triumph. They had imposed on me this duty: I had fulfilled it, and unto the end had served their cause and the country. I begged of them to abandon me, and in their quarrels to think of nobody but themselves. They took me at my word, and I concerned myself no more about their affairs, further than constantly to exhort them to peace, not doubting, should they continue to be obstinate, of their being crushed by France; this however did not happen; I know the reason why it did not, but this is not the place to explain what I mean.
The effect produced at Neuchatel by the Letters from the Mountain was at first very mild. I sent a copy of them to M. de Montmollin, who received it favorably, and read it without making any objection. He was ill as well as myself; as soon as he recovered he came in a friendly manner to see me, and conversed on general subjects. A rumor was however begun; the book was burned I know not where. From Geneva, Berne, and perhaps from Versailles, the effervescence quickly passed to Neuchatel, and especially to Val de Travers, where, before even the ministers had taken any apparent Steps, an attempt was secretly made to stir up the people, I ought, I dare assert, to have been beloved by the people of that country in which I have lived, giving alms in abundance, not leaving about me an indigent person without assistance, never refusing to do any service in my power, and which was consistent with justice, making myself perhaps too familiar with everybody, and avoiding, as far as it was possible for me to do it, all distinction which might excite the least jealousy. This, however, did not prevent the populace, secretly stirred up against me, by I know not whom, from being by degrees irritated against me, even to fury, nor from publicly insulting me, not only in the country and upon the road, but in the street. Those to whom I had rendered the greatest services became most irritated against me, and even people who still continued to receive my benefactions, not daring to appear, excited others, and seemed to wish thus to be revenged of me for their humiliation, by the obligations they were under for the favors I had conferred upon them. Montmollin seemed to pay no attention to what was passing, and did not yet come forward. But as the time of communion approached, he came to advise me not to present myself at the holy table, assuring me, however, he was not my enemy, and that he would leave me undisturbed. I found this compliment whimsical enough; it brought to my recollection the letter from Madam de Boufflers, and I could not conceive to whom it could be a matter of such importance whether I communicated or not. Considering this condescension on my part as an act of cowardice, and moreover, being unwilling to give to the people a new pretext under which they might charge me with impiety, I refused the request of the minister, and he went away dissatisfied, giving me to understand I should repent of my obstinacy.
He could not of his own authority forbid me the communion: that of the Consistory, by which I had been admitted to it, was necessary, and as long as there was no objection from that body I might present myself without the fear of being refused. Montmollin procured from the Classe (the ministers) a commission to summon me to the Consistory, there to give an account of the articles of my faith, and to excommunicate me should I refuse to comply. This excommunication could not be pronounced without the aid of the Consistory also, and a majority of the voices. But the peasants, who under the appellation of elders, composed this assembly, presided over and governed by their minister, might naturally be expected to adopt his opinion, especially in matters of the clergy, which they still less understood than he did. I was therefore summoned, and I resolved to appear.
What a happy circumstance and triumph would this have been to me could I have spoken, and had I, if I may so speak, had my pen in my mouth! With what superiority, with what facility even, should I have overthrown this poor minister in the midst of his six peasants! The thirst after power having made the Protestant clergy forget all the principles of the reformation, all I had to do to recall these to their recollection and to reduce them to silence, was to make comments upon my first 'Letters from the Mountain', upon which they had the folly to animadvert.
My text was ready, and I had only to enlarge on it, and my adversary was confounded. I should not have been weak enough to remain on the defensive; it was easy to me to become an assailant without his even perceiving it, or being able to shelter himself from my attack. The contemptible priests of the Classe, equally careless and ignorant, had of themselves placed me in the most favorable situation I could desire to crush them at pleasure. But what of this? It was necessary I should speak without hesitation, and find ideas, turn of expression, and words at will, preserving a presence of mind, and keeping myself collected, without once suffering even a momentary confusion. For what could I hope, feeling as I did, my want of aptitude to express myself with ease? I had been reduced to the most mortifying silence at Geneva, before an assembly which was favorable to me, and previously resolved to approve of everything I should say. Here, on the contrary, I had to do with a cavalier who, substituting cunning to knowledge, would spread for me a hundred snares before I could perceive one of them, and was resolutely determined to catch me in an error let the consequence be what it would. The more I examined the situation in which I stood, the greater danger I perceived myself exposed to, and feeling the impossibility of successfully withdrawing from it, I thought of another expedient. I meditated a discourse which I intended to pronounce before the Consistory, to exempt myself from the necessity of answering. The thing was easy. I wrote the discourse and began to learn it by memory, with an inconceivable ardor. Theresa laughed at hearing me mutter and incessantly repeat the same phrases, while endeavoring to cram them into my head. I hoped, at length, to remember what I had written: I knew the chatelain as an officer attached to the service of the prince, would be present at the Consistory, and that notwithstanding the manoeuvres and bottles of Montmollin, most of the elders were well disposed towards me. I had, moreover, in my favor, reason, truth, and justice, with the protection of the king, the authority of the council of state, and the good wishes of every real patriot, to whom the establishment of this inquisition was threatening. In fine, everything contributed to encourage me.
On the eve of the day appointed, I had my discourse by rote, and recited it without missing a word. I had it in my head all night: in the morning I had forgotten it. I hesitated at every word, thought myself before the assembly, became confused, stammered, and lost my presence of mind. In fine, when the time to make my appearance was almost at hand, my courage totally failed me. I remained at home and wrote to the Consistory, hastily stating my reasons, and pleaded my disorder, which really, in the state to which apprehension had reduced me, would scarcely have permitted me to stay out the whole sitting.
The minister, embarrassed by my letter, adjourned the Consistory. In the interval, he of himself, and by his creatures, made a thousand efforts to seduce the elders, who, following the dictates of their consciences, rather than those they received from him, did not vote according to his wishes, or those of the class. Whatever power his arguments drawn from his cellar might have over this kind of people, he could not gain one of them, more than the two or three who were already devoted to his will, and who were called his 'ames damnees'.--[damned souls]--The officer of the prince, and the Colonel Pury, who, in this affair, acted with great zeal, kept the rest to their duty, and when Montmollin wished to proceed to excommunication, his Consistory, by a majority of voices, flatly refused to authorize him to do it. Thus reduced to the last expedient, that of stirring up the people against me, he, his colleagues, and other persons, set about it openly, and were so successful, that not-withstanding the strong and frequent rescripts of the king, and the orders of the council of state, I was at length obliged to quit the country, that I might not expose the officer of the king to be himself assassinated while he protected me.
The recollection of the whole of this affair is so confused, that it is impossible for me to reduce to or connect the circumstances of it. I remember a kind of negotiation had been entered into with the class, in which Montmollin was the mediator. He feigned to believe it was feared I should, by my writings, disturb the peace of the country, in which case, the liberty I had of writing would be blamed. He had given me to understand that if I consented to lay down my pen, what was past would be forgotten. I had already entered into this engagement with myself, and did not hesitate in doing it with the class, but conditionally and solely in matters of religion. He found means to have a duplicate of the agreement upon some change necessary to be made in it. The condition having been rejected by the class; I demanded back the writing, which was returned to me, but he kept the duplicate, pretending it was lost. After this, the people, openly excited by the ministers, laughed at the rescripts of the king, and the orders of the council of state, and shook off all restraint. I was declaimed against from the pulpit, called antichrist, and pursued in the country like a mad wolf. My Armenian dress discovered me to the populace; of this I felt the cruel inconvenience, but to quit it in such circumstances, appeared to me an act of cowardice. I could not prevail upon myself to do it, and I quietly walked through the country with my caffetan and fur bonnet in the midst of the hootings of the dregs of the people, and sometimes through a shower of stones. Several times as I passed before houses, I heard those by whom they were inhabited call out: "Bring me my gun that I may fire at him." As I did not on this account hasten my pace, my calmness increased their fury, but they never went further than threats, at least with respect to firearms.
During the fermentation I received from two circumstances the most sensible pleasure. The first was my having it in my power to prove my gratitude by means of the lord marshal. The honest part of the inhabitants of Neuchatel, full of indignation at the treatment I received, and the manoeuvres of which I was the victim, held the ministers in execration, clearly perceiving they were obedient to a foreign impulse, and the vile agents of people, who, in making them act, kept themselves concealed; they were moreover afraid my case would have dangerous consequences, and be made a precedent for the purpose of establishing a real inquisition.
The magistrates, and especially M. Meuron, who had succeeded M. d' Ivernois in the office of attorney-general, made every effort to defend me. Colonel Pury, although a private individual, did more and succeeded better. It was the colonel who found means to make Montmollin submit in his Consistory, by keeping the elders to their duty. He had credit, and employed it to stop the sedition; but he had nothing more than the authority of the laws, and the aid of justice and reason, to oppose to that of money and wine: the combat was unequal, and in this point Montmollin was triumphant. However, thankful for his zeal and cares, I wished to have it in my power to make him a return of good offices, and in some measure discharge a part of the obligations I was under to him. I knew he was very desirous of being named a counsellor of state; but having displeased the court by his conduct in the affair of the minister Petitpierre, he was in disgrace with the prince and governor. I however undertook, at all risks, to write to the lord marshal in his favor: I went so far as even to mention the employment of which he was desirous, and my application was so well received that, contrary to the expectations of his most ardent well wishers, it was almost instantly conferred upon him by the king. In this manner fate, which has constantly raised me to too great an elevation, or plunged me into an abyss of adversity, continued to toss me from one extreme to another, and whilst the populace covered me with mud I was able to make a counsellor of state.
The other pleasing circumstance was a visit I received from Madam de Verdelin with her daughter, with whom she had been at the baths of Bourbonne, whence they came to Motiers and stayed with me two or three days. By her attention and cares, she at length conquered my long repugnancy; and my heart, won by her endearing manner, made her a return of all the friendship of which she had long given me proofs. This journey made me extremely sensible of her kindness: my situation rendered the consolations of friendship highly necessary to support me under my sufferings. I was afraid she would be too much affected by the insults I received from the populace, and could have wished to conceal them from her that her feelings might not be hurt, but this was impossible; and although her presence was some check upon the insolent populace in our walks, she saw enough of their brutality to enable her to judge of what passed when I was alone. During the short residence she made at Motiers, I was still attacked in my habitation. One morning her chambermaid found my window blocked up with stones, which had been thrown at it during the night. A very heavy bench placed in the street by the side of the house, and strongly fastened down, was taken up and reared against the door in such a manner as, had it not been perceived from the window, to have knocked down the first person who should have opened the door to go out. Madam de Verdelin was acquainted with everything that passed; for, besides what she herself was witness to, her confidential servant went into many houses in the village, spoke to everybody, and was seen in conversation with Montmollin. She did not, however, seem to pay the least attention to that which happened to me, nor never mentioned Montmollin nor any other person, and answered in a few words to what I said to her of him. Persuaded that a residence in England would be more agreeable to me than any other, she frequently spoke of Mr. Hume who was then at Paris, of his friendship for me, and the desire he had of being of service to me in his own country. It is time I should say something of Hume.
He had acquired a great reputation in France amongst the Encyclopedists by his essays on commerce and politics, and in the last place by his history of the House of Stuart, the only one of his writings of which I had read a part, in the translation of the Abbe Prevot. For want of being acquainted with his other works, I was persuaded, according to what I heard of him, that Mr. Hume joined a very republican mind to the English Paradoxes in favor of luxury. In this opinion I considered his whole apology of Charles I. as a prodigy of impartiality, and I had as great an idea of his virtue as of his genius. The desire of being acquainted with this great man, and of obtaining his friendship, had greatly strengthened the inclination I felt to go to England, induced by the solicitations of Madam de Boufflers, the intimate friend of Hume. After my arrival in Switzerland, I received from him, by means of this lady, a letter extremely flattering; in which, to the highest encomiums on my genius, he subjoined a pressing invitation to induce me to go to England, and the offer of all his interest, and that of his friends, to make my residence there agreeable. I found in the country to which I had retired, the lord marshal, the countryman and friend of Hume, who confirmed my good opinion of him, and from whom I learned a literary anecdote, which did him great honor in the opinion of his lordship and had the same effect in mine. Wallace, who had written against Hume upon the subject of the population of the ancients, was absent whilst his work was in the press. Hume took upon himself to examine the proofs, and to do the needful to the edition. This manner of acting was according to my way of thinking. I had sold at six sous (three pence) a piece, the copies of a song written against myself. I was, therefore, strongly prejudiced in favor of Hume, when Madam de Verdelin came and mentioned the lively friendship he expressed for me, and his anxiety to do me the honors of England; such was her expression. She pressed me a good deal to take advantage of this zeal and to write to him. As I had not naturally an inclination to England, and did not intend to go there until the last extremity, I refused to write or make any promise; but I left her at liberty to do whatever she should think necessary to keep Mr. Hume favorably disposed towards me. When she went from Motiers, she left me in the persuasion, by everything she had said to me of that illustrious man, that he was my friend, and she herself still more his.
After her departure, Montmollin carried on his manoeuvres with more vigor, and the populace threw off all restraint. Yet I still continued to walk quietly amidst the hootings of the vulgar; and a taste for botany, which I had begun to contract with Doctor d'Ivernois, making my rambling more amusing, I went through the country herbalising, without being affected by the clamors of this scum of the earth, whose fury was still augmented by my calmness. What affected me most was, seeing families of my friends, or of persons who gave themselves that name, openly join the league of my persecutors; such as the D'Ivernois, without excepting the father and brother of my Isabel le Boy de la Tour, a relation to the friend in whose house I lodged, and Madam Girardier, her sister-in-law.
- [This fatality had begun with my residence at, Yverdon; the banneret
- Roguin dying a year or two after my departure from that city, the
- old papa Roguin had the candor to inform me with grief, as he said,
- that in he papers of his relation, proofs had been found of his
- having been concerned in the conspiracy to expel me from Yverdon and
- the state of Berne. This clearly proved the conspiracy not to be,
- as some people pretended to believe, an affair of hypocrisy since
- the banneret, far from being a devotee, carried materialism and
- incredulity to intolerance and fanaticism. Besides, nobody at
- Yverdon had shown me more constant attention, nor had so prodigally
- bestowed upon me praises and flattery as this banneret. He
- faithfully followed the favorite plan of my persecutors.]
This Peter Boy was such a brute; so stupid, and behaved so uncouthly, that, to prevent my mind from being disturbed, I took the liberty to ridicule him; and after the manner of the 'Petit Prophete', I wrote a pamphlet of a few pages, entitled, 'la Vision de Pierre de la Montagne dit le Voyant,--[The vision of Peter of the Mountain called the Seer.]--in which I found means to be diverting enough on the miracles which then served as the great pretext for my persecution. Du Peyrou had this scrap printed at Geneva, but its success in the country was but moderate; the Neuchatelois with all their wit, taste but weakly attic salt or pleasantry when these are a little refined.
In the midst of decrees and persecutions, the Genevese had distinguished themselves by setting up a hue and cry with all their might; and my friend Vernes amongst others, with an heroical generosity, chose that moment precisely to publish against me letters in which he pretended to prove I was not a Christian. These letters, written with an air of self-sufficiency were not the better for it, although it was positively said the celebrated Bonnet had given them some correction: for this man, although a materialist, has an intolerant orthodoxy the moment I am in question. There certainly was nothing in this work which could tempt me to answer it; but having an opportunity of saying a few words upon it in my 'Letters from the Mountain', I inserted in them a short note sufficiently expressive of disdain to render Vernes furious. He filled Geneva with his furious exclamations, and D'Ivernois wrote me word he had quite lost his senses. Sometime afterwards appeared an anonymous sheet, which instead of ink seemed to be written with water of Phelethon. In this letter I was accused of having exposed my children in the streets, of taking about with me a soldier's trull, of being worn out with debaucheries..., and other fine things of a like nature. It was not difficult for me to discover the author. My first idea on reading this libel, was to reduce to its real value everything the world calls fame and reputation amongst men; seeing thus a man who was never in a brothel in his life, and whose greatest defect was in being as timid and shy as a virgin, treated as a frequenter of places of that description; and in finding myself charged with being......, I, who not only never had the least taint of such disorder, but, according to the faculty, was so constructed as to make it almost impossible for me to contract it. Everything well considered, I thought I could not better refute this libel than by having it printed in the city in which I longest resided, and with this intention I sent it to Duchesne to print it as it was with an advertisement in which I named M. Vernes and a few short notes by way of eclaircissement. Not satisfied with printing it only, I sent copies to several persons, and amongst others one copy to the Prince Louis of Wirtemberg, who had made me polite advances and with whom I was in correspondence. The prince, Du Peyrou, and others, seemed to have their doubts about the author of the libel, and blamed me for having named Vernes upon so slight a foundation. Their remarks produced in me some scruples, and I wrote to Duchesne to suppress the paper. Guy wrote to me he had suppressed it: this may or may not be the case; I have been deceived on so many occasions that there would be nothing extraordinary in my being so on this, and from the time of which I speak, was so enveloped in profound darkness that it was impossible for me to come at any kind of truth.
M. Vernes bore the imputation with a moderation more than astonishing in a man who was supposed not to have deserved it, and after the fury with which he was seized on former occasions. He wrote me two or three letters in very guarded terms, with a view, as it appeared to me, to endeavor by my answers to discover how far I was certain of his being the author of the paper, and whether or not I had any proofs against him. I wrote him two short answers, severe in the sense, but politely expressed, and with which he was not displeased. To his third letter, perceiving he wished to form with me a kind of correspondence, I returned no answer, and he got D'Ivernois to speak to me. Madam Cramer wrote to Du Peyrou, telling him she was certain the libel was not by Vernes. This however, did not make me change my opinion. But as it was possible I might be deceived, and as it is certain that if I were, I owed Vernes an explicit reparation, I sent him word by D'Ivernois that I would make him such a one as he should think proper, provided he would name to me the real author of the libel, or at least prove that he himself was not so. I went further: feeling that, after all, were he not culpable, I had no right to call upon him for proofs of any kind, I stated in a memoir of considerable length, the reasons whence I had inferred my conclusion, and determined to submit them to the judgment of an arbitrator, against whom Vernes could not except. But few people would guess the arbitrator of whom I made choice. I declared at the end of the memoir, that if, after having examined it, and made such inquiries as should seem necessary, the council pronounced M. Vernes not to be the author of the libel, from that moment I should be fully persuaded he was not, and would immediately go and throw myself at his feet, and ask his pardon until I had obtained it. I can say with the greatest truth that my ardent zeal for equity, the uprightness and generosity of my heart, and my confidence in the love of justice innate in every mind never appeared more fully and perceptible than in this wise and interesting memoir, in which I took, without hesitation, my most implacable enemies for arbitrators between a calumniator and myself. I read to Du Peyrou what I had written: he advised me to suppress it, and I did so. He wished me to wait for the proofs Vernes promised, and I am still waiting for them: he thought it best that I should in the meantime be silent, and I held my tongue, and shall do so the rest of my life, censured as I am for having brought against Vernes a heavy imputation, false and unsupportable by proof, although I am still fully persuaded, nay, as convinced as I am of my existence, that he is the author of the libel. My memoir is in the hands of Du Peyrou. Should it ever be published my reasons will be found in it, and the heart of Jean Jacques, with which my contemporaries would not be acquainted, will I hope be known.
I have now to proceed to my catastrophe at Motiers, and to my departure from Val de Travers, after a residence of two years and a half, and an eight months suffering with unshaken constancy of the most unworthy treatment. It is impossible for me clearly to recollect the circumstances of this disagreeable period, but a detail of them will be found in a publication to that effect by Du Peyrou, of which I shall hereafter have occasion to speak.
After the departure of Madam de Verdelin the fermentation increased, and, notwithstanding the reiterated rescripts of the king, the frequent orders of the council of state, and the cares of the chatelain and magistrates of the place, the people, seriously considering me as antichrist, and perceiving all their clamors to be of no effect, seemed at length determined to proceed to violence; stones were already thrown after me in the roads, but I was however in general at too great a distance to receive any harm from them. At last, in the night of the fair of Motiers, which is in the beginning of September, I was attacked in my habitation in such a manner as to endanger the lives of everybody in the house.
At midnight I heard a great noise in the gallery which ran along the back part of the house. A shower of stones thrown against the window and the door which opened to the gallery fell into it with so much noise and violence, that my dog, which usually slept there, and had begun to bark, ceased from fright, and ran into a corner gnawing and scratching the planks to endeavor to make his escape. I immediately rose, and was preparing to go from my chamber into the kitchen, when a stone thrown by a vigorous arm crossed the latter, after having broken the window, forced open the door of my chamber, and fell at my feet, so that had I been a moment sooner upon the floor I should have had the stone against my stomach. I judged the noise had been made to bring me to the door, and the stone thrown to receive me as I went out. I ran into the kitchen, where I found Theresa, who also had risen, and was tremblingly making her way to me as fast as she could. We placed ourselves against the wall out of the direction of the window to avoid the stones, and deliberate upon what was best to be done; for going out to call assistance was the certain means of getting ourselves knocked on the head. Fortunately the maid-servant of an old man who lodged under me was waked by the noise, and got up and ran to call the chatelain, whose house was next to mine. He jumped from his bed, put on his robe de chambre, and instantly came to me with the guard, which, on account of the fair, went the round that night, and was just at hand. The chatelain was so alarmed at the sight of the effects of what had happened that he turned pale and on seeing the stones in the gallery, exclaimed, "Good God! here is a quarry!" On examining below stairs, a door of a little court was found to have been forced, and there was an appearance of an attempt having been made to get into the house by the gallery. On inquiring the reason why the guard had neither prevented nor perceived the disturbance, it came out that the guards of Motiers had insisted upon doing duty that night, although it was the turn of those of another village.
The next day the chatelain sent his report to the council of state, which two days afterwards sent an order to inquire into the affair, to promise a reward and secrecy to those who should impeach such as were guilty, and in the meantime to place, at the expense of the king, guards about my house, and that of the chatelain, which joined to it. The day after the disturbance, Colonel Pury, the Attorney-General Meuron, the Chatelain Martinet, the Receiver Guyenet, the Treasurer d'Ivernois and his father, in a word, every person of consequence in the country, came to see me, and united their solicitations to persuade me to yield to the storm and leave, at least for a time, a place in which I could no longer live in safety nor with honor. I perceived that even the chatelain was frightened at the fury of the people, and apprehending it might extend to himself, would be glad to see me depart as soon as possible, that he might no longer have the trouble of protecting me there, and be able to quit the parish, which he did after my departure. I therefore yielded to their solicitations, and this with but little pain, for the hatred of the people so afflicted my heart that I was no longer able to support it.
I had a choice of places to retire to. After Madam de Verdelin returned to Paris, she had, in several letters, mentioned a Mr. Walpole, whom she called my lord, who, having a strong desire to serve me, proposed to me an asylum at one of his country houses, of the situation of which she gave me the most agreeable description; entering, relative to lodging and subsistence, into a detail which proved she and Lord Walpole had held particular consultations upon the project. My lord marshal had always advised me to go to England or Scotland, and in case of my determining upon the latter, offered me there an asylum. But he offered me another at Potsdam, near to his person, and which tempted me more than all the rest.
He had just communicated to me what the king had said to him about my going there, which was a kind of invitation to me from that monarch, and the Duchess of Saxe-Gotha depended so much upon my taking the journey that she wrote to me desiring I should go to see her in my way to the court of Prussia, and stay some time before I proceeded farther; but I was so attached to Switzerland that I could not resolve to quit it so long as it was possible for me to live there, and I seized this opportunity to execute a project of which I had for several months conceived the idea, and of which I have deferred speaking, that I might not interrupt my narrative.
This project consisted in going to reside in the island of St. Peter, an estate belonging to the Hospital of Berne, in the middle of the lake of Bienne. In a pedestrian pilgrimage I had made the preceding year with Du Peyrou we had visited this isle, with which I was so much delighted that I had since that time incessantly thought of the means of making it my place of residence. The greatest obstacle to my wishes arose from the property of the island being vested in the people of Berne, who three years before had driven me from amongst them; and besides the mortification of returning to live with people who had given me so unfavorable a reception, I had reason to fear they would leave me no more at peace in the island than they had done at Yverdon. I had consulted the lord marshal upon the subject, who thinking as I did, that the people of Berne would be glad to see me banished to the island, and to keep me there as a hostage for the works I might be tempted to write, and sounded their dispositions by means of M. Sturler, his old neighbor at Colombier. M. Sturler addressed himself to the chiefs of the state, and, according to their answer assured the marshal the Bernois, sorry for their past behavior, wished to see me settled in the island of St. Peter, and to leave me there at peace. As an additional precaution, before I determined to reside there, I desired the Colonel Chaillet to make new inquiries. He confirmed what I had already heard, and the receiver of the island having obtained from his superiors permission to lodge me in it, I thought I might without danger go to the house, with the tactic consent of the sovereign and the proprietors; for I could not expect the people of Berne would openly acknowledge the injustice they had done me, and thus act contrary to the most inviolable maxim of all sovereigns.
The island of St. Peter, called at Neuchatel the island of La Motte, in the middle of the lake of Bienne, is half a league in, circumference; but in this little space all the chief productions necessary to subsistence are found. The island has fields, meadows, orchards, woods, and vineyards, and all these, favored by variegated and mountainous situations, form a distribution of the more agreeable, as the parts, not being discovered all at once, are seen successively to advantage, and make the island appear greater than it really is. A very elevated terrace forms the western part of it, and commands Gleresse and Neuverville. This terrace is planted with trees which form a long alley, interrupted in the middle by a great saloon, in which, during the vintage, the people from the neighboring shores assemble and divert themselves. There is but one house in the whole island, but that is very spacious and convenient, inhabited by the receiver, and situated in a hollow by which it is sheltered from the winds.
Five or six hundred paces to the south of the island of St. Peter is another island, considerably less than the former, wild and uncultivated, which appears to have been detached from the greater island by storms: its gravelly soil produces nothing but willows and persicaria, but there is in it a high hill well covered with greensward and very pleasant. The form of the lake is an almost regular oval. The banks, less rich than those of the lake of Geneva and Neuchatel, form a beautiful decoration, especially towards the western part, which is well peopled, and edged with vineyards at the foot, of a chain of mountains, something like those of Cote-Rotie, but which produce not such excellent wine. The bailiwick of St. John, Neuveville, Berne, and Bienne, lie in a line from the south to the north, to the extremity of the lake, the whole interspersed with very agreeable villages.
Such was the asylum I had prepared for myself, and to which I was determined to retire alter quitting Val de Travers.
- [It may perhaps be necessary to remark that I left there an enemy in
- M. du Teneaux, mayor of Verrieres, not much esteemed in the country,
- but who has a brother, said to be an honest man, in the office of M.
- de St. Florentin. The mayor had been to see him sometime before my
- adventure. Little remarks of this kind, though of no consequence,
- in themselves, may lead to the discovery of many underhand
This choice was so agreeable to my peaceful inclinations, and my solitary and indolent disposition, that I consider it as one of the pleasing reveries of which I became the most passionately fond. I thought I should in that island be more separated from men, more sheltered from their outrages, and sooner forgotten by mankind: in a word, more abandoned to the delightful pleasures of the inaction of a contemplative life. I could have wished to have been confined in it in such a manner as to have had no intercourse with mortals, and I certainly took every measure I could imagine to relieve me from the necessity of troubling my head about them.
The great question was that of subsistence, and by the dearness of provisions, and the difficulty of carriage, this is expensive in the island; the inhabitants are besides at the mercy of the receiver. This difficulty was removed by an arrangement which Du Peyrou made with me in becoming a substitute to the company which had undertaken and abandoned my general edition. I gave him all the materials necessary, and made the proper arrangement and distribution. To the engagement between us I added that of giving him the memoirs of my life, and made him the general depositary of all my papers, under the express condition of making no use of them until after my death, having it at heart quietly to end my days without doing anything which should again bring me back to the recollection of the public. The life annuity he undertook to pay me was sufficient to my subsistence. My lord marshal having recovered all his property, had offered me twelve hundred livres (fifty pounds) a year, half of which I accepted. He wished to send me the principal, and this I refused on account of the difficulty of placing it. He then sent the amount to Du Peyrou, in whose hands it remained, and who pays me the annuity according to the terms agreed upon with his lordship. Adding therefore to the result of my agreement with Du Peyrou, the annuity of the marshal, two-thirds of which were reversible to Theresa after my death, and the annuity of three hundred livres from Duchesne, I was assured of a genteel subsistence for myself, and after me for Theresa, to whom I left seven hundred livres (twenty-nine pounds) a year, from the annuities paid me by Rey and the lord marshal; I had therefore no longer to fear a want of bread. But it was ordained that honor should oblige me to reject all these resources which fortune and my labors placed within my reach, and that I should die as poor as I had lived. It will be seen whether or not, without reducing myself to the last degree of infamy, I could abide by the engagements which care has always taken to render ignominious, by depriving me of every other resource to force me to consent to my own dishonor. How was it possible anybody could doubt of the choice I should make in such an alternative? Others have judged of my heart by their own.
My mind at ease relative to subsistence was without care upon every other subject. Although I left in the world the field open to my enemies, there remained in the noble enthusiasm by which my writings were dictated, and in the constant uniformity of my principles, an evidence of the uprightness of my heart which answered to that deducible from my conduct in favor of my natural disposition. I had no need of any other defense against my calumniators. They might under my name describe another man, but it was impossible they should deceive such as were unwilling to be imposed upon. I could have given them my whole life to animadvert upon, with a certainty, notwithstanding all my faults and weaknesses, and my want of aptitude to, support the lightest yoke, of their finding me in every situation a just and good man, without bitterness, hatred, or jealousy, ready to acknowledge my errors, and still more prompt to forget the injuries I received from others; seeking all my happiness in love, friendship, and affection and in everything carrying my sincerity even to imprudence and the most incredible disinterestedness.
I therefore in some measure took leave of the age in which I lived and my contemporaries, and bade adieu to the world, with an intention to confine myself for the rest of my days to that island; such was my resolution, and it was there I hoped to execute the great project of the indolent life to which I had until then consecrated the little activity with which Heaven had endowed me. The island was to become to me that of Papimanie, that happy country where the inhabitants sleep:
- Où l'on fait plus, où l'on fait nulle chose.
- [Where they do more: where they do nothing.]
This more was everything for me, for I never much regretted sleep; indolence is sufficient to my happiness, and provided I do nothing, I had rather dream waking than asleep. Being past the age of romantic projects, and having been more stunned than flattered by the trumpet of fame, my only hope was that of living at ease, and constantly at leisure. This is the life of the blessed in the world to come, and for the rest of mine here below I made it my supreme happiness.
They who reproach me with so many contradictions, will not fail here to add another to the number. I have observed the indolence of great companies made them unsupportable to me, and I am now seeking solitude for the sole purpose of abandoning myself to inaction. This however is my disposition; if there be in it a contradiction, it proceeds from nature and not from me; but there is so little that it is precisely on that account that I am always consistent. The indolence of company is burdensome because it is forced. That of solitude is charming because it is free, and depends upon the will. In company I suffer cruelly by inaction, because this is of necessity. I must there remain nailed to my chair, or stand upright like a picket, without stirring hand or foot, not daring to run, jump, sing, exclaim, nor gesticulate when I please, not allowed even to dream, suffering at the same time the fatigue of inaction and all the torment of constraint; obliged to pay attention to every foolish thing uttered, and to all the idle compliments paid, and constantly to keep my mind upon the rack that I may not fail to introduce in my turn my jest or my lie. And this is called idleness! It is the labor of a galley slave.
The indolence I love is not that of a lazy fellow who sits with his arms across in total inaction, and thinks no more than he acts, but that of a child which is incessantly in motion doing nothing, and that of a dotard who wanders from his subject. I love to amuse myself with trifles, by beginning a hundred things and never finishing one of them, by going or coming as I take either into my head, by changing my project at every instant, by following a fly through all its windings, in wishing to overturn a rock to see what is under it, by undertaking with ardor the work of ten years, and abandoning it without regret at the end of ten minutes; finally, in musing from morning until night without order or coherence, and in following in everything the caprice of a moment.
Botany, such as I have always considered it, and of which after my own manner I began to become passionately fond, was precisely an idle study, proper to fill up the void of my leisure, without leaving room for the delirium of imagination or the weariness of total inaction. Carelessly wandering in the woods and the country, mechanically gathering here a flower and there a branch; eating my morsel almost by chance, observing a thousand and a thousand times the same things, and always with the same interest, because I always forgot them, were to me the means of passing an eternity without a weary moment. However elegant, admirable, and variegated the structure of plants may be, it does not strike an ignorant eye sufficiently to fix the attention. The constant analogy, with, at the same time, the prodigious variety which reigns in their conformation, gives pleasure to those only who have already some idea of the vegetable system. Others at the sight of these treasures of nature feel nothing more than a stupid and monotonous admiration. They see nothing in detail because they know not for what to look, nor do they perceive the whole, having no idea of the chain of connection and combinations which overwhelms with its wonders the mind of the observer. I was arrived at that happy point of knowledge, and my want of memory was such as constantly to keep me there, that I knew little enough to make the whole new to me, and yet everything that was necessary to make me sensible to the beauties of all the parts. The different soils into which the island, although little, was divided, offered a sufficient variety of plants, for the study and amusement of my whole life. I was determined not to leave a blade of grass without analyzing it, and I began already to take measures for making, with an immense collection of observations, the 'Flora Petrinsularis'.
I sent for Theresa, who brought with her my books and effects. We boarded with the receiver of the island. His wife had sisters at Nidau, who by turns came to see her, and were company for Theresa. I here made the experiment of the agreeable life which I could have wished to continue to the end of my days, and the pleasure I found in it only served to make me feel to a greater degree the bitterness of that by which it was shortly to be succeeded.
I have ever been passionately fond of water, and the sight of it throws me into a delightful reverie, although frequently without a determinate object.
Immediately after I rose from my bed I never failed, if the weather was fine, to run to the terrace to respire the fresh and salubrious air of the morning, and glide my eye over the horizon of the lake, bounded by banks and mountains, delightful to the view. I know no homage more worthy of the divinity than the silent admiration excited by the contemplation of his works, and which is not externally expressed. I can easily comprehend the reason why the inhabitants of great cities, who see nothing but walls, and streets, have but little faith; but not whence it happens that people in the country, and especially such as live in solitude, can possibly be without it. How comes it to pass that these do not a hundred times a day elevate their minds in ecstasy to the Author of the wonders which strike their senses. For my part, it is especially at rising, wearied by a want of sleep, that long habit inclines me to this elevation which imposes not the fatigue of thinking. But to this effect my eyes must be struck with the ravishing beauties of nature. In my chamber I pray less frequently, and not so fervently; but at the view of a fine landscape I feel myself moved, but by what I am unable to tell. I have somewhere read of a wise bishop who in a visit to his diocese found an old woman whose only prayer consisted in the single interjection "Oh!"--"Good mother," said he to her, "continue to pray in this manner; your prayer is better than ours." This better prayer is mine also.
After breakfast, I hastened, with a frown on my brow, to write a few pitiful letters, longing ardently for the moment after which I should have no more to write. I busied myself for a few minutes about my books and papers, to unpack and arrange them, rather than to read what they contained; and this arrangement, which to me became the work of Penelope, gave me the pleasure of musing for a while. I then grew weary, and quitted my books to spend the three or four hours which remained to me of the morning in the study of botany, and especially of the system of Linnaeus, of which I became so passionately fond, that, after having felt how useless my attachment to it was, I yet could not entirely shake it off. This great observer is, in my opinion, the only one who, with Ludwig, has hitherto considered botany as a naturalist, and a philosopher; but he has too much studied it in herbals and gardens, and not sufficiently in nature herself. For my part, whose garden was always the whole island, the moment I wanted to make or verify an observation, I ran into the woods or meadows with my book under my arm, and there laid myself upon the ground near the plant in question, to examine it at my ease as it stood. This method was of great service to me in gaining a knowledge of vegetables in their natural state, before they had been cultivated and changed in their nature by the hands of men. Fagon, first physician to Louis XIV., and who named and perfectly knew all the plants in the royal garden, is said to have been so ignorant in the country as not to know how to distinguish the same plants. I am precisely the contrary. I know something of the work of nature, but nothing of that of the gardener.
I gave every afternoon totally up to my indolent and careless disposition, and to following without regularity the impulse of the moment. When the weather was calm, I frequently went immediately after I rose from dinner, and alone got into the boat. The receiver had taught me to row with one oar; I rowed out into the middle of the lake. The moment I withdrew from the bank, I felt a secret joy which almost made me leap, and of which it is impossible for me to tell or even comprehend the cause, if it were not a secret congratulation on my being out of the reach of the wicked. I afterwards rowed about the lake, sometimes approaching the opposite bank, but never touching at it. I often let my boat float at the mercy of the wind and water, abandoning myself to reveries without object, and which were not the less agreeable for their stupidity. I sometimes exclaimed, "O nature! O my mother! I am here under thy guardianship alone; here is no deceitful and cunning mortal to interfere between thee and me." In this manner I withdrew half a league from land; I could have wished the lake had been the ocean. However, to please my poor dog, who was not so fond as I was of such a long stay on the water, I commonly followed one constant course; this was going to land at the little island where I walked an hour or two, or laid myself down on the grass on the summit of the hill, there to satiate myself with the pleasure of admiring the lake and its environs, to examine and dissect all the herbs within my reach, and, like another Robinson Crusoe, built myself an imaginary place of residence in the island. I became very much attached to this eminence. When I brought Theresa, with the wife of the receiver and her sisters, to walk there, how proud was I to be their pilot and guide! We took there rabbits to stock it. This was another source of pleasure to Jean Jacques. These animals rendered the island still more interesting to me. I afterwards went to it more frequently, and with greater pleasure to observe the progress of the new inhabitants.
To these amusements I added one which recalled to my recollection the delightful life I led at the Charmettes, and to which the season particularly invited me. This was assisting in the rustic labors of gathering of roots and fruits, of which Theresa and I made it a pleasure to partake with the wife of the receiver and his family. I remember a Bernois, one M. Kirkeberguer, coming to see me, found me perched upon a tree with a sack fastened to my waist, and already so full of apples that I could not stir from the branch on which I stood. I was not sorry to be caught in this and similar situations. I hoped the people of Berne, witnesses to the employment of my leisure, would no longer think of disturbing my tranquillity but leave me at peace in my solitude. I should have preferred being confined there by their desire: this would have rendered the continuation of my repose more certain.
This is another declaration upon which I am previously certain of the incredulity of many of my readers, who obstinately continue to judge me by themselves, although they cannot but have seen, in the course of my life, a thousand internal affections which bore no resemblance to any of theirs. But what is still more extraordinary is, that they refuse me every sentiment, good or indifferent, which they have not, and are constantly ready to attribute to me such bad ones as cannot enter into the heart of man: in this case they find it easy to set me in opposition to nature, and to make of me such a monster as cannot in reality exist. Nothing absurd appears to them incredible, the moment it has a tendency to blacken me, and nothing in the least extraordinary seems to them possible, if it tends to do me honor.
But, notwithstanding what they may think or say, I will still continue faithfully to state what J. J. Rousseau was, did, and thought; without explaining, or justifying, the singularity of his sentiments and ideas, or endeavoring to discover whether or not others have thought as he did. I became so delighted with the island of St. Peter, and my residence there was so agreeable to me that, by concentrating all my desires within it, I formed the wish that I might stay there to the end of my life. The visits I had to return in the neighborhood, the journeys I should be under the necessity of making to Neuchatel, Bienne, Yverdon, and Nidau, already fatigued my imagination. A day passed out of the island, seemed to me a loss of so much happiness, and to go beyond the bounds of the lake was to go out of my element. Past experience had besides rendered me apprehensive. The very satisfaction that I received from anything whatever was sufficient to make me fear the loss of it, and the ardent desire I had to end my days in that island, was inseparable from the apprehension of being obliged to leave it. I had contracted a habit of going in the evening to sit upon the sandy shore, especially when the lake was agitated. I felt a singular pleasure in seeing the waves break at my feet. I formed of them in my imagination the image of the tumult of the world contrasted with the peace of my habitation; and this pleasing idea sometimes softened me even to tears. The repose I enjoyed with ecstasy was disturbed by nothing but the fear of being deprived of it, and this inquietude was accompanied with some bitterness. I felt my situation so precarious as not to dare to depend upon its continuance. "Ah! how willingly," said I to myself, "would I renounce the liberty of quitting this place, for which I have no desire, for the assurance of always remaining in it. Instead of being permitted to stay here by favor, why am I not detained by force! They who suffer me to remain may in a moment drive me away, and can I hope my persecutors, seeing me happy, will leave me here to continue to be so? Permitting me to live in the island is but a trifling favor. I could wish to be condemned to do it, and constrained to remain here that I may not be obliged to go elsewhere." I cast an envious eye upon Micheli du Cret, who, quiet in the castle of Arbourg, had only to determine to be happy to become so. In fine, by abandoning myself to these reflections, and the alarming apprehensions of new storms always ready to break over my head, I wished for them with an incredible ardor, and that instead of suffering me to reside in the island, the Bernois would give it me for a perpetual prison; and I can assert that had it depended upon me to get myself condemned to this, I would most joyfully have done it, preferring a thousand times the necessity of passing my life there to the danger of being driven to another place.
This fear did not long remain on my mind. When I least expected what was to happen, I received a letter from the bailiff of Nidau, within whose jurisdiction the island of St. Peter was; by his letter he announced to me from their excellencies an order to quit the island and their states. I thought myself in a dream. Nothing could be less natural, reasonable, or foreseen than such an order: for I considered my apprehensions as the result of inquietude in a man whose imagination was disturbed by his misfortunes, and not to proceed from a foresight which could have the least foundation. The measures I had taken to insure myself the tacit consent of the sovereign, the tranquillity with which I had been left to make my establishment, the visits of several people from Berne, and that of the bailiff himself, who had shown me such friendship and attention, and the rigor of the season in which it was barbarous to expel a man who was sickly and infirm, all these circumstances made me and many people believe that there was some mistake in the order and that ill-disposed people had purposely chosen the time of the vintage and the vacation of the senate suddenly to do me an injury.
Had I yielded to the first impulse of my indignation, I should immediately have departed. But to what place was I to go? What was to become of me at the beginning of the winter, without object, preparation, guide or carriage? Not to leave my papers and effects at the mercy of the first comer, time was necessary to make proper arrangements, and it was not stated in the order whether or not this would be granted me. The continuance of misfortune began to weigh down my courage. For the first time in my life I felt my natural haughtiness stoop to the yoke of necessity, and, notwithstanding the murmurs of my heart, I was obliged to demean myself by asking for a delay. I applied to M. de Graffenried, who had sent me the order, for an explanation of it. His letter, conceived in the strongest terms of disapprobation of the step that had been taken, assured me it was with the greatest regret he communicated to me the nature of it, and the expressions of grief and esteem it contained seemed so many gentle invitations to open to him my heart: I did so. I had no doubt but my letter would open the eyes of my persecutors, and that if so cruel an order was not revoked, at least a reasonable delay, perhaps the whole winter, to make the necessary preparations for my retreat, and to choose a place of abode, would be granted me.
Whilst I waited for an answer, I reflected upon my situation, and deliberated upon the steps I had to take. I perceived so many difficulties on all sides, the vexation I had suffered had so strongly affected me, and my health was then in such a bad state, that I was quite overcome, and the effect of my discouragement was to deprive me of the little resource which remained in my mind, by which I might, as well as it was possible to do it, have withdrawn myself from my melancholy situation. In whatever asylum I should take refuge, it appeared impossible to avoid either of the two means made use of to expel me. One of which was to stir up against me the populace by secret manoeuvres; and the other to drive me away by open force, without giving a reason for so doing. I could not, therefore, depend upon a safe retreat, unless I went in search of it farther than my strength and the season seemed likely to permit. These circumstances again bringing to my recollection the ideas which had lately occurred to me, I wished my persecutors to condemn me to perpetual imprisonment rather than oblige me incessantly to wander upon the earth, by successively expelling me from the asylums of which I should make choice: and to this effect I made them a proposal. Two days after my first letter to M. de Graffenried, I wrote him a second, desiring he would state what I had proposed to their excellencies. The answer from Berne to both was an order, conceived in the most formal and severe terms, to go out of the island, and leave every territory, mediate and immediate of the republic, within the space of twenty-four hours, and never to enter them again under the most grievous penalties.
This was a terrible moment. I have since that time felt greater anguish, but never have I been more embarrassed. What afflicted me most was being forced to abandon the project which had made me desirous to pass the winter in the island. It is now time I should relate the fatal anecdote which completed my disasters, and involved in my ruin an unfortunate people, whose rising virtues already promised to equal those of Rome and Sparta, I had spoken of the Corsicans in the 'Social Contract' as a new people, the only nation in Europe not too worn out for legislation, and had expressed the great hope there was of such a people, if it were fortunate enough to have a wise legislator. My work was read by some of the Corsicans, who were sensible of the honorable manner in which I had spoken of them; and the necessity under which they found themselves of endeavoring to establish their republic, made their chiefs think of asking me for my ideas upon the subject. M. Buttafuoco, of one of the first families in the country, and captain in France, in the Royal Italians, wrote to me to that effect, and sent me several papers for which I had asked to make myself acquainted with the history of the nation and the state of the country. M. Paoli, also, wrote to me several times, and although I felt such an undertaking to be superior to my abilities; I thought I could not refuse to give my assistance to so great and noble a work, the moment I should have acquired all the necessary information. It was to this effect I answered both these gentlemen, and the correspondence lasted until my departure.
Precisely at the same time, I heard that France was sending troops to Corsica, and that she had entered into a treaty with the Genoese. This treaty and sending of troops gave me uneasiness, and, without imagining I had any further relation with the business, I thought it impossible and the attempt ridiculous, to labor at an undertaking which required such undisturbed tranquillity as the political institution of a people in the moment when perhaps they were upon the point of being subjugated. I did not conceal my fears from M. Buttafuoco, who rather relieved me from them by the assurance that, were there in the treaty things contrary to the liberty of his country, a good citizen like himself would not remain as he did in the service of France. In fact, his zeal for the legislation of the Corsicans, and his connections with M. Paoli, could not leave a doubt on my mind respecting him; and when I heard he made frequent journeys to Versailles and Fontainebleau, and had conversations with M. de Choiseul, all I concluded from the whole was, that with respect to the real intentions of France he had assurances which he gave me to understand, but concerning which he did not choose openly to explain himself by letter.
This removed a part of my apprehensions. Yet, as I could not comprehend the meaning of the transportation of troops from France, nor reasonably suppose they were sent to Corsica to protect the liberty of the inhabitants, which they of themselves were very well able to defend against the Genoese, I could neither make myself perfectly easy, nor seriously undertake the plan of the proposed legislation, until I had solid proofs that the whole was serious, and that the parties meant not to trifle with me. I much wished for an interview with M. Buttafuoco, as that was certainly the best means of coming at the explanation I wished. Of this he gave me hopes, and I waited for it with the greatest impatience. I know not whether he really intended me any interview or not; but had this even been the case, my misfortunes would have prevented me from profiting by it.
The more I considered the proposed undertaking, and the further I advanced in the examination of the papers I had in my hands, the greater I found the necessity of studying, in the country, the people for whom institutions were to be made, the soil they inhabited, and all the relative circumstances by which it was necessary to appropriate to them that institution. I daily perceived more clearly the impossibility of acquiring at a distance all the information necessary to guide me. This I wrote to M. Buttafuoco, and he felt as I did. Although I did not form the precise resolution of going to Corsica. I considered a good deal of the means necessary to make that voyage. I mentioned it to M. Dastier, who having formerly served in the island under M. de Maillebois, was necessarily acquainted with it. He used every effort to dissuade me from this intention, and I confess the frightful description he gave me of the Corsicans and their country, considerably abated the desire I had of going to live amongst them.
But when the persecutions of Motiers made me think of quitting Switzerland, this desire was again strengthened by the hope of at length finding amongst these islanders the repose refused me in every other place. One thing only alarmed me, which was my unfitness for the active life to which I was going to be condemned, and the aversion I had always had to it. My disposition, proper for meditating at leisure and in solitude, was not so for speaking and acting, and treating of affairs with men. Nature, which had endowed me with the first talent, had refused me the last. Yet I felt that, even without taking a direct and active part in public affairs, I should as soon as I was in Corsica, be under the necessity of yielding to the desires of the people, and of frequently conferring with the chiefs. The object even of the voyage required that, instead of seeking retirement, I should in the heart of the country endeavor to gain the information of which I stood in need. It was certain that I should no longer be master of my own time, and that, in spite of myself, precipitated into the vortex in which I was not born to move, I should there lead a life contrary to my inclination, and never appear but to disadvantage. I foresaw that ill-supporting by my presence the opinion my books might have given the Corsicans of my capacity, I should lose my reputation amongst them, and, as much to their prejudice as my own, be deprived of the confidence they had in me, without which, however, I could not successfully produce the work they expected from my pen. I am certain that, by thus going out of my sphere, I should become useless to the inhabitants, and render myself unhappy.
Tormented, beaten by storms from every quarter, and, for several years past, fatigued by journeys and persecution, I strongly felt a want of the repose of which my barbarous enemies wantonly deprived me: I sighed more than ever after that delicious indolence, that soft tranquillity of body and mind, which I had so much desired, and to which, now that I had recovered from the chimeras of love and friendship, my heart limited its supreme felicity. I viewed with terror the work I was about to undertake; the tumultuous life into which I was to enter made me tremble, and if the grandeur, beauty, and utility of the object animated my courage, the impossibility of conquering so many difficulties entirely deprived me of it.
Twenty years of profound meditation in solitude would have been less painful to me than an active life of six months in the midst of men and public affairs, with a certainty of not succeeding in my undertaking.
I thought of an expedient which seemed proper to obviate every difficulty. Pursued by the underhand dealings of my secret persecutors to every place in which I took refuge, and seeing no other except Corsica where I could in my old days hope for the repose I had until then been everywhere deprived of, I resolved to go there with the directions of M. Buttafuoco as soon as this was possible, but to live there in tranquillity; renouncing, in appearance, everything relative to legislation, and, in some measure, to make my hosts a return for their hospitality, to confine myself to writing in the country the history of the Corsicans, with a reserve in my own mind of the intention of secretly acquiring the necessary information to become more useful to them should I see a probability of success. In this manner, by not entering into an engagement, I hoped to be enabled better to meditate in secret and more at my ease, a plan which might be useful to their purpose, and this without much breaking in upon my dearly beloved solitude, or submitting to a kind of life which I had ever found insupportable.
But the journey was not, in my situation, a thing so easy to get over. According to what M. Dastier had told me of Corsica, I could not expect to find there the most simple conveniences of life, except such as I should take with me; linen, clothes, plate, kitchen furniture, and books, all were to be conveyed thither. To get there myself with my gouvernante, I had the Alps to cross, and in a journey of two hundred leagues to drag after me all my baggage; I had also to pass through the states of several sovereigns, and according to the example set to all Europe, I had, after what had befallen me, naturally to expect to find obstacles in every quarter, and that each sovereign would think he did himself honor by overwhelming me with some new insult, and violating in my person all the rights of persons and humanity. The immense expense, fatigue, and risk of such a journey made a previous consideration of them, and weighing every difficulty, the first step necessary. The idea of being alone, and, at my age, without resource, far removed from all my acquaintance, and at the mercy of these semi-barbarous and ferocious people, such as M. Dastier had described them to me, was sufficient to make me deliberate before I resolved to expose myself to such dangers. I ardently wished for the interview for which M. Buttafuoco had given me reason to hope, and I waited the result of it to guide me in my determination.
Whilst I thus hesitated came on the persecutions of Motiers, which obliged me to retire. I was not prepared for a long journey, especially to Corsica. I expected to hear from Buttafuoco; I took refuge in the island of St. Peter, whence I was driven at the beginning of winter, as I have already stated. The Alps, covered with snow, then rendered my emigration impracticable, especially with the promptitude required from me. It is true, the extravagant severity of a like order rendered the execution of it almost impossible; for, in the midst of that concentred solitude, surrounded by water, and having but twenty-four hours after receiving the order to prepare for my departure, and find a boat and carriages to get out of the island and the territory, had I had wings, I should scarcely have been able to pay obedience to it. This I wrote to the bailiff of Nidau, in answer to his letter, and hastened to take my departure from a country of iniquity. In this manner was I obliged to abandon my favorite project, for which reason, not having in my oppression been able to prevail upon my persecutors to dispose of me otherwise, I determined, in consequence of the invitation of my lord marshal, upon a journey to Berlin, leaving Theresa to pass the winter in the island of St. Peter, with my books and effects, and depositing my papers in the hands of M. du Peyrou. I used so much diligence that the next morning I left the island and arrived at Bienne before noon. An accident, which I cannot pass over in silence, had here well nigh put an end to my journey.
As soon as the news or my having received an order to quit my asylum was circulated, I received a great number of visits from the neighborhood, and especially from the Bernois, who came with the most detestable falsehood to flatter and soothe me, protesting that my persecutors had seized the moment of the vacation of the senate to obtain and send me the order, which, said they, had excited the indignation of the two hundred. Some of these comforters came from the city of Bienne, a little free state within that of Berne, and amongst others a young man of the name of Wildremet whose family was of the first rank, and had the greatest credit in that city. Wildremet strongly solicited me in the name of his fellow-citizens to choose my retreat amongst them, assuring me that they were anxiously desirous of it, and that they would think it an honor and their duty to make me forget the persecutions I had suffered; that with them I had nothing to fear from the influence of the Bernois, that Bienne was a free city, governed by its own laws, and that the citizens were unanimously resolved not to hearken to any solicitation which should be unfavorable to me.
Wildremet perceiving all he could say to be ineffectual, brought to his aid several other persons, as well from Bienne and the environs as from Berne; even, and amongst others, the same Kirkeberguer, of whom I have spoken, who, after my retreat to Switzerland had endeavored to obtain my esteem, and by his talents and principles had interested me in his favor. But I received much less expected and more weighty solicitations from M. Barthes, secretary to the embassy from France, who came with Wildremet to see me, exhorted me to accept his invitation, and surprised me by the lively and tender concern he seemed to feel for my situation. I did not know M. Barthes; however I perceived in what he said the warmth and zeal of friendship, and that he had it at heart to persuade me to fix my residence at Bienne. He made the most pompous eulogium of the city and its inhabitants, with whom he showed himself so intimately connected as to call them several times in my presence his patrons and fathers.
This from Barthes bewildered me in my conjectures. I had always suspected M. de Choisuel to be the secret author of all the persecutions I suffered in Switzerland. The conduct of the resident of Geneva, and that of the ambassador at Soleure but too much confirmed my suspicion; I perceived the secret influence of France in everything that happened to me at Berne, Geneva and Neuchatel, and I did not think I had any powerful enemy in that kingdom, except the Duke de Choiseul. What therefore could I think of the visit of Barthes and the tender concern he showed for my welfare? My misfortunes had not yet destroyed the confidence natural to my heart, and I had still to learn from experience to discern snares under the appearance of friendship. I sought with surprise the reason of the benevolence of M. Barthes; I was not weak enough to believe he had acted from himself; there was in his manner something ostentatious, an affectation even which declared a concealed intention, and I was far from having found in any of these little subaltern agents, that generous intrepidity which, when I was in a similar employment, had often caused a fermentation in my heart. I had formerly known something of the Chevalier Beauteville, at the castle of Montmorency; he had shown me marks of esteem; since his appointment to the embassy he had given me proofs of his not having entirely forgotten me, accompanied with an invitation to go and see him at Soleure. Though I did not accept this invitation, I was extremely sensible of his civility, not having been accustomed to be treated with such kindness by people in place. I presume M. de Beauteville, obliged to follow his instructions in what related to the affairs of Geneva, yet pitying me under my misfortunes, had by his private cares prepared for me the asylum of Bienne, that I might live there in peace under his auspices. I was properly sensible of his attention, but without wishing to profit by it and quite determined upon the journey to Berlin, I sighed after the moment in which I was to see my lord marshal, persuaded I should in future find zeal repose and lasting happiness nowhere but near his person.
On my departure from the island, Kirkeberguer accompanied me to Bienne. I found Wildremet and other Biennois, who, by the water side, waited my getting out of the boat. We all dined together at the inn, and on my arrival there my first care was to provide a chaise, being determined to set off the next morning. Whilst we were at dinner these gentlemen repeated their solicitations to prevail upon me to stay with them, and this with such warmth and obliging protestations, that notwithstanding all my resolutions, my heart, which has never been able to resist friendly attentions, received an impression from theirs; the moment they perceived I was shaken, they redoubled their efforts with so much effect that I was at length overcome, and consented to remain at Bienne, at least until the spring.
Wildremet immediately set about providing me with a lodging, and boasted, as of a fortunate discovery, of a dirty little chamber in the back of the house, on the third story, looking into a courtyard, where I had for a view the display of the stinking skins of a dresser of chamois leather. My host was a man of a mean appearance, and a good deal of a rascal; the next day after I went to his house I heard that he was a debauchee, a gamester, and in bad credit in the neighborhood. He had neither wife, children, nor servants, and shut up in my solitary chamber, I was in the midst of one of the most agreeable countries in Europe, lodged in a manner to make me die of melancholy in the course of a few days. What affected me most was, that, notwithstanding what I had heard of the anxious wish of the inhabitants to receive me amongst them, I had not perceived, as I passed through the streets, anything polite towards me in their manners, or obliging in their looks. I was, however, determined to remain there; but I learned, saw, and felt, the day after, that there was in the city a terrible fermentation, of which I was the cause. Several persons hastened obligingly to inform me that on the next day I was to receive an order conceived in the most severe terms, immediately to quit the state, that is the city. I had nobody in whom I could confide; they who had detained me were dispersed. Wildremet had disappeared; I heard no more of Barthes, and it did not appear that his recommendation had brought me into great favor with those whom he had styled his patrons and fathers. One M. de Van Travers, a Bernois, who had an agreeable house not far from the city, offered it to me for my asylum, hoping, as he said, that I might there avoid being stoned. The advantage this offer held out was not sufficiently flattering to tempt me to prolong my abode with these hospitable people.
Yet, having lost three days by the delay, I had greatly exceeded the twenty-four hours the Bernois had given me to quit their states, and knowing their severity, I was not without apprehensions as to the manner in which they would suffer me to cross them, when the bailiff of Nidau came opportunely and relieved me from my embarrassment. As he had highly disapproved of the violent proceedings of their excellencies, he thought, in his generosity, he owed me some public proof of his taking no part in them, and had courage to leave his bailiwick to come and pay me a visit at Bienne. He did me this favor the evening before my departure, and far from being incognito he affected ceremony, coming in fiocchi in his coach with his secretary, and brought me a passport in his own name that I might cross the state of Berne at my ease, and without fear of molestation. I was more flattered by the visit than by the passport, and should have been as sensible of the merit of it, had it had for object any other person whatsoever. Nothing makes a greater impression on my heart than a well-timed act of courage in favor of the weak unjustly oppressed.
At length, after having with difficulty procured a chaise, I next morning left this barbarous country, before the arrival of the deputation with which I was to be honored, and even before I had seen Theresa, to whom I had written to come to me, when I thought I should remain at Bienne, and whom I had scarcely time to countermand by a short letter, informing her of my new disaster. In the third part of my memoirs, if ever I be able to write them, I shall state in what manner, thinking to set off for Berlin, I really took my departure for England, and the means by which the two ladies who wished to dispose of my person, after having by their manoeuvres driven me from Switzerland, where I was not sufficiently in their power, at last delivered me into the hands of their friend.
I added what follows on reading my memoirs to M. and Madam, the Countess of Egmont, the Prince Pignatelli, the Marchioness of Mesme, and the Marquis of Juigne.
I have written the truth: if any person has heard of things contrary to those I have just stated, were they a thousand times proved, he has heard calumny and falsehood; and if he refuses thoroughly to examine and compare them with me whilst I am alive, he is not a friend either to justice or truth. For my part, I openly, and without the least fear declare, that whoever, even without having read my works, shall have examined with his own eyes, my disposition, character, manners, inclinations, pleasures, and habits, and pronounce me a dishonest man, is himself one who deserves a gibbet.
Thus I concluded, and every person was silent; Madam d'Egmont was the only person who seemed affected; she visibly trembled, but soon recovered herself, and was silent like the rest of the company. Such were the fruits of my reading and declaration.