Context: Listened to this while we were travelling between Brisbane and Sydney.
It was radical at the time. It isn’t now. Now we can hardly stop public figures from stripping naked before us with autobiographies that are designed to shock and titillate. But when Rousseau wrote this he was doing something that hadn’t been done before: writing the truth about his youth.
This book’s one of those “important” books that anyone serious about literature can bore the backside off a bus with, one of those that makes you think the publishers of the 1001 series should have changed their “Must” to “Should.”
So, I didn’t really enjoy this a great deal but I did appreciate what he was trying to do. I was disappointed to read that it wasn’t published until after he’d died. That kind of defeats the object of a confession to me, particularly for those like the falsely accused servant girl who undoubtedly suffered for his own theft and wasn’t socially positioned to profit from selling the story as Rousseau did. Vive la Revolution!
I have entered upon a performance which is without example, whose accomplishment will have no imitator.
99TH PAGE QUOTE
I lived at Annecy during a year without the least reproach, giving universal satisfaction. Since my departure from Turin I had been guilty of no folly, committed none while under the eye of Madam de Warrens. She was my conductor, and ever led me right; my attachment for her became my only passion, and what proves it was not a giddy one, my heart and understanding were in unison. It is true that a single sentiment, absorbing all my faculties, put me out of a capacity of learning even music: but this was not my fault, since to the strongest inclination, I added the utmost assiduity. I was attentive and thoughtful; what could I do? Nothing was wanting towards my progress that depended on me; meantime, it only required a subject that might inspire me to occasion the commission of new follies: that subject presented itself, chance arranged it, and (as will be seen hereafter) my inconsiderate head gave in to it.
Such were the fruits of my reading and declaration.