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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

Enthusiastically welcomed by the friends of Madame Dupin


Rousseau

was not a Frenchman: French society always felt that, in consequence of certain impressions of his early youth which were never to be effaced. Born at Geneva on the 28th of June, 1712, in a family of the lower middle class, and brought up in the first instance by an intelligent and a pious mother, he was placed, like Voltaire and Diderot, in an attorney's office. Dismissed with disgrace "as good for nothing but to ply the file," the young man was bound apprentice to an engraver, "a clownish and violent fellow," says Rousseau, "who succeeded very shortly in dulling all the brightness of my boyhood, brutalizing my lively and loving character, and reducing me in spirit, as I was in fortune, to my real position of an apprentice."

Rousseau was barely sixteen when he began that roving existence which is so attractive to young people, so hateful in ripe age, and which lasted as long as his life. Flying from his master whose brutality he dreaded, and taking refuge at Oharmettes in Savoy with a woman whom he at first loved passionately, only to leave her subsequently with disgust, he had reached the age of one and twenty, and had already gone through many adventures when he set out, heart-sore and depraved, to seek at Paris a means of subsistence. He had invented a new system of musical notation; the Academy of Sciences, which had lent him a favorable ear, did not consider the discovery useful. Some persons had taken an interest in him, but Rousseau

could never keep his friends; and he had many, zealous and devoted. He was sent to Venice as secretary to the French ambassador M. de Montaigu. He soon quarrelled with the ambassador and returned to Paris. He found his way into the house of Madame Dupin, wife of a rich farmer-general (of taxes). He was considered clever; he wrote little plays, which he set to music. Enthusiastically welcomed by the friends of Madame Dupin, he contributed to their amusements. "We began with the _Engagement temeraire,_" says Madame d'Epinay in her Memoires: "it is a new play by M. Rousseau, a friend of M. de Francueil's, who introduced him to us. The author played a part in his piece. Though it is only a society play, it was a great success. I doubt, however, whether it would be successful at the theatre, but it is the work of a clever man and no ordinary man. I do not quite know, though, whether it is what I saw of the author or of the piece that made me think so. He is complimentary without being polite, or at least without having the air of it. He seems to be ignorant of the usages of society, but it is easy to see that he has infinite wit. He has a brown complexion, and eyes full of fire light up his face. When he has been speaking and you watch him, you think him good-looking; but when you recall him to memory, it is always as a plain man. He is said to be in bad health; it is probably that which gives him from time to time a wild look."

It was amid this brilliant intimacy, humiliating and pleasant at the same time, that Rousseau published his _Discours sur les Sciences


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