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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

To restrain His thoughtless liberality


Rousseau

here showed the characteristic which invariably distinguished him from the philosophers, and which ended by establishing deep enmity between them and him. The eighteenth century espied certain evils, certain sores in the social and political condition, believed in a cure, and blindly relied on the power of its own theories. Rousseau, more earnest, often more sincere, made a better diagnosis of the complaint; he described its horrible character and the dangerousness of it, he saw no remedy and he pointed none out. Profound and grievous impotence, whose utmost hope is an impossible recurrence to the primitive state of savagery! "In the private opinion of our adversaries," says M. Roy de Collard eloquently, "it was a thoughtless thing, on the great day of creation, to let man loose, a free and intelligent agent, into the midst of the universe; thence the mischief and the mistake. A higher wisdom comes forward to repair the error of Providence, to restrain His thoughtless liberality, and to render to prudently mutilated mankind the service of elevating it to the happy innocence of the brute."

Before Rousseau, and better than he, Christianity had recognized and proclaimed the evil; but it had at the same time announced to the world a remedy and a Saviour.

Henceforth Rousseau had chosen his own road: giving up the drawing-rooms and the habits of that elegant society for which he was not born and the admiration

of which had developed his pride, he made up his mind to live independent, copying music to get his bread, now and then smitten with the women of the world who sought him out in his retirement,--in love with Madame d'Epinay and Madame d'Houdetot, anon returning to the coarse servant-wench whom he had but lately made his wife, and whose children he had put in the foundling-hospital. Music at that time absorbed all minds. Rousseau brought out a little opera entitled _Le Devin de village_ (The Village Wizard), which had a great success. It was played at Fontainebleau before the king. "I was there that day," writes Rousseau, "in the same untidy array which was usual with me; a great deal of beard and wig rather badly trimmed. Taking this want of decency for an act of courage, I entered in this state the very room into which would come, a short time afterwards, the king, the queen, the royal family, and all the court. . . . When the lights were lit, seeing myself in this. array in the midst of people all extensively got up, I began to be ill at ease; I asked myself if I were in my proper place, if I were properly dressed, and, after a few moments' disquietude, I answered yes, with an intrepidity which arose perhaps more from the impossibility of getting out of it than from the force of my arguments. After this little dialogue, I plucked up so much, that I should have been quite intrepid if there had been any need of it. But, whether it were the effect of the master's presence or natural kindness of heart, I observed nothing but what was obliging and civil in the curiosity of which I was the object. I was steeled against all their gibes, but their caressing air, which I had not expected, overcame me so completely, that I trembled like a child when things began. I heard all about me a whispering of women who seemed to me as beautiful as angels, and who said to one another below their breath, 'This is charming, this is enchanting: there is not a note that does not appeal to the heart.' The, pleasure of causing emotion in so many lovable persons moved me myself to tears."


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