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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

Rousseau quarrelled with Madame d'Epinay


Rousseau

had, indeed, thought of returning and settling at Geneva. In 1754, during a trip he made thither, he renounced the Catholic faith which he had embraced at sixteen under the influence of Madame de Warens, without any more conviction than he carried with him in his fresh abjuration. "Ashamed," says he, "at being excluded from my rights of citizenship by the profession of a cult other than that of my fathers, I resolved to resume the latter openly. I considered that the Gospel was the same for all Christians, and that, as the fundamental difference of dogma arose from meddling with explanations of what could not be understood, it appertained in every country to the sovereigns alone to fix both the cult and the unintelligible dogma, and that, consequently, it was the duty of the citizen to accept the dogma and follow the cult prescribed by law." Strange eccentricity of the human mind! The shackles of civilization are oppressive to Rousseau, and yet he would impose the yoke of the state upon consciences. The natural man does not reflect, and does not discuss his religion; whilst seeking to recover the obliterated ideal of nature, the philosopher halts on the road at the principles of Louis XIV. touching religious liberties.

[Illustration: Rousseau and Madame D'Epinay----338]

Madame d'Epinay had offered Rousseau a retreat in her little house, the Hermitage. There it was that he began the tale of _La Nouvelle

Heloise,_ which was finished at Marshal de Montmorency's, when the susceptible and cranky temper of the philosopher had justified the malevolent predictions of Grimm. The latter had but lately said to Madame d'Epinay "I see in Rousseau nothing but pride concealed everywhere about him; you will do him a very sorry service in giving him a home at the Hermitage, but you will do yourself a still more sorry one. Solitude will complete the blackening of his imagination; he will fancy all his friends unjust, ungrateful, and you first of all, if you once refuse to be at his beck and call; he will accuse you of having bothered him to live under your roof and of having prevented him from yielding to the wishes of his country. I already see the germ of these accusations in the turn of the letters you have shown me."

Rousseau quarrelled with Madame d'Epinay, and shortly afterwards with all the philosophical circle: Grimm, Helvetius, D'Holbach, Diderot; his quarrels with the last were already of old date, they had made some noise. "Good God!" said the Duke of Castries in astonishment, "wherever I go I hear of nothing but this Rousseau and this Diderot! Did anybody ever? Fellows who are nobody, fellows who have no house, who lodge on a third floor! Positively, one can't stand that sort of thing!" The rupture was at last complete, it extended to Grimm as well as to Diderot. "Nobody can put himself in my place," wrote Rousseau, "and nobody will see that I am a being apart, who has not the character, the maxims, the resources of the rest of them, and who must not be judged by their rules."


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