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ART. I.—Les Confessions de J. J. Rousseau, nouvelle Edition, pré
cédée d'une Notice par GEORGE SAND. (New Edition of Rousseau's Confessions, preceded by a Notice by G. SAND.) Paris:
Charpentier. 1841. In France, in the middle of the last century, when the artificial in society was at its height-when bienséance was the professed substitute for virtue—when there was no belief in a higher morality than that which could be deduced from mere selfishnesswhen the admission of a cold materialism was considered the perfection of civilization—there arose a man who declared that he was dissatisfied with all this. He could not repose on a materialism which seemed to rob man of his dignity; he could not bear to find all high emotions reduced to the love of self; he fancied that there was an inner worth of man more valuable than obedience to the external forms of politeness; he even considered that there might be a higher sphere of action than the petits soupers over which some witty lady presided, and that excellent as was the glance of approval from feminine eyes, there was no such great nobility in flippant explanations of physical science to femmes savantes.
The man was not a learned man, but he had read his Plutarch; and when he contemplated the pictures of antique greatness, he discovered the possibility of a different sort of people from the courtiers, and the wits, and the poetasters, and the musicians, and the philosophes of Louis XV. He had read his Tacitus; and he had found therein reflections on a corrupt age, which, without any great exertion, he could apply to his own. It was explained to him that these ancient pictures were but so many exaggerations; that the virtues of self-denial and patriotism, which were so prominent among the Greeks and Romans, were in themselves impossible; and the demonstration founded on a knowledge of the world was by no means difficult. Yet was the strange man not
VOL. XXXII. NO. LXIII.
convinced, but answered, " True, I see that from the men of this day, you cannot construct a patriot or a legislator of the antique school; but how am I sure that the ancient man was not the true man, and that these are not the mere creatures of degeneracy.' And he set to work, and he tore down, and he abstracted, and he sifted, and he declaimed: and the result of his doctrines was that artificial convention was not all, but that man was a real something beneath it. He would not admit that when the periwig, and the snuff-box, and the smart saying, and the flippant gallantry, and taste, and philosophy,' were taken away, nothing was left;
but declared that there was still man--a natural man, capable of joy and sorrow—aye, capable of great achievements greater, mayhap, than were often dreamed of in the select parties. The little word MAN,' in the mouth of this innovating thinker, began to acquire a new significance, and the frequenters of the petits soupers were startled at the phenomenon. The strange personage who had thought so oddly, and who uttered such startling doctrines, and so terribly scared poor convention, was JEAN JACQUES ROUSSEAU, citizen of Geneva.
But this same Rousseau did not stop at the declaration, that man was something beyond a mere empty substratum, existing to sustain the decorations of civilization, but he went further, and declared that these so-called decorations were only disfigurements,--so many negative quantities, each of which taken away, would cause man to rise in the scale of being. The fine arts, he thought, were miserable things, for they took up time that might be better employed; science he detested, seeing in it nothing more than a laborious occupation with trifles; the advantages of machinery he scorned, for he believed that the use of these wheels and levers had deprived man of confidence in his own arms and legs: all that renders humanity honourable in the eyes of modern Europe he abhorred, and the value of mental qualifications he settled in one sentence, The man who meditates is a depraved animal.' Therefore to him was a Chippewa Indian infinitely more respectable than an astronomer, or a poet, or a philosopher. And thus did our Rousseau, instead of being a teacher of sound doctrines, which he might have been had he reconciled the idea of humanity with the idea of progress, become an utterer of much that was useless; and, being a free man, advocated a reign of darkness, and a bigotry. He could not see in his age an imperfect stage of progress to a better state of things; he could not take the good with the bad, and therefore he hated all together. The additions made to man since he had left the savage state were all deformed eccentricities, which, if they were not cut away, were only to be left and lamented over, because they had taken