The Confessions of J. J. Rousseau, Book 9
Jean Jacques Rousseau

Part 2 out of 2

This last letter extricated me from a terrible embarrassment, and threw
me into another of almost the same magnitude. Although these letters and
answers were sent and returned the same day with an extreme rapidity, the
interval had been sufficient to place another between my rage and
transport, and to give me time to reflect on the enormity of my
imprudence. Madam d'Houdetot had not recommended to me anything so much
as to remain quiet, to leave her the care of extricating herself, and to
avoid, especially at that moment, all noise and rupture; and I, by the
most open and atrocious insults, took the properest means of carrying
rage to its greatest height in the heart of a woman who was already but
too well disposed to it. I now could naturally expect nothing from her
but an answer so haughty, disdainful, and expressive of contempt, that I
could not, without the utmost meanness, do otherwise than immediately
quit her house. Happily she, more adroit than I was furious, avoided,
by the manner of her answer, reducing me to that extremity. But it was
necessary either to quit or immediately go and see her; the alternative
was inevitable; I resolved on the latter, though I foresaw how much I
must be embarrassed in the explanation. For how was I to get through it
without exposing either Madam d'Houdetot or Theresa? and woe to her whom
I should have named! There was nothing that the vengeance of an
implacable and an intriguing woman did not make me fear for the person
who should be the object of it. It was to prevent this misfortune that
in my letter I had spoken of nothing but suspicions, that I might not be
under the necessity of producing my proofs. This, it is true, rendered
my transports less excusable; no simple suspicions being sufficient to
authorize me to treat a woman, and especially a friend, in the manner I
had treated Madam d'Epinay. But here begins the noble task I worthily
fulfilled of expiating my faults and secret weaknesses by charging myself
with such of the former as I was incapable of committing, and which I
never did commit.

I had not to bear the attack I had expected, and fear was the greatest
evil I received from it. At my approach, Madam d' Epinay threw her arms
about my neck, bursting into tears. This unexpected reception, and by an
old friend, extremely affected me; I also shed many tears. I said to her
a few words which had not much meaning; she uttered others with still
less, and everything ended here. Supper was served; we sat down to
table, where, in expectation of the explanation I imagined to be deferred
until supper was over, I made a very poor figure; for I am so overpowered
by the most trifling inquietude of mind that I cannot conceal it from
persons the least clear-sighted. My embarrassed appearance must have
given her courage, yet she did not risk anything upon that foundation.
There was no more explanation after than before supper: none took place
on the next day, and our little tete-a-tete conversations consisted of
indifferent things, or some complimentary words on my part, by which,
while I informed her I could not say more relative to my suspicions,
I asserted, with the greatest truth, that, if they were ill-founded,
my whole life should be employed in repairing the injustice. She did not
show the least curiosity to know precisely what they were, nor for what
reason I had formed them, and all our peacemaking consisted, on her part
as well as on mine, in the embrace at our first meeting. Since Madam
d'Epinay was the only person offended, at least in form, I thought it was
not for me to strive to bring about an eclaircissement for which she
herself did not seem anxious, and I returned as I had come; continuing,
besides, to live with her upon the same footing as before, I soon almost
entirely forgot the quarrel, and foolishly believed she had done the
same, because she seemed not to remember what had passed.

This, it will soon appear, was not the only vexation caused me by
weakness; but I had others not less disagreeable which I had not brought
upon myself. The only cause of these was a desire of forcing me from my

[That is to take from it the old woman who was wanted in the
conspiracy. It is astonishing that, during this long quarrel,
my stupid confidence presented me from comprehending that it was
not me but her whom they wanted in Paris.]

by means of tormenting me. These originated from Diderot and the
d'Holbachiens. Since I had resided at the Hermitage, Diderot incessantly
harrassed me, either himself or by means of De Leyre, and I soon
perceived from the pleasantries of the latter upon my ramblings in the
groves, with what pleasure he had travestied the hermit into the gallant
shepherd. But this was not the question in my quarrels with Diderot; the
cause of these were more serious. After the publication of Fils Naturel
he had sent me a copy of it, which I had read with the interest and
attention I ever bestowed on the works of a friend. In reading the kind
of poem annexed to it, I was surprised and rather grieved to find in it,
amongst several things, disobliging but supportable against men in
solitude, this bitter and severe sentence without the least softening:
'Il n'y a que le mechant qui fail feul.'--[The wicked only is alone.]--
This sentence is equivocal, and seems to present a double meaning; the
one true, the other false, since it is impossible that a man who is
determined to remain alone can do the least harm to anybody, and
consequently he cannot be wicked. The sentence in itself therefore
required an interpretation; the more so from an author who, when he sent
it to the press, had a friend retired from the world. It appeared to me
shocking and uncivil, either to have forgotten that solitary friend, or,
in remembering him, not to have made from the general maxim the honorable
and just exception which he owed, not only to his friend, but to so many
respectable sages, who, in all ages, have sought for peace and
tranquillity in retirement, and of whom, for the first time since the
creation of the world, a writer took it into his head indiscriminately to
make so many villains.

I had a great affection and the most sincere esteem for Diderot, and
fully depended upon his having the same sentiments for me. But tired
with his indefatigable obstinacy in continually opposing my inclinations,
taste, and manner of living, and everything which related to no person
but myself; shocked at seeing a man younger than I was wish, at all
events, to govern me like a child; disgusted with his facility in
promising, and his negligence in performing; weary of so many
appointments given by himself, and capriciously broken, while new ones
were again given only to be again broken; displeased at uselessly waiting
for him three or four times a month on the days he had assigned, and in
dining alone at night after having gone to Saint Denis to meet him, and
waited the whole day for his coming; my heart was already full of these
multiplied injuries. This last appeared to me still more serious, and
gave me infinite pain. I wrote to complain of it, but in so mild and
tender a manner that I moistened my paper with my tears, and my letter
was sufficiently affecting to have drawn others from himself. It would
be impossible to guess his answer on this subject: it was literally as
follows: "I am glad my work has pleased and affected you. You are not of
my opinion relative to hermits. Say as much good of them as you please,
you will be the only one in the world of whom I shall think well: even on
this there would be much to say were it possible to speak to you without
giving you offence. A woman eighty years of age! etc. A phrase of a
letter from the son of Madam d'Epinay which, if I know you well, must
have given you much pain, has been mentioned to me."

The last two expressions of this letter want explanation.

Soon after I went to reside at the Hermitage, Madam le Vasseur seemed
dissatisfied with her situation, and to think the habitation too retired.
Having heard she had expressed her dislike to the place, I offered to
send her back to Paris, if that were more agreeable to her; to pay her
lodging, and to have the same care taken of her as if she remained with
me. She rejected my offer, assured me she was very well satisfied with
the Hermitage, and that the country air was of service to her. This was
evident, for, if I may so speak, she seemed to become young again, and
enjoyed better health than at Paris. Her daughter told me her mother
would, on the whole, had been very sorry to quit the Hermitage, which was
really a very delightful abode, being fond of the little amusements of
the garden and the care of the fruit of which she had the handling, but
that she had said, what she had been desired to say, to induce me to
return to Paris.

Failing in this attempt they endeavored to obtain by a scruple the effect
which complaisance had not produced, and construed into a crime my
keeping the old woman at a distance from the succors of which, at her
age, she might be in need. They did not recollect that she, and many
other old people, whose lives were prolonged by the air of the country,
might obtain these succors at Montmorency, near to which I lived; as if
there were no old people, except in Paris, and that it was impossible for
them to live in any other place. Madam le Vasseur who eat a great deal,
and with extreme voracity, was subject to overflowings of bile and to
strong diarrhoeas, which lasted several days, and served her instead of
clysters. At Paris she neither did nor took anything for them, but left
nature to itself. She observed the same rule at the Hermitage, knowing
it was the best thing she could do. No matter, since there were not in
the country either physicians or apothecaries, keeping her there must, no
doubt, be with the desire of putting an end to her existence, although
she was in perfect health. Diderot should have determined at what age,
under pain of being punished for homicide, it is no longer permitted to
let old people remain out of Paris.

This was one of the atrocious accusations from which he did not except me
in his remark; that none but the wicked were alone: and the meaning of
his pathetic exclamation with the et cetera, which he had benignantly
added: A woman of eighty years of age, etc.

I thought the best answer that could be given to this reproach would be
from Madam le Vasseur herself. I desired her to write freely and
naturally her sentiments to Madam d'Epinay. To relieve her from all
constraint I would not see her letter. I showed her that which I am
going to transcribe. I wrote it to Madam d'Epinay upon the subject of an
answer I wish to return to a letter still more severe from Diderot, and
which she had prevented me from sending.


"My good friend. Madam le Vasseur is to write to you: I have desired her
to tell you sincerely what she thinks. To remove from her all
constraint, I have intimated to her that I will not see what she writes,
and I beg of you not to communicate to me any part of the contents of her

"I will not send my letter because you do not choose I should; but,
feeling myself grievously offended, it would be baseness and falsehood,
of either of which it is impossible for me to be guilty, to acknowledge
myself in the wrong. Holy writ commands him to whom a blow is given, to
turn the other cheek, but not to ask pardon. Do you remember the man in
comedy who exclaims, while he is giving another blows with his staff,
'This is the part of a philosopher!'

"Do not flatter yourself that he will be prevented from coming by the bad
weather we now have. His rage will give him the time and strength which
friendship refuses him, and it will be the first time in his life he ever
came upon the day he had appointed.

"He will neglect nothing to come and repeat to me verbally the injuries
with which he loads me in his letters; I will endure them all with
patience--he will return to Paris to be ill again; and, according to
custom, I shall be a very hateful man. What is to be done? Endure it

"But do not you admire the wisdom of the man who would absolutely come to
Saint Denis in a hackney-coach to dine there, bring me home in a hackney-
coach, and whose finances, eight days afterwards, obliges him to come to
the Hermitage on foot? It is not possible, to speak his own language,
that this should be the style of sincerity. But were this the case,
strange changes of fortune must have happened in the course of a week.

"I join in your affliction for the illness of madam, your mother, but you
will perceive your grief is not equal to mine. We suffer less by seeing
the persons we love ill than when they are unjust and cruel.

"Adieu, my good friend, I shall never again mention to you this unhappy
affair. You speak of going to Paris with an unconcern, which, at any
other time, would give me pleasure."

I wrote to Diderot, telling him what I had done, relative to Madam le
Vasseur, upon the proposal of Madam d'Epinay herself; and Madam le
Vasseur having, as it may be imagined, chosen to remain at the Hermitage,
where she enjoyed a good state of health, always had company, and lived
very agreeably, Diderot, not knowing what else to attribute to me as a
crime, construed my precaution into one, and discovered another in Madam
le Vasseur continuing to reside at the Hermitage, although this was by
her own choice; and though her going to Paris had depended, and still
depended upon herself, where she would continue to receive the same
succors from me as I gave her in my house.

This is the explanation of the first reproach in the letter of Diderot.
That of the second is in the letter which follows: "The learned man (a
name given in a joke by Grimm to the son of Madam d'Epinay) must have
informed you there were upon the rampart twenty poor persons who were
dying with cold and hunger, and waiting for the farthing you customarily
gave them. This is a specimen of our little babbling.....And if you
understand the rest it will amuse you perhap."

My answer to this terrible argument, of which Diderot seemed so proud,
was in the following words:

"I think I answered the learned man; that is, the farmer-general, that I
did not pity the poor whom he had seen upon the rampart, waiting for my
farthing; that he had probably amply made it up to them; that I appointed
him my substitute, that the poor of Paris would have no reason to
complain of the change; and that I should not easily find so good a one
for the poor of Montmorency, who were in much greater need of assistance.
Here is a good and respectable old man, who, after having worked hard all
his lifetime, no longer being able to continue his labors, is in his old
days dying with hunger. My conscience is more satisfied with the two
sous I give him every Monday, than with the hundred farthings I should
have distributed amongst all the beggars on the rampart. You are
pleasant men, you philosophers, while you consider the inhabitants of the
cities as the only persons whom you ought to befriend. It is in the
country men learn how to love and serve humanity; all they learn in
cities is to despise it."

Such were the singular scruples on which a man of sense had the folly to
attribute to me as a crime my retiring from Paris, and pretended to prove
to me by my own example, that it was not possible to live out of the
capital without becoming a bad man. I cannot at present conceive how I
could be guilty of the folly of answering him, and of suffering myself to
be angry instead of laughing in his fare. However, the decisions of
Madam d'Epinay and the clamors of the 'Cote in Holbachique' had so far
operated in her favor, that I was generally thought to be in the wrong;
and the D'Houdetot herself, very partial to Diderot, insisted upon my
going to see him at Paris, and making all the advances towards an
accommodation which, full and sincere as it was on my part, was not of
long duration. The victorious argument by which she subdued my heart
was, that at that moment Diderot was in distress. Besides the storm
excited against the 'Encyclopedie', he had then another violent one to
make head against, relative to his piece, which, notwithstanding the
short history he had printed at the head of it, he was accused of having
entirely taken from Goldoni. Diderot, more wounded by criticisms than
Voltaire, was overwhelmed by them. Madam de Grasigny had been malicious
enough to spread a report that I had broken with him on this account.
I thought it would be just and generous publicly to prove the contrary,
and I went to pass two days, not only with him, but at his lodgings.
This, since I had taken up my abode at the Hermitage, was my second
journey to Paris. I had made the first to run to poor Gauffecourt, who
had had a stroke of apoplexy, from which he has never perfectly
recovered: I did not quit the side of his pillow until he was so far
restored as to have no further need of my assistance.

Diderot received me well. How many wrongs are effaced by the embraces of
a friend! after these, what resentment can remain in the heart? We came
to but little explanation. This is needless for reciprocal invectives.
The only thing necessary is to know how to forget them. There had been
no underhand proceedings, none at least that had come to my knowledge:
the case was not the same with Madam d' Epinay. He showed me the plan of
the 'Pere de Famille'. "This," said I to him, "is the best defence to
the 'Fils Naturel'. Be silent, give your attention to this piece, and
then throw it at the head of your enemies as the only answer you think
proper to make them." He did so, and was satisfied with what he had

I had six months before sent him the first two parts of my 'Eloisa' to
have his opinion upon them. He had not yet read the work over. We read
a part of it together. He found this 'feuillet', that was his term, by
which he meant loaded with words and redundancies. I myself had already
perceived it; but it was the babbling of the fever: I have never been
able to correct it. The last parts are not the same. The fourth
especially, and the sixth, are master-pieces of diction.

The day after my arrival, he would absolutely take me to sup with M.
d'Holbach. We were far from agreeing on this point; for I wished even to
get rid of the bargain for the manuscript on chemistry, for which I was
enraged to be obliged to that man. Diderot carried all before him. He
swore D'Holbach loved me with all his heart, said I must forgive him his
manner, which was the same to everybody, and more disagreeable to his
friends than to others. He observed to me that, refusing the produce of
this manuscript, after having accepted it two years before, was an
affront to the donor which he had not deserved, and that my refusal might
be interpreted into a secret reproach, for having waited so long to
conclude the bargain. "I see," added he, "D'Holbach every day, and know
better than you do the nature of his disposition. Had you reason to be
dissatisfied with him, do you think your friend capable of advising you
to do a mean thing?" In short, with my accustomed weakness, I suffered
myself to be prevailed upon, and we went to sup with the baron, who
received me as he usually had done. But his wife received me coldly and
almost uncivilly. I saw nothing in her which resembled the amiable
Caroline, who, when a maid, expressed for me so many good wishes. I
thought I had already perceived that since Grimm had frequented the house
of D'Aine, I had not met there so friendly a reception.

Whilst I was at Paris, Saint Lambert arrived there from the army. As I
was not acquainted with his arrival, I did not see him until after my
return to the country, first at the Chevrette, and afterwards at the
Hermitage; to which he came with Madam d'Houdetot, and invited himself to
dinner with me. It may be judged whether or not I received him with
pleasure! But I felt one still greater at seeing the good understanding
between my guests. Satisfied with not having disturbed their happiness,
I myself was happy in being a witness to it, and I can safely assert
that, during the whole of my mad passion, and especially at the moment of
which I speak, had it been in my power to take from him Madam d'Houdetot
I would not have done it, nor should I have so much as been tempted to
undertake it. I found her so amiable in her passion for Saint Lambert,
that I could scarcely imagine she would have been as much so had she
loved me instead of him; and without wishing to disturb their union, all
I really desired of her was to permit herself to be loved. Finally,
however violent my passion may have been for this lady, I found it as
agreeable to be the confidant, as the object of her amours, and I never
for a moment considered her lover as a rival, but always as my friend.
It will be said this was not love: be it so, but it was something more.

As for Saint Lambert, he behaved like an honest and judicious man: as I
was the only person culpable, so was I the only one who was punished;
this, however, was with the greatest indulgence. He treated me severely,
but in a friendly manner, and I perceived I had lost something in his
esteem, but not the least part of his friendship. For this I consoled
myself, knowing it would be much more easy to me to recover the one than
the other, and that he had too much sense to confound an involuntary
weakness and a passion with a vice of character. If even I were in fault
in all that had passed, I was but very little so. Had I first sought
after his mistress? Had not he himself sent her to me? Did not she come
in search of me? Could I avoid receiving her? What could I do? They
themselves had done the evil, and I was the person on whom it fell. In
my situation they would have done as much as I did, and perhaps more;
for, however estimable and faithful Madam d'Houdetot might be, she was
still a woman; her lover was absent; opportunities were frequent;
temptations strong; and it would have been very difficult for her always
to have defended herself with the same success against a more
enterprising man. We certainly had done a great deal in our situation,
in placing boundaries beyond which we never permitted ourselves to pass.

Although at the bottom of my heart I found evidence sufficiently
honorable in my favor, so many appearances were against me, that the
invincible shame always predominant in me, gave me in his presence the
appearance of guilt, and of this he took advantage for the purpose of
humbling me: a single circumstance will describe this reciprocal
situation. I read to him, after dinner, the letter I had written the
preceding year to Voltaire, and of which Saint Lambert had heard speak.
Whilst I was reading he fell asleep, and I, lately so haughty, at present
so foolish, dared not stop, and continued to read whilst he continued to
snore. Such were my indignities and such his revenge; but his generosity
never permitted him to exercise them; except between ourselves.

After his return to the army, I found Madam d'Houdetot greatly changed in
her manner with me. At this I was as much surprised as if it had not
been what I ought to have expected; it affected me more than it ought to
have done, and did me considerable harm. It seemed that everything from
which I expected a cure, still plunged deeper into my heart the dart,
which I at length broke in rather than draw out.

I was quite determined to conquer myself, and leave no means untried to
change my foolish passion into a pure and lasting friendship. For this
purpose I had formed the finest projects in the world; for the execution
of which the concurrence of Madam d' Houdetot was necessary. When I
wished to speak to her I found her absent and embarrassed; I perceived I
was no longer agreeable to her, and that something had passed which she
would not communicate to me, and which I have never yet known. This
change, and the impossibility of knowing the reason of it, grieved me to
the heart.

She asked me for her letters; these I returned her with a fidelity of
which she did me the insult to doubt for a moment.

This doubt was another wound given to my heart, with which she must have
been so well acquainted. She did me justice, but not immediately: I
understood that an examination of the packet I had sent her, made her
perceive her error; I saw she reproached herself with it, by which I was
a gainer of something. She could not take back her letters without
returning me mine. She told me she had burnt them: of this I dared to
doubt in my turn, and I confess I doubt of it at this moment. No, such
letters as mine to her were, are never thrown into the fire. Those of
Eloisa have been found ardent.

Heavens! what would have been said of these! No, No, she who can
inspire a like passion, will never have the courage to burn the proofs of
it. But I am not afraid of her having made a bad use of them: of this I
do not think her capable; and besides I had taken proper measures to
prevent it. The foolish, but strong apprehension of raillery, had made
me begin this correspondence in a manner to secure my letters from all
communication. I carried the familiarity I permitted myself with her in
my intoxication so far as to speak to her in the singular number: but
what theeing and thouing! she certainly could not be offended with it.
Yet she several times complained, but this was always useless: her
complaints had no other effect than that of awakening my fears, and I
besides could not suffer myself to lose ground. If these letters be not
yet destroyed, and should they ever be made public, the world will see in
what manner I have loved.

The grief caused me by the coldness of Madam d'Houdetot, and the
certainty of not having merited it, made me take the singular resolution
to complain of it to Saint Lambert himself. While waiting the effect of
the letter I wrote to him, I sought dissipations to which I ought sooner
to have had recourse. Fetes were given at the Chevrette for which I
composed music. The pleasure of honoring myself in the eyes of Madam
d'Houdetot by a talent she loved, warmed my imagination, and another
object still contributed to give it animation, this was the desire the
author of the 'Devin du Villaqe' had of showing he understood music; for
I had perceived some persons had, for a considerable time past,
endeavored to render this doubtful, at least with respect to composition.
My beginning at Paris, the ordeal through which I had several times
passed there, both at the house of M. Dupin and that of M. de la
Popliniere; the quantity of music I had composed during fourteen years in
the midst of the most celebrated masters and before their eyes:--finally,
the opera of the 'Muses Gallantes', and that even of the 'Devin'; a motet
I had composed for Mademoiselle Fel, and which she had sung at the
spiritual concert; the frequent conferences I had had upon this fine art
with the first composers, all seemed to prevent or dissipate a doubt of
such a nature. This however existed even at the Chevrette, and in the
mind of M. d'Epinay himself. Without appearing to observe it, I
undertook to compose him a motet for the dedication of the chapel of the
Chevrette, and I begged him to make choice of the words. He directed de
Linant, the tutor to his son, to furnish me with these. De Linant gave
me words proper to the subject, and in a week after I had received them
the motet was finished. This time, spite was my Apollo, and never did
better music come from my hand. The words began with: 'Ecce sedes hic
tonantis'. (I have since learned these were by Santeuil, and that M. de
Linant had without scruple appropriated them to himself.) The grandeur of
the opening is suitable to the words, and the rest of the motet is so
elegantly harmonious that everyone was struck with it. I had composed it
for a great orchestra. D'Epinay procured the best performers. Madam
Bruna, an Italian singer, sung the motet, and was well accompanied. The
composition succeeded so well that it was afterwards performed at the
spiritual concert, where, in spite of secret cabals, and notwithstanding
it was badly executed, it was twice generally applauded. I gave for the
birthday of M. d'Epinay the idea of a kind of piece half dramatic and
half pantomimical, of which I also composed the music. Grimm, on his
arrival, heard speak of my musical success. An hour afterwards not a
word more was said on the subject; but there no longer remained a doubt,
not at least that I know of, of my knowledge of composition.

Grimm was scarcely arrived at the Chevrette, where I already did not much
amuse myself, before he made it insupportable to me by airs I never
before saw in any person, and of which I had no idea. The evening before
he came, I was dislodged from the chamber of favor, contiguous to that of
Madam d'Epinay; it was prepared for Grimm, and instead of it, I was put
into another further off. "In this manner," said I, laughingly, to Madam
d'Epinay, "new-comers displace those which are established." She seemed
embarrassed. I was better acquainted the same evening with the reason
for the change, in learning that between her chamber and that I had
quitted there was a private door which she had thought needless to show
me. Her intercourse with Grimm was not a secret either in her own house
or to the public, not even to her husband; yet, far from confessing it to
me, the confidant of secrets more important to her, and which was sure
would be faithfully kept, she constantly denied it in the strongest
manner. I comprehended this reserve proceeded from Grimm, who, though
intrusted with all my secrets, did not choose I should be with any of

However prejudiced I was in favor of this man by former sentiments, which
were not extinguished, and by the real merit he had, all was not proof
against the cares he took to destroy it. He received me like the Comte
de Tuffiere; he scarcely deigned to return my salute; he never once spoke
to me, and prevented my speaking to him by not making me any answer; he
everywhere passed first, and took the first place without ever paying me
the least attention. All this would have been supportable had he not
accompanied it with a shocking affectation, which may be judged of by one
example taken from a hundred. One evening Madam d'Epinay, finding
herself a little indisposed, ordered something for her supper to be
carried into her chamber, and went up stairs to sup by the side of the
fire. She asked me to go with her, which I did. Grimm came afterwards.
The little table was already placed, and there were but two covers.
Supper was served; Madam d' Epinay took her place on one side of the
fire, Grimm took an armed chair, seated himself at the other, drew the
little table between them, opened his napkin, and prepared himself for
eating without speaking to me a single word.

Madam d' Epinay blushed at his behavior, and, to induce him to repair his
rudeness, offered me her place. He said nothing, nor did he ever look at
me. Not being able to approach the fire, I walked about the chamber
until a cover was brought. Indisposed as I was, older than himself,
longer acquainted in the house than he had been, the person who had
introduced him there, and to whom as a favorite of the lady he ought to
have done the honors of it, he suffered me to sup at the end of the
table, at a distance from the fire, without showing me the least
civility. His whole behavior to me corresponded with this example of it.
He did not treat me precisely as his inferior, but he looked upon me as a
cipher. I could scarcely recognize the same Grimm, who, to the house of
the Prince de Saxe-Gotha, thought himself honored when I cast my eyes
upon him. I had still more difficulty in reconciling this profound
silence and insulting haughtiness with the tender friendship he possessed
for me to those whom he knew to be real friends. It is true the only
proofs he gave of it was pitying my wretched fortune, of which I did not
complain; compassionating my sad fate, with which I was satisfied; and
lamenting to see me obstinately refuse the benevolent services he said,
he wished to render me. Thus was it he artfully made the world admire
his affectionate generosity, blame my ungrateful misanthropy, and
insensibly accustomed people to imagine there was nothing more between a
protector like him and a wretch like myself, than a connection founded
upon benefactions on one part and obligations on the other, without once
thinking of a friendship between equals. For my part, I have vainly
sought to discover in what I was under an obligation to this new
protector. I had lent him money, he had never lent me any; I had
attended him in his illness, he scarcely came to see me in mine; I had
given him all my friends, he never had given me any of his; I had said
everything I could in his favor, and if ever he has spoken of me it has
been less publicly and in another manner. He has never either rendered
or offered me the least service of any kind. How, therefore, was he my
Mecaenas? In what manner was I protected by him? This was
incomprehensible to me, and still remains so.

It is true, he was more or less arrogant with everybody, but I was the
only person with whom he was brutally so. I remember Saint Lambert once
ready to throw a plate at his head, upon his, in some measure, giving him
the lie at table by vulgarly saying, "That is not true." With his
naturally imperious manner he had the self-sufficiency of an upstart,
and became ridiculous by being extravagantly impertinent. An intercourse
with the great had so far intoxicated him that he gave himself airs which
none but the contemptible part of them ever assume. He never called his
lackey but by "Eh!" as if amongst the number of his servants my lord had
not known which was in waiting. When he sent him to buy anything,
he threw the money upon the ground instead of putting it into his hand.
In short, entirely forgetting he was a man, he treated him with such
shocking contempt, and so cruel a disdain in everything, that the poor
lad, a very good creature, whom Madam d'Epinay had recommended, quitted
his service without any other complaint than that of the impossibility of
enduring such treatment. This was the la Fleur of this new presuming

As these things were nothing more than ridiculous, but quite opposite to
my character, they contributed to render him suspicious to me. I could
easily imagine that a man whose head was so much deranged could not have
a heart well placed. He piqued himself upon nothing so much as upon
sentiments. How could this agree with defects which are peculiar to
little minds? How can the continued overflowings of a susceptible heart
suffer it to be incessantly employed in so many little cares relative to
the person? He who feels his heart inflamed with this celestial fire
strives to diffuse it, and wishes to show what he internally is. He
would wish to place his heart in his countenance, and thinks not of other
paint for his cheeks.

I remember the summary of his morality which Madam d'Epinay had mentioned
to me and adopted. This consisted in one single article; that the sole
duty of man is to follow all the inclinations of his heart. This
morality, when I heard it mentioned, gave me great matter of reflection,
although I at first considered it solely as a play of wit. But I soon
perceived it was a principle really the rule of his conduct, and of which
I afterwards had, at my own expense, but too many convincing proofs.
It is the interior doctrine Diderot has so frequently intimated to me,
but which I never heard him explain.

I remember having several years before been frequently told that Grimm
was false, that he had nothing more than the appearance of sentiment,
and particularly that he did not love me. I recollected several little
anecdotes which I had heard of him by M. de Francueil and Madam de
Chenonceaux, neither of whom esteemed him, and to whom he must have been
known, as Madam de Chenonceaux was daughter to Madam de Rochechouart,
the intimate friend of the late Comte de Friese, and that M. de
Francueil, at that time very intimate with the Viscount de Polignac,
had lived a good deal at the Palais Royal precisely when Grimm began to
introduce himself there. All Paris heard of his despair after the death
of the Comte de Friese. It was necessary to support the reputation he
had acquired after the rigors of Mademoiselle Fel, and of which I, more
than any other person, should have seen the imposture, had I been less
blind. He was obliged to be dragged to the Hotel de Castries where he
worthily played his part, abandoned to the most mortal affliction.
There, he every morning went into the garden to weep at his ease, holding
before his eyes his handkerchief moistened with tears, as long as he was
in sight of the hotel, but at the turning of a certain alley, people, of
whom he little thought, saw him instantly put his handkerchief in his
pocket and take out of it a book. This observation, which was repeatedly
made, soon became public in Paris, and was almost as soon forgotten.
I myself had forgotten it; a circumstance in which I was concerned
brought it to my recollection. I was at the point of death in my bed,
in the Rue de Grenelle, Grimm was in the country; he came one morning,
quite out of breath, to see me, saying, he had arrived in town that very
instant; and a moment afterwards I learned he had arrived the evening
before, and had been seen at the theatre.

I heard many things of the same kind; but an observation, which I was
surprised not to have made sooner, struck me more than anything else.
I had given to Grimm all my friends without exception, they were become
his. I was so inseparable from him, that I should have had some
difficulty in continuing to visit at a house where he was not received.
Madam de Crequi was the only person who refused to admit him into her
company, and whom for that reason I have seldom since seen. Grimm on his
part made himself other friends, as well by his own means, as by those of
the Comte de Friese. Of all these not one of them ever became my friend:
he never said a word to induce me even to become acquainted with them,
and not one of those I sometimes met at his apartments ever showed me the
least good will; the Comte de Friese, in whose house he lived, and with
whom it consequently would have been agreeable to me to form some
connection, not excepted, nor the Comte de Schomberg, his relation, with
whom Grimm was still more intimate.

Add to this, my own friends, whom I made his, and who were all tenderly
attached to me before this acquaintance, were no longer so the moment it
was made. He never gave me one of his. I gave him all mine, and these
he has taken from me. If these be the effects of friendship, what are
those of enmity?

Diderot himself told me several times at the beginning that Grimm in whom
I had so much confidence, was not my friend. He changed his language the
moment he was no longer so himself.

The manner in which I had disposed of my children wanted not the
concurrence of any person. Yet I informed some of my friends of it,
solely to make it known to them, and that I might not in their eyes
appear better than I was. These friends were three in number: Diderot,
Grimm, and Madam d'Epinay. Duclos, the most worthy of my confidence, was
the only real friend whom I did not inform of it. He nevertheless knew
what I had done. By whom? This I know not. It is not very probable the
perfidy came from Madam d'Epinay, who knew that by following her example,
had I been capable of doing it, I had in my power the means of a cruel
revenge. It remains therefore between Grimm and Diderot, then so much
united, especially against me, and it is probable this crime was common
to them both. I would lay a wager that Duclos, to whom I never told my
secret, and who consequently was at liberty to make what use he pleased
of his information, is the only person who has not spoken of it again.

Grimm and Diderot, in their project to take from me the governesses, had
used the greatest efforts to make Duclos enter into their views; but this
he refused to do with disdain. It was not until sometime afterwards that
I learned from him what had passed between them on the subject; but I
learned at the time from Theresa enough to perceive there was some secret
design, and that they wished to dispose of me, if not against my own
consent, at least without my knowledge, or had an intention of making
these two persons serve as instruments of some project they had in view.
This was far from upright conduct. The opposition of Duclos is a
convincing proof of it. They who think proper may believe it to be

This pretended friendship was as fatal to me at home as it was abroad.
The long and frequent conversations with Madam le Vasseur, for, several
years past, had made a sensible change in this woman's behavior to me,
and the change was far from being in my favor. What was the subject of
these singular conversations? Why such a profound mystery? Was the
conversation of that old woman agreeable enough to take her into favor,
and of sufficient importance to make of it so great a secret? During the
two or three years these colloquies had, from time to time, been
continued, they had appeared to me ridiculous; but when I thought of them
again, they began to astonish me. This astonishment would have been
carried to inquietude had I then known what the old creature was
preparing for me.

Notwithstanding the pretended zeal for my welfare of which Grimm made
such a public boast, difficult to reconcile with the airs he gave himself
when we were together, I heard nothing of him from any quarter the least
to my advantage, and his feigned commiseration tended less to do me
service than to render me contemptible. He deprived me as much as he
possibly could of the resource I found in the employment I had chosen,
by decrying me as a bad copyist. I confess he spoke the truth; but in
this case it was not for him to do it. He proved himself in earnest by
employing another copyist, and prevailing upon everybody he could, by
whom I was engaged, to do the same. His intention might have been
supposed to be that of reducing me to a dependence upon him and his
credit for a subsistence, and to cut off the latter until I was brought
to that degree of distress.

All things considered, my reason imposed silence upon my former
prejudice, which still pleaded in his favor. I judged his character to
be at least suspicious, and with respect to his friendship I positively
decided it to be false. I then resolved to see him no more, and informed
Madam d'Epinay of the resolution I had taken, supporting, it with several
unanswerable facts, but which I have now forgotten.

She strongly combated my resolution without knowing how to reply to the
reasons on which it was founded. She had not concerted with him; but the
next day, instead of explaining herself verbally, she, with great
address, gave me a letter they had drawn up together, and by which,
without entering into a detail of facts, she justified him by his
concentrated character, attributed to me as a crime my having suspected
him of perfidy towards his friend, and exhorted me to come to an
accommodation with him. This letter staggered me. In a conversation we
afterwards had together, and in which I found her better prepared than
she had been the first time, I suffered myself to be quite prevailed
upon, and was inclined to believe I might have judged erroneously. In
this case I thought I really had done a friend a very serious injury,
which it was my duty to repair. In short, as I had already done several
times with Diderot, and the Baron d'Holbach, half from inclination, and
half from weakness, I made all the advances I had a right to require;
I went to M. Grimm, like another George Dandin, to make him my apologies
for the offence he had given me; still in the false persuasion, which, in
the course of my life has made me guilty of a thousand meannesses to my
pretended friends, that there is no hatred which may not be disarmed by
mildness and proper behavior; whereas, on the contrary, the hatred of the
wicked becomes still more envenomed by the impossibility of finding
anything to found it upon, and the sentiment of their own injustice is
another cause of offence against the person who is the object of it.
I have, without going further than my own history, a strong proof of this
maxim in Grimm, and in Tronchin; both became my implacable enemies from
inclination, pleasure and fancy, without having been able to charge me
with having done either of them the most trifling injury,

[I did not give the surname of Jongleur only to the latter until a
long time after his enmity had been declared, and the persecutions
he brought upon me at Geneva and elsewhere. I soon suppressed the
name the moment I perceived I was entirely his victim. Mean
vengeance is unworthy of my heart, and hatred never takes the least
root in it.]

and whose rage, like that of tigers, becomes daily more fierce by the
facility of satiating it.

I expected that Grimm, confused by my condescension and advances, would
receive me with open arms, and the most tender friendship. He received
me as a Roman Emperor would have done, and with a haughtiness I never saw
in any person but himself. I was by no means prepared for such a
reception. When, in the embarrassment of the part I had to act, and
which was so unworthy of me, I had, in a few words and with a timid air,
fulfilled the object which had brought me to him; before he received me
into favor, he pronounced, with a deal of majesty, an harangue he had
prepared, and which contained a long enumeration of his rare virtues,
and especially those connected with friendship. He laid great stress
upon a thing which at first struck me a great deal: this was his having
always preserved the same friends. Whilst he was yet speaking, I said to
myself, it would be cruel for me to be the only exception to this rule.
He returned to the subject so frequently, and with such emphasis, that I
thought, if in this he followed nothing but the sentiments of his heart,
he would be less struck with the maxim, and that he made of it an art
useful to his views by procuring the means of accomplishing them. Until
then I had been in the same situation; I had preserved all my first
friends, those even from my tenderest infancy, without having lost one of
them except by death, and yet I had never before made the reflection: it
was not a maxim I had prescribed myself. Since, therefore, the advantage
was common to both, why did he boast of it in preference, if he had not
previously intended to deprive me of the merit? He afterwards endeavored
to humble me by proofs of the preference our common friends gave to me.
With this I was as well acquainted as himself; the question was, by what
means he had obtained it? whether it was by merit or address? by exalting
himself, or endeavoring to abase me? At last, when he had placed between
us all the distance that he could add to the value of the favor he was
about to confer, he granted me the kiss of peace, in a slight embrace
which resembled the accolade which the king gives to newmade knights.
I was stupefied with surprise: I knew not what to say; not a word could
I utter. The whole scene had the appearance of the reprimand a preceptor
gives to his pupil while he graciously spares inflicting the rod.
I never think of it without perceiving to what degree judgments, founded
upon appearances to which the vulgar give so much weight, are deceitful,
and how frequently audaciousness and pride are found in the guilty, and
shame and embarrassment in the innocent.

We were reconciled: this was a relief to my heart, which every kind of
quarrel fills with anguish. It will naturally be supposed that a like
reconciliation changed nothing in his manners; all it effected was to
deprive me of the right of complaining of them. For this reason I took a
resolution to endure everything, and for the future to say not a word.

So many successive vexations overwhelmed me to such a degree as to leave
me but little power over my mind. Receiving no answer from Saint
Lambert, neglected by Madam d'Houdetot, and no longer daring to open my
heart to any person, I began to be afraid that by making friendship my
idol, I should sacrifice my whole life to chimeras. After putting all
those with whom I had been acquainted to the test, there remained but two
who had preserved my esteem, and in whom my heart could confide: Duclos,
of whom since my retreat to the Hermitage I had lost sight, and Saint
Lambert. I thought the only means of repairing the wrongs I had done the
latter, was to open myself to him without reserve, and I resolved to
confess to him everything by which his mistress should not be exposed.
I have no doubt but this was another snare of my passions to keep me
nearer to her person; but I should certainly have had no reserve with her
lover, entirely submitting to his direction, and carrying sincerity as
far as it was possible to do it. I was upon the point of writing to him
a second letter, to which I was certain he would have returned an answer,
when I learned the melancholy cause of his silence relative to the first.
He had been unable to support until the end the fatigues of the campaign.
Madam d'Epinay informed me he had had an attack of the palsy, and Madam
d'Houdetot, ill from affliction, wrote me two or three days after from
Paris, that he was going to Aix-la-Chapelle to take the benefit of the
waters. I will not say this melancholy circumstance afflicted me as it
did her; but I am of opinion my grief of heart was as painful as her
tears. The pain of knowing him to be in such a state, increased by the
fear least inquietude should have contributed to occasion it, affected me
more than anything that had yet happened, and I felt most cruelly a want
of fortitude, which in my estimation was necessary to enable me to
support so many misfortunes. Happily this generous friend did not long
leave me so overwhelmed with affliction; he did not forget me,
notwithstanding his attack; and I soon learned from himself that I had
ill judged his sentiments, and been too much alarmed for his situation.
It is now time I should come to the grand revolution of my destiny, to
the catastrophe which has divided my life in two parts so different from
each other, and, from a very trifling cause, produced such terrible

One day, little thinking of what was to happen, Madam d'Epinay sent for
me to the Chevrette. The moment I saw her I perceived in her eyes and
whole countenance an appearance of uneasiness, which struck me the more,
as this was not customary, nobody knowing better than she did how to
govern her features and her movements. "My friend," said she to me,
"I am immediately going to set off for Geneva; my breast is in a bad
state, and my health so deranged that I must go and consult Tronchin."
I was the more astonished at this resolution so suddenly taken, and at
the beginning of the bad season of the year, as thirty-six hours before
she had not, when I left her, so much as thought of it. I asked her who
she would take with her. She said her son and M. de Linant; and
afterwards carelessly added, "And you, dear, will not you go also?" As I
did not think she spoke seriously, knowing that at the season of the year
I was scarcely in a situation to go to my chamber, I joked upon the
utility of the company, of one sick person to another. She herself had
not seemed to make the proposition seriously, and here the matter
dropped. The rest of our conversation ran upon the necessary
preparations for her journey, about which she immediately gave orders,
being determined to set off within a fortnight. She lost nothing by my
refusal, having prevailed upon her husband to accompany her.

A few days afterwards I received from Diderot the note I am going to
transcribe. This note, simply doubled up, so that the contents were
easily read, was addressed to me at Madam d'Epinay's, and sent to M. de
Linant, tutor to the son, and confidant to the mother.


"I am naturally disposed to love you, and am born to give you trouble. I
am informed Madam d'Epinay is going to Geneva, and do not hear you are to
accompany her. My friend, you are satisfied with Madam d'Epinay, you
must go, with her; if dissatisfied you ought still less to hesitate. Do
you find the weight of the obligations you are under to her uneasy to
you? This is an opportunity of discharging a part of them, and relieving
your mind. Do you ever expect another opportunity like the present one,
of giving her proofs of your gratitude? She is going to a country where
she will be quite a stranger. She is ill, and will stand in need of
amusement and dissipation. The winter season too! Consider, my friend.
Your ill state of health may be a much greater objection than I think it
is; but are you now more indisposed than you were a month ago, or than
you will be at the beginning of spring? Will you three months hence be
in a situation to perform the journey more at your ease than at present?
For my part I cannot but observe to you that were I unable to bear the
shaking of the carriage I would take my staff and follow her. Have you
no fears lest your conduct should be misinterpreted? You will be
suspected of ingratitude or of a secret motive. I well know, that let
you do as you will you will have in your favor the testimony of your
conscience, but will this alone be sufficient, and is it permitted to
neglect to a certain degree that which is necessary to acquire the
approbation of others? What I now write, my good friend, is to acquit
myself of what I think I owe to us both. Should my letter displease you,
throw it into the fire and let it be forgotten. I salute, love and
embrace you."

Although trembling and almost blind with rage whilst I read this epistle,
I remarked the address with which Diderot affected a milder and more
polite language than he had done in his former ones, wherein he never
went further than "My dear," without ever deigning to add the name of
friend. I easily discovered the secondhand means by which the letter was
conveyed to me; the subscription, manner and form awkwardly betrayed the
manoeuvre; for we commonly wrote to each other by post, or the messenger
of Montmorency, and this was the first and only time he sent me his
letter by any other conveyance.

As soon as the first transports of my indignation permitted me to write,
I, with great precipitation, wrote him the following answer, which I
immediately carried from the Hermitage, where I then was, to Chevrette,
to show it to Madam d' Epinay; to whom, in my blind rage, I read the
contents, as well as the letter from Diderot.

"You cannot, my dear friend, either know the magnitude of the obligations
I am under to Madam d'Epinay, to what a degree I am bound by them,
whether or not she is desirous of my accompanying her, that this is
possible, or the reasons I may have for my noncompliance. I have no
objection to discuss all these points with you; but you will in the
meantime confess that prescribing to me so positively what I ought to do,
without first enabling yourself to judge of the matter, is, my dear
philosopher, acting very inconsiderately. What is still worse, I
perceive the opinion you give comes not from yourself. Besides my being
but little disposed to suffer myself to be led by the nose under your
name by any third or fourth person, I observe in this secondary advice
certain underhand dealing, which ill agrees with your candor, and from
which you will on your account, as well as mine, do well in future to

"You are afraid my conduct should be misinterpreted; but I defy a heart
like yours to think ill of mine. Others would perhaps speak better of me
if I resembled them more. God preserve me from gaining their
approbation! Let the vile and wicked watch over my conduct and
misinterpret my actions, Rousseau is not a man to be afraid of them, nor
is Diderot to be prevailed upon to hearken to what they say.

"If I am displeased with your letter, you wish me to throw it into the
fire, and pay no attention to the contents. Do you imagine that anything
coming from you can be forgotten in such a manner? You hold, my dear
friend, my tears as cheap in the pain you give me, as you do my life and
health, in the cares you exhort me to take. Could you but break yourself
of this, your friendship would be more pleasing to me, and I should be
less to be pitied."

On entering the chamber of Madam d'Epinay I found Grimm with her, with
which I was highly delighted. I read to them, in a loud and clear voice,
the two letters, with an intrepidity of which I should not have thought
myself capable, and concluded with a few observations not in the least
derogatory to it. At this unexpected audacity in a man generally timid,
they were struck dumb with surprise; I perceived that arrogant man look
down upon the ground, not daring to meet my eyes, which sparkled with
indignation; but in the bottom of his heart he from that instant resolved
upon my destruction, and, with Madam d' Epinay, I am certain concerted
measures to that effect before they separated.

It was much about this time that I at length received, by Madam
d'Houdetot, the answer from Saint Lambert, dated from Wolfenbuttle, a few
days after the accident had happened to him, to my letter which had been
long delayed upon the road. This answer gave me the consolation of which
I then stood so much in need; it was full of assurance of esteem and
friendship, and these gave me strength and courage to deserve them. From
that moment I did my duty, but had Saint Lambert been less reasonable,
generous and honest, I was inevitably lost.

The season became bad, and people began to quit the country. Madam
d'Houdetot informed me of the day on which she intended to come and bid
adieu to the valley, and gave me a rendezvous at Laubonne. This happened
to be the same day on which Madam d'Epinay left the Chevrette to go to
Paris for the purpose of completing preparations for her journey.
Fortunately she set off in the morning, and I had still time to go and
dine with her sister-in-law. I had the letter from Saint Lambert in my
pocket, and read it over several times as I walked along, This letter
served me as a shield against my weakness. I made and kept to the
resolution of seeing nothing in Madam d'Houdetot but my friend and the
mistress of Saint Lambert; and I passed with her a tete-a-fete of four
hours in a most delicious calm, infinitely preferable, even with respect
to enjoyment, to the paroxysms of a burning fever, which, always, until
that moment, I had had when in her presence. As she too well knew my
heart not to be changed, she was sensible of the efforts I made to
conquer myself, and esteemed me the more for them, and I had the pleasure
of perceiving that her friendship for me was not extinguished. She
announced to me the approaching return of Saint Lambert, who, although
well enough recovered from his attack, was unable to bear the fatigues of
war, and was quitting the service to come and live in peace with her.
We formed the charming project of an intimate connection between us
three, and had reason to hope it would be lasting, since it was founded
on every sentiment by which honest and susceptible hearts could be
united; and we had moreover amongst us all the knowledge and talents
necessary to be sufficient to ourselves without the aid of any foreign
supplement. Alas! in abandoning myself to the hope of so agreeable a
life I little suspected that which awaited me.

We afterwards spoke of my situation with Madam d'Epinay. I showed her
the letter from Diderot, with my answer to it; I related to her
everything that had passed upon the subject, and declared to her my
resolution of quitting the Hermitage.

This she vehemently opposed, and by reasons all powerful over my heart.
She expressed to me how much she could have wished I had been of the
party to Geneva, foreseeing she should inevitably be considered as having
caused the refusal, which the letter of Diderot seemed previously to
announce. However, as she was acquainted with my reasons, she did not
insist upon this point, but conjured me to avoid coming to an open
rupture let it cost me what mortification it would, and to palliate my
refusal by reasons sufficiently plausible to put away all unjust
suspicions of her having been the cause of it. I told her the task she
imposed on me was not easy; but that, resolved to expiate my faults at
the expense of my reputation, I would give the preference to hers in
everything that honor permitted me to suffer. It will soon be seen
whether or not I fulfilled this engagement.

My passion was so far from having lost any part of its force that I never
in my life loved my Sophia so ardently and tenderly as on that day, but
such was the impression made upon me by the letter of Saint Lambert, the
sentiment of my duty and the horror in which I held perfidy, that during
the whole time of the interview my senses left me in peace, and I was not
so much as tempted to kiss her hand. At parting she embraced me before
her servants. This embrace, so different from those I had sometimes
stolen from her under the foliage, proved I was become master of myself;
and I am certain that had my mind, undisturbed, had time to acquire more
firmness, three months would have cured me radically.

Here ends my personal connections with Madam d'Houdetot; connections of
which each has been able to judge by appearance according to the
disposition of his own heart, but in which the passion inspired me by
that amiable woman, the most lively passion, perhaps, man ever felt, will
be honorable in our own eyes by the rare and painful sacrifice we both
made to duty, honor, love, and friendship. We each had too high an
opinion of the other easily to suffer ourselves to do anything derogatory
to our dignity. We must have been unworthy of all esteem had we not set
a proper value upon one like this, and the energy of my sentiments which
have rendered us culpable, was that which prevented us from becoming so.

Thus after a long friendship for one of these women, and the strongest
affection for the other, I bade them both adieu the same day, to one
never to see her more, to the other to see her again twice, upon
occasions of which I shall hereafter speak.

After their departure, I found myself much embarrassed to fulfill so many
pressing and contradictory duties, the consequences of my imprudence; had
I been in my natural situation, after the proposition and refusal of the
journey to Geneva, I had only to remain quiet, and everything was as it
should be. But I had foolishly made of it an affair which could not
remain in the state it was, and an explanation was absolutely necessary,
unless I quitted the Hermitage, which I had just promised Madam
d'Houdetot not to do, at least for the present. Moreover she had
required me to make known the reasons for my refusal to my pretended
friends, that it might not be imputed to her. Yet I could not state the
true reason without doing an outrage to Madam d'Epinay, who certainly had
a right to my gratitude for what she had done for me. Everything well
considered, I found myself reduced to the severe but indispensable
necessity of failing in respect, either to Madam d'Upinay, Madam
d'Houdetot or to myself; and it was the last I resolved to make my
victim. This I did without hesitation, openly and fully, and with so
much generosity as to make the act worthy of expiating the faults which
had reduced me to such an extremity. This sacrifice, taken advantage of
by my enemies, and which they, perhaps, did not expect, has ruined my
reputation, and by their assiduity, deprived me of the esteem of the
public; but it has restored to me my own, and given me consolation in my
misfortune. This, as it will hereafter appear, is not the last time I
made such a sacrifice, nor that advantages were taken of it to do me an

Grimm was the only person who appeared to have taken no part in the
affair, and it was to him I determined to address myself. I wrote him a
long letter, in which I set forth the ridiculousness of considering it as
my duty to accompany Madam d' Epinay to Geneva, the inutility of the
measure, and the embarrassment even it would have caused her, besides the
inconvenience to myself. I could not resist the temptation of letting
him perceive in this letter how fully I was informed in what manner
things were arranged, and that to me it appeared singular I should be
expected to undertake the journey whilst he himself dispensed with it,
and that his name was never mentioned. This letter, wherein, on account
of my not being able clearly to state my reasons, I was often obliged to
wander from the text, would have rendered me culpable in the eyes of the
public, but it was a model of reservedness and discretion for the people
who, like Grimm, were fully acquainted with the things I forbore to
mention, and which justified my conduct. I did not even hesitate to
raise another prejudice against myself in attributing the advice of
Diderot, to my other friends. This I did to insinuate that Madam
d'Houdetot had been in the same opinion as she really was, and in not
mentioning that, upon the reasons I gave her, she thought differently,
I could not better remove the suspicion of her having connived at my
proceedings than appearing dissatisfied with her behavior.

This letter was concluded by an act of confidence which would have had an
effect upon any other man; for, in desiring Grimm to weigh my reasons and
afterwards to give me his opinion, I informed him that, let this be what
it would, I should act accordingly, and such was my intention had he even
thought I ought to set off; for M. d'Epinay having appointed himself the
conductor of his wife, my going with them would then have had a different
appearance; whereas it was I who, in the first place, was asked to take
upon me that employment, and he was out of the question until after my

The answer from Grimm was slow incoming; it was singular enough, on which
account I will here transcribe it.

"The departure of Madam d'Epinay is postponed; her son is ill, and it is
necessary to wait until his health is re-established. I will consider
the contents of your letter. Remain quiet at your Hermitage. I will
send you my opinion as soon as this shall be necessary. As she will
certainly not set off for some days, there is no immediate occasion for
it. In the meantime you may, if you think proper, make her your offers,
although this to me seems a matter of indifference. For, knowing your
situation as well as you do yourself, I doubt not of her returning to
your offer such an answer as she ought to do; and all the advantage
which, in my opinion, can result from this, will be your having it in
your power to say to those by whom you may be importuned, that your not
being of the travelling party was not for want of having made your offers
to that effect. Moreover, I do not see why you will absolutely have it
that the philosopher is the speaking-trumpet of all the world, nor
because he is of opinion you ought to go, why you should imagine all your
friends think as he does? If you write to Madam d'Epinay, her answer
will be yours to all your friends, since you have it so much at heart to
give them all an answer. Adieu. I embrace Madam le Vasseur and the

[M. le Vasseur, whose wife governed him rather rudely, called her
the Lieutenant Criminal. Grimm in a joke gave the same name to the
daughter, and by way of abridgment was pleased to retrench the first

Struck with astonishment at reading this letter I vainly endeavored to
find out what it meant. How! instead of answering me with simplicity,
he took time to consider of what I had written, as if the time he had
already taken was not sufficient! He intimates even the state of
suspense in which he wishes to keep me, as if a profound problem was to
be resolved, or that it was of importance to his views to deprive me of
every means of comprehending his intentions until the moment he should
think proper to make them known. What therefore did he mean by these
precautions, delays, and mysteries? Was this manner of acting consistent
with honor and uprightness? I vainly sought for some favorable
interpretation of his conduct; it was impossible to find one. Whatever
his design might be, were this inimical to me, his situation facilitated
the execution of it without its being possible for me in mine to oppose
the least obstacle. In favor in the house of a great prince, having an
extensive acquaintance, and giving the tone to common circles of which he
was the oracle, he had it in his power, with his usual address, to
dispose everything in his favor; and I, alone in my Hermitage, far
removed from all society, without the benefit of advice, and having no
communication with the world, had nothing to do but to remain in peace.
All I did was to write to Madam d'Epinay upon the illness of her son, as
polite a letter as could be written, but in which I did not fall into the
snare of offering to accompany her to Geneva.

After waiting for a long time in the most cruel uncertainty, into which
that barbarous man had plunged me, I learned, at the expiration of eight
or ten days, that Madam d'Epinay was setoff, and received from him a
second letter. It contained not more than seven or eight lines which I
did not entirely read. It was a rupture, but in such terms as the most
infernal hatred only can dictate, and these became unmeaning by the
excessive degree of acrimony with which he wished to charge them. He
forbade me his presence as he would have forbidden me his states. All
that was wanting to his letter to make it laughable, was to be read over
with coolness. Without taking a copy of it, or reading the whole of the
contents, I returned it him immediately, accompanied by the following

"I refused to admit the force of the just reasons I had of suspicion: I
now, when it is too late, am become sufficiently acquainted with your

"This then is the letter upon which you took time to meditate: I return
it to you, it is not for me. You may show mine to the whole world and
hate me openly; this on your part will be a falsehood the less."

My telling he might show my preceding letter related to an article in his
by which his profound address throughout the whole affair will be judged

I have observed that my letter might inculpate me in the eyes of persons
unacquainted with the particulars of what had passed. This he was
delighted to discover; but how was he to take advantage of it without
exposing himself? By showing the letter he ran the risk of being
reproached with abusing the confidence of his friend.

To relieve himself from this embarrassment he resolved to break with me
in the most violent manner possible, and to set forth in his letter the
favor he did me in not showing mine. He was certain that in my
indignation and anger I should refuse his feigned discretion, and permit
him to show my letter to everybody; this was what he wished for, and
everything turned out as he expected it would. He sent my letter all
over Paris, with his own commentaries upon it, which, however, were not
so successful as he had expected them to be. It was not judged that the
permission he had extorted to make my letter public exempted him from the
blame of having so lightly taken me at my word to do me an injury.
People continually asked what personal complaints he had against me to
authorize so violent a hatred. Finally, it was thought that if even my
behavior had been such as to authorize him to break with me, friendship,
although extinguished, had rights which he ought to have respected. But
unfortunately the inhabitants of Paris are frivolous; remarks of the
moment are soon forgotten; the absent and unfortunate are neglected; the
man who prospers secures favor by his presence; the intriguing and
malicious support each other, renew their vile efforts, and the effects
of these, incessantly succeeding each other, efface everything by which
they were preceded.

Thus, after having so long deceived me, this man threw aside his mask;
convinced that, in the state to which he had brought things, he no longer
stood in need of it. Relieved from the fear of being unjust towards the
wretch, I left him to his reflections, and thought no more of him. A
week afterwards I received an answer from Madam d'Epinay, dated from
Geneva. I understood from the manner of her letter, in which for the
first time in her life, she put on airs of state with me, that both
depending but little upon the success of their measures, and considering
me a man inevitably lost, their intentions were to give themselves the
pleasure of completing my destruction.

In fact, my situation was deplorable. I perceived all my friends
withdrew themselves from me without knowing how or for why. Diderot, who
boasted of the continuation of his attachment, and who, for three months
past, had promised me a visit, did not come. The winter began to make
its appearance, and brought with it my habitual disorders. My
constitution, although vigorous, had been unequal to the combat of so
many opposite passions. I was so exhausted that I had neither strength
nor courage sufficient to resist the most trifling indisposition. Had my
engagements; and the continued remonstrances of Diderot and Madam de
Houdetot then permitted me to quit the Hermitage, I knew not where to go,
nor in what manner to drag myself along. I remained stupid and
immovable. The idea alone of a step to take, a letter to write, or a
word to say, made me tremble. I could not however do otherwise than
reply to the letter of Madam d'Epinay without acknowledging myself to be
worthy of the treatment with which she and her friend overwhelmed me. I
determined upon notifying to her my sentiments and resolutions, not
doubting a moment that from humanity, generosity, propriety, and the good
manner of thinking, I imagined I had observed in her, notwithstanding her
bad one, she would immediately subscribe to them. My letter was as

HERMITAGE 23d NOV., 1757.

"Were it possible to die of grief I should not now be alive.

"But I have at length determined to triumph over everything. Friendship,
madam, is extinguished between us, but that which no longer exists still
has its rights, and I respect them.

"I have not forgotten your goodness to me, and you may, on my part, expect
as much gratitude as it is possible to have towards a person I no longer
can love. All further explanation would be useless. I have in my favor
my own conscience, and I return you your letter.

"I wished to quit the Hermitage, and I ought to have done it. My friends
pretend I must stay there until spring; and since my friends desire it I
will remain there until that season if you will consent to my stay."

After writing and despatching this letter all I thought of was remaining
quiet at the Hermitage and taking care of my health; of endeavoring to
recover my strength, and taking measures to remove in the spring without
noise or making the rupture public. But these were not the intentions
either of Grimm or Madam d'Epinay, as it will presently appear.

A few days afterwards, I had the pleasure of receiving from Diderot the
visit he had so frequently promised, and in which he had as constantly
failed. He could not have come more opportunely; he was my oldest
friend: almost the only one who remained to me; the pleasure I felt in
seeing him, as things were circumstanced, may easily be imagined. My
heart was full, and I disclosed it to him. I explained to him several
facts which either had not come to his knowledge, or had been disguised
or suppressed. I informed him, as far as I could do it with propriety,
of all that had passed. I did not affect to conceal from him that with
which he was but too well acquainted, that a passion equally unreasonable
and unfortunate, had been the cause of my destruction; but I never
acknowledged that Madam d'Houdetot had been made acquainted with it, or
at least that I had declared it to her. I mentioned to him the unworthy
manoeuvres of Madam d' Epinay to intercept the innocent letters her
sister-in-law wrote to me. I was determined he should hear the
particulars from the mouth of the persons whom she had attempted to
seduce. Theresa related them with great precision; but what was my
astonishment when the mother came to speak, and I heard her declare and
maintain that nothing of this had come to her knowledge? These were her
words from which she would never depart. Not four days before she
herself had recited to me all the particulars Theresa had just stated,
and in presence of my friend she contradicted me to my face. This, to
me, was decisive, and I then clearly saw my imprudence in having so long
a time kept such a woman near me. I made no use of invective; I scarcely
deigned to speak to her a few words of contempt. I felt what I owed to
the daughter, whose steadfast uprightness was a perfect contrast to the
base monoeuvres of the mother. But from the instant my resolution was
taken relative to the old woman, and I waited for nothing but the moment
to put it into execution.

This presented itself sooner than I expected. On the 10th of December I
received from Madam d'Epinay the following answer to my preceding letter:

GENEVA, 1st December, 1757.

"After having for several years given you every possible mark of
friendship all I can now do is to pity you. You are very unhappy. I
wish your conscience may be as calm as mine. This may be necessary to
the repose of your whole life.

"Since you are determined to quit the Hermitage, and are persuaded that
you ought to do it, I am astonished your friends have prevailed upon you
to stay there. For my part I never consult mine upon my duty, and I have
nothing further to say to you upon your own."

Such an unforeseen dismission, and so fully pronounced, left me not a
moment to hesitate. It was necessary to quit immediately, let the
weather and my health be in what state they might, although I were to
sleep in the woods and upon the snow, with which the ground was then
covered, and in defiance of everything Madam d'Houdetot might say; for I
was willing to do everything to please her except render myself infamous.

I never had been so embarrassed in my whole life as I then was; but my
resolution was taken. I swore, let what would happen, not to sleep at
the Hermitage on the night of that day week. I began to prepare for
sending away my effects, resolving to leave them in the open field rather
than not give up the key in the course of the week: for I was determined
everything should be done before a letter could be written to Geneva, and
an answer to it received. I never felt myself so inspired with courage:
I had recovered all my strength. Honor and indignation, upon which Madam
d'Epinay had not calculated, contributed to restore me to vigor. Fortune
aided my audacity. M. Mathas, fiscal procurer, heard of my
embarrasament. He sent to offer me a little house he had in his garden
of Mont Louis, at Montmorency. I accepted it with eagerness and
gratitude. The bargain was soon concluded: I immediately sent to
purchase a little furniture to add to that we already had. My effects
I had carted away with a deal of trouble, and a great expense:
notwithstanding the ice and snow my removal was completed in a couple of
days, and on the fifteenth of December I gave up the keys of the
Hermitage, after having paid the wages of the gardener, not being able to
pay my rent.

With respect to Madam le Vasseur, I told her we must part; her daughter
attempted to make me renounce my resolution, but I was inflexible.
I sent her off, to Paris in a carriage of the messenger with all the
furniture and effects she and her daughter had in common. I gave her
some money, and engaged to pay her lodging with her children, or
elsewhere to provide for her subsistence as much as it should be possible
for me to do it, and never to let her want bread as long as I should have
it myself.

Finally the day after my arrival at Mont Louis, I wrote to Madam d'Epinay
the following letter:

MONTMORENCY, 17th December 1757.

"Nothing, madam, is so natural and necessary as to leave your house the
moment you no longer approve of my remaining there. Upon you refusing
your consent to my passing the rest of the winter at the Hermitage I
quitted it on the fifteenth of December. My destiny was to enter it in
spite of myself and to leave it the same. I thank you for the residence
you prevailed upon me to make there, and I would thank you still more had
I paid for it less dear. You are right in believing me unhappy; nobody
upon earth knows better than yourself to what a degree I must be so. If
being deceived in the choice of our friends be a misfortune, it is
another not less cruel to recover from so pleasing an error."

Such is the faithful narrative of my residence at the Hermitage, and of
the reasons which obliged me to leave it. I could not break off the
recital, it was necessary to continue it with the greatest exactness;
this epoch of my life having had upon the rest of it an influence which
will extend to my latest remembrance.


An author must be independent of success
Cemented by reciprocal esteem
Difficult to think nobly when we think for a livelihood
Dine at the hour of supper; sup when I should have been asleep
Force me to be happy in the manner they should point out
Hastening on to death without having lived
How many wrongs are effaced by the embraces of a friend
I loved her too well to wish to possess her
I never heard her speak ill of persons who were absent
Idea of my not being everything to her
In the course of their lives frequently unlike themselves
Is it possible to dissimulate with persons whom we love?
Letters illustrious in proportion as it was less a trade
Loaded with words and redundancies
Make men like himself, instead of taking them as they were
Manoeuvres of an author to the care of publishing a good book
No longer permitted to let old people remain out of Paris
No sooner had lost sight of men than I ceased to despise them
Not knowing how to spend their time, daily breaking in upon me
Painful to an honest man to resist desires already formed
Rather bashful than modest
This continued desire to control me in all my wishes
To make him my apologies for the offence he had given me
Tyranny of persons who called themselves my friends
Virtuous minds, which vice never attacks openly
When once we make a secret of anything to the person we love
Without the least scruple, freely disposing of my time
Writing for bread would soon have extinguished my genius


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