The Confessions of J. J. Rousseau, entire
Jean Jacques Rousseau

Part 10 out of 13

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

(In 12 books)

Privately Printed for the Members of the Aldus Society

London, 1903


The extraordinary degree of strength a momentary effervescence had given
me to quit the Hermitage, left me the moment I was out of it. I was
scarcely established in my new habitation before I frequently suffered
from retentions, which were accompanied by a new complaint; that of a
rupture, from which I had for some time, without knowing what it was,
felt great inconvenience. I soon was reduced to the most cruel state.
The physician Thieiry, my old friend, came to see me, and made me
acquainted with my situation. The sight of all the apparatus of the
infirmities of years, made me severely feel that when the body is no
longer young, the heart is not so with impunity. The fine season did not
restore me, and I passed the whole year, 1758, in a state of languor,
which made me think I was almost at the end of my career. I saw, with
impatience, the closing scene approach. Recovered from the chimeras of
friendship, and detached from everything which had rendered life
desirable to me, I saw nothing more in it that could make it agreeable;
all I perceived was wretchedness and misery, which prevented me from
enjoying myself. I sighed after the moment when I was to be free and
escape from my enemies. But I must follow the order of events.

My retreat to Montmorency seemed to disconcert Madam d'Epinay; probably
she did not expect it. My melancholy situation, the severity of the
season, the general dereliction of me by my friends, all made her and
Grimm believe, that by driving me to the last extremity, they should
oblige me to implore mercy, and thus, by vile meanness, render myself
contemptible, to be suffered to remain in an asylum which honor commanded
me to leave. I left it so suddenly that they had not time to prevent the
step from being taken, and they were reduced to the alternative of double
or quit, to endeavor to ruin me entirely, or to prevail upon me to
return. Grimm chose the former; but I am of opinion Madam d'Epinay would
have preferred the latter, and this from her answer to my last letter,
in which she seemed to have laid aside the airs she had given herself in
the preceding ones, and to give an opening to an accommodation. The long
delay of this answer, for which she made me wait a whole month,
sufficiently indicates the difficulty she found in giving it a proper
turn, and the deliberations by which it was preceded. She could not make
any further advances without exposing herself; but after her former
letters, and my sudden retreat from her house, it is impossible not to be
struck with the care she takes in this letter not to suffer an offensive
expression to escape her. I will copy it at length to enable my reader
to judge of what she wrote:

GENEVA, January 17, 1758.

"SIR: I did not receive your letter of the 17th of December until
yesterday. It was sent me in a box filled with different things, and
which has been all this time upon the road. I shall answer only the
postscript. You may recollect, sir, that we agreed the wages of the
gardener of the Hermitage should pass through your hands, the better to
make him feel that he depended upon you, and to avoid the ridiculous and
indecent scenes which happened in the time of his predecessor. As a
proof of this, the first quarter of his wages were given to you, and a
few days before my departure we agreed I should reimburse you what you
had advanced. I know that of this you, at first, made some difficulty;
but I had desired you to make these advances; it was natural I should
acquit myself towards you, and this we concluded upon. Cahouet informs
me that you refused to receive the money. There is certainly some
mistake in the matter. I have given orders that it may again be offered
to you, and I see no reason for your wishing to pay my gardener,
notwithstanding our conventions, and beyond the term even of your
inhabiting the Hermitage. I therefore expect, sir, that recollecting
everything I have the honor to state, you will not refuse to be
reimbursed for the sums you have been pleased to advance for me."

After what had passed, not having the least confidence in Madam d'
Epinay, I was unwilling to renew my connection with her; I returned no
answer to this letter, and there our correspondence ended. Perceiving I
had taken my resolution, she took hers; and, entering into all the views
of Grimm and the Coterie Holbachique, she united her efforts with theirs
to accomplish my destruction. Whilst they manoevured at Paris, she did
the same at Geneva. Grimm, who afterwards went to her there, completed
what she had begun. Tronchin, whom they had no difficulty in gaining
over, seconded them powerfully, and became the most violent of my
persecutors, without having against me, any more than Grimm had, the
least subject of complaint. They all three spread in silence that of
which the effects were seen there four years afterwards.

They had more trouble at Paris, where I was better known to the citizens,
whose hearts, less disposed to hatred, less easily received its
impressions. The better to direct their blow, they began by giving out
that it was I who had left them. Thence, still feigning to be my
friends, they dexterously spread their malignant accusations by
complaining of the injustice of their friend. Their auditors, thus
thrown off their guard, listened more attentively to what was said of me,
and were inclined to blame my conduct. The secret accusations of perfidy
and ingratitude were made with greater precaution, and by that means with
greater effect. I knew they imputed to me the most atrocious crimes
without being able to learn in what these consisted. All I could infer
from public rumor was that this was founded upon the four following
capital offences: my retiring to the country; my passion for Madam
d'Houdetot; my refusing to accompany Madam d'Epinay to Geneva, and my
leaving the Hermitage. If to these they added other griefs, they took
their measures so well that it has hitherto been impossible for me to
learn the subject of them.

It is therefore at this period that I think I may fix the establishment
of a system, since adopted by those by whom my fate has been determined,
and which has made such a progress as will seem miraculous to persons who
know not with what facility everything which favors the malignity of man
is established. I will endeavor to explain in a few words what to me
appeared visible in this profound and obscure system.

With a name already distinguished and known throughout all Europe, I had
still preserved my primitive simplicity. My mortal aversion to all party
faction and cabal had kept me free and independent, without any other
chain than the attachments of my heart. Alone, a stranger, without
family or fortune, and unconnected with everything except my principles
and duties, I intrepidly followed the paths of uprightness, never
flattering or favoring any person at the expense of truth and justice.
Besides, having lived for two years past in solitude, without observing
the course of events, I was unconnected with the affairs of the world,
and not informed of what passed, nor desirous of being acquainted with
it. I lived four leagues from Paris as much separated from that.
capital by my negligence as I should have been in the Island of Tinian by
the sea.

Grimm, Diderot and D'Holbach were, on the contrary, in the centre of the
vortex, lived in the great world, and divided amongst them almost all the
spheres of it. The great wits, men of letters, men of long robe, and
women, all listened to them when they chose to act in concert. The
advantage three men in this situation united must have over a fourth in
mine, cannot but already appear. It is true Diderot and D'Holbach were
incapable, at least I think so, of forming black conspiracies; one of
them was not base enough, nor the other sufficiently able; but it was for
this reason that the party was more united. Grimm alone formed his plan
in his own mind, and discovered more of it than was necessary to induce
his associates to concur in the execution. The ascendency he had gained
over them made this quite easy, and the effect of the whole answered to
the superiority of his talents.

It was with these, which were of a superior kind, that, perceiving the
advantage he might acquire from our respective situations, he conceived
the project of overturning my reputation, and, without exposing himself,
of giving me one of a nature quite opposite, by raising up about me an
edifice of obscurity which it was impossible for me to penetrate, and by
that means throw a light upon his manoevures and unmask him.

This enterprise was difficult, because it was necessary to palliate the
iniquity in the eyes of those of whose assistance he stood in need.
He had honest men to deceive, to alienate from me the good opinion of
everybody, and to deprive me of all my friends. What say I? He had to
cut off all communication with me, that not a single word of truth might
reach my ears. Had a single man of generosity come and said to me, "You
assume the appearance of virtue, yet this is the manner in which you are
treated, and these the circumstances by which you are judged: what have
you to say?" truth would have triumphed and Grimm have been undone.
Of this he was fully convinced; but he had examined his own heart and
estimated men according to their merit. I am sorry, for the honor of
humanity, that he judged with so much truth.

In these dark and crooked paths his steps to be the more sure were
necessarily slow. He has for twelve years pursued his plan and the most
difficult part of the execution of it is still to come; this is to
deceive the public entirely. He is afraid of this public, and dares not
lay his conspiracy open.

[Since this was written he has made the dangerous step with the
fullest and most inconceivable success. I am of opinion it was
Tronchin who inspired him with courage, and supplied him with the

But he has found the easy means of accompanying it with power, and this
power has the disposal of me. Thus supported he advances with less
danger. The agents of power piquing themselves but little on
uprightness, and still less on candor, he has no longer the indiscretion
of an honest man to fear. His safety is in my being enveloped in an
impenetrable obscurity, and in concealing from me his conspiracy, well
knowing that with whatever art he may have formed it, I could by a single
glance of the eye discover the whole. His great address consists in
appearing to favor whilst he defames me, and in giving to his perfidy an
air of generosity.

I felt the first effects of this system by the secret accusations of the
Coterie Holbachiens without its being possible for me to know in what the
accusations consisted, or to form a probable conjecture as to the nature
of them. De Leyre informed me in his letters that heinous things were
attributed to me. Diderot more mysteriously told me the same thing, and
when I came to an explanation with both, the whole was reduced to the
heads of accusation of which I have already spoken. I perceived a
gradual increase of coolness in the letters from Madam d'Houdetot. This
I could not attribute to Saint Lambert; he continued to write to me with
the same friendship, and came to see me after his return. It was also
impossible to think myself the cause of it, as we had separated well
satisfied with each other, and nothing since that time had happened on my
part, except my departure from the Hermitage, of which she felt the
necessity. Therefore, not knowing whence this coolness, which she
refused to acknowledge, although my heart was not to be deceived, could
proceed, I was uneasy upon every account. I knew she greatly favored her
sister-in-law and Grimm, in consequence of their connections with Saint
Lambert; and I was afraid of their machinations. This agitation opened
my wounds, and rendered my correspondence so disagreeable as quite to
disgust her with it. I saw, as at a distance, a thousand cruel
circumstances, without discovering anything distinctly. I was in a
situation the most insupportable to a man whose imagination is easily
heated. Had I been quite retired from the world, and known nothing of
the matter I should have become more calm; but my heart still clung to
attachments, by means of which my enemies had great advantages over me;
and the feeble rays which penetrated my asylum conveyed to me nothing
more than a knowledge of the blackness of the mysteries which were
concealed from my eyes.

I should have sunk, I have not a doubt of it, under these torments, too
cruel and insupportable to my open disposition, which, by the
impossibility of concealing my sentiments, makes me fear everything from
those concealed from me, if fortunately objects sufficiently interesting
to my heart to divert it from others with which, in spite of myself, my
imagination was filled, had not presented themselves. In the last visit
Diderot paid me, at the Hermitage, he had spoken of the article 'Geneva',
which D'Alembert had inserted in the 'Encyclopedie'; he had informed me
that this article, concerted with people of the first consideration, had
for object the establishment of a theatre at Geneva, that measures had
been taken accordingly, and that the establishment would soon take place.
As Diderot seemed to think all this very proper, and did not doubt of the
success of the measure, and as I had besides to speak to him upon too
many other subjects to touch upon that article, I made him no answer: but
scandalized at these preparatives to corruption and licentiousness in my
country, I waited with impatience for the volume of the 'Encyclopedie',
in which the article was inserted; to see whether or not it would be
possible to give an answer which might ward off the blow. I received the
volume soon after my establishment at Mont Louis, and found the articles
to be written with much art and address, and worthy of the pen whence it
proceeded. This, however, did not abate my desire to answer it, and
notwithstanding the dejection of spirits I then labored under, my griefs
and pains, the severity of the season, and the inconvenience of my new
abode, in which I had not yet had time to arrange myself, I set to work
with a zeal which surmounted every obstacle.

In a severe winter, in the month of February, and in the situation I have
described, I went every day, morning and evening, to pass a couple of
hours in an open alcove which was at the bottom of the garden in which my
habitation stood. This alcove, which terminated an alley of a terrace,
looked upon the valley and the pond of Montmorency, and presented to me,
as the closing point of a prospect, the plain but respectable castle of
St. Gratien, the retreat of the virtuous Catinat. It was in this place,
then, exposed to freezing cold, that without being sheltered from the
wind and snow, and having no other fire than that in my heart; I
composed, in the space of three weeks, my letter to D'Alembert on
theatres. It was in this, for my 'Eloisa' was not then half written,
that I found charms in philosophical labor. Until then virtuous
indignation had been a substitute to Apollo, tenderness and a gentleness
of mind now became so. The injustice I had been witness to had irritated
me, that of which I became the object rendered me melancholy; and this
melancholy without bitterness was that of a heart too tender and
affectionate, and which, deceived by those in whom it had confided, was
obliged to remain concentred. Full of that which had befallen me, and
still affected by so many violent emotions, my heart added the sentiment
of its sufferings to the ideas with which a meditation on my subject had
inspired me; what I wrote bore evident marks of this mixture. Without
perceiving it I described the situation I was then in, gave portraits of
Grimm, Madam d'Epinay, Madam d' Houdetot, Saint Lambert and myself. What
delicious tears did I shed as I wrote! Alas! in these descriptions
there are proofs but too evident that love, the fatal love of which I
made such efforts to cure myself, still remained in my heart. With all
this there was a certain sentiment of tenderness relative to myself; I
thought I was dying, and imagined I bid the public my last adieu. Far
from fearing death, I joyfully saw it approach; but I felt some regret at
leaving my fellow creatures without their having perceived my real merit,
and being convinced how much I should have deserved their esteem had they
known me better. These are the secret causes of the singular manner in
which this work, opposite to that of the work by which it was preceded,
is written.--[Discours sur l'Inegalite. Discourse on the Inequality of

I corrected and copied the letter, and was preparing to print it when,
after a long silence, I received one from Madam d'Houdetot, which brought
upon me a new affliction more painful than any I had yet suffered. She
informed me that my passion for her was known to all Paris, that I had
spoken of it to persons who had made it public, that this rumor, having
reached the ears of her lover, had nearly cost him his life; yet he did
her justice, and peace was restored between them; but on his account, as
well as on hers, and for the sake of her reputation, she thought it her
duty to break off all correspondence with me, at the same time assuring
me that she and her friend were both interested in my welfare, that they
would defend me to the public, and that she herself would, from time to
time, send to inquire after my health.

"And thou also, Diderot," exclaimed I, "unworthy friend!"

I could not, however, yet resolve to condemn him. My weakness was known
to others who might have spoken of it. I wished to doubt, but this was
soon out of my power. Saint Lambert shortly after performed an action
worthy of himself. Knowing my manner of thinking, he judged of the state
in which I must be; betrayed by one part of my friends and forsaken by
the other. He came to see me. The first time he had not many moments to
spare. He came again. Unfortunately, not expecting him, I was not at
home. Theresa had with him a conversation of upwards of two hours, in
which they informed each other of facts of great importance to us all.
The surprise with which I learned that nobody doubted of my having lived
with Madam d'Epinay, as Grimm then did, cannot be equalled, except by
that of Saint Lambert, when he was convinced that the rumor was false.
He, to the great dissatisfaction of the lady, was in the same situation
with myself, and the eclaircissements resulting from the conversation
removed from me all regret, on account of my having broken with her
forever. Relative to Madam d'Houdetot, he mentioned several
circumstances with which neither Theresa nor Madam d'Houdetot herself
were acquainted; these were known to me only in the first instance, and I
had never mentioned them except to Diderot, under the seal of friendship;
and it was to Saint Lambert himself to whom he had chosen to communicate
them. This last step was sufficient to determine me. I resolved to
break with Diderot forever, and this without further deliberation, except
on the manner of doing it; for I had perceived secret ruptures turned to
my prejudice, because they left the mask of friendship in possession of
my most cruel enemies.

The rules of good breeding, established in the world on this head, seem
to have been dictated by a spirit of treachery and falsehood. To appear
the friend of a man when in reality we are no longer so, is to reserve to
ourselves the means of doing him an injury by surprising honest men into
an error. I recollected that when the illustrious Montesquieu broke with
Father de Tournemine, he immediately said to everybody: "Listen neither
to Father Tournemine nor myself, when we speak of each other, for we are
no longer friends." This open and generous proceeding was universally
applauded. I resolved to follow the example with Diderot; but what
method was I to take to publish the rupture authentically from my
retreat, and yet without scandal? I concluded on inserting in the form
of a note, in my work, a passage from the book of Ecclesiasticus, which
declared the rupture and even the subject of it, in terms sufficiently
clear to such as were acquainted with the previous circumstances, but
could signify nothing to the rest of the world. I determined not to
speak in my work of the friend whom I renounced, except with the honor
always due to extinguished friendship. The whole may be seen in the work

There is nothing in this world but time and misfortune, and every act of
courage seems to be a crime in adversity. For that which has been
admired in Montesquieu, I received only blame and reproach. As soon as
my work was printed, and I had copies of it, I sent one to Saint Lambert,
who, the evening before, had written to me in his own name and that of
Madam d' Houdetot, a note expressive of the most tender friendship.

The following is the letter he wrote to me when he returned the copy I
had sent him.

EAUBONNE, 10th October, 1758.

"Indeed, sir, I cannot accept the present you have just made me. In that
part of your preface where, relative to Diderot, you quote a passage from
Ecclesiastes (he mistakes, it is from Ecclesiasticus) the book dropped
from my hand. In the conversations we had together in the summer, you
seemed to be persuaded Diderot was not guilty of the pretended
indiscretions you had imputed to him. You may, for aught I know to the
contrary, have reason to complain of him, but this does not give you a
right to insult him publicly. You are not unacquainted with the nature
of the persecutions he suffers, and you join the voice of an old friend
to that of envy. I cannot refrain from telling you, sir, how much this
heinous act of yours has shocked me. I am not acquainted with Diderot,
but I honor him, and I have a lively sense of the pain you give to a man,
whom, at least not in my hearing, you have never reproached with anything
more than a trifling weakness. You and I, sir, differ too much in our
principles ever to be agreeable to each other. Forget that I exist; this
you will easily do. I have never done to men either good or evil of a
nature to be long remembered. I promise you, sir, to forget your person
and to remember nothing relative to you but your talents."

This letter filled me with indignation and affliction; and, in the excess
of my pangs, feeling my pride wounded, I answered him by the following

MONTMORUNCY, 11th October, 1758.

"SIR: While reading your letter, I did you the honor to be surprised at
it, and had the weakness to suffer it to affect me; but I find it
unworthy of an answer.

"I will no longer continue the copies of Madam d'Houdetot. If it be not
agreeable to her to keep that she has, she may sent it me back and I will
return her money. If she keeps it, she must still send for the rest of
her paper and the money; and at the same time I beg she will return me
the prospectus which she has in her possession. Adieu, sir."

Courage under misfortune irritates the hearts of cowards, but it is
pleasing to generous minds. This note seemed to make Saint Lambert
reflect with himself and to regret his having been so violent; but too
haughty in his turn to make open advances, he seized and perhaps
prepared, the opportunity of palliating what he had done.

A fortnight afterwards I received from Madam d'Epinay the following

Thursday, 26th.

"SIR: I received the book you had the goodness to send me, and which I
have read with much pleasure. I have always experienced the same
sentiment in reading all the works which have come from your pen.
Receive my thanks for the whole. I should have returned you these in
person had my affairs permitted me to remain any time in your
neighborhood; but I was not this year long at the Chevrette. M. and
Madam Dupin come there on Sunday to dinner. I expect M. de Saint
Lambert, M. de Francueil, and Madam d'Houdetot will be of the party;
you will do me much pleasure by making one also. All the persons who are
to dine with me, desire, and will, as well as myself, be delighted to
pass with you a part of the day. I have the honor to be with the most
perfect consideration," etc.

This letter made my heart beat violently; after having for a year past
been the subject of conversation of all Paris, the idea of presenting
myself as a spectacle before Madam d'Houdetot, made me tremble, and I had
much difficulty to find sufficient courage to support that ceremony.
Yet as she and Saint Lambert were desirous of it, and Madam d'Epinay
spoke in the name of her guests without naming one whom I should not be
glad to see, I did not think I should expose myself accepting a dinner to
which I was in some degree invited by all the persons who with myself
were to partake of it. I therefore promised to go: on Sunday the weather
was bad, and Madam D'Epinay sent me her carriage.

My arrival caused a sensation. I never met a better reception. An
observer would have thought the whole company felt how much I stood in
need of encouragement. None but French hearts are susceptible of this
kind of delicacy. However, I found more people than I expected to see.
Amongst others the Comte d' Houdetot, whom I did not know, and his sister
Madam de Blainville, without whose company I should have been as well
pleased. She had the year before came several times to Eaubonne, and her
sister-in-law had left her in our solitary walks to wait until she
thought proper to suffer her to join us. She had harbored a resentment
against me, which during this dinner she gratified at her ease. The
presence of the Comte d' Houdetot and Saint Lambert did not give me the
laugh on my side, and it may be judged that a man embarrassed in the most
common conversations was not very brilliant in that which then took
place. I never suffered so much, appeared so awkward, or received more
unexpected mortifications. As soon as we had risen from table, I
withdrew from that wicked woman; I had the pleasure of seeing Saint
Lambert and Madam de'Houdetot approach me, and we conversed together a
part of the afternoon, upon things very indifferent it is true, but with
the same familiarity as before my involuntary error. This friendly
attention was not lost upon my heart, and could Saint Lambert have read
what passed there, he certainly would have been satisfied with it. I can
safely assert that although on my arrival the presence of Madam
d'Houdetot gave me the most violent palpitations, on returning from the
house I scarcely thought of her; my mind was entirely taken up with Saint

Notwithstanding the malignant sarcasms of Madam de Blainville, the dinner
was of great service to me, and I congratulated myself upon not having
refused the invitation. I not only discovered that the intrigues of
Grimm and the Holbachiens had not deprived me of my old acquaintance,

[Such is the simplicity of my heart was my opinion when I wrote
these confessions.]

but, what flattered me still more, that Madam d'Houdetot and Saint
Lambert were less changed than I had imagined, and I at length understood
that his keeping her at a distance from me proceeded more from jealousy
than from disesteem. This was a consolation to me, and calmed my mind.
Certain of not being an object of contempt in the eyes of persons whom I
esteemed, I worked upon my own heart with greater courage and success.
If I did not quite extinguish in it a guilty and an unhappy passion, I at
least so well regulated the remains of it that they have never since that
moment led me into the most trifling error. The copies of Madam d'
Houdetot, which she prevailed upon me to take again, and my works, which
I continued to send her as soon as they appeared, produced me from her a
few notes and messages, indifferent but obliging. She did still more, as
will hereafter appear, and the reciprocal conduct of her lover and
myself, after our intercourse had ceased, may serve as an example of the
manner in which persons of honor separate when it is no longer agreeable
to them to associate with each other.

Another advantage this dinner procured me was its being spoken of in
Paris, where it served as a refutation of the rumor spread by my enemies,
that I had quarrelled with every person who partook of it, and especially
with M. d'Epinay. When I left the Hermitage I had written him a very
polite letter of thanks, to which he answered not less politely, and
mutual civilities had continued, as well between us as between me and M.
de la Lalive, his brother-in-law, who even came to see me at Montmorency,
and sent me some of his engravings. Excepting the two sisters-in-law of
Madam d'Houdetot, I have never been on bad terms with any person of the

My letter to D'Alembert had great success. All my works had been very
well received, but this was more favorable to me. It taught the public
to guard against the insinuations of the Coterie Holbachique. When I
went to the Hermitage, this Coterie predicted with its usual sufficiency,
that I should not remain there three months. When I had stayed there
twenty months, and was obliged to leave it, I still fixed my residence in
the country. The Coterie insisted this was from a motive of pure
obstinacy, and that I was weary even to death of my retirement; but that,
eaten up with pride, I chose rather to become a victim of my stubbornness
than to recover from it and return to Paris. The letter to D'Alembert
breathed a gentleness of mind which every one perceived not to be
affected. Had I been dissatisfied with my retreat, my style and manner
would have borne evident marks of my ill-humor. This reigned in all the
works I had written in Paris; but in the first I wrote in the country not
the least appearance of it was to be found. To persons who knew how to
distinguish, this remark was decisive. They perceived I was returned to
my element.

Yet the same work, notwithstanding all the mildness it breathed, made me
by a mistake of my own and my usual ill-luck, another enemy amongst men
of letters. I had become acquainted with Marmontel at the house of M. de
la Popliniere, and his acquaintance had been continued at that of the
baron. Marmontel at that time wrote the 'Mercure de France'. As I had
too much pride to send my works to the authors of periodical
publications, and wishing to send him this without his imagining it was
in consequence of that title, or being desirous he should speak of it in
the Mercure, I wrote upon the book that it was not for the author of the
Mercure, but for M. Marmontel. I thought I paid him a fine compliment;
he mistook it for a cruel offence, and became my irreconcilable enemy.
He wrote against the letter with politeness, it is true, but with a
bitterness easily perceptible, and since that time has never lost an
opportunity of injuring me in society, and of indirectly ill-treating me
in his works. Such difficulty is there in managing the irritable self-
love of men of letters, and so careful ought every person to be not to
leave anything equivocal in the compliments they pay them.

Having nothing more to disturb me, I took advantage of my leisure and
independence to continue my literary pursuits with more coherence. I
this winter finished my Eloisa, and sent it to Rey, who had it printed
the year following. I was, however, interrupted in my projects by a
circumstance sufficiently disagreeable. I heard new preparations were
making at the opera-house to give the 'Devin du Village'. Enraged at
seeing these people arrogantly dispose of my property, I again took up
the memoir I had sent to M. D'Argenson, to which no answer had been
returned, and having made some trifling alterations in it, I sent the
manuscript by M. Sellon, resident from Geneva, and a letter with which he
was pleased to charge himself, to the Comte de St. Florentin, who had
succeeded M. D'Argenson in the opera department. Duclos, to whom I
communicated what I had done, mentioned it to the 'petits violons', who
offered to restore me, not my opera, but my freedom of the theatre, which
I was no longer in a situation to enjoy. Perceiving I had not from any
quarter the least justice to expect, I gave up the affair; and the
directors of the opera, without either answering or listening to my
reasons, have continued to dispose as of their own property, and to turn
to their profit, the Devin du Village, which incontestably belong to
nobody but myself.

Since I had shaken off the yoke of my tyrants, I led a life sufficiently
agreeable and peaceful; deprived of the charm of too strong attachments
I was delivered from the weight of their chains. Disgusted with the
friends who pretended to be my protectors, and wished absolutely to
dispose of me at will, and in spite of myself, to subject me to their
pretended good services, I resolved in future to have no other
connections than those of simple benevolence. These, without the least
constraint upon liberty, constitute the pleasure of society, of which
equality is the basis. I had of them as many as were necessary to enable
me to taste of the charm of liberty without being subject to the
dependence of it; and as soon as I had made an experiment of this manner
of life, I felt it was the most proper to my age, to end my days in
peace, far removed from the agitations, quarrels and cavillings in which
I had just been half submerged.

During my residence at the Hermitage, and after my settlement at
Montmorency, I had made in the neighborhood some agreeable acquaintance,
and which did not subject me to any inconvenience. The principal of
these was young Loiseau de Mauleon, who, then beginning to plead at the
bar, did not yet know what rank he would one day hold there. I for my
part was not in the least doubt about the matter. I soon pointed out to
him the illustrious career in the midst of which he is now seen, and
predicted that, if he laid down to himself rigid rules for the choice of
causes, and never became the defender of anything but virtue and justice,
his genius, elevated by this sublime sentiment, would be equal to that of
the greatest orators. He followed my advice, and now feels the good
effects of it. His defence of M. de Portes is worthy of Demosthenes. He
came every year within a quarter of a league of the Hermitage to pass the
vacation at St. Brice, in the fife of Mauleon, belonging to his mother,
and where the great Bossuet had formerly lodged. This is a fief, of
which a like succession of proprietors would render nobility difficult to

I had also for a neighbor in the same village of St. Brice, the
bookseller Guerin, a man of wit, learning, of an amiable disposition, and
one of the first in his profession. He brought me acquainted with Jean
Neaulme, bookseller of Amsterdam, his friend and correspondent, who
afterwards printed Emilius.

I had another acquaintance still nearer than St. Brice, this was M.
Maltor, vicar of Groslay, a man better adapted for the functions of a
statesman and a minister, than for those of the vicar of a village, and
to whom a diocese at least would have been given to govern if talents
decided the disposal of places. He had been secretary to the Comte de
Luc, and was formerly intimately acquainted with Jean Bapiste Rousseau.
Holding in as much esteem the memory of that illustrious exile, as he
held the villain who ruined him in horror; he possessed curious anecdotes
of both, which Segur had not inserted in the life, still in manuscript,
of the former, and he assured me that the Comte de Luc, far from ever
having had reason to complain of his conduct, had until his last moment
preserved for him the warmest friendship. M. Maltor, to whom M. de
Vintimille gave this retreat after the death of his patron, had formerly
been employed in many affairs of which, although far advanced in years,
he still preserved a distinct remembrance, and reasoned upon them
tolerably well. His conversation, equally amusing and instructive, had
nothing in it resembling that of a village pastor: he joined the manners
of a man of the world to the knowledge of one who passes his life in
study. He, of all my permanent neighbors, was the person whose society
was the most agreeable to me.

I was also acquainted at Montmorency with several fathers of the oratory,
and amongst others Father Berthier, professor of natural philosophy; to
whom, notwithstanding some little tincture of pedantry, I become attached
on account of a certain air of cordial good nature which I observed in
him. I had, however, some difficulty to reconcile this great simplicity
with the desire and the art he had of everywhere thrusting himself into
the company of the great, as well as that of the women, devotees, and
philosophers. He knew how to accommodate himself to every one. I was
greatly pleased with the man, and spoke of my satisfaction to all my
other acquaintances. Apparently what I said of him came to his ear. He
one day thanked me for having thought him a good-natured man. I observed
something in his forced smile which, in my eyes, totally changed his
physiognomy, and which has since frequently occurred to my mind. I
cannot better compare this smile than to that of Panurge purchasing the
Sheep of Dindenaut. Our acquaintance had begun a little time after my
arrival at the Hermitage, to which place he frequently came to see me. I
was already settled at Montmorency when he left it to go and reside at
Paris. He often saw Madam le Vasseur there. One day, when I least
expected anything of the kind, he wrote to me in behalf of that woman,
informing me that Grimm offered to maintain her, and to ask my permission
to accept the offer. This I understood consisted in a pension of three
hundred livres, and that Madam le Vasseur was to come and live at Deuil,
between the Chevrette and Montmorency. I will not say what impression
the application made on me. It would have been less surprising had Grimm
had ten thousand livres a year, or any relation more easy to comprehend
with that woman, and had not such a crime been made of my taking her to
the country, where, as if she had become younger, he was now pleased to
think of placing her. I perceived the good old lady had no other reason
for asking my permission, which she might easily have done without, but
the fear of losing what I already gave her, should I think ill of the
step she took. Although this charity appeared to be very extraordinary,
it did not strike me so much then as afterwards. But had I known even
everything I have since discovered, I should still as readily have given
my consent as I did and was obliged to do, unless I had exceeded the
offer of M. Grimm. Father Berthier afterwards cured me a little of my
opinion of his good nature and cordiality, with which I had so
unthinkingly charged him.

This same Father Berthier was acquainted with two men, who, for what
reason I know not, were to become so with me; there was but little
similarity between their taste and mine. They were the children of
Melchisedec, of whom neither the country nor the family was known, no
more than, in all probability, the real name. They were Jansenists, and
passed for priests in disguise, perhaps on account of their ridiculous
manner of wearing long swords, to which they appeared to have been
fastened. The prodigious mystery in all their proceedings gave them the
appearance of the heads of a party, and I never had the least doubt of
their being the authors of the 'Gazette Ecclesiastique'. The one, tall,
smooth-tongued, and sharping, was named Ferrand; the other, short, squat,
a sneerer, and punctilious, was a M. Minard. They called each other
cousin. They lodged at Paris with D'Alembert, in the house of his nurse
named Madam Rousseau, and had taken at Montmorency a little apartment to
pass the summers there. They did everything for themselves, and had
neither a servant nor runner; each had his turn weekly to purchase
provisions, do the business of the kitchen, and sweep the house. They
managed tolerably well, and we sometimes ate with each other. I know not
for what reason they gave themselves any concern about me: for my part,
my only motive for beginning an acquaintance with them was their playing
at chess, and to make a poor little party I suffered four hours' fatigue.
As they thrust themselves into all companies, and wished to intermeddle
in everything, Theresa called them the gossips, and by this name they
were long known at Montmorency.

Such, with my host M. Mathas, who was a good man, were my principal
country acquaintance. I still had a sufficient number at Paris to live
there agreeably whenever I chose it, out of the sphere of men of letters,
amongst whom Duclos, was the only friend I reckoned: for De Levre was
still too young, and although, after having been a witness to the
manoeuvres of the philosophical tribe against me, he had withdrawn from
it, at least I thought so, I could not yet forget the facility with which
he made himself the mouthpiece of all the people of that description.

In the first place I had my old and respectable friend Roguin. This was
a good old-fashioned friend for whom I was not indebted to my writings
but to myself, and whom for that reason I have always preserved. I had
the good Lenieps, my countryman, and his daughter, then alive, Madam
Lambert. I had a young Genevese, named Coindet, a good creature,
careful, officious, zealous, who came to see me soon after I had gone to
reside at the Hermitage, and, without any other introducer than himself,
had made his way into my good graces. He had a taste for drawing, and
was acquainted with artists. He was of service to me relative to the
engravings of the New Eloisa; he undertook the direction of the drawings
and the plates, and acquitted himself well of the commission.

I had free access to the house of M. Dupin, which, less brilliant than in
the young days of Madam Dupin, was still, by the merit of the heads of
the family, and the choice of company which assembled there, one of the
best houses in Paris. As I had not preferred anybody to them, and had
separated myself from their society to live free and independent, they
had always received me in a friendly manner, and I was always certain of
being well received by Madam Dupin. I might even have counted her
amongst my country neighbors after her establishment at Clichy, to which
place I sometimes went to pass a day or two, and where I should have been
more frequently had Madam Dupin and Madam de Chenonceaux been upon better
terms. But the difficulty of dividing my time in the same house between
two women whose manner of thinking was unfavorable to each other, made
this disagreeable: however I had the pleasure of seeing her more at my
ease at Deuil, where, at a trifling distance from me, she had taken a
small house, and even at my own habitation, where she often came to see

I had likewise for a friend Madam de Crequi, who, having become devout,
no longer received D'Alembert, Marmontel, nor a single man of letters,
except, I believe the Abbe Trublet, half a hypocrite, of whom she was
weary. I, whose acquaintance she had sought lost neither her good wishes
nor intercourse. She sent me young fat pullets from Mons, and her
intention was to come and see me the year following had not a journey,
upon which Madam de Luxembourg determined, prevented her. I here owe her
a place apart; she will always hold a distinguished one in my

In this list I should also place a man whom, except Roguin, I ought to
have mentioned as the first upon it; my old friend and brother
politician, De Carrio, formerly titulary secretary to the embassy from
Spain to Venice, afterwards in Sweden, where he was charge des affaires,
and at length really secretary to the embassy from Spain at Paris. He
came and surprised me at Montmorency when I least expected him. He was
decorated with the insignia of a Spanish order, the name of which I have
forgotten, with a fine cross in jewelry. He had been obliged, in his
proofs of nobility, to add a letter to his name, and to bear that of the
Chevalier de Carrion. I found him still the same man, possessing the
same excellent heart, and his mind daily improving, and becoming more and
more amiable. We would have renewed our former intimacy had not Coindet
interposed according to custom, taken advantage of the distance I was at
from town to insinuate himself into my place, and, in my name, into his
confidence, and supplant me by the excess of his zeal to render me

The remembrance of Carrion makes me recollect one of my country
neighbors, of whom I should be inexcusable not to speak, as I have to
make confession of an unpardonable neglect of which I was guilty towards
him: this was the honest M. le Blond, who had done me a service at
Venice, and, having made an excursion to France with his family, had
taken a house in the country, at Birche, not far from Montmorency.

[When I wrote this, full of my blind confidence, I was far from
suspecting the real motive and the effect of his journey to Paris.]

As soon as I heard he was my neighbor, I, in the joy of my heart, and
making it more a pleasure than a duty, went to pay him a visit. I set
off upon this errand the next day. I was met by people who were coming
to see me, and with whom I was obliged to return. Two days afterwards I
set off again for the same purpose: he had dined at Paris with all his
family. A third time he was at home: I heard the voice of women, and
saw, at the door, a coach which alarmed me. I wished to see him, at
least for the first time, quite at my ease, that we might talk over what
had passed during our former connection.

In fine, I so often postponed my visit from day to day, that the shame of
discharging a like duty so late prevented me from doing it at all; after
having dared to wait so long, I no longer dared to present myself. This
negligence, at which M. le Blond could not but be justly offended, gave,
relative to him, the appearance of ingratitude to my indolence, and yet I
felt my heart so little culpable that, had it been in my power to do M.
le Blond the least service, even unknown to himself, I am certain he
would not have found me idle. But indolence, negligence and delay in
little duties to be fulfilled have been more prejudicial to me than great
vices. My greatest faults have been omissions: I have seldom done what I
ought not to have done, and unfortunately it has still more rarely
happened that I have done what I ought.

Since I am now upon the subject of my Venetian acquaintance, I must not
forget one which I still preserved for a considerable time after my
intercourse with the rest had ceased. This was M. de Joinville, who
continued after his return from Genoa to show me much friendship. He was
fond of seeing me and of conversing with me upon the affairs of Italy,
and the follies of M. de Montaigu, of whom he of himself knew many
anecdotes, by means of his acquaintance in the office for foreign affairs
in which he was much connected. I had also the pleasure of seeing at my
house my old comrade Dupont who had purchased a place in the province of
which he was, and whose affairs had brought him to Paris. M. de
Joinville became by degrees so desirous of seeing me, that he in some
measure laid me under constraint; and, although our places of residence
were at a great distance from each other, we had a friendly quarrel when
I let a week pass without going to dine with him. When he went to
Joinville he was always desirous of my accompanying him; but having once
been there to pass a week I had not the least desire to return. M. de
Joinville was certainly an honest man, and even amiable in certain
respects but his understanding was beneath mediocrity; he was handsome,
rather fond of his person and tolerably fatiguing. He had one of the
most singular collections perhaps in the world, to which he gave much of
his attention and endeavored to acquire it that of his friends, to whom
it sometimes afforded less amusement than it did to himself. This was a
complete collection of songs of the court and Paris for upwards of fifty
years past, in which many anecdotes were to be found that would have been
sought for in vain elsewhere. These are memoirs for the history of
France, which would scarcely be thought of in any other country.

One day, whilst we were still upon the very best terms, he received me so
coldly and in a manner so different from that which was customary to him,
that after having given him an opportunity to explain, and even having
begged him to do it, I left his house with a resolution, in which I have
persevered, never to return to it again; for I am seldom seen where I
have been once ill received, and in this case there was no Diderot who
pleaded for M. de Joinville. I vainly endeavored to discover what I had
done to offend him; I could not recollect a circumstance at which he
could possibly have taken offence. I was certain of never having spoken
of him or his in any other than in the most honorable manner; for he had
acquired my friendship, and besides my having nothing but favorable
things to say of him, my most inviolable maxim has been that of never
speaking but in an honorable manner of the houses I frequented.

At length, by continually ruminating. I formed the following conjecture:
the last time we had seen each other, I had supped with him at the
apartment of some girls of his acquaintance, in company with two or three
clerks in the office of foreign affairs, very amiable men, and who had
neither the manner nor appearance of libertines; and on my part, I can
assert that the whole evening passed in making melancholy reflections on
the wretched fate of the creatures with whom we were. I did not pay
anything, as M. de Joinville gave the supper, nor did I make the girls
the least present, because I gave them not the opportunity I had done to
the padoana of establishing a claim to the trifle I might have offered,
We all came away together, cheerfully and upon very good terms. Without
having made a second visit to the girls, I went three or four days
afterwards to dine with M. de Joinville, whom I had not seen during that
interval, and who gave me the reception of which I have spoken. Unable
to suppose any other cause for it than some misunderstanding relative to
the supper, and perceiving he had no inclination to explain, I resolved
to visit him no longer, but I still continued to send him my works: he
frequently sent me his compliments, and one evening, meeting him in the
green-room of the French theatre, he obligingly reproached me with not
having called to see him, which, however, did not induce me to depart
from my resolution. Therefore this affair had rather the appearance of a
coolness than a rupture. However, not having heard of nor seen him since
that time, it would have been too late after an absence of several years,
to renew my acquaintance with him. It is for this reason M. de Joinville
is not named in my list, although I had for a considerable time
frequented his house.

I will not swell my catalogue with the names of many other persons with
whom I was or had become less intimate, although I sometimes saw them in
the country, either at my own house or that of some neighbor, such for
instance as the Abbes de Condillac and De Malby, M. de Mairan, De la
Lalive, De Boisgelou, Vatelet, Ancelet, and others. I will also pass
lightly over that of M. de Margency, gentleman in ordinary of the king,
an ancient member of the 'Coterie Holbachique', which he had quitted as
well as myself, and the old friend of Madam d'Epinay from whom he had
separated as I had done; I likewise consider that of M. Desmahis, his
friend, the celebrated but short-lived author of the comedy of the
Impertinent, of much the same importance. The first was my neighbor in
the country, his estate at Margency being near to Montmorency. We were
old acquaintances, but the neighborhood and a certain conformity of
experience connected us still more. The last died soon afterwards. He
had merit and even wit, but he was in some degree the original of his
comedy, and a little of a coxcomb with women, by whom he was not much

I cannot, however, omit taking notice of a new correspondence I entered
into at this period, which has had too much influence over the rest of my
life not to make it necessary for me to mark its origin. The person in
question is De Lamoignon de Malesherbes of the 'Cour des aides', then
censor of books, which office he exercised with equal intelligence and
mildness, to the great satisfaction of men of letters. I had not once
been to see him at Paris; yet I had never received from him any other
than the most obliging condescensions relative to the censorship, and I
knew that he had more than once very severely reprimanded persons who had
written against me. I had new proofs of his goodness upon the subject of
the edition of Eloisa. The proofs of so great a work being very
expensive from Amsterdam by post, he, to whom all letters were free,
permitted these to be addressed to him, and sent them to me under the
countersign of the chancellor his father. When the work was printed he
did not permit the sale of it in the kingdom until, contrary to my wishes
an edition had been sold for my benefit. As the profit of this would on
my part have been a theft committed upon Rey, to whom I had sold the
manuscript, I not only refused to accept the present intended me, without
his consent, which he very generously gave, but persisted upon dividing
with him the hundred pistoles (a thousand livres--forty pounds), the
amount of it but of which he would not receive anything. For these
hundred pistoles I had the mortification, against which M. de Malesherbes
had not guarded me, of seeing my work horribly mutilated, and the sale of
the good edition stopped until the bad one was entirely disposed of.

I have always considered M. de Malesherbes as a man whose uprightness was
proof against every temptation. Nothing that has happened has even made
me doubt for a moment of his probity; but, as weak as he is polite, he
sometimes injures those he wishes to serve by the excess of his zeal to
preserve them from evil. He not only retrenched a hundred pages in the
edition of Paris, but he made another retrenchment, which no person but
the author could permit himself to do, in the copy of the good edition he
sent to Madam de Pompadour. It is somewhere said in that work that the
wife of a coal-heaver is more respectable than the mistress of a prince.
This phrase had occurred to me in the warmth of composition without any
application. In reading over the work I perceived it would be applied,
yet in consequence of the very imprudent maxim I had adopted of not
suppressing anything, on account of the application which might be made,
when my conscience bore witness to me that I had not made them at the
time I wrote, I determined not to expunge the phrase, and contented
myself with substituting the word Prince to King, which I had first
written. This softening did not seem sufficient to M. de Malesherbes: he
retrenched the whole expression in a new sheet which he had printed on
purpose and stuck in between the other with as much exactness as possible
in the copy of Madam de Pompadour. She was not ignorant of this
manoeuvre. Some good-natured people took the trouble to inform her of
it. For my part, it was not until a long time afterwards, and when I
began to feel the consequences of it, that the matter came to my

Is not this the origin of the concealed but implacable hatred of another
lady who was in a like situation, without my knowing it, or even being
acquainted with her person when I wrote the passage? When the book was
published the acquaintance was made, and I was very uneasy. I mentioned
this to the Chevalier de Lorenzy, who laughed at me, and said the lady
was so little offended that she had not even taken notice of the matter.
I believed him, perhaps rather too lightly, and made myself easy when
there was much reason for my being otherwise.

At the beginning of the winter I received an additional mark of the
goodness of M. de Malesherbes of which I was very sensible, although I
did not think proper to take advantage of it. A place was vacant in the
'Journal des Savans'. Margency wrote to me, proposing to me the place,
as from himself. But I easily perceived from the manner of the letter
that he was dictated to and authorized; he afterwards told me he had been
desired to make me the offer. The occupations of this place were but
trifling. All I should have had to do would have been to make two
abstracts a month, from the books brought to me for that purpose, without
being under the necessity of going once to Paris, not even to pay the
magistrate a visit of thanks. By this employment I should have entered a
society of men of letters of the first merit; M. de Mairan, Clairaut, De
Guignes and the Abbe Barthelemi, with the first two of whom I had already
made an acquaintance, and that of the two others was very desirable. In
fine, for this trifling employment, the duties of which I might so
commodiously have discharged, there was a salary of eight hundred livres
(thirty-three pounds); I was for a few hours undecided, and this from a
fear of making Margency angry and displeasing M. de Malesherbes. But at
length the insupportable constraint of not having it in my power to work
when I thought proper, and to be commanded by time; and moreover the
certainty of badly performing the functions with which I was to charge
myself, prevailed over everything, and determined me to refuse a place
for which I was unfit. I knew that my whole talent consisted in a
certain warmth of mind with respect to the subjects of what I had to
treat, and that nothing but the love of that which was great, beautiful
and sublime, could animate my genius. What would the subjects of the
extracts I should have had to make from books, or even the books
themselves, have signified to me? My indifference about them would have
frozen my pen, and stupefied my mind. People thought I could make a
trade of writing, as most of the other men of letters did, instead of
which I never could write but from the warmth of imagination. This
certainly was not necessary for the 'Journal des Savans'. I therefore
wrote to Margency a letter of thanks, in the politest terms possible, and
so well explained to him my reasons, that it was not possible that either
he or M. de Malesherbes could imagine there was pride or ill-humor in my
refusal. They both approved of it without receiving me less politely,
and the secret was so well kept that it was never known to the public.

The proposition did not come in a favorable moment. I had some time
before this formed the project of quitting literature, and especially the
trade of an author. I had been disgusted with men of letters by
everything that had lately befallen me, and had learned from experience
that it was impossible to proceed in the same track without having some
connections with them. I was not much less dissatisfied with men of the
world, and in general with the mixed life I had lately led, half to
myself and half devoted to societies for which I was unfit. I felt more
than ever, and by constant experience, that every unequal association is
disadvantageous to the weaker person. Living with opulent people, and in
a situation different from that I had chosen, without keeping a house as
they did, I was obliged to imitate them in many things; and little
expenses, which were nothing to their fortunes, were for me not less
ruinous than indispensable. Another man in the country-house of a
friend, is served by his own servant, as well at table as in his chamber;
he sends him to seek for everything he wants; having nothing directly to
do with the servants of the house, not even seeing them, he gives them
what he pleases, and when he thinks proper; but I, alone, and without a
servant, was at the mercy of the servants of the house, of whom it was
necessary to gain the good graces, that I might not have much to suffer;
and being treated as the equal of their master, I was obliged to treat
them accordingly, and better than another would have done, because, in
fact, I stood in greater need of their services. This, where there are
but few domestics, may be complied with; but in the houses I frequented
there were a great number, and the knaves so well understood their
interests that they knew how to make me want the services of them all
successively. The women of Paris, who have so much wit, have no just
idea of this inconvenience, and in their zeal to economize my purse they
ruined me. If I supped in town, at any considerable distance from my
lodgings, instead of permitting me to send for a hackney coach, the
mistress of the house ordered her horses to be put to and sent me home in
her carriage. She was very glad to save me the twenty-four sous
(shilling) for the fiacre, but never thought of the half-crown I gave to
her coachman and footman. If a lady wrote to me from Paris to the Hermit
age or to Montmorency, she regretted the four sous (two pence) the
postage of the letter would have cost me, and sent it by one of her
servants, who came sweating on foot, and to whom I gave a dinner and half
a crown, which he certainly had well earned. If she proposed to me to
pass with her a week or a fortnight at her country-house, she still said
to herself, "It will be a saving to the poor man; during that time his
eating will cost him nothing." She never recollected that I was the
whole time idle, that the expenses of my family, my rent, linen and
clothes were still going on, that I paid my barber double that it cost me
more being in her house than in my own, and although I confined my
little largesses to the house in which I customarily lived, that these
were still ruinous to me. I am certain I have paid upwards of twenty-
five crowns in the house of Madam d'Houdetot, at Raubonne, where I never
slept more than four or five times, and upwards of a thousand livres
(forty pounds) as well at Epinay as at the Chevrette, during the five or
six years I was most assiduous there. These expenses are inevitable to a
man like me, who knows not how to provide anything for himself, and
cannot support the sight of a lackey who grumbles and serves him with a
sour look. With Madam Dupin, even where I was one of the family, and in
whose house I rendered many services to the servants, I never received
theirs but for my money. In course of time it was necessary to renounce
these little liberalities, which my situation no longer permitted me to
bestow, and I felt still more severely the inconvenience of associating
with people in a situation different from my own.

Had this manner of life been to my taste, I should have been consoled for
a heavy expense, which I dedicated to my pleasures; but to ruin myself at
the same time that I fatigued my mind, was insupportable, and I had so
felt the weight of this, that, profiting by the interval of liberty I
then had, I was determined to perpetuate it, and entirely to renounce
great companies, the composition of books, and all literary concerns, and
for the remainder of my days to confine myself to the narrow and peaceful
sphere in which I felt I was born to move.

The produce of this letter to D'Alembert, and of the New Elosia, had a
little improved the state of my finances, which had been considerably
exhausted at the Hermitage. Emilius, to which, after I had finished
Eloisa, I had given great application, was in forwardness, and the
produce of this could not be less than the sum of which I was already in
possession. I intended to place this money in such a manner as to
produce me a little annual income, which, with my copying, might be
sufficient to my wants without writing any more. I had two other works
upon the stocks. The first of these was my 'Institutions Politiques'.
I examined the state of this work, and found it required several years'
labor. I had not courage enough to continue it, and to wait until it was
finished before I carried my intentions into execution. Therefore,
laying the book aside, I determined to take from it all I could, and to
burn the rest; and continuing this with zeal without interrupting
Emilius, I finished the 'Contrat Social'.

The dictionary of music now remained. This was mechanical, and might be
taken up at any time; the object of it was entirely pecuniary. I
reserved to myself the liberty of laying it aside, or of finishing it at
my ease, according as my other resources collected should render this
necessary or superfluous. With respect to the 'Morale Sensitive',
of which I had made nothing more than a sketch, I entirely gave it up.

As my last project, if I found I could not entirely do without copying,
was that of removing from Paris, where the affluence of my visitors
rendered my housekeeping expensive, and deprived me of the time I should
have turned to advantage to provide for it; to prevent in my retirement
the state of lassitude into which an author is said to fall when he has
laid down his pen, I reserved to myself an occupation which might fill up
the void in my solitude without tempting me to print anything more.
I know not for what reason they had long tormented me to write the
memoirs of my life. Although these were not until that time interesting
as to the facts, I felt they might become so by the candor with which I
was capable of giving them, and I determined to make of these the only
work of the kind, by an unexampled veracity, that, for once at least, the
world might see a man such as he internally was. I had always laughed at
the false ingenuousness of Montaigne, who, feigning to confess his
faults, takes great care not to give himself any, except such as are
amiable; whilst I, who have ever thought, and still think myself,
considering everything, the best of men, felt there is no human being,
however pure he maybe, who does not internally conceal some odious vice.
I knew I was described to the public very different from what I really
was, and so opposite, that notwithstanding my faults, all of which I was
determined to relate, I could not but be a gainer by showing myself in my
proper colors. This, besides, not being to be done without setting forth
others also in theirs and the work for the same reason not being of a
nature to appear during my lifetime, and that of several other persons,
I was the more encouraged to make my confession, at which I should never
have to blush before any person. I therefore resolved to dedicate my
leisure to the execution of this undertaking, and immediately began to
collect such letters and papers as might guide or assist my memory,
greatly regretting the loss of all I had burned, mislaid and destroyed.

The project of absolute retirement, one of the most reasonable I had ever
formed, was strongly impressed upon my mind, and for the execution of it
I was already taking measures, when Heaven, which prepared me a different
destiny, plunged me into a another vortex.

Montmorency, the ancient and fine patrimony of the illustrious family of
that name, was taken from it by confiscation. It passed by the sister of
Duke Henry, to the house of Conde, which has changed the name of
Montmorency to that of Enguien, and the duchy has no other castle than an
old tower, where the archives are kept, and to which the vassals come to
do homage. But at Montmorency, or Enguien, there is a private house,
built by Crosat, called 'le pauvre', which having the magnificence of the
most superb chateaux, deserves and bears the name of a castle. The
majestic appearance of this noble edifice, the view from it, not equalled
perhaps in any country; the spacious saloon, painted by the hand of a
master; the garden, planted by the celebrated Le Notre; all combined to
form a whole strikingly majestic, in which there is still a simplicity
that enforces admiration. The Marechal Duke de Luxembourg who then
inhabited this house, came every year into the neighborhood where
formerly his ancestors were the masters, to pass, at least, five or six
weeks as a private inhabitant, but with a splendor which did not
degenerate from the ancient lustre of his family. On the first journey
he made to it after my residing at Montmorency, he and his lady sent to
me a valet de chambre, with their compliments, inviting me to sup with
them as often as it should be agreeable to me; and at each time of their
coming they never failed to reiterate the same compliments and
invitation. This called to my recollection Madam Beuzenval sending me to
dine in the servants' hall. Times were changed; but I was still the same
man. I did not choose to be sent to dine in the servants' hall, and was
but little desirous of appearing at the table of the great I should have
been much better pleased had they left me as I was, without caressing me
and rendering me ridiculous. I answered politely and respectfully to
Monsieur and Madam de Luxembourg, but I did not accept their offers, and
my indisposition and timidity, with my embarrassment in speaking; making
me tremble at the idea alone of appearing in an assembly of people of the
court. I did not even go to the castle to pay a visit of thanks,
although I sufficiently comprehended this was all they desired, and that
their eager politeness was rather a matter of curiosity than benevolence.

However, advances still were made, and even became more pressing.
The Countess de Boufflers, who was very intimate with the lady of the
marechal, sent to inquire after my health, and to beg I would go and see
her. I returned her a proper answer, but did not stir from my house.
At the journey of Easter, the year following, 1759, the Chevalier de
Lorenzy, who belonged to the court of the Prince of Conti, and was
intimate with Madam de Luxembourg, came several times to see me, and we
became acquainted; he pressed me to go to the castle, but I refused to
comply. At length, one afternoon, when I least expected anything of the
kind, I saw coming up to the house the Marechal de Luxembourg, followed
by five or six persons. There was now no longer any means of defence;
and I could not, without being arrogant and unmannerly, do otherwise than
return this visit, and make my court to Madam la Marechale, from whom the
marechal had been the bearer of the most obliging compliments to me.
Thus, under unfortunate auspices, began the connections from which I
could no longer preserve myself, although a too well-founded foresight
made me afraid of them until they were made.

I was excessively afraid of Madam de Luxembourg. I knew, she was amiable
as to manner. I had seen her several times at the theatre, and with the
Duchess of Boufflers, and in the bloom of her beauty; but she was said to
be malignant; and this in a woman of her rank made me tremble. I had
scarcely seen her before I was subjugated. I thought her charming, with
that charm proof against time and which had the most powerful action upon
my heart. I expected to find her conversation satirical and full of
pleasantries and points. It was not so; it was much better. The
conversation of Madam de Luxembourg is not remarkably full of wit; it has
no sallies, nor even finesse; it is exquisitely delicate, never striking,
but always pleasing. Her flattery is the more intoxicating as it is
natural; it seems to escape her involuntarily, and her heart to overflow
because it is too full. I thought I perceived, on my first visit, that
notwithstanding my awkward manner and embarrassed expression, I was not
displeasing to her. All the women of the court know how to persuade us
of this when they please, whether it be true or not, but they do not all,
like Madam de Luxembourg, possess the art of rendering that persuasion so
agreeable that we are no longer disposed ever to have a doubt remaining.
From the first day my confidence in her would have been as full as it
soon afterwards became, had not the Duchess of Montmorency, her daughter-
in-law, young, giddy, and malicious also, taken it into her head to
attack me, and in the midst of the eulogiums of her mamma, and feigned
allurements on her own account, made me suspect I was only considered by
them as a subject of ridicule.

It would perhaps have been difficult to relieve me from this fear with
these two ladies had not the extreme goodness of the marechal confirmed
me in the belief that theirs was not real. Nothing is more surprising,
considering my timidity, than the promptitude with which I took him at
his word on the footing of equality to which he would absolutely reduce
himself with me, except it be that with which he took me at mine with
respect to the absolute independence in which I was determined to live.
Both persuaded I had reason to be content with my situation, and that I
was unwilling to change it, neither he nor Madam de Luxembourg seemed to
think a moment of my purse or fortune; although I can have no doubt of
the tender concern they had for me, they never proposed to me a place nor
offered me their interest, except it were once, when Madam de Luxembourg
seemed to wish me to become a member of the French Academy. I alleged my
religion; this she told me was no obstacle, or if it was one she engaged
to remove it. I answered, that however great the honor of becoming a
member of so illustrious a body might be, having refused M. de Tressan,
and, in some measure, the King of Poland, to become a member of the
Academy at Nancy, I could not with propriety enter into any other. Madam
de Luxembourg did not insist, and nothing more was said upon the subject.
This simplicity of intercourse with persons of such rank, and who had the
power of doing anything in my favor, M. de Luxembourg being, and highly
deserving to be, the particular friend of the king, affords a singular
contrast with the continual cares, equally importunate and officious, of
the friends and protectors from whom I had just separated, and who
endeavored less to serve me than to render me contemptible.

When the marechal came to see me at Mont Louis, I was uneasy at receiving
him and his retinue in my only chamber; not because I was obliged to make
them all sit down in the midst of my dirty plates and broken pots, but on
account of the state of the floor, which was rotten and falling to ruin,
and I was afraid the weight of his attendants would entirely sink it.
Less concerned on account of my own danger than for that to which the
affability of the marechal exposed him, I hastened to remove him from it
by conducting him, notwithstanding the coldness of the weather, to my
alcove, which was quite open to the air, and had no chimney. When he was
there I told him my reason for having brought him to it; he told it to
his lady, and they both pressed me to accept, until the floor was
repaired, a lodging of the castle; or, if I preferred it, in a separate
edifice called the Little Castle which was in the middle of the park.
This delightful abode deserves to be spoken of.

The park or garden of Montmorency is not a plain, like that of the
Chevrette. It is uneven, mountainous, raised by little hills and
valleys, of which the able artist has taken advantage; and thereby varied
his groves, ornaments, waters, and points of view, and, if I may so
speak, multiplied by art and genius a space in itself rather narrow.
This park is terminated at the top by a terrace and the castle; at bottom
it forms a narrow passage which opens and becomes wider towards the
valley, the angle of which is filled up with a large piece of water.
Between the orangery, which is in this widening, and the piece of water,
the banks of which are agreeably decorated, stands the Little Castle of
which I have spoken. This edifice, and the ground about it, formerly
belonged to the celebrated Le Brun, who amused himself in building and
decorating it in the exquisite taste of architectual ornaments which that
great painter had formed to himself. The castle has since been rebuilt,
but still, according to the plan and design of its first master. It is
little and simple, but elegant. As it stands in a hollow between the
orangery and the large piece of water, and consequently is liable to be
damp, it is open in the middle by a peristyle between two rows of
columns, by which means the air circulating throughout the whole edifice
keeps it dry, notwithstanding its unfavorable situation. When the
building is seen from the opposite elevation, which is a point of view,
it appears absolutely surrounded with water, and we imagine we have
before our eyes an enchanted island, or the most beautiful of the three
Boromeans, called Isola Bella, in the greater lake.

In this solitary edifice I was offered the choice of four complete
apartments it contains, besides the ground floor, consisting of a dancing
room, billiard room and a kitchen. I chose the smallest over the
kitchen, which also I had with it. It was charmingly neat, with blue and
white furniture. In this profound and delicious solitude, in the midst
of the woods, the singing of birds of every kind, and the perfume of
orange flowers, I composed, in a continual ecstasy, the fifth book of
Emilius, the coloring of which I owe in a great measure to the lively
impression I received from the place I inhabited.

With what eagerness did I run every morning at sunrise to respire the
perfumed air in the peristyle! What excellent coffee I took there tete-
a-tete with my Theresa. My cat and dog were our company. This retinue
alone would have been sufficient for me during my whole life, in which I
should not have had one weary moment. I was there in a terrestrial
paradise; I lived in innocence and tasted of happiness.

At the journey of July, M. and Madam de Luxembourg showed me so much
attention, and were so extremely kind, that, lodged in their house, and
overwhelmed with their goodness, I could not do less than make them a
proper return in assiduous respect near their persons; I scarcely quitted
them; I went in the morning to pay my court to Madam la Marechale; after
dinner I walked with the marechal; but did not sup at the castle on
account of the numerous guests, and because they supped too late for me.
Thus far everything was as it should be, and no harm would have been done
could I have remained at this point. But I have never known how to
preserve a medium in my attachments, and simply fulfil the duties of
society. I have ever been everything or nothing. I was soon everything;
and receiving the most polite attention from persons of the highest rank,
I passed the proper bounds, and conceived for them a friendship not
permitted except among equals. Of these I had all the familiarity in my
manners, whilst they still preserved in theirs the same politeness to
which they had accustomed me. Yet I was never quite at my ease with
Madam de Luxembourg. Although I was not quite relieved from my fears
relative to her character, I apprehended less danger from it than from
her wit. It was by this especially that she impressed me with awe.
I knew she was difficult as to conversation, and she had a right to be
so. I knew women, especially those of her rank, would absolutely be
amused, that it was better to offend than to weary them, and I judged by
her commentaries upon what the people who went away had said what she
must think of my blunders. I thought of an expedient to spare me with
her the embarrassment of speaking; this was reading. She had heard of my
Eloisa, and knew it was in the press; she expressed a desire to see the
work; I offered to read it to her, and she accepted my offer. I went to
her every morning at ten o'clock; M. de Luxembourg was present, and the
door was shut. I read by the side of her bed, and so well proportioned
my readings that there would have been sufficient for the whole time she
had to stay, had they even not been interrupted.

[The loss of a great battle, which much afflicted the King,
obliged M. de Luxembourg precipitately to return to court.]

The success of this expedient surpassed my expectation. Madam de
Luxembourg took a great liking to Julia and the author; she spoke of
nothing but me, thought of nothing else, said civil things to me from
morning till night, and embraced me ten times a day. She insisted on me
always having my place by her side at table, and when any great lords
wished it she told them it was mine, and made them sit down somewhere
else. The impression these charming manners made upon me, who was
subjugated by the least mark of affection, may easily be judged of.
I became really attached to her in proportion to the attachment she
showed me. All my fear in perceiving this infatuation, and feeling the
want of agreeableness in myself to support it, was that it would be
changed into disgust; and unfortunately this fear was but too well

There must have been a natural opposition between her turn of mind and
mine, since, independently of the numerous stupid things which at every
instant escaped me in conversation, and even in my letters, and when I
was upon the best terms with her, there were certain other things with
which she was displeased without my being able to imagine the reason.
I will quote one instance from among twenty. She knew I was writing for
Madam d'Houdetot a copy of the New Eloisa. She was desirous to have one
on the same footing. This I promised her, and thereby making her one of
my customers, I wrote her a polite letter upon the subject, at least such
was my intention. Her answer, which was as follows, stupefied me with


"I am ravished, I am satisfied: your letter has given me infinite
pleasure, and I take the earliest moment to acquaint you with, and thank
you for it.

"These are the exact words of your letter: 'Although you are certainly a
very good customer, I have some pain in receiving your money: according
to regular order I ought to pay for the pleasure I should have in working
for you.' I will say nothing more on the subject. I have to complain of
your not speaking of your state of health: nothing interests me more.
I love you with all my heart: and be assured that I write this to you in
a very melancholy mood, for I should have much pleasure in telling it to
you myself. M. de Luxembourg loves and embraces you with all his heart.

"On receiving the letter I hastened to answer it, reserving to myself more
fully to examine the matter, protesting against all disobliging
interpretation, and after having given several days to this examination
with an inquietude which may easily be conceived, and still without being
able to discover in what I could have erred, what follows was my final
answer on the subject.

"MONTMORENCY, 8th December, 1759.

"Since my last letter I have examined a hundred times the passage in
question. I have considered it in its proper and natural meaning, as
well as in every other which may be given to it, and I confess to you,
madam, that I know not whether it be I who owe to you excuses, or you
from whom they are due to me."

It is now ten years since these letters were written. I have since that
time frequently thought of the subject of them; and such is still my
stupidity that I have hitherto been unable to discover what in the
passages, quoted from my letter, she could find offensive, or even

I must here mention, relative to the manuscript copy of Eloisa Madam de
Luxembourg wished to have, in what manner I thought to give it some
marked advantage which should distinguish it from all others. I had
written separately the adventures of Lord Edward, and had long been
undetermined whether I should insert them wholly, or in extracts, in the
work in which they seemed to be wanting. I at length determined to
retrench them entirely, because, not being in the manner of the rest,
they would have spoiled the interesting simplicity, which was its
principal merit. I had still a stronger reason when I came to know Madam
de Luxembourg: There was in these adventures a Roman marchioness, of a
bad character, some parts of which, without being applicable, might have
been applied to her by those to whom she was not particularly known.
I was therefore, highly pleased with the determination to which I had
come, and resolved to abide by it. But in the ardent desire to enrich
her copy with something which was not in the other, what should I fall
upon but these unfortunate adventures, and I concluded on making an
extract from them to add to the work; a project dictated by madness, of
which the extravagance is inexplicable, except by the blind fatality
which led me on to destruction.

'Quos vult perdere Jupiter dementet.'

I was stupid enough to make this extract with the greatest care and
pains, and to send it her as the finest thing in the world; it is true,
I at the same time informed her the original was burned, which was really
the case, that the extract was for her alone, and would never be seen,
except by herself, unless she chose to show it; which, far from proving,
to her my prudence and discretion, as it was my intention to do, clearly
intimated what I thought of the application by which she might be
offended. My stupidity was such, that I had no doubt of her being
delighted with what I had done. She did not make me the compliment upon
it which I expected, and, to my great surprise, never once mentioned the
paper I had sent her. I was so satisfied with myself, that it was not
until a long time afterwards, I judged, from other indications, of the
effect it had produced.

I had still, in favor of her manuscript, another idea more reasonable,
but which, by more distant effects, has not been much less prejudicial to
me; so much does everything concur with the work of destiny, when that
hurries on a man to misfortune. I thought of ornamenting the manuscript
with the engravings of the New Eloisa, which were of the same size. I
asked Coindet for these engravings, which belonged to me by every kind of
title, and the more so as I had given him the produce of the plates,
which had a considerable sale. Coindet is as cunning as I am the
contrary. By frequently asking him for the engravings he came to the
knowledge of the use I intended to make of them. He then, under pretence
of adding some new ornament, still kept them from me; and at length
presented them himself.

'Ego versiculos feci, tulit alter honores.'

This gave him an introduction upon a certain footing to the Hotel de
Luxembourg. After my establishment at the little castle he came rather
frequently to see me, and always in the morning, especially when M. and
Madam de Luxembourg were at Montmorency. Therefore that I might pass the
day with him, I did not go the castle. Reproaches were made me on
account of my absence; I told the reason of them. I was desired to bring
with me M. Coindet; I did so. This was, what he had sought after.
Therefore, thanks to the excessive goodness M. and Madam de Luxembourg
had for me, a clerk to M. Thelusson, who was sometimes pleased to give
him his table when he had nobody else to dine with him, was suddenly
placed at that of a marechal of France, with princes, duchesses, and
persons of the highest rank at court. I shall never forget, that one day
being obliged to return early to Paris, the marechal said, after dinner,
to the company, "Let us take a walk upon the road to St. Denis, and we
will accompany M. Coindet." This was too much for the poor man; his head
was quite turned. For my part, my heart was so affected that I could not
say a word. I followed the company, weeping like a child, and having the
strongest desire to kiss the foot of the good marechal; but the
continuation of the history of the manuscript has made me anticipate.
I will go a little back, and, as far as my memory will permit, mark each
event in its proper order.

As soon as the little house of Mont Louis was ready, I had it neatly
furnished and again established myself there. I could not break through
the resolution I had made on quitting the Hermitage of always having my
apartment to myself; but I found a difficulty in resolving to quit the
little castle. I kept the key of it, and being delighted with the
charming breakfasts of the peristyle, frequently went to the castle to
sleep, and stayed three or four days as at a country-house. I was at
that time perhaps better and more agreeably lodged than any private
individual in Europe. My host, M. Mathas, one of the best men in the
world, had left me the absolute direction of the repairs at Mont Louis,
and insisted upon my disposing of his workmen without his interference.
I therefore found the means of making of a single chamber upon the first
story, a complete set of apartments consisting of a chamber, antechamber,
and a water closet. Upon the ground-floor was the kitchen and the
chamber of Theresa. The alcove served me for a closet by means of a
glazed partition and a chimney I had made there. After my return to this
habitation, I amused myself in decorating the terrace, which was already
shaded by two rows of linden trees; I added two others to make a cabinet
of verdure, and placed in it a table and stone benches: I surrounded it
with lilies, syringa and woodbines, and had a beautiful border of flowers
parallel with the two rows of trees. This terrace, more elevated than
that of the castle, from which the view was at least as fine, and where I
had tamed a great number of birds, was my drawing-room, in which I
received M. and Madam de Luxembourg, the Duke of Villeroy, the Prince of
Tingry, the Marquis of Armentieres, the Duchess of Montmorency, the
Duchess of Bouffiers, the Countess of Valentinois, the Countess of
Boufflers, and other persons of the first rank; who, from the castle
disdained not to make, over a very fatiguing mountain, the pilgrimage of
Mont Louis. I owed all these visits to the favor of M. and Madam de
Luxembourg; this I felt, and my heart on that account did them all due
homage. It was with the same sentiment that I once said to M. de
Luxembourg, embracing him: "Ah! Monsieur le Marechal, I hated the great
before I knew you, and I have hated them still more since you have shown
me with what ease they might acquire universal respect." Further than
this I defy any person with whom I was then acquainted, to say I was ever
dazzled for an instant with splendor, or that the vapor of the incense I
received ever affected my head; that I was less uniform in my manner,
less plain in my dress, less easy of access to people of the lowest rank,
less familiar with neighbors, or less ready to render service to every
person when I had it in my power so to do, without ever once being
discouraged by the numerous and frequently unreasonable importunities
with which I was incessantly assailed.

Although my heart led me to the castle of Montmorency, by my sincere
attachment to those by whom it was inhabited, it by the same means drew
me back to the neighborhood of it, there to taste the sweets of the equal
and simple life, in which my only happiness consisted. Theresa had
contracted a friendship with the daughter of one of my neighbors, a mason
of the name of Pilleu; I did the same with the father, and after having
dined at the castle, not without some constraint, to please Madam de
Luxembourg, with what eagerness did I return in the evening to sup with
the good man Pilleu and his family, sometimes at his own house and at
others, at mine.

Besides my two lodgings in the country, I soon had a third at the Hotel
de Luxembourg, the proprietors of which pressed me so much to go and see
them there, that I consented, notwithstanding my aversion to Paris,
where, since my retiring to the Hermitage, I had been but twice, upon the
two occasions of which I have spoken. I did not now go there except on
the days agreed upon, solely to supper, and the next morning I returned
to the country. I entered and came out by the garden which faces the
boulevard, so that I could with the greatest truth, say I had not set my
foot upon the stones of Paris.

In the midst of this transient prosperity, a catastrophe, which was to be
the conclusion of it, was preparing at a distance. A short time after my
return to Mont Louis, I made there, and as it was customary, against my
inclination, a new acquaintance, which makes another era in my private
history. Whether this be favorable or unfavorable, the reader will
hereafter be able to judge. The person with whom I became acquainted was
the Marchioness of Verdelin, my neighbor, whose husband had just bought
a country-house at Soisy, near Montmorency. Mademoiselle d'Ars, daughter
to the Comte d'Ars, a man of fashion, but poor, had married M. de
Verdelin, old, ugly, deaf, uncouth, brutal, jealous, with gashes in his
face, and blind of one eye, but, upon the whole, a good man when properly
managed, and in possession of a fortune of from fifteen to twenty
thousand a year. This charming object, swearing, roaring, scolding,
storming, and making his wife cry all day long, ended by doing whatever
she thought proper, and this to set her in a rage, because she knew how
to persuade him that it was he who would, and she would not have it so.
M. de Margency, of whom I have spoken, was the friend of madam, and
became that of monsieur. He had a few years before let them his castle
of Margency, near Eaubonne and Andilly, and they resided there precisely
at the time of my passion for Madam d'Houdetot. Madam d'Houdetot and
Madam de Verdelin became acquainted with each other, by means of Madam
d'Aubeterre their common friend; and as the garden of Margency was in the
road by which Madam d'Houdetot went to Mont Olympe, her favorite walk,
Madam de Verdelin gave her a key that she might pass through it. By
means of this key I crossed it several times with her; but I did not like
unexpected meetings, and when Madam de Verdelin was by chance upon our
way I left them together without speaking to her, and went on before.
This want of gallantry must have made on her an impression unfavorable to
me. Yet when she was at Soisy she was anxious to have my company. She
came several times to see me at Mont Louis, without finding me at home,
and perceiving I did not return her visit, took it into her head, as a
means of forcing me to do it, to send me pots of flowers for my terrace.
I was under the necessity of going to thank her; this was all she wanted,
and we thus became acquainted.

This connection, like every other I formed; or was led into contrary to
my inclination, began rather boisterously. There never reigned in it a
real calm. The turn of mind of Madam de Verdelinwas too opposite to
mine. Malignant expressions and pointed sarcasms came from her with so
much simplicity, that a continual attention too fatiguing for me was
necessary to perceive she was turning into ridicule the person to whom
she spoke. One trivial circumstance which occurs to my recollection will
be sufficient to give an idea of her manner. Her brother had just
obtained the command of a frigate cruising against the English. I spoke
of the manner of fitting out this frigate without diminishing its
swiftness of sailing. "Yes," replied she, in the most natural tone of
voice, "no more cannon are taken than are necessary for fighting."
I seldom have heard her speak well of any of her absent friends without
letting slip something to their prejudice. What she did not see with an
evil eye she looked upon with one of ridicule, and her friend Margency
was not excepted. What I found most insupportable in her was the
perpetual constraint proceeding from her little messages, presents and
billets, to which it was a labor for me to answer, and I had continual
embarrassments either in thanking or refusing. However, by frequently
seeing this lady I became attached to her. She had her troubles as well
as I had mine. Reciprocal confidence rendered our conversations
interesting. Nothing so cordially attaches two persons as the
satisfaction of weeping together. We sought the company of each other
for our reciprocal consolation, and the want of this has frequently made
me pass over many things. I had been so severe in my frankness with her,
that after having sometimes shown so little esteem for her character, a
great deal was necessary to be able to believe she could sincerely
forgive me.

The following letter is a specimen of the epistles I sometimes wrote to
her, and it is to be remarked that she never once in any of her answers
to them seemed to be in the least degree piqued.

MONTMORENCY, 5th November, 1760.

"You tell me, madam, you have not well explained yourself, in order to
make me understand I have explained myself ill. You speak of your
pretended stupidity for the purpose of making me feel my own. You boast
of being nothing more than a good kind of woman, as if you were afraid to
being taken at your word, and you make me apologies to tell me I owe them
to you. Yes, madam, I know it; it is I who am a fool, a good kind of
man; and, if it be possible, worse than all this; it is I who make a bad
choice of my expressions in the opinion of a fine French lady, who pays
as much attention to words, and speak as well as you do. But consider
that I take them in the common meaning of the language without knowing or
troubling my head about the polite acceptations in which they are taken
in the virtuous societies of Paris. If my expressions are sometimes
equivocal, I endeavored by my conduct to determine their meaning," etc.
The rest of the letter is much the same.

Coindet, enterprising, bold, even to effrontery, and who was upon the
watch after all my friends, soon introduced himself in my name to the
house of Madam de Verdelin, and, unknown to me, shortly became there more
familiar than myself. This Coindet was an extraordinary man. He
presented himself in my name in the houses of all my acquaintance, gained
a footing in them, and eat there without ceremony. Transported with zeal
to do me service, he never mentioned my name without his eyes being
suffused with tears; but, when he came to see me, he kept the most
profound silence on the subject of all these connections, and especially
on that in which he knew I must be interested. Instead of telling me
what he had heard, said, or seen, relative to my affairs, he waited for
my speaking to him, and even interrogated me. He never knew anything of
what passed in Paris, except that which I told him: finally, although
everybody spoke to me of him, he never once spoke to me of any person; he
was secret and mysterious with his friend only; but I will for the
present leave Coindet and Madam de Verdelin, and return to them at a
proper time.

Sometime after my return to Mont Louis, La Tour, the painter, came to see
me, and brought with him my portrait in crayons, which a few years before
he had exhibited at the salon. He wished to give me this portrait, which
I did not choose to accept. But Madam d'Epinay, who had given me hers,
and would have had this, prevailed upon me to ask him for it. He had
taken some time to retouch the features. In the interval happened my
rupture with Madam d'Epinay; I returned her her portrait; and giving her
mine being no longer in question, I put it into my chamber, in the
castle. M. de Luxembourg saw it there, and found it a good one; I
offered it him, he accepted it, and I sent it to the castle. He and his
lady comprehended I should be very glad to have theirs. They had them
taken in miniature by a very skilful hand, set in a box of rock crystal,
mounted with gold, and in a very handsome manner, with which I was
delighted, made me a present of both. Madam de Luxenbourg would never
consent that her portrait should be on the upper part of the box. She
had reproached me several times with loving M. de Luxembourg better than
I did her; I had not denied it because it was true. By this manner of
placing her portrait she showed very politely, but very clearly, she had
not forgotten the preference.

Much about this time I was guilty of a folly which did not contribute to
preserve me to her good graces. Although I had no knowledge of M. de
Silhoutte, and was not much disposed to like him, I had a great opinion
of his administration. When he began to let his hand fall rather heavily
upon financiers, I perceived he did not begin his operation in a
favorable moment, but he had my warmest wishes for his success; and as
soon as I heard he was displaced I wrote to him, in my intrepid, heedless
manner, the following letter, which I certainly do not undertake to

MONTMORENCY, 2d December, 1759.

"Vouchsafe, sir, to receive the homage of a solitary man, who is not
known to you, but who esteems you for your talents, respects you for your
administration, and who did you the honor to believe you would not long
remain in it. Unable to save the State, except at the expense of the
capital by which it has been ruined, you have braved the clamors of the
gainers of money. When I saw you crush these wretches, I envied you your
place; and at seeing you quit it without departing from your system,
I admire you. Be satisfied with yourself, sir; the step you have taken
will leave you an honor you will long enjoy without a competitor. The
malediction of knaves is the glory of an honest man."

Madam de Luxembourg, who knew I had written this letter, spoke to me of
it when she came into the country at Easter. I showed it to her and she
was desirous of a copy; this I gave her, but when I did it I did not know
she was interested in under-farms, and the displacing of M. de Silhoutte.
By my numerous follies any person would have imagined I wilfully
endeavored to bring on myself the hatred of an amiable woman who had
power, and to whom, in truth, I daily became more attached, and was far
from wishing to occasion her displeasure, although by my awkward manner
of proceeding, I did everything proper for that purpose. I think it
superfluous to remark here, that it is to her the history of the opiate
of M. Tronchin, of which I have spoken in the first part of my memoirs,
relates; the other lady was Madam de Mirepoix. They have never mentioned
to me the circumstance, nor has either of them, in the least, seemed to
have preserved a remembrance of it; but to presume that Madam de
Luxembourg can possibly have forgotten it appears to me very difficult,
and would still remain so, even were the subsequent events entirely
unknown. For my part, I fell into a deceitful security relative to the
effects of my stupid mistakes, by an internal evidence of my not having
taken any step with an intention to offend; as if a woman could ever
forgive what I had done, although she might be certain the will had not
the least part in the matter.

Although she seemed not to see or feel anything, and that I did not
immediately find either her warmth of friendship diminished or the least
change in her manner, the continuation and even increase of a too well
founded foreboding made me incessantly tremble, lest disgust should
succeed to infatuation. Was it possible for me to expect in a lady of
such high rank, a constancy proof against my want of address to support
it? I was unable to conceal from her this secret foreboding, which made
me uneasy, and rendered me still more disagreeable. This will be judged
of by the following letter, which contains a very singular prediction.

N. B. This letter, without date in my rough copy, was written in
October, 1760, at latest.

"How cruel is your goodness? Why disturb the peace of a solitary mortal
who had renounced the pleasures of life, that he might no longer suffer
the fatigues of them. I have passed my days in vainly searching for
solid attachments. I have not been able to form any in the ranks to
which I was equal; is it in yours that I ought to seek for them? Neither
ambition nor interest can tempt me: I am not vain, but little fearful; I
can resist everything except caresses. Why do you both attack me by a
weakness which I must overcome, because in the distance by which we are
separated, the over-flowings of susceptible hearts cannot bring mine near
to you? Will gratitude be sufficient for a heart which knows not two
manners of bestowing its affections, and feels itself incapable of
everything except friendship? Of friendship, madam la marechale! Ah!
there is my misfortune! It is good in you and the marechal to make use
of this expression; but I am mad when I take you at your word. You amuse
yourselves, and I become attached; and the end of this prepares for me
new regrets. How I do hate all your titles, and pity you on account of
your being obliged to bear them? You seem to me to be so worthy of
tasting the charms of private life! Why do not you reside at Clarens?
I would go there in search of happiness; but the castle of Montmorency,
and the Hotel de Luxembourg! Is it in these places Jean Jacques ought to
be seen? Is it there a friend to equality ought to carry the affections
of a sensible heart, and who thus paying the esteem in which he is held,
thinks he returns as much as he receives? You are good and susceptible
also: this I know and have seen; I am sorry I was not sooner convinced of
it; but in the rank you hold, in the manner of living, nothing can make a
lasting impression; a succession of new objects efface each other so that
not one of them remains. You will forget me, madam, after having made it
impossible for me to imitate, you. You have done a great deal to make me
unhappy, to be inexcusable."

I joined with her the marechal, to render the compliment less severe; for
I was moreover so sure of him, that I never had a doubt in my mind of the
continuation of his friendship. Nothing that intimidated me in madam la
marechale, ever for a moment extended to him. I never have had the least
mistrust relative to his character, which I knew to be feeble, but
constant. I no more feared a coldness on his part than I expected from
him an heroic attachment. The simplicity and familiarity of our manners
with each other proved how far dependence was reciprocal. We were both
always right: I shall ever honor and hold dear the memory of this worthy
man, and, notwithstanding everything that was done to detach him from me,
I am as certain of his having died my friend as if I had been present in
his last moments.

At the second journey to Montmorency, in the year 1760, the reading of
Eloisa being finished, I had recourse to that of Emilius, to support
myself in the good graces of Madam de Luxembourg; but this, whether the
subject was less to her taste; or that so much reading at length fatigued
her, did not succeed so well. However, as she reproached me with
suffering myself to be the dupe of booksellers, she wished me to leave to
her care the printing the work, that I might reap from it a greater
advantage. I consented to her doing it, on the express condition of its
not being printed in France, on which we had along dispute; I affirming
that it was impossible to obtain, and even imprudent to solicit, a tacit
permission; and being unwilling to permit the impression upon any other
terms in the kingdom; she, that the censor could not make the least
difficulty, according to the system government had adopted. She found
means to make M. de Malesherbes enter into her views. He wrote to me on
the subject a long letter with his own hand, to prove the profession of
faith of the Savoyard vicar to be a composition which must everywhere
gain the approbation of its readers and that of the court, as things were
then circumstanced. I was surprised to see this magistrate, always so
prudent, become so smooth in the business, as the printing of a book was
by that alone legal, I had no longer any objection to make to that of the
work. Yet, by an extraordinary scruple, I still required it should be
printed in Holland, and by the bookseller Neaulme, whom, not satisfied
with indicating him, I informed of my wishes, consenting the edition
should be brought out for the profit of a French bookseller, and that as
soon as it was ready it should be sold at Paris, or wherever else it
might be thought proper, as with this I had no manner of concern. This
is exactly what was agreed upon between Madam de Luxembourg and myself,
after which I gave her my manuscript.

Madam de Luxembourg was this time accompanied by her granddaughter
Mademoiselle de Boufflers, now Duchess of Lauzun. Her name was Amelia.
She was a charming girl. She really had a maiden beauty, mildness and
timidity. Nothing could be more lovely than her person, nothing more
chaste and tender than the sentiments she inspired. She was, besides,
still a child under eleven years of age. Madam de Luxembourg, who
thought her too timid, used every endeavor to animate her. She permitted
me several times to give her a kiss, which I did with my usual
awkwardness. Instead of saying flattering things to her, as any other
person would have done, I remained silent and disconcerted, and I know
not which of the two, the little girl or myself, was most ashamed.

I met her one day alone in the staircase of the little castle. She had
been to see Theresa, with whom her governess still was. Not knowing what
else to say, I proposed to her a kiss, which, in the innocence of her
heart, she did not refuse; having in the morning received one from me by
order of her grandmother, and in her presence. The next day, while
reading Emilius by the side of the bed of Madam de Luxembourg, I came to
a passage in which I justly censure that which I had done the preceding
evening. She thought the reflection extremely just, and said some very
sensible things upon the subject which made me blush. How was I enraged
at my incredible stupidity, which has frequently given me the appearance
of guilt when I was nothing more than a fool and embarrassed!
A stupidity, which in a man known to be endowed with some wit, is
considered as a false excuse. I can safely swear that in this kiss, as
well as in the others, the heart and thoughts of Mademoiselle Amelia were
not more pure than my own, and that if I could have avoided meeting her I
should have done it; not that I had not great pleasure in seeing her, but
from the embarrassment of not finding a word proper to say. Whence comes
it that even a child can intimidate a man, whom the power of kings has
never inspired with fear? What is to be done? How, without presence of
mind, am I to act? If I strive to speak to the persons I meet,
I certainly say some stupid thing to them; if I remain silent, I am a
misanthrope, an unsociable animal, a bear. Total imbecility would have
been more favorable to me; but the talents which I have failed to improve
in the world have become the instruments of my destruction, and of that
of the talents I possessed.

At the latter end of this journey, Madam de Luxembourg did a good action
in which I had some share. Diderot having very imprudently offended the
Princess of Robeck, daughter of M. de Luxembourg, Palissot, whom she
protected, took up the quarrel, and revenged her by the comedy of 'The
Philosophers', in which I was ridiculed, and Diderot very roughly
handled. The author treated me with more gentleness, less, I am of
opinion, on account of the obligation he was under to me, than from the
fear of displeasing the father of his protectress, by whom he knew I was
beloved. The bookseller Duchesne, with whom I was not at that time
acquainted, sent me the comedy when it was printed, and this I suspect
was by the order of Palissot, who, perhaps, thought I should have a
pleasure in seeing a man with whom I was no longer connected defamed.
He was greatly deceived. When I broke with Diderot, whom I thought less
ill-natured than weak and indiscreet, I still always preserved for his
person an attachment, an esteem even, and a respect for our ancient
friendship, which I know was for a long time as sincere on his part as on
mine. The case was quite different with Grimm; a man false by nature,
who never loved me, who is not even capable of friendship, and a person
who, without the least subject of complaint, and solely to satisfy his
gloomy jealousy, became, under the mask of friendship, my most cruel
calumniator. This man is to me a cipher; the other will always be my old

My very bowels yearned at the sight of this odious piece: the reading of
it was insupportable to me, and, without going through the whole, I
returned the copy to Duchesne with the following letter:

MONTMORENCY, 21st, May, 1760.

"In casting my eyes over the piece you sent me, I trembled at seeing
myself well spoken of in it. I do not accept the horrid present. I am
persuaded that in sending it me, you did not intend an insult; but you do
not know, or have forgotten, that I have the honor to be the friend of a
respectable man, who is shamefully defamed and calumniated in this

Duchense showed the letter. Diderot, upon whom it ought to have had an
effect quite contrary, was vexed at it. His pride could not forgive me
the superiority of a generous action, and I was informed his wife
everywhere inveighed against me with a bitterness with which I was not in
the least affected, as I knew she was known to everybody to be a noisy

Diderot in his turn found an avenger in the Abbe Morrellet, who wrote
against Palissot a little work, imitated from the 'Petit Prophete',
and entitled the Vision. In this production he very imprudently offended
Madam de Robeck, whose friends got him sent to the Bastile; though she,
not naturally vindictive, and at that time in a dying state, I am certain
had nothing to do with the affair.

D'Alembert, who was very intimately connected with Morrellet, wrote me a
letter, desiring I would beg of Madam de Luxembourg to solicit his
liberty, promising her in return encomiums in the 'Encyclopedie';
my answer to this letter was as follows:

"I did not wait the receipt of your letter before I expressed to Madam de
Luxembourg the pain the confinement of the Abbe Morrellet gave me. She
knows my concern, and shall be made acquainted with yours, and her
knowing that the abbe is a man of merit will be sufficient to make her
interest herself in his behalf. However, although she and the marechal
honor me with a benevolence which is my greatest consolation, and that
the name of your friend be to them a recommendation in favor of the Abbe
Morrellet, I know not how far, on this occasion, it may be proper for
them to employ the credit attached to the rank they hold, and the
consideration due to their persons. I am not even convinced that the
vengeance in question relates to the Princess Robeck so much as you seem
to imagine; and were this even the case, we must not suppose that the
pleasure of vengeance belongs to philosophers exclusively, and that when
they choose to become women, women will become philosophers.

"I will communicate to you whatever Madam de Luxembourg may say to me
after having shown her your letter. In the meantime, I think I know her
well enough to assure you that, should she have the pleasure of
contributing to the enlargement of the Abbe Morrellet, she will not
accept the tribute of acknowledgment you promise her in the Encyclopedie,
although she might think herself honored by it, because she does not do
good in the expectation of praise, but from the dictates of her heart."

I made every effort to excite the zeal and commiseration of Madam de
Luxembourg in favor of the poor captive, and succeeded to my wishes.
She went to Versailles on purpose to speak to M. de St. Florentin, and
this journey shortened the residence at Montmorency, which the marechal
was obliged to quit at the same time to go to Rouen, whither the king
sent him as governor of Normandy, on account of the motions of the
parliament, which government wished to keep within bounds. Madam de
Luxembourg wrote me the following letter the day after her departure:

VERSAILLES, Wednesday.

"M. de Luxembourg set off yesterday morning at six o'clock. I do not yet
know that I shall follow him. I wait until he writes to me, as he is not
yet certain of the stay it will be necessary for him to make. I have
seen M. de St. Florentin, who is as favorably disposed as possible
towards the Abbe Morrellet; but he finds some obstacles to his wishes
which however, he is in hopes of removing the first time he has to do
business with the king, which will be next week. I have also desired as
a favor that he might not be exiled, because this was intended; he was to
be sent to Nancy. This, sir, is what I have been able to obtain; but I
promise you I will not let M. de St. Florentin rest until the affair is
terminated in the manner you desire. Let me now express to you how sorry
I am on account of my being obliged to leave you so soon, of which I
flatter myself you have not the least doubt. I love you with all my
heart, and shall do so for my whole life."

A few days afterwards I received the following note from D'Alembert,
which gave me real joy.

August 1st.

"Thanks to your cares, my dear philosopher, the abbe has left the
Bastile, and his imprisonment will have no other consequence. He is
setting off for the country, and, as well as myself, returns you a
thousand thanks and compliments. 'Vale et me ama'."

The abbe also wrote to me a few days afterwards a letter of thanks, which
did not, in my opinion, seem to breathe a certain effusion of the heart,
and in which he seemed in some measure to extenuate the service I had
rendered him. Some time afterwards, I found that he and D'Alembert had,
to a certain degree, I will not say supplanted, but succeeded me in the
good graces of Madam de Luxembourg, and that I Had lost in them all they
had gained. However, I am far from suspecting the Abbe Morrellet of
having contributed to my disgrace; I have too much esteem for him to
harbor any such suspicion. With respect to D'Alembert, I shall at
present leave him out of the question, and hereafter say of him what may
seem necessary.

I had, at the same time, another affair which occasioned the last letter
I wrote to Voltaire; a letter against which he vehemently exclaimed, as
an abominable insult, although he never showed it to any person. I will
here supply the want of that which he refused to do.

The Abbe Trublet, with whom I had a slight acquaintance, but whom I had
but seldom seen, wrote to me on the 13th of June, 1760, informing me that
M. Formey, his friend and correspondent, had printed in his journal my
letter to Voltaire upon the disaster at Lisbon. The abbe wished to know
how the letter came to be printed, and in his jesuitical manner, asked me
my opinion, without giving me his own on the necessity of reprinting it.
As I most sovereignly hate this kind of artifice and strategem, I
returned such thanks as were proper, but in a manner so reserved as to
make him feel it, although this did not prevent him from wheedling me in
two or three other letters until he had gathered all he wished to know.

I clearly understood that, not withstanding all Trublet could say, Formey
had not found the letter printed, and that the first impression of it
came from himself. I knew him to be an impudent pilferer, who, without
ceremony, made himself a revenue by the works of others. Although he had
not yet had the incredible effrontery to take from a book already
published the name of the author, to put his own in the place of it, and
to sell the book for his own profit.

[In this manner he afterwards appropriated to himself Emilius.]

But by what means had this manuscript fallen into his hands? That was a
question not easy to resolve, but by which I had the weakness to be
embarrassed. Although Voltaire was excessively honored by the letter,
as in fact, notwithstanding his rude proceedings, he would have had a
right to complain had I had it printed without his consent, I resolved to
write to him upon the subject. The second letter was as follows, to
which he returned no answer, and giving greater scope to his brutality,
he feigned to be irritated to fury.

MONTMORENCY, 17th June, 1760.

"I did not think, sir, I should ever have occasion to correspond with
you. But learning the letter I wrote to you in 1756 had been printed at
Berlin, I owe you an account of my conduct in that respect, and will
fulfil this duty with truth and simplicity.

"The letter having really been addressed to you was not intended to be
printed. I communicated the contents of it, on certain conditions, to
three persons, to whom the right of friendship did not permit me to
refuse anything of the kind, and whom the same rights still less
permitted to abuse my confidence by betraying their promise. These
persons are Madam de Chenonceaux, daughter-in-law to Madam Dupin, the
Comtesse d'Houdetot, and a German of the name of Grimm. Madam de
Chenonceaux was desirous the letter should be printed, and asked my
consent. I told her that depended upon yours. This was asked of you
which you refused, and the matter dropped.

"However, the Abbe Trublet, with whom I have not the least connection,
has just written to me from a motive of the most polite attention that
having received the papers of the journal of M. Formey, he found in them
this same letter with an advertisement, dated on the 23d of October,
1759, in which the editor states that he had a few weeks before found it
in the shops of the booksellers of Berlin, and, as it is one of those


Back to Full Books