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Autobiographical, Scientific, Religious, Moral, and Literary Writings

Jean Rousseau

Publication Year: 2013

Newcomers to Rousseau's works and those who are familiar with his writings will find something to surprise them both in this wide variety of short pieces from every period of his life.

Among the important theoretical writings found here are the "Fiction or Allegorical Fragment on Revelation" and the "Moral Letters," which are among Rousseau's clearest statements about the nature and limits of philosophic reasoning. In the early "Idea of a Method for the Composition of a Book," Rousseau lays out in advance his understanding of how to present his ideas to the public. He ponders the possibilities for and consequences of air travel in "The New Daedalus." This volume also contains both his first and last autobiographical statements.

Some of these writings show Rousseau's lesser-known playful side. A comic fairy tale, "Queen Whimsical", explores the consequences--both serious and ridiculous--for a kingdom when the male heir to the throne, endowed with the frivolous characteristics of his mother, has a sister with all the characteristics of a good monarch. When Rousseau was asked whether a fifty-year old man could write love letters to a young woman without appearing ridiculous, he responded with "Letters to Sophie," which attempt to demonstrate that such a man could write as many as four--but not as many as six--letters before he became a laughingstock. In "The Banterer," he challenges readers to guess whether the work they are reading was written by an author who is "wisely mad" or by one who is "madly wise." When Rousseau was challenged to write a merry tale, "without intrigue, without love, without marriage, and without lewdness," he produced a work considered too daring to be published in France.

Published by: Dartmouth College Press

Series: Collected Writings of Rousseau

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vii

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pp. ix-x

Although Jean-Jacques Rousseau is a significant figure in the Western tradition, there is no standard edition of his major writings available in English. Moreover, unlike those of other thinkers of comparable stature, many of Rousseau’s important works have never been translated or have become unavailable. The ...

Chronology of Works in Volume 12

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pp. xi-xiii

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pp. xv-xxv

It is very common to divide Rousseau’s life into two parts with the “illumination” that led to the writing of the Discourse on the Sciences and the Arts marking the dividing point. The first part can be seen as a sort of picaresque novel in which Rousseau wandered around Europe in an extremely unsettled life of ...

Note on the Text

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p. xxvii-xxvii

Autobiographical Writings

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Autobiographical Poems

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pp. 3-21

In the past I had the misfortune of refusing some verses to persons whom I honor and whom I respect infinitely, because I had already forbidden myself to write any. I dare to hope, nevertheless, that the ones that I am publishing today will not oVend them, and I believe I can say, without too much subtlety, that they are the work of my heart and ...

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The Banterer

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pp. 22-29

As soon as I was informed that the writers who had been charged with examining new works, had, by various accidents, successively resigned their employment, I took it into my head that I could replace them extremely well, and since I do not have ...

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Biographical Fragment

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pp. 30-35

How many prejudices and errors and evils did I begin to notice in everything that causes men’s admiration, this view touched me with pain and inflamed my courage, I believed that I felt myself animated by a finer zeal than that of amour-propre, I took up the pen and, having resolved to forget myself, I consecrated ...

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My Portrait

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pp. 36-44

Readers, I willingly think about myself and I am speaking as I think. Dispense yourself then from reading this preface if you do not like any-I am approaching the end of life and I have not done any good on earth. I have good intentions, but it is not always as easy as one thinks to ...

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Response to the Letters Written from the Mountain, Published at Geneva, under this title: Sentiment of the Citizens

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pp. 45-49

I am sending you Sir, a Piece printed and made public at Geneva and which I am urging you to print and publish in Paris, so as to put the Public in a condition to hear the two Parties, while waiting for the other more crush-ing Responses that are being prepared against me at Geneva. This one is by M. Vernes, Minister of the ...

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Notes for the Reveries

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pp. 50-56

In order to fulfill the title of this collection well I should have begun sixty years ago: for my entire life has hardly been anything but a long reverie divided into chapters by my walks each day. I begin it today, even though ...

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On the Art of Enjoying and Other Fragments

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pp. 57-61

Consumed by an incurable illness that is dragging me with slow steps toward the tomb, I often turn an interested eye toward the course of life I am leaving and, without groaning about finding its end, I would willingly begin it again. Yet, what have I experienced during that interval that deserves my attachment? Dependency, errors, vain ...

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Various Writings

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pp. 62-71

J.J. Rousseau begs all those with whom he had some relations, it does not matter whether they are friends or enemies provided that they love justice and truth, to declare whether they have ever heard him boast di-rectly or indirectly about having refused some pensions or benefits either from any Prince or from any private individual. If he has said this to ...

Writings on Science

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Course on Geography

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pp. 75-83

Geography is a Science that treats the knowledge of the terrestrial Globe, and that teaches the position of all regions, with regard to each other and in relation to the Heavens. The word, Geography, comes from Greek, and signifies precisely, description of the earth. This Science contains ...

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Response to the Anonymous Memorandum

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pp. 84-90

Sir, Attracted by the title of your memorandum, I read it with all the voracity of a man who has been impatiently waiting for several years along with all of Europe for the result of those famous voyages undertaken by several members of the Royal Academy of sciences under the auspices of the most magnificent ...

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Memorandum Presented to M.de Mably on the Education of M. his Son

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pp. 91-115

Sir, you have done me the honor of entrusting me with the instruction of Messieurs your Children and; it is up to me to respond to this with all my efforts2 and with the entire extent of the little enlightenment that I might have, and to do so I believed that my first object should be to be well acquainted with the ...

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Plan for the Education of Monsieur de Sainte-Marie

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pp. 116-129

Sir, you have done me the honor of entrusting me with the instruction of Messieurs your children and; it is up to me to answer for this by all my eVorts and by the entire extent of the enlightenment that I might have, and for that I believed that my first object ought to have been to be well acquainted with the ...

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Rousseau to the abbé Guillaume-Thomas-François Raynal

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pp. 130-133

I believe, Sir, that it will give you pleasure to see the enclosed extract from a letter from Stockholm which the person to whom it is addressed charged me to ask you to insert in the Mercury. Its object is of the utmost importance for men’s lives; and the more excessive the public’s negligence is in this respect, the more enlightened ...

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Treatise on the Sphere

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pp. 134-146

In order to know how to act, let us learn how to think. To know how to think is the most universal talent of human life. It is by it alone that one can make good use for oneself of fortune, other people, and oneself. All things being equal, the one who thinks the best is the closest to happiness. To think is to have ideas ...

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The New Daedalus

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pp. 146-154

It is a spectacle worthy of admiration to see men risking their lives in the midst of the seas, and give themselves over to the most dreadful of the elements with so much assurance that entire armies go into action, put themselves into order, make their maneuvers, and fight at two or three hundred leagues from land ...

Writings on Religion and Morality

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Fragments on God and Revelation

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pp. 157-161

We all believe we are persuaded of the existence of a God; nevertheless it is inconceivable for us to reconcile this persuasion with the principles upon which we regulate our behavior in this life. The idea of God is inseparable from the ideas of eternal, infinite in intelligence, in wisdom, in justice, and in power. It would be ...

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Memorandum Delivered April 19, 1742, to Monsignor Boudet, Antonine

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pp. 162-164

With the intention of not omitting any of the considerable facts in M. de Bernex’s history that can serve to put his Christian virtues in all their clarity, one could not forget the conversion of Madame the Baronne de Warens de la Tour, which was the work of this prelate.2 In the month of July of the Year 1726, the King of Sardinia Being at Evian, numerous ...

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Fiction or Allegorical Fragment on Revelation

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pp. 165-173

It was during a fine Summer night that the first man who attempted to philosophize, having abandoned himself to a deep and delightful reverie and being guided by that involuntary enthusiasm that sometimes transports the soul out of its abode and makes it embrace the entire universe so to speak, dared to ...

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Fragment on the Infinite Power of God

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p. 174-174

Why does the sublime produce such a great effect? It is because this simplicity in great things makes one assume that they are familiar to the one who is speaking, and that they have nothing extraordinary for him. Nothing better proclaims an infinite power, than such ease at doing what surpasses human ...

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Moral Letters

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pp. 175-203

Come, my dear and worthy friend, listen to the voice of the one who loves you;2 it is not at all, you know, that of a vile seducer; if my heart ever went astray in wishes about which you have made me blush, at least my mouth did not attempt to justify my going astray,3 reason dressed up4 in sophisms did not lend its service to the error;5 humiliated vice ...

Notes on Helvétius’s On the Mind

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pp. 204-212

Literary Works

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Queen Whimsical

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pp. 215-227

This little Tale, written in the past and on a sort of dare,* had not yet been printed at all as far as I know. Seven or eight years ago several of M. Rousseau’s friends had copies that multiplied in Paris and the provinces; one of the less dis-figured ones fell into my hands. I do not believe that the author will be annoyed with me for publishing a folly already well known and which he turned over to ...

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The Loves of Claire and Marcellin

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pp. 228-233

In the village of Orival in Dauphiné resided a Farmer who was quite well-off2 named Germon. This Country Fellow had an only child named Marcellin: A young man happily born and of a merit all the more true since he had not received the cosmetic of education. Sorry at having only him, his Father wanted to marry ...

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The Little Savoyard; or, The Life of Claude Noyer

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pp. 234-237

I was born in the mountains of Savoy. My Father was a good Country Fellow rich enough to live at his ease2 in his station, too poor to be exposed to the torments of covetousness, for one cannot desire very ardently what one judges to be impossible to acquire: happy not only at having what was necessary, but above ...

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On Eloquence

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p. 238-238

You ask why at certain times eloquence falls into corruption, and how it happens that minds throw themselves into bad taste . . . why for ex-ample bold and excessive figures of speech sometimes please—and that at other times people like brusque and equivocal speeches that leave more to be understood than they say . . . why some times have been seen in ...

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Idea of Method in the Composition of a Book

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pp. 239-243

When one undertakes to write a work, one has already found the sub-ject and at least a part of the substance, so that it is a question only of en-larging upon it and giving it the organization most suited to convincing and to pleasing. This part, which also includes the style, is the one that ordinarily determines the work’s success and the Author’s reputation; it ...

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Lexicological Remarks

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p. 244-244

Danger risk peril. The first word is vague and is applied to all sorts of inconveniences. The last, more precise, is hardly said except about danger to one’s person and when it reaches the life or even worse, for it will be extremely well said of a sick person that his life is in ...

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On Women

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pp. 245-246

Another subject of admiration2 for me is the air of confidence with which we make the brilliant enumeration of all the great men that History has celebrated in order to put them into parallel with the small number of Heroines whom it has deigned to remember, and we believe we find our advantage very well in this comparison. Ah, Gentlemen, let3 the ...

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A Household on rue Saint-Denis

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p. 247-247

In Paris I saw a woman who was very much the most wicked Prude of the whole rue St. Denis and whose husband passed for the neighborhood Saint; when they had some quarrel together, which happened rather frequently, the wife spewed out torrents of insults against her husband with frightful shouts and this uproar lasted for two to three hours and ...

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Essay on the Important Events of Which Women Have Been the Secret Cause

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pp. 248-249

I am not claiming to speak here about all the affairs that women have4 managed by themselves, either by virtue of their birth, or even by virtue of the posts to which their merit and their talents had raised them, I shall limit myself solely to giving some idea of the memorable events the production of which peoples have attributed to the most sublime5 causes ...

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Advice to a Curate

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pp. 250-251

Finally, my dear abbé, now you are a Curate: I rejoice at it with all my heart and am charmed to have been for you Vates2 in all regards. Believe, I beg you, that my friendship is proof against fortune. In spite of my disdain3 for titles and for the fools that bear them, in spite of my hatred for everything that is called positions4 and for the scoundrels who ...

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Funeral Oration for His Most Serene Highness Monseigneur The Duke of Orléans

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pp. 252-263

The profane Writers tell us that a powerful King,2 considering with pride the imposing and large Army he was commanding, nevertheless shed tears, upon considering that in a few years, out of so many thousands of men, not a single one would remain alive. Doubtless he was right to grieve: For a Pagan, death could only...

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Letters to Sara

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pp. 264-270

It will not be hard to understand how a sort of dare could have caused these four letters to be written. Someone asked whether it was possible for a half-century-old lover not to make people laugh. It seemed to me that one could be caught by surprise at any age, that a Greybeard could even write as many as four ...

Remarks on the Letters on the English and the French

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pp. 271-274

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Various Fragments

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pp. 275-286

You did not at all want to be my protectors, my patrons, but my con-solers and my true friends; and I, I did not address praises to you at all M. the Mareschal and Mme. the Mareschale, receive with kindness this homage from my heart; and may my writings, victors over time, transmit to other ages this monument of ...


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pp. 287-327


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pp. 329-332

E-ISBN-13: 9781611682823
E-ISBN-10: 1611682827
Print-ISBN-13: 9781584655992

Page Count: 364
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: Trans. from the French
Series Title: Collected Writings of Rousseau