Confessions of J. J. Rousseau HTML version

It was, I believe, in 1732, that I arrived at Chambery, as already related, and began my
employment of registering land for the king. I was almost twenty-one, my mind well
enough formed for my age, with respect to sense, but very deficient in point of judgment,
and needing every instruction from those into whose hands I fell, to make me conduct
myself with propriety; for a few years' experience had not been able to cure me radically
of my romantic ideas; and notwithstanding the ills I had sustained, I knew as little of the
world, or mankind, as if I had never purchased instruction. I slept at home, that is, at the
house of Madam de Warrens; but it was not as at Annecy: here were no gardens, no
brook, no landscape; the house was dark and dismal, and my apartment the most gloomy
of the whole. The prospect a dead wall, an alley instead of a street, confined air, bad light,
small rooms, iron bars, rats, and a rotten floor; an assemblage of circumstances that do
not constitute a very agreeable habitation; but I was in the same house with my best
friend, incessantly near her, at my desk, or in chamber, so that I could not perceive the
gloominess of my own, or have time to think of it. It may appear whimsical that she
should reside at Chambery on purpose to live in this disagreeable house; but it was a trait
of contrivance which I ought not to pass over in silence. She had no great inclination for a
journey to Turin, fearing that after the recent revolutions, and the agitation in which the
court yet was, she should not be very favorably received there; but her affairs seemed to
demand her presence, as she feared being forgotten or ill-treated, particularly as the
Count de Saint-Laurent, Intendent-general of the Finances, was not in her interest. He had
an old house in Chambery, ill-built, and standing in so disagreeable a situation that it was
always untenanted; she hired, and settled in this house, a plan that succeeded much better
than a journey to Turin would have done, for her pension was not suppressed, and the
Count de Saint-Laurent was ever after one of her best friends.
Her household was much on the old footing; her faithful Claude Anet still remained with
her. He was, as I have before mentioned, a peasant of Moutru, who in his childhood had
gathered herbs in Jura for the purpose of making Swiss tea; she had taken him into her
service for his knowledge of drugs, finding it convenient to have a herbalist among her
domestics. Passionately fond of the study of plants, he became a real botanist, and had he
not died young, might have acquired as much fame in that science as he deserved for
being an honest man. Serious even to gravity, and older than myself, he was to me a kind
of tutor, commanding respect, and preserving me from a number of follies, for I dared not
forget myself before him. He commanded it likewise from his mistress, who knew his
understanding, uprightness, and inviolable attachment to herself, and returned it. Claude
Anet was of an uncommon temper. I never encountered a similar disposition: he was
slow, deliberate, and circumspect in his conduct; cold in his manner; laconic and
sententious in his discourse; yet of an impetuosity in his passions, which (though careful
to conceal) preyed upon him inwardly, and urged him to the only folly he ever
committed; that folly, indeed was terrible, it was poisoning himself. This tragic scene
passed soon after my arrival, and opened my eyes to the intimacy that subsisted between
Claude Anet and his mistress, for had not the information come from her, I should never
have suspected it; yet, surely, if attachment, fidelity, and zeal, could merit such a