Confessions of J. J. Rousseau HTML version

After two years' silence and patience, and notwithstanding my resolutions, I again take up
my pen: Reader, suspend your judgment as to the reasons which force me to such a step:
of these you can be no judge until you shall have read my book.
My peaceful youth has been seen to pass away calmly and agreeably without any great
disappointments or remarkable prosperity. This mediocrity was mostly owing to my
ardent yet feeble nature, less prompt in undertaking than easy to discourage; quitting
repose for violent agitations, but returning to it from lassitude and inclinations, and
which, placing me in an idle and tranquil state for which alone I felt I was born, at a
distance from the paths of great virtues and still further from those of great vices, never
permitted me to arrive at anything great, either good or bad. What a different account will
I soon have to give of myself! Fate, which for thirty years forced my inclinations, for
thirty others has seemed to oppose them; and this continued opposition, between my
situation and inclinations, will appear to have been the source of enormous faults,
unheard of misfortunes, and every virtue except that fortitude which alone can do honor
to adversity.
The history of the first part of my life was written from memory, and is consequently full
of errors. As I am obliged to write the second part from memory also, the errors in it will
probably be still more numerous. The agreeable remembrance of the finest portion of my
years, passed with so much tranquillity and innocence, has left in my heart a thousand
charming impressions which I love incessantly to call to my recollection. It will soon
appear how different from these those of the rest of my life have been. To recall them to
my mind would be to renew their bitterness. Far from increasing that of my situation by
these sorrowful reflections, I repel them as much as possible, and in this endeavor often
succeed so well as to be unable to find them at will. This facility of forgetting my
misfortunes is a consolation which Heaven has reserved to me in the midst of those
which fate has one day to accumulate upon my head. My memory, which presents to me
no objects but such as are agreeable, is the happy counterpoise of my terrified
imagination, by which I foresee nothing but a cruel futurity.
All the papers I had collected to aid my recollection, and guide me in this undertaking,
are no longer in my possession, nor can I ever again hope to regain them.
I have but one faithful guide on which I can depend: this is the chain of the sentiments by
which the succession of my existence has been marked, and by these the events which
have been either the cause or the effect of the manner of it. I easily forget my
misfortunes, but I cannot forget my faults, and still less my virtuous sentiments. The
remembrance of these is too dear to me ever to suffer them to be effaced from my mind. I
may omit facts, transpose events, and fall into some errors of dates; but I cannot be
deceived in what I have felt, nor in that which from sentiment I have done; and to relate
this is the chief end of my present work. The real object of my confessions is to
communicate an exact knowledge of what I interiorly am and have been in every