Confessions of J. J. Rousseau HTML version

Leaving the service of Madam de Vercellis nearly as I had entered it, I returned to my
former hostess, and remained there five or six weeks; during which time health, youth,
and laziness, frequently rendered my temperament importunate. I was restless, absent,
and thoughtful: I wept and sighed for a happiness I had no idea of, though at the same
time highly sensible of some deficiency. This situation is indescribable, few men can
even form any conception of it, because, in general, they have prevented that plenitude of
life, at once tormenting and delicious. My thoughts were incessantly occupied with girls
and women, but in a manner peculiar to myself: these ideas kept my senses in a perpetual
and disagreeable activity, though, fortunately, they did not point out the means of
deliverance. I would have given my life to have met with a Miss Goton, but the time was
past in which the play of infancy predominated; increase of years had introduced shame,
the inseparable companion of a conscious deviation from rectitude, which so confirmed
my natural timidity as to render it invincible; and never, either at that time or since, could
I prevail on myself to offer a proposition favorable to my wishes (unless in a manner
constrained to it by previous advances) even with those whose scruples I had no cause to
My stay at Madam de Vercellis's had procured me some acquaintance, which I thought
might be serviceable to me, and therefore wished to retain. Among others, I sometimes
visited a Savoyard abbe, M. Gaime, who was tutor to the Count of Melarede's children.
He was young, and not much known, but possessed an excellent cultivated
understanding, with great probity, and was, altogether, one of the best men I ever knew.
He was incapable of doing me the service I then stood most in need of, not having
sufficient interest to procure me a situation, but from him I reaped advantages far more
precious, which have been useful to me through life, lessons of pure morality, and
maxims of sound judgment.
In the successive order of my inclinations and ideas, I had ever been too high or too low.
Achilles or Thersites; sometimes a hero, at others a villain. M. Gaime took pains to make
me properly acquainted with myself, without sparing or giving me too much
discouragement. He spoke in advantageous terms of my disposition and talents, adding,
that he foresaw obstacles which would prevent my profiting by them; thus, according to
him, they were to serve less as steps by which I should mount to fortune, than as
resources which might enable me to exist without one. He gave me a true picture of
human life, of which, hitherto, I had formed but a very erroneous idea, teaching me, that
a man of understanding, though destined to experience adverse fortune, might, by skilful
management, arrive at happiness; that there was no true felicity without virtue, which was
practicable in every situation. He greatly diminished my admiration of grandeur, by
proving that those in a superior situation are neither better nor happier than those they
command. One of his maxims has frequently returned to my memory: it was, that if we
could truly read the hearts of others we should feel more inclination to descend than rise:
this reflection, the truth of which is striking without extravagance, I have found of great
utility, in the various exigences of my life, as it tended to make me satisfied with my