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without sending me anything else, how rich and how grateful you would have made me; instead of that the pullets are eaten, and the best thing I can do is to forget all about them; let us say no more. Rude and repellent as this may seem, and as it is, there is a rough kind of playfulness about it, when compared with the truculence which he was not slow to exhibit to men. If a friend presumed to thank him for any service, he was peremptorily rebuked for his ignorance of the true qualities of friendship, with which thankfulness has no connection. He ostentatiously refused to offer thanks for services himself, even to a woman whom he always treated with so much consideration as the Maréchale de Luxembourg. He once declared boldly that modesty is a false virtue,” and though he did not go so far as to make gratitude the subject of a corresponding formula of denunciation, he always implied that this too is really one of the false virtues. He confessed to Malesherbes, without the slightest contrition, that he was ungrateful by nature. To Madame d'Epinay he once went still further, declaring that he found it hard not to hate those who had used him well.* Undoubtedly he was right so far as this, that gratitude answering to a spirit of exaction in a benefactor is no merit; a service done in expectation of gratitude is from that fact stripped of the quality which makes gratitude due, and is a mere piece of
Corr., ii. 63. Jan. 15, 1779.
Bernardin de St. Pierre, xii. 102.
egoism in altruistic disguise. Kindness in its genuine forms is a testimony of good feeling, and conventional speech is perhaps a little too hard, as well as too shallow and unreal, in calling the recipient evil names because he is unable to respond to the good feeling. Rousseau protested against a conception of friendship which makes of what ought to be disinterested helpfulness a title to everlasting tribute. His way of expressing this was harsh and unamiable, but it was not without an element of uprightness and veracity. As in his greater themes, so in his paradoxes upon private relations, he hid wholesome ingredients of rebuke to the unquestioning acceptance of common form. “I am well pleased,” he said to a friend, "both with thee and thy letters, except the end, where thou say'st thou art more mine than thine own. For there thou liest, and it is not worth while to take the trouble to thee and thou a man as thine intimate, only to tell him untruths."1 Chesterfield was for people with much self-love of the small sort, probably a more agreeable person to meet than Doctor Johnson, but Johnson was the more wholesome companion for
Occasionally, though not very often, he seems to have let spleen take the place of honest surliness, and so drifted into clumsy and ill-humoured banter, of a sort that gives a dreary shudder to one fresh from Voltaire. “So you have chosen for yourself a tender and virtuous mistress ! I am not surprised; all
· Corr., ii. 98. July 10, 1759.
mistresses are that. You have chosen her in Paris ! To find a tender and virtuous mistress in Paris is to have not such bad luck. You have made her a promise of marriage? My friend, you have made a blunder; for if you continue to love, the promise is superfluous, and if you do not, then it is no avail. You have signed it with your blood? That is all but tragic; but I don't know that the choice of the ink in which he writes, gives anything to the fidelity of the man who signs.”l
We can only add that the health in which a man writes may possibly excuse the dismal quality of what he writes, and that Rousseau was now as always the prey of bodily pain which, as he was conscious, made him distraught. “My sufferings are not very excru
' ciating just now," he wrote on a later occasion, “but they are incessant, and I am not out of pain a single moment day or night, and this quite drives me mad. I feel bitterly my wrong conduct and the baseness of my suspicions; but if anything can excuse me, it is my mournful state, my loneliness," and so on. This prolonged physical anguish, which was made more intense towards the end of 1761 by the accidental breaking of a surgical instrument, sometimes so nearly wore his fortitude away as to make him think of suicide. In Lord Edward's famous letter on suicide in the New Heloïsa, while denying in forcible terms the right of ending one's days merely to escape from
i Corr., ii. 106. Nov. 10, 1759. 3 Ib., ii. 268. Dec. 12, 1761.
2 Ib., ii. 179. Jan. 18, 1761. 4 Ib., ii. 28. Dec. 23, 1761.
intolerable mental distress, he admits that inasmuch as physical disorders only grow incessantly worse, violent and incurable bodily pain may be an excuse for a man making away with himself; he ceases to be a human being before dying, and in putting an end to his life he only completes his release from a body that embarrasses him, and contains his soul no longer.1 The thought was often present to him in this form. Eighteen months later than our last date, the purpose grew very deliberate under an aggravation of his malady, and he seriously looked upon his own case as falling within the conditions of Lord Edward's exception. It is difficult, in the face of outspoken declarations like these, to know what writers can be thinking of when, with respect to the controversy on the manner of Rousseau's death, they pronounce him incapable of such a dereliction of his own most cherished principles as anything like self-destruction would have been.
As he sat gnawed by pain, with surgical instruments on his table, and sombre thoughts of suicide in his head, the ray of a little episode of romance shone in
1 Nouv. Hél., III. xxii. 147. In 1784 Hume's suppressed essays on
Suicide and the Immortality of the Soul” were published in London :-“With Remarks, intended as an Antidote to the Poison contained in these Performances, by the Editor ; to which is added, Two Letters on Suicide, from Rousseau's Eloisa.” In the preface the reader is told that these masterly letters have been much celebrated." See Hume's Essays, by Green and Grose, i. 69, 70.
2 Corr., iii. 235. Aug. 1, 1763. VOL. II.
incongruously upon the scene. Two ladies in Paris, absorbed in the New Heloïsa, like all the women of the time, identified themselves with the Julie and the Claire of the novel that none could resist. They wrote anonymously to the author, claiming their identification with characters fondly supposed to be immortal. “ You will know that Julie is not dead, and that she lives to love you; I am not this Julie, you perceive it by my style ; I am only her cousin, or rather her friend, as Claire was.” The unfortunate Saint Preux responded as gallantly as he could be expected to do in the intervals of surgery. “You do not know that the Saint Preux to whom you write is tormented with a cruel and incurable disorder, and that the very letter he writes to you is often interrupted by distractions of a very different kind." He figures rather uncouthly, but the unknown fair were not at first disabused, and one of them never was. Rousseau was deeply suspicious. He feared to be made the victim of a masculine pleasantry. From women he never feared anything.
His letters were found too short, too cold. He replied to the remonstrance by a reference of extreme coarseness. His correspondents wrote from the neighbourhood of the Palais Royal, then and for long after the haunt of mercenary women. “You belong to your quarter more than I thought,” he said brutally. The vulgarity of the lackey was never quite obliterated in him, even when the lackey had written Emilius. 1 Corr., ii. 226. Sept. 29, 1761.
2 P. 294. Jan. 11, 1762.