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This was too much for the imaginary Claire. “I have given myself three good blows on my breast for the correspondence that I was silly enough to open between you," she wrote to Julie, and she remained implacable. The Julie, on the contrary, was faithful to the end of Rousseau's life. She took his part vehemently in the quarrel with Hume, and wrote in defence of his memory after he was dead. She is the most remarkable of all the instances of that unreasoning passion which the New Heloïsa inflamed in the breasts of the women of that age. Madame Latour pursued Jean Jacques with a devotion that no coldness could repulse. She only saw him three times in all, the first time not until 1766, when he was on his way through Paris to England. The second time, in 1772, she visited him without mentioning her name, and he did not recognise her; she brought him some music to copy, and went away unknown. She made another attempt, announcing herself: he gave her a frosty welcome, and then wrote to her that she was to come
With a strange fidelity she bore him no grudge, but cherished his memory and sorrowed over his misfortunes to the day of her death. He was not an idol of very sublime quality, but we may think kindly of the idolatress. 1 Worshippers are ever dearer to us than their graven images. Let us turn to the romance which touched women in this way, and helped to give a new spirit to an epoch.
1 Madame Latour (Nov. 7, 1730-Sept. 6, 1789) was the wise of a man in the financial world, who used her ill and dissipated as much of her fortune as he could, and from whom she separated in 1775. After that she resumed her maiden name and was known as Madame de Franqueville. Musset-Pathay, ii 182, and Sainte Beuve, Causeries, ii. 63.
As has been already said, it is the business of criticism to separate what is accidental in form, transitory in manner, and merely local in suggestion, from the general ideas which live under a casual and particular literary robe. And so we have to distinguish the external conditions under which a book like the New Heloïsa is produced, from the living qualities in the author which gave the external conditions their hold upon him, and turned their development in one direction rather than another. We are only encouraging poverty of spirit, when we insist on fixing our eyes on a few of the minutiæ of construction, instead of patiently seizing larger impressions and more durable meanings; when we stop at the fortuitous incidents of composition, instead of advancing to the central elements of the writer's character.
These incidents in the case of the New Heloïsa we know; the sensuous communion with nature in her summer mood in the woods of Montmorency, the long hours and days of solitary expansion, the despairing passion for the too sage Julie of actual experience. But the power of these impressions from without depended on secrets of conformation within. An adult with marked character is, consciously or uncon
sciously, his own character's victim or sport. It is his whole system of impulses, ideas, pre-occupations, that make those critical situations ready, into which he too hastily supposes that an accident has drawn him. And this inner system not only prepares the situation; it forces his interpretation of the situation. Much of the interest of the New Heloïsa springs from the fact that it was the outcome, in a sense of which the author himself was probably unconscious, of the general doctrine of life and conduct which he only professed to expound in writings of graver pretension. Rousseau generally spoke of his romance in phrases of depreciation, as the monument of a passing weak
It was in truth as entirely a monument of the strength, no less than the weakness, of his whole scheme, as his weightiest piece. That it was not so deliberately, only added to its effect. The slow and musing air which underlies all the assumption of ardent passion, made a way for the doctrine into sensitive natures, that would have been untouched by the pretended ratiocination of the Discourses, and the didactic manner of the Emilius.
Rousseau's scheme, which we must carefully remember was only present to his own mind in an informal and fragmentary way, may be shortly described as an attempt to rehabilitate human nature in as much of the supposed freshness of primitive times, as the hardened crust of civil institutions and social use might allow. In this survey, however incoherently carried out, the mutual passion of the two sexes very last that was likely to escape Rousseau's attention. Hence it was with this that he began. The Discourses had been an attack upon the general ordering of society, and an exposition of the mischief that society has done to human nature at large. The romance treated one set of emotions in human nature particularly, though it also touches the whole emotional sphere indirectly. And this limitation of the field was accompanied by a total revolution in the method. Polemic was abandoned ; the presence of hostility was forgotten in appearance, if not in the heart of the writer; instead of discussion, presentation; instead of abstract analysis of principles, concrete drawing of persons and dramatic delineation of passion. There is, it is true, a monstrous superfluity of ethical exposition of most doubtful value, but then that, as we have already said, was in the manners of the time. All people in those days with any pretensions to use their minds, wrote and talked in a superfine ethical manner, and violently translated the dictates of sensibility into formulas of morality. The important thing to remark is not that this semi-didactic strain is present, but that there is much less of it, and that it takes a far more subordinate place, than the subject and the reigning taste would have led us to expect. It is true, also, that Rousseau declared his intention in the two characters of Julie and of Wolmar, who eventually became Julie's husband, of leading to a reconciliation between the two great opposing parties, the devout and the rationalistic; of teaching them the lesson of
reciprocal esteem, by showing the one that it is possible to believe in a God without being a hypocrite, and the other that it is possible to be an unbeliever without being a scoundrel. This intention, if it was really present to Rousseau's mind while he was writing, and not an afterthought characteristically welcomed for the sake of giving loftiness and gravity to a composition of which he was always a little ashamed, must at any rate have been of a very pale kind. It would hardly have occurred to a critic, unless Rousseau had so emphatically pointed it out, that such a design had presided over the composition, and contemporary readers saw nothing of it. In the first part of the story, which is wholly passionate, it is certainly not visible, and in the second part neither of the two contending factions was likely to learn any lesson with respect to the other. Churchmen would have insisted that Wolmar was really a Christian dressed up as an atheist, and philosophers would hardly have accepted Julie as a type of the too believing people who broke Calas on the wheel, and cut off La Barre's head.
French critics tell us that no one now reads the New Heloïsa in France except deliberate students of the works of Rousseau, and certainly few in this generation read it in our own country. The action
i Corr., ii. 214. Conf., ix. 289.
2 English translations of Rousseau's works appeared very speedily after the originals. A second edition of the Heloïsa was called for as early as May 1761. See Corr. ii. 223. A German translation of the Heloïsa appeared at Leipzig in 1761, in six duodecimos.