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do so at all.”] Though they continued to be good friends, Rousseau only remained three or four weeks at Fleury. His old acquaintance at Montmorency, the Prince of Conti, partly perhaps from contrition at the rather unchivalrous fashion in which his great friends had hustled the philosopher away at the time of the decree of the parliament of Paris, offered him refuge at one of his country seats at Trye near Gisors. Here he installed Rousseau under the name of Renou, either to silence the indiscreet curiosity of neighbours, or to gratify a whim of Rousseau himself.
Rousseau remained for a year (June 1767-June 1768), composing the second part of the Confessions, in a condition of extreme mental confusion. Dusky phantoms walked with him once more. He knew the gardener, the servants, the neighbours, all to be in the pay of Hume, and that he was watched day and night with a view to his destruction. He entirely gave up either reading or writing, save a very small number of letters, and he declared that to take up the pen even for these was like lifting a load of iron. The only interest he had was botany, and for this his passion became daily more intense. He appears to have been as contented as a child, so long as he could employ himself in long expeditions in search of new plants, in arranging a herbarium, in watching the growth of the germ of some rare seed which needed careful tending. But the story had once more the same conclusion. He fled from Trye, as he had fled
1 June 19, 1767. Corr., v. 172. 2 Corr., v. 267, 375.
from Wootton. He meant apparently to go to Chambéri, drawn by the deep magnetic force of old memories that seemed long extinct. But at Grenoble on his way thither he encountered a substantial grievance. A man alleged that he had lent Rousseau a few francs seven years previously. He was undoubtedly mistaken, and was fully convicted of his mistake by proper authorities, but Rousseau's correspondents suffered none the less for that. We all know when monomania seizes a man, how adroitly and how eagerly it colours every incident. The mistaken claim was proof demonstrative of that frightful and tenebrous conspiracy, which they might have thought a delusion hitherto, but which, alas, this showed to be only too tragically real; and so on, through many pages of droning wretchedness. Then we find him at Bourgoin, where he spent some months in shabby taverns, and then many months more at Monquin on adjoining uplands. The estrangement from Theresa, of which enough has been said already, was added to his other torments. He resolved, as so many of the self-tortured have done since, to go in search of happiness to the western lands beyond the Atlantic, where the elixir of bliss is thought by the wearied among us to be inexhaustible and assured. Almost in the same page he turns his face eastwards,
1 Corr., v. 330-381, 408, etc.
2 Bourgoin, Aug. 1768, to March, 1769. July 1770.
3 See above, vol. i. chap. iv.
and dreams of ending his days peacefully among the islands of the Grecian archipelago. Next he gravely, not only designed, but actually took measures, to return to Wootton. All was no more than the momentary incoherent purpose of a sick man's dream, the weary distraction of one who had deliberately devoted himself to isolation from his fellows, without first sitting down carefully to count the cost, or to measure the inner resources which he possessed to meet the deadly strain that isolation puts on every one of a man's mental fibres. Geographical loneliness is to some a condition of their fullest strength, but most of the few who dare to make a moral solitude for themselves, find that they have assuredly not made peace. Such solitude, as South said of the study of the Apocalypse, either finds a man mad, or leaves him so. Not all can play the stoic who will, and it is still more certain that one who like Rousseau has lain down with the doctrine that in all things imaginable it is impossible for him to do at all what he cannot do with pleasure, will end in a condition of profound and hopeless impotence in respect to pleasure itself.
In July 1770, he made his way to Paris, and here he remained eight years longer, not without the introduction of a certain degree of order into his outer life, though the clouds of vague suspicion and distrust, half bitter, half mournful, hung heavily as ever upon his mind. The Dialogues, which he wrote at this period (1775-76) to vindicate his memory from the defamation that was to be launched in a dark torrent upon the world at the moment of his death, could not possibly have been written by a man in his right mind. Yet the best of the Musings, which were written still nearer the end, are masterpieces in the style of contemplative prose. The third, the fifth, the seventh, especially abound in that even, full, mellow gravity of tone which is so rare in literature, because the deep absorption of spirit which is its source is so rare in life. They reveal Rousseau to us with a truth beyond that attained in any of his other pieces-a mournful sombre figure, looming shadowily in the dark glow of sundown among sad and desolate places. There is nothing like them in the French tongue, which is the speech of the clear, the cheerful, or the august among men; nothing like this sonorous plainsong, the strangely melodious expression in the music of prose of a darkened spirit which yet had imaginative visions of beatitude.
It is interesting to look on one or two pictures of the last waste and obscure years of the man, whose words were at this time silently fermenting for good and for evil in many spirits—a Schiller, a Herder, a Jeanne Phlipon, a Robespierre, a Gabriel Mirabeau, and many hundreds of those whose destiny was not to lead, but ingenuously to follow. Rousseau seems to have repulsed nearly all his ancient friends, and to have settled down with dogged resolve to his old trade of copying music. In summer he rose at five, copied music until half-past seven; munched his breakfast, arranging on paper during the process such plants as he had gathered the previous afternoon; then he returned to his work, dined at half-past twelve, and went forth to take coffee at some public place. He would not return from his walk until nightfall, and he retired at half past ten. The pavements of Paris were hateful to him because they tore his feet, and, said he, with deeply significant antithesis, “I am not afraid of death, but I dread pain.” He always found his way as fast as possible to one of the suburbs, and one of his greatest delights was to watch Mont Valérien in the sunset. 'Atheists,” he said calumniously,“ do not love the country; they like the environs of Paris, where you have all the pleasures of the city, good cheer, books, pretty women; but if you take these things away, then they die of weariness." The note of every bird held him attentive, and filled his mind with delicious images. A graceful story is told of two swallows who made a nest in Rousseau's sleeping-room, and hatched the eggs there. no more than a doorkeeper for them,” he said, “for I kept opening the window for them every moment. They used to fly with a great stir round my head, until I had fulfilled the duties of the tacit convention between these swallows and me.”