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Goethe's two famous romances. They have a clearness and spontaneous freshness which are not among the bountiful gifts of Goethe. There are other admirable landscapes in the New Heloïsa, though not too many of them, and the minute and careful way in which Rousseau made their features real to himself, is accidentally shown in his urgent prayer for exactitude in the engraving of the striking scene where Saint Preux and Julie visit the monuments of their old love for one another. “I have traversed all Rousseau's ground with the Heloïsa before me," said Byron, “and am struck to a degree I cannot express, with the force and accuracy of his descriptions and the beauty of their reality." They were memories made true by long dreaming, by endless brooding. The painter lived with these scenes ever present to the inner eye. They were his real world, of which the tamer world of meadow and woodland actually around him only gave suggestion. He thought of the green steeps, the rocks, the mountain pines, the waters of the lake, “the populous solitude of bees and birds,” as of some divine presence, too sublime for personality. And they were always benign, standing in relief with the malignity or folly of the hurtful insect, Man. He was never a manichæan towards nature. To him she
1 IV. xvii. See vol. iii. 423.
2 In 1816. Moore's Life, iii. 247 ; also 285. And the note to the stanzas in the Third Canto, ,-a note curious for a slight admixture of transcendentalism, so rare a thing with Byron, who, sentimental though he was, usually rejoiced in a truly Voltairean common sense.
was all good and bounteous. The demon forces that so fascinated Byron were to Rousseau invisible. These were the compositions that presently inspired the landscapes of Paul and Virginia (1788), of Atala and René (1801), and of Obermann (1804), as well as those punier imitators who resemble their masters as the hymns of a methodist negro resemble the psalms of David. They were the outcome of eager and spontaneous feeling for nature, and not the mere hackneyed common-form and inflated description of the literary pastoral.
This leads to another great and important distinction to be drawn between Rousseau and the school whom in other respects he inspired. The admirable Sainte Beuve perplexes one by his strange remark,
1 "The present fashion in France, of passing some time in the country, is new; at this time of the year, and for many weeks past, Paris is, comparatively speaking, empty. Everybody who has a country seat is at it, and such as have none visit others who have. This remarkable revolution in the French manners is certainly one of the best customs they have taken from England; and its introduction was effected the easier, being assisted by the inagic of Rousseau's writings. Mankind are much indebted to that splendid genius, who, when living, was hunted from country to country, to seek an asylum, with as much venom as if he had been a mad dog ; thanks to the vile spirit of bigotry, which has not received its death wound. Women of the first fashion in France are now ashamed of not nursing their own children ; and stays are universally proscribed from the bodies of the poor infants, which were for so many ages torture to them, as they are still in Spain. The country residence may not have effects equally obvious ; but they will be no less sure in the end, and in all respects beneficia) to every class in the state Arthur Young's Travels, i. 72.
that the union of the poetry of the family and the hearth with the poetry of nature is essentially wanting to Rousseau. It only shows that the great critic had for the moment forgotten the whole of the second part of the New Heloïsa, and his failure to identify Cowper's allusion to the matinée à l'anglaise certainly proves that he had at any rate forgotten one of the most striking and delicious scenes of the hearth in French literature. The tendency to read Rousseau only in the Byronic sense is one of those foregone conclusions which are constantly tempting the critic to travel out of his record. Rousseau assuredly had a Byronic side, but he is just as often a Cowper done into splendid prose.
His pictures are full of social animation and domestic order. He had exalted the simplicity of the savage state in his Discourses, but when he came to constitute an ideal life, he found it in a household that was more, and not less, systematically disciplined than those of the common society
1 Causeries, xi. 195.
2 Nouv. Hél., V. iii. “You remember Rousseau's description of an English morning : such are the mornings I spend with these good people.”—Cowper to Joseph Hill, Oct 25, 1765. Works, iii. 269. In a letter to William Unwin (Sept. 21, 1779), speaking of his being engaged in mending windows, he says,
"Rousseau would have been charmed to have seen me so occupied, and would have exclaimed with rapture that he had found the Emilius who, he supposed, had subsisted only in his own idea.” For a description illustrative of the likeness between Rousseau and Cowper in their feeling for nature, see letter to Newton (Sept. 18, 1784, v. 78), and compare it with the descrip. tion of Les Charmettes, making proper allowance for the colour
around him. The paradise in which his Julie moved with Wolmar and Saint Preux, was no more and no less than an establishment of the best kind of the rural middle-class, frugal, decorous, wholesome, tranquilly austere. No most sentimental savage could have found it endurable, or could himself without profound transformation of his manners have been endured in it. The New Heloïsa ends by exalting respectability, and putting the spirit of insurrection to shame. Self-control, not revolt, is its last word.
This is what separates Rousseau here and throughout from Sénancour, Byron, and the rest. He consummates the triumph of will, while their reigning mood is grave or reckless protest against impotence of will, the little worth of common aims, the fretting triviality of common rules. Franklin or Cobbett might have gloried in the regularity of Madame de Wolmar's establishment. The employment of the day was marked out with precision. By artful adjustment of pursuits, it was contrived that the menservants should be kept apart from the maid-servants, except at their repasts. The women, namely, a cook, a housemaid, and a nurse, found their pastime in rambles with their mistress and her children, and lived mainly with them. The men were amused by games for which their master made regulated provision, now for summer, now for winter, offering prizes of a useful kind for prowess and adroitness. Often on a Sunday night all the household met in an ample chamber, and passed the evening in dancing. When Saint Preux inquired whether this was not a rather singular infraction of puritan rule, Julie wisely answered that pure morality is so loaded with severe duties, that if you add to them the further burden of indifferent forms, it must always be at the cost of the essential. The servants were taken from the country, never from the town. They entered the household young, were gradually trained, and never went away except to establish themselves.
The vulgar and obvious criticism on all this is that it is utopian, that such households do not generally exist, because neither masters nor servants possess the qualities needed to maintain these relations of unbroken order and friendliness. Perhaps not; and masters and servants will be more and more removed from the possession of such qualities, and their relations further distant from such order and friendliness, if writers cease to press the beauty and serviceableness of a domesticity that is at present only possible in a few rare cases, or to insist on the ugliness, the waste of peace, the deterioration of character, that are the results of our present system. Undoubtedly it is much easier for Rousseau to draw his picture of semipatriarchal felicity, than for the rest of us to realise it. It was his function to press ideals of sweeter life on his contemporaries, and they may be counted fortunate in having a writer who could fulfil this function with Rousseau's peculiar force of masterly
1 IV. X. 260.