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less in the presence of a duchess as it was in presences less imposing
One side of character is obviously tested by the way in which a man bears himself in his relations with those of greater social consideration. Rousseau was taxed by some of his plebeian enemies with a most unheroic deference to his patrician friends. He had a dog whose name was Duc. When he came to sit at a duke's table, he changed his dog's name to Turc. Again, one day in a transport of tenderness he embraced the old marshal—the duchess embraced Rousseau ten times a day, for the age was effusive“Ah, monsieur le maréchal, I used to hate the great before I knew you, and I hate them still more, since you make me feel so strongly how easy it would be for them to have themselves adored.”2 On another occasion he happened to be playing at chess with the Prince of Conti, who had come to visit him in his cottage. In spite of the signs and grimaces of the
1 Conf., x.
2 1b. x. 70. 3 Louis Francois de Bourbon, Prince de Conti (1717-1776), was great-grandson of the brother of the Great Condé. He performed creditable things in the war of the Austrian Succession (in Piedmont 1744, in Belgium 1745); had a scheme of foreign policy as director of the secret diplomacy of Lewis xv. (17451756), which was to make Turkey, Poland, Sweden, Prussia, a barrier against Russia primarily, and Austria secondarily ; lastly went into moderate opposition to the court, protesting against the destruction of the parlements (1771), and afterwards opposing the reforms of Turgot (1776). Finally he had the honour of refusing the sacraments of the church on his deathbed. See Martin's Hist. de France, xv, and xvi.
attendants, he insisted on beating the prince in a couple of games.
Then he said with respectful gravity, “Monseigneur, I honour your serene highness too much not to beat you at chess always.” A few days after, the vanquished prince sent him a present of game which Rousseau duly accepted. The present was repeated, but this time Rousseau wrote to Madame de Boufflers that he would receive no more, and that he loved the prince's conversation better than his gifts.2 He admits that this was an ungracious proceeding, and that to refuse
" from a prince of the blood who throws such good feeling into the present, is not so much the delicacy of a proud man bent on preserving his independence, as the rusticity of an unmannerly person who does not know his place."3 Considering the extreme virulence
" " with which Rousseau always resented gifts even of the most trifling kind from his friends, one may perhaps find some inconsistency in this condemnation of a sort of conduct to which he tenaciously clung on all other occasions. If the fact of the donor being a prince of the blood is allowed to modify the quality of the donation, that is hardly a defensible position in the austere citizen of Geneva. Madame de Boufflers,4
1 Conf., 97. Corr., v. 215.
4 The reader will distinguish this correspondent of Rousseau's, Comtesse de Boufflers - Rouveret (1727-18–), from the Duchesse de Boufflers, which was the title of Rousseau's Maréchale de Luxembourg before her second marriage. And also from the Marquise de Boufflers, said to be the mistress of the
the intimate friend of our sage Hume, and the yet more intimate friend of the Prince of Conti, gave him a judicious warning when she bade him beware of laying himself open to a charge of affectation, lest it should obscure the brightness of his virtue and so hinder its usefulness. “Fabius and Regulus would have accepted such marks of esteem, without feeling in them any hurt to their disinterestedness and frugality."1 Perhaps there is a flutter of self-consciousness that is not far removed from this affectation, in the pains which Rousseau takes to tell us that after dining at the castle, he used to return home gleefully to sup with a mason who was his neighbour and his friend. On the whole, however, and so far as we know, Rousseau conducted himself not unworthily with these high people. His letters to them are for the most part marked by self-respect and a moderate graciousness, though now and again he makes rather too much case of the difference of rank, and asserts his independence with something too much of protestation. Their relations with him are a curious sign of the interest which the members of the great world took in the men who were quietly preparing the destruction both of them and their world. The Maréchale de Luxembourg places this squalid dweller in a hovel on her estate in the place of honour at her table, and embraces his Theresa. The Prince of Conti pays visits of courtesy and sends game to a man whom he employs at a few sous an hour to copy manuscript for him. The Countess of Boufflers, in sending him the money, insists that he is to count her his warmest friend. When his dog dies, the countess writes to sympathise with his chagrin, and the prince begs to be allowed to replace it. And when persecution and trouble and infinite confusion came upon him, they all stood as fast by him as their own comfort would allow. Do we not feel that there must have been in the unhappy man, besides all the recorded pettinesses and perversities which revolt us in him, a vein of something which touched men, and made women devoted to him, until he splenetically drove both men and women away from him? With Madame d'Epinay and Madame d'Houdetot, as with the dearer and humbler patroness of his youth, we have now parted company. But they are instantly succeeded by new devotees. And the lovers of Rousseau, in all degrees, were not silly women led captive by idle fancy. Madame de Boufflers was one
old king Stanislaus at Lunéville, and the mother of the Chevalier de Boufflers (who was the intimate of Voltaire, sat in the States General, emigrated, did ho:nage to Napoleon, and finally died peaceably under Lewis xvIII.). See Jal's Dict. Critique, 259. 262. Sainte Beuve has an essay on our present Comtesse de Boufflers (Nouveaux Lundis, iv. 163). She is the Madame de Boufflers who was taken by Beauclerk to visit Johnson in his Temple chambers, and was conducted to her coach by him in a remarkable manner (Boswell's Life, ch. li. p. 467). Also much talked of in H. Walpole's Letters. See D'Alembert to Frederick; April 15, 1768. Streckeisen, ii. 32.
2 Conf., x. 71.
of the most distinguished spirits of her time. Her friendship for him was such, that his sensuous vanity made Rousseau against all reason or probability confound it with a warmer form of emotion, and he plumes himself in a manner most displeasing on the victory which he won over his own feelings on the occasion. As a matter of fact he had no feelings to conquer, any more than the supposed object of them ever bore him any ill-will for his indiffer ence, as in his mania of suspicion he afterwards believed.
There was a calm about the too few years he passed at Montmorency, which leaves us in doubt whether this mania would ever have afflicted him, if his natural irritation had not been made intense and irresistible by the cruel distractions that followed the publication of Emilius. He was tolerably content with his present friends. The simplicity of their way of dealing with him contrasted singularly, as he thought, with the never-ending solicitudes, as importunate as they were officious, of the patronising friends whom he had just cast off.? Perhaps, too, he was soothed by the companionship of persons whose rank may have flattered his vanity, while unlike Diderot and his old literary friends in Paris, they entered into no competition with him in the peculiar sphere of his own genius. Madame de Boufflers, indeed, wrote a tragedy, but he told her gruftly enough that it was a plagiarism from Southerne's Oroonoko.3 That Rousseau was
i Conf., x. 99. ? 1b., X. 57. 3 Ib. xi. 119,