The Confessions and Correspondence, Including the Letters to Malesherbes (Collected Writings of Rousseau, Volume 5)

The Confessions and Correspondence, Including the Letters to Malesherbes (Collected Writings of Rousseau, Volume 5)

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Language: English

Pages: 739


Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Christopher Kelly, Roger D. Masters, Peter G. Stillman (eds.)
Christopher Kelly (tr.)

When Rousseau first read his Confessions to a 1770 gathering in Paris, reactions varied from admiration of his candor to doubts about his sanity to outrage. Indeed, Rousseau's intent and approach were revolutionary. As one of the first attempts at autobiography, the Confessions' novelty lay not in just its retelling the facts of Rousseau's life, but in its revelation of his innermost feelings and its frank description of the strengths and failings of his character.

Based on his doctrine of natural goodness, Rousseau intended the Confessions as a testing ground to explore his belief that, as Christopher Kelly writes, "people are to be measured by the depth and nature of their feelings." Re-created here in a meticulously documented new translation based on the definitive Pléiade edition, the work represents Rousseau's attempt to forge connections among his beliefs, his feelings, and his life. More than a "behind-the-scenes look at the private life of a public man," Kelly writes, "the Confessions is at the center of Rousseau's philosophical enterprise."

From Library Journal
Kelly's careful translation, based on the latest French critical edition, seems likely to become the standard English version of the Confessions. In his helpful introductory essay, Kelly claims that Rousseau's work has more than biographical importance. Rousseau's portrayal of events in his life often illuminates themes in his political philosophy. His elaborate accounts of conspiracies against him, by Friedrich Melchior Baron von Grimm and others, help to explain his doctrines of natural goodness and virtue. Because Kelly believes that Rousseau wrote the Confessions with extraordinary care, he has paid attention in his translation even to such minor details as variant spellings of persons and place names. This edition includes several letters from Rousseau to Chretien Guillaume de Lamoignon de Malesherbes and supplies helpful explanatory notes. Highly recommended.?David Gordon, Bowling Green State Univ., Ohio

"Enhanced by revealing slices of the correspondence . . . an exemplary introduction and notes . . . An English translation of the French classic has to bear comparison with J. M. Cohen's Penguin Classics version of 1953. Kelley passes that test with flying colors . . . Kelly's will certainly endure as the work of reference in English, as Bernard Gagnebin's Pléiade edition of 1959 provides the basic reference in French." —Civilization

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Paris Manuscript has been used to supplement the Geneva Manuscript. These cases have been indicated by the use of brackets. In end notes and in Appendix II, we have provided the variations from both of the alternative manuscripts as they are given in the notes to the Pleiade edition. In addition, we have included some of the other variations from the edition of the Confessions edited by Jacques Voisine (Paris: Gamier Freres, 1964). Voisine gives an essentially exhaustive list of the manuscript

not enough for furthering my studies. Since my age did not make this choice very pressing yet, I stayed in my uncle's home while I waited, almost wasting my time, and not failing to pay a rather large fee for room and board, as was just. Like my father, my uncle was a man of pleasure, but my uncle was unable to subject himself to his duties as my father did and took rather little care of us. My aunt was a devout woman who was a bit of a pietist and preferred to sing psalms than to look after our

was depicted on her pretty face, rendered her vivacity touching.69 She was called Madame Basile. During his trips her husband, who was older than she and fairly jealous, left her under the guard of a clerk who was too surly to be seductive, and who did not fail to have pretensions on his own account which he barely showed except by his ill humor. He formed a lot of ill humor against me, although I loved to 62 Confessions listen to him play the flute, which he played rather well. This new

brilliance were not worth a quarter of an hour of true pleasure and freedom in youth. 84 Confessions Full of this bright whim, I behaved so well that I managed to get myself thrown out, and in truth this was not accomplished without difficulty. One evening as I was returning, the steward notified me of my dismissal on behalf of M. the Comte. This was precisely what I was asking for: for, since I felt the extravagance of my behavior in spite of myself, I added injustice and ingratitude to it

that appeared to give him pleasure. I am sure it will be agreed that after having become infatuated with M. Bade, who everything considered was only a boor, I was capable of becoming infatuated with M. Venture who had education, talents, wit, experience of the world, and who could pass for an amiable debauched Book III (PL, 1,123-126) ios fellow. That is also what happened to me, and would have happened, I think, to any other young man in my place, even all the more easily if he had had a

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