Autobiographical, Scientific, Religious, Moral, and Literary Writings (Collected Writings of Rousseau)
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Newcomers to Rousseau’s works and those who are familiar with his writings will find something to surprise them both in this wide variety of short pieces from every period of his life.
Among the important theoretical writings found here are the “Fiction or Allegorical Fragment on Revelation” and the “Moral Letters,” which are among Rousseau’s clearest statements about the nature and limits of philosophic reasoning. In the early “Idea of a Method for the Composition of a Book,” Rousseau lays out in advance his understanding of how to present his ideas to the public. He ponders the possibilities for and consequences of air travel in “The New Daedalus.” This volume also contains both his first and last autobiographical statements.
Some of these writings show Rousseau’s lesser-known playful side. A comic fairy tale, “Queen Whimsical”, explores the consequences—both serious and ridiculous—for a kingdom when the male heir to the throne, endowed with the frivolous characteristics of his mother, has a sister with all the characteristics of a good monarch. When Rousseau was asked whether a fifty-year old man could write love letters to a young woman without appearing ridiculous, he responded with “Letters to Sophie,” which attempt to demonstrate that such a man could write as many as four—but not as many as six—letters before he became a laughingstock. In “The Banterer,” he challenges readers to guess whether the work they are reading was written by an author who is “wisely mad” or by one who is “madly wise.” When Rousseau was challenged to write a merry tale, “without intrigue, without love, without marriage, and without lewdness,” he produced a work considered too daring to be published in France.
became acquainted with the diVerence there was between this quarrel and the preceding one, and between the tone of Literary People and that of Musicians. I kept myself from returning to a dispute in which it was a question of everything, aside from the question, and which appeared to me more in the jurisdiction of public order than of reasoning. In fact, how could I prove to others that I was not a fool, a conceited fellow, a dunce, an ignoramus, I who would have been extremely perplexed to prove
not testify for it by itself, it must be believed that it is not there. 18 I was made to be the best friend that ever was, but the one who should have responded to me has yet to come. Alas, I am at an age at which the heart begins to shut itself and no longer opens itself to new friends. Farewell then, sweet feeling that I have sought so much, it is too late to be happy. 19 I have been a little acquainted with the tone of societies, the matters treated there and the manner of treating them.
heat it up: for desire is the only feeling that duration does not weaken at all. From it is born uneasiness, melancholy, even regrets, and perhaps ﬁnally despair if the retirement still lasts and the imagination is too lively. Suddenly transport such a man into the midst of the world; I omit the fact that he will put up a foolish front there: but it is certain, at least, that at every new object he will ﬁnd himself moved much more than a man who saw that object every day; doubtless in many
It is not necessary for me to pay you a compliment, Sir, upon the advantageous things that I have noticed there, the aVection that I have conceived for them will manifest itself by more solid signs than praises, and as tender and as enlightened a father as you are does not need to be instructed about his children’s ﬁne qualities. At present it remains to me, Sir, to be enlightened by you yourself about the particular views that you might have about each of them, about the degree of authority that
ourselves under the ﬁngernails of the inhabitants of those other Heavenly Bodies, incomparably larger than ours. These poor little animals with their ﬁve feet of height are as well founded in ﬁnding themselves large as we are with our twenty-ﬁve or thirty feet from those other Beings who perhaps have seven or eight hundred, who perhaps do not see any diVerence in the smallness of either, and who, perhaps also, are as small themselves in the eyes of the inhabitants of Boötes and of Sirius.” “We