Emile, or On Education or Émile, Or Treatise on Education is a treatise on the nature of education and on the nature of man written by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who considered it to be the best and most important of all his writings. Due to a section of the book entitled “Profession of Faith of the Savoyard Vicar,” Emile was banned in Paris and Geneva and was publicly burned in 1762, the year of its first publication. During the French Revolution, Emile served as the inspiration for what became a new national system of education.
Émile ou De l'éducation (full text online)
== Quotes ==
=== Book I ===
Tout est bien sortant des mains de l'Auteur des choses, tout dégénère entre les mains de l'homme.
Everything is good as it leaves the hands of the Author of things, everything degenerates in the hands of man.'
translated by Allan Bloom
Everything is good when it leaves the hands of the Creator; everything degenerates in the hands of man.
God makes all things good; man meddles with them and they become evil.
Book II shall always maintain that whoso says in his heart, "There is no God," while takes the name of God upon his lips, is either a liar or a madman.
translated by Barbara Foxley
Book IThis collection of scattered thoughts and observations has little order or continuity; it was begun to give pleasure to a good mother who thinks for herself. My first idea was to write a tract a few pages long, but I was carried away by my subject, and before I knew what I was doing my tract had become a kind of book, too large indeed for the matter contained in it, but too small for the subject of which it treats. For a long time I hesitated whether to publish it or not, and I have often felt, when at work upon it, that it is one thing to publish a few pamphlets and another to write a book. After vain attempts to improve it, I have decided that it is my duty to publish it as it stands. I consider that public attention requires to be directed to this subject, and even if my own ideas are mistaken, my time will not have been wasted if I stir up others to form right ideas. A solitary who casts his writings before the public without any one to advertise them, without any party ready to defend them, one who does not even know what is thought and said about those writings, is at least free from one anxiety—if he is mistaken, no one will take his errors for gospel. I shall say very little about the value of a good education, nor shall I stop to prove that the customary method of education is bad; this has been done again and again, and I do not wish to fill my book with things which everyone knows. I will merely state that, go as far back as you will, you will find a continual outcry against the established method, but no attempt to suggest a better. The literature and science of our day tend rather to destroy than to build up. We find fault after the manner of a master; to suggest, we must adopt another style, a style less in accordance with the pride of the philosopher. In spite of all those books, whose only aim, so they say, is public utility, the most useful of all arts, the art of training men, is still neglected. Even after Locke's book was written the subject remained almost untouched, and I fear that my book will leave it pretty much as it found it.We know nothing of childhood; and with our mistaken notions the further we advance the further we go astray. The wisest writers devote themselves to what a man ought to know, without asking what a child is capable of learning. They are always looking for the man in the child, without considering what he is before he becomes a man.
translated by Barbara FoxleyWith regard to what will be called the systematic portion of the book, which is nothing more than the course of nature, it is here that the reader will probably go wrong, and no doubt I shall be attacked on this side, and perhaps my critics may be right. You will tell me, "This is not so much a treatise on education as the visions of a dreamer with regard to education." What can I do? I have not written about other people's ideas of education, but about my own. My thoughts are not those of others; this reproach has been brought against me again and again.
translated by Barbara FoxleyGod makes all things good; man meddles with them and they become evil. He forces one soil to yield the products of another, one tree to bear another's fruit. He confuses and confounds time, place, and natural conditions. He mutilates his dog, his horse, and his slave. He destroys and defaces all things; he loves all that is deformed and monstrous; he will have nothing as nature made it, not even man himself, who must learn his paces like a saddle-horse, and be shaped to his master's taste like the trees in his garden. Yet things would be worse without this education, and mankind cannot be made by halves. Under existing conditions a man left to himself from birth would be more of a monster than the rest. Prejudice, authority, necessity, example, all the social conditions into which we are plunged, would stifle nature in him and put nothing in her place. She would be like a sapling chance sown in the midst of the highway, bent hither and thither and soon crushed by the passers-by.
translated by Barbara FoxleyAmbition, avarice, tyranny, the mistaken foresight of fathers, their neglect, their harshness, are a hundredfold more harmful to the child than the blind affection of the mother.
translated by Barbara FoxleyWe lament the helplessness of infancy; we fail to perceive that the race would have perished had not man begun by being a child. We are born weak, we need strength; helpless, we need aid; foolish, we need reason. All that we lack at birth, all that we need when we come to man's estate, is the gift of education. This education comes to us from nature, from men, or from things. The inner growth of our organs and faculties is the education of nature, the use we learn to make of this growth is the education of men, what we gain by our experience of our surroundings is the education of things.
translated by Barbara FoxleyWe are born sensitive and from our birth onwards we are affected in various ways by our environment. As soon as we become conscious of our sensations we tend to seek or shun the things that cause them, at first because they are pleasant or unpleasant, then because they suit us or not, and at last because of judgments formed by means of the ideas of happiness and goodness which reason gives us. These tendencies gain strength and permanence with the growth of reason, but hindered by our habits they are more or less warped by our prejudices. Before this change they are what I call Nature within us.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThe great thing is to be kind to our neighbours. Among strangers the Spartan was selfish, grasping, and unjust, but unselfishness, justice, and harmony ruled his home life. Distrust those cosmopolitans who search out remote duties in their books and neglect those that lie nearest. Such philosophers will love the Tartars to avoid loving their neighbour.
translated by Barbara FoxleyIf you wish to know what is meant by public education, read Plato's Republic. Those who merely judge books by their titles take this for a treatise on politics, but it is the finest treatise on education ever written.In popular estimation the Platonic Institute stands for all that is fanciful and unreal. For my own part I should have thought the system of Lycurgus far more impracticable had he merely committed it to writing. Plato only sought to purge man's heart; Lycurgus turned it from its natural course.
translated by Barbara FoxleyOur inner conflicts are caused by these contradictions. Drawn this way by nature and that way by man, compelled to yield to both forces, we make a compromise and reach neither goal. We go through life, struggling and hesitating, and die before we have found peace, useless alike to ourselves and to others.
translated by Barbara FoxleyIt matters little to me whether my pupil is intended for the army, the church, or the law. Before his parents chose a calling for him nature called him to be a man. Life is the trade I would teach him. When he leaves me, I grant you, he will be neither a magistrate, a soldier, nor a priest; he will be a man. All that becomes a man he will learn as quickly as another. In vain will fate change his station, he will always be in his right place.
translated by Barbara FoxleyBut when we consider the fleeting nature of human affairs, the restless and uneasy spirit of our times, when every generation overturns the work of its predecessor, can we conceive a more senseless plan than to educate a child as if he would never leave his room, as if he would always have his servants about him? If the wretched creature takes a single step up or down he is lost. This is not teaching him to bear pain; it is training him to feel it. People think only of preserving their child's life; this is not enough, he must be taught to preserve his own life when he is a man, to bear the buffets of fortune, to brave wealth and poverty, to live at need among the snows of Iceland or on the scorching rocks of Malta.
translated by Barbara Foxleylife is not breath, but action, the use of our senses, our mind, our faculties, every part of ourselves which makes us conscious of our being. Life consists less in length of days than in the keen sense of living. A man maybe buried at a hundred and may never have lived at all. He would have fared better had he died young. Our wisdom is slavish prejudice, our customs consist in control, constraint, compulsion. Civilised man is born and dies a slave. The infant is bound up in swaddling clothes, the corpse is nailed down in his coffin. All his life long man is imprisoned by our institutions.
translated by Barbara FoxleyI am told that many midwives profess to improve the shape of the infant's head by rubbing, and they are allowed to do it. Our heads are not good enough as God made them, they must be moulded outside by the nurse and inside by the philosopher. The Caribs are better off than we are. The child has hardly left the mother's womb, it has hardly begun to move and stretch its limbs, when it is deprived of its freedom. It is wrapped in swaddling bands, laid down with its head fixed, its legs stretched out, and its arms by its sides; it is wound round with linen and bandages of all sorts so that it cannot move. It is fortunate if it has room to breathe, and it is laid on its side so that water which should flow from its mouth can escape, for it is not free to turn its head on one side for this purpose. The new-born child requires to stir and stretch his limbs to free them from the stiffness resulting from being curled up so long. His limbs are stretched indeed, but he is not allowed to move them. Even the head is confined by a cap. One would think they were afraid the child should look as if it were alive. Thus the internal impulses which should lead to growth find an insurmountable obstacle in the way of the necessary movements. The child exhausts his strength in vain struggles, or he gains strength very slowly. He was freer and less constrained in the womb; he has gained nothing by birth.Is not such a cruel bondage certain to affect both health and temper? Their first feeling is one of pain and suffering; they find every necessary movement hampered; more miserable than a galley slave, in vain they struggle, they become angry, they cry. Their first words you say are tears. That is so. From birth you are always checking them, your first gifts are fetters, your first treatment, torture. Their voice alone is free; why should they not raise it in complaint? They cry because you are hurting them; if you were swaddled you would cry louder still.What is the origin of this senseless and unnatural custom? Since mothers have despised their first duty and refused to nurse their own children, they have had to be entrusted to hired nurses. Finding themselves the mothers of a stranger's children, without the ties of nature, they have merely tried to save themselves trouble.
translated by Barbara FoxleyIt is maintained that unswaddled infants would assume faulty positions and make movements which might injure the proper development of their limbs. That is one of the empty arguments of our false wisdom which has never been confirmed by experience. Out of all the crowds of children who grow up with the full use of their limbs among nations wiser than ourselves, you never find one who hurts himself or maims himself; their movements are too feeble to be dangerous, and when they assume an injurious position, pain warns them to change it.
translated by Barbara FoxleyAnd this affection when developed has its drawbacks, which should make any feeling woman afraid to put her child out to nurse. Is she prepared to divide her mother's rights, or rather to abdicate them in favour of a stranger; to see her child loving another more than herself; to feel that the affection he retains for his own mother is a favour, while his love for his foster-mother is a duty; for is not some affection due where there has been a mother's care?To remove this difficulty, children are taught to look down on their nurses, to treat them as mere servants. When their task is completed the child is withdrawn or the nurse is dismissed. Her visits to her foster-child are discouraged by a cold reception. After a few years the child never sees her again. The mother expects to take her place, and to repair by her cruelty the results of her own neglect. But she is greatly mistaken; she is making an ungrateful foster-child, not an affectionate son; she is teaching him ingratitude, and she is preparing him to despise at a later day the mother who bore him, as he now despises his nurse.
translated by Barbara FoxleyHow emphatically would I speak if it were not so hopeless to keep struggling in vain on behalf of a real reform. More depends on this than you realise. Would you restore all men to their primal duties, begin with the mothers; the results will surprise you. Every evil follows in the train of this first sin; the whole moral order is disturbed, nature is quenched in every breast, the home becomes gloomy, the spectacle of a young family no longer stirs the husband's love and the stranger's reverence. The mother whose children are out of sight wins scanty esteem; there is no home life, the ties of nature are not strengthened by those of habit; fathers, mothers, children, brothers, and sisters cease to exist. They are almost strangers; how should they love one another? Each thinks of himself first. When the home is a gloomy solitude pleasure will be sought elsewhere.The charms of home are the best antidote to vice. The noisy play of children, which we thought so trying, becomes a delight; mother and father rely more on each other and grow dearer to one another; the marriage tie is strengthened. In the cheerful home life the mother finds her sweetest duties and the father his pleasantest recreation. Thus the cure of this one evil would work a wide-spread reformation; nature would regain her rights. When women become good mothers, men will be good husbands and fathers.
translated by Barbara FoxleyMan is born to suffer; pain is the means of his preservation. His childhood is happy, knowing only pain of body. These bodily sufferings are much less cruel, much less painful, than other forms of suffering, and they rarely lead to self-destruction. It is not the twinges of gout which make a man kill himself, it is mental suffering that leads to despair. We pity the sufferings of childhood; we should pity ourselves; our worst sorrows are of our own making.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThe new-born infant cries, his early days are spent in crying. He is alternately petted and shaken by way of soothing him; sometimes he is threatened, sometimes beaten, to keep him quiet. We do what he wants or we make him do what we want, we submit to his whims or subject him to our own. There is no middle course; he must rule or obey. Thus his earliest ideas are those of the tyrant or the slave. He commands before he can speak, he obeys before he can act, and sometimes he is punished for faults before he is aware of them, or rather before they are committed. Thus early are the seeds of evil passions sown in his young heart. At a later day these are attributed to nature, and when we have taken pains to make him bad we lament his badness.In this way the child passes six or seven years in the hands of women, the victim of his own caprices or theirs, and after they have taught him all sorts of things, when they have burdened his memory with words he cannot understand, or things which are of no use to him, when nature has been stifled by the passions they have implanted in him, this sham article is sent to a tutor. The tutor completes the development of the germs of artificiality which he finds already well grown, he teaches him everything except self-knowledge and self-control, the arts of life and happiness. When at length this infant slave and tyrant, crammed with knowledge but empty of sense, feeble alike in mind and body, is flung upon the world, and his helplessness, his pride, and his other vices are displayed, we begin to lament the wretchedness and perversity of mankind. We are wrong; this is the creature of our fantasy; the natural man is cast in another mould.
translated by Barbara FoxleyHe has no right to be a father if he cannot fulfil a father's duties. Poverty, pressure of business, mistaken social prejudices, none of these can excuse a man from his duty, which is to support and educate his own children. If a man of any natural feeling neglects these sacred duties he will repent it with bitter tears and will never be comforted.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThere are callings so great that they cannot be undertaken for money without showing our unfitness for them; such callings are those of the soldier and the teacher.
translated by Barbara FoxleySome one whose rank alone is known to me suggested that I should educate his son. He did me a great honour, no doubt, but far from regretting my refusal, he ought to congratulate himself on my prudence. Had the offer been accepted, and had I been mistaken in my method, there would have been an education ruined; had I succeeded, things would have been worse—his son would have renounced his title and refused to be a prince.
translated by Barbara FoxleyIt is one thing to follow a young man about for four years, another to be his guide for five-and-twenty. You find a tutor for your son when he is already formed; I want one for him before he is born. Your man may change his pupil every five years; mine will never have but one pupil. You distinguish between the teacher and the tutor. Another piece of folly! Do you make any distinction between the pupil and the scholar? There is only one science for children to learn—the duties of man. This science is one, and, whatever Xenophon may say of the education of the Persians, it is indivisible. Besides, I prefer to call the man who has this knowledge master rather than teacher, since it is a question of guidance rather than instruction. He must not give precepts, he must let the scholar find them out for himself.
translated by Barbara FoxleyIt is ordinary people who have to be educated, and their education alone can serve as a pattern for the education of their fellows. The others find their way alone.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThe weaker the body, the more imperious its demands; the stronger it is, the better it obeys. All sensual passions find their home in effeminate bodies; the less satisfaction they can get the keener their sting.
translated by Barbara FoxleyStill I cannot refrain from saying that men employ the same sophism about medicine as they do about the search for truth. They assume that the patient is cured and that the seeker after truth finds it. They fail to see that against one life saved by the doctors you must set a hundred slain, and against the value of one truth discovered the errors which creep in with it. The science which instructs and the medicine which heals are no doubt excellent, but the science which misleads us and the medicine which kills us are evil. Teach us to know them apart. That is the real difficulty.I do not deny that medicine is useful to some men; I assert that it is fatal to mankind.This lying art, invented rather for the ills of the mind than of the body, is useless to both alike; it does less to cure us of our diseases than to fill us with alarm. It does less to ward off death than to make us dread its approach. It exhausts life rather than prolongs it; should it even prolong life it would only be to the prejudice of the race, since it makes us set its precautions before society and our fears before our duties. It is the knowledge of danger that makes us afraid. If we thought ourselves invulnerable we should know no fear.
translated by Barbara FoxleyBy nature a man bears pain bravely and dies in peace. It is the doctors with their rules, the philosophers with their precepts, the priests with their exhortations, who debase the heart and make us afraid to die.
translated by Barbara FoxleyIt is one of the misfortunes of the rich to be cheated on all sides; what wonder they think ill of mankind! It is riches that corrupt men, and the rich are rightly the first to feel the defects of the only tool they know. Everything is ill-done for them, except what they do themselves, and they do next to nothing.
translated by Barbara FoxleyFresh air affects children's constitutions, particularly in early years. It enters every pore of a soft and tender skin, it has a powerful effect on their young bodies. Its effects can never be destroyed.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThe failing activity of the old man is centred in his heart, the child's overflowing activity spreads abroad. He feels, if we may say so, strong enough to give life to all about him. To make or to destroy, it is all one to him; change is what he seeks, and all change involves action. If he seems to enjoy destructive activity it is only that it takes time to make things and very little time to break them, so that the work of destruction accords better with his eagerness.
translated by Barbara FoxleyFIRST MAXIM.—Far from being too strong, children are not strong enough for all the claims of nature. Give them full use of such strength as they have; they will not abuse it.SECOND MAXIM.—Help them and supply the experience and strength they lack whenever the need is of the body. THIRD MAXIM.—In the help you give them confine yourself to what is really needful, without granting anything to caprice or unreason; for they will not be tormented by caprice if you do not call it into existence, seeing it is no part of nature.FOURTH MAXIM—Study carefully their speech and gestures, so that at an age when they are incapable of deceit you may discriminate between those desires which come from nature and those which spring from perversity.
translated by Barbara FoxleyWe can do nothing simply, not even for our children. Toys of silver, gold, coral, cut crystal, rattles of every price and kind; what vain and useless appliances. Away with them all! Let us have no corals or rattles; a small branch of a tree with its leaves and fruit, a stick of liquorice which he may suck and chew, will amuse him as well as these splendid trifles, and they will have this advantage at least, he will not be brought up to luxury from his birth.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThat fatal facility in the use of words we do not understand begins earlier than we think. In the schoolroom the scholar listens to the verbiage of his master as he listened in the cradle to the babble of his nurse. I think it would be a very useful education to leave him in ignorance of both.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThis results from the fact that, up to five or six, children in town, brought up in a room and under the care of a nursery governess, do not need to speak above a whisper to make themselves heard. As soon as their lips move people take pains to make out what they mean; they are taught words which they repeat inaccurately, and by paying great attention to them the people who are always with them rather guess what they meant to say than what they said. It is quite a different matter in the country. A peasant woman is not always with her child; he is obliged to learn to say very clearly and loudly what he wants, if he is to make himself understood. Children scattered about the fields at a distance from their fathers, mothers and other children, gain practice in making themselves heard at a distance, and in adapting the loudness of the voice to the distance which separates them from those to whom they want to speak. This is the real way to learn pronunciation, not by stammering out a few vowels into the ear of an attentive governess. So when you question a peasant child, he may be too shy to answer, but what he says he says distinctly, while the nurse must serve as interpreter for the town child; without her one can understand nothing of what he is muttering between his teeth.I grant you uneducated people and villagers often fall into the opposite extreme. They almost always speak too loud; their pronunciation is too exact, and leads to rough and coarse articulation; their accent is too pronounced, they choose their expressions badly, etc. But, to begin with, this extreme strikes me as much less dangerous than the other, for the first law of speech is to make oneself understood, and the chief fault is to fail to be understood. To pride ourselves on having no accent is to pride ourselves on ridding our phrases of strength and elegance. Emphasis is the soul of speech, it gives it its feeling and truth. Emphasis deceives less than words; perhaps that is why well-educated people are so afraid of it. From the custom of saying everything in the same tone has arisen that of poking fun at people without their knowing it.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThe child who is trying to speak should hear nothing but words he can understand, nor should he say words he cannot articulate; his efforts lead him to repeat the same syllable as if he were practising its clear pronunciation. When he begins to stammer, do not try to understand him. To expect to be always listened to is a form of tyranny which is not good for the child. See carefully to his real needs, and let him try to make you understand the rest. Still less should you hurry him into speech; he will learn to talk when he feels the want of it.Let the child's vocabulary, therefore, be limited; it is very undesirable that he should have more words than ideas, that he should be able to say more than he thinks. One of the reasons why peasants are generally shrewder than townsfolk is, I think, that their vocabulary is smaller. They have few ideas, but those few are thoroughly grasped.
translated by Barbara Foxley
=== Book II ===
Men, be kind to your fellow-men; this is your first duty, kind to every age and station, kind to all that is not foreign to humanity. What wisdom can you find that is greater than kindness? Love childhood, indulge its sports, its pleasures, its delightful instincts. Who has not sometimes regretted that age when laughter was ever on the lips, and when the heart was ever at peace? Why rob these innocents of the joys which pass so quickly, of that precious gift which they cannot abuse? Why fill with bitterness the fleeting days of early childhood, days which will no more return for them than for you? Fathers, can you tell when death will call your children to him? Do not lay up sorrow for yourselves by robbing them of the short span which nature has allotted to them. As soon as they are aware of the joy of life, let them rejoice in it, go that whenever God calls them they may not die without having tasted the joy of life.
translated by Barbara FoxleyUne des preuves que le goût de la viande n’est pas naturel à l’homme, est l’indifférence que les enfants ont pour ce mets-là, et la préférence qu’ils donnent tous à des nourritures végétales, telles que le laitage, la pâtisserie, les fruits, etc. Il importe surtout de ne pas dénaturer ce goût primitif, et de ne point rendre les enfants carnassiers; si ce n’est pour leur santé, c’est pour leur caractère; car, de quelque manière qu’on explique l’expérience, il est certain que les grands mangeurs de viande sont en général cruels et féroces plus que les autres hommes; cette observation est de tous les lieux et de tous les temps.
The indifference of children towards meat is one proof that the taste for meat is unnatural; their preference is for vegetable foods, such as milk, pastry, fruit, etc. Beware of changing this natural taste and making children flesh-eaters, if not for their health's sake, for the sake of their character; for how can one explain away the fact that great meat-eaters are usually fiercer and more cruel than other men; this has been recognised at all times and in all places.
translated by Barbara Foxley
La gourmandise est le vice des cœurs qui n’ont point d’étoffe. L’âme d’un gourmand est toute dans son palais; il n’est fait que pour manger; dans sa stupide incapacité, il n’est qu’à table à sa place, il ne sait juger que des plats; laissons-lui sans regret cet emploi; mieux lui vaut celui-là qu’un autre, autant pour nous que pour lui.
Gluttony is the vice of feeble minds. The gourmand has his brains in his palate, he can do nothing but eat; he is so stupid and incapable that the table is the only place for him, and dishes are the only things he knows anything about. Let us leave him to this business without regret; it is better for him and for us.
translated by Barbara FoxleyLe plus heureux est celui qui souffre le moins de peines; le plus misérable est celui qui sent le moins de plaisir.
The happiest is he who suffers least; the most miserable is he who enjoys least.
translated by Barbara FoxleyShould he fall or bump his head, or make his nose bleed, or cut his fingers, I shall show no alarm, nor shall I make any fuss over him; I shall take no notice, at any rate at first. The harm is done; he must bear it; all my zeal could only frighten him more and make him more nervous. Indeed it is not the blow but the fear of it which distresses us when we are hurt. I shall spare him this suffering at least, for he will certainly regard the injury as he sees me regard it; if he finds that I hasten anxiously to him, if I pity him or comfort him, he will think he is badly hurt. If he finds I take no notice, he will soon recover himself, and will think the wound is healed when it ceases to hurt. This is the time for his first lesson in courage, and by bearing slight ills without fear we gradually learn to bear greater.
translated by Barbara FoxleyI shall not take pains to prevent Emile hurting himself; far from it, I should be vexed if he never hurt himself, if he grew up unacquainted with pain. To bear pain is his first and most useful lesson. It seems as if children were small and weak on purpose to teach them these valuable lessons without danger. The child has such a little way to fall he will not break his leg; if he knocks himself with a stick he will not break his arm; if he seizes a sharp knife he will not grasp it tight enough to make a deep wound. So far as I know, no child, left to himself, has ever been known to kill or maim itself, or even to do itself any serious harm, unless it has been foolishly left on a high place, or alone near the fire, or within reach of dangerous weapons. What is there to be said for all the paraphernalia with which the child is surrounded to shield him on every side so that he grows up at the mercy of pain, with neither courage nor experience, so that he thinks he is killed by a pin-prick and faints at the sight of blood? With our foolish and pedantic methods we are always preventing children from learning what they could learn much better by themselves, while we neglect what we alone can teach them. Can anything be sillier than the pains taken to teach them to walk, as if there were any one who was unable to walk when he grows up through his nurse's neglect?Instead of keeping him mewed up in a stuffy room, take him out into a meadow every day; let him run about, let him struggle and fall again and again, the oftener the better; he will learn all the sooner to pick himself up. The delights of liberty will make up for many bruises. My pupil will hurt himself oftener than yours, but he will always be merry; your pupils may receive fewer injuries, but they are always thwarted, constrained, and sad. I doubt whether they are any better off.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThe chief risks occur at the beginning of life; the shorter our past life, the less we must hope to live. Of all the children who are born scarcely one half reach adolescence, and it is very likely your pupil will not live to be a man. What is to be thought, therefore, of that cruel education which sacrifices the present to an uncertain future, that burdens a child with all sorts of restrictions and begins by making him miserable, in order to prepare him for some far-off happiness which he may never enjoy? Even if I considered that education wise in its aims, how could I view without indignation those poor wretches subjected to an intolerable slavery and condemned like galley-slaves to endless toil, with no certainty that they will gain anything by it? The age of harmless mirth is spent in tears, punishments, threats, and slavery. You torment the poor thing for his good; you fail to see that you are calling Death to snatch him from these gloomy surroundings. Who can say how many children fall victims to the excessive care of their fathers and mothers? They are happy to escape from this cruelty; this is all that they gain from the ills they are forced to endure: they die without regretting, having known nothing of life but its sorrows. Men, be kind to your fellow-men; this is your first duty, kind to every age and station, kind to all that is not foreign to humanity. What wisdom can you find that is greater than kindness? Love childhood, indulge its sports, its pleasures, its delightful instincts. Who has not sometimes regretted that age when laughter was ever on the lips, and when the heart was ever at peace? Why rob these innocents of the joys which pass so quickly, of that precious gift which they cannot abuse? Why fill with bitterness the fleeting days of early childhood, days which will no more return for them than for you? Fathers, can you tell when death will call your children to him? Do not lay up sorrow for yourselves by robbing them of the short span which nature has allotted to them. As soon as they are aware of the joy of life, let them rejoice in it, go that whenever God calls them they may not die without having tasted the joy of life.
translated by Barbara FoxleyEvery feeling of hardship is inseparable from the desire to escape from it; every idea of pleasure from the desire to enjoy it. All desire implies a want, and all wants are painful; hence our wretchedness consists in the disproportion between our desires and our powers. A conscious being whose powers were equal to his desires would be perfectly happy. What then is human wisdom? Where is the path of true happiness? The mere limitation of our desires is not enough, for if they were less than our powers, part of our faculties would be idle, and we should not enjoy our whole being; neither is the mere extension of our powers enough, for if our desires were also increased we should only be the more miserable. True happiness consists in decreasing the difference between our desires and our powers, in establishing a perfect equilibrium between the power and the will. Then only, when all its forces are employed, will the soul be at rest and man will find himself in his true position.It is only in this primitive condition that we find the equilibrium between desire and power, and then alone man is not unhappy. As soon as his potential powers of mind begin to function, imagination, more powerful than all the rest, awakes, and precedes all the rest. It is imagination which enlarges the bounds of possibility for us, whether for good or ill, and therefore stimulates and feeds desires by the hope of satisfying them. But the object which seemed within our grasp flies quicker than we can follow; when we think we have grasped it, it transforms itself and is again far ahead of us. We no longer perceive the country we have traversed, and we think nothing of it; that which lies before us becomes vaster and stretches still before us. Thus we exhaust our strength, yet never reach our goal, and the nearer we are to pleasure, the further we are from happiness.The world of reality has its bounds, the world of imagination is boundless; as we cannot enlarge the one, let us restrict the other; for all the sufferings which really make us miserable arise from the difference between the real and the imaginary. Health, strength, and a good conscience excepted, all the good things of life are a matter of opinion; except bodily suffering and remorse, all our woes are imaginary. You will tell me this is a commonplace; I admit it, but its practical application is no commonplace, and it is with practice only that we are now concerned.
translated by Barbara FoxleyWhen man is content to be himself he is strong indeed; when he strives to be more than man he is weak indeed. But do not imagine that you can increase your strength by increasing your powers. Not so; if your pride increases more rapidly your strength is diminished. Let us measure the extent of our sphere and remain in its centre like the spider in its web; we shall have strength sufficient for our needs, we shall have no cause to lament our weakness, for we shall never be aware of it.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThe other animals possess only such powers as are required for self-preservation; man alone has more. Is it not very strange that this superfluity should make him miserable? In every land a man's labour yields more than a bare living. If he were wise enough to disregard this surplus he would always have enough, for he would never have too much. "Great needs," said Favorin, "spring from great wealth; and often the best way of getting what we want is to get rid of what we have." By striving to increase our happiness we change it into wretchedness.
translated by Barbara FoxleyPrudence! Prudence which is ever bidding us look forward into the future, a future which in many cases we shall never reach; here is the real source of all our troubles! How mad it is for so short-lived a creature as man to look forward into a future to which he rarely attains, while he neglects the present which is his? This madness is all the more fatal since it increases with years, and the old, always timid, prudent, and miserly, prefer to do without necessaries to-day that they may have luxuries at a hundred. Thus we grasp everything, we cling to everything; we are anxious about time, place, people, things, all that is and will be; we ourselves are but the least part of ourselves. We spread ourselves, so to speak, over the whole world, and all this vast expanse becomes sensitive. No wonder our woes increase when we may be wounded on every side. How many princes make themselves miserable for the loss of lands they never saw, and how many merchants lament in Paris over some misfortune in the Indies!
translated by Barbara FoxleyThat man is truly free who desires what he is able to perform, and does what he desires. This is my fundamental maxim. Apply it to childhood, and all the rules of education spring from it.
translated by Barbara FoxleyEach of us, unable to dispense with the help of others, becomes so far weak and wretched. We were meant to be men, laws and customs thrust us back into infancy.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThere are two kinds of dependence: dependence on things, which is the work of nature; and dependence on men, which is the work of society. Dependence on things, being non-moral, does no injury to liberty and begets no vices; dependence on men, being out of order, gives rise to every kind of vice, and through this master and slave become mutually depraved.
translated by Barbara FoxleyIf the laws of nations, like the laws of nature, could never be broken by any human power, dependence on men would become dependence on things; all the advantages of a state of nature would be combined with all the advantages of social life in the commonwealth. The liberty which preserves a man from vice would be united with the morality which raises him to virtue.
translated by Barbara FoxleySupply the strength he lacks just so far as is required for freedom, not for power, so that he may receive your services with a sort of shame, and look forward to the time when he may dispense with them and may achieve the honour of self-help.
translated by Barbara FoxleyNature provides for the child's growth in her own fashion, and this should never be thwarted. Do not make him sit still when he wants to run about, nor run when he wants to be quiet. If we did not spoil our children's wills by our blunders their desires would be free from caprice. Let them run, jump, and shout to their heart's content. All their own activities are instincts of the body for its growth in strength; but you should regard with suspicion those wishes which they cannot carry out for themselves, those which others must carry out for them. Then you must distinguish carefully between natural and artificial needs, between the needs of budding caprice and the needs which spring from the overflowing life just described.
translated by Barbara FoxleyAbove all, beware of teaching the child empty phrases of politeness, which serve as spells to subdue those around him to his will, and to get him what he wants at once. The artificial education of the rich never fails to make them politely imperious, by teaching them the words to use so that no one will dare to resist them.
translated by Barbara FoxleyTheir children have neither the tone nor the manner of suppliants; they are as haughty or even more haughty in their entreaties than in their commands, as though they were more certain to be obeyed. You see at once that "If you please" means "It pleases me," and "I beg" means "I command." What a fine sort of politeness which only succeeds in changing the meaning of words so that every word is a command! For my own part, I would rather Emile were rude than haughty, that he should say "Do this" as a request, rather than "Please" as a command. What concerns me is his meaning, not his words.
translated by Barbara FoxleyIf their childhood is made wretched by these notions of power and tyranny, what of their manhood, when their relations with their fellow-men begin to grow and multiply? They are used to find everything give way to them; what a painful surprise to enter society and meet with opposition on every side, to be crushed beneath the weight of a universe which they expected to move at will. Their insolent manners, their childish vanity, only draw down upon them mortification, scorn, and mockery; they swallow insults like water; sharp experience soon teaches them that they have realised neither their position nor their strength. As they cannot do everything, they think they can do nothing. They are daunted by unexpected obstacles, degraded by the scorn of men; they become base, cowardly, and deceitful, and fall as far below their true level as they formerly soared above it.
translated by Barbara Foxley"Reason with children" was Locke's chief maxim; it is in the height of fashion at present, and I hardly think it is justified by its results; those children who have been constantly reasoned with strike me as exceedingly silly. Of all man's faculties, reason, which is, so to speak, compounded of all the rest, is the last and choicest growth, and it is this you would use for the child's early training. To make a man reasonable is the coping stone of a good education, and yet you profess to train a child through his reason! You begin at the wrong end, you make the end the means. If children understood reason they would not need education, but by talking to them from their earliest age in a language they do not understand you accustom them to be satisfied with words, to question all that is said to them, to think themselves as wise as their teachers; you train them to be argumentative and rebellious; and whatever you think you gain from motives of reason, you really gain from greediness, fear, or vanity with which you are obliged to reinforce your reasoning.
translated by Barbara FoxleyIt is no part of a child's business to know right and wrong, to perceive the reason for a man's duties. Nature would have them children before they are men. If we try to invert this order we shall produce a forced fruit immature and flavourless, fruit which will be rotten before it is ripe; we shall have young doctors and old children. Childhood has its own ways of seeing, thinking, and feeling; nothing is more foolish than to try and substitute our ways; and I should no more expect judgment in a ten-year-old child than I should expect him to be five feet high.
translated by Barbara FoxleyIf there is something he should not do, do not forbid him, but prevent him without explanation or reasoning; what you give him, give it at his first word without prayers or entreaties, above all without conditions. Give willingly, refuse unwillingly, but let your refusal be irrevocable; let no entreaties move you; let your "No," once uttered, be a wall of brass, against which the child may exhaust his strength some five or six times, but in the end he will try no more to overthrow it.Thus you will make him patient, equable, calm, and resigned, even when he does not get all he wants; for it is in man's nature to bear patiently with the nature of things, but not with the ill-will of another. A child never rebels against, "There is none left," unless he thinks the reply is false. Moreover, there is no middle course; you must either make no demands on him at all, or else you must fashion him to perfect obedience. The worst education of all is to leave him hesitating between his own will and yours, constantly disputing whether you or he is master; I would rather a hundred times that he were master.
translated by Barbara FoxleyIt is very strange that ever since people began to think about education they should have hit upon no other way of guiding children than emulation, jealousy, envy, vanity, greediness, base cowardice, all the most dangerous passions, passions ever ready to ferment, ever prepared to corrupt the soul even before the body is full-grown. With every piece of precocious instruction which you try to force into their minds you plant a vice in the depths of their hearts; foolish teachers think they are doing wonders when they are making their scholars wicked in order to teach them what goodness is, and then they tell us seriously, "Such is man." Yes, such is man, as you have made him. Every means has been tried except one, the very one which might succeed—well-regulated liberty. Do not undertake to bring up a child if you cannot guide him merely by the laws of what can or cannot be. The limits of the possible and the impossible are alike unknown to him, so they can be extended or contracted around him at your will. Without a murmur he is restrained, urged on, held back, by the hands of necessity alone; he is made adaptable and teachable by the mere force of things, without any chance for vice to spring up in him; for passions do not arise so long as they have accomplished nothing. Give your scholar no verbal lessons; he should be taught by experience alone; never punish him, for he does not know what it is to do wrong; never make him say, "Forgive me," for he does not know how to do you wrong. Wholly unmoral in his actions, he can do nothing morally wrong, and he deserves neither punishment nor reproof. Already I see the frightened reader comparing this child with those of our time; he is mistaken. The perpetual restraint imposed upon your scholars stimulates their activity; the more subdued they are in your presence, the more boisterous they are as soon as they are out of your sight. They must make amends to themselves in some way or other for the harsh constraint to which you subject them. Two schoolboys from the town will do more damage in the country than all the children of the village. Shut up a young gentleman and a young peasant in a room; the former will have upset and smashed everything before the latter has stirred from his place. Why is that, unless that the one hastens to misuse a moment's licence, while the other, always sure of freedom, does not use it rashly. And yet the village children, often flattered or constrained, are still very far from the state in which I would have them kept.
translated by Barbara FoxleyLet us lay it down as an incontrovertible rule that the first impulses of nature are always right; there is no original sin in the human heart, the how and why of the entrance of every vice can be traced. The only natural passion is self-love or selfishness taken in a wider sense. This selfishness is good in itself and in relation to ourselves; and as the child has no necessary relations to other people he is naturally indifferent to them; his self-love only becomes good or bad by the use made of it and the relations established by its means.
translated by Barbara FoxleyI do not mean to say that he will never do any mischief, never hurt himself, never break a costly ornament if you leave it within his reach. He might do much damage without doing wrong, since wrong-doing depends on the harmful intention which will never be his. If once he meant to do harm, his whole education would be ruined; he would be almost hopelessly bad.
translated by Barbara FoxleyLet the room be furnished with plain and solid furniture; no mirrors, china, or useless ornaments. My pupil Emile, who is brought up in the country, shall have a room just like a peasant's. Why take such pains to adorn it when he will be so little in it? I am mistaken, however; he will ornament it for himself, and we shall soon see how. But if, in spite of your precautions, the child contrives to do some damage, if he breaks some useful article, do not punish him for your carelessness, do not even scold him; let him hear no word of reproval, do not even let him see that he has vexed you; behave just as if the thing had come to pieces of itself; you may consider you have done great things if you have managed to hold your tongue.
translated by Barbara FoxleyMay I venture at this point to state the greatest, the most important, the most useful rule of education? It is: Do not save time, but lose it. I hope that every-day readers will excuse my paradoxes; you cannot avoid paradox if you think for yourself, and whatever you may say I would rather fall into paradox than into prejudice. The most dangerous period in human life lies between birth and the age of twelve. It is the time when errors and vices spring up, while as yet there is no means to destroy them; when the means of destruction are ready, the roots have gone too deep to be pulled up.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThe mind should be left undisturbed till its faculties have developed; for while it is blind it cannot see the torch you offer it, nor can it follow through the vast expanse of ideas a path so faintly traced by reason that the best eyes can scarcely follow it. Therefore the education of the earliest years should be merely negative. It consists, not in teaching virtue or truth, but in preserving the heart from vice and from the spirit of error. If only you could let well alone, and get others to follow your example; if you could bring your scholar to the age of twelve strong and healthy, but unable to tell his right hand from his left, the eyes of his understanding would be open to reason as soon as you began to teach him. Free from prejudices and free from habits, there would be nothing in him to counteract the effects of your labours. In your hands he would soon become the wisest of men; by doing nothing to begin with, you would end with a prodigy of education.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThere is another point to be considered which confirms the suitability of this method: it is the child's individual bent, which must be thoroughly known before we can choose the fittest moral training. Every mind has its own form, in accordance with which it must be controlled; and the success of the pains taken depends largely on the fact that he is controlled in this way and no other. Oh, wise man, take time to observe nature; watch your scholar well before you say a word to him; first leave the germ of his character free to show itself, do not constrain him in anything, the better to see him as he really is. Do you think this time of liberty is wasted? On the contrary, your scholar will be the better employed, for this is the way you yourself will learn not to lose a single moment when time is of more value. If, however, you begin to act before you know what to do, you act at random; you may make mistakes, and must retrace your steps; your haste to reach your goal will only take you further from it.
translated by Barbara FoxleyBe just, human, kindly. Do not give alms alone, give charity; works of mercy do more than money for the relief of suffering; love others and they will love you; serve them and they will serve you; be their brother and they will be your children.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThis is one reason why I want to bring up Emile in the country, far from those miserable lacqueys, the most degraded of men except their masters; far from the vile morals of the town, whose gilded surface makes them seductive and contagious to children; while the vices of peasants, unadorned and in their naked grossness, are more fitted to repel than to seduce, when there is no motive for imitating them.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThe explosive passions produce a great effect upon the child when he sees them; their outward expression is very marked; he is struck by this and his attention is arrested. Anger especially is so noisy in its rage that it is impossible not to perceive it if you are within reach. You need not ask yourself whether this is an opportunity for a pedagogue to frame a fine disquisition. What! no fine disquisition, nothing, not a word! Let the child come to you; impressed by what he has seen, he will not fail to ask you questions. The answer is easy; it is drawn from the very things which have appealed to his senses. He sees a flushed face, flashing eyes, a threatening gesture, he hears cries; everything shows that the body is ill at ease. Tell him plainly, without affectation or mystery, "This poor man is ill, he is in a fever." You may take the opportunity of giving him in a few words some idea of disease and its effects; for that too belongs to nature, and is one of the bonds of necessity which he must recognise. By means of this idea, which is not false in itself, may he not early acquire a certain aversion to giving way to excessive passions, which he regards as diseases; and do you not think that such a notion, given at the right moment, will produce a more wholesome effect than the most tedious sermon?
translated by Barbara FoxleyA foolish laugh may destroy six months' work and do irreparable damage for life. I cannot repeat too often that to control the child one must often control oneself.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThere are calm and gentle characters which can be led a long way in their first innocence without any danger; but there are also stormy dispositions whose passions develop early; you must hasten to make men of them lest you should have to keep them in chains.
translated by Barbara FoxleyIn every age, and especially in childhood, we want to create, to copy, to produce, to give all the signs of power and activity. He will hardly have seen the gardener at work twice, sowing, planting, and growing vegetables, before he will want to garden himself.According to the principles I have already laid down, I shall not thwart him; on the contrary, I shall approve of his plan, share his hobby, and work with him, not for his pleasure but my own; at least, so he thinks; I shall be his under-gardener, and dig the ground for him till his arms are strong enough to do it; he will take possession of it by planting a bean, and this is surely a more sacred possession, and one more worthy of respect, than that of Nunes Balboa, who took possession of South America in the name of the King of Spain, by planting his banner on the coast of the Southern Sea.
translated by Barbara FoxleyYoung teacher, pray consider this example, and remember that your lessons should always be in deeds rather than words, for children soon forget what they say or what is said to them, but not what they have done nor what has been done to them.
translated by Barbara FoxleyYour ill-tempered child destroys everything he touches. Do not vex yourself; put anything he can spoil out of his reach. He breaks the things he is using; do not be in a hurry to give him more; let him feel the want of them. He breaks the windows of his room; let the wind blow upon him night and day, and do not be afraid of his catching cold; it is better to catch cold than to be reckless. Never complain of the inconvenience he causes you, but let him feel it first. At last you will have the windows mended without saying anything. He breaks them again; then change your plan; tell him dryly and without anger, "The windows are mine, I took pains to have them put in, and I mean to keep them safe." Then you will shut him up in a dark place without a window. At this unexpected proceeding he cries and howls; no one heeds. Soon he gets tired and changes his tone; he laments and sighs; a servant appears, the rebel begs to be let out. Without seeking any excuse for refusing, the servant merely says, "I, too, have windows to keep," and goes away. At last, when the child has been there several hours, long enough to get very tired of it, long enough to make an impression on his memory, some one suggests to him that he should offer to make terms with you, so that you may set him free and he will never break windows again. That is just what he wants. He will send and ask you to come and see him; you will come, he will suggest his plan, and you will agree to it at once, saying, "That is a very good idea; it will suit us both; why didn't you think of it sooner?" Then without asking for any affirmation or confirmation of his promise, you will embrace him joyfully and take him back at once to his own room, considering this agreement as sacred as if he had confirmed it by a formal oath. What idea do you think he will form from these proceedings, as to the fulfilment of a promise and its usefulness? If I am not greatly mistaken, there is not a child upon earth, unless he is utterly spoilt already, who could resist this treatment, or one who would ever dream of breaking windows again on purpose.
translated by Barbara FoxleyWe are now in the world of morals, the door to vice is open. Deceit and falsehood are born along with conventions and duties. As soon as we can do what we ought not to do, we try to hide what we ought not to have done. As soon as self-interest makes us give a promise, a greater interest may make us break it; it is merely a question of doing it with impunity; we naturally take refuge in concealment and falsehood. As we have not been able to prevent vice, we must punish it. The sorrows of life begin with its mistakes.you will not exactly punish them for lying, but you will arrange that all the ill effects of lying, such as not being believed when we speak the truth, or being accused of what we have not done in spite of our protests, shall fall on their heads when they have told a lie.
translated by Barbara FoxleyHe who feels the need of help from others, he who is constantly experiencing their kindness, has nothing to gain by deceiving them; it is plainly to his advantage that they should see things as they are, lest they should mistake his interests. It is therefore plain that lying with regard to actual facts is not natural to children, but lying is made necessary by the law of obedience; since obedience is disagreeable, children disobey as far as they can in secret, and the present good of avoiding punishment or reproof outweighs the remoter good of speaking the truth. Under a free and natural education why should your child lie? What has he to conceal from you? You do not thwart him, you do not punish him, you demand nothing from him. Why should he not tell everything to you as simply as to his little playmate?Children's lies are therefore entirely the work of their teachers, and to teach them to speak the truth is nothing less than to teach them the art of lying. In your zeal to rule, control, and teach them, you never find sufficient means at your disposal. You wish to gain fresh influence over their minds by baseless maxims, by unreasonable precepts; and you would rather they knew their lessons and told lies, than leave them ignorant and truthful.
translated by Barbara FoxleyFor the sake of a show of preaching virtue you make them love every vice; you instil these vices by forbidding them. Would you have them pious, you take them to church till they are sick of it; you teach them to gabble prayers until they long for the happy time when they will not have to pray to God. To teach them charity you make them give alms as if you scorned to give yourself. It is not the child, but the master, who should give; however much he loves his pupil he should vie with him for this honour; he should make him think that he is too young to deserve it. Alms-giving is the deed of a man who can measure the worth of his gift and the needs of his fellow-men. The child, who knows nothing of these, can have no merit in giving; he gives without charity, without kindness; he is almost ashamed to give, for, to judge by your practice and his own, he thinks it is only children who give, and that there is no need for charity when we are grown up.I have scarcely seen generosity in children except of these two types, giving what is of no use to them, or what they expect to get back again. "Arrange things," says Locke, "so that experience may convince them that the most generous giver gets the biggest share." That is to make the child superficially generous but really greedy. He adds that "children will thus form the habit of liberality." Yes, a usurer's liberality, which expects cent. per cent. But when it is a question of real giving, good-bye to the habit; when they do not get things back, they will not give. It is the habit of the mind, not of the hands, that needs watching. All the other virtues taught to children are like this, and to preach these baseless virtues you waste their youth in sorrow. What a sensible sort of education!Rather than hasten to demand deeds of charity from my pupil I prefer to perform such deeds in his presence, even depriving him of the means of imitating me, as an honour beyond his years; for it is of the utmost importance that he should not regard a man's duties as merely those of a child.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThe only moral lesson which is suited for a child—the most important lesson for every time of life—is this: "Never hurt anybody."
translated by Barbara FoxleyThe noblest virtues are negative, they are also the most difficult, for they make little show, and do not even make room for that pleasure so dear to the heart of man, the thought that some one is pleased with us.
translated by Barbara FoxleySilly children grow into ordinary men. I know no generalisation more certain than this. It is the most difficult thing in the world to distinguish between genuine stupidity, and that apparent and deceitful stupidity which is the sign of a strong character. At first sight it seems strange that the two extremes should have the same outward signs; and yet it may well be so, for at an age when man has as yet no true ideas, the whole difference between the genius and the rest consists in this: the latter only take in false ideas, while the former, finding nothing but false ideas, receives no ideas at all. In this he resembles the fool; the one is fit for nothing, the other finds nothing fit for him. The only way of distinguishing between them depends upon chance, which may offer the genius some idea which he can understand, while the fool is always the same. As a child, the young Cato was taken for an idiot by his parents; he was obstinate and silent, and that was all they perceived in him; it was only in Sulla's ante-chamber that his uncle discovered what was in him. Had he never found his way there, he might have passed for a fool till he reached the age of reason. Had Caesar never lived, perhaps this same Cato, who discerned his fatal genius, and foretold his great schemes, would have passed for a dreamer all his days. Those who judge children hastily are apt to be mistaken; they are often more childish than the child himself.
translated by Barbara FoxleyHold childhood in reverence, and do not be in any hurry to judge it for good or ill. Leave exceptional cases to show themselves, let their qualities be tested and confirmed, before special methods are adopted. Give nature time to work before you take over her business, lest you interfere with her dealings. You assert that you know the value of time and are afraid to waste it. You fail to perceive that it is a greater waste of time to use it ill than to do nothing, and that a child ill taught is further from virtue than a child who has learnt nothing at all. You are afraid to see him spending his early years doing nothing. What! is it nothing to be happy, nothing to run and jump all day? He will never be so busy again all his life long. Plato, in his Republic, which is considered so stern, teaches the children only through festivals, games, songs, and amusements. It seems as if he had accomplished his purpose when he had taught them to be happy; and Seneca, speaking of the Roman lads in olden days, says, "They were always on their feet, they were never taught anything which kept them sitting." Were they any the worse for it in manhood? Do not be afraid, therefore, of this so-called idleness. What would you think of a man who refused to sleep lest he should waste part of his life? You would say, "He is mad; he is not enjoying his life, he is robbing himself of part of it; to avoid sleep he is hastening his death." Remember that these two cases are alike, and that childhood is the sleep of reason.
translated by Barbara FoxleyYou assure me he learns several languages; I deny it. I have seen those little prodigies who are supposed to speak half a dozen languages. I have heard them speak first in German, then in Latin, French, or Italian; true, they used half a dozen different vocabularies, but they always spoke German. In a word, you may give children as many synonyms as you like; it is not their language but their words that you change; they will never have but one language. To conceal their deficiencies teachers choose the dead languages, in which we have no longer any judges whose authority is beyond dispute. The familiar use of these tongues disappeared long ago, so they are content to imitate what they find in books, and they call that talking.
translated by Barbara FoxleyAnd yet what dangerous prejudices are you implanting when you teach them to accept as knowledge words which have no meaning for them. The first meaningless phrase, the first thing taken for granted on the word of another person without seeing its use for himself, this is the beginning of the ruin of the child's judgment. He may dazzle the eyes of fools long enough before he recovers from such a loss.
translated by Barbara FoxleyNo, if nature has given the child this plasticity of brain which fits him to receive every kind of impression, it was not that you should imprint on it the names and dates of kings, the jargon of heraldry, the globe and geography, all those words without present meaning or future use for the child, which flood of words overwhelms his sad and barren childhood. But by means of this plasticity all the ideas he can understand and use, all that concern his happiness and will some day throw light upon his duties, should be traced at an early age in indelible characters upon his brain, to guide him to live in such a way as befits his nature and his powers. Without the study of books, such a memory as the child may possess is not left idle; everything he sees and hears makes an impression on him, he keeps a record of men's sayings and doings, and his whole environment is the book from which he unconsciously enriches his memory, till his judgment is able to profit by it.
translated by Barbara FoxleyEmile will not learn anything by heart, not even fables, not even the fables of La Fontaine, simple and delightful as they are, for the words are no more the fable than the words of history are history. How can people be so blind as to call fables the child's system of morals, without considering that the child is not only amused by the apologue but misled by it? He is attracted by what is false and he misses the truth, and the means adopted to make the teaching pleasant prevent him profiting by it. Men may be taught by fables; children require the naked truth.
translated by Barbara FoxleyWhen I thus get rid of children's lessons, I get rid of the chief cause of their sorrows, namely their books. Reading is the curse of childhood, yet it is almost the only occupation you can find for children. Emile, at twelve years old, will hardly know what a book is. "But," you say, "he must, at least, know how to read." When reading is of use to him, I admit he must learn to read, but till then he will only find it a nuisance.
translated by Barbara FoxleyPresent interest, that is the motive power, the only motive power that takes us far and safely.
translated by Barbara FoxleyAs the sentient being becomes active his discernment develops along with his strength. Not till his strength is in excess of what is needed for self-preservation, is the speculative faculty developed, the faculty adapted for using this superfluous strength for other purposes. Would you cultivate your pupil's intelligence, cultivate the strength it is meant to control. Give his body constant exercise, make it strong and healthy, in order to make him good and wise; let him work, let him do things, let him run and shout, let him be always on the go; make a man of him in strength, and he will soon be a man in reason.Speaking generally, there is nothing duller than a peasant or sharper than a savage. What is the cause of this difference? The peasant has always done as he was told, what his father did before him, what he himself has always done; he is the creature of habit, he spends his life almost like an automaton on the same tasks; habit and obedience have taken the place of reason. The case of the savage is very different; he is tied to no one place, he has no prescribed task, no superior to obey, he knows no law but his own will; he is therefore forced to reason at every step he takes. He can neither move nor walk without considering the consequences. Thus the more his body is exercised, the more alert is his mind; his strength and his reason increase together, and each helps to develop the other.
translated by Barbara FoxleyAs for my pupil, or rather Nature's pupil, he has been trained from the outset to be as self-reliant as possible, he has not formed the habit of constantly seeking help from others, still less of displaying his stores of learning. On the other hand, he exercises discrimination and forethought, he reasons about everything that concerns himself. He does not chatter, he acts. Not a word does he know of what is going on in the world at large, but he knows very thoroughly what affects himself. As he is always stirring he is compelled to notice many things, to recognise many effects; he soon acquires a good deal of experience. Nature, not man, is his schoolmaster, and he learns all the quicker because he is not aware that he has any lesson to learn. So mind and body work together. He is always carrying out his own ideas, not those of other people, and thus he unites thought and action; as he grows in health and strength he grows in wisdom and discernment.
translated by Barbara FoxleyYoung teacher, I am setting before you a difficult task, the art of controlling without precepts, and doing everything without doing anything at all. This art is, I confess, beyond your years, it is not calculated to display your talents nor to make your value known to your scholar's parents; but it is the only road to success. You will never succeed in making wise men if you do not first make little imps of mischief. This was the education of the Spartans; they were not taught to stick to their books, they were set to steal their dinners. Were they any the worse for it in after life? Ever ready for victory, they crushed their foes in every kind of warfare, and the prating Athenians were as much afraid of their words as of their blows.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThe child is usually much quicker to read the master's thoughts than the master to read the child's feelings. And that is as it should be, for all the sagacity which the child would have devoted to self-preservation, had he been left to himself, is now devoted to the rescue of his native freedom from the chains of his tyrant; while the latter, who has no such pressing need to understand the child, sometimes finds that it pays him better to leave him in idleness or vanity.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThus when he does not find you continually thwarting him, when he no longer distrusts you, no longer has anything to conceal from you, he will neither tell you lies nor deceive you; he will show himself fearlessly as he really is, and you can study him at your ease, and surround him with all the lessons you would have him learn, without awaking his suspicions.Neither will he keep a curious and jealous eye on your own conduct, nor take a secret delight in catching you at fault. It is a great thing to avoid this. One of the child's first objects is, as I have said, to find the weak spots in its rulers. Though this leads to spitefulness, it does not arise from it, but from the desire to evade a disagreeable control. Overburdened by the yoke laid upon him, he tries to shake it off, and the faults he finds in his master give him a good opportunity for this. Still the habit of spying out faults and delighting in them grows upon people. Clearly we have stopped another of the springs of vice in Emile's heart. Having nothing to gain from my faults, he will not be on the watch for them, nor will he be tempted to look out for the faults of others.
translated by Barbara FoxleyNot only do short-sighted mothers offer ornaments as rewards to their children, but there are foolish tutors who threaten to make their pupils wear the plainest and coarsest clothes as a punishment. "If you do not do your lessons better, if you do not take more care of your clothes, you shall be dressed like that little peasant boy." This is like saying to them, "Understand that clothes make the man." Is it to be wondered at that our young people profit by such wise teaching, that they care for nothing but dress, and that they only judge of merit by its outside.Before the child is enslaved by our prejudices his first wish is always to be free and comfortable. The plainest and most comfortable clothes, those which leave him most liberty, are what he always likes best.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThe sports of the young savage involve long fasting, blows, burns, and fatigue of every kind, a proof that even pain has a charm of its own, which may remove its bitterness.
translated by Barbara FoxleyAn exclusive education, which merely tends to keep those who have received it apart from the mass of mankind, always selects such teaching as is costly rather than cheap, even when the latter is of more use. Thus all carefully educated young men learn to ride, because it is costly, but scarcely any of them learn to swim, as it costs nothing, and an artisan can swim as well as any one.
translated by Barbara FoxleyEmile shall be as much at home in the water as on land. Why should he not be able to live in every element? If he could learn to fly, he should be an eagle; I would make him a salamander, if he could bear the heat.
translated by Barbara FoxleyI should say to Emile, "This is a matter of self-defence, for the aggressor does not let you know whether he means to hurt or frighten you, and as the advantage is on his side you cannot even take refuge in flight. Therefore seize boldly anything, whether man or beast, which takes you unawares in the dark. Grasp it, squeeze it with all your might; if it struggles, strike, and do not spare your blows; and whatever he may say or do, do not let him go till you know just who he is. The event will probably prove that you had little to be afraid of, but this way of treating practical jokers would naturally prevent their trying it again.Why should my pupil be always compelled to wear the skin of an ox under his foot? What harm would come of it if his own skin could serve him at need as a sole. It is clear that a delicate skin could never be of any use in this way, and may often do harm. The Genevese, aroused at midnight by their enemies in the depth of winter, seized their guns rather than their shoes. Who can tell whether the town would have escaped capture if its citizens had not been able to go barefoot? Let a man be always fore-armed against the unforeseen. Let Emile run about barefoot all the year round, upstairs, downstairs, and in the garden. Far from scolding him, I shall follow his example; only I shall be careful to remove any broken glass.
translated by Barbara Foxleylet him learn to perform every exercise which encourages agility of body; let him learn to hold himself easily and steadily in any position, let him practise jumping and leaping, climbing trees and walls.He should emulate the mountain-goat, not the ballet dancer.
translated by Barbara FoxleyAll children in the course of their endless imitation try to draw; and I would have Emile cultivate this art; not so much for art's sake, as to give him exactness of eye and flexibility of hand. Generally speaking, it matters little whether he is acquainted with this or that occupation, provided he gains clearness of sense—perception and the good bodily habits which belong to the exercise in question. So I shall take good care not to provide him with a drawing master, who would only set him to copy copies and draw from drawings. Nature should be his only teacher, and things his only models. He should have the real thing before his eyes, not its copy on paper. Let him draw a house from a house, a tree from a tree, a man from a man; so that he may train himself to observe objects and their appearance accurately and not to take false and conventional copies for truth. I would even train him to draw only from objects actually before him and not from memory, so that, by repeated observation, their exact form may be impressed on his imagination, for fear lest he should substitute absurd and fantastic forms for the real truth of things, and lose his sense of proportion and his taste for the beauties of nature.Moreover, in this occupation as in others, I do not intend my pupil to play by himself; I mean to make it pleasanter for him by always sharing it with him. He shall have no other rival; but mine will be a continual rivalry, and there will be no risk attaching to it; it will give interest to his pursuits without awaking jealousy between us. I shall follow his example and take up a pencil; at first I shall use it as unskilfully as he. I should be an Apelles if I did not set myself daubing. To begin with, I shall draw a man such as lads draw on walls, a line for each arm, another for each leg, with the fingers longer than the arm. Long after, one or other of us will notice this lack of proportion; we shall observe that the leg is thick, that this thickness varies, that the length of the arm is proportionate to the body. In this improvement I shall either go side by side with my pupil, or so little in advance that he will always overtake me easily and sometimes get ahead of me. We shall get brushes and paints, we shall try to copy the colours of things and their whole appearance, not merely their shape. We shall colour prints, we shall paint, we shall daub; but in all our daubing we shall be searching out the secrets of nature, and whatever we do shall be done under the eye of that master.We badly needed ornaments for our room, and now we have them ready to our hand. I will have our drawings framed and covered with good glass, so that no one will touch them, and thus seeing them where we put them, each of us has a motive for taking care of his own. I arrange them in order round the room, each drawing repeated some twenty or thirty times, thus showing the author's progress in each specimen, from the time when the house is merely a rude square, till its front view, its side view, its proportions, its light and shade are all exactly portrayed. These graduations will certainly furnish us with pictures, a source of interest to ourselves and of curiosity to others, which will spur us on to further emulation. The first and roughest drawings I put in very smart gilt frames to show them off; but as the copy becomes more accurate and the drawing really good, I only give it a very plain dark frame; it needs no other ornament than itself, and it would be a pity if the frame distracted the attention which the picture itself deserves. Thus we each aspire to a plain frame, and when we desire to pour scorn on each other's drawings, we condemn them to a gilded frame.
translated by Barbara FoxleyPeople always play carelessly in games where there is no danger. A falling kite hurts nobody, but nothing makes the arm so supple as protecting the head, nothing makes the sight so accurate as having to guard the eye. To dash from one end of the room to another, to judge the rebound of a ball before it touches the ground, to return it with strength and accuracy, such games are not so much sports fit for a man, as sports fit to make a man of him.
translated by Barbara FoxleyWhen the savage tastes wine for the first time, he makes a grimace and spits it out; and even among ourselves a man who has not tasted fermented liquors before twenty cannot get used to them; we should all be sober if we did not have wine when we were children.Do not bring him up so that he would die of hunger in a foreign land if he does not take a French cook about with him; do not let him say at some future time that France is the only country where the food is fit to eat. By the way, that is a strange way of praising one's country. On the other hand, I myself should say that the French are the only people who do not know what good food is, since they require such a special art to make their dishes eatable.
translated by Barbara FoxleyGreediness is a better motive than vanity; for the former is a natural appetite directly dependent on the senses, while the latter is the outcome of convention, it is the slave of human caprice and liable to every kind of abuse. Believe me the child will cease to care about his food only too soon, and when his heart is too busy, his palate will be idle. When he is grown up greediness will be expelled by a host of stronger passions, while vanity will only be stimulated by them; for this latter passion feeds upon the rest till at length they are all swallowed up in it. I have sometimes studied those men who pay great attention to good eating, men whose first waking thought is—What shall we have to eat to-day? men who describe their dinner with as much detail as Polybius describes a combat. I have found these so-called men were only children of forty, without strength or vigour.A good meal should never be a reward; but why should it not be sometimes the result of efforts made to get it. Emile does not consider the cake I put on the stone as a reward for good running; he knows that the only way to get the cake is to get there first.
translated by Barbara Foxley"You ask me," said Plutarch, "why Pythagoras abstained from eating the flesh of beasts, but I ask you, what courage must have been needed by the first man who raised to his lips the flesh of the slain, who broke with his teeth the bones of a dying beast, who had dead bodies, corpses, placed before him and swallowed down limbs which a few moments ago were bleating, bellowing, walking, and seeing? How could his hand plunge the knife into the heart of a sentient creature, how could his eyes look on murder, how could he behold a poor helpless animal bled to death, scorched, and dismembered? how can he bear the sight of this quivering flesh? does not the very smell of it turn his stomach? is he not repelled, disgusted, horror-struck, when he has to handle the blood from these wounds, and to cleanse his fingers from the dark and viscous bloodstains? "The scorched skins wriggled upon the ground, The shrinking flesh bellowed upon the spit. Man cannot eat them without a shudder; He seems to hear their cries within his breast. "Thus must he have felt the first time he did despite to nature and made this horrible meal; the first time he hungered for the living creature, and desired to feed upon the beast which was still grazing; when he bade them slay, dismember, and cut up the sheep which licked his hands. It is those who began these cruel feasts, not those who abandon them, who should cause surprise, and there were excuses for those primitive men, excuses which we have not, and the absence of such excuses multiplies our barbarity a hundredfold."'Mortals, beloved of the gods,' says this primitive man, 'compare our times with yours; see how happy you are, and how wretched were we. The earth, newly formed, the air heavy with moisture, were not yet subjected to the rule of the seasons. Three-fourths of the surface of the globe was flooded by the ever-shifting channels of rivers uncertain of their course, and covered with pools, lakes, and bottomless morasses. The remaining quarter was covered with woods and barren forests. The earth yielded no good fruit, we had no instruments of tillage, we did not even know the use of them, and the time of harvest never came for those who had sown nothing. Thus hunger was always in our midst. In winter, mosses and the bark of trees were our common food. A few green roots of dogs-bit or heather were a feast, and when men found beech-mast, nuts, or acorns, they danced for joy round the beech or oak, to the sound of some rude song, while they called the earth their mother and their nurse. This was their only festival, their only sport; all the rest of man's life was spent in sorrow, pain, and hunger."'At length, when the bare and naked earth no longer offered us any food, we were compelled in self-defence to outrage nature, and to feed upon our companions in distress, rather than perish with them. But you, oh, cruel men! who forces you to shed blood? Behold the wealth of good things about you, the fruits yielded by the earth, the wealth of field and vineyard; the animals give their milk for your drink and their fleece for your clothing. What more do you ask? What madness compels you to commit such murders, when you have already more than you can eat or drink? Why do you slander our mother earth, and accuse her of denying you food? Why do you sin against Ceres, the inventor of the sacred laws, and against the gracious Bacchus, the comforter of man, as if their lavish gifts were not enough to preserve mankind? Have you the heart to mingle their sweet fruits with the bones upon your table, to eat with the milk the blood of the beasts which gave it? The lions and panthers, wild beasts as you call them, are driven to follow their natural instinct, and they kill other beasts that they may live. But, a hundredfold fiercer than they, you fight against your instincts without cause, and abandon yourselves to the most cruel pleasures. The animals you eat are not those who devour others; you do not eat the carnivorous beasts, you take them as your pattern. You only hunger for the sweet and gentle creatures which harm no one, which follow you, serve you, and are devoured by you as the reward of their service."'O unnatural murderer! if you persist in the assertion that nature has made you to devour your fellow-creatures, beings of flesh and blood, living and feeling like yourself, stifle if you can that horror with which nature makes you regard these horrible feasts; slay the animals yourself, slay them, I say, with your own hands, without knife or mallet; tear them with your nails like the lion and the bear, take this ox and rend him in pieces, plunge your claws into his hide; eat this lamb while it is yet alive, devour its warm flesh, drink its soul with its blood. You shudder! you dare not feel the living throbbing flesh between your teeth? Ruthless man; you begin by slaying the animal and then you devour it, as if to slay it twice. It is not enough. You turn against the dead flesh, it revolts you, it must be transformed by fire, boiled and roasted, seasoned and disguised with drugs; you must have butchers, cooks, turnspits, men who will rid the murder of its horrors, who will dress the dead bodies so that the taste deceived by these disguises will not reject what is strange to it, and will feast on corpses, the very sight of which would sicken you.'" Although this quotation is irrelevant, I cannot resist the temptation to transcribe it, and I think few of my readers will resent it.
translated by Barbara FoxleyOur appetite is only excessive because we try to impose on it rules other than those of nature, opposing, controlling, prescribing, adding, or substracting; the scales are always in our hands, but the scales are the measure of our caprices not of our stomachs. I return to my usual illustration; among peasants the cupboard and the apple-loft are always left open, and indigestion is unknown alike to children and grown-up people.
translated by Barbara FoxleyHerodotus records that the Lydians, [Footnote: The ancient historians are full of opinions which may be useful, even if the facts which they present are false. But we do not know how to make any real use of history. Criticism and erudition are our only care; as if it mattered more that a statement were true or false than that we should be able to get a useful lesson from it. A wise man should consider history a tissue of fables whose morals are well adapted to the human heart.] under the pressure of great scarcity, decided to invent sports and other amusements with which to cheat their hunger, and they passed whole days without thought of food. Your learned teachers may have read this passage time after time without seeing how it might be applied to children. One of these teachers will probably tell me that a child does not like to leave his dinner for his lessons. You are right, sir—I was not thinking of that sort of sport.
translated by Barbara FoxleyIn the following books I have still to speak of the training of a sort of sixth sense, called common-sense, not so much because it is common to all men, but because it results from the well-regulated use of the other five, and teaches the nature of things by the sum-total of their external aspects. So this sixth sense has no special organ, it has its seat in the brain, and its sensations which are purely internal are called percepts or ideas.
translated by Barbara FoxleyEvery age, every station in life, has a perfection, a ripeness, of its own.
translated by Barbara FoxleyBut when I think of a child of ten or twelve, strong, healthy, well-grown for his age, only pleasant thoughts are called up, whether of the present or the future. I see him keen, eager, and full of life, free from gnawing cares and painful forebodings, absorbed in this present state, and delighting in a fullness of life which seems to extend beyond himself. I look forward to a time when he will use his daily increasing sense, intelligence and vigour, those growing powers of which he continually gives fresh proof. I watch the child with delight, I picture to myself the man with even greater pleasure. His eager life seems to stir my own pulses, I seem to live his life and in his vigour I renew my own.The hour strikes, the scene is changed. All of a sudden his eye grows dim, his mirth has fled. Farewell mirth, farewell untrammelled sports in which he delighted. A stern, angry man takes him by the hand, saying gravely, "Come with me, sir," and he is led away. As they are entering the room, I catch a glimpse of books. Books, what dull food for a child of his age! The poor child allows himself to be dragged away; he casts a sorrowful look on all about him, and departs in silence, his eyes swollen with the tears he dare not shed, and his heart bursting with the sighs he dare not utter.
translated by Barbara FoxleyHis face, his bearing, his expression, speak of confidence and contentment; health shines in his countenance, his firm step speaks of strength; his colour, delicate but not sickly, has nothing of softness or effeminacy. Sun and wind have already set the honourable stamp of manhood on his countenance; his rounded muscles already begin to show some signs of growing individuality; his eyes, as yet unlighted by the flame of feeling, have at least all their native calm; They have not been darkened by prolonged sorrow, nor are his cheeks furrowed by ceaseless tears. Behold in his quick and certain movements the natural vigour of his age and the confidence of independence. His manner is free and open, but without a trace of insolence or vanity; his head which has not been bent over books does not fall upon his breast; there is no need to say, "Hold your head up," he will neither hang his head for shame or fear.
translated by Barbara FoxleyNeither need you look for compliments from him; nor will he tell you what I have taught him to say; expect nothing from him but the plain, simple truth, without addition or ornament and without vanity. He will tell you the wrong things he has done and thought as readily as the right, without troubling himself in the least as to the effect of his words upon you; he will use speech with all the simplicity of its first beginnings.
translated by Barbara FoxleyIf my scholar rarely gives me cause for such prophecies, neither will he give me cause for such regrets, for he never says a useless word, and does not exhaust himself by chattering when he knows there is no one to listen to him. His ideas are few but precise, he knows nothing by rote but much by experience. If he reads our books worse than other children, he reads far better in the book of nature; his thoughts are not in his tongue but in his brain; he has less memory and more judgment; he can only speak one language, but he understands what he is saying, and if his speech is not so good as that of other children his deeds are better.
translated by Barbara Foxleyhe follows no rule, submits to no authority, copies no pattern, and only acts or speaks as he pleases. So do not expect set speeches or studied manners from him, but just the faithful expression of his thoughts and the conduct that springs from his inclinations.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThe rule of habit is only good for feeble hearts, and it makes them more and more feeble day by day. The only useful habit for children is to be accustomed to submit without difficulty to necessity, and the only useful habit for man is to submit without difficulty to the rule of reason. Every other habit is a vice.
translated by Barbara FoxleyFor his own part, should he need help, he will ask it readily of the first person he meets. He will ask it of a king as readily as of his servant; all men are equals in his eyes. From his way of asking you will see he knows you owe him nothing, that he is asking a favour. He knows too that humanity moves you to grant this favour; his words are few and simple. His voice, his look, his gesture are those of a being equally familiar with compliance and refusal. It is neither the crawling, servile submission of the slave, nor the imperious tone of the master, it is a modest confidence in mankind; it is the noble and touching gentleness of a creature, free, yet sensitive and feeble, who asks aid of a being, free, but strong and kindly.
translated by Barbara FoxleyIs there anything better worth seeing, anything more touching or more delightful, than a pretty child, with merry, cheerful glance, easy contented manner, open smiling countenance, playing at the most important things, or working at the lightest amusements?
translated by Barbara FoxleyWould you now judge him by comparison? Set him among other children and leave him to himself. You will soon see which has made most progress, which comes nearer to the perfection of childhood. Among all the children in the town there is none more skilful and none so strong. Among young peasants he is their equal in strength and their superior in skill. In everything within a child's grasp he judges, reasons, and shows a forethought beyond the rest. Is it a matter of action, running, jumping, or shifting things, raising weights or estimating distance, inventing games, carrying off prizes; you might say, "Nature obeys his word," so easily does he bend all things to his will. He is made to lead, to rule his fellows; talent and experience take the place of right and authority. In any garb, under any name, he will still be first; everywhere he will rule the rest, they will always feel his superiority, he will be master without knowing it, and they will serve him unawares. He has reached the perfection of childhood; he has lived the life of a child; his progress has not been bought at the price of his happiness, he has gained both. While he has acquired all the wisdom of a child, he has been as free and happy as his health permits.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThe chief drawback to this early education is that it is only appreciated by the wise; to vulgar eyes the child so carefully educated is nothing but a rough little boy. A tutor thinks rather of the advantage to himself than to his pupil; he makes a point of showing that there has been no time wasted; he provides his pupil with goods which can be readily displayed in the shop window, accomplishments which can be shown off at will; no matter whether they are useful, provided they are easily seen. Without choice or discrimination he loads his memory with a pack of rubbish. If the child is to be examined he is set to display his wares; he spreads them out, satisfies those who behold them, packs up his bundle and goes his way. My pupil is poorer, he has no bundle to display, he has only himself to show. Now neither child nor man can be read at a glance. Where are the observers who can at once discern the characteristics of this child? There are such people, but they are few and far between; among a thousand fathers you will scarcely find one.A man must needs have a good judgment if he is to estimate the judgment of a child.
translated by Barbara Foxley
=== Book III ===
I hate books; they only teach us to talk about things we know nothing about.
translated by Barbara FoxleyJamais la nature ne nous trompe; c’est toujours nous qui nous trompons.
Nature never deceives us; it is always we who deceive ourselves.
translated by Barbara FoxleyPuisqu’il nous faut absolument des livres, il en existe un qui fournit, à mon gré, le plus heureux traité d’éducation naturelle. Ce livre sera le premier que lira mon Émile; seul il composera durant longtemps toute sa bibliothèque, et il y tiendra toujours une place distinguée. Il sera le texte auquel tous nos entretiens sur les sciences naturelles ne serviront que de commentaire. Il servira d’épreuve durant nos progrès à l’état de notre jugement; et, tant que notre goût ne sera pas gâté, sa lecture nous plaira toujours. Quel est donc ce merveilleux livre ? Est-ce Aristote ? est-ce Pline ? est-ce Buffon ? Non; c’est Robinson Crusoé.
There is one book which, to my thinking, supplies the best treatise on an education according to nature. This is the first book Emile will read; for a long time it will form his whole library, and it will always retain an honoured place. It will be the text to which all our talks about natural science are but the commentary. It will serve to test our progress towards a right judgment, and it will always be read with delight, so long as our taste is unspoilt. What is this wonderful book? Is it Aristotle? Pliny? Buffon? No — it is Robinson Crusoe.
translated by Barbara FoxleyConscience is the voice of the soul; the passions are the voice of the body.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThis interval in which the strength of the individual is in excess of his wants is, as I have said, relatively though not absolutely the time of greatest strength. It is the most precious time in his life; it comes but once; it is very short, all too short, as you will see when you consider the importance of using it aright.This is the time for work, instruction, and inquiry. And note that this is no arbitrary choice of mine, it is the way of nature herself. Human intelligence is finite, and not only can no man know everything, he cannot even acquire all the scanty knowledge of others. Since the contrary of every false proposition is a truth, there are as many truths as falsehoods. We must, therefore, choose what to teach as well as when to teach it. Some of the information within our reach is false, some is useless, some merely serves to puff up its possessor. The small store which really contributes to our welfare alone deserves the study of a wise man, and therefore of a child whom one would have wise. He must know not merely what is, but what is useful.
translated by Barbara FoxleyKeep this truth ever before you—Ignorance never did any one any harm, error alone is fatal, and we do not lose our way through ignorance but through self-confidence.
translated by Barbara FoxleySee how we are gradually approaching the moral ideas which distinguish between good and evil. Hitherto we have known no law but necessity, now we are considering what is useful; we shall soon come to what is fitting and right.
translated by Barbara FoxleyOur island is this earth; and the most striking object we behold is the sun. As soon as we pass beyond our immediate surroundings, one or both of these must meet our eye. Thus the philosophy of most savage races is mainly directed to imaginary divisions of the earth or to the divinity of the sun. What a sudden change you will say. Just now we were concerned with what touches ourselves, with our immediate environment, and all at once we are exploring the round world and leaping to the bounds of the universe. This change is the result of our growing strength and of the natural bent of the mind. While we were weak and feeble, self-preservation concentrated our attention on ourselves; now that we are strong and powerful, the desire for a wider sphere carries us beyond ourselves as far as our eyes can reach.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThe splendour of nature lives in man's heart; to be seen, it must be felt.
translated by Barbara FoxleyLet him make his own map, a very simple map, at first containing only two places; others may be added from time to time, as he is able to estimate their distance and position. You see at once what a good start we have given him by making his eye his compass.If he never makes mistakes he will never learn anything thoroughly. Moreover, what he needs is not an exact knowledge of local topography, but how to find out for himself. No matter whether he carries maps in his head provided he understands what they mean, and has a clear idea of the art of making them. See what a difference there is already between the knowledge of your scholars and the ignorance of mine. They learn maps, he makes them. Here are fresh ornaments for his room.
translated by Barbara FoxleyTime was long during early childhood; we only tried to pass our time for fear of using it ill; now it is the other way; we have not time enough for all that would be of use. The passions, remember, are drawing near, and when they knock at the door your scholar will have no ear for anything else. The peaceful age of intelligence is so short, it flies so swiftly, there is so much to be done, that it is madness to try to make your child learned. It is not your business to teach him the various sciences, but to give him a taste for them and methods of learning them when this taste is more mature. That is assuredly a fundamental principle of all good education.
translated by Barbara FoxleyI do not like verbal explanations. Young people pay little heed to them, nor do they remember them. Things! Things! I cannot repeat it too often. We lay too much stress upon words; we teachers babble, and our scholars follow our example.
translated by Barbara FoxleySuppose we are studying the course of the sun and the way to find our bearings, when all at once Emile interrupts me with the question, "What is the use of that?" what a fine lecture I might give, how many things I might take occasion to teach him in reply to his question, especially if there is any one there. I might speak of the advantages of travel, the value of commerce, the special products of different lands and the peculiar customs of different nations, the use of the calendar, the way to reckon the seasons for agriculture, the art of navigation, how to steer our course at sea, how to find our way without knowing exactly where we are. Politics, natural history, astronomy, even morals and international law are involved in my explanation, so as to give my pupil some idea of all these sciences and a great wish to learn them. When I have finished I shall have shown myself a regular pedant, I shall have made a great display of learning, and not one single idea has he understood. He is longing to ask me again, "What is the use of taking one's bearings?" but he dare not for fear of vexing me. He finds it pays best to pretend to listen to what he is forced to hear.
translated by Barbara FoxleyNever show a child what he cannot see. Since mankind is almost unknown to him, and since you cannot make a man of him, bring the man down to the level of the child. While you are thinking what will be useful to him when he is older, talk to him of what he knows he can use now. Moreover, as soon as he begins to reason let there be no comparison with other children, no rivalry, no competition, not even in running races. I would far rather he did not learn anything than have him learn it through jealousy or self-conceit. Year by year I shall just note the progress he had made, I shall compare the results with those of the following year, I shall say, "You have grown so much; that is the ditch you jumped, the weight you carried, the distance you flung a pebble, the race you ran without stopping to take breath, etc.; let us see what you can do now."
translated by Barbara FoxleyI hate books; they only teach us to talk about things we know nothing about. Hermes, they say, engraved the elements of science on pillars lest a deluge should destroy them. Had he imprinted them on men's hearts they would have been preserved by tradition. Well-trained minds are the pillars on which human knowledge is most deeply engraved.Since we must have books, there is one book which, to my thinking, supplies the best treatise on an education according to nature. This is the first book Emile will read; for a long time it will form his whole library, and it will always retain an honoured place. It will be the text to which all our talks about natural science are but the commentary. It will serve to test our progress towards a right judgment, and it will always be read with delight, so long as our taste is unspoilt. What is this wonderful book? Is it Aristotle? Pliny? Buffon? No; it is Robinson Crusoe.Robinson Crusoe on his island, deprived of the help of his fellow-men, without the means of carrying on the various arts, yet finding food, preserving his life, and procuring a certain amount of comfort; this is the thing to interest people of all ages, and it can be made attractive to children in all sorts of ways. We shall thus make a reality of that desert island which formerly served as an illustration. The condition, I confess, is not that of a social being, nor is it in all probability Emile's own condition, but he should use it as a standard of comparison for all other conditions. The surest way to raise him above prejudice and to base his judgments on the true relations of things, is to put him in the place of a solitary man, and to judge all things as they would be judged by such a man in relation to their own utility.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThe value set by the general public on the various arts is in inverse ratio to their real utility. They are even valued directly according to their uselessness. This might be expected. The most useful arts are the worst paid, for the number of workmen is regulated by the demand, and the work which everybody requires must necessarily be paid at a rate which puts it within the reach of the poor. On the other hand, those great people who are called artists, not artisans, who labour only for the rich and idle, put a fancy price on their trifles; and as the real value of this vain labour is purely imaginary, the price itself adds to their market value, and they are valued according to their costliness. The rich think so much of these things, not because they are useful, but because they are beyond the reach of the poor.
translated by Barbara Foxley"My son will have to take the world as he finds it, he will not live among the wise but among fools; he must therefore be acquainted with their follies, since they must be led by this means. A real knowledge of things may be a good thing in itself, but the knowledge of men and their opinions is better, for in human society man is the chief tool of man, and the wisest man is he who best knows the use of this tool. What is the good of teaching children an imaginary system, just the opposite of the established order of things, among which they will have to live? First teach them wisdom, then show them the follies of mankind."
translated by Barbara FoxleyEvery substance in nature and every work of man must be judged in relation to his own use, his own safety, his own preservation, his own comfort. Thus he should value iron far more than gold, and glass than diamonds; in the same way he has far more respect for a shoemaker or a mason than for a Lempereur, a Le Blanc, or all the jewellers in Europe. In his eyes a confectioner is a really great man, and he would give the whole academy of sciences for the smallest pastrycook in Lombard Street. Goldsmiths, engravers, gilders, and embroiderers, he considers lazy people, who play at quite useless games. He does not even think much of a clockmaker.
translated by Barbara FoxleyIn everything you must show clearly the use before the abuse. If you attempt to teach children how the sign has led to the neglect of the thing signified, how money is the source of all the false ideas of society, how countries rich in silver must be poor in everything else, you will be treating these children as philosophers, and not only as philosophers but as wise men, for you are professing to teach them what very few philosophers have grasped.
translated by Barbara FoxleyWe are going to dine with wealthy people; when we get there everything is ready for a feast, many guests, many servants, many dishes, dainty and elegant china. There is something intoxicating in all these preparations for pleasure and festivity when you are not used to them. I see how they will affect my young pupil. While dinner is going on, while course follows course, and conversation is loud around us, I whisper in his ear, "How many hands do you suppose the things on this table passed through before they got here?" What a crowd of ideas is called up by these few words. In a moment the mists of excitement have rolled away. He is thinking, considering, calculating, and anxious. The child is philosophising, while philosophers, excited by wine or perhaps by female society, are babbling like children. If he asks questions I decline to answer and put him off to another day. He becomes impatient, he forgets to eat and drink, he longs to get away from table and talk as he pleases. What an object of curiosity, what a text for instruction. Nothing has so far succeeded in corrupting his healthy reason; what will he think of luxury when he finds that every quarter of the globe has been ransacked, that some 2,000,000 men have laboured for years, that many lives have perhaps been sacrificed, and all to furnish him with fine clothes to be worn at midday and laid by in the wardrobe at night.Yet note the difference—this black bread you so enjoy is made from the peasant's own harvest; his wine is dark in colour and of a common kind, but wholesome and refreshing; it was made in his own vineyard; the cloth is made of his own hemp, spun and woven in the winter by his wife and daughters and the maid; no hands but theirs have touched the food. His world is bounded by the nearest mill and the next market. How far did you enjoy all that the produce of distant lands and the service of many people had prepared for you at the other dinner? If you did not get a better meal, what good did this wealth do you? how much of it was made for you? Had you been the master of the house, the tutor might say, it would have been of still less use to you; for the anxiety of displaying your enjoyment before the eyes of others would have robbed you of it; the pains would be yours, the pleasure theirs.This may be a very fine speech, but it would be thrown away upon Emile, as he cannot understand it, and he does not accept second-hand opinions. Speak more simply to him. After these two experiences, say to him some day, "Where shall we have our dinner to-day? Where that mountain of silver covered three quarters of the table and those beds of artificial flowers on looking glass were served with the dessert, where those smart ladies treated you as a toy and pretended you said what you did not mean; or in that village two leagues away, with those good people who were so pleased to see us and gave us such delicious cream?" Emile will not hesitate; he is not vain and he is no chatterbox; he cannot endure constraint, and he does not care for fine dishes; but he is always ready for a run in the country and is very fond of good fruit and vegetables, sweet cream and kindly people.On our way, the thought will occur to him, "All those people who laboured to prepare that grand feast were either wasting their time or they have no idea how to enjoy themselves.
translated by Barbara FoxleyIf in this world there is any condition so miserable that one cannot live without wrong-doing, where the citizen is driven into evil, you should hang, not the criminal, but those who drove him into crime.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThe great become small, the rich poor, the king a commoner. Does fate strike so seldom that you can count on immunity from her blows? The crisis is approaching, and we are on the edge of a revolution. [Footnote: In my opinion it is impossible that the great kingdoms of Europe should last much longer. Each of them has had its period of splendour, after which it must inevitably decline. I have my own opinions as to the special applications of this general statement, but this is not the place to enter into details, and they are only too evident to everybody.]
translated by Barbara FoxleyWhat man has made, man may destroy. Nature's characters alone are ineffaceable, and nature makes neither the prince, the rich man, nor the nobleman. This satrap whom you have educated for greatness, what will become of him in his degradation? This farmer of the taxes who can only live on gold, what will he do in poverty? This haughty fool who cannot use his own hands, who prides himself on what is not really his, what will he do when he is stripped of all? In that day, happy will he be who can give up the rank which is no longer his, and be still a man in Fate's despite. Let men praise as they will that conquered monarch who like a madman would be buried beneath the fragments of his throne; I behold him with scorn; to me he is merely a crown, and when that is gone he is nothing. But he who loses his crown and lives without it, is more than a king; from the rank of a king, which may be held by a coward, a villain, or madman, he rises to the rank of a man, a position few can fill. Thus he triumphs over Fortune, he dares to look her in the face; he depends on himself alone, and when he has nothing left to show but himself he is not a nonentity, he is somebody.
translated by Barbara FoxleyYet agriculture is the earliest, the most honest of trades, and more useful than all the rest, and therefore more honourable for those who practise it. I do not say to Emile, "Study agriculture," he is already familiar with it. He is acquainted with every kind of rural labour, it was his first occupation, and he returns to it continually. So I say to him, "Cultivate your father's lands, but if you lose this inheritance, or if you have none to lose, what will you do? Learn a trade." "A trade for my son! My son a working man! What are you thinking of, sir?" Madam, my thoughts are wiser than yours; you want to make him fit for nothing but a lord, a marquis, or a prince; and some day he may be less than nothing. I want to give him a rank which he cannot lose, a rank which will always do him honour; I want to raise him to the status of a man, and, whatever you may say, he will have fewer equals in that rank than in your own.
translated by Barbara FoxleyLearning a trade matters less than overcoming the prejudices he despises. You will never be reduced to earning your livelihood; so much the worse for you. No matter; work for honour, not for need: stoop to the position of a working man, to rise above your own. To conquer Fortune and everything else, begin by independence. To rule through public opinion, begin by ruling over it. Remember I demand no talent, only a trade, a genuine trade, a mere mechanical art, in which the hands work harder than the head, a trade which does not lead to fortune but makes you independent of her.
translated by Barbara FoxleyI would rather have him a shoemaker than a poet, I would rather he paved streets than painted flowers on china. "But," you will say, "policemen, spies, and hangmen are useful people." There would be no use for them if it were not for the government. But let that pass. I was wrong. It is not enough to choose an honest trade, it must be a trade which does not develop detestable qualities in the mind, qualities incompatible with humanity. To return to our original expression, "Let us choose an honest trade," but let us remember there can be no honesty without usefulness.
translated by Barbara FoxleyWhen we review with the child the productions of art and nature, when we stimulate his curiosity and follow its lead, we have great opportunities of studying his tastes and inclinations, and perceiving the first spark of genius, if he has any decided talent in any direction. You must, however, be on your guard against the common error which mistakes the effects of environment for the ardour of genius, or imagines there is a decided bent towards any one of the arts, when there is nothing more than that spirit of emulation, common to men and monkeys, which impels them instinctively to do what they see others doing, without knowing why. The world is full of artisans, and still fuller of artists, who have no native gift for their calling, into which they were driven in early childhood, either through the conventional ideas of other people, or because those about them were deceived by an appearance of zeal, which would have led them to take to any other art they saw practised. One hears a drum and fancies he is a general; another sees a building and wants to be an architect. Every one is drawn towards the trade he sees before him if he thinks it is held in honour.
translated by Barbara FoxleyPerseverance does instead of talent up to a certain point; he got so far, but no further. This honest lad's perseverance and ambition are praiseworthy; he will always be respected for his industry and steadfastness of purpose, but his paintings will always be third-rate. Who would not have been deceived by his zeal and taken it for real talent! There is all the difference in the world between a liking and an aptitude. To make sure of real genius or real taste in a child calls for more accurate observations than is generally suspected, for the child displays his wishes not his capacity, and we judge by the former instead of considering the latter.
translated by Barbara FoxleyAll things considered, the trade I should choose for my pupil, among the trades he likes, is that of a carpenter. It is clean and useful; it may be carried on at home; it gives enough exercise; it calls for skill and industry, and while fashioning articles for everyday use, there is scope for elegance and taste. If your pupil's talents happened to take a scientific turn, I should not blame you if you gave him a trade in accordance with his tastes, for instance, he might learn to make mathematical instruments, glasses, telescopes, etc.
translated by Barbara FoxleyWhen Emile learns his trade I shall learn it too. I am convinced he will never learn anything thoroughly unless we learn it together. So we shall both serve our apprenticeship, and we do not mean to be treated as gentlemen, but as real apprentices who are not there for fun; why should not we actually be apprenticed? Peter the Great was a ship's carpenter and drummer to his own troops; was not that prince at least your equal in birth and merit? You understand this is addressed not to Emile but to you—to you, whoever you may be.
translated by Barbara FoxleyLet us keep Emile's hands from money lest he should become an ass, let him take the work but not the wages. Never let his work be judged by any standard but that of the work of a master. Let it be judged as work, not because it is his. If anything is well done, I say, "That is a good piece of work," but do not ask who did it. If he is pleased and proud and says, "I did it," answer indifferently, "No matter who did it, it is well done."
translated by Barbara FoxleyHe must work like a peasant and think like a philosopher, if he is not to be as idle as a savage. The great secret of education is to use exercise of mind and body as relaxation one to the other.After exercising his body and his senses you have exercised his mind and his judgment. Finally we have joined together the use of his limbs and his faculties. We have made him a worker and a thinker; we have now to make him loving and tender-hearted, to perfect reason through feeling.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThe way in which ideas are formed gives a character to the human mind. The mind which derives its ideas from real relations is thorough; the mind which relies on apparent relations is superficial. He who sees relations as they are has an exact mind; he who fails to estimate them aright has an inaccurate mind; he who concocts imaginary relations, which have no real existence, is a madman; he who does not perceive any relation at all is an imbecile.
translated by Barbara FoxleyWho can deny that a vast number of things are known to the learned, which the unlearned will never know? Are the learned any nearer truth? Not so, the further they go the further they get from truth, for their pride in their judgment increases faster than their progress in knowledge, so that for every truth they acquire they draw a hundred mistaken conclusions. Every one knows that the learned societies of Europe are mere schools of falsehood, and there are assuredly more mistaken notions in the Academy of Sciences than in a whole tribe of American Indians.
translated by Barbara FoxleyA savage will not turn his head to watch the working of the finest machinery or all the wonders of electricity. "What does that matter to me?" is the common saying of the ignorant; it is the fittest phrase for the wise.
translated by Barbara FoxleyEmile is no savage to be banished to the desert, he is a savage who has to live in the town. He must know how to get his living in a town, how to use its inhabitants, and how to live among them, if not of them.
translated by Barbara FoxleyMoreover, he knows by experience that there is always a reason for my slightest questions, though he may not see it at once; so he has not got into the habit of giving silly answers; on the contrary, he is on his guard, he considers things carefully and attentively before answering. He never gives me an answer unless he is satisfied with it himself, and he is hard to please. Lastly we neither of us take any pride in merely knowing a thing, but only in avoiding mistakes. We should be more ashamed to deceive ourselves with bad reasoning, than to find no explanation at all. There is no phrase so appropriate to us, or so often on our lips, as, "I do not know;" neither of us are ashamed to use it. But whether he gives the silly answer or whether he avoids it by our convenient phrase "I do not know," my answer is the same. "Let us examine it."
translated by Barbara FoxleyBut perhaps the number of things I have brought to his notice alarms you. I shall crush his mind beneath this weight of knowledge. Not so, I am rather teaching him to be ignorant of things than to know them. I am showing him the path of science, easy indeed, but long, far-reaching and slow to follow. I am taking him a few steps along this path, but I do not allow him to go far.He is large-minded, not through knowledge, but through the power of acquiring it; he is open-minded, intelligent, ready for anything, and, as Montaigne says, capable of learning if not learned.
translated by Barbara FoxleyHe thinks not of others but of himself, and prefers that others should do the same. He makes no claim upon them, and acknowledges no debt to them. He is alone in the midst of human society, he depends on himself alone, for he is all that a boy can be at his age. He has no errors, or at least only such as are inevitable; he has no vices, or only those from which no man can escape. His body is healthy, his limbs are supple, his mind is accurate and unprejudiced, his heart is free and untroubled by passion. Pride, the earliest and the most natural of passions, has scarcely shown itself. Without disturbing the peace of others, he has passed his life contented, happy, and free, so far as nature allows. Do you think that the earlier years of a child, who has reached his fifteenth year in this condition, have been wasted?
translated by Barbara Foxley
=== Book IV ===
Our passions are the chief means of self-preservation; to try to destroy them is therefore as absurd as it is useless; this would be to overcome nature, to reshape God's handiwork. If God bade man annihilate the passions he has given him, God would bid him be and not be; He would contradict himself. He has never given such a foolish commandment, there is nothing like it written on the heart of man, and what God will have a man do, He does not leave to the words of another man. He speaks Himself; His words are written in the secret heart.
translated by Barbara FoxleyI consider those who would prevent the birth of the passions almost as foolish as those who would destroy them, and those who think this has been my object hitherto are greatly mistaken. But should we reason rightly, if from the fact that passions are natural to man, we inferred that all the passions we feel in ourselves and behold in others are natural? Their source, indeed, is natural; but they have been swollen by a thousand other streams; they are a great river which is constantly growing, one in which we can scarcely find a single drop of the original stream. Our natural passions are few in number; they are the means to freedom, they tend to self-preservation. All those which enslave and destroy us have another source; nature does not bestow them on us; we seize on them in her despite.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThe origin of our passions, the root and spring of all the rest, the only one which is born with man, which never leaves him as long as he lives, is self-love; this passion is primitive, instinctive, it precedes all the rest, which are in a sense only modifications of it. In this sense, if you like, they are all natural.
translated by Barbara FoxleyIl n’y a point de folie dont on ne puisse guérir un homme qui n’est pas fou, hors la vanité.
Provided a man is not mad, he can be cured of every folly but vanity; there is no cure for this but experience, if indeed there is any cure for it at all; when it first appears we can at least prevent its further growth. But do not on this account waste your breath on empty arguments to prove to the youth that he is like other men and subject to the same weaknesses. Make him feel it or he will never know it.
translated by Barbara FoxleyWe cannot teach children the danger of telling lies to men without realising, on the man's part, the danger of telling lies to children. A single untruth on the part of the master will destroy the results of his education.
translated by Barbara FoxleyLet us give him everything. Let us lavish charms and merit on him. Let him be handsome, very clever, and lovable. He will be sought out by women. But in seeking him out before he loves them, they will unhinge him rather than make a lover out of him. He will have successes, but he will have neither transports nor passion for enjoying them. Since his desires, always provided for in advance, never have time to be born, he feels in the bosom of pleasures only the boredom of constraint.
translated by Barbara FoxleyAlthough modesty is natural to man, it is not natural to children. Modesty only begins with the knowledge of evil... Blushes are the sign of guilt; true innocence is ashamed of nothing.
translated by Barbara FoxleyI had been brought up in a church which decides everything and permits no doubts, so that having rejected one article of faith I was forced to reject the rest; as I could not accept absurd decisions, I was deprived of those which were not absurd. When I was told to believe everything, I could believe nothing, and I knew not where to stop. I consulted the philosophers, I searched their books and examined their various theories; I found them all alike proud, assertive, dogmatic, professing, even in their so-called scepticism, to know everything, proving nothing, scoffing at each other. This last trait, which was common to all of them, struck me as the only point in which they were right. Braggarts in attack, they are weaklings in defence.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThe one thing we do not know is the limit of the knowable. We prefer to trust to chance and to believe what is not true, rather than to own that not one of us can see what really is. A fragment of some vast whole whose bounds are beyond our gaze, a fragment abandoned by its Creator to our foolish quarrels, we are vain enough to want to determine the nature of that whole and our own relations with regard to it.
translated by Barbara FoxleyLeonidas died for his country before Socrates declared that patriotism was a virtue; Sparta was sober before Socrates extolled sobriety; there were plenty of virtuous men in Greece before he defined virtue. But among the men of his own time where did Jesus find that pure and lofty morality of which he is both the teacher and pattern? The voice of loftiest wisdom arose among the fiercest fanaticism, the simplicity of the most heroic virtues did honour to the most degraded of nations.
translated by Barbara Foxley
La mort de Socrate, philosophant tranquillement avec ses amis, est la plus douce qu’on puisse désirer; celle de Jésus expirant dans les tourments, injurié, raillé, maudit de tout un peuple, est la plus horrible qu’on puisse craindre. […] Jésus, au milieu d’un supplice affreux, prie pour ses bourreaux acharnés. Oui, si la vie et la mort de Socrate sont d’un sage, la vie et la mort de Jésus sont d’un Dieu.
One could wish no easier death than that of Socrates, calmly discussing philosophy with his friends; one could fear nothing worse than that of Jesus, dying in torment, among the insults, the mockery, the curses of the whole nation. In the midst of these terrible sufferings, Jesus prays for his cruel murderers. Yes, if the life and death of Socrates are those of a philosopher, the life and death of Christ are those of a God.
translated by Barbara FoxleyDirons-nous que l’histoire de l’Évangile est inventée à plaisir ? Mon ami, ce n’est pas ainsi qu’on invente; et les faits de Socrate, dont personne ne doute, sont moins attestés que ceux de Jésus-Christ. Au fond c’est reculer la difficulté sans la détruire; il serait plus inconcevable que plusieurs hommes d’accord eussent fabriqué ce livre, qu’il ne l’est qu’un seul en ait fourni le sujet. Jamais les auteurs juifs n’eussent trouvé ni ce ton ni cette morale; et l’Évangile a des caractères de vérité si grands, si frappants, si parfaitement inimitables, que l’inventeur en serait plus étonnant que le héros. Avec tout cela, ce même Évangile est plein de choses incroyables, de choses qui répugnent à la raison, et qu’il est impossible à tout homme sensé de concevoir ni d’admettre. Que faire au milieu de toutes ces contradictions ? Etre toujours modeste et circonspect, mon enfant; respecter en silence ce qu’on ne saurait ni rejeter, ni comprendre, et s’humilier devant le grand Etre qui seul sait la vérité.
Shall we say that the gospel story is the work of the imagination? My friend, such things are not imagined; and the doings of Socrates, which no one doubts, are less well attested than those of Jesus Christ. At best, you only put the difficulty from you; it would be still more incredible that several persons should have agreed together to invent such a book, than that there was one man who supplied its subject matter. The tone and morality of this story are not those of any Jewish authors, and the gospel indeed contains characters so great, so striking, so entirely inimitable, that their invention would be more astonishing than their hero. With all this the same gospel is full of incredible things, things repugnant to reason, things which no natural man can understand or accept. What can you do among so many contradictions? You can be modest and wary, my child; respect in silence what you can neither reject nor understand, and humble yourself in the sight of the Divine Being who alone knows the truth.
translated by Barbara FoxleyA young man when he enters society must be preserved from vanity rather than from sensibility; he succumbs rather to the tastes of others than to his own, and self-love is responsible for more libertines than love. Self-love makes more libertines than love.
translated by Barbara FoxleyHe who knows enough of things to value them at their true worth never says too much; for he can also judge of the attention bestowed on him and the interest aroused by what he says. People who know little are usually great talkers, while men who know much say little. It is plain that an ignorant person thinks everything he does know important, and he tells it to everybody. But a well-educated man is not so ready to display his learning; he would have too much to say, and he sees that there is much more to be said, so he holds his peace.
translated by Barbara FoxleyHabit accustoms us to everything. What we see too much, we no longer imagine; and it is only imagination which makes us feel the ills of others. It is thus by dint of seeing death and suffering that priests and doctors become pitiless.
translated by Barbara FoxleyHow swiftly life passes here below! The first quarter of it is gone before we know how to use it; the last quarter finds us incapable of enjoying life. At first we do not know how to live; and when we know how to live it is too late. In the interval between these two useless extremes we waste three-fourths of our time sleeping, working, sorrowing, enduring restraint and every kind of suffering. Life is short, not so much because of the short time it lasts, but because we are allowed scarcely any time to enjoy it.
translated by Barbara FoxleyWe are born, so to speak, twice over; born into existence, and born into life; born a human being, and born a man. Those who regard woman as an imperfect man are no doubt mistaken, but they have external resemblance on their side. Up to the age of puberty children of both sexes have little to distinguish them to the eye, the same face and form, the same complexion and voice, everything is the same; girls are children and boys are children; one name is enough for creatures so closely resembling one another. Males whose development is arrested preserve this resemblance all their lives; they are always big children; and women who never lose this resemblance seem in many respects never to be more than children. But, speaking generally, man is not meant to remain a child. He leaves childhood behind him at the time ordained by nature; and this critical moment, short enough in itself, has far-reaching consequences. As the roaring of the waves precedes the tempest, so the murmur of rising passions announces this tumultuous change; a suppressed excitement warns us of the approaching danger. A change of temper, frequent outbreaks of anger, a perpetual stirring of the mind, make the child almost ungovernable. He becomes deaf to the voice he used to obey; he is a lion in a fever; he distrusts his keeper and refuses to be controlled.With the moral symptoms of a changing temper there are perceptible changes in appearance. His countenance develops and takes the stamp of his character; the soft and sparse down upon his cheeks becomes darker and stiffer. His voice grows hoarse or rather he loses it altogether. He is neither a child nor a man and cannot speak like either of them. His eyes, those organs of the soul which till now were dumb, find speech and meaning; a kindling fire illumines them, there is still a sacred innocence in their ever brightening glance, but they have lost their first meaningless expression; he is already aware that they can say too much; he is beginning to learn to lower his eyes and blush, he is becoming sensitive, though he does not know what it is that he feels; he is uneasy without knowing why. All this may happen gradually and give you time enough; but if his keenness becomes impatience, his eagerness madness, if he is angry and sorry all in a moment, if he weeps without cause, if in the presence of objects which are beginning to be a source of danger his pulse quickens and his eyes sparkle, if he trembles when a woman's hand touches his, if he is troubled or timid in her presence, O Ulysses, wise Ulysses! have a care! The passages you closed with so much pains are open; the winds are unloosed; keep your hand upon the helm or all is lost.This is the second birth I spoke of; then it is that man really enters upon life; henceforth no human passion is a stranger to him. Our efforts so far have been child's play, now they are of the greatest importance. This period when education is usually finished is just the time to begin.
translated by Barbara FoxleyOur passions are the chief means of self-preservation; to try to destroy them is therefore as absurd as it is useless; this would be to overcome nature, to reshape God's handiwork. If God bade man annihilate the passions he has given him, God would bid him be and not be; He would contradict himself. He has never given such a foolish commandment, there is nothing like it written on the heart of man, and what God will have a man do, He does not leave to the words of another man. He speaks Himself; His words are written in the secret heart.
translated by Barbara FoxleyOur natural passions are few in number; they are the means to freedom, they tend to self-preservation. All those which enslave and destroy us have another source; nature does not bestow them on us; we seize on them in her despite.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThe origin of our passions, the root and spring of all the rest, the only one which is born with man, which never leaves him as long as he lives, is self-love; this passion is primitive, instinctive, it precedes all the rest, which are in a sense only modifications of it. In this sense, if you like, they are all natural. But most of these modifications are the result of external influences, without which they would never occur, and such modifications, far from being advantageous to us, are harmful. They change the original purpose and work against its end; then it is that man finds himself outside nature and at strife with himself.
translated by Barbara FoxleySomething does us good, we seek after it; but we love the person who does us good; something harms us and we shrink from it, but we hate the person who tries to hurt us.
translated by Barbara FoxleyAs soon as a man needs a companion he is no longer an isolated creature, his heart is no longer alone. All his relations with his species, all the affections of his heart, come into being along with this. His first passion soon arouses the rest.
translated by Barbara FoxleyOne sex is attracted by the other; that is the impulse of nature. Choice, preferences, individual likings, are the work of reason, prejudice, and habit; time and knowledge are required to make us capable of love; we do not love without reasoning or prefer without comparison. These judgments are none the less real, although they are formed unconsciously. True love, whatever you may say, will always be held in honour by mankind; for although its impulses lead us astray, although it does not bar the door of the heart to certain detestable qualities, although it even gives rise to these, yet it always presupposes certain worthy characteristics, without which we should be incapable of love.
translated by Barbara FoxleyWe wish to inspire the preference we feel; love must be mutual. To be loved we must be worthy of love; to be preferred we must be more worthy than the rest, at least in the eyes of our beloved. Hence we begin to look around among our fellows; we begin to compare ourselves with them, there is emulation, rivalry, and jealousy.
translated by Barbara FoxleyPassions of this kind, not having any germ in the child's heart, cannot spring up in it of themselves; it is we who sow the seeds, and they never take root unless by our fault. Not so with the young man; they will find an entrance in spite of us. It is therefore time to change our methods.
translated by Barbara FoxleyTo know how far a happy ignorance may prolong the innocence of children, you must live among rude and simple people. It is a sight both touching and amusing to see both sexes, left to the protection of their own hearts, continuing the sports of childhood in the flower of youth and beauty, showing by their very familiarity the purity of their pleasures. When at length those delightful young people marry, they bestow on each other the first fruits of their person, and are all the dearer therefore. Swarms of strong and healthy children are the pledges of a union which nothing can change, and the fruit of the virtue of their early years.
translated by Barbara FoxleyFrom these considerations I arrive at the solution of the question so often discussed—Should we enlighten children at an early period as to the objects of their curiosity, or is it better to put them off with decent shams? I think we need do neither. In the first place, this curiosity will not arise unless we give it a chance. We must therefore take care not to give it an opportunity. In the next place, questions one is not obliged to answer do not compel us to deceive those who ask them; it is better to bid the child hold his tongue than to tell him a lie. He will not be greatly surprised at this treatment if you have already accustomed him to it in matters of no importance. Lastly, if you decide to answer his questions, let it be with the greatest plainness, without mystery or confusion, without a smile. It is much less dangerous to satisfy a child's curiosity than to stimulate it.
translated by Barbara FoxleyModesty only begins with the knowledge of evil; and how should children without this knowledge of evil have the feeling which results from it? To give them lessons in modesty and good conduct is to teach them that there are things shameful and wicked, and to give them a secret wish to know what these things are. Sooner or later they will find out, and the first spark which touches the imagination will certainly hasten the awakening of the senses. Blushes are the sign of guilt; true innocence is ashamed of nothing.
translated by Barbara FoxleyNot long before the child had passed a small stone which had torn the passage, but the trouble was over and forgotten. "Mamma," said the eager child, "where do little children come from?" "My child," replied his mother without hesitation, "women pass them with pains that sometimes cost their life." Let fools laugh and silly people be shocked; but let the wise inquire if it is possible to find a wiser answer and one which would better serve its purpose. In the first place the thought of a need of nature with which the child is well acquainted turns his thoughts from the idea of a mysterious process. The accompanying ideas of pain and death cover it with a veil of sadness which deadens the imagination and suppresses curiosity; everything leads the mind to the results, not the causes, of child-birth. This is the information to which this answer leads. If the repugnance inspired by this answer should permit the child to inquire further, his thoughts are turned to the infirmities of human nature, disgusting things, images of pain. What chance is there for any stimulation of desire in such a conversation? And yet you see there is no departure from truth, no need to deceive the scholar in order to teach him.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThe true course of nature is slower and more gradual. Little by little the blood grows warmer, the faculties expand, the character is formed. The wise workman who directs the process is careful to perfect every tool before he puts it to use; the first desires are preceded by a long period of unrest, they are deceived by a prolonged ignorance, they know not what they want. The blood ferments and bubbles; overflowing vitality seeks to extend its sphere. The eye grows brighter and surveys others, we begin to be interested in those about us, we begin to feel that we are not meant to live alone; thus the heart is thrown open to human affection, and becomes capable of attachment.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThe first sentiment of which the well-trained youth is capable is not love but friendship. The first work of his rising imagination is to make known to him his fellows; the species affects him before the sex. Here is another advantage to be gained from prolonged innocence; you may take advantage of his dawning sensibility to sow the first seeds of humanity in the heart of the young adolescent. This advantage is all the greater because this is the only time in his life when such efforts may be really successful.
translated by Barbara FoxleyA young man, on the other hand, brought up in happy innocence, is drawn by the first stirrings of nature to the tender and affectionate passions; his warm heart is touched by the sufferings of his fellow-creatures; he trembles with delight when he meets his comrade, his arms can embrace tenderly, his eyes can shed tears of pity; he learns to be sorry for offending others through his shame at causing annoyance. If the eager warmth of his blood makes him quick, hasty, and passionate, a moment later you see all his natural kindness of heart in the eagerness of his repentance; he weeps, he groans over the wound he has given; he would atone for the blood he has shed with his own; his anger dies away, his pride abases itself before the consciousness of his wrong-doing. Is he the injured party, in the height of his fury an excuse, a word, disarms him; he forgives the wrongs of others as whole-heartedly as he repairs his own. Adolescence is not the age of hatred or vengeance; it is the age of pity, mercy, and generosity. Yes, I maintain, and I am not afraid of the testimony of experience, a youth of good birth, one who has preserved his innocence up to the age of twenty, is at that age the best, the most generous, the most loving, and the most lovable of men. You never heard such a thing; I can well believe that philosophers such as you, brought up among the corruption of the public schools, are unaware of it.
translated by Barbara FoxleyMan's weakness makes him sociable. Our common sufferings draw our hearts to our fellow-creatures; we should have no duties to mankind if we were not men. Every affection is a sign of insufficiency; if each of us had no need of others, we should hardly think of associating with them. So our frail happiness has its roots in our weakness. A really happy man is a hermit; God only enjoys absolute happiness; but which of us has any idea what that means? If any imperfect creature were self-sufficing, what would he have to enjoy? To our thinking he would be wretched and alone. I do not understand how one who has need of nothing could love anything, nor do I understand how he who loves nothing can be happy.
translated by Barbara FoxleyHence it follows that we are drawn towards our fellow-creatures less by our feeling for their joys than for their sorrows; for in them we discern more plainly a nature like our own, and a pledge of their affection for us. If our common needs create a bond of interest our common sufferings create a bond of affection. The sight of a happy man arouses in others envy rather than love, we are ready to accuse him of usurping a right which is not his, of seeking happiness for himself alone, and our selfishness suffers an additional pang in the thought that this man has no need of us. But who does not pity the wretch when he beholds his sufferings? who would not deliver him from his woes if a wish could do it? Imagination puts us more readily in the place of the miserable man than of the happy man; we feel that the one condition touches us more nearly than the other. Pity is sweet, because, when we put ourselves in the place of one who suffers, we are aware, nevertheless, of the pleasure of not suffering like him. Envy is bitter, because the sight of a happy man, far from putting the envious in his place, inspires him with regret that he is not there. The one seems to exempt us from the pains he suffers, the other seems to deprive us of the good things he enjoys.
translated by Barbara Foxleydo you desire to incline his disposition towards kindly deed and thought, do not cause the seeds of pride, vanity, and envy to spring up in him through the misleading picture of the happiness of mankind; do not show him to begin with the pomp of courts, the pride of palaces, the delights of pageants; do not take him into society and into brilliant assemblies; do not show him the outside of society till you have made him capable of estimating it at its true worth. To show him the world before he is acquainted with men, is not to train him, but to corrupt him; not to teach, but to mislead.
translated by Barbara FoxleyFIRST MAXIM.—It is not in human nature to put ourselves in the place of those who are happier than ourselves, but only in the place of those who can claim our pity.The happiness belonging to certain states of life appeals to us; take, for instance, the life of a shepherd in the country. The charm of seeing these good people so happy is not poisoned by envy; we are genuinely interested in them. Why is this? Because we feel we can descend into this state of peace and innocence and enjoy the same happiness.
translated by Barbara FoxleySECOND MAXIM.—We never pity another's woes unless we know we may suffer in like manner ourselves.Why have kings no pity on their people? Because they never expect to be ordinary men. Why are the rich so hard on the poor? Because they have no fear of becoming poor. Why do the nobles look down upon the people? Because a nobleman will never be one of the lower classes.
translated by Barbara FoxleyWhy are the Turks generally kinder and more hospitable than ourselves? Because, under their wholly arbitrary system of government, the rank and wealth of individuals are always uncertain and precarious, so that they do not regard poverty and degradation as conditions with which they have no concern; to-morrow, any one may himself be in the same position as those on whom he bestows alms to-day. This thought, which occurs again and again in eastern romances, lends them a certain tenderness which is not to be found in our pretentious and harsh morality.
translated by Barbara FoxleySo do not train your pupil to look down from the height of his glory upon the sufferings of the unfortunate, the labours of the wretched, and do not hope to teach him to pity them while he considers them as far removed from himself. Make him thoroughly aware of the fact that the fate of these unhappy persons may one day be his own, that his feet are standing on the edge of the abyss, into which he may be plunged at any moment by a thousand unexpected irresistible misfortunes. Teach him to put no trust in birth, health, or riches; show him all the changes of fortune; find him examples—there are only too many of them—in which men of higher rank than himself have sunk below the condition of these wretched ones.Above all do not teach him this, like his catechism, in cold blood; let him see and feel the calamities which overtake men; surprise and startle his imagination with the perils which lurk continually about a man's path; let him see the pitfalls all about him, and when he hears you speak of them, let him cling more closely to you for fear lest he should fall. "You will make him timid and cowardly," do you say? We shall see; let us make him kindly to begin with, that is what matters most.
translated by Barbara FoxleyTHIRD MAXIM.—The pity we feel for others is proportionate, not to the amount of the evil, but to the feelings we attribute to the sufferers.
translated by Barbara Foxleythe rich console themselves for the harm done by them to the poor, by the assumption that the poor are too stupid to feel. I usually judge of the value any one puts on the welfare of his fellow-creatures by what he seems to think of them. We naturally think lightly of the happiness of those we despise. It need not surprise you that politicians speak so scornfully of the people, and philosophers profess to think mankind so wicked.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThe people are mankind; those who do not belong to the people are so few in number that they are not worth counting. Man is the same in every station of life; if that be so, those ranks to which most men belong deserve most honour. All distinctions of rank fade away before the eyes of a thoughtful person; he sees the same passions, the same feelings in the noble and the guttersnipe; there is merely a slight difference in speech, and more or less artificiality of tone; and if there is indeed any essential difference between them, the disadvantage is all on the side of those who are more sophisticated. The people show themselves as they are, and they are not attractive; but the fashionable world is compelled to adopt a disguise; we should be horrified if we saw it as it really is.
translated by Barbara FoxleyMore than one reader will reproach me no doubt for departing from my first intention and forgetting the lasting happiness I promised my pupil. The sorrowful, the dying, such sights of pain and woe, what happiness, what delight is this for a young heart on the threshold of life? His gloomy tutor, who proposed to give him such a pleasant education, only introduces him to life that he may suffer. This is what they will say, but what do I care? I promised to make him happy, not to make him seem happy. Am I to blame if, deceived as usual by the outward appearances, you take them for the reality?
translated by Barbara FoxleyI cannot help picturing in the countenance of the young man I have just spoken of an indefinable but unpleasant impertinence, smoothness, and affectation, which is repulsive to a plain man, and in the countenance of my own pupil a simple and interesting expression which indicates the real contentment and the calm of his mind; an expression which inspires respect and confidence, and seems only to await the establishment of friendly relations to bestow his own confidence in return. It is thought that the expression is merely the development of certain features designed by nature. For my own part I think that over and above this development a man's face is shaped, all unconsciously, by the frequent and habitual influence of certain affections of the heart. These affections are shown on the face, there is nothing more certain; and when they become habitual, they must surely leave lasting traces. This is why I think the expression shows the character, and that we can sometimes read one another without seeking mysterious explanations in powers we do not possess.
translated by Barbara FoxleyWhen he becomes capable of affection, he becomes aware of the affection of others, [Footnote: Affection may be unrequited; not so friendship. Friendship is a bargain, a contract like any other; though a bargain more sacred than the rest. The word "friend" has no other correlation. Any man who is not the friend of his friend is undoubtedly a rascal; for one can only obtain friendship by giving it, or pretending to give it.] and he is on the lookout for the signs of that affection. Do you not see how you will acquire a fresh hold on him? What bands have you bound about his heart while he was yet unaware of them! What will he feel, when he beholds himself and sees what you have done for him; when he can compare himself with other youths, and other tutors with you!
translated by Barbara FoxleyIngratitude would be rarer if kindness were less often the investment of a usurer. We love those who have done us a kindness; what a natural feeling! Ingratitude is not to be found in the heart of man, but self-interest is there; those who are ungrateful for benefits received are fewer than those who do a kindness for their own ends. If you sell me your gifts, I will haggle over the price; but if you pretend to give, in order to sell later on at your own price, you are guilty of fraud; it is the free gift which is beyond price. The heart is a law to itself; if you try to bind it, you lose it; give it its liberty, and you make it your own.
translated by Barbara Foxleybe sure your pupil, as he begins to understand the value of your care for him, will be grateful for it, provided you have not put a price upon it; and this will give you an authority over his heart which nothing can overthrow. But beware of losing this advantage before it is really yours, beware of insisting on your own importance. Boast of your services and they become intolerable; forget them and they will not be forgotten. Until the time comes to treat him as a man let there be no question of his duty to you, but his duty to himself. Let him have his freedom if you would make him docile; hide yourself so that he may seek you; raise his heart to the noble sentiment of gratitude by only speaking of his own interest. Until he was able to understand I would not have him told that what was done was for his good; he would only have understood such words to mean that you were dependent on him and he would merely have made you his servant. But now that he is beginning to feel what love is, he also knows what a tender affection may bind a man to what he loves; and in the zeal which keeps you busy on his account, he now sees not the bonds of a slave, but the affection of a friend. Now there is nothing which carries so much weight with the human heart as the voice of friendship recognised as such, for we know that it never speaks but for our good. We may think our friend is mistaken, but we never believe he is deceiving us.
translated by Barbara FoxleyWe have reached the moral order at last; we have just taken the second step towards manhood. If this were the place for it, I would try to show how the first impulses of the heart give rise to the first stirrings of conscience, and how from the feelings of love and hatred spring the first notions of good and evil. I would show that justice and kindness are no mere abstract terms, no mere moral conceptions framed by the understanding, but true affections of the heart enlightened by reason, the natural outcome of our primitive affections; that by reason alone, unaided by conscience, we cannot establish any natural law, and that all natural right is a vain dream if it does not rest upon some instinctive need of the human heart.
translated by Barbara Foxley[Footnote: The precept "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" has no true foundation but that of conscience and feeling; for what valid reason is there why I, being myself, should do what I would do if I were some one else, especially when I am morally certain I never shall find myself in exactly the same case; and who will answer for it that if I faithfully follow out this maxim, I shall get others to follow it with regard to me? The wicked takes advantage both of the uprightness of the just and of his own injustice; he will gladly have everybody just but himself. This bargain, whatever you may say, is not greatly to the advantage of the just. But if the enthusiasm of an overflowing heart identifies me with my fellow-creature, if I feel, so to speak, that I will not let him suffer lest I should suffer too, I care for him because I care for myself, and the reason of the precept is found in nature herself, which inspires me with the desire for my own welfare wherever I may be. From this I conclude that it is false to say that the precepts of natural law are based on reason only; they have a firmer and more solid foundation. The love of others springing from self-love, is the source of human justice. The whole of morality is summed up in the gospel in this summary of the law.]
translated by Barbara FoxleyTo guide him in this inquiry, after we have shown him men by means of the accidents common to the species, we must now show him them by means of their differences. This is the time for estimating inequality natural and civil, and for the scheme of the whole social order. Society must be studied in the individual and the individual in society; those who desire to treat politics and morals apart from one another will never understand either. By confining ourselves at first to the primitive relations, we see how men should be influenced by them and what passions should spring from them; we see that it is in proportion to the development of these passions that a man's relations with others expand or contract. It is not so much strength of arm as moderation of spirit which makes men free and independent. The man whose wants are few is dependent on but few people, but those who constantly confound our vain desires with our bodily needs, those who have made these needs the basis of human society, are continually mistaking effects for causes, and they have only confused themselves by their own reasoning.Since it is impossible in the state of nature that the difference between man and man should be great enough to make one dependent on another, there is in fact in this state of nature an actual and indestructible equality. In the civil state there is a vain and chimerical equality of right; the means intended for its maintenance, themselves serve to destroy it; and the power of the community, added to the power of the strongest for the oppression of the weak, disturbs the sort of equilibrium which nature has established between them.
translated by Barbara Foxley[Footnote: The universal spirit of the laws of every country is always to take the part of the strong against the weak, and the part of him who has against him who has not; this defect is inevitable, and there is no exception to it.] From this first contradiction spring all the other contradictions between the real and the apparent, which are to be found in the civil order. The many will always be sacrificed to the few, the common weal to private interest; those specious words—justice and subordination—will always serve as the tools of violence and the weapons of injustice; hence it follows that the higher classes which claim to be useful to the rest are really only seeking their own welfare at the expense of others; from this we may judge how much consideration is due to them according to right and justice. It remains to be seen if the rank to which they have attained is more favourable to their own happiness to know what opinion each one of us should form with regard to his own lot. This is the study with which we are now concerned; but to do it thoroughly we must begin with a knowledge of the human heart.
translated by Barbara Foxley"The spectacle of the world," said Pythagoras, "is like the Olympic games; some are buying and selling and think only of their gains; others take an active part and strive for glory; others, and these not the worst, are content to be lookers-on."
translated by Barbara FoxleyI would have you so choose the company of a youth that he should think well of those among whom he lives, and I would have you so teach him to know the world that he should think ill of all that takes place in it. Let him know that man is by nature good, let him feel it, let him judge his neighbour by himself; but let him see how men are depraved and perverted by society; let him find the source of all their vices in their preconceived opinions; let him be disposed to respect the individual, but to despise the multitude; let him see that all men wear almost the same mask, but let him also know that some faces are fairer than the mask that conceals them.
translated by Barbara FoxleyIt must be admitted that this method has its drawbacks, and it is not easy to carry it out; for if he becomes too soon engrossed in watching other people, if you train him to mark too closely the actions of others, you will make him spiteful and satirical, quick and decided in his judgments of others; he will find a hateful pleasure in seeking bad motives, and will fail to see the good even in that which is really good. He will, at least, get used to the sight of vice, he will behold the wicked without horror, just as we get used to seeing the wretched without pity. Soon the perversity of mankind will be not so much a warning as an excuse; he will say, "Man is made so," and he will have no wish to be different from the rest.
translated by Barbara FoxleyTo remove these two obstacles at once, and to bring the human heart within his reach without risk of spoiling his own, I would show him men from afar, in other times or in other places, so that he may behold the scene but cannot take part in it. This is the time for history; with its help he will read the hearts of men without any lessons in philosophy; with its help he will view them as a mere spectator, dispassionate and without prejudice; he will view them as their judge, not as their accomplice or their accuser.
translated by Barbara FoxleyI leave modern history on one side, not only because it has no character and all our people are alike, but because our historians, wholly taken up with effect, think of nothing but highly coloured portraits, which often represent nothing. [Footnote: Take, for instance, Guicciardini, Streda, Solis, Machiavelli, and sometimes even De Thou himself. Vertot is almost the only one who knows how to describe without giving fancy portraits.] The old historians generally give fewer portraits and bring more intelligence and common-sense to their judgments; but even among them there is plenty of scope for choice, and you must not begin with the wisest but with the simplest. I would not put Polybius or Sallust into the hands of a youth; Tacitus is the author of the old, young men cannot understand him; you must learn to see in human actions the simplest features of the heart of man before you try to sound its depths. You must be able to read facts clearly before you begin to study maxims. Philosophy in the form of maxims is only fit for the experienced. Youth should never deal with the general, all its teaching should deal with individual instances. To my mind Thucydides is the true model of historians. He relates facts without giving his opinion; but he omits no circumstance adapted to make us judge for ourselves. He puts everything that he relates before his reader; far from interposing between the facts and the readers, he conceals himself; we seem not to read but to see. Unfortunately he speaks of nothing but war, and in his stories we only see the least instructive part of the world, that is to say the battles. The virtues and defects of the Retreat of the Ten Thousand and the Commentaries of Caesar are almost the same. The kindly Herodotus, without portraits, without maxims, yet flowing, simple, full of details calculated to delight and interest in the highest degree, would be perhaps the best historian if these very details did not often degenerate into childish folly, better adapted to spoil the taste of youth than to form it; we need discretion before we can read him. I say nothing of Livy, his turn will come; but he is a statesman, a rhetorician, he is everything which is unsuitable for a youth.
translated by Barbara FoxleyWar only makes manifest events already determined by moral causes, which few historians can perceive.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThe philosophic spirit has turned the thoughts of many of the historians of our times in this direction; but I doubt whether truth has profited by their labours. The rage for systems has got possession of all alike, no one seeks to see things as they are, but only as they agree with his system.
translated by Barbara FoxleyI would prefer to begin the study of the human heart with reading the lives of individuals; for then the man hides himself in vain, the historian follows him everywhere; he never gives him a moment's grace nor any corner where he can escape the piercing eye of the spectator; and when he thinks he is concealing himself, then it is that the writer shows him up most plainly. "Those who write lives," says Montaigne, "in so far as they delight more in ideas than in events, more in that which comes from within than in that which comes from without, these are the writers I prefer; for this reason Plutarch is in every way the man for me."
translated by Barbara FoxleyRemember that, as soon as selfishness has developed, the self in its relations to others is always with us, and the youth never observes others without coming back to himself and comparing himself with them. From the way young men are taught to study history I see that they are transformed, so to speak, into the people they behold, that you strive to make a Cicero, a Trajan, or an Alexander of them, to discourage them when they are themselves again, to make every one regret that he is merely himself. There are certain advantages in this plan which I do not deny; but, so far as Emile is concerned, should it happen at any time when he is making these comparisons that he wishes to be any one but himself—were it Socrates or Cato—I have failed entirely; he who begins to regard himself as a stranger will soon forget himself altogether. It is not philosophers who know most about men; they only view them through the preconceived ideas of philosophy, and I know no one so prejudiced as philosophers. A savage would judge us more sanely. The philosopher is aware of his own vices, he is indignant at ours, and he says to himself, "We are all bad alike;" the savage beholds us unmoved and says, "You are mad." He is right, for no one does evil for evil's sake. My pupil is that savage, with this difference: Emile has thought more, he has compared ideas, seen our errors at close quarters, he is more on his guard against himself, and only judges of what he knows.
translated by Barbara Foxleysufficiently sensitive to understand every human passion, and calm enough to be free from passion. If there is any time in our life when this study is likely to be appreciated, it is this that I have chosen for Emile; before this time men would have been strangers to him; later on he would have been like them. Convention, the effects of which he already perceives, has not yet made him its slave, the passions, whose consequences he realises, have not yet stirred his heart. He is a man; he takes an interest in his brethren; he is a just man and he judges his peers. Now it is certain that if he judges them rightly he will not want to change places with any one of them, for the goal of all their anxious efforts is the result of prejudices which he does not share, and that goal seems to him a mere dream. For his own part, he has all he wants within his reach. How should he be dependent on any one when he is self-sufficing and free from prejudice? Strong arms, good health, [Footnote: I think I may fairly reckon health and strength among the advantages he has obtained by his education, or rather among the gifts of nature which his education has preserved for him.] moderation, few needs, together with the means to satisfy those needs, are his. He has been brought up in complete liberty and servitude is the greatest ill he understands. He pities these miserable kings, the slaves of all who obey them; he pities these false prophets fettered by their empty fame; he pities these rich fools, martyrs to their own pomp; he pities these ostentatious voluptuaries, who spend their life in deadly dullness that they may seem to enjoy its pleasures.
translated by Barbara FoxleyGreat men are under no illusion with respect to their superiority; they see it and know it, but they are none the less modest. The more they have, the better they know what they lack. They are less vain of their superiority over us than ashamed by the consciousness of their weakness, and among the good things they really possess, they are too wise to pride themselves on a gift which is none of their getting. The good man may be proud of his virtue for it is his own, but what cause for pride has the man of intellect? What has Racine done that he is not Pradon, and Boileau that he is not Cotin?.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThe circumstances with which we are concerned are quite different. Let us keep to the common level. I assumed that my pupil had neither surpassing genius nor a defective understanding. I chose him of an ordinary mind to show what education could do for man. Exceptions defy all rules. If, therefore, as a result of my care, Emile prefers his way of living, seeing, and feeling to that of others, he is right; but if he thinks because of this that he is nobler and better born than they, he is wrong; he is deceiving himself.Moreover our pupil will be little tempted by this snare; he has so many amusements about him, he has never been bored in his life, and he scarcely knows the use of money. As children have been led by these two motives, self-interest and vanity, rogues and courtesans use the same means to get hold of them later. When you see their greediness encouraged by prizes and rewards, when you find their public performances at ten years old applauded at school or college, you see too how at twenty they will be induced to leave their purse in a gambling hell and their health in a worse place.The only precaution I shall take will be to share all the dangers I let him run, and all the insults I let him receive. I will bear everything in silence, without a murmur or reproach, without a word to him, and be sure that if this wise conduct is faithfully adhered to, what he sees me endure on his account will make more impression on his heart than what he himself suffers.The turn you give to your consolation may itself be a lesson to him, and all the more because he does not suspect it. When you tell him, for example, that many other people have made the same mistakes, this is not what he was expecting; you are administering correction under the guise of pity; for when one thinks oneself better than other people it is a very mortifying excuse to console oneself by their example; it means that we must realise that the most we can say is that they are no better than we.
translated by Barbara FoxleyIt is not, however, my intention that these maxims should be explained, nor even formulated. Nothing is so foolish and unwise as the moral at the end of most of the fables; as if the moral was not, or ought not to be so clear in the fable itself that the reader cannot fail to perceive it. Why then add the moral at the end, and go deprive him of the pleasure of discovering it for himself. The art of teaching consists in making the pupil wish to learn.
translated by Barbara FoxleyMan is the cheapest commodity on the market, and among all our important rights of property, the rights of the individual are always considered last of all.
translated by Barbara FoxleyWhen I see the studies of young men at the period of their greatest activity confined to purely speculative matters, while later on they are suddenly plunged, without any sort of experience, into the world of men and affairs, it strikes me as contrary alike to reason and to nature, and I cease to be surprised that so few men know what to do. How strange a choice to teach us so many useless things, while the art of doing is never touched upon! They profess to fit us for society, and we are taught as if each of us were to live a life of contemplation in a solitary cell, or to discuss theories with persons whom they did not concern. You think you are teaching your scholars how to live, and you teach them certain bodily contortions and certain forms of words without meaning. I, too, have taught Emile how to live; for I have taught him to enjoy his own society and, more than that, to earn his own bread. But this is not enough. To live in the world he must know how to get on with other people, he must know what forces move them, he must calculate the action and re-action of self-interest in civil society, he must estimate the results so accurately that he will rarely fail in his undertakings, or he will at least have tried in the best possible way.
translated by Barbara FoxleyMothers and nurses grow fond of children because of the care they lavish on them; the practice of social virtues touches the very heart with the love of humanity; by doing good we become good; and I know no surer way to this end. Keep your pupil busy with the good deeds that are within his power, let the cause of the poor be his own, let him help them not merely with his money, but with his service; let him work for them, protect them, let his person and his time be at their disposal; let him be their agent; he will never all his life long have a more honourable office. How many of the oppressed, who have never got a hearing, will obtain justice when he demands it for them with that courage and firmness which the practice of virtue inspires; when he makes his way into the presence of the rich and great, when he goes, if need be, to the footstool of the king himself, to plead the cause of the wretched, the cause of those who find all doors closed to them by their poverty, those who are so afraid of being punished for their misfortunes that they do not dare to complain?But shall we make of Emile a knight-errant, a redresser of wrongs, a paladin? Shall he thrust himself into public life, play the sage and the defender of the laws before the great, before the magistrates, before the king? Shall he lay petitions before the judges and plead in the law courts? That I cannot say. The nature of things is not changed by terms of mockery and scorn. He will do all that he knows to be useful and good. He will do nothing more, and he knows that nothing is useful and good for him which is unbefitting his age. He knows that his first duty is to himself; that young men should distrust themselves; that they should act circumspectly; that they should show respect to those older than themselves, reticence and discretion in talking without cause, modesty in things indifferent, but courage in well doing, and boldness to speak the truth. Such were those illustrious Romans who, having been admitted into public life, spent their days in bringing criminals to justice and in protecting the innocent, without any motives beyond those of learning, and of the furtherance of justice and of the protection of right conduct.
translated by Barbara FoxleyHe will never set two dogs to fight, he will never set a dog to chase a cat. This peaceful spirit is one of the results of his education, which has never stimulated self-love or a high opinion of himself, and so has not encouraged him to seek his pleasure in domination and in the sufferings of others. The sight of suffering makes him suffer too; this is a natural feeling. It is one of the after effects of vanity that hardens a young man and makes him take a delight in seeing the torments of a living and feeling creature; it makes him consider himself beyond the reach of similar sufferings through his superior wisdom or virtue. He who is beyond the reach of vanity cannot fall into the vice which results from vanity. So Emile loves peace. He is delighted at the sight of happiness, and if he can help to bring it about, this is an additional reason for sharing it. I do not assume that when he sees the unhappy he will merely feel for them that barren and cruel pity which is content to pity the ills it can heal. His kindness is active and teaches him much he would have learnt far more slowly, or he would never have learnt at all, if his heart had been harder. If he finds his comrades at strife, he tries to reconcile them; if he sees the afflicted, he inquires as to the cause of their sufferings; if he meets two men who hate each other, he wants to know the reason of their enmity; if he finds one who is down-trodden groaning under the oppression of the rich and powerful, he tries to discover by what means he can counteract this oppression, and in the interest he takes with regard to all these unhappy persons, the means of removing their sufferings are never out of his sight. What use shall we make of this disposition so that it may re-act in a way suited to his age? Let us direct his efforts and his knowledge, and use his zeal to increase them.
translated by Barbara FoxleyIn the fire of adolescence the life-giving spirits, retained in the blood and distilled again and again, inspire his young heart with a warmth which glows in his eye, a warmth which is felt in his words and perceived in his actions. The lofty feeling with which he is inspired gives him strength and nobility; imbued with tender love for mankind his words betray the thoughts of his heart; I know not how it is, but there is more charm in his open-hearted generosity than in the artificial eloquence of others; or rather this eloquence of his is the only true eloquence, for he has only to show what he feels to make others share his feelings.
translated by Barbara FoxleyExtend self-love to others and it is transformed into virtue, a virtue which has its root in the heart of every one of us. The less the object of our care is directly dependent on ourselves, the less we have to fear from the illusion of self-interest; the more general this interest becomes, the juster it is; and the love of the human race is nothing but the love of justice within us.
translated by Barbara FoxleyI proceed along the path which the force of circumstances compels me to tread, but I do not insist that my readers shall follow me. Long ago they have made up their minds that I am wandering in the land of chimeras, while for my part I think they are dwelling in the country of prejudice. When I wander so far from popular beliefs I do not cease to bear them in mind; I examine them, I consider them, not that I may follow them or shun them, but that I may weigh them in the balance of reason. Whenever reason compels me to abandon these popular beliefs, I know by experience that my readers will not follow my example; I know that they will persist in refusing to go beyond what they can see, and that they will take the youth I am describing for the creation of my fanciful imagination, merely because he is unlike the youths with whom they compare him; they forget that he must needs be different, because he has been brought up in a totally different fashion; he has been influenced by wholly different feelings, instructed in a wholly different manner, so that it would be far stranger if he were like your pupils than if he were what I have supposed. He is a man of nature's making, not man's. No wonder men find him strange.When I began this work I took for granted nothing but what could be observed as readily by others as by myself; for our starting-point, the birth of man, is the same for all; but the further we go, while I am seeking to cultivate nature and you are seeking to deprave it, the further apart we find ourselves. At six years old my pupil was not so very unlike yours, whom you had not yet had time to disfigure; now there is nothing in common between them; and when they reach the age of manhood, which is now approaching, they will show themselves utterly different from each other, unless all my pains have been thrown away. There may not be so very great a difference in the amount of knowledge they possess, but there is all the difference in the world in the kind of knowledge. You are amazed to find that the one has noble sentiments of which the others have not the smallest germ, but remember that the latter are already philosophers and theologians while Emile does not even know what is meant by a philosopher and has scarcely heard the name of God.
translated by Barbara FoxleyIt is not easy for a man to begin to think; but when once he has begun he will never leave off. Once a thinker, always a thinker, and the understanding once practised in reflection will never rest. You may therefore think that I do too much or too little; that the human mind is not by nature so quick to unfold; and that after having given it opportunities it has not got, I keep it too long confined within a circle of ideas which it ought to have outgrown. But remember, in the first place, that when I want to train a natural man, I do not want to make him a savage and to send him back to the woods, but that living in the whirl of social life it is enough that he should not let himself be carried away by the passions and prejudices of men; let him see with his eyes and feel with his heart, let him own no sway but that of reason. Under these conditions it is plain that many things will strike him; the oft-recurring feelings which affect him, the different ways of satisfying his real needs, must give him many ideas he would not otherwise have acquired or would only have acquired much later. The natural progress of the mind is quickened but not reversed. The same man who would remain stupid in the forests should become wise and reasonable in towns, if he were merely a spectator in them.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThe perception of our action upon other bodies must have first induced us to suppose that their action upon us was effected in like manner. Thus man began by thinking that all things whose action affected him were alive. He did not recognise the limits of their powers, and he therefore supposed that they were boundless; as soon as he had supplied them with bodies they became his gods. In the earliest times men went in terror of everything and everything in nature seemed alive. The idea of matter was developed as slowly as that of spirit, for the former is itself an abstraction.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThus the universe was peopled with gods like themselves. The stars, the winds and the mountains, rivers, trees, and towns, their very dwellings, each had its soul, its god, its life. The teraphim of Laban, the manitos of savages, the fetishes of the negroes, every work of nature and of man, were the first gods of mortals; polytheism was their first religion and idolatry their earliest form of worship. The idea of one God was beyond their grasp, till little by little they formed general ideas, and they rose to the idea of a first cause and gave meaning to the word "substance," which is at bottom the greatest of abstractions.
translated by Barbara FoxleyBut consider what a gulf there still is between the idea of two substances and that of the divine nature, between the incomprehensible idea of the influence of our soul upon our body and the idea of the influence of God upon every living creature. The ideas of creation, destruction, ubiquity, eternity, almighty power, those of the divine attributes—these are all ideas so confused and obscure that few men succeed in grasping them; yet there is nothing obscure about them to the common people, because they do not understand them in the least; how then should they present themselves in full force, that is to say in all their obscurity, to the young mind which is still occupied with the first working of the senses, and fails to realise anything but what it handles?
translated by Barbara FoxleyI am aware that many of my readers will be surprised to find me tracing the course of my scholar through his early years without speaking to him of religion. At fifteen he will not even know that he has a soul, at eighteen even he may not be ready to learn about it. For if he learns about it too soon, there is the risk of his never really knowing anything about it. If I had to depict the most heart-breaking stupidity, I would paint a pedant teaching children the catechism; if I wanted to drive a child crazy I would set him to explain what he learned in his catechism. You will reply that as most of the Christian doctrines are mysteries, you must wait, not merely till the child is a man, but till the man is dead, before the human mind will understand those doctrines. To that I reply, that there are mysteries which the heart of man can neither conceive nor believe, and I see no use in teaching them to children, unless you want to make liars of them. Moreover, I assert that to admit that there are mysteries, you must at least realise that they are incomprehensible, and children are not even capable of this conception! At an age when everything is mysterious, there are no mysteries properly so-called. "We must believe in God if we would be saved." This doctrine wrongly understood is the root of bloodthirsty intolerance and the cause of all the futile teaching which strikes a deadly blow at human reason by training it to cheat itself with mere words. No doubt there is not a moment to be lost if we would deserve eternal salvation; but if the repetition of certain words suffices to obtain it, I do not see why we should not people heaven with starlings and magpies as well as with children.
translated by Barbara FoxleyIt would be better to have no idea at all of the Divinity than to have mean, grotesque, harmful, and unworthy ideas; to fail to perceive the Divine is a lesser evil than to insult it.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThe chief harm which results from the monstrous ideas of God which are instilled into the minds of children is that they last all their life long, and as men they understand no more of God than they did as children. In Switzerland I once saw a good and pious mother who was so convinced of the truth of this maxim that she refused to teach her son religion when he was a little child for fear lest he should be satisfied with this crude teaching and neglect a better teaching when he reached the age of reason. This child never heard the name of God pronounced except with reverence and devotion, and as soon as he attempted to say the word he was told to hold his tongue, as if the subject were too sublime and great for him. This reticence aroused his curiosity and his self-love; he looked forward to the time when he would know this mystery so carefully hidden from him. The less they spoke of God to him, the less he was himself permitted to speak of God, the more he thought about Him; this child beheld God everywhere. What I should most dread as the result of this unwise affectation of mystery is this: by over-stimulating the youth's imagination you may turn his head, and make him at the best a fanatic rather than a believer.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThere is a stage of degradation which robs the soul of its life; and the inner voice cannot be heard by one whose whole mind is bent on getting food.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThe priest was so well known for his uprightness and his discretion, that many people preferred to entrust their alms to him, rather than to the wealthy clergy of the town. One day some one had given him some money to distribute among the poor, and the young man was mean enough to ask for some of it on the score of poverty. "No," said he, "we are brothers, you belong to me and I must not touch the money entrusted to me." Then he gave him the sum he had asked for out of his own pocket. Lessons of this sort seldom fail to make an impression on the heart of young people who are not wholly corrupt. I am weary of speaking in the third person, and the precaution is unnecessary; for you are well aware, my dear friend, that I myself was this unhappy fugitive; I think I am so far removed from the disorders of my youth that I may venture to confess them, and the hand which rescued me well deserves that I should at least do honour to its goodness at the cost of some slight shame. What struck me most was to see in the private life of my worthy master, virtue without hypocrisy, humanity without weakness, speech always plain and straightforward, and conduct in accordance with this speech. I never saw him trouble himself whether those whom he assisted went to vespers or confession, whether they fasted at the appointed seasons and went without meat; nor did he impose upon them any other like conditions, without which you might die of hunger before you could hope for any help from the devout.
translated by Barbara FoxleyWhile I lived on very friendly terms with him, I learnt day by day to respect him more; and when he had completely won my heart by such great kindness, I awaited with eager curiosity the time when I should learn what was the principle on which the uniformity of this strange life was based.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThe most difficult fault to overcome in me was a certain haughty misanthropy, a certain bitterness against the rich and successful, as if their wealth and happiness had been gained at my own expense, and as if their supposed happiness had been unjustly taken from my own. The foolish vanity of youth, which kicks against the pricks of humiliation, made me only too much inclined to this angry temper; and the self-respect, which my mentor strove to revive, led to pride, which made men still more vile in my eyes, and only added scorn to my hatred.
translated by Barbara FoxleyTouched with compassion towards human weaknesses through the profound conviction of his own failings, he viewed all men as the victims of their own vices and those of others; he beheld the poor groaning under the tyranny of the rich, and the rich under the tyranny of their own prejudices. "Believe me," said he, "our illusions, far from concealing our woes, only increase them by giving value to what is in itself valueless, in making us aware of all sorts of fancied privations which we should not otherwise feel. Peace of heart consists in despising everything that might disturb that peace; the man who clings most closely to life is the man who can least enjoy it; and the man who most eagerly desires happiness is always most miserable." "What gloomy ideas!" I exclaimed bitterly. "If we must deny ourselves everything, we might as well never have been born; and if we must despise even happiness itself who can be happy?" "I am," replied the priest one day, in a tone which made a great impression on me. "You happy! So little favoured by fortune, so poor, an exile and persecuted, you are happy! How have you contrived to be happy?" "My child," he answered, "I will gladly tell you." Thereupon he explained that, having heard my confessions, he would confess to me. "I will open my whole heart to yours," he said, embracing me. "You will see me, if not as I am, at least as I seem to myself. When you have heard my whole confession of faith, when you really know the condition of my heart, you will know why I think myself happy, and if you think as I do, you will know how to be happy too. But these explanations are not the affair of a moment, it will take time to show you all my ideas about the lot of man and the true value of life; let us choose a fitting time and a place where we may continue this conversation without interruption." I showed him how eager I was to hear him. The meeting was fixed for the very next morning. It was summer time; we rose at daybreak. He took me out of the town on to a high hill above the river Po, whose course we beheld as it flowed between its fertile banks; in the distance the landscape was crowned by the vast chain of the Alps; the beams of the rising sun already touched the plains and cast across the fields long shadows of trees, hillocks, and houses, and enriched with a thousand gleams of light the fairest picture which the human eye can see. You would have thought that nature was displaying all her splendour before our eyes to furnish a text for our conversation. After contemplating this scene for a space in silence, the man of peace spoke to me.
translated by Barbara FoxleyI cannot understand how any one can be a sceptic sincerely and on principle. Either such philosophers do not exist or they are the most miserable of men. Doubt with regard to what we ought to know is a condition too violent for the human mind; it cannot long be endured; in spite of itself the mind decides one way or another, and it prefers to be deceived rather than to believe nothing.
translated by Barbara FoxleyI suppose this prodigious diversity of opinion is caused, in the first place, by the weakness of the human intellect; and, in the second, by pride. We have no means of measuring this vast machine, we are unable to calculate its workings; we know neither its guiding principles nor its final purpose; we do not know ourselves, we know neither our nature nor the spirit that moves us; we scarcely know whether man is one or many; we are surrounded by impenetrable mysteries. These mysteries are beyond the region of sense, we think we can penetrate them by the light of reason, but we fall back on our imagination. Through this imagined world each forces a way for himself which he holds to be right; none can tell whether his path will lead him to the goal. Yet we long to know and understand it all. The one thing we do not know is the limit of the knowable. We prefer to trust to chance and to believe what is not true, rather than to own that not one of us can see what really is. A fragment of some vast whole whose bounds are beyond our gaze, a fragment abandoned by its Creator to our foolish quarrels, we are vain enough to want to determine the nature of that whole and our own relations with regard to it.
translated by Barbara FoxleyWhere is the philosopher who would not deceive the whole world for his own glory? If he can rise above the crowd, if he can excel his rivals, what more does he want? Among believers he is an atheist; among atheists he would be a believer. The first thing I learned from these considerations was to restrict my inquiries to what directly concerned myself, to rest in profound ignorance of everything else, and not even to trouble myself to doubt anything beyond what I required to know.
translated by Barbara FoxleyYou ask me if the movements of animals are spontaneous; my answer is, "I cannot tell," but analogy points that way. You ask me again, how do I know that there are spontaneous movements? I tell you, "I know it because I feel them." I want to move my arm and I move it without any other immediate cause of the movement but my own will. In vain would any one try to argue me out of this feeling, it is stronger than any proofs; you might as well try to convince me that I do not exist.It is no more possible for me to conceive how my will moves my body than to conceive how my sensations affect my mind. I do not even know why one of these mysteries has seemed less inexplicable than the other.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThe mere generation of living organic bodies is the despair of the human mind; the insurmountable barrier raised by nature between the various species, so that they should not mix with one another, is the clearest proof of her intention. She is not content to have established order, she has taken adequate measures to prevent the disturbance of that order.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThis being who wills and can perform his will, this being active through his own power, this being, whoever he may be, who moves the universe and orders all things, is what I call God. To this name I add the ideas of intelligence, power, will, which I have brought together, and that of kindness which is their necessary consequence; but for all this I know no more of the being to which I ascribe them. He hides himself alike from my senses and my understanding; the more I think of him, the more perplexed I am; I know full well that he exists, and that he exists of himself alone; I know that my existence depends on his, and that everything I know depends upon him also. I see God everywhere in his works; I feel him within myself; I behold him all around me; but if I try to ponder him himself, if I try to find out where he is, what he is, what is his substance, he escapes me and my troubled spirit finds nothing.
translated by Barbara FoxleyBut when, in my desire to discover my own place within my species, I consider its different ranks and the men who fill them, where am I now? What a sight meets my eyes! Where is now the order I perceived? Nature showed me a scene of harmony and proportion; the human race shows me nothing but confusion and disorder. The elements agree together; men are in a state of chaos. The beasts are happy; their king alone is wretched.There is no evil but the evil you do or the evil you suffer, and both come from yourself. Evil in general can only spring from disorder, and in the order of the world I find a never failing system. Evil in particular cases exists only in the mind of those who experience it; and this feeling is not the gift of nature, but the work of man himself. Pain has little power over those who, having thought little, look neither before nor after. Take away our fatal progress, take away our faults and our vices, take away man's handiwork, and all is well. Where all is well, there is no such thing as injustice. Justice and goodness are inseparable.
translated by Barbara FoxleyMen say God owes nothing to his creatures. I think he owes them all he promised when he gave them their being. Now to give them the idea of something good and to make them feel the need of it, is to promise it to them. The more closely I study myself, the more carefully I consider, the more plainly do I read these words, "Be just and you will be happy." It is not so, however, in the present condition of things, the wicked prospers and the oppression of the righteous continues.
translated by Barbara Foxley"What becomes of man when all we know of him through our senses has vanished?" This question no longer presents any difficulty to me when I admit the two substances. It is easy to understand that what is imperceptible to those senses escapes me, during my bodily life, when I perceive through my senses only. When the union of soul and body is destroyed, I think one may be dissolved and the other may be preserved. Why should the destruction of the one imply the destruction of the other? On the contrary, so unlike in their nature, they were during their union in a highly unstable condition, and when this union comes to an end they both return to their natural state; the active vital substance regains all the force which it expended to set in motion the passive dead substance. Alas! my vices make me only too well aware that man is but half alive during this life; the life of the soul only begins with the death of the body.
translated by Barbara FoxleyTake from our hearts this love of what is noble and you rob us of the joy of life. The mean-spirited man in whom these delicious feelings have been stifled among vile passions, who by thinking of no one but himself comes at last to love no one but himself, this man feels no raptures, his cold heart no longer throbs with joy, and his eyes no longer fill with the sweet tears of sympathy, he delights in nothing; the wretch has neither life nor feeling, he is already dead.
translated by Barbara Foxley"In my exposition you find nothing but natural religion; strange that we should need more! How shall I become aware of this need? What guilt can be mine so long as I serve God according to the knowledge he has given to my mind, and the feelings he has put into my heart? What purity of morals, what dogma useful to man and worthy of its author, can I derive from a positive doctrine which cannot be derived without the aid of this doctrine by the right use of my faculties? Show me what you can add to the duties of the natural law, for the glory of God, for the good of mankind, and for my own welfare; and what virtue you will get from the new form of religion which does not result from mine. The grandest ideas of the Divine nature come to us from reason only. Behold the spectacle of nature; listen to the inner voice. Has not God spoken it all to our eyes, to our conscience, to our reason? What more can man tell us?Their revelations do but degrade God, by investing him with passions like our own. Far from throwing light upon the ideas of the Supreme Being, special doctrines seem to me to confuse these ideas; far from ennobling them, they degrade them; to the inconceivable mysteries which surround the Almighty, they add absurd contradictions, they make man proud, intolerant, and cruel; instead of bringing peace upon earth, they bring fire and sword. I ask myself what is the use of it all, and I find no answer. I see nothing but the crimes of men and the misery of mankind.As soon as the nations took to making God speak, every one made him speak in his own fashion, and made him say what he himself wanted. Had they listened only to what God says in the heart of man, there would have been but one religion upon earth.
translated by Barbara FoxleyDo not let us confuse the outward forms of religion with religion itself. The service God requires is of the heart; and when the heart is sincere that is ever the same. It is a strange sort of conceit which fancies that God takes such an interest in the shape of the priest's vestments, the form of words he utters, the gestures he makes before the altar and all his genuflections. Oh, my friend, stand upright, you will still be too near the earth. God desires to be worshipped in spirit and in truth; this duty belongs to every religion, every country, every individual.
translated by Barbara Foxley"Those among us who have the opportunity of talking with Jews are little better off. These unhappy people feel that they are in our power; the tyranny they have suffered makes them timid; they know that Christian charity thinks nothing of injustice and cruelty; will they dare to run the risk of an outcry against blasphemy? Our greed inspires us with zeal, and they are so rich that they must be in the wrong. The more learned, the more enlightened they are, the more cautious. You may convert some poor wretch whom you have paid to slander his religion; you get some wretched old-clothes-man to speak, and he says what you want; you may triumph over their ignorance and cowardice, while all the time their men of learning are laughing at your stupidity. But do you think you would get off so easily in any place where they knew they were safe! At the Sorbonne it is plain that the Messianic prophecies refer to Jesus Christ. Among the rabbis of Amsterdam it is just as clear that they have nothing to do with him. I do not think I have ever heard the arguments of the Jews as to why they should not have a free state, schools and universities, where they can speak and argue without danger.
translated by Barbara Foxley"Hard pressed by these arguments, some prefer to make God unjust and to punish the innocent for the sins of their fathers, rather than to renounce their barbarous dogmas. Others get out of the difficulty by kindly sending an angel to instruct all those who in invincible ignorance have lived a righteous life. A good idea, that angel! Not content to be the slaves of their own inventions they expect God to make use of them also! "Behold, my son, the absurdities to which pride and intolerance bring us, when everybody wants others to think as he does, and everybody fancies that he has an exclusive claim upon the rest of mankind. I call to witness the God of Peace whom I adore, and whom I proclaim to you, that my inquiries were honestly made; but when I discovered that they were and always would be unsuccessful, and that I was embarked upon a boundless ocean, I turned back, and restricted my faith within the limits of my primitive ideas. I could never convince myself that God would require such learning of me under pain of hell. So I closed all my books. There is one book which is open to every one—the book of nature. In this good and great volume I learn to serve and adore its Author. There is no excuse for not reading this book, for it speaks to all in a language they can understand. Suppose I had been born in a desert island, suppose I had never seen any man but myself, suppose I had never heard what took place in olden days in a remote corner of the world; yet if I use my reason, if I cultivate it, if I employ rightly the innate faculties which God bestows upon me, I shall learn by myself to know and love him, to love his works, to will what he wills, and to fulfil all my duties upon earth, that I may do his pleasure. What more can all human learning teach me?
translated by Barbara FoxleyWhen Plato describes his imaginary good man, overwhelmed with the disgrace of crime, and deserving of all the rewards of virtue, every feature of the portrait is that of Christ; the resemblance is so striking that it has been noticed by all the Fathers, and there can be no doubt about it. What prejudices and blindness must there be before we dare to compare the son of Sophronisca with the son of Mary. How far apart they are! Socrates dies a painless death, he is not put to open shame, and he plays his part easily to the last; and if this easy death had not done honour to his life, we might have doubted whether Socrates, with all his intellect, was more than a mere sophist. He invented morality, so they say; others before him had practised it; he only said what they had done, and made use of their example in his teaching. Aristides was just before Socrates defined justice; Leonidas died for his country before Socrates declared that patriotism was a virtue; Sparta was sober before Socrates extolled sobriety; there were plenty of virtuous men in Greece before he defined virtue. But among the men of his own time where did Jesus find that pure and lofty morality of which he is both the teacher and pattern? The voice of loftiest wisdom arose among the fiercest fanaticism, the simplicity of the most heroic virtues did honour to the most degraded of nations. One could wish no easier death than that of Socrates, calmly discussing philosophy with his friends; one could fear nothing worse than that of Jesus, dying in torment, among the insults, the mockery, the curses of the whole nation. In the midst of these terrible sufferings, Jesus prays for his cruel murderers. Yes, if the life and death of Socrates are those of a philosopher, the life and death of Christ are those of a God.
translated by Barbara FoxleyBayle has proved very satisfactorily that fanaticism is more harmful than atheism, and that cannot be denied; but what he has not taken the trouble to say, though it is none the less true, is this: Fanaticism, though cruel and bloodthirsty, is still a great and powerful passion, which stirs the heart of man, teaching him to despise death, and giving him an enormous motive power, which only needs to be guided rightly to produce the noblest virtues; while irreligion, and the argumentative philosophic spirit generally, on the other hand, assaults the life and enfeebles it, degrades the soul, concentrates all the passions in the basest self-interest, in the meanness of the human self; thus it saps unnoticed the very foundations of all society, for what is common to all these private interests is so small that it will never outweigh their opposing interests.—If atheism does not lead to bloodshed, it is less from love of peace than from indifference to what is good; as if it mattered little what happened to others, provided the sage remained undisturbed in his study. His principles do not kill men, but they prevent their birth, by destroying the morals by which they were multiplied, by detaching them from their fellows, by reducing all their affections to a secret selfishness, as fatal to population as to virtue. The indifference of the philosopher is like the peace in a despotic state; it is the repose of death; war itself is not more destructive.—Thus fanaticism though its immediate results are more fatal than those of what is now called the philosophic mind, is much less fatal in its after effects.
translated by Barbara FoxleyGo beyond this, and I see nothing but injustice, hypocrisy, and falsehood among men; private interest, which in competition necessarily prevails over everything else, teaches all things to adorn vice with the outward show of virtue.
translated by Barbara Foxley[Footnote: There is no one who looks down upon childhood with such lofty scorn as those who are barely grown-up; just as there is no country where rank is more strictly regarded than that where there is little real inequality; everybody is afraid of being confounded with his inferiors.]
translated by Barbara FoxleyHaving reached this stage, and by this road, he is quite ready to enter upon the next stage to which I introduce him; the subjects I suggest for his consideration rouse his curiosity, because they are fine in themselves, because they are quite new to him, and because he is able to understand them. Your young people, on the other hand, are weary and overdone with your stupid lessons, your long sermons, and your tedious catechisms; why should they not refuse to devote their minds to what has made them sad, to the burdensome precepts which have been continually piled upon them, to the thought of the Author of their being, who has been represented as the enemy of their pleasures? All this has only inspired in them aversion, disgust, and weariness; constraint has set them against it; why then should they devote themselves to it when they are beginning to choose for themselves? They require novelty, you must not repeat what they learned as children. Just so with my own pupil, when he is a man I speak to him as a man, and only tell him what is new to him; it is just because they are tedious to your pupils that he will find them to his taste.
translated by Barbara FoxleyReason, friendship, affection, gratitude, a thousand bonds of affection, speak to him in a voice he cannot fail to hear. His ears are not yet dulled by vice, he is still sensitive only to the passions of nature. Self-love, the first of these, delivers him into your hands; habit confirms this. If a passing transport tears him from you, regret restores him to you without delay; the sentiment which attaches him to you is the only lasting sentiment, all the rest are fleeting and self-effacing. Do not let him become corrupt, and he will always be docile; he will not begin to rebel till he is already perverted.
translated by Barbara FoxleyFor the reasons just stated, I consider that by the means I have indicated and others like them the young man's desires may be kept in ignorance and his senses pure up to the age of twenty. This is so true that among the Germans a young man who lost his virginity before that age was considered dishonoured; and the writers justly attribute the vigour of constitution and the number of children among the Germans to the continence of these nations during youth.This period may be prolonged still further, and a few centuries ago nothing was more common even in France. Among other well-known examples, Montaigne's father, a man no less scrupulously truthful than strong and healthy, swore that his was a virgin marriage at three and thirty, and he had served for a long time in the Italian wars. We may see in the writings of his son what strength and spirit were shown by the father when he was over sixty.
translated by Barbara FoxleyRemember that to guide a grown man you must reverse all that you did to guide the child. Do not hesitate to speak to him of those dangerous mysteries which you have so carefully concealed from him hitherto. Since he must become aware of them, let him not learn them from another, nor from himself, but from you alone; since he must henceforth fight against them, let him know his enemy, that he may not be taken unawares.What makes me most confident in my method is this: when I follow it out as closely as possible, I find no situation in the life of my scholar which does not leave me some pleasing memory of him. Even when he is carried away by his ardent temperament or when he revolts against the hand that guides him, when he struggles and is on the point of escaping from me, I still find his first simplicity in his agitation and his anger; his heart as pure as his body, he has no more knowledge of pretence than of vice; reproach and scorn have not made a coward of him; base fears have never taught him the art of concealment. He has all the indiscretion of innocence; he is absolutely out-spoken; he does not even know the use of deceit. Every impulse of his heart is betrayed either by word or look, and I often know what he is feeling before he is aware of it himself.
translated by Barbara FoxleyReading, solitude, idleness, a soft and sedentary life, intercourse with women and young people, these are perilous paths for a young man, and these lead him constantly into danger. I divert his senses by other objects of sense; I trace another course for his spirits by which I distract them from the course they would have taken; it is by bodily exercise and hard work that I check the activity of the imagination, which was leading him astray. When the arms are hard at work, the imagination is quiet; when the body is very weary, the passions are not easily inflamed. The quickest and easiest precaution is to remove him from immediate danger. At once I take him away from towns, away from things which might lead him into temptation.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThere are moments in human life which can never be forgotten. Such is the time when Emile receives the instruction of which I have spoken; its influence should endure all his life through. Let us try to engrave it on his memory so that it may never fade away. It is one of the faults of our age to rely too much on cold reason, as if men were all mind. By neglecting the language of expression we have lost the most forcible mode of speech. The spoken word is always weak, and we speak to the heart rather through the eyes than the ears. In our attempt to appeal to reason only, we have reduced our precepts to words, we have not embodied them in deed. Mere reason is not active; occasionally she restrains, more rarely she stimulates, but she never does any great thing. Small minds have a mania for reasoning. Strong souls speak a very different language, and it is by this language that men are persuaded and driven to action.
translated by Barbara FoxleyI observe that in modern times men only get a hold over others by force or self-interest, while the ancients did more by persuasion, by the affections of the heart; because they did not neglect the language; of symbolic expression. All agreements were drawn up solemnly, so that they might be more inviolable; before the reign of force, the gods were the judges of mankind; in their presence, individuals made their treaties and alliances, and pledged themselves to perform their promises; the face of the earth was the book in which the archives were preserved. The leaves of this book were rocks, trees, piles of stones, made sacred by these transactions, and regarded with reverence by barbarous men; and these pages were always open before their eyes. The well of the oath, the well of the living and seeing one; the ancient oak of Mamre, the stones of witness, such were the simple but stately monuments of the sanctity of contracts; none dared to lay a sacrilegious hand on these monuments, and man's faith was more secure under the warrant of these dumb witnesses than it is to-day upon all the rigour of the law.
translated by Barbara FoxleyI shall choose the time, place, and surroundings most favourable to the impression I wish to make; I shall, so to speak, summon all nature as witness to our conversations; I shall call upon the eternal God, the Creator of nature, to bear witness to the truth of what I say. He shall judge between Emile and myself; I will make the rocks, the woods, the mountains round about us, the monuments of his promises and mine; eyes, voice, and gesture shall show the enthusiasm I desire to inspire. Then I will speak and he will listen, and his emotion will be stirred by my own. The more impressed I am by the sanctity of my duties, the more sacred he will regard his own. I will enforce the voice of reason with images and figures, I will not give him long-winded speeches or cold precepts, but my overflowing feelings will break their bounds; my reason shall be grave and serious, but my heart cannot speak too warmly. Then when I have shown him all that I have done for him, I will show him how he is made for me; he will see in my tender affection the cause of all my care. How greatly shall I surprise and disturb him when I change my tone. Instead of shrivelling up his soul by always talking of his own interests, I shall henceforth speak of my own; he will be more deeply touched by this. I will kindle in his young heart all the sentiments of affection, generosity, and gratitude which I have already called into being, and it will indeed be sweet to watch their growth. I will press him to my bosom, and weep over him in my emotion; I will say to him: "You are my wealth, my child, my handiwork; my happiness is bound up in yours; if you frustrate my hopes, you rob me of twenty years of my life, and you bring my grey hairs with sorrow to the grave." This is the way to gain a hearing and to impress what is said upon the heart and memory of the young man.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThey say French is more chaste than other languages; for my own part I think it more obscene; for it seems to me that the purity of a language does not consist in avoiding coarse expressions but in having none. Indeed, if we are to avoid them, they must be in our thoughts, and there is no language in which it is so difficult to speak with purity on every subject than French.One could not imagine more modest language than that of the Bible, just because of its plainness of speech. The same things translated into French would become immodest. What I ought to say to Emile will sound pure and honourable to him; but to make the same impression in print would demand a like purity of heart in the reader.
translated by Barbara Foxleyif while we speak to him of this great mystery of generation, we join to the idea of the pleasure which the Author of nature has given to this act the idea of the exclusive affection which makes it delightful, the idea of the duties of faithfulness and modesty which surround it, and redouble its charm while fulfilling its purpose; if we paint to him marriage, not only as the sweetest form of society, but also as the most sacred and inviolable of contracts, if we tell him plainly all the reasons which lead men to respect this sacred bond, and to pour hatred and curses upon him who dares to dishonour it; if we give him a true and terrible picture of the horrors of debauch, of its stupid brutality, of the downward road by which a first act of misconduct leads from bad to worse, and at last drags the sinner to his ruin; if, I say, we give him proofs that on a desire for chastity depends health, strength, courage, virtue, love itself, and all that is truly good for man—I maintain that this chastity will be so dear and so desirable in his eyes, that his mind will be ready to receive our teaching as to the way to preserve it; for so long as we are chaste we respect chastity; it is only when we have lost this virtue that we scorn it.
translated by Barbara FoxleyIf I have managed to take all the requisite precautions in accordance with these maxims, and have said the right things to Emile at the age he has now reached, I am quite convinced that he will come of his own accord to the point to which I would lead him, and will eagerly confide himself to my care. When he sees the dangers by which he is surrounded, he will say to me with all the warmth of youth, "Oh, my friend, my protector, my master! resume the authority you desire to lay aside at the very time when I most need it; hitherto my weakness has given you this power. I now place it in your hands of my own free-will, and it will be all the more sacred in my eyes. Protect me from all the foes which are attacking me, and above all from the traitors within the citadel; watch over your work, that it may still be worthy of you. I mean to obey your laws, I shall ever do so, that is my steadfast purpose; if I ever disobey you, it will be against my will; make me free by guarding me against the passions which do me violence; do not let me become their slave; compel me to be my own master and to obey, not my senses, but my reason."
translated by Barbara FoxleyHow narrow-minded to see nothing in the rising desires of a young heart but obstacles to the teaching of reason. In my eyes, these are the right means to make him obedient to that very teaching. Only through passion can we gain the mastery over passions; their tyranny must be controlled by their legitimate power, and nature herself must furnish us with the means to control her.
translated by Barbara FoxleyGive me a child of twelve who knows nothing at all; at fifteen I will restore him to you knowing as much as those who have been under instruction from infancy; with this difference, that your scholars only know things by heart, while mine knows how to use his knowledge. In the same way plunge a young man of twenty into society; under good guidance, in a year's time, he will be more charming and more truly polite than one brought up in society from childhood.
translated by Barbara FoxleyYou do not think that Emile, at twenty, can possibly be docile. How differently we think! I cannot understand how he could be docile at ten, for what hold have I on him at that age? It took me fifteen years of careful preparation to secure that hold. I was not educating him, but preparing him for education. He is now sufficiently educated to be docile; he recognises the voice of friendship and he knows how to obey reason. It is true I allow him a show of freedom, but he was never more completely under control, because he obeys of his own free will. So long as I could not get the mastery over his will, I retained my control over his person; I never left him for a moment. Now I sometimes leave him to himself because I control him continually.
translated by Barbara FoxleyPeople make a great mystery of the ways of society, as if, at the age when these ways are acquired, we did not take to them quite naturally, and as if the first laws of politeness were not to be found in a kindly heart. True politeness consists in showing our goodwill towards men; it shows its presence without any difficulty; those only who lack this goodwill are compelled to reduce the outward signs of it to an art.
translated by Barbara FoxleyYet I admit that with such different teaching Emile will not be just like everybody else, and heaven preserve him from such a fate! But where he is unlike other people, he will neither cause annoyance nor will he be absurd; the difference will be perceptible but not unpleasant. Emile will be, if you like, an agreeable foreigner. At first his peculiarities will be excused with the phrase, "He will learn." After a time people will get used to his ways, and seeing that he does not change they will still make excuses for him and say, "He is made that way."
translated by Barbara FoxleyHe will not be feted as a charming man, but every one will like him without knowing why; no one will praise his intellect, but every one will be ready to make him the judge between men of intellect; his own intelligence will be clear and limited, his mind will be accurate, and his judgment sane. As he never runs after new ideas, he cannot pride himself on his wit. I have convinced him that all wholesome ideas, ideas which are really useful to mankind, were among the earliest known, that in all times they have formed the true bonds of society, and that there is nothing left for ambitious minds but to seek distinction for themselves by means of ideas which are injurious and fatal to mankind.
translated by Barbara FoxleyEmile is a man of common sense and he has no desire to be anything more; you may try in vain to insult him by applying this phrase to him; he will always consider it a title of honour.
translated by Barbara FoxleyTo know what people may find pleasant or unpleasant is not only necessary to any one who requires their help, it is still more necessary to any one who would help them; you must please them if you would do them service; and the art of writing is no idle pursuit if it is used to make men hear the truth.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThere is perhaps no civilised place upon earth where the common taste is so bad as in Paris. Yet it is in this capital that good taste is cultivated, and it seems that few books make any impression in Europe whose authors have not studied in Paris. Those who think it is enough to read our books are mistaken; there is more to be learnt from the conversation of authors than from their books; and it is not from the authors that we learn most. It is the spirit of social life which develops a thinking mind, and carries the eye as far as it can reach. If you have a spark of genius, go and spend a year in Paris; you will soon be all that you are capable of becoming, or you will never be good for anything at all.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThere is, moreover, a certain simplicity of taste which goes straight to the heart; and this is only to be found in the classics. In oratory, poetry, and every kind of literature, Emile will find the classical authors as he found them in history, full of matter and sober in their judgment. The authors of our own time, on the contrary, say little and talk much. To take their judgment as our constant law is not the way to form our own judgment. These differences of taste make themselves felt in all that is left of classical times and even on their tombs. Our monuments are covered with praises, theirs recorded facts.
translated by Barbara Foxley"Sta, viator; heroem calcas." If I had found this epitaph on an ancient monument, I should at once have guessed it was modern; for there is nothing so common among us as heroes, but among the ancients they were rare. Instead of saying a man was a hero, they would have said what he had done to gain that name.
translated by Barbara FoxleySpeaking generally Emile will have more taste for the books of the ancients than for our own, just because they were the first, and therefore the ancients are nearer to nature and their genius is more distinct.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThe world is a palace fair enough for any one; and is not everything at the disposal of the rich man when he seeks enjoyment? "Ubi bene, ibi patria," that is his motto; his home is anywhere where money will carry him, his country is anywhere where there is room for his strong-box, as Philip considered as his own any place where a mule laden with silver could enter. [Footnote: A stranger, splendidly clad, was asked in Athens what country he belonged to. "I am one of the rich," was his answer; and a very good answer in my opinion.]
translated by Barbara FoxleyWhy then should we shut ourselves up within walls and gates as if we never meant to leave them? If pestilence, war, or rebellion drive me from one place, I go to another, and I find my hotel there before me. Why should I build a mansion for myself when the world is already at my disposal? Why should I be in such a hurry to live, to bring from afar delights which I can find on the spot? It is impossible to make a pleasant life for oneself when one is always at war with oneself. Thus Empedocles reproached the men of Agrigentum with heaping up pleasures as if they had but one day to live, and building as if they would live for ever.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThinkers are seldom gamblers; gambling interrupts the habit of thought and turns it towards barren combinations; thus one good result, perhaps the only good result of the taste for science, is that it deadens to some extent this vulgar passion; people will prefer to try to discover the uses of play rather than to devote themselves to it.
translated by Barbara FoxleyIt would be sweet to lie generous towards one we love, if that did not make a bargain of love. I know only one way of gratifying this desire with the woman one loves without embittering love; it is to bestow our all upon her and to live at her expense. It remains to be seen whether there is any woman with regard to whom such conduct would not be unwise.
translated by Barbara FoxleyIf I were young, I would seek the pleasures of youth; and as I would have them at their best I would not seek them in the guise of a rich man. If I were at my present age, it would be another matter; I would wisely confine myself to the pleasures of my age; I would form tastes which I could enjoy, and I would stifle those which could only cause suffering. I would not go and offer my grey beard to the scornful jests of young girls; I could never bear to sicken them with my disgusting caresses, to furnish them at my expense with the most absurd stories, to imagine them describing the vile pleasures of the old ape, so as to avenge themselves for what they had endured. But if habits unresisted had changed my former desires into needs, I would perhaps satisfy those needs, but with shame and blushes. I would distinguish between passion and necessity, I would find a suitable mistress and would keep to her. I would not make a business of my weakness, and above all I would only have one person aware of it. Life has other pleasures when these fail us; by hastening in vain after those that fly us, we deprive ourselves of those that remain.
translated by Barbara FoxleyFor my own part I know no more terrible fate than that of a pretty woman in Paris, unless it is that of the pretty manikin who devotes himself to her, who becomes idle and effeminate like her, and so deprives himself twice over of his manhood, while he prides himself on his successes and for their sake endures the longest and dullest days which human being ever put up with.
translated by Barbara FoxleyMy only set rule would be this: wherever I was I would pay no heed to anything else. I would take each day as it came, as if there were neither yesterday nor to-morrow. As I should be a man of the people, with the populace, I should be a countryman in the fields; and if I spoke of farming, the peasant should not laugh at my expense. I would not go and build a town in the country nor erect the Tuileries at the door of my lodgings. On some pleasant shady hill-side I would have a little cottage, a white house with green shutters, and though a thatched roof is the best all the year round, I would be grand enough to have, not those gloomy slates, but tiles, because they look brighter and more cheerful than thatch, and the houses in my own country are always roofed with them, and so they would recall to me something of the happy days of my youth.There I would gather round me a company, select rather than numerous, a band of friends who know what pleasure is, and how to enjoy it, women who can leave their arm-chairs and betake themselves to outdoor sports, women who can exchange the shuttle or the cards for the fishing line or the bird-trap, the gleaner's rake or grape-gatherer's basket. There all the pretensions of the town will be forgotten, and we shall be villagers in a village; we shall find all sorts of different sports and we shall hardly know how to choose the morrow's occupation. Exercise and an active life will improve our digestion and modify our tastes. Every meal will be a feast, where plenty will be more pleasing than any delicacies. There are no such cooks in the world as mirth, rural pursuits, and merry games; and the finest made dishes are quite ridiculous in the eyes of people who have been on foot since early dawn. Our meals will be served without regard to order or elegance; we shall make our dining-room anywhere, in the garden, on a boat, beneath a tree; sometimes at a distance from the house on the banks of a running stream, on the fresh green grass, among the clumps of willow and hazel; a long procession of guests will carry the material for the feast with laughter and singing; the turf will be our chairs and table, the banks of the stream our side-board, and our dessert is hanging on the trees; the dishes will be served in any order, appetite needs no ceremony; each one of us, openly putting himself first, would gladly see every one else do the same; from this warm-hearted and temperate familiarity there would arise, without coarseness, pretence, or constraint, a laughing conflict a hundredfold more delightful than politeness, and more likely to cement our friendship. No tedious flunkeys to listen to our words, to whisper criticisms on our behaviour, to count every mouthful with greedy eyes, to amuse themselves by keeping us waiting for our wine, to complain of the length of our dinner. We will be our own servants, in order to be our own masters. Time will fly unheeded, our meal will be an interval of rest during the heat of the day. If some peasant comes our way, returning from his work with his tools over his shoulder, I will cheer his heart with kindly words, and a glass or two of good wine, which will help him to bear his poverty more cheerfully; and I too shall have the joy of feeling my heart stirred within me, and I should say to myself—I too am a man.If the inhabitants of the district assembled for some rustic feast, I and my friends would be there among the first; if there were marriages, more blessed than those of towns, celebrated near my home, every one would know how I love to see people happy, and I should be invited. I would take these good folks some gift as simple as themselves, a gift which would be my share of the feast; and in exchange I should obtain gifts beyond price, gifts so little known among my equals, the gifts of freedom and true pleasure. I should sup gaily at the head of their long table; I should join in the chorus of some rustic song and I should dance in the barn more merrily than at a ball in the Opera House.
translated by Barbara Foxley
=== The Creed of the Savoyard Priest ===
I was in that state of doubt and uncertainty which Descartes considers essential to the search for truth. It is a state which cannot continue, it is disquieting and painful; only vicious tendencies and an idle heart can keep us in that state. My heart was not so corrupt as to delight in it, and there is nothing which so maintains the habit of thinking as being better pleased with oneself than with one's lot. I pondered, therefore, on the sad fate of mortals, adrift upon this sea of human opinions, without compass or rudder, and abandoned to their stormy passions with no guide but an inexperienced pilot who does not know whence he comes or whither he is going. I said to myself, "I love truth, I seek her, and cannot find her. Show me truth and I will hold her fast; why does she hide her face from the eager heart that would fain worship her?"
translated by Barbara FoxleyBut who am I? What right have I to decide? What is it that determines my judgments? If they are inevitable, if they are the results of the impressions I receive, I am wasting my strength in such inquiries; they would be made or not without any interference of mine. I must therefore first turn my eyes upon myself to acquaint myself with the instrument I desire to use, and to discover how far it is reliable. I exist, and I have senses through which I receive impressions. This is the first truth that strikes me and I am forced to accept it.
translated by Barbara FoxleyFor myself, I am not pledged to the support of any system. I am a plain and honest man, one who is not carried away by party spirit, one who has no ambition to be head of a sect; I am content with the place where God has set me; I see nothing, next to God himself, which is better than my species; and if I had to choose my place in the order of creation, what more could I choose than to be a man! I am not puffed up by this thought, I am deeply moved by it; for this state was no choice of mine, it was not due to the deserts of a creature who as yet did not exist. Can I behold myself thus distinguished without congratulating myself on this post of honour, without blessing the hand which bestowed it? The first return to self has given birth to a feeling of gratitude and thankfulness to the author of my species, and this feeling calls forth my first homage to the beneficent Godhead. I worship his Almighty power and my heart acknowledges his mercies. Is it not a natural consequence of our self-love to honour our protector and to love our benefactor?
translated by Barbara FoxleyWith the help of dice Descartes made heaven and earth; but he could not set his dice in motion, nor start the action of his centrifugal force without the help of rotation. Newton discovered the law of gravitation; but gravitation alone would soon reduce the universe to a motionless mass; he was compelled to add a projectile force to account for the elliptical course of the celestial bodies; let Newton show us the hand that launched the planets in the tangent of their orbits.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThe first causes of motion are not to be found in matter; matter receives and transmits motion, but does not produce it. The more I observe the action and reaction of the forces of nature playing on one another, the more I see that we must always go back from one effect to another, till we arrive at a first cause in some will; for to assume an infinite succession of causes is to assume that there is no first cause. In a word, no motion which is not caused by another motion can take place, except by a spontaneous, voluntary action; inanimate bodies have no action but motion, and there is no real action without will. This is my first principle. I believe, therefore, that there is a will which sets the universe in motion and gives life to nature. This is my first dogma, or the first article of my creed.
translated by Barbara FoxleyI must not be surprised if that which is possible should happen, and if the improbability of the event is compensated for by the number of the attempts. I grant this; yet if any one told me that printed characters scattered broadcast had produced the Aeneid all complete, I would not condescend to take a single step to verify this falsehood. You will tell me I am forgetting the multitude of attempts. But how many such attempts must I assume to bring the combination within the bounds of probability? For my own part the only possible assumption is that the chances are infinity to one that the product is not the work of chance. In addition to this, chance combinations yield nothing but products of the same nature as the elements combined, so that life and organisation will not be produced by a flow of atoms, and a chemist when making his compounds will never give them thought and feeling in his crucible. [Footnote: Could one believe, if one had not seen it, that human absurdity could go so far? Amatus Lusitanus asserts that he saw a little man an inch long enclosed in a glass, which Julius Camillus, like a second Prometheus, had made by alchemy. Paracelsis (De natura rerum) teaches the method of making these tiny men, and he maintains that the pygmies, fauns, satyrs, and nymphs have been made by chemistry. Indeed I cannot see that there is anything more to be done, to establish the possibility of these facts, unless it is to assert that organic matter resists the heat of fire and that its molecules can preserve their life in the hottest furnace.]
translated by Barbara FoxleyBut what is that life? Is the soul of man in its nature immortal? I know not. My finite understanding cannot hold the infinite; what is called eternity eludes my grasp. What can I assert or deny, how can I reason with regard to what I cannot conceive? I believe that the soul survives the body for the maintenance of order; who knows if this is enough to make it eternal? However, I know that the body is worn out and destroyed by the division of its parts, but I cannot conceive a similar destruction of the conscious nature, and as I cannot imagine how it can die, I presume that it does not die. As this assumption is consoling and in itself not unreasonable, why should I fear to accept it?
translated by Barbara FoxleyTo exist is to feel; our feeling is undoubtedly earlier than our intelligence, and we had feelings before we had ideas.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThe learned always despise the opinions of the crowd; each of them must have his own opinion. A haughty philosophy leads to atheism just as blind devotion leads to fanaticism. Avoid these extremes; keep steadfastly to the path of truth, or what seems to you truth, in simplicity of heart, and never let yourself be turned aside by pride or weakness. Dare to confess God before the philosophers; dare to preach humanity to the intolerant. It may be you will stand alone, but you will bear within you a witness which will make the witness of men of no account with you. Let them love or hate, let them read your writings or despise them; no matter. Speak the truth and do the right; the one thing that really matters is to do one's duty in this world; and when we forget ourselves we are really working for ourselves. My child, self-interest misleads us; the hope of the just is the only sure guide.
translated by Barbara FoxleyWhen I think that it is he that gives life and movement to the living and moving substance which controls all living bodies; when I hear it said that my soul is spiritual and that God is a spirit, I revolt against this abasement of the divine essence; as if God and my soul were of one and the same nature! As if God were not the one and only absolute being, the only really active, feeling, thinking, willing being, from whom we derive our thought, feeling, motion, will, our freedom and our very existence! We are free because he wills our freedom, and his inexplicable substance is to our souls what our souls are to our bodies. I know not whether he has created matter, body, soul, the world itself. The idea of creation confounds me and eludes my grasp; so far as I can conceive of it I believe it; but I know that he has formed the universe and all that is, that he has made and ordered all things. No doubt God is eternal; but can my mind grasp the idea of eternity? Why should I cheat myself with meaningless words? This is what I do understand; before things were—God was; he will be when they are no more, and if all things come to an end he will still endure. That a being beyond my comprehension should give life to other beings, this is merely difficult and beyond my understanding; but that Being and Nothing should be convertible terms, this is indeed a palpable contradiction, an evident absurdity.
translated by Barbara Foxley
=== Book V ===
Women have ready tongues; they talk earlier, more easily, and more pleasantly than men. They are also said to talk more; this may be true, but I am prepared to reckon it to their credit; eyes and mouth are equally busy and for the same cause. A man says what he knows, a woman says what will please; the one needs knowledge, the other taste; utility should be the man's object; the woman speaks to give pleasure. There should be nothing in common but truth.
translated by Barbara Foxley
Où est l’homme de bien qui ne doit rien à son pays ? Quel qu’il soit, il lui doit ce qu’il y a de plus précieux pour l’homme, la mortalité de ses actions et l’amour de la vertu.
Where is the man who owes nothing to the land in which he lives? Whatever that land may be, he owes to it the most precious thing possessed by man, the morality of his actions and the love of virtue.
translated by Barbara FoxleySo long as chastity is preserved, it is respected; it is despised only after having been lost.
translated by Barbara FoxleySo, decide to raise them [women] like men. The men will gladly consent to it! The more women want to resemble them, the less women will govern them, and then men will truly be the masters.
translated by Barbara FoxleySophie is not beautiful, but in her company men forget beautiful women, and beautiful women are dissatisfied with themselves.
translated by Barbara FoxleyOne must choose between making a man or a citizen, for one cannot make both at the same time.
translated by Allan BloomThe abuse of books kills science. Believing that we know what we have read, we believe that we can dispense with learning it.
translated by Allan BloomAgain, monopoly destroys pleasure. Real pleasures are those which we share with the crowd; we lose what we try to keep to ourselves alone. If the walls I build round my park transform it into a gloomy prison, I have only deprived myself, at great expense, of the pleasure of a walk; I must now seek that pleasure at a distance. The demon of property spoils everything he lays hands upon. A rich man wants to be master everywhere, and he is never happy where he is; he is continually driven to flee from himself. I shall therefore continue to do in my prosperity what I did in my poverty. Henceforward, richer in the wealth of others than I ever shall be in my own wealth, I will take possession of everything in my neighbourhood that takes my fancy; no conqueror is so determined as I; I even usurp the rights of princes; I take possession of every open place that pleases me, I give them names; this is my park, chat is my terrace, and I am their owner; henceforward I wander among them at will; I often return to maintain my proprietary rights; I make what use I choose of the ground to walk upon, and you will never convince me that the nominal owner of the property which I have appropriated gets better value out of the money it yields him than I do out of his land. No matter if I am interrupted by hedges and ditches, I take my park on my back, and I carry it elsewhere; there will be space enough for it near at hand, and I may plunder my neighbours long enough before I outstay my welcome. This is an attempt to show what is meant by good taste in the choice of pleasant occupations for our leisure hours; this is the spirit of enjoyment; all else is illusion, fancy, and foolish pride. He who disobeys these rules, however rich he may be, will devour his gold on a dung-hill, and will never know what it is to live. You will say, no doubt, that such amusements lie within the reach of all, that we need not be rich to enjoy them. That is the very point I was coming to. Pleasure is ours when we want it; it is only social prejudice which makes everything hard to obtain, and drives pleasure before us. To be happy is a hundredfold easier than it seems. If he really desires to enjoy himself the man of taste has no need of riches; all he wants is to be free and to be his own master. With health and daily bread we are rich enough, if we will but get rid of our prejudices; this is the "Golden Mean" of Horace.
translated by Barbara FoxleyWhile our time is thus employed, we are ever on the look-out for Sophy, and we have not yet found her. It was not desirable that she should be found too easily, and I have taken care to look for her where I knew we should not find her. The time is come; we must now seek her in earnest, lest Emile should mistake some one else for Sophy, and only discover his error when it is too late. Then farewell Paris, far-famed Paris, with all your noise and smoke and dirt, where the women have ceased to believe in honour and the men in virtue. We are in search of love, happiness, innocence; the further we go from Paris the better.
translated by Barbara Foxley"Since our young gentleman," says Locke, "is about to marry, it is time to leave him with his mistress." And with these words he ends his book. As I have not the honour of educating "A young gentleman," I shall take care not to follow his example.
translated by Barbara FoxleyBut for her sex, a woman is a man; she has the same organs, the same needs, the same faculties. The machine is the same in its construction; its parts, its working, and its appearance are similar. Regard it as you will the difference is only in degree.
translated by Barbara FoxleyIn the union of the sexes each alike contributes to the common end, but in different ways. From this diversity springs the first difference which may be observed between man and woman in their moral relations. The man should be strong and active; the woman should be weak and passive; the one must have both the power and the will; it is enough that the other should offer little resistance.
translated by Barbara FoxleyIf man in his turn ought to be pleasing in her eyes, the necessity is less urgent, his virtue is in his strength, he pleases because he is strong. I grant you this is not the law of love, but it is the law of nature, which is older than love itself.
translated by Barbara FoxleyIf woman is made to please and to be in subjection to man, she ought to make herself pleasing in his eyes and not provoke him to anger; her strength is in her charms, by their means she should compel him to discover and use his strength. The surest way of arousing this strength is to make it necessary by resistance. Thus pride comes to the help of desire and each exults in the other's victory. This is the origin of attack and defence, of the boldness of one sex and the timidity of the other, and even of the shame and modesty with which nature has armed the weak for the conquest of the strong.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThus the different constitution of the two sexes leads us to a third conclusion, that the stronger party seems to be master, but is as a matter of fact dependent on the weaker, and that, not by any foolish custom of gallantry, nor yet by the magnanimity of the protector, but by an inexorable law of nature. For nature has endowed woman with a power of stimulating man's passions in excess of man's power of satisfying those passions, and has thus made him dependent on her goodwill, and compelled him in his turn to endeavour to please her, so that she may be willing to yield to his superior strength. Is it weakness which yields to force, or is it voluntary self-surrender? This uncertainty constitutes the chief charm of the man's victory, and the woman is usually cunning enough to leave him in doubt. In this respect the woman's mind exactly resembles her body; far from being ashamed of her weakness, she is proud of it; her soft muscles offer no resistance, she professes that she cannot lift the lightest weight; she would be ashamed to be strong. And why? Not only to gain an appearance of refinement; she is too clever for that; she is providing herself beforehand with excuses, with the right to be weak if she chooses.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThere are countries, I grant you, where women bear and rear children with little or no difficulty, but in those lands the men go half-naked in all weathers, they strike down the wild beasts, they carry a canoe as easily as a knapsack, they pursue the chase for 700 or 800 leagues, they sleep in the open on the bare ground, they bear incredible fatigues and go many days without food. When women become strong, men become still stronger; when men become soft, women become softer; change both the terms and the ratio remains unaltered.
translated by Barbara FoxleyI am quite aware that Plato, in the Republic, assigns the same gymnastics to women and men. Having got rid of the family there is no place for women in his system of government, so he is forced to turn them into men. That great genius has worked out his plans in detail and has provided for every contingency; he has even provided against a difficulty which in all likelihood no one would ever have raised; but he has not succeeded in meeting the real difficulty. I am not speaking of the alleged community of wives which has often been laid to his charge; this assertion only shows that his detractors have never read his works. I refer to that political promiscuity under which the same occupations are assigned to both sexes alike, a scheme which could only lead to intolerable evils; I refer to that subversion of all the tenderest of our natural feelings, which he sacrificed to an artificial sentiment which can only exist by their aid. Will the bonds of convention hold firm without some foundation in nature? Can devotion to the state exist apart from the love of those near and dear to us? Can patriotism thrive except in the soil of that miniature fatherland, the home? Is it not the good son, the good husband, the good father, who makes the good citizen?
translated by Barbara FoxleyYou must follow nature's guidance if you would walk aright. The native characters of sex should be respected as nature's handiwork. You are always saying, "Women have such and such faults, from which we are free." You are misled by your vanity; what would be faults in you are virtues in them; and things would go worse, if they were without these so-called faults.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThere are no colleges for girls; so much the better for them! Would God there were none for the boys, their education would be more sensible and more wholesome.
translated by Barbara FoxleyMen and women are made for each other, but their mutual dependence differs in degree; man is dependent on woman through his desires; woman is dependent on man through her desires and also through her needs; he could do without her better than she can do without him. She cannot fulfil her purpose in life without his aid, without his goodwill, without his respect; she is dependent on our feelings, on the price we put upon her virtue, and the opinion we have of her charms and her deserts.
translated by Barbara FoxleyYet, on the whole, I think the Greeks were very wise in this matter of physical training. Young girls frequently appeared in public, not with the boys, but in groups apart. There was scarcely a festival, a sacrifice, or a procession without its bands of maidens, the daughters of the chief citizens. Crowned with flowers, chanting hymns, forming the chorus of the dance, bearing baskets, vases, offerings, they presented a charming spectacle to the depraved senses of the Greeks, a spectacle well fitted to efface the evil effects of their unseemly gymnastics.When the Greek women married, they disappeared from public life; within the four walls of their home they devoted themselves to the care of their household and family. This is the mode of life prescribed for women alike by nature and reason. These women gave birth to the healthiest, strongest, and best proportioned men who ever lived, and except in certain islands of ill repute, no women in the whole world, not even the Roman matrons, were ever at once so wise and so charming, so beautiful and so virtuous, as the women of ancient Greece.
translated by Barbara FoxleyIt is admitted that their flowing garments, which did not cramp the figure, preserved in men and women alike the fine proportions which are seen in their statues. These are still the models of art, although nature is so disfigured that they are no longer to be found among us.
translated by Barbara FoxleyMoreover, I maintain that the charm which these corsets are supposed to produce is in the worst possible taste; it is not a pleasant thing to see a woman cut in two like a wasp—it offends both the eye and the imagination. A slender waist has its limits, like everything else, in proportion and suitability, and beyond these limits it becomes a defect. This defect would be a glaring one in the nude; why should it be beautiful under the costume?
translated by Barbara FoxleyBoys and girls have many games in common, and this is as it should be; do they not play together when they are grown up? They have also special tastes of their own. Boys want movement and noise, drums, tops, toy-carts; girls prefer things which appeal to the eye, and can be used for dressing-up—mirrors, jewellery, finery, and specially dolls. The doll is the girl's special plaything; this shows her instinctive bent towards her life's work. The art of pleasing finds its physical basis in personal adornment, and this physical side of the art is the only one which the child can cultivate.Here is a little girl busy all day with her doll; she is always changing its clothes, dressing and undressing it, trying new combinations of trimmings well or ill matched; her fingers are clumsy, her taste is crude, but there is no mistaking her bent; in this endless occupation time flies unheeded, the hours slip away unnoticed, even meals are forgotten. She is more eager for adornment than for food. "But she is dressing her doll, not herself," you will say. Just so; she sees her doll, she cannot see herself; she cannot do anything for herself, she has neither the training, nor the talent, nor the strength; as yet she herself is nothing, she is engrossed in her doll and all her coquetry is devoted to it. This will not always be so; in due time she will be her own doll.
translated by Barbara FoxleyWhatever may be said by the scornful, good sense belongs to both sexes alike. Girls are usually more docile than boys, and they should be subjected to more authority, as I shall show later on, but that is no reason why they should be required to do things in which they can see neither rhyme nor reason. The mother's art consists in showing the use of everything they are set to do, and this is all the easier as the girl's intelligence is more precocious than the boy's. This principle banishes, both for boys and girls, not only those pursuits which never lead to any appreciable results, not even increasing the charms of those who have pursued them, but also those studies whose utility is beyond the scholar's present age and can only be appreciated in later years. If I object to little boys being made to learn to read, still more do I object to it for little girls until they are able to see the use of reading; we generally think more of our own ideas than theirs in our attempts to convince them of the utility of this art.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThis habitual restraint produces a docility which woman requires all her life long, for she will always be in subjection to a man, or to man's judgment, and she will never be free to set her own opinion above his. What is most wanted in a woman is gentleness; formed to obey a creature so imperfect as man, a creature often vicious and always faulty, she should early learn to submit to injustice and to suffer the wrongs inflicted on her by her husband without complaint; she must be gentle for her own sake, not his. Bitterness and obstinacy only multiply the sufferings of the wife and the misdeeds of the husband; the man feels that these are not the weapons to be used against him. Heaven did not make women attractive and persuasive that they might degenerate into bitterness, or meek that they should desire the mastery; their soft voice was not meant for hard words, nor their delicate features for the frowns of anger. When they lose their temper they forget themselves; often enough they have just cause of complaint; but when they scold they always put themselves in the wrong. We should each adopt the tone which befits our sex; a soft-hearted husband may make an overbearing wife, but a man, unless he is a perfect monster, will sooner or later yield to his wife's gentleness, and the victory will be hers.
translated by Barbara FoxleyCunning is a natural gift of woman, and so convinced am I that all our natural inclinations are right, that I would cultivate this among others, only guarding against its abuse.
translated by Barbara FoxleyShe has everything against her, our faults and her own weakness and timidity; her beauty and her wiles are all that she has. Should she not cultivate both? Yet beauty is not universal; it may be destroyed by all sorts of accidents, it will disappear with years, and habit will destroy its influence. A woman's real resource is her wit; not that foolish wit which is so greatly admired in society, a wit which does nothing to make life happier; but that wit which is adapted to her condition, the art of taking advantage of our position and controlling us through our own strength. Words cannot tell how beneficial this is to man, what a charm it gives to the society of men and women, how it checks the petulant child and restrains the brutal husband; without it the home would be a scene of strife; with it, it is the abode of happiness. I know that this power is abused by the sly and the spiteful; but what is there that is not liable to abuse? Do not destroy the means of happiness because the wicked use them to our hurt.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThe toilet may attract notice, but it is the person that wins our hearts. Our finery is not us; its very artificiality often offends, and that which is least noticeable in itself often wins the most attention. The education of our girls is, in this respect, absolutely topsy-turvy. Ornaments are promised them as rewards, and they are taught to delight in elaborate finery. "How lovely she is!" people say when she is most dressed up. On the contrary, they should be taught that so much finery is only required to hide their defects, and that beauty's real triumph is to shine alone.Moreover, though there are figures that require adornment there are none that require expensive clothes. Extravagance in dress is the folly of the class rather than the individual, it is merely conventional.
translated by Barbara FoxleyI fear that these little saints who have been forced to spend their childhood in prayers to God will pass their youth in another fashion; when they are married they will try to make up for lost time. I think we must consider age as well as sex; a young girl should not live like her grandmother; she should be lively, merry, and eager; she should sing and dance to her heart's content, and enjoy all the innocent pleasures of youth; the time will come, all too soon, when she must settle down and adopt a more serious tone.
translated by Barbara FoxleyTaste is formed partly by industry and partly by talent, and by its means the mind is unconsciously opened to the idea of beauty of every kind, till at length it attains to those moral ideas which are so closely related to beauty. Perhaps this is one reason why ideas of propriety and modesty are acquired earlier by girls than by boys, for to suppose that this early feeling is due to the teaching of the governesses would show little knowledge of their style of teaching and of the natural development of the human mind. The art of speaking stands first among the pleasing arts; it alone can add fresh charms to those which have been blunted by habit. It is the mind which not only gives life to the body, but renews, so to speak, its youth; the flow of feelings and ideas give life and variety to the countenance, and the conversation to which it gives rise arouses and sustains attention, and fixes it continuously on one object. I suppose this is why little girls so soon learn to prattle prettily, and why men enjoy listening to them even before the child can understand them; they are watching for the first gleam of intelligence and sentiment.
translated by Barbara FoxleyA man says what he knows, a woman says what will please; the one needs knowledge, the other taste; utility should be the man's object; the woman speaks to give pleasure. There should be nothing in common but truth. You should not check a girl's prattle like a boy's by the harsh question, "What is the use of that?" but by another question at least as difficult to answer, "What effect will that have?"
translated by Barbara FoxleyThe social relation of the sexes is a wonderful thing. This relation produces a moral person of which woman is the eye and man the hand, but the two are so dependent on one another that the man teaches the woman what to see, while she teaches him what to do. If women could discover principles and if men had as good heads for detail, they would be mutually independent, they would live in perpetual strife, and there would be an end to all society. But in their mutual harmony each contributes to a common purpose; each follows the other's lead, each commands and each obeys.
translated by Barbara FoxleyWhether a virgin became the mother of her Creator, whether she gave birth to God, or merely to a man into whom God has entered, whether the Father and the Son are of the same substance or of like substance only, whether the Spirit proceeded from one or both of these who are but one, or from both together, however important these questions may seem, I cannot see that it is any more necessary for the human race to come to a decision with regard to them than to know what day to keep Easter, or whether we should tell our beads, fast, and refuse to eat meat, speak Latin or French in church, adorn the walls with statues, hear or say mass, and have no wife of our own. Let each think as he pleases; I cannot see that it matters to any one but himself; for my own part it is no concern of mine. But what does concern my fellow-creatures and myself alike is to know that there is indeed a judge of human fate, that we are all His children, that He bids us all be just, He bids us love one another, He bids us be kindly and merciful, He bids us keep our word with all men, even with our own enemies and His; we must know that the apparent happiness of this world is naught; that there is another life to come, in which this Supreme Being will be the rewarder of the just and the judge of the unjust. Children need to be taught these doctrines and others like them and all citizens require to be persuaded of their truth. Whoever sets his face against these doctrines is indeed guilty; he is the disturber of the peace, the enemy of society. Whoever goes beyond these doctrines and seeks to make us the slaves of his private opinions, reaches the same goal by another way; to establish his own kind of order he disturbs the peace; in his rash pride he makes himself the interpreter of the Divine, and in His name demands the homage and the reverence of mankind; so far as may be, he sets himself in God's place; he should receive the punishment of sacrilege if he is not punished for his intolerance.
translated by Barbara FoxleyKeep your children ever within the little circle of dogmas which are related to morality. Convince them that the only useful learning is that which teaches us to act rightly. Do not make your daughters theologians and casuists; only teach them such things of heaven as conduce to human goodness; train them to feel that they are always in the presence of God, who sees their thoughts and deeds, their virtue and their pleasures; teach them to do good without ostentation and because they love it, to suffer evil without a murmur, because God will reward them; in a word to be all their life long what they will be glad to have been when they appear in His presence. This is true religion; this alone is incapable of abuse, impiety, or fanaticism. Let those who will, teach a religion more sublime, but this is the only religion I know.
translated by Barbara FoxleyI go to houses where the master and mistress do the honours together. They are equally well educated, equally polite, equally well equipped with wit and good taste, both of them are inspired with the same desire to give their guests a good reception and to send every one away satisfied. The husband omits no pains to be attentive to every one; he comes and goes and sees to every one and takes all sorts of trouble; he is attention itself. The wife remains in her place; a little circle gathers round her and apparently conceals the rest of the company from her; yet she sees everything that goes on, no one goes without a word with her; she has omitted nothing which might interest anybody, she has said nothing unpleasant to any one, and without any fuss the least is no more overlooked than the greatest. Dinner is announced, they take their places; the man knowing the assembled guests will place them according to his knowledge; the wife, without previous acquaintance, never makes a mistake; their looks and bearing have already shown her what is wanted and every one will find himself where he wishes to be. I do not assert that the servants forget no one. The master of the house may have omitted no one, but the mistress perceives what you like and sees that you get it; while she is talking to her neighbour she has one eye on the other end of the table; she sees who is not eating because he is not hungry and who is afraid to help himself because he is clumsy and timid. When the guests leave the table every one thinks she has had no thought but for him, everybody thinks she has had no time to eat anything, but she has really eaten more than anybody. When the guests are gone, husband and wife tails over the events of the evening. He relates what was said to him, what was said and done by those with whom he conversed. If the lady is not always quite exact in this respect, yet on the other hand she perceived what was whispered at the other end of the room; she knows what so-and-so thought, and what was the meaning of this speech or that gesture; there is scarcely a change of expression for which she has not an explanation in readiness, and she is almost always right.
translated by Barbara FoxleyIn ordinary social intercourse the manners adopted towards everybody are good enough for all; no question is asked as to private likes or dislikes provided all are alike well received. But in love, a favour shared with others is an insult. A man of feeling would rather be singled out for ill-treatment than be caressed with the crowd, and the worst that can befall him is to be treated like every one else.
translated by Barbara FoxleyIf you want to see a man in a quandary, place him between two women with each of whom he has a secret understanding, and see what a fool he looks. But put a woman in similar circumstances between two men, and the results will be even more remarkable; you will be astonished at the skill with which she cheats them both, and makes them laugh at each other.What is the secret of this art? Is it not the result of a delicate and continuous observation which shows her what is taking place in a man's heart, so that she is able to encourage or to check every hidden impulse? Can this art be acquired? No; it is born with women; it is common to them all, and men never show it to the same degree. It is one of the distinctive characters of the sex. Self-possession, penetration, delicate observation, this is a woman's science; the skill to make use of it is her chief accomplishment.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThe only example I know which might be quoted as a recognised exception to these remarks is Mlle. de L'Enclos; and she was considered a prodigy. In her scorn for the virtues of women, she practised, so they say, the virtues of a man. She is praised for her frankness and uprightness; she was a trustworthy acquaintance and a faithful friend. To complete the picture of her glory it is said that she became a man. That may be, but in spite of her high reputation I should no more desire that man as my friend than as my mistress. This is not so irrelevant as it seems. I am aware of the tendencies of our modern philosophy which make a jest of female modesty and its so-called insincerity; I also perceive that the most certain result of this philosophy will be to deprive the women of this century of such shreds of honour as they still possess.
translated by Barbara FoxleyWoman, weak as she is and limited in her range of observation, perceives and judges the forces at her disposal to supplement her weakness, and those forces are the passions of man. Her own mechanism is more powerful than ours; she has many levers which may set the human heart in motion. She must find a way to make us desire what she cannot achieve unaided and what she considers necessary or pleasing; therefore she must have a thorough knowledge of man's mind; not an abstract knowledge of the mind of man in general, but the mind of those men who are about her, the mind of those men who have authority over her, either by law or custom. She must learn to divine their feelings from speech and action, look and gesture. By her own speech and action, look and gesture, she must be able to inspire them with the feelings she desires, without seeming to have any such purpose. The men will have a better philosophy of the human heart, but she will read more accurately in the heart of men.
translated by Barbara FoxleyWoman has more wit, man more genius; woman observes, man reasons; together they provide the clearest light and the profoundest knowledge which is possible to the unaided human mind; in a word, the surest knowledge of self and of others of which the human race is capable.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThe charms of a peaceful family life must be known to be enjoyed; their delights should be tasted in childhood. It is only in our father's home that we learn to love our own, and a woman whose mother did not educate her herself will not be willing to educate her own children.' Unfortunately, there is no such thing as home education in our large towns. Society is so general and so mixed there is no place left for retirement, and even in the home we live in public. We live in company till we have no family, and we scarcely know our own relations, we see them as strangers; and the simplicity of home life disappears together with the sweet familiarity which was its charm.In our great towns depravity begins at birth; in the smaller towns it begins with reason. Young women brought up in the country are soon taught to despise the happy simplicity of their lives, and hasten to Paris to share the corruption of ours.
translated by Barbara FoxleyI will go further and maintain that virtue is no less favourable to love than to other rights of nature, and that it adds as much to the power of the beloved as to that of the wife or mother. There is no real love without enthusiasm, and no enthusiasm without an object of perfection real or supposed, but always present in the imagination.
translated by Barbara FoxleyWhat is there to kindle the hearts of lovers for whom this perfection is nothing, for whom the loved one is merely the means to sensual pleasure? Nay, not thus is the heart kindled, not thus does it abandon itself to those sublime transports which form the rapture of lovers and the charm of love. Love is an illusion, I grant you, but its reality consists in the feelings it awakes, in the love of true beauty which it inspires. That beauty is not to be found in the object of our affections, it is the creation of our illusions. What matter! do we not still sacrifice all those baser feelings to the imaginary model? and we still feed our hearts on the virtues we attribute to the beloved, we still withdraw ourselves from the baseness of human nature.
translated by Barbara FoxleyI cannot repeat too often that I am not dealing with prodigies. Emile is no prodigy, neither is Sophy. He is a man and she is a woman; this is all they have to boast of. In the present confusion between the sexes it is almost a miracle to belong to one's own sex. Sophy is well born and she has a good disposition; she is very warm-hearted, and this warmth of heart sometimes makes her imagination run away with her. Her mind is keen rather than accurate, her temper is pleasant but variable, her person pleasing though nothing out of the common, her countenance bespeaks a soul and it speaks true; you may meet her with indifference, but you will not leave her without emotion. Others possess good qualities which she lacks; others possess her good qualities in a higher degree, but in no one are these qualities better blended to form a happy disposition. She knows how to make the best of her very faults, and if she were more perfect she would be less pleasing.
translated by Barbara FoxleyIn a word, she endures patiently the wrong-doing of others, and she is eager to atone for her own. This amiability is natural to her sex when unspoiled. Woman is made to submit to man and to endure even injustice at his hands. You will never bring young lads to this; their feelings rise in revolt against injustice; nature has not fitted them to put up with it.
translated by Barbara Foxley"Husband and wife should choose each other. A mutual liking should be the first bond between them. They should follow the guidance of their own eyes and hearts; when they are married their first duty will be to love one another, and as love and hatred do not depend on ourselves, this duty brings another with it, and they must begin to love each other before marriage. That is the law of nature, and no power can abrogate it; those who have fettered it by so many legal restrictions have given heed rather to the outward show of order than to the happiness of marriage or the morals of the citizen.
translated by Barbara FoxleyParents choose a husband for their daughter and she is only consulted as a matter of form; that is the custom. We shall do just the opposite; you will choose, and we shall be consulted. Use your right, Sophy, use it freely and wisely. The husband suitable for you should be chosen by you not us. But it is for us to judge whether he is really suitable, or whether, without knowing it, you are only following your own wishes. Birth, wealth, position, conventional opinions will count for nothing with us. Choose a good man whose person and character suit you; whatever he may be in other respects, we will accept him as our son-in-law. He will be rich enough if he has bodily strength, a good character, and family affection. His position will be good enough if it is ennobled by virtue. If everybody blames us, we do not care. We do not seek the approbation of men, but your happiness."
translated by Barbara FoxleyNot every one can realise the motive power to be found in a love of what is right, nor the inner strength which results from a genuine love of virtue. There are men who think that all greatness is a figment of the brain, men who with their vile and degraded reason will never recognise the power over human passions which is wielded by the very madness of virtue. You can only teach such men by examples; if they persist in denying their existence, so much the worse for them.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThe reply was simple. If it were only a question of the partner of her youth, her choice would soon be made; but a master for life is not so easily chosen; and since the two cannot be separated, people must often wait and sacrifice their youth before they find the man with whom they could spend their life. Such was Sophy's case; she wanted a lover, but this lover must be her husband; and to discover a heart such as she required, a lover and husband were equally difficult to find. All these dashing young men were only her equals in age, in everything else they were found lacking; their empty wit, their vanity, their affectations of speech, their ill-regulated conduct, their frivolous imitations alike disgusted her. She sought a man and she found monkeys; she sought a soul and there was none to be found. "How unhappy I am!" said she to her mother; "I am compelled to love and yet I am dissatisfied with every one. My heart rejects every one who appeals to my senses. Every one of them stirs my passions and all alike revolt them; a liking unaccompanied by respect cannot last. That is not the sort of man for your Sophy; the delightful image of her ideal is too deeply graven in her heart. She can love no other; she can make no one happy but him, and she cannot be happy without him. She would rather consume herself in ceaseless conflicts, she would rather die free and wretched, than driven desperate by the company of a man she did not love, a man she would make as unhappy as herself; she would rather die than live to suffer."
translated by Barbara FoxleyIf you would guard against these abuses, and secure happy marriages, you must stifle your prejudices, forget human institutions, and consult nature. Do not join together those who are only alike in one given condition, those who will not suit one another if that condition is changed; but those who are adapted to one another in every situation, in every country, and in every rank in which they may be placed. I do not say that conventional considerations are of no importance in marriage, but I do say that the influence of natural relations is so much more important, that our fate in life is decided by them alone, and that there is such an agreement of taste, temper, feeling, and disposition as should induce a wise father, though he were a prince, to marry his son, without a moment's hesitation, to the woman so adapted to him, were she born in a bad home, were she even the hangman's daughter. I maintain indeed that every possible misfortune may overtake husband and wife if they are thus united, yet they will enjoy more real happiness while they mingle their tears, than if they possessed all the riches of the world, poisoned by divided hearts.
translated by Barbara FoxleyBy nature man thinks but seldom. He learns to think as he acquires the other arts, but with even greater difficulty. In both sexes alike I am only aware of two really distinct classes, those who think and those who do not; and this difference is almost entirely one of education. A man who thinks should not ally himself with a woman who does not think, for he loses the chief delight of social life if he has a wife who cannot share his thoughts. People who spend their whole life in working for a living have no ideas beyond their work and their own interests, and their mind seems to reside in their arms.
translated by Barbara FoxleyLooks must next be considered; they are the first thing that strikes us and they ought to be the last, still they should not count for nothing. I think that great beauty is rather to be shunned than sought after in marriage. Possession soon exhausts our appreciation of beauty; in six weeks' time we think no more about it, but its dangers endure as long as life itself. Unless a beautiful woman is an angel, her husband is the most miserable of men; and even if she were an angel he would still be the centre of a hostile crowd and she could not prevent it. If extreme ugliness were not repulsive I should prefer it to extreme beauty; for before very long the husband would cease to notice either, but beauty would still have its disadvantages and ugliness its advantages. But ugliness which is actually repulsive is the worst misfortune; repulsion increases rather than diminishes, and it turns to hatred. Such a union is a hell upon earth; better death than such a marriage.
translated by Barbara FoxleyDesire mediocrity in all things, even in beauty. A pleasant attractive countenance, which inspires kindly feelings rather than love, is what we should prefer; the husband runs no risk, and the advantages are common to husband and wife; charm is less perishable than beauty; it is a living thing, which constantly renews itself, and after thirty years of married life, the charms of a good woman delight her husband even as they did on the wedding-day.
translated by Barbara FoxleySo we do not travel like couriers but like explorers. We do not merely consider the beginning and the end, but the space between. The journey itself is a delight. We do not travel sitting, dismally imprisoned, so to speak, in a tightly closed cage. We do not travel with the ease and comfort of ladies. We do not deprive ourselves of the fresh air, nor the sight of the things about us, nor the opportunity of examining them at our pleasure. Emile will never enter a post-chaise, nor will he ride post unless in a great hurry. But what cause has Emile for haste? None but the joy of life. Shall I add to this the desire to do good when he can? No, for that is itself one of the joys of life.
translated by Barbara FoxleyTo travel on foot is to travel in the fashion of Thales, Plato, and Pythagoras. I find it hard to understand how a philosopher can bring himself to travel in any other way; how he can tear himself from the study of the wealth which lies before his eyes and beneath his feet. Is there any one with an interest in agriculture, who does not want to know the special products of the district through which he is passing, and their method of cultivation? Is there any one with a taste for natural history, who can pass a piece of ground without examining it, a rock without breaking off a piece of it, hills without looking for plants, and stones without seeking for fossils? Your town-bred scientists study natural history in cabinets; they have small specimens; they know their names but nothing of their nature. Emile's museum is richer than that of kings; it is the whole world.
translated by Barbara FoxleyWhat varied pleasures we enjoy in this delightful way of travelling, not to speak of increasing health and a cheerful spirit. I notice that those who ride in nice, well-padded carriages are always wrapped in thought, gloomy, fault-finding, or sick; while those who go on foot are always merry, light-hearted, and delighted with everything. How cheerful we are when we get near our lodging for the night! How savoury is the coarse food! How we linger at table enjoying our rest! How soundly we sleep on a hard bed! If you only want to get to a place you may ride in a post-chaise; if you want to travel you must go on foot.
translated by Barbara Foxley"I am glad you feel this," said I, "but you need not be surprised; where strangers are scarce, they are welcome; nothing makes people more hospitable than the fact that calls upon their hospitality are rare; when guests are frequent there is an end to hospitality. In Homer's time, people rarely travelled, and travellers were everywhere welcome. Very likely we are the only people who have passed this way this year."
translated by Barbara FoxleySupper was hurried forward on our account. When we went into the dining-room there were five places laid; we took our seats and the fifth chair remained empty. Presently a young girl entered, made a deep courtesy, and modestly took her place without a word. Emile was busy with his supper or considering how to reply to what was said to him; he bowed to her and continued talking and eating. The main object of his journey was as far from his thoughts as he believed himself to be from the end of his journey. The conversation turned upon our losing our way. "Sir," said the master of the house to Emile, "you seem to be a pleasant well-behaved young gentleman, and that reminds me that your tutor and you arrived wet and weary like Telemachus and Mentor in the island of Calypso." "Indeed," said Emile, "we have found the hospitality of Calypso." His Mentor added, "And the charms of Eucharis." But Emile knew the Odyssey and he had not read Telemachus, so he knew nothing of Eucharis. As for the young girl, I saw she blushed up to her eyebrows, fixed her eyes on her plate, and hardly dared to breathe. Her mother, noticing her confusion, made a sign to her father to turn the conversation. When he talked of his lonely life, he unconsciously began to relate the circumstances which brought him into it; his misfortunes, his wife's fidelity, the consolations they found in their marriage, their quiet, peaceful life in their retirement, and all this without a word of the young girl; it is a pleasing and a touching story, which cannot fail to interest. Emile, interested and sympathetic, leaves off eating and listens. When finally this best of men discourses with delight of the affection of the best of women, the young traveller, carried away by his feelings, stretches one hand to the husband, and taking the wife's hand with the other, he kisses it rapturously and bathes it with his tears. Everybody is charmed with the simple enthusiasm of the young man; but the daughter, more deeply touched than the rest by this evidence of his kindly heart, is reminded of Telemachus weeping for the woes of Philoctetus. She looks at him shyly, the better to study his countenance; there is nothing in it to give the lie to her comparison.
translated by Barbara FoxleyAt the name of Sophy you would have seen Emile give a start. His attention is arrested by this dear name, and he awakes all at once and looks eagerly at one who dares to bear it. Sophy! Are you the Sophy whom my heart is seeking? Is it you that I love? He looks at her; he watches her with a sort of fear and self-distrust. The face is not quite what he pictured; he cannot tell whether he likes it more or less. He studies every feature, he watches every movement, every gesture; he has a hundred fleeting interpretations for them all; he would give half his life if she would but speak. He looks at me anxiously and uneasily; his eyes are full of questions and reproaches.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThere is no one in the world less able to conceal his feelings than Emile. How should he conceal them, in the midst of the greatest disturbance he has ever experienced, and under the eyes of four spectators who are all watching him, while she who seems to heed him least is really most occupied with him. His uneasiness does not escape the keen eyes of Sophy; his own eyes tell her that she is its cause; she sees that this uneasiness is not yet love; what matter? He is thinking of her, and that is enough; she will be very unlucky if he thinks of her with impunity. Mothers, like daughters, have eyes; and they have experience too. Sophy's mother smiles at the success of our schemes. She reads the hearts of the young people; she sees that the time has come to secure the heart of this new Telemachus; she makes her daughter speak. Her daughter, with her native sweetness, replies in a timid tone which makes all the more impression. At the first sound of her voice, Emile surrenders; it is Sophy herself; there can be no doubt about it. If it were not so, it would be too late to deny it. The charms of this maiden enchantress rush like torrents through his heart, and he begins to drain the draughts of poison with which he is intoxicated. He says nothing; questions pass unheeded; he sees only Sophy, he hears only Sophy; if she says a word, he opens his mouth; if her eyes are cast down, so are his; if he sees her sigh, he sighs too; it is Sophy's heart which seems to speak in his. What a change have these few moments wrought in her heart! It is no longer her turn to tremble, it is Emile's. Farewell liberty, simplicity, frankness. Confused, embarrassed, fearful, he dare not look about him for fear he should see that we are watching him. Ashamed that we should read his secret, he would fain become invisible to every one, that he might feed in secret on the sight of Sophy. Sophy, on the other hand, regains her confidence at the sight of Emile's fear; she sees her triumph and rejoices in it.
translated by Barbara FoxleyHer expression remains unchanged; but in spite of her modest look and downcast eyes, her tender heart is throbbing with joy, and it tells her that she has found Telemachus. If I relate the plain and simple tale of their innocent affections you will accuse me of frivolity, but you will be mistaken. Sufficient attention is not given to the effect which the first connection between man and woman is bound to produce on the future life of both. People do not see that a first impression so vivid as that of love, or the liking which takes the place of love, produces lasting effects whose influence continues till death. Works on education are crammed with wordy and unnecessary accounts of the imaginary duties of children; but there is not a word about the most important and most difficult part of their education, the crisis which forms the bridge between the child and the man. If any part of this work is really useful, it will be because I have dwelt at great length on this matter, so essential in itself and so neglected by other authors, and because I have not allowed myself to be discouraged either by false delicacy or by the difficulties of expression. The story of human nature is a fair romance. Am I to blame if it is not found elsewhere? I am trying to write the history of mankind. If my book is a romance, the fault lies with those who deprave mankind.
translated by Barbara Foxley"Why should we trouble ourselves about the empty words and unjust suspicions of other people?" said he eagerly. "Have you not taught me yourself to make light of them? Who knows better than I how greatly I honour Sophy, what respect I desire to show her? My attachment will not cause her shame, it will be her glory, it shall be worthy of her. If my heart and my actions continually give her the homage she deserves, what harm can I do her?" "Dear Emile," I said, as I clasped him to my heart, "you are thinking of yourself alone; learn to think for her too. Do not compare the honour of one sex with that of the other, they rest on different foundations. These foundations are equally firm and right, because they are both laid by nature, and that same virtue which makes you scorn what men say about yourself, binds you to respect what they say of her you love. Your honour is in your own keeping, her honour depends on others. To neglect it is to wound your own honour, and you fail in what is due to yourself if you do not give her the respect she deserves."Always prone to extremes, the youth takes alarm at the consequences which I have compelled him to consider, and now he thinks that he cannot be too far from Sophy's home; he hastens his steps to get further from it; he glances round to make sure that no one is listening; he would sacrifice his own happiness a thousand times to the honour of her whom he loves; he would rather never see her again than cause her the least unpleasantness. This is the first result of the pains I have taken ever since he was a child to make him capable of affection.
translated by Barbara FoxleyHaving got so far as to be tolerated as an acknowledged lover, Emile takes full advantage of his position; he speaks, he urges, he implores, he demands. Hard words or ill treatment make no difference, provided he gets a hearing. At length Sophy is persuaded, though with some difficulty, to assume the authority of a betrothed, to decide what he shall do, to command instead of to ask, to accept instead of to thank, to control the frequency and the hours of his visits, to forbid him to come till such a day or to stay beyond such an hour. This is not done in play, but in earnest, and if it was hard to induce her to accept these rights, she uses them so sternly that Emile is often ready to regret that he gave them to her. But whatever her commands, they are obeyed without question, and often when at her bidding he is about to leave her, he glances at me his eyes full of delight, as if to say, "You see she has taken possession of me." Yet unknown to him, Sophy, with all her pride, is observing him closely, and she is smiling to herself at the pride of her slave.
translated by Barbara FoxleyNow that he is really eager to please, Emile begins to feel the value of the accomplishments he has acquired. Sophy is fond of singing, he sings with her; he does more, he teaches her music. She is lively and light of foot, she loves skipping; he dances with her, he perfects and develops her untrained movements into the steps of the dance. These lessons, enlivened by the gayest mirth, are quite delightful, they melt the timid respect of love; a lover may enjoy teaching his betrothed—he has a right to be her teacher. There is an old spinet quite out of order. Emile mends and tunes it; he is a maker and mender of musical instruments as well as a carpenter; it has always been his rule to learn to do everything he can for himself. The house is picturesquely situated and he makes several sketches of it, in some of which Sophy does her share, and she hangs them in her father's study. The frames are not gilded, nor do they require gilding. When she sees Emile drawing, she draws too, and improves her own drawing; she cultivates all her talents, and her grace gives a charm to all she does.
translated by Barbara FoxleyAs the idolater gives what he loves best to the shrine of the object of his worship, so the lover is not content to see perfection in his mistress, he must be ever trying to add to her adornment. She does not need it for his pleasure, it is he who needs the pleasure of giving, it is a fresh homage to be rendered to her, a fresh pleasure in the joy of beholding her. Everything of beauty seems to find its place only as an accessory to the supreme beauty. It is both touching and amusing to see Emile eager to teach Sophy everything he knows, without asking whether she wants to learn it or whether it is suitable for her.
translated by Barbara FoxleyIf love is suspicious, esteem is trustful; and love will never exist in an honest heart without esteem, for every one loves in another the qualities which he himself holds in honour.
translated by Barbara FoxleyBut whither am I going? O Emile! what art thou now? Is this my pupil? How art thou fallen! Where is that young man so sternly fashioned, who braved all weathers, who devoted his body to the hardest tasks and his soul to the laws of wisdom; untouched by prejudice or passion, a lover of truth, swayed by reason only, unheeding all that was not hers? Living in softness and idleness he now lets himself be ruled by women; their amusements are the business of his life, their wishes are his laws; a young girl is the arbiter of his fate, he cringes and grovels before her; the earnest Emile is the plaything of a child. So shift the scenes of life; each age is swayed by its own motives, but the man is the same. At ten his mind was set upon cakes, at twenty it is set upon his mistress; at thirty it will be set upon pleasure; at forty on ambition, at fifty on avarice; when will he seek after wisdom only? Happy is he who is compelled to follow her against his will! What matter who is the guide, if the end is attained. Heroes and sages have themselves paid tribute to this human weakness; and those who handled the distaff with clumsy fingers were none the less great men.The great mistake of tutors and still more of fathers is to think that one way of living makes another impossible, and that as soon as the child is grown up, you must abandon everything you used to do when he was little. If that were so, why should we take such pains in childhood, since the good or bad use we make of it will vanish with childhood itself; if another way of life were necessarily accompanied by other ways of thinking?
translated by Barbara FoxleyThe stream of memory is only interrupted by great illnesses, and the stream of conduct, by great passions. Our tastes and inclinations may change, but this change, though it may be sudden enough, is rendered less abrupt by our habits. The skilful artist, in a good colour scheme, contrives so to mingle and blend his tints that the transitions are imperceptible; and certain colour washes are spread over the whole picture so that there may be no sudden breaks. So should it be with our likings. Unbalanced characters are always changing their affections, their tastes, their sentiments; the only constant factor is the habit of change; but the man of settled character always returns to his former habits and preserves to old age the tastes and the pleasures of his childhood.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThe careful reader will not suppose that all the circumstances in which he is placed are the work of chance. There were many charming girls in the town; is it chance that his choice is discovered in a distant retreat? Is their meeting the work of chance? Is it chance that makes them so suited to each other? Is it chance that they cannot live in the same place, that he is compelled to find a lodging so far from her? Is it chance that he can see her so seldom and must purchase the pleasure of seeing her at the price of such fatigue? You say he is becoming effeminate. Not so, he is growing stronger; he must be fairly robust to stand the fatigue he endures on Sophy's account. He lives more than two leagues away. That distance serves to temper the shafts of love. If they lived next door to each other, or if he could drive to see her in a comfortable carriage, he would love at his ease in the Paris fashion. Would Leander have braved death for the sake of Hero if the sea had not lain between them? Need I say more; if my reader is able to take my meaning, he will be able to follow out my principles in detail.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThe cakes lead me to talk of the races Emile used to run. Every one wants to hear about them; I explain amid much laughter; they ask him if he can run as well as ever. "Better," says he; "I should be sorry to forget how to run." One member of the company is dying to see him run, but she dare not say so; some one else undertakes to suggest it; he agrees and we send for two or three young men of the neighbourhood; a prize is offered, and in imitation of our earlier games a cake is placed on the goal. Every one is ready, Sophy's father gives the signal by clapping his hands. The nimble Emile flies like lightning and reaches the goal almost before the others have started. He receives his prize at Sophy's hands, and no less generous than Aeneas, he gives gifts to all the vanquished.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThen approaching Emile she tapped him playfully on the cheek, saying, "Well, my good workman, won't you come with us?" He replied sadly, "I am at work, ask the master." The master is asked if he can spare us. He replies that he cannot. "I have work on hand," said he, "which is wanted the day after to-morrow, so there is not much time. Counting on these gentlemen I refused other workmen who came; if they fail me I don't know how to replace them and I shall not be able to send the work home at the time promised." The mother said nothing, she was waiting to hear what Emile would say. Emile hung his head in silence. "Sir," she said, somewhat surprised at this, "have you nothing to say to that?" Emile looked tenderly at her daughter and merely said, "You see I am bound to stay." Then the ladies left us. Emile went with them to the door, gazed after them as long as they were in sight, and returned to his work without a word. On the way home, the mother, somewhat vexed at his conduct, spoke to her daughter of the strange way in which he had behaved. "Why," said she, "was it so difficult to arrange matters with the master without being obliged to stay. The young man is generous enough and ready to spend money when there is no need for it, could not he spend a little on such a fitting occasion?" "Oh, mamma," replied Sophy, "I trust Emile will never rely so much on money as to use it to break an engagement, to fail to keep his own word, and to make another break his! I know he could easily give the master a trifle to make up for the slight inconvenience caused by his absence; but his soul would become the slave of riches, he would become accustomed to place wealth before duty, and he would think that any duty might be neglected provided he was ready to pay. That is not Emile's way of thinking, and I hope he will never change on my account. Do you think it cost him nothing to stay? You are quite wrong, mamma; it was for my sake that he stayed; I saw it in his eyes."I could not make you everywhere invulnerable; a fresh enemy has appeared, whom you have not yet learnt to conquer, and from whom I cannot save you. That enemy is yourself. Nature and fortune had left you free. You could face poverty, you could bear bodily pain; the sufferings of the heart were unknown to you; you were then dependent on nothing but your position as a human being; now you depend on all the ties you have formed for yourself; you have learnt to desire, and you are now the slave of your desires. Without any change in yourself, without any insult, any injury to yourself, what sorrows may attack your soul, what pains may you suffer without sickness, how many deaths may you die and yet live! A lie, an error, a suspicion, may plunge you in despair."You know how to suffer and to die; you know how to bear the heavy yoke of necessity in ills of the body, but you have not yet learnt to give a law to the desires of your heart; and the difficulties of life arise rather from our affections than from our needs. Our desires are vast, our strength is little better than nothing. In his wishes man is dependent on many things; in himself he is dependent on nothing, not even on his own life; the more his connections are multiplied, the greater his sufferings. Everything upon earth has an end; sooner or later all that we love escapes from our fingers, and we behave as if it would last for ever. What was your terror at the mere suspicion of Sophy's death? Do you suppose she will live for ever? Do not young people of her age die? She must die, my son, and perhaps before you. Who knows if she is alive at this moment? Nature meant you to die but once; you have prepared a second death for yourself.
translated by Barbara FoxleyMy son, there is no happiness without courage, nor virtue without a struggle. The word virtue is derived from a word signifying strength, and strength is the foundation of all virtue. Virtue is the heritage of a creature weak by nature but strong by will; that is the whole merit of the righteous man; and though we call God good we do not call Him virtuous, because He does good without effort. I waited to explain the meaning of this word, so often profaned, until you were ready to understand me. As long as virtue is quite easy to practise, there is little need to know it. This need arises with the awakening of the passions; your time has come. "When I brought you up in all the simplicity of nature, instead of preaching disagreeable duties, I secured for you immunity from the vices which make such duties disagreeable; I made lying not so much hateful as unnecessary in your sight; I taught you not so much to give others their due, as to care little about your own rights; I made you kindly rather than virtuous. But the kindly man is only kind so long as he finds it pleasant; kindness falls to pieces at the shook of human passions; the kindly man is only kind to himself.for nature delivers us from the evils she lays upon us, or else she teaches us to submit to them; but she has no message for us with regard to our self-imposed evils; she leaves us to ourselves; she leaves us, victims of our own passions, to succumb to our vain sorrows, to pride ourselves on the tears of which we should be ashamed.
translated by Barbara Foxleyis a mistake to classify the passions as lawful and unlawful, so as to yield to the one and refuse the other. All alike are good if we are their masters; all alike are bad if we abandon ourselves to them. Nature forbids us to extend our relations beyond the limits of our strength; reason forbids us to want what we cannot get, conscience forbids us, not to be tempted, but to yield to temptation. To feel or not to feel a passion is beyond our control, but we can control ourselves. Every sentiment under our own control is lawful; those which control us are criminal. A man is not guilty if he loves his neighbour's wife, provided he keeps this unhappy passion under the control of the law of duty; he is guilty if he loves his own wife so greatly as to sacrifice everything to that love.
translated by Barbara FoxleyI have only one rule to give you which sums up all the rest. Be a man; restrain your heart within the limits of your manhood. Study and know these limits; however narrow they may be, we are not unhappy within them; it is only when we wish to go beyond them that we are unhappy, only when, in our mad passions, we try to attain the impossible; we are unhappy when we forget our manhood to make an imaginary world for ourselves, from which we are always slipping back into our own. The only good things, whose loss really affects us, are those which we claim as our rights. If it is clear that we cannot obtain what we want, our mind turns away from it; wishes without hope cease to torture us. A beggar is not tormented by a desire to be a king; a king only wishes to be a god when he thinks himself more than man.
translated by Barbara FoxleyWould you live in wisdom and happiness, fix your heart on the beauty that is eternal; let your desires be limited by your position, let your duties take precedence of your wishes; extend the law of necessity into the region of morals; learn to lose what may be taken from you; learn to forsake all things at the command of virtue, to set yourself above the chances of life, to detach your heart before it is torn in pieces, to be brave in adversity so that you may never be wretched, to be steadfast in duty that you may never be guilty of a crime. Then you will be happy in spite of fortune, and good in spite of your passions. You will find a pleasure that cannot be destroyed, even in the possession of the most fragile things; you will possess them, they will not possess you, and you will realise that the man who loses everything, only enjoys what he knows how to resign.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThe misuse of books is the death of sound learning. People think they know what they have read, and take no pains to learn. Too much reading only produces a pretentious ignoramus. There was never so much reading in any age as the present, and never was there less learning; in no country of Europe are so many histories and books of travel printed as in France, and nowhere is there less knowledge of the mind and manners of other nations. So many books lead us to neglect the book of the world; if we read it at all, we keep each to our own page.
translated by Barbara FoxleyA Parisian thinks he has a knowledge of men and he knows only Frenchmen; his town is always full of foreigners, but he considers every foreigner as a strange phenomenon which has no equal in the universe. You must have a close acquaintance with the middle classes of that great city, you must have lived among them, before you can believe that people could be at once so witty and so stupid. The strangest thing about it is that probably every one of them has read a dozen times a description of the country whose inhabitants inspire him with such wonder.
translated by Barbara FoxleyJust as the least cultivated nations are usually the best, so those travel best who travel least; they have made less progress than we in our frivolous pursuits, they are less concerned with the objects of our empty curiosity, so that they give their attention to what is really useful. I hardly know any but the Spaniards who travel in this fashion. While the Frenchman is running after all the artists of the country, while the Englishman is getting a copy of some antique, while the German is taking his album to every man of science, the Spaniard is silently studying the government, the manners of the country, its police, and he is the only one of the four who from all that he has seen will carry home any observation useful to his own country. The ancients travelled little, read little, and wrote few books; yet we see in those books that remain to us, that they observed each other more thoroughly than we observe our contemporaries. Without going back to the days of Homer, the only poet who transports us to the country he describes, we cannot deny to Herodotus the glory of having painted manners in his history, though he does it rather by narrative than by comment; still he does it better than all our historians whose books are overladen with portraits and characters. Tacitus has described the Germans of his time better than any author has described the Germans of to-day. There can be no doubt that those who have devoted themselves to ancient history know more about the Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Gauls, and Persians than any nation of to-day knows about its neighbours.
translated by Barbara FoxleyCommerce and the arts which blend and mingle the nations at the same time prevent them from studying each other. If they know how to make a profit out of their neighbours, what more do they need to know?
translated by Barbara FoxleyThe savage, who has need of no one, and envies no one, neither knows nor seeks to know any other country but his own. If he requires more land for his subsistence he shuns inhabited places; he makes war upon the wild beasts and feeds on them. But for us, to whom civilised life has become a necessity, for us who must needs devour our fellow-creatures, self-interest prompts each one of us to frequent those districts where there are most people to be devoured. This is why we all flock to Rome, Paris, and London. Human flesh and blood are always cheapest in the capital cities. Thus we only know the great nations, which are just like one another.
translated by Barbara FoxleyBut granting the usefulness of travel, does it follow that it is good for all of us? Far from it; there are very few people who are really fit to travel; it is only good for those who are strong enough in themselves to listen to the voice of error without being deceived, strong enough to see the example of vice without being led away by it. Travelling accelerates the progress of nature, and completes the man for good or evil. When a man returns from travelling about the world, he is what he will be all his life; there are more who return bad than good, because there are more who start with an inclination towards evil. In the course of their travels, young people, ill-educated and ill-behaved, pick up all the vices of the nations among whom they have sojourned, and none of the virtues with which those vices are associated; but those who, happily for themselves, are well-born, those whose good disposition has been well cultivated, those who travel with a real desire to learn, all such return better and wiser than they went.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThe science of politics is and probably always will be unknown. Grotius, our leader in this branch of learning, is only a child, and what is worse an untruthful child. When I hear Grotius praised to the skies and Hobbes overwhelmed with abuse, I perceive how little sensible men have read or understood these authors. As a matter of fact, their principles are exactly alike, they only differ in their mode of expression. Their methods are also different: Hobbes relies on sophism; Grotius relies on the poets; they are agreed in everything else. In modern times the only man who could have created this vast and useless science was the illustrious Montesquieu. But he was not concerned with the principles of political law; he was content to deal with the positive laws of settled governments; and nothing could be more different than these two branches of study. Yet he who would judge wisely in matters of actual government is forced to combine the two; he must know what ought to be in order to judge what is.
translated by Barbara FoxleyEmile does not want to write books; if ever he did so, it would not be to pay court to those in authority, but to establish the rights of humanity.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThere is a third difficulty, more specious than real; a difficulty which I neither desire to solve nor even to state; enough that I am not afraid of it; sure I am that in inquiries of this kind, great talents are less necessary than a genuine love of justice and a sincere reverence for truth. If matters of government can ever be fairly discussed, now or never is our chance.
translated by Barbara FoxleyI should not be surprised if my pupil, who is a sensible young man, should interrupt me saying, "One would think we were building our edifice of wood and not of men; we are putting everything so exactly in its place!" That is true; but remember that the law does not bow to the passions of men, and that we have first to establish the true principles of political law. Now that our foundations are laid, come and see what men have built upon them; and you will see some strange sights!
translated by Barbara FoxleyAll capitals are just alike, they are a mixture of all nations and all ways of living; they are not the place in which to study the nations. Paris and London seem to me the same town. Their inhabitants have a few prejudices of their own, but each has as many as the other, and all their rules of conduct are the same. We know the kind of people who will throng the court. We know the way of living which the crowds of people and the unequal distribution of wealth will produce. As soon as any one tells me of a town with two hundred thousand people, I know its life already. What I do not know about it is not worth going there to learn.
translated by Barbara FoxleyWhen Augustus passed laws against celibacy, those laws showed that the Roman empire was already beginning to decline. Citizens must be induced to marry by the goodness of the government, not compelled to marry by law; you must not examine the effects of force, for the law which strives against the constitution has little or no effect; you should study what is done by the influence of public morals and by the natural inclination of the government, for these alone produce a lasting effect. It was the policy of the worthy Abbe de Saint-Pierre always to look for a little remedy for every individual ill, instead of tracing them to their common source and seeing if they could not all be cured together.They say that in England there are prizes for agriculture; that is enough for me; that is proof enough that agriculture will not flourish there much longer.
translated by Barbara FoxleyIt is the great towns which exhaust the state and are the cause of its weakness; the wealth which they produce is a sham wealth, there is much money and few goods. They say the town of Paris is worth a whole province to the King of France; for my own part I believe it costs him more than several provinces. I believe that Paris is fed by the provinces in more senses than one, and that the greater part of their revenues is poured into that town and stays there, without ever returning to the people or to the king. It is inconceivable that in this age of calculators there is no one to see that France would be much more powerful if Paris were destroyed. Not only is this ill-distributed population not advantageous to the state, it is more ruinous than depopulation itself, because depopulation only gives as produce nought, and the ill-regulated addition of still more people gives a negative result. When I hear an Englishman and a Frenchman so proud of the size of their capitals, and disputing whether London or Paris has more inhabitants, it seems to me that they are quarrelling as to which nation can claim the honour of being the worst governed.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThis study of different nations in their remoter provinces, and in the simplicity of their native genius, gives a general result which is very satisfactory, to my thinking, and very consoling to the human heart; it is this: All the nations, if you observe them in this fashion, seem much better worth observing; the nearer they are to nature, the more does kindness hold sway in their character; it is only when they are cooped up in towns, it is only when they are changed by cultivation, that they become depraved, that certain faults which were rather coarse than injurious are exchanged for pleasant but pernicious vices.
translated by Barbara Foxley"Dear Emile, I am glad indeed to hear you speak like a man, and to behold the feelings of your heart. At your age this exaggerated unselfishness is not unpleasing. It will decrease when you have children of your own, and then you will be just what a good father and a wise man ought to be. I knew what the result would be before our travels; I knew that when you saw our institutions you would be far from reposing a confidence in them which they do not deserve. In vain do we seek freedom under the power of the laws. The laws! Where is there any law? Where is there any respect for law? Under the name of law you have everywhere seen the rule of self-interest and human passion. But the eternal laws of nature and of order exist. For the wise man they take the place of positive law; they are written in the depths of his heart by conscience and reason; let him obey these laws and be free; for there is no slave but the evil-doer, for he always does evil against his will. Liberty is not to be found in any form of government, she is in the heart of the free man, he bears her with him everywhere. The vile man bears his slavery in himself; the one would be a slave in Geneva, the other free in Paris.
translated by Barbara FoxleyThere are circumstances in which a man may be of more use to his fellow-countrymen outside his country than within it. Then he should listen only to his own zeal and should bear his exile without a murmur; that exile is one of his duties. But you, dear Emile, you have not undertaken the painful task of telling men the truth, you must live in the midst of your fellow-creatures, cultivating their friendship in pleasant intercourse; you must be their benefactor, their pattern; your example will do more than all our books, and the good they see you do will touch them more deeply than all our empty words.
translated by Barbara FoxleyMen say the golden age is a fable; it always will be for those whose feelings and taste are depraved. People do not really regret the golden age, for they do nothing to restore it. What is needed for its restoration? One thing only, and that is an impossibility; we must love the golden age.
translated by Barbara FoxleyIf the prince or the state calls you to the service of your country, leave all to fulfil the honourable duties of a citizen in the post assigned to you. If you find that duty onerous, there is a sure and honourable means of escaping from it; do your duty so honestly that it will not long be left in your hands. Moreover, you need not fear the difficulties of such a test; while there are men of our own time, they will not summon you to serve the state.
translated by Barbara FoxleyAffection and kind deeds rarely win hearts, and they hardly ever win them back.
translated by Barbara FoxleyOne morning a few months later Emile enters my room and embraces me, saying, "My master, congratulate your son; he hopes soon to have the honour of being a father. What a responsibility will be ours, how much we shall need you! Yet God forbid that I should let you educate the son as you educated the father. God forbid that so sweet and holy a task should be fulfilled by any but myself, even though I should make as good a choice for my child as was made for me! But continue to be the teacher of the young teachers. Advise and control us; we shall be easily led; as long as I live I shall need you. I need you more than ever now that I am taking up the duties of manhood. You have done your own duty; teach me to follow your example, while you enjoy your well-earned leisure."
translated by Barbara Foxley
== External links ==