The Confessions and Correspondence, Including the Letters to Malesherbes (Collected Writings of Rousseau, Volume 5)
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Christopher Kelly, Roger D. Masters, Peter G. Stillman (eds.)
Christopher Kelly (tr.)
When Rousseau first read his Confessions to a 1770 gathering in Paris, reactions varied from admiration of his candor to doubts about his sanity to outrage. Indeed, Rousseau's intent and approach were revolutionary. As one of the first attempts at autobiography, the Confessions' novelty lay not in just its retelling the facts of Rousseau's life, but in its revelation of his innermost feelings and its frank description of the strengths and failings of his character.
Based on his doctrine of natural goodness, Rousseau intended the Confessions as a testing ground to explore his belief that, as Christopher Kelly writes, "people are to be measured by the depth and nature of their feelings." Re-created here in a meticulously documented new translation based on the definitive Pléiade edition, the work represents Rousseau's attempt to forge connections among his beliefs, his feelings, and his life. More than a "behind-the-scenes look at the private life of a public man," Kelly writes, "the Confessions is at the center of Rousseau's philosophical enterprise."
From Library Journal
Kelly's careful translation, based on the latest French critical edition, seems likely to become the standard English version of the Confessions. In his helpful introductory essay, Kelly claims that Rousseau's work has more than biographical importance. Rousseau's portrayal of events in his life often illuminates themes in his political philosophy. His elaborate accounts of conspiracies against him, by Friedrich Melchior Baron von Grimm and others, help to explain his doctrines of natural goodness and virtue. Because Kelly believes that Rousseau wrote the Confessions with extraordinary care, he has paid attention in his translation even to such minor details as variant spellings of persons and place names. This edition includes several letters from Rousseau to Chretien Guillaume de Lamoignon de Malesherbes and supplies helpful explanatory notes. Highly recommended.?David Gordon, Bowling Green State Univ., Ohio
"Enhanced by revealing slices of the correspondence . . . an exemplary introduction and notes . . . An English translation of the French classic has to bear comparison with J. M. Cohen's Penguin Classics version of 1953. Kelley passes that test with flying colors . . . Kelly's will certainly endure as the work of reference in English, as Bernard Gagnebin's Pléiade edition of 1959 provides the basic reference in French." —Civilization
how much her speeches were weighed. But she spoke to me about my father's affliction in such a touching tone, that it could easily be seen that she would have approved of my going to console him. She did not know how much she was pleading against BookII(Pl.J,S2-S4) 4S herself without meaning to. Aside from the fact that my resolution was formed as I believe I have said; the more eloquent and persuasive I found her, the more her speeches went to my heart, the less I could resolve to remove
leave me in the station of a valet, they had not settled my wages. Young and giddy though he was, on this occasion the Comte de Favria gave me the most sensible and I would almost dare to say, the most tender speech; in so flattering and touching a manner did he put before me his uncle's care and his grandfather's intentions. Finally, after having vividly set before my eyes everything I was sacrificing in order to run to my ruin, he offered to make my peace, demanding as the only condition that I
master's residence— always singing and gay, with musicians and children of the choir—pleased me more than that of the seminary with the Lazarist fathers. Nevertheless, although more free, that life was not any less even and regulated. I was made to love independence and never to abuse it. For six whole months, I did not go out a single time except to go to mamma's or to Church, and I was not even tempted to do so. This interval is one of those in which I lived in the greatest calm, and which I
among us three was worth as much as livelier pleasures and could not have existed along with them: we loved each other without mystery and without shame, and we wished to love each other that way forever. Innocence of morals has its pleasure which is worth as much as the other, because it has no interruption and because it acts continuously. As for me, I know that the remembrance of such a beautiful day touches me more, charms me more, returns more to my heart than that of any pleasures I have
would be wrong of me not to speak about his appearance, which— based on his capacity as a magistrate, and on his fine wit upon which he prided himself—one would not imagine if I said nothing about it. M. the Civil Magistrate Simon was assuredly not two feet tall.22 His legs, straight, slender, and even rather long, would have made him taller if they n8 Confessions had been vertical; but they lay askew as if they were those of a very open compass. His body was not only short, but thin and in