Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.

Rousseau Jean Jacques

Rousseau, Jean Jacques (1712-78), French philosopher, was the son of a watchmaker at Geneva, who gave him a fairly good education. He was put in an attorney's office at first, but was soon dismissed, and was then indentured to an engraver; but, not liking his employment, ran away, and led a wandering existence for some time. He was taken charge of by a priest, who confided him to Madame De Warens, a convert to Catholicism, who succeeded in converting him from Protestantism. He passed some years with her very happily, and never ceased to speak of her with affection. In the end his connection with her became still more intimate. He succeeded in very little that he undertook, but he learned music, and began to compose it. He could not bear control, and gradually became very jealous and suspicious, and in 1740 left Madame De Warens, chiefly through jealousy, and in 1712 became secretary to the French ambassador at Venice. He went to Paris afterwards, and managed to live by copying music. He there formed a connection with Therese le Vasseur, servant at an inn. He had five children by her, who were sent to the foundling hospital soon after birth, and were never traced. In 1750 he competed for the prize offered by the Dijon Academy for the best essay on the question whether learning had improved morality, and, replying in the negative, won. It brought him reputation, and he soon after composed The Village Seer, a comic opera, both words and music, which was successful. His Letter on French music (1753) aroused much animosity, and he retired to Geneva, changing his religion once more. Thenceforward his life was miserable. He published successively The Origin of Inequality among Mankind; Julie, or the New Eloisa (1760); Emile, or Education (1762), and The Social Contract, the theories of which are constantly traceable as influencing the French Revolution. Each of these caused a sensation, partly by their boldness, partly by their tremendous passion and eloquence. Emile was burnt publicly at Geneva and Paris, and he was obliged to fly. David Hume brought him to England, but be had become so morbidly suspicious that he left him abruptly, and was at length allowed to return to Paris. His death occurred suddenly at Ermenonville, and in 1794 his remains were exhumed and reinterred in the Pantheon. His wonderfully vivid Confessions appeared after his death. The best English biography of him is that by John Morley (1873).