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Rousseau Jean-Jacques
(1712–1778)

Rousseau Jean-Jacques(1712–1778)

French deistic philosopher and author; b. at Geneva June 28, 1712; d. at Ermenonville (28 m. n.e. of Paris) July 2, 1778. His mother died at his birth, and his father, a dissipated and violent-tempered man, paid little attention to the son's training, and finally deserted him. The latter developed a passion for reading, with a special fondness for Plutarch's Lives. Apprenticed first to a notary and then to a coppersmith, he ran away (1728) to escape the rigid discipline, and, after wandering for several days, he fell in with Roman Catholic priests at Consignon in Savoy, who turned him over to Madame de Warens at Annecy, and she sent him to an educational institution at Turin. Here he duly abjured Protestantism, and next served in various households, in one of which he was charged with theft. After more wanderings he was at Chambery (1730), from which Madame de Warens had removed. In her household he spent eight years diverting himself in the enjoyment of nature, the study of music, the reading of the English, German, and French philosophers and chemistry, pursuing the study of mathematics and Latin, and enjoying the playhouse and opera. He next spent eighteen months at Venice as secretary of the French ambassador, Comte de Montaignu (1744-45). Up to this time, when he was thirty-nine, his life, the details of which he publishes in his Confessions (Geneva, 1782), may be described as subterranean. He now returned to Paris, where his opera Les Muses galantes failed, copied music, and was secretary of Madame Dupin. Here he came into association with Diderot, Grimm, D'Alembert, Holbach, and Madame d'Epinay, and was admitted as a contributor to the Encyclopedie; and his gifts of entertainment, reckless manner, and boundless vanity attracted attention. With the Discours sur les sciences et les arts (Paris, 1750), a prize essay in which he set forth the paradox of the superiority of the savage state, he proclaimed his gospel of "back to nature." His operetta Devin du village (1752) met with great success. His second sensational writing appeared: Discours sur l'origine et les fondements de l'inйgalitй parmi les hommes (1753), against the inequalities of society. His fame was then assured. In 1754 he revisited Geneva, was received with great acclamation, and called himself henceforth " citizen of Geneva." In 1756, upon invitation of Madame d'Epinay, he retired to a cottage (afterward " The Hermitage ") in the woods of Montmorency, where in the quiet of nature he expected to spend his life; but domestic troubles, his violent passion for Countess d'Houdetot, and Ms morbid mistrust and nervous excitability, which lost him his friends, induced him to change his residence to a chateau in the park of the duke of Luxembourg, Montmorency (1758-62). His famous works appeared during this period: Lettre а d'Alembert (Amsterdam, 1758); Julie ou la nouvelle Heloise (1761); Du Contrat social (Amsterdam, 1762); and Emile ou de 1'education (Amsterdam, 1762). The last-named work was ordered to be burned by the French parliament and his arrest was ordered; but he fled to Neuchatel, then within the jurisdiction of Prussia. Here he wrote his Lettres ecrites de la Montagne (Amsterdam, 1762), in which, with reference to the Geneva constitution, he advocated the freedom of religion against the Church and police. Driven thence by peasant attacks (Sept., 1765), he returned to the Isle St. Pierre in the Lake of Bienne. The government of Berne ordered him out of its territory, and he accepted the asylum offered to him by David Hume in England (Jan., 1766). But his morbid misanthropy, now goaded to an insane sense of being persecuted, made him suspicious of plots, and led him to quarrel with his friends for not making his opponents their own enemies, and he fled to France (1767). After wandering about and depending on friends he was permitted to return to Paris (1770), where he finished the Confessions begun in England, and produced many of his best stories. Here he copied notes, and studied music and botany. His dread of secret enemies grew upon his imagination, until he was glad to accept an invitation to retire to Ermenonville (1778), where his death came suddenly.

Rousseau reacted against the artificiality and corruption of the social customs and institutions of the time. He was a keen thinker, and was equipped with the weapons of the philosophical century and with an inspiring eloquence. To these qualities were added a pronounced egotism, self-seeking, and an arrogance that led to bitter antagonism against his revolutionary views and sensitive personality, the reaction against which resulted in a growing misanthropy. Error and prejudice in the name of philosophy, according to him, had stifled reason and nature, and culture, as he found it, had corrupted morals. In Emile he presents the ideal citizen and the means of training the child for the State in accordance with nature, even to a sense of God. This "nature gospel" of education, as Goethe called it, was the inspiration, beginning with Pestalozzi, of world-wide pedagogical methods. The most admirable part in this is the creed of the vicar of Savoy, in which, in happy phrase, Rousseau shows a true, natural susceptibility to religion and to God, whose omnipotence and greatness are published anew every day. The Social Contract, on the text that all men are born free and equal, regards the State as a contract in which individuals surrender none of their natural rights, but rather agree for the protection of them. Most remarkable in this projected republic was the provision to banish aliens to the state religion and to punish dissenters with death. The Social Contract became the text-book of the French Revolution, and Rousseau's theories as protests bore fruit in the frenzied bloody orgies of the Commune as well as in the rejuvenation of France and the history of the entire Western world.


Ecuador, 1989, Rousseau and the Symbols of Revolution

Equatorial Guinea, 1979, Portrait of Rousseau

France, 1956, Portrait of Rousseau

France, 1978, Voltaire and Rousseau

France, 2010, South America, books

Grenada, 1971, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, school

Guinea, 2010, Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Maldives, 1990, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the Simbols of Revolutions

Mozambique, 2012, Rousseau, Voltaire, Diderot

Mozambique, 2012, Rousseau, statue of Diderot

Peru, 1990, Rousseau and the Simbols of Revolutions

Rumania, 1962, Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Spain, 1937, Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Switzerland, 1962, Jean-Jacques Rousseau

USSR, 1962, Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Belgium, 1962.05.22, Brussels. Jean-Jacques Rousseau

France, 1956.11.10, Montmorency. Rousseau

France, 1978.07.01, Ferney-Voltaire, Montmorency. Voltaire and Rousseau

France, 1986/1992, Montmorency. Museum of Rousseau

France, 1989, Ermenonville. Jean-Jacques Rousseau

France, 1989.09.30—10.01, Montmorency. Rousseau

France, 1989.09—10, Montmorency. Rousseau and Revolution

France, 1990.05.25, Ermenonville. Rousseau

Switzerland, 1962.02.20, Geneva. 250th Birth Anniv of Rousseau

France, 2004, Portraits of Voltaire and Rousseau

France, 2004, Portraits of Voltaire and Rousseau

France, 1946, Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Switzerland, 1910, Jean-Jacoues Rousseau

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