Philosopher, author, composer and botanist, Rousseau (1712–1778) influenced the sociological, educational and cultural thought of eighteenth century Europe.
He was born into a family of watchmakers in Geneva. His parents were French but were exiled to Switzerland because they were Protestants. His mother died nine days after his birth, his father died when Jean-Jacques was ten. When he was sixteen, Rousseau left Switzerland to travel around France.
In 1747 Rousseau, 35, moved into Château Chenonceau, a few miles from Amboise. Apart from Versailles, it’s the most visited château in France. Although he was a husband and a father he fell madly in love (unrequited), with the beautiful chatelaine, Madame Louise Dupin who had appointed him as tutor to her stepson. Her husband, a widower, had Louis Claude by his first wife, grandmother of the novelist George Sand (born Aurore Dupin).
Rousseau wrote: We had a lot of fun in this beautiful place; it was very good food, I became fat as a monk...While I was growing at Chenonceaux, my poor Thérèse was fattening in Paris in another way, and when I returned, I found the work I had put on the job more advanced than I had thought. He refused to eat anything out of season and preferred produce grown locally. Before he left Chenonceau, Rousseau helped Louise Dupin draft a Code of Women’s Rights. Rousseau, who worked on Émile at Chenonceau, wrote in his Confessions: We played music there and staged comedies. I wrote a play in verse entitled Sylvie's Path, after the name of a path in the park along the Cher.
It was Louise Dupin who saved the Château from being destroyed by the Revolutionary Guard during the French Revolution arguing ‘essential to travel and commerce, being the only bridge across the river for many miles’
In 1750 Rousseau published 'A Discourse on the Sciences and the Arts' Its message was that man had become corrupted by society and civilisation. In 1755, he published 'Discourse on the Origin of Inequality' in which he said that original man, while solitary, was happy, good and free. His vices dated from the formation of societies, which brought comparisons.
He wrote seven operas, which have in the main been forgotten. Not so his world famous saying; Men are born free, yet everywhere are in chains which is how he began The Social Contract (1762). He said the “chains” of society suppress man’s natural birthright to freedom. He believed in the innate goodness of man. He believed that both rulers and citizens have natural human rights as well as obligations to each other which should be bound in a social contract. Rousseau's views on the individual's position within society were taken up by Robespierre which is why he is considered to be one of the fathers of the French Revolution.
His book Emile caused outrage in France. An arrest order was issued causing him to return to Switzerland. When the Swiss authorities also condemned Emile, Rousseau was told to leave. He was charged with blasphemy and denounced as the Antichrist. Locals pelted him with stones. In 1765 his windows were broken. When a friend visited there were so many stones on the balcony he said ‘My God, it's a quarry!’ and advised him to leave town. He accepted Scottish philosopher David Hume’s invitation to go to England as his guest but secretly returned to France.
At the end of his life, Rousseau was a broken man when he met the Marquis René de Girardin, one of his many admirers in Paris. In 1778, Thérèse was ill and was advised her to move to the countryside. Girardin offered him a home on his estate in Ermenonville and gave him the job of botanist cataloguing the plants and flowers on his extensive property.
Rousseau lived there for the last six weeks of his life. He was buried at midnight, by torchlight, on a little island in the park. His tomb was visited by Queen Marie-Antoinette, King Gustave III of Sweden, Benjamin Franklin, Robespierre and Napoléon Bonaparte.
When Rousseau died, Girardin paid two hundred English gardeners to create Parc Jean-Jacques-Rousseau opposite his Chateau in Ermenonville, less than hour from Paris.
France created the Panthéon in Paris for the final resting place of its great citizens. In 1794 Rousseau's remains were moved there in a grand ceremony. A wall of his sarcophagus has an image of an arm holding a torch emerging from a door. Rousseau's crypt is located next to that of his jealous contemporary, Voltaire.
Rousseau was sixteen years younger than Voltaire but these two great philosophers died within two months of each other in 1778. Although they were poles apart in their views on life, Rousseau admired Voltaire and often defended in public him from his critics. Voltaire was not so generous of spirit and frequently denounced him in public.
Post by Pamela