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S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.

Jean Jacques Rousseau

  • [The philosopher; born at Geneva, June 28, 1712; ran away from home at an early age, and was received by Mme. de Warens at Annecy, who procured him a clerkship; went to Paris, 1741; wrote the “Nouvelle Héloïse,” 1760; “Le Contrat Social,” 1762; “Émile,” 1762, on account of which he fled to Neufchâtel; thence to England at Hume’s invitation; returned to France, 1767; began writing his “Confessions,” 1766; died July 2, 1778.]
  • In the North the first words are “Help me;” in the South, “Love me.”

  • Indicating that the characteristic of the inhabitants of the North of France was selfishness; of those of the South, affection.
  • When his watch was stolen, he exclaimed, “Thank Heaven, I no longer need to know what o’clock it is” (Grâce au ciel, je n’ai plus besoin de savoir l’heure qu’il est).
  • He wrote to Voltaire, who offered him an asylum at Ferney after the publication of “Émile,” “I love you not; you are spoiling my republic [Geneva] with your comedies, in return for the asylum she has given you” (vous corrompez ma république pour prix de l’asile qu’elle vous a donné). Voltaire called him at one time “a watchmaker’s apprentice” (un garçon horloger); and said of Rousseau’s refusal of his invitation, “Our friend J. J. is sicker than we thought: he needs not counsel, but good beef-tea” (Ce ne sont pas des conseils, ce sont des bons bouillons, qu’il faut).
  • Rousseau supported himself miserably at one time, by copying music; upon which he was engaged when visited by the Emperor Joseph II., who exclaimed, “So great a man copies music!” to which Rousseau replied, “I tried to teach Frenchmen to think, it failed: now they may sing and dance!” On the death of Louis XV. he said, “There were two despised men in France, the king and I: I am now alone.”
  • After the quarrel which terminated his intimacy with Rousseau, Diderot said, “Too many honest people would be wrong, if Jean Jacques were right;” but Rousseau’s motto was “Vitam impendere vero” (Sacrifice life to truth), from Juvenal, “Satires,” IV. 91.
  • Voltaire remarked on Rousseau’s article concerning the Inequality of Conditions, “This man tries to resemble Diogenes, and he does not resemble Diogenes’ dog.”