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falsehood to a gross violation of truth of which he himself was guilty in early youth; and which ceased not, he declares, to haunt him with inextinguishable remorse during the space of forty years, when he came to the resolution of committing the details of it to paper, with scrupulous fidelity, in order, if possible, to relieve his conscience. The particulars of this long-repented lie are related by him in his “Confessions,” the most remarkable record of human frailty and human candour which probably ever was written.

It occurred, as he tells us, in his premiere jeunesse, while living in the service of Madame de Vercellis, at Turin. A certain Mademoiselle Pontal, also a member of the household of that lady, lost a rose-coloured riband, which, upon being sought for, was found in the possession of Jean Jacques. When asked how he came by it, he stammered, coloured, and at last said that it had been given him by Marion, a girl who officiated as Madame de Vercellis cook. Now, Marion bore the best of characters, consequently no small surprise was testified upon hearing this accusation; but Jean Jacques himself enjoyed no less than Marion the confidence and good opinion of his mistress. Every one deeming it a matter of importance to ascertain who, in reality, was guilty of the theft, Marion was summoned before the assembled household, the riband shewn to her, and Rousseau repeated his accusation. The remainder of the story I give in his own words: “She spoke



not, but cast upon me a look that might have disarmed a demon, but which my barbarous heart resisted. At last, she denied the charge with vehemence. She appealed to me, exhorting me to reflect, and not take away the character of an innocent girl who had never injured me; but I, with impudence truly infernal, reiterated my charge, maintaining to her face that she had given me the riband. The poor girl began to weep, and thus addressed me, "Ah, Rousseau ! I gave you credit for a good disposition; you render me very unhappy, but I would not change places with you.' This was all she said to me. She continued, however, to assert her innocence, with as much firmness as simplicity, but without any invective against me. This moderation, contrasted with my decided tone, did her injury. No one could conceive it possible that there could exist on one side such diabolical audacity, or on the other such angelic mildness. No decided opinion was arrived at, but the impression was in my favour. In the bustle in which the household was at that time, no one had leisure to fathom the affair. The Count de la Roque (Madame de Vercellis’ nephew), in dismissing us both, contented himself with saying that the conscience of the guilty would sufficiently avenge the innocent.

His prediction has been fulfilled: not a single day but has witnessed the accomplishment of it. I know not what became of the victim of my calumny; but it is not likely that she afterwards found another good situation. She would bear about with her a cruel imputation, in more respects than one. The theft itself was a bagatelle; nevertheless, it was a theft; but what was worse, it would be considered as committed for the purpose of being employed in the seduction of a young boy: in a word, the lie and the obstinacy, added to these, would, in appearance, leave little to be hoped from one in whom so many vices were united. Who knows, at her age, to what the discouraging effects of innocence, thus disgraced, might lead? This cruel recollection has sometimes troubled me to such a degree as to make me see, during my nights of sleeplessness, this poor girl come to reproach me with my crime, as though it were but yesterday. Whilst I have led a tranquil life, it has tormented me less; but in the midst of more stormy scenes, it has taken from me the sweet consolation of the innocent. It has made me feel fully, what I believe I have expressed in some one of my works, that remorse sleeps during a season of prosperity, but awakes in all its terrors in the season of adversity. Still, I have never been able to take upon myself to relieve my heart by confessing this occurrence to a friend. The closest intimacy has never drawn it from me: all I have ever brought myself to confess is, that I have to reproach myself with an atrocious action; but never have I told in what it consisted. The burden still rests upon my conscience, without any diminution, even to this day; and I can say, with truth, that it is the desire to deliver myself of it,

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in some measure, which has greatly conduced to the resolution I have taken to write my Confessions.'

Thus far the avowal of his guilt and the picture of his remorse is given with a degree of feeling, candour, and simplicity, which is acknowledged by the reader as some expiation of it. We feel no less inclined to believe him when he

says, tinuation, “ If they had given me time for reflection, I should infallibly have confessed all. If M. de la Roque had taken me aside, and said to me, * Do not ruin this poor girl; if you are guilty, acknowledge it to me;' I should instantly have thrown myself at his feet, I am perfectly sure.” But when he proceeds to tell us, by way of extenuating his crime, that it was his friendship for Marion, and his having her so much in his thoughts, that occasioned him to accuse her, we detect the lurking sophistry of the philosopher of Geneva. The falsehood was, by his own admission, the lie of a coward.


This lovely virtue is pre-eminently the virtue of the young. Even when betrayed into falsehood by dread of shame or punishment, they may still remain sincere at heart. Nothing short of breathing, from the hour of birth, an atmosphere of moral corruption, surrounded by examples of fraud and deceit, can so deprave the nature God has given them, as to make them insincere in childhood. It

is contact with the world alone that sophisticates ; it is the world that teaches us this most worldly vice.

Children are almost invariably sincere in their professions of regard or dislike; in their enthusiasm or their apathy. Affectation, unless produced by education, is a stranger to their bosoms. It seems, then, that we have nothing to do but to preserve, if we can, this sincerity in all its freshness and purity.

Seeing that youth is by nature so ingenuous, so credulous, how cruel it is, and yet how common, to deal insincerely with the young ? To make them promises which we never intend to perform; professions of affection we do not feel; to mislead them by false praise; to make them offers of assistance which we are aware, at the time, we have not the power to render. It is to fill for them, drop by drop, that cup of bitter disappointment of which all must taste, many drain to the very dregs before the close of life. The delusions of imagination in youth are sufficiently treacherous, without adding to them those of insincerity.

Insincerity is peculiarly the vice of polished life; but there is no reason why it should be so. There is no reason why perfect sincerity and perfect good-breeding should not form a strict alliance; no reason why the one should degenerate into falsehood, the other into rudeness. When I speak of conventional insincerity, I do not mean those mere forms of expression established by long usage.

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