The Educational Theory of Jean Jacques Rousseau

By William Boyd | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
ROUSSEAU'S YOUTH AND EARLY MANHOOD

1. Conversion to Catholicism. --In the Confessions Rousseau dwells on the delight with which he looked forward to the life of adventure that was to follow his escape from the bondage of apprenticeship. "Here was I," he says, "while still a child, about to give up my country, my friends, and my resources; to leave an apprenticeship half finished, before I had learned enough to make my living by my trade; to expose myself to all the temptations of vice and despair at an age of feebleness and innocence; to go out in search of evils, misfortunes, slavery, and death. That was the picture I ought to have drawn for myself. It was a very different one I actually did draw. The independence I seemed to have gained was the one thought that possessed me. I was a free man and my own master, and nothing seemed impossible for me. I entered the vast arena of the world with perfect confidence." It is a brave picture this, of the young Rousseau, just turned sixteen, going out boldly to face unknown dangers. Unfortunately, the strength of mind and character it suggests is not confirmed by his own record of the events that followed his running away. For some days he lingered about the outskirts of Geneva, taking advantage of the hospitality of some peasants of his acquaintance; and even when he could

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