The Educational Theory of Jean Jacques Rousseau

By William Boyd | Go to book overview
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1. The Maturing of Rousseau's Genius. --The judgment of the Academy with regard to the Discourse on the Sciences and the Arts was promptly confirmed by the interest of the public. "Its success is quite unprecedented," wrote Diderot to the author. From obscurity, Rousseau at once passed into the full light of literary fame. A flattering number of writers hurried forward to the defence of the sciences and the arts, including no less a man than Stanislaus, King of Poland. To have a king for an adversary, as M. Beaudouin says, is an honour which does not come to a man of letters every day; and Rousseau duly appreciated the honour. Though protesting against the time wasted by the task, Rousseau replied at length to Stanislaus and the more important of his other critics; and though he made no substantial addition to the ideas already expounded, he revealed himself even more than in the Discourse as the master of a clear, incisive style of writing, and showed a surprising genius for controversial exposition.1 It was more than ever evident that a new force had appeared in French literature.

The effect of this success was nowhere more manifest than in the change that came over Rousseau himself.

Rousseau, says Villemain, had in the highest degree "le génie de la controverse et de l'à-propos." Dixhuitième siècle, p. 281.


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