"In telling the story of my travels," says Rousseau, "as in travelling, I never know how to stop". Applied reflexively to the text of the Confessions
, the statement is revealing in a number of ways. The six hundred pages of the Confessions
suggest an author who is either unable or unwilling to stop writing about himself.
is an autobiographical book by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. In modern times, it is often published with the title The Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau
in order to distinguish it from St. Augustine of Hippo's Confessions
, the book from which Jean-Jacques Rousseau took the title for his own book. Covering the first fifty-three years of Rousseau's life, up to 1765, it was completed in 1770, but not published until 1782, four years after Rousseau's death.
In his Confessions
Jean-Jacques Rousseau tells the story of his life, from the formative experience of his humble childhood in Geneva, through the chievement of international fame as novelist and philosopher in Paris, to his wanderings as an exile, persecuted by governments and alienated from the world of modern civilization. In trying to explain who he was and how he came to be the object of others' admiration and abuse, Rousseau analyses with unique insight the elationship between an elusive but essential inner self and the variety of social identities he was led to adopt.
The book clearly illustrates the mixture of moods and motives that underlie the writing of autobiography: defiance and vulnerability, self-exploration and denial, passion, puzzlement, and detachment. Above all, Confessions
is Rousseau's search, through every resource of language, to convey what he despairs of putting into words: the personal quality of one's own existence.
His contemporaries, including Diderot and Voltaire, often slandered and framed Rousseau. Rousseau believed that he made so many friends simply because of his many talents that others did not possess. He made contributions to music, writing operas, cantatas and tragedies. He refers to Diderot, a German named Grimm, and others, as the Holbachian clique. His friendship with Diderot wavered frequently until Rousseau decided to completely break off relations with him because of his lack of character. As with Voltaire, in a letter revealed in Confessions, Rousseau bluntly explains that the only thing he admired in Voltaire was his indubitable genius.