Eros and Rousseau  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Rousseau's Confessions feature a number of confessions with regards to his amorous life.

Contents

La fessée de mademoiselle Lambercier

In his Confessions[1], Jean-Jacques Rousseau describes two spankings. One was given by minister Lambercier and the other by his sister. Both assumed in loco parentis responsibilities for the boy who was then between the ages of ten and twelve. The second spanking sparked a lasting preference for the then undescribed sexual perversion. Despite of this, he never in his life dared to disclose his sexual preference to any of his romantic involvements. Rousseau admits in his memoires that his conquests have been few and far between (J'ai donc fort peu possédé).

"As Miss Lambercier felt a mother's affection, she sometimes exerted a mother's authority, even to inflicting on us when we deserved it, the punishment of infants. She had often threatened it, and this threat of a treatment entirely new, appeared to me extremely dreadful; but I found the reality much less terrible than the idea, and what is still more unaccountable, this punishment increased my affection for the person who had inflicted it. All this affection, aided by my natural mildness, was scarcely sufficient to prevent my seeking, by fresh offences, a return of the same chastisement; for a degree of sensuality had mingled with the smart and shame, which left more desire than fear of a repetition. I was well convinced the same discipline from her brother would have produced a quite contrary effect; but from a man of his disposition this was not probable, and if I abstained from meriting correction it was merely from a fear of offending Miss Lambercier, for benevolence, aided by the passions, has ever maintained an empire over me which has given law to my heart.
"This event, which, though desirable, I had not endeavored to accelerate, arrived without my fault; I should say, without my seeking; and I profited by it with a safe conscience; but this second, was also the last time, for Miss Lambercier, who doubtless had some reason to imagine this chastisement did not produce the desired effect, declared it was too fatiguing, and that she renounced it for the future. Till now we had slept in her chamber, and during the winter, even in her bed; but two days after another room was prepared for us, and from that moment I had the honor (which I could very well have dispensed with) of being treated by her as a great boy."
"Who would believe this childish discipline, received at eight years old, from the hands of a woman of thirty, should influence my propensities, my desires, my passions, for the rest of my life, and that in quite a contrary sense from what might naturally have been expected?"
"Thus I passed the age of puberty, with a constitution extremely ardent, without knowing or even wishing for any other gratification of the passions than what Miss Lambercier had innocently given me an idea of; and when I became a man, that childish taste, instead of vanishing, only associated with the other. This folly, joined to a natural timidity, has always prevented my being very enterprising with women, so that I have passed my days in languishing in silence for those I most admired, without daring to disclose my wishes."
"To fall at the feet of an imperious mistress, obey her mandates, or implore pardon, were for me the most exquisite enjoyments, and the more my blood was inflamed by the efforts of a lively imagination the more I acquired the appearance of a whining lover."

French

"Comme mademoiselle Lambercier avait pour nous l'affection d'une mère, elle en avait aussi l'autorité, et la portait quelquefois jusqu'à nous infliger la punition des enfants quand nous l'avions méritée. Assez longtemps elle s'en tint à la menace, et cette menace d'un châtiment tout nouveau pour moi me semblait très effrayante; mais après l'exécution, je la trouvai moins terrible à l'épreuve que l'attente ne l'avait été: et ce qu'il y a de plus bizarre est que ce châtiment m'affectionna davantage encore à celle qui me l'avait imposé. Il fallait même toute la vérité de cette affection et toute ma douceur naturelle pour m'empêcher de chercher le retour du même traitement en le méritant; car j'avais trouvé dans la douleur, dans la honte même, un mélange de sensualité qui m'avait laissé plus de désir que de crainte de l'éprouver derechef par la même main. Il est vrai que, comme il se mêlait sans doute à cela quelque instinct précoce du sexe, le même châtiment reçu de son frère ne m'eût point du tout paru plaisant. Mais, de l'humeur dont il était, cette substitution n'était guère à craindre: et si je m'abstenais de mériter la correction, c'était uniquement de peur de fâcher mademoiselle Lambercier; car tel est en moi l'empire de la bienveillance, et même de celle que les sens ont fait naître, qu'elle leur donna toujours la loi dans mon cœur."[2]
J'ai ainsi passé ma vie à convoiter et me taire auprès des personnes que j'aimais le plus. N'osant jamais déclarer mon goût, je l'amusais du moins par des rapports qui m'en conservaient l'idée. Être aux genoux d'une maîtresse impérieuse, obéir à ses ordres, avoir des pardons à lui demander, étaient pour moi de très douces jouissances; et plus ma vive imagination m'enflammait le sang, plus j'avais l'air d'un amant transi. Rousseau's Confessions.

English summary

"... Miss Lambercier... exerted a mother's authority, even to inflicting on us... the punishment of infants... Who would believe this childish discipline, received at eight years old, from the hands of a woman of thirty, should influence my propensities, my desires, my passions, for the rest of my life... To fall at the feet of an imperious mistress, obey her mandates, or implore pardon, were for me the most exquisite enjoyments, and the more my blood was inflamed by the efforts of a lively imagination the more I acquired the appearance of a whining lover." Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Confessions of J. J. Rousseau.

Alfred Binet in Du Fétichisme dans l’amour

"Ce qu’aime Rousseau dans les femmes ce n’est pas seulement le sourcil froncé, la main levée, le regard sévère, l’attitude impérieuse, c’est aussi l’état émotionnel dont ces faits sont la traduction extérieure : il aime la femme fière, dédaigneuse, l’écrasant à ses pieds du poids de sa royale colère." --"Du Fétichisme dans l’amour"
Le fait relaté par Rousseau se rapporte au temps où il fut mis en pension à Bossey, chez le ministre Lambercier, pour y apprendre le latin. Il avait alors huit ans. Notons tout de suite que les perversions sexuelles se forment de bonne heure. --Du Fétichisme dans l’amour

Rousseau "haunted dark alleys and hidden retreats"

This passage from book III of Rousseau's Confessions was omitted in the version found on Wikimedia[3]

Mon agitation crût au point que, ne pouvant contenter mes désirs, je les attisais par les plus extravagantes manœuvres. J'allais chercher des allées sombres, des réduits cachés, où je pusse m'exposer de loin aux personnes du sexe dans l'état où j'aurais voulu être auprès d'elles. Ce qu'elles voyaient n'était pas l'objet obscène, je n'y songeais même pas; c'était l'objet ridicule. Le sot plaisir que j'avais de l'étaler à leurs yeux ne peut se décrire. Il n'y avait de là plus qu'un pas à faire pour sentir le traitement désiré, et je ne doute pas que quelque résolue ne m'en eût, en passant, donné l'amusement, si j'eusse eu l'audace d'attendre. Cette folie eut une catastrophe à peu près aussi comique, mais un peu moins plaisante pour moi.

Un jour j'allai m'établir au fond d'une cour dans laquelle était un puits où les filles de la maison venaient souvent chercher de l'eau. Dans ce fond il y avait une petite descente qui menait à des caves par plusieurs communications. Je sondai dans l'obscurité ces allées souterraines, et les trouvant longues et obscures, je jugeai qu'elles ne finissaient point, et que, si j'étais vu et surpris, j'y trouverais un refuge assuré. Dans cette confiance, j'offrais aux filles qui venaient au puits un spectacle plus risible que séducteur. Les plus sages feignirent de ne rien voir; d'autres se mirent à rire; d'autres se crurent insultées, et firent du bruit. Je me sauvai dans ma retraite: j'y fus suivi. J'entendis une voix d'homme sur laquelle je n'avais pas compté, et qui m'alarma. Je m'enfonçais dans les souterrains, au risque de m'y perdre: le bruit, les voix, la voix d'homme me suivaient toujours. J'avais compté sur l'obscurité, je vis de la lumière. Je frémis, je m'enfonçai davantage. Un mur m'arrêta, et, ne pouvant aller plus loin, il fallut attendre là ma destinée. En un moment je fus atteint et saisi par un grand homme portant une grande moustache, un grand chapeau, un grand sabre, escorté de quatre ou cinq vieilles femmes armées chacune d'un manche à balai, parmi lesquelles j'aperçus la petite coquine qui m'avait décelé, et qui voulait sans doute me voir au visage.

L'homme au sabre, en me prenant par le bras, me demanda rudement ce que je faisais là. On conçoit que ma réponse n'était pas prête. Je me remis cependant; et, m'évertuant dans ce moment critique, je tirai de ma tête un expédient romanesque qui me réussit. Je lui dis d'un ton suppliant d'avoir pitié de mon âge et de mon état; que j'étais un jeune étranger de grande naissance, dont le cerveau s'était dérangé; que je m'étais échappé de la maison paternelle, parce qu'on voulait m'enfermer; que j'étais perdu s'il me faisait connaître; mais que s'il voulait bien me laisser aller, je pourrais peut-être un jour reconnaître cette grâce. Contre toute attente, mon discours et mon air firent effet: l'homme terrible en fut touché, et après une réprimande assez courte il me laissa doucement aller, sans me questionner davantage. A l'air dont la jeune et les vieilles me virent partir, je jugeai que l'homme que j'avais tant craint m'était fort utile, et qu'avec elles seules je n'en aurais pas été quitte à si bon marché. Je les entendis murmurer je ne sais quoi dont je ne me souciais guère; car, pourvu que le sabre et l'homme ne s'en mêlassent pas, j'étais bien sûr, leste et vigoureux comme j'étais, de me délivrer de leurs tricots et d'elles.

Quelques jours après, passant dans une rue avec un jeune abbé, mon voisin, j'allai donner du nez contre l'homme au sabre. Il me reconnut, et, me contrefaisant d'un ton railleur: "Je suis prince, me dit-il, je suis prince; et moi je suis un coïon: mais que son altesse n'y revienne pas!" Il n'ajouta rien de plus, et je m'esquivai en baissant la tête, et le remerciant dans mon cœur de sa discrétion. J'ai jugé que ces mauvaises vieilles lui avaient fait honte de sa crédulité. Quoi qu'il en soit, tout Piémontais qu'il était, c'était un bon homme, et jamais je ne pense à lui sans un mouvement de reconnaissance: car l'histoire était si plaisante, que, pour le seul désir de faire rire, tout autre à sa place m'eût déshonoré. Cette aventure, sans avoir les suites que j'en pouvais craindre, ne laissa pas de me rendre sage pour longtemps.[4]


It can be found in [5]

My agitation became so strong that, being unable to satisfy my desires, I excited them by the most extravagant behaviour. I haunted dark alleys and hidden retreats, where I might be able to expose myself to women in the condition in which I should have liked to have been in their company. What they saw was not an obscene object, I never even thought of such a thing ; it was a ridiculous object. The foolish pleasure I took in displaying it before their eyes cannot be described. There was only one step further necessary for me to take, in order to gain actual experience of the treatment I desired, and I have no doubt that some one would have been bold enough to afford me the amusement, while passing by, if I had had the boldness to wait. This folly of mine led to a disaster almost as comical, but less agreeable for myself.

One day, I took up my position at the bottom of a court where there was a well, from which the girls of the house were in the habit of fetching water. At this spot there was a slight descent which led to some cellars by several entrances. In the dark I examined these underground passages, and finding them long and dark, I concluded that there was no outlet, and that, if I happened to be seen and surprised, I should find a safe hiding-place in them. Thus emboldened, I exhibited to the girls who came to the well a sight more laughable than seductive. The more modest pretended to see nothing ; others began to laugh ; others felt insulted and made a noise. I ran into my retreat ; someone followed me. I heard a man's voice, which I had not expected, and which alarmed me. I plunged underground at the risk of losing myself; the noise, the voices, the man's voice, still followed me. I had always reckoned upon the darkness ; I saw a light. I shuddered, and plunged further into the darkness. A wall stopped me, and, being unable to go any further, I was obliged to await my fate. In a moment I was seized by a tall man with a big moustache, a big hat, and a big sword, who was escorted by four or five old women, each armed with a broom-handle, amongst whom I perceived the little wretch who had discovered me, and who, no doubt, wanted to see me face to face.

The man with the sword, seizing me by the arm, asked me roughly what I was doing there. It may be imagined that I had no answer ready. However, I recovered myself; and, in despera- tion, at this critical moment I invented a romantic excuse which proved successful. I begged him in a suppliant voice to have pity upon my age and condition ; I said that I was a young stranger of good birth, whose brain was affected ; that I had run away from home, because they wanted to shut me up ; that I was lost if he betrayed me ; but that, if he would let me go, I might some day be able to reward him for his kindness. Contrary to all expectation, my words and demeanour took effect; the terrible man was touched by them, and, after administering a short reproof, he let me go quietly without questioning me further. From the demeanour ot the girl and the old women, when they saw me go, I judged that the man whom I had feared so much had been of great service to me, and that I should not have got off so easily with them alone. I heard them murmur something or other to which I hardly paid attention ; for, provided that the man and his sword did not inter- fere, I felt confident, active and vigorous as I was, of escaping from them and their cudgels.

A few days afterwards, while walking down a street with a young Abbe, my neighbour, I nearly ran into the man with the sword. He recognised me, and, imitating me mockingly, said : " I am a prince, I am a prince, and I am a coward ; but don't let his highness come back again ! " He said no more, and I sneaked away, not venturing to look up, and thanking him in my heart for his discretion. I judged that the confounded old women had made him ashamed of his credulity. Anyhow, Piedmontese as he was, he was a good man, and I never think of him without a feeling of gratitude ; for the story was so funny that, merely from the desire of creating a laugh, anyone else in his place would have shamed me. This adventure, without having the consequences which I dreaded, nevertheless made me careful for a long time.

--Rousseau's Confessions

Books to read with one single hand

The expression "livre à lire d'une seule main" (English: books to read with one single hand) is by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. It is often used to refer to erotic literature, or "stroke books".

"A force de querelles, de coups, de lectures dérobées et mal choisies, mon humeur devint taciturne, sauvage; ma tête commençait à s'altérer, et je vivais en vrai loup-garou. Cependant si mon goût ne me préserva pas des livres plats et fades, mon bonheur me préserva des livres obscènes et licencieux: non que la Tribu, femme à tous égards très accommodante, se fît un scrupule de m'en prêter; mais, pour les faire valoir, elle me les nommait avec un air de mystère qui me forçait précisément à les refuser, tant par dégoût que par honte; et le hasard seconda si bien mon humeur pudique, que j'avais plus de trente ans avant que j'eusse jeté les yeux sur aucun de ces dangereux livres qu'une belle dame de par le monde trouve incommodes, en ce qu'on ne peut les lire que d'une main." --Rousseau's Confessions
The frequent reproaches and blows I received, together with my private and ill-chosen studies, rendered me reserved, unsociable, and almost deranged my reason. Though my taste had not preserved me from silly, unmeaning books, by good fortune I was a stranger to licentious or obscene ones ; not that La Tribu (who was very accommodating) made any scruple of lending these ; on the contrary, to enhance their worth, she spoke of them with an air of mystery which produced an effect she had not foreseen, for both shame and disgust made me constantly refuse them. Chance so well seconded my bashful disposition, that I was past the age of thirty before I saw any of those dangerous compositions, to which a fine lady of fashion has no other objection than that they must be read with one hand.

Rousseau and the Moor

One day, Rousseau meets two Moors and one falls in love with him. From the Confessions (Rousseau):

Early on the following morning, we were both alone in the assembly-room. He recommenced his caresses, but with such violent movements, that it became quite alarming. At last, he wanted to take the most disgusting liberties with me, and, taking hold of my hand, tried to make me take the same with him. I uttered a loud cry, and, jumping back, freed myself from him; and, without exhibiting anger or indignation, for I had not the least idea what it was all about, I expressed my surprise and disgust so energetically, that he left me where I was ; but, while he was finishing his efforts, I saw something white, like glue, shoot towards the fireplace and fall upon the ground, which turned my stomach.

See also




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