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The Confessions of J. J. Rousseau - Volume 10

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The extraordinary degree of strength a momentary effervescence had given me to quit the Hermitage, left me the moment I was out of it. I was scarcely established in my new habitation before I frequently suffered from retentions, which were accompanied by a new complaint; that of a rupture, from which I had for some time, without knowing what it was, felt great inconvenience. I soon was reduced to the most cruel state. The physician Thieiry, my old friend, came to see me, and made me acquainted with my situation. The sight of all the apparatus of the infirmities of years, made me severely feel that when the body is no longer young, the heart is not so with impunity. The fine season did not restore me, and I passed the whole year, 1758, in a state of languor, which made me think I was almost at the end of my career. I saw, with impatience, the closing scene approach. Recovered from the chimeras of friendship, and detached from everything which had rendered life desirable to me, I saw nothing more in it that could make it agreeable; all I perceived was wretchedness and misery, which prevented me from enjoying myself. I sighed after the moment when I was to be free and escape from my enemies. But I must follow the order of events.

My retreat to Montmorency seemed to disconcert Madam d'Epinay; probably she did not expect it. My melancholy situation, the severity of the season, the general dereliction of me by my friends, all made her and Grimm believe, that by driving me to the last extremity, they should oblige me to implore mercy, and thus, by vile meanness, render myself contemptible, to be suffered to remain in an asylum which honor commanded me to leave. I left it so suddenly that they had not time to prevent the step from being taken, and they were reduced to the alternative of double or quit, to endeavor to ruin me entirely, or to prevail upon me to return. Grimm chose the former; but I am of opinion Madam d'Epinay would have preferred the latter, and this from her answer to my last letter, in which she seemed to have laid aside the airs she had given herself in the preceding ones, and to give an opening to an accommodation. The long delay of this answer, for which she made me wait a whole month, sufficiently indicates the difficulty she found in giving it a proper turn, and the deliberations by which it was preceded. She could not make any further advances without exposing herself; but after her former letters, and my sudden retreat from her house, it is impossible not to be struck with the care she takes in this letter not to suffer an offensive expression to escape her. I will copy it at length to enable my reader to judge of what she wrote:

GENEVA, January 17, 1758.

"SIR: I did not receive your letter of the 17th of December until yesterday. It was sent me in a box filled with different things, and which has been all this time upon the road. I shall answer only the postscript. You may recollect, sir, that we agreed the wages of the gardener of the Hermitage should pass through your hands, the better to make him feel that he depended upon you, and to avoid the ridiculous and indecent scenes which happened in the time of his predecessor. As a proof of this, the first quarter of his wages were given to you, and a few days before my departure we agreed I should reimburse you what you had advanced. I know that of this you, at first, made some difficulty; but I had desired you to make these advances; it was natural I should acquit myself towards you, and this we concluded upon. Cahouet informs me that you refused to receive the money. There is certainly some mistake in the matter. I have given orders that it may again be offered to you, and I see no reason for your wishing to pay my gardener, notwithstanding our conventions, and beyond the term even of your inhabiting the Hermitage. I therefore expect, sir, that recollecting everything I have the honor to state, you will not refuse to be reimbursed for the sums you have been pleased to advance for me."

After what had passed, not having the least confidence in Madam d' Epinay, I was unwilling to renew my connection with her; I returned no answer to this letter, and there our correspondence ended. Perceiving I had taken my resolution, she took hers; and, entering into all the views of Grimm and the Coterie Holbachique, she united her efforts with theirs to accomplish my destruction....