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mansion, it will be scarcely worth their while to visit it; for assuredly its being, though close to Chambéry, “retirée et solitaire comme si J'on était à cent lieues," is almost its only charm. Rousseau himself thus describes the place:
“ Entre deux côteaux assez élevés est un petit vallon, nord et sud, au fond duquel coule une rigole entre des cailloux et des arbres. Le long de ce vallon, à mi-côte, sont quelques maisons éparses, fort agréable pour quiconque aime un asile un peu sauvage et retiré. Après avoir essayé deux ou trois de ces maisons, nous choisimes enfin le plus jolie. La maison était très-logeable. Au devant un jardin en terrasse, une vigne au-dessus, un verger au-dessous, vis-à-vis un petit bois de châtaigniers, une fontaine à portée."
Nothing can be more accurate than this description; and there it is now, to all outward appearance very much the same as it must have been in 1736, when Rousseau, and the woman whom the neglect of his father had made his only protector, and his only resource against absolute starvation, took possession of it.
But although the house itself, and its very ordinary looking appendages in the way of garden and vineyard, have little beauty or charm of any kind, the view from it is beautiful, and precisely of the character which was likely to enchant such an imagination as that of Jean-Jacques. Mountain rises above mountain in the distance, but that distance not very remote, and the ever varying effect of light and shade, produced by the bold and capricious hills thrown about in all directions, and to which every hour of the day gives a new aspect as it passes by, must have made it to him a source of endless enjoyment. Nor was it without deep interest that we trod the path through the vineyard, above the house, which tradition declares to have been his constant morning walk, and the point from whence he saw the sun rise, as he has described it. As this description is very short, I am tempted to transcribe it, for the use of such as may not, must not turn over his forbidden pages in search of a passage which is as bright as the scene it describes ; but I will not translate il ; I have not the courage, or rather the audacity, to attempt it.
"On le voit," it is the sun of which he speaks,“ s'annoncer de loin par les traits de feu qu'il lance au devant de lui. L'incendie augmente ; l'orient paraît tout en flammes ; à leur éclat, on attend l'astre long-temps avant qu'il se montre: à chaque instant, on croit le voir paraitre ; on le voit enfin. Un point brillant part comme un éclair, et remplit aussitôt tout l'espace ; le voile des ténèbres s'efface et tombe : l'homme reconnaît son séjour et le trouve embelli. La verdure a pris durant la nuit une vigueur nouvelle; le jour naissant qui l'éclair, les premiers rayons qui la dorent, la montrent couverte d'un brillant réseau de rosée, qui réfléchit à l'œil la lumière et les couleurs. Les oiseaux en chæur se réunissent, et saluent de concert le père de la vie ; en ce moment, pas un seul ne se tait. Leur gazouillement, faible encore, est plus lent et plus doux que dans le reste de la journée ; il se sent de la langueur d'un paisible réveil. Le concours de tous ces objets porte aux sens une impression de fraicheur, qui semble pénétrer jusqu'à l'âme. Il y a là un quart d'heure d'enchantment, auquel nul homme ne résiste : un spectacle si grand, si beau, si delicieux, n'en laisse aucun de sang-froid.",
* Between two tolerably high hills is a little valley, north and south, at the bottom of which runs a brvok, among pebbles and trees. Along this valley, half way up the hill, are a few scattered houses, very agreeable for such as love a somewhat wild and remote asylum. After having tried two or three of these houses we chose at last the prettiest. The house was very habitable ; before it a terrace-garden, a vineyard above, an orchard, below, opposite a little wood of chestnuts, a fountain close at hand.
There is nothing “spasmodic" here, and even Mr. Carlyle himself must, I think, confess that there is something of greatness in the writer who can produce a picture so glowing with light and life, in such few and simple words. For myself I confess that, as far as style goes, I have no power of conceiving any thing more nearly approaching perfection; and it is such passages as these which account for and excuse the pertinacious attachment which has existed through a hundred long years, and which still continues to exist, for his name, despite the many heavy clouds which rest upon it. It was with this picture, and a few others sketched in the same style, in our thoughts, that I and my companion set off, after an early dinner at our comfortable Hôtel d'Europe, to walk to Les Charmettes.
Chambéry is not greatly celebrated for its architectural beauty, nor is there much to admire in it, save the picturesque antiquity of its historical old castle, and the wild beauty of its Alpine environs. Nevertheless, it is difficult to ramble about the town in any direction without interest, and the walk Aux Charmettes is full of it from various sources. I never visit any spot redolent of the memory of those whose renown has left a train of light behind them, without being struck by the manner in which every trifle concerning them is hoarded, by even the least enlightened peasant of the neighbourhood.
In naming Rousseau to some labourers at work by the road-side, within a few hundred yards of his residence, they seemed to know him as intimately as if he were living among them still, and one of them, advancing a few steps with us, pointed to a bank of periwinkle, exclaiming in rather a sentimental tone, “ Voilà, madame! Voilà la véritable pervenche !"
And as the plant is growing precisely on the spot which Rousseau describes as that where Madame de Warens pointed it out to him on their going first to Les Charmettes, it is likely enough to be the rejeton of the identical pervenche to which he alludes with such a lingering feeling of attachment, when many, many years afterwards he chanced to come upon the same flower, and remenbered that she had (vainly) called bis attention to it, when they were mounting together the hill which led to the house.
The sort of eloquence with which, by about half a dozen words, he contrives to make one feel the regret with which he looks back to the time when he might have looked at it, at her bidding, has certainly been felt and treasured by the generations which have come after him, with more of love and sympathy than was probably ever produced by any other passage equally short and trivial a convincing proof that when a chord of true feeling is touched, the vibration will extend to every thing that is in tune with it.
Had Rousseau conceived an affection as deeply sincere, and as tena
ciously constant, to any object within the possible reach of esteem, his exquisitely tender allusions to it would be inexpressibly touching ; for never did words more surely echo the very throbbings of the heart, than did those of Rousseau when he speaks of her. Most truly do I believe that all the most essential faults in the character of Rousseau, were the effects of this blind, and every way ill-placed attachment. He says himself, of their first interview,
“ Cette époque de ma vie a décidé de mon caractère. J'étais au milieu de ma seizième année.”
Poor boy! It was a dangerous age to fall into the hands of vice, appearing in the garb of virtue, and never again, as is most painfully evident from every page of his autobiography, never again did he recover any clear notion respecting the difference between right and wrong. He was destitute, and she fed him, and most literally did he worship the benevolence which led her to do so. Of their first meeting, he says,
“ C'était le jours des rameaux, de l'année 1728. Je dois me souvenir du lieu ; je l'ai souvent depuis mouillé de mes larmes, et couvert de mes baisers. Que ne puis-je entourer d'un balustre d'or cette heureuse place! Que ne puis-je attirer les hommages de toute la terre!”
The man, who at the age of sixty, could thus write, of a woman of whom he has narrated such hateful anecdotes, can scarcely be considered in possession of a perfectly sane understanding; and let us hope that some of the many moral delinquencies to which he has pleaded guilty, may be judged leniently, for that reason.
There are fewer memorials of Rousseau at Les Charmettes, than at Montmorency; at least there are fewer personal relics. At the Hermitage, you are shown the table at which he wrote the “ Heloise," and the old spinette whereby he was wont to sooth himself, by playing the sweet melodies of his own “ Devin du village.” These, and various other remembrances of him, preserved with the deepest reverence at Montmorency, make one feel more in his presence in the little parlour there, than in the totally unfurnished and desolate-looking rooms at Les Charmettes.
There is still, however, a bower in the little garden, the shrubs of which are doubtless the descendants of those which rendered it frais et touffu, when he was wont to take his coffee there “deux ou trois fois la semaine,” and near to which was his “autre petite famille, ou bout du jardin"-his bees. To the right of the door, a white stone, bearing an inscription, said to be the composition of Madame D'Epinay, was inserted in the wall, by one of the commissioners sent by the Convention of 1792, to the department of Mont Blanc. The inscription is still legible, and is as follows:
Réduit par Jean-Jacque habité,
Il fut toujours persécuté,
Ou par lui-même, ou par l'envie.
The little room in which Rousseau slept, is over the vestibule, and its one window is immediately over the door of entrance. If this be the chamber in which he pursued the solitary studies, of which he has given so interesting a sketch, and which made, in fact, the most important part of his singularly imperfect education, he must sometimes have been at a loss to find room for the volumes he borrowed from his friends at Chambéry.
Of course, I failed not, according to custom, to look about me for some relic that might remind me of the spot; and I spied a very flourishing patch of immortelles, growing beside the gate by which he passed to the part of the garden where he had established the observatory, his nightly use of which so terrified the peasants of the neighbourhood. Could I find a better emblem to remind me of the dwelling of Jean-Jacques ?. I thought not, and accordingly possessed myself of a handful of the enduring blossoms. On the other side of the little gate was another flower, also in full blossom; it was the “ fleur des veuves." And here too was an emblem for me; but not wishing to join la veuve to l'immortel, in my memory, more than I could help, I left the ominous-looking flower untouched, and giving a last look at the melancholy mansion, turned away, and returned to Chambéry by the path that tradition states to have been the favourite and the daily walk of Jean Jacques.
The marble miracles of Greece and Rome,
Temple and dome,
Where are they now ?—their majesty august,
Grovels in dust,
Down from its height the Druid's sacred stone,
In sport is thrown,
On these drear sepulchres of buried days
'Tis sad to gaze ; Yet, since their substances were perishable,
And hands unstable Upreard their piles, no wonder that decay Both man and monument should sweep away.
Ah me! how much more saddened is my mood,
How heart-subdued, The ruins and the wrecks when I behold,
By time unrollid Of all the faiths that man hath ever known, World-worshipp'd once—now spurn'd and overthrown!
Religions-from the soul deriving breath,'
Should know no death,
With fallen fanes.
Apis, Osiris, paramount of yore,
On Egypt's shore,
With blood outworn ;