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NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW.
NEW SERIES, No. XI.
Art. I.-1. Essai sur Jean Jacques Rousseau par Bernardin
de St Pierre. Paris, 1818. 2. Histoire de la vie et des ouvrages de J. J. Rousseau
par V. D. Musset Pathay. 2 Vols. 8vo. Paris, 1821.
NotwITHSTANDING the length of time which has elapsed since the death of Rousseau and the strong interest which has always been felt in his person and character, there is yet no good biography of him in any language. His Confessions supply the deficiency for the greater part of his life; but like the charming memoirs of himself by Franklin they break off before its close, and leave of course some of the most interesting scenes wholly undescribed. The fulness of this recital, as far as it goes, is probably however one of the principal reasons why no supplementary work has yet been attempted by a writer of competent ability. The second of the publications, whose titles are prefixed to this article, is a laborious and well meant effort, made by an enthusiastic admirer of Rousseau, to complete his history and to vindicate his character and principles, from all the charges that have been made against them. This second object is so plainly injudicious, that it betrays at once a want of power and philosophy in the mind of the biographer. The intelligent friends of Rousseau are the first to admit that his errors of theory and practice New Series, No. 11.
were numerous and considerable. There is also an entire absence of literary talent in the execution of the work, and it has no other merit than that of bringing together from various quarters all the facts that are known respecting the life of the famous Genevan, and of rendering more accessible several detached accounts, which had previously appeared of particular passages in his history.
The Essay of Bernardin de St Pierre is of a different description, as may be supposed from the name of the writer. It has the attraction of style, which uniformly marks his productions, and the interest which necessarily attends the observations of one deep and powerful thinker upon the character of another. It is however only an unfinished fragment of less than a hundred pages, which the author did not complete, and which has lately appeared with some other unpublished writings in the edition of his works which we noticed in a former number. One or two passages contained in it were inserted by the author in the Studies of Nature. We
propose to lay before our readers several extracts from this interesting little sketch, and shall afterwards add a few others from the materials collected by the new biographer.
The acquaintance of Rousseau and Bernardin de St Pierre commenced in the following manner. The latter was returning home in the year 1771 from the Isle of France after his long and unsuccessful chase in pursuit of fortune; and touched in his way at the Cape of Good Hope, where he was detained for some time. In a letter from this place he dwells in strong language upon the pleasure, which he promised himself from his return of enjoying two summers in the same year-the month of January when he wrote being the time of vintage at the Cape and corresponding with that of August in France. The person to whom this letter was sent communicated it to Rousseau, who immediately expressed a desire to become acquainted with the writer. Upon his arrival at Paris, St Pierre was accordingly introduced to the eccentric philosopher. The latter received him with great cordiality, and said that he should always esteem a man, whose mind, on returning from the land of fortune, was occupied with the expectation of enjoying two summers in one year. Such was the beginning of their acquaintance, which grew into a lasting and intimate friendship. These facts are related by the biographer of St Pierre. His own narrative