Sotto Voce.

"Qui plume a, guerre a." — Voltaire

On Reading about Rousseau on a Saturday Morning

So I’m reading a TNY article about Jean-Jacques Rousseau and it did that thing again where some hick from the sticks comes wandering into Paris and suddenly WHAM he’s attending salons and hanging out with the literary set.

I mean, literally in the same (and not too long by TNY standards) sentence the guy goes to Paris after wandering around the country doing odd jobs, shacks up with a “semi-illiterate” laundress, and attends his first salon.

Yeah, um, see, there’s kind of a few things that probably happened in between, there. And those things are going to answer a lot of the questions that you’re asking about why people remember him today, to the extent that they do. How did this nobody from outer nowhere get people to notice him, and why did they like him? Was he writing, and if so, what? How did he get what he wrote before their eyes? Or was it just that he was a good schmoozer and knew how to make connections? If so, how did that come about? Where in all his meanderings did this guy learn how to do that?

These are all things that are going to tell us a hell of a lot more about the guy than focusing on his influence after people started reading him. Getting their attention in the first place was the hurdle. You won’t discover why the man was influential if you don’t first explain how he influenced people.

Categorised as: Life the Universe and Everything

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