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In this final volume of his biographical trilogy, Maurice Cranston traces the last tempestuous years of Rousseau's life. Unerringly faithful to the evidence, Cranston's narrative allows Rousseau and his contemporaries to speak with renewed vigor and undistorted voice. From his brilliant authorship of the "Confessions," the "Dialogues," and the "Reveries" to his ill-fated sojourn in Britain, from his infamous public quarrel with David Hume to his clandestine return to France, from his unsettled wanderings to his eventual death in 1778 - these and other critical events in Rousseau's fading career are detailed in this balanced portrait. In 1762, with the condemnation of "Emile" and "The Social Contract," harried by both church and state, Jean-Jacques Rousseau fled Paris, seeking refuge in Switzerland, Prussia, and England. Deemed a social outcast and beset with feelings of persecution and abuse, not wholly unwarranted, the philosopher turned in despair to the production of autobiographical works intended to reveal his essential innocence and integrity. Through this bitter introspection, Rousseau transformed his misery and solitude into some of the most enduring literature of his time.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780226118666
ISBN-10: 0226118665
Format: Paperback
(235mm x 150mm x 16mm)
Pages: 264
Imprint: University of Chicago Press
Publisher: The University of Chicago Press
Publish Date: 10-May-1999
Country of Publication: United States

Reviews

US Kirkus Review » Cranston concludes his three-volume biography of Rousseau (Jean Jacques: The Early Life and Work, 1983; The Noble Savage, 1991) with a dispassionate chronicle of the philosopher's bitter last years - a period of exile, persecution, and paranoia. Cranston died just before finishing the biography; his colleague Sanford Lakoff (Univ. of Calif.) has added a final chapter using Cranston's notes and the text of a lecture, adding a useful epilogue distilled from Cranston's previous books on Rousseau's thought. Cranston ended The Noble Savage with Rousseau's transformation from "literary celebrity to cult figure" after the publication of The Social Contract, and Julie, ou la Nouvelle Heloise. Infamy closely followed fame: When friends tied to have his novel Emile published in Paris, it was condemned, publicly burned, and a warrant was issued for his arrest. He was forced into uncertain wanderings, which Cranston conscientiously tracks. Staying above Rousseau's emotional perspective, Cranston traces his increasingly heated dealings with his publisher and his feuds with the group of Paris philosophes dominated by Voltaire. Rousseau was thrown out of the Swiss canton of Neuchatel, where he had found asylum, after Letters from the Mountains, a work highly critical of the Swiss, was published. He traveled to Bern, had a romantic interlude on the isle of Saint-Pierre, then had to flee again. He accepted David Hume's offer of asylum in England. Cranston gives an admirably impartial account of the stormy relationship of this philosophical odd couple, though he gives scant attention to the composition of the Confessions, which occurred roughly simultaneously. He is, however, always meticulously objective in tracing Rousseau's franctic actions and complex, contradictory character. A sober, concise chaser to the intoxicating Confessions (though more a starting point than the last word on that work) and a muted, though moving, conclusion to a remarkable work of scholarship and sympathy. (Kirkus Reviews)


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