Inspiration from Rousseau
Enlightenment writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau may have inspired the French Revolution, but what inspired him?
Reading his biography, we find that as a poor orphaned teen, he was a vagabond. Roaming across France and Switzerland on foot became a life-long joy...and necessity when he wanted to go somewhere and had no money. It was during these trips that Rousseau formed his famous philosophy of man's natural goodness - in other words, take man out of society and he will be good. (Gotta say, he never met my little guy, who knows how to be naughty without society's help ;)
In my 18th century literature class at Bordeaux University, my professor spoke of how people at that time were afraid of nature. They liked it in trim patterned gardens, but for them, the wild was full of beasts and terrors. Rousseau refuted that fear with his beautiful words. In class, we studied his autobiography Les Confessions book IV.
Here is an excerpt (in English): " I remember, particularly, to have passed a most delightful night at some distance from the city, in a road which had the Rhone, or Soane, I cannot recollect which, on the one side, and a range of raised gardens, with terraces, on the other. It had been a very hot day, the evening was delightful, the dew moistened the fading grass, no wind was stirring, the air was fresh without chillness, the setting sun had tinged the clouds with a beautiful crimson, which was again reflected by the water, and the trees that bordered the terrace were filled with nightingales who were continually answering each other's songs. I walked along in a kind of ecstasy, giving up my heart and senses to the enjoyment of so many delights, and sighing only from a regret of enjoying them alone. Absorbed in this pleasing reverie, I lengthened my walk till it grew very late, without perceiving I was tired; at length, however, I discovered it, and threw myself on the step of a kind of niche, or false door, in the terrace wall. How charming was the couch! the trees formed a stately canopy, a nightingale sat directly over me, and with his soft notes lulled me to rest: how pleasing my repose; my awaking more so. It was broad day; on opening my eyes I saw the water, the verdure, and the admirable landscape before me."
It was writing like this in his novel, Julie or the new Heloise, which made Rousseau one of the first celebrity authors, giving him fan mail from people moved to tears by his descriptions of Swiss landscapes.
Have you been inspire by a night outdoors, a beautiful sunset or by a long walk or hike?