I was born to a family whose morals distinguished them from the people. (Josephson 9) Jean-Jacques Rousseau was born in Geneva, Switzerland on June 28, 1712. He became the son of Isaac Rousseau, a plebian class watchmaker, and Suzanne Bernard, the daughter of a minister who died shortly after giving birth to him. Rousseaus baptism ceremony was a traditional one held at St. Peters Cathedral on July 4, 1712 by the reverend senebies. He had an elder brother who had a loose character, but Rousseau loved him anyway.
At an early age, Rousseau found a love for reading. His mother had an inheritance of some money and many romantic books and novels, so those are the first that he read. He and his father would read for so many hours sometimes they would read continuously through the night and on into the next day. His father had a recklessly violent temper, and after a minor infraction with a police officer, fled from Geneva to Canten Vaud in Myon, which is 12 miles from Geneva, and there he continued his profession. Rousseau was ten years old. He was then sent to live with his maternal uncle Bernard, a military engineer in the service of the city-state, and aunt Madame Goncerut, who instilled in him a great passion for music.
Deprived of parental love and affection, Rousseaus childhood was miserable. He was sent, along with his younger cousin, to be tutored by a Protestant preacher at Bossey, about four miles away at the base of Mont Salve. Rousseau loved living in a pleasant land of valleys and hills, and so found the love of nature. It was also at Bossey where Rousseau established a gruesome affection for the pastors daughter, who was thirty years old. Two years passed before uncle Bernard withdrew the two boys because they were wrongly accused and beaten for some petty fact. They were then taken back to his aunt and uncles home at the Grande Rue in Geneva. The boys were not placed back in regular school, but were taught mathematics and drawing by uncle Bernard.
They spoke of making him a pastor, but they did not have enough money to send him, so Rousseau was placed as a notary to his uncle who was a lawyer who thought Rousseau was unqualified and sent him back. He was next placed as an engraver in April 1725. His master was also a violent man like his father who fed Rousseau poorly and often treated him harshly. The young boy developed a menial frame of mind. This apprenticeship lasted for about four years with the first half consisting of stealing and a lackey spirit, and the following half Rousseaus love for reading was revived. The more miserable he became with his master, the more he read.
He would play with the other boys on free days, usually Sundays, and venture out of the city gates. He often came home just before the drawbridge closed at sundown and twice had to sleep outside the city. On day on March 14, 1728, Rousseau was late and saw the drawbridge closing. He yelled to his uncle he would not be returning to his master. Bernard did not try to stop the boy, who was just over sixteen when he decided to make his journey. After wandering for several days he fell upon the Roman Catholic priests at Consignon in Savoy. He was then turned over to Madame de Warens at Annecy, who sent him to a school in Turin. He wandered several places but in 1730 eventually returned to Madame de Warens. He spent eight years in her household and it was there that he fully developed his love and taste for music, the enjoyment of nature, his passion for reading the English, German, and French philosophers of chemistry, and studying mathematics and Latin. Because of Madame de Warens, Rousseaus horrid childhood memories were not suddenly so bad.
Josephson, Matthew. Jean-Jacques Rousseau. New York: Harcourt, Brace, & Company, 1932.
Dobinson, C.H. Jean-Jacques Rousseau. London: Methuen & Company LTD., 1969.
Morely, John. Rousseau. London: Macmillan & Company, 1886.
Havens, George R. Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1978.
July 7, 1712- death of rousseaus mother, suzanne bernard rousseau.