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Jean-Jacques Rousseau


Born in Geneva of a learned mother who died within a week, and an artisan father, Rousseau was brought up to cherish the civic ideal of the ancient Roman republic. His father being exiled for an ill-judged duel, Rousseau was brought up with a cousin until the time came for him to be apprenticed to an engraver. Finding this intolerable he left Geneva, and in Turin was received into the Catholic church. In Savoy he belonged to the household of the slightly disreputable Baroness de Warens, but it was after becoming tutor to the family of the Abbé de Mably that Rousseau became acquainted with philosophers of the French Enlightenment, including Mably's brother Condillac. In Paris he made friends with Diderot; a year in Venice saw him dismissed from the service of the Ambassador, the comte de Montaigu, for generally insufferable behaviour. Back in Paris he became secretary to an opulent tax-farmer named Dupin, and began passing an agreeable literary life in the magnificent chateau of Chenonceaux, where he wrote various contributions to the Encyclopédie, the bible of the Enlightenment.


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Last modified August 16, 1995