“I HAVE RESOLVED ON AN ENTERPRISE WHICH HAS NO PRECEDENT, AND WHICH, ONCE COMPLETE, WILL HAVE NO IMITATION”: RARE FIRST EDITION IN ENGLISH OF ROUSSEAU’S CONFESSIONS, 1783
ROUSSEAU, Jean-Jacques. The Confessions of J.J. Rousseau: With the Reveries of the Solitary Walker. London: J. Bew, 1783. 12mo, contemporary half tan calf, marbled boards, raised bands; pp. (4), 283, (4); (4), 296, (2). Housed together in a custom chemise and clamshell box. $15,000.
Rare first edition in English of Rousseau’s magnificent Confessions and Reveries (its sequel and complement), considered among Rousseau’s finest works, in contemporary marbled boards.
"Confessions was published only posthumously; it was some time before Rousseau's ideas seeped into the drinking water. In his own day he was provocative but also outlandish. As Leo Damrosch put it, Rousseau was after all understood to be 'describing a state of nature that never existed, a political system that never could exist and an educational scheme that never should exist.' Social inequality, the will of the people, inalienable rights were meaningless concepts when Rousseau began ranting about them. Imagination was out of fashion; he was tiptoeing around the as-yet-undiscovered unconscious. He advocated idleness in the age of Adam Smith. If he suffered for being so much out of step with his own century, he can too easily be overlooked in ours. Without founding a school—it would have been inappropriate—Rousseau stands squarely if unsystematically at the root of democracy, autobiography, Romanticism, child-centered education, even psychoanalysis" (Stacy Schiff).
Rousseau's "devastatingly intimate" self-portrait has become one of "the landmarks of the literature of personal revelation and reminiscence" and the model for modern autobiography (Brereton 107; Drabble 851). His Confessions is filled with candid and critical personal descriptions of himself and others; he did not intend for it to be published until the end of the century, but it was published within four years of his death. "The publication of the Confessions in 1782… only reinforced the intensely personal bond that Rousseau's countless disciples felt with him… nothing could shake their faith in his essential moral purity. The breathtaking candor of his admissions of vice as well as virtue strengthened their view that he was the greatest honnete homme of their century" (Schama, Citizens, 160). First published in French, in Geneva, in 1782. As is usually the case, these two volumes contain the first half of the Confessions; the second half was not published until 1789 in French, with the English translation appearing in 1790.
Text clean. Light wear to extremities; front joint of Volume I tender, cords holding. An excellent unrestored copy of this scarce work, desirable in contemporary bindings.