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flattering position, is as rare as it is dignified, he implores her to take her destiny into her own hands, to depend on her own judgment preferably to that of any other person: “Oh! que vous êtes heureusement née! De grâce, ne manquez pas votre vocation : il ne tient qu'à vous d'être la plus heureuse et la plus adorable créature qu'il y ait sur la terre, pourvu que vous ne fassiez plus marcher l'opinion des autres avant la vôtre, et que vous sachiez vous suffire à vous-même?” Grimm's was not a solitary estimate. Writing in her Journal on Sept. 1, 1750, of M. de Gauffecourt-a friend introduced to her by Rousseau—she observes : “He has often told me that I am cleverer than people think, or than I think myself. He says I only want more culture and the habit of talking to people who would force me to think.”
One might expect that so gifted a person would also prove successful, yet throughout the course of her life, with its troubles and triumphs, its philosophic interests and educational speculations sustained continually in the midst of social distractions, there was, owing to the withering effects upon her life and conduct of her most unhappy union with M. d'Epinay, always a shred of truth, so far as she was concerned, in that piteous exhalation of disillusionment which escaped from her pen in a letter she wrote to M. de Lisieux in 1750, “Le coeur se blase, les ressorts se brisent, et l'on finit, je crois, par n'être plus sensible à rien?." This prophecy, uttered when she was no more than 24, never came literally true; but equally for her it was never entirely falsified.
Here then, the theorist is asked to encounter one who was before everything else practical and human; human in her never broken combination of weakness and strength, in her quick sympathies, in her puzzling complexity. She is not a Schoolmistress-by-the-Gift-of-God, like Madame de Maintenon, nor an Ascetic striving for the souls of little children like Jacqueline Pascal, nor an incomparable Conversationalist by pen on all things in the universe of existence like Madame de Sevigné, but a clever, alert woman of the average cultivated world, with all that world's heritage of natural struggles, jealousies, combinations and intricacies. As from the philosophic Vauvenargues in one direction, so in another from Madame d'Epinay, the denizen of everyday polite life, the retired and abstracted pedagogue may find food for his own most wholesome and necessary consumption. Some slight knowledge of her story is perhaps essential to the right appreciation of her views on education. She lost her father, M. d'Esclavelles, when she was ten years old: then, after a brief interval, she and her mother went to live with her uncle by marriage, M. de Bellegarde, the husband of her mother's sister. That gentleman had three sons, M. La Live d'Épinay, M. La Live de Jully, and M. La Live de la Briche. The first and last of these bore territorial surnames, taken from parts of their father's estates. The second is believed to have taken his name of de Jully from an uncle. M. d'Épinay, the eldest, fell in love, or supposed himself to do so, with his young cousin, Émilie d'Esclavelles. When death ended his mother's opposition to his choice of a portionless bride, they were married. It was perhaps the most disastrous union into which this girl of 20 could have entered. M. d'Épinay's brutal coarseness and incredible levity brought the whole of the two families, in three years, to consent to Madame d'Épinay's desire for a separation of property, though she was not able to obtain the sole right, which she longed for, over her children. It is perhaps just to record that, owing probably to her husband's disturbance of their household peace, she herself became less than a model of rectitude and discretion. The deplorable influence of Mademoiselle d'Ette, whom M. Octave Gréard, with simple directness, calls “une peste," entered Madame d'Épinay's life in the second year after her marriage. Mademoiselle d'Ette heralded that procession of learned men
i Mémoires, Vol. II. p. 251. 2 Ibid. Vol. 1. p. 200.
and more or less cultured women who were all drawn by one attraction or another to this young and fascinating woman left in so equivocal a position. M. Dupin de Francueil appeared first : Rousseau, destined to play an important if shifting rôle, followed on Francueil's introduction. Mademoiselle de Quinault, of sinister reputation, brought more risky elements into Madame d'Épinay's life when she included her in a dinner party at which the Marquis de Saint Lambert and M. Duclos were guests. The conversation at this festivity, transcribed at length in the Mémoires, dwelt upon the subject which Rousseau had, by his Discours for the Academy of Dijon, just made of universal interest, viz. the perfections of primitive nature. That Madame d'Épinay deserved Grimm's eulogy on her powers of judgment may be gathered from the brief commentary in her diary upon this conversation, in the actual course of which she had played the smallest possible part: “It was late, I was expected at home, and I profited by a moment's silence to slip away, reflecting that when one takes pains to destroy a useful prejudice, one ought to substitute for it some principles which can not only take its place, but which will also impose a surer check than any mere shifting opinion can ;. reflecting also that unless one were a maniac one would not attempt to restore humanity to its primitive state?” Like some of the rest of us, she found that first thoughts are often the best, for though Rousseau succeeded for a time in subverting her judgment partially—M. Gréard goes so far as to write :“quand Rousseau lui-même était là elle ne s'en rapportait qu'à lui. Pendant quatre ou cinq ans il exerça sur son esprit une autorité souveraine "—yet at last she threw him and his doctrines definitely overboard. It is strange that Grimm should have been introduced into the circle of her friends by Rousseau, for it was he who eventually destroyed Jean Jacques' influence. That Galiani thought very little of Rousseau may be gathered from a remark he made in a
letter to the Abbé Raynal, which is unfortunately a trifle too direct for quotation here? But some of his remarks on Émile can be quoted. Writing to Madame d'Épinay he says, "avezvous jamais eu le délire de croire à Rousseau et à son Émile, et de croire que l'éducation, les maximes, les discours puissent rien à l'organisation des têtes ? Si vous y croyez, prenez-moi un loup, et faites-en un chien si vous pouvez?.” This passage is omitted in Treuttel's edition of the Letters.
It was in 1751 that Madame d'Épinay and Grimm met first; immediately the profound worth of Diderot, whom, however, she did not actually see for another six years, was urged upon her by him and Rousseau, who both, according to her statement, ranked him in the same plane as Voltaire. The numerous quarrels and jealousies to which the irregularity of her ménage exposed her need not be recounted here; if anyone thinks that all the details of them are essential to an understanding of her pedagogic theory they will find them set forth at length in the Mémoires. From an educational standpoint it is necessary to remember only one more of her friends, the Neapolitan priest Galiani, who left Paris in 1769 after a stay there of some ten years. From that date, till the death of Madame d'Épinay in 1783, they kept up an unbroken correspondence.
No doubt the difficulties of the upbringing of first her children and then her grandchildren, turned her thoughts to educational problems. Amidst all the vexations and distractions of her life, her real interests, her most abiding affections were with her children and theirs. As M. Gréard has truly observed : “les questions d'éducation sont, entre toutes, celles qui lui tiennent le plus au cour, et c'est par ses enfants qu'elle en a connu l'intérêt et le charme....A la première trahison de M. d'Épinay, c'est la pensée de son fils qui l'avait sauvé d'un parti extrême : et lorsque Francueil la
1 Lettres de l'Abbé Galiani, Vol. I. p. 403.
quitte elle ne résiste au désir de se jeter dans un couvent qu'en songeant au sort de sa fille?.”.
The most definite of her writings on pedagogic subjects are the Conversations d'Émilie, written for her daughter's daughter, Émilie de Belsunce, published in Paris in 1781. Nevertheless, very much of her theory, and something of its occasions and ways (when and how it came to her), may be found in scattered and disjointed fragments throughout her Mémoires; some part of it again may be gleaned from her correspondence with the Abbé Galiani. Though she herself may not have worked her views into a symmetrically coherent whole, something like a definite system can be built up from her writings by a sympathetic student. Les Conversations d'Émilie purport to be conversations between a mother and daughter. In the preface to the second edition of her book, Madame d'Épinay observes that it is the work of a mother whose health was so deplorable that the only interest and pleasure left to her in life was the education of her daughter.
We are over-accustomed to think that our own generation discovered the science of pedagogy, or perhaps created it. It is interesting to find Madame d'Épinay, in 1774, writing words which could be paralleled easily in any modern meeting where pedagogues gather together and include in their numbers pessimistic critics : “In the science of education, as in any other, general principles are of little use. Nobody disputes them, but the continual repetition of such carries us on no further, and we do not lose our way any the less in consequence of their inherent vagueness, and their incapacity to indicate a definite path. Indeed, it is not unusual to see people who incessantly proclaim the same maxims walking along diametrically opposed roads?.”
1 L'Éducation des Femmes par les Femmes, p. 255. 2 Preface to the 2nd (Paris) edition of Les Conversations d'Émilie.