George Eliot and Rousseau

on 10 May 2011

"I wish you thoroughly to understand that the writers who have most profoundly influenced me...are not in the least oracles to me.  It is just possible that I may not embrace one of their opinions, that I may wish my life to be shaped quite differently from theirs.  For instance it would signify nothing to me if a very wise person were to stun me with proofs that Rousseau's views of life, religion, and government are miserably erroneous--that he was guilty of some of the worst bassesses that have degraded civilized man.  I might admit all this--and it would be not the less true that Rousseau's genius has sent an electric thrill through my intellectual and moral frame which as awakened me to new perceptions, which as made man and  nature a fresh world of thought and feeling to me--and this not by teaching me a new belief.  It is simply that the rushing mighty wind of his inspiration has so quickened my faculties that I have been able to shape more definitely for myself ideas which had previously dwelt...dim[ly] in my soul."