Saturday, May 23, 2009

For Mrs. Rousseau and her Babies




Yesterday I came across this flowering tree working its magic on the evening air - I think it's a Black Locust, and if you wander into the park this weekend, no doubt you'll smell them too. There's two small ones on the path from Vanderbilt St. to the lake, and many others I'm sure.

In On Kindess there's mention that the French philosopher and proponent of the idea of children's innate goodness, Jean-Jaques Rousseau, sent his 5 infants to an orphanage (where they most likely died) because he believed "his wife's family would ruin them." Wikipedia claims that he did this to preserve their mother's "honor." The irony. How did Therese Levasseur and everyone else involved maintain their sanity? I suppose that with a 50% infant mortality rate in Paris in the 18th Century, perhaps people became very good at keeping themselves from getting attached. Maybe this partly explains the era's high rate of wet nursing.

2 comments:

Kenmeer livermaile said...

I think we have a very dim understanding of what life was like in Western culture 200 years ago?

Public torture of animals was quite the popular entertainment back then.

A person like Rousseau could think all manner of wistful, hopeful thoughts and still tie a firecracker to a cat's tail a while later.

A single passing tender act or notion, and a single vicious act or thought, are themselves pure in their essence.

amarilla said...

"Public torture of animals was quite the popular entertainment back then."

I'm glad to be living in the age of PETA.

"A single passing tender act or notion, and a single vicious act or thought, are themselves pure in their essence."

How's that?