Posted by: Lisa Hill | February 22, 2014

Sensational Snippets: Emile, or On Education (1762), by Jean-Jaques Rousseau

As part of my Duty of Care to readers of this blog, I just thought I should let you know the risks you are taking by reading my reviews …

I am reading Emile, or On Education, by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and I felt I should share this … um …  Sensational Snippet from Book 4:

Consult the woman’s opinion on bodily matters, in all that concerns the senses; consult the men in matters of morality and all that concerns the understanding.  When women are what they ought to be, they will keep to what they can understand and their judgement will be right; but since they have set themselves up as judges of literature, since they have begun to criticise books and to make them might and main, they are altogether astray. (p. 361)

Emile, or On Education, by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, translated by Barbara Foxley (who deserves a medal for her forbearance), Project Gutenber edition.



  1. Mais oui! Since Emile is about education, it is well known that the purpose of education for girls is to prepare them to be a good wives. That is what women “ought to be.”


    • Nancy, some of it is hilarious. Rousseau lays down the law about what girls may and may not do: needlework is ok because it’s preparation for the future, but only embroidery and lacework, no tapestry or upholstering if you please. Reading is out (he proscribes that for boys too) but plenty of religion, and some basic maths so that she can add up the housekeeping…


  2. Oh dear. I wish he meant to be funny but no, the man was dead serious.

    The most ironic is that all this comes from a guy who was whining melancholy and calling his older mistress Mom. Freud would have had a field day with him as a patient.


    • Yes indeed, and from what I know of his bio (motherless, and then his father abandoned him) he would have had good reason to be on the couch.


  3. […] in dismay.  You can get a glimpse of how I felt about Rousseau’s attitudes to women from my recent snippet and yes, tested well beyond the limits of my patience, I nearly abandoned this book when I came […]


Please share your thoughts and join the conversation!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: