Short summary - Julie; or, The New Heloise (Julie, ou la nouvelle Héloïse) - Jean-Jacques Rousseau

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - Julie; or, The New Heloise (Julie, ou la nouvelle Héloïse)
Jean-Jacques Rousseau

“I observed the customs of my time and published these letters,” the author writes in the “Preface” to this philosophical and lyrical novel.

Small Swiss town. The educated and sensitive commoner Saint-Pré, like Abelard, falls in love with his student Julia, the daughter of Baron d'Etange. And although the harsh fate of a medieval philosopher does not threaten him, he knows that the baron will never agree to marry his daughter to an unnatural person.

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Julia responds to Saint-Pré with equally fervent love. However, brought up in strict rules, she cannot imagine love without marriage, and marriage - without parental consent. “Take vain power, my friend, leave me honor. I am ready to become your slave, but to live in innocence, I do not want to acquire dominion over you at the cost of my dishonor, ”writes Julia to her beloved. “The more I am fascinated by you, the more sublime my feelings become,” he replies to her. Every day, with every letter, Julia becomes more and more attached to Saint-Pré, and he "languishes and burns," the fire flowing through his veins, "nothing can extinguish or quench." Clara, Julia's cousin, patronizes lovers. In her presence, Saint-Pré breaks a delicious kiss from Julia's lips, from which he "will never be healed." “Oh Julia, Julia! Is it really impossible for our union! Is it possible that our life will flow apart and we are destined for eternal separation? " He exclaims.

Julia learns that her father has assigned her a spouse - his old friend, Monsieur de Wolmar, and in despair calls her beloved. Saint-Pré persuades the girl to run away with him, but she refuses: her escape "will thrust a dagger into her mother's breast" and "will upset the best of fathers." Torn apart by conflicting feelings, Julia, in a fit of passion, becomes Saint-Pré's mistress, and immediately regrets it bitterly. “Not understanding what I was doing, I chose my own death. I forgot about everything, I thought only about my love. I fell into an abyss of shame, from which there is no return for a girl, ”she confides in Clara. Clara consoles her friend, reminding her that her sacrifice was brought on the altar of pure love.

Saint-Pré suffers - from the suffering of Julia. He is offended by the remorse of his beloved. "So, I am only worthy of contempt if you despise yourself for being united with me, if the joy of my life is torment for you?" He asks. Julia finally admits that only "love is the cornerstone of our whole life." “There is no bond in the world more chaste than the bond of true love. Only love, its divine fire can purify our natural inclinations, focusing all thoughts on the beloved subject. The flame of love ennobles and purifies lovemaking; decency and decency accompany her even in the bosom of voluptuous bliss, and only she knows how to combine all this with ardent desires, but without violating modesty. " Unable to fight her passion any longer, Julia calls Saint-Pré on a night date.

The dates are repeated, Saint-Pré is happy, he revels in the love of his “unearthly angel”. But in society, the unapproachable beauty Julia is liked by many men, including the noble English traveler Edward Beaumston; my lord continually praises her. Once, in a men's company, Sir Bomston, hot with wine, speaks especially fervently about Julia, which causes Saint-Pré's sharp displeasure. Julia's lover challenges the Englishman to a duel.

Monsieur d'Orbes, in love with Clara, tells the lady of his heart about what happened, and she tells Julia. Julia begs her beloved to abandon the fight: the Englishman is a dangerous and formidable opponent, moreover, in the eyes of society, Saint-Pré has no right to act as Julia's defender, his behavior can cast a shadow on her and reveal their secret. Julia also writes to Sir Edward: she confesses to him that Saint-Pré is her lover, and she "adores him." If he kills Saint-Pré, he will kill two people at once, for she “will not live a day” after the death of her beloved.

The noble Sir Edward, in front of witnesses, apologizes to Saint-Pré. Beaumston and Saint-Pré become friends. The Englishman is sympathetic to the troubles of lovers. Having met Julia's father in the company, he tries to convince him that marriage with the unknown, but talented and noble Saint-Pré does not infringe on the noble dignity of the d'Etange family. However, the Baron is adamant; moreover, he forbids his daughter to see Saint-Pré. To avoid a scandal, Sir Edward takes his friend on a trip, not even allowing him to say goodbye to Julia.

Beomston is outraged: the immaculate bonds of love are created by nature itself, and they should not be sacrificed to social prejudices. “For the sake of universal justice, such an excess of power should be eradicated, it is the duty of every person to resist violence, to promote order. And if it depended on me to unite our lovers, against the will of the absurd old man, I would, of course, complete the predestination from above, regardless of the opinion of the world, ”he writes to Clara.

Saint-Pré is in despair; Julia is confused. She envies Clara: her feelings for Monsieur d'Orbue are calm and even, and her father is not going to oppose his daughter's choice.

Saint-Pré parted ways with Sir Edward and went to Paris. From there he sends Julia lengthy descriptions of the customs of the Parisian world, by no means serving to the honor of the latter. Succumbing to the general pursuit of pleasure, Saint-Pré betrays Julia and writes her a letter of repentance. Julia forgives her beloved, but warns him: it is easy to step on the path of debauchery, but it is impossible to leave it.

Suddenly, Julia's mother discovers her daughter's correspondence with her lover. The good Madame d'Etange has nothing against Saint-Pré, but knowing that Julia's father will never give his consent to marry her daughter with a "rootless vagrant", she is tormented by remorse that she could not save her daughter, and soon dies. Julia, considering herself to be the culprit of her mother's death, humbly agrees to become Wolmar's wife. “The time has come to abandon the delusions of youth and deluded hopes; I will never belong to you, ”she tells Saint-Pré. "O love! Is it possible to take revenge on you for the loss of loved ones! " Exclaims Saint-Pré in a sad letter to Clara, who has become Madame d'Orbes.

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judicious Clara asks Saint-Pré not to write to Julia anymore: she "got married and will make a decent man happy, who wishes to unite his fate with her fate." Moreover, Madame d'Orbes believes that by marrying, Julia saved both lovers - "herself from shame, and you, who deprived her of honor, from repentance."

Julia returns to the bosom of virtue. She again sees "all the abomination of sin", a love of prudence awakens in her, she praises her father for putting her under the protection of a worthy spouse "endowed with a meek disposition and pleasantness." “Monsieur de Wolmar is about fifty years old. Thanks to a calm, measured life and mental serenity, he retained his health and freshness - in appearance you won't even give him forty ... His appearance is noble and disposed, his manner is simple and sincere; he speaks little, and his speeches are full of deep meaning, ”Yulia describes her husband. Volmar loves his wife, but his passion is "even and restrained", for he always acts as "his reason tells him."

Saint-Pré goes on a voyage around the world, and for several years there is no news of him. When he returned, he immediately wrote to Clara, informing him of his desire to see her and, of course, with Yulia, for “nowhere, in the whole world” he did not meet anyone “who could comfort a loving heart” ...

The Closer Switzerland and the village of Claran, where Julia now lives, the more Saint-Pré is worried. And finally, a long-awaited meeting. Julia, an exemplary wife and mother, introduces Saint-Pré to her two sons. Volmar himself escorts the guest to the apartments assigned to him and, seeing his embarrassment, instructs: “Our friendship begins, here are its dear bonds. Hug Julia. The more intimate your relationship becomes, the better I will think of you. But, being alone with her, act as if I am with you, or in my presence act as if I am not near you. That's all I ask of you. " Saint-Pré begins to comprehend the "sweet charm" of innocent friendships.

The longer Saint-Pré stays in the house of the Volmar, the more respect he becomes for its owners. Everything in the house breathes with virtue; the family lives prosperously, but without luxury, the servants are respectful and devoted to their masters, the workers are diligent thanks to a special system of rewards, in a word, no one "gets bored of idleness and idleness" and "the pleasant is combined with the useful." The owners take part in rural festivities, are involved in all the details of the farm, lead a measured lifestyle and pay great attention to healthy eating.

Clara, who lost her husband a few years ago, heeded the requests of her friend, moves to the Volmars - Julia has long decided to start raising her little daughter. At the same time, Monsieur de Volmar invites Saint-Pré to become the mentor of his sons - the boys must be raised by a man. After long mental anguish, Saint-Pré agrees - he feels that he will be able to justify the trust placed in him. But before starting his new duties, he travels to Italy to Sir Edward. Beomston has fallen in love with a former courtesan and is about to marry her, thereby giving up the brilliant prospects for the future. Saint-Pré, full of high moral principles, saves a friend from a fatal step, convincing the girl for the sake of love for Sir Edward to reject his offer and go to a monastery. Duty and virtue triumph.

Volmar approves of Saint-Pré's deed, Julia is proud of her former lover and rejoices at the friendship that unites them "as an unparalleled transformation of feelings." “We dare to praise ourselves for the fact that we have enough strength not to go astray,” she writes to Saint-Pré.

So, all the heroes are waiting for a quiet and cloudless happiness, passions are driven away, my lord Edward receives an invitation to settle in Claran with friends. However, the paths of fate are inscrutable. During a walk, Julia's youngest son falls into the river, she rushes to his aid and pulls him out, but, having caught a cold, falls ill and soon dies. In her last hour, she writes to Saint-Pré that her death is a blessing of heaven, for "thereby it saved us from terrible calamities" - who knows how everything could change if she and Saint-Pré began to live under the same roof. Julia admits that the first feeling, which became the meaning of life for her, only took refuge in her heart: in the name of duty, she did everything that depended on her will, but in her heart she is not free, and if it belongs to Saint-Prez, then this her torment, not her sin. “I thought I was afraid for you, but I was undoubtedly afraid for myself. For many years I have lived happily and virtuously. That's enough. What joy is it for me to live now? Let heaven take my life, I have nothing to regret about it, and even my honor will be saved. " “At the cost of my life, I buy the right to love you with eternal love, in which there is no sin, and the right to say for the last time:“ I love you ”.