Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Confessions, Book III (1769/1782)


I know not when I should have done, if I was to enter into a detail of all the follies that affection for my dear Madam de Warrens made me commit. When absent from her, how often have I kissed the bed on a supposition that she had slept there; the curtains and all the furniture of my chamber, on recollecting they were hers, and that her charming hands had touched them; nay, the floor itself, when I considered she had walked there. Sometimes even in her presence extravagancies escaped me, which only the most violent passions seemed capable of inspiring; in a word, there was but one essential difference to distinguish me from an absolute lover, and that particular renders my situation almost inconceivable.



The room was under the steep eaves of the house, with a small dormer window that afforded a glimpse of the lake far below. The window was shut and the air inside the room heavy with the scent of a large bunch of hyacinths, crushed and wilting in the waste basket. The room showed all the signs of a recent hasty departure. Persse picked up a still-damp towel from the floor beneath the washbasin and held it to his cheek. He swallowed the dregs of water at the bottom of a glass tumbler as reverently as if it were communion wine. He carefully unfolded a crumpled paper tissue left on the dressing table, uncovering at its core the faint impression of a pair of red lips, to which he pressed his own. He slept naked between sheets that were still creased and wrinkled from contact with Angelica's lovely limbs, and inhaled from the pillow under his head the lingering fragrance of her shampoo. He fell asleep in a delirium of sweet sensation and poignant regret and physical exhaustion. (Small World, 268)






Note also the use of the Rousseau passage by Derrida, in Of Grammatology:


The dangerous supplement breaks with Nature. The entire description of this moving away from Nature has a scene [theatre]. The Confessions stage the evocation of the dangerous supplement at the moment when it is a question of making visible a distancing which is neither the same nor an other; Nature draws away at the same time as the Mother, or rather "Mamma," who already signified the disappearance of the true mother and has substituted herself in the well-known ambiguous manner. It is therefore now a question of the distance between Mamma and the person she called "Little one." As Emile says, all evil comes from the fact that "women have ceased to be mothers, they do not and will not return to their duty" (p. 18). A certain absence, then, of a certain sort of mother. And the experience of which we speak is such as to reduce that absence as much as to maintain it. A furtive experience, that of a thief who needs invisibility: that the mother be invisible and not see. These lines are often quoted:


ááááááááááá I should never have done, if I were to enter into the details of all the follies which the remembrance of this dear mamma caused me to commit when I was no longer in her presence. How often have I kissed my bed, since she had slept in it; my curtains, all the furniture of my room, since they belonged to her, and her beautiful hand had touched them; even the floor, on which I prostrated myself, since she had walked upon it! Sometimes, even in her presence, I was guilty of extravagances, which only the most violent love seemed capable of inspiring. At table one day, just when she had put a piece of food into her mouth, I exclaimed that I saw a hair in it; she put back the morsel on her plate, and I eagerly seized and swallowed it. In a word, between myself and the most passionate lover there was only one, but that an essential, point of distinction, which makes my condition almost unintelligible and inconceivable . . . (A little above, we read] I only felt the full strength of my attachment when I no longer saw herů