The Confessions of Jean Jacques Rousseau is notable as one of the first major autobiographies. Prior to his writing the Confessions, the two great autobiographies were Augustine's own Confessions and Saint Teresa's Life of Herself. Both of these works, however, focused on the religious experiences of their authors. The Confessions was one of the first autobiographies in which an individual wrote of his own life mainly in terms of his worldly experiences and personal feelings. Rousseau recognized the unique nature of his work; it opens with the famous words:
I have resolved on an enterprise which has no precedent and which, once complete, will have no imitator. My purpose is to display to my kind a portrait in every way true to nature, and the man I shall portray will be myself. Not long after publication, many other writers (such as Goethe, Wordsworth and De Quincey) wrote their own similarly styled autobiographies.
The Confessions is also noted for its detailed account of Rousseau's more humiliating and shameful moments. For instance, Rousseau recounts an incident when, while a servant, he covered up his theft of a ribbon by framing a young girl who was working in the house for the crime. In addition, Rousseau explains the manner in which he disposes of his five children, whom he had out of wedlock with Thérèse Levasseur.
Emile is a treatise on the nature of education and on the nature of man written by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who considered it to be the “best and most important of all my writings”. Due to a section of the book entitled “Profession of Faith of the Savoyard Vicar,” Emile was banned in Paris and Geneva and was publicly burned in 1762, the year of its first publication. During the French Revolution, Emile served as the inspiration for what became a new national system of education.
The work tackles fundamental political and philosophical questions about the relationship between the individual and society— how, in particular, the individual might retain what Rousseau saw as innate human goodness while remaining part of a corrupting collectivity. Its opening sentence: “Everything is good as it leaves the hands of the Author of things; everything degenerates in the hands of man.”
Rousseau seeks to describe a system of education that would enable the natural man he identifies in The Social Contract to survive corrupt society He employs the novelistic device of Emile and his tutor to illustrate how such an ideal citizen might be educated. Emile is scarcely a detailed parenting guide but it does contain some specific advice on raising children. It is regarded by some as the first philosophy of education in Western culture to have a serious claim to completeness