Petrarch's Confessions

Robinson, James Harvey

The art of self-revelation is no easy one to acquire and when acquired it must be practiced with circumspection. It is however possible to talk of oneself with good grace and to get others to listen. Indeed a man's opinion of himself–if only we can come at it–is rarely indifferent to us. We have an almost morbid anxiety to know what others think of themselves, if only they can and will tell us. We all like to take our turn behind the grating of the confessional. Artistic confessing is essentially a very modern accomplishment. While the nineteenth century furnishes us many charming examples, the instances of satisfactory self-exposure before Rousseau's unblushing success are really rare. Probably Augustine is the first name that will occur to us. Job's case and that of the far more ancient Egyptian who has left his weary reflection on life are hardly in point. The Greek and Roman writers have left us plenty of comments on the inner life, but no one tells us his own individual intimate story, unless it be Marcus Aurelius. In the Middle Ages Peter Damianus, Abelard and Heloïse, and others shed abundant tears over their evil thoughts, without however giving us any complete pictures of their varied emotions and ambitions.

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Also Published In

Romanic Review

More About This Work

Academic Units
French and Romance Philology
Columbia University Press
Published Here
July 13, 2015


Source: / Bibliothèque nationale de France