Posterity and Progeny: Memoirs and Autobiographical Writing in the Late Eighteenth Century
Plato said that humans reproduce not only to ensure the survival of the race, but also to overcome our own deaths — children preserve our memory and continue a bloodline. In his Confessions, and other works, Rousseau writes explicitly for a putative reader of the future, an inhabitant of a more enlightened posterity. It is in reaction both to these claims and to Rousseau’s notorious abandonment of his children, that — I think — Marmontel dedicates and shapes his own memoirs. This article looks at the first-person writing of Marmontel and other authors, examining a new trend for envisaging posterity incarnated more humbly in their children and thereby redeeming or excusing the vanity of which first-person writers had previously been accused.