Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the philosopher, essayist, and novelist, was born at Geneva. His mother having died a few days after his birth, he was brought up by an aunt and an erratic father who taught him to read through the medium of sentimental novels and Plutarch's Lives.
He had little formal education. After staying for about two years with a country minister at Bossey, he returned to Geneva and lived with an uncle. He was then apprenticed in turn to a notary and an engraver, the latter of whom treated him so brutally that in 1728 he left Geneva to seek his fortune elsewhere.
Rousseau was protected and befriended by Mme. de Warens, a convert to Roman Catholicism, who had left her native canton of Vaud to live at Annecy in Savoy, with financial support from the king of Sardinia and the ecclesiastical authorities. Rousseau's subsequent attachment to her was a decisive factor in his conversion to Roman Catholicism as well as in his emotional development.