1.4 First years in Paris

Tuesday, 4. August 2009


‘It won’t be tonight, though your desire will be accomplished. But first let us get some sleep.’

This is how Diderot’s father replied to his adventurous son who tried to leave his parental home silently at midnight.


Some time later, Diderot left Langres, at the age of fifteen and his father accompanied him. Down the valley of the Marne they rode, travelling by slow coach, taking seven days to reach Paris.


In Paris, Diderot’s father made the arrangements for his son’s settling in to school and took his leave as though he were going to depart from the city. Unobserved, he stayed a fortnight, just to make certain that all was going well. Reassured that young Diderot was happy, the father went back to Langres.


From the time Denis Diderot went to Paris until aged twenty-nine and embarked on a career of letters, and desirous of marriage – little is precisely known. Diderot himself seldom spoke of these years and seems almost intentionally inscrutable about this period.



It is known that after his high school he made a start with theology. Then he changed to study law, whilst working for a solicitor in Paris, which he did for two years. All the time he could steal from his employer was used in studying Latin and Greek, plus Mathematics and also Italian and English…


Gradually it became clear that Diderot did not want a career as a solicitor or a barrister at all. At this point his father cut off his allowance and demanded that young Diderot either choose a profession or come home within a week. After this, Diderot left the house of the solicitor and lived the next ten years of his own, in the shadow of obscurity.


Which is wise, choosing a profession at a young age or  experimenting with a variety of  possibilities…

Imagine yourself in young Diderot’s shoes, what would you have chosen…



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