Montesquieu

Rica to Usbek in ***


The other day I hap­pe­ned to be in a com­pany where I saw a man who was very content with him­self. In fif­teen minu­tes he deci­ded three ques­tions of mora­lity, four his­to­ri­cal pro­blems, and five points of phy­sics. I have never seen such a uni­ver­sal deci­der ; his mind was never sus­pen­ded by the sligh­test doubt. They left the scien­ces, and took up news of the day ; he deci­ded about the news of the day. I wan­ted to trip him up, and said to myself : I must make use of my strength ; I am going to take refuge in my coun­try. I spoke to him of Persia ; but I had scar­cely said four words before he twice refu­ted me, based on the autho­rity of MM. Tavernier and Chardin.1 Oh good Lord, said I to myself, who is this man ? Next thing he will know the streets of Isfahan bet­ter than I do ! My deci­sion was soon made : I said no more, and let him talk, and he is still deci­ding.

Paris this 8th day of the moon of Zilcadé 1715

A wink from the author, who bases much of his information about Persia on those two writers, sources that would have been obvious to many of his readers.