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Montesquieu (1689–1755).  Persian Letters.  1901.
 
Letter CII
Usbek to ——
 
THEY are always talking here of the Constitution. 1 The other day I went into a certain house, where the first person I saw was a fat man with a red face, who said in a loud voice, “I have issued my charge; I shall make no further reply to anything you may say; but read my charge, and you will see that I have solved all your doubts. I sweated over it,” he continued, pressing his brow with his hand; “I had need of all my learning, and was obliged to read many Latin authors.” “I believe it,” said a man who was standing by, “for it is an admirable work; and I altogether defy that Jesuit who comes so often to see you to write a better. “Read it, then,” replied he, “and you will know more of these matters in a quarter of an hour than if I had talked to you about them for a whole day.” In this way he avoided engaging in conversation and the exposure of his own incompetence. But finding himself pressed, he was obliged to leave his entrenchment, and began to utter a mass of theological nonsense, supported by a dervish who received his remarks with the utmost respect. When two men who were present denied any of his principles, he said at once, “It is true; we have so decided it, and we are infallible judges.” “But how,” said I, “are you infallible judges?” “Do you not see,” he replied, “that the Holy Ghost enlightens us?” “That is fortunate,” I rejoined, “for from the style of your talk to-day, I perceive how much you need to be enlightened.”

  PARIS, the 18th of the first moon of Rebiab, 1717.
  1
 
Note 1. The Bull Unigenitus, directed against the Jansenists. (See Letter XXIV.) [back]
 
 
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