Fiction > Montesquieu > Persian Letters
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Montesquieu (1689–1755).  Persian Letters.  1901.
 
Letter CXLIV
Usbek to Rica
 
SOME 1 days ago I met in a country-house which I was visiting, two learned men who have a great reputation here. Their characters astonished me. The conversation of the first, justly estimated, reduced itself to this: “What I have said is true, because I have said it.” The conversation of the second went the other way about: “What I have not said is not true, because I have not said it.”  1
  I liked the first pretty well; for it is not of the least consequence to me, however stiff in opinion a man may be; but I cannot endure impertinence. The first defends his opinions; that is to say, his own property; the second attacks the opinions of others; that is to say, the property of the whole world.  2
  Oh, my dear Rica, 2 how badly vanity serves those who have a larger share of it than is necessary for self-preservation! Such people wish to be admired by dint of offending. They wish to be superior, but they do not even attain to mediocrity.  3
  Come hither to me, modest men, that I may embrace you! You are the charm, the delight of life. You think that you are nobodies; but I tell you that you possess the one thing needful. You think that no one is humiliated by you, and you humiliate the whole world. And when I compare you in my mind with those imperious people whom I see everywhere, I drag them from their judgment seat, and throw them at your feet.

  PARIS, the 22d of the moon of Chahban, 1720.
  4
 
Note 1. The seventh letter added in 1754. [back]
Note 2. In the original “my dear Usbek,” which is evidently a mistake. [back]
 
 
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