Fiction > Montesquieu > Persian Letters
Montesquieu (1689–1755).  Persian Letters.  1901.
Letter LXXII
Rica to Ibben, at ——
I FOUND myself recently in a company where I met a man very well satisfied with himself. In a quarter of an hour, he decided three questions in morals, four historical problems, and five points in physics. I have never seen so universal a decider; 1 his mind was not once troubled with the least doubt. We left science and talked of the current news: he decided upon the current news. I wished to catch him, so I said to myself, “I must get to my strong point; I will betake me to my own country.” I spoke to him of Persia; but hardly had I opened my mouth, when he contradicted me twice, basing his objections upon the authority of Tavernier and Chardin. 2 “Ah! good heavens!” said I to myself, “what kind of man is this? He will know next all the streets in Ispahan better than I do!” I soon knew what part to play—to be silent, and let him talk; and he is still laying down the law.

  PARIS, the 8th of the moon of Zilcade, 1715.
Note 1. Decisionnaire in the original, a word invented by Montesquieu to describe a man who lays down the law upon everything. [back]
Note 2. Tavernier (1605–89) and Chardin (1643–1713), the Persian travelers from whose books Montesquieu derived his knowledge of Persia. [back]
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