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Montesquieu (1689–1755).  Persian Letters.  1901.
 
Letter LXXIII
Rica to ——
 
I HAVE heard much talk of a sort of court called the French Academy. There is no tribunal in the world which is less respected; for they say that no sooner does it issue a decree than the people break it, and substitute laws which the Academy is bound to follow.  1
  Some time ago, in order to establish its authority, it issued a code of its decisions. 1 This child of so many fathers may be said to have been old when it was born; and although it was legitimate, a bastard, 2 born before it, nearly strangled it at its birth.  2
  Those who compose this court have no other function than to jabber perpetually: eulogy suggests itself as the one subject of their incessant babble; and as soon as they are initiated into its mysteries, a frenzy of panegyric lays hold of them, and will not be shaken off.  3
  This body had forty heads, all of them chokeful of tropes, of metaphors, and of antitheses; so that their lips scarcely ever open without an exclamation, and their ears are always waiting to be touched with rhythm and harmony. As for their eyes, they are out of the question; the Academy seems to be intended to talk and not to see. It is not firm on its legs; for time, which is its scourge, smites it incessantly and destroys all it does. It is said that at one time its hands were grasping; I have nothing to say on the subject, and will leave those to decide it who know more about it than I do.  4
  Such eccentricities … are unknown in our Persia. We have no bent toward what is odd and extravagant; we endeavor to shape our simple customs and artless manners in the mold of nature.

  PARIS, the 27th of the moon of Zilhage, 1715.
  5
 
Note 1. The dictionary of the Academy. [back]
Note 2. The dictionary of Furetière. The author was expelled from the Academy in 1685, because he was accused of having profited by the work of his fellow-Academicians in the composition of the dictionary which bears his name. [back]
 
 
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