Fiction > Montesquieu > Persian Letters
Montesquieu (1689–1755).  Persian Letters.  1901.
Rica to Usbek, at ——
THE OTHER day I dined at the house of a magistrate, who had often invited me. After we had talked of a variety of things, I said to him, “Sir, it appears to me that your profession is very laborious.” “Not so much as you imagine,” he rejoined; “as we prosecute it, it is only an amusement.” “But how! is your head not always full of other people’s business? are you not always occupied with matters that do not interest you?” “You are right; these matters do not interest us, because we take not the least interest in them; and that is how our profession is not so fatiguing as you supposed.” When I saw that he took the matter so carelessly, I continued, and said, “Sir, I have not seen your study.” “I believe you; for I have none. When I took this post, lacking the money to pay for it, I sold my library. The bookseller who bought it, out of a vast number of volumes, left me only my account book. Nor do I regret them: we judges have no need to stuff our heads with useless knowledge. What have we to do with all these legal volumes? Almost all the cases are questions of fact, and outside the general rule.” “But, sir, may it not be because you make them so? For, in short, why should all the peoples of the world have laws, if these laws are not to be applied? And how can one who does not know them, apply them?” “If you were acquainted with the courts of justice,” replied the magistrate, “you would not speak as you do. We have living books, the advocates: they work for us, and take upon themselves the task of instructing us.” “And do they not also sometimes take upon themselves the task of deceiving you?” I retorted. “It would not be a bad thing to guard yourself against their wiles. They have weapons with which to attack your justice: it would be well if you were in a condition to defend it: you ought not to rush into the midst of the fight, thinly clad, among people armed to the teeth.”

  PARIS, the 13th of the moon of Chahban, 1714.

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