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fulness of knowledge and the ripeness of age. To read the great works of the past with intelligent appreciation, is one of the last achievements of a studious life. But I will postpone what more I have to say of this book until we come to it in following the course of the author's career.

Charles de Secondat, Baron de la Brède, was born at the Château de la Brède, near Bordeaux, on January 18, 1689. His family had gained distinction both by the sword and in the law. His father was a magistrate, and intended that he should be one. His mother was pious, and no doubt hoped that he might be like her. Neither wish was entirely fulfilled.

At the moment of his birth a beggar presented himself at the château, and was retained that he might be god-father to the young noble, and so remind him all his life that the poor were his brothers. He was nursed by peasants, and he kept through life a touch of Gascon speech, and, the Frenchmen say, something of the Gascon in his style. His early education was by churchmen, but at twenty he showed the tendency of his mind by composing an essay to prove that the pagan did not deserve to be eternally damned. The essay has not been preserved, but perhaps an echo of his reflections is to be found in the thirty-fifth of the Lettres Persanes, in which Usbek, who, not without dispute, has been taken for the author, asks the "sublime dervish” Gemchid whether he thinks that the Christians are to be damned forever for not having embraced the true religion of which they never have heard.

He studied law. “When I left college,” he said, “they put law books into my hands. I tried to find their inner meaning" (J'en cherchais l'esprit). The Esprit des Lois was the outcome, but not the immediate outcome, of his studies.

of his studies. The immediate result was that, at twenty-five, on February 24, 1714, he was admitted to the Parlement de Bordeaux as conseiller. On July 13, 1716, he succeeded to the office (président à mortier) and fortune of an uncle, on condition of assuming the name of Montesquieu. Meantime he had married, and he had a son this same year, and later two daughters. As a magistrate he seems to have been not without weight. In 1722 he was intrusted with the shaping of a remonstrance to the king against a tax on wines, which for the time was successful. As a husband he was not wanting in decorum. But neither magistracy nor marriage seems to have filled his life.

He made a reasonable amount of love in his day, I infer not wholly before 1715. Whether or not he would have said that the society of women makes us "subtle and insincere," he did say that it spoils our morals and forms our taste. I suspect also that it added a poignancy to his phrase when he came to write, as it certainly gave him a freedom and alertness of interest in dealing with matters of sex. He took his passions easily. As soon as he ceased to believe that a woman loved him, he broke with her at once, he says, and elsewhere he tells us in more general terms that he never had a sorrow which an hour's reading would not dispel. At times his detachment seems to have been too visible, as one lady reproached him with writing his book in society. Perhaps it was timidity, which he says was a plague of his life. So much for his relations, domestic and otherwise, with women. As to the magistracy, he resigned his place in 1726. He found procedure hard to master, and it disgusted him to see men upon whose talents he justly looked down excelling in a matter that was too much for him.

About the same time that he succeeded his uncle he joined a society in Bordeaux, in which for a while he devoted himself to science. He made some experiments, wrote some scientific memoirs, planned a physical history of the earth, and sent out circulars of inquiry in 1719, but happily it all came to nothing, and this failure, combined with the shortness of his outward and the reach of his inward sight, helped to fix his attention upon his kind. He had the "disease of book-making,” and as early as 1721 he published his Lettres Persanes. The putting of the criticism of his own times into the mouth of an intelligent foreigner, and all the Oriental coloring, seem a trifle faded nowadays. But these are merely the frame or excuse for a series of essays somewhat like those in the nearly contemporary Spectator - on social subjects and subjects of social interest, running all the way from God to the Fashions.

In almost every letter there are things which have been quoted so often that one is afraid to repeat them. In one he makes a few reflections upon suicide that are hard to answer, and which had a prac

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tical aim, in view of the monstrous condition of the law. In another he is equally outspoken with regard to divorce, and says, not without some truth, that wishing to tighten the knot the law has untied it, and instead of uniting hearts, as it proposed, has separated them forever. Before Adam Smith he remarks the activity of dissenting sects, and he points out with unorthodox candor their service in reforming the abuses of the established faith.

In the person of Usbek he says: “Everything interests me, everything excites my wonder. I am like a child whose immature organs are keenly struck by the most insignificant objects.” Montesquieu proves it in these letters. Alongside of such grave discussions as the foregoing he has portraits, or rather types, that still live. The parvenu tax farmer, the father confessor, the old soldier who can not hope for preferment “because we" (very sensibly) "believe that a man who has not the qualities of a general at thirty never will have them,” the homme à bonnes fortunes who has hair, little wit, and so much impertinence, the poet (Montesquieu despised the poets, at least those whom he saw) the poet, with grimaces and language different from the others, who would stand a beating better than the least criticism, the grand seigneur who personates himself. “He took a pinch of snuff so haughtily, he wiped his nose so pitilessly, he spit with so much phlegm, he fondled his dogs in a way so insulting to men, that I could not weary of wondering.” The décisionnaire: "In a quarter of an hour he decided three questions of




morals, four problems of history, and five points of physics. They dropped the sciences and talked of the news of the day. . I thought that I would catch him, and spoke of Persia. But I hardly had said four words when he contradicted me twice.. .. Ah! bon Dieu! said I to myself, what sort of man is this? Soon he will know the streets of Ispahan better than I.”

The letter on fashion ought to be quoted entire. When he says in the next one that what is foreign always seems ridiculous to the French, of course he is only noticing an instance of the universal law, but he makes us remember that Little Pedlington is everywhere, and that this day there is no more marked Little Pedlingtonian than the Parisian boulevardier man of letters. It is true that Montesquieu limits his remarks to trifles. They readily will admit that other people are wiser, he says, if you grant them

, that they are better dressed. His talk about the Spaniards is equally good. The Spaniards whom they do not burn, he says, seem so attached to the Inquisition that it would be ill-natured to deprive them of it. But at the end he gives them their revenge. He imagines a Spaniard in Paris and makes him say that they have a house there in which they shut up a few madmen in order to persuade the world that the rest are not mad. After things of this sort, two pages further on we read that the most perfect government is that which attains its ends with the least cost, so that the one which leads men in the way most according to their incli

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