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S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.


  • [Charles de Secondat, Baron de la Brède et de Montesquieu; a French author; born near Bordeaux, Jan. 18, 1689; president of the Parliament of Bordeaux, 1716; admitted to the Academy, 1728; published “The Spirit of Laws,” 1748; died in Paris, February, 1755.]
  • He has too much wit to understand me (Il a trop d’esprit pour m’entendre).

  • A paradox à la française, said of Voltaire and “The Spirit of Laws” (L’Esprit des Lois), where the pun is upon the word esprit.
  • When a tedious speaker cried to Montesquieu during a debate, “I will bet my head that you are wrong,”—“I accept it,” was the answer: “the smallest trifle has its value among friends.”
  • Being asked on his death-bed if he were conscious of the greatness of God; “Yes, and of the littleness of man,” he replied (Oui, et combien les hommes sont petits).—MARTIN: History of France, XV. Bk. 95. Queen Sophia Charlotte of Prussia, the grandmother of Frederick the Great, once wrote: “Leibnitz talked to me of the infinitely little, mon Dieu! as if I did not know enough of that!”—CARLYLE: Frederick the Great, I. 4. Leibnitz said of his philosophical discussions with her, that “she always wanted to know the why of the why;” and on her deathbed she said she was going to satisfy herself on many points on which Leibnitz could tell her nothing. Luther would have called her eagerness as a pupil dangerous: “That same why has done a great deal of harm. It was the cause of Adam’s destruction.”