Persian Letters/Letter 133
Rica to * * *
The other day I visited a great library in a convent of dervishes, to whose care it has been entrusted, and who are obliged to admit all comers at certain hours.
On entering I saw a grave-looking man, who walked up and down in the midst of a prodigious number of volumes which surrounded him. I approached him, and asked him to tell me what books those were which I saw better bound than others. “Sir,” he replied, “I live here in a strange land, where I know no one. Many people ask me similar questions; but you can easily understand how I cannot read all these books to satisfy them; my librarian will tell you all you wish, for he employs himself night and day in deciphering all you see here; he is a good-for-nothing, and is a great expense to us, because he does no work for the convent. But I hear the refectory bell. Those who, like me, are at the head of a community, ought to be foremost in all its exercises.” With that, the monk pushed me out, shut the door, and vanished from my sight as if he would have flown.
Paris, the 21st of the moon of Rhamazan, 1719.