Front Page Titles (by Subject) OF CURIOSITY. - Complete Works, vol. 4 Familiar Letters; Miscellaneous Pieces; The Temple of Gnidus; A Defence of the Spirit of Laws
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OF CURIOSITY. - Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu, Complete Works, vol. 4 Familiar Letters; Miscellaneous Pieces; The Temple of Gnidus; A Defence of the Spirit of Laws 
The Complete Works of M. de Montesquieu (London: T. Evans, 1777), 4 vols. Vol. 4.
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The soul is made to think, that is, to perceive; now such a being must have curiosity; for as all things are in a chain, where every idea precedes one, and is followed by another, we cannot like to see one thing, without desiring to see another; and if we had no desire for this, we could have no pleasure in that. Thus, when a part of a picture is shewed us, we wish to see the part that is concealed from us, in proportion to the pleasure which that part we have seen has given us.
It is then the pleasure which one object gives us that incites us to follow another; it is on this account that the soul is always in pursuit of novelty, and is never at rest.
Thus, we shall always be certain of pleasing the mind, by making it see a great many things, or more than it had hoped to see.
By this we may explain the reason why we behold with pleasure a very regular garden, and at the same time are pleased when we view a rural uncultivated scene: it is the same cause which produces these effects.
As we love to see a great many objects, we wish to extend our view, to be in different places and to enlarge our prospects; in short, the mind stretches beyond all bounds, and wishes, if I may use the expression, to extend the sphere of its presence: hence arises the pleasure of viewing distant objects. But how is this to be done? in cities our prospect is confined by houses; and in the country, by a thousand obstacles; scarce can we see a few trees. But here art comes to our assistance, and discovers nature who seeks to be concealed; hence we are in love with art, and admire her more than nature, that is, than nature concealed from our sight: but when we find beautiful situations, when the eye, left at liberty, can range far over the meadows, the rivulets, the hills, and those dispositions of nature, which are in a manner created on purpose to captivate the eye, we are quite otherwise enchanted than when we view the gardens of Le Notre; because nature is always an original, and art only copies her. Thus in painting we are better pleased with a rural landskip, than with the most beautiful garden upon earth; because painting chuses nature only where she is most beautiful, where the eye can extend its view as far as it can reach, and where she may be seen with most pleasure.
That which commonly constitutes a great idea, is, when something is said, that makes us perceive a great many others, and discovers to us all at once what we could not have expected but after a great deal of reading.
Florus, in a few words, represents to us all Hanibal’s faults; “When he might, says he, have made use of his victory, he chose rather to enjoy it:” Cum victoria posset uti, frui maluit.
He gives us an idea of the whole Macedonian war, when he says, “To have entered into it was victory:” Introisse victoria fuit.
He gives us a view of the whole life of Scipio, when, speaking of his youth, he says, “This will be that Scipio, who grows up for the destruction of Africa:” Hic erit Scipio qui in exitium Africæ crescit. You think you see a child who increases and grows up like a giant.
In a word, he makes us see the great character of Hanibal, the state of the world, and all the grandeur of the Roman people, when he says, “Hanibal, a fugitive from Africa, sought over all the world an enemy to the Roman people.” Qui profugus ex Africa, hostem populo Romano quærebat.