Fiction > Montesquieu > Persian Letters
Montesquieu (1689–1755).  Persian Letters.  1901.
Letter CLV
Usbek to Nessir, at Ispahan
HAPPY is he, who, estimating at its full value a life of ease and tranquillity, makes his own family the centre of his thought, and knows no other land save that in which he was born!  1
  I live in a barbarous country, surrounded by everything that offends me, and absent from all in which I am interested. A sombre melancholy holds me; I am dreadfully depressed: I feel as if I were about to be annihilated; and I only recover myself when some dismal jealousy awakes within me, and brings in its train fear, suspicion, hatred, and regret.  2
  You understand me, Nessir; my heart is as open to you as your own. You would pity me, if you knew my deplorable condition. Sometimes I have to wait six whole months for news of the seraglio; I count every moment as it passes, prolonging them by my impatience; and when the expected moment is about to arrive, a sudden revolution takes place in my heart; my hand trembles to open a letter that may be fatal; the anxiety which caused my despair seems to me the happiest frame of mind in which I could be, and I dread to be forced from it by some stroke more cruel than a thousand deaths.  3
  But, whatever reason I may have had to leave my country, and although I owe my life to my flight, I can no longer, Nessir, endure this dreadful exile. Should I not die all the same a prey to grief? I have pressed Rica a thousand times to leave this foreign land, but he always thwarts my purpose, and keeps me here under a thousand pretexts: he seems to have forgotten his country, or rather he seems to have forgotten me, he is so indifferent to my grief.  4
  How wretched I am! I wish to see my country again, perhaps only to become more wretched. Ah! what shall I do there? I shall but hand my head to my enemies. That is not all: I shall enter the seraglio, where I must demand an account of the disastrous time of my absence; and should I find any criminals, what am I to do? And if the idea of it alone overcomes me at such a distance, how will it be when my presence brings it home to me? How shall it be, if I must see, if I must hear what I dare not imagine without a shudder? How shall it be, in short, if I myself must order the infliction of punishments, which shall be everlasting witnesses to my own vexation and despair?  5
  I shall shut myself up within walls more terrible to me than to the women which they guard; I shall take with me all my suspicions; the eagerness of my wives will not remove them in the least; in my bed, in their arms, I shall only possess my anxiety: at a time so unsuitable for reflection, my jealousy will make occasions for it. Worthless scum of human kind, vile slaves whose hearts are forever closed to all the feelings of love, you would no longer grumble at your condition, if you knew the misery of mine.

  PARIS, the 4th of the moon of Chahban, 1719.

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