Fiction > Montesquieu > Persian Letters
Montesquieu (1689–1755).  Persian Letters.  1901.
Letter XCVII
The Chief Eunuch to Usbek, at Paris
A GREAT number of yellow women from the kingdom of Visapour have arrived here. I have bought one for your brother, the governor of Mazenderan, who sent me a month ago his sublime commands and a hundred tomans.  1
  I am skilled in women, especially as they can no longer delude me, and as my heart does not interfere with my understanding.  2
  I have never seen beauty so regular, so perfect: her dazzling eyes lighten up her countenance, and heighten the lustre of a complexion which might eclipse all the charms of Circassia.  3
  The chief eunuch of a merchant of Ispahan bade for her against me: but she withdrew herself disdainfully from his gaze, and seemed to invite mine; as if to tell me that a wretched merchant was unworthy of her, and that she was destined for a more illustrious husband.  4
  I confess to you, that I feel within me a sacred joy, when I think of the charms of this lovely person. I fancy I see her entering the seraglio of your brother: I delight myself with a foresight of the astonishment of all his wives; the haughty grief of some; the silent but heavier sorrow of others; the malicious pleasure of those who have nothing to hope for, and the enraged ambition of those whose hope is not yet dead.  5
  I travel from one end of the kingdom to the other, to change the entire face of a seraglio. What passions shall I excite! What terrors and punishments am I preparing!  6
  Nevertheless, in spite of this internal disturbance, outward tranquillity will be undisturbed: great revolutions will be hidden in the depths of the heart; grief will be repressed and joy will be restrained; obedience will be no less prompt, nor discipline less inflexible: amiability, which is always exacted, will spring from the depths of despair itself.  7
  We have noticed that the more women we have under our care, the less trouble they give us. A greater necessity to be agreeable, less opportunity for conspiring, more examples of submission; all this increases their fetters. They are constantly watchful of the doings of their neighbors: they seem to unite themselves with us to render themselves more dependent: they take part in our labor, and open our eyes when they are closed. What do I say? They continually incite their master against their rivals, unaware how close at hand their own punishment may be.  8
  But all this, magnificent lord, all this is nothing without the master’s presence. What can we do with this vain show of an authority which can never be entirely imparted? We represent, and that but feebly, only the half of yourself: we can only show them a hateful severity; whereas you can temper fear with hope, and are more absolute when you caress than when you threaten.  9
  Return then, magnificent lord, return to this abode, and impress throughout it your authority. Come and alleviate despairing passions: come and remove every pretext to go astray: come to pacify complaining love, and to make duty itself pleasant: come, lastly, to relieve your faithful eunuchs of a burden which grows heavier every day.

  THE SERAGLIO AT ISPAHAN, the 8th of themoon of Zilhage, 1716.

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