Fiction > Montesquieu > Persian Letters
Montesquieu (1689–1755).  Persian Letters.  1901.
Letter CXI
Rica to ——
THE RÔLE of a fine lady is much more serious than one would imagine. Nothing could be more important than what takes place in the morning at her toilet among her servants: a general of an army devotes no more attention to the disposition of his right or of his reserve corps, than she gives to placing a patch which may fail, but from which she hopes or foresees success.  1
  What mental worry, what care, to be continually reconciling the interests of two rivals; to appear neutral to both, while she is giving herself to them; and to act the part of peacemaker in all the strife she makes between them!  2
  How she is occupied with the success and the renewal of pleasure parties, and in the prevention of all accidents that might interrupt them!  3
  And with it all, the greatest trouble is taken, not to amuse oneself, but to appear to be amused. Bore them as much as you like, they will forgive you, so long as it is understood that they have been very merry.  4
  Some days ago I was at a supper given by some ladies in the country. All the way they kept saying, “We must at least enjoy ourselves immensely.”  5
  We happened to be very ill paired, and were consequently very dull. “I must confess,” said one of these ladies, “that we are very merry; there is not in Paris to-day a party so gay as ours.” As the wearisomeness of it all began to overpower me, a lady rallied me, and said, “Well, are we not getting on charmingly?” “Yes,” I replied, yawning; “I believe I shall split my sides laughing.” Melancholy, however, invaded all our thoughts; and as for me, I felt myself fall from yawn to yawn into a lethargic sleep, which put an end to all my mirth.

  PARIS, the 11th of the moon of Maharram, 1718.

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