Fiction > Montesquieu > Persian Letters
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Montesquieu (1689–1755).  Persian Letters.  1901.
 
Letter CLI
Solim to Usbek, at Paris
 
WERE I to be silent any longer, I should be as guilty as the worst of the criminals in your seraglio.  1
  I was the confidant of the chief eunuch, the most faithful of your slaves. When he felt himself near his end, he sent for me, and spoke to me as follows: “I am dying; but the only grief I have in leaving life, is that with my dying eyes I have seen the guilt of my master’s wives. May Heaven preserve him from all the misery which I foresee! After my death, may my threatening shade appear to admonish these faithless ones of their duty, and to keep them still in awe! Here are the keys of those dreaded places; take them to the eldest of the black eunuchs. But if, after my death, he should prove a careless guardian, remember to let your master know.” He expired in my arms with these words on his lips.  2
  I know that he wrote you some time before his death about the conduct of your wives: there is in the seraglio a letter which would have carried terror to every bosom had it been opened. That which you wrote since has been intercepted three leagues from here. I know not how it is; but everything turns out badly. Meantime your wives do not maintain the least reserve: since the death of the chief eunuch, their license knows no limit; Roxana alone abides by her duty, and preserves her modesty. Their morals grow more corrupt every day. The faces of your wives no longer exhibit that stern and noble virtue which reigned there formerly; the unusual gayety which prevails is in my opinion an infallible sign of some uncustomary pleasure. In the smallest trifles, I notice that liberties are taken before unknown. Even among your slaves there prevails a certain disinclination to do their duty, and to obey rules, which surprises me; they are no longer inspired by that ardent zeal for your service, which seemed to animate the whole seraglio.  3
  For the last eight days your wives have been in the country, at one of your most secluded seats. They say that the slave who has charge of it has been bribed; and that, on the day before your wives arrived, he concealed two men in a secret recess in the wall of the principal room, from which they came out at night, when we had retired. The old eunuch, who is at present our chief, is an imbecile, who can be made to believe anything.  4
  I am possessed with a burning desire for vengeance on these traitors: and if Heaven, in your interest, ordains that you should think me capable of ruling, I promise you that, though your wives may not be virtuous, they shall at least be faithful.

  THE SERAGLIO AT ISPAHAN, the 6th of the first moon of Rebiab, 1719.
  5
 
 
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