Fiction > Montesquieu > Persian Letters
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Montesquieu (1689–1755).  Persian Letters.  1901.
 
Letter II
Usbek to the chief black Eunuch, at his Seraglio in Ispahan
 
YOU are the faithful keeper of the loveliest women in Persia; I have intrusted you with what in this world is most dear to me; you bear the keys of those fatal doors which are opened only for me. While you watch over this precious storehouse of my affections, my heart, at rest, enjoys an absolute freedom from care. You guard it in the silence of the night as well as in the bustle of the day. Your unrelaxing care sustains virtue when it wavers. Should the women whom you guard incline to swerve from their duty, you would destroy their hopes in the bud. You are the scourge of vice, and the very monument of fidelity.  1
  You command them and they obey. You fulfill implicitly all their desires, and exact from them a like obedience to the laws of the seraglio; you take a pride in rendering them the meanest services; you submit to their lawful commands with reverence and in dread; you serve them like the slave of their slaves. But, resuming your power, you command imperiously, as my representative, whenever you apprehend any slackening of the laws of chastity and modesty.  2
  Never forget that I raised you from the lowest position among my slaves, to set you in your present place as the trusted guardian of the delights of my heart. Maintain the most humble bearing in the presence of those who partake my love; but, at the same time, make them deeply conscious of their own powerlessness. Provide for them all innocent pleasures; beguile them of their anxiety; entertain them with music, dancing, and delicious drinks; persuade them to meet together frequently. If they wish to go into the country, you may escort them thither; but lay hands on every man who dares to enter their presence. Exhort them to that cleanliness which is the symbol of the soul’s purity; speak sometimes of me. I long to see them again in that delightful place which they adorn. Farewell.

  TAURIS, the 18th of the moon of Saphar, 1711.
  3
 
 
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