Fiction > Montesquieu > Persian Letters
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Montesquieu (1689–1755).  Persian Letters.  1901.
 
Letter XXI
Usbek to the chief white Eunuch
 
WHEN you open this letter you ought to tremble; or rather you should have trembled when you permitted the treachery of Nadir. You who, even in the dullness and frigidity of old age, may not without guilt raise your eyes toward the dread objects of my love; you, to whom it is forever forbidden to set a sacrilegious foot across the threshold of that awful place which conceals them from every eye: it is you who permit in those, for whose conduct you are responsible, liberties which you would not yourself dare to take; and do you not quake at the anticipation of the thunderbolt about to fall upon them and you?  1
  And what are you but vile instruments whom I may destroy at my pleasure; whose existence depends upon obedience; who have been sent into the world to live under my laws, or to die when I require it; who will cease to breathe as soon as my happiness, my love, my jealousy, has no more need of your ignoble service; who, in fine, can have no other lot than submission, whose soul is my will, whose only hope begins and ends in pleasing me?  2
  I am aware that some of my wives are very fretful under the strict laws of duty; that the constant presence of a black eunuch annoys them; that they are weary of those hideous objects, which are appointed to keep them spotless for their husband; I know it well. As for you, who have abetted this disorder, you shall be punished in a manner to strike terror into all those who abuse my confidence.  3
  I swear by all the prophets in heaven, 1 and by Hali, the greatest of them, that if you swerve from your duty, I will hold your life of no more account that that of the insects which I tread upon.

  SMYRNA, the 12th of the moon of Zilcade, 1711.
  4
 
Note 1. According to the Persians there are a hundred thousand prophets (See Letter XLI.) [back]
 
 
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