Fiction > Montesquieu > Persian Letters
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Montesquieu (1689–1755).  Persian Letters.  1901.
 
Letter XLIV
Usbek to Rhedi, at Venice
 
THERE are in France three privileged classes: the church, the sword, and the gown. Each has such sovereign contempt for the other two, that sometimes a man who deserves to be looked down upon because he is a fool, is despised only because he is a lawyer.  1
  All classes, including the meanest workmen, contend for the excellence of the craft they have chosen; each man exalts himself at the expense of some other of a different profession, according to the idea which he has formed of the superiority of his own.  2
  They all resemble, more or less, a certain woman of the province of Erivan, who, having received some favor from one of our monarchs, wished a thousand times, in the blessings she showered upon him, that Heaven would make him governor of Erivan.  3
  I have read in a history, how some men belonging to the crew of a French vessel which had anchored off the coast of Guinea, went ashore in order to buy some sheep. They were led before the king, who was administering justice to his subjects under a tree. He sat upon his throne, that is to say, upon a block of wood, as proudly as if it had been the seat of the Great Mogul. His guard consisted of three or four men armed with pointed staves; an umbrella served as canopy to protect him from the heat of the sun; for ornaments, he and his consort wore nothing but their own black skins and some rings. This prince, whose vanity was greater even than his poverty, asked the strangers if they talked much of him in France. He imagined that his fame must have gone forth to the ends of the earth; and, unlike that conqueror of whom it is said that he had silenced all the earth, he for his part believed that he kept the whole world chattering.  4
  When the Khan of Tartary has eaten, a herald announces that all the princes of the earth may now go to dinner if they wish; that barbarian, whose food is milk, who has no house, and who lives only by brigandage, looks upon all the kings of the world as his slaves, and insults them regularly twice a day.

  PARIS, the 28th of the moon of Rhegeb, 1713.
  5
 
 
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