Fiction > Montesquieu > Persian Letters
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Montesquieu (1689–1755).  Persian Letters.  1901.
 
Letter LVI
Usbek to Ibben, at Smyrna
 
GAMING is very common in Europe. To be a gamester is to have a position in society, although one is neither well-born, wealthy, nor a man of integrity: it entitles one, without any inquiry, to rank as a gentleman. All know that it is often a most untrustworthy credential, but people have made up their minds to be deceived.  1
  Above all, the women follow it. It is true that the attractions of a dearer passion prevent them from giving it much attention in their youth; but as they grow old, their love of gaming seems to grow young, and when all others are decayed, that passion fills up the void.  2
  Their desire is to ruin their husbands; and for that purpose they have means suitable to all ages, from the tenderest youth to the most decrepit age; dress and luxury begin the disorder, which gallantry increases, and gaming completes.  3
  I have often seen nine or ten women, or rather, nine or ten centuries, seated round a table; I have watched them hoping, fearing, rejoicing—above all, in their transports of anger: you would have said that they would never grow calm again, and that life would leave them before their despair; you would have been in doubt whether they were paying their creditors or their legatees.  4
  It seems to have been the chief aim of our holy Prophet to restrain us from everything that might disturb the reason: he has prohibited the use of wine, which steals away man’s brains; by a special law he has forbidden games of chance; and where the cause of passion could not be removed he has subdued it. Love among us brings with it no trouble, no frenzy: it is a languid passion which leaves our souls serene: plurality of wives saves us from the dominion of women, and tempers the violence of our desires.

  PARIS, the 10th of the moon of Zilhage, 1714.
  5
 
 
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