Fiction > Montesquieu > Persian Letters
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Montesquieu (1689–1755).  Persian Letters.  1901.
 
Letter VI
Usbek to his friend Nessir, at Ispahan
 
AT the distance of a day’s journey from Erivan we left Persian ground, and entered Turkish territory. Twelve days after, we reached Erzeroum, where we stayed three or four months.  1
  I own, Nessir, I felt sorry, though I did not show it, when I lost sight of Persia and found myself among the treacherous Osmanli. It seems to me that I become more and more of a pagan the further I advance into this heathenish country. 1  2
  My fatherland, my family, and my friends came vividly before me; my affections revived; and, to crown all, an indefinable uneasiness laid hold of me, warning me that I had ventured on too great an undertaking for my peace of mind.  3
  But that which afflicts me most is the memory of my wives. I have only to think of them to be consumed with grief.  4
  Do not imagine that I love them: insensibility in that matter, Nessir, has left me without desires. Living with so many wives, I have forestalled love—it has indeed been its own destruction; but from this very callousness there springs a secret jealousy which devours me. I behold a band of women left almost entirely to themselves; except some low-minded wretches, no one is answerable for their conduct. I would hardly feel safe, if my slaves were faithful: how would it be if they were not so? What doleful tidings may I not receive in those far-off lands which I am about to visit! The mischief of this is, that my friends are unable to help me; they are forbidden to inquire into the sources of my misery; and what could they do after all? I would prefer a thousand times that such faults should remain unknown because uncorrected, than that they should become notorious through some condign punishment! I unbosom myself to you, my dear Nessir: it is the only consolation left me in my misery.

  ERZEROUM, the 10th of the second moon of Rebiab, 1711.
  5
 
Note 1. The Persians generally belong to the sect of Shiites, who consider Abu Bekr, Omar, and Othman, the first three successors of Mohammed, as usurpers, and regard Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of the prophet, as the first true Iman, and equal to Mohammed. The Shiites also reject as unworthy of credit the Sonna, a collection of traditions which is the canon of the faith of the Sunites, the sect to which the Turks belong. [back]
 
 
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