Fiction > Montesquieu > Persian Letters
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Montesquieu (1689–1755).  Persian Letters.  1901.
 
Letter VIII
Usbek to his friend Rustan, at Ispahan
 
I GOT your letter at Erzeroum, where I am now. I was quite certain that my departure would cause some stir, but that gives me no trouble: which would you have me obey—the petty maxims that guide my enemies, or the dictates of my own free soul?  1
  From my earliest youth I have been a courtier; and yet I make bold to say that my heart has remained uncorrupted: indeed, I conceived the grand idea of daring to be virtuous even at court. From the moment I recognized vice, I withdrew from it; afterward, when I approached it, it was only to unmask it. I carried my veracity even to the foot of the throne, and spoke a language never heard there before; I disconcerted flattery, amazing at the same time the idol and its worshippers.  2
  But when I saw that my sincerity had made me enemies, and had brought upon me the jealousy of the ministers, without attracting the favor of the prince, I determined to forsake a corrupt court in which my unseconded virtue could no longer maintain me. I feigned a mighty interest in science; and, by dint of pretending, soon became really attached to it. I ceased to be a man of affairs, and retired to a house in the country. But even here persecution followed me; the malice of my enemies almost deprived me of the means of protecting myself. Information received in secret led me to consider my position seriously: I resolved to leave my native land, and my withdrawal from court supplied a plausible excuse. I waited on the king; I emphasized the great desire I had to acquaint myself with the sciences of the west, and hinted that my travels might even be of service to him. I found favor in the king’s sight; I set out, and snatched from my enemies their expected victim.  3
  Here, Rustan, you have the true motive of my journey. Let them talk in Ispahan; say nothing in my defense except to my friends. Leave the evil-disposed to their misconstructions; I would be too happy if that were the only harm they could do me.  4
  They discuss me at present; perhaps I shall soon be forgotten, and my friends.… But no, I will not, Rustan, resign myself to these sad thoughts: I will always be dear to them; I rely upon their faithfulness as upon yours.

  ERZEROUM, the 20th of the second moon of Gemmadi, 1 1711.
  5
 
Note 1. The two Gemmadis, or Gemalis, are the fifth and sixth months of the Persian year. Gemal-i-ul-awal is the first of these. [back]
 
 
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