Fiction > Montesquieu > Persian Letters
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Montesquieu (1689–1755).  Persian Letters.  1901.
 
Letter LXXXIX
Usbek to Rhedi, at Venice
 
LIBERTY and equality reign in Paris. Birth, worth, even military fame, however brilliant it may be, fail to distinguish a man from the crowd in which he is lost. Jealousy about rank is unknown here. They say that the chief man in Paris is he who has the best horses in his coach.  1
  A great lord is a man who sees the king, who speaks with ministers, who has ancestors, debts, and pensions. If he can, in addition to this, veil his indolence under an appearance of business, or by a feigned attachment to pleasure, he considers himself the happiest of men.  2
  In Persia, we count none great except those on whom the monarch bestows some share in the government. Here there are people who are great by their birth, but they are not esteemed. The kings act like those skillful craftsmen who in executing their works employ always the simplest tools.  3
  Favor is the great goddess of the French; and the Minister is the high-priest who offers her many victims. Those who surround her are not dressed in white; sometimes those who sacrifice, and sometimes the sacrifices offer themselves up to their idol along with the whole people.

  PARIS, the 9th of the second moon of Gemmadi, 1715.
  4
 
 
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