Montesquieu

The law of Recessuinthus allo­wed the chil­dren of an adul­te­ress, or her hus­band’s, to accu­ser her, and to have the hou­se­hold sla­ves put to the tor­ture.1 What an unjust law, which to pre­serve morals inver­ted nature, the source of mora­lity !

We take plea­sure in seeing a young hero on our sta­ges mani­fest as much hor­ror at dis­co­ve­ring his mother-in-law’s crime as he had had for the crime itself ; in his sur­prise, accu­sed, jud­ged, condem­ned, pros­cri­bed and cove­red in infamy, he scar­cely dares make a few obser­va­tions on the abo­mi­na­ble blood from which Phædra has sprung ; he aban­dons what is dea­rest to him, and the ten­de­rest object, eve­ry­thing that speaks to his heart, eve­ry­thing that can infu­riate him, to go deli­ver him­self up to the ven­geance of the gods which he has not deser­ved.2 It is the voice of nature that cau­ses this plea­sure ; it is the swee­test of all sounds.

In the code of the Visigoths, book III, tit. 4, §13.

[Reference is to Racine’s tragedy Phèdre (1677).]