Montesquieu

Zephis1 to Usbek in Erzerum2


That black mons­ter has finally deci­ded to drive me to des­pair : he insists on taking away my slave Zelide – Zelide, who ser­ves me with such affec­tion, and whose skill­ful hands place orna­ments and ele­gance eve­ryw­here ; it is not enough for him that this sepa­ra­tion be excru­cia­ting, he also wants it to be humi­lia­ting. The trai­tor wants to regard the moti­ves for my confi­dence as cri­mi­nal ; and because he gets bored behind the door where I am cons­tantly reman­ding him,3 he dares to sup­pose he has heard or seen things that I can­not even ima­gine.4 I am ter­ri­bly unhappy. Neither my soli­tude nor my vir­tue can pro­tect me from his extra­va­gant sus­pi­cions ; an abject slave pre­su­mes to attack me even in your heart, and I must defend myself. No, I res­pect myself too much to stoop to jus­ti­fi­ca­tions. I want no war­rant for my conduct than your­self, your love, and mine ; and, if I must say it, dear Usbek, than my tears.

The Fatmé sera­glio this 29th day of the moon of Maharram 1711

Second wife of Usbek mentioned, since she is treated as an equal by Zachi in letter 45.

Capital of Turkish Armenia, and thus outside the borders of Persia, which Usbek apparently wanted to leave promptly.

According to Chardin, eunuchs “control entrance and exit from the harem, which is the women’s quarters, or more exactly their prison, and accompany them everywhere, that is, to the bath and on visits. They nevertheless do not have the liberty of entering their rooms when they are there alone” (Chardin, VI, 245).

According to Chardin, the women were “closely observed, for fear, it is said, lest they spin intrigues or plots amongst themselves, or against their rivals, or fall in love with each other. Oriental women have always passed for tribades. […] They prevent them as far from possible from practicing it, since they maintain that it lessens their attractiveness, and makes them less inclined to love men.” (Chardin, VI, 232).