Montesquieu

Usbek to his friend Rustan in Isfahan


I recei­ved your let­ter at Erzerum1, where I am now. I had sus­pec­ted my depar­ture would get about ; I did not worry about it. What would you have me fol­low, the pru­dence of my ene­mies, or my own ?

I came to court in my ear­liest youth. My heart was not cor­rup­ted there ; I can say that ; I even concei­ved a great pro­ject : I dared to be vir­tuous. As soon as I was expo­sed to vice, I fled it, but then I approa­ched it to unmask it. I car­ried truth to the very foot of the throne : there I spoke a lan­guage pre­viously unk­nown ; I confoun­ded flat­tery, to the simul­ta­neous sur­prise of both the wor­shi­pers and the idol.

But when I saw that my sin­ce­rity had made me ene­mies ; that I had pro­vo­ked the jea­lousy of the minis­ters without having the prince’s favor ; that in a cor­rupt court I could was main­tai­ning myself only with weak vir­tue, I deter­mi­ned to leave it. I fei­gned a great attach­ment for the scien­ces, and by dint of fei­gning, I actually acqui­red it. I no lon­ger took part in any cau­ses, and with­drew to a coun­try house. But even this deci­sion had its draw­backs ; I remai­ned expo­sed to the malice of my ene­mies, and had almost sur­ren­de­red the means of pro­tec­ting myself from them. A few quiet war­nings made me take my posi­tion seriously. I deci­ded to leave my native land, and my with­dra­wal from the court itself pro­vi­ded me with a plau­si­ble pre­text. I went to the king ; I infor­med him of my desire to study the scien­ces of the Occident ; I gave him to unders­tand that he might derive some bene­fit from my tra­vels. I found grace in his eyes : I depar­ted, thus depri­ving my ene­mies of a vic­tim.

This, Rustan, is the true rea­son for my jour­ney. Let Isfahan talk ; defend me only before those who love me ; leave their mali­cious inter­pre­ta­tions to my ene­mies : I am only too for­tu­nate that that is all the harm they can do me.

Now they are tal­king about me ; maybe I will be only too for­got­ten, and my friends… No, Rustan, I do not wish to enter­tain such a sad thought : I shall always be dear to them ; I depend on their fai­th­ful­ness, as on yours.

Erzerum this 20th day of the moon of Gemmadi II, 1711

Thus outside of Persia.