Montesquieu

Roxane to Usbek1 in Paris


Indeed I have decei­ved you : I have sedu­ced your eunuchs, I have mocked your jea­lousy ; and I have mana­ged to make of your hor­ri­ble sera­glio a place of delights and plea­su­res.

I am about to die ; the poi­son will flow into my veins : for what would I do here, since the only man who kept me alive is no more ? I die ; but my shade takes flight in good com­pany : I have just sent on ahead those sacri­le­gious guards who have spilled the finest blood on earth.

How could you have thought me cre­du­lous enough to ima­gine that I was on earth only to wor­ship your whims ? That while you allow your­self any­thing, you had the right to frus­trate all my desi­res ? No, I may have been able to live in ser­vi­tude, but I have always been free ; I have refor­med your laws on those of nature, and my spi­rit has always main­tai­ned its inde­pen­dence.2

You ought still to thank me for the sacri­fice I have made to you ; for having stoo­ped to fei­gning fide­lity to you ; for hiding in my heart like a coward what I ought to have shown openly to the whole world ; finally for having pro­fa­ned vir­tue, but allo­wing my sub­mis­sion to your fan­ta­sies to be cal­led by that name.

You were sur­pri­sed not to find trans­ports of love in me : if you had really known me, you would have found all the vio­lence of loa­thing.

But you have long had the advan­tage of belie­ving that a heart like mine was sub­mis­sive to you ; we were both content : you thought I was decei­ved, and I was decei­ving you.

This lan­guage no doubt seems new to you ; could it be pos­si­ble that after overw­hel­ming you with grief, I should fur­ther force you to admire my cou­rage ? But it is fini­shed : the poi­son is consu­ming me, my strength is fai­ling ; the pen is fal­ling from my hands ; I feel weak­ness over­co­ming even my hatred ; I die.

The Isfahan sera­glio this 8th day of the moon of Rebiab I, 1720

While awaiting the answer to his letter 147 of 4 October 1719, Usbek has written not a single letter, and his last one in terms of the novel’s chronology, letter 138, is dated 11 November 1720 : by then he has surely received letter 148, sent on 2 March 1720 (S. L. 9 and 10 bear the same date), and plausibly even this one, the interval between being six months and three days.

Six years earlier Zelis had written to him : “Even in the prison where you keep me, I am freer than you” (letter 60).