Montesquieu

Rica to Usbek in ***


I expect you here tomor­row ; meanw­hile I am sen­ding your let­ters from Isfahan. Mine report that the ambas­sa­dor of the Great Mogul has been orde­red to leave the king­dom. They add that the king’s uncle the prince, who is char­ged with his edu­ca­tion, has been arres­ted,1 that he has been taken to a cha­teau where he is very clo­sely guar­ded, and that he has been strip­ped of all his honors.2 I am sad­de­ned by the fate of this prince, and I pity him.

I confess, Usbek, that I have never seen anyone shed tears without being moved by it. I feel huma­nity for the unfor­tu­nate as if only they were men, and even the gran­dees, for whom my heart is har­de­ned while they are ele­va­ted ; I love them the minute they fall.

Indeed, what use of super­fluous empa­thy have they in pros­pe­rity ? It is too simi­lar to equa­lity. They much pre­fer res­pect, which asks for no return ; but the minute they are fal­len from their gran­deur, only our pity can remind them of it.

I find some­thing very naive, and even very grand, in the words of a prince who, about to fall into the hands of his ene­mies, seeing his cour­tiers about him wee­ping : I can feel by your tears, he told them, that I am still your king.3

Paris this 3rd day of the moon of Chalval 1718

See letter 89.

An allusion to the plot of the prince de Cellamare, ambassador of king Philip V of Spain to the French court during the minority of Louis XV. Alberoni, chief minister of Spain, attempted with his intermediary to have the regency of France conferred on Philip V. Cellamare then conspired with the Duke and Duchess du Maine to have the regent deposed ; the duchess indeed blamed him for the abolition of the testamentary dispositions of Louis XIV which gave significant power withing the Regency Council to the legitimated “bastards” of the late king, the Duke du Maine and the Count of Toulouse. The duke and duchess were arrested on 29 December 1718 after discovery of the conspiracy ; the duke was sent to the chateau de Dullens, the duchess to the chateau de Dijon, and their servants to the Bastille. Arrested on 9 December, Prince Cellamare was escorted to the border.

According to Quintus Curcius, V, 8 : “Fides vestra et constantia ut regem me esse credam feci.”