Montesquieu

Rica to ***


The role of a pretty woman is much more weighty than peo­ple think. There is nothing more serious than what takes place in the mor­ning at her toi­let in the midst of her ser­vants ; a gene­ral of the army does not use more care in pla­cing his right wing or his reserve corps than she does to wea­ring a mou­che that may fail, but that she hopes or fore­sees will suc­ceed.1

How taxing for the mind ! What atten­tion to reconci­ling cons­tantly the inte­rests of two rivals in order to appear neu­tral to both while she yields to them both, and make her­self the media­tor on all the sub­jects of com­plaint she gives them !

What an occu­pa­tion to keep one diver­sion coming on the heels of ano­ther, to make them cons­tantly fol­low and begin again, and fores­tall any acci­dents that might break them off !

With all that, the grea­test trou­ble is not to be enter­tai­ned, but to appear to be : bore them as much as you want, they will for­give you, pro­vi­ded one can believe they have had a mar­ve­lous time.

A few days ago I was at a sup­per that some ladies held in the coun­try. Along the way they were cons­tantly saying : At least we must have some good laughs and a very good time.

We hap­pe­ned to be ill mat­ched, and conse­quently rather serious. You must admit, said one of these women, that we are having a great time ; there is no party today in Paris as gay as ours. As I was suc­cum­bing to bore­dom, one woman shook me, and said : Well, aren’t we in good humor now ? Yes, I replied with a yawn, I think I shall die of laugh­ter. Meanwhile sad­ness was win­ning out over the obser­va­tions ; and for my part, I felt myself being led from one yawn to the next into a lethar­gic sleep that ended all my plea­su­res.

Paris this 11th day of the moon of Maharram 1718

Supplementary Letter V of the 1758 edition would be placed here

On the use of the mouche see letter 96.