Montesquieu
 

Supplementary Letter IV

Usbek to Rustan in Isfahan1


A per­so­nage is appea­ring here in the guise of Persian ambas­sa­dor, inso­lently making fools of the two grea­test kings on earth. To the monarch of the French he brings pre­sents which ours would never offer to a king or Irimette or Georgia2 : and in his nig­gardly miser­li­ness he has stig­ma­ti­zed the majesty of two empi­res.

He made him­self look ridi­cu­lous before a peo­ple that claims to be the most refi­ned in Europe, and he has cau­sed it to be said in the Occident that the king of kings3 rei­gns only over bar­ba­rians.

He has recei­ved honors which it see­med that he him­self wished had been refu­sed to him. And, as if the French court had had Persian gran­deur more at heart than he, it has made him appear with dignity before a peo­ple who hold him in contempt.4

Do not say this in Isfahan : spare the head of a poor bloke. I do not want our minis­ters to punish him for their own impru­dence, and for the unwor­thy choice they have made.5

Paris this last day of the moon of Gemmadi II, 1715

This letter first appeared in Le Fantasque (1745).

See letter 27 and the note. Muhammad Riza Beg, kalendar (tax collector) of the province of Erivan, ambassador of the Persian king, made his solemn entry into Paris on 7 February 1715, and was received in Versailles by Louis XIV on 19 February. The disappointment produced by his presents and lack of formality was such that some thought him an imposter.

See letter 49 and note.

The magnificent reception on 19 February 1715 was painted by Coypel and described by Saint-Simon (vol. V, p. 171) and Maurice Herbette, Une ambassade persane sous Louis XIV (Paris : Perrin, 1905, p. 182). Usbek is more indulgent than Saint-Simon.

In fact, Muhammad Reza Beg embarked at Le Havre on 12 September 1715 and reached Persia, but he poisoned himself before he got to Erivan because en route he had sold most of the presents from the French king (Herbette, ibid., p. 327).