Montesquieu

Usbek to Ibben in Smyrna


Europe is much given to gam­bling. Being a gam­bler is a pro­fes­sion ; that title alone sub­sti­tu­tes for birth, wealth, and pro­bity ; it pla­ces every man who bears it in the rank of the upright without exa­mi­na­tion, even though there is no one who does not know that by so jud­ging he has very often been mis­ta­ken. But all are agreed to be incor­ri­gi­ble.

The women espe­cially are very fond of it. It is true that they scar­cely prac­tice it in their youth except to favor a dea­rer pas­sion ; but as they age their pas­sion for gam­bling seems to grow youn­ger, and this pas­sion fills the void of the others. They want to ruin their hus­bands, and to achieve that they have means for all ages, from the ten­de­rest youth to the most decre­pit old age : clo­thes and car­ria­ges begin the disor­der, coque­try aug­ments it, and gam­bling com­ple­tes it.

I have often seen nine or ten women, or rather nine or ten cen­tu­ries, sea­ted around a table ; I have seen them in their expec­ta­tions, in their fears, in their joys, and above all in their furies. You would have said that they would never have the time to calm down, and that life would leave them before their des­pair ; you would have been in doubt whe­ther those they were paying were their cre­di­tors or their heirs.

It seems our holy Prophet had prin­ci­pally in mind to keep us from any­thing that can trou­ble our rea­son : he for­bade us the use of wine, which keeps it sub­mer­ged ; through a pre­cept he expressly for­bade us games of chance ; and when he was una­ble to remove the cause of pas­sions, he buf­fe­red them. Love for us vehi­cles nei­ther disor­der nor fury ; it is a lan­guo­rous pas­sion which lea­ves our souls calm ; the plu­ra­lity of wives saves us from their domi­na­tion and tem­pers the vio­lence of our desi­res.

Paris this 18th day of the moon of Zilhagé 1714