Montesquieu

Rica to Usbek in ***


I was in my room the other day when I saw an extra­or­di­na­rily dres­sed der­vish enter ; his beard des­cen­ded to his belt of rope ; he was bare­foot ; his habit was gray, crude, and poin­ted in some pla­ces ; the whole appea­red so bizarre to me that my first reac­tion was to send for a pain­ter to make a por­trait.

He at once made me a lit­tle speech in which he infor­med me that he was a man of merit, and a Capuchin besi­des.1 I have been told, mon­sieur, he added, that you soon return to the Persian court, where you hold a dis­tin­gui­shed rank ; I have come to ask your pro­tec­tion, and entreat you to obtain for us from the king a small set­tle­ment in the vici­nity of Casbin2 for two or three reli­gious. Father, I said, so you desire to go to Persia ? I, mon­sieur ? he said. I shall be sure not to ; I am a pro­vin­cial3 here, and I would not trade my lot for that of all the Capuchins in the world. Then what on earth are you asking me for ? It’s just that if we had this hos­pice, he replied, our Fathers in Italy would send two or three of their reli­gious there. You know them of course, these reli­gious, I said. No, mon­sieur, I do not know them. Well, I’ll be ! Then why do you care to send them to Persia ? It is a fine pro­ject to have two Capuchins brea­the the air of Casbin : that will be very use­ful to Europe and to Asia ; it is most neces­sary to engage monarchs in this. In other words, it is colo­nies you want ! Go : you and your ilk are not apt for being trans­plan­ted, and you will do well to conti­nue cree­ping in the pla­ces where you have spaw­ned your­sel­ves.

Paris this 15th day of the moon of Rhamazan 1713

A Franciscan order identified by gray clothing, pointed hats, bare feet, and unshaven beards.

“A town of Persia in the province of Airach […]. It is seated at the foot of the mountains, between Isfahan and the Caspian Sea. Casbin is held to be one of the greatest and most populous of all Persia” (Collier 1701).

Head of a religious order in a particular province.