Montesquieu

Usbek to Nessir1 in Isfahan


We are now in Paris, the proud rival of the city of the sun.2

When I left Smyrna, I reques­ted my friend Ibben to convey to you a cas­ket in which there were seve­ral pre­sents for you ; you will receive this let­ter by the same conduit. Although I am five or six hun­dred lea­gues from him, I send him news of me and receive his as easily as if he were in Isfahan and I in Com. I send my let­ters to Marseille, whence there are cons­tantly ships depar­ting for Smyrna ; from there he sends those that are for Persia with the cara­vans of Armenians that set out daily for Isfahan.3

Rica is enjoying per­fect health ; the strength of his cons­ti­tu­tion, his youth, and his natu­ral gaiety make him equal to any trial.4

I, howe­ver, am not doing well. My body and spi­rit are dis­tres­sed, I spend time in reflec­tions that become sad­der by the day ; my health, which is decli­ning, turns me toward my home­land, and makes this land more foreign to me.

But, dear Nessir, I beg of you, make sure that my wives are not aware of my pre­sent state. If they love me, I want to spare their tears ; and if they do not, I do not want to embol­den them.

If my eunuchs thought I was in dan­ger, if they could expect impu­nity for cra­ven indul­gence, they would soon cease to be deaf to the flat­te­ring voice of that sex that makes rocks pay atten­tion and stirs ina­ni­mate things.

Adieu, Nessir, it plea­ses me to give you tokens of my confi­dence.

Paris this 5th day of the moon of Chahban 1712

A friend of Usbek, already the recipient of letter 6.

Isfahan [author’s note]. Chardin notes that the lion is the emblem of the Persian monarch, adding that “he is represented beside a rising sun, of which three-quarters of the disk can be seen” (IX, 70).

Despite Usbek’s optimism, the time required for the transmission of letters between Paris and Isfahan will have its importance for the development of the plot (see letters 139-146). The Armeniens were fabled merchants not only in the middle-East but throughout Europe.

These details establish a fairly meaningful differentiation between Usbek and Rica, even a distribution of roles, which will become more accentuated during their long stay in France : see especially letter 147.