Montesquieu

Usbek to his friend Ibben in Smyrna


We have rea­ched Livorno in forty days of sai­ling. It is a new city ; it bears wit­ness to the genius of the dukes of Tuscany, who have tur­ned a swampy vil­lage into the most flou­ri­shing city in Italy.1

Wives here enjoy consi­de­ra­ble liberty : they can see men through cer­tain win­dows, which are cal­led jalou­sies ; they can go out every day with some old women who accom­pany them2 ; they have only one veil3 ; their bro­thers-in-law, their uncles, their nephews can see them, and the hus­band almost never rai­ses an objec­tion.

It is a great spec­ta­cle for a Muhammadan to see a Christian city for the first time. I am not spea­king of the things that at first strike eve­ryone, like the dif­fe­rence of the buil­dings, the clo­thing, the prin­ci­pal cus­toms ; even in the sligh­test tri­fles there is some­thing sin­gu­lar which I feel but am una­ble to des­cribe.

We shall leave tomor­row for Marseille ; our stay there will not be long. It is Rica’s inten­tion and mine to take our­sel­ves directly to Paris, which is the seat of the European empire. Travellers always seek out the big cities, which are a sort of com­mon home to all forei­gners. Adieu ; be sure that I shall always love you.

Livorno this 12th day of the moon of Saphar 1712

According to Moreri, Livorno had become, thanks to the Medici, a “new city and famous seaport […], whereas formerly it was just an unhealthy town, because of the stagnant waters of the nearby swamps” (1732, art. “Ligourne”).

Duegnas. The word duègne (or duena) was rare in French in 1721 and was strongly associated with Spain.

Persian women wear four [author’s note]. In Italy the veil was prescribed specifically to allow married women to go about decently, and was indispensable for entering a church.