Montesquieu
 

Supplementary Letter I

The prin­ci­pal eunuch to Jaron,1 a black eunuch2 in Erzerum3


I pray hea­ven to bring you back to these halls, and pro­tect you from all dan­gers.

Although I have never known that enga­ge­ment peo­ple call friend­ship, and have clo­sed myself in on myself, you have never­the­less made me feel that I still had a heart ; and while I was of bronze for all those sla­ves who were living under my rule, it plea­sed me to watch your child­hood deve­lop.

The time came when my mas­ter cast his eyes on you. Nature had not yet spo­ken, far from it, when the blade sepa­ra­ted you from nature. I will not say whe­ther I pitied you, or I felt a cer­tain plea­sure at seeing you rai­sed as far as me. I cal­med your tears and your cries. It was like wat­ching you reborn, and escape from a ser­vi­tude where you would always have had to obey, to enter into a ser­vi­tude where you were to com­mand. I over­saw your edu­ca­tion. Sternness, always inse­pa­ra­ble from ins­truc­tion, long pre­ven­ted you from kno­wing that you were dear to me. Yet you were ; and I will tell you that I loved you as a father loves his son, if these words father and son could apply to our fate.

You are going to sur­vey the lands inha­bi­ted by Christians, who have never belie­ved. It is impos­si­ble for you not to contact much unclean­li­ness there. How could the Prophet look at you in the midst of so many mil­lions of his ene­mies ? I would like for my mas­ter, on his return, to make the pil­gri­mage to Mecca ; you will all purify your­sel­ves in the land of the angels.4

The Isfahan sera­glio this 10th day of the moon of Gemmadi 1711

Letter 15

The name is taken from a city in Persia. Jaron, who accompanies Usbek as far as Smyrna, does not appear in edition A ; only as addressee of this first Supplementary Letter and as author of the second.

The black eunuchs who guard the women can on occasion go outside to accompany their master, as here, or his wives, as in letter 45.

This letter was first published in the edition of 1758, where it was numbered 15.

For those who have the means, the pilgrimage to Mecca is one of the principal duties of Islam ; see Montesquieu’s note to letter 37, which identifies the Hagi as “a man who has made the pilgrimage to Mecca”.