Persian Letters/Letter 31

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Persian Letters by Montesquieu, translated by John Davidson
Letter 31

Letter 31[edit]

Rhedi to Usbek, at Paris

I am at present, my dear Usbek, at Venice. Although one had seen all the cities of the world, there would still be a surprise in store for him here. The sight of a town whose towers and mosques rise out of the water, and of an innumerable throng of people where one would expect to find only fish, will always excite astonishment.

But this heathenish city lacks the most precious treasure the world holds, pure water, to wit; it is impossible to accomplish a single lawful ablution. The place is held in abomination by our holy Prophet; he never beholds it from on high but with indignation. With that exception, my dear Usbek, I would be delighted to live in a town where my mind is developed every day. I am gaining an understanding of the secrets of commerce, of the affairs of princes, and of their form of government. Nor do I neglect European superstitions; I apply myself to medicine, physics, and astronomy; I study the arts: in short, I am couching my eyes of the film which covered them in my native land.

Venice, the 16th of the moon of Chalval, 1712.