Page:Frederic Shoberl - Persia.djvu/140

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"As to the perpetual seclusion to which the Asiatic women are condemned, this Persian denies its severity and extols its advantages. These females, he says, have not the least desire to go abroad; what with us is a pleasure would be to them a derogation from their honour: they would think themselves contaminated by mingling with the vulgar, and by the contact of rude and brutal passengers in the streets. Besides, as well from habit as inclination, they are fond of repose, which they prefer to the activity of a European life: and it is easy to appreciate the advantages of seclusion, from the time which it affords for useful employments. It is wrong to suppose that they are debarred from any liberty and from the society of men. They may enjoy the company of the relatives of their father and mother, end that of their aged domestics; they may go in palanquins to the houses of their relations, end to visit women of their own rank, without giving their husbands previous notice of their intentions; and they may walk in the gardens, after they have been cleared of persons of the other sex.

The privilege given to men of marrying several wives, seems, says Abu Taleb, to arise out of the nature and physical constitution of women, which require temporary separations. The laws of Asia, in permitting polygamy, do justice to the one sex without wronging the other. The honour of the legitimate wife sustains no injury from it; for a female who surrenders her person to a married man is never of superior condition, neither is she admitted into the society of ladies, but treated in the same manner as a kept mistress is in Europe.

The notion that all Asiatics have four lawful wives, is very erroneous; for in general, they have but one.

The husband rarely avails himself of the right of divorce: on the contrary, divorces are almost always granted against his will, and at the solicitation of the wife; for he prefers the infliction of some punishment to separation from her.

The inexperience of women, and the levity of their character, furnished occasion for that article of the law which requires the testimony of four of them, in cases where the declaration of two men would be deemed sufficient.

Attachment to a husband, and respect for his memory, naturally suggest the custom practised by the Asiatic women, of abstaining after his death from diversions, sumptuous apparel, and jewels. How can they bestow attention on dress and on the pleasures of the world, when their souls must be overwhelmed with grief? Feeling and decorum alike prescribe this line of conduct.

In Europe, the liberty allowed to females of choosing a husband is merely ideal; for after all, it is the will of the father only