Page:Frederic Shoberl - Persia.djvu/141

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that authorizes and sanctions their choice: in regard to this point, therefore, our customs perfectly correspond with those of the East.

Having thus combated the reasons which give us false notions of the condition of Asiatic women, Abu Taleb enumerates under eight heads the advantages conferred on them by custom and the laws—advantages not enjoyed by the women of Europe. They are in substance as follows:—

In the East, custom grants to the wife large claims on the property of the husband; this is one of the results of despotic power. As the fortune of the latter depends on the good pleasure of the sovereign, he makes it over to his wife, such property being always secure. It is frequently the case, that in his old age he is reduced to indigence, and that, however extensive his possessions, he is obliged to be satisfied with the alimony which she allows him, because, in the eye of the law, he possesses nothing.

It is custom also which gives the mother absolute power over the education of the children. Their settlement in life depends on her will: her opposition alone prevents a match projected for them by the father, whereas the opposition of the latter would be no obstacle to the conclusion of one if decided upon by the mother.

The wife possesses all the authority over her own and her husband's servants. She may punish or discharge them at pleasure, without fear of being thwarted or crossed: she is not put to the trouble of doing the honours of a company or a table, or obliged to go through any of those tedious ceremonies, which, in my opinion, says Abu Taleb, could not fail to render the lives of European women most irksome, were they not made subservient to coquetry and vanity.

This same female, whose servitude we deplore, acquires, on entering the harem, the imprescriptible right of tormenting her lord; nay, it is an essential and integral quality of beauty.

Her own interest would compel her, were she not led by inclination, to resort to the arts of coquetry; her caprices enhance the value of her charms; the waywardness of her humour, the fickleness of her disposition, and her imperious temper, are qualities which, in the estimation of fondness, far surpass the timid submission of an affectionate and virtuous wife. If she were mild and gentle, she would be overlooked; forward, capricious and dissipated, she is adored. Thus, on all occasions, she causes the pleasure of her presence to be purchased by the delay which precedes the grant of it; and if she goes abroad to pay a visit, she does not return to the harem till her husband has sent several times after her.