Persian Letters/Letter 161

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Persian Letters by Montesquieu, translated by John Davidson
Letter 161

Letter 161[edit]

Roxana to Usbek, at Paris

YES, I have deceived you; I have led away your eunuchs: I have made sport of your jealousy; and I have known how to turn your frightful seraglio into a place of pleasure and delight.

I am at the point of death; the poison courses through my veins: for what should I do here, since the only man who bound me to life is no more? I die; but my spirit shall not pass unaccompanied: I have dispatched before me those sacrilegious gaolers who spilt the sweetest blood in the world.

How could you think that I was such a weakling as to imagine there was nothing for me in the world but to worship your caprices; that while you indulged all your desires, you should have the right to thwart me in all mine? No: I have lived in slavery, and yet always retained my freedom: I have remodeled your laws upon those of nature; and my mind has always maintained its independence.

You ought to thank me, then, for the sacrifice I made you; for having sunk so low as to seem to be yours; for having, like a coward, hidden in my heart what I ought to have published to all the earth; finally, for having profaned virtue, by permitting my submission to your humours to be called by that name.

You were amazed never to find in me the transports of love: had you known me better you would have found all the violence of hate.

For a long time you have had the satisfaction of believing that you had conquered a heart like mine: now we are both delighted: you thought me deceived, and I have deceived you.

Doubtless such a letter as this you little expected to receive. Can it be possible that after having overwhelmed you with affliction I shall still force you to admire my courage? But all is ended now; the poison destroys me, my strength leaves me, my pen drops from my hand; even my hate grows weaker: I die.

The Seraglio at Ispahan, the 8th of the first moon of Rebiab, 1720.