Front Page Titles (by Subject) LETTER IX.: The Chief Eunuch to Ibbi, at Erzeron. - Complete Works, vol. 3 (Grandeur and Declension of the Roman Empire; A Dialogue between Sylla and Eucrates; Persian Letters)
Return to Title Page for Complete Works, vol. 3 (Grandeur and Declension of the Roman Empire; A Dialogue between Sylla and Eucrates; Persian Letters)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
LETTER IX.: The Chief Eunuch to Ibbi, at Erzeron. - Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu, Complete Works, vol. 3 (Grandeur and Declension of the Roman Empire; A Dialogue between Sylla and Eucrates; Persian Letters) 
The Complete Works of M. de Montesquieu (London: T. Evans, 1777), 4 vols. Vol. 3.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
The Chief Eunuch to Ibbi, at Erzeron.
THOU attendest thy ancient master in his travels; thou passest through provinces and kingdoms, no chagrin affects thee, each moment presents thee with fresh objects, every thing thou seest amuses thee, and makes thee pass away thy time imperceptibly. It is otherwise with me, who am shut up in a horrible confinement, surrounded continually by the same objects, and perplexed with the same cares. I groan beneath the burden of fifty years of cares and pains; and through the period of a long life, I cannot say I have seen a day’s case or a moment’s quiet. When my first master formed the cruel design of confining me to the care of his wives, and induced me by promises, inforced by a thousand threats, to part with myself for ever, tired of being employed in a most toilsome service, I reckoned upon sacrificing my passions to ease and plenty. Unhappy that I was! my mind was prepossessed with the evils I should escape, but not with the loss I should sustain: I expected that an incapacity to gratify the attacks of love would secure me from it. Alas! the gratification of the passions is extinguished, but the foundation of them remained, and far from being freed from them, I found myself encompassed by objects which continually excited them. I entered the seraglio, where every thing filled me with regret for what I had lost; I felt myself provoked to love each instant, a thousand natural beauties seemed to shew themselves to my view only to torment me; and to complete my misfortune, I had always before me the happy master of these beauties. During this unhappy time, I never led a woman to my master’s bed, I never undress’d one but I returned back enraged in my heart at myself, and my soul filled with a horrible despair. See how miserably I passed my youth, I had no confident but myself, loaded with grief and care I must needs be destroyed; and those women, whom I was tempted to regard with the most tender looks, I could only behold with the most stern attention. I was ruined had they penetrated my thoughts; what advantages would they not have taken? I remember once as I put a lady into a bath, I felt myself so ravished that I entirely lost my reason, and ventured to clap my hand upon a most formidable part. On the first reflection I thought that day would be my last, I was so happy however, to escape the thousand deaths I feared; but the beauty whom I had made witness of my weakness, made me buy her silence very dear. I lost entirely my power over her, and she forced me, from that time, to compliances which, a thousand times exposed me to hazard the loss of my life. At length the fire of youth is extinguished; I am old, and I find myself, with respect to these things, in an easy condition; I regard women with indifference, and I reward them well for their contempt and all the torments which they made me feel. I always remember that I was born to govern them; and it seems to me as if I recovered my manhood, on every occasion that I have yet to command them. Since I can behold them with coldness, and my reason permits me to see all their foibles, I hate them: though it is for another I watch them, the pleasure of being obeyed affords me a secret joy, and it is as if I did it for myself, and it always gives me an indirect happiness, when I can deprive them of their pleasures. I am in the seraglio as in a little empire; and my ambition, my only remaining passion, receives some satisfaction; I see with pleasure that all depends upon me, and that I am necessary on every occasion; I charge myself willingly with the hatred of all these women, which establishes me the more firmly in my post. So they do not find me in any affair an ungrateful man, I always prevent them in their most innocent pleasures; I ever present myself to them as a fixed barrier, they form schemes, and I suddenly frustrate them. I am armed with refusals, full of scruples, I never open my mouth but with lectures of duty, virtue, chastity, and modesty. By continually talking to them of the weakness of their sex, and of the authority of my master, I drive them to despair; afterwards I complain of the necessity I am under to be thus severe, and seem as if I would have them suppose their proper interest, and a strong attachment to them, to be my only motives. Not but that, in my turn, I suffer a number of disagreeable things from these vindictive women, who daily endeavour to repay me the evils I heap on them; there is between us a kind of interchange of empire and obedience; they are always imposing upon me the most humiliating offices; they affect an exemplary contempt, and regardless of my age, make me rise ten times in a night, on the most trifling occasion. I am continually tired with orders, commands, employments and caprices; it looks as if they alternately relieved each other to weary me with a succession of whimsies. They take a pleasure, sometimes, in making me redouble my attention, they pretend to make me their consident; at one time they run to tell me, that a young man is seen about the walls; another time that a noise is heard, or a letter delivered, and delight themselves with laughing at the trouble and torment these things give me. Sometimes they fix me behind a door, and make me continue there night and day; they well know how to feign sickness, swoonings, or frights, and never want a pretence to gain their will of me. On these occasions I am forced to yield an implicit obedience, and boundless complaisance, for a refusal from such a man as I, would be an unheard of thing, and if I were to hesitate about obeying them, they would take a right to correct me. I would much rather, my dear Ibbi, lose life than to submit to such a mortifying state: but this is not the whole, my master’s favour is not sure to me for a moment; I have too many enemies in his heart, who are all watching to ruin me, they enjoy certain seasons when I cannot be heard, seasons in which he can refuse them nothing, times in which I am ever in the wrong. I conduct women enraged to my master’s bed, can you imagine they will serve me? or that my interest will be the strongest? From their tears, their sighs, their embraces, and from their very pleasures, I have every thing to fear. It is then they triumph, and that their charms become terrible to me; their present services, in an instant efface all my past ones, and to a master no longer himself, by me nothing can be answered. How frequently has it happened to me to sleep in favour, and a wake to disgrace! The day I was so disgracefully whipt round the seraglio, what had I done? I had left in my master’s arms a woman, who, when she saw he was inflamed, burst into a flood of tears; she lamented, and so successfully managed her complaints, that they arose with the love she excited in him; in so critical a moment, how was I able to support myself? I was ruined when I least expected, I was the victim of an amorous intrigue, and a treaty made by fighs. See, dear Ibbi, the wretched state in which I have ever lived; how happy art thou! thy cares are confined to the person of Usbek only. It is easy to please him, and to support thyself in his favour to thy latest day.
From the seraglio at Ispahan, the last of the moon Saphar, 1711.