Persian Letters (French: Lettres persanes) is a literary work, published in 1721, by Charles de Secondat, baron de Montesquieu, recounting the experiences of two fictional Persian noblemen, Usbek and Rica, who are traveling through France.
In 1711 Usbek leaves his seraglio in Isfahan to take the long journey to France, accompanied by his young friend Rica. He leaves behind five wives (Zashi, Zéphis, Fatmé, Zélis, and Roxane) in the care of a number of black eunuchs, one of whom is the head or first eunuch. During the trip and their long stay in Paris (1712–1720), they comment, in letters exchanged with friends and mullahs, on numerous aspects of Western, Christian society, particularly French politics and Moors, ending with a biting satire of the System of John Law. Over time, various disorders surface back in the seraglio, and, beginning in 1717 (Letter 139 ), the situation there rapidly unravels. Usbek orders his head eunuch to crack down, but his message does not arrive in time, and a revolt brings about the death of his wives, including the vengeful suicide of his favorite, Roxane, and, it appears, most of the eunuchs.
The Chronology can be broken down as follows:
Letters 1–21 [1–23]: The journey from Isfahan to France, which lasts almost 14 months (from 19 March 1711 to 4 May 1712).
Letters 22–89 [24–92]: Paris in the reign of Louis XIV, 3 years in all (from May 1712 to September 1715).
Letters 90–137 [93–143] or [supplementary Letter 8 =145]: the Regency of Philippe d’Orléans, covering five years (from September 1715 to November 1720).
Letters 138–150 [146–161]: the collapse of the seraglio in Isfahan, approximately 3 years (1717–1720).