Composition and publication
1The idea that the composition of Persian Letters might have begun as early as Montesquieu’s stays in Paris (winter 1716-1717 and winter 1717-1718, according to Degraves’s chronology) was put forward by Paul Vernière (p. iv): numerous events mentioned in the course of the novel are from this period or soon after. However, as they might have begun as drafts of disparate letters, somewhat on the model of The Turkish Spy, and the slim correspondence extant from the period does not mention them, there is no way to be more precise. The allusion made to many events of 1720, of which the latest seems to be the exiling of the Paris parlement to Pontoise, which took place on 20 July (Letter 134), proves that the writing ended about the same time as the story it relates (the last letter by date, Letter 138, 11 November 1720).
2As for the original edition (May 1721), the author is unambiguous: “Of all the editions of this book, only the first is good: it has not weathered the temerity of booksellers. It appeared about 1721, printed in Cologne, by Pierre Marteau.” (Pensées, no. 2003). We now know that the name of Pierre Marteau is a cover for the true publisher, the house of Jacques Desbordes, in Amsterdam, directed by his widow Susanne de Caux. This is what has been called edition A, which constitutes the base text for the Œuvres complètes (t. I, Oxford, 2004; revised, Montesquieu. Bibliothèque & éditions, 2019 [read]; it contains 150 letters. No manuscript of it is known.
3What was called edition B remains on the other hand most enigmatic. A “second” edition, “revised, corrected, shortened and augmented by the author” (“revue, corrigée, diminuée et augmentée par l’auteur”), according to the title page, it appeared at the same publisher’s in October 1721. Thirteen letters are missing; three new ones are added; their order is not quite the same. The hypothesis has been put forward that this edition was made for a Protestant audience, but there is nothing to support it. Another theory (put forward by Antoine Adam and adopted by Edgar Mass) would have it belonging to a manuscript anterior to edition A, yet does not explain why Montesquieu would have withdrawn three letters already written, and which he subsequently retained. No explanation so far is entirely satisfactory; one can mention a more recent hypothesis, which is that edition B allowed Susanne de Caux, who little before the publication of Persian Letters had sold her copyright to another publisher-bookseller in Amsterdam, Pierre Brunel, to benefit from the commercial success of the work which she had inadvisely given up: an edition “augmented” and “corrected” by the author could attract the buyer; a “shortened” edition could avoid the appearance of disloyal competition (OC, t. I, p. 16-23; MBE, 2019, Introduction, “Pour une histoire véritable des Lettres persanes ”).
4All other editions until the author’s death derive from one or the other of these two, including an unamended edition of 1754 which reproduces the text of A. An edition of Montesquieu’s Œuvres in 1758 supervised by his son introduced for the first time since 1721 a substantially modified text including a new document entitled “A few reflections on the Persian Letters” (“Quelques réflexions sur les Lettres persanes”). Two manuscript notebooks (“Cahiers de corrections”) left by Montesquieu, preserved at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, contain reflections, modifications and additions keyed to the pagination of the first edition of 1721. They testify to Montesquieu’s renewed attention to the Persian Letters in his final years; analysis of the handwriting of his secretaries shows they do not date to earlier than 1751. It is these that were used, though with incomplete fidelity, to amend the edition of 1758, which is the first to be made up of 161 letters; it was this text of which was followed in all subsequent editions until 2004.
5Subsequently, the publishers of the 1754 edition, apparently still in possession of a stock of now outdated copies, themselves printed the additions in a “Supplement” which is for that reason is sometimes found to accompany copies of the earlier edition; for years after its discovery it was mistakenly referred to as “the supplement de 1754” (see OC, t. I, p. 34-41; MBE, 2019, Introduction, “Pour une histoire véritable des Lettres persanes ”), though it is now clearly seen to be a purely derivative document devoid of philological authority.
6Usbek, master of a seraglio in Ispahan, undertakes in 1711 the long trip to France,
accompanied by a young friend, Rica. The reasons for his departure are first attributed to
his curiosity (Letter 1), then soon after to his public indiscretions (Letter 8). He
leaves behind him five wives (Zachi, Zéphis, Fatmé, Zélis, et Roxane) under the watch of
several black eunuchs directed by the Grand or First eunuch. In the course of the trip and
the long sojourn in Paris (1712-1720), he comments, in letters exchanges with friends and
clerics, on multiple aspects of western, Christian society before concluding on a mordant
critique of the System of [John] Law. In the meantime, in the master’s absence, various
disorders arise in his seraglio and beginning in 1717 (Letter 139) the situation completely deteriorates. Usbek orders the First Eunuch to
crack down, but the order does not arrive in time and a revolt breaks out, ending in the
wives’ deaths (of all?) and the death of most of the eunuchs, it seems, as well as the
vengeful suicide of his favorite wife, Roxane. The chronological distribution is as
– Letters 1-21, journey from Ispahan to Paris which lasts 13 months (from 19 March 1711 to 4 May 1712)
– Letters 22-89, Paris under Louis XIV, 3 years (from May 1712 to September 1715)
– Letters 90 - 137 or [Supplementary Letter 8, the Regency, 5 years (from September 1715 to November 1720)
– Letters 138- 150, dénouement centered on the seraglio in Ispahan, 3 ans (goes back to 1717-1720).
7The schema of correspondences is very flexible: nineteen correspondents in all, at least twenty-two different recipients; however, Usbek and Rica by far dominate with sixty-seven letters for the first and forty-seven for the second (of the ultimate total of 161 of the posthumous edition). Certain disproportions are significant: Ibben writes two letters and receives forty-two: this character is essentially a recipient and not an active correspondent. Similarly, *** (if this is always the same person) receives twenty-one letters and writes none at all. There is even a veritable anomaly, one letter to Hagi Ibbi à Ben Josué (Letter 37), neither of whom is mentioned elsewhere in the novel; and we have no idea of the reason for which the first of them is in Paris, whence he writes.
8The letters are dated according to an ostensibly lunar calendar which, as Robert Shackleton showed in 1954, corresponds in fact to ours, with a simple substitution of the Muslim names for the months, in this order: Zilcadé (January), Zilhagé (February), Maharram (March), Saphar (April), Rebiab I (May), Rebiab II (June), Gemmadi I (July), Gemmadi II (August), Rhegeb (September), Chahban (October), Rhamazan (November), Chalval (December).
9The metaphor of the journey (this one ends in fact at Letter 22) frames an opposition of perspectives between two cultures, Asian and European, and two religions, Muslim and Christian. Many passages in the apparently naïve commentary of Usbek and Rica recall Theophrastus, Montaigne and La Bruyère. The difference in age and temperament of the two friends is underscored, Usbek being more experienced and asking himself many questiona; Rica, whose past is less weighty, is more open to novelty, and more seduces by Parisian life. The work (which also appeared in 1721) with which Letters persanes has perhaps the most affinity in the same time frame is a journal, the Le Spectateur français by Marivaux. Despite the differences in form, the same year sees the beginning of two genres, the “philosophical” epistolary novel, and literary journalism, which have in common to appear flexible, making room as well for moral analysis as for social satire, the letter and the portrait. At the beginning of “Quelques remarques sur les Letters persanes” published in 1758 we read: Nothing caused more pleasure in the Persian Letters than to discover in it unexpectedly a sort of novel. One can see the beginning, the development, the end; the various characters are placed in a chain that connects them.Rien n’a plu davantage dans les Lettres persanes, que d’y trouver, sans y penser, une espèce de roman. On en voit le commencement, le progrès, la fin : les divers personnages sont placés dans une chaîne qui les lie.
10As their stay in Europe lengthens, the mores of that part of the world assume in their thoughts a semblance less wondrous and less bizarre, and they are struck more or less by this bizarreness and this wonder in keeping with the difference of their characters. On the other hand, disorder is mounting in the seraglio in Asia as Usbek’s absence grows longer, in other words as the fury augments, and love diminishes.
11Whereas Usbek appreciates the freer relationships he discovers between men and women in the West, he remains, as master of a seraglio, a prisoner of his past. His wives play the role of languorous, tearful spouses, he that of master and lover, without true communication and without revealing to us, in this exchange, their true souls. The language which Usbek utilizes with his wives is as constrained as is theirs; it is wholly unlike the apparently more spontaneous style of his letters to various intimate friends. Knowing moreover from the start that it is uncertain he will ever be able to return to his native land, Usbek is quickly disabused by his wives’ attitude (Letters 6 and 19). The seraglio is a hothouse from which he distances himself more and more, trusting his wives as little as he does his eunuchs (Letter 6).
12In Paris, the Persians express themselves from time to time on various subjects, ranging from governmental institutions to the salons he caricatures. If the reign of a king stagnates, his accomplishments are still admired in a Paris where the construction of the Invalides is coming to an end and where flourish cafés and spectacles. We see what the parlements are for, also the tribunals, the religions congregations (Capucins, Jesuits, etc.), the public places and their denizens (the Tuileries, the Palais-Royal), state foundation (the hospital of the Quinze-Vingts for the blind, of the Invalides for the wounded in war). They describe a teeming culture, where the very presence of two Persians quickly becomes a popular phenomenon, thanks to the proliferation of prints (Letter 28). The coffee house – principally a place for debates (Letter 34) – has become established as a public institution, as comedy and the opera already had been. There are still people foolish enough to be searching at their expense for the philosopher’s stone; the newsmonger and the periodical press are beginning to play a role in daily life. We go from institutions (the university, the Academy, sciences, the bull Unigenitus) to societies: fashion, wit, coquetry, the opera singer, the farmer-general, the director of conscience, the old warrior, the “man on the make” (“homme à bonnes fortunes”)…
13Usbek for his part is troubled by the religious contrasts. Without thinking of ceasing to be a Muslim, and while wondering mightily at the most surprising aspects of Christianity (the Trinity, communion), he writes to austere authorities to learn, for example, why certain foods are held to be unclean (Letters 15-17). He also compares the two religions and even all religions in terms of their social utility.
14As they become more at east in this marvelous Western world, it is the voices of Usbek and Rica that dominate: the two of them write almost all the letters from 80 to 138, in a jerky chronicle of the Regency with its parlementary quarrels and innovations, especially the terrible financial policy of John Law. Occasionally, a series of letters emanating from a sole author pursues a single subject more at length, composing a sort of short treatise within the collection, like Letters 11-14 from Usbek to Mirza on the Troglodytes, Letters 109-118 from Usbek to Rhedi on demography, Letters 128-132 from Rica on his visit to the library of Saint-Victor. They sketch analyses that we will see develop in L’Esprit des lois for many subjects such as the types of powers, the influence of the climate and the critique of colonization, among others.
15The technique utilized for working around to the final crisis is rather remarkable. Everything comes to a head in the final letters (139-150), by means of a sudden analepse of more than three years with respect to the previous letters. Since Letter 69 and up to Letter 139), in other words chronologicall from 1714 to 1720, there has not been a single letter of Usbek relative to the seraglio; it is not even mentioned in all the letters from 94 to 143 (and even in the edition of 1758 to the Supplementary Letter s8: so the letters 97 to 145). Furthermore, all the letters from 126 to 137 by Rica, which means that for nearly fifteen months (from 4 August 1719 to 22 October 1720), Usbek is utterly unheard-from. Though he has indeed received letters in the meantime, the reader does not know about them until the final series, which is more developed after the addition of Supplementary Letters s9-s11 of 1758 (Letters 157, 158, 160).
16Although Usbek had learned back in October 1714 that “the seraglio is in turmoil” (“le sérail est dans le désordre “, Letter 63), he has hesitated to intervene forcefully. Faced finally with a revolt, he makes up his mind, but too late; with the delays of transmission of letters and the loss of one Letter 142(another – 140 – is received but not opened), the damage is beyond remedy. Devastated, Usbek apparently resigns himself to the necessity of returning, with little hope, to Perais: “I am going to deliver my head back to my enemies” (“Je vais rapporter ma tête à mes ennemis”, Letter 147), he laments on 4 October 1719. The two systems, western and eastern, seem quite incompatible.
17Nevertheless Usbek does not return to Persia. At the end of 1720 he is still in Paris, for Letters 134 to 137), which contain the whole history of the System of Law, are in fact posterior to Roxane’s final letter; and the last letters in date that are his (Supplementary Letter s8 and Letter 138) are written in October and November 1720, when he has likely already received Roxane’s last letter, dated 8 May (the usual delay being about five months). We know nothing further about him, except that if the seraglio collapsed, it did so without taking Usbek with it.
The Reading of Persian Letters
18Paul Vernière tried to draw an exhaustive list ot the “certain”, “probable”, or “possible” sources of Persian Letters. But one is reluctant today to consider the work as a sort of collage of anecdotes collected elsewhere. Montesquieu’s “sources” are legion; he doubtless makes use of all sorts of ideas suggested to him by his readings and conversations, while transforming them. Above all the impact of the Voyages of Jean (or John) Chardin, to whom he owes most of his information on Persia, which is far from superficial; he owned the first edition of 1687 in two volumes and he bought, in July 1720, the augmented edition in ten volumes. To a lesser degree, he was informed by the Voyages of Jean-Baptiste Tavernier and Paul Rycaut, not to mention many other works with which his personal library was amply furnished. All the current information about France and Paris, on the other hand, comes from his own life, his conversations, and news he heard.
19Some aspects of the book were no doubt written with “models” in mind. The only one that is really pertinent, aside from the Bible and the Qu’ran, is Marana’s L’Espion dans les cours des princes chrétiens (known in English as Letters writ by a Turkish Spy and for short called the The Turkish Spy), very famous at the time, although Montesquieu’s characters are Persians and not Turks. While the great popularity of Antoine Galland’s Mille et une Nuits (Thousand and One Nights) contributed a great deal to the general infatuation with oriental subjects, the fact is that they have almost nothing in common with Persian Letters.
20To what genre do the Persian Letters belong? It is commonly cited as one of the very first epistolary novels, especially polyphonic, but we must remember that for readers of 1721 what we call an epistolary novel was not yet a constituted genre. Persian Letters has moreover very little in common with the sole model then extant of the genre to come: the Lettres portuguaises of 1669. A collection of “letters” in 1721 suggested perhaps a recent tradition of essentielly polemical and political periodicals. Such is the case of Lettres historiques (1692-1728), the celebrated Lettres édifiantes et curieuses of the Jesuits (1703-1776), not to mention the Lettres historiques et galantes de Mme Dunoyer (1707-1717) which, in the form of a correspondence between two women, gave a chronicle of the end of Louis XIV’s reign and the beginning of the Regency. The Persian Letters crowned the vobue of a format which was already widespread. “Make me some Persian letters” (“Faites-moi des lettres persanes”) was, says Montesquieu, the plea from publishers to writers (« Quelques réflexions sur les Lettres persanes »).
21It was in fact the numerous imitations of Persian Letters – such as Lettres juives (1738) and Lettres chinoises (1739) by Boyer d’Argens, Lettres d’une Turque à Paris, écrites à sa sœur (1730) by Poullain de Saint-Foix, printed several times with Persian Letters, and especitlly Françoise de Graffigny’s Lettres d’une Péruvienne (1747) – not to mention Richardson’s novels, which, between 1721 and 1754, transformed Persian Letters into an “epistolary novel”. Whence this remark in the Pensées (no. 1621): “My Persian Letters taught people how to make a novel in letters” (“Mes Lettres persanes apprirent à faire des romans en lettres”).
22While for nearly three centuries the early success of Persian Letters has been maintained, its critical reputation has varied widely. Until the middle of the 20th century, it was the “spirit of the Regency”, in large part, that was admired in it, and the caricature in the classical tradition of La Bruyère, Pascal and Fontenelle. No one thought of associating it with the novel genre. The Perain aspect of Persian Letters was by preference treated as a fanciful decor, without real interest; as Gustave Lanson wrote: “[…] that is a mere ornament. What is essential in the book is the impressions of the two Orientals thrown into our civilization.” (“[…] ce n’est là qu’un ornement. L’essentiel, dans le livre, ce sont les impressions des deux Orientaux jetés au travers de notre civilisation”, Histoire de la littérature française, Paris: Hachette, 1895, p. 695-696). Without denying the political thought component, Lanson does not see the same qualities as generations of earlier critics. While Ferdinand Brunetière (1912), for his part, appreciates especially the satirical portraits and takes the religious and social criticism seriously as early preparation of the thought in L’Esprit des lois, he shares Lanson’s opinion with regard to the oriental motifs: “What seduced some of Montesquieu’s contemporaries is the oriental decor, spiced with libertinage.” (“Ce qui a séduit certains des contemporains de Montesquieu, c’est le décor oriental, assaisonné de libertinage”, Histoire de la littérature française classique, Paris: Delagrave, n. d. [1904-1917], t. III, 157).
23It is in the 1950s that a new era began of studies based on better texts and renewed perspectives. Above all should be cited the importance of the edition prepared and carefully annotated by Paul Vernière, and also Robert Shackleton’s work on the Muslim chronology and the almost simultaneous studies of Roger Laufer and Roger Mercier, which opened a reconsideration of the unity of the work, and in particular reintegrating in it the seraglio as part of the overall meaning of the novel. Others followed suite, raising questions about the ramifications of the epistolary form, the structure and meaning of the seraglio, the contradictions in Usbek. Finally, beginning in 1970, it was religion (Pauline Kra) and especially the political thought (Ehrard, Goulemot, Benrekassa) that dominates studies on Persian Letters, while progressively began a return to the significance of the seraglio with all its women and eunuchs (Michel Delon, Jeannette Geffriand Rosso, Alain Grosrichard, Alan Singerman, Suzanne Pucci, Céline Spector) or the “cultural dichotomy” which opposes, especially in the character of Usbek, East and West (Masseau, Stewart).
The manuscripts used for editions A and B have not survived. The manuscript of the “Cahiers de correction” is at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, NAF 14365 [https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b53003146z?rk=21459;2].
Full transcriptions of the cahiers de corrections : Lettres persanes, Montesquieu. Bibliothèque & éditions, 2019 [http://montesquieu.huma-num.fr/editions/fictions-poesies/lettres-persanes/histoire-veritable-des-lettres-persanes].
Edgar Mass, “Les éditions des Lettres persanes”, Revue française d’histoire du livre, 102-103 (1999), p. 19-56.
– ed. Antoine Adam, Genève: Droz, 1954
– ed. Jean Starobinski, Paris: Gallimard, “Folio”, 1973 ; reprinted 2003
– ed. Paul Vernière, Paris: Classiques Garnier, 1960 reprinted 1965, 1975, 1992 revised by Catherine Volpilhac-Auger, Livre de Poche classique, 2005.
– ed. Cecil Courtney, Philip Stewart, Catherine Volpilhac-Auger, Pauline Kra, Edgar Mass, Didier Masseau, OC, t. I, 2004.
– ed. Philip Stewart, Classiques Garnier, 2013.
– ed. revised by Philip Stewart, and C. Volpilhac-Auger (dir.), Montesquieu. Bibliothèque & éditions , 2019 [http://montesquieu.huma-num.fr/editions/fictions-poesies/lettres-persanes/presentation].
Persian Letters, trans. J. Robert Loy, New York : Meridian Books, 1961.
Persian Letters, trans. George R. Healy, Indianapolis : Bobbs-Merrill, 1964.
Persian Letters, trans. C. J. Betts, Harmondsworth and New York : Penguin Books, 1973.
Persian Letters, trans. Margaret Mauldon, Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2008.
Persian Letters, trans. Philip Stewart, site Montesquieu, 2020 [http://montesquieu.ens-lyon.fr/spip.php?rubrique245].
Montesquieu, ed. Catherine Volpilhac-Auger, Paris: Presses de l’université de Paris-Sorbonne, Mémoire de la critique, 2003, p. 31-48 63-71.
Gustave Lanson, Histoire de la littérature française, Paris: Hachette, 1895, p. 695-696.
Henri Barckhausen, “Montesquieu, les Lettres persanes et les archives de La Brède”, Revue du droit public et de la science politique, juillet-août 1898, p. 37-61
Ferdinand Brunetière, Histoire de la littérature française classique, Paris: Delagrave, t. III, n. d. (1904-1917), t. III.
Robert Shackleton, “The Moslem Chronology of the Lettres persanes”, French Studies 8 (1954), p. 17-27.
Jean Rousset, “Une forme littéraire : le roman par lettres”, dans Forme et signification, Paris:José Corti, 1962, p. 65-103.
Roger Mercier, “Le roman dans les Lettres persanes: structure et signification”, Revue des sciences humaines 107 (1962), p. 345-356.
Pauline Kra, “The Invisible Chain of the Lettres persanes”, SVEC 23 (1963), p. 7-60.
Roger Laufer, “La réussite romanesque et la signification des Lettres persanes”, RHLF 61 (1961), p. 188-203 reprinted in Style rococo, style des Lumières, Paris: Seuil, 1963.
Madeleine Laurain-Portemer, “Le dossier des Lettres persanes: notes sur les Cahiers de corrections”, Revue historique de Bordeaux, 1963, p. 41-81 reprinted in Revue Montesquieu 6 (2002), http://montesquieu.ens-lyon.fr/spip.php?article328.
Piere Testud, “Les Lettres persanes, roman épistolaire”, RHLF 66/4 (1966), https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k5726275h/f52.item-656.
Henri Coulet, Le Roman jusqu’à la Révolution, Paris: Armand Colin, 1967.
Patrick Brady, “The Lettres persanes: rococo or neo-classical?” Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, SVEC 53 (1967), p. 47-77.
Aram Vartanian, “Eroticism and Politics in the Lettres persanes”, Romanic Review 60 (1969), p. 23-33.
Jean Ehrard, “La signification politique des Lettres persanes”, Archives des Lettres Modernes 116 (1970), p. 33-50 ; reprinted in L’Invention littéraire au siècle des Lumières : fictions, idées, société, Paris: PUF, 1997, p. 17-32.
Pauline Kra, Religion in Montesquieu’s “Lettres persanes”, SVEC 72 (1970).
Clifton Cherpack, “Montesquieu’s Usbek : paper Persian or anti-hero?”, Kentucky Romance Quarterly 18 (1971), p. 101-110.
Jean Marie Goulemot, “Questions sur la signification politique des Lettres persanes”, Approches des Lumières: mélanges offerts à Jean Fabre, Paris: Klincksieck, 1974, p. 213-225.
Jeannette Geffriaud Rosso, Montesquieu et la féminité, Pise, Libreria Goliardica, 1977.
Michel Delon, “Un monde d'eunuques”, Europe 574 (1977), p. 79-88.
Alain Grosrichard, Structure du sérail : la fiction du despotisme asiatique dans l’Occident classique, Paris: Seuil, 1979.
Laurent Versini, Le Roman épistolaire, Paris: PUF, 1979, p. 40-46.
Alan Singerman, “Réflexions sur une métaphore : le sérail dans les Lettres persanes”, SVEC 185 (1980), p. 181-198.
Georges Benrekassa, “Le parcours idéologique des Lettres persanes : figures de la socialité et discours politique”, dans Le Concentrique et l’excentrique, Paris: Payot, 1980, p. 305-325.
Jean-Pail Schneider, “Les jeux du sens dans les Lettres persanes: temps du roman et temps de l’histoire”, Études sur le XVIIIe siècle (« Textes et documents », Société française d’étude du XVIIIe siècle), Strasbourg, Faculté des Lettres Modernes, 1980, p. 5-39 ; reprinted in Revue Montesquieu 4 (2000), http://montesquieu.ens-lsh.fr/IMG/pdf/Schneider.pdf.
Paul Hoffman, “Un Montesquieu antiféministe”, Travaux de linguistique et de littérature, Université de Strasbourg, vol. 18, n° 2, 1980.
Edgar Mass, Literatur und Zensur in der frühen Aufklärung : Produktion, Distribution und Rezeption der “Lettres persanes”, Frankfurt am Main, Klostermann, 1981.
Edgar Mass, “Le développement textuel et les lectures contemporaines des Lettres persanes”, CAIEF 35 (1983), p. 185-200.
Suzanne Pucci, “Orientalism and representations of exteriority in Montesquieu’s Lettres persanes”, The Eighteenth Century, 26 (1985), p. 263-279.
Josué Harari, “The Eunuch’s Tale: Montesquieu’s imaginary of despotism”, dans Scenarios of the Imaginary, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1987, p. 67-101.
Jean Goldzink, La Politique dans les “Lettres persanes”, ouvrage hors-collection des Cahiers de Fontenay, Presses de l’École Normale Supérieure de Fontenay-Saint-Cloud, 1988.
Jean Marie Goulemot, “Vision du devenir historique et formes de la révolution dans les Lettres persanes”, Dix-Huitième Siècle 21 (1989), p. 13-22.
Dena Goodman, Criticism in Action: Enlightenment experiments in political writing, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989, 1ère partie, p. 19-79.
Suzanne Pucci, “Letters from the harem: veiled figures of writing in Montesquieu’s Lettres persanes”, in Elizabeth C. Goldsmith (ed.), Writing the Female Voice (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1989), p. 114-134.
Sylvie Romanowski, “La quête du savoir dans les Lettres persanes”, Eighteenth-Century Fiction 3 (1991), p. 93-111.
Céline Spector, Montesquieu,“Lettres persanes”: de l’anthropologie à la politique, Paris, PUF, 1997.
Didier Masseau, “Usbek ou la déchirure culturelle”, Dialogisme culturel au XVIIIe siècle, ed. J. M. Goulemot, Cahiers d’histoire culturelle (UFR de Lettres, Université de Tours) 4 (1997), p. 31-36.
Louis Desgraves, Chronologie critique de la vie et des oeuvres de Montesquieu, Paris: Champion, 1998, p. 36-94.
Philip Stewart, “Toujours Usbek”, Eighteenth-Century Fiction 11 (1999), p. 141-150.
Mary McAlpin, “Between Men for All Eternity: feminocentrism in Montesquieu’s Lettres persanes”, Eighteenth-Century Life 24 (2000), p. 45-61.
Jean Goldzink, Montesquieu et les passions, Paris, PUF, 2001.
Philip Stewart dir., Les « Lettres persanes » en leur temps, Paris: Classiques Garnier, 2013.