|• Main||• Contacts|
ornamented with the finest silks, and even loaded with the sparkling
jewels of the East. But all these trappings, however elegant, or however
gilded, are only like the golden chains sometimes made use of to bind a
Solomon had a great number of queens and concubines; but a petty Hindoo
chief has been known to have two thousand women confined within the
walls of his harem, and appropriated entirely to his pleasure. Nothing
less than unlimited power in the husband is able to restrain women so
confined, from the utmost disorder and confusion. They may repine in
secret, but they must clothe their features with cheerfulness when their
lord appears. Contumacy draws down on them immediate punishment: they
are degraded, chastised, divorced, shut up in dark dungeons, and
sometimes put to death.
Their persons, however, are so sacred, that they must not in the least
be violated, nor even be looked at, by any one but their husbands. This
female privilege has given an opportunity of executing many
conspiracies. Warriors, in such vehicles as are usually employed to
carry women, have been often conveyed, without examination, into the
apartments of the great; from whence, instead of issuing forth in the
smiles of beauty, they have rushed out in the terror of arms, and laid
the tyrants at their feet.
No stranger is ever allowed to see the women of Hindostan, nor can even
brothers visit their sisters in private. To be conscious of the
existence of a man's wives seems a crime; and he looks surly and
offended if their health is inquired after. In every country, honor
consists in something upon which the possessor sets the highest value.
This, with the Hindoo, is the chastity of his wives; a point without
which he must not live.
In the midst of slaughter and devastation, throughout all the East, the
harem is a sanctuary. Ruffians, covered with the blood of a husband,
shrink back with veneration from the secret apartment of his wives.
At Constantinople, when the sultan sends an order to strangle a
state-criminal, and seize on his effects, the officers who execute it
enter not into the harem, nor touch any thing belonging to the women.
Every Turkish seraglio and harem, has a garden adjoining to it, and in
the middle of this garden a large room, more or less decorated according
to the wealth of the proprietor. Here the ladies spend most of their
time, with their attendant nymphs around them employed at their music,
embroidery, or loom.
It has long been a custom among the grandees of Asia, to entertain
Page 6 from 7: Back 1 2 3 4 5  7 Forward