The Indiscreet Jewels
Available as PDF, epub, and Kindle ebook downloads. This book has 157 pages in the PDF version, and was originally published in 1748.
The Indiscreet Jewels (Les bijoux indiscrets) is a novel by French author Denis Diderot, first published anonymously in 1748. It tells the story of Sultan Mangogul of Congo who, bored by court life and suspecting his mistress of cheating, comes across a genie who presents him with a magical ring. When rubbed and pointed at the genitals of a woman, the genitals speak, telling of their past experiences. The character of the sultan is based on Louis XV, and the mistress, Mirzoza, is a parable of Madame de Pompadour.
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Excerpt from The Indiscreet Jewels
Hiaouf Zeles Tanzai had already reigned long in great Chechianea, and this voluptuous prince still continued to be the delight of his subjects. Acajou king of Minutia had undergone the fate predicted by his father: Zulmis was no more: the Count De —— was still living: Splendidus, Angola, Misapouf and some other potentates of the Indies and Asia were carried off by sudden deaths. The people tired of obeying weak sovereigns, had shaken off the yoke of their posterity; and the descendants of those unfortunate monarchs rambled unknown, or not regarded, in the provinces of their empires. The grandson of the illustrious Scheherazad was the only one who maintain'd his throne: and he was obeyed in Indostan by the name of Schach Baam, at the time when Mangogul was born in Congo. Thus it appears, that the death of several sovereigns was the mournful epoch of his birth.
His father Erguebzed did not summon the Fairies round the cradle of his son; because he had observed, that most of the princes of his time, who had been educated by these female intelligences, were no better than fools. He contented himself with ordering his nativity to be calculated by one Codindo, a person fitter for a portrait than an acquaintance.
Codindo, was head of the college of Soothsayers at Banza, the ancient capital of the empire. Erguebzed had settled a large pension on him, and had granted to him and his descendants, on account of the merit of their great uncle, who was an excellent cook, a magnificent castle on the frontiers of Congo. Codindo was appointed to observe the flight of birds, and the state of the heavens, and to make a report thereof at court: which office he executed very indifferently. If it be true, that they had at Banza the best theatrical pieces, and the worst play-houses in all Africa; in return they had the most beautiful college in the world, and the most wretched predictions.
Codindo, informed of the business for which he was summoned to Erguebzed's palace, set out much embarrassed; for the poor man could no more read the stars than you or I. He was expected with impatience. The principal lords of the court were assembled in the appartment of the great Sultana. The ladies, magnificently dress'd, stood round the infant's cradle. The courtiers were hurrying to congratulate with Erguebzed on the great things, which he was undoubtedly on the point of hearing concerning his son. Erguebzed was a father, and thought it quite natural, to discern in the unform'd lines of an infant, what he was to be. In fine, Codindo arrived. "Draw near," says Erguebzed to him: "as soon as heaven had granted me the prince before you, I ordered the instant of his birth to be exactly registered, and without doubt you have been informed of it. Speak sincerely to your Master, and tell him boldly the destiny which heaven has reserved for his Son."
"Most magnanimous Sultan," answered Codindo, "the prince, born of parents equally illustrious and happy, can have no other than a great and fortunate destiny: but I should impose on your highness, if I plumed myself with a science which I do not possess. The stars rise and set for me as for the rest of mankind; and I am not more enlightened in futurity by their means, than the most ignorant of your subjects."
"But," replied the Sultan, "are you not an astrologer?" "Magnanimous prince," answered Codindo, "I have not that honour."
"What the devil are you then?" says the old, but passionate Erguebzed. "An Aruspex! By the heavens I did not imagine, that you had so much as thought of it. Believe me, Seigneur Codindo, suffer your poultry to feed in quiet, and pronounce on the fate of my son, as you lately did on the cold of my wife's parrot."
Codindo immediately drew a glass out of his pocket, took the infant's left ear, rubb'd his eyes, turn'd his spectacles again and again, peep'd at that ear, did the like to the right ear, and pronounced, "that the young prince's reign would be happy, if it proved long."
"I understand you," replied Erguebzed: "my son will do the finest things in the world, if he has time. But, zounds! what I want to have told me is, that he will have time. What matter is it to me, after he is dead, that he would have been the greatest prince upon earth, had he lived. I have sent for you to cast my son's horoscope, and you make me his funeral oration."
Codindo assured the prince, that he was sorry he was not more knowing; but beseeched his highness to consider, that his knowledge was sufficient for the little time he had been a conjurer. In effect, the moment before, what was Codindo?***************************
I will pass lightly over Mangogul's first years. The infancy of princes is the same with that of the rest of mankind; with this difference, however, that princes have the gift of saying a thousand pretty things, before they can speak. Thus before Erguebzed's son was full four years old, he furnished matter for a volume of Mangogulana. Erguebzed, who was a man of sense, and was resolved that his son's education should not be so much neglected as his own had been, sent betimes for all the great men in Congo; as, painters, philosophers, poets, musicians, architects, masters of dancing, mathematicks, history, fencing, &c. Thanks to the happy dispositions of Mangogul, and to the constant lessons of his masters, he was ignorant in nothing of what a young prince is wont to learn the first fifteen years of his life; and at the age of twenty he could eat, drink, and sleep, as completely as any potentate of his age.
Erguebzed, whose weight of years began to make him feel the weight of his crown, tired with holding the reins of the empire, frighted at the disturbances which threatened it, full of confidence in the superior qualifications of Mangogul, and urged by sentiments of religion, sure prognostics of the approaching death or imbecility of the great, descended from the throne, to seat his son thereon: and this good prince thought he was under an obligation of expiating, by a retirement, the crimes of the most just administration, of which there is any account in the annals of Congo.
End of excerpt.
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