I need to translate a text from Montesquieu called "Comment peut-on être Persan?" But I encountered this one sentence which said: "J’eus sujet de me plaindre de mon tailleur". I wanted to translate it as something like: "I had reasons to complain about my tailor" But that doesn't make any sense with the sentence that follows it in which he says that he loses all the attention from the public. How should I translate that sentence according to you?

  • (1) Welcome to French SE! You're invited to take the tour and visit the Help Centre. (2) Please note that this is not a translation website, especially translation out of French into another language. Users here can be assumed to know French, but not necessarily English. You should instead orient your questions around these issues: "What does this mean? How would I paraphrase it? Why does he choose this word? Is this literal, or is it an idiom?" rather than "How can I say this in English?"
    – Luke Sawczak
    Jul 1, 2017 at 18:44
  • (3) To weigh in despite that: your translation of the sentence itself seems fine. The only reason it wouldn't be suitable is if the context had nothing to do with clothing. But the context of that letter has Montesquieu discussing how he needed to change his outfit to fit in. Why do you feel the literal meaning of the words doesn't fit here?
    – Luke Sawczak
    Jul 1, 2017 at 18:45
  • When quoting an extract it is better to give as much context as possible. Of course it's very easy to find the Lettres persanes on line, but it just looks better to include all possible links in the question, all the more when you refer to "the sentence that follows "!
    – None
    Jul 1, 2017 at 19:08
  • 1
    @Tipeg Don't worry; when are first tries ever perfect? :) I suggest you accept Laure's answer below (with the checkmark button) and of course come back to ask more questions as they come up.
    – Luke Sawczak
    Jul 1, 2017 at 21:09
  • 1
    "very big mistake" is really over the top. You can say it has taught you a lot, at least not to stop at fist impressions, to make a careful reading and to grasp the context (here how people look at us differently according to the way we dress). Consider this as a first question that will lead you to better questions. If your study of the French language has brought you to to the point of tackling Montesquieu I'm sure you'll find our community of help and come back soon.
    – None
    Jul 2, 2017 at 8:24

1 Answer 1


I personally find your rendering of the part of the sentence quite accurate. I think that your difficulty is with the rest of the sentence, I am afraid you haven't quite understood either l'attention et l'estime publique or the situation.

Libre de tous les ornements étrangers, je me vis apprécié au plus juste. J'eus sujet de me plaindre de mon tailleur, qui m'avait fait perdre en un instant l'attention et l'estime publique ; car j'entrai tout à coup dans un néant affreux. (Montesquieu, Lettres persannes, Lettre 30)

The situation : In this letter Rica (one of the two "Persians" recounting their experiences in Paris) experiences the look the Parisians set on him. As long as he was dressed as an exotic foreigner in his Persian dress he drew everyone's attention, and found people, talked about him and admired him to the point of having his portrait in their homes.
The day he decided to dress as a European and had a European costume made by his tailor people lost interest in him and he was no longer the centre of people's attention.

mon tailleur, qui m'avait fait perdre en un instant l'attention et l'estime publique ;

can be reworded as: en me faisant ce costume le tailleur m'avait perdre l'attention et l'estime des gens.

Here are some examples of translation of this sentence into English:

I had occasion enough to be displeased with my taylor for making me lose all public regard and attention, for I at once sunk into a contemptible nothingness. (To full text)

I had reason to complain of my tailor, who had made me lose so suddenly the attention and good opinion of the public; for I sank immediately into the merest nonentity. (To full text)

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