Previous Entry Share Next Entry
Candide, Or Optimism; Voltaire
yirt_studies

One day Cunégonde was walking near the house in a little copice, called “the park,” when she saw Dr. Pangloss behind some bushes giving a lesson in experimental philosophy to her mother's waiting-woman, a pretty little brunette who seemed eminently teachable. Since Lady Cunégonde took a great interest in science, she watched the experiments being repeated with breathless fascination. She saw clearly the Doctor's “sufficient reason,” and took note of cause and effect. Then, in a disturbed and thoughtful state of mind, she returned home filled with a desire for learning, and fancied that she could reason equally well with young Candide and he with her.

The Baron called Candide his brother and saviour, and embraced him times without number.
“My dear Candide,” he said, “I feel sure that we shall ride in triumph through the town and rescue my sister, Cunégonde.”
“That's what I am longing for,” said Candide, “because I was expecting to marry her; and indeed I still hope to.”
“You insolent fellow!” exclaimed the Baron. “You have the impudence to think of marrying my sister, who has seventy-two quarterings in her coat of arms, and you dare to talk to me of such a hot-headed notion? Have you no sense of shame?”
Candide was dumbfounded at this outburst:
“Reverend father,” he replied, “all the quarterings in the world would make no difference. I rescued your sister from the arms of a Jew and of an Inquisitor. She is under the deepest obligations to me, and she wants to be my wife. My master Pangloss used to tell me that men are equal; and I shall marry her without any hesitation.”
“We shall see about that, you rascal,” said the Jesuit Baron von Thunder-ten-tronckh; and with those words he struck him across the face with the flat of his sword.
Candide instantly drew his own and plunged it up to the hilt in the Baron's stomach, but as he withdrew the dripping blade he began to weep, and cried: “O God! What have I done! I have killed my old master, my friend, and my brother-in-law! I am the best-tempered man there ever was, yet I have already killed three men, and two of them were priests!”

“Now, tell me, Sir,” he said to the scholar, “what do you think about it all? What is your opinion of moral and physical evil?”
“Sir,” replied Martin, “the clergy of Surinam accused me of denying the divinity of Christ, but what I really believe is that man was created by the forces of evil and not by the forces of good.”
“You are jesting,” said Candide. “People don't believe such things nowadays.”
“Well, here I am,” said Martin; “I don't know what to do about it, but that's what I believe.”

Candide turned to the abbé:
“How many plays have been written in French?” he asked.
“About five or six thousand,” replied the abbé.
“That's a lot,” he remarked; “how many are good?”
“Fifteen or sixteen,” replied the other.
“That's a lot” said Martin.

“I am much afraid,” he whispered to Martin, with a shake of his head, “that this man would have a supreme contempt for our German poets.”
“There would be no harm in that,” replied Martin.
“What a superior man!” murmured Candide. “What a genius this Pococurante is! Nothing can please him.”
When they had glanced over all the books, they went down to the garden. Candide began to admire its beauties.
“I know nothing in such bad taste,” said the owner; “it consists entirely of trifling conceits. But to-morrow I intend to have a garden laid out on a nobler design.”
After the visitors had taken leave of his Excellency, Candide said to Martin:
“You must admit that there is the happiest man alive, because he is superior to all he possesses.”
“Don't you see,” said Martin, “that he is disgusted with everything he possesses? Plato long ago said that the best stomachs are not those that reject all food.”
“But,” said Candide, “isn't there a pleasure in criticising everything and discovering faults where other men detect beauties?”
“That is to say,” replied Martin, “that there is a pleasure in not being pleased.”
“Never mind,” said Candide, “there is nobody so happy as I shall be when I see Lady Cunégonde again.”
“There is no harm in hoping,” said Martin.

It would be natural to suppose that, after so many disasters, Candide should lead the most pleasing life imaginable, married at last to his mistress, and living with the philosophical Pangloss, the philosophical Maritn, the prudent Cacambo, and the old woman, especially as he had brought away so many diamonds from the country once occupied by the Inca. But he had been so badly cheated by the Jews, that he had nothing left beyond his little farm. His wife daily grew uglier, and became more and more cantankerous and insufferable. The old woman was now quite infirm, and had developed an even worse temper than Cunégonde's. Cacambo, whose job was to work in the garden and sell vegetables in Constantinople, was quite worn out with toil, and cursed his lot. Pangloss was vexed to think that he was not the master spirit in some German university. As for Martin, he was firmly persuaded that a man is badly off wherever he is, so he suffered in patience.

“You must have a magnificent estate,” said Candide to the Turk.
“Only twenty acres,” replied the Turk; “my children help me to farm it, and we find that the work banishes those three great evils, boredom, vice, and poverty.”
As he walked back to the farm, Candide reflected on what the Turk had said. “That old fellow,” said he, turning to Pangloss and Martin, “seemed to me a much better type than those six kings we had the honour of supping with.”
“High estate,” said Pangloss, “is always dangerous, as every philosopher knows. For Eglon, King of Moab, was assassinated by Ehud, and Absalom was hanged by his hair and stabbed with three spears; Kind Nadab, the son of Jeroboam, was killed by Baasha; Kind Elah by Zimri; Joram by Jehu; Athaliah by Jehoiada; and King Jehoiakim, King of Jehoiachin, and King Zedekiah all became slaves. You know the miserable fate of Croesus, Astyages, Darius, Dionysius of Syracuse, Pyrrhus, Perseus, Hannibal, Jugurtha, Ariovistus, Caesar, Pompey, Nero, Otho, Vitellius, Domitian, Richard II of England, Edward II, Henry VI, Richard III, Mary Queen of Scots, Charles I, the three Henrys of France, and the Emperor Henry IV? You know...?”
“I also know,” said Candide, “that we must go and work in the garden.”
“You are quite right,” said Pangloss. “When man was placed in the Garden of Eden, he was put there 'to dress it and to keep it,' to work, in fact; which proves that man was not born to an easy life.”
“We must work without arguing,” said Martin; “that is the only way to make life bearable.”
The entire household agreed to this admirable plan, and each began to exercise his talents. Small as the estate was, it bore heavy crops. There was no denying that Cunégonde as decidedly ugly, but she soon made excellent pastry. Pacquette was clever at embroidery, and the old woman took care of the linen. No one refused to work, not even Brother Giroflée, who was a good carpenter, and thus became an honest man. From time to time Pangloss would say to Candide:
“There is a chain of events in this best of all possible worlds; for if you had not been turned out of a beautiful mansion at the point of a jackboot for the love of Lady Cunégonde, and if you had not been involved in the Inquisition, and had not wandered over America on foot, and had not struck the Baron with your sword, and lost all those sheep you brought from Eldorado, you would not be here eating candied fruit and pistachio nuts.”
“That's true enough,” said Candide; 'but we must go and work in the garden.”

?

Log in