Candide, by Voltaire

Chapter I.

How Candide quitted his companions, and what happened to him.

We soon become tired of everything in life; riches fatigue the possessor; ambition, when satisfied, leaves only remorse behind it; the joys of love are but transient joys; and Candide, made to experience all the vicissitudes of fortune, was soon disgusted with cultivating his garden. “Mr. Pangloss,” said he, “if we are in the best of possible worlds, you will own to me, at least, that this is not enjoying that portion of possible happiness; but living obscure in a little corner of the Propontis, having no other resource than that of my own manual labor, which may one day fail me; no other pleasures than what Mrs. Cunegund gives me, who is very ugly; and, which is worse, is my wife; no other company than yours, which is sometimes irksome to me; or that of Martin, which makes me melancholy; or that of Giroflée, who is but very lately become an honest man; or that of Pacquette, the danger of whose correspondence you have so fully experienced; or that of the hag who has but one buttock, and is constantly repeating old wives’ tales.

To this Pangloss made the following reply: “Philosophy teaches us that monads, divisible in infinitum, arrange themselves with wonderful sagacity in order to compose the different bodies which we observe in nature. The heavenly bodies are what they should be; they are placed where they should be; they describe the circles which they should describe; man follows the bent he should follow; he is what he should be; he does what he should do. You bemoan yourself, O Candide, because the monad of your soul is disgusted; but disgust is a modification of the soul; and this does not hinder, but everything is for the best, both for you and others. When you beheld me covered with sores, I did not maintain my opinion the less for that; for if Miss Pacquette had not made me taste the pleasures of love and its poison, I should not have met with you in Holland; I should not have given the anabaptist James an opportunity of performing a meritorious act; I should not have been hanged in Lisbon for the edification of my neighbor; I should not have been here to assist you with my advice, and make you live and die in Leibnitz’s opinion. Yes, my dear Candide, everything is linked in a chain, everything is necessary in the best of possible worlds. There is a necessity that the burgher of Montauban should instruct kings; that the worm of Quimper-Corentin should carp, carp, carp; that the declaimer against philosophers should occasion his own crucifixion in St. Denis street; that a rascally recollet and the archdeacon of St. Malo should diffuse their gall and calumny through their Christian journals; that philosophy should be accused at the tribunal of Melpomene; and that philosophers should continue to enlighten human nature, notwithstanding the croakings of ridiculous animals that flounder in the marshes of learning; and should you be once more driven by a hearty kicking from the finest of all castles, to learn again your exercise among the Bulgarians; should you again suffer the dirty effects of a Dutchwoman’s zeal; be half drowned again before Lisbon; to be unmercifully whipped again by order of the most holy Inquisition; should you run the same risks again among Los Padres, the Oreillons, and the French; should you, in short, suffer every possible calamity and never understand Leibnitz better than I myself do, you will still maintain that all is well; that all is for the best; that a plenum, the materia subtilis, a pre-established harmony, and monads, are the finest things in the world; and that Leibnitz is a great man, even to those who do not comprehend him.”

To this fine speech, Candide, the mildest being in nature, though he had killed three men, two of whom were priests, answered not a word; but weary of the doctor and his society, next morning at break of day, taking a white staff in his hand, marched off, without knowing whither he was going, but in quest of a place where one does not become disgusted, and where men are not men, as in the good country of El Dorado.

Candide, so much the less unhappy as he had no longer a love for Miss Cunegund, living upon the bounty of different people, who were not Christians, but yet give alms, arrived after a very long and very tiresome journey, at Tauris, upon the frontiers of Persia, a city noted for the cruelties which the Turks and Persians have by turns exercised therein.

Half dead with fatigue, having hardly more clothes than what were necessary to cover that part which constitutes the man, and which men call shameful, Candide could not well relish Pangloss’ opinion when a Persian accosted him in the most polite manner, beseeching him to ennoble his house with his presence. “You make a jest of me,” cried Candide to him; “I am a poor devil who has left a miserable dwelling I had in Propontis because I had married Miss Cunegund; because she is grown very ugly, and because I was disgusted; I am not, indeed, able to ennoble anybody’s house; I am not noble myself, thank God. If I had the honor of being so, Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh should have paid very dearly for the kicks on the backside with which he favored me, or I should have died of shame for it, which would have been pretty philosophical; besides, I have been whipped ignominiously by the executioners of the most holy Inquisition, and by two thousand heroes at three pence halfpenny a day. Give me what you please, but do not insult my distress with taunts which would deprive you of the whole value of your beneficence.” “My lord,” replied the Persian, “you may be a beggar, and this appears pretty plainly; but my religion obliges me to use hospitality; it is sufficient that you are a man and under misfortunes; that the apple of my eye should be the path for your feet; vouchsafe to ennoble my house with your radiant presence.” “I will, since you desire it,” answered Candide. “Come then, enter,” said the Persian. They went in accordingly, and Candide could not forbear admiring the respectful treatment shown him by his host. The slaves anticipated his desires; the whole house seemed to be busied in nothing but contributing to his satisfaction. “Should this last,” said Candide to himself, “all does not go so badly in this country.” Three days were passed, during which time the kindness of the Persian still continued; and Candide already cried out: “Master Pangloss, I always imagined you were in the right, for you are a great philosopher.”

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 18:24