François Marie Arouet de Voltaire (16941778). Candide, or The Optimist. 1884.
What happened to Candide and Martin in France
CANDIDE stayed no longer at Bourdeaux than was necessary to dispose of a few of the pebbles he had brought from El Dorado, and to provide himself with a post-chaise for two persons, for he could no longer stir a step without his philosopher Martin. The only thing that gave him concern was the being obliged to leave his sheep behind him, which he entrusted to the care of the Academy of Sciences at Bourdeaux, who proposed, as a prize subject for the year, to prove why the wool of this sheep was red; and the prize was adjudged to a northern sage, who demonstrated by A plus B minus C, divided by Z, why the sheep must necessarily be red, and die of the mange.
In the meantime, all the travellers whom Candide met with in the inns or on the road told him to a man that they were going to Paris. This general eagerness gave him likewise a great desire to see this capital, and it was not much out of his way to Venice.
Candide had not been long at his inn before he was seized with a slight disorder, owing to the fatigue he had undergone. As he wore a diamond of an enormous size on his finger, and had among the rest of his equipage a strong box that seemed very weighty, he soon found himself between two physicians whom he had not sent for, a number of intimate friends whom he had never seen and who would not quit his bedside, and two female devotees, who were very careful in providing him hot suppers.
I remember, said Martin to him, that the first time I came to Paris I was likewise taken ill. I was very poor, and accordingly I had neither friends, nurses, nor physicians, and yet I did very well.
However, by dint of purging and bleeding, Candides disorder became very serious. The priest of the parish came with all imaginable politeness to desire a note of him, payable to the bearer in the other world. Candide refused to comply with his request, but the two devotees assured him that it was a new fashion. Candide replied that he was not one that followed the fashion. Martin was for throwing the priest out of the window. The clerk swore Candide should not have Christian burial. Martin swore in his turn that he would bury the clerk alive if he continued to plague them any longer. The dispute grew warm; Martin took him by the shoulders and turned him out of the room, which gave great scandal, and occasioned a verbal process.
Candide recovered, and till he was in a condition to go abroad, had a great deal of good company to pass the evenings with him in his chamber. They played deep. Candide was surprised to find he could never turn a trick, and Martin was not at all surprised at the matter.
Among those who did him the honours of the place was a little spruce Abbé of Perigordone of those insinuating, busy, fawning, impudent necessary fellows that lay wait for strangers on their arrival, tell them all the scandal of the town, and offer to minister to their pleasures at various prices. This man conducted Candide and Martin to the playhouse: they were acting a new tragedy. Candide found himself placed near a cluster of wits. This, however, did not prevent him from shedding tears at some parts of the piece, which were most affecting and best acted. One of these talkers said to him between acts: You are greatly to blame to shed tears. That actress plays horribly, and the man that plays with her still worse, and the piece itself is still more execrable than the representation. The author does not understand a word of Arabic, and yet he has laid his scene in Arabia; and what is more, he is a fellow who does not believe in innate ideas. To-morrow I will bring you a score of pamphlets that have been written against him. Pray, sir, said Candide to the Abbé, how many theatrical pieces have you in France? Five or six thousand, replied the other. Indeed! that is a great number, said Candide; but how many good ones may there be? About fifteen or sixteen. Oh! that is a great number, said Martin.
Candide was greatly taken with an actress, who performed the part of Queen Elizabeth in a dull kind of tragedy that is played sometimes. That actress, said he to Martin, pleases me greatly. She has some sort of resemblance to Miss Cunegund. I should be very glad to pay my respects to her. The Abbé of Perigord offered his service to introduce him to her at her own house. Candide, who was brought up in Germany, desired to know what might be the ceremonial used on those occasions, and how a Queen of England was treated in France. There is a necessary distinction to be observed in these matters, said the Abbé. In a country town we take them to a tavern; here in Paris they are treated with great respect during their lifetime, provided they are handsome, and when they die we throw their bodies upon a dunghill. How, said Candide, throw a queens body upon a dunghill! The gentleman is quite right, said Martin; he tells you nothing but the truth. I happened to be at Paris when Miss Monimia made her exit, as one may say, out of this world into another. She was refused what they call here the rites of sepulture; that is to say, she was denied the privilege of rotting in a churchyard by the side of all the beggars in the parish. They buried her at the corner of Burgundy Street, which must certainly have shocked her extremely, as she had very exalted notions of things. This is acting very unpolitely, said Candide. Lord! said Martin, what can be said to it? It is the way of these people. Figure to yourself all the contradictions, all the inconsistencies possible, and you may meet with them in the government, the courts of justice, the churches, and the public spectacles of this odd nation. Is it true, said Candide, that the people of Paris are always laughing? Yes, replied the Abbé; but it is with anger in their hearts. They express all their complaints by loud bursts of laughter, and commit the most detestable crimes with a smile on their faces.
Who was that great overgrown beast, said Candide, who spoke so ill to me of the piece with which I was so much affected, and of the players who gave me so much pleasure? A very good-for-nothing sort of a man, I assure you, answered the Abbé; one who gets his livelihood by abusing every new book and play that is written or performed. He abominates to see any one meet with success, like eunuchs who detest every one that possesses those powers they are deprived of. He is one of those vipers in literature who nourish themselves with their own venom; a pamphlet-monger. A pamphlet-monger? said Candide; what is that? Why, a pamphlet-monger, replied the Abbé, is a writer of pamphlets, a fool.
Candide, Martin, and the Abbé of Perigord argued thus on the staircase while they stood to see the people go out of the playhouse. Though I am very earnest to see Miss Cunegund again, said Candide, yet I have a great inclination to sup with Miss Clairon, for I am really much taken with her.
The Abbé was not a person to show his face at this ladys house, which was frequented by none but the best company. She is engaged this evening, said he; but I will do myself the honour to introduce you to a lady of quality of my acquaintance, at whose house you will see as much of the manners of Paris as if you had lived here for forty years.
Candide, who was naturally curious, suffered himself to be conducted to this ladys house, which was in the suburbs of St. Honoré. The company were engaged at basset; twelve melancholy punters held each in his hand a small pack of cards, the corners of which, doubled down, were so many registers of their ill-fortune. A profound silence reigned through the assembly, a pallid dread had taken possession of the countenances of the punters, and restless inquietude stretched every muscle of the face of him who kept the bank; and the lady of the house, who was seated next to him, observed with lynxs eyes every parole and sept-le-va as they were going, as likewise those who tallied, and made them undouble their cards with a severe exactness, though mixed with a politeness, which she thought necessary not to frighten away her customers. This lady assumed the title of Marchioness of Parolignac. Her daughter, a girl of about fifteen years of age, was one of the punters, and took care to give her mamma an item, by signs, when any one of them attempted to repair the rigour of their ill-fortune by a little innocent deception. The company were thus occupied, when Candide, Martin, and the Abbé, made their entrance. Not a creature rose to salute them, or indeed took the least notice of them, being wholly intent upon the business in hand. Ah! said Candide, my Lady Baroness of Thunder-ten-tronckh would have behaved more civily.
However, the Abbé whispered the Marchioness in the ear, who, half raising herself from her seat, honoured Candide with a gracious smile, and gave Martin a nod of her head with an air of inexpressible dignity. She then ordered a seat for Candide, and desired him to make one of their party of play. He did so, and in a few deals lost near a thousand pieces; after which they supped very elegantly, and every one was surprised at seeing Candide lose so much money, without appearing to be the least disturbed at it. The servants in waiting said to each other, This is certainly some English lord.
The supper was like most others of this kind at Paris. At first every one was silent; then followed a few confused murmurs, and afterwards several insipid jokes passed and repassed, with false reports, false reasonings, a little politics, and a great deal of scandal. The conversation then turned upon the new productions in literature. Pray, said the Abbé, good folks, have you seen the romance written by the Sieur Gauchat, doctor of divinity? Yes, answered one of the company, but I had not patience to go through it. The town is pestered with a swarm of impertinent productions, but this of Dr. Gauchats outdoes them all. In short, I was so horribly tired of reading this vile stuff, that I even resolved to come here, and make a party at basset. But what say you to the Archdeacon Ts miscellaneous collection, said the Abbé. Oh, my God! cried the Marchioness of Parolignac, never mention the tedious creature. Only think what pains he is at to tell one things that all the world knows; and how he labours an argument that is hardly worth the slightest consideration! How absurdly he makes use of other peoples wit! how miserably he mangles what he has pilfered from them! The man makes me quite sick. A few pages of the good archdeacon are enough in conscience to satisfy any one.
There was at the table a person of learning and taste, who supported what the Marchioness had advanced. They next began to talk of tragedies. The lady desired to know how it came about that there were several tragedies which still continued to be played, though they would not bear reading? The man of taste explained very clearly, how a piece may be in some manner interesting without having a grain of merit. He showed, in a few words, that it is not sufficient to throw together a few incidents that are to be met with in every romance, and that dazzle the spectator; the thoughts should be new without being far-fetched; frequently sublime, but always natural; the author should have a thorough knowledge of the human heart, and make it speak properly; he should be a complete poet, without showing an affectation of it in any of the characters of his piece; he should be a perfect master of his language, speak it with all its purity and with the utmost harmony, and yet so as not to make the sense a slave to the rhyme. Whoever, added he, neglects any one of these rules, though he may write two or three tragedies with tolerable success, will never be reckoned in the number of good authors. There are very few good tragedies; some are idylliums, in well written and harmonious dialogue; and others a chain of political reasonings that set one asleep; or else pompous and high-flown amplifications, that disgust rather than please. Others again are the ravings of a madman, in an uncouth style, unmeaning flights, or long apostrophes to the deities, for want of knowing how to address mankind; in a word, a collection of false maxims and dull commonplace.
Candide listened to this discourse with great attention, and conceived a high opinion of the person who delivered it; and as the Marchioness had taken care to place him near her side, he took the liberty to whisper her softly in the ear, and ask who this person was that spoke so well. He is a man of letters, replied her ladyship, who never plays, and whom the Abbé brings with him to my house sometimes to spend an evening. He is a great judge of writing, especially in tragedy: he has composed one himself, which was damned, and has written a book that was never seen out of his booksellers shop, excepting only one copy, which he sent me with a dedication, to which he had prefixed my name. Oh, the great man! cried Candide: he is a second Pangloss.
Then turning towards him: Sir, said he, you are doubtless of opinion that everything is for the best in the physical and moral world, and that nothing could be otherwise than it is? I, sir! replied the man of letters; I think no such thing, I assure you; I find that all in this world is set the wrong end uppermost. No one knows what is his rank, his office, nor what he does, nor what he should do; and that except our evenings, which we generally pass tolerably merrily, the rest of our time is spent in idle disputes and quarrels: Jansenists against Molinists, the Parliament against the Church, and one armed body of men against another; courtier against courtier, husband against wife, and relations against relations. In short, this world is nothing but one continued scene of civil war.
Yes, said Candide, and I have seen worse than all that; and yet a learned man, who had the misfortune to be hanged, taught me that everything was marvellously well, and that these evils you are speaking of were only so many shades in a beautiful picture. Your hempen sage, said Martin, laughed at you. These shades, as you call them, are most horrible blemishes. The men make these blemishes, rejoined Candide, and they cannot do otherwise. Then it is not their fault, added Martin. The greatest part of the gamesters, who did not understand a syllable of this discourse, amused themselves with drinking, while Martin reasoned with the learned gentleman; and Candide entertained the lady of the house with a part of his adventures.
After supper the Marchioness conducted Candide into her dressing-room, and made him sit down under a canopy. Well, said she, are you still so violently fond of Miss Cunegund of Thunder-ten-tronckh? Yes, madam, replied Candide. The Marchioness said to him, with a tender smile, You answer me like a young man born in Westphalia. A Frenchman would have said, It is true, madam, I had a great passion for Miss Cunegund; but since I have seen you I fear I can no longer love her as I did. Alas! madam, replied Candide, I will make you what answer you please. You fell in love with her, I find, in stooping to pick up her handkerchief, which she had dropped. You shall pick up my garter. With all my heart, madam, said Candide; and he picked it up. But you must tie it on again, said the lady. Look ye, young man, said the Marchioness, you are a stranger. I make some of my lovers here in Paris languish for me a whole fortnight; but I surrender to you the first night, because I am willing to do the honours of my country to a young Westphalian. The fair one having cast her eye on two very large diamonds that were upon the young strangers finger, praised them in so earnest a manner that they were in an instant transferred from his finger to hers.
As Candide was going home with the Abbé he felt some qualms of conscience for having been guilty of infidelity to Miss Cunegund. The Abbé took part with him in his uneasiness. He had but an inconsiderable share in the thousand pieces Candide had lost at play, and the two diamonds which had been in a manner extorted from him; and therefore very prudently designed to make the most he could of his new acquaintance which chance had thrown in his way. He talked much of Miss Cunegund; and Candide assured him that he would heartily ask pardon of that fair one for his infidelity to her when he saw her at Venice.
And so, sir, you have an engagement at Venice? Yes, Monsieur lAbbé, answered Candide, I must absolutely wait upon Miss Cunegund; and then the pleasure he took in talking about the object he loved led him insensibly to relate, according to custom, part of his adventures with that illustrious Westphalian beauty.
I fancy, said the Abbé, Miss Cunegund has a great deal of wit, and that her letters must be very entertaining. I never received any from her, said Candide, for you are to consider that, being expelled from the castle upon her account, I could not write to her, especially as soon after my departure I heard she was dead; but, thank God, I found afterwards she was living. I left her again after this, and now I have sent a messenger to her near two thousand leagues from hence, and wait here for his return with an answer from her.
The artful Abbé let not a word of all this escape him, though he seemed to be musing upon something else. He soon took his leave of the two adventurers, after having embraced them with the greatest cordiality. The next morning, almost as soon as his eyes were open, Candide received the following billet:
My dearest Lover,I have been ill in this city these eight days. I have heard of your arrival, and should fly to your arms were I able to stir. I was informed of your being on the way hither at Bourdeaux, where I left the faithful Cacambo and the old woman, who will soon follow me. The Governor of Buenos Ayres has taken everything from me but your heart, which I still retain. Come to me immediately on receipt of this. Your presence will either give me new life or kill me with the pleasure.
At the receipt of this charming, this unexpected letter, Candide felt the utmost transports of joy; though, on the other hand, the indisposition of his beloved Miss Cunegund, overwhelmed him with grief. Distracted between these two passions, he took his gold and his diamonds, and procured a person to conduct him and Martin to the house where Miss Cunegund lodged. Upon entering the room he felt his limbs tremble, his heart flutter, his tongue falter. He attempted to undraw the curtain, and called for a light to the bedside. Lord, sir, cried a maid-servant, who was waiting in the room, take care what you do; Miss cannot bear the least light. And so saying, she pulls the curtain close again. Cunegund! my dear Cunegund! cried Candide, bathed in tears, how do you do? If you cannot bear the light, speak to me at least. Alas! she cannot speak, said the maid. The sick lady then puts a plump hand out of the bed, and Candide first bathes it with his tears, then fills it with diamonds, leaving a purse of gold upon the easy chair.
In the midst of his transports comes an officer into the room, followed by the Abbé and a file of musketeers. There, said he, are the two suspected foreigners. At the same time he orders them to be seized and carried to prison. Travellers are not treated in this manner in the country of El Dorado, said Candide. I am more of a Manichæan now than ever, said Martin. But pray, good sir, where are you going to carry us, said Candide. To a dungeon, my dear sir, replied the officer.
When Martin had a little recovered himself, so as to form a cool judgment of what had passed, he plainly perceived that the person who had acted the part of Miss Cunegund was a cheat, that the Abbé of Perigord was a sharper, who had imposed upon the honest simplicity of Candide, and that the officer was a knave, whom they might easily get rid of.
Candide, following the advice of his friend Martin, and burning with impatience to see the real Miss Cunegund, rather than be obliged to appear at a court of justice, proposes to the officer to make him a present of three small diamonds, each of them worth three thousand pistoles. Ah, sir, said this understrapper of justice, had you committed ever so much villainy, this would render you the honestest man living in my eyes. Three diamonds worth three thousand pistoles! Why, my dear sir, so far from carrying you to jail, I would lose my life to serve you. There are orders for stopping all strangers; but leave it to me. I have a brother at Dieppe, in Normandy. I myself will conduct you thither, and if you have a diamond left to give him, he will take as much care of you as I myself should.
But why, said Candide, do they stop all strangers? The Abbé of Perigord made answer that it was because a poor devil of the country of Atrebata heard somebody tell foolish stories, and this induced him to commit a parricide; not such a one as that in the month of May 1610, but such as that in the month of December in the year 1594, and such as many that have been perpetrated in other months and years by other poor devils who had heard foolish stories.
The officer then explained to them what the Abbé meant. Horrid monsters! exclaimed Candide. Is it possible that such scenes should pass among a people who are perpetually singing and dancing? Is there no flying this abominable country immediately, this execrable kingdom, where monkeys provoke tigers? I have seen bears in my country, but men I have beheld nowhere but in El Dorado. In the name of God, sir, said he to the officer, do me the kindness to conduct me to Venice, where I am to wait for Miss Cunegund. Really, sir, replied the officer, I cannot possibly wait on you farther than Lower Normandy. So saying, he ordered Candides irons to be struck off, acknowledged himself mistaken, and sent his followers about their business; after which he conducted Candide and Martin to Dieppe, and left them to the care of his brother. There happened just then to be a small Dutch ship in the roads. The Norman, whom the other three diamonds had converted into the most obliging, serviceable being that ever breathed, took care to see Candide and his attendants safe on board this vessel, that was just ready to sail for Portsmouth in England. This was not the nearest way to Venice indeed; but Candide thought himself escaped out of hell, and did not in the least doubt but he should quickly find an opportunity of resuming his voyage to Venice.