In the country of Westphalia [JS2], in the castle of the most noble Baron of Thunder-ten-tronckh, lived a youth whom Nature had endowed with a most sweet disposition. His face was the true index of his mind. He had a solid judgment joined to the most unaffected simplicity; and hence, I presume, he had his name of Candide. The old servants of the house suspected him to have been the son of the Baron's sister, by a very good sort of a gentleman of the neighborhood, whom that young lady refused to marry, because he could produce no more than threescore and eleven quarterings [JS3]in his arms; the rest of the genealogical tree belonging to the family having been lost through the injuries of time.
The Baron was one of the most powerful lords in Westphalia [JS4], for his castle had not only a gate, but even windows, and his great hall was hung with tapestry. He used to hunt with his mastiffs and spaniels instead of greyhounds; his groom served him for huntsman; and the parson of the parish officiated as his grand almoner. He was called "My Lord" by all his people, and he never told a story but everyone laughed at it.
My Lady Baroness, who weighed three hundred and fifty pounds, consequently was a person of no small consideration; and then she did the honors of the house with a dignity that commanded universal respect. Her daughter was about seventeen years of age, fresh-colored, comely, plump, and desirable. The Baron's son seemed to be a youth in every respect worthy of the father he sprung from. Pangloss, the preceptor, was the oracle of the family, and little Candide listened to his instructions with all the simplicity natural to his age and disposition.
Master Pangloss taught the metaphysico-theologo-cosmolonigology. [JS5]He could prove to admiration that there is no effect without a cause; and, that in this best of all possible worlds, the Baron's castle was the most magnificent of all castles, and My Lady the best of all possible baronesses.
"It is demonstrable," said he, "that things cannot be otherwise than as they are; for as all things have been created for some end, they must necessarily be created for the best end. [JS6] Observe, for instance, the nose is formed for spectacles; therefore we wear spectacles. The legs are visibly designed for stockings; accordingly we wear stockings. Stones were made to be hewn and to construct castles, therefore My Lord has a magnificent castle; for the greatest baron in the province ought to be the best lodged. Swine were intended to be eaten, therefore we eat pork all the year round: and they, who assert that everything is right, do not express themselves correctly; they should say that everything is best [JS7]."
Candide listened attentively and believed implicitly, for he thought Miss Cunegund excessively handsome, though he never had the courage to tell her so. He concluded that next to the happiness of being Baron of Thunder-ten-tronckh, the next was that of being Miss Cunegund, the next that of seeing her every day, and the last that of hearing the doctrine of Master Pangloss, the greatest philosopher of the whole province, and consequently of the whole world.
One day when Miss Cunegund went to take a walk in a little neighboring wood which was called a park, she saw, through the bushes, the sage Doctor Pangloss giving a lecture in experimental philosophy to her mother's chambermaid, a little brown wench, very pretty, and very tractable. [JS8] As Miss Cunegund had a great disposition for the sciences, she observed with the utmost attention the experiments which were repeated before her eyes; she perfectly well understood the force of the doctor's reasoning upon causes and effects. She retired greatly flurried, quite pensive and filled with the desire of knowledge, imagining that she might be a sufficient reason for young Candide, and he for her.
On her way back she happened to meet the young man; she blushed, he blushed also; she wished him a good morning in a flattering tone, he returned the salute, without knowing what he said. The next day, as they were rising from dinner, Cunegund and Candide slipped behind the screen. The miss dropped her handkerchief; the young man picked it up. She innocently took hold of his hand, and he as innocently kissed hers with a warmth, a sensibility, a grace-all very particular; their lips met; their eyes sparkled; their knees trembled; their hands strayed. The Baron chanced to come by; he beheld the cause and effect, and, without hesitation, saluted Candide with some notable kicks on the breech and drove him out of doors. [JS9] The lovely Miss Cunegund fainted away, and, as soon as she came to herself, the Baroness boxed her ears. Thus a general consternation was spread over this most magnificent and most agreeable of all possible castles.
Candide, thus driven out of this terrestrial paradise, rambled a long time without knowing where he went; sometimes he raised his eyes, all bedewed with tears, towards heaven, and sometimes he cast a melancholy look towards the magnificent castle, where dwelt the fairest of young baronesses. He laid himself down to sleep in a furrow, heartbroken, and supper-less. The snow fell in great flakes, and, in the morning when he awoke, he was almost frozen to death; however, he made shift to crawl to the next town, which was called Wald-berghoff-trarbkdikdorff, without a penny in his pocket, and half dead with hunger and fatigue. He took up his stand at the door of an inn. He had not been long there before two men dressed in blue [JS11]fixed their eyes steadfastly upon him.
"Faith, comrade," said one of them to the other, "yonder is a well made young fellow and of the right size." Upon which they made up to Candide and with the greatest civility and politeness invited him to dine with them.
"Gentlemen," replied Candide, with a most engaging modesty, you do me much honor, but upon my word I have no money."
"Yes, gentlemen, that is really my size," replied he, with a low bow.
"Come then, sir, sit down along with us; we will not only pay your reckoning, but will never suffer such a clever young fellow as you to want money. Men were born to assist one another."
"You are perfectly right, gentlemen," said Candide, "this is precisely the doctrine of Master Pangloss; and I am convinced that everything is for the best."
His generous companions next entreated him to accept of a few crowns, which he readily complied with, at the same time offering them his note for the payment, which they refused, and sat down to table.
"Have you not a great affection for-"
"O yes! I have a great affection for the lovely Miss Cunegund."
"Maybe so," replied one of the blues, "but that is not the question! We ask you whether you have not a great affection for the King of the Bulgars?"
"For the King of the Bulgars?" said Candide. "Oh, Lord! not at all, why I never saw him in my life."
"Is it possible? Oh, he is a most charming king! Come, we must drink his health."
"With all my heart, gentlemen," said Candide, and off he tossed his glass.
"Bravo!" cried the blues; "You are now the support, the defender, the hero of the Bulgars; your fortune is made; you are in the high road to glory."
So saying, they handcuffed him, and carried him away to the regiment. There he was made to wheel about to the right, to the left, to draw his rammer, to return his rammer, to present, to fire, to march, and they gave him thirty blows with a cane; the next day he performed his exercise a little better, and they gave him but twenty; the day following he came off with ten, and was looked upon as a young fellow of surprising genius by all his comrades. [JS13]
Candide was struck with amazement, and could not for the soul of him conceive how he came to be a hero. One fine spring morning, he took it into his head to take a walk, and he marched straight forward, conceiving it to be a privilege of the human species, as well as of the brute creation, to make use of their legs how and when they pleased. [JS14]He had not gone above two leagues when he was overtaken by four other heroes, six feet high, who bound him neck and heels, and carried him to a dungeon. A court martial sat upon him, and he was asked which he liked better, to run the gauntlet six and thirty times through the whole regiment, or to have his brains blown out with a dozen musket-balls?
In vain did he remonstrate to them that the human will is free and that he chose neither; they obliged him to make a choice, and he determined, in virtue of that divine gift called free will, to run the gauntlet six and thirty times.
He had gone through his discipline twice, and the regiment being composed of 2,000 men, they composed for him exactly 4,000 strokes, which laid bare all his muscles and nerves from the nape of his neck to his stern. As they were preparing to make him set out the third time, our young hero, unable to support it any longer, begged as a favor that they would be so obliging as to shoot him through the head; the favor being granted, a bandage was tied over his eyes, and he was made to kneel down.
At that very instant, His Bulgar Majesty [JS15]happening to pass by made a stop, and inquired into the delinquent's crime, and being a prince of great penetration, he found, from what he heard of Candide, that he was a young metaphysician, entirely ignorant of the world; and therefore, out of his great clemency, he condescended to pardon him, for which his name will be celebrated in every journal, and in every age. A skillful surgeon made a cure of the flagellated Candide in three weeks by means of emollient unguents prescribed by Dioscorides [JS16]. His sores were now skimmed over and he was able to march, when the King of the Bulgarians gave battle to the King of the Abares [JS17].
How Candide Escaped from the Bulgarians
and What Befell Him Afterward
Never was anything so gallant, so well accoutered, so brilliant, and so finely disposed as the two armies. The trumpets, fifes, hautboys, drums, and cannon made such harmony as never was heard in Hell itself. The entertainment began by a discharge of cannon, which, in the twinkling of an eye, laid flat about 6,000 men on each side. The musket bullets swept away, out of the best of all possible worlds, nine or ten thousand scoundrels that infested its surface. The bayonet was next the sufficient reason of the deaths of several thousands. The whole might amount to thirty thousand souls. Candide trembled like a philosopher, and concealed himself as well as he could during this heroic butchery.
At length, while the two kings were causing Te Deums to be sung in their camps, Candide took a resolution to go and reason somewhere else upon causes and effects. After passing over heaps of dead or dying men, the first place he came to was a neighboring village, in the Abarian territories, which had been burned to the ground by the Bulgarians, agreeably to the laws of war. Here lay a number of old men covered with wounds, who beheld their wives dying with their throats cut, and hugging their children to their breasts, all stained with blood. There several young virgins, whose bodies had been ripped open, after they had satisfied the natural necessities of the Bulgarian heroes, breathed their last; while others, half-burned in the flames, begged to be dispatched out of the world. The ground about them was covered with the brains, arms, and legs of dead men. [JS18]
Candide made all the haste he could to another village, which belonged to the Bulgars, and there he found the heroic Abares had enacted the same tragedy. Thence continuing to walk over palpitating limbs, or through ruined buildings, at length he arrived beyond the theater of war, with a little provision in his budget, and Miss Cunegund's image in his heart. When he arrived in Holland his provision failed him; but having heard that the inhabitants of that country were all rich and Christians, he made himself sure of being treated by them in the same manner as the Baron's castle, before he had been driven thence through the power of Miss Cunegund's bright eyes.
He asked charity of several grave-looking people, who one and all answered him, that if he continued to follow this trade they would have him sent to the house of correction, where he should be taught to get his bread.
He next addressed himself to a person who had just come from haranguing a numerous assembly for a whole hour on the subject of charity. The orator, squinting at him under his broadbrimmed hat, asked him sternly, what brought him thither and whether he was for the good old cause?
"Sir," said Candide, in a submissive manner, "I conceive there can be no effect without a cause; everything is necessarily concatenated and arranged for the best. It was necessary that I should be banished from the presence of Miss Cunegund; that I should afterwards run the gauntlet; and it is necessary I should beg my bread, till I am able to get it. All this could not have been otherwise."
"Truly, I never heard anything about it," said Candide, "but whether he is or not, I am in want of something to eat."
"Thou deservest not to eat or to drink," replied the orator, "wretch, monster, that thou art! hence! avoid my sight, nor ever come near me again while thou livest."
The orator's wife happened to put her head out of the window at that instant, when, seeing a man who doubted whether the Pope was Antichrist, she discharged upon his head a utensil full of __________ (Scandalous!). Good heavens, to what excess does religious zeal transport womankind!
A man who had never been christened, an honest Anabaptist named Jaques [JS20], was witness to the cruel and ignominious treatment showed to one of his brethren, to a featherless biped possessing a soul [JS21]. Moved with pity he carried him to his own house, caused him to be cleaned, gave him meat and drink, and made him a present of two florins, at the same time proposing to instruct him in his own trade of weaving Persian silks, which are fabricated in Holland.
Candide, penetrated with so much goodness, threw himself at his feet, crying, "Now I am convinced that my Master Pangloss told me truth when he said that everything was for the best in this world; for I am infinitely more affected with your extraordinary generosity than with the inhumanity of that gentleman in the black cloak and his wife."
[JS1] Who plays Adam, Eve, the Snake, and God in this retelling of the Fall of Man?
[JS2] A Province of Western Germany near Holland: flat, boggy, and drab.
[JS3] Quarterings are genealogical divisions of one’s family tree. To have seventy-one quarterings indicates that your family has been of aristocratic blood for over a thousand years. Still, Candide is not good enough for Cunegonde.
[JS4] How does Voltaire skewer the aristocracy?
[JS5] Optimistic determinism (Leibniz’s Theodicy)
[JS6] In this paragraph how does Voltaire reveal the flaw in the philosophes’ understanding of optimistic determinism and the argument according to design for God’s existence?
[JS7] The argument according to design supposes that everything in the world exists for a specific reason. (See On Final Causes in Voltaire’s Philosophical Dictionary.) The problem is that people will mistake false ends for certain causes. To test a seemingly rational proposition, answer this question: "Does it hold true at all times and for all cases?" Noses were not made for spectacles, but they were made for smelling.
[JS8] What is the moral problem with the philosophy of optimistic determinism? (What happens to moral responsibility when humans do not have free will?)
[JS9] Compare Voltaire’s account of The Fall with St. Augustine’s: Did Candide and Cunegonde have any option?
[JS10] Voltaire chooses this name for the Prussian troops of Frederick the Great to insinuate that the troops and their master are all ‘buggers’.
[JS11] The Prussian Recruiting Officers
[JS12] How again is Voltaire mocking the logic of optimistic determinism?
[JS13] How is the type of scientific conditioning that the philosophes believed would engineer the perfect man really put to use in the world?
[JS14] Is Voltaire suggesting that humans really do not possess free will?
[JS15] Frederick the Great himself!
[JS16] Discorides treatise on medicine dated from the 1st c. AD: not the most up to date source.
[JS17] The Abares are the French who opposed the Prussians in the Seven Years War (1756-63).
[JS18] Describe the reality of war. Obviously, Voltaire cannot believe that such butchery is for the best. But does he believe war to be a determined reality of life? Or does he believe that the horror of war can be expunged from life?
[JS19] Some radical Protestant sects seemed to make hatred of the Pope their sole reason for being and creed.
[JS20] Anabaptists’ radical views on the sinfulness of the right to property made them unpopular during the 16th century. Their religion was based on literally imitating the life of Christ.
[JS21] Plato’s famous definition of a human being.