Candide By François Voltaire Summary and Analysis Chapters XXIV-XXVI

Immediately upon reaching Venice, Candide began searching for Cacambo. Every day he had all the ships and boats investigated, but he learned no news of his servant. As he explained to Martin, after his long journey from South America he had met only a tricky abbé from Périgord. He was sure that Cunégonde was dead, and he regretted that he had not remained in Eldorado rather than returning to this "accursed Europe," where all was illusion and calamity. Martin, as frank as ever, called his companion a simpleton for believing that a half-breed valet with so much wealth would have fulfilled the mission assigned to him. Martin advised Candide to forget both Cacambo and Cunégonde. As the old scholar continued, the young man's melancholy increased.


Summary

Immediately upon reaching Venice, Candide began searching for Cacambo. Every day he had all the ships and boats investigated, but he learned no news of his servant. As he explained to Martin, after his long journey from South America he had met only a tricky abbé from Périgord. He was sure that Cunégonde was dead, and he regretted that he had not remained in Eldorado rather than returning to this "accursed Europe," where all was illusion and calamity. Martin, as frank as ever, called his companion a simpleton for believing that a half-breed valet with so much wealth would have fulfilled the mission assigned to him. Martin advised Candide to forget both Cacambo and Cunégonde. As the old scholar continued, the young man's melancholy increased.

Candide noticed a young Theatine arm-in-arm with a young lady in the Piazza San Marco. They were an attractive and apparently a very happy couple. Turning to Martin, Candide argued that there at least were two happy creatures. But Martin was sure that they were among the unfortunates who people this world. To settle the question, the young man invited the monk and the pretty girl to dine with Martin and him, and the invitation was promptly accepted. Hardly had they entered Candide's room at the inn than the girl recognized her host and identified herself as Paquette, the baroness' maid with whom Pangloss had had a love affair. She stated that she had heard of the frightful misfortunes that had happened to all at the baron's castle in Westphalia. She herself had fared quite badly. And then she told her story.

After Paquette had been forced to leave the service of the baroness, she became successively the mistress of a doctor who killed his jealous wife, and of a judge, who had freed her from prison, where she had been remanded as a possible accomplice to the murder. A rival soon took her place, and she was obliged to become a common prostitute, the profession she was following in Venice. She dwelt at some length on the degradation she had to endure with only a frightful old age to look forward to. Martin remarked that he had certainly won half of his wager. Candide asked Paquette why it was, in view of her sad lot, that she appeared so gay, so happy. "That is still another of the miseries of the trade," she replied. "Yesterday I was robbed and beaten by an officer, and today I have to appear in a good humor to please a monk." Candide then conceded that Martin was right. He turned to the monk, who, he said, seemed to enjoy a destiny that everyone must envy and who appeared content with his status as a Theatine. But Friar Giroflée (for that was his name) protested that he wished all Theatines were at the bottom of the sea. He himself would have liked to burn the monastery and turn Turk. A younger son, his parents had forced him to leave a greater fortune to the older brother whom he detested and to become a monk. Jealousy, discord, rage characterized life in the monastery. Oh, to be sure, a few bad sermons had brought him some money, half of which the prior stole from him, the rest serving him to keep girls.

Now Candide had to admit that Martin had won the entire wager. He gave Paquette 2,000 piasters and Giroflée 1,000 — sure that the money would make both happy. But Martin was not so sure: perhaps the money would lead them to greater unhappiness. Observing the fact that he often found again people whom he had been sure were lost forever, Candide now believed that there was a good chance of his finding Cunégonde. Martin remained pessimistic; for him happiness in this world was a very scarce commodity. Candide called his attention to the singing gondoliers; surely they were happy. Let Candide see them at home, said Martin, with their wives and brats of children; then he would think otherwise. He conceded that the lot of a gondolier was probably a better one than that of the Doge (the city's chief magistrate). Candide then said that the Venetians spoke of Senator Pococurante, who lived in a palace on the Brenta and who received foreign visitors graciously, as one who was reputed to be a man who never knew grief. Martin expressed a desire to see such a rarity, and Candide immediately arranged for them to visit the senator on the next day.

Both Candide and Martin were quite impressed by the palace and the surrounding gardens and the statuary. The noble Pococurante, a man of about sixty, received them hospitably, if with little enthusiasm. Candide praised the beauty, grace, and skill of the two pretty girls who served them refreshments. The sophisticated senator remarked that sometimes he enjoyed their favors, for he "tired of the town ladies, their coquetries, their follies." When Candide expressed admiration for the original Raphaels and other paintings, Pococurante spoke disparagingly of them; he did not find them true to nature. And when Candide voiced his high approval of the music provided for him, his host held forth on the limitations of contemporary music, especially operatic tragedies. Martin was in full agreement with his host. When they inspected the impressive library, Pococurante had as pronounced ideas on the limitations of such acknowledged greats as Homer and Milton; he preferred Virgil, Tasso, and Ariosto. So with reference to Horace: the Roman writer had his virtues, but also serious limitations. Since he had never been brought up to judge anything for himself, Candide was astonished at what he heard; but again Martin was in full agreement with his host. The tenor of the conversation remained the same as reference was made to Cicero, to the eighty volumes of the Academy of Sciences, and to Italian, Spanish, and French drama.

Particularly interesting was the discussion of English literature. Pococurante agreed with Martin that the English had the privilege of writing what they thought about, whereas in "this Italy of ours," people wrote only what they did not think. He would be glad of the freedom of English geniuses but added that passion and factionalism corrupted all that was estimable in that precious freedom. He dismissed Milton as "a barbarian who writes a long commentary on the first chapter of Genesis in ten books of harsh verses" and as a "crude imitator of the Greeks."

Candide was rather disturbed by these frank, original estimates of the literary greats but was convinced that his host was a great genius: "Nothing can please him." When he and Martin left, Candide remarked that they had indeed met the happiest of all men, one who was above everything he possessed. But insisting that Pococurante was disgusted with everything he possessed, Martin argued that their host was nothing of the sort. So Candide concluded that only he was a happy person — or he would be if and when he saw Cunégonde again. But weeks passed with no sign of Cacambo. Depressed as he was, the youth did not even notice that Paquette and the Friar had not bothered to come and thank him.

One evening Candide, followed by Martin, went to a hotel to dine. Before they could sit down, a man with a very dark complexion came up to him and told him to be ready to leave. It was Cacambo. Candide learned that his valet was now the slave of a man who awaited him and that Cunégonde was in Constantinople. He told the young man to have supper and then be ready for their departure.

In a state of great excitement and mixed emotions, Candide joined the calm Martin at a table with six foreigners who had come to spend the Carnival in Venice. Cacambo was pouring a drink for one of them. He and the other servants or slaves informed their masters that their ships were ready for departure; each left promptly after delivering his message. But the sixth slave had another kind of intelligence for his master. "Your Majesty," he said, "they won't give you any more credit, nor me either. You and I could be imprisoned. I'm going to look after myself. Farewell." Those seated at the table remained silent for a time. Finally, Candide asked how it happened that all six were kings. Each identified himself. They were Achmet III, one-time Grand Sultan, who had been deposed by his nephew; Ivan, former emperor of all the Russias, dethroned when still an infant; Charles Edward, king of England, whose dethroned father had ceded his rights to his son; the king of the Poles, whose father had had similar experiences; another king of the Poles, one who had twice lost his kingdom; the now destitute king of Corsica, to which royal position he had been elected. The sixth kings' stories so moved the others that they gave him money for clothes. Candide gave him a diamond worth 2,000 sequins, much to the surprise of their Royal Highnesses, who wondered how a commoner was able to be so generous. Candide assured them that he was not a king and had no desire to be one. As all prepared to leave, four other Most Serene Highnesses who had lost their states by the fortunes of war arrived. But now Candide was concerned only with going to find his dear Cunégonde in Constantinople.

Analysis

In these chapters, Voltaire added further examples of the misfortune and evil to be found everywhere; no individual, however lowly or exalted, could escape them. Particularly with reference to Paquette and Friar Giroflée, somewhat less so with reference to Senator Pococurante, appearances were deceiving. The young couple seemed to be completely carefree and happy, absorbed as they were in each other. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Both were miserable, pathetic creatures. The senator, living like a manorial lord, sought out by visitors from all over Europe, had not found tranquillity either. And it was Martin, functioning as usual as a kind of chorus, who drew the appropriate conclusion in each case.

Voltaire introduced an amusing bit of irony in his choice of names in this section. Candide described Friar Giroflée as one on whose face the flower of youth shone. The friar's name means "gillyflower"; that of Paquette means "daisy." The author also satirizes the individual who entered the religious life by default and was anything but a dedicated spirit. Friar Giroflée was one of the many younger sons in better class families, who, according to the law of primogeniture, could not inherit their father's estate. Their only recourse was to try to find places in one of the Three Estates — the military, the government, the Church. They could not lower themselves by becoming farmers or tradesmen. Little wonder that many who entered the Church were utter misfits.

Senator Pococurante proved to be a most interesting character, what with his impressive palace, the well-planned gardens, the art objects, and large library. His name means "caring little" — and that is the key to his character. Voltaire, perhaps playfully, identified himself with the senator. And, it will be recalled, he lived in manorial splendor with his sixty retainers at Les Délices and Ferney. On occasion, Voltaire expressed his boredom of such a placid life — he who seemed to have loved a good fight. The senator's views on literature are not to be taken strictly as those of the author, but they often reflect his sense of weakness in the great and his skepticism as regards what may be called "received opinion," that which Candide had depended upon. It comes as a shock to hear Milton described as "that barbarian who writes a long commentary on the first chapter of Genesis in ten books of harsh verses." Voltaire did object especially to the Sin-Death allegory in Paradise Lost, but one wonders how Milton's magnificent blank verse, to be found even in the books that are heavily doctrinal, could be called harsh. As for Pococurante's dislike of Homer, it may be pointed out that most neo-classicists (Pope a notable exception) preferred Virgil. Ariosto and Tasso, the epic poets of the Italian Renaissance, were long-time favorites of Voltaire's.

The six kings whom we meet in this section were actually historical ones. When Voltaire referred to the four others who enter near the end of Chapter XXVI as "Most Serene Highnesses," he indulged himself in more mockery. His point was that there is little if any serenity to be found anywhere, even if one were a king.

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