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Tafelrunde in Sanssouci (Voltaire to the left, purple, next to Casanova, red lapels), Adolph von Menzel, 1850 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 Quotations From Candide

“It is demonstrable,” said he [Dr Pangloss], “that things cannot be otherwise than as they are; for all being created for an end, all is necessarily for the best end. Observe, that the nose has been formed to bear spectacles—thus we have spectacles.” (1)

“The bayonet was also a sufficient reason for the death of several thousands.” (3)

“The Best of all Possible Worlds”

Click on the following link. It leads to a video that sums up Candide.


According to Dr Pangloss, a follower of Leibniz, humans live in “the best of all possible worlds,” (see The Best of all Possible Worlds, Wikipedia), where everything is made for an end and all effects have a cause. There is therefore “sufficient reason” for everything that happens, so “nothing happens by pure chance.” (See Sufficient Reason.)

According to Leibniz’ Essais de Théodicée sur la bonté de Dieu, la liberté de l’homme et l’origine du mal (Essays on the Goodness of God, the Freedom of Man and the Origin of Evil), published in 1710:

“nothing ever comes to pass without there being a cause or at least a reason determining it, that is, something to give an a priori reason why it is existent rather than non-existent, and in this wise rather than in any other. This great principle holds for all events, and a contrary instance will never be supplied: and although more often than not we are insufficiently acquainted with these determinant reasons, we perceive nevertheless that there are such.” (Theodicy, p. 148.) (See Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz, Wikipedia.)

Theodicy is Gutenberg.pdf
Theodicy is Gutenberg [EBook #17147]

According to Britannica:

“Best of all possible worlds, in the philosophy of the 17th–18th-century philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, the present world of monads (infinitesimal psychophysical entities) coordinated in preestablished harmony. Among all possible worlds that God could have created, his actual choice of one over the others required a “sufficient reason,” which, for Leibniz, was the fact that this world was the “best”—despite the existence of evident evils, for any other “possible world” would have had evils of its own sort of even greater magnitude. Had it lacked a sufficient reason to explain its existence (and implicitly its contingency), the world for Leibniz would have existed of necessity. Voltaire’s Candide (1759) was a satirical rejection of Leibniz’s optimistic view of the world.”[1]



Illustrations by Adrien Moreau (Photo credit: Internet Archives)

The Plot

The plot of Candide retells John Milton‘s Paradise Lost. Candide is kicked out of the castle of the Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh, a “terrestrial paradise” (beginning of chapter 2), because he has kissed Cunégonde, the Baron’s daughter. Candide is the illegitimate son of the Baron’s sister and is therefore considered inferior to Cunégonde. Later, in Uruguay and in Constantinople, the Baron’s son will express the same view. 

After he leaves the Baron’s castle, Candide is drafted into the Bulgarian army. It seems to be in Holland. Candida is flogged by the Bulgarians and would be put to death, were it not for the Bulgar King’s last-minute intervention. Candide is not worth killing.

The Anabaptist

There is no end to Candide’s trials and tribulations. He does, however, meet an Anabaptist, one who baptizes again, who looks after him, houses him and becomes his teacher. We are in Holland. Dr Pangloss surfaces and all three, Candide, the Anabaptist and Dr Pangloss, leave for Lisbon and arrive just in time for the earthquake and tsunami. (See 1577 Lisbon earthquake, Wikipedia.) The Anabaptist is drowned by a bad sailor. Virtue doesn’t pay.

In fact, everything goes amiss. Candide is wounded but Dr Pangloss remains the philosopher that he is. The Bulgar King would not have found him worth killing. 

“This concussion of the earth is no new thing,” answered Pangloss. “The city of Lima, in America, experienced the same convulsions last year; the same cause, the same effects; there is certainly a train of sulphur underground from Lima to Lisbon.”
“Nothing more probable,” said Candide; “but for the love of God a little oil and wine.” (5)


Dr Pangloss is the victim of an Inquisition‘s auto-da-fé (an act of faith) Candide is whipped. During an auto-da-féhumans were burned alive. However, Dr Pangloss is hanged because it is raining.

The Inquisition is, of course, an instance of fanaticism. However, contrary to other philosophes, Voltaire believed in God. In 1778, the year of his death, he was initiated into Freemasonry, a fraternity, at the Paris Lodge calledLes Neuf Sœurs” (the Nine Muses). Benjamin Franklin accompanied him.


In Lisbon, Candide is found by Cunégonde who asks an Old Woman to fetch him. I have not found a reference to Freemasonry in Candide. Freemasons were active abolitionists as were Quakers and Cunégonde is a sex-slave, usually the worst possible fate. She belongs to a Jew and an Inquisitor and is unlikely to be staving off their advances, as she claims. She is not free to do so.

At this point in the novel, Cunégonde and the Old Woman tell their stories. Candide has an outer-frame, or story, i.e. Candide’s search for his beloved Cunégonde. But it also has inner-stories. We learn that the Old Woman lost a buttock when starving Turks spared the life of captured women by slicing up one buttock and eating it. In Candide, women are raped, disembowelled, mutilated, and sometimes quartered. The Baroness is quartered.


Voltaire shows no mercy towards organized religions. They are human institutions and fallible. Even his ‘innocent’ Candide kills three men: the Jew, the Inquisitor and the Baron’s son, a Jesuit, SJ. He must therefore flee, just as Voltaire fled to avoid being imprisoned.

When, at long last, Candide finds Cunégonde, she is in Constantinople, the birth place of Christianity, conquered by Ottoman Turks in 1453, but she has become ugly. This is not the best of all possible worlds. The world is as described by Martin, the philosopher Candide meets in Suriname and befriends. They cross the Atlantic together and Martin spends his time negating Dr Pangloss’ belief that this is the best of possible worlds. In fact, this is an ugly world and Candide’s dream does not come true, at least not entirely.

Candide, who became very rich in El Dorado, still has enough money to buy back enslaved characters and to purchase a little farm. In the end, however, several characters reappear: Pangloss and the Baron’s son have not died. Moreover, Paquette, the Baroness’ suivante, and Friar Giroflée suddenly join the group in Constantinople. Ever the dramatist, Voltaire is playing with his characters.

These resurrections are both puzzling and reassuring. They are somewhat surreal. Candide will marry Cunégonde, despite her brother’s objections. Although the Baron’s son escaped death and has nothing left, he still thinks his sister is superior to Candide and opposes their marriage. He hasn’t grasped the notion of equality.

Candide contains reassuring instances of loyalty. Cacambo, Candide’s valet, remains loyal to his master. There are redeeming factors.

Leibniz is proven (mostly) wrong

Leibniz is proven mostly wrong, but our characters have learned that they should stay put and cultivate their garden. That is the best humans can do in a world shaken by natural disasters and inhabited by intolerant individuals who persecute and kill one another in the name of a religion.

The Dervish and the Old Man

At the end of the novel, our characters go and visit a dervish, the best dervish in Turkey, who tells that it does not matter that the world is an evil world.

“In the neighborhood lived a famous dervish who passed for the best philosopher in Turkey; they went to consult him: Pangloss, who was their spokesman, addressed him thus: “Master, we come to entreat you to tell us why so strange an animal as man has been formed?”
“Why do you trouble your head about it?” said the dervish; “is it any business of yours?”
“But, Reverend Father,” said Candide, “there is a horrible deal of evil on the earth.”
“What signifies it,” said the dervish, “whether there is evil or good? When His Highness sends a ship to Egypt does he trouble his head whether the rats in the vessel are at their ease or not?”
“What must then be done?” said Pangloss.
‘Be silent,’ answered the dervish.”
“I flattered myself,” replied Pangloss, “to have reasoned a little
with you on the causes and effects, on the best of possible worlds, the
origin of evil, the nature of the soul, and a pre–established harmony.”
At these words the dervish shut the door in their faces.
(Candide, p. 95 – 96)

They meet an old man on their way home and asked about a mufti who has been killed and other victims. The old man knows nothing about these events. He invites the group and he and his children serve them delicacies. They enjoy the moment and reflect that the old man is in a better situation than the six deposed and dispossessed monarchs Candide and Martin met in Venice.

The old man is a source of inspiration. Candide and his companions decide simply to cultivate their garden.


Voltaire’s Candide, part 1 (12 March 2015)

Sources and Resources
Candide: Internet archives FR
Candide pdf  EN
is Gutenberg.pdf
Theodicy is Gutenberg [EBook #17147]
Œuvres philosophiques de Leibniz (BnF) FR
Œuvres philosophiques de Leibniz (BnF) FR

The Story

Voltaire’s Candide, part 1 (12 March 2015)

The Cast

Cunégonde (the woman Candide loves)
The Baron of Thunder-ten-Tronckh (Cunégonde’s father)
Candide (the illegitimate son of the Baron’s sister)
Dr Pangloss (Candide’s mentor: who believes this is “the best of all possible worlds”)
Cacambo (Candide’s loyal servant, a zanni of the commedia dell’arte)
The Old Lady
Martin (the Old Philosopher, the opposite of Pangloss)
Paquette (suivante to the Baroness)
Giroflée (a friar)

With kind regards to everyone 
“best of all possible worlds”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2015. Web. 14 mars. 2015

images© Micheline Walker
15 March 2015