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From The World’s Wit and Humor, Volume X, French — Rutebœuf to Balzac; The Review of Reviews Company; New York; 1906; pp. 178-212.


François Arouet, “Voltaire” [1694-1778]

The Philosophy of Dr. Pangloss

ONCE upon a time there lived in the castle of the noble Baron of Thundertentronckh, in Westphalia, a young lad to whom Nature had given the most pleasing manners. His countenance expressed his soul. He had a pretty correct judgment, together with the utmost simplicity of mind; and it was for that reason, I suppose, that he bore the name of Candide. The old servants of the house suspected that he was the son of the noble baron’s sister and of a worthy gentleman in the neighborhood, whom the young lady would never marry, because he could show no more than three score and eleven quarterings, the rest of his family tree having perished through the ravages of time.

The baron was one of the most powerful nobles of Westphalia, for his castle had a gate as well as windows, and his great hall was even adorned with tapestry. All the dogs in his stable-yard formed at need a pack of hounds, and his grooms acted as whippers-in; the vicar of the village was his grand almoner. Everybody called him “my Lord,” and laughed at all his good stories.

My lady the baroness, who weighed about three hundred and fifty pounds, and thereby commanded the greatest consideration, did the honors of the house with a dignity which raised its reputation still higher. Her daughter Cunégonde, aged seventeen, was of a fresh and ruddy complexion, plump and appetizing. The baron’s son appeared in all respects worthy of his sire. The tutor Pangloss was the oracle 179 of the house, and little Candide listened to his lessons with all the ready faith natural to his age and disposition.

Pangloss used to teach the science of metaphysico-theologo-cosmologo-noodleology. He demonstrated most admirably that there is no effect without a cause, and that, in this best of all possible worlds, the castle of my lord baron was the most magnificent of castles, and my lady the best of all possible baronesses.

“It has been proved,” said he, “that things cannot be otherwise than they are; for, everything being made for a certain end, the end for which everything is made is necessarily the best end. Observe how noses were made to carry spectacles, and spectacles we have accordingly. Our legs are clearly intended for shoes and stockings, so we have them. Stone has been formed to be hewn and dressed for building castles, so my lord has a very fine one, for it is meet that the greatest baron in the province should have the best accommodation. Pigs were made to be eaten, and we eat pork all the year round. Consequently those who have asserted that all is well have said what is silly; they should have said of everything that is, that it is the best that could possibly be.”

Candide listened attentively, and innocently believed all that he heard; for he thought Mlle. Cunégonde extremely beautiful, though he never had the boldness to tell her so. He felt convinced that, next to the happiness of being born Baron of Thundertentronckh, the second degree of happiness was to be Mlle. Cunégonde, the third to see her every day, and the fourth to hear Professor Pangloss, the greatest philosopher in the province, and therefore in all the world.

One day Mlle. Cunégonde, while taking a walk near the castle, in the little wood which was called the park, saw 180 through the bushes Dr. Pangloss giving a lesson in experimental physics to her mother’s chambermaid, a little brunette, very pretty, and very willing to learn. As Mlle. Cunégonde had a great taste for science, she watched with breathless interest the repeated experiments that were carried on under her eyes; she clearly perceived that the doctor had sufficient reason for all he did; she saw the connection between causes and effects, and returned home much agitated, though very thoughtful, and filled with a yearning after scientific pursuits, for sharing in which she wished that young Candide might find sufficient reason in her, and that she might find the same in him.

She met Candide as she was on her way back to the castle, and blushed; the youth blushed likewise. She bade him good morning in a voice that struggled for utterance; and Candide answered her without well knowing what he was saying. Next day, as the company were leaving the table after dinner, Cunégonde and Candide found themselves behind a screen. Cunégonde let fall her handkerchief; Candide picked it up; she innocently took his hand, and the young man, as innocently, kissed her with an ardor, a tenderness, and a grace quite peculiar; their lips met and their eyes sparkled. His lordship, the Baron of Thundertentronckh, happened to pass by the screen, and, seeing that particular instance of cause and effect, drove Candide out of the castle with vigorous kicks. Cunégonde swooned away, but, as soon as she recovered, my lady the baroness boxed her ears, and all was confusion and consternation in that most magnificent and most charming of all possible castles.

— “Candide.


The Martial Bulgarians

CANDIDE, driven out of his terrestrial paradise, walked on for a long time without knowing whither, weeping, lifting up his eyes to heaven, and often turning them toward that most magnificent of castles, which contained the most beautiful of all baron’s daughters. He laid himself down supperless in the midst of the fields, between two ridges, and the snow began to fall upon him in thick flakes. Next morning, Candide, benumbed with cold, dragged himself to the nearest town, which bore the name of Waldberghofdikdorf, without a farthing in his pocket, and dying of hunger and fatigue. He stopped in melancholy mood at a tavern door. Two men dressed in blue noticed him.

“Comrade,” said one of them, “there is a fine young fellow, and just of the right size.”

They stepped forward, and very politely invited Candide to dine with them.

“Gentlemen,” says he, with engaging modesty, “you do me much honor, but I have no money to pay my reckoning.”

“Oh! Sir,” says one of the men in blue, “persons of your figure and merit never pay anything; are you not five feet five inches tall?”

“Yes, gentlemen, that is my height,” says he, with his best bow.

“Come, sir, pray take a seat; we will not only pay your score, but we will never allow such a man as you to want for money. What are men made for but to help one another?”

“You are right,” says Candide; “that is what Dr. Pangloss always told me, and I see clearly that all is for the best.” 182

They beg him to accept a few crowns; he takes them, and is about to tender his note of hand for the amount, but they will not hear of it; and so they sit down to table.

“Are you not warmly attached ——”

“Oh, yes,” exclaims Candide, “I am warmly attached to Mlle. Cunégonde.”

“Excuse me,” says one of the gentlemen, “but what we want to know is whether you are not warmly attached to the King of the Bulgarians?”

“Not in the least,” says he, “for I have never seen him.”

“You don’t say so! He is the most charming of monarchs, and we must drink his health.”

“With the greatest pleasure, gentlemen.” And he drinks accordingly.

“Enough,” say they; “now you are the prop, the pillar, the defender, and the hero of the Bulgarians; your fortune is made, and your glory assured.”

They forthwith clap fetters on his feet, and conduct him to the headquarters of their regiment. There he is made to wheel to the right, and wheel to the left, to draw his ramrod, and to return it, to present, to fire, and to march at the double; and he gets thirty strokes with a stick for his pains. On the following day he goes through his exercises not quite so badly, and receives only twenty strokes; while on the next after that he escapes with ten, and is regarded as a prodigy by his comrades.

Candide, astonished to find himself a hero, could not very well make out how it came to pass. One fine spring day he took it into his head to go out for a walk, and followed his nose straight on, supposing that it was the privilege of the human species as well as of the brute creation to make use of their legs at their own will and pleasure. He had not proceeded 183 two leagues, when, lo and behold, four other heroes, each of them six feet high, caught him up, bound him, and led him off to prison. He was brought before a court-martial, and asked whether he would prefer to be flogged thirty-six times by the whole regiment, or to receive at once a dozen bullets in his brain. It was of no use for him to protest that the will is free, and that he wished neither the one nor the other; he found himself obliged to make a choice, and he determined, in virtue of the divine gift called freedom, to run the gantlet thirty-six times. He tried it twice, and, the regiment consisting of two thousand men, this meant four thousand blows for him, which almost laid bare his muscles and nerves from the nape of the neck to the end of the spine. As they were going to give him a third course, Candide, unable to bear any more, entreated them to have the kindness to knock him on the head and finish him. This favor was granted, his eyes were bandaged, and he was made to kneel down. The King of the Bulgarians, happening to pass by that moment, made inquiry into the culprit’s offense; and, as he was a man of discernment, and gathered, from all that Candide told him, that he was a young metaphysician and quite ignorant of the ways of the world, the king graciously vouchsafed him his pardon with a clemency that will be praised by all the papers and appreciated by posterity. A clever surgeon cured Candide’s back in three weeks with the ointments prescribed by Dioscorides; and he had already a little fresh skin and was fit to march, when the King of the Bulgarians gave battle to the King of the Avarians.

Never was seen a spectacle so fine, so smart, so splendid, as the two armies. Trumpets, fifes, hautboys, drums, and cannon made such harmony as never had a match in hell 184 itself. Cannon-balls swept off in the first instance nearly six thousand men on each side; then musket-bullets removed from this best of all possible worlds about nine or ten thousand worthless fellows that tainted its surface. Bayonets were also sufficient reasons for the death of some thousands of men. The total may have amounted to thirty thousand souls. Candide, who trembled as any other philosopher would have done, hid himself as well as he could during this heroic butchery. At last, while both kings were causing a Te Deum to be sung, each in his own camp, he made up his mind to go and reason upon causes and effects somewhere else. He passed over heaps of the dead and dying, and reached first of all a neighboring village; he found it laid in ashes. It was an Avarian village, which the Bulgarians had burned in accordance with the laws of nations. Here old men, covered with wounds, looked helplessly on while their wives were dying with their throats cut, and still holding their infants to their blood-stained breasts; there young girls, ripped open after having satisfied the natural wants of several heroes, were breathing forth their last sighs; while others again, half-roasted, cried out for some one to put them out of their agony. Brains were scattered over the ground, and legs and arms, cut off, lay beside them.”

— “Candide.

How to Encourage Admirals

“AH! Pangloss, Pangloss! Ah! Martin, Martin! Ah! my dear Cunégonde! What kind of world is this?” said Candide, when he was safely on board the Dutch vessel.

“A very mad one, and altogether abominable,” answered Martin.


“You are acquainted with England. Are the people there as mad as in France?”

“Theirs is another sort of madness,” said Martin. “You know the two nations are at war about a few acres of snow in the region of Canada, and that they are spending on that war more than all Canada is worth. To tell you precisely whether there are more people who ought to be shut up as lunatics in one country than in another is beyond my feeble capacity; I only know that, as a general rule, the people whom we are about to visit are exceedingly morose.”

While conversing thus, they came in sight of Portsmouth; a multitude of people lined the shore, and had their gaze fixed attentively on a stout man, who was kneeling, with eyes blindfolded, on the deck of one of the men-of-war; four soldiers, stationed opposite this man, discharged three bullets each into his skull, in the calmest manner possible; and then all the crowd returned home, very well satisfied with what they had seen.

“What now is the meaning of all this?” said Candide, “and what demon holds sway everywhere?”

In answer to his inquiry, who that stout man was who had just been put to death with so much ceremony, he was told that he was an admiral.

“And why do they kill an admiral?”

“Because,” said his informants, “he has not caused enough people to be slaughtered; he gave battle to a French admiral, and it has been found that he did not come to sufficiently close quarters.”

“But,” said Candide, “the French admiral must have been as far from the English admiral as he from the other!”

“That cannot be disputed,” was the reply; “but in this 186 country it is thought a good thing to kill an admiral from time to time in order to encourage the rest.”

— “Candide.

The Church of England

ENGLAND is properly the country of sectarists. “In my Father’s house are many mansions.” An Englishman, as one to whom liberty is natural, may go to heaven his own way.

Nevertheless, though every one is permitted to serve God in whatever mode or fashion he thinks proper, yet their true religion, that in which a man makes his fortune, is the sect of Episcopalians or Churchmen, called the Church of England, or simply the Church, by way of eminence. No person can hold an employment either in England or Ireland unless he be ranked among the faithful — that is, professes himself a member of the Church of England. This reason (which carries mathematical evidence with it), has converted such numbers of Dissenters of all persuasions, that not a twentieth part of the nation is out of the pale of the Established Church. The English clergy have retained a great number of the Romish ceremonies, and especially that of receiving, with a most scrupulous attention, their tithes. They also have the pious ambition to aim at superiority.

Moreover, they very religiously inspire their flock with a holy zeal against Dissenters of all denominations. This zeal was pretty violent under the Tories in the four last years of Queen Anne; but was productive of no greater mischief than the breaking the windows of some meeting-houses and the demolishing of a few of them. For religious rage 187 ceased in England with the civil wars, and was no more under Queen Anne than the hollow noise of a sea whose billows still heaved, though so long after the storm when the Whigs and Tories laid waste their native country in the same manner as the Guelfs and Ghibellines formerly did theirs. It was absolutely necessary for both parties to call in religion on this occasion. The Tories declared for Episcopacy, and the Whigs, as some imagined, were for abolishing it. However, after these had got the upper hand, they contented themselves with only abridging it.

At the time when the Earl of Oxford and Lord Bolingbroke used to drink healths to the Tories, the Church of England considered those noblemen as the defenders of its holy privileges. The lower House of Convocation (a kind of House of Commons), composed wholly of the clergy, was in some credit at that time. At least the members of it had the liberty to meet, to dispute on ecclesiastical matters, to sentence impious books from time to time to the flames — that is, books written against themselves. The ministry, which is now composed of Whigs, does not so much as allow these gentlemen to assemble, so that they are at this time reduced (in the obscurity of their respective parishes) to the melancholy occupation of praying for the prosperity of the government whose tranquility they would willingly disturb. With regard to the bishops who are twenty-six in all, they still have seats in the House of Lords in spite of the Whigs, because the ancient abuse of considering them as barons subsists to this day. There is a clause, however, in the oath which the government requires from these gentlemen, that puts their Christian patience to a very great trial, viz., that they shall be of the Church of England as by law established. There are few bishops, deans, or other 188 Dignitaries, but imagine they are so by divine right. It is consequently a great mortification to them to be obliged to confess that they owe their dignity to a pitiful law enacted by a set of profane laymen.

A learned monk, Father Courayer, wrote a book lately to prove the validity and successon of English ordinations. This book was forbidden in France, but do you believe that the English ministry were pleased with it? Far from it. Those wicked Whigs don’t care a straw whether the episcopal succession among them hath been interrupted or not, or whether Bishop Parker was consecrated (as it is pretended) in a tavern or a church. For these Whigs are much better pleased that the bishops should derive their authority from the Parliament than from the Apostles. Lord Bolingbroke observed that this notion of divine right would only make so many tyrants in lawn sleeves, but that the laws made so many citizens.

With regard to the morals of the English clergy, they are more regular than those of France, and for this reason. All the clergy — a very few excepted — are educated in the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, far from the depravity and corruption which reign in the capital. They are not called to dignities till very late, at a time of life when men are sensible of no other passion but avarice — that is, when their ambition craves a supply. Employments are here bestowed, both in the Church and the army, as a reward for long services; and we never see youngsters made bishops or colonels immediately upon their laying aside the academical gown; and besides, most of the clergy are married. The stiff and awkward air contracted by them at the university, and the little familiarity the men of this country have with the ladies, commonly oblige a bishop to confine himself to, 189 and rest contented with, his own. Clergymen sometimes take a glass at the tavern, custom giving them sanction on these occasions; if they fuddle themselves, they do it very thoroughly, and without causing the least scandal.

That fable-mixed kind of mortal (not to be defined), who is neither of the clergy nor of the laity, in a word, the thing called abbé in France, is a species quite unknown in England. All the clergy here are very much upon the reserve, and most of them pedants. When these are told that in France young fellows famous for their dissoluteness, and raised to the highest dignities of the Church by female intrigues, address the fair publicly in an amorous way, amuse themselves in writing tender love-songs, entertain their friends very splendidly every night at their own houses, and after the banquet is ended withdraw to invoke the assistance of the Holy Ghost, and call themselves boldly the successors of the Apostles — they bless God for their being Protestants. But these are shameless heretics, who deserve to be blown hence through the flames of Old Nick, as Rabelais says, and for this reason I do not trouble myself about them.

— “Letters on England.

The Presbyterians

AS the priests of this sect receive but very inconsiderable stipends from their churches, and consequently cannot emulate the splendid luxury of bishops, they exclaim very naturally against honors which they can never attain to. Imagine the haughty Diogenes trampling underfoot the pride of Plato. The Scotch Presbyterians are not very unlike 190 that proud though tattered reasoner. Diogenes did not use Alexander half so impertinently as these treated King Charles II. For when they took up arms in his cause in opposition to Cromwell, who had deceived them, they forced that poor monarch to undergo the hearing of three or four sermons every day, would not allow him to play cards, and reduced him to a state of penitence and mortification, so that Charles soon grew sick of these pedants, and accordingly escaped from them with as much gladness as a boy does from school.

A Church of England minister appears as another Cato in presence of a juvenile, sprightly French graduate, who bawls for a whole morning together in the divinity schools, and hums a song in chorus with ladies in the evening; but this Cato is a very spark beside a Scotch Presbyterian. The latter affects a serious gait, puts on a sour look, wears a huge broad-brimmed hat and a long cloak over a very short coat, preaches through the nose, and gives the name of the Whore of Babylon to all churches where the ministers are so fortunate as to enjoy an annual revenue of five or six thousand pounds, and where the people are weak enough to allow this, and to give them the titles of my lord, your lordship, or your eminence.

These gentlemen, who have also some churches in England, introduced there the mode of grave and severe exhortations. To them is owing the sanctification of Sunday in the three kingdoms. People are there forbidden to work or take any recreation on that day, in which the severity is twice as great as that of the Romish Church. No operas, plays, or concerts are allowed in London on Sundays, and even cards are so expressly forbidden that none but persons of quality, and those we call the genteel, play on that day. 191 The rest of the nation go either to church, to the tavern, or to see their mistresses.

— “Letters on England.

Memnon, or Human Wisdom

MEMNON one day conceived the irrational design of being perfectly wise and prudent. There are very few persons who have not at some time or other had foolish thoughts of this kind pass through their heads. Memnon said to himself, “In order to be very wise, and consequently very happy, one has only to be without passions; and nothing is easier than that, as everybody knows. In the first place, I will never fall in love with a woman, for I will say to myself, whenever I see a sample of perfect beauty. ‘Those cheeks will one day be wrinkled, those fine eyes will be rimmed with red, that swelling bosom will be flat and flabby, that lovely head will become bald.’ I have only to see her now with the same eyes as those with which I shall see her then, and assuredly my head will not be turned by the sight of hers.

“In the second place, I will be always sober and temperate; good cheer, delicious wines, and the seductive charms of social intercourse will tempt me in vain. I shall have nothing to do but to bring before my mind the results of excess in a heavy head, a disordered stomach, the loss of reason, of health, and of time; and then I shall eat only for necessity, my health will be always well balanced, my thoughts always bright and clear. All this is so easy that there is no merit in such attainments.

“In the next place,” said Memnon, “I must give a little 192 consideration to my property; my desires are moderate, my wealth is well bestowed with the receiver-general of the revenues of Nineveh, I have enough to support myself in independence, and that is the greatest of blessings. I shall never be under the cruel necessity of cringing and flattering; I shall envy nobody, and nobody will envy me. All that is still very easy. I have friends,” continued he, “and I shall keep them, for they will have nothing to quarrel about with me. I will never be out of temper with them, nor they with me; that is a matter that presents no difficulty.”

Having thus laid down his little scheme of wisdom and prudence in his room, Memnon put his head out of the window, and saw two women walking up and down under some plane-trees near his house. One of them was old, and appeared to have nothing on her mind; the other was young and pretty, and seemed to be lost in thought. She sighed, she wept, and her sighs and tears only added to her charms. Our sage was touched, not, of course, by the lady’s beauty (he was quite confident of being above such weakness as that), but by the distress in which he saw her. He went down and accosted the fair Ninevite, with the intention of ministering wise consolation. That charming young person related to him, with the most simple and affecting air, all the injury done her by an uncle, who did not exist; she told him by what tricks he had deprived her of a fortune, which she had never possessed, and all that she had to fear from his violence.

“You seem to me,” said she, “a man of such excellent judgment and good sense, that if you would only condescend to come to my house and inquire into my affairs, I feel sure that you could extricate me from the cruel embarrassment in which I find myself.”


Memnon had no hesitation in following her, in order to make a judicious examination of her affairs, and to give her good advice.

The afflicted lady led him into a sweetly scented chamber, and politely made him sit down with her on a large ottoman. When the lady spoke she lowered her eyes, from which tears sometimes escaped, and, when she raised them, they always met the gaze of the sage Memnon. Her language was full of a tenderness which grew more tender each time that they exchanged glances. Memnon took her affairs zealously to heart, and every moment felt an increasing desire to oblige a maiden so modest and so unfortunate. By imperceptible degrees their conversation grew warmer, Memnon pressed her so closely with good advice, and bestowed such tender admonitions, that neither of them could any longer talk about business, and scarcely knew what they were doing.

Then the uncle, as might have been expected, arrived upon the scene. He was armed from head to foot; and the first thing he said was that he was going to kill, as was only just and proper, both his niece and the sage Memnon; the last remark that escaped him was that he might possibly pardon them for a large sum of money. Memnon was obliged to give him all that he had about him. In those times, fortunately, it was possible to get off as cheaply as that. America had not yet been discovered, and distressed damsels were not nearly so dangerous as they are nowadays.

Memnon returned home disconsolate and ashamed, and found a note there inviting him to dine with some of his most intimate friends.

“If I stay at home alone,” said he, “I shall have my thoughts taken up with my unfortunate adventure; I shall 194 be unable to eat anything, and shall certainly fall ill; it will be much better to take a frugal meal with my intimate friends. In the pleasure of their company I shall forget the piece of folly that I have committed this morning.”

He goes to meet his friends, who find him a little out of spirits, and persuade him to drink away his melancholy. A little wine taken in moderation is a medicine for mind and body. So thinks the sage Memnon, and proceeds to get tipsy. Play is proposed after dinner. A modest game with one’s friends is a blameless pastime. He plays, loses all that he has in his purse, and four times as much on his promise to pay. A dispute arises over the game, and the quarrel grows hot; one of his intimate friends throws a dice-box at his head, and puts out an eye. The sage Memnon is carried home drunk, without any money, and with one eye less than when he went.

After he had slept himself sober, and his brain was grown a little clearer, he sent his servant for some of the money which he had lodged with the receiver-general of the revenues of Nineveh, in order to pay what he owed to his intimate friends. He was told that his debtor had that very morning been declared a fraudulent bankrupt, an announcement which had thrown an hundred families into ruin. Memnon, in a state bordering on distraction, went to court with a plaster over his eye and a petition in his hand to solicit justice of the king against the bankrupt. In an ante-chamber he met a number of ladies, all wearing with apparent ease hoops twenty-four feet in circumference. One of these ladies, who knew him slightly, exclaimed with a sidelong glance, “Oh, what a horror!” Another, who was on more familiar terms with him, addressed him thus:

“Good evening, Mr. Memnon. It is indeed a pleasure to 195 see you, Mr. Memnon. By the way, Mr. Memnon, how is it you have lost an eye?” And she passed on without pausing for an answer. Memnon hid himself in a corner, and awaited the moment when he might cast himself at the monarch’s feet. That moment came; he kissed the ground thrice, and presented his petition. His gracious Majesty received him very favorably, and gave the document to one of his satraps to report upon it. The satrap drew Memnon aside, and said:

“What a comical kind of one-eyed fool you are, to address yourself to the king rather than to me! And still more ridiculous to dare to demand justice against a respectable bankrupt, whom I honor with my protection, and who is the nephew of my mistress’s waiting-maid. Let this matter drop, my friend, if you wish to keep the eye you still have left.”

Thus Memnon, after having in the morning renounced the blandishments of women, intemperance at table, gambling, and quarreling, and besides all else the court, had ere nightfall been cajoled and robbed by a fair deceiver, had drunk to excess, played high, been concerned in a quarrel, had an eye put out, and been to court, where he had been treated with contempt and derision.

Petrified with astonishment, and crushed with vexation, he turned his steps homeward, sick at heart. Intending to enter his house, he found bailiffs in possession removing the furniture on behalf of his creditors. Almost fainting, he seated himself under a plane-tree, and there encountered the fair lady who had victimized him in the morning; she was walking with her dear uncle, and burst out laughing when she saw Memnon with the patch over his eye. Night came on, and he laid himself down on some straw beside the walls of his house. There he was seized with ague, and 196 in one of the fits he fell asleep, when a celestial spirit appeared to him in a dream.

He was all glittering with light. He had six beautiful wings, but no feet, nor head, nor tail, and was like nothing he had ever seen before.

“Who art thou?” said Memnon.

“Thy good genius,” answered the other.

“Give me back my eye then, my health, my house, my property, and my prudence,” said Memnon. Thereupon he told him how he had lost them all in one day.

“Such adventures as those never befall us in the world which we inhabit,” said the spirit.

“And what world do you inhabit?” asked the afflicted mortal.

“My home,” replied he, “is at a distance of five hundred millions of leagues from the sun, in a little star over Sirius, which thou seest from hence.”

“Charming country!” exclaimed Memnon. “What! have you no sly hussies among you who impose upon a poor fellow, no intimate friends who win his money and knock out one of his eyes, no bankrupts, no satraps who mock you while they deny you justice?”

“No,” said the inhabitant of the star, “nothing of the kind. We are never deceived by women, because we have none; we are never guilty of excesses at table, since we neither eat nor drink; we have no bankrupts, for gold and silver are unknown among us; we cannot have our eyes put out, because we do not possess bodies such as yours; and satraps never treat us with injustice, since all are equal in our little star.”

Then said Memnon, “My Lord, without the fair sex and without any dinner, how do you manage to pass the time?”


“In watching over the other worlds which are entrusted to our care,” said the genius; “and I am come now to minister consolation to thee.”

“Alas!” replied Memnon, “why didst thou not come last night to prevent me committing such follies?”

“I was with Hassan, your elder brother,” said the celestial being. “He is more to be pitied than thou art. His gracious Majesty, the King of India, to whose court he has the honor to be attached, has caused both his eyes to be put out for a slight act of indiscretion, and he is confined at the present moment in a dungeon, with chains upon his hands and feet.”

“It is indeed well worth while to have a good genius in a family!” said Memnon. “Of two brothers one has an eye knocked out, and the other loses both; one lies on straw, the other in prison.”

“Thy lot will change,” answered the inhabitant of the star. “It is true that thou wilt never recover thine eye, but, for all that, thou wilt be tolerably happy, provided that thou dost never entertain the foolish idea of being perfectly wise and prudent.”

The Pike’s Roe

CU-SU, a Disciple of Confucius, and PRINCE KOU.

Kou.  I cannot bear with the silliness of the sects about us. On one side is Laotze, whom his mother conceived by the junction of heaven and earth, and was for fourscore years pregnant with him, I as little believe his doctrine of 198 universal deprivation and annihilation as of his being born with white hair, or of his going to promulgate his doctrine riding on a black cow. The god Fo I put on the same footing, notwithstanding he had a white elephant for his father, and promises immortal life. One thing, at which I cannot forbear taking great offense, is that the priests continually preach such chimeras, thus deceiving the people in order the better to sway them. They gain for themselves respect by mortification, at which, indeed, Nature shudders. Some deny themselves, during their whole lives, the most salutary foods, as if there were no way of pleasing God but by a bad diet. Other carry a pillory about their necks, and sometimes they richly deserve it. They drive nails into their thighs, as into boards, and for this fanaticism the people follow them in crowds. On the king’s issuing any edict which does not suit their humor, they coolly tell their auditors that this edict is not to be found in the commentary of the god Fo, and that god is to be obeyed in preference to men. Now, how am I to remedy this popular distemper, which is extravagant in the highest degree, and not less dangerous? Toleration, you know is the principle of the Chinese, and, indeed, of all Asiatic governments, but such an indulgence must be owned to be highly mischievous, as exposing an empire to be overthrown on account of some fanatical notions.

Cu-Su.  God forbid that I should try to extinguish in you the spirit of toleration, that quality so eminently respectable, and which, to souls, is what the permission of eating is to bodies. By the law of Nature, every one may believe what he will, as well as eat what he will. A physician is not to kill his patients for not observing the diet he had prescribed to them; neither has a sovereign a right to hang his subjects 199 for not thinking as he thinks; but he has a right to prevent disturbances, and, with prudent measures, he will very easily root out superstitions of all kinds. You know what happened to Daon, the sixth king of Chaldea, about four thousand years ago?

Kou.  No. I pray you oblige me with an account of it.

Cu-Su.  The Chaldean priests had taken it into their heads to worship the pikes of the Euphrates, pretending that a famous fish called Oannes had formerly taught them divinity; that this fish was immortal, three feet in length, and a small crescent was on the tail. In veneration of this Oannes, no pikes were to be eaten. A violent dispute arose among the divines, whether the fish Oannes had a soft or hard roe. Both parties not only fulminated excommunications, but, at several times, they came to blows. To put an end to such disturbances, King Daon made use of this expedient. He ordered a strict fast for three days to both parties, and at the expiration of it, sent for the sticklers of the hard-roed pike, who, accordingly, were present at his dinner. A pike was brought to him, three feet in length, and on the tail a small crescent had been put.

“Is this your god?” said he to the doctors.

“Yes, sir,” answered they; “we know him by the crescent on the tail, and make no question but he is hard-roed.

On this, the king ordered the pike to be opened. It was found to have the finest melt that could be.

“Now,” said he king, “you see that this is not your god, it being soft-roed.” And the king and his nobles ate the pike. The hard-roed divines were not a little pleased that the god of their adversaries had been fried.

Immediately after, the doctors of the opposite side were sent for, and a pike of three feet, with a crescent on his tail, 200 being shown to them, they, with great joy, assured his Majesty that it was the god Oannes, and that he had a soft roe. But, behold! on being opened, it was found hard-roed. At this, the two parties, equally out of countenance, and still fasting, the good-natured king told them that he could only give them a dinner of pikes. And they greedily fell to eating both hard and soft roed, indiscriminately. This closed the war with great distinction for King Daon’s wisdom and goodness, and since that time the people have been allowed to eat pikes as often as they pleased.

Kou.  Well done, King Daon! And I give you my word that I will follow his example on every occasion, and, as far as I can, without injuring any one, and without worshiping Fo’s or pikes. I know that in the countries of Pegu and Tonquin there are little gods and little Tapolins which bring down the moon, when in the wane, and clearly foretell what is to come; that is, they clearly see what is not. I will take care that the Tapolins shall not come within my reach to make futurity present, and bring down the moon. It is a shame that there should be sects rambling from town to town, propagating their delusions, as quacks do their medicaments. What a disgrace it is to the human mind, for petty nations to think that truth belongs to them alone, and that the vast empire of China is given up to error.

— “Dialogues.


The Liberty of the Will


Phil.  A battery of cannon is playing close by your ears; are you at liberty to hear or not to hear it?

Friend.  Unquestionably, I cannot but hear it.

Phil.  Would you have those cannon-balls carry off your head, and your wife and daughter’s, who are walking with you?

Friend.  What a question! In my sober senses, it is impossible that I should will any such thing. I never could.

Phil.  Well — you necessarily hear the explosion of those cannon, and you necessarily are against being, with your family, cut off by a cannon-shot, as you are taking the air. You have not the power not to hear, nor the power of willing to remain there.

Friend.  Nothing more evident.

Phil.  Accordingly, you have come thirty paces to be out of the cannon’s way: thus you have had the power of walking that little space with me.

Friend.  That also is clear.

Phil.  And, if you had been paralytic, you could not have avoided being exposed to this battery. You would not have had the power of being where you are; you would necessarily not only have heard the explosion, but have received a cannon-shot; and thus you would undoubtedly have been killed.

Friend.  Very true.

Phil.  In what, then, consists, your liberty, if not in the 202 power which your body has made use of to do, what your volition, by an absolute necessity, required?

Friend.  You put me to a stand. Liberty, then, is nothing but the power of doing what I will?

Phil.  Think of it, and see whether liberty can have any other meaning.

Friend.  At this rate, my greyhound is as free as I am. He has necessarily a will to run at the sight of a hare, and likewise the power of running, if not lame; so that, in nothing am I superior to my dog. This is leveling me with the beasts.

Phil.  Such are the wretched sophisms of those who have tutored you. Wretched to be in the same state of liberty as your dog? And are you not like your dog in a thousand things? In hunger, thirst, waking, sleeping? And your five senses, are they not also possessed by him? Are you for smelling otherwise than through the nose? Of hearing, except through the ears? Of seeing, without eyes? Why, then, are you for having liberty in a manner different from him?

Friend.  How? Am I not at liberty to will what I will?

Phil.  Your meaning?

Friend.  I mean what all the world means. Is it not a common saying, will is free?

Phil.  A proverb is no reason. Please to explain yourself more clearly.

Friend.  I mean that I have the liberty of willing as I please.

Phil.  By your leave, there is no sense in that. Do you not perceive that it is ridiculous to say, I will will. You will necessarily, in consequence of the ideas occurring to you. Would you marry? Yes or no?


Friend.  What, were I to say, I neither will the one nor the other?

Phil.  That would be answering like him who said: Some think that Cardinal Mazarin is dead, others believe him to be still living, but I believe neither the one nor the other!

Friend.  Well, I have a mind to marry.

Phil.  Good. That is something of an answer. And why have you a mind to marry?

Friend.  Because I am in love with a young lady, who is handsome, of a sweet temper, well-bred, with a tolerable fortune, sings charmingly, and her parents are people of good credit. Besides, I flatter myself that my addresses are very acceptable, both to herself and to her family.

Phil.  Why, there is a reason. You see you cannot will without a reason, and I declare you have the liberty of marrying; that is, you have the liberty of signing the contract.

Friend.  How? Not will without a reason? What, then, becomes of another proverb, Sit pro ratione voluntas? My will is my reason. I will, because I will.

Phil.  My dear friend, under favor, that is an absurdity. There would then be in you an effect without a cause.

Friend.  What! when I am playing at even and odd, is there a reason for my choosing even, rather than odd?

Phil.  Yes, to be sure.

Friend.  Pray, let me hear that reason.

Phil.  Because the idea of odd presented itself to your mind before the contrary notion. It would be strange, indeed, that in some cases you will because there is a cause of volition; and that, in other cases, you will without any cause. In your willing to be married, you evidently perceive the determining reason. In playing at even and odd, you do not perceive it; and yet one there must be.


Friend.  But again, am I not then free?

Phil.  Your will is not free; but your actions are. You are free to act, when you have the power of acting.

Friend.  But all the books I have read on the liberty of indifference ——

Phil.  Are nonsense. There is no such thing as the liberty of indifference. The phrase is void of sense, and was coined by people who were not overloaded with it.

— “Dialogues.

First day in France of a Huron

ON the evening of the fifteenth day of July, in the year 1689, the Abbé Kerkabon, prior of Our Lady of the Mountain, was walking on the sea-shore with Mlle. de Kerkabon, his sister, to take the air. The prior, already a little advanced in years, was a very good clergyman, beloved by his neighbors as he had formerly been by their wives. What had established his high reputation more than anything else was the fact that he was the only beneficed divine of that part of the country who did not require to be carried to bed after supping with his brethren of the cloth. He had a very decent knowledge of theology; and, when he was tired of reading St. Augustine, he entertained himself with Rabelais; moreover, nobody had an ill word to say of him.

Mlle. de Kerkabon, who had never been married, though that was not for want of wishing it, had preserved the freshness of her complexion to the age of five-and-forty. Her character was benevolent and sympathetic; she was fond of pleasure, no less than of devotion.


The prior, as he cast his eyes over the sea, said to his sister:

“Alas, it was here that our poor brother embarked with our dear sister-in-law, Mme. de Kerkabon, his wife on board the frigate Swallow in 1669, to go and serve in Canada. If he had not been killed, we might be hoping to see him again.

“Do you believe,” said Mlle. de Kerkabon, “that our sister-in-law was devoured by Iroquois Indians, as we have heard?”

“It is quite certain that if she had not been eaten up, she would have returned home. I shall mourn for her all my life — she was a charming woman; and our brother, who was remarkably clever, would assuredly have risen to a high position.”

As both of them were melting to tears at these tender recollections, they saw a small vessel enter the mount of the Rance with the tide; it contained some Englishmen who had come to sell certain produce of their country. They leaped ashore, without taking any notice of the prior or his sister, who was much shocked at this want of attention to herself.

This was not the case, however, with a very handsome young man, who sprang forward ahead of his companions, and found himself face to face with the lady. He saluted her with an inclination of the head, not being accustomed to making a bow. His figure and clothing attracted the notice of the brother and sister. His head and his legs were bare, his feet were shod with low sandals, and down his neck hung plaits of long hair; a tight-fitting jerkin showed off to advantage his slim and lithe figure. He had a martial mien, but not without a touch of mildness. He 206 held in one hand a small flask of Barbados water, and in the other a sort of bag in which he carried a goblet and some excellent sea-biscuit. He spoke French very intelligibly, and offered his Barbados water to Mlle. de Kerkabon and her brother; he drank some of it with them, he invited them to drink again, and all with an air so simple and natural, that both brother and sister were delighted with him. They asked how they could serve him, who he was, and where he was going. The young man answered them that he had no idea, that he was curious and wished to see what the shores of France were like, so he had come and was going to return.

His reverence the prior, judging from his accent that he was not an Englishman, took the liberty of inquiring to what country he belonged.

“I am a Huron,” replied the young man.

Mlle. de Kerkabon, surprised and enchanted to see a Huron with such polite manners, invited the young fellow to supper; he did not require to be asked twice, and all three went together to the priory of Our Lady of the Mountain.

The plump little woman gazed at the stranger with all her eyes, which were not very large even when wide open, and whispered to the prior every now and again:

“This tall lad beside us has a color like that of the lily and the rose! What a fair skin he has for a Huron!”

“Very true, sister,” said the prior.

Shd showered a hundred questions upon the traveler in quick succession, and he always answered her with great good sense.

The rumor soon spread that there was a Huron staying at the priory. Those who belonged to the best society in the neighborhood were eager to go and sup there. The 207 Abbé de Saint-Yves came with his sister, a beauty of Lower Brittany, young and very well educated. The magistrate of the district, the receiver of taxes, and their wives were also at supper. The stranger was placed between Mlle. de Kerkabon and Mlle. de Saint-Yves. Everybody looked at him with admiration, everybody spoke to him and questioned him at once; but the Huron was not in the least disconcerted; it seemed as if he had taken for his motto that of Lord Bolingbroke: Nil admirari. But at last, unable to endure so much noise, he said with a good-natured smile, but also with some decision:

“Gentlemen, in my country we are in the habit of speaking one after another; how do you expect me to answer you, when you prevent me from hearing what you say?”

The voice of reason always brings people to their senses at least for some moments, and a dead silence ensued The magistrate, who always regarded strangers as his peculiar property, in whatever house he happened to find himself, and was famous all over the province for asking questions, opened his mouth about half a foot wide, and said:

“What is your name, sir?”

“I have always been called ‘The Unsophisticated Child of Nature,’ ” answered the Huron, “and this name of mine was ratified in England, because I always say what I think in a natural manner, and do whatever I like.”

“Being born a Huron, how, sir, did you manage to get to England?”

“Becaues I was taken there; I was made prisoner by the English in a battle, after having defended myself pretty stoutly; and the English, who love bravery, because they are brave themselves and as honorable as we are, having proposed to restore me to my kinsfolk or to take me with 208 them to England, I accepted the latter offer, because from my natural disposition I am passionately fond of seeing new countries.”

“But, sir,” said the magistrate, in his most imposing tone, “how could you desert your father and mother in that way?”

“Becuae I never have known either father or mother,” said the stranger.

The company were moved with compassion, and everybody repeated:

“Neither father nor mother!”

“We will supply their place,” said the mistress of the house to her brother the prior. “How interesting this Huron gentleman is, to be sure!”

The Unsophisticated thanked her with generous cordiality, and gave her to understand that he needed nothing.

“I perceive,” said the grave magistrate, “that your French is better than could be expected from a Huron.”

“A Frenchman,” he replied, “whom we had captured, and with whom I formed a warm friendship, taught me his language when I was very young, in my own country; I learn very quickly what I wish to learn. On arriving at Plymouth, I met with one of your French refugees, whom you call Huguenots, why I know not. Under his instruction I made further progress in the knowledge of your tongue; and, now that I can express myself intelligibly, I am come to see your country, for I like French people very much — when they don’t ask too many questions.”

The Abbé de Saint-Yves, in spite of this little hint, inquired which of the three languages he liked best, his own native tongue, English, or French.

“My own, undoubtedly,” answered the Child of Nature.


“Is it possible?” exclaimed Mlle. de Kerkabon. “I always thought that French was the most beautiful of all languages, next to that of Lower Brittany.”

Then a rivalry arose as to who should ask the Unsophisticated how the Hurons called different things, such as, what name they gave to “tobacco,” to which he answered taya; how they expressed “to eat,” and he answered essenten. Mlle. de Kerkabon insisted upon knowing what they said for “to make love”; he replied trovander, and maintained, not without some show of reason, that those words were quite as good as their French and English equivalents. Trovander especially seemed to all the company a very pretty expression.

The prior, who had in his library a Huron grammar, which had been given him by the Rev. Father Sagar Théodat, of the Reformed Franciscans, the famous missionary, left the table for a moment in order to go and consult it. He returned quite out of breath with tender and joyful emotion; he acknowledged the Unsophisticated as a genuine Huron. A short discussion next arose on the multiplicity of languages, and there was a general agreement that, had it not been for what happened at the Tower of Babel, all the world would have spoken French.

The question-loving magistrate, who had hitherto shown some distrust of the stranger, now began to feel a profound respect toward him, and addressed him more politely than he had done before — for what reason the Child of Nature could not comprehend.

Mlle. de Saint-Yves evinced great curiosity to know how the Hurons made love in their own country.

“By doing noble deeds,” replied the youth, “to please persons like yourself.”


All the guests were astonished, and applauded so apt an answer. Mlle. de Saint-Yves blushed, and was very pleased. Mlle. de Kerkabon also blushed, but was not quite so well pleased; she was a little piqued that the compliment had not been addressed to her, but she was so good-natured that her liking for the Huron underwent no alteration. She asked him, with kindly interest, how many sweethearts he had had in his own land.

“I have never had more than one,” said the Unsophisticated; “it was Miss Abacaba, my dear nurse’s great friend; the reeds were not more straight, the ermine was not whiter, lambs were not so mild, eagles not so proud, and the deer were less fleet of foot than Miss Abacaba. One day she was chasing a hare in our neighborhood, about fifty leagues from our settlement, when an Algonkin, an ill-bred fellow who lived a hundred miles away from us, came up and took the hare away from her. I heard of it, ran to the place, knocked down the Algonkin with a blow of my club, and brought him to the feet of my mistress, bound hand and foot. Abacaba’s relations wanted to eat him, but I never had much taste for such kinds of feasts. I gave him back his liberty and made him my friend. Abacaba was so touched by my conduct, that she preferred me to all her other suitors. She would have loved me still, if she had not had the misfortune to be devoured by a bear. I had my revenge on the bear, and wore its skin for a long time, but somehow that did not seem to give me much consolation.”

Mlle. de Saint-Yves, on hearing this narration, felt a secret pleasure at learning that the Child of Nature had never had more than one sweetheart, and that Abacaba was no longer alive; but she did not know the cause of her pleasure. All the company fixed their eyes on the Unsophisticated, and he 211 was highly commended for having prevented his comrades from eating up an Algonkin.

The inexorable magistrate, whose rage for asking questions was irrepressible, pushed his curiosity so far as to inquire to what religion the Huron gentleman belonged; whether he had chosen the Anglican, the Gallican, or the Huguenot Church.

“I am of my own religion, as you are of yours,” said he.

“Alas!” said the prior’s sister, “I see plainly that those wretched English people have not even thought of baptizing him.”

“Good heavens!” said Mlle. de Saint-Yves: “how comes it that the Hurons are not Catholics? Have not the reverend Jesuit fathers converted them all?”

The Unsophisticated assured her that in his country no one was ever converted, that a true Huron had never changed his opinion, and that there was not even a term in their language to signify “inconstancy.” These last words pleased Mlle. de Saint-Yves exceedingly.

“We’ll baptize him! Yes, we’ll baptize him!” said Mlle. de Kerkabon to the prior; “you shall have the honor of administering the rite, my dear brother, and I am determined to be his godmother; the Abbé de Saint-Yves shall present him at the font; it will be a most brilliant ceremony, and talked of all over Lower Brittany; moreover, it will be an infinite honor to us.”

All the company supported the mistress of the house, exclaiming, “We’ll have him baptized!”

The Unsophisticated replied that in England people were allowed to live according to their fancy; he intimated that the proposal did not please him at all, and that the laws of the Hurons were at least as good as those of the people of 212 Lower Brittany; he ended by saying that he was going to take his departure on the morrow. When his bottle of Barbados water was quite finished, all the company retired to bed.

After the Child of Nature had been conducted to his bedroom, Mlle. de Kerkabon and her friend Mlle. de Saint-Yves could not help looking through the key-hole, to see how a Huron slept. They saw that he had spread the bedclothes on the floor, and was reposing in the most graceful attitude imaginable.

— “The Unsophisticated Huron.


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