Academic journal article Romance Notes

Molly, Jenny and Margot: The Making of Candide's Paquette

Academic journal article Romance Notes

Molly, Jenny and Margot: The Making of Candide's Paquette

Article excerpt

PAQUETTE is a minor character in Candide whose four appearances in the novel occupy fewer than 50 lines. When we first see her she is part of the doomed world of Thunder-ten-tronckh and - in the aftermath of the Bulgar-Abare war - Pangloss wonders aloud in Chapter 4 whether she is still alive. She is, and in Chapter 24 she reappears in Venice cheerfully in love with Frere Giroflee. This illusion of conjugal bliss however is soon undermined, for we quickly learn of Paquette's execrable life as a street prostitute, and of her turbulent existence with Giroflee. In line with the tale's moral purpose, Paquette, along with Giroflee, eventually join Candide, Cunegonde and the others, where, in the best of all possible worlds, she takes up embroidery and he carpentry (Chapter 30).

J. H. Broome argued as early as 1960 that the character of Paquette was partially inspired by the heroine of Fougeret de Monbron's Margot La Ravaudeuse: histoire d'une prostituee, first published in 1750 (Broome 1960 512). Broome's argument is based on a number of verbal and narrative parallels between the accounts of Margot's adventures and Paquette's life-story. For instance, he points out that Paquette was seduced by a monk; Margot by a Carmelite. Paquette becomes a doctor's mistress, is imprisoned, and freed by a judge. Margot is also imprisoned and freed by a judge (president). Broome reinforced his case by arguing that Monbron exerted a wider influence on Candide through another work: Le Cosmopolite, ou Citoyen du monde, also published in 1750.

Specialists of Voltaire's work have never, in my view, given Broome's hypothesis the attention it deserves. It nevertheless has recently been taken up and supported by Emmanuel Boussuge who re-iterates the argument that Monbron's writings had an appreciable impact both on Candide and a number of satirical publications Voltaire wrote in the early 1760s (Boussuge 2008 151). Voltaire scholars, meanwhile, have only recently learned that Monbron, whose burlesque imitation of La Henriade was published in 1745, actually met Voltaire at a performance of Merope in February of that same year. Mme de Graffigny writes that the two men "ont fait connaissance avec beaucoup de politesses" (Graffigny 2000 VI 193). One of the criticisms of the Morize/Broome theory has been that until now there was no evidence that Voltaire took any notice of the younger writer (Morize 25). Confirmation that the two men met at a performance of one of Voltaire's plays corroborates the view, supported by at least two references to Monbron in Voltaire's Correspondance, that this was not the case.

Roughly fifteen years after Broome's work appeared, Manfred Sandmann proposed another source for Paquette: Molly Seagrim, the wayward daughter of Black George in Fielding's Tom Jones (Sandmann 258). My research confirms Sandmann's view that Candide was significantly influenced by Tom Jones through the mediation of La Place's 1750 French larmoyant adaptation of that novel known as L'Enfant trouve. A close reading of Candide and L'Enfant trouve reveals an astonishing network of verbal, thematic and narrative analogies, which strongly reinforces the thesis that Voltaire's novel owes a great deal to La Place, in terms of the characters it portrays, the narrative that binds those characters together, and the language in which the whole is expressed.

These two theories of Paquette's antecedents both have plausibility and suggest that each may have played a part in Voltaire's creative process. Voltaire -- anticipating Proust -- often merged two source characters into one, or, conversely, distributed the traits of one source character over two or more. Indeed, I have already tried to show how Candide's Cunegonde may have evolved from two antithetical characters in L'Enfant trouve, the virginal Sophia and the bawdy Jenny Jones (Langille 2007 283-84). Understanding the process by which Paquette developed from both Molly and Margot provides another glimpse into the way the tale's sources cross-fertilized in Voltaire's mind during a long gestation period of note-taking and revision. …

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