Candide and Related Texts

By Voltaire; David Wootton | Go to book overview

Toward Candide

THE HISTORY OF THE TRAVELS OF SCARMENTADO,
WRITTEN BY HIMSELF (1756)1

I was born in the town of Candia,2 in 1600. My father was the governor; and I remember that a second-rate poet, who was second to none in his cynicism, called Iro,3 wrote some bad verses in praise of me, in which he described me as a direct descendant of Minos.4 But, when my father fell into disgrace and was recalled, he wrote another poem in which I was only a descendant of Pasiphae and her lover.5 He was a really wicked man, that Iro, and the most irritating bastard in the whole island.

When I was fifteen my father sent me to study in Rome. I arrived hoping to learn the truth about everything, for up until then they had taught me everything but that, as is customary in this wretched world wherever one goes from the Alps to China. Monsignor Profondo,6 to whom I was entrusted, was a man out of the ordinary, and one of the most terrifying scholars in the whole world. He wanted to teach me the categories of Aristotelian philosophy, and was on the point of placing me into the category of his catamites: I escaped by the skin of my teeth. I saw processions, exorcisms, and a few rapes. It was said, entirely falsely, that Lady

1. The name Scarmentado is from the Spanish escarmentar, v. intr., “to be tutored by experience”; v. tr., “to inflict an exemplary punishment.” Although first published in the Complete Works of 1756, this story was probably written in 1753– 4, when Voltaire was recovering from his conflict with Frederick the Great. Having fled to Alsace, Voltaire was unable to obtain permission to return to France. At the time Voltaire was working on his Essai sur les moeurs, which had reached the early seventeenth century. The historical moment that interests Voltaire is described in ch. 191 (ed. Pomeau, 2 vols., Paris: Classiques Garnier, 1990), vol. 2, pp. 756–7: “The beginning of the seventeenth century was the age of usurpers from almost one end of the earth to the other … If one surveys the history of the world, one sees weakness punished, while tyrants are successful, and the whole universe is a vast panorama of brigandage abandoned to fortune.” The table of contents says simply: “The whole world suffered. As is often the case.” 2. The capital of Crete, then under Venetian control.

3. This is a veiled attack on an enemy of Voltaire’s named Roy.

4. The legendary king of Crete, son of Zeus and Europa.

5. Pasiphae was Minos’ wife; her lover was a bull; their offspring was the Minotaur.

6. The name means “deep” or “profound.”

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Candide and Related Texts
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction viii
  • Chronology xxxiv
  • Further Reading xxxviii
  • A Note on the Texts xli
  • Notes on the Translation xlii
  • Candide, or Optimism1 1
  • Before Voltaire 84
  • The Lisbon Earthquake- Rousseau versus Voltaire 95
  • Toward Candide 123
  • Voltaire’s Correspondence 132
  • After Candide 137
  • Voltaire’s Feminism 143
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