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"We're going to a different universe," said Candide. "Surely that's where everything is for the best. And I confess we do have to groan a little, at what goes on in ours, in matters both physical and moral.
    -Voltaire, Candide, (translated by Burton Raffel)

It is hardly surprising that the one enduring work of the French Enlightenment is Voltaire's Candide, which repudiates that tragically flawed variant of the Enlightenment and harkens back to the Anglo-American version. It's well understood that Voltaire satirized the insipid optimism of Liebnitz and the corruption of organized religions in the novella, but critics who stop there have not processed the full import of his critique. In fact, Voltaire leaves all systematic modes of human reason in a heap of rubble by the end of his tale and arrives, along with his hero, at an unquestioning acceptance of postlapsarian mortal existence as perhaps not perfect but a more than adequate milieu in which to find happiness. As Candide and company travel home from Turkey they meet an old farmer who cultivates twenty acres with his children and tells them: "Our labor keeps us from those three great evils: boredom, sin, and want." This prompts Candide to opine: "I think this good old man has a better life than any of the six kings with whom we've had the honor of breaking bread" and leads him to the conclusion that "[W]e need to work our fields." While Pangloss mistakenly refers such work back to the Garden of Eden and Voltaire has frequently been misunderstood to have the book end with the image of a garden, the company is quite explicitly said to settle down to farming and whereas Man in Eden would have been little more than a grazing herd animal, it was Cain who God set to "working" the Earth: "When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth." It is thus entirely in accord with God's plan that, as Martin says at the end of the book: "Let us work without thinking. [...] That is the only way to make life bearable." Note how much this sounds like David Hume: "I dine, I play a game of backgammon, I converse, and am merry with my friends; and when after three or four hours' amusement, I wou'd return to these speculations, they appear so cold, and strain'd, and ridiculous, that I cannot find in my heart to enter into them any farther." Would that the rest of the Continent had grasped this quintessentially English message, either in its original form or as Voltaire tried to express it here. It has never been clearer than in Burton Raffel's excellent translation.


Grade: (A)


François-Marie Arouet Links:

    -Voltaire (Wikipedia)
    -Voltaire (1694-1778) - pseudonym of François-Marie Arouet (kirjasto)
    -Voltaire's Page ( F. DeVenuto)
    -The Voltaire Foundation (a research department in the University of Oxford, publishing in the area of the Eighteenth century, especially the French Enlightenment)
    -Voltaire (Encyclopædia Britannica)
    -ESSAY: Gardens of Good and Evil (Rodney Delasanta, May 2005, First Things)
    -ESSAY: Tsunami and Theodicy (David B. Hart, March 2005, First Things)
    -ESSAY: I protest, therefore I believe (Miroslav Volf, 2/08/05, Christian Century)
    -POEM: Mock On, Mock On, Voltaire, Rousseau (William Blake)
    -ESSAY: Voltaire (Thomas S. Vernon, Great Infidels)
    -ESSAY: Voltaire (Clarence Darrow)
    -ESSAY: Voltaire - The Incomparable Infidel (Joseph Lewis)
    -POEM: Voltaire: 1894 (Robert G. Ingersoll)
    -ESSAY: Voltaire: Écrasez l'Infâme (Jim Herrick, Against the Faith)
    -ESSAY: Reading Voltaire's Candide (Professor Catherine Lavender for Honors 506 (The Western Experience: Social Science), The Department of History, The College of Staten Island of The City University of New York)
    -Voltaire: Author and Philosopher (Lucid Cafe)
    -ETEXTS: Voltaire (1694-1778) (THE ONLINE LIBRARY OF LIBERTY)
    -SPARKNOTES: Candide
    E-TEXT: Candide by Voltaire (
    -ARCHIVES: voltaire (Find Articles)
    -REVIEW ESSAY : VOLTAIRE’S GARDEN: The philosopher as a campaigner for human rights: Candide by Voltaire, transllated by Burton Raffel and Voltaire in Exile By Ian Davidson (Adam Gopnik, New Yorker)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: Cultivating Voltaire's Garden: reviews of Voltaire in Exile: The Last Years, 1753–78 by Ian Davidson, Candide, or, Optimism by Voltaire,translated by Peter Constantine, Candide, or Optimism by Voltaire,translated by Burton Raffel (P.N. Furbank, NY Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of Candida (Gavin Griffiths, Independent uk)
    -REVIEW: of Candide, Voltaire, translated by John Butt (Ravi Vyas, The Hindu)
    -REVIEW: of Voltaire Almighty: A Life in Pursuit of Freedom by Roger Pearson (James Buchan, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: The infamous philosophe: On Roger Pearson's "Voltaire Almighty: A Life in Pursuit of Freedom." (Mark Molesky, December 2005, The New Criterion)
    -REVIEW: of Voltaire in Exile By Ian Davidson (Algis Valiunas, First Things)
    -REVIEW: Brain Brew: How coffee fueled Voltaire's Candide Newton's theory of gravity and Juan Valdez's modern woes. (Brendan I. Koerner, Washington Monthly)
-REVIEW: of PASSIONATE MINDS: The Great Love Affair of the Enlightenment, Featuring the Scientist Emilie du Châtelet, the Poet Voltaire, Sword Fights, Book Burnings, Assorted Kings, Seditious Verse, and the Birth of the Modern World By David Bodanis (Michael Dirda, Washington Post)
    -Passionate Minds by David Bodanis (Kate Colquhoun, Daily Telegraph)
    -Passionate Minds by David Bodanis (Anne Chisholm, Daily Telegraph)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: Cultivating Voltaire: Voltaire by Theodore BestermanThe Intellectual Development of Voltaire by Ira O. Wade (John Weightman, NY Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of Voltaire: The Universal Man by Derek Parker (Contemporary Review)

Book-related and General Links:

    -ESSAY: The Laughter of the Philosophers (David B. Hart, January 2005, First Things)
    -ESSAY: Hume, Austen, and First Impressions (Rodney Delasanta, June/July 2003, First Things)
    -ESSAY: Rousseau & the Revolt Against Reason (Mary Ann Glendon, October 1999, First Things)
    -REVIEW: of THE CREATION OF THE MODERN WORLD: The Untold Story of the British Enlightenment By Roy Porter (TH Breen, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of THE ROADS TO MODERNITY: The British, French, and American Enlightenments By Gertrude Himmelfarb (Scott Mclemee, NY Times)
    -EXCERPT: Chapter One of Roads to Modernity by Gertrude Himmelfarb
    -REVIEW: of ROUSSEAU'S DOG: Two Great Thinkers at War in the Age of Enlightenment By David Edmonds and John Eidinow (DARRIN M. McMAHON, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Rousseau's Dog (Tim Blanning, Daily Telegraph)
    -REVIEW: of Rousseau's Dog (Janet Maslin, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650–1750. By Jonathan I. Israel (Edward T. Oakes, First Things)
    -REVIEW: of Enemies of the Enlightenment: The French Counter–Enlightenment and the Making of Modernity. By Darrin M. McMahon (Damon Linker, First Things)
    -REVIEW: of Political Ideas in the Romantic Age: Their Rise and Influence on Modern Thought by Isaiah Berlin, edited by Henry Hardy (Raymond Carr, Spectator)