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Illustration by Fernand Siméon from 'Candide ou L’optimisme' by Voltaire. Paris: Jules Meynial, 1922. NYPL, General Research Division.

“Let us cultivate our garden…”

This edition of Voltaire’s Candide is an experiment in public reading and communal annotation, launched in conjunction with the New York Public Library’s exhibition Candide at 250: Scandal and Success.

In the spirit of Candide’s famous closing line “let us cultivate our garden,” we have commissioned readers, or “gardeners,” from a wide variety of backgrounds (professors, novelists, playwrights, translators) to plant seeds of commentary in assigned chapters, preparing the ground for a fertile public conversation. We invite you to respond to comments and to leave annotations of your own in the chapters marked in yellow or green in the menu to the left.

We’ll cultivate this textual garden for over two months (until the exhibition’s closing on April 25), focusing on several chapters per week, and pausing to reflect and debate more broadly on our blog, All Possible Worlds.

NOTE: The Candide 2.0 reading experiment has concluded. Please feel free to roam our garden of comments and annotations.

Editor’s Note »

How to Read This Book »

Meet Our Gardeners »

Produced in cooperation with the Voltaire Foundation, University of Oxford.

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Chapter 1 – How Candide Was Brought Up in a Magnificent Castle, and How He Was Expelled Thence

In a castle of Westphalia, belonging to the Baron of Thunder-ten-Tronckh, lived a youth, whom nature had endowed with the most gentle manners. His countenance was a true picture of his soul. He combined a true judgment with simplicity of spirit, which was the reason, I apprehend, of his being called Candide. The old servants [...]

Chapter 2 – What Became of Candide Among the Bulgars

Candide, driven from terrestrial paradise, walked a long while without knowing where, weeping, raising his eyes to heaven, turning them often towards the most magnificent of castles which imprisoned the purest of noble young ladies. He lay down to sleep without supper, in the middle of a field between two furrows. The snow fell in [...]

Chapter 3 – How Candide Made His Escape from the Bulgars, and What Afterwards Became of Him

There was never anything so gallant, so spruce, so brilliant, and so well disposed as the two armies. Trumpets, fifes, hautboys, drums, and cannon made music such as Hell itself had never heard. The cannons first of all laid flat about six thousand men on each side; the muskets swept away from this best of [...]

Chapter 4 – How Candide Found His Old Master Pangloss, and What Happened to Them

Candide, yet more moved with compassion than with horror, gave to this shocking beggar the two florins which he had received from the honest Anabaptist James. The spectre looked at him very earnestly, dropped a few tears, and fell upon his neck. Candide recoiled in disgust.

“Alas!” said one wretch to the other, “do you no [...]

Chapter 5 – Tempest, Shipwreck, Earthquake, and What Became of Doctor Pangloss, Candide, and James the Anabaptist

Half dead of that inconceivable anguish which the rolling of a ship produces, one-half of the passengers were not even sensible of the danger. The other half shrieked and prayed. The sheets were rent, the masts broken, the vessel gaped. Work who would, no one heard, no one commanded. The Anabaptist being upon deck bore [...]

Chapter 6 – How the Portuguese Made a Beautiful Auto-Da-Fé, to Prevent Any Further Earthquakes; and How Candide Was Publicly Whipped

After the earthquake had destroyed three-fourths of Lisbon, the sages of that country could think of no means more effectual to prevent utter ruin than to give the people a beautiful auto-da-fé; for it had been decided by the University of Coimbra, that the burning of a few people alive by a slow fire, and [...]

Chapter 7 – How the Old Woman Took Care Of Candide, and How He Found the Object He Loved

Candide did not take courage, but followed the old woman to a decayed house, where she gave him a pot of pomatum to anoint his sores, showed him a very neat little bed, with a suit of clothes hanging up, and left him something to eat and drink.
“Eat, drink, sleep,” said she, “and may our [...]

Chapter 8 – The History of Cunegonde

“I was in bed and fast asleep when it pleased God to send the Bulgars to our delightful castle of Thunder-ten-Tronckh; they slew my father and brother, and cut my mother in pieces. A tall Bulgar, six feet high, perceiving that I had fainted away at this sight, began to ravish me; this made me [...]

Chapter 9 – What Became of Cunegonde, Candide, the Grand Inquisitor, and the Jew

This Issachar was the most choleric Hebrew that had ever been seen in Israel since the Captivity in Babylon.
“What!” said he, “thou bitch of a Galilean, was not the Inquisitor enough for thee? Must this rascal also share with me?”
In saying this he drew a long poniard which he always carried about him; and not [...]

Chapter 10 – In What Distress Candide, Cunegonde, and the Old Woman Arrived at Cadiz; and of Their Embarkation

“Who was it that robbed me of my money and jewels?” said Cunegonde, all bathed in tears. “How shall we live? What shall we do? Where find Inquisitors or Jews who will give me more?”
“Alas!” said the old woman, “I have a shrewd suspicion of a reverend Grey Friar, who stayed last night in the [...]

Chapter 11 – History of the Old Woman

“I had not always bleared eyes and red eyelids; neither did my nose always touch my chin; nor was I always a servant. I am the daughter of Pope Urban X, and of the Princess of Palestrina. Until the age of fourteen I was brought up in a palace, to which all the castles of [...]

Chapter 12 – The Adventures of the Old Woman Continued

“Astonished and delighted to hear my native language, and no less surprised at what this man said, I made answer that there were much greater misfortunes than that of which he complained. I told him in a few words of the horrors which I had endured, and fainted a second time. He carried me to [...]

Chapter 13 – How Candide Was Forced Away From His Fair Cunegonde and the Old Woman

The beautiful Cunegonde having heard the old woman’s history, paid her all the civilities due to a person of her rank and merit. She likewise accepted her proposal, and engaged all the passengers, one after the other, to relate their adventures; and then both she and Candide allowed that the old woman was in the [...]

Chapter 14 – How Candide and Cacambo Were Received by the Jesuits of Paraguay

Candide had brought such a valet with him from Cadiz, as one often meets with on the coasts of Spain and in the American colonies. He was a quarter Spaniard, born of a mongrel in Tucuman; he had been singing-boy, sacristan, sailor, monk, pedlar, soldier, and lackey. His name was Cacambo, and he loved his [...]

Chapter 15 – How Candide Killed the Brother of His Dear Cunegonde

“I shall have ever present to my memory the dreadful day, on which I saw my father and mother killed, and my sister ravished. When the Bulgarians retired, my dear sister could not be found; but my mother, my father, and myself, with two maid-servants and three little boys all of whom had been slain, [...]

Chapter 16 – Adventures of the Two Travellers, With Two Girls, Two Monkeys, and the Savages Called Oreillons

Candide and his valet had got beyond the barrier, before it was known in the camp that the German Jesuit was dead. The wary Cacambo had taken care to fill his wallet with bread, chocolate, bacon, fruit, and a few bottles of wine. With their Andalusian horses they penetrated into an unknown country, where they [...]

Chapter 17 – Arrival of Candide and His Valet at El Dorado, and What They Saw There

“You see,” said Cacambo to Candide, as soon as they had reached the frontiers of the Oreillons, “that this hemisphere is not better than the others, take my word for it; let us go back to Europe by the shortest way.”
“How go back?” said Candide, “and where shall we go? to my own country? The [...]

Chapter 18 – What They Saw in the Country of El Dorado

Cacambo expressed his curiosity to the landlord, who made answer: “I am very ignorant, but not the worse on that account. However, we have in this neighbourhood an old man retired from Court who is the most learned and most communicative person in the kingdom.”
At once he took Cacambo to the old man. Candide acted [...]

Chapter 19 – What Happened to Them at Surinam, and How Candide Got Acquainted with Martin

Our travellers spent the first day very agreeably. They were delighted with possessing more treasure than all Asia, Europe, and Africa could scrape together. Candide, in his raptures, cut Cunegonde’s name on the trees. The second day two of their sheep plunged into a morass, where they and their burdens were lost; two more died [...]

Chapter 20 – What Happened at Sea to Candide and Martin

The old philosopher, whose name was Martin, embarked then with Candide for Bordeaux. They had both seen and suffered a great deal; and if the vessel had sailed from Surinam to Japan, by the Cape of Good Hope, the subject of moral and natural evil would have enabled them to entertain one another during the [...]

Chapter 21 – Candide and Martin, Reasoning, Draw Near the Coast of France

At length they descried the coast of France.
“Were you ever in France, Mr. Martin?” said Candide.
“Yes,” said Martin, “I have been in several provinces. In some one-half of the people are fools, in others they are too cunning; in some they are weak and simple, in others they affect to be witty; in all, the [...]

Chapter 22 – What Happened in France to Candide and Martin

Candide stayed in Bordeaux no longer than was necessary for the selling of a few of the pebbles of El Dorado, and for hiring a good chaise to hold two passengers; for he could not travel without his Philosopher Martin. He was only vexed at parting with his sheep, which he left to the Bordeaux [...]

Chapter 23 – Candide and Martin Touched Upon the Coast of England, and What They Saw There

“Ah, Pangloss! Pangloss! Ah, Martin! Martin! Ah, my dear Cunegonde, what sort of a world is this?” said Candide on board the Dutch ship.
“Something very foolish and abominable,” said Martin.

“You know England? Are they as foolish there as in France?”
“It is another kind of folly,” said Martin. “You know that these two nations are at [...]

Chapter 24 – Of Paquette and Friar Giroflée

Upon their arrival at Venice, Candide went to search for Cacambo at every inn and coffee-house, and among all the ladies of pleasure, but to no purpose. He sent every day to inquire on all the ships that came in. But there was no news of Cacambo.
“What!” said he to Martin, “I have had time [...]

Chapter 25 – The Visit to Lord Pococurante, a Noble Venetian

Candide and Martin went in a gondola on the Brenta, and arrived at the palace of the noble Signor Pococurante. The gardens, laid out with taste, were adorned with fine marble statues. The palace was beautifully built. The master of the house was a man of sixty, and very rich. He received the two travellers [...]

Chapter 26 – Of a Supper Which Candide and Martin Took with Six Strangers, and Who They Were

One evening that Candide and Martin were going to sit down to supper with some foreigners who lodged in the same inn, a man whose complexion was as black as soot, came behind Candide, and taking him by the arm, said:
“Get yourself ready to go along with us; do not fail.”
Upon this he turned round [...]

Chapter 27 – Candide’s Voyage to Constantinople

The faithful Cacambo had already prevailed upon the Turkish skipper, who was to conduct the Sultan Achmet to Constantinople, to receive Candide and Martin on his ship. They both embarked after having made their obeisance to his miserable Highness.
“You see,” said Candide to Martin on the way, “we supped with six dethroned kings, and of [...]

Chapter 28 – What Happened to Candide, Cunegonde, Pangloss, Martin, etc.

“I ask your pardon once more,” said Candide to the Baron, “your pardon, reverend father, for having run you through the body.”
“Say no more about it,” answered the Baron. “I was a little too hasty, I own, but since you wish to know by what fatality I came to be a galley-slave I will inform [...]

Chapter 29 – How Candide Found Cunegonde and the Old Woman Again

While Candide, the Baron, Pangloss, Martin, and Cacambo were relating their several adventures, were reasoning on the contingent or non-contingent events of the universe, disputing on effects and causes, on moral and physical evil, on liberty and necessity, and on the consolations a slave may feel even on a Turkish galley, they arrived at the [...]

Chapter 30 – The Conclusion

At the bottom of his heart Candide had no wish to marry Cunegonde. But the extreme impertinence of the Baron determined him to conclude the match, and Cunegonde pressed him so strongly that he could not go from his word. He consulted Pangloss, Martin, and the faithful Cacambo. Pangloss drew up an excellent memorial, wherein [...]

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Pour encourager les autres is another phrase which has traveled out of Candide into popular discourse. Its irony stings in this passage, as Voltaire is referring to the real-life court-martial and execution of Admiral John Byng, who could not [...] Go to thread