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

1 1 “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, were put in a hearse, to be conveyed for interment to a chapel belonging to the Jesuits, within two leagues of our family seat. A Jesuit sprinkled us with some holy water; it was horribly salt; a few drops of it fell into my eyes; the father perceived that my eyelids stirred a little; he put his hand upon my heart and felt it beat. I received assistance, and at the end of three weeks I recovered. You know, my dear Candide, I was very pretty; but I grew much prettier, and the reverend Father Didrie, Superior of that House, conceived the tenderest friendship for me; he gave me the habit of the order, some years after I was sent to Rome. The Father-General needed new levies of young German-Jesuits. The sovereigns of Paraguay admit as few Spanish Jesuits as possible; they prefer those of other nations as being more subordinate to their commands. I was judged fit by the reverend Father-General to go and work in this vineyard. We set out—a Pole, a Tyrolese, and myself. Upon my arrival I was honoured with a sub-deaconship and a lieutenancy. I am to-day colonel and priest. We shall give a warm reception to the King of Spain’s troops; I will answer for it that they shall be excommunicated and well beaten. Providence sends you here to assist us. But is it, indeed, true that my dear sister Cunegonde is in the neighbourhood, with the Governor of Buenos Ayres?”

Candide assured him on oath that nothing was more true, and their tears began afresh.

The Baron could not refrain from embracing Candide; he called him his brother, his saviour.

“Ah! perhaps,” said he, “we shall together, my dear Candide, enter the town as conquerors, and recover my sister Cunegonde.”


“That is all I want,” said Candide, “for I intended to marry her, and I still hope to do so.”

“You insolent!” replied the Baron, “would you have the impudence to marry my sister who has seventy-two quarterings! I find thou hast the most consummate effrontery to dare to mention so presumptuous a design!”


Candide, petrified at this speech, made answer:

“Reverend Father, all the quarterings in the world signify nothing; I rescued your sister from the arms of a Jew and of an Inquisitor; she has great obligations to me, she wishes to marry me; Master Pangloss always told me that all men are equal, and certainly I will marry her.”

5 1 “We shall see that, thou scoundrel!” said the Jesuit Baron de Thunder-ten-Tronckh, and that instant struck him across the face with the flat of his sword. Candide in an instant drew his rapier, and plunged it up to the hilt in the Jesuit’s belly; but in pulling it out reeking hot, he burst into tears.
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“Good God!” said he, “I have killed my old master, my friend, my brother-in-law! I am the best-natured creature in the world, and yet I have already killed three men, and of these three two were priests.”

Cacambo, who stood sentry by the door of the arbour, ran to him.

“We have nothing more for it than to sell our lives as dearly as we can,” said his master to him, “without doubt some one will soon enter the arbour, and we must die sword in hand.”

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Cacambo, who had been in a great many scrapes in his lifetime, did not lose his head; he took the Baron’s Jesuit habit, put it on Candide, gave him the square cap, and made him mount on horseback. All this was done in the twinkling of an eye.

“Let us gallop fast, master, everybody will take you for a Jesuit, going to give directions to your men, and we shall have passed the frontiers before they will be able to overtake us.”

He flew as he spoke these words, crying out aloud in Spanish: “Make way, make way, for the reverend Father Colonel.”

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4 Responses to “Chapter 15 – How Candide Killed the Brother of His Dear Cunegonde”

More disguises, more dress-up! It may be useful to make a running list of all the disguises worn in the book: Pangloss the beggar, Candide as a Bulgar soldier early on in his blue-coated military costume, Cunegonde’s veil, and now this religious costume. What is the effect of so many costumes worn by the characters?

When the operetta of Candide opened on Broadway in 1957, it was called a spectacle by fans and detractors alike, and it’s easy to see from the source material that the story is full of masquerades colliding with impersonations of caricatures of drama-queens.

One could do a couple of things here as a reader: one could judge Candide as a human character who seems to get into violent trouble often but still wants to consider himself good-natured, or one could wonder at the repetitions that Voltaire has engineered in that three of the two men murdered were priests and make some hypotheses about why these repetitions happen, and why they always seem to happen so suddenly, with little appearance of agency on Candide’s part. Candide doesn’t seem to be a real actor in these deeds: the violence is not pre-meditated, nor is it even mentioned until suddenly a weapon appears. Candide is less a character here than a vessel, perhaps.

How does the language of this scene correspond with Candide’s previous acts of violence?: “In saying this he drew a long poniard which he always carried about him; and not imagining that his adversary had any arms he threw himself upon Candide: but our honest Westphalian had received a handsome sword from the old woman along with the suit of clothes. He drew his rapier, despite his gentleness, and laid the Israelite stone dead upon the cushions at Cunegonde’s feet.” They are quite similar, as Cunegonde’s and her brother’s stories have intersected at the Candide’s sword.

This is a fascinating alternate version of Cunegonde’s story from chapters 8 and 9: what was a story about subjugation in Cunegonde’s version becomes a story of favors bestowed in her brother’s. But the favors turn back on themselves because they are part of a corrupt system: in what ways do the stories intersect even as they initially veer away from one another?