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


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“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.

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“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 war for a few acres of snow in Canada, and that they spend over this beautiful war much more than Canada is worth. To tell you exactly, whether there are more people fit to send to a madhouse in one country than the other, is what my imperfect intelligence will not permit. I only know in general that the people we are going to see are very atrabilious.”

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Talking thus they arrived at Portsmouth. The coast was lined with crowds of people, whose eyes were fixed on a fine man kneeling, with his eyes bandaged, on board one of the men of war in the harbour. Four soldiers stood opposite to this man; each of them fired three balls at his head, with all the calmness in the world; and the whole assembly went away very well satisfied.

“What is all this?” said Candide; “and what demon is it that exercises his empire in this country?”

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He then asked who was that fine man who had been killed with so much ceremony. They answered, he was an Admiral.

“And why kill this Admiral?”

“It is because he did not kill a sufficient number of men himself. He gave battle to a French Admiral; and it has been proved that he was not near enough to him.”

“But,” replied Candide, “the French Admiral was as far from the English Admiral.”

“There is no doubt of it; but in this country it is found good, from time to time, to kill one Admiral to encourage the others.”

5 Candide was so shocked and bewildered by what he saw and heard, that he would not set foot on shore, and he made a bargain with the Dutch skipper (were he even to rob him like the Surinam captain) to conduct him without delay to Venice.
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The skipper was ready in two days. They coasted France; they passed in sight of Lisbon, and Candide trembled. They passed through the Straits, and entered the Mediterranean. At last they landed at Venice.

“God be praised!” said Candide, embracing Martin. “It is here that I shall see again my beautiful Cunegonde. I trust Cacambo as myself. All is well, all will be well, all goes as well as possible.”

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2 Responses to “Chapter 23 – Candide and Martin Touched Upon the Coast of England, and What They Saw There”

Wow, I had to look up “atrabilious” in the dictionary—to be affected with black bile. It’s a direct translation from the French, but more contemporary translators pick “gloomy” and “melancholy.” Maybe I like Martin’s large, esoteric vocabulary, though!

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 hold onto the island of Minorca for the British in a 1756 battle during the Seven Years War. Byng found his ships overmatched by French, and had retreated to secure more might, but he was relieved of his duty before such plans could be put into effect.

Byng wrote an account of the battle, which was published with some redactions in the London Gazette in 1756; the full version can be found online here. The italicized portions of the account were redacted in the original publication, and you can see that these are important for understanding the Admiral’s position:

…“I sent cruisers to look out for the INTREPID and CHESTERFIELD, who joined me next day. And having, from a state and condition of the squadron brought me in, found, that the CAPTAIN, INTREPID, and DEFIANCE (which latter has lost her captain), were much damaged in their masts, so that they were in danger of not being able to secure their masts properly at sea; and also, that the squadron in general were very sickly, many killed and wounded, and nowhere to put a third of their number if I made an hospital of the forty-gun ship, which was not easy at sea; I thought it proper in this situation to call a council of war, before I went again to look for the enemy. I desired the attendance of General Stuart, Lord Effingham, and Lord Robert Bertie, and Colonel Cornwallis, that I might collect their opinions upon the present situation of Minorca and Gibraltar, and make sure of protecting the latter, since it was found impracticable either to succour or relieve the former with the force we had. So, though we may justly claim the victory, yet we are much inferior to the weight of their ships, though the numbers are equal; and they have the advantage of sending to Minorca their wounded, and getting reinforcements of seamen from their transports, and soldiers from their camp; all which undoubtedly has been done in this time that we have been lying to refit, and often in sight of Minorca; and their ships have more than once appeared in a line from our mast-heads.

“I send their Lordships the resolutions of the council of war, in which there was not the least contention or doubt arose. I hope, indeed, we shall find stores to refit us at Gibraltar; and, if I have any reinforcement, will not lose a moment of time to seek the enemy again, and once more give them battle, though they have a great advantage in being clean ships that go three feet to our one, and therefore have their choice how they will engage us, or if they will at all; and will never let us close them, as their sole view is the disabling our ships, in which they have but too well succeeded, though we obliged them to bear up.”
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