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

1 1 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 longer know your dear Pangloss?”

“What do I hear? You, my dear master! you in this terrible plight! What misfortune has happened to you? Why are you no longer in the most magnificent of castles? What has become of Miss Cunegonde, the pearl of girls, and nature’s masterpiece?”

“I am so weak that I cannot stand,” said Pangloss.

Upon which Candide carried him to the Anabaptist’s stable, and gave him a crust of bread. As soon as Pangloss had refreshed himself a little:

“Well,” said Candide, “Cunegonde?”

“She is dead,” replied the other.

3 1

Candide fainted at this word; his friend recalled his senses with a little bad vinegar which he found by chance in the stable. Candide reopened his eyes.

“Cunegonde is dead! Ah, best of worlds, where art thou? But of what illness did she die? Was it not for grief, upon seeing her father kick me out of his magnificent castle?”

4 2 “No,” said Pangloss, “she was ripped open by the Bulgarian soldiers, after having been violated by many; they broke the Baron’s head for attempting to defend her; my lady, her mother, was cut in pieces; my poor pupil was served just in the same manner as his sister; and as for the castle, they have not left one stone upon another, not a barn, nor a sheep, nor a duck, nor a tree; but we have had our revenge, for the Abares have done the very same thing to a neighbouring barony, which belonged to a Bulgarian lord.”
5 1 At this discourse Candide fainted again; but coming to himself, and having said all that it became him to say, inquired into the cause and effect, as well as into the sufficient reason that had reduced Pangloss to so miserable a plight.
6 1 “Alas!” said the other, “it was love; love, the comfort of the human species, the preserver of the universe, the soul of all sensible beings, love, tender love.”
7 1 “Alas!” said Candide, “I know this love, that sovereign of hearts, that soul of our souls; yet it never cost me more than a kiss and twenty kicks on the backside. How could this beautiful cause produce in you an effect so abominable?”
8 1 Pangloss made answer in these terms: “Oh, my dear Candide, you remember Paquette, that pretty wench who waited on our noble Baroness; in her arms I tasted the delights of paradise, which produced in me those hell torments with which you see me devoured; she was infected with them, she is perhaps dead of them. This present Paquette received of a learned Grey Friar, who had traced it to its source; he had had it of an old countess, who had received it from a cavalry captain, who owed it to a marchioness, who took it from a page, who had received it from a Jesuit, who when a novice had it in a direct line from one of the companions of Christopher Columbus. For my part I shall give it to nobody, I am dying.”
9 3

“Oh, Pangloss!” cried Candide, “what a strange genealogy! Is not the Devil the original stock of it?”

“Not at all,” replied this great man, “it was a thing unavoidable, a necessary ingredient in the best of worlds; for if Columbus had not in an island of America caught this disease, which contaminates the source of life, frequently even hinders generation, and which is evidently opposed to the great end of nature, we should have neither chocolate nor cochineal. We are also to observe that upon our continent, this distemper is like religious controversy, confined to a particular spot. The Turks, the Indians, the Persians, the Chinese, the Siamese, the Japanese, know nothing of it; but there is a sufficient reason for believing that they will know it in their turn in a few centuries. In the meantime, it has made marvellous progress among us, especially in those great armies composed of honest well-disciplined hirelings, who decide the destiny of states; for we may safely affirm that when an army of thirty thousand men fights another of an equal number, there are about twenty thousand of them p-x-d on each side.”

10 1

“Well, this is wonderful!” said Candide, “but you must get cured.”

“Alas! how can I?” said Pangloss, “I have not a farthing, my friend, and all over the globe there is no letting of blood or taking a glister, without paying, or somebody paying for you.”

11 1 These last words determined Candide; he went and flung himself at the feet of the charitable Anabaptist James, and gave him so touching a picture of the state to which his friend was reduced, that the good man did not scruple to take Dr. Pangloss into his house, and had him cured at his expense. In the cure Pangloss lost only an eye and an ear. He wrote well, and knew arithmetic perfectly. The Anabaptist James made him his bookkeeper. At the end of two months, being obliged to go to Lisbon about some mercantile affairs, he took the two philosophers with him in his ship. Pangloss explained to him how everything was so constituted that it could not be better. James was not of this opinion.
12 3 “It is more likely,” said he, “mankind have a little corrupted nature, for they were not born wolves, and they have become wolves; God has given them neither cannon of four-and-twenty pounders, nor bayonets; and yet they have made cannon and bayonets to destroy one another. Into this account I might throw not only bankrupts, but Justice which seizes on the effects of bankrupts to cheat the creditors.”
13 2 “All this was indispensable,” replied the one-eyed doctor, “for private misfortunes make the general good, so that the more private misfortunes there are the greater is the general good.”
14 While he reasoned, the sky darkened, the winds blew from the four quarters, and the ship was assailed by a most terrible tempest within sight of the port of Lisbon.

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

A chapter dealing largely with the indelicate matter of venereal disease. Enamored as always of his own genius for sophistry and euphemism, Doctor Pangloss declines to name explicitly the infection he has contracted. Left untreated, of course, syphilis will typically torture its victims with lesions, pustules, blindness, loss of facial flesh, and the other physical horrors Candide observes in the “beggar” who materializes at the end of Chapter 3.

In having Pangloss rationalize syphilis as part of a divine plan, Voltaire accomplishes his most savage attack thus far on the worldview of philosopher-mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646–1716). It is to Leibniz that we owe not only the character of Pangloss but also the concept of a “theodicy” – a formal attempt to explain the Supreme Being’s seeming indifference to human suffering. Leibniz’s particular theodicy is sometimes called the “ontological defense” of God’s goodness. Pain and disease are inherent in the Creator’s decision to bless us with a physical universe. Our bones, for example, must be light enough to allow movement, but this necessarily makes them vulnerable to breakage.

In other words, when Leibniz insists that ours is “the best of all possible worlds,” he would have us emphasize the word “possible.” He was not claiming that we inhabit the best imaginable world or the best conceivable world.

Voltaire and his fellow Enlightenment thinkers saw the flaw in Leibniz’s reasoning. If we can envision a superior world that nevertheless operates by natural laws – a Peruvian Eldorado, say, or a planet on which famine is unthinkable because fruit trees grow everywhere – we have come close to demonstrating that ours is not the best of all possible worlds.

“Ah, best of worlds…” That mordant refrain again, which somehow never quite overstays its welcome. For many scholars and theologians, the ultimate vindication of God – that is, the quintessential theodicy – is the biblical story of Job, a man whose sufferings are commensurate with those endured by Candide and his comrades. Throughout the previous century this great dramatic poem inspired numerous poetic riffs and modern-dress retellings, among them The Trial by Franz Kafka, The Trial of God by Elie Wiesel, A Masque of Reason by Robert Frost, and Job: A Comedy of Justice by Robert A. Heinlein. The most powerful Job iteration to date is probably Archibald MacLeish’s verse drama J.B., which features a mordant refrain of its own: “If God is God He is not good, if God is good He is not God.” Voltaire would have smiled approvingly.

“Sufficient reason.” Another dig at Leibniz, who opined promiscuously on two cardinal laws of thought, “the principle of sufficient reason” and “the identity of indiscernibles.”

In Pangloss’s defense, we might note that “venereal disease” can be paraphrased as “the disease of Venus,” that is, “the disease of love” – with apologies, of course, to the Roman goddess.

“How could this beautiful cause produce … an effect so abominable?” A swipe at Leibniz and perhaps even Aristotle, whose Physics famously distinguishes among material, formal, efficient, and final causes.

As a Deist and a Newtonian, Voltaire certainly believed in a universe of cause and effect, with God functioning as kind of divine clockwinder or prime mover. According to a famous anecdote, Voltaire and a companion once climbed a mountain to observe the dawn. Beholding the beautiful sunrise, Voltaire dropped to his knees and declared, “I believe, I believe in you, Powerful God, I believe!” But then, getting to his feet, he added a characteristic coda. “As for Monsieur the Son and Madame His Mother, that is another story.”

Among the highlights of Leonard Bernstein’s musical-comedy adaptation of Candide is “Auto-da-fé.” Although most of the song concerns the public execution of heretics, other lyrics elaborate on Pangloss’s account of the syphilis spirochete’s fabulous odyssey – a journey that, one might argue, parallels the peregrinations of Voltaire’s hapless characters. In the 1989 CD recording from Deutsche Grammophon, Adolph Green, playing Pangloss, performs Richard Wilbur and John La Touche’s verses with acid panache.

Oh my darling Paquette,
She is haunting me yet
With a dear souvenir I shall never forget.
‘Twas a gift that she got
From a seafaring Scott,
He received she believed in Shalott!

In Shalott from his dame
Who was certain it came
With a kiss from a Swiss
(She’d forgotten his name),
But he told her that he
Had been given it free
By a sweet little cheat in Paree.

Then a man from Japan,
Then a Moor from Iran,
Though the Moor isn’t sure
How the whole thing began;
But the gift we can see
Had a long pedigree
When at last it was passed on to me!

Well the Moor in the end
Spent a night with a friend
And the dear souvenir
Just continued the trend
To a young English lord
Who was stung, they record,
By a wasp in a hospital ward!

Well the wasp on the wing
Had occasion to sting
A Milano soprano
Who brought home the thing
To her young paramour,
Who was rendered impure,
And forsook her to look for the cure.

Thus he happened to pass
Through Westphalia, alas,
Where he met with Paquette,
And she drank from his glass.
I was pleased as could be
When it came back to me:
Makes us all just a small family!

“P-x-d.” For some reason, our anonymous 1918 translator felt skittish around the word “poxed.”

In describing the proliferation of syphilis, and the concomitant dispersal of chocolate and cochineal (red dye from insects), Pangloss presents a narrative with which many historians would agree. It is generally thought that the bacterium Treponema pallidum was present among indigenous New World peoples prior to the arrival of Europeans, and the “Columbian exchange theory,” which holds that Christopher Columbus and Marin Alonso Pinza brought the spirochete back from the West Indies, has been corroborated by genetic studies. But other scholars cite evidence that the disease has thrived in both hemispheres from prehistoric times.

Ever since the novella’s appearance in 1759, Candide aficionados have agonized over whether to accept Pangloss’s argument that the raptures of chocolate are well worth the ravages of syphilis.

“Taking a glister.” That is, receiving an enema.

The notion of Pangloss being effectively treated for syphilis is not far-fetched. Although total cures were rare prior to the advent of antibiotics, patients sometimes enjoyed remissions thanks to mercury taken orally or intravenously. Pangloss was probably subjected to a mercury regimen, though in some cases arsenic was the preferred therapy.

The conversation between Pangloss and the Anabaptist concerning our species’s predatory impulses foreshadows a forthcoming scene in which Candide and an Inquisition officer tangle over the question of human free will. Pangloss’s perverse argument that “the general good” is well served by “private misfortunes” weirdly anticipates the Utilitarian ethics of Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) and John Stuart Mill (1806-1873). Who but Voltaire could manage to satirize a school of thought before it existed?

Ken Houghton says:

There is a story told of Chuck Berry coming to NYC to play a gig and being approached by a beggar. Chuck, being much less Candide-like, starts to walk away when the guy calls, “Chuck! Don’t you remember me? I used to be your bass player.”

- Ken Houghton (

Just as the beginning of the previous chapter humorously condemns meaningless warfare, so this paragraph underhandedly mocks the “heroes” of these wars. Though Voltaire calls the soldiers of great armies “honest well-disciplined hirelings” he goes on to hyperbolize that 40,000/60,000 of these sublime fighters will be afflicted by syphilis at any one battle. Pairing this with Pangloss’s comical account of the scandalous history of contracting syphilis in the previous paragraph, Voltaire’s verbal irony in describing the soldiers’ honest discipline becomes evident.

Pangloss gives gory details regarding the acts of the Bulgarian soldiers in way that is almost “matter of fact” in tone. His reference to the Abares being capable of the same, makes the scenario to be one of “an eye for an eye.” In his endless optimism, Pangloss treats the devastation as a typical occurrence in times of war.

Amy Ward says:

It is interesting for Pangloss to experience violence and destruction and still be optimistic. This is an example of the delusion that endless optimism can give you, which is what Voltaire was satirizing.

Bernard Mandeville’s THE FABLE OF THE BEES, OR PRIVATE VICES, PUBLICK BENEFITS, which is widely held to have introduced this line of resoning was first published in 1714, and was twice presented by a Grand Jury as a public nuisance. During the three years Voltaire spent in England it was yearly reprinted and an object of heated moral debate.

Pangloss’ philosophy that everything is for the best significantly clashes with James realistic mentality. “They were not born wolves, and they have become wolves” demonstrates the idea of free will. Guns did not magically fall from the sky we created them. James expresses that man is to blame for their own suffering and the corruption of society.

Jose Lopez says:

In this particular passage we note Voltaire’s social criticism on religion and imperialism. First off we see just how negatively Voltaire thinks about the church and how he uses any and every chance he can to bash the Catholic Church. Pangloss tells Candide how he contracted syphilis from Paquette and through this chain of disease contraction a Friar and Jesuit are mentioned noting corruption. One would think that these noblemen of the church would have higher morals and be free of sin, but on the contrary we see Voltaire’s description of these high status church positions and how they are hypocritical, a trait despised by Voltaire. We also see how Imperialism led to the contraction of syphilis through the mention of Christopher Columbus. Candide, through his optimistic point of view, states that out of the exploitation of many native peoples and the introduction and spread of syphilis they gained the discovery of chocolate and other goods. Exploitation and syphilis for chocolate? In a sarcastic tone he also mentions that syphilis might not be widespread now but in a few years because of the white-mans quest for power and resources all of Asia will also be introduced to syphilis.

I agree with Jacqueline. Voltaire emphasizes man’s need for violence. As a developed species we should be able to live in harmony and discuss things in a civilized manner but instead we go back to violent tendency like animals, competing for materialistic valuables. This gives the audience a chance to builds their own opinions and see the argument for both standpoints, James and Pangloss (a realist and an optimist).

Voltaire is using violence,horror and injustice in this chapter. As the old philosopher Pangloss explains that people should be optimism. We should be able to cultivate our garden,because life goes on therefore there is certainly room for improvement.