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


1 1 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.
2 “Eat, drink, sleep,” said she, “and may our lady of Atocha, the great St. Anthony of Padua, and the great St. James of Compostella, receive you under their protection. I shall be back to-morrow.”
3 1

Candide, amazed at all he had suffered and still more with the charity of the old woman, wished to kiss her hand.

“It is not my hand you must kiss,” said the old woman; “I shall be back to-morrow. Anoint yourself with the pomatum, eat and sleep.”

4 1 Candide, notwithstanding so many disasters, ate and slept. The next morning the old woman brought him his breakfast, looked at his back, and rubbed it herself with another ointment: in like manner she brought him his dinner; and at night she returned with his supper. The day following she went through the very same ceremonies.
5 2

“Who are you?” said Candide; “who has inspired you with so much goodness? What return can I make you?”

The good woman made no answer; she returned in the evening, but brought no supper.

“Come with me,” she said, “and say nothing.”

6 She took him by the arm, and walked with him about a quarter of a mile into the country; they arrived at a lonely house, surrounded with gardens and canals. The old woman knocked at a little door, it opened, she led Candide up a private staircase into a small apartment richly furnished. She left him on a brocaded sofa, shut the door and went away. Candide thought himself in a dream; indeed, that he had been dreaming unluckily all his life, and that the present moment was the only agreeable part of it all.
7 3

The old woman returned very soon, supporting with difficulty a trembling woman of a majestic figure, brilliant with jewels, and covered with a veil.

“Take off that veil,” said the old woman to Candide.

The young man approaches, he raises the veil with a timid hand. Oh! what a moment! what surprise! he believes he beholds Miss Cunegonde? he really sees her! it is herself! His strength fails him, he cannot utter a word, but drops at her feet. Cunegonde falls upon the sofa. The old woman supplies a smelling bottle; they come to themselves and recover their speech. As they began with broken accents, with questions and answers interchangeably interrupted with sighs, with tears, and cries. The old woman desired they would make less noise and then she left them to themselves.

8 3

“What, is it you?” said Candide, “you live? I find you again in Portugal? then you have not been ravished? then they did not rip open your belly as Doctor Pangloss informed me?”

“Yes, they did,” said the beautiful Cunegonde; “but those two accidents are not always mortal.”

“But were your father and mother killed?”

“It is but too true,” answered Cunegonde, in tears.

“And your brother?”

“My brother also was killed.”

9 “And why are you in Portugal? and how did you know of my being here? and by what strange adventure did you contrive to bring me to this house?”
10 1 “I will tell you all that,” replied the lady, “but first of all let me know your history, since the innocent kiss you gave me and the kicks which you received.”
11 1 Candide respectfully obeyed her, and though he was still in a surprise, though his voice was feeble and trembling, though his back still pained him, yet he gave her a most ingenuous account of everything that had befallen him since the moment of their separation. Cunegonde lifted up her eyes to heaven; shed tears upon hearing of the death of the good Anabaptist and of Pangloss; after which she spoke as follows to Candide, who did not lose a word and devoured her with his eyes.

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14 Responses to “Chapter 7 – How the Old Woman Took Care Of Candide, and How He Found the Object He Loved”

Henri Joseph du Laurent, the author of the sequel to Candide published in 1761, parodies this passage when he has Candide encounter a bevy of veiled beauties in his Oriental travels. The hero is taken to an exotic pleasure den, where they dance for him and he finds “secret charms” he had never imagined. “At a certain signal, their veils dropt,” goes the story, and Candide can barely contain himself. When the music and the dancing stop, “the silence brings Candide to himself. The frenzy of love takes possession of his soul. He gazes with inexpressible avidity. He kisses their white hands, and ventures to touch their still whiter necks.”

What had been a touching moment of unveiling and ineffable feeling in Candide becomes a pastiche of Oriental exoticism, and poor Cunegonde (grown ugly at the end of Candide for all that she has endured) suffers in the comparison.

“Our philosopher contemplates with attention one of a more delicate shape and majestic deportment than the rest; but throws his handkerchief to a young nymph whose languishing eyes seemed particularly to court his affection, and whose beauty was improved by her blushes. The eunuch instantly opened the door of an aparment which was consecrated to the mysteries of love. The lovers entered, and now the eunuch said to his master, You are going to be happy. Oh, replied Candide, I hope I am.

“The ceiling and walls of this delightful chamber were covered with mirrors, and in the middle stood a couch of black satin: here he seated the fair Circassian, and began to undress her with inconceivable alertness. The good creature did not interrupt him, except to express her affection by her kisses. O, my Lord, said she, like a true Mahometan, how happy you have made your slave! How you honour her by your transports! These few words charmed our philosopher. He was lost in ecstasy, and every thing he beheld was entirely new to him. What difference between Cunegonde grown ugly, and violated by the Bulgar heroes, and a young Circassian of eighteen, who was never ravished! This was the first time that poor Candide had tasted pleasure. The objects which he devoured were repeated in the glass. Which way soever he turned his eyes, he saw the black satin contrasted with the whitest skin in the universe. He beheld—-but I am obliged to comply with the false delicacy of our language. Let it suffice to say, that our philosopher was completely happy.”

This is an interstitial chapter, a link between Candide’s adventures after leaving Westphalia and Cunegonde’s recounting of what happened to her during that same time. It’s one of the few “slow build” chapters, in that its direction is not clear until the end of the chapter, when the mysterious old woman unveils Cunegonde. Let’s keep track of the other instances in the text in which a character reappears (rather than appears suddenly or disappears abruptly)–and there will be several more. Are there stylistic features which give some hint of the surprise recognition? For example, when Candide meets his former tutor in beggar’s clothes in chapter 4, Pangloss is a “spectre” (le fantôme in the original French). The old woman seems similarly unknowable here–she is kind but offers no explanations for her actions initially. Their reappearances require some suspension of disbelief, some smiling at the magical circumstances that have caused them to come back from seeming death. Are these magic moments matched with hints of mystery in other instances in the story?

The old woman will provide multiple chapters worth of explanation in a few chapters’ time, so her reticence here is an interesting introduction. Pangloss’s optimistic explanations are repetitive to the point of absurdity, and Candide heightens the effect by repeating them. The old woman’s refuses to explain or answer questions, and so Candide must mimic her, too.

The reappearance of Cunegonde is certainly surprising after Pangloss’ description of her rape and disembowelment in Chapter 4. Here, Candide voices his (and, likely, the reader’s) astonishment as he assumes that Cunegonde’s reappearance must contradict Pangloss’ earlier relation. Seeing her alive, he concludes that she was neither raped nor brutalized, but, as Cunegonde knows too well, such “accidents are not always mortal.”

Together with Pangloss’ earlier description of the soldiers’ violence, Cunegonde’s story stresses the dismal reality for women “in the best of all possible worlds.” Even women of the very highest social classes fall victim to brutality; just a few chapters later, the old woman’s story will reinforce this sense of vulnerability, and the easy reversals of fortune that even the wealthy and titled can experience.

Additionally, in light of her surprising recovery, Cunegonde’s relation that her “brother was also killed” now seems suspicious. The dead don’t seem to remain dead for long in *Candide*.

Now that Candide has reunited with Cunegonde after their respective miseries, the Baron’s castle appears even more bitter-sweetly prelapsarian, despite its flaws. In the world outside the castle, sexuality becomes perverse, and relatively benign violence becomes grotesque and commonplace: “innocent kisses” translate into rape, and “kicks” into torture and murder.

In light of the text’s ending, it is an interesting bit of foreshadowing that Candide attends to Cunegonde’s story while “devour[ing] her with his eyes.” Later, in Chapter 27, he will also prioritize her beauty in inquiring after her circumstances: “Is she still a prodigy of beauty? Does she love me still? How is she?”

What is also striking, here, is the subtle violence behind the metaphor of “devouring” (and the English accords with the French at this moment). The term suggests greediness at best and a brutal animality at worst. Perhaps the point is to distinguish Candide from Cunegonde’s Bulgar “ravisher” and other masters–for the “gentle” Candide, this is no doubt a “gentle” kind of devouring–but the proximity of the terms (“devour”; “ravish”) draws him nearer to them, too.

In agreement with Ms. Boone, Voltaire, in his dynamic writing offers many thoughts with this section.

Not only does Voltaire elevate Cunegonde through mystery and majesty, he elevates the position of the old woman. The old woman has strong control of the reunion of Cunegonde and Candide. She commands Candide to remove the veil of the woman, rather profound for the patriarchal society in which Voltaire lived. Also, Candide and Cunegonde are so immersed in their passions for each other that faint in a symbol of their immature passions. The old woman, practical and well-versed, quickly supplies smelling salts and even grows tired of the youth of the two lovers. The old woman’s actions speak to a lifetime of experience within a short section alluding to her long story of her life.

Amy Ward says:

It is interesting for Cunegonde to use the word “accident” to describe her attacks. It seems like it is a way to minimize the severity of what happened.

Ms. Ward, it is interesting that you bring up the use of the word “accident”. Throughout the book, Voltaire utilizes a number of devices in order to strengthen his satire, and one of the more prominenet ones is the understatement. Just as it was used here, understatements are often used to shock audiences. The nonchalant way in which characters comment on such severe events is enough to almost appall readers. Such surprising comments were especially prevalent in Candide, which explains why it was rejected for so long. Voltaire knew he was pushing the boundaries, but he also knew that he would be able to capture the attention of anyone who read it.

I agree with Ms. Boone that although the old woman is introduced here she will be elaborated on in the chapters to come giving her background information. Candide’s reaction to the old woman shows how innocent he is since he has not been exposed to this much charity. He is able to see Pangloss’s philosophy of optimism and how the charity of others proves that he lives in the best of all worlds. The one thing I find interesting in this passage is that Candide asks the old woman who has inspired her to be good and I’m wondering why he would ask this? Does he find hard to believe that people are naturally good?

The old woman is the “Good Samaritan” who rescues Candide from his unfortunate circumstances. Her prior reference to the many saints, in whose care she is leaving Candide, link her to those divine beings who diliver us from the tragedies in this world.

Arjun Bassin says:

Voltaire juxtaposes very unfortunate events and unusually fortunate events. Candide experiences terrible circumstances like earthquakes and the reader questions how Candide can maintain his view of optimism. However, soon after Candide is treated extremely well; he is fed three times a day and has his wounds taken care of. Candide doesn’t even have enough time to question his belief of optimism. The terrible event is followed so suddenly by a fortunate one.

This series of events show how difficult it is to have one constant outlook on life (optimism, pessimism, etc.). Life is full of twists and turns and is very hard to look at life in a bigger picture.

Throughout the book it becomes visible that characters such as the old woman, Martin and Cacambo lead Candide to action. When he commits crimes or gets in trouble these supporting characters urge him to act, leading with their knowledge. The company that Candide holds throughout the novel already has the wisdom that Candide relies on to escape whatever his troubles are. Although, Candide is the one with the money and essentially the power in these relationships he does not have a say in what the course of action will be. Voltaire makes a social commentary on that Candide may have power in one aspect, he does not posses all of it because of his lack of knowledge and in this paragraph courage.

The Seconde partie of Candide was published in 1761; it was one of several unauthorized sequels that formed part of the book’s media event. The NYPL catalog lists the author of this book as Charles-Claude Florent Thorel de Campigneulles, as he was charged with being the anonymous author during the 1760s. Bibliographers and literary historians have discovered that this attribution was a joke, however, somewhat on par with Voltaire’s joke of attributing Candide to the fictitious Dr. Ralph, who translated the book from the German and who died at Minden in 1761. Thorel de Campigneulles did exist, but his philosophical leanings opposed the parodic conte philosophique of the Seconde partie. The book is now attributed to Henri-Joseph du Laurent. This misattribution indicates how library catalogs are perhaps unprepared to deal with irony stacked on top of irony: if we can wrap our heads around a writer with a pen name making up another author and a “found” manuscript, we cannot quite deal with an extra layer of joke attribution of a parodic sequel to a real person.