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Voltaire's Candide -- Enlightenment Satire

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Lisette Gibson

on 17 January 2017

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Transcript of Voltaire's Candide -- Enlightenment Satire

What if the foot, ordained the dust to tread,
Or hand, to toil, aspired to be the head?
What if the head, the eye, or ear repined
To serve mere engines to the ruling mind?
Just as absurd for any part to claim
To be another, in this general frame:
Just as absurd, to mourn the tasks or pains,
The great directing Mind of All ordains.
All are but parts of one stupendous whole,
Whose body Nature is, and God the soul;
That, changed through all, and yet in all the same;
Great in the earth, as in the ethereal frame;
Warms in the sun, refreshes in the breeze,
Glows in the stars, and blossoms in the trees,
Lives through all life, extends through all extent,
Spreads undivided, operates unspent;
Breathes in our soul, informs our mortal part,
As full, as perfect, in a hair as heart:
As full, as perfect, in vile man that mourns,
As the rapt seraph that adores and burns:
To him no high, no low, no great, no small;
He fills, he bounds, connects, and equals all.
X. Cease, then, nor order imperfection name:
Our proper bliss depends on what we blame.
Know thy own point: this kind, this due degree
Of blindness, weakness, Heaven bestows on thee.
Submit. In this, or any other sphere,
Secure to be as blest as thou canst bear:
Safe in the hand of one disposing Power,
Or in the natal, or the mortal hour.
All nature is but art, unknown to thee;
All chance, direction, which thou canst not see;
All discord, harmony not understood;
All partial evil, universal good:
And, spite of pride in erring reason’s spite,
One truth is clear, whatever is, is right.
After the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, Voltaire wrote Candide (1758-9) as an attack on “philosophical optimism.” He also used the book to poke fun at many points of cultural ignorance.

1. What are the weaknesses, acording to Voltaire, of the philosophically optimistic point of view?

2. Satire is often offensive to its targets. So far, who are the most likely to be taken aback by Candide?

3. What point do you think Voltaire is making by setting the action around the globe as he does?

4. Voltaire concludes Candide by having Candide discover the content of a Turk farmer who claims that simple work keeps him from the three greatest evils: "boredom, vice, and poverty." Do you agree with this observation (a stand-in for Voltaire)? What would you consider the greatest evils?

5. What does would it mean today to "tend one's garden"

6. Is satire an effective form of social commentary? How do you see it in action today?

Rose from the middle-class
Immensely popular, although he didn’t always profit from the sales of his prints
Commenting on the conditions in the increasingly congested cities of England.
William Hogarth
Hogarth's Commentary on illness and poverty in the urban world can be seen in his 1750 paintings,
Beer Alley (L)
Gin Lane (R)

NAME: Voltaire
OCCUPATION: Historian, Philosopher, Writer
BIRTH DATE: November 21, 1694
DEATH DATE: May 30, 1778
EDUCATION: Collége Louis-le-Grand

PLACE OF BIRTH: Paris, France
PLACE OF DEATH: Paris, France
Originally: François-Marie Arouet

Widely considered one of France's greatest Enlightenment writers, Voltaire was born François-Marie Arouet to an upper-middle class family on November 21, 1694, in Paris, France. He was the youngest of five children born to François Arouet and Marie Marguerite Daumand. Voltaire would be Jesuit educated.

Got in trouble for mockery and libel. Lived and loved a married intellectual woman for many years.
Wilhelm Liebnitz
One of the discoverers of calculus
Associated with "philosophical optimism"--Doctrine of pre-established harmony--individual interest fits into a divine, broader purpose, even in the individual doesn't see it.
Quick Facts
Olaudah Equiano
Early spokesperson for Women’s Rights.
Argued the ideals of equality should be extended to women as well as men; governments should extend political rights to women.
Women should also enjoy educational freedoms.
Wrote _A
Vindication of the Rights of Woman
_ (1792)
Mary Wollstonecraft

Characterize Equiano’s perspective on the sailors aboard the slaver. What does he first fear they will do?

Characterize the tone (including diction or word choice) in Equiano’s narrative. How might his style and tone have supported his anti-slavery aims?

What is the role of his appeal to Christianity in this section of his autobiography?
Olaudah Equiano
By the 1780s, Olaudah Equiano was well-known in abolitionist circles.
Captured at age 11 and enslaved in the Caribbean, Equiano served in the Seven -Years War as a boy, bought his freedom, participated in an expedition to the Artic, and exposed the scandal of the Zong ship.
Equiano began to challenge the system of slavery through his correspondence in newspapers, and through his book The Interesting Narrative of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavas Vassa, the African.
Olaudah Equiano
Some lines from Alexander Pope’s “Essay on Man”
His position here reflects views associated with Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, philosophy of optimism
Rights Discourse
Resistance and Reaction in the Enlightenment
Excerpts from Mary Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of Women, 1792, England

Women, commonly called Ladies, are not to be contradicted in company, are not allowed to exert any manual strength; and from them the negative virtues only are expected, when any virtues are expected, patience, docility, good-humour, and flexibility; virtues incompatible with any vigorous exertion of intellect. Besides, by living more with each other and being seldom absolutely alone, they are more under the influence of sentiments than passions. Solitude and reflection are necessary to give to wishes the force of passions, and to enable the imagination to enlarge the object, and make it the most desirable.
* * *
I am fully persuaded that we should hear of none of these infantine airs, if girls were allowed to take sufficient exercise, and not confined in close rooms till their muscles are relaxed, and their powers of digestion destroyed. To carry the remark even further, if fear in girls, instead of being cherished, perhaps created, were treated in the same manner as cowardice in boys, we should quickly see women with more dignified aspects. It is true, they could not then with equal propriety be termed the sweet flowers that smile in the walk of man; but they would be more respectable members of society and discharge the important duties of life by the light of their own reason. "Educate women like men," says Rousseau, "and the more they resemble our sex the less power will they have over us." This is the very point I aim at. I do not wish them to have power over men; but over themselves.
* * *
But what have women to do in society? I may be asked, but to loiter with easy grace; surely you would not condemn them all to suckle fools and chronicle small beer! No. Women might certainly study the art of healing, and be physicians as well as nurses. And midwifery, decency seems to allot to them, though I am afraid to the word midwife in our dictionaries will soon give place to accoucheur, and one proof of the former delicacy of the sex be effaced from the language.
They might, also, study politics . . .

Business of various kinds they might likewise pursue, if they were educated in a more orderly manner, which might save many from common and legal prostitution. Women would not then marry for a support, as men accept of places under government, and neglect the implied duties; nor would an attempt to earn their own subsistence—a most laudable one!—sink them almost to the level of those poor abandoned creatures who live by prostitution. For are not milliners and mantua-makers reckoned the next class? The few employments open to women, so far from being liberal, are menial; and when a superior education enables them to take charge of the education of the children as governesses, they are not treated like the tutors of sons. . . . [Thus] these situations are considered in the light of a degradation; and they know little of the human heart, who need to be told that nothing so painfully sharpens sensibility as such a fall in life.
Some of these women might be restrained from marrying by a proper spirit or delicacy, and others may not have had it in their power to escape in this pitiful way from servitude; is not that government then very defective, and very unmindful of the happiness of one half of its members, that does not provide for honest, independent women, by encouraging them to fill respectable stations?
* * *
Would men but generously snap our chains, and be content with rational fellowship instead of slavish obedience, they would find us more observant daughters, more affectionate sisters, more faithful wives, more reasonable mothers—in a word, better citizens. We should then love the with true affection, because we should learn to respect ourselves; and the peace of mind of a worthy man would not be interrupted by the idle vanity of his wife, nor the babes sent to nestle in a strange bosom, having never found a home in their mother's.
* * *
But, we shall not see women more affectionate till more equality be established in society, till ranks are confounded and women freed; neither shall we see that dignified domestic happiness, the simple grandeur of which cannot be relished by ignorant or vitiated minds; nor will the important task of education ever be properly begun till the person of a woman is no longer preferred to her mind. For it would be as wise to except corn from tares, or figs from thistles, as that a foolish ignorant woman should be a good mother.
* * *
That women at present are by ignorance rendered foolish or vicious is, I think, not to be disputed; and that the most salutary effects tending to improve mankind might be expected from a REVOLUTION in female manners, appears, at least with a face of probability, to rise out of the observation.
* * *
From the tyranny of man, I firmly believe, the greater number of female follies proceed; and the cunning, which I allow makes at present a part of their character, I likewise have repeatedly endeavoured to prove, is produced by oppression.
* * *
Be just then, O ye men of understanding! and mark not more severely what women do amiss, than the vicious tricks of the horse or the ass for whom ye provide provender—and allow her the privileges of ignorance, to whom ye deny the rights of reason, or ye will be worse than the Egyptian task-masters, expecting virtue where nature has not given understanding!

Excerpts from Vindication
1. Reverse engineering this section, what can we infer about the lives of women in 1790?
2. Do you see Locke's argument about inherent rights here?
3. What about the concept of the
tabula rasa

Sculture by Jean-Antoine Houdon,
Full transcript