Chapter 25 – Candide and Martin Pay a Visit to Seignor Pococurante, a Noble Venetian

Voltaire2016年11月04日'Command+D' Bookmark this page

Light off Small Medium Large

Candide and his friend Martin went in a gondola on the Brenta, and
arrived at the palace of the noble Pococurante. The gardens were
laid out in elegant taste, and adorned with fine marble statues; his
palace was built after the most approved rules of architecture. The
master of the house, who was a man of affairs, and very rich, received
our two travelers with great politeness, but without much ceremony,
which somewhat disconcerted Candide, but was not at all displeasing to

As soon as they were seated, two very pretty girls, neatly
dressed, brought in chocolate, which was extremely well prepared.
Candide could not help praising their beauty and graceful carriage.

“The creatures are all right,” said the senator; “I amuse myself
with them sometimes, for I am heartily tired of the women of the town,
their coquetry, their jealousy, their quarrels, their humors, their
meannesses, their pride, and their folly; I am weary of making
sonnets, or of paying for sonnets to be made on them; but after all,
these two girls begin to grow very indifferent to me.”

After having refreshed himself, Candide walked into a large gallery,
where he was struck with the sight of a fine collection of paintings.

“Pray,” said Candide, “by what master are the two first of these?”

“They are by Raphael,” answered the senator. “I gave a great deal of
money for them seven years ago, purely out of curiosity, as they
were said to be the finest pieces in Italy; but I cannot say they
please me: the coloring is dark and heavy; the figures do not swell
nor come out enough; and the drapery is bad. In short, notwithstanding
the encomiums lavished upon them, they are not, in my opinion, a
true representation of nature. I approve of no paintings save those
wherein I think I behold nature itself; and there are few, if any,
of that kind to be met with. I have what is called a fine
collection, but I take no manner of delight in it.”

While dinner was being prepared Pococurante ordered a concert.
Candide praised the music to the skies.

“This noise,” said the noble Venetian, “may amuse one for a little
time, but if it were to last above half an hour, it would grow
tiresome to everybody, though perhaps no one would care to own it.
Music has become the art of executing what is difficult; now, whatever
is difficult cannot be long pleasing.

“I believe I might take more pleasure in an opera, if they had not
made such a monster of that species of dramatic entertainment as
perfectly shocks me; and I am amazed how people can bear to see
wretched tragedies set to music; where the scenes are contrived for no
other purpose than to lug in, as it were by the ears, three or four
ridiculous songs, to give a favorite actress an opportunity of
exhibiting her pipe. Let who will die away in raptures at the trills
of a eunuch quavering the majestic part of Caesar or Cato, and
strutting in a foolish manner upon the stage, but for my part I have
long ago renounced these paltry entertainments, which constitute the
glory of modern Italy, and are so dearly purchased by crowned heads.”

Candide opposed these sentiments; but he did it in a discreet
manner; as for Martin, he was entirely of the old senator’s opinion.

Dinner being served they sat down to table, and, after a hearty
repast, returned to the library. Candide, observing Homer richly
bound, commended the noble Venetian’s taste.

“This,” said he, “is a book that was once the delight of the great
Pangloss, the best philosopher in Germany.”

“Homer is no favorite of mine,” answered Pococurante, coolly, “I was
made to believe once that I took a pleasure in reading him; but his
continual repetitions of battles have all such a resemblance with each
other; his gods that are forever in haste and bustle, without ever
doing anything; his Helen, who is the cause of the war, and yet hardly
acts in the whole performance; his Troy, that holds out so long,
without being taken: in short, all these things together make the poem
very insipid to me. I have asked some learned men, whether they are
not in reality as much tired as myself with reading this poet: those
who spoke ingenuously, assured me that he had made them fall asleep,
and yet that they could not well avoid giving him a place in their
libraries; but that it was merely as they would do an antique, or
those rusty medals which are kept only for curiosity, and are of no
manner of use in commerce.”

“But your excellency does not surely form the same opinion of
Virgil?” said Candide.

“Why, I grant,” replied Pococurante, “that the second, third,
fourth, and sixth books of his Aeneid, are excellent; but as for his
pious Aeneas, his strong Cloanthus, his friendly Achates, his boy
Ascanius, his silly king Latinus, his ill-bred Amata, his insipid
Lavinia, and some other characters much in the same strain, I think
there cannot in nature be anything more flat and disagreeable. I
must confess I prefer Tasso far beyond him; nay, even that sleepy
taleteller Ariosto.”

“May I take the liberty to ask if you do not experience great
pleasure from reading Horace?” said Candide.

“There are maxims in this writer,” replied Pococurante, “whence a
man of the world may reap some benefit; and the short measure of the
verse makes them more easily to be retained in the memory. But I see
nothing extraordinary in his journey to Brundusium, and his account of
his had dinner; nor in his dirty, low quarrel between one Rupillius,
whose words, as he expresses it, were full of poisonous filth; and
another, whose language was dipped in vinegar. His indelicate verses
against old women and witches have frequently given me great
offense: nor can I discover the great merit of his telling his
friend Maecenas, that if he will but rank him in the class of lyric
poets, his lofty head shall touch the stars. Ignorant readers are
apt to judge a writer by his reputation. For my part, I read only to
please myself. I like nothing but what makes for my purpose.”

Candide, who had been brought up with a notion of never making use
of his own judgment, was astonished at what he heard; but Martin found
there was a good deal of reason in the senator’s remarks.

“Oh! here is a Tully,” said Candide; “this great man I fancy you are
never tired of reading?”

“Indeed I never read him at all,” replied Pococurante. “What is it
to me whether he pleads for Rabirius or Cluentius? I try causes enough
myself. I had once some liking for his philosophical works; but when I
found he doubted everything, I thought I knew as much as himself,
and had no need of a guide to learn ignorance.”

“Ha!” cried Martin, “here are fourscore volumes of the memoirs of
the Academy of Sciences; perhaps there may be something curious and
valuable in this collection.”

“Yes,” answered Pococurante, “so there might if any one of these
compilers of this rubbish had only invented the art of pin-making; but
all these volumes are filled with mere chimerical systems, without one
single article conductive to real utility.”

“I see a prodigious number of plays,” said Candide, “in Italian,
Spanish, and French.”

“Yes,” replied the Venetian, “there are I think three thousand,
and not three dozen of them good for anything. As to those huge
volumes of divinity, and those enormous collections of sermons, they
are not all together worth one single page in Seneca; and I fancy
you will readily believe that neither myself, nor anyone else, ever
looks into them.”

Martin, perceiving some shelves filled with English books, said to
the senator, “I fancy that a republican must be highly delighted
with those books, which are most of them written with a noble spirit
of freedom.”

“It is noble to write as we think,” said Pococurante; “it is the
privilege of humanity. Throughout Italy we write only what we do not
think; and the present inhabitants of the country of the Caesars and
Antonines dare not acquire a single idea without the permission of a
Dominican father. I should be enamored of the spirit of the English
nation, did it not utterly frustrate the good effects it would produce
by passion and the spirit of party.”

Candide, seeing a Milton, asked the senator if he did not think that
author a great man.

“Who?” said Pococurante sharply; “that barbarian who writes a
tedious commentary in ten books of rumbling verse, on the first
chapter of Genesis? that slovenly imitator of the Greeks, who
disfigures the creation, by making the Messiah take a pair of
compasses from Heaven’s armory to plan the world; whereas Moses
represented the Diety as producing the whole universe by his fiat? Can
I think you have any esteem for a writer who has spoiled Tasso’s
Hell and the Devil; who transforms Lucifer sometimes into a toad,
and at others into a pygmy; who makes him say the same thing over
again a hundred times; who metamorphoses him into a school-divine; and
who, by an absurdly serious imitation of Ariosto’s comic invention
of firearms, represents the devils and angels cannonading each other
in Heaven? Neither I nor any other Italian can possibly take
pleasure in such melancholy reveries; but the marriage of Sin and
Death, and snakes issuing from the womb of the former, are enough to
make any person sick that is not lost to all sense of delicacy. This
obscene, whimsical, and disagreeable poem met with the neglect it
deserved at its first publication; and I only treat the author now
as he was treated in his own country by his contemporaries.”

Candide was sensibly grieved at this speech, as he had a great
respect for Homer, and was fond of Milton.

“Alas!” said he softly to Martin, “I am afraid this man holds our
German poets in great contempt.”

“There would be no such great harm in that,” said Martin.

“O what a surprising man!” said Candide, still to himself; “what a
prodigious genius is this Pococurante! nothing can please him.”

After finishing their survey of the library, they went down into the
garden, when Candide commended the several beauties that offered
themselves to his view.

“I know nothing upon earth laid out in such had taste,” said
Pococurante; “everything about it is childish and trifling; but I
shall have another laid out tomorrow upon a nobler plan.”

As soon as our two travelers had taken leave of His Excellency,
Candide said to Martin, “Well, I hope you will own that this man is
the happiest of all mortals, for he is above everything he possesses.”

“But do not you see,” answered Martin, “that he likewise dislikes
everything he possesses? It was an observation of Plato, long since,
that those are not the best stomachs that reject, without distinction,
all sorts of aliments.”

“True,” said Candide, “but still there must certainly be a
pleasure in criticising everything, and in perceiving faults where
others think they see beauties.”

“That is,” replied Martin, “there is a pleasure in having no

“Well, well,” said Candide, “I find that I shall be the only happy
man at last, when I am blessed with the sight of my dear Cunegund.”

“It is good to hope,” said Martin.

In the meanwhile, days and weeks passed away, and no news of
Cacambo. Candide was so overwhelmed with grief, that he did not
reflect on the behavior of Pacquette and Friar Giroflee, who never
stayed to return him thanks for the presents he had so generously made


Leave a Review