Voltaire Six: The Top Tigers

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I highly recommend this book to each of you. The selection from which the book draws its name is about one of our own, Henry Thompson, Jr. Jack does an excellent job of helping us recall and enjoy again some of our younger years. Jack disguises many other places, events, and people in the book. So, you might just read a name, place, or event and recognize your participation or recollection of it.

Copies of the book can be purchased through amazon. Jack also published an historical novel entitled Voltaire Six. I believe I mentioned this to you before. As a result of the May Primary, a run-off was required between Clark and Mr. Bill Brandon of Helena-West Helena. Clark secured the most votes in the June 13th runoff. Congratulations to Clark, Becky, and all his campaign supporters for a job well done.

I do not know if it includes parts of other counties. We have learned that we have at least two published authors in our MHS midst.

Prolific writer

One is a classmate John R. Cooke and the other is the daughter Ann Roscopf Allen of a classmate. It is a historical novel set in the time period from soon after the Civil War to around I found it captivating and a joy to read. It can be ordered from Amazon. Her webpage explains more.

Clay King seeks to help the beautiful young widow of his commanding office who has lost everything. When Mary Eliza Pillow is invited to move onto his plantation, she chases away his wife, seduces the love-struck colonel, and persuades him to give her a deed to his plantation. When she records the deed against his wishes, he assaults her, but she refuses to leave the property and seizes it by force.

Thus begins a series of scandalous, highly publicized lawsuits, resulting in a noontime murder on Main Street in Memphis. He would not plunge his people into an unfamiliar misery. He would just keep them in the misery they were born to. But such an account of Voltaire's procedure is as misleading as the plaster cast of a dance. Look at his procedure again. The aged faithful attendant, victim of a hundred acts of rape by negro pirates, remembers [Pg ix] that she is the daughter of a pope, and that in honor of her approaching marriage with a Prince of Massa-Carrara all Italy wrote sonnets of which not one was passable.

Philosophical Dictionary, by Voltaire

We do not need to know French literature before Voltaire in order to feel, although the lurking parody may escape us, that he is poking fun at us and at himself. His laughter at his own methods grows more unmistakable at the last, when he caricatures them by casually assembling six fallen monarchs in an inn at Venice. A modern assailant of optimism would arm himself with social pity.

There is no social pity in "Candide.

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Had Voltaire lived to-day he would have done to poverty what he did to war. Pitying the poor, he would have shown us poverty as a ridiculous anachronism, and both the ridicule and the pity would have expressed his indignation. Almost any modern, essaying a philosophic tale, would make it long. It would hardly have been shorter if Voltaire had spent three months on it, instead of those three days. A [Pg x] conciseness to be matched in English by nobody except Pope, who can say a plagiarizing enemy "steals much, spends little, and has nothing left," a conciseness which Pope toiled and sweated for, came as easy as wit to Voltaire.

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He can afford to be witty, parenthetically, by the way, prodigally, without saving, because he knows there is more wit where that came from. One of Max Beerbohm's cartoons shows us the young Twentieth Century going at top speed, and watched by two of his predecessors. It is filled with mockery, with inventiveness, with things as concrete as things to eat and coins, it has time for the neatest intellectual clickings, it is never hurried, and it moves with the most amazing rapidity.

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It has the rapidity of high spirits playing a game. The dry high spirits of this destroyer of optimism make most optimists look damp and depressed.

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His attack on optimism is one of the gayest books in the world. Gaiety has been scattered everywhere up and down its pages by Voltaire's lavish hand, by his thin fingers. Many propagandist satirical books have been written with "Candide" in mind, but not too many. To-day, especially, when new faiths are changing the structure of the world, faiths which are still plastic enough to be deformed by every disciple, each disciple for himself, and which have not yet received the final deformation known as universal acceptance, to-day "Candide" is an inspiration to every narrative satirist who hates one of these new faiths, or hates every interpretation of it but his own.

Either hatred will serve as a motive to satire. That is why the present is one of the right moments to republish "Candide. And I hope, too, that they will without trying hold their pens with an eighteenth century lightness, not inappropriate to a philosophic tale. In Voltaire's fingers, as Anatole France has said, the pen runs and laughs. Philip Littell. In a castle of Westphalia, belonging to the Baron of Thunder-ten-Tronckh, lived a youth, whom nature had endowed with the most gentle manners. His countenance was a true picture of his soul.

He combined a true judgment with simplicity of spirit, which was the reason, I apprehend, of his being called Candide. The old servants of the family suspected him to have been the son of the Baron's sister, by a good, honest gentleman of the neighborhood, whom that young lady would never marry because he had been able to prove only seventy-one quarterings, the rest of his genealogical tree having been lost through the injuries of time. The Baron was one of the most powerful lords in Westphalia, for his castle had not only a gate, but windows. His great hall, even, was [Pg 2] hung with tapestry.

All the dogs of his farm-yards formed a pack of hounds at need; his grooms were his huntsmen; and the curate of the village was his grand almoner. They called him "My Lord," and laughed at all his stories. The Baron's lady weighed about three hundred and fifty pounds, and was therefore a person of great consideration, and she did the honours of the house with a dignity that commanded still greater respect.

Her daughter Cunegonde was seventeen years of age, fresh-coloured, comely, plump, and desirable. The Baron's son seemed to be in every respect worthy of his father. The Preceptor Pangloss [1] was the oracle of the family, and little Candide heard his lessons with all the good faith of his age and character. Pangloss was professor of metaphysico-theologico-cosmolo-nigology. He proved admirably that there is no effect without a cause, and that, in this best of all possible worlds, the Baron's castle was the most magnificent of castles, and his lady the best of all possible Baronesses.

Observe, that the nose has been formed to bear spectacles—thus we have spectacles. Legs are visibly designed for stockings [Pg 3] —and we have stockings.

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Stones were made to be hewn, and to construct castles—therefore my lord has a magnificent castle; for the greatest baron in the province ought to be the best lodged. Pigs were made to be eaten—therefore we eat pork all the year round.

Voltaire Six : The Top Tigers

Consequently they who assert that all is well have said a foolish thing, they should have said all is for the best. Candide listened attentively and believed innocently; for he thought Miss Cunegonde extremely beautiful, though he never had the courage to tell her so. He concluded that after the happiness of being born of Baron of Thunder-ten-Tronckh, the second degree of happiness was to be Miss Cunegonde, the third that of seeing her every day, and the fourth that of hearing Master Pangloss, the greatest philosopher of the whole province, and consequently of the whole world.

One day Cunegonde, while walking near the castle, in a little wood which they called a park, saw between the bushes, Dr. Pangloss giving a lesson in experimental natural philosophy to her mother's chamber-maid, a little brown wench, very pretty and very docile. As Miss Cunegonde had a great disposition for the sciences, she breathlessly observed the repeated experiments of which she was a witness; she clearly perceived [Pg 4] the force of the Doctor's reasons, the effects, and the causes; she turned back greatly flurried, quite pensive, and filled with the desire to be learned; dreaming that she might well be a sufficient reason for young Candide, and he for her.

She met Candide on reaching the castle and blushed; Candide blushed also; she wished him good morrow in a faltering tone, and Candide spoke to her without knowing what he said. The next day after dinner, as they went from table, Cunegonde and Candide found themselves behind a screen; Cunegonde let fall her handkerchief, Candide picked it up, she took him innocently by the hand, the youth as innocently kissed the young lady's hand with particular vivacity, sensibility, and grace; their lips met, their eyes sparkled, their knees trembled, their hands strayed.

Baron Thunder-ten-Tronckh passed near the screen and beholding this cause and effect chased Candide from the castle with great kicks on the backside; Cunegonde fainted away; she was boxed on the ears by the Baroness, as soon as she came to herself; and all was consternation in this most magnificent and most agreeable of all possible castles. Candide, driven from terrestrial paradise, walked a long while without knowing where, weeping, raising his eyes to heaven, turning them often towards the most magnificent of castles which imprisoned the purest of noble young ladies.

He lay down to sleep without supper, in the middle of a field between two furrows. The snow fell in large flakes. Next day Candide, all benumbed, dragged himself towards the neighbouring town which was called Waldberghofftrarbk-dikdorff, having no money, dying of hunger and fatigue, he stopped sorrowfully at the door of an inn. Two men dressed in blue observed him.

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  6. Pangloss, and I see plainly that all is for the best. They begged of him to accept a few crowns. He took them, and wished to give them his note; they refused; they seated themselves at table. Your fortune is made, and your glory is assured. Instantly they fettered him, and carried him away to the regiment. There he was made to wheel about to the right, and to the left, to draw his rammer, to return his rammer, to present, to fire, to march, and they gave him thirty blows with a cudgel. The next day he did his exercise a little less badly, and he received but twenty blows.

    The day following they gave him only ten, and he was regarded by his comrades as a prodigy. Candide, all stupefied, could not yet very well realise how he was a hero. He resolved one fine day in spring to go for a walk, marching straight before him, believing that it was a privilege of the human as well as of the animal species to make use of their legs as they pleased.

    He had advanced two leagues when he was overtaken by four others, heroes of six feet, who bound him and carried him to a dungeon. He was asked which he would like the best, to be whipped six-and-thirty times through all the regiment, or to receive at once twelve balls of lead in his brain. He vainly said that human will is free, and that he chose neither the one nor the other.

    He was forced to make a choice; he determined, in virtue of that gift of God [Pg 8] called liberty, to run the gauntlet six-and-thirty times.