Workers Vanguard No. 945

23 October 2009


Voltaire on the Syphilitic Chain

Pangloss replied thus: “My dear Candide! You remember Paquette, the pretty lady’s maid to our august Baroness; well, in her arms I tasted the delights of paradise, which in turn provoked the torments of hell by which you see me devoured; she was herself infected, and may now be dead. Paquette received this present from a very learned Franciscan, who could trace it back to its source: for he had been given it by an old countess, who in turn had it from a cavalry captain, who was indebted for it to a marquise, who caught it from a page-boy, who contracted it from a Jesuit, who, while a novice, had inherited it in a direct line from one of the shipmates of Christopher Columbus. As for me, I will pass it on to no one, for I am dying of it.”

“Oh Pangloss!” cried Candide, “what a strange genealogy is this! Surely the devil is its source?”—“Not in the least,” replied that great man. “It is an indispensable feature of the best of all possible worlds, a necessary ingredient: for if Columbus, on an island off the Americas, had not contracted this disease—which poisons the source of all procreation, and often even prevents procreation, contrary though this be to nature’s great plan—we would have neither chocolate nor cochineal....”

—from Candide (1759)