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Voltaire: How a beautiful autodafe was made to prevent the earthquakes, and how Candide was spanked

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Lisbon Hanging

After the earthquake that had destroyed three-quarters of Lisbon, the wises of the country not finding a more effective way to prevent total ruin than to give the people a beautiful autodafe; [after the earthquake of Lisbon, it was in fact an autodafe on June 20, 1756; see Chapter XXXI of the Précis du Siècle of Louis XV. B.]; it was decided by the University of Coimbra that the spectacle of a few persons burnt at a low fire in great ceremony is an infallible secret to prevent the earth from trembling.

So a Biscayan, convicted of marrying his gossip, had been seized, and two Portuguese, who had eaten a chicken and had snatched the bacon from it; they bound, after dinner, Dr. Pangloss and his disciple Candide, one for having spoken, and the other having listened to him with an air of approval: both were conducted separately in apartments of extreme freshness, in which they were never inconvenienced by the sun; eight days later they were both clothed in a san-benito, and their heads were decorated with paper binders: the miter and sanbenito of Candide were painted with reversed flames, and devils who had neither tails nor claws; but the devils of Pangloss had claws and tails, and the flames were straight. They walked in procession thus clothed, and heard a very pathetic sermon, followed by a beautiful church music. Candide was spanked in cadence, while they were singing; the Biscayan, and the two men who were unwilling to eat lard, were burned, and Pangloss was hanged, although it is not customary. The same day the earth trembled again with a terrible noise.

Candide, frightened, forbidden, distraught, bloody, pulsating, said to himself: “If this is the best of all possible worlds, what are the others? If I were only spanked, I was with the Bulgarians; but, my dear Pangloss! The greatest of philosophers, must have seen you hang, without knowing why! O my dear Anabaptist! The best of men, must you have been drowned in the harbor! O Mademoiselle Cunegonde! The pearl of the girls, must you have split your belly!

He returned, scarcely supporting himself, preached, spanked, absolved, and blessed, when an old woman approached him, and said to him: “My son, take courage, follow me.”

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