Chapter XXIII

Candide and Martin Touched Upon the Coast of England, and what they Saw There

“AH, PANGLOSS! PANGLOSS! Ah, Martin! Martin! Ah, my dear Cunegonde, what sort of a world is this?” said Candide on board the Dutch ship.

“Something very foolish and abominable,” said Martin.

“You know England? Are they as foolish there as in France?”

“It is another kind of folly,” said Martin. “You know that these two nations are at war for a few acres of snow in Canada, and that they spend over this beautiful war much more than Canada is worth. To tell you exactly, whether there are more people fit to send to a madhouse in one country than the other, is what my imperfect intelligence will not permit. I only know in general that the people we are going to see are very atrabilious.”

Talking thus they arrived at Portsmouth. The coast was lined with crowds of people, whose eyes were fixed on a fine man kneeling, with his eyes bandaged, on board one of the men of war in the harbor. Four soldiers stood opposite to this man; each of them fired three balls at his head, with all the calmness in the world; and the whole assembly went away very well satisfied.

“What is all this?” said Candide; “and what demon is it that exercises his empire in this country?”

He then asked who was that fine man who had been killed with so much ceremony. They answered, he was an Admiral.

“And why kill this Admiral?”

“It is because he did not kill a sufficient number of men himself. He gave battle to a French Admiral; and it has been proved that he was not near enough to him.”

“But,” replied Candide, “the French Admiral was as far from the English Admiral.”

“There is no doubt of it; but in this country it is found good, from time to time, to kill one Admiral to encourage the others.”

Candide was so shocked and bewildered by what he saw and heard, that he would not set foot on shore, and he made a bargain with the Dutch skipper (were he even to rob him like the Surinam captain) to conduct him without delay to Venice.

The skipper was ready in two days. They coasted France; they passed in sight of Lisbon, and Candide trembled. They passed through the Straits, and entered the Mediterranean. At last they landed at Venice.

“God be praised!” said Candide, embracing Martin. “It is here that I shall see again my beautiful Cunegonde. I trust Cacambo as myself. All is well, all will be well, all goes as well as possible.”


  1. The logic that it is good to "kill one Admiral to encourage the others" suggests that other will be so afraid that they'll fight even harder in order to prove themselves. Voltaire exaggerates this uncommon situation of killing an admiral to express his profound distaste for the English and their justice system. Voltaire uses this brief, unsettling chapter to make what could be a long, harrowing voyage into a brief, straightforward one that moves the narrative along without complicating it.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  2. A reference to Admiral George Byng, a great English officer who was executed on March 14, 1757, because he was found guilty of losing a battle to the French. This allusion is personal for Voltaire because he attempted to save the Admiral's life—to no avail—which for him demonstrates the senseless and brutal nature of life.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  3. The word "atrabilious" means that one is much affected by black bile, one of the four "humours" in the theory of Humorism, which posits that one's temperament is dictated by the balance of one's bodily fluids or "humours." To have too much black bile means to be melancholic, or in others words despondent, serious, and acrimonious. Martin means that these people are very unpleasant to be around.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor