Chapter 25 Summary

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“The visit to Senator Pococurante, a Venetian nobleman”

Martin and Candide visit the sixty-year-old nobleman who lives in a glorious palazzo; he greets them politely but without any enthusiasm, which is disconcerting to Candide but not displeasing to Martin. Two beautiful girls serve them delicious cocoa, and the senator tells his guests that he sometimes lets the girls share his bed because he is bored with the women in town; but even these girls are beginning to bore him.

After lunch, the men walk through a long gallery of beautiful paintings; Candide is surprised at the beauty of the works and asks who painted them. Though they were painted by Raphael and are loved by everyone, the senator does not like them in the least. Unless a painting perfectly reflects reality, he does not like it; so he no longer looks at his art.

As they wait for dinner to be served, the senator orders a concerto to be performed. Candide finds the music to be exquisite, but the senator calls it “noise” and does not find it pleasing for long. Opera might have been something he could enjoy, but the current methods of performing have ruined that for him. He long ago decried all the things which have become the glory of Italy and which others pay so dearly to have. Candide tactfully disagrees, but Martin agrees wholeheartedly with the senator.

After an excellent dinner, the men retire to the library where Candide praises the senator for having a magnificent copy of one of Homer’s books, a volume which had delighted Pangloss. It does not delight the senator. He once believed he enjoyed it, but the battles are all the same, the gods always act without thinking, Helen causes the war but is barely present in the story, and Troy is continually besieged but never taken. All of this bores him. Other scholars to whom he has talked have admitted their boredom with it as well, but they all agree that it is important to display the text in one’s library.

Candide questions him about Virgil (only parts of Aeneid are tolerable), Horace (who has some axioms from which he can profit, but the rest is poorly written), and Cicero (who he never reads). The senator believes only a fool admires everything a revered author writes; he only likes what is useful to him. Candide is astonished by this thinking, as he was raised never to judge anything for himself; however, Martin believes Pococurante’s way of thinking is quite reasonable.

Martin asks if the senator finds anything of value in the eighty volumes of collected papers of the scientific academy; he replies he would have if any of the scientists had invented anything worth using, but the papers are full of pointless systems without use in the world. Candide is impressed that there are three thousand plays being performed in Venice, but the senator says only three dozen of them are any good. He adds that sermons are not worth reading and Milton is a small-minded poet. Everyone in Italy, he continues, only writes what they do not think. All of this is distressing to Candide, for he sees that nothing can please this man. After leaving the library, the men go to the garden where Candide praises everything he sees. Pococurante says his garden is in the worst taste of any he has ever seen and is having another one planted tomorrow.

Later, Candide says that surely Martin agrees that the senator is the happiest of men because he is superior to all of his possessions. Martin notes that everything Pococurante owns disgusts him, but Candide says there must be pleasure in noticing faults where others see only beauty. Martin says there is no pleasure in not having pleasure. Obviously, says Candide, no man can be happy except for himself when he sees Cunégonde again. But days and weeks pass, and still Cunégonde does not arrive. Candide is so melancholy that he does not even wonder why Paquette and Brother Giroflée have not come to thank him for the money.

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