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Molly, Jenny and Margot: the making of Candide's Paquette.

PAQUETTE is a minor character in Candide whose four appearances in the novel occupy fewer than 50 lines. When we first see her she is part of the doomed world of Thunder-ten-tronckh and - in the aftermath of the Bulgar-Abare war - Pangloss wonders aloud in Chapter 4 whether she is still alive. She is, and in Chapter 24 she reappears in Venice cheerfully in love with Frere Giroflee. This illusion of conjugal bliss however is soon undermined, for we quickly learn of Paquette's execrable life as a street prostitute, and of her turbulent existence with Giroflee. In line with the tale's moral purpose, Paquette, along with Giroflee, eventually join Candide, Cunegonde and the others, where, in the best of all possible worlds, she takes up embroidery and he carpentry (Chapter 30).

J. H. Broome argued as early as 1960 that the character of Paquette was partially inspired by the heroine of Fougeret de Monbron's Margot La Ravaudeuse: histoire d'une prostituee, first published in 1750 (Broome 1960 512). Broome's argument is based on a number of verbal and narrative parallels between the accounts of Margot's adventures and Paquette's life-story. For instance, he points out that Paquette was seduced by a monk; Margot by a Carmelite. Paquette becomes a doctor's mistress, is imprisoned, and freed by a judge. Margot is also imprisoned and freed by a judge (president). Broome reinforced his case by arguing that Monbron exerted a wider influence on Candide through another work: Le Cosmopolite, ou Citoyen du monde, also published in 1750.

Specialists of Voltaire's work have never, in my view, given Broome's hypothesis the attention it deserves. It nevertheless has recently been taken up and supported by Emmanuel Boussuge who re-iterates the argument that Monbron's writings had an appreciable impact both on Candide and a number of satirical publications Voltaire wrote in the early 1760s (Boussuge 2008 151). Voltaire scholars, meanwhile, have only recently learned that Monbron, whose burlesque imitation of La Henriade was published in 1745, actually met Voltaire at a performance of Merope in February of that same year. Mme de Graffigny writes that the two men "ont fait connaissance avec beaucoup de politesses" (Graffigny 2000 VI 193). One of the criticisms of the Morize/Broome theory has been that until now there was no evidence that Voltaire took any notice of the younger writer (Morize 25). Confirmation that the two men met at a performance of one of Voltaire's plays corroborates the view, supported by at least two references to Monbron in Voltaire's Correspondance, that this was not the case.

Roughly fifteen years after Broome's work appeared, Manfred Sandmann proposed another source for Paquette: Molly Seagrim, the wayward daughter of Black George in Fielding's Tom Jones (Sandmann 258). My research confirms Sandmann's view that Candide was significantly influenced by Tom Jones through the mediation of La Place's 1750 French larmoyant adaptation of that novel known as L'Enfant trouve. A close reading of Candide and L'Enfant trouve reveals an astonishing network of verbal, thematic and narrative analogies, which strongly reinforces the thesis that Voltaire's novel owes a great deal to La Place, in terms of the characters it portrays, the narrative that binds those characters together, and the language in which the whole is expressed.

These two theories of Paquette's antecedents both have plausibility and suggest that each may have played a part in Voltaire's creative process. Voltaire -- anticipating Proust -- often merged two source characters into one, or, conversely, distributed the traits of one source character over two or more. Indeed, I have already tried to show how Candide's Cunegonde may have evolved from two antithetical characters in L'Enfant trouve, the virginal Sophia and the bawdy Jenny Jones (Langille 2007 283-84). Understanding the process by which Paquette developed from both Molly and Margot provides another glimpse into the way the tale's sources cross-fertilized in Voltaire's mind during a long gestation period of note-taking and revision.

Our first glimpse of the character we come to know as Paquette, in Candide's opening chapter, takes place during Pangloss's outdoor lesson in experimental physics. Voltaire's text focuses on the 'experiment' and Cunegonde's voyeuristic response to it. Paquette's presence is almost incidental. The docile "femme de chambre" with whom Pangloss has his way is described in terms which suggest that she is not free with her favours. Indeed, her very docility suggests that Pangloss is the sexual predator and that she, Paquette, is his easy prey. It comes as a surprise then when some few pages farther on we learn that Pangloss has caught the syphilitic pox from the same maid.

Or is it the same maid? It has generally been assumed to be. But Pangloss himself tells us that he contracted the malady from Mme la baronne's "jolie suivante," named Paquette, rather than the Baronesses's "femme de chambre." The two terms are not and never have been synonyms. A suivante is a lady-in-waiting, while a femme de chambre is a lady's maid. This semantic incongruity is difficult to explain. One possible explanation is that the femme de chambre we meet in Chapter 1 and Pangloss's Paquette in Chapter 4 are a single character inspired by two models. If we accept this, our first sighting of Paquette does indeed take place in Chapter 1, where she is described as a "petite brune tres jolie et tres docile" (Candide 120). That scene seems to have evolved from two chapters in Book 5 of L'Enfant trouve where Molly Seagrim plays a leading role. In the first, the philosopher Square and Molly are caught in flagrante in her bedroom and, in the second, Tom pursues the same Molly in a wood. Paquette's debt to Molly Seagrim illustrates Voltaire's selective re-writing of L'Enfant trouve as well as his need to condense, to distil, and to transform that sprawling novel into a work of elegant and witty concision. Unlike the docile Paquette, La Place's 16-year old Molly is a lustful wench who ensnares the innocent Tom in much the same way that Cunegonde seduces Candide. The larger-than-life Molly, in fact, has much more in common with Cunegonde than she does with Paquette, and it is not implausible to see her character as the basis of Voltaire's subversive heroine (Enfant trouve 1 131).

Before considering how Margot La Ravaudeuse may have inspired the character of Paquette, there is further instance where Molly and Paquette's stories converge. In L'Enfant trouve's final chapter, all of the novel's virtuous protagonists are re-settled in the rural paradise of their birth. The now vindicated Tom marries the beautiful Sophia, and Molly sets up with Partridge. Tom grants Partridge 50 [pounds sterling] per annum, and he also settles a large sum on Molly. The two, we are told, will soon marry; thanks to Tom's munificence their happiness and prosperity are assured (Enfant trouve IV 334). An almost identical motif in Chapter 24 reflects Voltaire's cynicism and shows how Candide subverts Fielding's original intention. Having become re-acquainted with Paquette in Venice, Candide gives her 2000 piastres and a further 1000 to Frere Giroflee; he believes that his largesse will make the couple happy. The pessimistic Martin warns (correctly) that they will end up more miserable than they had been when they were penniless (Candide 229). We soon learn that not only did Paquette and Giroflee readily accept Candide's money; they also callously neglected to thank him for it (Candide 237).

While Tom Jones's Molly Seagrim may have influenced Candide's Paquette in a revealing way, the latter's sufferings as a lowly prostitute were almost certainly inspired by Monbron's Margot. Margot La Ravaudeuse is the story of a Parisian stocking darner who eventually becomes a high-class "demoiselle du monde." In the novel's first segment, anticipating Cunegonde, Margot seduces a neighbourhood boy and is consequently forced to leave her unhappy home. With nowhere to go, La Ravaudeuse falls prey to a certain Madame Florence and is cajoled into embracing life as a 'catin'. Margot learns the profession with great tribulation, and it is during this part of her story that she gives voice to feelings of anger and resentment similar to Paquette's in Chapter 24. Despite the novel's stated aim to portray the life of a prostitute under "les couleurs les plus odieuses" (Margot La Ravaudeuse 147), Margot's career turns out a great success. Having left Madame Florence's brothel on friendly terms, Margot makes her own way in the world, where, thanks to her fine looks, her low cunning, and aptitude to please, she succeeds as a "demoiselle de l'opera," amassing a fortune in the process. With her health compromised by venereal disease, however, she is forced to retire. She recovers her health and at the novel's end, we find her dividing her time between town and country engrossed in domestic pursuits. Margot gives a surprisingly blunt and erotic account of her career which makes a show of condemning the 'metier,' while at the same time relishing its glamour.

The novel's influence on Candide can be evidenced through a number of previously unnoticed idiosyncratic expressions common to both texts. For instance, Margot describes herself as "la perle des ravaudeuses" (Margot La Ravaudeuse 4). The formula "la perle des ..." in reference to a woman is not unknown in the writing of the period; Voltaire himself used it in his Lettres Philosophiques (86). It is nonetheless remarkable that Cunegonde, whose affinity with Margot has already been noted, is ironically twice described in Candide as "la perle des filles" (Candide 129 140). Likewise, Le Cosmopolite twice employs the expression "tout va au mieux" (Margot La Ravaudeuse 17 118) anticipating Candide's famous variations on a very similar phrase ("tout est au mieux," "tout va au mieux," "tout allait le mieux du monde"). The expression "prendre la chose en patience" is also common to both works. Narrating how she was raped by thirty musqueteers (!) Margot exclaims: "Quant a moi, chetive pecheresse, j'avoue que loin d'avoir pris la chose en patience [...] je ne cessai de vomir contre eux toutes les imprecations imaginables" (Margot La Ravaudeuse 38-9). Candide's pessimistic philosopher Martin faces misfortune with greater resignation: "Pour Martin, il etait fermement persuade qu'on est egalement mal partout; il prenait les choses en patience" (Candide 255). Margot also prefigures Candide's "barons allemands," counting two German barons among her lovers (ML: 19; 77-95). Another lover sports a superb diamond ring that Margot hankers after, reminding us of the enormous diamonds that la marquise de Parolignac admires on Candide's fingers. Just like the marquise (Candide 218), Margot manages to relieve her lover of his gem (Margot La Ravaudeuse 102). Finally, at the end of Monbron's novel, Margot learns that, like Pangloss and Cunegonde's brother, her father is also a galley slave (Margot La Ravaudeuse 145), whilst her mother, adumbrating the Old Woman in Candide, fulfils the role of housekeeper (Candide 145).

As previously suggested, there is also some evidence that the character of Margot, with her "grand penchant pour les plaisirs libidineux" (Margot La Ravaudeuse 5), helped shape Voltaire's overtly sexual Cunegonde. Aroused by overhearing her parents' lovemaking, Margot begins masturbating at 14 and then turns her attention to the young stable boy mentioned earlier. The early course of Margot's sexual awakening anticipates Cunegonde's who is alerted to the pleasures of the flesh by watching Pangloss and Paquette in the underbrush (Candide 120); immediately thereafter she seduces Candide. As for Margot, her sexual encounter with Pierrot takes place, just like Pangloss and Paquette's, in an upright position (Margot La Ravaudeuse 8). As Pierrot prepares to deflower her, Margot declares: "Ah! Puissant dieu des jardins! Je fus effraye a l'aspect qu'il me montra." Pierrot's euphemistic "aspect" is also referred to in the same passage as a "foudroyante machine" (Margot La Ravaudeuse 9). The 'garden' deity to whom Margot calls out is naturally Priapus whose evocation here points to Pangloss's 'garden' lesson, where Cunegonde rather than Paquette ogles the philosopher's "raison sufisante." Voltaire's description of Paquette as "tres docile" echoes the advice offered by Madame Florence to the newly discovered Margot: "tout ce que je vous demande a present, c'est de la docilite et de vous laisser conduire" (Margot La Ravaudeuse 14-15). Later, when Margot has learned the profession and has come to know men from every conceivable walk of life, her utterance on the different sorts of men she has encountered clearly foreshadows Cunegonde's "desir d'etre savante":

Est-il quelque profession, quelque metier dans la vie dont nous n'ayons incessamment occasion d'entendre discourir ? Le guerrier, le robin, le financier, le philosophe, l'homme d'Eglise, tous ces etres divers recherchent egalement notre commerce. Chacun d'eux parle le jargon de son etat. Comment avec tant de moyens de devenir savantes, serait-il possible que nous ne le devinssions pas ? (Margot La Ravaudeuse 41)

I have argued elsewhere that Cunegonde's aptitude for what Voltaire wryly refers to as 'learning' might be traced to Tom's putative mother, Jenny Jones: "Combien il est dangereux pour les jeunes filles de vouloir devenir trop savantes" (Enfant trouve I 16). What now seems likely is that Cunegonde's appetite for learning results from Voltaire's merging of two almost identical verbal images, one relating to Jenny Jones and the other to Margot. In neither case is the term 'savante' an obvious euphemism for carnal knowledge, but then again neither Jenny nor Margot is what we would call "unknowing." Thus when Paquette lists her numerous lovers, as Margot's did with her clients, she also focuses on their diverse professions:

Ah! monsieur, si vous pouviez vous imaginer ce que c'est que d'etre obligee de caresser indifferemment un vieux marchand, un avocat, un moine, un gondolier, un abbe; [...] (Candide 228).

Broome has argued that Margot's impact on Paquette's lament in Chapter 24 derives from the first segment of La Ravaudeuse, where Margot prepares to leave Madame Florence's bawdy house. In another commentary on Paquette's remarkable soliloquy, Vivienne Mylne has observed that "at the close of her [recitation], ... Voltaire abandons the crisp style which is characteristic of most of Candide, and launch[es] into a long periodic sentence [...] built up of successive clauses filled with humiliating details concerning the miseries of [Paquette's] present way of life and her expectations for the future" (Mylne 207). Mylne rightly notes that, unlike much of the satire in Candide, Paquette's life-story is not a parody of a "conventional genre." It is rather a "straightforward tale [...] reminiscent of a kind of novel published in France around the middle of the eighteenth-century" (Mylne 208). The novels Mylne had in mind are fictionalized autobiographies of prostitutes such as La Belle Allemande ou les galanteries de Therese (1745), Les degouts du plaisir (1752), Les Egarements de Julie (1755) and Paul Baret's Mademoiselle Javotte (1757), all of which appeared before Candide and, may have had some impact on it. Written by men, these short pornographic novels are all highly sensationalist, though written in decent language. Viewed together, they present a mid-eighteenth century anatomy of prostitution-asnarrative, a conceit providing a plausible pretext for erotica. Not surprisingly, the stories are animated by a rogue's gallery of stereotypical characters, some few of which appear in Candide. The prostitute-heroine is typically a pretty girl turned out of doors, sometimes pimped by her own mother, often seduced by an unscrupulous older man, in line with contemporary anticlerical satire, not uncommonly a monk or a priest. Of interest to students of Candide is the transmission of venereal infection. In La Belle Allemande, for example, Therese passes it deliberately to a miserly money lender (160). Mylne suggests that the four contemporary texts mentioned share Candide's flair for the obscene; yet in truth, however, none presents as many inter-textual echoes with Candide as does Margot La Ravaudeuse. Broome has identified eight verbal images in Margot's rant on the evils of prostitution that have their counterpart in Candide. Read alongside a condensed version of Margot's much longer diatribe, Candide's verbal and thematic debt to La Ravaudeuse is unmistakable. There is, however, one final, reference to L'Enfant trouve, in the following passage that shows how Paquette proceeds from two distinct works and from three different characters: Molly Seagrim, Margot La Ravaudeuse and Jenny Jones. The phrase "j'ai ete hier vole et battue par un officier" (Candide 228) is an explicit reminder of Jenny Jones's treatment at the hands of the vicious ensign Northerton in Book 9 of L'Enfant trouve

Margot La Ravaudeuse :

[...] Quand je fais reflexion aux epreuves cruelles et bizarres ou se trouvent reduite une fille du monde, je ne saurais m'imaginer qu'il y ait de condition plus rebutante et plus miserable (34). [...] En effet, qu'y a-t-il de plus insupportable que d'etre obligee d'essuyer les caprices du premier venu ; que de sourire a un faquin que nous meprisons dans l'ame ; de caresser l'objet de l'aversion universelle ; de nous preter a des gouts aussi singuliers que monstrueux ; en un mot, d'etre eternellement couvertes du masque de l'artifice et de la dissimulation, de rire, de chanter, de boire, de nous livrer a toute sorte d'exces et de debauche, le plus souvent a contrecLur et avec une repugnance extreme ? (34). Que ceux qui se figurent notre vie un tissu de plaisirs et d'agrements nous connaissent mal ! [...] (35). Comme un vil interet est le mobile et la fin de notre prostitution, aussi les mepris les plus accablants, les avanies, les outrages en sont presque toujours le juste salaire. Il faut avoir ete catin pour concevoir toutes les horreurs du metier (35, 36). Je le repete ; tout agreable, tout attrayant que paraisse notre etat, il n'en est ni de plus humiliant, ni de plus cruel. (36).

Candide :

[...] Je fus bientot supplantee par une rivale, chassee sans recompense, et obligee de continuer ce metier abominable qui vous parait si plaisant a vous autres hommes, et qui n'est pour nous qu'un abime de misere. J'allai exercer la profession a Venise. Ah! monsieur, si vous pouviez vous imaginer ce que c'est que d'etre obligee de caresser indifferemment un vieux marchand, un avocat, un moine, un gondolier, un abbe; d'etre exposee a toutes les insultes, a toutes les avanies; d'etre souvent reduite a emprunter une jupe pour aller se la faire lever par un homme degoutant; d'etre volee par l'un de ce qu'on a gagne avec l'autre; d'etre ranconnee par les officiers de justice, et de n'avoir en perspective qu'une vieillesse affreuse, un hopital, et un fumier, vous concluriez que je suis une des plus malheureuses creatures du monde. [...] -Ah! monsieur, repondit Paquette, c'est encore la une des miseres du metier. J'ai ete hier volee et battue par un officier, et il faut aujourd'hui que je paraisse de bonne humeur pour plaire a un moine (Candide 227-28).

In the preceding text, Voltaire condenses some aspects of Monbron's denunciation of prostitution and expands others. Paquette's lament recapitulates the extreme physical and moral humiliation expressed by Margot, except in its startling conclusion. Unlike La Ravaudeuse, the still youthful Paquette contemplates with horror the life of the ageing prostitute, "une vieillesse affreuse, un hopital, et un fumier." Paquette takes Margot's tale to its logical, inevitable conclusion, rather than to the sentimental one favoured by the lesser writer Monbron. While the moral of Monbron's novel appears to vindicate Margot's chosen profession, Voltaire pushes Paquette to the brink, before re-establishing her in Candide's garden. The source material Voltaire borrowed from Monbron is thus seamlessly woven into a narrative and moral scheme that ultimately absorbs it.

Paquette is a cameo figure whose life-story nevertheless is central to Candide's moral purpose; her re-appearance in the novel's final chapter is an echo of Molly Seagrim's rehabilitation at the end of Tom Jones, underscoring the double theme of forgiveness and redemption that Fielding clearly wished to emphasize. Candide's final chapter drives home a similar theme, and it seems fair to suggest that the tale's conclusion, as exemplified by Paquette's salvation, owes something to Fielding's famous happy ending, revue and corrige, as it were, by Voltaire.

Philip Stewart has recently argued that Candide is so "over determined that the quest is never over; the endless 'sources' usually tell us little that is significant [...]." (Stewart 131). What I have tried to show, on the contrary, is that the similarities between L'Enfant trouve, Margot La Ravaudeuse, and Candide are significant, and that they can hardly be construed to have arisen by chance. If correct, my reading shows that Paquette is a composite character inspired by Fielding's Molly Seagrim and Jenny Jones as well as by Monbron's Margot. Voltaire seems to have been alert to Fielding's portrayal of Molly and Jenny as highly sexed women, and his deconstruction of these two fictional types merged with Monbron's overtly sexual Margot and - besides Paquette influenced Candide's portrait of the lubricious Cunegonde in revealing ways. Indeed, it is enlightening to consider that the high-born Cunegonde, and the low-born Paquette proceed from the same three fictional models: Molly, Jenny and Margot, with, in the case of Cunegonde, the noteworthy difference that, whatever other fictional models may have influenced Voltaire when he wrote Candide, Cunegonde is best understood as a response to Fielding's paean to aristocratic womanhood: the unforgettable Sophia Western.



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Mylne, Vivienne, "A Picara in Candide: Paquette," College Literature 6 (1979): 205-10. Perrin, Jacques-Antoine-Rene, Les Egarements de Julie. S.l., 1755.

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Author:Langille, Edouard M.
Publication:Romance Notes
Date:Mar 22, 2009
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