[One of the great moral tales of the 18th century is Voltaire’s (1759) Candide, a book well worth reading and rereading from time to time. Here is an excerpt from the end of the book, but it is not Orientalism in the Saidian sense of negative portrayal; indeed it is the honest Turk which stands in contrast to tyrants of all stripes.]

During this conversation, news was spread abroad that two viziers of the bench and the mufti had just been strangled at Constantinople, and several of their friends impaled. This catastrophe made a great noise for some hours. Pangloss, Candide, and Martin, as they were returning to the little farm, met with a good-looking old man, who was taking the air at his door, under an alcove formed of the boughs of orange trees. Pangloss, who was as inquisitive as he was disputative, asked him what was the name of the mufti who was lately strangled.

“I cannot tell,” answered the good old man; “I never knew the name of any mufti, or vizier breathing. I am entirely ignorant of the event you speak of; I presume that in general such as are concerned in public affairs sometimes come to a miserable end; and that they deserve it: but I never inquire what is doing at Constantinople; I am contented with sending thither the produce of my garden, which I cultivate with my own hands.”

After saying these words, he invited the strangers to come into his house. His two daughters and two sons presented them with divers sorts of sherbet of their own making; besides caymac, heightened with the peels of candied citrons, oranges, lemons, pineapples, pistachio nuts, and Mocha coffee unadulterated with the bad coffee of Batavia or the American islands. After which the two daughters of this good Mussulman perfumed the beards of Candide, Pangloss, and Martin.

“You must certainly have a vast estate,” said Candide to the Turk.

“I have no more than twenty acres of ground,” he replied, “the whole of which I cultivate myself with the help of my children; and our labor keeps off from us three great evils-idleness, vice, and want.”

Candide, as he was returning home, made profound reflections on the Turk’s discourse.

“This good old man,” said he to Pangloss and Martin, “appears to me to have chosen for himself a lot much preferable to that of the six Kings with whom we had the honor to sup.”

“Human grandeur,” said Pangloss, “is very dangerous, if we believe the testimonies of almost all philosophers; for we find Eglon, King of Moab, was assassinated by Aod; Absalom was hanged by the hair of his head, and run through with three darts; King Nadab, son of Jeroboam, was slain by Baaza; King Ela by Zimri; Okosias by Jehu; Athaliah by Jehoiada; the Kings Jehooiakim, Jeconiah, and Zedekiah, were led into captivity: I need not tell you what was the fate of Croesus, Astyages, Darius, Dionysius of Syracuse, Pyrrhus, Perseus, Hannibal, Jugurtha, Ariovistus, Caesar, Pompey, Nero, Otho, Vitellius, Domitian, Richard II of England, Edward II, Henry VI, Richard Ill, Mary Stuart, Charles I, the three Henrys of France, and the Emperor Henry IV.”

“Neither need you tell me,” said Candide, “that we must take care of our garden.”

“You are in the right,” said Pangloss; “for when man was put into the garden of Eden, it was with an intent to dress it; and this proves that man was not born to be idle.”

“Work then without disputing,” said Martin; “it is the only way to render life supportable.”

The little society, one and all, entered into this laudable design and set themselves to exert their different talents. The little piece of ground yielded them a plentiful crop. Cunegund indeed was very ugly, but she became an excellent hand at pastrywork: Pacquette embroidered; the old woman had the care of the linen. There was none, down to Brother Giroflee, but did some service; he was a very good carpenter, and became an honest man. Pangloss used now and then to say to Candide:

“There is a concatenation of all events in the best of possible worlds; for, in short, had you not been kicked out of a fine castle for the love of Miss Cunegund; had you not been put into the Inquisition; had you not traveled over America on foot; had you not run the Baron through the body; and had you not lost all your sheep, which you brought from the good country of El Dorado, you would not have been here to eat preserved citrons and pistachio nuts.”

“Excellently observed,” answered Candide; “but let us cultivate our garden.”

Voltaire