Candide, published in 1948 is the fifth book. It was printed at the Chiswick Press, and I think it was the most attractive book so far published.

IMG_0004 (Small) There is a yellow dustjacket, several watercolour plates  and sketches by Kenneth Hobson. The text was translated  by Henry Morley.

The Book

Candide is a short novel  about the travels and travails of a bastard son banished from the aristocratic home he was brought up in. While being brought up he came under the influence of the family tutor Pangloss whose philosophy was the “everything is for the best”. As calamity begets calamity throughout the book Candide tries to contort the experience to fit the philosophy. Despite the regard he holds for Pangloss he comes to doubt this philosophic viewpoint as time goes on.  Candide and his companions travel to various cities in Europe, take a trip to England where they see an admiral being executed for dereliction of duty “to encourage the others”. This is an obvious reference to the court martial and execution of Admiral Byng.

Candide is infatuated with his half cousin Cunegonde (and she with him). He believes that she is dead, but improbably they reunite in Lisbon, only to become separated again in Argentina. Many years later Candide meets Cunegonde only to find her beauty has turned into ugliness, and he marries her out of a sense of duty, not love

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Candide is a witty satire. It is an antidote to the naive proposition that “everything is for the best”, Bad luck, misfortune, misery and malice often have the upper hand in life. The priests are corrupt and the majority of the minor characters are schemers of one sort or another. Despite near death experiences Pangloss maintains his optimistic philosophy throughout. Martin’s cynicism is much more realistic. At the conclusion all the main characters are living a simple rural existence in some sort of satisfactory contentment.

IMG_0008 (Medium) Criticism

This novel is a reply to the philosophy of worldly and Divine benevolence.

Here are a few essays


Wikipedia article

The wikipedia entry is well worth a read.

The Translator

The translator is not identified in the book, and in Folio 21 Charles Ede was not able to establish the identity. In Folio 60 the translator is identified as Henry Morley, a professor of English Literature at University College, London. There is a comprehensive biography here.

In 2002 Lauren Walsh  revised Morley’s translation for Barnes and Noble. It would be interesting to compare the two.

Other notable translations include those of Tobias Smollett,  John Butt (Penguin Classics) , Richard Aldington and  Donald Frame (Signet Classics)

IMG_0009 (Small) The Illustrator

I could find little information about Kenneth Hobson. It seems that the Society did not commission the illustrations and came by the unpublished book and illustrations in a hitherto unexplained fashion. The illustrator is also recorded as being the jacket designer for Carmen, published in 1949.

I suspect that the illustrator was the same Kenneth Hobson who was associated with the fine binders Sangorski and Sutcliffe, however I am unable to confirm this easily.


IMG_0010 (Small) This sketch is Candide thrusting his sword into Cunegonde’s owner, Don Issachar when he and Cunegonde are caught “in flagrante” when they reunite in Lisbon.

The sketches are more dynamic and “racy” than the watercolours!

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These are the remaining watercolour illustrations from the book.

I do like them, and they suit the quirky mood of the book quite well.

Hot Off the Press (25 May 2011)

The Folio Society have just released a Limited Edition Of Candide. It’s the Smollett translation with illustrations by Quentin Blake.  Details here


2 comments on “Candide

  1. Perryroad says:

    I’ve been trying for some time to find this Candide complete with dustjacket, but to no avail. So I envy you! I agree that it’s an attractive volume, an indication of the thought-through design that was to become the Society’s strength – the frontispiece and title page are particularly harmonious.
    I also like Nicolette and Aucassin from this period. The fleur-de-lis binding is striking, even if illustrations inside are a bit twee (but engaging and perhaps reflect the innocence of the text).
    Have you reached the Book of Psalms in your First Hundred yet? (It’s No 52). I bought it recently and find it an odd volume. Helen Hinkley’s calligraphy is so unnervingly precise that in reproduction it looks inhuman; it might just as well have been set in type!

  2. Nice of you to drop by, and thank you for your comments. I agree with you about the illustrations for Aucassin and Nicolette. The illustrator (Lettice Sanford) was married to one of the directors of The Chiswick Press, so that may have had something to do with it!
    Of the first 100 I have about 75, but Pslams is not one of them.

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