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▶  More from Fiction The Old Conductress
‘Court Banker and Man of Credit’
The Old Conductress: Voltaire’s Candide, Chapter 8, Pages 30-34
Cunegund, the slain baron’s fair daughter, reunited with Candide, tells of being wounded and raped by a soldier and then rescued by an officer, who slew the soldier. The officer kept her as a prisoner of war and then a servant girl, washing, cooking and companioning him. Then the honorable but stupid officer found himself in debt and in need of monetizing his girlfriend.
Twice in this chapter, much is made of “soft white” skin amongst the upper class, in contrast to the rough, sun-marred skin of the lower class.
“…he sold me to a Jew, Don Issachar, who traded in Holland and Portugal [1], and was passionately fond of women. “
The Jew was unable to convince Cunegund to have sex with him. [2] The inquisitor then saw Cunegund at mass [3] and attempted to acquire her for himself. The Jew stood firm, having much influence at court, and despite the treats of the inquisitor, he won half of Cunegund. It was determined that she would be a shared sexual property between the two men. To intimidate the Jew and get more control over the young girl the inquisitor invited her to view the burning of two Jews, “an honest Biscayan,” and Master Pangloss. The girl then reels off an account of what must have been the life of any fair-skinned woman of the age who was not protected by an influential man:
“…my servitude; my being a cook-wench to my Bulgarian captain; my subjugation to the hateful Jew, and my cruel Inquisitor…”
The two lovers, Candide and Cunegund, then begin to embrace and one of the two masters of the interdenominational concubine house, enters to continue Voltaire’s serendipitous exposition of the common iniquitous inequities of his age.
Notes
-1. The banking in Portugal and the banking and shipping in Holland, behind the trans-Atlantic slave trade, was controlled by non-Christians.
-2. It was a bi-word in Plantation America that Jews were less cruel than gentiles in regards to their human property.
-3. This appearance of a Jew in catholic mass is in-line with historic records of Hebrew-Christian guest attendance at worship and does not seem to have been included to shock.
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