Redaction of Voltaire’s ‘The World as It Is’.
Among the empires of the world, Ithuriel ranks of upper Asia. One morning the Scythian Babo said to him: “The follies and wrath of that faithful city. I have never been there.” “All the better,” said the angel, “from heaven you fear—nothing. You shall be.” Babo mounted the Persian army in the war. “By all gods!” the soldier said, “I know nothing—to kill and be killed. I might well expect this fine league from Persepolis; I hear that war, abandon my family to seek fortune or death. I have nothing. There is hardly anyone who knows why we are cutting each other’s throats.” Babo, astounded, came to know this war, which has been a eunuch and a million soldiers to ruin. The universe suffers, the fury continues. India is destroyed and few provinces not ravaged. The next day, peace. The Persian general and the Indian general made bloody, blunders and all the abominations of manoeuvre, officers who their leader saw killed by their own troops; soldiers of bloody rags, covered with mud. The wounded, inhuman negligence of these wild animals. “I can clearly see that Persepolis will be destroyed.” The Indian had struck him with horror. “Oh,” he said to himself, “if Ithuriel exterminates the Persians, then the angel must destroy the Indians, too.” In what nobility, magnanimity, and humility, transported him—exclaimed PEACE of the VICTORY. Their bloodshed went to court to intrigue for public virtue. “Earth be praised!” said Babo. “Persepolis will be purified innocence; it will not be destroyed, let us hasten without delay to this capital of Asia.” That immense city, which was wholly barbarous and whose disgusting time for spite, of men’s stubbornness in praising the ancient at the expense of art. Crude Babo mingled in a crowd—all the ugliest of both sexes. This crowd was rushing into a dark, constant hum. The money which they were selling straw-bottomed their pretending voice. On the plains of the Pictav -ians, they stopped up his ears; when he saw workmen enter the temple , they removed a big stone and exhaled a pestilent, then they came and deposited a man in the stone. “What!” cried Babo, “these people bury their dead in the same place they worship! Their temples are paved with corpses! I am no longer astonished at those diseases which putre the dead. So many of the living gathered and crammed is capable of poisoning the terrestrial globe. Oh! what a nasty city is Persepolis! The angels destroy in order to rebuild, unclean, and sing better. Providence may have Providence.” The sun was to dine with a lady, an officer in the army, several Persepolis ; temples built, better decorated, filled with harmonious music; he noticed the public struck by their beauty; the best kings seemed to breathe in bronze ; he heard the people cry: “When shall we see the river, the superb palaces built up right and an immense house where thousands of old soldiers give thanks each day to the god of armies.” Finally he entered the house of the lady. The house was neat and the lady young, beautiful, witty, engaging, the company worthy of the angel—Ithuriel is jesting about wanting to destroy so charming a city. He perceived that the lady, by asking him tenderly for news, was talking even more tenderly with a young magus. There a magistrate who, in the presence of his wife, was enthusiastically hugging a young widow, got up first to go and talk in the little adjoining room with her spiritual director, arriving too late; the director, again, has Paris in mind. The “immense house” a few lines below represents the Hôtel des Invalides. In this little room with so much unction—that inflamed speech, trembling. Babo began to fear Ithuriel was right. The lady confided in the young magus, and assured him that in all the houses of Persepolis he would find the equivalent jealousy, discord, vengeance. Tears and blood must flow—husbands would certainly kill their wives, or be killed by them; Ithuriel was doing very well in destroying a city abandoned to continual gloomy thoughts. At the door a grave man in a black cloak gave him some papers, and dismissed Babo. That man was the mistress of one of the best lawyers in the city; he has been studying the laws for fifty years. The young gentleman, who is only twenty -five, a satrap of the law, is giving him to the judge, which he has not yet examined. “The giddy young man does wisely,” said Babo, “but why is it not the old man who is the judge?” “You are joking,” they told him; “never do those who have grown toil -some and subordinate attain high dignities. That young man has a great father because the right of dispensing justice is bought here like a farm.” “O unhappy city!” cried Babo, “that is the height of the abyss—thus marking sorrow. And that very day come, from the judicial right to confront death—cost me forty thousand gold darics this year to sleep on the ground thirty nights in a row in a red uniform and then to receive two good arrow wounds which I ruin to serve the Persian emperor. My lord the satrap of the law may well pay to have the pleasure of giving Babo—condemning peace and war;” he concluded they must be absolutely ignorant of war and of law. Even if Ithuriel should not exterminate this people they would perish through their detestable arrival. The whole company approached the young officer and said to him: “I can lend you empire’s custom. This man who learned in plebeian kings the Persian empire and out of what they made the monarch.” After dinner he went into one of the grandest temples; he sat down in the middle of a crowd to pass the time. A magus appeared in an elevated allusion to the French farmers-general (fermiers généraux) about vice and virtue. This magus divided into parts methodically —that was clear. He grew impassioned. And, sweating, and out of breath. The whole assembly then awoke and thought they had done best to bore three hundred fellow citizens; is reason enough for Persepolis. This assembly was entertainment every day of the year; it was a basilica in the depths of the most beautiful Persepolis, the most important satraps, arranged in order, formed a spectacle that Babo thought at first entertainment. Persons appeared to be kings and queens, their language was different from that of the people; it was measured, harmonious, and sublime. No one slept , people listened in deep silence. The duty of kings, love of virtue , dangers of passion, such moving touches—Babo shed tears , had no doubt that these heroes and heroines, these kings and queens were the preachers of empire; he even purposed to persuade Ithuriel to come to hear them, quite sure that such a spectacle would reconcile him forever to this entertainment. The queen in so pure a morality; he was taken up to the badly furnished and pathetic air. “This profession does not give me a living; one with child; to be delivered ; I lack money, and without money you can’t be delivered.” Babo gave her a hundred gold darics. “If only Ithuriel would spend an evening at the stores of the merchants of the city’s pun -ishment.” As he was writing, someone knocked on his door ; the merchant himself coming to bring him his mistake. “How can it be,” exclaimed Babo, “that you are so honest and generous, having no shame selling me trinkets at four times their value?” “There is no businessman in the city,” replied the merchant, “who would not have deceived you. I sold you what you bought for four times more than it is worth; I sold it to you for ten times more, and if you want to sell it again, you won’t even get one tenth. Nothing is more just: men’s fancy sets the frivolous workmen I employ; gives me a fine house, a comfortable carriage , and horses; it maintains taste, traffic, and abundance. I sell the same trifles to the neighbouring nations at a higher price than to you, and thereby I am useful to the empire.” Babo, after reflecting a bit, scratched the man’s name from his tablets. Babo resolved to see the magi and the men of the arts. Luxury in an empire is populous and opulent. Ithuriel seems to me a bit severe. For the latter study wisdom , the others religion; mercy for the morning—a college of the magi. A hundred crowns of poverty, humility; the lowly friar was showing him this house of penitence. He said in substance: “These societies were all nece -ssary. They all deserve to be annihilated.” In order to edify the universe—dominion over man himself! A demi -magus said to him: “I clearly see that Zerdust has re -turned to prophesy, whipped against that pontiff-king who resides in Tibet.” An allusion to the convulsionaries. The demi-magus represents a Jansenist, and the Grand Lama the Pope. “So we ask you...is the world about to end; could you not, before that lovely time, protect us, Grand Lama?” The pontiff-king resides in Tibet. The little demi -magus with a stubborn war on Babo. “No,” said the other , “we have written against him three or four thousand fat books that no one reads that we get women to read.” “ Then you are making war on him, and raising armies?” “No—man is free. We write little books. He does not read; he has hardly heard of us; he has only as a master the caterpillars from the trees in his folly.” These men of wisdom, renounced the world, the ambitious and arrogant who taught humility and disinterestedness: he concluded that Ithuriel had good reasons for destroying this whole breed. Returned home, for new books to cheer him up. There came two sorts of persons, the dead and themselves, never contemporaries. The master of dissimulation, the magi of their ambition. They said to each other’s face insulting things which they thought were flashes of wit. They had gained some knowledge of Babo’s mission—the general. As soon as he got rid of them, he began to read some of the new books. He recognised the indig -nation, slander, those archives of bad taste, base -ness, those cowardly satires that humour the vulture and tear the dove to pieces; those novels devoid of imagination, so many portraits of women whom the author does not know. All these detestable writings and evening letters. The crowd—discretion. Babo spoke with grief of what he had seen. The wise man of letters told him: “at all times , and in all genres, the bad teems and good is rare. House the scum of imprudence. The true sages live among men and books worthy of your attention.” In time their talk was so agreeable, Babo admitted he had never heard anything like it. “Here are men,” he whispered to himself, “whom the angel Ithuriel will not dare to touch.” Reconciled with the men of letters, he was still angry with the rest of the judicious crowd; these very abuses, escapes you. Among men of letters there were some who were not envious, and some who were virtuous. These great bodies prepare their common ruin, each society of magi was the same morality. The submissive tutors watch over the son of the master, and found celestial madmen who aspired to make war on the Grand Lama. Finally he suspected that Persepolis seemed worthy of pity with admiration. He said to this man of letters: “I know that these dangerous magi are in fact very useful. Wise government keeps them from your young mag -istrates, who buy a judge’s seat. They learn to mount a display in the most ridiculous impertinence and the most perverse old jurists who have spent their whole lives weigh -ing the pros and cons.” The man of letters replied to him: “You saw our army before your arrived in Persepolis, our young officers; maybe you will see that our young magistrates do not judge badly, although they have paid to judge.” He took him the next day to the high court. The case was known to everyone. All the old lawyers, wavering in their opinions, cited a hundred laws. They looked at the affair from a hun -dred angles. The judges were almost unanimous; they judged well, because they followed the light of reason, and the others had given bad opinions, because they had consulted only their books. Babo concluded that there was often much good in abuse. He saw riches which revolted him. The Emperor needed money, by ordinary channels; he saw that these fat clouds, swollen with the dew of the earth, gave back to the earth more rain than they received from the children of those of the older families—a good judge, a brave warrior, an able statesman, the necessary folly of ruin. To judge or fight, a folly which produces great men of letters , among whom were the ambitious and intriguing magi, in whom there were more great virtues than petty vices. All the love affairs , the ladies, the havoc must fill him with anxiety and insight. He was trembling all the time. He remained in this interval. Ithuriel, the mini -ster, and his antechamber was filled with ladies, magi with all colours , eccentric pleasures. The intriguer ruined by a cabal. The women heard their remarks; could not help saying: “There is a very happy man; he crushes those who envy him; he sees at last the weight of years and affairs.” The conversation became interesting. He was a very unhappy man; that he passed for rich; he was all-powerful and constantly contradicted; he had hardly forty years, had faults. The angel Ithuriel wanted to punish—he should not exterminate him but merely leave him his post. While he was talking the minister, entered suddenly the beautiful lady. Babo had symptoms of grief and burst into tears; she had been refused to aspire with so much force, so much grace in annihilation, so much skill, so much eloquence, she did not leave Babo for a man you do not love and from whom you have everything to fear. She cried. “There is nothing I would not sacrifice except my lover; he would do anything for me, except leave his mistress. Full of wit and world; we are together this evening with my husband and my little magus: come and share our joy.” The lady took Babo to her house. The husband, plunged in grief, delight, and gratitude; he embraced in turn his wife, his mistress, the little magus, and Babo. Unity, gaiety , and the graces were the soul of the meal. “Learn,” said the fair lady, “women almost always have as much merit as an honourable man; convince yourself of it, and dine with me tomorrow at the beautiful Teona’s. There are a few old vestals who pick all of them together. She would not commit; she gives her lover only magnanimous glory; he would blush to face her if he had any occasion of doing good; for nothing encourages virtuous actions than having a mistress whose house reigned all pleasures.” Teona reigned over them; she knew how to talk to everyone in their own language. Her natural wit set the wit of others at ease; she was attractive as she was kind; and , what enhanced the value of all her good qualities , she was beautiful. Babo, Scythian though he was and envoy of a genie, perceived that if he stayed in Persepolis he would forget Ithuriel for Teona. He was growing polite, gentle, although frivolous, slanderous , and full of vanity. He feared to see Persepolis condemned ; he even feared the report he was going to give. Here is how he went about giving his report. He had a little statue composed of all the most precious and all the basest metals, he took it to Ithuriel. “Will you break the statue?” he said. Ithuriel resolved not to correcting Persepolis, and all is all is Per -sepolis. Babo was Jonah. Nineveh was destroyed. A man has been in the body of a whale, he is not as good humoured as when he has been in good company.