(Roughly) Daily

If we do not meet with agreeable things, we shall at least meet with something new…

Optimism is the madness of maintaining that everything is right when it’s wrong.
– Voltaire, Candide, Chapter XIX

Just over 250 years ago, a short volume by Voltaire– Candide, ou l’Optimisme— was making the underground rounds.  Within a month of its publication in January of 1759, the Grand Council of Geneva and the administrators of Paris had banned Candide; still, it sold twenty thousand to thirty thousand copies by the end of the year in over twenty editions, a clear best-seller by the standards of the time.  In 1762, Candide joined Giordano Bruno’s works on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum.  (Indeed, though its authorship was a badly-kept secret, Candide was, as can be noted above, ostensibly written by “Doctor Ralph’; Voltaire only admitted his paternity in 1768.)

Now, through April, readers can revel both in Voltaire’s sardonic indictment of optimism (and poor Gottfried Liebniz) and in the stories that surround it:  The New York Public Library is hosting “Candide at 250: Scandal and Success”– an exhibit (at the Schwartzman Building Gallery) and a wonderful on-line experience.

Then, “let us cultivate our garden.”

As we discipline our inner Pangloss, we might recall that it was on this date in 1886 that Karl Friedrich Benz patented the Benz Patent Motorwagon– the first “automobile” entirely designed to generate its own power (via a water-cooled gasoline engine)… that’s to say, not simply a motorized stage coach or horse carriage.

The Benz Patent Motorwagon

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