Short summary - The Ingenuous
Voltaire, pseudonym of François-Marie Arouet
On a July evening in 1689, the Abbot de Quercabon was walking with his sister along the seashore in his little priory in Lower Brittany and reflecting on the bitter fate of his brother and his wife, who had sailed from that very coast to Canada twenty years ago and disappeared there forever. At this moment, a ship moors to the bay and disembarks a young man dressed as an Indian, who seems to be Innocent, since his English friends called him so for his sincerity and unfailing honesty. He impresses the venerable prior with his courtesy and sanity, and is invited to dinner at a house where the Innocent is introduced to the local community. The next day, wishing to thank his hosts for their hospitality, the young man gives them a talisman: portraits of people unknown to him tied on a string, in which the prior with excitement recognizes the brother-captain and his wife who have disappeared in Canada. The simple-minded did not know his parents, and he was raised by the Huron Indians. Finding in the person of the prior and his sister loving uncle and aunt, the young man settles in their house.
First of all, the good prior and his neighbors decide to christen the Innocent. But first it was necessary to enlighten him, since it is impossible to convert an adult into a new religion without his knowledge. The simple-minded one reads the Bible, and thanks to his natural intelligence, as well as the fact that his childhood was not burdened with trifles and absurdities, his brains perceived all objects in an undistorted form. The godmother, according to the desire of the Innocent, invited the charming M. de Saint-Yves, the sister of their neighbor, the abbot. However, the sacrament was unexpectedly threatened, since the young man was sincerely convinced that baptism could only be in the river, following the example of the characters in the Bible. Unsatisfied by convention, he refused to admit that the fashion for baptism could change. With the help of the charming Saint-Yves, the Innocent still managed to persuade him to be baptized in the font. In an affectionate conversation following the baptism, the Innocent and M. de Saint-Yves confess their mutual love, and the young man decides to marry immediately. The good-natured girl had to explain that the rules require permission for the marriage of their relatives, and the Innocent found this another absurdity: why the happiness of his life should depend on his aunt. But the venerable prior announced to his nephew that, according to divine and human laws, it was a terrible sin to marry the godmother. The simple-minded objected that in the Holy Book nothing is said about such stupidity, as well as about many other things that he observed in his new homeland. He also could not understand why the Pope, who lives four hundred leagues and speaks a foreign language, should allow him to marry his girlfriend. He vowed to marry her on the same day, which he tried to accomplish by breaking into her room and referring to her promise and his natural right. They began to prove to him that if there were no contractual relations between people, natural law would turn into natural robbery. We need notaries, priests, witnesses, contracts. The ingenuous objects that only dishonest people need such precautions among themselves. They reassure him, saying that the laws were invented by just honest and enlightened people, and the better a person is, the more humbly he must obey them in order to set an example for the vicious. At this time, the relatives of Saint-Yves decide to hide her in a monastery in order to marry an unloved person, from which the Innocent becomes desperate and furious.
In gloomy despondency, the Innocent wanders along the coast, when he suddenly sees a detachment of French retreating in panic. It turned out that the British squadron had treacherously landed and was about to attack the town. He valiantly lunges at the British, wounds the admiral and encourages the French soldiers to win. The town was saved, and the Innocent was glorified. Delighted with the battle, he decides to storm the monastery and rescue his bride. From this they restrain him and give advice to go to Versailles to the king, and there to receive a reward for saving the province from the British. After such an honor, no one can prevent him from marrying M. de Saint-Yves.
The path of the Innocent to Versailles lies through a small town of Protestants who had just lost all their rights after the abolition of the Edict of Nantes and were forcibly converted to Catholicism. Residents leave the city with tears, and the Innocent is trying to understand the reason for their misfortunes: why the great king follows the pope's lead and deprives himself of six hundred thousand faithful citizens to please the Vatican. The simple-minded one is convinced that the fault lies with the intrigues of the Jesuits and unworthy advisers who surrounded the king. How else could he indulge the pope, his open enemy? The simple-minded one promises the inhabitants that, having met the king, he will reveal the truth to him, and having learned the truth, according to the young man, one cannot but follow it. Unfortunately for him, a disguised Jesuit was present at the table during the conversation, who was a detective with the king's confessor, Father Lachaise, the main persecutor of poor Protestants. The detective scribbled the letter, and the Innocent arrived in Versailles almost simultaneously with this letter. The naive young man sincerely believed that upon arrival he would immediately be able to see the king, tell him about his merits, obtain permission to marry Saint Ives and open his eyes to the position of the Huguenots. But with difficulty, the Innocent manages to get an appointment with a court official, who tells him that at best he can buy the rank of lieutenant. The young man is outraged that he still has to pay for the right to risk his life and fight, and promises to complain about the stupid official to the king. The official decides that the Innocent is out of his mind, and does not attach importance to his words. On this day, Father Lachaise receives letters from his detective and relatives of M. Saint-Yves, where the Innocent is called a dangerous troublemaker who persuaded to burn monasteries and steal girls. At night, the soldiers attack the sleeping youth and, despite his resistance, are taken to the Bastille, where they are thrown into the dungeon to the imprisoned Jansenist philosopher.
The kindest Father Gordon, who later brought so much light and consolation to our hero, was imprisoned without trial for refusing to recognize the Pope as the unlimited ruler of France. The elder had great knowledge, and the young one had a great desire to acquire knowledge. Their conversations are becoming more instructive and entertaining, while the naivete and common sense of the Innocent baffle the old philosopher. He reads history books, and history appears to him as a continuous chain of crimes and misfortunes. After reading "The Search for Truth" by Malebranche, he decides that everything that exists is the wheels of a huge mechanism, the soul of which is God. God was the cause of both sin and grace. the mind of a young man is strengthened, he masters mathematics, physics, geometry and at every step expresses quick wit and sound mind. He writes down his reasoning, which horrifies the old philosopher. Looking at the Innocent, it seems to Gordon that for half a century of his education he only strengthened prejudices, and the naive young man, heeding only the simple voice of nature, was able to come much closer to the truth. Free from deceptive ideas, he proclaims human freedom as his most important right. He condemns the Gordon sect, suffering and persecuted because of disputes not about the truth, but dark delusions, because God has already given all important truths to people. Gordon realizes that he has doomed himself to misfortune for the sake of some kind of nonsense, and the Innocent does not find wise those who expose themselves to persecution because of empty scholastic disputes. Thanks to the outpourings of a young man in love, the stern philosopher learned to see in love a noble and tender feeling that can elevate the soul and give rise to virtue. At this time, the beautiful lover of the Innocent decides to go to Versailles in search of her beloved. She is released from the monastery to be married off, and she escapes right on her wedding day. Finding herself in the royal residence, the poor beauty, in complete confusion, tries to get a reception from various tall persons, and finally she manages to find out that the Innocent is imprisoned in the Bastille. The official who revealed this to her says with pity that he does not have the power to do good, and he cannot help her. But the assistant to the almighty minister, M. de Saint-Poinge, does both good and evil. The approved Saint-Yves hurries to Saint-Poinge, and he, fascinated by the beauty of the girl, hints that at the price of her honor she could cancel the order for the arrest of the Innocent. Friends are also pushing her for the sacred duty of sacrificing female honor. Virtue forces her to fall. At the cost of shame, she frees her beloved, but tormented by the consciousness of her sin, tender Saint Ives cannot survive the fall, and, seized with a deadly fever, dies in the arms of the Innocent. At this moment, Saint-Poinge himself appears, and in a fit of remorse he vows to make amends for the misfortune caused.
Time softens everything. The innocent became an excellent officer and honored the memory of the beautiful Saint-Ives until the end of his life.