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▶  More from Fiction The Old Conductress
‘Where they Make Eunuchs’
The Old Conductress: Voltaire’s Candide, Chapter 12, pages 46-50
The Adventures of the Old Woman Continued
The savior takes the old woman to a small cottage and nurses her and informs her that he is from Naples and that he was castrated as a boy to sing in the choir of the Princess of Palestrina’s chapel. This man had sung for her in the choir and had attended her when she was a small child. Showing of sign of malice, the young Italian promised to take her back to Italy and then instead sold her in Algiers to the Dey of a province!
She relates her life as one of daily rape as a sex slave. A plague then swept through the seraglio and killed her owners, and surviving the disease, she was sold to a merchant of Tunis. She was then sold to a chain of buyers in Tipoli, Alexandria and Smyrna and finally to Constantinople. Taken as sex slaves to Russia, the girls and their black eunuch guards were then slated as food for the surviving janissaries at the siege of Azov, which is how she lost her buttocks, eaten by a hungry soldier, just as one young woman in Jamestown was eaten by the men there circa 1610.
Her and the other girls, when the fort fell to the Russians, were then rescued by French doctors who sold them in Moscow. She was then owned by a Boyard who gave her 20 lashes a day [1]. When this fiend was executed for treason she escaped and was in turn the slave of various innkeepers from Riga to Rotterdam. For a Pope’s daughter to be enslaved her entire adult life brought her much thoughts of suicide. She marveled at knowing only ten men in all of the suffering she had witnessed and whose sufferers had never taken their own life.
Her last owner was the Jew, Don Issachar and she had chosen to attach herself to the beautiful Cunegund as a servant and advisor.
This woman was placed by Voltaire in the story to give his upscale readers a view of the low scale woman’s life, a life in which she had 10 owners. Based on my research, this was a bit of an exaggeration, with the typical slave of the age having 3 owners not counting the captain and soul driver, making 5 owners normal over the course of one optimal life [as terms were served as child, youth and adult] under ideal conditions, with 10 owners lying at the extreme end. It seems that the average number of owners a man would have was 7 and a woman 5, including her husband.
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