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The Devil on Two Sticks by Alain-Rene Lesage





Alain-René Lesage 

Translated by Joseph Thomas


WHEN I first determined on the publication of a new edition of THE 

DEVIL ON TWO STICKS, I had certainly no idea of engaging in a new 

translation. I had not read an English version since my boyhood, and 

naturally conceived that the one which had passed current for upwards 

of a century must possess sufficient merit to render anything beyond 

a careful revision, before passing it again through the press, 

unnecessary. However, on reading a few pages, and on comparing them 

with the much-loved original, I no longer wondered, as I had so often 

done, why LE DIABLE BOITEUX was so little esteemed by those who had 

only known him in his English dress, while Gil Blas was as great a 

favourite with the British public as any of its own heroes of story. 

To account for this, I will not dwell on the want of literal fidelity 

in the old version, although in some instances that is amusing 

enough; but the total absence of style, and that too in the 

translation of a work by one of the greatest masters of verbal melody 

that ever existed, was so striking as to induce me, rashly perhaps, 

to endeavour more worthily to interpret the witty and satirical 

ASMODEUS for the benefit of those who have not the inestimable 

pleasure of comprehending him in his native tongue—for, as Jules 

Janin observes, he is a Devil truly French.

In the translation which I here present, I do not myself pretend, at 

all times, to have rendered the words of the 'graceful Cupid' with 

strict exactness, but I have striven to convey to my reader the ideas 

which those words import. Whether I have succeeded in so doing is for 

others to determine; but, if I have not, I shall at all events have 

the satisfaction of failing in company,—which, I am told, however, is 

only an Old Bailey sort of feeling after all.

I have not thought it necessary to attempt the Life of the Author; it 

will be enough to me, for fame, not to have murdered one of his 

children. I have therefore adopted the life, character, and behaviour 

of Le Sage from one of the most talented of modern French writers, 

and my readers will doubtless congratulate themselves on my resolve. 

Neither have I deemed it needful to enter into the controversy as to 

the originality of this work, except by a note in Chapter VIII; and 

this I should probably not have appended, had I, while hunting over 

the early editions there referred to, observed the original 

dedication of Le Sage to 'the illustrious Don Luis Velez de Guevara,' 

in which are the following words: "I have already declared, and do 

now again declare to the world, that to your Diabolo Cojuelo I owe 

the title and plan of this work; and I must further own, that if the 

reader look narrowly into some passages of this performance, he will 

find I have adopted several of your thoughts. I wish from my soul he 

could find more, and that the necessity I was under of accommodating 

my writings to the genius of my own country had not prevented me from 

copying you exactly." This is surely enough to exonerate Le Sage from 

the many charges which have been urged against him; and I quote the 

concluding sentence of the above, because it is an excuse, from his 

own pen, for some little liberties which I have, in my turn, thought 

it necessary to take with his work in the course of my labours.


March, 1841.


I SHALL at once place LE SAGE by the side of Moliere; he is a comic 

poet in all the acceptation of that great word,—COMEDY. He possesses 

its noble instincts, its good-natured irony, its animated dialogue, 

its clear and flowing style, its satire without bitterness; he has 

studied profoundly the various states of life in the heights and 

depths of the world. He is perfectly acquainted with the manners of 

comedians and courtiers,—of students and pretty women. Exiled from 

the Theatre Français, of which he would have been the honour, and 

less fortunate than Moliere, who had comedians under his direction, 

and who was the proprietor of his own theatre, Le Sage found himself 

obliged more than once to bury in his breast this Comedy, from want 

of a fitting stage for its exhibition, and actors to represent it. 

Thus circumstanced, the author of Turcaret was compelled to seek a 

new form, under which he might throw into the world the wit, the 

grace, the gaiety, the instruction which possessed him. In writing

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