The Devil on Two Sticks by Alain-Rene Lesage

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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

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