Publisher: Chez Musier, Paris, 1781
Inside in very good condition, cover in good condition.
Imitated, translated, the object of multiple counterfeits, Le Diable boiteux was one of the great best-sellers of the 18th century. It is understandable that the audience was seduced by this strange adventure of a student who, having freed a devil locked in a phial, found himself dragged into seeing everything that was happening under the roofs of Madrid. However, the roofs of Madrid were very similar to those of Paris, and those of the 18th century were not very different from those of the 21st century: the same edifying spectacle of human greed, the same taste for honours, the forbidden pleasures… In many ways, this novel, which deliciously blends styles and genres – from fantasy to social criticism, from short stories to theatre to song – is a precursor to the narrative freedom of Gil Blas
The man behind the book
Alain-René Lesage was a French novelist and playwright. Lesage is best known for his comic novel The Devil upon Two Sticks. There are a few anecdotes which describe him as a very independent man, declining to accept the literary patronage required to survive. One story tells of the time he had been entreated to read his manuscript according to the fashion of the day at the Hôtel de Bouillon by the Duchess.
The hour appointed for the reading was noon, but the dramatist was still very interested in legal matters and was detained until 1 o’clock attending the decision of a lawsuit. When he finally appeared at the Hôtel and attempted to apologise, the Duchess of Bouillon was so cold and haughty, observing that he had made her guests lose one hour waiting for his arrival.
“It is easy to make up the loss madame”, replied Lesage; “I will not read my comedy, and thus you will gain two hours.” With that, he left the Hôtel and could never be persuaded to go to the Duchess’s house again.