The History of the Devil, by Daniel Defoe


“THIS sixth edition of the History of the Devil, besides large impressions of the first, second, third and fourth, is a certificate from the world of its general acceptation; so that we need not, according to the custom of modern editors, boast of it without evidence, or tell a fib in its favor.

“The subject is singular, and it has been handled after a singular manner. The wise part of the world has been pleased with it, the merry part has been diverted with it, and the ignorant part has been taught by it; none but the malicious part of the world has been offended at it. Who can wonder then, that when the Devil is not pleased, his friends should be angry?

“The strangest thing of all is, to hear Satan complain that the story is handled profanely. But who can think it strange, that his advocates should be, what he was from the beginning?

“The author affirms, and has good vouchers for it (in the opinion of such whose judgment passes with him for an authority,) the whole tenor of the work is solemn, calculated to promote serious religion, and capable of being improved in a religious manner. But he does not think, that we are bound never to speak of the Devil but with an air of terror, as if we were always afraid of him.

“It is evident the Devil, as subtle and as frightful as he is, has acted the ridiculous and foolish part, as much as most of God’s creatures, and daily does so. And he cannot believe it is any sin to expose him for a foolish devil, as he is, or show him to the world, that he may be laughed at.

“Those who think the subject not handled with gravity enough, have all the room given them in the world to handle it better; and as the author professes he is far from thinking his piece perfect, they ought not to be angry, that he gives them leave to mend it.

“He has had the satisfaction to please some readers, and to see good men approve it; and for the rest, as my Lord Rochester says, in another case,

He counts their censure fame.

“As for a certain reverend gentleman, who is pleased gravely to dislike the work, (he hopes, rather for the author’s sake than the Devil’s;) he only says, Let the performance be how it will, and, the author what he will, it is apparent he has not yet preached away all his hearers.

“It is enough for me (says the author) that the Devil himself is not pleased with my work, and less with the design of it; let the Devil and all his fellow complainers stand on one side, and the honest, well-meaning, charitable world, who approve my work, on the other.”

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:53