Flagel: or a Ramble of Fancy through the land of Electioneering.


£2500.00  [First Edition]

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In the manner of The Devil Upon Two Sticks. 


First Edition. 8vo (225 x 140mm). [2 (of 4, lacking the half-title)], 96pp. Title-page and verso of final leaf rather browed and dusty, tear in the inner margin between two of the old stab-stitching holes, marked and spotted in places throughout, uncut edges a little chipped and torn in places, old stab-stitching holes in the inner margin, old ink signature scrubbed out of the upper section of the title-page, ink shelf marks and ?acquisition date "Jan 1920" to the blank verso of the title-page, pencil drawing of two heads in the blank margin of p.55. Loosely stitched into later boards, cloth spine, printed paper label to the upper cover (a little marked and grubby).


London: for G. Kearsly [and] S. Crowder...and Fletcher and Hodson, at Cambridge, 

Rare. ESTC records two copies at Bodley only in the UK; Harvard, Library Company of Philadelphia (not in the online catalogue), McGill, UCLA and University of Pennsylvania only in the USA. OCLC add Lafayette College only. No copies recorded on Rare Book Hub.


A highly unusual political dream-novel - inspired by Le Sage's La Diable Boiteau - in which the protagonist is led by the Devil around various rotten boroughs witnessing the debased state of English politics with various digressions on the state of novel writing and the influence of the press. Published during the General Election of March-May 1768.


This short anonymous novel begins with the protagonist reading "The Devil upon Two Sticks" (Alain-René Le Sage's novel of 1707, first published in English the following year). The narrator remarks:


"It left a magic upon my mind, of which I could, by no means, disenchant myself; a thousand diverting stories played upon my imagination, and kept it in a quick successive motion; till sinking back in my elbow chair, I fell into a gentle sleep: my fancy was still awake, and the same busy illusions played upon it as before, till growing more and more forgetive, it presented me with the appearance of a devil no less frightful than that which I had been reading of." (p.2)


The devil (named Flagel) boasts:


"It is I, that set men upon spending their fortunes to get a seat in P----t, and then send them into the South of France to repair it. It is I, that issue out writs to the Mayors of Corporations, have a hand in all returns that are made, and preside in an invisible shape. ... I am a friend to corrupt ministers, and an enemy to good ones. I can make wholesome laws unpopular; and am the adviser of such as are good, when they serve to bring an odium upon the party that proposes them...I make men patriots only for the pleasure of unmaking them again. ..." (p.3-4)


Flagel shows the protagonist how voters are swayed by bribes of money, food and alcohol and how parliamentary representatives care little for their constituencies which they visit "once in seven years." (p.10) 


As well as the references to Le Sage's novel, the author also alludes to Don Quixote and quotes from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Butler's Hudibras, Milton and refers to "uncle Toby" (from Tristram Shandy) "whistling lullabilero in his elbow chair." (p.26)


Fagel also conveys the narrator to a house where they see a novelist, "fabricating the shell of a novel upon a new-constructed plan." (p.57) Fagel remarks on the state of novel writing:


"The best writers in that way used to draw their characters from real life, and a perfect acquaintance with the social and polite world; but there are many now-a-days that will spin you a novel out of their own brains, without being beholden to nature or a knowledge in the world. The first thing is to fix upon some sort of names for the characters of the piece. The heroine of the tale must be a Charlotte or a Louisa, susceptible of all the tender feelings of her sex, and the idea of an accomplished woman..." (p.58)


Fagel goes on to discuss further the inadequacies of the modern novel including an attack on the cliches of unrequited love, love letters, visits to fashionable spots such as Bath and the "putting out the coals of his love, and then blowing them up again." (p.58).


Fagel and the narrator also visit a printing house where a newspaper is being produced and this spoof publications is reproduced with spurious information on various subjects including "Letters from Corsica...that the Pascal Paoli was coming over to England on a visit to the Rev. Mr. B---, the noted S---K Clergyman, in order to frame a codex of laws..." (p.78) This is almost certainly a contemporary reference to James Boswell's An Account of Corsica which was published in the same year.


The novel was reviewed - rather lukewarmly - in the Monthly Review for April 1768.


"As to Mr. Flagel, if the circumstances of taking a devil for his guide be sufficient to stamp the resemblance, the Writer will rank with the ingenious author of Le Diable Boiteau; if short chapters, abrupt digressions, zigzag writing, low phrases, and a loose innuendo pointed out by two of three asterisks, be all that are required to constitute a Tristram Shandy, Flagel may be the man." (p.332)


The Critical Review was event more dismissive:


"We are, however, of the opinion, that if old Asmodeus, or the Devil upon two Sticks, was to catch hold of him, he would serve him as one of his relations did St. Dunstan, for presuming to make free with his name in a publication void of sense, wit, or humour." (The Critical Review, 1768)

Stock Code: 248034

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