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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Devil Does Not Concern Himself with Petty Matters
By Daniel Defoe (1661?–1731)
 
From ‘The Modern History of the Devil’

NOR will I undertake to tell you, till I have talked farther with him about it, how far the Devil is concerned to discover frauds, detect murders, reveal secrets, and especially to tell where any money is hid, and show folks where to find it; it is an odd thing that Satan should think it of consequence to come and tell us where such a miser hid a strong box, or where such an old woman buried her chamberpot full of money, the value of all which is perhaps but a trifle, when, at the same time he lets so many veins of gold, so many unexhausted mines, nay, mountains of silver (as we may depend on it are hid in the bowels of the earth, and which it would be so much to the good of whole nations to discover), lie still there, and never say one word of them to anybody. Besides, how does the Devil’s doing things so foreign to himself, and so out of his way, agree with the rest of his character; namely, showing a friendly disposition to mankind, or doing beneficent things? This is so beneath Satan’s quality, and looks so little, that I scarce know what to say to it; but that which is still more pungent in the case is, these things are so out of his road, and so foreign to his calling, that it shocks our faith in them, and seems to clash with all the just notions we have of him and of his business in the world. The like is to be said of those merry little turns we bring him in acting with us and upon us upon trifling and simple occasions, such as tumbling chairs and stools about house, setting pots and kettles bottom upward, tossing the glass and crockery-ware about without breaking, and such-like mean foolish things, beneath the dignity of the Devil, who in my opinion is rather employed in setting the world with the bottom upward, tumbling kings and crowns about, and dashing the nations one against another; raising tempests and storms, whether at sea or on shore; and in a word, doing capital mischiefs, suitable to his nature and agreeable to his name Devil, and suited to that circumstance of his condition which I have fully represented in the primitive part of his exiled state.  1
  But to bring in the Devil playing at push-pin with the world, or like Domitian, catching flies,—that is to say, doing nothing to the purpose,—this is not only deluding ourselves, but putting a slur upon the Devil himself; and I say, I shall not dishonor Satan so much as to suppose anything in it; however, as I must have a care to how I take away the proper materials of winter-evening frippery, and leave the goodwives nothing of the Devil to frighten the children with, I shall carry the weighty point no farther. No doubt the Devil and Dr. Faustus were very intimate; I should rob you of a very significant proverb if I should so much as doubt it. No doubt the Devil showed himself in the glass to that fair lady who looked in to see where to place her patches; but then it should follow too that the Devil is an enemy to the ladies wearing patches, and that has some difficulties in it which we cannot easily reconcile; but we must tell the story, and leave out the consequences.  2
 
 
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