Balladeer’s Blog’s month-long celebration of Halloween continues with this look at a neglected Gothic Horror tale.
LE DIABLE AMOUREUX (THE DEVIL IN LOVE) – Written in 1772 and translated into English in 1793. This story was penned by Jacques Cazotte and is a forerunner of the type of fantastic, oneiric horror stories that E.T.A. Hoffmann would specialize in.
The tale’s protagonist is Don Alvaro, a Spanish military officer serving in the army of the King of Naples in the 1750s. Don Alvaro is a swashbuckling young man with a cavalier irreverence toward organized religion and a fascination with the forbidden thrills of occultism.
Some of our hero’s fellow officers grow annoyed with his lack of piety and resolve to teach him a lesson in the dangers that can be unleashed by diabolism. They provide him with a Black Magic spell and tell him that if he wants a real-life experience with the supernatural he must go to creepy, neglected ruins in the countryside and recite the spell.
Don Alvaro throws caution to the wind and follows their instructions. On the night when he employs the spell amid the ruins he conjures up the head of a giant, malevolent camel, then a deadly canine and finally a beautiful young woman who calls herself Biondetta.
Our hero betrays no sign of fear, which would be fatal, and the impressed she-devil Biondetta falls in love with him. From this point on she tries to seduce him, but he resists her charms since he is aware she has infernal origins and sleeping with her would cost him his soul.
Biondetta also has infernal powers, like sprouting wings and flying our hero around for transportation. She tries to woo Don Alvaro by magically enabling him to reverse his usual bad luck at gambling and begin to win regularly. With this devilish assistance our main character not only makes good on his huge gambling debts but makes a handsome profit.
Still Don Alvaro refuses to succumb to Biondetta’s ample charms. Eventually the devil decides that the only way to get the Spaniard to sleep with her is to marry him. She tells him that she incarnated in human form out of her overwhelming love for him and a marriage is arranged.
Another complication for Biondetta arises when Don Alvaro insists he cannot marry without his mother’s permission. The couple set off for Spain but enroute they learn that our hero’s mother has passed away. His brother blames her death on Alvaro’s forever-scandalous behavior and wants revenge on him.
At length it all comes to a head and Don Alvaro is driven to upbraid Biondetta in a fury of religious righteousness. This display of piety drives the she-devil to accept defeat and she vanishes back to Hell.
Jacques Cazotte planned a sequel novel but never got around to writing it. His Royalist sympathies resulted in him being executed on the guillotine in 1792.
This story has been adapted into a few operas, which was where I first encountered it. Its florid style doesn’t exactly make for riveting reading by our 21st Century standards but if you let yourself merely skim a few slow spots here and there The Devil in Love makes for nice Halloween Season reading.
FOR A NEGLECTED WEREWOLF NOVEL SET IN 1790s NEW YORK STATE CLICK HERE
FOR ISABELLA OF EGYPT, FEATURING A GOLEM, A MANDRAGORE, A LIVING DEAD MAN, A GYPSY WITCH AND A JEWISH SORCEROR CLICK HERE
FOR MORE HALLOWEEN ITEMS CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/category/halloween-season/
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