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Alain-René Le Sage
Besides the short farce of "Crispin", three works of Le Sage are worthy of special mention: "Turcaret", "Le Diable Boiteux" , and "Gil Blas". "Turcaret ou le Financier" (1709) is a comedy in prose in which the principal character is a financier. This upstart, who has risen by theft and usury, is surrounded by people equally unscrupulous. It is an assemblage of rogues. A coquette shares her favours between Turcaret, who loves her and pays her, and a fashionable cavalier whom she loves. Frontin, the cavalier's valet, sums up the play fairly well when he says to his master: "We pluck a coquette; the coquette ruins a financier; the financier swindles others, which makes the most amusing ricochet of knavish tricks imaginable." The dialogue is spirited, the descriptions are true to life, and the action is full of animation. Perhaps no other play approaches so closely to MoliËre's great comedies. "Le Diable Boiteux"(1707) is based on a story from the Spanish writer Guevara (1641):The demon Asmodeus removes the roofs of the houses of Madrid, to show to a Castilian student the foibles and vices within the buildings. Aside from this Le Sage finds his inspiration in the Parisian himself; he describes Parisian society with truth and picturesqueness in a series of detached adventures and scenes. The success of the work was great. Le Sage's greatest work, however, was "Histoire de Gil Blas de Santillane" (4 vols., 1715-35). The Spaniard Gil Blas, hero of the romance, is in turn lackey, physician, major-domo of the great lord, secretary to an archbishop, favourite of the prime minister. He is finally given a title and an estate; he marries and peacefully writes his memoirs. The moral of the book is that one must constantly guard against the wiles of hypocrites and impostors. The writer correctly paints, with artful satire, French society as it was in the eighteenth century, and in fact, society in general. In spite of assertion, "Gil Blas" is not plagiarized from a Spanish novel. It is an original work, and in France is considered one of the masterpieces of romance.
WALTER SCOTT, Miscellaneous Prose Works, III; TICKNOR, History of Spanish Literature, I; LINTILHAC, Lesage (Paris, 1893); LE BRETON, Le Roman au XVIII siËcle (Paris, 1898).