Biographia Literaria "Talk Of The Devil, And His Horns Appear"
by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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"Talk Of The Devil, And His Horns Appear"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

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Context: In his philosophical-critical treatise, Biographia Literaria, Coleridge reprinted a series of letters he had contributed to The Courier in 1816, attacking the tragedy Bertram, or the Castle of St. Aldobrand, by Charles Robert Maturin (1782-1824). Coleridge derides the play as a compound of immorality, rant, and contrivance, ending, as it began, "in a superfetation of blasphemy upon nonsense." In the play, the Lady Imogine is married to Lord St. Aldobrand, but is still in love with St. Aldobrand's banished enemy, Count Bertram, now leader of a robber band. By the fourth act, Bertram makes himself known to Imogine and, together with his band, lies in wait for St. Aldobrand at the Lord's own castle. St. Aldobrand returns from a journey but leaves immediately to attend a religious festival. "But do not be distressed, reader," Coleridge notes, "on account of St. Aldobrand's absence! As the author has contrived to send him out of the house, when a husband would be in his, and the lover's way, so he will doubtless not be at a loss to bring him back again as soon as he is wanted." After the transaction of some further melodramatic business, we are ready for Aldobrand's death. Coleridge has varied the proverb, "Talk of the devil and he is sure to appear." In America speak is usually substituted for talk.

Talk of the devil, and his horns appear, says the proverb: and sure enough, within ten lines of the exit of the messenger sent to stop him, the arrival of Lord St. Aldobrand is announced. Bertram's ruffiian band now enter, and range themselves across the stage. . . .