the devil was sick, the devil a saint would be; the devil was well, the devil a saint was he!

Promises made in adversity may not be kept in prosperity. Cf. medieval L. aegrotavit daemon, monachus tunc esse volebat; daemon convaluit, daemon ut ante fuit, when the Devil was ill, he wished to be a monk; when the Devil recovered, he was the Devil just as before; 1586 J. WITHALS Dict. (rev. ed.) K8 The diuell was sicke and crasie; Good woulde the monke bee that was lasie.

1629 T. ADAMS Works 634 God had need to take what deuotion he can get at our hands in our misery; for when prosperity returnes, wee forget our vowes... The Deuill was sicke, the deuill a Monke would be, The Deuill was well, the deuill of [sic] Monke was he [i.e. no sort of monk at all].

1881 D. C. MURRAY Joseph’s Coat II. xvii. A prisoner’s penitence is a thing the quality of which it is very difficult to judge until you see it..tried outside. ‘The devil was sick.’

1913 H. JAMES Small Boy xxviii. The old, the irrepressible adage..was to live again between them: ‘When the devil was sick the devil a saint would be; when the devil was well the devil a saint was he!’

1959 E. CADELL Alice, where art Thou? xii. 185 Laurie..offers to do penance for his past, to make amends in the future... My father’s comment is that the devil a monk was he.


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