Green’s Dictionary of Slang

blue devils n.

1. a fit of depression; thus blue-devilled adj., depressed [blue adj.1 (1), feelings that ‘bedevil’ the sufferer].

[UK]W. Toldervy Hist. of the Two Orphans II 139: He had greatly habituated himself to sighing, which Richmond called the blue d---l: Duroy did everything in his power to remove this melancholy.
[UK]W. Cowper Letters and Prose (1981) II 553: I have not that which commonly is a symptom of such a case belonging to me. I mean extraordinary elevation in the absence of Mr. Blue Devil .
[UK]‘Peter Pindar’ ‘Rights of Kings’ Works (1794) III 41: I like not the blue-devil-hunting crew! I hate to drop the discontented jaw!
[UK]T. Morton Speed the Plough V i: But confusion to melancholy! I am come here to meet an angel who will [...] drive away the blue devils.
[UK]Morn. Post (London) 22 Jan. 3/3: I am the little Blue Coat Boy / [...] / I drive away, when cares annoy, / Blue Devils all from you, Sir.
[UK]B.H. Malkin (trans.) Adventures of Gil Blas (1822) I 82: I was inclined to be sociable, and to parley a little to get rid of the blue devils.
[UK]Extraordinary Trial of Miss Mary Ann Ticklewig 3: The blue devils have got all the lawyers.
[UK]Egan Life in London (1869) xiii: The Circle portrays Tom, Logic, and Jerry, ‘all happiness,’ and who do not care a fig for the Blue Devils.
[UK] ‘Bachelor’s Fare’ Universal Songster I 232: Old ones are two devils haunted with blue devils.
[UK]T. Morton A School For Grown Children IV i: Here comes Ned, jaded and blue-devilled.
[UK]‘Blue Ruin’ in Tommarroo Songster in Spedding & Watt (eds) Bawdy Songbooks (2011) IV 348: There’s nothing in life, like a drop of ‘blue ruin,’ / To drive the blue devils away.
[Aus]True Colonist (Hobart, Tas.) 21 Apr. 585/3: ‘[A]pt, I think, to produce flatulence, and hypochondriasis — which by the way, is a Greek compound, signifying “Blue Devils”’.
[US]Whip & Satirist of NY & Brooklyn (NY) 8 Jan. n.p.: [advert] Crummels Celebrated Plaster for the Prevention and Cure of Low Spirits, Ill Humor, Horrors, Blue Devils and Suicide, and also can be used in a case of Dull Care.
[Ind]Bellew Memoirs of a Griffin II 194: A glass or two of champagne is your grand specific for giving the blue devils their quietus.
[Aus][A. Harris] (con. 1820s) Settlers & Convicts 326: Finding himself penniless, and suffering from the blue devils almost to madness,.
[UK]Preston Chron. 1 Sept. 8/2: We adbise all troubled with [...] ennui, blue devils, the ‘horrors’ (either of this world or the next) to pay him a visit.
[Aus] in G.C. Mundy Our Antipodes I 368: [The] liver, that storehouse of mortal misery, bile, blue pill, and blue devils.
[Ind]Delhi Sketch Bk 1 July 76/2: lt’s [i.e. the climate] first chop to give a man fever or liver / Blue devils or itch, and it’s no matter which.
[UK]E. Eden Semi-Attached Couple (1979) 285: ‘Blue devils,’ a malady from which I have suffered considerably.
[Ind]Hills & Plains 2 150: Sitting out of doors [...] on a damp, chilly night was [...] enough to give any one the blue devils.
[UK]Five Years’ Penal Servitude 231: I pictured to myself his sitting in that room [...] papered with that terrible paper, and full of the suffering of a fit of blue devils.
[UK]G.R. Sims Three Brass Balls 34: He got discontented and had fits of blue devils.
[UK]P.H. Emerson Signor Lippo 91: Drink was all that would chase away the blue devils.
[Aus]Crowe Aus. Sl. Dict. 37: Horrors, ‘blue devils,’ low spirits, out of bad spirits.
[US]E.W. Townsend Chimmie Fadden 39: Say, I’m feeling up t’ de limit dis week. See? I had, what’s dat you calls dose tings? Blue devils? Dat’s right.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 10 Dec. 21/4: Most people can ’preciate this kind of sorrowful po’try, but I find it too wearin’. [...] Lots of [...] these po’try people like havin’ th’ blue devils.
[UK]C. Holme Lonely Plough (1931) 107: I let him know pretty straight that I thought he was in for the blue devils.
[US]W. Smitter F.O.B. Detroit 305: Poor old Russ [...] The blue debbils got him, tonight. He’s got the jitters and he’s awfully discouraged.
‘An Interview with Graham Masterson’ in FantasyCon XXIII Book Sept. 🌐 In Virginia, they call depression or low spirits ‘the blue devils’.
[Aus](con. 1945–6) P. Doyle Devil’s Jump (2008) 183: Awfully sorry for the lost time last week. Attack of the blue devils, I’m afraid.

2. a severe hangover; delirium tremens [the ‘blue devils’ the drunkard supposedly sees].

[Ire]J. O’Keeffe Man-Milliner in Dramatic Works (1798) IV 314: I cuts with my loss tumbles into bed with the blue devils dancing on my pillow.
[UK]C. Dibdin Yngr Song Smith 77: My dose last night I tuk it [...] A Doldrum’s, (said Ted), the blue devils.
[UK]‘Thomas Brown’ Fudge Family in Paris Letter XII 128: If that elegant Cornet she met at Lord Neville’s / Was actually dying of love, or — blue devils.
[UK]‘An Amateur’ Real Life in London II 91: A ball of fire ?, a dose of daffy, or a blow out of black strap, will set the blue devils at defiance, give a spur to harmony, and set the spirits a jogging. [? A ball of fire—A glass of brandy].
[UK]W. Scott Demonology and Witchcraft 18: Those who, by a continued series of intoxication, became subject to what is popularly called the Blue Devils.
[US]J.C. Neal Peter Ploddy and Other Oddities 46: Go it strong – that’s the way to scatter the blue devils.
[UK]New Sprees of London 9: What jolly dog, who is fond of his glass, has not felt the torments attendant on the morning after a drinking bout— [...] the ennui, the blue devils, and a score of other horrors?
[UK] ‘Drunkard’s Farewell to his Folly’ in C. Hindley Curiosities of Street Lit. (1871) 91: Farewell horrors and blue devils.
[UK]M.E. Braddon Trail of the Serpent 59: ‘Blue devils?’ ‘Yes, he’d been in a low way for three months, or more; had had a sharp attack of delirium tremens.’.
[UK]Leeds Times 14 Jan. 6/3: Next time you have a fit of del. trem. try devilled biscuit. It’s the finest thing in the world for the blue devils.
[UK]Western Times 25 Dec. 2/5: Blue devils, blue ruin, red noses, red tape.
[UK]E.J. Milliken Childe Chappie’s Pilgrimage 56: ‘Chippy Old Chappie?’ Oh, don’t ask! [...] I feel – well, like a dry-drained cask, / With nought but the blue devils there.
[Aus]K. Mackay Out Back 267: I allus keeps a bottle for those as can tell good stuff [...] what they gets from me will never give ’em the blue devils.
[Aus]‘Banjo’ Paterson ‘Hay and Hell and Booligal’ in Rio Grande’s Last Race (1904) 40: But down in Hay the shearers come / And fill themselves with fighting-rum, / And chase blue devils up the wall.
[NZ]Truth (Wellington) 6 Apr. 6: Quite a heap of people have been on the razzle in Christchurch.Many of them have seen something more than [...] blue devils, pink spiders, white elephants. and the like.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 3 Oct. 48/2: He was run in three days later for having blue devils in a public place, and he had been in the ‘jug’ two days when I heard of his fate.
[UK]‘William Juniper’ True Drunkard’s Delight.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).

In phrases

give someone blue devil (v.)

to be angry with someone.

[US]S. King It (1987) 404: And if those windows are streaked, you won’t need your father to give you blue devil.