devil of a

devil of a

Also, one devil or the devil of a ; hell of a. Infernally annoying or difficult, as in This is a devil of an assembly job, or She had one devil of a time getting through the traffic, or I had a hell of a morning sitting in that doctor's office. The first expression dates from the mid-1700s. The variant is a couple of decades newer and its precise meaning depends on the context. For example, We had a hell of a time getting here invariably means we had a very difficult or annoying time, but He is one hell of a driver could mean that he is either very good or very bad (see hell of a, def. 2).
See also: devil, of

a (or the) devil of a —

something very large or bad of its kind. informal
1919 Katherine Mansfield Letter We had the devil of a great storm last night, lasting for hours, thunder, lightning, rain & I had appalling nightmares!
See also: devil, of

a/the ˈdevil of a job, nuisance, fellow, etc.

(old-fashioned) a difficult or an unpleasant example of something: We’re going to have a devil of a job getting the roots of that tree out of the ground.
See also: devil, of
References in classic literature ?
At the same time, he had the name of being the very devil of a fellow for carrying on sail on a ship.