Matthew Lewis and “The Monk”

M.G. Lewis (9 July 1775–14 May 1818)

M.G. Lewis (9 July 1775–14 May 1818)

I recently finished reading Matthew Lewis’ classic gothic novel The Monk.  I read in back in my 20’s and it was good to read it again.

Lewis  wrote “The Monk” in one great outpouring.  He was quite young when he wrote it, in fact still a teenager.  He was inspired by Ann Radcliffe’s The Mystery of Udolpho (1794) which had recently been published.

I’ve read this before too.  I’ve always enjoyed the gothic novel as a genre.  The Monk is one of the wildest.  It was well loved by the Surrealists.

Luis Bunuel had hoped to film it.  Later, the script he worked on was used for a film version directed by Ado Kyru.

It was Lewis’ greatest success but it was also banned and  censored.  He died of the yellow fever at age 42.

A few passages:

“‘The Fire-King’ seems to be a Man formed of all flames : He raises the Meteors and wandering lights, which beguile Travelers into ponds and marshes, and He directs the lightning where it may do the most mischief…”

“My blood ran cold, as I gazed upon this melancholy abode.  The cold vapours hovering in the air, the walls  green with damp, the bed of Straw so forlorn and comfortless, the Chain destined to bind me for ever to my prison, and the Reptiles of every description which as the torches advanced toward them, I descried hurrying to their retreats, struck my heart with terrors almost too exquisite for nature to bear.”

“…His hands and feet were armed with long Talons: Fury glared in his eyes, which might have struck the bravest heart with terror: Over his huge shoulders waved two enormous sable wings; and his hair was supplied by living snakes, which twisted around his brows with frightful hissings.”


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