Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Book Review of the Monk by Matthew Lewis

Name of Book: The Monk

Author: Matthew Lewis

ISBN: Project Gutenberg

Publisher: Project Gutenberg

Type of book: 1400s, Inquisition, religion, Catholic, death, incest, demon, temptations, Spain

Year it was published:  1796


Set in the sinister monastery of the Capuchins in Madrid, The Monk is a violent tale of ambition, murder, and incest. The great struggle between maintaining monastic vows and fulfilling personal ambitions leads its main character, the monk Ambrosio, to temptation and the breaking of his vows, then to sexual obsession and rape, and finally to murder in order to conceal his guilt. The only edition of this key gothic novel available, The Monk now offers a new introduction and notes that make it especially accessible to the modern reader..


There is no depth to the characters, although the author tries to create depth, especially in Ambrosio the monk. He tries to link all the characters together but none of them are interesting or even hold interest for me. With exception of Ambrosio, the characters weren't interesting and were quite boring.


Once you fall from grace, you will keep on falling.


This jumps back and forth from Ambrosio's views to Elvira's daughter and the two suitors, thus its confusing as to who's talking. Everything is jumbled up and its extremely difficult to keep the plots straight in my head, as to what's going on. There is way too much and very soon I got bored by the endless fireworks and began skipping paragraphs. The last few pages are a killer, if only the rest of the book was like that as well.

Author Information:

July 09, 1775 in London, England, The United Kingdom

May 14, 1818


Gothic, Literature & Fiction

About this author

Matthew Gregory Lewis was an English novelist and dramatist, often referred to as "Monk" Lewis, because of the success of his classic Gothic novel, The Monk.

Matthew Gregory Lewis was the firstborn child of Matthew and Frances Maria Sewell Lewis. His father, Matthew Lewis was the son of William Lewis and Jane Gregory. He was born in Jamaica in 1750. He attended Westminster School before proceeding to Christ Church, Oxford where he received his bachelor’s degree in 1769 and his master’s in 1772. That same year, he was appointed as the Chief Clerk in the War Office. The following year, Lewis married Frances Maria Sewell, a young woman who was very popular at court. She was the third daughter born to Sir Thomas Sewell and was one of eight children born in his first marriage. Her family, like Lewis’, had connections with Jamaica. As a child, she spent her time in Ottershaw. In December 1775, in addition to his post as the Chief Clerk in the War Office, Lewis became the Deputy-Secretary at War. With one exception, he was the first to hold both positions at that same time (and earning both incomes). Lewis owned considerable property in Jamaica, within four miles of Savanna-la-Mer, or Savanna-la-Mar, which was hit by a devastating earthquake and hurricane in 1779. His son would later inherit this property.

In addition to Matthew Gregory Lewis, Matthew and Frances had three other children: Maria, Barrington, and Sophia Elizabeth. On 23 July 1781, when Matthew was six and his youngest sister was one and a half years old, Frances left her husband, taking the music master, Samuel Harrison, as her lover. During their estrangement, Frances lived under a different name, Langley, in order to hide her location from her husband. He still, however, knew her whereabouts. On 3 July 1782, Frances gave birth to a child. That same day, hearing of the birth, her estranged husband returned. Afterwards, he began to arrange a legal separation from his wife. After formally accusing his wife of adultery through the Consistory Court of the Bishop of London on 27 February 1783, he petitioned the House of Lords for permission to bring about a bill of divorce. However, as these bills were rarely granted, it was rejected when brought to voting. Consequently, Matthew and Frances remained married until his death in 1812. Frances, though withdrawing from society and temporarily moving to France, was always supported financially by her husband and then later, her son. She later returned to London and then finally finished her days at Leatherhead, rejoining society and even becoming a lady-in-waiting to the Princess of Wales. Frances and her son remained quite close, with her taking on the responsibility of helping him with his literary career. She even became a published author, much to her son’s dislike.

Matthew Gregory Lewis began his education at a preparatory school under Reverend Dr. John Fountain, Dean of York at Maryleborne Seminary, a friend of both the Lewis and Sewell families. Here, Lewis learned Latin, Greek, French, writing, arithmetic, drawing, dancing, and fencing. Throughout the school day, he and his classmates were only permitted to converse in French. Like many of his classmates, Lewis used the Maryleborne Seminary as a stepping stone, proceeding from there to the Westminster School, like his father, at age eight. Here, he acted in the Town Boys’ Play as Falconbridge in King John and then My Lord Duke in High Life Below Stairs. Later, again like his father, he began studying at Christ Church, Oxford on 27 April 1790 at the age of fifteen. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1794. He later earned a master's degree from the same school in 1797.


Here I was thinking that this book was as good as Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe, but one lesson I should know is that just because it sounds good, it doesn't mean it will be good. From the Gothic literature I encountered such as Horace Walpole and even two of Ann Radcliffe's novels, they are all disappointing, and The Monk is much more disappointing than anything else I've read. There are so many things wrong with it that I don't know where to start. This novel is a puzzle and not in a good way. Imagine buying a box with a puzzle then later on discovering that none of the pieces fit with one another. That is my experience with it. The last few chapters I skimmed, unable to bear the author's voice or being confused. I do wonder how it got published. The Castle of Otranto was far more understandable than this novel. I was disgusted by the whole Wandering Jew thing and the pregnancy never made any sense. If Agnes is pregnant, and let's say she's four months or so pregnant, how could she have the baby so quickly? Shouldn't she have a miscarriage around the time?

0 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

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