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The Monk by Matthew Gregory Lewis

The Monk (original 1796; edition 2003)

by Matthew Gregory Lewis

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2,557542,355 (3.82)1 / 260
Title:The Monk
Authors:Matthew Gregory Lewis
Info:Dover Publications (2003), Paperback, 320 sivua
Collections:Your library

Work details

The Monk by Matthew Lewis (1796)

  1. 40
    Le diable amoureux by Jacques Cazotte (Jannes)
    Jannes: The Monk is generally considered to be heavily influenced by Le Diable amoureux, and the novels share several themes, most obviously the idea of the devil in the form of a seductive woman.
  2. 30
    The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (DanLovesAlice)
    DanLovesAlice: Both texts share the notion of the duplicity of man, and study how society and social roles can imprison our most primitive urges.
  3. 10
    The Italian by Ann Radcliffe (kara.shamy)
  4. 01
    Valerie and Her Week of Wonders by Vítězslav Nezval (StevenTX)

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English (50)  French (3)  Spanish (1)  All languages (54)
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Available as a free audio book at librivox.org
  captbirdseye | Sep 10, 2014 |
This novel is all about Christian, specifically Catholic, sexual hysteria. Sex seems to determine everyone's motivation in the first volume. This makes sense when you consider that it was written by a nineteen year old for whom these obsessions were no doubt a daily occurence. Fortunately for us, he has managed to sublimate them into the form of a novel. (Which puts me in mind of E.M. Forster, who, when touched on the ass by an admirer at a tender age, promptly went home and wrote Maurice.)

A duenna and her charge arrive in Madrid from provincial Mucia some time in the very late eighteenth century. For some reason no doubt to be made clear later, they arrive at a church where the much talked about Father Ambrosio is to speak. The father is a paragon of virtue. He has spent his thirty years entirely immersed in studies and prayer at the local Capuchin monastery. While waiting for the good father to arrive the duenna, Leonella, who is fifty-one, and her charge, Antonia, who is fifteen, are questioned by two young men and their tale of woe is gradually revealed. This is essentially a tale of Antonia's mother, seduced by a libertine, who runs away with her to the West Indies where thirteen years later he dies leaving her penniless so she must return to Spain with baby Antonia in tow to throw herself on the mercy of her outraged father.

The wholly pure Ambrosio then spends the next sixty pages undergoing two events: the first is his heartless condemnation of a nun who has allowed herself to be seduced. She is with child but Ambrosio gives her into the hands of the prioress of her order for purposes of punishment; the second event is Ambrosio's seduction by a woman disguised as a young man, one Rosario, who has shamelessly broken the sanctity of the monastery. That at least is how Ambrosio sees it before he eventually gives way to godless and all too enjoyable rutting with the woman. These pages are tumescent with hot-blooded satanic sex. It is hard to believe they first saw the light of day in 1796. What an earth-shattering fireball this novel must have been then.

One of the gentlemen entertaining the two new arrivals at the church is a nobleman, Lorenzo. It is his sister, Agnes, who has just been sacrificed by Father Ambrosio to the prioress. Now we enter into a long divagation narrated by the sister's nobleman lover, the Marquis de las Cisternas. First there is the interlude in the forest outside Strasborg in which the Marquis walks into a nest of banditti who wish him only ill. This is a vividly described section with lots of action and blood. At extraordinary length, the Marquis survives, as he must if we are to get the story of how Agnes becomes trapped into entering a convent by a guardian jealous of her relationship with the Marquis. This section involves some decisions on the part of the Marquis that no adult man with any romantic experience would make. In other words, the crudeness here really smacks of a nineteen year old writing his first novel. Yet the vivacity of the writing somehow continues to hold the reader despite these howlers.

Later, we move on to Ambrosio's repeated sexcapades with Matilda (Rosario). The prioress's lie to brother Lorenzo that his sister Agnes has died in childbirth. Father Ambrosio as he overhears the prioress's evil plans for punishing Agnes on his way to an assignation with Matilda. Father Ambrosio's attempted seduction of a the young Antonia, innocent of carnal knowledge, and his deal with the devil to gain access to her lily-white body. The satisfying denouement I will not describe. Suffice it to say that Lewis's writing becomes more assured as he proceeds. By chapter 7, more than half way through, his writing becomes, as John Berryman discusses in his introduction, "passionate and astonishing." ( )
1 vote William345 | Jun 11, 2014 |
Liked it, good book... 7/10
  Linehache | May 18, 2014 |
Fantastic story of murder and lust. Nice twist at the end. The sub-plot with the imprisoned nun was fantastic and her discovery was quite stomach-turning. ( )
  sweetzombieducky | Feb 14, 2014 |
I loved this book. I wasn't sure what to expect, but this had me staying up late, turning the pages and immersing myself completely. Mixed drama, scandal, mysticism, and action perfectly! The only criticism i have is in regards to the blurb. It mentions a certain element of the story and after reading, i feel that it spoils one of the biggest twists in the story. Other than that, BADASS! ( )
1 vote aiturnizzle | Feb 4, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (56 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Matthew Lewisprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Anderson, HowardEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fonzi, BrunoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gällmo, GunnarTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
MacLachlan, ChristopherIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McEvoy, EmmaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Praz, MarioContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Somnia, terrores magicos, miracula,sagas,
Nocturnos lemures, portentaque.

Dreams, magic terrors, spells of mighty power,
Witches, and ghosts who rove at midnight hour.
First words
Scarcely had the abbey-bell tolled for five minutes, and already was the church of the Capuchins thronged with auditors.
None sleep so profoundly, as those who are determined not to wake.
An Author, whether good or bad, or between both, is an Animal whom every body is privileged to attack, For though All are not able to write books, all conceive themselves able to judge them.
Agnes! Agnes! Thou art mine! / Agnes! Agnes! I am thine! / In my veins while blood shall roll / Thou art mine! / I am thine! / Thine thy body! / Thine my soul!
Raymond! Raymond! Thou art mine! / Raymond! Raymond! I am thine! / In my veins while blood shall roll / I am thine! / Thou art mine! / Mine thy body! / Mine thy soul!
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Although some early editions give the title as "Ambrosio, or the Monk," both the first edition and the overwhelming majority of later editions give the give merely as "The Monk". See the facsimile of the first edition's title-page in the 1952 Grove Press reprint.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140436030, Paperback)

‘Few could sustain the glance of his eye, at once fiery and penetrating’

Savaged by critics for its supposed profanity and obscenity, and bought in large numbers by readers eager to see whether it lived up to its lurid reputation, The Monk became a succès de scandale when it was published in 1796 – not least because its author was a member of parliament and only twenty years old. It recounts the diabolical decline of Ambrosio, a Capuchin superior, who succumbs first to temptations offered by a young girl who has entered his monastery disguised as a boy, and continues his descent with increasingly depraved acts of sorcery, murder, incest and torture. Combining sensationalism with acute psychological insight, this masterpiece of Gothic fiction is a powerful exploration of how violent and erotic impulses can break through the barriers of social and moral restraint.

This edition is based on the first edition of 1796, which appeared before Lewis’s revisions to avoid charges of blasphemy. In his introduction, Christopher MacLachlan discusses the novel’s place within the Gothic genre, and its themes of sexual desire and the abuse of power.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:39:34 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

Set in the sinister monastery of the Capuchins in Madrid, this is a violent tale of ambition, murder, and incest. The struggle between maintaining monastic vows and fulfilling personal ambitions tempts its main character into breaking his vows.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 6 descriptions

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Average: (3.82)
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Penguin Australia

Three editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140436030, 0141191961, 0141199466

Valancourt Books

An edition of this book was published by Valancourt Books.

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