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Charles Robert Maturin (1782–1824)

Author of Melmoth the Wanderer

30+ Works 1,816 Members 35 Reviews 8 Favorited
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About the Author

Image credit: Courtesy of the NYPL Digital Gallery (image use requires permission from the New York Public Library)

Works by Charles Robert Maturin

Melmoth the Wanderer (1820) 1,642 copies
Albigenses: A Romance (1824) 67 copies
Fatal Revenge (1807) 35 copies
Bertram, a tragedy (1992) 9 copies
The wild Irish boy (1977) 4 copies

Associated Works

The Vampyre and Other Tales of the Macabre (1997) — Contributor, some editions — 424 copies
Great Irish Tales of Horror: A Treasury of Fear (1995) — Contributor — 326 copies
Gothic Short Stories (2002) — Contributor — 247 copies
The Penguin Book of Irish Fiction (1999) — Contributor — 151 copies
Irish Tales of Terror (1988) — Contributor — 128 copies
The Vampyre and Other Macabre Tales (2012) — Contributor — 74 copies
The Lock and Key Library (Volume 7: Oldtime English) (1909) — Contributor — 41 copies
Twelve Gothic Tales (Oxford Twelves) (1998) — Contributor — 30 copies
Lost Souls Short Stories (Gothic Fantasy) (2018) — Contributor — 18 copies


Common Knowledge

Other names
Murphy, Dennis Jasper (pseudonym)
Date of death
Dublin, Ireland
Place of death
Dublin, Ireland
Places of residence
Dublin, Ireland
Trinity College, Dublin
Wilde, Oscar (great-nephew)
Church of Ireland



Melmoth the Wanderer in Gothic Literature (May 2)
Group Read, October 2023: Melmoth the Wanderer in 1001 Books to read before you die (October 2023)



I really didn't care for this classic, supposedly a Gothic horror novel, but I don't want to give it just 1* rating because as a classic it must have some merit that I just didn't see.

It started off OK - Gothic horror is not a genre I care much for but I have enjoyed some of them so I was willing to give it a chance. But just as the story seemed to be getting going, the main character John Melmoth helps rescue a Spanish man who had been in a shipwreck. The Spaniard proceeds to tell John his life story. That story within a story contains another story told to the Spaniard about a girl in India. The Indian's Tale goes on to contain not one but two other stories! Finally the Indian's Tale is finished (at about 90% of the way through the book) but the reader never gets to hear the end of the Spaniard's Tale. The ending is abrupt and anticlimatic.

Most of the book struck me as Maturin telling horrible stories about Catholics, especially the priesthood. Having chosen Spain as the setting for most of the book, he makes use of the Spanish Inquisition freely but even the 'friendly' priests are portrayed as worldly, power-hungry, bitter or impotent. Melmoth the Wanderer came across to me as pathetic more than frightening but to be frank, after the first third of the book I wasn't paying close attention any more.
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leslie.98 | 33 other reviews | Jun 27, 2023 |
J.Flux | Aug 13, 2022 |
"..starting from the doze in which he had frequently indulged during this long narrative.
'But hear the result' said the pertinacious narrator."

Well i can certainly see why people might have issues with this book but there's lot of good with the bad. The main plot actually takes up about the first 10%, the 45-60% area and the last 10%. The rest are various other tales which are very tenuously connected.

It opens in ireland and is both very Gothic and very funny, in fact Maturin's sense of humour makes sporadic and odd appearances throughout the book.

After the opening and a short tale to add some more atmosphere we jump into 'The Spaniards' story and this is the low point and longest point of the whole thing. Those two appellations are probably not coincidental ;) .
Its a man-vs-institution story and whether its a monastery/convent, mad house, prison, boarding school, police state etc these tales don't have lot of variety to them at least in the broad strokes.
However Maturin is very good at psychology and emotional reactions. Unfortunately this tale is severely undermined by 2 factors. One is that its told by the Spaniard himself, rather eliminating the sense of danger since we know he at least survived, and two its placement.
We know its part of a larger whole and so it takes great focus to stop the 'are we there yet' voice in your head which is waiting for this to intersect the overarching storyline.

The middle section of the book is part of the main plot as i mentioned earlier and this is also one of the most floridly written segments its really good. Then we have two more tales almost back to back.
The 'Gusmans' is a social collapse tale somewhat like Zola's the 'Dram Shop' and 'Elinors' tale or whatever that one was called, is a Gothic romance.
Both of these latter stories are at least a lot shorter than the 'Spaniards' but you might still need to be able to stay in the moment to enjoy them.
Before we finally get back to the main plot for the finish.

Maturins best elements as a writer are his realistic psychology as mentioned before and also his speeches, there are some great speeches by various characters in this. So powerful in fact that Maturin felt the need to add a special disclaimer to say that the opinions expressed by his evil characters where not those of the author :) .

As you can tell it can get very nested, in fact it goes total 'Inception' at times, at one point we have the irish guy listening to the spaniard tell of a story, in which a man is listening to a story about a woman listening to story... how many levels is that :lol . Just hold tight to your totem and lets hope you don't end up in Limbo :) .

I heard once that this was virtually unreadable, glad to say i can disagree. A lot of good parts if not perhaps a great whole.
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1 vote
wreade1872 | 33 other reviews | Nov 28, 2021 |



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