The Monk

The Monk

by Matthew Lewis


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Methinks, Oh! vain ill-judging Book, I see thee cast a wishful look, Where reputations won and lost are In famous row called Paternoster. Incensed to find your precious olio Buried in unexplored port-folio, You scorn the prudent lock and key, And pant well bound and gilt to see Your Volume in the window set Of Stockdale, Hookham, or Debrett.
Go then, and pass that dangerous bourn Whence never Book can back return: And when you find, condemned, despised, Neglected, blamed, and criticised, Abuse from All who read you fall, (If haply you be read at all Sorely will you your folly sigh at, And wish for me, and home, and quiet.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781731706447
Publisher: Simon & Brown
Publication date: 11/18/2018
Pages: 374
Sales rank: 758,965
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Nick Groom publishes widely for both academic and popular readerships and his recent books include The Forger's Shadow (2002), The Union Jack (2006), The Gothic: A Very Short Introduction (2012), and an edition of Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto for Oxford World's Classics (2014). His book The Seasons: An Elegy for the Passing Year (2013) was shortlisted for the Katharine Briggs Folklore Award and nominated for BBC Countryfile Book of the Year.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter I

Excerpted from "The Monk"
by .
Copyright © 1999 Matthew Lewis.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements vi(1)
Introduction vii(24)
Note on the Text xxxi(4)
Select Bibliography xxxv(2)
A Chronology of Matthew Gregory Lewis xxxvii
Explanatory Notes 443

Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide

1)One of the most damning criticisms of The Monk was made by Reverend Thomas Mathias, who called it blasphemous. Because of controversy like this, Lewis excised certain passages for the fourth and fifth editions. Mathias pointed to the passage in the first edition where Antonia reads from an expurgated bible because the original was improper for women. Are there other instances of blasphemy in the text? What critiques of Christianity does Lewis seem to be making? How might the novel be considered anti-Catholic?

2)The main plot, concerning Ambrosio, derives from the story of Santon Barsisa, which appeared in The Guardian in 1713. The secondary plot, of Raymond and Agnes, which seems to be of Lewis’s own creation. What do you believe he intended by telling this multi-faceted tale? Why not let the story of Ambrosio stand alone? How do the two stories run parallel to each other?

3)How does Lewis reconcile religion and superstition? Consider the roles of the Bleeding Nun and the Wandering Jew.

4)What kind of position was Monk Lewis taking with respect to the social and religious establishments of the eighteenth centuries? Might he have been commenting on what may happen when our individual choices are taken away? Consider how this might be applicable to contemporary issues.

5)The Monk was Lewis’s only novel; he was primarily known as a playwright. Look at both the physical and structural architecture in The Monk. How might the novel be considered theatrically structured?

6)Critic Christopher Maclachlan notes that in many ways this novel presents a more positive portrayal of women’s sexuality than does other gothic fiction. Does this arguments hold true for all the female characters? What deeper significance could this proto-feminism have?

7)Consider the shifting tone throughout the novel. How do these nuances affect our reading?

8)Ann Radcliffe was disgusted by The Monk and retaliated with her version of a gothic novel called The Italian, first published in 1797. Radcliffe’s novel ends on a happy note, the lovers reuniting. This provided a stark contrast to the Lewis’s ending with Ambrosio’s demonical torture. Compare these endings. What seems to work better? Keep in mind that these novels were originally known as romance novels.

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The Monk 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 46 reviews.
Hotness More than 1 year ago
This is, by far, the best book I've ever read. I read it about 7 years ago in college and loved it. I just re-read it and absolutely loved it again! Everyone that I've recommended it to has loved it as well. It is a book to read and keep forever.
ArieneGwenhwyvar More than 1 year ago
This is one of my favorite books. It's a Gothic Romance written by Lewis, who at the time was an 18 yr old member of Parliament. He wrote the book in about 10 weeks. If you like books by Ann Radcliffe and/or Christopher Marlowe's Dr Faustus. You NEED to read this!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This novel predates everything I have read. I am a sucker for ancient text, or anything written in the 17th century. Lewis' language topples over shakespeare and leaves anne rice in the gutter. I recommend this book for anyone interested in dark subjects, whitchcraft, evil religion, devil incarnate, and all the fervid details that make you quiver.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After adjusting to the writing style, this twisted tale takes off and doesn't seem to slow down even after you've finished reading. A few twists and turns, a level of depravity that can shock even the jaded readers of today, it is a tragedy that such creativity and warped imagination is in such short supply these days. No doubt, The Monk is a prized title in nearly every horror fan's library.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It is a very good book and one of the best ive ever read. It is diffenently a must for anyone who likes horror. I admire Matthew G. Lewis for coming up with the entire tale at such a young age.
Dorritt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Don't be scared off by the book's 18th century publication date: this story is as shocking and titillating as anything in modern lit. The Monk has it all: scandal, conspiracy, murder, villainy, hypocrisy, incest, rape, betrayal, ghosts, demons, corpses, and enough gruesome detail to rival an episode of CSI.The story focuses on the corruption and eventual destruction of Ambrosio, "The Man of Holiness", a Capuchin monk whose outward piety conceals vanity and a lust for power, from which seeds grow spiraling tendrils of evil that eventually destroy him, with a little help from Old Smokey himself. (Lucifer actually makes a juicy cameo appearance at the end ¿ don¿t miss it!).Love how "meaty" the story is: within the main narrative, Lewis embeds digressions and side stories that add to the entertainment and general spookiness of the story. Caught up in the main narrative (in which the Brave Cavalier Lorenzo attempts to woo the Innocent Virgin Antonia; Noble Raymond attempts to rescue his True Love Agnes from the schemes of Villainous Family Members and an Evil Prioress; and the Mad Monk Ambrosio is gradually corrupted), you may be tempted to skip these parts, but don't! Elvira's sad history, the story of Lorenzo¿s brush with bloodthirsty bandits in the forests of Germany, and especially the tale of the Bleeding Nun and the Wandering Jew are fully as diverting as the main narrative. Love, too, how the author incorporates all the stereotypical elements of gothic fiction ¿ mad monks, wicked nuns, brave knights, naïve virgins, scheming family members, crypts, corpses, devils, and sorcery ¿ while still managing to create a story that feels fresh, literate, and well-crafted. Lewis may have picked a dubious genre, but there¿s nothing dubious about his plotting or prose. Indeed, Ambrosio¿s decline is presented in so gradual and logical a fashion, may shock you almost as much as it shocks Ambrosio at the end to realize how far he¿s fallen, and how fast. Finally, love how the book lays the foundation for so much literature that¿s come since. Reading along, you¿ll catch definite whiffs of Bronte, Poe, Hawthorn, Byron, Eco, and Perez-Reverte, among others. Were I a scholar, would love to research how this text provides a bridge between the old-style horror of medieval morality plays and modern lit.Because, beneath the shock and titillation, this is at its core a morality play, in which evildoers are punished and virtue is rewarded. (Except for a few necessarily tragic consequences, because evil can¿t happen without victims, after all). A little spooky, a little melodramatic, a lot entertaining, and good triumphs over evil yet again ¿ what more do you want from a book?
runaway84 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's hard to believe that this book was published in 1796. I can't even imagine how shocking this book was back then, because it certainly shocked me here in 2008. I bought the book because I was interested in reading The Italian by Ann Radcliffe and figured I should read The Monk first. I never expected to like it, but I loved it. I loved all the supernatural aspects of this book; it was something I wasn't expecting. This book can make you feel so many emotions as you read it: anger, sadness, happiness.There's nothing I love more in a book than a bunch of different characters whose stories intertwine with each other with everything unfolding with each chapter.I can't say anything else except: give it a read; you may be surprised how much you like it.
ChristaJLS on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Having just completed The Name of the Rose I thought I would continue the monastery theme with the Monk. My naive self even thought they would be pretty similar in content. Whereas The Name of the Rose is an excellent and well crafted mystery, The Monk is a creepy and suspenseful horror novel. The novel follows the story of two main sets of characters; the monk, Ambrosio and his love Antonia and Lorenzo and his sister Agnes. The two sets are connected in a variety of ways but for most of the story are kept separate. This is an excellent plot device as it juxtaposes the evil and corruption of Ambrosio and the honour and fidelity of Lorenzo. Ambrosio is the hero of the city. A pious and highly respected monk, he is the model that everyone else looks too. Even heroes, however, can be tempted and Ambrosio gives in to these temptations. Before he knows it he is overcome by passions and moves further and further away from the man Madrid thinks he is. He attention becomes fixed on Antonia, a young virgin in the city and become intent on her corruption. Lorenzo on the other hand has just come to Madrid. He meet Antonia and is determined to make her his bride. Before he can, however, he gets caught up trying to rescue his unfortunate sister from her covenant, in order to reunite her with her husband-to-be. Lorenzo is only working for the good of his sister (and her fiancee) whereas Ambrosio is only working for the destruction of Antonia. It's hard to miss who the good guy and bad guy are supposed to be. The book isn't completely straightforward though! There are some good twists and surprises at the end.The descriptions and dialogue in this novel, though flowery, are powerful and you can relate the settings and understand the motivation of the characters. Lewis' writing is poetic and I often found myself reading for much longer than I intended to. A couple times I found he got a little carried away and took the reader away from the main plot(s). The back-story of Agnes and her fiancee also seemed to go on for longer than necessary.Overall a beautifully written novel with some heroic and very creepy characters. It's a novel that's going to sit with me for awhile and I think will reveal even more on a second reading. The depiction of Ambrosio fall for piety to ruin is truly disturbing and makes one question their own motivations and ability to resist temptation.
whitewavedarling on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
By most accounts, this is the beginning of the horror genre, and its heady mix of gothic settings, evil villains, innocent maidens, and horrific actions and circumstances--not to mention some supernatural witchcraft to balance everything out--comes together to make for a page-turning read. It's sometimes difficult to imagine readers journeying through this more than two hundred years ago, since it did a fine job of keeping me up late here in 2009.If Charles Dickens and Stephen King were ever to work together in heaven for a literary child, this might well be what would come up. Fun, dark, strange, and suspenseful---it's recommended.
LisaMaria_C on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Published in 1796, according to the introduction this is one of the foundational novels of the Gothic genre and thus horror. Interestingly, Lewis was only 19 years old when he wrote it, the same age as Mary Shelley when she published Frankenstein. The novel involves three intertwined stories: Ambrosio, the monk of the title, and his fall from grace; Don Lorenzo and his attempts to gain the hand of Antonia, and the struggles of Don Raymond and Agnes to overcome the obstacles to their union. The narrative often sounds old fashioned, and the plot is often absurd, yet the novel is engaging--enough to keep my interest through the 300 odd pages The author definitely has issues with the Catholic Church that often took the plot and many characters over the top, and there are misogynist comments at times--yet some strong female characters as well. Filled with ghosts, evil monks and nuns, bandits and pacts with Satan himself--it's also full of wit and verve, shot through with dark humor, lurid, cheesy, but great fun.
Phlegethon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was simultaneously supremely entertaining and quite disturbing. It's definitely not for the faint of heart- it has quite its share of rape, incest, torture, deals with Satan, murder, etc... The main character is Father Ambrosio, an ultra-pious monk turned raving sex fiend. It also features a couple of gallant, knightly types- Raymond and Lorenzo- and their lady loves, Agnes and Antonia, respectively. There's also the beautiful Matilda, who turns Ambrosio to the Dark Side, so to speak. The story itself focuses on Ambrosio's fall from grace, Don Raymond's attempts to rescue Agnes from crazy murder nuns, and Antonia's various misfortunes, which culminate (SPOILERZ) in her being raped and murdered by her big brother, Ambrosio. Cheers!This book does contain some rather sizable doses of anti-Catholicism and misogyny tossed into the mix, but, you know, times were different back then... Also, some of plot twists seemed a bit contrived even with the context considered, but overall it's a very enjoyable read. The language is a tad old-fashioned, but, even so, it's quite difficult to put down.
amydross on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What a long way we've come since Walpole! This book was actually scary in parts, and certainly gruesome and disturbing. Also a big shift from the "happily ever after" of most early Gothic novels.
souloftherose on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Published two years after Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho, The Monk is still very much a gothic novel but it's also a very different style of gothic novel compared to Radcliffe's Udolpho.Whilst Radcliffe's novel focuses on creating a sense of terror in its readers (defined by Radcliffe as something that 'expands the soul, and awakens the facilities to a high degree of life'), The Monk seems intent on creating a sense of horror instead (something which 'contracts, freezes, and nearly annihilates them' according to Radcliffe). Where Radcliffe inspires terror by leaving things up to the reader's imagination, Lewis inspires horror by describing things in all their gory detail.This, amongst other things, makes Lewis' book a much more graphic and shocking read and it wasn't really a surprise to find in the introduction that Lewis had to remove all mentions of sexual activity, seductions, murder attempts and descriptions of unclothed female bodies as well as provocative words like 'lust' in later editions of the book.Perhaps because Lewis spells things out more for his readers, this felt like a less demanding read than The Mysteries of Udolpho; it was much easier to get into and moved a lot faster. Having said that, I think my personal preference is for Radcliffe's style of gothic writing rather than Lewis'.Radcliffe wrote The Italian in 1797 as a reply to Lewis' The Monk and The Italian is going to be my next gothic read.
RandyStafford on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's no coincidence that the opening epigraph of Lewis' one and only novel is from Shakespeare's _Measure for Measure_. Both works have pillars of public moral rectitude collapsing after encountering their first major temptation of carnality. Monk Ambrosio figures in for a penny, in for a pound, and starts the slide from mere sex to murder, incest, despair, and damnation. Lewis' streamlined prose abandons the detailed descriptions of Gothic architecture and Alpine vistas favored by his model Ann Radcliffe. And, in a plot of not two but four frustrated lovers, he crams many a gruesome incident and image. No Radcliffean rationalism for Lewis. Despite frequent criticms of the superstition of Spain during the Inquistion, this plot revels in the supernatural with curses, ghosts, Bleeding Nuns, Wandering Jews, and the Prince of Demons himself. Yet, despite the melodrama, there is an air of psychological realism in how Monk Ambrosio rationalizes his escalation of evil. Perhaps more disturbing is the mind of Matilda, his first lover, and her willingness to advise and aid his evil even after he has sexually spurned her. Stephen King's introduction is, like many such introductions to classic works, an unfortunate spoiler of much of the plot. However, most of his observations are valid and interesting though I'm dubious that all English novels before Horace Walpole's _The Castle of Otranto_ had moral purposes. (Lewis novel seems to have no serious moral statement except, perhaps, that the chaste life of the convent and monastery is unnatural.) Oxford University Press seems to have taken the typesetting of this edition from an earlier one. A lot of asterisks show up in the text without accompanying footnotes. A minor annoyance to a novel that holds up well after more than 200 years.
macart3 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was censored towards the end of the 18th century. And now I know why: it is lurid. There passion, rape, incest, the monastery, convent, garden, and mausoleum. This book would no be out of date for the present as a trashy romance story. The book is a fast read, although some readers, like me, will find that the two long digressions that appear in the book will make you go back to the beginning to remember what the other characters' names are, the original plot, what happened earlier, etc. However, the digressions make for a good gothic tale unto its self. The mini-story "The Bleeding Nun" is full of horror, ghosts, midnight trysts, murder, gloomy castles, forbidden love that I did not mind the digression that much. Ambrosio becomes enamored of a novitiate in his monastery that turns out to be a woman called Matilde. She seduces him and they have sex in her bedroom. He eventually gets tired of her and sets his sight on the beautiful, innocent, doe-eyed Antonia. Matilde helps him to take away Antonia's innocence, with a very surprising twist at the end that Satan tells Ambrosio as he holds the monk over the ravine. Meanwhile, back at the convent, Agatha's brother and her lover, by whom she became pregnant in the convent garden, are attempting to retrieve Agatha from the tyrannous Mother Superior at St. Claire's convent, who punishes Agatha and will not let her go because her connections promote as an elite convent. This book was an interpretation of Ann Radcliffe's "The Mysteries of Udolpho", who countered Lewis' "The Monk" with "The Italian." "The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk" is a good biography that later turned out to be false and a similar plot structure to Lewis' work. Going more towards the literature side of things, "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" features a priest as a villain as well. Also, if you're interested in reading parodies, Jane Austen's "Northanger Abbey" is an excellent choice. "The Monk" was also turned into a movie called "Seduction of a Priest". (Recommendations taken from Wikipedia)
Ganeshaka on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Now don't get me wrong. I think The Monk is quite an achievement for a nineteen year old. And a hella fun read. But there is a certain adolescent ...umh,,..." yearning"... that distinguishes this novel and its psychological insights from say, Stendhals's The Red and The Black. You know, that kind of "yearning" that Cialis and Viagra help promote - yet suggest that you see a physician about if it lasts more than eight hours. Somehow I think Matthew Lewis spent more than a few days, in his teen years, in London infirmaries (or bawdy houses) resolving his priapisms.Still, how can you not be charmed by a Gothic tour de force that includes a Bleeding Nun, a Wandering Jew, a girl in monk drag, and a charismatic but villainous cleric who was born a few centuries too soon for televangelism fame. Not to mention thugs and wayside inns, ghosts, love philtres, Satanic rites, crypts, graveyards and enough genteel yet passionate lust to make you think you're at a Charo concert. Oh, don't forget Domina, a Mother Superior in the Joan Crawford mold, who would have no trouble improvising a second use for wire coat hangers.My only real problem, in reading the novel - which is surprisingly swift and smooth, considering its age and unsolicited interjections of poetry - was keeping straight the names of some of the supporting male characters. Lewis sometimes refers to a character by his relationship to another (uncle, nephew etc) sometimes by his title (Duke of whatever), sometimes by his Christian name, and sometimes descriptively. This confusion is further exacerbated by the presence of several young women - Antonia, Mathilda, and Agnes - who all morph into similarly described Romantic-cum-sex objects at moments in the novel. It takes a bit of concentration to keep them all straight. This concentration counters the pace of Lewis's storytelling which champs at the bit to run a steeplechase.Quite a romp - all in all - and a bit daring for its day. Although, I suppose, not as daring for an Englishman as if the villainous cleric had been a member of the Church of England. More sort of "Oh those Spanish and their Holy Roman church, eh wot? In short, another Gothic novel, that I wish Stanley Kubrick had made into a film, and which might have covered some of the same ground as "Eyes Wide Shut".
johnxlibris on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Unless you are a graduate student of gothic literature (or perhaps especially), this is the type of book that is best read with a glass of merlot in an soft leather armchair and preferably late at night. The experience of reading this work, hard to put into words, can be roughly described as "full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes." Medievalesque notions of virtue and honour reign supreme in the actions of Don Lorenzo, bands of thieves congregate in the forests outside of Strasbourg, ghosts patrol the inner chambers, and devils slink among the monasteries. Oh yes, and did we mention the part about the monk bringing innocent maidens down to the catacombs? If you're a sucker for wild romances that channel Voltaire's Candide or the picturesque adventures of Don Quixote, Lewis's work is certainly for you. Even if you're not, a bit of decadent indulgence never hurt anyone.
algiedi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Never before has an old classic been so enjoyable. As improbable as it might seem in retrospect, I studied this book in literature class among the larger topic of gothic literature and it remains one of my favorite books to this day.Lewis pushes all the characteristics of the gothic genre to their extreme until all the situations reach the limit between absurd and parody. But in spite of all its critical humor, or maybe even because of it, the book never gives the impression of mockery - the love of Lewis for writing and the genre he inhabits permeates throughout with passionate enthusiasm.Just as interesting to study for Lewis' indeniable command of style and literary codes as it is just plain fun to read for its outrageous content, The Monk is the equivalent in book form of a rave party on crack thrown in the most respectable of cathedrals.
lizpatanders on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book takes a chapter or two to get into, although ti's relatively fast paced when you do. I think the plot moves along nicely and is really interested. I actually enjoyed reading it. I also appreciated Lewis' descriptive style. My only complaint is that at times it's hard to follow who's who.
MelmoththeLost on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the things which is often said about this novel is that it represents Lewis's rage against a society in which he was unable to freely express his (homo)sexuality and now that I've read it I am left scratching my head over this claim - if only because, Ambrosio's seemingly paternal affection for presumed boy novice "Rosario" apart, there is nothing in the novel which suggests homosexual themes.Rage against something, however, there does seem to be. In his introduction, Maclachlan discusses what he terms Lewis's misogyny but is this correct? While we may speak of the malicious treachery of Antonia's aunt Rodolpha, the actively evil Matilda and the ridiculously flirtatious middle-aged or elderly Leonella, we may also point to several of the male characters who are hopelessly unmanned in the course of the novel - for example Don Raymond's taking to his bed in a fit of the vapours following the loss of Agnes, and the Baron Lindenberg who is completely passive and dominated by his wife. So if some of the female characters are "unsexed" then so are at least some of the male ones too. And Ambrosio doesn't exactly put up much of a fight against the loss of his own virtue. Matilda may be a temptress but she doesn't have to work too hard to part him from his virtue. Noticeably, too, Matilda has the wit and sophistication to bargain a good deal out of the Devil, whereas the supposedly intellectually more sophisticated monk dithers to the point of panic before finally and hurriedly making a bargain that isn't. But then, women were regarded as the Devil's creatures so perhaps He has a soft spot for us.The events of the novel are the standard stuff of gothic literature - a sensational rollercoaster of graveyards, the imagery of death, plenty of sex (all of it heterosexual), rape and plots against female virtue, murder, torture, hypocrisy, family secrets, physical and moral corruption, unlikely co-incidences et al.This was for the most part unexpectedly entertaining, indeed compelling, reading although it did bludgeon the reader quite mercilessly at times.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A brilliant gothic psycho-drama with incredible and unique characters. A protagonist totally sensible to the good and evil warring within the self, yet unable to prevail over predestiny such that compels one to fear for ones own fate. Lord Byron said of the author something to the effect of ‘all of hell must exist within his head’. The narrative written in a lyrical style is filled with numerous interrelated subplots as to bring to mind a medieval tapestry. It is hard to imagine the author was barely into his twenties when he wrote this gem for the ages. One wonders why he is not better known. Highly recommend this book that fails not to surprise to the very last page.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was surprised by how this book took a turn from what I was expecting. The more I read, the more I appreciated the story. I had to push myself at times to finish it because it was difficult with the spellings but it was worth it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago