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Matthew "Monk" Lewis

Biographical and contextual review for 2342

Zak Watson

on 9 September 2013

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Transcript of Matthew "Monk" Lewis

Matthew "Monk" Lewis (1775-1818)

MP, Novelist, Playwright

Matthew was the eldest of four children born to a family who derived their wealth from sugar plantations in Jamaica.
He received a typical well to do education, graduating college in 1794.
His desire to write revealed itself early and he wrote throughout his teenage years, producing the Monk when he was 19 (published 1796).
On the death of his father in 1812, Matthew inherited a large fortune.
Not particularly interested in his political career, he headed to Jamaica, where he enacted some reforms for the slaves the family owned.
On a second visit to Jamaica, he contracted yellow fever and was buried at sea.
The Monk
On its publication, The Monk caused a furor. Indecent, irreverent, and immoral, the novel provoked cries for censorship, particularly as Lewis was an MP. It was proclaimed by others as good entertainment. The Marquis de Sade greatly admired it.
Lewis claimed to have written the book in a space of ten weeks.
Many faces
of The Monk
Influences and Contexts
Lewis cited Radcliffe as a primary influence on his work (we'll have to return to this as we read more of the novel).
Another important influence for Lewis is his German studies, during which he met Goethe and did some translating. There, German horror stories and folk tales seemed to have a profound effect on him.
Some read The Monk as a response to the debauchery and barbarity of the French revolution.
Defining the Gothic
1760s: Walpole's Castle of Otranto
Popular literature
Ann Radcliffe and the
Explained Supernatural
Gothic and Enlightenment?
Literary Influences: Shakespeare's tragedies,
Milton's Paradise Lost, German horror tales
1790s: Conservative backlash
The Gothic Today?
topic for another day:
the sublime
Full transcript