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The Monk [Paperback]

Matthew Lewis , Hugh Thomas
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 9 2002 Modern Library Classics
When Matthew Lewis’s The Monk was published in 1796, readers were shocked by this gripping and horrific novel. Lewis’s story, which drove the House of Commons—of which he was a member—to deem him licentious and perverse, follows the abbot Ambrosio as he is tempted into a world of incest, murder, and torture by a young girl who has concealed herself in his monastery disguised as a boy. As Ambrosio spirals into hell, the reader encounters an array of haunting characters: the innocent virgin, the Bleeding Nun, the Wandering Jew, an evil prioress, and Lucifer himself.

This Modern Library Paperback Classic, set from the unexpurgated first edition of 1796, brings to a new generation of readers a timeless classic of gothic fiction that has influenced writers from Byron and Emily Brontë to Poe and Hawthorne.

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“The whole work is distinguished by the variety and impressiveness of its incidents; and the author every-where discovers an imagination rich, powerful, and fervid.” —Samuel Taylor Coleridge

From the Back Cover

“The whole work is distinguished by the variety and impressiveness of its incidents; and the author every-where discovers an imagination rich, powerful, and fervid.” —Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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First Sentence
SCARCELY had the abbey-bell tolled for five minutes, and already was the church of the Capuchins thronged with auditors. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars just awesome March 12 2005
Written by Matthew Lewis during a short period of ten short weeks when he was just nineteen, "The Monk" proved to be a controversial novel at the time that it was written. Faith, deception, loyalty, sorcery, murder, Satanism, incest, rape, ghosts, and the inquisition gave the novel the popularity it has retained until today. Even though its plot made the novel controversial when it was published in 1796 to the point where it as held to be blasphemous and resulted to censorship, Lewis nevertheless gained in popularity.
The story is basically about Ambrosio, who as an enfant was found at the doors of the abbey, stirring talks that he was a divine-sent child. He grew up to become an ostensibly pious and deeply revered Abbot of the Capuchin monastery in Madrid, a fit in holiness that aroused the resentment of the devil who decides to plot his fall. The devil plotted the fall through the working of a young female who disguised and became a novice under the tutelage of Ambrioso, the immaculate monk. Ambrioso's fall is plotted through out the later stages of the novel as his fight with the deep passions of his body, the machinations of the devil and his attempts at redemption. Anti-Catholic in nature, this Gothic classic is perhaps the best in its genre. I am certain the author enjoyed every moment while he was writing it because the story flowed all the way through to the end. A recommended classic.
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3.0 out of 5 stars True Gothic Literature July 24 2003
Matthew Lewis is by most people's accounts one of the forefathers of Gothic Literature. "The Monk" written in the late 18th century is an interesting tale about an Abbot whose vocation to God goes awry. The language of the text can sometimes be hard to follow if you are not accustomed to reading literature from that time period, but the story is nearly flawless. Lewis also places other characters of ill repute in the novel. My favorite being the Head nun of St. Clare's, in my opinion she is more of the villain than the monk. Throughout the tale the characters relate past tale's which can be tedious and boring at times, but do help to fill in any missing gaps the reader may have. All in all Lewis wrote a dark tale which will continue to be read for centuries to come, and his contribution to the Gothic novel will never be forgotten.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Still a good read April 19 2003
Even after two centuries, "The Monk" can still entertain readers while encouraging them to think about such weighty subjects as the coercisive power of religious hypocrisy.
Set in Madrid during the time of the Spanish Inquisition, the book's main story arc is the rise and fall of Ambrosio, a Capuchin friar who is initially regarded by everyone as a living saint. Lauded for his brilliant oratory skills and personal beauty, Ambrosio is courted by the richest women in the city to be their personal Confessor. As Ambrosio's fame increases, so does his vanity, and it is through this Deadly Sin that he enters into later acts of violence and depravity.
Lewis does a fine job of creating archetypal characters that are still used in genre fiction today. There is the Fallen Hero who becomes the Villian (Ambrosio), the Temptress (Rosario/Matilda), the Good Knights (Lorenzo and Don Raymond), and two Damsels in Distress (Agnes and Antonia). The author also provides a subordinate Villian (the Prioress of the Convent of St. Clare), who is in some ways more evil than Ambrosio.
For leavening in this very dark narrative, Lewis gives readers a trio of humorous characters: Leonella, Antonia's lusty aunt and chaperone; Flora, the very chatty chambermaid in Antonia's service; and Jacintha, the superstitious neighbor who swears that she sees ghosts everywhere.
The characterizations of Ambrosio and the Prioress are great examples of how power (whether it's spiritual or temporal) can corrupt. Neither character feels answerable to anyone. Even God isn't really present (although his Other Half puts in an appearance!) Lewis poses questions on personal accountability that are certainly relevant today, while deftly mixing in good character interaction and biting social commentary.
Highly recommended.
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4.0 out of 5 stars It's still shocking March 24 2003
Another reviewer was right: DON'T READ THE STEPHEN KING INTRODUCTION BEFORE YOU READ THE BOOK! If you do, it will give the whole plot away.
Although not as famous as Dracula or Frankenstein, this is a must-read for any serious Gothic horror fan. One of the things that makes this book different is that (unlike Dracula) there is no proactive villain. We kind of admire Dracula because (pardon the expression) he makes no bones about what he is. Dracula is a villain and he's OK with that. The Monk is a re-active villain. His crime is that he's a hypocrite. He finds himself committing crimes because he is week, not strong. Therefore, one cannot admire the Monk the way we can admire Frankenstein's monster.
It is surprising how shocking the novel is, considering when it was written. It has a very cynical - some would say "modern" - assessment of people. The Monk's main motivation is sex. Actually, sex is everywhere in the book. It is obvious that it was written by a twenty-year-old who could not, even for a moment, imagine a vow of celibacy. As the first novel of a boy barely out of his teens, Lewis pulls out all the stops as only a novice can - even bringing in the Devil himself, at the end, to dispence justice.
The plot is convoluted beyond belief, sub-plots and backstories abound, as well as other outmoded conventions of Gothic literature. That having been said, this a briskly-written book. It never bores. Despite being over two-hundred years old, it is very accessible and sufficiently gruesome to interest any modern horror fan. As for being anti-Catholic, I think "Monk" Lewis ends up sounding surprisingly pious. By condeming the hypocrites, he affirms the values they are supposed to represent.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The most influential of the Gothic horror novels
The Monk is perhaps the most significant and certainly the most controversial of the Gothic novels of the late 18th century. Read more
Published on Jan. 31 2003 by Daniel Jolley
4.0 out of 5 stars Watch out for the "Introduction" by Stephen King
After hearing many wonderful things about this book, I was very excited to read it. I opened up the cover and begin reading the introduction written by Stephen King, one of my... Read more
Published on Nov. 22 2002 by S. R. Moore
3.0 out of 5 stars Creepy
The Monk is defintely a creepy read, just keep in mind that it was written 200 years ago and the language can be a little dense. Read more
Published on Nov. 7 2002 by L. Sabin
5.0 out of 5 stars Monkish Delight
This book is, to put it simply, a lot of fun to read: The Bleeding Nun, The Wandering Jew, virgins in distress, ancient crumbling castles, nefarious divines, Satan himself! Read more
Published on Sept. 22 2002 by Daniel Myers
5.0 out of 5 stars The Ultimate Gothic Classic
Matthew Lewis wrote "The Monk" in ten short weeks at the age of nineteen. Immediately the subject of controversy upon its publication in 1796, Lewis was prosecuted and subsequent... Read more
Published on April 13 2002 by "botatoe"
3.0 out of 5 stars Too Original by Half
When you go to read Shakespeare, his language and punctuation have been modernized for better comprehension and enjoyment. Not so here! Read more
Published on Jan. 19 2002 by Tam Mossman
5.0 out of 5 stars Get to Gore of the Matter
I read this in college for a Gothic, Terror, Romance class. From the looks of the cover (I can't help but be lured or deterred by them), I thought I was in for a complete waste of... Read more
Published on March 11 2001 by JR31
5.0 out of 5 stars The Ultimate Gothic Classic
Matthew Lewis wrote "The Monk" in ten short weeks at the age of nineteen. Immediately the subject of controversy upon its publication in 1796, Lewis was prosecuted and subsequent... Read more
Published on Oct. 17 2000
3.0 out of 5 stars Sensational Gothic suspenser
This is dated stuff, with its flowery descriptions, its melodramatic dialogue and situations and its hackneyed plot, with its reliance on coincidences and mistaken identities. Read more
Published on Sept. 15 2000 by TheIrrationalMan
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