The Monk Paperback – Apr 9 2002
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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 Inside Flap
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 Bronte to Poe and Hawthorne.
Top Customer Reviews
Ambrosio is the most celebrated, revered monk in Madrid (in the era of the infamous Spanish Inquisition) - his sermons attract crowds far too large to gain admittance to the sanctuary, and everyone holds him up as a veritable saint walking the earth. His fall from grace is precipitous indeed. Secretly, Ambrosio is vain and proud, blissfully assured of his own near-perfection. At the first temptation of lust, however, this holy man reveals himself to be the ultimate hypocrite, giving in rather easily to the type of desire he rails against each Sunday. After learning that his friend Rosario is in fact a lovely woman in disguise named Matilda, he revels in the love she declares for him and quickly becomes her secret lover. Quickly and ever more thoroughly consumed by his new-found passion and carnal lasciviousness, he grows tired of the ever-willing Matilda and turns his perverted eye toward the sweet and wholly innocent young Antonia.Read more ›
I often got confused with who was who so that made it difficult to keep track of which guy or girl was being talked about, save for Ambrosio and Mathilda/Rosario (whose story was the first thing to hook me in), and some parts of the story felt unnecessary (like the count who went on an adventure and had that scary thing happen to him) except for really small links (like the boy that accompanied the count and eventually learned about the sister's fate). It still made for a good story at least, but it didn't feel very unified.
I thought the story was going to take a different turn somewhere in the middle, and that certain characters were going to meet with certain ends, but at least it kept me interested when the sister wasn't going to be used as the monk's lover during her disappearance/death or during Antonia's rape and death.
Again, it was a very sensational read, though. So much drama! The monk's decay, Mathilda's loyalty (which was nicely done without jealousy), and the ghosts, curses, haunting, etc. was laughable but also so intriguing. I was really amused reading this and I'm glad it proved to be a fun read. Sticking around past the slow and boring beginning was definitely worth it because this is definitely a classic that is worth keeping on the shelf even just for entertainment's sake.
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.
Also recommended: THE USURPER AND OTHER STORIES, THE MYSTERIES OF UDOLPHO, DISCIPLES OF FORTUNE, THE UNION MOUJIK
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.
Most recent customer reviews
Absolutely love the style of this book and how the story is conveyed by the characters. It's eerie, the characters are morally tested, the story is interesting with some surprising... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Brigitte
Badly written in almost every possible respect. There truly is nothing lurking behind the now-deeply dated shock value. Read morePublished 18 months ago by FJ
The story is the basic gothic mix of lost love and the macabre. The real interest in this book is in its historical context. This was the TV of its day. Read morePublished on Jan. 6 2012 by bookweasel
This book was one of the best I've read in a long time. Scandal, Intrigue, Sex...It's got it all... Read morePublished on March 28 2006 by Amazon Customer
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... Read morePublished on July 24 2003 by J. M. Hannam
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. Read morePublished on March 24 2003 by JR Pinto
The Monk is perhaps the most significant and certainly the most controversial of the Gothic novels of the late 18th century. Read morePublished on Jan. 30 2003 by Daniel Jolley
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 morePublished on Nov. 22 2002 by S. R. Moore