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The Monk Paperback – Apr 9 2002

4.1 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library; New edition edition (April 9 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375759166
  • ISBN-13: 978-0739482520
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.9 x 21.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 286 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #10,741 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“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.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback
The Monk is perhaps the most significant and certainly the most controversial of the Gothic novels of the late 18th century. Amazingly, its author, nineteen-year-old Matthew Lewis, wrote the novel in a period of only six weeks. Although inspired by the work of Ann Radcliffe (among other Gothic writers), Lewis goes far beyond the sensibilities of his predecessors and does not choose to explain away the supernatural events fuelling this inflammatory novel. The Monk is a tale of human evil in its most vile form; the unspeakable acts described in these pages are committed by the supposedly most devout individuals in society. The Catholic Church was incensed with the novel's publication, and it is actually quite remarkable that The Monk was published at all and that its author faced nothing more dire than censorship and indignant protest as a consequence of it.

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.
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Format: Paperback
This book had a terrible start and I thought I was never going to get through it. Even though it did take me longer than usual to plow through, it did prove to be a sensational read and I enjoyed myself thoroughly with the overdramatic narration.

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.
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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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