A Life of Matthew G. Lewis

A Life of Matthew G. Lewis

A Life of Matthew G. Lewis

A Life of Matthew G. Lewis

Excerpt

By his notorious Gothic romance The Monk, written when he was nineteen, Matthew Gregory Lewis -- "Monk" Lewis -- has won himself a place in nearly every history of English literature. Biographical notices of him usually record also that he was a friend of Walter Scott, published a collection of ballads called Tales of Wonder, wrote the absurd and highly successful melodrama The Castle Spectre, translated parts ofGoethe Faust to Lord Byron, told ghost stories to the Shelleys at Diodati, visited the West Indies to improve the condition of his slaves, and died at sea on the way home. These often-repeated facts are perhaps sufficient to satisfy the curiosity a general reader may feel concerning the author of The Monk, and for a long time they satisfied scholarship too. In recent years, however, Lewis has received increasing attention from students of the Romantic movement, who recognize him as an important figure not only among the Gothic writers of the period but in the realm of comparative literature as well. Yet the only full-length biography of this author, which appeared twenty-one years after his death, was considered inadequate even in its own day, and scholars have frequently pointed out the need for a more reliable account of Lewis and his writings. The present book attempts to supply that need.

The original biography, the two-volume Life and Correspondence ofG. Lewis M., Author of The Monk, The Castle Spectre," &c. with Many Pieces in Prose and Verse, Never Before Published (London, 1839), appeared anonymously, but the author, Mrs. Cornwall Baron-Wilson, named the work as hers on the title page of a later publication (Our Actresses; or, Glances at Stage Favourites, Past and Present, London, 1844). A biography of Lewis, who had died in 1818, had long been needed to dispel his early reputation as an immoral and blasphemous author. In 1839, moreover, it was still not too late to preserve anecdotes and biographical details which otherwise inevitably would have . . .

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