INTRODUCTION

WHEN Matthew Lewis's The Monk: A Romance appeared in 1796, it was greeted by a variety of critical opinions. ‘Lust, murder, incest, and every atrocity that can disgrace human nature, brought together, without the apology of probability, or even possibility, for their introduction’,1 read the review in The British Critic, in a manner which unfortunately resembled the lurid advertising found at the beginning of the extra-salacious abridged editions of the work in circulating libraries. Coleridge, writing for the Critical Review, declared it to be ‘a romance, which if a parent saw in the hands of a son or daughter, he might reasonably turn pale’.2 He also called it blasphemous—a charge which signalled the start of much trouble for Lewis. On the other hand, the Monthly Mirror reckoned not to remember ‘to have read a more interesting production’3—praise which it was to increase in an attempt to defend the novel two years later.

The battleground on which most of the controversy about The Monk arose was the issue of its morality. A novel had not only to please, but also to instruct, and it should instruct in the ways of virtue rather than vice. An issue of a journal entitled The Flapper provides a nice illustration of these more conservative demands. The novel form was still young and not highly respected, and its latest development in what we now call the Gothic novel was the cause of much alarm for more serious educationalists and moralists within the tradition of rationalism. It takes the form of a letter from a newly reformed, anonymous (or rather pseudonymous, for he calls himself ‘Aurelius’) novel-addict who

____________________
1
The British Critic, 7 (1796), 677.
2
Critical Review, 19 (1796), 194–200: 197.
3
Monthly Mirror, 2 (1796), 98.

-vii-

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The Monk
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Oxford World's Classics *
  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Acknowledgements vi
  • Introduction vii
  • Note on the Text xxxi
  • Select Bibliography xxxv
  • A Chronology of Matthew Gregory Lewis xxxvii
  • The Monk 1
  • Preface 3
  • Table of the Poetry 5
  • Advertisement 6
  • Volume I 7
  • Chapter I *
  • Chapter II *
  • Chapter III *
  • Volume II 129
  • Chapter I *
  • Chapter II 192
  • Chapter III 223
  • Chapter IV 256
  • Volume III 281
  • Chapter I *
  • Chapter II *
  • Chapter III *
  • Chapter IV 377
  • Chapter V *
  • Explanatory Notes 443
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