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Melmoth the Wanderer (Penguin Classics) Paperback – February 1, 2001

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About the Author

Charles Robert Maturin (1782-1824) was born in Dublin and educated at Trinity College. He took orders and worked as a curate in Loughrea and Dublin. Maturin enjoyed literary success with his Gothic novels and a tragedy 'Bertram' (1816). His later plays and fiction, including MELMOTH THE WANDERER, were neglected and he died in poverty. Victor Sage is Reader in Literature in the School of English and American Studies at the University of East Anglia.
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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (February 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014044761X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140447613
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.2 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #329,214 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

95 of 100 people found the following review helpful By mp on July 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
Maturin's "Melmoth the Wanderer" is a brilliantly constructed work of gothic fiction. One hundred years after Jonathan Swift, Maturin takes up his Irish predecessor's gift for harsh, even malevolent satire against any and all offenders - organized religion, government, lovers, warriors - even making broad, devastating comments on humanity in general. Maturin and his characters are quick to point out that this is not 'Radcliffe-romance' gothic, in the direct style of works like "The Mysteries of Udolpho". They are right. Rather than the seemingly landscape-obsessed, rationalistic Radcliffe, Maturin takes his direct gothic influences from the claustrophobic psychological terrors of Godwin's "Caleb Williams," Lewis' "The Monk," and M.W. Shelley's "Frankenstein."
Unlike "The Monk," however, Maturin's novel does not rely heavily on Lewis' supernatural machinery (ghosts, demons, bleeding nuns, etc.). Instead, he offers several apparently unconnected stories that concentrate on families in desperate straits and individuals in extreme crises, pushing the limits of man's inhumanity to man. The connecting element, the wild card with the wild eyes, that pops up just when the characters most/least need him, is Melmoth the Wanderer.
"Melmoth" also draws heavily from Cervantes' "Don Quixote," which provides a great point of comparison for the main character. Where Don Quixote was a wandering knight, pledged to help the helpless, Melmoth is a wandering agent of evil, whose mission is to prey on the helpless. Melmoth has 150 years to tempt the indigent and desperate into selling their souls for wealth, power, or simple relief, and trading places with him.
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Mark Shanks VINE VOICE on June 15, 1998
Format: Paperback
Published in 1820, Maturin's "Melmoth the Wanderer" is usually named as the last of the Gothic novels. Gothic here implies the incorporation of Burke's elements of the "sublime", wherein terror and sorrow invoke in the reader a heightened sense of empathy with the events unfolding in the narrative. Maturin pulls out all the stops of his time in creating situations of hopelessness, fear, and both religous and social sadism. Melmoth himself has sold his soul to the devil (will these people *never* learn? ;-) and attempts over the course of scores of years to find someone so desperate that they will take this "bargain" off his hands before the devil comes for his due. The novel is constructed of tales-within-tales, depicting the awful conditions the people Melmoth seeks out find themselves in. For example, the "Tale of the Spaniard" is told by a prisoner of the Inquisition (although this tedious tale takes over 120 pages to even GET to the Inquisition), whose life is still not so horrible that he would willingly trade place with the wandering Melmoth. The narrative is infuriatingly slow and convoluted, and only a perseverance surpassing the average will reward the patient reader with the creation of atmosphere that keeps this book on the "must read" list of true afficiandos of the supernatural. A minor note: Patrick O'Brian pays tribute to the author by naming one of contemporary literature's most well-known characters after him: half of the "Aubrey/Maturin" team of O'Brian's 19th-century novels of naval warfare.
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45 of 50 people found the following review helpful By M. Hori on January 28, 2003
Format: Paperback
Written by a man who assumed his brother's debts and apparently went out of his mind trying to write himself out from under this monetary burden; a man who wore a wafer pasted to the center of his forehead while writing, and who fancied the ballroom and dancing just as much (or maybe more) than the pulpet;--Melmoth the Wanderer is simply the oddest and most delicious concoction of mad prose this side of Abiezzar Cope. The story is a vertiginously creaky assemblage of vignettes that spiral in and out of each other in a bewildering--and sometimes belabored--manner. We often wish we could rip out 50 or so pages of purple prose here and there and throw them into the mouths of the nearest BLACK DOGS from Hades, but we must restrain ourselves enough to follow Melmoth (the chuckling friend--or should we say fiend?--of John Dee and Edward Kelly it turns out)--to his ultimate damnation. Scattered throughout the text are poppies of arcane lore--the very kind of volume that Poe would have had in his hands when the Raven came tapping at his chamber door! Not only did Poe love this book, but so did Doestoyevsky, Balzac, Lautreamont, Oscar Wilde, Scott, and hoards of other literary greats! Hey--add your name to the list!
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Dindrane on May 23, 2000
Format: Paperback
Maturin's novel relates the story of Melmoth, a scholar who traded his soul to Infernal powers in return for answers to all of his questions about the Universe. He has 100 extra years to live; in that time, if he can find someone to volunteer to take his place in Hell, he is free. Otherwise, at the end of the 100 years, Melmoth will be damned.
Melmoth the Wanderer is a Gothic novel in the highest tradition of the Romantic period. It's structure, however, makes it unique. It folds in upon itself, beginning with the present and ending with the future, but somewhere in between moving progressively backwards as the narrator tries to unlock the secrets of Melmoth's life, just as Melmoth tried to unlock the secrets of the Universe.
The characters, Melmoth, Emmalee, the many Jews who help Melmoth, are beautifully written and engaging. The novel is worth reading for Maturin's virtuoso touch with structure alone, but also for the wonderful touches and passages, particularly where Melmoth struggles with his conscience and reveals that even fiends have a soul. The novel questions what it means to search for knowledge, to have a family, to be in love, and to accept responsibility for your own fate. Melmoth the Wanderer asks questions about why mercy is so hard to find, why supposedly pious people often cause the most suffering, and what it might take to redeem a minion of Hell. An ambiguous ending caps off the novel and allows you to answer these questions for yourself.
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