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The Monk (Penguin Classics) Paperback – June 1, 1999

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Editorial Reviews


“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

About the Author

Hugh Thomas (Lord Thomas of Swynnerton) is widely known for his work on the history of Spain, including his epic masterpiece The Spanish Civil War, available as a Modern Library Paperback.

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Addison Wesley; 1 edition (August 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140436030
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140436037
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #71,773 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

84 of 91 people found the following review helpful By mp on July 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
Matthew Lewis' "The Monk" is not a book you should read to little kids at bed-time. In the tradition of works like Walpole's "Castle of Otranto" and Radcliffe's "Mysteries of Udolpho," "The Monk" uses the established standards of the gothic romance, and takes them all to outrageous extremes. The novel explores themes of sexuality, violence, and sexual violence at great length. While some may find these play themselves out in a rather tame fashion by to-day's standards, consider that this novel was written and published in 1796 by a member of the British Parliament.
The title monastic is Ambrosio, who was abandoned by his parents as an infant. Raised in a monastery, Ambrosio is a religious fast-tracker taught to disdain sin and hold himself up as a model of purity, untempted by secular pleasure. In Madrid, as the novel begins, he is the young abbot, leader of a monastery. A mesmerizing public speaker, Ambrosio becomes proud and vain, as his popular weekly sermons quickly raise him to the status of an idol. Mischief and misfortunes ensue as Ambrosio's real virtues are put to the test.
What gradually appears to be nothing more than cheap melodramatic pornography is actually a sophisticated critique of the socio-political atmosphere of the late 18th century. "The Monk" operates as a critique not only of Roman Catholicism, but of religious fervor in general. The novel also has much to say about the nature of fame and hero-worship, making it relevant even to-day. "The Monk" also explores themes of government in general - showing the pros and cons of theocracy, oligarchy, pure democracy, and even questions matters of self-governance.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Lilly on July 29, 2008
Format: Paperback
As stated in the other reviews, The Monk certainly is for mature readers only. I'm not an expert in the gothic genre, but I have read a gothic book or two in my day so here is my humble opinion. Although the descriptions in this book are centered around less than wholesome events, the book easily catches your attention and imagination. The langauge, in my opinion, is well written but less complex and easier to understand than some of the other books of its time.
Another thing I enjoyed about the monk was that it did not overdo the descriptions as I thought Radcliffe's The Mysteries of UdolphoThe Mysteries of Udolpho (Penguin Classics) did.

Some of the best qualities in the book were: the snipits of interesting poetry, The story of The Bleeding Nun (which in itself is an interesting story), and the concentration on several characters as opposed to just one.
Although the Monk is certainly not everyone's proverbial cup of tea, I think that if one enjoys the gothic novel with extreme elements of debauchery and is looking for a book without an overly complex venacular The Monk is a great read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Pius on February 22, 2013
Format: Paperback
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. Like Disciples of Fortune, The Monk is a recommended classic.
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12 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Dr Jacques COULARDEAU on October 18, 2004
Format: Paperback
A classic in the gothic genre, in fact even a founding novel of the genre. It is at first sight a strong criticism of religious orders that lead to extreme violence and narrow-mindedness instead of charity, purity, humility, etc. But it is also another denunciation, that of the practice of some noble families of getting rid of some of their daughters by sending them to nunneries. Yet it is a novel that has many other interests. For one it is anti-Faust : the monk is the one who knows, who preaches THE truth, but he is also the one who is easily tempted and dragged into the worst crimes. Then, when the devil comes into the picture, it is not to save that monk from death, but to destroy him utterly : the objective of the devil has been, all along, to tempt him and to lead him to the worst destruction possible when he thinks he is saved from death by this very devil. The devil more or less takes possession of him, puts him under pressure in order to punish him in his mortal body a hundred times more severely than the Inquisition, to punish him not for his crime but for having been a monk who preached purity. Two objectives for the devil : to get rid of this cumbersome monk for the task of the devil in the world, and to prove to the world that monks and other moral fundamentalists are fakes and monsters. In this element this novel is modern because it announces the death of God among the people, the regression of religion. And yet it does not go as far as Goethe will go with Faust. Another interest is in the negation of sexuality by these religious fundamentalits : negatiion for themselves, but also negation for the whole society.Read more ›
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