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The Monk (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – May 15, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-0199535682 ISBN-10: 019953568X Edition: Reissue
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Editorial Reviews

Review

`This is the highly popular and equally highly vilified Gothic novel, written in 1794. Gruesome, voluptuous, and occasionally tongue-in-cheek, The Monk is a masterpiece of its genre.' Sunday Telegraph

`what distinguishes The Monk from a whole raft of lesser imitations is the quality of the storytelling ... There's always a danger of bathos in narratives where horror is piled on horror ... Lewis avoids that pitfall by judicious use of humour. He also writes with great visual immediacy. Lewis has a remarkable understanding of human psychology. The Monk is a stunning read. It was published 200 years ago. I hope this article is not the only celebration of that bicentenary.' Simon Brett, The Sunday Times

About the Author


Emma McEvoy is a Lecturer at Goldsmith's College.
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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford World's Classics
  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reissue edition (May 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019953568X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199535682
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 0.9 x 5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #79,607 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Charlus on September 17, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Why this book is not as popularly read as Mrs. Radcliffe's doorstops will remain a mystery to me deeper than any to be found in this delightfully wicked and addictively readable masterpiece. That the author was only 19 when it was published puts him in the precocious genius department. What most new readers to this novel won't realize until they start is how much fun it is to read. Yes, the wicked are really bad (they really do consort with Satan) and the good generally come to a bad end but the sheer narrative rush of the book, the nuggets of wit that show the author winking out now and then, and all the demonic clergy, gloomy sepulchers and restless ghosts that you could ever wish for take this novel into that enviable category of one-of-a-kind reading experiences. Lewis has the courage of his conventions and won't cop out at the end like Mrs. Radcliffe will which makes this more a successor to "The Castle of Otranto" than any of her productions. And the lustful goings on would bring a blush of modesty to any of her virginal heroines (you can see why this novel was expurgated for it's fourth edition). Yet the dangers and horrors come on so fast and thick that you won't be bored and will soon understand why this was a major hit when first published and gave the author the nickname "Monk" Lewis for the rest of his writing days (which in keeping with his Romantic peers, was way too short). If you can look past the archaic locutions and enjoy the Sturm und Drang rules of the game, this is a novel you won't want to miss.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Pius on September 24, 2011
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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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jeanette Thomas VINE VOICE on August 10, 2011
Format: Paperback
Don't be scared off by the book's 18th century publication date: this story is great fun - as shocking and titillating as anything in modern lit. The Monk has it all: scandal, conspiracy, murder, villainy, hypocrisy, incest, rape, betrayal, ghosts, demons, corpses, and enough gruesome detail to rival an episode of CSI.

The story is set in Spain during the time of the Inquisition, and focuses on the corruption and eventual destruction of Ambrosio, "The Man of Holiness", a Capuchin monk whose outward piety conceals vanity and a lust for power, from which seeds grow spiraling tendrils of evil that eventually destroy him, with a little help from Old Smokey himself. (Lucifer actually makes a juicy cameo appearance at the end - don't miss it!).

Love how "meaty" the story is: within the main narrative, Lewis embeds digressions and side stories that add to the entertainment and general spookiness of the story. Caught up in the main narrative (in which the Brave Cavalier Lorenzo attempts to woo the Innocent Virgin Antonia; Noble Raymond attempts to rescue his True Love Agnes from the schemes of Villainous Family Members and an Evil Prioress; and the Mad Monk Ambrosio is gradually corrupted), you may be tempted to skip these parts, but don't! Elvira's sad history, the story of Lorenzo's brush with bloodthirsty bandits in the forests of Germany, and especially the tale of the Bleeding Nun and the Wandering Jew are fully as diverting as the main narrative.

Love, too, how the author incorporates all the stereotypical elements of gothic fiction - mad monks, wicked nuns, brave knights, naïve virgins, scheming family members, crypts, corpses, and sorcery - while still managing to create a story that feels fresh, literate, and well-crafted.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Alexander Gaya on February 19, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
M. G. Lewis wrote The Monk in a handful of weeks when he still a teenager, and though he wrote other works in a similar vein, none of them earned him half the fame––notoriety rather––of The Monk. After having read this work, I can see why it was so talked about when it came out. (I also venture to suggest that we should have more MPs who wrote novels of this nature before their political careers began!) The work is deliciously juicy, never hesitating to drop the other shoe in a manner that retains its power to shock even today's terribly desensitized readers, and yet of course the 18th-century sensibilities prevent this shoe-dropping from being truly offensive, landing firmly in what we might call 'safely titillating territory'. (Well…maybe not entirely safe.) A more or less unrelated set of chapters detailing an exciting encounter with bandits serves as a slightly tamer interlude from the main scene of hot-blooded Mediterranean Catholic unreason and wickedness. Some of the details of the events that befall the fainting maiden for whom our naughty, naughty monk yearns still draw a horror-stricken grimace. No one expects the Spanish Inquisition, but they do make a brief appearance towards the end. And Rosario…I shouldn't say anything more about this companion to the central villain Ambrosio except that he is full of surprises! Bodices heave, boundaries are transgressed, mobs run about angrily, and of course the monastery has vast subterranean passages below it (it couldn't be a real monastery without them, you understand). By the end of the book one wonders if any more stops could have been pulled out, until Mr. Lewis makes a few more stops on the spot and pulls them out.Read more ›
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