The Monk (Penguin Classics)
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‘Few could sustain the glance of his eye, at once fiery and penetrating’
Savaged by critics for its supposed profanity and obscenity, and bought in large numbers by readers eager to see whether it lived up to its lurid reputation, The Monk became a succès de scandale when it was published in 1796 – not least because its author was a member of parliament and only twenty years old. It recounts the diabolical decline of Ambrosio, a Capuchin superior, who succumbs first to temptations offered by a young girl who has entered his monastery disguised as a boy, and continues his descent with increasingly depraved acts of sorcery, murder, incest and torture. Combining sensationalism with acute psychological insight, this masterpiece of Gothic fiction is a powerful exploration of how violent and erotic impulses can break through the barriers of social and moral restraint.
This edition is based on the first edition of 1796, which appeared before Lewis’s revisions to avoid charges of blasphemy. In his introduction, Christopher MacLachlan discusses the novel’s place within the Gothic genre, and its themes of sexual desire and the abuse of power.
his dream. He already drew near the porch when his attention was attracted by perceiving a shadow moving upon the opposite wall. He looked curiously round, and soon descried a man wrapped up in his cloak who seemed carefully examining whether his actions were observed. Very few people are exempt from the influence of curiosity. The unknown seemed anxious to conceal his business in the cathedral; and it was this very circumstance which made Lorenzo wish to discover what he was about. Our hero was
He is mine—irrevocably, eternally mine! Companions of my sufferings! Denizens of hell! How grateful will be my present!" He paused—then addressed himself to the monk: "Carry you to Matilda!" he continued, repeating Ambrosio's words: "Wretch! You shall soon be with her! You well deserve a place near her, for hell boasts no miscreant more guilty than yourself. Hark, Ambrosio! While I unveil your crimes! You have shed the blood of two innocents; Antonia and Elvira perished by your hand. That
of the haunted room. Through this it was necessary for her to pass in order to reach the narrow staircase by which the ghost was supposed to descend into the great hall. Agitated by this apprehension, I kept my eyes constantly fixed upon the window, where I hoped to perceive the friendly glare of a lamp borne by Agnes. I now heard the massy gates unbarred. By the candle in his hand I distinguished old Conrad, the porter. He set the portal doors wide open, and retired. The lights in the castle
melancholy. The constant agitation of my mind naturally retarded the reestablishment of my health. Several months elapsed before I was able to quit my bed; and, when at length I was moved to a sofa, I was so faint, spiritless, and emaciated that I could not cross the room without assistance. The looks of my attendants sufficiently denoted the little hope which they entertained of my recovery. The profound sadness which oppressed me without remission made the physician consider me to be an
unable to maintain him, left him just born at the abbey door: the late superior, from pure charity, had him educated in the convent, and he proved to be a model of virtue, and piety, and learning, and I know not what else besides. In consequence, he was first received as a brother of the order, and not long ago was chosen abbot. However, whether this account or the other is the true one, at least all agree that when the monks took him under their care he could not speak; therefore you could not