The Monk, Paperback Book
4 out of 5 (1 rating)


With an Introduction by Kathryn White. Prepare to be shocked. This novel, written in 1796, is a Gothic festival of sex, magic and ghastly, ghostly violence rarely seen in literature.

The Monk is remarkably modern in style and tells a breathless tale of temptation, imprisonment and betrayal.

Matthew Lewis recounts the downfall of Ambrosio, the holier-than-thou monk seduced within the walls of a Madrid abbey until he heads for the utter corruption of the soul.

Meanwhile, two sets of young lovers are thwarted and the reader thrills to pursuits through the woods by bandits and is chilled by the spectre of nuns imprisoned in vermin-ridden and skeleton-crowded vaults. Late Eighteenth Century audiences were polarised in opinion as to the novel's merits.

Lord Byron and the Marquis de Sade were impressed by Lewis's daring, while Coleridge warned parents against The Monk's suitability for their sons or daughters, describing the novel as 'poison for youth.

If you want a novel that still terrifies, over two hundred years after it was written, there is none finer than The Monk.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Wordsworth Editions Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • ISBN: 9781840221855

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This is a good book. It has its faults (the poems are a little obnoxious, some of the asides can go on for rather long, the main character has zero redeeming qualities), but it's quite a story. These days the content wouldn't be at all "shocking" but back when it was written would have been very different, Lewis was making a rather large statement with this novel. In any case, I enjoyed trying to keep ahead of the twists, attempting to guess the truth of various things. Usually I managed to guess correctly, but it wasn't the annoying sort of predictable, it was that Lewis gave bits of foreshadowing that hinted at things to come. It made it so you'd guess about the hints, and then have the anticipation of waiting for the events to progress and seeing if they'd go that way or not, and how exactly it would happen. Some of it was a little silly, and there's one character you just want to throttle, but overall a fun enjoyable read.

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