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The Monk (Tales of Mystery & the Supernatural)

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  12,317 ratings  ·  841 reviews
The Monk was so highly popular that it seemed to create an epoch in our literature - Sir Walter Scott

Set in the sinister monastery of the Capuchins in Madrid, The Monk is a violent tale of ambition, murder, and incest. The struggle between maintaining monastic vows and fulfilling personal ambitions leads its main character, the monk Ambrosio, to temptation and the breaking
Paperback, 456 pages
Published June 1st 2008 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1796)
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Frankenstein by Mary ShelleyDoctor Faustus by Christopher MarloweThe Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins GilmanThe Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey ChaucerAlice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll
Books I Read At University/College
132nd out of 612 books — 71 voters
Frankenstein by Mary ShelleyThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark TwainAlice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll1984 by George OrwellThe Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
Banned Books: Public Domain
39th out of 57 books — 38 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Petra X
This is such a great fun book to read. It's really not like anything else at all, it's so extreme in every way. It was written in the era of the great classics, but this one is never going to be taught in schools.

The book out-Gothics all the Gothic novels you ever read, Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey isn't even related to the raw perversion and criminality of this madcap horror ride through the forbidden where taboos fall one by one as the The Monk, unable to live up to his vows gives in to ever
Jeffrey Keeten
”Lucifer stood before him a second time. He borrowed the Seraph’s form to deceive Ambrosio. He appeared in all that ugliness, which since his fall from heaven had been his portion: His blasted limbs still bore marks of the Almighty’s thunder: A swarthy darkness spread itself over his gigantic form: His hands and feet were armed with long Talons: Fury glared in his eyes, which might have struck the bravest heart with terror: Over his huge shoulders waved two enormous sable wings; and his hair was ...more
Bill  Kerwin

When I was younger, I avoided this book because the literary snob in me--a much more insistent voice back then than now--had decided, on the basis of ”informed opinion,” that “The Monk” was merely an exercise in sensationalism, a device for producing horrific thrills through the deliberate, exploitative use of cheap effects and anti-Catholic stereotypes.

Now that I have read it, I see that the literary snob in me had a point. “The Monk” is all of these things. But it is also more.

I think the you
Paul Bryant
Calling all Gothic Novel fans : you have to read The Monk - this is the Texas Chainsaw Massacre of Gothic novels which will unjade the most jaded. Here you will find much fun to be had with nuns, priests with uncontrollable underwear, more nuns, pregnant nuns, nuns with minimal clothing, nuns giving birth in frankly unsanitory conditions attended only by untrained inappropriate monks, heaving bosoms, unspeakable acts, souls in the process of being damned for all eternity, mostly ghostly ectoplas ...more
Dan Porter
I think Wilkie Collins has spoiled me when it comes to this type of Victorian/Gothic/Thriller because it's so hard to match his writing and storytelling skills. That being said, I'll add that The Monk was a fun read. While it's clearly an attack on organized religion - the Catholic church in particular - a close reading makes it also clear that Lewis found a significant difference between organized religion and a personal relationship with a Supreme Being. While he provides several interesting t ...more
Henry Avila
Ambrosio,the abbot, is the perfect monk.Head of an abbey in Madrid.He is the idol of the city.A young,handsome,charismatic man.With a spellbinding voice. That thrills the audience at his church.All the people flock to it.To hear his sermons.Five minutes after the bells ring.The church is overflowing.The noble families are there.Silently the assembly listens.A living saint,they witness.The proud people are ecstatic.In this modern age(the 1700's),God has sent them Ambrosio!The Capuchin(Franciscan) ...more
“What? live to plunge myself in infamy? to become an agent of hell? to work the destruction in both you and myself?”

Alright, this book is hilarious.

However, there are a few spoilers in this review. If you think you’ll read The Monk someday (and you should, seriously), maybe come back to this another time. Or don’t, who knows, maybe it won’t be so bad? Maybe this is the best, most spoiler free review you’ll ever read in your life? (see, I’m tempting you, because it’s the theme of the book!).

O Father Ambrosio, stop Monking around!

This book was quite a surprise. Yes, there are all sorts of hypocritical Monk-y debauchery and lustful, euphemism-filled scenes. But there are also two romantic subplots that filled with action, swashbuckling heroes, damsels in distress and deceit. All three stories end up intertwining in unexpected ways.

Did more people in olden times have prosopagnosia, or what? Why was it so damn easy to disguise yourself?

I had all sorts of naughty fun reading even more f
This novel is all about Christian, specifically Catholic, sexual hysteria. Sex seems to determine everyone's motivation in the first volume. This makes sense when you consider that it was written by a nineteen year old for whom these obsessions were no doubt a daily occurence. Fortunately for us, he has managed to sublimate them into the form of a novel. (Which puts me in mind of E.M. Forster, who, when touched on the ass by an admirer at a tender age, promptly went home and wrote Maurice.)

A du
Now that I've finished this fabulous piece, I remember I read it several years ago. However, this time around I enjoyed it so much more. Be it because of age, wisdom, life knocking me around a bit more, don't know the reason why only that I absolutely couldn't shut up talking about it with my husband all night last night.

For being only 19 when he wrote it and during the particular time period, he was very astute at the cultural swing that was occuring at the time. There is even a note of awarene
Shala Howell
Rendered nearly senseless by the impact of reading words so breathlessly written, she nonetheless persisted in reviewing a book whose attractions she could not have resisted, had her mind not been steeled by the remembrance of a 1000 other works more artfully written.

If you like that sort of writing, go read this book. It's got lots and lots of pages of it.
This must be one of the most difficult novels to grade, so far. I have no idea how many stars to give it, four or five. It's so strange and unique that I'm incapable of comparing it to any other literature. I know it inspired Ann Radcliffe's The Italian, but I can't see many significant similarities between the two. The story is so dark, I can't think of another novel in the same way. Most gothic fiction fade in comparison.

The main story is about a man's fall from the highest of grace and rank t
In the middle of The Monk: A Romance is hidden this interesting comment...
"An author, whether good or bad, or between both, is an animal whom everybody is privileged to attack; For though all are not able to write books, all conceive themselves able to judge them."


Matthew Lewis, even at the age of 19 when he wrote this classic Gothic romance in 1796, was able to accurately predict the reaction to his first novel. It was both praised and reviled by the critics. It was certainly controversial
If you are curious to find out in what circumstances a young novice at the convent cries out: "Father, I am a woman!" and then puts a sharp knife to her "beauteous orb," which -- by the way -- is gleaming in the moonlight, and threatens to kill herself, then read this novel (it's like Don Quixote, composed of many stories). The strangest book: if you think your 21st century has taught you all there is to know about sensual sexual unfulfilled yet on the brink, think again! Here is a story of abso ...more
I would give this book five stars for its brilliant wordcrafting. However, there were many parts of this book that were difficult to swollow and were, in fact, pretty shocking. The two parallel plots were a bit confusing and switch abruptly at some spots. The Monk is a well written piece of literature but this is not for the faint of heart.
One word: Outrageous.
Cassandra Lê
OMGGGGGGG.... I totally CANNOT believe that the author of this book was 19 YEARS OLD when he wrote this, and he wrote it under 10 WEEKS . This is a masterpiece!! A 18TH CENTURY GOTHIC GODDAMN MASTERPIECE!!! Seriously high school kids would have loved the hell out of this and seek to read more classics were they not confined to snoring tomes like... idk, A scarlet letter? (Sorry, Hawthorne I have never gotten used to you ). "The Monk" retells the stories of a monk who abandons his virtues to be ...more
Sep 06, 2011 Terence rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Terence by: Steve Semon
Antonin Artaud’s The Monk is to the original like the fossilized skeleton of Tyrannosaurus Rex is to the living, breathing, hunting animal that lived 65+ million years ago. If it’s the only source of information you have you can learn a great deal but you’ll still not understand the ecosystem the creature lived in – its fellow predators, its prey, the flora, the microbes and insects that worked together to create the environment. In the same way, this book is the original novel’s skeleton – the ...more
Sep 03, 2011 Terence rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Gothic romancers
Recommended to Terence by: Elizabeth
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Any book that takes an idolized monk and a handful of nuns, and turns them into devious, deceptive, evil-doing characters gets a hug and kiss from me!

Sprinkle in a young female novice who dabbles in the dark arts, some good ole rape and incest, the Grand Inquisition, and appearances by a few ghosts and yes, even the Devil... and you have yourself one helluva storyline!

Based on plot and development alone, the book would warrent 5 stars. Three seemingly separate stories slowly intertwine to create
This book honestly came as quite a surprise to me. Lewis was 19 when he wrote this, and the gothic genre was still fairly young. It's mostly uncharted territory in the hands of a writer who hasn't done much of his own exploration. The shock came when I realized that actually, this was pretty good stuff. At the time, it was a very shocking novel, and with modern eyes... Well, he's still being pretty bold. Make the scenes just a little more explicit, and it would be every bit as shocking now. Ther ...more
Lei este libro por mi club de lectura bajo el género de "terror". Primeramente, NO es terror, tal vez lo fuera hace 100 años, pero hoy no.

Es una novela gótica escrita hace 200 años y su autor tenía apenas 19 años. Eso ya para mi es sorprendente porque no ha envejecido tanto. Es bastante fluida y entretenida para ser una historia tan antigua. Ayuda que trata un tema universal: la religión, fanatismo, prejuicios y supersticiones, que no creo que pasen de moda.Me sorprendió la crítica tan fuerte a
Ένα βιβλίο που με συνεπήρε από τις πρώτες σελίδες. Ήθελα να δω πώς ενώνονται όλες οι παράλληλες ιστορίες και ποιο θα είναι το τέλος. Με κέρδισε το έμμεσο αλλά συνάμα ευθύ "κατηγορώ" του Lewis απέναντι στον κλήρο και στις θρησκευτικές αντιλήψεις της εποχής. Παρακολουθούμε έναν άνθρωπο κατά τα φαινόμενα καθ' όλα ενάρετο, ο οποίος μέσα σε μια στιγμή γίνεται δέσμιος του πάθους του και από κει και πέρα βαδίζει στο μονοπάτι του κακού χωρίς αναστολές έως ότου δεν υπάρχει πια επιστροφή. Και όλα αυτά σε ...more
When The Monk was first published in 1796 it was surrounded by heated hatred and scandal. One critic claimed that The Monk was full of "Lust, murder, incest, and every atrocity that can disgrace human nature"; a line that now seems to commonly appear in the synopsis. While this novel is a transgressive gothic novel and possibly one of the first books to feature a priest in such a villainous way there is so much more going on within the pages. To begin, we must look at the context, and it is not ...more
Suzanne Moore

Stephen King highly praises this Gothic writer, so in beginning the novel I braced myself for some horrific scenes. The Monk is about the downfall and demise of Ambrosia who is put on a pedestal for his spiritual godliness. He starts out as a highly respected friar and sells his soul to Lucifer in the end.
A mild sin at first, lusting after an image of the Madonna, manifests itself when a a young novitiate, a woman in disguise, seduces him. I won't spoil the book with too many details, but be pre
Jan 08, 2011 Lisa rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lisa by: Goodreads 1001 Books group
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Christy B
It's hard to believe that this book was published in 1796. I can't even imagine how shocking this book was back then, because it certainly shocked me here in 2008. I bought the book because I was interested in reading The Italian by Ann Radcliffe and figured I should read The Monk first. I never expected to like it, but I loved it. I loved all the supernatural aspects of this book; it was something I wasn't expecting. This book can make you feel so many emotions as you read it: anger, sadness, h ...more
Finally, some fun in the Enlightenment. The Monk is a blast, a page-turner, chock full of insane plot twists and sinning.

It can't be accused of being terribly well-written, so you know that old debate between eloquence and plot? If you tip heavily toward eloquence, you might not like this as much.

But for me, clawing my way out of a pit of Oh-So-Literary books starved for's just what I needed. The only 18th-century book that I had more fun with was Voltaire's Candide.
As George Takei would say, Oh, MYYYYYY!!!!

This rollicking tale has a little bit of everything: a lusty, murderous monk; a woman disguised as a boy novice in the monastery; a vindictive, sadistic nun; brave cavilers; murdering highwaymen; beautiful virgins constantly in danger; creepy, cavernous, maze-like tombs under the abbey; ghosts; black magic; and bad poetry! LOTS of bad poetry! Someone is always reading a very long poem, or writing seemingly endless verse or singing the song that never en
A devilish delight is how I would describe this book. It's a gothic tale set largely in and around a monastery in Madrid and is packed full of morality, superstition, sexual obsession, deception and a lot more besides. First published in 1796 when the author was just nineteen, the book was heavily censored due to some of its content and themes. This Penguin English Library edition features the story in full, the way Lewis originally intended it to be.

This was a very enjoyable read for me. It is
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BookTube Reading ...: The Monk - Discussion 38 49 Oct 18, 2014 01:39AM  
Literary Exploration: Final Thoughts *Spoilers* 6 36 Jul 18, 2014 01:15PM  
Literary Exploration: First Impressions *No Spoilers* 7 30 Jul 16, 2014 04:11PM  
Classic Horror Lo...: The Monk 3 22 Jan 15, 2014 12:38PM  
Gothic Literature: The Monk by Matthew Gregory Lewis 38 76 Oct 05, 2013 09:32AM  
Gothic Literature: July: The Monk 12 36 Nov 12, 2012 11:41PM  
Books Stephen Kin...: * 14 The Monk Overall Impression (SPOILER ALERT) 2 19 Jun 05, 2012 04:18PM  
  • Melmoth the Wanderer
  • The Italian
  • Zofloya
  • Vathek
  • Caleb Williams
  • The Castle of Otranto
  • In a Glass Darkly
  • The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner
  • The Vampyre and Other Tales of the Macabre
  • The Expedition of Humphry Clinker
  • Camilla
  • Gothic Tales
  • The Castle of Wolfenbach: A German Story
  • Varney the Vampire
  • Clermont
  • The Female Quixote: or, the Adventures of Arabella
  • Julie, or the New Heloise
  • A Simple Story
Matthew Gregory Lewis was an English novelist and dramatist, often referred to as "Monk" Lewis, because of the success of his classic Gothic novel, The Monk.

Matthew Gregory Lewis was the firstborn child of Matthew and Frances Maria Sewell Lewis. His father, Matthew Lewis was the son of William Lewis and Jane Gregory. He was born in Jamaica in 1750. He attended Westminster School before proceeding
More about Matthew Gregory Lewis...

Other Books in the Series

Tales of Mystery & the Supernatural (1 - 10 of 62 books)
  • An Arsène Lupin Omnibus
  • Australian Ghost Stories
  • The Beetle
  • The Bell in the Fog & Other Stories
  • The Black Veil & Other Tales of Supernatural Sleuths
  • Carnacki, the Ghost Finder
  • Casebook of Sexton Blake
  • The Casefiles of Mr. J.G. Reeder
  • The Castle of Otranto, Vathek & Nightmare Abbey
  • Children of the Night: Classic Vampire Stories
The Castle Spectre Journal of a West India Proprietor: Kept During a Residence in the Island of Jamaica A Glimpse of King Richard III The Bravo of Venice Mistrust; Or, Blanche and Osbright (Dodo Press)

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“Man was born for society. However little He may be attached to the World, He never can wholly forget it, or bear to be wholly forgotten by it. Disgusted at the guilt or absurdity of Mankind, the Misanthrope flies from it: He resolves to become an Hermit, and buries himself in the Cavern of some gloomy Rock. While Hate inflames his bosom, possibly He may feel contented with his situation: But when his passions begin to cool; when Time has mellowed his sorrows, and healed those wounds which He bore with him to his solitude, think you that Content becomes his Companion? Ah! no, Rosario. No longer sustained by the violence of his passions, He feels all the monotony of his way of living, and his heart becomes the prey of Ennui and weariness. He looks round, and finds himself alone in the Universe: The love of society revives in his bosom, and He pants to return to that world which He has abandoned. Nature loses all her charms in his eyes: No one is near him to point out her beauties, or share in his admiration of her excellence and variety. Propped upon the fragment of some Rock, He gazes upon the tumbling waterfall with a vacant eye, He views without emotion the glory of the setting Sun. Slowly He returns to his Cell at Evening, for no one there is anxious for his arrival; He has no comfort in his solitary unsavoury meal: He throws himself upon his couch of Moss despondent and dissatisfied, and wakes only to pass a day as joyless, as monotonous as the former.” 108 likes
“An author, whether good or bad, or between both, is an animal whom every body is privileged to attack: for though all are not able to write books, all conceive themselves able to judge them.” 47 likes
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