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The Monk

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  10,644 ratings  ·  737 reviews
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.

Set in the sinister monastery of the Capuchins in Madrid, this is a violent tale of ambition, murder
Paperback, 386 pages
Published June 1st 1999 by Penguin Classics (first published 1795)
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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
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 mad monk unable to live up to his vows gives in to every
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
Oct 22, 2014 Dan Porter added it
Shelves: horror
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
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
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
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
Erik Simon
A couple of years back, when, for a year and a half, I became a stay-at-home father with my adopted infant son, I went through a 19th century Gothic phase. They were easy to read without being complete cotton candy for the brain, and the Oxford Classics versions were very easy to hold in one hand while I held my infant in the other. Of all the ones I read, this was by far the juiciest and most lurid. And it was a wonderfully fun story to boot.
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
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.
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
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.
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
Jan 08, 2011 Lisa rated it 3 of 5 stars
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
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
Written at the end of the 18th century, in full Romantic period, by an author who wasn’t yet 20, The Monk is a surprisingly modern novel, that synthetizes some Gothic characteristics while introducing some new and disturbing (for his contemporaries) ideas.
And, as usual, it’s through these so criticized new ideas that the novel gained its celebrity and its place of reference among Gothic works, considering that even its most famous critic, Coleridge, couldn’t go past the prejudices of his time w
Lady of the Lake
While this book was nor the HORROR it may have been in 1796 when it was first published it was a fantastic Gothic book. I had to keep reminding myself that not only was this actually written in 1796 but by a young man the age of 19! He obviously had some issues with the catholic church and the convents..does not portray a flattering view of these here! I will leave you to read the other reviews here as they are all very good and much better than I am at expressing what it is I need to say.
I h
The back of this edition promises “a violent tale of ambition, murder and incest” – if you add to that rape, matricide, torture, imprisonment, bleeding ghosts, Devil worship and surely the first exorcism in fiction, then that would give a fuller sense of this absolutely bizarre, over the top novel.

One of the earliest gothic and sensation fictions, this book is at its best when dealing with hypocrisy in the Catholic church. The primary villain is Ambrosio, a conceited monk who falls prey to every
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
Catherine Bishop
I find it hard to believe that this was published in 1796. My god, I was thoroughly shocked. I would have been shocked if it had been written in modern times but the fact that this was written over 200 years ago is insane I can only imagine how it was received. I decided to read this when I spotted it on the shelf at Waterstones and remembered it was mentioned in Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen and the Gothic novels mentioned in that book have been on my ‘to read’ list for years. I certainly was ...more
Colleen Cunningham
Mar 05, 2008 Colleen Cunningham rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes to read mind numbing fiction
Recommended to Colleen by: Dr. Mark Falk
I read this the first time as an undergraduate, and I wrote a paper on it, which landed me a speaking role in the undergraduate symposium. That is how much I love this book. It has everything: romance, mysticism, ghosts, murder, mystery... It's the first ever English Gothic novel written (around the late 1700's). It is a very well-written, very intense story of the shadows of Catholicism. If anyone wishes to borrow my copy, you will have to read around my notes, my brother's notes, and a friend' ...more
Isn't it great that Lewis wrote this book in 1796 and people are still reading it in 2014? That's quite something. And it shows that some ideas - selling your soul to the devil to get what you want - never go out of style. Despite some of the archaic language, the tale is surprisingly modern (and such a relief that no one had a bloody iPhone)the tale is surprisingly modern. Ambrosio's downfall is spectacular, and I wondered if his piety was more about vanity than anything else (and here come the ...more
Jesse Williams
This was one of the best Gothic literature books that I have read. It's a wonderful tale of ghosts, witchcraft, demons, adventure, love, social classes, and banditti. It shows the dangers of those that are hiding behind masks, especially the mask of virtue. It a tale of the downfall of a monk into the deepest realms of "sin", and the consequences of lust, pride, and hypocrisy. It's a definite MUST READ.
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  • The Italian
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  • The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner
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  • Caleb Williams
  • The Castle of Otranto
  • Uncle Silas
  • The Vampyre and Other Tales of the Macabre
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  • Camilla
  • Clermont
  • The Castle of Wolfenbach: A German Story
  • Varney the Vampire
  • The Oxford Book of Gothic Tales
  • The Expedition of Humphry Clinker
  • The Female Quixote: or, the Adventures of Arabella
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...
The Castle Spectre Journal of a West India Proprietor: Kept During a Residence in the Island of Jamaica The Bravo of Venice A Glimpse of King Richard III 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.” 83 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.” 41 likes
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