Forbidden Tomes: The Haunted Conscience – Morality in Matthew Lewis’ The Monk

Gothicism has been around for centuries, pervading architecture, music, literature, and film alike. Its roots are deep, and its identifying factors are strong—baroque style, high passion, and a healthy heap of darkness. Compared to architecture and music, Gothic fiction is fairly young, developing in the late 18th century with English authors such as Horace Walpole and Ann Radcliffe. No one was prepared, however, for the arrival of Matthew Gregory Lewis, who published his deliciously controversial novel The Monk at the ripe age of 19.

When The Monk was unleashed, the literary world had already been introduced to Radcliffe and Walpole’s gloomy melodramas, along with Romantic works from Germany and France. None of these stories contained the moral quandaries, the viciousness, or the sex and violence of Lewis’ novel. It tells the story of Ambrosio, the titular Monk, who is considered the holiest man in all of Madrid, until he

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