The Monk (Penguin Classics)
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.
an Hottentot university, and had passed two years among the Americans of Silesia. “For what regards the loss of my eye,” said he, “it was a just punishment upon me, for disrespect to the Virgin, when I made my second pilgrimage to Loretto. I stood near the altar in the miraculous chapel: the monks were proceeding to array the statue in her best apparel. The pilgrims were ordered to close their eyes during the ceremony; but, though by nature extremely religious, curiosity was too powerful. At the
very room where Donna Elvira used to sleep. However, in I went, there lay the young lady at full length upon the floor, as cold as a stone, and as white as a sheet. I was surprised at this, as your holiness may well suppose: but, oh me! How I shook, when I saw a great tall figure at my elbow, whose head touched the ceiling! The face was Donna Elvira's, I must confess; but out of its mouth came clouds of fire; its arms were loaded with heavy chains, which it rattled piteously, and every hair on
Cunegonda was below-stairs, and mounted into the chamber over that of Donna Agnes. I sang as loud as I could a little German air well known to her, hoping that she would recollect my voice. I was not disappointed, for I soon heard her window open. I hastened to let down a string with which I had provided myself. Upon hearing the casement closed again, I drew up the string, and, fastened to it, I found this scrap of paper.' "He then presented me with a small note, addressed to me. I opened it
even pardon me when I acknowledge that in an unguarded moment the honour of Agnes was sacrificed to my passion." Lorenzo's eyes sparkled with fury; a deep crimson spread itself over his face: he started from his seat, and attempted to draw his sword. The Marquis was aware of his movement, and caught his hand; he pressed it affectionately: "My friend! My brother! Hear me to the conclusion! Till then restrain your passion; and be at least convinced that if what I have related is criminal, the
suspect that some secret motive must lurk behind it; they express their thanks with restraint and caution, and fear to praise a kind action to its full extent, aware that on some future day a return may be required. Not so Antonia—she thought the world was composed only of those who resembled her; and that vice existed was to her still a secret. The monk had been of service to her; he said that he wished her well: she was grateful for his kindness, and thought that no terms were strong enough to