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357Lewis the Monk

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  • Joe Christopher
    Jul 11, 1999
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      _The Monk_ (1797), by Matthew Gregory Lewis, is one of the marvellous books
      of the supernatural Gothic of its period, particularly if you can get a
      reprint of its first edition, before Lewis (for legal reasons) cut some of
      the sensationalism. One critic refers to its "scenes of lust and torture
      and rotting corpses." A reader has to endure its anti-Catholicism (the monk
      is a villain), typical of the Gothic novels of the time; but the novel shows
      that the horror novels of our period (Stephen King, Anne Rice, et al.), as
      suggested by King's comment in a non-fiction book that he always included a
      gross-out scene in each novel, are part of a long, sensational tradition.
      Lewis's book also shows that these novels are often crudely written. But it
      sold lots of copies, and Lewis was thereafter nicknamed "Monk" Lewis.