Lewis, Matthew Gregory

Lewis, Matthew Gregory
born July 9, 1775, London, Eng.
died May 4, 1818, at sea

English novelist and dramatist.

The sensational success of his gothic novel The Monk (1796) earned him the nickname "Monk" Lewis. Its horror, violence, and eroticism brought it a wide readership, though it was universally condemned. Lewis also wrote a popular music drama in the same vein, The Castle Spectre (1798). After inheriting a large fortune in Jamaica in 1812, he sailed twice to the island to inquire about the treatment of slaves on his estates there, and he died at sea. Journal of a West India Proprietor (1834) attests to his humane and liberal attitudes.

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▪ English writer
byname  Monk Lewis  
born July 9, 1775, London, Eng.
died May 14, 1818, at sea
 English novelist and dramatist who became famous overnight after the sensational success of his Gothic novel The Monk (1796). Thereafter he was known as “Monk” Lewis.

      Educated at Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford, Lewis served as attaché to the British embassy at The Hague and was a member of Parliament from 1796 to 1802. In 1812 he inherited a fortune and large properties in Jamaica. Sincerely interested in the conditions of his 500 slaves, he made two West Indian voyages, contracted yellow fever on his return from the second, and died at sea.

      The Monk, written when Lewis was 19, was influenced by the leading Gothic (Gothic novel) novelist, Ann Radcliffe, and also by stronger contemporary German Gothic literature. Its emphasis on horror rather than romance, its violence, and its eroticism made it avidly read, though universally condemned. Its success was followed by a popular musical drama in the same vein, The Castle Spectre (performed 1797; published 1798), which was produced by the dramatist Richard Brinsley Sheridan. Lewis' other lasting work was a triumph of a very different nature, the Journal of a West India Proprietor (published 1834), attesting to his humane and liberal attitudes.

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Universalium. 2010.

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