Authors: Charles Robert Maturin

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Irish novelist and playwright

Author Works

Long Fiction:

Fatal Revenge: Or, The Family of Montorio, 1807 (as Dennis Jasper Murphy)

The Wild Irish Boy, 1808 (as Murphy)

The Milesian Chief, 1812 (as Murphy)

Women: Or, Pour et Contre, 1818

Melmoth the Wanderer, 1820

The Albigenses, 1824

Drama:

Bertram: Or, The Castle of St. Aldobrand, pr., pb. 1816

Manuel, pb. 1817

Fredolfo, pb. 1819

Biography

Charles Robert Maturin (MAT-choo-ruhn) was the son of an official in the Irish post office and the grandson of Gabriel Maturin, who had been Jonathan Swift’s successor as dean of St. Patrick’s, Dublin. Maturin was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and afterward became curate of Loughrea and then of St. Peter’s, Dublin. In 1803 he married Henrietta Kingsbury.{$I[AN]9810000163}{$I[A]Maturin, Charles Robert}{$I[geo]IRELAND;Maturin, Charles Robert}{$I[tim]1780;Maturin, Charles Robert}{$I[geo]IRELAND;Murphy, Dennis Jasper}

Charles Robert Maturin

(Library of Congress)

His early novels, Fatal Revenge, The Wild Irish Boy, and The Milesian Chief, were published under the pseudonym Dennis Jasper Murphy. Extreme in their gothic style and dramatic character, the novels met with small success and much criticism–one critic called them “the false creation of a heat-oppressed brain”–but the young author was fortunate in winning the interest of Sir Walter Scott, who found in the novels something of the quality he sought in his own work. At the time Scott was not established in his writing career; his famous novels and poems were yet to be written. Consequently, Scott referred Maturin to George Gordon, Lord Byron, at that time the target of severe criticism from the Edinburgh reviewers but beginning to be prominent in literary circles. Through Lord Byron’s influence, Maturin’s tragedy, Bertram, was produced at the Drury Lane Theatre in 1816, with Edmund Kean playing the lead. A French version of the play was produced in Paris. The moderate success of Bertram was followed by the failure of two other tragedies, Manuel and Fredolfo.

Of his novels, Melmoth the Wanderer is his masterpiece and one of the most famous of the gothic romances popular in the early nineteenth century. It so impressed Honoré de Balzac that he wrote a sequel, Melmoth réconcilié (1835).

BibliographyBayer-Berenbaum, Linda. The Gothic Imagination: Expansion in Gothic Literature and Art. Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1982. A sympathetic study of gothicism, the essence of which is its confrontation with evil and feelings of doom. Contains chapters on literary gothicism and gothic art and its relationship to literature, as well as focused analyses of particular works of literature. As one of the central writers of gothicism, Maturin is given considerable attention, including an extensive analysis of Melmoth the Wanderer that examines the novel as a pattern of expulsions and expansions. The conclusion sees a correlation between the gothic urge for expansion and its style of intensification. Includes a bibliography and index.Johnson, Anthony. “Gaps and Gothic Sensibility: Walpole, Lewis, Mary Shelley, and Maturin.” In Edited by Candlelight: Sources and Developments in the Gothic Tradition, edited by Valeria Tinkler-Villani, Peter Davidson, and Jane Stevenson. Amsterdam: Editions Rodopi, 1995. A learned and clear discussion of how Maturin handles the gaps in reality that gothic fiction exploits.Kiely, Robert. The Romantic Novel in England. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1972. An important book on Romantic prose fiction, including Maturin’s gothic romances, which analyzes twelve Romantic novels. Melmoth the Wanderer is covered in detail; this novel is found to be more emotionally involved with Roman Catholicism and rebellion against authoritarian political systems than other gothic fiction, and is characterized as a journey into the darkness of the mind. Includes a set of notes and an index.Kramer, Dale. Charles Robert Maturin. New York: Twayne, 1973. Analyzes Maturin’s personality, describes the conditions of his life, and indicates his innovations in the gothic tradition. A chronology, notes and references, a selected annotated bibliography, and an index are included.Lougy, Robert E. Charles Robert Maturin. Lewisburg, Pa.: Bucknell University Press, 1975. An insightful review of Maturin’s life and writings, dividing his career into early, middle, and later years. Includes a chronology and a selected bibliography of primary and secondary works.Tinkler-Villani, Valeria, Peter Davidson, and Jane Stevenson, eds. Edited by Candlelight: Sources and Developments in the Gothic Tradition. Amsterdam: Editions Rodopi, 1995. See Anthony Johnson’s essay, “Gaps and Gothic Sensibility: Walpole, Lewis, Mary Shelley, and Maturin,” for a learned and clear discussion of how Maturin handles the gaps in reality that gothic fiction exploits.
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