Authors: Matthew Gregory Lewis

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

English playwright and novelist

Identity: Gay or bisexual

Author Works

Long Fiction:

The Monk: A Romance, 1796 (also known as Ambrosio: Or, The Monk)

Drama:

Village Virtues, pb. 1796

The Castle Spectre, pr. 1797

The Twins: Or, Is It He or His Brother?, pr. 1799, pb. 1962 (adaptation of Jean François Regnard’s Les Ménechmes: Ou, Les Jumeaux)

The East Indian, pr. 1799

Adelmorn the Outlaw, pr., pb. 1801

Alfonso, King of Castile, pb. 1801

The Captive, pr. 1803 (dramatic monologue)

The Harper's Daughter: Or, Love and Ambition, pr. 1803 (revision of The Minister)

Rugantino: Or, The Bravo of Venice, pr., pb. 1805 (two acts; revision of The Bravo of Venice)

Adelgitha: Or, The Fruits of a Single Error, pb. 1806

The Wood Daemon: Or, “The Clock Has Struck,” pr. 1807

Venoni: Or, the Novice of St. Mark's, pr. 1808, pb. 1809 (adaptation of Jacques Marie de Monvel's play Les Victimes cloîtrées)

Temper: Or, The Domestic Tyrant, pr. 1809 (adaptation of Sir Charles Sedley's translation, The Grumbler, of David Augustin Brueys and Jean Palaprat's play Le Grondeur)

Timour the Tartar, pr., pb. 1811

One O'Clock: Or, The Knight and the Wood Daemon, pr., pb. 1811 (music by Michael Kelly and Matthew Peter King; revision of The Wood Daemon)

Rich and Poor, pr., pb. 1812 (music by Charles Edward Horn; adaptation of The East Indian)

Poetry:

The Love of Gain: A Poem Initiated from Juvenal, 1799

Tales of Wonder, 1801 (with Sir Walter Scott, Robert Southey, and John Leyden)

Monody on the Death of Sir John Moore, 1809

Poems, 1812

The Isle of Devils: A Metrical Tale, 1827

Nonfiction:

Journal of a West India Proprietor, Kept During a Residence in the Island of Jamaica, 1834 (also known as Journal of a Residence Among the Negroes in the West Indies, 1861)

Translations:

The Minister, pb. 1797 (of Friedrich Schiller's play Kabale und Liebe)

Rolla: Or, The Peruvian Hero, pb. 1799 (of August von Kotzebue's play Die Spanier in Peru: Oder, Rollas Tod)

The Bravo of Venice: A Romance, 1805 (of J. H. D. Zschokke's novel Abällino der Grosse Bandit)

Feudal Tyrants: Or, The Counts of Carlsheim and Sargans: A Romance, Taken from the German, 1806 (4 volumes; of Christiane Benedicte Eugénie Naubert's novel Elisabeth, Erbin von Toggenburg: Oder, Geschichte derFrauen in der Schweiz)

Edited Texts:

Tales of Terror, 1799 (also known as An Apology for Tales of Terror; includes work by Sir Walter Scott and Robert Southey)

Tales of Wonder, 1801 (2 volumes; includes work by Scott, Southey, Robert Burns, Thomas Gray, John Dryden, and others)

Miscellaneous:

Romantic Tales, 1808 (4 volumes; includes poem, short stories, and ballads)

Twelve Ballads, the Words and Music by M. G. Lewis, 1808

The Life and Correspondence of M. G. Lewis, with Many Pieces Never Before Published, 1839 (2 volumes; Margaret Baron-Wilson, editor)

Biography

Matthew Gregory (“Monk”) Lewis was a gifted child caught between fighting parents. Born in London in 1775, the son of a prominent politician father and a beautiful, artistic mother, he tried to remain close; he was an emotional and financial buffer between them. He had two sisters and a brother as well as, according to some evidence, a half sibling born of an affair by his mother.{$I[AN]9810000134}{$I[A]Lewis, Matthew Gregory}{$I[geo]ENGLAND;Lewis, Matthew Gregory}{$I[geo]GAY OR BISEXUAL;Lewis, Matthew Gregory}{$I[tim]1775;Lewis, Matthew Gregory}

Matthew Gregory Lewis

(Library of Congress)

A strong imagination, along with his natural sensitivity and facility of language, led him to develop a gothic style of writing, and he is a significant figure both in the history of theater and in the development of the novel–even though he wrote only one of the latter. He was a popular man, known for his social ambition and his personal kindness. It is also now widely accepted that he was a homosexual.

While at Oxford University he wrote plays and poetry based on works long popular. During a visit to Weimar, Germany, that began in July of 1792 he became immersed in German Romanticism through the works of Ludwig Tieck, August von Kotzebue, and others, and he incorporated German folklore extensively into his works. He met Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Christophe Martin Wieland. Appointed an attaché to the British legation at The Hague in 1794, he spent most of his time while in the foreign service writing his notorious novel, The Monk (also known as Ambrosio: Or, the Monk).

Published in 1796, the book created a sensation because of its blend of nightmarish evil, sexual frankness, and fantastic supernaturalism. When he was elected to the House of Commons in the same year, discussion of Lewis as the author of The Monk required that a second edition be issued. It was primarily his brief comments–through Ambrosio, the title character–on the sexual explicitness of the Bible that caused him and his publisher to be indicted for using literature for sensational purposes. A third edition, with cuts he made in consultation with his sister, came out. He never wrote another novel. He was particularly known for his gothic melodramas. Several of the plays he wrote were quite successful on the stage, but none achieved the notoriety of his novel.

Lewis served in Parliament until 1802. In 1815 he went to Jamaica on business in connection with a plantation he had inherited from his father. He returned there in 1817 and died at sea while on his way back to England on May 14, 1818.

BibliographyBlakemore, Steven. “Matthew Lewis’s Black Mass: Sexual Religion Inversion in The Monk." Studies in the Novel 30, no. 4 (Winter, 1998): 521-539. This in-depth analysis of Lewis’s The Monk examines his views as they manifested themselves in this work. In doing so, he sheds light on Lewis’s dramatic works.Cox, Jeffrey N. Seven Gothic Dramas: 1789-1825. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1992. See part 6 of Cox’s introduction for a discussion of “Lewis and the Gothic Drama: Melodrama, Monodrama, and Tragedy.”Evans, Bertrand. “Lewis and Gothic Drama.” In Gothic Drama from Walpole to Shelley. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1947. Evans’s pioneering volume remains the definitive study of gothic drama in England and is among the best sources for gaining a sense of Lewis’s peculiar niche in British dramatic history.Howard, Jacqueline. Reading Gothic Fiction: A Bakhtinian Approach. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1994. See chapter 5, “Anticlerical Gothic: Matthew Lewis’s The Monk.” Recommended for advanced students with some grounding in literary theory.Irwin, Joseph James. M. G. “Monk” Lewis. Boston: Twayne, 1976. Presents the life and writings of Lewis, with a concluding overview of his achievements. Concentrates on The Monk, which brought Lewis fame and notoriety and set the standard for tales of terror. Also surveys his success and failure in the theater. Includes notes, an annotated bibliography, and an index.Macdonald, David Lorne. Monk Lewis: A Critical Biography. Buffalo, N.Y.: University of Toronto Press, 2000. A biography of Lewis, covering his life and works. Bibliography and index.Peck, Louis F. A Life of Matthew G. Lewis. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1961. This first modern full-length biography of Lewis uses materials not available to earlier biographers, such as diaries, memoirs, and the correspondence of Lewis’s contemporaries. Contains a collection of selected letters, a list of his principal works, a bibliography of works cited, notes, and an index.Reno, Robert Princeton. The Gothic Visions of Ann Radcliffe and Matthew G. Lewis. New York: Arno Press, 1980. Although the focus of this study is the gothic works of Lewis and Ann Radcliffe, the book provides valuable information on Lewis’s life and dramatic works.Sandiford, Keith Albert. The Cultural Politics of Sugar: Caribbean Slavery and Narratives of Colonialism. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000. Contains a discussion of Lewis’s Journal of a West India Proprietor, Kept During a Residence in the Island of Jamaica. Bibliography and index.
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