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and the most cat o' mountain aspect; tear-stained
sentimentalists, the grimmest man-eaters, ghosts and
the like suspicious characters will be found in

Throughout his life he seems to have made a hobby of the
literature that arouses violent emotion and mental excitement, or
lacerates the nerves, or shocks and startles. The lifelike and
the natural are not powerful enough for his taste, though some of
his _Romantic Tales_(1808), such as _My Uncle's Garret Window_,
are uncommonly tame. Like the painter of a hoarding who must at
all costs arrest attention, he magnifies, exaggerates and
distorts. Once when rebuked for introducing black guards into a
country where they did not exist, he is said to have declared
that he would have made them sky-blue if he thought they would
produce any more effect.[43] Referring to _The Monk_, he
confesses: "Unluckily, in working it up, I thought that the
stronger my colours, the more effect would my picture

One of his early attempts at fiction was a romance which he later
converted into his popular drama, _The Castle Spectre_. This play
was staged in 1798, and was reconverted by Miss Sarah Wilkinson
in 1820 into a romance. Lewis spreads his banquet with a lavish
hand, and crudities and absurdities abound, but he has a knack of
choosing situations well adapted for stage effect. The play,
aptly described by Coleridge as a "peccant thing of Noise, Froth
and Impermanence,"[45] would offer a happy hunting ground to
those who delight in the pursuit of "parallel passages." At the
age of twenty, during his residence at the Hague as _attaché_ to
the British embassy, in the summer of 1794, he composed in ten
weeks, his notorious romance, _The Monk_. On its publication in
1795 it was attacked on the grounds of profanity and indecency.

_The Monk_, despite its cleverness, is essentially immature, yet
it is not a childish work. It is much less youthful, for
instance, than Shelley's _Zastrozzi_ and _St. Irvyne_. The
inflamed imagination, the violent exaggeration of emotion and of
character, the jeering cynicism and lack of tolerance, the
incoherent formlessness, are all indications of adolescence. In
_The Monk_ there are two distinct stories, loosely related. The
story of Raymond and Agnes, into which the legends of the
bleeding nun and Wandering Jew are woven with considerable skill,
was published more than once as a detached and separate work. It
is concerned with the fate of two unhappy lovers, who are parted
by the tyranny of their parents and of the church, and who endure
manifold agonies. The physical torture of Agnes is described in
revolting detail, for Lewis has no scruple in carrying the ugly
far beyond the limits within which it is artistic. The happy
ending of their harrowing story is incredible. By making
Ambrosio, on the verge of his hideous crimes, harshly condemn
Agnes for a sin of the same nature as that which he is about to
commit, Lewis forges a link between the two stories. But the
connection is superficial, and the novel suffers through the
distraction of our interest. In the story of Ambrosio, Antonia
plays no part in her own downfall. She is as helpless as a
plaster statue demolished by an earthquake. The figure of Matilda
has more vitality, though Lewis changes his mind about her
character during the course of the book, and fails to make her
early history consistent with the ending of his story. She is
certainly not in league with the devil, when, in a passionate
soliloquy, she cries to Ambrosio, whom she believes to be asleep:
"The time will come when you will be convinced that my passion is
pure and disinterested. Then you will pity me and feel the whole
weight of my sorrows." But when the devil appears, he declares to

"I saw that you were virtuous from vanity, not
principle, and I seized the fit moment for your
seduction. I observed your blind idolatry of the
Madonna's picture. I bade a subordinate but crafty
spirit assume a similar form, and you eagerly yielded
to the blandishments of Matilda."

The discrepancy is obvious, but this blemish is immaterial, for
the whole story is unnatural. The deterioration in Ambrosio's
character - though Lewis uses all his energy in striving to make
it appear probable by discussing the effect of environment - is
too swift.

Lewis is at his best when he lets his youthful, high spirits have
full play. His boyish exaggeration makes Leonella, Antonia's
aunt, seem like a pantomime character, who has inadvertently
stepped into a melodrama, but the caricature is amusing by its
very crudity. She writes in red ink to express "the blushes of
her cheek," when she sends a message of encouragement to the
Conde d'Ossori. This and other puerile jests are more tolerable
than Lewis's attempts to depict passion or describe character.
Bold, flaunting splashes of colour, strongly marked, passionate
faces, exaggerated gestures start from every page, and his style
is as extravagant as his imagery. Sometimes he uses a short,
staccato sentence to enforce his point, but more often we are
engulfed in a swirling welter of words. He delights in the
declamatory language of the stage, and all his characters speak
as if they were behind the footlights, shouting to the gallery.

A cold-blooded reviewer, in whom the detective instinct was
strong, indicated the sources of _The Monk_ so mercilessly, that
Lewis appears in his critique[46] rather as the perpetrator of a
series of ingenious thefts than as the creator of a novel:

"The outline of the Monk Ambrosio's story was suggested
by that of the Santon Barissa [Barsisa] in the
_Guardian_:[47] the form of temptation is borrowed from
_The Devil in Love_ of Canzotte [Cazotte], and the
catastrophe is taken from _The Sorcerer_. The
adventures of Raymond and Agnes are less obviously
imitations, yet the forest scene near Strasburg brings
to mind an incident in Smollett's _Count Fathom_; the
bleeding nun is described by the author as a popular
tale of the Germans,[48] and the convent prison
resembles the inflictions of Mrs. Radcliffe."

The industrious reviewer overlooks the legend of the Wandering
Jew, which might have been added to the list of Lewis's
"borrowings." It must be admitted that Lewis transforms, or at
least remodels, what he borrows. Addison's story relates how a
sage of reputed sanctity seduces and slays a maiden brought to
him for cure, and later sells his soul. Lewis abandons the
Oriental setting, converts the santon into a monk and embroiders
the story according to his fancy. Scott alludes to a Scottish
version of what is evidently a widespread legend.[49] The
resemblance of the catastrophe - presumably the appearance of
Satan in the form of Lucifer - to the scene in Mickle's
_Sorcerer_, which was published among Lewis's _Tales of Wonder_
(1801), is vague enough to be accidental. There are blue flames
and sorcery, and an apparition in both, but that is all the two
scenes have in common. The tyrannical abbess may be a heritage
from _The Romance of the Forest_, but, if so she is exaggerated
almost beyond recognition.

In fashioning as the villain of her latest novel, _The Italian_,
a monk, whose birth is wrapt in obscurity, Mrs. Radcliffe may
have been influenced by Lewis's _Monk_ which had appeared two
years before. Both Schedoni and Ambrosio are reputed saints, both
are plunged into the blackest guilt, and both are victims of the
Inquisition. Mrs. Radcliffe, it is true, recoils from introducing
the enemy of mankind, but, before the secrets are finally
revealed, we almost suspect Schedoni of having dabbled in the
Black Arts, and his actual crime falls short of our expectations.
The "explained supernatural" plays a less prominent part in _The
Italian_ than in the previous novels, and Mrs. Radcliffe relies
for her effect rather on sheer terror. The dramatic scene where
Schedoni stealthily approaches the sleeping Ellena at midnight
recalls the more highly coloured, but less impressive scene in
Antonia's bedchamber. The fate of Bianchi, Ellena's aunt, is
strangely reminiscent of that of Elvira, Antonia's mother. The
convent scenes and the overbearing abbess had been introduced
into Mrs. Radcliffe's earlier novels; but in _The Italian_, the
anti-Roman feeling is more strongly emphasised than usual. This
may or may not have been due to the influence of Lewis. There is
no direct evidence that Mrs. Radcliffe had read _The Monk_, but
the book was so notorious that a fellow novelist would be almost
certain to explore its pages. Hoffmann's romance, _Elixir des
Teufels_ (1816), is manifestly written under its inspiration.
Coincidence could not account for the remarkable resemblances to
incidents in the story of Ambrosio.

The far-famed collection of _Tales of Terror_ appeared in 1799,
_The Tales of Wonder_ in 1801. The rest of Lewis's work consists
mainly of translations and adaptations from the German. He
revelled in the horrific school of melodrama. He delighted in the
kind of German romance parodied by Meredith in _Farina_, where
Aunt Lisbeth tells Margarita of spectres, smelling of murder and
the charnel-breath of midnight, who "uttered noises that wintered
the blood and revealed sights that stiffened hair three feet
long; ay, and kept it stiff." _The Bravo of Venice_ (1805) is a
translation of Zschokke's _Abellino, der Grosse Bandit_, but
Lewis invented a superfluous character, Monaldeschi, Rosabella's
destined bridegroom, apparently with the object that Abellino
might slay him early in the story - and added a concluding
chapter. At the outset of the story, Rosalvo, a man after Lewis's
own heart, declares:

"To astonish is my destiny: Rosalvo knows no medium: Rosalvo can
never act like common men," and thereupon proceeds to prove by
his extraordinary actions that this is no idle vaunt. He lives a
double life: in the guise of Abellino, he joins the banditti, and
by inexplicable methods rids Venice of her enemies; in the guise
of a noble Florentine, Flodoardo, he woos the Doge's daughter,
Rosabella. The climax of the story is reached when Flodoardo,
under oath to deliver up the bandit Abellino, appears before the
Doge at the appointed hour and reveals his double identity. He is
hailed as the saviour of Hungary, and wins Rosabella as his
bride. In the second edition of _The Bravo of Venice_, a romance
in four volumes by M. G. Lewis, _Legends of the Nunnery_, is
announced as in the press. There seems to be no record of it
elsewhere. _Feudal Tyrants_ (1806), a long romance from the
German, connected with the story of William Tell, consists of a
series of memoirs loosely strung together, in which the most
alarming episode is the apparition of the pale spectre of an aged
monk. In _Blanche and Osbright, or Mistrust_ (1808),[50] which is
not avowedly a translation, Lewis depicts an even more revolting
portrait than that of Abellino in his bravo's disguise. He adds
detail after detail without considering the final effect on the

"Every muscle in his gigantic form seemed convulsed by
some horrible sensation; the deepest gloom darkened
every feature; the wind from the unclosed window
agitated his raven locks, and every hair appeared to
writhe itself. His eyeballs glared, his teeth
chattered, his lips trembled; and yet a smile of
satisfied vengeance played horribly around them. His
complexion seemed suddenly to be changed to the dark
tincture of an African; the expression of his
countenance was dreadful, was diabolical. Magdalena, as
she gazed upon his face, thought that she gazed upon a

Here, to quote the Lady Hysterica Belamour, we have surely the
"horrid, horrible, horridest horror." But in _Königsmark the
Robber, or The Terror of Bohemia_ (1818), Lewis's caste includes
an enormous yellow-eyed spider, a wolf who changes into a peasant
and disappears amid a cloud of sulphur, and a ghost who sheds
three ominous drops of boiling blood. It was probably such
stories as this that Peacock had in mind when he declared,
through Mr. Flosky, that the devil had become "too base and
popular" for the surfeited appetite of readers of fiction. Yet,
as Carlyle once exclaimed of the German terror-drama, as
exemplified in Kotzebue, Grillparzer and Klingemann, whose
stock-in-trade is similar to that of Lewis: "If any man wish to
amuse himself irrationally, here is the ware for his money."[51]
Byron, who had himself attempted in _Oscar and Alva_ (_Hours of
Idleness_, 1807) a ballad in the manner of Lewis, describes with
irony the triumphs of terror:

"Oh! wonderworking Lewis! Monk or Bard,
Who fain would make Parnassus a churchyard!
Lo! wreaths of yew, not laurel, bind thy brow,
Thy muse a sprite, Apollo's sexton thou;
Whether on ancient tombs thou tak'st thy stand,
By gibbering spectres hailed, thy kindred band;
Or tracest chaste descriptions on thy page
To please the females of our modest age;
All hail, M.P., from whose infernal brain
Thin-sheeted phantoms glide, a grisly train;
At whose command 'grim women' throng in crowds
And kings of fire, of water, and of clouds
With small grey men - wild yagers and what not,
To crown with honour thee and Walter Scott;
Again, all hail! if tales like thine may please,
St. Luke alone can vanquish the disease.
Even Satan's self with thee might dread to dwell,
And in thy skull discern a deeper hell!"[52]

Scott's delightfully discursive review of _The Fatal Revenge or
The Family of Montorio_ (1810), not only forms a fitting
introduction to the romances of Maturin, but presents a lively
sketch of the fashionable reading of the day. It has been
insinuated that the _Quarterly Review_ was too heavy and serious,
that it contained, to quote Scott's own words, "none of those
light and airy articles which a young lady might read while her
hair was papering." To redeem the reputation of the journal,
Scott gallantly undertook to review some of the "flitting and
evanescent productions of the times." After a laborious
inspection of the contents of a hamper full of novels, he arrived
at the painful conclusion that "spirits and patience may be as
completely exhausted in perusing trifles as in following
algebraical calculations." He condemns the authors of the Gothic
romance, not for their extravagance, a venial offence, but for
their monotony, a deadly sin.

"We strolled through a variety of castles, each of
which was regularly called Il Castello; met with as
many captains of condottieri, heard various
ejaculations of Santa Maria and Diabolo; read by a
decaying lamp and in a tapestried chamber dozens of
legends as stupid as the main history; examined such
suites of deserted apartments as might set up a
reasonable barrack, and saw as many glimmering lights
as would make a respectable illumination." It was no
easy task to bore Sir Walter Scott, and an excursion
into the byeways of early nineteenth century fiction
proves abundantly the justice of his satire. Such
novelists as Miss Sarah Wilkinson or Mrs. Eliza
Parsons, whose works were greedily devoured by
circulating library readers a hundred years ago,
deliberately concocted an unappetising gallimaufry of
earlier stories and practised the harmless deception of
serving their insipid dishes under new and imposing
names. A writer in the _Annual Review_, so early as
1802, complains in criticising _Tales of Superstition
and Chivalry_:

"It is not one of the least objections against these
fashionable fictions that the imagery of them is
essentially monstrous. Hollow winds, clay-cold hands,
clanking chains and clicking clocks, with a few similar
etcetera are continually tormenting us."

Tales of terror were often issued in the form of sixpenny
chapbooks, enlivened by woodcuts daubed in yellow, blue, red and
green. Embellished with these aids to the imagination, they were
sold in thousands. To the readers of a century ago, a "blue book"
meant, as Medwin explains in his life of Shelley, not a pamphlet
filled with statistics, but "a sixpenny shocker."[53] The
notorious Minerva Press catered for wealthier patrons, and, it is
said, sold two thousand copies of Mrs. Bennett's _Beggar Girl and
her Benefactors_ on the day of publication, at thirty-six
shillings for the seven volumes. Samuel Rogers recalled Lane, the
head of the firm, riding in a carriage and pair with two footmen,
wearing gold cockades.[54] Scott was careful not to disclose the
names of the novelists he derided, but his hamper probably
contained a selection of Mrs. Parsons' sixty works, and perhaps
two of Miss Wilkinson's, with their alluring titles, _The Priory
of St. Clair, or The Spectre of the Murdered Nun_; _The Convent
of the Grey Penitents, or The Apostate Nun_. Perchance, he found
there Mrs. Henrietta Rouvière's romance, (published in the same
year as _Montorio_,) _A Peep at our Ancestors_ (1807), describing
the reign of King Stephen. Mrs. Rouvière, in her preface,

"flatters herself that, aided by records and documents,
she may have succeeded in a correct though faint sketch
of the times she treats, and in affording, if through a
dim yet not distorted nor discoloured glass, A Peep at
our Ancestors";

but her story is entirely devoid of the colour with which Mrs.
Radcliffe, her model, contrived to decorate the past. It is,
moreover, written in a style so opaque that it obscures her
images from view as effectually as a piece of ground glass. To
describe the approach of twilight - an hour beloved by writers of
romance - she attempts a turgid paraphrase of Gray's Elegy:

"The grey shades of an autumnal evening gradually stole
over the horizon, progressively throwing a duskier hue
on the surrounding objects till glimmering confusion
encompassing the earth shut from the accustomed eye the
well-known view, leaving conjecture to mark its

The adventures of Adelaide and her lover, Walter of Gloucester,
are so insufferably tedious that Scott doubtless decided to
"leave to conjecture" their interminable vicissitudes. The names
of other novels, whose pages he may impatiently have scanned, may
be garnered by those who will, from such works as _Living
Authors_ (1817), or from the four volumes of Watts' elaborate
compilation, the _Bibliotheca Britannica_ (1824). The titles are,
indeed, lighter and more entertaining reading than the books
themselves. Anyone might reasonably expect to read _Midnight
Horrors, or The Bandit's Daughter_, as Henry Tilney vows he read
_The Mysteries of Udolpho_, with "hair on end all the time"; but
the actual story, notwithstanding a wandering ball of fire, that
acts as guide through the labyrinths of a Gothic castle, is
conducive of sleep rather than shudders. The notoriety of Lewis's
monk may be estimated by the procession of monks who followed in
his train. There were, to select a few names at random, _The New
Monk_, by one R.S., Esq.; _The Monk of Madrid_, by George Moore
(1802); _The Bloody Monk of Udolpho_, by T.J. Horsley Curties;
_Manfroni, the One-handed Monk_, whose history was borrowed,
together with those of Abellino, the terrific bravo, and Rinaldo
Rinaldini,[55] by "J.J." from Miss Flinders' library;[56] and
lastly, as a counter-picture, a monk without a scowl, _The
Benevolent Monk_, by Theodore Melville (1807). The nuns,
including "Rosa Matilda's" _Nun of St. Omer's_, Miss Sophia
Francis's _Nun of Misericordia_ (1807) and Miss Wilkinson's
_Apostate Nun_, would have sufficed to people a convent. Perhaps
_The Convent of the Grey Penitents_ would have been a suitable
abode for them; but most of them were, to quote Crabbe, "girls no
nunnery can tame." Lewis's Venetian bravo was boldly transported
to other climes. We find him in Scotland in _The Mysterious
Bravo_, or _The Shrine of St. Alstice, A Caledonian Legend_, and
in Austria in _The Bravo of Bohemia or The Black Forest_. No
country is safe from the raids of banditti. _The Caledonian
Banditti_ or _The Banditti of the Forest_, or _The Bandit of
Florence_ - all very much alike in their manners and morals - make
the heroine's journey a perilous enterprise. The romances of Mrs.
Radcliffe were rifled unscrupulously by the snappers-up of
unconsidered trifles, and many of the titles are variations on
hers. In emulation of _The Romance of the Forest_ we find George
Walker's _Romance of the Cavern_ (1792) and Miss Eleanor Sleath's
_Mysteries of the Forest_. Novelists appreciated the magnetic
charm of the word "mystery" on a title-page, and after _The
Mysteries of Udolpho_ we find such seductive names as _Mysterious
Warnings_ and _Mysterious Visits_, by Mrs. Parsons; _Horrid
Mysteries_, translated from the German of the Marquis von Grosse,
by R. Will (1796); _The Mystery of the Black Tower_ and _The
Mystic Sepulchre_, by John Palmer, a schoolmaster of Bath; _The
Mysterious Wanderer_ (1807), by Miss Sophia Reeve; _The
Mysterious Hand or Subterranean Horrors_ (1811), by A.J.
Randolph; and _The Mysterious Freebooter_ (1805), by Francis
Lathom. Castles and abbeys were so persistently haunted that Mrs.
Rachel Hunter, a severely moral writer, advertises one of her
stories as _Letitia: A Castle Without a Spectre_. Mystery slips,
almost unawares, into the domestic story. There are, for
instance, vague hints of it in Charlotte Smith's _Old Manor
House_ (1793). The author of _The Ghost_ and of _More Ghosts_
adopts the pleasing pseudonym of Felix Phantom. The gloom of
night broods over many of the stories, for we know:

"affairs that walk,
As they say spirits do, at midnight, have
In them a wilder nature than the business
That seeks despatch by day,"

and we are confronted with titles like _Midnight Weddings_, by
Mrs. Meeke, one of Macaulay's favourite "bad-novel writers," _The
Midnight Bell_, awakening memories of Duncan's murder, by George
Walker, or _The Nocturnal Minstrel_ (1809), by Miss Sleath. These
"dismal treatises" abound in reminiscences of Mrs. Radcliffe and
of "Monk" Lewis, and many of them hark back as far as _The Castle
of Otranto_ for some of their situations. The novels of Miss
Wilkinson may perhaps serve as well as those of any of her
contemporaries to show that Scott was not unduly harsh in his
condemnation of the romances fashionable in the first decade of
the nineteenth century, when "tales of terror jostle on the
road."[57] The sleeping potion, a boon to those who weave the
intricate pattern of a Gothic romance, is one of Miss Wilkinson's
favourite devices, and is employed in at least three of her
stories. In _The Chateau de Montville_ (1803) it is administered
to the amiable Louisa to aid Augustine in his sinister designs,
but she ultimately escapes, and is wedded by Octavius, who has
previously been borne off by a party of pirates. He "finds the
past unfortunate vicissitudes of his life amply recompensed by
her love." In _The Convent of the Grey Penitents_, Rosalthe
happily avoids the opiate, as she overhears the plans of her
unscrupulous husband, who, it seems, has "an unquenchable thirst
of avarice," and desires to win a wealthier bride. She flees to a
"cottage ornée" on Finchley Common, the home, it may be
remembered, of Thackeray's Washerwoman; and the thrills we expect
from a novel of terror are reserved for the second volume, and
arise out of the adventures of the next generation. After
Rosalthe's death, spectres, blue flames, corpses, thunderstorms
and hairbreadth escapes are set forth in generous profusion.

In _The Priory of St. Clair_ (1811), Julietta, who has been
forced into a convent against her will, like so many other
heroines, is drugged and conveyed as a corpse to the Count de
Valvé's Gothic castle. She comes to life only to be slain before
the high altar, and revenges herself after death by haunting the
count regularly every night. _The Fugitive Countess or Convent of
St. Ursula_ (1807) contains three spicy ingredients - a mock
burial, a concealed wife and a mouldering manuscript. The social
status of Miss Wilkinson's characters is invariably lofty, for no
self-respecting ghost ever troubles the middle classes; and her
manner is as ambitious as her matter. Her personages, in _Lopez
and Aranthe_, behave and talk thus:

"Heavenly powers!" exclaimed Aranthe, "it is Dorimont, or else my
eyes deceive me!" Overpowered with surprise and almost

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