Monk Lewis: A Critical Biography


311 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-4749-1
DDC 828'.709




Olga Costopoulos-Almon teaches English at the University of Alberta.


Matthew “Monk” Lewis was a versatile man of letters but he survives
in literary history on the basis of one immensely influential and still
readable novel, The Monk (1796), a work that helped create the Gothic
craze in literature and also contributed to the birth of Romanticism in
Britain. This is the first full study of Lewis since Louis F. Peck’s A
Life of Matthew G. Lewis (1961), and such a work was long overdue. Much
more manuscript material is now available and Macdonald makes copious
use of it. He considers the previously taboo subject of Lewis’s
sexuality (like homosexual or homosocial) in a judicious way. He also
pays careful attention to the literary and political milieu. Lewis was a
“liberal slaveowner” and a rather inactive one-term member of
Parliament, but he was aware of political issues and leaned toward the
abolition of slavery.

This biography manages to be highly readable for all its extensive
scholarly apparatus. Monk is an interesting subject and Macdonald’s
writing style is lucid. All scholars of 18th-century and Romantic
literature (not to mention those concerned with Gothic novels) should
find Monk Lewis: A Critical Biography indispensable.


Macdonald, D.L., “Monk Lewis: A Critical Biography,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 25, 2024,