This essay situates Lewis‘s ‘Anaconda’ (1808) in relation to an early imperial Gothic tradition which represents colonial spaces as threats to English character. Lewis draws on orientalist discourse to describe the orient not only as a source of wealth but also as the site of a potentially fatal trauma for English subjects; Ireland is similarly represented but key differences suggest a lesser threat to the English psyche (and so the imperial project). Sensibility, as the foundation of civility that bears with it the risk of emotional susceptibility, emerges in ‘Anaconda’ as a register of national superiority, imperial vulnerability, and differences between colonies.
Brewer argues that the feudal society presented in Matthew Lewis‘s The Monk (1796) is destabilised by reversals in gender roles. The disruptive power of Matilda, the protagonists chief tempter, derives from her unsettling ability to take on both masculine and feminine identities in her relationship with Ambrosio and even to become androgynous. Although Matilda‘s transgendering does not seriously undermine the prevailing social hierarchies, it does expose the arbitrary and contingent nature of gender identity. And while Matilda‘s repudiation of established value systems and her affirmation of the joys of sensual gratification are unlikely to become public policy in a partriarchal society, her critiques, both implicit and explicit, of the restrictions of prescribed gender roles and the mental limitations caused by faulty and incomplete educations cannot be easily dismissed.
In this article, I propose that the key to the underlying dissidence of M. G. Lewis‘s The
Monk lies in the novel s depiction of consent, a fundamental principle in late
eighteenth-century British discourse. For British thinkers of all stripes, a government
and populace that valued consent made Britain the greatest nation in the world; The Monk
disrupts this worldview by portraying consent, whether express or tacit, political or
sexual, as incoherent. By depicting consent as illegible and pervasively undermining the
distinction between consent and coercion, The Monk effectually threatens a value that
rested at the core of late eighteenth-century British identity.
Ann Radcliffe’s The Italian and Charlotte Dacre’s Zofloya: Or, The Moor
Matthew Lewis’s The Monk ( 1796 ) begins with an
apparent non sequitur. As the crowds gather around the Church of
Capuchins, where the renowned Ambrosio will shortly speak, the narrator
cautions against the naïve belief that the crowds are motivated by
piety: ‘where superstition reigns with such despotic sway as in Madrid,
to seek for true devotion’ would be
Lewis Minkin and the party–unions link
‘For over 80 years’, Minkin declares in his magisterial survey The Contentious
Alliance (1991: xii), the Labour Party–trade unions link ‘has shaped the structure
and, in various ways, the character of the British Left’. His core proposition can be
encapsulated simply: trade union ‘restraint has been the central characteristic’ of
the link (1991: 26). This constitutes a frontal challenge to received wisdom – endlessly repeated, recycled and amplified by Britain’s media
Transvaluation, Realization, and Literalization of Clarissa in The Monk
D. L. Macdonald
Lorenzo‘s dream, at the beginning of Lewis‘s The Monk (1796), is closely based on Lovelace‘s dream, near the end of Richardson‘s Clarissa (1747-48); the realization of Lorenzo‘s dream, in the rape and murder of Antonia at the end of Lewis‘s novel, is based closely on Clarissa‘s dream, near the beginning of Richardson‘s. Lewis consistently (in the terms Gérard Genette uses in Palimpsests) devalues Lovelace‘s dream and revalues Clarissa‘s, achieving a transvaluation of Richardson‘s novel. He also literalizes many of Richardson‘s metaphors, a process which, as Tzvetan Todorov argues in The Fantastic, is essential to the fantastic, and which as Margaret Homans argues in Bearing the Word, enables the articulation of womens experiences. As a result, The Monk, despite its conflicted sexual politics, does contribute to the feminization of fiction that was part of the historical project of the Gothic.
This article considers the allusions to classical statuary in Matthew G. Lewis’s
novel The Monk (1796) and his Journal of a West India
Proprietor Kept during a Residence in the Island of Jamaica (1816).
Drawing on John Barrell’s account of civic discourse on the fine arts after
Shaftesbury, I explain and contextualise the centrality of the Venus de’ Medici
statue to Lewis’s representations of male desire and male virtue. Images of
Venus, both in The Monk and in the Journal,
function as tests of civic virtue and articulate the conditions of Lewis’s
entitlement to hold and govern slaves in Jamaica. Lewis’s colonial inheritance
underpins the narratives of desire in The Monk, and inflects
his authorship more generally.
Conspiracy and Narrative Masquerade in Schiller, Zschokke, Lewis and Hoffmann
This essay brings together the popularity of Venice in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century as a setting for horror, terror and fantasy, and the narrative conventions of the Gothic. Focusing on Schiller, Zschokke, Lewis and Hoffmann, the article studies the representation of Venice as a Gothic labyrinth, in the context of the city‘s changing reputation as a political structure. ‘Venice’ is treated as a common set of signs which overlap between the literary field and the field of cultural politics: ‘plots’ are both political conspiracies and (carnivalised: doubled and disguised) narrative forms. All is given over to the dynamics of masquerade. The topography of the Venetian Republic is itself a political text, which carnivalises the ‘separation of powers’, while the texts of the Gothic writers are narrative masquerades which choose popular hybrid forms of comedy, folktale and horror, rather than Tragedy or Realism, to respond to Venice‘s tension between law and anarchy and the conflicting pressures of Enlightenment, Republicanism and Empire.
The Castle Spectre was one of the most popular and successful theatrical events of its day, and critics have often tried to explain its success, usually appealing to the ‘spectacular’ appearance of the spectre herself. But critics have not explored how the spectre - certainly no novelty on the stage - caused such a stir among contemporary audiences. By examining a selection of reviews, comments by contemporary literary figures, the text of the play, and Lewis‘s own comments concerning his spectacle, this paper demonstrates how Lewis employs strategies of delay and misdirection to make an otherwise nonviolent and unspectacular play appear excessively violent and spectacular even by 1790s Gothic standards.
Unlike Romantic authorship, the Gothic author has long been identified with unoriginality. A foundational moment in this association can be found in the reception of the original Gothic plagiarist, Matthew Lewis. Critics not only condemned Lewis for apparently usurping other authors property in The Castle Spectre but also did so by casting him as his own usurping villain. This parallel between Gothic conventions and critical language suggests that the Gothic might have played a crucial role in the history of our concepts of intellectual property, and particularly in the development of the now-familiar figure of the criminalized, and vilified, plagiarist.