During the summer and fall, Special Collections added to our collection of Gothic fiction by purchasing many of the works of Matthew Gregory Lewis. Lewis is best remembered for his book, The Monk : A Romance.
Lewis was a politician and diplomat, who published this, his most famous gothic horror novel, when he was only 20. The Monk was widely criticized by Lewis’s contemporaries, including Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who wrote that the grotesque and horrific scenes were of a “low and vulgar taste.” Despite, or perhaps because of, the controversial nature of the novel, which included killing off innocent characters, sinful sexuality, and graphic violence, The Monk was a commercial success.
The influence of Ann Radcliffe’s gothic work, The Mysteries of Udolpho, can be found in Lewis’ use of terror and obsession with the supernatural. Lewis even decided to publish his name and new position as a Member of Parliament in this second edition; the first having been published anonymously. This is the full text of the novel; by the time the Fourth Edition appeared in 1798, it had undergone “considerable additions and alterations” by the author, who had been stung by the relentless criticism and allegations of immorality.
The Special Collections copy is bound in full mottled calf; six-panel spine with gilt ornaments and rules; black leather lettering pieces and circular volume numbering pieces; and edges decorated with gilt square rolls.
An important collection of early nineteenth century fantasy and horror poetry written and collected by Lewis is Tales of Wonder. Included are the first publication of four poems by Sir Walter Scott and eight by Robert Southey as well as poems by Lewis and others. At the time of its publication it was known as Tales of Plunder and opinion differs as to whether this was due to its the high quality of its production and consequently its high price, or due to the fact that it included some pieces which had previously appeared in the collections by Thomas Percy and other eighteenth-century compilers.
The Special Collections copy is bound in contemporary polished calf, border of double gilt fillets and a wide blind decorative roll; spines with 4 gilt decorated raised bands; panels elaborately tooled in gilt, black morocco title and volume labels; and marbled endpapers with matching marbled edges.
This work is Lewis’ account of his two journeys to Jamaica in 1815-1817, published posthumously. He inherited extensive property in Jamaica and wrote this journal during his visits there. On his second visit he contracted yellow fever which led to his death on the voyage home. His journal documents the interesting times of the state of the island after the abolition of the slave trade and before the freeing of the enslaved people.
The Special Collections copy is quarter-bound in patterned brown paper; plain paper over boards; printed title label on spine; and untrimmed.
Published 21 years after his death, this work gathered more of Lewis’ writings both published and unpublished.
Special Collections copy is half bound in red leather with mottled red paper sides; edges sprinkled; and marbled endpapers.