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Matthew Gregory Lewis

Lewis, Matthew Gregory, 1775–1818, English author, b. London. In addition to his writing he pursued a diplomatic career and served for a time in Parliament. He was often called "Monk" Lewis from the title of his extravagant Gothic romance The Monk (1796), the writing of which was influenced by the tales of Ann Radcliffe. The novel concerns a saintly Capuchin monk who, led into a life of depravity by a fiend-inspired woman, subsequently becomes a rapist and murderer. Charges of immorality and irreligion brought against Lewis by his critics caused a less offensive second edition to be published. Of his melodramatic plays the most famous is The Castle Spectre (1797). His ballads, notably Alonzo the Brave and the Fair Imogene, influenced Sir Walter Scott's early poetry.

See biography by L. F. Peck (1961); studies by M. Summers (1938, repr. 1964) and R. P. Reno (1980).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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See more Encyclopedia articles on: English Literature, 1500 to 1799: Biographies


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