Melmoth the Wanderer

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Overview

Written by an eccentric Anglican curate in Dublin, Melmoth the Wanderer (1820) brought the Gothic novel to a new pitch of claustrophobic intensity, surpassing the quiet tremors of Ann Radcliffe's romances in its reckless accumulation of cruelties and blasphemies. Its tormented villain, a Faustian transgressor desperately seeking a victim to release him from his fatal bargain with the devil, was regarded by Balzac as one of the great outcasts of modern literature. Intended partly as an attack on Roman Catholicism,...
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Melmoth the Wanderer

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Overview

Written by an eccentric Anglican curate in Dublin, Melmoth the Wanderer (1820) brought the Gothic novel to a new pitch of claustrophobic intensity, surpassing the quiet tremors of Ann Radcliffe's romances in its reckless accumulation of cruelties and blasphemies. Its tormented villain, a Faustian transgressor desperately seeking a victim to release him from his fatal bargain with the devil, was regarded by Balzac as one of the great outcasts of modern literature. Intended partly as an attack on Roman Catholicism, Maturin's intriguing novel teeters giddily over abysses of sacrilege and raving paranoia, in moments of delirious panic worthy of Godwin or Poe.

Written by an eccentric Anglican curate, Melmoth the Wanderer brought the terrors of the Gothic novel to a new pitch of claustrophibic intensity.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780192835925
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 9/28/1998
  • Series: Oxford World's Classics Series
  • Pages: 592
  • Product dimensions: 7.60 (w) x 5.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Charles Robert Maturin was born in Dublin in 1782, and educated at Trinity College. He took orders and was a curate in Loughrea and Dublin, and also, for a time, worked as a teacher until literary success enabled him to give this up. His first novel, The Fatal Revenge (1807), was published under a pseudonym to protect his reputation as a clergyman. A series of other novels followed, and his tragedy Bertram (1816) met with great success when it was produced by Edmund Kean at Drury Lane, after recommendation by Sir Walter Scott and Lord Byron. His next plays, Manuel (1817) and Fredolfo (1819) were failures, and Maturin returned to writing novels. Melmoth the Wanderer appeared in 1820, but in the last years of his life his works were neglected, and he died in poverty in 1824. In the 1890s his literary reputation in England was revived, and his works were reprinted in various editions.

Maturin's Calvinist upbringing lent to his work a strong sense of the soul's relationship with God, which can also be seen in the work of James Hogg, William Godwin and Godwin's daughter, Mary Shelley. He was also influenced by comic writers of epics and romances, such as Cervantes, Swift, Sterne and Diderot. His strongest influences were the authors of Gothic romances of the late eighteenth century, in particular, Matthew Lewis and Ann Radcliffe. Maturin's tales were, however, always more extravagant and macabre, and led to his reputation as one of the foremost writers of the Gothic school.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 2.5
( 13 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(2)

4 Star

(1)

3 Star

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2 Star

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1 Star

(6)

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 14 of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 17, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Diabolical genius

    I give this book 4.5/5 stars. Not a full 5 because I agree with Shakespeare that "brevity is the soul of wit." The book contains an abundance of the latter but a complete absence of the former. It is 600+ pages long and its narrative style is tortuous and multi-layered. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, it just makes for tedious reading. Tedious, but well worth the effort. Maturin has created a gothic masterpiece which is fulfillingly the final bookend for the genre.

    The titular character has exchanged an eternity in heaven for an eternity in hell. His consolation prize is an extension of his mortal life and access to the deepest vaults of human knowledge. Melmoth is portrayed as a dark-eyed fiend who invokes fear in all who behold him.

    What makes this novel truly horrific, however, is not the actions of Melmoth; its power lies in its exposure of human evil which exists in all of us. Melmoth speaks with ironic, cutting sarcasm which contains enough truth to pack a powerful punch; Melmoth is a man who is not fettered by societal and social inhibitions which afflict most mortals.

    All of the characters in this novel are well-described and likeable. It is interesting to see their responses to the calamities which suddenly strike them. In summary, this book is a dark gothic masterpiece which is refreshingly original. I highly recommend it, despite the effort required to remove its pearls.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 25, 2012

    One of the finest gothic novels ever.

    Melmoth the Wanderer is a dark tale about a fallen man in search of himself in desperate times. B&N has three ebooks with this title. The one I just reviewed is the only complte and unabridged book.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2000

    Melmoth the Wanderer by Charles Maturin

    Maturin's novel relates the story of Melmoth, a scholar who traded his soul to Infernal powers in return for answers to all of his questions about the Universe. He has 100 extra years to live; in that time, if he can find someone to volunteer to take his place in Hell, he is free. Otherwise, at the end of the 100 years, Melmoth will be damned. Melmoth the Wanderer is a Gothic novel in the highest tradition of the Romantic period. It's structure, however, makes it unique. It folds in upon itself, beginning with the present and ending with the future, but somewhere in between moving progressively backwards as the narrator tries to unlock the secrets of Melmoth's life, just as Melmoth tried to unlock the secrets of the Universe. The characters, Melmoth, Emmalee, the many Jews who help Melmoth, are beautifully written and engaging. The novel is worth reading for Maturin's virtuoso touch with structure alone, but also for the wonderful touches and passages, particularly where Melmoth struggles with his conscience and reveals that even fiends have a soul. The novel questions what it means to search for knowledge, to have a family, to be in love, and to accept responsibility for your own fate. Melmoth the Wanderer asks questions about why mercy is so hard to find, why supposedly pious people often cause the most suffering, and what it might take to redeem a minion of Hell. An ambiguous ending caps off the novel and allows you to answer these questions for yourself.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2014

    Dont like

    Doooooooooonnnnnnnnt liiiiiikkkkke

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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