Matthew Gregory Lewis was born on July 9th in the year 1775 in London, England to father Matthew Lewis. As a child, he followed fairly closely in his father’s footsteps in terms of education. He was educated as an adolescent at Westminster School in London, a prestigious Christian school connected to the Westminster Abbey. He then attended Christ College in Oxford in the 1790s, obtaining both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. After his schooling, he became a member of England’s Parliament, starting in 1796 at the age of 21. He remained there for 6 years. Lewis’ father passed away in 1812, leaving his son property in Jamaica. Lewis died 6 years later, at the age of 43, to yellow fever during one of his excursions to the Jamaican isles.
Lewis, despite also having written poetry, was better known for his novels. His most famous literary work, The Monk, was written over the course of a mere ten weeks and published by him in 1796. The success of this tale was the reason for his nickname “Monk” Lewis. This story, considered at the time to be “blasphemous," was fairly dark for its time period, involving murder, incest, and demonic interaction.
The Monk was assuredly Lewis’ greatest work, but there were multiple other literary works of his that did not garner nearly as much success. During his time as a college student, he wrote at least two novels, called Village Virtues and Adelmorn. Lewis also wrote a large amount during his time as a member of Parliament. His novel The Castle Spectre, written in 1797, was one of his few other historically significant pieces of literature. In addition to these novels was Lewis’ poetry, which he started writing around the end of the 18th century. He published multiple books of poetry throughout his lifetime, some of which were entitled Tales of Wonder, Romantic Tales, and Poems.
Peck, Louis F. A Life of Matthew G. Lewis. Harvard University Press, 1961.
"Matthew Gregory Lewis." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d.
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