This is the unexpurgated edition. A book with an amazing range of subjects: an evil prioress, a beauty who sells herself to the devil, the wandering Jew, rape, incest, matricide, ruined castles, and the Spanish Inquisition. Fascinating and very readable.
I somehow managed to get through this much of my life, including a college class in gothic literature; without ever reading this book. How? It was great!
Published in 1796 and written by a 19-year-old, it was a massive, bestselling success in its day - and it really still holds up as a fun, entertaining read.
This particular edition had the most *awful* introduction EVER, though. (I will not dignify the author of said intro by even mentioning his name, which I had never heard before anyway.) It was snide, condescending, and totally missed the point, by criticizing gothic literature as a genre, Lewis as a writer and the Monk in general - and damning it with faint praise, for the WRONG things. (the intro was written in the '50's, before the new attention the gothic genre has gotten in academia).
Anyway, the intro-writer was trying to judge the book as a Work of Literature, and an Exploration of the Fall of a Virtuous Man, and all that kind of crap.
It's an intentionally blasphemous, often hilarious, tragically dramatic tale, full of sorcery, devil-worship, ill-fated (and not-so-ill-fated) love, scandal, murder, ghosts, the Inquisition, cruel nuns, spooky castles, exotic locales, torture, dungeons, beautiful maidens... and of course, the particularly evil titular Monk.
Yes, there's some pointed commentary of the hypocrisy of many religious types, as well as some quite funny social commentary (which often seems AMAZINGLY apropos for today, considering the age of the book) - but this was a book written to entertain - and titillate. It's definitely not as shocking today as it probably was then - and the plot is not quite as tightly sewn together as modern editors demand - but it's still a rousing good read.
Written in 1794-banned by the Catholic church.-good book, a little worn.