Charles Robert Maturin’s classic Gothic novel is a sprawling epic about a man who sells his soul to the Devil, wandering the earth in search of another poor unfortunate to take on his burden. The complicated tale-within-a-tale structure unfolds the plot through a series of haunting episodes in which various protagonists describe their encounters with the elusive Melmoth.
Commonly held to be the last gasp of the first phase of European Gothic, the novel really does have it all – live burials, the horrors of the inquisition, Faustian pacts, mysterious manuscripts, lunatics, damsels in distress and banditti aplenty. Not, perhaps, what you’d expect from the pen of an Irish clergyman (even if the deliciously OTT condemnation of Catholicism makes some sense given Maturin’s Hugenot background and Protestant affiliations). The Church seems to have agreed – leading to an ironic situation in which writing was simultaneously the bar to Maturin’s advancement in the Church and the means by which he supported his wife and family.
Until recently, a properly formatted, unabridged electronic version of the novel did not exist – so kudos to whoever produced the fantastic transcription at Project Gutenberg Australia, on which this version is based!