"She sealed his lips with a wanton kiss; 'Though I forgive your breaking your vows to heaven, I expect you to keep your vows to me."
‘Monk’ Lewis, as he became known, was only 19 when he wrote one of the most shocking novels of the late-18th century, now considered a classic of Gothic horror fiction. It tells of Ambrosio, a stern and saintly abbot, who is led astray by a young woman who enters his monastery disguised as a boy. Depravity leads him into further sins until the Inquisition finds him out, and he makes a last-ditch attempt to save himself by selling his soul to the devil – with unexpected consequences. Published in 1796, The Monk was praised by the Marquis de Sade, and banned until Lewis removed some of the more offensive paragraphs. None of this dampened the enthusiasm of the reading public – as one critic wrote, ‘They had been told that the book was horrible, blasphemous and lewd, and they rushed to put their morality to the test.’