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Maturin, Charles R

(1782-1824) Irish author, playwright and clergyman, the son of French Protestants in exile, who wrote several Gothic romances and sensational plays with intermittent success – most notably The Fatal Revenge, or The Family of Montorio (1807 3vols) as by Dennis Jasper Murphy – before the publication of his definitive terror-romance, Melmoth the Wanderer (1820 4vols) anonymous. The eponymous hero, who is reminiscent of figures from the Wandering Jew to Faust, has sold his soul to the Devil in return for Immortality. The novel is made up of a series of complexly linked stories concerning people in various extremities to whom Melmoth appears as tempter in his desperate attempts to find someone to accept his curse; but all refuse him, regardless of the perils under which they labour, and after a century or so Melmoth returns to Ireland, where he disappears over the edge of a cliff. Honoré de Balzac wrote a sequel, Melmoth Reconcilé (1835; trans Ellen Marriage in coll The Unknown Masterpiece 1896). The wanderer in Sarah Perry's Melmoth (2018) is a woman who denied seeing the risen Christ just after his rebirth. The Penguin edition of Melmoth the Wanderer (1977), edited and introduced by Alethea Hayter, is convenient and scholarly.

Maturin's great Gothic tale of terror may not hypnotically embody the explosive uncertainties of the new century – as, for instance, did Mary Shelley's Frankenstein; Or, the New Prometheus (1818) – but it provided a central model for the tale of the haunted immortal wanderer, whose influence extended from supernatural fictions of all sorts to sf tales of Supermen. Maturin himself wrote one further tale of interest to the nascent set of interlocking fields referred to in this encyclopedia as Fantastika, The Albigenses (1824 4vols), which features the first significant modern appearance of a Werewolf. [JC]

see also: Oscar Wilde.

Charles Robert Maturin

born Dublin, Ireland: 25 September 1782

died Dublin, Ireland: 30 October 1824


about the author


Entry from The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (2011-current) edited by John Clute and David Langford.
Accessed 20:32 pm on 17 May 2022.