How d’ya like them alliteration?
I just finished reading Charles Maturin’s first novel, The Fatal Revenge; or, the Family of Montorio (1807). Maturin, better known for his Gothic masterpiece Melmoth the Wanderer, wrote this lurid (and incoherent) horrid novel under the pseudonym Dennis Jasper Murphy. If I were him (and by extension, still alive) I would not want Wikipedia linking my real name to this book. Boy, it was bad.
Which in academic circles means it was pretty good. It had all the Gothic romantic elements: castles, skeletons, family secrets, missing and incomplete manuscripts, love, loss, suicide, murder, parricide, um, castles, banditti, oh yeah – monks. Um. I think that about covers it. Lots to deconstruct, unpack, problematize, New Historicize and aestheticize. And stuff.
It was like Maturin read the handbook (and the writing on the wall-Gothic novels were selling like hot cakes [parenthetical note within a parenthetical note-what is a hot cake?] at the turn of the century) on How to Write a Gothic Novel for Dummies and packed every-single-thing he could into a triple-decker. Too bad the market was full of other Gothic masterpieces like There Is A Secret-Find It Out!!! and Fatal Revenge flopped.
It was so silly I have to imagine that Maturin knew what he was doing when he wrote it. I mean, Horace Walpole’s Castle of Otranto has a GIANT HELMET that falls from the sky and crushes someone and he created an entirely new genre. It can’t get more silly than that.
Or can it? Well, no. At least not here. But there were enough ghosts, mad monks, and funky sibling pairs to make a pretty kinky Showtime special. Or old Hollywood B-movie.
Fun fact: Maturin was Oscar Wilde’s great-uncle by marriage. Now you know.