Thursday, November 25, 2010
Melmoth the Wanderer is the story of a Faustian pact with the devil. It begins with a journey from the lush Wicklow Mountains where tales are related of dark deeds in the dankest cells of the Spanish Inquisition.
It is 1816 and John Melmoth, a young student, travels from Dublin to Wicklow in order to attend to his dying miserly uncle. John, whose family is poor and can ill afford to sustain him in university life, hopes that his uncle's largesse will enable him to continue his studies. Instead he learns for the first time of an ancestor named only Melmoth the Wanderer, a man born in the seventeenth century but who is apparently ageless.
We are told that for one hundred and fifty years Melmoth has trawled through Europe playing on his victim's misery, tempting them with redemption should they choose to take his place in immortality.
Some readers will find the language contained in the novel archaic but it is important to remember that it was written almost two hundred years ago.
Another issue which may cause confusion is the fact that the novel is not told in a strictly linear fashion. Several characters relate the tale of Melmoth the Wanderer, as the story moves forwards and backwards in time, and tales are frequently told within tales.
Written by Charles Robert Maturin in 1820, Melmoth the Wander can be said to be part of the great gothic literary tradition that includes such authors as Matthew Lewis and Mary Shelly.
Melmoth the Wanderer, will intrigue, beguile and despite its age may even possibly frighten the reader.