Here are Gronow’s observations on author Matthew Lewis (1775-1818), known as Monk after the name of his renowned Gothick novel.
One of the most agreeable men of the day was “Monk” Lewis. As the author of the Monk and the Tales of Wonder, he not only found his way into the best circles, but had gained a high reputation in the literary world. His poetic talent was undoubted, and he was intimately connected with Walter Scott in his ballad researches. His Alonzo the Brave and the Fair Imogene was recited at the theatres, and wherever he went he found a welcome reception. His West Indian fortune and connections, and his seat in Parliament, gave him access to all the aristocratic circles; from which, however, he was banished upon the appearance of the fourth and last dialogue of the Pursuits of Literature. Had a thunderbolt fallen upon him, he could not have been more astonished than he was by the onslaught of Mr. Matthias, which led to his ostracism from fashionable society.
It is not for me to appreciate the value of this satirical poem, which created such an extraordinary sensation, not only in the fashionable, but in the political world; I, however, remember that whilst at Canning’s, at the Bishop of London’s, and at Gifford’s, it was pronounced the most classical and spirited production that had ever issued from the press, it was held up at Lord Holland’s, at the Marquis of Lansdowne’s, and at Brookes’s, as one of the most spiteful and ill-natured satires that had ever disgraced the literary world; and one which no talent or classic lore could ever redeem. Certain it is, that Matthias fell foul of poor “Monk” Lewis for his romance: obscenity and blasphemy were the charges laid at his door; he was acknowledged to be a man of genius and fancy, but this added only to his crime, to which was superadded that of being a very young man. The charges brought against him cooled his friends and heated his enemies; the young ladies were forbidden to speak to him, matrons even feared him, and from being one of the idols of the world, he became one of the objects of its disdain. Even his father was led to believe that his son had abandoned the paths of virtue, and was on the high road to ruin.
“Monk” Lewis, unable to stand against the outcry thus raised against him, determined to try the effects of absence, and took his departure for the island in which his property was; but unfortunately for those who dissented from the ferocious judgment that was passed upon him, and for those who had discrimination enough to know that after all there was nothing very objectionable in his romance, and felt assured that posterity would do him justice, this amiable and kind-hearted man died on his passage out; leaving a blank in one variety of literature which has never been filled up.
“Monk” Lewis had a black servant, affectionately attached to his master; but so ridiculously did this servant repeat his master’s expressions, that he became the laughing-stock of all his master’s friends: Brummell used often to raise a hearty laugh at Carlton House by repeating witticisms which he pretended to have heard from Lewis’s servant. Some of these were very stale; yet they were considered so good as to be repeated at the clubs, greatly adding to the reputation of the Beau as a teller of good things. “On one occasion,” said Brummell, “I called to inquire after a young lady who had sprained her ancle; Lewis, on being asked how she was, had said in the black’s presence, ‘The doctor has seen her, put her legs straight, and the poor chicken is doing well.’ The servant, therefore, told me, with a mysterious and knowing look, ‘Oh, sir, the doctor has been here; she has laid eggs, and she and the chickens are doing well.'”