Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Maturin, Charles R

(1782-1824) Irish novelist, playwright and curate, of Huguenot descent, who came under the spell of Gothic fiction and produced a string of melodramatic and highly atmospheric novels, starting with The Fatal Revenge, or The Family of Montorio (1807), as Dennis Jasper Murphy. The Fatal Revenge includes a spectacle of supernatural experience at the outset, though all is subsequently rationalized (> Rationalized Fantasy); CRM seldom took recourse to the horrors and spectres that littered much Gothic Fantasy, preferring the grimness and natural evils of humanity. His play Bertram, or The Castle of Saint Aldobrand (1816) stands as a master Gothic work for the Victorian stage; the character Bertram was the first to blend successfully the tragic Byronic hero (> Lord Byron) with the traditional Gothic villain.

CRM took this one stage further with his most significant achievement, Melmoth the Wanderer (1820), the definitive novel of the Accursed Wanderer. Inspired to some degree by the works of Matthew Lewis and William Beckford, CRM combined all of the Gothic elements. Melmoth enters a Pact with the Devil, gaining prolonged life in exchange for his Soul, but the debt can be passed on if he can find someone prepared to assume it. The novel thus becomes a Quest as Melmoth searches among increasingly depraved and hopeless individuals, but no one is willing to take over his burden. Honoré de Balzac continued the story (> Sequels by Other Hands) in "Melmoth réconcilié" (1835; trans as "Melmoth Reconciled" 1896). Oscar Wilde took on the name Melmoth during his exile in Paris at the end of his life.

CRM's final novel, The Albigenses (1824), with little supernatural content, marks the transition from the Gothic historical novel to the more heroic historical romance developed by Walter Scott. [MA]

other works: Of associational Gothic interest are The Wild Irish Boy (1808), The Milesian Chief (1812), the plays Manuel (1817) and Fredolfo (1819) and the story "Leixlip Castle" (1825 The Literary Souvenir).

further reading: Charles Robert Maturin: His Life and Works (1923) by Niilo Idman.

Charles Robert Maturin


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.