Here is part two of my recap of Matthew Lewis's 1796 Gothic Romance, The Monk. For those of you who missed the first part of this recap, it can be found here. The full text is here, just in case you have to check that I'm not making all this up. Just so you are aware, there are going to be four parts of this recap, each roughly representing about 100 pages in the book. I'd cut it shorter if I could, but an awful lot happens. So grab your rosaries and start praying for daylight, because here comes THE MONK!
Where we left off, Lorenzo discovered his sister (now a nun) Agnes had gotten pregnant by her old fiance, his friend Raymond/Alphonso. They were going to run away together, but Agnes got found out by the Mother Superior and was taken away for evilllllll nun punishment, like there is any other kind. Lorenzo was going to Raymond/Alphonso's place to ask him what the hell, bro?
Lorenzo goes see Raymond/Alphonso to find out what’s going on with his sister, who is probably at this second, unbeknownst to him, being killed by a fleet of maniacal nuns. Raymond/Alphonso goes, “You’re probably wondering where I met your sister. Allow me to tell you the following sprawling, tangential story about my adventures abroad that led me to some relatives of your sister’s when she was living in Germany, for some reason:
[This adventure has been cut for time. Also because it’s boring as shit.]
The point is, he’s in Germany at the house of a Baron and Baroness he’s befriended. While at their castle, he's discovered the beauteous beauty of their beautiful niece, who will eventually become Sister Agnes, she of the cloister baby and love-letter dropping. Get ready for a flashback that is over a quarter of the book long.
The long and short of it is, Agnes’s parents are crazy superstitious, and when her mother was pregnant with her, she got really sick and said if she and the child lived, she would dedicate the child to the service of God. So God waved his health wand and, poof, there was Agnes, destined since birth to be a nun. Agnes grew up hating this idea, OBVIOUSLY, and her parents were like, “If we separate her from her doting brother Lorenzo we might stand a better chance of getting her into a wimple, so we’ll, ship her off to Germany to live with her aunt, the unfortunately named Baroness Roldopha and her new husband, Baron Forgot-His-First-Name. So Agnes spends her teen years there, where she eventually meets Raymond/Alphonso.
So Raymond/Alphonso is like, “Crap, if this chick is already promised to the church, I’m really going to have to suck up to her relatives for them to be cool with me marrying her.” So he starts chilling with Baroness Rodolpha a lot and reading her lots of love stories because chicks dig love stories. And finally when he feels like they have sufficiently bonded, he’s like, “Rodolpha, can I ask you for a favor? I have a huge crush on someone and it’s in your power to decide if I get to be with her or not.”
Of course Roldopha interprets this as him confessing his love for her, so she throws herself at his feet and says, “YES, TAKE ME. TAKE ME NOW. I'll do the sex! I'll do it all the ways!” And he’s all, “Nononono.” Because in this story older women are GROSS and if they are STUPID enough to think of love at their age, then they deserve to be ridiculed or painted as a horrific monster villain freak witch bitch succubus. So he puts a finger under his collar, starts sweating, and goes, “Uh, hehe, actually, ummm, it wasn’t you I was talking about. SO FLATTERED, you know, but uhhhhh, no thanks.”
And she unleashes her talons and goes, “WHO IS SHE? I will kiiiiiiiiiill whatever girl has stolen your heart from me! *HISSSSSSSS*” And then promptly faints in anger, because those silly women just can’t handle their huge, unreasonable emotions in those feeble little bodies. Bless. So he plops her on the sofa and immediately goes outside to flirt with Agnes who is, like, five feet away from the fainted woman who just said she would go through hell and high water to find out who he had a crush on and DESTROY said bint. He might get the award for "Stupidest" in this novel and, people, THAT IS A COMPETITIVE AWARD.
So the author, out of nowhere, decides, “You know what it’s a good time for? A GHOST STORY”. So we have a ghost story about The Bloody Nun, because everything comes back to religion, sex, and how both of those things come together to make something creepy. That’s the message I’m taking away from this book. So Agnes is like, “Hey, Raymond/Alphonso [shut up, I know he’s just Raymond at this point in the story], did you know that this castle we’re in is haunted? Once every five years the ghost of a bloody nun carrying a dagger and a lantern walks across the yard. And because we’re in a story, that date will be coming around again shortly. You know, for maximum plot convenience. Cool, huh?”
And he goes, “Wow, that's a cool ghost story. OMG, P.S. I love you, slobber slobber,” and she goes, “Oh, yeah, we were flirting right before the ghost story, slobber slobber, love love, blah.” And her aunt pops up like some hideous jack-in-the-box and goes, “I have recovered from my fainting spell, I have seen you declare your love, I will ruin my niece’s life by locking her in her room and rushing this whole convent thing. Get out of my house, Raymond/Alphonso!” And the poor Baron who has no idea about any of the stuff that’s been happening is like, “Bye, buddy! Come back soon!”
So he leaves, but he and Agnes exchange messages and concoct a FOOLPROOF plan. He’ll pretend to leave town, the aunt will relax her watch on Agnes, and when the day comes around that the ghost is supposed to appear, Agnes will dress up as the ghost, smear herself in blood and walk out the front door, because who is going to stop a ghost? And Raymond/Alphonso will have a carriage waiting and she can hop in that and they’ll go get married.
Guys. How could this possibly go awry. Apart from the fact that people know what Agnes looks like and ghosts are transparent. But I digress. Don’t let my LOGIC impede with the plot.
So the day comes and he’s waiting in his carriage and, and he waits, and he waits, and finally he sees a bloody nun walking his way
this is in no way the REAL ghost at all, nope. She gets in the carriage and he starts kissing her and being like, “YAH! YAH! To freedom, my dulcet dove!” or other gross endearments like that. And the winner of the Stupidest Person in this Book award irrevocably goes to Raymond/Alphonso.
They get clear of the town, but then tragedy! They get in an accident and the carriage is smashed to pieces and everyone is dead except for him. When he comes to, he can’t find Agnes and everyone he asks who saw the carriage crash was like, “There was no woman in the carriage. You must have a concussion if you think there was.” And he goes, “OMG, I eloped with a ghoooooooooooost!’
I’m sure I’ve seen that tabloid headline before.
So he’s on his sickbed, trying to recover from his injuries, but every night he gets haunted by the ghost of the Bloody Nun (not sure why, exactly) and she drives him to distraction, so much so that he can’t really investigate what happened to his ACTUAL fiancée, who he presumably left at the castle because the ghost was a faster walker and got to his carriage before Agnes did.
He gets this exorcist to come in, as you do, and the exorcist is really more of an expositionist, which is a word I’ve made up, but it should be real because far too many books have them for this not to be a named convention.
So the exorcist is like, “This nun was a woman who was put in a convent before she hit puberty, and once she hit puberty she was like, ‘You know what? I really fancy getting shagged.’ So she ran away and became the official concubine (author’s word, not mine) of the ancestor of the Baron and she shagged him left and right and shagged him up and down and shagged him six ways to Sunday, and became an atheist and threw raucous parties and then shagged some more. Then she discovered the Baron’s younger brother and his rippling triceps, and he was just as bad as she was, because he had a voracious sexual appetite and no conscience. So he’s like, ‘Hey, baby baby, I really want to inherit this place. Could you kill my brother? If you do, there’s a shagging in it for you!’ And she goes, ‘Done!’ So she stabs the Baron in his bed and takes the bloody knife and lantern and walks down to meet the brother and said, ‘I did it.! Look at all this blood! Yippee!’ Only the brother takes the knife and stabs her, to keep her quiet about the whole murder thing, so everyone will think she killed the Baron alone.” Never mind that she is now dead and very likely didn’t kill herself, and whatever, this story is running long and I just don’t care. The point is, she haunted the castle forevermore, except now she's in some random hotel, haunting Raymond/Alphonso instead because reasons.
And Raymond/Alphonso is like, “Great, make it go away.” So the exorcist exorcises and the ghost goes away, and I’m not sure why it was necessary because she is NEVER BROUGHT UP AGAIN. There are easier ways of keeping Raymond/Alphonso from investigating what happened to Agnes. You don't have to jump straight to “he got haunted until he was bed-ridden.”
Okay, so he’s healed, he goes to look for Agnes, and discovers that she has gone into the convent as planned, only she’s cool with it now because she thought he had ditched her and she's grieving. (On a random side-note, her aunt, the Baroness, has died because she got so angry she burst a blood vessel. That will keep you in your place, you overly emotional women who have dreams that last longer than your good looks. PAH. WOMEN WITH DREAMS.) So Agnes and Raymond/Alphonso meet up in the garden and talk about whatever lovey dovey people talk about. Hummingbirds and perfume and fondu, let’s say.
And then they do The Sex even though she’s now a nun, but we all knew this was going to happen, because immaculate conception is fairly rare. And like most good Catholics, she has immediate buyer’s remorse in the form of CRIPPLING GUILT and tells him that she never wants to see him again. (Please keep in mind that Raymond/Alphonso is telling this story in the present to Lorenzo, her brother.) Eventually she discovers she’s pregnant and thinks that for the sake of the child she should forgive her baby-daddy, and also she’s going to need a husband to spring her from Alcatraz if she doesn’t want to be roasted over a slow fire when the other nuns find out.
Which brings us up to the present, where the love letter detailing their plan is discovered by Father Ambrosio and Agnes gets sent off to be dismembered or something.
END PART TWOOOOOOOOOO
JESUS TAKE THE WHEEL, MY FINGERS ARE GOING TO EXPLODE. This book recap might kill me. The next post in another two days, unless you guys want it sooner. It's already all written out–I'm just trying to pace myself and mix it in with other fun Victoriana.