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The essay can be read online here:
Be warned, the essay is full of spoilers! I'm planning to skim to the parts that cover my own books, after I've read them that is, and thought it might be of interest to some of you.
The reading list is probably better if it's suggestions you want.
"Horror in literature attains a new malignity in the work of Matthew Gregory Lewis (1775–1818), whose novel The Monk (1796) achieved marvellous popularity and earned him the nickname of “Monk” Lewis. This young author, educated in Germany and saturated with a body of wild Teuton lore unknown to Mrs. Radcliffe, turned to terror in forms more violent than his gentle predecessor had ever dared to think of; and produced as a result a masterpiece of active nightmare whose general Gothic cast is spiced with added stores of ghoulishness."
I'd agree - I can see it causing quite the sensation in its day. It is still a very violent horror by today's standards and it is most definitely spiced with ghoulishness.
"Nevertheless The Monk drags sadly when read as a whole. It is too long and too diffuse, and much of its potency is marred by flippancy and by an awkwardly excessive reaction against those canons of decorum which Lewis at first despised as prudish. One great thing may be said of the author; that he never ruined his ghostly visions with a natural explanation. He succeeded in breaking up the Radcliffian tradition and expanding the field of the Gothic novel."
It does drag slightly when it digresses early on with the background story of Raymond de las Cisternas, and the horror is lessened somewhat by what I thought of as a quite camp humour and by the satire against the Catholic church. The Monk is not a straight horror novel as we think of them today and Lovecraft is analyzing the development of horror in supernatural literature, and in that respect he is right, but I still think there are some great horror scenes in the book that are very effective.
And no, Lewis does not write off his ghosts and demons with natural explanations.