Charles Maturin

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Portrait of C.R. Maturin, 1819

Charles Robert Maturin, also known as C.R. Maturin (25 September 1782 – 30 October 1824), was an Irish Protestant clergyman (ordained by the Church of Ireland) and a writer of gothic plays and novels. [1]

Biography[edit]

Descended from the Huguenots who found shelter in Ireland, one of whom was Gabriel Jacques Maturin who later became Dean of St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin after Jonathan Swift in 1745, Charles Robert Maturin was born in Dublin and attended Trinity College, Dublin. Shortly after being ordained as curate of Loughrea, County Galway, in 1803, he became Anglican Curate of St. Peter's Church in Dublin. He lived in York St, Dublin with his father William, a Post Office official, and his mother, Fedelia Watson, and met and married on 7 October 1804 acclaimed singer Henrietta Kingsbury, a sister of Sarah Kingsbury who married Charles Elgee, whose daughter, Jane Francesca Wilde (née Elgee), was the mother of Oscar Wilde. Thus Charles Maturin was Oscar Wilde's great-uncle by marriage.[2] Wilde discarded his own name and adopted the name of Maturin's novel Melmoth the Wanderer when he arrived in Dieppe, France, and lived out his remaining days known as 'Sebastian Melmoth'.[3]

His first three works were published under the pseudonym Dennis Jasper Murphy and were critical and commercial failures. They did, however, catch the attention of Sir Walter Scott, who recommended Maturin's work to Lord Byron. With the help of these two literary luminaries, the curate's play, Bertram (first staged on 9 May 1816 at the Drury Lane for 22 nights) with Edmund Kean starring in the lead role as Bertram, saw a wider audience and became a success. Financial success, however, eluded Maturin, as the play's run coincided with his father's unemployment and another relative's bankruptcy, both of them assisted by the fledgling writer. To make matters worse, Samuel Taylor Coleridge publicly denounced the play as dull and loathsome, and "melancholy proof of the depravation of the public mind",[4] going nearly so far as to decry it as atheistic. Coleridge's comments on Bertram can also be found in 'Biographia Literaria', chapter 23. The Church of Ireland took note of these and earlier criticisms and, having discovered the identity of Bertram's author (Maturin had shed his nom de plume to collect the profits from the play), subsequently barred Maturin's further clerical advancement. Forced to support his wife and four children by writing (his salary as curate was £80-90 per annum, compared to the £1000 he made for Bertram), he switched back from playwright to novelist after a string of his plays met with failure. He produced several novels in addition to Melmoth, including The Albigenses, a historical novel which features werewolves. [1]

Charles Robert Maturin died in Dublin on 30 October 1824. Honoré de Balzac and Charles Baudelaire later expressed fondness for Maturin's work, particularly his most famous novel, Melmoth the Wanderer. The play Bertram; or The Castle of St. Aldobrand was adapted in French by Charles Nodier and Isidore Justin Severin Taylor (Bertram, ou le Chateau de St. Aldobrand, 1821). This version was the source of the opera Il pirata, libretto by Felice Romani, music by Vincenzo Bellini, premiered at La Scala of Milan in 1827.

One of his grandsons, Basil W. Maturin, a chaplain at the University of Oxford, died in the sinking of RMS Lusitania in 1915.

Known works[edit]

Novels[edit]

  • The Fatal Revenge; or, the Family of Montorio (1807)
  • The Wild Irish Boy (1808)
  • The Milesian Chief (1812)
  • Women; or, Pour Et Contre; a Tale (1818)
  • Melmoth the Wanderer (1820)
  • The Albigenses (1824)
  • Leixlip Castle (1825)

Plays[edit]

  • Bertram; or The Castle of St. Aldobrand (1816)
  • Manuel (1817)
  • Fredolfo (1819)
  • Osmyn the Renegade (published posthumously in 1830, but in rehearsal at Covent Garden in 1822)

Poems[edit]

  • The Universe (1821) This poem bears Maturin's name but was in reality written by one James Wills.

Sermons[edit]

  • Sermons (1819)
  • Five Sermons on the Errors of the Roman Catholic Church (1824)

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Chris Morgan, “Maturin, Charles R(obert).” in St. James Guide to Horror, Gothic, and Ghost Writers, ed. David Pringle. Detroit and New York: St. James Press, 1998. (396-97) ISBN 1558622063
  2. ^ Dawidziak, Mark (2008). The bedside, bathtub, and armchair companion to Dracula. Continuum, p. 29.ISBN 0826417949
  3. ^ Lovecraft, Howard Phillips (2010). Supernatural Horror in Literature, The Modern Library, p. 119. ISBN 0-8129-7441-7
  4. ^ Maturin, Melmoth the Wanderer (1820) from the course The Gothic Subject by David S. Miall, Department of English, University of Alberta, Autumn 2000

External links[edit]