Charles Robert Maturin (MAT-choo-ruhn) was the son of an official in the Irish post office and the grandson of Gabriel Maturin, who had been Jonathan Swift’s successor as dean of St. Patrick’s, Dublin. Maturin was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and afterward became curate of Loughrea and then of St. Peter’s, Dublin. In 1803 he married Henrietta Kingsbury.
His early novels, Fatal Revenge, The Wild Irish Boy, and The Milesian Chief, were published under the pseudonym Dennis Jasper Murphy. Extreme in their gothic style and dramatic character, the novels met with small success and much criticism—one critic called them “the false creation of a heat-oppressed brain”—but the young author was fortunate in winning the interest of Sir Walter Scott, who found in the novels something of the quality he sought in his own work. At the time Scott was not established in his writing career; his famous novels and poems were yet to be written. Consequently, Scott referred Maturin to George Gordon, Lord Byron, at that time the target of severe criticism from the Edinburgh reviewers but beginning to be prominent in literary circles. Through Lord Byron’s influence, Maturin’s tragedy, Bertram, was produced at the Drury Lane Theatre in 1816, with Edmund Kean playing the lead. A French version of the play was produced in Paris. The moderate success of Bertram was followed by the failure of two other tragedies, Manuel and Fredolfo.
Of his novels, Melmoth the Wanderer is his masterpiece and one of the most famous of the gothic romances popular in the early nineteenth century. It so impressed Honoré de Balzac that he wrote a sequel, Melmoth réconcilié (1835).