Charles Robert Maturin Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111207098-Maturin.jpg Charles Robert Maturin Published by Salem Press, Inc.

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).


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Charles Robert Maturin was born in 1780, one of several children born to William Maturin and Fidelia Watson. The Maturin family was of French descent. One of their ancestors was a Huguenot priest who was forced to leave France because of religious persecution during the reign of Louis XIV. This aspect of his family history strongly impressed the young Maturin, and throughout his life he was fond of relating how his ancestors had suffered for their faith. He himself was strongly anti-Catholic and especially opposed to the rule of monastic life, which he considered dangerously repressive. His novels contain many scenes and descriptions of monasteries as sadistic places where virtue turns to vice.

When in Ireland, Maturin’s family became closely connected with the Anglican Church. Maturin’s great-grandfather, Peter Maturin, was dean of Killala from 1724 to 1741, and his grandfather, Gabriel James Maturin, succeeded Jonathan Swift as dean of St. Patrick’s in Dublin in 1745. Following this tradition, Maturin entered Trinity College in 1795 to study theology, and in 1803 he took holy orders. In the same year, he married Henrietta Kingsbury, a daughter of the archdeacon of Killala. From all reports, the couple were well suited and happily married. After ordination, Maturin served as curate in Loughrea, Galway, for two years. He then returned to Dublin to become curate of St. Peter’s, a position he held for the rest of his life. His small income from this curacy was insufficient to support his family, especially after his father was accused of fraud and dismissed from his position with the Irish post office in 1809. Later, he was cleared and given another position, but for a time, the family struggled in severe poverty. In fact, Maturin was continually troubled by financial...

(The entire section is 730 words.)