Born in Dublin in 1780, Maturin was appointed curate of St Peter’s Church in 1805, a post he would hold until his death in 1824. His reputation as an eloquent preacher gained him followers from far and wide across the city. An ever-growing family, including a gaggle of relatives which came to rely on him for support, posed such a strain on his finances that he first hit on the idea of writing romances as a money-spinning scheme. The first edition of Melmoth the Wanderer: a Tale (1820) was prefaced by an apology from the author for appearing, again…in so unseemly a character as that of writer of romances, an extreme to which he had been forced by necessity.
Melmoth is Maturin’s magnum opus, a work which exercised a powerful influence on all the great literary figures of the time. Goethe, Pushkin, Balzac, Sue, Baudelaire and Dumas all acknowledged their debt to it. Walter Scott and Lord Byron lent him their support and encouragement. Probably the most telling tribute of all came from Oscar Wilde who, after his release from prison, adopted the pseudonym ‘Sebastian Melmoth’.
Wednesday, 11 April 2007
Have you read Charles Maturin's Melmoth the Wanderer? If not, I envy you, for you have one of life's finer treats in store.
I consider Melmoth one of the most appealing figures in western culture, and Maturin's relation of his vicissitudes one of the peaks of human expression.
I owe Maturin my own Approaching Melmoth, an orchestral-choral work from which will be emanating, in due course, a full-length opera.