Matthew 'Monk' Lewis (1775-1818) is best known as a writer of plays and 'Gothic' novels such as The Monk (from which he acquired his nickname). On the death of his father in 1812, he inherited a large fortune, including estates in Jamaica. He spent four months there in 1815, during which time much of this Journal of a West India Proprietor was written. He became interested in the condition of the slaves on his estates, and on returning to England made contact with William Wilberforce and other abolitionists. The improvements he made on his own estates were unpopular with other landholders, but foreshadowed the reforms of the 1830s, when the Journal was published. He revisited the island in 1817, but died of yellow fever on the way home. S. T. Coleridge regarded the Journal as Lewis' best work, and the one most likely to be of lasting value.
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Although best known as a playwright and novelist, Matthew 'Monk' Lewis (1775-1818) was also a Member of Parliament and had inherited estates in Jamaica. This posthumously published Journal is the record of his visits there, and of his attempts to improve the welfare of slaves.About the Author:
Judith Terry is Senior Instructor in the English Department at the University of Victoria, British Columbia.
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