A celebration of the publication in 1820 of Melmoth the Wanderer by the Dublin writer Charles Robert Maturin.

Maturin lived close to Marsh’s Library and was a regular visitor to the building. This exhibition shows that Maturin used a familiarity with 16th- and 17th-century printed material to condemn religious hypocrisy, and to draw a sharp distinction between the light of culture and the darkness of fanaticism.

‘Ragged, Livid & On Fire’ has been curated by Dr Christina Morin of the University of Limerick and Dr Jason McElligott of Marsh’s Library.

Maturin’s Life

St Peter's Church Aungier Street Dublin

As a child, Charles Robert Maturin dreamed of becoming an actor, but financial concerns meant that he followed a more conventional career as a Church of Ireland clergyman.

In 1803 he became curate of Loughrea in Co. Galway. Three years later, he moved back to Dublin to become curate of the wealthy parish of St. Peter’s, with his church in Aungier Street and his residence in nearby York Street.

A flamboyant and eccentric individual, Maturin was often in trouble with the Church authorities. Among their concerns was his publication of popular novels with romantic or supernatural themes.

Maturin was in the habit of reading in Marsh’s Library for several hours every day. This exhibition examines some of the unusual 16th- and 17th-century books and pamphlets that Maturin refers to in his most famous novel, Melmoth the Wanderer.

Charles Robert Maturin

Continue to exhibition below: click image thumbnails to see more

Maturin’s Works

Maturin’s early novels were popular with readers who subscribed to circulating libraries. He had a critical and commercial success with the play Bertram (1816), but his subsequent output had little impact at the time. 

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Melmoth The Wanderer

The writing of Melmoth

Melmoth has made a pact with the devil — his soul in exchange for another 150 years of life. Filled with bitter regret, he is condemned to wander the earth until he can find someone to take his place.

Maturin constructed Melmoth the Wanderer around three key sources: the King James Bible, the Anglican Liturgy, and the works of William Shakespeare.

The Holy Bible
The Book of Common Prayer
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The Aeneid

Maturin prided himself on being a good Classical scholar. Melmoth the Wanderer has many references to Virgil’s Aeneid, which was widely considered to be the definitive masterpiece of Latin literature.

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Classroom Aeneid
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Aeneas' Journey
An image of Virgil leading Dante into the underworld. From a 1520 edition of Dante's works.
The Underworld
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Books of War

Melmoth the Wanderer shows a surprising familiarity with the polemical books and pamphlets of the English Revolution of the mid-17th century.

The Players Scourge
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Meroz Cursed
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Royalist Culture

Maturin loved literature and the theatre. He had a particular fondness for what he called ‘the vast mine of unworked treasures’ from the 16th and 17th centuries.

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Swift's Clarendon
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The Rump Parliament
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Early Drama
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Cutter of Coleman Street
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The Conquest of Granada
The Rival Queens

Maturin’s Last Book

The Albigenses (1824) is a historical romance set against the backdrop of two crusades against religious dissidents in the south of France in the first decades of the 13th century.

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Maturin's Albigenses
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The Vaudois Persecutions
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Perrin's History of the Vaudois


Melmoth the Wanderer is crammed full of references to books of the 16th and 17th centuries.

Maturin was a voracious but chaotic reader. He spent so much time in Marsh's Library that he constructed a desk for himself with his own hands.

Marsh’s Library was a signicant part of literary life and culture in early 19th century Dublin.


‘Ragged, Livid & On Fire’ has been curated by Dr Christina Morin of the University of Limerick and Dr Jason McElligott of Marsh’s Library. The support of the Irish Research Council is gratefully acknowledged.

Marsh’s Library gratefully acknowledges the continuing support of the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.

Contact The Library

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