Matthew Lewis, The Monk (1796), p. 284

While He ate, the Nuns admired the delicacy of his features, the beauty of his hair, and the sweetness and grace which accompanied all his actions. They lamented to each other in whispers, that so charming a Youth should be exposed to the seductions of the World, and agreed, that He would be a worthy Pillar of the Catholic Church. They concluded their conference by resolving, that Heaven would be rendered a real service, if they entreated the Prioress to intercede with Ambrosio for the Beggar's admission into the order of Capuchins.

The beggar is Theodore, Don Raymond's faithful page: Theodore the delicate, the beautiful, the sweet, and the graceful. The beggar Theodore, who might as well be a woman, inspires several questions: is true sensibility, as suggested in the literature of the eighteenth century, congruent with feminization? What is its relation to social privilege and class status? Both the physical descriptions of Theodore and the Nuns' sense that he needs to be protected from the world's corruption suggest that he embodies or is aligned with a particularly feminine kind of virtue. Additionally, his almost honorary position as Don Raymond's page locates him as an interloper: he occupies the liminal space between the industrious lower class and the leisured aristocracy. In both cases, he is somewhere he does not entirely belong. Does this guarantee his exclusion from the world of masculine commerce and desire? Does this exclusion, in turn, confirm his status as a figure of sensibility?

Related terms:

a dictionary of sensibility
term list
source bibliography
critical bibliography