Melmoth the Wanderer
- Melmoth the Wanderer is a gothic novel published in 1820, written by Charles Robert Maturin (uncle of Jane Wilde, Oscar Wilde's mother). The central character, Melmoth (a Wandering Jew type), is a scholar who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for 150 extra years of life; he spends that time searching for someone who will take over the pact for him. The novel actually takes place in the present, but this backstory is revealed through several nested stories-within-a-story that work backwards through time. The story opens in 1816: John Melmoth, a student in Dublin, visits his dying uncle. He sees a portrait of his namesake dated '1646' and catches glimpse of 'the Traveller'. At his unlce's funeral, Biddy Brannigan tells John the family story. A stranger called Stanton arrived looking for the Traveller, and left behind a manuscript. Later, John finds Stanton's manuscript. In the manuscript, Stanton's story opens in Spain in the 1670's. Stanton encounters the Traveller laughing at the sight of two lovers who have been blasted by lightning. An old Spanish woman tells him the story of the Cardoza wedding at which the Traveller was an uninvited guest. The bride died on her wedding night and the bridegroom went mad. Stanton pursues and finds the Traveller in a theatre in London. The Traveller tells him they will meet again. Stanton's obsession with the Traveller is judged madness and he is tricked into a madhouse. There, the Traveller appears and offers to free him if he .... but Stanton refuses. Somehow, Stanton does eventually escape and goes to look for him in Ireland, but never meets the Traveller again. Following his uncle's wish, John burns the portrait, but later that night dreams he is visited by his ancestor. The following stormy night, John witnesses a shipwreck and sees the Traveller looking on laughing and saying 'Let them all perish!' John tries to approach him, but slips and falls into the sea. John recovers from near drowning, saved by a Spaniard, the sole survivor of the wreck. Alonzo Monçada begins to tell him the next nested story, set in Spain, which in turn has further nested stories.