A student visits his dying uncle and upon noticing a centuries-old painting of a distant relative is told, "the original is still alive … you shall see him again." Thus begins a tale of transformation, loneliness, and evil that centers on a Faustian bargain. Melmoth the Wanderer wins an extra 150 years of life but risks eternal hellfire unless he can find someone to take his place. With all the devil's powers at his command, he floats restlessly across oceans and continents, preying upon the innocent as well as the guilty, seeking out desperate and tortured souls and trying to shift the burden of his damnation. Author Charles Maturin, an Irish clergyman, wrote Melmoth the Wanderer in 1820. His inventive and original tale is considered both the last of the great Gothic novels and the forerunner of a new school epitomized by the works of Edgar Allan Poe and Bram Stoker. The book attracted a cult following that included Baudelaire and Balzac and was later characterized by H. P. Lovecraft as "an enormous stride in the evolution of the horror-tale," and cited by Thomas M. Disch as a classic fantasy story. Narrated in a nested series of stories-within-a-story, this moody fable continues to enchant lovers of Gothic romance.