Montague Summers

Montague Summers books and biography

Montague Summers

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Augustus Montague Summers (10 April 1880 - 10 August 1948) was an eccentric English author and clergyman. He is known primarily for his 1928 English translation of the medieval witch hunter's manual, the Malleus Maleficarum, as well as for several studies on witches, vampires, and werewolves, in all of which he professed to believe.



Montague Summers was the youngest of the seven children of Augustus William Summers, an affluent banker and justice of the peace in Clifton, Bristol. Summers was educated at Clifton College before studying theology at Trinity College, Oxford with the intention of becoming a curate in the Church of England. He continued his religious training at Lichfield Theological College and became a deacon in 1908, but he apparently never proceeded to higher orders, probably because of accusations of sexual impropriety with young boys. Summers was for a while part of the circle of the so-called "Uranian poets," who celebrated ancient Greco-Roman pederasty. His first book, Antinous and Other Poems appeared in 1907 and was dedicated to this subject matter.

Summers worked for several years as an English and Latin teacher at various schools before adopting writing as his full-time employment. He was interested in the theater of the seventeenth century, particularly that of the English Restoration, and edited the plays of Aphra Behn, John Dryden, William Congreve, among others. He was one of the founder members of The Phoenix, a society that performed those neglected works, and was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1916.

Summers also joined the growing ranks of English men of letters interested in medievalism, Catholicism, and the occult. In 1909 he converted to Catholicism and shortly thereafter he began passing himself off as a Catholic priest and styling himself the "Reverend Alphonsus Joseph-Mary Augustus Montague Summers", even though he was never a member of any Catholic order or diocese. It is possible that Summers may have been secretly ordained by a bishop of the Old Catholic Church, though there is no evidence to support this. His biographer Father Brocard Sewell asserts that he was ordained a deacon in the Church of England in 1908, and thus was properly addressed as " Reverend" in any case.

Summers wrote hagiography (on Saint Catherine of Siena) and lives of writers such as Jane Austen before turning to the occult, for which he is best remembered. In 1928 he published the first English translation of Heinrich Kramer's and James Sprenger's Malleus Maleficarum ("The Hammer of Witches"), a fifteenth century Latin text on the hunting of witches. This work followed his History of Witchcraft and Demonology (1927) and The Geography of Witchcraft (1928). He then turned to vampires, producing The Vampire: His Kith and Kin (1928) and The Vampire in Europe (1929), and later to werewolves with The Werewolf (1933). Summers's work on the occult is notorious for his unusual and old-fashioned writing style, his display of erudition, and his purported belief in the reality of the subjects he treats. Of lasting value were his seminal works on Gothic literature: The Gothic Quest: a History of the Gothic Novel (1938), A Gothic Bibliography (1940) and his collection of Gothic Horror stories in The Supernatural Omnibus (1931) and Victorian Ghost Stories (1936). Summers also edited an incomplete edition of two of the seven obscure Gothic novels, known as the Northanger Horrid Novels, mentioned by Jane Austen in her Gothic parody Northanger Abbey. Summers was instrumental in rediscovering these lost books, which some had supposed were an invention of Jane Austen herself.

Summers cultivated his reputation for eccentricity. The Times of London wrote he was "in every way a 'character' and in some sort a throwback to the Middle Ages." His biographer, Brocard Sewell, paints the following portrait of Summers: "During the year 1927, the striking and somber figure of the Reverend Montague Sommers in black soutane and cloak, with buckled shoes--a la Louis Quatorze--and shovel hat could often have been seen entering or leaving the reading room of the British Museum, carrying a large black portfolio bearing on its side a white label, showing in blood-red capitals, the legend 'VAMPIRES'."

While his friend Aleister Crowley adopted the persona of a modern-day witch, Summers played the part of the learned Catholic witch-hunter. His introduction to the Malleus Maleficarum declares it an admirable and correct account of witchcraft and of the methods necessary to combat it. In the introduction to his book on The History of Witchcraft and Demonology he writes: "In the following pages I have endeavored to show the witch as she really was – an evil liver: a social pest and parasite: the devotee of a loathly and obscene creed: an adept at poisoning, blackmail, and other creeping crimes: a member of a powerful secret organization inimical to Church and State: a blasphemer in word and deed, swaying the villagers by terror and superstition: a charlatan and a quack sometimes: a bawd: an abortionist: the dark counselor of lewd court ladies and adulterous gallants: a minister to vice and inconceivable corruption, battening upon the filth and foulest passions of the age".

He died at his home in Richmond, Surrey. An autobiography The Galanty Show was published posthumously in 1980, though much is left unrevealed about his somewhat mysterious life.


Among his works are:

Poetry and Drama

  • Antinous and Other Poems, 1907
  • William Henry (play), 1939
  • Edward II (play), 1940

Prose fiction

  • The Grimoire and Other Ghostly Tales, 1936
  • Six Ghost Stories, 1937
  • The Sins of the Fathers, 1947
  • Supernatural Tales, 1947

Editions and translations

  • Works of Mrs. Aphra Behn, 1915
  • Complete Works of Congreve, 1923
  • Complete Works of Wycherley, 1924
  • The Complete Works of Thomas Shadwell, 1927
  • Covent Garden Drollery, 1927
  • Horrid Mysteries by the Marquis de Grosse 1927 (part of an incomplete edition of the Northanger Horrid Novels).
  • The Necromancer of the Black Forest, 1927 (part of an incomplete edition of the 'Northanger Horrid Novels').
  • Sinistrati's Demoniality, 1927
  • The Malleus Maleficarum of Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger, 1928
  • The Discovery of Witches, 1928 by Matthew Hopkins (reprinted ISBN 0-404-18416-2)
  • The Wikisource:Compendium Maleficarum of Francesco Maria Guazzo, 1929
  • The Supernatural Omnibus, 1931 (reprinted ISBN 0-88356-037-2)
  • Victorian Ghost Stories, 1936
  • The Complete Works of Otway, 1936

The occult

  • The History of Witchcraft, 1926
  • The Geography of Witchcraft, 1927 (reprinted ISBN 0-7100-7617-7)
  • The Vampire: His Kith and Kin, 1928 (reprinted with alternate title: Vampires and Vampirism ISBN 0-486-43996-8)
  • The Vampire in Europe, 1929 (reprinted ISBN 0-517-14989-3) (reprinted with alternate title: The Vampire in Lore and Legend ISBN 0-486-41942-8)
  • The Werewolf, 1933 (reprinted with alternate title: The Werewolf in Lore and Legend ISBN 0-486-43090-1)
  • A Popular History of Witchcraft, 1937
  • Witchcraft and Black Magic, 1946 (reprinted ISBN 1-55888-840-3, ISBN 0-486-41125-7)
  • The Physical Phenomena of Mysticism, 1947.

Other works

  • St. Catherine of Siena, 1903
  • Lourdes, 1904
  • A Great Mistress of Romance: Ann Radcliffe, 1917
  • Jane Austen, 1919
  • St. Antonio-Maria Zaccaria, 1919
  • Architecture and the Gothic Novel, 1931
  • The Restoration Theatre, 1934
  • Essays in Petto 1933
  • The Playhouse of Pepys, 1935
  • The Gothic Quest: a History of the Gothic Novel 1938
  • A Gothic Bibliography 1940


  • Brocard Sewell (aka Joseph Jerome). Montague Summers: A Memoir. London: Cecil and Amelia Woolf, 1965.

This article might use material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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