SUMMERS, Montague

Born: 1880

Died: August 10, 1948

Montague Summers was an eccentric English author and scholar who is known for his research on the Restoration period and his outlandish behavior.

Summers was an enigmatic character. At some point during his literary career, presumable after his graduation from Oxford and ordination, he modified his name to the Reverend Dr. Alphonsus Joseph Mary Augustus Montague Summers.

In person or in print, the Reverend Montague Summers evoked strong opinions concerning both his scholarship and his lifestyle. He was particularly concerned with Restoration theater, the supernatural, and the Gothic novel, three subjects considered taboo and obscure. He was also a personal oddity, often wearing clothes that could have been used during an eighteenth century costume drama and using language that verged on the obscene.

Summers had a flare for the dramatic. He has been classified as an egomaniac exhibitionist and vague rumors of ecclesiastic indiscretions often circulated Oxford. But in the tradition of Swift and Pope, he was an academic pugilist using his vast knowledge as a sword against academic foes. He acquired a taste for battle and his weapons were the sneer, and the sardonic put-down.

His active literary and outlandish social life became more interesting in 1914 with the release of Memoir of Mrs. Behn, a history of Aphra Behn, the first English woman to earn her livelihood by writing. The book was a six volume compendium of the restoration author. Summers is credited for reviving interest and dispelling myths about the Restoration period. For more than fifteen years he illuminated a chapter of English literary history once thought closed.

Many would say Summers was plagued by demons he tried to exorcise through writing about them. Starting in the late 1920s he was possessed with the study of demons, vampires, werewolves, and witchcraft. He was the first to produce definitive tracts on such esoteric subjects. He explored the supernatural writing about both the sacred and the profane on subjects such as hagiology and devil lore.

He entered his third phase in the 1930s, the study of the Gothic novel. He gained international fame and any student of any of his three periods realizes that his works are invaluable reference material. Summers produced two landmark bibliographies, A Bibliography of Restoration Drama in 1934 and A Gothic Bibliography in 1940, that remain definitive source books.