January 2010 | Rebecca Rego Barry

Twilight Inspiration

Missing manuscripts, vampires, and gothic churchyards make for fun reading, no doubt. But this isn't about Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series, at least not directly. It's about Montague Summers (1880-1948), a renegade reverend who was also an expert on the gothic and supernatural and may have inspired Meyer's work. Summers was "internationally known for his erudite if sometimes idiosyncratic editions and histories of Restoration dramas, studies of the gothic novel, and often sensational writings on witchcraft, demonology and the occult," writes Dr. Gerard O'Sullivan in an article from the Autumn issue of The Antigonish Review.

Summers' literary papers went missing about 60 years ago, only one of the mysteries surrounding this odd author, who was refused a requiem mass at his burial and was rumored to have haunted his personal assistant. The papers--letters and holograph manuscripts--were apparently loaded into tea chests and sold by an angry landlady after Summers' death. In 1970, Father Brocard Sewell published an essay about the missing papers titled "The Manuscripts of Montague Summers," also in The Antigonish Review.

Summers' literary archive took quite a journey, which O'Sullivan skillfully recounts in his article, "The Manuscripts of Montague Summers, Revisited." He details the discovery and cataloguing of this important literary archive and notes where some wayward manuscript items have turned up along the way (at the Beinecke Library, for example, and with various dealers and private collectors.)

What is the fate of the reverend's papers now that they have been recovered?

"We are currently in conversation with university libraries in the hope of finding a permanent home for the papers.  The family of Summers's personal assistant, Hector Stuart-Forbes, hope to have the materials remain together as a contiguous collection and be made available to scholars and researchers," wrote O'Sullivan in a recent email.