The Order of Chaeronea was a secret society of Victorian men (and a couple of women) whose aim was to cultivate a community of lovers of same-sex relationships. Most members of the group would have called themselves “Uranian” which, as I wrote here, describes an erotic attachment to boys and youths. They would be regarded as with great suspicion today as possible paedophiles.
8) Montagu Summers was one of the more eccentric members of the Order of Chaeronea. Even though he lived well into the 20th century he was very 19th century in behaviour and appearance.
In 1908 Montagu was ordained a deacon in the Church of England. In 1909 he converted to Catholicism. He never proceeded higher in church hierarchy. There are several reasons for this. First are the accusations made against him for inappropriate sexual contact with boys. Nothing was ever proved conclusively at the time. Montagu’s first published book, “Antinous and Other Poems”, came out in 1907 and was dedicated to Uranian love. Antinous was the partner of the Roman Emperor Hadrian.
Secondly, by the 1920s Montague Summers had become interested in the occult, not as a practitioner but as a historian and opponent. The Church felt that his over-enthusiasm was out of touch with their own changing views on non-Christian practices. The modern horror genre owes a great deal to Montague Summers because of this enthusiasm. He wrote and translated many books on witchcraft and black magic. From 1928 his main focus turned to vampires and werewolves.
So, how do you kill a vampire? In his book “The Vampire: His Kith and Kin” Montague gave detailed accounts of vampires across Europe and described several methods of killing them. As we see in films a common method of despatch is a thrust of a wooden stake through the heart. But there’s more to it than that. It must be a single thrust. A second thrust will revive the vampire for eternity. The stake should also pin the vampire to the ground. A vampire that is standing up won’t be killed even by a single thrust. Next you must chop off its head with a gravedigger’s spade, and only a gravedigger’s spade. Only when both have been done will a vampire die. Just to make sure you can set fire to it and bun it to ashes. The other methods often seen in films (garlic, holy water, crosses) will only injure the vampire or keep it away, not kill it.
In addition to witchcraft and the occult Montague Summers wrote about the fictional world of the supernatural, the gothic novel. In 1924 he wrote the introduction for an edition of what is regarded as the first ever gothic novel, “The castle of Otranto”, published in 1764.
“The Castle of Otranto” was set in the medieval period. It brought a dark mood and uneasy tension into its narrative, merging supernatural elements and dark, gloomy corridors to create the stereotypical gothic horror scenario that is still popular today in many films and television series.
When it was first published “The Castle of Otranto” claimed to be a translation of a long-lost 16th century Italian manuscript. It was actually a fake. “The Castle of Otranto” was actually the work of 9) Horace Walpole (1717-1797), the 4th Earl of Oxford and son of the UK’s first Prime Minister. Like Montagu Summers he had a fascination for medieval history.
It wasn’t until the 1960s when Walpole’s sexuality was accepted, even though all the clues were there from the start. In his own lifetime some of Walpole’s political rivals called him effeminate. He had a teenage relationship with the 2nd Duke of Newcastle. In adult life Walpole spent time in the company of many bachelor men and died unmarried.
Walpole’s “The Castle of Otranto” was an instant success. This prompted him to reveal his deception in the second edition. Critics who praised the first edition then dismissed it as trivial fiction. Even though the novel was fiction it was based on real people and locations. In Montague Summers’ introduction to the 1924 edition showed that much of the plot can be traced to elements in the life of Manfredo di Hohenstaufen, King of Sicily (1232-1266). One of Manfredo’s possessions was a real place called Otranto on the heel of Italy.
Horace Walpole was rich enough to indulge himself by designing his own fake gothic castle. It still stands today in Richmond-upon-Thames. He called it Strawberry Hill House and it inspired a new wave of gothic architecture. Having no children to pass it on to Walpole bequeathed the house to a former ward of his, a lady called 10) Anne Seymour Damer (1749-1828).
|Strawberry Hill House|