Colin Wilson - Witches: Una Woodruff

Colin Wilson - Witches: Una Woodruff

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The most unexpected bestseller of 1926 was a book called The History of Witchcraft and Demonology by the Revd. Montague Summers. Issued by Routledge and Kegan Paul as part of their History of Civilisation, it was obviously serious work, full of Latin quotations, lengthy footnotes, and a comprehensive bibliography. What startled the reviewers was that the

author clearly believed every word he wrote about the 'enormous wickedness' of witches, warlocks and devil worshippers. H. G. Wells was so incensed by the book that he launched a vituperative attack on it in the Sunday Express. The Times, equally disapproving, contented itself with the comment that the more Mr. Summers gives proof of general ability, of scholarship and of wide reading, the more the suspicion deepens that mystification is in progress and that he is amusing himself at our expense'.

Was it a legpull? Or a cynical attempt to achieve a succès de scandale? Apparently neither. The Reverend Montague Summers was a respectable Catholic scholar, editor of several Restoration dramatists, and founder of a theatrical society called the Phoenix, which revived Restoration plays on the London stage. It is true that his name was not to be found in the clergy lists of either the Roman Catholic Church or the Church of England; but this was not as rumor had it because he was an unfrocked priest; in fact he had been ordained a Deacon of the Church of England in 1908, a year before he became a Roman Catholic convert. It is also true that he allowed people to suppose that he was a Roman