Fatal Women of Romanticism

By Adriana Craciun | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
Unnatural, unsexed, undead:Charlotte Dacre's
Gothic bodies

INTRODUCTION: DACRE'S LITERARY TRADITION
AND RECEPTION

Montague Summers's Fortune Press edition of Charlotte Dacre's Gothic novel Zofloya, published in 1928, brought to a crisis the pornographic reputation that had shadowed Dacre's novel since its initial publication in 1806. Summers is well known to scholars of the Gothic for his early studies, The Gothic Quest and A Gothic Bibliography. 1 What is not generally known is that, in 1934, Summers's Fortune Press translations of Sinistrari's Demoniality (1927) and The Confessions of Madeleine Bavent (1933) were seized and condemned under England's Obscene Publications Act. A total of eighteen Fortune Press texts were ordered destroyed in 1935, including Summers's above-mentioned translations, the well-known Don Leon erroneously attributed to Byron, and novels by Huysmans and Louÿs. The magistrate who ruled the books obscene declared that:

The majority of the books which came before me are of a kind which no publishers of reputation would dream of associating with their names. I regard the action of the police in this case as a public duty, and I think they would be doing a public service if they keep an eye on similar publications. 2

It seems that Zofloya was not one of the eighteen books destroyed, though it may very well have been among the more than one hundred “books, papers, writings, prints, pictures and drawings” seized during the raid. 3 What is certain is that Zofloya is at home among the heretical and perverse assemblage published by the Fortune Press, and in particular among Montague Summers's encyclopedic taxonomies of demonology, sadism, and the Gothic. 4 The magistrate's tone of moral outrage in 1935 is identical to that of Dacre's sternest critics in 1806, and is not unrelated to the impatience or dissatisfaction on the part of some modern critics with her work's contradictory moral codes. Yet what wonderful company to

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