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  • Print publication year: 2002
  • Online publication date: September 2009

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



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. 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.

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.