Papers of C.E. Montague

  • Reference
      GB 133 CEM
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      5.3 li.m.
  • Location
      Collection available at John Rylands Library, Deansgate.

Scope and Content

The collection contains material reflecting the whole of C.E. Montague's career as a journalist and an author. The volumes of press cuttings include Montague's varied contributions to the Manchester Guardian dating from 1890, the year he joined the paper, to 1928, the year of his death, as well as his writings for other journals and newspapers. There is also some correspondence relating to his job at the Guardian and his retirement from the paper. His literary career is represented by the numerous notes, drafts, manuscripts and typescripts of his books, showing the gradual evolution from rough ideas to the completed text. Correspondence reflects his relationships with his different publishers and includes letters to Montague about his books from diverse writers and artists. In addition there are reviews of his books from various papers, and a small amount of miscellaneous material, such as a thesis on Montague from 1930 and souvenirs from World War I.

Administrative / Biographical History

Charles Edward Montague was born in Ealing on 1st January 1867, the third of Francis and Rosa Montague's four sons. His parents had left their native Ireland to marry and settle in England after Francis deserted the Catholic priesthood, and they subsequently broke almost all ties with their families in Ireland. Francis remained an ardent Irish Nationalist, however, and awakened in his son a keen interest in the Irish question which was subsequently reflected in his journalism.

C.E. Montague grew up in Twickenham where the family moved in 1869, and from 1879 he travelled into London daily to attend the City of London School. His early love of literature was developed at school, as well as his lifelong passion for the power of language and the craftsmanship of writing (which is best articulated in the posthumously published collection of essays, A Writer's Notes on His Trade).

From school he won a classical scholarship to Oxford, and in 1885 he entered Balliol College as a classical exhibitioner. After graduating in 1889 he wrote occasional reviews for the Manchester Guardian while looking for work, and in 1890 was taken on by the editor C.P. Scott as a permanent member of staff. Manchester, a city which he came to love, thus became his home for the next 35 years until his retirement from the paper.

Under C.P. Scott, the Manchester Guardian had been transformed from a moderate Whig journal into the leading organ of Liberal opinion and played an important role in all the foremost debates of the day. C.E. Montague's Liberal sympathies found expression in articles on, among many other topics, Irish home rule (he visited Ireland as a special correspondent in 1891), imperialism and the Boer War, tariff reform, women's suffrage, and the constitutional issues leading up to the Parliament Act of 1911. On the retirement of W.T. Arnold in 1898, Montague became the chief leader writer and second in command to Scott, in effect acting as editor while Scott was a Member of Parliament during the period 1895-1906. Also in 1898, Montague married Scott's daughter, Madeline. They settled at 10 Oak Drive in the Fallowfield area of Manchester and were to have seven children - five sons and two daughters.

Montague's writing for the Guardian was not restricted purely to current affairs and politics. Inspired by his appreciation of language and literature, he established a considerable reputation as a reviewer and dramatic critic, playing an important role in the `Manchester School' of drama and criticism which was loosely connected to Annie Horniman's Gaiety Theatre founded in 1908. Some of his dramatic reviews written for the Guardian were reprinted in The Manchester Stage 1890-1900 (1900), to which W.T. Arnold, Oliver Elton and Allan Monkhouse also contributed; and other reviews formed the basis of Dramatic Values, a volume of critical essays on drama by Montague published in 1911.

Whereas Montague's talent as a critic was recognized early, he was 43 before his first work of fiction was published: in A Hind Let Loose (1910) he drew on his own experience to produce a novel satirizing modern journalism and the methods of the `low' journalist. A second novel, The Morning's War, was published in 1913, but it was not until after the First World War, (a momentous event in his life and a great influence on his later work), that Montague's talents as a short story writer and an essayist were developed more fully.

When war broke out in 1914, despite his age, Montague enlisted as a private soldier in a spirit of idealism and patriotism, and expressed his belief in the righteousness of the cause. He joined the Royal Fusiliers and in 1915 he went to France and spent some weeks fighting on the front line. Having been invalided back to England, he was commissioned as an intelligence officer in 1916 and returned to France where he had the job of conducting distinguished visitors, such as diplomats, MPs and writers, over the western front. In 1917 he became an assistant press censor, dealing with the despatches of the press correspondents on the front.

After demobilization in 1919 he returned to his job on the Manchester Guardian and his feelings about the war found expression in his journalism as well as in his essays and fictional works. He had become disillusioned by the attitudes of the regular army towards the war, by the blunders of the military leaders, and by what he saw as the unnecessarily mercenary nature of the peace treaty. His bitterness is strongly articulated in Disenchantment (1922), a collection of essays on the war, which widened his reputation considerably. The war also figures in a number of the short stories collected in the volume Fiery Particles (1923). This was followed, on a different note, with a collection of travel essays, The Right Place, in 1924.

In 1925, Montague retired from the Guardian, and moved to Burford in Oxfordshire. However, he remained a member of the board of directors of the newspaper, and attended most of the monthly meetings. He continued to contribute to the paper whilst also writing fiction inspired both by his feelings about the war and by long-standing preoccupations, such as his dislike of the English public school system and his love of the Alps and mountaineering. The novels Rough Justice (1926) and Right Off the Map (1927) appeared during his lifetime, and posthumously published were Action (1928) - short stories, and A Writer's Notes on his Trade (1930). In 1926 he was awarded an honorary Litt.D by Manchester University. In 1928, during a visit to Manchester to attend the University Founder's Day celebrations he developed pneumonia after catching a chill and died on 28 May.

He was remembered as a slightly reserved, though well-liked man who was always modest about his achievements and often dissatisfied with his fictional writings. He was fiercely moral and determined to expose what he saw as corruption and fight for the truth, both in his journalism and his fictional work.


The collection was originally sorted and listed by Mrs Elton, the loose documents arriving at the library sorted into packages and labelled with typed captions. In addition, there appeared to be a small number of items which were not included in the list, as well as the subsequent accession of 4 letters. In preparing this updated list, while retaining the original order of the material as far as possible, the archivist has taken the opportunity to arrange the collection into broad subgroups reflecting the division between Montague's journalistic and literary work. It was not thought necessary to create a separate subgroup for the letters received in 1979, although they are noted as being a later accession. All former reference numbers are given throughout to facilitate reconstruction of the original list. Where two former references are noted, the first refers to an original accession number and the second to the list compiled by Rose Elton. Various pieces of useful information included in the original list from Mrs Elton's personal knowledge have been noted in the new list.

C.E. Montague is referred to as CEM throughout the list.

The subgroups into which the collection has been divided are as follows:

  • CEM/1 Journalistic material.
  • CEM/2 Literary material.
  • CEM/3 Miscellaneous and related material.

Access Information

The collection is open to any accredited reader.

This finding aid may contain personal or sensitive personal data about living individuals. Under Section 33 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), The John Rylands University Library (JRUL) has the right to process such personal data for research purposes. The Data Protection (Processing of Sensitive Personal Data) Order 2000 enables the JRUL to process sensitive personal data for research purposes. In accordance with the DPA, the JRUL has made every attempt to ensure that all personal and sensitive personal data has been processed fairly, lawfully and accurately, according to the Data Protection Principles.

Other Finding Aids


Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

A number of items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands Library, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PP.

Custodial History

The collection consists of the journalistic and literary papers of C.E. Montague which came into the possession of his daughter, Mrs Rose Elton. Mrs Elton presented them to the John Rylands Library as a gift on 22 July 1976. An additional gift of four letters was made in 1979.

Related Material

The John Rylands Library (Deansgate) holds the papers of the writer and journalist, Allan Monkhouse ( ANM), who was one of Montague's fellow drama critics on the Manchester Guardian. This collection includes 87 letters from Montague and many letters from other writers and critics, reflecting the literary world of the time.

The Guardian archive, also containing some C.E.Montague correspondence. Handlists for these collections are available via the JRUL's Guide to Special Collections.


See also: Oliver Elton, C.E. Montague: A Memoir, (London: Chatto and Windus, 1929).

C.P. Scott 1846-1932: The Making of the 'Manchester Guardian', (London: Frederick Muller Ltd, 1946) : contains much information on the history of the Guardian and includes an article by C.E. Montague on his father-in-law.

Corporate Names

Geographical Names