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Arthur Machen

Arthur Machen Arthur Machen[1†]

Arthur Machen, born as Arthur Llewellyn Jones[1†][2†], was a Welsh author and mystic of the 1890s and early 20th century[1†][2†]. He is best known for his influential supernatural, fantasy, and horror fiction[1†][2†]. His novella “The Great God Pan” (1890; 1894) has garnered a reputation as a classic of horror, with Stephen King describing it as "Maybe the best horror story[[?]] in the English language"[1†]. He is also well known for “The Bowmen”, a short story that was widely read as fact, creating the legend of the Angels of Mons[1†].

Machen’s work was deeply influenced by his childhood in Wales and his readings in the occult and metaphysics[1†][2†]. He lived most of his life in poverty as a clerk, teacher, and translator[1†][2†]. In 1902 he became an actor with Benson’s Shakespearean Repertory Company[1†][2†]. And, in 1912, approaching his 50th birthday, he joined the staff of the London Evening News[1†][2†].

Early Years and Education

Arthur Machen was born as Arthur Llewellyn Jones on March 3, 1863, in Caerleon, Monmouthshire, Wales[1†]. The house of his birth, opposite the Olde Bull Inn in The Square at Caerleon, is adjacent to the Priory Hotel and is today marked with a commemorative blue plaque[1†]. The beautiful landscape of Monmouthshire, with its associations of Celtic, Roman, and medieval history, made a powerful impression on him, and his love of it is at the heart of many of his works[1†].

Machen was descended from a long line of clergymen, the family having originated in Carmarthenshire[1†]. In 1864, when Machen was two, his father John Edward Jones, became vicar of the parish of Llanddewi Fach with Llandegveth, about five miles north of Caerleon, and Machen was brought up at the rectory there[1†]. Jones had adopted his wife’s maiden name, Machen, to inherit a legacy, legally becoming “Jones-Machen”; his son was baptised under that name and later used a shortened version of his full name, Arthur Machen, as a pen name[1†].

At the age of eight, Machen read an entrancing article on alchemy in a volume of Household Words in his father’s rectory library[1†]. He also bought De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium-Eater at Pontypool Road Railway Station, The Arabian Nights at Hereford Railway Station, and borrowed Don Quixote from Mrs. Gwyn, of Llanfrechfa Rectory[1†]. In his father’s library, he found also the Waverley Novels, a three-volume edition of the Glossary of Gothic Architecture, and an early volume of Tennyson[1†].

At the age of eleven, Machen boarded at Hereford Cathedral School, where he received an excellent classical education[1†][3†]. However, family poverty ruled out attendance at university[1†][3†][4†]. He left school in 1880, already fascinated by writing and determined to make himself a career in literature[1†][3†]. He moved to London, where he sat exams to attend medical school but failed to get in[1†][5†]. Despite this setback, Machen showed literary promise, publishing in 1881 a long poem “Eleusinia” on the subject of the Eleusinian Mysteries[1†][5†].

Career Development and Achievements

Arthur Machen’s career was marked by a deep commitment to literature and the arts[1†][2†]. Despite living most of his life in poverty, he pursued a career as a writer, working as a journalist and tutor and writing through the night[1†][4†]. This hard work led to Machen establishing himself as an author of “decadent horror” in his thirties[1†][4†].

In 1902, he became an actor with Benson’s Shakespearean Repertory Company[1†][2†][3†]. He travelled all over the country, acting but also picking up snippets of fact and fantasy to turn into stories[1†][3†]. His acting career came to an end in 1909[1†][3†].

In 1912, approaching his 50th birthday, he joined the staff of the London Evening News[1†][2†]. The quality of Machen’s writing was demonstrated early in World War I when the newspaper published the short story “The Angel of Mons” from The Bowmen and Other Legends of War (1915), which circulated widely as a true story and gave hope to thousands of soldiers in battle[1†][2†].

Machen’s works often evoked ancient Roman forts and Welsh mysteries[1†][2†]. Even his stories set in London were deeply romantic and nostalgic for a pre-industrial era[1†][2†]. His fantasies are often set in medieval England or Wales, as in the autobiographical The Hill of Dreams (1907)[1†][2†].

His other works include The Terror (1917), The Great God Pan and the Inmost Light (1894), Far Off Things (1922), and Things Near and Far (1923)[1†][2†]. Machen also translated Casanova’s Memoirs (12 vol., 1930)[1†][2†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Arthur Machen’s literary career was marked by several significant works that have had a lasting impact on the horror and fantasy genres[1†]. Here are some of his main works:

Machen’s works are characterized by their exploration of the supernatural and the mystical, often drawing on his Welsh heritage and his interest in the occult[1†]. His influence can be seen in the works of later horror and fantasy writers[1†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Arthur Machen’s works are characterized by a unique blend of the supernatural and the mystical, often drawing on his Welsh heritage and his interest in the occult[7†][8†]. His writings defy easy classification, inhabiting a middle ground between the short story and the novel[7†][8†]. Many of his apparently fictional works have the expository tone of nonfiction, and a number of the shorter pieces he wrote toward the end of his career can be read as either stories or essays[7†][8†].

Machen’s belief in the existence of a more meaningful world behind the facade of routine, everyday sense experience is a recurring theme in his works[7†][8†]. This other world is sometimes one of horror, as in the nightmarish events described in “The White People”, and sometimes it is a world of wonder and joy[7†][8†]. In many cases, Machen’s protagonists use drugs or other medical means to pierce the veil of so-called reality[7†][8†].

One theory that Machen dramatized in many of his works is that the folklore of elves and fairies has its origin in the survival of a primitive dwarf race driven underground by the invading Celts[7†][8†]. This belief represents an extension of his belief in a hidden reality underlying the everyday[7†][8†].

Despite some critics taking a largely negative view of Machen’s work, dismissing the author’s philosophy and his narrative skill[7†], his influence can be seen in the works of later horror and fantasy writers[7†]. His best works are considered to have been written during the decade 1889-1899[7†].

Personal Life

Arthur Machen was married twice in his lifetime[3†][9†]. His first marriage was in 1887 to Amelia Hogg, affectionately known as Amy[3†]. Unfortunately, their time together was cut short when Amy died of cancer in 1899[3†]. Details about his second marriage to Dorothie Purefoy Hudleston are not as well-documented[3†][9†].

Machen spent the early part of the 1880s living in self-imposed solitude in London, which was then the largest city in the world[3†][10†]. He lived in poverty, residing in remote suburbs[3†][10†]. Despite his circumstances, he managed to form friendships with many of London’s literary elite, including Oscar Wilde[3†].

Machen’s personal life was undoubtedly marked by his deep interest in the occult and metaphysics, which was reflected in his writings[3†][1†][2†]. His fascination with these subjects began at a young age, with Fred Hando, a local historian and folklorist, tracing Machen’s interest in the occult to a volume of Household Words in his father’s rectory library[3†][1†].

Machen died on March 30, 1947, in England[3†][9†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Arthur Machen’s legacy is deeply rooted in his influential supernatural, fantasy, and horror fiction[1†][2†][11†]. His novella “The Great God Pan” and his short story “The Bowmen” have left a lasting impact on the genre[1†][2†][11†]. His works often evoke ancient Roman forts, Welsh mysteries, and are deeply romantic and nostalgic for a pre-industrial era[1†][2†].

Machen’s work was deeply influenced by his childhood in Wales and his readings in the occult and metaphysics[1†][2†]. His fascination with these subjects began at a young age, and his works reflect this interest[1†][2†]. His stories, whether set in medieval England or Wales or even in London, are deeply romantic and nostalgic for a pre-industrial era[1†][2†].

Despite living most of his life in poverty, Machen managed to leave a significant mark in the literary world[1†][2†]. His works continue to be celebrated for their unique blend of horror and ecstasy[1†][12†]. His earlier work effectively manifests the horrific implications of an existence without God; his later work displays compelling, often beautiful, ways God’s presence breaks through our barriers to keep Him at bay[1†][12†].

Machen’s influence can be seen in the works of later authors of supernatural and horror fiction. His unique blend of the mystical and the horrific continues to captivate readers, ensuring his place in the annals of literature[1†][2†][11†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Wikipedia (English) - Arthur Machen [website] - link
  2. Britannica - Arthur Machen: Welsh writer [website] - link
  3. BBC Blogs - Wales - Arthur Machen, the first modern horror writer [website] - link
  4. The Guardian - Machen is the forgotten father of weird fiction [website] - link
  5. Goodreads - Book: Far Off Things [website] - link
  6. Goodreads - Author: Books by Arthur Machen (Author of The Great God Pan) [website] - link
  7. eNotes - Arthur Machen Analysis [website] - link
  8. eNotes - Arthur Machen Critical Essays [website] - link
  9. IMDb - Arthur Machen - Biography [website] - link
  10. The Friends of Arthur Machen - Friends of Arthur Machen Website homepage: Horror Fantastic and Supernatural Fiction [website] - link
  11. Goodreads - Author: Arthur Machen (Author of The Great God Pan) [website] - link
  12. Christ and Pop Culture - In Memoriam Arthur Machen: Celebrating 150 Years of Horror and Ecstasy [website] - link
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