Arthur Machen

Born Arthur Llewellyn Jones on March 3, 1863 in Caerleon-on-Usk, Wales, Arthur Machen was the author of "The Great God Pan" (1894), The Three Imposters (1890) (an episode novel containing "The Novel of the White Powder", "The Novel of the Black Seal," and others), The Hill of Dreams (1907), The Terror (1917) and other supernatural horror. His adopted surname is pronounced mack'n (rhymes with "blacken").

Machen was also an essayist, journalist, Shakespearean actor, occultist (he was a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn along with Blackwood, Yeats, Aleister Crowley, and Machen's friend A.E. Waite), and a translator (of Cassanova's Memoirs, Beroalde de Verville's Moyen de Parvenir (Fantastic Tales), and the Heptameron of Marguerite, Queen of Navarre). His autobiography was issued in three volumes beginning with Far Off Things in 1922 (the title is borrowed from Wordsworth).

By the estimate of many, Machen deserves a premier place among the best of his field. Lovecraft counted him foremost of the four "modern masters" of supernatural horror (with Algernon Blackwood, Lord Dunsany, and M. R. James): "Of living creators of cosmic fear raised to its most artistic pitch, few if any can hope to equal the versatile Arthur Machen, ... master of an exquisitely lyrical and expressive prose style." Lovecraft ranked Machen's story "The White People" a close second to Blackwood's "The Willows" as the best weird story ever written. On the other hand, Carl van Vechten considered the highly autobiographical Hill of Dreams to be Machen's masterpiece; Machen said he had intended it to be "a Robinson Crusoe of the mind" and "an interior tale of the soul and its emotions." Fantasy connoisseur Lin Carter called Machen "one of the noblest stylistic masters of the English language in our century." And genre historian E. F. Bleiler listed him as "probably the outstanding British writer of fin de siecle supernatural fiction, highly important historically."

Machen died December 15, 1947 in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, England. To mark the fiftieth anniversary, a plaque honoring Machen was unveiled in November 1997 on the house where the author was born, in the town square of Caerleon-on-Usk. Actions such as this and new editions of his work from Tartarus Press and Hobgoblin Press -- together with the continuance of the Arthur Machen Society -- are welcome signs of new life for the works of the man who has been called "the Apostle of Wonder."

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A young Machen, photomontage by Andrea Bonazzi

About 1901

In the Roman amphitheatre at Caerleon, 3/3/1937

First posted: July 27, 1996
Last updated: November 15, 2019

Selected Authors of Supernatural Horror

Ambrose Bierce H.P. Lovecraft Edgar A. Poe
Algernon Blackwood Arthur Machen M. P. Shiel
Lord Dunsany Fitz-James O'Brien Clark Ashton Smith
William Hope Hodgson Other Links Photo Gallery

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