Arthur Machen is an author I had been dying to indulge in for many years. My ever-growing reading list was out of control and by the off chance, I happened upon a compilation of his stories in Foyles on Charing Cross Road in London. Instead of adding this to the pile, I simply picked it up and began reading it.
As I began to read his story The Great God Pan, I was so intrigued by the writer that my immediate action was to delve into the world of Machen himself of which I started to find some parallels to myself as a person and a writer.
Like myself, Machen was born in Wales and grew up in the countryside. The landscape he grew up in was Monmouthshire and the history that accompanied this wonderful land made an impression on him at a very early age. It ignited a love for the supernatural, fantasy and horror.
Wales is a place full of rich history and folklore and my interest in folklore was nurtured early on by my grandmother that told me tales of witches and ghosts – I believe she was the reason I have such a great interest in the occult.
In 1894, The Great God Pan was published; this was his first major piece of work. It sold incredibly well and went into its second edition possibly due to its outlandish themes and content. Machen was associated with the occult world and having made friends with A.E. Waite his interest in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn didn’t last long although he did hold a lifelong interest in mysticism.
His literary career was very much based on the belief that there is a mysterious world beyond our own, that our normal world harbours more than what we just see and this is reflected in his work. Despite a religious upbringing, it did not alter his curiosity for the supernatural and the occult.
Looking beyond The Great God Pan, his work has a richness, its denseness is not to bore but to grip and pull you into the world he has created. Everything is so beautifully descriptive that you can see, smell and feel the terror that lurks within the pages of the book.
Growing up, I always believed that a realm existed that we couldn’t always see. There were glimpses that were left unexplained or they were “just my imagination”. My projection of this belief heavily influences my writing and research work – it will continue to intrigue me until my time comes and I can truly see what is on the other side.
Image: Arthur Machen 1988 Ink on paper
Portrait of the Welsh writer for the limited edition of The Haunter of the Dark by Caermaen Books by John Coulthart