Arthur Machen

by Arthur Llewellyn Jones

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Early in his career Arthur Machen translated several works from French, including The Memoirs of Jacques Casanova (1894). His major novel is The Hill of Dreams (1907). Autobiographical volumes include Far Off Things (1922) and Things Near and Far (1923). Machen’s highly readable essays are collected in such volumes as Dog and Duck (1924).


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In recognition of his literary accomplishments, Arthur Machen received a civil-list pension from King George V in 1933. Over the years several societies of enthusiastic readers have been formed to reprint Machen’s works and advance his reputation.


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Cavaliero, Glen. “Watchers on the Threshold.” In The Supernatural and English Fiction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995. Cavaliero stresses the importance of landscape and cityscape in Machen’s works as well as the sexual content of his stories. Like most commentators, he praises “The White People” in particular.

Joshi, S. T. “Arthur Machen: The Mystery of the Universe.” In The Weird Tale. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1990. Taking a largely negative view of Machen’s work, Joshi dismisses the author’s philosophy and his narrative skill. He observes that, with few exceptions, Machen’s best works were written during the decade 1889-1899.

Nash, Berta. “Arthur Machen Among the Arthurians.” In Minor British Novelists, edited by Charles Alva Hoyt. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1967. Examines Machen’s use of the Matter of Arthur, particularly the Holy Grail, which Nash believes functioned for Machen as a symbol of humankind. Despite the title of the volume, Machen’s short as well as his long works are considered.

Navarette, Susan. The Shape of Fear: Horror and the Fin de Siècle Culture of Decadence. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1998. Studies Machen along with Oscar Wilde, Walter de la Mare, Henry James, Vernon Lee, and Joseph Conrad, historically contextualizing the works to explore the anxieties and phobias of the era.

Reynolds, Aidan, and William Charlton. Arthur Machen: A Short Account of His Life and Work. Oxford: Caermaen, 1988. As the standard biography of Machen, this volume is not likely to be surpassed. Originally published in 1963, it includes illustrations, notes, brief bibliographies, and an index.

Sweetser, Wesley D. Arthur Machen. Boston: Twayne, 1964. Sweetser’s study remains the most complete book on Machen, summarizing his life and discussing almost all his vast production. Includes useful (although now dated) primary and secondary bibliographies.

Valentine, Mark. Arthur Machen. Bridgend, Mid Glamorgan, Wales: Seren, 1995. A sympathetic introduction to Machen, briefer than Sweetser’s but taking advantage of more recent scholarship and taking issue with Joshi on several points. Includes illustrations and a select bibliography but no index.

Wagenknecht, Edward. “Arthur Machen.” In Seven Masters of Supernatural Fiction. New York: Greenwood Press, 1991. This survey by an objective critic gives fair consideration to Machen’s later, lesser-known stories and novels as well as his more familiar works.

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Critical Essays