Critical Evaluation

(Masterpieces of British Fiction)

THE HILL OF DREAMS is the depressing but haunting tale of an apparent failure. Lucian Taylor dreamed impractical dreams, failed to earn a respectable living, failed in his writings (which were plagiarized by unscrupulous publishers), and died unnecessarily, having ruined his own health. He was not liked by respectable people nor even by his landlady to whom he left money, and he had been the cause of strain to his father. Nevertheless, through the story of Lucian, Arthur Machen illustrates that many apparent failures at the time of their deaths, such as Jesus Christ or Lucian, are the eternal victors. Lucian’s neighbors in his hometown and in West London could very well be the eternal failures, for they fail to see the proverbial beam in their own eyes, and they ignore the biblical injunction to “judge not, that ye be not judged.”

Lucian is the target of criticism and condemnation throughout the novel. Although this condemnation seems justified and crushingly final when he is found dead in his dismal rented room amid his illegible scribblings, THE HILL OF DREAMS is not, ultimately, a novel of failure. It breathes of another life beyond the grave, a life that Lucian might have won, for he was loyal to his tortured dreams until the end. Lucian seemingly succumbed to satanic visions only under the unnatural influence of opium, when he had lost his reason. The real Lucian, however, is the youth of the early parts of the novel, who...

(The entire section is 542 words.)