I love Arthur Machen

In my quest to read as many good books as is humanly possible, I came across the short stories of Arthur Machen. A favourite of mine is The Inmost Light. The story is structured as a detective story, but based around a supernatural incident. Machen uses these otherworldly themes in such a subtle and intelligent way, and often explores moral issues via the supernatural storylines. Very bravely, he does address the issue of men abusing and dehumanising women. (I mentioned this in my post about The Monk.) He deals with the subject in a very sensitive way, describing how the the wife’s love for her deranged husband makes her open to this abuse, and then describes his remorse and guilt when he finally sees the evil in his behaviour.

The reason I love Arthur Machen so much, apart from his stories being so well structured and magical, is that his use of English is exceptional. The language is perfect English, but spoken so fluently as not to sound contrived or imposing. This is so rare, even among good writers. It is shocking that he is not studied in schools.

Machen is often cited as an influence for H P Lovecraft, so I would recommend reading him if you are interested in Weird Fiction or early SciFi. Although I am a huge fan of Lovecraft, I would say that Machen’s structure and prose is vastly superior. I found, reading his work that I was completely inside the world and with the characters, which, considering his pieces are short, and that he does not use long descriptive paragraphs, is very impressive.

His style is very old world British, rather like C S Lewis, Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle or  P G Wodehouse. So he is a good read if you are into that sort of nostalgia or Anglophilia. For me, he might be my new favourite author.

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Today I am working on an painting/embroidery for Project Snail. It is a portrait of Ann of Cleves dressed as Amphitrite. I am using a bead collection and various small found objects with holes in to decorate the piece.

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One thought on “I love Arthur Machen

  1. Great post. Your reading of Inmost Light is good I think. Machen is often accused of misogyny by critics who read him superficially, and while some of his stories are indeed sexist his fascination with evil women is part of a typical Victorian view of women as representing the extremes of good and evil. But Machen was equally fascinated by the possibility of exploring evil in men. Dr Black is the real monster in the story not his tormented wife, just as Dr Raymond in the Great God Pan is another monster who uses his power to create evil. I am editor of one of the Friends of Arthur Machen’s journals, you want a free copy of Machenalia? It is ideal reading for Machenphiles. Send me your snailmail address.

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