Partridge India| Forgotten Fiction: Arthur Machen
In this entry of Forgotten Fiction, Partridge India explores the work of Arthur Machen.
Who is Arthur Machen?
Born Arthur Llewelyn Jones in Wales in 1863, Arthur Machen was a prominent writer and mystic between the 1890s and the early 1900s. The rich Celtic, Roman, and Medieval history of his home-county, Monmouthshire, heavily influenced Arthur Machen’s interests in his formative years. In later life he studied alchemy, kabbalah, and Hermeticism, but balanced with a scientific approach. He emphasizes the expression of awe, wonder, and terror in writing. All of which he shows in his writings, incorporating ancient beliefs, folk-legends, and scholarly inquiry into his stories. His works include The Great God Pan, The White People, and The Three Imposters, to name a few out of a proliferate career.
The White People
Those who enjoy dark fairy-tales would likely appreciate The White People. In this novella Arthur Machen showcases his love and knowledge for British folklore. Two friends, intellectuals with a fascination for the mystical (much like Machen himself), discuss the nature of magic and the strange. Eventually, to prove a point, one of the gentlemen shares an account he had read in journal. This journal speaks of a small town’s experiences, both awe-inspiring and terrible, with a race of eldritch entities. The White People, so named for their stone-like alabaster appearance, are mercurial entities, equally capable of imparting blessings and gifts as they are capable of inflicting curses and suffering. The tales within the journal include fairy lords who give great gifts to their brides but jealously smite any human suitors, standing stones with a disturbing presence, and witches who inflict dreadful curses.
The Great God Pan
This novella depicts the horrible consequences of science reaching too far into the unknown, thus drawing the attention something alien and terrible. A single experiment to open a young woman’s mind to an entity (perhaps an alien, perhaps a god, perhaps both) leads to death, sorrow, and insanity over the course of a few decades. Years after the terrible experiment, a hauntingly beautiful woman stalks high society, leaving a trail of dead and insane suitors in her wake. The protagonist Villiers, a man of high society and thus a peer of the victims, seeks to understand and perhaps stop the unearthly threat that is Helen Vaughan.