Machen was born in Caerleon-on-Usk in South Wales, and looked back
upon his youth in this part of the Gwent border country as an
inspiration for much of his writing. He moved to London as a young
man and spent the greater part of his adult life in the city, at
first as a book cataloguer, translator, journalist and, for some
years, as an actor. All of his work, from his prose poems through
to his journalism are written with an incantatory elegance and
achieved his first success, and notoriety, with The Great God
published in John Lane's Keynotes series with a cover design by
Aubrey Beardsley. Although this associated him with the Decadent
figures of the 1890s, he did not move in those circles, only
meeting Oscar Wilde twice. In this period, however, he wrote
arguably his most important work, including the
semi-autobiographical novel The Hill of Dreams (not published until 1907)
and the prose poems, Ornaments in Jade (not published until
Much to his
chagrin, Machen's pot-boiling short story "The Bowmen" became the
origin of the "Angels of Mons" myth in the First World War. He
found it impossible to persuade his contemporaries that his was an
entirely fictional account, and even today it is often referred to
without reference to Machen's story.
Machen is often categorised as a "horror" writer, but this is
perhaps as misleading as the suggestion that he wrote ghost
stories (only three or four of his tales involve ghosts). Rather,
his work is of a mystical cast, often influenced by his own mix of
High Church Anglicanism and a belief in an old Welsh Church that
predated modern Christianity. His best characters are usually
fictionalised versions of himself (Ambrose Meyrick in
Lucian Taylor in The Hill of Dreams), and undergo spiritual
revelations. His work has influenced writers as diverse as
H.P. Lovecraft and John
The Great God
scientist carries out an operation on a young girl which enables
her to "see Pan", resulting in her madness and pregnancy.
Twenty-four years later her daughter fascinates male London
society and brings about the ruin of many. The Inmost
Black has managed to capture the soul of his wife inside an
ditto, Roberts Bros (U.S.), 1894
ditto, Grant Richards, 
The Three Impostors, John Lane (London),
presented as a novel, this title is a set of connected short
stories, in imitation of Robert Louis
Stevenson's New Arabian Nights: Prologue: Three enigmatic characters
discuss the conspiracy in which they are involved. Adventure of the Gold
Dyson tells Phillipps of a violent chase he has witnessed, and how
he picked up from the gutter a rare gold coin discarded by one of
the men. The
Encounter of the Pavement: Dyson meets Mr Wilkins who tells him the:
Novel of the
Wilkins travels to the United States and is nearly killed in a
case of mistaken identity. Adventure of the Missing Brother: Miss Lally has a premonition
of danger when she shes her bother with a stranger with a
mask-like face and a skeletal arm. She tells her story in:
Novel of the
Miss Lally works for Professor Gregg who is researching the little
people who live underground in remote parts of the country. He
goes to investigate them and does not return. Incident of the Private
Bar: Dyson is
told a story of gem-dealing by Burton. The Decorative
Burton prefaces his story of the: Novel of the Iron
Maid: A man
who collects curiousities is a victim in his own iron maiden.
The Recluse of
Dyson meets Miss Leicester who relates: Novel of the White
brother takes an ill-prepared drug which is inadvertantly the
witches would have used to get them to their Sabbath.
Occurrence in Clerkenwell: Dyson discovers a notebook which reveals the:
History of the
Young Man With Spectacles: Dr Lipsius lures a man to his death.
the Deserted Residence: Dyson and Phillipps discover the fate of the
young man in spectacles.
these episodes have been successfully reprinted as short stories
without the novel framework. Not all are supernatural, and the
supernatural element in many is undermined by the unreliability of
ditto, Roberts Bros (U.S.), 1895
ditto, Knopf (U.S.), 1923
The Hill of Dreams, Grant Richards (London),
semi-autobiographical novel Lucian Taylor is a hypersensitive
youth from Wales who is able to conjure visions of a glorious past
from the Roman archaeological remains around him. He moves to
London where he attempts to write a great book, but finds it a
"demoniac and Dionysian bedlam". Perhaps more a mystical novel
than a supernatural one.
ditto, Dana Estes & Co (U.S.), 1907
The Great Return, The Faith Press, (London),
miraculous occurances in a small Welsh village are found by the
narrator to be the result of the return of the Holy Grail.
The Terror, Duckworth & Co.,
There are a
series of mysterious and inexplicable deaths during the first
ditto, as The Terror, A Mystery, McBride (U.S.),
The Secret Glory, Martin Secker (London),
sensitive young man, Ambrose Meyrick, is sustained through his
barbaric schooling by thoughts and memories of the Holy Grail kept
secret in his Welsh homeland. He embarks on adventures in the
city, and the book ends abruptly with a report of his death.
Perhaps more a mystical novel than a supernatural one.
ditto, as Chapters Five and Six of 'The Secret
Tartarus Press (Lewes), 1990
chapters are further episodes of Meyrick, including his time as an
actor, and his return to Wales where the "Marriage of the Cup" is
ditto, Tartarus Press (Carlton), 1998 (first edition of
all six chapters)
The Green Round, Ernest Benn, 1933
visits the Green Round in a Welsh village and returns to London
with a mysterious shadow. Various bizarre psychic phenomena follow
ditto, Arkham House (U.S.), 1968
ditto, Tartarus Press, 2000
Thesaurus Incantatus, Marvell [Arthur Machen and
Harry Spurr] (London), [n.d.1888]
Including: The Spagyric Quest of
The House of Souls, Grant Richards (London),
Including: A Fragment of
Life: Mr and Mrs darnell discover transcendant
splendour in their everyday London lives. Mystical rather than
supernatural. The White People: A discussion of the nature
of true evil is illustrated by the account of an innocent young
girl who encounters it. The Great God
Pan: decribed above. The Inmost
Light: described above. The Three
Impostors: an abridged version of the episodic novel
described above: i) Adventure of the Gold Tiberius, ii) The
Encounter of the Pavement, iii) Adventure of the Missing Brother,
iv) Incident of the Private Bar, v) The Recluse of Bayswater, vi)
Strange Occurrence in Clerkenwell, vii) Adventure of the Deserted
Residence. The Red Hand: Murder and mysteries in
london are explained with reference to the degenerate little
people who have been driven underground.
ditto, Grant Richards (London),
1906 (as above but with boards similar to The Hill of
ditto, Dana Estes & Co (U.S.), 1906
The Bowmen, Simpkin Marshall (London),
Including: The Bowmen: At the Mons retreat in the first world war
British soliders are saved by an invocation of St George and the
appearance of ghosts of the bowmen who fought at Agincourt.
is found to be a comfortable tavern. The Monstrance: A German soldier is haunted
after committing horrendous monstrosities. The Dazzling
Vision of medieval troops.
edition adds: The Little Nations: Ants wage war as humans do.
The Men of
Spiritual assistance for the troops at Gallipoli fighting the
ditto, Putnams (U.S.), 1915
The Shining Pyramid, Covici-McGee (Chicago,
Mysterious occurances in Wales are discovered by Dyson and Vaughan
to be the work of the Little People. Out of the
Children are blamed for the trouble caused by the Little People
who are taking advantage of the fact that it is wartime.
Quest of Beroaldus Cosmopolita: The adventures of Cosmopolita in spiritual
Splendid Holiday: The experience of natural phenomena presented as
a great adventure. Spiritual rather than supernatural.
sound of Drake's heard by the British fleet in wartime.
stories are not supernatural. Also contains essays.
Ornaments In Jade, Knopf (U.S.), 1924
poems in this collection range from the mystical and suggestively
supernatural to the perverse and horrible. Including: "The Rose
Garden", "The Turanians", "The Idealist", "Witchcraft", "The
Ceremony", "Psychology", "Torture", "Midsummer", "Nature", "The
ditto, Tartarus Press/Caermaen Books, 1997
The Glorious Mystery, Covici-McGee (U.S.), 1924
"The Iron Maid", "The Rose Garden", "Fragments of Paper", "The
Holy Things", "Scrooge: 1920". Other material is not supernatural.
Also contains essays.
The Shining Pyramid, Martin Secker, 1925
(different from above Shining
"The Shining Pyramid", "Out of the Earth", "The Happy Children".
Also contains essays.)
ditto, Knopf (U.S.), 1925
The Cosy Room, Rich & Cowan,
"The Double Return". "A Wonderful Woman", "The Lost Club", "The
Holy Things", "Psychology", "Torture", "Witchcraft", "The
Turanians", "The Rose Garden", "The Ceremony", "Midsummer",
"Nature", "The Hidden Mystery", "Munitions of War", "Drake's
Drum", "A New Christmas Carol", "The Islington Mystery", "The Gift
of Tongues", "The Cosy Room".
The Children of the Pool, Hutchinson & Co.
hears in his flat voices which suggest a poisoning taking place.
He dies and a medium picks up a message from him suggesting that
the poisoning would take place after his tenancy. The Children of the
hears voices disclosing mistakes from his past and fears
blackmail, but the voices are a supernatural phenomena.
Boy: A "child
prodigy" commits a horrible crime (not supernatural).
The Tree of
squire discusses his estate with his steward, but all is not as it
seems (not supernatural). Out of the Picture: An artist paints a figure
into his pictures which comes closer to the foreground, eventually
leaves the picture and takes over the artist. Change: The story of a
Holy Terrors, Penguin (London),
"The Bright Boy", "The Tree of Life", "Opening the Door", "The
Marriage of Panurge", "The Holy Things", "Psychology", "The
Turanians", "The Rose Garden", "The Ceremony", "The Soldiers'
Rest", "The Happy Children", "The Cosy Room", "Munitions of War",
"The Great Return."
Tales of Horror and the
Supernatural, Alfred A. Knopf, 1948
ditto, Richards Press (London), 1949
"The Novel of the Black Seal", "The Novel of the White Powder",
"The Great God Pan", "The White People", "The Inmost Light", "The
Shining Pyramid", "The Bowmen", "The Great Return", "The Happy
Children", "The Bright Boy", "Out of the Earth", "N", "The
Children of the Pool", "The Terror".)
"The Town of Long Ago", "Of the Isle of Shadows", "A Further
Account of the Academy of Lagado", "Tales from Barataria", "Sir
John's Chef", "The Autophone", "A Remarkable Coincidence", "A
Double Return", "A Wonderful Woman", "The Lost Club", "An
Underground Adventure", "Jocelyn's Escape", "The Decorative
Imagination", "The Novel of the Iron Maid", "Drake's Drum", "The
Idealist", "Witchcraft", "Midsummer, "Nature", "Torture", "7B
Coney Court", "Johnny Double", "A New Christmas Carol", " "The
Gift of Tongues", "The Islington Mystery", Awaking", "The
Compliments of the Season", "The Dover Road", "The Exalted Omega",
"Change", "Out of the Picture", "Ritual".
ditto, Tartarus Press (Horam, East Sussex), 1997
slightly altered from the first printing, removing the stories
in Jade and
adding "The Red Hand."
Machen: A Short Account of His Life and Work, by Aidan Reynolds and
William Charlton, John Baker/Richards Press (London), 1963
Mark Valentine, Seren (Bridgend), 1995
Bibliography of Arthur Machen, by Adrian Goldstone and Wesley Sweetser, The
University of Texas (Austin, Texas), 1965.