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Arthur Machen

March 3, 1863

Arthur Machen (3 March 1863 – 15 December 1947) was a Welsh mystic and author of the 1890s and early 20th century. He is best recognized for his influential supernatural, fantasy, and Gothic novels. His novella The Great God Pan (1890/1894) won a reputation as one of the most important classics of horror. Perhaps the most important, if you ask Stephen King: ‘Not Lovecraft; it’s a riff on Arthur Machen’s The Great God Pan, which is one of the best horror stories ever written. Maybe the best in the English language..’

Machen was born Arthur Llewelyn Jones in Caerleon on Usk, in the county of Gwent, South Wales and descended from a long line of clergymen. In 1864, when Machen was two, his father John Edward Jones was an Anglican priest, who became the vicar of the parish of Llanddewi Fach with Llandegveth, about five miles north of Caerleon. Machen was brought up at the rectory there. Jones had adopted his wife's maiden name, Machen, to inherit a legacy, legally becoming "Jones-Machen"; his son was baptised under that name and later used a shortened version of his full name, Arthur Machen, as a pen name.

Machen was a pioneer in psychogeography, due to his interest in the interconnection between landscape and the mind. His strange wanderings in Wales and London recorded in his beautiful prose make him of great interest to writers on this subject. As a child Machen sucked in the atmospheres of the Welsh landscapes, surrounding his place of birth. Though he returned only rarely to Gwent in later life, his work continually evoked its darker landscapes. Machen was impressed too, by the findings of local archaeologists, who in the 1870s were digging up strange pagan sculptures and inscribed stones dating from the Roman occupation of the region. The Romano-British god Nodens, whose temple was excavated at nearby Lydney Park in his boyhood, turns up in some of his most memorable horror fiction.

Read more about Arthur Machen in the Post Scriptum of The House of Souls.