“Look about you, Clarke. You see the mountain, and hill following after hill, as wave on wave, you see the woods and orchard, the fields of ripe corn, and the meadows reaching to the reed-beds by the river. You see me standing here beside you, and hear my voice; but I tell you that all these things—yes, from that star that has just shone out in the sky to the solid ground beneath our feet—I say that all these are but dreams and shadows; the shadows that hide the real world from our eyes. There is a real world, but it is beyond this glamour and this vision, beyond these ‘chases in Arras, dreams in a career,’ beyond them all as beyond a veil. I do not know whether any human being has ever lifted that veil; but I do know, Clarke, that you and I shall see it lifted this very night from before another’s eyes. You may think this all strange nonsense; it may be strange, but it is true, and the ancients knew what lifting the veil means: They called it seeing the god Pan.”
Arthur Machen (1863-1947) was the pen name of Arthur Llewellyn Jones, a prolific Welsh author, and mystic of the 1890s and early 20th century. He is best known for his influential supernatural, fantasy, and horror fiction often depicting man at war with stifling scientific materialism, the dominant worldview of his time. His novella and first major success The Great God Pan (1894) was widely denounced for its sexual and horrific content and consequently sold well. It has since garnered a reputation as a classic of horror. The story begins with an experiment to allow a woman named Mary to see the supernatural world, followed by a series of mysterious happenings and deaths over many years surrounding a woman named Helen Vaughan. Are the two women connected? If so, how? The answer, and how you arrive there, is why Stephen King has described this terrifying tale as “One of the best horror stories ever written. Maybe the best in the English language.”
"...one of the best horror stories ever written.
Maybe the best in the English language."
Machen was a master wordsmith. If you’re not familiar with his work, then the overwhelming evidence of that mastery, dear reader, you will soon find in the pages ahead. The ease at which this book is read could easily suggest its having been written only yesterday, but that its age at the time of this writing is six score and six makes one ponder if Machen wasn’t, indeed, channeling some timeless muse from beyond the veil whose breezy, untroubled language can be conjured by every generation. I couldn’t agree more with Vincent Starrett’s observation: “His sentences move to sonorous, half-submerged rhythms, swooning with pagan color and redolent of sacerdotal incense.”
To that I would add: “—and grip you tightly, slowly constricting, until the final paragraph leaves you breathless, spellbound, and wanting more!”
Concerning the text and the fact that Machen was Welsh, we’ve kept our Heathenistic editing to a minimum and opted to preserve most of the original British spellings. Our contributions concern the myriad footnotes and hyphened words retrofitted with modern standards (to-morrow is now tomorrow, good-bye is now goodbye, and so on).
As afterwords, we’ve included Vincent Starrett’s 1918 article Arthur Machen: A Novelist of Ecstasy and Sin, and an excerpt concerning Machen’s work from H.P. Lovecraft’s seminal essay Supernatural Horror in Literature; both reflecting on how sadly under-appreciated Machen was during his lifetime, which brings me to the goal of our edition: under-appreciated no more.
June 15, 2020
“Of creators of cosmic fear raised to its most artistic pitch, few can hope to equal Arthur Machen. No one could begin to describe the cumulative suspense and ultimate horror with which every paragraph abounds.” –H.P. Lovecraft
“One of the greatest supernatural tales ever written.” –Elizabeth Hand, The Washington Post
“The archetypal Decadent horror story. Highly original.” –Brian Stableford
“ . . . too morbid to be the production of a healthy mind.” –Richard Henry Stoddard
“Told with exquisite reticence and grace, and with a plausibility that is as extraordinary as it is immoral. More than Hawthorne or Tolstoy, Machen is a novelist of the soul. His sentences move to sonorous, half-submerged rhythms, swooning with pagan color and redolent of sacerdotal incense.” –Vincent Starrett, Arthur Machen: A Novelist of Ecstasy and Sin
“A fascinating, troubling story, and, for all its influence, not like much else than I can think of. It’s not simple, and yet it’s effective, more so than can easily be explained.” –Matthew David Surridge, Black Gate
“What can I say about a writer whose influence has been acknowledged by H.P. Lovecraft, Peter Straub, T.E.D. Klein, M. John Harrison and Clive Barker? Perhaps that he managed to communicate a sense of the inexpressibly and awesomely supernatural with more power than he ever knew.” –Ramsey Campbell
Published: July 6, 2020
Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.4 inches
Weight: 7.9 ounces
Cover: Matte Finish
Interior: Black & White on Cream Paper
Pages: 156 (+2 POD)
July 6, 2020