Straying in fairyland

© C A Lovegrove

The Hill of Dreams by Arthur Machen.
Foreword by Catherine Fisher,
notes by Tomos Owen.
Library of Wales: Parthian Books, 2010 (1907).

‘There was a glow in the sky as if great furnace doors were opened. But all the afternoon his eyes had looked on glamour; he had strayed in fairyland.’

Half a century ago, when I was busy devouring the weird fiction of H P Lovecraft, my friend Roger advised me to try something by Arthur Machen, an author whom he rated highly. So I borrowed The Hill of Dreams from the library where I worked, the copy of which came in one of Gollancz’s now vintage lurid yellow dust jackets with mauve lettering. And, frankly, it wasn’t my thing: though I recognised its mystical and visionary qualities I preferred Lovecraft’s suspenseful eldritch writing.

Fast forward several decades; in the interim I’d tried some of Machen’s short stories – ‘The Great Return’ and ‘The Bowmen’ for example – and found them more attractive; then I decided to try his more extended writing again. The horror in The Great God Pan was, I judged, tame by modern standards but I must’ve noted a quality in the writing that I hadn’t appreciated before because here I am, giving Machen another chance.

And it’s with the novel where I first encountered his fiction in 1971, curious to see if the intervening years have either mellowed or sharpened my former opinions.

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