A sensuous art

‘Ella on the stairs’ by Peter Brown. https://www.mallgalleries.org.uk

Inverted Commas 21: Words resonant

“‘Literature,’ he re-enunciated in his mind, ‘is the sensuous art of causing exquisite impressions by means of words.’ And yet there was something more […]” — Chapter IV

‘The Hill of Dreams’

In Arthur Machen’s 1907 novel The Hill of Dreams the young Lucian Taylor (alias Machen himself) is in Caermaen (a stand-in for Caerleon in Machen’s native Wales) imagining himself in a tavern enjoying the town’s ancient splendour as an outpost of the Roman Empire.

He sits, listening to the hubbub of conversation, doubtless enunciated in everything from educated to vernacular Latin, because as a bookish clergyman’s son Lucian has been thoroughly tutored in the classics.

And as he sits he muses: “The rich sound of the voices impressed him above all things, and he saw that words have a far higher reason than the utilitarian office of imparting a man’s thought.” What follows is a gradual laying out of his creed regarding beauty and its raison d’être.

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