The Jar Marked Faunus

“He entered such a lane not knowing where it might bring him, hoping he had found the way to fairyland, to the woods beyond the world, to that vague territory that haunts all the dreams of a boy.” Arthur Machen, The Hill of Dreams

Arthur Machen ((1863-1947) is a fantastic Welsh writer who wrote mystical, supernatural, Gothic, fin de siecle horror tales. Some of his more famous works are: The Great God Pan, The Hill of Dreams, The Three Imposters, and The Bowmen and Other Legends of the War. He was born in Caerleon-on-Usk, in the county of Gwent, South Wales, and later lived in London in self-imposed solitude living in poverty in remote suburbs of then the largest industrial city in the world. He eschewed his chosen profession of journalism, preferring to read widely and explore the city on foot. For him, London became as numinous as his home of Gwent, that influenced much of his work and gave it the strong touch of pagan strangeness.

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2 thoughts on “The Jar Marked Faunus

  1. Oh yes, The Hill of Dreams (1907) is one of my all-time favorite novels. I first learned of it from the book “Loneliness in Philosophy, Psychology, and Literature” by Ben Lazare Mijuskovic (1979). It is about a sensitive, imaginative young man growing up in rural Southwest Britain, turn of the last century. Not fitting in well with the local ruffian youth he retreats into a world of his own imagination. You’ve heard of Imaginary Friends, right? He builds an entire imaginary Roman town, with numerous characters. Eventually he decides to channel this imagination into a career as a writer. Moving to London for that purpose he continues to endure soul-shriveling loneliness. As his funds dwindle, and he takes up a laudanum habit, he descends into what appears to be madness (I won’t give away the ending).
    A plot description fails to do justice to Machen’s beautiful, lucid writing. He’s a worthy forebear to fellow Welshman DylanThomas. And in my view this novel compares well with Somerset Maugham’s “Of Human Bondage”, which came out eight years later.
    Unfortunately for author Machen, his masterpiece received little critical notice in his day, and didn’t sell well. For one thing he was stereotyped just as in the above blog, as a genre writer of the supernatural, horror, etc. That may be a fair evaluation of his famous short story “The Great God Pan” (which I don’t much like; basically Robert Louis Stevenson level material), but it’s NOT a fair evaluation of “The Hill of Dreams”.
    Enough said. Find a copy, read it. It’s great literature.

  2. I agree with you, The Hill of Dreams is a very powerful description of the soul’s inward (and descending) journey within. The psychoanalyst, Frieda Fromm-Reichmann, mentions it in her article, Loneliness (Psychiartry, 1959) and I follow her. She seems to have been an amazingly well read scholar. Other authors who are literary masters of loneliness are Thomas Hardy, Joseph Conrad, and Thomas Wolfe. See also: Wm. Golding’s Pincher Martin, which compares favorably with Machen.

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