Arthur Machen


This is a book, my dear Turner, which I had in my heart to write for many years. The thought of it came to me with that other thought that I was growing—rather, grown—old; that the curtain had definitely been rung down on all the days of my youth. And so I got into the way of looking back, of recalling the far gone times and suns of the ‘seventies and early ‘eighties when the scene of my life was being set. I made up my mind that I would write about it all—some day.

Some day would undoubtedly have been Never; if it had not been for you. I had not spoken of the projected book to you or anyone else; but one fine morning in 1915 you ordered me to write it! You were then, you will remember, editing the London Evening News, and as a reporter on your staff I had nothing to do but to obey. The book was written, appeared in the paper as “The Confessions of a Literary Man,” and now reappears as “Far Off Things.”

So far, good. I enjoyed writing the book enormously; and, I frankly confess, I enjoy reading it. In a word, I am not grumbling. But there is one little point that I do not mean to neglect. My complacent views as to “Far Off Things” may not be shared by other and, possibly, more competent judges. And what I want to impress on you is this: that if there is to be trouble, “you are going to have your share of it.” You ordered the book to be written, you printed it in your paper, you have urged me to reprint it, not once or twice, but again and again.

Now, you remember Johnson on advising an author to print his book. “This author,” said the Doctor, “when mankind are hunting him with a canister at his tail can say, ‘I would not have published, had not Johnson, or Reynolds, or Musgrave, or some other good judge commended the work!'”

Now you see the purpose of this Epistle Dedicatory. It is to make it quite clear that, if there is to be any talk of canisters and tails, the order will run:

“Canisters for two!”

Arthur Machen

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