The Weekly Machen
The following dispatch feels severely truncated with the editor’s introduction added to catch the reader up to speed. Perhaps this is not the case and Machen’s article is published as written. Regardless, it is a shame that we are not treated to more of the ghosts in Machen’s memory and his thoughts and feelings toward them.
A Curious Experience That All of Us Have Had
June 10, 1914
Many of our readers who have reached the age of forty or thereabouts may have had experiences similar to the ones related by Mr. Arthur Machen in the article given below.
In some curious and unexplained manner which we must leave to psychologists, Life is constantly presenting to us, suddenly and without any sort of warning or relevance to the affairs of the moment, trivial incidents and visions over the gulfs of the years.
It would be interesting to hear from our readers who can match our contributor’s experience by their own.
Most of us, I suppose, find that our memory retains as with a grip of steel the merest trifles, matters that stand in no conceivable relation to anything in particular, while it lets go the event of consequence and relevance. A friend was telling me the other day of an impression that stands out bright in his memory against a background of dim forgetfulness.
“I see it still.” he said, “It is a hot Sunday afternoon in a little town in the North. My old grandmother is looking out of the window and viewing the new—or newish—fashions that ladies are wearing: the ‘bustle,’ I think it was. ‘Eh,’ she exclaimed suddenly, ‘but the Lord He won’t stand it much longer!’ I can smell the sunlight on that afternoon still!”
So it is with me. I can remember being wheeled along the deserted streets of Caerleon-on-Usk in a perambulator; and there was a bag of flour in the perambulator on that particular sunny, afternoon of the early ‘sixties. I skip 10 or 11 or 12 years; a particular walk in a particular lane appears before me, and pinned to it, as it were, a certain article—of no especial moment—in a bound volume of “All the Year Round” that I read that night after tea.
Problem for Psychologists
Again; I am a boy at school, and the aunt with whom I lived has sent me out to take brisk and wholesome exercise. I do not take brisk and wholesome exercise; I loaf on an iron bridge over the line from Hereford to Brecon, and read “Peter Simple” in paper covers. It was a cloudy Saturday afternoon; and I suppose it was just about fifty years ago.
And there are conversations that I can remember still, conversations and remarks without the slightest consequence or salience; but the insignificant words come echoing clear and distinct across the great bridge of years, from lips that have long been dead.
I can hear the tones of the vicar’s voice as he declared that “some people say that the Snark means popularity.” That was in 1872, I think.
Why do such insignificances remain in the mind, as though they were graven in marble? Perhaps the psychologists know all about it; to me it remains one of the many questions to which there is no clear answer.
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