Perhaps one of the most overlooked or unconsidered aspects of Arthur Machen’s work is his use of Christian imagery, liturgics, saints and martyrology. Conventional approaches to his bibliography concentrate on his rightful triumphs in horror fiction, as well as his knowledge of occultism. Yet, this has produced a certain preponderance, or perhaps more boldly stated, an imbalance in the critical literature. Therefore, much can be gained when reviewing the vital place Christian themes play for our author. Rather than a minor subject for compartmentalization, they constitute a major concern throughout Machen’s writings.
For a “Great God Pan,” we find a “Great Return.” These twin axes are not isolated or separate, but are interrelated with one another. Both ontological horror and holy dread have their place in the hieroglyphic theory of literature as espoused by Machen, time and time again. As he chose not to situate his dark faery stories in a fictional time and undetermined place, but plant them in modern Britain, so too did Machen set stories of the Holy Grail and saintly visitations in the current day. This technique serves an important function: the mysterious and the wonderful may break upon us at any moment.
Over time, we hope to do the following: 1) identify and document the role of early saints, mostly Welsh, in Machen’s fiction; 2) describe a vision of modern-day martyrdom; 3) explore Machen’s use of his native land as a spiritual landscape; and 4) determine the significance of liturgy (both historical and imagined) in the writer’s catalog. Spoilers may be present, and as this is a work in progress, revisions may surface.
Christopher Tompkins, Publisher