Monday 19 February 2024

The Hill of Dreams and The House of Souls

The very first Tartarus Press publication, 34 years ago, was a small booklet entitled The Anatomy of Taverns, celebrating Arthur Machen’s favourite public houses. Our first hardback was the first ever publication of ‘Chapters Five and Six’ of Machen’s The Secret Glory, and we have always had a number of books by the author in print over the years, both as collectable hardbacks and affordable paperbacks.

This February we are delighted to make available once more, two very important sewn hardback editions of books by Machen:

The Hill of Dreams, lauded by writers as diverse as H.P. Lovecraft and Henry Miller, has been described as ‘The most decadent book in the world’. A novel of great power and beauty, it was Machen’s attempt ‘. . . to invent a story which would recreate those vague impressions of wonder and awe and mystery that I myself had received from the form and shape of the land of my boyhood and youth.’

We have also been able to bring back into print The House of Souls, an omnibus edition of some of Arthur Machen’s best-known, controversial, and curious fiction, first published in 1906. It contains ‘The Great God Pan’, his notorious 1890s tale of science and sex, and its accompanying story ‘The Inmost Light’. These appeared first in John Lane’s sensational Keynotes series, as did the portmanteau novel The Three Impostors, containing ‘The Novel of the White Powder’—another story of science gone bad—and the classic folk-horror tale ‘The Novel of the Black Seal’. ‘The Red Hand’ is a ‘shocking’ tale of curious survivals from the past lurking just beneath the surface of everyday London.

In an altogether more sensitively supernatural vein is ‘A Fragment of Life’, a quietly ambitious and affecting tale of a seemingly ordinary suburban couple who receive intimations of a much more numinous way of life.

But the tour-de-force of the volume is Machen’s occult masterpiece ‘The White People’, a ‘stream-of-consciousness’ tale far ahead of its time, written with the utmost empathy and panache.

Still in print and available as a sewn hardback is the now complete text of Machen’s novel, The Secret Glory. Ambrose Meyrick is at first a pupil at a hateful English public school, then a young man at large in bohemian London. Throughout his adventures, Ambrose cherishes his childhood vision of the mystical cup of Teilo Sant. But the young man also displays a fine delight in the good things the world can offer, and a few weeks spent with school servant Nellie Foran in a London lodging house prove a turning point in his life. When Ambrose returns home to his native Wales, Machen describes, in writing of great beauty and power, how Ambrose rediscovers the magical Gwent countryside, and performs the marriage of the cup with Sylvia, his symbolic muse.

Also available in paperback are Arthur Machen’s 1890s Notebook, which gives a great insight into the background to some of his most important writings, including The Hill of Dreams. We can also offer Dreads and Drolls, a series of essays, and the very curious book, The House of the Hidden Light (written with A.E. Waite)

Anyone who would like to go further into Machen’s books and writings might be interested in a series of videos entitled Collecting Arthur Machen:

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