One of the things that always seems to surprise people unfamiliar with the writing of Caerleon born Arthur Machen, is the variety of well known names happy to endorse his excellence and, in the case of creative artists, count him as one of the formative influences on their own work. These people have come to be as familiar with the name Caerleon as many who have lived there. For some it is a place of pilgrimage when possible; some return almost annually. Often it is the first port of call for UK visitors from as far afield as Japan or America.

Here is a selection of familiar names and some of their comments about him...

From the then Bishop of Monmouth, the Very Reverend Dr Rowan Williams, now Archbishop of Wales:

' I do indeed have a great enthusiasm for Machen, who has been a major literary discovery for me since moving to these parts, and I have been devouring as much primary and secondary material as I can trace. It would be a great joy to join the society *…'

*The Arthur Machen Literary Society - now sadly no longer functioning, however
the "Friends of Arthur Machen" - FoAM - is going strong!

Godfrey Smith, Associate Editor and popular columnist with the Sunday Times:

'He was a Celt; a man who saw wonder in the ordinary; who could find mystery and romance simply in a walk round that desolate area north of Gray's Inn Road which fascinated him. He entered history when he created the myth of the "Angels of Mons" .....
In fact there is much more to Machen than that: notably his masterpiece "The Hill of Dreams" .....

Godfrey Smith and Mary visited the Machen sites at Caerleon from their home in the Cotswolds and, together with enthusiasts
Barry Humphries and Julian Lloyd Webber, attended a dinner in Machen's honour at the Hay Literary Festival.

Andy Warhol Interview with Mick Jagger:

'What are you reading these days?'

'Oh, Arthur Machen ..... none of his things have been filmed ... They would make incredible films. There's one called "The Novel of the White Powder" about this man who goes to a doctor or chemist and receives this white powder which he has to take every day, and he gets stranger and stranger and eventually he ends up as a ball of blackness that just drips through the ceiling horribly one night .... There's a tremendous visual sequence at the end where this one eye comes out of this blackness. It would make a fantastic movie.'

Michael Powell, director of such films as "The Red Shoes" wrote:

'I swallowed Arthur Machen gulp by gulp… It is fitting that I record now, many years later, in 1988 how much I owe him for terror, pity and fantasy.'

The publisher Peter Davies better known as Peter Llewellyn Davies one of J.M.Barrie's 'Lost Boys' on whom he based Peter Pan wrote:

'One can't presumably call him a great artist. But if I had to say, as an omnivorous reader, of prose and poetry, what writer has given me the deepest pleasure in my life, I believe I'd answer, if I was honest, Arthur Machen.'

Peter Davies was one of the few people present at Machen's funeral. He recalled that an aunt had once told him that the Llewellyn Davies family were related to Machen through his London cousins called Jones. He regretted that by the time he felt more interest in the matter she had died.

The similarity of themes of Machen's "The Terror" and "The Birds" by
Daphne Du Maurier has been noted by many. Du Maurier was first cousin to the Llewellyn Davies boys and probably spent the summers with them in the country as was the custom in Edwardian middle-class families. It is likely that the cousins shared books, including those of Machen.
J.M.Barrie himself was known to enjoy and collect Machen's books.

The appeal launched to collect money as a gift for Machen on his eightieth birthday was supported by writers, publishers and actors of the day including T.S.Elliot, Edith Evans, Edith Sitwell, John Betjeman, John Masefield, Walter De la Mare, Arthur Quiller-Couch and George Bernard Shaw.

Pictured right, Machen, on his eightieth birthday at the Hungaria Restaurant, between
Lady Constance Benson

From "Summoned By Bells" by John Betjeman:

'Borrow this book and come to tea again.
With Arthur Machen's "Secret Glory" stuffed
Into my blazer pocket, up the hill
On to St. Merryn ...
I would not care to read that book again.
It so exactly mingled with the mood
Of those impressionable years.'

People often ask me why Arthur Machen didn't revisit Caerleon in his later years. Maybe he felt the same about the village, that had given him so much inspiration, as John Betjeman felt about his book…

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