The Great God Pan and The Inmost Light by Arthur Machen


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London: John Lane, The Bodley Head, 1894. First edition, first impression. 168 pages plus 16 pages of adverts, some of which are still sealed. Cover illustration & title page designed by Aubrey Beardsley. Publishers original black-cloth, illustrated with Beardsley's depiction of Pan with a flute in the vines, gilt-title on spine with key symbol also on rear boards. Cloth slightly darkened, corners lightly scuffed, minor shelf-wear evident on top and bottom edges, pages darkened with minor foxing. Fine copy. 

'The Great God Pan is a novella by Welsh writer Arthur Machen. An early version of the story was published in the magazine The Whirlwind (1890), before Machen continued to work on it. Then published in 1894, it was widely denounced by the press as degenerate and horrific because of its decadent style and sexual content.

However, it has since earned a reputation as a classic text. Machen’s story was one of many at the time to focus on the Greek God Pan as a useful symbol for the power of nature, pagan forces and sexuality. The title was possibly inspired by the poem A Musical Instrument published in 1862 by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, in which the first line of every stanza ends "... the great god Pan".

Also included is the additional material of The Inmost Light, one of Machen's most disturbing stories. The narrative involves a doctor's scientific experiments with occultism, and the vampiric force instigated by his unrelenting curiosity regarding the unseen elements. A large, glorious gemstone is the mediator; soaking up the soul of the doctor's wife, in the place of her spirit a demonic energy enters, transmuting her brain into that of something "not human".

Stephen King has called The Great God Pan, "Maybe the best (horror story) in the English language".

Arthur Machen was a Welsh writer who was instrumental in the development supernatural fiction. He created a unique literary world, a realm of old Gods, faerie, and uncanny yet transcendental landscapes. His sensibilities were imprinted on horror, fantasy and supernatural storytelling for the rest of the century.