The Life Of Arthur Machen by John Gawsworth


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Tartarus Press, 2013. First Edition Paperback. Edited by Roger Dobson, with an Introduction by Barry Humphries.

'In the 1930s Arthur Machen was approaching the end of a long literary career when the poet John Gawsworth cast himself as Machen’s Boswell. Gawsworth industriously recorded details of his mentor’s life and work, composing a major biography that contained a wealth of previously unknown detail. However, it remained unpublished until 2005, when it was made available to the Friends of Arthur Machen as a limited edition hardback. This new paperback reprint is designed to reach a wider audience.

Gawsworth vividly charts the story of ‘the flower-tunicked priest of nightmare’, from Machen’s idyllic childhood amid the beauties of Monmouthshire, through the lonely, poverty-stricken years in London that later inspired those lyrical masterpieces The Hill of Dreams and Far Off Things. Machen’s joyous days as a ‘strolling player’ are contrasted with his troubled time as the star reporter on the London Evening News, as he watched in astonishment as his minor tale ‘The Bowmen’ blossomed into the enduring wartime legend of the Angels of Mons. Then, in the 1920s, Machen was transformed into a cult figure in the United States and acclaimed as an artistic genius by authors such as Vincent Starrett, James Branch Cabell and Ben Hecht.

Gawsworth himself fell on hard times later in life, and in his Introduction Barry Humphries, who knew him in the 1960s, reflects on the ageing poet’s decline into alcoholism and penury, when all he had to sustain him were his memories of past glories.'