AOS, Beardsley, Wilde and Machen
AOS gets a mention in Tim Cummings' review of The White People and other Weird Stories by Arthur Machen:
Machen was a bestseller in his day, a member of the Golden Dawn, and intimately acquainted with the spiritualism, occultism, mediumship and excesses of the Decadent era. The Great God Pan (strangely omitted from this collection) and The Three Imposters were published in the 1890s, shocking society, and attracting invitations to lunch from Oscar Wilde.
Machen had already lived in London more than a decade, as he plied a trade as a freelance writer, translating Casanova and writing an essay on tobacco, before an inheritance allowed him to write what he fancied. Aubrey Beardsley and, later, Austin Osman Spare illustrated his works.
--- The Independent
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Thanks for sharing.
On a related note, I've never encountered the edition of Great God Pan/Inmost Light illustrated by Spare; how many of his images were used? Did Spare illustrate them exclusively for the book? I've only ever seen thumbnails of the cover and I'm familiar with that piece as it's one of his most popular.
Anyway thanks in advance for any help,
This one's nice:
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Glorious line work delineating fantastic form! I've not see this before and, quite simply, LOVE it-!
I've got that one in A Book of Automatic Drawings. So glad I purchased it from Teitan Press earlier this year. And this was a great year for fans of AOS!
Everyone should read at least a little Machen (in my personal opinion- one should read a lot of Machen), but the reviewer makes a tenuous link with Beardsley and Spare.
Beardsley did the 'keynote' design for John Lane (Great God Pan and The Three Imposters was part of the series) so I'm not sure that counts as him illustrating it.
The Spare drawings were used as part of an p/b edition issued in the 1980s(?) so have no direct relation to the work.
Jist to save folks trying to find those books...
I think A.C. lists Machen works on his reading list and of course K. Grant was a big fan. He turns up in most of the trilogies.
It would be nice to know which 1980s pb edition features work by AOS. Is anybody really sure this is the case? The Ash Tree Press editions where this would be likely are hb.
Shame there isn't one gracing the recent penguin edition, it looks as if it would benefit from it.
Creation Press issued GGP&IL w/ Spare's artwork. The cover features the infamous satyr drawing that has been reproduced in Images & Oracles..., also used as the cover for IHO's edition of Book of Automatic Drawings and Steve O'Malley used it for the Burning Witch boxset released a couple years ago.
It's available as a kindle book on amazon. I also noticed Spare's artwork is being used for an upcoming edition featuring the Great God Pan...
BTW, just thought I'd throw out an additional recommendation for Machen's writing. I was lucky enough to stumble across the 2 volume set Tales of Horror & the Supernatural several years ago. Although GGP is an indisputable classic I think The White People is the superior tale.
Machen's short story "Out of the Picture" concerns an artist and visionary who has some A O Spare-like characteristics. There isn't any known direct evidence that Machen knew of Spare, but as he was a haunter of London's inner Bohemia, it's possible.
Good to see this broth of Sparian-Machenalia simmering away.
The common denominator in this tantalising and elusive configuration is the publisher John Lane (1854–1925), who published Machen's The Great God Pan in 1894 as part of the acclaimed Keynotes Series. He also commissioned many of Beardsley's most notorious illustrations; the English translation of Wilde's Salomé was published in the same year. He also of course published the 1907 edition of Spare's A Book of Satyrs. Form magazine was published by Lane in 1916, in London and New York.
There might well be letters in the Lane archive that associate Spare with Machen as a possible illustrator. Unfortunately both proved to be tardy and unpredictable producers for the publisher; A Fragment of Life was written 1899–1905, pub. 1905. The Hill of Dreams was written 1895–1897, pub. 1907. Likewise, there is correspondence between Spare and Lane where the artist prepares him for the ‘imminent’ follow-up to Satyrs, this was to become the Book of Pleasure (published privately in 1913). [see Wallace's The Artist's Books, p.254, for excerpts of these letters, held at HRHRC, Uni. of Texas].
If I recall rightly Letchford's biography mentions something along the lines of Spare stating he was not aware of Beardsley until after he left Lambeth School of Art (i.e. he didn't study him). This is hard to swallow, esp. as his early pen & ink work betokens the study and influence of AB, along with several other illustrator of the late Victorian and fin de siècle period, namely Frederick Sandys, E.J.Sullivan, Charles Ricketts and Sidney Sime (who provided illustrations for Lord Dunsany's books the frontis and ills. for Machen's Hill of Dreams [first pub. with the text by Tartarus in 1998] and House of Souls [Grant Richards 1906]). A couple of examples of Spare acknowledging Beardsley's influence are the self portrait detail of Advertisement and the Stock Size (in 'Satyrs', compare with lute player in 'The stomach dance', 1893, by Beardsley) and The Instant of Obsession, from The Book of Pleasure (compare with Beardsley's 'Cul de Lampe' tailpiece, also 1893).
It is perhaps more likely that Spare was aware of Machen rather than vice versa. There would be a later awareness of Machen via Frederick Carter, whose book Dragon of the Alchemists (Elkin Matthews, 1926) has an intro by Machen (who later professed having no idea of what it was about). Carter's Friend, the poet and short story editor, John Gawsworth (1912-1970) would become the first biographer of Machen (published posthumously by Tartarus in 2005). This book features an intro by Barry Humphries, a collector of Edwardian literature and art (Spare, Sime, Alan Odle, John Austen). Many of these illustrators were featured by Spare in his magazines, Form (where the ill. used for the Machen cover was originally reproduced) and Golden Hind... and so on, and so on...
In case anyone wishes to try and track down the Creation Press edition of The Great God Pan with AOS artwork;
ISBN is 1 871592 11 9, publication date is 1993. It is labelled Creation Classics V on the back cover.
It includes a Foreword about Machen by Ian S. Smith of The Arthur Machen Society that notes that "Appearing as Volume 5 of the 'Keynotes Series' [published by John Lane], 'The Great God Pan' was bound with a superb Aubrey Beardsley frontispiece, depicting a sinister faun entwined in creeping foliage."
There are 9 line drawings by Spare and a one-page note about his life and work by Simon Dwyer but no connection is made between him and Machen that I could find.
Machen wasn't a "tardy and unpredictable" author for John Lane. He submitted The Hill of Dreams to Lane as soon as it was finished, but Lane turned it down, as did many other publishers, including Grant Richards, who eventually changed his mind and published it much later. The Sime illustration is in the Grant Richards 1st edition. The book's first appearance, unillustrated, was episodically in Horlicks' Journal, the malted-milk-drink company's publication - edited by Machen's friend A.E. Waite.
I too would throw out there a reccomendation of Machen, his eight-volume "Memoirs of Casanova" is worth a foot or two of shelf-space in any Decadent's or Libertine's Library. I've got the 1985 Putnam set. 🙂
if we want to throw another interesting illustrator into the process 'The Regency House' (1938) edition of Machens 'Casanova' is illustrated by Mahlon Blaine. Blaine illustrated Ewers who knew Crowley and thus we just about keep this topic in the guidelines.
I believe, based on no evidence at all, that Machen must have known Spare or at least of him. So much of Machens work deals with 'lost' London and its byways and, as has been pointed out above, there are too many 'one degree of separations' for their not to be a strong likelihood.
Perhaps Machen (a 'High Churcher') disapproved of Spares occultism and steered clear of him?
Thanks for the recommendation JNSmith!
Ahh, The Hill of Dreams is one of the most amazing books I have ever read. Its musical and magical and oceanic in its lyrical rhythm. I venture there is more "magick" in that book than the entire occult section of the average modern bookseller. It seems Machen was tapped it a powerful current when he wrote that novella. I am especially taken with the passages where young Lucian attempts to use "the techniques of the adepts" to reduce the world around him and all its mundane annoyances to nothing. Even thinking of passages like that still makes my hair stand on end. Such a fantastic portrait of the young, self obsessed, decadent aesthete. Its a shame that Machen did not reciprocate Crowley's admiration but I suppose its more than understandable given the circumstances.
" He had read books of modern occultism, and remembered
some of the experiments described. The adept, it was alleged,
could transfer the sense of consciousness from his
brain to the foot or hand, he could annihilate the world around him and
pass into another sphere. Lucian wondered whether he could not perform
some such operation for his own benefit. Human beings were constantly
annoying him and getting in his way, was it not possible to annihilate
the race, or at all events to reduce them to wholly insignificant forms?"
To link another another supernatural author with AOS, this time directly; I have posted a short article from 'The London Mystery Magazine' (October 1950) in which noted supernatural author (and Ex Golden Dawner) Algernon Blackwood discusses inspiration and how it works within him. It is accompanied by artwork by Spare which I assume to have been commissioned. I am not aware the piece has been republished, but dare say I could easily be corrected.
wow! what a find! Thank you!!
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