Rediscovered: Machen, One, Two, Three

As I was saying, every few years now I bump into Alan Gullette, most recently a couple of weeks ago. Don’t know how many years had passed between that encounter and the previous one.

But that’s the reason I’m aware that today is the anniversary of the birth of Arthur Machen, 156 years back. Alan is Getting Out of Dodge — or the Bay Area, depending on how you look at it — like so many others and wanted to lighten his load by selling off a few things from his library.

I went up and helped out, mostly picking up items I could have gotten along the way but never did. A book by William Hope Hodgson. A set of Clark Ashton Smith otherwise still in print, but I’d never bothered to place the order.

Mostly, though, I added to my Machen shelves, which is why the Welsh mystic’s birthday intrudes on my awareness. Kept seeing it in one item or another, realized, wait just a minute here. . . .

Nabbed the biography by Mark Valentine, another book I hadn’t gotten to yet — but I have a lot of the books about Machen, even Arthur Machen: Weaver of Fantasy by William Francis Gekle, Round Table Press, 1949. Might as well have another. The Valentine you can find lots of copies on sale, if for hefty metal. The Gekle, not so much.

Think I also cleaned out Alan’s supply of the journal Faunus from several years of a membership in the Friends of Arthur Machen club, and now I’m thinking, maybe I should join FoAM myself. And maybe I’ll get around to it.

He had a copy of the Knopf yellowback of The House of Souls, a second printing from August 1922. Grabbed that one — I already have a copy (first printing May 1922; I figure I’ll keep both, since the endpapers on the first are plain and on the second decorated, as the Knopf firm began to realize they had something going on with Machen titles).

I’ve had my original copy since circa 1974 or 75, at least, but reading along in it discovered that two sheets (pp271/272 & pp 273/274) were missing. I doubt the bookseller even noticed, and as I recall, it was cheap. In St. Paul, Minnesota I used Richard L. Tierney’s copy to make Xerox inserts, and that’s the copy I’ve been using happily all these years. As I’ve said, my Machen collection is ragtag, but for my tastes you can’t beat the personal association with RLT — me and Tierney, in the Reading Machen Game together.

So, I had Knopf yellowback one and two, and as I was dipping into the run of Faunus found reprinted a brand new introduction that Machen wrote for the third yellowback printing, April 1923. I may have known about that intro at one time, but if so it slipped from my active memory as I pursued one thing or another. I prefer the Knopf printings with the new intros, of course.

In keeping, then, with my ragtag I-buy-Machen-to-read aesthetic, I suddenly have in hand a one, two, three — one with Xerox inserts, two with new endpapers, three via the medium of a journal.

Since I now have two copies of the Knopf House of Souls, I probably don’t need a later printing just to have the intro in that book.

Or do I?

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