I have long eagerly awaited reading something by Arthur Machen. Supposedly one of the grandfather's of Weird fiction, an important influence on H.P. Lovecraft, I was hoping for another author of the same caliber (and perhaps somewhat similar to) Algernon Blackwood. He turned out not to be quite quite as good and somewhat different in approach.
This is volume one of a three volume set and contains the novella "The Great God Pan", two short stories "The Inmost Light" and "The Shining Pyramid" and the novel "The Three Imposters". Edited and introduced by S.T. Joshi. Common themes include the corruption of innocence, scientific endeavour in areas of the supernatural and the mysteries and beauty of late 19th century London.
"The Great God Pan" is one of the stories Machen is famous for but I was somewhat underwhemled. Apparently deeply shocking and contraversial in it's time, there were angry reviews and morally outraged critics in the media, today it feels overly restrained and coy. In other words it hasn't dated too well, lacking the effectiveness they might once of had. The other two short stories are in the same vein; good but haven't dated too well.
Somewhat different though is the novel "The Three Imposters" (subtitled "The Transumation"). I don't know if I have ever read a story with such a complex narrative structure. Divided up into a series of episodes, it contains many complete stories within stories that are related by one of the three antagonists to either of the two protagonists in as part of their elaborate and convoluted attempts to try to track down another character who is on the run. The narrative reached, at times, four levels deep. The two protagonists are wealthy individuals who were born into money and who have nothing more to do with their time than wandering the streets of London, reflecting upon and discussing esoteric matters, furiously smoking their pipes as they keep running into the three antagonists, in various guises, who proceed to relate dubious stories of the supernatural.
The prose is quite purple, noticibly more so than Blackwood (altough these tales were written at least ten years earlier) and (as I said) feel more dated. I do intend to go on and read the other two volumes in this series to see what else this author has to offer.