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Arthur Machen: 'the flower-tunicked priest of nightmare'

Updated: Apr 12, 2023

Arthur Machen: Northend House, Northend, Buckinghamshire 1891 census

Arthur Machen (1863 – 1947)

Pen name of Arthur Llewellyn Jones

Arthur Machen

I live in the village of Northend, high in the Chiltern Hills. One of the stories I have yet to tell will be about McKnight Kauffer’s and Marion Dorn’s connection with this village – they took out a lease on a Regency period house, the White House, overlooking the village pond and green.

The White House



Recently Sycamore Lodge, a house in the village of Northend (Buckinghamshire), came up for sale (now sold). Some years ago the occupant of the house (he bought it c.1985) told me that the writer Arthur Machen had lived there - and, occasionally a fan of Machen would knock on his door.

I have to confess I knew little about this writer. But a little research reveals that Machen, best known for his supernatural, fantasy, and horror fiction, was something of a cult figure. He was praised by Oscar Wilde. Aubrey Beardsley illustrated his works. W.B. Yeats, H.G. Wells, Siegfried Sassoon, and composer John Ireland were amongst his admirers. According to Arthur Conan Doyle, one of Machen’s biographers, Machen was a genius.

Arthur Machen The Great God Pan and The Inmost Light

John Lane, 1894 Cover and title page illustrated by
Aubrey Beardsley

In the 1920s Machen became a cult figure in the United States. The writer and photographer Carl Van Vechten considered Machen ‘the most wonderful man writing today’. In recent years, knowing that John Ireland was influenced by Machen, cellist Julian Lloyd-Webber began to seek out Machen’s books – his favourite being The Hill of Dreams, first published in 1907.

Machen's friend, the poet John Gawsworth, began a biography which remained unpublished until 2005 (Tartarus Press). Gawsworth refers to Machen as ‘flower-tunicked priest of nightmare’.

Machen’s connection with Northend came in 1891. The census for that year reveals that he and his wife Amy, Amelia on the census form, were living in Northend House. Amy was quite ill at that time. They possibly took up residence in the countryside to aid her recovery, but to no avail. She died a few years later.

Very few of the Northend village houses are given names or accurate locations in the 1891 census, but I can only presume Sycamore Lodge was previously known as Northend House. The Machens only lived there for two years before moving to live in London. Curiously there is a photograph, dated July 1930, of Arthur Machen standing in front of Northend House / Sycamore Lodge. Behind him the sycamore tree (still standing) and the late Georgian(?) sash windows can be seen. At this time his permanent residence was Lynwood, 135 High Street, Amersham – not far to come to visit.

Arthur Machen

in front of Northend House

July 1930

Arthur Machen is buried in St Mary the Virgin churchyard in Amersham. The headstone, which carries the carved Latin text: Omnia Exeunt In Mysterium (All Things Pass into Mystery) has recently been cleaned and the letter carving re-incised.

Omnia Exeunt In Mysterium

All Things Pass into Mystery

Some Machen book covers

Hopefully someone will read this Blog and explain why Machen was photographed in front of Sycamore Lodge / Northend House in July 1930 (see below)

Arthur Machen in front of Northend House, July 1930

Raymond Russell, chair of the Friends of Arthur Machen has generously provided me with a new photograph (see above) of Arthur Machen in front of Northend House, and the reason he was there.

The photos were taken by John Gawsworth (in July 1930) when putting together a book of photos of Machen's residences.

In his book, Occult territory: An Arthur Machen Gazetteer. (, Russell writes: Northend House still stands, but is now called Sycamore Lodge. Machen wrote in Things Near and Far:

"I resolved to be a countryman again, so I took a cottage high up on the Chiltern Hills and while certain

alterations were being made, I left for Tours, Touraine, France".

At this time Machen had benefited from a few legacies and had not only money, but the time to write. Two books were apparently written here that were destroyed by Machen (‘The Novel of the Dark Valley’ was the only survival). However, it was from Northend House that Machen posted John Lane the manuscript of The Great God Pan on 2nd November 1893.


A newly built house in Northend has taken the Northend House appellation

There is a Friends of Arthur Machen society – whose patron is Machen’s granddaughter, Catherine Farmer. March 2023 marks Arthur Machen's 160th birthday as well as the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Friends of Arthur Machen


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