Monday, June 17, 2013

London: City of Resurrections and other Machen wisdom

You can never have too many London quotes by Arthur Machen (1863-1947), he had a great appreciation for the mysteries to be found in wandering the streets of the city. Here's a few favourites:

'Villiers had emerged from his restaurant after an excellent dinner of many courses, assisted by an ingratiating little flask of Chianti, and, in that frame of mind which was with him almost chronic, had delayed a moment by the door, peering round in the dimly-lighted street in search of those mysterious incidents and persons with which the streets of London teem in every quarter and every hour.  Villiers prided himself as a practised explorer of such obscure mazes and byways of London life, and in this unprofitable pursuit he displayed an assiduity which was worthy of more serious employment.  Thus he stood by the lamp-post surveying the passers-by with undisguised curiosity, and with that gravity known only to the systematic diner, had just enunciated in his mind the formula:  “London has been called the city of encounters; it is more than that, it is the city of Resurrections" (The Great God Pan, 1894).

'I searched for Mrs. Beaumont in the dark waters of the life of London... assuming, as I had to assume, that her record was not of the cleanest, it would be pretty certain that at some previous time she must have moved in circles not quite so refined as her present ones. If you see mud at the top of a stream, you may be sure that it was once at the bottom. I went to the bottom. I have always been fond of diving into Queer Street for my amusement, and I found my knowledge of that locality and its inhabitants very useful' (The Great God Pan, 1894).

'London in September is hard to leave. Doré could not have designed anything more wonderful and mystic than Oxford Street as I saw it the other evening; the sunset flaming, the blue haze transmuting the plain street into a road 'far in the spiritual city'' (The Shining Pyramid, 1895)

'And it is utterly true that he who cannot find wonder, mystery, awe, the sense of a new world and an undiscovered realm in the places by the Gray's Inn Road will never find those secrets elsewhere, not in the heart of Africa, not in the fabled cities of Tibet. 'The matter of our work is everywhere present', wrote the old alchemists, and that is the truth. All the wonders lie within a stone's throw of King's Cross Station" (Things Near and Far, 1923)

OK I would have preferred 'All the wonders lie within a stone's throw of New Cross station' but the same principle applies!

See also: Arthur Machen: South London 'Behind the Scenes of the Universe'

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Spooky - I was reading The Great God Pan yesterday!