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The White People and Other Weird Stories

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  1,719 ratings  ·  125 reviews
"Of living creators of cosmic fear raised to its most artistic pitch, few if any can hope to equal the versatile Arthur Machen." -H.P. Lovecraft

Actor, journalist, devotee of Celtic Christianity and the Holy Grail legend, Welshman Arthur Machen is considered one of the fathers of weird fiction, a master of mayhem whose work has drawn comparisons to H. P. Lovecraft and Edgar
Paperback, 377 pages
Published March 29th 2011 by Penguin Classics (first published 1904)
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Matt You can definitely see how Lovecraft drew inspiration from Machen, but it's not as Lovecraftian as The King in Yellow or the horror works of Ambrose B…moreYou can definitely see how Lovecraft drew inspiration from Machen, but it's not as Lovecraftian as The King in Yellow or the horror works of Ambrose Bierce. Machen's horror tends to rely on more traditional fantasy villains... a lot of fairies, demons, angels, etc. It's definitely atmospheric horror, which makes it similar to Lovecraft, but Lovecraft's underlying philosophy is pretty nihilistic, whereas Machen seems to be fundamentally spiritual, with a lot of emphasis on paganism, the occult, and Celtic mythology.

So long answer short, it's very obvious that it was an inspiration for Lovecraft, but it's not particularly Lovecraftian.(less)

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Glenn Russell
Jul 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing

Penguin has done a great service in publishing this splendid selection of writings by Welsh author Arthur Machen (1863-1947), which includes a most insightful introductory essay by S. T. Joshi along with a Forward by Guillermo Del Toro. A listing of the tales in this collection runs as follows: The Inmost Light, Novel of the Black Seal, Novel of the White Powder, The Red Hand, The White People, A Fragment of Life, The Bowmen, The Soldiers' Rest, The Great Return, Out of the Earth, The Terror. Ra
Jul 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"Oh day and night, but this is wondrous strange!" Those words from Hamlet kept coursing through my mind as I read this marvelous collection. Machen taps into a deep Gnostic tradition in this work, positing these mysterious tales in deliberate counter-point to the industrial rationalism of his (and our) day. It's quite a heady reading experience and so unlike the typical realistic tapestry upon which most writers work. I felt like I was being led by the hand into magical realms that were both str ...more
Sep 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
“There are sacraments of evil as well as of good about us, and we live and move to my belief in an unknown world, a place where there are caves and shadows and dwellers in twilight. It is possible that man may sometimes return on the track of evolution, and it is my belief that an awful lore is not yet dead.”
― Arthur Machen

Christian mystic, member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and a master writer of the weird tale. Arthur Machen was all three, with an interesting evolution as a write
Jim Smith
Jan 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
This should have been an easy five stars, but it is marred by some baffling decisions. Arthur Machen, author of one of my all-time favourite novels The Hill of Dreams, along with a selection of truly genius horror tales I can endlessly re-read, was a writer who must be judiciously presented to a modern audience. The man's career was a strained, tortured effort to create in prose impressions of mystery and awe he felt on a profound level – not always to success, as even his greatest admirers will ...more
Bill Hsu
I read some of the classic Machen stories decades ago, and have been playing with the idea of revisiting them. I'm not sure this is a good time, or how many of these I'll get through; I remember being bored to tears as a teen by "The Terror", for instance. But hey...

"The Inmost Light" certainly sets a leeeeeeisurely pace. Interesting concept, and I do appreciate Machen not spelling out everything at the end. It's quite clear how one should interpret Dr. Black's experiment with the opal. Joshi is
Mar 08, 2013 rated it liked it
I read two thirds of this intriguing collection of stories before returning it to the book shelf. There's no doubt about it: Arthur Machen was an intriguing author, with a lot of very strange ideas that definitely earn the title of 'weird stories'.

I think one reason why I didn't stick it out to the end was that, despite the huge amount of variation between the stories (length, context, style) they all seemed to have very similar thematic undertones, i.e. that there is a world beyond this one occ
✨Bean's Books✨
Sep 01, 2018 rated it did not like it
Dry and boring.
Have you ever sat down and read a book and when you're done sit there and ask yourself "WTF did I just read?" This is definitely one of those books. I mean I can't even really write a description of what this book was about because I didn't seem to understand it. And there is no description on the back of the book in which to copy for you. The text is just so very hard to follow. It's written in an old-fashioned sort of way but not even in an Old English type of way. I'm sorry but
Bryan Alexander
May 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
It's a delight to reread Arthur Machen. One can admire his craft, his passion for the otherworldly and for nature. It's even more of a pleasure to read his stories for the first time. I've read some of these before, over the years, and relished the chance to immerse myself in tales of beauty and the supernatural.

Jun 17, 2020 rated it liked it
The Inmost Light [3/5], Novel of the Black Seal [4/5], Novel of the White Powder [3/5], The Red Hand [2/5], The White People [4/5], A Fragment of Life [1/5], The Bowmen [2/5], The Soldier's Rest [2/5], The Great Return [3/5], Out of the Earth [3/5], The Terror [4/5]

I don't think i'm a fan of Machen. He tries so hard to be 'real' his stories usually wander around aimlessly or stop just before what should be the most dramatic moment leaving you hanging.

Of these the best are 'The White People' beca
Nov 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Arthur Machen is a writer I have known about for ages, mostly due to the high praise he got from H.P. Lovecraft. Now my first reading of Machen was a highly enjoyable one, and I really liked the tales in this collection. His anti-materialistic views and reverence of nature make for a great backdrop to his tales and I loved that his stories are filled with stunningly beautiful imagery and strangely hidden terrors. The thing I liked best about his stories was the use of old folk tales and legends ...more
Thomas Edmund
Jul 09, 2016 rated it liked it
Highly recommended for Lovecraft fans, the White People is not some sort of supremacist fiction if any are frightened by the name. At first I really enjoyed the collection, stories 1 and 2 read like Lovecraft + good characterization, however as the stories continued things seemed to meander somewhat. While there were some powerful individual scenes and intriguing premises overall the stories were difficult for me to get attached to and I found myself longing to finish each story to get them out ...more
After being quite disappointed with The Great God Pan, I felt a certain obligation to give Machen another shot, given all the Lovecraft comparisons he had received. And with this collection, I was pretty legitimately impressed. Time and time again, the Victorian man of science gets his ass handed to him by darker, weirder forces than he could have imagined, all rooted in the pagan past that, in Machen's time, certainly still lurked in the wilder corners of the British Isles. Not every story was ...more
Erin the Avid Reader ⚜BFF's with the Cheshire Cat⚜
Well this is a great way to kick-off before Halloween!
Aug 02, 2020 rated it did not like it
I just couldn't get into this one. It seemed to be more a Victorian diatribe on the evils of paganism than chilling gothic tales based on Celtic beliefs. ...more
Aug 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: short-stories, horror
Arthur Machen wrote a quality novella called The Great God Pan. That story succeeds, not so much because of what it says but because of what it does not say. It is a book of understatement and the most important elements of the narrative are hinted at without explicitly being described. Unfortunately, it is possible that some critics in Machen’s time said The Great God Pan was weak for not saying enough. Maybe that is how we ended up with the sloppy mess of short stories included in The White Pe ...more
Lynsey Walker
Jan 19, 2021 rated it really liked it
Oh Mr Machen, I can see why Mr Lovecraft showered you with so much praise, your stories are truly some of the best when it comes to underlying, unspeakable horror that the human race finds abhorrent. I mean I find it wonderful but then I am mad.

This is a fabulous collection of stories that shows off the true originator of folk horror to his best, the only story that is missing (and I would urge you to seek out) is The Great God Pan which is creepy and properly not nice. All of the folk horror s
May 22, 2020 rated it liked it
Machen is great, his best work is among the best weird fiction of all time, the titular 'The White People' is a masterpiece of short form storytelling - but the curation of stories here is just baffling. Omits some of his best, includes some of his least consequential. ...more
David McGrogan
Feb 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Machen, unusually for a weird fiction author of his era, could really write. I know he influenced Lovecraft and CA Smith, among others, but he is a titan in comparison to those writers when it comes to style. The two "flagship" stories in this collection, the eponymous "The White People" and "A Fragment of Life", are really exceptionally good, worth the price of admission alone. I'd read "The White People" itself long ago and it seems to have only got better in the mean time - it's no exaggerati ...more
Deren Kellogg
Nov 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Arthur Machen was a Welsh writer of weird fiction who worked in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Before I read this collection I was only familiar with his most often anthologized story, "The Great God Pan." This collection really blew me away. Particularly fine was the final story, "The Terror", a novella about mysterious deaths in Wales during the summer of 1915. Also superior were the stories, "The Novel of the Black Seal" and "The Red Hand", but all the stories in this collection were very go ...more
Jun 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
If you are a fan of HP Lovecraft, Ambrose Bierce, EA Poe, Bradbury, should already know and/or have read Machen. If you somehow have missed many have...this is a GREAT new collection of his stories - only missing Great God Pan and Hill of Dreams to make it perfect. The aura and ambiance created in Machen's tales are without peer . . . and while he seems prone to the run-on descriptive mega-long paragraph, the whole of the stories flow over you like a gentle river until you fi ...more
Jun 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
Some very good stories in here, especially the Novel of the Black Seal, Novel of the White Powder, The Red Hand, and The Terror. Gets a little dull in the middle, mostly because A Fragment of Life starts out fantastically mundane (the central couple spends 5 pages of debate over which stove to purchase) and then goes a little haywire. I'd like to read more Machen, because he's a much better writer than Lovecraft, and the stories are in the same vein. ...more
Roger Whitson
Mar 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant edition of one of the best horror authors of all time. "The White People" will change how you view children and nature forever. "The Novel of the Black Seal" is probably the scariest thing I've read this side of Mieville. My only complaint (4.5 stars) is that the anthology doesn't include "The Great God Pan," which took me three reads to figure out -- it's so claustrophobic and sparse at the end.

Karl Hallbjörnsson
Dec 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Read earlier this year. A little bit formulaic and sometimes felt like it was meant to be more scary than it actually turned out to be, but in general the stories were well written and gripping. Certainly better than what I've read of Lovecraft. ...more
Apr 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
To my shame, I had never heard of Arthur Machen and I am sorry I did not discover him earlier in life. This book is an amazing piece of work, some of the stories reminded me of both H.P Lovecraft and the Scottish writer George Macdonald. It wasn't until I delved a bit more into the background of Arthur Machen that I discovered H.P. Lovecraft was a great admirer of his work.

The book is extremely well written, to the extent I almost felt I was in Wales, a country I know very well. There honestly
Nov 07, 2020 rated it it was ok
To me these short stories seem to be 90% built-up and 10% let-down. While the scene-setting is well done and transports you into 19th century England, the resolution of the mysteries always ends up being “an evil demon/fairy“ without any rationale for why this would happen (I get that this is partially the point of Machen‘s critique of „the rational“ but I still find it annoying). I disliked the title story the most as every sentence was „And then...“ „So...“ „Then...“. The story seemed devoid o ...more
Jan 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing
After reading all published Lovecraft, this collection highlights yet another--albeit similar only at times-- example that "matter is as really awful and unknown as spirit, that science itself but dallies on the threshold, scarcely gaining more than a glimpse of the wonders of the inner place." However, Machen overcomes Lovecraft's comfortable nihilism with cutting moments of spiritual fear and awakening, ones few but biting in the context of an always looming unknown impregnated with doom. A Vi ...more
Aug 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoy this author... if you like Lovecraft, I highly recommend.

Machen inspired Lovecraft and that eerie undercurrent ubiquitous in all of Lovecraft's work is felt in many of Machen's stories.

I am currently reading Machen's The Great god Pan and it is phenomenal!
Aug 06, 2020 added it
Look I don't care what anyone says, "The Great God Pan" is a better story than "The White People" and this is a hill I will die on ...more
Jun 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Invented the angels of Mons.
Alan Rader
Aug 29, 2015 rated it liked it
The title story, "The White People," sets up a distinction between sin and malicious action. Sin, so the argument runs, does not actually entail what western civilization commonly believes. An act of murder, even cold blooded murder carried out with malicious intent, is not in and of itself a sin. Though we rightfully imprison murderers, their actions are bad not due to any inherent wickedness but because the deeds disrupt and forestall the normal function of society in general. Morality then is ...more
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Arthur Machen was a leading Welsh author of the 1890s. He is best known for his influential supernatural, fantasy, and horror fiction. His long story The Great God Pan made him famous and controversial in his lifetime, but The Hill of Dreams is generally considered his masterpiece. He also is well known for his leading role in creating the legend of the Angels of Mons.

At the age of eleven, Machen

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