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The White People

(The Best Weird Tales of Arthur Machen #2)

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  2,430 ratings  ·  197 reviews
It was winter time, and there were black terrible woods hanging from the hills all round; it was like seeing a large room hung with black curtains, and the shape of the trees seemed quite different from any I had ever seen before. I was afraid. Then beyond the woods there were other hills round in a great ring, but I had never seen any of them; it all looked black, and eve ...more
Paperback, 48 pages
Published June 1st 2004 by Kessinger Publishing (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…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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Bill Kerwin

This collection makes for both an inspiring and a melancholy reading experience, for here we see Machen first at the height of his powers and then at the beginning of his decline.

The pieces that begin this collection are worthy of high praise. “The White People”—although not as viscerally terrifying as some of Machen’s earlier tales—is superb in its subtle use of a naïve narrator to evoke, by degrees, a sense of existential menace. The prose poems in“Ornaments in Jade”—experimental a
Glenn Russell
Jul 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

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. Rather than making over
Sep 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“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 writer (/>―
mark monday
Curious Younger Fellow: "Tell me, what is True Evil?"

His Esteemed Elder, A Worldly Raconteur: "True Evil is the striving towards a higher place - but choosing a different path to get there; it is the attempt to ascend to Godhood without being godly. A true sinner may have committed no sin but in his striving; a man may murder but not be a true sinner. Stones may blossom stone flowers, flowers may sing strange songs to you, your furniture may rearrange itself on its own accord; all of these are hallmarks
Jul 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"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
Feb 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you start reading this are all like, "WTF, Miriam, why did you recommend this boring pseudo-philosophical masturbation?" persevere till you get to the nested "Green Book" narrative. Then you can just tell me I'm weird.

Or, alternatively, just skip the frame narrative. I didn't quite how they worked together, anyway. Maybe Ambrose belongs to some longer work I haven't read.

I'm glad I went ahead and read this despite not very much liking Machen's The Great God Pan. Thanks for the rec, l
Jim Smith
Jan 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Paquita Maria Sanchez
Based on Eddie's STELLAR


( of another Machen novel, i read this short story on my break today. First of all, the introduction is one of the most amazing explorations of the notion of evil that I have yet to read, and was a perfect transition from Wise Blood, a much-later novel exploring similar issues. This story, however, examines sin from a very different angle than O'Connor the Catholic's approach.

Based on Eddie's STELLAR


( of another Machen novel, i read this short story on my break today. First of all, the introduction is one of the most amazing explorations of the notion of evil that I have yet to read, and was a perfect transition from Wise Blood, a much-later novel exploring similar issues. This story, however, examines sin from a very different angle than O'Connor the Catholic's approach.



The text concerns a young girl and her stories of seemingly innocent deeds deemed to be evil due to reasons other than those listed in the Ten Commandments. In fact, to the prologue/epilogue narrator (is that supposed to be Ambrose like Bierce, Ambrose Bierce? Doesn't Eddie hate that guy?) even murderers are less sinners than they are societal nuisances. The same goes for thieves (he raises the question: do you consider Robin Hood to be a sinner?).

So what actually does makes a legitimately sinful sin? Well, it's dodgy, but to put it simply: a sin is any act which attempts to reach a level of spiritual and metaphysical awareness akin to what the angels would experience. For example, Machen (or at least the voice in his story) would consider Carlos Castaneda to be a big-ole motherfuckin manna drinkin,' psychedelic rock-lovin', stone-cold and shameless sin factory. In the stories themselves, however, visions of a hidden yet ever-present consciousness of the world which defies the strictly scientific is primarily done through Witchcraft rather than intoxicants (I suppose Machen hadn't considered the possible implications of LSD, psychedelic mushrooms, DMT, or whatever drug you have a hook-up for to his arguments concerning sin). Other examples of sin: seeing ghosts, seeing fairies, slipping into alternate universes (space travel?), teleportation (the whiskey of the StarFleet), telekinesis, etc. Looks like True Blood is even raunchier than we thought. Bow chicka bow-wowwwww!

This is considered to be a horror piece (and some of the stories were actually pretty freaky-deaky). However, it feels to me to be more of a succinct little catalog of Pagan/Occult folklore. It is well-written, well-paced, and provided me with a perfect opportunity to kick sand at Eddie in the sandbox and throw my milk carton at him in the grade-school cafeteria in response to his status update this morning, kindly and cleverly linked HERE:

The prologue and epilogue get 5 stars. The text gets four. You should probably definitely read it. Have a nice day.

*By the way, Eddie. Thanks for the tip on Machen (honest). I think you've opened up a whole new door of Occult-based public-domain readings for me to explore.

Jerry Jose
May 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
The influences this story has had on weird literature and horror in general are very visible, from Lovecraft's 'Necronomicon' to 'Navidson records' in House of Leaves and most probably 'Pan's Labyrinth'. And even to a seasoned reader, Machen's delightful narrative in its misdirections still offers a reading experience that yearns for more.

In structure, The White People, essentially, is a discussion on the nature of evil; with an atmospheric meta narrative suggestive of illusions, witchcraft and occultism. T
Amy Sturgis
Apr 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I reread this work, originally written in the 1890s and published in 1904, in preparation for teaching my course on H.P. Lovecraft. In Supernatural Horror in Literature, Lovecraft writes that "Machen's narrative, a triumph of skilful selectiveness and restraint, accumulates enormous power as it flows on in a stream of innocent childish prattle."

It is a fascinating story. Two men discuss the nature of evil and then consider the diary of a (now dead by her own hand) young girl, which contains her accounts o
Bryan Alexander
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.

Dec 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: weird-fiction
The White People and Other Stories:

The Red Hand – What if a primitive man walked upright in London and murdered citizens as part of some obscure pagan ritual? Thus, is the basis for this tale that follows a somewhat familiar deductive plotline to catch a murderer lurking in the streets of London. Although the tale is somewhat derivative at the beginning it is nonetheless very engaging and suspenseful and the ending and payoff in the story are worth waiting for.

Ornaments i
May 26, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories, horror
As I read through these collections of Machen's weird tales the themes that he was pre-occuppied with become more readily apparent. Perhaps it's because, as he went on, he got increasingly frustrated by society's refusal to heed his word, and made his points in more heavy handed and explicit ways.

In this collection, increasingly under attack is the rational materialism that Machen feels too completely dominates his contemporary society. Our spiritualist side is dwindling and, as a co
Mar 08, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Andrew “The Weirdling” Glos
There’s not much to add to what others have written about Machen and this story of his. It’s a classic and progenitor to the Weird Fiction of the early 20th Century. Folks like Lovecraft and Blackwood would never have been able to do what they did without him and his work.

The White People is bookended by two friends having a conversation about what really is good and evil, saints and sinners. The main body is a reading of a lost but found “green book” detailing the other side what lives in the
Nov 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: weird-fiction
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
Jim Smith
Jun 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This second volume of the series contains the rest of Machen's essential short fiction from the 1890s, including the majestic terror tale The White People and his stunning Ornaments in Jade pieces, along with his powerful novella A Fragment of Life and capped off with his often less impressive, though still likeable, wartime material.
Book Wyrm
Since the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, I am certainly off my rocker if this collection of Machen's stories is any indication.
Nearly every sodding one starts off mildly intriguing with some suspense, and ends on a sudden full stop or 'and then we saw a monstrous thing for two seconds that explained nothing of the horror before!'. It's the Stephen King problem of great set up that stops at a brick wall of unscary, preach
Jim Smith
Jul 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Among Arthur Machen's few, yet indispensable and highly rereadable, acknowledged major works of dark fiction along with The Great God Pan, The Three Impostors and (on the fringes of genre) The Hill of Dreams.

The White People is his most subtle of these and sees him revisiting the abstract attempts at narrative he essayed with his classic The Great God Pan. A young girl toys with magic and delights in her darkling activities, but the real purpose of the very thin narrative is for Mach
Erin the Avid Reader ⚜BFF's with the Cheshire Cat⚜
Well this is a great way to kick-off before Halloween!
Jan 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horror
Arthur Machens the White People allows us a peek into an otherworld that at once revolts and captivates. The greater part of the story is told from the perspective of a young girl as she records her exploration of a forbidden landscape. She has come into esoteric knowledge that allows her to enter into an enchanted dimension that is both full of wonder and dread.

The world that she traverses as it is described so simply and powerfully by Machen held me spellbound, and stayed with me long after I
✨The Reading
Sep 01, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 sor
Thomas Edmund
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
Marko Vasić
Dazzling, psychedelic novel about surreal world placed in an Celtic sanctuary.
Lilaia Moreli
Sep 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Arthur Machen's The White People had been on my reading list for a long time.

The story starts as a singular, philosophical study on the nature of good and evil and evolves into a chillingly delightful tale brimming with dark, paganistic rituals, weird occurrences and sorcery only to break off abruptly on the cusp of some kind of supreme revelation.

The beginning of The White People offers to the reader an intriguing intake on the topic of saints and sinners. Cotgrave and Ambrose discuss the natu
David McGrogan
Feb 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Joel Ayala Alicea
May 28, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Actually, it was not this exact book that I read and I'm going to review just now. The one that I actually read is 'Tales of Arthur Machen' but it seems to be rather difficult to find, so this one will have to do. Besides, it's not much what I have to say about Mr. Machen. All of his work (well, at least what I've read of his works so far) is redundant and extremely boring. What about 'The white people', that so-called “grandiose” tale of supernatural forces unknown to mankind? Pure crap, that' ...more
Re-read Oct. 29th 2016

Noticed today that the section where the nurse is telling the girl stories from her youth, such as The Queen of the Fairies who will not accept any suitors, reminded me forcibly of Lord Dunsany's story 'The Quest of the Queen's Tears'... I am sure Machen would have read Dunsany, and I wonder if he intentionally or otherwise referenced it?

Another element to the story I noticed upon re-reading, is the insistent and slightly muddled voice of the narrato
In this second volume of Chaosium's Machen trilogy we start to see a lot of also-rans in terms of content. Fully a quarter of the book is given over to the author's novella "A Fragment of Life," which is about as weird fiction as my stories of changing the cat box, and another thirty-odd pages to what Joshi charitably refers to as prose-poems, which read like an artist's warm-up sketch.

Thankfully, there are a few of the more known works collected here, including "The Red Hand" (which I enjoyed)
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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,

Other books in the series

The Best Weird Tales of Arthur Machen (3 books)
  • The Three Impostors and Other Stories (The Best Weird Tales of Arthur Machen #1)
  • The Terror and Other Stories
“We lead two lives, and the half of our soul is madness, and half heaven is lit by a black sun. I say I am a man, is the other that hides in me?” 20 likes
“There are strange things lost and forgotten in obscure corners of the newspaper.” 14 likes
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