Arthur Machen

The Hill of Dreams

(London: Grant Richards, 1907)

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The Hill of Dreams

Publisher’s advertisement

Grant Richards advertised Welsh writer Arthur Machen’s loosely autobiographical novel The Hill of Dreams in the first edition of Dubliners. “I will write a Robinson Crusoe of the soul; the story of a man who is not lonely because he is on a desert island and has nobody to speak to, but lonely in the midst of millions, because of his mental isolation, because there is a great gulf fixed spiritually between him and all whom he encounters,” wrote Arthur Machen concerning the romance that would become The Hill of Dreams (qtd in Reynolds and Charlton 55). Following on the small successes of The Three Imposters (1895), Grant Richards solicited Machen’s next manuscript, which was originally entitled The Garden of Avallaunius. The novel differed different greatly from Machen’s earlier works, and Richards didn’t see fit to publish it. For the next ten years, Machen failed to secure a publisher until Richards finally decided to publish the book in 1907 under the title The Hill of Dreams because he figured readers wouldn't be able to pronounce “Avallaunius” (Gekle 80).

Like Stephen Dedalus’s arcane studies in Marsh’s Library in Stephen Hero, the protagonist of Machen’s novel retreats into mystical books: “he had taken all obsolencence to be his province; in his disgust at the stupid usual questions, ‘Will it pay?’ ‘What good is it?’ and so further, he would only read what was uncouth and useless” (42). The novel, which is loosely based on Machen’s own experience as a young man in London, ends in tragedy for the young writer unable to transmute his vision of the world into sellable fiction. It records the disappointments of a writer without an audience and the “magic of print” to turn leaden writing into the gold of a best seller.