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The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen
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The Great God Pan (1894)

by Arthur Machen

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English (12)  French (1)  All languages (13)
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"Consider the matter well, Raymond. It's a great responsibility. Something might go wrong; you would be a miserable man for the rest of your days."
"No, I think not, even if the worst happened. As you know, I rescued Mary from the gutter, and from almost certain starvation, when she was a child; I think her life is mine, to use as I feel fit. Come, it's getting late; we had better go in."


Dr. Raymond believes that 'a trifling rearrangement of certain cells' in the brain would allow anyone to see the Great God Pan but his foolhardy attempt to prove his theory ends in disaster, to the horror of his friend Mr. Clarke who was invited to watch the surgery. The rest of the story concerns Mr. Clarke's occult interests, which lead him to the intertwined stories of a strange young girl fostered by a farmer, a beautiful but somehow repulsive woman who married and ruined a friend of a friend, and of a series of suicides by rich young men with everything to live for.

The sort of horror story without any monsters, but where the sense of evil permeates everything. ( )
1 vote isabelx | Mar 20, 2016 |
Every sentence succeeded in making me feel very uneasy, rarely pure terror, just the feeling that things were not quite right. Any novella that can accomplish this consistently for a hundred pages must surely be a true work of horror. ( )
  hickey92 | Jan 24, 2016 |
I found this in the Dover catalog and looked it up on Project Gutenberg on a whim. It strikes me as fairly typical Victorian gothic horror but, according to the catalog blurb, it 'scandalized Victorian London'. Perhaps it is not nessecary to believe all catalog blurbs.
  amyem58 | Jul 3, 2014 |
An effective example of its genre - early cosmic horror, locating the horrific in inexplicable natural phenomena, and achieving its effectiveness through a lack of description of the specific horrors - but of course just as problematic as Victorian fiction will always tend to be. I'm intrigued by the fact, though, that there is a reading of this book, completely coherent with the text, where all the horrible consequences come from the original violation of a woman's agency and bodily integrity. ( )
  jen.e.moore | Jun 20, 2014 |
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

Written in 1894, Arthur Machen’s The Great God Pan is a short novel which was highly influential to H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King. King, in fact, said The Great God Pan is “…one of the best horror stories ever written. Maybe the best in the English language. Mine isn’t anywhere near that good…” The Great God Pan used to be hard to find, but is now available free on the Kindle (and at other public domain e-book outlets) and is easily read in one dark and rainy evening.

The first few pages of The Great God Pan describe Mr. Clarke’s visit to his friend Dr. Raymond. After many years of study, Dr. Raymond has theorized that the spirit world is all around us, but that humans are unable to perceive it because of the particular set-up of our sensory systems. Thus, he hypothesizes that a small lesion in the cortex of the brain — a slight adjustment of our normal functioning — will “lift the veil” so that we can perceive the supernatural. The Greeks called this “seeing the Great God Pan.” Dr. Raymond invites Mr. Clarke into his laboratory where he is ready to perform this operation on Mary, a beautiful teenage girl who he saved from the streets years before and who, in his thinking, owes him her life. The operation appears to be unsuccessful… or at least Mary turns out to be incapable of describing her perceptions, because she has become “an idiot.”

The rest of the story is Mr. Clarke’s collection of accounts of unexplained suicides and strange deaths (apparently from shock and terror) in London society and his gradual suspicion that there is some connection between these deaths and Dr. Raymond’s failed experiment. The horrible things he hears about happen in private (many appear to be sexual in nature), so he can’t report the specifics for any of them. Eerie tension and a creeping horror arise as the reader fills in the unknown with fears from his or her own imagination.

It’s disappointing that the writing style of The Great God Pan isn’t as exquisite as the terror is, but it’s pleasant enough and completely readable over 100 years later. The Great God Pan is a must-read for any fan of horror fiction — not the bloody gruesome type of horror, but the brain-bending, soul-scaring type. ( )
1 vote Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |
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Book description
Here you will find the most significant contribution of Arthur Machen’s classic tales of dark fantasy and horror. With an introduction by S.T. Joshi who also contributes, notes and a complete Machen bibliography. This is a must have for the Machen enthusiast and Weird Tales collector.

The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen was widely criticized by the press as degenerate and horrific due to its profligate style and sexual content, although since his work has since garnered a reputation as a classic of modern horror.

In Supernatural Horror in Literature H. P. Lovecraft praised the novel, saying: "No one could begin to describe the cumulative suspense and ultimate horror with which every paragraph abounds"; he added that "the sensitive reader" reaches the end with "an appreciative shudder." Lovecraft also noted, however, that "melodrama is undeniably present, and coincidence is stretched to a length which appears absurd upon analysis."
Haiku summary
Tame by modern tastes:
supernatural horror,
Victorian-style.
(ed.pendragon)

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0809544601, Paperback)

"Of Mr. Machen's horror-tales the most famous is perhaps 'The Great God Pan' (1894) which tells of a singular and terrible experiment and its consequences."-H. P. Lovecraft

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:48 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

An experiment into the sources of the human brain through the mind of a young woman has gone horribly wrong. She has seen the great God Pan and will die giving birth to a daughter, Helen Vaughan. Helen Vaughan becomes the source of much fevered speculation when, twenty years later, she is feted as a society hostess of great charm.… (more)

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