Weird fiction author Arthur Machen's eerie shape notes...

Weird fiction author Arthur Machen's eerie shape notes...

 Did you know that Arthur Machen, renowned for his contributions to horror literature, ingeniously incorporated "shape notes" into his classic novel "The Hill of Dreams"? Shape notes, a music notation system designed to simplify reading music, play a subtle yet significant role in the novel, enhancing its eerie atmosphere. Machen, a Welsh author born in 1863, was fascinated by the mystical and the arcane, often exploring themes of ancient rituals, hidden knowledge, and the supernatural in his works. His deep interest in the occult and the esoteric is reflected in his ability to create atmospheres thick with dread and mystery. In The Hill of Dreams (1907), Machen uses the shape notes to evoke a sense of otherworldly ritual, adding layers of depth to the haunting experiences of the protagonist, Lucian. This unique integration not only underscores Machen's innovative storytelling but also exemplifies his talent for weaving obscure cultural elements into his chilling narratives, making his work stand out in the genre of weird fiction.


“My dear Lucian, I can’t read the words; it’s such a queer old-fashioned writing. Look how plain that text is; one can see what it’s about. And this other one; I can’t make it out at all.”

“It’s a Latin hymn.”

“A Latin hymn? Is it a Protestant hymn? I may be old-fashioned, but Hymns Ancient and Modern is quite good enough for me. This is the music, I suppose? But, my dear boy, there are only four lines, and who ever heard of notes shaped like that: you have made some square and some diamond-shape? Why didn’t you look in your poor mother’s old music? It’s in the ottoman in the drawing-room. I could have shown you how to make the notes; there are crotchets, you know, and quavers.”

Miss Deacon laid down the illuminated Urbs Beata in despair; she felt convinced that her cousin was “next door to an idiot.”

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