The Friends of Arthur Machen literary society has asked for assurance that the collection will remain open to the public even if closure takes place. Treasurer Mark Valentine went as far as saying if the council closed the collection it would be "like Swansea disowning Dylan Thomas." The collection includes books and papers donated by admirers, friends and family of the author.
According to Newport City Council, who plan to cut £10million from the library’s budget, the building is in need of expensive repairs and is not fit for purpose. A spokeswoman for the council said: "Newport City Council is currently consulting on more than 100 budget proposals as it tries to close a £10m budget gap. One of the proposals that has been put forward relates to the library service and creating a hub model which would provide a different service offer to residents. The proposals do not affect the contents and stock of the libraries, including books and collections of cultural significance and historic value. If this proposal did go ahead then the council would follow all of the correct professional processes when moving items and all collections would be secured and kept safe during transportation."
The leader of the council has met with the literary society, and a spokesman said: "If the proposal to close the central library building did go ahead then the council would consider where the best possible place to relocate the reference library would be."
|Pan's Labyrinth (2006)|
|Don't be Afraid of the Dark (2010)|
The society’s chairman, Ray Russell, added: "Newport holds the finest public Machen collection in the UK. We'd like them to preserve it, develop it, and keep access to it open. Arthur Machen was a local son of Gwent who won worldwide literary fame, and it is hoped that Newport will continue to honour his work."
The son of a clergyman, Arthur Machen was born in 1863 in Caerleon, Wales. 2000 years prior, Caerleon was the Roman settlement of Isca Silurum, and the dark and mysterious landscapes of the surrounding countryside frequently coloured Machen’s work. The Great God Pan, perhaps his most famous work, was initially condemned when published in 1894. Horrified critics described it as a decadent and 'incoherent nightmare of sex.' HP Lovecraft was an early admirer, writing about it extensively in his influential essay 'Supernatural Horror in Literature', while Stephen King once described it as "one of the best horror stories ever written." It tells of a young peasant girl who is used in an experiment in early brain surgery. She experiences orgasmic visions of the vast and formless titular deity of nature but loses her mind in the process. It is then discovered she is pregnant, but she dies shortly after giving birth. Some years later, her daughter is revealed to be, as director Richard Stanley describes, "a beautiful, voraciously seductive avatar of Chaos, a pagan antichrist who proceeds to cut an apocalyptic swathe through stuffy fin-de-siecle London."
According to writer, comedian and Machen enthusiast Stewart Lee "There are so many fantastic things about Arthur Machen and they come into focus at different stages in your life. It's conceivable that there'll come a point in the not too distant future where people will find it absolutely inconceivable that this stuff was not preserved in the place that's the most appropriate to it."
Negotiations regarding the proposed cuts, and their subsequent impact on this rare collection of Machen paraphernalia, will continue until 16th January. For updates, check out the Friends of Arthur Machen website and Facebook page.