Arthur Llewelyn Jones was born on March 3rd, 1863 in Carleleon in Monmouthshire, Wales. His father had adopted his wife's maiden name, Machen, to inherit a legacy, legally becoming “Jones-Machen”; his son was baptised under that name. Later he shortened it to Arthur Machen, as a pen name. An early and avid reader, Arthur read books far beyond his years the results of which ensured a firm foundation in literature.
At eleven, Arthur boarded at Hereford Cathedral School, where he received an excellent classical education. However family poverty ruled out attendance at university, and Arthur was sent to London to sit exams to attend medical school but failed to get in. Arthur, however, showed literary promise, publishing in 1881 a long poem “Eleusinia.” In London, he lived in relative poverty, attempting to work as a journalist, as a publisher's clerk, and as a children's tutor while writing in the evening and going on long rambling walks across London. By 1884 he published his second work, ‘The Anatomy of Tobacco’, and worked with the publisher and bookseller George Redway. This led to further work as a translator from French. In 1887, the year his father died, Arthur married Amelia Hogg, an unconventional music teacher with a passion for the theatre. Soon after the marriage, Arthur began to receive a series of legacies from Scottish relatives that allowed him to devote more time to writing.
Around 1890 Arthur began to publish in literary magazine. This led to his first major success, ‘The Great God Pan’. It was published in 1894 was widely denounced for its sexual and horrific content and of course sold extremely well. In 1899, Amelia died of cancer after a long period of illness. Arthur was devastated. His recovery was helped by his a change of career to acting. By 1901 he was a member of Frank Benson's company of travelling players which took him around the country. In 1902 Arthur managed to find a publisher in 1902 for ‘Hieroglyphics’, an analysis of the nature of literature, which concluded that true literature must convey “ecstasy”. Arthur married Dorothie Purefoy Hudleston, in 1902, a happy and sustaining union. In 1906 Machen's literary career began once more as the book ‘The House of Souls’ collected his most notable works of the nineties and brought them to a new audience. By 1910 Arthur accepted a full-time journalist's job at Alfred Harmsworth's Evening News. In February 1912 his son Hilary was born, and a daughter Janet in 1917. The coming of war in 1914 saw Arthur return to the public eye with ‘The Bowmen’ and the publicity surrounding the “Angels of Mons” episode. He published a series of stories capitalizing on this success, most were morale-boosting propaganda, with the most notable ‘The Great Return’ (1915) and ‘The Terror’ (1917), being more accomplished. The year 1922 saw ‘The Secret Glory’ finally published, as was the first volume of his autobiography ‘Far Off Things’, and new editions of Machen's Casanova, The House of Souls and The Hill of Dreams all came out. Arthur’s works had now found a new audience and publishers in America. By 1926 the boom in republication was mostly over, and Arthur’s income dropped. In 1927, he became a manuscript reader for the publisher Ernest Benn.
This regular income lasted until 1933. By 1929, Arthur and his family had moved to Amersham, Buckinghamshire, but were still faced with financial hardship. In 1932 he received a Civil List pension of ₤100 per annum in 1932, but the loss of work from Benn's a year later made things difficult once more. Arthur’s finances finally stabilised with a literary appeal in 1943 for his eightieth birthday. The success of the appeal allowed Arthur to live the last few years of his life in relative comfort, until his death at age 84 on December 15th, 1947 in Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire.