The Three Impostors; or, The Transmutations
  • Publication Date: December 16, 2022
  • ISBN: 9781554815043 / 1554815045
  • 264 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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The Three Impostors; or, The Transmutations

  • Publication Date: December 16, 2022
  • ISBN: 9781554815043 / 1554815045
  • 264 pages; 5½" x 8½"

First published in the height of the “yellow nineties” and in the shadow of the Oscar Wilde trials, Arthur Machen’s The Three Impostors (1895) remains a relatively obscure text even as Machen receives increasing attention for his contributions to supernatural horror, the weird, and even science fiction. Situating this generically uncertain, richly multi-layered text in transnational traditions of the short-story cycle, the print culture of the 1890s, and the colonial scientific and material cultures of the fin de siècle, this edition shows that Machen’s long-neglected text has a strong claim to our renewed attention today.

An extensive selection of accompanying historical documents includes contemporary reviews, related literary “inter-texts,” and documents and images related to the book’s publication history, design, and relationship to contemporary print culture.


“What a delight! With the new edition of The Three Impostors or The Transmutations, Broadview Press has gifted readers with a treasure trove of material and renewed the book’s relevance to studies in literary Decadence and early horror. Perhaps even more exciting, however, is how this new edition situates Machen’s work within genre studies more broadly. Stefania Forlini has curated a wealth of supporting documents that demonstrates the book’s influence upon detective fiction, its overlap with science fiction, its engagement with the fantastic, and its commitment to the Weird, both old and New. With its position within such a rich generic genealogy so clearly and elegantly established, The Three Impostors should enjoy wide appeal to literary scholars of all stripes. Highly recommended!” — Lisa Swanstrom, Co-Editor, Science Fiction Studies

“This is another excellent addition to the corpus of Broadview’s scholarly and insightful editions of lesser-known Victorian texts that are deserving of renewed scholarly and student attention. Forlini’s edition expertly positions Machen’s innovative novel in the contexts of late-Victorian sciences, experimental literature, and the controversies that befell the contemporary high-art movements of the 1890s. With an eye to recent revisions to our understandings of the transnationalism of the Decadent movement and its ‘cult of artifice,’ Forlini’s introduction confidently provides new ways of reading Machen’s ‘trickster’ narrative in relation not only to Decadence but also to popular fiction and the materiality of the text itself. With its rich introduction to both the respectable and the unrespectable scientific theories of the period, Forlini’s edition skilfully resurrects Machen’s innovative and darkly comic novel for the ‘post-truth’ era.” — Sondeep Kandola, Liverpool John Moore University

“Arthur Machen is often an underappreciated contributor to the literature of the fin de siècle. His work, as The Three Imposters demonstrates so well, crosses genres of horror, the supernatural, and the literature that speculates on archaeological discoveries, and is an important part of decadent literature even as it sometimes reacts to it. The Three Imposters is an ideal companion to his classic The Great God Pan, continuing many of the themes Machen introduces there and, in some places, improving on the earlier work. This Broadview edition by Stefania Forlini gives an excellent framework to read Machen in his fin de siècle context and shows his influence on modern horror fiction.” — Heather Marcovitch, Red Deer Polytechnic

Arthur Machen: A Brief Chronology
A Note on the Text

The Three Impostors or The Transmutations

Appendix A: John Lane’s Keynotes Series and Beyond

  • 1. Illustrations by Aubrey Beardsley from John Lane’s Keynotes Series
    • a. Cover image from The Great God Pan (1895)
    • b. Cover image from The Three Impostors (1895)
    • c. Keys, part 1 (1896)
    • d. Keys, part 2 (1896)
  • 2. Illustrations by Aubrey Beardsley from The Yellow Book
    • a. Front cover of The Yellow Book (April 1894)
    • b. Back cover of The Yellow Book (April 1894)
  • 3. Illustration featuring “little people” by Aubrey Beardsley for Salomé (1894)
  • 4. Designs by S.H. Sime for House of Souls (1906)
    • a. Front cover
    • b. Spine
  • 5. “The Sime Zoology,” designs by S.H. Sime, The Sketch (8 March 1905)

Appendix B: Reviews of The Three Impostors

  • 1. “The Three Impostors,” The Bookman (January 1896)
  • 2. From “The Three Impostors,” Saturday Review (11 January 1896)
  • 3. From The Speaker (21 December 1895)
  • 4. Percy Addleshaw, “The Three Impostors,” Academy (7 December 1895)
  • 5. “New Novels,” Graphic (8 February 1896)
  • 6. From “Science in Fiction,” Leeds Mercury Weekly Supplement (26 January 1895)
  • 7. From “New Novels,” Athenæum (1 February 1896)
  • 8. H.D. Traill, “The World of Letters,” Graphic (1 February 1896)
  • 9. From Harry Quilter, “The Gospel of Intensity,” Contemporary Review (June 1895)

Appendix C: The Cult of Artifice and the “Modern Craze” for Collecting

  • 1. From Arthur Symons, “The Decadent Movement in Literature,” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine (1893)
  • 2. From Havelock Ellis, “A Note on Paul Bourget,” Pioneer (October 1889)
  • 3. From Arthur Symons, “An Apology for Puppets,” Saturday Review (17 July 1897)
  • 4. From Max Beerbohm, “A Defence of Cosmetics,” The Yellow Book (April 1894)
  • 5. From Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891)
  • 6. Selected Punch Cartoons
    • a. “Acute Chinamania” (17 December 1874)
    • b. “Chronic Chinamania” (17 December 1874)
    • c. “The Six-Mark Tea-Pot” (30 October 1880)
    • d. “What It Has Come to” (16 April 1881)

Appendix D: Reading Material Cultures

  • 1. From E.B. Tylor, Primitive Culture: Researches into the Development of Mythology, Philosophy, Religion, Art and Custom (1871)
  • 2. From E.B. Tylor, “On the Tasmanians as Representatives of Palæolithic Man,” Journal of the Archeological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland (1894)
  • 3. From Max Nordau, Degeneration (1898)

Appendix E: Literary Inter-Texts

  • 1. From Robert Louis Stevenson and Fanny Van der Grift Stevenson, “Prologue of the Cigar Divan,” The Dynamiter (1885)
  • 2. From Arthur Machen, “The Inmost Light” (1894)
  • 3. From Arthur Machen, “The Red Hand” (1906)

Works Cited and Recommended Reading

Stefania Forlini is Associate Professor of English at the University of Calgary.