For over a decade Ireland knew and corresponded with the writer Arthur Machen, his novels an important stimulus and influence on pieces such as ‘Le Catioroc’. Between 1941 and 46 there is a succession of letters between the two men. Machen was at this time living in Amersham, in a pretty terraced property going by the name ‘Lynwood’. Ireland visited him in June 1946, meeting for lunch at the King’s Arms, an inn dating back to the fifteenth century. This was just a year before Machen’s death.
There is also a collection of letters from 1933, when Ireland was working on Legend. In them Machen expresses his admiration for two of the composer’s works, ‘I have twelve oxen’ and the Downland Suite. The letters mainly make reference to literature, as indeed do those of the 1940s. One event captures the reader’s attention:
On 15 September 1933 Machen wrote to Ireland inviting him to attend Amersham Fair, ‘an ancient, noisy, & gaudy business, stretching the whole length of this old street – which has altered very little in the last hundred years’. The fair to which the composer was invited was established in 1200 by Geoffrey, Earl of Essex. A new charter granted in 1613 changed the market day to Tuesday. In 1933 the Tuesday fair to which Machen refers would therefore have held great fascination for Ireland, given its ancient, unbroken history.
This site has images of Amersham in the 1930s and 40s, giving a flavour of what the town was like at the time when Ireland knew and visited Machen: