A Publication of
THE JOHN MEADE FALKNER SOCIETY
Founded 8th May 1999
||08 May 2003|
Since the last Newsletter in January, the
Society has welcomed two more members.
is a local
historian and author of a number of books about London, especially South London
where he lives. He is also a book collector* and remembers buying his first
Moonfleet in 1964 which led him to search out JMF's other novels. At
university he wrote a long essay -'now fortunately lost' -on JMF's life and
work. As part of his research, John wrote to Sir William Haley, who kindly
replied with a copy of his Falkner article.
[* I am hoping John is going to
produce an article for me on JMF's book collecting.]
first got in touch through email after finding us on the
Internet. He was delighted to find 'some similar people who are mad about
Moonfleet!' He is an I.T. Manager at the large Truro Hospital in
Cornwall. His interest in JMF stems from when his primary school teacher read
the class Moonfleet, a chapter at a time. Richard goes on, 'I remember
those readings as if they were yesterday, and find the book as stirring now as
it was then'.
Spreading the Word
Whilst wearing another hat
-this time that of the Secretary of The John Buchan Society -I have been able to
sing JMF's praises on two occasions recently.
I acted as chauffeur to Lord
Hurd of Westwell, as he was the Guest Speaker - on Buchan and the
Cotswolds - at the Society's Annual Dinner at Chipping Norton. As we passed
through Burford, I naturally referred to JMF's last resting place. We moved on
to a discussion of his work and Lord Hurd remembered reading The Nebuly
Coat, which he praised highly. He had not come across The Lost
Stradivarius. Naturally, I have since sent him a copy.
Revd. Tony Price, Vicar of Marston with Elsfield [who regularly helps conduct
the Service of Thanksgiving for JB's life at Elsfield], emailed me a month ago.
'I am trying to track down a poem about endless Sundays after Trinity, and had a
vague recollection it was by Falkner.' Within the hour he had a full
transcription of JMF's poem, After Trinity, published in December 1910.
I quote the first stanza:
I am sure Tony won't mind me also quoting his reply.
We have done with dogma and divinity,
Easter and Whitsun
The long, long Sundays after Trinity
Are with us at last;
passionless Sundays after Trinity,
Neither feast-day nor fast.
Tony used to pass the plaque commemorating JMF in
Durham most days as he walked from his home in Atherton Street up to St. John's
College, where he was a theological student in the late 1970s.
'I'm very fond of some of his poems which seem so
quintessentially Anglican, in all the ways that I grow to love more and more.
My heart sinks at the prospect of a busy, busy church trying to DO things all
the time, instead of reflect, and worship God, and help people live quiet and
Five hundred copies of JMF's Poems were printed in green
wrappers for his widow, Evelyn, in July 1933. In The Book Collector
[Autumn 1960], Graham Pollard says that Evelyn sold the remainder, which had not
already been distributed to her husband's friends, to Bernard Quaritch Ltd.
Copies do appear from time to time on the Internet, but the booklet is now quite
rare -although Christopher Hawtree and I some years ago found a large cache
secreted in a small cupboard at a Burford antiquarian bookshop. An even rarer
version, published in brown wrappers which is probably an earlier edition
printed in JMF's lifetime, can still occasionally be found.
We know John
Betjeman thought highly of JMF's poetry and Geoffrey Grigson published five of
the poems [including After Trinity] in his The Mint, Number 2
in 1948. Since then Michael Daniell, under The Atlantis Press imprint, published
A Roman Villa: Chedworth in 1981 ; and David Burnett brought out a
further seven poems in 1993, in a privately printed edition of 100 copies at the
Tragara Press, under the title Temenos. Again, neither publication is
easy to find.
Both the brown and the green wrappered printings published
thirty-eight poems. By scouring copies of The Spectator and The
Cornhill magazines as well as uncovering a few that were privately printed,
I have managed to fix many dates of publication and track down a further six
Including a short introduction and some end-notes, I envisage the
Society could now publish an 84-88 page A5-sized booklet, again simply
Poems: J. Meade Falkner
I would welcome advice
from any member -I know there are at least two with publishing experience! -as
to the next step forward. More importantly, PLEASE return the enclosed reply,
stating whether you would buy a copy [or not, as the case may be] if published.
This is important, as if Society members are not willing to support the
venture then it is even less likely that 'outsiders' would.
Watkins Shaw and The Nebuly Coat
Just over a decade ago one of
our Founder members, Edward Wilson, was in correspondence with Harold Watkins
Shaw, the musicologist. Born on 3 April 1911, Shaw died on 8 October 1996,
leaving behind over sixty publications and an obituary in The Times,
which spoke of him as
Shaw wrote some Random Reflections on JMF's The
Nebuly Coat as a result of reading Edward's notes on the novel. The great
musicologist ruminated on JMF's attention [or, perhaps, inattention!] to detail
in such matters as the subscription list to Boyce's Cathedral Music, the musical
status of Cullerne Minster, the organist Sharnall's stipend and the minster's
'A consummate academic, his scholarship... transformed
performance and practice in the post-war decades and laid the textual
foundations on which the Early Music movement was to be built. ,
Shaw wrote in some detail commenting on the book's 'intrinsic
excellence' and arguing
He also enclosed further commentary on 'Relevance of choice of key for
"Sharnall in D flat" to cause of Sharnall's death' and 'Bach's "St. Anne" Fugue
and the Minster organ'.
'so many good things abound in the book whereby recherche
historical facts are put to good service, like the introduction of hydraulic
blowing for the organ [how I remember it as a boy!] so that Sharnall can be
found alone in the Minster...'.
I am including Shaw's thoughts in this July's
Journal and wish to thank Edward here for his kindness in sharing the
correspondence with me.
The Journal: Volume 1 Number 4
already begun collating submissions for this year's Journal. As well as
the Harold Watkins Shaw material mentioned above, I am publishing articles from
Dale Nelson - 'Antiquarian Allusions and Inventions in Charalampia' ;
and Peter Davey 'Shadow Over Corfe: a consideration of John Meade Falkner's poem
The Dorothy L. Sayers Society and Christine Simpson
have kindly agreed to let me republish the latter's article, 'John Meade
Falkner, his works and influence on Dorothy L. Sayers', first printed in the
Society's Proceedings of the 1994 Seminar at University College, Durham. I am
grateful to Roger Norris for alerting me to the existence of this. Christopher
Hawtree has also promised me an article.
I was intending to transcribe some
or all of the letters from JMF to Edward Stone, which the Society purchased late
last year, but there will not be room this time. You can see them at Burford!
I am always glad to receive articles for the Journal, whether an
original piece or one which, with the necessary permission, I can republish from
another Journal or magazine.
An isolated life?
I am afraid
that The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy never caught on with me, but
I did hitch on to one passing reference to its author, Douglas Adams, amongst
the recent obituary notices.
It made me wonder about JMF and his sojourn at Marlborough College. In
the Nineteenth Half-Yearly Report of the school's Natural History Society for
the Half-Year ending Midsummer 1874, a detailed list of the weights and
measurements of the boys was laid out. A request had come from Mr. Francis
Galton, of the Anthropological Society of London, that he might be furnished
with the age, height and weight of the school. The weighing and measuring began
on February 21st., and was continued until March 11th., by which time 550 boys
had endured the testing. The circumference of the head, the chest, the arm and
the leg were also noted in each individual.
'By the time Douglas Adams reached school he had attained a
comic height: "I was different from other kids in that I was so much taller
than them and they could scarcely see me, so I lived a rather isolated life."'
In height -of 4 boys nearly 15
years of age, one was 4'7", another 4'63/4 ", another
4'51/4" and the other 4'31/4". The
tallest boy in the school was under 16 and stood 6'35/8"
JMF , who was in the Upper 5, and whose birthday
was 8 May 1858, weighed in at 11st.23 /4lbs. and sported a
32" chest. This was in marked contrast to one T. Foord, who viewed life from a
lowly 5'2 1/4" perspective but could boast a
As a footnote, it should be pointed
out that, although the weight was taken by one of Hawksley's patent
Weighing Machines, 'which for simplicity and accuracy of action cannot be
surpassed' , the Anthropological Society wished the weight to be taken with the
ordinary indoor clothing and shoes on.
As the College pointed out, 'this was
to be regretted, as at that season of the year, thick clothes are frequently
worn by some boys, and shoes vary much'.
Interestingly, the other point
made about Douglas Adams that caught my eye was the fact that a friend
remembered that, when he became a boarder, Adams would keep the boys awake at
night with rambling ghost stories: 'Half the dormitory was trying to get to
sleep, just ignoring him or telling him to shut up, and the rest of them were in
tears through fear!'
I wonder if JMF thus entertained at Marlborough?
Greenmantle, Main Street,
Kings Newton, Melbourne Derbyshire. DE73 IBX firstname.lastname@example.org
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