THE JOHN MEADE FALKNER SOCIETY
Founded 8th May 1999
NEWSLETTER No. 18
8th May 2005
Since the last Newsletter in January, the Society has welcomed three more members
first became interested in Meade Falkner by reading Geoffrey Grigson’s radio talk which, in turn, inspired him to spend a holiday in Dorchester, exploring JMF’s old haunts and Moonfleetian venues. Trevor argues JMF is a great topographical writer, like John Betjeman (he almost insists one visits the location he’s describing). Trevor also loves the antiquarian side of JMF, having had a childhood passion for heraldry. His pilgrimage to Burford involved an 18 mile round trip walk, due to an unexpected Sunday closing of the closest railway station! “I also love the fact that, like me, he divided his time between the north and south of England.”
(Trevor is too modest to say that he is an artist of repute, regularly having solo exhibitions at top New York Galleries. He has his own website www.trevorwinkfield.com )
is just about to finish his MA in Victorian Studies at the University of Leicester. It was during his course that he came across Moonfleet and liked it so much that he decided to find out more about the author and his works. Andrew is a ‘massive fan’ of late Victorian and early 20th century fiction and, “now of Falkner in particular”. Andrew subsequently bought a copy of The Last Stradivarius, but could not track down the increasingly scarce The Nebuly Coat. Luckily, he was able to purchase a copy through the Society. I won’t give away Andrew’s exact age, but I am delighted to welcome our youngest member on board.
contacted me back in July 2003, with a proposal for a programme on JMF for Radio 3. Whilst waiting for the BBC to commit themselves, Philip read Moonfleet to his nine-year-old daughter and I was delighted to read that “she seems to share her father’s enthusiasm”. Thanks to the slow workings of the Corporation, I didn’t hear from Philip until June 2004, when he relayed a positive response, but this time from Radio 4. Philip is part of a small group of independent producers called Soundscape Productions. More on the programme anon, but the upshot of all this delving into JMF has meant that Philip has also joined the Society.
Full List of Members
It is a long time since I published a full list of members of the Society and, since then, unfortunately we have lost one or two. The total now stands at 47 and names are printed in order of joining the Society.
Kenneth Hillier - Derbyshire
Christopher Hawtree - East Sussex
Edward Wilson - Oxfordshire
Alan Bell - Scotland
Peter Davey - Dorsetshire
Kenneth Warren - Herefordshire
Roger Norris - County Durham
Nicholas Aldridge - Oxfordshire
Hamish Guthrie - Canada
Raymond Moody - Oxfordshire
Ruth Falkner - Hampshire
Elizabeth Falkner - Somersetshire
Jeffry Pretes - United States
Christopher Morrell - Hertfordshire
Page Life - United States
Allan Life - United States
Mark Valentine - West Yorkshire
Javier Marias - Spain
Robin Willis - United States
Antonio Iriarte - Spain
Celia Grover - Hampshire
Peter Mead - Hampshire
Barry Cross - Hampshire
Richard Shephard - Yorkshire
George Woodman - Northern Ireland
George Ramsden - Yorkshire
John Cochrane - Devonshire
Joan Philip - United States
Andrew Nye - Wiltshire
Giselle Panero - Argentina
Hon James Stourton - London
Lord Quinton - London
John Coulter - London
Richard Johnson - Cornwall
Friends of Burford Church - Oxfordshire
Arnold Hunt - County Durham
Jak Radice - West Yorkshire
Michael Daniell - Oxfordshire
Ian Jackson - United States
Joan Moody - Oxfordshire
Michael Smith - Powys
Andrew Wilson - London
Royd Whitlock - East Yorkshire
Frances Austin-Jones - Dorsetshire
Trevor Winkfield - United States
Andrew Vaughan - West Sussex
Philip Titcombe - Yorkshire
Thus, Oxfordshire, Yorkshire and Dorsetshire/Hampshire are well represented, whilst we have lonely outposts in Scotland, Wales, Canada, Argentina and Cornwall! There are as many as eleven 2005 subs still to come in, so I do plead with anyone with Blind Pew’s Black Spot ¤ on the envelope, to continue with their membership. I do want to pass that magic 50 mark before too long.
Jurassic Walk: the Sequel
Sue Lawley described the second stage of her 100 mile walk along the Devon-Dorset coast in The Daily Telegraph on 9 April 2005. England’s Jurassic Coast is a World Heritage Site and it had just won the Destination prize in the annual Tourism for Tomorrow Awards. Day 2 of Lawley’s walk saw her party trekking between Ringstead and Lulworth, a distance of some 6.5 miles. I quote: “We walk on - ..... at White Nothe, the dilapidated coastguard cottages remind us that smuggling was once a principal activity along this coast, where secret paths thread their way down the cliffs to hidden beaches below. (J Meade Faulkner [sic] set his adventure Moonfleet here.)” Well, at least he got a mention and all publicity is good publicity.........
The Idea of North
is the title of a book by Peter Davidson, Regius Professor of English Literature at Aberdeen, recently published by Reaktion Books Ltd. (ISBN 1 86189 230 6). Edward Wilson, who read the book “with great pleasure and profit” has drawn my attention to a paragraph on JMF and his novel The Lost Stradivarius.
“The awkward ideological transitions from stoic neo-Classicism to Victorian religiosity form the pivot (of the book). This is the narrative, complex in its awareness of the shifts in nineteenth-century cultural history, of an early Victorian gentleman, John Maltravers, who is drawn supernaturally by music and the discovery of a fine ancient violin into decadence and occultism. He dies untimely as the more moral and religious, infinitely less cultivated, High Victorian age begins. This ambivalent elegy for the epoch of the Grand Tour is on the one hand the inheritor of the Gothick novel and the Jacobean tragedy, in that it locates decadence and forbidden knowledge unequivocally in the Catholic south of Europe. On the other hand, the novel is a lament for all that has to be relinquished to make way for the certainties of Victorian England...”
BBC Radio 4: 11.30 a.m., Thursday 12 May
is not to be missed. Philip Titcombe and Andrew Cartwright two of the independent producers of Soundscape Product- ions, travelled to Herefordshire to interview Ken Warren; to Burford to talk to the Moodys and visit the churchyard and church; to Fleet to drink in the wonderful atmosphere of the little church and its surroundings; and to Derbyshire to talk with me.
The highlight - for me, at least - was the train journey between Newcastle and Durham, when David Almond discussed with me the case of the missing fourth novel, much to the bemusement of other seasoned travellers. We then toured Durham Cathedral Library, where JMF had served as Honorary Librarian, in the company of another Society member, Roger Norris. Finally, recordings were made in The Divinity House, JMF’s own home, now kindly opened to us by the Music School.
Whilst staying in York, thanks to Philip’s kindness, I was also able to meet another member of the Society - Richard Shephard, now Director of Development and Chamberlain at York Minster. We were entertained in a room that could have easily passed for John Maltravers’ at Magdalen Hall - panelled walls and an antique rocking chair, only the violin was missing.
David Almond, the children’s writer, is the Presenter of the programme. His debut novel Skellig won the Carnegie Medal and was the 1998 Whitbread Children’s Book of the Year. Kit’s Wilderness won both the Smarties Award Silver Medal and the Michael L. Printz Award; whilst Heaven Eyes was short listed for both the Carnegie Medal and the Whitbread Award. David was very easy to get along with and showed genuine enthusiasm for JMF’s writings.
The Other Moonfleet - the M-G-M story
I have been recently sorting out what I like to call my JMF ephemera, and came across the M-G-M Press Book (with its revealing subtitle “Advertising: Publicity: Exploitation”) that helped to launch the 1955 movie, directed by Fritz Lang. Now available on DVD, as well as being regularly repeated on the many TV channels, the film is to JMF what the three versions of The Thirty-Nine Steps are to John Buchan. It has to be enjoyed, if at all, in its own right, with the phrase “ based on the Novel” heavily underlined. You may be interested in some extracts from the Publicity (or ‘Exploitation’).
Wild and Wonderful as the thrill-
packed Novel that inspired it!
The rugged, wind-swept seacoast near Monterey, California, noted as one of the scenic wonder spots of the world, served as the prototype of the similarly desolate English Channel coast in Moonfleet, M-G-M’s adventure-romance in Cinemascope and colour. Spectacular smuggling scenes and a daring escape from pursuers up a towering cliff were filmed on location along the rocky shores.
For other scenes, filmed on the studio’s sound stages, a complete English Channel village, including an 18th century manor house, was erected for the lavish production.
Based on the novel by J. Meade Falkner, Moonfleet stars Stewart Granger as an English rake turned smuggler ( no, don’t look for him in the book), whose adventures as the fearless leader of a group of cut-throat brigands and romantic interludes with three beautiful women culminate in an even stranger adventure with a boy who comes to worship him.
In its daring exploits and suspense-filled escapes, Moonfleet is a yarn in the best Stevenson-Kipling tradition...
Ah well - back to the novel.
Journal Number 6
will include an article by Christopher Hawtree and another on JMF’s brief sojourn in Derbyshire as a temporary schoolmaster at Derby School. The Society also purchased a whileago a clutch of letters from JMF to Edward Stone. These will now be published in the Journal.
I am still looking for at least one more article, so please consider contributing, even at this late stage.
It will be nearly 72 years since JMF’s Poems were last published in collected form. Geoffrey Grigson included five in The Mint as long ago as 1948. Since then a few have appeared in compilations, but they have been generally neglected in the last two decades
Now, thanks to our Society (and, it must be admitted, the late Kathleen Falkner’s generosity) all his known verse has been gathered together in one publication.
Those of you who have ordered the Collected Poems should be receiving them within the next fortnight, even allowing for the vagaries of the British postal system.
Much of the credit for the publication must go to Michael Daniell, whose hard work and expertise has helped to see the project through. Michael is a member of our Society and was also responsible for a delightful, privately printed edition of JMF’s poem A Roman Villa: Chedworth, back in 1981.
I urge those members who have not already subscribed to support this first Society venture. A reminder that copies can be had from me at £15 (£16 non UK) including p & p.
A. N. Wilson , who has written the Introduction, and is also a member of our Society, is to be congratulated on his latest novel - A Jealous Ghost - which is published by Hutchinson for £12.99.
Greenmantle, Main Street, Kings Newton, Melbourne
Derbyshire. DE73 8BX