THE JOHN MEADE FALKNER SOCIETY

Founded 8th May 1999

NEWSLETTER No. 30

8th May 2009

 

A WARM WELCOME to the following new members: Philip Nokes [Wells, Somerset]; Rev. Mark Evans [Thornbury, Bristol]; Chloë Beaumont [Lyme Regis, Dorset]; Jandra L. Smithen [Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA].

SUBSCRIPTION RENEWALS

There are just a few subs still outstanding. I have enclosed a gentle reminder. A grateful thanks to those of you who sent an extra amount. Much appreciated.

DATE FOR YOUR DIARIES:

A reminder that the Society's Third get-together will be held in Durham on Saturday 16th May . If anyone not already booked wants to come, please just turn up at 9.50 a.m. North door of the Cathedral.

RESPICE FINEM

The Revd. John Fenton, a distinguished Canon of Christ Church, died last December. His funeral in Oxford Cathedral was fitting and dignified, in accordance with the instructions that he left. At the end of the Order of Service was a bibliography of the Canon's writings, and one of the items caught my eye:

‘Respice Finem' in Expository Times 84 (1973) pp. 244-247

When John Meade Falkner designed a coat of arms for himself, he chose the Nebuly Coat with a falcon superimposed, and took Respice Finem as his motto, as he obviously could not use Aut Fynes Aut Finis. It occurred to me that I had no idea where “Respice Finem” originated, so I looked it up in the Dictionary of Quotations. I learnt that it comes in Gesta Romanorum , a collection of Latin Anecdotes and Tales, compiled and published in the 15th century. It forms the last two feet of a dactylic hexameter, which goes:

Quidquid agas, prudenter agas, et respice finem. Whatever you do, do cautiously and look to the end.

The author remains anonymous, but between its appearance c.1473, when Gesta Romanorum was first printed, and its adoption by JMF, it also was used as the title of an epigram by Francis Quarles (1592-1644):

My soul, sit thou a patient looker-on;

Judge not the play before the play is done:

Her plot hath many changes;

every day Speaks a new scene;

the last act crowns the play.

In the 19th century we find Respice Finem as the motto of Trinity College, Kandy in Sri Lanka, originally founded (three times! There were two false starts, in 1817 and 1857) as a Christian institution, now multi-religious and multi-ethnic, but still with the stated aim of establishing peace and harmony among a divided nation.

In 1872 the Revd. Richard Collins restarted the school, which had closed in 1863, and he took on the role of Principal. He devised the College's crest and chose its motto, and the College's hymn was written by Henry Newbolt, a friend of JMF's, from Northumbrian country-house cricket days - and, incidentally my uncle's godfather! Newbolt at his best is a good poet, but this is not his best. I have been unable to discover whether he actually wrote it specifically for Trinity College, or whether he wrote a general- purpose College Song. It is included in his Collected Poems 1897-1907, so presumably he was not ashamed of it. Here is the last verse, which is partly a repeat of the first and is enough to give the flavour:

We will honour yet the School we knew, The best school of all; We will honour yet the rule we knew, Till the last bell call. For working days or holidays, And glad or melancholy days, They were great days and jolly days, At the best school of all.

Lt. Col. L.M. De Alwis, the last Principal but one, has written about the College on the Internet, and comments: “Trinity College is certainly blessed (or cursed) by having one of the more intriguing bits of Latin as its motto. Respice Finem has many connotations...” It is incidentally the only part of the College's crest and colours that has remained unchanged since 1872. He says that some people use it as an alternative for “ memento mori ”, others render it as “Don't count your chickens before they hatch”.

The same phrase appears in the elaborate coat of arms of The Chartered Institute of Patent Agents, finally granted by the three Kings of Arms in 2000. The document granting the Coat of Arms does not actually mention the motto in the tex.. And that is all that I have found so far. I should like to know more, and wonder if any member of the JMF Society can throw light upon the subject.

Nicholas Aldridge

ANOTHER JMF LETTER

This time I have to report a failure - to act fast enough to purchase what sounded like a fascinating letter for sale via the Internet. JMF wrote (typically “In the train”) on 2 nd January 1899 to Henry Newbolt , a critique of the latter's poetry. In his two page letter he writes:

“.... public readings of The Island Race [published the previous year] became a feature of our home- entertainments. I was made interpreter, & did my best with a poor voice to render something of your fire... [E]ven for a bad reader there is in many of them an irrestible lilt, that leads one against one's will to make a tune of them... Personally I think Admiral Death is the best. Drake's Drum loses much (to me) by the dialect. One of the best lines I think is ‘The strength & splendour of England's war'... The Fighting Temeraire is a delightfully catchy tune, and I like the quiet strength of Felix Antonius especially the last line. In some points of metre I differ from you, but that is the amateur breaking lances with the Professional. Altogether I enjoyed the book exceedingly -- & felt ashamed of not having read... all before. I sent a copy to an admiral uncle -- a regular old sea dog *, fond of laying down the law in a main-top voice, & he was much pleased with the naval ditties ...”

(* One assumes JMF meant James George Mead , retired Admiral from the Royal Navy and grandfather of the late Peter Mead, who wrote an article on the family in our Journal Number 3 , in July 2003)

ANGEL EXIT THEATRE

is a physical theatre company, based in Winterbourne Abbas, near Dorchester, with a very visual style of storytelling. They are currently working on their fifth show, which will be entitled Moonfleet and closely inspired by JMF's “fantastic novel”. The show will be a co-production with Dorchester Arts Centre, and will tour south-west venues during the Autumn-Winter of 2009.

The company were drawn to the novel after being inspired by the Dorset coastline, and this January carried out a two week residency at The Dorchester Arts Centre, during which time they often worked down at the Fleet. They did improvisations in the beach, in the little church (where they saw our Society plaque to JMF) and writing exercises at Moonfleet Manor. They also met up with a local historian with an interest in smugglers and Moonfleet .

Their forthcoming production will use puppetry as well as original live and recorded musical score. As well as touring around village halls, arts centres and theatres, they are proposing to go into schools and deliver workshops in adapting novels, devising theatre, ensemble and buffoon work. They will produce an Education Pack to go with the show, which will have a section on JMF, which they hope will inspire a new generation to love his writing. The co-artistic Director, Tamsin Fessey, wrote to me at the end of February asking whether the Society would sponsor the Education Pack, which would cost roughly £100. I have readily agreed, as I feel this is a wonderful way to ‘spread the word' about not only the novel,but about JMF. I have looked at their website - www.angelexit.co.uk - and am suitably impressed. The company has strong connections with The Brewhouse Theatre and Arts Centre, Taunton and the Bridport Arts Centre, as well as with Dorchester Arts Centre. When I know the dates of performances and venues, I will inform members who live in the South West.

JOHN MEADE FALKNER CROSSWORD

As a bonus to go with this 10th Anniversary issue of the Newsletter, you will find enclosed a Crossword, skilfully compiled by George Robson , one of our most active members. I am much indebted to him for his enthusiasm. You will need your copy of JMF's Poetry as well as the three novels to hand; a working knowledge of his life would also help If you haven't already got a copy, do seek our Ken Warren's excellent biography of JMF.!

The names of all successfully completed crossword entries will be placed in a “hat”. The first drawn out will receive free membership for 2010. Please enter, and return to me, as George has put much time and effort into what is an inspiring idea.

SOUTHERN CATHEDRALS FESTIVAL

I trawl the various book providers on the Internet - e.g. Via Libri : resources for bibliophiles &c - on a fairly regular basis, looking for JMF material. At the end of March I bought the 64 page Programme for the Southern Cathedrals Festival, held at Salisbury between 25th and 28th July, 1985. Not only did it include a short extract from The Nebuly Coat , but also a eulogy to one of our Society members, Richard Shephard , then Deputy Headmaster in the Cathedral School, composer and arranger; later Headmaster at the Minster School, York; then Director of Development and Chamberlain at York Minster. Falkner would sense and admire a kindred spirit!

Of interest also was that his successor in the Salisbury School was to be Richard Lloyd, then Organist and Master of Choristers at Durham Cathedral - another JMF link!

PERFECT PLACES TO LIVE: Tuscany, Kefalonia, Rome... and Burford

Did you know that Forbes magazine (compulsory reading for the rich and famous) ranks the Cotswolds town sixth most idyllic place in Europe? The accompanying blurb in Forbes that described the town as the gateway to the Cotswolds, a "mountainous and beautiful region in the centre of southern England", naturally elicited some mirth locally. JMF would not be surprised with the accolade, though.

For those who didn't know, the top ten in Europe are:

1 . Gaiole, in Tuscany

2. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France

3. Copenhagen, Denmark

4 . Kefalonia, Greece

5 . Ljubljana, Slovenia

6. Burford, UK

7 . Budapest, Hungary

8 . Sibiu, Romania

9 . Rome, Italy

10 . Dejà, Spain

JOURNAL 10 - July 2009

Both Ken Warren and Christopher Hawtree are kindly allowing me to publish copies of their Durham talks and George Robson has submitted another fascinating article on an aspect of JMF's travels for his firm in the North East. I would love just one more article from anyone so minded. It can be on any topic relating to John Meade Falkner - his life, work and times.

Best wishes

Kenneth Hillier

Greenmantle, Main Street, Kings Newton, Melbourne

Derbyshire. DE73 8BX