THE JOHN MEADE FALKNER SOCIETY
Founded 8th May 1999
NEWSLETTER No. 31
22nd July 2009
10TH ANNIVERSARY MEETING IN DURHAM
I make no apology for devoting most of this Newsletter to the splendid Society Day we had in Durham on Saturday, 16th May. If everyone else who was there enjoyed themselves as much as I did, then it was a very worthwhile event.
We congregated just outside the north door of the cathedral, some renewing acquaintanceships, others meeting up for the first time. Roger Norris directed us to the Library, but we had to pause at the memorial plaque to JMF, which is situated just to the left of the Librarian's door in the south cloister.
Joan Williams , the Librarian, greeted us and showed us the fine display of JMF associated material she had laid out - his medals (from Turkey, Japan, Italy, the Papacy, Belgium and France); copies of his own books; manuscripts and a Vulgate Latin Bible (which JMF had acquired in Rome in 1904); and some of his original writing. Particularly interesting were the two volumes of Bishop Henley Henson's diaries, which commented on JMF (1915) and his reaction to the latter's death (July 1932). Also on show was the grant of armorial bearings to JMF from The College of Arms - granted in 1905, two years after The Nebuly Coat was published.
We then moved on to the main Library, moved to the original monks' dormitory [built 1398-1404] in 1848-54.
16 th May 2009
Early 20th. Century
After thanking Joan for all the work she had put in to producing such a fine display and for showing such a genuine interest in JMF, we passed through the south-east corner of the cloisters to the Prior's Hall, where Roger Norris had kindly laid on refreshments.
After a brief résumé of the Society's history by its Founder, Ken Warren gave the first talk on Concentric Worlds - The Divinity House in the Life of John Meade Falkner . Christopher Hawtree then talked about Falkner's Impressions of Death . The talks were very well received and useful question and answer sessions followed both.
After a break for lunch, we reconvened in front of JMF's home, The Divinity House .
Left to right : Ken Warren, Roger Norris, Christopher Hawtree, George Robson, Trevor Winkfield, Olivia Bell, Alan Bell, Celia Grover, Jean Warren, Royd Whitlock, Michael Daniell.
George Robson then guided us over the River Wear to St. Oswald's churchyard, where we viewed the grave of one of the cathedral's ‘singing-man', before crossing the road to stand around John Bacchus Dykes' (1823-76) grave. Mentioned by George in our Newsletter No.23, Dykes wrote over 300 hymn tunes, including Eternal Father Strong to Save (Melita), Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty (Nicea) and The King of Love My Shepherd Is (Dominus Regit Me). Then it was back to Palace Green with dispersal for some and tea for others.
For four of us, still more was to come. Giselle Panero , our Argentinian member, had designed and crafted a superb framed embroidery of JMF's memorial plaque (with the text in English). With Celia Grover Christopher Hawtree and myself, she attended Evensong and, afterwards, presented it to Dr. David Hunt, the Chapter Librarian and the Revd. Canon Rosalind Brown.
Michael Daniell had previously handed round a printed card Revenants in the library , produced on his own The Atlantis Press in an edition of only twenty-five copies. This was an extract from a letter JMF had written to Canon Christopher Wordsworth in 1923. It started - I scribble this late at night from my wonderful Librarian's Room, all 18th century panelled from floor to ceiling... This was much appreciated by all recipients.
Christopher Morrell and Philip Titcombe (members), Terry Ridley and Alan Watson (friends of George Robson) also attended the morning session.
The success of the day owed much to the following members: Roger Norris, George Robson, Christopher Hawtree, Ken Warren ; to Joan Williams; and to Anne Heywood , Chapter Steward, who kindly let us use the atmospheric Prior's Hall (where it is highly likely JMF and Henson met each other) gratis .
Thanks to donations on the day, I have been able to send two cheques of £75 each - for the running of the Prior's Hall and to the Library. I also sent a copy of the Collected Poems to Joan for the Library.
This was only our third Meeting in our ten year history, the last two being at Fleet Old Church (May 2001) and Burford (2003). We must not allow another 5½ years to go by before the next one. It appears that Dorchester is the firm favourite. Watch this space!
MOONFLEET IN ITALIAN?
Franco Esposito , who joined the Society in November 2007, has recently founded a Publishing House with “a group of old friends and book addicts”. Although The Lost Stradivarius exists in Italian, there is only an abridged edition for children of Moonfleet. Franco is presently working on a translation of the latter, whilst he has already completed A Midsummer Night's Marriage. The group is planning to publish Wilkie Collins and Gosse and then, hopefully, Falkner. The Nebuly Coat is also in Franco's sights! We wish them all the best in their endeavours.
Raymond Moody writes from Burford to say that the town is to be the subject of a Time Team programme next year - after a recent archaeological investigation at the Priory. Some of you will remember we were allowed to look round there, thanks to the good offices of Raymond, and the kindness of the Community - now living near Stratford and awaiting a new build near Pershore.
Jandra Smithen , who joined us in February this year, and lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was delighted to hear of other USA members in the Society. I print their names and city/town in case any want to get in touch with each other [but through me to get full address].
Page and Allan Life (Chapel Hill, NC); Robin Willis (Norfolk, VA); Joan Philip (Fayetteville, AR ); Ian Jackson (Berkeley, CA); Trevor Winkfield (New York City, NY).
STOP PRESS Welcome to a new member from the USA - Richard Straw (Cary, North Carolina)
I have updated the website, to include a brief account of our Durham meeting. If you go on to “The Society” and then “Meetings”, you will see the three events, with photos, held so far. A reminder that you can read every Newsletter published so far on the site. www.johnmeadefalknersociety.co.uk
For those who missed it, here is Christopher Hawtree's recent letter in The Independent (the uncut version!) 29 v 2009
If John Walsh (May 19) had paused longer in Burford, the first stop in his round-England quest for peace, he could perhaps found it by visiting the tomb of John Meade Falkner, author of Moonfleet. That extraordinary tomb was much admired by Betjeman. Falkner was one of the first to “discover” the place, in the 1880s, and helped its church considerably.
Many did not realise he was married, and perhaps neither did he. On a recent visit, a group of Falkner enthusiasts pulled back the turf at the side of the tomb and found a small plaque in memory of the wife who died eight years after him. Of course, Mr Walsh need never have left London to find solace but instead read Falkner's masterpiece, his third and last novel The Nebuly Coat (1903): a dozen readings do not exhaust its fascination.
Yours faithfully , Christopher Hawtree
Best wishes Kenneth Hillier Greenmantle, Main Street, Kings Newton, Melbourne Derbyshire. DE73 8BX