Founded 8th May 1999

Newsletter No. 37 22 July 2011


I am very sorry to have to report the deaths of two of our members. Hazel O’Brien joined in May 2005 and was a very loyal supporter of the cause and thoroughly enjoyed her years of membership.


Nicholas Aldridge joined on 16th June 1999 and can be considered as one of the Founder Members. I had written to him at the same time as another long-standing member Roger Norris, both having been recommended by Kenneth Warren. He replied on the splendid headed note paper of Summer Fields School in Oxford, writing “Thank you for your letter and the delightful idea of the creation of a John Meade Falkner Society. At this time of year, I tend to refresh myself with a look at ‘After Trinity’, and I began to re-read ‘The Nebuly Coat’ for the nth time last week…All good wishes for your splendid enterprise”.

Nick corresponded with me regularly over the next ten years and I was delighted to meet him at our Burford gathering in September 2003. His last letter to me was on 11th December 2010, asking for another copy of the Collected Poems, and sending a piece about the prayer-book funeral of his mother. It subsequently appeared in the last Newsletter in May. Thus, I was shocked to receive information that Nick had died on 10th April, with his funeral service being held at Worcester Cathedral on 18th May, ten days after the Newsletter was published.

His very good friend, Rory McTurk, kindly sent me a copy of his eulogy, which now resides in our archives.



Moonfleet will be appearing in Dorset (Bournemouth BIC) on 11 September 2011, almost as a conclusion of a long series of performances by a world famous star who is a huge fan of the book. The show will also have been presented in 22 major cities in Germany, as well as in (alphabetically): Belarus, Belgium, England, France, Ireland, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Poland, Russia, Switzerland, Ukraine and Wales. The star is Chris de Burgh, who has written and is performing a suite of music and songs on the themes of Moonfleet, including titles such as: ‘The Village of Moonfleet’, ‘The Light on the Bay’, ‘The Secret of the Locket’, ‘Treason and Betrayal’ and ‘The Storm’. The album, Moonfleet and Other Stories, is already available, and Chris de Burgh can be seen talking for five minutes about his love of the book on YouTube, with extracts from the music, at:


(Thanks to Philip Weller for this information)



Our fourth Society meeting took place over the weekend of 8 th-10 th July. It started a day early for me, when I met our furthest-flung member, Giselle Panero, at Nottingham Railway Station on the Thursday. We both made the journey down to Dorset from Derbyshire a proper JMF one, stopping at Burford to revisit the church, which JMF had regularly supported, and the “bale” tomb where his ashes are buried. We even cleared away (again!) the turf which had encroached on Evelyn Falkner’s memorial slab. Then, on to Marlborough to see where JMF was educated (stopping to photograph “Falkner Close” on a modern housing estate) and Manningford Bruce, where he was born and then christened in the little church. Thus, we were already in a Falknerian mindset when we reached Dorchester.


Friday evening saw the partial gathering of the clan at the Wessex Royale Hotel, where old acquaintances were renewed and new ones made. Northumberland chatted to Hampshire, Belfast to Durham, Oxon to Yorkshire and Argentina to New York.


Saturday was to be the ‘meat in the sandwich’ and other members joined us for the visit to the Dorset HistoryCentre, where providing proof of identity was de rigueur.



We were able to study Anne Falkner’s childhood memories of Dorchester in the 1860s-1870s, as well as JMF’s accounts of a similar period and the period 1871-80, when the family moved to Weymouth. The duty archivist, Mark Forrest was most helpful and also gave us a brief tour of the ‘strong room’, via what seemed like a compression chamber or Tardis!

We then walked the few hundred yards to the Dorchester Museum, where we were shown into the splendid Library and allowed to view their collection of Anne Falkner’s paintings. Upstairs, we saw a small display on Moonfleet and another case containing JMF’s three novels.

After a short break, when members made their own arrangements for lunch, we set off in a convoy of cars for Buckland Ripers.

Here we were met by the very affable Rev. Richard Simmons, who had specially opened the little church for us. JMF’s younger brother, Charles, wrote about the Buckland of 1880-1887 in his memories of ‘the lonely Rectory in the depths of the country, where gas-lights and policemen were equally unknown’.

Then it was on to Fleet - to view first the ‘new’ church, built after the Great Storm, with the Y of the Mohunes on its gable end. A leisurely stroll followed, down to Butter Street (home of the Why Not?) and the ‘old’ church of Moonfleet.

Diane Gardner , who lives in the cottage next door, kindly took the above photograph of our group. We were able to view our Society’s plaque – was it really ten years ago we had our first meeting there? – and, as at Buckland Ripers, leave donations for the upkeep of this wonderful little building.


We then walked across the field to view the Chesil lagoon. Even on a fine day there was an air of mild, brooding menace about it!

One could imagine the great surge of water as it raced inland toward the little church in the foreground. It must have been truly terrifying on that wild November morning in 1824.

Then it was back to Dorchester for another well-earned bar meal and the Evening session at the Wessex Royale. This not only included a fascinating, and well-illustrated talk by Philip Weller on The Villa de Angelis, the most likely candidate for John Maltravers’ downfall in The Lost Stradivarius,but also DVD excerpts from the Fritz Lang and BBC versions of Moonfleet. Another bonus was the brief appearance of members of the cast from AngelExit, whose lively version of Moonfleet had proved so successful on its UK tour.

Particularly because of the article in this year’s Journal, one aim was to track down JMF’s home in West Walks. Thanks to excellent detective work by those remaining on Sunday, we found our quarry.

The balustraded terrace was still there but the roofed gallery above has long gone. The initials HB (Henry Barnes) on the gable confirmed our success.

Society members attending the weekend were John Cochrane; Michael Daniell; Robin Davies; Celia Grover; Christopher Hawtree; Kenneth Hillier; Ray Ion; Roger Norris; Giselle Panero; George Robson; Ken and Jean Warren; Philip and Jane Weller; Royd Whitlock; Trevor Winkfield; and George Woodman.

Roll on Burford and Oxford in 2013!




Further to Charles Nugent’s article in the last NewsletterHugh Walpole and JMF - Barry Cross has sent the following helpful response: I very much enjoyed Charles Nugent’s article. I think I can help to explain the absence of Falkner’s books from Michael Sadleir’s “XIX Century Fiction: A Bibliographical Record”. Sadleir formed several different collections during his lifetime: his Trollope collection went to Princeton; the Gothic novels to the University of Virginia; and, finally, the collection of nineteenth century fiction to UCLA in the early 1950s.

In The Book Collector of the Summer of 1955, Sadleir explained how this final disposal became necessary when he moved from a manor house in the Cotswolds (Througham near Stroud in Gloucester-shire) to a smaller Georgian house near Windsor, which could not accommodate a large collection. In that article he does mention Falkner as one of those represented in his ‘One Volume Fiction section’ (from 1890 to 1921). Although, strangely, JMF’s surname is misspelt Falknener! Following Sadleir’s death on 13 th December 1957, his final collection was sold at Sotheby’s by order of the Executors on the 17 th and 18 th November 1958.

The entries in the Catalogue are as follows:- Lot 135 Falkner (John Meade)The Lost Stradivarius, FIRST EDITION Original cloth 8vo Blackwood 1895 ** Thomas Hardy’s copy with his signature on fly-leaf and the Max Gate label; afterwards in the library of Hugh Walpole, with the Brackenburn label and an eleven-line impression of Falkner in his hand below the author’s signature pasted on to the fly-leaf. (Sold to Hollings for £18.0.0). Lot 136 Falkner (John Meade) Moonfleet FIRST EDITION Original cloth 8vo Arnold 1898 SCARCE (Sold to Pickering or Chatto for £10.00) Lot 137 Falkner (John Meade) The Nebuly Coat FIRST EDITION Original cloth 8vo Arnold 1903 with the Max Gate and Brackenburn labels. (Sold to Colbeck for £9.0.0)


For some time now, I have been relying on the generosity of a few members, the dwindling legacy of Kathleen Falkner and the production of the Newsletters and the Journals almost entirely in-house.

I have had all sorts of trouble with the Journal this year; due to changing computers (losing Lotus Word Pro), wrestling with Word Publisher and finally giving up and using a local printer. Even then, it proved too difficult to retain the page numbers and the font mysteriously changed near the end!

The time has come – reluctantly – to raise the Annual Sub (threatened for some years now). I intend jumping to £10 and $15, rather than a smaller amount, which would quickly have to be reviewed again. Postage costs have risen hugely since 1999. I hope to carry on for several years without a further increase and hope none of you gives up membership as a result. Couples receiving only one Newsletter and Journal will only have to pay the single £10/$15. The new rate will start on January 2012. Sorry.

Best Wishes Kenneth Hillier



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