Founded 8th May 1999

Newsletter No.42 8 May 2013


I am afraid that there are still five subscriptions outstanding. I am hoping it has been inadvertent. If this sentence is highlighted (and the “Black Spot” occurs on your envelope), then you are one of the five. Please let me have the £10 (or $15) sub as soon as possible. I don’t want to lose you.


Friday 12th – Sunday 14th July

The projected weekend is shaping up well.

Friday: meet up mid-afternoon to walk round Burford and visit the Church. Probable pub meal in evening.

Saturday: travel to Oxford

11.00 am: meet Dr Christopher Fletcher (Keeper of Special Collections, Bodleian Libraries) to view the letters from JMF to Christopher Wordsworth and his 1898 Topographical Notes.

Lunch: meet up with Jon Whiteley and his wife Linda. A reminder that Jon played the young John Mohune in Fritz Lang’s 1955 version of Moonfleet. I have my original posters and lobby cards ready to be autographed!

Afternoon: visit Hertford College (yet to be finalised) and other places commented on in JMF’s Handbook.

Evening: talk in Burford Church by Ken Warren + suggestions for a JMF gazetteer.


11.00 a.m.: Church Service in Burford Church (optional)

+ Visits to nearby JMF sites (Minster Lovell etc.)

Members leave when they have to.

Members indicating they are attending the weekend:

Robin Davies, Michael Daniell, Celia Grover, Roger Norris, George Robson, Ken and Jean Warren, Trevor Winkfield, George Woodman; and, hopefully, Alan Bell, Melanie Davy, Raymond and Joan Moody, Veronica Watts, Philip and Jean Weller.

I would be grateful for confirmation from the above (email preferably) and names of any other members expecting to attend. The previous four occasions have all been most enjoyable and I am very much looking forward to this one.



Michael Daniell kindly sent me a full page “Profile” of Jon Whiteley from The Oxford Times for Thursday, 7th March, 2013. We have all read stories of the unfulfilled promise of child-stars of the silver screen. Jon won an Academy Juvenile Award for his part in the 1953 film The Little Kidnappers (“The Oscar itself came through the post because my parents weren’t keen on breaking the school term”.). He admits he may have missed “the habit of having a chauffeur and being served on hand and foot”, but his later career as senior curator of European Art at the Ashmolean has been far more rewarding. We look forward to meeting him and his wife.


Thanks to George Ramsden’s good offices (mentioned in our last Newsletter), we have made the pages of this venerable magazine as No. 17 in its series on “Author Societies”. James Fergusson, the Deputy Editor, has given our Society a very positive write-up. He presents a well-rounded, but inevitably brief, account of JMF’s “twin career” as author and businessman – “It is surprising, perhaps, that this energetic…armaments salesman wrote anything, but he was not only an author of adventure stories…” He also acknowledges that JMF was a serious book collector, an accomplished palaeographer and honorary librarian at Durham Cathedral.

Pleasingly, Fergusson writes “The John Meade Falkner Society is a young society that makes up in vigour what it lacks in size”. He details our four meetings – twice in Dorset, in Burford and Durham – and mentions that we plan to meet in Oxford and Burford this July. Fergusson refers to our Journal as “engrossing” and yours truly as “unstoppable”. I am still musing over the latter.


I belong to the Richard III Society (40 years’ dedicated service this October), so York has been very much on my mind as the city wrestles with Leicester for the honour of re-burying that much-maligned monarch. However, The

Daily Telegraph’s editorial for the 8th January this year had a reference to JMF in a piece on the Minster, under the corny title of “Heavenly Dressing”:

York Minster – the most thoroughgoingly Gothic of England’s cathedrals – is to be covered in olive oil. It is being treated like a salad not by way of an exercise in modern art, but as a well-grounded measure to conserve the masonry. Rain, especially if acidic, tends to dissolve the limestone from which the minster is built, and a coat of oil, even a molecule thick, will prevent this while allowing the stonework to breathe.

Two things are evident from this initiative. One is that ancient buildings are not dead and static but organic and inconstant need of care. (“The arch never sleeps”, John Meade Falkner repeats in that classic of architectural fiction, The Nebuly Coat. Second, medieval craftsmen knew what they were about. They would seal stone will oil too, often linseed. We do well to have the humility to come up to their standards.

I have the feeling that The Nebuly Coat is more widely known about, and read, than we think. There are three print-on-order versions presently available on EBay.



Robin Davies wrote to say how much he enjoyed Mark Valentine’s piece (“brilliant”) in the January Newsletter and wonders whether Mark could be persuaded to write the fourth novel. Robin recalls watching a television programme about the Spanish Armada, which said the fleet’s diary or log had been found in a Madrid restaurant being used as lavatory paper. “Perhaps in some uncleared attic in Elswick there is a manuscript which a railway cleaner picked up and never got round to reading….”

It reminds me of the letter sent by W.E. Gladstone to his troubled sister (on 24 November, 1848): “I write to you with the greatest reluctance on a most painful subject… I have this morning seen with my own eyes that which, without seeing, I would never have believed: a number of books upon religious subjects in the two closets attached to your sleeping apartments, some entire, some torn up, the borders or outer coverings of some, remaining – under circumstances which admit of no doubt as to the shameful use to which they were put.” Well might his arch rival, Disraeli, opine, “Sanitas sanitatum, omnia sanitas”.


Robin also mentioned that some years ago he was doing some research on an ecclesiastical topic and looking in Byzantine churches in Constantinople by Alexander van Millingen (1912) and read therein: “Thanks are due to J. Meade Falkner Esq. for revising the proofs”. JMF pops up everywhere, it seems.


Edward Wilson sent me information from Bonham’s Catalogue for 27 November 2012. Lot 341 included two JMF works: Poems, original grey wrappers, printed label [Durham, c.1930]; and The Lost Stradivarius, original cloth, front free endpaper pasted down, Edinburgh, 1895. Other poetry volumes from J.M. Synge and John Sparrow were also included, with an estimated selling range of £200-£400.





Back in January 2006 (Newsletter No. 20), I made brief reference to the ABC production of The Lost Stradivarius. It was the first of a new series of “Great Tales of the Supernatural”, with David Buck as the narrator and Jeremy Brett as Sir John Maltravers. Thanks to member Ray Ion, I can now share the cover of the T.V. magazine, The Viewer, with you.

One young viewer, looking back in March 2006, recalls:

God! I remember being allowed to stay up late and watch this episode and it gave me the scariest nightmares for months afterwards. I have never forgotten it; although I can’t for the life of me remember anything about it other than it involved a phantom violin player and was so eerie. I remember it even scared my dear parents, so it must have had an impact on other TV viewers of the time. I wonder if these episodes are on video as I think I ought to face my past nightmares and watch them .

A great pity the Shopping Trolley has intruded on the cover picture. I assume it did not feature in the film.




Although not as rare as Moonfleet, it is quite hard to track down The Nebuly Coat in first edition. There were no copies for sale on the Internet Book Search companies AddAll and ViaLibri at the end of this March.

Clearwater Books had one for sale @£75 in November 1999. Adrian Harrington was offering one (with the bookplate of Eric Quayle) for £360 a few years back. One copy has recently turned up, sold by Somer Books, of Midsomer Norton near Bath. However, it is a “Second Impression” (stated thus on the title page), but published in the same year as the first printing – 1903. My three copies of the first and two copies of the second printings all have the same 16 page advertisements at the end, dated October, 1903. Perhaps this is not surprising as the 4 th impression was out by the end of the year; the 5 th in mid-January 1904; and the 6 th later that same year.

What is interesting (well, to the bibliophile) is the fact that the 1 st edition has the word “anxiety” misprinted “anxeity” on the penultimate line of page 242. This has been corrected in both my copies of the 2 nd impression, but not in the Somer Books’ copy of the 2 nd impression.


What is slightly worrying is that this latter copy has come from Durham University Library. The aforementioned The Book Collector rightly draws attention to the, often surreptitious, sale of books from the libraries of cathedrals and churches. I bought in 2005 a copy of Liturgica Historica by Edmund Bishop with the bookplate of Durham Cathedral Library pasted in the front – above another label “Ex Dono John Meade Falkner” and with JMF’s handwritten ownership details “John Meade Falkner. Elswick Works. Newcastle-upon-Tyne” above. I hasten to add it also had stamped “Withdrawn Durham Dean & Chapter Library”.

One fears that this is happening across the university and cathedral libraries’ world. I suppose something has to make way for the ranks of computer stations.


Best Wishes,

Kenneth Hillier

Greenmantle, Main Street, Kings Newton, Melbourne, Derbyshire DE73 8BX


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