John Meade Falkner died sixty-seven years ago today. He had been physically declining for
some years. 'Bronchitic colds', 'an abcess on his head', 'bothered with boils', the previous
August he had written to his friend, Canon Wordsworth, "Physically, I am old, and very weak;
but I am given grace to hold the faith ever more surely..." Over Christmas, as Kenneth Warren
remarks, he 'passed from the state of chronic invalid to that of grave illness'. In late June 1932,
Falkner went home to Durham from Weymouth. Bishop Henson, was painfully impressed when
he visited Divinity House on 30 June: "He is a complete wreck and has a moribund manner."
The business world, Burford and Oxford and, by and large, the literary world paid little
attention to his death.
Thanks to his friends - Arthur Cochrane, Charles Lynam, Canon Wordsworth and others; to later appreciations in print - V. S. Pritchett in his 1946 'The Living Novel', Geoffrey Grigson in 1948, G.M. Young and Sir Edmund Craster in the 1954 Oxford World's Classics volume, and William Haley in his 1977 review of A Midsummer Night's Marriage; to Kenneth Warren's thoughtful biography of 1994; to shorter analytical essays by Edward Wilson, Christopher Hawtree and Peter Davey; but, above all, to Falkner's own superb gift for story-telling: attention has been paid ever since to his life and works, his novel Moonfleet has never been out of print and there is presently a critical respect for his other writings.
Kenneth Warren sub-titled his biography of Falkner A Paradoxical Life and ended his appraisal with these words:
He is, indeed, worthy of further assessment and of his own Society!
"He was a man of fascinating complexity who managed to keep
incompatibles in insulated compartments. To some extent his
experience was the epitome of that of his age. He was a
classicist, a churchman, a medievalist, but, in that respect
at least, John Meade Falkner was a thoroughly modern man".
A 'Paradoxical Life'?! I do not suppose anyone knows of the whereabouts of a copy of JMF's subsequent collection? The copyright manager of Novello (in 1995) could not trace it, but was willing to grant permission for its reproduction, if it could be found.
Dear Sir, (to C.W. Pearce, Esq.)
I am writing to ask if you will give me permission to print, in a collection of chants, a chant of yours. It is a chant that I admire exceedingly, and I should be very grateful indeed, if you would let me use it.
The collection is for the Psalter only, with no Venites. I have practically eliminated Single chants, and there are very few minors. If you allow it I propose using your chant for "By the waters of Babylon" I have tried to only use chants with real melody and power, not musical exercises in invertebrate compositions. I am quite sure that among the great number of "chant-books" there is still ample room for something of this kind. I am publishing with Messrs. Novello - but at my own cost, and not for profit. The book will be well 'got up'. I will send you a copy; or as many copies, as you care to have. If you permit me to print, I will print with the chant that it is printed by your permission, as I have arranged to do so with all copyright and private chants..
Yours very faithfully
J Meade Falkner
Perhaps I ought to say that I am a business man, and a director of Sir W. G. Armstrong Whitworth & Co.
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