A Publication of
THE JOHN MEADE FALKNER SOCIETY
Founded 8th May 1999
NEWSLETTER No. 2
03, January, 2000.
The Feast-day of St. Genevieve
This Newsletter is being prepared on one of the great anniversaries of Falkner's life -
his first meeting with John Noble. The latter's diary entry for Wednesday, 3 January 1883
reads: "Drove into town got racquets at station. Mr Falkner came." The new tutor
quickly got down to business. Next day, John recorded: "Did some work with Mr. Falkner in
afternoon. Not at all well at night was feverish & had night mares and a bad cold." He does
not say whether the nightmares were a direct result of the studying! Falkner must have made
some sort of impression on the family, as Lilias Noble was to write to John on 15 February:
"Did you see anything of Mr Falkner .. He would be pleased to know that we have discovered
an extraordinary likeness to him in the 'Sovereigns of England, viz. Henry II, called the
Plantagenet. It is about the best-looking of them all, but that's not saying much."
Faint praise indeed.
Falkner was to recall fondly the anniversary of that vital January meeting on many occasions:
It is interesting that Falkner recalls the
date as being the 4th January, rather than
the 3rd. Another minor mystery.
Again, on January 1st, 1923, he wrote to John:
" This first essay of the new date shall go
to you, debita observantia.
Silvester has come and gone, and I am
always recalling that it is 40 years since we
met; and that now the new generation is
singing its '40 years on', and going to
1899 was also important for Falkner, as it was the year he moved into "The Divinity
House" and got married to Evelvn Adye. He also succumbed to one of his periodic bouts of
Three letters, the first two written to Lord Rendel, give us some clues as to his state
of mind at this time:
June 1 1899
"I have been lucky enough to get what I think a most delightful old house at Durham. It is
not of course a castle but large enough I think for us, and with some alterations it ought to
make a pleasant home. It faces the Cathedral churchyard, and is the only private house on
the North Side ... Its name also pleases me "The Divinitv House".
June 30 1899
5 Brunswick, Weymouth:
"I am down herefor 6 weeks.! The Doctors in London - under whom I have been for the last
year for a heart (Phvsical not poetic) affection have insisted on mv taking a complete &
Hotel Stephanie, Baden-Baden:
"I have settled to marry at last, though I fear it is too late in some ways to make
it shd be for I am 41! Still I am looking forward to it much - I am marrying a ladv called
Evelyn Adye who is 12 years my junior. I have known her intimately for the last 10 years -
and she is the sister of the wife of Armstrong our director, and so we have seen much of each
other in the North .... come up North and see us. You will like the quiet & old fashioned home,
and find my wife the easiest of women to be got on with: she is thank God neither affected
nor fashionable, but a sober minded & yet mirthful person, who takes pleasure in simple
Kenneth Warren has an interesting appraisal of Falkner's relationship with Evelyn in
his chapter 'Marriage'. If Craster and others are correct in their assessment that Falkner's
natural vocation "was that of a bachelor", then the latter must have approached the 20th
century with some misgivings!
Since the publication of the first Newsletter, the Society has grown in numbers and I
have been engaged in some fascinating correspondence.
Members List so far: (in order of joining)
(Addresses in England unless otherwise stated.)
|Kenneth Hillier ||Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire|
|Christopher Hawtree|| Hove , Sussex|
|Edward Wilson|| Worcester College, Oxford|
|Victor Brown||Louth, Lincolnshire|
|Alan Bell||London |
|Peter Davey||Wimbome, Dorset|
|John Noble||Ardkinglas, Argyll|
|Kenneth Warren||Hexham, Northumberland|
|Roger Norris||Crossgate Peth, Durham|
|Nicholas Aldridge||Summer Fields, Oxford|
|Hamish Guthrie||Oakville, Ontario, Canada|
|Raymond Moody||Burford, Oxfordshire|
|Kathleen Falkner||Swanage, Dorset|
|Ruth Falkner||Stockbridge, Hampshire|
|Robert Wilson||Nanaimo, BC, Canada|
|Richard Wirdnam||Corfe Mullen, Dorset|
|Elizabeth Falkner||Chard, Somerset|
A grand total of seventeen. What is particularly pleasing is to see four members of
the Falkner family, all descended from (or married into) Charles Gaskell Falkner's line, in
the above list. Kathleen married Charles' eldest son Thomas Alexander(1904-1983);Ruth
married Charles' second son John Sandes (1905-198?); Elizabeth is Charles' youngest
daughter; and Robert Wilson is the eldest son of Charles' daughter, Drusilla Grace
(1908-1999), and John Wilson. I have been much indebted to both Kathleen Falkner and
Robert Wilson for transcribing family trees and passing on information about the family.
Robert already had several pages devoted to JMF on his website (it had occasioned over
2,200 visitors by last July, with a 'visitors rate' of around 130 a month). Robert's email
address is firstname.lastname@example.org. In August, Robert added our first Newsletter and Christopher
Hawtree's essay to the website.
We have joined the
Alliance of Literary Societies at a cost of L5.00 annual
subscription. The Alliance was founded c.1988 in order to
Although over a decade in existence, the ALS has achieved little more than holding
rather drawn out AGMs at Birmingham. I have attended these on behalf of the John Buchan
Society and have occasionally 'nodded off ! However, a new committee seem more
determined to instil some point to the proceedings. They intend to draw up and make
available a list of member societies and improve the present 'Fanzine' Chapter One. If they
succeed, it could be a useful shop window for our fledgling group.
- act as a liaison body between member societies and when necessary as a 'pressure group'
- be a referral bodv with a centre for enquiries
- assist where desirable and practicable in preserving buildings, places and objects with literary connections
- arrange seminars and other appropriate meetings
I also wrote to the County Archivist at Dorchester, sending the first Newsletter etc. and
asking if they would like to become an institutional member. To no avail, so far. Does any
member have greater clout and, if so, could they try for us again please?
I keep a look out in the many Rare Book Catalogues sent to me, for JMF material. It is
interesting not only to compare prices, but also to realise that his works are becoming quite
rare or, rather, not reaching the catalogues.
| Catalogue || Book || Price (British Pounds)|
|Julian Nangle||A History of Oxfordshire (maroon & dark blue)
|| 45.00 |
|19th.C Books||A History of Oxfordshire (maroon & dark blue)
|John Updike||Poems (green wrappers)
|Waterfield's|| A History of Oxfordshire (maroon & dark blue)
|Clearwater Books|| The Nebuly Coat(1st ed. but Poor condition)
In my experience of haunting antiquarian booksellers, one can find the occasional The
Lost Stradivarius , but the other two novels in first editions are extremely rare.
The last Moonfleet I saw offered was from Ulysees at L250. Mind you, John Updike
(Edinburgh), in their November 1997 catalogue, priced The Lost Stradivadus at L285!
It was not that long ago, that one could find a huge pile of the green wrappered version of
the Poems in a little cupboard in the bookshop at Burford.
[website note: Unfortunately, I haven't yet been able to find the symbol for the British Pound
so I have used 'L' instead. Please bear with me.]
Edward Wilson kindly first alerted me to a forthcoming article on The Lost Stradivarius
and then sent me a copy of the piece when it came out. As Edward has subsequently
said "It is good to have the Great Man the subject of serious study, and Dr. Daly's piece is an
admirably serious piece of work with some real, fresh points". The article in question is
Somewhere there's Music:
and is Chapter 7 in Volume Three of the series "Romancing Decay: Ideas of Decadence in
European Culture" - edited by Michael St John. The volume is entitled 'Studies
in European Cultural Transition' and is edited by Martin Stannard and Greg Walker of
the University of Leicester. It is published bv Ashgate Publishing Limited and is
ISBN 1 84014 674 S.
John Meade Falkner's
The Lost Stradivarius
Don't be put off by all these titles (although the price is a put off at L45) as the argument put
forward is provocative, in the best sense of the word.
Enclosed,with this Newsletter is another essay by Christopher Hawtree; this time on a
forgotten JMF article (in two parts) in Henry Newbolt's Monthly Review
one hundred years ago. Here is the authoritative Elswick JMF, not the 'boy eternal'
romancer or the erudite collector of Missals .... and yet, as Christopher points out,
he cannot resist an allusion to a ruined Temple at Isis at the end of his article!
I am in the process of gathering together information, including photographs, for a
Falkner Gazetteer, viz. places connected with his life and his fictional characters. His
various homes, Hertford College, Burford, Bath, his clubs, the Mitre...... I would be grateful
for any lists of your own. The idea is to publish for members (and others, if thought worth it)
a small booklet that would be of use to those wanting to -visit such places. Think on't!
As to the vexed, or mildly embarrassing, topic of JMF Society subscriptions. The only
cost incurred so far have been postage and stationery. The Societv is not big enough to set up
any unnecessary committee structure or finances. As long as you are content to receive say
three Newsletters a year (dated 3 January, 8 May, and 22 July - all key JMF dates), with the
possibility of a Gazetteer or Journal to come, then let us leave things as they are. I would
appreciate being sent some stamps to cover the postage, if you are inclined to help in some
way. More importantly, spread the word and do put pen to paper - if not for a fully fledged
article, at least with short comments, anecdotes or letters to the Ed.!
Tel.: 01530 416969
Return to JOHN MEADE FALKNER Main Page.
First published here on 12 Jan., 2000