A Publication of


Founded 8th May 1999


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 ill-health.

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 & absolute rest..."

Hotel Stephanie, Baden-Baden:
"I have settled to marry at last, though I fear it is too late in some ways to make marriage all 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 things."

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 BrownLouth, Lincolnshire
Alan BellLondon
Peter DaveyWimbome, Dorset
John NobleArdkinglas, Argyll
Kenneth WarrenHexham, Northumberland
Roger NorrisCrossgate Peth, Durham
Nicholas AldridgeSummer Fields, Oxford
Hamish GuthrieOakville, Ontario, Canada
Raymond MoodyBurford, Oxfordshire
Kathleen FalknerSwanage, Dorset
Ruth FalknerStockbridge, Hampshire
Robert WilsonNanaimo, BC, Canada
Richard WirdnamCorfe Mullen, Dorset
Elizabeth FalknerChard, 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 rjbw@shaw.ca. 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.

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 NangleA History of Oxfordshire (maroon & dark blue) 45.00
19th.C BooksA History of Oxfordshire (maroon & dark blue) 33.00
John UpdikePoems (green wrappers) 25.00
Waterfield's A History of Oxfordshire (maroon & dark blue) 40.00
Clearwater Books The Nebuly Coat(1st ed. but Poor condition) 75.00

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 entitled

Somewhere there's Music:
John Meade Falkner's
The Lost Stradivarius

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.
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
E-mail: moonfleet@greenmantle63.freeserve.co.uk

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First published here on 12 Jan., 2000