A Publication of

THE JOHN MEADE FALKNER SOCIETY

Founded 8th May 1999



Newsletter No.10 22 July 2002

22 July 1932
On a Friday night, seventy years ago today, John Meade Falkner died at his home in Durham. Kenneth Warren, in his biography, quotes from Bishop Hensley Henson's diary for Thursday, 30 June:

"I called at Divinity House and found at home both Meade Falkner and his wife. Both look extremely ill. He is a complete wreck and has a moribund aspect and manner. I was painfully impressed".
Falkner was cremated at Darlington; from there his ashes were taken for an interment in an ordinary coffin in his beloved churchyard at Burford in Oxfordshire -
"where there is a place left for me by my dear brother William Richardson Falkner".
Kenneth Warren continues,
"the Service, conducted by Canon Emeris, was held on the fine afternoon of Wednesday 27th. The simple order sheet bore the heading 'John Meade Falkner. At Rest. July 22nd 1932. R.I.P.' "


An Englishman Returns
Julian Payne, who joined our Society in January this year, and lives in Waterville, Maine, USA, paid a return visit - with his wife - to his native land a few weeks ago. After a little gentle persuasion, he kindly sent me this report.
Greetings fellow members. I recently travelled to England with the purpose of visiting Falkner's resting place and locations relating to the novel Moonfleet. I managed to visit every location that I had planned on seeing. I had just enough time and the weather was very agreeable. I visited the Old Church and the Manor at Fleet, the Bugle Inn and Carisbrooke Castle.
The Old Church was beautiful. I wished the whole church was still standing but was very grateful to see what was left. I saw the dedication to JMF from the Society. The churchyard was very green, peaceful and relaxing. It was interesting to read the visitor book and see how many visitors came because of the novel. In the churchyard I could almost imagine Elzevir and Ratsy listening to the kegs bobbing around after the flood. In a way it was a miracle that some funds are now allocated to the preservation from the local town, but I was surprised that higher trust authorities in England do not realise the importance of the church.
On to the Manor. The walk from the church to the Manor was gorgeous and breathtaking. At the Manor my wife and I had tea and scones for a whopping eight pounds sterling. I cancelled my room reservation because they didn't take monthly payments! Maskew prices, but it was nice to gain less weight from the tea than eight pounds. I was surprised that everyone working at the Manor whom I'd spoken to had never read the novel Moonfleet, even though every room had a copy. When I read the book I pictured the Manor in the woods on the north end of Fleet and not on the sea front where it actually is. The panoramic view of the Chesil bank and the lagoon was outstanding.
We had continued on past the Manor after tea towards Langton Herring, which was uphill. This gave us the best and most beautiful views. On our way back we met a gypsy in his late sixties, skin of leather worn from the sun, who recounted stories of his grandfather's knowledge of the tunnels and other mysteries of Moonfleet. We all quite enjoyed our afternoon chat about the history of pirating. We carried on back to Fleet, walking along the edge of the lagoon, admiring the swans.
Off to The Bugle and Carisbrooke Castle, which were not so prominent in the novel, but gave me great pictures for my folder. The view of the Isle of Wight from the castle was spectacular. Looking down the well was quite a sickening feeling and I learnt that divers are going down the well later in the year to investigate for treasure.
I only went to Burford church to visit JMF's last resting place, but I was glad I did as Burford and the church were so old and magnificent. It was a bit of a rush as the bus from Oxford arrived in Burford at 4 o'clock and the last bus back left at 5 o'clock! I ran into the churchyard, looking for the tomb. I had seen a picture of it, but to my surprise many tombs looked the same. If it hadn't been for the church warden I would never have found it before the bus left. It was quite emotional touching JMF's tomb. Not that I was crying, or had to be supported out of the churchyard, but it was moving and I thanked him for his books. When I was telling the story of The Nebuly Coat to the church warden, he was surprised as he told me that the organist of Burford met with a suspicious end.
So now I have a great folder full of all these pictures with maps, and the best thing was it allowed my wife and I to visit places that we never would have otherwise. This gave us a holiday outline and we were surprised by the beauty we discovered. I urge any fans to try it. Maybe a Nebuly Coat tour, visiting locations connected with the book, which I loved. The richness of the characters surpassed the plot. Falkner had a wonderful insight into human nature.


Hotelwatch
Apropos of Julian' s comment on Moonfleet Manor's prices, it was interesting to read in The Daily Telegraph for 15 June, in their Hotelwatch column, under the heading 'The bottom line' that "weekend rates are between 185 and 345 per night based on a family of four sharing. The price includes half board for the adults. Children's meals are extra." Certainly "relaxed luxury" - JMF would have approved.



JMF - One Hundred Years Ago
On 13 July 1902, Falkner wrote a most revealing letter to his friend and former pupil, John Noble.
My dear Johnny,
This letter will I hope reach you tomorrow morning and on so momentous a day I can only wish you da pisno cuore, all possible happiness now, and in the days to come. It seems like writing the epilogue of vol: I. of a two volume book; and under ordinary circumstances it would possibly mean - or probably mean that we should see less of each other and be less to each other than in the past; but I don't think it will mean that in our case, because we have the great terrain of Elswick on which to meet, & the great chain of Elswick interests to keep us close together. My impression of marriage is that sooner or later it breaks one away from old friendships ex necessitate rerum, and I rejoice to think that with us it will not be so. I am very sure that I value your friendship more really & potentially than the friendship of anyone else. We have been so much together, & stood so often together in pleasant or unpleasant places, during so many years that there must I think always be a very strong bond between us. I have so very many things for which to thank you: and if I ever seem unappreciative, it is a fault of manner & not of mind.
[Falkner then went on to discuss the possibility of providing scholarships at Burford School and of speaking with John's father on "the percentage questions" (presumably their salaries!), and ended the letter with the following sentiments. ]
Finally once more let me wish you prosperity - we have wished you good luck in the name of the Lord. And after the present perturbations are over I hope you will sometimes seek repose from the wear and tear of married life in church hunting on the good old plan, which after so many years of praetermission will come to you with an additional charm.
Ever Yours affectionately,
J.M.F.
One can only assume Falkner, by now a husband of three years standing, was speaking from heartfelt experience in his usage of such words as "perturbation" and "wear and tear". I don't suppose he showed his letter to Evelyn before sending it off, or that John chose to show it to his new spouse. As a footnote, Falkner wrote to Lord Rendel on 8 September that year, saying that he had asked John Noble, ("who is still very much married"], to send him some information.



The Domacavalli family
It was exactly sixty years earlier -in the summer of 1842 -that Mr William Gaskell confided to John Maltravers that the Gagliarda, which they had just played again, possessed
"a singular power of assisting the imagination to picture or reproduce such scenes as those which it no doubt formerly enlivened".
Gaskell pictured a long room where several couples were "dancing a licentious measure". At the end of the room was a
"gallery or balcony for the musicians, which on its coved front has a florid coat or arms of foreign heraldry".
Gaskell's "hall of his dream" was to become a reality for John and his sister, Sophia, when Rafaelle took them to the house in the Via del Giardino in Naples. There, in a small loft formed by dividing what had once been a high room into two storeys, Sophia found, underneath layers of whitewash, "without difficulty a shield in the midst" of the carved dado. "'That is the shield of the old Neapolitan house of Domacavalli', my brother continued..."
Edward Wilson, in his excellent edition of The Lost Stradivarius, noted that this was "the fictitious coat of arms of the fictitious Domacavalli family".
Let us now move forward one hundred years. Just after the Second World War, two English officers presented an Italian family with a copy of Lost Stradivarius. One son translated the novel into Italian so that the whole family could enjoy the tale. Unfortunately, over time the book was lost. Only recently was the son - now in his seventies - able to track down a copy "with the introduction and the rich, learned notes" by Edward. This July, the latter received a letter from the appreciative son, one Luigi Domacavalli !
Luigi wrote:
"...when Mr Falkner wrote his novel, my family was traceable in Pistoia [Toscana near Firenze] where my Grand-father Gaetano was born in 1838.....besides I wonder where Mr Falkner found out my family's name, which is so remarkable even in Italia and should have therefore some peculiar origins..."
JMF visited Florence in May 1886, when he toured Italy with John Noble, and may well have chanced on the unusual name then.
Luigi charmingly teased Edward in his letter: "I agree to be well worn-out, being over 70, but I don't feel at all fictitious". Edward, ever the gentleman, replied that he was "glad to hear that you are literally alive and I hope in good health".

Apropos the above, Edward Wilson's article in the accompanying Journal becomes even more fascinating, as it pursues the possible original for Raffaelle Carotenuto, the boy who shows Sophia and John to the house in Naples.



The Journal - Number 3
Accompanying this Newsletter is the Society's third Journal. Once again, I hope it will be of interest to all members. Unfortunately, as it is quite expensive to produce, I am only sending it to fully paid up members. I do hope the other five want to continue with their membership and I will be delighted to hear from them. Their Journals are poised, ready and waiting!

Copies of Journals 1, 2 and 3 are now deposited at The British Library, 96, Euston Road, London; The Bodleian Library, Broad Street, Oxford; and the University Library, West Road, Cambridge.

Best Wishes
Kenneth Hillier
Greenmantle, Main Street, Kings Newton, Melbourne Derbyshire. DE73 IBX
Moonfleet@freemantle63.freeserve.co.uk

Return to JMF Main Page