A Publication of
THE JOHN MEADE FALKNER SOCIETY
Founded 8th May 1999
||08 May 2003
Since the last Newsletter in January, the Society has welcomed two more
is a local historian and author of a number of books about London,
especially South London where he lives. He is also a book collector* and remembers buying his
first Moonfleet in 1964 which led him to search out JMF's other novels. At university
he wrote a long essay -'now fortunately lost' -on JMF's life and work. As part of his research,
John wrote to Sir William Haley, who kindly replied with a copy of his Falkner article.
[* I am hoping John is going to produce an article for me on JMF's book collecting.]
first got in touch through email after finding us on the Internet. He was delighted
to find 'some similar people who are mad about Moonfleet!' He is an I.T. Manager at
the large Truro Hospital in Cornwall. His interest in JMF stems from when his primary school
teacher read the class Moonfleet, a chapter at a time. Richard goes on, 'I remember
those readings as if they were yesterday, and find the book as stirring now as it was then'.
Spreading the Word
Whilst wearing another hat -this time that of the Secretary of The John
Buchan Society -I have been able to sing JMF's praises on two occasions recently.
I acted as chauffeur to Lord Hurd of Westwell, as he was the Guest Speaker - on Buchan and
the Cotswolds - at the Society's Annual Dinner at Chipping Norton. As we passed through
Burford, I naturally referred to JMF's last resting place. We moved on to a discussion of his
work and Lord Hurd remembered reading The Nebuly Coat, which he praised highly. He
had not come across The Lost Stradivarius. Naturally, I have since sent him a copy.
Secondly, the Revd. Tony Price, Vicar
of Marston with Elsfield [who regularly helps conduct the Service of Thanksgiving for JB's
life at Elsfield], emailed me a month ago. 'I am trying to track down a poem about endless
Sundays after Trinity, and had a vague recollection it was by Falkner.' Within the hour he had
a full transcription of JMF's poem, After Trinity, published in December 1910. I
quote the first stanza:
I am sure Tony won't mind me also quoting his reply.
We have done with dogma and divinity,
Easter and Whitsun past,
The long, long Sundays after Trinity
Are with us at last;
The passionless Sundays after Trinity,
Neither feast-day nor fast.
Tony used to pass the plaque commemorating JMF in Durham most days as he walked from his home
in Atherton Street up to St. John's College, where he was a theological student in the late
'I'm very fond of some of his poems which seem so quintessentially Anglican, in all the
ways that I grow to love more and more. My heart sinks at the prospect of a busy, busy church
trying to DO things all the time, instead of reflect, and worship God, and help people live
quiet and godly lives.'
Five hundred copies of JMF's Poems were printed in green wrappers for his widow,
July 1933. In The Book Collector [Autumn 1960], Graham Pollard says that Evelyn sold
the remainder, which had not already been distributed to her husband's friends, to Bernard
Quaritch Ltd. Copies do appear from time to time on the Internet, but the booklet is now quite
rare -although Christopher Hawtree and I some years ago found a large cache secreted in a small
cupboard at a Burford antiquarian bookshop. An even rarer version, published in brown wrappers
which is probably an earlier edition printed in JMF's lifetime, can still occasionally be found.
We know John Betjeman thought highly of JMF's poetry and Geoffrey Grigson published five of
the poems [including After Trinity] in his The Mint, Number 2 in 1948. Since
Michael Daniell, under The Atlantis Press imprint, published A Roman Villa: Chedworth
in 1981 ; and David Burnett brought out a further seven poems in 1993, in a privately printed
edition of 100 copies at the Tragara Press, under the title Temenos. Again, neither
publication is easy to find.
Both the brown and the green wrappered printings published thirty-eight poems. By scouring
copies of The Spectator and The Cornhill magazines as well as uncovering a
few that were privately printed, I have managed to fix many dates of publication and track
down a further six poems.
Including a short introduction and some end-notes, I envisage the Society could now publish an
84-88 page A5-sized booklet, again simply entitled
Poems: J. Meade Falkner
I would welcome advice from any member -I know there are at least two with publishing
experience! -as to the next step forward. More importantly, PLEASE return the enclosed reply,
stating whether you would buy a copy [or not, as the case may be] if published.
This is important, as if Society members are not willing to support the venture then it
even less likely that 'outsiders' would.
Harold Watkins Shaw and The Nebuly Coat
Just over a decade ago one of our Founder members, Edward Wilson, was in correspondence with
Harold Watkins Shaw, the musicologist. Born on 3 April 1911, Shaw died on 8 October 1996,
leaving behind over sixty publications and an obituary in The Times, which spoke of
Shaw wrote some Random Reflections on JMF's The Nebuly Coat as a result of
reading Edward's notes on the novel. The great musicologist ruminated on JMF's attention [or,
perhaps, inattention!] to detail in such matters as the subscription list to Boyce's Cathedral
Music, the musical status of Cullerne Minster, the organist Sharnall's stipend and the
'A consummate academic, his scholarship... transformed performance and practice in the post-war
decades and laid the textual foundations on which the Early Music movement was to be built. ,
Shaw wrote in some detail commenting on the book's 'intrinsic excellence' and arguing
He also enclosed further commentary on
'Relevance of choice of key for "Sharnall in D flat" to cause of Sharnall's death' and
'Bach's "St. Anne" Fugue and the Minster organ'.
'so many good things abound in the book whereby recherche historical facts are put to good
service, like the introduction of hydraulic blowing for the organ [how I remember it as a boy!]
so that Sharnall can be found alone in the Minster...'.
I am including Shaw's thoughts in this July's Journal and wish to thank Edward here for
his kindness in sharing the correspondence with me.
The Journal: Volume 1 Number 4
I have already begun collating submissions for this year's Journal. As well as the
Harold Watkins Shaw material mentioned above, I am publishing articles from Dale Nelson -
'Antiquarian Allusions and Inventions in Charalampia' ; and Peter Davey
'Shadow Over Corfe: a consideration of John Meade Falkner's poem Corfe Castle'.
The Dorothy L. Sayers Society and Christine Simpson have kindly agreed to let me republish the
latter's article, 'John Meade Falkner, his works and influence on Dorothy L. Sayers', first
printed in the Society's Proceedings of the 1994 Seminar at University College, Durham. I am
grateful to Roger Norris for alerting me to the existence of this. Christopher Hawtree has also
promised me an article.
I was intending to transcribe some or all of the letters from JMF to Edward Stone, which the
Society purchased late last year, but there will not be room this time. You can see them at
I am always glad to receive articles for the Journal, whether an original piece or one
which, with the necessary permission, I can republish from another Journal or magazine.
An isolated life?
I am afraid that The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy never caught on with me, but I
did hitch on to one passing reference to its author, Douglas Adams, amongst the recent obituary
It made me wonder about JMF and his sojourn at Marlborough College. In the Nineteenth
Half-Yearly Report of the school's Natural History Society for the Half-Year ending Midsummer
1874, a detailed list of the weights and measurements of the boys was laid out. A request had
come from Mr. Francis Galton, of the Anthropological Society of London, that he might be
furnished with the age, height and weight of the school. The weighing and measuring began on
February 21st., and was continued until March 11th., by which time 550 boys had endured the
testing. The circumference of the head, the chest, the arm and the leg were also noted in each
'By the time Douglas Adams reached school he had
attained a comic height: "I was different from other
kids in that I was so much taller than them and they
could scarcely see me, so I lived a rather isolated
In height -of 4 boys nearly 15 years of age, one was 4'7", another 4'63/4
", another 4'51/4" and the other 4'31/4".
The tallest boy in the school was under 16 and stood 6'35/8" in height.
JMF , who was in the Upper 5, and whose birthday was 8 May 1858, weighed in at 11st.23
/4lbs. and sported a 32" chest. This was in marked contrast to one T. Foord,
who viewed life from a lowly 5'2 1/4" perspective but could boast a
As a footnote, it should be pointed out that, although the weight was taken by one of
Hawksley's patent Weighing Machines, 'which for simplicity and accuracy of action
cannot be surpassed' , the Anthropological Society wished the weight to be taken with the
ordinary indoor clothing and shoes on.
As the College pointed out, 'this was to be regretted, as at that season of the year, thick
clothes are frequently worn by some boys, and shoes vary much'.
Interestingly, the other point made about Douglas Adams that caught my eye was the fact that a
friend remembered that, when he became a boarder, Adams would keep the boys awake at night with
rambling ghost stories: 'Half the dormitory was trying to get to sleep, just ignoring him or
telling him to shut up, and the rest of them were in tears through fear!'
I wonder if JMF thus entertained at Marlborough?
Greenmantle, Main Street, Kings Newton, Melbourne Derbyshire. DE73 IBX
Return to JMF Main Page