A Publication of


Founded 8th May 1999

Newsletter No.12 08 May 2003

New Members
Since the last Newsletter in January, the Society has welcomed two more members.

John Coulter
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.]

Richard Johnson
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:

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.

I am sure Tony won't mind me also quoting his reply.

'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.'

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 1970s.

JMF's Poetry
Five hundred copies of JMF's Poems were printed in green wrappers for his widow, Evelyn, in 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 then 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 is 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 him as

'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 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 minster's 'Statutes'.
Shaw wrote in some detail commenting on the book's 'intrinsic excellence' and arguing

'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...'.

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'.
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 Burford!
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 notices.

'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 life."'

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 individual.
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.
Guess who.
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 341/2" frontage.
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?

Best Wishes
Kenneth Hillier
Greenmantle, Main Street, Kings Newton, Melbourne Derbyshire. DE73 IBX kah@greenmantle63.freeserve.co.uk

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