A Publication of
THE JOHN MEADE FALKNER SOCIETY
Founded 8th May 1999
|Newsletter No.13||22 July 2003|
Since the last Newsletter in January, the Society has welcomed four more members.
who "accidentally stumbled across" Robert Wilson's website, part of which is devoted to JMF and this Society, first e:mailed me from the Durham University Library, a mere stone's throw from Falkner's old home at The Divinity House. Arnold is keen to write something about JMF as a book collector, so I have put him in touch with another recent member -John Coulter, who is also interested in this field. Arnold subsequently sent me some reflections on the chronology of The Nebuly Coat, which I am keeping by me for next year's Journal .
whose mother (Anthea Radice) was the daughter of Revd. Prof. Alfred Guillaume, who was Professor of Hebrew and Oriental Languages in Durham and was one of JMF' s closest friends. Kenneth Warren alludes to him in his article in this year's Journal. Ken met up with Jak at her mother's memorial service last year.
The Friends of Burford Church
is our first "corporate" member. I am delighted the JMF link has been renewed, as he loved Burford town and, especially, its church. I am sure that Raymond Moody as well as the Friends will show us just how much JMF did to support the building during his lifetime.
who was responsible for that elegantly produced JMF poem A Roman Villa -Chedworth in 1981. His private press -The Atlantis Press -printed an edition of 100 copies set by hand in Caslon Old Face, with a brief introduction by Michael himself. He, too, recalls his amazement "at visiting the shop in Burford, asking if they had any books by Meade Falkner, and then being offered Poems from the parcel of stock in the cupboard behind the counter".
Further to my mention of the green wrapper version of JMF's Poems and the remembrance that Christopher Hawtree and I some years ago found a large cache secreted in a small cupboard at a Burford antiquarian bookshop, Alan Bell kindly sent me the [now long retired] bookseller's name and present address. I contacted Hamish Bain, who wrote a very charming reply, filling in more details of the story.
The stock was held for many years by Quaritch, who did nothing with it. Ted Hoffmann, who was charged with sorting out and rationalising Q's basement, sold all the Falkner poems to Peter Eaton and told Hamish Bain what he had done. Hamish approached Mrs Eaton, who sold him about half of the stock. Some were then placed in trade, some were sold through catalogue and some through the Burford shop. When Jubilee Books shut, the remainder were sold, with the rest of the stock, by Bloomsbury Book Auctions in August 1987. Hamish now has only the one copy he bought for himself. Hamish ended his letter by saying: "I wish I had bought a few more as they would have been useful for presents over the years." And so say all of us.
Those of you who replied to my question as to whether you would purchase a copy of a new edition of the Poems, all answered in the affirmative [some requesting more than one copy]. I will therefore discuss with the others at Burford in September the best way forward. It looks as if most of you would like not only the "extra" poems put in, but some form of introduction and footnotes [end-notes?] where useful.
Graham Pollard's Bibliography of JMF
has recently been republished in The Pleasures of Bibliophily: Fifty Years of 'The Book Collector: An Anthology" published by the British Library and Oak Knoll Press, 2003 for the princely sum of £35.00. [ISBN 07123 47798]
Mark Valentine sent me a flyer for a new journal, to be published by Tartarus Press from Autumn 2003 and "devoted to discussion of the fantastic, supernatural and decadent in literature...featuring four or five key studies each issue". If any of you are interested in the above -either as potential contributors or as subscribers -you can contact the publisher at Coverley House, Carlton-in-Coverdale, Leyburn, North Yorkshire, DL8 4AY.
kindly send me photocopies of JMF material he had come across in his family scrapbooks. These included some JMF verse, in Latin. for Lilias Noble's 1898 Christmas card, with the ensuing printed card; a rather domestic letter to Andrew Noble about Philip and John; and a copy of a sketch of Gibraltar by General Adye. I will bring them to Burford in September.
Journal Number 4
is enclosed with this Newsletter. I do hope you find the articles interesting and that they will inspire you to write for future issues. I am most grateful to those of you who have contributed so far -some of you more than once.
A Little More Learning
A sidelight upon Falkner 's education
Such is the serendipity of the way in which 'material' survives that, despite tantalising gaps, there are some parts of John Meade Falkner's life that can be chronicled in detail, not least a childhood which - allied with his sister Anne's manuscript memories - makes for some of his most evocative writing, whether it concern idyllic summer fields or the remorseless sequence of events which led from the lunch table to his mother's death, and all their woe.
The Weymouth house was rent-free, true, but his father Tom's salary was only £100 a year, a situation symbolised by the narrow strip of remaining garden. This was 'such as might have fallen to the lot of any jerry-built suburban villa. The only reminiscence of better days which it possessed was a fig-tree in a corner which had some age and dignity but was unable to bring its fruits to maturity' .This garden-strip had been further curtailed - in a way which was to have those harrowing consequences - by 'a huddle of unintelligible rooms' which had been built onto the back of the house, for these were the rooms in which a servant took water from the wrong source.
All that is now a fairly well-known tale, but a glimpse of another part of Falkner's life is offered in an unpublished memoir. Falkner was now a pupil at the town's Collegiate School on the Dorchester Road. Whatever his regrets at this move from Dorchester, which were sometimes bolstered by visits to his old friends, 'I consoled myself by thinking that I was better off because Weymouth-was always something of a paradise in the minds of Dorchester people'.
Among the pupils at the school was Frank Stratton, who had previously been educated locally, in Wiltshire; at any rate - as Stratton recalled, in a piece now in the County Record Office, Trowbridge - he had attended an establishment run by 'a retired parson of rubicund countenance. The master was a seedy little Welshman, certainly not a scholar: about thirty boys, sons of tradesmen and small farmers, were ineffectively taught'. In 1870, however, he had been sent to enjoy the greater stimulation of boarding at a recently-founded school which would become Weymouth College, where, by his recollection, he was 'much too good. It would have been better, perhaps, if I had broken rules more often, and worked less'. He thought that he must have been painfully shy and self-conscious, even a considerable prig. Whatever, he became close to Falkner the following year, and was to write of the place and its seventy boys: 'not a bad set on the whole. A few big, stupid boys, forming a class by themselves called "the awkward squad", were the least desirable'.
Here were such customary matters as hard mattresses and unsavoury lavatories, a situation alleviated by the collecting of caterpillars ('which we imprisoned and fed till they became chrysales and then eagerly awaited their turning into winged creatures') and by sneaking out of bounds or dawdling on long walks in order to take a cross-country short cut. In particular, he never liked the Head Master, the Rev. John Ellis. 'He was sarcastic and oily, put on too much flesh and certainly was not a gentleman.' This was apparently a quality also lacking in his staff, although Stratton did note an indebtedness to Paterson, the diminutive English master, a man who is evidently Falknerian in spirit. 'How delightfully discursive he was. Often some remark at the beginning of a lesson would send him off at a tangent and go on with matter wholly foreign to the lesson we had prepared. Moreover he would mark for answers to questions remote from the subject; this I always liked, for as a reader of many books, I had a fair amount of general information. ..The more discursive he was the more I liked him and when he enjoyed himself he gave s a really good time.' M. L'Archeveque, the French master, was capable but unduly passionate, imposing endless lines for the smallest, even imagined fault. As for the Science master, Herr Hoffert, he was amiable and incapable of maintaining discipline - despite, it was said, having fought in the Polish rebellion, an exploit which merely let him in for such taunts as a boy interrupting the lesson to ask, 'was it a white horse you rode when you were a rebel? ' The master's experiments often failed to take the desired route, resulting in queer smells made worse when a pupil was able to uncork the asafoetida bottle. 'Poor old Hoffert, how often his frilled shirt showed need of washing -would that his history were on record.'
From all this Stratton emerged, six from the top, in 1873 and at least certain that it had 'improved my health and added to my height'. He had already shown an 'early, if not an intelligent, interest' in politics, when Parliament was dissolved in 1868 and Gladstone went to the country. It was to remain an interest, but, married within six years, his life was to be devoted mainly to farming in Wiltshire, politics a matter of local committees such as the Board of Guardians.
Burford - Saturday 20 September
The following members have intimated that they hope to attend the gathering in Burford. Alan Bell, Kenneth Warren, Christopher Hawtree, George Woodman, Andrew Nye, Raymond Moody, Kenneth Hillier, Edward Wilson, James Stourton., Michael Daniell, Giselle Panero + the sender of a reply form post marked "Southampton". I do hope those of you living in Oxfordshire and the South not already on the list will try and get along. Let me know if you can.
Those actually expressing a preference of date all plumped for 20 September. We will meet at Cobb House, courtesy of Raymond Moody, at 10.00 to 10.15 a.m. This is the last house on the left [looking down the hill], just before the bridge over the Windrush. I am bringing my JMF collection for display and, hopefully, discussion. Raymond will give us a tour of the town, concentrating on JMF links, and we hope to join with our friends at Burford Church for refreshment at some point. A local hostelry beckons for lunchtime. I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible on the day.
Greenmantle, Main Street, Kings Newton, Melbourne Derbyshire. DE73 1BX
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