J. Meade Falkner


"He had a thin face with a sharp nose that looked as if it would peck you, and grey eyes that could pierce a millstone if there was a guinea on the far side of it" (Moonfleet)

John Meade Falkner was born on May 8th 1858 in Manningford Bruce a town in Wiltshire, England. His father was the village curate and a scholar and he encouraged his son's interest in antiquity that later streched into the equally dubious arenas of demonology and church music. Falkner attended Marlborough College and then Hertford College at Oxford University where he received a somewhat pallid and undistinguished Third Class Degree, although along the way he had learned several languages.

He had a varied career as a figure of responsibility in the armaments industry, an honorary librarian for the dean and chapter of Durham Cathedral, a poet, a novelist, an antiquarian and a map maker (he wrote a pocket guide to Oxford in 1894 and of Berkshire in 1902). He is best known, though, for his novels. He wrote three, the first of which was the tale of the mystery, suspense and the supernatural The Lost Stradivarius (1895). This was, predictably given the author's expertise on the county, set predominantly in Oxford but also in Naples.

Falkner's crowning achievement was Moonfleet, published in 1898. This was a smuggling adventure set on England's south coast and very much in the vein of Robert Louis Stevenson in terms of its plot. It was more straightforward and realistic that its predecessor but garnered considerably more interest from the reading public. His final novel was The Nebuly Coat in 1903 that concerns a church in danger of collapse in which the author revels in his knowledge of ecclesiastical matters and history. In fact, the author had written the better part of a fourth novel but left the only copy of it on a train and never saw it again.

Later in his life Falkner enjoyed the life of a somewhat reclusive scholar who was nonetheless amiable and at times controversial in his opinions. He became, to his great delight, an honorary fellow of Hertford College, dying in July 1932.

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