BBC Radio 7, 30 October 2009
Apart from his children's novel Moonfleet, an evergreen best-seller
for many years, J. Meade Falkner remains a peripheral figure in the pantheon of English literature. This documentary, presented
by author David Attwood, told us about his life and work. A product of a sound middle-class education at Marlborough and Oxford,
Falkner spent much of his working life in the north-east as a major figure in the armaments firm Armstrong's. He was particularly
successful at his work - so much so that he earned sufficient money to begin a collection of ancient manuscripts, now preserved
in Durham's Divinity House. Attwood argued that in spite of this suucess, Falkner yearned to become a successful novelist,
with his roots in the south-west rather than the north-east of England. Hence his decision to set his three major novels -
Moonfleet, The Lost Stradivarius and The Nebulae Coat - in that region.
Falkner's style owed a lot to major nineteenth and early twentieth century authors
such as Trollope and Hardy. However his plots were often very different: on many occasions he wrote about ungodliness and
its consequences, a state of mind he believed could only be alleviated by continuing loyalty to the church.
Despite his obvious convictions, Falkner remained a lonely, somewhat difficult man.
He married late in life - at forty - and although he had a reasonably happy life with his spouse, the two of them parted.
They were like two opposites; his wife was a home-maker, he was a business person with little time for the minutiae of life.
Moreover there was a distinct suspicion that he was more attracted to men rather than women. Whatever his sexuality, Falkner
died in 1932 a lonely, somewhat isolated man, perpetually frustrated at the fact that he had not managed to carve out a literary
niche for himself.
I am not sure that Falkner was a "bag of paradoxes" as the programme tried to suggest.
Rather he seemed like someone who tried to have his cake and eat it; to combine a business and a literary career in the manner
of T. S. Eliot, but eventually falling between the two poles. Nonetheless Andy Cartwright's documentary gave a valuable
introduction to a little-known twentieth century author.