In recent decades, it has become de rigeur for a biographer to turn up all manner
of lurid details, so much so that Lytton Strachey's alliterative sleight of hand over
General Gordon and the open bottle now seems mildness itself. Even so, nothing
can prevent a gasp when reading of Falkner's trip to Dorset in the late summer of
1910. He and his wife, Evelyn, were ostensibly spending their time in Dorset at the
excavations of Memory Rings. Here, however, was cause for greater scandal than
any 'black book' at Elswick and the pattern of financial disbursements somehow
found by Lord Rendel that year.
As Falkner later confessed to Edward Stone, the Eton schoolmaster resident in Dorchester, with whom at a young age he had first studied Classics:
"the imperious tyranny of golf has fallen upon me, late in life,Under a 'full and unfaltering sun" he golfed all day and only at dusk did he bicycle in to see how the excavations were going. He was now 52 and, as always, preoccupied by suffering from his curiously bad health. Earlier that year, in January, he had even sent Stone the address of a firm in the Strand which published a fifty-page booklet by Charles Emmanuel Reinhardt, who, by dint of lactic ferments, advanced his notion of 120 Years of Life and How to Attain Them. Falkner thought it an interesting subject, these putative sixty-nine more years that could be his.
and my days were spent from sunrise to sunset on Came Down golfing..."
"I believe much in the theory, though I fear that we should bore
our friends dreadfully, if we were really to attain that longevity."
"with infinite gusto but without any of the artificialEqually ad hoc was his fishing, which figures in the often idyllic recollections which both he and his sister wrote of childhood in Dorchester. The sport was, technically, poaching but the yield - minnows and dace - invariably proved feeble. One day, at Bockhampton, things changed. While standing on a bridge, Falkner felt a fair-sized perch take the bait, and then another - as many as ten of them, the last of which avenged its dead companions by causing him to fall into the deep pool. It was a struggle to emerge and then to run home in a bedraggled state, all the while hoping the catch, secreted in the pockets of his best suit would be sufficient compensation its drenched condition. Even the immediate bed with which he was rewarded did not dim his joy.
burdens of level pitches or goalposts."
"My father sacrificed himself and ate some of them for breakfastCharles Lynam later told John Betjeman that at Oxford Falkner had been "a good cricketer & racquets player". Perforce, it came to take up more of his time as tutor to John Noble, whose father, Sir Andrew's letters are a relentless urging him to work hard and play hard, especially at handball and cricket. Typical is this admonition:
next morning, saying that they were the finest perch he ever had
eaten. It was a compliment which stayed with me for a long time
though I dare say that my father had never eaten perch before."
"about cricket stick to it. It is obvious that from your beingThe following day this had to be qualified, letters apparently having crossed in the post:
out of condition and other causes it will take you some time to
get into form but it will come - practise every day to
professional bowling and bowl yourself but not too much."
"I thought it would be much better if you played cricket aThat it cheered Falkner's spirits is shown by a consolation which it brought during his stint, via Gabbitas and Thring, as a teacher in the summer of 1884 at Derby School, whose Headmaster was "a funny sort and rather inclined to the bottle". Although this was his first visit to the county which forms a part of The Lost Stradivarius, the most important thing for now was that he was among the 15,000 in Nottingham at the end of the triumphant series against Australia. Later that summer the Australians were pitted against Middlesex, and, back in Buckland ripers, the Sportsman was still his regular reading - especially its letters page which, like that of the local newspaper, was replete with "sheer utter idiocy. One wouldn't think fellows could write such stuff."
little - I think your doctor is wrong to stop it altogether as
it would have an effect on your spirits."
"and snorted about there for most of the morning - an amusing manWhich remain enigmatic, until the afternoon, when the sea was as smooth as glass, so
had one or two unpleasant and Italian traits about him."
"Bell and Falkner manfully pulled both ways without any assistance."
"to fill a large part of my recollection of those Oxford summers";he made the journey to the capital nine times, once or twice in a row-boat, but otherwise always as part of a crew of
"three men in a sailing-boat of the type then used at Oxford; theyFalkner's work and health meant that sport came to something of an end for him, and so, when one reflects upon the diverse sports which he had enjoyed, his late discovery of golf seems quite reasonable - perhaps rather more so than any, as-yet-undocumented brewing up of lactic ferments.
carried one large fore-and-aft sail and a centre-board. There
went a certain amount of skill to the proper management of them
in the narrow waters of the Thames, and there was, on a tiny scale,
a real element of adventure, with here and there a very slight spice
of danger, about the whole business. One never knew in the morning
where one would sleep in the evening... there was an infinite variety
in one's experiences, no two voyages being in the least like each
other, except in so far as they were all intensely enjoyable... the
Thames was on the whole, at that time, virtually an undiscovered
country, when the British public, in the late 'seventies, began to
discover it, my voyages came to an end."
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