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2016/17 Group Reads - Archives > Moonfleet - Background Information

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message 1: by Lynnm (new)

Lynnm | 3027 comments Feel free to post any type of background information on the novel in this thread.

I have to admit that I haven't started looking into the novel yet. But I will in a couple of days.

message 2: by Pip (last edited Jul 17, 2016 04:59PM) (new)

Pip | 468 comments To get us started, here's a bit of info on the local geography, as Falkner set his book in real locations on the South coast of England.

"Falkner uses the local geography of Dorset and the Isle of Wight in the book, only changing some of the place names. The village of Moonfleet is based on East Fleet in Dorset by Chesil Beach. The headland in the book called The Snout is Portland Bill. The castle is Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight." (Wikipedia)

For info on the village of Fleet:

(I tried to find a webpage with a good selection of photos, but couldn't find anything special - you're probably best off googling for images.)

For Carisbrooke Castle ("the quintessential romantic castle") see:

And to get an idea of how rough the sea can get around Portland Bill, try this video:

message 3: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2931 comments Mod
Thanks for the links, Pip.

message 4: by Pip (new)

Pip | 468 comments Rosemarie wrote: "Thanks for the links, Pip."

Always a pleasure! I used to visit many of these places as a child, so it was nice to revisit them!

message 5: by Lori, Moderator (new)

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1426 comments Mod
Thanks! I'd never heard of this book or author; looking forward to getting started. I remember when I was reading Hardy, that he also had a lot of places whose names were changed, also in the Southwest (mostly near Plymouth, if I remember correctly).

message 6: by Renee (new)

Renee M | 752 comments It's really interesting that the places we wll be reading about are based on actual places. Now I'm even more excited about this read. :D

message 7: by Lynnm (new)

Lynnm | 3027 comments Pip wrote: "To get us started, here's a bit of info on the local geography, as Falkner set his book in real locations on the South coast of England.

"Falkner uses the local geography of Dorset and the Isle of..."

Yes, thanks for the links, Pip!

I'm finishing Wind in the Willows today so I'm going to start Moonfleet tomorrow. Can't wait!

message 8: by Lynnm (new)

Lynnm | 3027 comments Lori mentioned Plymouth - I've been to Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts so the next time I'm in England, I want to go to the "real" Plymouth and see where the Pilgrims started off. That way I can say that I've been to both Plymouths. :-)

message 9: by Lynnm (last edited Jul 18, 2016 11:56AM) (new)

Lynnm | 3027 comments I know nothing about Falkner (and realized I was spelling his last name incorrectly) so I went to Wikipedia.

Seems that he was a businessman - was the chairman of an arms manufacturer during World War I. I'm not sure what I think about that given the brutality of WWI. But since I know nothing more about Falkner or the manufacturer, I will withhold judgment.

message 10: by Pip (new)

Pip | 468 comments Lynnm wrote: "I know nothing about Falkner (and realized I was spelling his last name incorrectly)."

I only noticed the correct spelling when I looked him up on Wikipedia - and even when I was getting it right, autocorrect kept changing it back into Faulkner! From now on, he's going to be JMF for me ;-)

message 11: by Pip (new)

Pip | 468 comments Hey! Thanks to Lynn's link, I've just realised that JMF and I share the same birthday! Not bothered now about the weapons factory - he was a Maybaby, so must have been cool ;-)

I have to say, though, that in the photo on his Wikipedia page he looks much more like a stern Victorian industrialist than a writer of adventure stories for kids...

message 12: by Lynnm (last edited Jul 24, 2016 04:12AM) (new)

Lynnm | 3027 comments There is a discussion in a WITW thread that Moonfleet is a YA book - and Pip here said that Falkner is known for writing adventure books for kids.

As I wrote in that thread, I just started reading it - I wouldn't call it a YA book. At all. The protagonist is a young boy, but I think we could compare it to Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn - not in content, but in audience. They are also considered "childrens books" but have far more advanced concepts embedded in them.

Moonfleet is a bit gothic, though.

I was a bit skeptic going into it, but it pulled me right in. I'm hooked.

message 13: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2931 comments Mod
I like reading YA books and not all are created equal. There are some that are trendy, but others deal with serious themes in a very mature, age-appropriated level. And there are others that are just plain fun.
I haven't started Moonfleet yet, but it looks like it will be fun.

message 14: by Tracey (new)

Tracey (traceyrb) I have read Moonfleet before and it is one of my favourite novels. I have bought a copy for many of my friends. I am really looking forward to discussing this with you all. There are many great scenes in it and much food for thought.

message 15: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 702 comments Not precisely “background” per se, but a friend alerted me that there was a 1955 movie of Moonfleet directed by Fritz Lang! She says it’s good in the moody black-and-white British style. Might be interesting to watch at the end of the month.

message 16: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4494 comments Mod
Abigail wrote: "Not precisely “background” per se, but a friend alerted me that there was a 1955 movie of Moonfleet directed by Fritz Lang! She says it’s good in the moody black-and-white British style. Might be i..."

That's background :) - info re what we are going to read

message 17: by Tracey (new)

Tracey (traceyrb) There was also a Moonfleet miniseries produced in 2013 but I am reluctant to watch it. Another of my favourite books The Children of the New Forest was also made into a miniseries and was nothing like the book.

message 18: by Tracey (new)

Tracey (traceyrb) Here is the trailer to the 1955 movie:

message 19: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 702 comments Watched the trailer—good lord! What a farrago.

message 20: by Pip (new)

Pip | 468 comments A couple more bits of background info for those who are interested in following these kinds of things up:

The original Blackbeard - nothing to do explicitly with the legend told in Moonfleet, I don't think, but I would imagine Falkner gained some inspiration from him:

Dr Sherlock John's aunt says, in chapter 3 "'Bed is the place for youth when night falls, but if this seem to you too early you can sit with me for an hour in the parlour, and I will read you a discourse of Doctor Sherlock that will banish vain thoughts, and leave you in a fit frame for quiet sleep.'"

I've done a bit of research, and the Right Reverend Thomas Sherlock looks like a good candidate as the producer of the discourse in the quote. Poor John! TV is still such a long way off...

message 21: by Madge UK (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2933 comments The section of coast in which Moonfleet is set is now known as The Jurassic Coast because of the enormous numbers of fossils found there (and still being found) since it was explored in the late 18C:

Here is a nice pic of Moonfleet Manor, now a luxury hotel:

message 22: by Madge UK (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2933 comments Some notes on Smuggling from my Collins edition of Moonfleet:

Falkner would have been inspired by true stories of smuggling along the English south coast. The motive behind smuggling was to avoid the revenue collected by the government, which was very high on certain goods. A profit could be made by purchasing goods in France and selling them on in England. The goods in question included tobacco, tea and various spirits, such as rum, gin and brandy. The revenue mark-up could be as much as six times the source cost, which is why smuggling was such a lucrative venture and punishment was severe. Smuggling, wrecking and piracy were big business. business in places where the coast was difficult to patrol, enabling the perpetrators to go about their activities relatively risk free. The south coast was suitably rugged in places and faced France, making it useful for these clandestine careers. Smuggling became a problem as soon as governments began charging import duties. In England, this happened during the reign of King Edward I, in 1275. A customs-collection system was established and immediately people saw the fiscal benefit of smuggling those goods that were taxed the most.

Smuggling became part of English culture, not least because the authorities were never able to get the upper hand. The smugglers themselves were perceived as rather daring and brave ‘Robin Hood’ characters, because they were able to provide goods to the poor at reduced prices. Although they were roguish types, they were often protected by the general public, making it almost impossible for the government to deal with them. Some smugglers entered into English folklore, such was their infamy. After 500 years, things reached a head when a battle was fought between a gang of smugglers and members of customs and excise at the town of Christchurch, on the Dorset coast. The Battle of Mudeford (1784), as it became known, was a conflict that saw the death of one of the customs officers. A smuggler named George Coombes was subsequently tried and hanged for murder. His body was chained up outside the local ale house, the Haven Inn, as a warning about the consequences of smuggling. The Battle of Mudeford captured the public imagination, causing smuggling to be seen as both romantic and legendary.

By the time Falkner was writing his novel, smuggling was in decline, which only served to mythologize it further. The smuggler had become an antihero in industrial Victorian England, not least because smuggling harked back to a pre-industrial era in which people were imagined to have lived with less social oppression. That Victorian longing for psychological freedom generated a ready market for stories about characters living their lives to the full. That is to say, their choices may have been high risk and illegal, but that also made for excitement and spontaneity.

message 23: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2931 comments Mod
Thank you for that interesting information, Madge.

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