J. Meade Faulkner

Moonfleet is an historical novel of smugglers and treasure hunting set on the Dorset coast of England in the 18th century. It was written by J. Meade Faulkner at the end of the 19th century when Ransome would have been about fourteen. I don't know if Ransome ever read it, but I would imagine that his creations would have enjoyed it and Captain Nancy would probably have tried to devise a smuggling adventure. It is an exciting story with strong geographical connections: all the places in the book can be identified from Chesil beach, from Portland Bill to the Isle of Purbeck, though as in Ransome's writings, places are often given fictional names. The writing can be powerful and the descriptions of a stormy sea are frightening. A more peaceful but no less gripping scene is the description of an auction!

There are some other frightening scenes and several violent episodes with two people's deaths described.

Some plot elements are revealed here: The hero, John Trenchard, is an orphan living with his aunt in the small Dorset coastal village of Moonfleet as the story opens. Later, he comes under the protection of the local innkeeper, Elzevir Block, who becomes John's father figure and whose son was killed by the Revenue men. Elzevir is also involved with a smuggling gang who are portrayed more sympathetically than the authorities. John falls in love with the beautiful daughter of the local magistrate who is hated for his attempts to capture the smugglers. John and Elzevir have to go into hiding after a raid on the smugglers' landing. John finds that he has the clue to a missing treasure. The two go in search of the treasure and find it but when they try to sell it they are tricked and imprisoned for theft. Many years later they are being transported overseas when their ship is cast up on Moonfleet beach and the two local men have to try and get through the treacherous surf to safety. The story ends on a happy note with a bit of a moral lesson about how ill-gotten treasures will cause you evil if used selfishly.

Reviewed by Adam Quinan, June, 2011

This article is ©2011 by Adam Quinan, and posted on All Things Ransome with permission.

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