Many of his readers (both literary critics and the general public) believe that his short stories show Q at his excellent best. As with his novels, they range across an incredible variety of themes – romance, humour, mystery, sadness, female character, Cornish superstition, ghosts, dialect or history – which are used to create a setting for his imaginative stories.
He said later that many were created during the long train journeys between London, Cambridge and Cornwall when he had time to occupy in Plymouth, “thoughtfully provided by the Great Western, breaking trains on the way home” as he himself put it!
At this time he was also reading widely for he had been asked to prepare an anthology of English verse and The Oxford Book of English Verse was published in 1900. His selection was inevitably a reflection of Q the man as it emphasised his optimistic and positive approach to life.
Naturally enough not everyone agreed with his choices at the time or even since. A.L.Rowse, for example, believed that “ a dark view of life was contrary to Q’s code” and that a defect of the book stemmed from the omission of those poems which did not fit in with Q’s views. However, the quality of this work soon became widely recognised and Q was established in the role of anthologist – an important reminder to the world of literature of the academic qualities of a well known story teller!
A survey of his writing over the next twelve years shows that his prolific output included three other anthologies ( including The Oxford Book of Ballads and The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse) as well as books of essays, poems and children’s stories. This was in addition to his continuing collections of short stories and thirteen novels, ranging widely in topic and style.
Some, like Shining Ferry’s theme of elementary education and the hospital setting of Brother Copas, were an indication of Q’s interest and commitment to social affairs. Other novels used styles which invited comparisons with such authors as Stevenson and Cervantes (SirJohn Constantine being likened to Don Quixote). Nevertheless, it seems that Q could not resist writing about the town he loved and did so in The Mayor of Troy ( dedicated to his friend, Kenneth Grahame) and in the delightfully humorous account of the local regatta in Hocken and Hunken!