Fowey Harbour Heritage Society

After the successful two-year Fowey Harbour Heritage Project, this very active Society is following with a programme aiming to encourage people to learn more about the heritage of the area. Talks, creating resources – such as audio-trails and school curriculum packs – and guided walks are all used to develop a wider appreciation of the local heritage. One major topic is Fowey’s ‘Literary Heritage’ and four authors are given prominence – Q, Daphne du Maurier, Leo Walmsley and Kenneth Grahame.


Pin-a Tale: a British Library project:

This project has set out to create ‘A Map of British Literature’ and a look at its website will show you how it is growing in practice. People are invited to offer a short account of their chosen piece of work, emphasising the way in which the author has captured the spirit of the place and what it means to them as a person.

The Fowey area is already well represented. You can see that I have put my contribution on the map – Q and The Astonishing History of Troy Town: Others have identified works by Leo Walmsley at Pont,   Daphne du Maurier in Tywardreath and Jack Clemo in the ‘clay country’


New Publications

Anthony Gibson: With Magic in My Eyes :West Country Literary Landscapes  (Fairfield Books of Bath: 2011): pages 112-124.

This section presents an interesting picture of Q and the way in which he created stories which had a clear link with the people and the landscape of the region

New Publications

We are working with Clive Boutle (Francis Boutle Publishers) to produce two new books.

1: Towards Troy: An Arthur Quiller-Couch Reader: Selected and edited by Alan Kent in cooperation with Gerry Hones and Andrew Symons.

Planned sections include the following:

  • Poetry – Short Stories – Selections from Novels – Drama – Essays and Criticism – Journalism –  Lectures and Letters – Maritime life – Friends and relatives – View from a Cornish Window

2:  Views on Q: Selected and edited by Gerry Hones and Andrew Symons.

This collection has grown in size and variety and may require the imposition of size limitations. Some contributions are complete originals – including some specially written for this publication – while  others are selections from such longer works as his two biographies.

In his Preface, “My Debt to Q”, Professor Charles Thomas draws on the links between his family and that of Quiller-Couch, a very personal tribute to his great friend.

Brittain’s biographical study of 1947 was the view of a Jesus College contemporary and close friend while A.LRowse dedicated his 1988 “portrait of Q’ to Daphne du Maurier – ‘in common admiration for our old mentor and friend”.

Many other personal ’views’, reflecting both admiration and respect are notable for the way in which they show real affection. Isaac Foot from the world of politics and the drama critic, J.C. Trewin, were long standing friends – but the comments of an anonymous Cambridge undergraduate which recall “after-dinner discussions” with Q in 1923 are equally warm.

Adrian Barlow, Piers Brendon and Basil Willey  consider the effect of such books by Q as The Art of Writing and his leadership in the development of English literature, firstly at Cambridge and then in the wider context. In his biography, Nick Clarke records how Alistair Cooke chose to be a Jesus College undergraduate in order to be with Q, the man whose writings had so “impressed him”.

Writers Nina Bawden , Helen Hanff and Daphne du Maurier acknowledge the important influence of Q early in their careers while Ian Carter highlights the way in which Q’s elegaic style had a major impact on many Victorian novels.

Q’s major contribution to life in Cornwall in general is also well documented. Alan Kent pays tribute to his importance in Cornish literature, David Fryer looks at his involvement over many decades in the field of education while Philip Payton records Q’s constant interest in such broad social issues as ‘cultural identity’ and the effects of a growth of tourism.

The well known importance of Fowey in Q’s life is naturally mentioned in Helen Doe’s focus on his love of the sea. His involvement in the life of the town and the way in which it complement[1] ed his university activities is clearly represented in the BBC radio discussion recorded in 1958, with a title “Scholar among Gentlemen and Gentleman among Scholars”. The memories of his Cambridge colleagues integrate well with the stories of his social life in Fowey as told by some of the people of the town.

Both Simon Naylor and Andrew Symons draw attention to the way in which aspects of Q’s family background especially, the scientific element, have an effect on Q’s writing.

Two recently added contributions are very different in style. Helen Macdonald’s podcast ,“ Why I Really Like This Book”, offers a fresh contemporary look at Q’s writing. Christopher Pittard’s ‘Time. Space and Psychgeography in Castle Dor’ analyses the ways in which both Q and du Maurier used landscape as the setting for their story, showing how authors can develop the concept of ‘place’ over ‘time’

Views on Q

This is the draft title of an eclectic collection of resources currently being prepared for publication. The selected passages cover a wide range of topics which were written at different times over the last 120 years, providing many interesting viewpoints –  on Q as a person, tutor, writer, anthologist and critic.

It is intended that some items will be from such contemporaries as Frederick  Brittain, Hugh Davies , A L Rowse, J C Trewin  and Isaac Foot,  while a number of others will  have been written more recently covering a range of topics.

Some consider Q’s continued influence on English literature, both through his fiction and such books as ‘The Art of Writing’, while others examine his involvement in a wide range of aspects of life in Cornwall and how he saw its future development  – for example, in education and tourism.

Serialisation and Short Stories

Q left his lecturing post at the University of Oxford to live and work in London in 1887. He once stated that he felt his future lay in being a writer and it was later clear that, in fact, he needed to earn more in order to pay off considerable family debts. His first novel, Dead Man’s Rock, had just been published by Cassell and was a great success but, as well as continuing to write his novels, he was also writing for Cassell’s new weekly paper, The Speaker. He clearly found that, as a writer during the latter part of the nineteenth century, an important outlet lay in the periodicals of the day. He later published some of these ‘short papers’, as he later called them, with minor changes in his first critical work Adventures Criticism (1887).

In addition to The Speaker, Q’s short stories appeared in a wide range of periodicals –   including The Illustrated London News, Yule Tide, Lloyds Weekly News,The Weekly Dispatch, The Graphic, The Pall Mall, The Strand, Cassell’s Monthly, The Cornhill and others. Many are listed* in the Guides to Victorian Fiction referred to below.

He was writing prolifically and the pressure of overwork led to his illness in 1891 and the consequent family move to Fowey, his home for the rest of his life.

In 1906 he published many of his contributions to The Pall Mall Magazine in From a Cornish Window. In this year’s diary there were essays of literary criticism, light verse and comments on a wide range of contemporary affairs, which together gave an interesting ‘picture’ of Q as a person.

Noughts and Crosses (1891) was the first of his volumes of short stories, most of which had appeared in The Speaker. Collections of stories reprinted from other periodicals followed, starting in 1892 with I Saw Three Ships, and Other Winter’s Tales.

It is not difficult to realise why he was soon accorded such a high position among   English short-story writers. With an incredible imagination and great technical ability, stories apparently poured off the famous pen with which he wrote everything. They ranged across a wide variety of setting, style and character study – history, romance, mystery, sadness, dialect, ghosts and humour were all used by Q. Inevitably, many were based in his beloved Cornwall while others were set far away – but always with a realistic portrayal of the ‘place’   involved.

*The Victorian Fiction Research Unit (School of English, Media Studies and Art History at The University of Queensland) publishes indexes to fiction and Guide 29 ( compiled by Graham Law) covers The Illustrated London News (1842-1901) and The Graphic  (1869-1901).

New Resources

DVD: Q – A Great Cornishman’;

This DVD was commissioned by the Trustees of a the Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch Memorial Fund and was produced in 2008 with the support of the Cornwall Council’s Media Team.

The DVD includes:
(i)  brief coverage of the work of the Q Fund
(ii)  a film about Q’s life and contribution to Cornwall (32 minutes)
(iii)  Additional Resources including interviews with Professor Charles Thomas, A.L.Rowse (in 1987 & 1996) and others who knew Q in Fowey.
(iv)  Archive Resources including a very comprehensive bibliography and a list of other resources related to Q’s life.

Available from bookshops – costing £9.99.

ambridge University Press announced the reissue of some early Q publications with the following introduction.

Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (1863–1944), who often published under the pen-name of ‘Q’, was one of the giants of early twentieth-century literature and literary criticism. A novelist and poet who was also a Professor of English, he helped to form the literary tastes of generations of literary students and scholars who came after him. The freshness, enthusiasm and intellectual insight of his work is still evident in his writings nearly a century on. Cambridge University Press is delighted to reissue some of his key texts in this set.

The complete set costs £175 while all 11 volumes (listed below) are available separately.

Volume 1: Studies in Literature; Volume 2: Poet as Citizen and Other Papers; Volume 3. Memories and Opinions; Volume 4:Studies in Literature; Volume 5: Studies in Literature; Volume 6: Adventures in Criticism; Volume 7: From a Cornish Window; Volume 8: Charles Dickens Other Victorians; Volume 9: Shakespeare’s Workmanship; Volume 10: On the Art of Writing; Volume 11: On the Art of Reading