Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (Q) - Author and literary critic

Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch - Q
Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch

Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch was born in Bodmin in 1863. He was educated at Newton Abbot College, Clifton College, and Trinity College, Oxford where he later became a lecturer after taking his degree in 1886. He was the grandson of the famous botanist Jonathan Couch.

Whilst at Oxford he published several novels under the pseudonym ‘Q’. Among these were “Dead Man’s Rock”, “Troy Town” and “The Splendid Spur”. He spent a little time as a journalist in London before returning to Cornwall in 1891, and settling in Fowey. In addition to publishing a series of critical articles, he completed Robert Louis Stevenson’s unfinished novel, “St Ives”. He was also known as a writer of excellent verse and a compiler of poetic works, most notably the “Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250-1900”, which appeared in 1900. This book is often quoted by John Mortimer’s “Rumpole of the Bailey”.

Quiller-Couch was an active worker in local politics for the Liberal party. He was also Commodore of the Royal Fowey Yacht Club from 1911 until his death. He was knighted in 1910 and received a professorship of English at Cambridge in 1912. He retained this post for the remainder of his life. He later became Chair of English at the university and oversaw the beginnings of the English Faculty there.

Many of Quiller-Couch’s fictional works have been long neglected but contain a wealth of Cornish folk lore. He was a noted literary critic, and published several volumes of criticism. He died in 1944, leaving his autobiography, “Memories and Opinions”, unfinished. This was published the following year. His novel, “Castle Dor” was also unfinished on Quiller-Couch’s death, and his daughter asked her friend Daphne du Maurier to complete this version of Tristan and Isolde, set in 19th century Cornwall.