World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Arthur Quiller-Couch

Arthur Quiller-Couch
Born Arthur Thomas Quiller Couch[1]
(1863-11-21)21 November 1863
Bodmin, Cornwall, United Kingdom
Died 12 May 1944(1944-05-12) (aged 80)
Cornwall, United Kingdom
Pen name Q
Occupation Poet, novelist, critic
Language English
Nationality British
Ethnicity Cornish
Education Newton Abbot College
Clifton College
Alma mater Trinity College, Oxford
Notable works Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250–1900
Notable awards Knight Bachelor (1910)
Bard of Gorseth Kernow (1928)


Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch (; 21 November 1863 – 12 May 1944) was a British writer who published using the pseudonym Q. Although a prolific novelist, he is remembered mainly for the monumental publication The Oxford Book Of English Verse 1250–1900 (later extended to 1918) and for his literary criticism. He influenced many who never met him, including American writer Helene Hanff, author of 84, Charing Cross Road and its sequel, Q's Legacy;[2] and the fictional Horace Rumpole.


  • Life 1
  • Literary and academic career 2
  • Legacy 3
  • Works 4
    • Fiction 4.1
    • Verse 4.2
    • Criticism and anthologies 4.3
    • Autobiography 4.4
  • References 5
  • Sources 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8


Memorial in Truro Cathedral

Quiller-Couch was born in the town of Bodmin, Cornwall, by the union of two ancient local families, the Quiller family and the Couch family,[3][4] and was the third in a line of intellectuals from the Couch family. His younger sisters Florence Mabel and Lilian M. were also writers and folklorists.[5][6] His father, Dr. Thomas Quiller Couch (d. 1884), was a noted physician, folklorist and historian.[6][7] He married Mary Ford and lived at 63, Fore Street, Bodmin, until his death in 1884.[8] His grandfather, Jonathan Couch, was an eminent naturalist, also a physician, historian, classicist, apothecary, and illustrator (particularly of fish).[9] His son, Bevil Brian Quiller-Couch, was a war hero and poet, whose romantic letters to his fiancée, the poet May Wedderburn Cannan, were published in Tears of War.[10] He also had a daughter, Foy Felicia, to whom Kenneth Grahame inscribed a first edition of his The Wind in the Willows attributing Quiller-Couch as the inspiration for the character Ratty.[11]

He was educated at Newton Abbot Preparatory College, at Clifton College, and Trinity College, Oxford, and later became a lecturer there. After being granted his degree in 1886 he was for a brief time classical lecturer at Trinity. After some journalistic experience in London, mainly as a contributor to the Speaker, he settled in 1891 at Fowey in Cornwall.

In Cornwall he was an active political worker for the Liberal Party. He was knighted in 1910, and in 1928 was made a Bard of the Cornish cultural society Gorseth Kernow, adopting the Bardic name Marghak Cough ('Red Knight'). He was Commodore of the Royal Fowey Yacht Club from 1911 until his death.

Quiller-Couch died in a road accident in May 1944 after being hit by a jeep near his home in Cornwall. He is buried in Fowey's parish church of St. Fimbarrus.[12]

Literary and academic career

A handwritten letter from Quiller-Couch to Siegfried Sassoon, about the possibility of Quiller-Couch writing for The Daily Herald.
Sir Arthur T. Quiller-Couch Monument, Fowey

In 1887, while he was attending Oxford, he published Dead Man's Rock, a romance in the style of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, and later Troy Town (1888), a comic novel set in a fictionalised version of his home town Fowey, and The Splendid Spur (1889). Quiller-Couch was well known for his story "The Rollcall of the Reef", based on the wreck of HMS Primrose during 1809 on the Cornish coast. He published during 1896 a series of critical articles, Adventures in Criticism, and in 1898 he published a completion of Robert Louis Stevenson’s unfinished novel, St. Ives.

From his Oxford time he was known as a writer of excellent verse. With the exception of the parodies entitled Green Bays (1893), his poetical work is contained in Poems and Ballads (1896). In 1895 he published an anthology from the 16th- and 17th-century English lyricists, The Golden Pomp, followed in 1900 by the Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250–1900.[13] Later editions of this extended the period of concern to 1918 and it remained the leading general anthology of English verse until Helen Gardner's New Oxford Book of English Verse appeared in 1972.[14]

In 1910 he published The Sleeping Beauty and other Fairy Tales from the Old French. He was the author of a number of popular novels with Cornish settings (collected edition as 'Tales and Romances', 30 vols. 1928–29).

He was appointed to the King Edward VII Professorship of English Literature at the University of Cambridge in 1912, and retained it for the rest of his life. Simultaneously he was elected to a Fellowship of Jesus College, which he held until his death. His inaugural lectures as the professor of English literature were published as the book On the Art of Writing. His rooms were on staircase C, First Court, and known as the 'Q-bicle'. He supervised the beginnings of the English Faculty there — an academic diplomat in a fractious community. He is sometimes regarded as the epitome of the school of English literary criticism later overthrown by F. R. Leavis.[15]

Alistair Cooke was a notable student of Quiller-Couch and Nick Clarke's semi-official biography of Cooke features Quiller-Couch prominently, noting that he was regarded by the Cambridge establishment as "rather eccentric" even by the university's standards.

Quiller-Couch was a noted literary critic, publishing editions of some of Shakespeare's plays (in the New Shakespeare, published by Cambridge University Press, with Dover Wilson) and several critical works, including Studies in Literature (1918) and On the Art of Reading (1920). He edited a successor to his verse anthology: Oxford Book of English Prose, which was published in 1923. He left his autobiography, Memories and Opinions, unfinished; it was nevertheless published in 1945.


His Book of English Verse is often quoted by John Mortimer's fictional character Horace Rumpole.

Castle Dor, a re-telling of the Tristan and Iseult myth in modern circumstances, was left unfinished at Quiller-Couch's death and was completed many years later by Daphne du Maurier. As she wrote in the Sunday Telegraph on April 1962, she began the job with considerable trepidation, at the request of Quiller-Couch's daughter and "in memory of happy evenings long ago when 'Q' was host at Sunday supper".[16]

He features as a main character, played by Leo McKern, in the 1992 BBC television feature The Last Romantics.[17] The story focuses on his relationship with his protégé, F. R. Leavis, and the students.

His Cambridge inaugural lecture series, published as On the Art of Writing, is the source of the popular writers' adage "murder your darlings".[18]

He is mentioned briefly in The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde as one of the few authors with a name beginning with the letter "Q".



  • Dead Man's Rock (1887)
  • Troy Town (1888)
  • The Splendid Spur (1889)
  • The Blue Pavilions (1891)
  • St Ives (1898), completing an unfinished novel by Robert Louis Stevenson.
  • Noughts and Crosses: Stories Studies and Sketches (1898)
  • The Ship of Stars (1899)
  • The Westcotes (1902)
  • Hetty Wesley (1903) (This was based on the life of the poet Mehetabel Wesley Wright)[19]
  • The Adventures of Harry Revel (1903)
  • Fort Amity (1904)
  • The Shining Ferry (1905)
  • The Mayor of Troy (1906)
  • Sir John Constantine (1906)
  • Poison Island (1907)
  • True Tilda (1909)

A collected edition of Q's fiction appeared as Tales and Romances (30 volumes, 1928–29).


  • Green Bays (1893)
  • Poems and Ballads (1896)

Criticism and anthologies

  • The Golden Pomp, a procession of English lyrics from Surrey to Shirley (1895)
  • Adventures in Criticism (1896)
  • Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250–1900 also online (1900)
  • From a Cornish Window (1906)
  • English Sonnets (1910)
  • The Sleeping Beauty and other Fairy Tales from the Old French (1910)
  • The Oxford Book of Ballads (1911)
  • In Powder and Crinoline: Old Fairy Tales Retold (1913)
  • On the Art of Writing (1916)
  • Notes on Shakespeare's Workmanship (1917)
  • Studies in Literature First Series and Second Series (1918)
  • On the Art of Reading (1920)
  • The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse (1922)
  • Oxford Book of English Prose (1923)


  • Memories and Opinions (unfinished, published 1945)


  1. ^ Brittain, Frederick, Arthur Quiller-Couch, a Biographical Study of Q. Cambridge: University Press, 1947; p. 3: "he did not adopt the hyphen until 1889"
  2. ^ Hanff, Helene (5 August 1986). Q's Legacy. London: Penguin Books Ltd. p. 177.  
  3. ^ Johns, Jeremy Rowett (2000). "The QUILLER family of Polperro". Polperro Heritage Museum. Retrieved 2 March 2012. 
  4. ^ Johns, Jeremy Rowett (2000). "The COUCH family of Polperro". Polperro Heritage Museum. Retrieved 2 March 2012. 
  5. ^ Somerville, Christopher (5 November 2006). "Well founded belief in the magic of water" (newspaper). The Age (Melbourne) (5 November 2006). Retrieved 3 March 2012. 
  6. ^ a b Quiller-Couch, Mabel; Quiller-Couch, Lilian (2009) [1894]. Ancient And Holy Wells Of Cornwall. Tamara Publications.  
  7. ^ Royal Institution of Cornwall (23 November 1864). "Antiquarian and Literary Intelligence". The Gentleman's Magazine and Historical Review (London: John Henry and James Parker) 216 (January–June, 1864): 68. Retrieved 3 March 2012. 
  8. ^ Brittain (1947), p. 2
  9. ^ Couch, Bertha (1891). Life of Jonathan Couch, F.L.S., Etc., of Polperro, The Cornish Ichthyologist. Liskeard: John Philp. p. 160. 
  10. ^ Cannan, May (November 2002). "Tears of War:The Story of a Young Poet and a War Hero". Cavalier Books. 
  11. ^ Auctioned by  
  12. ^ "Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch - Find a Grave". Retrieved 29 November 2013. 
  13. ^ Of the original edition nearly half a million copies were issued, according to the introduction to the NOBEV, 1972. The extended edition appeared in 1939; NOBEV, p. v. In 1939 the content was revised: about 40 poems were then omitted from the first three-quarters of the book and about 40 others added; in the rest about 70 poems were added and roughly the same number omitted; more poems were added to represent the first 18 years of the 20th century; NOBEV, p. v.
  14. ^ Woodcock, George (Winter 1974). "Old and New Oxford Books: The Idea of an Anthology". The Sewanee Review (The Johns Hopkins University Press) 82 (1): 119–130. Retrieved 3 December 2013. 
  15. ^ Eagleton, Terry (1983). Literary Theory. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. p. 30.   Terry Eagleton contrasts the "patrician dilettantes" and "devotees of Sir Arthur Quiller Couch" [sic, no hyphen], with the "offspring of the provincial bourgeoisie" ... "entering the traditional universities for the first time". The Leavisites, says Eagleton, had not "suffered the crippling disadvantages of a purely literary education of the Quiller Couch kind".
  16. ^ du Maurier, Daphne; Quiller-Couch, Arthur, Sir (1979) [1962]. "Sunday Telegraph article published as introduction". Castle Dor (1979 ed.). 
  17. ^ Screen Two" The Last Romantics (TV episode 1992) – IMDb""". Retrieved 3 March 2012. A semi-fictionalized account of the life of writer F.R. Leavis, his mentor Arthur Quiller Couch, and Leavis's own students at Cambridge University. 
  18. ^ Quiller-Couch, Arthur, Sir (28 January 1914) [1916]. "XII. On Style". On the Art of Writing: Lectures Delivered in the University of Cambridge, 1913–1914. London: Cambridge University Press. Chapter 12, Paragraph 6.  
  19. ^ Richard Greene, ‘Wright , Mehetabel (1697–1750)’, rev. William R. Jones, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, January 2009 accessed 16 February 2015


  • Brittain, Frederick, Arthur Quiller-Couch, a Biographical Study of Q (Cambridge: University Press, 1947)
  • Quiller-Couch, A. T., Memories and Opinions (Unfinished; it was nevertheless published in 1945 though only the years up to 1887 are covered.)
  • Rowse, A. L., Quiller-Couch: a Portrait of "Q" (1988)

Further reading

  • Archer, William (1902). "A.T. Quiller-Cough." In: Poets of the Younger Generation. New York: John Lane, the Bodley Head, pp. 94–104.
  • Joshi, S.T. (2004). "Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch': Ghosts and Scholars". In: The Evolution of the Weird Tale. New York: Hippocampus Press, pp. 49–52.
  • Mais, S.P.B. (1920). "'Q' as Critic." In: Books and their Writers. London: Grant Richards, pp. 200–230.

External links

  • Works by Arthur Quiller-Couch at Project Gutenberg
  • Works by or about Arthur Quiller-Couch at Internet Archive
  • Works by Arthur Quiller-Couch at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
  • On the Art of Writing
  • Arthur Quiller-Couch at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
  • The Warwickshire Avon by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch New York : Harper & Bros.
  • Archival material relating to Arthur Quiller-Couch listed at the UK National Archives
  • 'Quiller-Couch Family Papers' at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.
  • 'Quiller-Couch', dedicated website
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.