Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch

Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch


The secretive Q

A famous Cornish author and historian who published his fiction under the pseudonym 'Q'.

Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch was born in Bodmin on 21st November 1863. His father, Thomas Quiller Couch, was a Cornish physician, his mother Mary came from Devon. His sisters Florence Mabel and Lillian would also become writers.

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 Dr Jonathan Couch.

While he was at Oxford he published his Dead Man's Rock in 1887 (a romance in the vein of Stevenson's Treasure Island), and he followed this with Troy Town in 1888 and The Splendid Spur in 1889.

He spent a little time as a journalist in London. On 22nd August 1889, he married Louisa Amelia Hicks of Fowey, with whom he would have two children. They returned to a harbour-side house in Fowey in 1892. 'The Haven', the house where Sir Arthur Quiller Couch lived was just above an oddly shaped metal lighthouse beside the river and where the ferry to Polruan leaves during the summer months.

Fowey town and the harbour featured in many of his novels under the name of 'Troy'. There he remained settled for more than 50 years, writing more than sixty books, including novels, short stories, literary criticism and poetry. Not least among his achievements was editing "Oxford Book of English Verse", which appeared in 1900.

He was knighted in 1910, and was appointed Professor of English Literature at Cambridge University two years later, where he had helped to establish the undergraduate study of English literature. 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. He was elected mayor of Fowey in 1937.

His son Bevil also went to Oxford and went on to be an artillery office, during World War I. He died in Germany during the great flu epidemic of 1919. His daughter Foy would become friends with Daphne Du Maurier, whom she asked to posthumously finish and publish Q's Castle D'Or, a tale where the legendary Tristan and Iseult are transplanted to Cornwall.

He died on 12th May 1944 at Fowey, from cancer of the mouth., and was buried there, leaving his autobiography, "Memories and Opinions", unfinished. This was published the following year.

His later novels include:

* The Blue Pavilions (1891)
* The Ship of Stars (1899)
* Hetty Wesley (1903)
* The Adventures of Harry Revel (1903)
* Fort Amity (1904)
* The Shining Ferry (1905)
* Sir John Constantine (1906)

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