Q History

Who was Q?

Arthur Quiller Couch was born in Bodmin in 1863; his father, a medical practitioner, was the son of the famous naturalist Jonathan Couch and his wife Jane Quiller of Polperro. He obtained a classics degree at Oxford, and, after a short period as a lecturer at Trinity College, he went to London to work as a journalist.

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In 1892 he returned to Cornwall to live at Fowey. His writing was first published in the Oxford Magazine, where he used the pseudonym ‘Q’ by which he was always known. He was a prolific writer of novels, short stories, literary criticism, serious and light verse, and children’s books. His style was both classical and individual. As professor of literature at Cambridge from 1912 he lectured in “The Art of Reading” and “The Art of Writing”, stressing always that “literature is not a mere science to be studied, but an art to be practised”.

He was made a County Alderman in 1907, and in 1925 he became Chairman of Cornwall Education Committee. He was knighted in 1910, he received many honorary degrees, and was given the freedom of Bodmin, Fowey and Truro. He had a deep understanding of his county and its people. He was an academic of stature, a man of letters and he was above all a Cornishman.

After Q's death in 1944 the Sir Arthur Quiller Couch Memorial Fund was set up. The Trustees were empowered to make grants to those engaged in local research on literary or allied subjects.

This photograph of Q is reproduced by permission of the Master and Fellows of Jesus College, Cambridge.