Biography 1889-1895

Much later he recorded his early impressions of the harbour when he stayed in Fowey while still a Clifton schoolboy.

That night before undressing I stood long and gazed at the harbour, the track of the moon on its water, the riding lights of two or three small schooners at anchor in the shadow of the farther shore, and decided that this were no bad place in which to live. And that is all I need to say here of my first acquaintance with the… lower reaches of an estuary the tides of which time has since woven so close into the pulse of my own   life that memory cannot now separate the rhythms. (Memories and Opinions p. 66])

1889 was another very influential year in his life. His third novel – The Splendid Spur –  was published by Cassell and this adventure story  of the Civil War showed another aspect of Q’s incredible versatility as a writer. It has been a favourite with the reading public ever since and the renowned Cornish historian, A.L.Rowse, later wrote in his biography of an old friend;

“I fell in love with this book at my elementary school at Carclaze at the age of nine..and much has remained in my head over seventy years”.  (Quiller Couch: A Portrait of ’Q’: 1988 p.42)

Success was beckoning and on August 22nd he married his love from Fowey, Louisa Amelia Hicks, in the town’s lovely old St. Fimbarrus Church. For two years they lived in London but continued overwork led to Q suffering a breakdown and medical advice resulted in his moving to Fowey. By the summer of 1892 they were renting The Haven, the house which he later bought and was his home for the rest of his life.  Most importantly, he was there able to work in the house where he claimed to be able to wake up each day to breathe clean air, to the sound and smell of the sea!

Q’s health immediately began to improve and by the end of 1893 he felt that he was back in full flow!  It was the start of a prolific period of writing, including Green Bays [1893] a book of light verse, the more serious Poems and Ballads (1929) and a major anthology, The Golden Pomp, subtitled  A Procession of English Lyrics from Surrey to Shirley!

The immensity of his output was matched by the way in which he showed his mastery of a variety of skills and styles. What was seen as his first critical work, Adventures in Criticism [1895],  appeared soon after one of his delightful collections of short stories, The Delectable Duchy  (1893), while another collection in Wandering Heath  was also published at that time.