Biography – Early Years

Those who were fortunate enough to know this great man in person viewed him with considerable admiration and respect.

No formal story of his life and work could really do him justice but perhaps some of the quotes from a wide variety of sources that follow can help to paint a colourful verbal portrait. This picture of Sir Arthur-Quiller Couch just has to be colourful in order to reflect both his character and somewhat eccentric taste in dress! Fittingly, he was widely known by the informal pen-name of ‘Q’ which he had adopted early in his career.

Q was born in Bodmin on November 21 1863 . His grandfather, Jonathan Couch, was a doctor who practised in Polperro and was well known for his interest in natural science. As his father and two of his uncles also became doctors there was a strong family interest in science and this seems to have been a clear influence on Q’s writing. There are a number of instances where he has used his knowledge of real places for the setting and real people as a basis for  characters in his imaginative stories.             

He first went to school in Devon and then on to Clifton College where A.T. Quiller-Couch is recorded as being a prize winning athlete as well as a scholar who won the annual school prize for the best poem in 1881. In 1882 he left to take up the Classical Scholarship that he had been awarded at Trinity College, Oxford. His four years there as an undergraduate, and a fifth year as a Lecturer, made a deep impression on the young Quiller-Couch, both as a scholar and “on the river” where he was an accomplished oarsman.

For the next six years he lived in London, working for the most part for Cassell, the firm which published his first piece of fiction in 1887 – Dead Man’s Rock. He was badly overworking during that period having taken on the responsibility of paying off sizeable family debts.

However, whenever he could escape from London he visited his future wife in Fowey and his growing love for the place and the people clearly inspired his second novel – The Astonishing History of Troy Town - in 1888. So began the relationship between author and place that became famous worldwide!