Biography – Family Man

Throughout, Q was a real family man and always fully acknowledged how much he owed to the support of his wife, the girl with whom he had fallen in love as a teenager!  At The Haven, Lady Quiller Couch was the hostess for a stream of visitors to Fowey, attracted by both the place and Q’s personality. Kenneth Grahame was an early friend and got married in Fowey, later describing the town through the words of the Sea Rat in The Wind in the Willows: “the little grey sea town that clings along one steep side of the harbour”.

Another longstanding friend was J.M.Barrie. Regularly involved in Q’s literary career, he was also very close to the whole family. It is known that he particularly enjoyed being with Q’s young son, Bevil, and took a special interest in his subsequent career at Oxford. Like his father before him, Bevil was a distinguished oarsman.  Barrie’s links with the family were even more strengthened when he later became godfather to Q’s daughter, Foy      Felicia.

Having been in the Officers’ Training Corps at Oxford, Bevil was called up for active  service as a second lieutenant in the Royal Artillery in 1914. Knowing that his son had been wounded when involved in some of the major campaigns in France, this was a very worrying time for the loving father with only Bevil’s occasional periods of leave to look forward to. His relief after the signing of the Armistice was sadly only short lived because Bevil died in Germany after a short illness in February 1919.

This was a terrible blow to Q and the whole family. The painful memories of this loss stayed with him for the rest of his life.

He almost ceased to write any fiction at that stage and his planned novel, Castle d’Or, was left untouched for years. This was his story of the prehistoric earthwork near Fowey which was believed to have associations with the legend of Tristan and Iseult. It was not until 1959, many years after Q’s death, that his daughter Foy found the unfinished manuscript among his papers  and persuaded her close friend, Daphne du Maurier, to complete the story. It was published in 1962 with a slight change of title to Castle Dor.

Daphne du Maurier came to live in Fowey in 1929 and was soon a close friend of Q and his family. Q both encouraged and guided the aspiring young author. His influence on her work has been recognised by many critics as he always expected her to seek excellence, stressing the need for ‘quality’ rather than simply ‘content’ in her writing.  Like A.L.Rowse, Daphne saw Q as her mentor and the three of very different backgrounds, ages, styles and interests became good friends.

Although Q did produce less literature in the 1920s and 1930s, his output was still formidable,even though he was having to cope with problems affecting his eyesight.  His remarkable range of style and content can be seen by the publication in 1924/1925 of two of his  anthologies,The Children’s Bible and The Little Children’s Bible, as well as The Oxford Book of English Prose!