Quiller-Couch

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Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (1863-1944) was a writer and anthologist who made a great contribution to the academic study of English Literature. (The second part of his name has the vowel sound '-oo-', 'cootch', IPA: /kuːtʃ/. It is maybe because of the ambiguity with which many people looked at it that he chose to write under the pseudonym 'Q'.) He was appointed the second King Edward VII professor of English literature at Cambridge University in 1912, and in 1917 succeeded in having the subject recognised as meriting a full degree. (The 'English Tripos' came after the Professor who was to be the head of its department.)

As a writer, he was prolific. He wrote many romances, often historical, the first while he was still an undergraduate. Many were set in Cornwall, of which he was a native and which he served in many public ways. He was also a poet. He produced nearly 40 books in his first twenty years as a writer, after the death of his father and his early marriage. This - together with his lack of a first-class degree - led to some academic distrust of, and sneering at, him as an academic; but he also wrote fine academic texts such as On the Art of Writing (1916) and On the Art of Reading (1920), which lay out an old-fashioned view of literature with splendid strength, clarity and elegance. Quiller-Couch had been educated in the classics, and taught while English Literature was establishing iutself as a serious subject: it had not yet developed a strong body of theory.

The modern student or reader is perhaps most likely to come across 'Q' as the editor of a number of anthologies. He produced the first Oxford anthology, The Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250-1900 in 1900. (It was revised in 1939 as The Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250-1918.) This is still listed (March 2008) in OUP's catalogue, although it has been replaced by The Oxford Book of English Verse, edited and introduced by Christopher Ricks (1999) and The New Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250-1950, edited by Helen Gardner (1972).