Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, fondly known simply as "Q," was born in Bodmin, Cornwall on this day in 1863. According to most accounts his greatest accomplishments was the compilation of The Oxford Book of English Verse 1250-1900. Certainly, that was a remarkable feat. That single volume is practically a "classical education in a box."
But, because he was a popular lecturer in English Literature and Classics first at Oxford and then for much of his later life at Cambridge, he became the reading and writing mentor to an extraordinary generation of creative geniuses. We can thank Q for guiding the imaginations--and the skills--of such iconic figures as C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Dorothy Sayers, T.S. Eliot, and Evelyn Waugh.
I've been reading Q for years--ever since I was introduced to him by Helene Hampf's marvelous book 84 Charing Cross Road and its sequels. I love his novels about his beloved hometown in Cornwall. I am constantly wowed by his collections of literary criticism. His poetry is stunning. Indeed, I collect anything and everything that I can by him. And that is no mean feat--he wrote more than 100 volumes including the brilliant On the Art of Reading, On the Art of Writing, Studies in Literature, and Shakespeare's Workmanship.
I am celebrating Q's birthday today by reveling in this master of the Mother Tongue. It is cold and rainy and dreary--the sort of day C.S. Lewis recommended for curling up in an overstuffed leather chair with a big cup of tea and a stack of books beside. I'm going to read. I'm going to read Q.