Monday, November 21

Q and I

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.


Unknown said...

Did you once write a book called Q&I that covered the life of Q.? When and where was that book in print? And when will it be reprinted?
Hope you enjoy the day curled up with books and tea. Some of us have to work for a living. (Is it wrong to covet someone having a day to sit back and read?)

gileskirk said...


The Q and I book was proposed but never written--no publishers ever want the books I actually desire to write. Nobody wants my Chalmers material either.

I did compile a Q anthology for my Bannockburn students a few years ago. But, it was just xeroxes bound together at a Kinko's.

And yes, it is wrong to covet--especially when I only get a day off once in a blue moon these days!

Unknown said...

When I covet your days off reading in that comfortable chair, the hope is that you get two such days, but that I get at least one.
Surely at some point, there will be a market among us Classical Christian School types and Reformed types and George Grant fans for the Quiller-Couch and the Chalmers books. If the publishers don't want those, I guess I better forget my plans for doing the GEORGE GRANT READER containing all your best selections.


Dr. Knox said...

What books by Q are still in print? Where do you suggest we start reading?

gileskirk said...


I'd think that the idea of a "reader" is still a long, long, long way off.

Dr. Knox: Sadly, none of Q's books are still in print. But, they are fairly easily found and still quite inexpensive in the antiquarian bookstore network. Try searching for them on

John Jackson said...

We've never met Mr. Grant, but I just wanted to let you know sir that I'm a history major in a large part because of you.