Daphne du Maurier wrote to her friend Foy Quiller-Couch, daughter of Q, regarding her engagement to Major Frederick Browning of the Grenadier Guards:
'Tommy and I are going to be married. When I am not sure, probably early one morning in Lanteglos church before any one is awake, with the grave digger as a witness . . . Your father (unwittingly!) pushed me a step further in the right direction when he spoke to me last week about the code of living, and a standard, and that marriage and children meant more in life than all the novels and successes ever written.'
His wife and children were everything to Q but he also had a strong sense of wider family obligations and, after his rapid rise to prominence, and certainly after his knighthood, was tacitly acknowledged as the representative and titular head of the Couch family. The aim of this study is to explore Q's relationship with his family and illuminate some of the less well-known members of it.
Family responsibilities devolved upon Q rather earlier in life than was either expected or desirable. On the death of his father, Dr Thomas Quiller Couch, in 1884, when Q was 22, the family was found to be heavily in debt. Q’s maternal grandfather, Elias Ford, helped financially at first, enabling Q to continue at Oxford, but then suffered financial reverses himself and there were Q’s mother and four younger siblings to be provided for. The youngest, Cyril, was only seven years old. A.L. Rowse states 'The young Q. manfully picked up the pieces, sold his father’s collection of Cornish relics and most of his library, and with the proceeds settled the family in a house in Oxford.' It was typical of Q’s chivalrous nature and 'code of living' that he took on his shoulders the burden of being head of the household and made it a point of honour to spend the next years struggling not only to maintain the family but also to clear his father's debts. It would no doubt have been painful, in any case, for the family to have continued to live in Bodmin under reduced circumstances, where they were known and respected and had been used to a certain standard of living. As it was, living in Oxford enabled them to make ends meet by taking in undergraduate lodgers. The 1891 census states that the family were living at 21, St Margaret's Road, Oxford, in the parish of St Giles (Rowse has them at number 26), together with two boarders 'Hammond Doherty, married, 29, living on own means, born London, Mayfair' and 'Francis J. Robinson, single, scholar, born Berks., Wootten.' Also living with the family was a servant, Eliza F. Pursell, born in Stonehouse, Devon, who had come with them from Bodmin and who was to remain with the family for many years.
According to Rowse, Q had originally set his sights on a different house for the family but the rent was too high. As it was, St Margaret's Road was a nice, middle-class neighbourhood and Q’s mother was 'quite taken' with Oxford. They had for near neighbours John Hughes, Keeper of the Sheldonian Theatre; George Bliss, Vicar of Kennington; a private tutor of classics; and, next door, a widow with a son who was a school tutor, a daughter who was a private teacher, and another daughter who was a school secretary.
Already in 1891, Lilian’s occupation was described as 'literary' (Mabel was staying with Elias Ford, her maternal grandfather, in Newton Abbot at the time of the census) and both sisters had started writing in order to make a living, although inevitably, the running of the household and trying to keep their impulsive, extravagant mother from running up further debt was also their lot. Mabel and Lilian's literary careers are the subject of a separate study, so the details in this study are brief.
In 1891, they undertook to complete the research for Ancient and Holy Wells of Cornwall, begun by Thomas Quiller Couch. This involved a trip to about 90 sites in Cornwall to verify the condition of the relics and collect details of any associated legends and rituals. The dates mentioned suggest that these visits took place in June and July of 1891, during the long vacation when no doubt their boarders would have gone home. A photograph taken at St Mellor's Well, Linkinhorne shows a young woman, in all likelihood either Mabel or Lilian, sitting by the well with an old gentleman and a youth, who are most probably grandfather Ford and Harold. This work was published in 1894, Lilian having already published Reminiscences of Oxford by Oxford Men 1559–1850 in 1892. By the time of their mother’s death in October 1899, the sisters were already established as journalists, writing short stories regularly for various periodicals; Lilian had had two novels published (The Spanish Maid and The Marble King: A Mystery) and Mabel a collection of short stories and also books for children.
Very soon after the death of Mrs Quiller Couch, the sisters moved to 16, Downshire Hill, Hampstead, London, where they thrived in the literary, intellectual and artistic ambiance, with the Heath to remind them of their beloved moors. In 1910 Lilian married John Hay Lobban, lecturer in English Literature at Birkbeck College, University of London, later Professor of Literature, and moved to a house opposite Mabel. They continued their success as journalists, produced an anthology of children’s verse together and Mabel gained a reputation for her delightful children’s stories. From 1917 until her death in 1924, Mabel lived with the Lobbans at number 37 Downshire Hill. After John Hay Lobban retired, in 1936, he and Lilian moved to Great Chesterford, Essex where he died in 1939 and she in 1942. Q continued to support his sisters financially, when his means allowed, until Mabel’s death. He remained very close to his sisters and was a regular correspondent.
The move to Oxford also enabled Q to provide a decent education for his brothers. Before the move to Oxford, Harold already attended the Mannamead School in Plymouth. This was probably chosen for the convenient location between Bodmin and Newton Abbot, and for its excellent reputation, and fees were probably a consideration. Also, the precocious Q would have been a hard act to follow for a younger brother had Harold been enrolled at Newton Abbot College. In 1887, two applications were made on Cyril’s behalf for entry to the Royal Masonic Institution for Boys, in Wood Green, London, which took boys from seven to 15 years of age. This would have given him board and clothing and a 'sound commercial education', including a knowledge of French and German, classics and mathematics. Entry was by election by the subscribers and competition was fierce, there being a limited number of places. In September 1887, Cyril gained 258 votes but in spite of Thomas Quiller Couch having been a member of the One and All Lodge, Bodmin, for 23 years and at one time Worshipful Master, Cyril did not gain a place. Harold was already too old at 15 (Freemason’s Chronicle vol. XXVI No. 663 24 September 1887 'October Election to the Boy's School.'). Instead, Harold and Cyril were enrolled in the City of Oxford High School for Boys which had been founded in 1881 by Thomas Hill Green to provide an education for Oxford boys which would enable them to prepare for university. A plaque on the front of the old school building encapsulates Thomas Hill Green’s ideal:
'Thomas Hill Green (1832-1882), Educationalist, Fellow of Balliol, White's Professor of Moral Philosophy. Elected (1876) first university member of Oxford City Council to help found and establish the High School for Boys (1881–1966), thereby completing the city’s "Ladder of Learning" from Elementary school to university—a project dearest to his heart. Thus were united town and gown in common cause.'
The foundation stone had been laid by Prince Leopold, youngest son of Queen Victoria, in 1880 and the school opened in 1881 with 47 pupils under headmaster Arthur Pollard, who was succeeded from 1888–1925 by Arthur Cave. The school took pupils from the age of eight (at which age T.E. Lawrence entered in 1896). Harold and Cyril would have received an excellent academic education with the possibility of winning scholarships to enable them to continue their education at university, and the school owned playing fields in North Oxford so there would have been the opportunity for sporting prowess as well.
It is not clear what went wrong with Q's relationship with Harold and Cyril. Q is very discreet about the matter. Rowse quotes him 'Thence my brothers attended the Oxford High School as day-boys before going their ways in life.' Rowse states 'This sounds pretty dismissive—one has never heard of them since.' Later, he says of Harold and Cyril 'without talent, they came to nothing and one of them went to the bad. We hear no more of them, never mentioned in a family so bent on keeping up appearances or (to put it kindly) standards.' Probably Harold and Cyril suffered from the lack of a father figure at a crucial stage in their development. Mrs Quiller Couch is portrayed as being extravagant and impulsive. Q would have been an excellent example but he was busy with his lectureship and writing and by 1887 had moved to London to work for Cassell’s. In 1889 he was married and by 1890 had a child of his own. Early in the 1890s the accumulated strains led to him having a nervous breakdown and he moved permanently to Fowey.
Harold, in any case, if he did not fulfil his family's expectations, seemed to have led a blameless existence and was certainly not without talent. He died on 22 April 1950, at 7, Mexico Cottages, Phillack, Hayle, Cornwall, where he had lived since his retirement in 1936, with his beloved second wife, Evelyn. He is described in a couple of brief obituaries as having been a 'noted athlete.' This was probably in his school days. Mannamead School, situated in Seymour Road in an affluent leafy suburb of Plymouth, had been founded in 1854 by Dr Peter Holmes, previously the very successful headmaster of Plymouth Grammar School. The school had about 110 pupils and advertised itself as being in a healthy situation, close to moors and sea, and specialised in preparing pupils for the civil service, and the Army and Navy. Good language skills in French and German were required for the latter. After his schooldays Harold apparently 'travelled extensively as a private secretary', so language skills would have been indispensable. At the school prize giving on 7 August 1885, the headmaster, Mr Butler, spoke of the school successes which spoke louder than words; a spirit of good fellowship which prevailed; and of the masters devoting much of their private time to the boys' interests, particularly in games and athletic pursuits. The First Form class prizes at this event mention 'Couch' as having been awarded a certificate. Leaving Mannamead was probably a great wrench for Harold and most likely led to some resentment. He had fond memories of Mannamead and it is no doubt no coincidence that after his death his cremation was held at Plymouth rather than nearer Hayle.
Early in 1899 Harold married, at Oxford, a much older widow, Emma Redfern, who already had three children. This would have meant heavy responsibilities in providing for this family. Harold’s obituaries describe him as having a long career with the London Transport Board. In fact, in those days it would have been the London General Omnibus Company which ran horse-drawn and, a little later, motor omnibuses. It became the London Passenger Transport Board only after the London Passenger Transport Act in 1933, when Harold was nearing retirement. Harold started as a bus conductor in Fulham, where the family lived, then became a cashier and finally an inspector. He married a second time in autumn 1929, another widow, Evelyn Stimson, and they continued to live in the small three-roomed flat at 23 Atalanta Road, Fulham until Harold retired. His hobby in retirement was apparently his garden, a love of gardening being something which he probably inherited from his maternal grandmother, Theophilia Ford, whose beautiful garden is described in Q’s Memories and Opinions. The only other information about Harold’s time at Phillack. was in 1940 when he and numerous other neighbours wrote to Hayle Parish Council, complaining about the unreliable water supply at the Towans. One neighbour said he had had no water for three days and the household had been obliged to drink beer. In any case, no doubt Harold would have been quite indignant had he been alive when Rowse’s biography was published, to read the comments made of him.
Cyril is rather more intriguing. Whatever happened, happened in the 1890s. By the time of the census of 1901, Cyril is described as living in Oxford as a lodger with Mrs Mary Stone and her niece at 6 Clarendon Street, married, aged 24 and working as a 'Tailor’s Traveller'. At the same address is a Mandie or Maudie Couch although there is probably a transcription error here for Maud E. Couch. In fact, no record of a marriage has been found yet and there is other quite strong evidence to suggest that Maud Couch might already have been married, but using the name Couch for the sake of appearances, and that she and Cyril had a child, named Cyril Courtney Couch (in other later records spelt 'Courtenay') born in a London workhouse in 1902. This would have been enough in those days to justify the family's opinion that Cyril 'went to the bad'. What is certain from records, is that in 1911 he married Phyllis Willcocks and worked as a bookseller. In 1915 poor Cyril was admitted to the workhouse suffering from 'debility'. Rowse states 'Next came news of brother Cyril’s death—Q insisted on paying the bills.' However, before his death Cyril had been 'transferred' from the workhouse, although no further details are given, but possibly to a hospital. Cyril, along with his sisters, who were all born plain Couch, later used the name Quiller-Couch and this distinctive name makes it likely that his family were informed of his plight and that Q intervened to avoid the opprobrium of having a brother die in the workhouse. Cyril was buried 27 September 1915 at Southwark. If the Cyril Courtney Couch mentioned above was in fact Cyril Quiller-Couch's son, he lived all his life in London and died in 1982, unmarried. Phyllis Couch moved to Brighton and married twice further.
Q had courted Louisa Amelia Hicks for several years before her mother finally relented and withdrew her opposition to the match. Her objections were due to her doubts about Q’s financial situation. No doubt could she have foreseen that her daughter would become Lady Quiller-Couch and a leader of local society, she would have consented immediately. Mrs Hicks was the widow of a sea captain in the merchant service, John Hicks, who died when Louisa was only six. Louisa’s sister, Jane Ann Hicks, the ‘Jinny’ of Q’s letters, quoted by Rowse, married Joseph Augustine Blamey. The Blamey’s were yeomen farmers with an extensive acreage around Veryan, on the Roseland Peninsula. Joseph’s mother was born at Lanteglos-by-Fowey (as were two of his siblings), where the Hicks family also originated and where Louisa and Jane lived until their father’s death, when Mrs Hicks moved to North Street, Fowey. Louisa's claim to fame as a child was that 'when Garibaldi sailed from Fowey to Italy, a "little girl was held up to him who grew up to become Lady Quiller-Couch" ' (Cornish Guardian, 5 September 1957, quoting an earlier speech of Q's.)
Louisa Hicks was also a cousin of Charles Hanson, who built Fowey Hall. Charles Hanson was the son of Joseph Hanson, a master mariner of Polruan, and Mary Ann Rogers Hicks, daughter of William Hicks of Fowey. Charles Hanson emigrated to Canada as a young man, made his fortune in lumber and married a Canadian heiress, Martha Applebe. The family returned to Britain in around 1889 and lived at 9 Wilton Crescent, Belgravia, London. Charles Hanson acquired land from the Rashleighs of Menabilly to build Fowey Hall, which was reputed to be the model for Toad Hall in Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows. Charles Hanson was High Sheriff of Cornwall in 1907 and Sheriff of London in 1911. He became Conservative MP for Bodmin in 1916 and Lord Mayor of London in 1917, in which year he was also made a baronet. There were many Hansons and Hicks in the Lanteglos area where Louisa was born. Dr Hanson of Tredudwell Manor, whose daughter, Anna, was a friend of Q's daughter, Foy Quiller-Couch, may also have been what Jane Austen would have called a 'connexion'.
Q's relationship with the Blameys seems to have been closer than that with the rest of his own extended family in Cornwall. According to Rowse, he corresponded regularly with Jinny and often stayed with them before his marriage. One of Q's letters describes a round trip he made firstly by train from Fowey to Falmouth (two changes), a ferry to St Mawes and then a walk of several miles to Veryan and an overnight stay at Caragloose Farm before continuing the next day. Caragloose, farmed by Joseph Blamey, is now a National Trust holiday cottage. Joseph's brother, William Colliver Blamey—known as Colliver—farmed at Pennare, nearby. Joseph and Jinny had a son, then two little girls who died young, and finally another daughter, Betty, who was friendly with her cousin, Foy Quiller-Couch. Betty married Francis Symondson, and her son, Guy, was also a frequent visitor at The Haven (Q's house at Fowey), which he later inherited from Foy. Betty Symondson was staying at The Haven in 1938 when the news of her house in Hampshire having burned down, was telephoned to her. This was the second such event, Caragloose having been set on fire earlier, Rowse quoting Q as being 'in hourly expectation of receiving the refugees.'
At the start of their marriage, the Quiller-Couches struggled financially and lived in lodgings, first in London, in Oakley Street, Chelsea, then in Ladbroke Grove, before finally renting the house at Clareville Grove where Q had lodged as a bachelor. (Brittain, F., Arthur Quiller-Couch.) Already making a name for himself as a writer, Q was still having to support his family in Oxford, although by 1890 he had finally managed to clear his father's debts. He never regretted his marriage, only the fact that he would have wished it to have taken place two years earlier. Brittain says:
'He was twenty-five at the time. When he was forty he made one of the characters in one of his short stories say: "In later life a man may seek marriage for its own sake, but, at five-and-twenty he marries against his will—because he has fallen in love with a woman." His was most certainly a love-match. After half a century of married life he was as much in love as he had ever been; and all through that time, whenever he was away from his wife, he never let a day pass without writing to her.'
Rowse, talking of Thomas Hardy's relationship with his wives who seemed to wish to compete with him in the literary stakes, said that Q never had to contend with that as Louisa was content with housekeeping and bridge parties. Louisa was in fact a perfect help-meet to Q in his busy social and public life: a gracious hostess able to interact with people on all social levels, and an efficient, practical and energetic organiser, taking all demands made on her in her stride.
Bevil Brian Quiller-Couch was born in Fowey on 12 October 1890. The house in Clareville Grove, had been given up and Q lodged in St James' Street while Louisa remained at Fowey, Q commuting between London and Fowey. The 1891 census has them living in lodgings in Fore Street, Fowey, at the house of Mary Ann Hock, a 'china dealer', with two other lodgers and a servant. Then the family moved to 54 Bedford Gardens, Kensington, to a house lent to them by Alfred Parsons while he was abroad. Q and Louisa had honeymooned in Devon where Q had shown her all his old haunts and no doubt introduced her to his grandfather who was still alive then, but afterwards, Louisa went to visit relatives in Cornwall whilst Q and Alfred Parsons went on an expedition to trace the River Avon from its source at Naseby to Tewkesbury, for a book entitled The Warwickshire Avon. Q wrote the text and Parsons did the illustrations. From Rugby onwards this trip was accomplished by canoe. Q used the trip as the basis for his novel True Tilda, one of the characters being an impressionist artist, George Jessup, who is trying to capture the essence of the landscape from a moving boat. Neither Q nor Louisa liked living in London, and in late 1891 Q suffered a breakdown from overwork. He began to suffer from insomnia and a fear of crowds. He was advised to leave London and he and Louisa thankfully left to make their home permanently at Fowey.
Q rented The Haven, which he later bought and this became the permanent family home. This house was on the Esplanade, the main street in Fowey, having a balcony overlooking the street, and was built on a triangular plot overlooking the harbour. The previous occupant had been a naval lieutenant who had 'painted on the door of each room the name of some ship in which he had served and under the name he hung a water-colour painting of the ship from his own brush . . . The downstairs rooms were the St Vincent (which became Q's library and study), The Royal Oak (the drawing-room) and The Victoria (the dining-room). Those on the upper floor were The Martin, the Iron Duke, the Britannia, the Arethusa, the Thalia, the Kestrel and the Dwarf.' (Brittain, p.25). Q naturally kept all these in place.
In Fowey, Q gradually recovered his health. Various friends visited the household where the little Bevil (named after Sir Bevil Grenville, hero of the Civil War) ruled the roost. J.M. Barrie, a great friend of Q from his days with Cassells in London, was a frequent visitor and later brought his wife, Mary. Barrie was very fond of Bevil, calling him the 'Pippa' or 'Piper'. Barrie produced a photographic album of about 23 photographs with captions, called 'The Pippa and Porthos', which depicted a walk taken around Fowey, on New Years Day, 1895, with Bevil aged four, and Barrie's dog, a St Bernard called Porthos. He dedicated it to Louisa and added the inscription 'The Literary Matter by J.M. Barrie, the Drudgery by Mary Barrie.' This album is now in the Yale University Archives, along with a collection of postcards belonging to Foy Quiller-Couch. Also in the collection is a toy-theatre of Peter Pan which Barrie, Foy's godfather, later gave to her. The dog, Nana, bears a resemblance to Porthos. Peter Pan was supposed to have been written for the Llewellyn-Davies boys, cousins of Foy's great friend in life, Daphne du Maurier. Daphne always referred to Barrie as 'Uncle Jim'. Bevil, one Christmas, received from Barrie a parcel containing 'gun, pistol, sword, trumpet and other implements.' (Rowse).
Foy was born nine years after Bevil, on 18 September 1899. Her name, Foy, is a tribute to the town of Fowey which Q loved so much. Her second name, the charming 'Felicia', was perhaps a nod to the happiness of having a daughter (after a difficult birth) or perhaps just a favourite name. It appears several times in Q's publications: in the Oxford Book of English Verse, represented by the poet Felicia Dorothea Hemans; in Powder and Crinoline, Q's book of old fairy tales in 'Felicia and the Pot of Pinks'; and in one of Q's short stories in Old Fires and Profitable Ghosts, 'The Penance of John Emmett', in which a small girl rejoices in the name of Felicia Rose Derwent Stanhope. At home, however, the children were known as 'Boy' and 'the Babe'.
'Messing about in boats'
Kenneth Grahame inscribed a first edition of The Wind in the Willows to 'Foy Felicia Quiller-Couch from her Affectionate Friend, Kenneth Grahame, Oct. 1908.' This volume sold for a staggering £32,400 at Bonhams in 2010.
Grahame, another good friend of Q's had been married from the Haven in 1899, the bridal party staying at the Fowey hotel, and he and his wife returned to stay with Q and Louisa after their honeymoon. Q is supposed to have been the inspiration for Ratty: 'there is nothing—absolutely nothing—half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.' Both Q's children shared his enthusiasm and he took them out with him from an early age. On the anniversary of Bevil's death, 6 February 1920, Q wrote to May Cannan, recalling an incident in which he and Bevil had been caught in a gale. The rather shocked but stoic five or six-year-old remarked afterwards (whilst eating a sandwich below, water still 'washing about our ankles') 'That was pretty bad, wasn't it? I thought it was very bad. I had about enough of it, at one time.' (The Tears of War).
The Annual Fowey Regatta, held in August, was one of the highlights of the year. In 1907, Foy came first in the 'best dressed children (girls)' category. Other exciting events were, for Bevil aged seven, Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, which Q helped organise, and aged 12, the coronation of Edward VII. Foy was probably rather too young to appreciate this but was able to take part aged eleven in the celebrations for the coronation of George V, for which Q wrote a childrens' masque The Royal Throne of Kings. Bevil, by then at Trinity, Oxford, designed some of the stage properties.
Both Bevil and Foy became very competent sailors, and, as a young woman, Foy's successes in the weekly sailing races held in the harbour during the summer, were regularly reported in the local press: firstly in her father's boat the True Tilda, in which she won a race at Polruan, and later in her own Jigsaw and Emerald. Bevil's obituary in The Times on11 February 1919 described his career at Oxford where 'he was captain of the Boat Club and a notable oar. He stroked in the OUBC trial eights in 1911 (losing) and 1912 (winning). His opponent stroke in both races was his friend Reggie Fletcher, who fell early in the war. Quiller-Couch also won the University Pairs in 1912 (with H.R. Munday) and 1913 (with C.E. Tinne) and in the latter year rowed with Tinne, in the final for the Goblets at Henley.' (The Tears of War). The Illustrated Sporting News of 7 December 1912 said of the Oxford University Trial Eights at Maulsford, that 'Quiller-Couch won a hard fought race by the narrow margin of eight feet' and published pictures of the race and of Bevil and friends waiting for the boat crews to be called. The same publication later said 'Marlow Pairs went to B.B. Quiller-Couch and C.E. Tinne, Oxford, who defeated the Vesta pair rather easily.'
In 1911, aged 20, Bevil was involved in a dramatic event which was widely reported and in which Edward Atkinson, Commodore of Fowey Yacht Club, lost his life in spite of Bevil's gallant attempts to save him. Atkinson and Bevil had set out for a moonlight trip in the Gymnotis owned by Atkinson, an extremely competent sailor who owned a number of boats. The Gymnotis was equipped with air tanks and was supposed to be unsinkable. They had intended to go as far as Looe but a strong easterly wind blew up. They abandoned the idea and rode out the weather under Pencarrow Head. Early the following morning they judged it safe to return to harbour but were caught in a sudden squall. The boat filled with water and it was discovered that the air tanks were leaking and the boat sinking.
The St Austell Star 14 September 1911, reported:
'Mr. Quiller-Couch, 20, displayed great coolness, presence of mind and pluck . . . he placed Mr Atkinson [who was elderly and exhausted] on an air cushion, and quitted the sinking boat which soon disappeared. He began swimming, towing his companion, and managed to get close to shore, but because of the steepness of the rocks and a heavy swell, could not get Mr. Atkinson out of the water.' Bevil was forced to leave him on his air cushion and scramble up the rocks to seek help. He went to the nearest farmhouse, Mr Barnicoats at Lanteglos Churchtown, and roused the inmates who gave the exhausted Bevil dry clothes and, meanwhile, the farmer's son rode to Polruan to alert the pilots who called out the tug. The search was unsuccessful and, sadly, the following Monday, Mr Atkinson's body was recovered by Mr C.W. Hunkin, a 'well-known Fowey waterman, and his men, who discovered it close to the rocks about fifty yards from where Mr. Quiller-Couch struggled ashore.'
At the inquest the following day, the Foreman of the Jury said 'the Jury wish to express their sincere sympathy in this loss with the family, and also to express their high appreciation of the conduct of Mr. Quiller-Couch.' The Coroner said 'I quite agree with you.' The funeral was held at Fowey on the Thursday of that week and the body was conveyed by water, with a long procession of boats following.
In 1926, Foy was also involved in a dramatic rescue. The Birmingham Daily Gazette, on 19 April 1926 reported the incident under the headline 'Woman's Brave Act':
'Famous Author's Daughter Rescues Three Seamen.' It goes on to say that 'the foreign seamen, whose vessel was being loaded with a cargo of china clay, went out in a small boat and, being unfamiliar with the dangerous currents that sweep around this part of the coast, got into difficulties. Efforts to direct them into the harbour failed, and they were in danger of running onto some rocks. One of the men lost an oar, which added to their danger. Miss Quiller-Couch, who is thoroughly acquainted with the coast, at great personal risk, proceeded in a motor boat to the men's assistance. Although a high sea was running, she succeeded in passing a rope to the boat, took it in tow, and, with considerable difficulty, managed to bring it safely into harbour. The rescue was watched by large crowds, who warmly applauded Miss Quiller-Couch's feat.'
Rowse, in Paris at the time, even read about the incident in the French press.
Bevil received his early education at home. Q himself began to teach him Latin. Q was so fond of the language that he wished his son to acquire a similar enthusiasm before 'some blundering idiot of a master' put him off it. (Rowse, p.84). Bevil, however, was an adventurous, sporting, boy with Q's practical and clear-sighted talent for organisation but without his scholarly inclinations.
Charlotte Fyfe in The Tears of War, describes Bevil's excess of high spirits. These led him, when he was about 13, and left alone in the house with little Foy, to instigate a game whereby 'the upstairs of the house was to be the sea and each room a port.' Displaying great ingenuity, he blocked off both staircases and flooded the entire upstairs. 'As the story goes, when their parents and servants came back, Bevil took away the barriers and the water came tumbling down the stairs to greet them. Subsequently, the drawing room and dining room ceilings fell down.'
No doubt this incident hastened Bevil's departure to boarding school. He was entered at Horris Hill in Newbury, established in 1888 by A.H. Evans, a master from Winchester College, with the object of preparing boys for Winchester, and Bevil later went on to Winchester College. His entry under the Winchester College website reads:
'He came to Winchester College from Horris Hill in the summer of 1904 and was in B house, Moberly's. He was a House Prefect in 1908 and Head of his House in 1909. Bevil was an all-round sportsman—he was a member of the Boat Club from 1906 and rowed in the School IV in 1909, and he played fives, golf, soccer and cricket for this house. He was also a member of the Debating Society.'
Foy Quiller-Couch was educated at home. The census of 1911 mentions a governess, Elizabeth Ludlam, who came from Youlgrave in Derbyshire, and who took the place of the nursemaid, Annabella Bernafoot, who had been with the family at the time of the 1901 census. Also employed by the family at the time were a cook, parlourmaid and housemaid, all born locally.
It seems that Q had something of the Victorian paterfamilias about him. Rowse says that he was something of a perfectionist and adhered rigidly to certain standards and routines, such as always dressing for dinner: 'It must have been inhibiting for Foy, brought up in subjection to them and accepting them—she once mentioned to me the standards expected of her.'
Whether it was due to Q's exigent demands or Louisa's, in the matter of servants they often seemed to have problems, particularly after the First World War when advertisements for housemaids, parlourmaids and 'good plain cooks' for the Quiller-Couch household appeared regularly in the local newspapers. Rowse tells a story that Foy related to him of a cook sent packing after announcing that there would be no dinner that day. Q 'at once marched her out of the house to the railway station, bought her ticket and incontinently packed her off to where she came from.'
In her early years, Foy was very much the daughter at home. Occasional newspaper reports of her presenting bouquets to various local dignitaries as a small girl—no doubt be-frilled and be-ribboned—then, later, assisting her mother to receive guests and in her charitable works, show her early training in public life. According to Rowse, Lady Quiller-Couch and Foy also answered some of Q's letters for him. Q complained about the amount of post he received as he grew famous. Had he answered it all, he would never had had time to do anything else. (When told that the secret service were opening people's correspondence during the Second World War, Q said that they were welcome to all of his, provided that they answered it.) Foy seems to have developed a strategy for carving out an independent life of her own, as she grew up, in her various friendships, although a lot of her interests chime with Q's: this may have been through natural inclination, as with the sailing, or there may have been an element of seeking approval in it. Foy is regularly mentioned in the press as receiving guests with her parents at local events—especially after Q became Commodore of the Yacht Club—and accompanied her parents on all important occasions, such as the memorial service and public luncheon for Mrs Craik (author of John Halifax Gentleman) held at Tewkesbury Abbey in April 1926, where Q gave a speech. Later she represented them, as at the memorial service for her godfather, Sir James Barrie, in London in July 1937.
In 1912, Q was appointed Edward VII Professor of English Literature at Cambridge. From the beginning of 1913, the family moved to Cambridge during term-time, living in lodgings at first and then renting a house called 'St Andrews' in Chesterton Lane. Brittain describes their neighbours as being Professor and Mrs Sorley on one side and a small community of Anglican nuns on the other. It must have been an enriching experience for the young Foy, living as she had done in such a small rural community, although the beginning of the First World War saw Foy and her mother move back to Fowey, while Q divided his time between military duties in Cornwall and Cambridge.
Bevil was at Trinity, Oxford, from 1910 to 1913, but it seems that he did not actually take a degree. In the summer of 1913, Q with Louisa and Foy, after May Week in Cambridge, were in Henley on their way back to Fowey, for the Regatta, 'to cheer on Jesus College for the Grand Challenge Cup, Trinity College, Oxford, for the Ladies Plate, and Bevil (who had just finished his career at Oxford) for the Silver Goblets.' (Brittain p.70). The family lunched with the Cannans 'at Remenham Rectory among the water meadows, and drove home, when a thunderstorm had all but obliterated the fireworks.' The Quiller-Couches were staying at Oxford with the Cannans. (Tears of War).
After Oxford, Bevil had decided on a career in shipping. He had a natural affinity with the sea and his ancestors on both sides were seafaring folk: his maternal grandfather had been a captain in the Merchant service and his Quiller ancestors privateers and smugglers, not to mention more distant Couch maritime connections. He joined the Orient Line, a large company which had begun in 1797 with a ship-broking company set up by James Thompson, with a small fleet of sailing ships. In 1866 the company traded as the Orient Line of Packets, operating a liner service to Australia. The company expanded rapidly and shared an Australian government mail contract with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. By the time Bevil joined they had a fleet of steamships, the names all beginning with the letter 'O'.
Bevil had already decided that May Cannan, the daughter of a man who was probably Q's dearest friend, would be his future wife. Her father was Charles Cannan, former Dean of Trinity College, whose family lived at Magdalen Gate House. Bevil kept up a correspondence with May and helped her organise a small dance for her sister Dorothea's 21st birthday in November 1913. In the foreword to the book The Tears of War, Charlotte Fyfe, May Cannan's great-niece, describes how the book 'tells the couple's story through the poems, interspersed with extracts from May's autobiography and from Bevil's letters to May and his parents.' The book, including as it does extracts from the Official War Diaries, which were later copied out by May for Q, is a valuable source and insight into Bevil's character and career, as well as his relationship with May. On the occasion of the dance, May wrote that Bevil 'called himself a "city man" and was taking an interest in politics. We had some lively arguments for he was a Liberal and I a Tory, and sometimes they became heated, but we remained friends.' To Bevil's secret amusement May had described him to someone as 'a kind of brother' which he had 'for long had no intention of being or remaining one.'
The summer of 1914, May said, was a hot 'golden summer' of balls and picnics. She and her family went to Switzerland as usual for the holidays until her father, happening to glance at a newspaper, realised that war was imminent and hurried his family home.
War was declared on 4 August 1914. Bevil had been in the Oxford University Officer Training Corps and afterwards, training with the regular army, had joined the Special Reserve, so was called up immediately. His address was '2nd Division Ammunition Column, Expeditionary Force.' They embarked on 17August on the SS Marchant from Southampton with '152 men, 194 horses, 30 wagons and three officers,' coming into Le Havre at 6 a.m. the following morning and going from there up river to Rouen.
At the outbreak of war, the Germans swiftly invaded Belgium and Luxembourg, with the aim of entrapping the French army along the German border, then moved into Northern France in late August where they encountered the French army under Joffre, and the British Expeditionary Force under Field Marshal Sir John French. A series of engagements known as the Battle of the Frontiers ensued, including the Battles of Chaleroi and Mons. Charlotte Fyfe writes 'Bevil was with the Divisional Ammunition Column during the Retreat from Mons, 23rd August to 5th September, 1914.' She goes on to say 'As the BEF withdrew, fighting constant rearguard actions, they, under General Horace Smith-Dorrien, became engaged in the biggest battle fought by the British Army since Waterloo, at Le Cateau . . . The retreat was halted at the Battle of the Marne . . . an important strategic victory for the Allies . . . [which] remains, reputedly, the most decisive battle since Waterloo. Bevil fought at the First Battle of the Aisne, 15th to 18th September. The Allies succeeded in crossing the Aisne but were halted by German resistance on the other side. Both the Allies and Germans began entrenching their positions and this was the start of static warfare on the Western Front. On 22nd September, Bevil joined the 36th Brigade, Ammunition Column.'
From 19 October to 22 November the First Battle of Ypres was fought, ending in a stalemate. Bevil was engaged in this action. 'On the 11th November he went with six wagons of his Ammunition column to the 41st Brigade, who were heavily engaged, and on the 12th he received a minor wound.'
After Ypres, things were quieter. At home, Q had leave from Cambridge on military duty at home, having been given a temporary commission to raise and train a pioneer battalion of the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry. Bevil, in May was engaged at the Battle of Festubert. Charlotte Fyfe quotes the entry from the Official War Diaries in Bevil's own hand:
'All the artillery bombard the German lines on and off all day. The 6th Infantry Brigade are reported to have made good the 1st German line by midnight. 71st Battery complete the wire cutting. 7th Division attack at 3.15 am after an hour's intense bombardment. Attack successful and 1st line taken at the 1st Assault; Infantry continue to advance by bombing. 250 prisoners taken, 71st Battery. OP [Observation Post] made untenable and wires cut. Artillery re-open bombardment at daylight in German lines. Reinforcements for Infantry. Guards and Canadians attack and consolidated on La Quinque Rue but attack on M 10 fails. Bombardment continues well into the night. 48th and 71st Batteries have now been firing an average of 600 rounds a day for a fortnight without a break. Highland Division relieved 2nd Division. Just over 600 prisoners captured. Germans become very active and bring up much more heavy and light artillery. All the front and its neighbourhood heavily shelled … Canadians attacked but had to fall back … Much shelling. The German garrison cut off. Surrender at 8am. Operations are continued and in the middle, 36th Brigade is informed it will be withdrawn together with the 41st Brigade at dusk.'
Meanwhile, Q's military experience proceeded on less formal lines. The BBC in the programme World War One at Home reported on 'Fowey, Cornwall: The Poet Who Raised a Battalion':
'The tenth battalion of the Duke of Cornwall Light Infantry was raised by the Mayor and citizens of Truro on 27 March, 1915. At the start there were just two officers—a retired Colonel, Dudley Mills and a Cambridge English Literature professor, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, who had no military experience.
Quiller-Couch, or 'Q' as he was known, was regarded as an eccentric leader but much respected. In the early days, the battalion was gathered in a tented village near Truro. There is an account of how 'Q' insisted on the men shaving every day and carried out daily "chin inspections". On one occasion after a "route-march" the soldiers were treated to tea in the garden of the Quiller-Couch's family home at "The Haven" in Fowey. Lady Quiller-Couch is pictured serving rows of men seated at tables in the fine gardens. On another occasion 'Q' took the men to swim in the sea after which the writer is reported to have clipped their toe-nails in what is described as a moment of "biblical care".
The tenth battalion is described as unique, all Cornishmen with their leader treating them almost as his children. On 24 October 1915, the Battalion was taken over by the War Office drafting in a full complement of officers allowing Quiller-Couch to return to his academic studies in Cambridge.'
The accompanying photograph, belonging to the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry at Bodmin, shows Lady Quiller-Couch pouring tea in the foreground, with the young Foy aged fifteen dressed in white behind her.
On 14 January 1916, Bevil was awarded the MC. Charlotte Fyfe gives the citation from the London Gazette:
'Lieutenant Bevil Brian Quiller-Couch RFA SR. Exceptional ability and energy during the time he was with the Brigade Ammunition Column on the Aisne and in Flanders from 20th September to 16th December 1914. On many occasions he showed great courage and initiative in bringing up his wagons. Since December in the Belhume District he acted as Orderly Officer until appointed Adjutant 10th June, 1915.
He has shown great zeal and ability.
During the recent active operations at Festubert and Le Plantin in May his services were particularly valuable. It was a great deal owing to his energy and grasp of the situation that everything worked successfully and smoothly. This particularly applied to the tactical control of the French Group and arrangements in connection with this Group generally.'
The Battle of the Somme began on 1 July 1916 and Bevil, now promoted to Captain and who had joined the 71st Battery of the 36th Brigade on 25 June 1916, was on 15 August made Acting Major with command of the 9th Battery, 41st Brigade, Royal Field Artillery. The campaign lasted until 18 November and losses were enormous.
In the summer of 1917 came the third Battle of Ypres. Charlotte Fyfe quotes May Cannan:
'It rained a good deal but it rained heavier in Flanders where they were fighting the third battle of Ypres that ended in Passschendaele. It was the wettest August for years and Flanders turned to mud. Men waded in it up to their waists, fell into it off the duckboards and drowned in it, begging passing comrades to shoot them rather than leave them to that dreadful death. Bevil, wrestling with his guns and horses, sank in the mud and sleeping, when he could sleep, curled up in his mackintosh in any hole he could find, worked desperately to save his his horses which he loved and "had to use my revolver a good deal." '
The next engagement at Cambrai was a success for the Allies. In March 1918, the Germans launched the 'Great Offensive' in an attempt to crush the Allies before the Americans had time to mobilize their troops. In An Account with a Field Battery in Spring 1918, Bevil described the effects of gas poisoning:
All of us old hands were only just recovering our voices as the result of the same frightfulness and at one time in the battle there was no-one who could raise his voice above a whisper.'
Rowse writes that 'the Americans were now in the war, in France Bevil was training them and had to put off his leave.' He 'longed for a sight of the sea.' On his next leave, Q wrote: 'We've had a heavenly time. It wound up with our sailing him up the river here seven miles to Lostwithiel station and seeing him and his sister off.' In October, Rowse quotes Bevil remembering Napoleon's last campaign: 'I ride up and down the great main road from Calais and Boulogne to Austerlitz, and one cannot help having wonderful visions of the Grande Armée marching E.S.E. on perhaps just such another autumn day, still grey and perfect.' On 4/5 November Bevil's battery fired their last barrage.
May Cannan was in Paris working in intelligence and Bevil joined her, writing that at the Gare du Nord 'I was carried onto a chariot draped in flowers and bunting.' They had five days together and Bevil proposed. She accepted him and he at once wrote to her parents and then his. Both families were delighted and the engagement was announced on 11December 1918. After Paris, Bevil rejoined his Battery and they prepared to march into Germany with the Army of Occupation. They marched through France, Belgium and Germany to Düren, where they arrived on 20 December at Langerwehe, where Bevil spent the next few weeks wrestling with the logistics of demobilisation and acting as a magistrate. He had his final English leave from 13th to 27th January when he collected May from Oxford and brought her to Fowey, where they 'helped a little in the orchard garden, rowing over in the old red boat; and sailed out to sea in True Tilda and met a small gale . . . we dined in the Haven and there was silver and wine in tall glasses and candle-light.' (The Tears of War)
May stayed on in Fowey with Foy and her mother while Bevil went up to London with Q, who was due back at Cambridge. Bevil arrived back in Düren on the 30 January and a few days later reported that he was feeling under the weather—a slight chill. On 5 February Q received news from the War Office to say that Bevil had pneumonia and was dangerously ill. He died at 7 am on 6 February 1919. Q and May were refused permission to travel to Germany for the funeral, which was held with full military honours, the coffin carried on a gun-carriage pulled by a team of black horses, with Bevil's groom walking behind leading Peggy, Bevil's favourite horse 'with the boots reversed in the stirrups, while his belt and cap were fixed to the top of the coffin.' (The Tears of War) He was buried at Langerwehe but his remains were later transferred to the South Cologne War Cemetery.
Everyone who knew Bevil, but particularly Q and his family and May, were deeply shocked by the loss of someone so full of life, who had come through a devastating conflict with unfailing cheerfulness and competence; whose letters home had betrayed little of the horrors of war, being filled with humorous anecdotes instead; and who seemed on the brink of a happy and fulfilling life. He was to marry the girl he loved, he had a job in shipping lined up, and had formed an intention to go into politics eventually.
On the day he was to have married May Cannan, 3 June 1919, his posthumous DSO was announced in the London Gazette:
'Captain (A/Major) Bevil Brian Quiller-Couch MC, RFA, SR has invariably shown marked initiative, energy and resource; untiring and cool, never sparing himself. He can always be relied on to "get things done" under adverse conditions. Served at the front continuously since 1914.'
May Cannan became like a second daughter to Q, and a sister to Foy, spending much time at Fowey after Bevil's death. She and Foy took a trip down the Warwickshire Avon, following the route Q had taken with Alfred Parsons. Foy wrote to her father 'I love every yard of Avon'. Q wrote to her that he was making arrangements for Peggy, Bevil's horse to be brought down to Fowey as soon as possible. She had been shipped over from Germany by Captain Marshall, Bevil's old comrade, together with her stable companion, probably the 'Funny Face' mentioned in Bevil's letters home, and was at livery in London, where Q had been to visit her. The horses were to live out their lives in comfort at Fowey. Q wrote to Foy that 'Harry Graham has got a pasture for her at 5 shillings a week: I have arranged to go half-shares with him in a groom and stabling is to be arranged. But for the present it should do her good to be out in a field.' Foy and May rode together, May riding Peggy, and after Peggy died, Q had one of her hoofs made into an inkwell and her photograph hung just under Bevil's, taken in uniform, in Q's rooms at Cambridge.
Q's great great grandfather, Samuel Couch and his wife Joan Libby had 12 children and Q's grandfather, Dr Jonathan Couch of Polperro, married three times and had ten children himself, so Q was probably related to half of Cornwall. There were three main family centres other than Fowey, however:
- The Polperro/Lansallos area where Jonathan Couch had lived and where the descendants of his first marriage to Jane Prynn Rundle were based
- Penzance, where Q's uncles Richard Quiller Couch and John Quiller Couch, both doctors, lived, and where Q had four cousins, Richard's children
- St Austell, where his aunt, Sarah Roose Couch, a child of Jonathan Couch and his third wife, Sarah Lander Roose, lived with her husband, also confusingly called Jonathan Couch, a sea captain.
After the death of Jane Rundle Hitchens, (Jonathan Couch's daughter from his first marriage) and Q's Uncle Jonathan, from his grandfather's second marriage to Jane Quiller, had both died in the 1890s, there is no evidence that Q had any contact with the Polperro branch of the family.
John Quiller Couch of Penzance
In 1900, Q's Uncle, John Quiller Couch, the youngest son of Jonathan Couch, died at his home at 10 Chapel Street, Penzance. Q attended the funeral but afterwards was reluctantly involved in the complications resulting from a dispute over John Quiller Couch's will, which became the subject of a court case.
Richard Quiller Couch, Q's other Penzance uncle, had died young in 1863, leaving a widow, Lydia, and four children: Richard Pearce Couch, Maria Jane, Sarah Lydia, and Margaret Quiller Couch. They also lived in Chapel Street. Uncle John had helped Lydia when his brother died, and although he and Lydia quarrelled, continued to have a close relationship with the family who, at the time of his final illness were living at number 21 Chapel Street, Lydia Penneck Couch having died in 1894. John Quiller Couch had had a favourite niece from his mother, Jane Quiller's side of the family, a Mrs Fowler who had by then died but who had a daughter, Mary Quiller Edgcumbe with whom John Quiller Couch was also on very affectionate terms. When it became clear that John Quiller Couch was very seriously ill and not expected to live long, his niece Margaret wrote to Mary Edgcumbe who came down to Penzance with her husband. John Quiller Couch asked them to stay and gave the keys of the house into Mary's hands, asking her to take over the running of the household. This led to a great deal of ill feeling with the rest of the family in Chapel Street, and the Edgcumbes would have departed had John Quiller Couch not begged them to stay on.
In 1878 John Quiller Couch had made a will which, amongst sundry other bequests, made provision for his mentally handicapped brother Jonathan, who lived all his life with various family members. However, by 1900 most of the earlier people mentioned in the will had died, leaving the Penzance family the main beneficiaries. John Quiller Couch decided this did not reflect his current wishes and, aware that he had little time left, asked Mr Edgcumbe to take down his instructions, which he did, although reluctantly, opining that they should engage a solicitor. The will was duly signed and witnessed but John Quiller Couch then realised that one of the witnesses, Mr Bettany, was also a beneficiary and he was worried that the bequest would be invalidated. He accepted Mr Edgcumbe's suggestion of a solicitor from out of the area and a Mr Strong, known to Mr Edgcumbe came down from Devon. The new will was duly signed and witnessed, the executors named being Mr Edgcumbe and Richard Pearce Couch, but the procedure being kept secret from the rest of the family.
John Quiller Couch died shortly afterwards on 6 November 1900. Richard Pearce Couch at once took everything into his own hands, ignoring Mr Edgcumbe's rights as joint executor. The body was removed from the house only a few hours after the death and the funeral arranged with what Mr Edgcumbe later described as indecent haste, totally ignoring the deceased's wishes that he lie five days before burial. This did not suit Richard Pearce Couch who had a mayoral banquet on the day the funeral should have taken place.
Richard Pearce Couch contested the new will, alleging that his uncle was not in his right mind when he made it. Q was drawn into the affair as he had written to his uncle shortly before his death and believed him to be in full possession of his faculties. The affair led to a lot of washing of dirty family linen in public. Q described the affair as 'squalid' (Rowse). The estate was valued at about £15,000 and the contesting parties (the Couches and the Edgcumbes) were warned that, if the case were pursued, it would take all of this amount and probably more to settle it and they were advised to come to an agreement out of court. Q bemoaned the fact that his uncle's money had largely ended up in the hands of the 'less amiable members of the family', from which it can be inferred that he had no great love for his Penzance cousins, although he maintained civil relations with them and had spoken at Richard Pearce Couch's inaugural banquet as Mayor of Penzance in 1898. However, Q would no doubt have approved of the trust fund (still in existence today as the John Quiller Couch Foundation) set up to provide a small sum of money to help young persons born in Polperro aged 16 or over with education or to establish themselves in work.
The Jonathan Couch Memorial
The various branches of the Couch family were brought together on what was probably a unique occasion, when the daughters of Jonathan Couch's third marriage to Sarah Lander Roose, organised a memorial plaque to be erected in Polperro United Methodist Church. At the unveiling on 15 August 1929, were: Mrs Sarah Roose Couch, widow of Capt. Jonathan Couch of St Austell; her sons, Jonathan Couch, a solicitor with Graham & Couch in St Austell, and Dr Leonard Couch, of London; Sir Arthur and Lady Quiller-Couch and their daughter, of Fowey; and Miss Margaret Quiller-Couch, formerly of Penzance, now living at Looe. The Western Morning News called the event 'something in the nature of a family gathering', reporting on 16 August:
'The tablet, which was presented to the chapel by Mrs S. R. Couch was inscribed:
To the memory of Dr. Jonathan Couch F.L.S. He was one of the first trustees of this church. The deep piety which marked his labours and preaching here permeated also his devoted service to his fellow-men and to learning, and was reflected in his many writings on natural history.
He was a lifelong seeker after Truth, both in the Word and in the Works of God. He entered into a richer knowledge and higher service of God on April 13, 1870.
In presenting the tablet, Mrs Couch said her sister and herself did not wish to add unnecessarily to the Memorials which already bore witness to Dr. Jonathan Couch. It was to mark in a way their father's share in the religious life of Polperro. It would be well-remembered that he devoted the gifts God gave him for the advancement of learning, the curing of men's bodies, and to the healing also of men's souls.
Receiving the memorial, Rev. A.E. Coome said they remembered Dr Couch as a medical practitioner going into the homes and using his knowledge in curing. Nothing was too great if by doing so he could save life. He was remembered also as a citizen. He was also remembered by his kindly words. Whenever a local preacher failed to put in an appearance, Dr Couch would fill the breach.
… Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch said Mrs Couch had asked him as, alas, the eldest surviving grandson of Dr Couch to say a few words. There were very few of them, very few indeed, who remembered Dr Jonathan Couch as he lived and went about faithfully doing his work.
…He remembered him when he (Sir Arthur) was a child of five going down to see him, and when he was driven to his funeral. "I remember," continued Sir Arthur, "the crowd about the grave and a few words being said, and all of it left an indelible impression that people in Polperro felt that a prophet had fallen in their midst. That is no bad way of passing out of the world to leave behind you recollections of what you have done, as the poet says:
'Sweetly, to case, loose and bind,
As reed requires this frail, fall'n human mind.'
My way of life has brought me in contact with many great men of science and their tribute to him has always been that there was no greater observer and born naturalist. He was a man who never indulged in idle speculations, but who always was observant and true and never committed to paper anything of which he was not certain.
He was always conscious that science must in the end pass out into mystery, and that the wonders of this world must all somehow have been designed by the great Artificer and eternal Author. Yet he was content, this man, and I dare to proclaim him to have been great, although an ordinary practitioner, healing men's bodies and anxious also to heal their souls.
With this in view he helped in the erection of this church, hoping to make it what I might call the surgery of souls." '
Bertha and Clarinda, the other daughters of Jonathan Couch from his last marriage, are not mentioned by name as having been present at the occasion. At that time, Clarinda was married to the Rev. Frank Fogerty, a Church of England clergyman, and living in Lincolnshire. Sarah Couch referred in her speech to her 'sister', singular, so that was in all probability Bertha, who may have still been living in London at the time of the memorial service. Other members of the Polperro side of the family may also have been present at what was no doubt an important local event: Quillers, Rowetts, Hitchens, Congdons, Rooses and Braddons amongst the names. All the main members of the family were very active in local affairs, so topics of conversation would not have been lacking. Sarah, Margaret, Q and Foy were all keen members of the Old Cornwall Society, although belonging to different branches. However, Q must have had most in common with his cousin, Dr Leonard Couch.
Dr Leonard Couch
In November 1928 Leonard Couch was awarded a doctorate by London University. The Cornish Guardian of 29 November 1928, under the headline 'Member of St Austell Family Honoured', wrote of his thesis 'which embodies the results of literary research extending over many years and deals with certain phases of the relations which existed between the literature of England and Germany in the 18th and early 19th centuries.'
Dr Couch had started his career teaching at Mount Charles Council School and attended Borough Road Training College, in London. The Cornish Guardian goes on to say:
'The attainment of a Doctorate is the crowning achievement of Dr Couch's academic career which began in 1905 when, within a few months he gained the highest position in England and Wales on the King's Scholarship List, matriculated at London University in the First Division and won the Barnes Exhibition for Devon and Cornwall. Successive stages were marked by a travelling scholarship enabling him to undertake educational investigations abroad, [he spent a year in Germany] by the Degree of Bachelor of Science (London) and by First Class Honours in B.A. (King's College, London University).'
Shortly after the unveiling of the memorial plaque to his grandfather, Jonathan Couch, Dr Leonard Couch, at the end of 1929, then assistant master at Wandsworth Grammar School, was appointed headmaster of Leyton County High School for Boys where, a few years later, Q presented the prizes. Leonard Couch had married his childhood sweetheart, Gwendoline Blowey Carveth, who had also lived at Mount Charles in St Austell, where Leonard Couch was brought up.
Margaret Quiller Couch
The next occasion uniting various family members was the funeral of Margaret Quiller Couch on Wednesday, 10 May 1933, at the church of St Martin-by-Looe. The mourners were Lady Quiller-Couch, and Foy Quiller-Couch; Mrs Richard Pearce Couch, Margaret's sister-in-law, and her daughter Dorothy Penneck Couch of Penzance; Miss Jago, her cousin from Truro (Margaret's maternal aunt Maria Pearce married a Jago); Mrs Jonathan Couch of St Austell, and her son Jonathan Couch of Newquay; the Rev. Mr. Stona of Sancreed; Mr W.H. Borlase of Penzance; Mrs Butler, of Polperro; and Mr and Mrs R. Stephens, Miss Lockhart and Mr and Mrs J. Grigg, all of Looe.
Margaret Quiller Couch's involvement in local society was evident from the representatives and wreaths from various organisations: Looe Old Cornwall Society; Looe Women's Institute; British Legion (women's section); Looe Women's Unionist Association; and St Martin's Parochial Church Council.
Under the terms of her Uncle John Quiller Couch's will, Margaret, as the last survivor, had inherited the portions of her sisters, Maria and Sarah, both of whom had died in 1920. Margaret left an estate worth nearly £17,000. Amongst other bequests, were two important ones: the first for the adornment of the church of St Martin-by-Looe and the residue of her estate to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.
The Bequest to St-Martin-by-Looe
Unlike the St Austell and Polperro branches of the family, Margaret Quiller Couch, as did Q, belonged to the Anglican faith. This bequest enabled the church to commission Violet Pinwell to carve a rood screen and pew ends. The Pinwill sisters were three daughters of the Rev. Edmund Pinwill who were encouraged by their father to learn wood-carving from craftsmen who were restoring the church at Ermington, where he was the incumbent in 1884. The sisters, unusually for the time, set up in business as the firm of Rashleigh, Pinwill & Co., Ecclesiastical Carvers. They were extremely successful, helped by their friendship with the architect Edmund H. Sedding who obtained many commissions for them. By the time of Margaret Quiller Couch's death, only Violet was still exercising her craft and numerous churches in Devon and Cornwall were decorated with her work. The rood screen bears a plaque dedicated to Margaret Quiller Couch which mentions her as being Q's cousin.
More important perhaps, was the bequest to the R.N.L.I. which was used to fund a new lifeboat for Coverack, the Three Sisters. Q's services were again in demand for the launching ceremony – one after his own heart this time—on Friday, 26 July 1935. The ceremony was covered in full by the Cornishman (published Thursday, 1 August 1935) who wrote:
'The new lifeboat Three Sisters which has been sent to Coverack by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution to replace the Constance Mellaire, was named and dedicated on Friday, in the presence of a large company of spectators.
The boat is the gift of the late Miss Margaret Quiller-Couch and is in memory of herself and her two sisters Miss Maria and Miss Sarah Couch, daughters of the late Mr Richard Quiller-Couch physician of Penzance. The Misses Couch lived the greater part of their lives in Penzance, where they were well-known for their work in charitable and religious circles, and they were devoted workers in connection with St Mary's Church and Sunday-school.
The ceremony took place in the little harbour at Coverack, where the quay was brightly decorated for the occasion.
Sir Arthur in formally presenting the lifeboat to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, said his one excuse for the part he was taking in the ceremony was that the craft came to Coverack as a gift from three kinswomen of his— their names Maria, Sarah and Margaret, daughters of Richard Quiller-Couch of Penzance, physician there, and naturalist of some renown in his days. The honour of standing there was not of his deserving, but he valued it nevertheless. It was an act in family piety in memory of those three ladies, and those present, who were Cornishmen and Cornishwomen, would understand that desire that their love of their county should survive it in some tangible form, and also their pride in their seafaring stock to which they and he belonged.
"Most of you know this coast even better than I, who have sailed it and walked it," said Sir Arthur. "You too know the old legend of the siren and those two witches whose singing and harping have lured ships to their dooms. This siren coast has translated that fable into fact. Beautiful as it is, the last vision of thousands of exiles as they leave the country, the first vision to make their hearts beat on their return, it has between its points and open water one of the deadliest reefs in England. I need not remind you of names such as the Despatch, Primrose, the emigrant ship John, and the Mohegan. For the first there was no life boat at all. Then you had an unwieldy one, and then a better one, and to-day I hope you have a first class one." (Applause)'
The vessel, which was 'of the light Liverpool type for launching off a carriage . . . divided into six watertight compartments, and fitted with 115 aircases', was then presented, and dedicated by the Bishop of Truro (Dr. J.W. Hunkin) and the hymn 'Eternal Father Strong to Save' sung. Sir Arthur named the craft the The Three Sisters and broke a bottle of champagne over her bows.
John Quiller Couch would surely have approved of his money being used in this way, although whether he would have approved of the other bequest for the adornment of the church, being himself a Wesleyan, is another matter.
The Penzance Branch of the Couch family
Among the mourners at Margaret Quiller Couch's funeral, had been Mrs Richard Pearce Couch and her daughter, Dorothy Penneck Couch, the only survivors of the Couch family in Penzance. In 1906, Richard Pearce Couch had married Beatrice Helena John at Kew, Surrey. Their daughter, Dorothy was born in February 1907 but Richard died soon afterwards in 1913.
Richard's widow took over the proprietorship of the Mount's Bay Hotel, on the esplanade in Penzance, a long established business advertised in the guide to Penzance published by the Penzance Corporation in 1876 as being 'furnished in the most modern style, is well supplied with Hot and Cold Baths, and replete with every accommodation suitable for Tourists to West Cornwall. All the Drawing Rooms command an uninterrupted and unsurpassed view of St. Michael's Mount, and the whole of the magnificent bay. Invalids will find in MOUNT'S BAY HOUSE the comforts of a home, while the beauty and salubrity of the situation, and its nearness to the charming walks on the Sea-shore, render it a healthy and delightful residence. Suites of Apartments for Families of Distinction. Post horses & Carriages, Yachts and Pleasure Boats on shortest notice. Charges moderate.' The guide, re-published in 1908 further advertised 'TABLE D'HOTE (separate tables), 7.30.' The telephone number was '18'.
In the autumn of 1934, the year following Margaret Quiller Couch's funeral, Dorothy Penneck Couch married Fritz Carl Langer, a German merchant born in Herne, but living in Java, Indonesia. They had two children, Dorette, born in 1935 but who died aged only four in 1940, and Richard John Penneck Langer, born in 1937.
The advent of the Second World War caused considerable problems for this branch of the family. Fritz Langer was unable to pursue his normal occupation of merchant and became an assistant manager at his mother-in-law's hotel. Dorothy, being married to a German citizen was classed as having German nationality, and both she and Fritz were further classed as 'enemy aliens'. Dorothy was not interned but Fritz was briefly interned, in 1940, then released after a month. Whether Q's influence was used or his help sought in obtaining Fritz's release is not known. In any event, the family thereafter changed their name to Penneck.
Beatrice Couch died in 1960; Dorothy Penneck died in 1970; Fritz Langer, re-named Frederick Edgar Penneck, was married again to a Linda Schalhorn and himself died in 1984; Richard J.P. Penneck married Jeanette Uren in Penzance in 1962 and afterwards moved to Gloucestershire, thus ending this branch of the Couch family in Penzance.
The St Austell Couch Connection
By the time of Q's death in 1944, the eldest of his 'estimable aunts' (Memories and Opinions), Bertha, had died in 1942, and Clarinda was only to survive Q by a few months, dying in November 1944. Sarah Roose Couch had by that time moved to Newquay, where her son, Jonathan Couch, was living with his wife Alice and two children. Her sister Bertha had spent her final years at a house called 'Lanjeth' in Perranporth, near Newquay. 'Lanjeth' was probably an example of the 'eczema of bungalows' built in the twenties and thirties which Q so vociferously deplored. His protests against over-development, particularly of the headlands in Cornwall, were well-documented in the local press.
No representatives of the few remaining members of the Fowey and Penzance branches of the family were present at Sarah's funeral, on Monday 19 November 1945, Margaret Quiller Couch having been the only real link for the Penzance side and Q for that of his own family at Fowey. It was held at the St Austell Congregational Church. Her sons Jonathan and Leonard, and Jonathan's wife Alice, were the chief mourners, the rest being either local dignitaries or friends. The 'beautiful floral tributes' were accompanied by cards reading 'In Loving Memory of Dear Mother, from Leonard, Gwen and Patsy' and ' In ever-loving memory of dear Grandma, from Jon, Alice, Lucy and Joe'. Also a wreath marked 'In sympathy from the Manor Staff', which suggests that Sarah may have been in a care home for a time, although her death was reported as having taken place at the home of her son at Hilgrove Road, Newquay.
The Cornish Guardian on Thursday, 22 November 1945, reported that Mrs Sarah Couch, the only surviving daughter of the celebrated Dr Jonathan Couch, had died aged 83. She had gone to live at Newquay early in the late war to be near her son. Mrs Couch, they said, was the widow of the late Captain Jonathan Couch member of a well-known Charlestown and St Austell district family and refers to the description of Jonathan Couch's third marriage in Memories and Opinions. They went on to say that 'Mrs Couch was a familiar figure in St. Austell and played an active part in the town's religious life. For more than 50 years she was associated with the Congregational Church . . . and for many years she was a deacon. She was a staunch member, and at one time regularly attended all the meetings of the St. Austell Old Cornwall Society, and took the keenest interest in all St. Austell district happenings.'
Representatives from Jonathan's firm of solicitors, Graham and Couch in St Austell, were present. He himself was then based at the Newquay Branch of Greenway, Graham, Couch & Co. At the time of his own death, in 1977, however, Jonathan was living in Buckinghamshire and Leonard lived and died, in 1975, in Essex. So ended Q's direct family connection with St Austell.
Foy was 18 at the time of Bevil's death, with all her adult life ahead of her, a great deal of which was, like Q's, devoted to public service. She never married but had some very interesting and long-lasting friendships, the most celebrated of which, because the most well-documented, was probably that with Daphne du Maurier. Rowse was of the opinion that Foy's mother, Lady Quiller-Couch, as he says, 'was—not to mince matters—a snob.' Elsewhere, he makes several pointed remarks about the Quiller-Couches who 'had all along been bent on keeping up with the Treffrys—and with the Robartes family at Lanhydrock', about them having 'social pretensions' and being 'bent on keeping up appearances.' There may have been an element of this but the fact remains that Q's position as a public figure naturally led him into contact with the 'county' families, who ran local affairs, and his daughter, brought up in that milieu, made her own friendships amongst the local gentry.
The Treffrys and the Rashleighs were the two main gentry families of Fowey. Charles Treffry of Place, had been High Sheriff of Cornwall in 1887. He and Q were instrumental in getting the old borough charter of Fowey revived. The town had ceased to exercise its rights under the ancient charter of incorporation after the Reform Act of 1832 and were formally deprived of them in 1883. Q, as President of the Fowey Mercantile Association, drafted a petition to parliament which was delivered by Charles Hanson, then MP for Bodmin, and a group of parishioners, in 1907. In 1913, Sir Reginald Pole-Carew, MP for South-East Cornwall, formally presented the new charter to Charles Treffry, the first mayor, at a ceremony held under a chestnut tree at Place at which Q also made a speech.
Charles Treffry also gave land for the building of a new cottage hospital, on high ground in Green Lane. Health care for the poor in Fowey, before the establishment of the National Health Service in 1948, was provided by local philanthropy via the Cottage Hospital and the Fowey Nursing Association.
The cottage hospital was originally founded in 1860 by the Rev. E.J. Treffry, Rev. J. Kemp and Major Davis. A cottage was provided rent free in Webb Street, and later at Colwyn House, 21 North Street with a branch at Fowey Consols Mine; and a nurse and servant were paid when their services were required and 'respectable local families kindly supplied dinner daily'. The first medical officer, Dr. A.A. Davis gave his services free, unless he could recover the fee from employers. The funding was provided by local fundraising, subscription and payments from employers, especially shipowners. The new cottage hospital was completed in 1914, providing for 'in and out' patients, an operating theatre, X-ray, dentistry and maternity care. (Hilda Marshall-Johnson, Fowey Harbour Heritage Society).
Organisers of local district nursing associations were responsible for employing district nurses, paying their salaries and providing accommodation. The majority of these associations were affiliated to the Queen's Nursing Institution, established in 1887 by Queen Victoria with a grant from the Women's Jubilee Fund. 'Provident' schemes were established where members paid a small weekly subscription in return for free nursing care when necessary. In 1929 in Leicester, for example, members paid a penny a week, whereas the normal charge for a visit from a district nurse was 1s 6d. (Queen's Nursing Institution website).
The cottage hospital and the Fowey Nursing Association were pet projects of the Treffrys and the Quiller-Couches, and Charles Hanson was generous in allowing the grounds of Fowey Hall to be used for fundraising events. In 1916, there was a mammoth fund raising event for the war effort at Fowey Hall and the ladies of Fowey had regular meetings in the dining room which became a sewing room for the event. Q produced a small volume of poems to be sold to raise funds for the new hospital. Foy was a child at this time but as an adult was involved in annual bazaars and other fund-raising events. In August 1936, on Fowey Hospital Day, she and her friend Anna Hanson helped run a fruit, flower and vegetable market. (Cornish Guardian 20 August, 1936).
Every year for years from the 1920s Foy Quiller-Couch was mentioned in the press as being responsible for organising the sale of roses on Alexandra Rose Day, at Fowey, to raise money for hospitals and nursing. On 4 June 1926 the Fowey Nursing Association was reported as having 211 subscribers. The President was Lady Hanson, and Lady Pool, Mrs Treffry, Lady Quiller-Couch, Mrs Charles Treffry and Dr Rashleigh were the vice-presidents.
Dr Rashleigh was the current owner of Menabilly, the seat of the Rashleigh family in Cornwall. The Rashleighs were a very old-established family, descended from Philip Rashleigh, a trader, merchant and shipowner, and the family owned huge land holdings and were locally very influential. The Rashleighs had also built an Italianate villa, Point Neptune House in Fowey, in the mid-nineteenth century, on the site of an old Napoleonic gun battery above Readymoney Cove, and the carriage drive, named St Catherine's Parade, formed an extension to the Esplanade, where the Haven was situated. Local people were allowed to use it as a promenade. Point Neptune was sold by the Rashleighs, however, and changed hands several times. In 1964, Foy Quiller-Couch sponsored the re-publication by Fowey Old Cornwall Society, of E.W. Rashleigh's A Short History of the Town and Borough of Fowey, originally published by J.J. Wellington, c.1887.
The Jingle Club
A photograph in Margaret Forster's biography of Daphne du Maurier, shows Foy, with her cousin, Betty Symondson, a Jenny Porter, Anna Hanson of Tredudwell House, Fowey, and three Rashleigh sisters, Oenone, Morwenna and Jennifer, daughters of William Stuart Rashleigh, heir to Dr Rashleigh of Menabilly and the grand-daughters of Evelyn William Rashleigh of Stoketon, Saltash, whose book is mentioned above. Oenone Rashleigh was one of Foy's oldest friends, with whom she set up the 'Jingle Club'. A jingle (pony and two-wheeled trap) is shown in the background to the photograph which was most likely taken on one of the Jingle Club's expeditions. Daphne du Maurier was probably the photographer.
A long article on the Jingle Club, in the column 'Ann's Corner', appeared in the Western Morning News on 29 December 1938, accompanied by a photo of Foy Quiller-Couch with Oenone Rashleigh, who seems to have been the appointed spokesperson.
'Roaming the country like gipsies with quiet-eyed ponies, and two-wheelers, is the joy of those young women who have started the Jingle Club. They rarely do more than twenty miles a day, often less. Sometimes they spend only a day on the road; sometimes they set off for days at a time to explore the quiet by ways of Devon and Cornwall.
Miss O. Rashleigh of Saltash and her friend Miss F. Quiller-Couch, of Fowey, started "jingling" about five years ago. Then Miss Quiller-Couch hired a jingle and pony, and drove to Saltash. From there the two girls made excursions to nearby beauty spots, usually returning each night.
"We choose routes right away from the beaten track," explained Miss Rashleigh, "Sometimes we discover lanes so narrow there is hardly room for us to pass. It's immense fun. In the front jingle is the map-keeper. An outpost rider goes ahead to see the way is clear and the road suitable." '
Oenone Rashleigh went on to explain how they booked accommodation at farmhouses beforehand, and took packed lunches during the day. The numbers of the club were limited because a lot of farmhouses only had two rooms to let and it would have meant splitting the party. As it was, they often had to sleep three to a bed, two at the head and one in the middle with their head to the foot of the bed. They didn't all ride because of having to carry clothes. She said "Some of us wear jodhpurs, but Miss Quiller-Couch never rides and she prefers a warm coat and skirt." (It is possible that Sir Arthur did not like to see his daughter in jodphurs. When she was riding with May Cannan earlier in the century, Foy probably rode side-saddle). The Jingle Club excursions took place in spring and autumn, to avoid tourists in summer and bad weather in winter.
Foy Quiller-Couch and her jingle were again in the local paper in 1964, when the headline was 'Q's daughter thrown from jingle.' Driving back to Trelowarren (home of Foy's other great friend Clara Vyvyan), from church at St Mawgan-in-Meneage, both shafts snapped and Foy and her three passengers were flung into the road. No-one was seriously hurt and the pony was eventually caught, and led home by Foy. (Cornish Guardian 23 April, 1964).
Clara, Lady Vyvyan of Trelowarren was another of Foy's oldest friends. She had been born Clara Coltman Rogers in Queensland, Australia, in 1885, but her mother was Charlotte Williams of the Williams family of Caerhays, Burncoose and Scorrier in Cornwall, whose father had been High Sheriff of Cornwall. Clara's father, Edward Powys Rogers, was of the Coltman Rogers family of Powys. The family spent part of the year in Australia and part in Britain. In 1929 Clara Rogers married Sir Courtenay Bourchier Vyvyan, tenth baronet. She was a well-known travel and garden writer and wrote about twenty books, published under the names C.C. Rogers and C.C. Vyvyan, and travelled extensively. She went from Canada to Alaska with her friend, artist Gwen Dorrien-Smith, resulting in the book An Arctic Adventure.
Clara Vyvyan was an interesting and eccentric woman who had trained as a social worker in London, gaining a degree in social science from the L.S.E. in 1913, and afterwards working in London slums. She was extremely knowledgeable about plants and birds and her great love was her garden at Trelowarren. Her book The Old Place, describes the damage caused by the army during the Second World War, when Trelowarren was requisitioned. Clara was working in Bristol at the time and had not signed the requisition papers, instructing her agent not to let them do anything until she got back. He was powerless, however, and by the time she got there, in spite of there being adequate land on the margins of the garden, the army had already dug up the established gardens and laid pipes everywhere. Clara was furious. She took the Major round and showed him, amongst what was left, how long the plants had taken to establish, the rarity of some of them, and, what was more important to his mind, the commercial value of them.
Sir Courtenay Vyvyan had died shortly before, in 1941, and his ashes were scattered in a beech grove that the couple had planted. The Major agreed to fence this off. Much later, however, Clara made over Trelowarren to Sir Courtenay's heir, to avoid death duties, although she continued to live in a wing of the house. She then had the pain of seeing the re-established gardens, orchards and beech grove bull-dozed by the heir to make room for caravan pitches.
The army were never allowed into the kitchen garden which was an established market garden, providing Clara with the small income which she had. She borrowed money to have electricity put into the house, and installed tenants in the wings, providing her with a rental income as well. After her mother's death in 1948, in 1955 Foy Quiller-Couch moved into one of the flats at Trelowarren. Also living there was Mrs Hanson, a niece of Octavia Hill, who Foy looked after. Mrs Hanson was widowed, her only son killed in battle and her only daughter, Foy's friend Anna, died, all in the same year, 1940.
A.A. Prideaux quotes one of Clara Vyvyan's great nephews, who describes visiting Clara, whom he called Aunt Kay: 'Once she took me down a maze of corridors to visit Foy Quiller-Couch who lived at the far end of the mansion. There was something very strange, mystical, fairy-tale about these two old ladies, each living in a tiny section of this great mansion and seeing each other only a couple of times a month.'
It was Sir Courtenay Vyvyan who gave the famous Logan Rock (rocking stone) at Treen, near Land's End, Cornwall, to the National Trust.
Daphne du Maurier
Foy Quiller-Couch introduced Daphne du Maurier to both Oenone Rashleigh and Clara Vyvyan. Daphne's family had acquired the house in Boddinnick, then called Swiss Cottage but renovated and re-named Ferryside by Daphne's mother, in 1926, as a holiday home. Daphne fell in love with the area and believed it would give her the peace and inspiration she needed to follow her ambition to write. She was allowed to remain there whilst the family lived in London, although was made to lodge with a local lady in the village, Miss Roberts. Daphne was introduced to Foy and they took a liking to each other. Daphne was regularly invited to Sunday supper at The Haven and Q became something of a mentor to her.
A wrecked boat and the story of a local woman gave Daphne the inspiration for her first novel, The Loving Spirit, launching her career. Her second novel, I'll Never Be Young Again, however, with its overt sexuality, shocked Q deeply and he questioned whether Daphne was a suitable friend for his daughter and her set. Rowse describes how he took Daphne to task over the matter, saying ' "You know, Daphne, people don't talk of such things." The young lady, just back from Paris, was able to assure him, "But, Sir Arthur, they do!" ' (Rowse, p. 218) Whatever Q's feelings, Foy and Daphne's friendship endured and it was Foy who introduced Daphne to the places which inspired her most famous books. Trelowarren was used as the location for Frenchman's Creek.
Daphne, Clara and Foy all possessed a strong streak of individuality and unconventionality which enabled them to pursue their own interests regardless of local opinion. This extended itself to their dress: for preference, Daphne wore daring slacks; Clara wore an old black beret, mittens with holes and tweed coats or an artist's smock, tied round the middle with garden twine; Foy preferred her tweeds and woollies and photographs show her in eccentric headgear, although all of them were capable of behaving and dressing with conformity on formal occasions.
Daphne remained friends with Clara and wrote the foreword for her book Letters from a Cornish Garden. Trelowarren was also the inspiration for the gardens of Manderley, in Rebecca, but the house itself was based on the Rashleighs' old home of Menabilly, although they no longer lived there and the place had been let go to ruin. Daphne had already seen the place years before, and fallen in love with it and its hidden location. Foy's friendship with the Rashleighs enabled Daphne to meet Dr Rashleigh, the owner, who gave her permission to walk in the grounds and in 1943 was finally persuaded to grant her a long lease on the place. The lease was for twenty years but required the leaseholder to repair the house. Daphne poured money into the place, regardless of the fact that she knew it was entailed and she would never be able to acquire the freehold and would have to leave when the lease came to an end. When this happened, Oenone Rashleigh helped Daphne negotiate with her brother, Philip Rashleigh, who inherited the house from Dr Rashleigh. He was reluctant, but in 1961 agreed to extend the lease for seven years but refused to extend it any further, giving Daphne the option of leasing the dower house, Kilmarth, instead. Daphne found Philip Rashleigh pompous and humourless but was obliged to restrain her natural inclination to tell him what she thought of him, for fear of ending up with neither property. She could not bear to leave altogether. Daphne again poured money into restoration work and she moved in in June 1969. Daphne was made a Dame in the Birthday Honours of that year but joked that she would 'much prefer to have Menabilly conferred on her (and Philip Rashleigh sent to the Tower).' (Margaret Forster p. 369).
Oenone Rashleigh helped Daphne with her research for The King's General which was based on the history of Menabilly and the Rashleigh family in the Civil War. Margaret Forster writes 'Oenone, who knew her father was, in fact, opposed to the idea, nevertheless helped Daphne as much as possible. She sent her copies of various family letters from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries together with a family tree, copious notes on the various family members, and a résumé of local history in so far as it affected the family. A.L. Rowse, who lived nearby also advised her on which books to consult (he had been introduced to Daphne by the Quiller-Couches two years before)'.
Jamaica Inn was inspired by a trip taken with Foy Quiller-Couch in November 1930. She and Daphne stayed at Jamaica Inn, but riding on Bodmin Moor in the afternoon, they lost their way. By then it was dark and raining and they found a derelict barn but Foy, according to the information on the du Maurier website, did not want to stay overnight, so they set off again and the horses eventually found the way back to the inn. They made a second trip a year later and visited Altarnun and the church of St Nonna, and were visited in the evening by the vicar. The stories he and the publican of Jamaica Inn told them gave Daphne the inspiration for one of her most well-known novels.
In Vanishing Cornwall Daphne describes how she and Foy went to try and gain an interview with the eccentric vicar of Warleggan, the Rev. Densham. They based themselves at Jamaica Inn again, and sallied forth the following day to call on the vicar. It was a hot day for May, a long and dusty trek, and the two were shaken by having stopped to 'eat a pasty lunch unwittingly upon a nest of adders, the strange hissing noise warning us, just before they uncoiled and rose, that the stone was occupied.' They found the entrance to the rectory gate barred and wired and when they sounded the bell a pack of 'enormous dogs, wolfhounds and Alsatians, sprang from nowhere upon the fence above us, leaping, snarling yellow fangs bared in rage.' Daphne and Foy fled. They did not return until about a year later, when they were in a car, accompanied by Clara Vyvyan.
This time 'the explorer from Alaska' as Daphne calls her, took charge and climbed a hedge. The vicar in an old fashioned frock coat and shovel hat was in the garden. Clara shouted 'cooee' and the vicar stalked off. The more inhibited Foy and Daphne were horrified and the three beat an 'ignominious retreat.' Afterwards, they wished they had tried the front entrance because the dogs were apparently long gone, and later on the eccentric vicar was found dead in his house after parishioners had seen no smoke and no sign of him. They had found the vicar dead on the stairs and evidence that floorboards had been torn up to provide fuel for the fire. Daphne went there later with her son Kit when researching for the book Vanishing Cornwall and was told, chillingly, that the Rev. Densham still walked in his garden.
An old tithe map of Tywardreath, lent to Daphne by a Mr Stone of the Old Cornwall Society, and the history of a priory which stood there in the fourteenth century, together with the history of former occupants of Kilmarth, the dower house which Daphne occupied when she left Menabilly, provided the basis for The House on the Strand.
Foy had been a member of the Old Cornwall society for years and was president of the Fowey branch in September 1960 when she unveiled the plaque, paid for by Fowey Old Cornwall Society, which explained the significance of the Long Stone at Four Turnings, Fowey, known as the Tristan Stone, one of the oldest non-Roman memorials in the country, standing in a triangle of grass at the junction of two main roads into Fowey from Par and Lostwithiel. The pillar, about seven feet high, bears the inscription 'DRUSTANS HIC IACIT CVONMORI FILIUS. The Cunomorus of the stone has been identified with King Mark and Drustans with Tristan. The stone was meant to mark Tristan's grave although in fact it had been moved from elsewhere.
The Cornish Guardian on 8 September, 1960, reported that:
'Mrs J.M. Godden, hon. Secretary of Fowey Old Cornwall Society, said that the Long Stone could not be dissociated with the nearby hill fort of Castledore, and, indeed, the story of the Tristan stone was part of the story of Castledore itself.
That hill fort, probably dating from the Iron and Bronze Age periods, was first occupied by a village folk, later fortified and eventually abandoned . . . but, at some time in the Dark ages it became a king's palace.' Mrs Godden pointed to overwhelming historical and linguistic evidence for the area as the locality of the Tristan and Iseult tragedy.
Unveiling the plaque, Miss Quiller-Couch said that wise people through the ages had linked the past with the present to make the future, and she commended the desire of the Old Cornwall Society to present to the passer-by this piece of Cornish history.
Proposing thanks on behalf of Fowey O.C.S. to Miss Quiller-Couch, Mr Godden said that thousands of people who passed the spot had not known of its connections with the famous romance. He hoped that people would now be induced to stop there, and learn something of that feature of Cornish history.'
Daphne du Maurier who was away at the time, in a letter to Foy, amongst those auctioned after the death of Foy's cousin Guy Symondson, said that she had received an invitation from the O.C.S. for the unveiling. Facetiously, she says that she and her husband had been wondering how many car crashes would ensue as passing motorists tried to read the plaque.
Castle Dor, a modern version of the story of Tristan and Iseult, was Q's last and unfinished novel. He had begun it years earlier around 1925 but abandoned it, returning to it ten or 15 years later but never completing it. In 1959 Foy asked Daphne du Maurier to take on the task of completing it. Daphne was honoured but worried that people would say she had ruined Q's 'beautiful style '. She wanted to do it 'to please Q's daughter and live again in memory, happy evenings long ago, when Q was host at Sunday supper.'
The novel was inspired by the persistent local legends concerning the site of the Tristan and Iseult story. Q was elated when as he 'was morally certain where King Mark's castle must have stood, the farmer's wife at the manor farm below got out some deeds and a map with the names of the fields on it; and lo! The meadow exactly fitting my hypothesis was called "Mark's Gate" ' (Brittain). It has to be said that later excavations of the site in 1936 and 1937 by Ralegh Radford, did not bear out local legend, revealing only the existence of an Iron Age hill fort, although linguistic evidence suggested otherwise. The Tristan stone itself had been moved from its original site and this site was unknown.
A contract was drawn up between Foy and Daphne, dealing with details of eventual royalties, and the project was the subject of a great deal of correspondence between them, concerning logistical and historical problems. Foy submitted the finished book to Rowse, writing 'I fear your censure over this', but Rowse thought Daphne had done a good job, and that one couldn't see where the original text finished and Daphne's began. Daphne later described the various sites regarding the legend in Vanishing Cornwall.
It is difficult to form an impression of Foy's character as most of what is known of her comes second and third hand from newspaper reports or snippets in biographies of Q. Gerry Hones in his study Q and the Hones Family, met Foy Quiller-Couch when he was a child. He writes 'When I was a boy I saw "Miss Foy" as a somewhat formal lady—courteous but always a little "distant", not easy for a youngster to know. I would say she had little contact with children and did not find it easy to relate to them.' Foy kept a lot of correspondence from others but the reverse does not seem to be the case. She did write one letter to the Cornish Guardian which was published on 25 February, 1965:
'Sir, A lady of my acquaintance who is collecting material for a lecture on the corn dollies of England has drawn my attention to a passage in my great-grandfather's book "The History of Polperro", which runs thus: "Towards the end of harvest when the last few stalks of the wheat-crop fall before the scythe, they are raised by the man who cuts them, and borne home in triumph.
"They are then woven into a miniature sheaf with projecting arms, and bedecked with daisies and other flowers to the neck."
The lecturer would be extremely grateful to anyone able to give her any information as to how these necks were made in South East Cornwall. Or any drawing or photograph would be most helpful and would be carefully returned.
I say "South-East Cornwall" because I understand she has one that was made in West Cornwall where they were shaped somewhat differently.
Foy F. Quiller-Couch.
Trelowarren, Helston, February 21, 1965.'
Remarks about Foy made by others, seem to indicate a rather reserved although not particularly shy person, who was quite forthright and had decided opinions but did not waste words.
Q says, in a letter to Mabel written in 1921 when the family visited Devon and the old farm at Abbotskerwell, 'Foy thought it was the loveliest village she had ever seen: and she never says what she doesn't think or feel. As the old lady said, "Wild horses couldn't bribe her." ' Interviewed for the article on jingling, it is noticeable that it was Oenone Rashleigh who did all the talking. Daphne du Maurier in Vanishing Cornwall, of the incident concerning the vicar, wrote 'Scarlet with shame, I plucked the explorer [Clara Vyvyan] from the hedge. The last of the trio [Foy] was already running for the car.' Although she had a strong streak of individuality, this seemed to be curbed by her conventional upbringing which probably prevented her from developing the kind of eccentricity which characterised Clara Vyvyan. It is noticeable that her friends all appeared to be outgoing types, in contrast to her own more reticent personality. Foy must have been quite quietly confident, however, in that she played a prominent part in local affairs. In 1941, she was appointed a JP, sitting on the Bench at Tywardreath, where Q was still chairman. Newspaper accounts of proceedings at Tywardreath Magistrates Court indicate that Q continued as chairman for one or two years after Foy was appointed, but presumably they did not both sit at the same sessions. After Q's death she made speeches at the unveiling of monuments to him erected in Fowey and Bodmin, as well as that relating to the Tristan Stone. She appears to have had the same practical efficiency and organizational ability which characterised her father, mother and brother.
Foy did not spend all her time in Cornwall. When her parents were alive she visited Q at Cambridge, and she and her mother stayed at a service flat in London for a short while in summer, meeting Q on his way back from Cambridge, shopping and no doubt visiting the aunts at Downshire Hill, Hampstead when they were still alive, and the family also holidayed in France. In 1951, passenger lists show that Foy went to Queensland, Australia, via Las Palmas, presumably to visit Clara Vyvyan there, although she does not appear to have accompanied Daphne and Clara on their trips to the Rhone valley and Greece, which provided material for two more books of Clara's: Down the Rhone on Foot and Temples and Flowers. Clara had apparently been rather dubious about Daphne as a companion as their ideas of 'roughing it' were very different, Daphne's rucksack being full of cosmetics.
Foy's other great interest, which she shared with Q, was a passionate love of Cornwall and a desire to preserve the beauty of the landscape from encroaching development. They were both active members of the Council for the Preservation of Rural England. Q was elected vice-president of the Cornwall branch in 1936. Foy also did a great deal of work in fund raising for the National Trust. Anna Hanson of Tredudwell Manor, pictured in the photograph of the Jingle Club, mentioned earlier, was a great-niece of Octavia Hill, one of the founders of the National Trust. In 1935, Foy was secretary and Anna Hanson treasurer, of a committee led by Mrs J. de Cressy Treffry, to raise funds to preserve Lantivet Bay. The Western Morning News on 13 December, 1935, reported:
'A Scheme is being put forward by an influential committee for securing the preservation of 50 acres of picturesque Cornish coastline at Lantivet Bay, between Polperro and Fowey.
'If the land is to be bought for the nation it is estimated that a sum of at least £550 will be required, and for this purpose a public appeal is to be launched. If this piece of beautiful coastal scenery, which is so typical of the Cornwall South Coast, is to be preserved, immediate action is necessary, otherwise it is likely that it will be sold for building sites.'
Foy interested Daphne du Maurier in the project and she donated some of the royalties from Jamaica Inn to the cause.
This was one of several successful campaigns. In 1960, Foy as chairman of the National Trust's local committee, had to speak for the Trust, one of the main objectors to an application for planning permission by the executors of the late Sir Charles Hanson of Fowey Hall, a distant cousin of hers, to develop nine acres of land in order to sell it to pay death duties on the estate. Foy was also involved in a dispute between the later owners of Fowey Hall, by then the Fowey Hall Hotel, over a local right of way. The continued public use of the lane was upheld.
In the New Year Honours, 1975, Foy Quiller-Couch was made an MBE for services to the National Trust. By this time, in 1971, Foy had left the damp and cold Trelowarren which was affecting her health, and moved to a flat at the top of Lanhydrock House, Bodmin, her addresses in the local telephone directory in 1975, being given as 'The Haven, Esplanade, Fowey, 3353 and Tregegals, Lanhydrock House, Lanhydrock, Bodmin, 3482.' Her friend Clara Vyvyan died in 1976.
Foy had had a long association with Lanhydrock from the days when Q was active in the Liberal Party. Q was a friend of the Agar-Robartes family, of whom the eldest son (heir to the 6th Viscount Clifden) Thomas Agar-Robartes became MP for South East Cornwall in 1906 as the 'farmers' and miners' friend,' and Q gave an address in Westminster Abbey at the memorial service for him when he was killed in action at the Battle of Loos in 1915. Foy was friendly with his sisters, Everilda, Tommy's twin, and Violet, although she was a lot younger than them. Rowse quotes Q saying that Foy was 'competing in a side-show at Lanhydrock.' in 1934 (p.203). During the Second World War the Agar-Robartes sisters were particularly welcoming to about twenty evacuees and went out of their way to make them welcome and make the experience fun for them, as the delightful reminiscences collected by the Lanhydrock historian, show. Lanhydrock was bequeathed to the National Trust in 1953, although Gerald, 7th Viscount Clifden and his siblings had the right to live there rent free. The last of the family to live at Lanhydrock, Everilda, died in 1969. In the collection at Lanhydrock is 'a twelve verse poem, illustrated with flowers and sheep, inscribed on the back "Dearest Foy, with love for Christmas, from Mary" (May?) dated 1946.' This was very likely from the poet May Cannan who was to have married Bevil Quiller-Couch. May married Percival James Slater in 1924. She and Foy remained dearest friends until May's death in 1973.
In 1982, Foy went into a nursing home but ended her days in St Lawrence's Hospital, Bodmin, on 25 February1986, suffering from senile dementia. Her friend, Daphne du Maurier died three years later. Foy Quiller-Couch was the last of the Quiller-Couches.
To summarise, Q's wife and children were the most important elements in his life – more than his writing, career, anything—and he was deeply affected all his life afterwards by Bevil's death in 1919. Louisa remained the love of Q's life and he wrote to her every day whenever he was away from home. Q may have demanded high standards of propriety from his daughter but they appeared to have had a loving relationship: in letters he addresses her as 'my dearest Babe' and they had many interests in common. Foy wrote in 1972 in a 'warm reply' to a letter of Gerry Hones' that 'My home life at Fowey was so happy that I look back on my connections with that "dearest of small cities" as my father used to call it with pleasure.' Q's relationship with his sisters and with his wife's family seems to have been one of mutual affection and they corresponded regularly, but he hardly mentions his two younger brothers and there is no evidence that he had any contact with them after the Oxford days. With his own extended Couch family Q had had no opportunity to form close childhood bonds and probably hardly knew most of them. When they did have occasion to meet, the relationship was one of civility, courtesy and respect for the achievements and better qualities of each, rather than anything warmer and Q may have actually disliked one or two of his relatives. However, to the outside world the Quiller-Couch family presented a united front.