Monday, 12 July 2010

First Among Equals

NB TO SEE QUILLER-COUCH IN THE CENTRE OF THE GROUP - CLICK THE ABOVE PICTURE (by courtesy of the Commodore of the Royal Fowey Yacht Club).

I find this to be a charming picture of a very well-dressed man enjoying himself, with his friends, in ordinary activity, on the river. Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch ('Q') (centre) 1864-1944; (second) Professor of English Literature at Cambridge University; educationalist, writer, critic, and one of the few vehemently to oppose the emerging bogus 'science' of eugenics (his Three Open Letters To The Bishop of Exeter rank amongst the most elegant and cogent and moving pieces of prose of the twentieth century; all composed, as he says in one of them, while he fumigated the air with pipes of tobacco to keep his temper). Notice the little boy milling about unconcernedly. If only our leaders now behaved like 'Q'! The inscription on the great granite monolith that stands on Penleath Point,Fowey overlooking his 'dearest of small cities', and the harbour, ends with the words:

"Courteous in manner, charitable in judgement, chivalrous in action, he manifested in life, as in literature, the dignity of manhood, the sanctity of home and the Sovereignty of God." - and then some lines from the end of his book, 'Sir John Constantine':

"O, Thou, who payest not by time,
Take the thanks of Thy servant.
O, Lord receive my sword,
O, hands, O wounded hands,
Reach and resume my soul:
In manas tuas, Domine,
In manas tuas."

Much is written, and will be written, of excellence and of elegance - but he evidenced these qualities to a remarkable degree and, at a stroke, lays to rest de Balzac's nonsensical assertion that, amongst others, the teachers of the humanities are incapable of living an elegant life.


  1. To be fair, Balzac's assertion was necessary to explain his own predicament. It was no doubt self serving, but I see some irony there as well. Of course, I had no idea that the French did irony...:-)

  2. Fair enough, Shredder, but he does refer to 'teachers', which might be a dig against his own. Moreover, he does not have a go at lawyers and businessmen (and he had a crack at both the law and business). However, I suppose that some writers do adopt a didactic style(!).