Monday, 19 July 2010

Aristophanes "The Clouds"

An exchange on a forum reminded me of something that I read in A. L. Rowse's autobiographical A Cornish Childhood. When he was a boy, he bought a secondhand book in St Austell Market House. It was "The Clouds" by Aristophanes. When he got it home, he realized that it bore the initials of a previous owner "A.T.Q.C." - Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch ('Q'), later to be his mentor, in his fight and journey to Oxford. A. L. must have treasured this book very much. On one occasion, when there was an evening in his hometown of St Austell, to help raise funds to supplement his scholarships, a local tradesman handed up a note to Q (who was speaking on A. L.'s behalf), and the note read "Do you realize that the boy is a socialist?" and Q read it and tore it up, as he stood there, and continued. A. L.'s later academic and literary career is a matter of record that fully vindicated Q's confidence in him. When A. L. died, I remembered the mention of this book (which probably, also, bears the initials A.L.R.) and strove to find out what had happened to it. Alas! too late. Apparently, the book had been wholly disregarded as anything of especial note, and sold to a general book-dealer. I tracked him down but it had already been sold on. I just hope that the new owner fully appreciated its significance. Given a choice between a splendid motor car and that little book, I should choose that book.

The picture is A. L. R. in Trenarren House.


  1. It is really a pity you did not get the book. The volume might bear nowadays an enigmatic sequence of letters - A.T.Q.C. A.L.R. N.J.S. - no one but the initiated would be able to decipher. I love that room.

  2. Thank you! I am doing another post next about two Cornish houses that were lived in by writers.