On taking his degree in 1886 he was for a short time classical lecturer at Trinity. After some journalistic experience in London, mainly as a contributor to the Speaker, in 1891 he settled at Fowey in Cornwall.
In Cornwall he was an active worker in politics for the Liberal Party. He was knighted in 1910.
From his Oxford days he was known as a writer of excellent verse. With the exception of the parodies entitled Green Bays (1893), his poetical work is contained in Poems and Ballads (1896). In 1895 he published an anthology from the 16th and 17th-century English lyrists, The Golden Pomp, followed in 1900 by the evergreen Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250-1900 (1900), which remains to this day the quintessential anthology of English poetry. (Later editions of this extended the period covered up to 1918.)
In 1910 he published The Sleeping Beauty and other Fairy Tales from the Old French.
He received a professorship of English at the University of Cambridge in 1912, which he retained for the rest of his life, later holding a Chair (or Professorship) of English. He oversaw the beginnings of the English Faculty there, an academic diplomat in a fractious community. He is sometimes regarded as the epitome of the school of English literary criticism later overthrown by F. R. Leavis.
Alistair Cooke was a notable student of Quiller-Couch and he features prominently in Nick Clarkes Semi Official Biography of Cooke. He also notes Quiller-Couch was regarded by the Cambridge Establishment as "rather eccentric" even by the University's Standards.
Quiller-Couch was a noted literary critic, publishing several volumes; among these are Studies in Literature (1918) and On the Art of Reading (1920). He edited a successor Oxford Book of English Prose which was published in 1923, and published the 30-volume work of fiction, Tales and Romances, in 1928-9. He also edited a number of volumes of the New Shakespeare, published by Cambridge University Press, with Dover Wilson.
He left his autobiography, Memories and Opinions, unfinished; it was nevertheless published in 1945.
Castle Dor, a retelling of the Tristan and Iseult myth in modern circumstances, was left unfinished at Quiller-Couch's death and was completed many years later by Daphne du Maurier. As she wrote in the Sunday Telegraph on April 1962, she took up the job with considerable trepidation, at the request of Quiller-Couch's daughter and "in memory of happy evenings long ago when 'Q' was host at Sunday supper"
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