Roderic Quinn was born in Sydney, to parents who emigrated from Galway in 1855. He was educated at Catholic schools, meeting Christopher Brennan (q.v.) in his early years and forming a life-long friendship with E. J. Brady (q.v.) at the Marist Brothers' School. After finishing school he studied law and worked at a variety of jobs, including as produce merchant and school teacher in the Riverina, before becoming the editor of the North Sydney News.
During the 1890s Quinn published his first poems in the Bulletin and quickly established himself as one of Australia's most popular and well respected poets. His first collection, The Hidden Tide (1899), was well received, attracting positive comment from W. B. Yeats. It was followed by The Circling Hearths in 1901. Quinn published a novel, Mostyn Stayne, in 1897 and regularly wrote short stories for the Bulletin, but he was most admired for his poetry. He wrote prolifically and published two more volumes in his lifetime, supporting himself almost entirely from the proceeds of his poetry. His poetry, however, differed from the predominant bush ballads of the time. He drew inspiration from later nineteenth century English poetry and Irish poetry of the Celtic Twilight, bringing frequent comparisons with Victor Daley (q.v.). A number of his poems were published individually in broadsheet format, and he also wrote the lyrics to several songs.
Quinn was a leading member of the Dawn and Dusk Club (q.v.) in the late 1890s. He never married, living with members of his family and in a boarding house for the last twenty years of his life. In 1925 he received a Commonwealth Literary Fund pension of £1 a week. He died in 1949. Quinn's reputation has never reached the level of the early 1900s, but his poetry is often included in anthologies.