A. E. Coppard

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Coppard's wife and two children

Alfred Edgar Coppard (4 January 1878 – 13 January 1957) was an English writer and poet, noted for his influence on the short story form.


Coppard was born the son of a tailor and a housemaid in Folkestone, and had little formal education.[1] Coppard grew up in difficult, poverty-stricken circumstances; he later described his childhood as "shockingly poor" and Frank O'Connor described Coppard's early life as "cruel".[2] He left school at the age of nine to work as an errand boy for a Jewish trouser maker in Whitechapel during the period of the Jack the Ripper murders.

In the early 1920s, and still unpublished, he was in Oxford and a leading light of a literary group, the New Elizabethans, who met in a pub to read Elizabethan drama. W. B. Yeats sometimes attended the meetings. At this period he met Richard Hughes[3] and Edgell Rickword, amongst others.

Coppard was a member of the Independent Labour Party for a period.[4] Coppard's fiction was influenced by Thomas Hardy and, on its initial publication[dubious ], favourably compared to that of H. E. Bates.[5] Coppard's work enjoyed a surge in popularity in the United States after his Selected Tales was chosen as a selection by the Book of the Month Club.[2]

In the profile in Twentieth Century Authors, Coppard lists Abraham Lincoln as the politician he most admired.[6] Coppard also listed Sterne, Dickens, James, Hardy, Shaw, Chekhov and Joyce as authors he valued;[6] conversely, he expressed a dislike for the works of D. H. Lawrence, T. E. Lawrence, and Rudyard Kipling.[6]

Some of Coppard's collections, such as Adam and Eve and Pinch Me and Fearful Pleasures, contain stories with fantastic elements, either of supernatural horror or allegorical fantasy.[7]

In Nancy Cunard's 1937 book Authors take Sides on the Spanish War, Coppard took the side of the Republicans.[8]

A.E. Coppard was the uncle of George Coppard, a British soldier who served with the Machine Gun Corps during World War I, known for his memoirs With A Machine Gun to Cambrai.[9]

Critical reception[edit]

Coppard's short stories were praised by Ford Madox Ford and Frank O'Connor.[2] Coppard's book Nixey's Harlequin received good reviews from L. A. G. Strong, Gerald Bullett, and The Times Literary Supplement (which praised Coppard's "brilliant virtuosity as a pure spinner of tales").[10] Coppard's supernatural fiction was admired by Algernon Blackwood.[11] Brian Stableford argues that Coppard's fantasy has a similar style to that of Walter de la Mare and that "many of his mercurial and oddly plaintive fantasies are deeply disturbing".[5]


Story collections[edit]

  • Adam & Eve & Pinch Me (1921)
  • Clorinda Walks in Heaven (1922)
  • The Black Dog and Other Stories (1923)
  • Fishmonger's Fiddle: Tales (1925)
  • The Field of Mustard (1926)
  • Silver Circus (1928)
  • Count Stefan (1928)
  • The Higgler (1930)
  • Nixey's Harlequin (1931)
  • Fares Please! (1931)
  • Crotty Shinkwin and The Beauty Spot (1932)
  • Dunky Fitlow (1933)
  • Ring the Bells of Heaven (1933)
  • Emergency Exit (1934)
  • Pink Furniture (1930)
  • Polly Oliver (1935)
  • Ninepenny Flute (1937)
  • You Never Know, Do You? (1939)
  • Ugly Anna (1944)
  • Fearful Pleasures (1946)
  • Selected Tales (1946)
  • The Dark Eyed Lady – Fourteen Tales (1947)
  • Collected Tales (1948)
  • Lucy in Her Pink Coat (1954)
  • Selected Stories (1972)
  • The Collected Tales of A. E. Coppard (1976)
  • The Higgler and Other Stories (1991)
  • The Man from the Caravan and Other Stories (1999)
  • Father Raven and Other Tales (2006)
  • Weep not my wanton : selected short stories (2013)

Poetry collections[edit]

  • Hips and Haws (1922)
  • Yokohoma Garland & Other Poems (1926)
  • Pelaga and Other Poems (1926)
  • The Collected Poems of A. E. Coppard (1928)
  • Cherry Ripe: Poems (1935)
  • Simple Day: Selected Poems (1978)


  • The Hundredth Story of A. E. Coppard (1930)( Illustrated by Robert Gibbings)
  • Cheefoo (1932)
  • Good Samaritans (1934)
  • These Hopes of Heaven (1934)
  • Tapster's Tapestry :A Tale (1938) (Illustrated by Gwenda Morgan)


  • Rummy: that noble game expounded in prose, poetry, diagram and engraving (1932) (Illustrated by Robert Gibbings).

As Editor[edit]


  • Consequences, a complete story in the manner of the old parlour game, in nine chapters, each by a different author (1932)

(Coppard was one of the contributors to this book; the others were Seán Ó Faoláin, Elizabeth Bowen, John Van Druten, Gladys Bronwyn Stern, Ronald Fraser, Malachi Whitaker, Norah Hoult and Hamish Maclaren.)

  • The Fairies Return, or New Tales for Old (1934)


  • It's Me, O Lord! (1957)

Further reading[edit]

  • Fabes, Gilbert H., The First Editions of A. E. Coppard, A. P. Herbert and Charles Morgan, 1933 London: Myers.
  • Jehin, A. Remarks on the Style of A.E. Coppard. Buenos Aires, 1944.
  • Saul, George Brandon, A.E. Coppard: His Life and Poetry,1932, University of Pennsylvania, PhD dissertation.
  • Schwartz, Jacob with foreword and notes by A. E. Coppard, A Bibliography of A. E. Coppard - The Writings of Alfred Edgar Coppard, 1931.
  • Smith, Frank Edmund, Flynn: A Study of A. E. Coppard and His Short Fiction (1973).


  • Bleiler, Everett (1948). The Checklist of Fantastic Literature. Chicago: Shasta Publishers. pp. 83–84.


  1. ^ This is Folkestone Archived 19 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ a b c "Coppard, Alfred Edgar" by Thomas Moult and Clare Hansen. Dictionary of National Biography,Volume 13, edited by H.C.G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2004. ISBN 019861411X (pp. 360-61).
  3. ^ Richard Perceval Graves, Richard Hughes (1994), p. 52.
  4. ^ A. E. Coppard, It's Me, Oh Lord! Methuen, 1957, (p.148-9)
  5. ^ a b "Coppard, A(lfred) E(dgar)" by Brian Stableford in David Pringle, St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost & Gothic Writers. London : St. James Press, 1998, ISBN 1558622063 (pp. 147-8).
  6. ^ a b c Twentieth century authors, a biographical dictionary of modern literature, edited by Stanley J. Kunitz and Howard Haycraft; (Third Edition). New York, The H.W. Wilson Company, 1950 (p.312-312)
  7. ^ "Coppard, A.E.", in Brian Stableford, The A to Z of Fantasy Literature. Scarecrow Press, 2005 (p.89).
  8. ^ Katharine Bail Hoskins, Today the Struggle: Literature and Politics in England during the Spanish Civil War. University of Texas Press, 1969 (p.18)
  9. ^ George Coppard, With A Machine Gun to Cambrai, (1969), p. 16.
  10. ^ Advertisement for Nixey's Harlequin in The American Mercury, January 1932, (p.145).
  11. ^ "Blackwood was widely read in supernatural fiction and he remarked to Derleth that authors like A. E. Coppard, H. Russell Wakefield, Henry S. Whitehead, May Sinclair and Mary Wilkins Freeman never failed to please." Mike Ashley, Starlight Man : The Extraordinary Life of Algernon Blackwood. London : Constable, 2001. ISBN 1841194174 (p.321)

External links[edit]