A. E. Coppard

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In the early 1920s, and still unpublished, he was in Oxford and a leading light of a literary group, the New Elizabethans, who met in a pub to read Elizabethan drama.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

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

  • 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

  • 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


  • 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

  • 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.

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