Alfred Edgar Coppard was an English writer, noted for his influence on the short story form, and poet.
Coppard was born the son of a tailor and a housemaid in Folkestone, and had little formal education. 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". 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In the early 1920s, and still unpublished, he was in Oxford and a leading light of a literary group, the New Elizabethans, who met in a pub to read Elizabethan drama.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 and Edgell Rickword, amongst others.
Coppard was a member of the Independent Labour Party for a period. Coppard's fiction was influenced by Thomas Hardy and on its initial publication, favourably compared to that of H. E. Bates. Coppard's short stories were praised by Ford Madox Ford and Frank O'Connor. Coppard's work enjoyed a surge in popularity in the US after his Selected Tales was chosen as a selection by the Book of the Month Club.
In the profile in Twentieth Century Authors, Coppard lists Abraham Lincoln as the politician he most admired. Coppard also listed Sterne, Dickens, James, Hardy, Shaw, Chekhov and Joyce as authors he valued; conversely, he expressed a dislike for the works of D. H. Lawrence, T. E. Lawrence, and Rudyard Kipling.
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. Stableford argues 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".
In Nancy Cunard's 1937 book Authors take Sides on the Spanish War, Coppard took the side of the Republicans.
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.
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