A. E. Coppard Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

In terms of struggle and development, the life of Alfred Edgar Coppard (KAHP-urd) was, particularly in his early years, an epic in itself. He began in abject poverty, and his rise was circuitous. Born on January 4, 1878, at Folkestone in Kent, England, he was the son of a housemaid, Emily Alma (née Southwell) and George Coppard, a tailor. After the family moved to Brighton, Coppard was educated at the Lewes Hill Boarding School until the age of nine. His father had died of tuberculosis the year before. Coppard later remembered him as a radical young man with a bushy beard who never owned nor could afford an overcoat. This fact was apparently significant, as Coppard himself did not own an overcoat until he was thirty. After the father’s death, the family (Coppard, three sisters, and their mother) was sunk in destitution and was forced to apply for parish relief.

At nine, Coppard was taken out of school to become a wage earner. A year later, he was sent to Whitechapel in London, where he lived with an uncle and served as a shop boy to a trousers maker. From there, he was transferred to a pool of messenger boys at Reuter’s Telegraph Agency. The pay was usual for the period, but it was not enough to take care of the rest of his family; he lived on strict rations. This was a period, however, of growth and novelty amid colorful relatives, both hostile and friendly, and the tumult of the city.

Two years later, Coppard returned to Brighton and hired out as an office boy. From thirteen on, he worked at a number of jobs, meanwhile becoming an avid reader of poetry and continuing what had already become a program of self-education. He appears to have been endowed with extraordinary energy; his enthusiasms were broad as well as precocious. He loved sports, hiking, music, painting, and amateur theatricals. By the time of his early teens, he had started to write poetry, inspired chiefly by John Keats’s “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” and John Milton’s “L’Allegro.”

Coppard never returned to school but was...

(The entire section is 836 words.)


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Alfred Edgar Coppard’s remarkable life contributed to his early success. To such an influential editor-writer as Ford Madox Ford, he was a rustic wise man or gypsy, a character out of one of his own dark country stories. Coppard was born into poverty and attended only four years of elementary school in Brighton. His father was a tailor, his mother a housemaid; when his father died young, Coppard had to help the family survive by taking a series of menial jobs. At age twenty-one, he became a clerk in an engineering firm in Brighton, where he remained for seven years, advancing to cashier. As a teenager and young man he walked the English countryside, absorbing its landscapes and the language of country folk he met in roadside taverns, a favorite setting for many of his later tales. He was a fine athlete and even supplemented his income as a successful professional sprinter. He married in 1906 and a year later took a better position as an accountant for an ironworks in Oxford, a position he held for twelve years. During his years in Oxford he read, often in the Bodleian, associated with students, heard and sometimes met such luminaries as Vachel Lindsay, Aldous Huxley, and William Butler Yeats, and, finally, began to write. He also became involved in Socialist politics and joined the Women’s Social and Political Union. Finally, in 1919, having published seven or eight tales in journals such as the Manchester Guardian and a few poems in journals such as...

(The entire section is 426 words.)