Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Coppard, A E

(1878-1957) UK writer, almost exclusively of short stories, though Pink Furniture: A Tale for Lovely Children with Noble Natures (1930) is a Children's Fantasy of moderate interest. His work is usually based on a sharply and sensitively described rural England, more often than not without any supernatural elements; many of his more than 100 tales are, however, Supernatural Fiction (mostly Ghost Stories), and there are some full-blown fantasies. He began publishing collections with Adam and Eve and Pinch Me (coll 1921), in whose title story a man visits the future as a kind of astral self-projection, finding there his own third child at play. Further collections – all incorporating tales in various modes – include Clorinda Walks in Heaven (coll 1922), The Black Dog (coll 1923), Fishmonger's Fiddle (coll 1925), Silver Circus (coll 1928), The Gollan (1929 chap), Nixey's Harlequin (coll 1931), Cheefoo (1932 chap), Crotty Shinkwin: A Tale of the Strange Adventure that Befell a Butcher of County Clare; The Beauty Spot: A Tale Concerning the Chilterns (coll 1932 chap), Dunky Fitlow (coll 1933), Polly Oliver (coll 1935), Ninepenny Flute (coll 1937), Tapster's Tapestry (1938 chap), You Never Know, Do You? (coll 1939), Ugly Anna (coll 1944), Dark-Eyed Lady (coll 1947) and Lucy in Her Pink Jacket (coll 1954). Fares Please! (omni 1931) assembles the stories published to that date, and The Collected Tales of A.E. Coppard (coll 1947) represents the author's sense of his best work.

Of more specific interest is Fearful Pleasures (coll 1946 US) ed August Derleth, which assembles most of AEC's supernatural fiction and fantasy to that date. Fearful Pleasures stands as a title of considerable significance for 20th-century fantasy. A tale like The Gollan, for instance, is a complex, wry, revisionist Fairytale which translates what seems to be rural England into a Land of Fable peopled by leprechauns, one of whom gives the compliant Gollan his Wish – not to be at everyone's beck – by granting him Invisibility when he is awake; this soon costs him dear, as other humans are also invisible to him (see Answered Prayers). Attempting to rejoin society, he trades eyes, ears and nose with various Talking Animals; but through these organs can perceive only what they can. Eventually he comes under the command of the king, who requires magical feats of him, the last of which ends in a general catastrophe. Gollan – invisible again – lives on for many years "in great privation". This tale, a mere 10 pages long, contains in germ much of the best of late-20th-century fantasy.

Other fantasies of note include "Cheese" and "Crotty Shinkwin", whose protagonist overturns an Island, revealing to the light a tiny town and a bag of air from Eden. AEC did not publish in genre Magazines, and so his pioneering work has not been widely recognized. [JC]

Alfred Edgar Coppard


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.