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Lettice Cooper (Lettice Ulpha Cooper) Biography

(1897–1994), (Lettice Ulpha Cooper), The Lighted Room, National Provincial, Time and Tide, Black Bethlehem, Fenny

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Cockfield Suffolk to Frances Cornford (née Darwin) Biography

British novelist, born in Eccles, Lancashire, educated at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. Her first novel, The Lighted Room (1925), was one of ten written while she was in Yorkshire. The last of these, National Provincial (1938), led to an invitation to work in London, on the staff of Time and Tide, as editorial assistant and drama critic. During the Second World War, she was public relations officer for the Ministry of Food in London. The 1947 publication of Black Bethlehem and her biography of Robert Louis Stevenson marked Cooper's return to writing. From the outset, Cooper's project was to explore the ‘truth of the human situation’. Her deliberate use of traditional form, domestic situations, and uneventful lives in her fiction places her in the mainstream of English writing by women from George Eliot onwards. Much of her fiction is set in her native Yorkshire, but her frequent visits to Italy, for which she had a deep and evident affection, are reflected by her use of its landscapes and interiors in many of her works, notably the ambitious and successful Fenny (1953). A lifelong socialist, Cooper studied the world she knew intimately with compassion and insight; she had a particular understanding of the workings of institutions, which is revealed in such works as Three Lives (1957), set in an adult education college, and the earlier We Have Come to a Country (1935), the action of which unfolds in an occupational centre for unemployed men. The last of her twenty novels, Unusual Behaviour, appeared in 1986, and the revival in 1987 of three earlier novels (The New House, 1936; National Provincial, and Fenny) brought Cooper's fiction to a new audience in her ninetieth year. She also wrote numerous children's books. She was Vice-Chairman (19758), then President of the English Pen Club (197981). Cooper was awarded an OBE in 1978.

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