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William Cooper, pseudonym of Harry Summerfield Hoff Biography

(1910–2002), pseudonym of Harry Summerfield Hoff, Scenes from Provincial Life, Scenes from Metropolitan Life

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

English novelist, born in Crewe, Cheshire, educated at Christ's College, Cambridge. He was a physics teacher, served in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War, and worked for the Civil Service Commission and the Atomic Energy Authority. As H. S. Hoff he had written four novels before he became recognized with his fifth, Scenes from Provincial Life (1950), by ‘William Cooper’, which considerably influenced younger novelists of the 1950s, including Kingsley Amis, John Braine, and Stan Barstow. Sardonically comic and artfully realistic, it is narrated by a young lower-middle-class schoolteacher, Joe Lunn; much of the comedy revolves around the anti-hero's attempts to keep his girlfriend, Myrtle, happy while also avoiding marriage. Scenes from Metropolitan Life (1982), about Joe Lunn's Civil Service days, was written in 1951 but suppressed for many years under threat of libel; Scenes from Married Life (1961), which completes the trilogy, was followed by Scenes from Later Life (1983). Other novels include Young People (1958), about students at a provincial university in the 1930s; Memoirs of a New Man (1966), about a scientist; and Immortality at Any Price (1991), about an Oxford academic and biographer. Cooper's novels are important not just for their literary merit but also for their contribution to the ‘new realism’ school of British fiction. He also wrote C. P. Snow (1959; revised edition 1971) and From Early Life (1990), an autobiographical memoir.

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