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Jilly Cooper (Sallitt)

Birthplace: Hornchurch, Greater London, England, United Kingdom
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Brigadier William Baines Sallitt, OBE and Mary E. Sallitt
Wife of <private> Cooper
Widow of Leo Cooper
Mother of <private> Cooper; <private> Cooper; <private> Cooper and <private> Cooper
Half sister of <private> Sallitt

Managed by: Michael Lawrence Rhodes
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Jilly Cooper

Jilly Cooper OBE

(born 21 February 1937) is an English author. She started her career as a journalist and wrote numerous works of non-fiction before writing several romance novels, the first of which appeared in 1975. She is most famous for writing the Rutshire Chronicles.

Early life

Jilly Sallitt was born in Hornchurch, Essex, England, to Mary Elaine (née Whincup) and Brigadier W. B. Sallitt, OBE.[citation needed] She grew up in Ilkley and Surrey, and was educated at the Moorfield School in Ilkley and the Godolphin School in Salisbury.

Journalism and non-fiction

After unsuccessfully trying to start a career in the British national press, Cooper became a junior reporter for The Middlesex Independent,[citation needed] based in Brentford. She worked for the paper from 1957 to 1959.[citation needed] Subsequently, she worked as an account executive, copywriter, publisher's reader and even a receptionist.[citation needed]

Her break came with a chance meeting at a dinner party. The editor of The Sunday Times Magazine asked her to write a feature about her experiences. This led to a column in which Cooper wrote about marriage, sex and housework. That column ran from 1969 to 1982, when she moved to The Mail on Sunday, where she worked for another five years.[citation needed]

Cooper’s first column led to the publication of her first book, How to Stay Married in 1969,[citation needed] and which was quickly followed by a guide to working life, How to Survive from Nine to Five in 1970.[citation needed] Some of her journalism was collected into a single volume, Jolly Super, in 1971.[citation needed] Several similar volumes were issued.[citation needed]

The theme of class dominates much of her writing and her non-fiction is written from a distinct upper middle-class British perspective, focusing on the relationships between men and women, and matters of social class in contemporary Britain.[citation needed]


In 1975, Cooper published her first work of romantic fiction,[citation needed] Emily. It was based on a short story she wrote for a teenage magazine, as were the subsequent romances (all titled with female names). She also wrote a series of children’s books featuring the heroine Little Mabel.

However, Cooper's best-known works are her extremely long novels. The first of these was Riders (1985), an international bestseller, and the first volume of Rutshire Chronicles. The first version of Riders was written by 1970, but shortly after Cooper had finished it, she took it with her into the West End of London and left the manuscript on a bus.[citation needed] The London Evening Standard put out an appeal, but it was never found.[citation needed] She was, she says, "devastated", and it took her more than a decade to start it again.[citation needed]

Riders and the following books are characterised by intricate plots, featuring multiple story lines and a large number of characters. (To help the reader keep track, each book begins with a list and brief description of the characters) Although the books do not always follow each other sequentially - Rivals and Polo chronologically overlap, for example - they are linked by recurring characters (chiefly Rupert Campbell-Black, Roberto Rannaldini, and their families) and later books make reference to events of previous books.[citation needed]

The stories heavily feature adultery, (sexual) infidelity and general betrayal, melodramatic misunderstandings and emotions, money worries and domestic upheavals.[citation needed]

Each book of the Rutshire Chronicles is set in a milieu that can be considered glamorous and wealthy, such as show jumping or classical music. These aspects are contrasted with details of the characters' domestic lives, which are often far from glamorous.[citation needed]

Her novel Pandora is not one of the Rutshire Chronicles, but does feature a few characters from the series, and is very similar in style and content. Wicked! follows the same approach, including characters from previous novels and introducing new characters who are relatives, friends or rivals of existing characters. It is set in the fictional county of Larkshire, which borders her other fictional county, Rutshire.

Her most recent[when?] novel is Jump! which features characters from Rutshire Chronicles in the world of jump racing.

As with her non-fiction works, Cooper draws heavily on her own point of view and experiences. For example, her own house is the model for Rupert Campbell-Black's: both are very old (although his is larger); her house overlooks a valley called the Toadsmore, and his overlooks a valley called the Frogsmore. She also draws on her love of animals – dogs and horses feature heavily in her books – and the British countryside.

Private life

In 1961, Jilly married Leo Cooper, a publisher of military history books.[citation needed] The couple have known each other since 1945 (when Jilly was about eight), although they did not marry until she was 24 and he was 27.[citation needed] Leo Cooper was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in 2002.[citation needed] In October 2010 Jilly suffered a minor stroke.[1] The couple were unable to have children naturally. They adopted two children, Emily and Felix, now adults. They also have four grandchildren, Jago, Lysander, Acer and Scarlett, as well as a rescued cat, Feral, and a rescued greyhound, Feather. They live in an old house in the Cotswolds which they moved to in 1982.

Cooper was involved in the Ladbroke Grove rail crash. She was a passenger in one of the derailed carriages and had to crawl through a window to escape.[citation needed] She later spoke of feeling that her "number was up" and of being absurdly concerned, due to shock, about a manuscript she had been carrying. Cooper lives in Bisley, near Stroud in Gloucestershire Cooper is a very strong supporter of the British Conservative Party.

Awards and honours

Cooper was awarded an OBE for services to literature in the Queen's Birthday Honours list in 2004.[citation needed]

On 13 November 2009 she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters by the University of Gloucestershire at a ceremony in Gloucester Cathedral.[3]

List of works


How to Stay Married (1969) How to Survive from Nine to Five (1970) Jolly Super (1971) Men and Super Men (1972) Jolly Super Too (1973) Women and Super Women (1974) Jolly Superlative (1975) Supermen and Superwomen (1976) Work and Wedlock (1977) Superjilly (1977) The British in Love (1979) Class A View from Middle England (1979) Supercooper (1980) Violets and Vinegar An Anthology of Women's Wrirings and Sayings (1980) Intelligent and Loyal (1981) Jolly Marsupial (1982) Animals in War (1983) The Common Years (1984) On Rugby (1984; with Leo Cooper) On Cricket (1985; with Leo Cooper) Hotfoot to Zabriskie Point (1985) Horse Mania! (1986) How to Survive Christmas (1986) Turn Right at the Spotted Dog (1987) Angels Rush In (1990)


Emily (1975) Bella (1976) Harriet (1976) Octavia (1977) Imogen (1978) Prudence (1978) Lisa and Co. (1981; also known as Love and Other Heartaches)

'Little Mabel' series: Little Mabel (1980) Little Mabel's Great Escape (1981) Little Mabel Wins (1982) Little Mabel Saves the Day (1985)

The Rutshire Chronicles:

Riders (1985) Rivals (1988; also known as Players) Polo (1991) The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous (1993) Appassionata (1996) Score! (1999) Pandora (2002) Wicked! (2006) Jump! (2010)

Film, TV, or theatrical adaptations

In 1971, Cooper created the comedy series It's Awfully Bad For Your Eyes, Darling, which featured Joanna Lumley, and ran for one series.[4]

Television adaptations of Cooper's romance novels are currently in development with ITV. Octavia, had its first UK screening in 2009, with actress Tamsin Egerton, taking the title role.

Previous productions include the TV mini-series The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous, starring Hugh Bonneville, produced by Sarah Lawson.

In popular culture

Cooper was a regular panellist on Through the Keyhole TV show Little Britain has a recurring joke featuring the fictional character Bubbles DeVere, who in an attempt to appear important, pretends to receive a call from Jilly Cooper.[5]

References ^ ^ ^ University Announces Honorary Awards University of Gloucestershire ^ ^ Little Britain - Bubbles Devere -11- Klosters YouTube

External links Jilly Cooper The official books website Jilly Cooper's Video Newsletter for May 2008 Jilly Cooper's Video Newsletter for December 2007 Biography[dead link] with some interesting quotations from interviews with Jilly Cooper The queen of chick lit The Guardian, 15 June 2004 - Article about Cooper's writing Jilly Cooper An interview with Jilly recorded in 2000 by

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Jilly Cooper's Timeline

February 21, 1937
Hornchurch, Greater London, England, United Kingdom

Name: Jill Sallitt
Mother's Maiden Surname: Whinceys
Date of Registration: Jan-Feb-Mar 1937
Registration district: Romford
Inferred County: Essex, Suffolk