I am not sure how this book caught my attention years ago. Stella Gibbons is not a very well-known name, but it should be, because she had a talent for inventing memorable characters that one would wish to know in real life. Her books are full of humour and charm and gentle wit. “Cold Comfort Farm” is a very funny book, and part of its appeal is that it does not presume to be anything but a lot of fun. The copyright page of my edition has this quote, from Mansfield Park, right above the ISBN:
“Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery”
What a strong statement to make, putting this quote there! Even before your readers read the first page of your work, you are warning them of what not to expect. Of course, the fact that Stella Gibbons chose a Jane Austen quote only makes me admire her more. Anyone who appreciates Jane Austen has my whole-hearted approval. Here’s the full quote:
“Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can, impatient to restore everybody, not greatly in fault themselves, to tolerable comfort, and to have done with all the rest”. Chapter 48, Mansfield Park.
Why is it that a book is considered less worthy if it does not deal with the great tragedies that may befall a human being? There is a place for everything in life, and someone who reads only sorrowful accounts of misfortune and distress must be sadly in need of some serious cheering up.
I chose to name my blog No. 1 Mouse Place because in Cold Comfort Farm it is the address of Flora Poste’s great friend Mrs. Smiling. In this house Flora finds friendship and things are tidy and pleasant and comfortable and the conversation lively.
Some of my favorite things about the book are:
- Feckless, Graceless, Pointless and Aimless, the cows.
- A-mollocking (a made-up word).
- The Higher Common Sense, by the Abbe Fausse-Maigre. I wish it were a real book. The Abbe is a fictional character, whose name is probably a reference to the extreme thinness fashionable during the period. Fausse is the feminine of ‘faux’ (false), and Maigre means thin in French. I like this quote: “Never confront an enemy at the end of a journey, unless it happens to be his journey”.
And of course, there’s the line “I saw something nasty in the woodshed”, which is Aunt Ada Doom’s excuse for everything.