Cold Comfort Farm

28 Dec

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.


17 Responses to “Cold Comfort Farm”

  1. Kit November 7, 2007 at 11:43 pm #

    I really love this book – it always cheers me up, having Flora assert her reason and logic and sort out all the emotional messes everyone gets into. I came here from Charlotte’s Web, attracted by your name – I’ve not come across many other fans of Cold Comfort Farm.

  2. lvmg (Lizzy) November 8, 2007 at 11:10 pm #

    It’s one of my favorite books, Kit. Flora is a lovely character, one of those women that you’d like to be, or at least be friends with.

    I think it’s harder to write a funny book, and you’re right, it’s a very cheerful story.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Carrie Clark November 20, 2007 at 9:26 am #

    How lovely to find another Cold Comfort fan! Please know that you are not alone. My parents discovered the novel in the late 1960’s while we were spending a year in the Irish countryside. Aimless, Feckless, etc were in every field and the Starkadder Farm at the end of every dirt lane. We all revelled in Gibbons’ take on what had become our actual lives. I’ve turned several friends here in Chicago on to this gem in my 20 years here and everyone of them has sniggered her way through it. By the way, Mrs. Smiling’s address was 14 Mouse Place.

    I look forward to looking around the rest of your website.

    Carrie Clark

  4. lvmg (Lizzy) November 20, 2007 at 9:49 am #

    Hi Carrie,

    Thanks for visiting! Whenever I read this book I wish I lived Flora’s life.

    Living in the Irish countryside must be a wonderful experience. I bet it felt like living inside a postcard.

    I just checked my Penguin copy of the book, and here’s a quote that mentions Mrs. Smiling’s home:

    “The white porcelain geraniums which hung in baskets from the litte iron balconies of 1, Mouse Place, did much to cheer Flora’s spirits as her taxi stopped before its door.” Capter 1, 7th paragraph.

  5. Rose Marie November 25, 2007 at 11:50 pm #

    Flora has always been one of one my favorite fictional characters, loved her total ability to sort things out. One of the very few books I reread from time to time, thanks for all your posts I think it’s time for a reread. Even the title ‘Cold Comfort Farm’ has a certain brilliance and economy of words.

  6. Ken December 1, 2008 at 8:30 pm #

    As one who lives across the hall from Ada Doom in her pre-liberation state, I find your site ever so smart and select. I would be honored to treat Carrie to high tea at the Four Seasons so we can catch up on the price of stockings and fans. In other respects, send magazines.

  7. Stephanie September 3, 2009 at 1:34 am #

    Hey all! I see my reply is a few years later than many here. Just wanted to say I have finished reading Cold Comfort Farm for the first time, and laughed out loud in delight at the ending. I will forever wonder what nasty thing Aunt Ada saw in the woodshed, what Flora’s rights were, whether the goat did die, and how Aimless kept losing body parts.

    What a delightful book! Not often one comes across something like this.

  8. lvmg (Lizzy) September 3, 2009 at 5:45 pm #

    I’m glad you liked the book, Stephanie!

  9. madhu May 3, 2011 at 3:11 am #

    I found the film version, starring Kate Beckinsale as Flora, better than the book in some respects. Although Flora Poste, in both versions, is interfering, the one in the movie seems to be more sensitive and likeable. To this day I do not understand why Gibbons set her novel ‘sometime in the near future’. She anticipated “televion phone” but could not anticipate the second world war.

  10. Linda March 24, 2012 at 3:01 pm #

    two mysteries: what was he nasty thing Aunt Ada saw in the woodshed. And, second,
    what was the wrong done to Robert Post?

  11. Koten Benson August 17, 2012 at 12:47 am #

    Cold Comfort Farm is the book I would bring to a desert isle – instructions in how not to panic, Also like how Flora finds out what people really want to do with their lives, doesn’t judge their choices but helps them. Some one did the same for me more than thirty five years ago and I am still very grateful. I was 21 and confided in a counselor at MUN in Nfld that my (impractical) heart’s desire was to become a Buddhist monk. I had never told another soul. He said “why not go for it?”. and here I am.

  12. Twilight coffret poche May 5, 2014 at 7:46 am #

    Aftrer I originally commented I appear to have clicked
    on the -Notify mee when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on whenever a cpmment is added I
    get 4 emails with the same comment. Is there an easy method you can remove me from
    that service? Thank you!

    • Lizzy May 9, 2014 at 9:50 pm #

      Have you tried sending the notification to your spam folder? I’m sorry, but I can’t find your original comment, which I would need to try to stop the notifications.

  13. Sérgio Corrêa de Siqueira May 31, 2014 at 9:49 am #

    Hullo, everyone. Although I don’t support Obama – I’m an old conservative myself – I am a big fan of Cold Comfort Farm.
    But let’s get something clear about the meaning of Abbé Fausse-Maigre’s name: a fausse maigre in French (called a falsa magra in Portuguese) is a thin woman that nevertheless has shapely breasts and a nice arse. It may be coarse, but is as simple as that: as a Brazilian of French ascendency I can swear on it. That’s where the joke on the Abbé’s (which means Abbot) name lies: Abbot Thin-Hottie, or something of the sort.
    Loved the Jane Austen quotation, ‘though.
    Best of luck,

    • Sérgio Corrêa de Siqueira June 1, 2014 at 12:38 am #

      One more thing: the Abbé is clearly based on a real charachter, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin S.J., a French priest and philosopher who was also a keen amateur paleontologist. He was much in vogue during the 30s and up to the 50s.

    • Lizzy June 1, 2014 at 8:45 pm #

      Thanks for commenting, Sergio! And of course you don’t have to be an Obama supporter to enjoy any book, or leave a comment on my blog (as long as you’re polite about it).

      I will look up the French priest, I’ve always loved the references to the Abbe in the book. I guessed the name was some kind of joke on thin women. Thanks for sharing. ;)


  1. 12 May 2010 « Twelfth of the Month - May 14, 2010

    […] realised that I left my copy of Cold Comfort Farm in storage in London. Drat. How on earth will I continue my efforts to convert the world to the […]

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