In her foreword to Cold Comfort Farm (which takes the form of a letter to Anthony Pookworthy, and is fully in the character of her assumed alter ego) Stella Gibbons exclaims,

Talking of men of genius, what a constellation burns in our midst at the moment!

But she offers no clear elaboration.

Who is this brightly shining genius?

1 Answer 1


A constellation is not one star, she is not speaking solely of one individual, but of a multiplicity of stars. She is saying that in that moment they are blessed with a whole host of men of genius.

Except... she doesn't mean it.

Paul Flux writes in Albionmagazineonline

Indeed, the book is full of delightful parodies, many aimed at the pomposity of the literary establishment. For example, the opening dedication ‘To Anthony Pookworthy’ is a thinly disguised attack on the pretensions of Hugh Walpole, an author popular at the time for his quasi-intellectual/spiritual novels which are now deservedly unread —Gibbons awards ‘Pookworthy’ the titles A.B.S and L.L.R. (Associate Back Scratcher and Licensed Log Roller) after his name. The final literary target is more general, often overlooked but, once noticed, a constant delight. It is flagged by the use of *** at intervals throughout the text. In the dedication to Pookworthy the author indicates that she has placed these to assist readers and reviewers to admire these finer passages of literature. They are very clever parodies of the genre that she so disliked — over-blown, quasi-intellectual writing which confused elaborate, exaggerated hyperbole with genuine emotional impact.

I'm not familiar enough with the writers of the time to make my own guesses as to who is in her sights, but Imogen Russell Williams in the Guardian writes:

Cold Comfort Farm is a parody of the doomy, tragic, close-to-the-earth gothic novels of writers like Mary Webb and DH Lawrence, and, earlier, Thomas Hardy.

which may be as useful a set of names as any.

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