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DECEMBER 19th

On this day in history in 1989, died Stella Gibbons.

Gibbons was a journalist and fashion writer, whose satire on esteemed Nineteenth Century writers, in her novel, Cold Comfort Farm, made her a best selling author.

Gibbons was born on 5th January 1902, at Camden Town, London, the daughter of a physician who practiced in one of the poorest districts of London. Her upbringing in this background was depressing and unhappy, but she relieved the situation by creating extravagant fairy tales, which she recounted to her younger siblings. She was educated at North London Collegiate School for Girls and University College, London, where she read journalism.

After graduating, Gibbons decided on a career in journalism, knowing that her drunken and debauched father would never be in a position to support her. In 1924, she obtained a job with British United Press but was dismissed in 1926, after her miscalculation of the current exchange rates caused a tremor in the financial markets. Gibbons got a job at the London Evening Standard, writing book reviews. While appraising a novel, The Golden Arrow, by Mary Webb, a rural novel in the style of Thomas Hardy, she found the plot absurd and the characterisation fatuous, inspiring her to consider a parody of novels of that genre. In 1930, Gibbons was again discharged from her position and went to work for The Lady, a literary magazine for the educated ladies of the middle class.

Work at The Lady, was not too arduous, and Gibbons found time to write her magnum opus, Cold Comfort Farm, a burlesque of the pessimistic rustic environment, which characterised the works of Thomas Hardy and his followers. The plot involves a 1920ís flapper introduced to the eccentric idyll of the Starkadders, a grim and unwholesome family, said to be not dissimilar to her own parents. The novel was an immediate success and won the prestigious Prix Femina Vie Heureuse. Gibbons produced several other novels and a volume of verse, which was admired by Virginia Woolf. In 1951, Gibbons was made a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Gibbons died on 19th December 1989, and was buried in Highgate Cemetery. [Highgate Cemetery, Swains Lane, London, N6 6PJ]

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