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Not many people know this . . .

One day in January 1931 Stella Gibbons was having lunch with her friend Elizabeth Coxhead. The pair were young journalists at The Lady, and neither had yet published a book (Coxhead was later a novelist and biographer). Gibbons told Coxhead that she was writing a take-off of ‘all the grim farm novels’ (such as those of Thomas Hardy, Mary Webb, DH Lawrence, and others, sometimes known as the ‘loam and lovechild’ genre), to be called Curse God Farm; Coxhead replied that it was a good idea but that she should call it Cold Comfort Farm. When asked where she had got such a marvellous name, Coxhead told her that it was the name of a farm near Hinckley belonging to a grammar school where her father was headmaster. So Gibbons, recognising that nature always trumps art, changed the title of her book. It was an enormous success and won the Femina Vie Heureuse Prize for 1933.

The real ‘Cold Comfort Farm’ still exists, although the present owners have re-named it ‘Comfort Farm’. It is not known whether or not it has a woodshed.

Oliver, Reggie: Out of the Woodshed: Portrait of Stella Gibbons (1998)

From the How books got their titles blog


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