Stella Dorothea Gibbons, novelist, poet and short-story writer, was born in North London in 1902, the eldest child of Telford and Maude Gibbons. Her father was a practising Doctor of Medicine and, although highly esteemed in his working life, his volatile temper meant that Stella and her two younger brothers, Gerald and Lewis, grew up in a violent and unpredictable household.
Stella was educated at home by governesses until the age of 13, when she was enrolled at the North London Collegiate School where she was a contemporary of the poet Stevie Smith. After leaving school she completed a Diploma in Journalism at the University of London and worked subsequently with the British United Press, the Evening Standard and the Lady magazine. She resigned from the Lady in 1933, following the success of her first novel Cold Comfort Farm, in order to devote herself to her writing.
In a literary career that spanned forty years, Stella Gibbons published 24 novels including Nightingale Wood (1938); The Swiss Summer (1951); A Pink Front Door (1959) and The Woods in Winter (1970). However she is best remembered for Cold Comfort Farm, which was an instant success with both critics and the reading public, and was awarded the Fémina Vie-heureuse Prize. She also published three volumes of poetry beginning with The Mountain Beast (1930), three collections of short stories including Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm (1940), and one children's book, The Untidy Gnome (1935). In 1950 she was made a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
She married actor and singer Allan Bourne Webb in 1933, and their daughter Laura was born in 1935. Webb died prematurely in 1959 at the age of 52.
Stella Gibbons died in 1989. Two unpublished novels, The Yellow Houses and An Alpha, written between 1972 and 1980 were bequeathed to her two grandsons, Daniel and Benjamin.
Images: i) Stella Gibbons in her 'teens.