Page 102. " He was a tremendous genius, a sort of second Chatterton "

Mr. Mybug compares Branwell Brontë to Thomas Chatterton (1752-1770), an English poet who died of arsenic poisoning in what was possibly a suicide attempt. The poet John Keats wrote an elegiac sonnet to his memory in 1815:

The Death of Chatterton
Public DomainThe Death of Chatterton - Credit: Henry Wallis

  O Chatterton! how very sad thy fate!

  Dear child of sorrow - son of misery!

  How soon the film of death obscured that eye,

  Whence Genius wildly flashed, and high debate.


Page 104. " the Duke was jockeying Palmerston in the stormy Corn Reforms of the "forties" "

The Corn Laws were enacted in the early 1800s to limit imports of foreign grain and protect the profits of British farmers. Highly unpopular with ordinary people because they increased the price of bread, the laws were seen to favour the interests of the land-owning classes. They were repealed in 1846 during the Prime Ministership of Sir Robert Peel (1788-1850). 

The 'Duke' was the Duke of Wellington (1769-1852), Prime Minister of Britain from 1828 to 1830, and a prominent politician in the House of Lords until his retirement. 

Lord Palmerston (1784-1865) was initially Secretary of War, then Foreign Secretary, and eventually Prime Minister from 1855 to 1858, and from 1859 to 1865.

Lord Palmerston addressing the House of Commons
Public DomainLord Palmerston addressing the House of Commons - Credit: Illustrated London News
Page 104. " Had not Victorian Vista, the scathing life of Thomas Carlyle, dropped stone cold last year from the presses "


Thomas Carlyle
Public DomainThomas Carlyle - Credit: Thomas Johnson
James Anthony Froude caricatured in Punch, December, 1882
Public Domain James Anthony Froude caricatured in Punch, December, 1882 - Credit: Edward Linley Sambourne

 Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) was a Scottish writer, essayist, and historian.  He was brought up in a strictly Calvinist household, but as an adult he rejected his Christian faith. His non-Christian viewpoint and his complex and challenging style of thought made him a popular author with sections of the Victorian reading public.

Although Victorian Vista is a made-up title, a controversial biography of Thomas Carlyle was written by his friend James Anthony Froude (1818-1894) under the title Life of Carlyle.  The first volume was published in 1882.


Page 104. " The quotation was from Shelley's 'Adonais' "
John Keat's tombstone, Protestant Cemetry, Rome
GNU Free Documentation LicenseJohn Keat's tombstone, Protestant Cemetry, Rome - Credit: Piero Montesacro, Wikimedia Commons

Adonaïs was an elegy written by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) following  the death of his fellow poet John Keats (1795-1821). Shelley himself died by drowning a year later.

I weep for Adonaïs--he is dead!

Oh, weep for Adonaïs! though our tears

Thaw not the frost which binds so dear a head!

The full elegy         Listen on Spotify: Adonaïs


Page 112. " to those Bloomsbury-cum-Charlotte-Street lions which exchanged their husband and wives every other week-end "

 Bloomsbury is an area in Central London, and Charlotte Steet is a Fitzrovia street not far from Bloomsbury.


Google Map


Photograph of Bloomsbury Group members (l. to r., Dora Carrington, Ralph Partridge, Lytton Strachey (Saxon Sydney-Turner in background)
Public DomainPhotograph of Bloomsbury Group members (l. to r., Dora Carrington, Ralph Partridge, Lytton Strachey (Saxon Sydney-Turner in background) - Credit: unknown

Fitzrovia had a reputation as a favourite haunt of bohemian types, whilst Bloomsbury was made famous by the 'Bloomsbury group', a set of intellectuals and artists whose members included Virginia Woolf, Vanessa Bell, Vita Sackville-West, E.M. Forster and Lytton Strachey.

It is probably members of the Bloomsbury group whom Stella Gibbons has in mind here. Interestingly,  the country retreat of the group was Charleston Farmhouse in Sussex (just over the hill perhaps from Cold Comfort Farm!).

'Lions' in this context means 'celebrities'.

Page 112. " ‘each wild boar having his leg elevated in the air at a painful angle to show his perfect freedom and gaiety’ "

An almost exact quote from 'The Pawnbroker's Shop', one of 56 pieces by Charles Dickens known collectively as Sketches of Boz (although Gibbons's quote refers to a boar rather than a boor).

The sketches, which were illustrated by George Cruikshank, were first published in book form in 1836.



Page 120. " She felt like stout Cortez or Sir James Jeans on spotting yet another white dwarf "
Bronze bust of Hernán Cortés in Madrid
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeBronze bust of Hernán Cortés in Madrid - Credit: Luis Garcia, Wikimedia Commons

Binary star system with a 'white dwarf'
GNU Free Documentation LicenseBinary star system with a 'white dwarf' - Credit: Nicholas Thibault, Wikimedia Commons
 Hernán Cortez (or Cortés) (1485-1547) was an early 16th century conquistador,  partly responsible for the Spanish colonization of the Americas.

James Hopwood Jeans (1877-1946) was an astronomer, physicist and mathematician.  A white dwarf is a small, hot, very dense star which is approaching the end of its lifespan.

Page 121. " it was impossible to sit down for five minutes in Hyde Park after seven in the evening without being either accosted or arrested "
Male homosexual couple depicted in January1928 edition of Hentai shiryō.
Public DomainMale homosexual couple depicted in January1928 edition of Hentai shiryō. - Credit: unknown

 Hyde Park was an important cruising area for gay men during the 1930s. Mr. Mybug is presumably suggesting that one could not be in Hyde Park for five minutes before either being accosted  by a homosexual, or arrested for being a homosexual. 

When Cold Comfort Farm was written, homosexual acts were illegal in the United Kingdom, and they remained so until the Sexual Offences Act 1967  decriminalised sexual acts in private between consenting males in England and Wales.


Hyde Park
Creative Commons AttributionHyde Park - Credit: siegertmarc









Page 122. " Once a whole lot of us bathed in the river with nothing on and afterwards little Harriet Belmont sat naked in the grass and played to us on her flute "

Reggie Oliver, Stella Gibbons's nephew and biographer, reports Stella Gibbons's friend Ida Graves as saying that this scenario was based on a real incident, and that Isobel Powys, the niece of the novelist-brothers John Cowper Powys (1872-1963) and Theodore Francis Powys (1975-1953) was the model for Harriet Belmont.

Oliver also suggests that elements in Cold Comfort Farm parody the work of J.C. Powys.

Isobel Powys married Herbert Marks (who had previously been married to Ida Graves). Marks is generally believed to be the model for Mr Mybug.