Eugene O'Neill (1888-1953) was a prolific American playwright whose work was renowned for being rather gloomy and pessimistic. His plays include Beyond the Horizon (1918) and Long Day's Journey into Night (written in 1941, and first performed in 1956), both of which won Pulitzer Prizes.
Photo Bits was an early pornographic magazine, daring at the time but tame by present-day standards. Magazines of this type often showed how Victorian and Edwardian fashions could be incorporated in bondage and sado-masochistic fantasies.
The names of the actors Earl P. Neck is currently promoting are made-up (Teck Jones; Jerry Badger; Slake Fountain) but two others he mentions, Clark Gable and Gary Cooper, were genuine Hollywood actors of the period. It is also likely that the names Valentine Orlo and Peregrine Howard were based on the names of two real actors, namely, Rudolph Valentino (star of the silent screen) and Leslie Howard, who starred in Outward Bound (1930), The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934), and Gone with the Wind (1939).
The title of the farming magazine and its publication by 'some Russian friends' of Flora Poste reflect the support for Communism and Socialism which existed in Britain during the 1930s (both amongst working-class people and intellectuals), and the growing interest in progressive developments in Soviet Russia.
The Communist Party of Great Britain was founded in 1920. In 1935, Willie Gallacher, a Communist candidate, was elected as the Member of Parliament for the Scottish coalmining community of West Fife. It was also during the 1930s that individuals such as Kim Philby and Anthony Blunt (who went on to be Soviet spies) joined the Communist Party whilst studying at Cambridge University.
Stella Gibbons's reference in Cold Comfort Farm to 'The State Concert Hall' and a State Psychoanalyst suggests that some form of Communism or Socialism is part of her vision of the 'near future'. This vision of state-organised healthcare anticipates the foundation of the National Health Service in 1948, and was one of her most accurate predictions. As the daughter of a doctor whose poorer patients were often unable to pay for his services, Stella Gibbons would have been acutely aware of the need for such a service.
Listen on Spotify: The Red Flag - the anthem of Communism and Socialism.
Psychoanalysis is the name given to a form of treatment for psychological problems developed by Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), based on his theories of the unconscious mind, defence mechanisms and repression.
By the 1930s, significant parts of Freud's work had been translated into English and his ideas were fairly well-known amongst sections of the British public. It is not surprising that Stella Gibbons should have chosen a German name for the psychoanalyst who treats Judith Starkadder, or that she describes him as coming from Vienna; many psychoanalysts working during the 1920s and 1930s were Austrian or German and had links with the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute, established in 1920 to further the practice of psychoanalysis.
One such individual, the Child Psychoanalyst Melanie Klein (who was to be responsible for major theoretical developments in the field of psychoanalysis), left Berlin in 1926 and settled in London, where the British Psychoanalytical Society had been founded in 1919 by Ernest Jones. (Its forerunner was the London Psychoanalytical Society set up by Jones in 1913.) Other psychoanalysts left Germany and Austria in the 1930s following Nazi persecution. Sigmund Freud and his daughter, Anna Freud (a Child Psychoanalyst), were forced to leave Vienna for London in 1938.
Reggie Oliver, Stella Gibbons's nephew and biographer, has noted the author's distaste for psychoanalysis - a distaste which became more marked as she grew older. She saw it as a treatment which was emotionally self-indulgent and which stirred up material best left dormant. Although the State psychoanalyst is portrayed in a fairly positive light in Cold Comfort Farm, some of Gibbons's mistrust of the field comes through when she describes Flora as feeling 'uneasy' about the success of Dr Müdel's treatment of Judith Starkadder: 'It was not the first time that she [Flora] had seen a distraught patient grow calm beneath the will of the analyst, yet she had never grown used to the spectacle. Would Judith really be happier?'