Page 53. " Flora pounced on some books which lay on the broad window-sill: Macaria, or Altars of Sacrifice, by A. J. Evans-Wilson; Home Influence, by Grace Aguilar; Did She Love Him?, by James Grant, and How She Loved Him, by Florence Marryat "

Four real Victorian Novelists: Augusta J. Evans Wilson (1835-1909); Grace Aguilar (1816-1847); James Grant (1822-1887) and Florence Marryat (1833-1899), and four genuine examples of their work. (There is a small mistake: the actual title of Marryat's novel is How They Loved Him.) Stella Gibbons notes that Flora Poste 'liked Victorian novels', which was also true of Stella herself who may well be parodying something of their lush, over-ripe style in Cold Comfort Farm.



Page 54. " One showed the Grief of Andromache on beholding the Dead Body of Hector. The other showed the Captivity of Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra "


The two 'steel engravings' on the wall of Flora Poste's bedroom are reproductions of established works of art.

Andromache was the wife of Hector, who was killed by Achilles during the Trojan War. The 18th century artist Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825) depicted her grief in a painting entitled "Andromache mourning Hector".

 Zenobia was a 3rd century Syrian queen of the Palmyrene Empire who was captured by the Roman Emperor Aurelian. She is the subject of a painting by Herbert Schmalz (1856 -1938) entitled "Queen Zenobia's Last Look upon Palmyra".


Herbert Schmalz: Queen Zenobia's Last Look upon Palmyra
Public DomainHerbert Schmalz: Queen Zenobia's Last Look upon Palmyra - Credit: Herbert Schmalz


Page 61. " keep a tea-room in Brighton and go all arty-and-crafty about the feet and waist "
Edward Burne-Jones & William Morris (right) 1874
Public DomainEdward Burne-Jones & William Morris (right) 1874 - Credit: Frederick Hollyer
Morris & Co. Dove and Rose design 'point paper'
Public DomainMorris & Co. Dove and Rose design 'point paper' - Credit: William Morris

The Arts and Craft movement was a design movement initiated by the writer and artist William Morris which was at its height between 1880 and 1910.  It is likely that the adjective 'arty-and-crafty' derives from the movement. In becoming adjectival, however, it has taken on a slightly derogatory meaning, implying  a design style that represents a bastardized version of the original Arts and Crafts tenets.

It is Elfine's tendency to 'arti-crafti-ness' which bothers Flora Poste, and Stella Gibbons manages to paint a very vivid picture of Flora's understanding of the concept by describing some of the tendencies, styles of dress and so on of those who have gone down the 'arty-crafty' path. Among these she includes 'keeping a tea-room in Brighton' or an 'arts and craft shop in Horsham'; doing barbola work; wearing smocks 'embroidered with hollyhocks' or 'orange linen jumpers'; possessing 'hand-wrought jewellery' such as 'a pendant made of hammered silver with a bit of blue enamel in the middle'; and last but not least, trying to grow herbs!



William Morris design for trellis wallpaper, 1862
Public DomainWilliam Morris design for trellis wallpaper, 1862 - Credit: William Morris


Page 64. " Tes the hand of Nature, and we women cannot escape it. "
Margaret Sanger; Pioneer of birth-control advice in America
Public DomainMargaret Sanger; Pioneer of birth-control advice in America - Credit: Underwood and Underwood
frontispiece of 'Married Love' by Marie Stopes
Public Domainfrontispiece of 'Married Love' by Marie Stopes - Credit: Marie Stopes

At this point in the text, Flora indicates that she has some knowledge of contraceptive techniques, and this is confirmed later on when she gives advice to Meriam, 'the hired girl', on the 'precautionary arts'.  The idea that a young, unmarried woman like Flora should be well-informed on this subject is interesting in view of the fact that pioneers of birth control methods, such as Margaret Sanger in America and Marie Stopes in Britain, had faced significant opposition when they wrote about contraception, and established birth control clinics (Margaret Sanger in New York in 1916, and Marie Stopes in London in 1918).  Moreover, even these pioneers tended to think in terms of contraception for married women only (something which is reflected in the titles of Marie Stopes' books Married Love  and Wise Parenthood, both published in 1918).

Later on in Cold Comfort Farm, there is a reference to 'wife-swapping' (the 'Bloomsbury-cum-Charlotte-Street lions which exchanged their husband and wives every week-end') which, coupled with Flora Poste's knowledge of 'the precautionary arts', suggests that attitudes to, and knowledge about sexuality in the 1930s may have been very different from how they are conventionally portrayed.

Page 68. " identified as Madame Olga’s Dream Book "

Interest in the meaning of dreams was inspired by the publication in 1899 of Sigmund Freud's book on the interpretation of dreams (Die Traumdeutung) and by the work of Carl Jung. By the 1930s Freud's ideas had become widely known, and this is reflected in the fact that when Flora visits Meriam after her confinement, she is reading Madame Olga's Dream Book. This is presumably the type of dream interpretation book, based loosely on the ideas of Freud and Jung, which is still popular today.

The Interpretation of Dreams on Book Drum



Page 71. " I seen in the News of People "

A thinly disguised version of the News of the World newspaper, which was established in 1843 and gained instant popularity with the public due to its sensational and titillating stories.  It closed in 2011 as a consequence of the Phone Hacking scandal.

Page 72. " Train the four of them up into one of them jazz-bands "

A relatively new musical genre for British musicians in the 1930s, jazz first became familiar to the British public after the first World War through recordings and visits by American Jazz artists such as the Original Dixieland Jazz Band in 1919.  However, British groups (such as those of Nat Gonella and Spike Hughes) did not perform live until the early 1930s, and the concept of a 'jazz culture' at that time was mainly confined to London.

Listen on Spotify:

Georgia on My Mind  performed by Nat Gonella and his Georgians

Sweet Sue, Just You  performed by Spike Hughes and his All American Orchestra