Thursday, 4 February 2010

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

I’ve spent the last week reading Stella Gibbons’ Cold Comfort Farm and although it’s not a drinker’s novel by a long chalk, I’ve found one reference so far that I felt would do nicely for the blog.

Flora Poste, expensively, athletically and lengthily educated, descends on her extended family at their farm in Sussex and sets to bringing order into their chaotic and bizarre lives. Out one evening with cousin Amos, who preaches hellfire sermons at the Church of the Quivering Brethren, Flora escapes the chapel and hides in a tearoom opposite. Unfortunately, she runs into another refugee from London, Mybug, a thundering crashing bore of a man.

Mybug is writing a book about the Brontës. Apparently, the three sisters didn’t write any of the novels for which they were famed, but passed off the work of their brother Branwell as their own:

“You see, it’s obvious that it’s his book and not Emily’s. No woman could have written that. It’s male stuff... I’ve worked out a theory about his drunkenness, too – you see, he wasn’t really a drunkard. He was a tremendous genius, a sort of second Chatterton – and his sisters hated him because of his genius.”

Flora is forced to sit through even more of this piffle as Mybug warms to his theme:

“They wanted to have him under their noses so that they could steal his work and sell it to buy more drink... They were all drunkards, but Anne was the worst of the lot. Branwell, who adored her, used to pretend to get drunk at the Black Bull in order to get gin for Anne. The landlord wouldn’t let him have it if Branwell hadn’t built up – with what devotion, God only knows – that false reputation as a brilliant, reckless, idle drunkard.”

Well, it’s a theory, I suppose...

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