Wikipedia:Peer review/Stella Gibbons/archive1

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Stella Gibbons[edit]

(more info)

This peer review discussion has been closed.

Stella Gibbons's fame as a writer is based, fairly or not, on her first novel, Cold Comfort Farm. The book pokes memorable fun at the "rural novel" genre popularised by writers like Hardy, D.H. Lawrence and Mary Webb, and has been described as "a landmark of parodic writing". Her career extended for half a century and she never had another success like it. Yet she wrote plenty of good, readable stuff – 22 other novels, many short stories, four books of poems - which has almost vanished from memory. She doesn't even warrant a personal entry in the Oxford Companion to English Literature, although her one famous book does, as for unfathomable reasons does Clive of India who never wrote a thing. However, Stella was content with her lack of fame, shunned the literary establishment and led a blameless life in North London – in complete contrast to most of my subjects, who tended to lead tempestuous if not dissolute lives, with scandal ever lurking near. Comment will be most welcome on any aspect of the article. Brianboulton (talk) 21:41, 19 November 2013 (UTC)

Comments by Wehwalt. First tranche.
  • Lede
  • "throughout her life she privately considered herself to be primarily a poet" I am dubious as to whether the semicolon is appropriate as it stands, but it might work better if you changed the first three words (if the source will justify) to "thereafter,"
  • Given her fellowship, do we add the postnominals anywhere?
  • It's not usual to display postnominals for literary, as distinct from public, honours. Brianboulton (talk) 13:49, 21 November 2013 (UTC)
  • "one-work novelist" I would pipe this to one-hit wonder but your approach may differ. Incidentally, I had never heard of either her or her book. But it's always gladly learn. And is it her or her works which would be accepted into the canon?
  • I'm not too keen on the suggested pipe. You are right that it is her works rather than herself that would be part of the canon and I have reworded accordingly. Brianboulton (talk) 13:49, 21 November 2013 (UTC)
  • The "however" combined with the "though" in the final lede sentence might be a bit much on changes of direction. I would strike the "However".
  • Family etc
  • In view of Charles Sr.'s infidelities, I would stress that the six children you mention were born to his wife, whom I would name. If true. These Victorians.
  • "The atmosphere in the Kentish Town house echoed that of the elder Gibbons's household," While you mentioned the rotating bed assignments, you did not lay the other matters at Charles Sr.'s door. Do atmospheres echo, as a rule?
  • Figuratively, they do (echoed = repeated)
  • "He was charitable to his poorer patients, and imaginative in finding cures, but made life a misery for his family. " Consider striking the first comma and the word "a".
  • "Day School" is a pipe someplace? day school is little more than a definition.
  • "She initially found it hard to adjust, from the haphazard learning methods of her governesses to the strict discipline of the school, and found many of the rules and regulations oppressive." Were her governesses's methods learning or teaching? Also, my experience is that you usually adjust to something. The "from" reads oddly. And does having the double barreled "rules and regulations" add anything? Why not just rules?
  • Student etc
  • "recalled in an interview late in her life" suggest striking the word "her".
  • Journalism etc
  • "In May 1926 Maud Gibbons" You spelled her name "Maude" in the only other usage, in which you did use her maiden name. Possibly you might want to place the name (either coming into the garden or the Bea Arthur role) again midway between the other two as I did have to look back to see who the lady was. It seems to be a family affliction in any event, as "Louis" is varied as "Lewis".
  • "as an editorial assistant at the women's magazine The Lady. " I do not care greatly whether there is a comma preceding the title. But in what appears to be an identical situation regarding The London Mercury in the preceding paragraph, you use a comma.
  • Cold etc.
No comments. I shall have to order a cheap copy via Amazon.
You will not regret it, Wehwalt! But you have to get your copy of Diary of a Nobody first. Tim riley (talk) 15:22, 20 November 2013 (UTC)
Touche, haven't bought that yet either.--Wehwalt (talk) 04:46, 21 November 2013 (UTC)
  • Established etc.
  • "herself a former Prix Étranger winner" this is the only time in this paragraph you refer to the writer, rather than the work, as the winner.
  • I think it's acceptable to refer either to the book or the author as the prize winner. The author wins it for the book, or the book wins it for the author – depends how you want to view it. Brianboulton (talk) 13:49, 21 November 2013 (UTC)
  • "worked regularly" for some reason this strikes me as odd. I would reverse the order of the words.
  • " He later served overseas, mostly in Cairo." I would strike "later".
  • "the middle of the Second World war " Capped that way in original?
  • " In her Lady days, in a review of the writer's biography," Inelegant
  • "From 1986 onwards, Gibbons experienced recurrent health problems, not helped when she resumed smoking in the middle 1980s." Can this be rephrased so as to avoid the double date?

More later, seems your regular outstanding work, and a bit tongue in cheek.--Wehwalt (talk) 09:59, 20 November 2013 (UTC)

Here's the remainder.
  • Writing
  • "end in Austen-like marriage celebrations" Really, what is meant here is that the principals pair up and go two-by-two to the altar, I suspect. I suggest a minor rephrase to focus on the fact that everyone's getting hitched, as the reader might thing that what was meant was some especially festive celebrations.
  • "Gibbons's writings on everyday life, however well observed," The thing is, the "well observed" means to be referring to "everyday life" but textually it refers to "Gibbons's writings on everyday life".--Wehwalt (talk) 05:08, 21 November 2013 (UTC)

Thank you for this helpful range of comments. As usual, if not noted you can asssume your points have been addressed in or close to the way you suggest. I hope you will get to the book, although I'm not sure how well this kind of humour will cross the Atlantic. (The Church of the Quivering Brethren should go down well in the southern states). Brianboulton (talk) 13:49, 21 November 2013 (UTC)

You are very welcome. Well, we shall see. Sometimes British humour is funny to me and sometimes it is lost on me.--Wehwalt (talk) 14:48, 22 November 2013 (UTC)
Comments from Tim riley

(I hope Wehwalt will feel at liberty to push these comments of mine further down the page to make room for his subsequent tranches in due course.)

  • Lead
    • "the same level of critical or popular success" – crisper without "level of" perhaps?
    • "such that" – so that?
  • Family background and childhood
    • "girls' Day Schools" – I understand why the capital letters, but I think they'll attract flak at FAC. (And indeed I see they have come under scrutiny above.)
    • You might possibly take a scythe to some or all of the capitals within the last sentence of the section.
    • I think the school society names may be justifiably capitalised, though I agree about the hon sec. Brianboulton (talk) 17:15, 21 November 2013 (UTC)
  • Journalism and early writings
    • "Byline" – the OED (I sleep with it under my pillow, which is bloody uncomfortable) requires the hyphenated form "by-line". Collins follows the OED. Chambers, per contra, gives only "byline". I think the hyphens have it, but you are wholly at liberty to demur.
    • "Lily Langtree" – a double whammy here: you mean Lillie Langtry. (Afterthought: WP's guidelines say I ought quietly to have corrected this myself, but cf. Confucius: "there is no pleasure like watching a good friend fall off his roof".)
    • I plead guilty, m'lud, to "Langtree"; about "Lily" I'm not so sure. The name (which in any event was a nickname) is often spelt thus, including in the source I used. But I think the balance of works favours your spelling, so I have altered. Brianboulton (talk) 17:15, 21 November 2013 (UTC)
I found "Jane Austin" and contented myself with a snarky edit summary.--Wehwalt (talk) 05:10, 21 November 2013 (UTC)
Oh, the shame, the horror! Brianboulton (talk) 17:15, 21 November 2013 (UTC)
  • Cold Comfort Farm
    • "a rational, bossy London heroine" – do you think we might attribute this quote in the text?
    • "earthy regionalist" – earthy regionalists?
    • "Emily Brönte" – it's in a quote, but I am prepared to bet five bob that Hammill has Emily's dots in the right place – over the e and not the o.
  • 1930s
    • "Cooke points out that" – a bit tendentious; perhaps "comments" or "observes" would be more neutral
    • "not to expect that Bassett (1934) repetition of Cold Comfort Farm" – is there a "would be a" missing here?
    • "prewar" – this time it's Collins that omits the hyphen. The OED and Chambers require it. I just mention it. Up to you, natch. Same comment applies to "postwar" later.
    • "my comorants and gulls" – I believe I have occasionally seen cormorant spelled without the first r but does Gibbons do it as quoted?
  • Postwar years
    • [Obiter dicta: "bought a bookshop in the Archway district of London" – a bleak and desolate hole! I can't imagine he made much money running a bookshop there.]
  • Late career
    • "Light on C.S.Lewis" – a space between second initial and surname?
  • Bibliography
    • The MoS isn't wild about the sub-heading "Bibliography" within articles: Wikipedia:Layout#Works or publications, "because it is not clear whether it is limited to the works of the subject of the article". I think this is fair comment, and I go for "Works" or "Publications" when I remember, though I think I too have transgressed from time to time.
    • In the main text you mention The Rich House (1941) but it isn't in this here biblio. And there is also The Swiss Summer (1951) to be put upon the list.
    • oclc numbers – some missing from the list. I'll be happy to add them if you'd find that helpful.
      • Added one. I could not find the original editions of the others listed at Worldcat, not even CCF. If you have another means of finding the OCLCs I'd be very grateful if you would addthem. Brianboulton (talk) 17:15, 21 November 2013 (UTC)

That's all folks! A most enjoyable article, and I learnt much too. The balance of sections is judicious, you have done all that can be asked in the way of illustrations (how one envies people like her who remain stunning looking into their old age!) and I don't see how the piece could be much better. On to FAC, when I trust you will flag it up on my talk page. – Tim riley (talk) 15:22, 20 November 2013 (UTC)

Many thanks for your efforts – I don't know where my articles would be without you. Assume I have followed your advice except as noted, and I will let you know when I take it forward. Brianboulton (talk) 17:15, 21 November 2013 (UTC)

Postscript: I clicked on your link to the Glasgow Herald article (most enjoyable) in which it is mentioned that a good chunk of the Gibbons oeuvre is being reissued. The same thought struck me when trawling for OCLC numbers for the first editions: I kept bumping into recent reissues. Scope for a line or two on this modest renascence? Happy to rummage in the publishing lists if that would be of use. Tim riley (talk) 20:18, 21 November 2013 (UTC)
  • Thank you for finding the missing oclcs. I have added a couple of sentences to the "Reception" section, reporting the Vintage reissues, which I think is sufficient to indicate the mild revival of interest in SG's works. I don't think we need more; do you? Brianboulton (talk) 11:15, 22 November 2013 (UTC)
  • ...and, Tim, while you're about it, would you adjudicate on a comma question that arises in Loeba's review, below? It's in the "Student years" section of her review. Brianboulton (talk) 11:25, 22 November 2013 (UTC)

Comments from SchroCat[edit]

Sadly, with no ellipses errors for me to pick up on, I'll have to pick up on some other pieces in this very readable and enjoyable article. It's been some years since I read Cold Comfort, but I had no idea of the author's history or other works.

Family background and childhood

  • "the fourth name, by which the boy was always known": not sure the comma is needed here?
  • "a turbulent one, tensions arising from Charles Gibbons's": perhaps "with tensions"?
  • '"sexual swapping" within the family circle': I'm probably being dense here, but are you saying that it was incestuous adultery?
  • That's not in the source, from which I'd guess that Grandad Gibbons, who was only 20 years older than Telford, fancied his chances with the womenfolk of his son's generation, and that within that generation there were some exchanges of partner, but I don't think that incest can be implied. Brianboulton (talk) 17:15, 21 November 2013 (UTC)
  • I don't have an issue with it, but I am sure someone will comment on the use of "however"...
  • I have redrafted that part of the lead, but will be sure to carry out a "however" audit before it goes to FAC. Brianboulton (talk) 17:15, 21 November 2013 (UTC)

More to follow shortly. - SchroCat (talk) 23:27, 20 November 2013 (UTC)

Second tranche:

Journalism and early writings

Cold Comfort

  • "trade of earthy regionalist such": does the source have singular or plural "regionalist"

Final bite of the cherry to follow this pm. - SchroCat (talk) 12:15, 21 November 2013 (UTC)

Only one final tiny question, as my few other points have been captured by those above:


  • Any idea on who—apart from Austen—was an influence on her work, and on who she influenced?
  • There are few references, in the thin gruel of criticism that is available, to suggest particular literary influences. One critic mentions some similarity in the short stories to the style of Katherine Mansfield, but that's about all. In CCF, of course, Gibbons parodied various styles, but that's not the same thing. I will look around to see if there are other plausible suggestions as to stylistic influences. Brianboulton (talk) 17:15, 21 November 2013 (UTC)

Lovely read, as always. Please drop me a line when you go to FAC. All the best - SchroCat (talk) 14:55, 21 November 2013 (UTC)

Thanks for your review, will keep you informed. Brianboulton (talk) 17:15, 21 November 2013 (UTC)

Loeba comments[edit]

What do you know, the lady was practically born on my [future] doorstep! Well not quite, but I could walk to Malden Crescent in about 15 minutes, which is pretty damn close (as is Holly Lodge). Anyway, this is great stuff - along with your lovely prose, I felt like I got a real sense of Gibbons life, writing style, and personality, even though it's a pretty quick and easy read. Quite an accomplishment. Most of the comments below are seriously nitpicky and can be ignored if you wish, but I wanted to try and be as helpful as possible.

  • "She established her reputation with her first novel, Cold Comfort Farm (1932), which won the Femina Vie Heureuse Prize" - Possibly better as "Her first novel, Cold Comfort Farm, won the -- prize and gave her a positive [or something similar] reputation".
  • On balance, I'd prefer to leave it as it is. Brianboulton (talk) 00:17, 22 November 2013 (UTC)
  • "and has led some to compare her with Jane Austen" - .. "has led to comparison with Jane Austen"?
  • "The impact of Cold Comfort Farm dominated her career.." - Mention Gibbons by name, since the last female mentioned was Jane Austen.
  • "her works have not been accepted into the canon of English literature partly, commentators have suggested, because of her detachment from the literary world and her tendency to mock it." - I feel like there needs to be something before "partly", maybe "the canon of English literature – partly, commentators have suggested, because..."
  • I wonder if the sequel to CCF could be mentioned in the lead? It's interesting that she tried to repeat its success but even this failed. Maybe, "none of her remaining 22 novels, including a sequel to her debut, achieved the same critical or popular success."
  • I am something of a minimalist as far as lead details are concerned, but I'll give this idea further thought. Brianboulton (talk) 00:17, 22 November 2013 (UTC)
  • "according to Laura Webb, Stella Gibbons's daughter, "sexual swapping" within the family circle" - We're given a lot of names to digest in this first paragraph, maybe the daughter's could be omitted at this point to ease the load? IMO we may be given a bit too much information about her father (ie, the source of his name) and his childhood, but it's up to you.
  • I've been troubled about the "sexual swapping" – it's not relevant to Stella's life, and may become a distaction, so I've eliminated it, together with the marginal information about the origin of Telford. "Laura" will be named later in the article. Brianboulton (talk) 00:17, 22 November 2013 (UTC)
  • "Fortunately, her mother was a calm and stabilising influence.[6] Until she reached the age of 13 Stella was educated at home by a succession of governesses" - Again, because the mother is the last female mentioned, "Until Stella reached the age of 13 she..."
  • "She picked up the habit of reading from the family bookcase" > "She enjoyed reading from the family bookcase"?
  • If you're pipelinking to Camden Town, I would specify that in the text as well. "Camden" could just refer to the borough.
Student years
  • The UCL image lacks a caption (I'm sure this is a mistake!)
  • "At school, Gibbons had formed the ambition to be a writer" > "an ambition"? And I think a comma after "headmistess" would be helpful.
  • I have actually deleted the headmistress (immaterial detail) Brianboulton (talk) 00:17, 22 November 2013 (UTC)
  • "recalled in an interview late in life that many of the jokes she shared with Gibbons were to find their way into Cold Comfort Farm, along with some of their mutual acquaintances" > "as were some of their.."?
  • "Soon after Gibbons joined the course she contributed a poem, "The Marshes of My Soul", to the December 1921 issue of University College Magazine." - I don't understand this sentence? Maybe I'm being dense, but if we remove the poem name - "joined the course she contributed a poem to the [magazine]" isn't making sense to me.
    • Ohhh I just re-read this and understand what it's saying now (I was being dense). It's the lack of comma before "course" that confused things for me, perhaps add one so that other dense people can follow it better. --Loeba (talk) 20:51, 21 November 2013 (UTC)
      • My natural prose style is not to place a comma where you suggest, but I will get a third opinion on this. Brianboulton (talk) 00:17, 22 November 2013 (UTC)
        • I believe current American usage is always to put in a comma after an "In August,…" type opening. It has never been standard British practice: as far I can see, modern usage is add a comma in such cases only when omitting it would break the reader's flow, as in "After meeting Stanley Livingstone went…" where the comma would be helpful, but not in "After dinner I went out", where is isn't. It wouldn't have occurred to me to add a comma in the sentence in question, and I'm surprised Loeba feels the need for it, but it would do no harm, I'd say. – Tim riley (talk) 17:14, 22 November 2013 (UTC)
  • "some of which were published later" > "some of which were later published"?
  • Second paragraph uses "byline", third uses "by-line"
  • "particularly her increasing distraction from her work arising from her relationship with Walter Beck." - The three uses of "her" stood out to me and jarred a bit.
  • "he wanted something rather more open" - I'd omit the "rather"
  • "a budding actor and opera singer a few years her junior" - I'd just say outright how many years, rather than "a few".
  • "It had won against works by two more experienced writers" - Remove the "had"?
  • "It had won" matches "had been awarded" in the previous line. Brianboulton (talk) 00:17, 22 November 2013 (UTC)
  • "a collection of fairy tales, was published in the year of her daughter's birth, and was dedicated to her." - Even if we do keep the daughter's name in the first section, I think she needs to be named again here. Also, it seems like she was her only child, which I would emphasise.
  • "Throughout the 1950s she continued, at roughly two-year intervals, to produce politely received novels none of which created any particular stir." Feels like some punctuation is missing between "novels" and "none".
  • "During this time he had a brief affair with the actress Sydney Malcolm, for which misjudgement Gibbons quickly forgave him" > "a misjudgement for which Gibbons quickly forgave him"?
Later career
  • "The Yellow House and An Alpha, neither of which, as of 2013, had been published." > "has been published"?
  • The trouble is that when it comes to 2014 (in about six weeks), the sentence wouldn't make sense unless we changed the year – and kept changing it every year thereafter. Not worth the trouble, I think. Brianboulton (talk) 00:17, 22 November 2013 (UTC)
  • Perhaps link to our wiktionary page for bête noire?
  • I'm not a fan of wiktionary links, but in any case I think it is a common enough term that readers will know. Brianboulton (talk) 00:17, 22 November 2013 (UTC)
  • "One of the few publicly expressed negative views on the book" - I fear this may be OR...

Not much to suggest beyond small prose nitpicks, but hopefully that was helpful! --Loeba (talk) 19:58, 21 November 2013 (UTC)

It was extremely helpful. Not only did it enable me to deal with some awkward little glitches but it highlighted one or two issues where I was not altogether satisfied, and gave me the opportunity to deal with them.So many thanks indeed. Brianboulton (talk) 00:17, 22 November 2013 (UTC)

Suggestions generated by an automatic JavaScript program[edit]

Suggestions generated by an automatic JavaScript program, and might not be applicable for the article in question.

You may wish to browse through User:AndyZ/Suggestions for further ideas. -(tJosve05a (c) 19:21, 23 November 2013 (UTC)

God bless and save us! Can nothing be done to obliterate these bloody bots! Tim riley (talk) 19:59, 24 November 2013 (UTC)
I am Dalek. "Exterminate, exterminate...-(tJosve05a (c) 21:52, 24 November 2013 (UTC)

There's an outbreak of these things all over the peer review system. It's irritating for experienced editors, but before cursing too loudly it's worth remembering that, sadly, this is all the review attention that many articles are going to get. Brianboulton (talk) 11:49, 25 November 2013 (UTC)

Moreover the above wasn't added by a bot but, I now realise, by a member of the human race, to whom I have apologised on his talk page, cancelling the curse. I got a more forgiving reply than I deserve. Tim riley (talk) 22:37, 25 November 2013 (UTC)