Stella Dorothea Gibbons (5 January 1902 – 19 December 1989) was an English novelist, journalist, poet, and short-story writer.
Her first novel, Cold Comfort Farm, won the Femina Vie Heureuse Prize for 1933. A satire and parody of the pessimistic ruralism of Thomas Hardy, his followers and especially Precious Bane by Mary Webb — the "loam and lovechild" genre, as some called it — Cold Comfort Farm introduces a self-confident young woman, quite consciously modern, pragmatic, and optimistic, into the grim, fate-bound, and dark rural scene those novelists tended to portray.
Gibbons was born in London, the only daughter and eldest of three children of Telford Gibbons and his wife Maude Phoebe Standish Williams, and grew up in Kentish Town where her father, a medical doctor, had his practice. She was initially home-educated, then attended the North London Collegiate School for Girls.
Gibbons's own family was suburban and middle-class, but in some of its psychological dimensions is said to have been "not dissimilar to the Starkadders" described in that novel.
In her autobiographical novel Enbury Heath she describes her family life with two younger brothers, Gerald and Lewis, in the third person: "She grew up in the wreck of hope and the slow, strange living-death of love, but because she was conceived in love, she was the happiest of the three, and she never forgot it."
Her father was a "bad man, but a good doctor". Stella's mother Maudie was a retiring woman not able to stand up to the domineering spirit of her husband. Stella's father worked in a poor area of London and was a sympathetic doctor who would not charge patients that could not pay. Nevertheless, he was prone to violent outbursts against his wife and was a womaniser who was unfaithful with a number of governesses. In a fit of rage he once threw a knife at Maudie, and often resorted to whiskey and later laudanum to deal with his inner demons.
Stella's turbulent upbringing was to play a significant part in the creation of her most noted work Cold Comfort Farm.