Edmund Gosse wrote of his account of his life, "This book is the record of a struggle between two temperaments, two consciences and almost two epochs." Father and Son remains one of English literature's seminal autobiographies. In it, Edmund Gosse recounts, with humor and pathos, his childhood as a member of a Victorian Protestant sect and his struggles to forge his own identity despite the loving control of his father. His work is a key document of the crisis of faith and doubt and a penetrating exploration of the impact of evolutionary science. An astute, well-observed, and moving portrait of the tensions of family life, Father and Son remains a classic of twentieth-century literature.
This edition contains an illuminating introduction, and provides a series of fascinating appendices including extracts from Philip Gosse's Omphalos and Edmund Gosse's harrowing account of his wife's death from breast cancer.
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The era in which faith and reason conflicted in a profound manner seems far away, and perhaps even a bit incomprehensible, to citizens of the modern world. Most of us take for granted our right to choose the life of the mind over that of the spirit without feeling remorse. At the very least, we've learned that the two need not be mutually exclusive. But this is hard-won ease, born of a conflict that began with the Victorians. Edmund Gosse's Father and Son (1907) traces his own reckoning--as well as that of his father, the eminent British zoologist Philip Gosse--with the clash. His story is, as he declares, "The diagnosis of a dying Puritanism."
The only Puritanism that dies here, however, is the author's. His parents were Christian fundamentalists and as a result, young Edmund was denied interaction with other children as well as all variety of fictional tales. "Here was perfect purity," Gosse writes, "perfect intrepidity, perfect abnegation; yet there was also narrowness, isolation, and absence of perspective, let it boldly be admitted, an absence of humanity." Despite all of this, the child maintained his sense of humor, which adds much levity to a tale of such potentially grim proportions.
When Edmund was 8, his mother died of cancer, leaving him the care of a man in whom "sympathetic imagination ... was singularly absent." Philip Gosse held on to his faith in God above all else--so much so, in fact, that when evolutionary theory was announced to the world, he dismissed it entirely because it discounted the book of Genesis. Little by little, Edmund began to chafe against the traditions he had inherited. By the age of 11, he already saw himself "imprisoned for ever in the religious system which had caught me and would whurl my helpless spirit." At this point he believed his fate was sealed and went through the motions of piety. It is not until he goes off to boarding school, and discovers the Greeks and Romantic poetry, that he slowly chooses his own path. Eventually he comes to realize that he and his father "walked in opposite hemispheres of the soul." Their split encapsulates a particular moment in history but also embodies their destiny: "one was born to fly backward, the other could not help being carried forward." --Melanie RehakAbout the Author:
Michael Newton is Lecturer in English at University College London.
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Book Description Penguin Classics, 1985. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 140431780
Book Description Penguin Classics, 1985. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 0140431780