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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant autobiography, but not "nothing but the truth"
This is one of the outstanding works of early twentieth century English literature, and probably one of the best British autobiographies ever written. Edmund Gosse describes his life up to the time when he left home to move back to London to start his career.

His upbringing was unusual, even by mid-Victorian standards. In his infancy, his intensely pious...
Published on 15 Feb 2009 by Bob Sherunkle

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Father and Son
The book came in very good condition and on time. This was a recommendation from my book club. I only persevered with reading it as it was to be discussed by the club. My rating isn't relating to the seller whose service and book were 100%. I just didn't like the book.
Published 15 months ago by M. E. Brewster


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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant autobiography, but not "nothing but the truth", 15 Feb 2009
By 
Bob Sherunkle (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This is one of the outstanding works of early twentieth century English literature, and probably one of the best British autobiographies ever written. Edmund Gosse describes his life up to the time when he left home to move back to London to start his career.

His upbringing was unusual, even by mid-Victorian standards. In his infancy, his intensely pious parents shunned all except the equally devout of their own kind, the Plymouth Brethren. His mother died when Edmund was seven, and her dying wish was that Edmund become a minister of their religion. His father then devoted himself, ultimately without success, to realising this wish. Gosse's career in literature brought him into friendship with such as Swinburne, than whom Gosse's father could hardly have imagined a more unsuitable acquaintance.

Gosse does clear justice to the affection within his immediate family. He also presents a balanced view of how far his parents realised their talents. He expresses his respect for their achievements - his mother as an evangelistic writer, and his father as one of the greatest marine biologists of the period. On the other hand, he suggests that their piety may have hampered even greater achievement. He suspects that his mother may have stifled a real talent for writing fiction on purely moral grounds ("because it was not true"), and explains - not without sympathy - how his father opposed Darwin's theory of evolution on purely religious grounds, and lost.

The doubts attaching to Father and Son are not of literary quality, but of accuracy. In the preface, Gosse says that he is writing while his memory is "still perfectly vivid", and that "at only one point has there been any tampering with precise facts". However, Ann Thwaite puts forward a very different view in Glimpses of the Wonderful, her excellent biography of Gosse's father. She quotes Edmund as describing his memory as "like a colander", and she relates several minor and some major events in Father and Son in respect of which Edmund is either remembering inaccurately or is being creative with the truth. The answer probably is - one with which Edmund would probably wryly agree - that there is no absolute truth, only greater or lesser.

The book is not unremitting gloom. There are several anecdotes where Gosse displays his subtle, wicked sense of humour, as seen throughout his career.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic, 7 Sep 2009
By 
I enjoyed this book. I had feared that it would be a dense difficult book but I was pleasantly surprised by the facility and beauty of the prose. It is the story of the author's upbringing by his father , after his mother's death. Both parents were what we would now call fundamental Christians. The father was a distinguished naturalist who believed that God created the world with fossils in their place. He was dumbfounded that his demonstration, by reference to the Bible, that Darwin was wrong was met by derision.This is a side issue as the main story here is of an only child who loses his mother and finds his way despite his father's religous stiffness.

There are other interesting aspects to the book. We think of the Victorian age as being one long period but here the author demonstrates the difference between the generation who were born in the regency era and the more modern thinking later Victorians. There are many other useful insights including the observations public health in the 1850s and that the coast had been ruined by 1900 by all the tourists looking for samples etc. A fascinating book that is well worth reading.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Battering on Heaven's door, 1 Aug 2009
By 
Kevin James (UK) - See all my reviews
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A thought-provoking, beautifully written account of an unusually sheltered childhood. In the most controlled terms, the author describes his passage from child to man with a degree of fairness and frankness that lets us judge for ourselves the validity of his father's controlling ways. Although the atmosphere of the Gosses' home is strict and repressive, the book itself never becomes oppressive. It has too much gentle humour and lightness. What is remarkable is how much tenderness and sympathy we feel for both of these people. The father is not a bad man, and he acts only out of misdirected love. Nevertheless, the story unfolds with an inevitability that is deeply sad. Nowadays, straight-forward horror stories of appalling physical and mental abuse sell by the million, but this was Victorian England, and this account of subtler damage done was initially published anonymously, so shocking for its time were the revelations. In a brilliant Epilogue, the author unleashes an indictment of religious fundementalism that remains as relevant as ever.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars On Dover Beach, 23 July 2012
By 
Samuel Romilly (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This brilliant autobiography is touching, tender and tragic, retailing the childhood of a future agnostic professor at Oxford. He was the son of a brilliant geologist who just happened to be a member of the Plymouth Brethren. He could not square his faith with Darwin or dinosaurs,and in effect committed intellectual suicide as a result. He also lost his son. The younger Goss exorcises the past in this depiction of a loving father from whom his son must escape to survive. It is the best thing Goss ever wrote, and a classic in its own right.It will not date,even though it is hard for us (though not alas for Americans) to understand the crisis of faith and science it depicts.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A painful portrayal of a child's struggle to become., 22 Oct 1999
By A Customer
Gosse's autobiographical account of his early years with his strictly Puritan family is beautifully written and, although often a painful book to read, a book which one will remember. It is a slice of life from a time that, although not so long ago, seems drastically different to our modern day world. Gosse charts his development as a child and his development as a literary figure in Father And Son and produces one of the finest semi-autobiographical novels in the English language. A criticism of the novel could be that it occasionally verges upon the self-pitying yet it is a sad tale and a tale told delicately. I personally enjoyed the novel and found that, in it's style, it offers something fresh and worthy. Unlike most autobiography, Father And Son does not act as a self-advertisment for the writers greatness. What it does do is offer an insight into a life that most modern day readers would find difficult to imagine.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WONDERFULL, 4 Nov 2009
By 
NEIL STUART (KESWICK, CUMBRIA UK) - See all my reviews
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Anyone who has not read this book is in for a treat. I wish I was reading it for the first time. It is a wonderfull account of Edmund Gosse's upbringing by fundamentalist parents. His father was an eccentric eminent scientist. There is a great deal of humour as well as pathos. This is a classic - read it.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant autobiography, but not "nothing but the truth", 26 Sep 2009
By 
Bob Sherunkle (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This is one of the outstanding works of early twentieth century English literature, and probably one of the best British autobiographies ever written. Edmund Gosse describes his life up to the time when he left home to move back to London to start his career.
His upbringing was unusual, even by mid-Victorian standards. In his infancy, his intensely pious parents shunned all except the equally devout of their own kind, the Plymouth Brethren. His mother died when Edmund was seven, and her dying wish was that Edmund become a minister of their religion. His father then devoted himself, ultimately without success, to realising this wish. Gosse's career in literature brought him into friendship with such as Swinburne, than whom Gosse's father could hardly have imagined a more unsuitable acquaintance.

Gosse does clear justice to the affection within his immediate family. He also presents a balanced view of how far his parents realised their talents. He expresses his respect for their achievements - his mother as an evangelistic writer, and his father as one of the greatest marine biologists of the period. On the other hand, he suggests that their piety may have hampered even greater achievement. He suspects that his mother may have stifled a real talent for writing fiction on purely moral grounds ("because it was not true"), and explains - not without sympathy - how his father opposed Darwin's theory of evolution on purely religious grounds, and lost.

The doubts attaching to Father and Son are not of literary quality, but of accuracy. In the preface, Gosse says that he is writing while his memory is "still perfectly vivid", and that "at only one point has there been any tampering with precise facts". However, Ann Thwaite puts forward a very different view in Glimpses of the Wonderful, her excellent biography of Gosse's father. She quotes Edmund as describing his memory as "like a colander", and she relates several minor and some major events in Father and Son in respect of which Edmund is either remembering inaccurately or is being creative with the truth. The answer probably is - one with which Edmund would probably wryly agree - that there is no absolute truth, only greater or lesser.

The book is not unremitting gloom. There are several anecdotes where Gosse displays his subtle, wicked sense of humour, as seen throughout his career.
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4.0 out of 5 stars surprised, 4 Mar 2013
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This review is from: Father and Son (Kindle Edition)
I was surprised that I enjoyed this book so much. The language was beautifully precise, some may say pedantic. The descriptions were evocative and moving. It is about a boy growing up with a loving but rigidly fundamentalist Plymouth Brethren father who as a scientist had trouble denying his colleague Darwin. There are some laugh out loud moments and I thoroughly recommend it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A personal story, with universal and still pertinent lessons., 13 Jun 2012
By 
Sebastian Palmer "sebuteo" (Cambridge, England) - See all my reviews
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This is a review of the Oxford World Classics edition.

A really great book this, especially powerfully charged with significance to such readers as have themselves grown up with religious fundamentalism.

I came to this very interesting book via S. J. Gould's essay on P. H. Gosse's 'Omphalos', a book that sought to reconcile the longstanding and traditional revelations of Christianity with the emerging revelations of contemporary science (in the form of Lyell's 'gradualist' geology and the 'theory of mutability', then - just prior to Darwin's Origin being published - very much in the air). Philip Henry Gosse, the titular Father, was both a successful published scientist, an amateur whose work earned him a place as a Fellow of the Royal Society, and a fundamentalist Christian, a devout member of the rather severe Plymouth Brethren, a sect Edmund Gosse (who I'll henceforth refer to as EG, for the sake of clarity and brevity), the Son, characterises as seventeenth-century style puritans.

At pains not to caricature his father, EG nonetheless doesn't flinch from portraying scenes that he felt, at the time of writing, must be the 'last gasp' of a dying strand of old-fashioned religion. Indeed, he frequently refers to his book as a kind of witness to a bygone phenomenon. I wonder how he would feel if he could've known that even now, all over the world, millions are enduring similar (and very probably in many instances far worse) experiences? It's ironic that there's the saying 'the road to hell is paved with good intentions'. Given that believers see demonic forces at work in any views not conforming to their own, those very same earnest believers, in their misguided quest for what EG calls "a vain, chimerical ideal", can turn the supposed path to heaven into just such a road. EG does a good job of showing the tortured and distorted manifestations of love that can lead religious parents to allow their no doubt genuine love to cause definite 'actual spiritual harm' (I use the term spiritual in a loose non-religious sense, and because it seems apt in this context; psychological would perhaps be more accurate, in secular terms).

At one point the Father - in the words of his second wife one "whose trumpet gave no uncertain sound" - momentarily faces up to the precarious foundations of his own belief ("If the written Word is not absolutely authoritative, what do we know of God?"), before swiftly moving on to denigrate his son's uncertainties. When EG says "It was the prerogative of his faith to know, and of his character to overpower objection; between these two millstones I was rapidly ground to powder." I feel kinship and sympathy. Ultimately "as respectfully as he could, without parade or remonstrance, he [EG] took a human being's privilege to fashion his inner life for himself." And long may his example inspire us all. I myself went through a similar process, albeit I wont lay claim to such a noble passage through the vale of tears.

Having related his story, with great efforts to not wallow in self-pity, and near-Herculean attempts to do justice to the best aspects of his parents (if admittedly not all of his fellow 'saints', as the Plymouth Brethren rather sanctimoniously referred to each other), he saves the death-blow of his final and irrevocable 'apostasy' for the epilogue, where he says "There is something horrible, if we will bring ourselves to face it, in the fanaticism that can do nothing with this pathetic and fugitive existence of ours but treat it as if it were the uncomfortable ante-chamber to a palace which no one has explored and of the plan of which we know absolutely nothing." Of course believers will take exception to the final part of his summation, as did his father, who "believed that he was intimately acquainted with the form and furniture of this habitation", wishing EG "to think of nothing else but the advantages of an eternal residence in it."

Whilst the Father never came to an accommodation with reality, believing till very near to his own end that he would see the second coming - "when we rise to meet the Lord in the air" (an imminent eventuality the young EG felt rendered returning to school redundant; there is much such gentle humour in this tale) - the Son did. And it is his lament at the disjuncture this situation caused in his own life, and how his father's "stringent piety" came between them and the best of what was natural, making 'sins' of normal healthy aspects of life, and how this might affect others, which make this a wonderfully compelling and, I feel, still very pertinent book.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than all those childhood novels out now, 28 May 2007
By 
lilysmum "lilysmum65" (uk) - See all my reviews
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If you were thinking of a novel about the father and son relationship then this is the first one to buy. It's brilliant and it pre dates all the novels so much on the shelves at the moment about childhood.
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Father And Son: A Study Of Two Temperaments
Father And Son: A Study Of Two Temperaments by Edmund Gosse (Hardcover - 1935)
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