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Father and Son: A Study of Two Temperaments (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 27 Jul 1989

4.3 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (27 July 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140182764
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140182767
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 447,386 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Peter Abbs was born and grew up on the North Norfolk coast in England. He has written and lectured widely on the nature of creativity and the poetics of culture. He is the Poetry Editor of Resurgence and editor of Earth Songs, the first Anglo-American anthology of contemporary ecoverse. He has published nine volumes of poetry including Icons of Time, Viva la Vida and The Flowering of Flint. Most recently in The Greater Journey (2008) he has worked with the photographer John Pack to explore the relationship between image and word. He is Research Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Sussex.


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4.3 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback
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".
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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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Format: Paperback
Edmund Gosse's Father and Son is a haunting and strangely lyrical account of an unhappy childhood that is redeemed by moments of dramatic encounter with the world of nature and the world of books. The description of the newly-widowed Gosse senior's grief-stricken immersion into the secret realms of rock-pools is one of the highlights of all English literature. Michael Newton's sympathetic introduction offers valuable insights into the book's historic and literary contexts, as well as into the emotional density that is achieved by Gosse's prose. The cover, too - featuring William Dyce's Pegwell Bay - is an inspired choice for what remains one of the must-reads of early 20th-century writing.
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Format: Paperback
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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