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Father and Son: A Study of Two Temperaments (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics)

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3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  409 ratings  ·  49 reviews
'This book is the record of a struggle between two temperaments, two consciences and almost two epochs.' Father and Son stands as one of English literature's seminal autobiographies. In it Edmund Gosse recounts, with humour 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 fath ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published October 26th 1989 by Penguin Classics (first published 1907)
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David
This book was right up my alley in that my upbringing paralleled the author's - in spite of being over a century later. Like him, I was brought up in the Plymouth Brethren which, in 1960s-70s New Zealand, as in 1850s-60s England, meant a fixation on literalism, a consequent dryness and lack of imagination, and an almost disdainful rejection of "the world," which to a kid in particular was a blanket term for "everything fun." Seeing this aspect of my childhood before me in a form as dispassionate ...more
Scott Harris
And he said we must judge not, lest we ourselves bejudged. I had just enough tact to let that pass, but I was quite aware that our whole system was one of judging, and that we had no intention whatever of being judged ourselves. Yet even at the age of eleven one sees that on certain occasions to press home the truth is not convenient.

The dripping sarcasm of the line above is an apt characterization of this delightful memoir of the relationship between poet Edmund Gosse and his father Philip. Alt
...more
Jan-Maat
Edmund Gosse's account of his childhood with particular focus on his relationship with his father Philip Henry Gosse is really a remarkable read, particularly if all Victorians are in your eyes indistinguishable on account of their starchiness.

Philip Gosse was the man who devised the theory that God created the world with all the appearances of being old as a way of reconciling his belief in the literal truth of the Bible and his work in the emerging natural sciences (view spoiler)
...more
Dave
One of the best books about intellectual freedom that I have ever read. Gosse manages to make his father a deeply sympathetic and tragically sad character (and himself a real, selfish, immature boy) while clearly showing how oppressive and ridiculous puritanism can be. When young Edmund discovers Dickens and Shakespeare it's like coming up for air after deep submersion.
Laura
From BBC Radio 4 - Extra Debut:
Memoir of Edmund Gosse's Victorian childhood, raised in a strictly non-conformist Plymouth Brethren home. Stars Derek Jacobi and Roger Allam.


Free download available at Project Gutenberg.

I liked this book even if I am not a big fan of christian fiction.
Dpdwyer
This book has been described as the first psychological biography. An only child, Gosse is raised in a Protestant sect, The Plymouth Bretheren, which is led by his father, a naturalist and artist. While strict, his parents dote on him, but from early on he questions their beliefs. I loved the scene when he's seven or so, after hearing the prohibition against praying to idols, he secretly puts a chair on a table and prays to it. And nothing happens. His mother, a poet, dies before he is ten. When ...more
Jesse Kraai
*I got turned on to this book when I found it on one of Nick Hornby's list of faves*

The book fails to achieve what it hoped to: to find the seeds of Gosse's later rebellion in his early youth. We spend about two-thirds of the book there, looking. Gosse keeps plodding on, expecting to find the answer himself. But we don't. We also don't get a convincing portrait of the father. How did he come to Botany, what teacher led him to that worldly path, what was the joy he found there? Gosse sr. came fro
...more
Heather


A non-fiction account of Edmund Gosse's relationship with his father. Everything in Mr. Gosses's upbringing was focused on piety and service to God. As the story unfolds the young Edmund slowly begins to understand that there is more to life that worship, and that his father is not infallible. I found the section dealing with Mr. Gosse's senior addressing Charles Darwin's theories to be particularly interesting, as I have been slowly reading through The Origin of the Species concurrently to this
...more
Jamie
This is probably my favorite book from the Victorian era.
Dr. Carl Ludwig Dorsch

Published anonymously in 1907, when Gosse was 58, "Father and Son" recounts his childhood among the Plymouth Brethren, centering largely, after his mother's early death, on his relation with pere Philip Henry Gosse, English naturalist and author of "Omphalos: an Attempt to Untie the Geological Knot," in which is formulated what has come to be known as the 'omphalos hypothesis,' reconciling the fossil record to revelation by supposing it too to having been created ex nihilo.

(Though it should be
...more
Lisa
This book was fantastic and it really hit that this occurs still to this day in homes all across the world. Unfortunately religious indoctrination is a powerful force that many don't overcome like Gosse did. When someone does it often tears families apart. I also feel sad for both Gosse and his father, the younger eventually was able to think for himself and escape, the elder however remained stuck in religion even at the expense of his career. A naturalist who could not accept Darwin and Lyell. ...more
Jane Verne
Edmund Gosse's fluent writing tells this story ("Father and Son") of a father who loves his son, but harrasses and abuses his mental independence through the
pursuit of "fundamental" Christianity. The book might have been too
dark and sombre to tackle without the mixture of ordinary life and
ordinary kindness that runs through it. It has been criticised in its
time for exaggeration, even a twisting of the truth about the father,
but it seems to me to be very believable -and it has been rated as
a mast
...more
Clive Illman
A fine social document and a familiar Victorian scenario. Bonkers religion vs emerging scientific objectivity. No offence intended to any bonkers religious people. And don't you go getting smart all you emergingly objective scientists - you don't know it all - not by a long chalk! I'm not suggesting that religion is bonkers; just that the way some people go about it could be better thought through. I mean, the father of this poor kid, Edmund - what a conflicted loon! What an extraordinary period ...more
Cynthia
I loved this memoir, written by the son, who grew up in Devonshire in the latter half of the 19th century. He loved his father, a scientist who was also something of a religious fanatic, a member of the Calvinistic Plymouth Brethren. By the time he was 19, the son was through with religion, but remained on affectionate terms with his narrow-minded dad. He tells their story with honesty and humor.
Lucy
Families, eh. What binds, and what divides. This is a wonderful account of the author as a solitary child, cut off from reality by a strict religion. But what makes it so enthralling for me is the picture he paints of how an intelligent child can for so long squeeze himself into the mould his parents make. It's not at all a stuffy classic, but an absolute must-read.
Tony
Sad, yet often very (laugh out loud) funny. A fascinating picture of Victorian Evangelical religion, that makes you ask whether modern forms of Christian believing can lead to similar inter-generational tensions. And a thought-provoking description of how inevitable rebellion against our parent(s) can still walk hand in hand with lifelong love and respect for them.
Sandra
Excellent! This coming of age story under the watchful eye of a strict religious upbringing still holds up today. The author's humor and sensitivity with which he retells his parent's overbearing religious fervor and what it did to a young child's psyche, engrosses the reader. Highly recommended.
James Dahlstrom
While I found much of this history to be uninteresting, I did like the overall theme of the book, expressed in the Epilogue, that Gosse's father's zealotry ruined what could have been healthy and happy relationship between the two. He makes it clear, time and again, that his father's intimate knowledge of God is completely imagined and done so at the expense of his and his family's personal life. At the end, Gosse makes the choice to live as someone who thinks for himself and his relationship to ...more
Avis Black
If you've ever been interested in losing your religious faith, this is the book to read. The best argument against religious fanaticism that I've come across.
Feby Idrus
Well written in the Victorian manner, and a fascinating double portrait of Gosse and his Puritan scientist father.
Marfita
Jan 19, 2010 Marfita rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Marfita by: Alexander Woollcott
Shelves: religion-atheism
This was the Kindle edition.
I did not know what I was getting into with this book. Woollcott wrote that G. B. Shaw had praised Gosse for it and then Woollcott went on to say how important and wonderful a book it was.
It was a nice change from that Miss Whatsit's Angel book. Edmund Gosse was raised in a family attached to an ideosyncratic religion that sounds like what Garrison Keillor talks about in his family, only more so. At a precocious age he was consecrated into the Brethryn although he was
...more
Rob Hattersley
Didn't think I'd enjoy this, but I did despite old fashioned style. Found it especially interesting given my own background and 'journey'. Very moving and thought provoking. Recommend to anyone who has (or know someone who has) moved away from an all-encompassing fundamentalist faith into something a little more reflective of reality, and found the process deeply painful on a personal and relational level.
David
An extraordinary accomplishment: a steadfastly negative portrayal of extremist religious upbringing that never abandons sympathy for the parents who imposed it upon him. This account of the intersection of science and Puritanism at the dawn of the Darwinian era is fascinating, and it is one of the most impressive accounts of the power of literature to free the spirit.
Dawn
May 07, 2010 Dawn rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Christian Parents
Shelves: biography
Interesting and compelling insight into the life of someone brought up by a strict Plymouth Brethren father in the Victorian era. While Edmund Gosse obviously has his own perceptions, his discernment on some things are insightful and precise, and reveal the cold detachment which all fundamental religious people can fall prey to. He is one of the first authors to write a disclosure about negative aspects of the parenting he recieved (a taboo for Victorians and his book was published anonymously t ...more
Duncan Holmes
Expected something very dry mainly about natural history, but in fact this is very readable. Young Edmund is driven nuts by his father's religious fanaticism, rebels in small ways but doesn't entirely escape even when he moves to lodgings in London.
Hank Stuever
According to some of my old college papers and files I came across recently, I was assigned to read this as an undergrad in a Victorian Culture & Society course in the fall of 1989. I'm sure (I hope?) some of it sunk in!
Toby
A deeply moving and sympathetic book of faith, fundamentalism, skepticism and regret. As necessary today as when it was written.
Kate
May 18, 2015 Kate marked it as to-buy  ·  review of another edition
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Sir Edmund William Gosse CB was an English poet, author and critic, now primarily remembered for his classic memoir, Father and Son (1907), detailing his difficult childhood in a religiously fanatical home.

An important and influential critic in his day, Gosse as a critic, essayist and correspondent is still very much worth reading today.
More about Edmund Gosse...
Henrik Ibsen Gossip in a Library The Poetical Works of Thomas Lovell Beddoes The Life of Algernon Charles Swinburne (1917) The Life of Algernon Charles Swinburne

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“I was much affected by the internal troubles of the Punch family; I thought that with a little more tact on the part of Mrs. Punch and some restraint held over a temper, naturally violent, by Mr. Punch, a great deal of this sad misunderstanding might have been prevented.” 1 likes
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