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

3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  344 ratings  ·  38 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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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
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
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.
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
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.
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
Feby Idrus
Well written in the Victorian manner, and a fascinating double portrait of Gosse and his Puritan scientist father.
This is probably my favorite book from the Victorian era.
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
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
Mary Webber
I really liked this book, probably because I lived in the same neighborhood as the author and that made it more fun. Most of my classmates seemed to find it very boring. But I didn't think it was boring. I thought it was victorian, yes, but not boring. It's a memoir about changing ideals in Victorian England, about the breaks between generations, and about breaks between those with different religious ideals.
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
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. Despite wide learning his religious views worked to narrow his outlook on the world, at the same time his son Edmund as he grew up had an increasing desire to widen his outlook and these two perspectives increasingly ground against each other causing the two men conflict...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
Relatively quick read, but an interesting exploration of a troubling relationship. Gosse's exploration of his youth in a strict Calvinist home details his slow break from the faith and philosophy of his family. It seems one-sided at times (perhaps unavoidably), but Gosse goes to some trouble not to paint his father in a seriously bad light, and some contextual evidence supports the theory that Gosse himself was a more active participant than he makes out.
Daren Kearl
“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.”
An interesting autobiography at the dawning of Darwinism and Victorian science which causes the son to begin to question the father's doctrines.
Marta Szabo
This is one of the best books I have ever read. A deliciously close view of the author's childhood and relationship to his father, a well known religious fanatic, intellectual and scientist. It was written in about 1910. I have never read a memoir from this time that is so modern in its ability to be introspective and detailed about childhood. I loved it. The writing is witty and brilliantly intelligent. I read it slowly, not wanting to say goodbye.
In an effort to shun laziness, I comment on this book.
Very intriguing look into not only a relationship between a father and his son, but between faith and life. Also a good comment, in my opinion, about how damaging the concept of evolution can be to a person's faith. This is in no way what the author intended, but I think the whole book hinges on it. It's a true story. A little hard going sometimes but fascinating. I would recommend it.
Some good moments, but not really my thing.
An amazing book about a vanished era when spiritual realities were far more important for many people than material ones. Though set up as a story of the relationship between a father and son, it is really about mid-Victorian people living on the cusp of a new mental world. Told with affection and kindness, occasionally wickedly funny, but devastating in its judgment of the narrowness of separatist fundamentalism.
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.
This is a favorite of mine. I very much identify with the reflections on growing up in a religious context with expectations. And then moving away. Of course, my eperience is hardly matched by the extremity of Gosse's. But still I book i return to from time to time. Listened this time to a recording. Very stuffy reader. Not enough to affect my experience of the book.
Isaac Radner
As the son of a priest myself, perhaps this book resonates with me in a way it may not with others, but I found Gosse's account of his "fallout out" with religion, and in some ways his father, completely fascinating. This book also gives the reader a glimpse into the world of the Plymouth Brethren, a kind of religious world that has been lost. Definitely worth a read!
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.
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.
Sep 17, 2014 ☯Bettie☯ is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: BBC Radio Listeners


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.
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.
Memoir of a man's faith journey In the 1800's and the influence of his fundamentalist minister father on his worldview. Well-written and thought provoking.
Oct 24, 2011 Malinda rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Malinda by: ENG 430 Victorian Cultural Backgrounds
Shelves: classics
I had to read this for my Darwin class, I'm not sure if I liked it or if it I liked it because it wasn't Darwin. But I enjoyed it.
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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 The Poetical Works of Thomas Lovell Beddoes Gossip in a Library The Life of Algernon Charles Swinburne (1917) The Letters of Thomas Lovell Beddoes

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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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