Edmund Gosse

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Sir Edmund William Gosse CB[1] (21 September 1849 – 16 May 1928) was an English poet, author and critic; the son of Philip Henry Gosse and Emily Bowes.[2]


Early life

Edmund Gosse's father was a naturalist and his mother an illustrator and published a number of books of poetry. Both were deeply committed to a small Protestant sect, the Plymouth Brethren. His childhood was initially happy as they spent their summers in Devon where his father was developing the ideas which gave rise to the craze for the marine aquarium. After his mother died of breast cancer when he was eight and they moved to Devon, his life with his father became increasingly strained by his father's expectations that he should follow in his religious tradition. Gosse was sent to a boarding school where he began to develop his own interests in literature. His father married in 1860 the deeply religious Quaker spinster Eliza Brightwen (1813–1900), whose brother Thomas tried to encourage Edmund to become a banker. He later gave an account of his childhood in the book Father and Son which has been described as the first psychological biography. At the age of 18 and working in the British museum in London, he broke away from his father's influence in a dramatic coming of age.

Eliza Gosse's brother George was the husband of Eliza Elder Brightwen (1830–1906), a naturalist and author, whose first book was published in 1871. After Eliza Elder Brightwen's death, Edmund Gosse arranged for the publication of her two posthumous works Last Hours with Nature (1908) and Eliza Brightwen, the Life and Thoughts of a Naturalist (1909), both edited by W. H. Chesson, and the latter book with an introduction and epilogue by Gosse.


Gosse started his career as assistant librarian at the British Museum from 1867 alongside the songwriter Theo Marzials,[3] a post which Charles Kingsley helped his father obtain for him. An early book of poetry published with a friend John Arthur Blaikie gave him an introduction to the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Trips to Denmark and Norway in 1872-4, where he visited Hans Christian Anderson and Frederik Paludan-Müller, led to publishing success with reviews of Ibsen and Bjørnson in the Cornhill Magazine.[4] He was soon reviewing Scandinavian literature in a variety of publications. He became acquainted with Alfred Lord Tennyson and friends with Robert Browning, Algernon Charles Swinburne, Thomas Hardy and Henry James.

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