Study Guide

Edmund Gosse

Edmund Gosse Biography

Biography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Edmund William Gosse (gahs) was one of the most important and influential English critics during the late Victorian and early modern periods. Gosse’s parents, Philip and Emily Gosse, were deeply religious, and he grew up in a rigidly Puritan environment. In 1866, he secured a position in the British Museum, and there he met such young writers as Richard Garnett and Arthur O’Shaughnessy. In the 1870’s, Gosse began to publish both poetry and criticism. His first significant collection of poetry, On Viol and Flute, was favorably reviewed, and such important figures as Algernon Swinburne, Walter Pater, and Andrew Lang welcomed Gosse as a young writer of promise. In 1875, Gosse married Nellie Epps, a marriage which would prove extraordinarily happy and stable. In this same year, he was appointed translator for the Board of Trade and became friends with Austin Dobson, as well as Swinburne and Pater. In 1879, Gosse published Studies in the Literature of Northern Europe. This first book of criticism established him as an authority on Scandinavian literatures and as an early champion of Henrik Ibsen.

During the next decade, Gosse became friends with Robert Louis Stevenson, Thomas Hardy, Robert Browning, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and other important writers. Between 1884 and 1889, he lectured in the United States and was Clark Lecturer at Cambridge University. His American lectures were a considerable success, and the Clark lectures helped to establish Gosse as a critic and scholar of importance. In 1885, however, Gosse’s collection of poetry Firdausi in Exile, and Other Poems received generally bad reviews. Also in 1885, Gosse’s growing reputation as an authority on English literature was damaged by John Churton Collins’s scathing attack on his From Shakespeare to Pope. Although Collins’s accusations of scholarly inaccuracy had some basis in fact, Gosse did much to reestablish himself as an authoritative and perceptive critic with his Life of William Congreve three...

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Edmund Gosse Bibliography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Allen, Peter. “Sir Edmund Gosse and His Modern Readers: The Continued Appeal of Father and Son.” ELH 55 (Summer, 1988). Provides a useful discussion of Gosse’s masterpiece.

Brooks-Davies, Douglas. Fielding, Dickens, Gosse, Iris Murdoch, and Oedipal Hamlet. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989. Provides an analysis of Father and Son.

Charteris, Evan. The Life and Letters of Sir Edmund Gosse. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1931. A valuable source for its insights and information.

Gross, John. The Rise and Fall of the Man of Letters: A Study of the Idiosyncratic and the Humane in Modern Literature. New York: Macmillan, 1969. Contains an important treatment of Gosse.

Siebenschuh, William R. Fictional Techniques and Factual Works. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1983. Devotes an interesting chapter to Father and Son.

Thwaite, Ann. Edmund Gosse: A Literary Landscape, 1849-1928. London: Secker & Warburg, 1984. The standard biography. Thwaite’s work is a superbly detailed biographical study that is especially valuable for its treatment of the literary and social worlds in which Gosse moved.

Woolf, James D. Sir Edmund Gosse. New York: Twayne, 1972. Particularly useful in its treatment of Gosse’s works.