Edmund Gosse

Edmund Gosse : A Literary Landscape, 1849-1928

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Product details

  • Paperback | 576 pages
  • 140 x 220mm | 535g
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford Paperbacks
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • 8ill.8figs.
  • 0192818988
  • 9780192818980

Review Text

A long, bland, loosely constructed biography of the eminent Victorian-Edwardian-Georgian litterateur. Thwaite, who has done a life of Frances Hodgson Burnett, plus a number of children's books, meanders lovingly through Gosse's career (1849-1928), admiring his warmth and geniality (dutiful son, adoring husband, attentive father), his versatile mind and incredible productivity: Gosse was the author of nearly 100 books of poetry, literary criticism, history, lectures, etc., along with innumerable reviews and thousands of letters - all of which were written while he held down jobs at the British Museum, the Board of Trade (where he translated commercial documents from 8 or 9 languages), Cambridge, and the House of Lords (where he was librarian from 1904 to 1914). Unfortunately for Thwaite, the great bulk of this staggering oeuvre is little more than elegant hack work and now deservedly forgotten. Gosse was a slipshod researcher (his good friend Henry James said he had a "genius for inaccuracy"), and even in his pioneering studies of Donne and Ibsen he lacked the technical competence (e.g., his Norwegian was imperfect) and the scholarly commitment needed to become a first-rate critic. He did, of course, write one splendid and perhaps immortal book, Father and Son (1907); but while she carefully records the laurels it won, Thwaite at times is stingy in quoting from it, no doubt assuming her readers already know it well. But if they don't, they have missed some marvelous stories (such as six-year-old Edmund's blasphemous experiments at worshipping a chair);and if they do, they surely wouldn't mind the repetition. Thwaite is best in her detailed picture of Gosse's childhood (she quotes a remarkable letter he sent to his father by dictating to his mother - when he was only three years old and semi-delirious from measles), and she has in any case assembled more information about Gosse than can be found anywhere else. But Gosse had a life as undramatic as it was fulfilled, and so Thwaite's retelling of it, lacking both narrative verve and fresh critical insight, will interest only academic specialists. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

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