The Life and Letters of Sir Edmund Gosse

The Life and Letters of Sir Edmund Gosse

The Life and Letters of Sir Edmund Gosse

The Life and Letters of Sir Edmund Gosse

Excerpt

IN A diary kept by Philip Henry Gosse, the distinguished naturalist, there is the following entry dated September 21st, 1849: "E delivered of a son. Received green swallow from Jamaica." The son was Edmund William Gosse, the subject of the pages which follow. The "Green Swallow from Jamaica" is still to be seen in the Natural History Museum. Philip Henry Gosse was the son of Thomas Gosse (1765-1844), a miniature painter, and his wife Hannah Best, the daughter of a Worcestershire yeoman. There is no need to look further into the Gosse genealogy for traditions of industry and bookishness. Thomas Gosse, a painter by profession, was an indefatigable writer, and though never contriving to publish a single line, was unwearying in the variety and multiplicity of his literary efforts. Dialogues, tales, epic poems, philosophical treatises and allegories raced from his pen. His wife, recognising that these activities brought no money to the pool, classed them under a general indictment as "that cursed writin'." But her disapproval did nothing to stay the output, merely driving it into secretive methods of production. The literary tradition was there, and it was too strong to be repressed.

Philip Henry Gosse, born in 1810, was the second son of this marriage. At an early age he was sent as a clerk to a counting-house in Newfoundland. Carrying with him the atmosphere of Puritanism in which he had been brought up, he held aloof from the frivolities with which the Colonists beguiled their leisure, and went his own way, developing his natural aptitude for zoology and botany, and acquiring the spirit of religious fervour which was to dominate his future years. At the age of twenty-nine he returned to . . .

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