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Another book I discovered through listening to the wonderful Backlisted podcast. Sir Edmund Gosse CB (21 September 1849 – 16 May 1928) was an English poet, author and critic. He was strictly brought up in a small Protestant sect, the Plymouth Brethren, but broke away sharply from that faith.
'Father and Son' is his account of his childhood and his gradual questioning of the fundamentalist religion of his parents. All of which might make this book sound like a misery memoir, and yet nothing could be further from the truth. This is a charming, fascinating and insightful account of Victorian life in the mid-18th century with numerous wonderful little details.
'Father and Son' is subtitled “A Study of Two Temperaments” and this signals the approach of Edmund Gosse. He retained enormous respect and affection for his father but ultimately there was to be no way for the different personalities to be true to themselves and reconcile their differences.
It's beautifully written and, as I suggest, absolutely riveting, complete with numerous funny and idiosyncratic memories from a childhood spent both in Islington and, from around age 6, in Ilfracombe in Devon, then, as now, a small and sleepy backwater.
I listened to Father and Son (1907) narrated by the peerless Geoffrey Palmer, and courtesy of Audible. Incredibly, this wonderful experience only set me back three British pounds. What a bargain. It's a wonderful book.
Some accuse Gosse of demonizing his father, which was certainly the impression I had before listening to this book. While Gosse's father was a purist in his view of Christianity, he was also a tender and, in his way, loving father, and I thought the portrait sympathetic. A humor based on long perspective and understanding enlivens the book, and Geoffrey Palmer's reading makes it shine. The combination of his nuanced interpretation and Gosse's rich Victorian prose is marvelous. A thoroughly enjoyable listen.