This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Saturday Rave: Father and Son by Edmund Gosse.

Our house is about to become a fog of plaster dust (we're having the place re-wired) and so all our least washable possessions have been either wrapped, or lodged with friends and family. 

All our library books have been returned, too, and this has given us the perfect excuse to re-visit some old favourites. The most recent of these has been Edmund Gosse's autobiographical book Father and Son. It describes Edmund's mid nineteenth century childhood, first in London and then in rural Devon, with his very strictly puritanical, anxiously loving, and fundamentalist Christian father, the scientist and Plymouth Brethren preacher Philip.

Edmund Gosse's professional life ended up being focused on Pre-Raphaelite poetry and modern Scandinavian and French Literature, so it can be seen that his father's beliefs failed in the end to have much of an effect upon him. I suppose whether you see this as the father's tragedy or the son's will depend upon your own view of God's place, if any, in creation, but either way there's very little theology here to try the patience of even the most ardent atheist, and hardly a quotation from the Bible, either, even though the Bible underpins every moment of Edmund's childhood.

The father of the title, Philip Gosse, is an illustrator and cataloguer of seashore specimens, living at a time when his beliefs about God's place in creation are under attack. He publishes a book which aims to reconcile the Bible and evolution (Darwin has been a friend) but, devastatingly, the world treats his earnest work with scorn. 

Meanwhile his son is coming to the awful understanding that he, himself, has no talent for prayer or even religious belief.

This is a generous, fair and affectionate account of a man who could easily have been portrayed as a monster, and a fascinating read for everyone, whether parent or child.

Word To Use Today: son. This word comes from the Old English sunu. The Sanskrit  form was s┼źnu.

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