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Nature vs naturalist : paths diverging and converging in Edmund Gosse's Father and son

Goodman, Martin


Martin Goodman


I examine the impulses which drove Edmund Gosse to follow the formal biography of his father with Father and Son. Before looking for 'gay sensibility' in the text, I consider how scientific discourse in the late 19th century opened an understanding of homosexuality to Gosse, and consider how Father and Son preceded societal acceptance of Freudian analysis. Gosse's father was a naturalist, and I consider how Gosse eroticized childhood memory as 'natural' and 'intuitive'. I chart his attraction to a sub-culture of literature which expresses 'manly love', and track his expansion from the boyhood appreciation of Hero and Leander , which expelled him from the family home, to his devotional approaches to Whitman, the poet replacing the father as an eroticized father figure. Symonds presented himself as another older man, with explicit teachings about 'Greek love'. Gosse then became the older figure to Andre Gide, ultimately disturbed by the younger man's sexual explicitness. Ending this substitute father theme, I document how Gosse's 'true love' the sculptor Thornycroft removed himself to a 'father figure' role. The writing of Father and Son delivered child Edmund as the innocent companion the adult Edmund needed, and freed him from a disappointed paternal narrative.


Goodman, M. (2014). Nature vs naturalist : paths diverging and converging in Edmund Gosse's Father and son. Life Writing, 11(1), 85-101.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Sep 19, 2013
Publication Date Jan 2, 2014
Deposit Date Nov 13, 2014
Publicly Available Date Nov 23, 2017
Journal Life writing
Print ISSN 1448-4528
Electronic ISSN 1751-2964
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 11
Issue 1
Pages 85-101
Keywords Gosse, Edmund, 1849-1928; Gide, André, 1869-1951; Homosexuality, Victorian
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is an Author's Original Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Life writing on 19 Sep 2013 available online at


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