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Edmund Gosse

In: English and Literature

Submitted By bethlouise
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This extract is taken from the autobiography ‘Father and Son’ by Sir Edmund Gosse, meaning the extract has a personal and meaningful tone. The autobiography would have been available to all those who can read, notably the middle and upper classes, and in particular, those with a vested interest in the life and beliefs of Gosse’s father. The autobiography aims to portray Gosse’s developing crisis of faith, and shows how their differing beliefs divide Gosse and his father. The extract details the desperate attempts of Gosse’s father to reconcile his Christian faith with his own scientific theories. Gosse opens the extract by exploring his father’s crisis of faith, as he explains the “mournful admission” that due to “every instinct” in his father’s “intelligence”, he could not help but “greet the new light”, and consider the validity of the scientific discoveries. The adjective “mournful” implies a sorrowful and deject tone, as if his “admission” is something to be ashamed of. This is because the works of Darwin and Lyell caused outrage and tumult within the Victorian society, and to voice the “admission” of understanding their theories, was deemed outrageous. This sense of acknowledgement is similar to that in Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem, “In Memoriam”. Both this poem and Gosse’s autobiography would have been read by middle and upper class citizens, and therefore would have received a hostile reception. The middle and upper classes viewed the scientific discoveries in a humorous and mocking light, and so the majority were not faced with the “mournful” crisis of faith. The poem includes the stark line, “behold, we know not anything”, which portrays Tennyson’s understanding that nothing in life is certain. This acknowledgement is similar to Gosse’s father’s “admission”, as both used to belief religion was the answer. Tennyson goes on to explain “I falter where I firmly trod”. The use of the first person narrative throughout this poem, and notably in this line, adds a poignant and personal twist – similar to that in Gosse’s autobiography. Tennyson’s developing beliefs cause him to carry a “weight of cares”, as he too experiences a sense of guilt and sorrow at his inevitable acknowledgements. Similarly to Gosse’s father, Tennyson begins to “falter” and doubt the principles that he “firmly” and wholly believed before. Unlike Tennyson, Gosse’s father strives to fit the pieces back to religion, by preparing a “theory of his own”.

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