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Writing Life: Early Twentieth-Century Autobiographies of the Artist-Hero$
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Mhairi Pooler

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781781381977

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781781381977.001.0001

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The Anxiety of Inheritance

The Anxiety of Inheritance

Edmund Gosse’s Father and Son

Chapter:
(p.53) Chapter 2 The Anxiety of Inheritance
Source:
Writing Life: Early Twentieth-Century Autobiographies of the Artist-Hero
Author(s):

Mhairi Pooler

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.3828/liverpool/9781781381977.003.0003

This chapter focuses on Edmund Gosse, Victorian man of letters, and his autobiography Father and Son. The book’s differences from the other works discussed in Writing Life are notable, but the very differences make Gosse’s narrative significant, for his unusual genre mixing generates a number of themes and motifs that resonate through the study: generational difference and influence; inheritance; the role of reading in shaping authorial individuality (Bloom); and a concept of autobiography as ‘fathering’ (or ‘mothering’) the self. The chapter concludes that as Father and Son subverts traditional spiritual autobiography in favour of an artist’s apprenticeship narrative, so Gosse’s struggle against inheriting his father’s religious beliefs enables his eventual individuation. Gosse is often viewed as critic rather than an author, but this chapter shows that his autobiography reveals an extremely versatile writer whose opinion mattered – and this is the persona that Father and Son projects in place of the creative artist.

Keywords:   Edmund Gosse, Father and Son, Inheritance, Bloom

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