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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Edmund Gosse (1849–1928)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
EDMUND WILLIAM GOSSE, or Edmund Gosse, to give him the name he has of late years adopted, is a Londoner, the son of P. H. Gosse, an English zoölogist of repute. His education did not embrace the collegiate training, but he was brought up amid cultured surroundings, read largely, and when but eighteen was appointed an assistant librarian in the British Museum, at the age of twenty-six receiving the position of translator to the Board of Trade. Gosse is a good example of the cultivated man of letters who fitted himself thoroughly for his profession, though lacking the formal scholastic drill of the university.  1
  He began as a very young man to write for the leading English periodicals, contributing papers and occasional poems to the Saturday Review, Academy, and Cornhill Magazine, and soon gaining critical recognition. In 1872 and 1874 he traveled in Scandinavia and Holland, making literary studies which bore fruit in one of his best critical works. He made his literary bow when twenty-one with the volume ‘Madrigals, Songs, and Sonnets’ (1870), which was well received, winning praise from Tennyson. His essential qualities as a verse-writer appear in it: elegance and care of workmanship, close study of nature, felicity in phrasing, and a marked tendency to draw on literary culture for subject and reference. Other works of poetry, ‘On Viol and Flute’ (1873), ‘New Poems’ (1879), ‘Firdausī in Exile’ (1885), ‘In Russet and Gold’ (1894), with the dramas ‘King Erik’ (1876) and ‘The Unknown Lover’ (1878), show an increasingly firm technique and a broadening of outlook, with some loss of the happy singing quality which characterized the first volume. Gosse as a poet may be described as a lyrist with attractive descriptive powers. Together with his fellow poets Lang and Dobson, he revived in English verse the old French metrical forms, such as the roundel, triolet, and ballade, and he has been very receptive to the new in literary form and thought, while keeping a firm grip on the classic models.  2
  As an essayist, Gosse is one of the most accomplished and agreeable of modern English writers; he has comprehensive culture and catholic sympathy, and commands a picturesque style, graceful and rich without being florid. His ‘Studies in the Literature of Northern Europe’ (1879) introduced Ibsen and other little-known foreign writers to British readers.  3
  Gosse has been a devoted student of English literature, his series of books in this field including—‘Seventeenth-Century Studies’ (1883), ‘From Shakespeare to Pope’ (1885), ‘The Literature of the Eighteenth Century’ (1889), ‘The Jacobean Poets’ (1894), ‘History of Modern English Literature’ (1897), to which may be added the volume of contemporaneous studies ‘Critical Kit-Kats’ (1896). Some of these books are based on the lectures delivered by Gosse as Clark Lecturer at Trinity College, Cambridge. He has also written biographies of Sir Walter Raleigh, Congreve, Donne, Jeremy Taylor, Sir Thomas Browne, Coventry Patmore, and Swinburne, and his ‘Life of Thomas Gray’ (1882) and ‘Works of Thomas Gray’ (1884) comprise the best edition and setting-forth of that poet. In such labors as that of the editing of Heinemann’s ‘International Library,’ his influence has been salutary in the popularization of the best literature of the world. His interest in Ibsen led him to translate, in collaboration with William Archer, the dramatic critic of London, the Norwegian’s play ‘The Master Builder.’ His life of Ibsen was published in 1908.  4
  His ‘Collected Essays’ were issued in five volumes in 1913, and in the same year the French Academy crowned his ‘Father and Son’ (1907), an admirable study of social and religious conditions in England during the time of his youth, chiefly autobiographical in character, but done with a combination of frankness and restraint which makes it a most valuable record without taking away from its value as a work of art.  5
 
 
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