Edmund Gosse

From LGBT Archive
Jump to: navigation, search
Edmund Gosse by John Singer Sargent
Sir Edmund Gosse (1849–1928) was a poet, author and critic.

Gosse was born in London. His father was an eminent naturalist, who coined the term "aquarium". The family were members of the Plymouth Brethren, a puritanical Protestant sect, but Gosse later rejected his religious upbringing. His difficult relationship with his father is described in his best-known book, Father and Son, originally published anonymously. He worked at the British Museum library from 1865 to 1875, was a translator for the Board of Trade for some 30 years, lectured on English literature at Trinity College, Cambridge, from 1885 to 1890, and finally was librarian to the House of Lords from 1904 to 1914. he wrote literary histories, and translated some of the Ibsen's plays.

Gosse was happily married for over 50 years, and had three children, but did acknowledge to John Addington Symonds, around the time Symonds was working on A Problem in Modern Ethics, that he was attracted to men, thus confirming the suspicions Symonds had voiced earlier. "Either way, I entirely deeply sympathize with you. Years ago I wanted to write to you about all this," Gosse wrote to Symonds, "and withdrew through cowardice. I have had a very fortunate life, but there has been this obstinate twist in it! I have reached a quieter time—some beginnings of that Sophoclean period when the wild beast dies. He is not dead, but tamer; I understand him & the trick of his claws."[1][2]

Gosse had love affairs, possibly not consummated, with a school friend, John Blaikie, and the handsome young sculptor Wiiliam Hamo Thornycroft.[3] When Lytton Strachey was asked if Gosse was a homosexual, he replied “No, but he’s Hamo-sexual.”[4]

After Symonds' death, Gosse burnt all of Symonds’ letters and diaries and papers that had been bequeathed to him (but kept Symonds’ memoir, with the instruction that it should not be opened for fifty years)[4]


  1. Nicholas C. Edsal, Toward Stonewall: Homosexuality and Society in the Modern Western World. page 106
  2. Stuart Kellog Essays on Gay Literature. g, page 87
  3. :https://www.wattpad.com/86852103-hidden-the-intimate-lives-of-gay-men-past-and/page/6. Accessed: 2016-03-23. C E Barnhill, Hidden, the intimate lives of gay men past and present by Clinton Elliott (Archived by WebCite® at http://www.webcitation.org/6gERK5n5P),
  4. 4.0 4.1 http://rictornorton.co.uk/gosse.htm. Rictor Norton, "The Summer of Life: The Gay Love Letters of Edmund Gosse to William Hamo Thornycroft", in My Dear Boy: Gay Love Letters through the Centuries (1998). Accessed: 2016-03-23. (Archived by WebCite® at http://www.webcitation.org/6gESF79vQ)