Typology and the sin of storytelling in the autobiographical and biographical writings of Emily, Philip and Edmund Gosse

Raine, Catherine Carlyle (1994) Typology and the sin of storytelling in the autobiographical and biographical writings of Emily, Philip and Edmund Gosse. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

This thesis argues that Edmund Gosse's (1849-1928) autobiography Father and Son (1907) unfairly characterizes his parents' Biblical hermeneutics as unimaginative. Philip and Emily Gosse were members of the Plymouth Brethren, a Puritan sect whose interest in prophecy encouraged typological and tropological methods of reading the scriptures. Typology is a hermeneutic system which compares types in the Hebrew Scriptures with antitypes in the New Testament. For example, Isaac is a type of obedient sacrifice which foreshadows Christ, the antitype. Furthermore, typology often inspired a believer to apply types and antitypes tropologically, so that Isaac or Christ became a type of the individual Christian. Tropology is what allowed the Gosse family to read I Samuel 1-2 as if it were their own story. Following tropological principles, Emily Gosse dedicated Edmund to the Lord at birth in imitation of Hannah, and it was expected that he would become another infant Samuel, servant of the Lord. The Samuel type became a burden to Edmund Gosse, but for his parents, typological and tropological readings served to inspire powerful and imaginative literature. This thesis will demonstrate that Philip and Emily's methods of reading the Bible were more "allegorical" and "literary" than Edmund acknowledged. Emily's 1835 "Recollections" and Abraham and His Children (1855) both draw upon the Puritan typological tradition to (unconsciously) commit the "sin of storytelling," a sin to which Emily confesses in the "Recollections". After Emily died in 1857, Philip Gosse wrote A Memorial of the Last Davs on Earth of Emily Gosse (1857), which was followed by Anna Shipton's Tell Jesus 1 (1863). Philip and his wife's friend imposed the types of Christ and Job on the story of Emily's "Passion" in the same way that Emily imposed the Samuel type on her son. Philip and Anna's biographies illustrate the "dark" side of typology's allegorical dimension; allegory is open to being abused by the reader who takes interpretive "liberties". In this sense, Philip and Anna violate the one whom they intend to honor by forcing their sufferer to conform to a Biblical pattern. Edmund Gosse is guilty of similar "sins" (although Philip and Anna saw typological biography as anything but sinful). Despite the fact that Edmund defined the typological tradition as inimical to artistic creation, he nevertheless exploited the "coercive" possibilities inherent in typological thinking when he composed The Life of Philip Henrv Gosse. F.R.S. (1890) and the series of literary biographies that he published in the years between 1890 and 1907. He reserved a typologist's right to define and "fashion" his biographical subjects on his own terms, taking the same liberties with the story of other men's lives that certain New Testament writers took with the stories of Abraham and his children. Edmund's 1907 autobiography turns the tables on his parents' typological system by using the reading techniques they taught him in order to discredit the typological stories which "bound" him. He re-writes his autobiography and the Biblical stories which defined it in order to prevent his biography from being "written" by Philip, Emily, and I Samuel 1-2. Edmund asserts the right to "fashion his inner life for himself" CF&S 251), but the irony is that Philip and Emily's typological "fashionings" serve as the literary model for their son's self-fashioning. Gosse's "double standard" is that he styles his own use of typology as artistic, but calls his parents' typological practices unimaginative. Ironically, it is precisely because Philip and Emily stayed within the Biblical tradition of "legitimate" storytelling that they emerge as more convincing storytellers of their own lives and the life of their son. Edmund is the prodigal son who rejected the Puritan literary tradition, yet his Puritan mother and fathertypology was at least as imaginative as his Pre-Raphaelite poetry, and it is only insofar as Edmund returns to the Biblical and autobiographical tradition of his parents that he succeeds in writing his one enduring creative work, Father and Son.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Adviser: David Jasper
Keywords: British & Irish literature
Date of Award: 1994
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1994-72875
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 11 Jun 2019 11:06
Last Modified: 11 Jun 2019 11:06
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/72875

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