Friday, 16 November 2018

Edmund's Party Piece

I must say I'm really enjoying Gosse's Father and Son. Though it tells what is in point of fact a terrible tale of the relentless domination of a lonely and unhappy boy by his father and his evangelical associates (Plymouth Brethren), it is told with admirable detachment and wry humour.
  In this passage, the young Edmund, now aged about ten or eleven, is, for a wonder, invited to a party – and, despite his father's best efforts to prevent it, allowed to go. He has recently discovered a  black-bound volume containing four of the most lugubrious poems in English – Young's The Last Day, Blair's The Grave, Beilby Porteous's Death and Samuel Boyse's The Deity. As these are almost his first experience of poetry, he is utterly enraptured.
  At the party, each child has been invited to recite a little party piece, and most have obliged with the likes of Casabianca ('The boy stood on the burning deck') or We Are Seven ('Two of us in the churchyard lie...')...

'I was then asked by Mrs Brown's maiden sister, a gushing lady in corkscrew curls who led the revels, whether I would not indulge them 'by repeating some sweet stanzas'. No one more ready than I. Without a moment's hesitation, I stood forth, and in a loud voice I began one of my favourite passages from Blair's 'Grave':
  If death were nothing, and nought after death –
  If when men died at once they ceased to be, –
  Returning to the barren Womb of Nothing
  Whence first the sprung, then might the debauchee...
'Thank you, dear, that will do nicely!' interrupted the lady with the curls. 'But that's only the beginning of it,' I cried. 'Yes, dear, but that will quite do! We won't ask you to repeat any more of it,' and I withdrew to the borders of the company in bewilderment. Nor did the Browns or their visitors ever learn what it was the debauchee might have said or done in more favourable circumstances.'


  1. The very man – and he was brought up almost entirely without books, other than the Bible and religious tracts. The first imaginative fiction he read was Pickwick, which reduced him to helpless laughter with almost every sentence.

    1. Rereading Pickwick. Funny indeed. But Edmunds história,sixth chapter, rather das

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