Philip Henry Gosse: A naturalist's rambles on the Devonshire coast

London: 1853
Sp Coll 2193

Perhaps better known today as the severe and deeply religious father of Edmund Gosse's memoir Father and Son, Philip Henry Gosse (1810–1888) was a popular Victorian author on zoology and natural history.

Interested in natural history as a child, in his early career Gosse held a variety of posts in Newfoundland, Canada, the USA and Jamaica: at all times, he took a great interest in his environment and endeavoured to professionalize his hobby by publishing work on his observations. Having married and settled in London, his prodigious output of writing resulted in a breakdown from overwork and he was advised to go and live in the country. He moved to Devon in 1853. He wrote A naturalist's rambles on the Devonshire coast the following year in Ilfracombe. The book includes twelve coloured plates, drawn and lithographed by Gosse and printed by Hullmandel and Walton. Highly artistic, Gosse was a keen and accurate observer; his paintings of British marine life have rarely been equalled. The book successfully popularised the science of marine biology, Gosse's enthusiasm for studying in the field shining through the text. It is unfortunate that his reputation as a serious scientist later suffered with the publication of Omphalos: in this text of 1857, Gosse refuted developmental theory, aiming to reconcile geology with the Bible's account of creation by arguing that the earth had been created with fossils to give a false appearance of age, just as Adam had been created with a navel.

Jellyfish: Chrysaora Cyclonota (frontispiece)

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