An English poet and critic. He was born in London on the 21st of September 1849, son of the zoologist P. H. Gosse.
In 1867 he became an assistant in the department of printed books in the British Museum, where he remained until he became in 1875, translator to the Board of Trade. In 1904 he was appointed librarian to the House of Lords. In 1884-1890 he was Clark Lecturer in English literature at Trinity College, Cambridge.
Himself a writer of literary verse of much grace, and master of a prose style admirably expressive of a wide and appreciative culture, he was conspicuous for his valuable work in bringing foreign literature home to English readers. Northern Studies (1879), a collection of essays on the literature of Holland and Scandinavia, was the outcome of a prolonged visit to those countries, and was followed by later work in the same direction. He translated Ibsen's Hedda Gabler (1891), and, with W. Archer, The Master-Builder (1893), and in 1907 he wrote a life of Ibsen for the “Literary Lives” series. He also edited the English translation of the works of Björnson. His services to Scandinavian letters were acknowledged in 1901, when he was made a knight of the Norwegian order of St Olaf of the first class.
Mr Gosse's published volumes of verse include On Viol and Flute (1873), King Erik (1876), New Poems (1879), Firdausi in Exile (1885), In Russet and Silver (1894), Collected Poems (1896). Hypolympia, or the Gods on the Island (1901), an “ironic fantasy,” the scene of which is laid in the 20th century, though the personages are Greek gods, is written in prose, with some blank verse. His Seventeenth Century Studies (1883), Life of William Congreve (1888), The Jacobean Poets (1894), Life and Letters of Dr John Donne, Dean of St Paul's (1899), Jeremy Taylor (1904, English Men of Letters), and Life of Sir Thomas Browne (1905) form a very considerable body of critical work on the English 17th-century writers. He also wrote a life of Thomas Gray, whose works he edited (4 vols., 1884); A History of Eighteenth Century Literature (1889); a History of Modern English Literature (1897), and vols. iii. and iv. of an Illustrated Record of English Literature (1903-1904) undertaken in connection with Dr Richard Garnett.
Mr Gosse was always a sympathetic student of the younger school of French and Belgian writers, some of his papers on the subject being collected as French Profiles (1905). Critical Kit-Kats (1896) contains an admirable criticism of J. M. de Heredia, reminiscences of Lord de Tabley and others. He edited Heinemann's series of Literature of the World and the same publisher's International Library. To the 9th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica he contributed numerous articles, and his services as chief literary adviser in the preparation of the 10th and 11th editions incidentally testify to the high position held by him in the contemporary world of letters.
In 1905 he was entertained in Paris by the leading litterateurs as a representative of English literary culture. In 1907 Mr Gosse published anonymously Father and Son, an intimate study of his own early family life. He married Ellen, daughter of Dr G. W. Epps, and had a son and two daughters.