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Walter Pater (1839–1894)

Author of Studies in the History of the Renaissance

52+ Works 2,555 Members 17 Reviews 9 Favorited

About the Author

Walter Pater (born August4, 1839) was an Englaish essayist, critic and writer of fiction. He attended Queen's College, Oxford. His earliest work, an essay on Samuel Taylor Coleridge, appeared in 1866 in The Westminster Review; Pater soon became a regular contributor to a number of serious reviews, show more especially The Fortnightly, which published his essays on Leonardo da Vinci, Pico Della Mirandola, Botticelli, and the poetry of Michelangelo. All were included in his first, and perhaps most influential, book, Studies in the History of the Renaissance (1873; reissued as The Renaissance, 1877). In 1885 Pater's only novel, Marius the Epicurean, appeared. Ostensibly, Marius is a historical novel, set in the time of Marcus Aurelius and tracing the philosophical development of its young protagonist and his gradual approach to Christianity. Practically, however, Marius is more a meditation of the philosophical choices that confronted Pater, or any thinker, during the late Victorian period. In light of the work's underrealized characterizations and the lack of any but intellectual action, it is difficult to justify calling it a novel in the usual sense of the term. Yet, as a highly polished prose piece, and as an argument for an austere yet intensely experienced way of life, it holds a singular place in Victorian literature. On July 30, 1894 Pater died suddenly in his Oxford home of heart failure brought on by rheumatic fever, at the age of 54. He was buried at Holywell Cemetery, Oxford. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Image credit: From Wikimedia Commons

Works by Walter Pater

Marius the Epicurean (1885) 613 copies
Plato and Platonism (1893) 83 copies
Imaginary Portraits (1894) 74 copies
Leonardo da Vinci (1777) 36 copies
Essays from 'The Guardian' (1910) 16 copies
Michelangelo (1968) 16 copies
Giordano Bruno (2009) 15 copies
Selected works (1948) 10 copies
The child in the house (1992) 6 copies
Aesthetic Poetry (2011) 6 copies
Selected Essays (2018) 4 copies
Selections 4 copies
Sketches and reviews (1919) 3 copies
Emerald Uthwart 3 copies
Letters of Walter Pater (1970) 2 copies

Associated Works

Marcus Aurelius and His Times (1945) — Contributor — 633 copies
Cupid and Psyche (0002) — Adaptation, some editions — 512 copies
Critical Theory Since Plato (1971) — Contributor, some editions — 404 copies
Dracula (Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism) (2002) — Contributor — 234 copies
Criticism: Major Statements (1964) — Contributor — 223 copies
Prose of the Victorian Period (1938) — Contributor — 216 copies
The Portable Victorian Reader (1972) — Contributor — 177 copies


Common Knowledge



Perhaps I don't know enough about art history to really appreciate Pater's writing - this was hard work though, despite how short it was.
1 vote
soylentgreen23 | 5 other reviews | Dec 31, 2022 |
Marius the Epicurean is a story about the intellectual and spiritual development of Marius, a young Italian acting as an amanuensis to the great emperor Marcus Aurelius, set in the second century A.D. against the backdrop of a Roman Empire on the edge of ruin. Marius travels through several philosophical systems in search of an illusive image of love, passing through Epicureanism, Cyrenaicism, and finally Stoicism until discovering what he was looking for in the dreadful beauty of Christian sacrifice. Marius the Epicurean is a rare novel in which the style is as important as the plot. Marius became a major impact on writers of the late Victorian era's Aesthetic and Decadent movements, because of Pater's elegant and poetic prose.… (more)
jwhenderson | 7 other reviews | Feb 5, 2022 |
From Goodreads:

"Leonardo DaVinci is a great book that shows the artistic ways of thinking and it shows the wonder side of an inventers mind it's a great book for those who have an interest in the arts or the mechanics of flight "
northprairielb | Sep 22, 2021 |
Pater's Renaissance is an important contribution to the history of art for several reasons, though it is perhaps not to be classified as art history itself. In ten essays, Pater takes us through the Renaissance from what he sees as its foreshadowings in France, to the characters of Florence and the Italian Renaissane including Botticelli, Michaelangelo, Da Vinci, and Giorgione, before he ends where he started in France.
So why is this not always seen as strictly being a work of art history? Firstly the style of Pater's prose is more that of an aesthete than of a scholar; indeed he arguably set off the Aesthetic movement in Oxford in the mid Victorian period to much consternation from his peers in college. This is not a criticism - it is what makes this book memorable, quotable, and very enjoyable to read. Secondly, and this acknowledged in the books subtitle "studies in art and poetry", this is a work more about poetry, and musing on art in a poetical frame of mind, than it is about historical facts.
So why is this work important? Firstly, if we are interested in its subject matter, the Renaissance, there is much we can learn about its spirit as a phenomenon, and what separates it in a serious sense from the Gothic and the Classical. Secondly, Pater's aesthetic attitude comes through in this work, which is helpful for those wanting to understand his influence on the generations of aesthetes that were inspired by this work, from Oscar Wilde through to the Bloomsbury group. This influence was perhaps in part responsible for a move away from dry Victorian sensibilities towards more readable, sensuous prose, while retaining many of the interests that were formerly the preserve of the scholar.
As an introduction to the Renaissance this might not be the best work due to its gaps and errors in attribution of paintings that have now long since been corrected. However as a thoroughly readable work with its own unique spirit of beauty this is unlike anything else, and worth reading for this reason alone.
… (more)
P_S_Patrick | 5 other reviews | Nov 22, 2018 |



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