Authors: Walter Pater

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Last reviewed: June 2018

English critic and novelist

August 4, 1839

London, England

July 30, 1894

Oxford, England


Walter Horatio Pater (PAY-tur) was born in London on August 4, 1839. Having attended King’s School in Canterbury and graduated with a BA degree from Queen’s College, Oxford, he was made Fellow of Brasenose College, Oxford, from which he received his MA degree in 1865. He was connected with this college in some capacity during most of the rest of his life. During vacations he often traveled on the Continent. He died at Oxford after a brief illness, on July 30, 1894. {$I[AN]9810000294} {$I[A]Pater, Walter} {$I[geo]ENGLAND;Pater, Walter} {$I[tim]1839;Pater, Walter}

Walter Pater

(Library of Congress)

Much of Pater’s literary output consisted of critical essays on aesthetic subjects, most of which were collected in such works as Studies in the History of the Renaissance and Appreciations: With an Essay on Style. Critics have spoken of his sensual approach to art, and some are bothered by a certain subjective impressionism in his criticism. Pater also wrote a few romances, the most famous of which is Marius the Epicurean. There is a relation between these romances and his critical works, because in the romances he seems to advocate that life itself be approached as an art. Through elaborate sentences with delicate shadings he worked continually for perfection of expression in his prose style. Although Pater spent most of his life in academic seclusion, he had a profound influence on a group of perceptive younger artists and critics.

Author Works Nonfiction: Studies in the History of the Renaissance, 1873, revised 1877, 1888, 1893 (as The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Poetry) Appreciations: With an Essay on Style, 1889 Plato and Platonism: A Series of Lectures, 1893 Greek Studies: A Series of Essays, 1895 Essays from the “Guardian,” 1896 Letters of Walter Pater, 1970 (Lawrence Evans, editor) Long Fiction: Marius the Epicurean: His Sensations and Ideas, 1885 (2 volumes) Gaston de Latour: An Unfinished Romance, 1896 Short Fiction: Imaginary Portraits, 1887 Bibliography Bloom, Harold, ed. Walter Pater. New York: Chelsea House, 1985. Bloom has compiled what he considers some of the best criticism available on Pater. A valuable and well-rounded study. Brake, Laurel, and Ian Small, eds. Pater in the 1990’s. Greensboro, N.C.: ELT Press, 1991. This collection of fifteen critical essays was culled from papers offered at a 1988 Pater conference at Oxford University. The editors note that while half of the essays they include reflect the older New Criticism approach to literature, the other half demonstrate the shift in Pater criticism toward consideration of his works in historical and biographical contexts. Topics range from editing Pater to his friends and literary influences to his own lasting influence on writers such as James Joyce. Buckler, William E. Walter Pater: The Critic as Artist of Ideas. New York: New York University Press, 1987. This scholarly study examines the breadth and depth of Pater’s prose and poetry, as well as his role as a critic, acknowledging him as a major but underrated writer. Court, Franklin E. Walter Pater: An Annotated Bibliography of Writings About Him. De Kalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1980. This volume includes a checklist of a representative body of criticism on Pater from 1871 through 1973. Contains abstracts of critical articles, reminiscences, biographies, and letters to editors. A rich source of bibliographical information. Donoghue, Denis. Walter Pater: Lover of Strange Souls. New York: Knopf, 1995. An exceptional biographical and critical source. Moliterno, Frank. The Dialectics of Sense and Spirit in Pater and Joyce. Greensboro: ELT Press, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, 1998. Compares themes and aesthetics in Pater and James Joyce. With bibliographical references and an index. Monsman, Gerald. Walter Pater. Boston: Twayne, 1977. A chronological look at Pater’s work and life. Examines the heroes in his works, in particular the hero in Marius the Epicurean. A useful study for the beginning reader of Pater. A selected bibliography is provided. Shuter, William. Rereading Walter Pater. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997. Part of the Cambridge Studies in Nineteenth Century Literature series, this volume examines Pater’s works with a critical eye.

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