Some Personal Reminiscences of Walter Pater

I FIRST met Walter Pater fourteen years ago, at the house of Mr. George T. Robinson in Gower Street, at that time a meeting-place for poets, novelists, dramatists, writers of all kinds, painters, sculptors, musicians, and all manner of folk, pilgrims from or to the only veritable Bohemia. The host and hostess had the rare faculty of keeping as well as of winning friends, and were held in affectionate esteem by all who knew them ; but the delightfully promiscuous gatherings, where all amalgamated so well, were due in great part to the brilliant young scholar-poet, Miss A. Mary F. Robinson (Madame Darmesteter), and to her sister, now the well-known novelist, Miss Mabel Robinson. Among the many avocations into which Miss Mary Robinson allowed herself to be allured from her true vocation was that of soror consolatrix to all young fellowpoets in difficulty or distress; and of these, none had better cause to realize her goodness of heart and illuming sympathy than the blind poet, Philip Bourke Marston. In 1880 and 1881, it was rare that a week elapsed throughout nine months of the year when Miss Robinson did not give up at least an hour or two one afternoon for reading to and talking with the friend whom she so much admired and so much pitied. It was within a week after Dante Gabriel Rossetti had sent me with a special letter of introduction to Marston that he, in turn, took me to the house of the only friend in London who in any adequate degree filled for him the void created by the loss of his comrade, Oliver Madox Brown ; and though I went with pleasure, having read with keen appreciation A Handful of Honeysuckle, I had no idea how much, and in bow many ways, my entry into that friendly circle was to mean to me.

One afternoon, Philip Marston surprised me with the suggestion that we should make a formal call at Gower Street. As he had been there, and I with him, for a long “ confab,” the previous day, and as I knew his dislike of “ afternoons,” there seemed something perverse in his proposal ; but when he added oracularly, “ Do come ; you won’t regret it,” there was nothing more to be said. When we entered the drawingroom, at that happy moment when the last day-dusk and the fire-glow are uninvaded by any more garish light, I saw that there were a few visitors, all common acquaintances with one exception. The exception was a man of medium height, rather heavily built, with a peculiar though slight stoop. His face was pale, and perhaps a dark and very thick mustache made it seem even more so. There was a singular impassiveness about him, which I noted with vague interest, — aroused, I remember, because of what appeared to me a remarkable resemblance to Bismarck, or rather to a possible Bismarck, a Bismarck who had ceased to be a Junker, and had become a dreamer and profound student. He stood by the piano, listening to something said, laughingly, by Miss Robinson, though his face had not even that grave smile that afterwards became so familiar to me, and his eyes were fixed steadfastly on the fire. The glow fell right across them, and I could see how deep-set they were, and of what a peculiar gray; a variable hue, but wherein the inner light was always vivid, and sometimes strangely keen and penetrating. With one hand he stroked a long-haired cat that had furtively crept towards him, along the piano, from a high chair at the narrow end.

When he spoke I could not distinguish what he said, hut I was aware of a low, pleasant voice, altogether unBismarekian. I heard Miss Robinson say something about Philip Marston; but, with the abruptness which later I found to be characteristic, her companion shook hands with her and his hostess and bade them good-by. As he neared the door he passed Marston and myself. He did not look in our direction, yet he had hardly gained the threshold before he turned, came to Marston’,s side, and, taking his hand in bis. pressed it cordially, saying : “I am very glad to meet you. Your poetry lias given me great pleasure.” Then, with the same ;piiet abruptness with which he had left Miss Robinson, he made his way from the room.

“ Who is he ? ” I asked.

“ It must he Walter Pater,” replied Marston, almost in a whisper, for he did not know whether the visitor was still near, or in the room at all.

“ Surely not,” I urged, having in mind a description of the author of the book that was a kind of gospel of joy to me, — a description ludicrously inexact and inapt, though given by a member of the college of which Mr. Pater was a Fellow.

“Yes, it must have been Pater. I knew he was to be here. That was why I urged you to come. If only we’d come earlier we might have met him properly. I know every other voice in the room ; and I am sure that was no other than the voice of Mr. Rose.”

This allusion to Mr. Mullock’s parody was apt to irritate me then, and I was about to jump to that red rag when Miss Robinson came up, seriously reproachful because of the lateness of our arrival. But when she saw how sorry I was not even to have known whom I was looking at, she promised that a more fortunate opportunity should soon occur.

Three days later I received an invitation to dine with my friends in Gower Street, with those welcome words added, “to meet Mr. Walter Pater.”

On the second occasion, I saw Mr. Pater in a different aspect. He was suave, polite, with that courteous deference he showed to the young as well as to his equals and elders. I have never forgotten my first impression of him, when he appeared in that austere if not almost sombre aspect u hicli, though more rarely seen, was as characteristic as the reserved cordiality which won him so many friends.

Even at that early period of our acquaintance I noticed how swiftly responsive he was to youth as youth. When he spoke to one of the daughters of his hostess, or to any young man or woman, his face grew more winsome, and a serene, almost a blithe light came into his eyes. He looked so alert, standing by a tall lamp which gave a warmer glow to his complexion than its wont, that he seemed hardly the same man I had met before. I remember the attitude and look well, for it flashed upon me that I had seen, in an old city of Brabant, a portrait of a Flemish gentleman which, but for the accidental differences in dress and the ornamentation of the lamp, might have been painted from him there and then. I suppose he noted my intent look, for, though we had not yet been introduced, he came over to me. held out his hand, and asked how Philip Marston was, saying that he was glad to see him the other day. I was, of course, surprised that lie had recognized me ; for, as I have said, so far as I was aware he had not looked our way, on the afternoon in question, until he made his abrupt and brief advance to Marston. Gravely smiling, and with eyes filled with a kind and friendly light, he added : “ I recognized you at once. I am accustomed to seeing, and noting, young faces ; and when once I note, I never forget. But not only do I recognize you ; I know who you are.”

At this complimentary remark my heart sank, for at that time I was absolutely unknown, as a writer, and was sure that nothing of my youthful scribbling could have come to Mr. Pater’s knowledge, or, having come, could have attracted his attention. I feared, therefore, he had mistaken me for some notable young poet or novelist, and that when lie learned I was a “ nobody ” his interest would be less cordial. Hut his ensuing words set me at ease. This meeting happened at a time when I had begun to see a good deal of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, then so much a recluse that almost no strangers, and few even of friends and acquaintances, penetrated the isolation in which he lived.

With a kind touch on my shoulder he repeated my name, and then asked about Rossetti, and told me that after dinner he wanted to have a chat with me about the poet-painter, “ the greatest man we have among us, in point of influence upon poetry, and perhaps painting.”

I had been told that Walter Pater was too reticent, too reserved, perhaps too self-absorbed to be a good or even an interesting conversationalist at a dinner party. Then, and later, 1 had opportunity to note that if lie was self-absorbed be did not betray it, and that he was neither reserved in manner nor reticent of speech. That evening he was possessed by a happy gayety. Humor was never Pater’s strong point, but on that occasion he was both humorous and witty, though with the quiet wit and humor of the Hollander rather than of the Frenchman. From the first, I never took Walter Pater for an Englishman. In appearance, in maimer, lie suggested the Fleming or the Hollander ; in the mien and carriage of his mind, so to say, he was a Frenchman of that old northern type which had its meditative and quiet extreme in Maurice de Guerin, and .its intensely actual extreme in Guy de Maupassant. Neither mentally nor physically could I discern anything British in him, save in his appreciations ; and he had traits which affiliated him to those old Huguenot bearers of his name who no doubt bad a strong Flemish strain in their French blood.

After the ladies bad gone, we found ourselves next each other. At once he began to speak to me about Rossetti, asking first many questions as to bis health, las way of life, and what be was doing with brush and pen.

“ Of the six men now living,” he said, “ who are certain to be famous in days to come, — Tennyson, Browning, Raskin, Matthew Arnold, Rossetti, and Swinburne, — one is, in my judgment, the most significant as well as the most fascinating. Of these, Ruskin has bad by far the most influence over the sentiment of people ; Arnold has exercised the most potent influence on intellectual manners, and probably on intellectual method ; and Tennyson has imposed a new and exigent conception of poetic art, and has profoundly affected the technique not only of contemporary poetry, but of that which is yet unwritten. As for Browning, he is, and perhaps long will be, the greatest stimulus to hopeful endeavor. He is the finest representative of workable optimism whom England has given us. I am convinced that hundreds of people who delight in his writings are primarily attracted by his robust, happy-go-lucky, hail-fellow-well-met attitude towards what be himself prefers to call Providence, and to the tragic uncertainties and certain tragicalities of life. How often one hears the remark, given with conclusive emphasis, ‘ Ah, but how hopeful he is of every one and everything! ’ No one can admire Browning at his best more than I do ; but I do not think his genius is so wedded to his conscious and often tyrannical optimism as is commonly supposed.”

“ Then Robert Browning is not the one of the six to whom you refer so specially ? ”

“No; certainly not. Browning is a great poet, perhaps a greater than any of us know. Unquestionably, he, and he only, can be thought of as the successor to the Laureateship, if, as is likely, he survive Tennyson. I think of him sometimes as a superb god of poetry, so proudly heedless or reckless that he never notices the loss of his winged sandals, and that he is stumbling clumsily where he might well lightly be lifting his steps against the sunway where his eyes are set. Hut I do think lie will be much read in the future, as he is now, chiefly as a stimulant to higli-heartedness, to high hope and a robust self-assurance. I remember Matthew Arnold saying that he would admire Browning still more but for his depressing optimism. — of Balliol, who had never met Browning, was wont to say that the poet must he, or have been, a very unhappy man. ‘ Such a robust flouting of probabilities,’ he would urge, ‘ could ho due only to the inevitable law of reaction, — the same that made Keats enjoy a beefsteak after the most sentimental deliverances in Endymion, or that made Byron go off with La Guiccioli after he had extolled the beauty of virtue.’ But this attitude towards Browning is rare. To most people he is an inexhaustible spring of hope. And hope, I need hardly say. is to most people more vitally near and dear than poetry ; or, if you will, let me say that it is poetry. the poetry many of us can feel in the twilight rather than in any poem, or in the day, at daybreak or sunset, rather than in any painting by old master or new.”

Then was your particular allusion to Rossetti ? ”

Yes. To my mind he is the most significant man among ns. More torches will be lit from his flame — or from torches lit at Ids flame — than perhaps even enthusiasts like yourself imagine.”

At this point a well-known critic intervened, with somewhat obtrusive asperity. to the effect that Arnold would be read when Rossetti was forgotten, that Browning would be read when Arnold was forgotten, and that Tennyson would still be familiar to all lovers of poetry when Browning would be known only of students and readers curious in past vogues and ideals.

Pater did not often laugh, but when he did it was always with a catching geniality. His laugh at this juncture prevented a heated argument, and enabled him to waive the subject without any appearance of discourtesy. Smilingly he remarked : “ We have all drifted into the Future. Posthumous conversation is unsatisfactory. Besides, prophets never think much of other people’s prophecies. Talking of prophets, how delightfully cocksure Arnold is when he is in the grand vein, as in that last paper of his! Do you not think “ — And so the breakers were safely weathered, and “ the wide vague ” safely gained again.

Before we parted that night. Walter Pater had made me promise to visit him in Oxford, —a promise given only too gladly, though without an over-sanguine hope of its fulfillment, a possibility that at that time seemed too good to be realizable. I could not then understand why Pater should take so genuine an interest in a young man who had “ done nothing,” and of whose possibilities he knew little save by vague and friendly hearsay ; but later I understood better. I was young and full of hope and eager energy, and had traveled much and far, and experienced not a few strange vicissitudes. This of itself was enough to interest Pater ; indeed, I have known him profoundly interested in an undergraduate simply because the young man was joyously youthful, and had an Etonian reputation as a daredevil scapegrace. Shortly before I first came to London, in 1879, I had returned from a long and eventful voyage in the Pacific and Antarctic ; and on that first night, and on many nights thereafter, it seemed to give my new and much-revered friend a singular pleasure to listen to my haphazard narrative of strange sights I had seen and experiences I had undergone. The reason of this extreme interest in all youthful, unconventional, or unusual life was that Pater himself had never been joyously young, and that he lacked the inborn need as well as the physical energy for adventurous life, whether upon the cricket-field and the river, or on the high seas and in remote lands.

My first visit to Walter Pater was my first visit to Oxford. I leave to enthusiasts for that fair city of towers and spires, who may also be admirers of one of the worthiest of her sons, to imagine with what eager pleasure I went, with what keen pleasure T drank deep during a few happy days at this new fount, so full of fresh and delightful fascination.

Mr. Pater then lived, with his two sisters, in a pretty house a short way out of the actual town. He had, beside, his Fellow’s rooms at Brasenose, where sometimes he preferred to stay when much preoccupied with his work, and where occasionally he put up an invited guest. I came to know these rooms well later, but I have not forgotten my first impression of them. The sitting-room, or study, was in a projection of Brasenose, looking out upon the picturesque, narrow public way. There was a snug, inset, cushioned corner, much loved and frequented by its owner, — always thereafter to me a haunted corner in a haunted room. My first impression then of the tout-ensemble was of its delicate austerity. There was a quiet simplicity everywhere, eminently characteristic of the dweller; but one could see at a glance that this austerity was due to an imperious refinement, to a scrupulous selection. There were low-set bookshelves, filled with volumes which were the quintessential part of the library Pater might have had if he had cared for the mere accumulation of books. Most of them were the Greek and Latin classics, German and French works on {esthetics, and the treasures of French and English imaginative literature. To my surprise. I noticed, in one section, several volumes of distinctly minor contemporary poetry ; hut these proved to be presentation copies. for which Pater always had a tender heart. “To part with a book containing an inscription of personal regard, affection, or homage,” lie said to me once. “ is to me like throwing on to the highroad rare blooms brought from a distance by kind or loving friends.”

While I was examining some of these volumes, that evening, he took a leather portfolio from a cabinet.

“ Here is what delights me. This portfolio contains only manuscript poems. Some are manuscript copies of poems that the world already possesses ; others are copies of verses which are to appear in due course ; and a few are the actual originals, in even the most immature of which I have a rare pleasure. If it were practicable, I would read all poetry, for the first time, in the handwriting of the poet. There is always, to me, an added charm when I can do so, an atmosphere. The poem gains, and my insight or sympathy is swifter and surer, I am conscious of this also in prose, though perhaps not so keenly, and certainly not so frequently. Of course there is one exception, — every one, surely, must feel the same here ; that is, in the instance of letters. Imagine the pleasure of reading the intimate letters of Michael Angelo, of Giorgione, of Lionardo, of Dante, of Spenser, of Shakespeare, of Goethe, in the originals ! It would be like looking on a landscape in clear sunlight or moonlight, after having viewed it only through mist or haze.”

Several young writers,” he continued, “ have sent their manuscript to me to look over ; and at this moment I have two small manuscript books by undergraduates of exceptional promise. But I will show you what will interest you more. Here is a copy of The Sea-Limits in Rossetti’s own writing. He made the copy at a friend’s request. Here is a page of Atalanta in Calydou, which was given to me as the original, though very likely it is only a copy made by Swinburne. I must find out from him some day. Matthew Arnold gave me this original, or first copy, of the first three stanzas of his Morality. All these others, here, are autograph poems, or part poems, or prose passages, by Raskin, Tennyson, Browning, Meredith, Victor Hugo ; though, alas, few of these are my own, but have been lent to me. Even this vicarious ownership is a joy.”

I asked him if be had ever written verse himself. He said he had, and that before his twenty-fifth year he had written a good deal in verse, and had made many metrical translations from the Greek anthology, from Goethe, and from Alfred de Musset and other French poets.

“ At twenty-five I destroyed all, or nearly all, — everything in verse which had survived. In none of my original efforts was there any distinction. Not one had that atmosphere of its own which there is no mistaking. But 1 learned much through the writing of verse, and still more through metrical translation. I have great faith in scrupulous and sympathetic translation as a training in English composition. At one time 1 was in the habit of translating a page from some ancient or modern prose writer every day : Tacitus or Livy. Plato or Aristotle, Goethe or Lessing or Winckelmann, and once, month after month, Flaubert and Sainte-Beuve.”

But though the hooks in Walter Pater’s rooms were a special attraction, the first thing to catch the eye was a large and fine alto-rilievo, a Madonna by Luca della Robbia, the exquisite delicacy and soft cream-white tone of which not only harmonized with, hut seemed to focus the other things in the room. — the few etchings against the dull yellow wall-paper, one or two old Italian bronze ornaments that caught the sheen of sunlight or lamplight, a low. wide piece of Wedgewood full of white flowers, a slim gold-brown vase on the broad sill, containing "wallflowers, or flowering lavender, or chrysanthemums, or winter aconites, as the season went.

The afternoon sunlight pervaded the room with a quiet beauty. The interior looked to me like an old picture, with something of the home charm of the finest Dutch art. and more of the remote grace, the haven-like serenity, so beloved of the early Italians. I noticed a long ray of sunlight slant across the flowers and waver into a shadowy corner, where it moved like a golden finger, and seemed to point out or lead forth unexpected vagaries of light and shade. When I glanced at my companion, I saw that his gaze was arrested by the same vagrant sunbeam. He began to speak in a low voice about gold : the gold of nature; above all, the chemic action of golden light; and how it was “ the primary color of delight” throughout nature and in nearly all art.

“ Through all writing, too, that is rare and distinctive and beautiful,” he said, “there is a golden thread. Perhaps the most skillful weavers are those who so disguise it in the weft that its charm is felt though its presence is undetected, or at least unobtruded.”

Later, when the lamp was lit, he read, at my request, the revised version of his then unpublished (in book form) essay, entitled The School of Giorgione: chosen because of the allusions in it to that, very alchemy of gold light of which he had spoken : coloring, that weaving as of just perceptible gold threads of light through the dress, the flesh, the atmosphere, in Titian’s Lace-Girl,— the staining of the whole fabric of the thing with a new, delightful physical quality ; ” “ the accidental play of sunlight and shadow for a moment on the wall or floor ; ” “ this particular effect of light, this sudden inweaving of gold thread through the texture of the haystack. and the poplars, and the grass.” “ Only, in Italy all natural things are, as it were, woven through and through with gold thread, even the cypress revealing it among the folds of its blackness. And it is with gold dust, or gold thread, that these Venetian painters seem to work, spinning its line filaments through the solemn human flesh, away into the white plastered walls of the thatched huts.”

How well I remember that first lesson in the way rightly to apprehend art; how “ to estimate the degree in which a given work of art fulfills its responsibilities to its special material; to note in a picture that true pictorial charm, which is neither a mere poetical thought or sentiment on the one hand, nor a more result of communicable technical skill in color or design on the other; to define in a poem that true poetical quality, which is neither descriptive nor meditative merely, but comes of an inventive handling of rhythmical language, — the element of song in the singing; to note in music the musical charm,— that essential music, which presents no words, no definable matter of sentiment or thought, separable from the special form in which it is conveyed to us.”

When he read, Pater spoke in a low voice, rather hesitatingly at first, and sometimes almost constrainedly. Soon, however, he became absorbed; then his face would light up as with an inner glow, he would lean forward, and though his voice neither quickened nor intensified there was in it a new vibration. Occasionally, he would move his right hand slowly, with an undulating motion.

For three or four days he was my guide in Oxford, but my happiest recollections are of our walks in Christ Church meadows and by the banks of the Cherwell. He walked heavily, and. particularly when tired, with a halting step that suggested partial lameness. He was singularly observant of certain natural objects, aspects, and conditions, more especially of the movement of light in grass and among leaves, of all fragrances, of flowing water; but with this he was, I presume willfully, blind to human passers-by. Often I have seen some fellow-don wave a greeting to him, which either he did not see or pretended not to see, and it was rare that his eyes rested on any undergraduate who saluted him, unless the evasion would be too obviously discourteous. Op the other hand, he would now and again go out of his way to hail and speak cordially to some young fellow in whom he felt a genuine interest.

Although I saw Walter Pater occasionally after this date, I did not stay with him again in Oxford until the late spring of 1884. In the autumn of 1882, I wrote to him telling him that I believed I had discovered and recovered each article he had published, and had had them separately bound ; and at the same time eagerly urged upon him that the time had come when lie should no longer delay the collection in book form of tiiese essays on literature and art. At the date in question, I was writing that chapter in my Record of Dante Gabriel Rossetti which deals with his prose, and had made particular allusion to and quotation from Pater, — an unimportant fact which I appear to have considered worthy of communication to him. On November 5, he wrote with over-generous words of praise, as was his kindly wont with young writers (beginning informally, and adding, “ I think we have known each other long enough to drop the ‘ Mr.’ ”) ; —

2 BRADMORE ROAD, OXFORD, November 5, 1882.

. . . I read your letter with great pleasure, and thank you very much for it. Your friendly interest in my various essays I value highly. I have really worked hard for now many years at these prose essays, and it is a real encouragement to hear such good things said of them by the strongest and most original of young English poets. It will be a singular pleasure to me to be connected, in a sense, in your book on Rossetti, with one I admired so greatly. I wish the book all the success both the subject and the writer deserve.

You encourage me to do what I have sometimes thought of doing, when I have got on a little further with the work I have actually on hand, namely, to complete the various series of which the papers I have printed in the Fortnightly, etc., are parts. The list you sent me is complete with the exception of an article on Coleridge in the Westminster of January, 1860, with much of which, both as to matter and manner, I should now be greatly dissatisfied. That article is concerned with S. T. C.’s prose ; but, corrected, might he put alongside of the criticism on his verse which 1 made for Ward’s English Poets. I can only say that should you finish the paper you speak of on these essays, your critical approval will be of great service to me with the reading public.

As to the paper on Giorgione which I read to you in manuscript, I find 1 have by me a second copy of the proof, which I have revised and send by this post, and hope you will kindly accept. It was reprinted some time ago, when 1 thought of collecting that and other papers into a volume. I am pleased to hear that you remember with so much pleasure your visit to Oxford, and hope you will come for a longer stay in term time early next year.

At the end of this month I hope to leave for seven weeks in Italy, chiefly at Rome, where I have never yet been. We went to Cornwall for our summer holiday ; hut though that country is certainly very singular and beautiful, I found there not a tithe of the stimulus to one’s imagination which I have sometimes experienced in quite unrenowned places abroad. . . .

The copy of the Giorgione essay alluded to in this letter was one of several essays printed at the Clarendon Press in Oxford at Pater’s own cost. I asked him once why, particularly as his was so clear and beautiful a handwriting, he went to this heavy expense when he did not mean to publish (and in some instances the type was distributed after a few copies had been printed) ; to which he replied that though he could, and did, revise often and scrupulously in manuscript, he could never adequately disengage his material from the intellectual light in which it, had been conceived, until he saw it in the vivid and unsparing actuality of type. This copy, besides its autograph inscription and textual corrections, bears the circular stamp of the Clarendon Press, 12th of November, 1878 ; so it was printed three years before I heard it from manuscript, and more than ten years before it was published in book form along with other papers. As its pagination is from page 157 to page 184, its author must have had quite a large volume printed at the Clarendon Press.

Much as I value this early Giorgione copy, and The Child of the House, and each of the books given me on publication. my chief treasure is the bound copy of the proofs of Marius the Epicurean. I had these proofs for some weeks before publication, and so had the additional pleasure of a thorough familiarity with one of the finest, and perhaps the most distinctive of the prose works of the Victorian era, before the less fortunate public knew anything of it. Marins had been begun, and in part written, long before Walter Pater went to Rome, in 1882, for the first time; but it was not till the summer of 1883 that he wrote it as it now stands. —wrote and rewrote, with infinite loving care for every idea, for every phrase, for each sentence, each epithet, each little word or mark of punctuation.

One of the earliest reviews of Marius the Epicurean was that which appeared in The Athenæum as the leading article, some seven to eight columns in length.

Besides this, I wrote also a longer article upon the book in the now defunct magazine, Time. My Athenaeum review appeared on the last day of February, and on March 1 Pater wrote as follows: —

2 BRADMORE ROAD, OXFORD.

. . . I have read your article in The Athenaeum with very real pleasure ; feeling criticism at once so independent and so sympathetic to be a reward for all the long labors the book has cost me. ^ on seem to me to have struck a note of criticism not merely pleasant, but judicious ; and there are one or two important points — literary ones —on which you have said precisely what 1 should have wished, and thought it important for me to have said. I thank you sincerely for your friendly work ; also for your letter [about Marius], and the other article, which I shall look forward to, and greatly value.

I was much pleased, also, that Mrs. Sharp had been so much interested in iny writing. It is always a sign to me that I have to some extent succeeded in my literary aim when I gain the approval of accomplished women.

I should he glad, and feel it a great compliment, to have Marius translated into German, on whatever terms your friend likes ; provided, of course, that Macmillan approves. I will ask him his views on this point.

As regards the ethical drift of Marins, I should like to talk to you. if you were here. I did mean it to be more antiEpicurean than it has struck you as being. In one way, however, T am glad that you have mistaken me a little on this point, us I had some fears that I might seem to be pleading for a formal thesis of “ parti pris.” Be assured how cheering your praise — praise from so genuine and accomplished a fellow-workman — has been to me. Such recognition is especially a help to one whose work is so exclusively personal and solitary as the kind of literary work which I feel I can do best must be. . . .

From a later passage in this letter — ultimately of so purely personal an interest that its reproduction here would be unwarrantable — it is evident that Pater had carefully read through the book after its publication, to find his fastidious taste offended by one or two little flaws. For, not content with the revised proofs he had given me, he wrote,

“ I have told the Macmillans to send you a properly bound copy of Marius, with only a few misprints.”

When I went to stay with him in the late spring of 1884, when Oxford was looking its loveliest, we had many long talks about Marius and the new Cyrenaicism, and on all implied in what it has become the vogue to call the new Hedonism.

More and more Walter Pater sought a rarer atmosphere of beauty, — outward beauty, and the beauty of the inner life. His ideals of conduct were Spartan rather than what is so loosely called Epicurean : austerity in clear, lucid, wind-swept thought; austerity in the expression of that thought, even when wrought by it to the white heat of creative emotion, but an austerity that came from the reserve force of perfect and scrupulous mastery, and from no timidity or coldness or sterility of deep feeling ; and austerity in life.

How well I remember one evening in the meadows by the Cherwell ! It was a still, golden sunset. Already the dew had begun to fall, and the air was heavy with the almost too poignant fragrance of the meadowsweet. I had made a remark about the way some people were haunted by dream-fragrances, and instanced queen-of-the-meadow, as we cal! it in Scotland, in my own case. Pater replied that certain flowers affected his imagination so keenly that he could not smell them with pleasure ; and that while the white jonquil, the gardenia, and the syringa actually gave him pain, the meadowsweet generally gave him a sudden fugitive sense of distant pastures, and twilit eves, and remote scattered hamlets.

“ On an evening like this,’" he added, “ there is too much of it. It is the fault of nature in England that she runs too much to excess. Well, after all, that is a foolish thing to say. There is always something supremely certain about nature’s waywardness.”

“ You remember Blake, — ‘ The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom ?

“ Yes ; it is a notable saying, and, like most kindred sayings, is probably half true, though I doubt if in this instance more than partially, or only very occasionally true. Talking of Blake, I never repeat to myself, without a strange and almost terrifying sensation of isolation and long weariness, that couplet of his :

' Ah, sunflower, weary of time,
Who countest the steps of the sun.’ ”

This led on to my asking him what were his favorite intimate passages. I have forgotten, or do not remember with sufficient exactness to record them, what he gave; though I recollect that he placed foremost that noble maxim from Plato : Honor the sold : for each man’s soul changes, according to the nature of his deeds, for better or worse.”

Every great writer, he said, had serviceable apothegms on the conduct of art as well as the conduct of life. At that time he was re-reading some of the chief books of two great novelists, more radically than merely racially distinct, Balzac and George Eliot. I asked which writer be found the more stimulating, the more suggestive, the more interesting, Balzac, he replied, lie found more interesting, though he thought George Eliot the more suggestive. “ But of neither would I speak as stimulating.” “Balzac,” he resumed. “ is full of good things, things well said and worth daily remembrance, as for example this : ‘ Le travail constant est la loi de l’art comme celle de la vie.’ ”

“ A little while ago you said,” I interpolated, “ that Keats was unquestionably right when be wrote that Invention was the pole-star of Poetry. Would you say the same in the instance of every other art ? ”

“ No doubt, no doubt; only one must be sure one knows exactly what one means by Invention. An admirable French critic bus said this for us: ‘ L’Invention, qualité première et base de toutes les autres, dans les operations des beaux-arts.’ And by the way. bear this, from the same source, ever in mind : ‘ Il y a dans la composition deux écueils à éviter, le trop peu d’art, et le trop d’art.'

It was on this occasion, also, I remember, that, on my asking him what he. personally, considered the most memorable passage in George Eliot, he surprised me by saying, after a brief while for reflection, that it was the remark put into Piero di Cosimo’s mouth, in Komola : “ The only passionate life is in form and color,”

His interest in Piero di Cosimo, and Bazzi, and a few other rare and distinctive figures of mediaeval Italy, was, I may add, singularly keen. There were two strangenesses, if I may use the word, which always appealed to him strongly : the strangeness that lies in familiarity, and the strangeness of the unusual, the remote, the mysterious, the wild. He loved the vicarious life. His own was serenely quiet and uneventful, but he thrilled with excitement when a foreign element, of altogether alien circumstance, entered it, whether this intruder was a living person or only a mental actuality. He was like those early Italian or Flemish painters of whom he speaks in one of his essays, “ who, just because their minds were full of heavenly visions, passed, some of them, the better part of sixty years in quiet, systematic industry.” As lie says of Wordsworth, “ there was in his own character a certain contentment. a sort of religious placidity, seldom found united with a sensibility like his. . . . His life is not. divided by profoundly felt, incidents; its changes are almost wholly inward, and it falls into broad, untroubled spaces. This placid life matured in him an unusual, innate sensibility to natural sights and sounds, the flower and its shadow on the stone, the cuckoo and its echo.”

It is his apprehension of, his insight into, this subtle, profoundly intimate second-life in every manifestation of human life and nature, of the warm shadow as well as of the sunlit flower, of the wandering voice as well as of the spring harbinger, that is one secret of the immediate appeal of Walter Pater’s work to all who not only love what is beautiful, wheresoever and howsoever embodied, but also, as a Celtic saying has it, “ look at the thing that is behind the thing.”

An apprehension, an insight in some degree akin, must be in the reader who would understand Walter Pater the man as well as Walter Pater the writer and thinker. There are few more autobiographical writers, though almost nowhere does he openly limn autobiographical details. Only those lovers of his work who have read, and read closely, lovingly, and intimately, all lie has written, can understand the man. He is one of those authors of whom there can never be any biography away from his writings. The real man is a very different one from the Mr. Rose of The New Republic, from “ tlie mere conjurer of words and phrases ” of Mr. Freeman, from “ the demoralizing moralizer ” of the late Master of Balliol, from “ the preacher of a remote and exclusive iestheticism of those who seldom read and never understood him. from the sophisticated, cold, and humanly indifferent exponent or advocate of “ art for art’s sake alone.” In no writer of our time is there more tenderness ; more loving heed of human struggle, aspiration, failure, heroic effort, high achievement; more profound understanding of “ the thing that is behind the thing ; ” above all, a keener, a more alive, a more swift and comprehensive sympathy. If those who have read one or two of the purely art essays only will take up the paper on Charles Lamb or the deeply significant and penetrative study of Wordsworth (surely the most genuinely critical, the most sympathetic and rightly understanding, of all estimates of Wordsworth). they will speedily hear the heartbeat of one who was a man as other clean-hearted, clean-minded, clean-living men are, and a writer of supreme distinction only “by grace of God.”

Though there are few so direct autobiographical indications as may be found in The Child of tlie House (essentially, and to some extent in actual detail, a record of the author’s child-life), or as the statement in the Lamb essay that it was in a wood in the neighborhood of London that, as a child, he heard the cuckoo for the first time, the inner life of Walter Pater is written throughout each of his books, woven “like gold thread ” through almost every page, though perhaps most closely and revealingly in Marius the Epicurean. That Marius is largely himself would be indubitable even were there no personal testimony to support the evidence. I remember, when he read Marias to me in manuscript, that the passage at page 136 (first edition), beginning, “ It seemed at first as if his care for poetry had passed away . . . to be replaced by the literature of thought,” was admitted by him to be — as again at pages 103, 169, and elsewhere — directly autobiographical. This is the passage wherein occur two phrases now famous: “ a severe intellectual meditation, the salt of poetry,”and “ spontaneous surrender to the dominion of the outward impressions.” He had the same horror of snakes and creeping things of which his young Epicurean was so painfully conscious. ! remember one occasion when, at Oxford, a small party of us had gone downstream, to reach a wood of which Pater was fond in the first hot days of late spring. He was walking with my wife, when suddenly she saw him start, grow paler than his wont, and abruptly hurry forward with averted head. The cause of this perturbation was that, to the right of the pathway, a large “ earth adder,” or “ slow-worm,” lay dead or dying. This aversion was excited even by inanimate representations of snakes. Once, when he was visiting us in London, his gaze was attracted by the gleaming of the lamplight upon a circular ornament my wife wore round her neck. It was a flexible silver serpent, made of over a thousand little silver scales, the work of a Florentine mechanic, which I had brought home from Italy. In response to his inquiry, she unloosed it and handed it to him ; but as she did so, it writhed about her arm as though alive. Pater drew back, startled, nor would he touch or look at it, beautiful as the exquisitely minute workmanship was; and indeed, so uneasy was he, so evidently perturbed that she should wear anything so “ barbaric,” that, laughingly, she agreed not to replace it, but safely to lock it up in its morocco case again.

Keenly, too, he had that vague dread of impending evil which perturbed Marius when, on his way to Rome, he climbed the gloomy, precipitous slopes of ITrbsVetus ; that “ sense of some unexplored evil ever dogging his footsteps ” (page 24) ; that “ recurrent sense of some obscure danger beyond the mere danger of death, — vaguer than that, and by so much the more terrible” (page 124): that dread of which he writes (page 178), “ His elaborate philosophy had not put beneath his feet the terror of mere bodily evil, much less of * inexorable fate and the noise of greedy Acheron.' ” He had a great dislike of walking along the base of dark and rugged slopes, or beneath any impendent rock. When, a few years ago. he came to reside for the most part in London, he hoped that this apprehension would depart, or never be evoked. For a time, London gave him a fresh and pleasant stimulus ; but later, it began to weary, to perturb, and at last to allure him into even deeper despondencies than his wont. It was with a welcome sense of home-coming that, not long ago, lie returned to Oxford as his permanent place of abode. But of his gloom, so far as his literary work is affected by it, the aptest tiling that can be said is a passage in his own essay on Charles Lamb : “ The gloom is always there. though restrained always in expression, and not always realized either for himself or his readers ; and it gives to those lighter matters on the surface of life and literature, among which lie for the most part moved, a wonderful play of expression, as if at any moment these light words and fancies might pierce very far into the deeper heart of things.”

Aside from Marius the Epicurean, there is a radical mistake on the part of those who affirm that Pater is, after all, but a subtle and seductive writer on art; meaning the arts of painting and sculpture. It is true that, from his first able essay, that on Winckelmann, to those on The School of Giorgione and The Marbles of Ægina, he is the profoundest, and generally the most trustworthy of art critics ; but — and again, apart from the creative quality informing each of these essays, making them not only interpretations, but works of art — he is, of course, much more than this. His volume of studies of contemporary poetry and prose, and kindred themes, is alone sufficient to base an enduring reputation upon.

As of the brilliant Flavian who so won the heart of Marius when he left sea-girt Luna for Pisa, we might say of Walter Pater : “ What care for style ! What patience of execution : What research for the significant tones of ancient idiom, — sonantia verba et antiqua ! What stately and regular word-building, — gravis et decora constructio ! ” But, invariably, we have to note also that ever “ the happy phrase or sentence is really modeled upon a cleanly finished structure of scrupulous thought.”

Nothing irritated Pater more than to be called a mere stylist. He was a thinker first, and a rare and distinguished stylist by virtue of his thought; for, after all, style is simply the rainbow light created by the thought, and is pure, transparent, precise, and beautiful, or is intermittent, incoherent, crudely interfused, even as is the thought.

Of his more directly or frankly imaginative work, his Imaginary Portraits, from the early Child of the House to the latest, the narrative of Emuald Uthwart, of Gaston de Latonr, of Brother Apollyon, I have not now space to speak, nor indeed is this the occasion. But once again I must say that those who would know Walter Pater must read all he has written. In that serene, quiet, austere, yet passionate nature of his, so eminently Teutonic, so distinctively northern, there was, strange to say, a strain of Latin savagery. It found startling expression in the bloody tragedy of the sacrifice of Denys l’Auxerrois, and, in his latest published writing, in the strange and terrifying death of the hoy Hyacinth.

Let me, rather, end this article — so slight and inadequate, I am painfully aware — with two noble passages, more truly characteristic of Walter Pater than any of the generally perverted art-forart’s-sake dicta so often quoted from his earlier writings, severed from their illuminating context. The first is that which concludes the earliest of his critical studies, that on Winckelmann : —

“And what does the spirit need in the face of modern life ? The sense of freedom. That naive, rough sense of freedom which supposes man’s will to he limited, if at all, only by a will stronger than his, he can never have again. . . . The chief factor in the thoughts of the modern mind concerning itself is the intricacy, the universality, of natural law, even in the moral order. For us, necessity is not, as of old, a sort of mythological personage without us. with whom we can do warfare; it is a magic web, woven through and through us, like that magnetic system of which modern science speaks, penetrating us with a network subtler than our subtlest nerves, yet bearing in it the central forces of the world. Can art represent men and women in these bewildering toils so as to give the spirit at least an equivalent for the sense of freedom ? . . . Natural laws we shall never modify, embarrass us as they may ; but there is still something in the nobler or less noble attitude with which we watch their fatal combinations. In the romances of Goethe and Victor Hugo, in some excellent work done after them, this entanglement, this network of law, becomes the tragic situation in which certain groups of noble men and women work out for themselves a supreme dénouement. Who, if he saw through all, would fret against the chain of circumstance which endows one at the end with those great experiences ? ”

As this is from the first, so let the second be from the last of those memorable critical studies, that on Style, written in 1888 : —

“ It is on the quality of the matter it informs or controls, its compass, its variety, its alliance to great ends, or the depth of the note of revolt, or the largeness of hope in it, that the greatness of literary art depends, as The Divine Comedy, Paradise Lost, Les Misérable?, the English Bible, are great art. Given the conditions I have tried to explain as constituting good art : then, if it be devoted further to the increase of men’s happiness, to the redemption of the oppressed or the enlargement of our sympathies with each other, or to such presentment of new or old truth about ourselves and our relation to the world as may ennoble and fortify us in our sojourn here, or immediately, as with Dante, to the glory of God, it will be also great art ; if, over and above those qualities I summed up as mind and soul, — that color and mystic perfume, and that reasonable structure, — it has something of the soul of humanity in it, and finds its logical, its architectural place in the great structure of human life.”

William Sharp.