Victorian Critical Theory Criticism: Walter Pater And Aestheticism - Essay

George Saintsbury (essay date 1911)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Saintsbury, George. “English Criticism from 1860-1900.” In A History of English Criticism, pp. 468-514. Edinburgh: William Blackwood & Sons, 1962.

[In the following excerpt, originally published in 1911, Saintsbury considers Pater's disputed reputation as the finest literary critic of his generation.]

To assert too positively that Mr Walter Pater was the most important English critic of the last generation of the nineteenth century—that he stands to that generation in a relation resembling those of Coleridge to the first, and Arnold to the latter part of the second—would no doubt cause grumbles. The Kingdom of Criticism has been of old compared to...

(The entire section is 2798 words.)

William K. Wimsatt, Jr. (essay date 1957)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Wimsatt, William K., Jr. “Art for Art's Sake.” In Literary Criticism: A Short History, edited by William K. Wimsatt, Jr., and Cleanth Brooks, pp. 475-98. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1957.

[In the following excerpt, Wimsatt discusses the development of English aestheticism and its association with Walter Pater, James MacNeill Whistler, and Oscar Wilde.]

Aestheticism in England, says a recent writer, “was not a sudden development: the nature of the trend from Keats through Tennyson and Dante Gabriel Rossetti was, even in Arnold's mid-career, not unapparent to the critic who passed the judgment on the great Romantics. The insistence that poetry must be judged...

(The entire section is 3104 words.)

Albert J. Farmer (essay date 1973)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Farmer, Albert J. “The Method.” In Walter Pater as a Critic of English Literature, pp. 1-17. N.p.: Folcroft Library Editions, 1973.

[In the following excerpt, Farmer considers Pater's critical method in the context of earlier nineteenth-century criticism.]


The beginning of the nineteenth century marks the opening of a new chapter in the history of English criticism. The attempt to escape from the conventional restraint which had so long weighed upon literature is not less evident here than elsewhere. In prose writing, as in verse, the tenets and dogmas sacred to the writers of the preceding age lose their prestige. A new attitude...

(The entire section is 5429 words.)