Walter Pater Additional Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111207103-Pater.jpg Walter Pater Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Walter Horatio Pater (PAY-tur) was born in London on August 4, 1839. Having attended King’s School in Canterbury and graduated with a B.A. degree from Queen’s College, Oxford, he was made Fellow of Brasenose College, Oxford, from which he received his M.A. 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.

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.

Sources for Further Study

Bloom, Harold, ed. Walter Pater. New York: Chelsea House, 1985....

(The entire section is 569 words.)


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

For a writer who was to become the subject of numerous debates and controversies regarding the tendency of his works, the quality of his influence, and the dubiety of his doctrines, Walter Horatio Pater’s life seems, at first glance, a singularly colorless affair. The youngest son of a dedicated physician who died prematurely, Pater, born in London on August 4, 1839, was reared in a household dominated by his sisters, his mother, and his godmother. He remained, throughout childhood, indifferent to the activities or sports of his peers, preferring to imagine a world of ceremonious gallantry and hieratic ritual. He manifested a deep attachment to the solemn devotions and sumptuous worship of the Anglican Church. A need to remain true to the irrepressible skepticism and intellectual scrupulousness of his own nature prevented him, at the last, from acting upon his early impulses and taking orders. With a temperament more than commonly inclined to self-analysis and introspection, Pater, following his matriculation at Queens College, Oxford, chose to pursue an academic career. He was elected a junior fellow at Brasenose College in 1864.

From the first, the young don was regarded with certain suspicions, “having acquired,” as Humphry Ward observed, “a new and daring philosophy of his own, and a wonderful gift of style.” Benjamin Jowett, the famous translator of Plato, was acutely displeased with the seemingly subversive conclusion to The...

(The entire section is 413 words.)