Walter Horatio Pater (4 August 1839 – 30 July 1894) was an English essayist, critic of art and literature, and writer of fiction.Born in Stepney in London's East End, Walter Pater was the second son of Richard Glode Pater, a physician who had moved to London in the early 19th century to practise medicine among the poor.
"As, in the triumph of Christianity, the old religion lingered latest in the country, and died out at last as but paganism - the religion of the villagers, before the advance of the Christian Church; so, in an earlier century, it was in places remote from townlife that the older and purer forms of paganism itself had survived the longest."
"In sum, I should like to demonstrate how as a fiction of romantic irony <i>Marius</i> mixes genres, styles and modes; avoids closure and determinate meaning; demonstrate how was a fictional world, that it pretends to offer; mirrors its author and itself; is distrustful of language; and is permeated by a sense of aesthetic and metaphysical play."
"<i>Marius the Epicurean</i> is a portrait of the artist as a young man; but since, unlike Joyce's hero, Marius finds the Christian service of worship a satisfying expression of his highly developed aesthetic impulses, it has often been said that Pater intended to show that only the ceremonial aspect of Christianity could engage the cultivated person."
"The history of the Renaissance ends in France and carries us away from Italy to the beautiful cities of the country of the Loire. But it was in France also, in a very important sense, that the Renaissance had begun; and French writers, who are fond of connecting the creations of Italian genius with a French origin, who tells us how Saint Francis of Assisi took not his name only, but all those notions of chivalry and romantic love which so deeply penetrated his thoughts, from a French source, how Boccaccio borrowed the outlines of his stories from the old French <i>fabliaux</i>, and how Dante himself expressly connects the origin of the art of miniature painting with the city of Paris, have often dwelt on this notion of a Renaissance in the end of the twelfth and beginning of the thirteenth century."
<i>Imaginary Portraits</i> (1887) are shorter pieces of philosophical fiction. <i>Appreciations</i> (1889) is a return to the critical essay, this time largely on English subjects. In 1893 came <i>Plato and Platonism</i>, giving an extremely literary view of Plato and neglecting the logical and dialectical side of his philosophy. Pater’s <i>Greek Studies</i> (1895), <i>Miscellaneous Studies</i> (1895), and <i>Essays from The Guardian</i> (privately printed, 1896; 1901) were published posthumously; also published posthumously was his unfinished romance, <i>Gaston de Latour</i> (1896).
His most famous work is <i>Marius the Epicurean</i>, about the spiritual and intellectual life of a young Roman in the second century A.D.
Pater’s early intention to enter the church gave way at this time to a consuming interest in classical studies. Pater then began to write for the reviews, and his essays on Leonardo da Vinci, Sandro Botticelli, Pico della Mirandola, Michelangelo, and others were collected in 1873 as <i>Studies in the History of the Renaissance </i>(later called simply <i>The Renaissance</i>). His delicate, fastidious style and sensitive appreciation of Renaissance art in these essays made his reputation as a scholar and an aesthete, and he became the centre of a small group of admirers in Oxford.
Few writers as distinguished as Pater have lived lives as diaphanous as his. Between birth in London in 1839 and death 55 years later, he lived in a quiet reverie among books and works of art, seeking to divine the magical powers of beauty, journeying invisibly among sensations and ideas in quest of their ineffable essences.
Pater became famous as a literary and art critic and exquisite prose stylist who rejected religious dogma and considered the intense sensation of aesthetic response to be the essence of the happy life, a philosophy which might be summed up as ‘art for art’s sake’.
Born into a family of surgeons in 1839, Walter Pater attended King’s School, Canterbury. He read Greats at Queen’s College, Oxford and became a non-clerical Fellow of Brasenose in 1864. Gerard Manley Hopkins, Earl Haig and Oscar Wilde, a devoted admirer, were among those he taught.