Imágenes de páginas


Pater began his life-long academic career at King's School, Canterbury, from which proceeded to Queen's College, Oxford, where he took his bachelor's degree in 1862. As undergraduate Pater knew few men, devoting himself closely to books, especially to Gre literature, in which Benjamin Jowett gave him much encouragement. After graduatio he was elected to the Old Mortality, an essay society, through which he came into conta with the stimulating personalities of T. H. Green, A. C. Swinburne, and others. 1864, he was elected fellow of Brasenose College, and except for visits to the Continent and a short residence in London, he remained in Oxford for the rest of his life. In 1864 a sojourn in Italy gave Pater those impressions of Renaissance art that appear conspicy uously in his later writing. The quiet poise of his life as Oxford tutor and author wast disturbed by nothing more eventful than an occasional vacation tour in France or Ger many.

Pater's most significant mission was in interpreting to his age the spirit of the Renais sance in art and literature. His first essays, which had begun to appear in periodicals in 1867, were collected and published in a considerable volume, Studies in the History of. the Renaissance, in 1873. In 1885 appeared Pater's finest single work. Marius the Ep< curean, a historical romance expounding the best phases of Epicureanism. His Imaginary Portraits (1887) contains fine studies in philosophic fiction, and his Appreciations, wit an Essay on Style (1889) reveals bits of his most subtle literary criticism. Plato ad Platonism (1893) is a notable result of his early classical studies. Pater's somewhe painful seeking for precision of expression resulted in a style more delicate and rhyt mical than direct and simple. His philosophy of temperance, discipline, and asceticis in art has had a permanent and refining influence upon English criticism.


Since all progress of mind consists for the most part in differentiation, in the resolution of an obscure and complex object into its component aspects, it is surely the stupidest of losses to confuse things which right reason has put asunder, to lose the sense of achieved distinctions, the distinction between poetry and prose, for instance, or, to speak more exactly, between the laws and characteristic excellences of verse and prose composition. On the other hand, those who have dwelt most emphatically on the distinction between prose and verse, prose and poetry, may sometimes have been tempted to limit the proper functions of prose too narrowly; and this again is at least false economy, as being, in effect, the renunciation of a certain means or faculty, in a world where after all we must needs make the most of things. Critical efforts to limit art a priori, by anticipations regarding the natural incapacity of the material with

which this or that artist works, as the sculptor with solid form, or the pros writer with the ordinary language o men, are always liable to be discreditel by the facts of artistic production; an while prose is actually found to be at colored thing with Bacon, picturesque with Livy and Carlyle, musical with Cicero and Newman, mystical and intimate with Plato and Michelet and Sir Thomas Browne, exalted or florid, it may be, with Milton and Taylor, it will be useless to protest that it can be nothing at all, except something very tamely and narrowly confined to mainly practical ends a kind of good round-hand' &. as useless as the protest that poetry might not touch prosaic subjects as with Wordsworth, or an abstruse matter as with Browning, or treat contemporary life nobly as with Tennyson. In subor dination to one essential beauty in all good literary style, in all literature as a fine art, as there are many beauties of poetry, so the beauties of prose are many, and it is the business of criticism 0

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estimate them as such; as it is good in
the criticism of verse to look for those
hard, logical and quasi-prosaic excel-
lences which that too has, or needs.
find in the poem, amid the flowers, the 5
allusions, the mixed perspectives, of
Lycidas for instance, the thought, the
logical structure:- how wholesome!
how delightful! as to identify in prose
what we call the poetry, the imaginative
power, not treating it as out of place
and a kind of vagrant intruder, but by
way of an estimate of its rights, that is,
of its achieved powers, there.

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Dryden, with the characteristic in- 15 stinct of his age, loved to emphasize the distinction between poetry and prose, the protest against their confusion with each other, coming with somewhat diminished effect from one whose poetry was so 20 prosaic. In truth, his sense of prosaic excellence affected his verse rather than his prose, which is not only fervid, richly figured, poetic, as we say, but vitiated, all unconsciously, by many a scanning 25 line. Setting up correctness, that humble merit of prose, as the central literary excellence, he is really a less correct writer than he may seem, still with an imperfect mastery of the relative pro- 30 noun. It might have been foreseen that, in the rotations of mind, the province of poetry in prose would find its assertor; and, a century after Dryden, amid very different intellectual needs, and with the 35 need therefore of great modifications in literary form, the range of the poetic force in literature was effectively enlarged by Wordsworth. The true distinction between prose and poetry he re- 40 garded as the almost technical or accidental one of the absence or presence of metrical beauty, or, say! metrical restraint; and for him the opposition came to be between verse and prose of course; 45 but, as the essential dichotomy in this matter, between imaginative and unimaginative writing, parallel to De Quincey's distinction between the literature of power and the literature of knowl- 50 edge,' in the former of which the composer gives us not fact, but his peculiar sense of fact, whether past or present.

Dismissing then, under sanction of Wordsworth, that harsher opposition of 55 poetry to prose, as savoring in fact of the arbitrary psychology of the last century,

and with it the prejudice that there can be but one only beauty of prose style, I propose here to point out certain qualities of all literature as a fine art, which, if they apply to the literature of fact, apply still more to the literature of the imaginative sense of fact, while they apply indifferently to verse and prose, so far as either is really imaginative - certain conditions of true art in both alike, which conditions may also contain in them the secret of the proper discrimination and guardianship of the peculiar excellences of either.

The line between fact and something quite different from external fact is, indeed, hard to draw. In Pascal, for instance, in the persuasive writers generally, how difficult to define the point where, from time to time, argument which, if it is to be worth anything at all, must consist of facts or groups of facts, becomes a pleading- a theorem no longer, but essentially an appeal to the reader to catch the writer's spirit, to think with him, if one can or willan expression no longer of fact but of his sense of it, his peculiar intuition of a world prospective, or discerned below the faulty conditions of the present, in either case changed somewhat from the actual world. In science, on the other hand, in history so far as it conforms to scientific rule, we have a literary domain where the imagination may be thought to be always an intruder. And as, in all science, the functions of literature reduce themselves eventually to the transcribing of fact, so all the excellences of literary form in regard to science are reducible to various kinds of painstaking; this good quality being involved in all skilled work' whatever, in the drafting of an act of parliament, as in sewing. Yet here again, the writer's sense of fact, in history especially, and in all those complex subjects which do but lie on the borders of science, will still take the place of fact, in various degrees. Your historian, for instance, with absolutely truthful intention, amid the multitude of facts presented to him. must needs select, and in selecting assert something of his own humor, something that comes not of the world without but of a vision within. So Gibbon molds his unwieldy material to a preconceived

view. Livy, Tacitus, Michelet, moving full of poignant sensibility amid the records of the past, each, after his own sense, modifies who can tell where and to what degree? — and becomes something else than a transcriber; each, as he thus modifies, passing into the domain of art proper. For just in proportion as the writer's aim, consciously or unconsciously, comes to be the transcribing, 10 verse form, so that the most character

That imaginative prose should be the special and opportune art of the modern world results from two important facts about the latter: first, the chaotic va5 riety and complexity of its interests, making the intellectual issue, the really master currents of the present time incalculable a condition of mind little susceptible of the restraint proper to

not of the world, not of mere fact, but of his sense of it, he becomes an artist, his work fine art; and good art (as I hope ultimately to show) in proportion

istic verse of the nineteenth century has been lawless verse; and secondly, an allpervading naturalism, a curiosity about everything whatever as it really is, in

to the truth of his presentment of that 15 volving a certain humility of attitude, '

sense; as in those humbler or plainer
functions of literature also, truth
truth to bare fact, there is the essence
of such artistic quality as they may have.
Truth! there can be no merit, no craft 20
at all, without that. And further, all
beauty is in the long run only fineness
of truth, or what we call expression, the
finer accommodation of speech to that
vision within.


cognate to what must, after all, be the less ambitious form of literature. prose thus asserting itself as the special and privileged artistic faculty of the present day, will be, however critics may try to narrow its scope, as varied in its excellence as humanity itself reflecting on the facts of its latest experience an instrument of many stops, meditative, 25 observant, descriptive, eloquent, analytic, plaintive, fervid. Its beauties will be not exclusively 'pedestrian' it will exert, in due measure, all the varied charms of poetry, down to the rhythm which,

-The transcript of his sense of fact rather than the fact, as being preferable, pleasanter, more beautiful to the writer himself. In literature, as in every other product of human skill, in the molding 30 as in Cicero, or Michelet, or Newman, at

of a bell or a platter for instance, wher-
ever this sense asserts itself, wherever
the producer so modifies his work as,
over and above its primary use or inten-
tion, to make it pleasing (to himself, 35
of course, in the first instance) there,
'fine' as opposed to merely serviceable
art, exists. Literary art, that is, like
all art which is in any way imitative or
reproductive of fact- form, or color,
or incident is the representation of
such fact as connected with soul, of a
specific personality, in its preferences, its
volition and power.

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their best, gives its musical value to every syllable.

The literary artist is of necessity a scholar, and in what he proposes to do will have in mind, first of all, the scholar and the scholarly conscience - the male conscience in this matter, as we must think it, under a system of education which still to so large an extent limits real scholarship to men. In his self-, criticism, he supposes always that sort of reader who will go (full of eyes) warily, considerately, though without consideration for him, over the ground 45 which the female conscience traverses so lightly, so amiably. For the material in which he works is no more a creation of his own than the sculptor's marble. Product of a myriad various minds and contending tongues, compact of obscure and minute association, a language has its own abundant and often recondite laws, in the habitual and summary recognition of which scholarship consists. A writer, full of a matter he is before all things anxious to express, may think of those laws, the limitations of vocabulary,

Such is the matter of imaginative or artistic literature - this transcript, not of mere fact, but of fact in its infinite variety, as modified by human preference in all its infinitely varied forms. It will be good literary art not because it is 50 brilliant or sober, or rich, or impulsive, or severe, but just in proportion as its representation of that sense, that soulfact, is true, verse being only one department of such literature, and im-55 aginative prose, it may be thought, being the special art of the modern world.

speak of the manner of a true master we mean what is essential in his art. Pedantry being only the scholarship of le cuistre (we have no English equiva5 lent), he is no pedant, and does but show his intelligence of the rules of language in his freedoms with it, addition or expansion, which like the taneities of manner in a well-bred person will still further illustrate good taste.


structure, and the like, as a restriction,
but if a real artist, will find in them an
opportunity. His punctilious observance.
of the proprieties of his medium will
diffuse through all he writes a general
air of sensibility, of refined usage. Ex-
clusiones debitae naturae - the exclu-
sions, or rejections, which nature
demands we know how large a part
these play, according to Bacon, in the 10
science of nature. In a somewhat
changed sense, we might say that the
art of the scholar is summed up in the
observance of those rejections demanded
by the nature of his medium, the mate- 15
rial he must use. Alive to the value of
an atmosphere in which every term finds
its utmost degree of expression, and with
all the jealousy of a lover of words, he
will resist a constant tendency on the 20
part of the majority of those who use
them to efface the distinctions of lan-
guage, the facility of writers often rein-
forcing in this respect the work of the
vulgar. He will feel the obligation not
of the laws only, but of those affinities,
avoidances, those mere preferences, of
his language, which through the asso-
ciations of literary history have become
a part of its nature, prescribing the re- 30
jection of many a neology, many a li-
cense, many a gipsy phrase which might
present itself as actually expressive.
His appeal, again, is to the scholar, who
has great experience in literature, and 35
will show no favor to short-cuts, or
hackneyed illustration, or an affectation of
learning designed for the unlearned.
Hence a contention, a sense of self-re-
straint and renunciation, having for the 40
susceptible reader the effect of a chal-
lenge for minute consideration; the at-
tention of the writer, in every minut-
est detail, being a pledge that it is worth
the reader's while to be attentive too, 45
that the writer is dealing scrupulously
with his instrument, and therefore, in-
directly, with the reader himself also,
that he has the science of the instru-
ment he plays on, perhaps, after all, with
a freedom which in such case will be the
freedom of a master.


For meanwhile, braced only by those restraints, he is really vindicating his liberty in the making of a vocabulary, 55 an entire system of composition, for himself, his own true manner; and when we


The right vocabulary! Translators have not invariably seen how all-important that is in the work of translation, driving for the most part at idiom or construction; whereas, if the original be first-rate, one's first care should be with its elementary particles, Plato, for instance, being often reproducible by an exact following, with no variation in structure, of word after word, as the pencil follows a drawing under tracingpaper, so only each word or syllable be not of false color, to change my illustration a little.

Well! that is because any writer worth translating at all has winnowed and searched through his vocabulary, is conscious of the words he would select in systematic reading of a dictionary, and still more of the words he would reject were the dictionary other than Johnson's; and doing this with his peculiar sense of the world ever in view, in search of an instrument for the adequate expression of that, he begets a vocabulary faithful to the coloring of his own spirit, and in the strictest sense original. That living authority which language needs lies, in truth, in its scholars, who recognizing always that every language possesses a genius, a very fastidious genius, of its own, expand at once and purify its very elements, which must needs change along with the changing thoughts of living people. Ninety years ago, for instance, great mental force, certainly, was needed by Wordsworth, to break through the consecrated poetic associations of a century, and speak the language that was his, that was to become in a measure the language of the next generation. But he did it with the tact of a scholar also. English, for a quarter of a century past, has been assimilating the phraseology of pictorial art; for half a century, the phraseology of the great German metaphysical movement of


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eighty years ago; in part also the language of mystical theology: and none but pedants will regret a great consequent increase of its resources. For many years to come its enterprise may well lie in the naturalization of the vocabulary of science, so only it be under the eye of sensitive scholarship-in a liberal naturalization of the ideas of science too, for after all, the chief stimulus of 10 good style is to possess a full, rich, complex matter to grapple with. The literary artist, therefore, will be well aware of physical science; science also attaining, in its turn, its true literary ideal. 15 overcome. And then, as the scholar is nothing with- Different classes of persons, at differout the historic sense, he will be apt to ent times, make, of course, very various restore not really obsolete or really worn- demands upon literature. Still, scholars, out words, but the finer edge of words I suppose, and not only scholars, but all still in use: ascertain, communicate, dis- 20 disinterested lovers of books, will always cover - words like these it has been part look to it, as to all other fine art, for a of our business' to misuse. And still, refuge, a sort of cloistral refuge, from a as language was made for man, he will certain vulgarity in the actual world. A be no authority for correctnesses which, perfect poem like Lycidas, a perfect ficlimiting freedom of utterance, were yet 25 tion like Esmond, the perfect handling of but accidents in their origin; as if one a theory like Newman's Idea of a Univowed not to say 'its,' which ought to versity, has for them something of the have been in Shakspere; 'his' and uses of a religious 'retreat.' Here, then, 'hers,' for inanimate objects, being but with a view to the central need of a a barbarous and really inexpressive sur- 30 select few, those 'men of a finer thread vival. Yet we have known many things who have formed and maintain the litlike this. Racy Saxon monosyllables, erary ideal, everything, every component close to us as touch and sight, he will element will have undergone exact trial, intermix readily with those long, savor- and, above all, there will be no uncharsome, Latin words, rich in 'second in- 35 acteristic or tarnished or vulgar decoratention.' In this late day certainly, no tion, permissible ornament being for the critical process can be conducted rea- most part structural, or necessary. As the sonably without eclecticism. Of such painter in his picture, so the artist in eclecticism we have a justifying example his book, aims at the production by in one of the first poets of our time. 40 honorable artifice of a peculiar atmosHow illustrative of monosyllabic effect, phere. The artist,' says Schiller, may of sonorous Latin, of the phraseology of be known rather by what he omits; science, of metaphysic, of colloquialism and in literature, too, the true artist may even, are the writings of Tennyson; yet be best recognized by his tact of omiswith what a fine, fastidious scholarship 45 sion. For to the grave reader words too throughout!

pleasurable stimulus in the challenge for a continuous effort on their part, to be rewarded by securer and more intimate grasp of the author's sense. Self-re5 straint, a skilful economy of means, ascêsis, that too has a beauty of its own; and for the reader supposed, there will be an esthetic satisfaction in that frugal closeness of style which makes the most of a word, in the exaction from every sentence of a precise relief, in the just spacing out of word to thought, in the logically filled space connected always with the delightful sense of difficulty.

are grave; and the ornamental word, the A scholar writing for the scholarly, figure, the accessory form or color or he will of course leave something to the reference, is rarely content to die to willing intelligence of his reader. To thought precisely at the right moment, go preach to the first passer-by,' says 50 but will inevitably linger awhile, stirring Montaigne, to become tutor to the ig- a long brain-wave' behind it of pernorance of the first I meet, is a thing haps quite alien associations. I abhor; a thing, in fact, naturally distressing to the scholar, who will therefore ever be shy of offering uncomplimentary assistance to the reader's wit. To really strenuous minds there is a


Just there, it may be, is the detrimental tendency of the sort of scholarly attentiveness of mind I am recommending. But the true artist allows for it. He will remember that, as the very word

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