Oxford £8.99 (193pp) from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
Studies in the History of the Renaissance, By Walter Pater
Friday 23 July 2010
If he is remembered at all, Pater is known for his influence on Oscar Wilde. In his introduction to this "incendiary" text of 1873, Matthew Beaumont describes it as being seen in the "bourgeois imagination" as "the literary equivalent of Zuleika Dobson".
It is hard today to see how Pater's book was regarded as a fatal temptation towards limp-wristed aestheticism, though it has many arresting passages. Of Botticelli's Venus, Pater ponders, "You might think that the sorrow in her face was at the thought of the whole long day of love to come."
But not everything in Pater is ethereal. We learn that his most famous phrase, "to burn with this hard gem-like flame [is success in life]", derived from an article entitled about chemistry.
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