ater outgrew the influences Oxford had to offer him. Withstanding its heightening ideological crises in the 1860s and '70s Oxford academia was still entrenched in tradition and dogma. For this reason, in the main, Pater had to look outside of Oxford mdash; to Germany and France mdash; for the radical, secular ideas he sought: Goethe, Fichte, Schiller, Hegel are amongst those he read.
He also looked back to the English Romantics where he found particular inspiration in William Wordsworth and S.T. Coleridge. These were the most philosophical of the Romantics and Pater his own concerns reflected in them, although he strongly criticized them too. Pater reflected years later that Coleridge's quest to bring the philosophies of Kant and Schelling to bear on his aesthetic found him "far from uniformly the best "("Coleridge" 82). However, Coleridge's metaphysics of the imagination and truth would have been one of the forces that opened German philosophy to Pater when he was an undergraduate and as such it was a significant influence on his ideas. Pater's essays on Wordsworth and Coleridge concentrate on their respective conceptions of time and the "moment’, which was, I believe, their lasting impression on Pater. Whilst he fiercely criticizes Coleridge's desire to fix truth, he admires the "spots of time "in Wordsworth's Prelude (‘Wordsworth "46). Each case acts as a stimulus for Pater's conception of the moment, which was infamously voiced in the Conclusion to The Renaissance and underlies his aesthetic.
The influence of the Romantic familiar essay is less overt but nonetheless important because Pater's essays in The Guardian newspaper and various journals successfully adopt the light tone and personalized voice of an essay by Charles Lamb or William Hazlitt. In one such essay on Charles Lamb, Pater defines the special quality he sees in Lamb's writings:
[There are] glimpses, suggestions, delightful half-apprehensions, profound thoughts of old philosophers, hits of the inner-most reasonin things, the full knowledge of which is held in reserve; all the varied stuff that is, of which genuine essays are made. ["Charles Lamb" 117]
The combination of attentive insight and restraint that invites the reader into contemplation described here might equally describe Pater's essays.
Pater's interest in Wordsworth and Lamb is insightful from a slightly different angle in that they reveal his tendency to seek inspiration from people with similar personal traits to his own. Or perhaps he simply modelled himself after these figures. In either case, he draws attention to the "wholly inward "changes in Wordsworth's long, apparently monotonous life. He observes&*mdash; and there is some self-justification here mdash; that Wordsworth is like
Those early Italian or Flemish painters, who, just because their minds were full of heavenly visions, passed, some of them, the better part of 60 years in quiet, systematic industry ["Wordsworth" 44)
In the context of a small and geographically close circle of academics in this period, Pater stands out. All of this suggests that Pater had a broad field of vision when it came to the theorists he took up, which in itself indicates how he might be of interest to the Victorian scholar.
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Last modified 15 November 2005