decorated initial  'A'rnold was never so deeply bitten by Grecomania as was Pater. Arnold's "Hellenism" — as it emerges in the early poems, the Preface of 1853, the Preface to Merope, the Homer lectures, the Essays in Criticism, the Celtic lectures, and Culture and Anarcby — is a decidedly tamed and refined version of German Hellenism though linked to it by a search for an alternative to Christianity. In place of Titanism, or Prometheanism, or heroic struggles against the gods, there is the slightly donnish Rugby and Balliol "classical" man, detached to be sure from Christianity but never aggressively hostile to religion. Culture and Anarchy is symptomatic in hesitating between synthesis and a Hellenism above Christianity. The ideal is everywhere "moral" and smacks more of Herder's ethical humanitarianism than of Goethe's or Schiller's more aesthetic humanism. Above all, Arnold's Greece is invested with a Winckelmannian calm and leans toward the statuesque, a sunlit Apollonianism.1 The "noble simplicity and tranquil grandeur" of orthodox Hellenism is again and again at the center of Arnold's view of high Greek culture: his key terms are "calm," "objectivity," "harmonious acquiescence of mind," "noble serenity," "repose," "radiance," "harmony," "grace and serenity" (CPW, 1, 1, 20, 28, 59; 111, 378; V, 100, 125). Arnold's Hellenic ideal of "reason, ideas, light" shines with a cold and rather academic clarity; most damagingly, it was, even in his generation, uninformed. Pater was far more alive, both [171/172] temperamentally and for dialectical reasons of his own, to the "other" tradition-roughly, the Dionysian-in Greek art and religion.

Arnold's idealized and simplified Hellenism was in part a product of personal need and temperamental affinity. As T. S. Eliot once put it in The Use of Poetry, "The vision of the horror and the glory was denied to Arnold." (p. 106.) This statement is very similar to the charge of R. H. Hutton, an acute clerical critic of Arnold's own generation. Hutton's Spectator review of Essays in Criticism nettled Arnold, and provoked him to this response:

the article has Hutton's fault of seeing so very far into, a millstone. No one has a stronger and more abiding sense than I have of the "daemonic" element — as Goethe called it — which underlies and encompasses our life; but I think, as Goethe thought, that the right thing is, while conscious of this element, and of all that there is inexplicable round one, to keep pushing on one's posts into the darkness, and.to establish no post that is not perfectly in light and firm. One gains nothing on the darkness by being, like Shelley, as incoherent as the darkness itself. (L, L 289-90; March 1865)

At bottom, Arnold's Hellenism is cautious, and ultimately balance, first, because of his uninterrupted involvement with Christianity in the sixties, and second, because his attitude is a unique blend of rationalization and conciliation. His Hellenic ideal of comprehensiveness, harmony, totality (in Sophocles Arnold finds human nature "in its completest and most harmonious development," politically, socially, religiously, morally; CPW, 1, 28) easily becomes something like a diplomatic strategy in the ideal of "facing in every direction" and the hatred of "all over-preponderance of single elements" (L, 1, 360, November 1865; 1, 287, January 1865 ). Arnold's persistent concern with the role of Christianity joins with his rationalizing and conciliatory instincts in his fascination with the idea-endorsed by "the modem spirit" and "science," and associated with Wilhelm von Humboldt, Baron Bunsen, and Friedrich Schleiermacher — of a Christianity stripped of its "alien Semitic" features and brought into line with "the opener, more flexible Indo-European genius." ("On the Study of Celitic Literature," December 1865, in CPW, III, 301; see L, I, 442, Christmas 1867: "Bunsen used to say that our great business was to get rid of all that was purely Semitic in Christianity, and to make it Indo-Germanic, and Schleiermacher that in the Christianity of us Western nations there was really much more of Plato and Socrates than of Joshua and David."). [172/173]

Arnold's most developed treatment of the relation of Greek values to Christianity came with his discussion of Hellenism and Hebraism, in Culture and Anarchy. Rarely was he so satisfied with a performance; in June 1869, he wrote his mother that the chapters on Hellenism and Hebraism are "so true that they will form a kind of centre for English thought and speculation on the matters treated in them" (L, 11, 13). His point of view toward Christianity in Culture and Anarchy is inconclusive; and significantly, he immediately turned his attention to directly religious concerns for the next eight years. He wrote his mother in June 1870, shortly after the appearance of St. Paul and Protestantism: "I do hope that what influence I have may be of use in the troubled times which I see are before us as a healing and reconciling influence" (L, 11, 41). Surely Arnold is nowhere more Goethean than in his adoption of this role as healer and reconciler; as Henry Hatfield explains, Goethe's nature, apart from the period of his most doctrinaire Hellenism, "was basically conciliatory.... and he repeatedly attempted to bring the Hellenic and the Judeo-Christian positions into harmony." (p. 216). Arnold's writings are unquestionably open to T. S. Eliot's charge, "All his writing in the kind of Literature and Dogma seems to me a valiant attempt to dodge the issue, to mediate between Newman and Huxley." (Use of Poetry, pp. 105-106.) But it may be urged as fairly and more sympathetically that Arnold's mediatorial and conciliatory impulse simply sought to recognize the results of and the limitations imposed by "science" while preserving the most precious modes of knowledge from the past. It seems to have gone unnoticed that Arnold himself acknowledged that the inconclusive treatment of his Hellenism sprang precisely from his dual fear of the new (and presumably pagan and amoral) aestheticism, to which Pater was already making notable contributions, and of the new "tyrannical" orthodoxy of scientific rationalism. not in print version Charles Kingsley wrote Arnold in 1870 praising Culture and Anarchy, and Arnold replied: "If I was to think only of the not in print version Dissenters, or if I were in your position, I [173/174] should press incessantly for more Hellenism; but, as it is, seeing the tendency of our young poetical litterateur (not in print version Swinburne), and, on the other hand, seeing much of Huxley (whom I thoroughly liked and admire [sic], but find very disposed to be tyrannical and unjust), I lean towards Hebraism, and try to prevent the balance from on this side flying up out of sight." (G. W. E. Russell, p. 168.) That a reaction against the arrogance of the new antiliterary promoters of scientific education was a prime motive for Arnold's religious writings is clear in the Preface to Literature and Dogma; that it also inspired the careful qualifications of his treatment of Hebraism. and Hellenism should not be surprising. What is too little understood is that, even in the sixties, Arnold's insistence that his Hellenic "culture" be tempered by a moralized and untheological Christianity, and that his own program be one of "moderation," is in part his implicit response to an insurgent aestheticism. See a letter to his mother enclosing Kingsley's note (L, II, 50-51): "With Swinburne the favourite poet of the young men at Oxford and Cambridge, Huxley pounding away at the intelligent working man, and Newdigate applauding the German Education minister for his reactionary introduction of the narrowest Protestantism into the schools, and for thus sending psalm-singing soldiers into the field who win battles — between all these there is indeed much necessity for methods of insight and moderation."

A good deal of the difference between Pater's version of Hellenism and Arnold's can be attributed to Pater's more unambiguous acceptance of the results and implications of contemporall science. It is very hard to accept one reader's view that Pater was less aware than Arnold of the importance of science (Burgum, pp. 276-293). On the contrary, Pater welcomed evolutionary theory-both Hegelian and Darwinian-as confirming what René Wellek calls his own fundamental, Heraclitean "experience of the flux of time." (A History of Modern Criticism, IV, 396.) although Darwin could lead him to critical and metaphysical confusion,10 a key to Pater's work is the acceptance, from the [174/175] beginning, of the rigorous limitations imposed by the spokesmen of pust-Kantian philosophy and evolutionary science. (See J. Gordon Eaker, p. 5.) For example, in "Winckelmann" the central problem is how to create an art that preserves "the sense of freedom" (which Pater associates with "Hellenic humanism") while remaining aware that "The chief factor in the thoughts of the modern mind concerning itself is the intricacy, the universality of natural law even in the moral order" (Ren-1, p. 205). Pater's strategy here — calling for an art that preserves an "as-if" sense of freedom despite modern necessitarianism — strikingly anticipates the complex argument of Arnold's "Literature and Science" (1882), in which he defends a religiously colored poetry that gives us the momentary impression of living in a providential universe, even while accepting without demur the naturalistic deductions of Darwin and Huxley. Moreover, the Preface to the Renaissance announces that metaphysical questions are everywhere simply "unprofitable" (Ren-1, p. viii). Elsewhere in the Renaissance, Pater speaks of medieval misconceptions of "the place in nature both of the earth and of man" (Ren-1, p. 28) in the very accents Huxley adopted in the sixties.

This limitation to immediate experience is precisely the one accepted by Matthew Arnold, part of whose confusion in Literature and Dogma derives from his attempt to establish a kind of devout Christian agnosticism by a capricious "literary" method that is somehow only an extension of empirical methods of "verification." The extreme example of the marriage of aestheticism and scientific observation occurs in the Preface to the Renaissance, where Pater declares that the end of the "analytical" aesthetic critic is reached when he has "disengaged" the virtue by which a picture, a landscape, a fair personality in life or in a book, produces this special impression of beauty or pleasure," and "noted it, as a chemist notes some natural element, for himself and others " (Ren-1, p. ix). Robert Shafer's unsympathetic remarks about Pater apply equally to Arnold: "Pater's life-long attempt was, in substance, to save and find some valid sanction for the rewards and fruits of culture on the terms imposed by scientific naturalism. His effort was accepting to the full conclusions of the natural science of his time, still to provide a sure basis for the personal life of the individual particularly in its highest aspects." Shafer's implication, that to accept the supposedly scientific "purely empiric method" as the sole path to truth was in effect to make "culture" impossible, seems beyond dispute. ("Walter Pater Redivivus,", pp. 225-26.) (Shafer ends p. 230 with the paradox that the Paterian "sensationalist" is inevitably the "bosom-friend" of "the popularizer of natural science.")

What then differentiates the attitudes of Arnold and Pater toward science, and how does the difference affect their view of Hebraism and Hellenism? Arnold certainly accepted at every stage of his critical career the metaphysical enunciations of the Huxleyan dispensation. But he deplores the larger cultural consequences of the new propaganda for science, the effects on belief among the working class (a mixed religious [176/177] and political fear) and on the content of the broadening base of popular education. Moreover, science seemed contemptuously to reject Arnold's assertion that a "Christian" religious consciousness was still possible even while accepting the emerging synthesis concerning man and the universe. Pater, by contrast, seems more at home with the new world view from the beginning, and although he sees modern necessitarianism as destructive of essential elements in art, he works far more single-mindedly in his early career for a "modern" culture that is frankly pagan after the model of Goethe in his most Hellenic phase, a culture that does not need for its crown a specifically Christian coloring. Even the sense of "freedom," which the modern artist must strive to suggest in a "tragic" art, is in no special sense Christian. Nevertheless, it is religious, in the broadest sense, and religious in a way consciously opposed to Arnold's views. Pater's Hellenism was a deliberate response to, and modification of, Arnold's view of the Greeks. Pater adopts the fervor, the sensuousness, some of the implicit sexuality, and a good deal of the anti-Christian tone of certain parts of German Hellenism. His view of Greece is considerably more complex than Arnold's,.rather better informed, and more historically authentic. By adding the Dionysian tradition to the Apollonian, Pater was able, for polemical purposes, to advance his "enriched" view of Greek religlon as a conscious alternative to a played-out Christianity. Pater's greater knowledge allowed him to challenge Arnold's occasional high evaluation of medieval Christianity by suggesting that Greek popular religion, undervalued by Arnold, had permanent elements of depth and complexity which simply reappear in the Middle Ages. In the process, Periclean Athens, which had been Arnold's supreme exemPlum, tends to lose its uniqueness, is less detached from a complex historical background, and is reduced in interest to a level with other examples of high productive culture, above all the Italian Renaissance. This is not to suggest that the attempt to integrate Christianity into some higher synthesis-part of the nineteenth century's great attempt to come to terms with its "medieval" past-was ever entirely absent from Pater's successive attempts at reconciliation. In a sense Pater's religious development, from the paganism of the mid-sixties to some approximation [177/178] of historic Christianity twenty years later, seems clearer than Arnold's.

The man Pater, however, is neither simple nor easily analyzed. His deep need for synthesis is matched by a deep dualism running through his career and noticed by many readers. Ferris Greenslet speaks of "two conflicting mental dispositions" in Pater: "There was an abstracting, idealising, centripetal motive, tending to Puritanism or Pantheism in religion, counterbalanced by a more materialistic centrifugal force that found its natural religious affinities in very diverse quarters, in polytheistic Paganism, in Catholicism, or even in agnosticism." (Greenslet, p. 105). In Walter Pater, A. C. Benson speaks of "two distinct strains in Pater's mind": "a strong impulse towards transcendental philosophy, a desire to discern as far as possible the absolute principles of life and being," and "a strong attraction to precise and definite types of beauty" (pp. 11-12). Edwin Burgum found that this conflict between sensuality and a "religious" impulse had a psychological parallel in the struggle between spontaneity and control. ("Walter Pater and the Good Life," pp. 283-284.) No doubt, in general the pagan impulse, "the Greek point of view," dominated: his naturalism caused Pater to define Christianity "as nearly as possible in Greek terms. " (Ibid. See Edward Thomas, p. 222: Pater "aspired to be what he conceived to be a Christian, a Greek with Christianity added to his Hellenism, but by instinct and natural piety be was a Greek.") Certainly the Preface to the Renaissance proposes a life of precisely annotating sense impressions, while it disparages as unprofitable all metaphysical speculation. Pater's last work, Plato and Platonism, defines the Platonic dialectic in two senses-the one as a method in the search after transcendental truth, the other as a "temper," an inward-turning process of "tentative thinking and suspended judgment," valuable as maintaining receptivity to the many-sidedness of truth-and clearly opts for the second. But there is a good deal more to be said about the authenticity of Pater's Christianity and the place of religion in Pater's various attempts at synthesis. It is simply not true to say that Pater "Hellenized purely," and did not even pay lip service to Hebraism. (T. S. Eliot, Selected Essays p. 441; Iain Fletcher, p. 17.)

The deeper unifying pattern of Pater's career is provided by these [178/179] repeated attempts at synthesis. As Graham Hough has pointed out, Pater, for all his Victorian timidity and donnishness, "had an immense appreciation of the variety and multitudinousness of the world, and what is peculiar to his creed is not its sensationalism, but its unwillingness to sacrifice any of this variety." (The Last Romantics, p. 143.) This may be his strength, but Pater's unwillingness to countenance "renunciations" may also have been the tragic flaw in his central line of endeavor. The key words of the Renaissance are indicative: uniq, inclusiveness, magy-sidedness, adjustment, and the harmony of intellect, heart, and senses. Unacceptable are system, exclusion, fanaticism. Perhaps a dream of some universal "compatibility" is the key to the writings and to the projected personality behind them. But as Hough puts it, in Pater's habitual tendency toward fusion and unity, "it is not always easy to see whether he is merely blurring outlines, or really transcending dualities in a higher synthesis." (Ibid, p. 163.) The tendency is evident in such diverse matters as his preference for periods of transition when cultural forces can be pictured as moving in a dialectical advance, his vision of the accommodation of a "religious phase possible for the modern mind" to contemporary naturalism, and even his willingness to go against his own instincts in seeking out the best in the Philistine world of the Spartans. Greenslet speaks of Pater's choice of "fluid, romantic periods of transition foreshadowing the complexity of his own time" (pp. 53-54), and C. M. Bowra ("Walter Pater," Sewanee Review, LVII [Summer 1949], 396) remarks on Pater's unexpected generosity toward the Lacedaemonians in Plato and Platonism. The reasons for Pater's ultimate failure at synthesis and transcendence are not far to seek. Certainly his criticism conveys a far weaker sense than does Arnold's of the social function of the arts and of criticism. (Louise Rosenblatt, p. 172; Fletcher, p. 31.) Yet most readers today agree that Pater's aestheticism, for all its confusion of ethics and aesthetics, is essentially a special morality — not art for art's sake but art for the sake of a special conception of the perfected life. (See Fletcher, p. 20; Eliot, Selected Essays, pp. 438, 440.) If the crisis in this ethic can be detected, it comes, at least by the time of Marius in the eighties, with the realization that self- [179/180] cultivation is incomplete in isolation from others. This is the crisis of "sympathy" in Marius, involving certain "renunciations" and self-sacrifice, Marcus Aurelius, indifferent to the effect of his activities on others, stands in sharp contrast to the Christian Cornelius, who is outward-turning, superior to self-indulgence. The dilemma, obviously autobiographical in basis, is dear again in another late tale, "Apollo in Picardy," in which "Greek" indifference to pity and sympathy is the issue. (See Burgum, pp. 290-291.) Put simply, Pater did not always, in Burgum's words, "remain satisfied with the natural morality of the Greeks." (Ibid, p. 290.)

Perhaps Graham Hough is correct in his reading of the 1888 review of Robert Elsmere (EG, pp. 55-70) when he claims that Pater implies there can be no reconciliation, only the necessity of choice, between the "two estimates of life," the scientific and the Augustinian. The tragedy may be that Pater is finally unable to make the choice. He seems to endorse Marius' painful discovery that the newly revaluated higher morality of Cornelius is possible only on the condition of accepting Christian dogma. (Last Romantics, p. 155; see Burgum, "Walter Pater," p. 290.) Neither Marius nor Pater, once they had seen the inadequacy of the Greek morality of "adjustment" and "accommodation," could unambiguously make that final synthesis and exclusion, a dialectic of transcendence beyond the dialectic of the "elusive, provisional, contingent," in which, "as Lessing suggests, the search for truth is a better thing for us than its possession" (PP, pp. 186-187).

Matthew Arnold's own ethical crisis came earlier but in remarkably similar terms. The doctrine of criticism and culture in Essays in Criticism opened him to a variety of charges, especially those of hedonism, ethical self-centeredness, and indifference to the needs of the world. Culture and Anarchy is quite explicitly an attempt to defend culture against the charge of being "frivolous and useless," and to establish "the love of our neighbour" as in fact its "main and pre-eminent" motive (CPW, V, 95, 91). And the religious writings of the seventies with their emphasis on "dying to self" are unintelligible unless seen as a further strengthening of the ethical substrate of his evolving humanism. Certainly in the reassertion of his ideal of culture, after his return [180/181] to politics and literature in 1877, Arnold never again adopts quite the supremely self-confident "Greek" air of the sixties. The measure of Arnold's change of tone can be caught in "A Speech at Eton" (1879; IEO, pp. 409-429), which defends classical education and harmonious self-development in the words of Culture and Anarchy, but with a much deepened awareness of the "moral inadequacy" of both ancient and modern attempts to transform life. Like Pater after him, Arnold exhibits a traditional dualism in a variety of ways. Arnold and Pater remain for us figures of permanent interest and significance precisely because both are "moralists" who assign a high role to art and intelligence in modern life. The crises of their careers, their various attempts to synthesize the scarcely remediable divisions in the modern inheritance, throw light on some of the profound and often overlooked running issues of modem life. In the final accounting, neither was able to be simply Greek or Christian; instead, they are both "modern," in a sense each had endorsed." ([Burgum, "Walter Pater," p. 293.] Burgum's otherwise admirable study of Pater reduces the scope and significance of his career to a mere example of Victorian spiritual palsy.) Beyond the inevitably inhibiting Victorian timidity and fear of paganism, the two interrelated careers-each an example of the great "critical effort" that Arnold called for in England, almost unparalleled for fullness, sustained power, honesty, and "adequacy" are immensely significant attempts, even in their failure, to provide a new spiritual basis for modern life which incorporates nothing less than a "comprehensive" view of the totality of man's past.


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Last modified 29 August 2007