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See also Arnold, Matthew; Carpenter, Edward; Decadence; Ellis, Havelock; Philhellenic Movement; Symonds, John Addington; Wilde, Oscar. 'To burn always with this hard gemlike flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life.'The Renaissance (1873) at once became the touchstone for the decadent imagination for a generation of Oxford undergraduates.
The first, on Leonardo da Vinci (1869), included his famous invocation of the Mona Lisa: "She is as old as the rocks upon which she sits," the influence of which W. Yeats carried into the twentieth century when he printed this passage as the first poem in his Oxford Book of English Verse (1939).
Studies of Botticelli, Pico della Mirandola, and Michelangelo followed.
In 1893 Pater published his last book, Plato and Platonism, derived from lectures on ancient Greek philosophy, art, and archaeology. Modern scholars recognize Pater for having introduced a distinctively gay sensibility into English letters and for lending quiet inspiration to a generation of similarly inclined male writers, including J. Symonds, Edward Carpenter, Havelock Ellis, and Oscar Wilde.
Critics are still divided as to whether Pater's ethereally refined prose style expresses the final bloom of late Romanticism or announces a nascent modernism.
In 1872 he combined these with new essays, to produce Studies in the History of the Renaissance (1873).
To this work he attached the "Conclusion" from the Morris essay, which proved highly controversial in its new context and was withdrawn in the 1877 edition, only to be reinstated in 1888.
The mid If you put only one 150 year old book of art essays on your reading list, this is the one I would recommend.
The mid-Victorians had moved art criticism into the realms of the moral (Ruskin) and the objective (Arnold).
“What is important, then, is not that the critic should possess a correct abstract definition of beauty for the intellect, but a certain kind of temperament, the power of being deeply moved by the presence of beautiful objects.”A generation after Pater wrote these words, his views had come to dominate the fin de siecle.
Throughout the '70's, young intellectuals, particularly those of “Uranian” sensibility, gravitated to Pater's Oxford afternoon teas.