Walter Pater, fully Walter Horatio Pater

Walter
Pater, fully Walter Horatio Pater
1839
1894

English Essayist, Critic of Art and Literature and Writer of Fiction

Author Quotes

In a sense it might even be said that our failure is to form habits: for, after all, habit is relative to a stereotyped world, and meantime it is only the roughness of the eye that makes two persons, things, situations, seem alike.

The Renaissance of the fifteenth century was, in many things, great rather by what it designed that by what it achieved.

It is always hazardous to express what one has to say indirectly and allusively.

The service of philosophy, of speculative culture, towards the human spirit, is to rouse, to startle it to a life of constant and eager observation.

A very intimate sense of the expressiveness of outward things, which ponders, listens, penetrates, where the earlier, less developed consciousness passed lightly by, is an important element in the general temper of our modern poetry.

It is the addition of strangeness to beauty that constitutes the romantic character in art.

The various forms of intellectual activity which together make up the culture of an age, move for the most part from different starting-points, and by unconnected roads.

And the fifteenth century was an impassioned age, so ardent and serious in its pursuit of art that it consecrated everything with which art had to ad as a religious object.

Many attempts have been made by writers on art and poetry to define beauty in the abstract, to express it in the most general terms, to find some universal formula for it.

To burn always with this hard, gem-like flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life.

Art comes to you proposing frankly to give nothing but the highest quality to your moments as they pass.

No account of the Renaissance can be complete without some notice of the attempt made by certain Italian scholars of the fifteenth century to reconcile Christianity with the religion of ancient Greece.

To know when one's self is interested, is the first condition of interesting other people.

Art, then, is thus always striving to be independent of the mere intelligence, to become a matter of pure perception.

Not the fruit of experience, but experience itself, is the end. A counted number of pulses only is given to us of a variegated, dramatic life. How shall we pass most swiftly from point to point, and be present always at the focus where the greatest number of vital forces unite in their purest energy? To burn always with this hard gemlike flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life.

To regard all things and principles of things as inconstant modes or fashions has more and more become the tendency of modern thought. Let us begin with that which is without - our physical life. Fix upon it in one of its more exquisite intervals, the moment, for instance, of delicious recoil from the flood of water in summer heat. What is the whole physical life in that moment but a combination of natural elements to which science gives their names? But these elements, phosphorus and lime and delicate fibres, are present not in the human body alone: we detect them in places most remote from it. Our physical life is a perpetual motion of them - the passage of the blood, the wasting and repairing of the lenses of the eye, the modification of the tissues of the brain by every ray of light and sound - processes which science reduces to simpler and more elementary forces. Like the elements of which we are composed, the action of these forces extends beyond us; it rusts iron and ripens corn. Far out on every side of us those elements are broadcast, driven by many forces; and birth and gesture and death and the springing of violets from the grave are but a few out of ten thousand resultant combinations. That clear, perpetual outline of face and limb is but an image of ours, under which we group them - a design in a web, the actual threads of which pass out beyond it. This at least of flame-like our life has, that it is but the concurrence, renewed from moment to moment, of forces parting sooner or later on their ways.

At first sight experience seems to bury us under a flood of external objects, pressing upon us with a sharp and importunate reality, calling us out of ourselves in a thousand forms of action.

Not to discriminate every moment some passionate attitude in those about us, and in the very brilliancy of their gifts some tragic dividing on their ways, is, on this short day of frost and sun, to sleep before evening.

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.

Books are a refuge, a sort of cloistral refuge, from the vulgarities of the actual world.

Now it is part of the ideality of the highest sort of dramatic poetry, that it presents us with a kind of profoundly significant and animated instant, a mere gesture, a look, a smile, perhaps—some brief and wholly concrete moment—into which, however, all the motives, all the interests and effects of a long history, have condensed themselves, and which seem to absorb past and future in an intense consciousness of the present. Such ideal instants the school of Giorgione selects, with its admirable tact, from that feverish, tumultuously colored world of the old citizens of Venice—exquisite pauses in time, in which, arrested thus, we seem to be spectators of all the fullness of existence, and which are like some consummate extract or quintessence of life.

What we have to do is to be forever curiously testing new opinions and courting new impressions.

Experience, already reduced to a group of impressions, is ringed round for each one of us by that thick wall of personality through which no real voice has ever pierced on its way to us, or from us to that which we can only conjecture to be without.

One of the most beautiful passages of Rousseau is that in the sixth book of Confessions, where he describes the awakening in him of the literary sense. Of such wisdom, the poetic passion, the desire of beauty, the love of art for its own sake, has most.

Why do you always write poetry? Why do you not write prose? Prose is so much more difficult.

Author Picture
First Name
Walter
Last Name
Pater, fully Walter Horatio Pater
Birth Date
1839
Death Date
1894
Bio

English Essayist, Critic of Art and Literature and Writer of Fiction