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Walter Horatio Pater
(August 4, 1839 - July 30, 1894) - U.K.

Walter Pater

Critic and essayist


Born near Stepney, London, he was the son of Richard Glode Pater and Maria Pater. His father was a surgeon, that is, he was in general practice among the poor of the East End. Walter had a brother and two sisters. After their father died in 1842, the mother and the children moved to the better area of Enfield. In 1853 the family moved to Harbledon near Canterbury so that Walter could attend the King's School at Canterbury as a day boy.

In October 1858 Walter Pater went up to Queen's College, Oxford. He soon discarded his religeous faith and became a sceptic. He read widely, including Charles Darwin, Matthew Arnold, and John Ruskin. He failed to give his examinations sufficient attention and was disappointed with his second class degree in Literae Humaniores when he graduated in December, 1862.

In February 1864 he was elected to a probationary fellowship in classics at Brasenose College, Oxford. The fellowship was confirmed in February, 1865.

He established himself as a critic of some note by the early 1890s, but there was talk of his influence being unhealthy. He was seen to be advocating cultivated hedonism. Oscar Wilde became a follower of Walter Pater's doctrine of "Art for Art's Sake". Walter Pater made both friends and enemies with his paganism.

In January 1867 he published a review essay on Johann Joachim Winckelmann, the archæologist and art historian, and wrote of Winckelmann's "fervid friendships with young men". The essay was published anonymously in the Westminster Review.

Walter Pater was at times friends with Gerard Manley Hopkins. He met John Addington Symonds in March 1860 and a friendship developed. Walter Pater moved back to London in August 1885 and lived at 12 Earl Terrace, Kensington, W8. He was visited by other writers such as Henry James and Thomas Hardy.


Pater, a noted stylyst and supporter of "Art for Art's Sake", published:

  • Studies in the History of the Renaissance (1873)
  • Marius the Epicurean (1885)
  • Imaginary portraits (1887)
  • Appreciations: with an Essay on Style (1889)
  • Plato and Platonism (1983)
He also wrote short historical romances:
  • Emerald Uthwart (1892)
  • Apollo in Picardy (1893)
  • Gaston de Latour (1896)
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