Spoor of Desire: Selected Poems
is available for $16.00 from FootHills Publishing, P.O. Box 68, Kanona NY 14856 or see www.foothillspublishing.com.

Tourist Snapshots is available for $8.95 from Randy Fingland, CC Marimbo, P.O. Box 933, Berkeley CA 94701 or see www.ccmarimbo.com.

Dada Poetry: An Introduction was published by Nirala Publications. It may be ordered on Amazon.com for $25 plus shipping. American buyers may order a copy from me for $23 including shipping.

The other books are also available from the author William Seaton. Write seaton@frontiernet.net.


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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Saki's Novels


Page references in parentheses are to The Complete Works of Saki (London: The Bodley Head, 1980). Endnotes are in brackets.


Though the literary space between the vulgar and the academic diminishes annually, short stories by Saki (H. H. Munro) retain a place in what remains of the generally educated person’s leisure reading. Their spirited wit, effervescent with one-liners, remarkable endings, and, quite often, a bracing edge of gruesome horror, has retained their place in anthologies and created Saki fans since their original publication. His plays (one full-length and two one acts) have received far less attention either on stage or in print, [1] and his three short novels have been similarly neglected.

In the case of his The Westminster Alice (really more a short story than a novel at a bare twenty-five pages), a decay of interest is to be expected. A satire on the parliament of the day based on Lewis Carroll, it is done with a light and expert hand, yet it requires far too many footnotes for a contemporary reader, particularly for one who is unsympathetic with Munro’s retrograde political views.

When William Came, however, though not killed by its political program, is severely wounded. The book, published the year the Great Britain entered World War I, imagines the country defeated by Germany and under Hohenzollern rule. [2] Though “invasion literature” had been popular for forty years, producing at least four hundred works, Munro did write on the very eve of hostilities. The story is a wake-up call, in particular urging conscription and expenditures for war readiness. [3]

The writing is sparking and delicious when describing the doings of what is left of London society. One can depend on lines such as “A noisy and very wearisome sort of woman . . .she reminds me of garlic that’s been planted out of place .” (752) Or “love is one of the few things in which the make-believe is superior to the original, it lasts longer, and you get more fun out of it, and it’s easier to replace when you’re done with it.” (695) The speaker of those lines, Ronnie Storre, is later dismissed by Joan Mardle, saying, “Ronnie, oh, I don’t count him, he’s just a boy who looks nice and eats asparagus.” (719) Gorla Mustelford’s exhibition of modern dance would have been worth enduring if only for the sake of the reviews. Mr. Maulevrer Morle: “Rostand . . .has been called le Prince de l’Adjectif Inopiné. Miss Mustelford deserves to be described as the Queen of Unexpected Movement.” (746) and the Standard reports, “It would have been a further kindness, at any rate to the audience, if some of the training which the wolves doubtless do not appreciate at its proper value, had been expended on Miss Mustelford’s efforts at stage dancing.” (753)

Apparently art is no consolation for the citizens of the defeated nation. Not only is Gora’s dancing ludicrous, but Ronnie’s piano playing meets with approval only from the Germans and the collaborators, while Yeovil responds with hostility, venting his love of country suddenly declaiming an out-of-the-way passage of Cowper. (781)

After the reliably amusing rewards of the dance spectacle and the ensuing critical reaction, such an ejaculation seems out of place, though this one is odd enough to seem merely curious. But the book has outrightly flat passages. Saki’s wit finds itself uncomfortably cheek-by-jowl with purely didactic statements the sincerity of which proves no compensation for the loss of flippancy and thoughtlessness. The ascription of the defeat to failure to “apprentice” for war (i.e. to have a draft) (706) is a fair specimen of the book’s call-to-arms. Much of Chapter 12 in which the Hungarian offers his opinions, criticizing the British for having grown soft and accepting a mild-mannered Christ no longer supernatural as well as the view that most foreigners were “amiable, good fellows” could have been written by anyone (766-7) and Yeovil’s own reflections at the end make even worse prose.

The author’s conservative patriotism leads him to the peculiar notion that imperial Germany under Kaiser Wilhelm is a socialist state. A phrase like the “Junkerdom and Socialism of Continental Germany” (751) is virtually inexplicable, though one hears that there are a suspicious number of socialists in Germany. (749) We find the forces of British labor acting disloyal by “hob-nobbing” with their German fellow-workers prior to the war, though in historical fact socialist parties throughout Europe were swift for the most part to abandon solidarity and embrace nationalism and the horrors of on an unjustifiable war. (708)

The version of the international socialist threat Saki envisions is mysteriously allied with an even more sinister element -- international Jewry. With the German victory Jews have become the “dominant race” or, what is nearly as bad, “ubiquitous.” (711) Yeovil describes his wife’s supper party as “racially-blended” in a scornful attack in which, to prevent anyone’s missing the point, he specifies (hissing, perhaps, as he does) “the name Mentieth-Mendlesohnn.” (752) As commonplace as anti-Semitism may have been, such an attitude seems out of place for an English patriot.

The savior from this poisonous internationalism compounded of Germans, Jews, and working people is Yeovil’s mother the Dowager Lady Greymarten, grown old in the service of the good, representing the landed gentry as England’s backbone and moral compass. Though too elderly now to do much, she remains stalwart and unbowed, a defender of all that’s good. Specifically what that good may be remains rather vague, but it is surely unsympathetic to Labour or Liberal views. It is this fine stock from which he has sprung that guarantees, perhaps, Yeovil’s principled resistance to the occupation which everyone is euphemistically calling the fait accompli. This absurd faith in the vestiges of the feudal system doubtless arises from the same reaction against modern capitalism felt by Trollope some decades earlier, but it is no whit more credible. Yet Saki’s rhetoric rises and swells as he recalls “successive squires and lords of Torywood had walked to and fro with their friends, watching the thunder-clouds on the political horizon or the shifting shadows on the sundial of political favour, tapping the political barometer for indications of change, working out a party campaign or arranging for the support of some national movement.” (771) Presumably all these past machinations in the service of Britain occurred within parameters considered safe by the ruling class. It is Lady Greymarten who charges her son to fight against the new regime. (775)

Murrey Yeovil had never doubted where he stood, and others begin to sort themselves out. We get a sentimental set-picture of emigrés raising the Union Jack in France (795), and Tony Luton, who had come up in society, shows the soundness of his character by departing for Canada while the altogether selfish like Cicely and Ronnie stay put and make accommodations. (785) But the hopeful ending is provided by, of all things, the Boy Scouts who fail to appear at a parade before the reviewing stand of the country’s new masters. I could think only of Red Dawn, the jingoistic American film with juvenile heroics a few minutes of which I once viewed in a late night motel room. Saki would have done better to write a few more Clovis stories. There he never went wrong. He might have known that his real-life patriotism and sincerity would mix poorly with his proven brand of literary cynicism.

The Unbearable Bassington proves that a small tincture of genuine emotion, albeit apolitical, could produce an effective novel when mixed with Saki’s wickedly witty satire of the idle rich. That comic sensibility, of which one recognizes elements in Wilde, Shaw, Firbank, Waugh, Wodehouse, Noel Coward, Cole Porter and others is inherently amoral, but it’s all in fun, and part of the game is to pretend that nothing really serious is ever at stake. Etiquette is all the more necessary because it always masks people’s universal self-interest. Caring for nothing, believing in nothing, they are left with only their manners and their taste. At the novel’s opening one learns that Francesca “if pressed in an unguarded moment to describe her soul, would probably have described her drawing-room." (570) “The impression she made on people was solely one of externals.” (675) And her son Comus is a marvelous figure of feral homoeroticism. “In appearance he exactly fitted his fanciful Pagan name.” He resembles a “goblin” or a “faun”; “one almost expected to see embryo horns fretting the smoothness of his sleek dark hair.” (576) The reader meets him as he sadistically enjoys caning a younger boy in his role as prefect.

The highly artificial structures of society seem all that separates human society from the brutes, so one practices them as a sort of ritual magic to protect one’s own interests without wastefully knocking horns with others. The humor generated by this elaborate pretense of civility wells up on every page. I need hardly document Saki’s most pronounced characteristic, but a single example, chosen nearly at random, can represent the rest. Comus bums a cigarette from Youghal.

“Friendship could go no further,” he observed, as he gave one-half [of his last smoke] to the doubtfully appeased Comus and lit the other himself.
“There are heaps more in the hall.” said Elaine.
“It was only done for the Saint Martin of Tours effect,” said Youghal; “I hate smoking when I’m rushing through the air.” (608)

The lack of an invading Teuton seems to have done little to enhance the consolations of art. At the theater the crowd “seemed for the most part to recognize the probability that they were quite as interesting as any play they were likely to see.” (654) This is perhaps true in the case of “Sherard Blaw” “the dramatist who had discovered himself, and who had given so ungrudgingly of his discovery to the world.” (655) Religion fares little better. The Archdeacon, a man “exquisitely worldly,”(655) declares his sympathy for the playwright's(presumably Shavian socialist) message, contrasting himself with “unbelievers,” only to be reproved by Lady Caroline who “blinked her eyes. ‘My dear Archdeacon,’ she said, ‘no one can be a unbeliever nowadays. The Christian Apologists have left one nothing to disbelieve.’” (655)

Nor has peacetime settled the author’s political discontents. One finds the same nasty anti-Semitism. In Vienna Elaine and Courtenay Youghal are obliged to mix with “stray units of the Semitic tribe that nineteen centuries of European neglect had been unable to mislay.” (670) Even as wit that characterization of Europe’s treatment of the Jews is pointless as well as monstrous and irresponsible. What comes off considerably better is Saki’s satire of the “progressive-minded” rich. [5] The interest of society people in “emancipating the serfs of poverty” is indeed ridiculous. In the catalogue of the bore Thorle’s causes “the furtherance of vague talkative religious movements” is of a piece with “the fostering of racial ententes,” since he is in the end “a skilled window-dresser in the emporium of his own personality.” (664) And even the radical reader can agree with Lady Caroline when commenting on Ada Spelvexit’s fondness for delivering improving lectures to working class women, “how painfully true it is that the poor have us always with them.” (617)

The book’s last two chapters mark a real departure, more sustained in its descent (or is it an ascent?) into genuine human emotion than anything else in the author’s oeuvre but which flashes forth occasionally in the short stories. Comus’ exile to one of the roughest of colonial assignments – West Africa – which had seemed most comically unfitted for one of his luxury-loving and idle temperament, and hence a dig at Imperialism in which titled peers took little active part and second sons tended to aim for the church or academia. Even among those who sought a living in the colonies, the Caribbean and a miscellany of other posts were generally preferred to British West Africa which had to make do with staffing its outposts with what might be left over. Perhaps I am influenced by my own time in sunny Nigeria, but to me the penultimate chapter was lyrical and affecting. The reader feels the first actual sympathy for the ne’er-do-well, an emotion sealed by his historically plausible early death in a place once called “the white man’s grave.”

Chapter XVI begins with a magnificent sentence in which the river of time like the author’s rhetoric, rushes impetuously, unstoppably onward through the heat and humidity. The paragraph has covered an entire page before the reader is even quite aware and it ends in a ghastly crescendo of the “horrible, tireless spiteful-sounding squawking of the iron-throated crows.” (677) And just as the reader feels, for the first time, poignant emotion toward Comus, Comus himself, the last man one would have thought liable to sentiment, has an epiphany. “He had loved himself very well and never troubled greatly whether any one else truly loved him, and now he realized what he had made of his life. And at the same time he knew that if his chance were to come again he would throw it away just as surely, just as perversely. Fate played with him with loaded dice, he would lose always.” He is thinking, of course, of his mother. (681)

Though Comus expires in the bush, at the same time his mother Francesca comes to realize, to her sadness, that “she knew he was the one thing the Fates had willed that she should love.” (683) Her suffering even touches the reprobates about her. “’Heaven help that poor woman,’ said Lady Caroline which was, for her, startlingly like a prayer.” (685) Just as the reader is enveloped in pathos Henry Greech appears, mistaking her distress to be a lament for her prized painting which had once meant a very great deal to her, but which now seems valueless. It has, it seems, been found a forgery. And apart from the pathos and comedy of this final scene, it washes the entire story in the same issue of authenticity. Even in her mourning, Francesca realizes “his naughtiness, his exasperating selfishness, his insurmountable folly and perverseness, his cruelty that spared not even himself.” (683) One wonders whether all the high-spirited fun of this book and of Saki’s wonderful short stories is a sort of whistling in the dark. All the dedicated self-amusements, the witty ridicule, the posturing and refined aesthetic pleasures may take place not in spite of, but because of the old truth restated by Lady Veula whose voice had held such kindness when bidding Comus farewell and who had then sighed, “What a tragedy life is!” (668)



1. Oddly, while his plays went unread, his short stories have been dramatized with some success in Emlyn Williams’ The Playboy of the Week-End World (1977), Saki Shorts(2003) a musical by John Gould and Dominic McChesney, Toby Davies’ Wolves at the Window (2008), and another musical Miracles At Short Notice (2011) by James Lark.

2. The fact, ironic but irrelevant here to pursue, is that the House of Hanover and that of Hohenzollern are closely interrelated.

3. For a popular account of invasion literature, see Tom Reiss, “Imagining the Worst,” The New Yorker, November 28, 2005, p. 106. Munro himself enlisted at the age of forty-three, when he might have been excused, insisted on the rank of a common soldier, returned when wounded against medical advice, and recklessly volunteered for hazardous missions. The story has been often repeated, how he was killed by a German sniper moments after warning a comrade-in-arms, "Put that bloody cigarette out!”

4. It matters little that the British Jews are given a phrase of praise for their loyalty. (710) In the novel it’s those Continental Jews that are so much more disagreeable. One may imagine what the author’s reaction would have been to genuine Ostjuden.

5. I can similarly appreciate the satire of Tom Wolfe in “Radical Chic” without conceding to a single reactionary view. In the last forty years the term “politically correct,” at first a self-mocking term used only among leftists, has come to be used almost exclusively by the right.

The Fetish of the Primitive in Twentieth Century Art

This is a work in progress, the current draft of a lecture I will deliver in the spring or summer at the Seligmann Center’s Robert Fagan Library which includes a substantial share of books describing non-European art. Kurt Seligmann himself not only traveled around the world in 1936 but made a further trip to the American Pacific Northwest in 1938 where he purchased a magnificent totem pole now on display at the Musée de l’Homme in Paris.


The visitor to my home will see West African carvings from Benin and Urhobo artists, masks from the Tarahumara of the Mexican Sierra Madre Occidental, weavings from the Maghreb, a Cambodian wooden Buddha, set among dozens of other artifacts collected during a lifetime of travel. Doubtless these are simple souvenirs like the decals of Niagara Falls or the Grand Canyon people used to place in their car windows, yet to my mind they also provide a potent reminder of the nature of art, displayed as they are among contemporary drawings and paintings, many by my wife or by friends and acquaintances. Thus I am no scholar claiming a fictitious objectivity; rather I am myself a participant in the fetishization I mean to discuss. Far from casting doubt on my conclusion, this involvement seems to me to provide life and blood to my inquiry.

The articulation of connections between the twentieth century artistic avant-garde and the idea of the primitive is hardly a simple pattern of influence or inspiration. The revaluation of so-called “primitive art” [1] as well as folk art, outsider art, and children’s art by sophisticated European artists, critics, and intellectuals has been a significant influence in poetry and music as well as visual art. In many cases the use of “the primitive” requires little or no specific reference to indigenous art but signifies primarily either a rebellious inversion of received ideas or a more general claim to artistic freedom. In fact, the primitive has been used as a fetish, very much in the historical and anthropological use of the word which originally, like poem, meant simply an artificially constructed object, which is to say, a work of art, but which was used by Portuguese mariners to describe West African objects charged with power by human imagination. Just as the Africans infused their masks and charms with juju, and Polynesians with mana, so, in turn, the European artists gave those same objects a new sort of force, replacing the contempt with which their white ancestors had viewed the “superstition” of what seemed lower races, with respect and even awe. The art was cut free from the world-view of its creators and made to serve instead the purposes of its modern discoverers.

Though many in the nineteenth century subscribed to an evolutionary view of human development in which the most recent developments were considered the “highest,” a significant faction of artists dissented, finding value in what was generally rejected or ignored. Especially since the Romantic era, the mythic projection of the “primitive” as Other meant that such art was seen by a counter-culture as having greater access to emotion, truth, and the divine than that produced by etiolated Europeans throttled by self-consciousness and decadence. In this polemical reaction against prevailing values, artists conflated all “primitives” into a single category and sometimes also included children, mental patients, peasants, and women as fundamentally similar.

Such symbolic use of primitive as Other charging it with significance it would not otherwise bear is in fact an ancient and universal topos, far too vast a topic to treat here. It was sophisticated urban Greeks that invented the poetic pastoral, presenting poetry with shepherds as personae, sometimes for comic effect, but often as ideal lovers. Theocritus was an Alexandrian but wrote in the voice of a Sicilian shepherd, and one of the themes of Classical pastoralism is the superiority of rural life to that of the corrupt cities. For Ovid the primal age was Golden without armies, judges, or even labor. [2] It was to this mythic era that Rousseau refers in The Social Contract which opens “Man is born free, and he is everywhere in chains.” His Discourse on the Origin and Basis of Inequality Among Men maintains, as Engels was to do a century later, that originally men lived in a utopian communist state and that private property is the source of classes and inequality.

During the Romantic Era the polarity received renewed attention. The Romantics privileged emotion and intuition over rationality, spontaneity over craft, originality over tradition, and the primitive over the civilized. Thus in the Preface to Lyrical Ballads Wordsworth says he has decided to “chuse incidents and situations from common life, and to relate or describe them, throughout, as far as was possible, in a selection of language really used by men [that is to say, not in literary or learned language].” He goes on, “Low and rustic life was generally chosen, because in that condition, the essential passions of the heart find a better soil in which they can attain their maturity, are less under restraint, and speak a plainer and more emphatic language; because in that condition of life our elementary feelings co-exist in a state of greater simplicity, and, consequently, may be more accurately contemplated, and more forcibly communicated.” [3]

The celebration of the “primitive” was evident as well in the new-found attention and respect oral literature received from Percy in England, Burns in Scotland, Herder, von Arnim, Brentano, and the Grimm brothers in Germany. The nationalist impetus during the nineteenth century led to the recognition and use of folk motifs in music by composers such as Lvov, Chopin, Sibelius, and Dvořák the last of whom declared that "In the Negro melodies of America I discover all that is needed for a great and noble school of music." [4] Meanwhile on the level of popular culture minstrel shows were the leading form of musical entertainment in nineteenth century America. [5]

With the growth of colonialism, knowledge about the actual circumstances of other societies became more widespread and the curious could view non-European artifacts, not in art museums but in new institutions whose galleries were entirely devoted to ethnographic displays. Napoleon’s Egyptian campaigns led to the popularity of “oriental” scenes which increased in popularity throughout the century in both France and Britain, particularly as an avenue of presenting “harem” scenes or other female nudes. [6] By the end of the nineteenth century not only had European museum collections of colonial art swollen; in addition, the general public was exposed to such work at expositions such as the 1889 Paris World’s Fair and the 1908 Franco-British show in London which included “indigenous villages.” [7]

Scholars had, for the first time, sufficient fairly accurate information about oral cultures to generalize in such works as Primitive Culture (1871) by E. B. Tylor, the “father of cultural anthropology,” James Frazer’s Golden Bough (1890), and Lucien Lévy-Bruhl’s Les fonctions mentales dans les sociétés inférieures (1910). As the title of Lévy-Bruhl’s work reveals, these authors generally took an evolutionary approach, regarding the thought processes of the societies they studied as quite different from those of the moderns studying them. [8]

A significant number of artists and intellectuals accepted this sort of conventional judgment, but reversed the values, preferring the primitive. For this reason artists in France left the metropolis for Pont-Aven in Brittany, thinking it more backward and thus Edenic. Long before setting out for the South Seas, Gauguin wrote “I love Brittany. I find something savage, primitive here.” [9] He was joined by Émile Bernard, Paul Sérusier, and others, while German artists were forming similar colonies for the same reasons in Worpswede and Neu Dachau. These artists were in general not seeking to imitate folk art styles; they sought instead the inspiration of what seemed a more elemental lifestyle. Thus Gauguin, speaking of his “Vision after the Sermon,” said, ““I believe I have achieved a great rustic superstitious simplicity in these figures.” [10] Gauguin proudly declared his satisfaction with a village where, as he said, “I live like a peasant and am known as a savage.” [11]

But the fact was that Brittany had already become a favored spot for British and American second homes as well as for the occasional artist, and it soon seemed too civilized for Gauguin. He traveled to Tahiti and then to the Marquesas. Among the artists who sought in their travels a first-hand look at “the primitive” were Matisse, who spent time in Algeria and Morocco, Kokoschka in Tunisia, Pechstein who followed Gauguin to Tahiti, and Nolde who visited the Far East and New Guinea. Meanwhile they and others looked with a new eye during their visits to museum collections such as those at the Musée d'Ethnographie du Trocadéro which attracted the attention of Picasso and others. [12] Further, by 1905 Matisse, Vlaminck, and Derain had all purchased African art for their own collections. [13]

Artists of the Blaue Reiter group protested “the contemptuous gesture with which connoisseurs and artists have to this day banished all artistic forms of primitive cultures to the fields of ethnology or applied art is amazing at the very least” [14] Marc, Burliuk, and others labeled themselves “savages,” (just as slightly earlier artists had been called les fauves) [15] while in Russia Shevchenko called Neoprimitivism “a profoundly national phenomenon.” [16]

For the Surrealists Freud’s concept of the unconscious placed a sort of primitive realm within every person’s psyche, reachable by dreams, by art, and by chance operations, but which are as well immediately available in the primitive. There they thought they might find “manifestations of uninhibited desire” and techniques to further “the integration of the sacred in their everyday world.” [17] Breton even operated a shop Gradiva which sold non-European art as did Éluard on a smaller scale. Michel Leiris participated in the Mission Dakar-Djibouti that brought thousands of objects from Africa to France. Max Ernst created a myth of his own shamanic rebirth as “a magician” “seeking to find the myth of his time.” [18] Their attitude was reflected in a map of “the world in the time of the Surrealists” in which Europe is insignificant and Oceania both central and immense. [19] Many classic Surrealist techniques such as invention of automatic writing, trance, and the invention of myth and ritual were considered to mirror practices of primitive cultures.

In spite of this profound and consistent interest in primitive art among generations of moderns, actual stylistic borrowing is rare indeed. In the last quarter of the nineteenth century artists rebelled against the illusionist realism of academic painting by stressing the flat and decorative surfaces they perceived in Japanese woodcuts and Oceanic ornamentation in what Dujardin called Cloisonnism. The schematic planes of some African masks clearly encouraged Cubist portraiture. Yet even these cases cause and effect is very difficult to demonstrate convincingly. According to Robert Goldwater’s pioneering study Primitivism in Modern Art (1938), artists used the primitive precedent to ratify or reinforce what they were already doing. [20] The groundbreaking Negro Art Exhibition at Stieglitz’s 291 Gallery curated by Marius de Zayas was designed to open viewers to modern art rather than to educate them about Africa. In the pamphlet he wrote for the exhibit de Zayas says, “Negro art has reawakened in us a sensibility weakened by education.” Though itself a “product of the ‘Land of Fright,’ created by a mentality full of fear and completely devoid of the faculties of observation and analysis,” African art resembles the most modern in that it is “intensely expressive” rather than “natural.” [21]

Primitivism in poetry proves an instructive parallel to that in visual art. Occurring later, due doubtless to the lag in the availability of oral texts in comparison with sculpture from the same regions, the valorization of the primitive by writers once begun went hand in hand with that by painters. After a vogue for the archaic in the Romantic era that produced such faux semi-primitives as Macpherson’s Ossian and Chatterton’s Rowley, [22] the interest in foundational national epics led to Lönnrot stitching together the Kalevala and Longfellow’s composition of Hiawatha. In Une Saison en Enfer Rimbaud had declared as a battle-cry, “The pagan blood returns!” [23] shortly before he departed for the African bush. D. H. Lawrence’s infatuation with Mexico and ancient Etruria and his fierce critique of modern society was informed by his familiarity with Tylor and Frazer.

The Dadaists celebrated the primitive as part of their drive to overturn all received ideas. Weimar Dadaist Hannah Höch showed her own work, including African-style masks, under the title “From an Ethnographic Museum.” Huelsenbeck invented his own “Negro words” (“’Umba, umba,’ which I roared and spouted over and over again to the audience” [24] is a fair example) and Tzara collected African and Oceanic art and wrote what he called Negro Poems. [25] They performed “les chants nègres” with music, sounds, and dancing of their own invention. Tzara said “My other brother is naïve and good, and laughs. He eats in Africa or along the South Sea Islands . . . Art, in the infancy of time, was prayer. Wood or stone were truth.” [26]

In the early twentieth century translations of Far Eastern poetry by Pound, Waley, and others had an impact on Imagism comparable to that of African sculpture on Cubism. The best-known Asian poetic traditions are, of course, highly sophisticated. After such individual adventures as Artaud’s visit to the Tarahumara peyotists in Mexico and Paul Bowles’ transcription of the stories of illiterate Moroccans, the quest for primitive poetry led to Jerome Rothenburg’s best-selling Technicians of the Sacred in 1968 to be followed by other anthologies, and then his founding of the journal Alcheringa with Dennis Tedlock two years later.

Though Tedlock is an academic anthropologist, he is also an initiated shaman among Highland Mayan people (as is his wife Barbara) in Guatemala. Alcheringa published translations of oral texts as well as new poetry by poets such as Gary Snyder and Robert Kelly. Its first issue identified itself as “the first magazine of the world’s tribal poetries,” yet disclaimed scholarly goals, noting that “while its sources will be different from other poetry magazines, it will be aiming at the startling & revelatory presentation that has been common to our avant gardes.” In other words, the “primitives” are to read as though they were contemporary experimentalists despite the fact that the social role of all oral poets guarantees that they be highly conventional traditionalists.

Rothenburg claimed for the primitive a mystical “sense-of-unity” he believes to have been “shattered” by modern minds. “Revolutionary & limit-smashing” poets are to him “forerunners” in the recovery of such a wholesome unified vision. [27] He lists six areas of common ground between the primitives and his own circle, including orality, “intermedia,” and the poet’s role as shaman. This bias leads to the presentation of texts and events first recorded by anthropologists in such a way to make them resemble happenings or performance art. With this refracting lens, a simple conversation in William R. Geddes’ Nine Dayak Nights in which the tribal people explain quite sensibly that they discard food waste from their stilt houses without carrying it to a dump area because their pigs eat it becomes a “Garbage Event” in which “the participants defend the ‘abandoned beauty’ and ‘town-quality’ of their environment” [28] though in fact the quoted terms are those of the European observer and not those of the natives at all. The primitives again provide an excuse for deviation from the norm and criticism of existing values. Other American poets participating in similar shamanistic ambitions include Michael McClure (whose growlings differ little from the pseudo-African cries of the Dadaists) or the feminist myth-making of Diane di Prima in Loba and Anne Waldman in The Iovis Trilogy.

In the eighteenth century Schiller had regarded “naïve” poetry expressing a “primal unity of vision,” which the civilized, entangled in “artificial relations and situations” could only recall as an ideal. [29] The early twentieth century considered primitive art a model in that it was somehow absolute art, “non-referential,” or “self-contained,” in the words of Carl Einstein “oriented not toward the viewer, but in terms of themselves” [30] though in fact, anthropologists would say that in traditional societies art is far more closely integrated with other realms of people’s lives. According to Wilhelm Worringer all art had been at first abstract, though European art had deviated in its gradually tendency toward mimesis and illusionism. [31] Françoise Gilot recalled Picasso’s saying that what impressed him about African sculpture was that it was made for “a sacred purpose, a magic purpose.” [32] Surely it is no coincidence that the attempt to recover the artist’s vatic role, the search for the divine, for a truth truer than science arose in the wake of the nineteenth century death of god and the rejection of modern capitalist society went hand in hand with the rejection of rationality itself. Nietzsche’s deeply non-logical but creative will passed into the Freudian subconscious. Those who sought truth and beauty in the primitive often were little concerning with actual “primitives”; instead they were expressing a sort of faith in the metaphysical itself, imperiled by science, and asserting the central role of artists in accessing a deeper truth than that of everyday consciousness.

Looking at the Huichol yarn painting on the wall of my study, or the Haitian wax figures from a Brooklyn botanica behind the glass in a barrister’s bookcase, or, indeed, the works my wife Patricia has brought home from schizophrenic patients and the paintings of my small grandchildren provides me not so much with information about the specific vision of the artists who created these objects as a constant reminder that an accurate concept of art cannot be constructed without the inclusion of such evidence. Art for most people in most times seems in many ways far closer to these “anthropological” artifacts than it is to the work of Raphael or to Marina Abramović, but art is universal because it is at its root an essential need of humanity. We require fetishes to make life livable just as the masked tribal dancer possessed by deity does. Often investigators have sought to recover the “artistic” value of what once was labeled primitive art; it is time to admit the “magical” value of work by contemporary and cosmopolitan minds. The biologists have long known that, since the appearance of our singular species and in every part of the world to which we have spread, our minds are all the same.



1. Of course, the term (as well as others like “savage,” and “barbaric”) is now considered impossibly ethnocentric and outmoded. In the first half of the twentieth century “primitive” was used unselfconsciously, including by Robert Goldwater for his seminal study Primitivism and Modern Art. I employ it here since my focus (like his) is the idea of the primitive; it is for anthropologists to analyze the actual cultures that were once given that label.

2. Metamorphoses, 1, 89 ff.

3. Among other significant pre-Romantics who revalued the primitive is Montaigne whose marvelous essay “On the Cannibals” declares “there is nothing barbarous and savage in this nation, by anything that I can gather, excepting, that every one gives the title of barbarism to everything that is not in use in his own country.” Schiller’s On Naïve and Sentimental Poetry, Diderot’s Supplement au voyage de Bougainville and most particularly Vico’s New Science were particularly influential in the 18th century.

4. Often quoted, the remark first appeared in an interview in the New York Herald Tribune for May 21, 1893.

5. The trend continued as first ragtime and then jazz enjoyed enormous vogues in the early twentieth century. In the past fifty years that connoisseurs have discovered blues and other folk music including that from India and other parts of the world. Most would agree that West African music is, by way of American jazz, blues, and rock and roll, the most important component of popular music throughout the world today. Compare the prominent place of the music of the socially despised and poverty-stricken Roma in Europe.

6. Many commercially produced postcards of the era and indeed well into the twentieth century featured putatively North African or Arab models in partial or complete undress.

7. Such shows had been part of the Jardin d'acclimatation amusement park in the Bois de Boulogne since 1877. They became de rigeur thereafter in virtually all such exhibitions including Colonial Exhibitions in Marseilles (1906 and 1922) and in Paris (1907 and 1931). “Natives” were often caged and appeared nude or semi-nude. Since the 1874 introduction of Sami herdsmen to accompany a reindeer exhibit in Hamburg, indigenous people were increasingly featured in zoos. Such attractions were offered in fifteen European zoos by 1900 as well as in America. The trend lasted until 1936 when the last such exhibit was closed in Turin. Artists such as Kirchner and Heckel visited such shows. See Gill Perry, “Primitivism and the Modern,” in Primitivism, Cubism, Abstraction (New Haven: Yale UP, 1993), 63.

8. Lévy-Bruhl’s book was translated into English as How Natives Think (1926). To Tylor all religion was a vestigial survival of primitive modes of thinking.

9. Quoted in Perry 8.

10. Quoted in Perry 18.

11. Quoted in Colin Rhodes, Primitivism and Modern Art, (London: Thames on Hudson, 1994), 26.

12. Picasso’s visit in 1907 occurred 83 after he had painted Demoiselles d’Avignon. In 1928 Georges-Henri Rivière who had ties to the Surrealists became the director of the museum.

13. Perry 55.

14. August Macke, “Masks,” in The Blaue Reiter Almanac The Documents of 20th-Century Art, edited by Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc documentary edition by Klaus Lankheit (NY: Viking Press, 1974), 88.

15. The Blaue Reiter Almanac, 61, 72, and elsewhere.

16. See Aleksandr Shevchenko’s Neo-primitivizm (1913). Shevchenko envisioned an art in which influences of Cézanne, Cubism and Futurism would mix with traditional Russian 'folk art' conventions.

17. Louise Tythacott, Surrealism and the Exotic (Routledge: London and New York, 2003), 59. It is telling that, while providing a wealth of historical and biographical data, Tythacott’s detailed study offers little in the way of specific borrowing.

18. Rhodes 174.

19. Published in a special issue of Varietés in 1929 along with writing by René Crevel, Paul Éluard, Louis Aragon, Robert Desnos, André Breton, and others. Africa is small. Alaska is huge as is Russia, though perhaps this fact owes more to Communism as to primitivism.

20. Joyce Henri Robinson in a review of Frances S. Connelly’s The Sleep of Reason: Primitivism in Modern European Art and Aesthetics 1725-1907 in Studies in the Decorative Arts, Vol. 4, No. 1, fall/winter 1999, p. 130 supports Goldwater’s contention that it is more a matter of an “attitude conducive to art” than specific borrowings.

21. Reprinted in Primitivism and Twentieth-century Art: A Documentary History, edited by Jack D. Flam and Miriam Deutch (Berkeley: U. of California Press, 2003).

22. Compare with Armand Schwerner’s imitation of Sumero-Akkadian texts in his Tablets (1974).

23. He had originally considered titling the book Livre païen or Livre nègre.

24. Richard Huelsenbeck, Memoirs of a Dada Drummer (Berkeley: University of California, 1991),9. Huelsenbeck says then that Mynheer Ephraim, the landlord of the Cabaret Voltaire, an old sailor, objected that these were not Negro at all and taught Huelsenbeck what he said were authentic African and Oceanic chants.

25. Reprinted in a translation by Piette Joris, Alcheringa II,1 (Boston: 1976), pp. 76-114.

26. Reprinted in Vassiliki Kolotroni, Jane Goldman, and Olga Taxidou’s Modernism: An Anthology of Sources and Documents (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), 281.

27. Jerome Rothenberg, Technicians of the Sacred (Garden City NY: Doubleday, 1969), xxii.

28. Rothenberg 108. Cf. W. R. Geddes, Nine Dayak Nights (London: Oxford UP, 1967), 19-20.

29. See Schiller’s On Naïve and Sentimental Poetry.
30. See Carl Einstein, African Sculpture (1915).
31. Wilhelm Worringer, Abstraction and Empathy (1908).
32. Francoise Gilot and Carleton Lake, Life with Picasso (New York: Doubleday, 1964), 266.

Marius the Epicurean as a Modern

Page references in parentheses are to Walter Pater, Marius the Epicurean (New York: The Modern Library). My copy bears no date but was printed after the time the series carried the Boni & Liveright imprint but before Random House, probably in the late 1920s. Endnotes are in brackets.


The twenty-first century reader may perhaps be excused for thinking of Walter Pater’s Marius the Epicurean as an outdated old Victorian volume. The author indeed revels in archaic language to represent his second century characters, a strategy that makes about as much sense as film actors accenting their English to indicate that they are to be understood as speaking a foreign tongue. His elaborate prose style, whatever pains he may have taken over it with whatever success, has little general appeal these days. Some of his sentences, once they have taken off, hover over clause after clause, each with pendants of attached phrases, until the reader who fails to be entranced may begin to wonder when the soaring syntax will ever come in for a landing, though it generally sets down with considerable grace in the end.

Since fictional representations of late antiquity and the early Christian era were exceedingly popular toward the end of the nineteenth century, they naturally seem outmoded today. The original buyers of Pater’s Marius the Epicurean may have expected something similar to the immensely popular novel by Marie Corelli Barabbas: A Dream of the World’s Tragedy (1893). [1]

Pater’s book, however, did not conform to a formula likely to produce a best-seller. His connoisseurship is evident in his inclusion of a miniature library of literary genres of the era in which he set his work: the entire Cupid and Psyche episode from The Golden Ass of Apuleius as well as Fronto’s oration, Eusebius’ letter, and a good bit of Lucian's Hermotimus. Though this assemblage might seem weighty with scholarship and bookish tastes, Marius the Epicurean was in fact attacked, not for being dryasdust, but as an enemy of public morals. The dangers some once saw in The Renaissance as an invitation to antinomian hedonism seem now distant indeed, but Yeats’ words can perhaps suggest the reaction of many less sympathetic readers in Pater’s own time and after. Though he says of the novel, “it still seemed to me, as I think it seemed to all of us, the only great prose in modern English,” “yet I began to wonder if it, or the attitude of mind of which it was the noblest expression, had not caused the disaster of my friends. It taught us to walk upon a rope, tightly stretched through serene air, and we were left to keep our feet upon a swaying rope in a storm.” [2] Yeats’ attitude surely expresses his personal regret at the dissolute ways and premature deaths of several associates including friends in the Rhymers’ Club, but newer forms of self-destructive behavior have rendered the aesthetic pose decidedly démodé.

Even those with no lost bohemian friends once felt that Pater was potentially toxic. Legouis and Cazamian’s masterful and thorough literary history included a warning on Pater that must have made his readers feel as though they were in danger of contracting a dreadful and lethal progressive disease: “This consistent hedonism does not stop short of its ultimate stage; it shakes off all the chains with which society and the hygiene of souls have loaded the skillful search for pleasure, unmindful of the collectivity, it makes for the death of the individual along a path blossoming with roses and strewn with ashes.” [3]

In spite of his place in what today seems quaint controversy, prose that strikes many as fustian, and absorption in the past, Pater’s recent editors claim him as a modernist of sorts. The prolific critic Harold Bloom deemed Marius the Epicurean “one of the more remarkable fictional experiments of the late nineteenth century," and considered Pater the inspiration of “all the High Modernists.” [4] while to Michael Levey the book "look[s] forward beyond its century to modern works of fiction". [5] To critic Gowan Dawson the book displays “a self-conscious manipulation of various levels of discourse and genre that anticipates the fictional techniques of modernism.” [6] One might in fact with some justice call the book postmodern on the basis of its substitution of bricolage for plotting, its self-referentiality and intertextuality, as well as its themes of decentered truth and ineluctable flux. In fact, Marius the Epicurean in both content and form is distinctly modern.

Chapter VI titled “Euphuism” can be read as Pater’s apologia for his stylistic and narrative innovations, justifying highly artificial, ingenious, and learned rhetoric, yet mixed with vigorous and colorful demotic expressions, thereby constituting a “late” manner and forming a dramatic contrast to the realism and naturalism popular at the time of the book’s publication. Rather than ideals of spontaneity, sincerity, and directness, he claims for “the literary art,” “the secrets of utterance,” the sole power to convey “the intellectual or spiritual power within one.” (77) He praises Flavian’s taste: “What care for style! What patience of execution! What research for the significant tones of ancient idiom – sonantia verba et antiqua! What stately and regular word-building! – gravis et decora construction!” (80) Though he likens his values to those of the writers of late antiquity and of the Elizabethan period, his style is, for his own age, a significant innovation.

The modernity of the book in both style and content is evident if unintended from the statements of its most prestigious and hostile twentieth century reader, T. S. Eliot. While Yeats recalled Pater with admiration mixed with the pain of personal loss, Eliot’s far more influential criticism in “Arnold and Pater” aspires to a magisterial tone. To Eliot Pater followed Arnold in chipping away at the grounds for revealed religion (as though Darwin, Freud, Frazer, the Sacred Books of the East series, and the Higher Criticism had had little to do with God’s decline in the late nineteenth century). He objects to Arnold’s concept of Culture as a “study of perfection” as that “arrogates” too much from religion. Insisting on the value of the irrational, Eliot says with that without supernaturalism religion degrades into art and morality as though it were somehow thereby condemned. He tosses barbs even at those who seek to salvage spirituality: Spencer for preferring to call the divine “the Unknowable,” and Arnold for the “eternal-not-ourselves.” He imagines he can turn aside Pater’s comment that traditional religion is “impossible for a man of culture” by simply calling the remark “tedious.” While recognizing the very real phenomenon of what he calls the nineteenth century “dissolution” of thought,” Marius is significant to him chiefly for its inadequacy as religion. Eliot dismisses Pater’s life-work and characterizes his influence as noxious, saying, “The degradation of philosophy and religion, skillfully initiated by Arnold, is competently continued by Pater.”

This is really the sum of his case, though he adds a few specific observations meant in the way of evidence. In formal terms Marius is “incoherent,” “a series of fresh starts,” a “hodgepodge.” While these departures from conventional narrative may support the book’s modernity to some, to Eliot they are simply signs of its failure. What really alarms Eliot, however, is not Marius the Epicurean but his preexisting discomfiture at finding religion in his day “partially retired and confined.” Paradoxically, for Eliot to lack religious faith is to be, as he calls Pater, “incapable of sustained reasoning.” [7]

Pater, whether the fact pleases or dismays, was clearly looking forward while Eliot, who had made such technical innovations and so finely expressed twentieth century Angst in his early work, came to assume a defensive and reactionary posture, doing his best to look backwards to an age of universally shared faith. [8] The real modernity of Pater’s vision, though, emerges only upon a closer examination than Eliot cared to make. Though Marius is often said to have considered Epicureanism and Stoicism before becoming Christian in every way short of baptism, [10] this analysis neglects both the novel’s treatment of the Cyrenaic predecessors of Epicureanism and the likelihood that Pater had good reason to magnify his sympathy with Jesus and downplay Aristippus and Epicurus.

Marius’ original orientation in the book is a sort of unreflecting traditional observance, but he then learns a spiritual goal from Plato, particularly from the Phaedrus, promising a vision like “a bride out of heaven” to the seeker who “fastidiously” selects “form and color” and mediates “much on beautiful visible objects, on objects, more especially, connected with the period of youth.” (26-7) Yet the higher rungs of Plato’s ladder of love strike him as fabulation. For him human nature is “bound so intimately to the sensuous world.” (121)

The thoughtful young Roman admires the Stoicism of that remarkable emperor Marcus Aurelius, yet finds it unsatisfying. He leaves the imperial household feeling that, for all its temperance and humanity, his strongest impression was of “a sentiment of mediocrity, though of a mediocrity for once really golden.” (189) He condemns the Stoic and the medieval monk alike for despising the body and calling for worshippers to “Abase yourselves!” while contrasting their rejection of life with his wholesome “Cyrenaic eagerness . . . to taste and see and touch.” (165) It is because of his contempt for the world, Marius thinks, that the emperor can tolerate blood sports involving beasts in the amphitheater. (198)

The philosophical position of Marius and presumably of Pater is best defined in the chapter title “The New Cyrenaicism.” He is a total skeptic for whom the phenomenal world, not to mention any notion of an afterlife, is a “day-dream.” (121) He feels a particular affinity for Lucian, who appears in the book and whose work Is enfolded within Pater’s text and who made the greater part of his humor out of debunking the claims of religious and philosophical systems. While the cruder sort of hedonist may occupy himself with satisfying grosser appetites, the wise man who realizes that he “can make no sincere claim to have apprehended anything beyond the vail of immediate experience” will prefer the pleasures of “the highest moral ideal” which will lead to doing the “Father’s business.” His slogan emphasizes what a Buddhist might call mindfulness: “Be perfect in regard to what is here and now.” (120) The wise man who pursues an “esthetic education” in all the arts will find himself in the end with “a kind of religion – an inward, visionary, mystical piety” consistent with the sort Marius had instinctively displayed from his youth. This “new form of the contemplative life” would rest on “the intrinsic ‘blessedness’ of ‘vision’ – the vision of perfect men and things.” (122) This religion requires no irrational faith, no “unverified hypothesis” and, Pater drily adds, “makes no call upon a future after all somewhat problematic.” (123) In this way one might makes one’s own life a piece of music allowing one participation in the “’perpetual motion’ in things.” Moral and spiritual and aesthetic taste are revealed to be essentially the same (212) as the fine-tuned imagination will inevitably turn to morality’s service. (230)

Criticism long before Yeats and Eliot yet on a similar moral or religious basis rather than a literary one disturbed Pater and he reacted. Indeed the very composition of the novel may well have been a project to clarify and redeem his value system. Pater says in a footnote to the 1888 edition of The Renaissance, “This brief ‘Conclusion’ was omitted in the second edition of this book, as I conceived it might possibly mislead some of those young men into whose hands it might fall. On the whole, I have thought it best to reprint it here, with some slight changes which bring it closer to my original meaning. I have dealt more fully in Marius the Epicurean with the thoughts suggested by it.” Anxious to avoid the accusation of fostering immorality, he distorted his own views to portray Christianity in a more favorable light and to emphasize morality and even chastity to an extent that would never have occurred without the public controversy.

Vague charges of “immorality” often represented euphemistic accusations of homosexuality. Though Pater tried to be fiercely private, his sexual orientation, no unusual thing in an academic culture that forbade marriage for Fellows until 1882, cannot be doubted. Stung by accusations that The Renaissance encouraged behavior the more shocking for being unspecified, he produced in Marius a singularly eremitical epicurean. It is of prime importance that “The blood, the heart, of Marius were still pure.” (124) Indeed, one critic at least finds that Pater “seems to spiritualize the search for pleasure as far as sacrifice pure and simple.” [10] To him Christianity is “the most beautiful thing in the world.” (303) (How this conviction differs from faith is unclear.) He not only finds the Christian home itself a (presumably sufficient) bride (277) and admires what he calls “the virginal beauty of the mother [!] and her children” (288) but he goes on to declare outright, “Chastity – as he seemed to understand – the chastity of men and women, amid all the conditions, and with all the results, proper to such chastity, is the most beautiful thing in the world and the truest conservation of that creative energy by which men and women were first brought into it.” (288) Even had it not been for such contrary assertions as his decision that he must be a “materialist” and “cling” to “the body and the affections it defined – the flesh” as opposed to incorporeal Platonic ideas, (103) he must surely be making such a conspicuous virtue of chastity to answer past critics and forestall future ones.

Similarly, Marius’ approach to Christianity which never quite leads to conversion can only be an accommodation to the prejudices of his era. Pater’s father was himself an unbeliever and Pater felt strongly enough during his university days to found the Old Morality Club, often described as an agnostic group. Marius’ Christ-like self-sacrifice for Cornelius belies the insistence on the joy of Christianity in contrast to “the heavy burden of unrelieved melancholy” he sees in Marcus Aurelius’ Stoicism. (103) Aware of the strong tendency for Christianity to view the body as corrupt, the world as hopelessly fallen, and the divine judge as stern indeed, he claims that the era of the Antonines represented a milder Christianity, one in which “gladness” is most welcome to God. (292-3) In this form of the church he finds its primary element to be Love. (338) Thus Cornelius’ “pleasantness” is the result of his faith, and to Marius the very first thing “he must ask of the powers” is to be happy in the world. (313) This agreeable sort of Christianity suits Marius’ nature as a “rich and genial character.” (112) Who could argue with a system that promises to deliver a “more durable cheerfulness” of which Greek pagan “blitheness” is a mere “transitory gleam”? (241-2)

Nothing could be more modern than Pater’s acceptance of a world without certainty, without prescribed or revealed values except for those inherent in the human subject. Much of what he says is akin to the Existentialist writers of a half century ago or to more recent post-structuralist ones. Pater finds images for this flux and uncertainty, reusing old tags like a skillful bricoleur. The phrase from Lucretius “flammantia moenia mundi,” which in De rerum natura refers to a specific location between earth and heavens [12] is for Pater a beautiful and nearly mystical image of unknowability, the unstable flux of things and the mysterious boundaries between the human realm and the kosmos, “what might really lie behind,” (110). He cites Hadrian’s lines beginning “Animula, vagula” (101) to represent Marius’ speculation upon the death of Flavian, a poem which simply wonders about the soul’s wandering and the mystery of death, suggesting no answer but only a tone of pathos. The most powerful image of Pater’s enduring skepticism is perhaps the epigraph which might be translated "a winter's dream, when nights are longest." [13] Though Lucian speaks of a specific dream he means to discuss for the edification of the young, the notion of a long winter’s sleep is as well a skeptic’s view of human life experience, unsure of what is real and what is not, experiencing the hallucinatory fantasms of consciousness as we huddle in night-clothes against the cold of life’s inevitable suffering. More than a century later this powerful borrowed image seems not so much modern as timeless.



1. The genre included not only Corelli, a best-selling author for decades, but also books like Bulwer Lytton’s The Last Days of Pompeii (1834) and Rienzi, Last of the Roman Tribunes (1835), Kingsley’s Hypatia (1853), Wilkie Collins’ Antonina or The Fall of Rome (1871) Lew Wallace’s Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1880), and Henryk Sienkiewicz’s Quo Vadis (1896). On such texts was built Hollywood’s industry of Biblical epics.

2. William Butler Yeats, “More Memories LXXIII,” The Dial, August 1922, p. 148, reprinted in The Trembling of the Veil.

3. See p. 1273 of Emile Legouis and Louis Cazamian’s A History of English Literature (first published by J. M. Dent in one volume in 1930). For a general treatment see Matthew Potolsky, “Fear of Falling: Walter Pater's Marius the Epicurean as a Dangerous Influence,” ELH, Volume 65, Number 3, Fall 1998, pp. 701-729.

4. The first comment from Bloom is on page x of the introduction to the 1970 NAL edition; the second on p. 441 of Genius (Warner: New York, 2002).

5. See Michael Levey’s introduction page 8 of the 1985 Penguin edition.

6. Gowan Dawson, “Walter Pater’s Marius the Epicurean and the Discourse of Sciencein Macmillan’s Magazine," English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920, Vol. 48, No. 1, 2005.

7. T. S. Eliot, “Arnold and Pater” originally appeared in The Bookman, Sept. 1930, LXXII, 1, and was later published in his Selected Essays. He was not alone in his opinion. According to Denis Donoghue Eliot’s essay “damaged Pater’s reputation beyond hope of repair in the English-speaking world.” Paul Elmer More had earlier made a similar attack in his Shelburne Essays, 8th Series “Walter Pater.” See also “The Reception of Walter Pater in Europe,” Comparative Critical Studies, Volume 5, Issue 2-3, 2008, p. 330 and David Weir’s “Decadence and Aestheticism: Pater’s Marius the Epicurean,” chapter 4 of his Decadence and the Making of Modernism.

8. Eliot was sufficiently frightened by all the alternatives that he notoriously and rather absurdly called himself, in his preface to the volume For Lancelot Andrewes “classicist in literature, royalist in politics, and anglo-catholic in religion.”

9. See Harold Bloom, Genius (New York: Warner Books, 2002), p. 441 “The greatness of Pater is his secularization of the religious epiphany, a displacement in which so many were to be his heirs: Wilde, Yeats, Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and perhaps all the High Modernists.” For his influence on Joyce see again David Weir’s Decadence and the Making of Modernism.

10. See, for example, Lee Behlman, “Burning, Burial, and the Critique of Stoicism in Pater's Marius the Epicurean,” Nineteenth-Century Prose, Vol. 31, No. 1 , Spring 2004 or Transfigured World: Walter Pater's Aesthetic Historicism by Carolyn Williams.