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- Appreciations, With An Essay on Style - 1/33 -


APPRECIATIONS, WITH AN ESSAY ON STYLE

By WALTER HORATIO PATER

E-text Editor: Alfred J. Drake, Ph.D. Electronic Version 1.0 / Date 10-12-01

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APPRECIATIONS, WITH AN ESSAY ON STYLE

NOTES BY THE E-TEXT EDITOR:

Reliability: Although I have done my best to ensure that the text you read is error-free in comparison with an exact reprint of the standard edition--Macmillan's 1910 Library Edition--please exercise scholarly caution in using it. It is not intended as a substitute for the printed original but rather as a searchable supplement. My e-texts may prove convenient substitutes for hard-to-get works in a course where both instructor and students accept the possibility of some imperfections in the text, but if you are writing a scholarly article, dissertation, or book, you should use the standard hard- copy editions of any works you cite.

Pagination and Paragraphing: To avoid an unwieldy electronic copy, I have transferred original pagination to brackets. A bracketed numeral such as [22] indicates that the material immediately following the number marks the beginning of the relevant page. I have preserved paragraph structure except for first-line indentation.

Hyphenation: I have not preserved original hyphenation since an e-text does not require line-end or page-end hyphenation.

Greek typeface: For this full-text edition, I have transliterated Pater's Greek quotations. If there is a need for the original Greek, it can be viewed at my site, http://www.ajdrake.com/etexts, a Victorianist archive that contains the complete works of Walter Pater and many other nineteenth-century texts, mostly in first editions.

CONTENTS

Style: 5-38

Wordsworth: 39-64

Coleridge: 65-104

Charles Lamb: 105-123

Sir Thomas Browne: 124-160

"Love's Labours Lost": 161-169

"Measure for Measure": 170-184

Shakespeare's English Kings: 185-204

Dante Gabriel Rossetti: 205-218

Feuillet's "La Morte": 219-240

Postscript: 241-261

APPRECIATIONS

STYLE

[5] SINCE all progress of mind consists for the most part in differentiation, in the resolution of an obscure and complex object into its component aspects, it is surely the stupidest of losses to confuse things which right reason has put asunder, to lose the sense of achieved distinctions, the distinction between poetry and prose, for instance, or, to speak more exactly, between the laws and characteristic excellences of verse and prose composition. On the other hand, those who have dwelt most emphatically on the distinction between prose and verse, prose and poetry, may sometimes have been tempted to limit the proper functions of prose too narrowly; and this again is at least false economy, as being, in effect, the renunciation of a certain means or faculty, in a world where after all we must needs make the most of things. Critical efforts to limit art a priori, by anticipations regarding the natural incapacity of the material with which this or that artist works, as the sculptor with solid form, or the prose-writer with the ordinary [6] language of men, are always liable to be discredited by the facts of artistic production; and while prose is actually found to be a coloured thing with Bacon, picturesque with Livy and Carlyle, musical with Cicero and Newman, mystical and intimate with Plato and Michelet and Sir Thomas Browne, exalted or florid, it may be, with Milton and Taylor, it will be useless to protest that it can be nothing at all, except something very tamely and narrowly confined to mainly practical ends- -a kind of "good round-hand;" as useless as the protest that poetry might not touch prosaic subjects as with Wordsworth, or an abstruse matter as with Browning, or treat contemporary life nobly as with Tennyson. In subordination to one essential beauty in all good literary style, in all literature as a fine art, as there are many beauties of poetry so the beauties of prose are many, and it is the business of criticism to estimate them as such; as it is good in the criticism of verse to look for those hard, logical, and quasi-prosaic excellences which that too has, or needs. To find in the poem, amid the flowers, the allusions, the mixed perspectives, of Lycidas for instance, the thought, the logical structure:--how wholesome! how delightful! as to identify in prose what we call the poetry, the imaginative power, not treating it as out of place and a kind of vagrant intruder, but by way of an estimate of its rights, that is, of its achieved powers, there.

[7] Dryden, with the characteristic instinct of his age, loved to emphasise the distinction between poetry and prose, the protest against their confusion with each other, coming with somewhat diminished effect from one whose poetry was so prosaic. In truth, his sense of prosaic excellence affected his verse rather than his prose, which is not only fervid, richly figured, poetic, as we say, but vitiated, all unconsciously, by many a scanning line. Setting up correctness, that humble merit of prose, as the central literary excellence, he is really a less correct writer than he may seem, still with an imperfect mastery of the relative pronoun. It might have been foreseen that, in the rotations of mind, the province of poetry in prose would find its assertor; and, a century after Dryden, amid very different intellectual needs, and with the need therefore of great modifications in literary form, the range of the poetic force in literature was effectively enlarged by Wordsworth. The true distinction between prose and poetry he regarded as the almost technical or accidental one of the absence or presence of metrical beauty, or, say! metrical restraint; and for him the opposition came to be between verse and prose of course; but, as the essential dichotomy in this matter, between imaginative and unimaginative writing, parallel to De Quincey's distinction between "the literature of power and the literature of knowledge," in the former of which the composer gives us [8] not fact, but his peculiar sense of fact, whether past or present.

Dismissing then, under sanction of Wordsworth, that harsher opposition of poetry to prose, as savouring in fact of the arbitrary psychology of the last century, and with it the prejudice that there can be but one only beauty of prose style, I propose here to point out certain qualities of all literature as a fine art, which, if they apply to the literature of fact, apply still more to the literature of the imaginative sense of fact, while they apply indifferently to verse and prose, so far as either is really imaginative--certain conditions of true art in both alike, which conditions may also contain in them the secret of the proper discrimination and guardianship of the peculiar excellences of either.

The line between fact and something quite different from external fact is, indeed, hard to draw. In Pascal, for instance, in the persuasive writers generally, how difficult to define the point where, from time to time, argument which, if it is to be worth anything at all, must consist of facts or groups of facts, becomes a pleading--a theorem no longer, but essentially an appeal to the reader to catch the writer's spirit, to think with him, if one can or will--an expression no longer of fact but of his sense of it, his peculiar intuition of a world, prospective, or discerned below the faulty conditions of the present, in either case changed somewhat from the actual [9] world. In science, on the other hand, in history so far as it conforms to scientific rule, we have a literary domain where the imagination may be thought to be always an intruder. And as, in all science, the functions of literature reduce themselves eventually to the transcribing of fact, so all the excellences of literary form in regard to science are reducible to various kinds of pains-taking; this good quality being involved in all "skilled work" whatever, in the drafting of an act of parliament, as in sewing. Yet here again, the writer's sense of fact, in history especially, and in all those complex subjects which do but lie on the borders of science, will still take the place of fact, in various degrees. Your historian, for instance, with absolutely truthful intention, amid the multitude of facts presented to him must needs select, and in selecting assert something of his own humour, something that comes not of the world without but of a vision within. So Gibbon moulds his unwieldy material to a preconceived view. Livy, Tacitus, Michelet, moving full of poignant sensibility amid the records of the past, each, after his own sense, modifies--who can tell where and to what degree?--and becomes something else than a transcriber; each, as he thus modifies, passing into the domain of art proper. For just in proportion as the writer's aim, consciously or unconsciously, comes


Appreciations, With An Essay on Style - 1/33

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