Navigation – Plan du site

AccueilNuméros90 AutomneFrench Beliefs: Walter Pater and ...

French Beliefs: Walter Pater and Contemporary French Fiction

Croyances françaises: Walter Pater et la fiction française contemporaine
Bénédicte Coste


Cet article examine les comptes rendus de Walter Pater portant sur les écrits d’auteurs français contemporains parus en périodiques entre 1886 et 1890 afin de montrer que le choix des périodiques, des titres recensés obéit aux contraintes journalistiques et sociales de l’époque marquée par des débats sur la morale et des campagnes médiatiques ciblant essentiellement la littérature française d’avant-garde et certains auteurs (Flaubert, Zola). Toutefois Pater se montre habile en rendant compte d’auteurs controversés et d’auteurs reconnus (Feuillet, Lemaître, Filon, Fabre, Amiel) qu’il oppose subtilement afin de rendre son opinion plus indéfinissable mais surtout de méditer sur la question de la croyance puisque tous les textes et les auteurs mentionnés partagent la caractéristique de se confronter à la question de la croyance en des temps de sécularisation. Cette habile négociation des contraintes journalistiques et culturelles permet à Pater de présenter sa propre conception de la croyance.

Haut de page

Texte intégral

Introduction: Pater and French Literature

  • 1 I thank my two insightful reviewers and K. Daley who kindly sent me his article ‘Pater’s Appreciati (...)
  • 2 A new graduate, Pater first went to France in 1864 with his sisters, Clara and Hester. He returned (...)
  • 3 The National Vigilance Association was active between 1885 and 1894.

1Unquestionably Walter Pater contributed to the literary exchanges between the French and the British that constitute so important a part of the last third of the nineteenth century culture.1 With Matthew Arnold, A. C. Swinburne, John Morley, George Henry Lewes, Arthur Symons, and Oscar Wilde, he was one of the main proponents of the rapprochement that occurred from the 1860s to the fin de siècle. A frequent traveller to France from 1864 onwards,2 Pater imported French views on literature and art, devoted literary portraits to French writers, and extensively reviewed contemporary French writings in various periodicals in the 1880s, when, as Laurel Brake pointed out (Brake 2002, 24–36), debates on morality erupted and campaigns were waged by the National Vigilance Association3 and by journalists such as W. T. Stead, Henry Labouchere and others, culminating in the trial and imprisonment of Vizetelly on 30 May 1889 for translating works by Zola (Mullin 2013). Therefore Pater’s writings, especially the two editions of Appreciations (1889 and 1890), display the ‘“uneasy” presence of French literature’ (Brake 2001, 228). As journalistic pieces, they are also carefully composed and published so as to negotiate those different social, legal, journalistic and argumentative constraints.

  • 4 See the list in Brake 2013, 496.
  • 5 See Uncollected essays by Walter Pater printed for Thomas Mosher and published by him at 45 Exchang (...)

2Indebted to J. Conlon’s seminal study (Conlon 1982) and with increasing knowledge of Pater’s professional life, what follows is a provisional reassessment of Pater’s relationship to French writers with special reference to his lesser-known reviews of French contemporary works in the Nineteenth Century, Macmillan’s Magazine, The Guardian, The Athenaeum, and The Pall Mall Gazette. Of all of Pater’s reviews,4 seven are on French literature beginning from 1886 (‘Amiel’s Journal intime’) to 1890 (‘The Contes of M. Augustin Filon’) with most of them appearing in the literary monthly Macmillan’s or in the weekly Guardian, both with serious book review section. Until recent times, those reviews tended to be neglected by scholars for lack of proper editorial work and because of their dispersion in various collections,5 not to mention their change of title when some of them were included in Essays from The Guardian in 1896, for instance (Brake 2013, 493). Another reason is that along with distinguished essays on Mérimée (1890) and Pascal (1895), Pater mostly reviewed writings by authors largely unread nowadays or considered to be reactionary (Octave Feuillet [1821–1890], Augustin Filon [1841–1916], Jules Lemaître [1853–1914], Ferdinand Fabre [18271895]), thereby contradicting simplistic visions of his radicalism. However, in the 1870s and 1880s, the above-mentioned writers were neither obscure nor contested: Octave Feuillet’s plays were regularly adapted and performed in Britain, and La Morte was translated both in Britain and in the United States in 1886 as Pater was publishing his review along with other journalists. Regularly translating French writers for his own purpose, Pater translated La Veuve by Feuillet (1884) (Daley 2017), and seems to have chosen to discuss the then highly popular Fabre in both The Nineteenth Century and The Guardian out of personal interest. More importantly, those writings have remained largely undiscussed because they are reviews, a minor genre at the crossroads of journalism and literature. All, including ‘Mérimée’ and ‘Pascal’ are indeed ‘originally journalism’, displaying a committed Pater to ‘the popular media’ in a time when ‘literature, criticism, art history, aestheticism and media history of this period are routinely part of the matrix of print culture’ (Brake 2013, 493). The forthcoming OUP edition of reviews including those collected in Essays from the Guardian (Pater 1896, 1910), Uncollected Essays (1903), and Sketches and Reviews (1919) should contribute to a better appreciation of his views on French contemporary literature closely linked to his ideas on modern forms of belief. All of Pater’s reviews of French literature mention religion either as a primary concern or as a background for the plot, and some are more pointedly devoted to discussing late-nineteenth-century beliefs. All display the ‘pivotal place of religious discourse’, in the Foucaldian sense, for Pater (Higgins 1995, 286).

3Taking those parameters into account, what follows discusses Pater’s interest for contemporary French fiction and considers them as negotiating the constraints of journalistic writings (editorial policy, intended readership and format) along with socially-induced argumentative limits so as to express his views on belief. For instance, Pater’s Guardian’s reviews between 1886 and 1890 dwell mainly on English contemporary literature and have been described as ‘puffs’ by L. Brake (2013, 492), but two are respectively on Fabre and Swiss-born Henri-Frédéric Amiel (1821–1881). Along with his choice or assignment of certain novels, Pater’s reviews are arguably shaped by the editorial politics and intended readership of the periodicals he was writing for, including signature. Most of his reviews consist of a brief introduction generally followed by extensive translations along with a commentary, and departures from that pattern are always significant along with Pater’s positing the author or novel within a particular literary and religious landscape.

Pater the Francophile

4A great part of Pater’s inspiration came from a wide array of French poetry and prose as shown by B. Inman’s list of his borrowings from the Taylorian Library (Inman, 1990) and explored by L. Brake (2001, 276–82). Pater mainly read contemporary fiction (Stendhal, Zola, the Goncourts, Fabre, Victor Cherbuliez, Feuillet, Sand, and the Revue des Deux Mondes), some of which, including Chateaubriand and Sand made its unexpected way in his writings, contributing to their intertextual complexity. Those readings continuously fed his fiction, sometimes in a subtle way—Daley notes that Pater borrowed and translated a sentence from Feuillet’s Journal d’une femme in ‘An English Poet’ (Daley 2017, 476)—sometimes more obscurely as is the case with the Goncourts (Pater 2014, 28-32) whose novels and historical studies Pater continuously read. Although the latter found their way into ‘A Prince of Court Painters’ (Pater 2014, 115–41), the Goncourts’ novels and Journal seem to have left no trace, probably because of their unconventional content.

5By our own standards, Pater’s tastes appear to have been eclectic, ranging from La Chanson de Roland to Erckmann-Chatrian, but by the late-nineteenth century, they were not. Pater wrote during the final years of the Second Empire and in the nascent and uncertain days of the Third Republic, when avant-garde Realism, Naturalism, Decadence and Symbolism competed with widely popular genres and authors. His diverse readings materialized in writings, be they portraits, essays or reviews, extensively mentioning, alluding to, and quoting French essayists, poets and novelists, from 1866 onwards when Pater cited Renan in his first published essay in the Westminster Review ([Pater] 1866, 106–32), to his last published portrait, ‘Pascal’, published by Edmund Gosse in the Contemporary Review in 1895 (Pater 1895, 168–81). Countless references to French literature appear in The Renaissance certainly because the eponymous movement was said to begin and end in France (Pater 1980, 1). ‘Romanticism’ (Pater 1876, 64–70), a transhistorical study of the movement, relied on, and quoted Stendhal and Sainte-Beuve as guides in literary criticism and history, while presenting Gautier, Hugo, Murger, Flaubert and Feuillet as instances of exciting writers embodying Romanticism as Pater envisioned it, i.e. as a renaissance of literary art. From the medieval times French prose and poetry appear as the fons et origo of a continuous Romantic tradition.

6Writing on medieval architecture, Pater chose specifically to discuss the churches of Notre-Dame d’Amiens and Vézelay, partly relying on Viollet-le-Duc (Viollet-le-Duc 1863–73) and Mérimée (Mérimée 1884). The latter is an interesting case of French literature’s reception in the last third of the 19th century as Mérimée had died in 1870 and no longer qualified as a contemporary writer. Symbolising the defunct Empire, he enjoyed a modicum of renewed recognition when Hippolyte Taine published his Lettres à une Inconnue in 1874 (Mérimée 1874). As a result, Pater lectured on the unbelieving Mérimée at the Taylorian Institution in 1890, and rapidly published his lecture in the December issue of The Fortnightly Review (Pater 1890, 852–54).

7Pater’s last text was on Pascal, the great Catholic apologist. Interestingly, Pater chose to comment upon a writer whose mastery of style and firm belief he continuously highlighted. Pascal was a consummate stylist who had succeeded in assuaging all doubt about belief and issues of style and belief appear to guide Pater’s approach of French writers. Along with his fiction such as Marius the Epicurean (1885–92), Gaston de Latour (1888–1894?), and his review of Robert Elsmere (1888), Pater’s reviews of contemporary French fiction illuminate his views on modern forms of beliefs. Careful not to publicly state his beliefs after the ‘Conclusion’ to The Renaissance (1873), Pater also discussed the religious climate of his times in his reviews of contemporary French writings, always depicting their religious backgrounds, and connecting religion to his exploration of forms of modern subjectivity. Flaubert and Mérimée (Coste 2017, 49–55) most especially become exponents of modern forms of beliefs both in their fiction and in their letters while Filon, Fabre, Feuillet, Amiel and Lemaître provide him with real or fictional examples of specific forms of belief. His interest is therefore not only literary and cultural but also religious, and in spite of the limits of the acceptable in discussing French literature in 1880s Britain, Pater manages to use it as a not so distorting mirror to his late-Victorian readers of various religious affiliations. It is therefore worth following his reviews as they appeared from 1886 to 1890 and where they appeared with the exception of the reviews on Flaubert running from 1887 to 1889 including ‘Style’, which is discussed first so as to give clarity to the argument.


  • 6 See G. Saintsbury, ‘Gustave Flaubert’, Fortnightly Review, 23 (April 1878), p. 575–95, rpt. Essays (...)

8Pater’s two reviews of the Letters of Gustave Flaubert, the first of which was woven into ‘Style’ (Pater 1888, 728–43), have elicited scholarly discussion highlighting his unconventional reading of the Frenchman (Daley 2017). Arguably Flaubert was discussed approvingly as an avant-garde, sometimes taxing, prose-writer in some leading British periodicals including The Fortnightly Review,6 in times of controversy about morality, and Pater’s reviews are part of the critical dialogue of the 1880s subsequent to Flaubert’s death in 1880. The first appeared just before the first Vizetelly trial on 30 October 1888 for obscene libel for his translation of Zola’s La Terre when the publisher was fined £100. The second appeared on 3 August 1889 three months after Vizetelly’s second prosecution resulting in a £200 fine, and three months’ imprisonment for reissuing Zola’s works.

9Pater chose the upmarket daily newspaper Pall Mall Gazette to review Correspondance Première Série 18301850 (Flaubert 1887) on 25 August 1888 (Pater 1888, 1–2). As befits the genre, ‘The Life and Letters of Gustave Flaubert’ summarises a large part of the introductory ‘Souvenirs intimes’ by Flaubert’s niece. That Pater’s signed review appeared in the Pall Mall Gazette is revealing since W. T. Stead’s occasionally sensationalist newspaper engaging in New Journalism aimed at a more heterogeneous readership than the monthly Fortnightly Review where ‘Style’ was to appear in December 1888. Pater adroitly chose to promote the man Flaubert rather than the morally debatable writer. Relying on different techniques previously used, his portrayal of the French writer display Pater’s complex vision of subjectivity in the late 1880s. Caroline Commanville, editor of letters and author of souvenirs, becomes the mask behind which Pater disappears so as to better stage ‘his’ Flaubert. Doubly framed, Madame Bovary to which most of the letters are devoted, appears as a time-consuming labour of love, with Flaubert spending days on the ‘phrase’, having but ‘his one fixed belief in beauty, literary beauty’ (Pater 1919, 70). Flaubert appears less as a corrupter of innocent minds than as an exponent of art for art’s sake.

10An example of disinterestedness, Flaubert lived like a monk, penning only a few books, and enjoying trips to Paris in his flowered Boulevard du Temple apartment. This ‘recluse’ was also a great traveller, ‘at least for a Frenchman’ (65), going to Brittany, and ‘above all to the grand old pagan towns of the South, Switzerland, Italy’, and to Corsica, which appealed to him as being ‘a brave country still virgin as to the bourgeois who have not yet arrived to degrade it with their admiration’ (66). As indicated by the French ‘bourgeois’ in his quote, Flaubert laid emphasis on socio-cultural classes whereas Pater insisted on religious difference and the survival of paganism. Likewise, C. Commanville is struck by her uncle’s ‘tranquil devotion to art’, which Pater interprets as something akin to ‘religion’, mentioning Flaubert attending mass although he was a self-confessed freethinker (69). Seeing himself like ‘a Carthusian’ (70), Flaubert observed a careful routine and distrusted inspiration. A keen letter-writer, his correspondence shows him as belonging to a profane and secular ‘sacerdotal order’ (63). Living the life of one of those bourgeois he despised, Flaubert saw ‘the artistic life’ ‘as an end in itself’ (64) elevating art to the status of a profane religion. Finally unmasking himself, Pater concludes that those letters have been published to offset the ‘kind of literary scandal’ (72) attached to Flaubert’s writings, although he refrains from mentioning the 1857 trial and the content of Madame Bovary. More importantly to him, Flaubert’s life, letters and writings display the same individual: ‘the passionate, conscientious, labouring artist’, conscious of his ‘immense intellectual superiority’, but full of ‘pity’ for others and ‘the simple people’, all the more so as he was convinced of ‘the cruelty of things’ (73). The expression was to recur under Pater’s pen as it encompassed his ethics predicated on pity (Albrecht 2018, 103).

11The review was woven into ‘Style’ in the December 1888 issue of The Fortnightly Review (Pater 1888, 728–43) where Flaubert appeared as Pater’s paradigmatic ‘scholar writer writing for the scholarly’ (Pater 1910, 17) bent on using the ‘unique word’ (29), an exponent of the religion of art therefore remote from any moral criticism. This literary whitewashing was certainly insufficient to counter attacks on Flaubert and significantly, in August 1889, Pater published his unsigned review of Flaubert’s second volume of Letters, this time in a distinguished cultural weekly, the Athenaeum, just after Charpentier had issued the volume in France (Pater 1889, 155–56). Carefully avoiding any mention of Flaubert’s marital status, Pater cannily turned Flaubert into an ‘austere lover’ whose ‘true mistress was his art’ (Pater 1919, 77) by quoting his views of women to ‘Madame X’ (Louise Collet). Therefore deprived of any reprehensible eros, Flaubert appeared as a valuable adviser on literary matters, considering his ‘labour’ as a ‘ministry’ to the imaginative gift (78). Pursuing his 1888 portrayal of Flaubert as an exponent of art for art’s sake aimed at furnishing an alternative to religions, Pater reads the letters written during the completion of Madame Bovary as ‘footnotes’ to ‘that impressive book’ (74) possess[ing] almost the unity, the connected current of a book (76). Flaubert expresses the subjective continuity Pater seems to have most appreciated in writers although he displays it in a dissociated manner, dividing it between his literary exertions and his letters, between his authorial persona and his private self. Both are expressing the same commitment to art.

12Having carefully prevented any discussion of Flaubert’s morals, Pater discusses a writer who holds a specific place in his own view of literature as evincing various degrees of impersonality, i.e. various degrees of subjective narrative engagement. His mention of Flaubert as a reader of Montaigne, using ingrained doubt to detach himself artistically ‘from all practical ends’ (64), reinforce the portrait of the Frenchman as a sceptic about religion or absolute truths whose scepticism contributed to his serious engagement with literary art that came to function as a substitute for a departed deity and a vanishing religious sense. Pater’s apparently anecdotal mention echoes several discussions of belief permeating his reviews of French authors who enabled him to express his continuous exploration of belief. In the 1880s, and despite the menace of outcry for praising some French writers, such an issue could be best discussed through the mediation of other French-speaking writers who were as popular and distinguished as they appeared innocuous and uncontroversial. Fed by his knowledge of the current French religious climate, Pater published ‘Feuillet’s La Morte’ and ‘Amiel’s Journal Intime’ in 1886.


  • 7 ‘He has struck out the Essay on Æsthetic Poetry in Appreciations (for 2nd edition) because it gave (...)
  • 8 The Spectator praises the description of the absence of faith as the ‘most impressive lesson’ of th (...)
  • 9 G. Sainstbury, Essays on French Novelists (1891, 330). Saintsbury’s mainstream tastes were quite in (...)
  • 10 Pater translates: ’en matière de croyances, le vent du siècle et de la science a soufflé sur moi co (...)

13Pater’s replacement of ‘Aesthetic Poetry’ by his review of Feuillet’s La Morte in the second edition of Appreciations in May 1890 elicited dismay from both Michael Field,7 and A. C. Benson who castigated its ‘lack of substance’ (quoted in Daley 2017, 472), while Billie Inman appeared puzzled by such a choice (Inman 1990, 283). Once scholars note Feuillet’s popularity in the later decades of the nineteenth-century, such a choice appears not only predictable but also adroit since Feuillet’s novel ‘of immense popularity’, allowed Pater to emphasise the modern times’ growing sense of disillusion and to explore various degrees of what was labelled as religious indifference. As K. Daley demonstrated (2017), the review serves a double function: it replaced a piece which had elicited the criticism of The Spectator for its ‘artificiality and affectation’ and ‘foppery of phrase’, and it was included as a counterweight to the more audacious praise of Flaubert in ‘Style’ (Daley 2017, 473) which had triggered negative criticism from Mrs Oliphant, W. J. Courthope. In the second edition, Pater ‘recognized’ ‘that the Feuillet review provided an opportunity to publicize his admiration for a French novelist who decidedly does not dwell on the squalid, the materialist, the dissolute, yet represents for him the achievement in literary style and expression of romantic spirit that Pater extols in so many of the other essays in Appreciations.’ (475) He also replaced ‘Aesthetic Poetry’ with its emphasis on heterodoxy, love and the senses by a piece presenting disillusion of the French bourgeoisie which had already appeared as an unsigned piece in Macmillan’s. The publication history is as important as its function in Appreciations to understand Pater’s choice, as it displays Pater’s subtlety in choosing both the writings he reviewed and the magazines or newspapers where he published his reviews. Embedded in the religious discourse of the 1880s, the review is all the more interesting for its approach of the beliefs of Feuillet’s characters. First published in December 1886, ‘Mr Feuillet’s “La Morte”’ (Pater 1886, 97–105) expressed a more appreciative view of Feuillet’s novel than both The Spectator in July 1886 commenting upon Feuillet’s women to criticize science and women education8 and G. Saintsbury’s dismissive words about the ‘very simple’ plot, the ‘agnostic morality in Sabine [which] is certainly exaggerated, and . . . preachings of various kinds.’9 Boldly ignoring the novel’s debatable elements and themes such as Sabine de Tallevaut’s affair with a married man and her murder of his wife—Macmillan’s readership oblige—, Pater focuses on Feuillet’s main character, Bernard de Vaudricourt, by large chunks of translated quotations to show the unfortunate hero’s disillusion and tragic ending: ‘As to that matter of religious beliefs, “the breeze of the age, and of science, has blown over him, as it has blown over his contemporaries, and left empty space there’’’ (221–22).10 Vaudricourt may embody ‘romantic tenderness or generosity of character’ as Daley contends (Daley 2017, 485), but his fate shows that his self-proclaimed scepticism was predicated on sheer credulity in front of the manoeuvres of free-thinker Sabine who has poisoned his wife and leaves him free to embrace the faith of his deceased wife (Coste 2017, 79). Fed by the progress of science allied to the secular Zeitgeist Vaudricourt’s disillusion masked sheer credulity. The modern subjectivity he embodies also appears characterized by some inner vacancy; the place God formerly occupied has been replaced with a void Pater is not simply interested in probing, but also determined to explore possible fillings.

14Correlated to the issue of God was belief, which Pater envisaged as a fundamental human characteristic appearing before all religious affiliations and denominations—the future ‘fundamental belief’ of ‘Prosper Mérimée’ (Pater 1890, 852)—, and upon which he devoted further reviews, including his meditation on Amiel’s troubled belief. In December 1885, as he was reading the volume Mary Ward had translated for Macmillan (Ward 1886), Pater sent her a letter summarising his thoughts on believers and religion. His reflections deserve close reading especially since Pater was addressing her friend and former neighbour in Oxford and may have felt freer to express himself:

  • 11 W. Pater, ‘To Mary Ward’, 23 December 1885, Letters, 64–65.

I shall think . . . that there was still something Amiel might have added to those elements of natural religion, (so to call it, for want of a better expression,) which he was able to accept, at times with full belief, and always with the sort of hope which is a great factor in life.11

Amiel appears to have had a religious, almost innate sense but failed ‘at times’ to supplement it by something that would have given him hope, therefore condemning him to a melancholic life. The Swiss writer seems to have been unable to benefit from the structuring function of religious institutions including ‘the historic church’, which Pater further describes as one of ‘those obscure but all-important possibilities, which the human mind is powerless effectively to dismiss from itself; and might wisely accept, in the first place, as a workable hypothesis’ (Pater 1970, 64–65). Historical religious institutions are necessary to shape human existence. Churches appear as institutions capable of structuring and directing some ‘all-important possibilities’ without giving them too sharp an outline or too definite a content, therefore enabling life-orienting hope. Pater was adroit in discussing ‘the historic church’, all the more so as he witnessed the changes in contemporary approaches to Christianity such churches were supposed to embody:

The supposed facts on which Christianity rests, utterly incapable as they have become of any ordinary test, seem to me matters of very much the same sort of assent we give to any assumption, in the strict and ultimate sense, moral. The question whether those facts were real will, I think, always continue to be what I should call one of the natural questions of the human mind. (Pater 1970, 64–65)

Religious truth had become a vexed issue, as a result of nineteenth-century ‘higher criticism’ which has partly materialized in the views developed in Essays and Reviews (1860) or Renan’s Life of Jesus (1864). Silently espousing those views, Pater envisions Christianity no longer as a strictly revealed religion but as an array of teachings embedded in the ethical institutions mankind needs to sustain the society it lives in. Certainty has disappeared, leaving individuals free to engage in hypotheses and unsolvable questions, but also free to assent in the Newmanian sense of his 1870 Grammar of Assent, where ‘assent’ is presented as ‘unconditional’, ‘one and indivisible’. Using that definition for his own scheme of the structure of belief, Pater qualifies it by noting that assent needs to be completed by religious institutions. Assent deploys in and as a relation, to a church or to a non-religious institution.

15Such sophisticated views appeared in print in The Guardian, a High Church Anglo-Catholic weekly, launched in 1846 as the weekly organ of the Tractarians, notable for its ‘generous section of book review’ and its Supplement that took reviewing seriously’ with all titles reviewed mentioning religious aspects (Brake 2013, 491), a characteristic Pater respected. In his unsigned review of Amiel’s Journal (Pater 1886, 406–07), Pater reiterated those ideas, albeit in subdued form, adding an exploration of the Swiss writer’s personality that strove to account for his ‘melancholy life . . . with something not altogether explained by the somewhat pessimistic philosophy exposed in the Journal, nor by the consumptive tendency of Amiel’s physical constitution’ (Pater 1901, 21). Pater saw Amiel as a gifted writer who failed to fully engage in religious belief:

Assenting, on probable evidence, to so many of the judgements of the religious sense, [Amiel] failed to see the equally probable evidence there is for the beliefs, the peculiar direction of men’s hopes, which completes those judgments, and bring them into connection with the facts, the venerable institutions of the past—with the lives of the saints. (33)

Amiel was not indifferent: he lacked insight to consider how his ‘judgements of the religious sense’ could be completed. The review is important since Pater defines personal belief as a feeling enabling an individual to relate to established judgements and social institutions capable of accommodating personal belief and connecting it with similar beliefs to foster a given religion. Religious belief appears as some finishing touch constitutive of the individual, enabling connections between one’s own sentiments and logical assertions and institutions giving shape to possibilities. Individuals may assent ‘on probable evidence, to so many of the judgements of the religious sense’: for his part, Amiel stopped short of a full assent to the teachings of the Christian church. Simple as it may appear under Pater’s deceptively common words, the definition is seminal to understand the beliefs structuring the characters of his imaginary portraits. It also demonstrates the function of a French-writing diarist for Pater. Amiel appears as a not so remote instance of the predicament or condition of modern subjectivity. Vaudricourt typifies an individual endowed with an intriguing inner vacancy that morals do not always fill; Amiel typifies an incomplete form of belief, which has unfortunately met with ‘that metaphysical prejudice for the “Absolute,” the false intellectual conscience’ (32), thereby undermining his natural religious sense and leading him to the contemplative life Pater finds so unattractive. Rather than being a form of indifference, Amiel’s belief is incomplete and Pater concludes with a piece of advice aimed at his more contemporary readers: ‘Bring, we should add, the Great Possibility at least within the line of your plan—your plan of action or production; of morality; especially of your conceptions of religion.’ (35)

  • 12 L. Brake contends that two-thirds of Pater’s articles in The Guardian are ‘puffs’ on G. Saintsbury, (...)

16In his 28 March 1888 unsigned review of Robert Elsmere, Mary Ward’s best-selling crisis of faith three-decker of 1888, Pater went farther in defining belief and ‘the Great Possibility’, certainly because Ward’s novel engaged in exploring the results of secularisation and the new function ascribed to churches and more generally to religious institutions and teachings. Far from being a mere ‘puff’,12 Pater’s review is another essential text to understand his conception of belief, as he introduces a new term, ‘concession’, to show the beneficent effect of conceding that ‘hope’ might exist and orient some individuals’ existence:

For their part, [a large class of minds which cannot be sure the biblical story is false] make allowance in their scheme of life for a great possibility, and with some of them that bare concession of possibility (the subject of it being what it is) becomes the most important fact in the world. The recognition of it straightway opens wide the door to hope and love; and such persons are, as we fancy they always will be, the nucleus of a Church. (Pater, ‘Robert Elsmere’, 1901, 68)

If a church is defined as a community of individuals entertaining hope and love the content or object of which may remain largely undefined, concession is fundamental in defining the religious sphere where hope deploys itself to structure individual life. To make a concession to Pater’s ‘Great Possibility’ that the Bible be true and the religion revealed, also implies that hope is not innate in mankind but results from a concession, an acceptance of uncertainty—the very category characterizing the modern times as times of disillusion.

17The Guardian had borne with Pater’s unorthodox views on Amiel certainly because they discussed a recently deceased foreign writer, but the editor D. C. Lathbury (1883-1899), a fellow of Brasenose College and therefore a member of Pater’s ‘shared network’ (Brake 2013, 491) chose to publicly state that Pater’s views on Robert Elsmere were strictly his own. Mrs Ward’s novel was first a novel by a British writer, and if neither Lathbury nor Pater could imagine it would create such a controversy, there were boundaries in expressing one’s ideas that Pater had passed. While L. Brake is right to point out that his reviews for The Guardian between 1886 and 1890 show Pater as ‘a productive writer, probably with money and personal obligations to friends in mind’ reviewing out of ‘economic necessity’ (Brake 2013, 493), they also show that Pater could probe the limits of the permissible even in the magazine of a fellow Brasenosian. Not only did he continue to contribute to the weekly, he also contributed to other magazines to explore the vicissitudes of the modern godless or god-free lot, significantly choosing preeminent and recognised contemporary French authors and relying on a careful choice of other periodicals attuned to his views. To disseminate his views, Pater used the late-Victorian diversity of periodicals and increasingly fragmented readerships.


  • 13 ‘[Nizerolles-Closcard] n’avait pas trempé le pouce dans le saint chrême, décrit une croix sur le fr (...)

18If reasons for Pater avoiding any review of Zola, another highly popular writer in France, are multiple, ranging from personal disinterest to fear of the public’s response, he however mentioned Zola’s name in reviewing Toussaint Galabru (1887) by Ferdinand Fabre in the Nineteenth Century in 1889 (Pater 1889, 621–23). Such a choice is revealing as no two late-nineteenth-century writers could be as different as the controversial Zola on both sides of the Channel and Fabre, a hugely successful conservative Catholic writer writing mostly on regional southern mores. Intriguingly, Pater gives no extract of the novel—an unusual practice for him which may be accounted for by the contents of Fabre’s novel, even in Knowles’s unsectarian recent monthly (1877), since the eponymous hero is a self-confessed pagan, a notorious philanderer living in a hut in the Cévennes mountains and fathering numerous children. Repeatedly called ‘the sorcerer’, Fabre’s miscreant finally dies at the very moment he was to be given extreme unction,13 therefore leaving readers wondering about destiny which robs both them and the hero of the traditional conversion/redemption closure . . . as Marius the Epicurean had done in 1885. Conversely, Fabre’s Norine, a novel also picturing provincial life, was extensively quoted in translation when Pater anonymously reviewed it this time for The Guardian (Pater 1889, 911–12).

19Importing an extract from his previous review of Fabre, Pater recommended the novel ‘to the more serious class of English readers’ (Pater 1901, 121) as an instance of ‘that high type of Catholicism which still prevails in the remote provinces of France, of that high type of morality of which the French clergy have nobly maintained the ideal’ (121), complying with The Guardian’s novel reviewing’s ‘pervasive spiritual element or a local reference or allusion’ (Brake 2013, 495). Fabre deserved to be read for his ‘recognition of the religious, the Catholic, ideal, intervening masterfully throughout the picture he presents of life, as the only mode of poetry realizable by the poor’, Pater argues (122). Religion exerts its dominance essentially in rural locations where it has replaced poetry, as was shown by the novel’s contrast between ‘the priest and the peasant’ on the one hand, and the ‘unclerical human nature’ of a ‘Parisian littérateur’, on the other hand—a contrast in which Pater seems to be especially interested (123) as it encompassed the antagonism between art (linked to urban settings) and religion (linked to rurality). The case of Fabre’s two novels also demonstrates that signature and the periodical to which Pater was contributing played a determining role in the content and form of his reviews. In the pluralistic and secular Nineteenth Century, Pater openly presented the pagan Galabru while in the Anglo-Catholic Guardian his praise of simple poor Catholics was anonymous. As L. Brake notes, Pater ‘tailor[s] his reviews to fit the orientation of the paper’ he writes for (Brake 2013, 493) but he plays on the diversity of editorial politics including signature to disseminate his views.


  • 14 Jules Lemaître, Sérénus, histoire d'un martyr, Contes d’Autrefois et d’Aujourd'hui (Paris: Lemerr (...)

20Pater’s review of Serenus and Other Tales14 by Jules Lemaître appeared unsigned in Macmillan Magazine in November 1887 ([Pater] 1887, 71–80), with Pater considering its inclusion in the first edition of Appreciations (Daley 2017 note 60). Again, successful novelist and critic, and a regular contributor to Le Journal des Débats and La Revue des Deux Mondes, Jules Lemaître was ‘not a provocative figure for [Pater] to review’ (Daley 2017, 482). Pater strategically paired him with Flaubert so as to give further credentials to his theses on the Northern writer. Like Flaubert, Lemaître appears endowed with ‘a sense of design’, and seems to be free from ‘the dubious interests of almost French fiction’ (Daley 483) that Pater would point out in his study of Mérimée in 1890 (Pater 1890, 861). Still, his ‘sense of compassion’ along with ‘a peculiar interest in certain phases or aspects of religious life’ (Daley 2017, 489) designated his writings as grist for Pater’s mill. Appearing after Marius, but before the seminal review of Robert Elsmere, the review proves another cornerstone in Pater’s meditation of modern forms of belief. The novella giving its title to Lemaître’s collection of tales belongs to the sub-genre of the Decadent Roman Empire novel and may explain why Pater reviewed it. But whether he volunteered or was chosen to review Lemaître by Macmillan’s Magazine’s editor Mowbray Morris, Pater reads the writings of the influential drama critic and writer through his own lens, and as against the standard of Marius.

  • 15 ‘Les Trois manières de Garnoteau’ and ‘La grosse caisse’.
  • 16 Les Deux Fleurs . . . . reminding us somewhat of Flaubert’s St. Julien l’Hospitalier. Its aim is, (...)

21The initial comparison of Lemaître with Flaubert for his realism might be construed as problematic, but Pater is careful to note that except for two pieces of ‘Parisian humour’ standing in ‘harsh contrast’ to ‘the rest of the book’ he does not name,15 Lemaître’s stories are ‘as solemn and as pure as the pictures of Alphonse Legros (Pater 1919, 20). The reference to a French painter enjoying a distinguished position in the late-Victorian British art world relocates Lemaître within safer British mores and values, exactly as Fabre had been, thanks to the same comparison (Pater 1901, 121). As a short-novelist, Lemaître has ‘that self-possession and sustained sense of design which anticipates the end in the commencement and never loses sight of it—that gift of literary structure which lends so monumental an air to even the shortest pieces of Flaubert’ (Pater 1919, 21). Pater further quotes Trois contes,16 building on his previous literary judgment, thereby deflecting any negative view that Macmillan’s Magazine’s more conservative readers may entertain about French writers. Lemaître’s ‘learned art’, fed on ‘much and varied reading’ (21), inscribes his prose less within a Decadent poetics than within scholarly practice. However, both the ‘force of style’ and the ‘genuine realism’ of his prose have the ‘charming freshness of effect’ characteristic of French fiction (22). Lemaître becomes an honourable writer belonging to a genealogy of respectable Frenchmen that Pater carefully builds throughout his portraits and reviews, turning them into guides for the renaissance of literary art advocated for Britain in ‘Style’.

  • 17 See W. Pater, Marius the Epicurean II, 1910, 99.

22‘Serenus’ is like ‘one of those sumptuous Roman basilicas put together out of the marble fragments of older pagan temples or palaces’ (21)—a continuous assimilation in Pater,17 while other stories are like ‘a sort of mental holiday to quiet convent parlours and white-washed village churches—places of subdued colour and personages congruous therewith, pleasant, doubtless to fatigued Parisian life’ (21). The contrast between the amoral capital and the saner countryside empties all negative visions of the city, but Pater is more interested in the general tension between reality and fiction, different stories, genres and epochs. Discussing first Lemaître’s shorter pieces from Tales of Other Days, Pater provides ‘copious extracts’ of ‘Pauvre Âme’, ‘the most characteristic’ of them (34), which he sees as a ‘catholic’ story, ‘one of those episodes only possible in Roman Catholic France’ (36). Some stories feature clergymen dealing with their sentiments or those of their parishioners; some contrast ‘Parisian raillery’ and ‘perverse books’ to religious behaviour (‘La Mère Sainte-Agathe’); others engage in the depiction of ordinary individuals (‘En nourrice’, ‘Boun’, ‘Les Funérailles de Firdousi’). More humorous is ‘Les Deux Saints’ featuring the attempts of a new curate in Champignot-les-raisins to replace an image of Saint Vincent, ‘patron of the vine-dressers’ by a new one. The ensuing quarrel ‘gives the true measure of many greater, perhaps less ingenuous controversies’ (40), Pater comments. Humour un/masks a particular religious atmosphere that Pater could paint in more serious and sombre colours in ‘Denys l’Auxerrois’ (1886). As Lemaître ‘writes as a pure artist’, sometimes with a practical aim, his short stories close ‘with a peculiar sense of irony’ which is also the ‘prevailing note’ (41) of Serenus itself.

  • 18 Serenus thinks the Christians indifferent to art and bent on the afterlife, a perspective jarring w (...)

23Turning to the confession of a mock Christian martyr who committed suicide in 90 AD under Domitian, Pater finds himself on more familiar ground exploring ‘that curious highly educated, wistful age’ (46). If numerous elements and themes—the Eucharist, ancient philosophies, the violence of Roman persecution of Christians—along with the parallel between Roman and modern times,18 appear in both Marius and Serenus, Lemaître adopts a different plot and narrative perspective which may have triggered Pater’s interest.

  • 19 ‘I think that there is a fourth sort of religious phase possible for the modern mind, over and abov (...)
  • 20 ‘a dread has come upon me for a death which soils and disfigures’ (Pater 1919, 54).

24Like Marius, Marcus Annaeus Serenus espouses various philosophies until his heart becomes ‘void to the bottom of all belief, and even of illusion’ (47, italics mine), strangely echoing the condition of some French contemporary characters Pater discussed. Serena, his half-sister, has failed in converting him as he remains a materialist, full of ‘pessimism’ (51), an appellation enabling Pater to contrast Roman and modern times as he had done efficiently in Marius. Lemaître’s hero remains however impervious to Pater’s ‘fourth phase’ when belief rests on ‘the Great Possibility’.19 Taking ‘pride in [his] unbelief’ (52), Serenus finally poisons himself,20 but refuses to deceive his companions and Thimotheus, the priest of their small community for whom he pens a narrative where he confesses that despite his weak-mindedness and many defects, he has ‘great indulgence for [the people], a great pity’ (55). As an indefectible pagan, Serenus is however gifted with a virtue that Pater esteems dearly—pity. But Thimotheus decides to hide the truth and to bury the parchment with the young man: Serenus will be mourned as a saint, but also, the priest argues, possibly because of Christ for whom ‘at least he had been condemned’, and because ‘even at the last moment, some sudden illumination, some gleam of faith had come upon him’ (56). Marius’s final belief had evaded disclosure thanks to Pater’s mastery of the narrative technique, but Lemaître’s priest robs the hero of his inner truth, offering others an alternative version.

  • 21 In ‘L’Aînée’, a young woman sees her sisters married to her suitors. She eventually dies before com (...)

25So far, Lemaître’s story echoes Marius, although it lacks Pater’s density of references and seriousness of intent. Its sequel may further explain why Pater came to review it: eight centuries later, we find the tombstone of Saint Marc le Romain at Beaugency-sur-Loire where his remains were brought from Rome along with the parchment. All clergymen who preserved it know that Serenus ‘died a pagan’, a fact they all hide out of fear of troubling the souls of parishioners while saint Marc is said to have ‘worked miracles’ (57), described it at length and in a humorous pastiche of medieval hagiographies (Lemaître 1886, 55–61). However, Pater does not describe them, possibly out of reluctance to engage in a depiction of Catholic beliefs emphasising credulity and dissimulation, or out of understanding Lemaître’s parodying intent, or out of precaution. More importantly he sees the same sense of irony pervading ‘Serenus’ and the shorter pieces in the volume of Lemaître’s tales where blameless individuals die without any reward or recognition before being posthumously betrayed.21 Such irony does not primarily come from any God, but from nature to which man must adapt as Pater summarises Lemaître’s simple and minimal ‘philosophy of life’ (58):

Nature, circumstance, is far from pitiful, abounds in mockeries, in baffling surprises and misadventures, like a cynical person amused with the distress of children. Over against that cynical humour, it may be our part to promote in life the mood of the kindly person, still regarding people very much as children, but, like Serenus, with ‘a great pity for them, a great indulgence.’ (58–59)

To Nature’s cynicism ‘kind’ moods must be opposed, while ‘a great pity’ and ‘a great indulgence’ must be the lot of the human race. Pity is a cardinal virtue in Pater’s ethics, all the more so as it appears in a largely secularised context, amounting, as is the case with Lemaître, to atheism and materialism. Lemaître depicts a godless universe to which mankind must adapt while Pater neutralises his heterodoxy, reframing and toning it down to suggest instead a tentative ethics capable of replacing older more forceful forms of religion.

26Pater’s final piece of advice to Lemaître remains something of an enigma as he encourages Lemaître to undertake a longer work so as to learn ‘that great literary gift of patience’ (80). That form of patience may be akin to the patience Flaubert’s painstaking exertions enabled him to acquire, or to the patience sustained by ‘hope’ for ‘the Great Possibility’ advocated by Pater in his review of Amiel’s Journal. Translating as hope, belief has the capacity of uniting individuals in churches as well as in non-religious communities. Flaubert proves that the latter is as worthy as the former, and it comes as a contrast, almost as a relief, to Lemaître’s godless universe where mankind must fend for itself, having no other solution but to display ‘pity’ and ‘indulgence’ towards its brethren while continuously wearing ‘an air of irony and pride’ (42). Read by Pater, Serenus and French fiction finally display various ethical and religious positions possibly functioning as models for contemporary times protected as they are by their national alterity. Pater’s choice of periodicals allows him to present such a diversity as they are themselves diverse in editorial and religious orientation.


  • 22 On Pater’s lectures and journalistic writings in the early 1890s, including ‘Apollo in Picardy’, se (...)
  • 23 [Walter Pater], ‘The Contes of M. Augustin Filon, Tales of a Hundred Years since’, The Guardian, 45 (...)

27Further research may explain why Pater’s interest in reviewing modern fiction waned in the 1890s22 after he reviewed Augustin Filon’s Contes du centenaire23 in The Guardian (Pater 1890, 1138), a rare instance of Pater discussing the eighteenth century approvingly. Filon’s narrator is ‘an imaginary centenarian’ presenting both ‘those humanities of feeling and habit which were peculiar to the last century and passed away with it’, and ‘that permanent humanity which has but undergone a change of surface in the new world of our own, wholly different though it may look’ (Pater 1901, 137). Like Pater, Filon’s centenarian is interested in the survival of social and cultural features ‘in service to a direct interest in humanity as it is permanently, alike before and after ‘93’ (149), but he certainly belongs to an age that can present ‘the historic muse’ in ‘graceful déshabillé’ (138). The French Revolution failed to destroy some permanent human characteristics, but has enabled some individuals to cast a subversive or ironic glance at the ‘stately muse’ (121) of History by re-clothing her accordingly. Burke famously castigated the French revolutionaries for trying to dismantle tradition and socio-political orderly forms; Pater chooses to assess the result of the French Revolution in its sartorial treatment of History. He did not write an essay or portray those troubled times, but reviewed W S. Lilly’s A Century of Revolution, in the Nineteenth Century in December 1889, possibly to counter Lilly’s attacks on the essays on eighteenth-century French philosophers by John Morley, the former editor of the Fortnightly Review where Pater’s first signed writings appeared. In his study of modern France, Roman Catholic Lilly saw Zola’s naturalistic aesthetics as the unhealthy offspring of the French Revolution. Targeting Lilly’s chapter ‘The Revolution and Art’ (Lilly 1889, 131–64), Pater mentions Zola’s name, but refrains from commenting upon Zola’s reception in Britain or the Vizetelly trial a few months before. Suggesting that naturalism is not an outgrowth of the French Revolution but ‘an element in all living art’ (Pater 1889, 992–93) and arguing that Nana (which he had borrowed in 1889 along with other Rougon-Macquart titles) is not typical of Zola’s works, ‘Pater makes certain his own critical positions and attitudes are difficult to pin down.’ (Daley 2017, 484) However, the periodicals Pater chose present a more precise picture as it is unlikely that the canny defence of Zola may have appeared in another magazine than The Nineteenth Century.

  • 24 Pater’s last reference to Feuillet appears in 1890 when Pater discusses Mérimée with Feuillet being (...)

28In his ‘continual’ ‘engagement with religious discourse’ (Higgins 1995, 299), modern French literature provided Pater with an opportunity to define belief and to comment on its fate in times of secularisation. When approached as essays on beliefs and believers Pater’s ‘publicly indeterminate critical response toward modern French literature’ (Daley 2017, 482) appears more definite. Within a network of contemporary French authors—Flaubert, Merimée, Feuillet, Lemaître, Fabre, Filon (and the discreet figure of Zola)—Pater often pairs writers: Flaubert and Mérimée; Flaubert and Lemaître; Flaubert and Feuillet; Feuillet and Mérimée,24 to avoid the pitfall of simply praising controversial avant-garde figures (Flaubert and Zola) by pitting them against more established and popular Frenchmen. Behind contemporary interrogations at his surprising choice of French writings lie the canonization of writers considered as highly controversial by some Victorian readers such as Zola and Flaubert and the near complete disappearance of others. Yet, all of them expressed beliefs that Pater strove to explore in his reviews carefully negotiating the constraints of editorial policies, readership and cultural climate, playing on editorial positioning to make himself read if not heard. The vicissitudes of belief, always perceived through an individual prism, can be expressed through irony as in Lemaître, a choice Pater sees as embedded in the religious and intellectual climate of the fin de siècle, and to which he subtly objects. They can also be expressed by the more ‘literary gift of patience’ of a Flaubert (Pater 1919, 80) who testifies to a diffracted subjectivity both in his personal correspondence and in his apparently ‘impersonal’ writings. France functions as a screen upon which Pater projects no less than what he feels are the complex doubts and issues of his uncertain times, arising from disillusioned and diffracted subjectivities. In the interstice between writers’ and characters’ intimate being and their literary persona arises the question of belief.

Albrecht, Thomas. ‘“The Loveliness of Things and the Sorrow of the World”: Art and Ethics in Pater and George Eliot’. Testing New Opinions and Courting New Impressions: New Perspectives on Walter Pater. Eds. Anne-Florence Gillard-Estrada, Martine Lambert-Charbonnier, and Charlotte Ribeyrol. New York: Routledge, 2018. 88–108.

Brake, Laurel. ‘Pater the Journalist: Essays from the Guardian. ELT 56.4 (2013): 483–98.

Brake, Laurel. ‘Aesthetics of the Affray.’ Print in Transition. Studies in Media and Book History, Houndmills, Palgrave, 2001. 225–47.

Brake, Laurel. ‘“The Entangling Dance”: Pater after Marius 1885-1891.’ Transparencies of Desire. Eds. Laurel Brake, Lesley Higgins, Carolyn Williams. Greensboro, ELT Press, 2002. 24–36.

Conlon, John. Walter Pater and the French Tradition. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell UP, 1982.

Coste, Bénédicte. ‘“The Perfection of Nobody’s Style”: Impersonality and Emotion in Pater’s Prosper Mérimée’. Impersonality and Emotion. Eds. J.-M. Ganteau & C. Reynier Montpellier: Presses de l’UPV, 2005. 29–42.

Coste, Bénédicte. ‘Cette époque de doute’: Walter Pater et la question de la croyance. Montpellier: PULM, 2017.

Daley, Kenneth. ‘Pater’s Appreciations and the Problem of “Feuillet’s La Morte.”’ ELT, 60.4 (2017): 471–89.

Dowden, Edward. ‘Literary Criticism in France.’ Fortnightly Review 46 (December 1889): 737–53.

Fabre, Ferdinand. Toussaint Galabru. Paris: Charpentier, 1887.

Fabre, Ferdinand. Norine. Paris: Charpentier, 1889.

Feuillet, Octave. La Morte. Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 1886.

Flaubert, Gustave. Correspondance. Première Série 1830-1850. Paris: Charpentier, 1887.

Flaubert, Gustave. Correspondance. Deuxième série 1850-54. Paris: Charpentier, 1889.

Higgins, Lesley, ‘Doubting Pater: Religious Discourse and “the conditions of modern life.”’ ELT 38.3 (1995): 285–303.

Inman, Billie A. Walter Pater’s Reading, 1874-1877, with a Bibliography of His Library Borrowings, 1878-1894. New York: Garland Publishing, 1990.

Kennard, Nina H. ‘Flaubert and George Sand.’ Nineteenth Century 20 (November 1886): 693–708.

Lemaître, Jules. Serenus. Histoire d’un martyr. Contes d’autrefois et d’aujourd’hui. Paris: Lemerre, 1886.

Lilly, William S. A Century of Revolution. London: Chapman and Hall, 1889.

Mérimée, Prosper. Études sur les arts du Moyen âge. Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 1884.

Mérimée, Prosper. Lettres à une inconnue. Ed. H. Taine, Paris: Michel Lévy frères, 1874.

Mullin, Katherine. Pernicious Literature: Vigilance in the Age of Zola (1886–1899)’. Prudes on the Prowl. Eds. David Bradshaw and Rachel Potter. Oxford: OUP, 2013. DOI : 10.1093/acprof :oso/9780199697564.001.0001 Accessed 18 April 2019.

Pater, Walter. Appreciations. With an Essay on Style. London: Macmillan, 1889.

Pater, Walter. Appreciations. With an Essay on Style. London: Macmillan, 1890.

[Pater, Walter]. ‘Amiel’s Journal Intime’. The Guardian, 41 (17 mars 1886): 406-7. Rpt. Essays from the Guardian. London: Macmillan, 1901.

Pater, Walter. ‘Noticeable Books. 3. A Century of Revolution. By William Samuel Lilly.’ Nineteenth Century 26 (December 1889): 992–94.

[Pater, Walter]. ‘Coleridge’s Writings.’ Westminster Review, 29 (January 1866): 106–32.

[Pater, Walter]. ‘The Contes of M. Augustin Filon, Tales of a Hundred Years since.The Guardian, 45 (16 July 1890): 1138.

[W. Pater]. ‘Correspondance de Gustave Flaubert’ (Deuxième série’ 1850–54, Paris: Charpentier, 1889).’ Athenaeum (3 August 1889): 155–56. Rpt. Sketches and Reviews. Ed. Albert Mordell. New York: Boni and Liveright, 1919. 74–87.

Pater, Walter. Essays from The Guardian. London: Macmillan, 1896. Privately printed.

Pater, Walter. Essays from The Guardian. London: Macmillan, 1901.

[Pater, Walter]. ‘Ferdinand Fabre. An Idyll of the Cevennes.’ The Guardian 44 (12 June 1889): 911–12.

[Pater, Walter]. ‘Mr Feuillet’s “La Morte”.’ Macmillan’s Magazine 54 (December 1886): 97–105.

[Pater, Walter]. ‘M. Jules Lemaître’s Serenus and Other Tales.Macmillan’s Magazine 57 (November 1887): 71–80.

Pater, Walter. The Letters of Walter Pater. Ed. J. Evans, Oxford: OUP, 1970.

Pater, Walter. ‘The Life and Letters of Gustave Flaubert.’ The Pall Mall Gazette (25 August 1888): 1–2.

Pater, Walter. Marius the Epicurean. His Sensations and Ideas. Vol. II. London: Macmillan, 1910.

Pater, Walter. ‘Pascal.’ Contemporary Review 67 (February 1895): 168–81.

Pater, Walter. ‘Prosper Mérimée.’ Fortnightly Review 48 (December 1890): 852–54. Rpt. Miscellaneous Studies. London: Macmillan, 1895.

Pater,Walter. The Renaissance. The 1893 Text. Ed. D. Hill, Los Angeles: U of California P, 1980.

Walter, Pater. ‘Robert Elsmere.’ The Guardian 43 (28 March 1888): 468-9. Rpt Essays from the Guardian. London: Macmillan, 1901. 53–70.

Pater, Walter. ‘Romanticism.’ Macmillan’s Magazine 35 (November 1876): 64–70.

Pater, Walter. ‘Style.’ Fortnightly Review 44 (December 1888): 728–43.

Pater, Walter. ‘Noticeable Books. 3. Toussaint Galabru. By Ferdinand Fabre.’ Nineteenth Century 25 (April 1889): 621–23.

Pater, Walter. Sketches and Reviews. Ed. Albert Mordell. New York: Boni and Liveright, 1919.

Pater, Walter. ‘Style.’ Fortnightly Review 44 (December 1888): 728–43.

Pater, Walter. ‘Some Great Churches of France (Part II): Vézelay.’ Nineteenth Century 35 (July 1894): 963–70.

Pater, Walter. Uncollected Essays by Walter Pater Printed for Thomas Mosher and Published by him at 45 Exchange Street, Portland, Maine, 1903.

Østermark-Johansen, Lene. ‘Introduction.’ Imaginary Portraits by Walter Pater. London: MHRA, 2014.

Saintsbury, George. ‘Gustave Flaubert.’ Fortnightly Review 23 (April 1878): 575–95. Rpt. Saintsbury, George, ‘Gustave Flaubert.’ Essays on French Novelists. London: Percival, 1891. 334–81.

Saintsbury, George. ‘The Present State on the novel (in France) (Part II).’ Fortnightly Review 43 (January 1888): 112–23. Rpt. Essays on French Novelists. London: Percival, 1891. 1–31.

[Unsigned]. ‘Books. La Morte.’ The Spectator 59.3029 (July 17): 956.

Viollet-le-Duc, Eugène, Entretiens sur l’architecture. Paris: A. Morel, 1863–73. 2 vols.

Haut de page


1 I thank my two insightful reviewers and K. Daley who kindly sent me his article ‘Pater’s Appreciations and the Problem of “Feuillet’s La Morte”’ as I was revising mine.

2 A new graduate, Pater first went to France in 1864 with his sisters, Clara and Hester. He returned to France in 1865, this time, with Charles L. Shadwell. In 1877 the Paters made their ‘little tour in France’ in Normandy, Brittany, and the Loire Valley. See Walter Pater, ‘To Edmund Gosse’, 10 September [1877], The Letters of Walter Pater, ed. J. Evans (Oxford: OUP, 1970), 25. Pater crossed France en route to Italy in 1882 when he was writing Marius. See W. Pater, ‘To Violet Paget, 18 November [1882], Letters, 45, and again in 1889. The last time he went to France was in 1893, to study ‘some fine old churches, of which my mind is rather full now.’ W. Pater, ‘To William Canton’, 18 October [1893], Letters, 143–4. He may have gathered material for his ‘Some Great Churches of France (Part II): Vézelay’, Nineteenth Century, 35 (July 1894), 963–70. No records seem to survive of places Pater visited.

3 The National Vigilance Association was active between 1885 and 1894.

4 See the list in Brake 2013, 496.

5 See Uncollected essays by Walter Pater printed for Thomas Mosher and published by him at 45 Exchange Street, Portland, Maine, 1903 which reprints 1 introduction and 11 reviews from various periodicals. 11 only published in the US. Sketches and Reviews, ed. Albert Mordell (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1919) reprints a part of those and several others to offer 9 reviews.

6 See G. Saintsbury, ‘Gustave Flaubert’, Fortnightly Review, 23 (April 1878), p. 575–95, rpt. Essays on French Novelists pp. 334-81. One of the first essays on Flaubert who was described as ‘a novelist and a great one’ (377). See for instance G. Saintsbury, ‘The Present State on the novel (in France) (Part II)’, Fortnightly Review, 43 (January 1888), p. 112–23, rpt. Essays, p. 1–31; Edward Dowden, ‘Literary Criticism in France’, Fortnightly Review, 46 (December 1889), p. 737–53; Nina H. Kennard, ‘Flaubert and George Sand’, Nineteenth Century, 20 (November 1886), p. 693–708.

7 ‘He has struck out the Essay on Æsthetic Poetry in Appreciations (for 2nd edition) because it gave offence to some pious persons—he is getting hopelessly prudish in literature, & defers to the moral weaknesses of everybody. Deplorable!’, Journals of Michael Field, Brit. Miss Add. MS 46778, fol. 205, qtd in Letters, 143. Octave Feuillet (1821–1890) novelist and playwright, published serialized novels in the Revue des Deux Mondes. A French Academician in 1868, he was close to the Emperor and librarian of the palace of Fontainebleau.

8 The Spectator praises the description of the absence of faith as the ‘most impressive lesson’ of the novel. See [Unsigned], ‘Books. La Morte’, The Spectator, 59.3029 (July 17), 956. Daley sees Pater’s review as a ‘corrective’ to The Spectator’s review turning the inclusion of ‘Feuillet’s La Morte’ in the second edition of Appreciations as ‘an astute and calculated decision’ to include (Daley 2017, 486).

9 G. Sainstbury, Essays on French Novelists (1891, 330). Saintsbury’s mainstream tastes were quite indicative of the kind of French prose writings an academic read. He considered French prose to be declining.

10 Pater translates: ’en matière de croyances, le vent du siècle et de la science a soufflé sur moi comme sur mes contemporains et . . . il y a fait table rase’ (Feuillet 1886, 50).

11 W. Pater, ‘To Mary Ward’, 23 December 1885, Letters, 64–65.

12 L. Brake contends that two-thirds of Pater’s articles in The Guardian are ‘puffs’ on G. Saintsbury, Mrs Ward, Arthur Symons, Macmillan and John Morley and Gosse (Brake 2013, 492).

13 ‘[Nizerolles-Closcard] n’avait pas trempé le pouce dans le saint chrême, décrit une croix sur le front du sorcier, que la face de Galabru prit des tons plombés, s’altéra, eut une immobilité inconnue jusqu’ici, l’immobilité de la pierre qu’amène chez l’être humain le brusque arrêt de la vie.’ (Fabre 1887, 369).

14 Jules Lemaître, Sérénus, histoire d'un martyr, Contes d’Autrefois et d’Aujourd'hui (Paris: Lemerre, 1886).

15 ‘Les Trois manières de Garnoteau’ and ‘La grosse caisse’.

16 Les Deux Fleurs . . . . reminding us somewhat of Flaubert’s St. Julien l’Hospitalier. Its aim is, again, that of an apologue, impressing the characteristically French moral that, “in the regard of heaven, charity is of equal value with chastity. It is best to have both if one can. Let him who lacks the second, try at all events to attain the first. Amen!”’ (Pater 1919, 30).

17 See W. Pater, Marius the Epicurean II, 1910, 99.

18 Serenus thinks the Christians indifferent to art and bent on the afterlife, a perspective jarring with his own conception of one’s mundane existence. Future Christians may be happier but will have ‘a feebler understanding of the beautiful’ (Pater 1919, 53). Such a view is a ‘mistakenly’ one, Pater writes, discreetly reminding of his own views in Marius.

19 ‘I think that there is a fourth sort of religious phase possible for the modern mind, over and above those presented in your late admirable paper . . . the conditions of which phase it is the main object of my design [in writing Marius] to convey’, W. Pater, ‘To Violet Paget’, 22 July 1883, Letters, 52.

20 ‘a dread has come upon me for a death which soils and disfigures’ (Pater 1919, 54).

21 In ‘L’Aînée’, a young woman sees her sisters married to her suitors. She eventually dies before committing some unmentioned sin, exemplifying one’s wasted life. ‘En nourrice’ is the story of a mother’s deception by her country nurse.

22 On Pater’s lectures and journalistic writings in the early 1890s, including ‘Apollo in Picardy’, see Brake 2001, 279–82.

23 [Walter Pater], ‘The Contes of M. Augustin Filon, Tales of a Hundred Years since’, The Guardian, 45 (16 July 1890), 1138. Augustin Filon (1841–1916), French writer and critic.

24 Pater’s last reference to Feuillet appears in 1890 when Pater discusses Mérimée with Feuillet being brought as ‘as counterpoint and foil’ (Daley 2017, 485).

Haut de page

Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Bénédicte Coste, « French Beliefs: Walter Pater and Contemporary French Fiction »Cahiers victoriens et édouardiens [En ligne], 90 Automne | 2019, mis en ligne le 02 février 2020, consulté le 22 septembre 2021. URL : ; DOI :

Haut de page


Bénédicte Coste

Bénédicte Coste teaches Victorian literature and culture at the University of Burgundy, France. She mainly works on Walter Pater and late-nineteenth-century writers whose reception in France she explores. Her publications include: «Cette époque de doute » : Penser la croyance avec Walter Pater (2017) ; Walter Pater, esthétique (2011); Walter Pater, critique littéraire. « The Excitement of the Literary Sense » (2010). With Professor Catherine Delyfer, she co-edited Aesthetic Lives (Rivendale, 2013). With Professor Delyfer and Professor Christine Reynier, she co-edited the collection of essays Reconnecting Aestheticism and Modernism (Routledge, 2016). She is currently writing a monograph on the controversies linked to British Aestheticism.
Bénédicte Coste enseigne la littérature et la culture victorienne à l’Université de Bourgogne. Ses recherches portent sur le mouvement esthétique britannique (1860-1900). Principales publications : Walter Pater, critique littéraire. « The Excitement of the Literary Sense » (2010), Bénédicte Coste & Catherine Delyfer, éds., Aesthetic Lives (2013), Bénédicte Coste, Catherine Delyfer & Christine Reynier, éds., Reconnecting Aestheticism and Modernism (Routledge, 2016). Elle rédige actuellement une monographie sur les controverses de l’Esthétisme britannique.

Articles du même auteur

Haut de page

Droits d’auteur

Licence Creative Commons
Cahiers victoriens et édouardiens est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

Haut de page
  • Logo Presses universitaires de la Méditerranée
  • Logo ERIH +
  • DOAJ - Directory of Open Access Journals
  • OpenEdition Journals
Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search