Vanishing Roads and Other Essays eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 329 pages of information about Vanishing Roads and Other Essays.
as it has come rather of too much matter than too little; while his teaching, far from being that of a facile “Epicureanism,” is seen, properly understood, to involve something like the austerity of a fastidious Puritanism, and to result in a jealous asceticism of the senses rather than in their indulgence.  “Slight as was the burden of positive moral obligation with which he had entered Rome,” he writes of Marius, as on his first evening in Rome the murmur comes to him of “the lively, reckless call to ‘play,’ from the sons and daughters of foolishness,” “it was to no wasteful and vagrant affections, such as these, that his Epicureanism had committed him.”  Such warnings against misunderstanding Pater is careful to place, at, so to say, all the cross-roads in his books, so scrupulously concerned is he lest any reader should take the wrong turning.  Few writers, indeed, manifest so constant a consideration for, and, in minor matters, such a sensitive courtesy toward, their readers, while in matters of conscience Pater seems to feel for them an actual pastoral responsibility.  His well-known withdrawal of the “Conclusion” to The Renaissance from its second edition, from a fear that “it might possibly mislead some of those young men into whose hands it might fall,” is but one of many examples of his solicitude; and surely such as have gone astray after such painstaking guidance have but their own natures to blame.  As he justly says, again of Marius, “in the reception of metaphysical formula, all depends, as regards their actual and ulterior result, on the pre-existent qualities of that soil of human nature into which they fall—­the company they find already present there, on their admission into the house of thought.”

That Pater’s philosophy could ever have been misunderstood is not to be entertained with patience by any one who has read him with even ordinary attention; that it may have been misapplied, in spite of all his care, is, of course, possible; but if a writer is to be called to account for all the misapplications, or distortions, of his philosophy, writing may as well come to an end.  Yet, inconceivable as it may sound, a critic very properly held in popular esteem recently gave it as his opinion that the teaching of Walter Pater was responsible for the tragic career of the author of The Picture of Dorian Gray.  Certainly that remarkable man was an “epicurean”—­but one, to quote Meredith, “whom Epicurus would have scourged out of his garden”; and the statement made by the critic in question that The Renaissance is the book referred to in The Picture of Dorian Gray as having had a sinister influence over its hero is so easily disposed of by a reference to that romance itself that it is hard to understand its ever having been made.  Here is the passage describing the demoralizing book in question: 

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Vanishing Roads and Other Essays from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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