THE RENAISSANCE by Walter Pater

Only the Victorians could produce books like this. What is it, exactly? I suppose cultural criticism is the best term but it doesn’t quite capture this gorgeously written aesthetic manifesto. Take the first chapter, “Two Early French Stories.” It is a curious mixture of literary criticism, history and fiction, all wrapped up in a kind of writing you just don’t see anymore. Many continue to celebrate the death of this prose, as if it could harm them now. I mourn it more every day, as if I could bring it back. That first chapter is probably my favorite part of the book although the famous “Conclusion” is also pretty wonderful. Everything in the book is great but… Why do I feel ambiguous? It’s hard to say. My rating demonstrates that I think the book is a masterpiece. That doesn’t mean it has to be perfect but The Renaissance largely is. I can’t say Pater does anything wrong. But what is he trying to do? Is his vision somewhat empty, somewhat cold? Probably just me, but…

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