“The Eyelids Always a Little Weary”: Leavis on Pater—and Keats

Pater may talk of burning always with a hard gemlike flame, but there is nothing answering in his prose; it notably lacks all sensuous vitality.  Indeed, to point to Pater’s prose–cloistral, mannered, urbane, consciously subtle and sophisticated and actually monotonous and irresponsive in tone, sentiment and movement (the eyelids always a little weary)–is a way of giving force to the judgment that for the Victorian aesthete art is something that gets between him and life.  Nevertheless, we can see why pre-Raphaelite and Aesthete should have looked to Keats as they did; we can ourselves see in Keats (if we can see more too) the great Aesthete–the one Aesthete of genius.  For all his unique vitality and creative power, we can see him as related to them by those significantly associated traits which Pater presents:  the devotion to exquisite passion and finest senses, the religious unction of this aestheticism, the cherished pang of transience.

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