When the aged connoisseur, art critic, historian, and man of letters Bernard Berenson took up Walter Pater’s Marius the Epicurean during World War II, it was to re-read the novel for the eighth time. As Berenson said in his Sketch for a Self-Portrait, written in these years and published in 1949: “The genius who revealed to me what from childhood I had been instinctively tending toward was Walter Pater in his Marius, his Imaginary Portraits, his Emerald Uthwart, his Demeter. It is for that I have loved him since youth and shall be grateful to him even to the House of Hades, where, in the words of Nausicaa to Odysseus, ‘I shall hail him as a god.’” As a young man Berenson had observed that “art teaches us not only what to see, but what to be,” and from Pater’s art Berenson learned to be an...

 

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