Firmer than a watercolor, but less bold than an oil painting, Walter Pater (1839–94) had a classic pastel temperament. Hints, tints, suggestions, and subtle blends were his forte as a man and a writer. The malicious caricature of him in W. H. Mallock’s The New Republic (1876) as Mr. Rose, who delights in dimly lit churches, gorgeous fabrics, and aesthetic frissons, was uncomfortably close to home. Pater’s voice, like Cordelia’s, was ever soft: when at the end of a lecture he expressed the hope that his audience had been able to hear him, the undergraduate Oscar Wilde quipped, “We overheard you.” So, when he came to write a letter, the result was unlikely to be strident, dramatic, or confessional. Several times, in the letters edited by Robert M. Seiler for the ongoing


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