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 Edwardian Marius. He shared with Marius a native “capacity...

 
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