Walter Pater (1839-1894)
From Literary Anecdotes About 19th Century Authors Born After 1829

Wilde used to tell a story, probably invented by himself, in which he delineated Pater's character and fondness for picturesque words. One morning, before beginning his lecture, Pater asked a young man named Sanctuary to remain behind at the end. As Pater was a proctor, Sanctuary felt uncomfortable, but when they were left alone together, it was the professor who looked nervous. After a period of embarrassment the young man said:

'You asked me to stay behind, sir, did you not?' Pater pulled himself together: `Oh yes, Mr. Sanctuary. I . . . I wanted to say to you . . . what a very beautiful name you have got.'

Better still was another of Wilde's fancies.

`So you are going to see Pater!' he said to Richard Le Gallienne. `That will be delightful. But I must tell you one thing about him to save you from disappointment. You must not expect him to talk about his prose. Of course no true artist ever does that. But Pater never talks about anything that interests him. He will not breathe one golden word about the Renaissance. No! he will probably say something like this: "So you wear cork soles in your shoes? Is that really true? And do you find them comfortable? . . . How extremely interesting!"'

Hesketh Pearson, The Life of Oscar Wilde (1946), pp. 30-31.

ON the occasion of Pater's lecture on Prosper Merimee, his friends gathered round the platform to congratulate him; he expressed a hope that the audience was able to hear what he said.

`We overheard you,' said Oscar Wilde. `Ah, you have a phrase for everything,' replied the lecturer.

Robert Ross, Masques and Phases (1909), p. 131.

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