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Walter Pater's Marius the Epicurean and the Discourse of Science in Macmillan's Magazine: "A Creature of the Nineteenth Century"

From: English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920
Volume 48, Number 1, 2005
pp. 38-54 | 10.2487/Y871-3601-8871-12L7

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Walter Pater's Marius the Epicurean and the Discourse of Science in Macmillan's Magazine:
"A Creature of the Nineteenth Century"
Gowan Dawson
University of Leicester


1. Carolyn Williams, "Pater in the 1880s: Experiments in Genre," Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies, 4 (1983), 39.

2. Ian Small, for instance, has suggested that "Marius the Epicurean . . . is a novel highly dependent upon other texts, for the most part classical in origin. Pater constantly refers the reader to classical sources." "Intertextuality in Pater and Wilde," ELT, Special Series 4 (1990), 57.

3. Michael Worton and Judith Stills make an interesting distinction between older "source criticism," which focuses on classical models, and genuine "intertextual reading," which is alert to more contemporary allusions. They write with reference to Shakespearean criticism: "Florio's translation of Montaigne, Holland's of Pliny, Chapman's of Homer, for example, would all have been present to cultured spectators of Shakespeare's plays, but modern readers tend to focus on the 'original' pre-text and thus are blind to the workings of contemporary, vernacular intertextuality. This swerve marks one of the main differences between traditional source criticism and intertextual reading." Introduction to Intertextuality: Theories and Practices, Michael Worton and Judith Stills, eds. (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1990), 8. Similarly, Richard D. Altick observes that "the Victorian mentalité—the common fund of information, opinions, assumptions, and idea- and value-structures—was manifested in the product the novelists set before their public." The Presence of the Present: Topics of the Day in the Victorian Novel (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1991), 2. [End Page 51]

4. See Geoffrey Cantor, Gowan Dawson, Graeme Gooday, Richard Noakes, Sally Shuttleworth and Jonathan R. Topham, Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical: Reading the Magazine of Nature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004). My use of the term "discourse" throughout this article draws on Michel Foucault's assertion, in The Archaeology of Knowledge (1972), that discourses constitute not merely sets of unified statements focused around a specific theme or subject like science, or that are issued from a particular institutional context such as the periodical press, but are rather groups of statements or utterances that are strictly regulated by internal rules and structures, and which exercise an important influence on how individuals understand and interpret the world. See The Archaeology of Knowledge, A. M. Sheridan Smith, trans. (London: Routledge, 1972).

5. As Laurel Brake remarks: "Pater is particularly artful in quoting others without acknowledgement of the source, or indeed, quotation, at all." Walter Pater (Plymouth: Northcote House, 1994), 26.

6. Lawrence Evans, ed., Letters of Walter Pater (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1970), 55. Evans notes that Pater submitted the first two chapters of Marius to the magazine in June 1884.

7. Laurel Brake, "Doing Time," Nineteenth-Century Prose, 24 (1997), 24.

8. The distinctive characteristics of Macmillan's are discussed in Anne Parry, "The Grove Years 1868-1883: A 'New Look' for Macmillan's Magazine?," Victorian Periodicals Review, 19 (1986), 149-57; and George J. Worth, Macmillan's Magazine, 1859-1907: "No Flippancy or Abuse Allowed" (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003).

9. The term was coined by Morley. He writes: "The new theory is that a periodical should not be an organ but an open pulpit, and that each writer should sign his name." "Memorials of a Man of Letters," Fortnightly Review, 23 n.s. (1878), 601.

10. T. H. Huxley's review of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species appeared in only the second issue of the new magazine. See "Time and Life: Mr. Darwin's 'Origin of Species,'" Macmillan's Magazine, 1 (1859), 142-48.

11. Although materialism was not a coherent doctrine—its most fundamental proposition being simply that nothing exists independently of matter—the term was nevertheless deployed frequently in Victorian Britain as a pejorative label that could be used to tarnish the reputation of those who challenged the old tradition of natural theology and instead insisted on a naturalistic, though not necessarily a materialistic, understanding of the universe. See Bernard Lightman, The Origins of Agnosticism: Victorian Unbelief and the Limits of Knowledge (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1987), 24-26.

12. T. H. Huxley, "Bishop Berkeley on the Metaphysics of Sensation...