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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 WALTER PATER'S Marius the Epicurean, a philosophical bildungsroman which traces the progress of its eponymous hero during the age of Marcus Aurelius, has long been recognised as a peculiar hybrid of generic forms. Its literary significance lies not in the conventional attributes of nineteenth-century realist fiction such as consistent characters or complex plotting, but rather in a self-conscious manipulation of various levels of discourse and genre that anticipates the fictional techniques of modernism. This insistent intertextuality has been noted frequently by modern critics of the novel. Carolyn Williams, for example, writes of "the massive achievement of Marius the Epicurean as an encyclopaedia of genres . . . with its interpolated fragments of other works, its overt, self-conscious intertextuality."1 Williams, along with other critics, conceives of Pater's text as primarily a compendium of ancient genres such as scripture and classical mythology, with only occasional allusions to more modern writers such as the eighteenth-century American Calvinist Jonathan Edwards.2 However, much of the intertextuality of Marius is considerably more contemporary and incorporates a nineteenth-century textual form that critics of the novel have previously overlooked: scientific writing in the periodical press.3 The discourse of science was a defining element of many late-Victorian general periodicals, and the work of several prominent scientific writers initially appeared in nonspecialist journalistic form.4 The acute controversy over the allegedly materialist epistemology of contemporary science fought out in the pages of general periodicals in the 1870s is incorporated within the discursive framework of 38 DAWSON : PATER Pater's novel. The presence of this discourse in Marius, deeply embedded in the text and not formally marked off in any way, implicitly connects Pater's historical fiction set in opulent second-century Rome with the conflict between science and religion in late-Victorian print media.5 For Some Reasons I Should Have Preferred That Mode Unlike nearly everything else Pater wrote, Marius, his only completed novel, was first published as a two-volume book in March 1885 without having previously appeared in the periodical press. It had, however , initially been written with a view to its serial publication in Macmillan's Magazine. Although it was not entirely unexpected, Pater was clearly disappointed when John Morley, who had moved from the Fortnightly Review to become editor oÃ- Macmillan's in May 1883, turned the novel down as stylistically unsuitable. In a letter to the proprietor, Alexander Macmillan, he expresses himself "not surprised that Morley was unable to take my M.S. for the magazine, its unfitness for serial publication having sometimes occurred to me, though for some reasons I should have preferred that mode."6 As Laurel Brake has pointed out, the highly wrought prose of Marius did not provide the suspense or romance required of serial fiction in a magazine which at this time was publishing popular novels by the likes of Mrs. Oliphant and Margaret Veley.7 Despite this editorial rejection, Pater's novel nevertheless has a close relation with the prevalent kinds of discourse published in Macmillan's and similar journals, and is importantly shaped by its putative encounter with the discursive form and public values of this kind of periodical. Founded in November 1859, Macmillan's was the first of a new, innovatively priced genre of periodicals with which entrepreneurial publishers sought to reach an unprecedentedly large middle-class audience . These so-called "shilling monthlies" attempted to appeal to the widest possible range of readers, from both sexes as well as across generations , by combining high quality nonfictional essays with the most fashionable forms of fictional writing.8 During its first decade Macmillan's was selling over 20,000 copies every month, as well as providing a convenient opportunity for "trailing" forthcoming books from its proprietor's publishing company. Although the magazine was imbued with the Broad Church Liberalism of Frederick Denison Maurice and other Christian Socialists, it also set out to foster an "open platform" for intellectual debate by, for the first time in a mainstream periodical, 39 ELT 48 : 1 2005 insisting...


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pp. 38-54
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