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PATER'S LETTERS TO ANDRE RAFFALOVICH By Peter J. Vernon (University of Tunis) Walter Pater's last home in Oxford, 64 St. Giles', was purchased for the Dominican Order with quiet assistance from Andre Raffalovich (1864-1934). Today it is a Dominican Priory and contains a section of André Raffalovich's library. Pater's letters to Raffalovich are tipped into presentation copies of Pater's books to Raffalovich (for details see the headings to the text of each letter). Pater's letters to Raffalovich were written over a two-year period from 18841886 when Pater was entering upon a period of fame and freedom. Vernon Lee and William Sharp were dedicating their latest books to him in the most flattering terms; and, in August 1885, after the success of Marius the Epicurean, he took 12 Earl's Terrace in London. The move from Oxford to London, according to Lionel Johnston, transfigured Pater. André Raffalovich was born into a wealthy family of Russian-Jewish origin dwelling in Paris. When Raffalovich was eighteen, his mother, thinking him ugly, encouraged him to study in England and effectively exiled him there under the care of his governess, Florence Gribbell (1843-1930), who remained with him as his housekeeper until her death. Brocard Sewell reports that Raffalovich came to England to study at Oxford when he was eighteen (1882). Although he took responsions—the first of three examinations which candidates for the B.A. degree at Oxford were required to pass— failing health prevented him from continuing with his studies. Following the breakdown in his academic plans, Raffalovich settled in One Albert Mansions, Kensington Gore. Raffalovich records that Sidney Colvin (1845-1927) warned him not to become acquainted with Pater. However, Raffalovich paid no attention to Colvin's warning. He had an interview with Pater in hopes of entering Balliol College, and later he formed a friendship with Pater which lasted until Pater's death in 1894. Pater presented his books to Raffalovich,, and Raffalovich recalled a visit to the theatre together to see The Magistrate. Raffalovich also implied that he used to dine regularly with Pater. Writing of Oscar Wilde he says, "We still talked after dinner at Walter Pater's-yabout Shakespeare, and the canon pointed at selfslaughter , about Mr. W. H. . . ." Always fired with a desire to emulate his mother's salon in Paris, Raffalovich invited or corresponded with most of the major writers of the day. His gossipy recollections published in Blackfriars over 1927-1929 reveal personal acquaintances with some eminent Victorian poets, including Browning and Meredith. There are amusing, if sardonic, memories of Raffalovich, too, over this period written by Violet Paget, who visited him while she was staying with Pater in 1886. She left this portrait of him when they were both invited to dinner at Pater's: I am still with the Paters who are really very kind to me. The first evening they had three or four men to dinner, all of whom were agreeable , and yesterday there was a regular dinner party. There was young 192 Raffalovich, a much uglier Placel [Carlo Placel, a friend of Paget's and the Berensons'], who writes English verse, and his governess with whom this young millionaire of 21 is permitted to live in a beautiful flat by his family, careful of his morals or his marriage prospects. Apart from socializing, Rafjfalovich was also writing verse; he published four volumes between 1884 and 1889. In November 1892 Raffalovich met John.. Gray (1886-1934) and under the latter's influence became a Roman Catholic in 1896. Gray was ordained a priest in 1901, and from L904 onwards Raffalovich and Gray lived in great proximity in London and Edinburgh. Raffalovich, in a rambling, gossipy article, stated that after he and Wilde quarrelled—the cause of the wrangle was essentially over John Gray—he and Wilde met unwillingly and by accident. In the letters to Raffalovich, Pater shows an interest and encouragement towards a young writer similar to the interest he showed in Arthur Symons and William Sharp. He encouraged Raffalovich by writing a favourable (though unsigned) review of a volume of his verse, It Is Thyself: The author of this volume . . . seems...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 192-197
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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