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  • Pater the Journalist:Essays from The Guardian
  • Laurel Brake

I sometimes, a little to my own surprise, find myself a contributor to The Guardian, where lately I reviewed Robert Elsmere.

—Walter Pater, 7 June 18881

Essays from The Guardian is a posthumous collection of nine anonymous reviews by Walter Pater that appeared between 1886 and 1890 in a weekly newspaper commonly called "The Church Guardian" although its masthead simply reads The Guardian.2 Although these pieces were first collected in 1896, they were formally included in Pater's collected work only as volume ten in the New Library Edition in 1910. The volume prompts questions about the nature of Pater's literary career, the posthumous management of his reputation, and media history issues, such as the position and character of the Guardian, puffing, and the status of reviewing. Biographically, it attests to Pater's abiding voluntary association with Anglo-Catholicism and invites us to read the reviews in a religious context as well as that of a weekly newspaper.3

Essays from The Guardian was part of a flurry of collection and publication of Pater's work immediately after his death, with four volumes appearing in 1895-1896, under the auspices of two of his friends C. L. Shadwell and Edmund Gosse and the watchful eyes of Arthur Symons and Lionel Johnson. It was a crucial time for the management of Pater's literary and personal reputation, and his family, friends and publisher were working hard to protect both, especially in this period that includes the trials and conviction of Oscar Wilde. Shadwell, an Oxford Fellow and Pater's de facto literary executor, was editor of three [End Page 483] titles published by Macmillan. Gosse, who edited and published Essays from The Guardian, was London-based; a one-time Cambridge lecturer, he worked at the Board of Trade in the 1890s, while a member of Trinity College, Cambridge. Gosse's edition and two of Shadwell's—three of the four posthumous books—involved the collection of diverse and unconnected material originally published in journals and the shaping of volumes of articles through their selection and ordering.4 As this process echoed Pater's own method of creating most of his books, it may be suggested that in appropriating his place the editors of the posthumous Pater shape his work in their own lights.

Shadwell's vision as editor produced the themed volume of Greek Studies, but then settled for the unthemed Miscellaneous Studies, the contents of which were from diverse sources but all signed. Gosse's volume of reviews, also notably miscellaneous, shared anonymity and a common origin of publication, reflected in the volume's title.5 These three posthumous editions did not duplicate material, since the contents of Essays from The Guardian, appearing at lengthy intervals over five years (1886-1890),6 was hitherto anonymous and only latterly identified by the Guardian's editor in 1896.7 Pater's edition had duplication. It is unsurprising that D. C. Lathbury of the Guardian passed the information of Pater's contributions to Gosse, rather than to any other of Pater's friends: Gosse had written the most authoritative and timely obituary articles about Pater in the eighteen months after Pater's death, the first in the monthly Contemporary Review in December 1894 and then a year later the entry in the Dictionary of National Biography in December 1895.8 As a journalist and editor Lathbury probably had no problem with the status of reviews and did not feel he was harming Pater's reputation by divulging their authorship to Gosse; nearly all critics contemporary with Pater, including G. H. Lewes, Swinburne, Matthew Arnold, R. H. Hutton, Margaret Oliphant and Gosse himself, routinely undertook reviews.

Though Gosse's collection of the Guardian reviews appeared in the United Kingdom in 1896, it was published privately in a tiny print run of 100 copies and a small format by the Chiswick Press, unlike the three volumes of Pater that Shadwell edited for Macmillan, issued in binding and format identical to the titles that had appeared in the author's lifetime. Because Essays from The Guardian was privately published, it was sparsely reviewed, in...


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