Gentleman, Dandy, Priest:
Masks and Masculinity in
I have grown to love secrecy. It seems to be the one thing that can make modern life mysterious or marvellous to us. The commonest thing is delightful if only one hides it.
Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
Shortly after Walter Pater's death, Henry James wrote to Edmund Gosse that Pater "has had ... the most exquisite literary fortune: i.e. to have taken it out all, wholly, exclusively, with the pen (the style, the genius) and absolutely not at all with the person. He is the mask without the face." Pater's dedication to his craft, in James's account, is crowned by a vanishing act that frustrates the surveillance of popular journalism: "And there isn't in his total superficies," James continues, "a tiny point of vantage for the newspaper to flap its wings on" (Letters 3:492). 1. In imagining the newspaper as a bird of prey, James captures the increasingly acute pressures of Victorian publicity that Alexander Welsh has analyzed in George Eliot and Blackmail. Indeed, James may well have known (through Edmund Gosse) that Pater's Oxford career had been shadowed by blackmail in the 1870s, when he was threatened with the exposure of compromising letters written to an undergraduate____________________