His gift is shown by the way in which he accepts such a character, throws it into some situation, or apprehends it in some delicate pause of life, in which for a moment it becomes ideal. In the poem entitled Le Byron de nos jours, in his Dramatis Personae we have a single moment of passion thrown into relief after this exquisite fashion. Those two jaded Parisians are not intrinsically interesting; they begin only to interest us when they are thrown into a choice situation. But to discriminate that moment, to make it appreciable by us, that we may ‘find’ it, what a cobweb of allusions, what double and treble reflexions of the mind upon itself, what an artificial light, is constructed and broken over the chosen situation; on how fine a needle’s point that little world of passion is balanced!…Men and women, again, in the hurry of life, often wear the sharp impress of one absorbing motive, from which it is said death sets their features free. All such instances may be ranged under the grotesque; and the Hellenic ideal has nothing in common with the grotesque.
(Walter Pater on Browning) 1
Racy Saxon monosyllables, close to us as touch and sight, he will intermix readily with those long, savoursome, Latin words, rich in ‘second intention.’ In this late day certainly, no critical process can be conducted reasonably without eclecticism. Of such eclecticism we have a justifying example in one of the first poets of our time. How illustrative of monosyllabic effect, of sonorous Latin, of the phraseology of science, of metaphysic, of colloquialism even, are the writings of Tennyson; yet with what a fine, fastidious scholarship throughout!
(Walter Pater on Tennyson) 2
Pater’s urbane, patrician paganism places Browning and Tennyson, in 1867 and 1888 respectively, as established poets, but as poets of an older generation. However powerful, Browning’s ‘grotesque’ has nothing to do with the Hellenism of the 1860s: however scholarly, Tennyson’s language has nothing to do with the accounts of style prevalent by the 1880s, nothing