WHEN WILDE PROCLAIMED “[T]HERE IS NO PATER BUT PATER, AND Oscar Wilde is his prophet,” he created an impression that the naturally reserved Pater must have found unsettling.1 In his biography of Pater, Thomas Wright asserts that even though the two men were intimate, “Pater, in his heart of hearts, regarded Wilde with continuous dislike.”2 Writing in the aftermath of Wilde’s fall and death, Wright may have wanted to preserve the image of Pater as Pater— despite the pronouncements of his fallen disciple.3 Wright portrays Pater as moving toward conservatism, as refashioning his early subversive, radical self into a pious, proper Victorian: “He had passed from Cyrenaicism to Platonism, and from Platonism to Christianity. Already the Bible, the Prayer-Book, and the Breviary were, as he told a friend, his chief reading.”4 Why would Wright intentionally stress Pater’s “Christianity”?5 He contends that, after professional setbacks early in his academic career, Pater waged a lifelong campaign to appear less daring than he actually was. Wilde also states his disappointment in aestheticism’s apostle: “poor dear Pater has lived to disprove everything that he has written.”6 Similarly, Wright is fuzzy in his rendering of the Pater-Wilde relationship.7 Pater’s letters to Wilde appear to attest to their friendship.8 Further, Pater read the manuscript version of Dorian Gray in 1890 and so knew that Wilde had appropriated many passages from The Renaissance (1873) and Marius the Epicurean (1885); he made Wilde’s quip about living up to his blue china “the epigraph to the unpublished part of his last book, Gaston de Latour”9; he, by all accounts, maintained cordial relations with Wilde at least until 1891, the fateful year in which Wilde met “Bosie,” Lord Alfred Douglas;10 and both writers shared a lifelong concern to promote a new Hellenism to lighten Victorian England.
Wright may have found objectionable the same-sex relationships that Pater and Wilde subversively present in their work.” In any case, he unconvincingly divides Pater and Wilde by portraying Pater as one who follows the madding crowd. But from beginning