This essay treats Walter Pater's engagement with two key Romantic precursors, William Hazlitt and Charles Lamb. Hazlitt's influence is on Pater's characteristic genre, the verbal portrait that delineates a historical and cultural moment, as it manifests itself in an individual personality. Lamb's importance to Pater, on the other hand, is as paradigm or type: the man himself, as much as his writing. For Pater, Lamb's value is especially in his antiquarianism (an extraordinary, intimate relationship with the past), which is, at the same time and paradoxically, the indicator of modernity. The combination of past and present that Pater posits in Lamb captures the modern consciousness first described in The Renaissance (1873); equally, Lamb also embodies Pater's “reserve,” the ruling tenet of Appreciations (1889). Lamb's centrality to Pater's particular concerns and critical positions, illuminating in itself, also indicates a continuity from Pater's earliest to his later writings. Further, by uncovering the close and direct connections between Hazlitt, Lamb, and Pater, this essay establishes an identifiable line of succession in the practitioners of an important, but still largely neglected, prose genre of the nineteenth century.
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