‘Strenuous Minds’: Walter Pater and the Labour of Aestheticism

  • Marcus Waithe
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture book series (PNWC)


In his late essay on ‘Style’ (1889), Walter Pater wrote that ‘To really strenuous minds there is a pleasurable stimulus in the challenge for a continuous effort’. He installs in the process a set of artisanal conceptions that qualify the contemplative model of artistic experience set out in The Renaissance (1873) and Marius the Epicurean (1885). More broadly, Pater issues a challenge to the familiar view that Aestheticism exchanged the work ethic for a leisure ethic. This discussion focuses on his admiring account of Gustave Flaubert’s working habits, and his account of composition as a laborious, indeed, a strenuously muscular activity. It argues that this French influence helped Pater reabsorb the working imperatives of mid-Victorian moralists, albeit critically and selectively.


Aestheticism Artisan Composition Gustave Flaubert Labour Style Walter Pater Work ethic 

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marcus Waithe
    • 1
  1. 1.Magdalene CollegeUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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