What is so wrong with this famous passage? Not the subject or thesentiment, for in these respects it could have been one of the most memorable pages of Proust. Not, as is commonly supposed, the epithets. There are afew tiresome archaisms like "goodly" and "fair," and the "perishing little petals," which is an accident that might happen to anybody. (Interesting, by the way, to know when the word "perishing," which was still so effective in the De Quincey, became a word of popular abuse.) But our embarrassment goes deeper. I am reluctant to use words as imprecise as "texture" and"rhythm," but they are the only ones that I can think of to account for thepeculiar tone of Pater's purple patches. A curious experiment proved thepoint. Vernon Lee published in an early number of ,one of Pater's most famous passages, "the Night in the Temple," in , rewritten in a more workmanlike style. She pointed out,in all seriousness, that Pater had made many mistakes of word order, of chronological sequence, of logic, and of accurate observation. She was an experienced writer,she had been Pater's pupil, and she felt entitled to put these faults right. No one but Vernon Lee, with her relentless fixity of purpose, could haveundertaken such an exercise. The resulting translation is defensible atevery point, except that it is - nothing. Like it or not, it was Pater's tone of voice that had made one read the original; and it was precisely this tone that seduced the would-be stylist for over fifty years.


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