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Marius the Epicurean

3.49 of 5 stars 3.49  ·  rating details  ·  326 ratings  ·  18 reviews
It was as a critic and a humanist that Pater (1839-1894), professor at Oxford, became a powerful influence on his own and succeeding generations, claiming disciples as diverse as Virginia Woolf and Ezra Pound. This has been described as "the most highly finished of all his works and the expression of his deepest thought". It is the story of Marius, the grave and thoughtful ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published January 7th 1986 by Penguin Classics (first published 1885)
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James
Walter Pater achieved something magnificent and rare with this novel. The book itself is hard to classify. It’s a novel of ideas (or rather a history of ideas disguised as a novel), but also a Bildungsroman. And yet, it also feels quite distinct from either of these genres. Perhaps that is because of the way it is narrated, with its remote third-person voice that eschews realism, that opts instead for a biographical tone more suitable to Pater’s style of intensive intellectual perambulation, ref ...more
John
I may say I read an old Everyman copy, not the recent Penguin. I have owned this for many years but finally read it. It is not so much a historical novel as a philosophical meditation in the form of a historical novel -- about as far from what my mother called the "lusty, busty, gusty"
style as it is posssible to be. In effect, it is a working out in story form of Lorenzo Valla's argument that Epicureanism
is closer to Christianity than Stoicism is.
Since Pater was a noted writer on the Renaissance
...more
Chet Herbert
eloquence murdered by commas
Eric
Aug 14, 2014 Eric marked it as to-read
Submitted this as a third entry to the Gaddis Annotations (I've one here, another here) though it doesn't appear to have made an appearance there. Basically, Gaddis got the immortal line--the one about the procession, which makes a tangle of the opening paragraph--from Pater's novel. If you will:

"But for the monotonous intonation of the liturgy by the priests, clad in their strange, stiff, antique vestments, and bearing ears of green corn upon their heads, secured by flowing bands of white, the
...more
Steven
I'm torn about this book. One could read this as a treatment of Rome's decline and the rise of Christianity: a fictive history, I suppose, through the eyes of Marius. You could also read it as a history of ideas. Embodied in the character of Marcus Aurelius is the stoic philosophy of detachment and high reason. Embodied in the character of Marius' childhood friend, Flavius, and later, Cornelius, is the Epicurean virtue of reason abstracted from experience based in the real world. Marius wrestles ...more
E.J.
After becoming fascinated by the writers of the Decadent Movement of the 1890s, I finally decided to read the novel so often lauded as the inspiration for the movement itself. Pater's prose is indeed lovely, but it has a dated heaviness common to its Victorian time. More than that, however, this is a novel of a Classical academic, full of references beyond the reach of anyone who is unfamiliar with Ancient Greek and Roman Classicism. Even so, Pater's descriptions of the waning years of Ancient R ...more
Colin Heber-Percy
I'd been looking forward to reading this. And I'm afraid I was disappointed. There are some wonderful aspects to Marius the Epicurean - especially his extraordinary evocation of Rome and the empire under Marcus Aurelius. But the fabled prose! It's clotted and turgid and stifling. You're dying of thirst and the only thing to drink is Cointreau. Sticky and thick and sends you to sleep.
Nicholas
Simultaneously the most boring, prolix, pointless and yet wondrous Bildungsroman ever written. Not of our time.
Clayton
Another of the "Dorian Gray" books, Marius the Epicurean shows itself a very strong influence on Wilde. Wilde's rambunctious prose is anticipated in Pater's book, and there are very few passages that don't sheer, unquestionable style. The story of a young man experimenting with the various philosophies and religions of Ancient Rome on his search for happiness, Marius the Epicurean is alternately sad and fascinating, and Pater guides the reader through Marius's journey of discovery while explorin ...more
James Violand
Jul 02, 2014 James Violand rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone.
Shelves: own
A Roman searches for a faith that satisfies and visits various places to taste each. Often, he is confused for a Christian during persecution and at his death, those caring for him assume he is one by his gentleness. A good read and an interesting journey for a philosopher.
Sarah
This is a quiet book. I suspect Pater was trying to bring to life a world of the past that represented a possible better future.

The profound feeling for nature and for tradition. The genuinely "liberal" education which made a young patrician man grow up independent and thoughtful. The deep love and friendship between men who were kindred philosophical spirits, the classical reverence for friendship. The Epicurean philosophy -- which, the way Pater describes it, has an eerily modern information-
...more
Roxana Russo
My favorite novel of all time. I will admit that it requires some classical erudition for full appreciation (philosophy and knowledge on the court of Marcus Aurelius), however great aesthetic pleasure can be had without it.
What I enjoyed most about the novel was Marius' explorations through different philosophical systems via men. This novel is intensely homosocial; all of his profound intellectual experiences come from relationships with other males, beautiful in their dignity and knowledge. T
...more
Evan
One of the best works of fiction I've read and some of the finest prose. Every moment - every epiphanic description - exists for its own sake and not just to further the plot.
The work's weakness, though, is its philosophical untidiness. There seemed to be a multitude of special perceptive moments but in the end I couldn't summarize the author's main point. And Pater also makes naive mistakes when interpreting Aurelius' "Meditations" - for example, he confuses the idea of non-resistance with a l
...more
Leslie
Interesting but not sure it is really my taste.
Megan
Amazingly boring. I think a piece of my soul died while reading this book. If you haven't heard of it until now, you now know why.
Deanne
Tried to like this book but it was very dry, Marius comes across as a bit wet behind the ears.
Clara
I think this was ok - but I don't really remember?
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“The younger, certainly, had to the full that charm
of a constitutional freshness of aspect which may
defy for a long time extravagant or erring habits of
life; a physiognomy healthy-looking, cleanly, and
firm, which seemed unassociable with any form of
self-tormenting, and made one think of the nozzle of
some young hound or roe, such as human beings
invariably like to stroke—with all the goodliness, that
is, of the finer sort of animalism, though still wholly
animal. It was the charm of the blond head, the
unshrinking gaze, the warm tints:—neither more
nor less than one may see every English summer, in
youth, manly enough, and with the stuff in it which
makes brave soldiers, in spite of the natural kinship
it seems to have with playthings and gay flowers.”
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