The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIV. The Victorian Age, Part Two.

II. Historians, Biographers and Political Orators

§ 55. Mark Pattison

A later, and, to some moderns, less attractive, phase of the renascence movement was brought nearer to English readers by the one larger work published, amidst a number of smaller contributions to the literature of scholarship and adjoining fields of research, by Mark Pattison, the renowned rector of Lincoln College, Oxford. Yet, his Isaac Casaubon (1875), though an admirable piece of work, fitly described by Pattison’s pupil and friend Richard Copley Christie as “the best biography in our language of a scholar, in the sense in which Pattison, in common with Casaubon and Scaliger, understood the word,” was not produced till the author found himself anticipated (by Jacob Bernays) in the life of Scaliger, for which, during thirty years, he had been preparing. Although much of what Pattison wrote besides Isaac Casaubon (including the collected Essays and a characteristic life of Milton in the “English Men of Letters” series) is worthy of preservation, it was in his own posthumously published Memoirs (reaching to 1860) that he made an addition of surpassing interest to biographical literature. His express prohibition of the cancelling of a word of these Memoirs, except a few paragraphs at the beginning which seemed to be of too egotistical a character, was conscientiously obeyed; and the result is a book of self-confession—but of the sort that obliges the writer to confess his opinion of others as well as of himself. He tells us how it was only at an advanced period of his life that he had come to understand Goethe’s ideal of self-culture, and the pollution and “disfigurement” of it by literary ambition. Luckily, “the vulgar feeling that a literary life means one devoted to the making of books” so far prevailed with Pattison that his pen was rarely idle, and that he made himself memorable, not only in the educational history of his university, but, also, in the history of learning and letters.