It is odd that Pater is not better known nowadays and that no biography of him has been attempted for 70 years, because ""the very things for which Pater had pre-eminently stood,"" as Michael Levey says, belong thoroughly to the modernist temper: ""the cult of beauty in everything, the pursuit of pleasure, a taste for the bizarre."" Levey, the director of London's National Gallery, intends his slim biography to redress this neglect--which followed earlier reproach--by presenting ""the case for Pater."" This case develops through a critical narrative of Pater's lonely and fearful childhood; his school years, which brought intellectual companionship, the loss of religion, an intensifying ""lust of the eye,"" and the discovery of art for art's sake; and his maturity, which saw him become a quiet Oxford don who roused controversy with writings prizing intensity of feeling and sensation and detachment of mind (Victorian earnestness was his enemy, 18th-century levity his friend), all phrased in a sensuous, even seductive prose perfectly suited to the ideas. The fruit of this career was a new kind of criticism, uniting psychological insights into both artists and observers, exemplified by the remarkable essays on the Renaissance that gained Pater notoriety and denunciation in the 1870s--although Pater's true if ephemeral fame came only in the 1890s with the cultural efflorescence of aestheticism. Levey's graceful narrative makes no pretense to full critical evaluation or historical inclusiveness; yet it gives us a finely drawn portrait of a man whose unconventional spirit ""cut away the nineteenth-century, notably Ruskinian, moral ground for enjoying art,"" while never being allowed, in Pater's most famous phrase, ""to burn with that hard gem-like flame"" in Pater's outward life. Within its economy of scale, Levey's book successfully makes Pater's case and should encourage more comprehensive revaluations.