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The Life of John Ruskin by W. G. Collingwood

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[Footnote 13: During February, March and April, 1867, and published in
the _Manchester Examiner_ and _Leeds Mercury_.]

Before this work was ended, Carlyle had come back from Mentone to
Chelsea, and was begging his friend, in the warmest terms, to come and
see him. Shortly afterward, a passage which Ruskin would not retract
gave offence to Carlyle. But the difference was healed, and later years
reveal the sage of Chelsea as kindly and affectionate as ever. This
friendship between the two greatest writers of their age, between two
men of vigorous individuality, outspoken opinions, and widely different
tastes and sympathies, is a fine episode in the history of both.

In May, Ruskin was invited to Cambridge to receive the honorary degree
of LL.D., and to deliver the Rede Lecture. The _Cambridge Chronicle_ of
May 24th, 1867, says: "The body of the Senate House was quite filled
with M.A.'s and ladies, principally the latter, whilst there was a large
attendance of undergraduates in the galleries, who gave the lecturer a
most enthusiastic reception." A brief report of the lecture was printed
in the newspaper; but it was not otherwise published, and the manuscript
seems to have been mislaid for thirty years. I take the liberty of
copying the opening sentences as a specimen of that Academical oratory
which Mr. Ruskin then adopted, and used habitually in his earlier
lectures at Oxford.

The title of the discourse was "The Relation of National Ethics to
National Arts."

"In entering on the duty to-day entrusted to me, I should hold it
little respectful to my audience if I disturbed them by expression
of the diffidence which they know that I must feel in first
speaking in this Senate House; diffidence which might well have
prevented me from accepting such duty, but ought not to interfere
with my endeavour simply to fulfil it. Nevertheless, lest the
direction which I have been led to give to my discourse, and the
narrow limits within which I am compelled to confine the treatment
of its subject may seem in anywise inconsistent with the purpose of
the founder of this Lecture--or with the expectations of those by
whose authority I am appointed to deliver it, let me at once say
that I obeyed their command, not thinking myself able to teach any
dogma in the philosophy of the arts, which could be of any new
interest to the members of this University: but only that I might
obtain the sanction of their audience, for the enforcement upon
other minds of the truth, which--after thirty years spent in the
study of art, not dishonestly, however feebly--is manifest to me as
the clearest of all that I have learned, and urged upon me as the
most vital of all I have to declare."

He then distinguished between true and false art, the true depending
upon sincerity, whether in literature, music or the formative arts: he
reinforced his old doctrine of the dignity of true imagination as the
attribute of healthy and earnest minds; and energetically attacked the
commercial art-world of the day, and the notion that drawing-schools
were to be supported for the sake of the gain they would bring to our

In this lecture we see the germ of the ideas, as well as the beginning
of the style, of the Oxford Inaugural course, and the "Eagle's Nest";
something quite different in type from the style and teaching of the
addresses to working men, or to mixed popular audiences at Edinburgh or
Manchester, or even at the Royal Institution. At this latter place, on
June 4th, Sir Henry Holland in the chair, he lectured on "The Present
State of Modern Art, with reference to advisable arrangement of the
National Gallery," repeating much of what he had said in "Time and Tide"
about the taste for the horrible and absence of true feeling for pure
and dignified art in the theatrical shows of the day, and in the
admiration for Gustave Dore, then a new fashion. Mr. Ruskin could never
endure that the man who had illustrated Balzac's "Contes Drolatiques"
should be chosen by the religious public of England as the exponent of
their sacred ideals.

In July after a short visit to Huntly Burn near Abbotsford, he went to
Keswick for a few weeks, from whence he wrote the rhymed letters to his
cousin at home, quoted (with the date wrongly given as 1857) in
"Praeterita" to illustrate his "heraldic character" of "Little Pigs" and
to shock exoteric admirers. Like, for example, Rossetti and Carlyle,
Ruskin was fond of playful nicknames and grotesque terms of endearment.
He never stood upon his dignity with intimates; and was ready to allow
the liberties he took, much to the surprise of strangers.

He reached Keswick by July 4, and spent his time chiefly in walks upon
the hills, staying at the Derwentwater Hotel. He wrote:

"Keswick, _19th July, '67, Afternoon, 1/2 past 3_.

"My dearest Mother,

"As this is the last post before Sunday I send one more line to say
I've had a delightful forenoon's walk--since 1/2 past ten--by St.
John's Vale, and had pleasant thoughts, and found one of the most
variedly beautiful torrent beds I ever saw in my life; and I feel
that I gain strength, slowly but certainly, every day. The great
good of the place is that I can be content without going on great
excursions which fatigue and do me harm (or else worry me with
problems;)--I am _content_ here with the roadside hedges and
streams; and this contentment is the great thing for health,--and
there is hardly anything to annoy me of absurd or calamitous human
doing; but still this ancient cottage life--very rude and miserable
enough in its torpor--but clean, and calm, not a vile cholera and
plague of bestirred pollution, like back streets in London. There
is also much more real and deep beauty than I expected to find, in
some of the minor pieces of scenery, and in the cloud effects."

"_July 16_.

"I have the secret of extracting sadness from all things, instead
of joy, which is no enviable talisman. Forgive me if I ever write
in a way that may pain you. It is best that you should know, when I
write cheerfully, it is no pretended cheerfulness; so when I am
sad--I think it right to confess it."

"_30th July._

"Downes[14] arrived yesterday quite comfortably and in fine
weather. It is not bad this morning, and I hope to take him for a
walk up Saddleback, which, after all, is the finest, to my mind, of
all the Cumberland hills--though that is not saying much; for they
are much lower in effect, in proportion to their real height, than
I had expected. The beauty of the country is in its quiet roadside
bits, and rusticity of cottage life and shepherd labour. Its
mountains are sorrowfully melted away from my old dreams of them."

[Footnote 14: The gardener at Denmark Hill.]

Next day he "went straight up the steep front of Saddleback by the
central ridge to the summit. It is the finest thing I've yet seen,
there being several bits of real crag-work, and a fine view at the
top over the great plains of Penrith on one side, and the
Cumberland hills, as a chain, on the other. Fine fresh wind
blowing, and plenty of crows. Do you remember poor papa's favourite
story about the Quaker whom the crows ate on Saddleback? There were
some of the biggest and hoarsest-voiced ones about the cliff that
I've ever had sympathetic croaks from;--and one on the top, or near
it, so big that Downes and Crawley, having Austrian tendencies in
politics, took it for a 'black eagle.' Downes went up capitally,
though I couldn't get him down again, because he _would_ stop to
gather ferns. However, we did it all and came down to Threlkeld--of
the Bridal of Triermain,

"'The King his way pursued
By lonely Threlkeld's waste and wood,'

"in good time for me to dress and, for a wonder, go out to dinner
with Acland's friends the Butlers."

As an episode in this visit to Keswick, ten days were given to the
neighbourhood of Ambleside, "to show Downes Windermere."

"Waterhead, Windermere,

"_10th August, 1867, Evening_.

"I was at Coniston to-day. Our old Waterhead Inn, where I was so
happy playing in the boats, _exists_ no more.--Its place is grown
over with smooth Park grass--the very site of it forgotten! and, a
quarter of a mile down the lake, a vast hotel built in the railroad
station style--making up, I suppose, its fifty or eighty beds, with
coffee-room--smoking-room--and every pestilent and devilish
Yankeeism that money can buy, or speculation plan.

"The depression, whatever its cause, does not affect my strength. I
walked up a long hill on the road to Coniston to-day (gathering
wild raspberries)--then from this new Inn, two miles to the foot of
Coniston Old Man; up it; down again--(necessarily!)--and back to
dinner, without so much as warming myself--not that there was much
danger of doing that at the top; for a keen west wind was blowing
drifts of cloud by at a great pace, and one was glad of the
shelter of the pile of stones, the largest and _oldest_ I ever saw
on a mountain top. I suppose the whole mountain is named from it.
It is of the shape of a beehive, strongly built, about 15 feet high
(so that I made Downes follow me up it before I would allow he had
been at the top of the Old Man) and covered with lichen and short
moss. Lancaster sands and the Irish sea were very beautiful, and so
also the two lakes of Coniston and Windermere, lying in the vastest
space of sweet cultivated country I have ever looked over,--a great
part of the view from the Rigi being merely over black pine forest,
even on the plains. Well, after dinner, the evening was very
beautiful, and I walked up the long hill on the road back from
Coniston--and kept ahead of the carriage for two miles: I was sadly
vexed when I had to get in: and now--I don't feel as if I had been
walking at all--and shall probably lie awake for an hour or
two--and feeling as if I had not had exercise enough to send me to

"LANGDALE, _13th August, Evening._

"It is perfectly calm to-night, not painfully hot--and the full
moon shining over the mountains, opposite my window, which are the
scene of Wordsworth's 'Excursion.' It was terribly hot in the
earlier day, and I did not leave the house till five o'clock. Then
I went out, and in the heart of Langdale Pikes found the loveliest
rock-scenery, chased with silver waterfalls, that I ever set foot
or heart upon. The Swiss torrent-beds are always more or less
savage, and ruinous, with a terrible sense of overpowering strength
and danger, lulled. But here, the sweet heather and ferns and star
mosses nestled in close to the dashing of the narrow
streams;--while every cranny of crag held its own little placid
lake of amber, trembling with falling drops--but quietly
trembling--not troubled into ridgy wave or foam--the rocks
themselves, _ideal_ rock, as hard as iron--no--not quite that, but
_so_ hard that after breaking some of it, breaking solid white
quartz seemed like smashing brittle loaf sugar, in comparison--and
cloven into the most noble masses; not grotesque, but majestic and
full of harmony with the larger mountain mass of which they formed
a part. Fancy what a place! for a hot afternoon after five, with no
wind--and absolute solitude; no creature--except a lamb or two--to
mix any ruder sound or voice with the plash of the innumerable

It was during this tour that he looked at a site on the hill above
Bowness-on-Windermere, where Mr. T. Richmond, the owner, proposed
building him a house. He liked the view, but found it too near the
railway station.

After spending September with his mother at Norwood under the care of
Dr. Powell, he was able to return home, prepare "Time and Tide" for
publication, and write the preface on Dec. 14th. On the 19th the book
was out, and immediately bought up. A month later the second edition was



Of less interest to the general reader, though too important a part of
Ruskin's life and work to be passed over without mention, are his
studies in Mineralogy. We have heard of his early interest in spars and
ores; of his juvenile dictionary in forgotten hieroglyphics; and of his
studies in the field and at the British Museum. He had made a splendid
collection, and knew the various museums of Europe as familiarly as he
knew the picture-galleries. In the "Ethics of the Dust" he had chosen
Crystallography as the subject in which to exemplify his method of
education; and in 1867, after finishing the letters to Thomas Dixon, he
took refuge, as before, among the stones, from the stress of more
agitating problems.

In the lecture on the Savoy Alps in 1863 he had referred to a hint of
Saussure's that the contorted beds of the limestones might possibly be
due to some sort of internal action, resembling on a large scale that
separation into concentric or curved bands which is seen in calcareous
deposits. The contortions of gneiss were similarly analogous, it was
suggested, to those of the various forms of silica. Ruskin did not adopt
the theory, but put it by for examination in contrast with the usual
explanation of these phenomena, as the simple mechanical thrust of the
contracting surface of the earth.

In 1863 and 1866 he had been among the Nagelflueh of Northern
Switzerland, studying the puddingstones and breccias. He saw that the
difference between these formations, in their structural aspect, and the
hand-specimens in his collection of pisolitic and brecciated minerals
was chiefly a matter of size; and that the resemblances in form were
very close. And so he concluded that if the structure of the minerals
could be fully understood a clue might be found to the very puzzling
question of the origin of mountain structure.

Hence his attempt to analyze the structure of agates and similar banded
and brecciated minerals, in the series of papers in the _Geological
Magazine_;[15] an attempt which though it was never properly completed,
and fails to come to any general conclusion, is extremely interesting as
an account of beautiful and curious natural forms till then little
noticed by mineralogists.

[Footnote 15: August and November, 1867, January, April and May, 1868,
December, 1869, and January, 1870, illustrated with very fine mezzotint
plates and woodcuts.]

A characteristic anecdote of this period is preserved in "Arrows of the

"The _Daily Telegraph_ of January 21st, 1868, contained a leading
article upon the following facts. It appeared that a girl, named Matilda
Griggs, had been nearly murdered by her seducer, who, after stabbing her
in no less than thirteen places, had then left her for dead. She had,
however, still strength enough to crawl into a field close by, and there
swooned. The assistance she met with in this plight was of a rare kind.
Two calves came up to her, and disposing themselves on either side of
her bleeding body, thus kept her warm and partly sheltered from cold
and rain. Temporarily preserved, the girl eventually recovered, and
entered into recognizances, under a sum of forty pounds, to prosecute
her murderous lover. But 'she loved much,' and failing to prosecute,
forfeited her recognizances, and was imprisoned by the Chancellor of the
Exchequer for her debt. 'Pity the poor debtor,' wrote the _Daily
Telegraph_, and in the next day's issue appeared the following letter,
probably not intended for the publication accorded to it. 'Sir,--Except
in 'Gil Blas,' I never read of anything Astraean on the earth so perfect
as the story in your fourth article to-day. I send you a cheque for the
Chancellor. If forty, in legal terms, means four hundred, you must
explain the farther requirements to your impulsive public.

"'I am, Sir, your faithful servant, 'J. RUSKIN.'"

The writer of letters like this naturally had a large correspondence,
beside that which a circle of private friends and numberless admirers
and readers elicited. About this time it grew to such a pitch that he
was obliged to print a form excusing him from letter-writing on the
ground of stress of work. And indeed, this year, though he did not
publish his annual volume, as usual, he was fully occupied with frequent
letters to newspapers, several lectures and addresses, a preface to the
reprint of his old friend Cruikshank's "Grimm," and the beginning of a
new botanical work, "Proserpina," in addition to the mineralogy, and a
renewed interest in classical studies. Of the public addresses the most
important was that on "The Mystery of Life and its Arts," delivered in
the theatre of the Royal College of Science, Dublin (May 13th), and
printed in "Sesame and Lilies."

After this visit to Ireland he spent a few days at Winnington; and late
in August crossed the Channel, for rest and change at Abbeville. For the
past five years he had found too little time for drawing; it was twenty
years since his last sketching of French Gothic, except for a study (now
at Oxford), of the porch at Amiens, in 1856. He took up the old work
where he had left it, after writing the "Seven Lamps," with fresh
interest and more advanced powers of draughtsmanship as shown in the
pencil study of the Place Amiral Courbet, now in the drawing school at

The following are extracts from the usual budget of home letters;
readers of "Fors" will need no further introduction to their old
acquaintance, the tallow-chandler.

"ABBEVILLE, _Friday, 18th Sept._, 1868

"You seem to have a most uncomfortable time of it, with the
disturbance of the house. However, I can only leave you to manage
these things as you think best--or feel pleasantest to yourself. I
am saddened by another kind of disorder, France is in everything so
fallen back, so desolate and comfortless, compared to what it was
twenty years ago--the people so much rougher, clumsier, more
uncivil--everything they do, vulgar and base. Remnants of the old
nature come out when they begin to know you. I am drawing at a nice
tallow-chandler's door, and to-day, for the first time had to go
inside for rain. He was very courteous and nice, and warned me
against running against the candle-ends--or bottoms, as they were
piled on the shelves, saying--'You must take care, you see, not to
steal any of my candles'--or 'steal _from_ my candles,' meaning not
to rub them off on my coat. He has a beautiful family of cats--papa
and mamma and two superb kittens--half Angora."

"_22nd Sept._

"I am going to my cats and tallow-chandler.... I was very much
struck by the superiority of manner both in him and in his two
daughters who serve at the counter, to persons of the same class in
England. When the girls have weighed out their candles, or written
down the orders that are sent in, they instantly sit down to their
needlework behind the counter, and are always busy, yet always
quiet; and their father, though of course there may be vulgar
idioms in his language which I do not recognize, has entirely the
manners of a gentleman."

_30th Sept_.

"I have the advantage here I had not counted on. I see by the
papers that the weather in England is very stormy and bad. Now,
though it is showery here, and breezy, it has always allowed me at
some time of the day to draw. The air is tender and soft,
invariably--even when blowing with force; and to-day, I have seen
quite the loveliest sunset I ever yet saw,--one at Boulogne in '61
was richer; but for delicacy and loveliness nothing of past sight
ever came near this."

Earlier on the same day he had written:

"I am well satisfied with the work I am doing, and even with my own
power of doing it, if only I can keep myself from avariciously
trying to do too much, and working hurriedly. But I can do _very_
little quite _well_, each day: with that however it is my bounden
duty to be content.

"And now I have a little piece of news for you. Our old Herne Hill
house being now tenantless, and requiring some repairs before I can
get a tenant, I have resolved to keep it for myself, for my rougher
mineral work and mass of collection; keeping only my finest
specimens at Denmark Hill. My first reason for this, is affection
for the old house:--my second, want of room;--my third, the
incompatibility of hammering, washing, and experimenting on stones
with cleanliness in my stores of drawings. And my fourth is the
power I shall have, when I want to do anything very quietly, of
going up the hill and thinking it out in the old garden, where your
greenhouse still stands, and the aviary--without fear of
interruption from callers.

"It may perhaps amuse you, in hours which otherwise would be
listless, to think over what may be done with the old house. I have
ordered it at once to be put in proper repair by Mr. Snell; but for
the furnishing, I can give no directions at present: it is to be
very simple, at all events, and calculated chiefly for museum work
and for stores of stones and books: and you really must not set
your heart on having it furnished like Buckingham Palace.

"I have bought to-day, for five pounds, the front of the porch of
the Church of St. James. It was going to be entirely destroyed. It
is worn away, and has little of its old beauty; but as a remnant of
the Gothic of Abbeville--as I happen to be here--and as the church
was dedicated to my father's patron saint (as distinct from mine)
I'm glad to have got it. It is a low arch--with tracery and
niches, which ivy, and the Erba della Madonna, will grow over
beautifully, wherever I rebuild it."

At Abbeville he had with him as usual his valet Crawley; and as before
he sent for Downes the gardener, to give him a holiday, and to enjoy his
raptures over every new sight. C.E. Norton came on a short visit, and
Ruskin followed him to Paris, where he met the poet Longfellow (October
7). At last on Monday, 19th October, he wrote:

"Only a line to-day, for I am getting things together, and am a
little tired, but very well, and glad to come home, though much
mortified at having failed in half my plans, and done nothing
compared to what I expected. But it is better than if I were
displeased with all I _had_ done. It isn't Turner--and it isn't
Correggio--it isn't even Prout--but it isn't bad."

Returning home, he gave an account of his autumn's work in the lecture
at the Royal Institution, January 29th, 1869, on the "Flamboyant
Architecture of the Valley of the Somme." This lecture was not then
published in full: but part of the original text is printed in the third
chapter of the work we have next to notice, "The Queen of the Air."



In spite of a "classical education" and the influence of Aristotle upon
the immature art-theories of his earlier works, Ruskin was known, in his
younger days, as a Goth, and the enemy of the Greeks. When he began
life, his sense of justice made him take the side of Modern Painters
against classical tradition. Later on, when considering the great
questions of education and the aims of life, he entirely set aside the
common routine of Greek and Latin grammar as the all-in-all of culture.
But this was not because he shared Carlyle's contempt for classical

In "Modern Painters," Vol. III., he had followed out the indications of
nature-worship, and tried to analyse in general terms the attitude of
the Greek spirit towards landscape scenery, as betrayed in Homer and
Aristophanes and the poets usually read. Since that time his interest in
Greek literature had been gradually increasing. He had made efforts to
improve his knowledge of the language; and he had spent many days in
sketching and studying the terra-cottas and vases and coins at the
British Museum. He had also taken up some study of Egyptology, through
Champollion, Bunsen and Birch, in the hope of tracing the origin of
Greek decorative art. Comparative mythology, at that time, was a
department of philology, introduced to the English public chiefly by Max
Mueller. Under his influence Ruskin entered step by step upon an inquiry
which afterwards became of singular importance in his life and thought.

In 1865 he had told his hearers at Bradford that Greek Religion was not,
as commonly supposed, the worship of Beauty, but of Wisdom and Power.
They did not, in their great age, worship "Venus," but Apollo and
Athena. And he regarded their mythology as a sincere tradition,
effective in forming a high moral type, and a great school of art. In
the "Ethics of the Dust" he had explained the myth of Athena as parallel
to that of Neith in Egypt; and in his fable of Neith and St. Barbara he
had hinted at a comparison, on equal terms, of Ancient and Mediaeval
mythology. He ended by saying that, though he would not have his young
hearers believe "that the Greeks were better than we, and that their
gods were real angels," yet their art and morals were in some respects
greater, and their beliefs were worth respectful and sympathetic study.
The "Queen of the Air" is his contribution to this study.

On March 9th, 1869, his lecture at University College, London, on "Greek
Myths of Cloud and Storm," began with an attempt to explain in popular
terms how a myth differs from mere fiction on the one hand and from
allegory on the other, being "not conceived didactically, but didactic
in its essence, as all good art is." He showed that Greek poetry dealt
with the series of Nature-myths with which were interwoven ethical
suggestions; that these were connected with Egyptian beliefs, but that
the full force of them was only developed in the central period of Greek
history, and their interpretation was to be read in a sympathetic
analysis of the spirit of men like Pindar and AEschylus. "The great
question," he said, "in reading a story is, always, not what wild hunter
dreamed, or what childish race first dreaded it; but what wise man first
perfectly told, and what strong people first perfectly lived by it. And
the real meaning of any myth is that which it has at the noblest age of
the nation among whom it was current."

In the next chapter he worked out, as a sequel to his lecture, two
groups of Animal-myths; those connected with birds, and especially the
dove, as type of Spirit, and those connected with the serpent in its
various significances. These two studies were continued, more or less,
in "Love's Meinie" and in the lecture printed in "Deucalion," as the
third group, that of Plant-myths, was carried on in "Proserpina." The
volume contained also extracts from the lecture on the Architecture of
the Valley of the Somme, and two numbers of the "Cestus of Aglaia," and
closed with a paper on The Hercules of Camarina, read to the South
Lambeth Art School on March 15th. This study of a Greek coin had already
formed the subject of an address at the Working Men's College, and
anticipated the second course of Oxford Lectures. For the rest, "The
Queen of the Air" is marked by its statement, more clearly than before
in Ruskin's writing, of the dependence of moral upon physical life, and
of physical upon moral science. He speaks with respect of the work of
Darwin and Tyndall; but as formerly in the Rede Lecture, and afterwards
in the "Eagle's Nest," he claims that natural science should not be
pursued as an end in itself, paramount to all other conclusions and
considerations; but as a department of study subordinate to ethics, with
a view to utility and instruction.

Before this book was quite ready for publication, and after a sale of
some of his less treasured pictures at Christie's he left home for a
journey to Italy, to revisit the subjects of "Stones of Venice," as in
1868 he had revisited those of the "Seven Lamps." At Vevey, on the way,
he wrote his preface (May 1st).

By quiet stages he passed the Simplon, writing from Domo d'Ossola, 5th
May, 1869:

"I never yet had so beautiful a day for the Simplon as this has
been; though the skin of my face is burning now all over--to keep
me well in mind of its sunshine. I left Brieg at 6 exactly--light
clouds breaking away into perfect calm of blue. Heavy snow on the
col--about a league--with the wreaths in many places higher than
the carriage. Then, white crocus all over the fields, with
Soldanelle and Primula farinosa. I walked about three miles up, and
seven down, with great contentment; the waterfalls being all in
rainbows, and one beyond anything I ever yet saw; for it fell in a
pillar of spray against shadow behind, and became rainbow
altogether. I was just near enough to get the belt broad, and the
down part of the arch: and the whole fall became orange and violet
against deep shade. To-morrow I hope to get news of you all, at

"BAVENO, _Thursday, 6th May_, 1869.

"It is wet this morning, and very dismal, for we are in a ghastly
new Inn, the old one being shut up; and there is always a re-action
after a strong excitement like the beauty of the Simplon yesterday,
which leaves one very dull. But it is of no use growling or mewing.
I hope to be at Milan to-morrow--at Verona for Sunday. I have been
reading Dean Swift's life, and 'Gulliver's Travels' again. Putting
the delight in dirt, which is a mere disease, aside, Swift is very
like me, in most things:--in opinions exactly the same."

At Milan, next day, he went to see the St. Catherine of Luini which he
had copied, and found it wantonly damaged by the carelessness of masons
who put their ladders up against it, just as if it were a bit of common
whitewashed wall.

On the 8th he reached Verona after seventeen years' absence, and on the
10th he was in Venice. There, looking at the works of the old painters
with a fresh eye, and with feelings and thoughts far different from
those with which he had viewed them as a young man, in 1845, he saw
beauties he had passed over before, in the works of a painter till then
little regarded by connoisseurs, and entirely neglected by the public.
Historians of art like Crowe and Cavalcaselle[16] had indeed examined
Carpaccio's works and investigated his life, along with the lives and
works of many another obscure master: artists like Hook and Burne-Jones
had admired his pictures; Ruskin had mentioned his backgrounds twice or
thrice in "Stones of Venice." But no writer had noticed his
extraordinary interest as an exponent of the mythology of the Middle
Ages, as the illustrator of poetical folk-lore derived from those
antique myths of Greece, and newly presented by the genius of

[Footnote 16: Their "History of Painting in North Italy," containing a
detailed account of Carpaccio, was published in 1871.]

This was a discovery for which Ruskin was now ripe, He saw at once that
he had found a treasure-house of things new and old. He fell in love
with St. Ursula as, twenty-four years earlier, he had fallen in love
with the statue of Ilaria at Lucca; and she became, as time after time
he revisited Venice for her sake, a personality, a spiritual presence, a
living ideal, exactly as the Queen of the Air might have been to the
sincere Athenian in the pagan age of faith. The story of her life and
death became an example, the conception of her character, as read in
Carpaccio's picture, became a standard for his own life and action in
many a time of distress and discouragement. The thought of "What would
St. Ursula say?" led him--not always, but far more often than his
correspondents knew--to burn the letter of sharp retort upon stupidity
and impertinence, and to force the wearied brain and overstrung nerves
into patience and a kindly answer. And later on, the playful credence
which he accorded to the myth deepened into a renewed sense of the
possibility of spiritual realities, when he learnt to look, with those
mediaeval believers; once more as a little child upon the unfathomable
mysteries of life.

But this anticipates the story; at the time, he found in Carpaccio the
man who had touched the full chord of his feelings and his thoughts,
just as, in his boyhood, Turner had led him, marvelling, through the
fire and cloud to the mountain-altar; and as, in his youth, Tintoret had
interpreted the storm and stress of a mind awakening to the terrible
realities of the world. It was no caprice of a changeful taste, nor love
of startling paradox, that brought him to "discover Carpaccio;" it was
the logical sequence of his studies, and widening interests, and a view
of art embracing far broader issues than the connoisseurship of "Modern
Painters," or the didacticism of "Seven Lamps," or the historical
research of "Stones of Venice."

Soon after the "Queen of the Air" was published Carlyle wrote:

"Last week I got y'r 'Queen of the Air,' and read it. _Euge,
Ettge._ No such Book have I met with for long years past. The one
soul now in the world who seems to feel as I do on the highest
matters, and speaks _mir aus dem Herzen_, exactly what I wanted to
hear!-As to the natural history of those old myths I remained here
and there a little uncert'n; but as to the meanings you put into
them, never anywhere. All these things I not only 'agree' with, but
w'd use Thor's Hammer, if I had it, to enforce and put in action on
this rotten world. Well done, well done!--and pluck up a heart, and
continue ag'n and ag'n. And don't say 'most g't tho'ts are dressed
_in shrouds_': many, many are the Phoebus Apollo celestial arrows
you still have to shoot into the foul Pythons, and poisonous
abominable Megatheriums and Plesiosaurians that go staggering ab't,
large as cathedrals, in our sunk Epoch ag'n...."



The main object of this journey was, however, not to study mythology,
but to continue the revision of old estimates of architecture, and after
seventeen years to look with a fresh eye at the subjects of "Stones of

The churches and monuments of Verona had been less thoroughly studied
than those of Venice, and now they were threatened with imminent
restoration. On May 25th he wrote:--"It is very strange that I have just
been in time--after 17 years' delay--to get the remainder of what I
wanted from the red tomb of which my old drawing hangs in the
passage"--(the Castelbarco monument). "To-morrow they put up scaffolding
to retouch, and I doubt not, spoil it for evermore." He succeeded in
getting a delay of ten days, to enable him to paint the tomb in its
original state; but before he went home it "had its new white cap on and
looked like a Venetian gentleman in a pantaloon's mask." He brought away
one of the actual stones of the old roof.

On June 3 he wrote:

"I am getting on well with all my own work; and much pleased with
some that Mr. Bunney is doing for me; so that really I expect to
carry off a great deal of Verona.... The only mischief of the
place is its being too rich. Stones, flowers, mountains--all
equally asking one to look at them; a history to every foot of
ground, and a picture on every foot of wall; frescoes fading away
in the neglected streets--like the colours of the dolphin."

As assistants in this enterprise of recording the monuments of Venice
and Verona, and of recording them more fully and in a more interesting
way than by photography, he took with him Arthur Burgess and John
Bunney, his former pupils. Mr. Burgess was the subject of a memoir by
Ruskin in the _Century Guild Hobby Horse_ (April, 1887), appreciating
his talents and lamenting his loss. Mr. Bunney, who had travelled with
Ruskin in Switzerland in 1863, and had lately lived near Florence,
thenceforward settled in Venice, where he died in 1882, after completing
his great work, the St. Mark's now in the Ruskin Museum at Sheffield. A
memoir of him by Mr. Wedderburn appeared in the catalogue of the Venice
Exhibition, at the Fine Art Society's Gallery in November, 1882.

At Venice Ruskin had met his old friend Rawdon Brown[17], and Count
Giberto Borromeo, whom he visited at Milan on his way home, with deep
interest in the Luinis and in the authentic bust of St. Carlo; so
closely resembling Ruskin himself. Another noteworthy encounter is
recorded in a letter of May 4th.[18]

[Footnote 17: Whose book on the English in Italy (from Venetian
documents) was shortly to be published, with funds supplied by Ruskin.]

[Footnote 18: This date ought to be "June 4th," as Mr. E.T. Cook notices
(Library Edn. XIX., p. liv.).]

"As I was drawing in the square this morning, in a lovely, quiet,
Italian, light, there came up the poet Longfellow with his little
daughter--a girl of 12, or 13, with _springy_-curled flaxen
hair,--curls, or waves, that wouldn't come out in damp, I mean. They
stayed talking beside me some time. I don't think it was a very vain
thought that came over me, that if a photograph could have been taken of
the beautiful square of Verona, in that soft light, with Longfellow and
his daughter talking to me at my work--some people both in England and
America would have liked copies of it."

Readers of "Fors" will recognise an incident noted on the 18th of June.

"Yesterday, it being quite cool, I went for a walk; and as I came down
from a rather quiet hillside, a mile or two out of town, I past a house
where the women were at work spinning the silk off the cocoons. There
was a sort of whirring sound as in an English mill; but at intervals
they sang a long sweet chant, all together, lasting about two
minutes--then pausing a minute and then beginning again. It was good and
tender music, and the multitude of voices prevented any sense of
failure, so that it was very lovely and sweet, and like the things that
I mean to try to bring to pass."

For he was already meditating on the thoughts that issued in the
proposals of St. George's Guild, and the daily letters of this summer
are full of allusions to a scheme for a great social movement, as well
as to his plans for the control of Alpine torrents and the better
irrigation of their valleys. On the 2nd of June he wrote:--"I see more
and more clearly every day my power of showing how the Alpine torrents
may be--not subdued--but 'educated.' A torrent is just like a human
creature. Left to gain full strength in wantonness and rage, no power
can any more redeem it: but watch the channels of every early impulse,
and fence _them_, and your torrent becomes the gentlest and most
blessing of servants."

His mother was anxious for him to come home, being persuaded that he was
overworking himself in the continued heat which his letters reported.
But he was loath to leave Italy, in which, he said, his work for the
future lay. He made two more visits to Venice, to draw some of the
sculptured details, now quickly perishing, and to make studies of
Tintoret and Carpaccio. Among other friends who met him there was Mr.
Holman Hunt, with whom he went round his favourite Scuola di San Rocco
(1st July). Two days later he wrote:

"You will never believe it; but I have actually been trying to
draw--a baby. _The_ baby which the priest is holding in the little
copy of Tintoret by Edward Jones which my father liked so much,
over the basin stand in his bedroom.[19] All the knowledge I have
gained in these 17 years only makes me more full of awe and wonder
at Tintoret. But it _is_ so sad--so sad;--no one to care for him
but me, and all going so fast to ruin. He has done that infant
Christ in about five minutes--and I worked for two hours in vain,
and could not tell _why_ in vain--the mystery of his touch is so

[Footnote 19: Mr. and Mrs Burne-Jones had been in Venice in June, 1862;
the artist, then young and comparatively unknown, with a commission to
copy for Ruskin.]

Final farewell was said to Verona on the 10th August, for the homeward
journey by the St. Gothard, and Giessbach, where he found the young
friend of 1866 now near her end--and Thun, where he met Professor C.E.
Norton. On the way he wrote:

"Lugano, _Saturday, 14th August_, 1869.

"My Dearest Mother,

"Yesterday--exactly three months from the day on which I entered
Verona to begin work, I made a concluding sketch of the old
Broletto of Como, which I drew first for the 7 lamps[20]--I know
not how many years ago,--and left Italy, for this time--having been
entirely well and strong every day of my quarter of a year's
sojourn there.

[Footnote 20: "Stones of Venice," Vol. I., plate 5.]

"This morning, before breakfast, I was sitting for the first time
before Luini's Crucifixion: for all religious-art qualities the
greatest picture south of the Alps--or rather, in Europe.

"And just after breakfast I got a telegram from my cousin George
announcing that I am Professor of Art--the first--at the University
of Oxford.

"Which will give me as much power as I can well use--and would have
given pleasure to my poor father--and therefore to me--once.... It
will make no difference in my general plans, about travel, etc. I
shall think quietly of it as I drive up towards St. Gothard to-day.

"Ever, my dearest mother, ever your loving son,

"J. Ruskin."

Six years earlier, while being examined before the Royal Academy
commission, he had been asked: "Has it ever struck you that it would be
advantageous to art if there were at the universities professors of art
who might give lectures and give instruction to young men who might
desire to avail themselves of it, as you have lectures on geology and
botany?" To which he had replied: "Yes, assuredly. The want of interest
on the part of the upper classes in art has been very much at the bottom
of the abuses which have crept into all systems of education connected
with it. If the upper classes could only be interested in it by being
led into it when young, a great improvement might be looked for,
therefore I feel the expediency of such an addition to the education of
our universities." His interest in the first phase of University
Extension, and his gifts of Turners to Oxford and Cambridge, had shown
that he was ready to go out of his way to help in the cause he had
promoted. His former works on art, and reputation as a critic, pointed
to him as the best qualified man in the country for such a post. He had
been asked by his Oxford friends, who were many and influential, to
stand for the Professorship of Poetry, three years earlier. There was no
doubt that the election would be a popular one, and creditable to the
University. On the other hand, Ruskin as Professor would have a certain
sanction for his teaching, he believed; the title and the salary of L358
a year were hardly an object to him; but the position, as accredited
lecturer and authorised instructor of youth, opened up new vistas of
usefulness, new worlds of work to conquer; and he accepted the
invitation. On August 10th he was elected Slade Professor.

He returned home by the end of August to prepare himself for his new
duties. During the last period he had been giving, on an average, half
a dozen lectures a year, which amply filled his annual volume. Twelve
lectures were required of the professor. Many another man would have
read his twelve lectures and gone his way; but he was not going to work
in that perfunctory manner. He undertook to revise his whole teaching;
to write for his hearers a completely new series of treatises on art,
beginning with first principles and broad generalisations, and
proceeding to the different departments of sculpture, engraving,
landscape-painting and so on; then taking up the history of art:--an
encyclopaedic scheme. He took this Oxford work not as a substitute for
other occupation, exonerating him from further claims upon his energy
and time; nor as a bye-play that could be slurred. He tried to do it
thoroughly, and to do it in addition to the various work already in
hand, under which, as it was, he used to break down, yearly, after each
climax of effort.

This autumn and winter, with his first and most important course in
preparation, he was still writing letters to the _Daily Telegraph_;
being begged by Carlyle to come--"the sight of your face will be a
comfort," says the poor old man--and undertaking lectures at the Royal
Artillery Institution, Woolwich, and at the Royal Institution, London.
The Woolwich lecture, given on December 14th, was that added to later
editions of the "Crown of Wild Olive," under the title of "The Future of
England." The other, February 4th, 1870, on "Verona and its Rivers,"
involved not only a lecture on art and history and contemporary
political economy, but an exhibition of the drawings which he and his
assistants had made during the preceding summer.

Four days later he opened a new period in his career with his inaugural
Lecture in the Sheldonian Theatre at Oxford.





On Tuesday, 8th February, 1870, the Slade Professor's lecture-room was
crowded to over-flowing with members of the University, old and young,
and their friends, who flocked to hear, and to see, the author of
"Modern Painters." The place was densely packed long before the time;
the ante-rooms were filled with personal friends, hoping for some corner
to be found them at the eleventh hour; the doors were blocked open, and
besieged outside by a disappointed multitude.

Professorial lectures are not usually matters of great excitement: it
does not often happen that the accommodation is found inadequate. After
some hasty arrangements Sir Henry Acland pushed his way to the table,
announced that it was impossible for the lecture to be held in that
place, and begged the audience to adjourn to the Sheldonian Theatre. At
last, welcomed by all Oxford, the Slade Professor appeared, to deliver
his inaugural address.[21]

[Footnote 21: The inaugural course was given Feb. 8, 16, 23; March 3, 9,
16 and 23, 1870.]

It was not strictly academic, the way he used to come in, with a little
following of familiars and assistants,--exchange recognition with
friends in the audience, arrange the objects he had brought to
show,--fling off his long sleeved Master's gown, and plunge into his
discourse. His manner of delivery had not altered much since the time of
the Edinburgh Lectures. He used to begin by reading, in his curious
intonation, the carefully-written passages of rhetoric, which usually
occupied only about the half of his hour. By-and-by he would break off,
and with quite another air extemporise the liveliest interpolations,
describing his diagrams or specimens, restating his arguments,
re-enforcing his appeal. His voice, till then artificially cadenced,
suddenly became vivacious; his gestures, at first constrained, became
dramatic. He used to act his subject, apparently without premeditated
art, in the liveliest pantomime. He had no power of voice-mimicry, and
none of the ordinary gifts of the actor. A tall and slim figure, not yet
shortened from its five feet ten or eleven by the habitual stoop, which
ten years later brought him down to less than middle height; a stiff,
blue frock-coat; prominent, half-starched wristbands, and tall collars
of the Gladstonian type; and the bright blue stock which every one knows
for his heraldic bearing: no rings or gewgaws, but a long thin gold
chain to his watch:--plain old-English gentleman, neither fashionable
bourgeois nor artistic mountebank.

But he gave himself over to his subject with such unreserved intensity
of imaginative power, he felt so vividly and spoke so from the heart,
that he became whatever he talked about, never heeding his professorial
dignity, and never doubting the sympathy of his audience. Lecturing on
birds, he strutted like the chough, made himself wings like the swallow;
he was for the moment a cat, when he explained (not "in scorn") that
engraving was the "art of scratch." If it had been an affectation of
theatric display, we "emancipated school-boys," as the Master of
University used to call us, would have seen through it at once, and
scorned him. But it was so evidently the expression of his intense
eagerness for his subject, so palpably true to his purpose, and he so
carried his hearers with him, that one saw in the grotesque of the
performance only the guarantee of sincerity.

If one wanted more proof of that, there was his face, still
young-looking and beardless; made for expression, and sensitive to every
change of emotion. A long head, with enormous capacity of brain, veiled
by thick wavy hair, not affectedly lengthy but as abundant as ever, and
darkened into a deep brown, without a trace of grey; and short, light
whiskers growing high over his cheeks. A forehead not on the model of
the heroic type, but as if the sculptor had heaped his clay in handfuls
over the eyebrows, and then heaped more. A big nose, aquiline, and broad
at the base, with great thoroughbred nostrils and the "septum" between
them thin and deeply depressed; and there was a turn down at the corners
of the mouth, and a breadth of lower lip, that reminded one of his
Verona griffin, half eagle, half lion; Scotch in original type, and
suggesting a side to his character not all milk and roses. And under
shaggy eyebrows, ever so far behind, the fieriest blue eyes, that
changed with changing expression, from grave to gay, from lively to
severe; that riveted you, magnetised you, seemed to look through you and
read your soul; and indeed, when they lighted on you, you felt you had a
soul of a sort. What they really saw is a mystery. Some who had not
persuaded them to see as others see, maintained that they only saw what
they looked for; others, who had successfully deceived them, that they
saw nothing. No doubt they might be deceived; but I know now that they
often took far shrewder measurements of men--I do not say of women--than
anybody suspected.

For the Inaugural Course, he was, so to speak, on his best behaviour,
guarding against too hasty expression of individuality. He read careful
orations, stating his maturest views on the general theory of art, in
picked language, suited to the academic position. The little volume is
not discursive or entertaining, like "Modern Painters," and contains no
pictures either with pen or pencil; but it is crammed full of thought,
and of the results of thought.

The Slade Professor was also expected to organise and superintend the
teaching of drawing; and his first words in the first lecture expressed
the hope that he would be able to introduce some serious study of Art
into the University, which, he thought, would be a step towards
realising some of his ideals of education. He had long felt that mere
talking about Art was a makeshift, and that no real insight could be got
into the subject without actual and practical dealing with it. He found
a South Kensington School in existence at Oxford, with an able master,
Mr. Alexander Macdonald; and though he did not entirely approve of the
methods in use, tried to make the best of the materials to his hand,
accepting but enlarging the scope of the system. The South Kensington
method had been devised for industrial designing, primarily; Ruskin's
desire was to get undergraduates to take up a wider subject, to
familiarise themselves with the technical excellences of the great
masters, to study nature, and the different processes of art,--drawing,
painting and some forms of decorative work, such as, in especial,
goldsmiths' work, out of which the Florentine school had sprung. He did
not wish to train artists, but, as before in the Working Men's College,
to cultivate the habit of mind that looks at nature and life, not
analytically, as science does, but for the sake of external aspect and
expression. By these means he hoped to breed a race of judicious patrons
and critics, the best service any man can render to the cause of art.

And so he got together a mass of examples in addition to the Turners
which he had already given to the University galleries. He placed in the
school a few pictures by Tintoret, some drawings by Rossetti, Holman
Hunt, and Burne-Jones, and a great number of fine casts and engravings.
He arranged a series of studies by himself and others, as "copies,"
fitted, like the Turners in the National Gallery, with sliding frames
in cabinets for convenient reference and removal. After spending most of
his first Lent Term in this work, he went home for a month to prepare a
catalogue, which was published the same year: the school not being
finally opened until October, 1871. During these first visits to Oxford
he was the guest of Sir Henry Acland; on April 29, 1871, Professor
Ruskin, already honorary student of Christ Church, was elected to an
honorary fellowship at Corpus, and enabled to occupy rooms, vacated by
the Rev. Henry Furneaux, who gave up his fellowship on marrying Mr.
Arthur Severn's twin-sister.[22]

[Footnote 22: His rooms were in Fellows' buildings, No. 2 staircase,
first floor right.]

After this work well begun, he went abroad for a vacation tour with a
party of friends--as in 1866; Lady Trevelyan's sister, Mrs. Hilliard, to
chaperone the same young ladies, and three servants with them. They
started on April 27th; stayed awhile at Meurice's to see Paris; and at
Geneva, to go up the Saleve, twice, in bitter black east wind. Then
across the Simplon to Milan. After a month at Venice and Verona, where
he recurred to his scheme against inundation, then ridiculed by _Punch_,
but afterwards taken up seriously by the Italians, they went to
Florence, and met Professor Norton. In the end of June they turned
homewards, by Pisa and Lucca, Milan and Como, and went to visit their
friend Marie of the Giessbach.

At the Giessbach they spent a fortnight, enjoying the July weather and
glorious walks, in the middle of which war was suddenly declared between
Germany and France. The summons of their German waiter to join his
regiment brought the news home to them, as such personal examples do,
more than columns of newspaper print; and as hostilities were rapidly
beginning, Ruskin, with the gloomiest forebodings for the beautiful
country he loved, took his party home straight across France, before the
ways should be closed.

August was a month of feverish suspense to everybody; to no one more
than to Ruskin, who watched the progress of the armies while he worked
day by day at the British Museum preparing lectures for next term.
This was the course on Greek relief-sculpture, published as "Aratra
Pentelici."[23] It was a happy thought to illustrate his subject
from coins, rather than from disputed and mutilated fragments;
and he worked into it his revised theory of the origin of art--not
Schiller's nor Herbert Spencer's, and yet akin to theirs of the
"Spieltrieb,"--involving the notion of doll-play;--man as a child,
re-creating himself, in a double sense; imitating the creation of the
world and really creating a sort of secondary life in his art, to play
with, or to worship. In the last lecture of the series (published
separately) the Professor compared--as the outcome of classic art in
Renaissance times--Michelangelo and Tintoret, greatly to the
disadvantage of Michelangelo. This heresy against a popular creed served
as text for some severe criticism; but as he said in a prefatory note to
the pamphlet, readers "must observe that its business is only to point
out what is to be blamed in Michael Angelo, and that it assumes the fact
of his power to be generally known," and he referred to Mr. Tyrwhitt's
"Lectures on Christian Art" for the opposite side of the question.

[Footnote 23: Delivered Nov. 24, 26, Dec. 1, 3, 8 and 10, 1870.]

Meanwhile the war was raging. Ruskin was asked by his friends to raise
his voice against the ravage of France; but he replied that it was
inevitable. At last, in October, he read how Rosa Bonheur and Edouard
Frere had been permitted to pass through the German lines, and next day
came the news of the bombardment of Strasburg, with anticipations of the
destruction of the Cathedral, library, and picture galleries,
foretelling, as it seemed, the more terrible and irreparable ruin of the
treasure-houses of art in Paris. His heart was with the French, and he
broke silence in the bitterness of his spirit, upbraiding their
disorder and showing how the German success was the victory of "one of
the truest monarchies and schools of honour and obedience yet organised
under heaven." He hoped that Germany, now that she had shown her power,
would withdraw, and demand no indemnity. But that was too much to ask.

Before long Paris itself became the scene of action, and in January 1871
was besieged and bombarded. So much of Ruskin's work and affection had
been given to French Gothic that he could not endure to think of his
beloved Sainte Chapelle as being actually under fire--to say nothing of
the horror of human suffering in a siege. He joined Cardinal (then
Archbishop) Manning, Professor Huxley, Sir John Lubbock and James
Knowles in forming a "Paris Food Fund," which shortly united with the
Lord Mayor's committee for the general relief of the besieged. The day
after writing on the Sainte Chapelle he attended the meeting of the
Mansion House, and gave a subscription of L50. He followed events
anxiously through the storm of the Commune and its fearful ending,
angered at the fratricide and anarchy which no Mansion House help could
avert or repair.

It was no time for talking on art, he felt: instead of the full course,
he could only manage three lectures on landscape, and these not so
completely prepared as to make them ready for printing. Before Christmas
he had been once more to Woolwich, where Colonel Brackenbury invited him
to address the cadets at the prize-giving of the Science and Art
Department, December 13, 1870, in which the Rev. W. Kingsley, an old
friend of Ruskin's and of Turner's, was one of the masters. Two of the
lectures of the "Crown of Wild Olive" had been given there, with more
than usual animation, and enthusiastically received by crowded and
distinguished audiences, among whom was Prince Arthur (the Duke of
Connaught), then at the Royal Military Academy. This time it was the
"Story of Arachne," an address on education and aims in life; opening
with reminiscences of his own childhood, and pleasantly telling the
Greek myths of the spider and the ant, with interpretations for the

In the three lectures on landscape, given January 20, February 9 and 23,
1871, he dwelt on the necessity of human and historic interest in
scenery; and compared Greek "solidity and veracity" with Gothic
"spirituality and mendacity," Greek chiaroscuro and tranquil activity
with Gothic colour and "passionate rest." Botticelli's "Nativity" (now
in the National Gallery) was then being shown at the Old Master's
Exhibition, and Ruskin took it, along with the works of Cima, as a type
of one form of Greek Art.

In April, 1871, his cousin, Miss Agnew, who had been seven years at
Denmark Hill, was married to Mr. Arthur Severn. Ruskin, who had added to
his other work the additional labour of "Fors Clavigera," went for a
summer's change to Matlock. July opened with cold, dry, dark weather,
dangerous for out-of-door sketching. One morning early--for he was
always an early riser--he took a chill while painting a spray of wild
roses before breakfast (the drawing now in the Oxford Schools). He was
already overworked, and it ended in a severe attack of internal
inflammation, which nearly cost him his life. He was a difficult patient
to deal with. The local practitioner who attended him used to tell how
he refused remedies, and in the height of the disease asked what would
be _worst_ for him. He took it; and to everybody's surprise,

[Footnote 24: Mrs. Arthur Severn, in a note on the proof, says: "It was
a slice of cold roast beef he hungered for, at Matlock (to our horror,
and dear Lady Mount Temple's, who were nursing him): there was none in
the hotel, and it was late at night; and Albert Goodwin went off to get
some, somewhere, or anywhere. All the hotels were closed; but at last,
at an eating-house in Matlock Bath, he discovered some, and came back
triumphant with it, wrapped up in paper; and J.R. enjoyed his late
supper thoroughly; and though we all waited anxiously till the morning
for the result, it had done no harm! And when he was told pepper was bad
for him, he dredged it freely over his food in defiance! It was directly
after our return to Denmark Hill he got Linton's letter offering him
this place (Brantwood). There are, I believe, ten acres of moor
belonging to Brantwood." Mr. Albert Goodwin, R.W.S., the landscape
painter, travelled, about this time, in Italy with Ruskin.]

During the illness at Matlock his thoughts reverted to the old
"Iteriad" times of forty years before, when he had travelled with his
parents and cousin Mary from that same "New Bath Hotel," where he was
now lying, to the Lakes; and again he wearied for "the heights that look
adown upon the dale. The crags are lone on Coniston." If he could only
lie down there, he said, he should get well again.

He had not fully recovered before he heard that W.J. Linton, the poet
and wood-engraver, wished to sell a house and land at the very place:
L1,500, and it could be his. Without question asked he bought it at
once; and as it would be impossible to lecture at Oxford so soon after
his illness, he set off, before the middle of September, with his
friends the Hilliards to visit his new possession. They found a
rough-cast country cottage, old, damp, decayed; smoky chimneyed and
rat-riddled; but "five acres of rock and moor and streamlet; and," he
wrote, "I think the finest view I know in Cumberland or Lancashire, with
the sunset visible over the same."

The spot was not, even then, without its associations: Gerald Massey the
poet, Linton, and his wife Mrs. Lynn Linton the novelist, Dr. G.W.
Kitchin (Dean of Durham) had lived and worked there, and Linton had
adorned it outside with revolutionary mottoes--"God and the people," and
so on. It had been a favourite point of view of Wordsworth's; his "seat"
was pointed out in the grounds. Tennyson had lived for a while close by:
his "seat," too, was on the hill above Lanehead.

But the cottage needed thorough repair, and that cost more than
rebuilding, not to speak of the additions of later years, which have
ended by making it into a mansion surrounded by a hamlet. And there was
the furnishing; for Denmark Hill, where his mother lived, was still to
be headquarters. Ruskin gave carte-blanche to the London upholsterer
with whom he had been accustomed to deal; and such expensive articles
were sent that when he came down for a month next autumn, he reckoned
that, all included, his country cottage had cost him not less than

But he was not the man to spend on himself without sharing his wealth
with others. On November 22nd, Convocation accepted a gift from the
Slade Professor of L5,000 to endow a mastership of drawing at Oxford, in
addition to the pictures and "copies" placed in the schools; he had set
up a relative in business with L15,000, which was unfortunately lost;
and at Christmas he gave L7,000, the tithe of his remaining capital, to
the St. George's Fund; of which more hereafter.

On November 23rd he was elected Lord Rector of St. Andrew's University,
by 86 votes against 79 for Lord Lytton. After the election it was
discovered that, by the Scottish Universities Act of 1858, no one
holding a professorship at a British University was eligible. Professor
Ruskin was disqualified, and gave no address; and Lord Neaves was chosen
in his place.

Mrs. Ruskin was now ninety years of age; her sight was nearly gone, but
she still retained her powers of mind, and ruled with severe kindliness
her household and her son. Her old servant Anne had died in March. Anne
had nursed John Ruskin as a baby, and had lived with the family ever
since, devoted to them, and ready for any disagreeable task--

"So that she was never quite in her glory," "Praeterita" says, "unless
some of us were ill. She had also some parallel speciality for _saying_
disagreeable things, and might be relied upon to give the extremely
darkest view of any subject, before proceeding to ameliorative action
upon it. And she had a very creditable and republican aversion to doing
immediately, or in set terms, as she was bid; so that when my mother and
she got old together, and my mother became very imperative and
particular about having her teacup set on one side of her little round
table, Anne would observantly and punctiliously put it always on the
other: which caused my mother to state to me, every morning after
breakfast, gravely, that if ever a woman in this world was possessed by
the Devil, Anne was that woman."

But this gloomy Calvinism was tempered with a benevolence quite as
uncommon. It was from his parents that Ruskin learned never to turn off
a servant, and the Denmark Hill household was as easy-going as the
legendary "baronial" retinue of the good old times. A young friend asked
Mrs. Ruskin, in a moment of indiscretion, what such a one of the ancient
maids did--for there were several without apparent occupation about the
house. Mrs. Ruskin drew herself up and said, "She, my dear, puts out the

And yet, in her blindness, she could read character unhesitatingly. That
was, no doubt, why people feared her. When Mr. Secretary Howell, in the
days when he was still the oracle of the Ruskin-Rossetti circle, had
been regaling them with his wonderful tales, after dinner, she would
throw her netting down and say, "How _can you_ two sit there and listen
to such a pack of lies?" She objected strongly, in these later years, to
the theatre; and when sometimes her son would wish to take a party into
town to see the last new piece, her permission had to be asked, and was
not readily granted, unless to Miss Agnew, who was the ambassadress in
such affairs of diplomacy. But while disapproving of some of his worldly
ways, and convinced that she had too much indulged his childhood, the
old lady loved him with all the intensity of the strange fierce lioness
nature, which only one or two had ever had a glimpse of. And when
(December 5th, 1871) she died, trusting to see her husband again--not to
be near him, not to be so high in heaven but content if she might only
_see_ him, she said--her son was left "with a surprising sense of
loneliness." He had loved her truly, obeyed her strictly and tended her
faithfully; and even yet hardly realized how much she had been to him.
He buried her in his father's grave, and wrote upon it, "Here beside my
father's body I have laid my mother's: nor was dearer earth ever
returned to earth, nor purer life recorded in heaven."


"FORS" BEGUN (1871-1872)

On January 1st, 1871, was issued a small pamphlet, headed "Fors
Clavigera," in the form of a letter to the working men and labourers of
England, dated from Denmark Hill, and signed "John Ruskin." It was not
published in the usual way, but sold by the author's engraver, Mr.
George Allen, at Heathfield Cottage, Keston, Kent. It was not
advertised; press-copies were sent to the leading papers; and of course
the author's acquaintance knew of its publication. Strangers, who heard
of this curious proceeding, spread the report that in order to get
Ruskin's latest, you had to travel into the country, with your
sevenpence in your hand, and transact your business among Mr. Allen's
beehives. So you had, if you wanted to see what you were buying; for no
arrangements were made for its sale by the booksellers: sevenpence a
copy, carriage paid, no discount, and no abatement on taking a quantity.

By such pilgrimages, but more easily through the post, the new work
filtered out, in monthly instalments, to a limited number of buyers.
After three years the price was raised to tenpence. In 1875 the first
thousands of the earlier numbers were sold: "the public has a very long
nose," Mr. Ruskin once said, "and scents out what it wants, sooner or
later." A second edition was issued, bound up into yearly volumes, of
which eight were ultimately completed. Meanwhile the work went on,
something in the style of the old Addison _Spectator_; each part
containing twenty pages, more or less, by Ruskin, with added
contributions from various correspondents.

The charm of "Fors" is neither in epigram nor in anecdote, but in the
sustained vivacity that runs through the texture of the work; the
reappearance of golden threads of thought, glittering in new figures,
and among new colours; and throughout all the variety of subject a unity
of style unlike the style of his earlier works, where flowery rhetorical
passages are tagged to less interesting chapters, separately studied
sermonettes interposed among the geology, and Johnson, Locke, Hooker,
Carlyle--or whoever happened to be the author he was reading at the
time--frankly imitated. It was always clever, but often artificial; like
the composition of a Renaissance painter who inserts his _bel corpo
ignudo_ to catch the eye. In "Fors," however, the web is of a piece, all
sparkling with the same life; though as it is gradually unwound from the
loom it is hard to judge the design. That can only be done when it is
reviewed as a whole.

At the time, his mingling of jest and earnest was misunderstood even by
friends. The author learnt too painfully the danger of seeming to trifle
with cherished beliefs. He forswore levity, but soon relapsed into the
old style, out of sheer sincerity: for he was too much in earnest not to
be frankly himself in his utterances, without writing up to, or down to,
any other person's standard.

Ruskin did not wish to lead a colony or to head a revolution. He had
been pondering for fifteen years the cause of poverty and crime, and the
conviction had grown upon him that modern commercialism was at the root
of it all. But his attacks on commercialism--his analysis of its bad
influence on all sections of society--were too vigorous and
uncompromising for the newspaper editors who received "Fors," and even
for most of his private friends. There were, however, some who saw what
he was aiming at: and let it be remarked that his first encouragement
came from the highest quarters. Just as Sydney Smith, the chief critic
of earlier days, had been the first to praise "Modern Painters," in the
teeth of vulgar opinion, so now Carlyle spoke for "Fors."

"5, Cheyne Row, Chelsea, _April 30th_, 1871.

"Dear Ruskin,

"This 'Fors Clavigera,' Letter 5th, which I have just finished reading,
is incomparable; a quasi-sacred consolation to me, which almost brings
tears into my eyes! Every word of it is as if spoken, not out of my poor
heart only, but out of the eternal skies; words winged with Empyrean
wisdom, piercing as lightning,--and which I really do not remember to
have heard the like of. _Continue_, while you have such utterances in
you, to give them voice. They will find and force entrance into human
hearts, _whatever_ the 'angle of incidence' may be; that is to say,
whether, for the degraded and _in_ human Blockheadism we, so-called
'men,' have mostly now become, you come in upon them at the broadside,
at the top, or even at the bottom. Euge, Euge!--Yours ever,

"T. Carlyle."

Others, like Sir Arthur Helps, joined in this encouragement. But the old
struggle with the newspapers began over again.

They united in considering the whole business insane, though they did
not doubt his sincerity when Ruskin put down his own money, the tenth of
what he had, as he recommended his adherents to do. By the end of the
year he had set aside L7,000 toward establishing a company to be called
of "St. George," as representing at once England and agriculture. Sir
Thomas Dyke Acland and the Right Hon. W. Cowper-Temple (afterwards Lord
Mount Temple), though not pledging themselves to approval of the scheme,
undertook the trusteeship of the fund. A few friends subscribed; in
June, 1872, after a year and a half of "Fors," the first stranger sent
in his contribution, and at the end of three years L236 13s. were
collected, to add to his L7,000, and a few acres of land were given.

Meanwhile Ruskin practised what he preached. He did not preach
renunciation; he was not a Pessimist any more than an Optimist.
Sometimes he felt he was not doing enough; he knew very well that others
thought so. I remember his saying, in his rooms at Oxford in one of
those years: "Here I am, trying to reform the world, and I suppose I
ought to begin with myself, I am trying to do St. Benedict's work, and I
ought to be a saint. And yet I am living between a Turkey carpet and a
Titian, and drinking as much tea"--taking his second cup--"as I can

That was the way he put it to an undergraduate; to a lady friend he
wrote later on, "I'm reading history of early saints, too, for my Amiens
book, and feel that I ought to be scratched, or starved, or boiled, or
something unpleasant; and I don't know if I'm a saint or a sinner in the
least, in mediaeval language. How did the saints feel themselves, I
wonder, about their saintship!"

If he had forsaken all and followed the vocation of St. Francis,--he has
discussed the question candidly in "Fors" for May, 1874--would not his
work have been more effectual, his example more inspiring? Conceivably:
but that was not his mission. His gospel was not one of asceticism; it
called upon no one for any sort of suicide, or even martyrdom. He
required of his followers that they should live their lives to the full
in "Admiration, Hope and Love": and not that they should sacrifice
themselves in fasting and wearing of camels'-hair coats. He wished them
to work, to be honest, and just, in all things immediately attainable.
He asked the tenth of their living--not the widow's two mites; and it
was deeply painful to him to find, sometimes, that they had so
interpreted his teaching: as when he wrote, later, to Miss Beever:

"One of my poor 'Companions of St. George' who has sent me, not a
widow's but a parlour-maid's (an old schoolmistress) 'all her
living,' and whom I found last night, dying, slowly and quietly, in
a damp room, just the size of your study (which her landlord won't
mend the roof of), by the light of a single tallow candle,--dying,
I say, _slowly_ of consumption, not yet near the end, but
contemplating it with sorrow, mixed partly with fear lest she
should not have done all she could for her children! The sight of
this and my own shameful comforts, three wax candles and blazing
fire and dry roof, and Susie and Joanie for friends! Oh me, Susie,
what _is_ to become of me in the next world, who have in this life
all my good things!"

After carrying on "Fors" for some time his attention was drawn by Mr.
W.C. Sillar to the question of "Usury." At first he had seen no crying
sin in Interest. He had held that the "rights of capital" were
visionary, and that the tools should belong to him that can handle them,
in a perfect state of society; but he thought that the existing system
was no worse in this respect than in others, and his expectation of
reform in the plan of investment went hand-in-hand with his hope of a
good time coming in everything else. So he quietly accepted his rents,
as he accepted his Professorship, for example, thinking it his business
to be a good landlord and spend his money generously, just as he thought
it his business to retain the existing South Kensington drawing school,
and the Oxford system of education--not at all his ideal--and to make
the best use of them.

A lady who was his pupil in drawing, and a believer in his ideals of
philanthropy, Miss Octavia Hill, undertook to help him in 1864 in
efforts to reclaim part--though a very small part--of the lower-class
dwellings of London. Half a dozen houses in Marylebone left by Ruskin's
father, to which he added three more in Paradise Place, as it was
euphemistically named, were the subjects of their experiment. They were
ridiculed at first; but by the noblest endeavour they succeeded, and set
an example which has been followed in many of our towns with great
results. They showed what a wise and kind landlord could do by caring
for tenants, by giving them habitable dwellings, recreation ground and
fixity of tenure, and requiring in return a reasonable and moderate
rent. He got five per cent. for his capital, instead of twelve or more,
which such property generally returns, or at that time returned.

But when he began to write against rent and interest there were plenty
of critics ready to cite this and other investments as a damning
inconsistency. He was not the man to offer explanations at any time. It
was no defence to say that he took less and did more than other
landlords. And so he was glad to part with the whole to Miss Hill; nor
did he care to spend upon himself the L3,500, which I believe was the
price. It went right and left in gifts; till one day he cheerfully

"It's a' gane awa'
Like snaw aff a wa'."

"Is there really nothing to show for it?" he was asked. "Nothing," he
said, "except this new silk umbrella."

He had talked so much of the possibility of carrying on honest and
honourable retail trade, that he felt bound to exemplify his principles.
He took a house No. 19, Paddington Street, with a corner shop, near his
Marylebone property, and set himself up in business as a teaman. Mr.
Arthur Severn painted the sign, in neat blue letters; the window was
decked with fine old china, bought from a Cavaliere near Siena, whose
unique collection had been introduced to notice by Professor Norton; and
Miss Harrie Tovey, an old servant of Denmark Hill, was established
there, like Miss Mattie in "Cranford," or rather like one of the
salaried officials of "Time and Tide," to dispense the unadulterated
leaf to all comers. No advertisements, no self-recommendation, no
catchpenny tricks of trade were allowed; and yet the business went on,
and, I am assured, prospered with legitimate profits. At first, various
kinds of the best tea only were sold; but it seemed to the tenant of the
shop that coffee and sugar ought to be included in the list. This was
not at all in Ruskin's programme, and there were great debates at home
about it. At last he gave way, on the understanding that the shop was to
be responsible for the proper roasting of the coffee according to the
best recipe. After some time Miss Tovey died. And when, in the autumn of
1876, Miss Octavia Hill proposed to take the house and business over and
work it with the rest of the Marylebone property, the offer was
thankfully accepted.

Another of his principles was cleanliness; "the speedy abolition of all
abolishable filth is the first process of education." He undertook to
keep certain streets, not crossings only, cleaner than the public seemed
to care for, between the British Museum and St. Giles'. He took the
broom himself, for a start, put on his gardener, Downes, as foreman of
the job, and engaged a small staff of helpers. The work began, as he
promised, in a humorous letter to the _Pall Matt Gazette_ upon New
Year's Day, 1872, and he kept his three sweepers at work for eight hours
daily "to show a bit of our London streets kept as clean as the deck of
a ship of the line."

There were some difficulties, too. One of the staff was an extremely
handsome and lively shoeblack, picked up in St. Giles'. It turned out
that he was not unknown to the world: he had sat to artists--to Mr.
Edward Clifford, to Mr. Severn; and went by the name of "Cheeky." Every
now and then Ruskin "and party" drove round to inspect the works.
Downes could not be everywhere at once: and Cheeky used to be caught at
pitch and toss or marbles in unswept Museum Street. Ruskin rarely, if
ever, dismissed a servant; but street sweeping was not good enough for
Cheeky, and so he enlisted. The army was not good enough, and so he
deserted; and was last seen disappearing into the darkness, after
calling a cab for his old friends one night at the Albert Hall.

One more escapade of this most unpractical man, as they called him.
Since his fortune was rapidly melting away, he had to look to his works
as an ultimate resource: they eventually became his only means of
livelihood. One might suppose that he would be anxious to put his
publishing business on the most secure and satisfactory footing; to
facilitate sale, and to ensure profit. But he had views. He objected to
advertising; though he thought that in his St. George's Scheme he would
have a yearly Book Gazette drawn up by responsible authorities,
indicating the best works. He distrusted the system of _unacknowledged_
profits and percentages, though he fully agreed that the retailer should
be paid for his work, and wished, in an ideal state, to see the
shopkeeper a salaried official. He disliked the bad print and paper of
the cheap literature of that day, and knew that people valued more
highly what they did not get so easily. He had changed his mind with
regard to one or two things--religion and glaciers chiefly--about which
he had written at length in earlier works.

So he withdrew his most popular books--"Modern Painters" and the
rest--from circulation, though he was persuaded by the publisher to
reprint "Modern Painters" and "Stones of Venice" once more--"positively
for the last time," as they said the plates would give no more good
impressions. He had his later writings printed in a rather expensive
style; at first through Smith & Elder, after two years by Messrs. Watson
& Hazell (later Hazell, Watson & Viney, Ltd.), and the method of
publication is illustrated in the history of "Sesame and Lilies," the
first volume of these "collected works." It was issued by Smith &
Elder, May, 1871, at 7s., to the trade only, leaving the retailer to fix
the price to the public. In September, 1872, the work was also supplied
by Mr. George Allen, and the price raised to 9s.6d., (carriage paid)
to trade and public alike, with the idea that an extra shilling, or
nearly ten per cent., might be added by the bookseller for his trouble
in ordering the work. If he did not add the commission, that was his own
affair; though with postage of order and payment, when only one or two
copies at a time were asked for, this did not leave much margin. So it
was doubled, by the simple expedient of doubling the price!--or, to be
accurate, raising it to 18s. (carriage paid) for 20s. over the counter.
It was freely prophesied by business men that this would not do:
however, at the end of fifteen years the _sixth edition_ of this work in
this form was being sold, in spite of the fact that, five years before,
a smaller reprint of the same book had been brought out at 5s., and was
then in its fourth edition of 3,000 copies each.

Compared with the enormous sale of sensational novels and school books,
this is no great matter; but for a didactic work, offered to the public
without advertisement, and in the face of the almost universal
opposition of the book-selling trade, it means not only that, as an
author, Ruskin had made a secure reputation, but also that he deserved
the curious tribute once paid him by the journal of a big modern shop
(Compton House, Liverpool) as a "great tradesman."



Early in 1872, after bringing out "Munera Pulveris," the essays he had
written ten years before for _Fraser_ on economy; after getting those
street-sweepers to work near the British Museum where he was making
studies of animals and Greek sculpture; and after once more addressing
the Woolwich cadets, this time[25] on the Bird of Calm (the mythology of
the Halcyon), Professor Ruskin went to Oxford to give a course of ten
lectures[26] on the Relation of Natural Science to Art, afterwards
published under the title of "The Eagle's Nest." He wrote to Professor

[Footnote 25: January 13, 1872.]

[Footnote 26: Feb. 8, 10, 15, 17, 22, 24. 29; March 2, 7, and 9.]

"I am, as usual, unusually busy. When I get fairly into my lecture
work at Oxford I always find the lecture would come better some
other way, just before it is given, and so work from hand to mouth.
I am always unhappy, and see no good in saying so. But I am
settling to my work here--recklessly--to do my best with it:
feeling quite sure that it is talking at hazard for what chance
good may come. But I attend regularly in the schools as mere
drawing-master, and the men begin to come in one by one, about
fifteen or twenty already; several worth having as pupils in any
way, being of temper to make good growth of."

Why was he always unhappy? It was not that Mr. W.B. Scott criticised
"Ruskin's influence" in that March; or that by Easter he had to say
farewell to his old home on Denmark Hill, and settle "for good" at
Brantwood. Nor that he could go abroad again for a long summer in Italy
with Mr. and Mrs. Severn and the Hilliards and Mr. Albert Goodwin. They
started about the middle of April, and on the journey out he wrote,
beside his "Fors" which always went on, a preface to the Rev. R. St.
John Tyrwhitt's "Christian Art and Symbolism." He drew the Apse at Pisa,
half-amused and half-worried by the little ragamuffin who varied the
tedium of watching his work by doing horizontal-bar tricks on the
railings of the Cathedral green. Then to Lucca, where, to show his
friends something of Italian landscape, he took them for rambles through
the olive farms and chestnut woods, among which Miss Hilliard lost her
jewelled cross. Greatly to Ruskin's delight, as a firm believer in
Italian peasant-virtue, it was found and returned without hint of

At Rome they visited old Mr. Severn, and then went homeward by way of
Verona, where Ruskin wrote an account of the Cavalli monuments for the
Arundel society, and Venice, where he returned to the study of
Carpaccio. At Rome he had been once more to the Sistine, and found that
on earlier visits the ceiling and the Last Judgment had taken his
attention too exclusively. Now that he could look away from Michelangelo
he become conscious of the claims of Botticelli's frescoes, which
represent, in the Florentine school, somewhat the same kind of interest
that he had found in Carpaccio. He became enamoured of Botticelli's
Zipporah, and resolved to study the master more closely. On reaching
home he had to prepare "The Eagle's Nest" for publication; in the
preface he gave special importance to Botticelli, and amplified it in
lectures on early engraving, that Autumn;[27] in which I remember his
quoting with appreciation the passage on the Venus Anadyomene from
Pater's "Studies in the Renaissance" just published.

[Footnote 27: "Ariadne Florentina," delivered on Nov. 2, 9, 16, 23, 30,
and Dec. 7, and repeated on the following Thursdays. Ruskin's first
mention of Botticelli was in the course on Landscape, Lent Term, 1871.]

This sudden enthusiasm about an unknown painter amused the Oxford
public: and it became a standing joke among the profane to ask who was
Ruskin's last great man. It was in answer to that, and in expression of
a truer understanding than most Oxford pupils attained, that Bourdillon
of Worcester wrote on "the Ethereal Ruskin,"--that was Carlyle's name
for him:--

"To us this star or that seems bright,
And oft some headlong meteor's flight
Holds for awhile our raptured sight.

"But he discerns each noble star;
The least is only the most far,
Whose worlds, may be, the mightiest are."

The critical value of this course however, to a student of art-history,
is impaired by his using as illustrations of Botticelli, and of the
manner of engraving which he took for standard, certain plates which
were erroneously attributed to the artist. "It is strange," he wrote in
despair to Professor Norton, "that I hardly ever get anything stated
without some grave mistake, however true in my main discourse." But in
this case a fate stronger than he had taken him unawares. The
circumstances do not extenuate the error of the Professor, but they
explain the difficulties under which his work was done. The cloud that
rested on his own life was the result of a strange and wholly unexpected
tragedy in another's.

It was an open secret--his attachment to a lady, who had been his pupil,
and was now generally understood to be his _fiancee_. She was far
younger than he; but at fifty-three he was not an old man; and the
friends who fully knew and understood the affair favoured his intentions
and joined in the hope, and in auguries for the happiness for which he
had been so long waiting. But now that it came to the point the lady
finally decided that it was impossible. He was not at one with her in
religious matters. He could speak lightly of her evangelical creed--it
seemed he scoffed in "Fors" at her faith. She could not be unequally
yoked with an unbeliever. To her, the alternative was plain; the choice
was terrible: yet, having once seen her path, she turned resolutely

[Footnote 28: In former editions the following sentence was added:
"Three years after, as she lay dying, he begged to see her once more.
She sent to ask whether he could yet say that he loved God better than
he loved her; and when he said 'No,' her door was closed upon him for
ever." The statement was suggested by information from Ruskin in later
days. I must, however, have misrepresented the facts, as the lady's
mother has left it in writing that no such incident occurred.]

Meanwhile, in the bitterest despair he sought refuge as he had done
before, in his work. He accepted the lesson, though he, too, could not
recant; still he tried to correct his apparent levity in the renewed
seriousness and more earnest tone of "Fors," speaking more plainly and
more simply, but without concession. He wrote on the next Christmas Eve
to an Aberdeen Bible-class teacher:

"If you care to give your class a word directly from me, say to
them that they will find it well, throughout life, never to trouble
themselves about what they ought _not_ to do, but about what they
_ought_ to do. The condemnation given from the Judgment
Throne--most solemnly described--is all for the _undones_ and not
for the _dones_. People are perpetually afraid of doing wrong; but
unless they are doing its reverse energetically, they do it all day
long, and the degree does not matter. Make your young hearers
resolve to be honest in their work in this life. Heaven will take
care of them for the other."

That was all he could say: he did not _know_ there was another life: he
_hoped_ there was: and yet, if he were not a saint or a Christian, was
there any man in the world who was nearer to the kingdom of Heaven than
this stubborn heretic?

His heretical attitude was singular. He was just as far removed from
adopting the easy antagonism of science to religion as from siding with
religion against science. In a paper singularly interesting--and in his
biography important--on the "Nature and Authority of Miracle," read to
the Metaphysical Society (February 11, 1873), he tried to clear up his
position and to state a qualified belief in the supernatural.

With that year expired the term for which he had been elected to the
Slade Professorship, and in January 1873 he was re-elected. In his first
three years he had given five courses of lectures designed to introduce
an encyclopaedic review and reconstruction of all he had to say upon art.
Beginning with general principles, he had proceeded to their application
in history, by tracing certain phases of Greek sculpture, and by
contrasting the Greek and the Gothic spirit as shown in the treatment of
landscape, from which he went on to the study of early engraving. The
application of his principles to theory was made in the course on
Science and Art ("The Eagle's Nest"). Now, on his re-election, he
proceeded to take up these two sides of his subject, and to illustrate
this view of the right way to apply science to art, by a course on
Birds, in Nature, Art and Mythology, and next year by a study of Alpine
forms. The historical side was continued with lectures on Niccola Pisano
and early Tuscan sculpture, and in 1874 with an important, though
unpublished, course on Florentine Art.

It is to this cycle of lectures that we must look for that matured
Ruskinian theory of art which his early works do not reach; and which
his writings between 1860 and 1870 do not touch. Though the Oxford
lectures are only a fragment of what he ought to have done, they should
be sufficient to a careful reader; though their expression is sometimes
obscured by diffuse treatment, they contain the root of the matter,
thought out for fifteen years since the close of the more brilliant, but
less profound, period of "Modern Painters."

The course on Birds[29] was given in the drawing school at the
University Galleries. The room was not large enough for the numbers that
crowded to hear Professor Ruskin, and each of these lectures, like the
previous and the following courses, had to be repeated to a second
audience. Great pains had been given to their preparation--much greater
than the easy utterance and free treatment of his theme led his hearers
to believe. For these lectures and their sequel, published as "Love's
Meinie," he collected an enormous number of skins--to compare the
plumage and wings of different species; for his work was with the
_outside_ aspect and structure of birds, not with their anatomy. He had
models made, as large as swords, of the different quill-feathers, to
experiment on their action and resistance to the air. He got a valuable
series of drawings by H.S. Marks, R.A., and made many careful and
beautiful studies himself of feathers and of birds at the Zoological
Gardens, and the British Museum; and after all, he had to conclude his
work saying, "It has been throughout my trust that if death should write
on these, 'What this man began to build, he was not able to finish,' God
may also write on them, not in anger, but in aid, 'A stronger than he

[Footnote 29: March 15, May 2 and 9; repeated March 19, May 5, and 12,

Two of the lectures on birds were repeated at Eton[30] before the boys'
Literary and Scientific Society and their friends; and between this and
1880 Ruskin often went to address the same audience, with the same
interest in young people that had taken him in earlier years to

[Footnote 30: May 10 and 17.]

After a long vacation at Brantwood, the first spent there, he went up to
give his course on Early Tuscan Art ("Val d'Arno")[31]. The lectures
were printed separately and sold at the conclusion and the first numbers
were sent to Carlyle, whose unabated interest in his friend's work was
shown in his letter of Oct. 31st: "_Perge, perge_;--and, as the Irish
say, 'more power to your elbow!' I have yet read this 'Val d'Arno' only
once. Froude snatched it away from me yesterday; and it has then to go
to my brother at Dumfries. After that I shall have it back...."

[Footnote 31: On Mondays and Thursdays, Oct. 21, 23, 27, 30, Nov. 3, 6,
10, 13, 17, 20; repeated on the Wednesdays and Fridays following.]

During that summer and autumn Ruskin suffered from nights of
sleeplessness or unnaturally vivid dreams and days of unrest and
feverish energy, alternating with intense fatigue. The eighteen lectures
in less than six weeks, a "combination of prophecy and play-acting," as
Carlyle had called it in his own case, and the unfortunate discussion
with an old-fashioned economist who undertook to demolish Ruskinism
without understanding it, added to the causes of which we are already
aware, brought him to New Year, 1874, in "failing strength, care, and
hope." He sought quiet at the seaside, but found modern hotel-life
intolerable; he went back to town and tried the pantomimes for
distraction,--saw Kate Vaughan in Cinderella, and Violet Cameron in Jack
in the Box, over and over again, and found himself:

"Now hopelessly a man of the world!--of that woeful outside one, I
mean. It is now Sunday; half-past eleven in the morning. Everybody
else is gone to church--and I am left alone with the cat, in the
world of sin."

Thinking himself better, he went to Oxford, and announced a course on
Alpine form; but after a week was obliged to retreat and go home to
Coniston, still hoping to return and give his lectures. But it was no
use. The gloom without deepened the gloom within; and he took the wisest
course in trying Italy, alone this time with his old servant Crawley.

The greater part of 1874 was spent abroad--first travelling through
Savoy and by the Riviera to Assisi, where he wrote to Miss S. Beever:

"The Sacristan gives me my coffee for lunch in his own little cell,
looking out on the olive woods; then he tells me stories of
conversions and miracles, and then perhaps we go into the sacristy
and have a reverent little poke-out of relics. Fancy a great carved
cupboard in a vaulted chamber full of most precious things (the
box which the Holy Virgin's veil used to be kept in, to begin
with), and leave to rummage in it at will! Things that are only
shown twice in the year or so, with fumigation! all the
congregation on their knees--and the sacristan and I having a great
heap of them on the table at once, like a dinner service. I really
looked with great respect on St. Francis's old camel-hair dress."

Thence he went to visit Colonel and Mrs. Yule at Palermo, deeply
interested in Scylla and Charybdis, Etna and the metopes of Selinus. His
interest in Greek art had been shown, not only in a course of lectures,
but in active support to archaeological explorations. He said once, "I
believe heartily in diggings, of all sorts." Meeting General L.P. di
Cesnola and hearing of the wealth of ancient remains in Cyprus then
newly discovered, Mr. Ruskin placed L1,000 at his disposal. General di
Cesnola was able, in April, 1875, to announce that in spite of the
confiscation of half the treasure-trove by the local Government, he had
shipped a cargo of antiquities, including many vases, terra-cottas, and
fragments of sculpture. Whence, precisely, these relics came is now

The landscape of Theocritus and the remains of ancient glories roused
him to energetic sketching--a sign of returning strength, which
continued when he reached Rome, and enabled him to make a very fine copy
of Botticelli's Zipporah, and other details of the Sistine frescoes.

Late in October he reached England, just able to give the promised
Lectures on Alpine forms,[32]--I remember his curious attempt to
illustrate the neve-masses by pouring flour on a model;--and a second
course on the AEsthetic and Mathematic schools of Florence;[33] and a
lecture on Botticelli at Eton, of which the Literary and Scientific
Society's minute-book contains the following report:

[Footnote 32: Oct. 27, 30; Nov. 3 and 6, 1874.]

[Footnote 33: Nov. 10, 13, 17, 20, 24, 27; Dec. 1 and 4, 1874.]

"On Saturday, Dec. 12th (1874), Professor Ruskin lectured before a
crowded, influential and excited audience, which comprised our
noble Society and a hundred and thirty gentlemen and ladies, who
eagerly accepted an invitation to hear Professor Ruskin 'talk' to
us on Botticelli. It is utterly impossible for the unfortunate
secretary of the Society to transmit to writing even an abstract of
this address; and it is some apology for him when beauty of
expression, sweetness of voice, and elegance in imagery defy the
utmost efforts of the pen."

Just before leaving for Italy he had been told that the Royal Institute
of British Architects intended to present him with their Gold Medal in
acknowledgment of his services to the cause of architecture; and during
his journey official announcement of the award reached him. He dictated
from Assisi (June 12, 1874) a letter to Sir Gilbert Scott, explaining
why he declined the honour intended him. He said in effect that if it
had been offered at a time when he had been writing on architecture it
would have been welcome; but it was not so now that he felt all his
efforts to have been in vain and the profession as a body engaged in
work--such as the "restoration" of ancient buildings--with which he had
no sympathy. It had been represented to him that his refusal to accept a
Royal Medal would be a reflection upon the Royal donor. To which he

"Having entirely loyal feelings towards the Queen, I will trust to
her Majesty's true interpretation of my conduct; but if formal
justification of it be necessary for the public, would plead that
if a Peerage or Knighthood may without disloyalty be refused,
surely much more the minor grace proceeding from the monarch may be
without impropriety declined by any of her Majesty's subjects who
wish to serve her without reward, under the exigency of peculiar

It was only the term before that Prince Leopold had been at Oxford, a
constant attendant on Ruskin's lectures, and a visitor to his drawing
school. The gentle prince, with his instinct for philanthropy, was not
to be deterred by the utterances of "Fors" from respecting the genius of
the Professor; and the Professor, with his old-world, cavalier loyalty,
readily returned the esteem and affection of his new pupil. A sincere
friendship was formed, lasting until the Prince's death.

In June, 1875, Princess Alice and her husband, with Prince Arthur and
Prince Leopold, were at Oxford. Ruskin had just made arrangements
completing his gifts to the University galleries and schools. The Royal
party showed great interest in the Professor and his work. The Princess,
the Grand Duke of Hesse, and Prince Leopold acted as witnesses to the
deed of gift, and Prince Arthur and Prince Leopold accepted the

With all the Slade Professor's generosity, the Ruskin drawing school,
founded in these fine galleries to which he had so largely contributed,
in a palatial hall handsomely furnished, and hung with Tintoret and
Luini, Burne-Jones and Rossetti, and other rare masters, ancient and
modern; with the most interesting examples to copy--at the most
convenient of desks, we may add--yet in spite of it all, the drawing
school was not a popular institution. When the Professor was personally
teaching, he got some fifteen or twenty--if not to attend, at any rate
to join. But whenever the chief attraction could not be counted on, the
attendance sank to an average of two or three. The cause was simple. An
undergraduate is supposed to spend his morning in lectures, his
afternoon in taking exercise, and his evening in college. There is
simply no time in his scheme for going to a drawing school. If it were
recognised as part of the curriculum, if it counted in any way along
with other studies, or contributed to a "school" akin to that of music,
practical art might become teachable at Oxford; and Professor Ruskin's
gifts and endowments--to say nothing of his hopes and plans--would not
be wholly in vain.

As he could not make the undergraduates draw, he made them dig. He had
noticed a very bad bit of road on the Hinksey side, and heard that it
was nobody's business to mend it: meanwhile the farmers' carts and
casual pedestrians were bemired. He sent for his gardener Downes, who
had been foreman of the street-sweepers; laid in a stock of picks and
shovels; took lessons in stone-breaking himself, and called on his
friends to spend their recreation times in doing something useful.

Many of the disciples met at the weekly open breakfasts at the
Professor's rooms in Corpus; and he was glad of a talk to them on other
things beside drawing and digging. Some were attracted chiefly by the
celebrity of the man, or by the curiosity of his humorous discourse; but
there were a few who partly grasped one side or other of his mission and
character. The most brilliant undergraduate of the time, seen at this
breakfast table, but not one of the diggers, was W.H. Mallock,
afterwards widely known as the author of "Is Life Worth Living?" He was
the only man. Professor Ruskin said, who really understood
him--referring to "The New Republic." But while Mallock saw the
reactionary and pessimistic side of his Oxford teacher, there was a
progressist and optimistic side which does not appear in his "Mr.
Herbert." That was discovered by another man whose career, short as it
was, proved even more influential. Arnold Toynbee was one of the
Professor's warmest admirers and ablest pupils: and in his philanthropic
work the teaching of "Unto this Last" and "Fors" was illustrated--not
exclusively--but truly. "No true disciple of mine will ever be a
Ruskinian" (to quote "St. Mark's Rest"); "he will follow, not me, but
the instincts of his own soul, and the guidance of its Creator."

Like all energetic men, Ruskin was fond of setting other people to work.
One of his plans was to form a little library of standard books
("Bibliotheca Pastorum") suitable for the kind of people who, he hoped,
would join or work under his St. George's Company. The first book he
chose was the "Economist" of Xenophon, which he asked two of his young
friends to translate. To them and their work he would give his
afternoons in the rooms at Corpus, with curious patience in the midst of
pre-occupying labour and severest trial; for just then he was lecturing
at the London Institution on the Alps[34]--reading a paper to the
Metaphysical Society[35]--writing the Academy Notes of 1875, and
"Proserpina," etc.--as well as his regular work at "Fors," and the St.
George's Company was then taking definite form;--and all the while the
lady of his love was dying under the most tragic circumstances, and he
forbidden to approach her.

[Footnote 34: "The Simple Dynamic Conditions of Glacial Action among the
Alps," March 11, 1875.]

[Footnote 35: "Social Policy based on Natural Selection," May 11.]

At the end of May she died. On the 1st of June the Royal party honoured
the Slade Professor with their visit--little knowing how valueless to
him such honours had become. He went north[36] and met his translators
at Brantwood to finish the Xenophon,--and to help dig his harbour and
cut coppice in his wood. He prepared a preface; but the next term was
one of greater pressure, with the twelve lectures on Sir Joshua Reynolds
to deliver. He wrote, after Christmas:

[Footnote 36: "On a posting tour through Yorkshire". He made three such
tours in 1875--southward in January, northward in June and July, and
southward in September: and another northward in April and May, 1876.]

"Now that I have got my head fairly into this Xenophon business, it
has expanded into a new light altogether; and I think it would be
absurd in me to slur over the life in one paragraph. A hundred
things have come into my head as I arrange the dates, and I think I
can make a much better thing of it--with a couple of days' work. My
head would not work in town--merely turned from side to side--never
nodded (except sleepily). I send you the proofs just to show you
I'm at work. I'm going to translate all the story of Delphic answer
before Anabasis: and his speech after the sleepless night."

Delphic answers--for he was then again brought into contact with
"spiritualism"; and sleepless nights--for the excitement of overwork was
telling upon him--were becoming too frequent in his own experience; and
yet the lectures on Reynolds went off with success.[37] The magic of his
oratory transmuted the scribbled jottings of his MS. into a magnificent
flow of rolling paragraph and rounded argument that thrilled a captious
audience with unwonted emotion, and almost persuaded many a hearer to
accept the gospel of "the Ethereal Ruskin." In spite of a sense of
antagonism to his surroundings, he did useful work which none other
could do in the University. That this was acknowledged was proved by his
re-election, early in 1876: but his third term of three years was a time
of weakened health. Repeated absence from his post and inability to
fulfil his duties made it obviously his wisest course, at the end of
that term, to resign the Slade Professorship.

[Footnote 37: Nov. 2, 4, 6, 9, 11, 13, 16, 18, 20, 23, 25, and 27;


ST. GEORGE AND ST. MARK (1875-1877)

In the book his Bertha of Canterbury was reading at twilight on the Eve
of St. Mark, Keats might have been describing "Fors." Among its pages,
fascinating with their golden broideries of romance and wit, perplexing
with mystic vials of wrath as well as all the Seven Lamps and Shekinah
of old and new Covenants commingled, there was gradually unfolded the
plan of "St. George's Work."

The scheme was not easy to apprehend; it was essentially different from
anything then known, though superficially like several bankrupt Utopias.
Ruskin did not want to found a phalanstery, or to imitate Robert Owen
or the Shakers. That would have been practicable--and useless.

He wanted much more. He aimed at the gradual introduction of higher aims
into ordinary life: it giving true refinement to the lower classes, true
simplicity to the upper. He proposed that idle hands should reclaim
waste lands; that healthy work and country homes should be offered to
townsfolk who would "come out of the gutter." He asked land-owners and
employers to furnish opportunities for such reforms;--which would
involve no elaborate organization nor unelastic rules;--simply the one
thing needful, the refusal of Commercialism.

As before, he scorned the idea that real good could be done by political
agitation. Any government would work, he said, if it were an efficient
government. No government was efficient unless it saw that every one had
the necessaries of life, for body and soul; and that every one earned
them by some work or other. Capital--that is, the means and material of
labour, should therefore be in the hands of the Government, not in the
hands of individuals: this reform would result easily and necessarily
from the forbidding of loans on interest. Personal property would still
be in private hands; but as it could not be invested and turned into
capital, it would necessarily be restricted to its actual use, and great
accumulation would be valueless.

This is, of course, a very sketchy statement of the ground-work of
"Fors," but to most readers nowadays as comprehensible as, at the time
of its publication, it was incomprehensible. For when, long after "Fors"
had been written, Ruskin found other writers advocating the same
principles and calling themselves Socialists, he said that he too was a

But the Socialists of various sects have complicated, and sometimes
confused, their simple fundamental principles with various ways and
means; to which he could not agree. He had his own ways and means. He
had his private ideals of life, which he expounded, along with his main
doctrine. He thought, justifiably, that theory was useless without
practical example; and so he founded St. George's Company (in 1877
called St. George's Guild) as his illustration.

The Guild grew out of his call, in 1871, for adherents: and by 1875
began to take definite form. Its objects were to set the example of a
common capital as opposed to a National debt, and of co-operative labour
as opposed to competitive struggle for life. Each member was required to
do some work for his living--without too strict limits as to the
kind--and to practice certain precepts of religion and morality, broad
enough for general acceptance. He was also required to obey the
authority of the Guild, and to contribute a tithe of his income to a
common fund, for various objects. These objects were--first: to buy land

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