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The Life of John Ruskin by W. G. Collingwood

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for the agricultural members to cultivate, paying their rent, not to the
other members, but to the company; not refusing machinery, but
preferring manual labour. Next, to buy mills and factories, to be
likewise owned by the Guild and worked by members--using water power in
preference to steam (steam at first not forbidden)--and making the lives
of the people employed as well spent as might be, with a fair wage,
healthy work, and so forth. The loss on starting was to be made up from
the Guild store, but it was anticipated that the honesty of the goods
turned out would ultimately make such enterprises pay, even in a
commercial world. Then, for the people employed and their families,
there would be places of recreation and instruction, supplied by the
Guild, and intended to give the agricultural labourer or mill-hand,
trained from infancy in Guild schools, some insight into Literature,
Science and Art--and tastes which his easy position would leave him free
to cultivate.

So far the plan was simple. It was not a _colony_--but merely the
working of existing industries in a certain way. Anticipating further
development of the scheme, Ruskin looked forward to a guild coinage, as
pretty as the Florentines had; a costume as becoming as the Swiss: and
other Platonically devised details, which were not the essentials of the
proposal, and never came into operation. But some of his plans were
actually realised.

The chief objects of "St. George" come under three heads, as we have
just noticed: agricultural, industrial, and educational. The actual
schools would not be needed until the farms and mills had been so far
established as to secure a permanent attendance. But meanwhile provision
was being made for them, both in literature and in art. The "Bibliotheca
Pastorum," was to be a comprehensive little library--far less than the
100 books of the _Pall Mall Gazette_--and yet bringing before the St.
George's workman standard and serious writing of all times. It was to
include, in separate volumes, the Books of Moses and the Psalms of David
and the Revelation of St. John. Of Greek, the Economist of Xenophon, and
Hesiod, which Ruskin undertook to translate into prose. Of Latin the
first two Georgics and sixth AEneid of Virgil, in Gawain Douglas'
translation. Dante; Chaucer, excluding the "Canterbury Tales"--but
including the "Romance of the Rose"; Gotthelf's "Ulric the Farmer," from
the French version which Ruskin had loved ever since his father used to
read it him on their first tours in Switzerland; and an early English
history by an Oxford friend. Later were published Sir Philip Sidney's
psalter, and Ruskin's own biography of Sir Herbert Edwardes, under the
title of "A Knight's Faith."

These books were for the home library; reference works were bought to be
deposited in central libraries, along with objects of art and science.
It was not intended to keep the Guild property centralised; but rather
to spread it, as its other work was spread, broad-cast. A number of
books and other objects were bought with the Guild money, and lent or
given to various schools and colleges and institutions where work akin
to the objects of the Guild was being done. But for the time Ruskin
fixed upon Sheffield as the place of his first Guild Museum--being the
home of the typical English industry--central to all parts of England,
near beautiful hill-country, and yet not far from a number of
manufacturing towns in which, if St. George's work went on, supporters
and recruits might be found.

The people of Sheffield were already, in 1875, building a museum of
their own, and naturally thought that the two might be conveniently
worked together. But that was not at all what Ruskin wished. Not only
was his museum to be primarily the storehouse of the Guild, rather than
one among many means of popular education; but the objects which he
intended to place there were not such as the public expected to see. He
had no interest in a vast accumulation of articles of all kinds. He
wanted to provide for his friends' common treasury a few definitely
valuable and interesting examples--interesting to the sort of people
that he hoped would join the Guild or be bred up in it; and valuable
according to his own standard and experience.

In September 1875, Ruskin stayed a couple of days at Sheffield to
inspect a cottage at Walkley, in the outskirts of the town, and to make
arrangements for founding the museum--humbly to begin with, but hoping
for speedy increase. He engaged as curator, at a salary of L40 a year
and free lodging on the premises, his former pupil at the Working Men's
College, Henry Swan, who had done occasional work for him in drawing and
engraving. Swan was a Quaker, and a remarkable man in his way;
enthusiastic in his new vocation, and interested in the social questions
which were being discussed in "Fors." Under his care the Museum remained
at Walkley, accumulating material in the tiny and hardly accessible
cottage--being so to speak in embryo, until the way should be clear for
its removal or enlargement, which took place in 1890.

When Ruskin came back on his posting tour of April 1876, he stayed
again at Sheffield, to meet a few friends of Swan's--Secularists,
Unitarians, and Quakers, who professed Communism. They had an interview
(reported in the Sheffield _Daily Telegraph_, April 28th, 1876), which
brought out rather curiously the points of difference between their
opinions and his. They refused to join the Guild because they would not
promise obedience, and help in its objects. Ruskin, however, was willing
to advance theirs. A few weeks afterwards he invited them to choose a
piece of ground for their Communist experiment. They chose a farm of
over thirteen acres at Abbeydale, which the Guild bought in 1877 at a
cost of L2,287 16s.6d. for their use--the communists agreeing to pay the
money back in instalments, without interest, by the end of seven years:
when the farm should be their own.

When it was actually in their hands they found that they knew nothing of
farming--and besides, were making money at trades they did not really
care to abandon. They engaged a man to work the farm for them: and then
another. They were told that the land they had chosen was--for farming
purposes--worthless. Their capital ran short; and they tried to make
money by keeping a tea-garden. The original proposer of the scheme wrote
to Ruskin, who sent L100:--the others returned the money. Ruskin
declined to take it back, and began to perceive that the Communists were
trifling. They had made no attempt to found the sort of community they
had talked about; neither their plans nor his were being carried out. So
when the original proposer and a friend of his named Riley approached
Ruskin again, they found little difficulty in persuading him to try them
as managers. The rest, finding themselves turned out by Riley, vainly
demanded "explanations" from Ruskin, who then was drifting into his
first attack of brain fever. So they declined further connection with
the farm; the Guild accepted their resignation, and undertook for the
time nothing more than to get the land into good condition again.

This was not the only land held by the St. George's Guild. It acquired
the acre of ground on which the Sheffield Museum stood, and a cottage
with a couple of acres near Scarborough. Two acres of rock and moor at
Barmouth had been given by Mrs. Talbot in 1872; and in 1877 Mr. George
Baker, then Mayor of Birmingham, gave twenty acres of woodland at
Bewdley in Worcestershire, to which at one time Mr. Ruskin thought of
moving the museum, before the present building was found for it by the
Sheffield Corporation at Meersbrook Park. On the resignation of the
original Trustees, in 1877, Mr. Q. Talbot and Mr. Baker were offered the
trust: and on the death of Mr. Talbot the trust was accepted by Mr. John
Henry Chamberlain. After he died it was taken by Mr. George Thomson of
Huddersfield, whose woollen mills, transformed into a co-operative
concern, though not directly in connection with the Guild, have given a
widely known example of the working of principles advocated in "Fors."

In the middle of 1876, Egbert Rydings, the auditor of the accounts
which, in accordance with his principles of "glass pockets," Ruskin
published in "Fors," proposed to start a homespun woollen industry at
Laxey, in the Isle of Man, where the old women who formerly spun with
the wheel had been driven by failure of custom to work in the mines. The
Guild built him a water mill, and in a few years the demand for a pure,
rough, durable cloth, created by this and kindred attempts, justified
the enterprise. Ruskin set the example, and had his own grey clothes
made of Laxey stuffs--whose chief drawback was that they never wore out.
A little later a similar work was done, with even greater success, by
Mr. Albert Fleming, another member of the Guild; who introduced
old-fashioned spinning and hand-loom weaving at Langdale.

The story of Ruskin's posting tour was told many years afterwards, at
the opening of the new Sheffield museum, by Mr. Arthur Severn, a famous
_raconteur_, whose description of the adventures of their cruise upon
wheels includes so bright a picture of Ruskin, that I must use his words
as they were reported on the occasion in the magazine _Igdrasil_:

"... With the Professor, who dislikes railways very much, it was
not a question of travelling by rail. He said, 'I will take you in
a carriage and with horses, and we will drive the whole way from
London to the North of England. And I will not only do that, but I
will do the best in my power to get a postilion to ride, and we
will go quite in the old-fashioned way ...' The Professor went so
far that he actually built a carriage for this drive. It was a
regular posting carriage, with good strong wheels, a place behind
for the luggage, and cunning drawers inside it for all kinds of
things that we might require on the journey. We started off one
fine morning from London--I must say without a postilion--but when
we arrived at the next town, about twenty miles off, having
telegraphed beforehand that we were coming, there was a gorgeous
postilion ready with the fresh horses, and we started off in a
right style, according to the Professor's wishes.

"After many pleasant days of travelling, we at last arrived at
Sheffield, and I well remember that we created no small sensation
as we clattered up to the old posting inn. I think it was the
King's Head. We stayed a few days, and visited the old Museum at
Walkley; and I remember the look of regret on the Professor's face
when he saw how cramped the space was there for the things he had
to show. However, with his usual kindliness, he did not say much
about it at the time, and he did not complain of the considerable
amount of room it was necessary for the curator and his family to
take up in that place. We stayed about two days looking at the
beautiful country,--and I am glad to say there was a good deal
still left,--and then the Professor gave orders that the carriage
should be got ready to take us on our journey, and that a postilion
should be forthcoming, if possible. I remember leaving the luncheon
table and going outside to see if the necessary arrangements were
complete. Sure enough, there was the carriage at the door, and a
still more gorgeous postilion than any we had had so far on our
journey. His riding breeches were of the tightest and whitest I
ever saw; his horses were an admirable pair, and looked like going.
A very large crowd had assembled outside the inn, to see what
extraordinary kind of mortals could be going to travel in such a

"I went to the room where the Professor was still at luncheon, and
told him that everything was ready, but that there was a very large
crowd at the door. He seemed rather amused; and I said, 'You know,
Professor, I really don't know what the people expect--whether it
is a bride and bridegroom, or what.' He said, 'Well, Arthur, you
and Joan shall play at being bride and bridegroom inside the
carriage, and I will get on the box.' He got Mrs. Severn on his
arm, and had to hold her pretty tightly as he left the door,
because when she saw the crowd outside she tried to beat a retreat.
At last he got her into the carriage, I was put in afterwards, and
he jumped up on the box. The crowd closed in, and looked at us as
if we were a sort of menagerie. I was much amused when I thought
how little these eager people knew that the real attraction was on
the box; I felt inclined to put my head out of the window, and say,
'My good people, there is the man you should look at,--not us.' I
did not like to do so; and the Professor gave the word to be off,
the postilion cracked his whip, and we went off in grand style,
amidst the cheers of the crowd...."

On one of these posting excursions, they came to Hardraw; Mrs. Alfred
Hunt tells the story in her edition of Turner's "Richmondshire"; Mr.
Severn's account is somewhat different. After examining the Fall, Mrs.
Severn and Mr. Ruskin left Mr. Severn to sketch, and went away to Hawes
to order their tea. When they were gone, a man who had been standing by
came up and asked if that were Professor Ruskin. "Yes," said Mr. Severn,
"it was; he is very fond of the Fall, and much puzzled to know why the
edge of the cliff is not worn away by the water, as he expected to find
it after so many years." "Oh," said the other, "there are twelve feet of
masonry up there to protect the rock. I'm a native of the place, and
know all about it." "I wish," said Mr. Severn, absently, as he went on
drawing, "Mr. Ruskin knew that; he would be so interested." And the
stranger ran off. When the sketcher came in to tea he felt there was
something wrong. "You're in for it!" said his wife. "Let us look at his
sketch first," said Mr. Ruskin; and luckily it was a very good one. By
and by it all came out;--how the Yorkshireman had caught the Professor,
and eagerly described the horrible Vandalism, receiving in reply some
very emphatic language. Upon which he took off his hat and bowed low:
"But, sir," he faltered, "the gentleman up there said I was to tell you,
and you would be so interested!" The Professor, suddenly mollified, took
off his hat in turn, and apologised for his reception of the news:
"but," said he, "I shall never care for Hardraw Waterfall again."

"The Professor," said Mr. Severn, "dislikes railways very much:" and on
his arrival at Brantwood after that posting journey he wrote a preface
to "A Protest against the Extension of Railways in the Lake District,"
by Mr. Robert Somervell. Ruskin's dislike of railways has been the text
of a great deal of misrepresentation, and his use of them, at all, has
been often quoted as an inconsistency. As a matter of fact, he never
objected to main lines of railway communication; but he strongly
objected, in common with a vast number of people, to the introduction of
railways into districts whose chief interest is in their scenery;
especially where, as in the English Lake district, the scenery is in
miniature, easily spoiled by embankments and viaducts, and by the rows
of ugly buildings which usually grow up round a station; and where the
beauty of the landscape can only be felt in quiet walks or drives
through it. Many years later, after he had said all he had to say on the
subject again and again, and was on the brink of one of his illnesses,
he wrote in violent language to a correspondent who tried to "draw" him
on the subject of another proposed railway to Ambleside. But his real
opinions were simple enough, and consistent with a practicable scheme of

In August 1876 he left England for Italy. He travelled alone,
accompanied only by his new servant Baxter, who had lately taken the
place vacated by Crawley, Mr. Ruskin's former valet of twenty years'
service. He crossed the Simplon to Venice, where he was welcomed by an
old friend, Rawdon Brown, and a new friend, Prof. C.H. Moore, of
Harvard. He met two Oxford pupils, Mr. J. Reddie Anderson, whom he set
to work on Carpaccio; and Mr. Whitehead--"So much nicer they all are," he
wrote in a private letter, "than I was at their age;"--also his pupil
Mr. Bunney, at work on copies of pictures and records of architecture,
the legacy of St. Mark to St. George. Two young artists were brought
into his circle, during that winter--both Venetians, and both singularly
interesting men: Giacomo Boni, now a celebrated antiquary, then capo
d'opera of the Ducal Palace, and doing his best to preserve, instead of
"restoring," the ancient sculptures; and Angelo Alessandri, a painter of
more than usual seriousness of aim and sympathy with the fine qualities
of the old masters.

Ruskin had been engaged on a manual of drawing for his Oxford schools,
which he now meant to complete in two parts: "The Laws of
Fesole"--teaching the principles of Florentine draughtsmanship; and "The
Laws of Rivo Alto"--about Venetian colour. Passages for this second part
were written. But he found himself so deeply interested in the evolution
of Venetian art, and in tracing the spirit of the people as shown by the
mythology illustrated in the pictures and sculptures, that his practical
manual became a sketch of art history, "St. Mark's Rest"--as a sort of
companion to "Mornings in Florence," which he had been working at during
his last visit to Italy. His intention was to supersede "Stones of
Venice" by a smaller book, giving more prominence to the ethical side of
history, which should illustrate Carpaccio as the most important figure
of the transition period, and do away with the exclusive Protestantism
of his earlier work.

He set himself to this task, with Tintoret's motto--_Sempre si fa il
mare maggiore_, and worked with feverish energy, recording his progress
in letters home.

"13 _Nov_.--I never was yet, in my life, in such a state of hopeless
confusion of letters, drawings, and work: chiefly because, of course,
when one is old, one's _done_ work seems all to tumble in upon one, and
want rearranging, and everything brings a thousand old as well as new
thoughts. My head seems less capable of accounts every year. I can't
_fix_ my mind on a sum in addition--it goes off, between seven and nine,
into a speculation on the seven deadly sins or the nine muses. My table
is heaped with unanswered letters,--MS. of four or five different books
at six or seven different parts of each,--sketches getting rubbed
out,--others getting smudged in,--parcels from Mr. Brown unopened,
parcels _for_ Mr. Moore unsent; my inkstand in one place,--too probably
upset,--my pen in another; my paper under a pile of books, and my last
carefully written note thrown into the waste-paper basket.

"3 _Dec_.--I'm having nasty foggy weather just now,--but it's better
than fog in London,--and I'm really resting a little, and trying not to
be so jealous of the flying days. I've a most _cumfy_ room [at the Grand
Hotel]--I've gone out of the very expensive one, and only pay twelve
francs a day; and I've two windows, one with open balcony and the other
covered in with glass. It spoils the look of the window dreadfully, but
gives me a view right away to Lido, and of the whole sunrise. Then the
bed is curtained off from rest of room like that [sketch of window and
room] with fine flourishing white and gold pillars--and the black place
is where one goes out of the room beside the bed.

"9 _Dec_.--I hope to send home a sketch or two which will show I'm not
quite losing my head yet.... I must show at Oxford some reason for my
staying so long in Venice."

Beside studies in the Chapel of St. George, he copied Carpaccio's "Dream
of St. Ursula" which was taken down--it had been "skied" at the Academy
until then--and placed in the sculpture gallery; and be laboured to
produce a facsimile.

"24 _Dec_.--I do think St. Ursula's lips are coming pretty--and her
eyelids--but oh me, her hair. Toni, Mr. Brown's gondolier, says she's
all right--and he's a grave and close looking judge, you know."

Christmas Day was a crisis in his life. He was attacked by illness;
severe pain, followed by a dreamy state in which the vividly realized
presence of St. Ursula mingled with memories of his dead lady, whose
"spirit" had been shown him a year before by a "medium" met at a country
house. Since then he had watched eagerly for evidences of another life:
and the sense of its conceivability grew upon him, in spite of the
doubts which he had entertained of the immortality of the soul. At last,
after a year's earnest desire for some such assurance, it seemed to come
to him. What others call coincidences, and accidents, and states of mind
flashed, for him, into importance; times and seasons, names and symbols,
took a vivid meaning. His intense despondency changed for a while into a
singular happiness--it seemed a renewed health and strength: and instead
of despair, he rejoiced in the conviction of guarding Providences and
helpful influences.

Readers of "Fors" had traced for some years back the re-awakening of a
religious tone, now culminating in a pronounced mysticism which they
could not understand, and in a recantation of the sceptical judgments of
his middle period. He found, now, new excellences in the early Christian
painting; he depreciated Turner and Tintoret, and denounced the
frivolous art of the day. He searched the Bible more diligently than
ever for its hidden meanings; and in proportion as he felt its
inspiration, he recoiled from the conclusions of modern science, and
wrapped the prophet's mantle more closely round him, as he denounced
with growing fervour the crimes of our unbelieving age.



In the summer of 1875, Ruskin had written:

"I begin to ask myself, with somewhat pressing arithmetic, how much
time is likely to be left me, at the age of fifty-six, to complete
the various designs for which, until past fifty, I was merely
collecting material. Of these materials I have now enough by me for
a most interesting (in my own opinion) history of fifteenth century
Florentine Art, in six octavo volumes; an analysis of the Attic art
of the fifth century B.C. in three volumes; an exhaustive history
of northern thirteenth-century art, in ten volumes; a life of Sir
Walter Scott, with analysis of modern epic art, in seven volumes; a
life of Xenophon, with analysis of the general principles of
education, in ten volumes; a commentary on Hesiod, with final
analysis of the principles of Political Economy, in nine volumes;
and a general description of the geology and botany of the Alps, in
twenty-four volumes."

The estimate of volumes was--perhaps--in jest; but the plans for
harvesting his material were in earnest.

"Proserpina"--so named from the Flora of the Greeks, the daughter of
Demeter, Mother Earth--grew out of notes already begun in 1866. It was
little like an ordinary botany book;--that was to be expected. It did
not dissect plants; it did not give chemical or histological analysis:
but with bright and curious fancy, with the most ingenious diagrams and
perfect drawings--beautifully engraved by Burgess and Allen--illustrated
the mystery of growth in plants and the tender beauty of their form.
Though this was not science, in strict terms it was a field of work
which no one but Ruskin had cultivated. He was helped by a few
scientific men like Professor Oliver, who saw a value in his line of
thought, and showed a kindly interest in it.

"Deucalion"--from the mythical creator of human life out of stones--was
begun as a companion work: to be published in parts, as the repertory
of Oxford lectures on Alpine form, and notes on all kinds of kindred
subjects. For instance, before that hasty journey to Sheffield he gave a
lecture at the London Institution on "Precious Stones" (February 17th,
repeated March 28th, 1876. A lecture on a similar subject was given to
the boys of Christ's Hospital on April 15th). This lecture, called "The
Iris of the Earth," stood first in Part III. of "Deucalion": and the
work went on, in studies of the forms of silica, on the lines marked out
ten years before in the papers on Banded and Brecciated Concretions; now
carried forward with much kind help from the Rev. J. Clifton Ward, of
the Geological Survey, and Mr. Henry Willett, F.G.S., of Brighton.

On the way home over the Simplon in May and June, 1877, travelling first
with Signor Alessandri, and then with Mr. G. Allen, Professor Ruskin
continued his studies of Alpine flowers for "Proserpina." In the autumn
he gave a lecture at Kendal (Oct. 1st, repeated at Eton College Dec.
8th) on "Yewdale and its Streamlets."

"Yewdale"--reprinted as Part V. of "Deucalion"--took an unusual
importance in his own mind, not only because it was a great success as a
lecture--though some Kendalians complained that there was not enough
"information" in it:--but because it was the first given since that
Christmas at Venice, when a new insight had been granted him, as he
felt, into spiritual things, and a new burden laid on him, to withstand
the rash conclusions of "science falsely so called," and to preach in
their place the presence of God in nature and in man.

Writing to Miss Beever about his Oxford course of that autumn, "Readings
in Modern Painters," [38] he said, on the 2nd December:

[Footnote 38: Nov. 6, 8, 10, 13, 15, 17, 20, 22, 24, 27, 29 and Dec. 1,
1877. These lectures were never prepared for publication as a course;
the last lecture was printed in the _Nineteenth Century_ for January,

"I gave yesterday the twelfth and last of my course of lectures this
term, to a room crowded by six hundred people, two-thirds members of the
University, and with its door wedged open by those who could not get in;
this interest of theirs being granted to me, I doubt not, because for
the first time in Oxford I have been able to speak to them boldly of
immortal life. I intended when I began the course only to have read
'Modern Painters' to them; but when I began, some of your favourite
bits[39] interested the men so much, and brought so much larger a
proportion of undergraduates than usual, that I took pains to re-inforce
and press them home; and people say I have never given so useful a
course yet. But it has taken all my time and strength."

[Footnote 39: Miss Beever had published early in 1875 the extracts from
"Modern Painters," so widely known as "Frondes Agrestes."]

He wrote again, on Dec. 16th, from Herne Hill:

"It is a long while since I've felt so good-for-nothing as I do
this morning. My very wristbands curl up in a dog's-eared and
disconsolate manner; my little room is all a heap of disorder. I've
got a hoarseness and wheezing and sneezing and coughing and
choking. I can't speak and I can't think; I'm miserable in bed and
useless out of it; and it seems to me as if I could never venture
to open a window or go out of a door any more. I have the dimmest
sort of diabolical pleasure in thinking how miserable I shall make
Susie by telling her all this; but in other respects I seem
entirely devoid of all moral sentiments. I have arrived at this
state of things, first by catching cold, and since trying to 'amuse
myself' for three days."

He goes on to give a list of his amusements--Pickwick, chivalric
romances, the _Daily Telegraph_, Staunton's games of chess, and finally
analysis of the Dock Company's bill of charges on a box from Venice.

Ten days after he wrote from Oxford, in his whimsical style:

"Yesterday I had two lovely services in my own cathedral. You know
the _Cathedral_ of Oxford is the chapel of Christ Church College,
and I have my high seat in the chancel, as an honorary student,
besides being bred there, and so one is ever so proud and ever so
pious all at once, which is ever so nice you know: and my own dean,
that's the Dean of Christ Church, who is as big as any bishop, read
the services, and the psalms and anthems were lovely; and then I
dined with Henry Acland and his family ... but I do wish I could be
at Brantwood too." Next day it was "Cold quite gone."

But he was not to be quit so easily this time of the results of overwork
and worry.

He had been passing through the unpleasant experience of a
misunderstanding with one of his most trusted friends and helpers. His
work on behalf of the St. George's Guild had been energetic and sincere:
and he had received the support of a number of strangers, among whom
were people of responsible station and position. But he was surprised to
find that many of his personal friends held aloof. He was still more
surprised to learn, on returning from Venice, full of new hope and
stronger convictions in his mission, that the caution of one upon whom
he had counted as a firm ally had dissuaded an intending adherent from
joining in the work. A man of the world, accustomed to overreach and to
be overreached, would have taken the discovery coolly, and accepted an
explanation. But Ruskin was never a man of the world; and now, much less
than ever. He took it as treason to the great work of which he felt
himself to be the missionary. Throughout the autumn and winter the
discovery rankled, and preyed on his mind. As for the sake of absolute
candour he had published in "Fors" everything that related to the Guild
work,--even his own private affairs and confessions, whatever they
risked,--he felt that this too must out; in order that his supporters
might judge of his conduct and that nothing affecting the enterprise
might be kept back. And so, at Christmas, he sent the correspondence to
his printers.

Years afterwards, by the intervention of friends, this breach was
healed: but what suffering it cost can be learnt from the sequel. To
Ruskin it was the beginning of the end. His Aberdeen correspondent asked
just then for the usual Christmas message to the Bible class: and
instead of the cheery words of bygone years, received the couplet from

"Inter spem curamque, timores inter et iras,
_Omnem_ crede diem tibi diluxisse supremum."

"Amid hope and sorrow, amid fear and wrath, believe
_every_ day that has dawned on thee to be thy last."

From Oxford, early in January, 1878, he went on a visit to Windsor
Castle, whence he wrote: "I came to see Prince Leopold, who has been a
prisoner to his sofa lately, but I trust he is better; he is very bright
and gentle under severe and almost continual pain." No less gentle, in
spite of the severe justice he was inflicting upon himself even more
than upon his friend, was the author of "Fors," as the letters of the
time to his invalid neighbour in "Hortus Inclusus" show. How ready to
own himself in the wrong,--at that very moment when he was being pointed
at as the most obstinate and egotistic of men--how placable he really
was and open to rebuke, he showed, when, from Windsor, he went to
Hawarden. Nearly three years before he had written roughly of Mr.
Gladstone; as a Conservative, he was not predisposed in favour of the
leader of the party to whom he attributed most of the evils he was
combating. Mr. Gladstone and he had often met, and by no means agreed
together in conversation. But this visit convinced him that he had
misjudged Mr. Gladstone; and he promptly made the fullest apology in the
current number of "Fors," saying that he had written under a complete
misconception of his character. In reprinting the old pages he not only
cancelled the offending passage, but he left the place blank, with a
note in the middle of it, as "a memorial of rash judgment."

He went slowly northward, seeking rest at Ingleton; whence he wrote,
January 17:--"I've got nothing done all the time I've been away but a
few mathematical figures [crystallography, no doubt, for 'Deucalion,']
and the less I do the less I find I can do it; and yesterday, for the
first time these twenty years, I hadn't so much as a 'plan' in my head
all day." Arrived at Brantwood, as rest was useless, he tried work. Mr.
Willett had asked him to reprint "The Two Paths," and he got that ready
for press, and wrote a short preface. At Venice, Mr. J.R. Anderson had
been working out for him the myths illustrated by Carpaccio in the
Chapel of S. Giorgio de' Schiavoni; and the book had been waiting for
Ruskin's introduction until he was surprised by the publication of an
almost identical inquiry by M. Clermont-Ganneau. He tried to fulfil his
duty to his pupil by writing the preface immediately; most sorrowfully
feeling the inadequacy of his strength for the tasks he had laid upon
it. He wrote:

"My own feeling, now, is that everything which has hitherto
happened to me, and been done by me, whether well or ill, has been
fitting me to take greater fortune more prudently, and to do better
work more thoroughly. And just when I seem to be coming out of
school,--very sorry to have been such a foolish boy, yet having
taken a prize or two, and expecting now to enter upon some more
serious business than cricket,--I am dismissed by the Master I
hoped to serve, with a--'That's all I want of you, sir.'"

In such times he found relief by reverting to the past. He wrote in the
beginning of February a paper for the _University Magazine_ on "My First
Editor," W.H. Harrison, and forgot himself--almost--in bright
reminiscences of youthful days and early associations. Next, as Mr.
Marcus Huish, who had shown great friendliness and generosity in
providing prints for the Sheffield museum, was now proposing to hold an
Exhibition of Mr. Ruskin's "Turners" at the Fine Art Galleries in New
Bond Street, it was necessary to arrange the exhibits and to prepare the
catalogue. For the next fortnight he struggled on with this labour, and
with his last "Fors"--the last he was to write in the long series of
more than seven years.[40] How little the thousands who read the preface
to his catalogue, with its sad sketch of Turner's fate, and what they
supposed to be its "customary burst of terminal eloquence," understood
that it was indeed the cry of one who had been wounded in the house of
his friends, and was now believing every day that dawned on him to be
his last. He told of Turner's youthful picture of the Coniston Fells and
its invocation to the mists of morning, bidding them "in honour to the
world's great Author, rise,"--and then how Turner's "health, and with it
in great degree his mind, failed suddenly with a snap of some vital
chord," after the sunset splendours of his last, dazzling efforts....

[Footnote 40: "Fors" was taken up again, at intervals, later on; but
never with the same purpose and continuity.]

"Morning breaks, as I write, along those Coniston Fells, and the level
mists, motionless and grey beneath the rose of the moorlands, veil the
lower woods, and the sleeping village, and the long lawns by the
lake-shore. Oh that some one had but told me, in my youth, when all my
heart seemed to be set on these colours and clouds, that appear for a
little while and then vanish away, how little my love of them would
serve me, when the silence of lawn and wood in the dews of morning
should be completed; and all my thoughts should be of those whom, by
neither, I was to meet more!"

The catalogue was finished, and hurried off to the printers. A week of
agitating suspense at home, and then it could no longer be concealed.
Friends and foes alike were startled and saddened with the news of his
"sudden and dangerous illness,"--some form of inflammation of the
brain--the result of overwork, but still more immediately of the
emotional strain from which he had been suffering.

On March 4th, the Turner Exhibition opened, and day by day the bulletins
from Brantwood announcing his condition were read by multitudes of
visitors with eager and sorrowful interest. Newspapers all the world
over copied the daily reports: in the Far West of America the same
telegrams were posted, and they say even a more demonstrative sympathy
was shown. Nor was the feeling confined to the English speaking public.
The Oxford Proctor in Convocation of April 24th, when the patient, after
the first burst of the storm was slowly drifting back into calmer
waters, thought it worth while, in the course of his speech, to mention
that in Italy, where he had lately been on an Easter vacation tour, he
had witnessed a widespread anxiety about Ruskin, and prayers put up for
his recovery.

By May 10th he was so much better that he could complete the catalogue
with some gossip about those Alpine drawings of 1842 which he regarded
as the climax of Turner's work. The first--and best in some ways--of the
series was the Spluegen. Without any word to him, the diligence of kind
friends and the help of a wide circle of admirers traced the drawing,
and subscribed its price--1,000 guineas, to which Mr. Agnew generously
added his commission--and it was presented to Mr. Ruskin as a token of
sympathy and respect. He was not insensible to the personal compliment
implied, and by way of some answer he spent the first few days of his
convalescence in arranging and annotating a series of drawings by
himself, and engravings, illustrating the Turners, to add to his show
during the remainder of the season. When they were sent off (early in
June) to Bond Street, he left home with the Severns to complete his
recovery at Malham.

There was another reason why that spontaneous testimonial was welcome at
the moment, for a curious and unaccustomed ordeal was impending for his
claims as an art critic. On his return from Venice after months of
intercourse with the great Old Masters, he found the Grosvenor Gallery
just opened for the first time, with its memorable exhibition of the
different extra-academical schools. It placed before the public, in
sharp contrast, the final outcome of the Pre-Raphaelitism for which he
had fought many a year before, and samples of the last new fashion from
Paris. The maturer works of Burne-Jones had been practically unseen by
the public, and Ruskin took the opportunity of their exhibition to write
his praise of the youngest of the Old Masters in the current numbers of
"Fors," and afterwards in two papers on the "Three Colours of
Pre-Raphaelitism" (_Nineteenth Century Magazine_, November and December,
1878). But in the same "Fors" he dismissed with half a paragraph of
contempt Mr. Whistler's eccentric sketch of Fireworks at Cremorne. Long
before, in 1863, when he was working with various artists connected with
the Pre-Raphaelite circle, Mr. Whistler had made overtures to the great
critic through Mr. Swinburne the poet; but he had not been taken
seriously. Now he had become the missionary in England of the new French
gospel of "impressionism," which to Ruskin was one of those half-truths
which are ever the worst of heresies. Mr. Whistler appealed to the law.
He brought an action for libel, which was tried on November 25th and
26th before Baron Huddleston, and recovered a farthing damages. Ruskin's
costs--amounting to L386 12s. 4d.--were paid by a public subscription to
which one hundred and twenty persons, including many strangers,

By that time he was fully recovering from his illness, back at Coniston,
after a short visit to Liverpool. It was forbidden to him to attempt any
exciting work. He had given up "Fors" and Oxford lecturing, and was
devoting himself again to quiet studies for "Proserpina" and
"Deucalion." On the first day of the trial the St. George's Guild was
registered as a Company; on the second day he wrote to Miss Beever:

"I have entirely resigned all hope of ever thanking you rightly for
bread, sweet odours, roses and pearls, and must just allow myself
to be fed, scented, rose-garlanded and be-pearled, as if I were a
poor little pet dog, or pet pig. But my cold is better, and I _am_
getting on with this botany; but it is really too important a work
to be pushed for a week or fortnight."

Early in 1879 his resignation of the Slade Professorship was announced;
followed by what was virtually his election to an honorary doctor's
degree; or, as officially worded--"the Hebdomadal Council resolved on
June 9, 1879, to propose to Convocation to confer the degree of D.C.L.
_honoris causa_ upon John Ruskin, M.A., of Ch. Ch., at the enaenia of
that year; but the proposal, though notified in the _Gazette_ of June
10, was not submitted to vote owing to the inability of Mr. Ruskin to be
present at the encaenia." The degree was conferred, in his absence, in



Sixty years of one of the busiest lives on record were beginning to tell
upon Ruskin. He would not confess to old age, but his recent illness had
shaken him severely. The next three years were spent chiefly at
Coniston, in comparative retirement; but neither in despair, nor
idleness, nor loneliness. He had always lived a sort of dual life,
solitary in his thoughts, but social in his habits; liking company,
especially of young people; ready, in the intervals of work, to enter
into their employments and amusements, and curiously able to forget his
cares in hours of relaxation. Sometimes, when earnest admirers made the
pilgrimage to their Mecca--"holy Brantwood" as a scoffing poet called
it--they were surprised and even shocked, to find the prophet of "Fors"
at the head of a merry dinner-table, and the Professor of Art among
surroundings which a London or a Boston "aesthete" would have ruled to
be in very poor taste.

Shall I take you for a visit there,--to Brantwood as it was in those old

It is a weary way to Coniston, whatever road you choose. The
inconvenience of the railway route was perhaps one reason of Ruskin's
preference for driving on so many occasions. After changing and changing
trains, and stopping at many a roadside station, at last you see,
suddenly, over the wild undulating country, the Coniston Old Man and its
crags, abrupt on the left, and the lake, long and narrow, on the right.
Across the water, tiny in the distance and quite alone amongst forests
and moors, there is Brantwood; and beyond it everything seems
uncultivated, uninhabited, except for one grey farmhouse high on the
fell, where gaps in the ragged larches show how bleak and storm-swept a
spot it is.

To come out of the station after long travel is to find yourself face to
face with magnificent rocks, and white cottages among the fir-trees. As
you are whirled down through the straggling village, and along the shore
round the head of the lake, the panorama, though not Alpine in
magnitude, is almost Alpine in character. The valley, too, is not yet
built up; it is still the old-fashioned lake country, almost as it was
in the days of the "Iteriad." You drive up and down a narrow, hilly
lane, catching peeps of mountains and sunset, through thick, overhanging
trees; you turn sharp up through a gate under dark firs and larches, and
the carriage stops in what seems in the twilight a sort of court,--a
gravelled space, one side formed by a rough stone wall crowned with
laurels and almost precipitous coppice, the _brant_ (or steep) wood
above, and the rest is Brantwood, with a capital B.[41]

[Footnote 41: The archway supporting a great pile of new buildings did
not exist in the time when this visit is supposed to be made. Since that
time new stables and greenhouses also have been built; with other
additions somewhat altering the cottage-like house of Ruskin's working

You expect that Gothic porch you have read of in "Lectures on
Architecture and Painting," and you are surprised to find a stucco
classic portico in the corner, painted and _grained_, and heaped around
with lucky horseshoes, brightly blackleaded, and mysterious rows of
large blocks of slate and basalt and trap--a complete museum of local
geology, if only you knew it--very unlike an ideal entrance; still more
unlike an ordinary one. While you wait you can see through the glass
door a roomy hall, lit with candles, and hung with large drawings by
Burne-Jones and by the master of the house. His soft hat, and thick
gloves, and chopper, lying on the marble table, show that he has come in
from his afternoon's woodcutting.

But if you are expected you will hardly have time to look round, for
Brantwood is nothing if not hospitable. The honoured guest--and all
guests are honoured there--after welcome, is ushered up a narrow stair,
which betrays the original cottage, into the "turret room." It had been
"the Professor's" until after his illness, and he papered it with
naturalistic pansies, to his own taste, and built out at one corner a
projecting turret to command the view on all sides, with windows
strongly latticed to resist the storms. There is old-fashioned solid
comfort in the way of furniture; and pictures,--a Duerer engraving, some
Prouts and Turners, a couple of old Venetian heads, and Meissonier's
"Napoleon," over the fireplace--a picture which Ruskin bought for one
thousand guineas, showed for a time at Oxford, and hung up here in a
shabby little frame to be out of the way.[42]

[Footnote 42: Sold in 1882 for 5,900 guineas.]

If you are a man, you are told not to dress; if you are a lady, you may
put on your prettiest gown. They dine in the new room, for the old
dining-room was so small that the waitress could not get round the
table. The new room is spacious and lofty compared with the rest of the
house; it has a long window with thick red sandstone mullions--there at
last is a touch of Gothicism--to look down the lake, and a bay window
open on the narrow lawn sloping steeply down to the road in front, and
the view of the Old Man. The walls, painted "duck egg," are hung with
old pictures; the Doge Gritti, a bit saved from the great Titian that
was burnt in the fire at the Ducal Palace in 1574; a couple of
Tintorets; Turner and Reynolds, each painted by himself in youth;
Raphael by a pupil, so it is said; portraits of old Mr. and Mrs. Ruskin,
and little John and his "boo hills." There he sits, no longer little,
opposite: and you can trace the same curve and droop of the eyebrows
prefigured in the young face and preserved in the old, and a certain
family likeness to his handsome young father.

Since Mr. Ruskin's illness his cousin, Mrs. Arthur Severn, has become
more and more indispensable to him: she sits at the head of the table
and calls him "the coz." An eminent visitor was once put greatly out of
countenance by this apparent irreverence. After obvious embarrassment,
light dawned upon him towards the close of the meal. "Oh!" said he,
"it's 'the coz' you call Mr. Ruskin. I thought you were saying' the

There are generally two or three young people staying in the house,
salaried assistants[43] or amateur, occasional helpers; but though there
is a succession of visitors from a distance, there is not very frequent
entertainment of neighbours.

[Footnote 43: The face most familiar at Brantwood in those times was
"Laurie's." A strange, bright, gifted boy--admirable draughtsman,
ingenious mechanician, marvellous actor; the imaginer of the quaintest
and drollest humours that ever entered the head of man; devoted to boats
and boating, but unselfishly ready to share all labours and contribute
to all diversions; painstaking and perfect in his work, and brilliant in
his wit,--Laurence Hilliard was dearly loved by his friends, and is
still loved by them dearly. He was Ruskin's chief secretary at Brantwood
from Jan., 1876 to 1882, when the death of his father, and ill-health,
led him to resign the post, which was then filled by Miss Sara D.
Anderson. Hilliard continued to live at Coniston, and was just beginning
to succeed as a painter of still life and landscape when he died of
pleurisy on board a friend's yacht in the Aegean, April 11th, 1887, aged

A Brantwood dinner is always ample; there is no asceticism about the
place; nor is there any affectation of "intensity" or of conversational
cleverness. The neat things you meant to say are forgotten--you must be
hardened indeed to say them to Mr. Ruskin's face; but if you were shy,
you soon feel that there was no need for shyness; you have fallen among
friends; and before dessert comes in, with fine old sherry--the pride of
your host, as he explains--you feel that nobody understands you so well,
and that all his books are nothing to himself.

They don't sit over their wine, and smoking is not allowed. Ruskin goes
off to his study after dinner--it is believed for a nap, for he was at
work early and has been out all the afternoon. In the drawing-room you
see pictures--water-colours by Turner and Hunt, drawings by Prout and
Ruskin, an early Burne-Jones, a sketch in oil by Gainsborough. The
furniture is the old mahogany of Mr. Ruskin's childhood, with rare
things interspersed--like the cloisonne vases on the mantelpiece.

Soon after nine Ruskin comes in with an armful of things that are going
to the Sheffield museum, and while his cousin makes his tea and salted
toast, he explains his last acquirements in minerals or missals, eager
that you should see the interest of them; or displays the last studies
of Mr. Rooke or Mr. Fairfax Murray, copies from Carpaccio or bits of
Gothic architecture.

Then, sitting in the chair in which he preached his baby-sermon, he
reads aloud a few chapters of Scott or Miss Edgeworth, or, with
judicious omissions, one of the older novelists; or translates, with
admirable facility, a scene of Scribe or George Sand. When his next
work comes out you will recognise this evening's reading in his
allusions and quotations, perhaps even in the subjects of his writing,
for at this time he is busy on the articles of "Fiction, Fair and Foul."

After the reading, music; a bit of his own composition, "Old Aegina's
Rock," or "Cockle-hat and Staff"; his cousin's Scotch ballads or Christy
Minstrel songs; and if you can sing a new ditty, fresh from London, now
is your chance. You are surprised to see the Prophet clapping his hands
to "Camptown Races," or the "Hundred Pipers"--chorus given with the
whole strength of the company; but you are in a house of strange

By about half-past ten his day is over; a busy day, that has left him
tired out. You will not easily forget the way he lit his candle--no
lamps allowed, and no gas--and gave a last look lovingly at a pet
picture or two, slanting his candlestick and shading the light with his
hand, before he went slowly upstairs to his own little room, literally
lined with the Turner drawings you have read about in "Modern Painters."

You may be waked by a knock at the door, and "Are you looking out?" And
pulling up the blind, there is one of our Coniston mornings, with the
whole range of mountains in one quiet glow above the cool mist of the
valley and lake. Going down at length on a voyage of exploration, and
turning in perhaps at the first door, you intrude upon "the Professor"
at work in his study, half sitting, half kneeling at his round table in
the bay window, with the early cup of coffee, and the cat in his crimson
arm-chair. There he has been working since dawn, perhaps, or on dark
mornings by candlelight. And he does not seem to mind the interruption;
after a welcome he asks you to look round while he finishes his
paragraph, and writes away composedly.

A long, low room, evidently two old cottage-rooms thrown into one;
papered with a pattern specially copied from Marco Marziale's
"Circumcision" in the National Gallery; and hung with Turners. A great
early Turner[44] of the Lake of Geneva is over the fireplace. You are
tempted to make a mental inventory. Polished steel fender, very
unaesthetic; curious shovel--his design, he will stop to remark, and
forged by the village smith. Red mahogany furniture, with startling
shiny emerald leather chair-cushions; red carpet and green curtains.
Most of the room crowded with bookcases and cabinets for minerals.
Scales in a glass case; heaps of mineral specimens; books on the floor;
rolls of diagrams; early Greek pots from Cyprus; a great litter of
things and yet not disorderly nor dusty. "I don't understand," he once
said, "why you ladies are always complaining about the dust; my
bookcases are never dusty!" The truth being that, though he rose early,
the housemaid rose earlier.

[Footnote 44: Since sold, and replaced by a della Robbia Madonna.]

Before you have finished your inventory he breaks off work to show you a
drawer or two of minerals, fairy-land in a cupboard; or some of his
missals, King Hakon's Bible, or the original MS. of the Scott he was
reading last night; or, opening a door in a sort of secretaire, pulls
out of their sliding cases frame after frame of Turners--the Bridge of
Narni, the Falls of Terni, Florence, or Rome, and many more--to hold in
your hand, and take to the light, and look into with a lens--quite a
different thing from seeing pictures in a gallery.

At breakfast, when you see the post-bag brought in, you understand why
he tries to get his bit of writing done early. The letters and parcels
are piled in the study, and after breakfast, at which, as in old times,
he reads his last-written passages--how much more interesting they will
always look to you in print!--after breakfast he is closeted with an
assistant, and they work through the heap. Private friends, known by
handwriting, he puts aside; most of the morning will go in answering
them. Business he talks over, and gives brief directions. But the bulk
of the correspondence is from strangers in all parts of the
world--admirers' flattery; students' questions; begging-letters for
money, books, influence, advice, autographs, criticism on enclosed MS.
or accompanying picture; remonstrance or abuse from dissatisfied
readers, or people who object to his method of publication, or wish to
convert him to their own religion. And so the heap is gradually cleared,
with the help of the waste-paper basket; the secretary's work cut out,
his own arranged; and by noon a long row of letters and envelopes have
been set out to dry--Mr. Ruskin uses no blotting-paper, and, as he
dislikes the vulgar method of fastening envelopes, the secretary's work
will be to seal them all with red wax, and the seal with the motto
"To-day" cut in the apex of a big specimen of chalcedony.

If you take, as many do, an interest in the minutiae of portrait
painting, and think the picture more finished for its details, you may
notice that he writes on the flat table, not on a desk; that he uses a
cork penholder and a fine steel pen, though he is not at all a slave to
his tools, and differs from others rather in the absence of the _sine
qua non_ from his conditions. He can write anywhere, on anything, with
anything; wants no pen-wiper, no special form of paper, or other "fad."
Much of his work is written in bound notebooks, especially when he _is_
abroad, to prevent the loss and disorder of multitudinous foolscap. He
generally makes a rough syllabus of his subject, in addition to copious
notes and extracts from authorities, and then writes straight off; not
without a noticeable hesitation and revision, even in his letters. His
rough copy is transcribed by an assistant, and he often does not see it
again until it is in proof.[45]

[Footnote 45: In later years he sometimes had his copy type-written.]

Printers' proofs are always a trial, and he is glad to shift the work on
to an assistant's shoulders, such as Mr. Harrison was, who saw all his
early works through the press. But he is extremely particular about
certain matters, such as the choice of type and arrangements of the
page; though his taste does not coincide with that of the leaders of
recent fashions. Mr. Jowett (of Messrs. Hazell, Watson & Viney, Limited)
said in _Hazell's Magazine_ for September; 1892, that Ruskin made the
size of the page a careful study, though he adopted many varieties. The
"Fors" page is different from, and not so symmetrical as that of the
octavo "Works Series," although both are printed on the same sized
paper--medium 8vo. Then there is the "Knight's Faith" and "Ulric," in
both of which the type (pica _modern_--"this delightful type," wrote
Ruskin) and the size of the page are different from any other; yet both
were his choice. The "Ulric" page was imitated from an old edition of
Miss Edgeworth. The first proof he criticised thus: "Don't you think a
quarter inch off this page, as enclosed, would look better? The type is
very nice. How delicious a bit of Miss Edgeworth's is, like this!" "Ida"
was another page of his choice, and greatly approved. His title pages,
too, were arranged with great care; he used to draw them out in pen and
ink, indicating the size and position of the lines and letters. He
objected to ornaments and to anything like blackness and heaviness, but
he was very particular about proportions and spacing, and about the
division of words.

In the morning everybody is busy. There are drawings and diagrams to be
made, MS. to copy, references to look up, parcels to pack and unpack.
Someone is told off to take you round, and you visit the various rooms
and see the treasures, inspect the outhouse with its workshop for
carpentry, framing and mounting, casting leaves and modelling; one work
or another is sure to be going on; perhaps one of the various sculptors
who have made Ruskin's bust is busy there. Down at the Lodge, a
miniature Brantwood, turret and all, the Severn children live when they
are at Coniston. Then there are the gardens, terraced in the steep,
rocky slope, and some small hot-houses, which Ruskin thinks a
superfluity, except that they provide grapes for sick neighbours.

Below the gardens a path across a field takes you to the harbour, begun
in play by the Xenophon translators and finished by the village mason,
with its fleet of boats--chief of them the "Jumping Jenny" (called after
Nanty Ewart's boat in "Redgauntlet"), Ruskin's own design and special
private water-carriage. Outside the harbour the sail-boats are moored,
Mr. Severn's _Lily of Brantwood_. Milliard's boat, and his _Snail_, an
unfortunate craft brought from Morecambe Bay with great expectations
that were never realized; though Ruskin always professed to believe in
her, as a _real sea-boat_ (see "Harbours of England") such as he used to
steer with his friend Huret, the Boulogne fisherman, in the days when
he, too, was smitten with sea-fever.

After luncheon, if letters are done, all hands are piped to the moor.
With billhooks and choppers the party winds up the wood paths, "the
Professor" first, walking slowly, and pointing out to you his pet bits
of rock-cleavage, or ivied trunk, or nest of wild strawberry plants. You
see, perhaps, the ice-house--tunnelled at vast expense into the rock and
filled at more expense with the best ice; opened at last with great
expectations and the most charitable intent--for it was planned to
supply invalids in the neighbourhood with ice, as the, hothouses
supplied them with grapes; and revealing, after all, nothing but a
puddle of dirty water. You see more successful works--the Professor's
little private garden, which he is supposed to cultivate with his own
hands; various little wells and watercourses among the rocks, moss-grown
and fern-embowered; and so you come out on the moor.

There great works go on. Juniper is being rooted up; boggy patches
drained and cultivated cranberries are being planted, and oats grown;
paths engineered to the best points of view; rocks bared to examine the
geology--though you cannot get the Professor to agree that every inch of
his territory has been glaciated. These diversions have their serious
side, for he is really experimenting on the possibility of reclaiming
waste land; perhaps too sanguine, you think, and not counting the cost.
To which he replies that, as long as there are hands unemployed and
misemployed, a government such as he would see need never be at a loss
for labourers. If corn can be made to grow where juniper grew before,
the benefit is a positive one, the expense only comparative. And so you
take your pick with the rest, and are almost persuaded to become a
companion of St. George.

Not to tire a new comer, he takes you away after a while to a fine
heathery promontory, where you sit before a most glorious view of lake
and mountains. This, he says, is his "Naboth's vineyard";[46] he would
like to own so fine a point of vantage. But he is happy in his country
retreat, far happier than you thought him; and the secret of his
happiness is that he has sympathy with all around him, and hearty
interest in everything, from the least to the greatest.

[Footnote 46: Since then become part of the Brantwood estate.]

Coming down from the moor after the round, when you reach the front door
you must see the performance of the waterfall: everybody must see that.
On the moor a reservoir has been dug and dammed, with ingenious
flood-gates--Ruskin's device, of course--and a channel led down through
the wood to a rustic bridge in the rock. Some one has stayed behind to
let out the water, and down it comes; first a black stream and then a
white one, as it gradually clears; and the rocky wall at the entrance
becomes for ten minutes a cascade. This too has it uses; not only is
there a supply of water in case of fire (the exact utilisation of which
is yet undecided), but it illustrates one of his doctrines about the
simplicity with which works of irrigation could be carried out among the
hills of Italy.

And so you go in to tea and chess, for he loves a good game of chess
with all his heart. He loves many things, you have found. He is
different from other men you know, by the breadth and vividness of his
sympathies, by power of living as few other men can live, in Admiration,
Hope and Love.


"FORS" RESUMED (1880-1881)

Retirement at Brantwood was only partial. Ruskin's habits of life made
it impossible for him to be idle, much as he acknowledged the need of
thorough rest. He could not be wholly ignorant of the world outside
Coniston; though sometimes for weeks together he tried to ignore it, and
refused to read a newspaper. The time when General Gordon went out to
Khartoum was one of these periods of abstraction, devoted to mediaeval
study. Somebody talked one morning at breakfast about the Soudan. "And
who _is_ the Soudan?" he earnestly inquired, connecting the name, as it
seemed, with the Soldan of Babylon, in crusading romance.

"Don't you know," he wrote to a friend (January 8th, 1880):

"That I am entirely with you in this Irish misery, and have been
these thirty years?--only one can't speak plain without distinctly
becoming a leader of Revolution? I know that Revolution _must come_
in all the world--but I can't act with Dan ton or Robespierre, nor
with the modern French Republican or Italian one. I _could_ with
you and your Irish, but you are only at the beginning of the end. I
have spoken,--and plainly too,--for all who have ears, and hear."

The author of "Fors" had tried to show that the nineteenth-century
commercialist spirit was not new; that the tyranny of capital was the
old sin of usury over again; and he asked why preachers of religion did
not denounce it--why, for example, the Bishop of Manchester did not, on
simply religious grounds, oppose the teaching of the "Manchester
School," who were the chief supporters of the commercialist economy. Not
until the end of 1879 had Dr. Fraser been aware of the challenge; but at
length he wrote, justifying his attitude. The popular and able bishop
had much to say on the expediency of the commercial system and the error
of taking the Bible literally; but he seemed unaware of the revolution
in economical thought which "Unto this Last" and "Fors" had been

"I'm not gone to Venice yet," wrote Ruskin to Miss Beever, "but thinking
of it hourly. I'm very nearly done with toasting my bishop; he just
wants another turn or two, and then a little butter." The toasting and
the buttering appeared in the _Contemporary Review_ for February 1880;
and this incident led him to feel that the mission of "Fors" was not
finished. If bishops were still unenlightened, there was yet work to do.
He gave up Venice, and resumed his crusade.

Brantwood life was occasionally interrupted by short excursions to
London or elsewhere. In the autumn he had heard Professor Huxley on the
evolution of reptiles; and this suggested another treatment of the
subject, from his own artistic and ethical point of view, in a lecture
oddly called "A Caution to Snakes," given at the London Institution,
March 17th, 1880 (repeated March 23rd, and printed in "Deucalion"). He
was not merely an amateur zoologist and F.Z.S., but a devoted lover and
keen observer of animals. It would take long to tell the story of all
his dogs, from the spaniel Dash, commemorated in his earliest poems, and
Wisie, whose sagacity is related in "Praeterita," down through the long
line of bulldogs, St. Bernards, and collies, to Bramble, the reigning
favourite; and all the cats who made his study their home, or were
flirted with abroad. To Miss Beever, from Bolton Abbey (January 24th,
1875) he describes the Wharfe in flood, and then continues: "I came home
(to the hotel) to quiet tea, and a black kitten called Sweep, who lapped
half my cream-jugful (and yet I had plenty), sitting on my shoulder."
Grip, the pet rook at Denmark Hill, is mentioned in "My First Editor,"
as celebrated in verse by Mr. W.H. Harrison.

Ruskin had not Thoreau's intimate acquaintance with the details of wild
life, but his attitude towards animals and plants was the same; hating
the science that murders to dissect; resigning his Professorship at
Oxford, finally, because vivisection was introduced into the University;
and supporting the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals with
all his heart. But, as he said at the Annual Meeting in 1877, he
objected to the sentimental fiction and exaggerated statements which
some of its members circulated. "They had endeavoured to prevent cruelty
to animals," he said, "but they had not enough endeavoured to promote
affection for animals. He trusted to the pets of children for their
education, just as much as to their tutors."

It was to carry out this idea (to anticipate a little) that he founded
the Society of Friends of Living Creatures, which he addressed, May
23rd, 1885, at the club, Bedford Park, in his capacity of--not
president--but "papa." The members, boys and girls from seven to
fifteen, promised not to kill nor hurt any animal for sport, nor tease
creatures; but to make friends of their pets and watch their habits, and
collect facts about natural history.

I remember, on one of the rambles at Coniston in the early days, how we
found a wounded buzzard--one of the few creatures of the eagle kind that
our English mountains still breed. The rest of us were not very ready to
go near the beak and talons of the fierce-looking, and, as we supposed,
desperate bird. Ruskin quietly took it up in his arms, felt it over to
find the hurt, and carried it, quite unresistingly, out of the way of
dogs and passers-by, to a place where it might die in solitude or
recover in safety. He often told his Oxford hearers that he would rather
they learned to love birds than to shoot them; and his wood and moor
were harbours of refuge for hunted game or "vermin;" and his windows the
rendezvous of the little birds.

He had not been abroad since the spring of 1877, and in August 1880 felt
able to travel again. He went for a tour among the northern French
cathedrals, staying at old haunts,--Abbeville, Amiens, Beauvais,
Chartres, Rouen,--and then returned with Mr. A. Severn and Mr. Brabazon
to Amiens, where he spent the greater part of October. He was writing a
new book--the "Bible of Amiens"--which was to be to the "Seven Lamps"
what "St. Mark's Rest" was to "Stones of Venice."

Before he returned, the secretary of the Chesterfield Art School had
written to ask him to address the students. Mr. Ruskin, travelling
without a secretary, and in the flush of new work and thronging ideas,
put the letter aside; he carried his letters about in bundles in his
portmanteau, as he said in his apology, "and looked at them as Ulysses
at the bags of Aeolus." Some wag had the impudence to forge a reply,
which was actually read at the meeting in spite of its obviously
fictitious style and statements:

"HARLESDEN(!), LONDON, _Friday_.


"Your letter reaches me here. Have just returned [commercial
English, not Ruskin] from Venice [where he had meant to go, but did
not go] where I have ruminated(!) in the pasturages of the home of
art(!); the loveliest and holiest of lovely and holy cities, where
the very stones cry out, eloquent in the elegancies of
iambics" (!!)--and so forth.

However, it deceived the newspapers, and there was a fine storm, which
Mr. Ruskin rather enjoyed. For though the forgery was clumsy enough, it
embodied some apt plagiarism from a letter to the Mansfield Art School
on a similar occasion.

Not long before, a forgery of a more serious kind had been committed by
one of the people connected with St. George's Guild, who had put Mr.
Ruskin's name to cheques. The bank authorities were long in tracing the
crime. They even sent a detective to Brantwood to watch one of the
assistants, who never knew--nor will ever know--that he was honoured
with such attentions; and none of his friends for a moment believed him
guilty. He had sometimes imitated Mr. Ruskin's hand; a dangerous jest.
The real culprit was discovered at last, and Mr. Ruskin had to go to
London as a witness for the prosecution. "Being in very weak health,"
the _Times_ report said (April 1st, 1879), "he was allowed to give
evidence from the bench." He had told the Sheffield communists that "he
thought so strongly on the subject of the repression of crime that he
dare not give expression to his ideas for fear of being charged with
cruelty"; but no sooner was the prisoner released than he gave the help
needed to start him again in a better career.

Though he did not feel able to lecture to strangers at Chesterfield, he
visited old friends at Eton, on November 6th, 1880, to give an address
on Amiens. For once he forgot his MS., but the lecture was no less
brilliant and interesting. It was practically the first chapter of his
new work, the "Bible of Amiens,"--itself intended as the first volume of
"Our Fathers have Told us: Sketches of the History of Christendom, for
Boys and Girls who have been held at its Fonts." The distinctly
religious tone of the work was noticed as marking, if not a change, a
strong development of a tendency which had been strengthening for some
time past.

Early in 1879 the Rev. F.A. Malleson, vicar of Broughton, near Coniston,
had asked him to write, for the Furness Clerical Society's Meetings, a
series of letters on the Lord's Prayer. In them he dwelt upon the need
of living faith in the Fatherhood of God, and childlike obedience to the
commands of old-fashioned religion and morality. He criticised the
English liturgy as compared with mediaeval forms of prayer; and pressed
upon his hearers the strongest warnings against evasion, or explaining
away of stern duties and simple faiths. He concluded:

"No man more than I has ever loved the place where God's honour
dwells, or yielded truer allegiance to the teaching of His evident
servants. No man at this time grieves more for the damage of the
Church which supposes him her enemy, while she whispers
procrastinating _pax vobiscum_ in answer to the spurious kiss of
those who would fain toll curfew over the last fires of English
faith, and watch the sparrows find nest where she may lay her
young, around the altars of the Lord."

But if the Anglican Church refused him, the Roman Church was eager to
claim him. His interest in mediaevalism seemed to point him out as ripe
for conversion. Cardinal Manning, an old acquaintance, showed him
special attention, and invited him to charming _tete-a-tete_ luncheons.
It was commonly reported that he had gone over, or was going. But two
letters (of a later date) show that he was not to be caught. To a
Glasgow correspondent he wrote in 1887:

"I shall be entirely grateful to you if you will take the trouble
to contradict any news gossip of this kind, which may be disturbing
the minds of any of my Scottish friends. I was, am, and can be,
only a Christian Catholic in the wide and eternal sense. I have
been that these five-and-twenty years at least. Heaven keep me from
being less as I grow older! But I am no more likely to become a
Roman Catholic than a Quaker, Evangelical, or Turk."

To another, next year, he wrote:

"I fear you have scarcely read enough of 'Fors' to know the breadth
of my own creed or communion. I gladly take the bread, water, wine,
or meat of the Lord's Supper with members of my own family or
nation who obey Him, and should be equally sure it was His giving,
if I were myself worthy to receive it, whether the intermediate
mortal hand were the Pope's, the Queen's, or a hedge-side gipsy's."

At Coniston he was on friendly terms with Father Gibson, the Roman
Catholic priest, and gave a window to the chapel, which several of the
Brantwood household attended. But though he did not go to Church, he
contributed largely to the increase of the poorly-endowed curacy, and to
the charities of the parish. The religious society of the neighbourhood
was hardly of a kind to attract him, unless among the religious society
should be included the Thwaite, where lived the survivors of a family
long settled at Coniston--Miss Mary Beever, scientific and political;
and Miss Susanna, who won Mr. Ruskin's admiration and affection by an
interest akin to his own in nature and in poetry, and by her love for
animals, and bright, unfailing wit. Both ladies were examples of
sincerely religious life, "at once sources and loadstones of all good to
the village," as he wrote in the preface to "Hortus Inclusus," the
collection of his letters to them since first acquaintance in the autumn
of 1873. The elder Miss Beever died at an advanced age on the last day
of 1883; Miss Susanna survived until October, 29, 1893.

In children he took a warm and openly-expressed interest. He used to
visit the school often, and delighted to give them a treat. On January
13th, 1881, he gave a dinner to 315 Coniston youngsters, and the tone of
his address to his young guests is noteworthy as taken in connection
with the drift of his religious tendency during this period. He dwelt on
a verse of the Sunday School hymn they had been singing: "Jesu, here
from sin deliver." "That is what we want," he said; "to be delivered
from our sins. We must look to the Saviour to deliver us from our sin.
It is right we should be punished for the sins which we have done; but
God loves us, and wishes to be kind to us, and to help us, that we may
not wilfully sin."

At this time he used to take the family prayers himself at Brantwood:
preparing careful notes for a Bible-reading, which sometimes, indeed,
lasted longer than was convenient to the household; and writing collects
for the occasion, still existing in manuscript, and deeply interesting
as the prayers of a man who had passed through so many wildernesses of
thought and doubt, and had returned at last--not to the fold of the
Church, but to the footstool of the Father.



This Brantwood life came to an end with the end of 1881. Early in the
next year he went for change of scene to stay with the Severns at his
old home on Herne Hill. He seemed much better, and ventured to reappear
in public. On March 3rd he went to the National Gallery to sketch
Turner's Python. On the unfinished drawing is written: "Bothered away
from it, and never went again. No light to work by in the next month."
An artist in the Gallery had been taking notes of him for a
surreptitious portrait--an embarrassing form of flattery.

He wrote: "No--I won't believe any stories about overwork. It's
impossible, when one's in good heart and at really pleasant things. I've
a lot of nice things to do, but the heart fails--after lunch,
particularly!" Heart and head did, however, fail again; and another
attack of brain fever followed. Sir William Gull brought him through,
and won his praise as a doctor and esteem as a friend. Ruskin took it as
a great compliment when Sir William, in acknowledging his fee, wrote
that he should keep the cheque as an autograph.

By Easter Monday the patient was better again, and plunging into work in
spite of everybody. He wrote:

"I was not at all sure, myself, till yesterday, whether I _would_
go abroad; also I should have told you before. But as you have had
the (sorrowful?) news broken to you--and as I find Sir William Gull
perfectly fixed in his opinion, I obey him, and reserve only some
liberty of choice to myself--respecting, not only climate,--but the
general appearance of the--inhabitants, of the localities, where
for antiquarian or scientific research I may be induced to prolong
my sojourn.--Meantime I send you--to show you I haven't come to
town for nothing, my last bargain in beryls, with a little topaz

But the journey was put off week after week. There was so much to do,
buying diamonds for Sheffield museum, and planning a collection of
models to show the normal forms of crystals, and to illustrate a subject
which he thought many people would find interesting, if they could be
got over its first difficulties. Not only Sheffield was to receive these
gifts and helps: Ruskin had become acquainted with the Rev. J.P.
Faunthorpe, Principal of Whitelands College for Pupil Teachers, and had
given various books and collections to illustrate the artistic side of
education. Now he instituted there the May Queen Festival, in some sort
carrying out his old suggestion in "Time and Tide." Mr. A. Severn
designed a gold cross, and it was presented, with a set of volumes of
Ruskin's works, sumptuously bound, to the May Queen and her maidens. The
pretty festival became a popular feature of the school, "patronised by
royalty," and Ruskin continued his annual gift to Whitelands, and kept
up a similar institution at the High School at Cork.

At last, in August, he started for the Continent and stayed a while at
Avallon in central France, a district new to him. There he met Mr. Frank
Randal, one of the artists working for St. George's Guild, and explored
the scenery and antiquities of a most interesting neighbourhood. He
drove over the Jura in the old style, revisited Savoy, and after weeks
of bitter _bise_ and dark weather, a splendid sunset cleared the hills.
He wrote to Miss Beever:--"I saw Mont Blanc again to-day, unseen since
1877; and was very thankful. It is a sight that always redeems me to
what I am capable of at my poor little best, and to what loves and
memories are most precious to me."

At Annecy he was pleased to find the waiter at the Hotel Verdun
remembered his visit twenty years before;--everywhere he met old
friends, and saw old scenes that he had feared he never would revisit.
After crossing the Cenis and hastening through Turin and Genoa, he
reached Lucca, to be awaited at the Albergo Reale dell' Universo by a
crowd, every one anxious to shake hands with Signor Ruskin. No
wonder!--for instead of allowing himself to be a mere Number-so-and-so
in a hotel, wherever he felt comfortable--and that was everywhere except
at pretentious modern hotels--he made friends with the waiter, chatted
with the landlord, found his way into the kitchen to compliment the
cook, and forgot nobody in the establishment--not only in "tips," but in
a frank and sympathetic address which must have contrasted curiously, in
their minds, with the reserve and indifference of other English

At Florence he met Mr. Henry Roderick Newman, an American artist who had
been at Coniston and was working for the Guild. He introduced Ruskin to
Mrs. and Miss Alexander. In these ladies' home he found his own aims, in
religion, philanthropy, and art, realised in an unexpected way. Miss
Alexander's drawing at first struck him by its sincerity. Not only did
she draw beautifully, but she also wrote a beautiful hand; and it had
been one of his old sayings that missal-writing, rather than
missal-painting, was the admirable thing in mediaeval art. The legends
illustrated by her drawings were collected by herself, through an
intimate acquaintance with Italians of all classes, from the nobles to
the peasantry, whom she understood and loved, and by whom she was loved
and understood. By such intercourse she had learned to look beneath the
surface. In religious matters her American common-sense saw through her
neighbours--saw the good in them as well as the weakness--and she was as
friendly, not only in social intercourse, but in spiritual things, with
the worthy village priest as with T.P. Rossetti,[47] the leader of the
Protestant "Brethren," whom she called her pastor. And Ruskin, who had
been driven away from Protestantism by the poor Waldensian at Turin, and
had wandered through many realms of doubt and voyaged through strange
seas of thought, alone, found harbour at last with the disciple of a
modern evangelist, the frequenter of the little meeting-house of outcast
Italian Protestants.

[Footnote 47: A cousin of the artist, and in his way no less remarkable
a man. A short account of his life is given in "D.G. Rossetti, his
family letters," Vol. I., p. 34. The circumstances of his death are
touchingly related by Miss Alexander in "Christ's Folk; in the

One evening before dinner he brought back to the hotel at Florence a
drawing of a lovely girl lying dead in the sunset; and a little
note-book. "I want you to look over this," he said, in the way, but not
quite in the tone, with which the usual MS. "submitted for criticism"
was tossed to a secretary to taste. It was "The True Story of Ida;
written by her Friend."

An appointment to meet Mr. E.R. Robson, who was making plans for an
intended Sheffield museum, took him back to Lucca, to discuss Romanesque
mouldings and marble facings. Mr. Charles Fairfax Murray also came to
Lucca with drawings commissioned for St. George's Guild. But Ruskin soon
returned to his new friends, and did not leave Florence finally until
he had purchased the wonderful collection of 110 drawings, with
beautifully written text, in which Miss Alexander had enshrined "The
Roadside Songs of Tuscany."

Returning homewards by the Mont Cenis he stayed a while at Talloires, a
favourite haunt, extremely content to be among romantic scenery, and
able to work steadily at a new edition of his books in a much cheaper
form, of which the first volumes were at this time in hand. He had been
making further studies also, in history and Alpine geology; but at last
the snow drove him away from the mountains. So he handed over the
geology to his assistant, who compiled "The Limestone Alps of Savoy"
(supplementary to "Deucalion") "as he could, not as he would," while
Ruskin wrote out the new ideas suggested by his visit to Citeaux and St.
Bernard's birthplace. These notes he completed on the journey home, and
gave as a lecture on "Cistercian Architecture" (London Institution,
December 4th, 1882), in place of the previously advertised lecture on

He seemed now to have quite recovered his health, and to be ready for
re-entry into public life. What was more, he had many new things to say.
The attacks of brain fever had passed over him like passing storms,
leaving a clear sky.

After his retirement from the Oxford Professorship, a subscription had
been opened for a bust by Sir Edgar Boehm, in memorial of a University
benefactor; and the model (now in the Sheffield Museum) was placed in
the Drawing School pending the collection of the necessary L220. _The
Oxford University Herald_, in its article of June 5th, 1880, no doubt
expressed the general feeling in reciting his benefactions to the
University with becoming appreciation.

It was natural, therefore, that on recovering his health he should
resume his post. Professor (now Sir) W.B. Richmond, the son of his old
friend Mr. George Richmond, gracefully retired, and the _Oxford
University Gazette_ of January 16th, 1883, announced the re-election.
On March 2nd he wrote that he was "up the Old Man yesterday"; as much as
to say that he defied catechism, now, about his health; and a week later
he gave his first lecture. The _St. James's Budget_ of March 16th gave
an account of it in these terms:

"Mr. Ruskin's first lecture at Oxford attracted so large an
audience that, half-an-hour before the time fixed for its delivery,
a greater number of persons were collected about the doors than the
lecture-room could hold. Immediately after the doors were opened
the room was so densely packed that some undergraduates found it
convenient to climb into the windows and on to the cupboards. The
audience was composed almost equally of undergraduates and ladies;
with the exception of the vice-chancellor, heads of houses,
fellows, and tutors were chiefly conspicuous by their absence."

I omit an abstract of the lecture, which can be read in full in the "Art
of England." The reporter continued:

"He had made some discoveries: two lads and two lasses, who[48] ...
could draw in a way to please even him. He used to say that, except
in a pretty graceful way, no woman can draw; he had now almost come
to think that no one else can. (This statement the undergraduates
received with gallant, if undiscriminating, applause.) To many of
his prejudices, Mr. Ruskin said, in the last few years the axe had
been laid. He had positively found an American, a young lady, whose
life and drawing were in every way admirable. (Again great and
generous applause on the part of the undergraduates, stimulated, no
doubt, by the knowledge that there were then in the room two fair
Americans, who have lately graced Oxford by their presence.) At the
end of his lecture Mr. Ruskin committed himself to a somewhat
perilous statement. He had found two young Italian artists in whom
the true spirit of old Italian art had yet lived. No hand like
theirs had been put to paper since Lippi and Leonardo."

[Footnote 48: Referring to Misses Alexander and Greenaway, and Messrs.
Boni and Alessandri.]

Three more lectures of the course were given in May, and each repeated
to a second audience. Coming to London, he gave a private lecture on
June 5th to some two hundred hearers at the house of Mrs. W.H. Bishop,
in Kensington, on Miss Kate Greenaway and Miss Alexander. The
_Spectator_ shared his enthusiasm for the pen and ink drawings of Miss
Alexander's "Roadside Songs of Tuscany," and concluded a glowing account
of the lecture by saying: "All Professor Ruskin's friends must be glad
to see how well his Oxford work has agreed with him. He has gifts of
insight and power of reaching the best feelings and highest hopes of our
too indifferent generation which are very rare."

With much encouragement in his work, he returned to Brantwood for the
summer, and resolved upon another visit to Savoy for more geology, and
another breath of health-giving Alpine air. But he found time only for a
short tour in Scotland before returning to Oxford to complete the series
of lectures on recent English Art. During this term he was prevailed
upon to allow himself to be nominated as a candidate for the Rectorship
of the University of Glasgow. He had been asked to stand in the
Conservative interest in 1880, and he had been worried into a rather
rough reply to the Liberal party, when after some correspondence they
asked him whether he sympathised with Lord Beaconsfield or Mr.
Gladstone. "What, in the devil's name," he exclaimed, "have _you_ to do
with either Mr. D'Israeli or Mr. Gladstone? You are students at the
University, and have no more business with politics than you have with
rat-catching. Had you ever read ten words of mine with understanding,
you would have known that I care no more either for Mr. D'Israeli or Mr.
Gladstone than for two old bagpipes with the drones going by steam, but
that I hate all Liberalism as I do Beelzebub, and that, with Carlyle, I
stand, we two alone now in England, for God and the Queen." After that,
though he might explain[49] that he never under any conditions of
provocation or haste, would have said that he hated Liberalism as he did
_Mammon_, or Belial, or Moloch; that he "chose the milder fiend of Ekron
as the true exponent and patron of Liberty, the God of Flies," still the
matter-of-fact Glaswegians were minded to give the scoffer a wide berth.
He was put up as an independent candidate in the three-cornered duel;
and, as such candidates usually fare, he fared badly. The only wonder is
that three hundred and nineteen students were found to vote for him,
instead of siding, in political orthodoxy, with Mr. Fawcett or the
Marquis of Bute.

[Footnote 49: Epilogue to "Arrows of the Chace."]

At last a busy and eventful year came to a close at Coniston, with a
lecture at the village Institute on his old friend Sir Herbert Edwardes
(December 22nd). His interest in the school and the schoolchildren was
unabated, and he was always planning new treats for them, or new helps
to their lessons. He had set one of the assistants to make a large
hollow globe, inside of which one could sit and see the stars as
luminous points pricked through the mimic "vault of heaven," painted
blue and figured with the constellations. By a simple arrangement of
cogs and rollers the globe revolved, the stars rose and set, and the
position of any star at any hour of the year could be roughly fixed. But
the inclement climate of Coniston, and the natural roughness of
children, soon wrecked the new toy.

About this time he was anxious to get the village children taught music
with more accuracy of tune and time than the ordinary singing-lessons
enforced. He made many experiments with different simple instruments,
and fixed at last upon a set of bells, which he wanted to introduce into
the school. But it was difficult to interfere with the routine of
studies prescribed by the Code. Considering that he scorned "the three
R's," a school after his own heart would have been a very different
place from any that earns the Government grant; and he very strongly
believed that if a village child learnt the rudiments of religion and
morality, sound rules of health and manners, and a habit of using its
eyes and ears in the practice of some good handicraft or art and simple
music, and in natural philosophy, taught by object lessons--then
book-learning would either come of itself, or be passed aside as
unnecessary or superfluous. This was his motive in a well-known incident
which has sometimes puzzled his public. Once, when new buildings were
going on, the mason wanted an advance of money, which Mr. Ruskin gave
him, and then held out the paper for him to sign the receipt. "A great
deal of hesitation and embarrassment ensued, somewhat to Mr. Ruskin's
surprise, as he knows a north-country-man a great deal too well to
expect embarrassment from him. At last the man said, in dialect: 'Ah mun
put ma mark!' He could not write. Mr. Ruskin rose at once, stretched out
both hands to the astonished rustic, with the words: 'I am proud to know
you. Now I understand why you are such an entirely good workman.'"


THE STORM-CLOUD (1884-1888)

The sky had been a favourite subject of study with the author of "Modern
Painters." His journals for fifty years past had kept careful account of
the weather, and effects of cloud. He had noticed since 1871 a
prevalence of chilly, dark _bise_, as it would be called in France; but
different in its phenomena from anything of his earlier days. The
"plague wind," so he named it--tremulous, intermittent, blighting grass
and trees--blew from no fixed point of the compass, but always brought
the same dirty sky in place of the healthy rain-cloud of normal summers;
and the very thunder-storms seemed to be altered by its influence into
foul and powerless abortions of tempest. We should now be disposed to
call this simply "the smoke nuisance," but feeling as he did the weight
of human wrong against which it was his mission to prophesy, believing
in a Divine government of the world in all its literalness, he had the
courage to appear before a London audience,[50] like any seer of old,
and to tell them that this eclipse of heaven was--if not a judgment--at
all events a symbol of the moral darkness of a nation that had
"blasphemed the name of God deliberately and openly; and had done
iniquity by proclamation, every man doing as much injustice to his
brother as it was in his power to do."

[Footnote 50: "The Storm-Cloud of the Nineteenth Century," London
Institution, February 4th, 1884; repeated with variations and additions
a week later.]

In the autumn, at Oxford, he took up his parable again. His lectures on
"The Pleasures of England" he intended as a sketch of the main stream of
history from his own religious standpoint. It was a noble theme, and one
which his breadth of outlook and detailed experience would have fitted
him to handle; but he was already nearing the limit of his vital powers.
He had been suffering from depression throughout the summer, unrelieved
by the energetic work for St. George's Museum, which in other days might
have been a relaxation from more serious thought. He had been editing
Miss Alexander's "Roadside Songs of Tuscany," and recasting earlier
works of his own, incessantly busy; presuming upon the health he had
enjoyed, and taking no hints nor advice from anxious friends, who would
have been glad to have seen the summer spent in change of scene and

At Oxford he was watched with concern--restless and excited, too
absorbed in his crusade against the tendencies of the modern scientific
party, too vehement and unguarded in his denunciations of colleagues,
too bitter against the new order of things which, to his horror, was
introducing vivisection in the place of the old-fashioned natural
history he loved, and speculative criticism instead of "religious and
useful learning."

He was persuaded to cancel his last three attacks on modern life and
thought--"The Pleasures of Truth," of "Sense," and of "Nonsense"--and to
substitute readings from earlier works, hastily arranged and re-written;
and his friends breathed more freely when he left Oxford without another
serious attack of brain-disease. He wrote on December 1st, 1884, to Miss

"I gave my fourteenth, and last for this year, lecture with vigour
and effect, and am safe and well (D.G.) after such a spell of work
as I never did before."

To another correspondent, a few days later:

"Here are two lovely little songs for you to put tunes to, and sing
to me. You'll have both to be ever so good to me, for I've been
dreadfully bothered and battered here. I've bothered other people a
little, too,--which is some comfort!"

But in spite of everything, the vote was passed to establish a
physiological laboratory at the museum; to endow vivisection--which to
him meant not only cruelty to animals, but a complete misunderstanding
of the purpose of science, and defiance of the moral law. He resigned
his Professorship, with the sense that all his work had been in vain,
that he was completely out of touch with the age, and that he had best
give up the unequal fight.

In former times when he had found himself beaten in his struggles with
the world, he had turned to geology for a resource and a relief; but
geology, too, was part of the field of battle now. The memories of his
early youth and the bright days of his boyhood came back to him as the
only antidote to the distress and disappointments of his age, and he
strove to forget everything in "bygones"--"Praeterita."

It was Professor Norton who had suggested that he should write his own
life. He had begun to tell the story, bit by bit, in "Fors." On the
journey of 1882 he made a point of revisiting most of the scenes of
youthful work and travel, to revive his impressions; but the meeting
with Miss Alexander gave him new interests, and his return to Oxford put
the autobiography into the background.

Now, at last he collected the scattered notes, and completed his first
volume, which brings the account up to the time of his coming of age. It
is not a connected and systematic biography; it omits many points of
interest, especially the steps of his early successes and mental
development; but it is the brightest conceivable picture of himself and
his surroundings--"scenes and thoughts perhaps worthy of memory," as the
title modestly puts it--told with inimitable ease and graphic power.

We have traced a life which was--even more than might be gathered from
"Praeterita"--a battle with adversities from the beginning. Not to
discuss the influences of heredity, there was over-stimulus in
childhood; intense application to work in youth and middle-age, under
conditions of discouragement, both public and private, which would have
been fatal to many another man; and this, too, not merely hard work, but
work of an intense emotional nature, involving--in his view at
least--wide issues of life and death, in which he was another Jacob
wrestling with the angel in the wilderness, another Savonarola imploring
reconciliation between God and man.

Without a life of singular temperance, without unusual moral principle
and self-command, he would long ago have fallen like other men of genius
of his passionate type. He outlived "consumptive" tendencies in youth;
and the repeated indications of over-strain in later life, up to the
time of his first serious break-down in 1878, had issued in nothing
more than the depression and fatigue with which most busy men are
familiar. He had been accustomed to hear himself called mad--the defence
of Turner was thought by the _dilettanti_ of the time to be possible
only to a lunatic; the author of "Stones of Venice," we saw, was insane
in the eyes of his critic, the architect; it was seriously whispered
when he wrote on Political Economy that Ruskin was out of his mind; and
so on. Every new thing he put forward "made Quintilian stare and gasp,"
and _soi-disant_ friends shake their heads, until a still newer
nine-days' wonder appeared from his pen. The break-down of 1878, so
difficult to explain to his public, made it appear that the common
reproach might after all be coming true. The recurrence of a similar
illness in 1881 and 1882 made it still more to be feared. It seemed as
though his life's work was to be invalidated by his age's failure; it
seemed that the stale, shallow reproach might only too easily be

These attacks of mental disease, which at his recall to Oxford seemed to
have been safely distanced, after his resignation began again at more
and more frequent intervals. Crash after crash of tempest fell upon
him--clearing away for a while only to return with fiercer fury, until
they left him beaten down and helpless at last, to learn that he must
accept the lesson and bow before the storm. Like another prophet who had
been very jealous for the Lord God of Hosts, he was to feel tempest and
earthquake and fire pass over him, before hearing the still small voice
that bade him once more take courage, and live in quietness and in
confidence, for the sake of those whom he had forgotten, when he cried,
"I, even I only, am left."

From one who has been out in the storm the reader will not expect a cool
recital of its effects. The delirium of brain-fever brings strange
things to pass; and, no doubt, afforded ground for the painful gossip,
of which there has been more than enough--much of it absurdly untrue,
the romancing of ingenious newspaper-correspondents; some of it, the
lie that is half a truth. For in these times there were not wanting
parasites such as always prey upon creatures in disease, as well as weak
admirers who misunderstood their hero's natural character, and entirely
failed to grasp his situation.

Let such troubles of the past be forgotten: all that I now remember of
many a weary night and day is the vision of a great soul in torment, and
through purgatorial fires the ineffable tenderness of the real man
emerging, with his passionate appeal to justice and baffled desire for
truth. To those who could not follow the wanderings of the wearied brain
it was nothing but a horrible or a grotesque nightmare. Some, in those
trials, learnt as they could not otherwise have learnt to know him, and
to love him as never before.

There were many periods of health, or comparative health, even in those
years. While convalescent from the illness of 1885 he continued
"Praeterita" and "Dilecta," the series of notes and letters illustrating
his life. In connection with early reminiscences, he amused himself by
reproducing his favourite old nursery book, "Dame Wiggins of Lee." He
edited the works of one or two friends, wrote occasionally to
newspapers--notably on books and reading, to the _Pall Mall Gazette_, in
the "Symposium" on the best hundred books. He continued his arrangements
for the Museum, and held an exhibition (June, 1886) of the drawings made
under his direction for the Guild.

He was already drifting into another illness when he sent the famous
reply to an appeal for help to pay off the debt on a chapel at Richmond.
The letter is often misquoted for the sake of raising a laugh, so that
it is not out of place to reprint it as a specimen of the more vehement
expressions of this period. The reader of his life must surely see,
through the violence of the wording, a perfectly consistent and
reasonable expression of Mr. Ruskin's views:--


"_May 19th_, 1886.


"I am scornfully amused at your appeal to me, of all people in the world
the precisely least likely to give you a farthing! My first word to all
men and boys who care to hear me is 'Don't get into debt. Starve and go
to heaven--but don't borrow. Try first begging,--I don't mind, if it's
really needful, stealing! But don't buy things you can't pay for!'

"And of all manner of debtors, pious people building churches they can't
pay for are the most detestable nonsense to me. Can't you preach and
pray behind the hedges--or in a sandpit--or a coal-hole--first?

"And of all manner of churches thus idiotically built iron churches are
the damnablest to me.

"And of all the sects of believers in any ruling spirit--Hindoos, Turks,
Feather Idolaters, and Mumbo Jumbo, Log and Fire worshippers, who want
churches, your modern English Evangelical sect is the most absurd, and
entirely objectionable and unendurable to me! All which they might very
easily have found out from my books--any other sort of sect
would!--before bothering me to write it to them.

"Ever, nevertheless, and in all this saying, your faithful servant,


The recipient of the letter promptly sold it. Only three days later,
Ruskin was writing one of the most striking passages in "Praeterita"
(vol. ii., chap. 5)--indeed, one of the daintiest landscape pieces in
all his works, describing the blue Rhone as it flows under the bridges
of Geneva.

This energetic letter-writing made people stare; but a more serious
result of these periods between strength and helplessness was the
tendency to misunderstanding with old friends. Ruskin had spoiled many
of them, if I may say so, by too uniform forbearance and unselfishness:
and now that he was not always strong enough to be patient, difficulties
ensued which they had not always the tact to avert. "The moment I have
to scold people they say I'm crazy," he said, piteously, one day. And
so, one hardly knows how, he found himself at strife on all sides.
Before he was fully recovered from the attack of 1886 there were
troubles about the Oxford drawing school; and he withdrew most of the
pictures he had there on loan. How little animosity he really felt
against Oxford is shown from the fact that early in the next year
(February, 1887) he was planning with his cousin, Wm. Richardson, to
give L5,000 to the drawing school, as a joint gift in memory of their
two mothers. Mr. Richardson's death, and Ruskin's want of means--for he
had already spent all his capital--put an end to the scheme. But the
remaining loans, including important and valuable drawings by himself,
he did not withdraw, and it is to be hoped they may stay there to show
not only the artist's hand but the friendly heart of the founder and

In April, 1887, came the news of Laurence Hilliard's death in the
Aegean, with a shock that intensified the tendency to another recurrence
of illness. For months the situation caused great anxiety. In August he
posted with Mrs. A. Severn towards the south, and took up his quarters
at Folkestone, moving soon after to Sandgate, where he remained, with
short visits to town, until the following summer--better, or worse, from
week to week--sometimes writing a little for "Praeterita," or preparing
material for the continuation of unfinished books; but bringing on his
malady with each new effort. In June, 1888, he went with Mr. Arthur
Severn to Abbeville, and made his headquarters for nearly a month at the
Tete de Boeuf. Here he was arrested for sketching the fortifications and
examined at the police station, much to his amusement. At Abbeville,
too, he met Mr. Detmar Blow, a young architect, whom he asked to
accompany him to Italy. They stayed awhile at Paris,--drove, as in 1882,
over the Jura, and up to Chamouni, where Ruskin wrote the epilogue to
the reprint of "Modern Painters"; then, by Martigny and the Simplon,
they went to visit Mrs. and Miss Alexander at Bassano; and thence to
Venice. They returned by the St. Gothard, reaching Herne Hill early in

But this journey did not, as it had been hoped, put him in possession of
his strength like the journey of 1882. Then, he had returned to public
life with new vigour; now, his best hours were hours of feebleness and
depression; and he came home to Brantwood in the last days of the year,
wearied to death, to wait for the end.



In the summer of 1889, at Seascale, on the Cumberland coast, Ruskin was
still busy upon "Praeterita." He had his task planned out to the finish:
in nine more chapters he meant to conclude his third volume with a
review of the leading memories of his life, down to the year 1875, when
the story was to close. Passages here and there were written, material
collected from old letters and journals, and the contents and titles of
the chapters arranged; but the intervals of strength had become fewer
and shorter, and at last, in spite of all his courage and energy, he was
brought face to face with the fact that his powers were ebbing away, and
that head and hand would do their work no more.

He could not finish "Praeterita"; but he could not leave it without
record of one companionship of his life, which was, it seemed, all that
was left to him of the old times and the old folks at home. And so,
setting aside the plans he had made, he devoted the last chapter, as his
forebodings told him it must be, to his cousin, Mrs. Arthur Severn, and
wrote the story of "Joanna's Care."

In his bedroom at Seascale, morning after morning, he still worked, or
tried to work, as he had been used to do on journeys farther afield in
brighter days. But now he seemed lost among the papers scattered on his
table; he could not fix his mind upon them, and turned from one subject
to another in despair; and yet patient, and kindly to those with him
whose help he could no longer use, and who dared not show--though he
could not but guess--how heart-breaking it was.

They put the best face upon it, of course: drove in the afternoons about
the country--to Muncaster Castle, to Calder Abbey, where he tried to
sketch once more; and when the proofs of "Joanna's Care" were finally
revised, to Wastwater. But travelling now was no longer restorative.

It added not a little to the misfortunes of the time that two of his
best friends in the outside world were disputing over a third. By nobody
was Carlyle's reputation more valued, and yet he acknowledged that
Froude was but telling the truth in the revelations which so surprised
the public; and much as he admired Norton, he deprecated the attack on
Carlyle's literary executor, whose motives he understood and approved.

In August, after his return to Coniston, the storm-cloud came down upon
him once more. It was only in the summer of 1890 that he was able to get
about. But firmly convinced that his one chance lay in absolute rest and
quiet, he wisely refused any sort of exertion, and was rewarded by a
temporary improvement in health and strength.

In the meantime he was obliged to hand over to others such parts of his
work as others could do. The St. George's Guild still continued in
existence, though it naturally lost much of its interest, and the whole
of its distinctive mission, when he ceased to be able to direct it. The
Museum had quite outgrown its cottage at Walkley, never intended for
more than temporary premises; and for ten years there had been talk of
new buildings, at first on the spot, then on the Guild's ground at
Bewdley, where, at one time, Ruskin planned a fairy palace in the woods,
with cloistered hostelries for the wandering student. Such schemes were
stopped less by his illness than by want of means.

Sheffield, however, did not wish to lose the Museum, and offered to
house it if the Guild would present it to the town. That was, of course,
out of the question. But a new offer to take over the collection on
loan, the Guild paying a curator, was another matter, and was thankfully
accepted. The Corporation fulfilled their share of the bargain with
generosity. An admirable site was assigned at Meersbrook Park, in a fine
old hall surrounded with trees, and overlooking a broad view of the town
and country. On April 15th, 1890, the Museum was opened by the Earl of
Carlisle, in presence of the Corporation, the Trustees of the Guild, and
a large assembly of friends and Sheffield townspeople. Since then the
attendance of visitors and students shows that the collection is
appreciated by the public; and it is to be hoped that though nominally a
loan it will remain there in perpetuity, and that it will be maintained
and used with due regard to the intentions of the founder.

Many other plans had to be modified, as he found himself less able to
work, and was obliged to hand over his business to others. With his
early books he had been dissatisfied, as expressing immature views. "The
Stones of Venice" had been recast into two small volumes, and "St.
Mark's Rest" written in the attempt to supplement and correct it. But
the original book was obviously in demand, and a new edition was brought
out in 1886.

"Modern Painters" had been also on the condemned list. The aggressive
Protestantism and the geological theories involved in his description of
mountains he condemned as errors; moreover, at the time of the last
edition published by Messrs. Smith & Elder (1873), he had been told
that the plates, which he considered a very important part of the work,
would not stand another impression; and so he destroyed nine of them, in
order that no subsequent edition might be brought out in the original
form. He reprinted vol. ii. in a cheap edition, and began to recast the
rest, with annotations and additions, as "In Montibus Sanctis," and
"Coeli Enarrant", while Miss S. Beever's selections ("Frondes Agrestes")
found a ready sale. But this did not satisfy the public, and there was a
continual cry for a reprint, to which, at last, he yielded. Early in
1889 the "Complete Edition" appeared; with the cancelled plates

He had always felt it a grievance that the enormous popularity of his
works in America meant an enormous piracy. Towards the end of the
"Fifties," Mr. Wiley of New York had begun to print cheap Ruskins; not,
indeed, illegally, but without proper acknowledgment to the author, and
without any reference to the author's wishes as to form and style of
production. An artist and writer on art, insisting on delicacy and
refinement as the first necessity of draughtsmanship, and himself
sparing no trouble or expense in the illustrations of his own works, was
naturally dissatisfied with the wretched "Artotypes" with which the
American editions caricatured his beautiful plates. Not only that, but
it was a common practice to smuggle these editions, recommended by their
cheapness, into other countries. Mr. Wiley sent, on an average, five
hundred sets of "Modern Painters" to Europe every year, the greater
number to England. His example was followed by other American
publishers, so that in New York alone there came to be half a dozen
houses advertising Ruskin's works, and many more throughout the cities
of the States. Mr. Wiley, the first in the field, proposed to pay up a
royalty upon all the copies he had sold if Ruskin would recognise him as
accredited publisher in America. The offer of so large a sum would have
been tempting, had it not meant that Ruskin must condone what he had for
years denounced, and sanction what he strongly disapproved. The case
would have been different if proposals had been made to reproduce his
books in his own style, under competent supervision. This was done in
1890, when arrangements were made with Messrs. Charles E. Merrill & Co.,
of New York, to bring out the "Brantwood" edition of Ruskin, under the
editorship of Professor C.E. Norton.

Though the sale of Ruskin's books in America had never, until so
recently, brought him any profit, his own business in England, started
in 1871 with the monthly pamphlet of "Fors," and in 1872 with the volume
of "Sesame and Lilies," prospered singularly. Mr. George Allen, who,
while building up an independent connection, still remained the sole
publisher of Mr. Ruskin's works, said that the venture was successful
from its earliest years. It was found that the booksellers were not
indispensable, and that business could be done through the post as well
as over the counter. In spite of occasional difficulties, such as the
bringing out of works in parts, appearing irregularly or stopping
outright at the author's illnesses, there was a steady increase of
profit, rising in the author's later years (according to Mr. Allen) to
an average of L4,000.

Fortunate it was that this bold attempt succeeded. The L200,000 he
inherited from his parents had gone,--chiefly in gifts and in attempts
to do good. The interest he used to spend on himself; the capital he
gave away until it totally disappeared, except what is represented by
the house he lived in and its contents. The sale of his books was his
only income, and a great part of that went to pensioners to whom in the
days of his wealth he pledged himself, to relatives and friends,
discharged servants, institutions in which he took an interest at one
time or other. But he had sufficient for his wants, and no need to fear
poverty in his old age.

In this quiet retreat at Brantwood the echoes of the outer world did
not sound very loudly. Ruskin had been too highly praised and too
roundly abused, during fifty years of public life, to care what magazine
critics and journalists said of him. Other men of his standing could
solace themselves, if it be solace, in the consciousness that a grateful
country has recognised their talents or their services. But civic and
academic honours were not likely to be showered on a man who had spent
his life in strenuous opposition to academicism in art and letters, and
in vigorous attacks upon both political parties, and upon the
established order of things.

And yet Oxford and Cambridge awarded him the highest honours in their
gift. In 1873 the Royal Society of Painters in Watercolours voted him
honorary member, a recognition which gave him great pleasure at the time.

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