John Lord.

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deed, illustrated by examples drawn from early English history, and the
last treating of representative modern English artists, chiefly of the
Pre-Raphaelite school. "The Laws of F├ęsole" (1878) deals with the
principles of Florentine draughtsmanship; "St. Mark's Rest," with the
art and architecture of Venice; and "Val d'Arno," with early Tuscan art,
interspersed with the author's accustomed ethical reflections. "Mornings
in Florence," intended for the use of visitors to the art galleries of
the beautiful city on the Arno, deals in the true artist-spirit with its
famous examples of Christian art, giving prominence here also to the
ethical side of the city's history. "In Montibus Sanctis," and "Coeli
Enarrant," the one comprising studies of mountain form, and the other of
cloud form and their visible causes, though separately published, are
only reprints of the author's larger and nobler embodiment of his views
on art, in "Modern Painters." "The King of the Golden River," of which
we have previously spoken, is a fairy tale of much beauty, which he
wrote for the "Fair Maid of Perth" whom he married, and who separated
herself from him on the plea of "incompatibility." Playful as is the
style of the story, it is not without a moral, on what constitutes true
wealth and happiness. "The Crown of Wild Olive" (1866) consists of
lectures on work, traffic, and war; the latter lecture, delivered at the
Royal Artillery Institution at Woolwich, was also separately published
under the title of "The Future of England." The two former, being
addressed to working-men, laborers, and traders, discuss economic
problems, and set forth tentatively their author's antagonized political
ethics, with which, in drawing this essay to a close, we now venture
to deal.

After the magnificent work done by Ruskin in art up to his fortieth
year, that he should turn, for practically the remainder of his life, to
the seemingly vain and profitless task of a social reformer and
regenerator of modern society, has to most men been a riddle too elusive
and enigmatic to solve. And yet, in his earlier career, had he not
himself prepared us for just such a departure as he took in the sixties,
for in art was he not equally revolutionary and iconoclastic, as well as
personally self-willed, passionate, and impulsive? Moreover, had not
Mother Nature endowed him with the gifts of a seer and made him
chivalrous as well as intensely sympathetic, while his early training
inclined him to be serious, and even ascetic? Nor were the rebuffs he
met with throughout his career calculated at this stage to make him
court the applause of his fellow-men or be mindful of the world's
censure or approval. Nor can one well quarrel with what he had now to
say on many a subject, visionary and enthusiast as he always was, and
given over to mediaeval views and preachments, and to abounding moral
and ethical exhortation. Like Carlyle's, his voice was that of one
crying in the wilderness, and yet in the industrial and social condition
of Britain at the era there was need of just such appeals for
regeneration and reform as Ruskin strenuously uttered, accompanied by
indignant rebukes of grossness, vulgarity, and meanness, as manifested
in masses of the people. If in his strivings after amelioration he was
too denunciatory as well as too radical, we must remember the temper and
manner of the man, and recognize how difficult it was in him, or in any
iconoclast who scorned modern science as Ruskin scorned it, to reconcile
the age of steam and industrial machinery, which he spurned and would
have none of, with the views he held of Christianity, morals, and faith.
His views on political economy, which he treated neither as an art nor a
science, might be perverse and wrong-headed, and his method of adapting
prophetic and apostolic principles to the practice of every-day life
utterly impracticable; but the virtues he counselled the nation to
manifest, and the graces he enjoined of truthfulness, justice,
temperance, bravery, and obedience, were qualities needed to be
cultivated in his time, with a fuller recognition of and firmer trust in
God and His right of sway in the world He had created.

What Ruskin's economic views were, and what his relations to the
industrial and social problems of his time, most readers of our author
know, are mainly to be found in "Fors Clavigera," a series of letters to
working-men, covering the years 1871-84, and in his early essays on
political economy, "Unto this Last" (1860), and "Munera Pulveris"
(1863). "Unto this Last" appeared in its original form in the pages of
the "Cornhill Magazine," then edited by Thackeray, and our author speaks
confidently of it as embodying his maturest and worthiest thoughts on
social science. The work, which will be found the key to Ruskin's
economic gospel, embraces four essays, treating successively of the
responsibilities and duties of those called to fill all offices of
national trust and service; of the true sources of a nation's riches; of
the right distribution of such riches; and of what is meant by the
economic terms, - value, wealth, price, and produce. Under these several
heads, Ruskin expresses his conviction that co-operation and government
are in all things the law of life, while the deadly things are
competition and anarchy. Whatever errors the book[3] contains - and the
author's unconscious arrogance and dogmatism made him blind to them - his
views were set forth with his accustomed vigor and eloquence, and in
the honest belief that he was more than fundamentally right. It was for
such helpful work as this, and what he accomplished in the kindred
volume, "Munera Pulveris," which first appeared in "Fraser's Magazine,"
that Ruskin for the time dropped his revelations in art to let a new
world of thought into the "dismal science" of political economy,
confound its old-time instructors, and gird at the evils of the
age, - the greed, selfishness, and petty bargaining spirit of industrial
and commercial life. Nor in conducting such a crusade as this was Ruskin
abandoning his old and less controverted gospel of art. He was but
carrying into new and barren fields the high ideals he had hitherto
counselled his age to emulate and heed, and in his sympathy with labor
seeking to bring into its world the comeliness of beauty and the cheer
of prosperity, comfort, and happiness. In "Time and Tide" (1867), and
more at length in "Fors Clavigera," Ruskin reiterates his message to
labor, to get rid of ever-environing misery by realizing what are the
true sources of happiness, - pleasure in sincere and honest work,
inspired by intelligence, culture, religion, and right living. What he
desires for the working-man he desires also for his family, and
consequently he urges parents to train their sons and daughters to see
and love the beautiful, to cultivate their higher instincts, and call
forth and feed their souls. In all this there is much helpful, tonic
thought, which the church or the nation, roused to zeal and earnest
activity, might fittingly teach, and so advance the material weal of the
people, extend the area of public enlightenment and morality, and herald
the dawn of a new and higher civilization.

[Footnote 3: Alluding to the quaint title under which these "Cornhill"
essays afterwards appeared, - a title that hints at the gist of the
work, - Mr. Ruskin's biographer tells us that the motto was taken from
Christ's parable of the husbandman and the laborers: "Friend, I do thee
no wrong. Didst thou not agree with me for a penny? Take that thine is,
and go thy way. I will give UNTO THIS LAST even as unto
thee." - Matt. xx. 14.]

Other aspects of Mr. Ruskin's economic gospel are, unfortunately, not so
sane and beneficent. His altruism knows no bounds, as his philanthropy
and zeal have but few restraints. After the fashion of his mentor,
Carlyle, he is carried away by his humanitarianism and his unreserved
acceptance of the doctrine of the equality and brotherhood of man. Hence
come his economic heresies in regard to rent and interest, and capital
and usury, his denunciations of the division of labor, his Tolstoian
impoverishment of himself for the benefit of his fellow-man, and his
dictum that the wealth of the nation should be its own, and not accrue
to the individual. Hence, also, the wholly ideal state of society he
attempted to realize in his communal Guild of St. George, with its rigid
government and restraints upon the personal liberty of its members.
Ideally beautiful, admittedly, was the plan and scheme of the little
state, with its disciplinings, exactions, and devout selective creed.
But the age is a practical, unimaginative one, and whatever compacts men
make, even for their highest welfare, there are, it is to be feared,
few so loyal, tractable, and docile as to place themselves for long
under such tutoring and one-patterned, fashioning forms of co-operative
living. Into whatever millennial state Ruskin sought to usher his little
band of English followers and disciples, one must speak appreciatively
of his motives in projecting the scheme, and of the money and labor he
personally lavished upon the Utopian project. Reverently also must one
speak of the catholic creed to which its members were asked to
subscribe: namely, to trust in God, recognize the nobleness of human
nature, labor faithfully with one's might, be loyal to one's common
country, its laws, and its monarch's or ruler's orders, so far as they
are consistent with the higher law of God; while exacting obedience, and
a pledge that one will not deceive, either for gain or other motive;
will not rob; will not hurt any living creature nor destroy any
beautiful thing; and will honor one's own body by proper care for it,
for the joy and peace of life. All this is very exemplary and beautiful,
and not over-hard to live up to, though the working-men of Sheffield in
time wearied of the organization, and the Guild and its noble ideals is
now, we believe, but a memory, if we except the art museum and library
of the Order taken over and still maintained by the town.

More practical, may we not say, than this imitation of the Florentine
_arti_ of the Middle Ages was the Working Men's College, founded in
London in the fifties by that other earnest Christian Socialist, F.D.
Maurice, in which Ruskin lectured gratuitously, took charge of the
drawing classes, and hied off to the country with its members to sketch
from nature and otherwise instruct and entertain them. Yet good in many
respects came of the Guild of St. George, in the impulse it gave to the
revival of the then dormant industries, such as the hand-spinning of
linen, hand-weaving of carpets and woollen fabrics, lace-making,
wood-carving, and metal-working, besides the stimulus it gave, with the
infusion of higher ideals of workmanship, to the decorative arts, and
the improvement in the sightliness of factories, and in the homes and
surroundings of labor. Here Ruskin's philanthropy and reform zeal showed
themselves most worthily in the financial aid he gave in the pulling
down, in crowded districts of the British metropolis, of poor tenements,
and the building up in their place of clean, attractive, and wholesome
habitations. In such benevolences and well-doings, and in this life of
renunciation and self-sacrifice, Ruskin spent himself, and made serious
inroads into his bodily health and strength, as well as scattered the
fortune - about a million dollars - left him by his now deceased father.
But this was the manner and character of Ruskin, and this the mode of
expressing his love for his fellow-man, which in myriad ways showed
itself throughout a long and strenuous career of devotion to high
ideals, and of practical, tender help in all good works. In all his
philanthropies he was true to his own preachings and counsellings,
spending and being spent in the spirit of his Divine Master, his whole
soul aglow with reverence and adoration and tender with a profound moral
emotion. Besides his rare endowments as a lover of the beautiful, he had
that other precious gift, of golden speech, which threw a mantle of
loveliness over every book he wrote and perpetual lustre over the domain
of letters.

Ruskin's declining years, while hallowed by suffering, were cheered by
many tender attentions and unexpected kindnesses, and by the
recognition, by many notable public bodies and eminent contemporaries,
of his long life of great service and devotion to his kind. In our
modern age, from which, in his loved Coniston home, he passed from life
Jan. 20, 1900, no one more reverently than he has looked deeper into the
mystery of life, thought more concernedly of its problems, shed more
passionately and eloquently about him love for the beautiful, or
practically and helpfully done more - layman only though he was - for
religion and humanity. At his death the nation paid honor to his memory
by offering his remains a resting-place in the great fane of England's
illustrious dead, Westminster Abbey; but Ruskin had himself otherwise
ordered the disposal of his body. "Bury me," he said, "at Coniston."
And there, on the fifth day after his falling softly asleep, amid a
concourse of loving friends, the earthly tenement of the great art
critic and lover of righteousness was laid to rest, his grave strewn
with myriad wreaths, garlands, and crosses of beautiful, bright flowers.

Here, after his long, strenuous, militant career, do we leave this
inspiring teacher and "consecrated priest of the Ideal," his gentle soul
finding rest and peace after the myriad troubles and tumults of life.
Still now is the once active, fertile, stimulating mind of the man who
so effectively roused his generation from its complacent smugness and
indifference in its appreciation of the beautiful, and with ardent
boldness challenged established beliefs in art and defied the
conventionality and authority of his time. His has been a powerful force
in innumerable departments of human thought, and epoch-making the
influence he has exerted in giving to the world new ideals of the
beautiful and in shaping modern opinion and taste in art. How great is
the work he has done, and what a library of stimulating, inspiring books
he has left us, comparatively few realize, as they little realize what
the age owes to him for his noble activities in well-doing and his many
and impressive lessons and influence. In a commonplace, commercial time,
how stimulating as well as ardent have been his appeals for
sensitiveness of perception in regard to art, and of the tone and
spirit in which it ought to be viewed and valued! And with what tender,
reverent feeling has he not opened our hearts to compassion and to
consideration for the welfare of our fellow-man, and how potent have
been his counsellings pointing to the true and abiding sources of
pleasure in life! Long must his formative opinions and influence extend,
and in the minds of all who think and reflect abiding must be the charm
as well as the power of his imaginative, glowing thought. That he met
with opposition and hostility in his day was but the price to be paid
for the disturbing, correcting, disciplining, yet inspiring part he
played in the work he so impulsively set himself to do. One smiles now
at the epithets of scorn and contumely once hurled at him, at the man
who, little understood as he has been, has done so much to uplift and
purify the thought of his time and do battle with the forces opposed to
reform and arrayed against those of light and truth. And how great were
the weapons with which he was armed, and how varied as well as
marvellous the talents he brought into play in the onslaught upon
shallowness, convention, and ignorance! Truly, he has done much for his
time, and great has been the gain Modern Art has won from his inspiring
lessons and thought. The coming of such a man, and at the time that was
his, one cannot help reflecting, was one of the providences of an
overruling Power, and adequately to estimate his influence and work,
and the tone and temper in which he wrought, we have but to consider
what the age would have been, in countless departments of thought and
activity, had the century now passed possessed no John Ruskin.


Collingwood, W. G. Life of Ruskin.

Harrison, Frederic. Tennyson, Ruskin, Mill, and other Estimates.

Mather, Marshall. John Ruskin, his Life and Teaching.

Bayne, Peter. Lessons from my Masters - Carlyle, Tennyson, and Ruskin.

Japp, Alex. H. Carlyle, Tennyson, and Ruskin.

Spielmann, M.H. John Ruskin.

Waldstein, Charles. Work of John Ruskin.

Ward, May Alden. Prophets of the Nineteenth Century: Carlyle, Ruskin,
and Tolstoi.

Bates, Herbert. Annotated edition, with Introduction, of Ruskin's
"Sesame and Lilies" and "The King of the Golden River."

Ruskin's "Praeterita": An Autobiography.





Herbert Spencer occupies a unique place in the history of human thought,
because he has been the first to attempt the construction of a
philosophical system in harmony with the theory of Evolution and with
the results of modern science. To his contemporaries he is known almost
exclusively as the author of the colossal work which he has chosen to
call the "Synthetic Philosophy." Concerning his personality very little
information has been published, and it is doubtful whether he will deem
it worth while to leave behind him the materials for a detailed
biography. About his private life we know even less than we know about
that of Kant. The very few facts obtainable may be summed up in a score
of sentences.


Herbert Spencer was born on April 27, 1820, at Derby, in England, and
was an only surviving child. His father was a schoolmaster in the town
named, and secretary of a philosophical society. From him the son seems
to have imbibed the love of natural science and the faculty of
observation conspicuous in his work. The father was particularly
interested in entomology, and Spencer himself used to collect, describe,
and draw insects when a boy. At the age of thirteen he was sent to study
with an uncle, Rev. Thomas Spencer, a liberal clergyman and a scholar,
with whom he remained three years, carrying on the study of natural
history, which he had begun in childhood. He now devoted himself to
mathematics, evincing a singular capacity for working out original
problems. At this time, too, he became familiar with physical and
chemical investigations, and already exhibited a strong tendency to
experimental inquiry and original research. His aversion to linguistic
studies put a university career out of the question. At the age of
seventeen he entered the office of Sir Charles Fox and began work as a
civil engineer, but about eight years afterward he gave up this
profession, and devoted the whole of his time to scientific experiments
and studies, and to contributions on philosophical questions to various
periodicals. As early as 1842, in a series of letters to the
Nonconformist newspaper on "The Proper Sphere of Government," he
propounded a belief in human progress based on the modifiability of
human nature through adaptation to its social surroundings, and he
asserted the tendency of these social arrangements to assume of
themselves a condition of stable equilibrium. From 1848 to 1853 he was
sub-editor of the Economist newspaper, and in his first important work,
"Social Statics," published in 1850, he developed the ethical and
sociological ideas which had been set forth in his published letters.
The truth that all organic development is a change from a state of
homogeneity to a state of heterogeneity is regarded by Spencer as the
organizing principle of his subsequent beliefs. It was gradually
expounded and applied by him in a series of articles contributed to the
"North British," the "British Quarterly," the "Westminster," and other
reviews. In these essays, and especially in the volume of "Principles of
Psychology," published in 1855, the doctrine of Evolution began to take
definite form, and to be applied to various departments of inquiry. It
was not until four years later - a fact to be carefully borne in mind by
those who would estimate correctly the relation of Spencer to
Darwin - that the publication of the latter's "Origin of Species"
afforded a wide basis of scientific truth for what had hitherto been
matter of speculation, and demonstrated the important part played by
natural selection in the development of organisms. As early as March,
1860, Spencer issued a prospectus, in which he set forth the general aim
and scope of a series of works which were to be issued in periodical
parts, and would, collectively, constitute a system of philosophy. In
1862 appeared the "First Principles," and in 1867 the "Principles of
Biology." In 1872 the "Principles of Psychology" was published; the
first part of the "Principles of Ethics" in 1879; and his "Principles of
Sociology" in three volumes, begun in 1876, was completed in 1896. In
the preface to the third volume of the last-named work the author
explains that the fourth volume originally contemplated, which was to
deal with the linguistic, intellectual, moral, and aesthetic phenomena,
would have to remain unwritten by reason of the author's age and
infirmities. The astounding extent of Herbert Spencer's labors becomes,
indeed, the more marvellous when one considers that impaired health has
for many years incapacitated him for persistent application. Owing
partly to his ill health, and partly to the absorbing nature of his
occupation, his life has been a retired one, and in the ordinary sense
of the term, uneventful. He has never married, and, although the high
opinion of his writings formed by contemporaries has led to many
academic honors being pressed upon him at home and abroad, these have
all been declined. It only remains to mention that in 1882 he visited
the United States, where the importance of his speculations had been
early recognized, and that his home is now in Brighton, England.


In Mr. Spencer's latest book, "Facts and Comments," a little light is
thrown on the author's habits, opinions, and predilections. Referring to
the athleticism to which so much attention is paid just now in English
and American universities, he points out how erroneous it is to identify
muscular strength with constitutional strength. Not only is there error
in assuming that increase of muscular power and increase of general
vigor necessarily go together, but there is error in assuming that the
reverse connection cannot hold. As a matter of fact, the abnormal powers
acquired by gymnasts may be at the cost of constitutional deterioration.
In a paper on "Party Government" the author maintains that what we boast
of as political freedom consists in the ability to choose a despot, or a
group of oligarchs, and, after long misbehavior has produced
dissatisfaction, to choose another despot or group of oligarchs: having
meanwhile been made subject to laws, some of which are repugnant.
Abolish the existing conventional usages, with respect to party
fealty, - let each member of parliament feel that he may express by his
vote his adverse belief respecting a government measure, without
endangering the government's stability, - and the whole vicious system of
party government would disappear. In a paper on "Patriotism," Mr.
Spencer says that to him the cry "Our country, right or wrong," seems
detestable. The love of country, he adds, is not fostered in him by
remembering that when, after England's Prime Minister had declared that
Englishmen were bound in honor to the Khedive to reconquer the Soudan,
they, after the reconquest, forthwith began to administer it in the name
of the Queen and the Khedive, thereby practically annexing it; and when,
after promising through the mouths of two colonial Ministers not to
interfere in the internal affairs of the Transvaal, the British
Government proceeded to insist on certain electoral arrangements, and
made resistance the excuse for a desolating war. As to the transparent
pretence that the Boers commenced the war, Mr. Spencer reminds us that
in the far West of the United States, where every man carries his life
in his hands and the usages of fighting are well understood, it is held
that he is the real aggressor who first moves his hand toward his
weapon. The application to the South African contest is obvious. In an
essay on "Style," Mr. Spencer tells us that his own diction has been,
from the beginning, unpremeditated. It has never occurred to him to take
any author as a model. Neither has he at any time examined the writing

Online LibraryJohn LordBeacon Lights of History, Volume 14 The New Era; A Supplementary Volume, by Recent Writers, as Set Forth in the Preface and Table of Contents → online text (page 6 of 26)