John Ruskin.

The works of John Ruskin (Volume 36) online

. (page 10 of 74)
Online LibraryJohn RuskinThe works of John Ruskin (Volume 36) → online text (page 10 of 74)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

perceive. Small occasions would sometimes bring them out; it shocked
Ruskin, for example, to have his attention called to the fire-flies at
Siena whose shining he has described in a beautiful passage by a
request to " look at the lightning-bugs." The friends, then, though
never asunder, often differed ; and these differences the difference, for
instance, which Ruskin likens to that between Oldbuck and Level
(p. 571) appear in this selection of his letters, sometimes in passages
of playful irony or sarcasm, at other times emphasised with what must
be accounted bitterness and even provocation on Ruskin's side. Ruskin,
owing to his solitary upbringing, had, as Jowett said, 4 " never rubbed
his mind against others"; he held his own convictions, moreover, with
an intensity which admitted of little compromise and of no indif-
ferentism. He could write a letter of courtesy, politeness, or flatten-
as gracefully as any man ; but often, as he told Mrs. Browning, he "did
not say the pleasantest things to his friends." 5 At the end there was
on Ruskin's part some interruption in the frequency of correspondence,
if not also in cordiality of feeling, for he resented, more strongly than
the published letters indicate, Professor Norton's attacks upon Froude
in connexion with the trust committed to him by Carlyle. It was
not only that he regarded some of his friend's criticisms us " niggling
and Haggling." He remembered that we are all liable to petty
errors in transcribing letters a weakness of human eyes and fingers
from which, by the way, Professor Norton's own treatment of Ruskin's
letters is not exempt. The editors have not seen the originals, but

1 For a note on this subject, see the Bibliographical Appendix, Vol. XXXVII.
p. (583.

2 Vol. XXXV. pp. 519-520, 522-524.

3 Preface to letters of Jtux/dn to Norton, Boston, 1904, p. viii.
* Life and letter*, vol. ii. p. 257.

5 Lfttfrx of Klizabf.th Harrett Jlrowmnu. vol. ii. p. 217.
8 Vol. XXXVII. p. 569



INTRODUCTION xciii

the readings in Professor Norton's various publications of them differ
considerably, and they cannot all be right. 1 But this was only an
incidental point. The main one was that Ruskin was the friend not
only of Froude, but also of Carlyle, and held that Froude was
better qualified than Professor Norton to form a sound opinion of
the way in which Carlyle's trust should be discharged. This episode
caused some inevitable soreness ; but the letters show none the less the
sympathy and affection which Ruskin^ friend across the sea extended
to him with perfect constancy through every change of mood and
fortune. 2 It is no slight tribute to Professor Norton's genius for friend-
ship that to him many of Ruskin's best letters, as also many of those
from Sir Leslie Stephen and other eminent English men of letters, were
addressed.

Another much-loved friend of Ruskin was Rawdon Brown, of Venice,
to whom incidental reference has been made above (p. Ixix.), and with
whom we have often met in previous volumes of this edition. He was
a link between Ruskin's earlier visits to Venice, during the writing of
The Stones, and those of later years. Ruskin's letters to him, which
were numerous, are partly in the British Museum (presented by Mr.
W. G. Cavendish Bentinck in 1900) and partly in the possession
of Mr. Horatio Brown, his successor in the editorship of the Venetian
archives for the English State Papers. The collection in the British
Museum shows how carefully the letters received from Ruskin were
treasured by Brown. He was scrupulous to add the dates; he often
annotated them with reminiscences ; 3 and sometimes filed a copy of
his o\vn replies. The letters selected for the present Collection begin
in 1850, with one which shows Rawdon Brown assisting Ruskin in
the collection of architectural details for The Stones of Venice (p. 106).
Next, in 1853-1854 (pp. 148, 162), we find Ruskin seeing through
the press Rawdon Brown's Giustiniani a book which threw new light
on the relation of the Venetian archives to English history, and caused
Lord Palmerston to commission Brown to calendar the archives a

1 In this edition it has been assumed that the latest version of the letters is
the more correct, but there are some curious mistakes.

z Mr. Norton died, at the age of eighty-one, on October 21, 1908 : for an
interesting obituary notice, see the Times of the following day.

3 An instance may be given in connexion with Huskin's letter of May 8, 1877
(Vol. XXXVII. p. 222). " In reply to this letter, I told him," says Brown, " that
the Scuola of St. Giovanni Evangelista was by the elder Lombardo, and that I
respected Fra Giocondo as 'the second founder of Venice.' Toni, who took the
letter, said he chipped his hands on reading it ; and now, to-day, 20th May, he
gave me the first proof of Part II. Academy Guide, and at p. 30 [Vol. XXIV.
p. 169 n.~\ I see that the satisfaction proceeded from my telling him that
Giocondo's contemporaries styled him the second founder of Venice."



xciv INTRODUCTION

work which occupied him during the remainder of his life (1862-1883).
Intercourse with Rawdon Brown was always one of Ruskin's chief
pleasures in visits to Venice, and was especially close and frequent
during the winter of 1876-1877. A note of this period is included, 1
as a sample of the messages that passed on days when the old friends
did not meet in person. Ruskin relied much on Brown's unrivalled
knowledge of things Venetian, and wrote as a dutiful Jiglto. " Your
most affectionate old friend " was Brown's signature in replying. Of
Brown's attached servant, Antonio the Toni of Browning's sonnet on
Brown mention is made in Ruskin's books. 2 The letters show his
kindly and constant recollection of other members of Brown's house-
hold of Joan, his servant, and of Panno, the gondolier (pp. 314, 480).
Ruskin seldom forgot to send them Christmas presents, and he was for
many years in the habit of forwarding an annual gift for Brown to
distribute among other humble Venetian folk.

In this connexion mention may be made of a letter to one of the
monks of the Armenian Convent, 3 transcribed for this edition from
their show-case at San Lazzaro ; and of two notes to another gondo-
lier, Pietro Mazzini. 4 Ruskin's acquaintance and correspondence with
Count Zorzi have been recorded in earlier volumes, 5 and some further
letters to the Count and his friends will be found in the present
Collection.

For an illustrious Venetian of a younger generation, Commendatore
Boni, whose acquaintance he made in 1876-1877, Ruskin entertained
a warm affection as is indicated by a touching little note. 7 Signor
Boni's letters, which are preserved at Brantwood, show how much the
young architect owed to Ruskin's books, sympathy, and help. He
entered a new life, he says, on first reading the books ; his principles
of architecture were to be founded on Ruskin's teaching, and he prepared
lectures about Ruskin. The devoted enthusiasm of this architect who
interpreted "restoration" as preservation, not destruction, was very
pleasing to Ruskin. I do not know whether the studies in archaeo-
logical research and excavation, by which Commendatore Boni is now
so well known, owed anything to him ; but certainly Ruskin urged
him to classical studies, and sent him various books.

Among Ruskin's friends made in Italy and Switzerland were Count

1 See Vol. XXXVII. p. 222. -' Vol. XXIX. p. 08, Vol. XXXII. p. 100.

3 Vol. XXXVII. p. 402.

4 Vol. XXXVII. pp. 382,581. Pietro is still alive, and receives his Christmas
gift from Mrs. Severn.

5 Vol. XXIV. pp. lx.. 405 neq., and Vol. XXIX. pp. xv.-xix.

6 See Vol. XXIV. p. xli. Vol. XXXVII. p. 373.



INTRODUCTION xcv

Borromeo, who is mentioned in the Letters, and who was a great friend
of Rawdon Brown ; and David Urquhart, of whom Ruskin at one time
saw a good deal, the Turcophil diplomatist and author of The Spirit
of the East. 1 Urquhart had built himself a chalet at St. Gervais, near
Chamouni, and it was partly at his suggestion that Ruskin proposed
to do the like.

Ruskin's friendship with Carlyle stands in a category by itself.
" What can you say of Carlyle," said Ruskin to Froude, " but that
he was born in the clouds and struck by the lightning ? " " * struck
by the lightning," 1 " adds Froude, " not meant for happiness, but for
other ends; a stern fate which nevertheless in the modern world, as
in the ancient, is the portion dealt out to some individuals on whom
the heavens have been pleased to set their mark." 2 Carlyle was the
revered Master; Ruskin the beloved disciple. A visitor to Chelsea in
1879 describes Carlyle as reclining on a sofa, while Ruskin knelt on
the floor, leaning over Carlyle as they talked, and kissing his hands
on taking leave. 3 The description is typical of their relations. I do
not know when, or how, they first met it was certainly before 1851,
as is proved by Carlyle's letter of March 9 in that year, about The
Stones of Venice.* The arts were not much in Carlyle's way, but he
found Ruskin's talk an exception :

" Ruskin was here the other night," he wrote to his brother (Novem-
ber 27, 1855); "a bottle of beautiful soda-water, something like Rait of
old times, only with an intellect of tenfold vivacity. He is very pleasant
company now and then. A singular element, very curious to look upon,
in the present puddle of the intellectual artistic so-called ' world ' in
these parts at this date." 5

At this time Ruskin was not an infrequent visitor to Carlyle and
his wife ; one of his most sparkling letters 6 is an apology to Mrs.
Carlyle for a delayed call. " It was a relief" she wrote in her journal
(May 15, 1856), "when Ruskin called for us, to go to a great soiree
at Bath House. There I found my tongue, and used it ' not wisely
but too well. 1 " 7 Ruskin admired her cleverness, but did not love that

1 Ruskin refers to the book in Fors Clangera : see Vol. XXIX. p. 51.

2 Thomas Carlyle: a History of the First Forty Years of his Life, 1882, vol. ii.
p. 475.

3 William Attingham : a Diary, 1907, p. 275. Compare Mr. Lyttelton's descrip-
tion of Carlyle's tenderness to Ruskin, Vol. XXXIV. p. 722.

* Printed in Vol. IX. p. xlv.

5 New Letters of Carlyle, edited by Alexander Carlyle, 1904, vol. ii. p. 177.

6 Printed in Vol. V.' p. xlix.

7 New Letters and Memorials of Jane Welsh Carlyle, 1903, vol. ii. p. 97.



xcvi INTRODUCTION

tongue, and was heard in after years to speak of her as " the
shrew." 1 Mrs. Carlyle, on her side, has left some sharp remarks upon
him, but she loved the beautiful way in which he soothed and managed
her husband. 2 Carlyle's reply to Ruskin's letter of condolence on Mrs.
Carlyle's death, which has already been printed, 2 shows the warmth of
affection between the two men. Carlyle's loss and RuskiiVs increasing
preoccupation in other than purely artistic work drew them closer
together, as we have heard ; 3 and the letters of Ruskin, chosen out of
a larger number for this Collection, are especially numerous in the
later period. " I am your faithful and devoted son in the Florentine
sense," writes Ruskin in an undated letter from Oxford, 4 and during his
sojourn abroad in 1874 he sent to "Papa" Carlyle an almost daily
letter, as of old to his own father. These show the most reverent
affection for his master, and a constant desire to amuse, interest,
or encourage him. The letters from Carlyle of encouragement and
stimulus in Ruskin's work, which have already been printed, show how
much the friendship meant to the younger man. That it was greatly
valued by Carlyle also is no less clear. He was, indeed, by no means
blind to his friend's waywardness, but perhaps the very caprices of
"aethereal Ruskin whom God preserve" 5 endeared him the more. A
series of notes from Carlyle's correspondence and talk records successive
impressions :

(To DR. CARLYLE, March 1, 1865.) "On Monday I had engaged myself
to Denmark Hill, for Ruskin' s superb mineralogical collection and a free
discourse upon the same; an adventure that proved pleasant enough."

(To JOHN FORSTER, Dec. 20, 1872.) "Ruskin good and affectionate."

(To DR. CARLYLE, Nov. 17, 1874.) "I have seen Ruskin these three
Saturdays in punctual sequence at two P.M., who promises to come weekly
at the same day and hour, by way of holiday at London. I get but little
real insight out of him, though he is full of friendliness and is aiming as
if at the very stars; but his sensitive, flighty nature disqualifies him for
earnest conversation and frank communication of his secret thoughts."

(To DR. CARLYLE, Jan. 1, 1875.) "We saw Ruskin's Allen one day at
Sunnyside, Orpington, and got from him the Fors of this month (which
is good for little), and a whole half-dozen or more of other little and
bigger books, which I find to be superior stuff, and have begun to read
with real interest." 6

(To W. ALLINGHAM, March 11, 1878.) "There is a celestial brightness

1 See Vol. XXXIV. p. 071 ;/. - See Vol. XVIII. p. xlvii.

3 See Vol. XIX, pp. Ivii.-lviii.. and compare Vol. XVIII. p. xlviii.

* So also in \'nl d'Arno, Vol. XXIII. p. 37 . 6 Soe Vol. XIV. p. 497 n.

4 New Letters of Carlyle, vol. ii. pp. 215, 293, 310, 314.



INTRODUCTION xcvii

in Ruskin. His description of the wings of birds the most beautiful thing
of the kind that can possibly be. His morality, too, is the highest and
purest. And with all this a wonderful folly at times ! The St. George's
Company is utterly absurd. I thought it a joke at first." 1

Between Carlyle and Ruskin there was enough sympathy to make the
friendship firm, and enough contrast to lend it piquancy. That it was
proof against a temporary misunderstanding, we have already seen. 2
Carlyle, in spite of the " flightiness " which he found in Ruskin, felt
sharply any break in their intercourse. If Ruskin delayed to write,
Carlyle ever asked the reason why ; if he intermitted his weekly calls,
Carlyle begged him to resume them. 3

Of Ruskin's friendship with Froude we have already heard. 4 Only
one or two of his letters to Froude are available, but I have seen many
from Froude to him. Froude addressed him as his "truest friend," and
when Ruskin gave warning that he meant to criticise him sharply in
Fors Clavigera, 5 he replied, "Whatever you say, my admiration and
affection for you would remain unabated." " Your note," he says in
another letter, "gave me inexpressible pleasure. It was pain and grief
to me to feel that I had lost your good opinion. . . . The censures of
those we think most highly of are, or ought to be, more didactic a
great deal, than one's own personal notion that one is in the right."

1 William Allingham: a Diary, 1907, p. 263. 2 See Vol. XVII. p. 482.

3 The General Index gives references to various reminiscences of Carlyle's con-
versation. An extract from Ruskin's diary may here be added:

"April 24, 1875. At Carlyle's yesterday. . . . Carlyle intensely inter-
esting, pathetic infinitely. If only I could have written down every
word ! Of my mother : ' to see her sitting there as clean as if she had
come out of spring water, and her mind the same way, utterly recusant
of everything contrary to the parfect and perpetual law of the Supreme.'
(' Recusant ' is not the word, the rest is literal ; but, instead of recusant,
it was one like 'condemnatory' or ' reprobatious,' but I can't think of it.)
He spoke of his own work with utter contempt. If it had any good in
it, it was nothing but the dogged determination to carry it through so
far as he could, against all. (Alas, that I can't recollect the vigorous
words expressing contemptible but overwhelming force of antagonism.)
It needed the obstinacy of ten to do Frederick. Of his own life, lie spoke
as a mere useless burden, 'in the past only supportable by the help and
affection of others, and chiefly of that noble One whom I lost eleven
years ago ' (nearly literal this). No one could be more thankful than he,
when the summons came ; though of the future he knew nothing, except
that if it were mere Death, it was appointed by an entirely wise and
righteous Creator (Still not half the power of his own beautiful words,
I thought I couldn't have forgotten) ; and if there wore any hope of
being re-united to any soul one had loved, it was all the Heaven he
desired, and he could conceive of no Heaven without that."

It was on this occasion that Ruskin, as already related (Vol. XXVIII. p. 319 ?z.),
delighted Carlyle by reading to him " the prayer of the monied man " in Fora.
* Vol. XXXV. p. xxiv. 5 See Vol. XXIX. pp. 387 seq.

XXXVI. g



xcviii INTRODUCTION

Among the "tutelary powers" of his women-friendships Ruskin in
Prceterita gives precedence to Lady Trevelyan and Mrs. Cowper-Temple.
Paulina, Lady Trevelyan, the first wife of Sir Walter Trevelyan, was
a woman of many scientific, literary, and artistic tastes. She was three
years Ruskin's senior, having been born in 1816 the eldest daughter
of the Rev. G. B. Jennyn, LL.D. As a girl she used to attend
meetings of learned societies, and several of her letters to Dr. Whewell
have been printed. 1 In 1842 she and Sir Walter travelled in Greece,
and a series of her sketches of the antiquities are preserved in the
British Museum. She wrote many verses, contributed stories to the
magazines, and was largely employed by the editor of the Scotsman
in reviewing books and art-exhibitions. Among her reviews was one
of Ruskin's Pre-Raphaelitism. She was also an occasional exhibitor
at the Royal Scottish Academy. Ruskin was unable to remember
when he first made her acquaintance; his first visit to her home in
Northumberland was in 1853, and has already been described. 2 When
Ruskin took her to Cheyne Row in 1862, Carlyle described her as
"a kind of wit, not unamiable, and with plenty of sense." 3 Dr. John
Brown writes of her : " She was one of my dearest friends, incomparable
in some ways. 11 And such also she was to Ruskin. He advised her
about the paintings with which she and Sir Walter were decorating
the interior court of their house at Wallington, and executed some
of the work himself. 4 They had many tastes in common, artistic and
botanical ; 5 to her, as the letters show, he wrote of his multitudinous
plans, sure of warm sympathy, if also of prudent advice. In 1867, as
we have seen, Sir Walter and Lady Trevelyan went to Switzerland
with Ruskin ; she was taken ill, and he was present at her death-
bed. "That loving, bright, faithful friend,'" wrote Dr. John Brown to
Ruskin after her death, " such as you and I are not likely to see till
we see herself, if that is ever to be." 6

For Mrs. Cowper-Temple 7 Ruskin cherished a confiding friendship
perhaps even closer and more affectionate. The story of his admira-
tion, when he saw her as a girl at Rome, and of their subsequent

1 See Selections from the Literary and Artistic Remains of Paulina Jennyn
Tri'relyan. Edited by David Wooster. London and Newcastle, 1879.

Vol. XII. pp. xix., xx. 3 New Carlyle Letters, vol. ii. p. 215.

Vol. XVI. pp. 493-494.

For a reference to her occasional help, see Vol. XI. p. 271 n.

Letters of I>r. John Broirn, pp. 242, 206.

She was the youngest daughter of Admiral Tollemache and sister of the first
Lord Tollemache of Helmingham. Her husband, the Rt. Hon. William Cowper,
was the stepson of Lord Palmerston, and on succeeding to Lord Palmerston's
estates in 1869, took the additional name of Temple. In 1880 he was created
Baron Mount-Temple.



INTRODUCTION xcix

meeting, many years later, is told in Prceterita. Ruskin speedily became
the friend of herself and her husband, Mr. William Cowper, to whom
she had been married in 1848. Some of Huskies earlier letters to
her have been given in a previous volume, 1 in connexion with spiritual-
istic seances which she persuaded him to attend, and these are again
referred to in the present series of letters. Ruskin had a habit of
giving familiar names to his friends, and " William " and " Mrs.
Cowper" soon pass in the correspondence into </Xo? and fyiXrj. It
is under the latter name that Ruskin dedicated an edition of Sesame
and Lilies to her. Another of his names for her was "Isola" or
" Isola Bella." " I gave her that name," he said, " because she is
so unapproachable" unapproachable, that is, by ordinary roads, but
"open on all sides to waifs of the waves, claiming haven and rest
in her sympathy." 2 Hov, r true is this description is known to all who
were ever present at the "Broadlands Conferences" arranged by her. 3
Mr. and Mrs. Cowper-Temple little deserved the reproaches which,
not too seriously meant, Ruskin addresses to them in one letter for
" compromising between God and Satan," and little needed the pretty
injunction to arrange a dinner-party as if Christ were to be of the
company to which he refers in Fors Clavigera* Of Mr. Cowper-
Temple's helpfulness to Ruskin we have heard in previous volumes.
He introduced him to Lord Palmerston, in connexion at first with
National Gallery affairs; and later he consented to act as one of
the first trustees of St. George's Guild. If Mr. Cowper-Temple, as a
practical politician, could not always follow Ruskin into details, he
sympathised fully with his friend's aims. Their relation is well shown
by the letter which Mr. Cowper-Temple wrote (October 4, 1875) when
Ruskin was coming on a visit to Broadlands:

" MY DEAR JOHN, I gratefully sign and ratify your projected treaty of
alliance, defensive but not offensive. We are each to move in our own
orbit of work and occupation, and to collide into juxtaposition only when
our circles touch naturally and without constraint. But we agree always
to be in sympathy, though not always in society ; and it will be a great
delight and advantage to me to have as much of your company as you can
give me without interfering in any degree with the work of your mission
in life. I'm starting for Portsmouth, and leave Isola to add all that is
necessary to say before you arrive on Wednesday. Ever yr. affec.

"W. C. TEMPLE."

1 Vol. XVIII. p. xxxii. 2 Ruskin Relics, p. 225.

3 First in 1874. They are described by Mr. G. W. E. Russell in The Household
of Faith, pp. 205 seq.

4 See Vol. XXXVII. p. 110.



c INTRODUCTION

It was Mrs. Cowper-Teniple who helped to nurse Ruskin through his
serious illness at Matlock in 1871, and thenceforward, in playful recog-
nition of their protecting friendship, he becomes their " little boy," and
she sometimes his " Grannie." She was his confidante, and to her, as to
Rosie, 1 he became " St. C." Playful, and half grotesque, sentiment of this
kind constantly meets us in Ruskin's intimate correspondence. Two of
her notes to him may be cited. The first must refer to the dedication of
the new edition of Sesame and Lilies ; the second was a birthday letter :
" DEAREST ST. C., I could never tell you how deeply touched I am, and
to-day I have only time for this trifle. I can hardly believe that you are
going to do me this honour and that you really care for me so much ! Never
doubt that I can be other than yours most gratefully and lovingly, c."

"Blessed be the day and the hour when your mother rejoiced over her
first-born, and let it be blessed a thousand-fold more to-morrow when we
may joy over you too, with the many, many that you have lightened and
brightened and helped and cheered by your presence in this beautiful,
ugly, joyful, sad, incomprehensible world."

A characteristic reminiscence of one of his visits to Broadlands has
been recorded by Lady Mount-Temple:

" We found him, as always, most delightful and instructive company ; his
talk full and brilliant, and his kindness increasing to all the house, giving
a halo to life. He set us all to manual work ! He himself undertook to
clean out the fountain in the garden, and made us all, from Juliet 2 to
Mr. Russell Gurney, pick up the fallen wood and make it up into bundles
of faggots for the poor ! "

" Giving a halo to life " : somewhat of it seems to surround the corre-
spondence in which Raskin's friendship with Mr. and Mrs. C'owper-
Temple, each of whom lived in the world but not of it, is enshrined.
The few letters, chosen from a large number at Brantwood 4 for
inclusion in this Collection, now in their graceful play and now in
their burning sorrow and pity, bring us very near to the inmost spirit
of their writer. 5

With Sir John and Lady Simon Ruskin and his parents had
become acquainted through a chance meeting in Savoy in 1856, and

1 See Praterita, Vol. XXXV. p. 528.

2 Madame Desehamps (Lady Mount-Temple's adopted daughter).

3 Ruskin Relics, p. 226 ; quoted from Lady Mount-Temple's privately printed
volume of Afcmorinls.



Online LibraryJohn RuskinThe works of John Ruskin (Volume 36) → online text (page 10 of 74)